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[VIDEO] Apollo 8’s Christmas Eve Message

On December 24th, 1968, Apollo 8 made its final pass around the moon and the crew, in turn, sent home this message:

Bill Anders
“We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.'”

apollo-8-crew1

Jim Lovell
“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

earth_lg Read the rest of this entry »

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Michael Lind: What Politics Is(n’t) 

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In defense of what politics is and is not.

Michael Lind writes: What is politics? The answer is not obvious. Most Americans on the left and the right either do not know or have forgotten what politics is. Conventional American progressives have pretty much abandoned any distinction between the political realm and society and culture in general, while conventional American conservatives treat politics as an exercise in doctrinal purity. Both sides, in different ways, undermine the idea of a limited public square in which different groups in society can agree on a few big things while agreeing to disagree with others — progressives, by including too much of society in the public square, and conservatives, by blocking compromise with too many ideological tests.

February 23, 2014: People paint on the KGB officers monument in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

February 23, 2014: People paint on the KGB officers monument in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

“The secularization of the population was not necessary, but the secularization of the public sphere was. You could no longer win political debates by appealing to a particular interpretation of divine Scripture. Under the rules of Enlightenment liberalism, you had to make a case for the policy you preferred that was capable of persuading citizens who did not share your religious beliefs. A mere numerical majority was not enough. If the politicians express the will of a majority of voters, and the majority are told how to vote by clerics, then the democracy is really an indirect theocracy.”

Politics is only possible in a society in which much, if not most, of social life is not politicized. In premodern communities in which every aspect of life was regulated by custom or religious law, there was no politics, in the modern sense. There was no public sphere because there was no private sphere. Tribal custom or divine law, as interpreted by tribal elders or religious authorities, governed every action, leaving no room for individual choice. There were power struggles, to be sure. But there was no political realm separate from the tribe or the religious congregation. And disagreement was heresy.

A February protest against a liquified natural gas export facility in Maryland. Susan Yin/Chesapeake Climate Action Network

A February protest against a liquified natural gas export facility in Maryland. Susan Yin/Chesapeake Climate Action Network

The separation of church and state — strictly speaking, the privatization of religious belief, beginning in early modern Europe and America — was the precondition for modern politics. The secularization of the population was not necessary, but the secularization of the public sphere was. You could no longer win political debates by appealing to a particular interpretation of divine Scripture.

“Conventional American progressives have pretty much abandoned any distinction between the political realm and society and culture in general, while conventional American conservatives treat politics as an exercise in doctrinal purity. Both sides, in different ways, undermine the idea of a limited public square in which different groups in society can agree on a few big things while agreeing to disagree with others — progressives, by including too much of society in the public square, and conservatives, by blocking compromise with too many ideological tests.”

Under the rules of Enlightenment liberalism, you had to make a case for the policy you preferred that was capable of persuading citizens who did not share your religious beliefs. A mere numerical majority was not enough. If the politicians express the will of a majority of voters, and the majority are told how to vote by clerics, then the democracy is really an indirect theocracy.

Statue of Lenin in park of the statue near Budapest in hungary

“As the Marxist substitute for Abrahamic religion has faded away, its place on the political left is being taken by the new secular political religions of environmentalism and identity politics. Each of these is strongest in post-Protestant Northern Europe and North America, and weakest in historically Catholic and Orthodox Christian societies.”

Unfortunately, as Horace observed, “You can drive out Nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps on coming back.” The same might be said of religion. While some forms of religion have been expelled from politics, new forms keep trying to creep in, to recreate something like the pre-Enlightenment world in which a single moral code governs all of society and disagreement is intolerable heresy.

[Read the full text here, at The Smart Set]

Marxism can only be understood as a Christian, or Judeo-Christian, or Abrahamic spin-off — a faith militant, with its prophets, its holy scriptures, its providential theory of history, its evangelical universalism, its message of brotherhood and sisterhood transcending particular communities. Marxism was the fourth major Abrahamic religion. Nothing like Marxism could have evolved independently in traditional Confucian China or Hindu India, with their cyclical rather than progressive views of history.

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“Other elements of religion, expelled from the public sphere, have crept back in via the left, thanks to environmentalism. As the great environmental scientist James Lovelock has pointed out, anthropogenic global warming is affected by the sources of energy for large-scale power generation and transportation. But refusing to fly on airplanes or reducing your personal “carbon footprint” is a meaningless exercise, explicable only in the context of religion, with its traditions of ritual fasts and sacrifices in the service of personal moral purity.”

As the Marxist substitute for Abrahamic religion has faded away, its place on the political left is being taken by the new secular political religions of environmentalism and identity politics. Each of these is strongest in post-Protestant Northern Europe and North America, and weakest in historically Catholic and Orthodox Christian societies. A case can be made that militant environmentalism and militant identity politics are both by-products of the decomposition of Protestantism in the Anglophone nations and Germanic Europe. Read the rest of this entry »


The End of Democracy in America

Tocqueville foresaw how it would come.

Myron Magnet writes: Alexis de Tocqueville was a more prophetic observer of American democracy than even his most ardent admirers appreciate. True, readers have seen clearly what makes his account of American exceptionalism so luminously accurate, and they have grasped the profundity of his critique of American democracy’s shortcomings. What they have missed is his startling clairvoyance about how democracy in America could evolve into what he called “democratic despotism.” That transformation has been in process for decades now, and reversing it is the principal political challenge of our own moment in history. It is implicitly, and should be explicitly, at the center of our upcoming presidential election.

“The man who properly understands his own self-interest has all the guidance he needs to act justly and honestly. They believe that every person is born with the faculty to govern himself and that no one has the right to force happiness on his fellow man.”

Readers don’t fully credit Tocqueville with being the seer he was for the same reason that, though volume 1 of Democracy in America set cash registers jingling as merrily as Santa’s sleigh bells at its 1835 publication, volume 2, five years later, met a much cooler reception. The falloff, I think, stems from the author’s failure to make plain a key step in his argument between the two tomes—an omission he righted two decades later with the publication of The Old Regime and the French Revolution in 1856. Reading the two books together makes Tocqueville’s argument—and its urgent timeliness—snap into focus with the clarity of revelation.

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“True, readers have seen clearly what makes his account of American exceptionalism so luminously accurate, and they have grasped the profundity of his critique of American democracy’s shortcomings. What they have missed is his startling clairvoyance about how democracy in America could evolve into what he called ‘democratic despotism.’”

What’s missing in volume 2 of Democracy is concrete, illustrative detail. Volume 1 mines nine months of indefatigable travel that began in May 1831 in Newport, Rhode Island—“an array of houses no bigger than chicken coops”—when the aristocratic French lawyer was still two months shy of his 26th birthday. Tocqueville’s epic journey extended from New York City through the virgin forests of Michigan to Lake Superior, from Montreal through New England, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee by coach, steamboat, and even on foot through snow-choked woods, until he and his traveling companion, Gustave de Beaumont, boarded a steamer for New Orleans.

“That transformation has been in process for decades now, and reversing it is the principal political challenge of our own moment in history. It is implicitly, and should be explicitly, at the center of our upcoming presidential election.”

From there, they crossed the Carolinas into Virginia, visited Washington, and returned to New York to embark for home with a trunkful of notes and American histories. Tocqueville had watched both houses of Congress in action and interviewed 200-odd people, ranging from President Andrew Jackson, ex-president John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State Edward Livingston, Senator Daniel Webster, Supreme Court Justice John McLean, and future chief justice Salmon Chase to Sam Houston, a band of Choctaw Indians, and “the last of the Iroquois: they begged for alms.”

[Read the full story here, at City Journal]

Only by the time The Old Regime came out, though, three years before Tocqueville’s untimely death from tuberculosis at 53 in 1859, had he amassed the wealth of practical political experience needed to flesh out the argument of Democracy in America’s second volume. After three terms in the Chamber of Deputies during Louis Philippe’s bourgeois monarchy, he had served in the Constituent Assembly following the 1848 revolution, helping to write the Second Republic’s constitution and serving as foreign minister, until president Louis Napoleon made himself emperor. He had researched The Old Regime by reading mountains of official reports and correspondence from the 1750s onward in the archives, chiefly of Tours and Paris. All this allowed him to document what had 51mOL73ChuL._SL250_been inspired but mostly theoretical speculation in volume 2 of Democracy in America.

[Order Alexis de Tocqueville’s masterpiece “Democracy in America” from Amazon.com]

Tocqueville didn’t go to America out of blind democratic enthusiasm. “It is very difficult to decide whether democracy governs better, or aristocracy,” he mused: but the question is merely academic, because anyone who pays attention to swiftly shifting French affairs—from the Revolution, the Directory, and Napoleon to the Restoration and the constitutional monarchy of 1830—can’t deny that “sooner or later we will come, as the Americans have come, to an almost complete equality of conditions.” In that case, “[w]ould it not then become necessary to consider the gradual development of democratic institutions and mores not as the best way to be free but as the only way left to us?”

“In French, the word is moeurs, meaning manners, morals, core beliefs, and customs—what we would call culture. There are ‘three major factors that have governed and shaped American democracy,’ Tocqueville argued, ‘but if I were asked to rank them, I would say that physical causes matter less than laws and laws less than mores.’”

So he went to America in search of “lessons from which we might profit”—negative lessons as well as positive ones. And just after the publication of volume 1 of Democracy in America, he cast his own lot with democracy, marrying, to his family’s horror, a beautiful middle-class English Protestant, Mary Mottley, whom he considered “the only person in the world who knows the bottom of my soul”—but who never shed her middle-class outrage at “the least deviation on my part,” he complained. After all, who can stop his “blood boiling at the sight of a woman”? (And, already at 17, he had fathered a child, whose fate is unknown, with a servant girl.) Still, he at least remained faithful to democracy: when he inherited the title Comte de Tocqueville in 1836, he never used it.

[Also see – We’re Losing The Two Things Tocqueville Said Mattered Most About American Democracy, at The Federalist]

In America, he believed, he’d find democracy in its purest form—morally pure but also unmixed with any vestiges of a hierarchical regime from which it had had to revolt, unlike any other modern democracy. The earliest Anglo-American settlers had crossed the sea to begin the political world A view of America, from France.afresh. This band of equals had “braved the inevitable miseries of exile because they wished to
ensure the victory of an idea,” he wrote—the Puritan idea that “was not just a religious doctrine” but that “coincided with the most absolute democratic and republican theories,” inseparably intertwining “the spirit of religion and the spirit of liberty.”

 “’There is nothing the human will despairs of achieving through the free action of the collective power of individuals.’ Free and collaborative: that’s the mainspring of American mores.”

For the Pilgrims, Tocqueville explained, “Religion looks upon civil liberty as a noble exercise of man’s faculties, and on the world of politics as a realm intended by the Creator for the application of man’s intelligence. . . . Liberty looks upon religion as its comrade in battle and victory, as the cradle of its infancy and divine source of its rights.” As the settlers believed, “religion subjects the truths of the other world to individual reason, just as politics leaves the interest of this world to the good sense of all, and it allows each man free choice of the path that is to lead him to heaven, just as the law grants each citizen the right to choose his government.”

“Nongovernmental associations spring up for furthering ‘public security, commerce and industry, morality and religion.’”

So Puritanism was the wellspring of American mores—a key term for Tocqueville that refers not just to “what one might call habits of the heart, but also to the various notions that men possess, to the diverse opinions that are current among them, and to the whole range of ideas that shape habits of mind.” In French, the word is moeurs, meaning manners, morals, core beliefs, and customs—what we would call culture. There are “three major factors that have governed and shaped American democracy,” Tocqueville argued, “but if I were asked to rank them, I would say that physical causes matter less than laws and laws less than mores.”

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From the seventeenth-century Puritan acorn grew American culture’s fundamentally libertarian creed. Universal reason (which reveals Jefferson’s self-evident truths, for example) is the source of moral authority, “just as the source of political power lies in the universality of citizens.” Most Americans believe that “consensus is the only guide to what is permitted or prohibited, true or false,” and that “the man who properly understands his own self-interest has all the guidance he needs to act justly and honestly. They believe that every person is born with the faculty to govern himself and that no one has the right to force happiness on his fellow man.” And they believe in human perfectibility, the usefulness of the spread of enlightenment, and the certainty of progress, so that what seems good today will give way tomorrow to something better but as yet unimagined.

[Read the full text here, at City Journal]

Why are your ships not built to last? Tocqueville once asked an American sailor. Naval architecture improves so quickly, the sailor replied, that the finest ship would be obsolete before it wore out. A Silicon Valley engineer would sound the same today. Read the rest of this entry »


Alessandro Allori: ‘The Body of Christ with Two Angels’, c. 1600, Szépmûvészeti Múzeum

Body of Christ with Two Angels

ALLORI, Alessandro
The Body of Christ with Two Angels
c. 1600
Oil on copper, 45 x 39 cm
Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest


Francesco Cabianca: Deposition of Christ, 1711

Deposition of Christ

CABIANCA, Francesco
Deposition of Christ
1711
Marble
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

 


Roger Scruton: ‘These Left Thinkers Have Destroyed the Intellectual Life’ 

The philosopher talks to Mick Hume about politics, marriage and Islam.

Mick Hume writes: Ours is an age of intellectual conformism, in which expressing offensive opinions often seems to be deemed the worst offence of all; academia is decreed a ‘safe space’ where ‘uncomfortable’ ideas are banished, and using the wrong word can see you accused of committing a ‘microaggression’. And you are supposed to apologise at the first sign of a wagging finger.

“When I was in Paris in ’68 I became indignant at the total ignorance of the people who tried to tell me that this revolution was something important. I couldn’t argue with them about the thing that really mattered to me, culture. To them that was just ‘bourgeois’. This word bourgeois really got up my nose.”

Roger Scruton apparently didn’t get the memo. During our conversation, the conservative philosopher gently but unapologetically delivered blunt and cutting opinions on subjects ranging from Slavoj Zizek to Jeremy Corbyn, from banning the veil to Islamist terrorism, from homosexuality to fox hunting. Whatever anybody thinks of his views, they should surely endorse his aversion to the ‘radical censorship of anything that disturbs people’ and his insistence that the controversial ‘needs to be discussed’ rather than continually ‘pushed under the carpet’.

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“I decided, yes, of course there is such a thing as the bourgeoisie and you are it, these well-fed, pampered middle-class students whose one concern was to throw stones at working-class people who happened to be in a policeman’s uniform.’”

Now 71, Scruton has been the bête noire of British left intellectuals for more than 30 years, and gives them another beastly mauling in his new book Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left. It is a tour de force that, the introduction concedes, is ‘not a word-mincing book’, but rather ‘a provocation’. In just under 300 pages he Scruton-izes a collection of stars, past and present, of the radical Western intelligentsia – the likes of Eric Hobsbawm and EP Thompson in Britain, JK Galbraith and Ronald Dworkin in the US, Jurgen Habermas, Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan and Gilles Deleuze in Europe. An expanded and updated version of his controversial 51-wPXgmYqL._SL250_Thinkers of the New Left(1985), the book ends with a new chapter entitled ‘The kraken wakes’ dealing with the ‘mad incantations’ of Alan Badiou and the left’s marginally newer academic celebrity, the Slovenian Zizek.

[Check out Roger Scruton’s bookFools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left” at Amazon.com]

The slightly pained look on his face suggests that I am not the first to ask Scruton why he has devoted a book to taking on a collection of largely declining or deceased intellectuals and a culture that he concedes ‘now survives largely in its academic redoubts’. ‘They may seem like obscure intellectuals to the man in the street but actually they are still dominant on the humanities curriculum’, he explains. ‘If you study English or French, even musicology or whatever, you have to swallow a whole load of Lacan and Deleuze. Take Deleuze’s book, A Thousand Plateaus – the English translation has only been out a few years, but it’s already gone through 11 printings. A huge, totally unreadable tome by somebody who can’t write French.’

“Defending academic freedom against the forces of conformity matters to Scruton because ‘My life began, insofar as it had a beginning, in the university. That’s where I grew up, and I love my subject, philosophy, love the whole idea of the academic and scholarly life, that one has a place apart where people are pursuing the truth and communicating that to people who are eager to learn it.”

‘Yet this is core curriculum throughout the humanities in American and English universities. Why? The one sole reason is it’s on the left. There is nothing that anybody can translate into lucid prose, but for that very reason, it seems like a suit of armour around the age-old prejudices against power and authority, the old unshaped and unshapeable agenda.’

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“‘And this thing has completely destroyed the intellectual life.’ He considers these leftists prime culprits in what might be called the closing of the university mind, though ‘whether they caused the closing of the mind or are the effect of it is another matter’.”

Defending academic freedom against the forces of conformity matters to Scruton because ‘My life began, insofar as it had a beginning, in the university. That’s where I grew up, and I love my subject, philosophy, love the whole idea of the academic and scholarly life, that one has a place apart where people are pursuing the truth and communicating that to people who are eager to learn it.

[Read the full story here, at spiked]

And this thing has completely destroyed the intellectual life.’ He considers these leftists prime culprits in what might be called the closing of the university mind, though ‘whether they caused the closing of the mind or are the effect of it is another matter’.

Paris 1968 France protests bruno barbey

“Scruton’s powerful aversion to ‘the French gurus of ’68 and their jargon-ridden prose’ dates from that student revolt in Paris in 1968. It gave birth to a generation of radical thinkers, and, in the process, helped turn at least one young Englishman into a conservative.”

Scruton’s powerful aversion to ‘the French gurus of ’68 and their jargon-ridden prose’ dates from that student revolt in Paris in 1968. It gave birth to a generation of radical thinkers, and, in the process, helped turn at least one young Englishman into a conservative. ‘I was there in Paris and I was indignant at the stupidity of what I observed. I was a normal young person in England, I was brought up in a Labour Party family and as far as I had any views they’d be vaguely on the left.’ His father was a working-class lad from Manchester who became a schoolteacher and moved his family south, where Scruton attended High Wycombe Royal Grammar School, played bass guitar and listened to The Beatles before being expelled shortly after winning a scholarship to Cambridge University. Read the rest of this entry »


New York Daily News: Authoritarian Secular Progressive Anti-Christian Rage Boils Over

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[PHOTOS] French Artist Miguel Chevalier’s Projection Mapping Fills Cambridge’s 16th-Century King’s College Chapel with Stars

Attendees to a recent fundraising event inside University of Cambridge’s 16th-century chapel were treated to a spectacular display far above. The Gothic arches of King’s College Chapel were transformed into a canvas for mesmerizing views of stars, foliage, psychedelic clouds and university crests. The work was created by French projection artist Miguel Chevalier.

The visuals were generated in real-time, contributing to the theme of each speaker. During a presentation on black holes by Stephen Hawking, the room was transformed into a vision of deep space. Other topics touched on subjects ranging from health, to Africa, biology and physics.

See more of Chevalier’s projection mapping work in unusual places, on his personal websiteFacebook or Instagram.

See more here….

Source: visualnews.com


Eric Schwitzgebel: What Good is the Study of Ethics if it Doesn’t Make Us More Ethical?

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Are professional ethicists good people? According to our research, not especially. So what is the point of learning ethics?

Eric Schwitzgebel writes: None of the classic questions of philosophy are beyond a seven-year-old’s understanding. If God exists, why do bad things happen? How do you know there’s still a world on the other side of that closed door? Are we just made of material stuff that will turn into mud when we die? If you could get away with killing and robbing people just for fun, would you? The questions are natural. It’s the answers that are hard.

“Shouldn’t regularly thinking about ethics have some sort of influence on one’s own behaviour? Doesn’t it seem that it would? To my surprise, few professional ethicists seem to have given the question much thought.”

Eight years ago, I’d just begun a series of empirical studies on the moral behaviour of professional ethicists. My son Davy, then seven years old, was in his booster seat in the back of my car. ‘What do you think, Davy?’ I asked. ‘People who think a lot about what’s fair and about being nice – do they behave any better than other people? Are they more likely to be fair? Are they more likely to be nice?’

Davy didn’t respond right away. I caught his eye in the rearview mirror.

AA671283: Literature, Music, Theatre

“Ethicists do not behave better. But neither, overall, do they seem to behave worse.”

‘The kids who always talk about being fair and sharing,’ I recall him saying, ‘mostly just want you to be fair to them and share with them.’

[Read the full text of Eric Schwitzgebel’s article here, at Aeon]

When I meet an ethicist for the first time – by ‘ethicist’, I mean a professor of philosophy who specialises in teaching and researching ethics – it’s my habit to ask whether ethicists behave any differently to other types of professor. Most say no.51enhSs2nlL._SL250_

I’ll probe further: why not? Shouldn’t regularly thinking about ethics have some sort of influence on one’s own behaviour? Doesn’t it seem that it would?

[Order Eric Schwitzgebel’s book “Perplexities of Consciousness” (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) from Amazon.com]

To my surprise, few professional ethicists seem to have given the question much thought. They’ll toss out responses that strike me as flip or are easily rebutted, and then they’ll have little to add when asked to clarify. They’ll say that academic ethics is all about abstract problems and bizarre puzzle cases, with no bearing on day-to-day life – a claim easily shown to be false by a few examples: Aristotle on virtue, Kant on lying, Singer on charitable donation. They’ll say: ‘What, do you expect epistemologists to have more knowledge? Do you expect doctors to be less likely to smoke?’ I’ll reply that the empirical evidence does suggest that doctors are less likely to smoke than non-doctors of similar social and economic background. Maybe epistemologists don’t have more knowledge, but I’d hope that specialists in feminism would exhibit less sexist behaviour – and if they didn’t, that would be an interesting finding. I’ll suggest that relationships between professional specialisation and personal life might play out differently for different cases.

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“We criticise Martin Heidegger for his Nazism, and we wonder how deeply connected his Nazism was to his other philosophical views. But we don’t feel the need to turn the mirror on ourselves.”

It seems odd to me that our profession has so little to say about this matter. We criticise Martin Heidegger for his Nazism, and we wonder how deeply connected his Nazism was to his other philosophical views. But we don’t feel the need to turn the mirror on ourselves.

Photo by Hussein Malla/AP

“No clergyperson has ever expressed to me the view that clergy behave on average morally better than laypeople, despite all their immersion in religious teaching and ethical conversation. Maybe in part this is modesty on behalf of their profession.”

The same issues arise with clergy. In 2010, I was presenting some of my work at the Confucius Institute for Scotland. Afterward, I was approached by not one but two bishops. I asked them whether they Christ_Icon_Sinai_6th_century
thought that clergy, on average, behaved better, the same or worse than laypeople.

‘About the same,’ said one.

‘Worse!’ said the other.

No clergyperson has ever expressed to me the view that clergy behave on average morally better than laypeople, despite all their immersion in religious teaching and ethical conversation. Maybe in part this is modesty on behalf of their profession. But in most of their voices, I also hear something that sounds like genuine disappointment, some remnant of the young adult who had headed off to seminary hoping it would be otherwise.

In a series of empirical studies – mostly in collaboration with the philosopher Joshua Rust of Stetson University – I have empirically explored the moral behaviour of ethics professors. As far as I’m aware, Josh and I are the only people ever to have done so in a systematic way.

Here are the measures we looked at: voting in public elections, calling one’s mother, eating the meat of mammals, donating to charity, littering, disruptive chatting and door-slamming during philosophy presentations, responding to student emails, attending conferences without paying registration fees, organ donation, blood donation, theft of library books, overall moral evaluation by one’s departmental peers based on personal impressions, honesty in responding to survey questions, and joining the Nazi party in 1930s Germany. Read the rest of this entry »


Rick Lowry: The Pope’s Climate Bull Ignores a Secular Miracle

Nov. 15, 2014 - Vaticano - 1099818 : (Donatella Giagnori / EIDON),  2014-11-15 Vaticano - Pope Francis holds an audience with members of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors - Pope Francis greets members of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors at Paul VI Hall on November 15, 2014 at Vatican (Credit Image: © Donatella Giagnori/Eidon Press/ZUMA Wire)

A quasi-religious movement now has a genuinely religious leader

Rick LowryRich-Lowry writes: The pope’s encyclical on the environment is being hailed for its embrace of science, although it is about as scientific as the Catholic hymnal.

Pope Francis writes that Sister Earth “now cries out because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” Really? Is that what the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says?

“The average person in the world of 1800 was no better off than the average person of 100,000 B.C. …Life expectancy was no higher in 1800 than for hunter-gatherers: 30 to 35 years. Stature, a measure both of the quality of diet and of children’s exposure to disease, was higher in the Stone Age than in 1800.”

— Gregory Clark, author of A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World

The Catholic Church brings comfort and meaning to the lives of countless millions. That doesn’t mean that climate science, economic policy and cost-benefit analysis are its core competencies.

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“But at least when everyone died at a much earlier age, we weren’t engaging in the ravages of the planet that so exercise Francis.”

No one has ever said: Yes, but what did Gregory VII do to fight the onset of the Medieval Warm Period?41PJ8r7zYVL._SL250_

All that matters to the media, though, is that Pope Francis has taken an apocalyptic climate alarmism and given it the imprimatur of the Vatican.

[Check out Gregory Clark’s book “A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World” at Amazon.com]

The same people who dismiss the pope on more central moral matters, like the dignity of life, are now attributing to him an authority that might have made Pope Innocent III, who challenged kings, blush.

The document could have benefited from an editor cutting out the bizarre ramblings. The pope writes of “harmful habits of consumption,” including “the increasing use and power of air conditioning.” He argues that “an outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behavior.”

That’s assuming the outsider lives in a very cool climate, or doesn’t mind sweating. Anyone not so lucky probably thinks the inventor of air conditioning should be canonized.

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“This sinful assault on the Earth, by the way, largely consisted in taking otherwise completely useless glop from the ground and using it to power economic and technical advances that enriched average people beyond anyone’s imagining. This is obviously a secular miracle of the highest order.”

While the pope pays lip service to technological advances, he doesn’t truly appreciate their wonders. The Industrial Revolution was a great boon to humankind.

Consider the unrelieved misery — the disease, the poverty, the illiteracy — before around 1800, when if you weren’t an aristocrat, a general or a bishop, your life was probably nasty, brutish and short.

[Read the full text here, at New York Post]

“The average person in the world of 1800 was no better off than the average person of 100,000 B.C.,” Gregory Clark writes in his book “A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World.” Read the rest of this entry »


Professor Yuval Noah Harari: Humans ‘Will Become God-Like Cyborgs Within 200 Years’

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 writes: Wealthy humans are likely become cyborgs within 200 years as they gradually merge with technology like computers and smart phones, a historian has claimed.

“I think it is likely in the next 200 years or so homo sapiens will upgrade themselves into some idea of a divine being, either through biological manipulation or genetic engineering of by the creation of cyborgs, part organic part non-organic.”

Yuval Noah Harari, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the amalgamation of man and machine will be the ‘biggest evolution in biology’ since the emergence of life four billion years ago.

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“It will be the greatest evolution in biology since the appearance of life. Nothing really has changed in four billion years biologically speaking. But we will be as different from today’s humans as chimps are now from us.”

Prof Harari, who has written a landmark book charting the history of humanity, said mankind would evolve to become like gods with the power over death, and be as different from humans of today as we are from chimpanzees.

Yuval Noah Harari holds a homo sapiens skull

Yuval Noah Harari holds a homo sapiens skull

“What enables humans to cooperate flexibly, and exist in large societies is our imagination. With religion it’s easy to understand. You can’t convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana with the promise it will get 20 more bananas in chimpanzee heaven. It won’t do it. But humans will.”

sapiens-bookHe argued that humans as a race were driven by dissatisfaction and that we would not be able to resist the temptation to ‘upgrade’ ourselves, whether by genetic engineering or technology.

[Order Professor Yuval Noah Harari’s book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” from Amazon.com]

“We are programmed to be dissatisfied, “ said Prof Harari. “Even when humans gain pleasure and achievements it is not enough. They want more and more.”

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“Most legal systems are based on human rights but it is all in our imagination. Money is the most successful story ever. You have the master storytellers, the bankers, the finance ministers telling you that money is worth something. It isn’t. Try giving money to a chimp. It’s worthless.”

“I think it is likely in the next 200 years or so homo sapiens will upgrade themselves into some idea of a divine being, either through biological manipulation or genetic engineering of by the creation of cyborgs, part organic part non-organic.”

“God is extremely important because without religious myth you can’t create society. Religion is the most important invention of humans.”

— Yuval Noah Harari

“It will be the greatest evolution in biology since the appearance of life. Nothing really has changed in four billion years biologically speaking. But we will be as different from today’s humans as chimps are now from us.”

[Read the full text here, at the Telegraph]

However he warned that the ‘cyborg’ technology would be restricted to the wealthiest in society, widening the gap between rich and poor in society. In the future the rich may be able to live forever while the poor would die out. Read the rest of this entry »


Captain America Won’t Save Us

captain-A

Republicans look like they’re obsessed with finding a superhero

Daniel Henningerrenocol_DanHenninger writes: You have to feel sorry for the Democrats. In a world warming to presidential politics, what do they talk to each other about? Nearly two years from the election, they’ve already got their launch vehicle in place, former everything Hillary Clinton . Fire and forget.

The one-time First Lady, U.S. senator and Secretary of State pumped up a political crowd in Silicon Valley this week by vowing, presumably as president, to “crack every last glass ceiling.” As a political issue, the “glass ceiling” dates back to . . . 1984. It may be older than “income inequality.”

“The U.S. just tried electing a rookie president and had six years of amateur hour. It doesn’t work.”

But anywhere else two people gather who aren’t Democrats, you will fall into the same intense political conversation with a one-word question: Whoduyalike? Who do you like among the names floating in GOP circles for the 2016 nomination? Walker, Bush, Paul, Rubio, Jindal, Perry, Cruz, Christie, Fiorina, Carson, Santorum, Pence. I kind of like…

“And it won’t work again if the next president, whether rookie or former governor, shows up in the Oval Office in January 2017 with not much more than his victory cape and some political pals.”

Two significant meetings of conservative groups take place today through Saturday, and some of these people will pitch themselves at both the CPAC conference just outside Washington, and to the Club for Growth in Palm Beach. Mike Huckabee will preach on his own behalf Thursday evening to the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville.

captain-A

It’s all great fun. But there’s something a little off about the Republican presidential conversation right now. It doesn’t come close to reflecting the seriousness of the task facing voters in 2016: Elect a successor to the most catastrophic American presidency in over 80 years. And it ain’t over yet.

“Their Captain America could be named Rand, Scott, Jeb or Marco, but the mere landing of this political superhero in the Oval Office will turn the country around. Really? That’s all it is going to take?”

Instead of offering an anxious electorate a recognizable alternative to this status quo, the Republicans look like they’re obsessed with discovering Captain America.

Their Captain America could be named Rand, Scott, Jeb or Marco, but the mere landing of this political superhero in the Oval Office will turn the country around. Really? That’s all it is going to take?

It is hard to overstate what one-man-shows these presidential candidates have become—one guy, some political pros they’ve hired, their donors and whatever thoughts are running through their or their pollsters’ heads.

In normal times, it might not matter much that a CPAC conference with its gauntlet of speeches and straw polls looks a lot like the NFL Scouting Combine. Chris Christie has no vertical leap, but man can he lift.

The task that Barack Obama is dumping on the next U.S. president, of either party, is overwhelming. Read the rest of this entry »


The Damned Being Cast into Hell

Feans-Francken

FRANCKEN, Frans II
The Damned Being Cast into Hell
1605-10
Oil on oak, 47 x 32 cm
Residenzgalerie, Salzburg


Adam and Eve Get Eviction Notice

adam&eve-eden

Adam and Eve Expelled from Eden

by William Blake Richmond

Date painted: c.1876

Oil on canvas, 202.5 x 89.9 cm

Collection: Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

centuriespast


[VIDEO] Demonstration: ‘How to Get Through a Checkpoint Really Fast’

This is for all those people who said I should have been “witnessing” at the checkpoint. It turns out that it’s “not a good time” for them. That’s pretty much what I figured.

YouTube


People from Other Countries List What Surprised Them About Coming to the U.S.A.

AmericanAirlinesAd

With Helpful Commentary From An American, Yours Truly

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That’s quite a list!

First, lets touch on the ones that I, a native of the U.S.A., agree with, or can relate to. Then we’ll get to some corrections and minor disagreements. Lets begin!

Slang

Is slang unique to the U.S.A? That’s news to me! But, I can’t disagree. A product of diversity, poor public education & rich teachers unions, multi-linguistic confusion, terminal hipness, and bad manners.

Jogging

True! Not only does everyone in Boston jog — all 636,479 of them — everyone in America jogs. Every day. Even babies jog. Don’t you? We started in the 1970s, and the fad just never ended! We love it.

Huge serving portions, ice water, baby seats, baby strollers, giant cars, obesity, general safety, wastefulness, etc. 

Check, check, check, agreed, those are things many of us observe, too.

Sensitiveness towards race and religion

Those are two unrelated things, but linked by a common desire to not offend.

Sensitiveness towards Race 

Yes, it’s a touchy issue here. Well-intended people don’t want to offend, so extraordinary caution is the default position. The stakes are high. One could lose their livelihood, social status, apartment, friends, savings account, and library card, if they accidentally say the wrong thing. Especially when a recording device is on.

Additionally, the guilt narrative has been successfully transferred from one generation of innocent people to subsequent generations of innocent people, the actual guilty oppressors being inconveniently long-dead.

To complicate things, not-so-well-intended people sometimes like to indulge in fake outrage, pretending to be offended. Sometimes for self-amusement, other times to practice their grievance theater performance skills, other times to lay the foundation for serious litigation.

But the good news is, these rules only apply to native-born Americans. If you’re a first-generation U.S. citizen, resident alien, or visitor to the U.S., you’re granted honorary immunity. You can say goofy things that would otherwise be heard as loaded with offensive racial meaning, and it’s not taken personally. It’s a free pass. Enjoy it! Just don’t overuse it. They’ll eventually catch on, and make you feel guilty.

Sensitiveness towards Religion

Not so much! We’re quite free to mock religion! So long as it’s Christianity, Christianity, or Christianity. If it’s not one of those three, then we have to check with our cultural advisors first.

Okay, that concludes the agreeable things. Now, let’s get to work. These are things visitors should know!

Tipping

Even if it’s unfamiliar, or peculiar, by your standards, most of us are obligated to know some basic customs of places we visit. And enjoy learning that, as part of the travel experience. It’s elementary travel advice, and basic good manners.

Of course, you can do like many foreign visitors do, and pretend to be ignorant, as a perfect excuse to not tip. It’s worked for millions of our guests. Feel free to use this excuse.  Or, failing that, complain that ‘the math is too hard”, so you can tip less. Also, if you’re tipping the person who cut your hair, you’re getting your haircut at the wrong place.  Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Snake-handling Pastor Bitten By Snake, Declines Treatment, Dies of Snakebite

[Why take the risk? We recommend: Extra Heavy Duty Snake Handling Gloves – With Stainless Staples and Thick Leather, available at Amazon]

A Kentucky pastor who starred in a reality show about snake-handling in church has died – by snakebite. Jamie Coots died Saturday after refusing treatment…

snake-preacher

Nightline‘s Spencer Wilking and  report:

The “snake handling” pastor of a small Pentecostal church in Kentucky died after being bitten by a rattlesnake during a weekend church service.

[Check out the book: Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia at Amazon]

Jamie Coots, the pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Ky., was handling a rattlesnake during a service when he was bitten on his right hand Saturday night. But when the ambulance arrived at 8:30 p.m., the EMS team found that Coots had gone home, according to a statement from the Middlesboro Police Department.

coots-snake

Middlesboro Police Chief Jeff Sharpe told ABC News that, according to people at the church, Coots verbally refused treatment at the church. He said Coots was unconscious when he got to his house. When the ambulance crew arrived at Coots’ home, his wife Linda Coots signed a form declining medical treatment, police said.

Read the rest of this entry »


How Did an Essential Figure in the Modern Revival of Liberal political Philosophy End Up Pondering Issues of Theology?

Ronald Dworkin

Ronald Dworkin

Beyond Naturalism: On Ronald Dworkin

For The NationMichael Rosen  writes:  The Battle of Kolin is not much remembered these days, although it was a brutal, bloody slaughter. It was fought between Prussia and Austria on June 18, 1757, as part of Frederick the Great’s long campaign to extend his territories at the Austrians’ expense. This time, however, he found the Austrians well prepared and well led. His army was outnumbered, and nearly 14,000 of his 32,000 men lost their lives. At the height of the fighting, Frederick is supposed to have screamed at his troops: “You scum! Do you want to live forever?”

[Ronald Dworkin: Religion without God at Amazon]

The story became notorious around the German-speaking world. Many years later, Goethe said he was reminded of it when he read the first German translation of Lucretius’ famous Epicurean poem, De Rerum Natura. The association was to the point, for Frederick was an avowed Epicurean (as an absolute monarch, he could afford to be open about his lack of religious faith). He had even written a poem (in French) “in imitation of the Third Book of Lucretius,” whose subject was “the vain terrors of death and the fear of an afterlife.” No doubt, Frederick was an aggressive, ruthless militarist, but if he was a tyrant, then he was a tyrant of a particularly modern kind—one who claimed to be pursuing the common good as “the first servant of the state.”

For Enlightenment materialists like Frederick, the idea of the immortal soul was no more than superstition. Without it, there was no reason to give human beings any special status in the universe. As Jeremy Bentham said, “call them machines: so they were but happy ones, I should not care.” Now, two and a half centuries later, the fear of God handing down rewards and punishments in the next world has shrunk dramatically, and Frederick’s angry accusation points toward a more modern dilemma. Once human beings lose their fear of death, what becomes of the value of human life?

Read the rest of this entry »


Revisiting the Alienation of Labor

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“Capitalism is what happens when property rights are respected — nothing more, nothing less. It is the voluntary self-organization of economic affairs.”

williamsonKevin D. Williamson  writes:  ‘What is most striking about our collective plight today is how much it resembles the problem we face as individuals.” That striking insight comes from David Loy in The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory. That problem, he writes, is a sense of separation of the self from the outside world, which brings with it feelings of frustration and powerlessness. Mr. Loy offers the familiar Buddhist diagnosis, that the feeling of separation is “a delusion that causes us to seek happiness by eliotquotemanipulating the world in order to get what we want from it, which just tends to reinforce the sense of separation.” Mr. Loy is a very engaging writer, though Americans who are attracted to Buddhism as a sort of un-religion might note that he is an “authorized teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage of Japanese Zen Buddhism.” American Buddhist journals have a fascinating fascination with religious titles and pedigrees — abbot of this in the lineage of that — and a positively Clementine emphasis on apostolic succession: all of the grandeur and hierarchy of the Catholic Church without your judgmental Irish grandmother.

[The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory at Amazon]

[Kevin D. Williamson’s book The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome, is a pundit planet favorite, you can get it at Amazon]

At the risk of doing an injustice to Mr. Loy’s argument, the fullness of which cannot easily be communicated in this limited space, it must be understood that the thing that worries him here is not optional. “Manipulating the world in order to get what we want from it” is a pretty good definition of work, which is fundamental to our lives, so much so that in most of the ancient religions it is regulated in much the same way as sex and diet. Buddhism has a very developed philosophy of work — “right livelihood” being one of the requirements of the Eightfold Path — while the Christian story of the Fall is in the end an attempt to explain why we must labor: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” What happens in the meantime? “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” The message is the same elsewhere: The literal meaning of “karma” is “work.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Reason and Faith: Is Evil Irrational?

From The Greenroom finds Dennis Prager challenging a centuries-old narrative about history’s worst despots.

Reason and faith go hand in hand in the pursuit of truth, but it’s the belief systems employed that serves as that pursuit’s moral grounding.

The Greenroom


Catholics and Postmodernity

pic_giant_102613_SM_Catholics-and-Postmodernity

How do you speak the language of morality in an age of militant secularism?

Editor’s note: The following address was given at a gathering of the St. Thomas More Sociey of the Diocese of Green Bay on October 24.

George Weigel writes:  Let me begin by thanking my friend Judge Bill Griesbach for describing me here in Titletown U.S.A. as “the Aaron Rodgers of Catholic public intellectuals.” As a native of Baltimore with a long memory, I’ll be happy to accept that accolade if the good people of Green Bay will finally admit that Don Chandler shanked that field goal in the 1965 Colts/Packers playoff game.

Tonight, I want to violate the canons of after-dinner remarks, skip the requisite joke-every-two-paragraphs, and get right down to the business at hand: to drill beneath the surface of American public life in order to explore what’s going on down there; to examine how what’s going on down there shapes the controversies and arguments of the day; and to suggest how that bears on Catholics and other men and women whose consciences are formed by Great Tradition Christianity in these United States in the early 21st century.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Right to Ignore the State

In this excerpt from Social Statics, Spencer makes a radical claim: that an individual may sever all connections with the state.

Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer 1884

1. The Right to Voluntary Outlawry

As a corollary to the proposition that all institutions must be subordinated to the law of equal freedom, we cannot choose but admit the right of the citizen to adopt a condition of voluntary outlawry. If every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man, then he is free to drop connection with the state — to relinquish its protection, and to refuse paying toward its support. It is self-evident that in so behaving he in no way trenches upon the liberty of others; for his position is a passive one; and whilst passive he cannot become an aggressor. It is equally self-evident that he cannot be compelled to continue one of a political corporation, without a breach of the moral law, seeing that citizenship involves payment of taxes; and the taking away of a man’s property against his will, is an infringement of his rights. Government being simply an agent employed in common by a number of individuals to secure to them certain advantages, the very nature of the connection implies that it is for each to say whether he will employ such an agent or not. If any one of them determines to ignore this mutual-safety confederation, nothing can be said except that he loses all claim to its good offices, and exposes himself to the danger of maltreatment — a thing he is quite at liberty to do if he likes. He cannot be coerced into political combination without a breach of the law of equal freedom; he can withdraw from it without committing any such breach; and he has therefore a right so to withdraw.

2. The Immorality of the State

“No human laws are of any validity if contrary to the law of nature; and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority mediately or immediately from this original.” Thus writes Blackstone[1], to whom let all honour be given for having so far outseen the ideas of his time; and, indeed, we may say of our time. A good antidote, this, for those political superstitions which so widely prevail. A good check upon that sentiment of power-worship which still misleads us by magnifying the prerogatives of constitutional governments as it once did those of monarchs. Let men learn that a legislature is not “our God upon earth,” though, by the authority they ascribe to it, and the things they expect from it, they would seem to think it is. Let them learn rather that it is an institution serving a purely temporary purpose, whose power, when not stolen, is at the best borrowed. Read the rest of this entry »


VIDEO: Would Jesus have been a Democrat?

An excellent Zonation that dispels any idea that Jesus would have been a big government socialist Democrat:

NOTE: I’m not sure I buy his explanation of “render back unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” given the verse that preceded it where Jesus asked the pharisees whose face and inscription was on the coin. But aside from that it is fantastic.

ZoNation:The Right Scoop 


Why I got my CCW Permit and Why You Should Too

From thesurvivalistblog.net  by Guest Blogger on June 17, 2013 · 48 comments

This is a guest post by Mr. Mac”  and entry in TheSurvivalistBlog’s non-fiction writing contest.

In the fall of 2001, I completed the process of securing a permit to carry a Concealed Weapon, called a CCW. I had debated for over a year as to whether to do the work necessary to apply for it. For a number of years I had been an occasional shooter, but it wasn’t until the hoopla of Y2K that I began to get more serious about shooting, took some classes, and become relatively proficient. I soon found that I loved to shoot. And since an indoor range was within easy driving distance, I often found myself visiting it, along with several other outdoor ranges.

That, plus the advent of a new pro-CCW County Sheriff, caused me to think that I might have a chance at getting the CCW permit. It was, however, with both some trepidation, and frankly, a lot of excitement that I finally decided to take the coursework necessary, complete the required paperwork, do the interview, got fingerprinted for the DOJ, all necessary activity to be considered for the permit. It was only after I had been approved that I started thinking about why this seemed so important to me; what was it that stirred me so?

Over the last few months I have given it quite a bit of thought. Am I really that concerned about crime…we live in a pretty low-incident area. Was I on some ego trip? Was I trying to prove my masculinity? All of these may have had some minor influence, but, as I probed, I found that there were other, more significant motivations that sprung more from who I am as a man, and reflected certain core values that comprise my person. I’d like to put those down on paper.

1) I am both disturbed and frustrated by much of what I see in this country’s politics these days, and am often left wondering how to properly respond. It occurs to me that, as just one man, I have very little impact on this nation, just one voice out of 280,000 million. Yet, this country means a great deal to me. I lost my father to the Korean Conflict, all my uncles served in WWII, and I have studied and understand what unique and precious rights are afforded the citizens of this country I am privileged to live in.

Additionally, I hold as a strong value the opinion that every man and woman has the God-given right to be responsible for his or her own personal safety, that no one is obligated to be a victim, and that this right is not a privilege bestowed on me by some governmental entity. I also believe that, if a person of good character is willing to do the work necessary and takes the responsibility, then that person has the basic right to carry a defensive weapon. However, it seems that there are those in this country who disagree with me, who fear that I, and others like me, are a danger to society; that this freedom which is so basic to natural law and so thoroughly entrenched in the Constitution, must be taken from us.

These usurpers are even now furiously working to legislate that right out of existence. Mistakenly believing that this issue is “guns”, they feel quite comfortable trampling on my freedom. And so, it is to the anti-gun fascist, those who would deny me my rights as a free man and an American citizen that I am responding. It is in the spirit of those American’s before me who cried out “give me liberty, or give me death,” “damn the torpedoes,” and “let’s roll” that I acted. As a political statement, as an act of patriotism, as my way of hoisting the flag, and my finger, in enraged defiance of those despots who say I can’t, I got my permit to carry a gun; it was my patriotic duty.

2) Concurrent with this is the fact that much of what I hear today about gun control from the anti-gun crowd in just plain infuriating. It’s not just that it is bad science, emotional, illogical, and just plain ignorant; it’s the assumption that they make and propagate about me as a gun-owning person that I take personal offense. It’s my character they are impugning. I take exception to the notion that Society somehow needs to be protected from me because I might carry a gun.

Actually, I am a responsible, mature man, an adult, and I resent like hell being treated as if I am somehow untrustworthy and suspect. It judges me, and millions like me, as weak and without moral and intellectual vigor. It tells me that my affinity for guns and my desire to carry one is a suspicious problem that requires legislation, registration, and control. And it is demeaning.

So, to the elitist crowd who would look down their noses at my personhood, who fear my masculinity, who believe that I am somehow part of the problem, and that my character is defective, I say this to you: I will not let you treat me like a child, I will not let you “nanny” me, suspect me, or disrespect me with your paranoid attitudes and your laws. Acquiring my CCW is my firm response to being patted on the head and told to get in line and behave myself. I will not go quietly into the night.

Read the rest of this entry »