Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Idealism" in two different worlds of meaning

Looking for a synonym for "idealism" this morning, I consulted the thesaurus function (Shift-F7) in Microsoft Word, as well as Thesaurus.com, the cognate site to Dictionary.com. The two sites offered radically different sets of synonyms, indicating, I believe, drastically different ways of looking at life:



Thursday, July 31, 2014

If you don't speak Middle Eastern...

"Choose your enemies wisely, for you will become like them," goes the old Arabic saying. I winced when Bibi Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations shortly after Iran's then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, because the tone was almost identical, and much of the content was similar. Now Netanyahu is engaging in a favorite tactic of Palestinian leaders: saying one thing for an international audience, and something else at home.

This was in The Times of Israel of two weeks back:

Netanyahu finally speaks his mind


At his Friday press conference, the prime minister ruled out full Palestinian sovereignty, derided the US approach to Israeli security, and set out his Middle East overview with unprecedented candor. His remarks were not widely reported; they should be


 July 13, 2014, 4:22 pm 941

Friday, July 25, 2014

The summer air

On recent walks through Edgewood Park here in New Haven I became aware of the incredible superhighway of the outdoor air--the astonishing profusion of living organisms coursing through the atmosphere all around us. At the most macro level are the birds, each species, and each social unit within each species, engaged in travel from tree to tree, or continent to continent, or careening through the sky after gnats and mosquitos. Then the larger insects: butterflies, bumblebees, biplane-like dragonflies, sleek, shark-like wasps. Then the smaller moths, an infinitude of flies, beetles, darters, termites, thrips. At still smaller depths of field, great rivers of tiny seeds, pollen, microorganisms, passing undetected among, and even through, the larger creatures, ourselves included. If the lighting is right, and you let your vision go slack, you can catch a glimpse of the myriad layers of swirling, pulsating creaturehood passing through the landscape, like the famous flying-car traffic jams of The Fifth Element but on an almost infinitely greater scale.

I'm happy to report that we have many and various bees!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book review: Harry V. Jaffa, The Doughface Dilemma

This slim volume, by the legendary Straussian scholar at Claremont, is a masterpiece of political invective, particularly noteworthy since it comes from one conservative exposing the noxious and antidemocratic underpinnings of another--or in this case, of a whole movement.

Although this pamphlet may appear to be nothing more than a salvo in an obscure internecine battle among conservative thinkers--and it is that--it is something more than that.  Jaffa meticulously lays out the case that the American Enterprise Institute strain of neoconservatism takes its philosophy, intentionally or not, from the thought of John C. Calhoun, and is essentially that of the Confederate States of America.  It would be well for progressives to pay close attention to Jaffa, because he outlines the fundamental principles on which liberalism is based.  They may not like the specific policy choices he derives from this examination, but they will find no more pointed dissection of the dominant brand of modern conservatism--and they may find, unsettlingly, that some of their own ideas stem from the same flawed principles.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Lincoln's Thomist argument for the permanence of the Union

Was Lincoln a student of Thomas Aquinas? He offers powerful evidence for it in his First Inaugural Address. 

Here is Aquinas's first proof for the existence of God:

"Further, those things are said to be self-evident which are known as soon as the terms are known, which the Philosopher (1 Poster. iii) says is true of the first principles of demonstration. Thus, when the nature of a whole and of a part is known, it is at once recognized that every whole is greater than its part. But as soon as the signification of the word "God" is understood, it is at once seen that God exists. For by this word is signified that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived. But that which exists actually and mentally is greater than that which exists only mentally. Therefore, since as soon as the word "God" is understood it exists mentally, it also follows that it exists actually. Therefore the proposition "God exists" is self-evident." (Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 2, Objection 2)

Here is Lincoln's argument for the permanence of the Union:

"...one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union."
  But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity." (First Inaugural Address, Paras. 14-15)

Q.E.D.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Corporate Personhood

Since "corporations are people too, my friend," at what point does a corporation become a person? Is it when it begins doing business? When it is registered? When it is incorporated? Or does it date from the moment of conception--when a group of individuals come together with the idea of forming a company? Why doesn't the pro-life movement weigh in on this crucial question?

Are Cliven Bundy's politics intrinsically racist?

SEAN HANNITY: So now you have a case where Cliven Bundy in an interview that first broke in The New York Times. It is -- his comments are beyond repugnant to me. They are beyond despicable to me. They are beyond ignorant to me. And my level of anger is about -- you know, go back and listen to Democrats every election year. They want to say Republicans what, or conservatives what? That conservatives are racist, conservatives hate women, conservatives want old people to die, granny over the cliff. They want young people to fend for themselves. They want, you know, to poison the air, poison the water.
So people that for the right reason saw this case as government overreach now are like branded because of the ignorant, racist, repugnant, despicable comments of Cliven Bundy.

This raises an interesting question. Is there an indissoluble link between Cliven Bundy-style hostility toward government and extreme racism? Is there such a thing as pro-civil rights posse comitatus and militia groups? Naturally, Bundy says he is advancing the work of "Rosa Park" and Martin Luther King; but seriously, are his anti-government ideas intrinsically incompatible with an anti-racist outlook?

Here's a blog that argues the negative.