Aristotle and Martial Arts: 10s

The Ten Second Problem:

I have a post at Winds of Change on free will, Aristotle, and answering a problem posed by some new research into consciousness.

Lily Pad

Lily Pads:

2008: Floating Lily Pad cities!

1930: Torpedo cars travel 120 mph through New York!

Of course, we have advanced computer modeling now.

Happy Birthday, USA.

Bob Krumm has a report of 1,215 soldiers reenlisting this day in Iraq.

This country is lucky to have such citizens. They make it possible that, as Washington wrote to Moses Seixas, "...everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."

Enjoy the day, yourselves, your family and your country. Have a fig. And remember.

Independence Day

Independence Day:

We've just finished talking about patriotism, so I won't discuss that again today. I will just link to a few worthy things, and then get on with celebrating myself. We will be having a cookout down at the horse ranch today.

In Baghdad, they're celebrating differently: with the largest reenlistment ceremony in history.

While most Americans probably slept, 1,215 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines raised their right hands and committed to a combined 5,500 years of additional service during the largest reenlistment ceremony in the history of the American military. Beneath a large American flag which dwarfed even the enormous chandelier that Saddam Hussein had built for the Al Faw Palace, members of all services, representing all 50 states took the oath administered by Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq.
I attended such a ceremony in February. Words don't really convey it: it is a deeply moving experience to stand there in Baghdad, in that palace, and hear hundreds take the oath.

BlackFive recommends a tradition of his: rereading Bill Whittle's Freedom.

Cassandra has written a love letter to her country.
Who are we to think that Freedom is ours to spread, Ignatieff asks?

We were the First. We are the guardians of the flame.
The flame right here is going to be roasting hot dogs: but there are other fires in other places. To those who tend them, all the best. This is your day first of all.
Good work.
BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombian spies tricked leftist rebels into handing over kidnapped presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors Wednesday in a daring helicopter rescue so successful that not a single shot was fired.

President Uribe and Columbia can be justly proud of their military of late.

Looking Abroad

Looking Abroad:

I take notice of this study on blog readers, which suggests that liberals are more likely than conservatives to read opposing blogs -- though alll blog readers show strong identification (compared with those who get news chiefly from television) with a political pole.

Johnathan Chait says this means liberals are more open minded, but I suspect it may have something to do with a basic difference in approach. Liberalism is and always has been about applying theory in an attempt to change reality, and often radically; conservatism is about defending what is best in current reality, with suggested changes apt to be slow and incremental.

As a result, it is easy for a liberal to understand a conservative position if he cares to do so: changes being proposed are normally small and slow, and to the extent that any theory is invoked, it is a familiar theory -- we talk often about Aristotle, as men have talked about him for two thousand years. Debates are about history and its lessons.

Liberalism as an approach favors theories that require a fair amount of buy-in from any reader. For example, consider this piece on parental rights, which feels it necessary to explain, in depth, two hundred years of the development of feminist theory in order to begin making its point.

The point is actually a pretty good one, when you get there: but you're going to lose a whole lot of readers along the way. Many people will get as far as the invocation of Engles and stop, figuring communism for a discredited ideology; some will get farther, to the mention-without-irony of hunter gatherer society as "primitive communism" (true only in that the murder rate in such societies has only been approached by modern Communism); others will simply lose interest in trying to understand the difference between "culture feminism," "equality feminism," "victim feminism," "lesbian separatism," and so forth, all of which must be soldiered through to get to the point; others will recoil at the communist concept that the family exists to prop up capitalist society, which the author eventually rejects, but you have to read through the full theory before you get to the rejection; and on, and on, and on.

But you finally get here:

When it comes to parents, however, the ‘right’ to exercise one’s identity – eat what you want to eat, drink what you want to drink, raise your kids how you see fit – is denied by virtue of the fact that, as parents, any ‘rights’ you may have are subordinate to those bestowed upon your child by the official child-rearing orthodoxy.

The assumption that parents’ rights conflict with children’s rights leads to the policy perspective that, in order to preserve children’s rights to a healthy, wholesome, high-achieving life, parents have a duty to put their own quest for self-identity on hold, and ‘for the sake of the children’ bow to the dictates of the state.

From the bizarre sledgehammer rule that parents must not take their children on holiday in term-time to the insidious attempts to use schools, doctors and TV chefs to determine the content of the family meal to the endless Parliamentary discussions about whether parents should be able to smack their children and if so, how hard, to the tacit encouragement that fathers, like mothers, should not have full-time careers but instead make do with tricky ‘flexible working’ arrangements, the clear trajectory of policy is to use the children to exercise increasing amounts of control over the minutiae of their parents’ lives.

This is a deeply repressive and divisive shift. By setting parents apart from non-parents one clearly-defined section of society that cannot pursue its quest for self-fulfilment, we can see a version of women’s oppression being played out again, with all the bitterness and obfuscation that this caused. And by seeking to manage the relationships of family life, the therapeutic state is setting parents against each other and making them resentful of their children, while encouraging children to disregard their parents’ authority and seek recognition from outside the home: the heartless therapeutic state.
That's a good point, and a concept that is fairly useful. The conservative who did soldier through all of it to get there will be rewarded with that useful concept -- only briefly undermined afterwards by a renewed attack on the "joyless" nature of family life, and a reassertion that Engles was right and "the family still sucks." On the other hand, you learned quite a bit about the conceptual development of feminist theory on the way to getting to 'we should trust parents to look after their families, and not the state.'

A conservative, who did not feel it was necessary to defend a defense of the family against 200 years of theoretical attacks on the family as an institution, could have said the same thing more quickly.

But that is not the point. The point is that it was worth reading through, because it points to an area of commonality between ourselves and our neighbors. You might not have looked for it, but here is a starting point for a moment of unity and common interest. We both want to defend the family against the incursions of the "heartless theraputic state," at least right at this moment; we want to defend the right of parents to order their families so that they might "pursue happiness" as well as unmarried or childless persons.

Surely it is necessary to do so, because we need to continue to reproduce our civilization. Parents shouldn't be punished for performing that necessary duty.

Personally, I find family life highly rewarding, and I wouldn't say it "sucks" at all. There are certainly sacrifices, but there are also great rewards and meaning. Yet let's let that lie. The point is that, yes, liberals are hard to understand by comparison to conservatives, but it can be worth taking the time.


Rev Up The Bus:

From The New Yorker:

Obama, whatever the idealistic yearnings of his admirers, has turned out to be a cold-eyed, shrewd politician. The same pragmatism that prompted him last month to forgo public financing of his campaign will surely lead him, if he becomes President, to recalibrate his stance on Iraq. He doubtless realizes that his original plan, if implemented now, could revive the badly wounded Al Qaeda in Iraq, reënergize the Sunni insurgency, embolden Moqtada al-Sadr to recoup his militia’s recent losses to the Iraqi Army, and return the central government to a state of collapse. The question is whether Obama will publicly change course before November.
Some further speculation:
Last month, the Center for a New American Security, which has become something like Obama’s foreign-policy think tank, released a report that argued against a timetable for withdrawal, regardless of the state of the war, and in favor of “conditional engagement,” declaring, “Under this strategy, the United States would not withdraw its forces based on a firm unilateral schedule. Rather, the time horizon for redeployment would be negotiated with the Iraqi government and nested within a more assertive approach to regional diplomacy. The United States would make it clear that Iraq and America share a common interest in achieving sustainable stability in Iraq, and that the United States is willing to help support the Iraqi government and build its security and governance capacity over the long term, but only so long as Iraqis continue to make meaningful political progress.” It’s impossible to know if this persuasive document mirrors Obama’s current thinking, but here’s a clue: it was co-written by one of his Iraq advisers, Colin Kahl.
That plan sounds rather like another plan: the one the US military and State Department is actually pursuing. In other words, the advisor of the candidate of "Change" says, 'Let's not change anything!'

The only question in the mind of the author is, will Obama admit that he really won't be changing anything before the election?

The piece is not anti-Obama, though it assumes duplicity from him as a "shrewd politician." Indeed, I think the author may have personally disproven psychology's theory of "cognitive dissonance," in that he not only praises Obama's "shrewdness" in betraying an outright promise on taking public money, and his potential for dancing to November on a deception, but adds:

"Obama has shown, with his speech on race, that he has a talent for candor. One can imagine him speaking more honestly on Iraq."

Yes, we can! We can imagine it.

Patriotism in Time

Patriotism in Time:

I have written more about patriotism in these pages than is easy even to link to; all of you know how to use Google if you are curious about what has been said. Still, I note with some pleasure this piece by Peter Beinart in Time Magazine. It attempts to compare what he calls liberal and conservative ideas about patriotism, but finally asserts that the conservatives are right -- as long as they don't go too far with it.

Actually, conservatives are right absolutely on this particular matter. "Patriotism" is a word with an etymology, as we discussed very recently, while debating just the same question Beinart treats this week. The meaning of the thing is encoded in the word itself.

If America is a woman, she is your mother.

You should love her because she bore you into the world, and gave you every chance you had as a youth. You should love her because she defended you, nursed you while you were weak, and gave you a chance to grow strong. You should love her without failing because it is your duty, and because no man can hate his mother without destroying a part of himself.

Of course, "patriotism" is from the Latin patria, in turn derived from Pater, which means "Father." Still, it is usual to think of America as being a woman, in part because the name takes a feminine form. Whether you love her as a mother or as a father, however, love her that way.
Beinart quotes JFK in citing Faust:
He liked to cite Goethe, who "tells us in his greatest poem that Faust lost the liberty of his soul when he said to the passing moment, 'Stay, thou art so fair.'" Americans risked a similar fate, Kennedy warned, "if we pause for the passing moment, if we rest on our achievements, if we resist the pace of progress ... Those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future."
But this is a misreading of Faust. Faust was damned on the point only because he had the arrogance to claim that nothing could be good enough for him. Like the modern antipatriot, judging America as too flawed to merit his loyalty, it was his arrogance that doomed him. He believed he could see all the possibilities of creation, as the antipatriot believes he understands fully all the issues he judges from America's history: neither allows doubt that they could be mistaken. Demons work on such pride.

It was not the love of the moment that doomed Faust, but his arrogance in believing that creation could not make a thing or a moment that could merit that love. And yet you may find love like that in the street. Look at Chesterton's poem, Femina contra Mundum, in which he describes the words of a man called to Judgment; and the man has looked on a woman through a cottage door left carelessly open, and weighed the stars and mountains worth less than her:
'For I had weighed the mountains in a balance,
And the skies in a scale,
I come to sell the stars -- old lamps for new --
Old stars for sale.'

Then a calm voice fell all the thunder through,
A tone less rough:
'Thou hast begun to love one of my works
Almost enough.'
That is the love that pays this debt, this debt for everything you are or could have been; the debt for nurturing you in your weakness, giving you whatever strength you have, whatever wisdom. If you will not recognize your personal liability for that debt, you are not a patriot.

You could still be right -- George Washington had many virtues, and was surely correct in his undertakings, but one thing he cannot claim is to have lived as a patriot of his king and country. We do not esteem him less for that. If a nation sets aside the natural rights of mankind, it becomes a tyranny, and not patriotism but separation or destruction is the duty of its citizens. This view is the birthright of Americans, and it is a longstanding complaint of mine against our hard left that they will not accept it. If America is as bad as they so often claim, they have duties beyond mere complaint. If she is evil, fight her. If she is not, fight for her.

Those who whine on the sidelines are the ones I detest. Even William Ayers at least fought, in his way. I wish he had been hanged for it, but I respect him ten times as much as I do any number of beardless men I have met who did nothing but snark about 'America's sins,' as if they too had lived two hundred years, and could judge her as a peer. At least Ayers had courage enough to fight as well as talk, and that redeems him somewhat.

America is a fighting faith. Beinart gets that right:
So is wearing the flag pin good or bad? It is both; it all depends on where and why. If you're going to a Young Americans for Freedom meeting, where people think patriotism means "my country right or wrong," leave it at home and tell them about Frederick Douglass, who wouldn't celebrate the Fourth of July while his fellow Americans were in bondage. And if you're going to a meeting of the cultural-studies department at Left-Wing U., where patriotism often means "my country wrong and wronger," slap it on, and tell them about Mike Christian, who lay half-dead in a North Vietnamese jail, stitching an American flag.
With that, I have no argument at all. A true patriot must love his country enough to want to leave it to his sons as he got it from his fathers, pure, with its ideals as well as its physical attributes intact. If anything, he should wish to perfect it, extend it, and make it ever purer.

What I like best about his formulation is that it puts the actor in an eternal fight for his nation. When he goes here, he should fight this way for her; when he goes there, fight for her that way.

That's the thing, the real thing. It is the love that stands off the world.

Death of Uga VI

The Death of a Good Dog:

Attention, fellow Georgians: if you have not already seen the news, I am sad to report that Uga VI has died. We will miss him.

Long live Uga VII.