Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On the Electoral College

"But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice." - Henry David Thoreau in Civil Disobedience (1849)
 "To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed."  - James Madison, Federalist #10

At the time of writing, some conservative friends of mine are freaking out over Obama being reelected, while liberal friends are rejoicing. That's all well and good, but I'd like to address a pretty common complaint I've seen tonight:

"If Obama and Romney are within 160,000 votes of each other, out of 100,000,000, why does Obama have 33% more electoral votes than Romney? The electoral college is unfair!"

This is a good question, as the relationship between the popular and electoral votes are not easily grasped. Instead of explaining the electoral college myself, I'm going to direct you to the most excellent CGPGrey. Watch his explanation, then we'll continue this little conversation!


 

(more after the jump)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

RCIA: Meet Mother Mary

When I first took a serious look at the Catholic Church one particular set of doctrines stood out more than any others. The Marian doctrines were so foreign, and, quite frankly, offensive, to me that I refused to give them any real intellectual attention. They were superstition and hero worship at best, and false idols at worst.

Over time however, I learned that the Catholic Church does not endorse a doctrine without careful study first. They explore all the implications of a belief, and the implications of those implications. This is one of the most attractive things about the RCC to me, how thoroughly they examine their doctrine! So I had to give Mary a chance.

More after the jump...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Holy Passive Voice Batman!

Ever heard of this trick for identifying passive voice? If you can add "by zombies" and the sentence still makes sense, then its in passive voice! Let's use a real-life example shall we?


Toddler hit [by zombies] when gun goes off in car in Sunnyside

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — A 3-year-old boy was critically injured [by zombies] when a firearm discharged [by zombies] in the vehicle he was riding in Monday night, Sunnyside police said.
He’s being treated [by zombies] at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center for a gunshot to the head.
The boy, who was not identified [by zombies], arrived at Sunnyside Community Hospital about 9:30 p.m. Monday, according to a news release from the Sunnyside Police Department.
Officers said they believe the gun’s firing resulted from an accident when the vehicle was in the area of Yakima Valley Highway and East Edison Avenue.
The vehicle and the gun were seized [by zombies], but police did not immediately release more information about the circumstances. They said they are continuing to investigate.

Why am I suddenly a grammar Nazi? Because there is no such thing as an accidental discharge! The use of passive voice to describe a negligent discharge does two things, it reinforces this popular and inaccurate notion that guns go off by accident all the time, and it deflects blame from the irresponsible owner/operator of the firearm! I am willing to bet a substantial amount of money that someone allowed the trigger on that gun to be pulled, whether with his finger or by carrying it improperly (ie, not using a holster).

Anyway, someone needs to show this trick to the media...

Link to source article: http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2012/10/24/toddler-hit-when-gun-goes-off-in-car-in-sunnyside

Thursday, October 18, 2012

RCIA: The Church

The Catholic Church has a very different view of "The Church" than most Protestants. Growing up I was taught that there are two meanings to the word "church." There is the local church, which is a body of believers that gather together in common faith. Then there is the universal, or invisible, Church, which is comprised of all truly saved individuals on the planet.

The implication of this of course was that the universal church, which is what the Bible refers to when it talks about the body of Christ, is only loosely coupled together though the common belief in Christ as our savior. Other than that and the most basic Christians beliefs, everything is sorta left up to local churches. Two local churches may disagree on most things, but so long as they both are comprised of people who have been "born again" then they are both part of the Body of Christ. Just don't expect them to work together, on anything.

(Finally figured out how to insert a break! Woo!)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

RCIA: Catching Up and Such

This week in RCIA we got a tour, and explanation of the various things found in, the church building. Which also makes this a good week to cover what we've been over so far and what I missed the two weeks before I started the class.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is the lack of surprises. Thus far the class has discussed God and Jesus, and my old Baptist Sunday School teacher could have been handed those lessons and never known they'd come from Catholic material. Really I'm not sure what else to say, there's not really anything different.

That's far too short to be a proper blog post so I'll tell you a little bit about the Catholic church building. Biggest difference between them and the Baptist churches I've been in? Nothing is in a Catholic church by accident. If there's one thing I took away from the tour today is that there is a reason for every thing in that building. Even the architecture, the bricks behind the alter are stacked vertically, not because someone thought it was different or pretty, but because it directs your gaze up towards heaven and symbolizes the prayers of the Church rising to God.

The water dishes at the entrances are there as a reminder of Baptism, which arguably plays a larger role in the Catholic Church than in the Baptist church! (More on this once we get to the sacraments) Even the table cloth on the alter is there less any part of the body and blood of Christ touch the floor. (Fun fact, there is a special sink where the vessels used in the Eucharist are cleaned and purified, it drains directly into the ground instead of the sewer system, so that no left over crumbs or drops of the Eucharist get washed into the sewers.)

Short update because I don't have much to talk about. Ok, that's a lie, I have much to talk about but I need more time to make it coherent. And play video games. And read the Catechism, and waste time on the internet. Etc, etc. More on RCIA every Sunday (is the plan) and I intend to do a post about Protestantism and why I'm looking else where at some point. Soooooo stay tuned!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Crossing the Tiber

Today I am starting the Catholic Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This is the several month long rite that ensures those of us seeking to join the Roman Catholic Church actually know what we are getting into. Whether or not I will complete the rite and and join the RCC I do not know. However, this has been several months in the making and it's something that I have to do.

I was raised Baptist, and most of my friends are some flavor of Protestant. I know how most Protestants view the Roman Catholic Cult. I mean Church. (Sorry, old habits die hard.) Growing up I was taught how Catholics prayed to Mary, worshipped statues, believed in a works based salvation, and could only pray through priests. The RCC was clearly the "whore of Babylon" described in Revelation 17. I was even taught how to witness to Catholics at one point!

So why do I seek to join the Catholic Church?

The reasons are many and somewhat hard to articulate. Suffice to say my decision was not an easy one. It was a slow, deliberate and difficult decision. Converting is likely to cost me a lot. I fully expect my friends and family to not understand. Possibly they'll even to try to save me from my backslidden ways!

So why do it?

Because I am, if nothing else, a Truth seeker. It is my quest for Truth that has pulled me closer and closer to the Roman Church. I cannot stop at the waters of the Tiber because of what they might cost me. I must see if Truth is to be found on the other side.

But that still leaves the problem of people not understanding, of strained relationships. I can't change what you believe about the Roman Catholic Church, but I can take you along for the ride.

So that is what I'll be blogging about for the next several months. RCIA started on September 2nd and runs through April 21st. Should I complete it and decide to join the Church I'll be welcomed as a new Catholic on Easter Sunday. Between now and then I'll be blogging about the classes, the discussions and the Catholic Catechism.

I don't expect you to agree with the RCC, or with me, and I don't even expect you to understand. I will do what I have to do regardless. But I do want to offer you this opportunity to experience the RCIA with me, to dispel common rumors about the RCC, to compare and contrast doctrine, to seek common ground and to articulate differences clearly.

I'm inviting you to take a swim with me, or at least watch from the shore.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

AP fails at gun rights reporting.

Today the GOP released a decently pro-gun, pro self-defense platform which the AP reports on here: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/gop-calls-broader-gun-rights-unlimited-clips

Unfortunately, the AP writes in that "somewhat neutral report who doesn't know what s/he is talking about style" that is all to common to the mainstream media. So I'd like to comment on a few things.

First off, the whole calling magazines clips thing is RIGHT IN THE TITLE.

"But Scott," you say, "Who cares? Everyone calls magazines clips so just go with it!" Well sure, if "clips" was the "groundhog" to "magazine's" "woodchuck" I wouldn't care. But they are not. Clips merely clip (you don't say?) ammunition together to make it easier to load a magazine. Magazines actually feed ammunition into the gun. This is important, because ignorant law makers are constantly trying to ban these things! Terminology matters. Go ahead and pass a ban on clips that hold more than 10 rounds, I won't care. You try to touch my magazines and we'll have a problem though.

And while we're on the subject, can we stop calling 30 round magazines "high capacity"? They are not. They are standard capacity. To illustrate, let me tell you a personal story. When sighting in my AK after replacing the stock sights I found that with my standard 30 round magazines I could not fit it in my gun vice. So I set out to find a 10 round mag to make sighting it in easier. No store in town had one. I had to buy it online, where it cost more than I would have paid for two standard 30 round magazines. The point is 30 is standard, 10 is the exception.

Ok, now for the article.
The 2012 platform, approved this week by GOP convention-goers who nominated Mitt Romney for president, also endorses "stand your ground" rights for gun owners. That legal concept, which says gun bearers don't have to retreat if they feel threatened in a public place, drew national attention after February's fatal shooting of an unarmed Florida teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
Two problems here: First, the collection of laws colloquially known as "stand your ground" do not pertain only to gun owners and gun bearers. The laws apply only to when one is justified in using deadly force, doesn't matter what type of force that is. Could be a knife, a baseball bat, or even just your fists.

Which brings us to problem two: The Zimmerman-Martin case is not, and has never been about, Florida's "stand your ground law." The defense decided not to use that law as part of the defense because it does not apply! One of two things happened, either Zimmerman initiated the use of force in which case he can't claim self defense at all, or Martin had Zimmerman pinned to the ground in which case Zimmerman could not have retreated and "stand your ground" is irrelevant. This doesn't fit into the media's narrative though, so go figure.

The shooters in Colorado and Arizona used large-capacity weapons capable of firing many rounds quickly.
That may be, but what AP fails to mention is that the weapons used were also the most common in America. The Glock is the most popular pistol in America and the AR-15 and its variants are the most popular rifles in America. These weapons are used every day for for sporting, for hunting and for self defense. They are ubiquitous, and yet they are rarely ever used in mass shootings. Extremely rarely. Focusing on the weapons is a failure to analyze the problem. You can ban mere things as much as you want, but that'll never solve the problem of evil and of violence.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said that, by making these changes, Republican leaders have "put themselves farther out of touch with their constituents."
Well no, this is another case of gun control advocates pretending that gun owners actually believe in gun control. Most of us do not. Why would we? Guns are an every day part of our lives. They aren't really all that different than our cars or our kitchen knives. They are objects that are useful and fun to own. They are hobbies, collections and heirlooms.

Remember 1994, Mr. Gross? That was a perfect example of the Democrats losing touch with their constituents. They passed the Clinton assault rifle ban and immediately lost the House in a landslide. Americans have only become more pro-gun since then. Gun ownership is exploding. In the midst of this recession the gun industry has continued to grow, mostly driven by the explosion of states legalizing concealed carry. I think the republicans are very much in touch on this issue.

His group supports bans on large-capacity weapons, which it says are "designed to shoot a lot of people quickly and efficiently."
You hear about the guy who attacked a cop and took 5 shots from a .45 before he stopped his attack? Bullets are not magic. Its not like in the movies when the hero shoots the bad guy and the bad guy falls over and never gets up. In real life is much messier, there are only three ways to stop a bad guy. One is psychological ("I've been shot!"), while fastest, this doesn't work in the case of a determined attacker. Two is to cause enough blood loss that the attacker loses consciousness. This still takes time, even a shot that destroys an attacker's heart will leave him nine seconds to act. Nine seconds is an eternity when you life is on the line. The third is to destroy the central nervous system. That means a head shot, which is very, very, very difficult under stress.

So, I don't carry a 16 round magazine because I want to kill a lot of people or because it makes me feel powerful, I carry a 16 round magazine because I want to be able to stop the threat! It may take 4-6 hits before the threat stops, and under stress I may miss! If I only had 10 rounds, that's not much margin for error and what if there is two attackers? Besides, having ammunition left over after a successful defensive gun use is never a bad thing! Demonizing standard capacity magazines just shows a lack of understanding of the realities of how guns work, how bullets cause damage and how an attacker is actually stopped.

So that's it. I wish the media would bother to learn a little more about firearms and the realities of armed self defense, but until they do I will be here to correct them on my little corner of the internet.

Friday, August 3, 2012

On Chick-fil-A

I didn't really want to comment on this, but there's been so much garbage on facebook and in the media that I had to speak my mind. And so dear friends, four reasons why "Chick-fil-A Day" wasn't as holy and important as everyone seems to think.

1) God doesn't care about Chick-fil-A


I've seen lots of facebook posts along the lines of "Praise God! Look how long the line for Chick-fil-A is!" You know what that sounds like to me? "Praise God! Look how long the line for this checkout counter at Wal-Mart is!" or perhaps "Praise God! Look how far traffic is backed up on the interstate!"

Why? Because people buying chicken sandwiches does about as much to advance the kingdom of God as buying cheap crap or sitting in traffic. That is, it does nothing. God's kingdom, is not spread through waffle fries. God is not glorified when Christians eat fast food. So why should God care about these things?

Its not wrong to support a position or a cause you agree with, just don't delude yourself into thinking that your cause somehow advances God's kingdom. Which brings us to number two...

2) No one accepted Christ on Wednesday because of your chicken sandwich


Let me repeat that. No one was saved, born again, repented, whatever, because you bought a 7 dollar chicken sandwich. No one. None. Zilch. In fact, I daresay that instead of plowing the ground on Wednesday, Christians were packing it down with a steamroller.

Look, I know most of us only went there because we love God's definition of marriage, and we love to see a successful person take a stand in favor of that, and we wanted to show our appreciation. I get that, I really do. But the gay community, a community that desperately needs Christ, doesn't. They saw Wednesday as a show of support for a man that hates them. I know Wednesday was not about hate, but it was perceived as being about hate. And I'm not talking about media bias, I'm talking about real flesh and blood human beings who saw Wednesday as a giant neon sign that said "we don't want you!"

No one was saved yesterday. The ground of the gay communities hearts was hardened. And we counted that as a victory?

3) Buying chicken doesn't "defend" marriage.


I'm going to steal a line of reasoning from the Bad Catholic blog. Marriage is between one man and one woman. By definition. Anything that doesn't meet that definition is not marriage. Therefore there can be no such thing as gay marriage. We are literally fighting over legal recognition of a non thing!

Tell me Christian, does the sanctity of marriage depend on the vows between a husband and wife and their God, or does it depend on the secular world powers? Is marriage preserved best when married couples practice it as God has ordained or when a bureaucrat puts a rubber stamp on a piece of paper that says two people are married?

My point is we are fighting the wrong battle. I don't give a damn what the US government thinks marriage is, it can't change the real meaning of that word. Two gay men can claim to be married, but I can also claim to be the president of Russia. Its meaningless. I will go so far as to argue that two unsaved heterosexual people with a marriage license aren't actually married! If we want to preserve "traditional marriage" we need to spread Christ, not pass legislation. We are fighting the wrong battle.

4) Buying chicken didn't defend free speech

You didn't do anything to defend the first amendment on Wednesday. If you want to do that I suggest two things. First, buy a gun. All our rights as Americans hinge on the right to keep and bear arms. An armed man is a citizen, an unarmed man is a slave. Second, don't tolerate politicians who don't respect your rights. The people of Chicago and Boston should be working to fire their mayors right now.

Ok, that's all for now. Carry on.

Friday, July 27, 2012

You might be a Baptist if...

Slightly Bitter Baptist productions presents:

You might be a Baptist if...

- Your churches doctrine can fit on a bumper sticker

- The pastor's name is written on your church sign in dry erase marker

- Your church has a "Committee on Teams and Committees"

- Your church has "Bible" in the name

- Your church is non-denominational

- Instead of a new members class you just have a potluck

- You've never fasted

- Your pastor wears waders when baptizing people

- Half the men in your church are named "John"

- The painting behind the baptismal involves a waterfall or a lighthouse

- Contrary to popular belief, Jesus actually turned the water into welches grape juice

- You either think drums are evil and so don't have any, or you think they are permissible, but not profitable, so you lock your drummer in transparent a box.

- Your church has hymnals but never uses them

- The earth is 6000 years old because Reasons

- You think Catholicism is a cult

- During your churches' Super Bowl party you don't show the commercials because of beer advertising. But you have a designated sinner watch them so you don't miss any of the game.

- Funerals, Weddings, Graduations, Birthdays and Going Away Parties are all celebrated with potluck dinners.





Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In response to David Frum

Just today CNN posted an article written by David Frum. He begins:
There will be no new gun laws after the Aurora shooting for the basic reason that the American people do not want them.
Over the past 20 years, support for gun control has collapsed in the United States.
 Yes and thank God for that! People have begun to realize that gun control does not work.
Three-quarters of Americans want to keep the right to own handguns, weapons whose only function is to kill human beings at close range. ... Responding to public opinion, states have loosened gun laws to allow citizens to carry weapons with them almost anywhere they go.
Yes, and what has been the result of this proliferation of handguns? I'll let Mr. Frum answer:
The overall violent crime index has tumbled by one-third since the early 1990s. The worst crimes -- murder and rape -- have declined even more. American citizens are safer today from crime than at almost any time since record-keeping began, very likely safer than at any time in the history of the country.
Soooooo, I fail to see the problem?
In the mid-2000s, when crime rates were declining fast, almost 70% of Americans wrongly said that crime rates had risen over the past year. What force on earth could convince Americans that down is up? The most powerful force of all: television.
Hey cool, I hate TV too! Hey David we should totally hang out some time. But seriously folks, turn off the dang TV. You'll thank me later.

TV news creates a false picture of a country under attack by rampaging criminals, and especially nonwhite criminals. The people who watch the most TV news, Americans older than 50, also happen to be the group most likely to own a gun.
Oh, OK. I see his point now. He's about to accuse gun owners of being old, white racists. How original.

Only one-fifth of young Americans own a gun; one-third of over-50 Americans do. Republicans are twice as likely to own a gun as Democrats. Maybe not so coincidentally, Republicans are more likely to watch the scariest news channel of them all: Fox. Whites are twice as likely to own a gun as nonwhites -- and it may also not be a coincidence that gun purchases have suddenly spiked since November 2008.
Ok, David, I take back my invitation. But Mr. Frum isn't done yet, he's about to assure us that everything is A-Okay and you can go ahead and turn in your guns to the nearest police station because you definitely don't need them.
The police can protect you, and will, and do.
FALSE. Big. Fat. Stinking. Lie. See Warren vs. DC and Castle Rock vs. Gonzales. Both cases ruled that the police are under no obligation to protect individual citizens. The police are there to deter and to arrest perpetrators after the fact, not to protect you.
And a gun in the house is not a guarantee of personal security -- it is instead a standing invitation to family tragedy.
The vast majority of gun owners are realists, we know there is no such thing as a guarantee of personal safety. We do know that a gun is the great equalizer, it enables the weak to defend against the strong, the one against the many. It levels the playing field and gives us a fighting chance to survive when the bad guys decide to come knocking. Only an improperly secured gun is a tragedy waiting to happen.
In the land of the Second Amendment, nobody will take your guns away.
Ha! Tell that to the people of New Orleans. Or have you not hear about the Great New Orleans Gun Grab? The book is worth picking up, but for those of you who don't want to read it check out some videos here.
But if you love your children, you should get rid of them voluntarily.
NO. If you love your children you teach them how to defend themselves! If you love your children you teach them gun safety so that they know that guns aren't toys, and that when they are at little billy's house and he finds his dad's gun not to play with it! If you love your children you teach them how to survive and thrive in the real world, you don't shelter them from things that are unpleasant.

Sorry David Frum, but if people follow your advice, they will get killed. Yes America is safer than ever before, we also have more armed civilians walking the streets than ever before. This is not an accident. Concealed carry makes things much more dangerous for criminals. My gun protects you, even if I've never met you, because the criminals don't know its on my hip and not yours.

Though, he still gets some points for telling you to stop watching TV.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Police Force


Awhile back the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that citizens do not have the right to defend themselves from law enforcement officers behaving illegally. The ruling was such that were you to walk in on a law enforcement officer raping your wife, the only thing you could legally do would be to sue him after the deed was done. This was clearly an unacceptable situation.

Enter the NRA, just recently Indiana's legislator passed a NRA backed bill that added language to Indiana's Castle Doctrine that that explicitly allows a citizen to use force against a "public servant" if the citizen "reasonably believes" that the officer is acting illegally and if the force is necessary to prevent "serious bodily injury." This is a rather narrow definition, but a much needed one.

Bloomberg.com wrote an article about this law, and I'd like to comment on parts of it. Give it a read first, and then come back here and lets discuss it!

The article starts out with a very small amount of background and then the police response: “If I pull over a car and I walk up to it and the guy shoots me, he’s going to say, ‘Well, he was trying to illegally enter my property,’” said Hubbard, 40, who is president of Jeffersonville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 100.

The Fraternal Order of Police are notoriously anti-gun rights, so this reaction doesn't surprise me at all. Hubbard construes the law as giving citizens the power to shoot police for pulling them over, but this is clearly not the case. "serious bodily injury" has a pretty strict legal definition and a police officer is well within the law to pull someone over. If the above scenario were to take place, the perpetrator would most likely be sentenced for murder.

"Among them is the Stand Your Ground self-defense measure in Florida, which generated nationwide controversy after the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teenager."

Despite the media's best efforts to make the Zimmerman-Martin case about Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, that law has absolutely zero bearing on the case. Stand Your Ground simply removes one of the three requirements for claiming self defense as a defense against the legal charge of murder. The first two are 1) the defendant can not have instigated the fight and 2) the defendant must be in reasonable fear of his or her life. The third, nullified by Stand Your Ground, is that the defendant has a duty to make a reasonable attempt at retreat.

In the case of Zimmerman, one of two things happened. Either Zimmerman did indeed chase down Martin, as the popular media narrative goes, and instigated the fight, in which case he cannot claim self defense. Or, if Zimmerman's account is true, then Martin pushed Zimmerman to the ground and was on top of him when the shooting occurred, in which case retreat is impossible and Stand Your Ground matters not at all. So, either Mark Niquette over at Bloomberg did not do his research, or he's pushing the "Martin was murdered in cold blood" narrative. Either way, this is not truth in journalism.

Continuing we find: "It’s not clear under the law whether an officer acting in good faith could be legally shot for mistakenly kicking down the wrong door to serve a warrant, said state Senator Tim Lanane, the assistant Democratic leader and an attorney."

To which I say, good. I don't want police killed, and I'm not against police in general. But we give police great power over us, and with that power comes responsibility. And with responsibility comes consequences. Police make life and death decisions and they need to be held accountable to those decisions less they start to make them lightly. Kicking in the wrong door is a classic example. The number of people killed in wrong door no knock raids is legion, but it is very rarely that police ever face consequences for their mistakes. Even the ones that get innocent people killed.

So yes, I want kicking down a door to be risky. I want it to have consequences. Kicking down a door is a huge violation of civil liberty, if it is to be legal it must be so only under the strictest of circumstances. Kicking down the wrong door should be considered a sign of incompetence and cause for dismissing an officer from a swat team.

Further: "In Clay County, Indiana, outside Terre Haute, the Sheriff’s Department changed its procedures because of the law. Detectives in plain clothes and unmarked cars now must be accompanied by a uniformed officer on calls to homes, Sheriff Michael Heaton said."

Seems to me this should have been standard procedure in the first place.

"Hubbard, the officer in Jeffersonville, in southeastern Indiana, said the law causes him to second-guess himself."

Well then it's working.

"The law has changed Hubbard’s view of the NRA.

He said he has been “a proud member of the NRA for years,” and while he’s still a member and NRA firearms instructor, “the day I found out the NRA was pushing behind this bill was the day I became a not-so-happy NRA member.” "

Oh boo hoo. You love the NRA when it protects your rights, but you don't like it when it protects the rights of the ordinary citizens who have placed you in a position of authority over them? Your job is dangerous, you knew this when you signed up. If it is too dangerous for you then quit. In the mean time be careful how you use your power.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Real Obamacare

(The following was written by a friend of mine whom has just finished his residency and is about to take his first job as a doctor. He's given me permission to share it, enjoy)
The Real Obamacare

The reason that medicine costs so much is because many individuals do not pay for it. The uninsured and under-insured visit the ER because they will not get denied an ER doctor evaluation when they do not wish to pay for an office consultation. Lawyers have made it where if a non-emergency is not seen in the ER, then the doctor suffers in court, therefore extensive, expensive workups are ordered that the patient never intends to pay. Medicaid patients do not pay a dime for any medical service or medication, and many go to the ER whenever convenient and get a full workup free of charge that you and I as taxpayers pay for. Ever realize that you and I are paying for someone on Medicaid to get free Tylenol from the pharmacy?

The problem with the insurance companies is not that they are big, greedy monopolies, but they have been subject to so many forced legal requirements and increased costs from hospitals (the hospitals have to raise the price for everyone to balance out the people who don't pay any of their bill or don't even have an address to bill, ie. illegal alien, etc.) and thus have no other choice but to drop certain people or coverages or increase premiums; it is just business. Insurance companies are not increasing in number due to so many of these legal precedents and ramifications, so healthy competition is at a minimum, and vastly meddled with by the federal government. So the problem with our current healthcare system has been caused by the federal government. And the solution? To expand
the current failing system. That is Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act may sound pretty to the individual, but in reality it is designed to destroy private insurance.

The ACA cuts reimbursements to facilities and clinicians taking care of Medicare patients, so more doctors cannot afford to accept Medicare, or at least they must accept fewer patients. It penalizes doctors for not using electronic medical records (and to the exact intricate specifics they dictate, all of which are insanely expensive by the way), so older doctors are being forced to shut their doors rather than now lose Medicare money and go bankrupt or buy a $10,000 electronic medical record when they plan to practice for less than 5 more years. It expands Medicaid to cover an additional 15-30 million people, but it does nothing to further compensate clinicians for seeing these people. A private physician who sees only Medicaid patients goes bankrupt, because Medicaid pays 30 cents to the dollar; it costs more to see the patient than you get paid. So more Medicaid holders have less doctors and access; this does not fix the problem. And they go to the ER instead. Might as well take a free ambulance ride to the ER while they're at it so they don't have to pay for gas. And you and I pay for it.

So how about the government-issued insurance plans set to come out in 2014? They're designed to be cheaper, so more people can afford them. Sounds sweet. Problem is, people look at the cheaper thing and often not what it covers (or which providers will accept it, which may not be many, making it akin to Medicaid) and will cancel their private insurance. Now more people than ever are on a government insurance policy that doctors cannot afford to accept, because it does not (granted may not) pay enough to sustain a practice. Even less access to care. This does not fix the problem of getting people their health care access that they need.

The government is also about the least efficient manager of goods and services; they do not save money nor prevent waste; quite the opposite. From experience the VA system is about the biggest example of waste there is. The government also is very picky about who gets what and when (trust me on this; I have battled many a time to get my Medicare and Medicaid patients what they need when the government says no). So we get less patient-centered care and more dictation on what the government says is what's best for the patient instead of the doctor, and the patient gets fewer choices and options. And the ACA fails to address anything at all about the absolute biggest medical expense of all: nursing homes. The law does nothing to keep people out of nursing homes, but will not pay for a nurse to make a nice, quick, easy, inexpensive visit to someone with home health and prevent further health decline. Medicare and social security are set to go bankrupt before any of us younger folk get of age, by the way.

I'm sorry to say the Supreme Court ruling this week forcing insurance or taxation will not get insurance for everyone; the tax imposed is still significantly less than insurance premiums (private or proposed public insurance), so a very large number of people will still opt out, and small business owners, already under so much legal taxation, will (if not forced out of business) most likely resort to paying the tax instead of providing medical insurance to their employees.

The solution is not to expand a failing system the government helped to create; it is to get the government back out so we can have our own private insurance competition again.

A side note: the majority of doctors in this country are against Obamacare and are not members of the AMA.
(So there you have it, a doctor's perspective on Obamacare and the problems with the medical industry)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Groaning

Forgive me for I am about to rant at you.

Its 1:40am and I am groaning. I am groaning because I have no AC, its texas and its currently 82 degrees in my apartment. I am groaning because I am awake and I really don't want to be. I am groaning because I hate our culture. I am groaning because I wish I had an uncle named Iroh (firebending optional). I am groaning because I hate how much control my body has over me.

I promise these things are all related by more than just sleep deprivation. Not that I will explain how here.

This world sucks, we all know it. How do we know that though? We want something better but how do we know to want that? We desire, we groan, for a better world, what makes us think there's a better world to be had? Hunger implies food, respiration implies oxygen, thirst implies drink. For every physical desire we have, there is some means of satisfying it. So what gives with this desire for a world that doesn't suck?

Things just aren't right. Bodies are broken, families are broken, cities are broken, nations are broken. Bigger than why are they broken is the question of how do we know they are broken? How is it that we are even capable of desiring something better? How do we know what better is?

All of that to quote this:
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
This is what I am feeling tonight. The groaning of Creation and of my body, subjected to futility. I know there is something better, and dangit, I want it now! To quoth the internet:



I really don't, which is incredibly selfish. Wait, why is that selfish? Because if Christ were to return today, a lot of people would be left out from that perfect world we're all groaning for:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. - 2 Peter 3:9
Still sucks waiting though. There is absolutely nothing here worth waiting for. Not air conditioning, not fancy guns or shiny computers. Not even sex (le gasp!). Heaven, I am sure, will be much better than all of those. So what's the hold up? Well apparently those people are worth waiting around for.

See, that's where the "in hope" part of Romans 8:20 comes into play. God didn't subject the Earth to worldsuck out of wrath or malice, He did so out of hope that people, who had rejected Him, would realize their desire could only be met in Him.

Worldsuck is the thing that tells us something is wrong and compels us to find out what. By God's grace we are saved, but only after we start asking the question "what's wrong with me?"

So I guess I should wrap this up in some semi-coherent fashion before I fall asleep on my keyboard (though that wouldn't be a bad thing, at least I would get sleep (I am going to be sooooooo productive tomorrow)). Things are wrong, but they won't always be. What man has broken God will make new, and I will endure every moment of worldsuck (especially my incredibly light American flavored worldsuck (newsflash, if you live in America the chances that your life actually sucks is pretty low (just ask anyone living in Sudan))) that comes my way, knowing that each moment God delays, someone else is accepting Christ as his or her's Lord and Savior.

I am certain I will regret posting this by Thursday at the lastest, but I don't care. I will leave it here unedited in all its sleep deprived glory as a reminder that sometimes even a broken air conditioner can give you a theology lesson. It did for me anyway, hope you got something useful out of this rant.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Can you defend Sola Scriptura?

My study of church history and doctrine has thus far led me to believe that Protestants, at least the more conservative denominations I am familiar with, while professing to believe in Sola Scriptura actually adhere to a form of Tradition (called "single source tradition" by McGrath). This type of Tradition is essentially just a specific way of interpreting scripture and doesn't allow for anything that can't be supported by scripture. However, it doesn't allow for the willy-nilly interpretation of scripture.

The churches I've been in have typically claimed that scripture must be interpreted in a certain way, and have condemned taking scripture out of context or twisting it to conform to novel ideas. This sounds a lot like "single source tradition" to me as I cannot think of a reference in scripture that speaks to how scripture is to be interpreted.

As this is only the beginning of my study on Church history and doctrine I could quite easily be mistaken. However I cannot assume Sola Scriptura anymore. I must be able to prove it to myself, especially seeing how it appears to me that most churches that profess Sola Scriptura do not actually practice it.

So, dear studied Protestant friends, if you have a defense of Sola Scriptura, I'd be happy to hear it in the comments below.



... Okay fine, Catholics can comment too. But only if you're nice.

Friday, May 11, 2012

On Gay Marriage

North Carolina recently put gay marriage in the headlines by adding a ban to their state constitution, joining thirty other states that have similar constitutional amendments or regular old laws prohibiting gay marriage. This has forced the issue front and center and has caused me to consider my own position. While I believe that the Bible clearly does not allow for gay marriage, I find my position on its legality to be much more nuanced than my position on its moral standing.

Marriage, while a religious institution, is not primarily a Christian institution. Other religions all have a concept of marriage. The exact origin of marriage as an institution isn't important to this discussion so I'm not going to discuss it. Suffice to say that the Judeo-Christian creeds do not have a monopoly on marriage. Marriage is also very much a secular institution. There has, throughout most of human history, always been some State involvement in marriage.

Furthermore, Christians (at least most of them) believe that it is wrong to force nonbelievers to behave like believers when it comes to matters that do not harm others. It is right and even necessary for a Christian to use force to prevent or deter acts of aggression such as rape, murder or theft. But when it comes to activities that, while sinful, are not a threat to another person, the Christian is under no such obligation. In fact the Christian (or anyone else) would be wrong to prevent such actions with force.

Now by force I mean physical violence and anything that derives its power from physical violence. Law is enforced through violence, hence it would be wrong to outlaw activities that are sinful but not harmful to others. This why no one would ever propose banning the sinful practice of getting drunk in your own home. It would essentially be the same as holding a gun up to someone's head and saying "No, you can't do that."

Yet this is exactly what we have done with gay marriage. Now I believe very strongly that marriage is between one man and one woman for the duration of one lifetime, but how does this give me the justification to hold a gun to two men's heads and say "Nope!"? How is this different from forcing people to abandon a belief in Islam? What is special about marriage that allows us to use the State's monopoly on violence to force the issue?

I can see one argument that is somewhat reasonable, but I believe flawed. We've already said that violence is warranted if it protects an innocent person from harm. The argument could be made that gay marriage is harmful to children. If this were the case, then it would be a compelling argument to ban gay marriage. The problem with this argument, aside from the issue of evidence which I am entirely too unfamiliar with to comment on, is that it can't stop at gay marriage. Divorce HAS been proven to be harmful to children in many different studies, so if this argument were to be used we'd have to ban divorce as well as gay marriage. While I think divorce is wrong, we have to remember that Moses allowed divorce in the Law. Also, while Christ clearly condemned divorce as adultery, he never did away with the legality of it.  As best I can tell, it is inconsistent to advocate for the banning of gay marriage while not also advocating for the banning of divorce, yet this is something no one is proposing.

In any case, I believe the argument fails because the harm being done by those immoral practices isn't sufficient enough to justify intervention by force. As such I find no compelling argument to ban homosexual marriage. Its wicked and harmful to the spiritual well being of those who practice it, but that in and of itself is not sufficient cause to use force to prevent it.

There is another aspect to this discussion that we are overlooking. Christians need to consider the missionary aspect of this discussion. Right now Evangelicals have no right to witness to homosexuals, and they have absolutely no reason to listen to us! For decades we have been sending them the message of "What you do is especially wicked and we will have no part with you." Presidents and congressmen have sexual affairs and we don't get outraged over that. But two gays try to get married and we foam at the mouth. We need to bring the gospel to these people, not harass them. They think we hate them, and they have every reason to believe that we do!

The simple fact of the matter is that no one has ever been saved through politics. US law is not a tool of the gospel. Christ said that they will know us by our LOVE, not by our politics. This is one of those issue that if we are to have an effective witness, we need to back off politically. We need to do a little less legislating, and a lot more loving.

Look at Christ's example,. The woman caught in adultery? He loved her by meeting her needs (protecting her from getting stoned to death) then he told her to "go and sin no more." The woman at the well? He told her to go and bring her husband. When she said she had no husband he pointed out her adultery and then chewed her out for being so wicked and sinful. Oh wait, no, he didn't do that. My bad.

You and me? Christ loved us while we were still his enemies. Love ALWAYS comes before change. You and I can't change sinners. Only Christ can do that. We can however love them. Maybe we should stop trying to change them prematurely, and instead try to love them.

----

If you have a compelling argument either for or against gay marriage please let me know in the comments! I welcome the opportunity for both of us to test our positions in an honest and sincere discussion.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Evil in the crosshairs?

I recently read an excerpt from American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle which is available hereIt is definitely worth the read, but it raises a few issues I'd like to discuss today.

Chris Kyle is a Navy Seal credited with the most sniper kills in US military history. In the excerpt linked to above he recounts his first sniper kill in Iraq, a woman suicide bomber who was going to use a hand grenade to kill some Marines. He shoots her before she can hurt any of the Marines and has this to say about it:

It was my duty to shoot, and I don't regret it. The woman was already dead. I was just making sure she didn't take any Marines with her.
It was clear that not only did she want to kill them, but she didn't care about anybody else nearby who would have been blown up by the grenade or killed in the firefight. Children on the street, people in the houses, maybe her child...
She was too blinded by evil to consider them. She just wanted Americans dead, no matter what.
My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman's twisted soul. I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job. But I truly, deeply hated the evil that woman possessed. I hate it to this day.
Savage, despicable evil. That's what we were fighting in Iraq. That's why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy "savages." There really was no other way to describe what we encountered there.

Before I get into this I need to make something absolutely clear: Mr. Kyle did the right thing. He did his job and he did it well. I am in no way condemning him or any other serviceman or woman. I very much respect our military.

That does not mean that the people who command our military are always right. I'm not talking about military officers, I'm talking about the civilian government that directs them. One of the beautiful things about the United States is that our military is subordinate to a civilian government. Unfortunately that also means that our government often places our men and women in uniform in bad situations for reasons that have nothing to do with defense, like Iraq.

One is hard pressed to make a case for invading Iraq on defensive grounds. They had no weapons of mass destruction (or system to deliver them for that matter), no air force that could reach us. No navy that could reach us. The invasion of Iraq was entirely pre-emptive and cannot be justified as self-defense. As such it is entirely reasonable that some people whom lived in Iraq at the time of the "liberation" would see it as a invasion of their country. Sure Saddam was a bad guy, but some people did genuinely like him and it should be no surprise that they would take up arms in defense of their country.

So is Mr. Kyle really justified in calling this woman evil? I will say no. There are any number of reasons for her to want to kill US Marines. Perhaps her husband was killed in the fighting and she wanted revenge. Perhaps she was loyal to Saddam and saw no better way to contribute to the defense of her country. If those were the case she should be motivated by grief or love, but not evil.

People don't do evil things because they are pure evil. They typically do something evil in order to acquire or achieve something good. A man will cheat (evil) to win (good). Evil itself is nothing more than a perversion of Good and cannot exist apart from it.

I also object to his statement that the Marine's souls were worth more than that woman's. We can never allow ourselves to believe that people we don't like are worth less than those we do. That fundamental flaw can lead to such evils as genocide and religious persecution. Its that type of thinking that led to the Rape of Nanking and the Holocaust. The Japanese thought they were superior to the Chinese. The Germans thought they were superior to the Jews. Mr. Kyle thinks those Marines are superior to that woman.

Again, I'm not condemning him. He did the right thing by taking that shot, it is war and she was a combatant. However, his moral judgement of her soul is entirely inadequate. She was a human being just like you and I. She had a father and a mother, a child and probably a husband at some point. She was motivated by fear, anger, love just like the rest of us. What exactly propelled her to pick up a grenade and take a few Marines with her we'll never know. We do know that she was human, and we must not forget that.

This is one of the great evils of war. It dehumanizes people on both sides. Mr. Kyle calls the enemy "savages", and they probably called him an infidel. Neither side is willing to see the humanity of the other, and so neither side can be reconciled. This is one reason why war should be entered into only as a last resort, something our government would do well to remember before placing brave young men and women like Mr. Kyle into these situations.

My point in all this is threefold: First, one man's insurgent is another man's freedom fighter. No one acts out of purely evil intentions, that is the stuff of children's cartoons. People desire good, but they often attempt to use evil to get it.

Second, one is hard pressed to show that the United States has the moral high ground in its current wars. All of them are unconstitutional, having never been declared by Congress. None of them can be justified as defensive. Given those conditions one cannot assert that our enemies are evil, they often just want us out of their countries.

Third, shame on the government for misusing our military in such a manner. They are the real fault here. Mr. Kyle's attitude is wrong, but he can hardly be blamed for feeling that way. He pulled the trigger on his rifle, but the government gave him the rifle and training and then sent him over seas to kill an enemy with no clear justification.

I leave you a video that I think will help to drive the point home:

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Law

Ok, so my experiment with updating every weekday is at an end. While I could probably stick to such a schedule if there was nothing else I wanted to do with me life, well, turns out I have other things to do than just blog. It was, however, a worthy experiment as it taught me I have no excuse not to update every Monday.

Originally I wanted to discuss the recent HHS mandate that would force religious employers to cover birth control, something which is a clear trampling of first amendment rights. However, there is little I can add to the conversation that hasn't been said by my friends here and here. I highly encourage you to read both accounts of the controversy.

In this post I'd rather discuss a much broader question that is at the root of the current controversy: what is the law? What is its purpose? Its domain? What is the proper role of law in a society? This is such a basic issue yet we hardly ever discuss it. I distinctly remember high school government classes that never once touched on what law is. Only how it is made and enforced.

Frédéric Bastiat, in his essay "The Law", argues that law is nothing more than the collective organization to the individual right to self defense. This makes sense doesn't it? What is man if not personality, faculties and property? What is faculties if not an extension of personality? What is property if not an extension of one's faculties? It is not because laws exist that we have personality, faculties and property. It is because these things pre-exist that we make laws to protect them. For if one man has the right to defend them, by force if necessary, than a group of men have the right to combine together to provide for the constant defense of their persons, faculties and property.

Law then has its basis in self defense, and as a consequence its domain is that of self defense. That is, its domain is violence. Violence is the only tool the law has to effect its ends. In so far as law is used only for defense this use of force is entirely just. It is when the law is perverted and used to harm that this use of force becomes an injustice.

Don't believe that violence is the only tool available to the law? Consider this example: A massive tax on sugar is passed, so massive that it doubles the price of sugar. Now the sugar manufacturers have to charge the tax. If they do not they will be fined. If they refuse to pay the fine police men will come to their homes and arrest them. If they refuse arrest then violence will take place. The law has no other means of forcing compliance.

So then, if law has its root, its principle, in self defense, we can clearly see its scope. Just as I cannot lawfully take from you, neither can the law itself be used to destroy the person, liberty or property of individuals or of classes. This perversion would be in contradiction to the purpose of law, which we've already concluded is the defense of persons, liberty and property.

How then does this perversion occur? Through two equal if somewhat opposite causes: greed and misconceived philanthropy. Greed is easy to understand, if one class has the ability to make laws it can use that power to make laws the redistribute wealth from the other classes to the ruling class. This was the case throughout most of human history. Today, in the United States, power is distributed such that many classes can steal from many other classes. We see this all the time. From welfare to pork barrel legislation.

The other cause, misconceived philanthropy is a blog post in and of itself and so I will not go into it here. Suffice to say that human history is ripe with examples, the French Revolution of 1789 is a great example of how men perverted the law in order to attempt to create an utopia.

And so we come to the end of my argument. If there is only one thing you take away from it let it be this: that the law is nothing more than the collective use of violence. This ties back into the beginning of this discussion and the HHS mandate. Would you hold a gun to my head and force me to buy you or someone you know birth control? That is exactly what HHS has done.

For a more in depth look at the law from someone much smarter than I, I highly recommend "The Law" by Frédéric Bastiat. It is only 55 pages long and can be had for less than seven dollars on Amazon.

If you still don't agree with me, that the law is the collective use of violence, then I want to know why! Read Bastiat, he makes a much more thorough argument than I do here, but let us also discuss this in the comments. This is a conversation that needs to be happening if we are going to preserve this republic we live in!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday: Water Rescue

There is still good in the world and despite the mainstream media's quest to eradicate all good stories (fear sells!) good deeds still occasionally make the news. Today's story can be found here: http://good-report.com/500/bystanders-save-family-after-plane-crash-into-ocean-2

Its nice to know that there are still people who will risk their own lives to help others. Contrast this with the captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia. While he had a responsibly to help his passengers and crew he abandoned ship to save himself. These people had no such official responsibility and yet they came to the help of those people stuck in an upside down airplane underwater.

In the midst of the current political season and all the awfulness it brings, I was glad to read this story.

So I'll close by citing those wise sages of old, Bill and Ted: "Be excellent to each other!"

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Lesser of Two Evils

Is a false dilemma.

Seeing as this is an election year and the Republicans are campaigning in high gear I have been hearing this one a lot. It doesn't seem to me that any of the Republicans are really happy with the candidates we have this year, but most everyone I've talked to has said they will vote for the Republican candidate regardless because he has to be better than Obama.

Now, when our political system is incapable of offering candidates whom we can support, that seems to me a good time to examine the system that produced those candidates. So what is it about our system that renders it incapable of producing statesmen? I see two great problems with the system, the first moral and the second political.

I. The Moral Tragedy

It is morally tragic whenever a citizen's choice is between two wrongdoers. That is, whenever a citizen is forced to chose between two trimmers. A trimmer, according to the dictionary, is "One who changes one's opinions, especially in politics, to suit the needs of the moment." Trimmers are what we are often referring to when discussing "the lesser of two evils." For example, it seems pretty clear to me that Obama is more sincere than either Gingrich or Romney, though he is on the opposite side of the isle. Obama however, is clearly a trimmer when it comes to such issues as gay rights and the second amendment. Despite his campaign promises he as done very little advance his cause in either category because it is not politically expedient.

A trimmer compromises his conscious in order to gain greater voter appeal. He sacrifices integrity for reelection. Such a person cannot be make right decisions, he can only make popular ones. Can we really expect a man who will trim for a few votes to gain power, once having a acquired that power, to make the right decision? Is his morality based on how much he thinks others will benefit by having him in power? That sounds a lot like a dictator to me.

Is trimming comparative? Can we say that it is right to vote for the person who trims less? Principles will not bend. A lie told to one person is the same as a lie told to one million people. It follows that someone who is consistently willing to bend their principles cannot be said to have any. If the choice is between a politician that trims a lot and a politician that trims a little the choice is really between two liars.

Of course this goes both ways. The reason we are offered trimmers over and over again is because we vote for trimmers over and over again. In a government such as ours we are assured only that we have a government "of the people, by the people and for the people." Not that such a government is morally right. Our choices in rulers is as much the fault of civic irresponsibility on the part of the electorate as it is the fault of the politicians themselves.

To repeat, a choice between two men devoid of integrity is tragic, and there is little relief except what men of integrity can be encouraged to run by voters of integrity. Is this impractical idealism? Hardly, Edmund Burke, one of the greatest statesmen of all time, said this:

But his [the candidate's] unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

II. The Political Fallacy

Were you a citizen of Spain in 1936, who would you have fought for? The Nazis or the Communists? The lessor of two evils in such a case is clearly a false dilemma. The only moral choice then is not to chose, or rather to chose to support neither party. Two extreme an example? Candidate A supports higher taxes on groups X, Y and Z and giving the money to groups A, B, and C. Candidate B supports higher taxes on groups A, B, and C and giving the money to groups X, Y and Z. In such a situation which candidate is morally superior? The one who wants to rob from the groups you dislike and give to the groups you favor?

III. The Solution

What is one to do in such a situation? Protest. Protest peaceably with your vote. If there is no candidate whom you can support then support no candidate. Imagine if this happened on a massive scale. Say tens of millions of voters adopted the policy don't vote for a trimmer. What would happen? Sure nothing would change overnight, but once people took notice we would see candidates of integrity run for office. When such candidates received significant and growing support the two parties would have to offer candidates with integrity.

Even if said candidates didn't agree with you, integrity doesn't mean that they are right of course, this would still be preferable to trimmers because men of integrity can be taught, as they are concerned about doing the right thing. Such men will listen to solid arguments about what is right, instead of just the latest poll. Don't underestimate the threat of tyranny by the majority.  Remember Mel Gibson's character in The Patriot? "Why should I trade one tyrant 2000 miles away for 2000 tyrants 1 mile away?"

If we are to be responsible citizens, we must re-examine our own ideas and beliefs on a constant basis. It may be that with such examination we will come to the conclusion that good citizenship does not demand that we vote for the "lesser of two evils." We may even find that in fact the exact opposite is demanded. At the very least, the idea deserves thoughtful consideration.

The ideas in this post were heavily influenced by this essay at thefreemanonline.org.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Firearms Friday: Emily Gets Her Gun

I have been following a series in the Washington Times called "Emily Gets Her Gun". Emily Miller is a senior editor at the Washington Times who has decided that she wants a handgun for personal protection and now that the SCOTUS has struck down DC's gun ban she would acquire one. The series follows all the twists turns and hoops she has to navigate through to legally buy a gun in DC and is now on its 19th article.

It is the most recent article titled "Transferring a gun into D.C." that I want to comment on today. In this most recent article Emily details the difficulty of, after actually buying a gun, legally moving it into the District of Columbia. One section in particular stood out at me:

I bought my gun from Mark Attanasio of Immortal Arms in Culpeper Virginia. When I made the purchase on the phone, the dealer offered to deliver the gun to Mr. Sykes. I had a feeling that he couldn’t do that, but he believed that his Federal Firearms License (FFL) would suffice.
After sorting through the D.C. gun laws, Mr. Attanasio called me back. “I’m a FFL licensed dealer and I can’t drive it into the city to Sykes, another licensed dealer,” he told me, astounded. “But I can send it to him and pass through who-knows-how-many unlicensed hands.” I'm watching first-hand how gun-control restrictions aren't based on common sense.
Lack of common sense indeed. For those of you not following the story, Mr. Sykes is DC's only licensed gun dealer. He doesn't sell guns or keep any in stock, rather he only transfers them. Since DC residents can't buy guns out of state, were he to close up shop that would effectively renew the ban on firearms in DC. This almost happened when he couldn't afford to pay his business's rent any longer,  but to avoid a new SCOTUS trial the city offered him a place to do business in a DC police station.

Let's stop here for a minute though. When the city has to bend over backwards to keep one man, one man, in business to avoid a Supreme Court challenge,  then there's a good chance you're gun laws are too restrictive. What happens if My. Sykes is hit by a bus? Has a heart attack? For the citizens of our nations capital, their ability to exercise their Second Amendment right to acquire arms literally hangs on one man's business. That in and of itself is a problem.

It doesn't stop there of course. Since Mr. Sykes does not actually sell firearms, Ms. Miller had to go and buy one out of state. The FFL that she bought it from offers to drive it to Mr. Sykes. But he can't! Instead the law forces him to mail it! Now there is nothing inherently wrong about mailing a firearm, but a system that forces someone to use the mail instead of the arguably more secure offer of driving the gun from one FFL to another is flawed.

Ms. Miller is right, this shows a complete lack of common sense. The ironic thing is that people like Mayor Bloomberg or anyone associated with the Brady Campaign love to insist that they only want to pass "common sense gun control laws." Yet they hold up DC's laws as a shining example of so-called common sense gun control!

I highly encourage you to read the series in its entirety or at least read a couple of the articles. The amount of time, money and uncertainty in the DC laws put owning a firearm outside of the reach of most people. Effectively DC still has a ban on handguns.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Theology Thursday: Wasting Time

Today's Theology Thursday is inspired by The Fault in Our Stars, the John Green book I reviewed on Monday. You'll recall that I mentioned I could not go to bed until I had made a rough draft of a schedule because TFiOS convicted me over how much time I waste. Thinking about the book later I was reminded of Ephesians 5:15-16:
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."
  I waste a lot of time, the characters in TFiOS didn't have a lot of time to waste. That put things into perspective for me. Its funny how God can work through a secular (and slightly irreverent) book to make a point as important as this.

That's it. Short and sweet. I have not been sticking to my schedule this week and thus have not had the time to really put a lot of thought into these last few posts. Speaking of schedules. You will notice that I missed my Wednesday update, well I don't have much of an excuse other than not sticking to my schedule. I will endeavor to do better next week.

Also, I'm interested in your feedback. I can tell from my the stats that someone is reading this. If you like what you are reading let me know! If you don't like the new, shorter but more frequent updates and miss my long but infrequent posts tell me. If you have something you'd like to hear my thoughts on speak up! I have things that I think are worth saying and would like to communicate them in the most effective way possible, but I need your input to help me figure out what that way is.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Terrible Tuesday: Rights

Fact: Every state in the union has some sort of concealed carry law. Whether it be 'shall issue' or 'may issue' in every state you there is a way for a person to acquire a concealed handgun license. Every state except Illinois that is.

When Wisconsin passed its concealed carry law last year Illinois found itself in the awkward position of being the only state to deny its citizens the right to bear arms. The good people of Illinois have been trying to pass a CHL law for years now, only to be constantly foiled by the bad people of Illinois (ie, Chicago). Recently I stumbled accross this article about this issue: http://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/illinois-only-state-without-concealed-carry/article_17320fa4-44a4-11e1-b075-0019bb2963f4.html#ixzz1kKwCuxT5

In it Laurie Bergner, vice president of programs for the McLean County League of Women Voters, states:
“Nowhere in the Second Amendment does it refer to concealed guns. Having a right doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do."
I am flabbergasted. How can you, in the same sentence, acknowledge a right and also claim that it should continue to be infringed? Can I turn that logic back on her? Just because you have the right to vote doesn't mean its the right thing to do. Just because you have a right to buy organize produce doesn't mean its the right thing to do. Just because you have the right to not be virtually strip searched by TSA doesn't mean you shouldn't let them. Just because you have the right to an abortion* doesn't mean its the right thing to do.

On a certain level she is right of course. Just because I have the right to carry a firearm doesn't mean that I should. Reasons I shouldn't would include if I lacked the proper training or if I was inebriated at the moment, etc. However, the crucial part that Ms. Bergner seems to leave off is that it is not the government's job to ensure that I am capable of responsibly exercising my rights. It is not up to the government to step in and say that I can't vote because I'm not educated well enough. Or that I can't buy organic produce because I can't afford it.

So this post is less about firearms and more about this notion that the government can and should prevent you from exercising a right you are not qualified to exercise. That's a very dangerous and very slippery slope. If you can't be trusted to responsibly carry a firearm what's to say you can be trusted with a blog? Isn't the pen mightier than the sword? Aren't ideas more dangerous than any weapon? Should we allow the government to regulate the right to keep and bear arms its only a matter of time before it regulates free speech.

But make no mistake, there are people who think like Ms. Bergner. And that my friends is terrible.

*I want to make clear that I consider abortion murder and do not consider it to be a legitimate right. I called it a right merely for illustration purposes.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

First off, I'd like to announce that The Platypus Manifesto will be sticking to a new schedule!

I will be attempting to stick to a five post a week update schedule from here on out. Mondays will be when I post original content by yours truly, the rest of the week I will be posting links to interesting articles along with my comments. Its an ambitious schedule for me, as I've hardly been averaging one post a month, but I want to grow this blog a bit.

So here we go! Welcome to the new Manifesto.

I recently finished John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. TFiOS is short, being just over 300 pages and easy reading. I finished this book in one sitting. It is aimed at young adults but I believe the theme would speak to people of any age.

TFiOS is one of those books that you can't walk away from unchanged. When I finished it I found myself in a very introspective mood and couldn't go to bed until I had sat down and made a rough draft of a schedule. I was that convicted over how I (mis)use my time. You see, the characters in The Fault in our Stars do not have much time, and they have terminal cancer to thank for that.

TFiOS follows two teenagers diagnosed with terminal cancer as they try to navigate life and love while knowing full well that they will not survive their cancer. Despite the constant threat of death, The Fault in Our Stars is less about dying and more about living. The characters explore such questions as Will I be loved? Will I be remembered? Will I leave a mark on the world? These questions are universal but they take on a new urgency in the face of certain, if slow, death.

John Green's writing is excellent and his characters seem like very real people stuck in very real situations. Its the type of writing that causes you to become emotionally attached to the characters. Parts of this book made me laugh and others made me cry.

All in all The Fault in Our Stars is a most excellent book and I highly recommend it.