Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Wake Up Call for Second Amendment Activists

This post is a wake up call for the second amendment activists in the state of New Jersey. You are doing it wrong. All your indignation at your rights being denied. Nobody cares. All your examples of successful self defense in other states - after all, if there were no guns, both criminal and victim would be fine.

All your rants about corrupt government not listening to "the voice of the people." You have it all wrong.

I discovered that when I visited my mother and was glancing through the local newsletter of her senior community. I came across this:

Think about it. This group, not associated with guns in any way, manages to get 387 signatures on a petition to expand background checks, ban assault weapons, and limit magazines. How many signatures can you get to fix background checks, remove the assault weapons ban and allow standard capacity magazines? How many people don't even want to talk to you because you are "those gun people?"

Your liberal representatives aren't ignoring "the voice of the people" - they are listening. When you have the same 50 names over and over protesting each new gun law, there are thousands coming in to preserve or tighten NJ gun laws. You can show up at hearings all you want, but nobody cares when there are piles of people happy with the laws they are enacting.

You've lost every legislative battle head to head. You fizzled out on the Sweeney campaign. You are getting nowhere with the public on right to carry. Maybe it's time to look at what works instead of beating your head against the same wall. Here's a modest proposal.

1) No gun groups - you have no credibility trying to get Joe and Jane NJ to sign any petition that says NRA, NJ2AS, NJ2AR, ANJRPC, You-name-it-RPC, CNJFO or anything associated with "gun". Stick with things like "Citizens for a safer New Jersey" or the mysterious "Justifiable Need."

2) No guns - almost everyone knows at least one person who should not have access to a firearm. Most people know someone who has committed or attempted suicide. Suggesting that we need more guns or more access to guns or better guns, etc. does not work for these people.

3) No violence - don't make the issue "my rights" or even "self defense." Make the issue "justice" and "safety - things people can all agree they want.

4) Lie - look at the notice above. "This survey was conducted because of the markedly increased gun violence occurring in the United States." That's a bald-faced lie, with gun violence at an all time low in the United States. And yet, it was what people wanted to hear, and what they believe. Pick something that's subjective, and not easily quantifiable or verifiable and run with it.

5) Get sympathy. The only gun issues that the public has supported you on were the case of Shaneen Allen and Brian Fletcher. Why? Not because they cared about them having gun rights, but because they were "unjustly" imprisoned. Nobody wants to see children go without a parent, even if they don't like that the parent had a gun. And in each case, it seemed that the gun was needed (Allen because she had been mugged, Fletcher because he worked nights in dangerous neighborhoods).

So here's my modest proposal. If you want an issue that will actually get you traction (and signatures), how about presenting all the cases of people "wrongly persecuted" for guns, like Allen, Fletcher, Brian Aitken, Gordon Van Gilder, etc. and using them (and the thousands of cases like theirs) to push for a bill to add the words "for the commission of a violent crime" to every New Jersey gun restriction.

Think about it - nobody wants to see good people in jail for no good reason. Nobody wants to spend millions in taxpayer money arresting, prosecuting, and housing and feeding these people. Nobody want to see families and careers destroyed when no crime was ever intended or committed. Furthermore, not even the leftiest leftie can claim that this weakens laws to prosecute criminals in the slightest.

So find a legislator who will introduce the bill if you get support. Then get the support. Go hit the streets, run media campaigns, do all the things you need to do to get the signatures. This is actually something that will succeed because it is 100% non-controversial.

Or you can sit on your butts and whine about how you want to leave New Jersey because you can't have any rights. Up to you.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando Blame

First off, please join me in prayer for the victims, and the perpetrator...
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord. Let Your perpetual light shine upon them.
May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
...and for all those who reject God's love, that they may find Him
Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful Savior of the world, we humbly beseech You, by Your most Sacred Heart, that all the sheep who stray out of Your fold may in one days be converted to You, the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, who lives and reigns with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end.
...and for those affected by this tragedy
Heavenly father, we come before you today in need of hope.
Hope for a better future, hope for a better life, hope for love and kindness.
We need your light, Lord, in every way. To bask in your glory.
To know that all is right in the world, as you have planned, and as you want it to be.
Help us to walk in your light, and live our lives in faith and glory.
In your name we pray,
Now onto the subject at hand, the blame game. Liberals were quick to blame the NRA for what happened. However, it's hard to see that the NRA had anything to do with it. The NRA actually worked hard to give this country a background check process for gun purchases. That this failed in this case is not their fault. The murderer not only passed FBI background checks for buying a firearm, but passed background checks to work for a DHS contractor. You can say the system failed, but truly there is no way for a background check to predict who will do something if they haven't done anything in their past.

The ACLU is blaming Christians, but it's hard to see that Christians had anything to do with it. No Christian group has called for violence against gays, not even the Westboro Baptist Church. The only religious group that calls for violence against gays is Islam. So I guess in a way you could blame religion, but you can't blame Christians.

In my view, one hundred percent of the blame belongs to the murderer. Yes, you can also blame the Islamic fundamental ideology that encouraged him, but that ideology has not moved me to violence against gays, nor will it ever. The murderer chose to follow it.

So, was there anything that could be done to stop it from happening? The FBI says they couldn't have done anything differently, and I agree. The system did what it was supposed to do - it is foolish to believe that any such system will stop every act of violence unless we take away all human rights and live in a police state (oh wait, that's been done and it didn't work then).

The nightclub, on the other hand, could have done something differently, which would have stopped, or at least minimized, the violence. Florida is a "gun friendly" state, yet nobody in the nightclub fought back. Why? Because the nightclub was a "no guns" zone. I am not against a private business having a "no guns" policy, and in a place where alcohol is served and people are likely to be in conflict it might be a good policy to have.

However, if you are going to deny people their natural right to protect themselves, it is really your responsibility to provide protection for them. If the club had armed guards on the premises (presumably in plain clothes) the body count might have been much smaller (or maybe zero, if the murderer knew he would meet armed resistance and didn't carry out his plan at all).

If you are a business owner with a "no guns" policy, you should consider your moral (and perhaps legal) responsibility to protect the people in your establishment.

[N.B. The state of Florida does allow guns in an establishment which serves alcohol, just not in the bar area proper. So the gun ban was the business owner's decision.]

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Gun Buybacks

The other day at work I looked out the window to see a bus (not the one pictured) parked in the middle of the park across the street. It sat there all day. It turned out to be a police bus, running a gun buyback program.

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, the idea is to "get guns off the streets" by buying them and destroying them. The implementation, however, is a ludicrous waste of taxpayer dollars. First off, the taxpayer pays an average of $135 per weapon. Secondly, there is the cost of paying a bus full of police to sit around all day, every day. The gun buyback programs (at least around here) involve a police bus sitting for a month, in different locations.

Let's go over some of the problems.

Private property is taken without fair market compensation to the owner. If the gun is legally owned, the owner could have sold it to a federally licensed firearm dealer, usually for far more money than the police pay. For instance, the police will pay $150 for a revolver, which might bring $300-$1000 or more at a dealer.

The gun buyback programs con the public. They do not tell the gun owners that they can dispose of unwanted guns in legal ways that would make them more money. They do not tell them that if they have a gun that needs to be secured, they can do so for free through the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Child Safe program.

Gun buyback programs are an excellent way for criminals to have the police dispose of evidence for them. By bringing a crime gun to a gun buyback program, the criminal is immune from prosecution, and the police legally cannot use the weapon as evidence. What a win for criminals!

Gun buybacks are illegal in many states (including New Jersey), yet the state not only fails to prosecute, but encourages them.

They encourage other crimes. For instance, one news story includes a woman who brought in her ex husband's firearms because she didn't want him to have guns. So we have a man whose legally owned property was stolen with approval and assistance form police (I'm fairly sure he didn't even receive the money the ex wife received from the police).

The guns destroyed are often family heirlooms, of personal or historic value.

They are ineffective at reducing violent crime. Let's face it, if you're someone who's interested in using a gun criminally, why would you turn it in (unless you already used it and want the evidence gone). Instead the guns turned in are ones which would never be used in a crime anyway (which, truth be told, is the mast majority of guns anyway).

Opposite Privacy

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Canons go Boom

Courtesy cbcs
I recently had a friend challenge me on the canonicity of the so called "apocrypha" - what Catholics call the deuterocanonical books. These are the seven books of the Bible which Protestants reject as being part of Scripture, but Catholics accept. The challenge gave me the opportunity to examine the matter in way more detail than I had before. It was a real eye-opener, and I thought I would share what I learned.

I was hit with 31 reasons why the apocrypha are not Scripture, and found problems with all 31 reasons. I will not go into each on in detail (you're welcome) but there are some general principles. First off, the whole issue of canonicity brings up the whole question of authority (since all differences between Catholics and Protestants is ultimately a matter of authority). Science fiction author John C Wright has written a few articles on this that are far better than anything I could write. A couple of quotes (with links to the articles):

" cannot argue that the books of the Bible are canonical and argue at the same time that neither the Church nor any one has the authority to canonize them." - John C Wright

"The redacted sections of the written message provide a logically insurmountable paradox for the Protestant messengers. If their sole authority for the authenticity of their message is the written part of the message, then they have no authority to redact or remove parts of the message on any grounds. The cannot throw away the Book of the Maccabeus or Tobit or the Letters of James or anything else because they claim that neither they nor anyone has the authority to define the cannon." - John C Wright

Now, onto the 31 reasons... I was able to fold all 31 down to five different reasons. You get 31 reasons by repeating the same thing from a slightly different angle or by claiming each church father as a separate authority. Here are my five reasons. If you can think of something that is claimed by Protestants that is not in these five categories, please let me know - I'd by happy to add a sixth.

1. The Catholic Church rejected the books, then changed the canon in the 1500s. This is simply not true, as you can find the documents of the earlier councils in the 300s which list the same canon (for instance

2. The Jews rejected the books - although they did not until at least 100 AD, which means they were accepted during Jesus' life time (yes, there were certain sects that rejected various sets of books, but of course that is true all throughout history). Additionally the Jews rejected the books of the New Testament, so if we are to accept the Jews as authorities for the canon we have to discard the entire New Testament. I've heard the counter argument that the Jews have authority over the books that don't include Jesus, but claim is ridiculous on the face of it as all of Scripture is about Jesus, as there is one God.

3. The Church Fathers rejected the books - but of the dozens of Church Fathers, there are only a tiny minority that didn't, and it is unclear if they themselves didn't accept them or they were saying that others didn't accept them. For instance, St. Jerome wrote that "I wasn't relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us." (

4. Jesus and the Apostles rejected the books - but they didn't. In fact Jesus refers to Maccabees as being a Messianic prophetic book (John 10:22-36). He also paraphrases Sirach in Mathew 7:17-20. There are other examples, but these are sufficient to dispute the claim. Nowhere do Jesus and the Apostles define or refute any canon of Scripture.

5. The books are "different" in some way (either in historical errors, discrepancies, doctrine, genre, etc.) and therefore should be rejected - but each of these arguments are arguments against many of the books of the Old Testament (and New Testament). These books are no "different" than any other book in the Bible is from any other. I won't go into specifics, as there are literally dozens of things that can be brought up, but suffice it to say that every difference you can point out in a deuterocanonical book can be found in a non-disputed book in the canon.

Should we reject all the books that are "different" in some way from some other book? In addition, there are many non-canonical books that are "similar" to canonical books - should we add them? Who decides what is "similar enough" to warrant inclusion? Again we have that issue of authority

Ultimately the historical fact is that the Pharisees removed those books, along with the entire New Testament, after Jesus' death, in order to suppress Christianity. Christians accepted those books, with few exceptions. The Christians held several councils to resolve the matter and the issue of the canon was settled in the 300s All Christians accepted them as canonical for 1200 years until Martin Luther unilaterally changed the canon. His authority was not enough to remove all the books he wanted removed (such as James, Jude, Hebrews and Revelation) but citing the Jews as authoritative he was able to make those 7 "stick."

Luther made no bones about why he wanted to change the canon - it didn't fit his theology. In fact, in the Old Testament he also wanted to jettison the Pentateuch, Job, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Jonah (he couldn't find an excuse to do so, but his commentary on these books says that he didn't consider them to be canonical). He even added the word "alone" to Romans 3:28 to make it say "For we hold that a man is justified by faith alone apart from works of law." in order to make it support his theology.

So, it seems that the real reason for dropping the apocrypha from the canon of Scripture was to change God's word to fit Luthers' word, and that is just plain wrong.

Friday, May 13, 2016

On Libertarians and Religion

The following are thoughts based on a discussion with a friend who quite suddenly changed his viewpoint from self-described "conservative" to self-described "libertarian."

The proximate cause for this post is the graphic on the right, which was posted by this and several other of my friends, and which I have seen posted numerous times by other self-proclaimed Libertarians, atheists, and people of other politically correct (aka non-Christian) faiths.

In case you can't see the graphic, is says (with a background image of galaxy M31, as if that is pertinent):

Perfectly acceptable. That is religious freedom and I will fight for you to have that right until the day I die.


Those are fighting words. That is persecution through religion, and I will speak out against it and fight it until the day I die.

So let's take a little detour and talk about basics. First, a couple of basics:


The Cambridge English Dictionary online says:
law noun:    a rule, usually made by a government, that is used to order the way in which a society behaves
Now let's look at morality:
morality noun: a set of personal or social standards for good or bad behaviour and character
Thus, a law is a government imposing morality on the governed. This is always true (by definition). Every law is the imposition of morality on another. So all laws are "You can't do that, it's against my beliefs" whether those beliefs be part of a recognized religion or not.


In other words, every "shall not" can be expressed as a "shall." For instance "You shall not kill" is "You shall respect life." Conversely "You shall give people the choice of which bathroom to use" is "you shall not keep men out of the ladies' room."

Just on the face of those two facts you can see how inane the above graphic is. But the graphic, and those like it, remain popular. Why? Because of an unconscious persecution of religion (how's that for irony).

Let's add another basic to the two above:


Let's face it, if nobody wanted to steal there would not have to be a law against it. It is only to change someone's behavior against his will that we have laws. Therefore all laws must be imposed by force.


This follows from the previous truth. If a superior power didn't like a law, it could not be imposed on that power. Conversely, if the superior power wanted to impose its rule, it simply would. Therefore it is superior power that has the ability to make law.

Throughout most of human history that power was assumed to be God. Certainly there is no higher power, and therefore, nobody more appropriate to define morality. Only recently, when God was declared dead, do we have people asserting something else as the definer of morality (aka law). Of that there are two choices:
  • They who have guns. (aka statism)
  • Everyone or no one. (aka anarchism)
It's easy to show why each of these is self defeating. Statism has lead to the death (by government) of over 100 million people in the last century (which makes modern day socialist all the more of an enigma).

No one (anarchism) is not really a serious thing. Every anarchist wants at least his own right to life to be respected by others.

Which brings us to Libertarians. Libertarians believe in "maximum liberty for individuals." That sounds great, and it is. In fact, it is the basis for all laws in all societies at all times. The question is "who decides what maximizes liberty?" That's where morality comes in, without which libertarianism is useless, and with which libertarianism is not neeeded.

Is the rapist's liberty to control his own body more important than his victim's right to control her own body? There, the libertarians have an answer to that in the form of "personal sovereignty." By that, each person is a little kingdom, and we only have to look at which kingdom is invading the other kingdom's space.

And like all errors, it is very close to the truth. They espouse a general principle that sounds good, but fails in some cases. The libertarian will say "but I am right in this case, and you are wrong." But of course they are then asserting an outside arbiter of morality, which contradicts individual liberty right there.

For that matter, what makes libertarianism itself "right?" Why should personal liberty be a defining principle? They will say it is innate to man - it is his natural state. However, that's cultural bias, as throughout history very few people would have agreed with them. And libertarianism running its natural course produces The French Revolution (TM) - with all that that entails - essentially the same end as statism, but with a different state dong the killing. As French Revolutionary Loius Saint-Just said "No liberty for the enemies of liberty!"

So let's look at some cases where libertarians have no answer, or flat out get it wrong:

Abortion: The Libertarian party says that abortion should be decided by the states, not the federal government. First off, it's a cop out. Either the unborn baby is a human being, and by the laws of libertarianism should have its "personal sovereignty" weighed against that of the mother, or the unborn baby is not a human being, and the mother's "personal sovereignty" is unchallenged.

If the former (the baby is human) then it is federal law that should defend its life (both the Declaration of Independence and the 14th amendment say that everyone is entitled to the right to life, and that nobody should be deprived of life without due process). So the states should legitimately defer to U.S. law in this case.

If the latter is true (the baby is not human) then again, clearly the Declaration of Independence and the 14th Amendment affirm the right to liberty which should not be denied without due process. So right away, the party violates its own principles.

But who decides whether the baby is a human being? Libertarians can go either way on the subject because of their personal beliefs. Se we see that even if you accept libertarian principles prima facie you run into the issue of needed an additional moral authority.

Let's take another case - "same sex marriage." Again libertarians are at odds. While most of them would say "the state should stay out of the marriage business" many will also affirm the "rights" of people to receive service, even when it means forcing another to do something that is against their religion. The problem is that marriage is not an individual right, it is a state recognized by force of law. Again, we have the problem of needing an external authority as arbiter of principle. You can't have your cake and not bake it too.

Another case, suicide/drugs/alcohol. Most libertarians say "let 'em kill themselves!" and save us all the problem of having to deal with them. It's their personal sovereignty after all. But again, the problem is that we are not all little kingdoms - we are little villages. Anybody who has had to deal with friends or family who have committed suicide knows that suicide is not a victim-less crime. Likewise anyone who has had a friend or family member addicted to drugs or alcohol knows those are not victim-less either. Does one's liberty depend on their relationship to others (as the libertarian would, in fact if not in word, rule), or all all men equal in dignity (as the Christians would have it)?

Consider the case of divorce. Libertarians would almost universally accept no fault divorce, since the parties involved can choose to associate how ever they want. Yet, is that justice to children to have adults "do whatever they want?" What about their rights?

I could go on with case after case where libertarianism gets it wrong, but there are a few of the more obvious ones. Again, that's not to say that libertarians are always wrong - on the contrary, they are most often right, which is what makes these cases all the more dangerous, because people think that because they are right in most cases, they must be right in all.

Which brings up the question - were the founding fathers libertarians? I think not, or the American Revolution would have gone like the French Revolution. Certainly they held the principles of liberty high, but if you read the founding documents, liberty is always second, after life, and both of these are acknowledged to ultimately be derived from God, and therefore subject to His law.

As Robert Cardinal Sarah says: "Without a Christian reference, in ignorance of God, a democracy becomes a sort of oligarchy, an elitist inegalitarian regime. As always, the eclipse of what is divine means the debasement of what is human."

Friday, April 29, 2016

What Would Socrates Do?

I've been thinking, as I'm sure most of you have, about the coming presidential election. As you are probably aware, I've been backing Ted Cruz since day one. He is the only candidate with an actual record of standing on the principles of the Constitution (unlike Hillary Clinton who actually stands on the Constitution - couldn't resist a little dig - Hillary does respect the fifth amendment, at least).

So at this point in the race it looks like the election will be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Clinton has so far received 55% of the Democratic vote, and Trump has gotten 41% of the Republican vote (so much for the "will of the people"). If these things do not change, and given recent polls, and recent election history, I'm calling Hillary Clinton our next president by a landslide.

For her part, Clinton has already started maneuvering her positions to take away as much of Sanders' power at the convention. And Trump long ago ceased caring about his constituency or positions (which is why his base has been eroding, or as he would say, which is why he's being cheated out of what's rightfully his).

But that's not what this post is about. What I'd like to address is, if you are a Cruz or a Sanders supporter, what do you do when faced with a Clinton/Trump ballot? Quite a number of my friends subscribe to the "you must vote with me or "X" will win (where "X" is a candidate they know I don't like). However, this to me is political blackmail - it is using a negative consequence ("X" will win) to try to make me do something I don't want to do (vote with them). It is a fact that if you will always vote for someone you don't like over someone you do like, then you will always get a candidate you don't like, and will never get one you do like.

So let's talk about some of the principles involved. I am not trying to convince you to vote one way or the other, I am telling you why I will vote the way I will, and why I don't want to listen to the same old arguments of people trying to influence me to vote for their candidate, for whom I do not want to vote.

1. Vote for the lesser of two evils. This is based on two fallacies. First, that there are only two choices, and second, that choosing an evil is good.

In voting for president there are more than two choices. At this point someone will no doubt chime in with "Oh, but Mike everyone knows that only one of the two big parties will win." That's only true if everyone follows the "vote to keep 'X' out of office" strategy. There is nothing preventing large numbers of people from voting for a third party, or even writing in the candidate they like. So, faced with a myriad of choices, why should I vote for evil, even if it is less than another evil choice?

2. Don't vote like Onan. If you recall, in Genesis 38, Onan neglects his duty to produce a child for his sister-in-law by spilling his semen on the ground. I've heard the term used to describe voting for a candidate who has no chance of winning (aka is not one of the big two parties).

The fallacy here is that your vote matters more if it is for one of the two parties than if it is for someone else. In reality, your vote counts as... ready for this? One vote, regardless of who you vote for. When you look at it from a mathematical perspective it is one vote. From a philosophical perspective we could say that only one vote actually counts - the one that puts the winning candidate in the lead. But I think that's a pretty negative view, and doesn't do justice to the democratic system of elections. If my vote counts for little it's because there are so many other votes, not because it doesn't count.

3. Don't let perfect be the enemy of "good enough." The problem is, who defines "good enough?" There is a problem in ethics called "The Trolley Problem". It goes like this. There is a trolley going down the tracks. five people are on the track ahead and will be killed. If you pull a lever, the trolley will be diverted to a different track on which there is one person, who will be killed. Do you pull the lever? Don't be too hasty to pull it - with minor changes to the description of the scenario you will say "no."

Socrates said "it is better to suffer evil than to do evil." Likewise, the "correct" answer depends on whether the pulling of the lever is cooperating in evil (explore the variations on the problem if you think the answer is obvious). The principle on which the lever can be pulled (or not pulled) is called "double effect" and I find t interesting. You can read more about it here.

You may say "well, neither candidate is going to kill people" but that's not true. Abortion kills a million Americans a year. A(nother) war could kill millions. Foreign policy and/or immigration policy could allow thousands to die from terrorist attacks. The things many people think will kill people (elimination of entitlements or an environmental policy) are unlikely to have much of an effect, but it's something to think about. So it is literally a matter of life and death. Don't think I don't take that aspect seriously.

But if I say "candidate A will get us into a war and not really change anything else" and conversely "candidate B will get us into a war and make things worse" why should I participate in electing either of them? It's the trolley problem, with a third option. I could yell "stop" and hope the trolley stops. The odds are as small as my voice (e.g. my vote), but at least I will not have contributed directly to the deaths of millions.

4. It's fine for you because you have the luxury of not having your vote matter. Yes, I live in NJ, which is a heavily "blue" state. No matter how I vote (one might be cynical and say no matter how everyone votes) my state will throw it's measly 14 electoral votes behind Hillary Clinton (I also think "winner takes all" policies are the worst abuse of power in the political system).

So, does this mean that my vote counts for less, and therefore I can throw it behind whomever I choose? I don't see it that way. As I said above, my vote counts for one vote, no more no less. I take voting just as seriously as if I were the only one voting, which is precisely why I will not vote for someone whom I do not like.

Conclusion? Let's see who actually gets on the ballot and we'll see. If it's Trump/Clinton you can bet I'll be researching third party candidates. Worst comes to worse I can write in a name. Laugh all you want, I will do what I feel is right, as long as I have a country that let's me vote I will vote my way. I recommend you consider carefully who you will vote for, and why...

Now, here's a shiny video of why our voting system sucks:

and some alternatives to think about (I am not endorsing these candidates, just mentioning them)