why voting is a terrible system

From Five Reasons Why You’re Too Dumb to Vote :

As a procedure for sorting out complex policy issues, voting is of distinctly limited value: If you wanted to know whether the compressive strength of a particular material were sufficient to support a bridge over Interstate 20, you would not go about solving that problem by bundling that question with 10,000 other equally precise and complex but largely unrelated questions, presenting the bundle of questions to the least-informed few million people you could identify, and then proceeding with whatever solution 50 percent +1 of them preferred. That would be a bad way to build a bridge — a homicidal way, in fact — and though it is a necessary instrument of accountability in a democratic republic, voting properly plays a very limited role. For instance, we have a Bill of Rights, which could with equal accuracy be called the List of Stuff You Idiots Can’t Be Trusted To Vote On. A majority of Americans don’t like free speech? Too bad, Harry Reid.

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aslan describes the temple

The entire book is worth buying for this chapter alone. Aslan describes the temple in Jerusalem in his book Zealot:

The Temple of Jerusalem is a roughly rectangular structure, some five hundred meters long and three hundred meters wide, balanced atop Mount Moriah, on the eastern edge of the holy city. Its outer walls are rimmed with covered porticos whose slab-topped roofs, held up by row after row of glittering white stone columns, protect the masses from the merciless sun. On the Temple’s southern flank sits the largest and most ornate of the porticoes, the Royal Portico— a tall, two-story, basilica-like assembly hall built in the customary Roman style…

The Temple is constructed as a series of tiered courtyards, each smaller, more elevated, and more restrictive than the last. The outermost courtyard, the Court of Gentiles, where you purchased your sacrifice, is a broad piazza open to everyone, regardless of race or religion. If you are a Jew— one free of any physical affliction (no lepers, no paralytics) and properly purified by a ritual bath— you may follow the priest with your offering through a stone-lattice fence and proceed into the next courtyard, the Court of Women (a plaque on the fence warns all others to proceed no farther than the outer court on pain of death). Here is where the wood and oil for the sacrifices are stored. It is also the farthest into the Temple that any Jewish woman may proceed; Jewish men may continue up a small semicircular flight of stairs through the Nicanor Gate and into the Court of Israelites. This is as close as you will ever be to the presence of God…

Still, it is important to stay where you are and witness your sacrifice take place in the next courtyard, the Court of Priests. Entry into this court is permitted solely to the priests and Temple officials, for this is where the Temple’s altar stands: a four-horned pedestal made of bronze and wood —five cubits long , five cubits wide— belching thick black clouds of smoke into the air…

The entire liturgy is performed in front of the Temple’s innermost court, the Holy of Holies— a gold-plated, columnar sanctuary at the very heart of the Temple complex. The Holy of Holies is the highest point in all Jerusalem. Its doors are draped in purple and scarlet tapestries embroidered with a zodiac wheel and a panorama of the heavens. This is where the glory of God physically dwells. It is the meeting point between the earthly and heavenly realms, the center of all creation… It is a vast, empty space that serves as a conduit for the presence of God, channeling his divine spirit from the heavens, flowing it out in concentric waves across the Temple’s chambers, through the Court of Priests and the Court of Israelites, the Court of Women and the Court of Gentiles, over the Temple’s porticoed walls and down into the city of Jerusalem, across the Judean countryside to Samaria and Idumea, Peraea and Galilee, through the boundless empire of mighty Rome and on to the rest of the world, to all peoples and nations, all of them— Jew and gentile alike— nourished and sustained by the spirit of the Lord of Creation, a spirit that has one sole source and no other: the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, tucked within the Temple, in the sacred city of Jerusalem.

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friedman calls out bad global warming statistics

There is a common claim that 97% of climate scientists agree that the main cause of Global Warming is mankind. David Friedman quotes one such study that repeats the claim:

Bedford and Cook (2013) contains the following sentence: “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97% endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”

The problem with this is that the claim is completely bogus. The 97% represents the number of scientific papers that give an opinion on the issue and then think that humans contribute. Of course, that “97%” would then include Climate Change skeptics! In reality, the accurate number would be 1.6% for the percent that “endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause”:

Only Level 1 corresponds to “the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.” (emphasis mine) Hence when John Cook attributed that view to 97% on the basis of his Cook et. al. (2013) he was misrepresenting 1.6% as 97%. Adding up his categories 5-7, the levels of rejecting of AGW, we find that more papers explicitly or implicitly rejected the claim that human action was responsible for half or more of warming than accepted it. According to Cook’s own data.

Friedman gives pretty good evidence that Cook is dishonest. Cook willfully misrepresents his own findings:

The closest it came to defining the consensus is as the “position that humans are causing global warming,” which leaves it unclear whether “causing” means “are one cause of,” “are the chief cause of,” or “are the sole cause of.” To discover that it meant only the former, a reader had to pay sufficiently careful attention to the details of the paper to notice “contribute to” in the example of category 2 in Table 2, which few readers would do. The fact that Cook chose, in a second paper, to misrepresent the result of the first is pretty good evidence that the presentation of his results was deliberately designed to mislead.

This is confirmed by Cook’s response, which ignores Friedman’s point. Cook responds as if Friedman wants to include papers that Cook discluded. Friedman refocuses Cook. Friedman really wants to use the same papers that Cook used, using Cook’s own methodology. Cook is a liar.

If the leaders of Climate Change are this dishonest, it is ample evidence that they should not be believed or trusted. Giving them power to regulate would be terrible mistake.

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Jesus preaches against the temple leaders

In Matthew 21, Jesus is in the temple preaching. The temple was the Jewish holy place, and the leaders of the temple did not take kindly to Jesus’ subversion of their own authority. They team up with the common religious teachers (the Pharisees) and approach Jesus demanding to know from where Jesus’ authority came:

Mat 21:23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”
Mat 21:24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:
Mat 21:25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’
Mat 21:26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”
Mat 21:27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

Jesus cannot answer the question in verse 23 without some sort of legal action taken against him. The high priest of that day and supreme authority on religious matters, and he could also make arrests in the vicinity of the temple. It is important for Jesus to avoid answering: answering that his authority was from God would lead to arrest and answering that it did not come from God would undermine his ministry. Instead, Jesus focuses the question towards John the Baptist (who is well regarded as authoritative by Israel’s common people). Jesus had not yet reached the height of John’s ministry, so Jesus opts to draw a parallel between himself and John the Baptist. John the Baptist was not given a commission to teach from the leaders of the temple, nor was Jesus. John the Baptist taught per God’s authority, so did Jesus. By using the reputation of John the Baptist (who was also critical of religious leaders), Jesus leverages John’s authority to undermine the temple. The leaders of the temple were very afraid of losing power by contradicting popular opinion.

Jesus takes this a step further and undermines the temple leaders in front of the temple worshipers. They despised John the Baptist, and Jesus uses this fact to condemn them:

Mat 21:28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’
Mat 21:29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.
Mat 21:30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.
Mat 21:31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.
Mat 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

This parable is directed at the temple leaders. The point Jesus is making is that evil people have a better chance of inheriting the kingdom of God than the temple leaders. This is a striking insult. The temple leaders prided themselves on their righteous acts and following the law. To Jesus, because the temple leaders were hypocrites and also did not believe John the Baptist, then they were worse than the people that they despised.

Jesus’ gospel of a coming kingdom of God, where God would kill the unrighteous and bless the righteous, is everywhere in this text. Not only is the appeal to John the Baptist’s ministry evidence (who taught the same thing), but also that Jesus is calling for the temple leaders to change their ways. This is not a “faith alone” text. It is not those who believe the right things, but those who perform who are the ones saved. The unrighteous temple leaders were to be counted among those God would kill.

To emphasize this point, Jesus continues:

Mat 21:33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.
Mat 21:34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.
Mat 21:35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.
Mat 21:36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.
Mat 21:37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
Mat 21:38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’
Mat 21:39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Mat 21:40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
Mat 21:41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

The imagery used is reminiscent of Isaiah 5. This parable lines up with God’s purposes in the Old Testament. God sought to create a special chosen people to be His own. Throughout the Bible, God was thwarted by consistent evilness and rejection from Israel. To Jesus, God would correct this soon by sending an army of angels to kill the wicked. This would leave only the righteous, a new righteous nation. In Jesus’ parable, the vineyard is Israel. The vintage-time is God returning to create a new Godly nation. The vinedressers are the religious leaders of Israel, who were meant to take care of the vineyard until harvest but who instead rebels. God is the vineyard owner, who sent servants that were killed by the vinedressers. Jesus strongly implies (and the religious leaders figure out later) that this parable means that God will kill the religious leaders.

Notice the imminence in the text. The “vintage-time” was drawing near. When Jesus was preaching against the temple leaders, he was not preaching destruction to a future generation who was not yet born. Jesus’ sermon was against the leaders of his own day. Jesus fully expected his prophecies to come to past shortly.

Another thing to note is that although Jesus probably was talking about himself as the “son”, many of the listeners might have equated the “son” with John the Baptist. Jesus’ ambiguity probably worked to his advantage with the common people. Jesus explains to the temple leaders his meaning:

Mat 21:43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
Mat 21:44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

By quoting Psalms 118, Jesus casts the temple leaders as the same type of people who were the enemies of King David. Jesus follows this up by ensuring that the temple leaders understand that the parables are about them and that they are to be the ones killed and excluded from the kingdom.

Mat 21:45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.
Mat 21:46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

After Jesus’ display, the crowds seem to empower Jesus. When the leaders first questioned Jesus, they were looking for some sort of charge to make against him. By the finale, Jesus’ boldness and popular appeal make Jesus a force with which to be reckoned. Jesus’ appeal to John the Baptist worked in leading the common people to equate one ministry with the other. This frightened the temple leaders.

The temple leaders and the Pharisees finally understand Jesus’ points and perhaps this adds to their plots to kill Jesus.

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the record keeper – a review

The Record Keeper is a steampunk themed webseries centered around the angels’ perspectives as events occur throughout the Bible. If that sounds awesome, it is because it is awesome. The series was produced as an outreach project by Seventh Day Adventists. Adventists seem to ascribe to a Warfare Worldview in which the forces of evil engage against the forces of good for the fate of the future. This is the premise of the series.

In this series, the main protagonists are two angels (Larus and Cadan) who had long been friends but are separated as one defects with Satan (Larus) while the other remains loyal to God (Cadan). These two periodically meet with a “Record Keeper”. At some point in the past, God has appointed a Record Keeper to create a database of the facts of events throughout history. The purpose of these records is to build an evidence file for use during a future judgment. The record keeper acts as a neutral third party. In order to eliminate bias, Satan’s angels are given temporary guarantee of safety in order to periodically meet with the record keeper to give their version of events. They agree to this as a way to make sure documentation is included in the records against God and in their own defense. In the series, it comes to light that the agents of Satan employ their own record keeper in anticipation of a future judgment of God (they anticipate defeating God at some point).

Normally angels meet individually with the Record Keeper, but, because of the closeness of the two friends, they are allowed to meet together (one representing God and the other representing Satan). The series follows their relationship as the events of the Bible unfold. Additionally, the person of the record keeper is examined, as she struggles with learning about all these events second-hand.

The series, although creative and well written, was suspended by the leaders of the Seventh Day Adventists after the leaders objected to material found within. One such objection is that Open Theist themes strongly present itself in the plot narrative. This Open Theism is a reoccurring theme, as God’s angels plot to bring about prophecies from the Old Testament and Satan’s angels plot to negate them. The entire titular role is played by a record keeper meant to store information for future examination (the first few episodes suggest for use on judgment day, the last suggests for use by third parties). The storing of information is strongly anti-platonic. Really interesting is the episode where Satan becomes concerned that one of his angel’s is “leaking information” to God’s angels, something that should not be an issue if omniscience was assumed.

Additionally, the idea that Satan and his minions even believe “they can defeat God” does not play into the platonistic concept of who God is and what attributes He possesses. The Biblical account of the angelic rebellion is just as hard for platonistic Christians to explain as it is for critics of this webseries. Instead, the series is written similar to the Bible, in which Open Theism is an underlying theme manifesting in the behavior and dialogue of all actors. The times that platonism is injected seem very forced (“One day they will invent crumpets.”).

The series excels at bringing out good ideas that should probably be explored further. Why did the angels rebel? What were their motivations? How did they see their roles throughout history? How did they experience the events in the Bible? Where were they and what did they do while these events were taking place?

The series depicts multiple reasons for angels defecting with Satan (referred to as the “general” throughout the series). One of Satan’s main appeals was his declarations against “inequality” in God’s kingdom. Satan promised equality and freedom. Larus wanted freedom from God. He viewed God’s control with spitefulness and longed to control his own destiny. Another angel defected due to jealousy. This angel had been given the same position by Satan that she was rejected for in God’s kingdom. Certainly, Satan’s own jealousy is traditionally the reason given as to why Satan defected.

In the series, the audience is exposed to angels as persons. The angels have individual motivations and desires. The angels reason. The angels are affected with strong emotion. The angels are explored as people. Angels are not considered as a homogeneous mass of automatons.

Another series highlight is that “child murder” is portrayed as God’s ultimate hated sin. This is repeated a few times, and the act is even disdained by Satan’s followers. The implications for modern abortion are obvious.

As for the movie itself. The filming is done very professionally. In addition to steampunk themed offices, the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend serve as backdrop of this fantasy world. The actors are mostly believable. The dialogue is solid and interesting (plenty of nuances to flush out). The soundtrack includes an excellent rendition of Amazing Grace during the final episode. This is a high quality web series.

The list of reasons given by the Seventh Day Adventists as to why this series was suspended are mostly bogus, predicated on assumptions and a poor understandings of the plot. For example:

-The series does not portray Satan as “ruler of hell”, unless a poorly lit warehouse counts as hell. Satan must have some sort of base of operations. Why not a warehouse?

-Angels are seen ensuring that Jesus is born in Bethlehem through use of their power. Plenty of events in the Bible describe angels using their power to bring out prophecy. An angel slaughtering the Assyrian army is one such example (2 Kings 19:35). The Adventist leaders rightly understand that there are severe Open Theist implications. They reject the Bible due to their philosophy.

-When characters in the film say of Jesus “He’s not human” and “He cannot die”, they are shown to be wrong in the very next episode. That was the point, Satan’s angels believed (in the series) that Jesus was immortal and thus did not kill him sooner.

- The episode states “the plan required the death of God.” The Adventist leaders claim, “Deity did not die”. Peter claims contrary to this: “[You] killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:15)

Possibly the feminizing of the Holy Spirit is the strongest point that they have, but most of their complaints are shaky and amount to petty concerns. It would be a shame to throw out this gem based on trivial theological mistakes.

In retrospect, it is probably a good thing that this webseries was discontinued by the Seventh Day Adventists. Discontinuation ensures the series is not ruined with all the “fixes” suggested by the Adventist leaders, solidifying for eternity the theological implications of the series.



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johnson on allende

The Chilean coup by Pinochet (1973) supplanted the rule of Allende. Allende’s rule had been utterly disastrous. From Paul Johnson’s Modern Times:

But Allende was a weak man with a divided, part-revolutionary following, which quickly slipped from his control. While he embarked on a programme of wholesale nationalization, which isolated Chile from the world trading community, the militants of his Left wing were not prepared to accept any of the restraints of constitutionalism. They launched ‘People’s Power’, consisting of Peasant Councils which seized farms in the countryside and Workers’ Assemblies which occupied factories…

At the time Allende took over, in January 1971, inflation had actually fallen to about 23 per cent. Within months it was hyperinflation. In 1972 it was 163 per cent. In the summer of 1973 it reached 190 per cent, by far the highest in the world.9 2 This was before the quadrupling of oil prices: the Allende inflation was entirely his own doing. In November 1971 Chile declared a unilateral moratorium on its foreign debts (i.e., went bankrupt). The banks cut off credit; capital fled; with the farms in chaos, producing little, the factories occupied, producing less, exports vanished, imports soared, then vanished too as the money ran out. The shops emptied. The middle class started to strike. The workers, finding their wages cut in real terms, struck too. The official price structure became irrational and then irrelevant as the black market took over. The Left began to smuggle in arms in July 1971 and began serious political violence in May the next year.

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understanding psalms 13

Psalms 13 was written by David during his time of tribulation. Like the psalms before and after it, it is filled with images of persecution and oppression. Whereas Psalms 12 is impersonal and reflects David’s observations of oppression in general, Psalms 13 is very personal. David laments about his own specific oppressions. He wonders where God is in all of his trouble and calls to God for redemption.

Psa 13:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?

King David, when things were not going well, equated this with God leaving him or abandoning him. God was said to hide His face from David. This is to be contrasted with David’s language during the good times. In Psalms 139, God is said to follow David everywhere from Hades to Heaven (Psa 139:8). It might almost be said that King David had a flare for the dramatic. David held extreme emotions and showed them without hesitation. This is one of the reasons God loved him so.

Psa 13:2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

Here David explains the results of God’s abandonment. David’s enemies triumph over him. David has slumped into deep depression, not feeling as if salvation was soon to come.

Psa 13:3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Psa 13:4 Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

In these verses, David presents reasons why God should save him. He is worried that he will soon die unless God intervenes. In short, David does not want to give his enemies satisfaction of winning. He assumes his goals are the same as God’s goals. David assumes God will hold the same values as him. David assumes God values him enough to save him from death.

Psa 13:5 But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
Psa 13:6 I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

David ends this psalm with praises. To David, God was to be praised in spite of his oppression, abandonment, and in spite of his near death. God was precious to David, and one of his only friends. God had saved David in the past, and David shows his gratitude. The praises hold a dual purpose of giving God more motivation to save David. After all, if David praises God, then God might be compelled to save his loyal subject so he is not lost to death. David compels God to save him through a cry for justice, a warning of death, and praises to God.

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