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Walter Hudson

Walter Hudson advocates for individual rights, serving on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, and as president of the Minority Liberty Alliance. He hosts a daily podcast entitled Fightin Words, proudly hosted on Twin Cities Newstalk Podcast Network. Walter is a city council member in Albertville, MN. Follow his work via Twitter and Facebook.
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Spock’s Trek Through the Stars in 10 Clips

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

We’ve had some time to process the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death. The character which Nimoy helped create inspired generations to seek balance between discipline and feeling. Let’s take a look back through Spock’s trek through the stars in these 10 clips from the franchise.

What It Means to Be Vulcan

In one of the most definitive moments from the original series, Spock finds himself torn between his dual natures when a debilitating attack upon Captain Kirk leaves Spock in command of the Enterprise during a critical diplomatic mission.

The wrinkle is that Spock’s father lays sick among the delegation, succumbing to a malady that only a transfusion from Spock can resolve. But yielding to the procedure would compromise Spock’s capacity to command while the ship is under threat, and so logic dictates that he mind his Starfleet duty and allow his father to die.

Spock’s human mother pleads for him to reconsider in this heated confrontation.

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Atheists Can Be Moral, Too

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Catch up on this series’ previous installments: Part I: “Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem,” Part II: “Is Religion Illogical?” Part III: “Would Christians Object to Living Indefinitely Through Technology?,” Part IV: Is Religion Compatible with Life on Earth?

Can There Be Objective Morality without God?

Believers commonly assert that, without God, there can be no “objective right and wrong.” Yet, such an assertion ignores what it means to be objective. When we identify something as objective rather than subjective, we’re saying it can be observed in the real world. We’re saying it can be perceived, or conceived through reason applied to our perception. Even the most fervent believer must confess that God transcends our human perception, and therefore cannot be cited as a source of objective morality.

The appeal to God as a source of morality proceeds from our recognition that some standard must be applied to our decision-making process. Otherwise, anything goes. In his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It, author Craig Biddle addresses this problem:

The problem is not: “If there is no God, anything goes.” The problem is: If there is no objective standard of value, anything goes. If there is no rationally provable standard of value, there is no way to defend with moral certainty what is right or to condemn with moral certainty what is wrong. The alternative is not religion versus subjectivism, but reason versus subjectivism – and the secular subjectivists know it.

The secular subjectivists Biddle references are those within the culture who reject religion as a source of morality, but make no effort to replace it with anything concrete. They suffice to say that morality emerges from social convention or rests in the eye of the beholder. What is right, they claim, is what makes you feel good, or what results in the greatest happiness for the greatest number, or what serves the “common good.”

How Do We Respond to Secular Subjectivism and Moral Relativism?

Believers offer our appeal to God as the source of “objective morality” in answer to such blatant subjectivism or moral relativism. Right and wrong can’t be left to whim, we argue. But our appeal to God doesn’t solve the problem.

Subjectivism – whether personal, social, or “supernatural” – wreaks havoc on human life and happiness. Until we can answer it with (genuine) moral certainty – that is, until we can show that morality is based on facts – it will continue to do so. From muggings and rapes, to school shootings and truck bombings, to concentration camps and gulags, to religious “inquisitions” and divinely inspired acts of terrorism – all such mayhem is caused by subjectivism. And the is-ought dichotomy is what makes subjectivism seem plausible.

The “Is-Ought” Dichotomy

This “is-ought dichotomy” is the philosophical dead end in which believers spar with secular subjectivists. Our culture has given up on the task of discovering a truly objective morality, because we have largely bought into the notion that values cannot be derived from facts, that we cannot discern an “ought” from an “is.”

The Moral Abyss of David Hume’s Philosophy

Biddle points to the eighteenth century philosopher David Hume as the originator of the is-ought dichotomy. Hume taught that it is logically impossible to transition from observable facts about the natural world to a code of conduct or set of values. The problem with Hume’s conclusion is that it leaves us with nowhere to go, with no moral anchor nor any means to discover one.

The is-ought gap represents a moral abyss. If we care about human life and happiness, we need to bridge it. We need to ground morality in reality; we need to discover a rationally provable ultimate end – a standard of value derived from observation and logic.

Christian believers should not feel discouraged or threatened by this. Indeed, scripture exhorts us to look to creation for general revelation regarding the character and nature of God. Paul says in Romans 1:20:

For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The Natural World Provides Guideposts for Appropriate Human Action

anthem

The primary such guidepost is a standard of value from which to judge the appropriateness of all other conceived values, an end unto itself which all other ends support.

An end is a goal toward which one acts; a means is the action one takes toward a goal. For instance, if a student studies in order to get an education, the education is an end toward which his studying is the means. Likewise, if a person works in order to earn a paycheck, the paycheck is an end toward which his work is the means. But notice that such goals are not ends in themselves. A student gets an education so that he can pursue a career – which he pursues in order to support himself and earn a paycheck – which he earns in order to buy things – which he buys in order to use for various other purposes – which he pursues in order to accomplish still other goals – and so on. Each end presupposes another. So where does it all end?

If we are to establish an objective, fact-based morality, we need to discover a final end – one toward which all of our other goals and values are properly aimed. Such an end is by that fact our standard of moral value – the standard against which we can objectively assess the value of all our choices and actions. So the question becomes: What is our ultimate goal?

When we identify this ultimate goal, the question of what we ought to do becomes objectively answerable. That, and only that, is how we discern an objective morality.

As this series continues, we will present and evaluate this objective standard of value. Biddle offers it as an alternative to religion. But one need not be an atheist to accept it. Indeed, the discovery of an objective standard for moral action should embolden the believer and deepen our appreciation of God.

As a father, I may answer any challenge from my son with the proverbial “because I told you so.” In doing so, I don’t offer an actual reason. I merely assert my authority. While that authority proves legitimate, my ultimate desire for my son is that he one day understand why my instruction and rules serve his interest.

Similarly, the appeal to God as a moral authority may prove correct, but says nothing of why his prescriptions are good for us. A consideration of objective morality works to bridge that gap.

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Is Religion Compatible with Life on Earth?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

nun

Even if we conclude that God exists, that does not mean He is worthy of worship. Different presentations of God offer conflicting moral prescriptions, many of which defy our objective sense of right and wrong. It’s easy to understand why critics of religion, like author Craig Biddle, deem faith illogical and even evil. Examples like Islam’s Sharia law speak for themselves.

But Biddle argues that any religious prescription ultimately proves counter-productive to human happiness. From his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It:

To the extent a person is religious, he believes that he has a duty to self-sacrificially serve God. This duty requires him to abandon his own selfish dreams. If he sticks to his faithful convictions and abandons his dreams, he cannot be happy, because his dreams go forever unrealized. Conversely, if he hypocritically abandons his convictions and pursues his dreams, he still cannot be happy, for he is filled with moral guilt and dread of divine retribution.

Biddle offers the hypothetical example of a young girl who desires to be an accomplished ballerina, but feels compelled to serve God by becoming a nun or missionary. We might likewise consider the tithe. What could you do with the money contributed to your church? Aren’t you sacrificing whatever you could do – whatever debt you could pay, whatever provision you could acquire, whatever dream you could chase – by giving up a portion of your income to religion?

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Pastor to Oprah: Christianity ‘Moments Away’ from Embracing Gay Marriage

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Immutability stands as a defining characteristic of divine nature. A god who changes cannot be God. At least that’s been a long-standing Christian doctrine.

But at least one best-selling author and pastor believes that Christianity itself must change. The Blaze reports:

Former megachurch pastor Rob Bell told TV host Oprah Winfrey that he believes Christian churches will become even more irrelevant if they fail to embrace gay relationships and that he sees the Christian umbrella becoming more favorable of homosexuality in the very near future.

When Winfrey asked when the church will come on board with same-sex relationships, Bell, the former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, said that he believes that the time is “close” and that “we’re just moments away from the church accepting it,” according to the Christian Post.

“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone,” Bell said on OWN’s “Super Soul Sunday.”

Two things stand out from these comments. First, Bell proceeds on the unspoken premise that cultural relevance ought to be a Christian value. Of course, if Christians want to be relevant to the culture, they should just renounce Christianity. Scripture is replete with exhortations for the believer to stand apart from the culture, to be distinct in both attitude and conduct. You’d be hard pressed to find a passage in the Bible urging Christians to be “relevant” to the world around them.

Which leads to the second standout from Bell’s comments: his cavalier dismissal of scripture. Who needs 2,000 year old letters to guide their theology? That’s so yesterday. One wonders why anyone would bother to consider themselves Christian at all if they hold so little regard for biblical authority.

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Check Out the ‘Best Damn Movie Show on the Planet’

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It may seem like hubris when AMC Movie News editor-in-chief John Campea intros his daily online webcast as “the best damn movie-related show on the planet.” But watch and compare. You’ll soon conclude that AMC Movie Talk and its associated programs stand head and shoulders above their competition.

There’s no shortage of movie reviews and movie news commentary, both online and broadcast traditionally. What makes AMC’s programming special is the quality of their commentators and the savvy with which Campea employs them.

These aren’t amateurs shooting with webcams against a green screen in their mom’s basement. These are industry professionals with insight into the art and business of film. While Campea frequently reminds viewers that “all film is subjective,” the opinions and analysis offered by the AMC crew are always backed by a credible rationale.

For example, when news hit the web that Ben Affleck had been cast to play Batman in the forthcoming follow-up to Man of Steel, the choice was widely condemned by just about everyone. Campea stood alone as a dissenting voice in support of the decision. He wasn’t just being a fanboy. Campea explained that Affleck has emerged as a tremendous asset for Warner Bros. This is an Academy Award-winning actor who has won other industry prizes for his writing and directing. Affleck has come a long way from the days of Daredevil and Gigli. The smart money rides on Affleck directing one or more films in the burgeoning DC Cinematic Universe. Why wouldn’t you want the director of Argo helping you catch up to Marvel Studios?

If you haven’t found AMC Movie Talk yet, now is the time to get on board. Campea took to social media on Monday to announce the launch of a new phase for the organization. In addition to the daily AMC Movie Talk and frequent AMC Mailbag shows, March will see three new weekly additions. As a new age of Star Wars films dawns with this year’s The Force Awakens, AMC Jedi Council will go in depth with news, rumors, and analysis. AMC Heroes will focus on the increasing number of comic book films slated in the coming years. Finally, AMC Rewind will hearken back to films at least 20 years old and introduce viewers to classics they may have missed.

Oh, and if independent film is your thing, check out AMC Indie Spotlight. Housed on a YouTube channel all its own, the show deals exclusively with independent film. There’s something for everyone.

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Would Christians Object to Living Indefinitely Through Technology?

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

We want to live forever. We seek immortality through a variety of means, living vicariously through our children, leaving a legacy in our community, and embracing the claims of religion.

But what if we could actually live indefinitely here on Earth? What if we could elect to live for centuries or even millennia? Would we want to?

Zoltan Istvan thinks so. Reason TV’s Zach Weissmueller interviews the author of The Transhumanist Wager in the video above. They come to an interesting aside when Weissmueller inquires about cultural resistance to the idea of technological immortality. Aren’t some people actually revolted by the idea? Istvan answers:

America and many places around the world are quite religious, especially America…a poll said 83% are still declaring themselves Christian. That makes it hard to want to take death out of the equation, because a natural part of the Christian ideology is to die and to eventually reach an afterlife with God…

While Istvan may anticipate the reaction of some, the Christian faith doesn’t necessarily preclude an embrace of transhumanist technology. It depends on the particular nature of the tech. There’s nothing in mainstream Christian doctrine which would forbid something like artificial organs, for instance. And if replacing organs could extend life by decades or more, why not?

… it’s not as though wanting to live indefinitely is something that’s going to intrude and conflict with one’s religion. It’s just something that’s kind of the evolving nature of the species. And if you can get people to think like that, and not see it in conflict with their own ideologies, then I think they’re going to be more on board with saying, “Yeah, it’s good to live 150, 200 years.” And again, I’m not saying let’s live forever. I don’t think any transhumanists are saying that. I think what we want is the choice to be able to live indefinitely. That might be 10,000 years. That might only be 170 years.

The line might be drawn at technology which changes one’s nature to something non-human. When we look at something like uploading one’s consciousness to a computer, the question must be asked: would you still be “you?” Or would you be essentially committing suicide?

The notion of living indefinitely, unto itself, should actually appeal to the Christian. After all, everlasting life is the promise of Christian salvation, and lifespans greatly surpassing those common today are recorded throughout scripture. Adam lived to 930. Noah made it to 950. Enoch was “taken” before his time at the tender young age of 365. For the believer who takes scripture literally, the notion of living for centuries has precedence.

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Spider-Man to Swing Through the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

spiderman

One of the most intriguing stories to come out of the Sony hack last year was the revelation that Marvel Studios had been engaged in secret talks to include Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony holds the license to produce Spider-Man films, and has shepherded the character through a rebooted franchise starring Andrew Garfield in the title role.

All that may be about to change. Straight from the horse’s mouth at Marvel.com:

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man.

Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.

Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films.

The news raises several questions. Will the “new direction” for Spider-Man take the form of another reboot? Or will the world of The Amazing Spider-Man films be integrated into the existing MCU? How will Marvel Studios ensure the continuity of their cinematic universe if Sony retains “final creative control” of Spider-Man’s adventures? It all seems very risky, at least without additional details spelling out how it will work.

Might Marvel pursue a similar arrangement with Twentieth Century Fox to bring the X-Men and Fantastic Four into the MCU? It certainly seems more likely after this news, but would depend on a lot of unknowns. Will the new Fantastic Four reboot be a hit? Will the forthcoming X-Men Apocalypse prove as successful as last year’s Days of Future Past? Will this arrangement with Sony pan out successfully? If the answers to all those questions are yes, then a broader collaboration may make sense.

The downside to bringing all these characters into the same universe is that it crowds out less popular ones. There’s an argument that the MCU as we know it never would have been made if Marvel retained the rights to make Spider-Man and X-Men films. Would something like Guardians of the Galaxy have been made if Marvel could have fallen back on a better known property? Will the inclusion of Spider-Man in the MCU actually stagnate its creative development?

No matter how it pans out, it’s probably safe to say that all studios concerned are about to make a ton of money.

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Is Religion Illogical?

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Catch up on Part I of this series: “Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem”

As we continue though Craig Biddle’s critique of religion found in his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It, we are introduced to the concept of objective morality:

“Objective” means “fact-based.” For morality to be objective, it has to be based on a standard of value derived not from feelings, but from facts.

The notion of objective morality stands in contrast to various forms of subjectvism which have dominated much of human history. Biddle lists “religious subjectivism” among “secular subjectivism” and “personal subjectivism” as three variations of the same phenomenon. In this way, he connects the rhetoric and methods of the church, the Nazis, and hedonistic criminals.

This is how an argument for God always ends. One believes because one believes – which means: because one wants to. Religion is a doctrine based not on facts, but on feelings. Thus, claims to the contrary notwithstanding, religion is a form of subjectivism.

In light of this fact, it should come as no surprise that while secular subjectivism denies some of religion’s unproved, evidence-free claims, it demands and employs the very same methods – faith, mysticism, and dogma.

For instance, according to the Nazis, Hitler’s will determined the truth…

Believers may scoff at the comparison. Yet consider the foundation upon which it is built.

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Ranking These 9 Super Bowl Movie Trailers

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

#9. SpongeBob Square Pants: Sponge Out of Water

It’s SpongeBob. He wears square pants. This time, he’s coming out of the water.

Have fun kids. Daddy will be next door watching Ted 2.

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Pivoting from American Sniper: Are Drone Attacks Immoral?

Monday, January 26th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

“A family man begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot.” So reads the synopsis of the upcoming film Good Kill starring Ethan Hawke and Mad Men’s January Jones.

Hawke plays Tom Egan, the drone pilot in question, offering a brooding portrait of self-loathing. Such is the proper attitude of a man toward killing while facing no personal danger. The film’s tagline reads: “If you never face your enemy, how can you face yourself?”

“Don’t ask me if this is a just war. It’s not up to us,” Bruce Greenwood advises as Hawke’s grizzled commanding officer. “To us, it’s just war.”

“I am a pilot, and I’m not flying,” Hawke bemoans. “I don’t know what it is that I am doing. But it’s not flying.”

Evoking recent comments directed at the late Chris Kyle, Hawke continues, “Everyday, I feel like a coward, taking potshots at somebody halfway around the world.”

While overt characterizations of American military action as cowardice may be confined to Hollywood and the halls of academia, they proceed from a theory of war which has dominated American foreign policy since World War II.

So-called just war theory emerges from a bastardization of Christian doctrine which prescribes sacrificial combat. According to the doctrine, war should not be fought strictly in self-defense, but in service of some “higher” goal – like the freedom or relief of others. Shedding American blood for something like “Iraqi freedom” is considered a superior motive to fighting strictly for American sovereignty or American lives.

A critical component of just war theory is “proportionality,” the idea that a retaliatory response should be restrained and remain comparable to the threat faced. The tenet of proportionality would have rejected the dropping of two atomic bombs on Imperial Japan, for instance.

From such a perspective, it’s easy to see how one might judge a role like sniper or drone pilot to be cowardly. After all, the explicit purpose of such roles is to engage in highly disproportionate combat, to maximize lethality while minimizing risk. That doesn’t jive with a sacrificial agenda. To be “just,” combat must present similar risk to all combatants. You must “face your enemy.” On a larger scale, “just war” must be fought not to win with overwhelming force, but to save an enemy population from themselves.

Just war theory is anything but moral. A truly moral war policy, which you can find articulated here, would not derive its righteousness from sacrificial risk-taking. Rather, the morality of military force would be judged solely on whether it was retaliatory in nature. The objective would not be to “fight fair,” but to achieve unquestioned victory through the utter destruction or unconditional surrender of the enemy.

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Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

sacrifice

Does Christianity call for human sacrifice?

When you put the question like that, the instinctive response of any given Christian would tend toward a resounding “no.” After all, human sacrifice is a barbaric act which no rational person could condone. We believers like to regard ourselves as rational.

Yet, a cursory examination of popular Christian doctrine suggests that human sacrifice – to one degree or another – stands as a central tenet of the faith. In his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It, author Craig Biddle cites “religionists” – including many prominent Christian theologians – to demonstrate that religion calls upon man to sacrifice his own interests to “an alleged God.”

As a Christian, I find Biddle’s observations compelling. Having considered them within the broader context of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy for several years, I have come to question the manner in which Christian teachers present the topic of sacrifice. Increasingly, I have come under the conviction that Christendom has interpreted sacrifice incorrectly. In my view, it is because Christendom has misinterpreted sacrifice that critics like Biddle are able to present Christianity as force for evil rather than good.

With this introductory essay, I invite you to join me in an ongoing exploration of Christian doctrine and the challenges brought against it. My objective, as we proceed week after week, will be to correct what I have come to regard as a doctrinal error causing tremendous confusion within the church and posing a stumbling block for seekers and believers alike. To be clear, my claim is not that God’s Word is wrong, but that our reading of it has been. I hope to demonstrate that my altered view of sacrifice is the view actually taught within scripture.

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Chris Kyle’s Righteous Indignation

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

propaganda sniper

Commentators, both on the political Left and within libertarian circles, have been wringing hands over the tremendous commercial success of Clint Eastwood’s Chris Kyle bio-pic American Sniper. From The Wrap:

Over the weekend, multiple Academy members told TheWrap that they had been passing around a recent article by Dennis Jett in The New Republic that attacks the film for making a hero out of Kyle, who said: “The enemy are savages and despicably evil,” and his “only regret is that I didn’t kill more.” Kyle made the statements in his best-selling book, “American Sniper,” on which the film is based…

…Academy members seem to be paying attention to the criticism that Eastwood and star/producer Bradley Cooper shouldn’t be celebrating a man who wrote that killing hundreds of Iraqis was “fun.”

“He seems like he may be a sociopath,” one Academy member told TheWrap, adding he had not yet seen the film but had read the article, which is being passed around.

And Michael Moore, an Oscar voter and former Academy governor from the Documentary Branch, tweeted on Sunday, “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.”

Moore has since walked back his comments, if only just a bit. The Interview star Seth Rogen came under scrutiny for comparing American Sniper to a Nazi propaganda film only to also walk his comments back. In these and many other lower-profile cases, the common denominator is a moral equivalence between America and forces like Nazi Germany, the Taliban, or ISIS.

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American Sniper and the Billion Dollars That Hollywood Leaves on the Table Each Year

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Is it any wonder that American Sniper has dominated the box office? From the Associated Press:

Clint Eastwood’s R-rated Iraq War drama … opened in January like a superhero movie in July, taking in a record $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. four-day weekend.

The film’s unprecedented success obliterated forecasts and set numerous box-office records. It easily surpassed “Avatar” to become the biggest January weekend ever.

Of course it has. This is a film that gives American audiences what they want. PJM’s David Forsmark swoons:

American Sniper lives up to its title. This is an intensely American film. Everything about Chris Kyle’s background, from hunting with his father, to the little country church, to wanting to be a cowboy, is not just Texas, it’s America.

When America gets what America wants, studios make $100 million in four days.

So why don’t more studios make these kinds of films? Why do we instead get inundated with cynical anti-American garbage with anti-heroes espousing an anti-philosophy?

We need not look far for our answer. From The Wrap:

Academy members seem to be paying attention to the criticism that Eastwood and star/producer Bradley Cooper shouldn’t be celebrating a man who wrote that killing hundreds of Iraqis was “fun.”

“He seems like he may be a sociopath,” one Academy member told TheWrap, adding he had not yet seen the film but had read the article, which is being passed around.

And Michael Moore, an Oscar voter and former Academy governor from the Documentary Branch, tweeted on Sunday, “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.”

Money may be a store of value, but it’s not the standard. For those holding the reins in Hollywood, the social acceptance of their community can often be a higher value than record profits.

We don’t see more films like American Sniper for the same reason we don’t see more G-rated family films. Movies you can take your kids to earn money hand over fist, for obvious reasons. Conversely, R-rated films have a built-in market limitation which translates to a smaller box office take. That’s why Fox’s forthcoming Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds as a filthy-mouthed mercenary from the X-Men universe is aiming for a PG-13 rating. Gotta get those kids in the seats.

Even so, we see far more R-rated exploitation fare and self-indulgent art house films which critique American culture than we see films like American Sniper. That’s because the former earn kudos from the industry, a currency nearly as good as cash in Hollywood.

Indeed, how many times have you heard it said of a star that he is doing that summer blockbuster to earn a check so he can afford to make an “important” film later? Such importance is not measured by commercial success, but by the accolades of fellow liberal artists.

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When Does a Compromise on Tea Party Values Become a ‘Betrayal’?

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson
This was the image sent out by the MN Tea Party Alliance in reference to Congressman Tom Emmer's vote to re-elect John Boehner as Speaker.

This was the image sent out by the MN Tea Party Alliance in reference to Congressman Tom Emmer’s vote to re-elect John Boehner as Speaker.

“Tom Emmer betrays conservatives on day one.”

That was the subject line of an email sent out Wednesday by the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance in reference to the freshman congressman from the state’s Sixth District. Emmer this week filled the seat previously held by Michele Bachmann.

[Voters] put a man in office with the expectation that he would fight for smaller government and more liberty. However, in his first real test vote as a conservative, Tom Emmer voted wrong and against the wishes of his conservative base by voting for John Boehner as Speaker.

Similar condemnations and recriminations crisscrossed social media like missiles exchanged in a nuclear apocalypse. The ruckus was not contained to Minnesota. Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) was compelled to issue a statement rebuking detractors of his vote for Boehner. He described a hopeless scenario wherein the speaker could not have been removed:

… there were never enough votes to oust Boehner to begin with. On top of that, some people who had publicly said in the past that they wouldn’t vote for Boehner did just that. This was an effort driven as much by talk radio as by a thoughtful and principled effort to make a change. It was poorly considered and poorly executed, and I learned first-hand [from participating in a previous coup attempt in 2013] that is no way to fight a battle. This coup today was bound to fail. And in fact, it failed worse than I expected, falling 11 votes short of deposing the Speaker. At least two years ago we only failed by six.

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Black Lives (and All Others) Only Matter if Property Does

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

At the root of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the several controversies which have fueled it, lies a critical disagreement over the nature and importance of property. At first glance, in the midst of an unarmed shooting and a death by choke-hold, it may not seem like property rights stand out. But they do.

From the moment Michael Brown committed a strong arm robbery, through the looting and arson which have characterized the response to his shooting death, to the trespass and harassment which have been committed and sanctioned by protestors across the nation, the implicit (and sometimes explicit) narrative has been that property does not matter.

I responded here at PJ Media and on my Fightin Words podcast to Reason author Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s critique of a city attorney for pursuing criminal and civil charges against Black Lives Matter protestors who staged an unlawful demonstration at the Mall of America. Both Brown and the organizers she quoted repeatedly referred to the event, an admitted act of trespass, as “peaceful.”

My thesis was simple. There’s no such thing as peaceful trespass. If you’re going to encroach upon the rights of others, you are not being peaceful. You are committing an act of violence.

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Christmas: He Laid Down His Right

Thursday, December 25th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Christianity is an absurd death cult. That was the expressed belief of the late Christopher Hitchens, one among the so-called “new atheists” who engaged in an aggressive sort of anti-evangelism. Hitchens once sketched his view of the incarnation thus:

In order to be Christian, you have to believe that for 98,000 years our species suffered and died… [enduring] famine, struggle, viciousness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years – heaven watches it with complete indifference – and then 2,000 years ago [God] thinks that’s enough of that, it’s time to intervene. The best way to do this would be by condemning someone to a human sacrifice somewhere in the less literate part of the Middle East…

Hitchens’ presentation of Christianity highlights one of the greatest challenges to Christian apologetics. Increasingly, a dichotomy has been offered between reason and faith. Ayn Rand defined the two concepts as opposites, and the co-relation of religion and atrocity has been increasingly cited as evidence that faith literally kills.

This Christmas Day, I offer a preview of an ongoing project to begin here at PJ Lifestyle in the new year. Working through books on the topics of reason, individual rights, and the Christian worldview, we will explore how we might reconcile our human perception with divine revelation.

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What’s With That New Lightsaber in The Force Awakens Trailer?

Monday, December 1st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

We’ve all seen it a few dozen times by now, the first teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. For the most part, it looks quite good. Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and hiring of Abrams signaled a clear advancement of the franchise from the malaise of the prequels to something better resembling the original trilogy. Indeed, this trailer’s aesthetic looks a lot more like classic Star Wars than anything we saw in Episodes I through III.

There’s only one major hiccup, and it’s quite concerning. While the TIE fighters look like TIE fighters, the X-Wings look like X-Wings, and the Millennium Falcon looks better than ever, what’s up with that new lightsaber?

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With Abrams’ direction setting the tone for the plethora of Star Wars films due in the next six years, his creative choices prove definitive and therefore important. We can look to his previous efforts in the Star Trek franchise for clues into how he will approach it.

One thing that seemed very clear from Abrams’ approach to Star Trek was that he wasn’t shy about drastically altering the aesthetic of the universe. Everything from the way phasers work to the look of warp drive to the Apple store-themed bridge of the Enterprise was a sharp deviation from the franchise’s established look and feel.

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10 Films Set Around Thanksgiving That You Can Stream Tonight

Thursday, November 27th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Looking for a movie to watch this holiday that’s at least somewhat relevant to the season? Perfect. We’ve got you covered.

These films aren’t necessarily about Thanksgiving, although a couple of them are. Regardless, they each have some connection to the holiday and provide a welcome escape. Here are 10 films set around Thanksgiving that you can stream tonight:

#10. Tower Heist

Capitalizing on real-life headlines regarding Wall Street graft and investment Ponzi schemes, Tower Heist imagines how the staff of a high-rise luxury apartment complex would react to the news that their most high-profile tenant had squandered their retirement savings. The comedy stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, and Alan Alda.

When Alda’s Wall Street billionaire is arrested for scamming investors out of their money, Stiller’s building manager recruits Murphy’s petty thief to help the defrauded building staff steal their money back.

Thanksgiving Connection: The titular heist occurs during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Streaming options: Available to rent/buy on Amazon and Vudu.

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10 Disney Classics Which Deserve a Live-Action Remake

Friday, November 21st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Above, you can view the new trailer for Disney’s live-action remake of Cinderella. The film marks the third such reimagining, following this year’s hugely successful Maleficent and 2010′s Tim Burton-directed Alice in Wonderland. If Cinderella proves successful, which seems to be a foregone conclusion, the question becomes: which other Disney classics might lend themselves to a live-action treatment?

Not every old Disney film stands as an ideal candidate. Many feature talking animals as their main characters and, if you were to try to translate them into CGI within a live-action setting, wouldn’t prove that much different than their animated originals.

Weeding those out, let’s rank what’s left. Here are 10 Disney classics which deserve a live-action remake.

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The Top 10 Cinematic Portrayals of DC Comics Villains

Friday, November 14th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Warner Bros. recently announced an aggressive slate of films based upon DC Comics properties which will share a single cinematic universe, an answer to the successful franchise which Marvel Studios has built since 2008’s Iron Man. The DC slate opens with 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and will continue the same year with Suicide Squad, which director David Ayer recently described as “The Dirty Dozen with supervillains.”

In the comics, the Suicide Squad boasts DC’s B-list villains, characters like Deadshot and Captain Boomerang. However, if rumors now circulating prove true, the cinematic interpretation of Suicide Squad may boast A-list villains like Lex Luthor and the Joker. Reports claim that bombshell actress Margot Robbie has been cast as Harley Quinn, and that Oscar-winner Jared Leto is in talks to play Joker.

In any case, the roster of DC Comics villains portrayed in live-action film is about to explode. Before that happens, let’s consider where the existing rogues gallery ranks. Here are the top 10 cinematic portrayals of DC Comics villains.

#10. Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow

When it was announced that Christopher Nolan would be rebooting the Batman franchise years after Joel Schumacher piloted it into the ground, no one could have predicted how definitive the result would become. Among the bold moves made in re-imagining the property was featuring lesser known villains, including the Scarecrow.

Actor Cillian Murphy took what could have easily been a camp character and grounded him in a believable reality. Dr. Jonathan Crane served a vital narrative purpose befitting his nature as a criminal psychologist obsessed with fear. Fear stood as the dominant theme in Batman Begins, as Bruce Wayne turned his fear against the criminals holding an unholy grip upon Gotham City.

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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Delivers on All Fronts

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Being a grown adult, married with young children and many assumed responsibilities, I don’t get to play video games as much as I used to. There was a time, just a few short years ago, when I kept up on all the latest releases and played them through voraciously. But that’s just not an option anymore, which is probably a good thing.

The last Call of Duty game I purchased and played was Modern Warfare, the first in the franchise to move the action from the historical battlefields of World War II to the present day. Many sequels have come and gone since then, none of which I have felt particularly compelled to sample. The latest entry, however, piqued my interest.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare makes the next chronological leap in the series from the present day to an imagined near-future where high-technology reshapes both the warrior and his battlefield. Add to that the acting talent of Kevin Spacey, fully digitized in a key role, and developer Sledgehammer Games presents a package worth taking a look at.

Having received the game as a birthday present recently, I’ve had the opportunity to kick its tires and have to say – it’s impressive. Especially coming from the perspective of having been away from the franchise for several years, the game feels remarkably evolved from what I remember. It’s easy to pick up and get the hang of, despite presenting a deeper than average experience for a game of its genre. It manages to be both more complex than its predecessors, and still simple to play.

The single-player campaign feels as cinematic and immersive as any big-budget Hollywood action film. You’ll find yourself marveling at the action even as you are the one controlling it. The “that’s cool” moments hit one right after the other.

If you’re like me, and haven’t yet made the switch to the next generation of consoles, you’ll want to take advantage of an offer available through March 15th to get both the current and next gen versions of the game for the price of one. You have to buy the downloadable version, and you’ll be committing to stick with your current console brand. If you buy the Xbox 360 version, you get the Xbox One as well, and the same with Sony’s Playstation.

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The Top 10 Movie Trailers Released in October

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Movie trailers released throughout October preview some huge titles coming to theaters in near weeks and months. Everything from quirky independent romance to blockbuster action adventure is represented here. Which trailer came out on top? You’ll be surprised.

#10. Life Partners

A narrative born of modern themes, to be sure, Life Partners follows the relationship between two female friends, one of whom happens to be gay. As each wind their way in and out of romantic entanglements with others, the relationship between them is tested and reevaluated.

It will be curious to see how sexual orientation is handled in this film. If these two friends end up together in spite of one of them being straight, which certainly seems to be the trajectory drawn in this trailer, doesn’t that kind of run up against the militant “born that way” narrative?

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What Does That New Star Wars Title Mean?

Friday, November 7th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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The official word dropped from Walt Disney Pictures on Thursday that the title of the new Star Wars film will be The Force Awakens. It doesn’t take much chum to get Star Wars nerds chomping with speculation. So what do these three little words mean?

This marks the first time that the Force has been referenced in a film title. How significant is that? What is the Force awakening from? Has it been somehow subdued in the wake of Return of the Jedi? If so, by what, or whom?

As a fan of the original trilogy who tolerates the prequel films as canon, I have always found the prospect of Episode VII dubious. Do I want another Star Wars film, let alone the five to follow in as many years? Of course. Who doesn’t? However, as a fan, it’s difficult to see where the narrative of this saga goes after the events of Return of the Jedi.

The first six films relate the tale of Anakin Skywalker and his fulfillment of an ancient Jedi prophecy regarding the balance of the Force. Ostensibly, when Anakin emerges from the vestige of Darth Vader and destroys his Sith master at Jedi’s end, that prophecy stands fulfilled and balance has been restored.

Where do you go from there? That’s the question which haunts Disney’s effort. If, in the interest of expanding this mythology for new films, it is revealed that Anakin’s sacrifice was somehow inadequate, that will seriously undermine the gravity of his narrative and cheapen his redemption. That could be too high a price to pay for more Star Wars.

We’re probably six months out from the first trailer. Until then, these three little words will have to suffice as fodder for speculation.

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Health Care Could Be So Much Better

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

I return to work today after a week recovering from a major procedure. I underwent gastric bypass surgery to treat, among other things, my adult onset type 2 diabetes.

While no surgery occurs without pain, discomfort, disorientation, and some period of recovery, I can say that my experience has been as good as it could have been given the circumstances. My doctors, their staff, the insurance company, and the healthcare provider have all performed professionally and effectively.

That said, as a guy daily occupied with the effect of government upon the human experience, I certainly perceived areas where the healthcare system would undoubtedly improve if less encumbered by government. First, I noted inefficient compartmentalization.

To give you an idea of what I mean, consider the path taken to get this surgery done. First, I needed to see my primary care physician for a referral. Then I needed a consult at a weight loss clinic. Then I spent three months checking off a long list of labs, dietitian visits, psychological evaluation, and preparatory classes and consults. Despite the fact that nearly all this occurred under the umbrella of the same healthcare provider, every single time I saw a different person – even within the same clinic, it was like I was being seen for the very first time. I had to answer the same questions, fill out the same forms, tell the same story, over and over again. I can only imagine how frustrating this is for patients dealing with chronic illness.

To a certain extent, this redundancy can be justified. Some of it no doubt serves patient privacy and security. For instance, asking for my birthdate or address could be a verification check to ensure I am the right patient. However, I have a hard time believing that explains most of the redundancy. Most of it seems to be a product of compartmentalization, a lack of access to information previously disclosed. Other industries model customer service solutions which could easily be applied to healthcare.

When you go to the airport in any major city, you can check in at a kiosk and get your boarding pass without seeing a clerk. You can even check in online ahead of time, from your phone while in transit if necessary. Why can’t we do this in healthcare? I get to an appointment on time, but have to wait ten minutes in line behind other patients with more complex needs, and end up checked in late. There’s no need for that.

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