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"spectacular attack" warnings make me feel like playing "what if..."

rumors of "spectacular attacks" abound in the news today. a federal law enforcement warning circulating all about the fruited plains portends al qaeda ill will, and dark clouds are gathering over airplanes, nuclear facilities, national monuments...buildings are falling in bali and osama is mailing us cassette tapes just to let us know he still cares and we, we are gearing up for war with iraq. crazy, no?

the democrats certainly think so. why on earth are we wasting our time on this two-bit dictator hussein when mr. al qaeda himself is still alive and well? the president is so caught up in this middle-eastern nonsense that we're actually losing the war on terror. how do we know we're losing? why, we haven't caught osama yet. "I'm troubled that we haven't found Bin Laden in all this time. Frankly, I think that it really caused many of us to be concerned about whether or not we are winning the war on terror," says tom daschle. "We haven't found Bin Laden. We haven't made any real progress in many of the other areas involving the key elements of Al-Qaida. They continue to be as great a threat today as they were a year and a half ago."

"all this time". all this time? what did daschle think, that we would touch down in kandahar in the morning, lift a few rocks, and have osama in time for tea? we're losing the war on terror because we haven't caught osama yet? oh, and i know what some of you are thinking: "but locdog, he didn't say we're losing. he said he's concerned about whether or not we're winning." when tom daschle says such things, thou simpleton, he means we're losing. and wherein does he make this claim? how on earth can we possibly equate the capture of bin laden with victory in the war on terror? what, if we bag osama all terror will suddenly cease? there have always been osama bin ladens and there always will be. if we hang our hopes of victory on nailing all the osamas of the world then we doom ourselves to perpetual defeat. truly, i want the man as badly as the next guy, but i've come to realize that while the capture of bin laden would be emotionally satisfying, it would in no way be victory. it's simply justice. the guy deserves to swing from our gallows, end of story. victory in this war is a thing of degrees. we can never end terror and we will always live under its threat--in fact, we always have, but we weren't paying attention before. so does this mean that we can't take obvious, decisive steps to make meaningful improvements towards the safety of all peace-loving peoples? no, of course not. is capturing bin laden such a step? of course. is it the final step, the only step, a necessary step, even the most important step? no, no, no, and no.

daschle says "we haven't made any real progress" in certain areas. what areas, i wonder, are those? the taliban lay in smoking ruin. "big deal," say some of you. big deal indeed. there is absolutely nothing more important to the war on terror than putting the fear of God into the third world dictators who give these terrorists warm, flat rocks on which to sun themselves. that is a step. and unlike the cowardly dogs daschle says we need to impound before we win, governments are easy to find. governments are easy to blow up. governments are the weakest link in the terrorist's lifeline. good bye.

and of course these complaints are all political. how do i know that? daschle doesn't have any ideas of his own. bush shouldn't be doing this, bush shouldn't be doing that. bush is screwing us royally. bush is blowing it. bush is setting up the next september 11th...well what should he be doing, mr. daschle? where are your ideas? where are the ideas of any democrat? name one single, solitary positive contribution you've made to the war on terror. one iota of strategy. one helpful suggestion. any fool can sit on the sidelines and criticize. it is the cheapest, easiest, most gutless thing on earth, and it's why, by the way, the democrats recently had their heads handed to them.

"say what you will, locdog, the man has a point. there's no way you can tell me that saddam hussein is a greater threat to us than al qaeda."

fine. let's play what if. what if in the next few weeks there is a major terrorist attack against a domestic target? the democrats will have no mercy this time. "this is all bush's fault," they'll say. "he was too busy worrying about saddam and not paying enough attention to osama. we need to stop wasting time with pointless iraq plans and get back to the war on terror!" and who could disagree with them when it's september 11th all over again? so we forget about hussein and do what exactly? i have no idea what the democrats mean when they say we need to "fight the war on terror" since they've never bothered to tell us, but nevermind the details since they obviously don't. for the sake of our game i'll just assume that they'll want us to send the boys from CSI to northern pakistan to out-fox the wily bin laden. let's say they find him. let's say that a couple months from now, osama is being mailed back to saudi arabia in pine box. then a year passes...or maybe two, or three, or six...and then one day saddam detonates a nuke over tel aviv and the whole world goes to hell. or he gives osama version 2.0 a bottle full of smallpox, or maybe nerve gas, for use in an american shopping mall. then what will they all say? "instead of taking out saddam hussein when bush had the chance, he was wasting his time with that small-time crackpot bin laden!"

locdog doesn't see this as an either/or proposition anyway: we can handle hussein and bin laden at the same time, and if we can't, then we need to seriously re-evaluate our military



so can i sue general motors if i'm the victim of a hit and run?

this is arguably the dumbest story i've read in months. a west palm beach, fla. (where else?) kid steals a gun off of a friend, loads it up, takes it to school, unloads it into his teacher...and "the jury found gun distributor Valor Corporation 5 percent liable" for the killing since they sold a gun that was "unsafe, defective and [that] lacked features that would have prevented a minor from using it."

the gun was unsafe? wait a minute--aren't guns supposed to be unsafe? it's not like this thing blew up in the kid’s hand. had that happened, then i could see suing the gun distributor. nathan brazill, the then 14 year old gunman, would have lost a hand but at least his victim, barry grunow, would still have a head.

and in what sense was the gun "defective"? defective guns jam. they fall apart. they fail to fire. as far as i can tell, this gun worked perfectly. pam grunow, mr. grunow's widow, would likely think so--which makes this lawsuit all the more bizarre.

the gun may have lacked trigger locks or other child safety features, but there isn't any law requiring them in the state of florida. despite the prosecution's implication to the contrary, the gun distributor sold a perfectly legal gun that satisfied all state requirements.

what's sad about this case to me is that if any of the prosecution's charges or implications had been true, mr. grunow would probably be alive today. honestly, though, that isn't what bugs me the most. what bugs the most is that there is a depressingly large, stupid segment of the american public who probably sees nothing wrong with this verdict. they are thrilled on behalf of the widow and the 1.2 million the jury awarded her from the gun distributor. and even if they were smart enough to see that the gun distributor did absolutely nothing wrong, and has no more control over what is done with a legally purchased handgun than a car salesman does over what roads i drive down once i've purchased my vehicle, they probably still wouldn't care. after all, it feels right, doesn't it? gun distributors just have to be evil, don't they? and they've got lots of money--so why not give some to this suffering widow? that isn't justice: it's blind vengeance, and even as far as blind vengeance goes it's very poorly aimed.

"well locdog, that really sucks. but what are you gonna do. say, you said that the gun distributor only paid 5%. who paid the rest?"

funny you should ask.

The jury said Grunow's family should get $24 million from the three parties. The school board was told to pay her $10.8 million, and the family friend was told to pay $12 million.

what was the school board supposed to have done that they didn't do, i wonder. subject the kids to strip searches? bomb-sniffing dogs, perhaps? airport security screeners with wands and x-rays? was the school superintendent supposed to have thrown himself in front of the bullets like a secret service agent? maybe the teacher should have been keeping his own handgun spring-clipped beneath his desk.

and what, exactly, did the "family friend" do wrong? he has to pay more money than anyone--12 million dollars--for being the victim of a theft? it doesn't matter if the gun was in his drawer or not: a fourteen year old kid who commits theft and then murder, and both with premeditation and forethought of malice, is a helluva lot different than a four year old who finds daddy's pistol and accidentally negates the family dog. in case any of you are wondering, locdog's got a twelve gauge within easy reach of the bed and likes it that way. very much.

The jury didn't find any liability for Nathanial Brazill, who pulled the trigger.

i'll let you make up your own rant on that last one. turns out the kid's all ready in jail for the next 28 years, so at least that's something. actually, no, it isn't. if i was emperor of the universe, i'd probably have had settled things this way:

1. the persons who are most responsible for this murder, the parents of mr. nathan brazill, would each do 28 years hard time.
2. little nathan would be required to become a high school teacher. in harlem.
3. for as long as nathan survives his tour of duty, half of his income will go to the widow he created, a quarter to the man he robbed, and the rest will probably be sufficient to cover his NRA dues. let him learn what a gun is for, and how a real man uses one responsibly.

locdog’s figures nathan can sleep in the janitor's closet and subside on school lunches



the republicans are in power: time for tax cuts!

< stock liberal rant >

"you republicans think that tax cuts are the magic pill that will cure any ill. they're the end-all and be-all of your economic and social policy. sluggish airline industry? cut taxes! inner city families in turmoil? cut taxes! want to sustain economic growth? cut taxes! want to end a recession? cut taxes! government too rich? cut taxes! government too poor? cut taxes! starving children in need of healthcare? cut taxes! is there anything that tax cuts can't do? and why is it that the poor and middle class are always left behind?"

< /stock liberal rant >

president bush is considering tax cuts again. i love it. i absolutely love it. i hope bush slashes taxes with a rusty chainsaw. i hope he mutilates the tax code like freddy kruger on an especially bad day. i hope he stabs the vampire sucking the life out of the american people with a wooden stake launched from a nuclear powered jackhammer. and while he's at it, i hope he smart bombs the departments energy, education, and transportation back to the foul, black realm from whence they came...and why stop there? it is my sincere wish that when george w. bush and the republicans are through with this two-year jubilee, the government will be a beaten, bruised, punch-drunk old boxer with two swollen-shut eyes and a missing tooth. if it has enough life left in it to do anything other than run the armed services and the post office, i'll consider this term a failure. do i expect the republicans to fulfill my wishes? of course not, but indications are that there will at least be a few baby steps in the right direction, and this is a lot more than we would get from the democrats.

taxes, when all is said and done, are about control. it has been shown both under JFK and reagan that cutting tax rates increases tax revenue. by freeing capital and encouraging investment, new wealth is created, and the amount of new wealth created to be taxed produces gains which exceed the initial losses from cutting the rates in the first place. it's perfectly logical: if your lemonade stand is running cool at fifty cents a glass, raising the price to seventy-five cents certainly won't heat things up. if you drop your prices to a quarter, the amount of new customers you produce will offset and even surpass what you had given up by lowering prices. so if the democrats were really about "big government", why not cut taxes and increase revenues? because they aren't about big government: they are about big control.

we exercise our freedom in a capitalist economy by exchanging wealth. all the money on earth wouldn't do you a bit of good unless you could exchange it for something else. but whenever you do so, you are taxed. it isn't your wealth itself that's being taken, per se. it's wealth in action that's confiscated. if you are given a sum by your employer as your just wages, that exchange is taxed. we call it income tax, and that is a very good name because "income" implies motion: it is that which is coming in, transitioning from one state to another, that is being taken out again. if you go and buy a car, then the exchange of dollars from your bank account to the dealership is taxed. if you die and leave your belongings to your surviving relatives, then that exchange is taxed--and then some. the government takes nearly half of what you've earned during your life, and they take half again of what you've managed to keep at your death. if you give your money to someone else so that they can turn an idea into a reality, with the hopes of a return which will exceed your initial outlay, then the exchange in which your returns are given to you is taxed. the exchange of wealth is what drives our economy, whether that wealth is exchanged for a person's time as in work, or for goods and services as in a purchase, or as a gift as in inheritance, or in investment, it is the transition that matters, and it is the transition that government crushes.

taxes, you see, take away our power. if the government wants more wealth then lowering taxes to some optimal rate is the way to go, but then it isn't only the government who's getting more wealth. everyone is. and everyone is freer to use that wealth as they choose. if, however, the government wants to limit people's freedom then tax increases are the way to go--and nothing could be more lethal to a capitalist economy. indeed, the whole point of capitalism is that risk brings return, but if people are not at liberty to take risks then our economy is running on empty. we must always remember that it isn't capital that drives our economy so much as it's the freedom to move that capital, and the higher our taxes are the less of that we have.

so why shouldn't the rich get tax cuts? rich people are capital repositories. we need rich people because comparatively poor people like myself have to have access to capital to launch our dreams. we need lenders. we need people who can take chances on crazy schemes because without them, we stagnate and die. implicit in the appeals of class warriors is the notion that the government knows better what to do with a person's money than they do. that isn't true of you or i, and it certainly isn't true of those who are the most successful of us all. somehow people have gotten this idea into their head that the flow of capital surrounding the wealthy is only one way. that they are money magnets who have what they've gotten by taking it from everyone else and never giving any back and that the score needs to be settled. nonsense. they have what they've got because they or their father once had very little, took a chance, made something that everyone else wanted, and improved life for all. that is a good thing. taxes eliminate that incentive and destroy risk. they move us towards a command-based economy where the government has removed all economic freedom from the equation but their own.

finally, what about our bureaucracies? tax cuts, if they increase revenue, would actually help them out. that can't be good. this is why tax cuts must be balanced with spending cuts: bureaucracies must have their lifelines slashed. the economic freedom produced by tax cuts will do little good if we are directly limited by burdensome regulations. in india, for instance, new businesses must face an orwellian nightmare of paperwork and greased palms before getting underway, a process usually taking years. things aren't that bad here, of course, but give the bureaucrats time. and it's not like they can't do plenty of harm right now through congress or executive orders. if a new law requires auto manufacturers to meet stringent emissions standards, the price of compliance with which would, say, increase their costs by fifty percent, guess who ends up paying for it. the auto manufacturers pass the increased cost on to you, making you the immediate loser. but in the end, everyone loses through inflation. regulations which jack up the cost of doing business are inflationary--they have to be. whenever it suddenly costs you more to do the same things, and now employers start paying more to compensate, the dollar is devalued. it just ain't what it used to be. so whether your freedom is removed by limiting your ability to exchange wealth, or by decreasing the value of that wealth so that it's movement has less effect, the government ends up curtailing your power all the same.

locdog considers high taxes as much an affront to his liberty as laws which would revoke his freedom of speech



predestination I

i've been extremely busy lately. finding the time to blog has been has been difficult, but now that i have a moment i'd like to jot down a few introductory thoughts on this topic of predestination. i'm hoping that things will settle down and i'll be able to do a couple more follow-up posts on this topic, but for now i thought it would be worthwhile just to state the basics.

first, what is predestination? it's Christian shorthand for the concept that God "predestines" us to salvation, that is, God decrees that certain people known as "the elect" will receive His Saving Grace at some point within their earthly lives. the manner and the time is up to God, and once God has made up His mind to save someone, they must at some point be saved. believe it or not, all orthodox interpretations of predestination would agree so far.

the controversy arises over the basis of God's decision. does God elect "sovereignly", that is, God elects entirely for His own reasons and the actions or beliefs of the persons He is electing play no role in the decision, or, does God elect on the basis of His "foreknowledge", that is, does He evaluate whether or not a person would have made a free-will choice to accept Christ as their savior, and make His decision on those grounds? the debate is not over whether or not predestination occurs, nor even is it a debate over how it occurs. when all is said and done, the debate is over why predestination occurs. let there be no silliness about how calvinists believe in predestination but arminians don't and this is why they argue. both sides believe in election (which is often used synonymously with predestination) and believe it or not, both sides believe in "sovereignty" and "foreknowledge" as well.

the two main sides in the debate, the calvinists and the arminians, are both perfectly orthodox in their beliefs. both the calvinist "sovereignty" and arminian "foreknowledge" view have enjoyed wide acceptance throughout church history, and, more importantly, both have strong Scriptural backing. reasonable people can and will disagree over this issue but neither camp need descend into heresy. that is important to note. it means that a debate about predestination does not determine which side is truly saved.

secondly, why debate predestination? isn't this one of those unimportant issues like eschatology which serve no other purpose but to cause dissention in the body? unfortunately, this debate has caused a good deal of dissention in the body. john calvin and his early followers were persecuted by genevan protestants who viewed his theology as a threat to their power, and later, when calvin had become the establishment, arminian dissenters were persecuted in turn by calvinists. while i don't know of any persecution of this sort going on today, the predestination debate remains one of the hottest within all of Christendom.

but while this issue may be "unimportant" in the sense that no orthodox believer would think one interpretation or the other to be essential to salvation, let us never think it unworthy of our time. perhaps in no other debate are we so fully confronted with the exact nature of the relationship between God and man, hence where one comes down on the matter says a great deal about how he views God, himself, and the interaction between them. beyond that, the predestination debate draws into itself the very reason for the creation of the universe in the first place--did God ultimately will to show justice and mercy, and hence created humanity, or did God will to create humanity and then chose to show justice or mercy? these are difficult questions ripe for controversy, but sooner or later, any Christian who wishes to have more than a bare-essentials understanding of salvation will have to grapple with them. reading the New Testament, one finds the concept of predestination or mentions of the elect on what seems like every other page, particularly in the epistles. the issue may be a complex one, it may lead to heated debates, it may have served as a pretense for various evils in the past, but nothing which so dominates the landscape of Scripture could truly be called unimportant, and vigorous debate need not lead to disintegration. if an arminian and a calvinist were arguing in a park one day, and a third, unsaved man walked up and joined them, they could both lay aside their differences and offer a unified, coherent version of the gospel harmonizing perfectly between each other.

finally, whose side am i on? no one's yet. i have problems with both positions (there are other views of predestination besides those of calvin and arminius, of course, but these are the two main ones) but i find that i have general agreement with joseph arminius and a general disagreement with john calvin on this matter of predestination. to me, calvin's version reduces God to a cosmic puppeteer--and not a very nice one at that. God forces people to become saved, or He forces them to go to hell without ever offering them the possibility of salvation, condemning them for sins that they couldn't not commit and had no way to pay for. this is to say nothing of what calvinism says for humanity, which isn't very much at all. our freewill becomes an illusion, and though i fully believe that i chose God as much as He chose me, the calvinist would assure me that my choice was a fantasy, a pipe dream, a red herring. that's putting it politely, a more apt description would be that my freewill is a lie. whether it is a lie i tell myself or a lie God tells me i do not know, but consciously i believe i have it, as do most people, and yet i am told that in actuality, i do not.

locdog looks forward to discussing this more in the coming days