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Morning thoughts on beards

by Greg Krehbiel on 9 January 2015

I grew my first beard in 9th grade, and throughout high school I usually had a beard or a mustache. I grew a beard again toward the end of high school, and except for one two-week period in about 1991 I’ve had a beard ever since.

Generally speaking I think men should have facial hair on the general principle that men should look like men and women should look like women. Obviously I’m not advocating some sort of nut-case Muslim beard police society, I’m just saying that sex differences should be expressed in our appearance, and beards are a convenient way to do that.

For most of my life beards have not been in style. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been persecuted because of my beard, but I’ve had people tell me some pretty weird things over the years, like that having a beard hurts my chances in business, or even in promotions.

Nowadays beards are making a comeback — sometimes in very amusing ways. You may have heard of the “lumbersexuals.” Those are men who dress like lumberjacks, with big beards, flannel shirts, jeans rolled up, boots, etc. I’m not making that up.

I’ve also seen a lot more … uh, “stylish” men with beards. Dandies. Men who spend way too much time in front of a mirror.

I’m all in favor of people dressing nicely. When you dress well, people treat you well, and society seems more pleasant when people have higher standards for what they wear in public. I’m not a fan of everything going casual.

However, recently I’ve seen a lot more men who seem just a little too preoccupied with their looks. Their hair is styled and done up just so. Their clothes are a touch too ostentatious. They wear pins and ornaments and things. Their shoes look very expensive.

There’s a world of difference between dressing well — think James Bond or Frank Sinatra in a suit and a Trilby — and some dandified creation with an oiled, manicured beard, vest, silk pocket square and feathered felt hat.

This morning I saw two such creatures on the metro, and for a fleeting moment I wanted to shave my beard to make sure I’m not associated with that. Fortunately I think I have enough of the scruffy look that I’ll never be confused with those guys.

-- 2 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-09  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Let’s ruin education even more!

by Greg Krehbiel on 9 January 2015

President Obama has proposed two free years of “community college” for all Americans.

This is an awful idea. It would further federalize education, giving the feds more power. Education is a state issue, not a federal issue. And Congress would attach strings and conditions to this program. When that happens, instead of just talking about stupid ideas, they’d be able to enforce them.

The federal government is so big and so out of control, at this point almost anything they propose — any new tax or power or program — should be opposed.

-- 18 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-09  ::  Greg Krehbiel

A genuine Muslim leader?

by Greg Krehbiel on 8 January 2015

This is a good sign.

A courageous voice from inside Islam.

-- 2 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-08  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Fights over the feminist label

by Greg Krehbiel on 7 January 2015

There’s a thing going around these days (am I supposed to call it a meme?) that you can’t be for equal rights for women but say you’re not a feminist, because that’s what feminism means. So they want you to believe.

Of course the problem is that “feminism” has come to mean all sorts of things that have nothing to do with “equal rights.” As a few quick examples …

For a more general discussion of the conflict between feminism’s alleged principles and what actually happens, see this — Anti-Feminists Baffle Feminists — and follow some of the links.

Whenever somebody makes a claim — almost any kind of claim — I immediately think of analogies, or similar claims. I ask, “Well, if that’s true, then this similar thing should be true as well,” or, “Can I apply that same sort of reasoning in similar cases?”

The debate over the feminist label therefore reminded me of other debates about labels, and the first one to come to mind was “you can’t be Catholic and pro-choice.”

There are some similarities, but there’s a big difference as well. There’s a somewhat well-defined body of doctrine that defines what “Catholic” means, so if somebody says “you can’t be Catholic and believe Thor is God,” we can look that up and see if it’s so. There is nothing even remotely similar for “feminism.”

Feminism is not as rigorously defined as Catholicism, and feminists usually claim that what ties all the different subgroups together is their commitment to “equality.” The problem is that anybody who listens to what feminists actually say quickly realizes that’s simply not so. They’re not in favor of “equality” and never were. The suffragettes, for example, wanted the right to vote, but not the obligation to be subject to the draft and fight in wars.

I suppose a feminist might say that you can’t change everything at once, and they started with the most egregious injustice, which was the lack of voting rights. Eh …. Maybe. Forcing women to register for the draft (which I do not favor) is still not a part of the mainstream feminist agenda, so the claim that they want “equality” rings hollow.

When it comes to Catholics you know what “Catholic” means by recourse to the catechism. It’s not exactly precisely perfect, but it certainly defines the concept well enough to resolve most disagreements about what a “Catholic” position looks like.

To my knowledge there is nothing like that with “feminism,” and my suspicion is that if we told a group of feminists that in order to take the word “feminism” seriously we need a clear statement of principles, so that we can evaluate whether any of the lunatics cited above are actually feminists, they’d say that’s patriarchal oppression, imposing a male, linear, logical way of thinking on them. Or something like that.

The ugly truth that feminists needs to face is that feminism is ugly. In part it’s ugly because it’s based on a silly lie, and in part it’s ugly because it’s based on grievance and jealousy and anger. In any event, it’s so ugly that women are running away from it — as well they should.

-- 4 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-07  ::  Greg Krehbiel

The baffling blindness of anti-creationists

by Greg Krehbiel on 6 January 2015

You may have heard that there’s a new theory that life may be more probable than we thought because living things dissipate energy more effectively than non-living things, so — other things being equal — the second law of thermodynamics would favor living systems over non-living.

I suspect the theory is better developed than that, because when stated so simply it’s liable to some pretty obvious refutations. E.g., the fact that the second law would prefer X if X actually existed is hardly an argument that X would spontaneously manifest itself. But … I digress.

This article in Salon implies that the theory will necessarily be bad news for the Christian Right. One immediately wonders if the author has ever heard of the anthropic principle?

I have no bone in this fight. I couldn’t care less whether this new theory is true or false, and I don’t find the arguments for or against the anthropic principle very compelling. But … wouldn’t this be a classic example of it?

If the laws of the universe were designed in such a way that made life likely to happen in the right circumstances … uh, stop me if I’m wrong, but am I simply restating the anthropic principle here?

Taylor Swift is right. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate. And it blinds them to their topic.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen anti-creationists make ridiculous arguments simply because they’re not willing to give an inch. They can’t bring themselves to say “you may have a point there,” so they have to hate, hate, hate.

There’s another interesting thing to note about this new theory.

Living things are good at collecting information about their surroundings, and at putting that information to use through the ways they interact with their environment so as to survive and replicate themselves. Thus, talking about biology inevitably leads to talking about decision, purpose, and function.

At the same time, living things are also made of atoms that, in and of themselves, have no particular function. Rather, molecules and the atoms from which they are built exhibit well-defined physical properties having to do with how they bounce off of, stick to, and combine with each other across space and over time.

Making sense of life at the molecular level is all about building a bridge between these two different ways of looking at the world.

Can anyone say “Aquinas”? Edward Feser, call your office.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-06  ::  Greg Krehbiel

“It’s easier for women to identify with men ….”

by Greg Krehbiel on 6 January 2015

In an otherwise mildly interesting article, actress Meryl Streep is quoted as saying the following about why there aren’t as many women characters in movies.

… the hardest thing in the world is to persuade a straight male audience to identify with a woman character. It’s easier for women [to identify with men] ….

She goes on to give her reason why she thinks that’s so, but I’m ending the quote there. Streep presumably knows her business, and she may have an insight into how different audiences react. Her explanation of the reason for the fact (if it is a fact) is another matter.

If she’s right — if it’s true that women can identify with male characters better than men can identify with female characters — what are the implications for the Grand Politically Correct Project to Eliminate Sex Distinctions?

To get into that I’m going to have to cite her reasoning after all. The observable sex difference in “identifying” with an opposite sex character is because (according to Streep) women “were brought up identifying with male characters in literature.”

And if the difference is a matter of exposure/education, then we can “fix” it by forcing little boys to read more books about female characters. Then little boys will grow into men who can identify with women, and there will be more acting roles for older women. All will be right with the world. There will be harmony and there will be understanding. Sympathy and trust will most certainly abound.

But let’s assume we try that for 50 years, and despite all the efforts to get Johnny to read Heather has Two Mommies and whatever else, men continue to not give a darn about “identifying” with female characters? What if it’s an inherent sex difference that refuses to change despite politically correct nagging and social engineering? What if the school teacher of 50 years ago, who would have reflexively said “oh, it would be cruel to make the boys read that,” had keen insight into inflexible human nature?

Let’s say that despite strenuous efforts, men (as a group) simply can’t identify with female characters, but women can identify with male characters. What would be the implication for the kinds of books kids should be reading? What might it imply about other issues, like … whether women should be pastors?

Of course I’m making the fatal mistake of assuming that observable fact is relevant. The fact of sex differences never diminishes the agenda-fired zeal to eliminate them. From the point of view of the zealots, the question is not “how can we make a movie that appeals to the largest group of people?” (I.e., actual people who really exist and buy tickets.) The question is not even “how can we create more ‘gender equality’?” The question is “how can we change the world (i.e., men) so that more women get to do what they want to do?”

I would predict that even if “science” could prove that men have a hard time relating to female characters, the social engineers would insist on having more books with female characters — simply because it’s the right thing to do. It wouldn’t matter if there was no hope of ever changing that situation. The important thing is that we would wish for it.

There’s another assumption in Streep’s quote, and that is that people enjoy a movie to the degree that they identify with the characters. She may be right about that, but I’ve known men who rate movies by how many heads explode, so I think it’s at least possible that men don’t particularly care about “identifying” with movie characters at all, and that some other dynamic is at play in why there are lots of parts for old men, but not lots of parts for old women.

-- 17 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-06  ::  Greg Krehbiel

The morals of Downton Abbey

by Greg Krehbiel on 6 January 2015

We watched the first episode of Season 5 last night, and it occurred to me that Downton Abbey may turn out to be one of the few shows on TV that puts fornication in a bad light. (No spoilers. Don’t worry.)

Almost every TV show and movie these days simply assumes that it’s okay for men and women to have sex outside of marriage. There’s usually not any hint that there could possibly be a moral question involved. It’s presented as the most ordinary and expected thing in the world.

In past seasons of Downton Abbey, the somewhat desperate Lady Edith ended up pregnant as a result of her extra marital shenanigans. (You have to give the show credit on that score for recognizing that sex has consequences.) Now Lady Edith watches the child grow in another family’s home and suffers from the separation.

Whatever message was intended to be sent, I suspect that the message received is going to end up along the lines of how awful it is that she has to hide the child and pretend that it’s not hers. If only society were more open and accepting (so the modern catechism goes) then Lady Edith’s pain and suffering would be avoided. All the trouble is from the close-minded, backwards, old-fashioned moral in that horrible, primitive time!

At least I’m sure some people will view it that way.

The problem with having a moral standard is that you have to judge people who break it. The unreflective modern person likes to pat himself on the back for his virtue of being non-judgmental. (Or so he thinks.) He doesn’t know the Bible much at all, but he latches on to “Don’t judge lest you be judged,” etc., and thinks Jesus is on his side. Not that he really cares, but it makes him feel better about himself, and that’s the real point, isn’t it?

I call this person unreflective because he’s perfectly happy to judge people who don’t recycle, or oppose same-sex marriage, or believe in gun rights, or something like that, but he thinks he’s oh-so-righteous when he doesn’t judge people who sleep around. In my experience there are few people as morally judgemental as the ones who pride themselves on not being judgmental. It comes from a mindset that moral issues simply aren’t serious. Maybe I’ll post on that issue sometime.

Back to Downton Abbey. The Dowager Countess provides some helpful relief to modern idiocy with her often wise and pithy comments. It might be worth making a study of them, because she has some very good things to say.

Unfortunately they come from the mouth of an old lady in an old show, so the modern person — already willing to dismiss everything somebody twenty years older says as woefully out of date and irrelevant — has no reason whatsoever to count her opinion as of any significance at all. Except as something to laugh at.

Young people have a chronological snobbery that glibly assumes that modern moral sentiments are inherently better than anything previous — without bothering to think further about it or question how or why that might be true. If some modern person were to try to engage in a little moral reasoning, he might ask himself some questions like this.

  • Older morals are tried and tested. We can see what they produce(d) — both the good and the bad. Newer morals have not been tested. This alone puts them on different footing.
  • Morals can be based on observation or they can be based on sentiment.
  • A moral system that tries to achieve the most good for the most people will butt heads with a moral system that tries to achieve maximum freedom for all individuals.
  • Most moral judgments on particular issues are simply an application of a larger question or assumption — e.g., which is the higher good, individual liberty or social stability?
  • Whether you believe there is such a thing as “human nature” will have a very large effect on how you reason morally.

-- 11 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-06  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Strikes 5, 6 and 7 against Books-a-Million

by Greg Krehbiel on 5 January 2015

Earlier I discussed the incredibly bad service I received from Books-a-Million in pursuit of a nice hard-bound edition of The Lord of the Rings.

The package finally arrived today. (If I’d ordered from Amazon it would have been here days ago.)

The boxed set was packed by an idiot (it didn’t have nearly enough packing material) and it arrived damaged.

I took it to the local store this evening to return it, but and the local store are separate entities, or some such nonsense, so you can’t return things there. Strike Six … another stupid policy by BAM.

When I got home I called them at 7:13 p.m. Central Standard Time. The recording said “Thank you for calling books a million customer support. We are currently closed. Our hours are from nine a.m. to nine p.m. central ….” Strike Seven.

Books a Million is a complete joke. Don’t deal with these people. Buy from Amazon.

Update: My replacement copy finally showed up, and it was damaged too! It’s as if they’re studying to be the worst company in the world.

I asked for a refund and purchased the book from Amazon.

-- 1 comment  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-05  ::  Greg Krehbiel

“An inheritance from classical antiquity”?

by Greg Krehbiel on 5 January 2015

I had thought I kept abreast of the big stories, but I didn’t know there was a pedophile scandal going on in Britain until I saw this. The British People Must Now Take Control of the Establishment Paedophile Scandal.

… the British nation has woken up today to face, yet again, the uncomfortable possibility that they are governed by an elite political and media establishment that has, for at least the past 50 years, engaged in, covered up, and ignored institutionalised paedophilia.

It reminds me, once again, of the comment Lee Podles made in this post:

My darkest suspicion is that pederasty has been entrenched in the clergy as an inheritance from classical antiquity, and that only occasionally does it come to light. St. Peter Damian denounced it in the Middle Ages, but nothing was done to extirpate it.

Maybe the entrenchment is broader than Mr. Podles suspected, and extends to all the “nobility.”

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-05  ::  Greg Krehbiel

The oppression of marriage

by Greg Krehbiel on 5 January 2015

William sent this article: Longtime defender of marriage asks if we should try something else

A few thoughts.

Sawhill’s staunch defense of marriage has often put the economist at odds with some thinkers on the left who have dismissed the institution as an oppressive vestige of patriarchy.

Most people will read that and assume that it means men (the patriarchy) are using marriage to oppress women. IMO that’s less than half of the truth. Men (the patriarchy) use marriage mostly to oppress men. By restricting sex to marriage (that is, by outlawing and stigmatizing prostitution, pornography, fornication and adultery) society used to force men into marriage, where they would take on the burden of supporting and defending the little, home-based societies that make the larger society work. “Marriage” is where a man trades his freedom, his time, and an enormous portion of his income, for access to sex.

Sure, there are ways that marriage oppresses women as well, but we’ve heard all of that to the point of being sick. Few people pay attention to how marriage oppresses men.

Society, or the patriarchy, or whatever you want to call it, does all this because without families to support and raise children, and especially to socialize potentially violent young men, society would completely fall apart. Imagine if every sick kid had to go to the clinic rather than being cared for at home by mom, or if young men were never threatened by their dads into controlling their violent side. The “welfare state” would be magnified many times over.

Conservatives — Sawhill calls them “traditionalists” — blame the demise of marriage on culture, and many say that is what must be fixed in order to revive marriage. Liberals, or “village builders” to Sawhill, say the economy is to blame and that, rather than try to resuscitate marriage, it is better to accept family diversity and provide better education, jobs, wages and support for single parents to alleviate poverty.

Blah blah blah. The demise of marriage is because of the acceptance of sex outside of marriage. The way to make marriage stronger is to stop celebrating fornication. The question is whether we can do that. If not, we’re doomed.

Just as the sexual revolution decoupled sex from marriage, she says, the marriage revolution must decouple sex from parenthood.

This Sawhill person is clearly an idiot. We’ve gone into uncharted waters that have almost capsized the ship, so her advice is to put out more sail and go farther and faster.

This is why “intellectuals” are the enemy of mankind. You have to be educated to be this stupid.

-- 5 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-05  ::  Greg Krehbiel

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