Saturday, June 30, 2007

Specialization is for Insects

A human being should be able to

change a diaper,
plan an invasion
butcher a hog,
conn a ship
design a building,
write a sonnet,
balance accounts,
build a wall,
set a bone,
comfort the dying,
take orders,
give orders,
act alone,
solve equations,
analyze a new problem,
pitch manure,
program a computer,
cook a tasty meal,
fight efficiently,
die gallantly.

Specialization is for insects

- Robert A. Heinlein


Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Quote from R.J. Rushdoony

While I'm not very well-versed with his writings, I think it is safe to say that I disagree with R.J. Rushdoony on a number of things.

However, here is one quote of his. I've come across it in my readings and I think it is pretty well said:

"Power is an inescapable reality; its denial in one area leads to a concentration of all power in another area. When sovereign power is denied to God, it does not disappear; it is merely relocated from eternity to time. When the power of the family is broken, parenthood is then transferred to the state, however ineptly. Atomistic individualism, because it denies all power to the supernatural, and rebels against the family, claims for itself both sovereignty and power. But, because the atomistic individual is anarchistic only with reference to God's law, and family law, his need for a a framework of reference is concentrated on men at large--collective man, the state. The state becomes his 'resonance box,' his stage. Atomistic man calls the totalitarian state into existence as his source of morality, religion, sovereignty, and power."

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

A. A. Hodge On War, Etc.

In his commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith, A.A. Hodge said:

"War is an incalculable evil, because of the lives it destroys, the misery it occasions, and the moral degradation it infallibly works on all sides—upon the vanquished and the victor, the party originally in the right and the party in the wrong. In every war one party at least must be in the wrong, involved in the tremendous guilt of unjustifiable war, and in the vast majority of cases both parties are thus in the wrong. No plea of honour, glory or aggrandizement, policy or profit can excuse, much less justify, war; nothing short of necessity to the end of the preservation of national existence. In order to make a war right in God's sight, it is not only necessary that our enemy should aim to do us a wrong, but also (a) that the wrong he attempts should directly or remotely threaten the national life, and (b) that war be the only means to avert it. Even in this case every other means of securing justice and maintaining national safety should be exhausted before recourse is had to this last resort. A war may be purely defensive in spirit and intent while it is aggressive in the manner in which it is conducted. The question of right depends upon the former, not the latter—upon the purpose for which, and not upon the mere order in which, or theatre upon which, the attack is made."

In my opinion, this is good sound advice. If nations would limit their war efforts to circumstances where dire self defense is involved, the amount of deaths, financial waste, hatred, and hysteria could be greatly reduced. Of course, what constitutes self defense and how that extends to protecting other nations is a tricky issue. But that is just one reason why governing a nation is so difficult! But, as Hodge states, the actual instances where war is truly just are pretty rare, so it is safe to say that unless there is a compelling good reason for a war, the reason is usually bad.

Also, we need to be careful about painting wars as black and white issues, in an bravado "either you are with us or against us" fashion. Not everybody that is against a particular war takes their stand because they are hung up on pacifism, or side with the enemy, or are hung up on partisan side-taking. And questioning a particular war doesn't make one unpatriotic. In fact, being patriotic is, in its truest sense, being concerned enough with your nation to fairly consider whether what is going on is just. There are a host of other reasons why one might be against a particular war. Some examples: 1. Lack of evidence that the war is just, normally because there is not enough evidence to prove a direct threat. 2. Lack of evidence that the war will effectively disengage the threat. 3. Assent to the war in general, but disagreement with tactical direction or timing. 4. Lack of evidence that the nation is capable of carrying out the war effectively. 5. The pragamtic view that, even if a war is fully justified, it rarely leads to the intended consequence.

One of the perhaps most edgy and critical issues to iron out here is the question of what sort of intervention (if any) is legitimate in areas where there is no direct threat to the nation about to carry out war. Prime examples of this would be intervention in Kosovo or in the Persian Gulf in defense of Kuwait. In those cases, there was at least the form of a multi-national effort, although there's no question that one (or at most two) country/countries was/were really spear-heading the effort. Where does a country draw the line in regard to "stepping in" and assisting others?

If I had to draft a theoretical criteria of what I see as needing to be carried about before a war is undertaken, would be:

1. There must be a formal declaration of war, going through the legal procedures given in the country (ie. the constitution). These checks and balances are there for a reasons, namely to stop: unnecessary deaths, war mongers, and unchecked war spending. If these become stumbling blocks to a particular war plan and there is a temptation to "be decisive", then chances are there are either (A) internal problems that will doom the war effort anyways or (B) there aren't enough good reasons to carry out the war. This is historically in line with what the Protestant Church has held, an individual political leader is not to carry out war unillateraly but rather it should be a national effort.

2. The situation must be of the nature where there are obvious immediate consequences that will occur if war is not immediately convened. I mean consequences that don't involve highly speculative threats.

3. The war must not only be towards a just cause, but what good it will accomplish must be of the nature that they will outweigh what transpires during the war.

4. If the war is defending another country, there must be some compelling reason for it: A set-in-stone obligation due to treaty/alliance might make it unavoidable. A clear moral (not strategical) imperative. Etc. Providing "humans rights violations" as a basis for this point is suspect and should be subjected to further scrutiny. Firstly: There are many human rights violations occurring all over, so one must ask why is this one on the forefront? Is it of a different nature?... Which usually leads to a strategical imperative hiding behind the smokescreen of a strategical reasons. Secondly: Has it been conclusively proven that these "human rights violations" are one-sided? Is this possibly just the case of the two equally unethical efforts with one playing kind now because they are losing? Are you sure that the side you help won't take you down with the help you give them?

This is very fuzzy, but I think it may be a good starting point. I think there would be less wars being carried out if these sort of things have been accounted for. And these checks and balances would help the ones that ARE carried out to be more likely to be successful.

What we SHOULD try to avoid is:

1. Partisan-style bickering over war (ie. I like my war but not yours, equating opposition to war as opposition to party, and vice-versa). Also, unthoughtful acceptance of all war by our/your party of choice.
2. Unthoughtful rejection of all war.
4. Labeling thought/discussion/debate of war efforts as disrespectful, unpatriotic, liberal, etc. If a war is worth waging, it is worth exploring the idea a bit.
5. Collectivism of the for/against and either/or type.
6. Letting our dislike of the anti-war movements propel us to overreact and be uncritical and unskeptical towards wars.

Just my two cents, Canadian funds (which is pretty close to American funds right now). Feel free to disagree.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Some Thursday Humor:

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Please Read What You Approve

A common theme today is elected officials voting things in without reading them. Or even voting on things that aren't complete, like the Patriot Act--which had a clause that determines that further innovations to the act are to be pre-approved even though they aren't even written at the time of the review!!! Many questionable legislative items have passed through merely because way too many politicians are way too busy (or uncaring) to read what they are voting on.

A particular example I present here involves U.S. Politics and a Democrat in particular, but make no mistake..I don't suppose we can imagine that Republicans are much better on this. The two sides like to blame each other, but when it comes down to it, they basically have a similar mindset on these sort of things.

This particular quote comes from John Perry Barlow, recounting a conversation with John Kerry:

-- quote --

I had a conversation with [John] Kerry. It was pretty disheartening. I asked how he felt about civil liberties.

He said: 'I'm for 'em!'

That's great, but how do you feel about Section 215 of the Patriot Act?

He said 'What's that?'

I said, it basically says any privately generated database is available for public scrutiny with an administrative subpoena.

He says, 'It says that?'

I say, 'You voted for it!'

He says, 'Well, it was a long bill....'"

-- unquote --

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Monday, June 18, 2007

John Gilmor on the ACLU

It is easy to see that the "Christian right" in general doesn't like the ACLU. I love liberty, but I don't necessarily like the ACLU. Perhaps I'm not as settled on it being "the beast" that many Christians see it as, but I still feel it has done much harm. And my Christian worldview causes me to see a lot of damage that it has done through various lawsuits and selective attacks on religion in the public square. On the other hand, though, I don't want to say that the ACLU has done nothing good. It has done good. The fact that it is on the other side of the "culture war" doesn't mean that we should label everything it does as bad. I think we can identify the general agenda of the group without making sweeping statements about EVERYTHING they do.

But... Even if I were to ignore the way some of the ACLU's actions rub my worldview the wrong way, I think its safe to say that the ACLU is NOT the "vanguard of liberty" that some people think it is. And John Gilmor recently made some critical public statements about the ACLU that illustrate this.

Regarding Gilmor.. I disagree with him on a number of issues--actually quite a few. But in some way I have a certain amount of respect for him. He's a sort of non-conformist who isn't afraid to speak his mind. He's the sort of hardcore Libertarian geek millionare type. He was the fifth employee of Sun Microsystems and also helped to found the EFF and Cygnus.

I wouldn't do many of the things he does and when it comes down to it we may be on the opposing side of a number of issues, but still there's something about him that makes me want to tip my hat to him. I wonder if I'll ever have 1/20th of the intestinal fortitude that he has--for issues that *I* feel strongly about. One issue which Gilmor is very vocal on is the issue of privacy/constitutional violations that occur in the name of the "war on terror" and the way the emotional topic of terrorism seems to make people more prone to accept fundamental violations of their constitutional rights, even where there are no probable grounds of suspicion. He very dramatically illustrated this when he got kicked off a flight for wearing an "I'm a suspected terrorist" badge.

Well, getting back to the topic, John Gilmor has posted to the "Politech" list with his comments on the ACLU. He levies a few criticisms regarding the ACLU, mainly directed at people who see the ACLU as perfect crusaders for liberty. He makes some good points. I particularly like the way that he shows that the ACLU is not wholeheartedly committed to liberty.

- "Anyone who thinks the ACLU is an unbiased defender of freedom should look into the school choice movement. ACLU always ends up on the wrong side of those lawsuits, seeking to overturn laws that allow parents to choose what school their child will go to. It's apparently because they have a strong political tie to teachers' labor unions, which oppose parental and student choice about who'll teach them."

- Gilmor also points out that the ACLU is very discriminatory when it comes to which cases they pick. In the words of Gilmor, "it hurt to find that I'm too white to have my freedom of speech violated". Gilmor is not bringing this up because of xenophobia, but rather because he has a good example of this sort of discrimination in action. The ACLU refused to carry out a freedom of speech case on behalf of Gilmor when he got thrown off a plane for a badge he wore, but on the other hand they were very eager to take up the case of an Arabic man who similarily got thrown of f a plane for words on a shirt he wore.

- Gilmor also speaks of the the ACLU's "bizarre meme there that involves not giving credit to any 'competing' civil rights organization". Here he's pointing out that the ACLU has a sort of elitism, in effect.

- Gilmor also cites the ACLU's active opposition to the 2nd Ammendment as another one of their blind spots. Its a place where they pursue traditional leftism rather than civil liberty.

- Gilmor also states that "censorship to enforce political correctness is epidemic in colleges, frequently to shut down 'conservative' or 'religious' speakers". Kudos to Gilmor for seeing something that ACLU doesn't.. "free speech" means that "religious nuts" can speak too!

Contrasting the ACLU and Gilmor, we see that Gilmor is moreso consistent for civil liberties. The ACLU is highly politicalized. They are not totally ideologically for liberty. They are for a certain ideology and they sing the song of liberty when liberty seems to fall in line with their ideology. I don't agree with Gilmor on many things, but I admire the fact that he stands the line of his ideology for better or for worse. He doesn't care if the speaker is what many would call a "right wing religious nutcase". He's for their free speech. The ACLU is not so principled.

So, apart from Christian worldview related critiques of the ACLU, I think there is a good strong case to make that even an agnostic libertarian, such as I presume John Gilmor is (my apologies if I got that wrong..), can see that the ACLU is by no means some sort of hero in the struggle for civil liberties. Whether or not they want to admit it, they are for liberty and freedom when it fits into their agenda. If the ACLU were consistently for liberty, I think I (and other Christians) could have a whole lot more respect for them. In my view, to be consistently for liberty, they must prove that they are willing to allow Christian thoughts to be uttered in public. Otherwise, they are merely big brother with Christian thoughts as the new "thought crime".

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The "If You..." Book List


If you want to a better Biblical exegete:
Read "Exegetical Fallacies" by D.A. Carson

If you want to learn more about L'Abri:
Read "L'Abri" by Edith Schaeffer

If you want to share a pint with the Puritans:
Read "Drinking With Calvin and Luther!: A History of Alcohol in the Church" by Jim West

If you are having trouble accepting (or understanding) the doctrine of particular redemption:
Read "The Death of Death: in the Death of Jesus Christ" by John Owen

If you're not totally convinced about Reformed Theology:
Read "Easy Chairs, Hard Words: Conversations on the Liberty of God" by Douglas Wilson

If you want to read Bible studies by a famous computer scientist:
Read "3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated" by Donald E. Knuth

The 1960's Counterculture

If you want a fair and balanced Christian perspective on 1960's counterculture:
Read "The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever" by O.S. Guinness

If you want to know whether there ever was a real "Alice D. Millionare":
Read "Brotherhood of Eternal Love" by Stewart Tendler & David May

If you've ever wondered how psychedelic drugs were introduced to America:
Read "The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control" by John Marks

If you wonder about the nitty-gritty details of the Mexican counterculture and music industry:
Read "Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture" by Eric Zolov

Wars And Rumors of Wars

If you think peace has prevailed:
Read "Representations of Violence: Art about the Sierra Leone Civil War" by Patrick K. Muana

If you want to know what a child solider thinks:
Read "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah

If you want to know whether you can trust a Serbian:
Read "Spy/counterspy;: The autobiography of Dusko Popov" by Dushko Popov

Computer Science

If you want to learn a bit about computer forensics:
Read "Forensic Discovery" by Dan Farmer

If you are a computer programmer:
Read "Code Complete" by Steve McConnell

Latin America

If you don't believe Fidel Castro once quoted John Calvin and refers to John Knox:
Read "History Will Absolve Me" by Fidel Castro

If you want to get a balanced perspective on the Cuban revolution:
Read "The Winds of December: The Cuban Revolution of 1958" by John Dorschner


If you want to know whether 'James Bond' was for real:
Read "Spy/counterspy;: The autobiography of Dusko Popov" by Dushko Popov

If you wish your kids were more Cajun literate:
Read "Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood" by Mike Artell

If you think blogging is just hype:
Read "We The Media" by Dan Gilmor

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Neither Here Nor There


  • In my Bible reading, I'm starting II Samuel

Current Events

  • This almost sounds like the beginnings of another cold war.

  • I'm beginning to wonder whether there is any realistic likelyhood that Ron Paul AKA Dr. No may take the office of President in the U.S. in 2008? He is a Republican candidate that has been widely supported by Libertarians as well. He earned his nickname by often being the only "no" vote in Congress on votes that turned out something like 300-1 in favour. He has the amazing audacity to have a constitutional criteria when voting. Ron Paul is also an opponent of the Patriot Act, a liberty threatening bill that both Republicans and Democrats have voted for without actually reading (in the past John Kerry specifically admitted to not reading a portion of it, and the same could be said of some Republican politicians).


  • This article shows you how you can use GnuPG in conjunction with Gmail. I've know that this can be done for a while, but haven't gotten around to it.

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