Author Archive

Has Islam Been Hijacked?

October 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

In today’s Wall Street Journal comes this provocative op-ed on how Islam treats women in its own community.

It is a great debate on my campus, and one that is always present in my own mind because I have friends in Egypt and Kuwait, as well as friends who are a part of the Faith in question here.  Is there something wrong with the religion itself, as Bill Maher and others claim?  Or has it been hijacked by a few radicals who are changing the religion from a peaceful to an oppressive one? There are those, like at the New Republic, who give Islam as a religion a pass entirely—which is odd since that magazine does not do that for Christians. Still, they contend that individuals, not religion, are responsible for radicalization.  In that sense they are squarely on Ben Affleck’s side.  Be that as it may, there is only one religion presently engaging in violence and persecution to the level we are seeing worldwide: Islam.

Aly Salem’s criticism is blistering of both parties in the U.S.:

Compare the collective response after each harrowing high-school shooting in America. Intellectuals and public figures look for the root cause of the violence and ask: Why? Yet when I ask why after every terrorist attack, the disapproval I get from my non-Muslim peers is visceral: The majority of Muslims are not violent, they insist, the jihadists are a minority who don’t represent Islam, and I am fear-mongering by even wondering aloud.

This is delusional thinking. Even as the world witnesses the barbarity of beheadings, habitual stoning and severe subjugation of women and minorities in the Muslim world, politicians and academics lecture that Islam is a “religion of peace.” Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia routinely beheads women for sorcery and witchcraft.

In the U.S., we Muslims are handled like exotic flowers that will crumble if our faith is criticized—even if we do it ourselves. Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats alike would apparently prefer to drop bombs in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, because killing Muslims is somehow less offensive than criticizing their religion? Unfortunately, you can’t kill an idea with a bomb, and so Islamism will continue to propagate. Muslims must tolerate civilized public debate of the texts and scripture that inform Islamism. To demand any less of us is to engage in the soft bigotry of low expectations.

If any other religion engaged in such acts, the condemnations would be loud, and there would be a large contingent of people who would be wondering whether, Christianity for example, is responsible for encouraging the violence.  Those Imams and religious leaders in the Middle East control the destiny of Islam, and in countries without religious freedom, and in a faith that has not yet had its own reformation, we are seeing the effects of a religious despotism gone unchecked.


Thom Tillis v. Kay Hagan

October 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

Another race to watch is Thom Tillis v. Kay Hagan in my third home away from home, North Carolina. Hagan has made a very nice little living taking from the taxpayers, as Carolina Journal notes. As RCP polls show, Tillis is closing in, and Hagan is losing ground. If not for the Libertarian in the race Tillis would be a walk away winner—despite the “controversial legislature” over the last few years. The fact that he’s closing in on her, means the momentum is with him. More than the other race I am watching (Brown v. Shaheen) Tillis is more poised to win. But as anyone from NC knows, the state can be unpredictable, its independent streak is that strong.

Scott Brown v. Jeanne Shaheen

October 27th, 2014 Erik No comments


Will Brown beat Shaheen? He is closing in on her. And Shaheen, an incumbent, drawing below 50% is not good. However, Brown has an uphill battle since he was a resident of Massachusetts. It is very difficult for someone to do what he is doing, not having lived in the state for a long time (even though his family has some roots there). This is a race to watch on Tuesday.

Religious Extremism versus Moderation

October 21st, 2014 Erik No comments

One thing my students and I discuss in class is the role of religion in society and the development of religious extremism.  I began to think about this while I was reading an excellent piece by Steven Hayward in the CRB on the Goldwater campaign called “Extremism and Moderation.”  It is a fabulous piece that explains, in part, how William F. Buckley and National Review brought to heel the irrational John Birch Society, thus peeling off the more reasonable elements of the right and showing the door to radicals in the party who would have done nothing but harm to the party in the long-run.

It prompted me to think about Buckley’s act of heroism and how organizations and institutions–parties included–often have to deal with radical elements in their midst.  Sometimes, the radicals win out.  At other times, the voice of reason carries the day.  We see the battle and struggle between these elements every day in the Middle East.  ISIL radicals have, in some way, hijacked the Muslim faith (though there is much disagreement over that).  I personally know many people in the Middle East (having travelled Israel, Jordan, Kuwait), so my opinion is quite anecdotal, but I know many many peaceful Muslims who abhor what the radicals of their faith are doing. Muslims have a long and honorable history.  They have produced great political philosophers including Al Farabi and Averroes.  But, in the present state of things, someone like Al Farabi would be murdered at the hands of extremist militants.  So, what’s the answer?  For Islam, it could be they need a reformation just like what Christianity went through centuries ago.

Be that as it may, in a not so serious, or violent way, some institutions or organizations go through changes where a choice must be made to either stand for rational moderation, or slowly glide down a radical road that leads to ruin.  We have seen this happen at many so called Christian colleges, where the cult of personality has led to a totalitarian temptation.  Students and faculty have been abused by such people, and the harm it does to souls is excruciating.  This is especially the case when the person doing the abusing possesses some religious authority  and uses said authority to torture the souls of the faithful.  This happens more often than you’d think, and has led to support groups to be started by the “survivors” of spiritual abuse.

The one thing that many religions have done is to hold that uneasy tension between reason (or philosophy) and revelation (or the revealed Word).  Those organization that don’t do that eventually become radicalized (like ISIL, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.), or cults (Like Heaven’s Gate, or Jonestown, or the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who literally formed an armed camp less than 75 miles from my home in the 1980s).  There is one thing constant in all these formations, and that is the claim the only the leader or leaders have a special revealed word (that no one else can access), and/or they proclaim they are being unfairly judged or persecuted by dark and evil entities. Usually immoderate and violent religious organizations create enemies lists centered around the alleged “persecution” of a personality or figure who is at the center of the faith.  Jim Jones is quite the example of finding enemies whoever he looked, as he called this world a most dark and evil place, while proclaiming their own purity in the face of it all. One can see how this all might turn into violence or even, in the case of cults, murder and suicide.

One of he people I respect from the academic world was Eric Voegeli who cautioned against Gnosticism as an irrational trap of modernity.  I eventually sided against Voegeli because his caution excluded, or I should say could include, the Ancient political philosophers.  The Ancients were rationalists and I think there was always a sense of Gnosticism in them–they were gnostic before the religious gnostics of Christianity came to the fore.

The only tempering of any religious extremism from Socrates to the present day–from pagans to the three great revealed religions–is reason and philosophy.  Jerusalem should always be open to the critique of Athens, and Athens should always be open to the claims of Jerusalem, but neither should trump the other.  When that happens, and it usually happens among the religious–destruction will follow.

Is Climate Science Settled?

September 24th, 2014 Erik No comments


Recently the Wall Street Journal published an article noting that while there is climate change, the science around it is not settled.  However, there are a few problems with the models, or rather, there is no agreement or accounting as to why certain things are happening.  For example:

Yet the models famously fail to capture this slowing in the temperature rise. Several dozen different explanations for this failure have been offered, with ocean variability most likely playing a major role. But the whole episode continues to highlight the limits of our modeling.

• The models roughly describe the shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice observed over the past two decades, but they fail to describe the comparable growth of Antarctic sea ice, which is now at a record high.

• The models predict that the lower atmosphere in the tropics will absorb much of the heat of the warming atmosphere. But that “hot spot” has not been confidently observed, casting doubt on our understanding of the crucial feedback of water vapor on temperature.

• Even though the human influence on climate was much smaller in the past, the models do not account for the fact that the rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today—about one foot per century.

• A crucial measure of our knowledge of feedbacks is climate sensitivity—that is, the warming induced by a hypothetical doubling of carbon-dioxide concentration. Today’s best estimate of the sensitivity (between 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) is no different, and no more certain, than it was 30 years ago. And this is despite an heroic research effort costing billions of dollars.

Just why is the Antarctic growing while in the North things are melting?  That question certainly needs to be answered.  None of these questions suggests that there is no climate change, it just means there is a lot we don’t know.  And there is still the problem with a lot of the data has been altered unscientifically to match the warming narrative.  Furthermore, the consensus is not as big as has been purported.

My skepticism in relation to change, is can mankind really overcome nature in total?  Can man really subdue and tame Nature to the extent we destroy it?  I find that a difficult proposition to accept, after all the Earth has always changed even before humans had the capability to influence it.  Humans can certainly influence things in this world, but to destroy Nature’s authority over the universe is quite a claim to make, not to mention full of hubris.  If the globe is changing, can man really do anything to stop it?  On that point, I am very skeptical.


Categories: Science Tags:

Is Hillary a Shoo-in?

June 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

As explained by Real Clear Politics here, Hillary Clinton will not only win the Democratic nomination, but then proceed to beat the Republican challenger, whomever that may be, in 2016.  That’s a fairly risky prediction, but not one without much merit, even as her book is tanking and after about a week is now being offered at discounted prices.

Though there may be much to the article’s assertion that the time for a woman president has arrived based on gender politics, the much more persuasive argument at this moment is that there really is no Republican who can appeal to the general electorate.

The Republicans are actually in serious trouble if they do not figure out how to appeal better to women and hispanics.  This problem will persist even if Hillary is not the Democrat nominee.  The article’s main point is that women–a significant force of the electorate–will jump at the chance to vote for Hillary.  However, that assumes women will vote for women because the person is a woman.  If that was the case, then Hillary would have beat Obama, and/or they would have elected Michele Bachmann.

All of this is premature.  Hillary may stumble. The Democratic base may prefer someone else.  And, the Republicans could find a charismatic candidate.  Gender may certainly play a role in voting and politics, but human beings who have the ability to reason vote on more than just one issue or idea.

An Apology of Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2013 Erik No comments

My colleague at Heartland S.T. Karnick has written an excellent account of why we ought not be concerned with stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Instead we should celebrate the freedom we have in this country that allows businesses to conduct business.  In a sense I agree.  I certainly would not legislate stores to be closed. However, as a republican [please note the small “r”] I am publicly dispirited by the fact that so many stores are opening on what should be our most solemn of holidays other than July 4th.

It’s time to bring Thanksgiving back to its hallowed position it used to occupy.

Stores and businesses want to get a jump early on the Christmas season in pursuit of profits. Over the years, this intense quest for profits has led to Christmas marketing to impinge on our sensibilities ever sooner, so that now, we see Christmas commercials, Christmas ads, and the stores decorated in Christmas attire as early as mid-October.  I love Christmas, and it is one of my favorite holidays, but the increasing emphasis on Christmas as a materialist holiday has soured me on the holiday somewhat I have to admit.   So important has Christmas become, that nary can one find Thanksgiving greeting cards in the stores anymore.

Thanksgiving is the one true holiday—other than July 4th—that does not require gifts or the expectation of gifts.  Thanksgiving has always been about love, family, God, and public spiritedness thanking whatever deity we worship for the many blessings for living in a free country.  We gather on Thanksgiving to recognize the blessings we have before us in our families and in the first country in history  founded on the natural rights all human beings share.  There is something more meaningful in gathering with loved ones to simply enjoy each other’s company without the material expectations that follow with Christmas.  To be frank, Thanksgiving is a far more religious and spiritual holiday than Christmas could ever be. Thanksgiving, unlike Christmas, has directed our national attention in a more direct public manner than Christmas ever has.  In terms of this republic, it precedes Christmas and is our oldest national holiday—even older than Independence Day.

The first proclamation of Thanksgiving was in 1777 (though there were others noted before the Revolutionary War by His Majesty’s Government).  As it pertains to the Union, the first was authored by the Continental Congress.  We usually forget that fact and read the more weighty proclamations by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  On November 1, 1777, the Continental Congress asserted that,

Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

It encouraged—did not require—a day of rest from work to be with family and thank God for the year that is near an end.  Of course, thanksgiving proclamations always directed our attention upward.  The early proclamations petitioned God to bless our military efforts and to relieve the afflicted in the unpleasantries that inevitably accompany war.  The central message was to petition God for wisdom, for peace, and for our “national happiness” [1782 proclamation].

In my lifetime, my fondest holiday memories surround Thanksgiving, which kicked off the holiday season.  Nowhere in the early to mid 70s was there a Christmas decoration, or ad, or store display until after we had first given thanks for the blessings of this republic.  my family would celebrate the day with blood relatives, and those who were surrogate members of the family, though they were every bit full members of our little enclave.  The day was spent in togetherness, and the enjoyment of each other’s company, not in the opening of gifts and then the inevitable paring off separate from the family to enjoy the gifts received.  The only thing that we did of any outside entertainment value was to watch the Detroit Lions lose yet another Thanksgiving football game—something I actually enjoyed.  Yet, we never forgot the blessings of freedom too.  And we reflected on the Founders, Lincoln, and the what our ancestors did to preserve the rights of mankind.  That is perhaps difficult for this materialist society to fathom, but yet, America in the 1970s was such—at least in my world and with my family.

Now, we are bombarded daily from mid October on to buy, buy, buy and rip ourselves from the family hearth to pursue some sale.  What is lost in the process?  What deep and meaningful opportunity is lost with family when we nary have dinner digested and we are running out to fight the crowds to possess some material things that in the end will decay anyway?  What has the country lost when republicans care more for material gain than giving thanks for the reason we have the freedom to achieve material comfort in the first place?

I lament our national holiday, and I do pray for its return

So this “consumer” will be shopping at Menards, who took out a full page ad in today’s Chicago Tribune stating their stores would remain closed on Thursday so families can give thanks and spend the day as it was intended.


Categories: Holidays Tags:

Further Reflections on the Declaration of Independence

July 7th, 2013 Erik No comments

We have just celebrated this nation’s Founding, but debate abounds on the meaning of the Declaration of Independence.  How significant is this document?  I ask my students this question at the beginning of every class I teach on American Government.  Much debate exists on all sides about this all important event. I have many friends who disagree with my position on the Declaration, so this post is to be taken as my contribution to what is a rather spirited debate.  Over at Lew Rockwell, Kevin Gutzman posts several objections to those who believe that the Declaration had a serious meaning to the Union.  Among those objections is that,

Since the 18th century, political radicals have argued for understanding the Declaration as a general warrant for government to do anything it likes to forward the idea that “all men are created equal.” Yet, that was not what the Declaration of Independence meant. The Declaration of Independence was the work of a congress of representatives of state governments. Congressmen were not elected by voters at large, but by state legislatures, and their role (as John Adams, one of them, put it) was more akin to that of ambassadors than to legislators. They had not been empowered to dedicate society to any particular political philosophy, but to declare — as the Virginia legislature had told its congressmen to declare — that the colonies were, “and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” In other words, the Declaration was about states’ rights, not individual rights, and the Congress that adopted it had no power to make it anything else. All the rest of the Declaration was mere rhetorical predicate.

Where to begin?  First, the Founders never proclaimed that the government could do “anything it likes” to forward the Declaration’s self-evident truth that, “all men are created equal.”  Second, he asserts that the document was one that emphasized the rights of the states as autonomous entities.   It wasn’t.  Indeed, in the quote above, the method by which the document was approved, refutes his argument that it was just a list of meaningless words set out to the King to express mere rhetoric.  If it was mere rhetoric, then way go through the process of committee, debate, and adoption?  As Thomas Jefferson so aptly wrote near the end of his life, the Declaration was an expression of the American mind.  This means it was a commonly held reasonable opinion, which these unelected congressmen adopted as a statement of principle–it was an expression of the American mind’s belief on the foundation of government; it was where the Founders staked their flag upon which no man ought to cross. The Declaration was an affirmation of an idea–in Greek it can be considered as THE ιδεα! Jefferson understood this when he asserted that the Declaration was an expression of the American mind.  Last time I checked, the congressmen who adopted Declaration were living in the former colonies, and they were a part of that American mind.

Perhaps the most audacious claim, is the belief that the Declaration was written for white men.  And Jefferson’s belief that whites and blacks could not live together justifies this conclusion.  However, this argument is a non-sequiter.  The disbelief in the ability of the former slaves living with former masters is a separate policy question from the belief in Euclid’s axiom that things equal to another are equal to themselves.  Indeed, Jefferson never stated anywhere in any document that he was sure they were unequal in their rights.  The slaves may have been unequal in talent, but it was held as a suspicion only, and any inequality was the result of their bondage not the result of any “natural” affliction.

Jefferson was also clear when he wrote in the Notes on the State of Virginia that God would side with the slaves not the masters should he judge the peculiar institution.  In other words, the Union held onto an institution that defied the truth applicable for all people at all times.  Jefferson was no less aware of this fact when he wrote that we had a wolf by the ears.

I realize that many will associate my interpretation with what the snarky NewRepublicconsidered as being a part of the “Top 10 Gangs of the Millennium,” but the fact is the Lew Rockwell interpretation is closer to Richard Taney’s defense of slavery in Dred Scott than any originalist understanding of the Founding.  Indeed, it is one of the most curious developments of American political thought, that the first defenders of slavery as a positive good were also southerners who believed in free markets–like Thomas Roderick Dew.

* Cross posted at Somewhat Reasonable.


Music from the 80s: HoneyMoon Suite

February 14th, 2013 Erik No comments

Going back to my days as a youngin’ is HoneyMoon Suite, which me and the wife heard on Sirius tonight and it brought back memories:



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Our Changing Demographic

February 8th, 2013 Erik No comments

As noted in the WSJ here, the fertility rate is falling among a certain group, which will lead to a changing America:

Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff, the sequestration cliff and the entitlement cliff. Those are all just symptoms. What America really faces is a demographic cliff: The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate.

The fertility rate is the number of children an average woman bears over the course of her life. The replacement rate is 2.1. If the average woman has more children than that, population grows. Fewer, and it contracts. Today, America’s total fertility rate is 1.93, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it hasn’t been above the replacement rate in a sustained way since the early 1970s.

The nation’s falling fertility rate underlies many of our most difficult problems. Once a country’s fertility rate falls consistently below replacement, its age profile begins to shift. You get more old people than young people. And eventually, as the bloated cohort of old people dies off, population begins to contract. This dual problem—a population that is disproportionately old and shrinking overall—has enormous economic, political and cultural consequences.


Categories: American Government Tags:

Online Education and Competency

January 28th, 2013 Erik No comments

Is this the Future of Higher Ed? There is still a lot of resistance to online education at colleges and universities, but the modern demand for education in a non central setting is gaining more and more traction. Those colleges that do not embrace this trend will lose market share, and possibly have to shut their doors. Snip:


David Lando plans to start working toward a diploma from the University of Wisconsin this fall, but he doesn’t intend to set foot on campus or even take a single online course offered by the school’s well-regarded faculty.


David Lando plans to join a Wisconsin program that could award him a bachelor’s degree after he takes online tests to establish his knowledge.

Instead, he will sit through hours of testing at his home computer in Milwaukee under a new program that promises to award a bachelor’s degree based on knowledge—not just class time or credits.

“I have all kinds of credits all over God’s green earth, but I’m using this to finish it all off,” said the 41-year-old computer consultant, who has an associate degree in information technology but never finished his bachelor’s in psychology.

Colleges and universities are rushing to offer free online classes known as “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs. But so far, no one has figured out a way to stitch these classes together into a bachelor’s degree.

Now, educators in Wisconsin are offering a possible solution by decoupling the learning part of education from student assessment and degree-granting.

Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor’s degrees from a public university system. Officials encourage students to complete their education independently through online courses, which have grown in popularity through efforts by companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity.



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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

my #1 for the year came near the middle of the year, by the band called DIIV, and “Doused.”


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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

It is 2:54, do you know where you are….you might know “You’re Early.” At #2:

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

I have always liked M83. In march they released this, “Reunion, and so @ #3:


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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

Not far behind Royal Bangs, was always A Place to Bury Strangers, and “Onwards to the Wall.” My #4 pick for the year 2012:


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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In 2012 I would make several trip to Chicago, and in nearly all those trips, Royal Bangs loomed large. At #5, “My Car is Haunted.”



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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the #6 spot Wild Belle, “Keep You.”




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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the #7 spot I like the March release by Pond, “Elegant Design.”

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the #8 spot, Tanlines! “All of Me.”

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the number 9 spot of 2012, Santigold, “Disparate Youth.” And yes, there is much rejoicing.

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 3rd, 2013 Erik No comments

As per tradition, my students introduced me to Indie music when I taught in Virginia.  I have followed it as most students–especially those in the more cosmopolitan cities like Chicago–are very in tune with the Indie scene.  Without adieu, number 10 is Frankie Rose, “Know Me”:

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Iowa Trending Obama

November 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

It is getting very difficult for Romney to even have a hope to win this.

And Republicans cannot and will not now retake the Senate.  It is mathematically impossible.

Scott Brown Lost

November 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

and I am sad.  It seems so long ago he ran this cutting edge campaign….


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

The Fire is Roaring…..

November 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

here in Chicago, and it is warm inside….and Romney is not doing enough to win this.  Scott Brown from Mass is in trouble.

Why is Romney having so much trouble?  Because the base of the Republican Party is not excited to vote for him.

In Virginia, Romney is putting up a great fight.  In Florida, Obama is suffering a bit….but this night is early.  Romney is ahead now, but will lose this unless people changed their mind in the booth.


Stay tuned.

Daily Beast Internal

November 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

A friend of mine at Newsweek posted the Beast Board.  It’s over….Obama is going to win.