Saturday, February 28, 2015

No Simple Answers (or questions)

Public Policy Polling recently conducted a survey of Republican voters. Most of the questions were about voters views on and preferences for potential GOP contenders for president in 2016. They also asked additional questions on other supposedly relevant topics including:

Q15 Do you believe in global warming or not?

Q16 Do you believe in evolution or not?

Both of these questions are absurd both in their premise and presumption that they could be answered with a simple yes or no. What does “believing” in global warming or evolution even mean?

If you say you believe in evolution does it mean you accept every aspect of the various evolutionary theories out there? Does it mean that you believe that evolution explains how life originated? There are many gradients and between believing in a literal creationist account that says that God created the world 6,000 years ago and a purely materialist viewpoint that says there is no creator and life emerged spontaneously with no real explanation of why. To try to reduce evolution to something you either believe in or don’t demonstrates both arrogance and an ignorance of science.

The same holds true for global warming. What does “belief” in it mean? That you believe that global temperatures have risen in the last thirty years? That they’re still rising today? That those temperature increases are primarily caused by CO2 emissions? That such increases will lead to catastrophic events that threaten the future of mankind? Do you have to believe that all of these statements are true to “believe” in global warming? Or just one or two?

Again, it’s a bit amusing to see those who profess to be so enamored of science to hold such ill-conceived concepts of what “believing” in it really means.

Michael Shellenberger & Ted Nordhaus further explain why trying to take a black and white approach to matters as complex as climate and global warming is not only wrong, but also counter-productive to engagement and debate on them. Climate of Incivility:

But such efforts do violence to climate science, efforts to address global warming, and our civic culture more broadly. Both climate activists and their opponents reduce a sprawling field of scientific inquiry, encompassing atmospheric science, geo-physics, climatology, biology, and economics to a single question of belief.

The shrill climate science debate between "ecofascists" and "deniers," conflates the very basic question of whether climate change is happening with all manner of further scientific and policy questions about which there is no consensus at all, namely how rising global temperatures will be expressed at the local and regional scales at which they impact human societies, what capacity human societies will have to adapt to those impacts, and what our capacities are to reduce emissions at a scale that will much matter to either.

It you want to have a real discussion on evolution and global warming you need to move beyond asking whether people “believe” in them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

HWX: At the Movies with Mike Nelson and John Nolte

It’s a very special episode of HWX (or the Brian Ward Happe Hour, or the Jerktown Romeos, or something TBD), with Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and Paul Happe of the Nihilist in Golf Pants reconvening to discuss the vital issues of the day.  In particular, the 87th Academy Awards are this Sunday and we bring together two of this generation’s finest critics of cinema to discuss the year in movies. 

*  Mike Nelson, of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame, and now of (and on Twitter, @michaeljnelson ).  He fills us in on the latest goings on at Rifftrax (including Sharknado and Teenage Mutant Turtle riffs), and gives us his thoughts on the most riff worthy Oscar nominees.

*  John Nolte of (and on Twitter, @NolteNC ), and our favorite movie reviewer in all of media.   We discuss 2014 as a better year in movies than we’ve seen in the recent past, including signs of a bit of a resurgence of conservative themes among recent releases (Interstellar, American Sniper, Kingsmen).  He also gives us his thoughts on the controversy over no black actors nominated this year for the Oscars, and his assessment of the top contenders.

We also have some very special Public Service Announcements in honor of the upcoming Earth Day.

We're brought to you by Swon Tax Preparation.  Need help with your taxes? Be it an individual return, a business return, whatever it may be, our friend Jon Swon can help.   He offers a full suite of tax services, customized to meet your goals.  He's based here in MN, but has clients around the country.  If you need help, check him out at  

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Know Thy Enemy

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

-Sun Tzu

After 9/11, Americans seeking to know and understand Al Qaeda could read The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright.

Today, a new enemy has appeared in ISIS and knowing and understanding what motivates ISIS is crucial in eventually defeating it. While there isn't yet an ISIS themed companion book to "The Looking Tower," Graeme Wood's lengthy Atlantic article is a good place to start. What ISIS Really Wants:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

One of the more frightening aspects of the ideology of ISIS is the belief that the events of today are moving us closer to an apocalyptic end game.

After its battle in Dabiq, Cerantonio said, the caliphate will expand and sack Istanbul. Some believe it will then cover the entire Earth, but Cerantonio suggested its tide may never reach beyond the Bosporus. An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.

“Only God knows” whether the Islamic State’s armies are the ones foretold, Cerantonio said. But he is hopeful. “The Prophet said that one sign of the imminent arrival of the End of Days is that people will for a long while stop talking about the End of Days,” he said. “If you go to the mosques now, you’ll find the preachers are silent about this subject.” On this theory, even setbacks dealt to the Islamic State mean nothing, since God has preordained the near-destruction of his people anyway. The Islamic State has its best and worst days ahead of it.

As we’ve witnessed with cults, people who believe the end times are near are not going to behave in a rational manner. Wood also compares certain aspects of the fanaticism of ISIS to the Khmer Rouge. These similarities are not going to provide comfort to those who would rather just wish the threat of ISIS away. In fact, they should scare the hell out of us.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

HWX: The End or the Beginning?

Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and Paul Happe of the Nihilist in Golf Pants convene for what may be the final HWX podcast of all time, or is it the first WHX broadcast?

Whatever the case, it was a stimulating conversation on the vital issues of today. Topics include

* Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast comments, including exclusive audio of what actually might have been said.

* Brian Williams and John Stewart, two pillars of elite media crumble in one week. What does it mean, and was anyone even watching them?

* Two more faces of elite journalism, as exhibited by a German Press Agency reporter and Melissa Harris Perry of MSNBC.

* The new name of the podcast. Leaders so far are WHX (phonetically pronounced “wcxkscs”) or The Jerktown Romeos. We’re not sold on either, and we eagerly solicit Ricochet membership suggestions in the comments section. Anyone coming up with the winning sobriquet will be lavished with praise and exciting premiums.

This podcast is brought to you by Swon Tax Preparation. Need help with your taxes? Be it an individual return, a business return, whatever it may be, our friend Jon Swon can help. He offers a full suite of tax services, customized to meet your goals. He’s based here in MN, but has clients around the country. If you need help, check him out at

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The In Crowd

Kevin D. Williamson captures the true essence of the appeal of Jon Stewart in a piece at NRO called The Destroyer Goeth:

Jon Stewart’s genius — “and for once that overused word is appropriate,” Aucoin of the Globe insists — is that he provides intellectually lazy people with an excuse for forgoing the hard work of informing themselves at anything but the most superficial level about political events. Human beings being what they are, there will always be an acute need for humor in our political discourse; Stewart’s contribution has been to substitute humor — and an easy, vapid, shallow species of humor at that — for the discourse itself, through what Jim Treacher deftly described as his “clown nose on, clown nose off” approach to commentary: When it comes to Obamacare, the minimum wage, or the national debt, you don’t have to get the economics as long as you get the joke.

It's easy to laugh along with the crowd as Stewart smugly mocks politicians and pundits (the vast majority of his targets being conservatives of course). It provides the pretense of both being informed of the latest political news while also being smarter than those on the receiving end of the mockery. There's no need for deeper knowledge or understanding of any of the issues as long as you're in on the joke.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXCVI)

Another irregular, edition of Beer of the Week, sponsored as always by feisty folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have the beer, wine, or whiskey you need to rise up, rebel, and fight the power in style.

The featured beer comes from local Minneapolis brewer Fulton. It’s part of their Garage Series and it’s an imperial IPA called Insurrection:

Insurrection's flavor profile is spearheaded by Nelson Sauvin and Mosaic hops added at a rate of over 3 pounds per barrel. Both hops are new breeds that overwhelm the senses with an onslaught of citrus, sauvignon blanc, and blueberry notes. Loads of 2-row barley and a touch of honey malt combine to form a serious malt backbone and an ABV of 8.6%.

Four-pack of 12oz bottles goes for $9.99. Clear simple label provides sleek and stylish look.

STYLE: Imperial IPA


HEAD (0-2): Off white color with good volume. 2

COLOR (0-2): Orangish-brown and clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Rich citrus aromas a little sweetness. 2

TASTE (0-5): Like the aroma there’s a lot of citrusy hop flavors along with floral accents followed by sweeter malts. Medium bodied with a crisp finish. Mouthfeel is a little oily. Heat is there, but it’s subtle. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Lasting bitter follow through. 2

OVERALL (0-6): A well-made imperial IPA that touches all the bases. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Having It All

The latest course offering from Prager University takes on the supposed incompatibility between science and religion. All too often we're presented with a false choice that you must choose one or the other since you can't possibly have both. Author Eric Metaxas helps show how when it comes to the big question of where it all began, science and religion aren't mutually exclusive.

We've been told time and time again that science and religion are incompatible. But what if they're not? What if recent discoveries in physics and astronomy point to something -- or Someone -- behind it all? In this week's video, New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas shows you how science and religion intersect, and how this changes our view of life and the universe.