Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (11/15)

Ok, so how is this for strange. NASA has observed an object that looks like a six-tailed comet.

And the Smithsonian has a story about a fake Civil War veteran.

Come take a tour of Ancient Rome.

On to more serious topics, a new economic study has determined that there are significant and measurable benefits to sponsoring poor children in developing countries.
The results in our other five countries confirm the positive impact of Compassion's child-sponsorship program in Uganda. In all six countries, we find that sponsorship results in better educational outcomes for children. Overall, sponsorship makes children 27 to 40 percent more likely to complete secondary school, and 50 to 80 percent more likely to complete a university education. ...
To put it simply, these educational impacts of sponsorship are large—roughly equal to the substantial effects of the Rosenwald Schools program that from 1913–31 educated blacks in the Jim Crow South. They are roughly double those of Oportunidades, the celebrated conditional-cash-transfer program that gives cash to mothers in Mexico for keeping their children in school. It's so successful, it has been replicated in dozens of developing countries around the world with financial incentives from the World Bank. 
Compassion's results extend beyond school attendance. We found that child sponsorship means that when the child grows up, he is 14–18 percent more likely to obtain a salaried job, and 35 percent more likely to obtain a white-collar job. Many of the Compassion-sponsored children become teachers as adults instead of remaining jobless or working in menial agricultural labor. We found some evidence that they are more likely to grow up to be both community leaders and church leaders.
And speaking of economics, it looks like Americans may be trying to kick the credit card habit.

For milenninals who have jobs, LinkedIn is trying to promote take your parent to work day. Yeah, it's kinda silly.

You didn't think I could get through this post without a political link, did you? Well, here's an excellent one on the fallout of the shutdown on the Republican party. And then there's always the attempts to draw meaning from the Virginia elections. But that's all I'm going to say on that topic.

Because this article on C.S. Lewis is better than anything political.

And finally, because we always need a video, here's one to encourage you to keep marching whatever comes your way.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (11/8)

This week the rumor arose that David Barton was considering a run as a US Senator from Texas. However, he has since stated that he will not run.

Thomas Kidd identifies some quotes commonly but incorrectly attributed to Patrick Henry. You may have heard one of them: "it cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!"

And this week was election week. Some of the most overlooked races were probably in Iowa, where a candidate won a mayor seat with eighteen write-in votes.

Also on the election front: the electorate in five Colorado counties voted to explore seceding from the state.

Ender's Game was released last week, so it's a good time to consider some of the actual military tactics reflected in the novel.

Thaddeus Kozinski writes that a liberal arts is simultaneously useless and very important.

Journalist Kirsten Powers tells the story of her conversion to Christianity.

The Obamacare rollout is getting so troubled that Democratic Senators are starting to complain to the President.

And finally, on Obamacare, here are Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley at this year's County Music Awards.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Prudence and the afterlife

Last week National Review published a long but very good piece reflecting on the government shutdown and the lack of prudence demonstrated by the Republicans. Among other things, the writers note:
Conservative groups that have internalized the apocalyptic view of politics believe the most effective model for gaining ground is simply pressuring Republicans to be more confrontational. The first step of the defunding strategy was not to persuade most Republicans that it was a good idea; it was to force them to go along with it whether or not they agreed. So the defunders prevented the majority of House Republicans, who disagreed, from being able to follow a different approach, and threatened to run primary opponents against some of them. Then they began to insist that Republicans who remained critical were dishonorably breaking the party’s (coerced) unity. It turned out that the power to move the House Republican caucus is not the power to move the world. Again and again it has instead been the case that as House Republicans go, so go House Republicans. 
While not working, this approach increases the amount of bad blood among allies. The elevation of tactics to the level of principle means that there will always be new turncoats to purge. In recent weeks, Senators Ron Johnson and Rand Paul, both previously tea-party favorites, have been denounced for not being sufficiently committed to defunding. Constantly generating new turncoats is not a sign of a workable strategy. 
This article prompted Redstate's Erick Ericson to declare that NR was no longer a conservative standard-bearer:
Now, instead of standing athwart history yelling stop, National Review spends 3,591 words to tell conservatives to stop fighting until they win. National Review has individual voices that echo the hunger of conservatives outside Washington. National Review itself does align with those conservatives on a number of issues from immigration to the export-import bank to the farm bill. But in the hard slogs against the establishment of our own side, National Review most often chooses to sit with the establishment or on the sidelines.
However, it was the next paragraph in Erickson's article that particularly jumped out at me. Erickson wrote:
Like much of the Republican Leadership, National Review wants to win majorities before unleashing hell, but history shows us repeatedly that Republicans never unleash hell once they have the majority. They become well-fed denizens of power, using it to reward friends and influence people, instead of willingly surrendering it to shrink the leviathan. More often, these Republicans often have help from the very voices that should be urging restraint and accountability. Accommodation of pro-life statists among the GOP should not be the hallmark of conservatism’s standard bearer.
This is the very "apocalyptic view of politics" that NR criticized in the first place.

One of the strengths of conservatism is its resistance to utopian ideology--those plans that attempt to create heaven on earth. There is a healthy reaction among conservatives to anyone who wants to fundamentally transform or remake society. Politics has its own limits. And this fits well with my Christian political philosophy as well: politics is the art of pursuing the common good. Heaven is in heaven, not on earth,

Conservatives today need to be especially cautious here. They need prudence, as the original NR piece pointed out. There is a tendency to say if we only have the right candidate, if we only can get so and so out of office, if we can only rewrite the rules, then we can have our conservative society. The appeal of the conservative (or libertarian) utopia is held as being just out of reach, yet blocked by whatever the target of the day is. Hence the need to "unleash hell" on "them."

This is not utopia in the positive sense, where a beatific vision is sold to the people. Instead this is negative-utopia, where support is garnered by the appeal of tormenting the opposition. It's actually not unlike the hell that utopias always fall into, with loyalty tests, purges, exiles, and executions. It just short circuits the attempted utopia and aims directly for hell.

I'm not interested in creating heaven for those who agree with me or imposing hell on those who don't. Both strategies replace an idea of the "common good" with something neither common nor good. And besides being impossible and subject to backfire, both inclinations attempt to pull the afterlife into the present and are consequently fundamentally neither conservative nor (more importantly) Christian.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Finding out what's in it

During the healthcare debate, Representative Pelosi infamously stated that "we have to pass the bill so that we can find out what is in it." You can see the clip here.

The comment sounds silly, as if those voting on legislation didn't know what was going to happen.

So imagine my surprise when I found James Madison making a very similar (although more verbose) argument about adopting the Constitution. Here he is in the Federalist 37 (sorry, no video available). After stating what a miracle it was that the Constitutional Convention could agree at all, he turns to those who are demanding more clarity from the proposed Constitution:
Experience has instructed us that no skill in the science of government has yet been able to discriminate and define, with sufficient certainty, its three great provinces the legislative, executive, and judiciary; or even the privileges and powers of the different legislative branches. Questions daily occur in the course of practice, which prove the obscurity which reins in these subjects, and which puzzle the greatest adepts in political science. 
The experience of ages, with the continued and combined labors of the most enlightened legislatures and jurists, has been equally unsuccessful in delineating the several objects and limits of different codes of laws and different tribunals of justice. The precise extent of the common law, and the statute law, the maritime law, the ecclesiastical law, the law of corporations, and other local laws and customs, remains still to be clearly and finally established in Great Britain, where accuracy in such subjects has been more industriously pursued than in any other part of the world. The jurisdiction of her several courts, general and local, of law, of equity, of admiralty, etc., is not less a source of frequent and intricate discussions, sufficiently denoting the indeterminate limits by which they are respectively circumscribed. All new laws, though penned with the greatest technical skill, and passed on the fullest and most mature deliberation, are considered as more or less obscure and equivocal, until their meaning be liquidated and ascertained by a series of particular discussions and adjudications. Besides the obscurity arising from the complexity of objects, and the imperfection of the human faculties, the medium through which the conceptions of men are conveyed to each other adds a fresh embarrassment. The use of words is to express ideas. Perspicuity, therefore, requires not only that the ideas should be distinctly formed, but that they should be expressed by words distinctly and exclusively appropriate to them. But no language is so copious as to supply words and phrases for every complex idea, or so correct as not to include many equivocally denoting different ideas. Hence it must happen that however accurately objects may be discriminated in themselves, and however accurately the discrimination may be considered, the definition of them may be rendered inaccurate by the inaccuracy of the terms in which it is delivered. And this unavoidable inaccuracy must be greater or less, according to the complexity and novelty of the objects defined. When the Almighty himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, his meaning, luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated.
Here, then, are three sources of vague and incorrect definitions: indistinctness of the object, imperfection of the organ of conception, inadequateness of the vehicle of ideas. Any one of these must produce a certain degree of obscurity. The convention, in delineating the boundary between the federal and State jurisdictions, must have experienced the full effect of them all.
Now granted, there is still quite a difference between Madison's argument and Pelosi's. Madison is saying that they were as clear as language permitted, while Pelosi was simply dodging a question about poor policy writing. Madison was not hiding behind poor drafting, but instead arguing that the drafting was as good as possible even if it wasn't always as clear as some wanted.

I think Madison's point is well worth remembering. He notes that even in what was likely considered one of the most legally advanced nations at the time and in large part a model for the drafters--Great Britain--the laws still needed to be worked through after passage to determine what exactly they meant. Madison reminds us that even the Constitution is subject to this limitation of language.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (11/1)

Yesterday was Halloween, and today is All Saint's Day. What better way to note the occasion than with photographs of ghosts.

In case you needed another reason to not drive in DC, the sister of a friend of mine was pulled over and ended up with $905 in traffic fines. That's a lot of kittens.

I was at a bookstore last week and found a book that the author describes as the “imagined embrace between Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran and Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind.” Now I really want to read it.

This is a fascinating article examining one of the issues facing the pro-life culture:
I think the actual problem here, I think the reason people continue to defend abortion is because, essentially, of existential terror: fear of what will happen when something unexpected, uninvited, unplanned bursts into our lives demanding action. I think that is a crippling psychological problem that doesn’t even rise to the level of morality, that we can’t just tell people to suck up and get over.
We may not know why the chicken crossed the road, but at least he can do it safely.

When the Navy needed a captain for it's new destroyer, it turned to none other than Captain James Kirk. And speaking of ships, Blackbeard's cannons are being recovered.

And this is for those thinking that Thomas Kinkade paintings are lacking a little ... something

Vision Forum Ministries President Doug Philips announced yesterday that he is resigning his position.

Have you ever wondered what the Civil War would look like if covered by today's media? Sample:
NEW BATTLEGROUND POLL: Lincoln’s negatives are “through the roof” in Va., N.C., S.C., Ga., Miss., Ala., Louisiana, Ark., Tenn.  PLAY-BOOK TRUTH BOMB: Lincoln is not going to improve these numbers if he refuses to press the flesh. A playbooker telegraphs: “I don’t know what happened to the gregarious guy we saw in 1860. Jeff Davis hasn’t been invited to the White House for cocktails once since Abe became president!”
And speaking of presidential negatives, Obamacare is resulting on lots of people seeing their existing policies be canceled and the White House knew this would happen. This is more than just not being competently run. When the left-leaning Slate begins paragraphs with "When launched with the fanfare and success of a North Korean missile..." you know there's a problem.

And on the political front, a new book indicates that President Obama seriously considered dropping Joe Biden from the 2012 re-election ticket.

Also speaking of presidential negatives, Bush's aren't quite as bad as they used to be.

In appalling news to Sriracha lovers everywhere, the factory could be closed.

This week The Atlantic ran an article on why homeschooling is such a good thing: "The final question is what sort of educational system is likely to produce the best results in the long run, or to be more specific, what system is best suited to evolving in advantageous ways. I'd bet on the diversified system, the one where there are always competitors with different models to measure public schools against."

And finally, because this week is election week here in Virginia.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...