Culture, Uncategorized

Lessons My Father Taught Me

Lessons My Father Taught MeSunday, June 18 is Father’s Day. While our modern society tends to celebrate this holiday with sales on gas grills and killer deals on power tools, there’s a lot more to being a father than all of that.

While I don’t have any children of my own, I do have a father, which I’m guessing is true of most people reading this. In honor of Father’s Day, I’d like to share and briefly reflect some of the valuable lessons I’ve learned from my own father over the years.

As I would imagine is true of most children, I learned a lot from my dad as I was growing up, and I owe much of who I am today to his influence. One of these lessons, however, stands out above all the rest in my mind. The best part is that my dad probably wouldn’t even know to what I am referring, as he likely has no idea that he ever taught me this lesson, but years afterward, it’s still vividly clear in my mind.

The story goes like this:

One day, when I was very young, my dad and I were in our family’s living room playing with the ubiquitous, little plastic army men. We had a lot of the tan-colored soldiers, but only a handful of the green ones. Without fail, my dad would always ask us—as a joke—if we’d rather be on the green side or on the tan side if we were fighting in that battle. All of us knew our part, and we’d jokingly respond that we’d rather be on the smaller, green side, after which we’d all laugh and carry on playing.

That winter day in the living room, however, something a little different happened. I asked my dad our usual question, but without even thinking about it, I changed the wording a bit. “Dad,” I asked, “if the tan guys were the bad guys and the green guys were the good guys, what side would you rather be on?”

I fully expected my dad to jokingly say he’d rather be on the larger, tan side, after which we’d laugh about it and keep playing, per standard practice. Instead, he looked at me and with uncharacteristic seriousness, he said: “I’d rather be on the good side even if I was the only one on it.”

I was dumbfounded for a moment, mulling over the words I had just heard. My dad, the person who I knew had all the answers, had just told me that it was always better to do the right thing, even if you knew you were going to lose.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve paused to reflect on these words over the years, either to guide me in making the right decision…or to rebuke me for making the wrong one. While I have without a doubt fallen short of this ideal far too often, it’s a principle that I hope will guide me for the rest of my life. It’s a lesson my father taught me.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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History, Military History, Politics, Uncategorized

The Praetorian Guard, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and Michael Flynn: Dangerous Precedents

The Praetorian GuardOn the first day of my Ancient and Medieval Civilizations class, I always ask my students why we study history. One of them always replies that if we don’t learn from history, we will be doomed to repeat it.

I think this is true. I also think that we as a people never learn from history.

The early weeks of the Trump administration brought up an interesting case in point. President Donald Trump’s National Security Director, Michael T. Flynn, was forced to resign after someone in the intelligence community intercepted and leaked to the media a recording of a conversation between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, in which Flynn seemed to suggest that relief of U.S. sanctions against Russia was possible under Trump.

Many in the media hailed the leaker as a hero who’d exposed an alleged violation of the 1799 Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from engaging in diplomacy. After all, Flynn wasn’t appointed National Security Director until a few weeks after the conversation with Kislyak.

Not everyone, though, viewed this development in a positive light. Nor was it only Trump supporters and fellow Republicans who expressed concerns about the wiretapping and leaks. Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who is perhaps best known for his attempts to impeach President George W. Bush in 2008, gave an interview in which he strongly condemned the actions of the mysterious leaker and warned of the secret power plays at work in the CIA. “The American people,” Kucinich said, “have to know that there’s a game going on inside the intelligence community where there are those who want to separate the U.S. from Russia in a way that would reignite the Cold War. That’s what’s at the bottom of all this.” He also mentioned that “what’s going on in the intelligence community with this new President is unprecedented. They’re making every effort to upend him.”

Whether they like Trump or hate him, I think all U.S. citizens should be troubled to learn of unknown and unelected bureaucrats working covertly to sabotage a presidential administration. We are not the first civilization to tread over this dangerous ground.

For much of its early history, the city of Rome did not tolerate armed troops within its official boundaries. Returning armies marching through the city in victory processions had to leave their weapons outside the city limits. The presence of armed troops within the city was viewed as too great a danger to the freedoms of Rome’s citizens.

This policy changed with the rise of Caesar Augustus and the emperors who followed in his footsteps. Augustus, arguing that he needed bodyguards, allowed armed troops into the city in the form of his elite Praetorian Guard. As the years passed, the Praetorian Guard grew more influential and more accustomed to protecting its own interests. It eventually became so powerful that it was able to depose emperors and proclaim new ones.

Over the centuries that followed Augustus’s reign, a total of thirteen Roman emperors died at the hands of those who were supposed to be their bodyguards. It’s true that many of these rulers were evil or incompetent or both, but the Praetorian Guard wasn’t just looking out for the good of Rome. It had a vested interest in ensuring that there would always be an emperor in need of its protection. Thus, after the Praetorians murdered the vicious emperor, Caligula, they moved quickly to thwart the plans of the senators for restoring the Roman Republic by declaring Caligula’s uncle, Claudius, the new emperor. By doing so, they ensured that they would maintain their position of power within the Roman government.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Trump or any future President is going to get assassinated by the CIA or any other government agency. But I am questioning how comfortable we should be with unelected bureaucrats pulling strings and calling the shots from the shadows, especially when those bureaucrats belong to an agency known around the world for its role in regime changes.

In the United States we have a Constitution with a system of checks and balances in place to prevent any branch of the government from becoming too powerful. If a President (or one of his subordinates) does something illegal, he needs to answer to the people’s representatives in Congress. That’s how our system is supposed to work. While it might be easier to let the intelligence services take care of the problem, it’s also far more dangerous.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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Economic Method, Philosophy, Uncategorized

The Failure of Misesian Praxeology

ludwig-von-misesIn order to combat positivist methodology in economics, Mises attempted a Kantian turn in his understanding of praxeology. He tried to do for economic laws what Kant did for the laws of logic, space and time, and the Newtonian understanding of the cosmos.

So construed, according to Mises, we can have apodictic certainty of the laws of economics without needing to introduce empirical methods into the practice of praxeology and catallactics.

This becomes problematic, however, if we consider the other axiomatic statement of the Misesian paradigm, which is that all humans act according to purposeful and free action. If man is entirely free to act according to their will, then the apodictic certainty must be qualified with a ceteris paribus clause, which negates the previous certainty allegedly discovered within the logical formalism of praxeology. That is, if we must qualify the certainty to which humans act, there is only an instrumental “certainty” as a result.

Additionally, this Kantian move was meant to overcome the mechanistic mathematical determinism Mises thought existed in the Neo-Classical positivist framework of Milton Friedman’s method. However, the Kantian move fails to undermine this perceived problem because it is itself a form of mechanistic determinism. For Kant, and therefore Mises, the transcendental apparatus which forms the external world is determined by the concepts of the mind, to which the same would apply for the laws of economics on the Misesian view. Far from undermining the positivist framework, Mises merely restates the problem in a different way.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Theology, Uncategorized

Warriors of the True King

warriors-of-the-true-king“As the living embodiment of the light of the nations, the ekklesia now offers to the world the promises of the God of Israel: salvation, justice, peace, and safety, as the prophets envisioned them. This offer of God’s salvation to the nations stands in stark contrast to the counterfeit offers of ‘peace and security’ from the Roman Empire. It is within the colonies of the heavenly Lord Jesus that real peace and security can be experienced now and guaranteed for the eschatological future. Paradoxically, the experience of this peace and security turns the community into a band of soldiers – not the emperors’ soldiers, but warriors of the true king, whose power comes from the armor of faith, hope, and love.”

– Michael J. Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross –

– Lucas G. Westman

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Culture, Politics, Uncategorized

Political Realism & the Presidential Election

American Flag GlassEveryone knows my views on this election season. I have been consistently critical of both Mrs. Clinton and Donald Trump. I have also consistently criticized the foreign and domestic policies of both the Democrats and the Republicans. In addition to the puerile crudity of the political discourse, our democracy has been exposed to be thoroughly fraudulent. And although I do not hold voting in very high esteem, I thought I might attempt to offer a realist analysis of our current political choice, which of course presupposes the hope that we are not simply participating in the illusion of choice to begin with.

We have always known that Mrs. Clinton is contemptuous of traditionalists and those who believe contrary to her secular progressive liberalism. We now have evidence clearly supporting the fact that she views the Roman Catholic Church, the mystical body of Christ, with considerable disdain. Her selections for the Supreme Court will most certainly, and enthusiastically share this contempt.

Mr. Trump, however, has argued many times that he is going to stand with Christians and his most recent letter to the Catholic faithful pledges a friendly allegiance with the Church. He has also stated that the judges he will appoint will be molded in the fashion of Justice Scalia.

I am put off (to say the least) over the character and demeanor of Mr. Trump, but we are already well aware of his moral shortcomings. In fact, as I write this many women are now going to the press claiming that Donald Trump acted in a predatory manner towards them with unwanted touching and kissing. These are troubling accusations, and if they turn out to be credible indictments, our nation is forced to choose between two candidates with very despicable moral records.

In addition to these latest claims, I am also very annoyed by Donald Trump’s inability to debate and defeat Mrs. Clinton. I know that most of his diehard followers think he crushed her in the last debate, but I disagree. He left so many opportunities to dismantle the progressive narrative on the table that it is, in my view, incredibly frustrating. For example, Mr. Trump completely whiffed when the question was asked about Muslim immigration. Mrs. Clinton attempted to argue that we must allow Muslim immigration to continue unabated because we are a nation built on religious freedom and without religious tests (unless you are a Christian baker doing business in your local community, then you are subject to religious testing). Mr. Trump should have replied with something like this, “We are in fact a nation built on religious freedom. This is a right the citizens of this country exercise, and is not legally extended to peoples of other countries. Additionally, the Constitution says there shall be no religious tests for those seeking office, not for people seeking to be citizens of this country through the lawful immigration process. Congress has the authority to pass legislation concerning the naturalization of immigrants seeking citizenship, and if in the name of national security a religious test must be applied, then that is perfectly moral and just. There is no such thing as a right to become a citizen of this country. American policy should invite those who want to become a part of our heritage, but the immigrant must bring with them a mutually beneficial cultural inheritance of their own.” These kinds of opportunities occur throughout the debate and Donald Trump is incapable of taking advantage of them. I am practically yelling at my television while I am watching these interactions. Progressive ideology exist as a politically viable option because of the stupidity of the other major party that is allegedly against the pillars of secularization and our cultural destruction.

Here is something else that needs to be considered when addressing the sensitivity of hearing our ruling class use lewd forms of communication in private conversation. When I was in the military my leaders and soldiers often utilized vulgar language. They did this privately and publicly. Warriors are not prone to use a politically correct vocabulary. If a progressive journalist spent 10 minutes around soldiers and some of our commanding officers, the words and language heard would probably cause this person to pass out in shock. I wish my commanders spoke like Cicero, but reality is usually much different than how I hope it will be.

Am I making excuses for what Mr. Trump has said and done in his life concerning females? Not even close. The fact of the matter is that our political rulers are a product of our vulgar culture. I’m not sure why we expect our elected officials to be less depraved than the pornographically saturated culture they are selected from. But the question that may be more important is who do we want in the Oval Office as our Commander in Chief? Do we want the secular feminist icon committed to prompting war with Iran, Russia, and Syria, the person that seeks to perpetuate the death of innocent unborn life, and the person who seeks to potentially wipe the culture clean of any shred of moral sanity that currently remains? Or do we want a man who has fully extracted the cultural feminist implant from his persona, pledged to stand with Christians in our country and throughout the world against ISIS terrorists, claims to value the lives of the American people over the globalist agenda, seeks to align our foreign interests and national security with other powerful nations against a common enemy, and might tip the Supreme Court towards an originalist understanding of the Constitution for decades to come?

Aside from the moral debauchery both candidates embody, these are the policy realities American citizens must choose from.

My argument is not to put your full and faithful trust in a statesman or political party. I have incredibly negative views of the G.O.P and think that the Republican Party is a den of deceptive thieves. Over the last several decades they have utterly surrendered to their progressive rivals by becoming progressives themselves. They are pathetic, weak, and cowardly. The Democratic Party is basically a demonic death cult. I contend that both major parties are not a home for any faithful Catholic. Moreover, we are not a Christian nation. We are a nation of secularism, liberalism, and progressivism. Every major American institution rejects Christian tenets and fully embraces the pillars of secularism just mentioned. If this is our reality, should we expect any of the politicians seeking office to truly personify the necessary virtues of Christian character? I think it would be naïve to eagerly expect these traits from a representative in a culture such as ours.

I am not saying a vote for a third party is a vote for either candidate. In my view, that sort of reasoning is bogus. I think you should vote your conscience. My faith is in Christ. My politics is centered on a new Christendom. I am simply approaching the election with a dose of realism, rather than the fake ideals the media forces down our throat while simultaneously violating these very ideals as they are embodied in their chosen candidate.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Conservative Thought, Culture, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized

Roger Scruton on the Filial Tie

roger-scruton-on-falial-tie

“Consider the other side of family loyalties. We are apt to think of children as having a responsibility towards their parents, a responsibility that in no way reflects any merely contractual right, but which is simply due to the parents as a recognition of the filial tie. This sense of obligation is not founded in justice – which is the sphere of free actions between beings who create their moral ties – but rather in respect, honor, or (as the Romans called it) piety. To neglect my parents in old age is not an act of justice, but an act of impiety. Impiety is the refusal to recognize as legitimate a demand that does not arise from consent or choice. And we see that the behavior of children towards their parents cannot be understood unless we admit this ability to recognize a bond that is ‘transcendent’, that exists, as it were ‘objectively’, outside the sphere of individual choice. It is this ability that is transferred by the citizen from hearth and home to place, people and country. The bond of society – as conservatives see it – is just such a ‘transcendent’ bond, and it is inevitable that citizens will be disposed to recognize its legitimacy, will be disposed, in other words, to bestow authority upon the existing order.”

– Roger Scruton, The Meaning of Conservatism –

– Lucas G. Westman

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Culture, Politics, Uncategorized

The Power of the Media

The Power of the MediaThe political motivation undergirding the journalistic analysis of our political figures creates the environment of extreme subjective biases rather than objective reporting committed to the necessary virtue of personal integrity in the pursuit of truth. This is an unfortunate state of affairs because the power the media has over the psychological demeanor of a citizenry is quite remarkable. This power is often used to deflect responsibilities of political leaders onto others, spread disinformation concerning political events, and create smoke screens that allow for the ruling class to operate without public awareness. For example, the manner in which the trivial actions of a private citizen, who happens to have zero impact on the political direction of the country, are turned into spectacles worthy of mob like denunciation.

Case in point, Ryan Lochte and Colin Kaepernick.

The Ryan Lochte situation was so entirely meaningless that I felt embarrassed for those turning it into some Greek tragedy with the reputation of America’s “greatness” on the line in the eyes of the global community. Lochte made a mistake and he was thrown to the lions in the Colosseum of political theater. Matt Lauer and others seemed indignant towards Lochte’s alleged fabrications and embellishments, while at the same time become deaf, dumb, and mute when extreme scenarios of political corruption are embedded in the very fabric of the political party they root for every election cycle. The way in which the media treated this situation was misguided and unfortunate.

Currently, the hyper-reactionary legions of “conservative” pundits are going after Colin Kaepernick for staying seated during the national anthem. Kaepernick said he is protesting because he believes that black people are oppressed in this country, and wants to give them a voice. “Conservative” pundits have turned this situation into Kaepernick saying that he is oppressed, and then mock him for making money in the NFL. This childish pandering is more annoying than the initial instance of sitting during the anthem. Kaeperkick is a political leftist; his actions are indicative of the progressive mindset. Why is this surprising?

Even more vexing than the protest and the reaction to the protest, is how misleading the “conservative” media is when interpreting these actions. If oppression is taking place in our country isn’t Kaepernick exactly the kind of person that should be the voice of the voiceless? Usually those who are being oppressed don’t have a legitimate shot at being heard in the public square. Kaepernick is wealthy and has a platform. Isn’t this what we would expect of someone who is passionate about a specific issue concerning justice for a class of citizens in this country? Instead of attacking Kaepernick, which is childish and petty, why not critique the argument he is making? I would argue that if Kaepernick is claiming to protest contemporary systematic oppression, then his case would strain credulity. If he were arguing against instances of injustice that occur due to terrible federal policies, he would have a legitimate argument. A thorough analysis such as I am suggesting won’t likely happen because a reasonable critique requires thoughtful consideration while a swift denunciation gets thunderous applause minus the hard work of serious examination.

Consider this for a moment. What if a Christian athlete refused to stand for the anthem because they wanted to bring attention to the oppressive barbarism of the abortion industry? Wouldn’t this be a worthy cause? Would something like this be a legitimate reaction from progressive pro-abortion advocates, “Hey, abortion isn’t an issue nor is it oppressive because all of you were born healthy and given the opportunity to be successful. So sit back down you ungrateful spoiled brats and quit complaining about the supposed industry that “oppresses” unborn babies. I mean, if this country was so cruel towards the unborn, we are pretty terrible at it because not every baby is aborted, while some babies survive pregnancy and even become successful human beings. Protesting this issue is meaningless and disrespectful.” This line of argumentation is what mainline “conservative” commentators are offering their readers. The point being that an instance where oppression is not evident is not an indicator that no oppression is taking place. The issue should be taken more seriously than combing data to find support for politically motivated biases.

Let’s remember that Ryan Lochte and Colin Kapaernick are private citizens that have zero impact on the political realities this country is facing (other than maybe casting a vote for a person running for office or contributing to a campaign). Maybe our attention should be focused on those seeking office rather than a couple of athletes making personal mistakes or entering into the political discourse in a seemingly controversial manner.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Catholic Bioethics, Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized

Debating Abortion & Public Policy

Debating Abortion and Public PolicyWhen debating the legality of abortion with an atheist there is often a rhetorical sleight of hand that takes place. Instead of framing the debate as a disagreement on the moral and legal treatment of the unborn child, the issue becomes a conflict between secularism and religion. The atheist may argue that the pro-life position held by a Catholic, for example, is an illegitimate political position in our country because such a position “establishes” the Catholic Church’s view on life and forces that view on people that are not Catholic. This in turn is an establishment of religion and results in the violation of the 1st Amendment of the Federal Constitution.

Francis Beckwith captures the essence of this rhetorical tactic in is book, Taking Rites Seriously, Pg. 5:

“Colb reframes the philosophical dispute as a conflict between ‘religion’ and ‘secularism.’ By arguing that the ‘religious’ view is counterintuitive to the secular understanding, Colb need not go any deeper in assessing the prolife case. For ‘secular’ is presented as virtually equivalent to ‘deliverance of reason.’ The implication is clear: the differing views of the nature of the embryo are not two contrary accounts of the same subject – each the result of rational argument – but rather, each view is about a different subject, one religious and the other rational.”

In fact, this is the exact argumentative tactic David Silverman makes in his debate with Dinesh D’Souza. From the 50 minute marker to about the 56 minute marker, D’Souza and Silverman argue about abortion and the principles of legal “establishment.” Towards the end of the interaction Silverman says something like – it is illegal to force the religion of anti-abortionism on non-adherents.

This argument by Silverman is completely mistaken.

Being pro-life is a moral point of view that can be religiously motivated or even completely atheistic. Advancing this moral perspective through the democratic process, if successful, would only be “establishing” a specific moral view on a specific topic. Let’s say the pro-life position won the day largely due to the Catholic vote, and women could no longer have abortions in this country. Does it follow that women are now forced to go to Mass on Sunday? Does it follow that women are being forced to attend RCIA and join the Catholic Church? Does it follow that women must now pray the Rosary everyday or receive a fine from the appropriate governing authorities?

What if the pro-life position was successful because the Muslim demographic successfully entered into the democratic process? Would we all be forced to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca? Would women be forced to wear burkas? Must we all pray five times a day and study the Koran?

What if the pro-life position was successful because the secular cause for life won the day at that ballot box? Would a liberal protestant have to stop going to church on Sunday? Would liberal Catholics have to renounce the Blessed Mother Mary? Would Muslims be forced to never pray again? Would orthodox Jews be forced to cease wearing a yarmulke?

Obviously, none of this follows. It is bogus to argue that advancing the pro-life perspective is forcing religion onto non-adherents. Modernist sophistry is unlimited when attempting to silence the pro-life cause.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

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