Monday, November 15, 2010

Which is it?

find this comic strip here

 Mother Goose and Grimm for 11/14/2010

Kent asks:  “Aliens, or environmentalists?

Ancient Jewish Rabbis


A Christian liberal scholar with some big (conventional) ideas

Scholar lecturing Sunday on early church

November 14, 2010 6:11 AM


The Gazette

The Rev. Robin Meyers yearns for a return to early Christianity and predicts a revival of the faith. . . Meyers, senior pastor of Mayflower Congregation in Oklahoma City will be at First Congregational Church downtown today to give a free lecture during services and lead a workshop.  The lecture is titled “Jesus: Galilean Sage or Supernatural Savior?”  It’s the “or,” rather than an “and,” that causes some fuss.

Most Christians believe Jesus was both human and divine. But Meyers told me, “We have to demote Jesus, strip away the supernatural that got layered on by the church and culminated in the creeds.”  Meyers, 58, is a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma City University, and author of six books, most recently “Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus.”

Since the 19th century, scholars have discovered that other gospels existed in first-century Palestine besides the canonized books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Meyers says that era was a combustible time in which competing groups formed allegiances around their favorite gospel.

But Meyers goes further than most scholars by drawing similarities between then and now. The period of the “early church was just as fragmented and contentious as today,” Meyers said. “Our theological debates haven’t brought the kingdom any closer.”

But there is a silver lining.  The early Christians overcame their divisions to embrace what they held in common, such as love of Jesus and helping the poor, Meyers said. “They had not commonality of beliefs but commonality of spirit.”  He says this is what Christianity can become.

Kent comments:

Nothing here is truly newsworthy.  The classical Liberal version of (something like) Christianity is on display here in microcosm, and it has been around a long time.  Jesus was just a man.  The church of the second century or later dreamed up ‘the Christ’ idea and imposed it on the simple, primitive Christian faith.  And if we would just stop debating theology, we could all be united, just ‘love Jesus’ and help the poor.

We could probably also sing that old Coke jingle, “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony . . .” while holding hands on some hilltop.

What I have always wondered about this classical Liberal version of (something like) Christianity is this:  what about some merely human Jewish guy from the first century is supposed to make me want to be a mellow fellow who helps the poor?  So some fellow named Joshua (or Jesus, pick you favorite) thought people should help the poor.  It would not be surprising that many first-century Jewish males were named Joshua, or that one of them liked the idea of helping the poor – so what?

And since, according to this kind of Liberalism, there were many competing and conflicting ‘gospels’, why should we think that the ‘help the poor’ parts are any more likely to be accurate than the other parts that Liberals always want to disregard?

What is a bit alarming is that it has become increasingly common among Christians and churches who do not overtly profess this versions of ‘Christianity’ to hear statements like this:  “Let’s not debate theology.  Let’s just love Jesus and help the poor.  Then we will all be united and all will be right with the world.”

Those who think Jesus was just a witty first century Jewish rabbi have no good reason to follow him.  There were other witty Jewish rabbis.  And as one of them said, “If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."  (1 Corinthians 15:32)

If the dead are not raised, then stop wasting your time talking about Christianity.  Go do something – anything – you want to do, and let ancient dead Jewish rabbis quietly inhabit the dustbin of history.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just Another ‘Dummy’

Bill Gates: Capitalism Has 'Systemic' Problems Government Should Address

Bill Gates says that the federal government’s job is to address the “systemic” problems of capitalism.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Nicholas Ballasy

( - The CEO and Chairman of Microsoft Bill Gates said that capitalism’s “systemic" problems are not doing enough for research and “the needs of the poorest.”

“In general, the world underfunds research because the person who takes the risk of doing the research doesn’t capture the full benefit of having done it; and so you know, capitalism does amazing things but it has one systemic problem in terms of research -- that it won’t do enough,” Gates said at the mHealth summit in Washington on Tuesday.

Capitalism "has another systemic problem in that the needs of the poorest will not be prioritized the way they would if you put a more human-values-driven system in. Now, of course we have government that comes in and does its best to take, you know, the beauties of capitalism, which work for so many things and is so fantastic and whenever it can be used, it is better than government.”

Kent comments:

Whether you love, hate, or are indifferent to Microsoft products, you have to admire Bill Gates as an inventor, developer, and businessman.  But his great success in these areas does not prove his competence anywhere else, as evidenced by his comments above.

I am going to talk about ‘the market’ here.  There is, among those who care, a substantial debate about the appropriateness of thinking of ‘the market’ as capitalism.  After all, ‘capitalism’ was the derisive name Marx applied to the free market.

There is also the problem of just how appropriate, and helpful for understanding, it is to think of ‘the free market’ as some kind of independent entity.  When I talk about ‘the free market’ I am talking about what happens when individuals are generally unhindered by outside forces (like governments, or other thugs) in their economic exchanges.  If you are clear on how I am using the terms, let’s consider what Mr. Gates says about capitalism.

‘The world’ does not ‘underfund’ anything, because ‘the world’ cannot fund anything.  Individuals with funds do all the funding in the world.  Now if people are free to use their funds as they desire (and this is a theological point because of the Eighth Commandment), then they will fund research just as much as they wish.  So when Mr. Gates says capitalism “won’t do enough” research, what he is really saying is that free people won’t do as much research as he thinks should be done.  But when he tries to make what he wants normative for everyone else, he reveals something of a tyrannical tendency.

Bill can fund just as much research as his billions will fund.  But he has no business, and certainly no moral right, to tell the rest of us how much research we should fund.  In fact, his whole comment here is just a bit idiotic.

Mr. Gates’ second comment seems to deteriorate into some kind of babble, but I think I can detect what he is trying – without much eloquence – to say.  “The needs of the poorest will not be prioritized the way they would” in a “more human-values-driven system.”  Mr. Gates is thinking in terms of ‘systems.’  Perhaps we should expect this from a computer guy.  But free people acting as they will economically is not a ‘system’ in this sense.

All the individuals in the world who work, buy, build, trade, and so forth are human beings.  One of the things they can and do decide to do is give of their resources to help the needy.  Since they are human beings, what they do is – of course – driven by ‘human values.’  Some value charity more than others.  But in a free market it has little to do with any ‘system’ .

A free market is free just because no economic values are imposed on anyone.  This is not a ‘system’ – it is an anti-system.  If Mr. Gates does not agree with the human values of the human beings who interact in the market, he would be free in a free market to try to convince people to adopt different, more charity-oriented values.

He could start by giving away more of his billions to the needy.  His foundation does some of this sort of thing.  Unfortunately, his foundation also gives grants to groups to help them get government funding.  This kind of funding necessarily comes at the expense of the market and at the expense of freedom.

Bill Gates might know a lot about operating systems for computers.  But when it comes to freedom, ‘capitalism’ and the market, he really needs to read one of those “For Dummies” books.

Saturday, November 6, 2010



News Edmonton

Thieves steal $3,600 from single mom, toddler

Last Updated: October 5, 2010 6:20pm

All it took was a few seconds for thieves to swipe a single mother's wallet from her Edmonton workplace and a few hours to empty her bank accounts.  "It feels violating. It really is scary," said Randi Pliska on Tuesday, a 28-year-old salesperson.

On Monday afternoon, Pliska said she was working at The Brick mattress shop downtown when two women came into the store. One distracted her, while the other swiped her wallet from behind the counter.

Two hours later, the thieves phoned, posing as bank officials, to notify her of "suspicious activity," she said.  They requested banking details, including her pin number, and her address. She unknowingly provided the information.  In half an hour, the culprits drained about $3,600 from her accounts, including a few hundred dollars from her toddler's savings account.

"They sounded legit. I wasn't thinking about it at all," said the Fort Saskatchewan resident. Pliska said she was saving cash for her son's first car and college.  "They stole from my three-year-old son. How sad is that?" she said.

Pliska said she reported the incident to police and the banks. She said the bank may not return the stolen cash because she provided her pin number to the crooks.

Kent comments:

There is both good news and bad news here.  First the bad news:  this poor lady can vote (and a host of other things only responsible adults should be allowed to do).

The good news:  she lives in Canada (which is only good news if you don’t live in Canada).

Moral to the story:  PIN numbers are supposed to be kept secret.  If you receive a random call from someone asking for yours, it would probably be better not to reveal them.  In fact, the very definition of “suspicious activity” is someone calling you to ask for your PIN number.

The story says Randi “unknowingly” provided the information.  There’s an understatement.  What Randi seems not to have known is that you should not broadcast your banking information!

Or, you could just post all your PIN numbers, and account numbers, on the internet.

Note to Randi:  someday, when your son is older and wonders what happened to his car money, please don’t tell him.  It might be embarrassing!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Phony ‘Pro-Lifers’ Punished

from Christianity Today

Pro-Life Democrats Ousted as Election Centers on the Economy
Anti-abortion groups spent millions against supporters of healthcare reform bill.

Paige Winfield Cunningham in Washington, D.C. | posted 11/03/2010 11:54AM

Abortion issues seemed left in the dust as economic concerns drove this year's election, but on Tuesday voters ousted several pro-life Democrats and ushered in fiscal conservatives who tend to oppose abortion.

As the names of defeated pro-life Democrats flashed across the screen Tuesday night, triumphant cheers erupted at Morton's Steakhouse, where staff and supporters of the Susan B. Anthony List (SBAL) had gathered to watch election returns.

SBAL, which works to elect pro-life women to office, typically supports pro-life members of both parties. But that largely changed this year after most pro-life Democrats voted for the federal healthcare bill that many abortion opponents say allows for federal funding of abortion.

Three of the four Democrats most heavily targeted by SBAL lost their seats, including Reps. Steve Driehaus (Ohio) and Kathy Dahlkemper (Penn.). Overall, 10 of 17 pro-life Democrats who voted for the healthcare bill were defeated on Tuesday, according to SBAL.

Kent comments:

The very premise of this report is faulty.  The “pro-life” Democrats who were “ousted” were not pro-life.  When push came to shove – which in this case means when pro-life came up against doing what the Obama political machine wanted – pro-life took a back seat.  (Personal note:  I was more than pleased to see my neighbors across the river dump that dupe of Obamaism, Steve Driehaus.)

It is too bad that Paige Cunningham, who wrote the article above, shirked reporting responsibility and hid in the phrase “the federal healthcare bill that many abortion opponents say allows for federal funding of abortion.”  Abortion opponents are not the only ones who think that.  In fact, it is already being done:

Maryland will join Pennsylvania as the second state to use federal tax dollars to pay for abortions under the new health care law signed by President Barack Obama in March, according to information released by Maryland’s State Health Insurance Plan.  (see the whole report here)

Some reporters bothered to look into the healthcare bill to see just how this could take place.  (Reporting that goes only to the level of what some group of person thinks or says is very shallow, and far too common today.  What some official says about some matter if fine as an introduction.  But real reporting would explore not just what someone thinks or says, but whether or not the thing said is true!  Is this kind of reporting a tacit bow to the idea that truth, even if it exists, is unknowable?)

So, if you were a pro-life voter, you naturally wanted to see these “sort-of-prolife-except-when-my-party-pushes-me” Democrats booted from Congress.

It would be wonderful if there were a significant contingent of pro-life-no-matter-what Democrats at the national level.  Unfortunately, it appears to be the case that the leadership of the Democrats does not truly welcome pro-life people.  It also appears that Democrat candidates at the national level are often pro-life, not from core principles, but because they are from constituencies where life is a significant concern.

As in the case of Driehaus of Ohio, the vote on Obamacare simply pointed out the real loyalty of some of these (former) members of Congress – and it was not with the protection of innocent life.