Jeremy Pierce: September 2005 Archives

I have breaking news on the next Supreme Court nomination. Very few people seem to have access to the information, so I think it is indeed breaking news. Are you ready? George W. Bush will not be appointing the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.

How do I know this? Well, it's not for the reasons you might expect. After all, I do not know if Bush will nominate Alberto Gonzales, Samuel Alito, Emilio Garza, Consuelo Callhan, or Miguel Estrada. He may well nominate one of them, as far as the information I possess has allowed me to foresee. But nominating one of those Hispanic people will not make him the first president to nominate a Hispanic justice, contrary to the claims of almost every media outlet that talks about the possibility of a Hispanic justice. That honor belongs to Herbert Hoover, who appointed Benjamin Cardozo to the Supreme Court in 1932. Cardozo served until 1938. Bush may in fact nominate the second Hispanic to the Supreme Court, but it's simply false that no justice on the court so far has been Hispanic. It's amazing that people are still reporting it, but no one seems to be calling them on this.

Update: Samuel Alito is not Hispanic. I accidentally included him instead of Emilio Garza because his last name sounds Latinate. There's a reason it sounds Latinate. It's Italian. He's a first-generation Italian American. His father was born in Italy. He's not Jewish, either, as far as I've heard (for those of you finding this post by searching for that, which seems to be an amazingly high number).

Senate Confirms Roberts

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The Senate has voted to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States. He will be sworn in this afternoon and begin serving next week when the Supreme Court opens its next year of service. 78 senators voted to confirm him. 22 voted against confirming. This far outdistances the claims of some that he would be confirmed but with just most of the Republicans and maybe a few Democrats, and it even goes beyond most of the guesses last week that he'd get maybe enough to overcome a filibuster (which is 60). Even if you don't count Jim Jeffords with the Democrats, as many Democrats voted to confirm as voted against. The blue state vs. red state divide seems to show up in which Dems voted yes and which voted no. Some of the blue states appear among the ayes, and some of the red states appear among the nos, but far more red state Democrats voted yes, and far more blue state Democrats voted no. In some cases, this might be fear of losing the next election, particularly among the red staters, especially so among those up for election next year, who are even more represented among the yes votes than other classes of red state Democrats. On the other hand, it may simply reflect the convictions of some senators that they not vote their conscience but that they vote what their constituents would want them to vote, since they are in fact supposed to be representing their constitutents. This is a legitimate debate regarding how one person representing a group of constituents should vote when person convictions don't match up with constituents' preferences. The vote is as follows.


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Ben Witherington has a great post on singleness, marriage, and divorce. I don't ultimately agree with every point, but he's certainly an expert on this topic and has some thoughts worth considering.

At this late date, takes on the Bush Lied myth. This flatly contradicts almost all of the major statements anyone has ever given against the honesty of Bush and his administration regarding the Iraq conflict.

Finally, Sam has posted three sets of pictures that I hadn't gotten around to linking to yet. First is a paper plate that Ethan painted his hands onto. There's a long story to this one. Basically, as I was getting to leave for the evening and Sam was upstairs rehearsing a dance solo, Isaiah had gotten into the bathroom downstairs, but the noises I heard sounded to me as if she was giving them a bath upstairs. When I figured out that something else was going on, I went into the bathroom to clean it and him, and while I was doing that Ethan decided to get the paints out and paint the kitchen floor. The paper plate was just one thing he did in the process. Suffice it to say that both of them were confined to their rooms until bedtime, at which point they were still confined to their rooms.

There's also a series of shots of Sophia walking and another one of her walking around with the jiggly bell wrap thingy Sam wears when she dances, with a shot of one of Ethan's building projects in the last picture.

Christian Carnival LXXXIX

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The 89th Christian Carnival is up at In the Spirit of Grace.

We've now begun the process of the Roman numerals getting smaller (in terms of number of letters; the numbers themselves, of course, are getting larger). I don't think they'll get as long as last week's until #138. Having to type out the Roman number each week makes me think about such things.

This is the the sixteenth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear.

As with the other no-evidence argument posts in this series, some of my presentation is influenced by the chapter by John Hawthorne called "Arguments for Atheism" in Michael Murray, Reason for the Hope Within. This post in particular also takes a good deal from Peter van Inwagen's "It Is Wrong Everywhere, Always, and for Anyone to Believe Anything on Insufficient Evidence" and "Quam Dilecta"), which are two different presentations of the same core paper, expanded upon differently for different audiences (I assume).

In previous posts I've tried to make the strongest case for arguing that we shouldn't believe in God, on the grounds that there isn't enough evidence. There are a number of points that I'd like to make in response. This post will look at how standard responses to skepticism of any sort can enter into this debate, given that the no-evidence argument is very much like the arguments for skepticism (see the end of the last post). I have a few other points to make after considering the responses to skepticism as applied here, and those will follow in the next post.

A Legend Dies

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Don Adams, legendary comic actor who played Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 in spy spoof Get Smart, died Sunday. He was also the voice of Inspector Gadget but was too typecast to land any other sort of role despite his wide-ranging talents.

Get Smart, created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, ran from 1965-1970 and parodied almost every James Bond feature you could do on TV. Adams contributed quite of a few of his trademark lines and gags, some of which have been common in everyday conversation among people who never saw the show and don't know their origins. He won three emmies himself for the show, and it received two as a show. I believe I have all the episodes on tape now, but I'm sure I've only seen something like half of them.

Despite a pretty well-done TV movie The Nude Bomb in 1980 complete with a really cool evil bad guy lair, another return in 1989's Get Smart, Again!, which brought back even more elements of the show than the first movie, and a nowhere near as good TV series bringing the Smart twins into the spy business in 1995 with Andy Dick as Max and 99's son, Adams was never really able to get his franchise going again in full form. I haven't seen any of this later stuff in years, so I hope some of it gets played in honor of his memory.

NPR had a story this morning on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' efforts to fight pornography (which you can listen to here). They mentioned one case earlier this year that got thrown out. It portrayed violence and rape. They lined up some sound bites from lawyers and judges who stated that there's no way to block adult porn even if it's really graphic, as long as it's between, and viewed by, consenting adults. 3rd Circuit Judge Gary Lancaster ruled in January that sodomy case Lawrence v. Texas has prevented any law making such porn illegal. "The government can no longer justify legislation with enforcement of a moral code."

Well, there go the laws against murder, theft, rape, and almost anything else that we legislate. They keep distinguishing between laws based on a moral code and laws against child porn. Why do we make child porn illegal? Because it's wrong! Why is rape illegal? Because it's wrong! Why is theft illegal? Why is murder illegal? Our laws are thoroughly based on a moral code. That's the primary justification for them. We might distinguish between different sorts of things that are wrong, enforcing some and not enforcing others, but that's not what these people are doing. They're trying to distinguish between the things we should have laws about and the the things that are moral matters. If there's no moral justification for preventing something, why bother having a law? It's just completely ridiculous to frame the debate this way.

I'm convinced that even soft porn, including what passes for advertizing on your average television show, is destructive to those who are its victims consumers and even if you think it's immorally objectifying women and setting up unhealthy and immoral narratives about how we view women. I understand fully the arguments for allowing porn even if it is immoral in exactly the ways its critics say. What seems really stupid to me is pretending that these are moral arguments (as if that's bad), while the arguments for laws against abusing children are not based in morality. Of course they are. It's not that laws not based on morality are ok, while laws based on morality are bad. It's that certain laws based on morality are good laws to have, and others are not. The trick is figuring out which kinds of laws based on morality are good ones and which not. Dismissing something because it comes from a moral perspective is simply not the way to do that.

Unmasking the Jesus Seminar

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Lots of people have written criticisms of the Jesus Seminar, but one of the best short ones I've seen is the series Mark Roberts just finished on his blog, entitled Unmasking the Jesus Seminar. I know some of these issues pretty well, and I learned a few things in just about every post, so it's not just a rehash of some of the things I've seen before. Mark is typically one of the fairest and most congenial bloggers when it comes to engaging with those he disagrees with, but this time he's not really pulling his punches. The Jesus Seminar is an embarassment to some of the genuine scholars who were part of it, and Mark is pretty clear about why, giving a few examples that stand for wider tendencies. He's about to launch into a more thoroughgoing defense of the historicity of the gospels in a new series, so stay tuned for that.

Searching for Origins

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Origen of the pledge of allegiance
I don't think the pledge is quite that old!

Lexa Doig + nationality
Canadian, as far as I know. That's where she lives and grew up. Now if you want to know what race she is, that depends on which view on race-mixing is correct. Some people think someone who is of mixed race is of both races, some think she would be of neither, and some think it depends on which two or more races are mixing and/or how many grandparents or great-grandparents (and so on) are of which races. Her father is Scottish (hence the last name). Her mother is Filipina, I believe. Her husband is English Canadian, I would imagine, so their kid is more British Isles than anything else. I haven't seen any pictures, though, and some people will think what the kid looks like matters for racial assignment.

colin powell's origin
I guess I don't have that issue. Wait, is Powell the superhero or the secret identity of some hero? I suppose whichever it is would explain why he's not really black.

The 89th Christian Carnival will be held at In the Spirit of Grace this week. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Note: This post accidentally appeared for a few minutes yesterday when it was incomplete. I apologize to those who use newsreaders to read my blog who had it appear and then disappear. One person even sent a trackback during that brief window, and I don't know how making the post a draft again before returning it to published status will affect that link. As of yesterday, I hadn't finished the last few paragraphs, and I hadn't put in links to some of what I was citing. I lost some of the links I was going to use and had to spend some time this morning finding them again. I've edited a few other parts as well.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to send President Bush's nomination of John Roberts for Chief Justice of the United States to the full Senate. In expressing his opposition, Senator Joseph Biden (D, MD) basically claimed that we elect our Supreme Court justices. Biden also said, "I'm unwilling to take the constitutional risk at this moment in the court's history." This is from the man who at Clarence Thomas' nomination hearings, and more recently at the hearings for Alberto Gonzales' nomination as Attorney General, said that in his view the advise and consent function of the Senate, as instituted by the Constitution, was for senators to judge whether a nominee was qualified and not whether the nominee was ideologically on the correct side. That's the job of voters when selecting a president who would make such nominations. He understood that other senators had different views and encouraged them to vote according to their conscience, but he thought of advising and consenting as giving advice to the president beforehand and simply investigating to see if the nominee is indeed qualified. Apparently that only applies when he wants it to. So while Biden is worried about a yes vote threatening the Constitution, all the while he's violating his senatorial responsibility according to the very interpretation of the Constitution that he had explained something like eight months ago to defend a yes vote on an unpopular nominee.

Searches Provoking Comment

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myers briggs test unreliable
Only as unreliable as the person answering the questions. If you don't really undertand yourself, it might not come out right. Occasionally someone like me will come along who manifests the standard traits in an unusual way, but I still come out the same knowing the test very well as I did before I'd heard anything about it, and that result seems accurate to me. Other people who don't understand what motivate me don't get my typing, but the burden is on them to figure out why I manifest the ISTJ type very differently from the standard ways. The test isn't supposed to tell you how someone manifests what motivates them and what they prefer. It just tells you what motivates them and what they prefer.

why is the scifi channel calling the recently aired shows season finales?
Good question. I've been annoyed by the same thing. They did this in the middle of the final Farscape season, and the fan sites now list that season as two separate seasons, even though each was really half a season. I doubt the Stargate and Battlestar Galactica fans will accept that, because the producers of the shows don't seem to be going along with it.

definition as to the name katrina from the bible
Well, it's not in the Bible, but it's a variant of Katherine, which also isn't in the Bible but comes from the Greek katharos, which is in the Bible. It's just an ordinary adjective, though, not a name, and it means pure, clean, unpolluted, unhindered, unsoiled, unmixed, exact, or plain. The probable origin of using this as a name is its moral connotation of purity of behavior or character, which is its most common sense in the NT.

Christian Carnival LXXXVIII

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The 88th Christian Carnival is at Digitus, Finger & Co. As usual there's some stuff that looks interesting, and as usual I have little time to read much of it.

Laurence Thomas has posted his comments on Judith Jarvis Thomson's famous paper "A Defense of Abortion". His thoughts on this paper have strongly influenced how I think about the issue. The first of the two main arguments of her paper is often taken to show far more than it does indeed show, and he makes this clear. He also raises questions about the second argument, the one that tries to move her conclusion into something closer to the standard pro-choice view, though still falling a good deal short of it, even if the argument is successful, which his criticism raises doubts about. His post is a good summary of her paper in addition to raising some questions about her arguments. This paper is anthologized more than any other on the issue of abortion, to the point where I think it's morally unconscionable to have an abortion section in an applied ethics anthology while excluding her paper. No other paper has that status on this issue.

In the process of interacting in the comments on the post he links to at the end of that one, I came across a brilliant essay by Frederica Mathewes-Green called Seeking Abortion's Middle Ground. It's not about finding a middle position between pro-life and pro-choice. Mathewes-Green is firmly pro-life, though she was pro-choice in her younger days and understands both sides very well. The way it's middle ground is that it insists on understanding the pro-choice position and what pro-choice people really believe, something pro-life people often won't bother to do and thus misrepresent the opposition. I've been spending enough time pointing out how pro-choice people do that to pro-life people that it's fitting that I'm now pointing out someone who is doing the other. What's most fascinating about this is essay is that Mathewes-Green spends so much time acknowledging things that the pro-choice side would insist on that her pro-life stance comes out seeming much more understandable even on pro-choice terms. She presents a number of considerations in favor of her pro-life position, most of them completely independent of standard ones, all of them from an awareness of what pro-choice people consider to be the primary motivation for wanting abortion to be legal. I think I'm going to have to add this to my required reading list for abortion for my ethics classes. I'm intrigued about what her books on abortion and gender and feminism are like. I'm seriously considering getting them to see if they would be a good part of a course on outside-the-box approaches to race, gender, and sexuality that I hope to be teaching in the spring if the powers that be are willing to assign me the courses I'd like to teach next semester.

The Searches Continue...

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is volunteering irrational
Doesn't that depend on what you're volunteering for? I'd say it's irrational to volunteer to attack a large army singlehandedly, but it's not all that irrational to volunteer do nice but not difficult things for people who will love you for doing them.

what about sexuality is the foundation of man's personhood
I don't know if this is supposed to be a question about how something to do with sexuality distinguishes humans from animals (and thus explains why humans are persons) or if it's supposed to have something to do with men (as opposed to women) being defined by their sexuality, but neither sounds like a very promising sort of inquiry.

classically trained kerry livgren?
No, he is not. He's entirely self-taught.

This is the the fifteenth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. As with the other no-evidence argument posts in this series, some of my presentation is influenced by the chapter by John Hawthorne called "Arguments for Atheism" in Michael Murray, Reason for the Hope Within. This post in particular also takes a good deal from Peter van Inwagen's "It Is Wrong Everywhere, Always, and for Anyone to Believe Anything on Insufficient Evidence" and "Quam Dilecta" (part 1; part 2), which are two different presentations of the same core paper, expanded upon differently for different audiences (I assume).

I also want to issue a reminder that this series' material was largely written over a few years of teaching the course that these are lecture notes for, but I haven't organized them into blog posts except as I'm going. I've been forecasting how many posts are left on certain issues, and with each post in the No-Evidence Arguments section I've thought that I had one or two posts left. Then I've had to subdivide some of the posts as I've expanded some thoughts that I discuss in class but didn't have in my handouts. That's why the numbers of the posts I've predicted hasn't always matched up with how many posts I've gone on to produce.

So far I've presented the no-evidence argument in one popular form and looked at whether there is sufficient evidence for God, with some evaluation of how atheists and naturalists would view the evidence presented in favor of God. I'm now moving into the issue of what we should say if we decide that the evidence is inconclusive. Should we accept the skeptical argument against believing in God? This post focuses on the explanatory adequacy that naturalism claims for itself and the use of the principle Ockham's Razor to favor atheism rather than just agnosticism. In the next post, I plan to work through how various responses to skepticism will apply to skepticism about God. Then I expect to conclude this portion of the series with a few final thoughts. After that, I'll move on to arguments for theism that might better be thought of as arguments against naturalism, and then I'll look at the problem of evil, the second major argument against belief in God. That will wrap up the first half of the material for the course these posts are taken from, which has been on knowledge/skepticism and God, and the second half will cover free will, the nature of the mind, and personal identity.

Do you think you know about how Roe v. Wade came to be? Think again. David Savage presents the inner workings of the Supreme Court and Blackmun's opinion. A number of justices in the majority thought this would be a minor revision of the laws. Justice Blackmun himself, who wrote the opinion, didn't think it would have sweeping consequences. Chief Justice Burger concurred with the majority, indicating that he didn't think this could possibly lead to abortion on demand. It makes me wonder what would have happened if these justices could have envisioned what this decision would lead to. They certainly would have been horrified by the current state of affairs. [Hat tip: Eugene Volokh]

Meanwhile, Wendy Mcelroy wonders if scientific developments will help limit the number of abortions while satisfying the primary motivation for abortion -- for the pregnant woman not to be pregnant anymore and not to have parental responsibilities. This is something I've been sying for a few years now, something Laurence Thomas first made clear to me. Scientific developments will in the near future make the primary arguments for the pro-choice position obsolete. They will no longer be arguments that we should allow abortion. They will be arguments that we should allow someone to remove a fetus. As Laurence would put it, a legal right to be rid of a fetus does not provide a legal right to the death of that fetus. Technology does not allow us to make such a distinction in the first trimester (though the movement of viability to about 20-22 weeks does allow us to do so in the second). It will almost assuredly at some point allow us to make the distinction at a very early stage of development. What then for the pro-choice view? [Hat tip: Volokh conspirator Todd Zywicki]

Finally, Eugene Volokh finds what could inspire a Dr. Seuss rhyme if I had the time to compose one (I'm not above that sort of thing). Justice Black and Justice White, an FDR appointee and a JFK appointee, had a little disagreement in 1965 over whether the Griswold v. Connecticut case would justify outlawing laws against abortion. Hugo Black thought it would, and he voted against it. He didn't think it was their job to specify unenumerated rights. Byron White didn't think that decision really did justify doing the same with abortion, because contraception takes place in the home (usually), while abortion doesn't, and contraception involves stopping the creation of a life, while abortion involves ending a life. White apparently understimated his colleagues, while Black seems prescient. White took the same position regarding Roe v. Wade, by the way. He was just in the minority. I think Volokh is a little overstating things when he says White dismissed the possibility of this happening. All he did was get the lawyer to admit that these are very different situations, which we know he believed because of his vote against Roe. He didn't say that he didn't think his colleagues on the Supreme Court wouldn't try to use this sort of reasoning. All he did was give a reason why they shouldn't.

Update: I didn't write a Dr. Seuss poem about Justices Black and White and abortion, but apparently Dr. Seuss wrote his own statement about abortion.

Annoying Searches

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is colin powell completely black
If you're wondering if he's got white ancestry, you don't even need to look at his skin color. He's black, he's American, and he's descended from slaves. It's almost certain that he's got a white ancestor. If that's not the question you're asking, I suggest you do a morality check.

is conservatism racism
That one doesn't deserve a response, though it is worth pointing out that people will actually search the web for something like this (and then amazingly click on what someone like me has written).

bible stating gay marriage isnt a sin
and which Bible would this be? The one I know doesn't discuss it at all.

The 87th Christian Carnival will be held at Digitus, Finger & Co. this week. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

In the last day of their questioning of Judge John Roberts in the Senate Judiciary hearings for his confirmation as Chief Justice of the United States, Senators Kennedy, Biden, Schumer, and to some extent Feinstein spent a good deal of time talking about why they thought they were rolling the dice with him. Schumer in particular expressed something clearly that all four of them were getting at in their final speeches. Schumer started by saying that he didn't expect Roberts to go against his stated intentions not to comment on cases that might come before the Court. He said he had hoped for a little bit more on Roberts the man, how Roberts as a person feels about certain sorts of things. Kennedy had accused Roberts of being mean-spirited due to certain of the views that he argued for as a lawyer representing the government position. Biden, Schumer, and Feinstein had insisted that they didn't have enough information to judge his character. Yet, on every issue their evidence that they didn't have a grasp of his character, it was because they didn't know what his view was on issues that concerned them. After hearing this all morning, Lindsay Graham stepped in to challenge the assumption behind all this talk about where Judge Roberts' heart lies.

What follows is Graham's speech, taken from the WAPO transcript:

This is the the fourteenth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear.

In the last post I looked at an argument for atheism that requires a higher standard than will easily convince many people (one I happen to think is incredibly implausible). There is a weaker argument available to an agnostic or atheist against believing in God, given in its most famous form by W.K. Clifford. Some philosophers call this the no-evidence argument:

1. It is wrong to believe something without sufficient evidence.
2. We don't have (and shouldn't expect ever to have) enough evidence for belief in God.
3. Therefore, we should not believe in God.

As with any philosophical argument whose premises really do guarantee its conclusion (as seems true of this argument), the key work in defending the argument will be supporting each premise, and the efforts of those who criticize the argument will focus on questioning either premise (or both). In this post, I'll focus on the second premise, whether there is enough evidence. In the next post, I'll assume there is not enough evidence and see what follows.

As with the last post in this series, some of my presentation is influenced by the chapter by John Hawthorne called "Arguments for Atheism" in Michael Murray, Reason for the Hope Within. This post isn't as close to what Hawthorne focuses on as the last one was or the next one will be, but the general framework I'm working with in these posts is from him, and this post falls within that framework.


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Christian Carnival LXXXVII is at Pseudo-Polymath. Mark stepped in at the last minute and managed to get it up by the usual day, so he deserves special credit.

Technogypsy did Christian Carnival LXXXVI. I never got around to linking to that last week.

The best coverage I've seen of the John Roberts hearings has been at the Washington Post Campaign for the Court blog, the National Review's Bench Memos, and Scotus Blog. There's been precious little at any of the blogs I normally read, but there's plenty at all three of those. Since the cable channels (except Court TV) all seem to think a tiny hurricane named Ophelia and nothing new on the aftermath of Katrina are both more important than the future of the Supreme Court, I was forced to fill in a lot of the gaps from these sources.

Sam's had two recent posts that I wanted to flag, one on the refutation of the mercury-autism connection and another on how the "any stick is good enough to beat Bush with" tactic has been playing out with respect to Hurricane Katrina. If I had more time, I'd catalogue how the same tactic has been in play with some of the Demcratic senators' on the judiciary committee in the Roberts hearings.

Finally, Daniel Henninger says the president and relevant national authorities were prepared for Katrina more than a week ahead of time but couldn't step in because it would be against the law. He thinks there's a need to revisit some of those restrictions. This certainly has relevance for those who have been claiming the president needed to overstep his authority on this, but his main point is to reconsider how we should assign authority, an issue liberals have been pontificating on quite a bit but haven't been willing to acknowledge plays a role here.

Well, not necessarily, but it's getting harder to come up with original titles for these posts. I suppose it's accurate for one of them. The first answer isn't snappy, and the second search isn't stupid.

what do puritans have to do do understand god's will
Why wouldn't it be the same thing anyone else should do to understand God's will? Read the Bible. Reflect on what it says about God's mind and heart. Absorb the moral framework that lies behind much of what it says. Meditate on how God's actions throughout history, in particular salvation history, demonstrates the direction to history and how we're expected to fit into that in our current phase of salvation history. Be aware of ways that the world around us has affected us in ways that pull us away from thinking along such lines, and resist those.

matt mullins engaged to be married
I wonder if his wife knows about this. I wonder if he knows about this.

what beyonce is mixed with

I've been wanting to say something about the issue of God's judgment and natural disasters for over a week now, and I've just been too busy to say all I've wanted to say. I do recommend Jollyblogger's argument that suffering and natural disasters aren't quite so straightforward as we'd like them to be. That includes those who think this is a judgment from God, and it includes those who insist that there's no way a good God could use something like this as a judgment or wake-up call. Both views are, to my mind, thoroughly unbiblical. Also, I recommend Jeff Kouba's post arguing for a sort of skepticism about God's purposes. It runs pretty much along the same lines. See my comment for a couple places I'd revise his statements, but his major points seem exactly right to me. Also, the different strains of thought that Tyler Williams contrasts are worth considering, though I don't think these are as inconsistent as he seems to want to see them, and thus I wouldn't see one as disproving the other. Some of these posts link to further discussions, but those mostly left me a bit disappointed. I wrote almost the entirety of what follows before I read those posts or what they were responding to, but I thought those were both worth directing traffic to.

I've decided to post what I did come up with, despite not being happy with this as an overall package, but I don't think I'm going to get to making it as comprehensive as I had wanted to. That would have needed to be a series of posts anyway, so maybe it's better that I just post these relatively incomplete and undeveloped thoughts. Here we go. So keep in mind that this has been written over the course of a week, with focus on various parts but not others at any given time, without enough thought about the overall post or about what other things might be said. I do think all these things should be said, and since I did get the time to write them up I'm publishing it. I don't want to give the impression that the things I focus on the most are the things worth focusing on more than the other things that I merely suggest or that people I'm linking to or responding to would focus on. It's just that I haven't seen these particular things emphasizes as much as other things that I may agree with an may even want more emphasis on than some of these things.

John Roberts Hearings So Far

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John Roberts began his answers to questions from senators this morning, responding to Arlen Specter, Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch, Ted Kennedy, Chuck Grassley, and Joe Biden. Jon Kyl should be starting things off again at 2:30. My oveall impession is that he's extremely well-prepared, and those who are trying to corner him are having a very difficult time of it. Ted Kennedy was a lot nicer and much more fair than I expected (based on how he's treated other Bush nominees in recent years), though Arlen Specter did have to step in a few times to tell him to let the judge answer the question. If there was any loser in this morning's proceedings, it would have to be Joe Biden, who was just plain rude and needed to be reprimanded more than once by the committee chair. He called the nominee "Man!" in a way that really sounded morally condescending to my ear. Three times in a row he refused to let Roberts answer the question he had just asked, all the while complaining that he hadn't answered the question. If you interrupt someone before they finish answering, it's pretty stupid to claim that they were being evasive in not answering.

As far as I can tell so far, the only trouble spot for Roberts has been some memos he wrote 25 years ago that he doesn't now agree with that represented his employer's position and how best to approach defending such a position. Biden and Kennedy in particular have been pressing him on these issues, but Biden's got a stronger claim, I would say. There is some first-person language that at first blush sounds as if it's Roberts's own view, and and he was saying that he never endorsed some of the things he was recommending in those memos to be argued to support the official administration positions. Ultimately it matters little if he now doesn't believe something he might have believed then, but my suspicion is that Biden is trying to push an impression of dishonesty.

There's almost nothing in the gospels about circumcision. Jesus was circumcised. There's one appearance besides that, I believe, and it's almost a side issue to a much more specific discussion about something else. Jesus didn't seem very interested in it. That's interesting for a number of reasons, but I want to suggest one thing that we should conclude that may not be as obvious.

A number of modern scholars seek to explain most of the material in the gospels, particular Matthew, Luke, and especially John, as later developments in Christian thought that don't trace back to Jesus, with the evangelists placing these words in Jesus' mouth in order to give them more authority. In Matthew in particular, they frequently will find something Jesus is saying as being more about the situations Christians were facing with Pharisees in the post-70 Jewish world without a sacrificial system. The key distinctive of Jews without the sacrificial system was a distinctive beforehand, but it became even more significant after the temple was destroyed. That distinctive is circumcision.

Why do the gospels contain so little about circumcision? If this view of modern scholars is correct, and the gospels are primarily about what Christians and non-Christian Jews were fighting over post-70, then wouldn't circumcision play a great role in the gospels? Or is it rather that the gospels more accurately reflect Jesus' own concerns in his own time, and he just wasn't all that concerned with circumcision? There are many other reasons to reject (or at least be skeptical about) the view that the gospels are really about concerns that came much later, but I think this one alone is almost decisive against it.

The 87th Christian Carnival will be held at Thoughts on the Christian Life this week. [Update Wednesday 2:15pm EST: Apparently it's going to be at Pseudo-Polymath due to Thoughts From the Christian Life's defunct status. I'm told that it will be up pretty late but before the end of the day.] The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

bill cosby's inflammatory statements
I didn't think they were all that inflammatory. He was doing some harsh internal critique of his own sub-culture, but I don't regard that as inflammatory.

where did the word christian first come to use

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. [Acts 11:19-26, ESV]

Outline about man in philosophy during George Berkeley's time
I don't want to be too harsh about this one, because the person may not speak English as a first language given that it's the Philippines, but this is a pretty unhelpful search. It's specific in exactly the sort of way that couldn't help find the right information, and it's lacking in exactly the information that would help narrow it down.

I was looking at the Wikipedia section on Sesame Street, and I came across this:

Urban legend has it that Bert and Ernie are engaged in a homosexual relationship, as they are apparently adult human males portrayed sharing a bedroom (though with separate beds). The producers vehemently deny this, however, insisting that the characters are "merely lifeless, hand-operated puppets."

I had to laugh. This urban legend has always struck me as strange, as if straight men can't be good friends and live in the same apartment. The thing that's strangest of all about it is the fact that they're fictional characters whose only actions are what is portrayed in the fiction. Nothing in the fiction potrays anything sexual, so we shouldn't assume there's even a fact about what the fiction contains regarding their sex lives or lack thereof. Most writers will acknowledge this. According to one theory of the metaphysics of fiction, until it was acknowledged that Mulder and Scully had indeed slept with each other in the seventh season, it was actually indeterminate whether they had done so. There was no fact about whether they had. The writers in the eighth season finally retroactively made it be the case that they had. In my view it was true all along, but it was made true by something that hadn't happened yet, something the writers would later do. I still think anything that writers won't later do makes it indeterminate, and even things that they haven't done yet but will do are indeterminate as far as we know.

Beast in X-Men 3

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When I was a kid, my favorite superhero was the Beast. He furry and cuddly. He was built like a football player who could nonetheless jump around like an ape and hang on the ceiling. Most importantly, he was a brilliant scientist who had an expansive speaking vocabulary that he was quite fond of using. My favorite moment was when he told someone to go orally extract the embryonic fluid from a hen's egg. It was almost as good as when Namor the Submariner told Hercules, "May your beard grow inward!"

It's a little suprising (given his physical form) who they've cast for him in the third X-Men film, but it's pretty clear why. They wanted someone who could perform as Hank McCoy the intelligent scientist, and I assume they're figuring they can work out the physical look with special effects, depending on how much they want to spend on Beast's look. If that's their criterion, then their choice is absolutely perfect -- none other than Kelsey Grammer. According to the Wikipedia entry I linked above, he will be the blue and furry second mutation version, but that seems to trace back to this story, which doesn't quote anyone from Marvel as saying that he will be blue and furry. It seems to be more of an editorial assumption, as far as I can tell. You never know how reliable reports from people claiming to have seen something on set are, but this one describes the prosthesis for Beast's head. It doesn't say much, but it does describe blue skin on his neck, ears, and the sides of his head, with black fur on his face. That suggests that it's not the original human-looking but superhuman form.

Cateogory Archive Problem

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Until I can figure out why my posts and index aren't rebuilding properly, I've disabled my category archives. They weren't really updating anyway. I've isolated the problem to the rebuilding of those archives, and it was giving 500 errors with every published post or comment, and I've decided having the archives up without being updated isn't worth having to do a manual rebuild every time anyone posts, updates a [published post, or comments. If you're looking for something particular, you can still search the blog in the normal way, but those who use the category archives just to find things on topics you're looking for (if anyone even does that) won't be able to do that anymore, at least until we can figure out what the problem is and resolve it.

Update: Never mind. I guess it was being fixed as I wrote this post. The category archives now have post excerpts rather than whole posts, which is the way it should have been in the first place. I'm not sure why it defaults to whole entries in the archives, which just leads to ridiculously large files.

This is the the thirteenth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear.

So far I've discussed more expansive skepticisms, including skepticism about knowledge from the senses, and I've looked at particular problem raised against knowing about scientific laws. The one other particular problem I'll work through is skepticism about knowledge of religious matters, in particular knowledge of God. As I see it, there are two main types of arguments against the existence of God. The first kind is the no-evidence variety, and the second is the attempt to find a contradiction in what people say about God. The only serious one of the latter type that I know of is the problem of evil, and I'll come to that in due time, after considering three arguments for the existence of God. Before I do any of that, I'll look at the other type of argument against the existence of God, the no-evidence kind of argument. I know of two general kinds of no-evidence arguments. The one with a much stronger conclusion is sometimes called the divine silence argument, and it seeks to show that there cannot be any being like the one Christians and many other theists believe in and call God. One with a weaker conclusion simply relates to there not being enough evidence to justify believing in such a being, but that argument doesn't attempt to show that there can't be such a being. I'll spend the two posts after this one looking at the more general kinds of no-evidence arguments. In this one I'll look at divine silence.

Here is one version of the divine silence argument offered by the atheist [note: my presentation of this follows very closely the chapter by John Hawthorne called "Arguments for Atheism" in Michael Murray, Reason for the Hope Within]:

1. If a being with roughly the features of what people mean when they talk about the Judeo-Christian God exists, then such a being would make this absolutely clear to us.
2. We don't have such palpable evidence.
3. Therefore, there must not be such a God. has taken on the issue of whether Bush set New Orleans up for the fall caused by Katrina. [Hat tip: Jonathan Ichikawa] The best summary I can come up with is that there's no clear evidence that anything Bush did or didn't do had any significant impact on what happened. The proposed budget increases wouldn't have protected against anything greater than a category three hurricane anyway, and Bush's proposed cuts didn't even happen in the first place. The level of funding was kept where it was and neither increased nor decreased.

My growing sense that isn't really non-partisan (or at least that they don't treat everyone equally) has another piece of evidence. This criticism of an ad against John McCain repeatedly complains that a whole bunch of true statements in the ad are misleading. But then the immediately previous piece defends the second NARAL ad a few times against John Roberts on the grounds that its statements are true, with no mention that they're misleading (which they certainly are, given that they fail to mention that all the statements they quote were involved in his arguments representing the government). When it's against a moderate like McCain, it's bad because it's misleading even if it's true. When it's against a conservative like Roberts, it's perfectly fine ("no distortion", according to the headline) because it's true, even if it's misleading.

Oh, and two of the three writers on one of these pieces wrote the other one. So these very same writers think true but misleading can mean something very different depending on who it's about. I suspect it's the primary writer of both articles who was responsible for this double standard.

Mimi & Sam: Melodies of Nature is a fun DVD for kids under three who love stunning visuals along with music. Even our oldest son, an autistic four-year-old, absolutely loves it. He loves to see various shapes changing into other shapes, and the animal footage is pretty fun for him as he tries to name everything that's going on. You see colorful birds, a tiger, elephants, orangutans, various small mammals from around the world, and lots of other animals. The nature visuals range from mountain waterfalls to beaches to the desert canyons to flowers (with stop-motion filming as a flower blooms). Shapes and colors are interspersed among nature shots in Sesame Street fashion (though without the flashy commercialized feel), and you see some repeating characters popping up to do fun things, either through computer animation or puppets. There's a pretty fun penguin with a hat and sunglasses who keeps popping up, and the stuffed bear is a favorite with our kids, especially when it dances to the funk beat. That always gets a giggle. Children pop in here and there as well. One really cute scene has a girl falling asleep as she's eating, with stuff all over her face.

In a few parts, a girl's voice says the name of a shape or an object being drawn, but there's not much in the way of words. There's a music soundtrack throughout the whole thing, with classical and original compositions, using a wide range of timbres. Our oldest son drums along with the soundtrack as he watches and calls out the names of things as they come up. The special features allow you to watch just the puppet portions, just the scenes with the computer-generated boy and girl who are pictured on the front cover, or just the parts involving the naming of shapes, fruits, letters, and colors.

One of the original goals of the husband and wife team who created it is to display the beauty of the world God has created while stimulating children's senses. They've succeeded. Some of the visuals are really beautiful, and kids love it. It's got a half-hour running time, and our kids are fixated for much of that time. The creators of this video, Baby Ventures, have children in the age group this is intended for (0-3 years), and they certainly know what kids in that age group enjoy and what will facilitate learning some of the basics. I highly recommend it.

The 86th Christian Carnival will be held at Techngypsy this week. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Last Friday's SciFi Lineup

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I keep getting searches like battlestar galactica september 2 and stargate september 2 For the sake of information to those who don't know to look at Gateworld or the SciFi Channel's SG-1, Atlantis, or Galactica pages, there weren't any new episodes of any of the SciFi Friday lineup. It's Memorial Day weekend, and they ran an SG-1 marathon instead.

Caught Red-Handed

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I think they've got him with this one. Can John Roberts be confirmed after this revelation? [Hat tip: Orin Kerr]

This is part of a larger project reviewing commentaries on each book of the Bible. Follow the links from that post for more information on the series, including explanations of what I mean by some of the terms and abbreviations in this post. You can see my annotated Amazon Listmania! list of Ephesians commentaries if you want a quick overview of what I think are the most important commentaries if you want that before looking more deeply at this more detailed review.

My top picks on Ephesians are Peter O'Brien's PNTC and Harold Hoehner's commentary published by Baker (not in a series). They happen to be the most recent commentaries on Ephesians, but I think they would be best even if some of the others I'll mention had been published later. O'Brien is the easiest to read of the best Ephesians commentaries. He uses Greek font. It annoys me to no end when someone transliterates the original language without using the original font at least in footnotes, unless the intended audience is exclusively popular level. O'Brien was forced to transliterate in the main text due to the format of the series, but he insisted on using real Greek text in the footnotes. That's ideal when a commentary's audience will include people with good Greek skills and people with no or not very good Greek. I can therefore recommend O'Brien to more people than some of the others in the list. I also think he exercises at least slightly better judgment about the basic meaning of the text than some of the others whose commentaries still qualify among the best. He's thoroughly mined all the major commentaries and has filtered out what's most crucial for interpreting the text accurately, but his exegesis and exposition derives directly from the text.

Hoehner has some of this as well. He offers more detail than O'Brien, though it's tougher going for those without good Greek skills. His focus is more on the words Paul uses, and O'Brien is stronger in overall grammatical issues of how the words fit together. O'Brien seems to me to be a little more theologically acute than Hoehner, and Hoehner focuses a little more on individual words and less on grammatical considerations, but both books are excellent guides to Paul's thought in this epistle. Hoehner's dispensationalism occasionally colors his remarks, as you might expect from anyone coming from a particular interpretive framework, but most of his commentary steers away from trying to be an apologetic for dispensationalism and simply examines the text. I should say the same about O'Brien's Reformed Anglican perspective. He doesn't see his commentary as a way to find Reformed thought behind every nuance the way some Calvinists have. When these issues arise, I think O'Brien is more often correct than Hoehner, but these issues aren't in the forefront most of the time, even in a theologically crucial book like Ephesians. That's a testament to the carefulness of both commentators, who each had access to the other's manuscript. Both cite each other frequently, most of the time favorably. Hoehner is more familiar with pre-modern commentaries than most Ephesians commentators, but his use of them is more for linguistic issues than for theology, which is unfortunate. One reason for my slight preference for O'Brien is that his approach seems a little more comprehensive. Hoehner is much more focused on the meanings of words with less attention to other matters, even if he acknowledges the dangers of word studies without issues of context. See the discussion below in the comments for more on this issue.

Puzzling Searches

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c.j. mahaney is a racist
What the frak? Does anyone have any clue what could possibly have spurred someone to search for this? The search, of course, turns up absolutely nothing even remotely related to both C.J. Mahaney and race.

Duh. Either that or her ancestors were aboriginal Australians or something. Very few black people in the U.S. have no African ancestry.

samuel parable
All of a sudden I'm getting a bunch of searches for something along these lines. One of them said "I Samuel" parable, so I know it is about the biblical book of Samuel. I'm sort of lost as to what it might be about. The only parable in that book that I can think of is Nathan's parable of the man who took his guest's sheep even though he had plenty of fat sheep himself. That's in II Samuel, though. Hmm.

Thanatology and Eschatology

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Gnu at Wildebeest's Wardrobe has a nice post stemming from the sermon preached to our congregation last Sunday. For background, the sermon was on a philosophy of death (thanatology) in the Bible, stemming primarily from Ecclesiastes 12 and Psalm 90. He also looked briefly at the first part of Proverbs 31 on the issue of providing comfort and amelioration of suffering, which I found very helpful in the light of the background of Psalm 90 and Ecclesiastes 12. The overall conclusion of the sermon was that death is normal but not normal, normal in the sense of the normal working of things because of the fall, the reflection of the deserved judgment of God and a sign of the judgment to come, yet unnatural in the sense of not being in the original creation and not being in the ultimate ideal state that will come. The sermon also covered the relevance of these things to the morality of euthanasia and other end-of-life decisions.

Gnu has some followup thoughts about thanatology and eschatology in light of the sermon's conclusions. In particular, he has an ongoing project of unifying amillenial and postmillenial views of eschatology by taking the sanest versions of each and retaining what's central and then realizing that the two resulting views are perfectly consistent and both very clearly biblical. The same core remains once you remove the more radical elements of postmillenialism and some of the unhealthy emphases of some amillenialists. I think he's right, though I will never call myself a postmillenialist simply because most postmillenialists add a bunch of other things to this unified picture in a way that most amillenialists don't. That's why I describe myself as an amillenialist. I wanted to flag this because of his connection between thanatology and eschatology, which I think is worth reading. It's suggestive of a lot and doesn't work those all out, but if you're interested at all in these issues there's much food for thought if you want to try to digest the compressed reasoning in Gnu's post.

The SciFi Channel has made some pretty bone-headed decisions in the past. Canceling Farscape was one the most idiotic things they ever did. It was an extremely popular show and one of the best science fiction products ever made. I'm glad they're under different leadership now, or I might fear that they'd do the same with the two Stargate shows and Battlestar Galactica at the height of their popularity. Their decision to run Andromeda at its lowest point was baffling, and that was the current management. But the most ridiculous thing they've ever done, in my opinion, was requiring the Stargate and Battlestar Galactica shows to have only ten seconds of credit sequences. They claim now that the reason wasn't to allow for more advertizing time, even though the initial press releases said it was exactly to allow more advertizing. They claim that they were in the process of implementing more time for the show and just hadn't achieved that, but I very much doubt it.

Well, they've recanted. They've seen just how stupid it was to remove an Emmy-nominated theme song from Atlantis, how utterly cheesy the ten-second intros seem after having such luscious themes behind such stunning visuals. They probably also got a look at the full new sequences for both Stargate shows that's been appearing on Canadian TV, which by all accounts have been even better than the previous ones. I don't know if Battlestar Galactica had already made new sequences, but if so I'm sure the British run of those, which is beginning, will have them. They had an easier time making an effective ten-second intro, and they were allowed to keep their intro to the teaser portion as well, so they weren't hit as hard anyway. The Stargate ones might as well not even be there.

As things stand right now, the first half of the season will run for three more episodes with the lame intros. Then when the second half runs in January we'll get to see the full deal.

Price Gouging

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It's understandable to be upset when prices go up suddenly from what they were. It seems unfair if a gas station raises prices on gas they bought cheaply because they know the next gas they'll buy will be much more expensive. This is sometimes referred to as price gouging, but technically speaking it's not. Thomas Sowell criticizes the very notion of price gouging here. He says you should expect prices to go up when a commodity is worth more, even if it didn't cost the vendor any more to get it. It sells for what it's worth. The first thing I thought of as a comparison when I heard people talking about this on the news was the comic book industry. There's a set price for new issues, but it goes up faster than inflation as costs increase for making new issues. The quality of paper, the color detail, and so on has increased over the years. You're paying for more, so you pay much more than inflation would require. That's to be expected.

But it's used comic books that are more parallel to the current gas price increase. Used comic book prices go up according to supply and demand. Rarer comic books are worth more. Ones everyone wants a copy of are worth more. I'm sure that old Star Wars comics go up in price when a new movie is out and go down in between films. Is this price gouging, or is it just selling a comic book according to what it's currently worth? It shouldn't matter that the store owner paid a low price for it before it was worth as much. What they're selling is now worth more and carries a higher price tag. Why should it be different with gas?

I don't like high gas prices, but I don't think it's price gouging. Price gouging would be when people collude en masse to monopolize a price increase, and it doesn't seem as if such mass collusion is going on with gas prices. They're all doing it, but it's not as if every gas station owner got together in some private meeting to decide to increase prices. They just all respond the same way to the market change due to lower supply. I don't see how political solutions will help with this sort of thing. You can't legislate price controls that will make the market price go down. All you can do is make it difficult for small businesses to make a profit on a scarce commodity, which will eventually force them not to provide it anymore. That won't happen on a relatively minor scarcity, as we have now (the oil reserves the oil companies already have should be sufficient to counteract it if necessary). It's the principle of price controls that I think are a bad idea, at least in general. Also, see the above-linked Sowell piece for some arguments why price controls actually harm the consumer by making shortages worse. It's not just about the business owner.

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