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User Journal

Journal: Mean Green Marriage

Journal by ArthurDent

Steven Den Beste's entry about Transnational Progressivism and the mean green meme got me thinking about another item on the agenda of these folks: gay marriage. (I encourage everybody to go to Steven's entry and Read The Whole Thing (TM) even though it's long. I also assume that you've read the two other links above.)

Gay marriage is at its heart a mean green idea. From their perspective the force at work here is the evil WASPs (on which our country was build largely) oppressing homosexuals into a position where what seem to be similar relationships do not achieve equality of results with the WASPs blue meme of marriage.

To people who follow the mean green meme, blue memes that follow from a religion or other belief system are intolerant. Anything that you can believe that causes inequality of results for anybody is dangerous and needs to be eliminated. No wonder then that gay "rights" activists are firmly in this camp. They see themselves as not getting the same results as everybody else and therefore something must be wrong. Somebody apparently never told these people that the world ain't fair when they were growing up. Or at least not fair in the way they're espousing.

The trouble is that in order for any organization of people (let alone a civilization) to work there have to be grounding principles. Ideas that bind people together in common agreement. Everybody agrees that marriage is a good thing. Kids are best off in a relationship where they are raised by their mother and their father living together in a loving environment. We foster that arrangement by giving it certain advantages. By guaranteeing equality of results for gay marriage, we would be saying that their value is the same. Regardless of how hard they try to convince us that nothing has any more value than anything else we must resist them. We haven't made it through thousands of years of civilization that way, and it will eventually be our undoing if we do!

Essentially, what is being espoused is that all grounding principles of any group are wrong and therefore must be discarded. The problem is that this ideology will eventually rip the heart right out of our civilization because we need founding principles like marriage and the family.

These people will take us down the road of the Romans if we are not vigilant about adhereing to our principles. If you're not sure what yours are, then get some. Otherwise, they've already won!

User Journal

Journal: Going through the motions

Journal by ArthurDent

Everybody knows now (if we didn't know before) that the "United Nations" is a misnomer. The UN is all about political manuevering and nothing whatever about being united. Yet, for years now, our government has been trying to treat the UN as the idealistic gathering of nations that it was supposed to be, and getting limited if any result.

I groaned when I heard that the US is going back to the UN for help in dealing with Iraq. I groaned at the implication that we couldn't handle it, that things really are as bad as the media is making them out to be, and that our political will is waning.

Then I thought, what if we're starting to get what the UN is really all about? I think we'd all agree that the goal of our UN operation before the war was simply to put us in a win-win situation politically. It either proved that the UN was helpless as an organization to put force behind it's will to remove WMDs from Iraq, or it proved that it had the will. Either way we win if you look at it from the perspective that we were going to attack anyway. We either get legitimacy, or help.

I think the same thing is at work here. A multitude of things could happen here. The two biggest ones though, are we get legitimacy for being there because no consensus can be achieved as to how the UN gets involved, or we get help doing what we want to do.

I had a look at which countries would be sending help, though and I was disappointed to not find many (if any) Islamic countries on the list. I was kind of hoping for a situation where we might be able to turn the political tables on the terrorists there by saying they are only killing their Islamic brethren by attacking the forces occupying Iraq. However, any help we can get is better than the alternative!

I hope that we are finally taking a more pragmatic approach to the UN as it appears we might be!

User Journal

Journal: Separation totally out of hand

Journal by ArthurDent
I've been reading about the whole issue of the sculpture that has the ten commandments inscribed on it that has been placed in a state courthouse in Alabama, and it's been making me more and more angry as the days go by.

Though I believe that the issue in Alabama is really a state one, not a federal one, I think we'd all agree the the idea here was derived from a federal idea.

The first amendment to our Constition reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Now, for quite a while now, a doctrine has been ingrained in American society that says that this implies some sort of "separation" of "church" and "state". (I'm sorry about the quotes here, but I think it's important to really disect this idea.) Notice that that phrase does not appear in the first amendment where it's proponents usually go crawling off to when they want to back it up. The problem is that it's not the idea of the separation that's wrong, it's what it's come to be known as.

The term "state" has come to mean any government or government financed organization. The term "church" has come to mean anything that could remotely be termed "religion" whether or not the majority of the people believe what the particular religion in question says or not. I think we can all agree that the ten commandments are pretty good rules of thumb, and that the historical and religious backgrounds out of which they spring does not devalue them as an ethical standard.

Here's where the whole thing goes nuts. The term "separation" has come to mean that the goverment cannot support any sort of religion in any way. Government has to be run as if religion doesn't exist in some ways.

I am convinced that that is not what the founding fathers intended. Let's think back to our history. What were the founding fathers afraid of when they wrote the first amendment? The were thinking of what caused the first people to come to the new world. They were thinking of the Puritans who came here to escape being persecuted by a government that was not tolerant of any religion but a "state religion". They were thinking of the problems that arose out of the protestant reformation. They themselves for the most part happened to come from a protestant Christian background, and they formed the values of our Constition from that background, but they did not intend to make that a "state religion".

What the first amendment does say is that Congress can not hinder any religion, nor prevent anybody from saying what's on their mind. It does not even say that Congress cannot promote any religion, only that it cannot attempt to establish a state religion at the expense of any or all others. The people must be free to worship whatever or whomever they please.

Now we come back to the situation in Alabama. Will somebody please explain to me how having that sculpture in the courthouse hinders anybody from practicing any other religion? If the people of Alabama believe that it does then let their legislators act to have the sculpture removed. However, if we're only removing it because government must be "separate" from "church" then we need to think about where we came from and where the heck we're really going as a country.

There. I feel better now. :)
User Journal

Journal: What is government anyway?

Journal by ArthurDent


I got into a discussion with Brad Wardell over at Joe User a few weeks ago about different views on taxes. I was presented as the "Democratic" view point, and to a large extent that's probably a fair assessment. However, I didn't come to that conclusion because I'm some sort of lemming following a crowd. It comes from a positive definition of what government is. I've been pondering this for a while and I think I've got it where I want it now. So here goes!

As a starting point, let me put forth a basic definition that I will expand upon as we go forward. What we call government is really about working together to make our country a better place. We have governments because we realize that there are things that we can't do just on our own individually.

Obviously, we need a way to engage ourselves in the international community, and a way in some sense to defend our inetrests against other nations. We need a united front, so it is a natural function of government to execute a foreign policy and to build a military so that those policies are enforceable. In order for this to happen, all wage-earning citizens contribute a portion of their wages, not only to pay soldiers, but also diplomats.

It is typically the government's function to ensure order and safety within our borders. We give up a portion of our resources and some of our freedoms to ensure that society can function in an orderly manner. Our monies go to pay police officers and fire fighters.

By now, to a large extent, the governed have worked to ensure the safety and security of all citizens within their borders. Presumably, the governed are safe from outside attack and safe from rampant crime and danger.

Here's where things get really interesting. Some of the governed still have problems. Some are homeless. Some can't make a living with the skills that they have. Some have made bad choices and are left in an untenable position. Some are put in bad situations by bad physical or mental health, which can result from old age or young. Some lack education. In some of these cases their situation is their own fault, sometimes not. The question becomes two-fold:

1. Do we as a people want to help them?
2. Are we as a people willing to put our money where our mouth is?

You see, we live in an imperfect world that is inhabited by imperfect people. In a perfect world none of this would happen. There wouldn't be any needy, either because the circumstances were prevented, or because individuals would work to help the people in need. Sadly, neither of those things happen. People walk by homeless people on the street every day without thinking a lick about how they got there or how they could help. It's a fact. Humans are self-centered beings, but deep down we have a sense that it is better to help people. That belief is not natural for us however.

So where does that leave us, and where does government fit in? Our government "for the people" gives us a framework from which we can choose to help people and make it stick. We allow the majority of voters (theoretically at least) to decide how our resources get farmed out. We define penalties to impose on each other when we fail to contribute to each other's welfare. Sometimes we allow those resources to go to social programs to help those less fortunate. Sometimes we choose to get some of that money back for ourselves.

So now, we defined why we have government, and why it's important with respect to social endeavors. Government affords us an opportunity to contribute to each other's welfare. The amount we choose to do that with is fluid, based on the whims of the governed.

So what should be the methodology behind not only how much we give, but how it's spent? This is where philosophy ends and practicality begins, so I'm going to leave this here for now and come back to it in another entry, hopefully soon!

User Journal

Journal: War! What is it good for?!!?!

Journal by ArthurDent

There's an anti-Vietnam war song that claims that war is good for absolutely nothing. Now, the Vietnam war probably at one point became that way and it unfortunately was long before our men were called home. You could make a case for it never being good for much in the first place.

That was then, this is now. The problem then was the spread of an ideology. The problem now is much more immediate. The problem is the threat of a lunatic dictator sitting a gold mine of oil having the ability to hold the entire world hostage to his maniacal whims.

We know the following things about Saddam Hussein beyond doubt:

1. He has total control over the opposition within his borders. If you think there is another choice on the ballot besides him that doesn't have deadly consequences, then I have a real estate proposition for you regarding a highway overpass in Brooklyn. Further, at this point it has pretty much been proven that no one has the ability to seize power.

2. He has weapons of mass destruction that he is not going to show to any inspector. Inspections are a farce. What makes you think you could find something that I hide for you in the state of California in a reasonable amount of time? That doesn't even take into account the fact that the things that the inspectors are looking for are *mobile*. Given those kinds of odds and you'll never find anything.

3. He has the will to use chemical and biological weapons. He did in the war with Iran, and he did on his own people to consolidate his power. What in the world makes anyone think he won't use them now?

4. He will single-mindedly ruin his own people in pursuit of WMDs. Do you think for a second that sanctions stopped him? They only ruined the Iraqi people. He has been selling oil. While the supply he has to work with is limited, it is more than sufficient to create an even deadlier force the longer things continue.

In short, he has the will, the means, and the opportunity to deal huge damage on a whim to whomever he wants, including us. He has no intention of disarming, and the litany of peaceful methods that we've tried to force him to disarm have failed.

Are we going to wait around for Saddam to use these weapons? Will we repeat our mistakes with Al Qaeda and wait for Saddam to attack first?

I can hear the complaints but they don't fly:

1. What about North Korea? Why not attack them under the same arguement? I'll tell you why. They are not sitting on top of the world's richest oil reserves. If they actually had capitol, they'd be more dangerous. They're also not crazy, just so culturally foreign to the Western mode of thinking that they are difficult to understand. Their motivation is to try to get out from under their own bad situation while maintaining their power over their own country. With that understanding, the situation should be able to be solved diplomatically.

2. If I hear one more person refer to Bush as the oil lobby's lap dog I'm going to hurl. This is *not* about oil, it's about pulling the gun out of the hand of a disturbed man who is holding hostages. To say that this is only about Iraq's oil is a cop out to a conspiracy theory.

3. What about the UN? Do we need world consensus? Well, when a person holds a gun to the head of another person do we need to pass a law through Congress to disarm the hostage taker? No. We take drastic measures to disarm him. This is the same thing. We need to take drastic measures to prevent something else terrible from happening. Remember, we're not the only country that is going to make this attack if we do make it. It will be a coalition, just not including Germany and France and anybody else who is not smart enough to come along for the ride.

Now, I like peace as much as the next guy, but this is an imperfect world. Sometimes we need to have a war to sustain peace. This is one of those cases.

User Journal

Journal: Death and Taxes

Journal by ArthurDent

I was reading a blog entry over at www.rachellucas.com today and was compelled to respond to the overwhelming stupidity of it all. Basically Ms. Lucas claimed that taxes were in effect stealing. Let's take this one step at a time:

IT'S MY MONEY!

I don't think anybody will argue that point.

Not yours. Not the government's. Not the welfare sow's.

Um, do you really want that "sow's" children to starve because you're too damn cheap to help her out? Aren't most states getting the picture on welfare and making it do what it was supposed to which is helping people out on a temporary basis until they can get back on their feet? For God's sake, I live in Massachusetts, which in case you haven't heard is the biggest welfare state in the country! Even here welfare reform has reduced the rolls by a wide margin, trying to get the leaches out of the system. Just because you can't be bothered to pay attention doesn't mean that the system isn't working.

MINE. Mine, mine, mine!

Okay. You've made your point.

I earned it, and when the IRS confiscates it from me, that is STEALING.

No, try again. You GIVE your money to the IRS so that the government can do things that would be difficult to accomplish yourself. Like defending our country for instance. The fact is that left to their own devices (untaxed) people will not use their money for good purposes. Do you really think that lowering taxes on the rich will lead them to give money away to help the poor? If you do you ought to get your head examined. The realistic fact is that we NEED the government to take our money to protect us from ourselves! We need the government to do the things that everyone agrees need to be done, but won't get done without everyone being forced to contribute to it.

I work. They pay me. That would make it MY MONEY.

Alright already! Nobody's arguing the point!

The ONLY reason I write that check every April 15 (I'm self-employed so it's not taken out of my pay), is because I don't want to go to prison.

Nobody said your motives have to be pure, we just all happen to agree as a people that you have to do it!

I fork over MY MONEY to the government so that they can dole it out to the brood mare down the street who has four kids she can't support, because I don't want to go to prison.

Oh, so now we finally get to the real issue! If you don't like how your money gets spent, we have this wonderful system that helps you get your voice heard. It's called voting! Perhaps you've heard of it. You have no right to complain about how your money is spent. If you don't like it vote different. If that doesn't work then there are sufficiently more people in the country (or your state) that believe that the money should be spent in a different way. In that case you happen to just lose. The fact is that the government serves the majority because it is designed to help the most people that it can. Being in the minority sucks, but that's the way it is. Live with it.

If there's one thing I can't stand it's a person who gripes about the current system but has no better solution to put forward. Here's your reality check. We've come to this point in our governmental system for a reason. This is the best that we could come up with over the last 200+ years. So if you've got any better ideas, then say so, otherwise shut up and deal with it!

User Journal

Journal: Slashdot at 5..

Journal by ArthurDent

Yikes! It's been a while hasn't it. I'm one of the older timers around here (low 5 digit id.. heh), and /. sure has grown up. I love the journal feature, and the friend/foe/freak/fan stuff is pretty neat too. Slashdot has done a great job of being a discussion site not just about open source, or MS bashing, or computer oriented news. Rather, /. (heh, can't put "/." at the beginning of a sentence for some reason) has been able to cover all facets of geek culture from privacy to world events to religion to science. The level of discourse is very very high looking back given the headaches that have occurred with ACs and moderation and so on. Through it all CT and his buds have managed to make this a place where people discuss serious and not so serious issues with equal aplomb.

Kudos to the /. team and here's to another 5 years!

Science

Journal: Science and God 4

Journal by ArthurDent

Another article on evolution on /. leads to another post making fun of creationism. Some people on here seem to think that one couldn't possibly be a rational person and believe that God created the world. Come on people. Think about what religion is: A way to answer the unanswerable questions.

In this case, the unanswerable question for me is this:

"How does one explain the amount of order and complexity that we see around us?"

You see, evolution by itself doesn't do it for me. It seems unbelievable to me that we're all just here by chance. Give me a break. What is the likelyhood of pure chance bringing out a human from an ameoba as straight evolution would suggest? Seems pretty darn small to me. Doesn't it seem possible that there is some over-arching force guiding evolution toward a particular destination? Could it not be that God is the one who decides when and how creatures evolve?

There is a fair amount of evidence for evolution. I can't see a way for us to prove given the information at hand that it happened, but it seems to be pretty clear in my mind at least that evolution or something like it did occurr. Does that leave God out of the equation? No! People tend to forget, that Darwin himself didn't believe that this all happend by chance. Even he believed that God guided evolution to bring about His purposes!

I guess my question for /.ers is how can you *not* as a rational thinking person not look at creation and wonder how this could have come about by chance? It's astonishing to me that saying that Someone created all this is thought to be irrational.

Ben

Egotist: A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me. -- Ambrose Bierce

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