They trusted their welfare to the Government

I am standing Hwy 2, passing through the Blackfoot “Res” in Montana. What I see before me doesn’t look like much, a scrubby field under low hills and Montana’s incredibly beautiful big sky.

Where I am standing is the former site of the Badger Creek Indian Agency, where the Blackfeet Indians gathered after their buffalo had been slaughtered and the government promised them food and support in exchange for having given up their independence and self reliance.

By the winter of 1883-1884, however, the government had really, really screwed up. The Indians’ own source of meat (buffalo, deer, elk) had been destroyed. Their limited crops had failed. Their limited livestock was depleted. They were running out of food.

Since 1881, Indian agent John Young’s repeated requests to the government for more food aid had been met with bureaucratic indifference. Frankly, the “government” didn’t care very much and there were budget constraints that had to be met.

Then, in the winter of 1883-1884, the inevitable happened: starvation came. By the time the world outside the reservation heard about it, one quarter of the population (600 Indians) had already starved to death. The surrounding Montana communities responded immediately, sending relief trains of emergency food, livestock and blankets to the Blackfeet survivors. The government, by contrast, did nothing. After the fact, they held hearings, absolved themselves of responsibility and, finally, blamed Indian Agent John Young for gross negligence.

This is a story to keep in mind for all those that believe that it is somehow a good idea to surrender their independence and self-reliance to a faceless entity called “government”. Whether it is welfare, social security, Medicare or Obamacare, I can guarantee this: the government will screw up through indifference and people will die. Not because government is “bad” or that the people in government are “bad”, but because people are people and government can never be better than our collective human nature. And, once stripped of our independence and self-reliance, there will be no recourse. We will not be able to rely upon surrounding communities to rush to our aid.

Education for the 21st Century

The world is changing rapidly, but our educational system has not kept pace.  Oh, it’s become politically correct.  And it now teaches kids how to use condoms and such.  But I don’t get the feeling that there has been a lot of overarching analysis as to how kids should be educated in the modern world.  Let me ask a few of questions to get things started.

First, what role should the classics play in education today?  Are the writings of dead white men, written hundreds of years ago relevant to the modern world?  Certainly, classic political and mathematical texts will always be relevant.  But what about works of fiction?  The works of Shakespeare, for example, are lovely but they are so old, and their humor so based in his own time, that they need translation to even be understandable.  Should the precious (and, it seems, ever-shrinking) class time be spent on such works.

Second, what role should standardized test play in education?  In thinking about this, I’m reminded of Churchill’s comment that democracy is the worst form of government ever except for all the others.  Standardized tests give a very limited view of what a student actually knows.  Yet, for many purposes, they are better that any other alternative I can think of.   I’m especially fond of the term “teach to the test.”  If what is on the test is what we want our kids to know, what better way to encourage teachers to actually impart that knowledge to the kids than to require them to teach what will be on the test?  Sure, teaching to the test is only effective if the test actually contains what we want our kids to learn, but can’t we define that body of knowledge well enough to give the tests value?

Third, in an earlier thread, someone commented on how teachers still have problems even though class sizes have shrunk.  I must defend the teachers on this one.  In many schools, the students are much more diverse than they were in my day. Many of them don’t speak English as their first language.  A growing number have behavioral problems.  And the most fundamental disciplinary tools have been taken away from the teachers.  My teachers could handle a large number of students because (a) we all spoke English as a first language, (b) most of us came from families that valued education, and (c) if we did get up out of line, the teacher would put us back in line again with a paddling that would get today’s teachers fired, and (d) when we got home, most of us would have gotten paddled again if our teachers reported our problems to our parent.  Even the best teachers have a much tougher job today than my teachers did.

What do you folks think of all of this?  What ideas do you have for K-12 education in the 21st century?

Sadie points out Harry Reid showing off his class

From Sadie:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has launched a blistering verbal assault against William Magwood, a Democratic member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission nominated by President Obama, calling him a “liar,” a “first-class rat,” and a “s**t-stirrer.”
a “tool of the nuclear industry” and says he’s “unethical” and “incompetent.” The rest of the actual story here at The Hill Via E2 Wire
From DQ:  I admit I am ignorant as to this controversy.  I gather from the article it has to do with a planned nuclear waste storage facility.  What is Reid’s alternative proposal?  What do you folks know about Magwood?  What do you make of this story?

Possible fraud warning!

I received the following e-mail yesterday:



We received a request from to reset your password for your Bank Account at Chase. Your account has been suspended after too many failed login attempts have been made.
You may click on the link below to reactivate your account:

[I've redacted the link]

We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you again in the future.

Best regards,

2012 JPMorgan Chase & Co.

I called Chase, who said that this e-mail was not from them. I’d suggest that if you receive something similar you not click on the link. If anyone knows any more about this, please comment below.

Who should Romney pick for Vice-President?

So, Dick Cheney thinks Palin was a bad choice because she wasn’t qualified to be President.  Well, she was more qualified than Obama, having at least served as head of an executive branch before.  In any case, the time is almost upon us for Romney to pick his VP candidate.

Who should he pick?  Who will he pick?  Cheney also said that there were two lists, a long list of people who need to be on the list for political reasons and a much shorter list of seriously considered candidates.  Do you think your favorite candidate is on the long list or the short list?

A ray of hope — Democrats less enthusiastic, Republicans more so

According to Gallup, Democrats are less enthusiastic about the upcoming election than they were in 2004 or 2008 and Republicans are more enthusiastic than in 2008 and equal to 2004. Not surprising, I guess, but a cause for hope, not just in presidential race but in the Congressional races as well.  Sure doesn’t sound like Obama will have much in the way of coattails at least.

How interested are you in the Olympics?

Leaving aside the politics, how interested are you in the Olympics as a sporting event?  How much of it are you going to watch?

I’m completely hooked.  One of the great joys of being retired is having the time to watch as much as I want.  But, then, I love sports generally.  It’s one of the few things which political correctness has not been able to completely destroy.  The best must prove they’re the best; no government can hand them the championship or the gold medal.

The Olympics is the ultimate sports event, in which thousands of athletes from around the world come together to compete in dozens of sports.  I love it.  Well, okay, the judges (in events that are judged) and the officials (in events that are officiated) can ruin everything.  But in 95% of the events, the team or individual who wins will have fully earned the victory.

So, are you hooked, too?  Or could you care less?

Mark Steyn on d

Mark Steyn takes on the Democrat political machine’s outrage over Chick-fil-A, starting with certain mayors trying to run the company out of their cities because the company’s owner believes in traditional marriage (including no divorces), and then moves on from there:

Mayor Menino [Boston's mayor] subsequently backed down and claimed the severed rooster’s head left in Mr. Cathy’s bed was all just a misunderstanding. Yet, when it comes to fighting homophobia on Boston’s Freedom Trail, His Honor is highly selective. As the Boston Herald’s Michael Graham pointed out, Menino is happy to hand out municipal licenses to groups whose most prominent figures call for gays to be put to death. The mayor couldn’t have been more accommodating (including giving them $1.8 million of municipal land) of the new mosque of the Islamic Society of Boston, whose IRS returns listed as one of their seven trustees Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Like President Obama, Imam Qaradawi’s position on gays is in a state of “evolution”: He can’t decide whether to burn them or toss ’em off a cliff. “Some say we should throw them from a high place,” he told Al Jazeera. “Some say we should burn them, and so on. There is disagreement. . . . The important thing is to treat this act as a crime.” Unlike the deplorable Mr. Cathy, Imam Qaradawi is admirably open-minded: There are so many ways to kill homosexuals, why restrict yourself to just one? In Mayor Menino’s Boston, if you take the same view of marriage as President Obama did from 2009 to 2012, he’ll run your homophobic ass out of town. But, if you want to toss those godless sodomites off the John Hancock Tower, he’ll officiate at your ribbon-cutting ceremony.

If you haven’t yet read it, you must.

More random observations from Japan

We’ve all said it at one time or another — “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” In Kyoto, though, it’s very much both the heat and the humidity. When temperatures are around 100 and humidity is around 85 or 90%, it feels as if one is moving through a giant, heated sponge. One perspires, but doesn’t cool, because the humidity, combined with the fact that not a breath of wind stirs the air, means that one simply gets wet.

Kyoto is lovely, but the heat is off-putting. I know many consider it the most beautiful and interesting city in Japan, but I won’t be sorry to leave it tomorrow for cooler, mountainous climes.

We’ve been watching the Olympics on Japanese television. Or perhaps I should say, we’ve been watching the Japanese Olympics on television. As far as we can tell, Japanese TV shows only those events in which the Japanese are competing — never mind that it’s the fourth heat in a swimming race, without any possibity of a winning swimmer appearing on the television screen. Medal ceremonies, too, show only the Japanese competitor. If the Japanese competitor won only a bronze, you’ll never find out who won gold or silver. It’s a very narrow, parochial approach to a world-wide athletic event.

Japanese trains and subways are lovely. Because we’re not in Tokyo now, and because we’re not traveling at peak commuter times, we’ve seldom encountered oppressive crowds. Mostly, we’ve experienced insanely punctual, obsessively clean trains.

Speaking of obsessive, when it comes to respecting possessions, the Japanese put everyone to shame. On a crowded train, someone discovered a wallet. A general outcry went up, as everyone sought to find the owner. Opening the wallet revealed that it held no identification, but only about 500 yen (less than ten dollars). In America, someone might have pocketed it, or maybe just left it on the seat. In Japan, several teenagers had a quick discussion, and then opened a window to summon an employee who spirited the treasure away to Lost and Found. I think those kids would have had some sort of emotional breakdown if they hadn’t been able to turn it in.

We read about it before we left for Japan, of course, but nothing prepared us for the microscopically small hotel rooms. They’re immaculately clean, of course, but so tiny one person feels quite crowded in the bathroom. Thankfully, all of our hotels have offered “Western” toilets, rather than the “squatting” toilets popular outside of Tokyo:

One of the great pleasures we’ve had in Japan is reading t-shirts. The Japanese love having English words and sentences on their shirts. They don’t care that they make no sense; they just like having them. We’ve tried stealthily taking photos of a few, but it’s very hard to get the words to come out clearly when you’re sneaking up on someone. Today’s silly shirt boasted about the wonders of “State of California, City of Sacrament [sic].”

Department stores here are HUGE. They’re several stories tall and, as with every other place we’ve seen in Japan, they have about twice as many employees as a similarly situated American business would. It’s quite intimidating, really. What’s also different is the floor plans. In America, department stores tend to have open floor plans, with one department flowing into another. In Japan, the stores are broken down into myriad cubby holes, each dedicated, not just to a single type of merchandise, but to a single brand of that specific merchandise. I don’t like shopping at the best of times, and I was not enticed by the busy, claustrophic approach.

By the way, everything you’ve heard about Japanese packaging, wrapping, and presentation is true. Every product is exquisitely displayed, with a symphony of colors and textures. Part of me is gratified by the beauty and part of me is shocked by the waste. This is a culture that places a high premium on appearances. It’s not a shallow or superficial culture, although one could be forgiven for thinking that given the focus on the superficial, both in terms of how things look and how people behave.

On the subject of behavior, I commented on how polite the Japanese have been to us. I know some readers wrote back about the horrible behavior the Japanese have shown foreigners. I can see that we’ve been lucky. Also, there’s a difference between manners, on the one hand, which are formulaic and kindness, on the other hand, which comes from the heart. Not that long ago, someone told me that Americans are the most polite people of all, because they cut through meaningless gesture and go right to true kindness. (Having said that, we have been on the receiving end of genuine kindness while in Japan, as well as ritual politeness.)

I’m pooping out here, so I’ll wrap this up. My Internet access is random, at best, so no promises as to when I’ll next post. I can see, though that DQ is keeping things lively, so I can sign off with a clear conscience.

Quite a gathering of real Americans

My Dad sends this link along:


P.S.  I’m not computer savvy enough to figure out how to make this slide show play the way it did when Dad sent it, but after it loads (and it takes a while to load) you can see all the slides, anyway.

P.P.S.  I’m told the link doesn’t work for others because you have to have the slides available to load onto your computer.  I have the slides.  Anybody know how I can upload them to someplace where you can view them?  I used to program computers and design computer systems for a living.  But that was 25 years ago.  Now, I’m not even minimally competent.  I’d appreciate any help you can give.

P.P.P.S.  Cheesestick found a way to link that at least loads the slides.  Thank you! They still don’t play as a slideshow, but the slides are great anyway.  Check out the link on his comment and have a look.

Sadie suggests we talk about credit cards (and a whole lot more)

Sadie suggested a number of related topics, all in one post. They are all worth discussing, but I’m most interested in how credit cards affect your buying habits.  Personally, I use cards when they are convenient and pay them off every month so never incur an interest charge.  I’ve had a GM credit card for years and have saved about $5,000 on three vehicles.  Great cars, by the way.  My 2000 LeSabre has 228,00 miles on it and is going strong.  Anyway, here’s Sadie’s suggestion, word for word, and I look forward to your comments:

The link looks at the cost to retailers for a “convenience card” a/k/a credit card.
It comes as no surprise that the cost of swiping has been reflected in the cost of purchasing. Three percent is quite a chunk of money. Wouldn’t we all love to see a 3% return on our checking accounts. The story reminded me of my grandmother, who never had a credit card, paid for everything by cash unless it was a large item and then it was by check for obvious safety reasons. I have a friend who purchases everything and I mean everything by credit card for the sole purpose of “points” and whatever they buy at the end of the year. I, OTOH, prefer to pay for food, gas and sundries with real money – it forces me to think about what I am spending. I reserve credit card purchases for big ticket items, which are far and few between.
My question for the readers: Cash or credit and how and does it affect your spending?
More money thoughts ….
On a larger scale – if the voter actually saw how much money is spent [read: wasted] by elected officials wouldn’t they all be screaming their heads off. I suggest a traveling “money show” on the scale of a old-fashioned Barnum & Bailey Circus. We’re gonna need a really big tent.

Look carefully, there in the bottom left corner is our six-foot tall human, dwarfed by the staggering ocean of money… That’s fifty pallets wide, 100 pallets deep, and two pallets high…. 10,000 pallets of 100 milliion each….. so next time someone talks about a trillion dollar bailout…close your eyes and imagine this warehouse full of money

What defines the American spirit?

When I asked for discussion topics, Marica had an interesting idea (Thanks, Marica):


One more specific thought along those lines would be quotes– written or spoken– from first generation businessman, of any era, although that may be a bit too specific. Another thought would be discussing what we think defines the American spirit. I’m thinking here of this quote from a piece Andrew McCarthy had up at PJMedia a few days ago.

“One of the many great things about Paul Johnson’s magisterial ”” A History of the American People is that he begins that history in the Sixteenth Century. There was an identifiable, culturally distinguishable American People long before there was a Revolutionary War, a Constitution, or a central government. The American People, by their industry and ingenuity, didn’t just build successful businesses… they built the most successful nation in history — and all, somehow, without HUD, Fannie, Freddie, the EPA, OSHA… ”
So, what defines the American Spirit?


The leftist Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Sadie provides us with this account:

Olympic opening ceremony grapples with weighty issues
(AFP)–3 hours ago
LONDON — A celebration of free healthcare, the trade union struggle, the battle for women’s rights and a fleeting lesbian kiss: the Olympics opening ceremony Friday did not shy away from weighty social issues.
Unsurprisingly, the show devised by Oscar-winning British director Danny Boyle drew accusations from the British political right that it had strayed into “leftie” issues.
Aidan Burley, a lawmaker from Prime Minister David Cameron’s ruling Conservative party, tweeted: “The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen — more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?”
He followed that with: “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap.”
Several people tweeted their support for his comments.
Alastair Campbell, former British Labour prime minister Tony Blair’s communications chief, retorted on Twitter: “Brilliant that we got a socialist to do the opening ceremony.”
Cameron’s Downing Street office distanced itself from Burley’s comments, tweeting a message from the premier reading: “The opening ceremony has been a great showcase for this country. It’s more proof Britain can deliver.”
Burley was removed from his job as aide to the transport minister last month after attending a Nazi-themed stag party in a French ski resort.
Ahead of the show, Boyle — whose film “Slumdog Millionaire” won eight Oscars in 2009 — denied he was pushing a political agenda.
“The sensibility of the show is very personal,” he said.
“A group of us have created it, but we had no agenda other than… values that we feel are true.
“Not everybody will love that but people will be able to recognise as being honest and truthful really. I felt that very strongly. There is no b(expletive) in it, and there is no point-making either.”
The show bringing the curtain up on the London Olympics began with sections showing idyllic rural Britain being overtaken by the Industrial Revolution, before moving on to a 10-minute sequence celebrating the state-run National Health Service (NHS).
Britain’s first televised lesbian kiss — from a 1993 episode of soap opera “Brookside” — was shown in a fast-moving montage of flim and TV clips.
Later in the ceremony, dancers formed the shape of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament badge and other performers represented the struggle of trade union movements.
DQ here — I suppose having been the first to boycott an Olympics, the U.S. is in a poor position to complain about politicization of the games, but one would hope the Opening Ceremony, anyway, would not serve such a blatant political end.  Somewhat more generally, please share your thoughts about the Olympics in general and these in particular.

The Chariots of Fire mentality is dead and gone

I was living in England back in 1981 when Chariots of Fire was first released.  It’s been a while since it came out, but you probably remember that it was a movie based upon the true story of two actual British runners (and their fictional friends) preparing for the 1924 Olympics.  I loved that movie.  I loved the British-ness of it.  I loved the beautiful recreation of 1920s England.  I loved the contrast between Harold Abrahams, the driven Anglo-Jew, and Eric Liddell, the committed Scottish Evangelist.  And of course, I loved Nigel Havers.  There’s just something about him….*

Anyhoo, I got the opportunity to watch the movie again the other night and was struck by something very different from today’s world.  [SPOILER ALERT]  A pivotal plot point in the movie occurs when Liddell learns that the race he is most likely to win — the 100 meter sprint — will be held on a Sunday.  He announces that he cannot and will not run on the Lord’s Day, and holds to this position despite having a great deal of pressure brought to bear on him by the powers that be, including some peers of the realm and the Prince of Wales himself.  In the movie, the deux ex machina who breaks this stalemate is Nigel Havers’ character, who, having already won a medal, graciously offers Liddell his place in the 400 meter race.  (In real life, Liddell knew about the Sunday conflict some months in advance, and trained for the 400 meter race.)  Liddell not only runs the 400 meter race, he does so at a sprinter’s clip, and wins.

The movie shows tremendous reverence for Liddell’s principled stand.  After Liddell sticks to his guns and Nigel Havers saves the day, Lord Birkenhead, who is the head of the British team, and the Duke of Sutherland, who was one of those who tried to convince Liddell to run, have a few words:

Duke of Sutherland: A sticky moment, George.
Lord Birkenhead: Thank God for Lindsay. I thought the lad had us beaten.
Duke of Sutherland: He did have us beaten, and thank God he did.
Lord Birkenhead: I don’t quite follow you.
Duke of Sutherland: The “lad”, as you call him, is a true man of principles and a true athlete. His speed is a mere extension of his life, its force. We sought to sever his running from himself.
Lord Birkenhead: For his country’s sake, yes.
Duke of Sutherland: No sake is worth that, least of all a guilty national pride.

I was thinking how differently things would have played out if 1924 had been like 2012.  Rather than simply refusing to run, Eric Liddell would have sued the Olympic committee, claiming that they were violating his right to religious freedom.  Of course, he would have lost, because he was asserting a Christian religious right.  Had he practiced a more politically correct religion, he might have had a different outcome.

Nowadays, if private institutions don’t bend to an individual’s will, the individual doesn’t walk away, as Liddell did.  Nor does the individual create a competing society, as Jewish lawyers did when they were barred from white shoe law firms.  Instead, the individual insists that a private organization accommodate him, even if to do so is completely inconsistent with the ethos of that organization.  For example, last year, a Muslim woman sued Abercrombie & Fitch (a store I despise) claiming that her boss fired her for wearing a hijab.  This wasn’t a first for the company:

It’s the latest employment discrimination charge against the company’s so-called “look policy,” which critics say means images of mostly white, young, athletic-looking people. The New Albany, Ohio-based company has said it does not tolerate discrimination.

Still, Abercrombie has been the target of numerous discrimination lawsuits, including a federal class action brought by black, Hispanic and Asian employees and job applicants that was settled for $40 million in 2004. The company admitted no wrongdoing, though it was forced to implement new programs and policies to increase diversity.

Why not let the company do business its way?  Why sue that skanky organization?  Isn’t it better to stick to your principles (e.g., “Muslim woman quits Abercrombie rather than comply with sleazy, white trash dress code”), and then to fight Abercrombie in the market place (e.g., “Muslim woman, after being fired by Abercrombie, creates modest clothes fashion dynasty”)?  Why should Abercrombie, which is marketing a “look,” have to accommodate those who don’t meet the look?

The same is true for the constant effort to get the Boy Scouts of America to allow gays.  Instead of trying to remake the Boy Scouts, why don’t gays take a principled stand of walking away from the Boy Scouts and — here’s an idea! — creating their own alternative to the Boy Scouts, when that is more friendly to the GLBT community?  I suspect, actually, that one of the reasons they don’t is because their membership might lag.  The Boy Scouts announced recently that they are reaffirming their “no gays” policy partly because parents like the policy.

More than that, why have we created a country where there is no high road but, instead, only a litigious road?


*Maybe what I like about Havers his is antipathy to bicyclists.  There’s nothing wrong with bicycles or bicycling, but I can tell you that, in the San Francisco Bay Area, they have a dangerous arrogance based upon their “green-ness.”  They ignore traffic rules, often drive in mobs, and can be scarily aggressive towards cars.  I live near a road that is a popular sunny day destination for weekend bike wariors, and I have to say that it can be terrifying to round a curve and find two of them lolling down the middle of the road.  Havers is open about his contempt for this attitude:

Comments on cyclists

Havers wrote an article in 2004 the Daily Mail, criticising cyclists:

“Today’s pedal-pushers… appear to think they are above the law… [and are a] new army of Lycra-clad maniacs… I am heartily sick of the lot of them.”

He added in 2006:

“I was asked what annoys me most. I said cyclists, because they are all bastards, and since then it just hasn’t stopped”.

What do you make of Romney’s comments on problems with Olympic security?

Romney finds himself in a bit of hot water after going to London and criticizing the Olympic security he found there.  The British Prime Minister, and other Brits, took exception to the remarks.  Romney thus found out the hard way what he should have already known — even when something is absolutely true, the wisest policy is often to refrain from saying it.

Of course, Romney is retreating and all will end in smiley faces.  But does this rather surprising (to me, anyway) bit of tact and common sense illustrate a deeper problem?  Shouldn’t someone with Romney’s experience have known better?  Shouldn’t he have been better prepared by his advisors?

Would you like a little politics with that sandwich?

Liberals always get terribly bent out of shape when anyone dares to offer an opinion not completely consistent with liberal orthodoxy. If that person happens to be in business, liberals reflexively do everything possible to take their revenge against the business.  The reaction to comments by Chick-fil-A’s president illustrates the point.  How dare he oppose gay marriage!  He should be put out of business!

As the linked article explains:  “A Chicago alderman vowed to block a Chick-fil-A proposed in his district, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported him, saying, ‘Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.’ Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote in a letter to Cathy: ‘There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.’”

Conservatives tend not to react with such outrage, but, then, conservatives tend to believe in free speech, while liberals value political correctness more highly.  Personally, I think that Chick-fil-A’s president has every right to speak out and those who disagree have every right to dissociate themselves from Chick-fil-A.  But I believe politicians go too far when they attempt to surpress speach they disagree with, by such acts as blocking a company from doing business in their district because of the comments of its president (or board members, or founder or anybody else).  What do you think?

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Caped Crusader suggests that we each ”comment on the most memorable quotes and/or advice we have personally heard or received during our lives; not something we have read.”

I think this is a terrific idea, so I’m asking you four you help, instead of providings thoughts for the day today.  Unfortunately, I’ve drawn a complete blank as to my own experience.  I’ll bet you can do better.

What makes us think God is perfect?

Bookworm posted a discussion of the Episcopal Church’s tacit admission that God isn’t perfect.  That raises the question:  Why should we believe He is?

Assume there is a God.  Personally, I’m skeptical, but assume it.  Assume God created the universe.  This replaces a great mystery (where the universe came from) with an even greater mystery (where God came from), but assume it.  Assume that God is still actively and personally involved in the creation of each of us individually.  I don’t see a lot of evidence of that, but assume it.

If those assumptions are true, then God is a pretty powerful fellow.  But does that make Him perfect?  After all, we are fond of saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  God has the ultimate absolute power.  How do we know He has not been ultimately corrupted?  Even if He hasn’t been, how do we know that he never makes mistakes?  Just because He has the power to create a human being, it doesn’t follow that He has the power to create each of them exactly as he wants them.  Returning to the subject of Bookworm’s post, even if He could create every person exactly as He wanted them to be, who is to say He doesn’t want to put men in women’s bodies and women in men’s bodies? Maybe He’s just playing with us.  Maybe He’s just experimenting to see how we’ll react.  After all, it is a basic tenant of Episcopal faith that He creates each of us as an imperfect creature. Maybe this is just another imperfection that He quite intentionally, not mistakenly at all, put into some of us.  Why do we automatically assume this was a mistake?

Anyway, why should we think that God is perfect in His power, or even good in His intentions?  How do we know?  What evidence is there, either way?

What would you like to talk about (Sadie suggests auditing the Fed)

Sadie suggested to me that we talk about Ron Paul’s effort to audit the Fed.  I’m not clear on what such an audit would involve.  What do you folks think?

As always when Bookworm is away it is your intelligent, insightful, informative comments that make this blog worth reading.  So, as always, and as I should have already done, I’m asking for suggestions.  What would you folks like to talk about during the next two weeks?

The Episcopalian Church officially concedes that God makes mistakes

My (perhaps simplistic) sense of post-Pagan monotheism, whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, is that God is all-powerful and all-knowing.  He is bigger than mere humans can comprehend and He works in ways too mysterious for human comprehension.  To the extent things are incomprehensible — whether evil, or deviations from the norm, or anything else that falls outside of perfect morality or physical perfection — those failures are either Satan’s work, man’s failings, or mysteries known only to God and beyond man’s limited understanding.

The Episcopalian Church, however, or at least a significant number of Church leaders, has added a new reason for deviations from the norm:  God screwed up.  Yup, it turns out God is fallible, which makes it a little unclear why we should bother believing in Him or following His laws.

On July 9, 2012, the Episcopalian Church officially banned discrimination against transsexuals.  I have no quarrel with that decision.  I believe in the marketplace of ideas when it comes to religion, as I do when it comes to almost anything else.  As long as your religion isn’t used to kill me, or doesn’t become a state institution dedicated to marginalizing, prosecuting, torturing, controlling, and/or killing disbelievers, “apostates,” converts, or those who have in some other way allegedly transgressed God’s rules as you understand them, I’m all good with the decisions a religious institution makes for its members.  If the congregants like the decision, they’ll stick with the institution and the institution might even add new members; if not, well, although God doesn’t have to compete in the marketplace of ideas, His institutions do and they may have to pay the price for doctrinal decisions that don’t work well in the religious marketplace.

So, as I said, if the Episcopalian Church wants to open its arms to transsexuals, that’s fine.  What makes the decision to do so funny is that, as one of those who opposed the proposal pointed out, those advancing this successful viewpoint about gender identity issues were explicitly arguing that God erred:

The Rev. Canon James Lewis, Deputy from South Carolina, said that while “gender identity and expression” may have meaning for the proposers, “to be honest I would be hard pressed to explain the boundary between identity and expression.”

“No explanation of these terms or a theological explanation has been offered,” he said, adding that the arguments put forward by supporters were incoherent and contradictory.  Canon Lewis said that the arguments put forward for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church was that as God had made them that way, and that God did not make mistakes, so the church should not exclude them.

However, the argument put forward by the supporters of the transgendered resolution said in effect that God had made a mistake when he made transgendered people, who by seeking surgery or other means to change their gender were correcting God’s error.

It seems to me that an official resolution that is predicated on God messing up sort of negates the whole God thing.  It’s one thing to revisit what He’s said and reinterpret it in different ways (making the Bible the religious equivalent of a Living Constitution), but doesn’t it take things to a whole new level to go out to ones congregants and say that God is as fallible as anybody else, and that it’s up to the Church to take proactive steps to shield individuals from the consequences of God’s errors?

You, my dear readers, are much more sophisticated and knowledgeable about theological matters than I am.  Am I missing something here?  Misinterpreting?  Misunderstanding?  Letting my inclination to snark get ahead of my textual reading and fairness?  Please weigh in.

Thoughts for the Day — Wednesday

Since Danny and Bookworm already posted great posts today I’m going to restrict myself to quotes for the day:

“Never mistake motion for action.” Ernest Hemingway

“There are three rules for writing a novel.  Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”  W. Somerset Maugham

“Very few things happen at the right time and the rest do not happen at all.  The conscientious historian will correct these defects.”  Herodotus

Aurora and our deadly sins

Is the media to blame for the Aurora shootings?

I would like to make the case that it is, not for any specific action that any specific media outlet has taken, but by its very nature.

In 1970, Alvin Toffler published his seminal work, Future Shock, in which he predicted that one of the big challenges that we would face in the here-and-now is an over-saturation of media-mediated information stimuli. I believe that he predicted this more accurately than even he imagined.

I propose that the most pernicious damage wrought by the media is the way that it amplifies the worst in human nature. Our Judeo-Christian heritage likes to emphasize the seven deadly sins destructive to our nature and our relationship with God, to whit: gluttony, greed, anger, envy, sloth, lust and pride.

We live in an unheard of access to wealth and information. It isn’t hard to see how our material cornucopia enables the sins of Gluttony and Greed. We are a society, as Dinesh Dsouza famously remarked, where even the poor can be fat. Sloth, well…we have a welfare state that does its utmost to protect our citizenry from the consequences of sloth, so naturally we have more of it. Anger? We enjoy a world of violent sports, video games and cinema and our media rewards demagogues for whipping-up resentments based on race or class. Flash mobs, anyone? What about Lust? Even small children have ready access to pornography in popular magazines, the cinema or from the internet…it’s being normalized. Envy? Messages that stoke peoples’ sense of entitlement to other peoples’ labor and possessions find a ready audience. The media constantly reminds us of how much “the other” has that we don’t.

The most deadly of sins, according to the ancients, is pride or vanity. It is pride that drives people to seek fame, be it by demanding the latest fashions, coloring their hair, decorating their bodies, performing on American Idol or filming themselves having sex or beating up innocent people. Pride or vanity is the craving to be noticed and acting out violence for the Videocam lense is vanity writ large.

This, as the ancients point out, has always been the case. Two hundred years ago, however, it was much harder for people to gain social approval for their worst human excesses or to get noticed for committing mass murder. First, it was hard to get the one’s primal pride messaged out beyond one’s immediate locale. Second, community involvement and trip-wire taboos imposed strict guidelines on and early intervention into aberrant human behavior. Third, when self-control failed, retribution tended to be swift.

Today, by contrast, people are encouraged by our media environment to act out (is there anything more narcissistic than “reality TV”?). We live in a Kardashian society where even young kids are encouraged to seek media fame.

People can now project their worst sinful excesses onto vaste audiences with minimal effort. Once having done so, they are guaranteed 24/7 news coverage, book rights, movie scripts and the protective umbrella of the modern justice system. Whoo-hoo! The Joker rules!

Holmes, like a string of mass murders before him, wanted fame. He wanted to be noticed. Because his pride got the best of him. Our media culture provided all the tools that he needed to amplified the worst consequences of his human nature. Take away our media-saturated environment and there would not be nearly the incentive.

So, what say you? How do we fix this?

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels” – St. Augustine of Hippo.