Archive for ‘opinion’

January 29, 2017

American Conservative Christianity has lost the moral argument

by Neil Rickert

They voted, as a block, to elect a moral monster as president.

They own the actions of that president.

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt 25:40).

 

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January 27, 2017

The spectacular failure of Donald J. Trump

by Neil Rickert

Trump has been in office as president for barely one week.  Yet it is already overwhelmingly clear that this is a failed presidency.

Don’t get me wrong.  He is still president, and he can still do considerable damage to the nation.  But his presidency is a failure, nonetheless.  His campaign slogan was “make America great again.”  But it will be up to his successor to attempt to repair the damage that he has done and will continue to do.

A brief look back

In 2000, George W. Bush (“dubya”) became president with a narrow win and a disputed election.  Yet many of those who voted against him (self included) accepted that he was president.  For sure, they criticized him and his decisions.  But they still accepted him as president.

That has not happened with Trump.  I think many were ready to accept him as president, and give him the benefit of the doubt.  I certainly was ready.

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January 20, 2017

Thank you, President Obama

by Neil Rickert

Your 8 years as president have come to an end.

It was a good 8 years.  You came into office with the economy failing, and with the nation in two foolish wars.  You end your office with the economy in pretty good shape, and with the wars at least greatly calmed down.  And all of this with an opposition party attempting to sabotage everything you tried to do.

So thank you, president Obama.  You will be missed

February 19, 2016

Apple, the FBI and cryptography

by Neil Rickert

This is about the case in the news, where Apple is refusing to comply with an FBI request to help them access an iPhone.

I side with Apple on this, and that’s the main thrust of this post.

I described what I see as the technical issues in a post on my technical blog.

Privacy

When I was growing up, everybody knew everybody.  The shopkeeper knew what kind of food we normally purchased.  The neighborhood butcher knew what kind of meat we purchased.  In some sense, there wasn’t a lot of privacy.  However, what they knew was not written down.  The cash register receipt listed only the amount paid.  It did not list the items purchased.  It would have been very difficult for anybody to use that knowledge to construct a detailed dossier on our family.

Today, we are in a very different world.  Everything thing is record, and some records are archived where they will be available for long periods of time.  My relation with the shopkeeper (really, the supermarked manager) is far more impersonal.  But he has recorded data about the items that I have purchased with my credit card.  I probably should pay cash, to make it hard to identify me from the recorded data.

Today, it is far easier to build a detailed dossier.  And identity thieves do just that, as a way of stealing identities and then using the stolen identity to steal from bank accounts.

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January 7, 2016

Wheaton College — shame on you

by Neil Rickert

Wheaton College is around a 30 minute drive from where I live.  I have long respected it as a religious college which did a pretty good job of living up to the expectation of academia.  Many years ago, as a graduate student in mathematics, one of my classmates had graduated from Wheaton, and that’s probably where I first learned something about this school.

Unfortunately, recent events at Wheaton have been disquieting.  I have lost my former respect for that school.

It is almost a month since I first heard of the problems, with a blog post by Fred Clark:

In the last couple of days, there have been many reaction to the move by Wheaton, toward firing Larycia Hawkins, a tenured professor.  Here are some of the posts that I have seen:

What’s this all about?

The “problem” started when Larycia Hawkins said that she would start wearing a hijab, in support of her muslim  neighbors.  This was a reaction to the negative statements that we have been hearing about muslims from politicians (particularly in the Republican primary race) and from some evangelical Christian leaders.

To me, what Dr. Hawkins did seemed like a wonderful example the Christian teaching to “love thy neighbor”.  For Hawkins, this was not just a theoretical principle, but was something to be put into practice.

To me, the reaction of the Wheaton College administration seems very anti-Christian.  I am left wondering whether there is anything Christian about American conservative Christianity.

December 22, 2015

The news about Christmas — maybe not so sad after all

by Neil Rickert

In a recent post:

Jerry Coyne bemoans the fact that a high percentage of Americans believe such things as that baby Jesus was laid in a manger (81%).

But here’s the thing.  If I were asked in a poll, whether Professor Moriarty were the arch rival of Sherlock Holmes, I would assent to that belief.  I would assent even though I am fully aware that both are fictional characters.  And I suspect that many Sherlock Holmes fans would do likewise.  If you hear people talking about popular movies, you will hear them expressing beliefs that are true only in the context of the movie plot.

What we believe, and what we hold to be true, is sensitive to context.  And we often pick up the context from the way the question is asked or from earlier parts of the conversation.

I think Jerry is taking that Pew poll too seriously.  Given the time of the year, I’m inclined to see it as a “feel good about Christmas” poll.

July 1, 2015

Two recent supreme court cases

by Neil Rickert

I’m perhaps a bit late here.  I have been discussing these case in other forums, so  I thought I would summarize my view here.

I’ll start by reminding the reader that I am not a lawyer.  But I am a citizen of the USA, and that should be enough to entitle me to express an opinion.

Obamacare (King v. Burwell)

While this was an important case, it is difficult to understand why there was a case at all.  This was the case where some people took a very literalist view of the ACA legislation, and claimed that it excluded subsidies to people in states with federally run exchanges.

In my opinion, this was a completely bogus issue from the start.  It was clear enough what was intended by those who drew up the legislation.

The Supreme Court had little choice in taking up the issue, because a lower court had ruled in favor of that bogus reading of the law.  And, thankfully, the supreme court reached the sensible decision.

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December 29, 2014

Racism in America

by Neil Rickert

I just heard the announcement on my local NPR station.  They will be interviewing President Obama on the question of whether racism has gotten worse during his term.

Presumably, the interview is on tape.  They have not yet played it at my local station.  But, from the announcement, it looks as if Obama will be saying that actually things have been improving.

I look at this partly from the vantage of a university professor (now retired), and partly as a member of the community.  From what I have seen, there is more interracial friendship, more mingling.  Overall, I agree that things have been getting better.  This has been particularly noticeable over the last 15-20 years and the improvement of racial relations continues.

So why are we hearing so much about racial issues on the news?  I believe that to be a backlash from the more racist members of our society.  Racism is deeply engrained among some groups.  Others have been trying to overcome their racism.  But, for people raised during a racist era, that can be difficult.

Our younger folk have grown up in an era of change.  And we are seeing that change.  There is now far more recognition of the unfairness that minorities often face.  And that increasing consciousness of the problem is also part of why we are hearing so many news reports on racial issues.

I’ll ask those of minority groups to be heartened by these changes.  I don’t ask them to be patient.  I understand their impatience.  Change has been far too slow.  I naively thought that racism would end with the civil rights legislation of the 1960.  But changing laws is easy, compared to changing people and changing cultures.  Yet there is ongoing change.  Your children will experience less racism than you experienced.

December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

by Neil Rickert

Merry Christmas everybody.  Happy holidays to all.

And, for balance, here’s a link to a word from the grinch.

December 18, 2014

Is Christianity dead?

by Neil Rickert

I was brought up with the idea that God is love.  This was the centerpiece of Christianity.

Judging by what some conservative Christians have been saying, this is now changed to “God is torture” (see this recent slacktivist post).

There doesn’t seem to be much Christianity remaining.  Thankfully, Fred Clark’s “slacktivist” blog still makes a case for the “God is love” view.