Octavo Dia

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Review: Moon-o-theism, Chapter 10

I'm not sure I buy this chapter. The shared design elements notwithstanding, things like the hanging of lamps from archways could be because it's a practical and convenient place to hang a lamp (it lights both sides, after all). I think what I want from this chapter is more outside comparison--I want both x = y and -x = -y. I want to see that the peculiar arrangements are associated only with astral/lunar worship, and not just something they happen to do because it's practical/traditional/aesthetically pleasing.

The explanation of how prostration is a remnant of pagan worship is fascinating. They would use a polished/moistened stone or a pool of water to catch the reflection of deity, and then prostrate themselves over the stone, which would cause the reflection to disappear (presumably to be absorbed by the worshiper). Orthodox Muslims still use the stone today, though it is no longer polished or moistened. Later on, he argues that the prostration is also a symbolic fertility rite. I like the first explanation better.

I also thought the reason that a conviction for rape required four male witnesses was fascinating. Mohammad was tremendously infertile, and so he overlooked his wife Aisha's trysts, that he could claim any son as his own (things were easier in the days before DNA testing, weren't they?). On one of them, however, she "fell off her camel" and was "rescued" by a guy bring up the rear. The three men who discovered them began to provide details that indicated she was not being hastened to her husband, so, since there were three of them, Mohammad decreed that four witnesses were needed. And that ruling has been the bane of Islamic women's existence ever since. (Yoel Natan cites an estimate that 3/4 of women in Pakistani prisons are victims of rape, who, lacking the four witnesses, were in turn accused of adultery and imprisoned.)

This chapter did make me think about the comparison between Jesus and Mohammad. The worst thing anyone could seriously claim about Jesus character, (and even then, the Gnostics wrote it a hundred years after all the witnesses were dead), was that he was ::gasp:: married. By contrast, Mohammad's professional career appears to have been one long atrocity, from genocide, to adultery, to pedophilia, to torture, to rape, and all of these freely attested to by his contemporaries--both his disciples and his detractors.

On to chapter eleven.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: The Struggle for Tennessee

Street Jr., James. The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River. The Civil War. Alexandria, VA; Time-Life, Inc., 1985.

After reading several books about the Eastern Theater, switching to the West was quite the paradigm change. This part reminded me of nothing so much as World War I. In World War I, there was too much army and not enough front in the West, and too much front and not enough army in the East. As such it was stalemated in one and uncontrollably fluid in the other.

I didn't realize how far south the Union armies operated in this theater early in the war. The Union army marched North from Alabama to defend Tennessee.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Wish They Were Radicals

In the maelstrom surrounding the Cordoba mosque, the advocates of tolerance never tire of the refrain that "these are moderate Muslims."

I wish they were radicals.

If they were radicals, we could ascribe their passive-aggressive architecture to their ideology, and still have hope of appealing to Islam's silent majority. Now the moderates have fallen into line behind the radicals. With who shall we treat? Is middle ground only to be found with the vanishingly small minority of liberal Muslims? How long until they too are swept up in the radical's wake?

Another hope has disappeared.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Book Review: When God Doesn't Make Sense

Dobson, James R. When God Doesn't Make Sense. Wheaton, IL; Tyndale House Publishers, 1993.

A particularly good bit:

"Many scientific textbooks for 75 years ago seem like joke books today. ... Could it be that we are living today in the first period in human history when nearly everything we have concluded is accurate?"

Quite so.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book Review: God's Psychiatry & ...But God Can

Allen, Charles L. God's Psychiatry. Ozment, Robert V. ...But God Can. Guideposts 2-in-1 selection. Carmel, NY; Guideposts Associates, Inc., 1953.

My normal fare is rather heavy--history, politics, economics, etc.--so it was amazing how good a mood reading these books put me in. It's hard to read Scripture and not have a sense of peace fall on you. I was struck, however, by how much more difficult writing a book must have been in the days before the internet. If I remember a saying, and don't remember where I read it, in a few seconds I can have the answer. These men had to remember, or laboriously look up everything in their books. I don't think I could do it.

...But God Can is filled with all sorts of sayings and platitudes. One that struck me was something a little girl said when reciting the 23rd Psalm. "The Lord's my shepherd. That's all I want." Even if you had a perfect translation, you should still read the Bible in other versions. I've been through the Bible nine times in my life, and it's so easy to just skim over the verses without really dwelling on them. The changes in wording make you slow down and think about what you read.

Anyway, they were nice little books, and I'm better for having read them.


Book Review: Gettysburg

Clark, Champ. Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide. The Civil War. Alexandria, VA; Time-Life, Inc., 1985.

It's always hard to avoid hagiography when writing about General Lee, but this book did introduce a theory to me about his failure at Gettysburg. Lee apparently suffered from heart disease, which would eventually kill him, and in a letter to Jefferson Davis just prior to the battle, he noted that he had not fully recovered from the "episode" he had suffered three weeks prior.

Supporting this theory are the comments by his generals before, during, and after the battle, that Lee seemed to be ailing and was definitely out of sorts. Who knows what would have happened had he been on his game.

I also learned that as of Gettysburg (and I don't know how long after that), the Army of Northern Virginia had never lost a defensive battle.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Review: Moon-o-theism, Chapter 9

I don't really have much to say about this chapter. Mohammad used some of the fertility practices of the pagan religions, but rejected the gods and goddesses associated with them. That may have been a bowing to the culture at the time, and not really incorporated into the body of Islam. I guess I'm not altogether clear on the point of this chapter, and how it fits with the book as a whole, or if the argument just needs to be strengthened and clarified.

I did think the market in second-hand gods was interesting. As pagans converted, their idols were sold off to the remaining pagans, which rapidly created a glut in the market. That had to have been weird, if they stopped to think about it: "Hey! I bought a god cheap from the thrift store!" Idols were the paneling of the time.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review: Twenty Million Yankees

Jackson, Donald Dale. Twenty Million Yankees: The Northern Home Front. The Civil War. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life, Inc., 1985.

My comment of the volume is: "Holy cow! Our standards of police brutality sure have fallen over the years!" The used artillery, including canister shot, against draft protesters in New York City. Now people protest when they Taze someone.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review: Rebels Resurgent

Goolrick, William K. Rebels Resurgent: Fredricksburg to Chancellorsville. The Civil War. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Inc., 1985.

I don't really have much to say about this one (these are, after all, the non-fiction equivalent of pop-fiction). It still boggles the mind, however, the sheer number of dead in these battles.


Friday, August 13, 2010

How to Reform Immigration

Here's my plan, and it doesn't involve amnesty or increased spending on border controls. Border controls are a classic pie crust defense, and they don't work.

1. Legalize marijuana. Not because I'm a pothead. Because the pathways that illegals follow are blazed by smugglers. Shutting down the drug lord's smuggling routes would automatically make enforcement of other border problems easier.

2. Increase the gas tax. Transport into and through the United States is a major expenditure (which is while they ride fifteen to a van). Raising the cost of transport--besides being a good step towards dealing with our trade deficit--would decrease the mobility of illegal immigrants.

3. Swap legals for illegals. Every time you deport a few illegals, let another legal immigrant in to take their place. That will protect our economy from a labor shortage and reduce the number of jobs available to illegals.

4. Change our tax code. Our current tax system is easy to avoid by the undocumented. A national sales tax, VAT, Fair Tax, or the equivalent, would spread the tax burden to all people in the country, legal or not, and thus reduce the capacity of illegals to undercut legal workers.

5. Change our citizenship law. This is by far the least likely. Interpret the Fourteenth Amendment's clause "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" to exclude those who have opted out of U.S. law by entering illegally. Becoming a de facto (and eventually de jure) permanent resident by having a child in the United States would no longer be possible.

And that's how you do it.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

My Letter to the Editor which Won't Get Published

I have been lured, once again, to send a letter to the editor of the WELS Forward in Christ magazine (dead tree, so no link), and it will doubtless remain unpublished.

In the August issue, Dr. Eggert argued that, "The existence of God renders even the best scientific model only as reliable as God wants it to be."

While true, his phrasing is unfortunate, and I would caution against using this argument because it needlessly invites mockery. The phrasing is similar to that used by the anti-Christian parody "The Flying Spaghetti Monster"--who "is there changing the results [of scientific research] with His Noodly Appendage". This may be one application of Proverbs 26:4 "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself."

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Your word of the day is "Dirigisme"

Free enterprise does everything better.

Uh huh. And if you bake bread with bread flour, it will always be better than all-purpose flour, even if you forget the yeast.

The key to successful private enterprise, as Hernando De Soto demonstrated, is clearly defined property rights. What we are discovering is that, as the ability of government to clearly delineate property rights increases, the scope of private industry correspondingly increases.

An emphasis on the ability of private industry to accomplish public objectives is short-sighted. In the worst (and unfortunately most typical) case, privatization creates an unaccountable private company, shielded by a undiminished layer of bureaucracy providing "oversight" and "accountability."

Before focusing things on privatization, focus on property rights. Create a new field for private industry. Once you've got companies champing at the bit, turn them loose.