Thursday, January 31, 2008

Annotated Quotes

Some "good" and "bad" quotes..

"Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind."
-- U.S. General William Westmoreland

Comments: Yes. Clarity is one virtue of a dictatorship.

"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it." -- George Bernard Shaw

Comments: This quote is insightful in that it points to the fact that behind almost all rejections of political liberty is an underlining fear of it.

"I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe ... Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence, I must confess that I do apprehend some danger." -- Daniel Webster, June 1, 1837

Comments: In other words, foreign foes are most often pointed to by leaders wishing to grip control, but the real threat is usually much closer to home.

"If the personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution inhibit the government's ability to govern the people, we should look to limit those guarantees."
-- President Bill Clinton, August 12, 1993

Comments: This is Bill openly sharing the contempt that he and most politicians have for individual liberties. It is sad, very sad. I'm sure Thomas Jefferson and others would be rolling in their grave.

"Give me Liberty or give me... well, whatever you thinks is best for society"
-- Slashdot .sig

Comments: This ought to be the rallying call of today's nanny state.

"People who are willing to rely on the government to keep them safe are pretty much standing on Darwin's mat, pounding on the door, screaming, 'Take me, take me!'"
-- Carl Jacobs, Alt.Sysadmin.Recovery

Comments: I'm no Darwinist, but there is some insight in this comment.

"When the President does it, that means that it's not illegal."
-- Richard M. Nixon in an interview with David Frost, 19th May, 1977

Comments: Unfortunately, this is the "above the law" attitude that many world leaders have. But it isn't even just the law they play fast and loose with, its actually peoples lives and their nations futures.

"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual)" --Ayn Rand

Comments: This could be called the "tyranny of the majority". Two wolves and a lamb voting on the lambs fate will never fall in favor of the lamb. So, this would be why unrestrained democracy isn't a good thing. By "restraint", I mean something that prevents liberties from being voted away.

"We must ensure that new technology does not mean new and sophisticated criminal and terrorist activity which leaves law enforcement outmatched -- we can't allow that to happen"
-- Al Gore - Sept. 16, 1998

Comment: This statement wouldn't be so bad if Gore was proposing that law enforcement get going on technical development to keep pace. But sadly, he, along with most politicians, would rather take the opposite route of holding back technology (through legislation and general interference). A great example of this is cryptography. Rather than turning their attention to developing and working on great crytographical research for government purposes, many governments just harass people who develop the technology in hopes that they can keep it out of the hands of terrorists and criminals (when really all they do is annoy law-abiding citizens).


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bill Gates Criticizes Capitalism?

The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) put out a press release today criticizing Bill Gates for statements about "creative capitalism" that he made at the World Economic Forum.

According to the ARI, Bill's speech "essentially blames Western capitalism for the Third World’s poverty". They also say that "not one word of Gates’s speech calls for poor countries to change their anti-capitalist governments" and “No matter how many billions Bill Gates gives to poor nations, until he starts advocating universal capitalism instead of attacking it, he is acting as an enemy of prosperity in the undeveloped world".

You can read the entire speech for yourself.

While the ARI may be overreacting a bit, I think their concerns about what Bill is saying are very valid. While Bill makes some interesting points, I do think his "creative capitalism" is very flawed.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Classmates on Facebook

These days its hard to find people that aren't on Facebook. It seems everyone and their grandfather is on the site.

For an example of this, take my former classmates:

From my kindergarden class (circa 1986/87), 6 out of 15 people are known to be on Facebook.

For my 2nd grade class (circa 1989), 15 out of 26 people.

For my 5th grade class, it is 11 out of 23 people.

For my 6th grade class, it is 16 out of 26 people.

For my 8th grade class, it is 13 out of 25 people.

And so forth. Of course, the figures are probably near 90% when you account for the fact that I many people are on Facebook, but not well-connected with their old classmates.

Pretty amazing, eh?

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The Libertarian Party's Response

U.S. Libertarian Party National Chairman William Redpath responded today to yesterday's State of the Union address by President Bush.

This is not an entire reproduction of the comments, but merely a few excerpts:

"Tonight's State of the Union address went much as expected. Instead of calling for a more limited role of the federal government in American society, the President laid out plans that would only increase the government's intervention into the realm of economics, health care, education and foreign policy. It is unfortunate to see that after seven years of increasing the size of government and increasing the government's presence in the day to day lives of all Americans, the President refuses to limit the scope of the federal government, a once championed virtue of the President's party."

"The President's economic stimulus plan is based on a flawed and outdated economic premise. The best solution to an economic slowdown is increasing the ability for businesses to grow and reinvest in the economy. Instead of increasing the federal deficit by $150 billion dollars, the federal government should focus its energy on eliminating taxes that restrain economic growth. "

"America will spend more than $1 trillion dollars in foreign wars started during the Bush administration. Because of such, the economy is in jeopardy and America's reputation abroad has suffered traumatic blows. On top of this, Americans have seen their civil liberties violated time after time. The Libertarian Party calls for a withdrawal from Iraq following the proper lines of withdrawal, executed by our commanders on the ground. We also call for an abandonment of the reckless policy of pre-emptive war, and a restoration of civil liberties lost under such laws as the Patriot Act and the amendments to FISA."

The entire text is here.

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The State Of The Union: Things Left Out

I'm not anti-Bush and I don't have an axe to grind against him personally. I would gladly have him preside over the USA over and against John Kerry, Al Gore or Hillary Clinton. Of course, that isn't saying too much. And then again, I think the best option would be an emphatic: NONE OF THE ABOVE.

Since I'm an evangelical Christian and a capitalist, some may assume I've loved his presidency. But that is not the case, I have some very serious concerns about a number of things he's done in office. He's done SOME good things. However, his legacy has some serious problems and it turned out considerably worse than I originally thought it would be.

Here is a list of some areas of major concern, especially from my perspective as a libertarian. As a non-American, I concur that I may not have all my facts right. But I've done my best to ascertain these facts. If anything here is incorrect, I'd appreciate corrections, preferably with citations (so I can become more informed).

(I must at this point also note that various branches of government are also responsible for each of these problems, so the blame clearly doesn't merely fall on the President)

1. Bush's government attacked and took over two countries. In Afghanistan, the initial mission was to go after Bin Laden, but got sidelined in an exercise of nation building. Suddenly Bin Laden took the background. And in Iraq, Bin Laden was suddenly forgotten. The war in Iraq proceeded with a blatant disregard for the constitution. This is a foreign policy which is neither sustainable nor in America's best interests. Bush was elected on a humble foreign policy rejecting Clintonian interventionism, but that changed very quickly. And I believe that Bush has continued to maintain bad foreign policy in other places, such as Cuba and the ongoing rhetoric on Iran.

2. At the end of the day, the war on terror has been expanded to what is effectively a war on the liberties of U.S. citizens. The Patriot Act makes many Americans consider the following axim: "Osama Bin Laden is ostensibly a free man. But are you? ". Liberties long cherished by Americans are disintegrating. The act dramatically increases the shroud of secrecy revolving around government investigations. It dramatically expands the ability of states and the Federal Government to conduct surveillance of American citizens. The federal government becomes able to execute wiretaps without judicial oversight. And the violations of privacy filter down to the Internet and libraries. And it doesn't limit these powers for use on suspected terrorists. It is a dramatic plunge towards an Orwellian police state, and it was taken under the rhetorical banner of "the war on terror". How else would you get people to swallow this? And, in general, the ability to live free without government intrusion is declining. This leads some American citizens to wonder: Why are we trying to "export" freedom to other lands when we aren't doing a good job of keeping our own land and people free?

3. The Bush government in many ways was NOT fiscally conservative. I've seen different figures, but it seems clear that there is a HUGE deficit. Clearly, budget spending has been tremendously high. Clearly there is much "residual prosperity", but there is a clear decline and there are many factors to that. One thing is clear--the Bush government hasn't been very conservative in their economics. In the words of David Boaz from the Cato institute: "The Bush administration has delivered massive spending, centralization of education, expansion of entitlement". And in the words of Douglas Wilson: "The first round of compassionate conservatism under George II seems to have consisted of nothing more than widening the national rat hole so that we could throw more tax dollars down it:"

4. To go along with the last point, the Bush government has been steadily increasing the size of government in a way that would have Democrats drooling. This was one of the must un-Reagan Republican governments ever.

5. And really, besides all the rhetoric about "family values", what has the administration done for "family values"?

A Democratic party candidate would probably not do any better, and in many ways worse. Mainline Democrats and mainline Republicans have their disagreements: but they are agreed on authoritarianism and statism. Sometimes for devious reasons, perhaps, but often through good ol' fashioned neglect. In fact, former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry admitted to not even reading the Patriot Act. And he voted FOR it! And that's a 'civil liberties issue' which the Democrats CLAIM to be champions of.

It is common for Christians to get all defensive about the Bush government. I think we should evaluate it fairly (not pandering to overly-sympathetic rhetoric nor overly-critical rhetoric). Those who think it is an offense against Christianity to have second thoughts about the Bush legacy ought to consider the following: What would you think if a Democrat-party president did the following: observed Ramadan in the White House, conducted a polytheistic worship service in the National Cathedral, offered reverence in a Shinto shrine in Japan, etc.? Well, Bush did all those things (as noted by Douglas Wilson). Isn't it sort of a double-standard to hammer Democrats for doing the very things that Bush is doing?

Sorry, George, I'll take "sensible" libertarianism over "compassionate" conservatism any day. I think the surprising explosion of support within the Republican party for Ron Paul is just one small ruffle in the leaves that may suggest that many conservatives have had their dose of "compassionate conservatism" and are just about ready to go "cold turkey".

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Presidential Candidates: Check Your Facts!

A few quick examples of false statements in the recent U.S. campaigns for the nomination of the Republican and Democratic parties:

1. Mitt Romney has apparently denied publicly what his advertising campaign has affirmed.

2. Mitt Romney seems to have made a false statement about Mitt Romney's foreign policy stance.

3. Barack Obama appears to have put some words in Hillary's mouth.

4. Fred Thompson seems to have some facts on the Iraq Study Group wrong.

5. Hillary Clinton seems to have falsely claimed that Bush has decreased funding for the National Institute of Health.

6. While it is a subjective statement, Rudy Giuliani's claim that he is among the 4-5 best-known American's in the world, appears to be false by any estimation.

7. Barack Obama seems to have falsely claimed that gas prices have never been higher than now.

8. Mike Huckabee seems to have greatly exaggerated the number of signers of the Declaration of Independance who were also clergymen.

If this is already going on, what will happen once these people get elected? It doesn't get any easier to be truthful and accurate once the complexities of being in office are in place.

Of course, when you say a lot, it is easy to say things that aren't accurate. But, it must also be noted that these sort of inevitable errors are usually multiplied when we try to be "wishy-washy" and dance around with the facts. To err is human, but by the same token when the same errors are repeated over and over, it should give us cause for concern.

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A Couple Excerpts from Mother Kirk

Here are a couple of good excerpts from "Mother Kirk" by Douglas Wilson:

Excerpt 1: "We are just disobedient in our worship as they [ancient Baal worshippers] were but are too lazy to even create a false religion. So we just make up something that fits in with the zoning regulations and call it good....We build temples to the gods of commerce, and this is why the modern church looks like a shopping mall, sprawling and flat, plenty of parking, Visa and MasterCard accepted...Just like Alice's restaurant, you can get anything you want. Churches now have weight rooms, they have food courts, they have Christian book stores. In the old days, this last item would not have been a matter of shame, but in the old days, Christian book stores had Christian books in them...

We hustle and sell because we think we need customers. We market the church because we think the gospel is a product. Because we think the gospel is a product, we measure our success by counting the dollars that flow in. If the stream slows down, we do what all enterprising entrepreneurs do--modify the product until it is more to the customers' liking. The customer, as the fellow said, is always right. But Jesus said that you cannot serve God and mammon...Christ cleansed the Temple because the avaricious had made it a den of thieves. We have thought to do them one better and have tried to turn a den of thieves into a temple.."


Excerpt 2: "We live in an era which places a high value on the hardness of heart. We can tell this by our love of soft teaching. Of course this is not how we describe it inwardly. In speaking to ourselves, we generally have a most appreciative audience, we have great affection for smooth words, words which go down easily. Jeremiah talked about this 'The have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; where there is no peace" (Jer.6:14)

We like to believe that this love of soft words, words which will trouble neither the mind nor the heart, nor anything in between, is a deep love of tenderness. Such a conviction flatters us, but our love is actually the opposite of tenderness.

If our hearts were a slab of concrete, and we wanted to keep them that way, our desire to have them caressed with a feather duster would exhibit no love of tenderness, but rather the contrary. The one who really wanted a tender heart would be calling for the jackhammer. Hard words, hard teaching, are the jackhammer of God. It takes a great deal to break up our hard hearts, and the God of all mercy is willing to do it. But He always does it according to His Word, and His Word is not as easy on us as we would like. 'Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?' (Jer.23:29).

When Christians call for smooth words, easy word, the result is hard people. When we submit to hard words, we become the tenderhearted of God."


Countries I've Been To (Via My Blog)

Friday, January 25, 2008

John Perry Barlow & Ron Paul on PBS

PBS had a pretty interesting show not long ago. First, they ran a story on Ron Paul's campaign. Then they interviewed John Perry Barlow, a lyricist and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Barlow spoke of something Kurt Vonnegut came up with, the idea of having a Minister of Future in the cabinet.

Here's the written summary from PBS: "NOW explores how the Texas congressman and his supporters are using the Internet to attract voters -- and massive contributions -- from across the political spectrum. Plus an interview with online civil liberties activist and former Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow."

Here's the clip.

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He Actually Reads?

This satirical news piece is simultaneously funny and sad. It makes light of the fact that the reading of good books is becoming so marginalized in this day and age.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Website for Alpha & Omega Ministries

James White's Alpha & Omega Ministries has a new website. I don't like it one bit. I like the work they do, but I don't think I'll ever get used to this change. They have improved the navigation in some senses, but overall I'd say it's a downgrade. The scrolling is also very fluky (at least on my Ubuntu/Firefox installation).

I'm becoming more and more of a curmudgeon in regard to website redesigns. First I diss the new design, and then I diss Alpha & Omega's new design. It certainly isn't because I'm able to do better or anything (I'm not a good web designer). So, either it's just because I'm disturbed about things not remaining predictable, or the new changes weren't all that great after all (sometimes changes look good to those who initiate them merely because they are something new).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What's In A President's Name?

I've been watching the U.S. Presidential primaries and debates. Its no secret by now that I can't stand any of the candidates besides Ron Paul. One thing that amuses me is the supple collection of nicknames that get thrown around by political pundits. Here's a collection.

Disclaimer: Some of them are mean-spirited. I've purposely omitted explicitly vulgar ones, but there still are ones that are highly insulting. I HAVE NOT COINED ANY OF THESE NEITHER WOULD I USE THEM. I don't believe in character attacks and name-calling. But I found these in use and I do find some of them slightly amusing. It goes to show that the collection of candidates is, uhhmm, rather less than impressive!

Mike Huckabee:
The Republican Jimmy Carter
The Huckster
The Economic Retard
Tax Hike Mike
Huckabee Finn

John McCain:
The Maverick
Bush on Steroids
Alpha Sneeze
Geraldo Rivera Republican

Mitt Romney:
The Fake Conservative
The Everlasting Crescendo
Multiple Choice Mitt
The Flipper
Fib Romney

Rudy Guliani:
The Hawk
Bush III
Bush on Steroids
The Dictator
Senor Nuevo Once
Cheney Jr.
America's Mayor
The Anti-statesman
Loose Canon
Rudi Julieannie

Ron Paul:
Dr No
The Taxpayers Best Friend
Mister Grumpy Squid
Ron Paul Stiltskin
Mr Magoo

Dennis Kucinich:
Dennis The Menace
Tractor Necktie

Hillary Clinton:
Sweet Lady Peanuts
Lil 'Hill
Hilla the Hun
Robbery Hillham
Hugo Chavez in a Pantsuit
The Two Headed Monster

John Edwards:
Breck Girl
Silky Pony

Barak Obama:
Big O
The Wax Sandwich
Oreo Rookie
Barack Hussein Odumbo
Pet Rock

Who said politics couldn't get nasty? In my opinion, we don't even need those nicknames. The vast majority of the candidates have already discredited and humiliated themselves through their actions.

All I can say is: Go Ron Paul! Not a perfect guy, but he sure looks perfect compared to who he's running against! It would be a miracle if he wins the primary, but hopefully he can at least make some people think and show that libertarianism is a live and well!


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Huckabee Is Against Sending Rice to Cuba

Check out this video. It appears that Mike Huckabee, who once advocated exporting rice to Cuba, now sees sending rice to Cuba as supporting terrorism.

With the way Huckabee talks about Cuba (very prominently on his issues page), one might think he was running for President of Miami!!! Of course "scoring" (thats the word the reporter in the video used) the support of key Miamian Cuban emigrees is a key to any successful Republican's campaign. After reading what his website has to say about Cuba, I thought I would show what is actually implied in what he says. On the surface it may not sound so bad, but when you understanding some of the implications, it really is quite bad. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a free and non-totalitarian Cuba, but this stuff Huckabee is saying is ridiculous.


Huckabee says (with implications added):
"The United States must continue to lead the world in condemning the human rights abuses inflicted on the Cuban people [while ignoring those of other countries] and isolating Castro's tyrannical regime [and America's citizen's freedom of trade] both economically and diplomatically[, even though this sort of isolation has proven to aid rather than combat tyranny and is probably part of the reason Fidel is still in power]."

Huckabee says (with implications added):
"As President, I will oppose any efforts to lift trade and travel restrictions on the Cuban dictatorship [as well as American citizens right to practice capitalism with Cubans] and will veto any legislation seeking to lift these restrictions [on Cuba and our own citizens] until three conditions are met [by Cuba but not by a handful of other countries we have friendly relations with]: scheduling of free, fair and internationally-supervised multi-party elections, freeing of all political prisoners, and legalization of all political activity and [the] civil liberties [which our citizens have to some degree or another but I find rather unsightly, and will probably motion to veto them as the chance arises]".

Compare those thoughts of Huckabee (remembering of course, that my additions are not his literal words) with the simple but very sane advice of Ron Paul: "Stop interfering with Latin America; talk & trade instead...Actually, I believe we're at a time where we even ought to talk to Cuba and trade and travel to Cuba".

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Riddlebarger on Huckabee

Kim Riddlebarger has some thoughts on U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Yes, Huckabee seems to be the candidate of choice of many evangelicals. But, along with Mr. Riddlebarger, I don't get a warm and fuzzy feelings when I think of Huckabee.