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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

11 Conservative Movies

Hollywood is, as everyone knows, the ultimate bastion of leftism, and a skilled purveyor of the many defining myths of the liberal ethos.  Many films could be cited to prove this point, but perhaps the easiest example is James Cameron's Avatar (which can serve as a proxy for many different movies, since it stole so freely from hundreds of liberal cinematic homilies that came before it).  Avatar is a kind of cinematic Mass for the 21st Century Secular Liberal soul, dramatizing with cutting edge 3D and Special Effects liberals' most cherished paradigms (since corporations are horrible, and the military satanic, combining them creates the ultimate evil); deeply felt prejudices (my own closest neighbors and family relations are hopelessly xenophobic, so I will prove my sanctimonious superiority by embracing, nay becoming, the more enlightened others my lesser co-citizens currently fear); and vaguely articulated but sacredly viewed beliefs (worship nature, not God; on some planet, somewhere, surely nature will actually respond back in kind, proving that the indigenous pagans were right all along).  

But, once in a while, through some quirk of physics or something, a movie with a conservative message somehow gets made.  Here are 11 such films: 

The Dark Knight Rises  This final film in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is basically another cinematic cover of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.  That means we get lots of imagery about the dangers of revolutionary movements, which subvert the civil order of the boring old conservative status quo, like the Scarecrow presiding over a Kangaroo court handing out arbitrary and capricious death sentences to anyone who engages in counterrevolutionary activities. Also, Occupy Wall Street-type protesters are shown to be the dupes of an evil power-hungry tyrant (Bane = George Soros).  And the police are celebrated as overcoming the protesters and restoring law and order to the streets, rather than vilified as the evil henchman of a Black Lives Matter morality tale. But the single most important conservative moment in the film comes in a scene where Catwoman is spending time with the revolutionary revelers in a home they've stolen from some hapless middle class family, whose photo, in a destroyed frame, she finds laying amongst their belongings:  

"Catwoman (viewing the photo and looking horrified): This was someone's home.
Catwoman's ditzy stoned friend (ignoring the troubling question of what happened to the family who once lived here): Now it's everyone's home."

All this anti-collectivist scene needed was the obvious next line, "Which means it's nobody's home" and it could have been written by William Buckley or Ronald Reagan.   

The Way Back This 2010 film about a group of refugees fleeing a Soviet Gulag earns its conservative stripes at the moment when the main characters are about to leave the borders of the Soviet Union, only to be greeted by images of Stalin at the border of the country (Mongolia perhaps? I can't remember) they are fleeing into.  They are crushed, and one of them mumbles something about "it" (the evil of Stalinism) having spread to other lands.

Ghostbusters  A group of academics lose their public grants and have to start a small business in the private sector, where, one of them notes, "they expect results."  Their successful efforts at providing a needed service are then thwarted, and the city of New York threatened with annihilation, because of an overzealous and power-hungry federal bureaucrat from the EPA releasing toxic ghost matter into the city rather than allowing the small business owners to store it without a license.  In the end, the evil federal bureaucrat gets what's coming to him. 

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Frodo keeps trying to give the ring to all the most pure and noble souls in Middle Earth: Gandalf, Galadriel, Aragorn. They each demonstrate that they are truly pure and noble, by refusing the offer, knowing, as Gandalf says, that, though they would use this ring out of a desire to do good, through them it would work only great evil.  Such is the nature of concentrated power.  Clearly, none of these Tolkien characters would have had much good to say about U.S. Supreme Court Justices who abuse their concentrated power by legislating from the bench, or about Fidel Castro, but they all would have cheered on George Washington when he gave up his commission at the end of the Revolutionary War. (And clearly, Canada's Castro-loving Prime Minister Bieber Trudeau has never read the Lord of the Rings.  Or if he did, failed to understand it.)  

Gattaca  A refutation of the modern liberal paradigm of a purely materialistic and mechanistic universe, in which there is no such thing as human agency, such that none of us may be held accountable for the outcomes of our pre-programmed decisions (see, for example, Sam Harris's book, Free Will, which denies that there is such a thing, or Barack Obama's "You Didn't Build That" speech). This film, by contrast, argues there is no gene for the metaphysical human spirit.   

Amazing Grace  William Wilberforce is arguably one of the most important men in history. This story of his successful, and Christian-motivated, crusade to end the slave trade, is a helpful rebuttal to modern liberal sneers at the evils of Christianity.   

A Man for All Seasons  One of the reasons I know I'm a conservative is because of my cranky annoyance at the belief that we can legislate away or reeducate away hard and objective scientific truths about human biology, sexes, chromosomes, and non-asexual reproduction. Nothing better encapsulates this conservative worldview, than the following defense of objective truth, uttered by Sir Thomas Moore, in this film about the famous Catholic martyr's contest of wills with Henry VIII over the definition of marriage: "Some men think the earth is round; others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question.  But if it is flat the King's command will not make it round, and if it is round, the King's command will not flatten it." [The movie version of this line is stronger than in the original play, where it is phrased as a question.] Lincoln, our first and still greatest Republican President, made a similar argument about the stubborn implications of objective truth, when he contended that if you call a dog's tail a leg, the dog still has only four legs, because calling something a leg doesn't make it so.  The same goes for humans, who remain human, even if you call them property, or fetuses. 

Groundhog Day  It is possible to misread the message of this movie and see it as just another liberal celebration of the sexual revolution: the purpose of life is to get the girl into your bed.  But, despite that terrible ending, that's not really the point.  This is a movie about a lost soul's realization that life's purpose is to be found in personal growth, accompanied by joining, and serving, a community.  Charles Murray has argued that the film is a good substitute for reading Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics. I don't know if that's true, but it's certainly a lot more fun. 

Blast from the Past  The polar opposite of left-wing screed, Pleasantville 

http://www.hatrack.com/cgi-bin/print_friendly.cgi?page=/osc/reviews/reviews98/movies_worst.shtml

this film instead provides a gentle defense of the lost values of early 1960s America, as embodied by a young man who spent his life in a bomb shelter and was thus never slowly brought to a boil, like the hapless frog of the oft-repeated conservative analogy for America's slow embrace  of modern immorality.   

The Island An explication of why we don't create or tamper with the sanctity of human life merely for scientific research.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  For obvious reasons, any film based on the life or writings of C.S. Lewis (who spent his youth in socialist folly before converting to Christianity) will resonate with conservatives.  I could list movies and books all day which, in my humble opinion, end with a symbolic retelling of Christ's atoning sacrifice, at least as I choose to apply and as I choose to understand the plot of those stories.  There's less viewer's choice here, as the story deliberately sets up an analogy and an allegory for each element of the central doctrines of Christianity: the existence of an objective moral law, temptation, sin, betrayal, atoning sacrifice, redemption, death, resurrection, and the battle against evil. Normally, as Tolkien believed, such forced allegory, as opposed to chosen applicability, is a bad thing. But because Lewis understands the theological points which he is making so well, the story works, not only as a good children's story, but as a helpful source of theological clarity. The movie is, in my opinion, much more powerful than the book (especially if the sequel is watched shortly thereafter), and transcends its juvenile literature source material, primarily because the actor who plays young Edmund does such an amazing job of portraying the differences in his character's character, before versus after his countenance has been changed by his recognition of what someone else did for his redemption. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Problem With Arguments About What "the Founders" Believed. An overlong essay on a minor pet peeve.

Political arguments in the United States of America often revolve around discussions of whether we have strayed too far from (or, for some, have adhered and clung too slavishly to), what "the founders intended" or what the "founders believed."  Frequent corollary debates then contest exactly what it was that the "founding fathers" believed or intended. 

But here's the problem.  It can be dangerously simplistic to speak of the "founders" as a homogeneous collective, and "what the founders believed" or "what the founders intended" in conclusive tones. These are much more complicated questions than most want to admit, especially when arming ourselves with the founders' thoughts and ideals in service of some 21st Century Political debate. Yes, the founders had much in common.  They were mainly comprised of land-owning white males of a certain socio-economic status, who would have been considered minor gentry in the British Empire, and therefore near the top of the local hierarchy in the American outpost of that Empire.  Yes, many of them were recently arrived at that status, and therefore idealized and exaggerated the virtues which the nobility were supposed to believe in.  And yes, they were creatures of their time and their place, many of them educated in the prevailing philosophies of their era, inspired by the words of Locke and Montesquieu, as the enlightenment devotion to reason was displacing trust in Biblical revelation, and deism was all the rage.  They were British colonists, and saw the world from that viewpoint. Most of them were far better educated than most Americans today in the history and languages of classical antiquity, and they were especially fascinated by the history of Rome, and its lessons, especially the period surrounding the fall of the Roman Republic and its transformation into an Empire, governed my military dictators beginning with Julius and then Augustus Caesar.  Their understanding of science was elementary compared to our own, and their trust in reason without the data which modern scientific instruments have allowed, sometimes led them into absurd beliefs, as for example, Jefferson's refusal, along with other members of the scientific societies to which he belonged, to believe that meteors ever fell from the sky and impacted the earth. They were angered by the events of their time and by their shared interpretations of those events.  

But for all of that commonality, anyone who has read even a single (well-written) biography of any one of the founders, and delved into the sometimes violent disagreements they had with one another about the meaning and purpose of the American Revolution, and the proper role of the Federal Government under the Constitution, soon discovers that the way we often speak of "their" vision, in some collective sense, can be incredibly inaccurate and misleading.  

Let us take just one commonly believed meme, as an example: "The founders were deists."  Everyone who has ever engaged in a freshman dorm argument about the separation of church and state has heard this before.  So, what would be involved in trying to defend or refute this commonly shared belief: 

The first job would be to define terms. Who "counts" as a "founder" for purposes of this claim? Anyone living in America in 1776 who supported the Declaration of Independence? Or just the members of the Second Continental Congress who approved its final draft and eventually signed it? That would give us Clergyman John Witherspoon, definitely not a deist. But we should of course also include the guys who signed off on the Constitution as it came out of Philadelphia in 1787.  Do we include the legislators of the various states who voted to ratify that Constitution in 1788? If so, does that mean we exclude people like Patrick Henry, who argued against ratification, even though most people would think of the person who said "give me liberty or give me death" as, definitely, a founder?  Do we include the members of the First Congress to assemble under the new Constitution in 1789, and gave us the Bill of Rights?  Or just those that were on that particular committee?  

Maybe we just limit the term to the big names we've all heard lots of times before: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin, Madison etc.  But even here we will run into problems.  Does Thomas Paine count?  Were it not for the influence of his pamphlet, Common Sense, the Second Continental Congress would never have had the popular support necessary to vote for independence. But Paine held no governmental office, and the biblical history he used to support the arguments in that pamphlet were accepted by an American public which would never have embraced the arguments against Christianity which he asserted to inspire the anti-clerical French Revolutionaries. Still, it's an important question: If I'm arguing for the deism of the founders I'm definitely going to want him on the founers' team. If I'm arguing against, I'm definitely going to want to exclude him. 

But even if we can agree on whose opinion counts, we will find further difficulties.  At what particular point in a founder's life does that founder's opinion get counted?  Alexander Hamilton became far more religious in his older years, after the death of his son, than he was as a young man. It's extremely easy to make the case that Jefferson, who personalized his copy of the New Testament by removing and redacting all the miracles, was a deist.  The case is especially easy to make if we focus on the statements he made after his wife died and he took up with his slave Sally Hemmings, in a relationship that certainly did not accord with orthodox Christian teachings, and spent time in France during that nation's very different revolution. But the younger, married, Jefferson, the one who became one of the big-name founders by writing the Declaration of Independence, seems to have been extremely comfortable including religious themes within that document, which relies on the "protection of Divine Providence" and speaks of those rights with which all men have been "endowed by their Creator" and to which they are entitled by the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."  Since Jefferson's biggest contribution to the founding was his authorship of the Declaration, does it really matter what he believed about God later in life?   Or were his beliefs at the time of his authorship of the Declaration more important to our modern understanding of what the founders were trying to accomplish?  Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration was so infused with religiosity that Benjamin Franklin asked him to tone it down, by replacing the phrase "we hold these truths to be sacred" with "we hold these truths to be self-evident" as Jefferson's original wording "smacked of the pulpit" to Franklin.  So, OK, Franklin was a deist.  But wait: in his final years, Franklin insisted that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia should start beginning their meetings with prayer, to invoke the assistance of divine intervention (a concept which deists don't believe).

The best example of this difficulty, with ascertaining a given "founder's" beliefs, on any particular subject, given that their own views were susceptible to change, during the course of each of their own individual lives, is of course James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution" whose views on the power of the national government under that document kept changing.  Madison brought a plan to the Philadelphia Convention which would have given the national centralized government far more power than most of the other delegates were comfortable with, and he left bitterly disappointed that the final document created a much weaker national government than he was hoping to achieve.  This opinion changed, however, when Madison realized that the Constitution he envisioned would never have been ratified in the State conventions, and he found it extremely handy to argue that the States should be comfortable ratifying the document, as they were to remain sovereign over all responsibilities and powers which were not expressly delegated to the Federal government in a system of dual sovereignty.  Still, he wrote the Federalist Papers with Jay and Hamilton, arguing against the Anti-Federalists' fears of the national government. Subsequently, however, under Jefferson's influence, Madison would start speaking like one of the Anti-Federalists, as he challenged Hamilton's views of the powers which should be assumed by the Federal Government, and joined with Jefferson in creating the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which asserted that individual states had the power to veto federal legislation (a complete inversion of the federal veto power over state laws for which Madison had argued at the constitutional convention, and a theory which would provide the philosophical justification for the secessionist movement that led to the Civil War).  After Jefferson's death, Madison's opinions would change again, as he argued in support of a strong federal union during the Nullification Crisis. 

This all means that we should be very cautious when throwing around bumper-sticker arguments about what "the Founders" intended, believed, or opined.  

That is not to say that it is always a hopeless task to determine what a majority of the founders believed or intended at any given point in time. English is a highly effective and efficient language, and the words that the founders ultimately included in their final signed drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights contained within its first ten amendments are with us still, to guide and direct how the workings of our government are supposed to operate. We can read those words, and, where the meanings have changed or grown obsolete (see for example, an "establishment of religion") we can research the original meanings, to understand the basic parameters of the system the founders created.  And we can construe from the system of government which they created, and their writings about the same, what the underlying beliefs and concerns were which motivated their decisions. 

We can also look to the precedents the founders created as they established the real government systems which gave life to the words of the written documents.  It should be remembered, in that regard, that the American Revolution was fought, in large part, because of many Americans' beliefs that their rights under the British Constitution were being trampled.  Britain does not however have a written "constitution." But its citizens have long spoken of a British Constitution, and what governmental actions are or are not "constitutional" thereunder, based on those precedents, charters, historical developments and legislative enactments which have, over time, in fits and starts and in a somewhat organic fashion, created the system of constitutional government (or government as properly "constituted"), which exists in Britain today, or which existed in Britain in earlier eras. Notwithstanding the existence of a written Constitution in America, our own system of government has developed in a somewhat similar fashion, as our written Constitution is not long enough nor detailed enough to answer every possible question. That was its point, to give us a framework for conducting political arguments and operating the government, and to delineate some of the boundaries of what was legitimate (or constitutional) within that system.  

But even as we engage in the exercise of understanding the constitutional system the founders erected, we must be cautious about speaking of them too collectively, and we must approach the task of developing a better understanding with a degree of historical literacy which it takes some time and effort to acquire.  And as we acquire it, we may be surprised to discover that some of the founders' most deeply held beliefs and opinions, were focused on subjects which have little if anything to do with our modern political arguments, and cannot be readily marshaled to defending our own opinions on modern political controversies.  

This is true, for example, of many of the founders' fears, which are given little attention in modern times. [Citation to be inserted]

 



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Glossary of Legal Terms for the New Lawyer

Alter ego: The Judge’s law clerk.

Arbitration: A place where lawyers develop bad habits they have to unlearn in court.

Beneficiary: The person at the funeral everyone is trying to befriend.

Campaign contribution: A cost of doing business for lawyers in states with an elected judiciary. 

Contested Divorce: The transfer of a couple’s wealth to their lawyers.   

Difference:  Two things which are not the same.  As in the old joke: “What’s the difference between God and a Federal Judge?  God does not think he’s a Federal Judge.”

Election of Remedies:  Not an option in the 2016 Presidential race.

Fool: (1) Someone who represents himself.  (2) The lawyer who handled the case before you were hired to replace him. 

Government: Corruption.  

Hearing Officer: An employee of a local government agency, with no legal training and the power to ruin your life.

Hearsay: Evidence which is so incredibly unreliable that there are only 2,714 exceptions which will allow it to be admitted.  

Insurance:  Originally intended as a method for avoiding accountability.  Which is ironic, since you are more likely to be sued if you have it than if you don’t. 

Intellectual Property: Real estate that’s really, really, clever, and likes to read.

Joint Tenancy: A bad way to co-own property if the other owner has ever been convicted of a violent felony.   

Judge: (1) The person assigned to decide all questions of law in your complex secured transactions case.  Hopefully, she wasn't just appointed to the bench shortly after spending 20 years as a public defender in the criminal justice system, where she had no exposure to secured transactions law whatsoever.  (2) If that hope fails, a good reason to mediate.   

Jury: (1) The group of people assigned to decide all of the extremely technical questions of fact in your complex secured transactions case, hopefully seven of them are not currently "between jobs." (2) If that hope fails, a good reason to mediate.

Kangaroo court: A court that rules against you.

Liable: A common misspelling of libel.

Libel: A common misspelling of liable.

Lobbyists: The authors of the U.S. Code and the Nevada Revised Statutes. 

Mine: “A hole in the ground with a liar on top.”  Mark Twain.

Parole Evidence Rule:  How you misspell “Parol Evidence Rule” if you were watching COPS with the closed-captioning on when you should have been focused on your First Year Contracts homework.  

Principal: (1) A common misspelling of “Principle”.  (2)  What you call someone you think is in charge of a company when you aren’t sure what exactly his or her title is. (3) The person you knew in your youth, a visit to whose office is now what you are reminded of when you have been called to appear before the Discovery Commissioner or the Federal Magistrate. (4) The very last thing a bank will apply your payment towards.

Principle:  Things that matter.  For example, when a potential new client says, “It’s not about the money; it’s about the principle of the thing” this means: “Get a big retainer; because I’ll be ignoring your invoices." 

Res Ipsa Loquitur: A latin phrase meaning “We don’t know whose really to blame, so it must be you.”  

Retire the Debt Party: A chance to make amends if you contributed to the losing judicial candidate.

Rule Against Perpetuities: A court rule that limits briefs to under 30 pages.

Sausage Factory: The Legislature.

Sausage Ingredients:  Greed; Human misery; Special Interest Groups seeking legal treatment in violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution; Things at which someone has taken umbrage; constitutional provisions which mandate that the legislature meet every two years, whether they really need to or not.  

Separation of Powers: A myth they taught you in High School.  

Sovereign Immunity: Why government workers don't need liability insurance. 

Stare Decisis.  A latin phrase meaning “Just as some financial institutions are too big to fail, some judicial errors are too old to correct.”  

Tax lawyer: “A person whose really good with numbers, but didn’t have enough personality to become an accountant.”  (Hat tip to a law professor whose name I can’t remember.)

The: A definitive article which the Nevada Bar considers unethical in lawyer advertising.  You may call yourself “A big kahuna” on your classy Billboard, but not “THE big kahuna.”

Tortuous: (1) How Microsoft Word (and therefore your paralegal) thinks “tortious” is supposed to be spelled in a personal injury complaint. (2) Waterboarding.  (3) Attending a CLE Seminar on commercial leases. 

TOTBAL: "There ought to be a law" as in: There ought to be a law that Netflix cannot stop streaming the TV show you've been binging without giving you 90 days notice. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

50 Truths

As I approach my 50th Birthday, here are 50 things I believe to be true:

1.  Nothing is free.

2.  This too shall pass. 

3.  Everything is authentic.  It may be mis-advertised, but it is what it is.

4.  There is an inverse relationship between how creatively a child's name is spelled and the likelihood that the child will graduate from High School.

5.  The greatest privilege a young human can be afforded in this lifetime is to be born to, and raised by, his or her own married mother and father.  Any cultural trend or political policy which decreases the number of children who are afforded this privilege should be opposed.  

6.  If you start a sentence with the word "Whereas" or "While" you are about to write a sentence which is too long and will need to be split into two sentences.

7.  Good mechanics, good lawyers, and good doctors, make most of their money from people who should have hired them sooner. 

8. Power corrupts, and tends to be welded by the incompetent.  

9. Most legislation is stupid, unconstitutional, overly expensive, geared towards special interests and therefore in violation of equal protection principles, and likely to do more harm than good.  The best legislators are those unsung heroes who have spent most of their time blocking bad laws, rather than worrying about the much less important task of passing good ones.

10. Having what you believe to be high-minded political opinions does not make you a virtuous person, nor excuse you from the real-world work of becoming a decent human being, treating others with respect, and living by the same rules of kindness and integrity as everyone else. Ditto for your wealth, your athleticism, your talent, your good looks, or your intelligence.  If you believe otherwise, stop it.  

11. Human nature is such that every society will eventually fall and fail and topple, either to foreign invasion, or to internal conflict and revolution, or to unsustainable public expenditure and corruption, or to apathy and dissolution. No tribe, no city-state, no nation-state, no empire, has ever put off this fate forever.  But some societies, which are especially unfortunate or whose leaders are especially corrupt or unwise, get there more quickly than they have to. The best that can be hoped for is some lengthy and relatively stable duration between a nation's dawn and its death.  If you live in a time and a place which is mostly peaceful, mostly prosperous, and mostly free, then gratitude for the past and pessimism about the future are both appropriate.

12. No one will ever care about someone else's well-being and happiness as much as that person's mother.  

13.  The charge to you will always be more than the provider's cost.  Where there is no competition, the gap between the cost and the charge will be larger.  Where the government provides, the gap will be largest.

14.  Government subsidies cause exponential inflation.  See skyrocketing college tuition rates. Ignorance by the consumer of the actual price being charged also causes exponential inflation.  See skyrocketing health care costs.  Ignorance by the consumer of the price being paid, coupled with government subsidies, causes exponential inflation cubed.  See, anything the government claims it is providing you for free. 

15.  Think twice before doing business with a company that has the word "Honest" in its name.

16.  Nature abhors a vacuum.  A society's values, legal and political traditions, and cultural customs cannot be negated without being replaced.

17.  Correlation does not necessarily equal causation.  

18.  Wealth is not necessarily a sign of virtue or competence. 

19.  Aristotle was right about the golden mean: finding the proper balance and median between excess and deficiency, is the key to everything.

20.  Most stupid ideas are good ideas taken too far. Every virtue, if taken to an excess, becomes a vice.  Every truth, over-extended, can become a falsehood. 

21. Inequality is the price of liberty.  Totalitarianism is the price of equality.

22. Human beings come in two sexes.  Not one.  Not twenty-seven.  Two. These sexes are objectively and scientifically determinable, based on one's chromosomes.  They are not "assigned" and are not subjective and are not capable of being altered via cosmetic surgical intervention.  Our society's recent decision to deny these fundamental scientific truths, and the harshness with which any dissent from the new unscientific orthodoxy is punished, proves that the story of The Emperor's New Clothes was one of the wisest parables about human nature ever written.   

23. Men and women are very different.  Men and women are pretty much the same. 

24. Change should not be confused with progress. 

25. When the Judge agrees with you, sit down and shut up. 

26.  We will sometimes experience the same petty emotions when we are 17, 27, or 77 years old, as we did when we were 7. The difference, hopefully, is that we have learned not to throw a tantrum, so people will think we are mature.    

27.  A calorie may be a calorie may be a calorie, but I've never had to start attending Weight Watchers because I'd been eating too many fruits and vegetables.

28.  The scientific method is an incredibly powerful tool for unlocking certain kinds of truth and developing certain types of technology.  It does not and cannot however answer the questions of ultimate meaning and purpose.  

29. You will never be as great as you could be, at anything that you do for some other reason than the intrinsic love of the intrinsic value of the thing itself.

30.  Most of us judge other people in accordance with our own strengths.  Thus, the rich tend to be appreciative of wealth, the athletic tend to admire athleticism, the intelligent are impressed by intelligence, and so forth. If we can break free of that tendency, the range of people whose gifts and talents we can appreciate and admire will grow exponentially. 

31. It's a good idea to understand the basics of how aperture priority mode and shutter priority mode work on your camera.  

32. It is hard to be depressed when you are busy, and have people to see and things to get done. 

33.  Science is performed by humans, and its results are reported by humans, which means it's just as prone to error and politicization as any other human endeavor.  Take nothing on faith except Faith.  At least half of what you read "studies have shown" will be wrong

34.  People who talk during plays and movies should be given a fair trial before they are shot. 

35. Blessed beyond measure is the person who can look in the mirror and say "I love what I do and I'm really good at it."  

36. Everything is more fun if you have taken the time and made the effort to get good at it when it wasn't fun.  

37. We would all love to be trust fund beneficiaries.  But when two 45 year-olds meet at a reunion, one of whom has been taken care of, and one of whom has grinded away, paying their dues to become quietly capable in their profession, the latter is going to be the happier and more confident person. 

38. If you sometimes don't recognize the people on the magazine covers as you are standing in line for the cashier at the grocery store, and are often unsure who they are, or why they are famous, you are doing something right. 

39. Believers tend to be happier than atheists.

40. The educated tend to be happier than the ignorant.

41. The married tend to be happier than the single. 

42. People who read tend to be happier than people who watch television. 

43. Participants tend to be happier than spectators. 

44. The gainfully employed tend to be happier than the unemployed, even when the unemployed have generous means of support. 

45. The talented and the skilled tend to be happier than the untalented and the unskilled. 

46. When a society stops believing in God, it has about 125 years left before its expiration date.  When it stops believing in free will, it has about 50 years left before its expiration date. 

47. Money spent on experiences is better spent than money spent on things. 

48. Nothing will cause us more joy, nor bring us more sorrow, than our relationships with others.  So it's a good idea to keep in contact with your friends; to write a thank you letter to someone who mentored you or taught you or coached you or led you when you were young; to volunteer in ways that allow you to play those roles for others; to go on dates with your spouse and to invite family members to dinner.  If you don't have time for these things, why wake up in the morning?

49.  Selfishness is the root of all evil. 

50. Morality means treating other people as ends and not as means.