Friday, March 14, 2014

Popes of Christian Unity

There's a video that's been making the rounds; I came across it via the Anchoress.

Fr. Z has been calling Papa Ben "the Pope of Christian Unity" for many years, because of his initiatives to bring back into the Church every Orthodox, Anglican, and SSPX member, both lay and clergy. I have been tremendously excited by it all. As these people return, they will help make all things liturgical new, something the Church desperately needs, and I ask God that those initiatives continue and bear much fruit.

But this video demonstrates that Papa Francis, too, is a Pope of Christian Unity. And though it is not my intention to disparage any of the more mainline Protestant denominations, I think that Papa Francis is reaching out through the Charismatic Catholic Renewal (and between Rev. Know-It-All (who wrote a 15 part series on it) and Oswald Sobrino, I'm convinced the CCR is God's work) to invite back into the Church the most dynamic and energetic of our separated bretheren. This is really exciting to me. While I have no doubt that we need a renewal of the liturgy, we also need a renewal of evangelical zeal. After all, "both/and" is the typical Catholic way to go /|;^)

One final thing. The only people who would deny that great evil has been abroad in the world for many years -- since Pope Leo XIII penned his famous Prayer to St. Michael in 1886 -- are fools and collaborators. But where evil abounds, grace does also. God is sending us the grace we need, particularly through our popes. Be not afraid. Or if you prefer, "Pray, hope, and don't worry."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blogrollin' 112

If, for some bizarre reason, you prefer my writing to that of David Warren, what's wrong with you?

His latest essay, Breeding Instructions, describes with empathy and beauty the joy found in a large family united in their struggle against poverty. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

It also describes (and refutes) a few of the lies population planners tell themselves about large families in desperately poor times and places. These lies are embedded deep within their worldview, and implicit in their expectation that poor people must join the rich in not having children. Why do they tell (and believe) these lies? Do they hate the poor? Or perhaps they suffer from acedia (on which both Max Lindeman and Darwin have recently written)? Or perhaps I fret too much; surely their hatred and self-deception arise from the mystery of evil.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Science! versus God

Science, history, and logic (of which math is a subset — logic applied to numbers) are all tools for discovering truth. They complement each other. The scientific method depends on logic and often also on math, both of which precede it, and neither of which it can prove. Using the scientific method to prove logic or math is is to pretend that a structure supports its foundation, rather than the other way around.

There is not one scientific (or historical) theory which cannot be disproven with sufficient contradictory evidence. In fact, disprovability is one of the prerequisites of a scientific theory or hypothesis. Contradictory evidence has proven huge heaps of scientific theories wrong. I fully expect many more to be proven wrong in the future. Current scientific theory is always only our best understanding of the natural universe, based on the logical examination of the evidence we’ve collected. The same cannot be said of logic or math.

Science cannot prove history. It can only support historical evidence, by demonstrating that it has the properties of an artifact of a given time, or impeach it, by demonstrating that it does not. The primary forms of historical evidence are and will always be documents and testimony. The methods used to measure the reliability of conflicting testimonies and documents are not, strictly speaking, scientific.

I have no problem with the idea that science can’t explain &/or prove everything. In fact, I have no problem with science depending on unproven axioms, e.g., the law of non-contradiction. The scientific method is meant to discern the laws governing the physical, natural universe. It was originally an outgrowth of theology. The thinking was, “We have a reasonable and logical god. The universe is the work of his mind, and so it, too, should be reasonable and logical. By exploring how it functions, we can hope to better understand the mind which created it.”

Then Roger Bacon came along and declared that if science couldn’t make us immortal, it was worthless. He is the one who changed science from a field of pure inquiry into one where you looked for things you could engineer into wealth and power.

I don’t believe in a god of the gaps. I believe in one God who is three persons, one of which became an entirely human man and entered the world he’d created as such while retaining his full divinity, and then submitted to death at our hands, to pay for our crimes against him which separated us from him, so that we could experience, share, and return his love for eternity. I believe in a God that is Love and Truth and Beauty, whose essence, powers, abilities, methods, and means are beyond the ability of limited human minds to ever fully imagine, let alone understand.

Scientific inquiry will never affect the doctrines or dogmas of the Catholic Church. The scientific method is as useful in theological inquiries as a freight scale is in measuring distance. If you want logical evidence for the existence of God, I refer you to St. Thomas Aquinas and his Summa Theologica. If you're looking for historical proof, I refer you to C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. If you want personal, experiential proof, do as atheist John C. Wright did. But don't ask for scientific proof. Science is as useful in exploring the existence of God as a Harley Davidson is in exploring the Marianas Trench.

Science is only a tool, created by men and like all our creations, prone to failure. It is not a god. Do not let it become one for you.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Citizen vs. Subject



One of the reasons that gun controllers tend to wind up on the left is that they think that the masses should be subjects. They won't say it that way, but time and again, you'll see on the left an attitude that most problems should be handled by way of people ceding control to the government.

For example, when ordinary people can go to anyone they want for medical services, they can choose quacks or other incompetents. Thus, to protect people from quacks, the government should forbid anyone from practicing medicine until they get a license (permission) from the government.

The same principle may also apply to child care, electricians, taxi drivers, barbers, hairdressers, lawyers, plumbers, or any of as many as a hundred or more professions. Or it may be a matter of prior restraint because of the potential for endangering the public, as for truck drivers, pilots, and so forth.

And if somebody has any sort of trouble meeting basic needs, then it is incumbent upon the government to allocate resources to them. Examples include public housing, Women, Infants, and Children, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, and public schools, which have the additional benefit -- cited by the likes of John Dewey and John D. Rockefeller -- of giving the government the opportunity to mold young people like plastic.

This also applies to owning and carrying guns. The basic Leftist attitude towards gun ownership is that when ordinary people own guns, that causes problems, so they shouldn't.

Thomas Sowell would put it a bit differently, as far as the internal thinking on the Left tends to go. In his estimation, the left would tend to think that if they were in control, they could make everyone else into the sort of good people they know themselves to be. All they need to transform human nature is enough time and enough power. How much of each?

They'll let you know when they're done. Until then, the answer is "more."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Marketing the Escape from Software Captivity

Not having gained employment in health information technology, I've gone back to school for business administration. One of the required courses is an introduction to marketing. It is easily the most engaging class I have this semester.

What's one of the first things I got from it? Desktop Linux fails in no small part because of poor marketing and a complete lack of marketing management. To be fair, most of the things which make desktop Linux awesome, by which I mean community and freedom, prevent it from being marketed effectively as a desktop OS.

Linux is an IT pro's playground. If there's anything such a person wants to play with, Linux is just about the best place to go. In some ways, Linux is like Protestantism. Any time any portion of a community is unhappy with how things are going, he (or they) can split off to start another. In Linux, this is not automatically a bad thing. After all, unlike Jesus, Linus Torvalds never prayed that all in his Kingdom would be one. And it leads to all sorts of nifty innovations, like CrunchBang Linux (still one of my favorites), PCMan File Manager and Terminator terminal emulator (both originally one-man projects, and largely they still are). But it does prevent a unified or even coordinated message.

On the other hand, never have the disadvantages of captive software, and entrusting your computer and your information (like what software you install), to the likes of Microsoft's butterfingers been so evident. So what am I asking of the Linux community at large?

Tell people interested in keeping the control of their computers in their own hands to start with a mainstream starter distro with broad support and friendly forums (e.g., Linux Mint, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu, Mageia, OpenSUSE, Fedora, Korora, Zorin, Sabayon). Assure them that if there's something they really dislike, it can probably be changed. Ask them whether software should be stable and mature or up-to-the-minute. Ask them which version of Windows they liked best, and why. Ask them what applications they absolutely must have, and if the open source alternatives will meet their needs. And apply their answers to the distro you recommend to them -- if any. There are people for whom total escape is not worth the effort. (And yes, I am one of them. I run Win7 to play Need for Speed: World, League of Legends, and Warframe.) Let them keep it.

I am of the opinion that nearly anyone intent on escaping the control that Microsoft has over their computer, and regularly gives to the likes of the RIAA, the MPAA, and the NSA, would do well to use KDE as their desktop environment. This isn't a knock on Unity, GNOME Shell, XFCE, LXDE, or any other UI. It's an opinion, based on my assessment of KDE's usability, maturity, stability, and familiarity to people used to Windows XP and Aero. I would only point them at distros with interfaces that use the start menu, task bar, and desktop paradigm that Windows has used since 95. I think there is absolutely no point in talking with potential new users about Ratpoison (a GUI that does not use the mouse), Fluxbox, or whether GNOME Shell, Unity, Cinnamon, XFCE, or MATE will become the predominant GTK+ 3.x environment. Sure, they're out there, and useful, and interesting, but not to somebody who has only ever used Windows.

Nor does any good come from trying to indoctrinate them to hold your position with regards to vi vs. emacs vs. nano, init vs. SystemV vs. Upstart, or whatever other dispute or controversy you are absolutely sure has only one correct position.

A fair number of popular projects have elitist communities which are actively hostile to newcomers and people who aren't interested in learning a lot about their computers. And it's possible for new projects to spring up with little or no quality control, and/or promise a lot more than they deliver. Either experience will gravely hinder or derail anyone's Linux adoption. No matter how much you may love such a distro or project, don't suggest it to a newcomer.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why Big Government is the Big Threat

A recent poll suggests that around 3/4 of Americans think Big Government is a bigger threat to the American way of life than Big Business or Big Labor. And they're right, if no other reason than because the threats posed by Big Business and Big Labor depend on using Big Government as their heavy. Whenever possible, Big Business and Big Labor buy favors from Big Government. Without Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor have a much harder time with competition.

For example, Patricia Woertz (CEO of Archer Daniels Midland) could hire privateers to blockade or sink sugar freighters from Australia, the Caribbean, and Latin America, leading American soda bottlers to use ADM’s corn syrup as a replacement. Or, she could hire lobbyists to drop $10k-$50k into the campaign chests of a few legislators on the House and Senate agriculture committees, and have them set legal import quotas, which has the exact same result, is a lot cheaper, and a lot more politically palatable. The congresscritters also get the public appreciation of American sugar cane and sugar beet farmers, who get to charge four times the world market price for their crops. And almost nobody ever notices when production of hard candy, which absolutely requires sugar, goes to Canada or Mexico, because they don’t have sugar import quotas.

Big Labor could send legbreakers to threaten poor, low-skilled workers who ask only for low wages, and the businesses that hire them, to keep those low-wage workers from competing for their jobs. Instead, they buy increases in the minimum wage with campaign contributions to legislators on Labor and Commerce committees, which has the same result (explanation here). It's also popular with union membership because their contracts specify wages not as $X/hr, but $(Minimum Wage + Y)/hr. As a side benefit, they can (falsely) claim that they are helping the poor, who find their jobs being automated out of existence because, once minimum wages rise high enough, it’s clearly cheaper to automate, or get customers to do the work, than hire the poor.

Big Labor and Big Business could not do these things without Big Government. Big Government is a cudgel that any pressure group, on any point in the political spectrum, can use to either extort an entitlement out of others, or regulate their competition out of business. If you want to cut down on extortion and increase competition, you have to cut down the size and scope of government. If there is any organization or pressure group that concerns you, your first priority should be to reduce the size and scope of government, because unless they can use the government to reach their ends, they cannot impose their will on you, and so they are no real threat.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Further Proof That I'm a Nerd and a Geek

I put on another John Woo action film, 1993's Hard Target, starring Lance Hendriksen, Arnold Vosloo, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. This is Hendriksen's favorite movie, because Woo did not cut any of his character development scenes. Hendriksen runs a human hunting ring, and Vosloo is his number one heavy. Van Damme is a Cajun drifter helping Yancey Butler, whose father was one of Hendriksen's earlier trophies.

I laughed every bit as hard at this one as I did Mission: Impossible II. One of the set pieces demonstrates that Woo has been doing the absurd gun and motorcycle stunts that he put in M:I2 and made me laugh out loud and compare him to the Marx Brothers. It involved the hero standing on a motorcycle while shooting a pistol and driving straight at an SUV with a gunman returning fire, using a submachine gun, and leaping to vault over the SUV as it runs over the motorcycle. There's also a bunch of pigeons flying around at the climax, aparently another John Woo hallmark. The hero clearly has the Rambo Effect going for him (90% of shots fired at Short range or closer automatically miss), and he regularly pulls off all sorts of impossible shots himself. Woo's bullet squibs are impossibly pyrotechnical. Every single shot sends showers of magnesium sparks flying from the sets and props. Many of them send bits and pieces of the scenery flying around like rockets. As I said, absurdly funny.

So, have you ever had an inappropriate reaction to a movie? Would you like to tell me about it in the comments?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Replace Windows, Not Your Computer

Microsoft is going to drop support for Windows XP in April 2014. That's about four months out. An upgrade to Windows 7 will probably cost you at least $120US, and could easily require a hardware upgrade. But there are alternatives to upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7.

I like to recommend that people try a Linux distribution (or distro) before buying a new computer to upgrade from Windows XP. There are a lot of benefits.
  • Better security than WinXP: A lot of popular software won't run in WinXP unless you violate some really basic security principles; few Linux distros encourage that kind of behavior
  • You have more control over your computer: The more modern your version of Windows, the more control is put in the hands of the MPAA, RIAA, and similar groups; Linux is licensed in a way to ensure your computer is under your control alone
  • You help the environment: your computer, which includes a lot of toxic chemicals, can work for you for many more years under Linux than Windows, and so stay out of landfills for many more years
  • You save money: you spend less for hardware and usually nothing for software.
Trying Linux is pretty easy with a live system. This is a version of Linux designed to run from a CD-ROM, DVD, or USB drive without affecting your computer. Because it's on removable media, it's going to load programs much more slowly than it would if you installed it, but once loaded, the programs should run pretty quickly. You can try the programs that are included by default, and you can use the package manager to see what you could download for free if you installed.

By the way, if you don't know which distro to choose, I would suggest Linux Mint 13 if your computer predates 2012, Lubuntu if your computer is really limited (say, 512 MB of RAM or less), or the most current Linux Mint if your computer is less than two years old and version 13 doesn't work with it. They are all pretty easy to install, act lot like Windows on the surface, and have friendly communities and forums where you can get help. Some distros, such as Zorin OS, are designed specifically to make the transition from Windows easier. Other popular desktop distros suitable for beginners include Fedora, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, openSUSE, Kubuntu, NetRunner, PCLinuxOS, Point Linux, Mageia, Pear Linux, KWheezy, Pinguy OS, SolydXK, and Korora.

There are basically three ways to get a live system. You can borrow one, buy one, or download one. Borrowing involves finding a local Linux Users Group (or LUG), which will probably be full of enthusiasts happy to help you get going with their favorite Linux distributions. (They may not share my preference for Linux Mint. Try their suggestions anyway.) There is probably one in your area, and many colleges and universities have them. Search Google for "Linux Users Group" (in quotes) with where you live, and see what comes up. A LUG is especially helpful no matter how good you are with computers. In fact, switching over to Linux is probably easier for somebody who is not very knowedgeable about Windows than it is for a Windows expert.

The best way to buy is from OSDisc.com; they sell most of the big desktop, server, and rescue distros on CD or USB key. This may be a better option than downloading, especially if you have limited bandwidth and/or limited faith in your ability to create live media.

Downloading is easy, especially if you have plenty of bandwidth. If you do, and your computer will boot from a USB drive, and you have one that holds 1GB or more, you can go to Pendrive Linux, which has a nifty tool to load any of scores of Linux distros onto a thumb drive. Or, if you can only boot from CDs or DVDs, download burning software like CDBurnerXP, and then download a live ISO (like Lubuntu which fits on a single CD-R), use the burner to put Lubuntu onto a CD, use it to boot your computer, and try that.

Now, there are reasons for not even giving Linux a try. In no particular order:

You already have Windows Vista or Seven

Windows Seven will have mainstream support until January 2015, and extended security support until January 2020. Windows Vista will have extended security support until April 2017. You're not up against the clock, like an XP user is.

You would rather spend the money for the upgrade

You think it will be easiest to buy a new computer to try a very different Windows system (that is, Windows 8 or 8.1) instead of not spending money on a new computer, and trying a Linux system that acts more like XP in the day-to-day, if much less like XP when it comes to adding, removing, and updating software.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

I've heard people say that if you are going to try Linux, you can expect to have to compile your video drivers from source. I've used several desktop Linux distros for about six years, and I have never compiled anything from source. (Edit: Unless using Slackbuilds counts, which I tend to doubt; they are thoroughly documented scripts that download, configure, and compile the source tarball for you.)

I've heard that you will only be able to use vastly inferior software. If you absolutely cannot stand to be without the very latest and greatest in Outlook, Adobe Photoshop CS, or Microsoft Office, that could very well be true. If you use Firefox or Chrome instead of Internet Explorer, Thunderbird instead of Outlook, VLC instead of Media Player, and LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office, then you are already using default Linux software for those tasks. But search the Wine HQ Application Database before deciding that Linux will prevent you from using your pet application. If it's running Platinum, chances are that the WINE software will let you can use it without any issue at all.

I've heard that it's impossible to get help. If you're using XP, the sort of support you get for Linux is the sort you're getting for Windows XP: searching the web. There are communities full of elitists who will treat you badly if you don't meet their expectations. But there are also communities full of helpful friendly people who are very happy you're trying Linux and want you to do well with it, and the Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and CrunchBang communities are definitely among them. In any case, reading documentation (which is easily searched if you include the distro name) before starting is always a good idea.

I've heard that you will have to master the command line. This depends a little on which distro. I know that at least Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, Mageia, and PCLinuxOS all have a lot of graphical, point-and-click tools for the vast majority of system administration tasks. Barring some bizarre video issue or the like, you probably would never need the command line for any of those distros.

But a lot of help will recommend using command-line tools, because the graphical tools can depend on your desktop environment, while command line tools do not. And they will work even if the entire graphical environment dies. The command line is your emergency fallback toolkit. It is very powerful and can do serious damage if used carelessly. But it can also save your bacon if everything goes wrong. Don't be afraid. It's like driving a Ferrari Testarossa or Lancia Stratos: you can do it if you're careful and don't try to push it to its limits. If you google the entire command in quotes before you use it, that gives you a basic simple sanity check.

Before Starting

If you decide to install Linux and you want to keep Windows XP, there are some things you absolutely should do first, no matter what distro you elect to use.
  1. Defrag your hard disk. Auslogics Disk Defrag Free is an excellent freeware program.
  2. Back up your data. Include any software installation files you have downloaded. There are a lot of ways to do this; find the one that works for you.
  3. Ensure that you can restore from backup. There are many IT professionals who are very sorry they did not do this.
  4. Read documentation. Learn about disk partitioning and partitioning schemes. This can help you prepare for future upgrades.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Robertsons of "Duck Dynasty" UPDATED

The whole world has no doubt heard how the Arts and Entertainment network has fired Phil Robertson, the patriarch of "Duck Dynasty," for saying what every Christian should believe regarding sexual morality in a straightforward manner. He may no longer appear on A&E. I got the story from John C. Wright, who posted the actual commentary that got Phil fired, rather than any of the libelous or slanderous things falsely attributed to him. I can readily believe that Pat Archbold is right about what A&E wanted: a reasonable facsimile of "The Real Beverly Hillbillies," a way to mock country folk and Christian belief. And also about what they got: a loyal audience that absolutely loves the Robertsons for being God-fearing Christian country folk, and that makes A&E a whackload of money for putting the Robertsons on the air. And for what it's worth, the Robertsons appear to be loyal to their patriarch, and have no interest in doing the show without him.

I've never seen "Duck Dynasty." I'd rather have the telly off. My wife, who likes telly, generally prefers crime drama, SyFy originals, urban fantasy, and monster movies (no zombies), with a few specific sitcoms thrown in. But I would like for the Robertsons of Duck Commander to more or less stay on the air. From what little I know of them, they're the sort of people that, even if they were as desperately poor as I am, I'd like to have for neighbors.

So, if I were Phil Robertson, this is what I would do: provided there's no anti-competition clause in the contract with A&E that prevents it, I'd take the show's concept to Country Music Television. It doesn't have to be called "Duck Dynasty" for the fans to find it there. And CMT is run both by and for people who are a lot more like the Robertsons than the Arts and Entertainment network. I suspect they're a little less likely to fold because of the first call from GLAAD or their fellow-travelers.

UPDATE: Audrey Assad is not merely a wonderful musician, songwriter, and performer. She also has steelmanned Phil Robertson's argument against homosexual acts, reaching largely the same conclusion from a much more humane and human place, namely, the Theology of the Body.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Growth continues

Tatsuya Ishida has done it again. In this surprisingly poignant Sunday strip, he has made clear just what the costs of the sexual revolution have been, to both men and women. He may think it only applies in cases of sex trafficking, but it really does apply to all extramarital sex. And I very much doubt he recognizes that it's contraception that supports and supercharges our sex obsessed culture of death.

Friday, June 28, 2013

the Doom of DOMA

Click for full strip
I could have put this post up at Capes 'n' Babes, but that's not what Chris Flick's website is for, and he'd have every reason and right not to post it. He has the site mainly to sell his artwork, and my countercultural Catholic argumentation could reasonably alienate his customers. I couldn't wish that on him. I'm going to ask my two readers not to go and gunk up his site with a flamewar, either.

But as to why that's not good, I think we could learn from the lesson of Chesterton's Gate -- the idea that, before we go to reform an institution, we ought to understand why it is the way it is. I don't think gay marriage advocates have any understanding of why marriage was the way it was. Nor have they found or built any structures to do what marriage was originally meant to do.

The function of marriage has historically been to protect the children which are its natural result. It provides them with a bond with their father, and a incentives for him to protect them. If your spouse dies, then finding and marrying a replacement can be better for your children than staying a widow/er, which is why it's reasonable to allow people to remarry after the death of a spouse. Even if a woman has aged to menopause, it's easy to see how her entering marriage can be good for any children involved.

The giant blows against marriage were contraception and divorce. Divorce especially does grave harm to children, and remarriage is very hard on them, probably far harder than in cases of widowing. Much worse is when Mom just shacks up after divorcing Dad. Children are at greatest risk of sexual assault from mom's live-in boyfriend.

Homosexual marriage does not naturally result in children. Its advocates, like those for divorce and contraception, seem to either not consider the harm that their pet project does to children (which would include being in denial about it), or may actually hate children. Their arguments against these concerns vary from "What could it hurt?" to "Shut up."

I really don't think the SCOTUS considered these things when they struck down DOMA. I think there's compelling government interest in protecting marriage -- doing so gives children the best chance going forward that they can have. In addition to affirming DOMA, they could consider doing away with contraception (which promotes infidelity, which is ALSO very bad for the children) and divorce (which is the result of contraception, and even worse for children). They are far more important than the easy access to the benefits of marriage for gays (and to which they have alternative means of access).

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear"

As Moxie Marlinspike points out, the idea that only people who have something to hide have anything to fear from our surveillance state is a load of crap. As he points out, there are far too many laws for any of us to know what they are and not break them.

The common law dictum that "ignorance of the law is no excuse" can only rationally apply to common law. It is impossible to be knowledgeable about all the new federal statute, regulatory, and case law of the last year alone!

There is greater risk: California's state legislature has previously done away with the statute of limitations, and is planning to do so again. There is a WSJ article entitled "Sacramento's Nonprofit Shakedown," but I don't have access to it behind the paywall.

We are not trying to walk through a minefield of legal problems. No, we are law enforcement's targets in a shooting gallery, and either blasted or spared based upon their whims, prejudices, and moods. We live under appointed despots.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Another PRISM post

Mozilla has launched an anti-PRISM campaign at StopWatching.Us. I signed their open letter with my real name. And I know that by admitting that, I'm giving the government a double-check means of determining my real identity. But I've always assumed that anything I say here can be traced back to me, given sufficiemt resources.

Claire Wolfe said at the close of the last century that it was too late to reform the US government, but too early to start shooting the bastards. I wonder if she's changed her mind about that latter part, yet.

I've long been critical of the US government, but I've never been seditious or proposed violence. Long before the government could cross any line past which I could have felt justified at opening fire on any of them, I became Catholic, and learned that martyrdom was the better response, both in its morality and in its effectiveness. If you shoot the bastards, they use that as an excuse for escalating their tyranny. If they martyr you, they cannot -- at least, not to themselves.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

PRISM Break

If you haven't heard about the PRISM scandal (where the feds copy and store everything going through numerous web services, including but not limited to google, facebook, yahoo!, and msn), you really have not been paying attention. Even if your stuff's encrypted now, the feds plan to keep it until they can crack it. But there's a bit of help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: http://prism-break.org/

Friday, May 24, 2013

$8 Billion iPods

Ever get the feeling that when media distributors claim billions of dollars in losses they're just trying to screen their real motives?

Here's an examination of that argument.

Now, I'll be honest; I haven't investigated Rob Reid's information, but it seems largely reasonable. Anyone care to confirm his numbers, or supply better ones?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blogrollin' #109 (I checked)

I found Charming Disarray's traditionalist post on Papa Francis through Pentimento. The great bit is at the end:
But I will say that if we have a pope who will demonstrate through example that appearance matters less than internal disposition, then it stikes me that that is exactly what our current image-obsessed culture needs. And people think God doesn't know what He's doing.
I'm not a traddie myself. I have sympathy for them, and I think they're doing good things for the Church -- the liturgy IS important. I also think that while the Extraordinary Form probably isn't important to Papa Francis the way it is to Papa Ben, he has no history of hostility towards it, and I don't see any reason why he'd approve of any either. I offer the concerned traditionalists some advice from St. Padre Pio: "Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer." And from myself: be open to how the Spirit will use Papa Francis.

Murder vs. Justifiable Homicide

So libertarian Charles Murray recently said of abortion: "It’s a murder—it’s a homicide—but sometimes homicide is justified." (Salute to Matt Archbold.)

Sometimes homicide IS justified. When the only way to prevent an imminent murder is to slay the imminent perpetrator, that is justifiable homicide. There are other cases. Justifiable homicide is the entire point of Just War Theory -- to delineate the cases where nations may engage in mass, military homicide. But it is ALSO to delineate where such use of force is NOT justified. In fact, it makes the case that it is possible for soldiers fighting a just war to commit murder on the battlefield.

By having sex with a man, a woman voluntarily assumes the risk of pregnancy. The pregnancy is certainly not the fault of the child. Even if she becomes pregnant from rape, bear in mind that the child is neither the perpetrator of the rape, nor his accomplice, nor his co-conspirator. The child is every bit as much a victim of the rapist as the mother; he has denied his child its inherent right to be reared by its own parents in a stable, permanent marriage. I don't see any justification for slaying the child.

Murder is unjustified. The lack of justification is what defines "murder" as a subset of "homicide." Cases of homicide which are murder and cases of homicide which are justifiable have NO overlap. Mr. Murray's statement is profoundly irrational. He needs to either admit that abortion is murder, or make the case that it's justifiable homicide, and not equivocate the two.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Good Times in Linux-Land

I'm going to suggest you start using a Linux-based operating system on your computers, rather than Mac OSX or Windows. One reason for switching is because Microsoft is dropping support for Windows XP next April, and you will only be able to get Windows 8 (and then only after a hardware upgrade). If you don't want to buy a new computer, switching to Linux could easily save you from that.

Many Linux variants (called distros) are easy to install, use, and maintain. They do really well what most people do on their computers: surf the web, email, chat on instant messaging clients, manage photos, and word processing. Few of these things are done exactly how they're done in Windows. But that's a feature, not a bug. In a lot of cases, the ways that Windows does these things are kind of lousy, but you're used to the problems. In the meantime, the new way of doing things will seem unnatural and awkward, but it was every bit as awkward and unnatural when you were first learning how to do it in Windows.

Before you consider installing a Linux distro, I urge you to
  1. BACK UP YOUR DATA
  2. Read their documentation
  3. Test that you can restore your data from backup
  4. Read their documentation
  5. Defragment your hard drive
  6. Read their documentation
  7. Proceed with download, testing, and installation of your chosen distro
The easiest way for most people to start with Linux is to use Linux Mint 13 (Maya) KDE Edition. The desktop is pretty, quite a bit like Windows 7, and Linux Mint 13 will be supported util April 2017, which means you won't have to reinstall until then. The next version of Linux Mint to have support past that date will be released no sooner than April 2014. Try the live version before installing.

There are other distros that are well-suited for beginners. These include openSUSE, Ubuntu (which has a novel interface called Unity that should also work for smartphones and tablets -- I recommend the LTS version), Kubuntu (again, I recommend LTS), Mageia, PCLinuxOS, and Lubuntu Extra Life Extention. They vary in how often they release new versions, what sort of desktop environment to provide, how long they support old versions, which software they think it is most important to support and update, and how devoted they are to software freedom.

Fedora is quite a bit trickier to make desktop-ready than any of these that I've mentioned. It is heavily supported by Red Hat, which is strongly devoted to free software principles. As a result, Fedora doesn't have a push-button easy way to enable Adobe Flash, many popular (captive) multimedia formats (such as DVDs and MP3s, as well as Adobe Flash), or the nVidia or Radeon proprietary graphics drivers. If installing FlashBlock in your web browser doesn't change anything for you, and you don't play any games with 3-D acceleration, this might not matter. Fedora is also devoted to cutting edge software and rapid release cycles.

Software freedom is one of the major reasons I prefer free software to captive software, like Microsoft Windows and Office, iTunes, Adobe Flash, Kindle, and Nook. They all mean to prevent you from actually controlling copyrighted content, but rather putting control of such content in the hands of others. And if they have to be able to hijack your computer without your say-so to keep that control, then they can. And really, do you deserves that kind of aggravation? Should you have to live with other people controlling your computer, because of so-called "intellectual property rights"? Is it right and just for (say) MGM or Sony Entertainment to delete your legitimate, legal, digital download of a movie or song, because somebody else posted a copy of it on Pirate Bay or MegaUpload or a similar site?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Deo Gratias!

Deo gratias! Habemus Papam Franciscum. Gaude!!

I've looked over Jorge Bergoglio's biography at CNS, and his Wikipedia page, and I have great hope. May God bless him and keep him, and richly bestow upon him the graces of his charism.