Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A bad plan to undermine the viability of privage higher education and further a federal takeover of public higher education, disguised as help for students

You want to help students?

Give them a fixed amount of credits per student per year to spend on tuition at any school of their choice for any degree or certificate of their choice, as the GI Bill used to give GIs.

They could spend the money at public or private schools, at community colleges or voc-ed schools, on bachelor's degrees or advanced or professional degrees.

No strings, no Trojan horse carrying a further regulatory assault on the independence of these institutions from, if not government altogether, then anyway the federal government.

And no blatant effort to undermine private colleges and universities by offering help only to students at public ones.

Bernie Sanders proposes free tuition for four year degrees at public colleges

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The social value of religion, revisited

Christianity is Dying

The prisons have always been full of believers and the hangmen have always been plentifully supplied with religious material on which to exercise their craft.

That has been enough to satisfy some religious skeptics among the learned that Locke, Voltaire, and Gibbon were mistaken in supposing religion has a useful, taming and socializing effect on the human beast.

All the same, the claim has been and still is made that religion is good and even necessary for society because it is a bulwark of morality, itself crucial to the social order.

The popularity of the sexual revolution has thrown a different light on the morals taught by the churches, making religion appear a machine of cruelly intolerant repression, as Hemant Mehta points out.

But, on the other hand, in the modern world children are a burden and an economic liability, with the result that in the presence of lawful contraception and abortion (and, soon, infanticide?) and the absence of socially upheld idealizations of and aspirations for parenthood in a context of morally and legally durable heterosexual nuclear families defined as the only acceptable setting for either sex or parenthood, fertility rates in advanced societies have fallen chronically below replacement level.

Thus it is shown that religious morals are indeed crucial to the survival of social life, though not because they keep us from killing and robbing each other in the war of all against all but because they keep us making families in which to have and raise children.

In brief, the denigration of homosexuality and indeed all sex outside marriage along with the shotgun wedding and many other moral and legal policies totally inimical to the sexual revolution and the personal, sexual freedom it privileges have historically been and continue to be, in the end, crucial to the self-perpetuation of most societies.

The primal horde is the exception, and the matriarchal societies not far removed from it, only because contraception is absent, safe abortion unavailable, infanticide forbidden, economic life simple, and there is so little to culture that it can be reliably passed on even when children are raised, so to speak, in the street, by anybody and nobody.

Hence the increasing reliance of the modern, antinatalist global North on the all-too-natalist global South to keep up population levels.

In praise of free speech.

Pretty free, anyway.

Limited where, and only where, he thinks it should be.

Ian McEwan speech to Dickinson College grads

A very modern liberal arts school with an interesting history.

Private, not church affiliated.

Dickinson College

What if ISIS takes over Iraq?

After fall of Ramadi to ISIL, does Iraq have a future?

Much more dangerous to the world and to us than the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the US classe politique obsesses about the wrong Iraq war, the one that began when GW invaded the country, and headlines the biker shootout in Waco.

Crazy, fat white guys, middle-aged and older, with guns, living by crime.

Gypsies with bikes, or mechanized Irish Travelers.


CNN alone has half a dozen stories, and the biker shootout is tops on the front page and the US page.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Those other religious hypocrites

Closeted atheist clergy and our new age of radical transparency

A naturalistic explanation of religion?

Kids believe what their parents tell them.

Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, God.

Parents tell them a lot of rot, themselves believing or pretending to believe what their patents told them, or what power insists on.

Not very different from a correct naturalistic explanation of morals, though you might not realize it from the various quite different explanations for these social phenomena offered by persons of scientific expertise.

Explain gullibility.

Explain lying.

Explain coercion.

American pols and their fake piety

Our faith-addled, God-fearing leaders

When was the last time an American president or candidate for the job dared to tell the truth about his religious beliefs?

If ever, really.

Perhaps some of those who admitted to deism or Unitarianism were really atheists!

As for JT, the more I read of him the more I suspect his model is the equally poorly self-educated Baltimore iconoclast, H. L. Mencken.

Still, it's good that somebody at Salon, of all places, represents this point of view.

Probably, the spread of atheism among these people would be a good thing for the world

Losing their religion: the hidden crisis of faith among Britain’s young Muslims

Though it's risky for us, too, coming out as an atheist is more dangerous for a Muslim than for a Christian or Jew, even in the Occident.

And the danger is notably greater still in Muslim countries.

More dangerous yet is to publicly advocate secularism in specific and clear opposition to Islamism, the violence that supports it and the violence it sanctions, or to engage as an activist in support of apostasy per se.

Raif Badawi

And there is this.

As real as the potential for violence might be, it’s not what keeps many doubting British Muslims from leaving their religion. 

As Simon Cottee, author of a new book The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam, says: “In the western context, the biggest risk ex-Muslims face is not the baying mob, but the loneliness and isolation of ostracism from loved ones. 

"It is stigma and rejection that causes so many ex-Muslims to conceal their apostasy.”

Like the gay liberation movement of a previous generation, Muslim apostates have to fight for the right to be recognised while knowing that recognition brings shame, rejection, intimidation and, very often, family expulsion.

The author of the Observer article, Andrew Anthony, is perhaps too young, too British, or too post-Christian to know that American Christians and Jews often feel just the same, and keep their apostasy secret from their own families.

But at the end of the piece comes reference to something new in the experience of atheists since I first became one in my teens, back in the 1960s.

It certainly seems perverse that while there is no taboo on the discussion of Islamic radicalisation, the mention of Islamic apostates still occasions widespread discomfort. 

We can publicly accept that there are Muslims that are so estranged from western society that they prefer to live as fundamentalists, but have far more trouble recognising that there are Muslims who are so estranged from their religion that they prefer to live as freethinkers.

Nasreen, Vali and Shams all agreed that it will only be by bringing greater attention to Muslim apostates in British society that their predicament will improve. 

It would also help, they say, if they could rely on the progressive support that was once the right of freethinkers in this country.

“Attitudes need to change,” says Cottee. 

“There has to be a greater openness around the whole issue. 

"And the demonisation of apostates as ‘sell outs’ and ‘native informants’, which can be heard among both liberal-leftists and reactionary Muslims, needs to stop. 

"People leave Islam. 

"They have reasons for this, good, bad or whatever. 

"It is a human right to change your mind. 

"Deal with it.”

At various places in AA's piece, you can see that young Muslim apostates who actually do come out for secularism or in defense of apostasy face the same hostility and demonization that has faced the New Atheists since the earliest, post-9/11 days of Hitchens, Maher, and Harris.

We all face the new fact that while atheist criticisms of Christianity are shielded and even endorsed by a liberal culture that for centuries has supported free thought and expression in opposition to the myths, the doctrines, and the worldly power of that religion, atheist criticisms of Islam are brutally and cruelly damned by liberals as racist, xenophobic, and bigoted.

And that is true whether the atheist who makes the case is, so to speak, a Christian atheist, a Jewish atheist, or a Muslim atheist.

Not likely to change for a long, long time to come, either.

The argument for a very small, defensive military

So Why Did It Happen?

Let's whack the hive and hope for the best, is why they did it, says JM.

If you give them the means to go places and do things they will go places and do things.

They will always push the envelope.

So make it a very small envelope.

Idiots and communists

If you write about the Cold War period and choose the US as your villain you're most likely an idiot or a communist.

Field Gray, Philip Kerr.