Thursday, October 08, 2015

From the Vault: Harry Potter and the Attack of the Critics

I am still asked what I think of the Harry Potter books, and, in fact, was just asked about this again recently. This is my article from the Spring, 2008 Classical Teacher magazine addressing this question:

It was Christmas time at number four Privet Drive, and Harry Potter found himself alone in his room, wondering whether anything could be worse than another yuletide spent in the home of the Dursleys. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, whose idea of a yuletide celebration never seemed to include actually giving Harry anything, had already informed him in the harshest tones that the gift he had asked for, the thing he wanted the most, was absolutely unacceptable. These kinds of judgments usually applied only to him, and not to their son Dudley, who almost always got what he wanted.

In fact, Dudley had asked for the same thing this Christmas as Harry: a copy of the newest in a series of books by a British author about a boy whose parents have been killed and is living with his unsympathetic aunt and uncle, and who, it turns out, has magical powers which he is not supposed to use outside school--a boy, in fact, just like him.

But even Dudley would not be getting his wish this Christmas, since the Dursleys were like many other parents on their block: conflicted about whether such books--books about young boys who use witchcraft, but who nevertheless engage in seemingly noble acts, should be so terribly popular--and read by their children.

...Well, you see where all this is going, don’t you?

That the greatest publishing event in history should turn out to have been a children’s book about an English orphan boy in training to be wizard has, depending on who you are, been a cause for celebration--or a matter of concern. For the parents whose children wait for months for the next in the series--and who are likely to disappear for a day or two in their rooms after they arrive, it is fact that either delights or horrifies you.

The Harry Potter books are indeed terribly popular, and many parents wonder what they should think of them. Generally speaking, there are two basic questions abour the Harry Potter books: First, are they bad? Second, if they’re not bad, are they good?

By “bad”, of course, could mean a number of things. Some people think the books are positively dangerous, since they use positive images of witchcraft to tell their story, and there is a concern that this could have a detrimental influence on children. Others think they are simply not good literature.

Let’s first address the first question: are the Harry Potter books dangerous? And the answer, of course, is “yes.” But there is a another, related question that naturally follows this one: Does that mean that the books should not be read? After all, it would seem to naturally follow that, if a book is dangerous it should not be read. All books that are dangerous should not be read; the Harry Potter books are dangerous; therefore they should not be read. Quod est demonstrandum ("It has been demonstrated).

But is it that simple?

When I am asked by a parent whether the Harry Potter books are dangerous, my answer is, “Absolutely.” “In fact,” I point out, “all literature is dangerous.”

Many parents of my generation will remember the fellow students they ran into in college 1970’s and 80’s who were hijacked by the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand. These were people who left home and came to college, where they encountered Rand’s novels the Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, and were overcome and captured by Rand’s egoistic ideology. Why were they so swept away? For one reason: they hadn’t read anything else. By and large, these were people who were not well-read in the first place. They were ignorant of the great books, and so, in encountering Rand, they mistakenly concluded that they had come face to face with great thinking. They were not used to ideas, and so, to use G. K. Chesterton’s words, the one idea went to their heads like “one glass of wine to a starving man.”

“Literature,” says Chesterton, “classic and enduring literature, does its best work in reminding us perpetually of the whole round of truth and balancing other and older ideas against the ideas to which we might for a moment be prone ... You can find all the new ideas in the old books; only there you will find them balanced, kept in their place, and sometimes contradicted and overcome by other and better ideas.”

To a child who is not well-read, Harry Potter is dangerous--and so is any other book he or she may read.

The best defense against one idea is not fewer ideas, but more of them, and the best defense against one book is a whole host of them. Being widely read, in other words, is the best innoculation against the dangers of literature. Being familiar with a lot of ideas is the best way to protect yourself against one bad one. Being widely read enables a person to not only see an idea, but, as Chesterton pointed out, to see through it.

Literature is dangerous--except when taken in large doses.

If my theory is right, then the Harry Potter books are only dangerous to children who are not well-read. But what about the witchcraft? It would seem here that the critics have a point. But let us think about this a little further.

I think there are two responses to the concerns over witchcraft in Harry Potter. The first is to ask whether the so-called “witchcraft” in these books of the same kind as that prohibited in the Scriptures (it is usually Christians who have this concern). I have my doubts about whether what is discussed in Scripture--namely necromancy--is really what is going on here, or whether what we have in the Harry Potter books is what I have called “fairy tale magic”. Waving wands and exploding birds just don’t seem to be the same kind of thing as calling up the spirits of the dead for purposes of prophesying, as in the case of the Witch of Endor.

The magic in the Harry Potter books seems mostly to be a sort of natural magic, used to manipulate things to do what we want them to do. If this is the case, then we might well ask how it differs fundamentally from science and technology, which do the same thing with processes that, to most of us (with the exception of a few magicians we call scientists) are just as mysterious as what happens when Harry Potter waves his wand.

The twentieth century science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said that "any technology, when sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic." I think he was right. But if you doubt it, then think about any one of the numerous uses to which you put technology every day and explain how they work to manipulate the word around you: the microwave, the garage door opener, your cellphone, or, for that matter, your car. By the same criteria that we would condemn the kind of magic used in Harry Potter, we would also have to condemn the technological devices that we use numerous times every day.

But even if the “magic” in Harry Potter posed a problem, there is something to be said for it being out in the open. In fact, if there are problems with the Harry Potter books, they hit us right in the face: the better we may see and assess them. How much better than a book in which the problems are underneath the surface, and that pass into our mind unnoticed. For this reason I am much more comfortable with my children reading Harry Potter, than, say Lois Lenski’s The Giver, or Katherine Paterson’s, Bridge to Teribithia, whose subtle messages are an undertow that cannot be seen on the surface.

Another charge thrown against the Harry Potter books is that they are not great literature. Harold Bloom, one of the great literary critics of our time, leveled this charge against the books in an article in the New York Times. After it ran, the editors called and told Bloom that they had never seen anything like it: they had received 400 negative response letters and only one positive one, and the latter they said they suspected he had written himself!

But those who think that the Harry Potter books are dangerous should be less concerned, not more, by the thought that they are not great literature. Why? Because not only is literature dangerous, but the better a piece of literature, the more dangerous it is. This may seem like a paradox, but it is really just common sense. Anything that captures your heart (and the better a piece of literature is, the more it will do this), can propel you in the right direction--or the wrong one.

There is a famous Latin phrase: Corruptio optimi pessima (“The corruption of the best is the worst”) In his “Screwtape Letters,” C. S. Lewis applies this principle by pointing out that the great saints and the great sinners are made of the same stuff.

Valdemort is very, very bad--but only because he could have been very, very good if he had not gone wrong.

In the case of Harry Potter, the books cannot be that bad because they are not that great. There is a difference between great literature and good literature, and they both have their place. When it comes to fiction, a great book is not only a book that you read again and again, or that speaks some great truth: it is a book that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is a book in which there is something behind what you initially see--a book in which there is more than meets the eye.

There have been many criticisms of the Harry Potter books, but for my money the most insightful remark anyone has made about them was that made by Medelaine L’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time and several other classic stories. In a May, 2008 interview in Newsweek magazine, L’Engle made an interesting observation: “It’s a nice story,” she said of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, “but there’s nothing underneath it.”

There’s nothing underneath it. That is the difference between a great book and a merely good one. Great books have something underneath them.

There are many things to commend the Potter books as reading material. I happen to think that her characters are well-drawn and compelling. In fact, they remind me very much of some of Dicken’s characters: they have the same vividness, they have the same reality and fundamentally comic nature--even the bad ones. She even gives them names that express something about their character: Bathsheba Babbling, Bathilda Bagshot, and Severus Snape are not that far from Josiah Bounderby, Mr. Bumble, or Ebeneezer Scrooge in descriptiveness and propriety.

And yet there is something different. Dickens’s characters often tell us something fundamental about human nature itself. His stories do this too. There is something “underneath” Dickens’ stories in a way that there is not in the Harry Potter books. While Rowling’s stories are about what they are about, Dickens’ stories are about more than what they are about. Chesterton once said that the aim of good prose words is to mean what they say, while the aim of good poetic words is to mean what they do not say. There is a poetry about great books that is missing from merely good ones.

In his book The Death of Christian Culture, John Senior makes a distinction between what he calls the 100 great books and 1,000 good books. He makes the distinction not to dismiss the good books, but only to put them in their proper place. In fact, he says, it is important to be familiar with the 1,000 good books before even attempting the 100 great books.

To say that the Harry Potter books are not great literature is not an argument against reading them; it is only an argument against the misconception that they are great. Because a book is only good and not great is not a reason for not reading it: it is only a reason for not misunderstanding its place.

In some sense, there is no arguing with success. There is something to be said for the argument that J. K. Rowling’s creation must have something to it for it to have been so successful. In fact, she spins an exciting yarn. As good books go, it is a pretty good good book. But second things, said C. S. Lewis, suffer when put first. He didn’t say what their fate was when put last. But neither mistake does the books--or ourselves--any favors.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Ted Cruz dismantles Sierra Club president on Global Warming

Ted Cruz dismantles Sierra Club President Aaron Mair in a congressional meeting on the issue of Global Warming alarmism yesterday. Whether you believe the earth is warming or not. I believe that that probably is the long-term trend, although what is causing it seems less clear. But you've got to find the anti-scientific mentality of the people demanding that everyone else accept it or else to be manifestly disturbing.

Listen to Mair's blatant appeal to authority when confronted with what the actual objective satellite data say about the pause in global warming over the past 18 years. In fact, he doesn't even seem to know what the "pause" is or that it is actually a term used by Warming proponents.

Can you be blamed for not trusting the authorities cited by these people (which de facto places them in the position of authorities for your own opinions)? Are you really supposed to believe so-called experts (who have been well-plied with grant money for taking the positions they take) in the face of evidence?

And do the 97 percent of climate scientists cited by Mair deny the pause? This seemed to be his assumption, but, as far as I know, these scientists were never asked that question.

I sat next to a recently retired climate scientist earlier this year. He was a political conservative, but believed that the evidence was definitive that the globe was warming over the long term. He said that he strongly disagreed with many conservatives who just denied that the earth was warming, but equally disturbed by how his liberal friends tried to sell the idea.

No wonder.

Oh, and here is one Warmer blog that calls Cruz's attempt to confront Mair with actual evidence, "bullying." This is priceless.

If someone argues this badly for a position, it makes you want to reject it even if you are inclined to believe it. In this sense, the Warmers have only themselves to blame if they can't convince people of their position.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Is the Urge to Pathologize "#Homophobia" a Psychological Disorder?

More junk science from the gay lobby.

There are apparently people who believe that "homophobia" should be considered a psychological disease. These people should have their heads examined.

In fact, more study should be done on whether the urge to assign pathological status to people who politically with you is itself a pathology.

The term "homophobia" originally came into use by psychologists to refer to people who were in denial about their own homosexuality. Only in recent years has it come into use as a punitive political bullying term wielded against people who simply disagree, on religious or other grounds, with the condition or practice of homosexuality.

But the political and psychological use of the term together provide a nice little way for LGBT advocates to bully their opponents. How nice it is if you could just label people whose political or social positions you dislike as diseased.

This goes back to the Soviet era in which the Russian government many times deemed opposition to Communism as a psychological malady, and filling its psychiatric hospitals with political prisoners.

This is also the essence of what the Southern Poverty Law Center does with its label of any socially conservative group as a "hate group."

But don't wait for the people who are always complaining about the "politicization of science" to complain about this. That's because the people who complain about the politicization of science are themselves politicized.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Rainbow Doritos inspiring other changes in food industry

Frito-Lay recently unveiled its Rainbow Doritos, a move intended to support gay and transgender lifestyles. The product has unleashed an entire revolution in the food industry.

The chips were made available only to those who donated to the It Gets Better Project, which helps fight hatred and intolerance of gays which everyone knows is rampant because of all the negative things we hear about gays from all sides every day all the time from everywhere, never hearing anything good about it. Ever.

Dairy producers, perhaps inspired by the Doritos move or the gender theory behind it, are gearing up to begin milking bulls as well as cows, and the poultry industry is looking into the possibility of collecting eggs from roosters.

The move by Frito-Lay is also influencing, not only in what Americans eat, but in the way they eat.

Nutrition experts are now advising that dinner be served in the morning and breakfast at night, and that desserts be served before dinner, and appetizers afterward. They are also now recommending that you should shop for the ingredients of meals you plan on having after you serve them rather than before, and that you preheat the oven only after you have baked something. In addition, lifestyle advisers are recommending that dishes be washed prior to meals.

In another development ...

Oh, wait, hang on ... You know what? I think this may just be a nightmare I had last night. Yeah, I think it is. I mean, everything except the Doritos part.

Never mind.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

#PopeFrancis vs. the Materialist Right: If you thought liberals were against religion in the public square, you ought to see the conservative reaction to the #Pope

If you thought liberals were against religion in the public square, you ought to see the conservative reaction to Pope Francis.

The conservative meltdown in response to the visit of Pope Francis has reminded me once again of the sorry state of conservative thought in America today. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other titular leaders of modern conservatism are what I like to call the "materialist right." WHAS-AM's talk show hosts Leland Conway (getting closer to home) and Mandy Connell, as well as commentator John David Dyche, lapse into this mode frequently.

The leaders of the Materialist Right are card carrying members of what Edmund Burke, the original conservative, once called the "sophisters and calculators." They worship "The Market." They're concerned with the economic bottom line. They're all about stuff. They exemplify the modernist tendency to think that something is valuable only to the extent that it can be quantitatively measured.

These are people who seem to think that the moment the GDP has a one percentage uptick, every family in America pauses at their desks or their dish-washing or their dinner, feeling one percent better.

This why they have fortitude breakdowns when it comes to social issues. With the possible exception of Limbaugh, who has hung surprisingly tough on the marriage issue, most of these people begin to swoon when it comes to having to defend traditional conservative social positions. They are in dire need of a personal assistant to stand by whenever they are forced into a discussion about a values issue, ready to administer smelling salts.

When it comes to economic issues, they're Julius Caesar; but when comes to social issues, they're Ferdinand the Bull. If the issue is whether there should be a new government program, they're unlocking the gun case; but if the issue is traditional marriage, they're out smelling the flowers.

If I hear one more self-professed conservative talk show host ask of a caller defending traditional marriage (as Leland and Mandy have done repeatedly), "but how does it affect your family?" I think I'm going to lose my lunch.

When PBS Nightly News asked me that question in the interview before the Supreme Court rewrote the 14th Amendment last year, I just questioned the assumption behind it, which was that it's all about me. It's the idea that we have no standing to take a position on any public policy issue unless we can quantitatively demonstrate that we will sustain some concrete personal benefit or harm. And, of course, the only kind if proof that would be accepted would be some kind of financial or economic gain or loss.

You're asked why you believe in traditional marriage and you're expected to produce your bank statements. This is the state of conservative thinking in the early 21st century. What do these people do in their spiritual lives? Is that decision too made according to some kind of strict individualistic, economic calculus?

The common good is now a weed in the conservative garden that must be rooted out so the economic plants won't be threatened.

The other thing about America's high profile conservatives is that, to them, everything is political--or at least everything important. Traditionalist conservatives like Russell Kirk used to warn against "immanentizing the eschaton"--in other words, of thinking that, through political ideologies, we can have salvation in this world.

It used to be the liberals who were the utopians. But now we have conservatives who seem to think that, once we have a free market, we will have reached Nirvana.

It's fine to think that the free market is the most efficient economic system. I believe that too. But when that is made the be all and end all of your political position, when you subordinate every other political and cultural issue to that one, you make it into an ideology, which is to say, a political religion.

I'll state this bluntly (as I have before): The self-professed conservatives (particularly libertarians) who worship "The Market" are radicals--in the same sense to the same extent as the people to whom they are always applying that label.

And that's ironic, because real conservatism is anti-radical.

Because of this conservative ideology (a contradiction in terms), when the Pope speaks on something from the perspective of, say, the Christian responsibility to be good stewards or how we should treat immigrants, it is immediately seen as some kind of political policy statement, and criticized in the same manner.

And, of course, the reaction of some conservatives has been to try to draw some hard and fast line between religion and politics. It's a rather ironic statement for Republicans to make at this particular time, given the high profile of religious issues in the presidential primary, but there it is. Marco Rubio, I am sorry to say, is one of the people who has said publicly that the Pope should stick to religious and moral issues and leave other issues alone.

In other words, His Holiness can go ahead and talk about peripheral values issues, but when it comes to the important issues (economics and foreign policy), he needs to take his censer and go burn some incense somewhere and leave things in the hands of the politicians--which, come to think of it, is even more ironic given what everything else they've said this year about politicians.

Of course, Rubio grew up Catholic, became a Mormon, and now goes to both a Catholic and a Protestant church. It's a good thing he doesn't have to observe immigration restrictions in his church life--or maybe the dual citizenship he apparently possesses gets him out of those restrictions, it's hard to tell.

It's one thing to disagree with the Pope. I might disagree with him on the Global Warming thing myself, although I haven't read Laudato Si yet, so I can't really say (I have learned to refrain from comment about what any Pope says or believes until I read what he actually said). But it is thing another to say that he has no business to say it. I'd rather a pope say something false than to think that he has not standing to say anything on other important issues--particularly when the people telling him to keep quiet are the very ones most responsible for screwing things up.

Monday, September 21, 2015

So what exactly is wrong with what Ben Carson said about Muslims?

The head of an organization that even Saudi Arabia has labeled a terrorist group is calling on Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson to withdraw from the presidential race for making statements "inconsistent with the United States Constitution."

The organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, apparently thinks you are Constitutionally required to agree with Muslims. Maybe their spokesman could direct us to the section of the Constitution that requires this.

All Ben Carson said was that he would not support a Muslim for president unless he swore off Sharia law. What exactly is the problem here? All of us have kinds of people we would not want in the Oval Office. My list includes not only Muslims, but communists, members of ISIS, Wiccans, cannibals, people just released from sanitoriums, anyone who has ever donated to the ACLU, children under 7 years old, editors of the New York Times, Tom Cruise, anyone who watches "The View," and (the most dangerous of all) secular liberals.

So what is the problem with Ben Carson not wanting Muslims who believe in Sharia law to rule this country?

Nihad Awad, the groups spokesperson for he group, talked as if Carson wanted to legally prohibit Muslims from holding the nation's highest office. But that's not what Carson said. He said he would not support it.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fiorina first to draw Trump blood: And nine more takeaways from the CNN Republican Debate

#1: Carly won every exchange and nailed every opportunity she was given to speak, which is why she won this debate. Look for her to rise significantly in the polls, partly because of her great performance, and partly because it was done in front of a lot of people who hadn't seen her before.

#2: Trump was boring for the very first time in this campaign during the 2nd half of this debate. He appeared sidelined for much of that time. He was not the center of attention like we (and he) are used to. I don't think he helped himself in this debate.

#3: Rubio and Christie exceeded expectations.

#4: Huckabee was great but he didn't get enough time.

#5: Kasich and Walker were too bland and programmatic.

#6: Cruz was his usual machine-like self, with the flawless delivery and all, but he won't excite many people.

#7: Carson did well too. He knew the issues and didn't get tangled up with other participants.

#8: Rand Paul did better, but, over there on the left, he looked to far out of the action most of the night.

#9: The debate was at least 45 minutes too long.

#10: And back to Carly She drew blood from Trump for the very first time in this campaign. She is now officially the most effective weapon against Trump. She's going places.

Winners and losers in tonight's CNN Republican debate

The Republican primary election has turned into a chest-hair counting contest, thanks to Donald Trump. He has set out to prove himself the dominant male in the race and so far is succeeding--and doing it without trying real hard, which people like.

I still can't figure out what accounts for this outbreak of masculinity in a generally anti-testosterone culture, but this is what is happening. Trump does all the things a dog does to bring the rest of the pack into line: He growls, bites, badgers, acts petulantly, and demands to be petted (an action he will administer to himself if necessary).

The other candidates don't seem to understand this yet (largely because they don't read this blog, which, of course, is inexcusable).

So what does this mean for tonight? How do you displace the alpha dog?

The first thing is to do no harm. For Bush, that means his handlers (where have these people been anyway?) need to tell their candidate to stop cocking his head to the side in this sort of awe, shucks way that, I'm sorry, just makes him look like a wimp. This has the same effect as when a submissive member of the pack turns over on his back and lifts up its paw. It means, "Sure, buddy, anything you want." Bush's handers needed to have him practice his debate performance with highly charged electrodes just inches from each side of his head to give him a strong shock when commits submissive behavior.

The strategy for some candidates is going to be to demonstrate some more grit. Unfortunately, wearing jeans, and cowboy hat along with a large belt buckle probably won't do the trick. Bush's only hope is to pad his arms and shoulders and look like he has been working out. But he isn't going to do that. And going toe to toe with Trump is his only option, but he just can't do it very well, and for that reason, Bush is going to lose ground tonight.

Same for Rand Paul. This is where Trump's physique comes in. I'm surprised no one has taken notice of Trump's physical build. I don't know how tall he is, but he is clearly a tall, well-built man. The dude's got to work out or something. Has anyone noticed that the guy is large, well into his sixties, and has no noticeable stomach?

I'm being serious here. Your physique and your posture are things that give you automatic confidence when you speak to people or appear on television. My diminutive and somewhat shy daughter shocked me in high school by winning a debate competition (with no prior experience). The one thing that struck me was her posture. She rode horses, which requires you to sit up perfectly straight. If her excellent posture didn't actually give her confidence (I think it did), it made her look like she did, which had to have helped bring it about.

Trump's very physical presence communicates his dominance.. Did anyone know notice how small Paul looked in the first debate? He looked like he had just arrived in the land of giants. He needs to negotiate for a smaller podium to make himself look bigger. But it won't happen. So he loses too. So does Marco Rubio. He looks too young--too young to take on the top dog.

The only other strategy against Trump is coexistence. Cruz has mastered this. He has followed the Klingon strategy of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. So far, this isn't working too badly for him. Same for Rubio, who is following this same strategy. But Cruz is plagued by these irritating effeminacies. Look at his manner, particularly the way he uses his hands, and compare these with Trump's manner, and you'll see what I mean. As far as Rubio goes, he would be doing better if he didn't look so much like he was still waiting for his permanent teeth to come in.

Then there are the other candidates who, almost to a man (but not a woman, hold on for that thought), are just boring, especially compared to Trump. There is a yawning excitement gap in this campaign, and all the candidates who just roll out policy proposals and tout their very boring technocratic expertise and experience just simply stand no chance in this race, partly because this race is about being authentic and none these things help to establish that.

Huckabee seems to me to be in a unique position. He is well spoken, logical, and is trying to outmaneuver his opponents with evangelicals. I think he is always impressive in these kind of situations. He is the only one, it seems to me, who is able to criticize Trump and get away with it because of his smooth and disarming manner. At the same time, he somehow (I don't know how), doesn't seem to suffer from the 2016 establishment curse, despite the fact that he was a governor.

Ben Carson won't be hurt too badly, but I think people are going to find him less compelling in this debate. He got a big bump in the last debate because he looked real and respectable and he exceeded expectations. But now expectations are higher this time and I think that his lack of specifics (something that doesn't hurt the alpha dog) won't impress anybody. I think he communicates his authenticity well, which is one of his big advantages. He has also captured much of the religious right because he's one of them. He also has a great story. But I think his languid manner is going to start to wear. It will either be a wash for Carson or a slight comedown.

Walker is boring because he's too establishment and just keeps digging himself in by his litany of establishment accomplishments and his lists of policy prescriptions. He loses. Kasich should have the same problems as Walker, but he is trying to go for moderates which no one else is going for, plus he spunk, which doesn't hurt.

Chris Christie does okay, but, unfortunately for him, Trump has out Chris Christied Chris Christie.

Then there is Carly Fiorina, who I think is the candidate who has the ability to gain the most in this debate. Ironically, she may be the toughest personality in the contest. While she's smooth, she still rates high on the authenticity scale, and her manner is more masculine than Cruz. Like Carson, she has a great story (secretary to CEO). And, most importantly, she is the only candidate who can follow the first anti-Trump strategy--to go after him--and gain ground. She did a great job of going after Hillary, and, being a woman, she will exceed expectations if she is able to draw a little blood from the dominant male. She's in an underdog position--because of her sex and her up-until-now low stature in the polls. She'll also have "Aha!" factor: Many will see her for the first time and be impressed.

Fiorina gains the most 
Trump maintains his advantage or adds to it; ditto for Huckabee and maybe Kasich 
Cruz and maybe Carson and Christie maintain 
Rand Paul and Rubio maintain or lose a little 
Bush loses, as does Walker

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hah! Evidence that 15 homo naledis were part of cave cramming fad

Okay. Now this is serendipitous. My thesis that the 15 small-brained hominids found in a South African cave and now being called homo naledi (and by the way, the Latin plural of that is homines naledorum) were part of a prehistoric cave cramming fad is gaining credibility by the moment.

Which country holds the record for the number of people that can be stuffed into a phone booth?

Ready? SOUTH AFRICA! From Mortal Journey: "The South African record of twenty five people stuffed into a booth has never been broken.

You heard it here first.

Is the discovery of skeletons in an African cave really as significant as scientists are saying?

Scientists who have found fifteen skeletons in a cave in South Africa claim they have discovered a new species of hominid and are now waxing eloquent about the significance of the discovery to science. They have even given these creatures a fancy name: homo naledi.

But based on the fact that they were of small stature and possessed small brains, it is fairly clear that what we have here is an attempt by a group of prehistoric teenagers who, not having a small car or a phone booth at their disposal, were trying to see how many people could fit into a cave.

Ten bucks says that if they can determine the stomach contents of these creatures, they will find tiny fish skeletons—remnants of goldfish swallowing contests—and that if they look at the walls carefully they will find primitive instructions on how to dance the cha-cha.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A question for conservatives who think Kim Davis should "follow the law" or resign

I have a question for my fellow conservatives unsympathetic with Kim Davis' refusal to issue marriage licenses.

A number of conservatives have said that they think Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis should either "follow the law" or resign her position. The "rule of law," they say, is all-important and cannot be defied without threatening our very form of government.

So, here is my question:

Given that the Supreme Court defied the rule of law in a manner, given their power and office, far more destructive to our form of government (by ignoring the plain language of the Constitution, defying precedent, and just flat out making stuff up) than Kim Davis could do in fifty lifetimes, why did you never call on the five justices who made up the High Court's majority in the Obergefell decision to "follow the law or resign"?

I just find it ironic that their standards for the behavior of public officials is higher for a lowly county clerk than it is for an exalted member of the nation's highest court.

And let's not say that the Court has the right and responsibility to "interpret the Constitution." That dog most definitely won't hunt, since there is a legitimate distinction between interpretation and policy-making and the Court has defied as egregiously as it possible to defy it, and the argument that the Court has the right to do this on the basis of Marbury vs. Madison basically amounts to saying that the Supreme Court can do what the Supreme Court wants to do because it says so.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Family Foundation Press Release on release of Kim Davis: Strengthen KY religious freedom laws

LEXINGTON, KY--"While we hope Judge Bunning enjoyed a leisurely holiday weekend," said Family Foundation spokesman Martin Cothran, "we are sorry Kim Davis had to languish in jail, away from her family. Judge Bunning has ordered her release, but we wonder why it came for Davis after spending six days in jail. Nothing has materially changed over the weekend. If she didn't deserve to be in jail today, she didn't deserve to be put there in the first place."

The Family Foundation, the group leading the effort in Kentucky to support Kim Davis, said that the release does not change the problem of threats to religious freedom. "There is no indication that the next person who exercises his or her First Amendment right to free religious exercise will not be thrown in jail too."

Cothran called for strengthening Kentucky's religious freedom protections. "We need to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.

Cothran also openly wondered if Bunning had second thoughts over the weekend about what he had done. "Judge Bunning and others who have a low view of religious freedom protections must have realized over the holiday weekend that they had created a marytr and hurt their own cause. It's too bad it took the mobilization of tens of thousands of citizens to force her release."