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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

If You're Interested in Karate Kata...

...read this.

Let Me Introduce RealClearPolitics.com

If you weren't already hip to this, polls can be very funny things. There are some pollsters that manage to produce polls showing just about whatever the person commissioning the polls wants them to show. There are polls, sometimes widely reported polls, where the sampling is seriously askew--say, for example, where 2/3 of the respondents are Democrats or something. There are polls that poll "voters," and then there are polls that show "likely voters," that is, people who actually voted in the last couple of elections.

Some polls have better track records than others. My understanding is that Rasmussen has been the closest during the last couple of election cycles.

But you know, when I'm curious about the polls, I generally head straight to RealClearPolitics. They show polling results on a wide variety of subjects, and they show results from several pollsters, and they average those polls, too. It's worth checking out when you have questions. Like, this morning on Drudge, I followed a link where the writer claimed that polling now shows that Democrats are ahead in generic balloting. Turns out some of them do, but most of them don't. Same writer also claimed that President Obama's job approval numbers are heading up. And true, the average does show that. But then, you look at the polls involved in the average, and the ones showing the president with higher approval ratings are CNN, the Washington Post, Bloomberg, CBS News, and Gallup. Rasmussen--remember what I said about Rasmussen?--shows him down, as does USA Today/Gallup, and some others. Nor are the differences between the polls slight. I suspect that there is something going on in the sampling. You can make up your own mind.

At any rate, I find this a useful tool. You might find it so, too.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Star Parker Speaketh Wisdom

She says:
After voters in Massachusetts elected a Republican to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, killing the Democrats' filibuster-proof Senate majority, many pundits wrote that President Obama had to move to the political center.

I wrote then that this wouldn't happen because, unlike President Bill Clinton, who did moderate, Obama is a left-wing ideologue. He didn't run for president to be somebody. He did it to do something. He did it to change America.

[snip]

...if you want to know where it all leads, look at our inner cities that were long ago taken over by government compassion. This is our future, my fellow Americans.

Laura Hollis, Quoting Paul Krugman

Italics in the original material:
Everything you need to know about the fundamental creed of these self-appointed visionaries is contained in this pearl of Krugmanite wisdom: "A side observation: one Republican talking point has been that Democrats had no right to pass a bill facing overwhelming public disapproval. As it happens, the Constitution says nothing about opinion polls trumping the right and duty of elected officials to make decisions based on what they perceive as the merits."

Doesn't that just warm your heart? We know better that you, you bunch of drooling neanderthals. You didn't elect us to represent you; you elected us to rule over you.
And that is exactly what I was saying the other day: Democrats knew they were riding roughshod over the wishes of their constituents when they voted for Obamacare. It's galling, galling in the extreme, when they act as though their passage of that bill means that the country was behind them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Obamabot/Obama Zombie

After whipping out my last post, I realized a new term--"Obamabot"--had entered my vocabulary. Although I had a pretty good idea of what I meant by it, it occurred to me to see what the interwebs had to say, so I googled it. Googled "Obama Zombie," too, since there's a book out now.

Word. The things I saw. The definition given in one column by the author of the aforementioned book was:
...Obama Zombies—lobotomized Leftist followers...
Seems uncharitable, but unfortunately all too accurate. Hate to say it, but the farther left they are, the less likely it seems that they are willing to 'fess up to actually knowing anything--anything, that is, save that Republicans and Conservatives are wrong, and not merely wrong, but evilly wrong. Not merely wrong, but bad, bad people into the bargain. And Politifact and Media Matters and the Daily Kos and the Daily Beast are the only true arbiters of truth, justice, and the American way.

I exaggerate only a little. It's amazing how often these people don't actually express an opinion in any sort of detail, or show any real understanding of a subject, even a subject about which they feel passionately. For example, you ask them, point-blank, why anyone should believe Democratic claims that Obamacare will actually cut the deficit when Democratic programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (which, I'll remind you, was intended to provide health care for the poor; remind you of anything that's been talked about lately?) are all verging on insolvency (Social Security is in the red this year, Baby! Woohoo!), and it's clear that the question just doesn't process. It doesn't have to. They know Democrat claims that it'll reduce the deficit are right because Politifact said so. And besides, a Republican was caught in a lie last week, so any criticism of Democratic policies is clearly bogus. And didn't you hear about that kid--what's his name? Marcellus? There won't be any more Marcelluses under Obamacare.

That's the reasoning of an Obamabot, an Obama Zombie, in my book. They don't think so much as they parrot. Not that they're stupid, mind you, just that their indoctrination jumps to the forefront of their skulls before real cognitive skills can kick in.

Just in case you were wondering.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fatuous Idiots

It's early as I write, and yet I have already read two posts castigating John Sullivan for saying that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Mocking him for his "ignorance."

That kind of thing drives me nuts. Frankly, it is quite impossible to actually read the Constitution and The Federalist Papers, those papers being the explanation of the meaning and effects of the Constitution, the basis on which it was "sold" to the citizens of the state of New York, and explained to the rest of the country, and come to any other conclusion than that Obamacare is unconstitutional. I will say it flatly: to say that Obamacare is constitutional reveals either profound ignorance of the subject or a deliberate attempt to deceive.

Man, I get tired of fatuous, know-nothing idiots saying things like this. They know nothing about the subject themselves(or are lying through their teeth), yet they write about those who disagree with them as though they are all ignorant tools.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jonah Goldberg Puts It Well

It's been a while since I've heard this political division described so well and succinctly. Enjoy:
What we have here is a fundamental conflict of visions, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Sowell. One side believes that people are born into their station in life and it is the government's job to make their miserable lives a little better. Indeed, it is the natural order of things for the government to provide jobs, health care, homes to the people. If you object to this concept of government, it must be because you want to "punish" the downtrodden and discriminated. You must be animated by racism, sexism, greed, "fascism!"

The other side says that our rights come from God, not from government. That while the government has an obligation to promote the general welfare, it doesn't have a holy writ to design the nation as it sees fit. The Constitution is not a coupon insert in your local paper, brimming with all sorts of giveaways and two-for-one deals. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights delineate what the government cannot do, not what it can. What was so fantastic and revolutionary about that is that for the first time in history, a nation was founded on the proposition that the government should mind its own business. Believing that doesn't make you a fascist, it makes you a patriot.

But the leaders of one America don't see it that way, and probably never will. Which is why, whatever happens in Congress in the coming days and weeks, it will be "two Americas" for a very long time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Listen to Pat

Again, Pat Buchanan is not right about everything. But if you miss the lesson he's teaching in this column--well, it's an important lesson. C'mon, read the whole thing.
Ethnonationalism, that relentless drive of peoples to secede and dwell apart, to establish their own nation-state, where their faith is predominant, their language spoken, their heroes and history revered, and they rule to the exclusion of all others, is rampant.

[snip]

In speaking of the rising tribalism abroad, Schlesinger added, "The ethnic upsurge in America, far from being unique, partakes of the global fever."
Friends and neighbors, I am the last person to say that ethnic differences cannot be overcome. They can. My own ancestry is largely Irish, but we have Choctaw blood, too. My nephew is part Jewish. My children are part Mexican. Some of the people I like seeing most every week are the Mexican immigrants in the ESL (English as a Second Language) class I teach. The head of the karate system I study, RyuTe, is an Okinawan immigrant. I do believe in the "melting pot" concept.

But (you knew the "but" was coming) for the "melting pot" to work, something has to provide the "heat." There has to be something, some overriding thing in common, that overcomes ethnicity and cultural division. I submit to you that a more-or-less common religious faith--and Christianity was once professed by the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of this country--is the best candidate, followed closely by a burning desire for liberty, liberty having its strongest foundation in the view of man and God to be found in the Scriptures. For many decades, we had a more-or-less homogeneously Christian, government-phobic, liberty-loving population. That is sufficient to make the "melting pot" concept work. But now? Though the majority of Americans profess to be Christian, polling them on the details reveals that most don't quite understand the basics of the Christian faith and fewer and fewer attend church services or show other signs of a living Christian faith. More and more Americans have gradually been lured onto the government teat in one way or another and are loath to give up what they mistakenly perceive as security in exchange for more liberty. We are rapidly losing the very things that made the "melting pot" work, and it seems to me that the day is coming when this nation might very well fragment. It might not be within my lifetime (though it wouldn't shock me if it were), but unless things change soon, I think it is coming.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Hate "Democracy"

I hate it when I see people refer to our nation as a "democracy," or to our political system as "democracy."

It is no such thing. We live in a Republic, which is considerably different.

Go on, recite the Pledge of Allegiance...
...and to the republic for which it stands...
I hate democracy. It is nothing more than mob rule, two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner. We don't live in one, this country was never meant to be one. The Founding Fathers explicitly repudiated democracy, and for darn good reason.

For pity's sake, let's get our terms straight!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Problem in a Nutshell

I actually left a comment on the local lib blog (don't often do that anymore, kind of a waste of time), and elicited a comment from what I think is pretty much the only other regular reader they have, and to my mind, that comment explained all there is to know about why the Democratic Congress is so determined to push through their health scare care deform reform despite knowing full well that their proposals are intensely unpopular.

Basically, he said to wait a generation and then, you'll never be able to wean people off it--government health care, that is. Oh, he couched it in terms of the people "benefiting" from it for a generation, which is obviously highly debatable, but I think he's right in that other respect. If the Democrats get this passed, they know perfectly well it will ultimately become one more untouchable entitlement program that will help to keep their party in power--especially if, via comprehensive immigration reform amnesty, they get about 12 million new voters in the next few years.

They might lose power this year, the thinking goes, but after that, it's perpetual Democratic one-party rule, baby! So the only problem, from their perspective, is getting sitting Congressmen to walk the plank for the sake of the party's future.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yes, He Is...


I have never understood people who say they don't care about politics. Oh, I grant you, it would be nice if you didn't have to care about politics, if your government was really that beneficent.

It isn't. Never was, never will be. Government is ever to be watched.

How is it that people don't understand? Not to stay informed, active, and at least somewhat involved is not to care about who wants power over you, your family, your pocketbook, and your time. It is, effectively, to welcome tyranny.

It's Just Not Always That Complicated

Kris Wilder tells a story that, along the way, makes a point I have often made: despite the scare-mongering by some people--well, let me explain, just briefly:

When you start talking "martial arts," there is almost always some person who will say something like, "Well, yeah, but would it work against this guy?" "This guy" almost always being some hypothetical uber-badbutt--you know, seven feet tall, ex-Navy Seal, on-drugs-so-he-feels-no-pain, allegedly experienced and crafty streetfighter etc. Their idea seems to be that if your martial art won't work against "that guy," it's not worth the time it takes to practice it. Leaving aside the question of whether martial arts really will work on "that guy," I have always objected to this on the grounds that there are just not very many of "those guys" around. Most of the time--unless you have some reason to be perpetually hanging around terrible places--you are far more likely to be faced with some idiot who thinks he's going to prove a point by pounding your face in. Most of the time, they don't suffer from an abundance of superlative technical skills. Most of the time, they are not overwhelmingly bigger than you are (unless you are a woman fighting off rapists--different scenario). Most of the time, being drunk or on drugs works against someone, not for them. Most of the time, "streetfighters" are out picking fights with other idiots, not with you (it ought to tell you something if you are perpetually getting into fights with people). Most of the time, if your martial art will work against what one writer called "the average *******," that's all you need it to do. Simple techniques, executed well and without fear, will usually work.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

If You're Interested in Karate Kicking...

...read this. A quote I really enjoyed:
As a “rule”, the closer you are to an opponent, the safer you are (Simple experimentation will prove this out). By being closer, your more difficult to “hit”(hard), and the inclination is(or becomes) to grab you (when/if you do). This instinct (to “grab”) is one we (in RyuTe) exploit at every opportunity given to us...
Very succinct and oh-so-true...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ray Stevens' "Caribou Barbie"

Don't conclude from my embedding of this li'l clip that I think that Mrs. Palin is ready for the presidency. I don't think she quite is. On the other hand, looking at the pack of thieves, rogues, and idiots currently on the national scene, I'm not entirely sure I can think of anyone genuinely ready for the presidency.

As far as the current occupant of the White House is concerned...

...well...

...dadgummit, I can never quite make up my mind whether he is a thoroughgoing idiot or some kind of stealth Marxist tool. Either way, given a choice between His Barackness and Caribou Barbie?

Caribou Barbie wins that one hands down. I'm pretty well convinced that at least she's got the common sense and basic values that God gave a goat. Can't say that about all the candidates available.

Enjoy.

If You're Interested in Karate Punching...

Read this.

Short and Sweet on "Free Trade"

Pat Buchanan's column today is on "free trade." Again, if you're not familiar with the subject, don't confuse "free trade" with "free markets." They are not at all the same thing. "Free trade" is the policy of having low or nonexistent tariffs on imported goods. Used to be that the federal government was financed almost entirely by tariffs. Ran surpluses, too. The United States rose to be an economic colossus during this period.

You cut tariffs, you have to raise other taxes, or create new ones. Tariffs are a consumption-type tax. In their absence, you get income taxes--basically, taxes on economic productivity and success. Brilliant.

Now, as I often say for the benefit of those who, when tariffs are brought up, automatically shout "Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression!" A) That's hogwash, we had a decades-long history of high tariffs without having a decades-long history of "great depression," and B) I'm not unaware that tariffs are not perfect. I favor the Fair Tax, which is not perfect either, but seems to me to be a better system that has some of the same salutatory effects as tariffs, that is, it creates a tremendous tax advantage to manufacturing and doing business in the United States. However, if I can't get the Fair Tax, I definitely want more tariffs and less income tax, capisce?

Now, on to the Patmeister's remarks--and I do recommend you go read the whole thing. Emphasis is mine and in bold:
How many know that every modern nation that rose to world power did so by sheltering and nurturing its manufacturing and industrial base -- from Britain under the Acts of Navigation to 1850, to protectionist America from the Civil War to the Roaring Twenties, to Bismarck's Germany before World War I, to Stalin's Russia, to postwar Japan, to China today?

No nation rose to world power on free trade. From Britain after 1860 to America after 1960, free trade has been the policy of powers that put consumption before production and today before tomorrow.

Nations rise on economic nationalism; they descend on free trade.
What is more, other nations practice economic warfare on us already. Somebody always brings up "retaliation." If there is a question of "retaliation," the question is when are we going to retaliate. Other nations protect their markets, either via their own tariffs, or through such mechanisms as rebating their VATs on exports. This global free-trade zone that some utopians envision does not actually exist, never has existed, and never will exist.

As Pat points out, the pitiful part is that our current crop of Republicans simply don't get this. It's pitiful because, if you didn't know, the same period of time that the United States was rising to manufacturing and national preeminence was also a period of time when the United States was under an almost uninterrupted string of Republican presidents, all of whom favored high tariffs. The Republican Party used to be the party of high tariffs; now, they won't touch 'em, despite the lessons of history.

It's a stinkin' pity.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Pastime that Never Really Ends

One of my favorite pastimes is reading/listening to someone who hasn't the foggiest notion what in the sam hill he is talking about lecture forth, gloriously unaware what a fool he is making of himself. I know, I know; seems almost a bit cruel, doesn't it? Wouldn't it be nice, wouldn't be charitable to enlighten a poor fellow like that, to gently correct his misunderstandings?

Of course it would. But one of the things that makes these people absolutely hysterical is that they will almost automatically reject the input of anyone more knowledgeable on the subject of the day than they themselves are--unless, of course, said input agrees with their already-uttered opinions. So, for example, when it comes to Christianity and poverty, they will listen to Jim Wallis; when it comes to Christianity and homosexuality, they will listen to Barry Lynn; they will never, not at any time, listen to you (even if your stock of learning on a given subject dwarfs theirs) or to anyone whom you recommend. They will insist that their chosen authorities are the only acceptable authorities, despite rather obviously being completely unequipped to judge whether their authorities know what they are talking about! This makes them marvelously un-correctable, so to speak.

So you wind up with the amusing spectacle of people who have, for example, rather clearly never actually read the whole Bible, lecturing Christians who have read it--and commentaries along with it, in more than a few cases--over and over and over again that the multiple Biblical injunctions to God's people to care for the poor actually amount to injunctions for the state to care for the poor--accepting, briefly, for the sake of argument that what the state does to for the poor is actually "care"; people who have never read either the Bible or the Qu'ran lecturing Christians that Christians and Muslims worship the same god (sometimes Mormons get dragged into this discussion, too!); people who've barely read the Constitution (if at all), let alone The Federalist Papers, lecturing others on the meaning of the General Welfare clause, the Tenth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the Second Amendment; and so forth. It would not be difficult to supply many more examples.

Fortunately for my pursuit of this pastime, I have a more-or-less continual supply of such shenanigans coming to me via the good graces of Google Reader.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Grasping the Obvious

As I've said more than once before, sometimes I wake up and it seems like only Pat Buchanan is asking the obvious questions--Diana West, too, I guess. Someone once quipped that Mr. Buchanan's tombstone should read, "I told you so, you ------- fools!"
...the behavior of senators suggests thatneither party appreciates the depth of the crisis we are in or the pain that will be required to get us out.

[snip]

Consider. Congress this year will spend $1.6 trillion more than it collects in revenue, with the largest outlays in that FY 2010 budget for defense at $719 billion and Social Security at $721 billion.

Thus, if the U.S. Government on Oct. 1, 2008, had shut down the Pentagon and furloughed every soldier and civilian here and around the world, and announced that it would not send out a Social Security check for a full year to any of the 50 million retired and elderly, we would still be $160 billion short of balancing the budget. If you zeroed out federal benefits to veterans for a full year, that, added in, would bring us close.

Such is the magnitude of the fiscal crisis facing the country.

[snip]

This city does not seem to grasp that the days of wine and roses are over. We are not in the 1950s or 1960s anymore. Then, we could throw open our markets to imports from the world. Then, we could dish out foreign aid and fight wars in Vietnam with 500,000 men, while maintaining 50,000 troops in Korea and 300,000 in Europe.

America is headed for a time when, like the British Empire, she is going to have to make painful choices, or have them forced upon us.

What Really Makes Us Fat?

'Tis as I suspected: there will be people reading this blog who feel the need to make a few, ah, shall we say, "lifestyle changes." I will publish more and more stuff dealing with certain of these over the next several months. Not that I pretend to be an expert, God knows, but I have a few peculiar advantages over some folks due to the hideous mistakes and boneheaded errors I've made over the years sheer grace of God that has been exhibited in my life.

For starters, for those who are interested, read this. You will not regret spending the time, I promise.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Geert Wilders On Islam

This is part of a speech Mr. Wilders gave at the House of Lords, quoted from an apparently complete text at Diana West's blog:
Ladies and gentlemen, not far from here stands a statue of the greatest Prime Minister your country ever had. And I would like to quote him here today: “Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. No stronger retrograde force exists in the World. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step (…) the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.” These words are from none other than Winston Churchill wrote this in his book ‘The River War’ from 1899.

Churchill was right.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t have a problem and my party does not have a problem with Muslims as such. There are many moderate Muslims. The majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens and want to live a peaceful life as you and I do. I know that. That is why I always make a clear distinction between the people, the Muslims, and the ideology, between Islam and Muslims. There are many moderate Muslims, but there is no such thing as a moderate Islam.

Islam strives for world domination. The Quran commands Muslims to exercise jihad. The Quran commands Muslims to establish shariah law. The Quran commands Muslims to impose Islam on the entire world.

As former Turkish Prime Minister Erbakan said: “The whole of Europe will become Islamic. We will conquer Rome”. End of quote.
And this is true, as anyone who cares to give the subject more than a superficial and all-religions-are-equal look can see.

Just Keep It To Yourself, Okay?

Your "health" problems, that is. When I listen to people gripe and moan about how awful they feel, and how they go and go and go to the doctor and never seem to get better, I almost always find myself thinking the same cotton-pickin' thing:
Will you shut up about that? You don't get any kind of regular sleep, you subsist wholly on utter garbage for food, you don't get any exercise, you smoke cigarettes, you have no spiritual life--just exactly what would you expect to feel like, but hammered dog squeeze? Geez louise, get a grip, willya?
Not that I personally know anybody like that, of course.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Book Review: The Way of Sanchin Kata: The Application of Power

When I review a book on martial arts, I can't help but feel that there is a certain amount of cheekiness involved on my part. You see, it's pretty much a given that the author of the book I'm reviewing has skills considerably more advanced than my own (not much point in reading the book otherwise, right?), so it's hard to
escape the "Who-am-I-to-criticize?" feeling. Nevertheless, hoping that someone will get something out of my take on a given volume, I press on...
I have long been interested in the kata sanchin. It's likely that only God knows for sure just how long it's been around. It exists in a variety of forms in various kung-fu systems (usually written in Roman letters as saam chien) and at least three different Okinawan versions come easily to mind: the Goju Ryu version, the Uechi Ryu version, and the Motobu Udun Ti version.

The versions differ noticeably from one another, and it doesn't help that the kata is often performed badly--terribly badly, so much so that even I, though I practice a system that does not include Sanchin in its curriculum, can recognize how bad the situation is.

Of this much I'm sure: you shouldn't look and sound as though you're about to cough up blood and entrails when you do Sanchin.

I picked up Kris Wilder's The Way of Sanchin Kata: The Application of Power because--even though the system I practice doesn't include it--I choose to practice Sanchin. To my mind, it seems important and useful, though I don't think I can quite subscribe to Hiroo Ito's opinion, given in the foreward, that:
The very basic kata in Okinawa-style karate is sanchin, and it has been understood historically that you master karate only if you master this kata.
After all, there are quite a number of Okinawan systems and subsystems that do not include Sanchin at all, and the skills of those practitioners certainly don't seem lacking to me. However, for various reasons, I decided that I would try to learn and practice the Uechi Ryu version of Sanchin, and though the instructional video I have isn't bad (It's Rod Mindlin's, if anyone is wondering), it was nevertheless clear to me that there were things about the kata that simply aren't adequately explored, and I needed extra instruction, preferably from someone not doing the coughing-up-blood-and-entrails version. Mr. Wilder's book appeared to provide some of the details I was trying to figure out.

I have not been altogether disappointed. Even though Mr. Wilder's book deals almost entirely with the Goju Ryu version of Sanchin--which, I would guess, is also pretty much the same as the Isshin Ryu version, since Shimabuku Tatsuo presumably imported the kata directly from Goju Ryu into Isshin Ryu--he carefully notes details of the movements that are clearly applicable to other versions of the kata and explores the whys and wherefores in considerable depth and his material has therefore helped me with my practice. Since Mr. Wilder says:
The goal of this book is to achieve a better understanding of sanchin kata through the mechanics, history, and applications of the kata.
I guess that means that his goal has been achieved, at least in my case.

The book starts out with a brief history of the kata. It is necessarily somewhat brief, for the simple fact of the matter is that the ultimate origins of the kata are lost in time. As Mr. Wilder says:
...the viewpoints between the versions of the history of sanchin kata are difficult to make clear. It is only possible to touch upon a handful of points on the timeline with reasonable assurance when looking at the history of sanchin kata. Finding the root, or the clear origin, of sanchin kata is as difficult as it was for the British and French in 1854 to find the headwaters of the Nile river.
This section, therefore, did not really offer anything new and startling, but rather recapped the well-known basic historical facts: that the kata is known to be at least several hundred years old, exists in more than one version, was an integral part of the martial arts systems taught by Kanryo Higashionna and Kanbun Uechi, and was altered somewhat further by Chojun Miyagi into what is now probably the most widely taught version, that of Goju Ryu.

After that, Mr. Wilder spends some time discussing the relationships between physical movements and mental processes, the way the hemispheres of the brain communicate with each other, the differences between various kinds of brain waves, and elements of training that affect all of these. Mr. Wilder's comment that
Moving in sanchin kata, because it is a walk and not a march, helps create better communication between the two sides of the brain.
reminded me somewhat of some of the things I have read about the Feldenkrais Method.

The next chapter is largely about how to measure one's movements--how close the fist should be to the body, etc.--and contains one particularly fascinating section asserting that the Fibonacci Ratio is quite noticeable throughout Sanchin kata.
...because this ratio is among the basic mathematical formulas upon which nature builds, it is important that we acknowledge this and work in harmony with nature, and not against it. Think of it this way; close your eyes and imagine you have everything you need to build a ten-foot-tall pyramid--the stone, the mortar, and a crane. In your mind, take a few seconds and build the pyramid.

Now look at it. The point is at the top, correct? Clearly, you cannot build an upside-down-pyramid and have it stand. It simply is not stable and tips over to seek a balance point. If you did build a pyramid upside-down, you would need supports to hold it in the upside-down position. Those supports, of course, would not be needed if you build the pyramid correctly to begin with. It follows then, that in sanchin kata, one should adhere to the ratio. Not to do so is the equivalent of building an upside-down pyramid.
And then a little later:
Sanchin kata teaches the fundamentals of karate that can then be extended over the entire syllabus of karate. This extension of this principal gives the practitioner the structural integrity of the basics throughout their martial arts techniques.
The next several chapters dwell mostly on the mechanics of the kata, building from the ground up, through the feet, then the legs, then the hips, and so on. Mr. Wilder goes into great detail as to which muscles should be doing what, which is very useful information. When he gets to the arms, he spends a little time talking about the mechanics of the punch, giving a good deal of extremely useful information which is, I flatly guarantee, given insufficient attention by far too many karate practitioners. Not that this is altogether their fault; the sort of detail that Mr. Wilder gives is simply difficult to communicate adequately to each member of a class of twenty or more students. Frankly, I got almost all the way up to black belt in Taekwon-do without being familiar with some of the details Mr. Wilder gives, and when I made the switch to Okinawan karate, my instructor had/is having to help me unlearn the bad habits I had acquired.

At one point, Mr. Wilder said something that arrested my attention. Referring to the way the punching hand rotates from palm up (at the side) to palm down (at impact), he says, emphasis mine:
Staying relaxed allows for quickness. During the first three quarters of the distance the punch covers, it is relaxed. Once the fist has passed the other fist, the rotation then begins. This exchange of fists takes place in the last quarter or so of extension toward the target.

The twisting of the fist at the last moment is important because it creates a snapping shock instead of a push punch. The twisting of the punch at the last third or so of the length the punch travels is in line with the Fibonacci Ratio in the form of a spiral. Again, this is a case of a movement that conforms to, and uses, nature instead of trying to force the body to comply with the will of the individual.
This interested me because for some time I have been dissatisfied with using the English word "punch" to describe what we are learning to do in our group. It has seemed to me that a "punch" is more of a hard push than what we do, which more closely resembles making a relaxed, whipping strike--creating a "snapping shock," in Mr. Wilder's words--with the knuckles, and I have grown to prefer the Japanese term tsuki.

In the remainder of the book, Mr. Wilder covers the "Iron Shirt" aspect of the kata, breathing, "rooting," the movements of the kata, testing the kata, and training implements.

I found it interesting that when discussing the "Iron Shirt" effect--which, according to him, allows the practitioner to take blows without injury--it seemed to me that he dwelt more on how to achieve this effect than on how it works, and I can only speculate that it has something to do with something Yang Jwing-Ming talked about in one of his books: that many pressure points can be "armored" by tensing the muscles around them. Knowing this, it becomes obvious that being able to control one's muscles immediately and completely in this regard could be useful, but I don't recall Mr. Wilder directly addressing the isue.

I had mixed feelings about the material in the breathing section. Although it was very clear and helped to explain why the breathing of the Goju Ryu practitioner sounds the way it does (and it can be, and is, frequently done incorrectly, so this material should be given close attention by Goju practitioners seeking a clear explanation of this breathing), it seemed to me that the breathing in the Goju version of the kata was the only sanchin breathing addressed, and one thing anyone looking into sanchin will immediately notice is that the breathing in the Uechi Ryu version is considerably different. It is also very difficult to find a clear explanation of how the Uechi Ryu breathing is done--it is usually described as simply "natural" and "hissing"--and I was hoping to find more about it in this book. On the other hand, the material in the book was so clear as regards the Goju version that I felt like I had picked up a tidbit or two that would at least be applicable to my practice.

I did enjoy the material on training implements, especially the makiwara. The makiwara, it seems to me, is unique. No other training device gives feedback to the practitioner in precisely the way it does. As Mr. Wilder says:
Striking pads, focus mitts, heavy bags, water bags, and other training aids are not direct replacements for the makiwara. The reason for this is the makiwara gives instant and direct feedback in the form of non-recoiled pressure. As a heavy bag moves away from your fist and swings back when struck, it takes time to sway from your strike and then return. The makiwara gives instant pressure--the harder you hit, the harder it gives pressure back toward you.
The only thing I didn't like about the book was a rather obvious lack of editing. Over and over again, I found sentences that were so poorly framed--often not even grammatically correct--that the information they were trying to convey was obscured. I don't blame Mr. Wilder for this. Taking care of that sort of thing is the job of the editor, and whoever it was did not do his job very well.

Overall, the book is informative and useful, and though I would still recommend that anyone trying to learn the kata on his own take advantage of one of the video treatments of the subject, there is no doubt that anyone already knowing the kata and trying to improve his knowledge and performance will find this book well worth purchasing.

Book Review: Bokken: Art of the Japanese Sword

I suppose that some may wonder--rightly, I guess--why on earth I would read a book on the use of the traditional Japanese wooden practice sword, the bokken or bokuto. It is not as if I'm ever likely to come within shouting distance of the traditional Japanese sword arts, and one would think that there would be little relationship between its skills and those required in Okinawan karate, my particular interest. However, in my opinion, those thinking so are wrong. One need not delve very far into the somewhat nebulous history of the Okinawan combative arts to realize that Japanese swordsmanship has had substantial influence on Okinawan techniques and execution. Even before the Satsuma clan invaded Okinawa and Sokon Matsumura earned his menkyo (certificate indicating proficiency in the techniques of the ryu or permission to teach, possibly both, I suppose) in their Jigen-Ryu system of swordsmanship, it seems indisputable that Japanese sword techniques had a profound influence on the hereditary martial art of Okinawa's ruling Motobu clan, sometimes referred to as Motobu Udun Ti, and although one might question just how much influence the techniques of Motobu Udun Ti had on Okinawan technique prior to the last century, there is absolutely no doubt that Seikichi Uehara, the first non-family member to inherit that art, was part of at least one research group that also included such notables as Sian Toma and the remarkable Seiyu Oyata, who was primarily responsible for introducing close-quarter grappling techniques called tuite and pressure-point techniques called kyusho-jitsu to the Western world, and it seems likely, therefore, that Uehara--and Japanese swordsmanship--has had at least some influence in some quarters of the Okinawan karate world. And since, as mentioned, no less a luminary than Matsumura--probably the single most influential Okinawan karateka of the nineteenth century, bodyguard and instructor to the Okinawan king--was a skilled Jigen-Ryu swordsman, one is not entirely unjustified in surmising that his karate, too, was at least somewhat influenced by Japanese swordsmanship.

In our little practice group, the bokken occupies the place held in some systems by the chi-ishi and stone locks: auxiliary training equipment that develops a very particular type of power and movement peculiar to the needs of that system. It seems to me that we have certain elements of footwork in common with those of the Japanese swordsman, and the way we deliver a punch seems distinctly reminiscent of the way the sword is handled. Of course, there is a very distinct effect on one's physical fitness as well. As Mr. Lowry notes in the book (suburi, by the way, is practice with the bokken):
It is only fair to warn, though, that suburi is an extremely strenuous exercise.

Just the act of swinging the bokken up and down without any force is likely to bring on stiff and sore muscles. This author has conducted seminars on suburi training on occasion, with classes filled with strong karateka or judoka, all young men in their early 20s, black belt holders with the strength and conditioning of professional athletes. Even so, at the end of the session, they were all pitifully tired and sore. "It was like jumping rope," one of them said, "with a lead chain for a rope."

Suburi training involves quick footwork and light, fast body shifting, but it also demands strength and a focusing of physical power, cutting with the bokken in a solid, well-connected movement. Because of this duality, its exercises can be geared for emphasizing whatever specific activity one wishes. There are several movements requiring constant motion in different directions, and these can be performed lightly and smoothly a number of times to increase stamina. Other actions, like the basic cuts and strikes, are simpler, and a great deal of power may be applied in learning them, to develop strength.
Practice with the bokken, then, is a useful adjunct to our bare-handed training, and it was with this in mind that I picked up Dave Lowry's Bokken: Art of the Japanese Sword. Mr. Lowry is singularly well suited for the task of writing such a book. He is probably the Western World's most well-known exponent of traditional Japanese swordsmanship--and by "traditional Japanese swordsmanship," I mean not the relatively modern discipline of kendo, but the older combative samurai arts, the koryu--and has cross-trained in other martial arts, including, if I am not mistaken, Judo, Aikido, and Japanese karate (Caveat: modern Japanese karate is distinctly different, in my opinion, from the original Okinawan article). The book has been out for about twenty years now, and as far as I know, has never gone out of print.

It is a simple book. If all you do is read the text, I suppose a fairly fast reader could get through it in an hour or two. Of course, since you will constantly be looking from the text to the pictures, and then--presumably--to your own posture, the reality is that it will take just as long to read as it takes you to develop the skills you seek. The first few sections--the introduction, "Origins of the Bokken," "Training with the Bokken," and "Selecting the Bokken and Equipment" are, as you might expect, largely devoted to background information and the sorts of things you need to know to get started. In the process, Mr. Lowry passes on some interesting information and stories from Japan's feudal background and a fair amount of personal opinion. The stories and the history are interesting, and Mr. Lowry's passion for the subject comes through in his opinions, for some of which I cannot personally find much enthusiasm. For instance, he seems much concerned with identifying with the old samurai, and I find that I cannot. I have enjoyed stories of their bravery and single-mindedness in combat, and I have great admiration for their battlefield arts and desire to add some small part of that treasure-trove of skills to my personal inventory. But I am not a samurai, and I find that I simply don't have their attitude. The things that I admire about them are also things that I find present and admirable in my own cultural background.

The rest of the book consists of instruction, given via text and photographs. First is kihon, or fundamentals; then uchi kata, or striking methods; then renraku waza, or combination techniques; and then kumitachi, or techniques with a partner. Instruction is given for details ranging from the proper way of gripping the weapon to proper stepping methods. Much of this information is interesting, and for the most part, it is clear and easy to follow, with only one caveat necessary: it sometimes seems--looking at the text--as though a photograph is missing. I don't know that this is so, but part of me wonders if it is not a fairly difficult thing to avoid in the creation of such books. The upshot is that sometimes you have to dig a little for useful information. For instance, when looking at the information on naname okuri ashi (oblique advancing step), one is left clueless as to how long the step taken is to be. Clueless, that is, for about ten pages, for when giving instruction on shomen uchi (cutting down, or the overhead cut), we find
This method of stepping is exactly like that of naname okuri ashi, except that the movement is straight to the front rather than at an angle.
together with a photograph illustrating the length of the step! This kind of thing occurs more than once throughout the book. The information does seem to be all there, but sometimes you have to flip a few pages to find it. It would probably be worthwhile to give the book a thorough reading from front to back before actually picking up a bokken and trying out some of the techniques.

I think it is likely that most people will probably not end up mastering all the material, as it simply may not be necessary to achieve their particular goals. For instance, I don't anticipate trying any of the kumitachi, or partner drills, anytime soon. I am mostly interested in the effects the handling of the weapon has on my management of my body's mass and momentum, the way my punches are thrown (I have made mention of the peculiar way punches, or tsuki, are thrown in our system more than once. I don't wish to go into the sort of detail that would amount to me giving instruction that I am in no way qualified to give, but I will just say here that those interested can, between the material in Kiyoshi Arakaki's excellent The Secrets of Okinawan Karate: Essence and Techniques and the material on pages 40-41 of this book, gain considerable insight. At least if you give it any serious thought.), together with some of the physical fitness benefits. For my purposes, gaining a grasp of some of the basics and practicing shihogiri (cutting in four directions) is probably sufficient.

Overall, I would recommend the book as a good start for anyone interested in gaining some of the benefits peculiar to practicing the art of the sword, and especially for those interested in some of the older Okinawan systems, or aikido.

Country-Style Pork Ribs


Another old post.
I like smoked ribs. I like grilled and smoked foods in general, especially smoked brisket, but country-style pork ribs have a special place in my heart. They're usually cheap and they make great additions to other dishes, like a crock-pot full o' pinto beans.

This is how I like to cook 'em.

I start by marinating the ribs. Usually, I'm cooking about ten pounds of ribs and, if you put 'em in a big bowl, it takes surprisingly little marinade. I don't usually measure; I just pour about equal amounts of common vegetable (soybean) oil and reconstituted lemon juice over the ribs. Marinating them in straight Coca-Cola also works well. I usually let 'em sit for about an hour, turning 'em over once midway.

About half an hour before I want to start cooking, I start the coals and start soaking my smoking wood. I always use hardwood lump charcoal. Usually my smoking wood is hickory, but I also like cherry. I don't use starter fluid; I use a charcoal chimney starter.

I currently use what's commonly called a water smoker, or a bullet smoker, but I don't use the water pan anymore, not for ribs. I find that without the water pan, I get better caramelization on the ribs.

Once the ribs have marinated and the coals are going, I add a few chunks of water-soaked smoking wood to the fire pan and put the ribs on the grills, making sure to leave room between the ribs for smoke to circulate.

About every 45-60 minutes, depending on how cold it is outside, I add a little more charcoal and smoking wood. Cooking time varies with the outside temperature, too, but generally, about three an' a half hours produces a nicely caramelized "crust," a tender inside, and a pronounced smoky flavor.

This is the basic version, which I usually serve with barbecue sauce on the side. Variations are as endless as your imagination: add Louisiana hot sauce and cider vinegar to the marinade; use a rub; baste the ribs with barbecue sauce half an hour before they finish cooking.

The ribs freeze well, and one of my favorite things to do is to use leftover ribs (if any) as a flavoring meat in a potful of pinto beans. The smoke flavor gets all through the beans, and if everyone in your household tolerates onions and peppers well, there's not much better to eat on earth than pinto beans made with smoked ribs, big chunks of yellow onion, and chopped bell pepper, served with corn bread.

For further ideas, my two favorite resources are Charlie and Ruthi Knote's Barbecuing and Sausage-Making Secrets and Jamison and Jamison's Smoke and Spice.

Breakfast in a Flash


Another old post.
I'm trying to take better care of my health. Lately, I've become fond of this breakfast because it's good for my circulatory and digestive systems and chock full of vitamins and it's cheap and easy.

The first thing to do is to get a few bags of frozen fruit. Wal-Mart sells little bags of whole, frozen strawberries, bags of sliced peaches, and bags of blueberries. Take these, chop 'em up into small pieces, stuff 'em back into their bags, and throw 'em back into the freezer. This is a big time saver later on.

Pick yourself a nice, high-sided microwaveable blowl and dump a suitable quantity of Wal-Mart-brand pan-toasted oats into it--for me, it's one cup--and the appropriate amount of water according to the package directions (You can adjust up or down on subsequent days. I don't even bother to measure the water anymore; I just eyeball it). Nuke this for two minutes, then add honey to taste (start with a tablespoon and adjust) and chopped fruit as desired. Stir for about thirty seconds. The fruit will thaw and the oatmeal will cool off to just the right temperature. You could add some chopped pecans if you feel really adventurous.

Eat that and drink some black coffee, which is loaded with antioxidants, and you'll be fit to face the day. Assuming you've already gotten your morning workout in, of course...

"Uncle Eric" on the Swiss Defense


Another post from a previous blogging incarnation.
For quite some time, I've had a post "in process" that talks about our involvement in the Middle East, national defense, etc., and one of the points therein is that I prefer, overall, a "Swiss model" of national defense. The best short explanation of this concept that I have found has been in one of "Uncle Eric's" (Richard Maybury) books, World War I: The Rest of the Story and How It Affects You Today, but as I do not own my own copy, I have not dwelt on it.

Well, as it happens, my oldest son borrowed the thing from the library, and I am going to share his material on the Swiss with you, counting on the fact that you will be inspired to go out and buy your own copy of this and others of Mr. Maybury's books. Any of Mr. Maybury's books is an education. That is not to say that I agree with every jot and tittle of what he writes, but you will emerge from your reading with a significantly improved understanding of the way the world works. So, without further ado:
Switzerland stayed out of the World Wars; yet Switzerland is smaller than Ohio in both population and area. How did the Swiss do it?

Their story is very enlightening, but not usually revealed in school textbooks. Consequently, many people today are unaware that Switzerland has a crucially important lesson to teach.

In Switzerland, a man joins the militia at age 20 and remains until age 50 (officers remain until age 55). A militia is all the able-bodied adult males of good character in the country. They are trained, equipped, and ready at all times to turn out for guerrilla operations.

Contrary to the unflattering picture of militias often painted by the news media, a militia is a military version of the volunteer firemen who are always trained and ready to turn out to fight fires.

Each Swiss militiaman trains regularly, much like the National Guard in the U.S. He keeps his battle rifle and ammunition in his home ready for immediate use.

Militia-guerrillas are trained to ambush privates and corporals only when a more valuable target is not available. They prefer colonels and generals.

Marksmanship is the Swiss national sport, and all Swiss militiamen are required to be expert marksmen. This means they are all qualified to be snipers, and the colonels and generals of surrounding nations know it.

There is an old saying, Switzerland does not have an army; Switzerland is an army. It is an entire nation of Minutemen.

In World War II, the Swiss militia numbered 850, 000, a fifth of the population. These were more troops than the U.S. Army had when the World Trade Center was destroyed.

Not bad for such a small country.

Under the six-to-one ratio, the Germans and Italians would have needed five million troops to successfully occupy that tiny nation. Facing 850, 000 snipers, the German generals decided they could invade, but they would never get out of Switzerland alive.

[snip]

...Switzerland has long been famous for the effectiveness of its militia and for its heavily armed neutrality. If you will read FEDERALIST PAPERS number 20, 42, and 43 by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, you will find that in creating the American system, the Founders studied Switzerland. The Second Amendment and Tenth Amendment to the Constitution especially bear the imprint of Swiss thinking.

Nothing strikes terror into the heart of a general like the prospect of invading a country infested with snipers.

[snip]

...at the time I write this letter, neutral Switzerland has not been in a war in two centuries.

[snip]

...why don't all countries use this system? My guess: a militia-guerrilla force cannot be used to invade other people's homelands. Militiamen are only part-time soldiers. Because they have civilian jobs and families to take care of, a militia is strictly defensive, not offensive.

Also, most governments have so much power that their subjects (their citizens) hate them, and I am sure these rulers do not want their subjects to have weapons.

Today, if we used the militia-guerrilla system of defense required by the Second Amendment, the U.S. could field 50 million able-bodied males. This means an invader would need, at a minimum, 300 million troops.

All the armed forces of the rest of the world combined total less than 40 million.

Try to imagine invading a country infested with 50 million snipers.

Incidentally...let me point out the exact wording of the Second Amendment:
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
The right "to keep and bear arms" clause gets most of the press, but notice that the militia clause comes first.

Also, notice that the militia clause does not say, "A well regulated militia, being optional for the security of a free State." It says "necessary."

In other words, the amendment does not give permission for a well-regulated militia; it requires one. The American Founders were no fools.

After all, it was the Pennsylvania flintlock rifle (invented by immigrant gunsmiths from Germany, incidentally) used as a sniper rifle that enabled Minutemen to keep the Redcoats from controlling America. British officers had a terrible fear of that rifle. Sniper Timothy Murphy is credited with winning the battle of Saratoga by killing both British commanders. With their leaders dead, the battle turned against the British.

[really big snip]

The one thing we can be sure about is that in both World Wars tiny Switzerland was surrounded by warring powers but was not invaded.

[snip]

...besides being the most heavily armed population in the world, the Swiss also have one of the lowest crime rates. In a country where a well-trained soldier with a battle rifle resides in almost every home, criminals know that their careers will likely be short and painful.

Firearms deaths are rare, too. These people take guns seriously. The whole country is trained in their safe and proper use.

Summarizing the Swiss experience in World War II, the Swiss essentially delivered a message to Axis rulers, the same one they had been delivering to foreign rulers for centuries: yes, you can probably beat us eventually, but by that time we will have hunted down and killed your officers, your henchmen, and you.

Axis rulers left the Swiss porcupine alone.

[snip]

Switzerland is not only a country, it is a citadel. Every village and every mountain pass is fortified. Every new house is built with a bomb shelter in the basement. The long, straight stretches of the expressways have been designed to do double-duty as military airstrips. The highway tunnels are bombproof hangars. Mountain caves are packed with enough food and ammunition for the whole population to conduct guerrilla operations for years.

To a tyrant, there is no place in the world as scary as Switzerland.

[snip]

Nearly every book and movie about the World Wars omits Switzerland. The attitude of the writers seems to be, the Swiss were not in the wars, so they are not important; they are not part of the story.

To me, no country in the World Wars is more important than Switzerland. It is the example the others should be copying.
To my mind, the Swiss model of national defense is nothing short of brilliant.

There is only one thing wherein I question its effectiveness: in dealing with enemies who count their own lives of no significance. Deterrence works brilliantly when your enemies value their own lives, as most people do. But when your enemies are convinced that death in battle against you is a sure-fire ticket to paradise, deterrence is not as effective. Other strategies must come into play.

But would I employ this defense, were it in my power? Oh, you betcha.

Only So Many Moves on the Chessboard


This is an old post from a previous blogging incarnation.
Francis Schaeffer once said that when it comes to the really big questions, there are really very few available answers. For example, when it comes to the question of whether or not there is a God, there are really only three possible answers: yes, no, and maybe.

Another such question is that of Biblical inerrancy. Does the Bible have errors in it? As far as I can tell, the available answers are yes, no, and maybe. The word "inerrant" doesn't really give you any other options or leave you any wiggle room. That is intentional; it is why that word came into common use.

You see, despite much blathering by some to the effect that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by evangelicals in the second half of the 20th century, the reality is that the concept that the Bible is without error has been around for a long, long time. It's just that they used to use the word "infallible." That is, it was said that Scripture is infallible, with the idea that error is a failure being part and parcel of that concept. To get a better grasp of this, think of what Catholics mean when they say that the Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra: they mean that he is incapable of speaking error to the church. It would be ludicrous for the Catholic to say that he believes that an ex cathedra pronouncement is simultaneously incapable of failure (infallible) and mistaken (errant). In the same way, Scripture was said for centuries to be infallible with few--if any--having the cheek even to think that this might not mean that it was free from error.

Eventually, though, a new school of thought arose. Some people began to say that they thought the Bible had mistakes in it, but that they nevertheless thought it infallible in that it would never fail to accomplish its purpose. This presented some problems in that a person using this sort of language could now present himself as a believer in infallibility when the reality might be that he believed the Bible was littered with all sorts of errors.

Now, what's the natural response to that, once you become aware of what is going on? You try to clarify what you mean, at least on your end of the discussion. It seems that it was in this way that evangelicals came to use the "infallible and inerrant" phrase that is now the standard in so many statements of faith. It also had the effect of pinning people down--something that theological liberals generally hate with a purple passion. "Infallible" might leave you some wiggle room when trying to get on board at a seminary, pastorate, or local Christian school. "Inerrant" does not. Naturally, therefore, the term has been under ceaseless attack since it came into vogue, for there are plenty of people who would love to pastor your church or teach in your Christian school without having to lie when they sign that institution's statement of faith.

You might be asking, "Well, MOTW, why are your shorts in a twist about this?" It's because of its relationship to the doctrine of inspiration (Paul says that all Scripture is breathed out--inspired--by God; Peter says that no prophet spoke on his own, but that they were carried along by the Holy Spirit). Again, there are only so many viable answers, only so many moves on the chessboard. When you deny inerrancy, when you say that the Bible has mistakes in it, what are you saying about inspiration?

You are saying either that some or all of the Bible isn't really inspired by God, that is, that some or all of the Bible isn't really God's Word, or you are saying that God made mistakes in the Bible. Despite some very impressive rhetorical sleight-of-hand surrounding the issue, that really is what it comes down to.

Some of you are thinking, "But MOTW! The doctrine of inerrancy only applies to the autographs (original documents, for those of you who don't spend your lives immersed in such minutia) and we don't have those anymore." True enough. However, the objection is made with but one object: to suggest, imply, or say outright that the Bible as we have it today is so riddled with copyist errors that we cannot possibly know what the originals said. If that is your objection to inerrancy, I wish you would get your terms straight, for what is really going on is that you are arguing against textual reliability (the idea that the text has been accurately enough copied over the centuries for us to know what the originals said) and hoping to raise doubt concerning inerrancy in the minds of the unlearned and unwary. That is not fair; textual reliability and inerrancy are separate issues.

But even as regards the legitimacy of objections to textual reliability, I would say that archaeology and the science of textual criticism have made absolute hash of them. By the standards ordinarily applied to any ancient document, the text of the Bible has been established to an astonishing degree, far exceeding that of any other ancient document in the world. We are far more certain of the text of the Bible than we are of Caesar's writings or of Aristotle's, for example. Indeed, the text is so well established that I suspect that one reason inerrancy is so frequently attacked is that those who attack the Bible's textual reliability teeter on the edge of forfeiting their credibility entirely.

So, what move are you going to make? You know that the Bible is an accurate copy of the original documents. You know that the Bible claims to be breathed out by God Himself, in fact, to be the very word of God.

Will you say that the Bible isn't really the word of God, that all or parts of it are the work of mere men? Will you say that God wrote it but that He made some mistakes in doing so? Or will you say that the Bible really is the word of God and that He got it right?

Actually, I suppose that there is one more move available: you could just shrug your shoulders and say, "So what? So what if the Bible is infallible and inerrant? I'm not, so how can I honestly say that I know what it says?"

Well, I find your concern for honesty touching, but if you expect to seriously make the case that your human fallibility leaves you incapable of knowing what the Bible says but doesn't leave you incapable of knowing what the Oklahoma State Driver's Manual says, or what the directions on your box of instant oatmeal say, or what the Constitution of the United States says, or even what this little blog-post says, all I can say is, "Good luck with that one." You're gonna need it.

Martin Luther on Scripture


(All of this quoted from Luther's reply to Erasmus' Diatribe. Not my own material. Hope you enjoy it.)

Now I come to another point, which is linked with this. You divide Christian doctrines into two classes, and make out that we need to know the one but not the other. 'Some,' you say, 'are recondite, whereas others are quite plain.' Surely at this point you are either playing tricks with someone else's words, or practising a literary effect! However, you quote in your support Paul's words in Rom.11: 'O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!' (v.33); and also Isa. 40: 'Who gave help to the Spirit of the Lord, or who hath been his cousellor?' (v.13). It was all very easily said, either because you knew that you were writing, not just to Luther, but for the world at large, or else because you failed to consider that it was against Luther that you were writing! I hope you credit Luther with some little scholarship and judgment where the sacred text is concerned? If not, behold! I will wring the admission out of you! Here is my distinction (for I too am going to do a little lecturing--or chop a little logic, should I say?): God and His Scripture are two things, just as the Creator and His creation are two things. Now, nobody questions that there is a great deal hid in God of which we know nothing. Christ himself says of the last day: 'Of that day knoweth no man, but the Father' (Matt. 24-36); and in Acts I he says: 'It is not for you to know the times and seasons' (v 7); and again, he says: 'I know whom I have chosen' (John 13. 18); and Paul says: 'The Lord knoweth them that are his' (2 Tim. 2.19); and the like. But the notion that in Scripture some things are recondite and all is not plain was spread by the godless Sophists (whom now you echo, Erasmus)--who have never yet cited a single item to prove their crazy view; nor can they. And Satan has used these unsubstantial spectres to scare men off reading the sacred text, and to destroy all sense of its value, so as to ensure that his own brand of poisonous philosophy reigns supreme in the church. I certainly grant that many passages in the Scriptures are obscure and hard to elucidate, but that is due, not to the exalted nature of their subject, but to our own linguistic and grammatical ignorance; and it does not in any way prevent our knowing all the contents of Scripture. For what solemn truth can the Scriptures still be concealing, now that the seals are broken, the stone rolled away from the door of the tomb, and that greatest of all mysteries brought to light--that Christ, God's Son, became man, that God is Three in One, that Christ suffered for us, and will reign for ever? And are not these things known, and sung in our streets? Take Christ from the Scriptures--and what more will you find in them? You see, then, that the entire content of the Scriptures has now been brought to light, even though some passages which contain unknown words remain obscure. Thus it is unintelligent, and ungodly too, when you know that the contents of Scripture are as clear as can be, to pronounce them obscure on account of those few obscure words. If words are obscure in one place, they are clear in another. What God has so plainly declared to the world is in some parts of Scripture stated in plain words, while in other parts it still lies hidden under obscure words. But when something stands in broad daylight, and a mass of evidence for it is in broad daylight also, it does not matter whether there is any evidence for it in the dark. Who will maintain that the town fountain does not stand in the light because the people down some alley cannot see it, while everyone in the square can see it?

There is nothing, then, in your remark about the 'Corycian cavern'; matters are not so in the Scriptures. The profoundest mysteries of the supreme Majesty are no more hidden away, but are now brought out of doors and displayed to public view. Christ has opened our understanding, that we might understand the Scriptures, and the Gospel is preached to every creature. 'Their sound is gone out into all lands; (Ps. 19.4). 'All things that are written, are written for our instruction' (Rom. 15.4). Again: 'All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for instruction' (2 Tim. 3.16). Come forward, then, you, and all the Sophists with you, and cite a single mystery which is still obscure in the Scripture. I know that to many people a great deal remains obscure; but that is due, not to any lack of clarity in Scripture, but to their own blindness and dullness, in that they make no effort to see truth which, in itself, could not be plainer. As Paul said of the Jews in 2 Cor. 4: 'The veil remains on their heart' (2 Cor. 4.3-4). They are like men who cover their eyes, or go from daylight into darkness, and hide there, and then blame the sun, or the darkness of the day, for their inability to see. So let wretched men abjure that blasphemous perversity which would blame the darkness of their own hearts on to the plain Scriptures of God!

When you quote Paul's statement, 'his judgments are incomprehensible,' you seem to take the pronoun 'his' to refer to Scripture; whereas the judgments which Paul there affirms to be incomprehensible are not those of Scripture, but those of God. And Isaiah 40 does not say: 'who has known the mind of Scripture? but: 'who has known the mind of the Lord?' (Paul, indeed, asserts that Christians do know the mind of the Lord; but only with reference to those things that are given to us by God, as he there says in 1 Cor. 2 (v. 12)). You see, then, how sleepily you examined those passages, and how apt is your citation of them--as apt as are almost all your citations for 'free-will'! So, too, the examples of obscurity which you allege in that rather sarcastic passage are quite irrelevant--the distinction of persons in the Godhead, the union of the Divine and human natures of Christ, and the unpardonable sin. Here, you say, are problems which have never been solved. If you mean this of the enquiries which the Sophists pursue when they discuss these subjects, what has the inoffensive Scripture done to you, that you should blame such criminal misuse of it on to its own purity? Scripture makes the straightforward affirmation that the Trinity, the Incarnation and the unpardonable sin are facts. There is nothing obscure of ambiguous about that. You imagine that the Scripture tells us how they are what they are; but it does not, nor need we know. It is here that the Sophists discuss their dreams; keep your criticism and condemnation for them, but acquit the Scriptures! If, on the other hand, you mean of the facts themselves, I say again: blame, not the Scriptures, but the Arians and those to whom the Gospel is hid, who, by reason of the working of Satan, their god, cannot see the plainest proofs of the Trinity in the Godhead and of the humanity of Christ.

In a word: The perspicuity of Scripture is twofold, just as there is a double lack of light. The first is external, and relates to the ministry of the Word; the second concerns the knowledge of the heart. If you speak of internal perspicuity, the truth is that nobody who has not the Spirit of God sees a jot of what is in the Scriptures. All men have their hearts darkened, so that, even when they can discuss and quote all that is in Scripture, they do not understand or really know any of it. They do not believe in God, nor do they believe that they are God's creatures, nor anything else--as Ps. 13 puts it, 'The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God' (Ps. 14.1). The Spirit is needed for the understanding of all Scripture and every part of Scripture. If, on the other hand, you speak of external perspicuity, the position is that nothing whatsoever is left obscure or ambiguous, but all that is in the Scripture is through the Word brought forth into the clearest light and proclaimed to the whole world.

And in another section:

But because we have been so long persuaded of the opposite, by that pestilent dictum of the Sophists, that the Scriptures are obscure and equivocal, we are compelled to begin by proving this very first principle of ours, by which all else must be proved (a procedure which to philosophers would seem irrational and impossible!).

First, Moses says in Deut. 17 (v.8) that, if a difficult matter comes into judgment, men must go to the place which God has chosen for His name, and there consult the priests, who are to judge it according to the law of the Lord. 'According to the law of the Lord,' he says; but how will they thus judge, if the law of the Lord is not, externally, as clear as can be, so that they may be satisfied about it? Else it would have been enough to say: 'according to their own spirit!' Why, under any and every government all issues between all parties are settled by the laws. But how could they be settled if the laws were not perfectly clear, and were truly as lights among the people? If the laws were equivocal and uncertain, not only would no issues be settled, but no sure standards of conduct would exist. It is for this very reason that laws are enacted, that conduct may be regulated to a definite code and disputes may find settlement. It is necessary, therefore, that that which is to be the measure and yardstick for others, as the law is, should be much clearer and more certain than anything else. If laws need to be luminous and definite in secular societies, where only temporal issues are concerned, and such laws have in fact been bestowed by Divine bounty upon all the world, how should He not give to Christians, His own people and His elect, laws and rules of much greater clarity and certainty by which to adjust and settle themselves and all issues between them? For He wills that His people should not set store by temporal things! 'If God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven,' how much more us (cf. Matt. 6.30)? But let us go on, and overwhelm this pestilent saying of the Sophists with passages of Scripture.

Ps. 18 (Ps. 19.8) says: 'The commandment of the Lord is clear (or pure), enlightening the eyes.' I am sure that what enlightens the eyes is neither obscure nor equivocal!

Again, Ps. 118 (Ps. 119.130) says: 'The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to babes.' Here it says of God's words, that they are an entrance, something open, which is plainly set before all and enlightens even babes.

Isa.8 (v. 20) despatches all questions 'to the law and to the testimony,' and threatens that unless we comply the light of dawn must be denied us.

In Zech. 2 (Mal. 2.7), God commands that they should seek the law from the mouth of the priest; 'for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.' But what a fine messenger and spokesman from God would he be, who should deliver messages that were unclear to himself and obscure to the people, so that he did not know what he was saying, nor they what they were hearing!

And what is more commonly said in praise of Scripture through, the whole Old Testament, especially in the 118th Psalm (Ps. 119), than that it is in itself a most clear, sure light? That Psalm makes mention of its clearness in these words 'Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my paths' (v. 105). The Psalmist does not say: 'thy Spirit alone is a lamp unto my feet,' though he assigns to the Spirit His part when he says: 'thy good spirit shall lead me into the land of uprightness' (Ps. 143.10). Thus Scripture is called a way and a path, doubtless by reason of its entire certainty.

Come to the New Testament. Paul says in Rom. 1 that the gospel was promised 'by the prophets in the holy scriptures' (v.2), and in the third chapter that the righteousness of faith was 'testified by the law and the prophets' (v. 21). But what sort of testifying is it, if it is obscure? Yet throughout all his epistles Paul depicts the gospel as a word of light, a gospel of clarity, and makes this point with great fulness in 2 Cor. 3 and 4, where he treats of the perspicuity of both Moses and Christ in a very exalted manner.

Peter says in 2 Pet. 1: 'We have a most sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place' (v. 19). Here Peter makes the Word of God to be a bright lamp, all else being darkness. Should we then make obscurity and darkness out of the Word?

Christ repeatedly calls Himself 'the light of the world' (cf. John 8.12, 9.5) and John the Baptist 'a burning and a shining light' (John 5.35). This, doubtless, was not on account of the holiness of his life, but by reason of his word. So Paul calls the Thessalonians shining lights of the world, because, he says, 'you hold forth the word of life' (Phil. 2.15-16). For life without the word is unsure and dark.

And what are the apostles doing when they prove what they preach by the Scriptures? Is it that they want to hide their own darkness under greater darkness? Are they trying to prove what is better known by what is less well known? What is Christ doing when in John 5 he teaches the Jews to 'search the Scriptures,' because they testify of Him (v. 39)? Did he want to make them uncertain about faith in Himself? What were those mentioned in Acts 17 doing, who, after hearing Paul, read the Scriptures night and day to see 'whether those things were so' (v. 11)? Does not all this prove that the apostles, like Christ Himself, appealed to Scripture as the clearest witness to the truth of what they were saying? With what conscience, then, do we make them to be obscure?

Tell me, are these words of Scripture obscure or equivocal: 'God created the heavens and the earth' (Gen. 1.1): 'the Word as made flesh' (John 1.14): and all the other items which the whole world has received as articles of faith? Whence were they received? Surely, from the Scriptures! What do preachers to-day do? They expound and proclaim the Scriptures! But if the Scripture they proclaim is obscure, who will assure us that their proclamation is dependable? Shall there be a further new proclamation to assure us? But who will make that proclamation? (At this rate we shall go on ad infinitum!)

In a word: if Scripture is obscure or equivocal, why need it have been brought down to us by act of God? Surely we have enough obscurity and uncertainty within ourselves, without our obscurity and uncertainty and darkness being augmented from heaven! And how then shall the apostle's word stand: 'All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction?' (2 Tim. 3.16). No, no, Paul, you are altogether unprofitable; such blessings as you ascribe to Scripture must be sought from the fathers, who have found acceptance down the long line of the ages, and from the see of Rome. You must revoke the judgment which you express when you write to Titus that a bishop should be mighty in sound doctrine, to exhort, and convince gainsayers, and stop the mouths of vain talkers and deceitful teachers (Tit. 1.9f); for how shall he be mighty, when you leave him Scriptures that are obscure--arms of tow, and feeble straws for a sword? Christ, too, must needs revoke the words in which he falsely promises us: 'I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist' (Luke 21.15). For they are bound to resist, when we fight them with mere uncertainties and obscurities! And why do you, Erasmus, draw up an outline of Christianity for us, if the Scriptures are obscure to you?

I am sure that I have already made myself burdensome, even to slow-witted readers, by dwelling so long and spending so much strength on a point that is as clear as can be. But I had to do it in order to overthrow that shameless blasphemy that the Scriptures are obscure; so that even you, my good Erasmus, might see what you are saying when you deny that Scripture is clear. In the same breath you ought to be telling me that all those saints whom you quote must needs be much less clear; for who gives us information about the light that was in them, if you make the Scriptures to be obscure? Those who deny the perfect clarity and plainness of the Scriptures leave us nothing but darkness.

Here you may say: all this is nothing to me. I do not say that the Scriptures are obscure at every point (who would be such a fool as to say that?), but just on this point, and on those like it. I reply: my remarks are not aimed at you only, but at all who hold such views. Against you particularly, I would say of the whole of Scripture that I do not allow any part of it to be called obscure. There stands within it the statement which we quoted from Peter, that the word of God is to us a lamp shining in a dark place. If part of the lamp does not shine, then it is a part of the dark place rather than of the lamp! When he enlightened us, Christ did not intend that part of His Word should be left obscure to us, for He commands us to mark the Word; and this command is pointless if the Word is not clear.

On Links

It's been a while since I've thought about adding anything to the "If You Want to Know More About Me and this Blog" part of my sidebar, but it occurs to me today that it might be just as well to talk briefly about all the links on this blog.

You've probably noticed that there are quite a lot of them. Let's see--just the stuff in the sidebar that links to outside authors or sites...one...two...ten sections, unless I miscounted...

I link to those blogs and sites because I frequently read what they write. I don't read every word of every post. My stars and garters--who could possibly get the time? Jihad Watch alone could keep a person busy most of the day. I swear that they must put up about half a dozen posts a day, on average. But I at least scan the headlines, and often the opening paragraph, usually via Google Reader, and find enough of their material interesting and informative to keep me looking at it somewhat regularly.

And, of course, there are all the links in the posts. I try to link to material where it's important to establish that I'm not making stuff up, or where I think highly of and/or recommend the material from which I'm quoting, and I try not to link to material that I'm trying to criticize unless I have to, because usually, I'm not trying so much to argue with someone as I am to illustrate what I think about a given line of thinking.

In no case should a link on this blog be taken to mean that I agree with or endorse everything the linked-to blog or author has to say. I mean, for cryin' out loud, take a look:

Except for his staunch support of Second Amendment Rights, I can't stand Dojo Rat's politics. But I'd have a beer with him and talk about karate and other martial arts any day.

Hmmmm--I wonder how many Presbyterians I link to on this blog? I guess I only know about one for sure--Dr. Parker. And then there's Michael Bates, but I'm not sure you'd call him a "real" Presbyterian, just maybe someone who finally had enough of the ridiculous anti-intellectualism so often thrown around in Baptist churches. At any rate, God knows I disagree with their ideas on paedo-baptism and ecclesiology, but I do agree with them about the Gospel--and a goodly number of other things.

Whilst I agree with the Pyromaniacs about a lot of things, I find their occasionally bordering-on-annoyingly-sarcastic remarks towards beer to be--well, occasionally bordering on annoying. And sometimes I think that they're really torturing things vis-a-vis cussin' (It should be pointed out that I don't cuss, save for the occasional I-narrowly-avoided-being-crushed-by-an-out-of-control-semi moments, and those occur less and less often).

There are times when I think Wade Burleson is trying so hard to be open-minded that he too easily embraces people that flat-out deny the concept of knowable truth--that is, Emergents--as trusted compadres.

I guess I disagree with Dave about at least fifty percent of darn near everything in life--but I kind of like 'im anyway.

Stanislav is so much the Russian patriot that I frequently question his objectivity, at least when it comes to Russia, or how Russia's been treated.

I've got multiple links in the sidebar to places where versions of "karate" are taught that are not, I'm personally convinced, more than superficially like that which was taught 150 years ago.

The folks at the Oklahoma Go Players Association seem largely convinced that go is a much superior game to chess, where I'm pretty much convinced that there are only a handful of people alive to whom such a comparison would ever have any serious meaning.

I've got at least one post by Pat Buchanan in my sidebar, and I'm reasonably sure I link to him more than anyone else, but I don't agree with him at all about the correct way to deal with resurgent Islamofascism.

And then there's that Russ fellow. There are days I just don't know what to think about him.

The upshot is this: the links are there because I do read, or at least skim, a fair amount of what those people write, but it would be a bad mistake for you to conclude that I agree with everything they write, or that my links constitute a blanket endorsement of everything they write. If I applied such a standard, if I only linked to people with whom I am in total agreement, even about important things, I submit to you that I probably wouldn't even link to me Sainted Irish Mother--if she were a blogger, that is.

And, of course, I may not at all agree with you and what you think about what they've written, too! And in that case, you may be wondering what I think about comments.