By Contributor Archives

Experts and Suchlike

Experts believe Iran is 3 months from a nuclear device now … and if the Kerry/Obama agreement is kept honestly by Iran (and you can take that with a grain of salt(peter)) then they will be a year from having a device.

These same experts were the ones who said Iraq had lots of poison gas, where taken completely by surprise by Egyptian uprisings, the Russian Crimean adventure, and pretty much every uprising and event in the last decade. The question really is, who are these experts? Why does anyone believe them when they say anything? Who pays these guys? And …

The kicker, Mr Obama has on many occasions spoken of his (secret because details are never given) plan to proceed to a non-nuclear weapon world. How does giving Iran (probably) a weapon faster and more resources to fight conventionally (see their recent overthrow of the Yemen government) … get you to a safer place.

Not seeing it.

Mr Obama. You can complain about us in the States not having faith in you. But you see, you have to actually make arguments for the things you believe. That argument has not once been made publicly . So, don’t just ask us to trust you. ’cause we have no reason to trust anymore. You’ve told too many baldfaced lies for that.

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    Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act

    The state of Indiana has come under fire for passing their version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA, as it’s called, was passed in response to court cases that eroded First Amendment protections of the exercise of religion. Religious freedom used to be judged on a case-by-case basis, considering whether each law had specific exemptions for religious groups. Charles Schumer, Democratic Senator from New York, introduced a bill in 1993 to set a standard on how religious freedom cases should be considered; using the same standard that another First Amendment protection – freedom of speech – was adjudicated. I’ll get to the details of that standard in a moment. The bill passed the US Senate 97-3, and by acclamation in the House. Bill Clinton signed it on November 16, 1993. Today, that same action at the state level is being called “bigoted” by Democrats.

    States have been doing this ever since a Supreme Court decision said that the federal RFRA didn’t apply to the states. Most of the states that have one use language identical to the one Clinton signed. But while religious freedom used to be supported by Democrats, the rise of a particular protected class (and reliable Democratic voting bloc) changed all that; homosexuals. Once again, as we have seen so many times, politics trumps everything else for the Left, even, apparently, the Bill of Rights.

    The fear being stoked is that this will allow Christian businesses to turn away gays just for being gay. Here are a couple of articles that are lists of frequently asked questions about the Indiana RFRA, and they explain, no, that sort of discrimination is not protected. If a Christian denies service to someone simply because they are gay, on the grounds that it’s a sin according to Christian doctrine, you would have a tough time proving those religious grounds in court. According to Christianity, we are all sinners. None of us are perfect. So that business owner would have to deny service to everyone, including him- or herself.

    Participation, one way or another, in a same-sex marriage ceremony has been the typical cause of contention. And all of the examples that I’ve seen that have been taken to court are regarding business owners that would bake cakes, take pictures, or arrange flowers for a gay customer for any purpose other than a same-sex wedding ceremony. This is most definitely not discrimination against gays because they’re gay. It is, however, a religious objection to a ceremony that the business owner does not wish to participate in.

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      That Dread (Medical) Thing

      So. 50. In this day and age, turning fifty (which I did a few years ago, but … ) means you get your recommended endoscopy (colonoscopy?). So I did it today. People talking about it talk about the putative horrors of the day before, drinking and getting, err, emptied out. Turns out it really was no big deal. Not too bad tasting. Not too much. The after effects, not horrible, just kind of insistent. And the procedure itself? Well, the recommended “twilight” medicine basically prevents long term memory formation. So, afterwards, …. it’s kind a like nothing much happened. Scattered memories of the start of the procedure. Not much else.

      So,  if you dread it. Don’t.

      Oh, the other thing. In my case, the good news no polyps. No growths. Clean slate. Woo!

      And another note, apparently routine endoscopy to check for growths and polyps is regarded as the “banana” of health care. Cheap and very good for you. Couple that with it not being at all a big deal, means … it shouldn’t be avoided.

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        So, this sort of thing is going around in many ways all over. Succinctly put (from here):

        If you want to feel depressed about the future of American politics, Obamacare confirms an unnerving phenomenon that has been well-documented by social scientists: more and better information has almost no effect on the political mind.

        It’s some sort of mirage apparently to the left, who remains convinced that it is just a misunderstanding that divides right and left. Which is apparently their premise, but I can’t believe they actually believe that.

        It is a common practice in many sciences, especially physics, to start with a toy, highly abstracted model to demonstrate the essence of a concept. Let’s posit two parties, positions, “political minds” (whatever the heck that might be), call them the dog party and the cat party. Let’s pretend the dog values exactly one thing, equality and that the cat also values exactly one thing, freedom. A perfect communist utopia would be exactly what the dog, in this example would find the ideal. It is their goal. The cat party on the other hand would look at the (mythical perhaps) wild west as shown in movies as their ideal. It is their goal. Then you present both with a “Obamacare”, a large complicated healthcare plan that has costs, benefits and so on. Learning more and more about it is going to not change the dog or cat perceptions on the benefits of this plan one bit. This shouldn’t be unnerving at all. It is clear, those who value equality would like Obamacare as it shifts more resources from the “haves” to the “have-less”, it equalizes things. Those who value freedom would see this is one more diktat from people who should be mindin’ their own bizness and gitten out of theirn. Learning more about it, isn’t going to convince them one bit that it looks any better.

        The thing is, those like the poster, Mr Klein all know that the left and right don’t share the same value structure, that they don’t evaluate “goodness” of programs and political situations with the same cost/benefit matrix. Our political system, for better or worse, is naturally bi-cameral. This means that to get any say at all, you align yourself with the “team” whose actual or declared (… which in a perfect world is aligned somewhat) cost/benefit matrix for evaluating “goodness” of decisions is best aligned with yours. Those like Mr Klein know this.

        Question is, why pretend otherwise? I dunno? Any guesses?

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          It’s milestone time! Episode 100 of the Consider This Podcast has been released; conservative commentary in 10 minutes or less. (OK, but since this is a special occasion, that time limit has gone out the window.)

          Well, I made it all the way to episode 100! If you’ve been listening, thanks so much. If you haven’t, might as well start now.

          I start out the show with greetings and feedback from listeners. Yes, there are people out there actually listening to this, and I appreciate it very much.

          Then we take a trip back to Camelot, as Mark Twain’s character did in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”. In that book, there is a short chapter about … economics. No, really. And it’s trying to teach a lesson that, over a hundred years later, we’re still having to relearn.

          Let me know your thoughts on these or other subjects. Click on the link for the show notes and ways to send your feedback, including calling 267-CALL-CT-0 (267-225-5280) or emailing considerthis@ctpodcasting.com. Subscribe to the podcast in iTunesStitcherBlubrry, or Player.fm.

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            Two Strange (post workout) Thoughts

            First off, this weekend, we get a high “holy” pi day, after all, 3/14/15 is 5 digits of pi, not just 3. Except it isn’t. See, 3.1415 are the actual first 5 digits of pi. Except if you were to give pi to the five significant figures, that wouldn’t be 3.1415 but 3.1416 as the next digit after 5 is a 9 and you’d round to 6. So if you want to be a pedant (and we all do, right), then on Saturday you may correct people and tell them that next year we’ll have pi to 5 significant figures and this year is the wrong year for that. Also, you could point out your envy for that long lost March day in the 16th century, 3/14/1593 (or 1592 depending on your point of view). Also, April 31 doesn’t exist, so the Europeans are just plain out of luck when it comes to pi days. On the other hand, computer programmers put dates YYYY/MM/DD … so that things sort numerically naturally. In that case we’ve got quite while before pi days become interesting for (us) real people, i.e., programmers. I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader (or Wolfram Alpha) how many days remain until May 9, 3141, i..e, 3141/5/9.

            And secondly, this GOP letter to Iran is just plain dumb. Look. Nothing Kerry or Obama say means squat. Practically every statement either of them ever utters is a bald-faced lie that has little to no relationship to reality. What they say is about what effect they figure their statement will have on the listener not whether the statement itself bears any relationship to intent or truth. On the other hand, that is probably true of the Iranian delegation as well, so birds of a feather and … they can craft a document wich history will likely regard in on a par with the Stalin/Hitler Poland pact … and anyone believing that they have any more sincerity than that pair has been smoking in Colorado too much.

             

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              Getting It Exactly Wrong: Extremism

              Often you’ll hear or see someone making the statement, the “problem” is extremism. Sometimes the term extremism is replaced with fundamentalism. There is a problem with this statement, if you examine what is meant by that, nobody believes it and contrary to being the problem, extremism is exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Extremism is not a vice, it is a virtue. More than that, pretty much everyone would agree that this is so.

              Examine common extremists, Olympic athletes, professional athletes, and the top researchers in physics, mathematics and chemistry are all what we would regard as extremists. They have devoted their entire life, to borrow from the Bible have, devoted their pursuit of their goal with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. What they are doing is how extremism is defined. They are taking their pursuit of excellence, be it a time in the dash or a proof of an abstract concept … it consumes their attention, their life. Breaks from that pursuit are (typically) intentionally taken to bank their coals, to spur them to higher and greater efforts when they return. I’d mention politicians, who can often also show great zeal in their extreme efforts mostly in the pursuit of … (yikes).

              Oh, comes the objection (from the marginalia), but we mean religious extremism is what is bad. Hmm. So, secular extremism is good, religious extremism bad? Except that isn’t quite so. The most common example of religious extremism a common religious in these parts, are monks. Monastics, like those athletes, devote themselves entirely to God, withdrawing from the world. Horrible they are not. Secular extremism is also bad when the thing pursued is a vice (alcoholism for example).

              This may yield a clue.  Extremism may be seen as human in pursuit of particular excellence (as opposed to general excellence). One concentrates on one thing, as exclusively as possible and devotes ones life to that. If the thing for which you pursue is is a vice, or generically “is bad”, then this form of extremism is harmful. But pursuing vice is bad, in and of itself, that is the loci of the “badness” of extremism to the cause of a vice, not the extremism itself.

              See also “arete” or what the ancient Greek’s would have recognized as common extremism.

              Next up: why fundamentalism, is also not problematic.

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                (Yes, it’s been a while since I blogged here. I’ve been busy with my podcast “Consider This”. However, I just had to come out of blogging semi-retirement to comment on this.)

                Being argued today at the high court is King v Burwell, a lawsuit against ObamaCare (also known in some circles as the Affordable Care Act). This is a set of questions and answers that I imagine many people have about this.

                Q: What is this case all about?

                A: The crux of the issue is a 4-word phrase inside the massive law; “established by the States”. The subsidies supplied by the IRS, according to the text of the law, were to only go to those who applied for insurance via exchanges “established by the States”. If they used the federal exchange (HealthCare.gov), that is not “established by the States” so the subsidies wouldn’t apply.

                That’s according to the plain language of the law, and according to Jonathan Gruber, a major influence in the creation of the law.

                What happened was that the IRS gave out subsidies to those without state exchanges anyway. The lawsuit is saying that the government broke the law in doing so.

                Q: What case is the government making?

                A: That the rest of the law, taken as a whole, makes it clear that withholding subsidies from those who didn’t get their insurance via exchanges “established by the States” was not the intent.

                Q: Does it actually say in the law somewhere, specifically, that those people should get subsidies?

                A: Not that I’ve read. In fact, those articles I’ve seen that have written in defense of the subsidies (like this article by Robert Schlesinger in USA Today) don’t cite any other text that would buttress that opinion. Rather, they argue about the results if the subsidies were overturned.

                To me, that sounds like they’re arguing that a law should say what the implementers want it to say, regardless of what the law itself says. That’s a precedent I don’t think we want to create. For example, if a Republican President vetoes legislation, and a Democratic Congress overrides that veto, is the President free to implement the provisions of the law he or she likes and ignore others? I’d say No, and I think those arguing for the ObamaCare interpretation would agree with me if the parties today were reversed.

                The IRS did issue a ruling saying that they would, in fact, give subsidies to those in states without exchanges, but as far as I’m aware, the IRS is not part of the legislative branch.

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                  Links: 2015-03-01

                  Well, post swim lactic acid and endorphin levels have ruined my chance to offer a intelligent essay. So … on to links.

                  1. A middle ground?  You mean like where people who want guns can get them and those that don’t don’t. Sounds like a middle ground to me.
                  2. So the left has been full frontal attack mode on Mr Walker. They’re making him a more and more attractive candidate from where I sit. I mean, for example, when you demonize a guy for “gosh he’s making it illegal on Wisconsin campuses to report rapes and assaults” … uhm, dig just a little bit and you find he’s doing that at the effing request of the University (not a hotbed conservative place, btw). And the whole, “he’s clearly unqualified” after giving reasonable responses to stupid/unreasonable questions. Uhm, no. That’s not unreasonable, but hey, the questions were.
                  3. On speaking truthfully, unless you are a politician. (for a prime example see our President), in which case (to borrow from Shania Twain) as we know politicians only lie when they’re breathing.
                  4. On the IRS and Obamacare.
                  5. On the IRS and their breathing thing, or lying thing .. whatever.
                  6. Tech for the plant floor.
                  7. Cool image.
                  8. Evil and consequences.
                  9. Zoom.
                  10. A school (down under) getting it all wrong.
                  11. Left wing boorish bullying, an example.
                  12. So, Obama vetoed Keystone, because he things rail is much cleaner safer way to transport oil. Teh stupid, it burns.
                  13. So, will the Rubicon be crossed in the next decade or two? Wonder if anyone is laying odds.
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                    The Great Canon (continued)

                    So, some selected passages from tonight (Tuesday’s) canon. (tonight’s link is to Tuesday’s canon, and is the translation we used in our service tonight)

                    (from the 3rd ode)

                    In You, the Destroyer of death, have I found the Fountain of Life, and now from the heart cry out before my death: “I have sinned. Be merciful and save me!”

                    I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned against You, but be merciful to me, though there is no one whose sins I have not surpassed.

                    I have imitated those who in the days of Noah indulged themselves and like them I deserve to perish in a flood.

                    (later, ode five)

                    The midwives, though instructed by Pharaoh to kill the male infants of the Hebrews, obeyed their God instead. Now that you, my hopeless soul, have been spared death like Moses, like him also be nourished on the wisdom of the Lord.

                    By killing the oppressive Egyptian, Moses severed his bond to Pharaoh. But you, O my hopeless soul, have not even begun to attack the wickedness of your mind. If you have not accomplished even this much, how can you expect to pass through the time of repentance, which alone can drive away our sinful passions?

                    (ode seven)

                    You have heard of Absalom and how he rebelled against his father David, and know how he defiled his father’s bed. So why do you still imitate his wild impulses and his love of pleasure?

                    By following Satan your freedom has become enslaved to your body, O my soul, as when on Ahitophel’s advice, Absalom revolted against his father. But Christ has scattered the Enemy’s counsel that you might at all costs be saved.

                    Solomon was mighty and full of wisdom yet did wrong before the Lord when he turned to idols. And you, my soul, resemble him in your evil life.

                    Solomon was carried away by gratification of his lust. Alas, he who loved Wisdom now makes love to prostitutes and finds himself estranged from God. But in your every thought you have imitated him, O my soul, through your disgraceful love of luxury.

                    Thwack.

                    The parallelism I noticed to night is interesting. The text of Ode one from Monday night, is logically connected to the Ode one of the following night, not the next ode on the same night. Kinda of an inducement to pay attention, eh? An example of that? Here is the last stanza from Ode nine of Monday night,

                    After He had fasted forty days in the wilderness, hunger revealed the Lord’s human nature. Therefore, O my soul, do not despair if the Enemy attacks you, for it is only through prayer an fasting that he shall be defeated.

                    and here is the first of Ode nine of Tuesday:

                    The Devil showed stones to Christ which He could turn into bread, then led Him to the top of a mountain to show Him at a glance all the kingdoms of this world. O my soul, fear the Devil’s craftiness: watch and pray to God at every hour!

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                      Where in the World (was Mark Tonight?)

                      At the Great Canon of St. Andrew. The Great Canon is, to put it mildly, a penitential 2×4 swung by a gorilla hitting you right between the eyes. An introduction can be found here.

                      Here are the first few meditations from the first (of 9) “odes”:

                      Where shall I begin to lament the deeds of my wretched life? What first-fruit shall I offer, O Christ, for my present lamentation? But in Thy compassion grant me release from my falls.

                      Come, wretched soul, with your flesh, confess to the Creator of all. In future refrain from your former brutishness, and offer to God tears in repentance.

                      Having rivaled the first-created Adam by my transgression, I realize that I am stripped naked of God and of the everlasting kingdom and bliss through my sins. (Genesis 3)

                      Alas, wretched soul! Why are you like the first Eve? For you have wickedly looked and been bitterly wounded, and you have touched the tree and rashly tasted the forbidden food.

                      The place of bodily Eve has been taken for me by the Eve of my mind in the shape of a passionate thought in the flesh, showing me sweet things, yet ever making me taste and swallow bitter things.

                      Adam was rightly exiled from Eden for not keeping Thy one commandment, O Savior. But what shall I suffer who am always rejecting Thy living words?

                      It’s not unrelenting. For example, from tonight as well, “Thou art the good Shepherd; seek me, Thy lamb, and neglect not me who have gone astray.”

                       

                      Most if not all slavic and OCA Orthodox churches will be doing the Canon every evening this week through Thursday night. If you have the time and ecumenical inclination and wish a spiritual penitential push, visit and worship with them. You will be welcomed.

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                        Links: 2015-02-18

                        Links?

                        1. It is indeed winter. See? Nature can impress, eh?
                        2. The are spreading … and it is a religious movement. And not extremists, alas. The President’s strategy of denying their religious origins/basis is, to put it kindly, “a well intentioned but dishonest campaign”. Hmm. Well intentioned and dishonest, sounds like our President’s modus operandi for many many things.
                        3. Security and technology, or asking a high school kid to hack a car.
                        4. Hmm. Who’s job was it to stop the Balrog? Somebody had to, apparently, put their foot down and say, “You shall not pass!”
                        5. How post-modern scholarship gets it (being it = history) wrong.
                        6. I wonder how unintentionally ironic that headline is, after all “insane and unbalanced” is a pretty good self-portrait of that particular site. Well, insane might be too strong, unbalanced however is constant as the stars.
                        7. Nanotech in nature.
                        8. Some verse.
                        9. A book now in my inbox. Looks good.
                        10. Heh.
                        11. I hadn’t realized most outdoors hiking/camping/mountain climbing deaths are by the very experienced not the reverse. Makes sense though. Doesn’t really sound like anything anyone needs to do anything about though.
                        12. Regulation. So, is that a generalization principle? That regulation needs to establish both (a) the need for said regulation and to (b) establish that proposed regulation is feasible at a sufficiently low cost. Low. Cost. !!!! Grrr.
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                          Confusing Tactics

                          So, the Grey Lady has decided enough water has passed under the bridge to have an article pointing out that … indeed there were WMD in Iraq. I guess they figure the “lied/died” meme is entrenched.

                          I remain confused on two points. Why release this now? And, why did (apparently) the Bush admin hide information about the WMD during the last years of his Presidency?

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                            Links: 2015-02-12

                            So, what have other people been talking about, eh?

                            1. Well, that’s true, … but actually just about everyone toward the top of the world-class game is effing hard core. The exception is the few who are not.
                            2. Hmm. (if true) Don’t worry that’s matched by the liberal intellectual and political elites who underestimate it.
                            3. There is a serious problem when people who give voice to the cry of “teh racism” don’t bother to deny the actual fact that there was cheating involved. Is your race supposed to give you license to cheat? Or what?
                            4. Now that’s very cool. On the not-very-cool and not completely unrelated news, my Christmas present for my daughter (glow in the dark plant seeds which were (supposed to be) genetically modified with jellyfish DNA to glow) … haven’t arrived.
                            5. Speaking of very cool. Bet you could shoot planes with that. Somewhere recently I read that many many inexpensive drones with explosives would make tanks and capital ships like the one carrying ordnance linked obsolete, forget both sides have drones. You’re going to have a bloody war (as it always) with defensive and offensive drones fighting. That is just another front. You’re still going to need ships to carry troops, ships to protect those ships, tanks to protect infantry, and as always … infantry. I don’t think that’s changed yet.
                            6. Speaking of unrestrained power in motion. This is interesting to watch.
                            7. What passes as liberal labor theology is just out of my site racism. Until the minimum productivity/wave fanatics stop talking about US wage laws and start pushing for global wage standards … it’s just racism of a different sort.
                            8. A very strange architectural wonder. My sweet wife has a fascination for very small houses (I think there is a movement, but don’t recall the phrase). I think the about 100 sq foot houses require a warm climate where you can do much of your living outdoors. Which is nice. It just isn’t where the thermometer reads single digits for much of the year (if at all).
                            9. So, Mr Obama opened a can of stupid and declared that the Crusades were a Christian war of aggression in which atrocities were committed. Here’s as close as an even handed look at that point of view as you’ll find. I mean, if “because it was war and all wars contain atrocities” and Christianity was involved (just as Islam is involved in ISIS, which he denies (keeping that can open)) therefore … uhm. Isn’t this supposed to be a “smart” President. Why such a simplistic shallow view of the Crusades? Hmm?
                            10. University budget cuts and how it is pointed out how an argument of this hardship is not made correctly.
                            11. If true … the President should be excoriated for many lifetimes.
                            12. Who is paying for ISIS/ISIL? (who is playing their video?) Answer should be nobody. Why isn’t it nobody?
                            13. An economic indicator of hard times ahead. So, optimists, ‘xplain why that’s not a problem.

                             

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                              Just Asking

                              So. As the Roman Empire got too large and complex they went to a Eastern/Western Empire situation. If you take as given that the job in front of today’s US executive is too complex to be handled by one man, would instead of a geographical a similar separation of responsibilities might help allow someone with who could be more expert in the area and a smaller contingent of responsibilities make sense? For the following take it as a given (as in we won’t argue that point) the job needs to be broken up and concentrate instead on how to do so.

                              This question it seems has two parts. The first is, wow to best break the job up. Foreign/domestic seems an obvious choice, but there may be other ways. Bertrand de Jouvenel suggested in his political philosophy that there were two types of leadership, one that drives forward toward a goal and one that can reconcile differences between people. Perhaps that would be another way to divide the two. Any other suggestions?

                              The second part is, how to implement this? Could this be done by dogmatic precedent (like the two term limit which followed Washington’s example for so long)? Could a President announce at his inauguration that he was doing this, and his vice President was going to, say, handle 100% of foreign affair issues and he would 100% concentrate on the domestic affairs.  The titular President would promise to rubber stamp any decisions made by his VP as if he were signing them as long as there were in the foreign affairs sphere and vice versa. Would this fly? If not, why no? Or would a full Constitutional amendment process be required to effect this?

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