Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Genesis Three

Reading a rather interesting article in Christianity Today recently (well, today, in fact – but I hated to juxtapose “today” with itself in that way) I ran across this:

He was almost correct. The Christian story arguably claims that fear is the second oldest emotion. Love is the first emotion, the love of a newly conscious mankind, freshly stamped in the image of God, living, really living, in balance and the "very good" order of our beginning.

“A monster, you'll remember, breaks that order. A speaking serpent, twined around the forbidden tree hisses its venom into the ears of Eve and Adam, prompting selfishness, guilt, blame, bloodshed, and of course, fear. Fear of God, fear of death, fear of the thousand gradients of pain, of loss, of being preyed upon.”

The article is one of those seasonal things, this one about monsters, as you can see.  But that is not my main point.  I want to discuss Genesis chapter three.

There, you recall, is where something tempts Eve.  The usual idea is that this is a snake of some sort that Satan entered into to speak to Eve.  Long ago, in a seminar on Genesis taught by Dr. Jim Smith of what was then Florida Christian College, I was introduced to the suggestion that in Genesis three “serpent” is a proper name – thus “Serpent” as we style proper names in English.

His suggestion, which is also made in his Old Testament commentaries, is quite compelling, once you are able to get past the “what everybody always says” mindset.  “Serpent” is a name used for Satan elsewhere in the Bible.  Satan is, of course, much more clever that “the beasts of the field” and the text does not necessarily imply he is one of them.  His eventual punishment of “crawling and eating dirt” (my words) is a figure of speech used elsewhere in the Old Testament of those who are “put in their place.”  So it is something along the lines of our still-used “eat dirt, scumbag” of some such.  (You will need to consult his works to learn more about this.  This one in particular.)

One thing is clear:  Dr. Smith’s suggestion is in many ways a very simple explanation, much simpler than the complexities that arise from usual “possessed reptile” explanation.  And when it comes to the logic of explanations, simpler is better.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just the Facts, Ma’am, Just the Facts

In the consideration of many matters, especially controversial ones, objectivity is a difficult goal.  Perhaps it is not even possible.  If all of that is anywhere near the mark, perhaps pretended objectivity is something that some hide behind to try to convince people of their favorite cause.

I read a periodic e-newsletter from Kim Komando.  I would describe it as geeky stuff watered down a bit for the non-geeks who have to deal with digital matters - as most of us do these days.  Kim’s last name really is “Komando.”  She has a syndicated radio show about matters digital, an extensive website devoted to the topic, and she half-jokingly refers to herself as “The Digital Goddess.”

That is all just a bit of background so I can tell you about an e-newsletter I recently received from the Komando empire.  It read:

“Do you have a question about Obamacare?  How about some of those statements made by congressmen and senators?  When you need a hot-button issue checked out, where do you go?  Some sites have a political bias and might skew the facts.  But FactCheck is a neutral site that only gives you the facts behind the rumors circulating around the Internet. Find out what the hot stories are and get the scoop on the facts behind the rumors.”

The point this much is not so much the whole matter of “Obamacare” as it is facts.  Facts, as it turns out, are very interesting things, at least to some.

Kim Komando is very apolitical, at least on her radio show and website.  She hands out lower-end digital advice designed to help non-geeks negotiate their way around the digital world.  When she recommended “” I was interested enough to take a look.  When I looked, on October 12, 2013, the lead story was “Defining Default.”

Remember that, according to Kim, will give us “the scoop on the facts behind the rumors.”  So when I read “Defining Default” I was a bit surprised.  The story opens with this:

“President Obama says failing to raise the debt limit on Oct. 17 will ‘force the United States to default on its obligations.’  Sen. Rand Paul contends ‘there’s no reason for us to default,’ because the government collects enough revenue to meet its interest payments on the debt.”

So who is correct?  The answer, from FactCheck, was, in summary, “It depends on the definition of ‘default’.”  The article then goes on to quote various people, selected by FactCheck of course, who claim in one way or another that unless our national government can continue to borrow more money, “new federal obligation will exceed incoming revenue.”  Yes, but what does that tell us about the “facts” of default?

The contention of many, like Rand Paul who is quoted in the article, is that the Treasury has more than enough money coming in to service its debt.  But to everyone else selected by FactCheck to give an opinion on the matter, this did not matter.  As one of these said, unless you pay for everything the government now pays for “you’re defaulting toward someone.”

The article went on to quote various “money people” who were all very worried about the credit rating of the United States is the debt ceiling were not raised.  The only source that was not worried about this was Moody’s.  The only fact in view here is that as of this morning, the credit limit of the U.S. was raised.  So for now, it is a moot point.

But notice what is assumed by most of those in this article.  First, that a government that continues to borrow and “print money” will be viewed as more credit-worthy than one that does not.  Also, no one mentioned another real fact: the government owns assets, many of which could be sold to raise money to pay bills.  The national government owns nearly a third of the land in this country, just to mention one little item.

But finally, nearly all those quoted in this article simply assumed that unless the government spends at least as much as it is spending now, everything would come grinding to a halt - or at the very least not get on very well.  Does this imply that it is simply impossible for the national government to spend less?  It is difficult to come to any other conclusion.  And if that is a fact, we are really in trouble.

So in regard to Kim Commando and her recommendation of “FactCheck” as a place to cut through the opinions to the facts, in this case, it’s a very significant “FAIL.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Redskins, Whities, Bob Costas, and Other Offensive Terms


I just wanted to watch some football – something I don’t often have time to do. Suddenly, there is Bob Costas editorializing about the horrors of the name “Redskins.” Frankly, my dear Bobby boy, I don’t give a skin. I just wanted to watch football. Apparently, even football is now political and politically correct.

At least, Bob wants it to be. I suppose when you are a sportscaster you begin to long to be a “real” journalist, or some such.

Since Bob insisted on sticking his face in the middle of my screen and complaining about “Redskins” I decided to listen. Bob told me that some team names that involved terms related to “native Americans” (they’re not really, but never mind about that for now) are not so bad. For example, “Chiefs” isn’t bad because, said Bob, it’s not so bad being a chief and no one would be offended by that. He said the same about “Warriors” – but isn’t it a little presumptuous to think that only “red men” (sorry) can be “warriors”?

He wasn’t quite happy with “Indians” but he didn’t have much to say about that one. He reminded us that those nitwits at Miami University (of Ohio) decided a few years ago to give up “Redskins” for “Red Hawks.” (Don’t they still worry about the “red” part?) St. John’s used to be the “Redmen” Bob reminded us, but they switched to “Red Storm.” Still, the “red” problem remains.

So here is Bob’s big conclusion to his rambling rant of regret about that horrible name, “Washington Redskins” –

Redskins” can't possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent. It is fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended. But, if you take a step back, isn't it clear to see how offense “might” legitimately be taken?

So let’s take Bob seriously for a moment and see what comes of it. He claims that “serious offense might legitimately be taken” at the name “Redskins.” Of course, offense is a purely subjective matter in itself. But what might make it “legitimate”?

Let’s try the shoe on the other foot. Should I be offended by being called a “white skin” – or perhaps more accurately, a pink skin? I’m not sure why I should be offended by that. In 2002 at the University of Northern Colorado a basketball team named itself the “Fighting Whities.” It was supposed to be a bit of a joke and comment. I am not at all offended by that, but if I were, would be offense be “legitimate”?

What really offends me is Bob Costas turning my football watching time into an amateur editorializing session.

By the way, Bob, I heard a good joke the other day. It seems the Washington Redskins management has decided to drop the offensive part of their name in response to your insightful editorial. They are going to call themselves simply, “Redskins.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Parks and Recreation–Government Style

Many people think it rather extreme to say, as I do, that governments owning parks is a bad idea. It was one of many bad ideas from so-called “Progressives” back when that was a new, hot idea. But there are many good reasons why governments owning parks is a bad idea.

Progressives did and do worry, or so they say, that if governments didn’t own parks, we ordinary peons would never be able to enjoy nature. Rather, they say, the rich and the powerful would control all the good places, and they would selfishly keep them for themselves, or charge us outrageous prices to visit the wonder-filled places.

So we have many grand parks owned by the national government, and many owned by state governments. There is this fiction propagated by agents of governments that parks belong to us all, collectively, in some way. I’ve always wondered why, if this is the case, I can’t sell my part. But leave that for now.

This most recent government shutdown has caused the progressive statists to reveal their hand in this matter, and it is not a pretty picture. Suddenly, the trails, sights, and statues are closed. We can’t go near them, we can’t view them. But clearly, looking at something, or walking down a trail, does not incur any immediate cost. Even supporters of progressive statism seem willing to admit that this is being done for political purposes, just to make “the public” uncomfortable and upset with political opponents of the current administration.

You might like to think that this is just an example of bad government. But it is much more than that. It is a public illustration of why governments should do as little as possible. Governments don’t need to own parks. We have unfortunately become accustomed to that arrangement, but that does not make it a good idea.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather some rich, greedy guy owning a place I would like to visit, simply because his greed will cause him to want to charge people to us his place. If he is greedy, he won’t charge exorbitantly or people won’t take him up on the deal. But you won’t have to worry about him letting you in. Pay your $s if and when you want to visit, and everyone will be happy.

On the other hand, as we now clearly see, when governments own parks they can and will hold those parks hostage for political purposes. Even though you have already paid for the park via taxes to government, you can’t use it because the President is angry with the House of Representatives.  Nice, isn’t it?

So if you even entertained the thought that things like parks, libraries, museums, and such are good things for governments to own and control, maybe the current display of capriciousness and idiocy by our glorious government will help you rethink your view.