If You’re Not Offended, You’re Not Paying Attention

Now the Christians are hanging mass murder on their spiritual opponents…here’s Robert Peters, President, Morality in Media (his phone number is helpfully given: 212-870-3210)

The underlying problem is that increasingly we live in a ‘post-Christian’ society, where Judeo-Christian faith and values have less and less influence. Among other things, Judaism and Christianity taught that murder was wrong and that included murder motivated by anger, hatred and revenge. Both religions also taught that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and to forgive others.

For many citizens, what has replaced Judeo-Christian faith and values is the secular value system that is reflected in films, rap/music lyrics, and videogames and on TV and now the Internet, where the taking of human life for just about any reason is commonplace and is often portrayed in an appealing manner and in realistic detail. Murder motivated by hatred and revenge is also justified.

This secular value system is also reflected in the ‘sexual revolution,’ which is the driving force behind the push for ‘gay marriage;’ and the Iowa Supreme Court decision is another indication that despite all the damage this revolution has caused to children, adults, family life and society (think abortion, divorce, pornography, rape, sexual abuse of children, sexually transmitted diseases, trafficking in women and children, unwed teen mothers and more), it continues to advance relentlessly.

It most certainly is not my intention to blame the epidemic of mass murders on the gay rights movement! […Throatclearling lie, as set out in his next sentance – A.L.] It is my intention to point out that the success of the sexual revolution is inversely proportional to the decline in morality; and it is the decline of morality (and the faith that so often under girds it) that is the underlying cause of our modern day epidemic of mass murders.

Too damn much. I’d say in 1927, America was a firmly ‘Christian’ country, and not in the throes of the sexual revolution (although there were flappers and cocaine…). In Bath, Michigan, Andrew Kehoe killed 45 with a series of bombs set in a school. Hmmm…

Look, I believe that we have philosophical and moral issues that – in part – make the barrier ot runnink amok thinner. But blaming this on the ‘gay agenda’ is as opportunistic and contemptable – and un-Christian – a thing as I can imagine.

And the leap of logic is stunning:

This secular value system is also reflected in the ‘sexual revolution,’ which is the driving force behind the push for ‘gay marriage’

then

It most certainly is not my intention to blame the epidemic of mass murders on the gay rights movement!

then

It is my intention to point out that the success of the sexual revolution is inversely proportional to the decline in morality; and it is the decline of morality (and the faith that so often under girds it) that is the underlying cause of our modern day epidemic of mass murders.

OK, This Is Just Funny

Jane Hamsher, April 8, 2009 12:36pm (I assume est since she’s from CT)

There’s a big problem right now with the traditional liberal interest groups sitting on the sidelines around major issues because they don’t want to buck the White House for fear of getting cut out of the dialogue, or having their funding slashed. Someone picks up a phone, calls a big donor, and the next thing you know…the money is gone. It’s already happened. Because that’s the way Rahm plays.

Just in case you were worried, that’s not a problem for us.

Jane Hamsher, April 8, 2009 3:56pm, quoted in The Plum Line

“They come to us, expecting us to give them free publicity, and we do, but it’s not a two way street,” Jane Hamsher, the founder of FiredogLake, said in an interview. “They won’t do anything in return. They’re not advertising with us. They’re not offering fellowships. They’re not doing anything to help financially, and people are growing increasingly resentful.”

Hamsher singled out Americans United for Change, which raises and spends big money on TV ad campaigns driving Obama’s agenda, as well as the constellation of groups associated with it, and the American Association of Retired Persons, also a big TV advertiser.

…so when she says “…that’s not a problem for us” what, exactly did she mean?

Oh

Americans United for Change, the big liberal group that came under fire from liberal bloggers in our story today for not advertising on the blogs, is now saying they will make the blogs part of their ad strategy. The group sends over a statement:

We fully appreciate the important contributions of the progressive blogosphere and have plans to include blog ads in the near future as we continue to expand our media efforts. We are currently examining our online strategy and how we can more effectively communicate our message through online channels. Blog ads will most definitely be a part of that strategy.

I’ve talked in the past about the rise of professional bloggers, which I see as a good thing. Not such a good thing, to me, are bought-and-paid-for bloggers who – having taken the King’s shilling – may suddenly become reluctant to say much about his tax policies…

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In Which I Have The Temerity To Disagree With Taleb – More Than Once!!

Nicholas Taleb has a column up in the Financial Times – ‘Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world

1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Agree.

2. No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains. Agree. No, make that AGREE.

3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus. Not so sure; people learn from their mistakes, and a “one strike and you’re out” model seems like it would leave a lot of brand-new people driving the bus…

4. Do not let someone making an “incentive” bonus manage a nuclear plant – or your financial risks. Depends on what he incentive bonus is and over what term -if their incentive is tied to my 20-year returns, great!

5. Counter-balance complexity with simplicity. I think this could be better stated as ‘in complex domains, require simple products and in simple domains, allow complex products’

6. Do not give children sticks of dynamite, even if they come with a warning. There’s a place for instruments too complex to easily understand – it’s just not in the center of our financial markets or economy.

7. Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Bullshit; all economics depends on confidence; when we are confident, our ‘animal spirits’ are high and we are active economically and all benefit. Periodically, we have to clear the deadwood.

8. Do not give an addict more drugs if he has withdrawal pains. Well, that’s good advice in terms of clearing markets – but maybe it’s worth it to manage deleveraging to minimize social damage??

9. Citizens should not depend on financial assets or fallible “expert” advice for their retirement. So – Social Security? Funded by??

10. Make an omelette with the broken eggs. Or, don’t fix broken things with rotten wood – rebuild them. Hmmm. Ground up? All our financial markets are the organically-grown products of markets that have been around for a long time. Perhaps we should deeply modify some features of these markets – but rebuild them de novo??

The Politics of Mass Murder

So, after I put up a quick post expressing my contempt for David Niewert’s wave of the bloody shirt, I find that the usual cast of clowns from the left netroots – starting with “screw ‘em” Kos himself are running with his claims and laying mass murder at the feet of their conservative opponents.

The quality of thinking is definitely juicebox, and the claims would be laughable if they were not so contemptible (note that fellow liberal Tommy Christopher sums up why) and if we did not have an endless new round of New York and Los Angeles Times editorials excoriating gun ownership to look forward to (it would be fun if once – just once – either of those papers’ editorial staffs could point to a firearms restriction they opposed).

But in spite of the contemptible (I keep using that word for a reason…) political thinking of Kos, Willis, Niewert and the rest of the Juicebox thinkers, the reality is that events like this prompt me – as a gun owner and supporter of people’s rights to own guns – to examine my own positions yet again.It’s not because I get letters like this one (from Blythe Withers) with the subject line: “Woo Woo: Gun nuts cream jeans from joy! More dead by guns! Hurray hurray! Dead women, dead children. dead liberals, dead immigrants!” – get help, Blythe!

Because, on the surface, my positions – that most kinds of guns ought to be generally available – have costs, and those costs were just made completely clear by the events of the last month. Crazy, evil people used guns to murder police officers in Oakland and Pittsburgh, to murder helpless innocents in Alabama, North Carolina, California, New York, and Washington states.

So in the face of this – why don’t I support laws to massively restrict people’s rights to buy and own guns? Why do I support changing laws to make it somewhat easier for law-abiding citizens to carry guns?

To be honest, I struggle with that question when I read the news sometimes. And my response is really threefold.

First, and foremost, I believe – as a matter of values – that people need the freedom to do things that have the risk of going horribly wrong. From eating bacon to riding motorcycles to doing home chemistry experiments, as we try and take the risk out of life, we wind up raising people who are less and less capable of responsibly managing risk themselves. And that as we try and restrict people’s freedoms more and more that we build a state that looks more and more like “Brazil” – or contemporary England, where police officers intervene to stop people from being rescued from a fire.

Next – I think that many of the gun regulations we’ve put in place – and that the folks publicly rending their garments above really want to see – are flatly counterproductive. They leave us with places like Washington DC and Chicago, where the worst get all the guns they want and the best are trained to submit. I can’t emphasize this issue enough; the issue is not just that there are bad people ready to do violence to the innocent, but that all of us are largely conditioned to stand by.

If I could change one thing, it would be to turn the dial away from passivity, and to try and get us – our society – to understand that each of us must every day bear some responsibility for our safety and the safety of others around us.

Finally, again as a matter of values – I’m an empiricist on matters of policy. There’s an immense gap between passing laws and changing the world; that’s a gap I think far too few of my friends understand (but we all live it when we drive 80 on a freeway with a speed limit of 55). In spite of my value beliefs above, if someone came to me and presented gun regulation policies that really, truly might prevent mass killing like these, I’d at the very least think hard about them, if not support them. But the gun regulations I see everywhere are really ‘feel-good’ photo-ops for ambitious politicians or policy hucksters looking to raise money and cover their overhead.

The reality is that there are more than enough guns in America today to arm all the crazies and all the criminals. And that as the arbiters of culture push to make gun ownership distasteful to the average American, we’ll wind up with two Americas – one that believes in the utility of violence, and one that’s horrified at the mention of the word “violence” (unless it’s in a really cool movie…).

And nothing is going to change that anytime soon while leaving us as any kind of country that we’d recognize. If we stopped selling guns and ammunition today, there is more than enough sitting on people’s shelves to last the criminals and crazies fifty or a hundred years. So to impact gun crime by impacting the average person’s possession of guns, we’d have to go house to house, mount checkpoints at public places, search cars, and place our Constitutional protections in the shredder. Because after all, citizen, if you don’t have any illegal goods, why would you object to our searching your home?

We are left with the choice between the tragedy of funerals we have today and the tragic farce of placing our face quietly under Orwell’s eternal boot. And the tragedy – the real tragedy of that choice – is that it isn’t a choice; because what we would get at the end of choosing it, I believe, is the worst of both worlds where law abiding citizens place themselves at the mercy of both an intrusive and useless state and of violent criminals the state cannot control.

Why do Kos and Niewert and my letter-writers feel so strongly about this? Because they want clean hands; the morality that matters to them is not the morality that comes from taking responsibility for what goes on in society, but in standing apart from it, holding your hands high and showing everyone that you, personally, are pure.

Sartre had an answer for that…

You cling so tightly to your purity, my lad! How terrified you are of sullying your hands. Well, go ahead then, stay pure! What good will it do, and why even bother coming here among us? Purity is a concept of fakirs and friars. But you, the intellectuals, the bourgeois anarchists, you invoke purity as your rationalization for doing nothing. Do nothing, don’t move, wrap your arms tight around your body, put on your gloves. As for myself, my hands are dirty. I have plunged my arms up to the elbows in excrement and blood. And what else should one do? Do you suppose that it is possible to govern innocently?

If you believe in a social morality (as I do), then as an American, I carry a share of the tragedies of the last months – a larger share because I own guns and support the freedom to do so; so do Kos, Willis, and Niewert. They just refuse to admit it.

Obama’s European Trip

I’m still digesting the news reports; my first reaction is that it went about as well as could be realistically expected as far as engaging other countries is concerned – there wasn’t any real possibility that he’d do better than he did. And I worry about people who think that our interests and the world’s would be magically aligned because we suddenly say we’d like them to be. But he made some critical mistakes which are going to hurt him domestically.

Bowing to King Abdullah was stupid, and the damage to Obama as the video circulates remains to be seen. For the defenders who suggest that GWB holding his had as they walked was equally bad – no it wasn’t. Peers in Arab societies may hold hands. Peers don’t bow to each other.

I don’t know who’s handling Obama’s protocol, but they need to be replaced, like today.

And I was – and still am, on consideration – a little fuddled by his over-nuanced take on American Exceptionalism. This is a profound issue for me, which I am going to spend some time worrying through.It reads as though Obama carefully threaded a needle on this; I want to sleep on it for another day or so, Here’s the exchange I’m thinking about:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the context of all the multilateral activity that’s been going on this week — the G20, here at NATO — and your evident enthusiasm for multilateral frameworks, to work through multilateral frameworks, could I ask you whether you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy? And if so, would you be able to elaborate on it?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don’t think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we’ve got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we’re not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.

I read it once and he’s standing with Lincoln, and I read it again and he’d backing away. I know where I want him to be…

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Muckers Again

I’m working on a post on the recent flood of mass shootings. My first thoughts as always are of the victims and their loved ones; I personally wish we would let the bodies cool before politicizing these tragedies.

David Niewert gets “pride” of place for tying the Pittsburgh ambush that killed three police officers to gun-rights advocates and those who oppose Obama; I guess we can tie the Oakland police murders to black nationalism and gangster rap with equal honesty (hint: both claims are deeply dishonest, misleading, and morally devalue the person who makes them).

Again, disgusting, dishonest claims – made to score political points in the most sensational ways possible.

To get a good sense of my response, check out all these posts, and specifically this one.

Gratitude

To Pixelgate and Evariste, who recovered this site and my work site from whatever weird thing I did to them. Memo: backups aren’t just for work. Given what I do for a living, I’m kinda embarassed.