November 2004 Archives

Christian Carnival XLVI Reassigned

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Christian Carnival #46 has been reassigned. If you sent an entry to the blog that was supposed to be hosting it, you'll need to send it again to the real host, which is A Physicist's Perspective.

If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

Best of Me Symphony LII

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The 52nd Best of Me Symphony is now up. For those who don't know, this is a blog carnival dedicated to highlighting the best posts of a blog over the course of its history, not allowing anything more recent than 60 days old. This edition has a Bill Cosby theme, and a few people actually submitted posts about Cosby. My Legitimacy in the Black Community argues that what Bill Cosby has been saying has been said many times before, and if it's true when Cosby says it then those who have ignored it because of who was saying it have been morally negligent.

Mike at ETalkingHead complains about the media attempts to portray Cosby's words as a tirade rather than a call to do what's best for black Americans, and he then points out that these words apply to all sorts of people, not just blacks.

La Shawn Barber shows up as well with The Hard Sayings of Bill Cosby, contrasting Cosby's statements with those of Jesse Jackson at an event at which both of them spoke.

Top 1000 Library Books

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OCLC tracks library collections and was ripe for the picking to determine the popularity of books in libraries. There's now a top 1000 of books in member libraries (which has got to be most of the good ones, since the OCLC service is the best at the sort of thing it's designed for, and I can't imagine a modern library without it). Here's the top 10:

1. 2000 Census
2. The Bible
3. Mother Goose
4. Dante, The Divine Comedy
5. Homer, The Odyssey
6. Homer, The Iliad
7. Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
8. William Shakespeare, Hamlet
9. Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Child Prodigy

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Jay Greenberg has been compared to Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Saint-Saens. He's composed five symphonies. He composes as he goes about his life, and transfers it to musical notation when he gets to his computer. Sometimes he's even multi-tasking with multiple pieces of music at once. He's written pieces in less than an hour that major symphonies will perform. He's been at Juilliard for a couple years and expects to finish in a couple more. Oh, and he's 12.

Kitty Abortions

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Should someone who is pro-life be against cat abortions? Join the discussion over at Christian Conservative. When I was a kid I used to get mad that my pro-life parents allowed us to eat fertilized eggs, thinking they were just not paying attention to the fact that these eggs were living organisms and not just unliving tissue the way store-bought eggs are. Then I realized that we ate adult chickens all the time. Duh!

Someone emailed me asking what I thought about different translations that give very different readings of Romans 9:5. The issue has a bearing on whether this verse affirms Christ's deity, so it makes a big difference to those who believe that the Bible doesn't teach Christ's deity. I don't think much rests on this verse for those who think the Bible teaches that doctrine over and over, as I believe, so even if this verse doesn't teach the deity of Christ that doesn't mean that other passages don't. The grammar of the verse is technically ambiguous (as is the earliest translation I have access to, the Latin Vulgate), but I think there are good arguments for thinking it probably does refer to Christ as God, and I don't think the arguments against that view are very strong.

Parableman is often obnoxious, similairly convinced in his own positions and righteously loud about it--and completely engrossing. I may not agree with many of his positions but this dear Christian brother can argue his point from philosophy and the

From The Bible Archive. I guess there was a space limit, and I'm assuming the next word was 'Bible'. Am I really often obnoxious? I'm not even sure how I could be loud without using all caps.

From Merriam-Webster:
Obnoxious: 1 archaic : exposed to something unpleasant or harmful -- used with to
2 archaic : deserving of censure
3 : odiously or disgustingly objectionable : highly offensive

loud: 1 a : marked by intensity or volume of sound b : producing a loud sound
2 : CLAMOROUS, NOISY
3 : obtrusive or offensive in appearance or smell : OBNOXIOUS

If I'm giving off this impression, it's a real surprise to me. I see this site as a way to have reasoned discussion on issues, to provide balance and a mediating position between extremes, and to give due time to arguments and positions I disagree with. That doesn't mean I don't express the views I do become convinced of, and I'll give arguments for those positions. I just don't see the harshness that kind of language implies.

Update: Well, it's been revoked as one of his "cute (or so I thought) observations and reviews of the sites that I recommend". This post has been described as "a due thrashing"! Anyone else ready for the cat-of-nine-tails? Don't worry, Rey. I was more at a loss to try to figure out what I was doing that came across that way than I was mad at you for saying that.

Lame Duck

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According to this site, this is what the term 'Lame Duck' means in a political context: person holding office after his or her replacement has been elected to the office, but before the current term has ended. In the American presidency, the period after election day in November and the swearing-in of the new President in January is known as the lame duck period.

Here's another definition that amounts to the same thing: A lame duck is an elected official currently in office whose replacement has been chosen, but not yet formally sworn in. Whether an official in this position should refrain from using some or all of their powers is somewhat controversial.

Here's one that puts it differently: A lame duck is a political adjective used in some democratic countries. It refers to a leader who, although still in power, will definitely be out of office in the very near future. The term is most often used for a president or prime minister who was not re-elected, and who is now just occupying the position until the set time when the new leader officially takes over.

Is that right? If so, then the only time a president is a lame duck is if the election is over, the sitting president didn't win the election (either having lost or having not run), and there is still time before the new president gets sworn in. Since that's not the current situation, why are people misusing the term by applying it to President Bush?

Christian Ethics Posts

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I realized that a lot of the older posts still in my Favorite Posts list (not to mention a number of newer ones) have to do with Christian ethics, by which I mean either philosophical reasoning about ethical issues but from Christian premises or biblical discussion of complex ethical topics in an attempt to discern what the biblical view on that issue amounts to. I think I'm coming to realize that these are some of my best posts, and it would be nice to collect them together. For now, I'm just including some of the older ones to clear out the Favorite Posts list, since it's still pretty long. See my Favorite Posts list for seven more that will probably end up here at some point. I'm not including anything on homosexuality because I've talked about that enough to have its own collection of posts. Some of those posts really would belong here since they fit under the topic, but since I've written so much on that it's nice for those posts all to be together.

Update (11-27-04): I've added more from earlier in the blog.
Update 2 (12-18-04): I've added one more post (Lying) that I had originally wanted to leave in the sidebar a little longer. It's been long enough.

Christian Carnival XLV

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The 45th Christian Carnival is at CowPi Journal. My Universal Salvation and Universal Damnation is the best I could come up with this week. I don't want to limit the importance of the point I was making, but it isn't exactly the usual careful and comprehensive post I like to submit. I just didn't have the time this week with another hard drive failure and reinstallation on top of the kids throwing up on and off for three days, usually right when we were about to go to bed. I thought I'd already linked to this at some point, but I can't find it if I did. Rebecca Writes looks at Isaiah 10 and shows how it requires compatibilism about absolute divine sovereignty over human actions and absolute human responsibility for those same actions. I don't see how you can get around this conclusion. It doesn't show that God controls every event (though I think other things throughout the Bible show God's sovereignty over every event), but it does show that the main philosophical argument for Arminianism, which is really an argument for libertarian freedom, is one that Isaiah would not countenance. IntolerantElle makes an insightful but unpopular observation that our society's attitude toward women's armpit hair is opposed to the way God created us (and by 'us' I mean not just how God created women's armpit hair but how he designed men to respond to it). She concludes with some suggestions about other ways we concede to the culture around us that has rejected God's creation in various ways, all the while wondering how many other ways we may do this. I'm impressed by her care in showing what exactly she is saying and what she's not saying, wisely anticipating how some will unreflectively read her. Most arguments against genetic engineering I've seen rely on pretty awful arguments. Some necessary connection is drawn between the scientific process and some cultural effect, or the "playing God" non-argument comes up. Wallo World's post, however, seems to me to be raising the right issues in the right way. These aren't at all arguments against genetic engineering, of course, but what Bill is doing is raising the issues that will almost inevitably come up. If those who heed this kind of warning are careful, much of what he's predicting might be avoided, though some of it may be hard to avoid. I'm not against genetic engineering at all in principle. After all, it's as old as Jacob's selective breeding, just with different methods now. Bill's concerns are hard to resist admitting are real problems, though, and many of the reasons people want to use these methods of genetic engineering are at best suspect and at worst extremely dangerous.

Hillary doesn't need a Karl Rove. She knows that a lot of conservatives are mad at Bush on some issues that she doesn't mind agreeing with them on. I think we're going to see a lot of this sort of thing in her preparations for a potential White House run. Many conservatives think Bush is weak on immigration (I happen to agree with Bush's main driving force here, so I'm not one of them).

Stylesheet Modifications

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I'm playing around with my stylesheet, so things may look strange for a bit as I figure out which names correspond to which parts of the blog.

Update (9 am): I guess I've got something workable for now with the silver background. Any thoughts?

About Me

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I've added an About Me section in my sidebar. I'm not sure exactly what I should put in it. If you know of any posts from the past of this blog that should go there, let me know. I'm thinking of a few that I don't want to bother finding right now, so it won't stay as it is, but there may be things I've posted that would go well there that I might not remember.

2004 Election Posts

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Here's another set of posts I would put in my Favorite Posts list if I had unlimited room, but to try to keep it shorter I'm collecting some of my favorite posts by topic in other posts and linking to them with just one link. That also allows me to say a little more about them. So here are some of my favorite posts from the 2004 elections.

I considered including my live-bloggings of debates, but I really don't think those count as my best stuff from the election. My more thought-out stuff is what I really would like here, so there's a lot less of it. More general political posts aren't appearing here, just posts directly related to the election and the candidates.

Update (11-26-04): Somehow I forgot most of the month of October, so I've added a few more.
Update 2 (11-27-04): I've added more from earlier in the blog.

Race Posts

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I haven't updated my Favorite Posts section of my blogroll in a very long time, and I'm finally getting around to that tedious task. As part of that process, I'm collecting all the race posts currently in the list into this post so that I'll end up with a much smaller list to start with. Otherwise I'm not going to have enough room to keep the list on one page, one of my guidelines for any section of my blogroll. Since there's nothing really new here but just a bunch of summaries of and links to old posts, I'm going to put it all in the extended entry. I should also mention before going on that my similar Theology Posts, Apologetics Posts, and Posts on Homosexuality should be getting updated through this process. I'm not going to move them forward in time at this point.

Update (11-26-04): Somehow I forgot to include October, so I've added one more.

Unconditional Election

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Jollyblogger is now up to Unconditional Election, the second of the five points of Calvinism. It includes a biblical argument for a wider scope to God's sovereignty than the particular issue of salvation that Calvinism deals with. You can technically be a Calvinist and not believe God has his hand in every event but just the ones necessary for the salvation of the elect and the major events of salvation history, but as a matter of fact most Calvinists are theological determinists (i.e. they believe that every event falls under God's sovereignty). The reason is not generally philosophical but simply because the Bible seems to lead to that conclusion, and this post gives some of that reasoning. He also tackles a couple alternative interpretations of election that don't in the end fit the biblical data, the mere foreknowledge view and the merely corporate election view. I had a couple issues with some of what he said or how he said it, but I've left those in a comment and won't bother to repeat them here.

NPR vs. Talk Radio

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Joe Carter explains why NPR is objectively better than commercial talk radio. I agree with almost everything he says. Part of it is the commercial element and the fact that callers have nothing to say. Callers on NPR vary, but many of them have real questions of shows' guests or engage in a real discussion. Hannity, Limbaugh, et. al. are just looking for dittos from unthinking thralls or a punching bag at whom to rant. The people who fill these roles seem to fill them admirably. Those drawn to call such shows are exactly the type the hosts want calling. Anyone with anything intelligent to contribute just doesn't fit the format and won't likely be listening anyway.

I also agree that the biggest strength of NPR is that it isn't all about politics and the "us vs. them" mentality. They discuss issues that are interesting to me, and they discuss things I find utterly boring, and then there's everything in between. However interested I might be, it's pretty clear that the people talking about them consider the topics interesting in their own right. The interests of Hannity, Limbaugh, et. al. aren't exactly very broad.

The biggest downside of NPR is not the fact that virtually everyone working for them is politically liberal. The liberal viewpoint is worth discussing, and there's no way anyone will be able to criticize it if it doesn't come out, so conservatives should welcome the voice of liberalism for the sake of better dialogue and more fruitful discussion. Joe is exactly right that the biggest problem with NPR is that many of its key people are just so out of touch with many in mainstream America. As Joe says, "The hosts of All Things Considered, for example, would have no trouble relating to an obscure avant garde musician, while a popular gospel singer would be considered an anthropological curiosity". That sounds right. They bring Rick Warren on and are amazed that he points out the three biggest surprises of 2004: Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Warren's own The Purpose-Driven Life, and Bush's reelection, none of which make any sense to the cosmopolitan, left-of-center culture of blue-state secularism or liberal-secularized religion. Hannity and co. are just as out of touch with blue culture, and shame on them, so both parties in this comparison have that problem. NPR gets the advantage, though, because of what they talk about and because they do attempt to understand Rich Warren and seek his opinion for its own sake, with what at least is an attempt at a viewpoint-neutral perspective. You don't find that on commercial talk radio.

Liberal Academia

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According to Geoff Nunberg at Language Log, all those recent studies showing a ridiculous skew among faculty in humanities toward liberalism and the Democratic and Green parties are distorted. Apparently the polling favored people in departments that are more skewed than others, e.g. English, Women's Studies, History and avoided fields like business, economics, law, physics, or engineering. Well, humanities faculties don't normally include the latter fields, so I wouldn't expect them to be inaccurate in describing humanities faculties by leaving those out, but if they focus on the most skewed humaties departments it's not quite as accurate as it could be.

Nunberg admits that the general conclusions of these studies are likely to be true, that there are more liberals than conservatives in academia. He makes a fair point that it's inconsistent to complain about bias in humanities departments while ignoring a similar skew in economics departments the other way (though I suspect it's not a deliberate ignorance but rather that people complaining about this just haven't thought of that consequence of their view). Nunberg concludes by pointing out that having a view doesn't amount to having a bias anyway. To some degree I agree, but when you've got groupthink going on it's very difficult to understand the opposing side. See Mark Bauerlein's excellent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education for more on that. I have a number of colleagues who don't even come close to understanding why someone might like President Bush.

Best of Me Symphony LII

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The 52nd Best of Me Symphony is coming up, and it's going to have a Bill Cosby theme. I can't resist promoting that. Scroll to the bottom of the previous one for submissions instructions. This is a weekly carnival that collects posts that qualify as among the best of the blog. The only requirements are that you think it's one of your best posts and that it's at least two months old.

At the dedication of the Clinton library, President Clinton said something that struck me as genuinely wise:

America has two great dominant strands of political thought. We're represented up here on this stage: conservatism, which at its very best draws lines that should not be crossed, and progressivism, which at its very best breaks down barriers that are no longer needed or should never have been erected in the first place.

That sounds right to me. Miroslav Volf, in Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (much of which I've read), following Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., in Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (which I've read only quotes from by people I greatly respect who highly recommended it), take the view that the main sort of thing God did in creating the world was to bind together what belongs together and to separate what shouldn't be confused or diluted. Sin is the distortioin of those relationships (or, more accurately, sin is one distortion of one such relationship and has the effect of distorting others). I think Clinton is right that conservatives tend to emphasize one and liberals (not that he used the word) the other, and the wiser conservatives and liberals are the ones who are able to do both well. See GetReligion for a couple other choice quotes, one from Clinton and the other from the current Presdident Bush.

As the discussion at Jollyblogger continues on the five points of Calvinism, one of the commenters on Total Depravity and Free Will (which I discussed briefly the other day) gives an argument I've heard many times, that Calvinism leads to universalism. The idea here is that if God can save people by causing them to believe, and it doesn't violate their freedom in any moral way to do so (which compatibilism assumes), then God must have the obligation to save all. God has the ability to do something good with no moral reason not to and even a compelling moral reason to do it. Thus Calvinist principles require God to save everyone.

Another commenter responds with something that really clarified for me what's wrong with this argument. The commenter says that a similar argument can be constructed based on God's justice, arguing that God ought to damn everyone to hell, and anything that might move God away from such a decision is really unjust and therefore morally evil. The first argument ignores God's justice while emphasizing God's mercy, and this second argument ignores God's mercy while emphasizing God's justice. That's how the commentator put it, anyway. I would say, rather, that each argument, rather than ignoring one of God's attributes, instead redefines one of the two attributes so as to preclude the other. Universal salvationists define mercy as all-encompassing and inconsistent with the kind of justice the Bible attributes to God. Universal damnationists define justice as all-encompassing and inconsistent with the kind of mercy the Bible attributes to God. Both make God in human image, because only we have such diminished justice as to be without possibility of mercy, and only we have such diminished mercy as to be without possibility of justice. I should add that similar arguments about annihilationism vs. conscious torment in hell can fall into the same pitfalls, on both sides of the debate.

John McWhorter voted for Kerry (which is good evidence that calling him a black conservative is at best inaccurate), but he's urging black voters not to stay monolithic in their exclusive loyalty to Democrats. One thing I really appreciate about McWhorter is his willingness to say what he likes about Bush while disagreeing with him on important issues. He does the same about Republicans in general, and he thinks Republicans favor policies at some times and with some issues that should lead black voters to vote for them now and then. He's insisting that the black voice will not be heard by Democrats if they can rely on the black vote every time without doing anything to earn it, and even liberal black leaders like Al Sharpton repeatedly make the point that Democrats don't have black concerns at heart most of the time.

As a result, black voters are merely the mascot of the Democratic party, as evangelicals have been with Republicans, though if you believe the pundits that might change. One reason why it might be changing is that evangelicals who are hardline conservatives threatened to bolt if Bush went too soft of gay marriage, and many of them did anyway. McWhorter is saying that black voters need to consider Republicans and then vote for them when they have good things to offer, regardless of the racist past of the Republican party (not that the Southern Democrats are any better). I think he's right. The only way black voters' concerns will be listened to and acted on is if their vote is at stake. If black voters were swing voters, as all the other minority groups are, then parties would have to give the dominant mindset of black voters a place at the table.

The same might be true of evangelicals. The issues many evangelicals care about that more moderate Republicans have avoided have now come front and center for the Republican leadership, but there's a catch. If the Republican leadership continues to ignore the biblical concerns for things that conservative Republicans tend not to care about, then many evangelicals will still feel ignored within the Republican hierarchy. Some evangelicals care more about gay marriage and abortion than caring for the world God has given to any government to steward, both in terms of the environment or in terms of the people. Many don't see a hierarchy and want someone who will value all their principles. Since that's harder to come by, picking and choosing will always go by what seems more important at the moment, and gay marriage judicial and mayoral activism and the likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies on a court favoring abortion 5-4 have decided the vote this time around. That may not be so next time.

Christian Carnival XLV Plug

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This week's Christian Carnival will be hosted at CowPi Journal.

If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

The 113th COTV is at Food Basics. My Affirmative Action VII: Sidebar on Reparations is in it. I'm linking to a bunch of posts, with longer comments on a couple of them, so I've put it all in the extended entry.

Calvinist Free Will

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Continuing in his series on the five points of Calvinism, Jollyblogger explains nicely why it's a mistake to think Calvinists deny free will. Key summary of his position (and mine):

So, the whole point of all this is to say that Calvinists shouldn't be afraid to admit that man has a free will. On the other hand, non-Calvinists need to understand that there is not a moment when, in their freedom, they are acting apart from or contrary to the will of God. And I hope that all of us would realize that the only reason that any of us can be saved His through a divine violation of our free will, in causing us to believe savingly on Christ.

In other words, he's siding with the weight of philosophical consensus on the matter, compatibilism, not that his argument rests on that at all. For the scriptural arguments, see his post.

Update: Welcome to visitors from the Blogosphere Daily News.

Christian Carnival XLIV

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The 44th Christian Carnival is at ChristWeb and has a record 47 posts. My Inerrancy and Truth is in it.

Mark Roberts submits his 18th post in his truly excellent (despite my disagreement with some of his datings of NT books) series on Jesus' divinity. This time he focuses on Jesus' application to himself of the title 'the Son' (as opposed to 'the Son of Man' and 'the Son of God').

Wallo World weighs in on the red/blue state divide, with some surprising conclusions. Blue-staters may have lost the election, but they've been winning the culture "war", for reasons most red-staters don't understand. Many red-staters have also confused their own cultural values with Christian values. In the end, the only response worth any intense effort is not political change, which will at best be a temporary stop-gap for external behavior, but changing people's hearts, and that only comes with the gospel.

Off the top points out that everyone who votes is voting based on values. She also points out how stupid public signs and stickers are except to win a popularity contest. I'm not convinced that there's value in advertising one�s opinion on certain things in a general public setting. To do so is to go into "popularity contest" mode, something that is unnecessary and perhaps even destructive.

In a post on the Kansas City Prophets (which I know little about and have little experience with anyone who knows much about), 21st Century Reformation makes an important point even for those not involved with the lunatics he's criticizing. Does something historic have to happen for me to be equipped or do I need simply to understand and believe in what the bible already says? I need only to understand, through the preaching of the word and through community, to learn to live the story that is my inheritance according to the finished work of Christ. The bible neither teaches that all the holiness and power was used up in the 1st century and now we should expect little help from God nor does it teach that I need to wait for some end-times super apostle to come with the goods. It is vital to realize that in the immediate present, we exist in a dispensation of instantaneous access to all we need for both Power and Holiness. The present that I live in is dispensationally speaking exactly the same as the Apostolic age and will remain the same dispensation until Christ returns. Amen.

Volokh seems to agree with me on the issue of legislating morality (or what people call that, anyway). His fundamental claim:

... religious people are entitled to try to enact their moral views (which stem from their religious views) into law, just as secular people are entitled to try to enact their moral views (which stem from their secular, but generally equally unprovable, moral axioms) into law.

Update: A Physicist's Perspective has more.

In his response to a nut who thinks people want to outlaw being homosexual (which Volokh noticeably avoids commenting on), he argues that even views that we almost all agree on just involve appeal to some moral intuition, and the cases where we disagree stem from genuine moral disagreements on the level of intuitions. It's helpful to see how this is done in specific cases, and he explains how it goes for quite a few issues.

I think there are other ways to argue against the kind of policy opponents of the religious right hate, but you can't do it in terms of not allowing people to legislate based on morality, not unless you're going to redefine 'morality' as not just ethical reasoning in general but religious motivations with no civil value (of course there will be debate over what has civil value, but that's in the realm of ethics).

I've said this before about him, but I'm incredibly impressed by Senator Russ Feingold from Wisconsin as a man of character. I strongly disagree with a number of his views, but he knows when a political manuever by his colleagues or those who support his views is just downright evil. He stood against the Borking attempt on John Ashcroft, with only one other Democrat voting alongside him. Now he's attacking those who demean Condi Rice with their racist language about her being an Aunt Jemima, calling them racially insensitive. This guy is not conservative in any way, and he admits that this kind of language is racist. Why is it that so many other liberals won't see how close to the bottom of the barrel this sort of thing is? Feingold has no political reason to say such things. I'm not sure I'd vote for him, but I'd be glad to shake his hand and tell him I appreciate what he's done in standing up for what's right.

I was waiting until the final post in this series showed up, but it was supposed to be Monday and hasn't appeared, so I'll just go ahead and post links to all the posts so far. Rick Sander has been blogging about his research on affirmative action at law schools at The Volokh Conspiracy. A lot of it matches up with things I already knew, but I picked up some interesting facts from his observations and arguments.

The opening post explains where he's going and points out that he's politically liberal with a strong history of supporting civil rights. I get the sense that this recent work of his converted him to the view that affirmative action is harmful and that he hadn't thought so earlier. Part 1 argues that three common views (and statements by practitioners of it) are just plain false: "(a) the preferences are small and not automatic, (b) race is one of a myriad of factors taken into account to create a diverse class, and (c) everyone admitted is fully qualified to do well at the school". Part 2 discusses the negative effect of affirmative action in law schools in terms of grades, graduation rates, and acceptance into the bar. Part 3 looks at the negative impact of all the prior effects in the job market. Part 4 predicts, with real numbers as the basis, what would happen if affirmative action would be removed. I already believed a lot of these arguments in the general case, but the way he's done this with law schools in particular and with hard data seems to me as if it should be pretty convincing even to those who start out believing these policies are overall helpful. Read on for more detailed analysis.

In Defense of Specter

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There's this movement to suspend a Republican rule for how they govern themselves within the Senate to prevent Senator Arlen Specter from getting the judiciary committe chair. He isn't the next in line, but the next in line is expected not to take it due to not wanting to give up being chair of another committee, and the rules state that no senator can be chair of two committees. The only thing I keep seeing is that, because Specter is pro-choice, he won't be able to be fair in pushing Bush's nominees through. In other words, his view on abortion will make him unable to do his job, which shouldn't be affected by his views. What does this remind you of?

Beware, for you shall be judged according to the standard by which you judge. It wasn't too long ago that roughly the same group of people was complaining that Democrats were saying they couldn't trust John Ashcroft to do his job. Why? He's pro-life. Not too long after that, they kept saying the same things about any judge nominee who was pro-life who got blockaded by Democrats in the Senate. Now the Republicans are doing it to one of their own in an exactly parallel situation. It's because of his views on abortion that they're saying he can't do his job.

When I Almost Died

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I was looking through the My Documents folder on my resurrected desktop computer, which was out of commission for well over a year until about a month ago. One of the things I discovered was a text file from 1992 when I was applying to college. It turns out to be a college application essay. It's not the one I used for Brown, and I don't know where that one is. I did this later for the schools I didn't apply early to (Brown at the time allowed you to apply early but not make a commitment to go there, which almost no one allowed at the time and probably no one allows now). Anyway, it's about the time I was a hair's breadth from death in third grade, and it seemed fitting to use it for my 800th post. The style seems really wooden, in restrospect, and it seems really short to me now, but I was 17 when I wrote this, and I don't think I even had a Windows machine at the time. If I had to write about this now, I'd say a number of things much differently and reflect on some things I barely hint at here, but the thoughts I express here give a glimpse into my reflections on my life so far as I ended my time in high school, and it's nice to have captured something of that for posterity. I have changed none of the text that follows except to correct one capitalization mistake that was so glaringly obvious that I couldn't leave it. On to the essay:

After a month or two off, the latest issue of The Holy Observer is up.

Jollyblogger is doing a series on the five points of Calvinism. It's excellent so far. It starts here. Part 5 has just appeared, and he finally gets to the first of the five points! I'll probably have more to say about the series when it's done, but you can check out what's there so far.

One commenter linked to the five points the Remonstrants (Arminians) came up with that spurred Calvinists to make their five points explicit. I was expecting a flat-out contradiction of each of the five points, but I'd never read the Remonstrants' five points before, and it isn't that at all. Unless I'm missing something in my reading of them, almost everything they say is fully consistent with a healthy Calvinism! Read on for why I think this.

I'm a Comedian

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Philosophers' Carnival V

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The 5th Philosophers' Carnival is at Ciceronian Review. I submitted my latest post in the affirmative action series, my sidebar on reparations.

One newcomer this time is Metatome, a new blog about teaching philosophy. It looks excellent so far. I haven't been making any philosophy blogs regular reading, since I just don't have the time for the level of discussion required, but this may change that.

I guess the Lancet report on Iraqi casualties came out during my week or two of semi-exile due to grading, because I've been seeing things about it suggesting that it's common knowledge, and I'd never really heard of it until this morning. I tried to access this link, but it seems down. There's lots of stuff about it all over the blogosphere, including some discussion at Crooked Timber. See here for some links and a careful response to the attacks against the study.

I know so little about statistics that I'm in no position to evaluate what anyone is saying about the study and its conclusions when it comes to the actual numbers. Apparently it says the number killed by the war is something on the order of 100,000. What seems problematic to me about this is what people are then doing with that number, assuming some moral significance to it that then shows that invading Iraq was clearly an unjust war. I just don't think that follows, for many reasons.

According to Steve Sailer (linked by Volokh), Bush's scores on his Air Force Officer Qualifying Test compare favorably with Kerry's scores when applying for Officer Candidate School. They're not the same test, but they have enough similarities for Sailer to conclude that Bush would have done better than Kerry if they had taken the same test at that time. This fits with what I've often said on this blog. Bush is not the moron so many morons think he is. He was probably lazy when he was in school, and I wouldn't call him an intellectual, which is more about preferences and perhaps developed skill sets than it is about innate abilities, but he's not dumb. I realize that these things test only one kind of intelligence, but one of the things Sailer points out is the irony of those who assume it's the only or most important kind of intelligence for things like this all the while dismissing such tests when it comes to policy issues.

Christian Carnival XLIII

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The 43rd Christian Carnival is at Digitus, Finger & Co. My post Christians and Blue Counties makes an appearance.

Sidesspot helps clarify a Christian position on some matters related to the war on terror. We're not and never were a Christian nation, but Christian values should shape our policies, which means loving and praying for our enemies, protecting the rights of enemy prisoners, and a strong presumption against violence, though all that is consistent with engaging in combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I agree.

Reasons Why reminds Bush supporters that Kerry could easily have won, and if he had it would have been because God had wanted him to, just as God wanted Clinton to win both times. "Bush won only because it was within God's will for it to happen. If Kerry had won, it would be for the same reason. Not because some dark and terrible force had managed to overcome God's agenda for America. We need to learn that what God allows, or even designs, does not always match up with our view of what would be best."

Admiral Quixote has an excellent response to several standard pro-choice arguments. These are issues I almost never cover when I deal with abortion in my ethics classes, so it was nice to be reminded that they often come up, and I think these responses are all quite good.

Given that Jesus spent time with sinners, what would he do with the issue of gay marriage? We have a start to an answer from promptings, though I didn't see anything about marriage. All I saw was good reason to think Jesus would spent a lot of time with gay people and that he would confront them with the central issues of their hearts (which may not at all be homosexuality, though it would eventually include that).

I've been enjoying a lot of what I've seen at Another Man's Meat lately. He's a Democrat from Kansas who voted for Bush, and his take on a Christian approach to politics could give some good balance to a lot of conservatives. This post analyzes the Christian-bashing in the election aftermath and concludes that Democrats should not increase their religious language to get votes, because voters will see through that. The ones who would be sincere in doing so (e.g. Joe Lieberman, Robert Byrd) already use religious language all the time. The others all look like fakes when they do so.

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, which will be hosted at ChristWeb.. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read, and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

The National Right to Life Committee takes on the claims of late that abortion has increased significantly during Bush's presidency. Some of the data is right, but some ignores important factors, including the fact that it went up early in Bush's term after having gone up at the end of Clinton's term and then went down later on. Sound familiar? That's interestingly related to the state of the economy, but it's the reverse of what pundits have been claiming against Bush, i.e. that Bush has ruined the economy and therefore increased abortion. If what this guy is saying is right (not that he says this about it), something that happened during the Clinton Administration led to an increase in abortions after it had been dropping, and it began to recover only a good way into Bush's first term, which makes it seem to me that the economy does have something to do with it, but Bush's policies have to have caused a decrease if these general trends are causal (which is a dangerous assumption, but I'm giving an argument based on the premises of my opponent). Thanks to Antioch Road for the link.

I've already linked to Jollyblogger's excellent post on the view that the Bible is inerrant, in which he makes clear what the historic inerrancy view is not. It makes no claims that the Bible is perfectly precise, and therefore rounded numbers (e.g. the Chronicler's rounding of pi to 3 or a king's reign for 40 years when it might be 40.3 years) are not errors. It makes no claims that descriptions in the Bible will be on the scientific level, and therefore reports of the sun rising are not errors, just as it's wrong in English today to say someone said something false when they say the sun rises. What they said was true, but the words don't describe it on a scientific level. They describe it on a phenomenological level. There are lots of other fine points to make, but I won't worry about details for my purposes. This is enough to get a sense of what inerrantism requires. It requires that all the sentences affirmed by the scriptures will come out true, in context, at the level of intended precision, on a phenomenological level if that's the perspective being used, etc.

Now Darren at Nicene Theology wants to pick a bone with this description of inerrantism. He argues that inerrantism is false, and demonstrably so, but it's not because he's found anything contradicting the view of inerrantism I've just explained and Jollyblogger has gone into more detail about. He agrees with everything that view says. He just doesn't think that view is really what inerrantism says. He acknowledges that the definition of 'inerrancy' is what's at stake here, not any substantive view, and I agree. I just don't think he's right in his claims about what 'inerrancy' means or should mean.

For some interesting parallels between our current situation with Supreme Court justices and the president, with very similar rhetoric, but the parties reversed, see this post at Rooftop Blog. The president in question: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first liberal (in the modern sense). These historical comparisons are always fascinating, since most pundits don't know their history, but of course you also have to be aware of where there are differences and not assume a few things in common means even the crucial issues are the same. I have no view either way on this, but the similarity in language was just so striking that I couldn't resist pointing some more traffic toward this.

I've been plagiarized!

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Here's one of my latest referrals. Turnitin.com is an anti-plagiarism site that has the entire web as its database. You can submit a paper and then see if anything in its database is similar, using algorithms to see if the same keywords are there but rearranged. I've used it in the past, but I've found Google to be just as effective in catching plagiarism. This is a turnitin.com cache of one of my posts, with the plagiarized sentences highlighted in green. So someone wrote a paper, used those lines, and submitted it to someone who then checked it on turnitin.com.

This isn't the first time my blog has been plagiarized. One time it was by one of my own students. That wasn't very bright, was it?

Conservatives vs. Gonzales

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A lot of conservatives are really distraught over Bush's choice of Gonzales for attorney general (note: not for the Supreme Court). I just can't understand this reaction. It's true that Gonzales voted against Priscilla Owen in a Texas Supreme Court case involving abortion and parental consent, Owen not to allow the girl in question to have the abortion without parental notification, Gonzales to allow it. It's also true that the law in Texas at the time required parental notification for most such cases. However, Gonzales' actions were simply following the law, since the law said specifically that a judicial authority could rule that a girl under 17 to be mature enough and well-informed. The law as written requires judges to make that call. Gonzales made that call. It doesn't mean he endorses abortion or doesn't believe in parental consent laws. His job wasn't to write the law. It was to enforce it, and he did that. He saw voting with Owen and the other half of that court as judicial activism by not following the law and declaring a mature, well-informed girl not to be mature and well-informed. So this case says nothing about his views on abortion or his views on interpreting the law strictly or loosely. I should note that Owen may not have been judicially activist herself, since she may not have deemed the girl to be mature or well-informed enough. Given Gonzales' view on that, he couldn't go against the law without being judicially activist.

About Alberto Gonzales, Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) said, "We will have to review his record very carefully, but I can tell you already he's a better candidate than John Ashcroft." As far as I can tell, most of the things that have worried people about Ashcroft are also true of Gonzales, as some others in the article I linked pointed out. The one difference is that Ashcroft is very strongly pro-life, and Gonzales isn't. So in Schumer's mind, someone's personal view about the morality of an issue, despite his insistence that he will enforce the law as it stands, is important enough to vote against him but not against someone who is virtually identical on all the serious issues Demopcrats raised at Ashcroft's trial confirmation hearing, none of which involved anything significant in the end, as the dissenting votes by very liberal Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold showed. Most of the venom against Ashcroft lately has been about treatment of prisoners from the war on terror and the extent to which national security trumps what would otherwise be rights to privacy. Most of it is mentioned in the context of the Patriot Act, though most of the things said have little to do with that piece of legislation, which came from Congress and not Ashcroft anyway, though he supported it. As it turns out Gonzales is on the same page with Ashcroft on that, which means Schumer's lukewarm attitude (rather than the moral superiority he showed to Ashcroft) is entirely about abortion.

How Low Will People Go?

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Check out this piece in The New York Times. Apparently lots of losers have been sabotaging Wikipedia entries on Bush and Kerry. It's not the first time. They'd been doing it with The Patriot Act for a while, on which you can follow the link in Orin Kerr's Volokh post for more detail. At one point there were almost no true statements in it. Some of the things they've done have been stupid (but still immoral because of what Wikipedia is). Some of them are downright evil. What's worse is the spineless moderators who keep allowing people to edit things.

Cool Election Maps

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This site has lots of great election maps. The normal red-blue state and county maps are there, but it's also got a purple-scale map by state and county and then a map with each state resized according to population, with red-blue and then purple-scale. Thanks to Volokh for linking to it.

Christian Carnival XLII

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I'm now a week behind on this, but events have conspired, and I've had less time to read these things than I would like. I am now done reading through last week's Christian Carnival, which returned for its 42nd edition to host #2, King of Fools. The first few Christian Carnivals rotated back and forth between Patriot Paradox and King of Fools before spreading on to other places, and the King does his best to add an interesting artwork theme despite the distraction of election-watching. I wouldn't have done any theme during that particular week, so I applaud his efforts. I lack the requisite skill to evaluate beyond a rudimentary level anything having to do with visual art, so I can't say much more than that it looks really nice.

My entry (also submitted to the first Carnival of the Reformation) was Scripture and Worship. Ideally I would have submitted an entry to each, but in a ridiculous grading week after getting a month behind in grading due to a new baby some things just have to take priority over writing additional blog posts for the sake of carnivals. I'm not the only one to double up, and I won't mention anything that I'd normally link to but already have.

IntolerantElle fisks Bill Maher on religion and Christianity, with some interesting results. A couple of his points are so insightful but just short of really getting it. One thing she says in response to the claim that too many Christians are hypocrites is worth quoting in full. People who are not Christian, and even some who are, don't seem to understand that people aren't sinners because they are Christian - they are Christian because they are sinners. You hear people say, "I'm not going to church, those Christians are a bunch of hypocrites and liars!" Yeh, pretty much. That�s why we get involved with fellow believers who can encourage us and guide us in the right direction. A church fellowship is like a hospital for the soul, but you don't hear people say, "I'm not going to the hospital! There are sick and injured people there!!" I think the same applies to those who consider themselves Christians but shun the "organized" church.

Pseudo-Polymath considers science and religion. Those within the intelligent design movement who attack evolution (which is not the entirety of the ID movement, I must point out) and those within science who attack Christianity are ironically committing the same blunder -- trying to claim that they have a theory that predicts something about the other and whose predictions turn out true, when the realitry is that they simply have a model that predicts nothing about the other view (which I must note is the case mostly because those models are entirely consistent with each other). Finally, the isue of evolution matters very little, practically speaking.

Another Man's Meat explains why, despite his agreement with most of the Republican party agenda, he will remain a Democrat, and it's on Christian grounds. There are some things that are too important that many Republicans have no ear for. The prophets repeatedly condemn such attitudes.

Back of the Envelope takes on The Economist's false claim that Bush's positions are derived from a small minority of Americans on the right, showing their lack of understanding of Christians who are conservative by their putting all people on the right who are Christians into the same camp and then claiming it's a tiny minority because the extremists are a tiny minority, yet all the position Bush has been willing to go to bat for are mainstream views.

I haven't done anything further in my series on affirmative action in a while (see the introductory post to links to the rest of the series), but I hope to be putting together a few more entries in the next week or so because I'm about to cover the issue in my classes again. I've just done some more reading on the reparations issue, which I first covered in Part V of this series. There are actually two separate and unrelated arguments for reparations, and I now think the issue is much more complicated than I did before, so I wanted to say some things about that.

The main argument I'm considering come from Bernard Boxill's paper "A Lockean Argument for Black Reparations" in The Journal of Ethics 7 (2003):63-91. If you have universty or other access to the internet, you can find this at the Kluwer site for online papers, but you'll probably need to access it through you're library's website. The main objections I'm considering are all available online without academica access of need for registration. Thomas Sowell: Reparations for Slavery?, The Reparation Fraud, and The Reparations Fraud: II and then John McWhorter, The Reparations Racket. McWhorter later develops this argument in a chapter of his Authentically Black, but the key points are in this piece.

God's Attributes

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Rebecca Writes has now completed her series on the attributes of God. Anyone who has been reading my Christian Carnival review posts each week has seen how often I've been recommending the posts in this series. I've enjoyed it tremendously, and I suggest to anyone who has not read it to go and read them all. Her discussion of each attribute is careful, comprehensive, systematic, and with a view toward the practical impact of each attribute. Her final post links to all the earlier ones and gives some thoughts on what she's learned through doing this. Check it out.

Jollyblogger hosts the first Carnival of the Reformation (Post Tenebras Lux). This double name is going to get unwieldy, so I hope we settle on one or the other. Scripture and Worship is my contribution.

I don't have much to say about The Crusty Curmudgeon's look at what scripture says about itself, but it's worth reading. A Physicist's Perspective puts what he has to say into a series, including more on what scripture says about itself and a whole post on applying it. He also deals with the circularity objection (which I've dealt with along different but complementary lines here). The links to all the posts in the series are in the initial introductory post, so I've just linked to that.

Rebecca Writes gives a surprising argument that KJV-onlyism violates Sola Scriptura. I would never have thought about it in these terms, but she's right. It's one thing to have a view that is neither confirmed or contradicted by scripture that one gets elsewhere, e.g. that electrons and protons repel each other. It's quite another to build such a view into your statement of faith and then claim your statement of faith is based on the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible do we see the kinds of claims that are given in support of KJV-onlyism.

Wheat and Chaff argues that Postmodern Christianity is neither postmodern nor Christian. I think he's right that the two are irreconcilable, and those in this movement are trying to have it both ways. I don't think it's all-or-nothing, though. If it were, being neither of the two would mean not being on a cxontrinuum between the two, so I'd prefer to describe it as follows. To the extent that it's pomo, it's not Christian. To the extent that it's Christian, it's not pomo. (Keep in mind that we're not talking about people here but ideas. Ideas can be more or less Christian if they have some Christian elements.) I would say similar things about Viewpoint's post along the same lines.

Finally, in arguing that scripture along will give us joy (which he can't really mean, because God alone should bring us joy, but I'll let that slide), Jollyblogger provocatively suggests that the old standby distinction between joy and happiness should be blurred! I think he's right, but you'll have to read the post for his reasons.

The next Carnival of the Reformation will appear December 20. Submissions will be due Dec 16 at 6pm EST. Jollyblogger announces: As this is just in time for Christmas I am requesting submissions on the theme of Solus Christus - Christ alone. Please send in your submissions on this theme, and again, I am looking for posts which conform to the standard reformed confessions on the person and work of Christ. Theological treatises, exegetical work and applications of this theme are requested. I would also love to publish some testimonies of what Christ has done in your lives. Maybe Wink will give us his view on the atonement if he can argue that it conforms with standard reformed confessions. That ought to ruffle some feathers!

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival and will be hosted at Digitus, Finger & Co. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read, and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

NOTICE FROM NICK: "DUE TO AN OVERSIGHT AT PATRIOT PARADOX, NOT UNCOMMON IF YOU KNOW ME, I FORGOT TO SWITCH THE DATES ON MY SITE. IF YOU HAVE SENT TO CHRISTWEB THEN PLEASE RESEND TO NEIL. CHRISTWEB IS HOSTING NEXT WEEK, THE 17th OF NOVEMBER! PLEASE EXCUSE MY BLUNDER! STEPHEN WILL SHOOT ME NOW. :-)"

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Secondly please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

Thomas Sowell's latest column takes on the myth that Republicans are the party of the rich and Democrats are the party of the poor. I'd like to see some more comprehensive data across the country (which I suspect will confirm this on the two issues he picks), but in California the richest counties were the strongest for Kerry and the poorest stronger for Bush. I'd be surprised if that wasn't true nationwide. Also, those who most wanted to be weaker on sentencing for criminals were more in neighborhoods where crime is low (i.e. rich areas), while those in areas where crime is a real concern voted against that measure. Sowell doesn't mention that the average Republican contribution (not Bush contribution, Republican overall) is in single digits, which I don't think is even close to the average Democratic gift. That would have fit nicely.

Now there may also be issues that more often go the other way (I'm not thinking of any in particular), but Sowell doesn't say that Republicans are the party of the poor or that Democrats are the party of the rich. He doesn't resort to anything along those lines, because that would be nonsense. He simply lists some facts that strongly contradict the standard narrative about the parties and says that the narrative is a fraud. Insofar as it's used for pandering, it is a fraud, though I think many Democratic politicians and voters kid themselves into believing it. In that case it's just a highly misleading political narrative not strongly based in any reality. Either is bad and should be resisted.

777th Post

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In honor of reaching post #777, I couldn't resist coming out as someone who was a big fan of Stryper growing up. I saw them live on the In God We Trust tour in 1989. I had all their albums and thought they were much better than similar bands at the time (Poison, Cinderella, Bon Jovi, Runs & Noses). I still do. When you compare it to what I listen to most of the time (Kansas, Yes, classic Genesis, King Crimson, Spock's Beard), there's not much to be said for them, but at the time it was one of the few things like it. I especially liked their outlandish costumes and in-your-face lyrics, which seemed directed in a better direction than most rock groups. Whatever else you might say about them, they were all quite skillful on their instruments and had excellent harmonies, something utterly lacking in heavier music since Nirvana and Pearl Jam made it unpopular for a band to sound as if they actually put work into how they sound.

The Soldiers Under Command cover was my favorite, but the original uncensored To Hell With the Devil cover was also nice.

The lyrics were almost all cheesy, especially their attempts to veil Christian references as love songs but about God, just making them abiguous enough that the casual listener might not figure it out. My favorite Styper lyric, though, was More Than a Man. Compared to most CCM today, this is a breath of fresh air merely for being doctrinally sound (though imprecise, particularly when addressing God and saying "you died for me") while still making theological claims:

CNN Scandal

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Today's edition of the Syracuse University Daily Orange actually had some informative news in it that I haven't seen anywhere else (and it says it's a D.O. exclusive). Someone caught CNN redhanded in calling President Bush an a-hole on their website through naming a file whose name isn't visible normally with that name. You'll have to register at the D.O. site if you want to see the story. They've now renamed the file, so you can't find it yourself, but there's a screen shot showing its original name. I didn't see any kind of apology or retraction.

This doesn't surprise me one bit. I don't watch CNN unless there's nothing else on, because their coverage of the Iraq war was so unbelievably biased compared to Fox and MSNBC. CNN would show a truck driving up to a checkpoint being attacked by American soldiers, saying that the people inside were just trying to escape but still shot at, and they'd leave it at that. The other networks took the time to point out that any vehicle has to stop for approval before moving on, because the ones that don't stop tend to have bombs in them. Those that weren't following the rules were fired upon because they were acting guilty, and the cost not to fire on rule-breakers at checkpoints is to get blown up. CNN never bothered to mention any of this and clearly wanted to make American soldiers look guilty of war crimes, which the other two cable networks were unwilling to try to do but simply presented all the information and let viewers decide.

Weird Computer Problem

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I've got two (I assume unrelated) computer problems right now, so blogging willl be unpredictable until they're resolved. I have a computer with good internet access, but I'm stuck on the old desktop for a bit, which means I have to isolate myself to use the computer. The notebook hard drive won't boot up. I'm hoping to get my files off it by connecting it as a slave to the desktop. I picked up the proper cable for that today and will try it tomorrow, I hope.

The other problem is really strange, and I'm curious if anyone has any idea what's going on. I upload files with the Blackboard software for my classes, and my student download them for use on their own time. One of my students told me when she opened a certain file, it loaded up Word and then rebooted. No other student had this problem. I didn't have this problem. When my notebook's hard drive refused to boot, I went on the desktop and downloaded that file, and it did to my computer what it did with hers. It rebooted upon the file's opening. It did this 4-5 times, and then I tried to open Word on its own. It rebooted. Then I uninstalled Office entirely and reinstalled it. I opened Word. It rebooted. This file has been scanned with the most up-to-date Norton AntiVirus definitions, with no virus detected. It opens fine on the computers on campus. I did it myself, and it worked perfectly. No other student has told me of this problem, and I left a message in the Blackboard class area for both classes I teach. So if it's a virus, it doesn't affect every computer, and it's new or unknown enough that Norton doesn't know about it. Does anyone have any idea what might be going on?

Note: the only email address I'm planning to be using until I reconfigure my new hard drive that I haven't asked Dell for is my gmail one, so don't think you can reach me reliably any other way for a few days. I'm not planning to check gmail very often either, maybe once a day.

Update: Some complete idiot at Dell tech support reponded to my email by telling me I should try doing a direct connect between my two computers, which of course requires having both computers on and running Windows. He proceeded to give me detailed instructions on how to do something I've done many times that has nothing at all to do with my problem. I can't boot up to Windows! I wonder if he even read my email.

Family Pictures II

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We finally got the second set of pictures back from the first week of what the United States government counts as Sophia's life. It's amazing how different she already looks at three weeks. Newborns really do look like prunes for a while.

I can't quite figure out what Ethan's trying to do in the picture to the right. It doesn't look like the Vulcan salute, though we know Sophia is quite capable of that. She did it almost every time I saw her in the hospital. I haven't noticed it since then. Maybe her emotions are coming in. This picture is from after Sam and Sophia were home.

This picture is from a hospital visit after I went home. Ethan's excited, but I'm not quite sure he knew what she was. I'm not sure he does now, even. This picture of Isaiah is far better than any in the previous batch, and he's in his usual position on my lap. He doesn't like doing anything else if I'm around unless he's hungry.

Lying About Voting Values

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In Voting Moral Values, I talked about pundits' insistence that what people called "moral values" that guided their vote was just code for opposing gay marriage and how wrong that sort of statement is. It occurred to me this morning that a large portion of those "moral values" votes came from Catholics who have been traditionally Democrats but were won over to Bush because of abortion, stem cells, cloning, and perhaps also gay marriage (though if they were informed, they'd know that both candidates took the same stance on gay marriage and civil unions and just differed on whether it required amending the Constitution). It makes sense that those who normally don't vote or vote for other reasons might describe their motivation as "moral values". Democratic Catholics are a big part of this, and much of it has nothing to do with gay marriage. much less gay-hating. Just in case you don't believe me, check the numbers.

Well, Kos apparently realizes that but still wants to say Democrats should keep saying this sort of thing anyway. See Instapundit for more. It's not amazing that blogs like Kos have any readers (Little Geneva does, for instance), but somehow this jerk is right at the top. What does that reveal?

Meanwhile, President Bush said yesterday that he doesn't believe a president should try to impose religion on society. I believe that he really means that and doesn't see anything he's doing as doing that. I don't think anything he's done does that either.

Slowing down the pace

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I've been a little quiet here. Sorry. I wrote my Legislating Morality post because my school was holding a conference to discuss Gay Marriage. I figured that I would post my views before the conference so that 1) I could clarify my thoughts by writing them down and 2) practice defending my view and see where its major weaknesses are.

I had no idea how much discussion it would generate. I truly meant to keep following up on it, but there was so much of it that, when the conference was over, I just burned out on the topic.

Then the election got really close and I started writing about Bush. Now the election is over and I'm burned out on that too. And I'm rather bummed too.

Schoolwork is starting to catch up to me in a major way too.

I do, of course, still have lots to say, so I'll be posting eventually. But maybe not for a week or two.

Jollyblogger has an excellent post looking at the electoral maps (including a good comparison of the county maps from 2000 and 2004 and a purple-shade map for measuring the percentage of red and blue in each state). It's not the political analysis that interested me, though. He points out that most of the country is red when you look at counties, with almost 50% of the electorate concentrated in the 25% of the counties that are blue and just over 50% of the electorate in the 75% of the counties that are red. The fact of the matter is that most evangelical Christians are in those red counties, which means most of the people in the blue counties don't actually know any evangelical Christians. This explains why so many people don't even come close to understanding evangelical Christians (which doesn't stop some of them from talking about us as if we're demonic). What struck me was Jollyblogger's remark about what Christians should do. He says Christians need to migrate in large numbers to those blue counties if they ever hope to influence the culture around them. He's right, but perhaps I can elaborate on the point more specifically.

Update: Jollyblogger has more, more, and more.

Voting Moral Values

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Now that the election is over, Andrew Sullivan seems, at least for a few minutes, to be back to his old, balanced self. He prints the following email he received:

You are wrong. Gays were NOT the issue. I'm a born again Christian, (raised Baptist, then Pentecostal!) Morals were my deciding factor also. Not anything to do with "gay" I live next door to San Francisco and have gay family and dear friends since 1976. BEFORE it was cool. BEFORE it accepted like it is today, I have had 4 friends die of AIDS. The morals I cared about? A president who meant what he said. A man who is faithful to his wife. A man who doesn't pander to Hollywood. A man who is not ashamed to say he prays and give credit to a higher power, who helps him. A man who doesn't try to please all the people all the time. A man who shares my deeply held belief about freedom and what a GREAT country America is, and someone who knew Saddam Hussein has murdered 400,000 innocent men, women and children. I did not care if there were weapons of mass destruction, Saddam himself was a weapon of mass destruction. We are better off today, with this man gone from power, who can argue that? Who are these people that say we should have not gone in there, I thought we should of done this YEARS ago.

What if the electoral vote had been split up within each state the way Colorado was seeking to do (but failed)? Nebraska and Maine, as things currently stand, have laws that allow splitting the electoral vote, but they've never had a popular vote that has led to a split. That's because they do it in less significant ways than what Colorado was proposing. I believe Nebraska just counts each Congressional district and then distributes the votes accordingly, and even though Kerry got about a third of their popular vote he didn't carry a whole district. Apparently that always happens. Maine distributes half of its four electoral votes that way, giving each of its two districts one vote each. Then the remaining two go with the state's popular vote. Its districts have never split, though it was really close in the second district this time. They almost gave Bush another electoral vote. It would take much too long (and information I don't know where to find) to determine how things would have gone if all states had laws like either of those two. It isn't hard, though, to figure out what would happen if every state did it the way Colorado was proposing to do. All you have to do is multiply each candidate's percentage of the state's popular vote by the number of electoral votes of the state, rounding down, then taking whoever has the most remainder for the final vote. So what happens if you do this?

Bush the Stoic

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Completely apart from views, policies, and issues, this is the sort of thing I most appreciate about President Bush (from Realpolitics.com):

It was on Air Force One on election day that strategist Karl Rove started calling around to get the results of early exit polls. But the line kept breaking down. The only information that came through as the plane descended was a BlackBerry message from an aide that simply read: "Not good." Not long afterward, Rove got a more detailed picture and told the President and senior aides the bad news. Florida Governor Jeb Bush had been saying the state was looking good, and the Bush team had expected to be ahead in Ohio. But Kerry was leading everywhere. "I wanted to throw up," said an aide onboard. Bush was more philosophical: "Well, it is what it is," he told adviser Karen Hughes.

This Week's Carnivals

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In the interest of promoting non-election-related blogging (not that I'll stop talking about the election, but I'd like to promote non-election stuff also), I've decided to break with my usual practice of not linking to a carnival until after I've looked at all the posts and decided which ones I'll highlight. I've read none of the posts in either of the following carnivals except for any I happened to read independently of either carnival. I'll do a post on each one individually once I've done that to do the usual highlighting thing, but I wanted to link to them now to contribute toward moving the blogosophere quickly into normalcy beyond the election. It's going to take me a while before I really begin going through them anyway due to having a serious grading deadline on Friday, so I might as well post the links now.

So here we are. The 1st Carnival of the Reformation (Post Tenebras Lux) is at Jollyblogger, and the 42nd Christian Carnival (Non Nominem Longum et Latinum Habeat) is at King of Fools. My Scripture and Worship is in both, primarily because I didn't have the time to write another Christian-related post worthy of a carnival for the Christian Carnival. That's what happens when you have jury duty on top of all your other responsibilities, which include being a month behind on grading, a new kid around the house without quite being used to having more kids than people to take care of them, normal teaching responsibilities, etc. Oh, well.

Post-Election Links

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My brother just sent me a bunch of links that could prove interesting to you if you're not totally burned out from the election but actually want more. This electoral vote counter is less useful now that it's over, but you can consider alternative situations with it. This site that lets you know which states have laws about the way electors are required to vote (and there's a rumor going around that a Bush elector from WV will vote against the popular vote, and a Gore elector in DC cast a blank ballot in 2000 to protest lack of voting representation in Congress, so this sort of thing may become important if electors decide to rebel). Here is a more lengthy link to a site that describes the Constitution and relevant Amendments to it regarding elections in the U.S. Finally, there's a FAQ about the popular vote and electors here. I haven't looked at any of this stuff, but it's easier to click on them from my blog than from an email message, so I've put them in here before looking at them myself.

Election Aftermath

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Now that the election's over, I'd like to say a few things. My predicted electoral alignment was very close. I thought Kerry would get Iowa by a hair but expected Bush to get Wisconsin by a similarly tiny margin. They turned out each to go the other guy but as close as I'd thought they'd be. I believe every other state went as I had expected. I thought Hawaii, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania would be closer than they were, and I almost thought Bush might win Maine's District 2, which has one electoral vote. I expected New Hampshire to be close but not anything like it was. I didn't expect Minnesota or Michigan to be as close as they were. For a while as the returns were coming in, I was thinking Bush might have a chance in both.

Volokh had a nice discussion last week about the race of Bush's judge appointees. I was going to post it before the election, but somehow it got buried in my list that I was unable to read carefully through in the last days of being alternately completely exhausted or completely absorbed in grading, in both cases leading to not much blogging.

The interesting result of what Volokh says is that a higher percentage of Bush judge appointees are black than the percentage of lawyers who are black. His appointment rate is higher than the proportional level of the entire available pool of black lawyers. Given that he has a smaller selection pool to pick from if he wants conservative judges, that means he's had to go much further out of his way to find them than Clinton did to get his much higher percentage of black appointees. The NAACP is mad at Bush because his judge appointments are not proportional to the percentage of blacks in society as a whole. This is why the quota version of affirmative action was rendered unconstitutional in 1978 (not that the spirit of quotas is completely gone, but it's technically illegal now to reserve a certain number of spots for people of a certain racial classification). The NAACP thinking here is exactly along quota lines, as absurd as the consequence turns out to be.

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted at King of Fools. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

NOTICE: THIS CARNIVAL MIGHT BE LATE DUE TO THE ELECTION! PLEASE KEEP
THIS IN MIND, AND BE UNDERSTANDING. ALSO PLEASE REMEMBER TO PRAY FOR GOD'S WILL IN THIS ELECTION.

To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

There is of course more: The change in foreign policy towards preventative war. FMA. Bush's various unprincipled flip-flops. The way all of his (and Cheney's) best sound bites during the debates turned out to be blatant lies. The way that the campaign has been run (e.g. RNC mailings proclaiming that bible banning will be the result of a Kerry presidency. Also, attempts at vote suppresion.)

Unfortunately, I've run out of time. Well, I guess I could keep going, but it's kind of moot now that election day has arrived. I've tried to stick to the issues and avoid ad hominem attacks. I've tried to avoid conspriacy thinking. I've tried to avoid taking things our of context and makeing low blows. I've tried to avoid the extremes of the liberal arguments. I don't know how successful I've been.

Hopefully I've been able to show that you can be a rational and commited christian while not voting for Bush. (I know that Jeremy knows that. I'm hoping that more of my classmates can come to see that. ;))

Now get out there and vote (hopefully for Kerry).

No Child Left Behind. I just don't like it. That is not to say that I don't think that something needs to be done about our education system. It is to say that NCLB is not it.

(Full disclosure: my wife is a teacher.)

I have yet to talk to a teacher or shool administrator who thinks that NCLB is a good plan. While certain parts are fine, others are blatantly silly. The biggest one: the requirement that all schools must improve every year or lose funding. (note: you can dip for one year, but after that...) The crazy thing about that is that shools that are doing spectacularly well will get penalized. Say that your school is doing all that can be reasonably expected. All the students are performing well and getting great test scores. If they do not show improvement sometime in the next two years, they'll lose their funding. But a school that has no problems and is already doing great isn't going to be able to show improvement--there's nowhere for them to go. As a result, schools that are doing well are deliberately doing badly their first year of testing so that they have room for improvement. They need to do this in order to preserve their funding.

Again, I think that Bush is out of his depth. As the governor of Texas, he was able to do fine dealing with the Texas legislature. But Bush seems to be unble to deal with the much tougher adversaries on the national and international levels.

Why I'm Voting for Bush

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Update: I can't believe I forgot racial issues, so I've added that at the end.

This isn't going to be as carefully reasoned or systematic as I wanted, but I want to do it anyway just to have something to complement Wink's posts. What I want to do here is compare Bush and Kerry on the issues I care most about. There are lots of issues that they've talked about that I'm not sure I even have a view on, e.g. gun control. I agree with the NRA arguments on why gun control doesn't solve the problems it's supposed to solve, but I don't have any interest in owning a gun, and I don't really think the controls on purchasing guns are all that excessive. When you're dealing with a dangerous weapon, what's the big deal if you have to wait a week before buying it? It's inconvenient, but the NRA treats it as if it's oppression. So I don't really care what either guy says about guns. There are other issues on which I have a view but don't care enough about it or don't care enough about the differences between them to care which one I vote for. The gay marriage/civil unions issue is one of those. Bush supports an amendment that has absolutely no chance of passing, and Kerry doesn't. Big deal. They've both always favored civil unions but wanted state legislatures to make that decision. Bush held this view long before he endorsed the FMA, and he mentioned again last week that he holds it. So the difference there is insignificant in terms of any effects their views might have. So what issues are important to me, on which they do differ?

Adventures in Jury Duty

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I had jury duty today. I wasn't supposed to. I'd called in when I first got the notice, which was shortly after Sophia was born. They don't give you a lot of time. I think it was ten days' notice. I called and asked if I could postpone it until January when I wasn't teaching, and they said that would be fine, but I decided to hold off until I talked to Sam. I then left my summons right where it wouldn't get lost, which means I didn't see it very often and didn't think about calling back any time when I was near a phone. Well, at 1:30 this morning while I was trying to get Isaiah back to sleep, I remembered, but it was too late to call for the postponement. I had to call three people today while I was there to get someone to leave a note on the board in my classroom that I wouldn't be there with instructions to bring their papers to the Philsophy Department. In the process, I stumbled upon the information that I'm being offered a 300-level course at the university next semester, which is rare for a graduate student, though they did give me a 400-level last year. These two classes come up for adjuncts to teach each once every three years, so I'm excited to be able to do both of them. I've been doing 300-level courses at the small college I teach at, but that doesn't seem as much of an honor to get.

Well, anyway, jury duty itself was quite an experience. I spent the large bulk of the time sitting around grading. For such an important civic duty that requires many people to miss days of work, they sure do use their jurors' time ineffectively. I got a fair amount of grading done, though, more than I'd originally hoped to do today if I'd been home and on campus. They spent lots of time telling us what it would be like and warning us that it's not like on TV. Basically three or four different people had to tell us all the same things, each time adding a little new. I wouldn't exactly call it an efficient system, but it amazed me how many times I had to fill my fellow jurors in on things that had been stated quite clearly, so maybe that's why they repeat things so much. They know people don't listen.

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