Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eye-Catching Headline of the Week

From MSNBC, via Google News: Big quake question: Is nature out of control?

Isn't that supposed to be, you know, kind of the point of nature, is that it's not in control? (Our control, anyway.)

Watch out, folks -- God's "out of control," too.

Postus Bloggandus Non Scribant

Or, as we say around here, ain't been writin' no blog posts. Home: wife's foot surgery, non-weight-bearing for some time yet. Day job: bench test campaign, high pressure. Night job: well, the usual -- grading, update online homework solutions, etc.

I figure things will ease up over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, I don't anticipate posting much, if at all.

Hope everyone's having a good late winter. Always assuming there is any such thing, of course.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Maxed Out

When I read this stuff, I think that the day when our maxed-out imperial credit card starts being rejected can't come soon enough:
Asked if Washington planned to attack Iran, she replied: "No, we are planning to try to bring the world community together in applying pressure to Iran through sanctions adopted by the United Nations that will be particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, which we believe is, in effect, supplanting the government of Iran."

"That is how we see it. We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. That is our view," she said, speaking to students in a televised session.
Let us suppose, against all experience, that La Hillary's words are true. If Iran's a military dictatorship, how would that distinguish it from places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Yemen, whose wildly undemocratic "governments" are compliant with the empire's wishes, and are therefore cuddly? How would that distinguish Iran from the budding surveillance state we have going right here?

The Word for Wednesday, February 17

A short passage from Luke chapter 22 (verses 35 - 38):
And He said to them, "When I sent you out without purse and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?" And they said, "No, nothing." And He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one. For I tell you, that this which was written must be fulfilled in Me, 'And He was numbered with transgressors;' for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment." And they said to Him, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough."
This is one of those passages that I've read a bunch of times, but have never really understood; nor do I think I understand it now. The passage Jesus quotes is about His upcoming crucifixion. It seems clear to me that He isn't telling His disciples to take up arms to prevent His death, since He has insisted that it is necessary, and we know that He stopped a disciple who did use a sword to try to prevent His arrest. By comparing this instruction with the different one He gave them the last time He "sent them out," I think He's saying that they will be separated from Him again, with all the danger and hardship that it implies. I'm tempted to say that the instruction to be armed is a symbolic way of warning them of their upcoming dangers and hardships ... except that, when a disciple says look here, we've got two swords, Jesus doesn't say, Have you been with Me so long, and still understand nothing? That is, He doesn't rebuke them for their foolish literalism; instead, He casually endorses it, saying, "It is enough."

I'm tentatively convinced that Jesus's words are carrying meaning on multiple levels here, and I merely lack the ears to hear those deeper levels; however, I see no indication that their surface, plain meaning is to be disregarded. For now, then, I think this passage belongs in the "yes, believers can -- and perhaps should -- be armed" file.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, February 10

Continuing the guns-or-no-guns thing (yes, I know, that's wildly oversimplified), I'm looking at Matthew 10:17-23, Mark 13:9-13, and Luke 21:12-19. The first three gospels closely parallel each other, and these words of Jesus are (approximately) the same in all three. But each has a slightly different emphasis, and considering them in parallel might be helpful in exploring the question I've been looking at here.

From Matthew:
"But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you shall speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. But whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes."
Mark writes:
"But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. And when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."
Finally, Luke:
"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all on account of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives."
What, one might ask, does all this have to do with whether Christians should go armed? Directly, not much, I suppose. But it has much to do with interpersonal conflict: here, between the believer and his persecutors. This is just the sort of problem that, in Hollywood, would be resolved by gunplay, or at least some manly fisticuffs. You, Mr. Corrupt Official, want to arrest me -- who has done no wrong -- for my beliefs? Here, I've got a .45 caliber chill pill for you! You say you want to flog me? Have my Fists-O-Fury kung-fu knuckle sandwich for your lunch!

But that's not the response prescribed in these three passages. Instead, the believer is told to endure whatever is done to him, and is instructed not to plan a defense of any kind, but rather to expect inspiration from the Holy Spirit for his "talking points." In all three passages, it is patient endurance that saves the believer. And, to be sure, this salvation does not necessarily mean that he won't be killed; in Luke's version, it's very explicit that some will be killed. But it's equally explicit that, being killed, they still don't "perish," not a single hair on their heads. "By your endurance you will gain your lives," says Jesus, by which He must mean their real lives -- their eternal ones. Not even lawyering is allowed by His instructions: don't prepare a defense, just say whatever the Spirit brings to your mind to say.

Again, these passages by no means forbid the believer to bear arms; arms are not even mentioned. But, once again, to be armed is at best irrelevant to the patient endurance that Jesus calls for, and is likely to be a positive difficulty in doing what He says.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Moon Flights and Dreams

In the interest of minimal fairness, and in the spirit of equal-opportunity ridicule of petty tyrants, of both the elephant and donkey varieties, here's half a cheer for the Obama administration. For the time being, they appear to have killed the latest moon-flight boondoggle. That's a good thing, as far as it goes. But I'm limiting myself to half a cheer, because it doesn't go nearly far enough:
Instead of going back to the moon, the administration wants to invest $6 billion over five years in a commercial taxi to orbit. The idea is to let the private sector take over the routine flights into space.
It seems to me that to "let the private sector take over" anything doesn't cost $6B; it costs nothing. So let's pay what it costs. I'm leaving aside, for now, the regal mindset by which the Feds either "let" -- or don't let -- the private sector do this or that.

Of course, the welfare recipients of both major-brand parties are howling:
"The president's proposed NASA budget begins the death march for the future of U.S. human space flight," Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said Monday morning. "The cancellation of the Constellation program and the end of human space flight does represent change -- but it is certainly not the change I believe in."

Last week, anticipating the news about the Constellation, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), whose state stands to lose 7,000 jobs when the space shuttle program ends next year, said, "[T]he president's green-eyeshade-wearing advisers are dead wrong. And I, for one, intend to stand up and fight for NASA, and for the thousands of people who stand to lose their jobs."
I'm not here to choose from among evils. If I were, though, I'd spare NASA and its potential lunar and planetary voyages, on the grounds that they aren't the big hogs, and aren't primarily aimed toward the waging of war. Note that the news story reported that about $9B have already been squandered on the development of new rocket ships for moon trips; that sounds like a lot of money, until you compare it to the thousand billion or so that got shoveled to well-connected banksters and other money-shuffling parasites by both the previous and current administrations. Add to that the cost -- and I'm just thinking money right now, not the far more important moral cost -- of the Empire's wars, and the maintenance and manning of military bases in nearly every other country in the world, and the gold-plated weapons systems, and the hiring of mercenary armies such as Blackwater Xe. Throw in some smaller items (Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, etc., the Bush "prescription benefit," Obamacare ... and let's not forget Social Security itself, while we're at it), and you start to see a truly "federal" government that would be adequately supported by some very modest tariffs on imports. Goodbye, IRS! Trash the Federal Reserve, and use private currencies that stand or fall on their reputation for honesty ...

Oh, man, I really hate it when I wake up just as the dream's getting really good. Don't you?

Monday, February 01, 2010

For Whom Is This Not a Win-Win?

Like most people, I knew the US has military people stationed in Japan. But -- again, perhaps like most people -- I didn't know there were 47,000 of them. That's what, about one-third as many as were squatting on Iraq at the height of the "surge."

Apparently, quite a few Japanese -- "thousands," according to the news story -- are unhappy enough about that to have gotten out and protest-marched over it.

Why in the world are large numbers of American soldiers still occupying Japan, after nearly 65 years? Why should Japanese citizens be bearing this affront? Why should American taxpayers be bearing this expense?

Oh, that's right -- because we're World Manager. No corner of the globe can be left unsupervised by Mordor-on-the-Potomac. And also, lest I forget, because all those "troops" require equipment and supplies. Our merchants of death have their profits to look after.

Imagine living in a sane world, in which we'd say to Japan: Hey, you're right. Every single soldier is on the way home, as of first-of-next-week. If you're interested in the bases and equipment, we'll make you a good deal; otherwise, we'll pack it and ship it. So long, and thanks for all the sushi.

Never happen. Not in my lifetime, anyway.