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Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year's Message for My Readers

There were probably many, many times this year when I may have.....

Disturbed You,

Troubled You,

Pestered You,

Irritated You,

Bugged You,

or gotten on your Nerves!! So today, I just wanted to tell you....

Suck it up Cupcake!!

Cause there

AIN'T NO CHANGES

Planned for 2011!!

I didn't write it; the whole thing was received as an e-mail from one of my relatives. But I do like it...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Again, There is No Such Thing as "Free Trade"

Phyllis Schafly gives an example of what actually goes on whilst people talk about "free trade":
Although China is called a major trading partner, it treats U.S. companies like suckers, cheating them coming and going. China even intimidates U.S. businessmen so they don't dare to criticize China's unfair trade tactics.

Take, for example, the attitude of CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt of General Electric, the company now laying off hundreds of U.S. workers and giving those jobs making light bulbs to Chinese workers. He won't comment about the current U.S. case in the World Trade Organization accusing China of giving illegal subsidies to Chinese wind-turbine makers.

A few years ago, GE caved in to the Chinese government's demand that it build a large wind-turbine factory in China. Since GE owns a crucial patent for wind turbines, this demand was based on the Chinese anti-free trade policy called indigenous innovation (which China expert James McGregor calls "a blueprint for technology theft on a scale the world has never seen before").

China then developed its own wind-turbine manufacturers and is now directing purchasers to buy from those Chinese firms instead of from GE. That's the reality in what free traders naively believe is the world's fast-growing market for U.S. goods.

China wants to be the world's biggest exporter based on stealing U.S. know-how and subsidizing local manufacturers. China blatantly violates international trade laws and has no plans to be a market for U.S. products; China's principal imports are and will continue to be U.S. jobs.

[snip]

Some people foolishly call our relationship with China "free trade." But there is nothing free or fair about it. It is trade war between an aggressively protectionist communist government and a U.S. that is shackled by foolish and out-of-date illusions about free trade.
I'll put it very succinctly, for the umpteenth time: there is no such thing as free trade, despite what some libertarian-leaning economists (You can scarcely get a libertarian to admit that the government has a legitimate power to tax at all, let alone get them to admit that tariffs are legitimate.) will tell you, despite what libertarians who would love for you to believe that free trade is a "bedrock conservative principle" will tell you. Other countries find ways to protect their markets. That's the reality.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tax Information

Overall, I haven't found Red State Uprising to be an exceptionally useful book. I am pretty sure that most people who keep up with, say, the Drudge Report, Townhall, and a few other websites would be at least slightly familiar with most of the material in it.

There is one section, though, that I wish everyone were familiar with. Some of its contents are familiar to anyone who's read The Fair Tax Book, but it's worth repeating here.
Despite our nation being founded out of a rebellion over taxes, with the cry, "Taxation without representation is tyranny," we've been saddled with more tyranny than what we threw off. England's taxation of the colonies was paltry compared to our current tax load.

When our nation was founded, the federal government spent the equivalent of about $3 million a year--about $1 per person. By 1910, after 120 years of operation, our federal government spent just over $600 million--about $6.75 per person. (There had been modest inflation in the intervening years.) But that's pocket change compared to today. By contrast, now the federal government spends $10 billion every day (almost $12, 000 per person per year). How did this come to pass?

[snip]

Taxation with representation has turned into a nightmare. Government is the "senior partner" in every American business, and its tax burden is the largest item in every working man's budget. Americans pay more for "being governed" than for food, clothing, and shelter combined. In 1929--the last year before massive federal expansion under Franklin Delano Roosevelt--federal, state, and local taxes equaled about 10 percent of our GDP. Today, combined taxes are over 26 percent of the economic earnings, but because governments are running such huge deficits, there is another 12 percent of our economy that the government is spending, which is essentially "deferred taxes" imposed on the next generation of young Americans. Total "current" plus "deferred" taxes were about 38 percent of the economy in 2009.

[snip]

Obama and other liberals would like you to believe that high-income earners in the United States are under-taxed and do not pay their "fair share." Obama's campaign promise was that he would increase taxes on couples earning more than $250, 000 per year and give tax breaks to those earning less. The reality is that the top 1 percent of taxpayers already pays almost 40 percent of all personal income taxes, and that share has nearly doubled over the last quarter-century. Meanwhile, the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers pay less than 5 percent of federal personal income taxes.

[snip]

Shifting taxes to corporations is a fantasy. Businesses do not pay taxes; only people pay them. An increase in corporate income tax, for example, is paid by customers in the form of increased prices, employees in the form of lower wages and shareholders in decreased dividends. So we the people pay for the tax increase, but the politicians like it because the taxes are rendered less visible to us.

[snip]

Consider the fiscal problems of European countries such as Greece, Britain, and Spain these days. They have massive and growing piles of government debt even larger than our own (although we are heading in that direction). Yet every European country has income and payroll taxes, as we do, plus a Value Added Tax (VAT) that rakes in even more cash for the government. The average VAT rate in Europe--20 percent!--means that every purchase a European citizen makes hands a chunk of change over to the government, making everything at least 20 percent more expensive. History confirms that high taxes don't solve a deficit problem; they just encourage politicians to spend more money.

As Brutus, the Anti-Federalist writing during the debates on ratifying the Constitution, warned:
The power to tax, exercised without limitation, will introduce itself into every corner of the city, and country--it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlor, preside over the table, and note down all he eats and drinks; it will take cognizance of the professional man in his office, or study; it will watch the merchant in the counting house, or any store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop, and in his work, and will haunt him in his family, and in his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labor...it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally it will light upon the head of every person in the United States. To all these different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in which it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be GIVE, GIVE.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Trust God and Tell the People

I spent waaaaaaay too long perusing this guy's archives the other night (you do know that most of my posts have been in the pipeline for several days before they see publication, don't you?) and ran across several posts involving tithing.

Now, for the handful of Christians who read my blog, let me say that you will never have an inkling what I give to the church. Ever. Think what you like.

The axe I have to grind on the subject is a very simple one: there is not, plainly and simply is not, any command anywhere in Scripture for Christians to give any specific percentage or amount to the church.

It

isn't

there.

Oh, I know that you believe it is. You've heard sermon after sermon on the subject, and you're convinced.

Well, not to be unkind, but I believe that you've heard sermon after sermon on the subject, and you've not had your critical thinking apparatus turned all the way up to "Max." I am not saying that you're stupid or undiscerning, but I am saying that on this subject (and a handful of others, most likely), you long ago stopped being a Berean and searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so. The situation is not unlike the way it is described here:
I've come to believe that many of the erroneous doctrines we are taught we easily believe them if they are taught "gently" and sincerely to us. Sometimes it is not until some bull-in-a-china-shop kind of preacher comes into our lives and kicks the doctrinal door down when we finally wake up and realize what we were taught all along was wrong.

Here are some excerpts from Croteau's preface that give a glimpse of how he started on his journey:
"I was driving to work in the fall of 1999 and listening to Christian talk radio. John MacArthur was in the middle of a sermon and he was explaining why the tithe was not applicable to Christians. I had never heard anyone actually challenge the applicability of the tithe before, so this took me totally by surprise."
Most of us in Baptist pews have been taught this doctrine as fact for so long, even by well-meaning and sincere preachers. We have not heard SBC preachers dare to consider that the Old Testament tithing laws do not apply to Christians under grace. Preachers at best take a hybrid approach: that yes, we are obligated to tithe, but the New Testament says we should do the forking over joyfully and not under compulsion - in fact we should give more than the tithe as proof of just how darned joyful we are. As someone who was saved in a Southern Baptist Church as a teenager in college, I know the tithe has always been an expectation. It is planted into the minds of preschoolers. The Malachi 3:8-10 application to Christian tithing was never, ever to be questioned. If you don't tithe, you're a God-robber, a cheapskate, plain and simple. No one dares question the doctrine.

[snip]

Bring up this topic in your Sunday School class. Tell your Sunday School class when you next discuss money matters, something like this: "Christians are not under the Old Testament law of tithing. Malachi 3 has been misused for decades by taking it totally out of context. We are to follow the New Testament model to be generous, but there is no prescribed percentage." Try it and see what happens.
I can tell you what happens in most churches: people just assume that you aren't giving anything! Never mind that you know, since the stats on Christian giving in the United States are not difficult to look up--indeed, those very stats are frequently cited in sermons on giving--that they are not likely to be giving any more than you are. The logic is apparently: this person doesn't believe tithing is commanded for the Christian, therefore he must not be giving anything. It's very strange thinking, but I know where they're getting it. It's from all those sermons on tithing they've heard, heard without checking them out.

I love the church. I really do. That is one of the reasons I hate hearing the teachings of men preached as the doctrines of God. There are, frankly, not many things that get me more worked up than people trying to hold me--or the rest of the church--accountable to commands that God has simply never issued.

And I must close by noting this: my pastor does not teach tithing. Oh, he says he does, but when you talk to him, you find that when he says, "Tithe," what he means is what others call "grace giving." That is, he'll tell you that the believer is supposed to give as God moves him and blesses him, and there is not any specific amount or percentage. Why he uses the word "tithe" when that is not what he means, I don't know.

Habit, I guess.

At any rate, the smartest thing I ever heard about the subject of giving was out of a former pastor, who said that he tried to follow this approach when there was a need:

"Trust God, and tell the people."

Amen, an' amen...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

But the Assertion is Utter Crap..

I'm not linking here, as I don't wish to hold the individual up to what may be perceived as ridicule, but I just ran across--at the time of writing, that is, by the time you see it, this post will have been in the pipeline for several days--a perfect example of how people can have the weirdest mixed bag of ideas, how they can be so smart on some subjects and so easily mislead on others.

It was one of the food bloggers, talking about why food prices are rising. Now, although I may be mistaken, I would say, overall, that this writer has what I might easily term a conservative temperament. I think she's a Christian, though that isn't the focus of her blogging. Certainly, as regards food and eating and agriculture, she's inclined to seek out and preserve the Old Ways. That may be partly why she seems to have accepted the idea that oil--petroleum--is scarce and getting scarcer in this world, and that hence, agriculture that relies on fossil fuels is partly to blame for food prices. That is an assertion that I typically associate with leftist environmentalists, but there it is in a person whose overall temperament seems quite conservative.

Now, I neither doubt nor disparage for an instant the idea that backyard gardening and local agriculture are great ideas and a tremendous help to a healthy, ecologically-sound table. So, in practical terms, I suppose that the following caveat would make no difference to either of us in terms of what we actually do. It's more a difference in why.

The reality is that Paul Erlich thought we would be out of oil by now, but the proven resources of oil have grown, not shrunk. There is enough oil available within the United States to power the country for a very long time. It is true that some of it is harder to get to than we would like, but it is by no means undoable, or even unaffordable, not in a world where oil prices routinely top eighty dollars a barrel. There is no reason to blame rising food prices on a scarcity of oil per se, but plenty of reason to blame a scarcity of available oil--and hence, rising food prices--on unreasonable energy and environmental policies. It may seem a subtle distinction, but it is important.

I probably sound like I'm rambling, and if so, I apologize. I don't offer up this example to kvetch, but to illustrate how difficult it is to pigeonhole people's thinking. Yes, it is true that it is possible to paint in broad strokes, to talk about liberals and conservatives in general, but when it comes to individuals, you have to be more careful. Most people simply aren't that easy to categorize.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Don't Just Assume Stupidity

I was explaining--what was I explaining? Kinda hard to put it into words, I guess--my general approach to life, the universe, and everything to a co-worker a week or so ago.

"My general thinking is that individual people and what they do may be stupid," I said, "but in general, the people as a group are wise, and you can usually count on this: if things have been done a certain way for a long, long time, there's a reason. I may not know what that reason is, but that doesn't mean there isn't a reason. And it's true that sometimes it turns out there isn't a reason, or the reason has been lost to the passage of time, or the reason may have been relevant a thousand years ago, but isn't anymore. But for the most part, people as a body are not stupid, and you're well-advised to at least consider the old ways thoroughly before discarding them. There may be more to them than you think."

I wouldn't have remembered that conversation, probably, but a blogpost concerning a particular martial arts technique that one noted individual had dramatically changed for his system reminded me of it. Y'see, I'd given, as an example of my thinking, my personal experience with taekwon-do and RyuTe.

I made it almost all the way to shodan--first-degree black belt--in taekwon-do. That was a fairly long time ago, and there were still plenty of taekwon-do teachers around whose teaching was not exclusively geared to sporting competitions. Not that I didn't learn tournament sparring--I did--but I also learned the old ITF hyung that were based on the Okinawan kata, and, overall, I'd say I learned how to hit pretty hard, not just how to score points.

Those old hyung always puzzled me. Why, I wondered, were we being told to "chamber" both hands like so before executing a double punch (or whatever)? Why were there "salutes" in the hyung? I never really got answers to those questions, and many like them, but I never doubted for an instant that there were perfectly good reasons we did those things. I just didn't know what the reasons were.

To me, it came down to a relatively simple question: were the people who made those hyung, those kata, stupid? If I wasn't prepared to assume from the get-go that they were stupid or ignorant--and of course, I had been told that the forms originated with masters long ago--then I had to assume that those not-stupid, not-ignorant people had reasons for what they did.

When I wound up with the opportunity to study RyuTe (then traveling under the name "Ryukyu Kempo"), I found the reasons. The movements did indeed have meanings. Stacked hands, like in a "chamber," meant something. There were effective techniques connected with such motions and positions. The old masters weren't dolts. Every "block," every strike, every motion and position of the legs, forward and reverse, has meaning and applications.

The fact that I didn't know they were there when I was studying taekwon-do didn't mean they weren't there. The fact that it takes more than a handful of repetitions to get good at them doesn't mean they aren't quick and effective.

Every so often, I'm glad I didn't decide, before I began to understand techniques a little better (I will readily admit that I still have much to learn), to just discard or modify the old ways and go on to something different in the name of modernity. Without wishing to seem critical, it seems to me that rather a lot of people have done that, not just in martial arts, but as regards life in general. The "noted individual" to whom I obliquely referred a moment ago may well have been a case in point, in that the dramatic change he made had a certain surface-level logic to it, but when he made it, he discarded countless applications that can only be correctly performed when the technique is performed--you guessed it!--the old way. Whether he understood this and chose to make the change in the name of simplifying things for his American students, or whether he didn't understand it and just thought the old masters must not have quite "gotten it," I don't know.

I just know I do my best not to make that mistake, again, not just in martial arts, but as regards life in general. The old ways have survived for a reason. It might be worth your time to determine what that reason is before discarding them.
Just my two cents. No disrespect intended. Not naming names is deliberate, as the idea here is to illustrate a point, not to make anyone feel bad or anything.

Mr. Buchanan on the Repeal of DADT

I know: I quote Pat Buchanan so often that y'all probably think I agree with everything he says.

I don't. But I do agree with the majority of what he says, and in this case, he was more or less channeling my thoughts. I'd quote the whole thing, but I'll restrain myself, give you just a taste, and strongly recommend that you go read the whole thing:
A Democratic Congress, discharged by the voters on Nov. 2, has as one of its last official acts, imposed its San Francisco values on the armed forces of the United States.

"Don't ask, don't tell" is to be repealed. Open homosexuals are to be welcomed with open arms in all branches of the armed services.

Let us hope this works out better for the Marine Corps than it did for the Catholic Church.

Remarkable. The least respected of American institutions, Congress, with an approval rating of 13 percent, is imposing its cultural and moral values on the most respected of American institutions, the U.S. military.

Why are we undertaking this social experiment with the finest military on earth? Does justice demand it? Was there a national clamor for it?

No. It is being imposed from above by people, few of whom have ever served or seen combat, but all of whom are aware of the power of the homosexual rights lobby. This is a political payoff, at the expense of our military, to a militant minority inside the Democratic Party that is demanding this as the price of that special interest's financial and political support.

Among the soldiers most opposed to bringing open homosexuals into the ranks are combat veterans, who warn that this will create grave problems of unit cohesion and morale.

One Marine commandant after another asked Congress to consider the issue from a single standpoint:

Will the admission of gay men into barracks at Pendleton and Parris Island enhance the fighting effectiveness of the Corps?

Common sense suggests that the opposite is the almost certain result.

Can anyone believe that mixing small-town and rural 18-, 19- and 20-year-old Christian kids, aspiring Marines, in with men sexually attracted to them is not going to cause hellish problems?

The Marines have been sacrificed by the Democratic Party and Barack Obama to the homosexual lobby, with the collusion of no fewer than eight Republican senators.
And you people who have never been in the military? Do be aware that I'm having a hard time understanding why I should take your opinion on the subject very seriously.

DadGUMmit, That's Not "Begging the Question!"

I write with the hair smoldering right off my scalp, which it always does when someone says or writes "That begs the question," when what they mean is "That RAISES the question."

To "beg the question" is not for a question to arise as a logical consequence of previous words. It is a specific logical error:
To "beg" the question is to ask that the very point at issue be conceded, which is of course illegitimate.

[snip]

Any form of argument in which the conclusion occurs as one of the premises, or a chain of arguments in which the final conclusion is a premise of one of the earlier arguments in the chain. More generally, an argument begs the question when it assumes any controversial point not conceded by the other side.
I know, I know: picayune stuff to get annoyed about, right? But I hear this one with some frequency, and dadgummit, people oughtta know better...

People do actually commit the error of begging the question, you know. Not so long ago, I witnessed it being done vis-a-vis the supposed right to homosexual marriage and the fourteenth amendment. It annoys me to hear someone talk about raising a question but saying "That begs the question," because when someone does actually beg the question and you point out the error, he just looks at you like you're a lunatic.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My General Experience with Liberals and Leftists

Brent Bozell notes:
Liberals like Walters always assume that if you're liberal, you're smart; if you're conservative, you're either evil or stupid. Or both.
There are, of course, exceptions. Not every liberal you meet is like this. But most of the ones I meet start our "relationship," such as it is, with a fairly obvious air of condescension, a fairly obvious assumption that I couldn't possibly have a clue what I am talking about. My appearance doesn't help, I suppose. I am almost always adorned with a worn-out ballcap, black jeans, and a Carhartt vest that make me the spittin' image of the average Oklahoma redneck. I guess I don't look like the studious type.

But oh, how the tables turn...

It is flatly amazing how few liberals have read our founding documents, yet have the nerve to pontificate on American politics. To my mind, if you haven't at least read The Federalist Papers, you ought to approach the subject with at least a little humility, or at least the presumption that just possibly, that ignorant-looking fellow in the ballcap might not be any worse informed than you are. This, liberals generally fail to do, and when they find out otherwise, that's when the "evil" part comes into play--that is, when they find out that they can't baffle you with BS, they start accusing you of being mean and evil-spirited and narrow-minded and judgmental.

For my part, I don't hold that liberals are necessarily either evil or stupid. My general feeling is that there are two camps, so to speak: some people are liberals and generally at least mean well, and some people are hard-core leftists, and do not mean well at all, and are just wolves in
sheep's clothing:

The problem with liberals is generally that they let their emotions and empathy run ahead of their thinking. The problem with leftists is that they want control over you and your money and are trying to get it under a faux cloak of compassion.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One Reason Folks Like Sarah Palin

Here y'go:
I’m glad the Senate came to its senses and killed the omnibus spending monstrosity. That outrageous trillion-dollar pork buffet was an outright slap in the face to the American public’s expressed wishes in the last election. It was as if Congress was earning its historically low 13 percent approval rating before our very eyes. I applaud senators like Jim DeMint, John McCain, and others who fought this and stopped it.

However, the very fact that some lawmakers on Capitol Hill thought such reckless spending was even remotely acceptable is disturbing. We’re facing trillion-dollar deficits and a record national debt, but some people still want to continue spending like there’s no tomorrow. If the European debt crisis teaches us anything, it’s that tomorrow always comes. Sooner or later, the markets will expect us to settle the bill for the enormous Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending binge. We’ve already been warned by the credit ratings agency Moody’s that unless we get serious about reducing our deficit, we may face a downgrade of our credit rating. Even the lamest of lame ducks can’t ignore this reality.
Now, of course, some folks on the Left will immediately holler, "Of course we want to reduce the deficit! We've got to raise taxes!"

I think it was at the last Democratic National Convention that Neal Boortz was doing his radio show, and some big-wig Democrat mover-and-shaker came by, and to his credit, sat in for a while with the Talkmaster. Boortz asked him a question that he'd previously said he'd always wanted to ask some high-level Democrat.

"What is the maximum that any one person should have to pay in taxes?"

The answer came back, missing not so much as a heartbeat: "Not one penny more than is necessary to pay for essential governmental services."

It was slick, but it was a total non-answer. The debate immediately becomes over what governmental services are "essential." In effect, though possibly unintentionally, the man was admitting that if people came to regard enough governmental services as "essential," there might be no limit on the percentage of your income you'd have to pay in taxes.

Raising taxes to pay for bloated government is not the answer any more than putting more money into the grocery budget is the answer to obesity. However, since darn few, if any, governmental services will be admitted by the Left to be non-essential, in practical terms, it is the only answer they will consider.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

John Bennett on the "Winter Holiday" Crap

Yep--about what I think, it is:
Multiculturalism creates a neurotic and dishonest society.

This is seen very plainly during the Christmas season. Those of us who celebrate Christmas are told that we must rip the very core of this season out, and replace it with a phony, soulless thing called "Holiday" or "Winter." This is dishonest because nobody celebrates winter. "Holiday" is a shallow term to describe Christmas; the term abuses language to impose a false meaning on a reality that most of us cherish.

"Holiday" and "Winter" are weasel words used by cultural appeasers who are too ashamed of their own culture to say what everybody knows to be true. That is, that most of us are celebrating Christmas. Maintaining Christmas is part of preserving the culture that gave us almost everything that we have worth keeping. The whole name-changing charade is neurotic because it forces people to pretend that our majority culture is not what it actually is.

[snip]

Make no mistake about it, those who rip Christmas out of public life are duplicitous and exploitative, no matter what they claim their victim status to be, and no matter how noble their motives. It is duplicitous to attack the majority culture under the pretense of tolerance, when the outcome of the ostensible tolerance is to be intolerant of the majority culture. It is exploitative to use privileged victim status to enforce personal preferences at the expense of a profoundly important cultural and, yes, religious observance. There are few things more self-centered than using privileged victim status to erase part of the culture one finds themselves in.

[snip]

At root, this toxic tolerance and holiday madness is produced by blending multicultural appeasement with a thoughtless liberal notion of equality- not equality brought about by merit or based on majority norms, but equality brought about by government coercion, leveling, and betraying the majority culture.

[snip]

We in America, and in the West as a whole, need to stop apologizing for our culture. We –or more accurately those who came before us- have created something great, and that is why people leave their non-Christian nations to come here and to other Western nations. How dare anyone say they have a right to the benefits of our society while at the same time attacking the root of our culture?

The norm needs to be reinforced: At Christmas time, we are celebrating the birth of the historical figure who gave rise to our culture, Jesus Christ. We who celebrate Christmas should be vocal in saying that we are offended when Christmas is ripped out of public life. Those who do not celebrate can bloody well not celebrate. It is selfish and insulting to demand that the majority alter something sacred, simply for the convenience or comfort of an unreasonable minority.
"Those who do not celebrate can bloody well not celebrate." That works for me. You don't like the holiday, save the money, don't buy the gifts, don't waste your time at the parade. Go light a winter solstice bonfire or something, if you can find a place that's legal to do it. Don't act like a DARNFOOL and insist that the rest of the society you live in alter the holiday to suit your tastes and preferences.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Of Course It's Unconstitutional

At the risk of being called a "Tenther" by folks who give no indication whatsoever of having read The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers and possibly not even the Constitution itself, I must note that Henry Hudson's ruling that Obamacare's "individual mandate" is unconstitutional is something of a no-brainer for anyone who's actually read those documents.

I'm very serious. The issues involved are not complex, not hard to understand at all. You might want to start with, say, Federalist 41.

Anyone who tells you Obamacare is constitutional is either ignorant as, ah, aitch-ee-double-toothpicks or lyin' through their insertyourexpletiveofchoicehere teeth. Or possibly just dumber than a bag of hammers.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Swear I Run into These People All the Time

Michelle Malkin describes a conversation (links in the original) the likes of which I've had, in person and electronically, waaaaaaay too many times. The sort of conversation wherein someone who thinks he knows something about Christianity and/or Christians does nothing so much as reveal what a buffoon he is.
Here’s the errrrrrudite liberal journo Richard Wolffe mocking Sarah Palin for citing famed, beloved Christian author, novelist, lay theologian, and apologist C.S. Lewis as a source of divine inspiration (via The Daily Caller):

Incredibly, Wolffe derides the author of “Mere Christianity,” “The Abolition of Man,” “The Screwtape Letters,” and so many other seminal works as merely a writer of “a series of kids’ books” in order to jab at Palin.

Fellow Palin-basher Chris Matthews tried to save Wolffe from himself by counseling him not to “put down” Lewis. Wolffe ignored him.

When I think of Wolffe and his smug media peers in the intellectual establishment, I think of Lewis’s brilliant musings on Men Without Chests.

He had them pegged.

[snip]

Brian Faughnan called Wolffe out on Twitter. Here was his response. Seriously:

She said “divine inspiration”. Not the traditional reaction to theological essays, even formidable ones by Lewis.

And here’s a reminder again of Wolffe said on MSNBC:

WOLFFE: “Look, divine inspiration from a series of KIDS’ BOOKS. I don’t think, um, C.S. Lewis really would want that.”

MATTHEWS: “But…I wouldn’t put down C.S. Lewis down…”

Wolffe sputters about Newsmax, which Palin says she reads, before again hitting at Palin for — gasp! — drawing religious lessons from a profoundly religious author.
Not to be uncharitable, but it certainly appears that Mr. Wolffe was completely unfamiliar with Lewis' philosophical and scholarly stature, apparently thinking of him "merely" as an author of children's books.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen crap like this.

People telling me this or that about the text or the canon of scripture--blissfully unaware, every one of them, that I've almost certainly read more on the subject than they are aware exists, and that assertions and arguments with which I'm not familiar are DARNFEW and almost certainly of no significance--that is, yes, I think I have at least a lay-level understanding of all the significant arguments. Darn near every one of them relying on pseudo-scholarship that has been discredited for decades (in some cases, for centuries). More than a few relying on half-remembered misinformation from authors that are regarded by more accomplished scholars as little more than bad jokes.

I had one "idiot"--actually, he was a friend of mine, and a fellow member of Mensa--tell me over and over again about the canon of scripture. I had never heard quite the theory he was spouting, and eventually, I asked him for the source. Turned out his wife--a wee snip of a girl probably not more than twenty at the time--had heard it in some college class on religion. Couldn't cite an author, couldn't cite any source, couldn't even remember the teacher's name. But shoot, he thought his wife's half-remembered, probably garbled, "information" from only-God-knows-who was authoritative. That kind of thinking is why I just referred to him as an "idiot," despite his demonstrably above-average I.Q.

I'll be blunt: the number of non-Christians I've encountered who have more than a blithering idiot's understanding of canonicity, textual criticism, textual reliability, sola scriptura, basic Christian theology, Christians, even religious history in general, is exactly zero. They gaily spout criticisms they found in the writings of some pop-culture dipstick as though they were Holy Writ, and never, ever, ever exert themselves to see if anyone has a comeback.

They have never read F.F. Bruce. Never even heard of him.

They have never read Van Til. Never even heard of him.

They have never read Norman Geisler on apologetics. Never even heard of him.

They have never read Webster and King. Never even heard of them.

They have never read Metzger. Never even heard of him.

They have never read Zacharias. Never even heard of him.

They have never read Schaeffer. Never even heard of him.

They have never read Kreeft, they have never read Augustine, they have never read Johnson, they have never read Morris, they have never read Morison, they have never read Kaiser, they have never read Luther, they have never read Calvin, they have never read Bunyan, they have never read Piper.

A few--darn few--will have heard of Josh McDowell, but if they've read a sentence he's written, it will be nothing more than his famous tract, "More Than a Carpenter."

Most of them have not even read the Bible and saying that they have only the most tenous grasp of what it says is being extremely charitable.

Oh, there are such non-Christians out there, non-Christians who've made themselves familiar with at least some of these, or other, authors. I am not saying otherwise. But the ones I meet? No. They are not familiar with these authors, indeed, with any authors critical of their hilariously misinformed and one-sided views of scripture, Christianity and Christians. They have not made the smallest effort to become familiar with them. They have not made the smallest effort to even find out if such people exist. Yet they expect me to take their opinions seriously.

Anymore, though, I don't spend a whole lot of time trying to disabuse those folks of their quaint little notions. I don't generally recommend books anymore. I just tell them what the Bible says. I have come to see, per the first chapter of Romans, that these folks' problem is analogous to the sighted man who goes outside and says he doesn't see a sky.

He knows it's there. He can see it. Everybody can see it. It's obvious, so obvious that when he denies it's there, nobody bothers to try to convince him otherwise. Nobody tries to argue for the sky's existence from the evidence. They just look at him as though he's deranged and go about their business.

People that don't believe in God are like this. They know He's there. They can see it. Everything in creation points to His existence. It's obvious. You can try to argue with them all day long, but it's pointless. Their problem isn't the evidence, which is abundant and clear. Their problem is that they don't want to see.

Hey, man, don't blame me. I got it from Paul, who got it from God.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Diana West on the Value of Wikileaks

I am not happy about the material that was leaked to Julian Assange. I am no legal scholar and am not prepared to offer an opinion as to whether the actions of those involved amount to espionage. I am not even prepared to offer a firm opinion about the nature of the damage that was done to this country by these leaks. I have read more than one opinion from conservative authors, some holding that the leaks fatally compromise other countries' confidence in our ability to keep secrets, others suggesting that the leaks demonstrate the folly of having homosexuals in the military, others saying that the leaks reveal only what everybody probably already knew or suspected anyway.

Diana West, delightfully independent and incisive thinker that she is, offers some of the most interesting commentary, of which I provide a small sample:
One running theme that emerges from the leaked cables is that the U.S. government consistently obscures the identity of the nation's foes, for example, depicting the hostile peoples of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States as "allies." It's not that such hostility is a secret, or even constitutes news. But the cables reveal that our diplomats actually recognize that these countries form the financial engine that drives global jihad, or, as they mincingly prefer to call it, "terrorism." But they, with the rest of the government, keep the American people officially in the dark

[snip]

Whether such information was originally "classified," the body politic should be electrified by the fact, as revealed by the leaked cables, that nations from Pakistan to Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia are regularly discussed as black holes of infinite corruption into which American money gushes, either through foreign aid or oil revenue, and unstaunched and unstaunchable sources of terror or terror-financing. If this were to get out -- and guess what, it did -- the foreign policy of at least the past two administrations, Democrat and Republican alike, would be unmasked as a colossal failure.
Now, again, for those who wonder: I am not at all opposed to fighting terrorism. My main concerns have been that we ought, before fighting wars, to declare them in the constitutionally prescribed fashion, and that we not try fighting terrorism by trying to change a centuries-old culture to which millions upon millions of people are devoted. It is not at all realistic to suppose that we will secure freedom from terrorism by turning nations and peoples that have never shown any interest in government as the protector of the God-given rights of all men--believer and non-believer alike--into American-style representative republics. That is a fool's errand. Like it or not, American-style representative government is based squarely on a Judeo-Christian worldview, and its originators said repeatedly that it would not work without a people devoted to such a view (a state that we are too close to achieving, in my view). There is not the proverbial snowball's chance that it is going to work in Dar al Islam, but making it work there is the basis of much of our foreign policy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Sarah Palin Worries So Many People

I've read so much awful stuff about Sarah Palin lately, both from the Left and the Right (you would not believe how many people putatively on the Right absolutely despise Sarah Palin). After reading so much of that stuff, folks can be forgiven for wondering exactly what it is about the woman that results in Palin Derangement Syndrome. I've written on this before, but let me lay it out in a nutshell for you, in case you were wondering:

It has relatively little to do with whether or not she's going to run for president. It's the population segment she appeals to. The woman's exactly like millions upon millions of what were once considered perfectly normal Americans. Liberals and Leftists and certain Elites that mostly hang out with their buddies that think, act, and speak just like themselves have a hard time accepting this. Confronted with Sarah Palin's popularity with millions of Americans--yes, I know about the polling, about even numbers disapprove and approve, those that strongly disapprove are about double those that strongly approve, all of that is irrelevant to the point that I'm making--those Liberals, Leftists, and Elites are left going, "Holy Crap! There's a buttload of those people, and they all think we're full of crap and they're sick of our...schtuff! What are we gonna do?"

It's hard to run roughshod over millions of people, not that the attempt won't be--or isn't being--made. Sarah Palin's popularity forcibly confronts some people with a hard reality that they don't want to face--namely, that, no, the American public isn't anywhere nearly as solidly on their side as they would like to pretend to themselves, that a rather large segment of the population thinks they're full of bovine fecal matter.

There you have it. Just my two cents.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Listen, Dumb Mass...


The title, of course, is not universally applicable. But if the foo--ahem--wear it.
Y'know, I really do pity some people. They think they live in a world where Republicans routinely champion big business and Democrats routinely favor the little guy. They think that Republicans are warmongers and Democrats are peacemakers. They think that Republicans are censorious and Democrats favor freedom of expression.

The reality is considerably more complex.

I'd love to say that there is such a thing as a "pure" conservative or a "pure" liberal. It'd sure as thunder make political blogging a lot simpler. But there probably hasn't been a "pure" conservative since Edmund Burke, and even he might not qualify by some people's definitions, and when you have the likes of flaming, hell-bent-for-leather, far left Ted Rall screaming that Barack Obama is just another right wing warmonger, it ought to be getting clear to you that finding a "pure" liberal isn't easy, either.

Shoot. I'm tired tonight. But let me spell it out for you, ye who see no further than Democrats good, Republicans bad. I'll try to use small words.

In the real world, all political parties, especially the big ones, and most especially the main two, the Republicans and the Democrats, are simply coalitions of people with widely--widely!--disparate interests. They band together to promote candidates and policies, and all those candidates and policies are, at best, compromises between those disparate interests, with the end result being that the candidates each party runs are often only mildly less repugnant to any given party member than the candidates the opposition runs.

No Republican represents the thinking or behavior of all Republicans. It can't be done.

No Democrat represents the thinking or behavior of all Democrats. It can't be done.

What do you do with the guy who's into Far Eastern martial disciplines and is moving steadily toward growing more vegetables, learning about canning, drying, and preserving nutrient-dense whole, traditional foods--and is simultaneously a Southern Baptist, free-market, anti-free-trade, Constitutional constructionist?

What do you do with a different guy, another one who's into Far Eastern martial disciplines, likes guns, thinks his oncologist son-in-law deserves to make potloads of money, and favors universal health care?

What do you do with the conservatives that are anti-war, America-firsters?

What do you do with the liberals and neocons that are agitating for war--or at least a show of force--vis-a-vis North Korea?

What about the pro-free-market, pro-choice Republicans?

What about the Pink Pistols?

What about the Log Cabin Republicans?

What about the anti-illegal-immigration union members?

What about the--admittedly rare--pro-life Democrats? What about pro-life, pro-universal-health-care Democrats?

What about the big agribusinesses that actually welcome increased regulatory burdens because they have the effect of killing off smaller competitors--competitors that, incidentally, are often responsible for a lot of the locally-grown, naturally-raised foods that--allegedly--more liberal types favor? Lord have mercy, there are people in this world simple enough to believe that a vote against more government regulation of the food business is necessarily a vote against food safety.

What about the likes of Monsanto? Have you heard or read about them and soybeans? If not, google it--and then ask yourself whether being against that sort of thing is being anti-big-business or pro-free-market-competition.

Have you ever heard of veggie libel laws? If not, google that--and then ask yourself whether such things are anti-libel or anti-First Amendment.

What about homeschoolers? Are they Christian zealots or are they just trying to avoid being indoctrinated by "the man?"

God knows--only God knows--what the modern Democratic Party would do with the likes of Andrew Jackson. Only God knows what the modern Republican Party would do with the likes of Abraham Lincoln.

It is a darn weird world when Blacks persistently vote against the party that was anti-slavery, and when the party that tolerated "Sheets" Byrd for decades lambasts its opposition as "racist."

There are conservatives who think they're libertarians, libertarians who claim to be conservatives, FDR-style-big-government Republicans who publicly profess an attachment to small government, socially-conservative union activists, and so forth. The reality is that the political world is one heckuva lot more complex than Democrats good, Republicans bad (or vice versa), and to my mind, one of the hallmarks, one of the distinguishing characteristics, of the true Dumb Mass is the persistent attempt to paint it more simply than it really is.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The American Thinker on Unchecked Executive Power

The whole article is worth reading, and I strongly recommend you do so. Here's the end:
Never in the history of man has a government with highly centralized powers and minimal checks and balances ended well. Today, the executive branch in the USA has the power to do almost anything it wants. The legislature is all but powerless, having ceded all their authority to the executive-appointed bureaucracy. The judicial branch is still alive and kicking feebly, but the death or retirement of one conservative justice will put a stop to that. The law enforcement political appointees have become arbitrary in their enforcement of the law and politically motivated. Never has America faced such troubling times. All of this has been accomplished slowly and cautiously to avoid raising the alarm, because the powers involved definitely do not want to raise that alarm.

The only weapon left against the rise of the autocracy is the light of truth. If the vast majority of Americans, your neighbors and coworkers, knew all of this was going on, they wouldn't stand for it. Constitutional amendments would be passed, politicians would be dismissed, and corrupt politicians would be tried and jailed. We can only hope that the sword of truth can yet prevail. However, there is not much time left, and it is time we get to work in earnest.
My caveat: rather a lot of Americans simply either do not want to know the truth, or do not care to make even a minimal effort to discover it, or even listen when it is explained to them. They are pathetically consumed with whatever sort of vapid, mass-market entertainment happens to catch their fancy at the moment.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Water-Smoker Turkey

The last time I was out at my folks' place, the discussion fell to who would fix what for Thanksgiving dinner. Usually, my stepfather makes the turkey, but as he has been dealing with some back issues and isn't one-hundred percent, I took the opportunity and volunteered to smoke the turkey. I have always wanted to have smoked turkey on Thanksgiving. I mean, seriously. We live in Oklahoma. I have often characterized us as "redneck central." Cheez louise, who wouldn't want smoked turkey? At any rate, a thirteen-and-a-half-pound frozen bird was promptly sent home with me that night, and it stayed in my small chest freezer for most of the last month.

I had smoked a turkey once before, and my eldest son remembered it fondly, but I could scarcely remember what I did, or whether I had liked it all that much. I did remember that the previous turkey was about nine pounds, and I seemed to recall having read somewhere that nine to ten pounds was the optimal size of turkey for smoking, so my tentative plan was to smoke the bird for four to six hours, depending on how long I could maintain temperature (if you didn't know, I have gone to the trouble of installing a halfway decent thermometer in the lid of my little Brinkman water smoker), and then wrap it in foil and finish it off at low temperatures in the oven. I fished the turkey out of the freezer on Sunday afternoon and let it start thawing in the refrigerator, and this morning before I left for work, I put it in a five-gallon bucket of very salty water and put the bucket in the fridge--a process called "brining," if you're not familiar with it.

The forecast for today was for a fifty percent chance of nasty thunderstorms in the afternoon, with a fairly wicked cold front moving in around seven in the evening, so I decided that I would fire up both my charcoal chimney starters--I always use hardwood lump charcoal--and fill the smoker's firepan up just as full as it would go, so that I would at least start off with decent heat. Then I took this evil-looking instrument (no, I hadn't yet cleaned it at the time I took the picture) and shoved it up the turkey's posterior.

That contraption is intended to facilate "beer-can" chicken, but I figured it would at least hold the bird upright, and since I was going to be perching the bird directly over the water pan of the smoker, I figured to get much the same effect.

At any rate, I put the turkey in the smoker and added some well-soaked hickory chunks to the firepan, and pretty quickly I was up to 200 degrees. Every thirty minutes, I went back outside to check the temperature.

It was necessary to add charcoal and hickory every forty minutes to an hour. If the heavy rain or the cold front had ever materialized (as of this writing they have not), I might have had to do it more often, or I might not have been able to control the temperature as long as I did. I also had to add more water to the water pan at about four hours. At any rate, I managed to keep it at a pretty steady 200 degrees for six hours, at which time I decided that I was going to bring the thing in and finish it off in the oven, just so I could get to bed.

So, naturally, just before wrapping it in foil, I decide to pull sideways on the leg--and it mostly came free, which is generally considered proof-positive that a bird is "done." I was very surprised. I fully expected that a bird of that size might take ten hours of low heat to finish cooking. So I pulled on the other leg. Same thing. Took my gorgeous Henckel's chef's knife--a much-appreciated gift from my parents--and carefully sliced through the breast. Fully done. Wow.

And let me say, folks, that that turkey breast is easily--easily!--the moistest, juiciest, most delectable turkey breast I have ever tasted. They are not gonna know what hit 'em tomorrow.

So, to recap, if you want to try this yourself--and let me add that with a better smoker, you could probably control the temperature better and longer--this is the method I suggest, based on tonight's cooking:

1) Thaw the bird--this is about a thirteen-pound turkey--in the refrigerator just like they always tell you to do.

2) Brine the bird on cooking day for about 8 hours in the fridge. How strong is the salt water? Darned if I know. I just know I put a lot of kosher salt in there. A lot.

3) Use the beer-can stand to hold up the bird.

4) Fill the firepan all the way up with hot hardwood lump charcoal.

5) Put in the water pan and fill it with hot water.

6) Put the grill rack over the water pan and put the bird on it. Make sure to splay the legs out as far sideways as you can get them.

7) Put the lid on the smoker.

8) Add charcoal and soaked hickory chunks as necessary to keep the temperature at least 200 degrees and the environment smokey. Check your water level every so often and replenish with hot water when you get low. If the weather is really a witch, you may have to finish the bird in the oven. If you have to do that, what I was going to do was butter the surface of the bird, wrap it in foil, and roast it for a few hours at 250 degrees. Maybe that'll work for you. I wound up not having to go to the trouble.

9) About six hours later, check the turkey for doneness--I prefer the pull-the-leg test--and let it rest a good fifteen minutes or more before carving.

Hey, it worked for me. Your mileage may vary, or you may choose to rub the bird with other seasoning or what-not.

This is Not Going to Stop Islamic Terrorism

Ordinarily, I dislike quoting whole blogposts, but this one, from Diana West, is pretty much crying out for it. Fear not, it's short. Emphasis in the original:
Marine Sgt. Michael Brattole has been evacuated from Afghanistan to be treated in a US military hospital for extensive wounds suffered when a fragmentation grenade, which disperses "notched wire and ball bearings," ripped through his chest while he was leading a patrol earlier this month. He has already had open heart surgery "to remove shrapnel."

What was Brattole, 22, doing when he was so grievously wounded? Military officials aren't saying much, but a photographer who had been embedded with the Marine's unit last month made his overall mission pretty clear to the NJ.com. Brattole and his men had been ordered to find and domesticate a herd of unicorns.
In Afghanistan, Brattole led troops on patrol in Marjah in Helmand Province and tried to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, according to Cali Bagby, a journalist who was embedded last month with Brattole’s unit, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

"There’s a lot of mud buildings spread out, but it’s extremely impoverished. A lot of areas are just desert," Bagby said. "It’s a very depressing landscape, and they’re trying to get the local people to stand up (to the Taliban)."

Bagby recalled Brattole’s regiment enduring temperatures of 120 degrees in the summer and 100 degrees as late as September.

On one mission, the soldiers tried to find a tribal elder to offer their support. They walked all day and climbed walls each carrying 90 pounds of gear, but couldn’t find the man.
Bold type isn't enough to draw attention to this lunacy -- COIN lunacy. Let's try that again:
On one mission, the soldiers tried to find a tribal elder to offer their support. They walked all day and climbed walls each carrying 90 pounds of gear, but couldn’t find the man.
My dream Congressional House Armed Services Committee hearing: I want to know who conceived of this find-a-unicorn program, who ordered the mission, whether anyone, anyone at all, expressed any doubt whatsoever that such a man existed, or if he existed was worth finding because the whole hearts-and-minds racket was nothing but a utopian mirage, not a battle plan, and whether this particular theoretical heart and mind out there was worth potentially losing one of our own.

The news report continued:
The mission could be described by the same word that Brattole’s family uses for him: tough.
Brattole is tough. This mission is insane. Come home, America.
Now, listen, before some of you on the Left decide that I've become anti-war-on-terror and some of you on the Right decide that I've gone soft on terrorism:

That's horsecrap. Much of Dar al Islam is making war on us, and we need to fight back. I have never had any objection to that.

Tear up Afghanistan from end to end because they wouldn't turn over Bin Laden? No problem on my end!

Tear up Iraq from end to end if you have credible information that Saddam Hussein has WMDs and is prepared to fork them over to terrorists for use against the US? (Yes, I know: all I'm going to say about it is that everyone I heard, including the ranking Democrats, had been saying precisely that about Iraq and Hussein for quite a while before Bush took action.) No problem on my end!

All I asked for in either event was that Congress do its job and declare war before doing either.

What I have objected to--objected to from the beginning of our sojourn in Iraq--is making war without a declaration of war--no, "authorizations to use force" do not count, the Constitution knows nothing of such an animal--and trying to make Islamic societies which, historically, top to bottom, do not care for or about such Western niceties as inalienable rights and representative government into Western-style representative republics. It won't work. It never had a chance. It was doomed from the start. If your approach to stopping Islamic terrorism is contingent on winning Islamists over to our way of thinking, you might as well bring the troops home and let them secure our borders.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Told Ya

Free Trade does not actually exist. It is a chimera, a phantom, something from the make-believe world. Other countries find ways to protect their markets.

I keep saying that. And people--at least the people who have a clue what "free trade" means--just look at me (metaphorically speaking--they're seldom physically present) like I have a horn growing out of my head.
Now, with U.S. political, military, industrial and strategic decline vis a vis China manifest to the world, we hear the wails of American businessmen that they are not being treated fairly by the Chinese. And the politicians responsible for building up China are now talking tough about confronting and containing China.

Sorry, but that cat cannot be walked back.

Review commission chair Dan Slane says his members have concluded that "China is adopting a highly discriminatory policy of favoring domestic producers over foreign manufacturers. Under the guise of fostering 'indigenous innovation' ... the government of China appears determined to exclude foreigners from bidding on government contracts at the central, provincial and local levels."

Imagine that! The Chinese are ignoring WTO rules and putting China first. Don't they understand how the Global Economy works? You're not supposed to tilt the field in favor of the home team.

One knows not whether to laugh or cry.

The policy the Chinese are pursuing, economic nationalism, was virtually invented by the Republican Party. Protectionism was the declared policy of the GOP from the day its first president took office in 1861 to the day Calvin Coolidge left in 1929.

Free trade was the policy of a Great Britain whose clocks those generations of Americans cleaned, even as the Chinese are cleaning ours.
The quote is from Pat Buchanan--and about all I have to say is, "Told ya so."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You Had Me at "Bacon Wrapped"

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf. Okay, this, I gotta try. Via Susan at Food Blogga.

I Know You Don't Like to Hear It...

...but in the end, for the American people, there would really be no greater bulwark against over-reaching government than a population that read the Bible and The Federalist Papers through every year.

It only ticks you off 'cause you know it's true...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Farmageddon?

You need to watch this. If you have any interest in genuine capitalism, genuine free-market economics, real food, liberty, and so forth, you need to watch this trailer.

Farmageddon Trailer from Kristin Canty on Vimeo.


Via Cheeseslave

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stupid? Even I Don't Think That

I just read yet another short piece excoriating Sarah Palin for her stupidity--this one coming from elements of the political right.

This sort of thing is not as uncommon as one might suppose. There are plenty of conservatives that think that Mrs. Palin is being unduly influenced by a series of neocons, especially when it comes to foreign policy. And indeed, there are elements of her foreign policy statements where I, too, would say, "Tread lightly, and be careful what you say."

But that doesn't mean that I think she's stupid.

Brethren and Sistren, I've seen stupid. I mean, I've seen and dealt with people who are genuinely not up to snuff in terms of raw intelligence. I've dealt with the profoundly retarded, the somewhat mentally handicapped, and those who fall into the low end of the normal range of human intelligence. I know what "stupid" is all about. The genuinely stupid generally have their hands too full just dealing with day-to-day life to worry overmuch about politics.

I can't think of anybody I disagree with politically that I would characterize as stupid. Not one. Misinformed, yes. Ideologically blinkered, yes. Even willfully blind. Even lying. But stupid? No.

And to be frank, when I read someone saying that someone--anyone--politically opposed to them is stupid, my opinion of their opinion dives dramatically.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stuff My Stepfather Did

I swear, my stepfather is one of the most brilliant men I have ever met. You will probably never read anything he's written, though; his brilliance is mostly expressed in stuff he does with his hands. Like his house, for example. It is earth-sheltered on three sides, and he built the overwhelming majority of it himself. To the best of my recollection, he had someone else lay the foundation and apply the gunite for the earth-sheltered sides of the house, and did everything else himself.
He made these nunchaku for me some months ago. Don't know a thing about using 'em yet, but I'll get 'round to it. They're made of bodark, or Osage Orange.
This is one of his pepper mills.
This is a decorative "egg" he made.
This is an earring stand and a couple of sets of earrings. He made it all.
A bracelet made of Osage Orange.
Another bracelet.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pat Buchanan on the Fed and QE2

Not much I can add to this, methinks. You'd serve yourself well by reading the whole thing.
If it is the first responsibility of the Federal Reserve to protect the dollars that Americans earn and save, is it not dereliction of duty for the Fed to pursue a policy to bleed value from those dollars? For that is what Chairman Ben Bernanke is up to with his QE2, or “quantitative easing.”

Translation: The Fed is committed to buy $600 billion in bonds from banks and pay for them by printing money that will then be deposited in those banks. The more dollars that flood into the economy, the less every one of them is worth.

Bernanke is not just risking inflation. He is inducing inflation.

[snip]

The other Chinese complaint is that they lent us trillions to buy Chinese goods and now we are robbing them by depreciating the dollar-denominated Treasury bonds they accepted in return for their goods.

Pay back your banker in Monopoly money, and you will find you are soon unable to borrow from anyone anywhere.

[snip]

The Fed...retains a confidence that it does not deserve, when one considers that, when it was created in 1913, a $20 bill could be exchanged for a $20 gold piece.

Today, it takes seventy $20 bills to buy a $20 gold piece, which means the dollar can buy in 2010 what you could get for 2 pennies in 1910. Quite a record for a central bank set up to protect the dollar.
Well, it was ostensibly set up to protect the dollar. Before you fall for that one, maybe you ought to find out what Andrew Jackson thought of the idea of a central bank.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Maybe Your Fat Friends Are Leading You Down the Wrong Path

Read it and weep, those of ye wearing the relaxed-fit jeans:
Americans will keep growing fatter until 42 percent of the nation is considered obese, and having fat friends is part of the problem, researchers said on Thursday.

The prediction by a team of researchers at Harvard University contradicts other experts who say the nation's obesity rate has peaked at 34 percent of the U.S. population.

The finding is from the same group, led by Nicholas Christakis, that reported in 2007 that if someone's friend becomes obese, that person's chances of becoming obese increase by more than half.

They now think this same phenomenon is driving the obesity epidemic, which will climb slowly but steadily for the next 40 years.
You may wonder why I harp on this every so often.

Again, I'm not trying to pick on people for being fifteen or twenty pounds overweight. That's not such a big, hairy deal, not as long as--and this is important--you are otherwise fairly fit.

But people that are fifty, sixty, even a hundred or hundred and fifty pounds overweight--they are killing themselves, and are partly responsible for killing the country's budget as well.

One of the smartest things that Mike Huckabee ever said--remember, Huck used to be amongst the ranks of the quivering fatties--was that lifestyle represents about eighty percent of the cost of health care in this country. I haven't ever looked it up, but my day-to-day working experience makes me quite willing to believe it. Over and over and over again, I deliver and install medical equipment, almost without exception for people whose complexes of medical conditions are directly related to their weight and/or smoking too many cigarettes (I will admit that I'm not convinced that an occasional cigarette is all that big a deal. However, hardly anybody ever smokes an "occasional" cigarette). COPD, diabetes, bad knees, bad backs--you name it! Obesity even makes asthma worse.

Younger fatties--you people that are in your twenties and thirties, but are already seventy or eighty pounds overweight--please believe me, you have absolutely no idea what sort of medical hell awaits you.

I have said for years that though I am, in principle, opposed to federally-funded medical care programs, the reality is that if you could deny services to people who've literally eaten themselves into a state of ill health, cruel as it sounds, there would, in fact, be plenty of money to help the people who've been crippled in car wrecks through no fault of their own, the people who contracted some loathsome disease that no one could possibly have seen coming, etc.

The pitiful thing is that avoiding obesity is so darn simple. I can flatly guarantee you that--barring some weird genetic abnormality--if you do these two things, you will never get huge:

1) Don't eat very much crap. Don't ask me for a detailed definition. In general, "crap" is anything with a bunch of empty calories and/or transfats in it.

It floors me that people indulge in complicated calorie-counting and "points" schemes. It is totally unnecessary. Just don't eat very much crap and the calories and so forth will take care of themselves, okay?

2) Move. Get some exercise that at least mildly stresses your musculature and heart and lungs. You don't have to run marathons, just be reasonably active, dadgummit.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wise Words on Self-Defense

I should note at the outset that I do not agree with Mr. Redmond about everything in the universe. More than once he has said that he thinks--well, as he put it in this post:
Karate is not self-defense. Karate is a tactical dueling system only.
He has frequently given me the impression that he really does think that Shotokan (the system he practices) sums up what "karate" is, and that it is less a real-world self-defense system than a sporting contest with a historical connection to mano-a-mano macho contests. I, on the other hand, enter a practice session with an acute focus on the problem of keeping my pale tuchus alive and unharmed in the event of a violent assault, and think that karate--specifically RyuTe--is an excellent "life protection" art. Be that as it may, I rather liked what he had to say in this post. Herewith, a short quote:
I avoid violence. I, like most others who have practiced fighting arts or have been in the military, am well aware that when violence starts, so does chaos. And in the chaos, anything can happen. No matter which of you is the master and which is the fool, either one can step on a banana peel and end up injured severely or dead.

Those who engage in violence when ANY other option is available roll the dice that they will not be killed. Good luck to those people. I prefer to de-escalate and avoid violence unless I judge it to be absolutely necessary.

Self-defense is not about winning fights – it is about using strategy and decision making to avoid them completely.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Truth About that Snide Little "Coexist" Sticker

That sticker has annoyed me from the first moment I saw it. This explains why.

You can, of course, click on it for a larger image. Found it on Jihad Watch.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The American Thinker on Free Trade Again

I really enjoyed this post. The author puts objections to free trade into a small, well-managed space. You really ought to go read the whole thing, but since I know you're not actually like to do so, here's a sample, with my comments interspersed:
Free trade sounds nice. Protectionism sounds ugly. Free trade sounds capitalist. Protectionism sounds Marxist. So it is worthy of note that free trade was actually viewed by Karl Marx as a strategic force, a tool with which to undermine capitalism as an economic model:
But, in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen that I vote in favor of free trade [i].
Marx was not far from wrong. After nearly fifty years of progressive tariff reductions, America has suffered significant economic losses. This comes as a surprise to many Americans, for years inebriated with the free trade mantra.

This is because America does the "free" while the rest of the world does something else. China, for example, manipulates its currency and engages in persistent dumping, driving down Chinese prices and displacing domestic American industries.
Amen, and amen! There are few things that annoy me more than listening to or reading someone extol the benefits of free trade without so much as noticing the elephant in the room: free trade does not actually exist! Other nations protect their markets.
The results of such one-sided free trade have been catastrophic for America. Consider that in the last fifty years, U.S. tariffs have gone from 40 percent of the price of goods to 5 percent [iv]. Over the same period, manufacturing as a share of employment has fallen from 30 percent to 11 percent and is still falling.
I swear, as God is my witness, every free trade economist that I have read writes as though any idiot can do manufacturing, or as if it is somehow a low-class form of employment.

My ***. Look, I've done manufacturing. I rather like it. I started at one factory by running a large set of industrial sheet-metal shears, then operating a CNC laser cutter, then moving on to a machine shop where I spent my days operating CNC mills and lathes and my nights learning more about how it's done. When I was laid off and moved into other fields, I wasn't even close to being a full-fledged machinist, despite having been in the field for close to two years and going to school for most of that time. It takes time, time and experience, to be a good manufacturing employee. Oh, anybody, or almost anybody, can drive a small forklift, to be sure, but to be a machinist? A fab (fabrication) worker? A welder? A tool-and-die maker? Those guys don't just fall off the trees. When we lose manufacturing jobs, those guys eventually have to move on to something else. Their skills deteriorate, and for the most part, are lost to the country.

God forbid we should have to rebuild our manufacturing in a big-*** hurry. I'm not sure we could do it.
The late Milton Friedman was a committed free trade proponent. In a stunning dismissal of traditional economic theory, Friedman once remarked, "Who is hurt and who benefits ... U.S. consumers benefit. They get cheap TV sets or automobiles ... Should we complain about such a program of reverse foreign aid?"

That may sound good for the short-term, but, as classic economist Friedrich List wrote,
The forces of production are the tree on which wealth grows...The tree which bears the fruit is of itself of greater value than the fruit itself...The prosperity of a nation is not...greater in the proportion in which it has amassed more wealth (i.e. values of exchange), but in the proportion with which it has more developed its powers of production.
Manufacturing matters. Service jobs, the primary source of U.S. employment, depend on capital inputs from manufacturing even if said manufacturing is foreign. This presents problems should foreign manufacturing undergo shocks or disturbances that disrupt supply lines and, by extension, the sole source of employment for most Americans. Dependence on foreign manufacturing is inherently dangerous, since it is out of U.S. control.

The loss of manufacturing is not a trivial matter, and it has national security implications. It must be the ultimate oxymoron that Communist China is now the "arsenal of democracy." China is a strategic enemy and has threatened open nuclear war on America's homeland, and yet CFIUS has cleared the sale of factories to China responsible for producing the rare-earth magnets used in American laser-guided munitions. What happens if America ever needs to fight China?
Or, what if, God forbid, America ever needs to fight some country with which China is at all friendly?
Service economies can't issue ultimatums; only industrial economies can do that.

It is on this basis that free trade arguments fall apart. In a world with no nations, where national governments are not accountable for the economic and political security of their people, doctrines like "comparative advantage" would have validity.
Again, amen, and amen! As long as nations exist, trade wars will be just that--trade wars. And nations that refuse to protect their own people are derelict in their duties.
Refusing to protect the American economy when other nations are using manipulative "protectionist" devices is not competition, but economic suicide.

Free trade cannot work when some play by the rules and others do not. While competition and openness are desirable in ideal circumstances, reasonable protectionism has proven effective and is indeed necessary to preserve American economic strength.
This whole subject is one of the things that genuinely concerns me about the crop of "conservatives" that we are about to send to Congress. I flatly guarantee you that the vast majority of them know next to nothing about this subject and will back free trade most of the time because, if they have heard anything about it at all, they have heard it from the open-borders/free trade/free-movement-of-goods-and-people, libertarian-leaning economists that dominate most of the economic discussion in the Republican Party. You would not believe the number of "conservative" writers who pen such inanities as "free trade is a bedrock conservative principle," when it is no such thing. It might well be a bedrock libertarian principle, but whilst libertarianism and conservatism do have their areas of overlap, they are not the same thing. It is sheer idiocy to tell a nation that grew to greatness, in part, by protecting its markets, that doing the opposite is somehow "conservative," yet we have more than a few conservatives who will do just that. It's mind-boggling.

Lastly, I must point out--again--that yes, I'm aware that tariffs are not perfect and do have their flaws and negative effects. Personally, I favor the Fair Tax, which, like a tariff, is a consumption tax and will have much the same effect as a tariff, though it is likely to eliminate some of the negative effects associated with tariffs. However, if I can't get the Fair Tax, bringing back tariffs, coupled with a great lowering of income tax rates, would be something I completely support.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Robert Knight on the "Born Gay" Idea

At the risk of getting myself labeled "bigoted" again for holding the same opinion that--what? Probably at least fifty percent of Americans hold? Considerably more, if you judge by the results every time homosexual marriage comes up at the ballot box--I give you Mr. Knight's closing thoughts on the subject:
The Washington Monthly’s Steven Benen described Buck’s views as “bizarre,” “cartoonish” and worthy of “national ridicule.” Well, of course. That must also describe the views of tens of millions of Americans who strengthened marriage laws in 45 states over the last 15 years. Or any parents who simply think it’s better that their son date a girl instead of a boy.

Science, biology, religion, history, common sense and human experience all argue against homosexuality, as do grim, persistent health statistics that the media ignore. They are apparently too busy painting as “haters” a lot of good people who know, love and worry about homosexual relatives or friends but are not “pro-gay.”

Since the facts overwhelmingly favor morality and normalcy, the only thing to do is to smear and shout. "After the Ball," a 1989 blueprint for gay power by Harvard-trained public relations experts Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, explains in detail how to “jam” opponents by charging them with “hate.” And it’s worked. Even most conservative talk show hosts ignore the issue or appease by ceding moral ground.

The “born gay” myth has been nurtured since the early ’90s, when a genetic component was suggested by some homosexual researchers’ well-publicized studies. But none has been credibly replicated, and several have been exposed as junk science, including Simon LeVay’s 1991 study of nodules on hypothalamuses, and Dean Hamer’s 1993 National Cancer Institute X chromosome study.

Even Dr. LeVay warned, “It’s important to stress what I didn’t find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn’t show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work.”

In fact, virtually all studies involving homosexuality, from Alfred C. Kinsey’s fraudulent “Kinsey Reports” from the late 1940s and early 1950s and the Evelyn Hooker psychological studies from UCLA in the late 1950s, have been exposed as either fraud or misrepresented to convey what activists want the public to hear.

As with the now-debunked estimate that 10 percent of the population is homosexual, the “born gay” myth has fueled claims of parity with race or ethnicity. Never mind whether it’s true. And, whatever you do, keep those former homosexuals out of the spotlight, lest the public start thinking about this.

It’s been a grand deception, and they’re not going to let real science, Scripture, genuine compassion or “cartoonish” candidates get in the way of their script.
So far in my life, I have never seen an argument for "born gay" that didn't work just as well for any other sexual peccadillo.

"Considering all the garbage homosexuals have to go through, MOTW, why would anyone choose homosexuality? They wouldn't! They must be born that way!"

Well, considering all the garbage pedophiles have to go through, why would anyone choose pedophilia? They wouldn't! They must be born that way!

"Hater! Bigot! How dare you compare homosexuals to perverts!"

And so it goes. As far as I can tell, all the arguments for "born gay" suffer from this defect. If they prove that homosexuality is inborn, they prove with equal force that other sexual oddities are inborn. If you're not willing to concede, on the basis of what is substantially your own argument, that pedophiles, foot-fetishists, sadists, masochists, and so forth are "born that way," if your counter-argument amounts to "You're a bigot!" there's not a darn reason in the world that I should take your argument seriously when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.

Understand: I am not condemning homosexuals or denying their personhood--one critic suggested that I somehow didn't realize that homosexuals were people, too. Nor am I saying that straight people are necessarily without sexual sin. I am fairly sure that if you could get them to 'fess up to it, 'most everybody with a functioning set of glands would end up confessing to some sort of sexual sin, even if just the one about lusting after other people's spouses. I am simply saying that homosexual behavior is one more on the list of sexual behaviors that scripture clearly identifies as sin and that rather than pretending otherwise, we would do well to speak the truth about it in love and get on with helping those who want to come out of it--and with preserving the liberty of those who think it is sinful to make decisions in accordance with their convictions. For this, I will most likely be labeled a bigot and a hater.

Such is the state of discourse on the subject these days.