Friday, July 29, 2016
America is facing a banana republic moment | Ottawa Citizen
"I wish this was stupid and wrong, but it's not" - Michael Totten.
If you’ve lately come to conclude that American democracy has degenerated into a hopelessly dystopian reality-television spectacle and it seems as though we’re all teetering at the abyss of a broken America that is no longer a force for good in the world, you are wrong. It’s worse than you think. It’s later than you think.
That’s the good news.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
We do not know who will take the inaugural oath come January. Or who will head the various federal intelligence agencies or the Congressional oversight committees. But:
What we know is that the people in charge will possess the capacity to be tyrants -- to use power oppressively and unjustly -- to a degree that Americans in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000 could've scarcely imagined. To an increasing degree, we're counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils. Bush and Obama have built infrastructure any devil would lust after.
Now go and read the whole source article of the above paragraph, "All the Infrastructure a Tyrant Would Need, Courtesy of Bush and Obama."
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Earlier this month, columnist Richard Fernandez wrote,
The problem may turn out to be not whether Christianity can survive the modern world, but whether the modern world can survive without Christianity. The naive assumption of 19th century Marxists was that after belief was abolished, what was essentially a Christian morality would continue to guide the world though without its religious overtones.
They thought that even without God men would not kill or steal or lie or covet their neighbor's wives. Through the operation of some sort of "decency" things would go on much as before, but with electricity and central planning. They thought this because they had lived in an immersive religious system for so long they were no more aware of it than fish notice water.
But as it turned out "decency" was much more fragile than they thought. If the 20th century showed that man unfettered could create monstrous totalitarian belief systems, the 21st is rapidly demonstrating that rather than accept an inner vacuum millions would rather fill it with strange gods if the gods of their fathers were no longer on offer.
Fish may not notice water when it is there. But they do notice it when it is gone.
Perhaps the major challenge of the 21st century is to reinvent Christianity or something like it. Man does not live by bread alone and if that hunger will not be met by God it will be sated by the spirit of darkness.
The naive assumption of many religionists on both side of the American political aisle seems to be that their only one candidate, but not the other, can sustain Christian morality in the national polity.
Now that I've got past that rant, let me ask, "What would Jesus do with national American politics?" Probably this:
|Jesus at the Republican National Convention, or maybe the Democrat one. |
Hard to tell since they are both dens of thieves.
Government gets bigger and more powerful, which lures companies into viewing Washington as a profit center, which then leads to more policies that expand the size and power of the federal government, which leads to further opportunities for rent-seeking behavior. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State. The conception of the Liberal State is not that of a directing force, guiding the play and development, both material and spiritual, of a collective body, but merely a force limited to the function of recording results: on the other hand, the Fascist State is itself conscious and has itself a will and a personality -- thus it may be called the "ethic" State.... ..The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone ... .
A popular slogan of the Italian Fascists under Mussolini was, “Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato” (everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state). I recall this expression frequently as I observe the state’s far-reaching penetration of my own society.
What of any consequence remains beyond the state’s reach in the United States today? Not wages, working conditions, or labor-management relations; not health care; not money, banking, or financial services; not personal privacy; not transportation or communication; not education or scientific research; not farming or food supply; not nutrition or food quality; not marriage or divorce; not child care; not provision for retirement; not recreation; not insurance of any kind; not smoking or drinking; not gambling; not political campaign funding or publicity; not real estate development, house construction, or housing finance; not international travel, trade, or finance; not a thousand other areas and aspects of social life. ...
- Who will receive the largess they will use tax dollars to provide?
- Whom will be the class they plunder to get it?
- And how will they spend it to suborn, corrupt or crush so they can keep power?
How to vote
So to my fellow Christians who will vote this November I say: Vote for the candidate of your choice. Vote your conscience. Vote your convictions. But do not pretend for even one second that it is even possible to vote the Gospel this November.
John Wesley had some excellent advice:
Fellow clergy, please:
Your presidential candidate is not going to inaugurate the eschaton. Not even the Millennium. Not even a decent mimic of anything Jesus imagined the Kingdom of God to be, nor even the faintest shadow. There is no divine endorsement - none whatever - of even a single word in the platforms of either the DNC or RNC.
Whenever someone claims that supporting this candidate or that one is based on Christian imperatives, that person instantly loses credibility with me. Zip, gone, vamoose, nada. Because what is really being said is that corrupted political ideology (which is all of them) suborns Christianity and that the work of Christ necessarily is done through the corrupt organs (which is all of them) of a corrupt political party (which is all of them). And never is this more so than this year and this year's candidates.
I neither demand nor expect that any American political party will ever base its platform on the Sermon on the Mount. It cannot be done anyway. But I long for a day when Americans will awaken again to the supremacy of Christ over the self.
I pray our polity this year is not a bellwether of the years to come. If so, we as a people are too very close to losing our goodness. God help us.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Sunday, July 17, 2016
"I condemn, in the strongest sense of the word, the attack on law enforcement in Baton Rouge. For the second time in two weeks, police officers who put their lives on the line for ours every day were doing their job when they were killed in a cowardly and reprehensible assault. These are attacks on public servants, on the rule of law, and on civilized society, and they have to stop.
"I’ve offered my full support, and the full support of the federal government, to Governor Edwards, Mayor Holden, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Baton Rouge Police Department. And make no mistake – justice will be done.
"We may not yet know the motives for this attack, but I want to be clear: there is no justification for violence against law enforcement. None. These attacks are the work of cowards who speak for no one. They right no wrongs. They advance no causes. The officers in Baton Rouge; the officers in Dallas – they were our fellow Americans, part of our community, part of our country, with people who loved and needed them, and who need us now – all of us – to be at our best.
"Today, on the Lord’s day, all of us stand united in prayer with the people of Baton Rouge, with the police officers who’ve been wounded, and with the grieving families of the fallen. May God bless them all."
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Retrospectively, it was a boneheaded move for Tesla to name it's driver-assist module "Autopilot." Autopilots have so far been found only on aircraft and as an airline pilot once told me, his real job is not to fly the plane but to monitor the computer systems that fly the plane. In fact, he said, once GPS came in to commercial use, a modern airliner needs only to be pointed down the runway and told to fly to the destination and it will take off, fly the programmed route, and land there without a human hand or foot on the controls.
But Tesla's autopilot is not nearly that advanced for a car. It's a semi-autopilot at best. It looks impressive, without doubt:
Lately, cars with AP (henceforth) have been involved in crashes, a few resulted in deaths. In one crash the AP (reports say) failed to distinguish between the sky and a white truck cutting into the lane ahead and so did not brake.
The BBC has reported on this problem in Britain, too. Tesla of course says that AP is not to blame, that drivers are still responsible for safe operation of the cars even with AP engaged, and that this is new technology that will get better over time. All of that is quite sensible, really, but for now Consumer Reports says that Tesla must deactivate Autopilot steering.
Here is the Tesla autopilot presskit page. What AP is designed to do is:
- Maintain driver-set speed with a cruise control that automatically adjusts speed to account for traffic ahead.
- Maintain the car's position in the lane by steering itself.
- Change lanes with the driver doing nothing but activating the turn-signal lever, and the car will wait until its sensors tell it the move is safe.
- Parallel park itself when directed by the driver.
That's not me, btw.
Honda Sensing offers lane-keeping assistance, not auto steering. I have found that on the interstate there is no curve that the car will not steer itself through, even at the speed limit (or higher, but I didn't say that). On other roads it will auto-steer curves depending on the car's speed and the sharpness of the curve, usually no more than half the time. Even with this feature turned off, the car still warns me if the car starts creeping toward the other lane.
Honda Sensing does have adaptive cruise control, same as Tesla's. And the Honda package also has auto-braking (with brake warnings to the driver) and avoidance of running off the road. The Accord does not park itself, though.
But ISTM the main difference between Honda Sensing and Tesla's Autopilot is that the Honda's system goes limp if the driver fails to hold onto the steering wheel. When the Honda's sensors detect no hands on the wheel for a number of seconds (I have not timed it, but I'd say 5-7) then a bright "Steering Required" warning lights up and the activated Sensing systems cease operation. The car still runs, mind, but all the driver assistance systems stop (except I presume auto-braking, but I am not willing to test it!) That's what Consumer Reports says must be modified on every Tesla AP-equipped car, that the AP require the driver's hands on the wheel to operate.
Tesla has announced that its AP was never intended to relieve the driver of actually driving the car, only of operating the basic controls all the time. But that is what calling it "autopilot" strongly implies. One fatality, a former Navy SEAL, is reported to have been watching a movie behind the wheel instead of driving it.
I strongly endorse Honda Sensing if you get a Honda. Other makers have similar systems with other names. Only Tesla calls it an autopilot. But it's not. Don't let a computer drive your car.
Update: This is a good video about the tech features of the 2016 Accord, too, including its full integration with your smartphone via Apple Play or Android Auto.
In the memorial to the slain Dallas police officers, President Obama said,
Outraged at this unacceptable situation, Apple Computer CEO Tim Cook announced that beginning Aug. 1, all teenagers and adult customers of Apple computers and devices will be able to buy Apple products as easily as they can buy a Glock pistol.
"It will be very simple," said Cook after touring the Glock factory in Smyrna, Ga. "From now on Apple products will be sold to teenagers using the same criteria used for them to buy a Glock. It's only fair and I am sure the president will agree."
Apple's press release summarized the new purchasing rules as follows:
- No straw purchases: Any person who attempts to solicit, persuade, encourage, or entice any Apple dealer to transfer or otherwise convey an Apple product other than to the actual buyer, as well as any other person who willfully and intentionally aids or abets such person, shall be not be allowed.
- Furnishing a computer to a Minor - No Apple dealer will sell or give an Apple product to a person under 18 years old. All purchasers must sign a statement before the sale that they will not sell, give or otherwise transfer the computer to a Minor.
- Apple dealers must complete and have the buyer sign Apple Form 4473, Computer Transaction Record.
- The dealer must verify the identity of the buyer through a government–issued photo identification.
- No Apple product will be sold to any person who is not a legal resident of the state where the sale occurs. Purchases may be made online but the product must be personally picked up by the buyer in the buyer's legal state of residence. Before transferring the computer to the buyer, all procedures stated herein must be in compliance.
- No Apple device may be sold to any person who has previously been convicted of or previously entered a guilty plea to one or more of the offenses of murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, or any felony involving the use or possession of a computer and who shall have on or within arm's reach of his or her person a computer during the commission of, or the attempt to commit:
- Any crime against or involving the person of another;The unlawful entry into a building or vehicle;
- A theft from a building or theft of a vehicle;
- Any crime involving the possession, manufacture, delivery, distribution, dispensing, administering, selling, or possession with intent to distribute any controlled substance
- Any crime involving the trafficking of cocaine, marijuana, or illegal drugs.
- The dealer must contact local law-enforcement offices (LEO) to ensure that the buyer is not disqualified from buying or possessing a computer. A dealer may not transfer a computer unless the dealer receives a “proceed” response, or three business days have elapsed since the dealer contacted the law enforcement office. A dealer may not sell a device when a “denied” response is issued by LEO.