Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Time for a change of scenery ... not much internet access.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bay Area gang rape ...

Being a bit old fashioned, it seems to me that the old solution of executing those who commit certain crimes, hanging the bodies in the public square, and letting the birds munch on them as a public reminder that some crimes are frowned upon is the way to handle rapists. The police should attempt to catch these predators and use every legal means available to make their lives miserable to discourage others who might think to do the same.

This, however, is just the beginning of the subject. The victim in this case was an open lesbian, and the perpetrators were alleged to have hurled anti-gay vitriol at her while they did their deed. As I said, it is right to use all of the tools legally available against the perpetrators, but this begs a question: If it had been a happily married, heterosexual mother of three who had been raped, would this have been less of a crime warranting less of a punishment? Or perhaps a 14 year old girl who had never been molested? I still find the entire hate crime notion to be nuts in that it seems to make different categories of crimes based on the social class of the victim.

Thinking about the anti-gay rhetoric, this reminds me of when I was young. The un-churched kids were most prone to anti-gay rhetoric and violence. Needless to say, I doubt that the perpetrators were regular attenders of a fundamentalist church. In fact, this class of people probably uses the most inflammatory rhetoric they can think of against anyone they encounter, given that they probably haven't receive any Christian moral discipline.

Some will immediately protest that Christians are the ones who have created the environment of anti-GLBT hate that these thugs incubated in. But what of an environment of respect for women that despises violence against them? How is it that the thugs absorbed the one, but not the other? Certainly we all incubate in an environment, but we should be clear about what the environment is: The environment is a modernist one based on subjectivity and predisposition theory. The victim was predisposed to being a lesbian. Others are predisposed to being heterosexuals. Then there are some who are simply predisposed to roaming the streets in packs, looking for a victim, and gang rapping him/her. Who knows, but it might even be genetic? I can already hear someone protesting in my ears, because she isn't predisposed to accept the conclusion of this line of reasoning. 'Nuff said.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"The City of God", by Augustine.

Every theologian is supposed to quote Augustine, but I have this strange suspicion that most theologians take their Augustine quotes from other theologians and don't bother to read him directly. The City of God is 867 pages in this Penguin Books form and I finally decided to take a plunge, having never read any of his works previously. Now that I have read the first of the 22 "books" that make up this book, I am most thankful for all of the various writers of the Roman era from Polybius and Livy to Cicero and Seneca to Cassius Dio who have helped to provide the context. Augustine's constant references to earlier events and characters of the Roman Empire would be most confusing without this historical background, along with a knowledge of the Bible. It is hard to imagine how this book could be properly appreciated without reading a significant amount of Roman history and philosophy first.

A question I had asked of LivingSword was why Augustine was referenced so much and other early Christian writers so rarely. The answer seems to be clearing up in my mind as I can see an intellect who is clearly above most of the other early Christian writers. Another long winded author is Philo, but Philo is a tedious babbler who keeps returning to similar themes, forcing classical Stoic philosophy onto Judaism in a slavish manner. Augustine, however, seems to be more a master of the subject and able to bring out the truth and the difficulties of classical philosophy while discussing Roman history and bringing the Bible in and out of the discussion as necessary. Although I am a slow reader and easily lose my focus, I am looking forward to continuing this effort and completing the task.
California meltdown watch continues: County budgets taking hit.

The county budgets seem to mostly involve social services. A related item is the demographic changes. Many with employable skills are exiting the state, leaving fewer workers to pay the increasing tax bills, but the need for social services - particularly health care - is on the rise. Optimism is based on the state coming up with a next new, new thing. The next new, new thing, however, is the government trying to create taxable bubble economies by fiat. The first was the housing/credit bubble which ended in tears. California is currently running out of funds on contrived bubbles involving infrastructure and abortion stem efforts. Perhaps if we scale the bubbles up, we will eventually come up with one that is self-sustaining?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Yes, there are some who give Looney their full attention.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Purpose Driven Rage in San Francisco.

Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback has been chosen to do the invocation for the inauguration of President Obama, and a backlash is developing. For those of you who have been vacationing on Mars for the past few years, Rick Warren is the author of the very popular Purpose Driven Life book, the pastor of a very large Southern Baptist church (23,000 members) and fairly mainstream as far as Christian/American morality goes (i.e. he is a hyper-reactionary fundamentalist, hate criminal who opposes "gay marriage"). Much of the mainline theological community is in shock also. I am mainly just scratching my head and wondering what it all means.

The channel 2 news from San Francisco just announced that some GLBT leaders are now advocating a boycott of the inauguration. The other news is that California attorney general Gerry Brown (formally known as governor Moonbeam for his newage superstition) reversed himself and will fight proposition 8 in court. The strategy is to claim that Proposition 8 is a major change to the California constitution, and therefore must only be done by a 2/3 vote of the legislature. Of course the California Supreme Court's fraudulent fabrication of a constitutional right to gay marriage, overruling previous democratic decisions, and bypassing the legislature isn't an issue.
The view from the start for Tueday's snow adventure.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

California infrastructure projects halted.

Lawyers are rubbing their hands in glee due to the fact that the California budget situation is likely going to preclude filling terms of the contracts, so rather than getting infrastructure spending we will throw money at pointless litigation. My suggestion is to shut down the public school system and move to vouchers. That would probably save enough money and improve standards at the same time.
A coyote is clearly happy in the snow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Yes, the Bay Area got hit by snow ... at least in the higher elevations. My heavier SLR camera setup is getting easier to handle over the run/hike, so here is a result for this morning's 10 miler.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

ZANI - Zombies Are Nice and Innocent.

Yes, there is now a new civil rights movement called ZANI. My motivation is that the college kids have returned with the result that my CAT 6 local area network has been hijacked for a LAN party dedicated to murdering nice, innocent, misunderstood zombies. It is terrible. What gives them the right to simply dismiss the human values of these wonderful creatures and slaughter them in mass? It is time to bring the violence to an end.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Obama makes appointments for Health and Human Services.

Certainly Obama would prefer this to be discussed rather than the events in Illinois. This should be at the top of America's agenda given that HHS is the government department in charge of health care, but it is a bit tricky to find a news link. The appointments are Tom Daschle as head and Jeanne Lambrow as deputy. Tom Daschle was a former senate majority leader for the Democrats while Jeanne Lambrow seems to have been part of the Clinton team and also helped Tom Daschle write a book on health care reform.

As with Obama's economic picks, "change" seems to mean "old school", but perhaps I should give them a chance. Jeanne Lambrow's testimony to congress mostly talks about getting uncovered groups medical coverage, but she also notes that America's administrative costs are seven times greater than Europe. Most of the administrative costs are due to government mandates and legal CYA, but it seems that the push is to have computer automated administration, rather than fixing the government. Probably I should fetch Daschle's book to see what Jeanne is really thinking. For the moment, my impression is that the planned solution to a health care system suffocating from runaway government is more government.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Greek situation update: As the violence and protests continue, it seems that the event that triggered everything was a group of teenagers stoning a police car. To be scientific, we should probably get groups of teenagers to throw stones at police in different countries and accumulate some statistics on the results.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Another politician heads for jail ...

There is a law in journalism 101 that goes a bit like this: "If a Republican is involved in a scandal, then you must list the party affiliation clearly in the first sentence of a news release. If a Democrat is involved in a scandal, don't mention the party affiliation directly, but perhaps mention a previous Republican scandal in passing so that readers get confused." And so it goes with the journalism regarding the arrest of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (Democrat) as reported here. The BBC follows the pattern here, suggesting that this is an international rule.

Rod was apparently using the pay-to-play methods that former California governor Gray Davis (Democrat) used which resulted in his ousting by the people of California and replacement by governor Conan (Barbarian Republican). The news reports that Rod was trying to sell the senate seat for which he must name Barrack Obama's replacement.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Greek anarchists embrace recycling: Rocks and debris are collected after the riots for reuse the next day. As usual, the students are protesting "The Establishment", which tenured (i.e. established) professors have explained to them is the government and police, rather than the Ivory Tower.
You can't see me!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Remembering the Trabant.

This was an East German engineering marvel that made a brief appearance on the West German autobahns after the Berlin Wall went down. 'Brief' was the result of many factors, such as the life expectancy of a flimsy car puttering along at 70km/hour in the fast lane.

The German car engineers had a joke regarding the Trabant, which was notable because Germans completely lack a sense of humor:

"How many workers does it take to produce a Trabant?"
"Two. One to fold and one to glue."

For a brief time, this served as a reminder to German's that the government isn't necessarily the answer to all problems, especially when it comes to manufacturing cars. Americans also seem a bit dull regarding this concept, which is clearly demonstrated in the recent discussions regarding the Detroit bailout proposal. As if the car companies managers haven't done a bad enough job yet, the proposal is to bring government bureaucrats into the top decision making role, including the head of the EPA. Certainly the US won't make the same mistakes as the East German government made. No, we will make entirely new mistakes that civilization has not yet dared to imagine!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

California unemployment rate at 8.2% for October.

The national average is 6.5% with California being number 3 after Michigan and Rhode Island, both at 9.3%.
Domitian expels the philosophers ...

"What came after, to be sure, can not be described in similar terms, - his deeds, that is to say, as emperor. Then he killed Arulenus Rusticus for being a philosopher and for calling Thrasea sacred, and Herennius Senecio because in his long career he had stood for no office after the quaestorship and because he had compiled the life of Helvidius Priscus. Many others also perished as a result of this same charge of philosophizing, and all remaining members of that profession were again driven from Rome. ..." - Cassius Dio, 67.13

Apparently the philosophers had acquired somewhat of a bad reputation in earlier times. Seneca, for example, was critized for living a life of indulgence and luxury, so that his Stoic philosophy was all empty talk. During the reign of Domitian's father, Vespasian, another tirade apparently happened:

"Mucianus made a great number of remarkable statements to Vespasian against the Stoics, as, for instance, that they are full of empty boasting, and if one of them lets his beard grow long, elevates his eyebrows, wears his fustian cape thrown carelessly back and goes barefoot, he straightway postulates wisdom, bravery, righteousness as his own. He gives himself great airs, even though he may not understand (as the proverb says) either letters or swimming They view everybody with contempt and call the man of good family a mollycoddly, the ill-born a dwarfed intellect, a handsome person licentious, an ugly person comely, the rich man an apostle of greed, and the poor man a servile groveler.

And Vespasian did immediately expel from Rome all the philosophers, except Musonius: Demetrius and Hostilianus he confined upon islands. Hostilianus would not stop, to be sure, - he happened to be conversing with somebody when he heard ab out the sentence of exile against him and merely inveighed all the more strongly against monarchy, - yet he straightway withdrew. Demetrius even now would not yield, and Vespasiann bade it be told him: 'You are working every way to have me kill you, but I am not slaughtering barking dogs'". Cassius Dio, 66.12

This jumped out at me because it is usually assumed that Christians were the ones who brought an end to the learning of the classical era, but here we see pagan emperors taking action as reported by a non-Christian historian. The statement attributed to Mucianus implies that the philosophers of his day had become nothing but stupid parodies of what philosophy should be. I have similar views regarding much of academia, but perhaps this is simply a universal truth regarding all those who hope to gain attention or a living by the wisdom and knowledge that supposedly comes from their mind: Politicians, lawyers, preachers, professors, bloggers ...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The new US Capital Visitor Center ... and a comparison with Taipei 101 and Burj Dubai.

The new facility for visitors to the Washington Capital is opening to a lot of criticism. Much of it is directed at the costs. Another complaint is that it represents a revisionist notion of America. A congressman thinks the people who arranged the displays wanted to celebrate America's founding ideals of atheism and a society controlled by an all-encompassing nanny state managed by intellectual elites. This doesn't surprise me. Senate leader Harry Reid, however, defended the expenditure on the grounds that it will keep the senators from having to smell the rabble that lines up in front of the building every day.

Being an engineer, I am mainly interested in the overall comparison with other major projects. Taipei 101 is a recent one that represents one of the most significant engineering challenges in recent years as the world's highest building was constructed to withstand earthquakes, typhoons, and, given that it was post 9/11, impact by commercial aircraft.

Burj Dubai is being constructed to be by far the world's tallest building, which necessarily implies a lot of inefficiency to the construction, along with the complexities and volume of the elevator system. Then there is the issue of pumping all of the liquids up and down more than a half kilometer of elevation change. If I flush the toilet at the top floor, how fast will the, um, result be traveling when it gets to the bottom floor? Burj Dubai is, however, a monument to extravagance, and the price should reflect this. All of these major towers have an issue with access as the number of people coming in and out is enormous.

The Capital Visitor Center with its three floors is an engineering no-brainer by comparison. There seems to have been a lot of excavation that was done in the project, but that hardly represents a technical feat these days with all of the large earth moving equipment. Burj Dubai will include a number of luxury houses with all the amenities, but the CVC is basically a stone trimmed warehouse with a cafeteria and toilets. With this in mind, here are some overall statistics:

As expected, the US has managed to construct a dungeon at a price point that is the same order-of-magnitude as for a world class landmark. Our government is planning to "kick-start" the US economy with public works projects, so be prepared for more of this.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cassius Dio regarding Nero's GLBT marriage.

"Nero missed her so that after her death, at first, on learning that there was a woman resembling here he sent for and kept this famle; later bucase a boy of the liberti class, named Sporus, resembled Sabina, he had him castrated and used him in every way like a woman; and in due time he formally married him though he [Nero] was already married to a freedman Pythagoras. He assigned the boy a regular dowry according to contract, and Romans as well as others held a public celebration of their wedding." - Cassius Dio 63.28

"Now Nero called Sporus Sabina not merely on account of the fact that by reason of resemblance to her he had been made a eunuch, but because the boy like the mistress had been solemnly contracted to him in Greece, with Tigillinus to give the bride away, as the law ordained. All the Greeks held a festal celebration of their marriage, uttering all the customary good wishes (as they could not well help) even to the extent of praying that legitimate children might be born to them. After that Nero took to himself two bedfellows, Pythagoras to treat as a man and Spoorus as a woman. The latter, in addition to other forms of address, was terrmed lady, queen, and mistress." - Cassius Dio 64.13

Dio includes a bit more on this topic than Tacitus and Suetonius. Sabina was an earlier wife who died. Tacitus mentioned a gay marriage with Sporus, while Suetonius mentioned what seemed to be the same on with Pythagoras. Dio clarrifies that there were actually two gay marriages at the same time, which also introduced both a bisexual and transgendered aspact. Per the "reasoning" by which America's judgocrats have deduced a "right" to gay "marriage", all of the above would also be a "right". As with Nero, the proponents of GLBT marriage don't want to do things quietly, but rather to parade about and force the whole nation to honor the desecration. But Dio isn't done:

"Yet why should one wonder at this, seeing that this monarch would fasten naked boys and girls to poles, and then putting on the hide of a wild beast would approach them and satisfy his brutal lust under the appearance of devouring parts of their bodies? Such were the indecencies of Nero." - Cassius Dio 64.13

It is something to ponder as the right to debauch is given higher legal standing than the right to be left alone.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

This is for Max. Ferdinand Columbus, regarding the opposition to his father's voyage in Spain:

"... But since the affair had more to do with basic scientific doctrine than with words or favors, their Highnesses referred it to the Prior del Prado, later the Archbishop of Granada, ordering him to form a council of geographers who should study the proposal in detail and then report to them their opinion.

As there were not so many geographers then as now, the members of this committee were not so well informed as the business required. Nor did the Admiral wish to reveal all the details of his plan, fearing lest it be stolen from him in Castile as it had been in Portugal. For this reason, the replies and reports that the geographers gave their Highnesses were as varied as their grasp of the subject and their opinions. Some argued in this way: In all the thousands of years since God created the world, those lands had remained unknown to innumerable learned men and experts in navigation; and it was most unlikely that the Admiral should know more than all other men, past and present. Others, who based themselves on geography, claimed the world was so large that to reach the end of Asia, whither the Admiral wished to sail, would take more than three years. For support they cited Seneca, who in one of his books debates the question, saying that many learned men were in disagreement on the question whether the ocean was finite and doubted that it could ever be navigated; and even if it could be, they questioned whether habitable lands existed at the other end. To this they added that of this inferior sphere of land and water only a small belt or cap was inhabited, all the rest being sea that could be navigated only near the coasts and shores. And even if learned men admitted that one could reach the end of Asia, they did not say that one could go from the end of Spain to the extreme West. Others argued as some Portuguese had done about the navigation to Guinea, saying that if one were to set out and travel due west, as the Admiral proposed, one would not be able to return to Spain because the world was round. These men were absolutely certain that one who left the hemisphere known to Ptolemy would be going downhill and so could not return; for that would be like sailing a ship to the top of a mountain: a thing that ships would not do even with the aid of the strongest winds."

- The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus, by Ferdinand Columbus, translated by Benjamin Keen, Rutgers University Press.

It is clear that all of the complaints directed at Columbus are based on classical Greek/Roman notions with references to Seneca and Ptolemy. The time being the “Renaissance”, which was named for the “re-birth” of an interest in classical studies, this should hardly be surprising. The notion of a spherical Earth was never questioned, but there is certainly plenty of goofiness all around, including Columbus for thinking he had arrived in India so that we refer to Native Americans as “Indians” today.

- - - - - - - -

Now contrast this to what Andrew Dickson White, founder of Cornell University and one of the greatest 19th century historians wrote:

"The warfare of Columbus [with religion] the world knows well: how the Bishop of Ceuta worsted him in Portugal; how sundry wise men of Spain confronted him with the usual quotations from Psalms, from St. Paul, and from St. Augustine; how, even after he was triumphant, and after his voyage had greatly strengthened the theory of the earth’s sphericity … the Church by its highest authority solemnly stumbled and persisted in going astray … the theological barriers to this geographical truth yielded but slowly. Plain as it had become to scholars, they hesitated to declare it to the world at large … But in 1519 science gains a crushing victory. Magellan makes his famous voyage. He proves the earth to be round, for his expedition circumnavigates it … Yet even this does not end the war. Many conscientious [religious] men oppose the doctrine for two hundred years longer.”

- “A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. 2 vols.”, by Andrew Dickson White, 1896. via “For the Glory of God”, by Stark.

My assertion is that Doctor/Professor/University President White was invoking all of his authority and the authority of academia to promote a story that was systematically in conflict with the facts.
India's mini-9/11.

It is certainly a sad day for Mumbai. While remembering our blessings from God today, it will be good to remember and pray for the families of the victims. Pray for peace in India and for their relations with others.
A Thanksgiving quote from the Pilgrims regarding communal property:

"The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times; and that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men's corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them." - On Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford, 1623.

For those who don't know the story, the corporation which was awkwardly established to fund the Plymouth plantation venture set rules that all property would be owned by the corporation and a portion given to each family. This was decided by the stock holders (who weren't part of the colony) while the pilgrims were underway already in a ship to the New World. The end result was several years on the edge of starvation until they unilaterally assigned property rights in violation of the corporation by-laws and had a bountiful crop. The Pilgrims then gave thanks to the Lord, as they acknowledged Him in all their activities.

This quote also links to the prior posts regarding J.B. Bury, because the governor, William Bradford, routinely quotes from classical writers like Seneca as easily as he quotes the Bible. The references in the above quote about communal idealism come from Plato's Republic and also stories about Sparta. On the one hand, they were a pathetically poor, religious farming community. On the other hand, they were well educated in both the Bible and the wisdom of the world, but continued in their unwavering faith in our God.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Ancient Greek Historians, by J.B. Bury - continued.

One of the things that the Greeks emphasized was a cycle of history best emphasized by a cycle of government from a kingdom to a republic to a democracy, which would then collapse and go back to a kingdom. In the 19th century, history was re-worked to conform to a notion of unlimited progress which Bury describes and attributes it to the "science of evolution" with a few shots at Christianity along the way. WWI/WWII both happened after his lectures, so I presume there was some re-work needed. The Christian view that I am familiar with is a mixed one, with man degenerating, the kingdom of God advancing, and various patterns of degenerate human behavior repeating themselves.

Bury was writing before the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and it was popular at that time to postulate the Bible as a relatively late fabrications. Today, this is rather untenable and scholars can only assert some 2nd century BC edits without getting laughed at by even the anti-Christian specialists today. With this in mind, we can consider Ecclesiastes 1:9 -

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

This Hebrew writing almost certainly predates Herodotus and would indicate a view of historical repetition that predates the Greeks.

Another assertion by Bury is that the Greeks were the first to write history. This too has some problems as we look at other Bible verses:

"King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores. And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai to which the king had raised him, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia?" - Esther 10:1-2

Clearly we have another assertion of a history written before Herodotus, so again we have a conflict. There is another similar passage:

"As for the events of King David's reign, from beginning to end, they are written in the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer, together with the details of his reign and power, and the circumstances that surrounded him and Israel and the kingdoms of all the other lands." - 1 Chronicles 29:29-30

Again we have an assertion that history pre-dated the Greeks. Unfortunately, the Doctrine of Errancy will be applied by scholars which asserts that the Bible is in complete error, and even if it seems correct, it is still in error. There are still other historical records, however, like the Chronicle of Nabonidus which was recovered from Babylon and represents a history that pre-dates the Greeks. I am still largely under the impression that the Greeks had some influence from elsewhere which helped them get going on their history writing. Sadly for us history fanatics, most of the written histories are lost and Bury lists a number of them. The history of Tacitus is extremely valuable for those who want to understand Rome during the New Testament times, but a big chunk of the reign of Claudius is missing which would be quite useful. Most of Rome's records were lost a few centuries earlier when the city was sacked. Being an amateur with a real job, I can only comfort myself with the knowledge that there is already too much for me to read and apprehend regarding this period.
"The Ancient Greek Historians", by J.B. Bury.

This book is a series of lectures originally given at Harvard in 1908 by one of the greatest in classical studies. While perusing the shelves of a Barnes and Noble recently, I came across this and couldn't resist, especially since it was only $7.

I have been studying Ben Witherington's commentary on Acts recently and it includes the assertion that the Biblical writer Luke was largely operating in the historical traditions of Polybius and Thucydides. In particular, the handling of the large portion of speeches (30% of Acts) and the need to travel, research facts, and generally be thorough in everything he did. Now I can hear the sounds of thousands of 19th century scholars groaning in their graves.

Bury provides an outline of the development of historical methods beginning with Homer, and continuing through Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, and finally to the Roman historian Tacitus, but with many others mentioned along the way. The handling of the speeches is a major theme, particularly as Polybius protests the earlier historians who simply invented whatever they imagined. There is also the distinction between the arm chair historians of Rome and the get-your-feet dirty style of Polybius and Xenophon who also wrote about military campaigns which was informed by their expertise in military affairs. I wish he had some comments about Josephus.

At the end, Bury credits Christians with formulating a broader notion of history than what preceeded, but then complains that Christians subordinated history to dogma in the middle ages and history wouldn't become scientific again until the 19th century. This deserves a smirk, because the 19th century is what gave us the flat earth theory, the twisting of the story of Galileo, and the fabrication of the "dark ages", ... - all done to conform with atheist dogma that ruled academia from the early 19th century.

Regarding Biblical comparisons, there is more than just Luke. Thucydides is credited with removing the supernatural from the immediate discourse, but then we have Ezra-Nehemiah and Esther which don't mention the supernatural directly either, and purport to be from the era of Herodotus. Could it be that Thucydides picked up his pattern from somewhere else? More groaning. But then Luke was a doctor, so his expertise regarding healing should be comparable to Xenophon's expertise in military affairs, so Luke would be the right one to write and Jesus and the early church, wouldn't he? Bury is a good read and provides a nice summary to fill in the claim of Witherington regarding the methods of Luke.

Correction: The Dark Ages was in use long before the 19th century.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Speaking of Indians, my Native American name per the link provided by native bunc is:

Your Native American Name Is...

Wahkah Pahana

Your name means: Sacred Lost White Brother

Almost too good to be true!
Thanksgiving and the Culture Wars: Modern pseudo-Indian intellectuals protest sitting down at the table with the English invaders. What happened to multi-culturalism? I should note that we are now offering up the thanksgiving prayer to the Big Bang.

Russian Prediction: The Decline and Breakup of the US.

The thesis is that the US debt situation is unsustainable, therefore we are headed for collapse. In the aftermath, the analyst predicts that China and Russia will take the lead. To some extent, I am in agreement with the analysis. America's love affair with the aborted fetus has finally created an old folks bubble in which the promises made to secure their votes simply cannot be kept . Certainly there is going to be a big bang. Then we have Obama's recent financial adviser picks, which could have been Bush's or Clinton's. They all come from the same school of Ivy League economics / Wall Street investment banking with their brand of government interventionist capitalism, which is what got us into the credit bubble mess in the first place. The CNBC business talk channel is already referring to Obama's presidency as the 3rd term of the Bush presidency. Or maybe it is the 5th term of the Clintons. "Read my lips, no status quo". Even the business channel is afraid to discuss the regulatory burden of American industry which is stifling growth.

What is wrong with the analysis is that it looks at the problems of the US on an absolute scale rather than a relative one. How do we look compared to the rest of the world? The US is simply a lesser example of worldwide problems. Sure we aren't replacing our population, but we do produce more live babies and have plenty of immigration of a more peaceful sort than Europe is getting. Europe, China, Japan and Russia are all doing worse and the demographic bombs will be even greater. Outside of the US, there doesn't seem to be any stigma to killing a fetus.

Russia's moves over the last decade downplayed the need to develop internal markets and bet the farm on oil by stealing the western oil companies investments. A collapse of the oil markets is going to leave this policy in tatters. Similarly for China, the single minded focus on exporting to the US and Europe has been a great success, but has left a lot of internal problems. We have been learning from the news that $2 trillion of foreign reserves isn't going to go very far in the future.

Yes, the US is probably headed for a big fall, but it does seem that we are going to take a lot of others down with us.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fremont City Council votes to join litigation against proposition 8.

From what I have been hearing, there are some extremely active and organized GLBT activist groups here in Fremont, although we are known as a conservative family city and even have a government funded charter school with an Islamic flavor. Only Steve Cho had the decency to oppose it.

Fremont has a lot of problems involving funding, an understaffed police department, and rapidly increasing crime. Somehow I don't think that tossing traditional values into the waste bin is going to help.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Banalizing Rights.

There was a time in civilization when the only person who had a formal notion of "rights" was the king, but limits were imposed even there. Magna Carta is a major landmark in Western civilization where rights were negotiated between Barons and the King. With the US Declaration of Independence, we see an expansion of the notion of rights. Although not directly derived from Christianity, many of them were influenced by the Bible. For the most part, rights were considered few and precious, but this has been changing in recent times.

Some of what we inherited as a notion of rights is actually an inversion of moral logic. For example, (Saint) Patrick fought against slavery in 5th century Ireland, but his emphasis was that it was wrong to enslave people, but wronger(!) to sell a young Christian girl into slavery to a non-Christian society. I don't quite know where along the time line of history this got flipped around to the notion of a right not to be a slave, but that is the way it is now. Curiously, although today's San Francisco is world famous for rights, it is also notorious for the sex slave trade. Somehow there is a disconnect, but apparently the right to buy and sell young girls and the right to buy their services is also important to a large sector of the city.

What inspired this post was Ecuador's recent constitution which establishes "rights" for nature. The Los Angeles Times says that the new constitution provides for the right to "exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution". Huh? Eventually eating a hotdog is going to become a hate crime against mother nature. When does this get silly? The main thing to note here is that every time a new "right" is contrived, the value of the former rights is necessarily diminished. If the new rights conflict with and have higher legal standing than the former rights, then the former rights are downgraded if not fully eliminated. Rights of the environment, for example, conflict with property rights. Another curious feature, however, is that nature seems to be preserved best where property rights are respected. Communist countries are some of the worst offenders.

It will be interesting to see where this process leads next. Society seems to be getting increasingly disgruntled. The right to solve a grievance by demanding what you want, or maybe just violently taking isn't far from where we are at now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Parent - Teachers conferences ...

I have been faithfully doing these for years. Today's was with the AP Biology teacher. One thing that has surprised me is the number of Christians in this profession. One told me that he doesn't believe evolution, but he got his biology degree and teaching credentials and is teaching anyway. The nice young lady teaching this biology class was new to me, but glancing over at the few books she had in the class I noticed a NIV Bible next to the biology books. This was truly a bright spot for the day.
The corporation beatings will continue until the economy improves ...

It seems that the strategy is to fine and tax corporations who pollute, but - according to economic theory - this will improve the economy because the money will be funneled into alternative energy jobs. The best part of this plan is that it improves the environment without impacting the lives of ordinary people. Charles Ponzi would be proud.
Christian prayers being warmly welcomed in San Francisco's Castro District.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A snake enjoys a swim in the warm weather.
Almost all of my snake sightings are from April to June, so this was truly out of the ordinary last Saturday.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tag #2 from Livingsword.

Here are the rules: 1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog. 2. Share 7 facts about yourself - some random, some weird. 3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. 4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

1) I tried to do Mount Whitney as a trail run. The picture is from the start. I had acclimated to the altitude nicely at Mammoth the week before, but the cold air took its toll on my lungs and I had to abandon the effort about 2 miles from the summit in a fit of coughing. I usually carry some cough suppressant now as a result.

2) A company sent me to Germany for a few weeks of work, and the Berlin wall came down while I was there.

3) A company sent me to Germany again a year later, and the country re-unified and celebrated. Later, I went to South Korea later firmly convinced of my Obama like powers to bring about peace and harmony between divided peoples. Nothing happened.

4) I am a high school drop-out.

5) I bicycled up le Col de la Bonnette, which claims to be the highest mountain pass in the Alps. No, this wasn't part of a tour. Just something to kill time on the weekend while working in Sophia-Antipolis.

6) I had my first tooth filling when I was about 45 years old.

7) I am subject to the "doctrine of total depravity". Thus, I will not tag anyone else.
Catching up on the tags ...

This one is from James for a book meme. Instructions: find the nearest book, turn to page 123, find the fifth sentence and post the three sentences after that. The book is The Acts Of The Apostles, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, by Ben Witherington. This isn't quite according to the sentence requirements, but it is from page 123:

"Various scholars have carefully canvassed the way Luke uses the OT in Luke-Acts. It is fair to say that Fitzmyer's conclusion represents a rather broad consensus when he says, 'in [the] forty-five examples of OT quotations introduced explicitly by formulas ... in no case is there a citation that follows the Hebrew MT rather than the Greek, when the latter differs from the Hebrew. . . . Luke quotes the OT almost always in a form either corresponding to the LXX or close to it, and not according to the Hebrew MT.'"

Curiously, the instructions to this book meme didn't include an obligation to inflict this upon others.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another bobcat. I have been wanting to buy myself a new camera too, but one that I can use a telephoto lens on. My photography is all done using a Pentax Optio which is probably four years old.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Looking towards San Francisco from the 2,800 foot level on Rose Peak.

It was a beautiful day today in the Bay Area. We had gusting winds from the east yesterday, which is what Los Angeles is experiencing with the fires. The hike today was 14 miles and left me feeling tired, bruised on the feet, and wobbly. The east winds raise the temperature, so I was rather warm. For some reason, the water spigot at the last stop before home was dry and I was out or water, so it was a thirsty few miles to the end. The song goes, "As the deer panteth for the water ...". Next time I better bring the water filter.
In Depravity We Trust ...

The news still is featuring people who are aghast at the notion that gay gangbangers don't have a constitutional right to marry. I have even heard people argue that the rights of GLBTs are primordial and precede the constitution, so that a constitutional amendment is superseded by the rights of those who are ruled by their lusts. The California attorney general, Gerry Brown, has helpfully said that he will defend the prop 8 ballot initiative before the California courts. This is to be taken as seriously as Ahmadinejad claiming that he will defend Israel against the Palestinians.

What I would note from all this is that a decade ago, there didn't seem to be anyone who had even heard of a right for GLBTs to marry. Perhaps five years ago the mainline religion started discussing this as part of their "you can't love the sinner unless you love the sin" heresy, which derives from their unique theology. Now people every where are being whipped into a frenzy because of a "right" which no one in civilization has ever asserted. As Romans 1:30 says, "they invent ways of doing evil".

The main issue here, however, is that a distinctive teaching of Christianity from the beginning has been the need to restrain sexual immorality. The GLBTs, however, have sexual immorality as their name and source of identity, so a right for them to marry is inherently a perversion of one of the most cherished symbols of Christianity. On the other hand, anyone who refuses to honor the GLBT 'marriage' will be guilty of a hate crime against humanity. GLBT marriage really represents the end of the era of freedom of religion in America. Depravity is the new theocracy. So am I discourage? Not at all. Depravity won't even satisfy in the current life, much less in the afterlife. Christianity already went through this phase from when it started until about 300AD when the GLBT community was put into the closet. For worldly Christians, it will be a rough time. For those whose trust is in heaven, it is an opportunity.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Compassion Network.

Apparently there are some opportunities developing due to the economic changes. As the fiscal situation deteriorates for the state of California, one of the first areas to be cut are the services to the poor. Christians are commanded to do things for the poor, but have been somewhat excluded from this as charity has been taken over by government funded fundamentalist secularists. Now that situation is changing. Time to get involved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Euro vs. Dollar for the last three months ... Time for a European vacation?

With bailouts in the news and rumors of the world progressing to a post-America/Dollar economy, this chart should be a surprise. The past few months have seen a significant drop of the Euro relative to the Dollar. Rumors are that Europe is worse off with respect to the credit crisis than America, and a falling Euro would seem to be a proper symptom. I suspect that this reflects a difference in culture, but also perhaps a difference in agenda of the talking elites. For example, splashing the bad news onto the front page every day regarding the European economy would discredit socialism, whereas splashing similar bad news every day regarding the American economy only discredits capitalism. Any other theories?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sierra Azul Open Space ...

This picture is looking east towards Mount Hamilton from Sierra Azul Open Space. It was a great day for a 5.5 mile hike. This is the first little one since my knee operation.
The (Embryonic) Stem Cell Research Boondoggle.

A conservative will always start a stem cell research discussion by noting that there are (at least) two major kinds: Adult and Embryonic. Adult has never had any controversy and is showing great promise. Embryonic has pretty much shown no promise, but has been peddled on the basis of the success of the Adult. Embryonic also makes use of fetal tissue, and Christians are pretty much disgusted at the notion of creating an industrial demand for dead fetuses, \if the Embryonic form should some how work out. For the Left, how do we choose between funding of the myriad medical research options out there? Easy. Find the most morally repulsive option and pour money in!

Evil Bush ruled that the Federal government could not fund Embryonic stem cell research, but the Adult form is OK. The Left predictably went into a hysterical rage and began parading people in wheel chairs (Christopher Reeves) who would never walk because of president Bush. Meanwhile, others immediately jumped into the gap, including the Singapore government, and California and New Jersey both put in place expensive stem cell research initiatives. I really have to wonder if Embryonic stem cell funding would have been half of its current level if it wasn't directly associated with the abortion lobby. Anyway, R&D needs money, so it is probably timely that president Obama is now in office. The current funds are probably spent, industry isn't about to start, and Embryonic stem cell research is clearly more important than TB, malaria, cancer and HIV, so we can shift the budgets around to meet the new priorities.

Monday, November 10, 2008

And the victor of the election is ... AIDS.

It looks like the first major change of the Obama administration is that the emphasis on abstinence+monogamy by government funded programs in Africa is going to switch to an emphasis on condoms+promiscuity. On the other hand, I have to wonder how much the social workers in the field actually pay attention to the policies made in Washington, and the UN was probably enthusiastically undermining the abstinence+monogamy education, and then conducting studies to show that abstinence+monogamy doesn't work.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Power Outage!

We were two hours off the grid last night. My rechargeable headlamps came out and we went scrambling for lighters to get the candles going. Some of the candles burnt down quickly, while others hardly seemed to change in size after burning more than an hour. Note to myself: You need to research candle burning speeds more! Then I settled down to reading Roman Syria under the headlamp. Technology has come a long way.

Walking through the neighborhood, another resident chatted with us and told us that she was going to stop paying her PG&E bill. This was the second outage in a few days and was related to a little rain. Our local power rates are some of the highest in the country, but we wonder about the maintenance. If things continue to deteriorate fiscally in the state of California, this feature of the third world - regular power outages - could be something we need to get used to.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Taxanator?

Yes, governor Conan says we need more taxes. The title of this post is completely unfair, but someone was going to invent the term and I wanted to be first! The new estimated deficit is $11.2 billion so, after a bit of abstract topology, multi-dimensional calculus on complex tensor variables, fast fourier transforms and high performance numerical computing, we come up with the need for a tax hike of $4.4 billion. The hangup is that Conan, being a barbarian, wants to do this mostly through a 1.5% increase in sales tax, which means that real people will need to cough up real money. Snakes, what is your response?

UPDATE: Sniff. I am too late. Taxanator has already been used.
California's Green Propositions: 7 and 10.

Prop 7 failed badly (35% yes), but I am surprised that Prop 10 failed (41% yes). Prop 7 sought to raise the use of renewables to 50% by simply waving a regulatory hand. Given that California's electricity rates are much higher than the rest of the US, and a quarter of the energy is already generated out-of-state to avoid the nuts, this would have been close to economically suicidal. The "no on 7" advertisements were on TV for weeks with both parties opposing. The ad that I liked the most showed an owner of a small renewable energy firm complaining that the initiative wouldn't give him a direct subsidy because of the focus on large utilities. Nasty!

Prop 10 was sponsored by Sir T. Boone Pickens and was a $5 billion bond to buy high mileage and alternative fuel vehicles - which are made in America. There was also money for R&D, education and other odds and ends. The TV ads were all for this measure, but it failed anyway. Perhaps Californians just don't like cars - I mean other peoples' cars - given the traffic. A low emissions traffic jam is just as emotionally draining as a high emissions traffic jam.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Some encouraging new regarding Prop 8 ...

I was just listening to the news and heard that Blacks supported Prop 8 by a 70-30 percent margin. Whites and Asians opposed it by 47/53. The reason that this is significant is that the Black community is far more impacted by homosexuality and AIDS than Whites and Asians. I suspect that this difference is largely a result of the experiences of the Black community: Blacks are 13% of the population, but 39% of all of the AIDS cases. Yes, AIDS is transmitted by things other than homosexual behavior, but this remains a key factor and gays are likewise more common among the Black community. I suspect that it is much easier for theologians and intellectuals to sell the notion that homosexual relationships are just like heterosexual relationships to people who haven't seen the tragedy.

This statistic also indicates a wide gap between Black values and Obama's United Church of Christ, which is a key force in the promotion/advocacy of homosexual behavior. Some good could come out of the Obama presidency if it causes the Black community to reconsider what it means to vote its interests.
A Historic Victory!

Being fascinated with history, I thought this mantra deserved a bit of analysis. The term "historic" in this case means "memorable", and certainly Obama's win will be memorable. For some people and for some time period. Centuries later, however, this might not even make the history books. The label "historic" should really stand out relative to the measures of history.

The main thing which stands out as historic is that Obama is a black elected to be a leader. Putting things into historical context, however, we see minority governance throughout history. In Exodus 1:8, we have a note, "Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph came to power in Egypt". History tells us that Egypt was invaded by the Hyksos about this time and they established a dynasty of racially distinct rulers. We have the Ptolemies in Alexandria, Herod the Edomite ruling Israel, Monguls ruling China ...

Ah, but the people elected him. Well, Nicolas Sarkozy was the son of Hungarian immigrants and was elected in France. Hitler was born Austrian, but elected president of Germany. Then there was president Fujimori of, um, Peru.

Certainly I am off into my own world view, but Obama's skin color just doesn't make him 'historical'. What does make a leader historical is a combination of two things: The occurence of "historical" circumstances such as a threat or opportunity together with how the president responds to the challenge, whether for good or bad. When I was living in Japan, there was a "historical" election of a socialist prime minister due to the continuing poor economy. Exactly nothing changed, so that today I am one of the few westerners who remembers this "historical" event.

From this viewpoint, whether Obama's presidency is historical or not is still to be determined. He hasn't even started yet.
Prop. 2: PETA benefits from sympathies generated by the movie Chicken Run.

Californians voted by a large margin to treat animals nicely. Before we kill them. And clean them. And cook them. And eat them. Aren't we nice?

The likely effect is to move much of the poultry and other animal farming industry out-of-state, which will be quite beneficial to the current unemployment rate (7.7% for California in September).
Prop 8 wins, lawsuits immediately filed ...

This is certainly interesting. Proposition 8 was done as an amendment to the California Constitution, because the judgocrats voided the previous votes of the people, declaring that the votes violated the California Constitution. Certainly I won't be surprised if the California Supreme Court rules that the properly amended California Constitution violates the California Constitution. This would, however, pretty much void the California Constitution and take us away from being a constitutional republic/democracy. Instead, California would have a form of government more resembling an aristocracy or a communist style party ruled state.
Prop 1A: California's Bullet Train.

Imagine a really big public works project, like The Great Wall. Now imagine what would have happened if the emperors that built The Great Wall were required to use union labor rather than slaves, buy stone only from government inspected quarries that met various standards for labor and health conditions. Oh, and the environmentalists are busy suing to have periodic gaps in the wall left so that migrating animals won't be inhibited. Ah, but we need this wall, so we must continue anyway!

Perhaps this will give some sense of what California voted for in Prop 1A. The biggest white elephant in American history was voted in last night with a $10 billion bond to kick off something that will probably cost $100 billion in the end and will never cover its operating and maintenance costs. To be profitable (i.e. cover operating costs) would require 100% of the airline and car traffic between northern and southern California to take the train, and then multiply those numbers by 3 or 4. Dreaming is nice.
Yes! Measure WW wins!

This is a $500 billion bond/tax on the citizens of Alameda and Contra Costa counties to buy additional land for parks and open up obscure trails that no one except me is likely to use. I voted against it because this kind of extravagance on my behalf is totally unwarranted. Having said that, I would like to appreciate my sincere appreciation to all you who voted for this as a present for my knee healing. Thanks so much.

YIKES!!! I put $500 billion instead of $500 million!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Well, I guess I need to congratulate Obama, the MSM, and the fanatical Left. You are now the leaders of the economic engine that keeps the world humming, and the military engine that keeps madness under control. We will be anxiously waiting to see how you handle things, now that the world's economy is a mess and portions of Islam are determined to convert the world at gun point.

For McCain, well, I wish RINOs (Republican In Name Only) would leave the party. The Democrats had a choice between pragmatic pure Left (Hillary), populist pure Left (Edwards) and ideological pure Left (Obama). They chose ideological pure Left. The right had a choice between four RINOs as a follow on to the Bush family's center-left with a wishy-washy Republican congress. As the Bible says, "So because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth" - Revelation 3:16. Or since McCain has a military background, "Again if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?" - 1 Corinthians 14:8. The Republicans worked just as hard to achieve defeat as the Democrats did for their victory.

So where do things go from here? Hard to say. We could have Hoover-Roosevelt being similar to Bush-Obama, in which we go into another depression. Another possibility is a Nixon-Carter pattern, where the RINO Nixon messed things up, giving Carter the chance to really mess things up for which he was a one termer. Then there is the California pattern of Pete Wilson (pure RINO) followed by Gray Davis. The result was that the Republican party imploded and California became a one-party state. As the saying goes, "never make predictions, especially about the future". The good news is that the Republicans have a chance to clean their house. The bad news is that their track record on cleaning house is pathetic and it never stays clean long.

As for Obama, well, this will be interesting. I suppose a Clinton style miracle economy is expected, but Clinton's miracle economy was the dot-com bubble. Can you reproduce that as we go into a credit bubble bust? Being one of the baby boomers, I (along with 10's of millions of others) will be tempted to pull any remaining stock value out whenever a nice peak is hit again. The stories I heard about stock markets being a good investent over the long haul? Rubbish. It could be decades before the stock market soars again. Then there is the trick of making affordable health care available to all, while guaranteeing that the trial lawyers can still rake in countless billions of dollars on frivolous malpractice suits. Finally, there is the challenge of restoring the economy while simultaneously indulging the Greens in their rage against corporate America. Given the problems along with a hostile academia, media and congress, McCain should thank the Lord that he didn't get elected. Even if McCain had a sensible policy, it would just be sabotaged for spite. Obama will have all the support that a president can dream of, but given the challenges, I don't think anyone should envy him either.
A Bible passage for today's election?

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth." - 2 Timothy 3:1-7

There is more to it than that, and admittedly I have committed every sin on the list except two.

Monday, November 03, 2008

It is amazing where the Yes on Prop 8 adds are showing up.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

"Roman Syria and the Near East", by Kevin Butcher.

I have been reading a lot trying to fill in knowledge of the times and places related to the Bible. Roman Syria has the city of Antioch as an important theme, which was a key community described in the book of Acts. Reading literature from near this time period is of most interest, but there is a wealth of other information from archaeology and other disciplines. Sometimes a historical summary book is good, and I have liked books with pictures since I was a kid. This one I purchased on Amazon together with a new Landmark Herodotus. I already have a copy of Herodotus, but it has been several years since I read it and I would like to re-read it with the benefit of new commentary and maps.

I have only read about 10% of Roman Syria so far and it does seem to provide a lot of what I was looking for in terms of filling in details. My gripe, however, is that it doesn't have any references. If there is an assertion about changes in pottery distributions at some set of sites, and this happens to tweak my curiosity, how do I follow up? There is a reference to a battle in 53BC, but who wrote about it and what are the details of the story? I feel a book like this should be like visiting a new city. You explore a few popular roads, but then there are all these little side alleys that look mysterious and inviting in one way or another, but time prohibits you from visiting them now, so you note them for exploration in the future. Instead, I feel like I am being invited into a really special culdesac.
Standing for principles: Obama vs. Carter.

Jimmy Carter's most memorable stand for me was the one on abortion: He was personally against it, but he was also compelled to be pro-choice as a matter of public policy. Pro-choice to the extent that everything possible was done to maximize the number of aborted fetuses. Further, young teens are frequently coerced into getting them by our government. Truly a man of principle!

Obama seems to be showing himself to be a similar man of character with his stance of gay marriage. He is personally opposed to gay marriage, but also opposes California proposition 8 which is an attempt to block the court ordered imposition of gay marriage which was the result of an invention of rights by elites. OK. Now what if I oppose drunk driving, but then insist that people have a constitutional right to drink and drive? How principled is that?

He also states "Usually, our constitutions expand liberties, they don't contract them". The problem here is that many liberties are frequently mutually exclusive. I feel I have a right to sleep at night without hearing my neighbors. Now what if my neighbor believes he has a right to throw a wild party at 2:00AM, outside, with stereos blaring that can be heard for half a mile. (Yes, I have experienced this from a next door neighbor.) The Carter/Obama man of principle simply affirms the two rights, but ignores the conflict and lauds the increase of rights now that we are no longer discriminating againts partiers and have two rights where as formally there was only one. This, of course, is the fundamental flaw in this line of "reasoning". Gays don't really marry, except as a spoof of real marriage. Meanwhile, rights of parents and religious freedom are being threatened.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Treat: Tacitus regarding Harry Potter and the Romans.

"On the shore stood the opposing army with its dense array of armed warriors, while between the ranks dashed women, in black attire like the Furies, with hair dishevelled, waving brands. All around, the Druids, lifting up their hands to heaven, and pouring forth dreadful imprecations, scared our soldiers by the unfamiliar sight, so that, as if their limbs were paralysed, they stood motionless, and exposed to wounds. Then urged by their general's appeals and mutual encouragements not to quail before a troop of frenzied women, they bore the standards onwards, smote down all resistance, and wrapped the foe in the flames of his own brands. A force was next set over the conquered, and their groves, devoted to inhuman superstitions, were destroyed. They deemed it indeed a duty to cover their altars with the blood of captives and to consult their deities through human entrails." - Tacitus, Annals XIV.29

Thursday, October 30, 2008

IHT: "A growing number of voters have concluded that Senator John McCain's running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, is unqualified to be president, weighing down the Republican ticket in the closing stages of the campaign, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The poll shows that 59 percent of voters believe Palin is unqualified to be vice president - up nine points from a week earlier."

Let's see ... given that this is being conducted by the New York Times/CBS News, I figure it is probably just another hatchet job and they likely did everything possible to cook the numbers. I expect them to be off by at least 10 points due to bias. The other item to consider is that any Republican VP pick is going to be slimed, because that is what the MSM does, whether it is Palin, Cheney, Quayle, Bork, or Bush. Even Joe the Plumber has become a target for the slime machine. Palin still strikes me as more experienced and qualified than Obama, although she, like the rest of us, is a human with deficiencies. Now I wonder what would happen if Fox News did a similar poll asking if Obama is qualified? "Given someone who has less than 2 years total experience in government, hasn't achieved anything significant in congress, and has the most left-wing voting record of any senator in congress, would you consider him qualified or unqualified to be president?" Someone could easily get 59% to say "unqualified", probably even using a Democratic voter sample!
18th century French political gaffe: "Let them eat cake".
21st century French political gaffe: "Work more to earn more".

The guillotine has given way to voodoo dolls. After all, what good is chopping someone's head off if that will be the end of the suffering? I still like the French and it is certainly a charming country.
Baths final?

"Perhaps when I baptized so many thousands of souls, I might have hoped for a cent or so from them? 'Just let me know, and I will repay you.' Or when the Lord ordained his priests in every part, through my feeble efforts, and as I exercised my ministry freely among them all, did I ask for so much as the price of a pair of shoes? 'Just let me know, and I will repay you,' yes, and even more.

On the contrary, I have spent generously on your behalf so that I would be accepted. I traveled among you and went to every place for your sake, I was threatened with danger on every side. I came to the remotest places, beyond which no man has ever gone and where no one had ever reached before, who was able to baptize or ordain priests and confirm those people in their faith. By God's own gift, I have done all that was needed, worked tirelessly and with a will for your salvation." - Confessions of Patrick.50-51

This bathing thing is winding down for me now. There are many passages from the Bible that I have overlooked, like Namaan, the Ethiopian and Bathsheba. The Confessions of Patrick is something I have read recently as I have tried - with much difficulty - to sort out what is true from the legend and myth before finally getting a copy of what scholars believe to be about the only genuine thing we have that came from Patrick's hand. After reading this, and combining with what else I have read about Roman Britain, it seems that the myths are easier to handle than the truth. An embellished Arthur or the Lord of the Rings being preferrable to an accurate portrayal of the military scene just after the time of Patrick.

In the case of Patrick, we find an unlearned peasant preaching the gospel in Ireland, risking his life, living in utter poverty, while the learned and comfortable church elders back in Britain scheme against him. Is it any wonder this story isn't told in churches, but we have stories about snakes instead? In the statues and paintings, Patrick is portrayed as a wealthy bishop from centuries later, rather than a crude shepherd.

My copy includes the only other document from Patrick's hand, "A Letter to the Soldiers of Corotocus", which is just as disturbing. Having taught Christianity to Corotocus and his people, they accepted it enthusiastically. Later, however, they proceeded off on a pirating raid - as in former times - took prisoners from Christian villages, and sold them to non-Christian foreign lands. Business is business! Since Patrick had been captured and sold as a slave, he is not particularly sympathetic. Patrick's heart is mostly for the Christian young ladies who are taken and sold into slavery in a non-Christian village. They will suffer the most. It is a good read, and probably something the church needs to hear more of.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

US #18 in the Democracy rankings. Where is your country?

Most of the European Union ranks higher than the US, which perhaps tells us something of the cultural mindset of the authors of the survey. I should note that the US was founded deliberately as a Republic, not a pure Democracy, based on the founding fathers' studies of classical political models and theories. Thus, it shouldn't be too surprising that we aren't at the top when ranked according to pure Democracy.

A more detailed breakdown would be fun to see, but here are some comments regarding the major components of the score:

1. Electoral process and pluralism

This seems to involve mainly the ability to form plausible parties and fairly get the into government. The US (in my opinion) scores badly on some issues here: Gerrymandering and the two party system being the main, but the governing parties do switch periodically. It is fun to see Japan listed as the same as , since it has been governed by a single party for the large majority of its post-war history.

2. Functioning of government

This is a mix of things ranging from checks and balances, governmental authority, confidence, etc. Our government is frequently jammed up politically, which people view as bad, but better than the alternative(s).

3. Political participation

Besides reasonable measures, like voter turnout, this category has a few zingers: % of women in elected offices, % of population involved in lawful demonstrations, % of population following the MSM. Needless to say, the US won't score as well on some of the European cultural measures.

4. Democratic political culture

This is largely a measure of blind enthusiasm for Democratic ideals. The US should score a 20 or 30 here, given our attempt to impose Democracy on Iraq. Of course this also has a category for "separation of church and state", and Europeans probably think of the US as a theocracy.

5. Civil liberties

This includes availability of media and freedom to gripe, of which we are second to none. "Free" print media seems to be valued elsewhere, but this strikes me as silly. Libraries provide free media to the 0.1% of the population that cares. The rest of the free media is sponsored by someone or some group with an agenda. Maybe Europe has something that I don't know about.

Torture is listed as a component, and I think it is well known that torture was given a major re-definition in order to play 'gotcha' with president Bush. Libel laws are mentioned which do cause some problems in the US.

Crime is an issue which inhibits the rights of the victims. Excepting murder, the US is better off than most of Europe on this. We should note that prostitution and the sex slave trade aren't listed here. One that I like is "Extent to which the government invokes new risks and threats as an excuse for curbing civil liberties", which is the main source of contention in the US. The international drug trade, which is one of the worst world wide abusers of human rights exploits this to the fullest, with terrorists tagging along behind.

Overall, the notion that the US is behind the EU on civil liberties strikes me as a sad joke. Anyway, I am thankful for the freedoms I enjoy, including the freedom to travel to less free places periodically.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The BBC reports more on the falling skies ...

This is with regard to the extent of ice in the Arctic, which are forecast to disappear by 2030-2040 if current simpleton extrapolations are accurate predictions. The graph for the current year is here. At the moment, we have about 1.5 million square km more ice this year than last, although we are still 1 million square km less than average.

All this is a bit deceiving. From my scuba diving experience, ocean water temperature drops rapidly as you dive, due to the fact that warmer water tends to stay on top. In the winter, sea water at the freezing point sinks and is stored in the vasts depths until ice forms and provides some insulation - effectively stopping the cooling. In other words, an ice free Arctic summer provides little net global warming, but much greater amounts of cooling in the winter. Thus, even though we had a record breaking thaw during summer 2007, we were near normal for ice cover by March 2008. It seems to me to be a self-correcting cycle, but this won't stop the Chicken Littles of the world.
Bathing continued ...

"There are still some ruins of the walls, and a sanctuary of Poseidon, some harbours, and a spring called Kanathos, where the Argives say Hera washes every year to renew her virginity. The legend about this belongs to the secrets of the mystery they celebrate to Hera." - Pausanius, Guide to Greece, Corinth.38

Hera was the premier goddess of Greece and wife of Zeus. Apparently, she was slightly less than completely faithful, hence, the need to renew virginity once a year.

Now some from our modern era might be tempted to smugly look back at this ancient folklore and make fun. Don't. This concept was actually added to the US constitution a few decades back as a fundamental right. Today, all young ladies when they happen to have a, um, slight accident, can go to a Planned Parenthood clinic for a quick procedure, wash up and voilà, virginity is restored! The "secrets of the mystery" are entrusted to liberal intellectuals and academics who, like the priests of old, are the only ones truly capable of understanding this.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chavez of the North ...

This clip reflects what I have been thinking about Obama. Again, I am not at all happy with McCain, but being associated with ACORN and a member of the United Church of Christ tends to bring certain baggage with it.

In Venezuela, Chavez has been systematically stripping the country of its wealth to pay off his supporters and fund socialist revolutions in other countries. When Americans were buying Venezuela's oil at $100+ per barrel, the numbers at least added up. The irony of a socialist revolution wholly dependent on globalization and capitalism seems to have been lost on everyone. Obama strikes me as having the same mentality as Chavez, except that he is more polite and articulate. So what would happen to America, given the recent massive loss in paper wealth, if our next president decides to start heavily taxing the remaining wealth and distributing it among his supporters?
Bathing continued ...

"Here the King used to take his pleasure in company with those damsels of his; some in carriages, some on horseback, whilst no man was permitted to enter. Sometimes the King would set the girls a-coursing after the game with dogs, and when they were tired they would retire to the groves that overhung the lakes, and leaving their clothes there they would come forth naked and enter the water and swim about hither and thither, whilst it was the King's delight to watch them; and then all would return home. Sometimes the King would have his dinner carried to those groves, which were dense with lofty trees, and there would be waited on by those young ladies. And thus he passed his life in this constant dalliance with women, without so much as knowing what arms meant! And the result of all this cowardice and effeminacy was that he lost his dominion to the Great Khan in that base and shameful way that you have heard." - The Travels of Marco Polo, LXXVII

And so a king in China lost his kingdom. At that time, only kings had the right to indulge themselves in this manner. Today, thanks to the internet and the ACLU, everyone has a fundamental constitutional right to spend as much time dallying around with pornography as this king did being entertained by his concubines.

We should note that Marco Polo was a Renaissance Man, having come from Venice and lived during the 13th and 14th centuries. The Renaissance Men (and Women) were sexually liberated to the point that my history text books report that certain cities (Rome?) had 10% of the population as registered prostitutes, and Marco Polo's writings seem to reflect this mindset. In this instance, however, one negative consequence of the liberation is all too obvious, even to him, so he is brought to condemn the behavior of this Chinese king. The usual protest I hear regarding any standards of sexual behavior is "but they aren't hurting anyone". Indeed, this king didn't hurt anyone, but his subjects suffered horribly at the mongul invasion.