Sunday, September 15, 2013

Babies and Animals Don't Talk like Adults

I hate seeing babies and animals talk on TV. The first 99,999 times maybe it was cute, but now it looks like a cheap substitute for creativity.

McCain and Graham

Is everybody getting as sick of John McCain and his puppet Lindsay Graham as I am?  If so, say "Amen."

Only One A+ TV Commercial

Commercials are a necessary evil if we are to have free TV. Necessary but still an evil. There is one exception that is valuable in and of itself -- the Alka Seltzer  ad starrimg Ralph:

Rating an A and coming in second is the Holiday Inn Express series on staying smart:

Beyond that it's  mostly a wasteland.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Syria: All Options Bad, Well Maybe Not

Sometimes the choice is between better and worse. In Syria the choice is between bad and less bad.
This is why even Jim Wallis could not come up with much. His suggestions about how to proceed are weak. He makes a good case against military intervention, but his positive suggestions rely on moral suasion, international cooperation, and the like. Well and good, but will anything come of it? Not much is my guess.
Go to this address and scroll down to see the article by Jim Wallis:

My problem is trying to avoid despair and to find the least bad option. I do not know what that is yet. Like Wallis, I am wary of military intervention for the reasons he cites. My hunch is that in time the choices may become clearer. Meanwhile, the best we can do is muddle through.

I don't see how a military strike can be avoided at this point. I hope for the best and fear the worst.

PS Good news today  (9/9/2013): Russia has urged that Syrian chemical weapons be put under international control and Syria has responded positively. The Washington Post tells the story:

Syria ‘welcomes’ Russia proposal on chemical arms
The statement provides the first indication that a diplomatic solution to the international standoff may be possible.
Sometimes the news is good. Let us rejoice. Or, maybe as Fareed Zakaria suggests on CNN, it is just a Russian ploy to reduce support for Obama's threat to attack Syria. Time will tell.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Reinhold Niebuhr and Biblical Myth

Reinhold Niebuhr believed that certain central myths of Scripture should be taken "seriously but not literally, e. g., Creation, Incarnation, and Last Things. "Seriously" means that these myths convey truths and meanings essential to "biblical faith." Who determines what these truths and meanings are?  Reinhold Niebuhr, of course. So RN uses these myths as a vehicle for transmitting his view of essential biblical truths. He is no different from any other theologian. Theology is the expression of religious belief. The Nature and Destiny of Man, 2 vol. is the best source for Niebuhr's thought

Rudolf Bultmann thought that myth meant (1) prescientific cosmology, e. g., three-story universe, miracles, etc. and (2) use of spatial metaphors for transcendence. God is up in heaven means that God is transcendent to people and earth. He thought he had to find the religious meanning in the myth taken in non-supernatural terms,

RN thought that RB reduced biblical myth to Heidegger's philosophy of existence, specifically human existence. RB therefore lost something essential to biblical truth,  according to RN.

This is for my friend Ben Jordan and others who are interested.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Windows 8--Love and Hate

I have a new computer with Windows 8. It was not love at first sight. It is much different from previous iterations of Windows. The first reaction was dislike approaching something akin to hatred.

The major change is the elimination of the START  button. Instead you get a panel of installed programs and features. One choice is DESKTOP. That location is the familiar one, and you can proceed much as usual. But other surprises await.

Another innovation is the touch feature. Mostly you can click or touch, but sometimes you can only touch and swipe. This is a modernistic feature familiar to users of smart phones, etc. My dumb cell phone only makes telephone calls.

I tend to forget that the first reaction  to every new computer is similar. You spend a lot of time getting rid of all the installed stuff you don't want. But 8 takes more than the usual reshaping to approach toleration rather than throwing the &^%$ thing out the !@#$% window.

After a week my distaste is weakening but has not disappeared. But I can feel a warm feeling that may yet blossom into appreciation. But accommodation to its demands requires patience. As you know, you do the adapting. It just does what it does do and you can come to terms with it or not. It is a literalist and does exactly what you tell it to do and not what you want it to do.  Such is the nature of computers.

This is a first report. I may yet fall in love with W8. Stay tuned.


PS1 I downloaded a free non-Microsoft program that restored the start button.

PS2 Windows 8.1 due in October will have the traditional start button-- a sign that Microsoft engineers have repented of the error of their ways.  Rumor (I just started it) has it that one of them had a dream about New Coke, awoke, and said "OMG, Windows 8.0 is New Coke."

Friday, February 01, 2013

Why is there a Mexican Immigration Problem?

 Answer: because of the massive subsidies to grain farmers in the US by the federal government. Go to Google, type in "immigration and corn subsidies," and check it out. The following are typical of what you will find:

Remember NAFTA?  That's when the big problems began.

Hmmmm! Why don't we cut off these subsidies?
a. failure of the political process
b. corruption of the political process
c. a and b
d. all of the above

Too simple?  Yes, and some progress is being made, But we are many years too late.

PS Senator Obama of Illinois voted consistently for corn subsidies. (Iowa and Illinois are the two biggest corn producing states.)

See also post of October 15, 2009.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Second Amendment Is a Curse

Whatever its historical merit,  the Second Amendment in 2013 is a hindrance  that we would be better off without. That every discussion of gun rights has to be mediated through this anachronism is an unmitigated disaster that serves no useful purpose.

Even if it were repealed, the legislatures of the land could not be counted on to produce laws that would help much. The problem is much deeper. It lies in our culture. In the final analysis, culture governs politics.

While Newtown may generate  helpful changes in laws and practices, the fundamental transformation that is needed awaits the dissolution of our perverse fascination with guns and our fanatical pursuit of individual rights to the neglect of social responsibility. It waits for the willingness to sacrifice a personal pleasure in owning and shooting instruments of mass murder like  assault rifles if it would reduce their availability to criminals and mentally and emotionally sick people.

I do not see any evidence of that basic reordering of ideas, habits, values, and practices yet. I expect that we will continue to be the worst example of child killing with monstrous weapons among the nations we would like to be compared with.

This is a form of American exceptionalism that we cannot be proud of. How many more Newtowns will it take to produce the kairos that is needed, that right and ripe moment when all the preconditions of  redemptive transformation are present? Enough, I expect to break our hearts many more times.

See also posts of  12/23/2012 and 1/22/2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Letters and Logic: Fallacies Galore

Many decades ago a colleague of mine suggested that students in his logic class look in the letters to the editor section of the paper for examples of sloppy thinking. His advice still works.

It would take a textbook to cover all the errors in thinking. But read the letters critically, and you should have no trouble finding a treasure of  sloppy reasoning.

A common error  is identifying  correlation with causation. If a state with the death penalty has a higher murder rate than a state that does not, some take this to mean that the death penalty has no or little deterrent effect.  Maybe, but there could many causes that affect the murder rate in a given state besides the presence or absence of the death penalty.

Perhaps even more widespread is drawing too large a conclusion from too few facts, too big a generalization from too few particulars.  If the first ten people you see entering a new town are white, you might  conclude that the population is mostly white, whereas they might be the only whites in a village  with twelve  hundred blacks.

On and on it goes.

Thinking is hard work, and few of us do it well. Just take a look at tomorrow's newspaper.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our Gun Aberration: Dangerous and Foolish

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed.

 We have a thing about guns that sets us apart--to our shame and disgrace. The fact is that "guns are involved in a much higher percentage of deaths in the U.S. than just about any other place in the world. . . and guns are more likely than any other weapon to be involved in mass murder in the U.S."
However we argue about the exact statistics, the fact is that our  peculiar gun culture is a blot on our national moral character. 

I don't pretend to understand how this came about in our history.  I do fear that this character defect is not widely or sufficiently recognized.  The debate about guns is superficial until  the deeper issue angers our guts, stirs our hearts, and energizes our minds.

This has little to do with owning guns or hunting or sports shooting.  It has more to do with our values, habits of mind, attitudes toward violence and our toleration and glorification of  it in popular culture --movies, TV, video games, and the like.

The problem is not easily resolved. We cannot even begin to work at it effectively until  our fascination with guns and gun violence becomes a focus of our moral concern equal to that we have given to slavery, segregation, women's rights, workers' rights, and gay rights.

Better regulation can help, and wise laws and practices ought to be enacted. But deeper change awaits a profound and lasting cultural horror at the reality and extent of  gun violence in our midst that leads to repentance and the fruits that follow. It is a change deeper than mere laws, though law has a role.

As long as we argue merely about the government taking or regulating our guns, more Newtowns are in our future. I see little evidence of the deeper revolution of mind and conscience that is needed.