Archive for February, 2012

Western culture, the church, and questions for modern times

“I am not arguing that the Church fostered limited government in the Middle Ages and in the early modern period. In principle, the government that it fostered was unlimited in its scope. I am arguing, however, that the Church worked assiduously to hem in the authority of the Christian kings and that its success in this endeavor provided the foundation for the emergence of a parliamentary order. Indeed, I would go further. It was the Church that promoted the principles underpinning the emergence of parliaments. It did so by fostering the species of government had emerged within the church itself. Given that the Church in the West made clerical celibacy one of its principal practices (whether it was honored in the breach or not), the hereditary principle could play no role in its governance. Inevitably, it resorted to elections. Monks elected abbots, the canons of cathedrals elected bishops, the college of cardinals elected the Pope.”

Paul Rahe takes on American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil with an historical perspective of the Church’s moral authority citing the Magna Carta and the underpinnings of modern law and governance practice. He notes the uniqueness of the Church compared to Eastern and Islamic cultures. The current brouhaha about health care is used as an example of a decline he sees in the moral authority. “In my lifetime, to my increasing regret, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has lost much of its moral authority. It has done so largely because it has subordinated its teaching of Catholic moral doctrine to its ambitions regarding an expansion of the administrative entitlements state.”

It is the matter in the parable about boiling a frog. Good intentions in small doses can accumulate with unintended consequence.

“In the process, the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.”

There is another fable about standing by while some crime took another, and then another, until, finally, the criminals come for you and you have no one to assist in your defense. Rahe cites a Roman Law about waterways: “That which touches all should be dealt with by all.” The issue at hand is trying to pretend that only the selected target of governmental overreach is touched and the remainder of the citizenry will be left along. It seems that the Catholic Church is finding out that that seldom is the case.

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What is the problem with the U.S. Constitution?

The Supreme Court Justice has started a debate. It may be one way to remind people about the fundamental foundational values of the U.S. and how they compare to modern, often failed, governance ideologies. Jim Yardley asks Has the Constitution Lost Its Sex Appeal?

The U.S. Constitution was meant to be a straight-jacket for those who would abuse the limited powers that the people of this country have granted them. The government is supposed to do only what they have been allowed to do, and absolutely nothing more. But, since it’s so much fun pushing people around, these foreigners and our own domestic LPDs, are not too happy with those constraints.

Like teenagers, they think that they always know more, and better, than do their elders. Sadly, they never seem to reach that Mark Twain moment when they realize:

When I was 17 I thought my father was the stupidest person in the world. By the time I turned 21, I was amazed how much the old man had learned in 4 years.

These new constitutions from around the world are being written, not by “We the People,” but by the existing governments. One simple question needs to be asked of all Americans before we allow our Constitution to be tossed out and replaced: Would you trust the Congress to draft a new Constitution to replace what we have?

JFK is also getting some realization what with recent biographies and personal reminiscences of former mistresses but one of his famous quotes was “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” [wikipedia]. That was then. The trend seems to be the other direction these days.

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Beyond the pale, again: Senate Majority Leader

I’d say that rhetoric like this is beyond the pale – which it is, of course – but the media and civility police (inasmuch as they’re different) are busy reserving their outrage for the next Republican “dog whistle” of a comment whose insensitivity and violent intentions only they can hear.

Jeff Emanuel describes the latest effort to establish the meme that Republicans are out to kill people and destroy the environment: Harry Reid: Republicans are Personally Poisoning the American People.

In yet another installment of the “New Tone Rules Only Apply to Republicans” series, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the floor of the Senate on Wednesday to accuse “Republicans” of using the payroll tax cut bill to extort the Democrat majority for the right to personally poison the American people.

Yes, you heard that right: the Senate Majority Leader took a page out of former Rep. Alan “Republicans want you to die quickly” Grayson’s (D-FL) book and delivered that accusation from the floor of the United States Senate.

Naturally, this came only two weeks after Reid called on both sides – the dirty, evil, water-poisoning Republicans and the good-hearted Democrats – to “achieve greater results for the American people.”

video and transcript at the link.

This is the elected majority party leader in the ‘upper’ house of the legislature of the nation. One has to wonder why a person in such an esteemed position will make a habit of asserting that his political opposition have absolutely no regard for humanity. What does it say about a political party when a major part of their platform is that the opposition party is totally callous towards the country and its citizens?

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A clear rundown on the climate issue

So let’s come back to our original question — what is it exactly that skeptics “deny.” As we have seen, most don’t deny the greenhouse gas theory, or that the Earth has warmed some amount over the last several year. They don’t even deny that some of that warming has likely been via man-made CO2. What they deny is the catastrophe — they argue that the theory of strong climate positive feedback is flawed, and is greatly exaggerating the amount of warming we will see from man-made CO2. And, they are simultaneously denying that most or all of past warming is man-made, and arguing instead that the amount that is natural and cyclic is being under-estimated.

Warren Meyer has a nice description of the factors involved in Understanding the Global Warming Debate. It is a good place to start if you want to understand what the ‘debate’ is all about.

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Marriage. Just a label?

The 9th circuit seems to think so. They overturned the public on proposition 8 because of the rationale that the term ‘marriage’ had no substance. It was all about whether gay couples could call themselves ‘married.’ The people via due process said they could not use the term. The courts, so far, are saying otherwise.

No wonder family researchers and historians are concerned. At this point in American history, the confusion, ambivalence and controversy over marriage are at a tipping point where the outcome is uncertain and the stakes are enormous. The reams of research data and the common experiences of teachers, social workers and law enforcement officers who see the outcomes of family breakdown on a day-to-day basis need to break through the media fog to reach the minds of the public to change attitudes and convince young people that marriage matters for each of them and that it matters for all of us.

Janice Shaw Crouse says ‘I do’ does matter and explains why. That rationale needs to be compared to that of the court for a proper perspective of the issue.

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Tactics: Cancer vs Abortion vs broader ideologies

US News has 2 items that illustrate just how deep and dishonest the ‘end justifies the means’ can be. The stimulus occurred when a foundation for finding a cure to breast cancer decided to focus its efforts and withdraw funds from Planned Parenthood that were not being used for cancer screening. The Left Smells Blood in the Susan G. Komen Fight describes the firestorm.

Prolife groups hailed the move while supporters of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, began an attack on Komen that ultimately proved effective … The folks at Komen probably thought that would be the end of things, but they underestimated the avaricious nature of Planned Parenthood’s supporters, who clearly are not satisfied with what most commentators consider a “win” for their side … It’s not enough for them that Komen has returned to the status quo ante position; they must now make an act of contrition, to promise to keep the money flowing no matter what and, apparently, to fire the employee the feminocracy has fingered as the person responsible for the policy change.

If this is about women’s health it is only tangentially so. It’s really about the requirement for orthodoxy where abortion is concerned. The feminocracy cannot allow any organization involved in the women’s health issue to be seen to be breaking ranks on the issue of legal abortion. They cannot allow for freedom of thought or freedom of conscience lest the hegemony of their position among the cultural elites be jeopardized.

There are several items to note. One is that the issue was elevated from the focus and purpose of the nonprofit organization to a broader “women’s rights” theme. Second is that the response to any threat was met with an aggressive defence. Third is that a win was not enough as a lesson had to be taught.

An example of the attitude involved is the other item in US News: Susan G. Komen’s Good Girl Image and Hardball Abortion Politics.

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation had better clean house, starting with the resignation of one Karen Handel, a vice president of public policy. The militantly antichoice Handel and her job should part ways

Note, the assault is personal and seeks retribution because of a position not related to the goals of the employer. Also of interest is that the mandate is not to just correct a particular decision but rather to “clean house” and purge all possible sources not in agreement with the mandate. Then there is the ridicule and related dismissive rhetoric (“The Komen breast cancer charity has cultivated a good girl image and aura, hasn’t it?”) and also the taint of money

The spirit of the Komen style is to smile and raise money in a voluntary way on a mass scale—like a bake scale writ large. Sorry, but women’s activism lately is a bit goody-goody, remembering to say please and thank you, ma’am. Y’all come down to the race Saturday morning, hear?

The money part is interesting because that is what the ruckus is all about. Money is bad when the other guy gets it but good when your cause gets it?

The lesson is about tactics: about scorched earth methods, dishonesty, arrogance, and ideology taken to extremes. That set of tactics usually results in tragedy.

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The State of Affairs: corruption in many forms

Corruption is one of those ‘both sides do it’ things that cynics use to condemn all politicians. That means that matters of degree are being tossed aside and the ‘reduce to the absurd’ logical fallacy is on parade. Richard Rahn doesn’t get into ‘both sides’ but instead catalogues the problems in a specific case. Intellectual and policy corruption, Team Obama rewards its friends, punishes its foes describes a list that could be the start of a measuring tool for evaluating degree and types of corruption in government.

Government corruption can take many forms. Last week, most of those forms could be seen in the actions of the Obama administration – everything from government officials taking simple bribes, to covering up wrongdoing, to using taxpayer money to pay off political supporters, to using government prosecutors to punish enemies, to failing to fulfill its fiduciary duty to citizens by not performing cost-benefit analyses before taking actions. Promulgating policies that knowingly hurt millions of people is far more serious than a government official requesting a cash bribe – as despicable as that may be. Pushing for tax increases without first getting rid of counterproductive or useless programs and cleaning up mismanagement is an example of policy corruption.

There are also related measures, such as a measure of economic freedom or corruption indexes created by NPO’s and the interpretation of individual economic health.

This is related to the brouhaha created by Justice Ginsburg ‘dissing’ the U.S. Constitution in Egypt recently. (see U.S. Justices’ Foreign Statements About the U.S. Constitution). At the link, the commentary sees no problem with a Justice making disparaging remarks about the legal code she swore to uphold and defend – because she does have the freedom of expression, after all. The problem is that the context is one of expanding the rights of the citizenry to entitlements, not matters of governance structure. Governments based on what they can provide for the people tend to not last very long when compared to governments where rights are those of expression, ownership, and due process. The tenure of the U.S. Constitution is a phenomena that has to be swept under the rug when pushing for more ‘modern’ governance documents. That is how corruption is maintained – by setting reality aside and holding intellectual integrity at bay.

For a more detailed description of what Justice Ginsberg is advocating, see Joseph Klein on Trashing the Constitution. Another rundown on the missing pieces is Stephen Hayward on Liberals and the Constitution.

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Script kiddies, SOPA, DCMA DDOS, Megaupload, and Intellectual Propery Protection

over the last few years or so, the small cottage industry of copyright protection has been slowly shifting from “we protect your files” to “we will nuke your enemies from the orbit” type services. And they have been getting better at it.

Terminally Incoherent describes DMCA DDOS: Why compliance is not an option. DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [Wikipedia] and a DDOS A distributed denial of service attack.

The concept is simple – DMCA works quite well against casual infringement. If someone uploads copyrighted material on their blog, or on Youtube you can easily bring it down with a single request. The problem is with organized file sharing sites – torrent communities, cyberlockers, file sharing forums, etc… When you have a large community of people committed to infringe your copyright no matter what, then takedown notices become mostly useless. As soon as you get your IP taken down, someone else will “re-up” it in the same forum. So you have to issue another DMCA request, and another, and another. If you want to suppress the availability of the file in said forum, you need to be faster than the pirates. You must request a take-down as soon as the file re-surfaces, and you have to make sure it goes down before the bulk of sites users can find it.

So over the last few years or so, the small cottage industry of copyright protection has been slowly shifting from “we protect your files” to “we will nuke your enemies from the orbit” type services. And they have been getting better at it.

This does not surprise me. If there is a tool to be built, someone will build it. In fact, I find this industry somewhat fascinating because it actually follows what Charles Stross predicted in Accelerando. He came up with an idea of a “legal DDOS attack” in which bunch of expert systems would gang up against a legal entity to inundate it with threats, civil suits, inquiries and etc… Unless you had an equally potent legal system in place, your company would drown in the sea of legal paperwork in a matter of days, if not hours. And just like IRL, the first use of such systems in Stross’ book was to aid the failing entertainment industry.

A ‘script kiddie’ is a person who writes a simple program to automate some tedious chore on a computer. In this case, it is used to indicate people who write simple programs to find potential copyright infringement files in the I’net, determine the website owner, and then issue a legal request to remove the file. Using a simple program means that the whole thing is automated and much much faster than if a human were doing it. Sometimes it is so fast that the repeated automatic requests bog down the website denying service to its normal readers. That is the DDOS aspect of the issue.

As you can see, the author mentions a coordinated “carpet bombing” attack executed by several companies with a clear aim of crippling the website, and forcing it to shut down under the pressure. They were not really interested in protecting their client’s intellectual property – they were out to cause disruption and damage to their target community. And they did it using classic script kiddie tactics – via a coordinated DDOS.

This is similar to other uses of legal harassment to achieve ends that are sometimes questionable. The small claims court case against Honda about fuel efficiency is another. The same set of tactics can be seen in the efforts for gun control.

The moral of the story is about when good intentions go awry. The ends start to justify the means. SOPA, a bill in Congress to enhance website takedown on suspicion of copyright infringement was another front in the effort. SOPA was set aside due to the uproar created to protest it on the web. This argument has a long ways to go and will be a ‘nailing jelly to a tree’ effort for a long time yet if it follows debate in similar issues. (although it is good to see a lawsuit against railroads because they hauled asbestos dismissed because the railroads just haul it, they didn’t put it to use).

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Eastwood image borrowed for a bit of tarnish

I’m not sure what I’m more appalled by: the fact that Josey Wales is supporting crony capitalism, or the fact that the American taxpayers are funding a Super Bowl ad for the sitting president. How is this even possible?

Michael W sees Eastwood and Down in one of the more controversial Super Bowl ads this year. He sees a $3 million dollar ad by a company that was saved from bankruptcy by tax dollars and isn’t happy. Others see another problem with the ad. Mark Wiberg says Halftime America! Clint Eastwood Makes It All Better! Ugh.

But the ad invites criticism. Would Dirty Harry ask for a handout? Hell no, he wouldn’t. He could build a car made out of his melted Smith and Wesson handgun, all while eating a sandwich and zinging bad guys with one-liners.

So, bringing in the city of Detroit as some city on the ‘comeback’ after being knocked down, and blah blah blah, was a bit disingenuous as it fails to mention they knocked themselves out. Detroit and the American car industry would not have made it to ‘half-time’ if it wasn’t for the Bail-Out ™. They were carried by the taxpayer to half-time, beaten and bruised by building inferior products, bloated management and union mismanagement and over-the-rainbow promises to it’s retiring workforce.

America will roar back in spite of Detroit, thank you very much. The rest of us will pick up the slack so crappy car or solar-energy producing companies can exist and disappear and reappear depending upon who is in the White House.

The key point there is that “The rest of us will pick up the slack”. The fact that so many taxpayer dollars can be spent on such things as ‘alternative energy’ and ‘green cars’ rather than on things that are cost effective in the free market is, on the one hand, an indication of significant wealth. On the other hand, it raises questions about whether that wealth is being wisely used.

Then consider the Super Bowl ad that looks to take top spot, the sling baby ad for Doritos. The cynic might note the powered wheel chair Granny used and the many ads on TV that imply she probably got it for free — on the taxpayer dollar.

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Anyone asking the important questions? Who cares?

First up is at Powerline: Communism Collapsed: Who Cares?

In the Daily Telegraph, Janet Daley asks a question that has often occurred to me, as well: why has the collapse of Communism had so little impact on political discourse in the West?

Dr. Sanity provides the illustration of the point in Sugar daddies and the mommy state.

The entire Democratic Party (along with significant numbers in the Republican Party, unfortunately) have morphed into annoyingly intrusive, know-it-all nannies, whose goal is not to persuade you that their ideas are correct or even better than yours; but to force you to accept their ideas by making them laws.

We used to contemptuously call such people busybodies (which was not a compliment), and, by and large, were mostly able to ignore their nitpicking power plays to control or change our lives.

Is it fair? Only government can make it so, despite the failure of having been tried many times at much tragedy. Or, maybe, is there another option? One that has a history of success?

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Describing the boomers

As I wrote last week, Newt is a 1960s generation kid. Allow me to elaborate. That generation – my generation – was the most ballyhooed generation raised in the 20th century, and it was – at least in politics – a failed generation. Mr. Gingrich, the Clintons, Al Gore and the rest of the 1960s hustlers began their political careers in college when they were the first generation to actually believe student government was on campus to govern. The weak liberal administrators went along with them and gave them a say in running their universities. The universities have still to recover. Yet beyond the damage they did to the universities was the damage they did to themselves. They became the most self-absorbed generation of narcissists ever heard of.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. has quite a rant about Gingrich – which is being supported by stories that the candidate will contest the Florida primary election – and uses a view of the Baby Boom generation to illustrate his point. It isn’t pretty.

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