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Archive for the month “July, 2015”

The Incarnation: Its Relevance

This is from anglicansablaze.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“To call the incarnation “relevant” almost sounds patronizing. But we need to recognize the intimate connection between this important doctrine and personal piety.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

A Primary Custodian Support Obligor

It is practically axiomatic among family law practitioners that he who has primary child custody is entitled to receive child support. There can be exceptions to this practice, such as the case decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court captioned as Colonna v. Colonna, 581 Pa. 1.


The parties in Colonna were married in 1983 but separated in 1999, having had four children in the interim. Ultimately, the Father secured primary custody of their four children and filed for child support against the Mother. Through the support litigation, it was discovered that Father earns about $193,560/yr and Mother earns about $55,284/yr.


Surprisingly, although it was Father, as primary custodian of the children, who was seeking support, the Support Master ultimately ruled he had to pay support to their Mother. After exceptions were filed by both parties, the trial court agreed that Father had to pay child support to Mother despite being primary custodian. Father appealed and Superior Court reversed the court below, ruling that Mother was to pay Father child support as he is primary custodian. Needless to say, an appeal was made to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which reestablished father as the obligor despite him being primary custodian.


The Supreme Court was very troubled by the great disparity of incomes between the parents. The Court indicated that when incomes are as different as the parents’ income in Colonna, a deviation from the standard child support guidelines is appropriate, citing the “best interests of the children” as the rationale for requiring the deviation. The deviation from the guidelines extends so far, in a case like this, that someone who would otherwise be an obligor suddenly becomes an obligee. The Court believed that support law should work in conjunction with custody law to pursue the best interests of children as opposed to simply work exclusively and mechanically by the numbers.


The Court believed the best interests of the children is significantly impacted when the income of the parents are significantly different, and that one parent will not be able to provide an environment that is reasonably close to the one the other parent can provide. The Court asserted that, although it does not require a support order to equalize the two parents, it “would be remiss in failing to ignore the reality of what happens when children are required to live vastly different lives depending upon which parent has custody on any given day.” Based on the above, the Court ruled that it is an abuse of discretion to fail to consider vast income differences when deciding whether to deviate from the child support guidelines, and this includes the possibility of ordering a primary custodian to pay support to the partial custodian.


As an aside, the Court made it clear that the deviation described above does not require a Melzer analysis. A Melzer analysis is for high income cases where incomes are too high for the guidelines to calculate. The Court indicated that the issue is not necessarily significantly high income but an unreasonably large differential in the respective income of the parents.


Finally, the primary criticisms of this decision, as mentioned in the dissent, are, first, the Court implies that the love and affection of a child for a parent can be bought and sold and, second, and more importantly, the majority decision makes no effort to define phrases like “appropriate housing” or provide an objective standard to determine just how much of a difference in income warrants a deviation from the support guidelines which would lead to making a primary custodian an obligor.

Originally published on February 25, 2014 in The Legal Intelligencer Blog and can be viewed here and reprinted in the Pennsylvania Family Lawyer, Volume 36, Issue No.: 1, April 2014 edition.

Marriage and The Matrix

This is from edwardfeser.blogspot.com which you can find here.  This blog is written by Edward Feser who is a Christian philosopher who I have been recently introduced to who I think provides effective clear, sobering, and direct responses to the advance of secular culture.  Usually when I reblog someone else’s post I only provide a teaser quote here and a link to the full blog post.  This piece is so good I have decided to post the entire thing here (as well as the link of course); it really demonstrates in stark relief just how baseless the arguments are in favor of same sex marriage.  I really cannot say anything that could do the piece justice so I will stop trying.  Here is the blog post in full (and you can find the original post here):

“Suppose a bizarre skeptic seriously proposed — not as a joke, not as dorm room bull session fodder, but seriously — that you, he, and everyone else were part of a computer-generated virtual reality like the one featured in the science-fiction movie The Matrix.  Suppose he easily shot down the arguments you initially thought sufficient to refute him.  He might point out, for instance, that your appeals to what we know from common sense and science have no force, since they are (he insists) just part of the Matrix-generated illusion.  Suppose many of your friends were so impressed by this skeptic’s ability to defend his strange views — and so unimpressed by your increasingly flustered responses — that they came around to his side.  Suppose they got annoyed with you for not doing the same, and started to question your rationality and even your decency.  Your adherence to commonsense realism in the face of the skeptic’s arguments is, they say, just irrational prejudice.
No doubt you would think the world had gone mad, and you’d be right.  But you would still find it difficult to come up with arguments that would convince the skeptic and his followers.  The reason is not that their arguments are rationally and evidentially superior to yours, but on the contrary because they are so subversive of all rationality and evidence — indeed, far more subversive than the skeptic and his followers themselves realize — that you’d have trouble getting your bearings, and getting the skeptics to see that they had lost theirs.  If the skeptic were correct, not even his own arguments would be any good — their apparent soundness could be just another illusion generated by the Matrix, making the whole position self-undermining.  Nor could he justifiably complain about your refusing to agree with him, nor take any delight in your friends’ agreement, since for all he knew both you and they might be Matrix-generated fictions anyway.
So, the skeptic’s position is ultimately incoherent.  But rhetorically he has an advantage.  With every move you try to make, he can simply refuse to concede the assumptions you need in order to make it, leaving you constantly scrambling to find new footing.  He will in the process be undermining his own position too, because his skepticism is so radical it takes down everything, including what he needs in order to make his position intelligible.  But it will be harder to see this at first, because he is playing offense and you are playing defense.  It falsely seems that you are the one making all the controversial assumptions whereas he is assuming nothing.  Hence, while your position is in fact rationally superior, it is the skeptic’s position that will, perversely, appear to be rationally superior.  People bizarrely give him the benefit of the doubt and put the burden of proof on you.


This, I submit, is the situation defenders of traditional sexual morality are in vis-à-vis the proponents of “same-sex marriage.”  The liberal position is a kind of radical skepticism, a calling into question of something that has always been part of common sense, viz. that marriage is inherently heterosexual.  Like belief in the reality of the external world — or in the reality of the past, or the reality of other minds, or the reality of change, or any other part of common sense that philosophical skeptics have challenged — what makes the claim in question hard to justify is not that it is unreasonable, but, on the contrary, that it has always been regarded as a paradigm of reasonableness.  Belief in the external world (or the past, or other minds, or change, etc.) has always been regarded as partially constitutive of rationality.  Hence, when some philosophical skeptic challenges it precisely in the name of rationality, the average person doesn’t know what to make of the challenge.  Disoriented, he responds with arguments that seem superficial, question-begging, dogmatic, or otherwise unimpressive.  Similarly, heterosexuality has always been regarded as constitutive of marriage.  Hence, when someone proposes that there can be such a thing as same-sex marriage, the average person is, in this case too, disoriented, and responds with arguments that appear similarly unimpressive.


Like the skeptic about the external world (or the past, or other minds, or change, etc.) the “same-sex marriage” advocate typically says things he has no right to say consistent with his skeptical arguments.  For example, if “same-sex marriage” is possible, why not incestuous marriage, or group marriage, or marriage to an animal, or marriage to a robot, or marriage to oneself?  A more radical application of the “same-sex marriage” advocate’s key moves can always be deployed by a yet more radical skeptic in order to defend these proposals.  Yet “same-sex marriage” advocates typically deny that they favor such proposals.  If appeal to the natural ends or proper functions of our faculties has no moral significance, then why should anyone care about whether anyone’s arguments — including arguments either for or against “same-sex marriage” — are any good?  The “same-sex marriage” advocate can hardly respond “But finding and endorsing sound arguments is what reason is for!”, since he claims that what our natural faculties and organs are naturally for is irrelevant to how we might legitimately choose to use them.  Indeed, he typically denies that our faculties and organs, or anything else for that matter, are really for anything.  Teleology, he claims, is an illusion.  But then it is an illusion that reason itself is really for anything, including arriving at truth.  In which case the “same-sex marriage” advocate has no business criticizing others for giving “bigoted” or otherwise bad arguments.  (Why shouldn’t someone give bigoted arguments if reason does not have truth as its natural end?  What if someone is just born with an orientation toward giving bigoted arguments?)  If the “same-sex marriage” advocate appeals to current Western majority opinion vis-à-vis homosexuality as a ground for his condemnation of what he labels “bigotry,” then where does he get off criticizing past Western majority opinion vis-à-vis homosexuality, or current non-Western moral opinion vis-à-vis homosexuality?   Etc. etc.


So, the “same-sex marriage” advocate’s position is ultimately incoherent.  Pushed through consistently, it takes down everything, including itself.  But rhetorically it has the same advantages as Matrix-style skepticism.  The “same-sex marriage” advocate is playing offense, and only calling things into doubt — albeit selectively and inconsistently — rather than putting forward any explicit positive position of his own, so that it falsely seems that it is only his opponent who is making controversial assumptions.


Now, no one thinks the average person’s inability to give an impressive response to skepticism about the external world (or about the reality of the past, or other minds, etc.) makes it irrational for him to reject such skepticism.  And as it happens, even most highly educated people have difficulty adequately responding to external world skepticism.  If you ask the average natural scientist, or indeed even the average philosophy professor, to explain to you how to refute Cartesian skepticism, you’re not likely to get an answer that a clever philosopher couldn’t poke many holes in.  You almost have to be a philosopher who specializes in the analysis of radical philosophical skepticism really to get at the heart of what is wrong with it.  The reason is that such skepticism goes so deep in its challenge to our everyday understanding of notions like rationality, perception, reality, etc. that only someone who has thought long and carefully about those very notions is going to be able to understand and respond to the challenge.  The irony is that it turns out, then, that very few people can give a solid, rigorous philosophical defense of what everyone really knows to be true.  But it hardly follows that the commonsense belief in the external world can be rationally held only by those few people.


The same thing is true of the average person’s inability to give an impressive response to the “same-sex marriage” advocate’s challenge.  It is completely unsurprising that this should be the case, just as it is unsurprising that the average person lacks a powerful response to the Matrix-style skeptic.  In fact, as with commonsense realism about the external world, so too with traditional sexual morality, in the nature of the case relatively few people — basically, traditional natural law theorists — are going to be able to set out the complete philosophical defense of what the average person has, traditionally, believed.  But it doesn’t follow that the average person can’t be rational in affirming traditional sexual morality.  (For an exposition and defense of the traditional natural law approach, see “In Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument,” in Neo-Scholastic Essays.)


Indeed, the parallel with the Matrix scenario is even closer than what I’ve said so far suggests, for the implications of “same-sex marriage” are very radically skeptical.  The reason is this: We cannot make sense of the world’s being intelligible at all, or of the human intellect’s ability to understand it, unless we affirm a classical essentialist and teleological metaphysics.  But applying that metaphysics to the study of human nature entails a classical natural law understanding of ethics.  And that understanding of ethics in turn yields, among other things, a traditional account of sexual morality that rules out “same-sex marriage” in principle.  Hence, to defend “same-sex marriage” you have to reject natural law, which in turn requires rejecting a classical essentialist and teleological metaphysics, which in turn undermines the possibility of making intelligible either the world or the mind’s ability to understand it.  (Needles to say, these are large claims, but I’ve defended them all at length in various places.  For interested readers, the best place to start is, again, with the Neo-Scholastic Essays article.)


Obviously, though, the radically skeptical implications are less direct in the case of “same-sex marriage” than they are in the Matrix scenario, which is why most people don’t see them.  And there is another difference.  There are lots of people who believe in “same-sex marriage,” but very few people who seriously entertain the Matrix hypothesis.  But imagine there was some kind of intense sensory pleasure associated with pretending that you were in the Matrix.  Suppose also that some people just had, for whatever reason — environmental influences, heredity, or whatever — a deep-seated tendency to take pleasure in the idea that they were living in a Matrix-style reality.  Then, I submit, lots of people would insist that we take the Matrix scenario seriously and some would even accuse those who scornfully rejected the idea of being insensitive bigots.  (Compare the points made in a recent post in which I discussed the special kind of irrationality people are prone to where sex is concerned, due to the intense pleasure associated with it.)


So, let’s add to my original scenario this further supposition — that you are not only surrounded by people who take the Matrix theory seriously and scornfully dismiss your arguments against it, but some of them have a deep-seated tendency to take intense sensory pleasure in the idea that they live in the Matrix.  That, I submit, is the situation defenders of traditional sexual morality are in vis-à-vis the proponents of “same-sex marriage.”   Needless to say, it’s a pretty bad situation to be in.


But it’s actually worse even than that.  For suppose our imagined Matrix skeptic and his followers succeeded in intimidating a number of corporations into endorsing and funding their campaign to get the Matrix theory widely accepted, to propagandize for it in movies and television shows, etc.  Suppose mobs of Matrix theorists occasionally threatened to boycott or even burn down bakeries, restaurants, etc. which refused to cater the meetings of Matrix theorists.  Suppose they stopped even listening to the defenders of commonsense realism, but just shouted “Bigot!  Bigot!  Bigot!” in response to any expression of disagreement.  Suppose the Supreme Court of the United States declared that agreement with the Matrix theory is required by the Constitution, and opined that adherence to commonsense realism stems from an irrational animus against Matrix theorists.


In fact, the current position of opponents of “same-sex marriage” is worse even than that.  Consider once again your situation as you try to reason with Matrix theorists and rebut their increasingly aggressive attempts to impose their doctrine via economic and political force.  Suppose that as you look around, you notice that some of your allies are starting to slink away from the field of battle.  One of them says: “Well, you know, we have sometimes been very insulting to believers in the Matrix theory.  Who can blame them for being angry at us?  Maybe we should focus more on correcting our own attitudes and less on changing their minds.”  Another suggests: “Maybe we’ve been talking too much about this debate between the Matrix theory and commonsense realism.  We sound like we’re obsessed with it.  Maybe we should talk about something else instead, like poverty or the environment.”  A third opines: “We can natter on about philosophy all we want, but the bottom line is that scripture says that the world outside our minds is real.  The trouble is that we’ve gotten away from the Bible.  Maybe we should withdraw into our own faith communities and just try to live our biblically-based belief in external reality the best we can.”


Needless to say, all of this is bound only to make things worse.  The Matrix theory advocate will smell blood, regarding these flaccid avowals as tacit admissions that commonsense realism about the external world really has no rational basis but is simply a historically contingent prejudice grounded in religious dogma.  And in your battle with the Matrix theorists you’ll have discovered, as many “same-sex marriage” opponents have, that iron law of politics: that when you try to fight the Evil Party you soon find that most of your allies are card-carrying members of the Stupid Party.


So, things look pretty bad.  But like the defender of our commonsense belief in the external world, the opponent of “same-sex marriage” has at least one reliable ally on his side: reality.  And reality absolutely always wins out in the end.  It always wins at least partially even in the short run — no one ever is or could be a consistent skeptic — and wins completely in the long run.  The trouble is just that the enemies of reality, though doomed, can do a hell of lot of damage in the meantime.”

NEARFest: The North East Art Rock Festival, Photos and Memories

You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here.

The North East Art Rock Festival, commonly called NEARFest, was an annual progressive rock music festival that held its first Festival in 1999 and its last in 2012 (though the 2011 Festival was cancelled).  The Festival was typically held at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania over a three day period (Friday night through Sunday night) at or around the last weekends of June.  Aside from Lehigh University, it was held twice at the Patriots Theater at the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey (2002, 2003), and once at Foy Hall at the Moravian College (1999).

As my readers know, I am a big progressive rock fan and when I learned that there was a reputable progressive rock festival in more-or-less my backyard (I am in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), I had to check it out.  Unfortunately, I missed the first Festival in 1999 but I did go to the second one in 2000 and every one after that.  Not knowing what to expect, I did not bring a camera to the first one, nor did I stay overnight.  I quickly learned that even though Bethlehem and Philadelphia are reasonably close to one another, they are far enough away to make an overnight stay worth it if one intends to spend two consecutive long days there.  The Festival began as a Saturday/Sunday event (11am to about 11pm each day) but quickly expended to Friday evening as well.  At first the Friday evening portion was presented by a different entity than NEARFest (though controlled by roughly the same people), eventually NEARFest itself expanded to include Fridays as well.  The schedule for each year was similar though tweaked as the years passed. At first the event was five bands per day (with two or possibly three on the Friday night). After experiencing serious delays between bands due to set up and whatnot (especially obscenely long waits at the Trenton shows for the headline acts) the lineup went down to four bands and a solo feature on Saturdays and Sundays, but even that was problematic and the lineup was diminished ultimately to four bands per day, which progressed rather smoothly.

The music presented at the Festival was top notch. Even in the earliest years the headline bands were reasonably well known.  As the years passed, the Festival was able to book headline bands that were classic and very, at one time, popular.  Although I loved getting to see some classic prog rock bands, bands which I never thought I would be able to see because I am too young to have seen them in their hey day and/or they’ve been broken up for years, part of the great allure of the Festival for me, musically speaking, was the fact that a lot of new and/or modern prog rock bands would be featured each year; bands which I would not really ever have opportunity to hear or discover otherwise.  Very quickly it became a tradition for me to look for two or three CDs to purchase from new bands each year which I could go on to enjoy and watch for years into the future.

One of the great features of the Festival was that its organizers tried very hard to get a band or musician which represented most of the various sub-genres to prog rock so all of its fans could find music that is within his own brand of prog rock preferences.  So, each Festival included a spectrum of prog rock sub-genres like Canterbury scene, progressive metal, avant-garde progressive rock, symphonic rock, Wagnerian rock, neo-progressive rock, space rock, krautrock, zeuhl, Italian progressive rock, Art rock, hard rock, ambient, Berlin School, arena rock, Rock in Opposition, progressive house, avant-garde, experimental rock, jazz fusionPsychedelic rock, progressive pop, baroque pop, and progressive folk.

Although we did not stay overnight in 2000, the environment was so intimate and wonderful that it led me to want to stay overnight the next years regardless of the travel times.  Starting with the second Festival, I had the good fortune to attend every Festival thereafter (and got tickets for the one that was cancelled), usually getting pretty similar seats each year. As much as I loved the music at the Festivals, the people, the location, the environment, and the event itself became just as much of a draw for me as the music. My Uncle Jim went with me almost every year and, of course, I enjoyed the opportunity to spend a couple of days of quality time with him each year as well.  The locale around Lehigh University was quaint, quiet, safe, and walkable.  Not only did the Festival attendants explore the town, so did all of the merchants and musicians and other Festival workers as well.

The University is in a little town with a lot of local quaint eateries and grassy areas that makes it enjoyable simply to walk around and explore.  Against this backdrop was the relatively new and attractive Festival theater which seated a little more than 1000 spectators (I think it maxes at 1002 seats).  At about 1000 seats, there really was not a bad seat in the house, though I usually got the last two seats at the end of the third or fourth row each year.  After the first few Festivals, NEARFest offered a “patron program” which, for about three times a typical seat price, one could get an “advance” ticket and get seats selected by lottery, with the the cost above a typical seat being a tax deductible charitable donation (NEARFest was a non-profit organization).

Within the theater building were multiple rooms and common areas.  Some these rooms and areas were occupied by multiple merchants selling music and related items.  At least one room was always reserved for art.  In addition to the bands, NEARFest always featured at least one prog rock artist.  Roger Dean, notably the artist for Yes, Asia, and others, attended the vast majority of the festivals, but so did Paul Whitehead, and Mark Wilkinson.  Each designed the logo for the Festival for the years they attended.  In addition, Renaissance vocalist Annie Haslam sold her art work as well at a handful of festivals.  Aside from the merchant rooms, the common areas in the theater, and sometimes at a few locations immediately outside it, other merchants and musicians would peddle there wares as well.  I remember one year the musician known as Second Sufis played looping guitars outside the theater and another year a band member from Starcastle was promoting their reformation.

Of course, each band had a table in one of the rooms or areas to promote themselves and this, I think, is one of the best and most unique parts of the Festival.  People could meet, talk to, get autographs from, and purchase things from the bands directly.  The band members often strolled around the theater and the campus and sometimes at the various eateries nearby.  In fact, in 2001 I remember I had the opportunity to eat breakfast one table away from Tony Levin at the local Perkins; that was a real treat (for me, not so much for him, I’m sure)!  At some point, fairly early on I think, the Bethlehem Brew Works somehow got associated with the Festival and became a hang out for attendees, and they eventually started making a special craft beer dedicated to the festival each year.

A couple of blocks away from the theater was the Comfort Suites, which is where the bands and the Festival workers would stay.  This hotel had the advantage of having a bar and that bar would hold the after party each night, generally DJed by the prog rock program Gagliarchives.   Many of the musicians from the Festival would attend the after party and interact with their fans.  Of course, if one stayed in the hotel, the bar was an excellent feature as one could – shall I say – imbibe with abandon and not have to drive anywhere.  I was not always able to get a room there, but I did for at least half the Festivals or so, which was no easy task.  Once the people running the Festival realized that the rooms would be booked by fans rather quickly, it would reserve the entire place and only slowly would rooms become available when the Festival determined it did not need them.  A couple of times I was only lucky enough to squeak in a room at that point, which caused me to change my approach.  I would make a reservation for every weekend in June and July for the following year the day after the Festival (or as soon as the they took reservations that far in advance) in order to ensure I had a room the next year.

Of course, what really made the Festival fun were the other people.  As the years passed, the Festival developed “regulars” who, like me, where there year after year and we started getting to know each other and “catch up” like old friends at each Festival.  It was great arriving on Friday night and looking for those familiar faces and to try and find them in between sets or at the bar(s) to see how their lives had been over the previous year.  Even the guys who founded and ran the show were always out and about and accessible.  The camaraderie and fun I had with my Uncle and all the other people are perhaps what I miss most about the Festival.  There are few places in the world where you can find 1000+ hard core prog rock fans, but NEARFest was one of them.  About a year ago one of the NEARFest founders posted on Facebook that he allowed the NEARFest corporate documents to expire, which means NEARFest as a corporate entity is no more.  For him, I am sure it was more meaningful, but even for me that was a sad day.  It meant something that was a part of my life for 12 years was gone and I miss it, especially this time of year.  I do hope for an anniversary, say 5 or 10 years, after the last NEARFest someone can organize another one for old times’ sake.

So, in recognition of all of the great times I had at NEARFest, and in honor of it being clearly the greatest of all prog rock festivals, over the next several weeks (maybe months), I will be posting various photographs, memories, and other materials from each Festival I attended.  I hope my readers enjoy it and I hope they bring back great memories for those who have been a part of NEARFest.

A New Milestone: 2,411 views in June 2015!

Thanks to all of my readers for a another record breaking month, the second one in a row (see here)!  June 2015 saw a record 2,411 views to my blog, smashing the old record of 1,731 views!.  This is, by far, the most readers in a month I have ever had yet on this blog!  Thanks so much for all of your loyalty to this blog, it is very much appreciated, and I hope to continue providing material worthy of your interest and readership!

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