Thursday, September 22, 2016


This poem is apparently all over social media in relation to these most recent police shootings.


-Nikki Giovanni

I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn't
And she scared me
And I smashed her

I don't think
I'm allowed

To kill something

Because I am


The last little bit, of course, is the point.

It is sort of correct.  You are not allowed to kill someone because you are frightened.  Something, I'm not so sure.  But someone, clearly not.  And since this poem is being used in reference to these shootings, obviously the shooting victims are being compared to the harmless spider--and the shooting victims are someone, not something.

So, right, you're not allowed to kill someone because you're frightened.  But you are allowed to kill someone who you reasonably believe poses an immanent threat of death or grave bodily harm to you or to someone falling within your mantle of protection.  (To put it roughly--this is not a law blog.)

I am definitely not in any position to judge whether either or both of the two most prominent police shootings (I'm thinking of Charlotte and Oklahoma) meet that standard.  But I would at least say that I am not in any position to judge with certainty that they don't.

My last post linked to an excellent video of Massad Ayoob explaining some of this.  It's worth watching.

I do not want this to become a firearms blog...just thought this poem is only muddying the waters and could use a word of clarification.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Missouri's new concealed carry law

The Missouri legislature has overturned the veto of their new concealed carry regulations.  The new regulations allow unpermitted concealed carry, and alter some of the permitting processes for buying handguns.  They also introduce a new stand your ground law.

Predictably, the New York Times has denounced Missouri's laws, in effect offering a call for more federal legislation (after all, state government can't be trusted!  Fortunately the federal government can!) and offering another endorsement to Hillary Clinton.  Well, it's the New York Times.  What do you expect?

The thing that bothers me about the media coverage isn't the strong negativity.  I would expect nothing else.  It's the fear mongering.

The always-worth-listening-to Massad Ayoob explains stand your ground laws:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New piece in Crisis

I had a new article come out in Crisis, to go along with the recent on in the Federalist.  The latter involves Rockwell.  The former does not.  Both are about guns.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love.

                                                                            --Fr. Reginald Garrigou Lagrange, OP

Except, unfortunately, it looks like he didn't actually say this.

Be that as it may.  Tolerance was a major theme for Rockwell.  It's often been said that "Saying Grace," one of his most popular pictures, was fundamentally about tolerance.

The funny thing about this picture is that it's Christian prayer (not to say it couldn't be some other kind of prayer--just that Christianity is the religion that immediately springs to mind--and the two crosses over Grandma's head don't hurt with emphasizing that, though I know of no critic who has pointed this out) that stands out as unusual.  Unusual in the sense that the two young men are clearly surprised to see this public prayer.  Unusual in the sense that the man in the foreground appears equally surprised to see it.  The public prayer isn't here presented with a kind of, "well, that's just what people do" kind of attitude.  It's presented as unusual.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Norman Rockwell Illustrates the American Solidarity Party Platform

I’ve recently joined the American Solidarity Party.  Here’s their platform, which I’ve illustrated for them.  I mean, Rockwell actually made the pictures.  So he should get some of the credit.

I trust it goes without saying that this is not intended to suggest that Rockwell did (or would, if he were alive) endorse the ASP platform.  

Complete Platform

The National Committee of the ASP offers these planks as a framework for local and national candidates. We welcome your feedback and suggestions!

National Platform of the ASP

The American Solidarity Party is committed to transcending the Red/Blue divide with coherent policies informed by religious values. We offer the following program for a future based on the principles of Common Good, Common Ground, and Common Sense. 

Right to Life
-We support constitutional and legal measures that establish the Right to Life from conception until natural death.
-We call for an end to capital punishment.
-We oppose the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rockwell and the Gun Culture revisited

The standard-issue view on Norman Rockwell is that he painted nostalgic scenes of the countryside—scenes of an America that never really existed.  But here’s one thing that’s not often noticed about Rockwell’s pictures: they contain an awful lot of firearms.  In a recent piece in The Federalist, I called Rockwell as the artist of the American “gun culture.”  

But which gun culture?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rockwell and Indians

As our need for oil-fueled "economic development" puts us, yet again, into conflict with American Indians, I'm prompted to write a little bit about Rockwell's depictions of Indians.  One of his very best pictures has been featured on this blog before (and no doubt will be featured here again).  It's "Glen Canyon Dam."

The story here is that the Department of the Interior hired Rockwell to paint their new dam.  Rockwell wasn't interested in painting stuff, he was interested in painting people.  So he put people in the picture.  It's hard to believe the Department of the Interior could have been super happy with the result.  It's hardly a celebration of their triumph.  The connection to the pipeline in the link above is pretty obvious.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Rockwellian farmer

Norman Rockwell was a city boy, but he always loved and indeed idealized the countryside.  He did not idealize the wilderness, like so many of America's environmentalists have.  No, he idealized the country, in the sense of the farmed world.

For all his love of the farmed world, though, he surely didn't paint an awful lot of farmers.  At least, not as farmers.  There are remarkably few pictures of people doing any farming.  This one above--a Post cover from 1923--comes pretty close.  The farmer is pausing to move a baby bird he came across as he cut hay with his scythe.  We might assume that, right at this very second, he's not farming: it might appear that at this very second, he's taking a break from farming.  But I think that's a mistake.  Caring for and appreciating the wildlife that helps you steward your land is a part of farming.  Or it has been, and should be.  A farmer sitting on a giant tractor isn't going to see the little bird.  He'll just chop it to bits and never know it.  Along with fawns, turtles, snakes, or any number of other little critters.  But that's not farming at its best--what this fellow is doing is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Blowing the Dynamite

Writing about the Catholic Church,
a radical writer says:
“Rome will have to do more
than to play a waiting game;
she will have to use
some of the dynamite
inherent in her message.”
To blow the dynamite
of a message
is the only way
to make the message dynamic.
If the Catholic Church
is not today
the dominant social dynamic force,
it is because Catholic scholars
have failed to blow the dynamite
of the Church.
Catholic scholars
have taken the dynamite
of the Church,
have wrapped it up
in nice phraseology,
placed it in an hermetic container
and sat on the lid.
It is about time
to blow the lid off
so the Catholic Church
may again become
the dominant social dynamic force.

--Peter Maurin

I'm not a political philosopher, but I've been thinking a lot about Distributism lately.  This interest arose out of my general interest in Chesterton, and had nothing to do with this election season.  But I must say that my inability to support either Trump or Clinton has prompted a bit of reflection.  What kind of candidate would I like to vote for?  And of course the answer is: one who supports Catholic Social Teaching.  And it turns out that there is a new party that is more or less based in Catholic Social Teaching; namely, the American Solidarity Party.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Abigail Rockwell's Petition

Deborah Solomon's execrable book American Mirror is sold at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, and includes an adulatory blurb from Museum director Laurie Norton Moffatt on the back cover.

This is absurd.  It's like a Catholic bookstore selling the works of Maria Monk.  Solomon's book is just complete bunk--and obviously deliberately dishonest and intentionally inflammatory bunk at that.  (See, for example, here and here and here.)

As a philosopher, I'm deeply committed to reasoned debate, respectful disagreement, and the pursuit of truth.  I'm not interested in silencing such people as Deborah Solomon.  (Though as Abigail Rockwell points out, if Rockwell were alive, the book would likely be actionable.)  However, a museum devoted to preserving the work and legacy of Norman Rockwell should be clearly and insistently speaking out against this book.  Not blurbing it and selling it in the gift shop.

Abigail Rockwell has put together a petition asking the Museum to remove the book from its shelves, and to stop promoting it.  I've signed the petition, and encourage my vast legion of readers to consider doing the same.

Rockwell's Chickens

A few years ago, Gene Logsdon had this to say about the rise of the backyard chicken:

Chickens are winning over the world again, as they have always done throughout so-called civilization because they are such a cheap and easy source of good food. So handily can they produce eggs and meat on a very small scale that it is difficult to make them profitable as a commercial venture.  If you raise the price to a commercially profitable level, more people will just get their own hens. The egg factories keep out of the red only by not paying the full environmental cost of their operations, by resorting to constant expansion in a vain effort to keep down the per unit cost of production, and by taking advantage of generous direct and indirect subsidies. Small commercial flock producers make a go of it only when they can charge more for their product than the going rate. The only really profitable way to produce eggs and fried chicken is to do it on a very small, not-for-profit scale. The hen is a distributist. Distributism is an economic philosophy that gained much attention a century ago and is now drawing attention again. It champions the decentralization of the means of production into small, privately owned enterprises, not owned or run by the state or private wealthy oligarchs. It is neither capitalistic nor socialistic. It is chickenistic.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Gene Logsdon, Norman Rockwell and farming

Gene Logsdon died recently.  I’ve been reading a lot his work over the last year or so, because we’ve bought a small farm, and we’re trying to learn, well, how to farm.  (That’s the reason for my complete silence since then.  No time!)  He’s a great source for small-scale farming techniques.  He had strong views on farming and many other things, and never hesitated to speak on those other things.  You’re just as likely to find philosophy as farming in his work.  I much prefer Logsdon as a farmer to Logsdon as a philosopher, to be honest.  But I just finished a largely philosophical book of his anyway—a work called The Mother of All Arts.