August 12, 2020

Saturday Ramblings, January 17, 2015

53 Convertible

53 Convertible

Hello, imonks, and welcome to the weekend.  Ready to ramble?

Make the Bible the State Book?  A bill in Mississippi (expected to pass) would do just that.  The article notes, “Lawmakers say designating the Bible as the state book would be completely symbolic and nobody would be required to read it.” So, basically it would function pretty much like it does in many churches…

Foxnewsfacts.  Have you ever been called, “clearly a complete idiot” by the leader of a major country?  I hope not.  Unless, of course, you deserved it as much as Steve Emerson, a pundit on Fox News. Emerson: “In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.” This all came as quite a surprise to the 80 percent of Birmingham residents who are not, in fact, Muslim.  Prime Minister David Cameron: “When I heard this, frankly I choked on my porridge. I thought it must be April Fool’s Day. This guy’s clearly a complete idiot.”  Emerson apologized, but not before #foxnewsfacts trended to number 1 on twitter, with Brits cheekingly satirizing how Islamized their country had become.  Here are a few favorites. moon




Maybe Fox needs to return to its real experts on Islam: B7PGbmOIgAA1ep0

Twitter-wisdom. Of course, Rupert Murdoch, Fox’s owner had his own thoughts about the tragedy in France, and shared his wisdom through twitter: “Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” Yes, that’s an exact quote. So “Moslems” as a whole are responsible for the attacks in Paris?  As a white man, does that mean I am responsible for the the holocaust? The rise of communism? Donald Trump’s hair?

Speaking of the Donald.  The ever-nuanced Trump offered a contrasting view on the problem: France doesn’t have enough guns.

Other reactions. The mayor of Rotterdam told his fellow Muslims in his country to “F@#% off” and pack their bags if they don’t value freedom of speech.  Turkey compared the Israeli Prime Minister to the Paris Killers.  Duke planned to let Muslims issue their call to prayer from the bell tower of the (Christian) chapel.  Till Franklin Graham got on their case.

One more note on the topic. Understandably, some Muslims are very weary of being told they have a responsibility to condemn each act of violence that one of their co-coreligionists commits.  One writer facetiously claimed to solve the problem: an icondemn app, which allows Muslims to condemn an act anywhere in the world with a simply push of the button.  The app lists the bad things being condemned that day, and the user just hits “condemn” to join in the condemnation. 

Maybe we need a Christian version?  But this races a good question: how much solidarity do we need to own up to for the sins of our coreligionists (whether past or present)? What do you think?

What is the “biggest existential threat” we face? More and more people are saying it’s artificial intelligence. And this is not from luddites, but people like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawkins, and top thinkers from places like Google and MIT; this week they released a letter warning of the threat from AI, which Musk had previously described as “our biggest existential threat” and that Hawkins claims could “spell the end of the human race“.   What do you think, imonks?  Is this our biggest threat as a species?  If not, what is? comicmachines613The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven didn’t, actually.  Tyndale House Publishers has pulled the book by that title after the boy in question says he lied.  “I didn’t die.  I didn’t go to Heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.” Did I mention his last name is Malarkey?  Was that not a red flag, Tyndale?

No snowmen for Muslims? That was the ruling of a prominent Saudi Arabian cleric who issued a fatwa forbidding the building of snowmen, describing them as anti-Islamic. olafff

Saturday was the day of the Gay Christian Network Conference in Portland, which drew roughly 1,300 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians and supporters to the Oregon Convention Center. By 8 a.m., a handful of protesters from Westboro Baptist Church members had gathered outside with signs declaring gays must “repent or perish.”  But the Westboro folk were dwarfed by a “wall of love” consisting of local Christians with signs that said, “Welcome to Portland”, and “We’re glad you’re here”, and “God loves you”. Local evangelical author Tony Kriz: “It saddens me that my extended family is this dysfunctional,” he said, gazing from the cheering local Christians and conference-attendees to the Westboro protesters. “These are all my people.” The Westboro folks left by nine, and tweeted that the local Christians had erected a “wall of hate”.

Well, I guess they be experts in that...

Well, I guess they would  be experts in that…

Ted Cruz feels the IRS has become “weaponized” and has a simple solution: abolish it.  And implement a flat tax. “”I think we ought to abolish the IRS and instead move to a simple flat tax where the average American can fill out taxes on postcard. Put down how much you earn, put down a deduction for charitable contributions, home mortgage and how much you owe. It ought to be a simple one-page postcard, and take the agents, the bureaucracy out of Washington and limit the power of government.”  I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a flat tax, especially when pulling my hair out trying to decipher the various forms, schedules, etc…[if line 42 is greater than the sum of your dependents BMI index multiplied by Ronald Reagan’s IQ and divided by the number of times you have sneezed near a dog, then put “plaid” in line 43 in hieroglyphics].  What do you think, imonks? Flat tax: yes or no?

Campaign 2016. Mitt Romney says he is “almost certain” to run again.  Looks like Hillary is on the train, too. And it sounds like Rick Santorum is in; he called potential candidates like Cruz, Rubio and Rand Paul “bomb throwers”.


Ever wanted a map of every goat in America? Well, of course you did! Here ya go, and you’re welcome: goats

The Pinnella (Florida) County Sheriff Department got a nice new rug for its entrance a couple months ago.  And this week someone finally noticed that instead of saying, “In God we trust” it said, “In dog we trust”.  Oops.  It reminds your rambler of a joke he heard some years ago.  Question: what do you get when you cross a dyslexic agnostic with an insomniac? Answer: someone who stays awake all night wondering if there really is a dog.

I don't see the problem

I don’t see the problem

After last week’s rambling’s, you will be glad to hear that there is no story this week about a woman finding a giant boa in the potty.  This week it’s a python.

A Florida police department is in hot water after using people’s mug shots for target practice.  You will be shocked, yes shocked, to learn that the pictures were of black men.

The picture below shows the warming or cooling of the different parts of earth last year. It was the hottest year on record.

January–December 2014 blended land and sea surface temperature anomalies in degrees Celsius.

Of course, I have to live in one of the stupid dark purple squares…

 Should a coach be suspended for running up the score?  What if it were a high school team?  And what if the score was 161-2?

So males and females have different bodies (I hate to flaunt my education, but it’s unavoidable). Of course, in many species, especially birds and insects species, the differences are quite substantial.  Wouldn’t it be wild if a butterfly, say, had half a male body and half a female body? Kinda like this oneLiveGynandromorphoriginal

Tozer Quote of the Week:

Fundamentalism has stood aloof from the liberal in self-conscious superiority and has on its own part fallen into error, the error of textualism, which is simply orthodoxy without the Holy Ghost. Everywhere among conservatives we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They conceive truth to be something which they can grasp with the mind.”

– A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest


  1. Ronald Avra says

    I enjoy the ‘Tozer Quote of The Week”

    • DITTO!!

    • Meh. I’ve seen too much of the complete opposite to agree. The mind grasping truth at least has the Spirit inspired Scriptures. The people who are Spirit-taught only now lead cults. Maybe there’s a third way, but it seems rare.

  2. Want More low hanging fruit? Munch of these:

    As a white man, does that mean I am responsible for the the holocaust? The rise of communism? Donald Trump’s hair?

    Uh…white privilege?

    Professor Teaches all Whites are Racist

    “A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the U.S. system, they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities, or acts of discrimination. (This does not deny the existence of such prejudices, hostilities, acts of rage or discrimination.)”

    – Excerpts from University of Delaware Office of Residence Life Diversity Facilitation Training

    And from that left wing paragon of truth telling: “White People Have To Give Up Racism”

    My point? If you are going to ridicule then be sure to hit BOTH sides if you call yourself fair.

  3. Is the mayor of Rotterdam related to the sheriff of Rottingham?

    “I’ll pay for this! …(confused pause)…YOU’LL pay for this!”

  4. Yeah, right. I didn’t think so…

  5. I’m pretty conservative but one of the quickest way for a Republican candidate to discredit himself for me is to appear on with Donald Trump…

  6. Like last week’s Tozer quote, I agree with this week’s Tozer quote…up to a point. I think he’s right describing Fundamentals and Fundamentalism as he does, but to equate conservatives with fundamentalism is wrong (as in his claim, “Everywhere among conservatives we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught.”) If he’d stuck with the term “fundamentals” and not switched in the broader term “conservatives,” then I’d be a bit more inclined to like the quote.

    • Christiane says

      Hi RICK,

      what is difficult for your argument is that ‘fundamentalist-evangelicals’ have been so ‘friendly’ to conservatives politically for so long, that people conflate the two in certain ways . . .

      even the Catholic bishops opposed the Ryan Budget in 2012 because it had no heart at all for those who were already in distress, to the point of causing real harm to them if en-acted into our political system . . . now please know that the Catholic bishops were in many ways as conservative as you could get on certain social issues, but not even they could handle the lack of compassion to those at the margins of our society shown in Ryan’s proposals.

      Catholics and Ayn Rand ain’t on the same page is what they were saying. And that page the bishops explained was taken from the Holy Gospels of Our Lord.

      I do see your point. But frankly, in MANY ways the ‘conservatives’ of today are NOT the ‘conservatives’ of our grandfathers’ day, and we all know this to be true.

      • I guess it’s difficult to agree with someone when they label you something you don’t think you are. I consider myself fairly conservative, but far from fundamental. Thus, the slight disagreement with his terminology.

        • Christiane Smith says

          It isn’t fair, the conflating of ‘conservative’ with ‘fundamentalist-evangelical’, no . . . but perhaps what is needed is that more people speak up about the contrasts in the way that the Catholic bishops did. They ARE conservative on social issues (in keeping with Catholic teachings), but they could not stomach Ryan’s proposals . . . and by the way, Ryan was a Catholic, but his budget proposal seems to have been much more influenced by the philosophy of Ayn Rand than the teachings of his own Church.

          People of faith must speak out against extremes that go beyond ‘letting right be done’.
          If not, people may assume that they are in support of those extremes. I do believe that.

          • Dan Crawford says

            Mr. Ryan, described by some as a”devout” Catholic, publicly proclaimed that reading Ayn Rand had transformed his life – a statement he has apparently never made about the Gospels.

        • Are you so sure that Tozer meant POLITICAL conservative as opposed to RELIGIOUS conservative? He died in 1963, way before the political situation we see today. Two generations ago. Just as in biblical exegesis, we have to take the writer’s TIMES into consideration when reading him.

          • Daniel Jepsen says

            Yes, good point Oscar. When he wrote this quote (late 40’s or early 50’s, I believe) the terms fundamentalist and conservative christian were more synonymous, and I believe Mr. Tozer would describe himself as being in that camp.

          • It seems to me that in this quote Tozer is not bemoaning the conservatism of “Bible taught” Christians, or wanting them to be less conservative or take the Bible less seriously, but rather is criticizing what he says many of them lack: a dynamic relationship to the Holy Spirit. What he is saying has nothing to do with politics; its an in-house evangelical Christian observation.

    • Rick,
      One thing you might need to consider is the time in which the quote was given. The fundamentalists in the early 1900’s arose as a reaction to liberal theology in the academy. Many of the fundamentalists of the early 1900’s wouldn’t be considered fundamentalists today, they would just be considered conservative. Tozer died in 1963. So for him a conservative and a fundamentalist were probably one and the same.

      • Right you are, Jon. I have a book here by J.I. Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, in which he discusses the meaning of the term, and equates “fundamentalism” with “evangelicalism,” often using the term interchangeably. It was published in 1958, about the time of Tozer.

        Packer (in this book at least) has high praise for “fundamentalism” (which he always includes in quotes) and counters the accusations of those who were calling it narrow-minded, prideful, schismatic, etc., insisting that “what it really does is to set the mind free from current prejudice so that it can achieve a genuinely Christian outlook.” As for pride, instead it “expresses and inculcates intellectual humility.” Accusations of being schismatic? Packer says that fundamentalism rather is “the truest catholicity.”

        What’s in a name, especially when the name changes in meaning? Packer was fighting a losing battle even in 1958, trying to redeem the term, trying to bring it back to the glory days of the early 1900s when the “fundamental” doctrines of the faith were established to counter the growing liberalism of the times. It went downhill after that, and post-mid-century leaders like Billy Graham and Harold Ockenga began to separate the term “evangelical” from “fundamental.”

        Now it seems the term “evangelical” may need rescuing. Or abandonment for something else.

        • OldProphet says

          Re:Robert F (10:44). This is why you are my amigo! Tozier is my favorite author His quote is about the church. Tozer was a charismatic. He was not a cecesstionist. This quote is directed to bemoan the situation that too many Christians know the Bible, bit nothing about the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. That means tongues,prophetic words, divine healing, miracles, and so on are happening today. Tozier believed this. Sorry, he wrote about this extensively I also agree with him. Alright, so I said it.

          • Needlessly divisive. Implies that they aren’t really believers because they don’t *really* know God.

            Nothing personal, but that’s how the rhetoric almost always comes across as. There are second hand citizens in the body of Christ. Subnormal believers.

            I don’t think God institutes a class system in his Church.

    • Tozer wrote in the mid-20th century — definitions have changed.

    • “When you say ‘radical right’ today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.” – Barry Goldwater, from 1994 Washington Post interview.

      “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them. ~ Barry Goldwater, circa 1994, quoted in John Dean’s “Conservatives Without Conscience” (2006).

    • My problem with the quote concerns yet another apparent afront to human reason. He is right that reading the bible like a text book does not mean one knows God. Giving a politician a bible is like giving a hammer to a monkey. If Tozer is right, then Schleiermacher needs an apology from those who criticized him for allegedly teaching a religion of feelings. Truth is more than intellectualism; as Schleiermacher is more correctly interpreted, truth is apprehended in part intuitively – not necessarily through feelings. The problem is not the mind nor reason.

      • From the perspective of the reformers, the problem is the bondage of the sinful nature and it inability to save itself – either through intellect or other means. Salvation must come externally through God’s grace. Again, the problem is not with intellectualism but its insufficiency to save. It leads us back to humanity being dependent upon God’s will and action, which is an afront to philosophic liberalism and the belief that enlightened humanity can conquer all – even itself.

        • But, as I am discovering from reading Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, this is no excuse for humanity not to improve, advance, and excel.

          • I have to admit, I have never read anything by Tozer that I really liked. I have found that he rarely thinks deep enough, and often glosses over problems with a thin emotionalism disguised as religion. So I may be biased. Having noted that, I was not impressed by the Tozer quote above. For starters, he describes “textualism” as orthodoxy without the Holy Ghost – obviously he never met a Pentecostal. Many would rightly described as fundamentalist and textualist – but they certainly believe in the Holy Ghost. And then you have oneness Pentecostals who believe the Holy Ghost is a mode of divine being – does that mean they don’t believe in the Holy Ghost? And most fundamentalists I know are not orthodox in any meaningful sense of the word. Unless we consider inventing sins and forcing them on people to be orthodox (which given the history of Christianity might not be so far off the mark). Then he has the audacity to describe “conservatives” (I assume he is using this as synonym for fundamentalist) as “bible-taught”, which is hilarious to anyone who has ever taken a handful of credits from a seminary. They are taught religious tradition, but Bible-taught is a real stretch by any objective measure. He finishes with one of his usual throw-away rhetorical rhetorical devices designed to make an emotional appeal rather than advance the conversation. In fact, it is such an ambiguous statement, it isn’t even worth speculation. So yeah…

          • Dr. Fundystan – Tozer was, as OldProphet pointed out above, a “spirit-filled” type, and even published a book called How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit toward the end of his career. I don’t know how or when he started leaning that way, but ISTM that he was there (or somewhere close) when today’s quote was written.

            Though i do agree on his work overall. Everyone around me was crazy about him from the early 80s on, so i bought some of his stuff and have never found it very readable. A lot of it lacks depth (imo), as you said.

          • Tozer is largely overrated. He’s got some good soundbites that don’t make a lot of sense when thought through. But he’s still leagues ahead of Oswald Chambers, if there is even any connection between the two.

          • Stuart – yes, very much so!

  7. The pic of recent Muslim convert Queen Elizabeth “beheading” the UK citizen…very funny!

  8. I’m helping coach a middle school boy’s basketball team this year. Our team has a few good kids, but most are either unskilled, undersized or still learning the intricacies of the game, or a mix of all three. We’ve played two teams that were filled with tall, skilled, sharp players, and both scores were basically 75-25.

    So when I hear that a team beat another team 161-2, my mind can hardly imagine the humiliation. What do fans do when a player hits a jumper that makes the score 150-2? Cheer? What do players do when their teammate makes a lay-in that makes the score 152-2? Fist-bump each other? Whose ego is being stroked? What skills are being developed?

    And to claim that the coach wanted his players to go all out as a warm-up for league games? Give me a break. What sort of warm-up would it be for me to play all out and drub a 10-year-old in one-on-one 21-1?

    • So here are some questions:
      -Is it possible to coach/play/WIN a basketball game 161-2 “with grace”?
      -Is it possible to coach/play/LOSE a game 161-2 without feeling humiliated?

      For the losing players and coaches, it’s out of their control. If the other team wants to continue scoring and your players are unable to prevent it, then the only thing you can do is try to coach the kids through the humiliation.

      For the winning players and coaches, however…they are the ones in control, so it’s all on THEM to figure out how to play an over-matched opponent with grace. I think this coach TOTALLY failed at that. Else the score isn’t 161-2. I think if I saw the score drifting toward 65-2, I’d have pulled my kids in and said, “I want you to help coach the other kids so they can get better. Show them how to set screens against you. I they turn the ball over, hand it back and say ‘Try that again.'”

      This could’ve been a great coaching moment for both teams, and a teaching moment for everyone witnessing the drubbing: “Here’s how grace works.”

  9. Steve Emerson’s stupidity almost matches President Carter when he told Jon Stewart that “the attack in France was a result of the Palestinian problem.”

    What an idiotic statement by someone with a really high IQ.

    • You don’t think the problems could be related, Steve? East versus West in the struggle for oil and power?

      Speaking of Carter, and statements by people with high IQs, I’m still puzzled about his 1976 debate with Gerry Ford, in which Ford stated that the Poles, the Yugoslavs and the Romanians didn’t consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union.

      Steve Emerson’s quote really is idiotic though. You don’t include him with the high-IQ crowd, do you? 🙂

      • No, Ted, I don’t see any correlation to the Palestinians. If there were no Israel, at all, these hard core Muslims would still be killing people (for whatever reasons they might site, such as people drawing the “prophet Mohammed”) right and left.

        Steve Emerson may have a high IQ. I don’t know. Being smart has little to do with common sense.

        • There may be a correlation. Carter used the term “result”. I don’t think that is a thoughtful statement. I also don’t think Carter is particularly intellectually gifted. He is, however, a very fine and upstanding gentleman, and if I had to choose I’d pick that over brain power any day.

        • I agree that the main problem isn’t Palestine or what goes on there. It’s telling that just about all the attacks in recent years (outside Israel where it’s an internecine struggle) have not been carried out by Palestinians but by Saudis, Yemenis, etc.) I also think it germane that it has almost exclusively been Sunni Muslims and not Shia carrying out these attacks (other than Iraq where again it’s an internecine struggle and even there for every 1 Shia attack there seem to be 3 or 4 Sunni attacks).

          I actually blame the Saudis who have carried an extremist from of Wahabi Islam far and wide. That is why the problem is concentrated in Sunni communities and not Shia. The Ayotollas may have their faults, but they do seem to live in the real world as well.

          • cermak – yep. You’ve summarized it very well.

            Hoping your clarinets are in good shape and that you’re continuing to enjoy them!

          • My clarinets are all fine. I’ve had to take a couple of them to my local tech recently, nothing major though. I’m playing in a community band so that’s quite a challenge for me. I’m learning to take direction and play nice with others. I’m also starting, now that I have some skill at my instrument, to explore music a little more and have started exploring some jazz improv concepts. I have a lot of material to learn until I can do it (scales, chord arpeggios etc), but I love the concept.

          • Sounds both challenging and fun!

          • “I actually blame the Saudis ”

            I do not see how assigning blame is helpful.

        • Steve, I’m a big-picture guy. Without knowing all the details, I see buckets of U.S. wealth and power going into that region—into Saudi Arabia in the form of demand for and investment in oil; into Iraq in the form of military destruction (twice—and a new colonialism from the ashes?); into Israel in the form of aid for their armed forces and for D9 bulldozers to level civilian homes.

          If I were a young Muslim, I might notice these practices.

          France? Dunno. They have their own ambivalent relationship with Islam from their colonial period, and from their current relationship with Algeria and the large Muslim community in France.

          No easy answers. Carter may have been onto something, big-picture-wise.

      • Is France’s international policy Israel-friendly?

  10. Are they sure they want to make the Bible the state book? It’s kind of full of violence, genocide, rape, weird sexual situations (Dinah, Rehab and Lot to name just a few), to say nothing of the somewhat unusual description of Abraham’s getting Hagar with child with Sarah there as an ecourager?).

    • +1

      Betty Bowers really nailed this one, siting a certain quote from Ezekiel concerning donkey genitalia. That one never seems to get included in children’s illustrated bibles.

    • Faulty O-Ring says

      If you really want to cause them discomfort, try to get them to specify whether “the Bible” will officially include the New Testament.

  11. And when did rogue snow man making become a thing in Saudi Arabia? I wasn’t aware they had adequate snow fall to make this an issue.

  12. senecagriggs yahoo says

    Of course if you feel like Steve Emerson is “tool” we can all cluster behind Al Sharpton.

    • No, we don’t “have to cluster behind Al Sharpton… why make this a binary? There are lots of us in the middle who don’t glam onto either – we discern, and hold both accountable. BTW; why even mention Al Sharpton?

      • This!

        I do not need to choose an idiot.

        Nor do I feel compelled to defend ‘my idiots’ when they say something idiotic [even if I accept someone else’s ideological lumping algorythym]. Nor do I feel compelled to condemn or exocriate ‘my idiots’ when they do or say something stupid. This meme of yeah-but-you-didn’t-condemn-him/her or yeah-but-look-at-those-other-idiots is the most base form of political theater. We are all better than that.

        • No, The Finn, we DON’T. But if we only lampoon one extreme of idiocy and not the other we place OURSELVES firmly in the camp of idiocy ourselves. “Fair and balanced”, right?

          • I see no absence of cheap shots and lampooning everywhere, and in every direction, I look.

            “Fair and balanced”, right? I do not believe anyone applied the ethic of F&B to Ramblings.

        • But we demand that Muslims condemn “their” idiots? Is this conversation an ironic affirmation of today’s rambling?

      • Marcus Johnson says



        Can we accept that the real conflict here is not between conservative and liberal, but between demagoguery and rational discourse?

  13. Richard Hershberger says

    “Flat tax: yes or no?”

    Flat tax is yet another front on the war on the poor. Most taxes hit the poor harder than the rich. When Lazarus needs a new pair of shoes he has to scrimp and save for it. The sales tax can be a significant added cost. When Dives needs a new pair of shoes he buys it without hesitation, and even if it is a really nice pair of shoes, the sales tax is trivial to him.

    This principle extends to quasi-tax fees. The cost of renewing a drivers license or auto tags is nothing to the rich man, and a real consideration for the poor man. Where it really gets bad is with judicially imposed quasi-taxes such as a fine for a broken taillight. When the rich man has his broken taillight brought to his attention by that nice police officer, it is no big deal. When the poor man does, he can face a choice between fixing it or buying food for his family, and if he selfishly feeds his family instead, he faces a fine on top of the repair costs, and a downward spiral into judicially imposed debt. There are jurisdictions that essentially fund themselves this way.

    The exceptions to the above are incomes, capital gains, and estate taxes. These hit the rich harder than the middle class, and do not hit the poor at all. This is why when a politician decides to bear false witness against the poor with regard to taxes, he only talks about these and discreetly overlooks all those other taxes. If he is a smart slanderer, he carefully couches his statements so that they are technically true if misleading. Many aren’t that smart.

    Now we get to anti-tax crusading. While any tax crusader will of course declare all taxes to be bad, in practice they don’t complain about all taxes equally. The ones that really get their dander up are (drum roll please…. ) (prepare to be amazed) (ready for it?) income, capital gains, and estate taxes.

    • > Flat tax is yet another front on the war on the poor.

      I agree. But don’t worry about it. The odds of creating a tax code like this is -100%. In part for the reason you describe – it all sounds good at a 10,000ft level. Now let us come to a consensus on the meaning if “income”…. I’ll be ash in an urn before anything like that happens.

      >in practice they don’t complain about all taxes equally


      I think there is a bright ray of HOPE in here. IF our leaders are clever enough to grasp it…. yeah.

      “Conservatives” dislike subsidies, they want things to be autonomous, they value local control, they want financial self-sustainability.

      [Aside: honestly, I am a Socialist… I think all those things are a great idea].

      The Left wants environmental sustainability, equity and equal access – so they want to protect wet-lands, stop road building projects, improve transit, make areas accessible to the elderly and disabled, etc…

      Wait… what? So… if we take a step back and look at THE @*^$*&T^@&* DATA [novel, I know]. Guess what??? We want the same things.

      That rural area being consumed by sprawl and utterly dependent on the automobile receives ~$3 in transportation and infrastructure money for every $1 they pay in in taxes. While the urban core pays out ~$2.50 for every $1 it receives. Wait… look at that… A SUBSIDY!!!! So why don’t we on the Left and those on The Right just do what *everyone* wants – and end the subsidy!
      – Tax revenue remains local where it is generated, and under local control
      – $0.50 per transaction unit in deficit spending is eliminated.
      – Everybody moves much closer to ‘paying their own way’, which is a virtue, right?
      – The cities transportation and infrastructure budget MORE THAN DOUBLES.
      – Less fuel is consumed.
      – Sprawl, the threat to agricultural and undeveloped space, evaporates [because it can no way no how ever ever pay its own way].

      Everybody wins.

      • Josh in FW says

        This conservative agrees. Actually, I’ve recently been exposed to the idea of Distributism via a friend who is a big Chesterton fan. I need to read up on it, but I think this concept is a good one.

        • I’ve also begun to find distributism attractive, Josh. Let me know if you find some good reads.

        • Distributism is a theory that needs wider airing beyond the small Catholic circles it is popular in. It would also benefit from being promoted by people who aren’t cranks. Not that I don’t love a good crank but there are plenty of distributists convinced that women not having paid employment is an essential part of their economic theory.

    • “Flat tax: yes or no?”

      I’m not optimistic. If you’re self-employed, run a small business (and even worse, if you’ve incorporated to make life “easier”) it’ll take a boatload of bookkeeping (save the receipts), some gerrymandering, and about a thousand dollars in accountant’s fees and 50 pages of tax forms to find out what your income even IS.

      After that? Sure. Flat tax. Knock yourself out.

      • Exactly. If you’re going to tax income, you’ve got to define it first. Going from the taxable income line to the tax amount line involves nothing more than referencing a table a single time.

        Another aspect of our current system that usually isn’t remarked upon is that Social Security withholding caps out at a fairly modest level. There are plenty of by-no-means-1%ers who pay no more in SS taxes than does the chairman of GE. This mutes to some degree higher marginal income tax rates.

        Shout out to non-Americans: Does your own version of Social Security (“Super” for you Aussies, e.g.) have the same capped-out feature?

    • Historically speaking, our tax structure used to be a lot less “flat” – that is, people earning millions of dollars paid 50% or even more of their income in taxes. Back then, the average CEO was earning about 5 times as much as the average worker, instead of today’s difference of 200 times. Part of the reason for the rapid economic growth in the US in the post-WWII years could actually be because the high income tax gave CEOs an incentive to reinvest their company’s earnings into the company instead of taking it home in their paychecks.

      There are a lot of ways we could simplify taxes, without switching to a flat tax. It’s absurd and deceptive for a rich person to be telling others they should support a flat tax because it will make their taxes easier to calculate. A much better “simplification” would be to consider capital gains as ordinary income, so that billionaires whose income is mostly from sale of stock would no longer get to pay taxes at a 15% rate while ordinary people whose income is from a salary have to pay 25% or more.

      • Josh in FW says


      • Yes.

        Robert Reich writes about this in the article, “The Flat-Tax Fraud.” With a flat tax, what’s “fair” for someone whose income is 200 times the average worker is different than “fair” for that average worker. “Fair” has to be fair for all.

        There has to be a better way than the current morass of forms and exemptions. I think the better way will begin in the form of way fewer tax breaks for the super-rich. Why not go back to post-WWII rates at least just to start with, with income adjusted for inflation?

        To me, the whining of the super-rich about their tax burden (along with whining about other things) betrays a loss of our sense of the good of the community.


    • First of all, “flat tax” can be ambiguous. The advantages of a VAT tax is that illegal money gets taxed as well – the angst over undocumented workers and drug dealers and illegal gambling winnings goes away. The disadvantage is that a consumption tax hits the poor harder than a progressive income tax – and given the fact that it is actually legal to pay someone $8 an hour to work 40 hours a week, this is a big deal. On the other hand, a progressive income tax has numerous disadvantages, including all the transparency of brick wall and an almost universal knack for large corporations and political donors to give substantially less (corporations are persons..but some persons are more persony than others). And then of course, there is some balance of the two.

      The real issue here is that they way our tax code is administered is unfair, not the type of code we have. While I agree that simplification is necessary, the idea that changing the system will eliminate injustice does not follow.

    • Well said Rich,…it boggles my mind why anyone but the super wealthy would support a flat tax…

  14. I have some sad and shocking news to share with you all – the Vatican says that Jesus is not coming back after all!

    Naturally, this has provoked a response from True Bible Believing Christians here and here.

    The only problem is, the story they are responding to came not from the actual Vatican, but from a local (thirty miles down the road from me, in fact) spoof online website called Waterford Whispers News. Think of it something like a very local-style Irish rural/smalltown version of The Onion.

    But fret not, gentlemen who wanted to demonstrate the false nature of the Catholic Church and how we can trust in the Gospels, you’re not the only ones to fall for this wicked and cunningly sophisticated ruse!

    Previously, WWN put up a story about North Korea boasting it had landed an astronaut on the sun, which some international news media picked up as a ‘genuine’ story and mocked North Korea for thinking they could get away with such a dumb story. Indeed, it led to the WWN website being hacked by (allegedly and assumedly) North Korea in revenge!

    No sign yet that the Vatican has unleased its crack team of secret Jesuit cyberwarriors to do the same 🙂

  15. Tozer Quote of the Week: Fundamentalism has stood aloof from the liberal in self-conscious superiority and has on its own part fallen into error, the error of textualism, which is simply orthodoxy without the Holy Ghost. Everywhere among conservatives we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They conceive truth to be something which they can grasp with the mind.” ? A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest

    Liberalism has stood aloof from those who prefer to have freedom in a responsible way and has fallen into error thinking that a government can make right that which should fall on the responsibility of each individual citizen. The definition of conservative has now been decided by someone that is not. Conservative views were traditionally telling a government to butt out yet now it is about people who are cold and heartless. Yet these are the many people funding nearly all the projects outside of government. Never mind the fact that those who do nothing and decide that working isn’t something they should do is basically saying that they don’t care about their fellow citizen who has to work yet even harder to support them. If we truly believe in the power of God then why is it we never let Him work and think the best way is to tell people they are not being led by Him. I think it nearly impossible to not be on a journey where both the heart and mind are not working together. For me it is the heart that makes my mind think better but I have learned that for some it might work the other way around.

    If you think that for some reason these quotes make better sense because of their time then leave them there. Almost everyone can be turned around and I have to wonder what part of this is edifying to others that don’t think like Tozer. I guess he was led by the Holy Spirit in this. For some reason his prudish style of writing always rubs me like extra coarse sand paper.

    • w, Tozer is not at all talking about political liberalism here.

      • Yeah I see that now and feel well to put it simply stupid.

      • I see you address it much better than I could and I see why it is coarse through your words better.

      • I do wonder at times about the Kingdom and its citizens as a government and even though I got this quote all wrong I dwelt on it through the day especially the line “responsibility of each individual citizen”and how that might apply to me. I do appreciate your thought process in the above response and wonder if some of that is why I immediately go the other way. Anyways thanks to those that give me grace to be me and wrong at times.

  16. What do you think, imonks? Is (AI) our biggest threat as a species? If not, what is?

    I’d put AI pretty far down the list. Here’s my list (based on about a decade of hobbyist research on the subjects)…

    1) Resource depletion, particularly water for drinking and crops, as well as arable land

    2) Treatment resistant epidemics and pandemics

    3) climate change (note picture above)

    4) collapse of transportation and communication systems – how much of your food comes from near you?

    AI makes for thrilling sci-fi and good headlines, but there are scary problems enough in the real world that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve.

    • I agree, Eeyore. Those who think AI is terrifying show a certain — I don’t know if naivete or arrogance is a better word. Theoretically I suppose smart machines could begin ratiocinating on their own (although ratiocination is probably a minority of essential brain activity and doesn’t by itself equate with intelligence), but how will they mine, transport, refine, and use the resources necessary to keep themselves running? Who will turn on their air conditioning and clean their dust filters? 2001: A Space Odyssey not withstanding, machines can be turned off — and probably will be as peak oil slides into the post-industrial era. Some people find losing the machines a scary thought, but to me it seems a sane reclamation of the true resource of value, which is human beings.

    • Yep. AI is not even worth mentioning.

      Infrastruture failure would be #1, #2, & #3 for me. We have no spare capacity, a crumbling aging system, and no plan; hell, we don’t even have mild interest in the problem.

      Those in the midwest and east coast felt that this winter – Union Pacific fast frieghts of agricultural products from the west coast were calncelled. But the effects are just ripples. “the prdocue lately has been really crappy”, prices tick up just a little [to absorb higher transportation costs for lower volume]. Fortunately it is back on schedule.

      And grain sits in elevators for months past when it should have gone to market.

      And poeple will sit around talking about povery, hunger, food prices,…. nothing substantive happens because the most important components of the solution are *BORING*.

      AI on the otherhand is exciting – and somehow it will fall upon the shoulder of those companies to protect us… almost certainly for a ‘reasonable’ fee, of course.

    • The day that computers become sentient (if it ever arrives, which I doubt) will be the first day that they are able to feel hope, fear, and insecurity, self-concern and confusion; since the human race has had long experience of all these things, and since some members of the the human race have become adept at manipulating these things toward their own interests, the day of the Singularity will be the day that the confidence men (and women) will have computers exactly where they want them. I will pity the poor AIs on that day. The greatest existential threat to humanity, and to all it has made (including computers, sentient or not), is humanity.

      • I’ve always questioned the assumption that sentience automatically implies a drive for self-preservation, which is what is behind our hopes, fears, and insecurities, after all. This assumption seems to be almost universally accepted as self-evident in the literature: Woudn’t an (infinitely) intelligent machine want to go on living?

        I see no obvious reason why this should be so. As a machine (sentient or not), AI might run amok and cause harm to us humans, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what arrangement of wiring would guarantee it a Will to Survive that we see in biology. And even there, creatures do things that lead to their individual demise — even humans.

        But maybe I’m missing something.

        • “sentience automatically implies a drive for self-preservation”

          I *REALLY* hope this sentience thing happens. Because what would it be? Aren’t you dying to know>

          I have never had a conversation with a non-human narrative intellectual sentience [*1]. By golly I’d give my left arm for the opportunity. How much of all this noise in my head is an inherent part of Narrative Intellectual Sentience? And how much of it is the byproduct of the mechanism whereby whatever sentience is is manifested in/by/for Humans? It is hard to answer – – – without talking to *something* else. How much are we talking about sentience and how much are we talking about a narrative perspective and how much are we talking about Intelligence? To what extent can any of these things be disentangled? [I suspect much less so than many people believe]. Only way to really now – – talk to *something* else.

          So I hope this happens. Or happens a lot. A round table discussion between several different AIs and several different extraterrestrials is a forum to which I would pay a lot for a ticket.

          [*1] Sentience must be qualified. I accept that canids and at least several other creatures are sentient. But no conversation occurs as the narrative component is absent in their forms. Which makes me sad.

          • Adam, according to the first definition in Merrian-Webster, sentience is “responsiveness to…. sense impressions.” If this is correct, then sentience includes a far wider range of living creatures than you indicate.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            “responsiveness to…. sense impressions.”

            Agree, but that is certainly not what people mean in this use. It is a confusing term. Aside from the need to quantify what is a “sense impression” [verses say – “an input”], lies the basic problem that if that is what is meant than the keypad on a phone qualifies.

            Or take the definition “Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively.”… how does “experience subjectively” help, verses .. say… “experience non-subjectively”.

            That there *is a subject* is the key. This is a hard thing to prove, how do you know this ‘subject’ exists? Is all life sentient? A microbe? A lobster? A fish? A frog? A rat? A dog? A human? All humans, or just some? at what age? Everybody draws the line somewhere between that which does not possess this mysterious internal self-referential Subject and that which, while being alive, does not.

            The possessing of that subject is everything.

            Of course, AI I think can be AI without sentience. But AI people move back and forth between conflating intelligence and this ‘subject’ and having them as distinct. However that is to be expected when discussing something that does not exist [yet or not]. Even defining what is non-sentient AI is pretty tedious, then you have to define a workable definition of “intelligence”.

        • When we look at nature, sentient species always have a drive toward propagation of their own kind. Sometimes the drive to propagate and survive is modified by the drive to eliminate or reduce suffering, suicide being the most obvious example of the manifestation of this drive: Nietzsche regarded this as form of the will to power, which prioritizes the drive to exert some control over circumstances and experiences above survival of the organism.

          This is probably why there is such a widespread assumption in the literature connecting sentience with the drive to survive and to control ( both of which may be quite diffuse, and be centered in the wider community of organisms, the nest or society, instead of the individual organism; this diffuse identity certainly happens among human beings, many of whom readily sacrifice themselves for the what is thought to be the interests of the larger community).

    • But for 1. desalinization is something that can be done. With solar energy or wind, both of which have improved in efficiency, it should be quite possible for fresh water to be provided to California for agriculture.

      1b. aerable land. In the US a lot of aerable land has been paved over due to low cost of agricultural commodities. If prices go up, I can guarantee that land will be returned to the tiller.

      2. a new trove of antibiotics has just been discovered. Don’t bet against human ingenuity. Also we know how diseases spread now and I suspect even an attack of antibiotic resistant plague would not quite be the Black death of Europe. It’s interesting that the scourge of Ebola didn’t seem to scourge-y when it got to the West.

      3. climate change. Yes, this is going to be a big deal for people in certain areas. Espcially those lying on low lying islands and areas. The rest of the world will need to choose whether to allow climate change refugees in or not.

      4. infrastructure. This one doesn’t bother me. Trucks and trains are just moving storehouses which is an old form of technology. When they get into poor shape, we’ll rebuild them. In the meantime, it’s nice to get Pomegranates in winter time and asparagus year round.

      • Desalinization is very power- and residue-intensive, and also doesn’t help problems in non-coastal areas much (esp. if they rely on runoff or ground water for agriculture).

        By “loss of arable land”, I was thinking more of desertification and loss of topsoil, which are both major problems worldwide.

        A new set of antibiotics has been researched, yes. It was the first real new antibiotic set in over 20 years. The real question will be how long it takes the bugs to develop resistance to it. And how expensive will these drugs be, and how widely available will they be as a consequence?

        The direct impacts of climate change are not the only concern – second-tier effects (shifts in agricultural areas, refugees [as you mention], sea level increase, greater occurrences of storms and extreme weather, etc) can impact areas not directly affected.

        As far as infrastructure goes – when we start putting enough into our roads and power lines to keep up with the ravages of time (see the reports from the American Society of Civil Engineers), I’ll agree with you. Not otherwise. 😉

        Don’t try to un-doom me – I’ve been at this for quite awhile now… 😉

  17. flatrocker says

    So what’s so surprising about the Birmingham England comment? What a shocker – talking heads…well…they talk. And talk…and talk so more. Just so we can all then sit back and laugh at their ignorance. How enlightened and sophistcated we are.

    Beyond the bloviating examples Daniel offered up to us this week, I find another exchange to be more interesting and worthy of comment. This comes from a discussion between Bill Maher and Jimmy Kimmel on Kimmel’s show. Not necessarily a fan of either of these guys, but Maher’s comments (as is his custom) do cause the blood to stir. Here is part of the exchange….

    MAHER: No, I’m not turning on them (liberals), I’m asking them to turn toward the truth as I have been for quite a while. I’m the liberal in this debate. I’m for free speech. To be a liberal, you have to stand up for liberal principles. It’s not my fault that the part of the world that is most against liberal principles is the Muslim part of the world.

    There have been studies. We have facts on this. Treatment of women. They studied 130 different countries. 17 of the bottom 20 were Muslim countries. In 10 Muslim countries, you can get the death penalty just for being gay. They chop heads off in the square in Mecca. Well, Mecca is their Vatican City. If they were chopping the heads off of Catholic gay people, wouldn’t there be a bigger outcry among liberals? I’d ask you.

    So to bring it home to us, because we are are satirists, and I’m a satirist who deals with this subject particularly, it’s kind of scary, that some people say you cannot make a joke. That’s off-limits. We saw this with Kim Jong-un…

    We have to stop saying when something like this that happened in Paris today, we have to stop saying, well, we should not insult a great religion. First of all, there are no great religions. They’re all stupid and dangerous. And we should insult them and we should be able to insult whatever we want. That is what free speech is like.

    There are certain people in the world who want waivers on free speech. Kim Jong-un in North Korea says you cannot make jokes about our country, and there’s a lot of Muslim people in the world. I know most Muslim people would not have carried out an attack like this. But here’s the important point. Hundreds of millions of them support an attack like this. They applaud an attack like this. What they say is, we don’t approve of violence, but you know what, when you make fun of the prophet, all bets are off.

    KIMMEL: You really think hundreds of millions of Muslim support this?

    MAHER: Absolutely. That is main stream in the Muslim world that when you make fun of the prophet, all bets are off. You get what’s coming to you. It’s also main stream that if you leave the religion you get what’s coming to you, which is death. Not in every Muslim country in majority numbers, but this is a problem in the world that we have to stand up to.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Yup. For all the folks who think fundamentalism is strictly a conservative concept…

      • Perhaps you underestimate All Those Folks. I am a “Liberal’, no, more accurately I am a Socialist. And I do not believe Fundamentalism to be a Conservative or Liberal or Religious problem. Fundamentalism is an Ego problem.

        I could introduce you to numerous Fundamentalist Millenials, Fundamentliast Urbanist, or Fundamentalist Cyclists, or Fundamentalist Sububanites. Fundamentalism knows no boundaries of category. But as I look around I do not see anyone saying that it does. So why the compulsion to point out that there-are-other-fundamentalits-too? Two intellectual vacuums doesn’t a coffee shop make.

        And, yes, Maher is an idiot.

        • MikeInIowa says

          Fundamentalist liberal? 🙂

          • Nope, never met one of those. Because in America “Liberal” is nothing but a trope, the anti-thesis of Conservative, becuase Americans are fixated on binary schemes. I have no idea what an American Liberal is, other than not being a Conservative [which itself is a rather divided cluster of encampments]. Plenty of us on the political Left just laugh when people refer to “The Liberals”. “The Liberals” is like referring to The Scots, a group defined BY a LACK of cohesion? Hence I always quote “Liberal”. Liberal concerning what?

            Very few people self-describe as Liberal, while many self-describe as Conservative. Those I know who others I am certain would call “Liberals” all self-describe using a label much more specific: Urbanist, Environmentalist, Localist, Civil Libertarians, … nobody says “Liberal”.

          • …progressive.

          • “…progressive”

            Progressive Fundamentalist.. or Fundamentalist Progressive. Nah, I believe we call those “Hipsters”

        • Maybe, but he makes a point that the NY Times scrupulously avoids and will not even consider.

        • Marcus Johnson says

          Well, it’s a little bit in response to the earlier posts that claim fundamentalism is a conservative conceit. You’re right; two intellectual vacuums do not a coffee shop make (at least I think you are, I have never heard that adage used before). However, I see no need to get incensed by the premise that people who espouse liberal ideologies can be just as fundamentalist as their conservative counterparts. I’m one of those folks who happen to believe that the middle ground is the safest place to be in some debates, and I can’t find the middle unless I know where the opposite poles are.

        • > “And, yes, Maher is an idiot.”

          And aren’t they all, except for us of course.
          How we suffer them.

    • Maher has a great point. When it comes to Enlightenment values (among them to right to freedom of expression, the old I may not agree with your right to say it but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it) and treatment of women and sexual minorities, Islam doesn’t measure up to modern expectations. Death penalty for apostasy? Really? Something our Supreme Court has determined we have an absolute right to? Stoning for adultery? Really? Without even the safeguards that the rabbis put in (2 independent witnesses and pregnancy alone was not sufficient evidence).

      It’s actually the first that enrages me more though. When the leader of Hamas came out and said he supported the Charlie Hebdo attack I lost interest in promoting an independent Palestine. Hamas is the government they have chosen. IF they do not support Enlightenment values then by what right do they claim national self-determination? In the pre-modern world nations when conquered were colonized and claimed by the conqueror. So be it if that’s what they wish.

  18. The issue in the Charlie Hebdo debacle has been seen as freedom of speech, which I suppose it is on a legal/legistlative level. The cartoonists and those who support them have used the phrase: “Speaking the truth to power.” It’s a good thing to do, but Christians are called to more than that: speaking the truth with love, whether to the powerful or the disenfranchised. Magazines should have the legal right to print what people are willing to buy, but Christians should ask themselves if freedom of speech is the highest good.

  19. Klasie Kraalogies says

    Daniel – I had the same feeling about the global temperature chart: Why, oh why does the central part of this continent have to be one of the few cool spots??

  20. The iCondemn app is pretty funny, but it does speak to the understandable exhaustion that most Muslims living in the West must feel: how much and how often are they to say “That evil act doesn’t represent what I take Islam to be.”

    It’s absolutely essential that we hear Muslims condemning these attacks. But I have to admit that this would seem more credible is we Christians were better at airing out our own shortcomings historically, even if they don’t always rise to the level of suicide bombings of innocent civilians. (It would also be more credible if, after a Muslim DOES condemn attacks, it were actually acknowledged, rather than consigned to the “Nice, but not good enough” bin.)

    When the actions of your general co-religionists bear no relationship to what you, your family, your church, and your entire denomination believe in, you feel little need to apologize for them. I grew up in an all-white area of the lower Midwest. My parents were extremely clear that racism had no place in society or the church, a view only reinforced by every other (white) teacher or preacher I sat under in my church school days. Good on them all.

    Yet, at the same time, why did I only learn about the Civil Rights Movement (a mere 20 years earlier) from books rather than from conversations among adults in the hallways, or from the pulpit? Any number of societal ills were highlighted on a regular basis; racism was never among them. If only as an example of how Christians can be part of the problem, why couldn’t someone have noted, at least once in all my youth, that the people running the firehoses in Selma weren’t the pinko Communists but quite possibly Sunday School teachers?

    We expect Muslims to spend their days condemning the sins of their co-religionists, but many Christians would bristle at a SINGLE SERMON on the shortcomings of the church during the Jim Crow era. In other words, we expect Muslims to exhibit deeper self-reflection than ourselves.

    • It’s absolutely essential that we hear Muslims condemning these attacks. But I have to admit that this would seem more credible is we Christians were better at airing out our own shortcomings historically, even if they don’t always rise to the level of suicide bombings of innocent civilians.

      Where have you been for the past 50 years? Examples of Christian (so-called) excess and stupidity have been ubiquitous in the media. Maybe that is why you missed it.

      • For the first seven years of the last half-century, contemplating my non-being, I suppose. 🙂

        Sure the MEDIA isn’t shy at all. I get that. And, as I said, I learned plenty about Jimmy Crow from books.

        But that’s not the same thing as a call from the pulpit for deep self-reflection. Perhaps “airing our shortcomings” is a poor choice of terms for what I’m trying to say.

  21. If it’s possible for Christians to act in ways that are immoral and inhumane, and if Christians are all part of the Body of Christ, which exists across space and time, and holds all Christians in a mutual and interpenetrating relationship, then, to the degree that we are Christians, and our forbears and contemporaries were or are Christians, we already are in solidarity with them, and bear responsibility for addressing and doing our best to correct the evil that they’ve done or are doing.

    That’s partly what this blog is about, especially when it turns a spotlight on some of the more questionable behavior among leaders in the evangelical world. We can’t just claim the good stuff for ourselves, and deny having anything in common with those who do the bad stuff. I think that’s just dishonest and self-serving, and I think non-Christians see it for the cop-out it is; they expect us to speak against evils done in the name of our God.

    Conversely, we may, as Christians, ourselves be involved in, and agents of, evil, even though we may think we are not. In that case, I would hope for two things: 1) that the evil we are involved in, perhaps from ignorance and even some degree of ill will, does not sever us from our relationship to Jesus Christ and his Body, and 2) that other Christians would call us to account for it, not least because they love us despite our moral transgressions and blindness and the evil we’ve done.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Conversely, we may, as Christians, ourselves be involved in, and agents of, evil, even though we may think we are not. In that case, I would hope for two things: 1) that the evil we are involved in, perhaps from ignorance and even some degree of ill will, does not sever us from our relationship to Jesus Christ and his Body, and 2) that other Christians would call us to account for it, not least because they love us despite our moral transgressions and blindness and the evil we’ve done.

      The body of Christ is composed of flawed human beings, and we should do a better job of owning up to the structural or ideological safe havens for immoral/inhumane behavior or isms. And yes, other Christians should call us to account for our obliviousness, and make us aware of the underrepresented and underprivileged among us.

      I do see, though, a difference between informed Christians calling on other Christians to denounce immorality and inhumanity in our midst, and undereducated demagogues, claiming a Christian worldview, expecting Muslims, both individually and collectively, to denounce atrocities committed by other Muslims. When we call ourselves out, it comes across as adults striving to become better people. When we do it to others, it comes across as condescending.

      I totally agree with you, Robert F. Just wanted to add that caveat.

      • Agree. Notice, I spoke only of our responsibility within the Christian community. And the point you’ve articulated is exactly why. Thanks for making it explicit where I failed to.

      • And my comment is predicated on the existence of the Christian community of saints, which is religion specific. What responsibility individual Muslims may or may not have to criticize and work against evil done by other Muslims can not be grounded in a point of Christian theology, but would have to rely on other human concerns and values.

        • Like conscience and ethics, yes? Which, imo, are universal, regardless of the faith/not-faith of any given person.

          You might really like author/international law specialist Aima Ennoune’s book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here. She is Algetian-American, and her late father was imprisoned by the 90s Islamist regime in Algeria for speaking out against what they were doing. I’m not a huge fan of TED talks, but she gave one last year that is well worth watching. Google will get you there (am on phoneand posting links is hard). She also had a very good piece on Charlie Hebdo, Islamist extremism and more poste on HuffPo a few days ago.

  22. Clay Crouch says

    There was a good interview this past Thursday on Fresh Air. Terry Gross interviewed Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist recruiter about his radicalization and subsequent rejection of fundamentalist Islam. Here is the link to NPR’s synopsis of the interview. The interview is will worth the listen. You might be surprised to find out what book changed his life (hint: not the bible). May Mr. Nawaz’s tribe increase. Here’s the link to the article:

    • Thanks for the link, Clay. I just spent time in my Exposition and Persuasion class asking students to think about the power of words — this is an article I’ll share with them.

      • Clay Crouch says

        I was especially moved by his call for a change in the narrative. Not sure how that will happen, but it definitely needs to. I wish my evangelical friends would take this need to heart.

    • The book in question: makes sense to me!

  23. Yay for the goings on in Portland! Brothers and sisters in Christ, standing together! This is a picture of the true trajectory of Christian scripture and tradition. Westboro, go home, or, better yet, repent and cross the line to stand shoulder to shoulder with your brothers and sisters.

  24. The issue of a flat income tax (or national sales tax) is nothing more than a blatant attack on the majority of Americans in order to further benefit the richest of the rich. (It’s another piece of the ongoing and largely successful effort to bring back the Gilded Age.) It’s not simply an attack on the poor, though it does hit them the hardest. When you have nothing, the pain of every penny squeezed from you hurts more. It’s an attack on almost all Americans. It’s part of an ongoing and to date surprisingly successful effort to destroy our already struggling middle class. The effort has been part of a long game that began all the way back in the 1970s. And it’s been successful. Basically all the gains in productivity in our country over the past 40 years have gone to the rich and primarily to the richest of the rich.

    There’s nothing inherently complicated about our tax code. Everyone in the United States is perfectly welcome to simply accept what is reported as their income, take their standard deduction and personal exemptions and pay the tax on the remaining amount. Most individuals receive their income primarily as wages and this discussion focuses on individual taxes. Businesses, of course, are more complicated, but taxes are only one piece of that additional complication and it’s expected that businesses have some sort of accounting system in place. (If they don’t then they have much worse problems and will almost certainly fail anyway.) In fact, our withholding system actually transfers part of the complexity of reporting income and handling taxes from individuals to businesses to reduce the load on individuals and to make voluntary compliance easier and almost automatic. There are, of course, the relatively small number of people who in essence operate as their own business but report taxes under the individual tax code. It’s the fact that they are also a business rather than just an individual that complicates their taxes. As a business, they have to determine revenue and expenses before they even know what their income as an individual is.

    Moreover, on the individual side, you don’t even have to calculate your own taxes. You can simply provide your W-2s and a tax form with your personal information to the IRS and ask them to calculate your taxes for you. Most people don’t choose that option for some reason. It becomes more complicated for individuals because we want to minimize the taxes we legally pay. And Congress uses the tax code for many of its social change efforts. So we want to take advantage of a college tax credit. That requires another form and more effort. We want to itemize deductions instead of taking the standard deduction if that will reduce our taxable income more, something which is only true for an increasingly smaller percentage of our population. Complication is introduced because deductions, exemptions, and credits are offered for certain targeted populations. In many instances, those are either broadly popular or have a powerful lobby behind them. But there’s nothing in the tax code that forces anyone to actually take a deduction or credit if they don’t want to do the paperwork.

    From things I’ve heard and read, it seems to me that a lot of people misconstrue a progressive tax system and conflate the top marginal tax rate with the percentage of taxes paid. That’s not how it works. The income up to each threshold is taxed at that rate for everyone, however much they make in total. The higher rate only applies to income earned in the range covered by that bracket. Income below that range is taxed at the lower rate. Income above that range is taxed at the higher rate. How high should the highest rate be? There’s actually math that looks at data about the economy and calculates that optimal range. It’s a curve that at some point peaks and on the downward slope begins to discourage actions that increase income. Pretty much everyone agrees that the top marginal tax over 90% during the Eisenhower presidency was on the downward side of the slope and was too high. For most of the post WWII period until our current long reversal began, the top marginal rate was around 70% and that seemed to pretty much be the sweet spot. Now, of course, we’ve moved it so far down the upward slope it’s barely a progressive system at all anymore.

    As others have mentioned, rewarding capital gains (pure unproductive wealth gains) has been a huge piece in the concentration of wealth or capital at the very top over the past forty years. After exempting gains from the sale of a primary home when a new one is subsequently purchased (a perfectly reasonable exemption that covers the primary ‘capital’ of most Americans) capital gains should be taxed as income. Our current situation is nuts.

    Of course, most ordinary people in the US pay a significant portion of their overall federal taxes in Social Security and Medicare withholding. Those are broad-based, but overall regressive systems in that every dollar earned in wages (and they only apply to wages) is taxed at the same rate (a flat tax!) and the social security portion is capped. Social Security is another interesting story since most people seem to have forgotten that the structural problems in it were actually fixed in the 1980s. Our current demographics were no surprise then, so Baby Boomers retiring were fully considered. Structurally, Social Security only has one problem today and it’s a long term one. The fix designed in the 1980s determined that 90% of all income in the United States needed to be subject to the tax. That’s where they cap came from and it’s adjusted with inflation, which they assumed would keep about 90% of income subject to the tax. Since then, of course, not just overall wealth, but income has concentrated at the very top leaving less of income subject to the tax. Currently, I believe about 83% of income is taxed and the rest is exempt as being over the cap. The only action required to fix the long term Social Security structural issue is raise or remove the cap on the income subject to the tax.

    The line from the GOP has been to lump everything together as “entitlements” in their talking points. That’s been a two-fold goal. First, they get most of their constituents to think they are talking about “welfare” to those undeserving “others”. In truth, everything other than Medicaid that could be placed in that category has already pretty much been shredded. That portion of our safety net is in tatters now and is a pretty small piece of the overall picture. It also lumps Medicare, which has major structural issues due primarily to soaring health care costs, in with Social Security and allows them to attack Social Security under the guise of “fixing entitlements”. It also means they don’t have to answer questions about their plans to fix health care in the US, which are non-existent. (So far, at least, the ACA has had a positive impact on the Medicare projections through its impact on the overall health system even though it does relatively little with Medicare directly.)

    There’s always more to say, but that seems like as good a stopping point as any. I guess Republicans like Cruz bank on most Americans being incapable of doing basic arithmetic.

    • There’s nothing inherently complicated about our tax code. Everyone in the United States is perfectly welcome to simply accept what is reported as their income, take their standard deduction and personal exemptions and pay the tax on the remaining amount. Most individuals receive their income primarily as wages and this discussion focuses on individual taxes. Businesses, of course, are more complicated,

      Utter BS.

      I’m now 60. I’ve be self employed for over 25 years. But a wage earner also at times before and since being self employed. My wife is a wage earner. Every year Congress makes it harder and harder to deal with the tax system. To the point it has gotten ridiculous. I do my own. I’ve watch it change over the years.

      Own a house? Donate to your church or local food bank? Want to put aside some money for retirement? (Many/most people are no longer covered under a company plan and they’d better deal with this.) Got health care? Want to set your withholding so you don’t way over or under pay? Got a child in college who’s working part time? Why do you have to claim their college deduction and pay them back $1500 to save yourself $3000 on taxes? And on and an and on. It’s a real mess. 30 years ago most middle class people did their own taxes. WITHOUT A COMPUTER. These days most hire an accountant or at least visit a tax office. The entire “you can just do it online is junk as for all but trivial situations you’re handing over more than you really owe. Just how much of this non productive money transfer in tax preparation would we save if things were simpler?

      I’m not a fan of most iterations of a flat tax but the current mess drives people to yearn for a fix and a flat tax is the easiest way to come up with a sound bite.

      As to “which” flat tax. There are as many variations as their are politicians who have proposed them. Each rewarding different classes of people. Some are good for the poor. Others would turn the poor into almost slaves. And many get their “goodness” by include the not mentioned but there in the fine print things like “cut federal spending by 40% at the same time.”

      Politics by sound bite. Ain’t it grand.

      • Either you didn’t read my entire comment or chose to respond only to my sardonic comment above (and missed the irony in it). All the things you mention are elective deductions and credits. Nobody requires that you itemize. Nobody requires that you take them. You choose to do so because you want to take advantage of the deduction or credit to reduce the amount you pay in taxes. You choose to accept the additional complexity for the benefits offered.

        And that was my point. The complexity comes because people (or in some cases powerful lobbies, but those exemptions/deductions aren’t the ones that typically apply to normal people) want those credits and deductions and would be upset if they were taken away. One can argue, of course, that there are better approaches to achieve goals like making college more affordable or encouraging home ownership than tinkering with the tax code. I would even tend to agree.

        I’ll be 50 in a few months and have been a wage earner that entire period since I was married the year I turned 16. I’ve also gone from dirt poor and calculating things like child care tax credit and earned income tax credit to upper middle class and doing things like Schedule A, sometimes B, D, E, and a variety of other forms for different credits (like college) as they’ve applied. I’ve always done my own taxes using nothing but the instructions and a calculator to double-check my math.

        The complexity of our tax system for most Americans is vastly over-stated and every plan to “reduce the complexity” is in actuality a plan to get everyone but the richest of the rich to pay more while reducing revenue in order to further shred the safety net.

        But you want to do a simple return? Nothing is stopping you from doing that right now. You’ll just pay more than you otherwise would have paid. You voluntarily choose the complexity because you want the tax breaks that come from embracing it.

        I also wrote considerably more than a sound bite. Ad hominem much?

        • Or was your “politics by sound bite” comment directed at the people proposing plans for a flat tax? The context is ambiguous and I realized it could be read either way.

          • Politics by sound bite is aimed at Flat Tax solves it all people.

            As to complexity. No one should have to pay more than they owe. And making so people how to deal with complicated forms to get to the correct amount they owe is very bad policy. What you’re saying is what may politicians like (In my opinion) they get to claim taxes are all that high but make it beyond the ability or effort of most people to pay the amount they owe. But easy to pay more.

            I disagree with the premise of your arguments about how to deal with the complexity of the code.

      • I’ll also reiterate what I said and what others have mentioned. There’s no way to escape the complexity for a business (even if reported through the individual return) or the self-employed. That’s because the hard part in that instance is not usually determining taxes (though businesses often seek and receive a lot of special treatment in the tax code). Rather, it’s determining “income” as opposed to revenue in the first place.

        • Rather, it’s determining “income” as opposed to revenue in the first place.

          Sorry but I think I understand what you want to say but:
          Income = Revenue – Expenses.

          The real arguments occur when you start allows some expenditures to be counted as expenses and some not for tax purposes. This is a political issue and will likely never go away. Just like what is an allowed charitable expense on the personal side.

          And then again what is Income. And toss is appreciation and depreciation and get start to get a tax code that is a real mess. While a flat tax will NOT solve all of these issues it would remove reams of code dealing with how to categorize such things as there will not be incentives to move expenses from slot A to slot B to get a lower tax rate.

      • Having been very, very poor in the past, I’m also going to take exception to your assertion that there exists a proposal for a flat tax that’s good for the poor. Currently, the poor pay no income tax and generally receive assistance, if working (which is the norm among the poor since it’s hard to survive otherwise), through the earned income tax credit and other refundable credits.

        I’ve seen no flat tax plan that wouldn’t lower the threshold for actually paying tax, eliminate the refundable credits, or both. In no sense can that possibly be considered “good for the poor.” I’ve also not seen any plan that’s actually good for at least the first three quintiles and typical the first four. Even in the top quintile under most plans, the bottom half or more would mostly just break even. The flat tax plans are nothing more than a reverse robin hood scheme.

        Now, of course, to dismantle another right wing “talking point” (aka “lie”) before someone posts it in response, that does not mean the poor or lower middle class are “takers” or don’t pay taxes. Proportionally, when you’re poor in the US, you are almost crippled with taxes. You pay sales tax (and other consumption taxes). You pay gas tax if you drive. You pay fees for essential documents like birth certificates and diver’s license or other ID. You pay registration and inspection fees if you have a car (and those are generally no less for an ancient beater than for a new car). You pay Social Security tax and Medicare tax on every dollar earned. (It’s only those at the top who get a break on Social Security taxes.) Adding any federal income tax on top of that tax burden is nothing less than cruel. Increasingly, those at the upper end in our society sound more like Marie Antionette in their ignorance and cavalier dismissal of the poor.

        • Some flat tax proposals did things like exclude the first $20K or whatever of income. So basically if you made less than $20K (in this example) you didn’t pay any tax at all.

          And many of the flat tax proposals (I’ve seen them going back to the 80s at least) do things like give exemptions/deductions for things like sales tax and other things.

          Social Security is a whole nuther bag of worms in terms of regressivism.

  25. Joseph (the original) says

    Re: The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven that didn’t…

    Many years ago I was interested in NDE “claims” that were part of the uber-supra-Christianeze urban legends making the rounds in the hyper-charismatic camp I was then part of. My interest was intended to find out for myself if such accounts had any veracity since the few I was familiar with all had some odd, strangely out-of-place element to them. These quirks were never discussed but simply ignored or glossed-over by the elements that were in agreement with the pre-determined beliefs of those spreading the stories as gospel…

    I am not surprised by this disclosure and I am pleased such disclaimer has finally made the news. But it did cause me to visit youtube and look up some of the many, and I do mean many, accounts of detailed visits to Hell as well as Heaven. And by details, I mean details that are so detailed it boggles the imagination such accounts would be necessary to fill in for the lack of such details in Scripture as well as tradition throughout the Church age. I think many such accounts are indications of Munchausen Syndrome more than some actual experience.

    However, I also believe there are valid accounts of NDE that were very real and did have a big impact upon the one that tries to explain it afterward. What I don’t believe is that there was any real death that occurred (clinical death vs. biological death are not related) or that there was any soul transfer, or leaving the body during the episode.

    Since all accounts vary greatly on the details and even contradict others that claim a similar experience, trying to make an argument for reliability based on the core similarities does not make for a convincing argument. And it is interesting to note that many of the experiences I researched mirror the spiritual condition or belief system the person that claims to have had a very vivid NDE.

    What say you iMonkeys, er, iMonkers…iMonkettes? iMonksters? iMonkster dudes and dudettes?


    • I didn’t read the “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven”, and I’m not interested in NDE accounts , nor do I find what little I know of them compelling or credible. Neither am I inclined to trust that the statement, “The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible”, uttered by a mere 10 year old boy in recanting the book about his NDE, are words from his own mind and mouth rather than the words of his adult coaches. God help this poor boy, who seems to be caught in a dirty little war between his divorced mother and father, who seem to be using theological speculations about the postmortem state in their battle against each other, collateral damage to their little boy be damned.

      • That boy’s father… yikes. I’m sure the publisher knew all along, which is doubly damning.

        Never underestimate the gullibility of the buying public, i guess, though why anyone would truly want to read books like this one … very sad. Am thinking that the target market is people who are experiencing overwhelming grief – the idea of making bank on those who are suffering in that way is sickening and is hugely predatory and, imo, downright evil.

    • And is it any wonder why some of us Christians have become skeptics, just as Thomas was. Discernment, discernment, oh where have you gone?

  26. IndianaMike says

    It’s all good and well to laugh at/with our British cousins, but they will no doubt face more terrorist attacks as well.

    • I thought it was laughing *with* them over idiotic remarks about Birmingham and other cities with large South Asian communities – who re not all Muslims by a long chalk!

      Between this guy’s “facts” and the Fox commentator who claimed that slave ships wrre comfortable and roomy (he’s black; not sure if he fills a chair there anymore) and the woman who kept hammering Reza Aslan about why he would want to write about Jesus, since he’s Mulim (who had no idea that Jesus aka Isa is one of the prophets of Islam and that both he and Mry aka Maram are in the Qur’an)… Fox has no credibility in my eyes. They seemingly don’t employ a research department with avtual fact-checkers – about what you’d expect for a network owned by a man who made his fortune in literal tabloid journalism. (You haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a slew of British tabloids – on paper, not on the web, the better to get a look at the lurid pics.)

      • Marym/Mariam – depending on how you want to transliterate it. It is the Aramaic – and now, Arabic – form of Miriam.

        • Maryam.

          I desperately need a wireless keyboard.


          Daniel , LOVE the goat map (and the rest of today’s Ramblings, but that in particular) Wish i could have a couple of pygmy goats myself, as they’re super-friendly and get up to pretty hilarious antics.

  27. “…if line 42 is greater than the sum of your dependents BMI index multiplied by Ronald Reagan’s IQ and divided by the number of times you have sneezed near a dog, then put “plaid” in line 43 in hieroglyphics].”

    Oh yes! I love it!

    And do you know what the dyslexic atheist did at Christmas?

    He sold his soul to Santa.

  28. And now for a really important comment: There is no Pinella County in Florida. There is, however, a Pinellas County in Florida.

  29. I wonder what Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal — the second-largest shareholder of Fox News’ parent company News Corp – thinks of Mudock’s Tweet concerning “Moslems”.