Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I'm going to come out and say that the Conservative Bible Project is both blasphemous and idolatrous. Infact, there's a passage in Revelation that deals with this (Rev 22:18-19):

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.
Which seems to me to be exactly what the CBP is doing. Let's take a look at Philemon, one of the books they've translated.

The KJV Philemon Chapter 1, verse 1:
Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
And the same in the CBP translation:
Paul, in prison for Jesus Christ, and our brother Timothy, say to our friend and fellow volunteer Philemon,
The reason? ""fellowlabourer" is misleading today, and falsely connotes socialism."

Yes, fellowlaborer, laborers in the vineyard, all of that is to be replaced by "volunteer." Now, I have a serious problem with this. Paul, the author of Philemon, was concerned with nothing less than the complete transformation of the human being through the power of Jesus Christ. "Volunteers" doesn't do justice to Paul's vision.

And then there's the politics. This tremendous act of arrogance is all about politics, after all. "The Greek language may have been inadequate to convey the immoral overtones" goes the analysis for one verse. This is along the lines of "we had to destroy the village in order to save it," in terms of mind-boggling double think. Attempting a translation of the Bible, apparently from the original Greek, and deciding that the original is inadequate? Quite a feat. And that's not even the most nakedly political part. the CBP translation of Mark 3:2 is:
The Liberals watched Jesus to see if they might catch and accuse him of healing on the Sabbath.
Yes, the CBP uses Liberals for Pharisees. The note on that verse reads:
Tentatively using "Elite" rather than "Pharisees" or skeptical "teachers" for more modern accessability. See talk. - "Self proclaimed elite" = "liberals", fits modern terminology, see talk.
Words. Mean. Things. Words mean things even when they're in dead languages referring to events long past. You cannot change the wording, blatantly or insidiously, because 4 writers in the ancient Near East were more concerned with the good news of salvation than the invisible hand. From the Parable of the Sower:
KJV: And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred
CBP:"But some seed fell upon good soil and produced a great deal of fruit, thirty, sixty, even one-hundred times the original investment."
This is inappropriate. It is simply an excuse to get the word "investment" in there, to make it seem like Jesus was a free-marketer. It is blasphemous, there's no way around it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


According to my boss, modern philosophy is "something they did to Hume and Hobbes and now I have to learn it."

Just a thought.

On whatever Deutsche Welle radio show our NPR station carries, they were talking this morning about Italy's free speech problem, and had an Italian journalist talking about how free American speech is.

I think, in some respects, he's right. There's no way American's would elect someone president who owned his own network of TV stations; I think we'd wince at it the same way we'd wince at electing a preacher (and, no, Huckabee's success in Arkansas and the generally high religious sentiment in this country notwithstanding, I don't think we would). And, yes, we have more robust legal freedom of speech protections than most people.

What we have are massive barriers to entry. Of course, the Founders couldn't have seen that coming, but the result of over a century of media consolidation is a very high price to enter the marketplace of ideas in any meaningful way, and it's co-option by elites.

Now, the irony of this is that I am writing in a blog - a medium, I have been informed, that is the most powerful force for free speech ever, as citizen journalists raze the ivory tower, etc. And blogging is all well and good - I read at least 5-10 regularly, and about 3 religiously. But it hasn't surpassed the barrier to entry problem. "Citizen Journalists" have descended into self-parody. Ideologically driven, irresponsible with the truth and, high-minded claims notwithstanding, essentially useless as journalists in any responsible sense of the word.

Why? Lack of time, for one thing. Lack of the infrastructure to report on anything not strictly local, lack of access to many important databases, lack of legal protection, inability to publicize one's ideas and reporting, inability to bundle one's content with similar ideas and reporting, isolation from the types of channels that assure access to the dominant media and ghettoization of the blogging world.

There have been some attempts to vault these barriers. Current TV produces some content (including the hilarious Target Women and That's So Gay), but leans heavily on links to the ideologically-similar Guardian. Talking Points Memo produces rather good content, but tends towards commentary. Overall, the role of new media seems to be as an adjunct to traditional media, rather than a replacement.

So, what will happen? Will traditional and new media reach a modus vivendi? Will traditional media collapse under the weight of its own contradictions, or will it rally and crush the usurpers?

I'm not sure of anything at this point.

Gore Vidal, and why do we still have aristocrats, anyway?

The obvious answer being, of course, "because we live in a society structured such that the rich and privileged tend to pass that on to their children, allowing them to take the time to be Olympic decathletes, friends with presidents, and famous men of letters."

I'm not at all surprised about the recent interview in the Times of London with Gore Vidal, where he predicts a dictatorship in the US and says that Americans "don’t have any thoughts, they have emotional responses."

This is, basically, the flip-side of the nuts on the Texas school board who want textbooks talking about creationism and southern pride. America is caught between our native aristocrats on the one hand and a vast anti-intellectual tradition on the other. It was reflected in the original design of the House and Senate with the House being elected directly by the fickle people for 2-year terms and the Senate being chosen by the state legislatures. And, to some extent, this is still the case. Political dynasties tend to be in the Senate, after all. But Vidal's contempt for, say, every American not fortunate enough to go to Phillips Exeter Academy is toxic. It's the kind of thinking that leads to, among other things, fascism.

When the elites take the contemptuous view of the rest of the country, we end up with demagogues wielding massive influence over factions of the population, and the "well, they deserve what they get" attitude from Vidal doesn't help. Fascism doesn't just spring fully-formed, it grows out of the cracks in public trust, which Vidal is helping to expand.

Friday, October 2, 2009

In my infirmity...

I've been watching a lot of West Wing. The cool fall weather and and the annual, cruddy fall cold means that I've been watching my favorite political drama. And recently, I saw the episode on PBS.

It is, and I say this with no exaggeration, a crime how little we fund and promote our public broadcasting.

I grew up on PBS and NPR. I have bright and clear memories of watching the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour with my dad everyday when he came home from work. I learned my letters and numbers from Sesame Street and my geography from the campy, live-action Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. My parents once, from somewhere, scraped up 100$ to sponsor an hour of the boring but classic Prairie Home Companion. I am conversant in classical music and was on the classic blues trip long before my friends, entirely due to public radio. Both my parents still send me clips and stories from NPR. Public Broadcasting is a good thing.

We don't value public broadcasting because we are, rightly, suspicious of government, and because we are, wrongly, suspicious of learning. If I were a genius, I'd invent a way to reconcile those. I always liked the NEA's slogan "A Great Nation Deserves Great Art," because I think it's true. Our greatness isn't international heft or economic clout, it's our spirit. I think, then, that a great nation deserves great public broadcasting.

Sweet, light crazy.

Anti-masonry has a long and distinguished history in the United States, and I am glad to see someone carrying that torch.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A slight issue with Politico.

From their piece on Tim Pawlenty:
Pawlenty, under the radar of D.C.’s political community, has locked up some of the key operatives who engineered then-President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign — a significant feat for a little-known Midwestern politician.
Emphasis added. If you believe the narrative that GWB was a dim-but-vaguely presidential cipher, this isn't a significant feat at all. Pawlenty has all the benefits of a first term Bush (with, I suppose, the exception of a famous name, but all of those seem pretty tapped out at this point). If you're looking for a nice, neutral conservative so you can continue your war on Americans making less than a cool million, I think Pawlenty's a good choice.

Of course, given how this year has been going for conservatives, I'm waiting for the inevitable revelations that he likes some sort of deviant sex.