Sunday, June 1, 2014

    1. Pipeline to God
    2. Evil, but convenient
    3. The Archdioces’s Plan B
    4. Cornsilk Dental Floss
    5. Grasping at a bit of privacy
    6. DRM and DMCA

I’ve been laid up with a cold – a forced sabbatical from the stressors that led me to declare “instant sabbatical,” and so I’ve had some unexpected reading time.


For Niebuhr, Protestantism was always a revitalizing movement grounded in the kingdom of God as “the apprehension of God’s primacy, immediacy, and nearness.” It presupposed the divine initiative in the life of every person without the need for mediation. Justification was the Word’s direct address to the soul in which, as Luther put it, “the Word infused its qualities.” Hence the freedom of a Christian was grounded upon the free initiative of God. On this basis, Protestants could question all institutional forms of mediation as falling short of the living Word of God who called such institutions to account, whether they were ecclesiastical or political. They could stand on scripture alone as the Word’s final address to fallen human beings.

Having announced the freedom of the Christian in the immediacy of the kingdom of God, Protestantism emancipated persons from all forms of institutional authority. It went further, however, and placed prophetic criticism in their hands by declaring them all priests who received directly from the living Word. While Niebuhr differentiated this prophetic mode of Protestantism from medieval mysticism, it was in fact the mystics’ conception of an unmediated union with God taken as a doctrinal presupposition.

(Dale Coulter, The Problem of Constructive Protestantism) Coulter is a Pentecostal Protestant (a remarkably well-read one, book larnin’ not being associated normally with Pentecostals), so I assume that he doesn’t recoil from that with horror. But horror at seeing it put so starkly is my reaction when I think what it has wrought, particularly of sociopaths I have known, whose assurance of God’s unmediated voice – that proverbial “pipeline to God” of which Christians often are accused –made them all the more incorrigible.


American society does not condone evil practices such as abortion or slavery out of ignorance of their evil, but because they prove to be pragmatic and convenient for the personal comfort of society at large …

Helping Americans understand that unborn children are actually children and that we ought to secure their right to life is not sufficient to combat support for legal abortion. Instead, we must go further, to convince our country that the cost that comes with this population increase is a cost worth bearing.

(Teaghan Grayson at Ethika Politika)


The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati has gotten much more specific in teacher contracts, and critics say it focuses on “pelvic issues.” Teachers must sign a promise not to engage in or publicly support several areas of conduct including unmarried cohabitation or sex, using a surrogate mother or in-vitro fertilization, a homosexual lifestyle, and improper use of social media. Says one teacher, “Jesus always acted out of love. Never out of fear, and we’re all being asked to act out of fear because the lawyers have taken over.”

I’m not sure I’d concur that “lawyers taking over” is the impetus for this. The lawyers come in when somebody gets fired, or their contract doesn’t get renewed, after they do something they say wasn’t clearly forbidden. And these days, that something usually is a “groin issue.” In other words, I think the Archdiocese has gotten specific because of “cafeteria Catholics” or Catholics who think their sexual (and clinical reproductive) lives are none of the Church’s business.

One of the stories from Orthodoxy that still haunts me is a priest hearing the confession of a teen who confessed “cheating on his girlfriend.” Yes, he thought fornication with one girl at a time was okay. He had been well catechized – by the zeitgeist.

I’d much prefer effective counter-catechesis to more specific contracts, but if you’ve failed in the former, the latter may be all you’ve got.


I caught  bit of Prairie Home Companion on NPR the other day, including an ad from a new sponsor: Corn Silk Dental Floss, whose motto is “from our ear to your mouth.”


At first it was kind of cute when a search for information on the Fiat I saw on the street (I hadn’t known they were being sold in the U.S. again) resulted in Fiats, Fiats everywhere, in my every sidebar. Ditto when searching for K-Cups changed my sidebar again.

But Target, then eBay. It’s not cute any more.

Maybe privacy’s dead, but Disconnect is trying to resurrect it. My Google searches now automatically re-route through Disconnect, rendering them anonymous. Downside: fewer local results, since they don’t know who or where I am. Then when I click on a result, it pops open an incognito window.

I like it.

By the way: without incognito browsing and internet anonymity, we’re giving Corporate marketing interests more access to wallets, bedrooms and every other aspect of our lives than the Church has ever had. Are we fearful of the wrong masters?


I know that anyone with a smattering of economic knowledge and a free-market orientation can convincingly yawn at this, but I’ve been pretty ticked off at Amazon for … well, there’s no neutral way to put it, but I’d call it secretly screwing over its customers to play hardball with a major publisher that won’t accede to Amazon’s demands for new contract terms. See here, here, herehere & here.

What’s transparent [now that the cover is blown – Tipsy] is that Amazon has slowed delivery of popular Hachette titles, including works by Malcolm Gladwell, Sherman Alexie, J.D. Salinger, and many others, and on a separate front is refusing pre-orders on many soon-to-be published Hachette books, such as J.K. Rowling’s next effort.

If Amazon prevails in this clash, will it put me and my material needs last whenever a supplier resists its will? I don’t know for sure, but I can guess.

(Jack Shafer) Because my wife really (and a bit surprisingly) loves the Kindle Paperwhite I bought her for Mother’s Day, I’d let it be known that an upgrade of my own old Kindle for Father’s Day would be welcome. So when this story broke, I started thinking “do I really want to feed this large concentration of power that’s starting to act, sigh, like all other large concentrations of corporate power?”

Enter Kobo. They’r big elsewhere in the world. They got a toehold in the U.S. by affiliation with Borders, but then Borders went bust. They’ve got some very attractive hardware, and their store had the first five or so books I looked for (not one of them a bestseller).

Trouble is, I’ve got a bunch of Kindle books I haven’t read yet. And they have Digital Rights Management (DRM), a way to keep people from setting up their own Kindle store with one purchased copy (or share with friends, or set up on of those peer-to-peer file sharing thingies).

And here’s the kicker: it is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for me to strip the DRM from my own Kindle books for my own use! [Update: Or not. It’s complicated. Courts have been wrestling with it.] Indeed, it’s a violation for anybody to provide software for stripping DRM from digital media. I happen to know that such things are available outside US jurisdiction, however. And it plugs right into Calibre, which also comes from outside the U.S. and which can convert Kindle to a Kobo-friendly format if some outlaw will first strip off the DRM. So far as I know, it’s not illegal for me to possess a personal copy of a DRM-Stripping app so long as I don’t use it, but can I be sure:

Did you really think that we want those laws observed? … We want them broken … There’s no way to rule innocent men.  The only power any government has is to crack down on criminals.  Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them.  One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible to live without breaking laws.  Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens?  What’s there in that for anyone?  But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of lawbreakers — and then you cash in on guilt.

(Atlas Shrugged)

These are among the many things a convalescent can learn while, er, convalescing.

One can also experience the epiphany that, just as I really am saying “gosh, I’d like more time to walk” when gazing at comfy walking shoes, I might mean “I wish I had more time to read” when I obsess about how to read Kindle books on a Kobo.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.