Archive for the ‘Liberties’ Category

What Is Man? by Mark Twain

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Interesting story. It’s a series of conversations between an old man and a young man. The old man posits that man is essentially a machine whose character is the product of his inborn temperament, outside influences, and nothing else. This makes us no different than animals. The young man tries to argue against these ideas, but all his arguments break down. Other interesting ideas include that there is no life-long search of truth, we only seek until we find something suitable and then spend the rest of our lives defending that truth; that our only goal is to satisfy our hunger for self-approval; and that all our virtues come from God.

It’s not a full book, but not super short, either. I think it took me a little over an hour to read.

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C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness

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“Mere Christianity”, Book 3, Chapter 7:

Select quotes:

Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. “That sort of talk makes them sick,” they say. And half of you already want to ask me, “I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?”

So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must not deny my religion even to save myself from death by torture, I wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you in this book what I could do—I can do precious little—I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.” There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly dear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. What are we to do?

It is going to be hard enough, anyway, but I think there are two things we can do to make it easier. When you start mathematics you do not begin with the calculus; you begin with simple addition. In the same way, if we really want (but all depends on really wanting) to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo. One might start with forgiving one’s husband or wife, or parents or children, or the nearest N.C.O., for something they have done or said in the last week. That will probably keep us busy for the moment. And secondly, we might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbour as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself?

The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker.

If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

Now a step further. Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment—even to death. If one had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before the war, and I still think so now that we are at peace.

Food for thought, no?

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Memorial Day 2014

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So Monday is Memorial Day. I saw a blog post I can’t find right now that really summarized my sentiments. Basically, it was like, it’s wonderful to have a 3-day weekend this time of year. Get your grill out, drink some beer, go water-skiing if you happen to have a lake and boat available, but recognize how free you are and that you are standing on the shoulders of tremendous sacrifice to allow that freedom. This is my other favorite blog post of the day:

… I will stand in awe of the willingness displayed by 407,316 ordinary men and women who left their homes and paid the ultimate price to ensure that fascism did not engulf the world and lead to the darkest time in history. The everyman of WWII is an amazing concept, yet that is how it has been throughout history. Just plain folks doing their duty.

I will reflect on how 33,651 Americans passed the torch of freedom from their failing hands to a little country called South Korea, proving that they may look different and speak what to us is a very strange language, but they are no less deserving of freedom than we. …

More at Ace of Spades HQ

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More on May 6th Bloomington, IN Primaries

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After posting about the upcoming primary, a friend pointed out the GovTracker site run by the Bloomington Herald Times. However, they don’t seem to have consolidated the options, so I thought I’d do that here. There’s more on the site, but it’s often uncontested races, etc. So here’s this.

9th Congressional District




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State Taxes

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Created an interactive state map using the D3, d3-tip, and jQuery libraries and the GeoJson encoding format. I took a lot from the book, Interactive Data Visualization for the Web.

statetaxesIt uses data from a Mercatus Report to show the tax burden per capita of various tax instruments. It’s a lot of data, so can take a while to load and works best for me in Chrome.

Not sure if it would be good for policy making, but it’s interesting and fun.

Check it out.

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AGW Policy

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Fine. The anthropogenic climate change debate is settled in the direction of assention.

Now that that’s settled, what policies did you have in mind? Or were you just looking for a conclusion so you could hand it over to government to solve for you?

Do you turn out the lights when leaving a room you don’t soon plan to return to? Do you compost or would you if you had the opportunity? Do you generally bring your groceries home in re-used bags?

These questions of environmental stewardship are irrelevant. Consensus uber alles.

Here’s the WaPo mocking the Farmer’s Almanac prediction of a cold winter in the midwest (egg meet face) in August 2013:

If you believe it, residents of the Plains to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast may want to start stocking up on warm weather gear, snow shovels, and salt right now! The Farmers’ Almanac is calling for a “bitterly cold” winter for much of the region.

“Yes, the Farmers’ Almanac believes that the “days of shivery” are back,” says the Farmer’s Almanac press release.

For the record, it’s 17 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing off and on in midwest Indiana.


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Academic Justice, Anyone?

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An editorial by Sandra Y.L. Korn in the Harvard Crimson, “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom: Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice,” has commenters wondering whether this is an Onion piece or if the author is trolling, but she appears to be serious. The fact that she is a “joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator” (concentrator is apparently what majors are called now) lends some credence to her seriousness.

You really need to read the whole thing (and peruse the comments), but I think the crux is this quote:

If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

If you don’t immediately see the problem with the above quote, it’s that not “put[ting] up with research that counters [y]our goals” is not a valid reason to not put up (aka, not ban) research projects. Good reasons to ban research projects would be poor methodology, inhumane methods, fudged results, etc.

Ms. Korn begins by recounting a Harvard Professor in the early 70’s who “claimed that intelligence is almost entirely hereditary and varies by race.”

Students for a Democratic Society protested his introductory psychology class with a bullhorn and leaflets. They tied up Herrnstein’s lectures with pointed questions about scientific racism. SDS even called for Harvard to fire Herrnstein, along with another of his colleagues, sociologist Christopher Jencks. …

This, Herrnstein seems not to have understood, was precisely the goal of the SDS activists—they wanted to make the “certain kinds of views” they deemed racist and classist unwelcome on Harvard’s campus.

If you’re not familiar, the SDS, whose most radical faction became the Weather Underground, was not a moderate group as evidenced above. They didn’t debate opposition, they did their best to shut it down.

The author then comes to this conclusion about the important question to ask:

 Did SDS activists at Harvard infringe on Herrnstein’s academic freedom? The answer might be that yes, they did—but that’s not the most important question to ask. Student and faculty obsession with the doctrine of “academic freedom” often seems to bump against something I think much more important: academic justice.

Another paragraph and then:

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

It goes on, but to get back to my point, what is the meaning of:

  1. SDS: They wanted to make the “certain kinds of views” they deemed racist and classist unwelcome
  2. Define oppression: When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.


Long story short, I think Ms. Korn is nuts, but I appreciate her opening such a frank dialogue. And I’ll quote a commenter whose username is “libtard”: “The proper way to combat offensive research is to disprove it

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Organic Farmers and the FDA

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The L.A. Times reports Planned food safety rules rile organic farmers. While it clarifies that “full enforcement of the rules is still years away,” …

Now, farmers are discovering that the FDA’s proposed rules would curtail many techniques that are common among organic growers, including spreading house-made fertilizers, tilling cropland with grazing animals, and irrigating from open creeks.

Obviously there are negative implications for small businesses:

“They are going to drive farms out of business,” said Dave Runsten, policy director for Community Alliance with Family Farmers in Davis, Calif.

“The consumer groups behind this don’t understand farming,” Runsten says. “They talk out of both sides of their mouth. They demand these one-size-fits-all regulations, then say, ‘I don’t want to hurt those cute little farmers at the farmers market. I shop at the farmers market.’ It is frustrating.” …

“The public loves to love and idealize us little family farmers,” he [Crawford, a farmer] said. “But the vast majority of us are hanging by a thread. Now, the government is saying, ‘We are going to put a lot more weight on that thread.'”

And I hate to get back into regulations being trade-offs, but the shoe seems to fit. Of course we need common sense food regulations, but isn’t the trickle up economics obvious? Small farms close and big-agra is either unaffected or can subsume and move on.

And what about the EPA and the environmental groups that shape its agenda (as the consumer groups shape the FDA’s)? Petrochemical fertilizers rather than compost or animal manure? Get your water from someplace far away rather than the nearby creek? Using fossil-fuel driven machinery rather than grazing animals (granted, I’m sure PETA is pleased)? I can’t see Greenpeace, etc., getting behind that.

Somehow we need to find a more comprehensive view of the regulation environment. There are shared goals of liberty, economy, ecology, and safety here. To pursue one without heeding the others will not end well.

Side note:
I also find interesting that when the L.A. times says, “Tens of millions of consumers are sickened by tainted food each year, and some 3,000 die annually as a result,” they link to this page from the CDC. I’m not sure where they got the “tens of millions” number, as the five illnesses listed here make up 91% of all cases and add up to less that ten million. That said, the number one cause of illness (58%) is Norovirus, which the CDC itself says you can get, “from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.” The question this raises is how many of these 5,461,731 cases of Norovirus were directly related to food and not from person-to-person or surface-to-person contamination? If it includes the other two, isn’t the five million plus figure misleading? I may just be cynical and this may be above board, but it just seems like they’re using these numbers to justify constrictive regulations which will have little to no impact on said numbers.




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The Quick

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According to Wictionary, “Cut to the quick” means:

  1. Used other than as an idiom: see cut,? quick.
  2. To hurt a person deeply, especially emotionally.
  3. To get to the most essential idea or point.

In the Bible, the quick is contrasted with the dead.

And then there’s DJ Quik:

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Mere Creationism

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The title of this post is the product of my love for C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and the recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Creationism versus Evolutionism.

If you’re not familiar with Lewis’s classic, he does his best to offer a thought out reasoning for a Christian perspective (right or wrong). But it’s kind of a lowest common denominator Christianity: Not that it’s not demanding, but it doesn’t get into, say, varying beliefs about baptism. Hence, “Mere” Christianity.

The debate attracted my interest because there is a lot of controversy over this discussion.

How this all ties together is that this was a debate between two extremes, which makes a good debate, but don’t necessarily reflect popular sentiment. I mean, where do deists fall in this debate?

Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world in any way, allowing it to run according to the laws of nature. For Deists, human beings can only know God via reason and the observation of nature, but not by revelation or supernatural manifestations (such as miracles) – phenomena which Deists regard with caution if not skepticism.

Creator? Yes. Intervention? No.

Sorry, no room for deists. Pick a side. Nye or Ham.

So Mere Creationism doesn’t have space for whether or not some God intervened since creation. Nor does it try to prove itself. It merely states that this world is too incredible to be a random accident.


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