Sunday, September 30, 2012

Laptop: New Disk Drive.

Hopefully this will stay up for another year.  The drive is a Samsung 256 Gb solid state disk for $219.  My kids will probably remind me that I could have donated 4 or 5 goats to poor people in the third world for this amount.  My response is that it is quite cheap compared to the first 400 megabyte drive that I bought ... for $30,000.  Four of those disk drives consumed the same amount of space as a kitchen refrigerator.  The new drive is much faster than the old, thus, allowing me to get all the windows drivers installed quickly through all the reboots.  There is still a lot of setup to do.
Laptop disk failure ...

It is a few years old.  Now I need to figure out whether I want to borrow computer time from my family members, repair the old thing, or buy a new one.  But maybe I will just spend less time on the computer, which is good for all kinds of reasons.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

November Election Issues:  The Economist sizes up the problem.

This one explains why the current economic crisis is going to be with us for the next 50 years, unless the economy collapses first.  Basically the game was for those of us in the older generations to vote all kinds of goodies for ourselves, and hand the bill to the unborn.  No doubt they will be thrilled when they figure out what happened.  Most of this is due to exorbitant public sector pensions and inflated health care bills.  The left likes to scream that not enough taxes were paid, which perhaps has some truth.  On the other hand, they may have simply taken the additional tax revenue to increase the pensions more while investing further in medical litigation.  Not quite sure.

Friday, September 28, 2012

November Election Issues:  Religious associations of the presidential candidates.

This is tricky.  Let's start with the obvious: There are very few presidents or vice presidents who have written down their systematic theologies.  Probably even fewer who have actually thought about the concept.  Rather than trying to deduce a presidents beliefs indirectly from statements made during a populist campaign or their actions in the heat of some hopeless political situation, we can look to their affiliations.  That can be problematic too, since some denominations are all over the map regarding theology and frequently their members have no idea what the preacher is talking about.  But I will take a stab at this anyways.

Christianity is my interest, so we must go through some basic principals here.  Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  There is a correct theology that heaven knows about, yet at the same time correct theology doesn't save you.  Otherwise, Satan would be more "saved" than any human theologian.  Humans don't know precisely what is correct, but I generally choose orthodox theology as being the best starting point.  Regardless, there are those who are saved by Christ and know almost nothing of Christian theology, while there are countless others who know Christian theology quite well, yet have rejected Christ as Lord and Savior.  

Keeping in mind that theological affiliations are poor guides, we can now proceed to rank Christian groups relative to their differences with orthodox theology.   We can use a list of presidents with their religious affiliations to help us with this.  

The list includes four Unitarians, who are a completely different religion from Christians.  Jefferson is listed as a Deist which is essentially a Unitarian.  The Republicans have offered up two Quakers for president, Hoover and Nixon.  The Quakers strive for moral perfection and see this as the end of their earthly activities, yet don't talk of Jesus as Lord and Savior.  They should be viewed as some sort of charismatic Unitarians with Christian trappings.  Kennedy was a Roman Catholic, which is a sect that is a long way from orthodox with their Popery, Mariolatry, indulgences, priests, redefining of sainthood, praying to saints, purgatory, grace as a commodity, ....  Of course you will see the story of Christ's death and resurrection in the art work of their churches, so the key items are still there, except that they are inefficiently taught due to all the baggage.

On the current US presidential tickets, we have Obama who was formerly associated with the United Church of Christ and Romney who is associated with the Mormons.  The vice presidential candidates are Biden and Ryan who are both Roman Catholics, although I seem to remember that Biden was rejected by his clergy.  An abortion promoting Catholic is a bit like a pork eating Orthodox Jew, so Biden's claim to being a Roman Catholic is somewhat awkward.  The interesting thing to ponder is which of those three groups (United Church of Christ, Mormon, Roman Catholic) is closest to orthodox Christianity. Considering the United Church of Christ, we find that they are a leading group in promoting Depravity as America's new national deity.  They may well be further from orthodox Christianity than atheism.  I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out whether Mormons or Roman Catholics are closer to orthodox Christianity.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43BC): Regarding the US elections.

I have been listening to Cicero's work, On The Laws, which is a philosophical discussion of the basis of law. His starting point is the society itself, so rather than "human rights", which have a starting point of "me", there are "social rights", which are the rights conferred by the society for its own preservation and enjoyment:

"And lastly, that these natural brethren are bound together by the reciprocal obligations of friendship and affection, as well as social rights." - On The Laws, Book I.

To this is added much about virtue and vice, along with the fact that it isn't sensible to legislate everything, yet there still remains natural laws regarding good and evil.  For the hyper-legalist, Pharisses and the like, there is this:

"How I am ashamed at those philosophers, who assert that there are no vices to be avoided but those which the laws have branded with infamy."

And something that every Christian theologian should recognize:

"Shall corporal defects, if they are remarkable, shock our sensibilities, and shall those of the soul make no impression on us?—Of the soul, I say, whose turpitude is so evidently proved by its vices."

There are a number of other remarks that will raise the eyebrow of a new testament Bible student.  Then there is a split which I find quite fascinating:

"According to the Greeks, therefore, the name of law implies an equitable distribution of goods: according to the Romans, an equitable discrimation between good and evil."

This distinction is one that seems to have been passed down to our modern era, as the leftists legislate laws for the distribution of good, while the conservatives are more focused on good vs. evil.  Cicero anticipates the 19th century Utilitarian arguments and offers up a rebuttal:

"But if justice consists in submission to written laws and national customs, and if, as the Epicureans persist in affirming, every thing must be measured by utility alone, he who wishes to find an occasion of breaking such laws and customs, will be sure to discover it. So that real justice remains powerless if not supported by nature, and this pretended justice is overturned by that very utility which they call its foundation."

Epicureans should be treated as a synonym for Darwinistas, who have been pushing their religion into the legal sphere for quite a while.  What really stands out, however, is a discussion of what happens if the natural conscience is overruled, for which we have an excerpt:

"But if the opinions and suffrages of foolish men had sufficient weight to outbalance the nature of things, might they not determine among them, that what is essentially bad and pernicious should henceforth pass for good and beneficial? Or why should not a law able to enforce injustice, take the place of equity? Would not this same law be able to change evil into good, and good into evil?"

It is this area that stands out as it has been formally embraced by the Democrats - that the definition of evil and good can be interchanged on a whim - and a big chunk of the Republican party thinks that there is no philosophical basis for challenging such a notion.  This moral disease isn't limited to the US, however, as can be seen in the recent move by France to ban the legal notion of Mother and Father.  Voting for Obama and the Democrats is out of the question, since they have formally embraced a policy of legislating good as evil and evil as good.  Romney certainly has the advantage here, although I think that a more vocal role is needed to confront the activist anthropology professors who want to entice humans to embrace the social norms of a troop of baboons or apes.

It should be noted that Cicero's comments about legislating good as evil and evil as good would come to fruition a century later with Caligula, Claudius and Nero.  Christians were no stranger to living as loyal citizens in this society, hence, we see this verse from Philippians that was likely written under the reign of the dissolute Nero:

"All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household." - Philippians 4:22

This should be a reminder that the march to depravity as a national identity isn't a one way street, although perhaps a barbarian invasion is needed to sweep this away.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

November Election Issues:  Polls.

Things have certainly launched off into silly land.  The worse the economy does, the worse it is for Romney and the better it is for Obama.  The doodoo hits the fan in the Middle East, and again, Obama's poll numbers go up and Romney's go down.  By this logic, Obama would need to increase (official) unemployment to 12%, add another $ trillion to the deficit and fund some terrorist groups to help his party win total control.

The fact is that polling organizations always take samples of different groups, and then do a weighted average of the answers based on historical correlations.  The trick is in the "weighted average", which amounts to a voodoo step in the middle of an otherwise scientific process.  With this, a malicious pollster can easily rig numbers to influence public opinion.  Since most of the polling outlets are hard left, well, expect the numbers to be of a sort that the leftist journalists imagine would help their candidate.  Things should change in the last few days before the election since, ahem, the historical correlations will be based on election days of past years, rather than non-election day histories.

Finally, for fun I will include a quote from somewhere else with a typical example of how leftist polling has worked for the last few decades:

"In 1980, Ronald Reagan beat Carter by nearly 10 points, 51 percent to 41 percent.  In a Gallup Poll released days before the election on Oct. 27, it was Carter who led Reagan 45 percent to 42 percent."

I should probably do my own homework on this, but will leave it at that for now unless someone cares to challenge it.
November Election Issues:  Foreign Policy.

Every action causes a reaction.  Thus, any one policy action sets off an endless chain of actions and reactions that is so chaotic that no one can predict the outcome.  I would not find any inconsistency with an atheist who declares that only God knows whether a foreign policy action is for better or worse in anything beyond the immediate term.

With that consideration, we usually promote policies that we believe in as a nation.  In this case, the US has been mostly spreading the gospel of Democracy to the world.  Is that good?  I am skeptical.  The last time this was done was during the Peloponnesian Wars (431-401BC) when Athens tried spreading Democracy.  It didn't have a happy ending.  Then there is the minor detail that the US is supposed to be a Republic with democratic elements, rather than a pure Democracy.

I should be happier if the US decided to help spread the rule of law and free markets, but this would be quite hopeless.  The leftists on the surface believe rule of law, but they also believe that any statement can be given an infinite number of meanings, including the negation of the statement, thus, rule of law is quite meaningless in their world view.  Free markets are all about the government creating a level playing field under the rule of law, thus, the second depends on the first.  Again, the leftist believe that free markets are nothing more than legalized theft, so as soon as they gain control over a free market economy they begin directing the "theft" to benefit their constituents.  This is what is taught in American academia, rather than the correct notions.  With this kind of utter chaos in American teaching, I am not sure how we as a nation could sensibly spread Rule of Law and Free Markets to the world.  


Monday, September 24, 2012

November Election Issues:  The Economy in General.

First things first:  The US is NOT a free market economy.  The largest banks (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are US Government institutions, while many of the utilities are effectively government enterprises.  GM now means Government Motors and what can we say of the airlines that are still in the air due to government intervention?  Then there are massive transfer payments going on which is the primary reason for the trillion dollar deficits.  The last element is systematic co-optation of the private sector for social engineering purposes.  This ranges from forcing companies to pay exorbitant insurance bills to mandating that a third of America's corn crop be turned into ethanol to Solyndra and on and on and on.  These three elements constitutes the leftist Economic Trinity:  Government Ownership, Transfer Payments and Co-opting the Private Sector.  Their common names are Communism, Socialism and Fascism.

Yes, we have some semi-free market enclaves which are keeping the economy humming, but things don't look so good overall.  At some point the Laffer curve implies that the size and interference of government reaches an unstable point and we start shrinking.  News outlets usually focus on the unemployment rate - which is nearly stable - but the thing to look at is the Labor Participation Rate.  This is the lowest since 1981 and still heading down at a fast clip.  Much of the decrease in labor participation is undoubtedly due to retirements, but  a huge amount is with the young.  Anyway, for three decades populist politicians were making wild statements and promises regarding pensions.  When Reagan was president, tax cuts certainly were an effective way to get the economy going again.  The taxes were cut, but the government spending kept growing.  Now cutting taxes can no longer help, while so much of society is conditioned to depend on the government for survival that cutting is unimaginable.  I don't think either Obama or Romney can do anything about this ... beyond making things worse.  Regardless, neither politician has made any suggestions about how to stop the government from strangling the economy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Novermber Elections Issues: ObamaCare

Yes, the elections are coming up.  I have been inundated with news, but have not seen one article yet on what the election is about and whether or not it matters.  I should probably do a series on how I see it, so here is the first one.

The original health care problem in the US was a government imposed cap on the training of doctors and nurses, litigation gone wild, and billions of pages of federal regulations on health care.  Throw in an aging population with an increasing need for health care, and we were already experiencing the early symptoms of a house on fire.  Per the last century plus of leftists policies, every problem is an opportunity to stir people up and make things worse.  Admittedly, this formula wasn't restricted to leftists.  Didn't "Hope and Change" work for Lenin, Mao, Attila, Hitler, and countless others?  How many people voluntarily came to America not looking for "Hope and Change"?  Why not offer it up again?

ObamaCare simply mandated more free treatment and added reams of new regulations, but did exactly nothing about the long list of existing problems, thus, effectively throwing a large bomb into a burning house.  Obama is now content to watch what happens, while Romney wants to go in and take the bomb out before it goes off.  Romney won't succeed, however, because when he goes in the Democrats in congress and the judiciary will trip him up, kick him, and then the news media will laugh and howl and beat him up some more.  The bomb will finally go off and then Romney will go down in history as the one who deliberately planted the bomb and blew up the house.  Of course if Obama is reelected, the bomb still goes off and the Republicans in congress will be formally identified as the terrorists who planted it.  

Meanwhile, none of the parties seem inclined to do anything about the burning house.  But to be fair, the news media and intellectual elites will immediately condemn anyone who proposes a true fix to health care.  Someone will lose - at least temporarily - and this will form a pretext for screaming that the politician is ruthless and evil and doesn't have a heart for homeless kittens.  

My voting inclinations are to pull up a chair, get a drink, and watch the fireworks.  The problem is that I won't be able to find a safe distance.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Sophocles (496-406BC):  Looney chases a ghost.

What got me going was a quote from a classical Greek play, Antigones:

"A stubborn daughter of a stubborn sire, this ill-starred maiden kicks against the pricks" - Antigones, line 471-472

In this case the maiden is Antigones who just got through talking back to the king of Thebes, Croesus.  As a Bible student, I immediate recognized the expression "kicks against the pricks" as coming from the Bible and is where Jesus speaks to Paul through a vision:

"And he said, Who art thou, Lord?  And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." - Acts 9:5 (KJV)

It would seem obvious that the "kick against the pricks" expression is a reference to the story of Antigone, which was written 500 years before.  But just as I was getting over confident and started to document this, I happened to pick up a different English translation of Antigones.  The same passage reads thus:

"The maid shows herself passionate child of passionate sire, and knows not how to bend before troubles." - Antigones

The "kicks against the pricks" isn't in this translation.  What to do?  Obviously the solution is to go back to the Greek and sort things out.  On going to my Greek Bible, however, I found that the Greek version of Acts 9:5 was truncated.  Going to my New Testament Text & Translation Commentary, I found that there is some scholarly dispute since not all Greek manuscripts contain the complete version, so the NIV simply has "'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked.  'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, ' he replied".  No pricks or kicks here.

Anyway, there seems to be no dispute regarding the second occurrence of "kicks against the pricks" in Acts 26:14.  Now admittedly I am a pre-novice at Greek, but with this I was able to do a comparison with the online Greek text of Antigones that is here.  I can't be sure what the proper rendering is of Antigones, but I am quite certain that the words are different from the Biblical Greek expressions.  Thus, the conclusion is that "kicks against the pricks" wasn't part of the original Antigones, but something that a modern translator invented while doing some creative translation.

The moral of the story is that we need to know our classical languages.  The other moral to the story is that if we don't stick our nose into all kinds of things we don't understand, then we won't make so many mistakes.




Thursday, September 13, 2012

Great Courses: Science and Religion, by Prof. Lawrence Principe.

This is a 12 lecture series that I am listening to with a noon-time group at work.  We just finished the series, which, in spite of a good start has had a rough ending.  Here is what I learned at the last video:

1. No Christian theologian had the slightest notion that Genesis chapter 1 referred to literal days before the 19th century.

2. Inerrancy was a concept invented by old earth Darwinists and borderline universalists which was later hijacked by fundamentalists.

3. Fundamentalists Christians (i.e. those who take Genesis 1 literally) are rarities who are uneducated, know almost nothing and Christianity, and speak only for themselves.  They are simply polar opposites of the Fundamentalist Atheists like Dawkins and a number of other fanatics.

4. The only proper reaction is to embrace modernist theology, which is educated, intelligent and wise.  Modernist theology is the only legitimate heir to the orthodox and scholastic traditions of philosophy and theology.

5. Mohammed was a flying pig farmer.

OK, the last one wasn't in the lecture series, but it could have been given the other four items on the list.  And so the mantra continues ... worship Darwin, worship Darwin, worship Darwin ...  but we also need to simultaneously insist that we are passionate about Biblical inerrancy, that the Bible is infallible, and that there will be no judgment of sin because God is too loving to do this.  

But ignoring the fact that the conclusion wasn't supported by the content, I really did enjoy many of the lectures.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ovid (43BC-17AD): Background for reading Augustine (354AD-430AD).

The first major portion of Augustine's City of God is a critique of the Roman pagan religion.  Much of this comes from Homer's writings, but some from Virgil and a bit from Ovid.  Librivox.org has recordings of Ovid's Heroides and Metamorphoses, of which I am nearly to the end of Heroides.  This is a series of imaginary love letters written by characters of Roman and Greek literature.  Think of it as classical Trashy Novels with a strong pagan religious element.  This isn't my preferred reading material, however, my project (i.e. personal hobby) involves having as complete a familiarity as possible with classical literature and Ovid is a loose end, so we will listen to these anyway.

The most curious thing I learned so far is that Hero was a female priestess in Abydos who doesn't seem to have done much heroic.  A synopsis is here.  The important thing is that her lover would swim the mile or so across the Hellespont every evening to be with her, giving us the first inspiration for Open Water Swimming which I am quite fond of ... although not for the same reasons that Leander was fond of the sport.  Now I am feeling guilty for only having swum one kilometer this morning before work.

Augustine's complaint is that the stories that Roman school children were required to memorize glorified one immoral act after another.  These acts were actually encouraged by the gods, so that adulterers would proudly compare themselves to the gods while boasting of their exploits.

A separate note is with regard to my effort to trace the notion of a Just War:

"Let your father-in-law, Menelaus, be your example in reclaiming
a lost wife, a girl who was the cause of a just war:
if my father had wept in his empty palace like a coward,
my mother would be married to Paris as before." - Heroides, VIII, Hermione to Orestes

It isn't quite what I had expected ... that the original just war notion should involve a ten year siege, countless deaths, and an attempt to stamp out an entire nation all over a runaway wife.



Sunday, September 09, 2012

Hebrew:  Struggling in the second semester.

I vowed to keep studying over the summer, but too many distractions caused things to be otherwise.  Now the price has to be paid.  Much of yesterday and today were dedicated to studying, but I still feel like I am falling behind.  Each evening when I get back from work requires me to take time out to review verbs, vocabulary, and hopefully get some of the videos as well as doing the homework.  Then there are the quizzes and exams coming up.  There are 26 lessons for this semester which are coming at the rate of about 2 per week.  This will continue until mid-December.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

31st Anniversary.

Mrs. Looney and I have been married for 31 years today.  The 31st anniversary is one of those especially important ones, since 31 is a prime number.  In binary, 31 becomes 11111, which is clearly noteworthy.  Not sure what we will do today, since this is a normal work day, but the trip to San Francisco over the weekend was partially in remembrance of a long, happy marriage.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Preaching about Hell:  An analysis from The Economist.

The statistics clearly show that preaching about Hell reduces crime rates more than preaching about Heaven. Admittedly, I am always fond of a good old fashioned Turn-or-Burn sermon delivered by an eloquent and animated pastor.  It has probably been more than 40 years since I heard one.  About 25 years ago I remember hearing a flat one delivered by an Englishman, but he was flamed afterwards for not mentioning Jesus Christ as the alternative.

A few things stand out, like the degree to which primarily Catholic countries discount Hell.  Americans will be surprised to see that Sweden and Norway have higher crimes rates than we do.  The Scandinavians might be surprised too.  The Non-Catholic Christians seem to have the widest range of beliefs.  As the chart shows, Sweden, Norway and Germany engineered a better god who is too loving to send unrepentant sinners to the destination prepared for them.  What is happening in South Africa is something that raises an eyebrow, but I can't really comment.  It just make me wonder what kind of Christianity it is that they teach there.  Another outlier is Tanzania where belief in Hell exceeds belief in Heaven.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

This is the vantage point at San Francisco's Twin Peaks where I took the picture in the last post.


And some more colorful San Franciscans.





Saturday, September 01, 2012