Saturday, October 08, 2011

Government largesse

When a man spends his own money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about how much he spends and how he spends it. When a man spends his own money to buy something for someone else, he is still very careful about how much he spends, but somewhat less what he spends it on. When a man spends someone else's money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about what he buys, but doesn't care at all how much he spends. And when a man spends someone else's money on someone else, he does't care how much he spends or what he spends it on. And that's government for you.

– Milton Friedman

Rhology on the Fundamentally Flawed podcast

I haven't actually listened to the recording yet so I can't vouch for its quality, but it was an interesting time at least.

I would not give myself a top grade for my performance, but given the 6-to-1 odds, I think I did about as well as perhaps I should expect. It was my first podcast, anyway, and in my experience it was different talking with people over Skype than it is in face-to-face encounters. Perhaps the novelty of the experience will give way to more familiarity with enough practice, but it was certainly different.

I'd like (God willing) to write a longer review later, but suffice it to say at this time that though the FF podcasters used some TAG-related verbiage and tried to turn the TAG back on me, they not only failed to do so but also continued to misunderstand how TAG relates to the consistency of one's worldview. At key points in the conversation this can be heard clearly, especially in the mocking tones of Jim.
I recommend the uncut version for those who aren't faint of heart. If you're interested in listening to it, three things to remember:
1) These are atheists and their language got quite rough there toward the end.
2) When you hear the Jim sort of erupt there at the end, I was both smiling and saddened by his response. There was obviously nothing to be gained by trying to cut in there, so I just let him hang himself with his own hatred.
3) I don't yet know how my voice will sound since I was talking into a mic built into the top of my netbook. I may well sound like I was yelling, but I didn't mean to. I had noise-dampening headphones on, and I was talking at a computer, so that didn't help my voice retain a low volume.

Enjoy, anyway. Comments are welcome, both friendly and unfriendly. I recognise there is a great deal of room for improvement.
While I believe I more than held my own, I recommend the previous show with SyeTenB and Eric Hovind to hear a more thorough thrashing of the FF podcasters' position.
The show (edited)
Uncut version

Godless witch-hunters

Atheists often complain about how they are (allegedly) the victims of discrimination. Here's the flip side of the coin:

Friday, October 07, 2011

Are you on the "kill list"?

The new is you

Eulogies about Steve Jobs are pouring in. Because we reside in a hitech civilization, and Jobs was one of the architects of our hitech civilization, that made him a pop icon. In addition, it simplifies life to make certain individuals symbolize an idea, epoch, or movement.

I also think part of his appeal lies in the fact that he represents the antithesis of the Nannystate. He was the classic American inventor, risk-taker, and self-made man. An underdog who made it to the top, without affirmative action. Whatever his politics, he was the anti-Obama.

However, the death of a celebrity has no more inherent significance that the death of a stranger. Although his life may be more consequential, his death is no more consequential than the next guy’s.

Jobs’ death doesn’t mean anything to me personally. He’s just another famous guy who died.  There’s a long list.

Jobs’ had a worldview. In a sense, he wrote his own epitaph:

Among other things he said:

Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Taken by itself, that’s an excellent statement of divine providence. Something a Christian could say. Something a Christian should say. Unfortunately, he doesn’t leave it at that:

You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever--because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.

That’s just a trite statement about cause and effect. One thing leads to another. But there’s no direction.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking, and don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it, and like any great relationship it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don't settle.

That’s easy to tell the graduating class of Stanford. That’s easy to say if you have Jobs’ sheer talent.

But most folks don’t have boundless opportunities. Most folks can’t afford to quit their boring job and pursue their dreams. They have to settle. They have to cope. So a better question is how to have a fulfilling, satisfying life if you have to settle. How to deal with frustration. Lowered expectations.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important thing I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.

Taken by itself, that’s an excellent perspective on life. Something a Christian could say. Something a Christian should say. Unfortunately, he doesn’t leave it at that:

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept. No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven don't want to die to get there, and yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you. But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it's quite true. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

This is true and false in equal parts. Despite the line about not living with results of other folks’s thinking, that’s exactly what Jobs is parroting. He hasn’t said anything original here. Rather, he’s trapped by secular dogma. This life is all you get. One throw of the dice–win or lose.

Moreover, his conclusion contradicts his premise. To say death “clears out the old to make way for the new” is just a picturesque way of saying the younger generation replaces the older generation. But believing that you and I are replaceable parts in the grand scheme of things is a logical recipe for utter futility. Why bother? Why make the most of life if that’s zeroed out at death?

Yes, others may benefit from what you did, but you will not. Moreover, the future beneficiaries will be zeroed out when they die too.

The Continuity Between Reformed Scholasticism and Reformed Orthodoxy

Our Modern Ajax

Two of the leading figures in Bush's war cabinet have since given their side of the story. Of course, these are efforts at self-justification rather than disinterested accounts.

Infinite loss, infinite comeuppance

A staple objection to everlasting punishment is the claim that the everlasting punishment is disproportionate to the crime. How can a “finite” deed merit an “infinite” punishment?

I think the “finite/infinite” terminology is equivocal. However, since that’s how the objection is framed, I’m going to play along with the ambiguities for the sake of argument.

I’m now going to propose a few counterexamples. These don’t need to be realistic hypotheticals. Any exception is sufficient to overturn the intuitive principle which underlies the objection viz. a finite deed never merits an infinite punishment.

Thought experiment #1

Suppose (ex hypothesi) that human beings are naturally immortal. Suppose they can only lose their life if they are murdered or they die in an accident. Suppose (ex hypothesi) that there is no afterlife. If they die they pass into oblivion.

Suppose a murderer kills a human being. That finite deed deprives the victim of an infinite good (immortality).

Thought experiment #2

Suppose Cal and Christie were made for each other. A matching pair.  She is everything he is not. She is everything he wants in a woman, while he is everything she wants in a man. They will never tire of each other. They will be together forever.

But Bill is envious of Cal. He seduces Christie. Cal and Christie break up. That finite deed deprives them of an infinite good.

Thought experiment #3

Suppose Jim and Bryan are brothers. Jim is Christian, but Bryan is not. Not now. But he might become a Christian. Jim wants his brother to be a part of his life forever. Jim does whatever he can to influence Bryan for Christ.

Jake is a bitter atheist. Jake does whatever he can to turn Bryan against his brother. To turn Bryan against the Christian faith. Jake succeeds.  Bryan dies an atheist. Jim loses his brother forever. That finite deed deprives Jim (as well as Bryan) of an infinite good.

In each case, there is infinite loss. The perpetrator maliciously causes someone to suffer an infinite loss. Hence, the perpetrator merits an infinite loss in return. That’s proportional punishment. And that’s despite the fact that his misdeed was finite.

Theology of the Cross and Justification

I’ve written a couple of posts on Martin Luther’s theology of the Cross, and my hope is to write more. I’ve come upon this topic for several reasons, not the least of which is my wife’s illness. But as I delve into it more, I’m finding that for Martin Luther, his “discovery” of the theologia crucis was fundamental to his understanding of justification – that God justifies sinners.

While this may seem commonplace to us, it was anything but common in the world that Martin Luther lived in. The “late Medieval” environment that he lived in was steeped full of scholastic theologies built upon scholastic theologies (some of which in turn were built upon misunderstandings and other errors). The “discovery” of Martin Luther was one of God’s great in-breakings of understanding into human history. Luther’s “discovery” indeed was simply a re-discovery of what Paul and the Scriptures said.

It is my impression that no matter how much we know, or how much we think we know, we all come upon those moments at which we are absolutely helpless. These are genuine crisis moments in our lives; we’d rather not face them, and when they’re over, we’re glad for it. Sometimes they may enable us to say “God taught me something,” but maybe not.

For me, those moments occur lately when I see my wife in pain, and there is absolutely nothing that I can do to help her. (To be sure, the moments of pain are fleeting – like when the doctor is inserting a sharp instrument into her hip bone to perform a bone marrow biopsy; or last night, when one of the headaches returned that first sent her to the doctor.)

Luther’s moments of distress, in the midst of his intensive teaching schedule, were among some of the greatest moments of history for all of us who consider ourselves the “heirs of the Reformation”.

I’m not a Lutheran; I’m Reformed. I’m not one of those who believe that Martin Luther (or the later Lutherans) came to absolutely correct positions on everything. But I do see Martin Luther as the tip of the spear and as the most brilliant theologian of his age.

But his age, as “the last of the Medieval theologians,” quickly gave way to other things. And I believe that Luther was less adept than some of his later peers at understanding what was going on.

I realize that in bringing up some of these topics, I’m going to unearth some things that need to be dug up. That’s all right. Lord willing, we need to talk about these things. We, as 21st century Christians, need to remember the struggles of the past.

As the historian Philip Schaff noted, the Reformation of the sixteenth century is, “next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history…. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization.”

To be sure, there were many cracks in the old Roman edifice before Luther. And after Luther, the rushing tide that followed him, did not sweep away all of the debris and garbage. And to be sure, Rome (at Trent) found ways to rebuild its (much diminished) edifice, which continues to stand today.

But it was Martin Luther who, standing upon Scripture alone, first cracked into the mighty Roman edifice and broke open the floodgates of Truth which, as Schaff noted, “made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization.”

If we want to work to solve problems in our own era, we’ll benefit tremendously from understanding how the cross of Christ interacted with another era where the problems were possibly as difficult as those we face today.

* * *

Here are the first two entries on this topic:

Martin Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Introduction
Can God Suffer?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Ruse pans Harris‘value’_in_new_harris_book

Alex Botten and feeling the love

If you're driving a long distance and need help staying awake, I recommend you take with you the mp3 of this recent podcast debate between EricHovind and Sye TenBruggencate on the one side and the Fundamentally Flawed podcasters (including Alex Botten) on the other.
The boorish, mocking behavior of the atheists combined with their stubborn refusal to answer even basic questions and their numerous pathetic tu quoques really served to raise my blood pressure by several percentage points while listening to it, so it's great road fuel.

I decided to let Alex Botten know about that.
@theealex Just wanted you to hear from a listener. @erichovind and SyeTenB wrecked your position. #podcast #fundamentallyflawed
@theealex Oh, and you and your friends were among the rudest and most closed-minded atheists I've encountered. Cheers! @erichovind

Then, from Alex:
@Rhology really? You think that? Well, thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to tell me! Sye and Eric don't have an argument tbh

From me:
@theealex It's so funny you mention that, b/c while I heard a lot of "we sense what we sense" from you, I heard quite a bit of argumentation
@theealex ...from Sye and @erichovind.

From Alex:
@Rhology ahahaha! Just looked at your blog! You're a YEC??? Come on! You may as well tattoo 'idiot' on your forehead

From me:
@theealex tattoo 'idiot' on your forehead>>Oooh, someone's ignorant of scientific antirealism! Maybe you think insult=argument, though.

From Alex:
@Rhology No, I think that was an insult. Here's another, you believe nonsense and are a credulous moron. And now you're blocked.

From me:
@theealex you're blocked>>LOL! From your own blog: "Feel free to write what you want, I don't moderate, delete, or ban...often". Guess not.

In between somewhere, I left the following comment on his blog:

Since you had the courtesy to visit my blog and then fling a cheap insult my way, I thought I'd go ahead and return the former favor (but forego the latter).
I'd like to ask you about this statement, which you repeated quite a bit when you were on with SyeTenB and @erichovind; that is, you expressed moral outrage several times.

It is insulting in the extreme to have someone else claim to know what you think

So what? Is it a morally bad thing to insult someone?
I'd like to know how you know that.

Also, you said something that's unintentionally funny:
In fact, the ONLY way you could possible know what I'm thinking and what I do and do not believe would be if you were omniscient.

Pair that up with:
I do not believe in ANY of the 4000+ gods mankind has invented during his time

...and we have the makings of a serious irony vortex.
For one thing, it is unbelievably bizarre to me how Sye could tell you at least twice on the show that we're not claiming all knowledge but rather to know someone who does have all knowledge, and you still don't want to take that into account. That says something about your willingness to be honest.
Hmmm, what do we call someone who's not honest? Oh yes, you helpfully provided some colorful verbiage: hollow, lying, charlatan.

Also, you claim to know that mankind invented these gods. To repeat (again) what Eric said to you, how do you know mankind invented them? Wouldn't that require omniscience on your part?
And don't retreat, I beg you, to the tired move-the-goalposts-quick canard of "what I mean is I haven't seen any evidence of any of those gods". That also requires omniscience, for there are many things that evidence things you (and the rest of mankind) don't yet understand. To claim knowledge that none of those things are evidence for a god (since that would mean you'd know all the things for which the things you observe are evidence) would thus require omniscience.

You also haven't seen any evidence that evidence is a good way to discover truth (EGW). So, since you believe EGW without evidence for that assertion, isn't that blind faith?
And if you believe in EGW and think you know it to be true, why do you violate EGW in that most fundamentally important of cases?

So, you'll have to come up with something else. I'd very much like to see you back up your harsh polemic with something other than mocking laughter. You sounded like a fool on the radio. Perhaps you're better in writing.


Alex responded to the comment with a new post:

Really? That's a novel take on the chronology of what actually happened, isn't it?

Oh, not really.
Maybe Alex means that he FIRST flung the insult and THEN visited my blog. I'm not sure how that fits in with his knowing I'm YEC, though...

Not going to mention the fact that you popped up, uninvited, in my Twitter feed?

Oh no35!!!!!!1
Does Alex not realise that public Twitter feeds are just that - public? Is he aware that Twitter has an option to make Twitter feeds private?
If so, why is he complaining? He's the one who followed SyeTenB around and showed up -uninvited- where Sye had been.

I'd asked: Is it a morally bad thing to insult someone?

I think the best thing to do at this point is refer you to your own Bible

Alex still doesn't get TAG.
Alex doesn't believe the Bible is true, so I'm asking based on his own grounds why it would be morally bad to insult someone. Hopefully he'll realise his error and actually answer the question.

Seems that your own god has a bit of a problem with insulting people

1) Same question - he still needs to prove it's a morally bad thing to insult people.
2) Alex is also trying to delve into Christian theology, and if he's anything like 99% of atheists I've encountered, he has no idea what he's doing.
This instance is no different. Perhaps Alex can tell us why, given Christian presuppositions, God "insulting" someone is a bad thing. And what it means when God gives His thoughts about someone, given that He is the omniscient creator and they are a rebellious creature.

I find it offensive that you belittle me (and everyone else who doesn't agree with your transcendental bullshit) by claiming that we hold a view that I can assure you we do not

Maybe it will be helpful if I explain it differently. In 200 years, a mere eyeblink, an infinitesimally small fraction of time given the age of the universe (according to Alex's thoughts), we will all be dead, and so will our children and grandchildren. Who will remember GreatGrandpa Rhology and GreatGrandpa Alex?
So what? We are collections of atoms banging around, and the chemical reactions in my brain caused me to think that Alex knows the God of the Bible exists but suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.  So, is there some moral quality here I'm missing? Atoms SHOULD act differently toward each other than they do? Based on what?

I'd asked: I'd like to know how you know that.

I'd like to know how YOU know that, without recourse to your viciously circular TAG....

Here we go again. Alex cannot answer questions. He's addicted to avoiding them. It's maddening to watch, really, but more pathetic than anything.

I'd said: For one thing, it is unbelievably bizarre to me how Sye could tell you at least twice on the show that we're not claiming all knowledge but rather to know someone who does have all knowledge, and you still don't want to take that into account. That says something about your willingness to be honest.

Are you sure? Because you're claiming to know an invisible super being who sacrificed himself to himself after knocking his own mother up so she could give birth to himself, who then decided that the only way to remove the 'sin' that he'd created (being the source of everything) was to 'die' for a mere three days as some kind of symbol....have I got anything wrong? You claim to know this individual, right? And you don't think this is wholly ridiculous?

Again, he gives no answer to his misrepresentation. No indication that he'll correct himself in the future. No apology for the strawman. He doesn't seem to care about rational dialogue.

I'd said:
Also, you claim to know that mankind invented these gods. To repeat (again) what Eric said to you, how do you know mankind invented them? Wouldn't that require omniscience on your part?
Do you believe that all those gods are real? If not, why not?

1) Alex could stand to read a bit more outside his own circle.
2) Also, this doesn't answer the question. Again.

I'd said:
To claim knowledge that none of those things are evidence for a god (since that would mean you'd know all the things for which the things you observe are evidence) would thus require omniscience.

And there's the rub. YOU want to claim to have access to knowledge that the rest of us don't have,

Actually, so is Alex! He's claiming to know that it's unreasonable that God exists, whereas I claim to know that it's reasonable that God exists. Alex again demonstrates his cluelessness.

I'd said:
And if you believe in EGW and think you know it to be true, why do you violate EGW in that most fundamentally important of cases?

Yawn, this is just the same, tired old bullshit, that Sye churns out.

Yet another unanswered question.

Here's an idea, why don't YOU come back with an argument that isn't dependent on circular reasoning and wish thinking?

Does he mean like the what I just reminded him about asking for evidence that evidence is a good way to discover truth?
Why doesn't he just answer the question? The most immediate conclusion that jumps to mind is that he can't.

I would be grateful if you don't bother returning.

Clearly Alex let his emotions get the better of him here. The inability to answer so many important questions will take a toll on anyone's good mood.

Debating Dawkins

When William Lane Craig routs unbelievers in live debate, their comrades generally excuse the loss on the grounds that Craig is a better debater. But to be a fluent public speaker, to be quick on your feet, is no evidence that you’re right. They make the same excuse for Richard Dawkins’ refusal to debate Craig.

I’d simply note that this oft-cited excuse is predicated on a false premise. Let’s say Dawkins isn’t Craig’s equal in live debate. Still, Dawkins is, by all accounts, a superb writer.

I’m sure that Craig would agree to a written debate with Dawkins. Each side would have a word limit. There’d be a specified number of exchanges.

Winning or losing wouldn’t turn on who can think faster or speak faster. Dawkins could take all the time he wanted to formulate his arguments and polish his sentences.

So why doesn’t Dawkins agree to a written debate? 

The Enns do not justify the memes

That is all. Carry on with your day.

The Good Samaritan and Two Kingdoms

Pascalian ufology

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Planet of the apes

The grass withers

16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth (Ps 34:16).
19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Mt 6:19-21).

Last Spring I visited a public cemetery which was founded in 1850. Most striking were the vestibule mausoleums. These had marble crypts, as well as stained-glass widows in back to provide further illumination. The entrance was open to the elements.

They would have been expensive to build. A proud statement of wealth, prestige, and permanence. Not just any decedent, but someone important. Someone from one of the best families in the area.  These were designed to impress the onlooker.

Yet it’s not the mere mausoleums which were striking, but their state of disrepair. The unforgiving contrast between the intentions of the family that built them, and the impudent ravages of time. The marble crypts were grimy, while the floors were covered with dirt and dead leaves. Moss, or even a shrub, was growing on the roof.

Why were they so neglected? Simple: they were forgotten. Famous in their day, long forgotten today. Not only were the decedents dead, but everyone who ever knew them was dead. Long gone. Widows, widowers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and lifelong friends–everybody who ever knew them or loved them now as dead as the skeletal remains. No one left to sweep the floor or lay fresh flowers. No one to remember.

The state of decay wasn’t confined to the interior of the crypts. The mausoleum itself, as well as the weedy grounds, with anthills and obtrusive tree roots, bespoke the pervasive decay. What was meant to be a bulwark against the indignities of time became a testament to the futile vainglory of human life, pride, power, and ambition. A muted statement by the dead, for the dead, and to the dead. 

So there they stand; facing the air, the silence, the emptiness, the erosion of the seasons.

Refusal clauses

This raises a number of issues:

i) On the one hand, I don’t think we should give carte blanche to every religion that demands exceptional treatment. If, say, some Muslim-Americans think they have a religious duty to practice honor-killings or female circumcision, the state should not accommodate their perversions.

ii) Ethics is full of borderline cases. It can be difficult to come up with general criteria which draw the line in every conceivable case.

iii) I don’t agree with the Catholic position on contraception. That said, I think Catholic pharmacists ought to have the right to refuse to sell contraceptives or fill contraceptive prescriptions.

iv) This raises an intriguing issue for federalism, libertarianism, and Constitutionalism. If you think this is a states rights issue, then, in principle, this or that state has the authority to mandate that all pharmacists comply. Conversely, a libertarian might regard this as a matter of individual liberty. And, of course, one might also argue that is a Constitutional freedom of religion issue. These principles can tug in different directions. 

I have a dream...

According to my informant in the White House, this will be Obama's reelection slogan:

Bleeding-heart justice

Credo Magazine

state churches

Traditionally, liberals favored disestablishment. Separation of church and state. On the other hand, secular totalitarian regimes like China and the old Soviet Union have official churches manned by apparatchiks. Is this the next front in the culture wars?

The Philosophy Family Tree

Raising Cain

Herman Cain may just be another flash in the pan, like some of the other GOP hopefuls in this cycle. But this may not be relevant a month from now. That said:

i) Because Cain is not a policy wonk like Gingrich or Santorum, it’s easier for him to trip up on certain domestic and foreign policy issues.

ii) Regarding controversial statements:

a) Know that a statement will be controversial before you open your mouth. Don’t be surprised. Take that into account in deciding whether or not to make a controversial statement.

b) Know that the mainstream media will distort your statement.

c) If you’re going to make a controversial statement, have a good reason for your position. Moreover, have a short, simple, plausible explanation for your position. Keep repeating your explanation.

d) Never back down from a controversial statement. You lose twice over. You already take a potential hit for making the controversial statement, then you take another hit for backing down. Backing down makes you look weak and vacillating. It’s also a tacit admission that you were wrong in the first place.

e) Don’t feel the need to preview your position on everything all at once. In politics, the way to succeed is to build on success. Get one thing done at a time, then use that as political capital to do the next thing. Build up a head of steam.

iii) Don’t give interviews to the mainstream media.

iv) Don’t talk too much. The more you talk, the more likely you will misspeak–sooner or later.

v) I don’t agree with Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. Real life is not that symmetrical. First determine the need, then determine the tax code.

vi) Apropos (v), the question of the tax code is secondary to the question of what gov’t should be doing. First determine what gov’t should be doing. That, in turn, determines how much revenue it should take in. The tax code should correspond to that.

vii) It remains to be seen how Cain operates under pressure. It’s not until you become a frontrunner or credible candidate that the mainstream media trains its guns on you.

I’d vote for Cain over Obama in a heartbeat. There’s no comparison. But right now I’m assessing the potential liabilities of various GOP candidates. 

The US moves toward oil independence

I saw this article over the weekend, and honestly, I find things like this to be far more encouraging than the “double-dip recession” stories are discouraging.

With six children who are going to grow up in “the new economy” (whatever that is), I’m constantly trying to understand how that new economy is going to work, and where the “growth drivers” are going to be. My oldest son is going into nursing, and while, with our aging population (especially here in Pittsburgh) it seems like the medical field will offer secure employment opportunities, it’s not truly a “growth opportunity” in the sense that fixing people is a lot like fixing broken windows.

Over the last five years, “America truly has been in the midst of a revolution in oil and natural gas, which is the nation’s fastest-growing manufacturing sector”.
No one is more responsible for that resurgence than [Harold] Hamm. He was the original discoverer of the gigantic and prolific Bakken oil fields of Montana and North Dakota that have already helped move the U.S. into third place among world oil producers.

How much oil does Bakken have? The official estimate of the U.S. Geological Survey a few years ago was between four and five billion barrels. Mr. Hamm disagrees: “No way. We estimate that the entire field, fully developed, in Bakken is 24 billion barrels.”

If he’s right, that’ll double America’s proven oil reserves. “Bakken is almost twice as big as the oil reserve in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska,” he continues. According to Department of Energy data, North Dakota is on pace to surpass California in oil production in the next few years. Mr. Hamm explains over lunch in Washington, D.C., that the more his company drills, the more oil it finds. Continental Resources has seen its “proved reserves” of oil and natural gas (mostly in North Dakota) skyrocket to 421 million barrels this summer from 118 million barrels in 2006.

“We expect our reserves and production to triple over the next five years.” And for those who think this oil find is only making Mr. Hamm rich, he notes that today in America “there are 10 million royalty owners across the country” who receive payments for the oil drilled on their land. “The wealth is being widely shared.”

One reason for the renaissance has been OPEC’s erosion of market power. “For nearly 50 years in this country nobody looked for oil here and drilling was in steady decline. Every time the domestic industry picked itself up, the Saudis would open the taps and drown us with cheap oil,” he recalls. “They had unlimited production capacity, and company after company would go bust.”

Today OPEC’s market share is falling and no longer dictates the world price. This is huge, Mr. Hamm says. “Finally we have an opportunity to go out and explore for oil and drill without fear of price collapse.” When OPEC was at its peak in the 1990s, the U.S. imported about two-thirds of its oil. Now we import less than half of it, and about 40% of what we do import comes from Mexico and Canada. That’s why Mr. Hamm thinks North America can achieve oil independence.
It is the current high-regulatory environment in Washington DC that is the biggest hindrance to this development. Ham says, “Washington keeps ‘sticking a regulatory boot at our necks and then turns around and asks: “'Why aren't you creating more jobs,”’he says.”
Mr. Hamm believes that if Mr. Obama truly wants more job creation, he should study North Dakota, the state with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 3.5%. He swears that number is overstated: “We can't find any unemployed people up there. The state has 18,000 unfilled jobs,” Mr. Hamm insists. “And these are jobs that pay $60,000 to $80,000 a year.” The economy is expanding so fast that North Dakota has a housing shortage. Thanks to the oil boom—Continental pays more than $50 million in state taxes a year—the state has a budget surplus and is considering ending income and property taxes.
It’s true, this is not a high tech growth opportunity, but more of a 19th century-style growth opportunity. Still, it’s a “driver of growth” that can lead to the development of manufacturing, refining, and infrastructure opportunities in the north-central U.S., and along with that infrastructure development will come the need for all the high-tech that goes along with it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Nine Reasons Why Republicans Ought to Nominate Herman Cain

I don't necessarily agree with the title, but he merits serious consideration:

Dar al-Islam

I'm posting some comments I left over at Fred Butler's fine blog:

  steve said...
Jon said...

"Punishing residents of Gaza..."

And how did that come about? Maybe because Israel returned Gaza to the Muslims, only to be rewarded by having the Gazan Muslims use that as a base of operations to attack Israel.

Oh, and let's not forget that "humanitarian aid" is a perfect cover to smuggle in contraband weapons.

  steve said...
Here's a question for Jon: Why should Israel treat Muslims better than Muslims treat Muslims?

Muslims recruit young men and women to be suicide bombers. Muslims practice female genital mutilation. Muslims practice honor-killings (and gang rape). Muslim regimes practice torture. They torture their own citizens. Muslims practice child marriage and pederasty. What rights do Muslims have under sharia law?

Why should Israel be held to a higher standard in the treatment of Muslims than the way Muslims treat fellow Muslims?

  steve said...
Well, what about the Rachel Corrie affair?

  steve said...
Jon said...

"In 1981 Israel bombed a nuclear reactor in Iraq. American physicists examined the site and determined that it was not for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons."

Did you ever bother to ask yourself why a major oil-producing state like Iraq needed nuclear energy? Couldn't be the reactor has an ulterior purpose. Nah.

  steve said...

i) You seem to be using the dumb blond defense for Corrie. That she just didn't know what was going on. Maybe so, but that's a sexist assumption on your part.

ii) Perhaps she was just another dupe for the terrorists.

iii) In any event, she died in an accident.

iv) As far as white phosphorus is concerned, I don't think it much matters how you die. Whether you die from a falling tree, a 45 slug, or the H-bomb, dead is dead.

The morally relevant question is the provocation. Israel returned Gaza to the Muslims. The Muslims responded by turning Gaza into a base of operations from which to launch unprovoked attacks on Israel.

Israel is merely defending herself. And because Israel is such a geographically small country, she has very little margin for error.

Children of terrorists die when their terrorist parents use civilian population centers as a military base of operations. The terrorists are to blame for putting their kids in harms way.

  steve said...
Jon said...

"Or trying to proliferate nuclear weapons?"

There's nothing inherently wrong with nuclear proliferation. That's only a problem if nuclear weapons fall into the wrong hands.

  steve said...
Jon said...

“Iraq produces oil but I don't think they refine it.”

Even if they don’t, so what? They could build a refinery. Or partner with an oil company.

“Regardless Richard Wilson, chair of the physics department at Harvard, inspected the site and reported it was unsuitable for plutonium production.”

Even if that’s true, that’s after the fact. Better safe than sorry.

“How so? Corrie probably knew they had tunnels. Israel knew it. You and I know it. Does this make us terrorists?”

Now you’re playing dumb. It’s not just that she knew it. She was abetting the terrorists.

“They smuggle cars through the tunnels. It's not a big secret and doesn't make you a terrorist just because you know about it. You block people from getting basic food, like pasta, so they dig, and this makes them terrorists?”

I understand why you sympathize with Corrie. One dupe is sympathetic to another. The notion that tunnels were only used for pasta and not for weapons is symptomatic of your incurable credulity.

BTW, if you stand in front of a bulldozer, you take a risk. If I jaywalk across a freeway, and I’m run over, who’s to blame?

“As far as the attacks, they attack far less than Israel. They are getting bombed and shot routinely.”

Yes, even though the Gazans are basically Amish, Israel attacks them for the fun of it.

“The US reacted after 9-11 to the tune of at least hundreds of thousands dead.”

But I thought you just assured us that Saddam really did have a WMD program. So I guess you agree with Bush and Cheney.

“Our suffering is far less than what Gazans have endured, not to mention Lebanon.”

Couldn’t be that Lebanon is a staging ground for Syria and Hezbollah.

“Sure, some Muslims do some awful things.”

Yes, just “some.” A few isolated incidents. Anomalous, really.

“Here's the difference between me and Fred. I can condemn them.”

You condemn them with a token throwaway line.

“And on top of that I think the first crimes you should consider are the ones you are responsible for. If my child is a bully it doesn't suffice for me to reply and say ‘But the neighbor kid is even worse.’ I am not responsible for the neighbor kid. My first concern should be dealing with behavior that I have some ability to control.”

Unilateral disarmament?

  steve said...
Jon said...

"That doesn't even make sense. Hezbollah was formed in response to the Israeli invasion that killed 17,000 civilians without provocation. The very existence of Hezbollah is a function of Israeli violence."

Walid Phares, himself an Lebanese émigré, doesn't share your narrative:

  steve said...
Jon said...

"The bombing prompted the nuclear program, Steve. The bombing run was the CAUSE of the progress of Saddam's nuclear program."

That's simplistic:

  steve said...
Jon said...

"But I didn't say the tunnels aren't used for weapons. Why shouldn't Palestinians have weapons? Israel has an illegal embargo on them that prevents them from getting food. Israel won't allow them to fish in their own territorial waters, driving starving fishermen back with gunboats. Israel destroys their means of making food, crushing chicken coups, plowing their orchards, blocking their water supplies. They are trying to get weapons and they should be. People under siege have a right to resist violently."

That's your spin. Here's a very different explanation: