Tuesday, October 31, 2017

500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Today is Halloween, or the Eve of All Saints Day. It is also the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. On this day, 500 years ago, Martin Luther started a revolution with the nailing of 95 theses on the doors to the Wittenburg Church. Luther's intention was to start a discussion on certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church that were not biblically based. For instance, the Church sold "indulgences" which were pieces of paper stating that the Pope would reduce your time in Purgatory for a fee. Of course there is no such thing as Purgatory. And any Christian is entitled to forgive the sins of another. Thus the Lord's Prayer contains the petition "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Powerful stuff that, for it asks God to measure us by how we measure others. Is that what you really want?  It is a hard truth, and to live it requires a new way of thinking.  We don't naturally think this way.

I am a Lutheran, and in celebration of the 500th Anniversary, I have been reading Hallmarks of Lutheran Identity by Alvin Schmidt. In terms of explaining Lutheran Theology, as opposed to that of Calvin, or Wesley, or the seeming hundreds of others who popped up in the United States, the book is excellent, and highly readable.  I have also been restudying Luther's Small Catechism, and now realize I should have been devoting more time to it all along.  I am also engaging in something that was illegal in Luther's time.  I am reading the Bible!  In English!  Indeed, William Tyndale was executed for, among other things, translating the Bible into English from the original Greek and Hebrew.  Thanks to Martin Luther, I know that the work of Salvation has already been done by Jesus Christ on the Cross, because I could not do it for myself.  Only Christ, with no help from me.  Only Scripture, no other word is necessary.  Only by faith in Jesus, God's only begotten Son.  Only by Grace, because I deserve none of it.  Thanks be to God.

I recently had some experience with Luther's theology of the two kingdoms.  Luther noted that there are two kingdoms:  the Kingdom of Grace, and the Kingdom of the World.  The Kingdom of Grace is God's Kingdom, where your past sins are forgiven and everyone is perfect.  In the Kingdom of Grace, the Lion truly lies down with the Lamb, and doesn't lick his chops.  The Kingdom of the World is the one we experience every day when we encounter a set of blue lights on our tail, as a police officer pulls us over for speeding.  As Christians, we live in both Kingdoms.  So, for example, because the Kingdom of the World requires us to be armed, it may be that soldiers are needed to defend the country against a foreign invader.  It is no sin to serve as a soldier, or to kill in war.  But as a Christian, you should pray for your enemies, difficult as that may be.  Understanding in which Kingdom you are acting at any moment clarifies your duties.  Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

I should note that in keeping with Luther's theology of the two kingdoms, I have been explaining opposition to abortion in mixed terms.  To the world, I should explain it in terms of natural rights.  To Christians, I can appeal to the Word.  In either case, it is wrong.  To the worldly, we have a right to life, that extends from our conception until natural death.  Abortion denies a child this right.  Therefore it is wrong.  Mea Culpa.
Today at the American Thinker, Scott S. Powell explains that the United States of America would not exist as a separate nation, nor would we have the Constitution we have if not for the Reformation. Powell's article can be found at The 500th Anniversay of the Reformation and What it Means Today. Powell explains that the American founders were heavily influenced by Reformation thinkers and theologians such as John Calvin. It is interesting, and true. We are a Christian Nation, founded upon Christian principles. We ought to start acting like it.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Would Republicans rather lose than fight?

I have already written to my Senators and representative that unless they finally get on the ball and begin working to pass the Trump agenda, I really don't see any reason to continue voting for any of them.  Of course, I won't vote for the Democraps either, but I don't see a good reason to vote for Republicans.

So, it came as a surprise to see that Brian C. Joondeph at the American Thinker was asking if the GOP would rather lose than fight? on 29 October 2017.  I've talked to others who feel the same way.  Perhaps the Senators and Representatives can afford to lose my one vote, but if these others are any indication, can they afford to lose all of them?  In any case:
Then why aren’t these things happening? Now nine months into the Trump presidency, ObamaCare is still in place, so are high taxes. The border wall isn’t funded. There is little Congressional support for Trump blowing up the Iran nuke deal and the Paris climate accords. For cutting regulations. Cleaning out the swamp creatures of the deep state. Expeditiously confirming conservative judges, Neil Gorsuch aside.
This is a recipe for disaster. A big league electoral loss. The GOP, it would seem, prefers to lose rather than fight. A recent Fox News poll, a generic congressional ballot for the 2018 midterm elections, illustrates this quite clearly. Democrat candidates lead Republicans by 15 points. Granted, this is over a year ahead of the midterms, but still a bad omen for Republican members of Congress. Wimps or fighters?
Go read all of Joondeph's article. If you are inspired, write your Representatives and Senators as well.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Alexa is watching you

I recently had a conversation with someone who had the nerve to claim that I was a luddite because I did not jump on the latest in gadgetry.  While it is true that I am judicious in adopting new gizmos, I am anything but a luddite.  The term luddite comes from one Ned Ludd, who supposedly broke into a stocking weavers shop and destroyed his equipment in protest of workers losing their jobs to the new technology.  Like most people, I am not opposed to new technology, I just pick and choose which new technology I wish to adopt.  Also, I am a slow adopter, waiting to see what falls out from other users first.  "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread"

According to Pem Schaeffer in his article at the American Thinker today, that is exactly what I should be doing.  Pem asks the question: Alexa, what are you doing in my room? He then proceeds to answer that question, and what Alexa is doing is not necessarily benign. My friend was raving at what all Alexa could do, when fundamentally all Alexa is doing is a bunch of simple calculations at very high speed, not actually "thinking" as we understand the word "to think."
A.I. has not broken through the mysteries of innate human intelligence. Instead, techniques have evolved for applying massive computational power to simulate various human capabilities. Prominent examples include interactive systems in the newest automobiles. They recognize voice input, speak back in response, and perform various tasks at our behest. All use inexpensive digital hardware running highly evolved computer programs. The irony is that while their performance seems dazzling, they are in fact doing what they do through an extremely fast series of the simplest acts.
If my friend wishes to be dazzled by this display of simulated human intelligence, that is fine, but I remain unimpressed. I would as soon turn on my own coffee in the morning, and switch on and off my own lights, thank you. However, the really scary part is not the ability to turn the lights on and off, it is that Alexa is connected to the internet, and therefore you are inviting the world to see what is in your house, what you are doing, and as they say, case the joint.  Do you really want to give some criminal access to your home in order to case it and decide if there is anything worth stealing?
Echo, where Alexa lives, while complex in one sense, is remarkably simple at the human interface level. It has speakers for talking to you (with Dolby performance, no less), a microphone for listening to you (with similar high-performance specs), and a wireless interface to the internet via your home network. Newer versions include a video camera to watch you even in the dimmest of ambients. All versions are noticeably absent display screens and other interactive devices like a touch panel, keyboard, or mouse.
So far, so good. The immense power of Echo and Alexa lies not in voice recognition and voice synthesis capabilities, but in the connection to the internet. Voice recognition simply digitizes inputs to the microphone and analyzes them for language content. Voice synthesis is the reverse of this process – creating spoken words from series of ones and zeros.
The magic of digital technology is that it reduces everything to elementary operations, executed by incredibly fast, inexpensive, and nearly error-proof electronic building blocks suggestive of basic LEGO pieces. That the A.I. technology is primitive is not as relevant as the very fact that humans are investing billions in it...but for what purpose?
...snip again...
The main point here is that simple as the Echo device may seem, once you connect it via the internet to the GDI, it is accessible to any other processing element of that global structure. Anyone who listens to and speaks to Alexa opens himself up to monitoring by and voice prompting from a vast universe of digital resources operated by unknowable entities in unknowable locations. And without realizing it, he willingly provides input to "big data" archives. This is what "the cloud" means. Instead of being connected to your neighbor's laptop, or Amazon's server bank in Timbuktu, you're interacting with a vast, unstructured, indeterminate array of digital resources in the ether.
One thing to note is that the internet stores everything forever. We warn teenagers today that if they don't want nude pictures of themselves turning up years later in some porn site, don't allow nude pictures of yourselves to be taken. But there are far more nefarious creatures out there than a mad boy friend. Peoples private data has been stolen from a number of companies and institutions you thought were protecting that data. Ever hear of names like Target, Yahoo! and Equifax? Interestingly, the way to find out if your data was released in the Equifax fiasco is to input your private data over the internet. Have these people no self awareness?

Please go read the whole article. If you have children and grandchildren, be especially careful, and choose your technological wonders with extreme caution. You never know who is watching you and why.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Why Abortion is Wrong

I am reading the Bible using the Lutheran Daily Lectionary published by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. If you read each day's lectionary lesson, you will at the end of the year, have read the entire Bible. Then you start all over, because the Bible is a deep book, and what you read last year will mean something different and more wonderful today.  Today's readings included the 23rd chapter of Ezekiel. The prophet Ezekiel writes at the time of the Babylonian exile.  In his prophesies of the destruction of Jerusalem he writes:
For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands; with their idols they have committed adultery, and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they have borne to me.
Back before the Babylonian exile, the Israelites waged a constant battle against the fertility cults that surrounded them, and lived among them.  . Believers in these cults believed, in the manner of infantile egoism, that they through their actions in keeping the fertility gods favorable to them, could bring the rains, and make the crops grow. So, the believers performed rites in front of the idols of these gods, and sacrificed children to them.  (Compare these believers in fertility gods to global climate change alarmists today.)   While their motives were certainly different, they were more understandable. For if there was no rain, there would be no crops, and the people would starve to death. Thus they had a powerful incentive. One can even understand in the circumstances that an ancient Israelite might take out a little insurance, right?

But, the one unforgivable sin, you see, is failure to trust in the Lord, the one who brought them out of Egypt, the one who defended them time and again. For as Jesus says, in Matthew 5:45:
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
So, our God, Creator of everything that is and everything that is not, finds the murder of your children as abhorrent as do we.  Whether it is because of a lack of trust in God, or for other reasons, abortion is wrong.

But you don't believe in God, do you?a  You are a modern woman, and above all that myth and legend, and superstition.  And I am not here to change your mind, for that would be a fool's errand.  I am here to tell you though, that you will not be happy as a result.  You will pine for your child, and you will curse the day you listened to the feminists who said you could have it all.  Another false promise form false prophetesses, for everyone must make choices, and some choices foreclose others.  Be careful in the choices you make.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Why we can't give in on bump stocks

Selwyn Duke has an article today that explains why the gun rights community will fight tooth and nail to prevent the government from infringing our Second Amendment rights by banning bump fire stocks.  Dukes article entitled Why I Oppose Banning Bump Stocks in today's American Thinker perfectly captures the attitude of a lot of people in the gun rights community. Duke:
The latest firearm-equipment boogeyman is the “bump stock,” a device allowing one to fire a semi-automatic rifle more rapidly. Liberals learned of bump stocks because Las Vegas murderer Stephen Paddock had modified 12 of his rifles with them.
This has made them a target for prohibition, and an easy one, too. After all, almost no one wants to buy a bump stock, so even many Republicans — and the National Rifle Association — are willing to place greater restrictions on the device. I also have no plans to acquire one, but I wouldn’t even consider outlawing the stock. Why?
Well, for that, you will have to read the rest of the article.  Suffice it to say that Duke is past weary of the ever changing drive to ban whatever it is that is the latest piece of firearm equipment.  If you are old enough, you will remember when they wanted to ban the so called cheap  "Saturday night special" because supposedly urban blacks used them to kill each other.  Notice the racist overtones here, and these were Democrats that wanted them banned. But it doesn't really matter.  What matters is that they can ban something, anything, then they will be back the next shooting for another slice.

Duke's idea is to try to pin down liberals as follows before we give in to any sort of ban:

*  You say bump stocks allow a person to fire too rapidly. Okay, what exactly is the maximum number of rounds per minute a weapon available to the public should be capable of firing? What’s your reasoning?
*  “High-capacity magazines” is an ambiguous term. Exactly what size magazine should citizens be allowed to own? What’s your reasoning?
*  Don’t tell us about “high-powered rifles.” Tell us exactly what the maximum muzzle velocity of a publicly available firearm should be. What’s your reasoning?
*  Another ambiguous (and misleading) term is “armor-piercing ammunition.” What exactly should the maximum penetration power of a publicly available round be? What’s your reasoning?
Once you formulate your concrete vision (for the first time in your lives), please present it. If we accept it, though, note what the agreement means: You don’t get to ask for more anti-gun laws ever again. There’s no more politicizing of the issue after every shooting. The vision is conceived, articulated, agreed upon — and then set in stone.
Of course, Duke realizes that this is highly unlikely, and short of them offering a unified, all gun grabbers agree on this list, there is really no point in discussing it further

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My Stack On Medium Quick Access Safe

About a year ago Mrs PolyKahr saw a good deal for Stack On Medium Quick Access Safes to keep curious fingers off our guns when we don't have immediate control of them. We each stuck one on our night stands, and programmed the biometric lock with a combination that we each could remember. Of course, a biometric lock requires batteries or a secure source of electricity, which means that the biometric lock has to be backed up with a mechanical lock and key.  Batteries will fail at the moment you need them the most, and there is no such thing as absolutely secure electricity.

Mind you, these are not like a Liberty Safe that is so heavy the bad guy can't steal it, and is fireproof and all the other proofs.  These safes are not designed to thwart all comers.  These are just designed for peace of mind if you have young children running around.

I personally take my weapon out at night and keep it on top of the safe, because if awakened by a bad guy in my house at night, I don't want to have to be fumbling with the biometric lock to get to my gun.  That being said, I have noticed of late that the battery case, which is on the upper part of the inside of the safe has begun to sag a bit, making contact with the batteries somewhat iffy at times.  Of course, I can always use the key, but that means I could have bought a cheaper safe if I didn't have to have the biometric lock.  Otherwise, the safe has done the job it was intended to do.  However, I would not buy another one, there are cheaper alternatives. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Make No Mistake-This Is War

There have been several articles about the recent assault on the Second Amendment as a result of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. While the dead are buried, the wounded are tended, and the police search for a motive, the Left is busy calling for a bunch of stupidity that will not affect the next mass shooting, but will burden all the law abiding people that did NOT have anything to do with the mass killing. I intend to highlight a few of those today, gentle reader, if I may.

The first is Alicia Colon's article that appeared in the American Thinker October 8, 2017 entitled The Unbelievable Stupidity of Those Who Believe that Laws Stop the Lawless. As a readers digest version, the title says it all. Of course the Left doesn't really believe that there is some magic incantation or formula that will suddenly cause evil people to be good. Indeed, if there were, the whole of the Christian Church could declare victory and the reign of Jesus on earth. But there is no such magic incantation, and so one must view the manufactured anguish of the Left as nothing more than an attempt to convince the American public to give up their Second Amendment rights. In any case, go and read the whole thing, as she makes some other good points as well.

Next up is William Sullivan's piece on October 9, 2017 at the American Thinker entitled The Logical End of the Left's Antigun Crusade.   Sullivan takes as his starting point an interview with Representative Don Calloway on the Tucker Carlson show:

Recently on Tucker Carlson’s show, Don Calloway (Rep D-MO) opened with this pearl of insight into the leftist mind, suggesting that “mass shootings are the result of the types of weapons that are available to our society, and the lethality of weapons that are available to our society.”
But are mass shootings truly “the result of the types of weapons available to our society?” Follow that logic to its reasonable end.
Following which, Sullivan destroys the logic of the Left by pointing out that the total number of people killed by mass shooters in the last 51 years is 948 people. This is tragic. More tragic still is that 3,827 people were killed in 2014 alone by either being beaten of stabbed. Morally, there is no difference between being stabbed, or beaten, or being shot by a mass shooter. Yet one is held out as being more reprehensible. Moreover, it is not the existence of the weapons themselves that are the cause of these mass shootings, but the murderous intent of evil people.  Guns, as always, are inanimate tools.  They do not influence people who do not have the desire to kill, to become killers.  The problem, as always, is the people themselves.

Today there are a number of proposals out there to ban the so called "bump stock" to prevent someone from doing the same thing the Las Vegas shooter did. Years ago one of the flashy moves in cowboy movies was to "fan" the hammer of a Colt 45 Peacemaker or similar single action revolver while the shooter held down the trigger. The result was a very rapid rate of fire. But no one actually did this in real life. It was only the trick shot artists who might fan his revolver in a demonstration. One could not actually aim while fanning. Similarly, bump fire has been around, but it is not very accurate, and people don't (usually) use bump fire in real life. So, conservatives are not all fired up to defend the bump fire stock since, as Spike Hanson points out in his piece at the American Thinker entitled To Win the Second Amendment War:
Whether or not bump stocks end up banned is a trivial matter. The war over the Second Amendment will not hinge on the outcome of this particular battle. Both sides know this; the importance of the issue is entirely psychological.
For progressives, a win would be a move in the right direction, evidence that conservatives are vulnerable. It would be comparable to the Doolittle Raid against the Japanese homeland in 1942 – a strike of no great strategic import but invaluable as a way to shift national confidence from the Japanese to the American side.
For conservatives, there is little to be gained by thwarting this progressive gambit (which is the reason some are prepared to make a tactical retreat). Why expend resources on such an insignificant matter when winning it will not much advance the Second Amendment cause? Why, indeed! The answer is that a defensive mindset leads to defeat. Fainthearted people rarely win at war. This is no less true for a political war than it is for a military one.
And there it is. I myself have no real interest in fighting this fight. But we must, because we can not give on inch. Not one more inch. This is a war, and we can not lose it. The NRA has signaled that they are agreeable to banning bump fire stocks. But then the NRA have been the Neville Chamberlains of the gun rights movement since I can remember. Their appeasements have given us the gun control laws we have today. And those laws have nothing in common with the American system of Constitutional government, but more with Fascistic and totalitarian governments. Therefore I urge readers to consider joining the GOA effort to stop Congress from passing a bump stock ban, and get back to work giving us National Reciprocity.

This is war. We can not lose it.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Solution to Las Vegas Is Not Making Things Illegal

The shooting in Las Vegas has spawned many emotions.  Everyone of course deplores what the shooter did.  Most of us are also impressed with the speed with which the police responded, and are comforted by the stories of people helping people at the scene.

Some people believe that somehow we need to do SOMETHING, anything, even if what we do would not have stopped the Las Vegas shooter.  So it is with the calls to make the bump fire stock and similar products illegal.  Supposedly, the reason the shooter could fire so rapidly is because he had a "bump fire" stock installed on his semiautomatic rifles.  With training, the bump fire stock allows more rapid fire that one can achieve with the trigger finger only, approximating what can be achieved with a fully automatic weapon.  It sounds reasonable, right?  If the killer couldn't get a hold of a bump fire stock?  Similarly, if Cain hadn't had easy access to a rock, Able would have still been alive.  But of course we can make rocks illegal, can we?  Indeed, trying to protect people by making things that can kill illegal is a fool's errand.

If we are looking for a solution, we are looking in the wrong direction if we are seeking to make various inanimate objects illegal  The problem is not the existence of semiautomatic rifles, or indeed any firearm.  It is also not the existence of devices like the bump fire stock.  The problem is that a man decided to commit an evil act and kill as many people as possible.  Since everybody is an image of our Creator, the desire to kill another human being indicates a hatred of God.  Of course, murder is already illegal.   There is nothing our legislators can do, except of course posture and virtue signal.

The truth is that tragedies like  Las Vegas can't really be prevented.  The only way to prevent a tragedy is to change the killer's heart.  No man can do that, only the Holy Spirit can do that.  But the Holy Spirit can only do that if he can be exposed to the Christian message.

Update:  Please also read The Ugly Truth for Liberals: Gun Control Will Not Stop Mass Shootingsm by John Hawkins.