Buffalo gnats

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has asked for the public to stay away from the Cooks Lake Conservation Education Center.

The center is located near the White River in Casscoe, Arkansas.

The Commission closed the center to the public until further notice due to the extreme amount of Buffalo Gnats in the area.

Youch.

 


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Media v. Evangelicals, 2018 part 3

Time for my third installment to report on recent mass media attacks on Evangelicals.  There is quite a lot to cover, and I probably missed a lot due to work stuff, life stuff, and a local phone service outage that still has my AT&T internet service out.  We had tons of anti-Evangelical digs from Leftist mass media that used the occasions of the Parkland shooting and the death of Billy Graham.

Several of the editorials (many masquerading as articles or obituaries) about the passing of Billy Graham brought up his renown for acceptance and support of both Democrats and Republicans, and then sprang from that into assaults on Evangelicals who voted for President Trump.  They are obviously waging a political campaign intended to separate President Trump from his base.  One example that was cited by other media several times and which was featured in the Google News Spotlight was an excerpt from “The Story with Martha McCallum,” a discussion show on Fox News Network, from Feb. 22.  There was an exchange between Juan Williams and Rev. Robert Jeffress, both of whom are regular contributors at Fox News.  The setup was Ms. McCallum quoting from a recent column by J. Williams:

“It now seems clear that evangelical Christians who hold up biblical edicts on lying, cheating and adultery, don’t care about the word of God when it comes to Trump.”

Pastor Jeffress began his remarks with this:

“Let me just share this perspective, evangelicals had a binary choice in 2016 between Donald Trump, who admittedly by his own admission is not a Sunday school teacher or a saint, but he has become the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-Israel president in history. The other choice was Hillary Clinton.”

Which was followed by the usual escalation of voices and led to this remark by Juan Williams:

“Well, so I listened to Pastor Jeffress, and he says the policies matter, it’s not the fact that this man, as president of the United States, is a role model for us as a society. And I just think that you’re buying in to the idea that the policies matter but character and Christian doctrine don’t matter.”

I found that to be an interesting assertion, in keeping with the overall tone of mass media coverage of all things Evangelical.

Also in the coverage of the death of Billy Graham, Politico and the New York Times led the rush to trash Franklin Graham.  Franklin Graham has supported President Trump, and they preached to their readers about how this is a mortal sin.

 

What I find even more interesting than sermons against Evangelicals that spring from some news hook is the steady appearance of new attacks on Evangelicals that are not triggered by events but just are part of the media scene.  For example, for no apparent reason, the Google News Spotlight featured an anti-Christian rant from RawStory.com.  It stayed in the Spotlight for a few days at the beginning of February.  When you pushed through and checked it out, it turned out to be a re-post of a blog post that had run at RawStory in 2016.  Old news.  Old sad news, and of the kind that tells us a lot more about the people who select the Google News Spotlight than it tells us about either RawStory or about Christians.

In a more newsworthy but unprofessional light, Yahoo News did an e-mail interview of Eric Metaxas.  The author of the article cited several quotes from old David French articles in which he lambasted Evangelicals, in order to spin Metaxas’s responses.  I will put a link in the comments, and also a link to the blog post in which Eric Metaxas published the entire exchange as a way to correct the record.

 

More recently, the New York Times gave us another feature in which they were trying to wedge white Christian women away from President Trump:

Evangelical voters, often portrayed as a monolith, are becoming increasingly difficult to define. The support for Mr. Trump reflects a growing pragmatism among evangelical voters who are willing to accept a less than ideal model of Christian faith in exchange for policies that they endorse.

“I think they’ve become experienced and very practical,” said Frances FitzGerald, the author of the recent book “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America.” “By large majorities they used to believe that to be elected, you had to be of good character. No longer. It’s ‘We want a president to do what we want him to do, and he’s going to do it if we turn out and vote.’”

Mr. Trump also appeals to white evangelicals in other ways with his strong language, disruptive view of presidential norms and his policies on taxes. “Religious right rhetoric has always been very martial — isolationist and martial at the same time,” Ms. FitzGerald said.

When they say “increasingly difficult to define,” what they mean is increasingly difficult to caricature and stereotype, which has been their pattern for five decades.

That week, I saw a Google News Spotlight headline for an article from Forbes: “Why White Evangelicalism is so Cruel.”  That was sort of intriguing, but the article had already been pulled by Forbes.  Vanished into the ether, just like a couple of posts by me and 10 Cents at Site R>.  I searched for it the next day and discovered that it had been posted at the author’s personal blog site.

Also earlier this month, The Atlantic posted a very long essay by Michael Gerson: “The Last Temptation.”  It carried this subheading: “How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in recent memory.”  It is very snarky and throws around insults.  Here is the key takeaway:

“Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness.”

That longwinded essay provided several pull quotes that were used by other mass media journalists to attack Evangelicals.

 

In the end I have nothing really new to report in this post.  Leftist mass media continue to try to wedge Evangelical support away from President Trump.  They like to quote Republicans whenever a Republican Never attacks President Trump or attacks Christians who support President Trump.

They are the Opposition Party.  They are getting plenty of material to work with.


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The Surveillance Microsoft

Microsoft To Ban ‘Offensive Language’ & Monitor Your Private Account [Link contains auto-play video.]

Microsoft is cracking down on what people say while using their services online. According to a new services agreement written by the company, the tech giant is planning to ban accounts that use “offensive language” and will go through your private data to “investigate” users.

In a March 1 release, Microsoft is warning customers using Office, Xbox, Skype, and other products that the company is prohibiting offensive language and inappropriate content starting on May 1

Given that the term offensive language remains undefined (and undefinable — offensive to whom?), this is an open invitation for MS to remove anyone from their services arbitrarily, or, as they put it “…we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason.” In order to enforce their policy,

Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue.

We’ve already seen this at work at Alphabet (via YouTube) and Twitter. While I favor freedom of association and the right of private entities to form any relationship they wish with customers, the near-monopoly status of these companies places additional burdens on them. If they wish to retain their monopoly control over their respective markets, they should find themselves regulated as public utilities. Alternatively, they should be broken apart, much as AT&T was.

As it is now, the state has devolved censorship authority to these quasi-private* entities in an effort to preserve the integrity of the official state religion: Progressivism. Deviations from religious orthodoxy will punished by exclusion from communication channels (YouTube, Twitter) and financial entities such as PayPal. Cryptocurrencies can’t get here soon enough.


*Quasi-private because of their close connections with the political class.


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Kinky Boots: the film

Kinky Boots (2005) is fun! It’s an American-British comedy-drama film written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth (53) and directed by Julian Jarrold (57).

Joel Edgerton (43) plays Charlie, the owner of a shoe factory in Northampton, England, who is desperate to find a new line to save his factory from closure. He meets Lola, a drag queen, played by Chiwetel Eniofor (40), and together they create kinky boots for drag queens, saving the business. Nick Frost (45) plays Don, the factory employee who originally opposes Lola, but who, in the end, works with Lola to save the day.

Kinky Boots has gone on to be made into a highly successful

Broadway musical which is presently going into it’s fifth year. It played in Toronto recently, and is a smash hit. It has the audiences dancing in the aisles, having a fun time. It will be opening in Las Vegas soon, where it is expected it will be as popular.

The original film was successful. Entertaining and lively, with some great acts by drag queens, it was enjoyable. It has all the components of entertainment: a story that has attractive characters who are intriguing and rouse our sympathy, even our affection; these characters are facing a challenge and striving to achieve a vital goal; in the process they change and grow, and we feel supportive of their efforts; the aim is achieved, so the ending is happy; and we are left “feeling good”. This, even if it could have been given more impact, which, no doubt, has been added for the stage shows.


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Liberty Requires Responsibility: Why Libertarianism is Out of Balance

When you talk to libertarians*, the clear message is maximum liberty. They advocate not only freedom from government, but freedom from their fellow Man. The average libertarian wants to be “left along” to live his life (and the most vocal seem to be men) without interference from others just as long as he does “no harm”. “Harm” is always defined in the narrowest way, and I have even seen it said that causing property values to decline does not count as “harm”. If being underwater on my home because of the house next door does not constitute “harm”, I imagine that noise ordinances are a step too far as well.

Libertarians wax poetic on the rights of people to become addicts, and that the government should not interfere. Marriage should be a private venture, where the state just upholds whatever contract is signed. There is no good libertarian argument made to stop brothers and sisters from marrying, because they are into it. Whatever people want to do, if it does not cause “harm” is fine and dandy.

Some libertarians call all taxes “theft”, while living in a nation defended by the world’s most powerful military, paid for with tax dollars. How one can agree there must be government, but then deny it should be able to tax is beyond me. And, there is no way to define taxes as theft, and then suppose that some taxes are legitimate. Theft is always “harm” after all.

Many libertarians deny that conscription is ever valid, for any reason, even if the nation is invaded. I guess the idea is that if you are not attacked, what happens to the guy next door in none of your business. I suppose the argument could be, “Well, I would come to my neighbor’s defense voluntarily,” but let’s be honest. That does not hold water. Libertarianism is all about what is rationally best for me not the other guy. The best thing for me is for everyone else to take the risk, while I stay safe. Depending on a tragedy of the commons not to happen is a foolish thing to do.

Libertarians live with the idea that rights can be easily assigned, belong only to the individual, and the minority of one trumps everything else. The libertarian believes that as long as his wants and needs do not directly harm someone else, then anything goes. It is all about rights.

The Boy Scout Oath talks about duties and not rights. Duty to God (more on the Atheism of libertarians in another article), Duty to Country, Duty to Obey the Scout Law, Duty to help others at all times, and Duty to self, to keep yourself “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight”. These are hard things to do, and we all fall short of them. Never, do you hear libertarians talk about responsibilities and duties. It is all about “my rights”, and “don’t tell me what to do, man”. The only real talk on personal responsibility comes from talking about the elimination of welfare. Everything is to be private charity, because as we know, without the government, people will just take care of each other, and certainly not turn away and ignore the plight of others. And if bad things do happen, well, the person needs to take responsibility for that.

Libertarianism ignores human nature. Somehow, it says that when people are in government, they can do no good due to human nature, but when they are citizens free of government as possible, those same people will somehow be just fine. History does not show a great track-record on that score, anymore than it shows a great track-record for government. Being honest about human beings, sometimes duties need to be enforced with external pressure. Government can do that, and it must do so at times. Indeed, our contract with government and each other is that we agree to live with some restrictions, and give each other the power to back that contract up.

While libertarians will argue that duties and responsibilities can be enforced via social pressures, I don’t believe they really want that, either. No matter what social norms a community sets up, libertarians are quite clear that a single person who wants to ignore them, should be able to without any outside interference. Did he buy a 150-year-old home in a historic area? Well, he has every right to tear it down and put up a stone cube if he wants too. If the neighborhood does not like it. If they don’t like it, they should have bought the home to preserve it. And it is unreasonable to expect people not to act this way. We all can think of examples of one ornery man out to “watch the world burn” so to speak.

Further, libertarians don’t act as if they really want a strong social fabric. The Libertarian Party Convention clearly shows people who want to let their freak flags fly. They want to show how they are outside mainstream culture. No social limitations for them! No Sky God is going to dictate how they run their lives! Any criticisms of them is harshing their mellow, man! As such, libertarians are as hostile to social conservatism as progressives, even while claiming a “strong civil society” is needed. I guess that is for other people to maintain.

It is clear that what libertarians want, is to receive all the benefits of living in a pluralistic and free society, without the responsibility or duty to live within social constraints. They want to live how they want, and if that is corrosive on society as a whole, so be it, because it is all about my rights. To quote my parents “What is everyone did that?” The answer is clear: If everyone did that, society would collapse.

In my next article on libertarianism, we will take a step back, and discuss the social contracts between between the people and government. Then, we will look at how libertarians attempt to remove items, like abortion, from the political sphere, and how that mirrors the progressives. I will follow that with my take on its inherent utopianism, comparing it to other utopianism ideologies from the past.

 

Link to Part 2: Social Contact Between the People and The Government

*I understand the first thing libertarians do when someone talks about libertarians is to say, “We are not all like that”. The vocal ones fit the profile outlined. These people are the face of libertarians to the rest of the world. It is not up to me, or anyone else outside the group, to work on the image of libertarians.


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TOTD 2018-03-30: The Moon, Up Close and Personal

Since 1994, Fourmilab’s Earth and Moon Viewer has provided custom views of the Earth and Moon from a variety of viewpoints, using imagery databases which have evolved over the years from primitive images to gigabyte-scale mosaics collected by spacecraft.  Views were originally restricted to the Earth, but fifteen years ago, in April 2003, the ability to view the Moon was added, using the global imagery collected by the Clementine orbiter.  These data were wonderful for the time, providing full-globe topography and albedo databases with a resolution of 1440×720 pixels.  This allowed viewing the Moon as a whole or modest zooms into localities, but when you zoomed in close the results were…disappointing.  Here is the crater Copernicus viewed from an altitude of 10 km using the Clementine data.

Moon, Copernicus crater, 10 km altitude, Clementine data

It looks kind of like a crater, but it leaves you wanting more.

That was then, and this is now.  In 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was launched into a near-polar orbit around the Moon.  In its orbit, it is able to photograph the entire lunar surface from an altitude as low as 20 km, with very high resolution.  This has enabled the assembly of a global mosaic image with resolution of 100 metres per pixel (total image size is 109164×54582 pixels), or about 5.6 gigabytes of 256-level grey scale pixels).  This image database is now available in Earth and Moon Viewer.  Here is the same view of Copernicus using the LRO imagery.

Copernicus crater, 10 km altitude, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imagery

Bit of a difference, don’t you think?  But it doesn’t stop there.  Let’s swoop down to 1 km above the surface and  look at the central peaks.

Note the small craters and boulder fields which are completely invisible with even the best Earth-based telescopes.

Thanks to LRO, you can now explore the Moon seeing views that only astronauts who orbited, flew by, or landed there have ever seen with their own eyes.  And the entire Moon is yours to explore, including all of the far side and the poles, where Apollo missions never ventured.

The Clementine and LRO imagery were collected a decade apart.  The technology which has enabled this improvement continues to grow exponentially.  The Roaring Twenties are going to be interesting.

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English as a Zeroth Language

I am tired of dealing with Americans whose English is not up to par.  Frequently, it is those brave souls who have learned English as a second language, and whose proficiency in their native language is beyond suspicion.  Of course they are fluent in their first language.  Of course they have worked hard to learn English.  Of course, I would rather work in English than in their own primary language.  I discount none of the effort or benefits which accrue to these hard-working multi-lingual colleagues.

But when I want to explain something at work, and I need it to be carried out as I indicate, I do not owe a breakdown of the grammar, or a definition of terms which are standard in our field.  I absolutely understand that one task of leadership is to communicate the requirement.  but I should not have to spend so much time remediating hard-working and good-spirited people — whom I like — in their basic English.

It’s not as though they just have difficulty with technical terms or obscure nauticalisms.  I am talking about basic verb conjugation.  Don’t mark something “closed” if what you mean is “to be closed”.  Those imply different required actions (none vs close the damned thing).   Don’t mix present simple and past simple when describing a sequence of events.  Don’t leave dangling participles which can be interpreted in materially different ways.  “X did not do Y as ordered by Z.”  What did Z order?

When I coach, correct, or criticize (in that order) repeated failures of English, people look at me as if I have an arm growing from my forehead.  I do not seek perfection — competence would do.

I am not even making the larger case for English here — just in the American workplace.  And losing.

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Citizens and the Census

Just when I began to think “hysteria fatigue” was finally setting in, progressives went off again – this time on the census’ proposed citizenship status question. Now these same progressives are prone to offer homilies on the sanctity of the vote. Such expressions are limited, however, to removing obstacles to voting, but only certain obstacles – like prior interment/cremation, felony conviction or present non-residency or non-citizenship. If citizenship has ever conferred any benefit, it was the right to vote as an act of self-government. It derives from parental citizenship and/or location of one’s birth. Otherwise gaining it is a privilege, contingent on factors democratically determined by existing citizens; it must be earned. It is not a right of anyone, anywhere.

The vehement progressive orthodoxy on this issue reveals coherence only for those who can see through the MSM’s disingenuous narratives.  On the one hand, liberals avow the near-holy status of voting; a sacrament of democracy. On the other hand they would have the right promiscuously available to anyone from anywhere who is able to present him/her/it-self to the voting booth (either under their own steam or by virtue of omnibus caravan), no questions asked. Photo ID – required and used by masses for all sorts of gifts from social welfare programs – is denounced as exclusionary, as is a requirement to demonstrate that one is a citizen of this nation in which one desires to vote (Democratic, of course). If the right to vote does not exclude non-citizens, then citizenship has no value.

This otherwise incoherent set of beliefs is collimated by only one single fact – a necessary and sufficient logical conclusion deriving from this belief system: US citizenship confers no right to govern ourselves. It confers only a duty to accept as equals anyone from anywhere capable of presenting themselves at our (evanescent) borders, at our voting booths or at our welfare offices and then it confers a duty to pay, gladly, for the privilege. It makes us  not a representative self-governing nation, but a Ponzi-scheme of population. It is an unstable, inherently self-terminating system. Some might conclude that is the precise aim of today’s American leftist. It sure looks that way.

If we who believe in self- and limited government(and who believe in nationhood as opposed to “global citizenship”) had leaders  worthy of the appellation, they would be pointing this out again and again and again. It has not a thing to do with jingoism, racism, xenophobia or any of the other names  we are called, ad nauseam. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in a worthy national heritage in whose DNA is self-examination and continual improvement.

Either we have the right to govern ourselves as a nation as we were founded, or we do not. It is time to decide, to state the result and insist on the consequences of that result – such as: in this nation, citizens control its destiny. If you wish to become a citizen, follow the rules we have established and we will consider you as an individual, regardless of any superficial appearances such as skin color or national origin. We judge you on your beliefs in essential American values such as tolerance, the desire to assimilate to a reasonable degree and the desire/ability to support yourself and your family. We conduct credible elections in which only citizens may vote and we require proof of citizenship for voting. This requirement applies to everyone who would vote. Once you have become a citizen, you are then fully equal as a voter. For that reason, we require proof of citizenship for voting. Citizenship is exclusionary as regards the right to vote. Period. Uncomplicated. Get over it.


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