Akashic Records Prompt Letters


The Akashic records visualizedSince most things that occur to me, and to most people, do turn out to have occurred to someone else before (Ecclesiastes 1:9), I fear I must credit this and all my posts to the mystical Akashic records, that storehouse of all that sentient beings have ever thought or done or experienced….[1]

Just kidding. It is past time for a new “[things] prompt letters” post, however. Though I doubtless violate rules of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) cult, and offend the sensibilities of people with limited attention spans, by doing so, I again present these materials all together in a single post. This post contains the following items:

These are followed by some closing remarks and end notes.

Another Batch of Prompted Letters: Introduction ^

Misguided editorial changes to some of these letters have made me doubt that the editors of my local paper (The San Diego Union-Tribune, hereafter U-T) are quite so competent as I indicated in a prior post.

On second thought, that’s unfair. Newspaper editors have to work at a pace and under pressures I doubt I could handle, so they do deserve to have their errors treated charitably….As long as those errors don’t mess up my submissions! Again, just kidding. Even then they should be treated charitably.

In truth, they’ve done pretty well with my submissions overall. Still, they have made changes I wish they hadn’t. In one case the change seemed aimed at spoon feeding readers information that any competent reader would have easily grasped from my letter as written; in most other cases they may simply have brought my letter into conformity with the paper’s conventions; there was at least one case, however, where an editorial change altered my meaning. Since I often disagree with the paper’s conventions, however, and since editorial changes don’t invariable retain my intended sense, and since curious readers can check the U-T itself to see if they like the “enhanced” editions better than my originals, I see no reason to continue reproducing the U-T editors’ versions. From now on, therefore, I will reproduce my letters to that paper as originally written. Readers wishing to see the printed versions will need to find them in archival copies of the paper or on the newspaper’s Web site (on those rare occasions when my letters get both printed and posted).

Since I’ve mentioned disagreeing with some of the U-T’s conventions, I’ll briefly note some specific disagreements. It will not surprise readers of the relevant portion of my last post to learn that I reject the U-T editors’ unreserved embrace of the third-person plural (they, them, their) in place of the second-person singular (he, she, him, her, his, her) when logic calls for the latter. Though this usage has long been permitted in informal oral communications, its incorporation into journalistic writing for print turns what could be a tool for making people think more clearly and logically into just another contributor to sloppy thinking. I also disapprove of the U-T’s adoption of some ridiculous neologisms fabricated by left-liberal academics (Latinx in place of Latino and Latina, for example). No doubt adoption of these conventions has been driven by the Associated Press or some other “authority” who produces a style guide or dictionary, but I’ve lost patience with so-called usage authorities’ rubber-stamping of ideology-driven misusage. I’ve also lost patience with the unthinking masses whose usage, though driven by mimicry of social-group peers and careless celebrities rather than by critical reflection, ultimately determines what such “authorities” deem permissible, provided it doesn’t run counter to their favored ideology. While “usage authorities” sometimes resist mass-usage trends, they ultimately always end up embracing those trends, treating the unthinking crowd decisions of yesterday as today’s “rules” of usage. The acceleration of group-driven usage trends resulting from ubiquitous online communication has greatly magnified the looseness and illogic inherent in undisciplined human minds and in group processes; in this milieu, noncognitive processes reign, and any conscious thought involved merely serves to rationalize or justify what instinct and the mob have chosen.

Which is all a very long. very pompous way of saying, “I don’t like where the U-T’s language is headed.”

That said, here are the letters….

Replacing the Culture War with Peaceful Dialog: A Thought Experiment ^

Emailed to the U-T: 12 October 2019 circa 2 AM

Subject line: Commentary: A Culture War Peace Proposal

Not printed or posted

If you’re thinking this is too long to be a letter, you’re correct. I sent this in as a commentary, since these can run up to 750 words. But it really is just a longer letter. I would characterize it as a thought experiment, meaning I’m not sure it is either pragmatically feasible or theologically sound. I would have been interested to see how U-T readers reacted to it, but that was not to be. When (if) I return to my senses, I will most likely abandon this line of thinking and return to the “let’s restore Christian America” viewpoint.

The moral values of the majority of Americans have shifted and continue shifting. Whereas several years ago multiple states’ voters legally defined marriage as exclusively a male-female bond, now, George Will observes, “that controversy has cooled” (“Get Congress to act,” October 6). Today’s majority judges homosexual acts unobjectionable[3] and considers homosexual orientation innate, intractable, and morally neutral.[4]

Belief that gender identity needn’t bear any relationship to biological sex, so that members of one biological sex (surgically altered or not)[5] have a right to identify as the other sex and to access facilities and activities reserved for that sex, though less prevalent, has the support of influential people. This transgender ideology hasn’t yet gained majority allegiance as the ideology of sexual orientation has, but it is already prevalent enough to figure in civil-rights debates (“Supreme Court weighs LGBTQ rights,” October 8).

As well, whereas appeals to biblical teaching on sexual morals were once commonplace and respected, so that one might condemn homosexual activity as immoral or unhealthy without leaving the mainstream, that mainstream now belongs to people who only care to debate how best to prohibit discrimination [including “discriminatory” moral assertions] against homosexuals. Such, for example, is the focus of Will’s above-cited column. (Will favors constitutional legislation over unconstitutional reinterpretation of existing laws.) Rejection of transgender ideology doesn’t yet exclude one from the mainstream, but it soon might.

Nevertheless, those of us who embrace a Christian faith that sees all of Scripture as infallible and authoritative, and that respects Christianity’s long tradition of biblical exposition and Bible-based moral reasoning, cannot endorse the new majority or join the new mainstream. Much less will we be able to support the future majority that current trends seem set to produce.

A longer version of the preceding paragraph, which put me over the U-T’s word limit, read as follows: This continuing shift in moral values notwithstanding, those of us who have embraced a Christian faith that sees all of Scripture as infallible and authoritative (unpopular verses like Leviticus 18:22 included), and that respects Christianity’s long tradition of biblical exposition and Bible-based moral reasoning, cannot endorse the new majority or join the new mainstream. Much less will we be able to support the future majority that current trends seem set to produce. To us, belief that humans’ morals keep getting better over time is laughable, and belief in innate and intractable “sexual orientations” is doubtful and, since an orientation does not compel action, morally irrelevant.

American values, then, aren’t just shifting; they’re diverging.

My purpose here isn’t to say why or how these cultural changes should be stopped. Instead, taking for granted that they will continue, I ask the following: How can Americans with increasingly divergent values live peaceably with one another in a free and open society?

Those newly in the majority [a too-long earlier version added this parenthetical: or nearing majority support in the legal system] seem determined to force their values on everyone. Organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center label groups that adhere to traditional Christian morality, such as the American Family Association, homophobic (and transphobic) hate groups. But identifying your opponents’ moral convictions as phobias and hate, and attempting to censor and suppress expressions of those convictions, does not foster peaceful coexistence.

Granted, we Christians may deserve some blame for the intolerant behavior of the new majority. We’ve long called our dispute with them a “culture war”—hardly the rhetoric of cordial disagreement and peacemaking (Matthew 5:9).

We’ve also emphasized, correctly, that all laws presuppose and enforce some moral system. Naturally, those in the new majority don’t want to base laws on the moral system of those at war with them.

Since, at least in our rhetoric, we have not sought to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18), we shouldn’t be surprised that opponents who sense their power growing now choose to escalate the war.

In doing so, however, they err. If this war continues, it will ultimately end America’s free and open society. Already ubiquitous efforts to censor and suppress disagreeable opinions make this clear.

Perhaps it’s already too late. Perhaps our values have diverged too widely for us to find common moral ground upon which to base America’s laws. Then again, perhaps America’s liberty-centered, individualist philosophy (see the Declaration of Independence) can be that common ground.

A too-long prior draft added the following: In such a liberty-based order, a legitimate nondiscrimination law might read something like this: “applicants for employment by publicly funded entities, whether public entities or private entities receiving public funds, shall not be discriminated against based on any demonstrably innate characteristic (such as race), personal conviction (such as religious creed), or private conduct outside of work (such as sexual activity).”

To see how this would work, consider nondiscrimination laws. To be legitimate in terms of our nation’s liberty-centered philosophy, such laws could seek only to ensure that public funds never be used to favor one side or another in matters about which we disagree. Applying such laws beyond the public realm, to privately funded private businesses, would be an illegitimate imposition of one group’s values upon everyone. Private enterprises would have to be left free to hire and fire in accord with their owners’ values.

Of course, reshaping our legal system into full accord with our nation’s philosophy of individual liberty would require rethinking laws and legal precedents of both long standing and recent vintage. That means a great deal of effort over a long period. Americans with divergent values could find common ground in this reshaped system, but do they desire such common ground strongly enough to work for it?

If not, legislators and activist judges will continue to create laws that enforce whatever moral values are most popular—until we’ve lost our American liberty.

I then added the following postscript: In case commentaries require it, here is some information about the author: Graduate of a couple colleges and a couple seminaries, David M. Hodges is a Reformed Baptist, a former Republican, and a San Diego County native. He currently earns a meager living freelancing.

Whose “American Interests” Do You Mean, Exactly? A Call for Constitutional Foreign Policy ^

Emailed to the U-T: Tuesday, 22 October 2019, between Noon and 1 PM

Subject line: Your Say: Foreign Policy submission

Printed and posted

I sent this in response to the U-T’s 19 October 2019 “Your Say on Foreign Policy” notification, which asked the following question: “Should America’s foreign policy be focused on idealism and promoting democracy or only on supporting what advances our nation’s interests?” It was printed under the editor-assigned title “U.S. needs to return to what made it great” on Saturday 26 October 2019 and posted along with other Your Say submissions to the U-T Web site.

Our old reputation: “Americans go everywhere buying and selling stuff, and they’re always inventing things.” Our new reputation: “They’re at war all the time and they’ve got troops everywhere.”

What I’d like to see in foreign policy is a new order that brings back our old reputation. To achieve it, we’d need to embrace anew an assumption from our Declaration of Independence: a government’s sole purpose is to secure the rights of citizens under its jurisdiction.

Foreign policy based on this assumption would pursue only one goal: securing the rights of Americans. While all aspects of foreign policy would acquire a new focus and character, it is in the use of America’s military that the new order would differ most from current practice.

A government concerned solely with securing the rights of Americans would not deploy our military to remove tyrants from foreign thrones or to quell conflicts between ancient enemies in far-off lands. Perhaps billionaire- or crowd-funded soldiers of fortune could do so, but a military tasked only with defending American territory and securing Americans’ rights would not.

This doesn’t mean our military would never take action abroad. Our government’s obligation to secure Americans’ rights doesn’t end at the border. Should pirates waylay Americans at sea, our military could rightly respond, even if it had to violate a foreign nation’s territory to do so.

But please don’t call this “foreign intervention.” If police officers pursue a criminal onto someone’s property, they don’t thereby “intervene” in the property owners’ home life. To say they did would misuse the language, just as would calling pursuit of a pirate crew into Somalia an “intervention” into Somalian affairs. Ditto calling Thomas Jefferson’s handling of the Barbary pirates “foreign intervention.” What police do for citizens at home the military must sometimes do for citizens abroad.

But only sometimes. Non-military options should usually suffice. Even legitimate foreign actions, such as pursuing the perpetrators of 9-11 into Afghanistan, easily morph into illegitimate foreign interventions, as we’ve learned. So, even when military action is justified, alternatives are preferable. In the case of attacks like 9-11, Richard Ebeling’s suggestion that we offer large bounties for those responsible is an excellent one, and one that could also be an effective response to attacks on Americans abroad, one costing significantly less than military action—and risking no soldiers’ lives.[6]

A final point: In the new order, no one could justify foreign intervention with vague appeals to “American interests.” Whereas “securing Americans’ rights” is a clear and precise objective, “pursuing America’s interests” is vacuous blather that might mean anything. Different Americans have different interests. Whose interests are to be considered “American interests”? When American actions abroad are not limited to answering threats to American territory or Americans’ rights, they inevitably serve, not the general welfare of all Americans, but the interests of the rich, powerful, and politically connected. And if these people want action taken abroad, they should pay for it themselves—and risk their own lives.

Longer reflections preceding the final draft included the following additional thoughts that readers might find interesting or amusing:

[1]

While some…describe acting to defend the rights of Americans abroad as “pursuing American interests,” I object to this vague and broad terminology. While it is certainly in our nation’s interests for our government to live up to its obligations under the Constitution, [as rightly understood in terms of ] the Bill of Rights.., many things having nothing to do with the rights of American citizens may be thought to serve “American interests.” Simply put, the term has too broad a meaning to reliably mean anything.

[2]

Of course, one might argue that all sorts of genuinely interventionist actions could help secure the rights of Americans abroad. Most extremely, what could better secure the rights of Americans than American conquest of the entire planet? Why waste time trying to transform culturally backward nations into European-style parliamentary democracies (for some reason, this, not our own republic, seems to be the preferred model for the nations we build) when we could just annex them all and administer them as territories of the United States? How could we better secure Americans’ rights abroad than by eliminating abroadness altogether? What an epiphany!

This highlights the need for restricted definitions of our terms. We need to identify foreign “actions” to secure Americans’ rights as legitimate while simultaneously identifying foreign “interventions” as illegitimate. Sending troops into a foreign nation to apprehend or kill violators of Americans’ rights is a legitimate foreign action; sending troops into a foreign nation to occupy it while we redesign its polity, alter its borders, or set it up as a U.S. territory under a government we appoint—these are illegitimate foreign interventions. We need to abandon the broad definition of “intervention” that many use, one that includes every American action abroad. Not every action should be called intervention. Acting to protect Americans is quite a different thing from overturning foreign governments, inserting oneself between warring nations or civil-war combatants, setting up and ensuring the survival of “democratic” institutions in foreign nations, and the various other sorts of genuine intervention that our military has so regularly gotten involved in since the mid-twentieth century.

We also need to avoid describing acting to defend the rights of Americans abroad as “pursuing American interests.” This vague and broad terminology probably shouldn’t be used at all, ever. While it is certainly in our nation’s interests for our government to live up to its obligation to secure citizens’ rights, many things having nothing to do with the rights of American citizens may be thought to serve “American interests.” The phrase basically means whatever the person using it chooses for it to mean. Different groups of Americans, and different individuals in and outside such groups, have different interests. Whose interest among these are to be construed as the interests of America? When American actions abroad are not limited to answering threats to American territory or to the lives, liberty, and property of American citizens, they will inevitably serve, not the general welfare of all Americans, but the interests of the rich, powerful, and politically connected. The “military-industrial complex” that Eisenhower warned about is one group whose interests consistently get treated as though they are America’s interests.

Biblical & Traditional Morals: Not a Phobia ^

Emailed to the U-T: 11 November 2019

Subject line: Letter: Moral convictions are not phobias

Not printed or posted

Like most media, my local paper constantly refers to anyone who opposes the aims of homosexual and transgender activists, or who condemns sexual activities at odds with the moral system of Scripture and traditional Christianity, as phobic. (Even beloved-of-conservatives Fox News tends to promote the idea that homosexuality is morality unobjectionable, though it does not join the mainstream media in promoting the many infringements of liberty homosexual and transgender activists now support.) For instance, anyone who thinks there is anything objectionable about one male having sex with another male, or one female having sex with another female, gets labeled “homophobic” by this paper. This blatant bias, which for a time made me decide not to waste time writing to the U-T at all, remains infuriating, or at least irritating.

If you want opponents to treat you with respect and civility, you must extend the same courtesy. Assuming people who disagree with you must be mentally ill doesn’t do this.

Nevertheless, pro-homosexual pundits (and usually this paper) insist on branding “homophobic” those who accept the plain sense of Scripture and traditional Christian morals. Even a columnist trying to defend his community against charges that it is especially homophobic takes for granted that homophobia is real and prevalent among that community’s Christians (“A complicated truth,” Nov. 11).

I realize homosexuality was once branded a mental illness and that it must please those once branded mentally ill to now brand their opponents the same way. But it’s still just name-calling disguised as science.[7]

The pervasive incivility of today’s social and political debates can’t be blamed entirely on Trump or the alt-right. Left-favored name-calling like “homophobia” is part and parcel of it.

A portion of a longer earlier version of this letter read as follows:

If you want opponents to treat you with respect and civility, you must extend the same courtesy. So, for example, you don’t assume people who disagree with you must be mentally ill.

Alas, pro-homosexual pundits insist on branding “homophobic” those who accept the plain sense of Scripture and traditional Christian morals. Even a columnist trying to defend his demographic against charges that it is especially homophobic takes for granted that homophobia is real and prevalent among that community’s Christians (“A complicated truth,” Nov. 11).

I realize homosexuality was once branded a mental illness and that it must please those once branded mentally ill to now brand their opponents the same way. And simply presupposing that the moral convictions of religious people are a form of phobia no doubt pleases those who find religious discussions tiresome.

But what is personally pleasing often isn’t helpful. Before blaming the Right for the pervasive incivility in today’s social and political debates, the Left ought to inspect its own rhetoric. If you presuppose anyone who disagrees with you is mentally ill, don’t expect either a civil or respectful response.

No Individual Speaks for Any Generation ^

Emailed to the U-T: 15 November 2019

Subject line: Letter Re November [11] column: X the Generation Talk

Not printed or posted

Please, for mercy’s sake, stop wasting opinion-page space on benighted columnists who think they can speak for whole generations (most recently: “Gen X is here for you,” Sept. 15).

I realize that the socialistic and tribal (and populist) forces of our day, urged on by politicians and media obsessed with group identity, find this sort of nonsense hard to resist. Still, could you at least try?

If one thing more than any other made America great, it was a system of ordered liberty that not only allowed but encouraged individuals to forge individual identities at odds with the groups to which modern demographers might assign them.

Silly I-speak-for-my-generation columnists (like some silly rock musicians of days past) work against this source of greatness. Stop helping them.

True Faith Can’t Be Compartmentalized ^

Emailed to the U-T: 17 November 2019, a little after Noon

Subject line: Letter re an 11/17 letter: Faithful aren’t free to conduct faithless politics

Printed in the South+East section’s Community Dialog on 21 November 2019 under the editor-assigned title “The truly faithful apply that faith in all earthly matters”

I’ve never found one of my regional “Community Dialog” letters reproduced on the U-T Web site, so the only way to see if and how the U-T version differs from mine may be to search out a hard copy or scan of the print edition. This same comment applies to additional “Community Dialog” letters appearing below.

Yet another letter writer has shown he doesn’t understand faith (“Founders chose to keep religion in its place,” Nov. 17). Faith is not a “personal, private…matter” that believers may exclude from their politics.

Unlike false professors of faith, who may freely approach politics in the godless, secular fashion such writers demand, true believers must apply their faith to their entire lives. For Christians, this means that “whatsoever [they] do,” including politics, they “must do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). They must bring “every thought,” even about politics, into “the obedience of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:5).

Since our founders recognized the importance of faith and the faithful to the pervasive self-government a liberty-centered republic requires, they never claimed religious people should set aside their religion in public life. Letter writers who would “keep religion out of the public sphere” don’t speak for our founders.

Before Interpreting Founding Documents, Get Rights Right ^

Emailed to the U-T: 01 December 2019

Subject line: letter re letter writer’s impossible reading of Second Amendment

Printed in South + East section’s Community Dialog on 05 December 2019 under editor-assigned title “Founders believed rights came first and foremost”

Concerning the closing aside of a recent letter (“Founders didn’t expect low-population states,” Nov. 29), I suggest this principal: When interpreting founding documents, reject as impossible interpretations that contradict the founders’ view of rights. [The letter-writer’s closing aside interpreted Federalist No. 29 as meaning that “one must be part of a regulated militia to enjoy gun ownership,” making gun ownership, not a right, but a privilege granted by government to certain citizens only.]

The Declaration of Independence makes this view clear: Rights are not determined by law; instead, they belong to all individuals equally and innately.

So, if you asked the founders if they and other colonial Americans had a right to own firearms and carry them on their persons, they’d have to exclaim, “Obviously!” (or, “This is self-evident!”)

Even if you ignore the preceding, the Second Amendment, though it emphasizes a right’s value to states needing militias’ protection, still clearly identifies that right “to keep and bear arms” as “of the people,” not “of the states” or “of the militia.”

Principles of an Abortion Advocate’s Letter Applied to Murder in General ^

Email to the U-T: 03 December 2020

Subject line: Letter Re a Dec. 3 letter: a further “novel proposal” based on same principles

Not printed or posted

The file name I used for this letter was “parody of a crazy pro-abortion letter.” I actually wrote a couple similar “keep murder safe and legal” letters, which were printed, some years back, in my youth. It doesn’t seem those convinced anybody, since the right-to-abortion people in San Diego are still making the same arguments they were making back then (or else they’ve trained their heirs to use the same tired and fallacious arguments), though calling this letter-writer’s emotional assertions “arguments” is perhaps too generous. Of course, people who’ve already been complicit in the murder of their own children, as the tone and content of this individual’s letter suggest she might have been, aren’t going to admit very readily the gravity of their act. Though she would have been correct to demand that fathers of unplanned children be required by law to contribute equally to the children’s support, she instead suggested that one should only demand that as a way to make men support abortion as a right. I should probably feel sorry for a woman who perhaps has a very painful experience in her background, but I admit that I find it hard to feel sorry for anyone who uses a public platform to defend and support the killing of innocent new life as a “right.”

Re “A novel proposal neither side will back” (Dec. 3):

For those who would plunge our civilization into an overpopulated dystopia full of sad, unproductive people by denying murderers’ right to control their victims’ bodies: Okay, keep these miserable people alive, but don’t force murderers who would happily kill them to support them.

It’s bad enough that the rights of murderers are being denied by anti-murder fanatics. The least you can do is force only the life-is-sacred crazies to pay the resulting costs. Big consequences for failure to pay up. [The last sentence mimics the letter-writer to whom I’m responding.]

Let us see how the holier-than-everybody murder-is-bad fanatics deal with that!

But I fear they’re beyond help. All one can do is be sad for the unwanted people they forcibly cause to keep living and suffering in this world.

Stop hindering murderers! Worthless and miserable people deserve better: They deserve to be killed.

When Did Americans Stop Understanding the “Free” in “Free Speech”? ^

Emailed to the U-T: 12 December 2019, circa 9 PM

Subject line: Letter re Dec. 11 & 12 news items related to free speech

Printed in South + East section’s Community Dialog on 19 December 2019 under the editor-assigned title “There really is no freedom if we don’t have free speech”

Re “Alleged anti-Semitism at schools targeted” (Dec. 11) and “YouTube cracks down on hateful speech” (Dec. 12):

A conservative organization sent me two emails. One asked me to protest a hotel’s cancellation, under pressure from Muslims and liberals, of its agreement to host that organization’s conference. The other asked me to help pressure a business to cancel its agreement to host an Islamic conference. Restated: “Defend our right to free speech. Oppose our opponents.”

This approach has bipartisan support. Though methods vary (pressure businesses, lobby regulators), each side works to suppress speech it deems hateful or dangerous.

But “hateful” and “dangerous” aren’t objective descriptors. To social conservatives, opposing traditional morals is dangerous; to social liberals, supporting such morals is hateful.

Speech suppressors don’t apply objective standards; they impose subjective preferences—and always end up restricting speech that violates no one’s rights, only upsets, angers, or worries someone.

So liberty ends.

The conservative organization that sent me these contradictory emails was ACT for America (their main site no longer uses the exclamation point after “ACT,” so I’ve left it out here). I was irked enough by this pair of emails that I took myself off the organization’s mailing list. To be honest, the (to my eye) harsh and abrasive style of this organization’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, a harshness and abrasiveness that often found its way into its “write to your legislators” form letters, always made me a bit ill at ease with ACT for America. Of course, Trumpians seem weirdly fond of women who strike me as harsh and abrasive, such as Fox News commentator Jeanine Pirro. I don’t get it.

Morality Can’t Not Be Legislated ^

Emailed to the U-T: Tuesday 04 February 2020

Subject line: Re Feb 4 letter: we can, do, and will continue to legislate morality

Not printed or posted

“I certainly don’t believe…that we can legislate morality,” a letter writer says, ironically in a letter objecting to the immoral content of some recent television (“Super Bowl halftime show went too far,” first of two letters under this title, Feb. 4th).

This “we can’t legislate morality” idea is very common among liberty-loving Americans, but it’s nonsense. The reality is that morality is all we do or can legislate. When we outlaw theft, we’re asserting that theft is immoral. When we enforce safety regulations on manufacturers, we’re asserting that manufacturing unsafe products is immoral.

The letter writer’s beliefs that “consenting adults should be able to seek out any entertainment they desire” and that broadcast content should be modified when “there are kids in the room” are also moral assertions.

We always have, do now, and always will legislate morality. The only question is: Whose morality will we legislate?

Another erroneous idea that this writer seems to presuppose, an idea that most Americans today also presuppose, is that adults can safely consume as “entertainment” materials that would be harmful to children. Discoveries revealing humans’ lifelong neuroplasticity should have disabused people of this notion. As long as humans are alive, their brains are getting rewired in response to stimuli. One’s choice of entertainment is a choice of future brain structure. Younger brains may be rewired more readily and quickly, but rewiring doesn’t cease when one enters adulthood or as one moves through it. If you think some televised entertainment might harm a child, don’t assume you can watch it without ill effect.

Nuke Fantasy Power Planning ^

Emailed to the U-T: 05 March 2020

Subject line: Yes, Let’s Nuke California

Not printed or posted

I also used this material in a letter to my State Assemblyman and State Senator, neither of whom I’ve heard back from.

Kudos to Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham for supporting sufficient, affordable, reliable energy (“Bill aims to classify nuclear power as renewable energy,” March 5). Though his effort, AB 2898, seems doomed in a state where waste released into the atmosphere worries people less than waste in solid form, or where people think wind and solar can provide more power more reliably than realistic estimates indicate, I’m glad someone’s trying.

Other lawmakers’ lack of realism imperils California’s future. They should be encouraging construction of new nuclear plants even safer and less wasteful than predecessors, thus ensuring affordable, emission-free power to meet growing demand. Instead, they’re closing the only plant still operating, meaning future power will be more costly and less reliable, and future California less competitive.

As even a brief YouTube video, Real Engineering’s “California’s Renewable Energy Problem” (May 25, 2019), makes clear, abandoning nuclear makes lawmakers’ emission-free power plan a pipe dream.

Trusting “Experts” to Handle Things Is What Got Us into This Mess in the First Place ^

One: The Submission

Emailed to the U-T: Tuesday 24 March 2020 circa 1 AM

Subject line: “Your Say: Government Action [on COVID-19]” submission

Printed and posted

Published in the U-T on 28 March 2020 under the editor-assigned title “It is obvious now real planning wasn’t done” and posted to the U-T Web site, along with other accepted submissions, under the shared heading “Readers React: Your Say: How effective have government efforts been in coronavirus crisis?

This is the item that included an editorial change making a different point than I intended. I wrote to the paper the same day pointing out the error, and it appears they’ve corrected the “editorial overreach” in their online edition. Readers curious about what change needed to be undone may find my message to the U-T after this item. The person in charge of letters at the paper, in addition to correcting the online edition, said the change was probably due to a last minute copy edit gone awry. He said he’d look into it.

An alleged justification for our large and intrusive administrative state is that, in such a state, highly specialized experts can intelligently determine present and future national needs then, having been granted broad authority to act, undertake projects and impose regulations to ensure those needs are met.

For instance, such experts, foreseeing the risk of a pandemic placing greater demands on our nation’s healthcare resources, would make sure that a stockpile of excess supplies and equipment was maintained, ready at short notice to be put into use by existing facilities or used to construct temporary facilities. While responding to a pandemic would never be routine,[8] we could at least be sure our medical supplies and equipment wouldn’t be overwhelmed by a novel infectious illness spreading normally.

Oops.

Though private citizens, from writers to movie makers, have predicted pandemics for years, and though even some of the specialists for whom taxpayers pay a fortune probably pointed out reasons for concern to those above them in the bureaucracy, no one with the authority to act did so until the pandemic arrived.

Why hand over judgment and planning to highly paid specialists if they’re just going to hope for the best and procrastinate until a crisis? Surely we ordinary citizens can do that on our own without paying bureaucrats to model the behavior for us.

We’re all being asked to stay at home and stay away from people, not because COVID-19 is more deadly than other respiratory illnesses, but because America isn’t prepared to deal with much more than the usual number of sick people at one time. People who are paid very well to make sure we’re ready for things sure to occur sooner or later, like the spread of new illnesses, failed to get us even partially prepared. If these people now deal competently with the crisis, we should be surprised, not impressed.

Since you can’t shut down outside-the-home commerce without consequences, lawmakers are presenting “stimulus” bills to compensate for the shutdowns unpreparedness wrought, including one to send checks to average citizens. One might characterize these bills as a refund for the preparedness government experts failed to provide, in which case one could think the bills justified—were there funds to pay for them.

Lawmakers, however, are staying true to form with these bills. To help pay for the “stimulus,” they aren’t proposing a single cut in any form of government spending, now or in the future. Nor, of course, are they proposing any revenue increases, either now or after the crisis. Instead, they’re just borrowing more currency into existence via our indulgent central bank.

Such pathological policy making, sadly, isn’t an exclusively American phenomenon. Governments and central banks around the globe have been staggering about with the same fever for years. And I fear this “policy pandemic” will end up causing much more damage than COVID-19, devaluing currencies and impoverishing almost everyone.

At which point hoarding dollars and hoarding toilet paper will be the same thing.

By the way, I use the wording “We’re all being asked” advisedly. I do not recognize the authority of local, state, and the federal government to issue the sorts of “orders” they’ve been issuing. In all matters where the people have not explicitly ceded their authority to government through specifically stated grants, government’s “enumerated powers,” they retain that authority. Individuals are sovereign under God over themselves and their property. Though the “orders” issued by the various levels of government in response to COVID-19 contain mostly sound advice, no free citizen of this nation should think them obligatory or legitimate. Anyone wishing to test these orders by defying them, however, should realize he may lose in court. Besides, defying good advice because it’s been wrongly stated as an order rather than a request seems rather mule-like (Psalm 32:9), doesn’t it? All the same, lovers of liberty with no exposure to high-risk individuals and no fear they’ll die from COVID-19 must decide for themselves if principle should overrule prudence in this instance.[9] Therefore, though he and I are doctrinally far apart, I do hope Pastor Howard-Browne gets a fair and constitutionally sound hearing.

By the way, the Ron Paul Liberty Report YouTube channel and The New American Video’s Alex Newman (also on YouTube)[10] have both remained excellently pro-liberty in their COVID-19 coverage (and God bless Congressman Massie and Gardner Goldsmith). Had I not found my own views so often mirrored by these resources, I would have felt very alone during the early days of COVID-19, which I’ve now learned is more properly called “the CCP Virus.”[11] Concerning the CCP Virus, note that I do not agree with those who think the Chinese government’s cover-up absolves our government of blame for being unprepared. Assuming a pandemic will necessarily start somewhere else, so that we can wait to prepare until we learn from an honest foreign government that a new virus is afoot, is almost as foolish as denying the existence of God (Psalm 14:1).[12]

Two: The Follow-Up ^

Emailed to the U-T: 28 March 2020 around 11 AM

Subject line: Sense of one sentence in my “You[r] Say” was altered—was my call screening partially to blame?

Prompted online correction; not printed as of this writing

Introductory Remarks Not for Publication

I noticed one change in my Your Say “essay” that altered my intended sense. I’ve provided a very brief letter below on this. The final sentence of it could be removed if desired, and the two remaining paragraphs could be combined—whatever would make the letter the right length to work as layout filler in some issue.

That said, I suspect my strict call screening might have something to do with this. If you sought to give me a quick call before making this “correction” but got no answer, please drop me a note with the number or numbers calls like this come from so I can enter your information into my phone. That way, I’ll know if you call after some future submission. I realize a newspaper’s tight scheduling doesn’t allow you to leave messages and hope to hear back from people.

Thank you for your time.

Letter

Re “It is obvious now real planning wasn’t done” (March 28).

My submission indicated that the “stimulus” bills were meant “to compensate for the shutdowns unpreparedness wrought” rather than “to compensate for what shutdown unpreparedness wrought.” My thinking was that greater preparedness would have made at least some of the shutdowns unnecessary; hence, the shutdowns were wrought by unpreparedness.

I apologize if I missed an editorial phone call seeking to clarify this.

Closing Remarks ^

So ends another collection of letters and things closely resembling letters. More aging commentary still awaits posting, but at least now there’s a bit less of it. By the way, if you like to spend some of your down time watching YouTube videos that aren’t meant merely to amuse, and especially if you find economic issues like government debt and sound money of interest, you may find the following broadcasters and broadcast worth looking into (in each case, I’ve linked to a sample video I’ve found worthwhile): Peter Schiff, who’s just started including video with the YouTube versions of his podcast; Mike Maloney; and the Keiser Report. I actually disagree with the last of these fairly frequently, and I’m sure I disagree with all of them at least some of the time, but they contain enough sound material to make them worthwhile. I watch Keiser Report videos on RT because they include descriptive titles there; if you don’t mind episodes identified by numbers only, you may prefer the broadcast’s own channel.

There are other YouTube broadcasts and broadcasters I’ve found worthwhile, and I’ve linked to videos by more than one of them above and in the notes below. (Those I like best I’ve probably also linked to from prior posts.) Watching some of these might be a great way to recover from the exhaustion you feel after reading this latest lengthy Pious Eye site post.

Notes, Elaborations, & Asides ^

[1] Hence this post’s featured image: That mystical storehouse of all sentient being’s knowledge and experience, the Akashic Records are here symbolized by the Rose Cross, the rose of which is said by the Rosicrucian Order to symbolize an individual’s unfolding consciousness. In this case, the multiple roses represent the remnant Akashic consciousness of all sentient beings. The Rosicrucians see the cross as representing the individual’s body. In this case, it represents all the universe of sentient creatures. Since the Pious Eye embraces Christian faith rather than Rosicrucian or New Age superstition, he has felt free to utilize occult and natural images in a way surely at variance with Rosicrucian and New Age teachings. This image, created by combining and modifying multiple images in the public domain, is © David M. Hodges, piouseye.com, with all rights reserved.

[2] Larry P. Arnn wrote a whole book on how this should be the case when interpreting the Constitution: The Founders’ Key: The Divine and Natural Connection Between the Declaration and the Constitution and What We Risk by Losing It (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012). Though there are things in the book I hope to critique in a review at some point (reading books as slowly, closely, and critically as I do does have its drawbacks), I definitely recommend those who haven’t yet read it do so. 2011 and 2012 were good years for interesting books, at least judging from those I acquired at thrift stores before lack of space made me start preferring e-books. For instance, people who read Patrick J. Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2011) when it was released were probably not at all surprised when Donald J. Trump won in 2016.

[3] According to a 2014 study, 58% of Americans believe “Gay or lesbian relations” are “morally acceptable”: Rebecca Riffkin, “New Record Highs in Moral Acceptability,” Gallup , https://news.gallup.com/poll/170789/new-record-highs-moral-acceptability.aspx, 30 May 2014, accessed 03 April 2020. (The copyright on the print-ready version of this page is 2016. This might indicate that the article was updated in 2016.) Since trends in the direction of moral laxity have no doubt continued in the same direction since 2014, the percentage of Americans who now think homosexual relations are morally unobjectionable is likely over 60%. In fact, a more recent survey does show 60% support for homosexual “marriage”:“Attitudes on Same-Sex Marriage,” Pew Research Center, https://www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/, 14 May 2019, accessed 03 April 2020. Of course, one needn’t think homosexual activity moral to believe these sorts of “marriage” contracts might properly be made legal. Nor does everyone who thinks homosexual activity moral necessarily think homosexual “marriage” makes sense (tolerant as they were of homosexual dalliances, and an emperor who “married” his horse notwithstanding, the Greeks and Romans realized marriage was about procreation and family, and so the survival of society, making “marriages” not between men and women nonsense).

[4] It is my impression from popular culture and mass-consumption media, and from talking with people, that this is now the prevailing view of homosexual “orientation.” But this continues to be a matter of debate, often quite heated. Some people focus obsessively on this issue because they take for granted that having an innate orientation (inclination, proclivity, desire) toward a certain type of behavior makes that behavior morally acceptable. Should pedophilia be shown to be an innate orientation, therefore, these people will be obligated to consider pedophilia morally acceptable. The bottom line is that whether one is born with an inclination or acquires it through experience makes no difference whatsoever to the moral status of one’s actions. Inclinations do not compel; they only motivate. Desiring to do something doesn’t make doing that something right. “How can it be wrong (when it feels so right)?” Very easily, and very frequently.

[5] I’ve restored this parenthetical from my original draft. I removed it from the version I submitted to meet the U-T word limit.

[6]I first heard about this suggestion on The Future of Freedom Foundation’s “Libertarian Angle” broadcast, in September or October of 2019 (I believe), but Ebeling also presents the idea in an earlier article responding to 9-11: Richard M. Ebeling, “Freedom, Security and the Roots of Terrorism against the United States,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 28 September 2001, accessed 04 April 2020. There he writes:

And what is to be done about bringing the perpetrators of the crimes of September 11 to justice? President Bush stated that he remembered posters in the old west that would say, “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” There are still bonded bounty hunters in the United States today who are legally recognized as having the authority to apprehend and turn over to the authorities those against whom arrest warrants have been issued. And these bounty hunters are permitted to use force to bring suspects into custody. Considering the huge amount of money that is being proposed to be spent for a military confrontation to bring Osama bin Laden and his followers into custody, a more efficient and less costly method would be for the U.S. government to place a $500 million bounty on bin Laden’s head, and $250 million on each of his known co-conspirators. And make those bounties tax-free.

Interestingly, the Trump administration has recently chosen to apply this sage advice to President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela. This and related activities have not typically met with libertarians’ approval, nor have progressives judged them appropriate. Media more often friendly to Trump has taken a different view. While I’m personally noncommittal on this issue, I do think progressives have a point when they chastise U.S. leaders for blaming Venezuela’s economic problems wholly on its leaders’ socialism when the U.S. has so long had crippling sanction in place. You can’t legitimately point to a foreign nation as an example of “the results of socialism” if you yourself have helped destroy that nation’s economy with sanctions. Those who unwisely support socialism have no reason to find your argument convincing when you do so. “That’s not the results of socialism,” they plausibly respond. “That’s just what happens when the corporatist U.S. government makes your nation a target.”

[7] Many Christians still like to consider homosexual inclinations a mental illness, just as they like to consider inclinations to view, listen to, or read pornographic materials the sort of mental illness called addiction. For my part, I don’t think it either helpful or biblical to label voluntary sinful actions “illnesses” or “addictions.” Though it is true that people who commit these actions “need help,” the help needed in not that of human “professionals” trained in today’s secular substitute for biblical counseling and Christian faith: Christ alone, by grace alone through (God-given) faith alone, is the true and lasting hope for such (as for any) people.

[8] Since the Pious Eye site permits my adding more detail than the U-T’s word limit would permit, I will note a technical point. When I speak in this submission of a “pandemic” and of “pandemics,” I’m speaking specifically of new pandemics. Hence my later description of the situation as being an instance of “the spread of new illnesses.” Old pandemics can become routine. Influenza remains a pandemic, slightly different strains of it circling the globe every year. Yet, because it is not new, it has become routine. At least, it seems so most years. New pandemics, however, seem unlikely ever to be routine.

[9] In response to my allergies and (at the time) frequent illnesses, one pastor suggested I should be living in a bubble. Thus, even if I didn’t have unavoidable contact with individuals at high risk of bad outcomes if exposed to COVID-19, I would probably be unsuited to test the legality of these orders myself. Alas.

[10] On the subject of The New American and the organization behind it, the John Birch Society (JBS), as I was finalizing this post, I received notice of a free issue of the first and a write-your-legislators action alert from the second. Though I’ve not yet vetted these items, I expect them to be welcome and worthwhile, so I pass along links to them for your thoughtful review: repeated link 1, repeated link 2. By the way, in response to one of these notices, I replied with appreciative remarks that concluded (in substance) as follows: “Though I once said, ‘I’ve never been able to embrace the conspiratorial theory of history promoted by the John Birch Society’ (actually, I came very near believing it in youth, and even joined the JBS for a time and promoted its position, but I never overcame lingering doubts [and finally left the organization]), I have to admit recent events make that theory more appealing.” (I say “in substance” because the parenthetical in my email was poorly structured and so unclear. I’ve tried to correct that defect here.)

[11] As you may have heard, platforms like YouTube have lately lost much of the respect for free speech they formerly professed. Ironically, the platform I chose as my illustration for this in “The Even Bigger Valley,” Facebook, has been less aggressive than Google, which owns YouTube. Google’s aggressiveness means that some videos I like, add to playlists, and link to from the Pious Eye site may disappear. Until Google goes back to not being evil, which might never happen, I’m afraid there’s nothing for it. But do feel free to contact me should you find one of my links broken. By the way, since some of my links have included index numbers, as YouTube links to videos in playlists always do, I worried that the fact that the videos move around in the lists (as new videos are added in between others) would break my links. I’ve been relieved to find, through testing with arbitrary changes to the index numbers in link URLs, that YouTube still takes one to the right video when the index number in the URL is incorrect. These index numbers, it turns out, are superfluous: the unique video ID appears before them in the URL. (If you find YouTube links behaving otherwise, however, do let me know.)

[12] More fundamentally, of course, modern governments most deserve blame for being so large and intrusive that they have made most people think that being ready for the unexpected is solely government’s, not primarily individuals’, responsibility.


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