Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Friday, November 07, 2008

President Careless Elect

Barack Obama is already exemplifying the maxim "a closed mouth gathers no feet" while signalling to his handlers his dire need to be reading from a TelepromTer at all times. All. Times.

This lightweight is supposed to be The One?

Nice of him to make Joe Biden fit in better. I wonder how he'll do in front of Iran's Mahmoud IWannaDinnerJacket.

God have mercy on this great country.

And what's with the oversized "Office of the President Elect" logo on the podium? Is it just me or is this whole appearance of already being the guy in charge a first in American politics?

17 Comments:

Anonymous Mike said...

If you watch the entire press conference, Obama does specifically mention that he is not yet in charge of the country and that until January, the current administration will still run the country. Still, I would agree that it is a bit tacky.

As for the joke - I thought it was funny. Apparently, Hillary also conducted similar "spiritual" sessions to converse with Eleanor Roosevelt while she was the first lady. Glad she never made it past the primaries.

Curious as to whether or not you thought that Palin had a negative influence on the campaign or not. Many Republicans were unhappy with her appointment as McCain's running mate - any comment?

Hope things are well in CA!

11:03 AM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Hi Mike:

My point was really more to say that a) the mainscream (not a typo) media is SO EAGER to get their man in the Oval Office that they've created a phoney "President Elect" press conference deal, and b) Mr. Suave and Inspiring is capable of making embarrassing gaffes. He has made many in the last year and a half (not so many as the professional-level gaffe machine that is Joe Biden), which were under-reported here in the US and were non-existent in the Canadian media.

I guess if you haven't lost a treasured loved one, his little joke may come off as funny. But forget Mrs. Reagan and her ongoing loss of her husband -- he screwed up the reference. Nancy Reagan consulted astrologers, not necromancers as Billary did.

"Many Republicans" were not unhappy with Governor Palin as his pick. Mmost were very happy; some were ecstatic. Some were unhappy, yes, I'm sure, mostly the cowardly RINO kind (Republican in name only), or those suffering from sheer jealousy. Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama. I have no doubts about it.

I don't see any other way to read it except to say that she helped Sen. MacCain, big time, by giving the conservative base of a nice and much needed jolt of champagne. She turned the feminist dialiectic inside out like a worn-out wash cloth, and liberal women despised her: She is beautiful, courageous, principled, a believing Christian, spectacularly successful; and she didn't kill her son Trig as 90% of women do when they're told about that extra chromosome on the 21sth pair -- all these things made her public enemy number one with leftist women and their Milquetoast male supporters.

Had John McCain gone with someone allegedly tried and true, Obama would have buried him long before Nov 4. He did not run as if to win. There is so much to say about this.

A comment from me? How about, "Barack Obama is the most extreme radicalized liberal the US has ever elected, a dress rehearsal for the appearance of the Anti-Christ." As extremism goes, it's pretty hard to top his pro-infanticide view of babies who survive the abortions he so strenuously promotes.

The outrageous personal attacks upon Sarah Palin and her family, the petty, junior high level animosity that was laser focused on this good woman has made even some diehard lefties here cringe. The media coverage was unremitting in its pro-Obama tilt.

Barack Hussein Obama was not elected so much as selected.

Me -- I'm gearing up for the rise of Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2012, as (please Jesus, Joseph and Mary) enough Americans will by then be choking to death on the culture of narcissism, high taxation and socialist BS that Obama was born to deliver.

11:36 PM

 
Anonymous Mike said...

In regards to the "socialist" agenda that you point to as one of the evils of Obama's up-and-coming administration: If Obama did have a socialist agenda, what exactly is so horrible about it?

Also, unless the Supreme Court intervened in the election (AHEM), I don't see how you can suggest that the outcome of the election was "selected" other than by the people of the United States of America. You can point to the MSM as being as biased as you want, but I would hope that you're giving the American public a little more credit than suggesting that "CNN told me to vote this way, so I did".

Bush, at least the second time around, was re-elected by the American public despite the constant, constant polls that were all over the MSM saying that his reign was over. I will in no way defend the media for being biased against GW...they most certainly were. And yet America re-elected him.

To claim that media unfairly pushed Obama into the White House is entirely unfounded. Your country of residence elected him.

That being said, the honeymoon is over, Obama supporters, and it's time to be just as critical of his administration as you otherwise would be of any other elected official. Fair is fair, and it's your patriotic duty.

1:18 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Mike:

I doubt I can outline what's wrong with socialism in a com box format. Forget the many rational, secular reasons why socialism is highly undesirable. (Start that list with the fact that it's a system of social and economic organization that would substitute state monopoly for private ownership of the sources of production and means of distribution, and would concentrate under the control of the secular governing authority (ie the State) the main activities of human life. THAT is the Obama agenda in a nutshell. Straight out of Saul Alinksi, the Marxist mentor to Obama and Bill Ayers; the same Alinski who dedicated one of his books to Satan. If only I was making this up.

* But it's not even state control of private industry alone that makes socialism undesirable. It's the broader presupposition that The All Knowing Government can do a better job than private enterprise. Take the Post Office. Were it privatized, stamp rates would drop quickly and line ups would virtually disappear. A little thing called competition...

* Socialism may originally have been a reaction against real and imagined inequalities in 18th century Europe, but under the tutelage of Marx, Engels, Hall, Gray and Ogilvie, Alinski, et al, it grew into a system of thought that is incompatible with Christian thought and life.

* I'm a grateful and happy Catholic, sir. Pope Pius XI summarized the Catholic view by teaching that one cannot be a true Catholic and a socialist. And even if I knew nothing about socialism from a sat-down-and-read-100-books-and-went-to-weekly-socialist-meetings-for-a-year point of view, that papal teaching would suffice for me.

* One cannot compare Bush and Kerry with McCain and Obama, and I'll tell you why. Kerry had almost negative charisma next to Obama. Yes, the MSM wanted Kerry over Bush, but they were positively frothing at the mouth in a state of deep craving and transcendent aspiration for The Obamessiah to get in, beguiled as they were with his blackness (forgetting that he is not black but mixed race -- his mother was a white woman from Kansas), his sinuous, calm demeanor, and his undeniable abilities reading off a Prompter. That very few people know anything about his governing principles meant nothing to his media minions or the earnest freshmen who swooned to his soaring rhetoric. McCain they merely tolerated when they didn't ignore him.

* Another difference is that the MSM HATED Bush, and still do. But they LOVE Obama, and still do. Love can motivate others better than hate can, for the same reason as being against something pales in comparison with being for something.

* I like your optimism, but don't hold your breath for any kind of "objective media criticism" of B. Hussein Obama any time soon.

* Of course, enough Electorate votes for Obama secured a win on Nov 4. I didn't say they didn't. (Getting the Supreme Court involved...?) I think you misread me. By "selected not elected," I only meant that the voting public (and aren't you the one who thinks Americans are stupid?) were given wall-to-wall, all the time positive coverage of the media's man, and very spotty, hesitant treatment of John McCain -- and disgusting, daily attacks on Sarah Palin, a true conservative.

* When you write, "you can say the MSM was biased all you want," I have to wonder what you're smoking. Are you kidding? You really doubt that the sky is blue? Even the Washington Post ombudsman yesterday admitted what (almost) everyone knows.

* If McCain had fought a different race, if he had been a real conservative, and if the MSM had done their jobs instead of performing group Onanism over Obama, the outcome could easily have been different. Given the pro-Obama love from the MSM, McCain should have been flattened 90-10. Yet he wasn't. Which tells you that the country wasn't buying the hype.

* Many many many people vote as lemmings. Enough of them saw Obama as a change agent, they liked the racial novelty; they feel bad about the racism of the past; and they wanted to start a new chapter. I just wish they had thought more deeply about what the man BELIEVES and how he VOTED as a state and US senator instead of buying into sloganeering ("Yes we can!" "hope" "change") God in heaven.

* Things are likely to get a lot worse here before they get better. Start *that* list with a great increase in the spilled blood of innocent babies murdered in the womb - and out of the womb, thanks to Obama's extremist views. That part doesn't seem to bother you, Mike. Am I wrong?

Look at it this way: If, say, President Elect Bob was a good liberal and looked great in a suit and seemed to be a nice person but was pro-choice when it came to owning slaves, I suspect you would explicitly reject him as a worthy candidate for public life, no?

Take care and thanks for chiming in.

5:05 PM

 
Anonymous Mike said...

Patrick,

I forgot how much I like these little debates. Keeps both of us fresh, I think. I'll try to keep chronological, and brief.

Socialism:
I think it should be clarified that I’m not suggesting implementing socialism in its “purest” form. There are certainly a lot of drawbacks with the socialist agenda, and we’ve most certainly seen these drawbacks in action in China, Cuba and so on. But I am suggesting that not all aspects of socialism are bad. I’ll refer to the old fallback of Canadian healthcare as an example: it’s not perfect, but it’s universal. There are, I believe, about 40-odd million Americans who don’t have health insurance, which is horrific. It would seem to me that Christian values would advocate health care for everyone. I don’t care if private health care continues to exist in America, but universal coverage seems to be a no-brainer. It’s socialist health care, if I dare call it that, but it works. It’s not perfect, but you don’t have to sell your house for medical treatment if you are a low income citizen. It’s socialism, in a sense, but it’s not a bad thing.

I will certainly concede that the government has the tendency to screw up mostly everything that it touches. I don’t have any objections to private mail service. But I think that health care is one of those things that should be socialized.

Captialism is fine and dandy, for the most part: but when 1% of the population of the United States possesses 38% of the wealth and the top 10% owns 71%, there’s a problem. Jesus was a pretty smart guy, and I’m quite certain that he would see a problem with this. I would guess that so do you.

Did I just compare you to Jesus?

Anyway, if imposing higher taxes on the top income bracket would mean tax breaks for the middle and lower classes, I say go Barack, go. Correct me if I have his tax policy wrong. I couldn’t vote, so I didn’t spend too much time looking over his tax plan. If that’s wrong, then I propose that this is my tax policy. It’s still Capitalism, but a bit more socially just. Adam Smith’s invisible hand sure ain’t kicking in any time soon.

Happiness:
I’m glad you’re happy in your Catholicism. I am equally as happy in my Atheism, so it’s good we’re both content in our respective worldviews. I would also invite you, either by private email, or here, to challenge my Atheism in any manner. I haven’t received much criticism from anyone for my beliefs, which is, in part, why I like corresponding with you. You force me to articulate my beliefs in a manner which few other people in my life do. You’re right about one thing—Canada is too damn politically correct sometimes. If there’s something I haven’t considered, I’d love the chance to investigate it further. Don’t feel obliged, I’m just offering. Most people fall silent when I haul out the “A” word.

Politics:
John Kerry definitely lacked charisma. He was a bad choice. ‘Nuff said. My only point was that the media was biased against Bush in the previous election, and that didn’t sway voters to vote for Kerry. Likewise, the media cannot be solely praised (or blamed) for Obama’s win. Although I think that his campaign manager should have been elected vice-president. He did a hell of a lot more than Biden. Although there is one good Biden quote that I think he deserves credit for: “Rudy Giuliani. There's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun, a verb, and 9/11.”
Gold, I tell you. Gold.

I agree on the “Criticism-of-Obama” front. It will be a while before the MSM starts nipping at his heals.

America:
I don’t think Americans are stupid. The comment I made a while ago was perhaps a bit too broad. What I had intended to convey was my irritation at Americans who refuse to admit the faults of their nation. You know, the “we’re number one” crowd. That kind of thinking leads to political stagnation. In many ways, America is number one, and the Bill of Rights is a brilliant document. Far be it for me to paint everyone with the same brush.

The Mainstream Media, again:
Yes, it’s biased. But you can blame it all you want, and indeed it deserves criticism, but I think that Americans aren’t sheep who hang on every word the media spits out. All I’m saying is that I thought the election was won fairly. So was 2004. 2000 is debatable, but let’s not get into that. You’re right to say that the country wasn’t buying the hype. I thought that you had initially suggested that hype was the reason that Obama had won.

I won’t deny that a lot of people pulled the race card out on election day, and that it influenced their vote. It’s a stupid reason to vote for someone. I commend Obama for not using the race card as an election gimmick. The media did, but he did not, to my knowledge. Sadly, some people did vote for him purely for racial reasons (and for good looks). People can be shallow. Some people undoubtedly voted for Bush because he’s cuddly-looking. He has a southern twang. Some people vote for dumb reasons. The electoral system is far from perfect. I should point out that McCain also used “change” excessively in his campaign. And “leader”. He loved the word “leader”. Verdict: Both parties are guilty of sloganeering.

Abortion:
I would like to make my position on this perfectly clear. Too often do some people (I’m not suggesting you) assume that my Atheism entails a pro-abortion stance. So here it is, in a nutshell.

Abortion has become a global epidemic. It has become trivialized by pro-choice activism. Partial birth abortion is exponentially more disturbing. Abortion is an irresponsible way of dealing with an “undesired” consequence. Anyone engaging in sexual activity MUST concede that their actions could result in pregnancy, and should be willing to accept the potential consequences of their actions. Contraception will decrease the likelihood of pregnancy, and as such I support it. But those who use it must understand that it doesn’t free them of the potential consequences. I don’t believe that life begins at conception, but I will admit that it’s too morally ambiguous to allow.

As for President-Elect Bob, if I was convinced that another Republican administration would ban abortion, I would seriously consider my political leanings. But despite what McCain believes personally, it isn't going to change the laws of America. Public opinion favours abortion, and that's where the pro-life crowd should focus its attention. When public opinion supports an end to abortion, it will happen. Eight years of Bush didn't lead to an end to abortion, despite Bush's personal views, and I am convinced that McCain would do no better. In that sense, it's a non-issue, as it won't make a difference. The nation is too divided on the matter.

Hope that helps, and so much for keeping it brief.
No need to respond in such a lengthy manner, or at all, for that matter.

Respectfully, as always,
Mike

11:31 AM

 
Anonymous Mike said...

Addendum:

Brilliant article on the media hype around Obama:
http://www.slate.com/id/2204240/

I love Hitchens. He's such a crusty old bastard.

12:13 PM

 
Anonymous Mike said...

Oh, and by "seriously consider my political leanings" I actually mean "seriously re-consider my political leanings".

Blimey. I got a bit sloppy towards the end of that rather long tirade.

12:16 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Hey Mike:

You bein' fresh with me? lol.

I fear I'm going around the same mulberry bush with this topic. A few clarifications are yet in order:

But I am suggesting that not all aspects of socialism are bad.

I never said *all* of anything is bad. Even satanism is good insofar as it recognizes satan as real.

I’ll refer to the old fallback of Canadian healthcare as an example: it’s not perfect, but it’s universal. There are, I believe, about 40-odd million Americans who don’t have health insurance, which is horrific. It would seem to me that Christian values would advocate health care for everyone.

Doesn't seem to be, to me. Sorry. No one has a "right" to healthcare anymore than anyone has a right to health. You are right that no system is perfect. I'll take the American one over the Canadian any day. In the last four months, my father has had a stroke and my mother has had a heart attack. The long line ups and stretched pout wait times are horrifying, and would NEVER happen here. If I want an MRI, I get one that day. Blood test results come back swiftly. American doctors are the best in the world, like most things American. When Canadians are sick with rare disorders or need very urgent or unique medical care, they cross the border. Americans do not. They go down the block.

I do not think that any government, no matter how well-meaning, should be in charge of something as vital as medical care, which is a natural affair for private industry to run much more effectively. So 40 million has no health insurance. The majority of those don't buy it! While I'm at it, I should add that any person can walk into any US hospital and get whatever medical treatment he or she needs, esp if you're an illegal alien. The Canadian image of heartless and capitalistic US healthcare is false. If you like what you have to live under, God bless you.


Captialism is fine and dandy, for the most part: but when 1% of the population of the United States possesses 38% of the wealth and the top 10% owns 71%, there’s a problem. Jesus was a pretty smart guy, and I’m quite certain that he would see a problem with this. I would guess that so do you.

Nice of you to complement Jesus like that. On the wealth stats, I have no idea if the ones you cite are true. But, no, I don't think it argues well for socialism. Even if they're accurate, all it takes is one Bill Gates to skew the data in favor of "the rich" -- ooooh! Besides, the economic pie is not fixed in size or proportion, with only an elite being allowed to eat from it. It's an expandable pie where the circle of prosperity cam widen and include more and more people who strive to succeed. Check out "The Bottom Billion" by Paul Collier:

http://www.amazon.com/Bottom-Billion-Poorest-Countries-Failing/dp/0195311450

Are you saying the answer is to simply play Robin Hood and force the more successful and wealthy people to "redistribute the wealth" to the less successful and less wealthy?


Anyway, if imposing higher taxes on the top income bracket would mean tax breaks for the middle and lower classes, I say go Barack, go. Correct me if I have his tax policy wrong. I couldn’t vote, so I didn’t spend too much time looking over his tax plan. If that’s wrong, then I propose that this is my tax policy. It’s still Capitalism, but a bit more socially just. Adam Smith’s invisible hand sure ain’t kicking in any time soon.

Barack Obama's tax plan, as he repeats ad naseam (90% will get a tax break") leaves out that over 50% of those who will receive one do not pay ANY taxes!

All of this BS is why I support the only truly fair tax, which is the flat tax. Why on earth should the top few percent pay a superabundant ratio of taxes? Inherently unfair, and sends a bad message to entrepreneurs and others who want to succeed. The flat tax form would be the size of a postcard. Literally. I've seen the one Steve Forbes advocated.

Happiness:
I’m glad you’re happy in your Catholicism. I am equally as happy in my Atheism, so it’s good we’re both content in our respective worldviews. I would also invite you, either by private email, or here, to challenge my Atheism in any manner. I haven’t received much criticism from anyone for my beliefs, which is, in part, why I like corresponding with you. You force me to articulate my beliefs in a manner which few other people in my life do. Don’t feel obliged, I’m just offering. Most people fall silent when I haul out the “A” word.

Meaning no disrespect, Mike, but I couldn't care less about anyone's atheism. if you're looking to get a rise or a debate, I'm not the guy. I can articulate over a dozen various "proofs" for God's existence. None of them convert people.

Atheism is a cry of the heart, more than an intellectual judgment. Please, please don't be offended when I say that many brands of atheism are not unrelated to the moral life. Also, sin makes you stupid. And I'm preaching to myself. As Paul Vitz has demonstrated here, (google if you're interested) there is a causal connection between atheism and father problems such as abandonment or cruelty. You, on the other hand, have been richly blessed by a very good man for a father. So I'm guessing part of your atheism stems from the rebellion fostered by...something else.

Beyond all this, you said you were happy. Real happy atheism trumps theoretically happy Christianity every time. Not much I can say there except good luck with that. I hope living in a godless universe with only the corruption of the grave to look forward to works out for you.


My only point was that the media was biased against Bush in the previous election, and that didn’t sway voters to vote for Kerry. Likewise, the media cannot be solely praised (or blamed) for Obama’s win.


Oh, dear. Please reread my last comment.




The comment I made a while ago was perhaps a bit too broad. What I had intended to convey was my irritation at Americans who refuse to admit the faults of their nation.

I have never met any of these people, after 15 years in the US.

You know, the “we’re number one” crowd. That kind of thinking leads to political stagnation.

Do you have proof for this? The US has a built-in -- and very aggressive -- check and balance called the two party system. Stagnation is precisely what is impossible.

In many ways, America is number one, and the Bill of Rights is a brilliant document. Far be it for me to paint everyone with the same brush.

Unless it's magenta, which is fine.





Abortion:
I would like to make my position on this perfectly clear. Too often do some people (I’m not suggesting you) assume that my Atheism entails a pro-abortion stance. So here it is, in a nutshell.

Abortion has become a global epidemic. It has become trivialized by pro-choice activism. Partial birth abortion is exponentially more disturbing. Abortion is an irresponsible way of dealing with an “undesired” consequence. Anyone engaging in sexual activity MUST concede that their actions could result in pregnancy, and should be willing to accept the potential consequences of their actions. Contraception will decrease the likelihood of pregnancy, and as such I support it.

My upcoming book proves otherwise. More contraception leads, and has always led, to more abortions. Not less. It's a major myth of our time.

But those who use it must understand that it doesn’t free them of the potential consequences. I don’t believe that life begins at conception, but I will admit that it’s too morally ambiguous to allow.

You're a smart guy, for an atheist. Morally ambiguous? Please! So when you do think human life begins?

As for President-Elect Bob, if I was convinced that another Republican administration would ban abortion, I would seriously consider my political leanings. But despite what McCain believes personally, it isn't going to change the laws of America. Public opinion favours abortion, and that's where the pro-life crowd should focus its attention. When public opinion supports an end to abortion, it will happen. Eight years of Bush didn't lead to an end to abortion, despite Bush's personal views, and I am convinced that McCain would do no better. In that sense, it's a non-issue, as it won't make a difference. The nation is too divided on the matter.

You're objectively wrong here, Mike. But I lack the time to discuss. I'll get to it another time.


- PDC



Respectfully, as always,
Mike

1:51 PM

 
Anonymous Mike said...

Patrick,
Glad we can agree on that “not all bits of socialism are bad” bit. We’ll leave it at that.
I guess you’re right in saying that no one has a “right” to healthcare. Of course neither do they have the right to freedom of speech or freedom of religion. But it’s been guaranteed by the constitution, which is good. Too bad health care in the days of the founding fathers consisted of practices that were only a step up from bloodletting and drilling holes in people’s heads, or they might have enshrined that as a right too. Of course that’s an overly dramatic point, and I’m trying to avoid that. I think it’s a moral obligation to ensure that everyone has health care, no matter what the income. Don’t kid yourself—if you don’t have insurance, you’re getting shafted. And you should know that insurance policies aren’t handed out like candy.
“Are you saying the answer is to simply play Robin Hood and force the more successful and wealthy people to "redistribute the wealth" to the less successful and less wealthy?”
Not exactly. Their tax money doesn’t get distributed to the poor, silly. They still have to earn their money, like everyone else. A reasonable tax increase for the 250k+ crowd would go to the government, which can use it for, oh, say, health care, education, social programs…or perhaps paying down the obscene amount of debt that America has (don’t worry, ours is fat as well). If even only the education system improved, a lot more people would have a good shot at economic success. That’s overly simplified, yes, but you get the idea.
“Meaning no disrespect, Mike, but I couldn't care less about anyone's atheism. if you're looking to get a rise or a debate, I'm not the guy. I can articulate over a dozen various "proofs" for God's existence. None of them convert people.”
No disrespect taken! I’m not looking for a rise, merely some intelligent discussion.
“Atheism is a cry of the heart, more than an intellectual judgment.”
Funny…I’d say the same thing about religion. And I don’t mean that to be condescending in any way. And you’re right—some people are atheists for piss-poor reasons. Rebellion is not a good reason. Moral failure is not a good reason. Not even a dislike for organized religion is a good reason. Some Atheists are shitty people and justify it because they don’t have to answer to a higher power. Well those idiots lack moral integrity. Screw them.
I’m not rebelling against my parents as you so accurately observe, and you’re right to say that my father is a very good man. He’s one of the greatest men I know. I quietly chose Atheism at around 17 or 18. And I said nothing about for a long time, simply to avoid conflict on the matter. But I’m not rebelling against anything else either. It’s not taboo. It’s not a novelty. It’s not a nipple piercing. It just is. No rebellion about it.
“Real happy atheism trumps theoretically happy Christianity every time”
Not sure what you meant by this, but I hope you don’t think that my happiness is trying to trump yours. Both our happinessesssess can skip down the road of life together.
“Not much I can say there except good luck with that. I hope living in a godless universe with only the corruption of the grave to look forward to works out for you.”
My happiness about being worm-food is definitely not at its peak. But death gets a bad reputation, and I can accept death in that I’ve had the immense privilege to have lived. It’s a tradeoff, but one I am happy to make.

“My upcoming book proves otherwise. More contraception leads, and has always led, to more abortions. Not less. It's a major myth of our time.”
I can promise you at least one book sale then! Let me know when it’s out, and I’ll give ‘er a read.

“You're a smart guy, for an atheist. Morally ambiguous? Please! So when you do think human life begins?”
Thank you. When do I think human life begins? It’s not so much a question of “life” as it is a question of human “existence”. In my opinion, it’s a matter of defining the moment when it becomes a “person”. A cell cluster is not a human, even if it’s made of human cells. But a fetus with cognitive functioning, no matter how little, certainly is. I, nor anyone else, can define that exact moment, which is why I oppose abortion. Regardless of religious leanings, lack thereof, or whatever “freedoms” a woman wants to claim, we don’t know the precise moment of transition and for that reason we should cease terminating the practice. That’s where things become ambiguous—the transition between cell cluster and human being. I’m comma splicing like mad, but, sometimes, when I get worked up, have the tendency, regardless of intent, to do, against my will, such a grammatically abhorrent thing.

“You're objectively wrong here, Mike. But I lack the time to discuss. I'll get to it another time.”
K.
Entirely off topic, how are the little ladies doing? I certainly hope that when I have children, I have at least one girl so that she can manipulate me into infinite ice-cream cones and pet bunnies. (But not infinite bunnies, I should point out).

Mike

6:03 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Mike:

I don't want to keep hashing out political/economics stuff. Forgive me.

A few clarifications on your worldview.

"But I’m not rebelling against anything else either. It’s not taboo. It’s not a novelty. It’s not a nipple piercing. It just is. No rebellion about it."

Sorry, but the choice of atheism by the son of devout Christian parents is inherently rebellious, Mike, even if you had no malice. Even if you arrived at the choice with pure motives -- to conclude the religion of your family is false. I'm sure you see this.

“Real happy atheism trumps theoretically happy Christianity every time”
Not sure what you meant by this, but I hope you don’t think that my happiness is trying to trump yours.

No, that's not what I meant. All I meant was, REAL, PRESENT-MOMENT happiness is more powerful and engaging than the THEORETICAL "out there somewhere" of Christianity. I can tell you that Jesus is the only Son of God, and I can share with you my conversion experience(s) and can wax eloquent that he is the true Way to happiness. But if you don't know Him personally, all my words are empty. You say you're a happy atheist. Fine. But that's the end of my ability to persuade you otherwise. For instance, if I like my life without someone named Fred, and you keep telling me hew great Fred is, how funny, kind, and helpful, I will not be terribly drawn to getting to know Fred if I feel quite content now, thank you.

My happiness about being worm-food is definitely not at its peak. But death gets a bad reputation, and I can accept death in that I’ve had the immense privilege to have lived. It’s a tradeoff, but one I am happy to make.

I am now presuming that atheism is true, Mike. That's a bizarre word choice. Grateful to whom? Why would you feel *grateful* for a life that emerges randomly from the slime of the earth, goes for 75.3 years (or 28 years or whatever) and then disappears forever: no soul, no lasting happiness in heaven -- just an accidental human life that is lived and then...nothing but a corpse that starts to putrify within hours and ends up as thin dust? I don't get it.

Thank you. When do I think human life begins? It’s not so much a question of “life” as it is a question of human “existence”. In my opinion, it’s a matter of defining the moment when it becomes a “person”.

Mike, "life" vs "existence" is a distinction without a difference. Personhood is not merely a philosophical add-on to "human," but of the essence of human. There are no non-person humans, although there are non-human persons (like angels and God).

A cell cluster is not a human, even if it’s made of human cells. But a fetus with cognitive functioning, no matter how little, certainly is. I, nor anyone else, can define that exact moment, which is why I oppose abortion. Regardless of religious leanings, lack thereof, or whatever “freedoms” a woman wants to claim, we don’t know the precise moment of transition and for that reason we should cease terminating the practice. That’s where things become ambiguous—the transition between cell cluster and human being. I’m comma splicing like mad, but, sometimes, when I get worked up, have the tendency, regardless of intent, to do, against my will, such a grammatically abhorrent thing.

You're confused, amigo. The cluster of cells that make up a newly fertilized ovum/zygote in qualitatively and anthropologically VERY different from a cluster of skin cells, say, off your arm.

Why? Because the fertilized ovum contains the utterly genetic material of a distinct human being. All the DNA information is present in that tiny baby (technically called a blastocyst and soon a zygote) in a way that is radically distinct from the mother's body. He or she has the 46 chromosomal pattern, he or she immediately begins to grow from an inner, organic dynamism -- from within. It is not an inert bunch of cells or blob of flesh. It quickly begins to develop in its own unique pattern, with every last bit of information about eye colour, height, hair and skin tone, predispositions to being a chess champion or a couch potatoe, etc etc -- already present.

Let's personalize it. The human person that is Michael Johnstone began as exactly that kind of "cluster of cells" -- aka a much smaller Michael Johnstone. If you keep subtracting moments from your life today back in time, you arrive at a moment of your first existence, the moment of conception. We do, in fact, know that moment. There is no ambiguous transition: you began to be when your personhood began to be, and vice versa. Even the atheist pro-lifer Nat Henthoff of The Village Voice agrees with this.

The thing is, personhood can't be defined so "functionalally" and narrowly as walking around, writing essays, and comment of current affairs. People with Down's Syndrome are persons. My late daughter Naomi is a person; people born in deep comas from which they don't recover are persons.

Human persons exist and grow on a continuum: blastocyst, zygote, embryo, fetus, newborn, toddler, child, teen, adult, senior citizen. These are all various terms describing stages of a unified creation known as a man or a woman.

But on the moral side (still presuming atheism is true) on what grounds do you oppose abortion?

On what grounds can you say anything is wrong?

3:10 PM

 
Anonymous Mike said...

Patrick,
Just a few further comments.
“Sorry, but the choice of atheism by the son of devout Christian parents is inherently rebellious, Mike, even if you had no malice. Even if you arrived at the choice with pure motives -- to conclude the religion of your family is false. I'm sure you see this.”

I get what you’re saying. I’m just clarifying that the decision was not made with malice, that I didn’t do it to spite anyone, and that I love both of my parents both as family and as human beings. I think we’re on the same page here.

“I am now presuming that atheism is true, Mike. That's a bizarre word choice. Grateful to whom? Why would you feel *grateful* for a life that emerges randomly from the slime of the earth, goes for 75.3 years (or 28 years or whatever) and then disappears forever: no soul, no lasting happiness in heaven -- just an accidental human life that is lived and then...nothing but a corpse that starts to putrify within hours and ends up as thin dust? I don't get it.”
I’m not grateful to anyone or anything. I’m simply expressing that I don’t feel that I have the right to be pissed off because my life will only last X amount of years. There are a million incredible things on this Earth that make any amount of time on it worth it, and I’m part of a chain of life that will continue long after I’m gone. Despite the lack of supernaturalism, there is nonetheless a sense of fulfillment that comes with being a part of something larger than myself. Sounds almost spiritual, doesn’t it? I don’t have a problem with spiritual, but I wouldn’t go so far as to affix any kind of supernatural phenomena to it. I hope that explains things a bit.

That, and once I’m dead, I won’t really have much of an opinion on the matter. Epicurus wrote that, “Thus that which is the most awful of evils, death, is nothing to us, since when we exist there is no death, and when there is death we do not exist.” Of course this does not account for those dying around us, but it’s an interesting point nonetheless. I was dead before I was born, and I will return to that state. It didn’t bother me much before I was born, and won’t bother me in the slightest once I’m gone.
“You're confused, amigo. The cluster of cells that make up a newly fertilized ovum/zygote in qualitatively and anthropologically VERY different from a cluster of skin cells, say, off your arm.”
True. Skin cells aren’t the same thing as a fertilized ovum. The blueprint is undeniably laid out, and science confirms that, and of course construction begins immediately. But if a person is brain-dead, most wouldn’t have an issue with pulling the plug. Prior to the existence of the brain, I see little difference. You can subtract parts of me right now, arms, legs, heart and kidneys but until you remove my brain, I’m still human. Even with a pig’s heart. I see our minds as a defining characteristic.
“The thing is, personhood can't be defined so "functionalally" and narrowly as walking around, writing essays, and comment of current affairs. People with Down's Syndrome are persons. My late daughter Naomi is a person; people born in deep comas from which they don't recover are persons.”
Of course they are people. But what if, by some impossible thought experiment, a man was born without a brain. Just a functioning heart, lungs, etc. Would you fight to keep him alive? I doubt it. He would be a collaboration of human cells, devoid of that which defines him as a person—his brain.

“These are all various terms describing stages of a unified creation known as a man or a woman.”
Or, possibly, a hermaphrodite.
“But on the moral side (still presuming atheism is true) on what grounds do you oppose abortion?
On what grounds can you say anything is wrong?”
I can still, of course, oppose abortion. I oppose the death penalty as well. To kill is still wrong, God or not.
Why is killing wrong? In part, because as a species we had to define limits in order to survive. We would have been extinct long ago had it not been for altruism. We still lack the authority to terminate another cognitive human with or without a God. Most of our morals derive from this very inherent sense of altruism—a society that freely killed its own species would greatly diminish its chances of survival. We don’t steal because we could then expect that our own possessions would be taken from us. We don’t kill because others would also be free to kill us. Empathy is hard-coded into our genetics as a survival system. Nothing is “right” or “wrong” universally. But it allows us to survive if we establish laws and limits. It’s the ol’ “do unto others” routine, in a sense. Morality is certainly not the exclusive domain of religion. Ethics and morality are a matter of determining the way to provide the best quality of life for everyone on Earth.
Take care,
Mike

7:44 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Mike:

Ding ding! (bell sound) Round No. 289,087 in our marathon...

Your words are in quotes (good idea)

"I’m just clarifying that the decision was not made with malice, that I didn’t do it to spite anyone, and that I love both of my parents both as family and as human beings. I think we’re on the same page here."

Agreed.

"I’m not grateful to anyone or anything."

No, Mike, you said you would be "grateful." You're fudging. The word grateful implies someone or something to whom you wish to give thanks.

"I’m simply expressing that I don’t feel that I have the right to be pissed off because my life will only last X amount of years. There are a million incredible things on this Earth that make any amount of time on it worth it, and I’m part of a chain of life that will continue long after I’m gone."

Worth it? -- why so, if the grave mocks all? As you and Epicurius say, you'll cease to exist altogether when dead (a very unscientific presupposition that I will let slide for now), so the idea of "it was all worth it" is meaningless if your last breath = your last moment of existing AT ALL.

"Despite the lack of supernaturalism, there is nonetheless a sense of fulfillment that comes with being a part of something larger than myself."

You feel satisfied being part of an impersonal, random, materialist "circle of life" that you happened to join for a comparatively very very very short time?

"I was dead before I was born, and I will return to that state. It didn’t bother me much before I was born, and won’t bother me in the slightest once I’m gone."

What makes you say you were dead before you were born? I think you mean dead before you were conceived. Even so, you weren't dead before you were conceived. Rather, you didn't exist. At. All.

"True. Skin cells aren’t the same thing as a fertilized ovum. The blueprint is undeniably laid out, and science confirms that, and of course construction begins immediately."

Biologically incorrect. Construction is done; all that is left is development. An acorn grows into an oak tree -- construction doesn't begin at any point after that. It's a dynamic, inner-directed process of growth. With the zygote (aka real tiny person), the process is irrevocably initiated and will come to completion, and then adulthood unless externally interrupted, shall we say."

"But if a person is brain-dead, most wouldn’t have an issue with pulling the plug. Prior to the existence of the brain, I see little difference. You can subtract parts of me right now, arms, legs, heart and kidneys but until you remove my brain, I’m still human. Even with a pig’s heart. I see our minds as a defining characteristic."

On what basis?

"Of course they are people. But what if, by some impossible thought experiment, a man was born without a brain. Just a functioning heart, lungs, etc. Would you fight to keep him alive? I doubt it. He would be a collaboration of human cells, devoid of that which defines him as a person—his brain."

Wow, holy reductionist narrowmindedness, Batman! I have no idea why anyone would define personhood and therefore the right to life on the brain's function. Actually I do have some idea, but it's philosophically weak, no to mention arbitrary.

I'm not saying the brain is useless or has *nothing* to do with being a human person. But it's capacities or lack thereof hardly define personhood. To your questions, I certainly strongly support the right to life of people with that rare condition of having no discernible brain. To separate "brain" (or mind, if you prefer) from person is a form of dualism, one of the most common errors of our time. ("Gee, Grandpa is not longer in his body...he's gone already, so lets' pull his plug like we'd do to Fido.") It's neo-platonism dressed up in medical garb.

And of COURSE an atheist has no argument against euthanasia!

"I can still, of course, oppose abortion. I oppose the death penalty as well. To kill is still wrong, God or not.
Why is killing wrong? In part, because as a species we had to define limits in order to survive. We would have been extinct long ago had it not been for altruism."

You're exposing one of the many flaws in Richard Dawkin's thinking. Why is altruism any kind of favorable trait? So what if the human species dies off any time in the past or future? You have skated nimbly around my question, Mr. Gretski. How can atheism account for moral right or wrong?

"We still lack the authority to terminate another cognitive human with or without a God."

Let's see here. We lack the authority. I agree....but again, Mike, the conclusion you lay out here is as unavoidable as it is powerful. WE lack the authority because WE are not the ultimate Source of morality.

"Most of our morals derive from this very inherent sense of altruism—a society that freely killed its own species would greatly diminish its chances of survival. We don’t steal because we could then expect that our own possessions would be taken from us. We don’t kill because others would also be free to kill us. Empathy is hard-coded into our genetics as a survival system. Nothing is “right” or “wrong” universally. But it allows us to survive if we establish laws and limits. It’s the ol’ “do unto others” routine, in a sense. Morality is certainly not the exclusive domain of religion. Ethics and morality are a matter of determining the way to provide the best quality of life for everyone on Earth."

Don't you see what you're doing? You're refuting your whole thesis. Stop digging, amigo. You start off by saying things like, "killing is wrong because..." but end by saying that there are no universal right or wrong. You gotta pick one.

This has been my contention all along: atheists are tied up in pretzel-like contradictions when it comes to morality. Forget for the moment "religion" (a word I have no use for, BTW), and stick with good old logic. If I want to rape and torture children, you have no moral argument against me. None. All you have is a vague sense of obedience to the strict Dawkins/Darwinian presupposition that the species is better served by altruism than by cruelty. My point is, screw the species. If atheism is correct, then no species has any more claim to importance or immunity from cruelty than an amoeba or bacteria.

MJ, this convoluted mental dance around the rational conclusion that an all-knowing, all-wise Creator made us and everything else (with stunning evidence of order and design all around us and within us, I might add), and points to the commonsense remark in Psalm 14 that "the fool says in his heart there is no God."

Affectionately, and saying that line from the Psalm like Mr. T,

Patrick

8:32 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Forgot to mention: I was going to bring up the no-brain scenario before you did, as an example of a person who retains the right to life. I know of some politicians holding office as we speak who were born with this condition. Heh.

7:53 AM

 
Anonymous Mike said...

If this keeps up, we’re going to need our own separate server to host the data on your blog. But hey, I like to think it’s keeping things interesting.
“No, Mike, you said you would be "grateful." You're fudging. The word grateful implies someone or something to whom you wish to give thanks.”
Now we’re simply getting into diction. Which is fine, if I use the wrong word, I’m certainly open to clarification. But just to be concise, and admittedly irritating, I will pull out Mr. Dictionary:

Grateful
Grate"ful\, a. [Grate, a. + full; cf. F. gr['e] thanks, good will, fr. L. gratum, neut. of gratus agreeable, grateful. See Grate, a.]
1. Having a due sense of benefits received; kindly disposed toward one from whom a favor has been received; willing to acknowledge and repay, or give thanks for, benefits; as, a grateful heart.
A grateful mind By owing, owes not, but still pays. --Milton.
2. Affording pleasure; pleasing to the senses; gratifying; delicious; as, a grateful present; food grateful to the palate; grateful sleep.

Definition one certainly supports your interpretation of my usage of “grateful”. Definition two is what I’m referring to. It makes no mention of an “other” to whom I am grateful. Life is affording pleasure, pleasing to the senses, gratifying, etc.
In regards to the unscientific presupposition of no longer existing after I die…how exactly is this an unscientific claim? If you pull out the laws of conservation of mass or energy, I’m going to fly to California with a science text book and beat you over the head with it. Lovingly.

“You feel satisfied being part of an impersonal, random, materialist "circle of life" that you happened to join for a comparatively very very very short time?”

It beats the alternative, which is never existing at all. What can I say, I’m easy to please.

“What makes you say you were dead before you were born? I think you mean dead before you were conceived. Even so, you weren't dead before you were conceived. Rather, you didn't exist. At. All.”
Well if you want to get technical, you have to live in order to die, so yes, I wasn’t dead before I was alive (whenever you want to define it). I didn’t exist. Right. I also won’t exist after I die. Except for my molecules spreading across the Earth in another form.

“An acorn grows into an oak tree -- construction doesn't begin at any point after that. It's a dynamic, inner-directed process of growth. With the zygote (aka real tiny person), the process is irrevocably initiated and will come to completion, and then adulthood unless externally interrupted, shall we say.”

Fair enough. Construction has begun. That’s a good point. But an acorn is NOT a tree. I’m not suggesting that a zygote is not alive—even sperm is alive. But I’m suggesting it is not yet human. Carl Sagan writes (wrote) better than I, and sums up the argument I’ve been making. Oddly enough, I didn’t read it until today, but it’s along the lines of what I’m trying to get across. The excerpt from his book “Billions and Billions” (if you haven’t read it) can be found at:

http://www.2think.org/abortion.shtml

“I'm not saying the brain is useless or has *nothing* to do with being a human person. But it's capacities or lack thereof hardly define personhood.”

What does define personhood, then? Don’t pull out the soul, please, because that will just raise the argument of proving that the soul in fact exists. On what other basis would you define “human”?

“To your questions, I certainly strongly support the right to life of people with that rare condition of having no discernible brain.”

Are you confusing brain death with a vegetative state? They are two very different things. To keep a brain dead person alive is absurd and desperate. Vegetative states, or deep comas, are an entirely different matter all together.

You still haven’t answered the question in my thought experiment. Though you did make a pop-cultural reference. Is the man born without the brain a person or not?

“To separate "brain" (or mind, if you prefer) from person is a form of dualism, one of the most common errors of our time. ("Gee, Grandpa is not longer in his body...he's gone already, so lets' pull his plug like we'd do to Fido.") It's neo-platonism dressed up in medical garb.”

You misunderstand dualism, sir.

You’re right, dualism is crap. But I suggest you brush up on your knowledge of dualism before you use it as an argument. Brain and mind are not the same thing. Dualism specifically defines the two as separate. It suggests that the mind is an entity separate from the physical brain, which is considered part of the “body” form which stands in opposition to the “mind”. Which is, as we’ve both said, an error of our time.

“And of COURSE an atheist has no argument against euthanasia!”

I was wondering when we would veer off in another direction. I’m not going to get too far off topic, but one argument I have against euthanasia would be that the mental state of someone who is suffering is waaaaayyy of kilter. I’ve have flu’s that have made me want to die, and I can only imagine that cancer is infinitely worse. Suffering clouds judgement. My girlfriend’s name is Katie, and I recently had to hold her while her grandmother died of two separate forms of lung cancer. I’m sure there were moments when we all wanted it over with, including her grandmother. But both Katie, myself, and her grandmother experienced a lot of wonderful things during the experience, despite the horror. But the moments that followed the bouts of agony allowed her grandmother to express a vast array of knowledge, wisdom, and strength. She also said that she had some of the best moments of her life in that hospital, in between periods of incredible pain and suffering. I think that’s a compelling argument in itself. There is a lot to be learned in the process of dying, and to euthanize is to deprive many of that experience.
Catholics recognize the value in suffering, and I’m inclined to agree.

“How can atheism account for moral right or wrong?”

If you’re looking for me to point to a universal “truth” about morals, I’m not biting. There isn’t a universal right and wrong. Morals are defined by a society. We define them by experience, logic, our marvelous abilities of cognitive processing, and empathy, among other things. We are the only species that can set morals because we have the ability to empathize. We can place ourselves “outside” of ourselves and imagine what it’s like to be that other person.

“Let's see here. We lack the authority. I agree....but again, Mike, the conclusion you lay out here is as unavoidable as it is powerful. WE lack the authority because WE are not the ultimate Source of morality.”

I think I just covered this in the last section. We ARE the ultimate source of morality. We are the ONLY source of morality. Where do you get your morals? I’m not being facetious.

“Don't you see what you're doing? You're refuting your whole thesis. Stop digging, amigo. You start off by saying things like, "killing is wrong because..." but end by saying that there are no universal right or wrong. You gotta pick one.”
I’ll be more specific then. Rewrite “killing is wrong” as “we define killing as wrong” and I’ll stick with there being no universal moral code, beyond the one that our species has set for itself.

“If I want to rape and torture children, you have no moral argument against me. None. All you have is a vague sense of obedience to the strict Dawkins/Darwinian presupposition that the species is better served by altruism than by cruelty.”

That’s an absurd leap. I COULD likewise suggest that if you’re Catholic, the only reason that you don’t rape and torture children is because God said it was wrong. If God had said that raping and torturing are okay, you’d go with that too. As you know, there are quite a few biblical passages that command lots of immoral things. I would also like to point out that I’m NOT suggesting you would listen to a god who is commanding such things…that’s an equally absurd leap, because your morals come from more than just your god.

“MJ, this convoluted mental dance around the rational conclusion that an all-knowing, all-wise Creator made us and everything else (with stunning evidence of order and design all around us and within us, I might add), and points to the commonsense remark in Psalm 14 that "the fool says in his heart there is no God.””

You’ve been reading too much Behe. This “rational” conclusion still does not explain where the creator comes from, evolution does not require magical intervention for complexity, blah blah blah. These arguments have all been made before, and we really are wasting our time on the design argument. You’re going to spit out Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson, Francis Collins and friends, and I’m going to spit out pretty much every member of the US National Academy of Science.

Sigh.

I’ll end with a quote as well. I chose it because I think you’re accrediting far too much to atheism. Your arguments sound like you’re debating with a nihilist. Sam Harris writes that “Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious.”. There is nothing nihilistic about it at all. It removes the supernatural, and that is all.

Oh, and all debating aside, you didn't tell me how the little ones are doing! Have they finally mastered their binomial taxonomic nomenclature? (You had mentioned it a while back).

7:46 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:27 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

I don't have time to keep answering five different thread lines. I keep trying to reduce them and you keep throwing more beans onto the cart.

You accuse me of "reading too much Behe," and you're certain I'll "spout" this author or that. You don't know me well enough to say things like that.

In fact, I give up. With a FT job and two kids and other duties besides, I can't keep up the pace. As for "debating God," as I said earlier, few things are more useless. You've read just enough Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, et al to keep yourself glib, and cocksure. In that way you remind me of me in university. I know that sounds condescending. Trust me; when you're 45 and corresponding with someone in their early-mid20s, you'l know exactly why I put it this way. There are life experiences -- ecstatic and traumatic -- that cannot be communicated; they must be experienced firsthand. These will shake your foundations in ways impossible to anticipate.

More debate is not going to build either of us up.

Try some Thomas Aquinas. The Creator doesn't need a creator. He is the only all-self-sufficient Being -- contingent on nothing else. I probably would disbelieve in the same god Dawkins and Co. disbelieve in, too.

Hmm, this is the first mention of your girlfriend's name in many intermittent emails in a year or two. I will pray for her grandmother. That experience sounded rough.

I believe what give suffering its ultimate meaning is that Jesus Christ entered into it to the full on the Cross, and drew it into the personal orbit of God's own divine awareness.

This same Jesus did it all for us, you and me, to forgive our sins and bring us NEW LIFE. Understanding this requires accepting a gift called faith. It can't be arrived at discursively or "argued to." As Archbishop Sheen used to sagely say to the Holy Spirit, "You convert 'em, I'll instruct 'em."

End of lovely homily. What is your mailing address?

9:01 PM

 
Anonymous Mike said...

Alright. We'll call a truce.

I appreciate your willingness to spend as much time on our discussions as you already have.

I hope you don't mind my continuing to throw in a comment or two. I enjoy reading the blog, and I don't want you to stop posting because I'm stealing all your writing time. I'll keep it more brief in the future.

Send me an email at mikejohnstone *at* dal.ca and I'll reply with my address. Spambots everywhere, you know.

Enjoy the California sun for me. The one we have over here is broken.

Take care,
Mike

4:37 PM

 

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