Saturday, October 03, 2015

No Unscripted Actors

I have made a rule for myself: I do not need to watch interviews with actors.  This goes double for movie stars.

Directors and writers I can be interested in.  But actors only reliably have something important to say when they are talking about acting.

A corollary: I am suspicious of plays about actors.  Same goes for novels about writers.

[All of this is brought on by watching "Birdman"- an artful film about foolish, self-destructive people with concerns not engaging to non-actors.]

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Economy is a Good Servant But a Bad Master

The economy exists to serve the needs and wants of everyone.  Society should regulate the economy just enough to make sure it does that job.  This regulation is done through the state and through the customs and mores of the people.

The "real economy," argues David Halpern in The Hidden Wealth of Nations, consists of the quality of relations among individuals and among social groups.  This is what most people value the most. The money economy and the production/consumption economy should serve human relations, not the reverse.

Society becomes distorted when, instead, the government and even the customs and mores are shifted to serve the economy.  The idea that society is best off if the market is left free to maximize profit for owners serves the owners, but hurts everyone else. In this as in all things, proportion is vital.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Bring Back the Assault Weapons Ban

After yet another mass murder involving an assault weapon, we should bring back the Assault Weapons Ban.

This sensible law included, at the NRA's insistence a sunset provision.  Passed under a Democratic administration, it was allowed to expire in a Republican one.

After Sandy Hook, Democrats made a concerted effort to renew the ban and make it permanent.  Republicans defeated it.

I am not calling for a total gun ban, nor gun grabbing (gun trolls take note).

I am calling for the renewal of sensible legislation to limit and gradually eliminate weapons whose only civilian use is mass murder.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Beards: They Do a Body Good

Today I will just enjoy the research that says beards block ultraviolet rays and keep irritants away from your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. :-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pope Francis Can Help Mainline Protestants Talk About Christian Economic Teaching Again.

The social teachings of mainline Protestantism and those of the Roman Catholic Church are strongly aligned with one another. They have been in dialogue for more than a hundred years. They diverge the most on sex, but are very congruent on the care of the poor and on economic issues in general.

Pope Francis has pushed forward the economic side of Catholic social teaching. This is a good thing for mainline Protestantism.  The market for genuinely Christian economic thought is open right now. Niebuhrians, deliver.  Take back the economy from the Randians and the libertarians.

Monday, September 28, 2015

We Don't Have a Crisis of Resilience Among College Students - We Have a Blessing of a Generation That Trusts Grownups

There has been much hand-wringing that today's college students are not resilient, can't solve their own problems, and rely too much on faculty and staff.

The great virtue of the Millennials are their better relation with their parents than either the Xers or the Boomers did at the same age.  They resemble the G.I. generation in this trust, as William Howe and Neil Strauss have argued.

Every generation has the vices of its virtues.  The virtue of trusting parents also produces the vice of turning to parents and other grown-ups for guidance before they try to solve problems themselves.  As Mrs. G and I told our children, when there is a serious problem, "Get Dumbledore."

But note, though:  the children don't give up on solving the problem.  They get advice on how to solve their problems, and then do it.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Good News: Defectors from ISIS

The International Center for the Study of Radicalization studies people who defect from ISIS, especially the disillusioned foreign fighters.

Among the main reasons the defectors cite:

The corruption of ISIS commanders

Racism against foreign fighters

Killing civilians, including women and children (especially fellow Sunni Muslims)

Fighting other militant groups, instead of Syrian dictator Assad.

Since none of these offenses is likely to diminish.

I hope that means the word is getting out to potential recruits that ISIS is not what it claims to be.  Worse, it is a bad organization even by the standards of radical Islam, and even to other radical Muslims.