Saturday, February 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council
Lynnewood Methodist Church * 7:00 PM
From the PCAC website:
March 9: April Verch — Canadian Fiddler, Stepdancer and Singer
Music in a fusion of Celtic, jazz, folk, and bluegrass styles. Presented by the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council. At 7:00 p.m. in the Lynnewood Methodist Church, 4444 Black Avenue, Pleasanton, CA. Cost: adults $17, seniors $15, youths under age 12: $10. For information and tickets call 925-931-1111 or visit www.pleasantonarts.org/special_events.html.
$17 for adult admission... not too bad. Alas, I missed her performance for the Olympics.
Her website. (MySpace)
As I may learn something from the program, I'll probably check it out.
Jamie Oliver's coming to save America!
Jamie's Food Revolution USA
Jamie Oliver to star in ABC reality show -- The Live Feed
TED Prize Wish
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Charter 08, published at the end of 2008, was a clarion call for a new march to democracy that showed the progress that had been made in Chinese liberal and democratic thought since the 1989 democracy movement. However, the jailing of one its chief writers, Liu Xiaobo, has silenced many who shared the charter's values and aspirations. - Feng Chongyi (Feb 25, '10)
All this explains as well why the “zero point energy” people are basically smoking their shorts. The premise of zero point energy is that there’s a vast amount of energy woven into the fabric of spacetime; if we can tap into it, we solve all our energy problems and go zooming off to the stars. They do seem to be right that there’s a huge amount of energy in empty space, but once again, the amount of energy does not tell you how much work you can do with it, and zero point energy is by definition at the lowest possible level of concentration. By definition, therefore, it can’t be made to do anything at all, and any attempt to make use of it belongs right up there on the shelf with my motor-generator gimmick.
The same logic also explains why projects for coming up with a replacement for fossil fuels using sunlight, or any other readily available renewable energy source, are doomed to fail. What makes fossil fuels so valuable is the fact that the energy they contain was gathered over countless centuries and then concentrated by geological processes involving fantastic amounts of heat and pressure over millions of years. They define the far end of the curve of energy concentration, at least on this planet, which is why they are as scarce as they are, and why no other energy resource can compete with them – as long as they still exist, that is.
As concentrated fossil fuel supplies deplete, in turn, a civilization that depends on them for its survival will find itself in a very nasty bind. If ours is anything to go by, it will proceed to make that bind even worse by trying to make up the difference by manufacturing new energy sources at roughly the same level of concentration. That’s a losing bargain, because it maximizes the amount of exergy that gets lost: you have to disperse a lot of energy to make the concentrated energy source, remember, before you can get around to using the concentrated energy source to do anything useful. Thus trying to fill our gas tanks with some manufactured substitute for gasoline, say, drains our remaining supplies of concentrated energy at a much faster pace than the other option – that of doing as much as possible with relatively low concentrations of energy, and husbanding the highly concentrated energy sources for those necessary tasks that can’t be done without them.
Last week I attended the annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), spending the day signing and selling books and gabbing with people. Those of us who remember the early days of OEFFA were stunned and jubilant at the overflow crowd. ... There was something electric in the air. I could feel it. At meetings of industrial farmers these days, the talk is fairly bleak, but here, among new farmers and gardeners with a hundred new ways to produce food and sell it locally, the people just seemed to glow with optimism.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
by Kathy McMahon
As a kid, I knew that one of my father’s friends was a cheapskate. The cheapskate, at a social function, didn’t buy drinks at the table until later in the evening, when all of the “women” had stopped drinking alcohol. He’d “disappear” when it was time to order another round. I vowed, at the tender age of 8, never to marry a cheapskate, because I never wanted my husband to be talked about so disparagingly. (Please take note this was the time when “Mad Men” notions of gender roles ruled.) The cheapskate was, in social biological terms, a “free rider.” More here.
My father was not merely ‘gossiping.’ He was providing his children with a social education. Free-riders are the target of ridicule and develop a poor reputation. Eventually, everyone in your community will know you as a ‘free rider’ and will be hesitant to help you or share freely with you and yours. As the community’s resources become increasingly scarce, free riding will become increasingly endangered as a survival strategy.
Gossip, often disparaged as a form of communication, is an essential avenue for determining reciprocity and transmitting information about another’s reputation.
Women, the keepers of community relationships, are often accused of being the “gossips.” Few people willingly volunteer to be the target of public ridicule, so gossip shapes social behavior, discourages free riding, and encourages reciprocity in smaller communities and “pay it forward” attitudes in larger ones.
People internally have a sense of fairness, and few want to be found coming up short as stingy or a free rider. The person who keeps showing up at the pot luck empty-handed, or the person who stuffs three large doggie bags on the way out, eventually becomes a target of gossip, even more so if they carry around a sense of “entitlement.”
Gossip, instead of being a ‘bad’ thing, is essential to community networking, and creates a set of checks and balances between people within a community. It is the avenue through which one develops a “reputation,” either good or bad.
“Nasty gossip” is one which only intends to destroy someone’s reputation, without offering any obvious community benefit. When we hear nasty gossip we may think: “Why are you saying that? That’s none of your business!” but what we really mean is “That’s none of MY business!” Nasty gossip that is harsh and unfair, or blatantly untrue, tends to harm the reputation of the gossiper.
On the other hand, when your sibling calls you to say “Call your mother, she’s upset at you because you forgot her birthday!” this info is immediately useful to us in repairing familial relationships.
I wish I had one of my manuals handy. They'd be more convenient than the relevant sections of the Summa Theologiae (II II 72-6). The Catholic Encyclopedia gives a more "modern" take, explaning the difference between detraction and calumny. The sin of "gossip" is commonly identified as that of detraction. The CE entry explains the sin of detraction, but then tells us that
There are times, nevertheless, when one may lawfully make known the offense of another even though as a consequence the trust hitherto reposed in him be rudely shaken or shattered. If a person's misdoing is public in the sense that sentence has been passed by the competent legal tribunal or that it is already notorious, for instance, in a city, then in the first case it may licitly be referred to in any place; in the second, within the limits of the town, or even elsewhere, unless in either instance the offender in the lapse of time should have entirely reformed or his delinquency been quite forgotten. When, however, knowledge of the happening is possessed only by the members of a particular community or society, such as a college or monastery and the like, it would not be lawful to publish the fact to others than those belonging to such a body. Finally, even when the sin is in no sense public, it may still be divulged without contravening the virtues of justice or charity whenever such a course is for the common weal or is esteemed to make for the good of the narrator, of his listeners, or even of the culprit. The right which the latter has to an assumed good name is extinguished in the presence of the benefit which may be conferred in this way.
The employment of this teaching, however, is limited by a twofold restriction.
- The damage which one may soberly apprehend as emerging from the failure to reveal another's sin or vicious propensity must be a notable one as contrasted with the evil of defamation.
- No more in the way of exposure should be done than is required, and even a fraternal admonition ought rather to be substituted if it can be discerned to adequately meet the needs of the situation.
It would appear that revealing information about someone who is not doing his "fair share" for the community for the sake of the community is not detraction, and therefore not really gossip. (Unless gossip is used loosely.)
Is this article one more illustration of what we have lost in the upheavals of the 16th century and afterward? How much easier it would have been, to write a piece about the psychology of community if one could rely upon the "treasury of Catholic wisdom."
For all of its ecological baggage, synthetic nitrogen does one good deed for the environment: it helps build carbon in soil. At least, that’s what scientists have assumed for decades. If that were true, it would count as a major environmental benefit of synthetic N use...Well, that logic has come under fierce challenge from a team of University of Illinois researchers led by professors Richard Mulvaney, Saeed Khan, and Tim Ellsworth.(original)
I am assuming that this isn't really a "universal feast," it would be universal only for the Roman rite? Otherwise, if it were to be universal to the whole Church, then wouldn't the Orthodox object?
And a book notice: Book Notice: Benedict XVI and the Sacred Liturgy
The Christian Rabbi
New Hope Publications published two of his books in translation, but I do not think they are in print.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
So the US Army may have finally figured out that the one-camo-pattern-fits-all-environments may not actually be effective enough for all environments. They couldn't have figured this out before the ACU was adopted?
The Union Army exists to line someone's pockets.
wiki entry on multicam
I don't know what his status was with respect to the Church when he passed away. If I recall correctly, his priestly faculties had been suspended by the local bishop, but he was not excommunicated. Generally, I have found Abbé de Nantes's criticisms of various documents and the Catechism to be excessive -- he does not respond to a charitable reading, but the worst interpretation possible. I don't know if anyone has ever written a response to his critiques.
The English website for the CCR of the 20th century. French website.
One of my brothers-in-law is opposed to the notion of "giving something up" since one doesn't really give up anything if one is getting God in return. But a sacrifice is compatible with charity -- one is abstaining from a legitimate good or from fulfilling a lawful desire, out of the love of God. Ascesis has been a part of Christian spirituality from the very beginning, both as a means of becoming closer to God and also to moderate our bodily appetites.
Mr. Check writes:
While everyone’s choosing his or her own Lenten sacrifice is not as bad as priests making up their own version of the Mass or Catholic university presidents permitting the staging of lesbian-advocacy plays in the name of individual expression, we can see how Pope Leo saw that a little democracy would go a long way. A long way toward chaos, that is, and the best defense against chaos is unity, which word has the same root as universal, which, as any Catholic grammar school child of my father’s generation could tell you, is exactly what “Catholic” means.
And when my father was a child, all Catholics, all good ones, anyway, observed the same rules for fasting and abstaining throughout Lent, and these proscriptions were demanding and worthy of Christian persons who were serious about growing in holiness as they prepared for the greatest of all the liturgical feasts. The merits of the old rules are easy to understand. They are, first and foremost, designed to help us to express our love of God for creating us out of nothing and for, through a continuous act of His will, keeping us in existence. They are designed to help us conquer the passions that ever try to take over our hearts and fog our minds. They are given from the top down for those of us—myself, chief among them—who would seek some easier course. And they are given to all men so that in and by their common practice all men are more closely united in the Mystical Body of Christ.
It may be dangerous to link two marks of the Church so closely -- one and Catholic. United does not mean uniform (as non-Latin apostolic Christians will attest), though uniformity may be expected within one rite of the Church. One might think of the old Lenten regulations as rigid or strict, and proper only to an army, but Christians can be said to be soldiers, in a certain respect, and having a common Lenten observance for Latin-rite Catholics does not diminish their freedom or take away the exercise of prudence. It adds a structure to their lives that they might not have, or may be tempted to loosen. And Mr. Check's warning that a rampant individualism with respect to the spiritual life is dangerous should be taken into consideration. Pride may be occasioned by the following of the old rule as well, though. (And Orthodox Christians have criticized the Latin-rite for excessive legalism with respect to the old Lenten rules.) Still, while those who are more advanced can be encouraged, under the guidance of a spiritual director, to undertake other forms of mortification or works of charity, some basic rules applicable to all would be especially beneficial for beginners, who usually do not have access to a spiritual director or have not considered finding one would seem.
Mr. Check's appearance on Catholic Answers: Catholic and American: Which Comes First? (ra, mp3)
One of the great interests of Anglo-Saxon poems is the heroic code of the warriors. They fight for their own glory, of course, but also to protect and avenge their lord, to preserve their religion, and defend the liberties of their people. Unlike the Vikings, they are neither savages nor merely predators.
What of the English now? Are they mostly sheep?
The allegation that viewers do become desensitized to that sort of violence (and torture as a policy) should be taken seriously. I believe Kiefer Sutherland has defended the depiction of torture in the past by saying that it has a dehumanizing effect on the torturer as well, whether it be Jack Bauer or Renee Walker. I do note that so far this season, torture has not really be shown, although former FBI Agent Walker did free a Russian criminal from his tracking device by cutting off his thumb. Some bloodthirsty fans did applaud that action online (see AICN, for example). Will torture be excluded the rest of the season? (So far CTU has only used interrogation with fancy machines monitoring physiological changes.)
If the torture were removed from the show, would it be the same? Could a counter-terrorist "real-time" procedural survive without this plot device to move it along? How else could intelligence be credibly shown as being collected and verified in a very short time? (Would there be much of a protest if ordinary Americans were shown snooping/doing surveillance on other Americans, whether suspicious or not? There would probably be complaints of racial profiling if 24 had some ordinary American spying on his darker-skinned neighbor who is of another religion.)
This season has been rather slow, in comparison to others, and there have been complaints both about this and the idiotic side stories. If those were removed, the story would be a bit better, and I think criticisms that the season is lacking direction is a bit unwarranted. It seems appropriate that there is chaos, rather than a single conspiracy, though perhaps the Big Bad has yet to be revealed.
Monday, February 22, 2010
The missing ingredient of our communities
May East presented her biscuit story in remarks about what Transition in the developed North could learn from the global South. Within Transition we glibly say that we need to “build community,” but solidarity identifies specifically that element which we are lacking.
In our current culture of peak-individualism, we have lost “common responsibilities.” We outsource these to our government and nonprofits and expect them to handle it for us. Schooling our children, care of parklands, preservation of The Commons. It’s not working too well.
In some ways we even outsourced our common responsibilities to corporations, and we are dismayed to discover that the corporate interests haven’t upheld those commons. Hence the stumbling attempts to create corporate ethics.
In our culture of individualism and competition, we no longer understand community of purpose. In 4 years of activitsm in my SUV-intense neighborhood, I have so often heard the reaction “I’m glad somebody’s doing this.” They agree it’s an important cause but they’re happy to outsource it, and have someone else do the work. They don’t have the time, which really translates into they’re too busy competing in the workplace, competing for space on the freeway, competing that their children should have the best extracurricular activities and should get into the best colleges for the best future …
May East’s comments helped me to identify specifically what aspect is missing. We need to reawaken solidarity, that sense of common purpose.
Americans don’t understand solidarity. We don’t have a history in it. We don’t have many cultural stories or models. Perhaps our closest example was the Revolutionary War, where colonists banned together — but that same story is the source of our proud American independence.
And independence is perhaps solidarity’s polar opposite.
What is the common purpose of a political community? In our fragmented society and liberal culture, we may not even understand the question. If our luxurious lifestyles, founded as they are upon cheap energy, come to an end, and if our survival is at stake, we may have to cooperate in order to rebuild a more sustainable (and just) community. But we do not band together merely for survival, as important as that may be for a community to come into being. We also do it for the sake of higher goods. (I will be finishing my post on Patrick Deneen and Aristotle on civic friendship soon.) If we find that we cannot really get along because of significant differences in our belief systems, our mores, and we cannot avoid one another like we can now, will we separate? Or fight? In our society, individuals have the leisure and the capability to pursue their own goals without much concern for the consequences of their actions--someone else is there to clean up the mess (usually the government and its welfare programs). And as isolated as we are, we can choose with whom we can associate, so that we do not have to be around people with whom we disagree.
When a "proposition nation" begins to face severe difficulties, will its people have solidarity? Is it possible for the struggle to survive to require that sort of cooperation which will ignore the differences that exist between peoples? Or will these differences become even more pronounced and significant when basic goods are at stake? Even if tribalism is strongly rooted in the structure of the family, having common ancestors may not be enough to establish an identity -- family regulations (i.e. culture) shapes behavior and expectations of others. Those who do not adhere will either be expelled or punished; otherwise, the cohesiveness and safety of the family is put at risk. ("If you don't police your own, we will do it for you.")
Talk about solidarity naturally evokes Heinrich Pesch's solidarism because of the similarity of the words and their common etymology. "Social justice" is often thrown around, but without much explanation beyond "helping the poor." Is social justice a distinct virtue from legal or general justice? That question is for another post. But we can at least ask the question: before we can talk about a people having the virtue of legal justice, must not the people exist as a united group of subjects first? Otherwise, we are putting the cart before the horse. A community must identify itself as such and do so strongly, because its members can develop the virtue of legal justice and will the good of that community. If the existence of a community is called into question because of differences of identity and culture between people, then this question must be answered before solidarity or love of the common good can be cultivated.
More on Heinrich Pesch:
AD2000: Ethics and the National Economy, by Heinrich Pesch
Solidarist economics: the legacy of Heinrich Pesch.
PRINCIPLES OF HEINRICH PESCH'S SOLIDARISM Stephen M. Krason
My Journey into Solidarism by Rupert Ederer
Most American conservatives (and many self-described libertarians) would say something like this: “I agree with the libertarian analysis of money and banking and economic liberty, but on social, cultural, and moral questions, I defend ‘traditional moral values.’” This was, more or less, what was meant by “fusionism” in those distant ages so long ago when there was a conservative movement whose chief “theoretician” was Frank Meyer at National Review. Quite apart from the obvious problem that fusionism simply did not work (there are scarcely any fusionists under 60 years old), it is—or rather was—based on a false distinction. As Walter Block and other true liberals are fully aware, libertarian economics is only an application of libertarian social and moral theory. Mises makes the point emphatically in the introduction to Human Action, a work which is widely regarded as the libertarian “bible.” Economics, says Mises, is the application to markets of “praxeology,” a science of human behavior, based on the subjective theory of value “which converted the theory of market prices into a general theory of human choice.”
If the general theory is false and evil, the economic version of it must be—however much we might want to believe otherwise—equally false and equally evil. Suppose we reached that conclusion—what then? Would we all become socialists or national mercantilists or Green agrarians? That is, apparently, what libertarians want us to believe: Either sign on to their ideology or be declared an enemy of human freedom. Such a fate, however, is reserved only for people who cling to the slender reed of classical liberalism as the sole support of a free society. People loved liberty, even economic liberty, long before Adam Smith (much less Ludwig von Mises) ever propounded his fallacies. Our search is for truth, not for a comforting ideology, and the things we love that are real and true—our wives and children, the freedom to buy, sell, and compete in the marketplace—cannot be defended with illusions.
I still think there may be something to the Austrian analysis of monetary policy and the banking system; even if there isn't, might Dr. Fleming not be going to far in saying that since the general theory of liberalism is false, then the economic version is as well? In so far as they share the same false premises, then the conclusions are false. But what if the analysis by Austrians of the current political economy (the loss of manufacturing and its replacement by finance, etc.) is based more on observation and draws upon premises other than the central tenants of liberalism? It may not go as far as an analysis that looks at the different levels at play (for example, that of E. F. Schumacher and John Michael Greer), but it is useful in reminding us what "real wealth" is? ( = products that satisfy our needs, and not fictional wealth that is due to speculation)
Of Hans-Hermann Hoppe Dr. Fleming writes:
Hoppe is the true exception that proves the rule: He is too intelligent to be a Misesian libertarian, and he really is not. He is a liberal monarchist very much in the vein of my late friend Erik v. Kuhneldt-Leddihn. This piece comes from eight years ago, when I was still annoyed with HHH for his unfair attack on Sam Francis. I should not have let this irritation temporarily overcome my admiration for Hoppe’s often brilliant analysis.
I've been disappointed by the persistent failure of the pro-Arthur Harris contributors (and by the way, I was pleased to see the mention of his real nickname, 'Butch', or 'Butcher', and the reasons for it, namely his willingness to squander the lives of brave young men. He was the Douglas Haig of the Second War) to acknowledge or effectively to counter my central points. The first is that, quite simply, the deliberate mass-slaughter of non-combatants is self-evidently wrong and a severe blot on our national record. Before 1939, no British person would have imagined supporting such a policy, which would have been regarded as barbaric and un-Christian by politicians, military leaders and ordinary voters alike. This is easily demonstrated by reading the public statements of British national leaders in the early months of the war, before we had been militarily defeated and pushed to the fringes of the conflict. Art that stage, the idea of deliberately bombing civilians was still properly regarded with horror.
His previous posts on this subject: Some reasonably accurate daylight bombing and Among the Dead Cities.
There is no more important question for us to grapple with than the question of how our community and larger society should be organized. We need to clarify what we mean by 'community' and think about what design we should strive for, because if you want sustainability and equality at the end of the day, you have to build them in at the start.