Monday, February 27, 2012

I will be on "Kentucky Tonight" this evening at 8:00 on KET

I will be appearing on KET's "Kentucky Tonight" this evening at 8:00 p.m. to discuss the casino gambling issue and the fate of Senate Bill 151. Tune in if you can.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Did Gov. Beshear sabotage his own casino bill?

After completely screwing up their effort to pass casino gambling in Kentucky, proponents of SB 151, which was soundly defeated on the floor of the State Senate on Thursday in a decisive 21-16 vote, are blaming David Williams for the loss of their bill.

First, Gov. Beshear announces that he's going have the bill out early. He then waits until weeks into the session to introduce the bill. Then, the bill he introduced was so bad that he had to announce the very same day that he was going to have to make changes. Then he makes changes which did absolutely nothing to correct the problems with the bill.

Meanwhile the Governor's own lobbying seemed almost non-existent. And the media campaign was only launched days before the vote.

Look, folks, the effort to pass this bill couldn't have been worse if they were trying to lose it. In fact, the more I look at the facts, the more I think maybe Beshear was trying to kill his own gambling effort. The man has collected campaign cash from expanded gambling advocates for years. But does he really care about their issue?

Here's a fact that I cannot explain without assuming that Beshear tried to do in his own bill. The bill is in committee, and it was known by insiders before the bill got there that they had the votes to get it out. I had it 6-5. It passed out 7-4, although one Democrat reserved the right to vote against it on the floor, which he ended up doing.

Now think about this. Unless Beshear was just completely incompetent (which is not out of the realm of possibility), why, knowing that you didn't have the votes on the floor--a fact which everyone close to the process knew, would you want that bill out of committee and on its way to the floor for what you had to know would be, and, in fact, turned out to be, a crushing defeat?

Why wouldn't you want to keep it in committee for another week or two and wait for your media campaign (which was only launched last week) to take effect, and give yourself time to improve your position?

They knew the bill was in trouble. Why would they push it out knowing that the bill didn't have the votes and knowing that the Republicans knew it didn't have the votes? If you knew a defeat on the floor would doom your bill for the session, why would you do this?

Did Steve Beshear sabotage his own bill?

This was either one of the stupidest political moves I've seen in my years in Frankfort--or it was intentional.

All you advocates of SB 151 out there, you need to have a serious sit down with your boy. You need to ask him why this was handled the way it was. You need to ask him why this bill was pushed out of committee for what he had to have known was certain defeat on the floor.

If he starts to blither and his eyes start to roll in their sockets, you will have one of the two possible answers: the man is in need of full time political care. But if he seems lucid and tries to tell you that he did the best he could to get your bill through, then you will know you've been taken.

Beshear has grown fat on your campaign cash for years now and this is what you get? If I were you, I would ask for my money back.

Casino advocates need to replace Steve Beshear, not David Williams

For Immediate Release
February 25, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY—The Family Foundation today blasted Gov. Steve Beshear for blaming other people for the defeat of a constitutional amendment to expand gambling in the state. "The governor has only himself to blame for the defeat of his bill," said Martin Cothran, referring to Thursday’s 21-16 defeat of SB 151. "The governor needs to stop blaming Senate President David Williams and take a look at his own incompetent legislative strategy."

Cothran criticized the proponents who said they were going to try to defeat state senators who opposed the bill. "If the casino interests really want to improve their chances to pass expanded gambling legislation, they don't need to replace David Williams and Republican senators; they need to replace Steve Beshear."

"David Williams didn't need to do anything to kill this bill. All he had to do was sit back and watch Beshear self-destruct. This is one of the worst handled legislative initiatives I've seen in 20 years in Frankfort," said Cothran, spokesman for the group.

"We have a governor who apparently can't count votes," said Cothran, who publicly announced over three weeks ago that the bill did not have the support to pass. "We knew weeks ago that this bill didn't have the votes. You're telling me the governor didn't know that?" He said Beshear, who said publicly he had 23 votes, either knew the bill didn't have votes and was misleading the public or he just wasn't competent enough to know what the votes were.

The governor's bill couldn't even garner the support of all the Democrats. "Four members of his own party voted against it. So how is that Williams' fault?"

Cothran said Beshear's incompetent handling of the bill alienated even supporters of casino gambling, and pointed to the fact that even the past president of KEEP couldn't support it. "If you can't even get the support of Brereton Jones, then you need to go back and get some remedial training in legislative politics."

"This bill wasn't even unveiled until four weeks into the session, and the reception was so bad the governor had to announce the same day that he was going to have to change it. They didn't even begin airing commercials until less than a week before the vote."

"Kentuckians don't want monopolies for rich corporations and neither do most legislators."


David Williams' devious strategy to defeat the gambling bill

Many people are saying that David Williams sabotaged the casino gambling bill, which went down to defeat on the State Senate floor last Thursday. But that's not the half of it.

In a devious strategy to defeat the constitutional amendment to expand gambling in Kentucky that has gone entirely undetected by the media, Senate President David Williams secretly took over Gov. Steve Beshear's body and made him completely mishandle his whole legislative strategy to pass the bill, making the governor look like a blithering idiot.

Cleverly manipulating the governor's words and actions, he made him come up with a bill so bad that it even turned off expanded gambling supporters like Brereton Jones, and eventually resulted in alienating four unsuspecting  senators from Beshear's own party, who voted against the bill.

He even had the governor hold off on his media campaign until just days before the vote, making it completely ineffective.

Using advanced ventriloquistic techniques, Williams also made Beshear announce that he had the votes he needed to pass the bill, making it look like the governor was so incompetent that didn't know how to count votes.

And then, to make it look like he had nothing to do with, Williams had Beshear blame Williams for the defeat.

Beshear is apparently still unaware of what happened, although he has questioned his aides regarding soreness in a part of his anatomy with which many ventriloquist's dummies often have trouble.

His physicians, however, unaware of William's involvement, concluded that he just got is butt kicked.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sharron Oxendine, tear down this wall!

For Immediate Release
February 21, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY—The Family Foundation today called on the Kentucky Education Association (KEA) and the Jefferson County Teachers' Association (JCTA) to abandon their opposition to charter schools to allow a bill to be voted on in the Kentucky General Assembly this session. "The teachers’ unions and their allies constitute an educational Iron Curtain that is preventing students from getting a better education," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group. "They need to give up simply being intransigent and join the educational Free World."

"Sharron Oxendine, tear down this wall!" said Cothran, referencing the president of the KEA.

"We need a policy of prestroika in the teachers’ unions of this state so that they can be brought into the 21st century. As it is, groups like the KEA are the equivalent in the education world of North Korea: they are unwilling to give up the power they have accumulated and they use that power to resist positive change."

The comments came in the wake of a State House of Representatives hearing of a charter school bill last week in which testimony was heard, but a vote was not allowed to be taken. "Thanks to the teachers’ unions, there is going to develop an education gap between Kentucky and most of the rest of the states which now have successful charter schools," Cothran predicted. He also pointed out that the intransigence of teachers’ unions had potentially cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in "Race to the Top" funds from the federal government.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Atheist rally will NOT include guillotines, says P. Z. Myers

FEBRUARY 20, 2012

An advocacy group that is pushing for atheists to be more civil said today that it applauded the announcement this weekend by atheist scientist P. Z. Myers that the "Rally for Reason," to be held in Washington, DC on March 24, will not include guillotines. Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group "Citizens for A More Rational Atheism" (CAMRA) said this was a huge concession on the part of Myers and others involved in the Rally.

Cothran said his group had no reason to disbelieve Myers, but said that CAMRA would be watching developments leading up to the rally. "This is an encouraging development," he said. "We think it could lead to the development of atheism with a human face."

Cothran said his group had recently expressed concerns over the nature of the Rally for Reason this March. "Other than all of the Soviet military parades that took place during the 20th century, the last large build-up of atheists was the French Revolution, and it wasn't pretty." Cothran pointed to the "Festival of Reason," an atheist event held at Notre Dame in November of 1793 which apparently descended into the lascivious and depraved, as a cause for concern.

"It was events like this that became so embarrassing the Robespierre finally put a stop to it. You know you're in pretty bad shape when you become too depraved even for Robespierre," he said. "And if atheists embarrass themselves again, there will no Robespierre around this time to stop it."

He said he hoped that in addition to swearing off the use of guillotines on the Mall, rally speakers would elevate the level of invective from that which they have employed in recent years. "We have been quite disappointed in the quality of atheist rhetoric," he said. "Much of the vituperation leveled by atheists such as Myers is not appreciably more sophisticated than elementary school bathroom insults."

"Our group is willing to help try to come up with a linguistic symbol system for atheists like Myers," said Cothran, "to allow them to express snarls, growls, and bellows in various intonations so that they can better express the exact meaning of their thoughts. This might help us better communicate with them and try to improve their level of communication. We know the primitive insults hurled by Myers play well with the people in the comboxes of websites like Myers' Pharyngula, many of whose verbal remarks are logically indistinguishable from grunting, but there are a few of us who would really like to improve the level of debate above the neanderthal level."

Cothran, an author of several logic textbooks widely used around the country, said his group was even considering setting up an exhibit booth at the rally to assist atheists to negotiate the reasoning process in order to lessen their temptation to hurl mindless epithets. "We could give some simple initial instruction in the construction of arguments and the deductive reasoning process. We're not hopeful it would be terribly welcome, but we really do want to help these people."


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Live blogging Piers Morgan's coverage of Whitney Houston's Funeral

Okay, I am sitting here on Saturday trying to get some work done and I have the Whitney Houston funeral playing on the teevee. And I am watching CNN, which is, unnaccountably, broadcasting a church service.

12:46: As the Black church funeral proceeds, devoted entirely to glorifying God, Piers, unable to utter the word "God," as whoever his female co-host seems easily capable of doing, Piers, clearly trying to make sense of his "church service," is "uplifted." We will see, as this proceeds, whether Piers is able to formulate the word.

1:45: No word from Piers for a while. White people have taken over the podium, however, talking about non-religious things, although Kevin Costner says he grew up in a church. That's something. And now some white music promoter (don't know his name), is admitting that, yes, God meant something to Whitney, but what she really liked was music.

2:02: Black people have taken the podium back, and the subject is now back to God. Meanwhile the white people running the television stations have only scheduled 2 hours for the funeral, apparently unaware of how long black funerals are. It could be days.

2:19: Stevie Wonder, a secular singer, is singing. About God. He's black.

2:43: Still no word from Piers. All this "church service" stuff may have been too much for him. He was probably unaware of the strong Christian influence in the Black community. Maybe he can have some well-known Black person on his show to explore this whole "church" thing.

3:09: The white media controllers have apparently fallen asleep at their panels, otherwise all this talk of God would never have been allowed to go on this long on national television (the funeral now in its fourth hour), even for a Black pop celebrity. Why couldn't Whitney have been almost completely white and secular, like Princess Diana. Sheez.

3:15: Another sermon has started. It's a Black sermon, about God. Piers is slumped over in his chair.

3:41: Network officials are getting nervous thinking about the fact that they have been paying Piers time and half for overtime for the past 2 hours. The cost to CNN could be significant.

3:48: Piers is back. He's awake. He calls the funeral "uplifting, moving." The "mix was good." He saves his most lavish praise for one of the White speakers. He thinks Kevin Costner's address was "moving, funny." The Black stuff, the stuff about God, he's doesn't seem to be able to make much sense of. He's sure what he just saw is "very common" in Baptist services, which, as we all know, are all about 4 hours long. No mention of "God." He asks a guest if this is like many "musical events." The music was "off the charts."

Okay, well, we're signing off now. We were waiting for Piers' evaluation, and now we have it. As to our own evaluation of Piers' performance today, it was, of course, largely non-existent, since he only said a few things to introduce it, said almost nothing during the service, and said only a few things afterward. It was almost all funeral and very little Piers.

In short, the mix was good.

Have a nice rest of the weekend.

Atheists to chant slogans on the Mall

Here is the promo for the so-called "Reason Rally," in Washington , D.C. on March 24. It is being billed as the "largest secular event ever." I'm mentioning it here to do my small part in helping so save them from the embarrassment of producing fewer participants than a moderate to small size pro-life rally.

I have already commented on it here, but I will also note that they are calling this rally of people who profess to support "reason," "science," and "secularism" the "largest gathering of its kind in history." I guess they forgot about the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. Maybe they should add "history" to their list of emphases.

No word yet on whether national park officials will allow them to operate a guillotine on the Mall.

There will, of course, be no Bastille to storm, but will we be doing this the same way we've done large-scale atheist projects before? Will we consider women "passive citizens" who were denied the vote because they didn't have "the moral and physical qual­ities" to exercise political rights? Will we deny the égalité in "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" to non-whites?

Just wondering. These things should all probably be clarified as we approach the rally date.

The video is produced by an outfit called the "Thinking Atheist," to distinguish themselves, I guess, from the non-thinking atheists. You know, the ones who take certain of their anti-religious presuppositions as unquestioned dogmas and spend their time simply drawing inferences from those.

I was assuming, given the word "reason" in their title, that they would have speakers who were actually interested in objective rational thought, but I see people like Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and P. Z. Myers, are on the bill, so that's not looking too promising.

See P.Z. Myers response here.
See our response to P.Z. Myers here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The 100 greatest novels of all time

The Guardian lists the 100 greatest novels of all time. My only quibbles are:

  • It lists Dostoevsky's Brother's Karamazov, which is not as good a novel as Crime and Punishment, which it does not list; 
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (assuming the list is in order of quality) is too low on the list; 
  • I'm not sure the Pilgrim's Progress is really a "novel," as we think of it (the same goes for Alice in Wonderland); 
  • Only one Tolstoy novel (Anna Karennina)?
  • Only one Jane Austen novel (and it's Emma?)?
  • And why is Catcher in the Rye on the list at all?

Other than that, it's a pretty darn good list.

"Is the gambling bill in trouble in committee?" asks family group

For Immediate Release
February 16, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY—The Family Foundation said today that not only has Gov. Steve Beshear's gambling bill lost majority support in the State Senate, but it may be in trouble in the committee to which it was assigned. "The support for this bill is crumbling so fast, it may not even make it out of committee," said Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for the group.

"The governor just got finished launching his casino bill, and in less than 24 hours it was already starting to look like the Voyage of the Damned."

Cothran said even though the Senate State and Local Government Committee, where SB 151 has been assigned, is the most pro-gambling committee in the Senate, the governor's bill is now hanging on by only one vote. "The bottom is falling out of the expanded gambling effort," he said. "If this bill is in danger in this committee, then it's even deader than we thought, and we thought it was pretty dead."

Cothran noted that the bill, which the governor had weeks to get right, seems to have gotten it all wrong. "This was the best chance anyone has ever had to pass a casino bill," he said. "And the governor blew it."


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

PRESS RELEASE: Casino bill an "abuse of the State Constitution, says anti-slots group

For Immediate Release
February 14, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY—The Family Foundation today called the Governor's casino bill an "abuse of the State Constitution" and said it was "not the bill Kentuckians were promised." The comments came in response to today's filing of the Governor's casino gambling bill.

"This bill is an attempt by wealthy horse track owners and casino interests to buy their way into the Constitution like box seats at a ball game," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group.

Cothran called the attempt to write a wealthy industry into the Constitution "unprecedented." "This state has never amended its Constitution to favor one industry like this. This bill writes political favors for the Governor's campaign contributors into the very words of the Constitution. The Constitution shouldn't be used by politicians to reward their wealthy friends."

Cothran also pointed out that the people of Kentucky were promised that the money lost by gamblers at slot machines would go to education, health care, public safety, and local government. "But this bill doesn't include any of that. There are favors for fat cats, but no specific provisions for public programs. It just shows what money, power, and influence can accomplish."

His group thinks the bill has little chance of passage in the State Senate, where Cothran said the bill has been steadily losing support over the last four weeks.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Does the Catholic prohibition on contraception make sense?

Those protesting the Obama administration's directive forcing Catholic institutions to provide their employees with contraceptives against the religious teachings of Catholicism are careful to point out that your view on whether the Obama administration is right is distinct from what you believe about the Catholic position on birth control.

At the same time, it's not a bad time to say something about the Catholic position on birth control. It is probably the ethical position most at odds with the modern utilitarian view of morality, and it makes no sense if you don't understand the central principle of Catholic ethics in general.

The central principle of Catholic ethics is that it is teleological. If you don't get this, then most Catholic ethical positions will make no sense at all.

There are basically three kinds of ethical systems. The first is consequentialist: an action is right if it produces good effects. Utilitarianism is the most widely known kind of consequentialism. The second is deontological: an action is right if the intension is to act in accordance with ethical rules. Immanuel Kant's ethics is considered a paradigm case of deontological ethics.

The third school of ethical thought, that to which Catholics are at least supposed to adhere, is teleological. What does it mean to say that Catholic ethics is "teleological"? The word comes from the Greek word telos, meaning, roughly, "purpose." This is widely known today as "virtue ethics," a view of human actions that is based on an Aristotelian-Thomistic view of reality. In modern times this view has been championed most notably by G.E.M. Anscombe and Alasdair MacIntyre. In fact, MacIntyre's book After Virtue is one of the most important and influential philosophy books to have come out in the last 50 years, and is almost single-handedly responsible for the contemporary revival of virtue ethics.

MacIntyre makes the case that, since the rejection of the Aristotelian-Thomist worldview during the so-called Enlightenment, teleological ethics has largely been abandoned in favor of various consequentialist and deontological views of ethics that have largely failed for a variety of reasons. And this, in turn, is the result of the rejection of two of Aristotle's four cases: formal cause, which the intrinsic pattern inherent in every thing, and final cause, which is the inherent purpose (telos) in every thing, and is aligned implicitly in each thing to that things formal cause.

The only coherent system of ethics, MacIntyre argues, is teleological.

Ethics in the teleological view is very simple. There are men as we find them in the world and men as they would be if they fulfilled their telos. Ethics is the best way to get from the first to the second.

Furthermore, because formal and final causation are rational concepts, virtue ethics yields a rational ethical system, one which short-circuits the fact/value distinction that plagues every other ethical system. There is no fact/value distinction in Catholic ethics, since ethics is itself a rational system.

Catholic ethics then, being teleological, is based on purpose. But more specifically, it is based on the intrinsic purpose in natural things, most importantly in man. If you look at the list of Catholic ethical positions, it will make sense only if you understand this.

This is particularly evident in sexual ethics. In Catholicism, a sexual act, like any other act, is judged right or wrong according the telos implicit in the act. The telos of the sexual act is reproduction. If the sexual act is performed in conflict with this purpose, or if the purpose the act is somehow interfered with, then it is wrong.

This is why the Catholic Church is opposed to contraceptives: They interfere with the intrinsic purpose of the sexual act.

Now as soon as you say this, you get rhetorically jumped by people who either don't understand teleological ethics or don't agree with it. They either argue that reproduction is not the only purpose of the sexual act or that no act has any intrinsic purpose and that the purpose of any act is whatever the doer has in mind.

As to the first kind of response, the usual argument is that pleasure is obviously a purpose of sex, and therefore reproduction is not the only purpose. But the argument that reproduction is not the only purpose of the sexual act is irrelevant, since it is not the position of the Catholic Church that it is. The Catholic position is that reproduction is the primary purpose and other purposes are subordinate to it.

It is also irrelevant because the argument confuses the natural purpose of a thing and it's extrinsic, human purpose. As Catholic philosopher Edward Feser has put it:
It is also irrelevant that people might indulge in sex for all sorts of reasons other than procreation, for I am not talking about what our purposes are, but what nature's purposes are, again in the Aristotelian sense of final causality. Now it is true of course that sexual relations are also naturally pleasurable. But giving pleasure is not the final cause or natural end of sex; rather, sexual pleasure has as its own final cause the getting of people to engage in sexual relations, so that they will procreate.
In other words, of course there are other purposes to sex than procreation, but they themselves only serve to enhance the primary purpose.

Then, as we said, there is the argument of those who don't think anything has any intrinsic purpose at all. This is the real objection, and, in fact, the people who argue that sex has some purpose other than procreation really don't believe in intrinsic purposes at all, anyway, even though they sometimes talk as if they do.

If you take this position--and reject all formal and final causes in nature--then you are left with the position that the heart is not for pumping blood, and the kidney is not for filtering the blood, and teeth are not for chewing, and the brain is not for controlling the rest of the body.

Just be glad doctors don't believe this--or at least that they don't act as if they did.

Under this view, nothing, in fact, is for anything.

And if you take this position, you are, of course, in the strange predicament of saying that the reproductive organs are not for reproduction.

It's not a position I would want to defend.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Did Obama really answer objections on his birth control mandate?

Harvard economist Greg Mankiw gets down to the core of Obama's so-called "compromise" on religious freedom in response to the rebellion he has on his hands over trying to force Catholic agencies to provide contraceptives in their health care programs:
Consider these two policies: 
A. An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance that covers birth control. 
B. An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance. The health insurance company is required to cover birth control. 
I can understand someone endorsing both A and B, and I can understand someone rejecting both A and B. But I cannot understand someone rejecting A and embracing B, because they are effectively the same policy. Ultimately, all insurance costs are passed on to the purchaser, so I cannot see how policy B is different in any way from policy A, other than using slightly different words to describe it. 
Yet it seems that the White House yesterday switched from A to B, and that change is being viewed by some as a significant accommodation to those who objected to policy A. The whole thing leaves me scratching my head.
HT: Carpe Diem

Friday, February 10, 2012

Santorum on women in combat

Rick Santorum has argued against the idea of women in combat, remarks which were mischaracterized as arguing that women were unfit for combat because they were too emotional, a remark which elicited an emotional response from women's groups and a few men who claim not to be women.

Rick Santorum and the liberal's Stochastic view of natural law

I have always said that knowing Latin is useful, but I never guessed it would prove helpful in discerning the meaning of the names of presidential candidates. In the present case, I'll simply note that Rick Santorum's last name means "of the holy ones." Not a bad qualification to have for the nation's highest office.

I also observe that the Greek word telos has now officially entered the nation's political lexicon through an article in the New York Times. The article is, of course, snooty (I almost typed "snotty," and that too would have been true) and condescending, as we have come to expect from the Times, not the mention much of the rest of the media.

Molly Worthen, the author of the article, discusses the basis for Santorum's views on marriage:
Santorum appeals to natural law, what he calls the Catholic Church’s “operating instructions for human beings.” 
“Human beings have a purpose, or ‘end,’ a telos,” Santorum writes in his book. According to the tradition of natural law, every part of our bodies has a telos too. In the case of our genitalia, that natural end is heterosexual sex for the purpose of procreation. It follows that marriage between a man and a woman “is fundamentally natural,” Santorum writes. “The promise of natural law is that we will be the happiest, and freest, when we follow the law built into our nature as men and women. For liberals, however, nature is too confining, and thus is the enemy of freedom.” Later on, he elaborates on his jaundiced view of freedom with a quotation from Edmund Burke: “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their appetites.”
Santorum's views here shouldn't be new to readers of this blog, since I have articulated the same position many times. It is simply the scholastic natural law tradition. The Times also correctly points out the true nature of Santorum's views on all social issues.
Santorum attacks gay rights and abortion not by spouting biblical verses or goading his audiences’ gut feelings, but by playing the medieval scholastic theologian and reasoning from first principles. There is no need to quote St. Paul to prove that homosexual sex is an affront to the natural order and same-sex marriage a detriment to civilization ...
Of course, a homosexual being an "affront to the natural order" is the Times' way of caricaturing this position. It is rather the homosexual's actions which are an affront to the natural order--and, since his own nature is a part of the natural order, his actions are just as much an affront to the homosexual himself.

The Times acknowledges that Santorum's case is logical:
Santorum is not a fundamentalist frothing at the mouth, screeching out biblical commands (he cites “Divine Providence” often in his writing, but rarely turns to scripture). When liberal students booed after he expressed his views on same-sex marriage at an event in New Hampshire, he did not shout them down, but tried to engage them in a philosophical discussion.

Each point that Santorum makes follows logically from the preceding premise. Along with Catholic public intellectuals like Robert George, a political theorist at Princeton, and the political commentator and the Lutheran minister-turned-Catholic theologian Richard John Neuhaus, Santorum embodies the renaissance of Catholic natural law in American political life—and the apotheosis of its seductive effect on conservative Protestant evangelicals.
But although is case is logical, it is premised on first principles. In other words, his world view is based on fundamental assumptions about reality, and this, says Worthen, is the problem:, and what makes Santorum so dangerous:
Natural law is a noble tradition that has shaped Western jurisprudence, but in the hands of conservative activists like Santorum it has become a dangerous cult of first principles. Santorum’s positions are perfectly logical if you accept his founding presuppositions — but, in his view, those presuppositions are not open to question. The genius of this emphasis on foundational assumptions is that if you can dismiss your opponent’s first principles, if you can accuse him of denying humanity’s “natural purpose,” you can claim to win the debate without ever considering the content of his argument. 
This tactic destroys the possibility for real political dialogue, since one need only engage with those who share one’s own presuppositions.
Having first principles--in other words, assumptions upon which your thinking is based--is a tactic? This is the first time I've ever heard anyone actually come out and say this. Is Worthen really saying you shouldn't have basic assumptions behind your view of the world? She doesn't have any herself?

If Santorum's view of the world is Scholastic, Worthen's is Stochastic. How can you have any belief about anything unless is is logical? And how can that logic have any effect unless it is based on premises which ultimately lead to assumptions that you take as self-evident? You might as well say that there can be chain hanging in the air not attached to anything.

This is just one indication of the bankruptcy of the modern world view: it attacks the self-evident assumptions of traditional thought and pretends it does not have assumptions of its own that it considers self-evident. Everyone else's assumptions are considered fair game but its own preposterous ones.

Santorum is one of the few Catholic politicians who actually seem to know what Catholic ethics actually teaches--and who is able to articulate it competently. Many of the others not only don't know what Catholic ethics teaches, but oppose it in practice.

The Times story gets Santorum right, even though its evaluation of him is entirely wrong. It condemns him for all the right reasons. The kind of liberals we have today--liberals whose political philosophy is premised on a denial of human nature--have every reason to fear someone like Santorum. Romney and Gingrich are both scandals to the establishment in their own way, although Romney redirects liberal premises to his own ends and Gingrich is still in the process, I think of internalizing the Catholic positions that have been percolating in Santorum's thought since he was young.

It is Santorum who stands for everything they oppose.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Bloggers who need a backbone on the gambling issue

Mica Sims, a libertarian blogger in Kentucky, is waving the white flag on the gambling legislation, just as the legislation has died a quiet death. She argues that we should put the issue on the ballot, she says. Why? Because she's "honestly sick of this issue."


We're supposed to pass legislation because libertarian bloggers with an apparent lack of fortitude get tired of an issue?

Oh, and her phrasing is very interesting: We need to "put it to the people," she says. Well, the people will certainly have it "put to them" by the gambling industry when they start lining their already formidable pocket books with it.

Monday, February 06, 2012

PRESS RELEASE: Group says Beshear “lacks confidence in his own legislation," challenges Governor to “stop playing politics” and file the gambling bill

For Immediate Release
February 6, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY—The Family Foundation said today that Gov. Steve Beshear's decision not to file his proposed constitutional amendment to expand gambling until after the filing deadline for legislative candidates indicated that he had serious doubts about support for it among Kentuckians. The Family Foundation opposes the legislation and claims the Governor does not have legislative support to pass the bill.

Cothran pointed to claims from the Governor and wealthy gambling interests that Kentuckians supported the legislation by a wide margin, as well as to the Governor's claim that he had the votes in the Senate to pass the bill and asked why, if these things were true, there was any reason for Beshear to wait to file the bill.

"If Kentuckians overwhelmingly support this bill and if he really has 23 votes in the State Senate to the extent he claims," asked Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group, "then why does he have to wait until after the filing deadline to introduce it? He obviously lacks confidence in his own legislation."

"The Governor needs to stop playing politics with this issue and introduce his legislation," said Cothran. "How can you blame other people for the failure of your own legislation, as this Governor has done, when you don't even have the courage to file your bill?"

Cothran said last week that the Governor was bluffing. "This is just further proof that the Governor and his wealthy casino supporters don't have the support they claim."


Saturday, February 04, 2012

Another New Atheist setting his hair on fire

The 19th century mathematician and historian of philosophy Augustus DeMorgan once issued a warning for the scientist who tried to venture into metaphysics: "[W]hen he tries to look down his own throat with a candle in his hand," he said, he needs to "take care that he does not set his head on fire."

Despite the warning, scientists have been setting their hair on fire ever since. And with the onset of the New Atheists, the need for philosophical fire extinguishers has grown exponentially.

The result has been scientists who, rather than assent to the existence of God, will believe in almost anything. One example is multiple universes, recently proposed by, among others, physicist Stephen Hawking. The belief in this, we are told with a straight face, is more rational than believing in God.

This is not a new idea, of course, having already been thought up--and rejected--by the Greeks.

Another more recent example is Jerry Coyne, a biologist who regularly practices philosophy without a license. He wrote an opinion piece for USA Today a month or so back wherein he announced to the world that free will was an illusion. Coyne's intellectual gears too are stuck in an earlier time, in his case, the early 20th century positivistic materialism that most philosophers themselves--including most of those who came up with the idea in the first place--abandoned back about the 1960s.

But Jerry still hasn't gotten the memo.

In his new post, he wrestle's with the only other theory of free will more absurd than is own materialistic one, namely compatiabalism--the idea that determinism and free will are consistent with one another. Coyne at least realizes that won't fly, but then, seeing that the only other alternative is to go outside his little materialistic world, he bites the bullet and denies free will.

At least we can credit Coyne with being consistently wrong.

Thursday, February 02, 2012