Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Problem of Good.

How does materialism explain truly gratuitous self-sacrifice?


We feel moved by Vander Woude's sacrifice precisely because it seems selfless — the antithesis of evolutionary self-interestedness.

But why is that? What is it about the story of a man who willingly embraces a revolting, horrifying death in order to save his son that moves us to tears? Why does it seem somehow, like a beautiful painting or piece of music, a fleeting glimpse of perfection in an imperfect world?

I'd say that only theism offers an adequate explanation — and that Christianity might do the best job of all.

Christianity teaches that the creator of the universe became incarnate as a human being, taught humanity (through carefully constructed lessons and examples of his own behavior) how to become like God, and then allowed himself to be unjustly tried, convicted, punished, and killed in the most painful and humiliating manner possible — all as an act of gratuitous love for the very people who did the deed.

Why does Vander Woude's act of sacrifice move us? Maybe because in freely dying for his son, he gives us a fleeting glimpse of the love that moves the sun and the other stars.

Which is to say, he gives us a fleeting glimpse of God.

That might sound outlandish to atheists. But for my money, it comes closer to the truth, and does more to explain the otherwise irreducibly mysterious experience of noble sacrifice than any competing account.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Episcopalians, you can keep her.

Nancy Pelosi is a nasty, corrupt politician.

To "honor the dignity and work of immigrants," Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi helps Bishop Marc Andrus wash the feet of two children Thursday at Saint John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

Pelosi also used the occasion to talk about passing HR15 - bipartisan immigration legislation that her office says would "reduce the deficit by nearly $1 trillion, secure our borders, unite our families, protect our workers and provide an earned pathway to citizenship."

The Democratic leader's ceremony coincides with Pope Francis' similar ceremony in Rome to mark Holy Week. As he did last year, the pope broke with the tradition of washing only priests' feet during the Mass for the Last Supper - this time, washing the feet of disabled people.

This is so sacrilegious from a Catholic standpoint.

Holy Thursday foot-washing symbolizes the institution of the priesthood.  It is not about making a statement about contemporary political issues.

And to correlate her political grandstanding as being a "similar ceremony" to Pope Francis is another example of the idiocy of the media.


More Bartisms -

Ehrman responds to Father Robert Barron:

If The Very Reverend Robert Barron does find my book threatening, it is either because he has not read it closely enough or because he holds to fundamentalist views that have somehow or other managed to work their way into the hearts and minds of the Catholic clergy.   Or both.

Typical Bart Erhman - anyone who disagrees with him must be a fundamentalist. From my review of "Did Jesus Exist?":

Bart Ehrman has two goals in "Did Jesus Exist?" The first is responding to and rebutting the claim of "mythicists" that a person named Jesus who was the basis of the Christian movement never existed, i.e., that "Jesus" was a fictional character invented out of bits and pieces of the world's folklore. The second goal is to respond to the mythicist argument while still maintaining his prior positions that the contemporary view of Jesus held by "very conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Christians" (p. 72) aka "fundamentalist Christians" (p. 74) aka "well funded conservative Christians" (p. 142)aka "fundamentalists and very conservative evangelicals (p. 231) - I made a game of noting the various times Ehrman "poisoned the well" and "strawmanned" opponents who were not "critical scholars" by labeling them with some variant of "conservative" - has no basis in the history of the "real" Jesus.


Also, Ehrman has never strayed very far from his fundamentalist anti-Catholic roots.

Also, what is with the repetition of "The Very Reverend" title?

I've often thought that Ehrman waives his hand at fundamentalist stereotypes of Catholicism in order to "Catholic-bait."  I wrote this in my review:

On the whole, Ehrman's characterizations concerning the "Catholic" position on the perpetual virginity of Mary are intellectually disturbing. Ehrman ought to have a more informed position inasmuch as he has taught the sub-Apostolic Father, including the Proto-Evangelium of James, for the Teaching Company. It's hard to tell with Ehrman whether his claim is just "Catholic-baiting." He may be so used to teaching to "conservative evangelicals" for whom associating anything with Catholicism makes it by definition weird and suspect that his default mode for persuasion is to make such an association with positions he wants to undermine. Alternatively, it may be as I've said, his fundamentalist assumptions still working their ways through his thought.
There is a fundie in the discussion, but it's not Father Barron.

Bart Ehrman - Super Scholar

Is Bart for real? Can he not read? Or is this just his normal disingenuous style?

He writes:

OK, so I’m a bit testy. But what really has sent me over the edge is his claim that my view is simply a re-hashing of Hugh Schonfield’s Passover Plot. Is he SERIOUS? Maybe he forgot what the thesis of the Passover Plot is. Or maybe he doesn’t care, but simply wants to tarnish me by association with an absurd thesis that someone else advanced, which in fact has nothing to do with mine//

But here's Baron's comment:

When I was a teenager, I read British Biblical scholar Hugh Schonfield’s Passover Plot, which lays out the same narrative, and just a few months ago, I read Reza Aslan’s Zealot, which pursues a very similar line, and I’m sure next Christmas or Easter I will read still another iteration of the theory. //

Barron was comparing Aslan to Schonfeld as an example of how anti-Christian arguments get recycled.

He was not comparing Ehrman to Schonfeld.

This is pretty typical, actually, of Ehrman's scholarship.





America as Banana Republic.

The cult of Eva all over again:


WHERE DEM POLITICIANS ARE CONCERNED, THE MEDIA ARE A BUNCH OF ROYALISTS: WaPo: Chelsea Clinton’s news: Not quite a royal baby announcement, but a pretty big deal. The Bush baby just didn’t get the same kind of treatment as Chelsea’s, which got ALL CAPS SQUEE from Candy Crowley on Twitter.//

Wasn't Crowley the "objective journalist" who decided to help out Obama in the second presidential debate?

The Food and Drug Administration has a SWAT team?

Why?

The year before the raid on Wright, a SWAT team from the Food and Drug Administration raided the farm of Dan Allgyer of Lancaster, Pa. His crime was shipping unpasteurized milk across state lines to a cooperative of young women with children in Washington, D.C., called Grass Fed on the Hill. Raw milk can be sold in Pennsylvania, but it is illegal to transport it across state lines. The raid forced Allgyer to close down his business.
Brian Walsh, a senior legal analyst with the Heritage Foundation, says it is inexplicable why so many federal agencies need to be battle-ready: “If these agencies occasionally have a legitimate need for force to execute a warrant, they should be required to call a real law-enforcement agency, one that has a better sense of perspective. The FBI, for example, can draw upon its vast experience to determine whether there is an actual need for a dozen SWAT agents.”//


Thursday, April 17, 2014

But they only lie against bad people....

... until they decide you are a bad person.

One by one, five police officers took the witness stand at the Skokie courthouse late last month for what would typically be a routine hearing on whether evidence in a drug case was properly obtained.

But in a “Perry Mason” moment rarely seen inside an actual courtroom, the inquiry took a surprising turn when the suspect’s lawyer played a police video that contradicted the sworn testimony of the five officers — three from Chicago and two from Glenview, a furious judge found.

Cook County Circuit Judge Catherine Haberkorn suppressed the search and arrest, leading prosecutors to quickly dismiss the felony charges. All five officers were later stripped of their police powers and put on desk duty pending internal investigations. And the state’s attorney’s office is looking into possible criminal violations, according to spokeswoman Sally Daly.

“Obviously, this is very outrageous conduct,” a transcript of the March 31 hearing quoted the judge, a former county prosecutor, as saying. “All officers lied on the stand today. … All their testimony was a lie. So there’s strong evidence it was conspiracy to lie in this case, for everyone to come up with the same lie. … Many, many, many, many times they all lied.”

All five are veteran officers. Glenview Officer Jim Horn declined to comment Monday, while the other four — Sgt. James Padar and Officers Vince Morgan and William Pruente, all assigned to narcotics for Chicago police, and Glenview Sgt. Theresa Urbanowski — could not be reached for comment.
And:

There are a number of reasons for the “testilying” problem. As Alexander points out, even since Younger’s time, the federal government only worsened the incentives by instituting a number of grants that reward police agencies for raw numbers of stops, arrests and convictions, particularly in drug cases. There are professional and financial incentives for racking up the stats, for police agencies as a whole, for the brass who lead them and for individual police officers. And there’s very little pushback for going too far to achieve those numbers.
But video may be making cops honest:

 
Perhaps not in 1967. But that is more and more the case today. All of those recordings are catching more and more cops in the act of lying. Every time a recording shows a cop to have lied, a number of things happen. First, that particular cop is (hopefully) disciplined. That probably doesn’t happen as often as it should, but judges and prosecutors tend to treat perjury much more seriously than they do an illegal search. Yes, in an ideal world, cops would be disciplined as harshly for the act of violating someone’s civil liberties as they are for lying about doing so to a judge or jury after the fact. But we have to work with what we have.
Second, it serves as a warning to other cops who are lying or might lie in the future in police reports and courtrooms. The cameras are rolling. Eventually, you’ll be exposed. And third, it begins to undermine the prestige that police testimony holds with judges, prosecutors and political officials. It isn’t that cops are inherently dishonest people. But they are in fact merely people, subject to the same failings, temptations, bad incentives and trappings of power as someone in any other profession. Put another way, the problem isn’t that cops aren’t capable of telling the truth. The problem is that the courts have treated cops as if they’re incapable of lying. Video is changing that.


California - The Death Spiral State

Thank you, Bill Clinton!

Your open doors immigration policy successfully turned California into a one-party state and opened the door to the kind of ridiculous situation where California Democrats can continue to serve in the Senate after being convicted of corruption.

Besides laws are for the little people:

California State Senator Roderick Wright has been found guilty of living outside his Inglewood district when he successfully ran for his state seat in 2008.
Wright was found guilty by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury who deliberated less than two days before finding the Senator guilty of eight counts, including two counts of perjury, one count of filing a false declaration of candidacy and five counts of fraudulent voting in elections in 2008 and 2009, all felonies.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Slow Death of Free Speech

The old way over-inflated the number of uninsured...but now we want an accurate number.
Convenient.
The nice thing about having a Democrat in the White House is that there is never any bad news.

Waiting for the stories about how consumers are being facing higher food prices....

*Crickets*

Soaring food inflation hits beef, eggs, shrimp and pork prices.

Doesn't fit the narrative of "Hope and Change."


America - Now with More Hope and Change - Banana Republic Edition.

You can trust the IRS with your medical information.

According to new IRS emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from Judicial Watch, former head of tax exempt groups at the IRS Lois Lerner was in contact with the Department of Justice in May 2013 about whether tax exempt groups could be criminally prosecuted for "lying" about political activity.
"I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ ... He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s [sic] could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who "lied" on their 1024s --saying they weren't planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs. I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS," Lerner wrote in a May 8, 2013 email to former Nikole C. Flax, who was former-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller's chief of staff.
And:

Just a few short days later on May 10, 2013, Lerner admitted and apologized for the inappropriate targeting of conservative tea party groups during an American Bar Association Conference after answering a planted question. Further according to Judicial Watch, "In an email to an aide responding to a request for information from a Washington Post reporter, Lerner admits that she “can’t confirm that there was anyone on the other side of the political spectrum” who had been targeted by the IRS. She then adds that “The one with the names used were only know [sic] because they have been very loud in the press.”

In other words, only conservative groups were being looked at for criminal prosecution.


Welcome to 1984.

The government has redefined inflation and unemployment, so that we don't "officially" know that we have higher rates of both than the Carter administration, and now it is redefining "health care enrollment" so we can never know if Obamacare is working.

For several months now, whenever the topic of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act came up, I’ve been saying that it was too soon to tell its ultimate effects. We don’t know how many people have paid for their new insurance policies, or how many of those who bought policies were previously uninsured. For that, I said, we will have to wait for Census Bureau data, which offer the best assessment of the insurance status of the whole population. Other surveys are available, but the samples are smaller, so they’re not as good; the census is the gold standard. Unfortunately, as I invariably noted, these data won’t be available until 2015.

I stand corrected: These data won’t be available at all. Ever.

No, I’m not kidding. I wish I was. The New York Times reports that the Barack Obama administration has changed the survey so that we cannot directly compare the numbers on the uninsured over time.


No wonder kids are coming out of college uneducated - universities measure themselves on racial goals...

... and not, you know, teaching stuff.

“I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, that we as a faculty and staff and student body, as an administration, if we 10 years from now are as white as we are today, we will have failed as a university,” said Bruce Shepard, president of WWU, in a 2012 address.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's things like this, particularly during other people's holidays, that gives normal people the impression that atheists are joyless pimples on the butt of humanity.

Freedom from Religion Foundation Foundation puts up anti-Easter display in Wisconsin.



Stephen Colbert - Catholic Throwdown


We should give George Bernard Shaw a break: in the early 20th Century virtually all socialist atheists were in favor of eugenics and exterminating the unfit.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Harry Reid thinks the bad, disobedient American people should be given a time-out.

The American people must be punished.

//“Well, it’s not over. We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over,” Reid said.//

Wow!!!!!

If that doesn't drop the mask from the face of who Reid thinks the government is, then nothing will.

Of course, the government did declare war on the American people during hte government shut-down last summer.

So there seems to be a pattern here.


If a private company did this, it would used an example of insane corporate greed...

But since it's only your government - and government means "us" ...except for the part about where "we" share the insane profits reaped by the Harry Reid family - It is hunky-dory.

Over the last two or three decades, the Bureau has squeezed the ranchers in southern Nevada by limiting the acres on which their cattle can graze, reducing the number of cattle that can be on federal land, and charging grazing fees for the ever-diminishing privilege. The effect of these restrictions has been to drive the ranchers out of business. Formerly, there were dozens of ranches in the area where Bundy operates. Now, his ranch is the only one. When Bundy refused to pay grazing fees beginning in around 1993, he said something to the effect of, they are supposed to be charging me a fee for managing the land and all they are doing is trying to manage me out of business. Why should I pay them for that?

And:

But the connection is nevertheless important in two respects. First, BLM has promulgated a regional mitigation strategy for the environmental impacts of the solar developments. Let’s pause on that for a moment: the excuse for limiting Bundy’s rights is the endangered desert tortoise. But wait! Don’t they have desert tortoises a few miles away where the solar projects are being built? Of course they do. That’s where they get to the mitigation strategy, which may involve, among other things, moving some desert tortoises to a new location:

The Gold Butte ACEC is preliminarily recommended as the best recipient location for regional mitigation from the Dry Lake SEZ. This ACEC is located 32 miles (51 km) east of the Dry Lake SEZ.

Gold Butte is the area where Bundy ranches. There are a few problems with the Gold Butte location as a mitigation area; one of them is that there are “trespassing” cattle:

The resource values found in the Gold Butte ACEC are threatened by: unauthorized activities, including off-road vehicle use, illegal dumping, and trespass livestock grazing; wildfire; and weed infestation.

So it is possible that the federal government is driving Bundy off federal lands to make way for mitigation activities that enable the solar energy development to the north. But I don’t think it is necessary to go there. Rather–this is the second and more important point–it is obvious that some activities are favored by the Obama administration’s BLM, and others are disfavored. The favored developments include solar and wind projects. No surprise there: the developers of such projects are invariably major Democratic Party donors. Wind and solar energy survive only by virtue of federal subsidies, so influencing people like Barack Obama and Harry Reid is fundamental to the developers’ business plans. Ranchers, on the other hand, ask nothing from the federal government other than the continuation of their historic rights. It is a safe bet that Cliven Bundy is not an Obama or Reid contributor.

The new head of the BLM is a former Reid staffer. Presumably he was placed in his current position on Reid’s recommendation. Harry Reid is known to be a corrupt politician, one who has gotten wealthy on a public employee’s salary, in part, at least, by benefiting from sweetheart real estate deals. Does Harry Reid now control more than 80% of the territory of Nevada? If you need federal authority to conduct business in Nevada–which is overwhelmingly probable–do you need to pay a bribe to Harry Reid or a member of his family to get that permission? Why is it that the BLM is deeply concerned about desert tortoises when it comes to ranchers, but couldn’t care less when the solar power developers from China come calling? Environmentalists have asked this question. Does the difference lie in the fact that Cliven Bundy has never contributed to an Obama or Reid campaign, or paid a bribe to Reid or a member of his family?

Based on the evidence, I would say: yes, that is probably the difference. When the desert tortoises balance out, Occam’s razor tells us that the distinction is political.

So let’s have some sympathy for Cliven Bundy and his family. They don’t have a chance on the law, because under the Endangered Species Act and many other federal statutes, the agencies are always in the right. And their way of life is one that, frankly, is on the outs. They don’t develop apps. They don’t ask for food stamps. It probably has never occurred to them to bribe a politician. They don’t subsist by virtue of government subsidies or regulations that hamstring competitors. They aren’t illegal immigrants. They have never even gone to law school. So what possible place is there for the Bundys in the Age of Obama?//


Free Health Care, smaller drinks and Re-education camps for everyone!

Liberal Totalitarianism comes to New York.

But what's most horrifying in Dromm's remarks is his final say on the matter. You would think that maybe his first statement of unwelcomeness was a knee-jerk and misinformed reaction. What if he were told that Chick-fil-A's CEO has repeatedly said that he has no intention of bringing the company into the political debate surrounding the issue of marriage?

From HuffPost [emphasis added]:

... Dromm, the city councilman, said there was no place for Chick-fil-A in New York, even if it remains out of the political fray.

“We don’t need bigoted people even keeping their opinions to themselves,” he said. “They need to wake up and see reality.”

Not only is the sleight of "bigot," directed toward those who hold marriage to be the union of a man and a woman, completely unfair, mean-spirited, and wide of the mark. More than that: here we have the most compelling proof one could want of Ryan Anderson's assertion that the gay rights community is engaged in a "scorched earth" policy of bigotry and intolerance.

Thoughtcrime will not be tolerated.


Kind of like the inability of the mainstream media to admit to the liberal bias that everyone knows exists.

They have to maintain the moral high-ground even if they have to be lying hypocrites to stay there.

But this respect is difficult to maintain when these institutions will not admit that this is what is going on. Instead, we have the pretense of universality — the insistence that the post-Eich Mozilla is open to all ideas, the invocations of the “spirit of free expression” from a school that’s kicking a controversial speaker off the stage.

And with the pretense, increasingly, comes a dismissive attitude toward those institutions — mostly religious — that do acknowledge their own dogmas and commitments, and ask for the freedom to embody them and live them out.

It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.

I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jay Carney - Admirer of Totalitarianism
But it's OK because it's only Communism.


Global Warming and Corruption in Science

This is from 2010, but I'm posting it because I keep having to demonstrate that, yes, scientists will lie.

The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.

Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.

‘It had importance for the region, so we thought we should put it in.’

Chilling error: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrongly asserted that glaciers in the Himalayas would melt by 2035

Dr Lal’s admission will only add to the mounting furore over the melting glaciers assertion, which the IPCC was last week forced to withdraw because it has no scientific foundation.//


Gas Chambers?  There are no gas chambers. We are just resettling those cows somewhere to the east.

It's not about tortoises; it is about Reid and corruption.

The new head of the BLM, Neil Kornze, worked for Harry Reid as a policy adviser from 2003 to 2011. It is reasonable to assume that Reid got him the BLM job, and I would hazard a guess that Reid saw the situation turning into a public relations disaster–Nevada’s Governor and Senator Dean Heller, both Republicans, were more or less siding with Bundy–and told Kornze to give it up.

It still isn’t clear what the crisis was all about. Rumor has it that Reid wants the land for a giant solar farm that would be supplied by a Chinese company and, presumably, subsidized by the federal government. Reid’s son is apparently a participant in the deal. Whether that is true, I haven’t yet tried to figure out. One thing I will say with some certainty, however, is that tortoises had little or nothing to do with it.


America - Now with Even More Hope and Change.

Having insurance does not equal medical assistance.

I apologize for the confusion; Dr. [insert name] is only willing to see existing patients at this time.”

As a proud new beneficiary of the Affordable Health Care Act, I’d like to report that I am doctorless. Ninety-six. Ninety-six is the number of soul crushing rejections that greeted me as I attempted to find one. It’s the number of physicians whose secretaries feigned empathy while rehearsing the “I’m so sorry” line before curtly hanging up. You see, when the rush of the formerly uninsured came knocking, doctors in my New Jersey town began closing their doors and promptly telling insurance companies that they had no room for new patients.

My shiny, never used Horizon health card is as effective as a dollar bill during the Great Depression. In fact, an expert tells CNN, “I think of (Obamacare) as giving everyone an ATM card in a town where there are no ATM machines.” According to a study 33% of doctors are NOT accepting Medicaid. Here in Jersey, one has a dismal 40 percent chance of finding a doctor who accepts Medicaid – the lowest in the country.

Wow!  Getting health insurance doesn't magically fix the problem?

Obviously, we now need to mandate that doctors see patients.

And then that people go to medical school.

Etc., etc.

But at least we have 800,000 people insured who were never insured before!


Know your place, peasant!

The First Amendment is not for your kind.

The explosive discovery by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that its ranking Democratic member coordinated with the IRS to target True the Vote came as no surprise to its founder and president. She called it “the tip of a very ugly iceberg.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the committee’s chairman, released emails earlier this week strongly suggesting that Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., was in direct communication with disgraced IRS supervisor Lois Lerner in an effort to target True the Vote’s non-profit application.

In an interview with Newsmax, Catherine Engelbrecht, president of True the Vote, a Texas-based conservative organization founded to combat election fraud, said this week’s disclosure gives proof to her earlier claims.

“I’m thrilled to see that these documents are seeing the light of day and my current hope is that we continue on in this discovery process because we’re only beginning to see what I believe is the tip of a very ugly iceberg,” she said.

Through her attorney, Cleta Mitchell, Engelbrecht filed a complaint in February alleging that Cummings was pushing an investigation against True the Vote. He called those charges “absolutely incorrect and untrue” at the time. The emails Issa released this week directly contradict that claim.//



 
Who links to me?