April 2010 Archives
Despite having heard of Benedict Arnold in grade school, I only this morning learned of the traitor General James Wilkinson (thanks to NPR). Perhaps most nefariously (for a St. Louis resident) he betrayed explorers Lewis and Clark to the Spanish.
"As a spy, his tradecraft was excellent. Wilkinson sent his information in a code — just rows of numbers in groups of four," Linklater says. "It was never broken."
Through these coded messages, Wilkinson informed the Spanish of the Lewis and Clark expedition and its secret goal of finding a land route through the Western mountains and to the Pacific Ocean. He suggested that his paymasters send armed patrols to intercept the expedition — which the Spanish did.
"Only by the grace of God did they fail to find them," Linklater says. If the Spanish patrols had been luckier or more skillful, we might remember Lewis and Clark — if we remembered them at all — as two explorers who vanished in the West. And the course of American history might well have been dramatically altered.
Here's an interesting discussion of various exotic space weapons, their design, and use. Included are:
- Relativistic Weapons
- Space Bugs
- Space Hackers
- Propulsion Systems
- Space Fighters
- Alien Technology
- Plasma Weapons
- Tractor Beams
- Medusa Weapons
- Hafnium Bomb
I was prompted to read a bit in this direction by reading about "The Killing Star" -- a book I haven't been able to find at a reasonable price, unfortunately.
I really don't know what to say about these babies left to die after they've survived abortions.
The 22-week infant died one day later in intensive care at a hospital in the mother's home town of Rossano in southern Italy.
The mother, pregnant for the first time, had opted for an abortion after prenatal scans suggested that her baby was disabled.
However, the infant survived the procedure, carried out on Saturday in the Rossano Calabro hospital, and was left by doctors to die.
He was discovered alive the following day – some 20 hours after the operation – by Father Antonio Martello, the hospital chaplain, who had gone to pray beside his body.
He found that the baby, wrapped in a sheet with his umbilical cord still attached, was moving and breathing.
There's a special place in Hell reserved for the doctors, nurses, and mothers who slaughter these innocents by the millions every year. They are not nameless, faceless blobs of cells to God, but his own little ones, whom he individually created and loves.
9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"
"I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
10 The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground.
I can't read stories like this without thinking of my own little daughter, with her beautiful laugh, serious brown eyes, wobbly walk, and tight hugs before bed.
According to the Computer & Communications Industry Association, fair use generates $4.7 trillion in revenue each year.
Industries that rely on fair use exceptions to copyright law grew faster than the rest of the U.S. economy from 2002 to 2007, expanded 5 percent and accounted for 23 percent of real economic growth, according to a new economic study. The Computer & Communications Industry Association released its 2010 economic study “Fair Use in the U.S. Economy” on Capitol Hill today.
CCIA commissioned the study conducted using publicly available government data and World Intellectual Property Organization methodology. It found companies benefiting from limitations on copyright-holders’ exclusive rights, such as “fair use” – generated revenue of $4.7 trillion in 2007 – a 36 percent increase over 2002 revenue of $3.4 trillion. The most significant growth over this period was in Internet publishing and broadcasting, web search portals, electronic shopping, electronic auctions and other financial investment activity.
Promoters of strengthened intellectual property rights want to capture some of that revenue for themselves, but will certain destroy much of the value in the process.
(HT: The Hill and RD.)
Ah, the good old days of Geocities: blinky text, huge tiled backgrounds, musical themes, and animated gifs galore! Now you can relive the Internet's glory days with the Geocitiesizer, which will handily convert any modern webpage into a Geocities wonderland. For your entertainment, here's Master of None, Geocities style!
Insider Aaron David Miller explains why he's no longer a believer in the "mid-east peace process" religion.
Like all religions, the peace process has developed a dogmatic creed, with immutable first principles. Over the last two decades, I wrote them hundreds of times to my bosses in the upper echelons of the State Department and the White House; they were a catechism we all could recite by heart. First, pursuit of a comprehensive peace was a core, if not the core, U.S. interest in the region, and achieving it offered the only sure way to protect U.S. interests; second, peace could be achieved, but only through a serious negotiating process based on trading land for peace; and third, only America could help the Arabs and Israelis bring that peace to fruition.
As befitting a religious doctrine, there was little nuance. And while not everyone became a convert (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush willfully pursued other Middle East priorities, though each would succumb at one point, if only with initiatives that reflected, to their critics, varying degrees of too little, too late), the exceptions have mostly proved the rule. The iron triangle that drove Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama to accord the Arab-Israeli issue such high priority has turned out to be both durable and bipartisan. Embraced by the high priests of the national security temple, including State Department veterans like myself, intelligence analysts, and most U.S. foreign-policy mandarins outside government, these tenets endured and prospered even while the realities on which they were based had begun to change. If this wasn't the definition of real faith, one wonders what was.
It's long, but worth reading.
Personally, I don't think the "peace process" is really meant to succeed. It's meant to keep our friends and enemies busy and to make it look like the United States is interested in world peace. We aren't. We're interested in protecting ourselves and growing our wealth, and sometimes true peace is a means towards that end. But sometimes instability is more valuable, and when it is we hide that instability under a never-ending "peace process" to cloak our real intentions.
Arizona has found an interesting lever for pushing President Obama to release his birth records: Arizona may require proof of citizenship for presidential candidates.
The Arizona House on Monday voted for a provision that would require President Barack Obama to show his birth certificate if he hopes to be on the state's ballot when he runs for reelection.
The House voted 31-22 to add the provision to a separate bill. The measure still faces a formal vote.
It would require U.S. presidential candidates who want to appear on the ballot in Arizona to submit documents proving they meet the constitutional requirements to be president.
Despite my strong support for eating, wearing, using, and experimenting on animals, I quite enjoyed The MOUSE's PETITION,* To Doctor PRIESTLEY, written in 1773. Excerpt:
OH ! hear a pensive captive's prayer, For liberty that sighs ; And never let thine heart be shut Against the prisoner's cries.
For here forlorn and sad I sit,
Within the wiry grate ;
And tremble at th' approaching morn,
Which brings impending fate.
If e'er thy breast with freedom glow'd,
And spurn'd a tyrant's chain,
Let not thy strong oppressive force
A free-born mouse detain. ...
The chearful light, the vital air,
Are blessings widely given ;
Let nature's commoners enjoy
The common gifts of heaven.
The well taught philosophic mind
To all compassion gives ;
Casts round the world an equal eye,
And feels for all that lives.
The prompt is here: How can EVE Online attract more female players?
What could CCP Games do to attract and maintain a higher percentage of women to the game. Will Incarna do the trick? Can anything else be done in the mean time? Can we the players do our part to share the game we love with our counterparts, with our sisters or daughters, with the Ladies in our lives? What could be added to the game to make it more attractive to them? Should anything be changed? Is the game at fault, or its player base to blame?
The answer is extremely simple, and it's really the same way that EVE could attract more male players: add more casual content to the game.
EVE is great as a "hardcore" game, but one side effect of that is that it is impossible to do anything "casually" in EVE except perhaps high-sec mining (which I've never done, and which sounds extremely boring). Every isk is earned by blood, sweat, and tears, and you're not going to risk them to just mess around in the current hardcore mechanics. And the only interesting mechanics are hardcore.
What CCP needs to do is to add some content that is more casual. This content needs to be stuff that you can log into and off of instantly without risk of loss. It should have some effect on the larger hardcore EVE world, but that effect doesn't really need to be so large that is unbalances any of the existing gameplay. For inspiration, consider the game mechanics of some popular games that the girls in my life enjoy:
This casual content should be protected from destruction or theft in high-sec, but riskier and more rewarding in low- and null-sec, just like mining. It should involve building, crafting, socializing, and aesthetics. The results of these activities should be public or publishable so that players can visually share their creations with each other and thereby compete.
Finally: the output from these activities should be marketable. Why? So that every "EVE widow" can start to play and make a contribution to her husband's addiction. I don't think my wife would enjoy PVP or "spreadsheets online", but she would like it if she could play casually and make a contribution to my wave of destruction.
Here are some other bloggers who I think are on the right track:
Anger is growing over the European airspace shutdown, and most of it is directed at the politicians who seem to have overreacted to flawed computer models that predicted more danger from the ash than has actually materialized.
Flawed computer models may have exaggerated the effects of an Icelandic volcano eruption that has grounded tens of thousands of flights, stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers and cost businesses hundreds of millions of euros.
The computer models that guided decisions to impose a no-fly zone across most of Europe in recent days are based on incomplete science and limited data, according to European officials. As a result, they may have over-stated the risks to the public, needlessly grounding flights and damaging businesses.
“It is a black box in certain areas,” Matthias Ruete, the EU’s director-general for mobility and transport, said on Monday, noting that many of the assumptions in the computer models were not backed by scientific evidence.
European authorities were not sure about scientific questions, such as what concentration of ash was hazardous for jet engines, or at what rate ash fell from the sky, Mr Ruete said. “It’s one of the elements where, as far as I know, we’re not quite clear about it,” he admitted.
He also noted that early results of the 40-odd test flights conducted over the weekend by European airlines, such as KLM and Air France, suggested that the risk was less than the computer models had indicated.
It's a fast-speed playing out of the same drama that's unfolding with anthropogenic global warming: imperfect computer models drive people to unnecessary panic.
More about the Air Force's mysterious X-37B space plane.
Though based in many ways on the shuttle-the only operational orbital space plane in the world-the X-37B showcases plenty of innovation. The shuttle uses hydraulic lines to power the control surfaces on its wings and tail, but the X-37B takes advantage of small, powerful electromechanical actuators instead, eliminating the weight of fluid and hoses. In lieu of the ceramic tiles used on the shuttle, the X-37B's leading edges and nose cap are made of an easily shaped composite material that NASA developed when the space agency ran the experimental craft's development, before the military took charge of it in 2004.
The stubby 15-foot wingspan also echoes the shuttle's design, but unlike the larger craft, which has one tall vertical stabilizer, the X-37B has a V-tail with two ruddervators, a combination of a rudder and an elevator. David Hamilton, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, explains that the shorter V-tails are easier to package in a fairing, something that's not a concern for the shuttle. Those V-tails also help guide the X-37B through its 40-degree, nose-high re-entry, while a speed brake along the upper centerline helps it slow down as it prepares to land. Since the X-37B is unmanned, it does not need hardware to maintain a pressurized compartment for a crew and does not have to carry supplies for an extended manned mission.
The X-37B's simplicity and small size are part of what makes it appealing to the military. "There was always this issue with the space shuttle that you were sending up this enormous truck no matter what you were launching into space," says Mark Lewis, the former chief scientist for the Air Force. "There are times you want the Mack truck and times you want the Volkswagen Beetle. Unfortunately, with the shuttle, you were forced to fly the Mack truck."
The key to cheaper, more accessible space travel is more frequent space travel. This is a Good Thing.
I missed last night's fireball but thanks to the power of the intertubes I can at least watch the replay!
Here are some pictures I took from today's Tax Day Tea Party in Saint Louis. There is a short video of the crowd near the bottom.
A huge "thank you" and "congratulations" should go out to Jim Hoft and the other organizers of this event for a job well done. The crowd was enthusiastic, and everyone had a great time.
There were flags everywhere, especially the Gadsden Flag as you can see below.
Even dogs hate socialism!
Here's Jim Hoft, warming up the crowd for Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder.
Interesting insight into building a StartCraft bot, and the world of profefessional StarCraft players.
"Real-time strategy games provide an excellent environment for A.I. research and creating bots that are capable of defeating skilled players in this domain is still an open problem," explains Weber. "EISBot is the Expressive Intelligence Studio's StarCraft bot and is part of our dissertation research. It is coded in a reactive planning language and is composed of managers that handle different aspects of gameplay. EISBot selects build orders from a set of replays using case-based reasoning. Our goal is to build a bot that learns how to play StarCraft competitively based on analysis of expert StarCraft replays." ...
"We picked StarCraft specifically because of the active community," Weber tells us, when asked why he and Mawhorter selected the game for their research, versus other alternatives. "In South Korea, hundreds of professional gamers actively participate in tournaments such as the MBC and OGN star leagues. This community generates a large amount of replays that are available for building bots. It also generates a large number of interesting StarCraft matches to watch. StarCraft is played all over the world and there are several active community websites. It's easy to find players interested in playing the EISBot and our bot has already played against players in over 30 countries," he explains enthusiastically.
"Another reason we selected StarCraft was because of the complexity of the game,” Mawhorter adds. "StarCraft has three distinct races and is a well-balanced game; in any particular match up in StarCraft, there are a large number of strategies that are valid. Despite being over 10 years old, StarCraft does not have a dominant strategy. StarCraft has an active meta-game in which popular strategies are constantly evolving. This factor adds to the challenge of building strong computer opponents."
Side note: if there are really hundreds of professional StarCraft players in South Korea, then Blizzard's decision to restrict StarCraft 2's network play by forcing players to use the proprietary Battle.Net instead of private LANs makes a lot of financial sense. If these StarCraft players are all playing on LANs, there's no way for Blizzard to monetize the crazy popularity of their 10-year-old game.
Life is a bit different in the science and engineering schools, but this essay does a pretty good job of explaining why I didn't become a professor.
Take the issue of money--always a good place to begin with things American. Academics outside business and the sciences often labor for many long years in college and graduate school in order to obtain a doctorate. More than a few collect their diplomas sporting some gray in their hair along with a briefcase full of debts. If we are lucky enough to land a tenure-track position in higher education, a large "if" over the last four decades, we frequently start at a salary that a skilled blue collar worker might expect a few years out of high school. Don't think about salaries at Harvard; consult the data on most academics published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. A friend's son, a brand new pharmacist, recently started work at a local drug store with a salary that exceeded my University of Wisconsin System salary when I retired as a full professor.
Serious economic problems face the glowing, self-confident scholar with little money. How, for example, is he able to find adequate housing? Even US$300,000, well beyond the reach of most young and many senior professors, won't buy much in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Atlanta or Chicago, not to mention Madison, Sarasota, Ann Arbor, Palo Alto or Santa Barbara. The affluent suburbs, where the successful in other fields gather, are out of the question, of course. And so many of us move into older, deteriorating, often dangerous areas, telling all who listen that we made the choice deliberately and that we, being humanists, have a natural desire to live among the poor and oppressed. In my experience, some English and anthropology professors actually believe this nonsense, and enjoy dressing as factory workers and displaying furniture obviously purchased at a rummage sale.
Hey, don't knock rummage sales! But anyway, yeah, this is spot-on.
Analytical skills were overrated, for the simple reason that clients usually didn’t know why they had hired us. They sent us vague requests for proposal, we returned vague case proposals, and by the time we were hired, no one was the wiser as to why exactly we were there.
I got the feeling that our clients were simply trying to mimic successful businesses, and that as consultants, our earnings came from having the luck of being included in an elaborate cargo-cult ritual. In any case it fell to us to decide for ourselves what question we had been hired to answer, and as a matter of convenience, we elected to answer questions that we had already answered in the course of previous cases — no sense in doing new work when old work will do. The toolkit I brought with me from MIT was absolute overkill in this environment. Most of my day was spent thinking up and writing PowerPoint slides. Sometimes, I didn’t even need to write them — we had a service in India that could put together pretty good copy if you provided them with a sketch and some instructions.
Yeah, most business consulting is a scam. I'm not sure I completely agree with the writer's perspective on the fleecing of his clients.
What I could not get my head around was having to force-fit analysis to a conclusion. In one case, the question I was tasked with solving had a clear and unambiguous answer: By my estimate, the client’s plan of action had a net present discounted value of negative one billion dollars. Even after accounting for some degree of error in my reckoning, I could still be sure that theirs was a losing proposition. But the client did not want analysis that contradicted their own, and my manager told me plainly that it was not our place to question what the client wanted.
In theory, it was their money to lose. If they wanted a consulting report that parroted back their pre-determined conclusion, who was I to complain? I did not have any right to dictate that their money be spent differently. And yet, to not speak out was wrong. To destroy a billion dollars is to destroy an almost unimaginable amount of human well-being. Spent carefully on anti-malarial bed nets and medicine, one billion dollars could save a million lives. This was a crime, and failing to try and stop it would be as bad as committing it myself. And if I could not prevent it, then what reason was I being paid such a high salary? How could I justify my income if not by prevailing in situations such as these?
The billion dollars wasn't "destroyed" however, it was paid out to the people executing the doomed project. The wealth was reallocated away from the client's foolish shareholders and to the client's employees, contractors, and suppliers. Some wealth was possibly lost due to transaction costs, but certainly not the whole billion. In reality, it might be better to think of the wealth as being freed from the clutches of the foolish shareholders and released back into the wild!
Al Gore continues to avoid any and all questions about the ongoing collapse of "global warming".
Great questions to Gore by Jesse Waters:
- What do you think of increasing arctic ice?
- Do you stand to make any money from cap and trade?
- Are you embarrassed by Climategate emails?
The U.S. Air Force is on the verge of showcasing a new and long-sought after spaceflight capacity with its X-37B space plane, but it will do so on a space mission that's cloaked in secrecy.
What the X-37B mission truly portends is in the eye of the beholder, from a game-changing tool to hone military hardware to a provocative harbinger of things-to-come in terms of space warfare.
Now ready for an Atlas boost into Earth orbit from Florida on April 20, the reusable robotic X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) is a small space shuttle-like craft. The craft will wing its way into Earth orbit, remain aloft for an unspecified time, then high-tail its way back down to terra-firma – auto-piloting down to a landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, or at neighboring Edwards Air Force Base as back-up.
I for one welcome our new robotic overlords, etc., etc.
The extent of the scientific and military avenues that such a space plane would open up are presently impossible to imagine. Though the payload capacity is much smaller, the fact that no on-board crew is required means that the descendants of the X-37B may actually be able to fulfill the functional vision of the Space Shuttle.
Dear Mr. President, please stop "improving" our democracy.
President Obama said Sunday that the United States is still "working on" democracy and a top aide said he has taken "historic steps" to improve democracy in the United States during his time in office.
The remarks came as Obama met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev -- one of the U.S. president's many meetings with world leaders ahead of this week's nuclear summit. ...
The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman asked McFaul to clarify.
"You seemed to be suggesting there was some equivalence between their issues of democracy and the United States' issues, when you said that President Obama assured him that we, too, are working on our democracy," Weisman said. "Is there equivalence between the problems that President Nazarbayev is confronting and the state of democracy in the United States?"
"Absolutely not ... There was no equivalence meant whatsoever," McFaul said. "[Obama's] taken, I think, rather historic steps to improve our own democracy since coming to office here in the United States."
Instead of trying to "improve" our country by bypassing the Constitution, why don't we actually try to follow the constitution for a century or so. I bet it would work out pretty well.
(HT: Gateway Pundit.)
UPDATE: Reader John Steakley emails with a question for enterprising reporters: “Mr. President, do you believe that ANY of America’s public university law schools are competent to educate the next Supreme Court Justice? And if so, please name them.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael McMahon writes: “No more Ivy League Justices! Watch for this theme to develop. Stevens was a Northwestern Law grad.”
I'm ideologically aligned with many of these Ivy Leaguers, but still....
Yes, it's completely ridiculous that nearly half of American households pay no federal income tax. This is a large part of the reason why our government is going to hell: a growing proportion of voters have no vested interest in our tax money is spent.
About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. That's according to projections by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research organization. ...
In recent years, credits for low- and middle-income families have grown so much that a family of four making as much as $50,000 will owe no federal income tax for 2009, as long as there are two children younger than 17, according to a separate analysis by the consulting firm Deloitte Tax. ...
The result is a tax system that exempts almost half the country from paying for programs that benefit everyone, including national defense, public safety, infrastructure and education. It is a system in which the top 10 percent of earners -- households making an average of $366,400 in 2006 -- paid about 73 percent of the income taxes collected by the federal government.
The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment.
This inequality is the core cancer that is eating away at our Republic. Any of these simple proposals would remedy the problem:
- No taxes, no voting. If you are a net recipient of tax dollars rather than a contributor, then you don't get to vote.
- Replace the income tax with a national sales tax.
- Replace the progressive income tax with a flat income tax with few deductions. (This could be implemented via a reduction in the floor for the Alternative Minimum Tax.)
Democracy is great, but remember that it is only a means to an end -- the desired end is liberty. When democracy endangers liberty rather than enhancing it, democracy should give way. That's why we have a republic rather than a pure democracy.
When a majority of the population can vote to themselves the wealth of the minority, the entire system will quickly collapse. We are approaching that tipping point.
Massachusetts is unique among the states (as far as I know) in that it allows taxpayers to choose between two tax income tax rates: 5.3% or 5.85%. Surprisingly, even people who were against the tax cut that created the 5.3% rate don't seem eager to pay the higher rate when given a choice!
Of 1,840,000 state tax filers, exactly 931 have opted to pay taxes at the higher rate. That works out to one-twentieth of one percent. Think of it this way: In 2000, only 60 percent of the Massachusetts electorate voted to cut the income tax, but a decade later 99.95 percent of the population has decided to take advantage of the tax cut a lot of them claimed they didn’t want or need.
The moonbat motto is: Do as I say, not as I do. Consider the charitable deductions (or lack thereof) of the most sanctimonious liberal politicians: Obama, Biden, Kerry. They throw around quarters - their own, anyway - like they were manhole covers. But they would gladly give you the shirt off somebody else’s back.
Here's a reminder of how much of their own money the Obamas give to charity. Notice how the figures start to rise along with Barack's political aspirations.
Leftists hate charity because they don't want to give away their own money, and they love government because they want to give away your money.
The wife, daughter, and I attended the Saint Charles Tea Party Express rally this afternoon for a couple of hours. We didn't feel that it wasn't as well-organized or attended as the Tax Day Tea Party we attended last year downtown. It was good to see a bunch of small-government types willing to come out, but most of the attendees were older folks, with a few children scattered about.
Below are some pictures, and at the bottom of this post is a short video of the crowd I took from the stage.
Here's the back of the crowd as we approached.
Don't tread on the baby!
A few crowd shots.
Uh oh, now you've really pissed her off!
A few pro-Obama protesters appeared, and brought Teh Funny.
And finally, a short video of the crowd from the stage.
The Speculist writes that despite the burgeoning economic recovery many jobs may not ever come back thanks to automation.
The efficiencies that can allow a company to get by with 10% fewer staff or an economy to get by with a 10% smaller employment base are many -- better management practices, longer work hours, more highly motivated or better trained staff. But the big one has got to be automation. Historically, automation boosts productivity and reduces the need for human workers. Over the past four decades, our economy has made a massive shift to a highly automated, digitized substrate. As recently as a decade and a half or so ago, economists were still scratching their heads over when the big productivity gains would emerge from this shift. Then about five or six years ago, those productivity numbers started showing up. Some of us took this to be unambiguously good news. And, in fact, I still think it's excellent news. But it may have something to say about the future of employment, and the need for our thinking around employment to change.
Phil Bowermaster goes on to talk about how our economy will have to shift to accommodate the growing mass of ex-workers who are no longer capable of contributing anything of value to an increasingly automated workforce. Today, in 2010, anyone with an IQ of 70 or higher can do something of value, but what happens as that threshold rises? As automation "IQ equivalent" increases, the number of people displaced will grow quickly until the IQ 100 median hump is surpassed. When robots can do the work of any human with an IQ of 100, how will society adapt?
One thing I can say for sure: women will be the big winners. Why? Because they can carry babies more cheaply, efficiently, and reliably that any conceivable robot. Men who are of sub-robot capability will be worthless to society, but womens ability to produce children take much longer to displace.
The effect of this is obvious: women leaving the workforce more rapidly than men and turning their energies to producing and raising children. As robots become more and more capable, the predominance of males over females at the high end of the IQ curve will lead to an ever-shrinking male-dominated aristocracy consisting of the few humans who are able to contribute something of value to an economy run by robots. It's no feminist paradise, but childbearing women will be far better off than men of sub-robot intelligence who will be unable to do anything a robot can't.
I think I generally agree with most Calvinists, but I'm not sure that would be clear if I were to have a deep discussion with one. Either way, I'm encouraged to read about a modern resurgence of Calvinism in American Christianity. Despite the controversy that surrounds the doctrine of predestination (which I believe is essentially moot), Calvinism's emphasis on a proper Biblical understanding of man's sinfulness and God's glory is a welcome respite from the common conception of Christianity as a self-help social club.
By most logic, the stern system of Calvinism shouldn't be popular today. Much of modern Christianity preaches a comforting Home Depot theology: You can do it. We can help. Epitomized by popular titles like Joel Osteen's "Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential," this message of self-fulfillment through Christian commitment attracts followers in huge numbers, turning big churches into megachurches.
At the same time, a strict following of the Bible, which Calvinists embrace, hardly resonates the way it once did in American society. The Barna Group, a California-based research firm, recently did a survey to find out how many US adults hold a "biblical worldview" – for instance, believe that the Bible is totally accurate, that a person cannot earn their way into heaven simply by doing good, that God is the all-powerful creator of the universe.
The result: a steeple-thin 9 percent. Among 18-to-23-year-olds, it was 0.5 percent, fewer people than might show up at a Lady Gaga concert. Even among "born again" Christians, it was only 19 percent.
In a separate report, Barna found that more than 6 in 10 born-again Christians say they are customizing their faith, not following any one church's theology. "Americans are increasingly comfortable picking and choosing what they deem to be helpful and accurate theological views and have become comfortable discarding the rest of the teachings in the Bible," the report notes.
Jesus himself warned against corrupting his message of sin and redemption.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"
Churches are full of people who will be disastrously surprised when That Day arrives.
I don't know how Admiral Willard restrained himself. It's incredibly discouraging to see our Congress in action.