This (click to enlarge) is Stockade Lake, east of Custer, South Dakota. We drove past it several times, since it was between our cabin and the town of Custer. As you can see, the Black Hills are gorgeous.
[I]f life is to be tolerable it must provide some measure of security, protection from personal violence or other attack on the fundamental conditions of one's existence. There must be peace and order within a social group, despite the fact that clashes of interest are inevitable within every actual society. To provide security, then, there must be authoritative rules. Such rules might be purely legal, but it is much more efficient if there is an informal and automatic enforcement device that will work quickly and without excessive cost. Moral standards provide this sort of mechanism. Ideally, an individual's own sense of obligation will induce him to conform his conduct to the rules. If this guide falters, then other people will criticize, so that, since everyone has some interest in enjoying the esteem of his fellows, one is further motivated by the prospect of communal approval, in the direction of conformity. Ethical standards—feelings of obligation, the prickings of conscience, criticism, and disapproval—then, are an informal analogue of the system of criminal law.
(Richard B. Brandt, Ethical Theory: The Problems of Normative and Critical Ethics, Prentice-Hall Philosophy Series, ed. Arthur E. Murphy [Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1959], 91)
The destruction of ancient art is a direct assault on human identity. Just as personal memories are the foundation of our individual humanity, the historical record is the foundation of our collective human identity. And no part of this record is more unique and revealing than fine art. It illuminates the deepest fears, desires and beliefs of countless millions of souls who have left no other record of their existence.
Every effort must be made to put an immediate stop to this desecration.
Note from KBJ: To the Left, human beings are expendable—if the cause is good enough. Art, however, must never be destroyed, no matter how much good will come of it or how much evil prevented thereby. This is the decadence of the Left. Perhaps if ISIS moves on the Sistine Chapel or the Louvre, leftists worldwide will say "Enough!" and rise up (finally) to meet the challenge. I expect to see David Hayden at the forefront, armed and ready. "Kill all the Christians you want, but by God don't you touch that art work!"
The idiots on the New York Times editorial board refuse to take the Muslim terrorists at their word: that they are Muslim; that they are inspired by their religion (Islam); that their goal is to create a universal Islamic caliphate. The board insists that, in spite of all this (including the name "Islamic State," for God's sake), ISIS is a gang of thugs, murderers, thieves, and psychopaths. The refusal is becoming comic, as in Hans Christian Andersen's story, "The Emperor's New Clothes." The only questions are whether (and when) the Left awakens to the threat.
By the way, the editorial board seems far more concerned about the destruction of antiquities than about the destruction of human life. This typifies the Left, which has stood by and watched millions of people be murdered by socialists, communists, and other "progressives." The end justifies the means.
Another point: The board insists that we in the West not give in to the Islamic State's "narrative":
Any response to this threat cannot be to accept the Islamic State’s narrative, to view its actions as a sectarian struggle of Islam versus the West—or, for that matter, as a holy war against the ancient Christians of the Middle East or against small religious sects like the Yazidis.
This also typifies the Left, which is obsessed with the power of narratives. This superficial concern with words, rather than the reality that words describe, will get all of us killed. Perhaps when heads roll (literally) in the editorial offices of the Times, attitudes will change.
Yesterday evening, Katherine and I watched We're the Millers (2013), which Katherine checked out of the local library. The movie was funny in places, but the word "fuck" (and variants) was overused. What is the point of this? The word has power only when, and only because, it is used sparingly. My guess is that the movie is pitched to teenagers, who find the (over)use of the word transgressive and entertaining.
“Thank you for your service”: Having served in Europe during World War II, I cringe when I hear this empty statement. It was about duty.
We had enemies destroying the freedom of America and other countries and murdering millions of innocent people. It was our duty to respond and serve, to preserve our freedom and future. The statement “thank you for your service” is as empty and feel-good as “support our troops.”
Note from KBJ: With all due respect, the letter writer is confused. Admittedly, we don't thank people for doing their duty. Imagine my telling everyone I encounter: "Thank you for not murdering me." But reasonable people can (and do) differ about what duty requires. If you think you've done your duty and nothing more, then you will think my gratitude to you is inappropriate. If I think you've done more than duty requires, then I will think my gratitude to you is appropriate. Bottom line: If you're a veteran and someone says, "Thank you for your service," be charitable and assume that your interlocutor believes (as you may not) that you went above and beyond the call of duty.
Nozick initially gives the impression that the issue of justice in rectification is a relatively minor matter of making a few adjustments here and there to remedy past wrongs. However, if Nozick's view is that we should remedy all wrongs which, according to entitlement theory, have occurred, then the prospect is mind-boggling. All state transfer payments are, on Nozick's view, illegitimate. The only legitimate forms of taxation are, according to Nozick, to fund defence, the police, and the administration of justice. Anyone who has ever received state health benefits, grants, bursaries, welfare payments, child benefit, rent support, and so on, has, according to libertarianism, received money which rightfully belongs to others. Furthermore, many present holdings can ultimately be traced back to conquest by force or fraud. Lyons takes these speculations further and even considers the question of whether, on Nozick's view, much of the United States should be returned to the American Indians.
Note from KBJ: I don't know that Nozick thinks rectification of injustice requires only "making a few adjustments here and there." I think he wanted to discuss the principles of justice in acquisition and justice in transfer and didn't have space in his book for the principle of rectification of injustice. It's always been clear to me (if not to Nozick) that the principle of rectification of injustice requires vast transfers of wealth, for the existing distribution of wealth is a function of a great many injustices, great and small. Think of human chattel slavery, for example. Think of the broken treaties with American Indian tribes. Think of the many instances of force and fraud between individuals. When I abandoned libertarianism in the early 1980s, it was for this reason. How can one defend the existing distribution of wealth when it came about so unjustly? Also, how can one defend the existing distribution of wealth when it came about (in large part) through the actions of government—the very government libertarians despise? Libertarianism, to be consistent and acceptable, must be preceded by egalitarianism. Only when resources are equally distributed and all injustices have been rectified is it fair to put people on the starting line of the race and say, "Go!"
“Cyclists’ helmet defiance hard to navigate” (Feb. 24) is missing the point. We cannot accept any regulation on bicycling. Regulation is a slippery slope. Today it may be something that sounds beneficial, like wearing safety helmets. But tomorrow, it could be requiring bicycles to be licensed like other vehicles. From there, it is only a small step to requiring cyclists to obey traffic laws or be cited and required to pay fines.
We will not be further marginalized into having to observe the same kinds of regulations that apply to motorists and pedestrians. We represent a higher and better means of transportation and must be free to use public streets and roads and the many millions of dollars of bicycle infrastructure that have been built for us as we see fit.
Patricia Gelb, Oakland
Note from KBJ: The second time I read this letter, I realized that it's sarcastic.