An Evening of Live Music

The Scotsman Public House featuring live Celtic music.

“Frog Level” Brewing Company Americana. 

Back to the Scotsman for Ben & the Borrowed Band, a cover country act. 

Local funk act the Mike Rhodes Fellowship.

The Last Frontier

Although so far she's not winning many votes, Nikki Haley is leading the unnamed real estate magnate in fundraising. So too is Joe Biden running away in the political donations race.

In an environment in which inflation has drained away the ordinary person's ability to feed their families and make their bills, it's no surprise that only the rich can really donate to political campaigns. The rich are sure about where their interests lay, too, which is with the Establishment -- they may differ or perhaps not even care about which party, but the Establishment for certain.

The class difference is understandable. The real wages of average Americans did better under the real estate guy than they'd done in decades (a fact willfully obscured by including the Covid collapse in his numbers). This occurred because of two signature policies: cracking down on illegal immigration, which depresses the wages of working class Americans; and the full-throated embrace of the shale oil boom that gave America back its energy independence -- even making us a net exporter again. 

Average Americans found their gasoline bill was down, which meant all their bills were down: fuel to transport goods to market is baked into the price of everything. Meanwhile, their employers were forced to pay Americans to do the jobs that they needed done in America. That was more of the jobs than expected, too, thanks to the death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would have helped ship more jobs to Asia, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which also kept jobs home instead of abroad.

It's no wonder those who run major corporations would rather have an Establishment figure in office, one who will keep the borders open and costs down. They have little to fear even from Biden's environmentalism, as he has quietly allowed shale to trickle back up to where it was before.

It's also sensible that working class and middle class Americans would prefer to keep that particular tap shut, not merely for economic reasons but for more basic reasons of human meaning. The economics are aligned with their interest in stable communities, relationships, neighborhoods (as shown by the exact similarity in the complaint against gentrification as against mass immigration).

Marxist analysis would suggest that this is obvious: economics drive history, they say. It's the most basic of their analytical tools. Yet for some reason we don't really hear people talk about this in these terms: people on both sides prefer a cultural overlay to the economic analysis. It flatters the left to think that they're on the side of progress and their values, rather than the side of importing people who will be paid less and granted no worker protections in order to suppress the wages of fellow Americans in service to the rich. It flatters the right to think they are standing up for Christianity and Western traditions instead of a fair wage and a better life for their family (those selfish things!).

So we end up talking about what everyone wants to talk about instead of this important aspect; and we end up casting aspersions on each other that are not the ones most genuinely deserved. The most true and applicable complaints are left out of the conversation.

Hilarity Ensues

Google apologizes after its new AI generated “racially diverse” images of Nazis. 

As the article explains, the diversity is limited because the AI really doesn’t like to include white people; so you can imagine the results. It would have generated everything except accurate results. 

UPDATE: Related.

El Dorado

This was one of three versions of the plot of Rio Bravo, of which the original was best but each had its charms. For example, John Wayne rode his prettiest horse in this one. 

Cf. Ivanhoe:

Having expressed himself thus confidently, he reined his horse backward down the slope which he had ascended, and compelled him in the same manner to move backward through the lists, till he reached the northern extremity, where he remain stationary, in expectation of his antagonist. This feat of horsemanship again attracted the applause of the multitude.

Horses really don’t like to do what Ivanhoe and John Wayne just did. It’s a mastery.  

Thanks Google Photos

…but this was not as festive as you might be imagining. 

Insurrection and the American Project

Johns Hopkins' Center for Gun Violence Solutions has produced yet another of the endless calls for gun control that is their purpose for existing (and source of their funding). This one asserts that gun control is necessary to control 'insurrection,' arguing against "the false narrative that the Constitution creates rights to insurrection and the unchecked public carry of firearms[.]"

Well indeed, the Constitution does not create any rights at all. The Constitution does recognize certain rights, but explicitly recognizes that there are other rights that people have which are not spelled out in its text. Balancing the natural right of rebellion with a stable government's need to be able to put down illegitimate insurrections is one of those hard tasks of governance that isn't reducible to a simple rule. "Insurrection is a right" or "insurrection is never right" are both immoral principles because they would lead either to chaos or tyranny. 

The Declaration of Independence, meanwhile, explicitly recognizes the right -- and the duty -- to revolution under specific circumstances. There is no way to disentangle the American project from the Declaration of Independence, nor from the insurrection and revolution that gave rise to America and its subsequent legal forms, including the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Center has it backwards: an attempt to violate the natural right to arms would, by itself, justify a revolution. It is a basic violation of natural rights to disarm a population in order to render them subjects.

Fortunately the Center is as wrong pragmatically as it is theoretically; the estimates of AR-15s in American hands alone runs to one-in-twenty households, or perhaps 44 million spread across this vast  nation. The resources do not exist to strip even that one rifle out of American hands, not if every police agency in the country turned their hands to the project at the expense of all else. If you called up the whole of the US military and put them to doing it, each servicemember would need to collect 22 rifles apiece. If you drafted the whole population of age for it, they'd still each need to bring in three -- and that's assuming that the whole population was willing to be drafted into such a program. 

Give it up. The ship has sailed. You live in an armed society, and also one of the most peaceful on earth: much of the United States has a murder rate of zero.

More Such Apparent Impropriety

It's hard not to see New York's actions against a certain political candidate and real estate magnate as similarly apparently improper. This is especially true given that the governor has assured other real estate magnates in the state that they won't be held to the same standard. This isn't a new standard of law that applies to all people equally, it's just the particular stick the state has chosen to beat this one guy.

That appears to a layman to be a violation of the 8th and 14th amendments -- "excessive bail" and "excessive fines" are both plainly forbidden, as is a state depriving a person of the equal protection of the laws -- and arguably Article I, Section 9, Clause 3 ("No bill of attainder," although this was a judicial action rather than a legislative one it serves the same purpose).

The apparent purpose of this is to not only to punish him for his political activity, but to hamper his pursuit of further office by tying up his personal wealth. I would say that this appeared to be extraordinarily corrupt except, of course, that it's only one of several similar actions ongoing at the same time in courts around the country. 

The Appearance of Impropriety

So if you are facing an impeachment inquiry based on the testimony of an FBI informant, why not just arrest him and charge him with lying? That disrupts his credibility, makes him unavailable to testify to Congress, and lets you counterattack on the charges facing you and your son.

Why not? Well, usually because of the appearance of impropriety.
The appearance of impropriety is a phrase referring to a situation which to a layperson without knowledge of the specific circumstances might seem to raise ethics questions. 
I don't really need to be convinced that an FBI informant might be lying; rats are rats. When you try to silence him instead of rebutting his testimony, though....

NYT: "No One Deserves Citizenship"

I think that the idea of citizenship is very difficult for progressives because it entails a created difference between human beings that allows for unequal treatment. This piece begins with an example that tries to create emotional weight on the question, suggesting that it's just nonsensical to treat two children of one parent differently because of which side of a border they were born upon. 

She ends up framing the core argument thus: "After all, none of us born here did anything to deserve our citizenship. On what moral grounds can we deny others rights, privileges and opportunities that we did not earn ourselves?"

The immigration issue ends up blurring what is really the core issue. My family has been in America since before the Founding. In every generation it has paid its taxes, fought its wars, built its infrastructure, elected its officers, served in its institutions. That's why I deserve citizenship.

Others families came later but have similarly been involved. Some were imported as slaves, and deserve citizenship partly in recompense for that. Other families crossed the seas and joined America afterwards, and earned for their children a place among us. 

Someone new, from somewhere else, has no similar claim. There is another road -- migration -- that is sometimes open according to particular rules. I agree some of those rules don't make sense: for example, I don't think it's sensible to extend citizenship to a child whose parents have no established connection to the nation, just because they happen to be on US soil at the time of birth. 

Citizenship is earned, though, and it is deserved. It is just as sensible to defend the rights, privileges, and opportunities of your fellow citizens as it is to defend the interests of your family members. Indeed, as Aristotle points out, the polity is an outgrowth of the families that came together to form it. It is our country in the same way that it is our family.

The rights that are particular to citizenship have that status because they are part of governance. We defend everyone's freedom of speech or thought because those are human rights that everyone should have. The right to vote or to serve on a jury is about how Americans govern themselves, and that is American business. It belongs to those of us who have earned it, because we are part of the families that came together to form the nation. 

Experiencing Eternity and the Divine II

Last week's post in response to James' post garnered an interesting discussion, with Tom entering in towards the end to add the Orthodox perspective. What came out of that was a recognition for me that, while the Catholic Church incorporated Neoplatonic ideas early and then found a way to modify its theology later to accomodate Aristotelian ideas, the Orthodox are essentially applying Neoplatonism's approach to Christianity directly. 

This concept that Tom is talking about, theosis, involves using the parts of ourselves that are 'like' God as a road to returning to God. In Greek philosophy, that part is the energia or activity as opposed to the matter: the word form is also sometimes used to translate the concept. Matter is ordered and structured so that it becomes a table or a dog or a particular human being, and the order is a kind of activity imposed on the matter. 

(An aside: This 'order is an activity' is really true, too, at least for organisms -- Jonas' point -- because what it is to be an organism is to be an activity of taking matter from the world, as by eating or breathing, and organizing it in to the form that is also yourself.)

Since God is (incompletely) conceived of as pure energia, in that sense we have 'the image of God' in ourselves, and that likeness provides a bridge to the divine which we can follow. 

Wikipedia helpfully draws out how this Orthodox concept differs from the strict Neoplatonic approach.

Naturally, the crucial Christian assertion, that God is One, sets an absolute limit on the meaning of theosis: even as it is not possible for any created being to become God ontologically, or even a necessary part of God (of the three existences of God called hypostases), so a created being cannot become Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit nor the Father of the Trinity.

Most specifically creatures, i.e. created beings, cannot become God in his transcendent essence, or ousia, hyper-being (see apophaticism). Such a concept would be the henosis, or absorption and fusion into God of Greek pagan philosophy. However, every being and reality itself is considered as composed of the immanent energy, or energeia, of God. As energy is the actuality of God, i.e. his immanence, from God's being, it is also the energeia or activity of God. Thus the doctrine avoids pantheism while partially accepting Neoplatonism's terms and general concepts, but not its substance (see Plotinus).

To put it even more simply, Iamblicus or Plotinus thought that the matter was just another spun-out emanation from the One, and thus that everything that had proceeded from the One could (would!) return to it. Iamblicus, the later thinker, worked out a mode for attempting to approach the One by seeking grace from those spin-offs that were closer to the One than we are ourselves. This system of seeking grace from an intermediary to help you come closer to the One is obviously readily adaptable to seeking the Father through the Son, whose being is closer to God -- he is God -- but also more like us than the Father because the Son is also man.

The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has an excellent article on Neoplatonism that comes from a contemporary, skeptical perspective. 

The result of this effort was a grandiose and powerfully persuasive system of thought that reflected upon a millennium of intellectual culture and brought the scientific and moral theories of Plato, Aristotle, and the ethics of the Stoics into fruitful dialogue with literature, myth, and religious practice. In virtue of their inherent respect for the writings of many of their predecessors, the Neoplatonists together offered a kind of meta-discourse and reflection on the sum-total of ideas produced over centuries of sustained inquiry into the human condition.... 
Today, the Neoplatonic system may strike one as lofty, counterintuitive, and implausible, but to dismiss it out of hand is difficult, especially if one is prepared to take seriously a few fundamental assumptions that are at least not obviously wrong and may possibly be right.

Indeed, Einstein's revision of Newtonian physics began with a return to Plato and Platonic ideas; the problem is always that these ideas strike modern thinkers as 'lofty, counterintuitive, and implausible,' but that they often turn out to be right. Jonas too, as I said in the aside above, is really restating a truth that the Greeks had apprehended, even if Plato and Aristotle differed on how to apply it. 

So it might be worth starting with that article on Neoplatonism, so we can get a sense of what the different Christian churches were bringing forward in their two very different ways. It is a very fertile field, one that produces almost every time it is sought. 

Who Thought They'd Get as far as Lincoln?

The Great Emancipator's statue is now on the chopping block.