Thursday, April 27, 2006

Global Warming?

Want to see why I don't trust Newsweek?

Follow this link

We're all gonna freeze!

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Never met a Journalist He Couldn't Despise Blogger

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why I am Not A Pacifist Part 2 (Edited Version)

I must apologize for the length of this post. It is longer than I'd like but cannot be avoided.

Also, if some of the language in this post offends you I'm sorry. Please see the earlier post "Why I am not a Pacifist" to gain the context.

I feel that I need to provide more information on why Dr. Kimmey’s statement made me change my position on pacifism? I need to explain what made the statement so profound.

The statement was simply the beginning of the answer, not the whole answer and as I looked at the question with, as it were with new eyes, I saw a different answer.

Others may disagree with my belief at this point but it is important to realize that we are discussing beliefs. Beliefs are based upon either assumptions or presumptions. The trick is to base beliefs upon assumptions rather than presumptions. Assumptions are something that are either not proven or are un-provable but for which some evidence or rational exist. Presumptions, on the other hand are things that are believed when there is no supporting evidence or in spite of contradictory evidence. Pacifism is generally based upon presumptions. So, what are my assumptions that force is sometimes an appropriate response?

The First Justification: An Innate Desire for Justice
The fact that both Dr. Kimmey and I sometimes meet people who deserve some form of punishment rather than simply being rehabilitated speaks to an innate and universal sense of justice which realizes that sometimes it is not enough to say “I’m sorry.” There are, or so our conscience seems to tell us, some crimes or sins that demand punishment rather than recompense. It can be argued, perhaps that our sense of justice has become corrupted. Indeed, I would agree with that statement. However, has it become corrupted from a sense of legitimate use of force to an illegitimate use of force or has it become corrupted from a non-use of force to a use of force? We need to realize that we, as humans, are part of a fallen nature that is not warm and fuzzy but “red in tooth and claw.”

Thomas Hobbs was correct when he said in the Leviathan that “the natural state of man (Humans) is war” I believe as a Christian that it isn’t meant to be this way but became this way because of our sin. I believe that in an unfallen world violence would be unnecessary just as in an unfallen world clothing was unnecessary However, we do not live in an unfallen world and I don't see many, if any Christian pacifist advocating nudity to bring in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, I think the answer is that force is, at times a legitimate option.

I believe the use of force is at times, as stated above, an expression of what I believe to be an innate human longing for justice. We all, every one of us, have this desire in us. The problem is that often we let our desire for justice melt into a desire for vengeance. However, they are not the same thing and those who cannot or refuse to see the difference are morally color blind. To forswear the use of force because some people have perverted their sense of justice is as illogical as forswearing underwear because strippers and prostitutes wear it.

In short, there are people who deserve to have the shit beat out of them because they deserve to have justice meted out upon them.

The Second Justification: Social Necessity

I find it untenable to say that if someone is threatening me I do not have the right to at least sometimes, oppose that threat in a reciprocal fashion. I reject what could be called the moral equivalence argument that is sometimes phrased “hitting back makes’ you just as bad as them” out of hand. It doesn’t because I am not instigating the injustice. I am preventing injustice. Therefore, I am not as bad as them. I believe this right extends to coming to the aid of others. If I see a violent or even non-violent crime being committed I have, not only the right, but the civic duty, to go the victims’ aid.

Do I have the right kill a man who was beating his wife? Probably not; unless I was preventing him from using deadly force; but, I have the right and duty to use as much force as needed to stop the beating. Do I have the right to go to that man the next day and beat him senseless for what he did to his wife the night before? No, I do not.

If I see someone being assaulted I have the right and duty to stop the assault if I can. In this case, using violence could even be considered the polite thing to do. I believe that it is a right and duty to intervene with force, if needed to stop a crime. I believe that in such cases the use of force is not simply a necessary evil but a positive good. To save the life of an innocent from the hands of the wicked, even if the wicked dies is a good thing.

The assumption involved is one of social necessity. I am not a pacifist because I live in a world where there is danger present from evil and wicked forces that use violence to gain control of life, property and liberty. It is an assumption that I feel fits within the framework of the world today. If I do not believe this I cannot be said to truly “Love my neighbor.”

In short, there are people who deserve to have the shit beat out of them because they want to beat the shit out of someone and steal their stuff and I have a right to maintain the life, liberty and property, of both myself and my neighbor from evil doers.

The Third Justification: The Biblical Mandate
I believe, as a Christian, that the God of the Bible has sanctioned and used war and violence as a form of chastisement and punishment. Indeed, it is difficult to read the Old Testament and come to any other conclusion

If God has not only allowed but commanded certain nations to invade other nations and make war upon them the use of force or violence cannot always be sinful because God does not command people to sin but to be righteous.

I cannot, reconcile the Old and New Testaments if I cannot find a place for violence in the world. People change but God doesn’t. If war is always wrong then why did God command the Israeli’s to capture their land by war? Why didn't He simply make the land vacant in some non-violent miraculous way? Not only did they capture their land by war but they slaughtered the entire population who had previously lived in that land. Did Joshua sin? If he did it was because God commanded him to.

Make no mistake, this wasn’t just war, this was genocide. God instructed Joshua to go to war and kill every man, every woman and every child.

My first assumption here is that you cannot separate these events from the rest of the Bible. There is no progressive revelation in this passage; God was not bending His true will to allow for the lack of morality in Joshua’s society. If the pacifist is correct then God caused His chosen people to sin because He directly instructed them to go and wipe out another group of people and then appropriate their possessions. The alternative, which is my assumption, is that the ancient peoples Joshua was confronting had been judged by God and their culture was being exterminated because of its extreme sinfulness.

Even Christians who are pacifist have to accept this assumption or they have to believe that God told Joshua and the Israelites to commit sin or possibly that only Jews may murder. If that is what a pacifist believes then they believe in a God who is not holy and cannot be trusted. Or they have to believe that the truth has somehow changed and that is a world too scary to think about.

My second assumption here is that there is one God, with an unchanging nature and that if He told Joshua to invade and slaughter people back then that He could possibly do the same today because there are people who come under the judgment of God.

My third assumption here is that I believe that if Christians were supposed to be complete pacifist then both the New and Old Testament would state so clearly. They do not. What I believe you see in the Bible is a distinction between individuals and government action. To be fair, I think that this was the position my Mennonite riend maintained and claimed that Christians should not be part of government. I cannot see that but it at least made her position almost livable if you ignore the historical account of Joshua, and the Jewish kings. I believe what we see in the New Testament is a separation of the powers between government and the individual. Governments act as the hand of God to administer justice. Individuals normally do not.

In short, there are people who deserve to have the shit beat out of them because they are under the judgment of God. That doesn’t mean that every crackpot who claims to be acting as the avenger of God really is.

The Fourth Assumption: Governments have the responsibility To execute God's Justice
In the book of Romans, chapter 13 we are told that "rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil."

This is very clear, the state or rulers have the obligation, under God to administer justice and sometimes justice requires violence. Otherwise there would be no need of a sword. A sword is a lethal weapon and implies the use of violence. Thus some people deserve to have the shit beat out of them because the have broken the law and the state is administering justice to them.

The Fifth Assumption: The Argument from Impossibility
Christians are told that they not be aggressive or warlike in Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. The implication of this verse is also clear. There will be times, hopefully few, when it will not be possible to live in peace with all men. If it is not possible to always live in peace then there will be times of war and strife.

Thus, there will be people who deserve to have the shit beat out of them because it is not possible to live in peace with them.

I cannot as a Christian, be a pacifist. The only exception to this is when confronted PERSONALLY by someone who is persecuting me for my faith. Whether another entity, either individual or corporate could come to my aid in such a an event is another question.
This is a very long post for me. But, it is a post that I needed to make.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Non-Pacifist Blogger

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The MLA - Redux

My stunningly attractive and intelligent wife informed me that the purpose of the MLA or the APA was to make sure that everyone in the "field" formatted their research in the same way. Well, I think that proves my point in my previous rant. There was already a format. They didn't have to make another one just for them.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Footnote Using Blogger

Friday, April 21, 2006

The MLA Format

Wow, its been almost a month since I posted something. That is too long. I didn't intend to take a break that long but sometimes things are different than planned.

I've been helping a history teacher grade the formatting and quality of citation on a big history project his students were working on. What a pain. The school requires students to use the MLA format. Because my background is not in English I learned a different format and indeed refused to use a parenthetical system for my PhD. Never-the-less, because it is necessary for my job, I've learned enough MLA to check the formatting. It really isn't that hard. Especially since there are web sites like The Citation Machine that will create the citation by just plugging the information into the right place. The students really have no excuse for not having all of the citations right.

As part of the process I went to the classroom and talked to the students about how to get everything formatted. After these sessions I'm generally asked why it is necessary to place references in a certain formatting system. This time a student had a great twist on that question.

He asked "Why did they develop the MLA?"

My only answer was one provided by an otherwise forgettable exposition teacher at the University of North Texas. It is the general party line when it comes to the MLA; I told him that "The MLA was developed to make the process of citing documents as easy as possible."

It was his follow up that tripped me up.

"How is it easier than other systems?"

I had a hard time answering this question truthfully because I actually believe, that in this case, the party line is wrong. The MLA is not easier. It is confusing, it is cumbersome, and it is, I believe, un-scholarly. I wonder if the letters MLA" don't really stand for "Moronic Losers Association" rather than the "Modern Language Association."

I think that when we have the annual teachers meeting where we discuss such things, I am going to suggest and push for a change to a foot-noted or end-noted system.

The MLA is confusing because it cuts researchers off from 100's of years of foot-noted and end-noted citation systems. I've actually had students ask me "Who was Ibid?" This may be more of a theoretical rather than actual complaint in some academic fields as they tend to rely upon recent research; but by making it harder for students to grasp the depth or trace the references of older material the MLA is un-scholarly.

The charge of un-scholarly may also be unfounded because grammarians, linguist and literature people don't normally study anything that is particularly scholarly in the first place. So in effect "Who cares if it isn't scholarly because the research isn't life changing anyway?" Tell me, who besides a few Volvo driving, tweed jacket wearing, pipe smoking egg-heads gives a rip about the development of existential themes in the poetry of the sub-arctic European Renaissance, or whether John Dunn was influenced by T.S. Elliot? Even if we did care, is the world going to stop turning if don't study these type of things? No. Therefore, unlike say, genetics, engineering Home Economics or Library Science it is OK for the MLA to be somewhat un-scholarly because it is used in fields that don't have life or death issues involved.

I digress

More to the point, why is it easier to put a (Smith) at the end of a sentence as a citation reference than a super scripted "1"? This is especially true if you have more than one work by the same author? It simply isn't any easier. It is easier, less confusing and requires fewer key strokes to input a notation for and end-note or foot-note system; period, full stop, there can be no argument.

If you have multiple works by the same author or different authors with the same last name it gets worse. Here is an example of what I mean

Smith, John. "Silly things English Teachers Do." Ivory Tower Quarterly 4.12 (2006): 66.

and this article

Smith, John. "The phonetically-linguistic-Time-Share Language Approach." Journal of Pseudo-Education 2.1 (2006): 23.

According to the Citation Machine the parenthetical reference for the first of these two articles would be:

(Smith 33-99)

and the second would be
(Smith 1-24)

The numbers after the name are the page numbers of the article in the journal. However, the page numbers do not appear in the citation, only the total number of pages. To figure out which of these two articles are being referenced you must subtract 33 from 99 to get 66 and then look and see which of the two article have a total length of 66 pages.

If, on the other hand, the articles were placed in a bibliography (As opposed to a reference list) in order of appearance and NUMBERED then the first one would have the note listed as a simple "1" and the next as a "2". You'd simply find article number 1 or 2 on the list. This means that a foot-not or end-note system is easier to use, simpler, less confusing, faster, and less intrusive in that you don't have awkward parenthetical sentence fragments or words salted throughout the text. (It also allows you to use the parenthetical statement to make snide comments, asides or obscure jokes about your text, readers or subject; which is what the idea of a parenthetical statement originally was.)

The MLA as far as I can determine was formulated in the late 1970's or early 1980's. The object was to make it easier to write a paper by eliminating footnotes which at that time required a great deal of work and planning to place at the bottom of the page.(Though end-notes alleviated this problem in a simple, user friendly and elegant way) As shown above it failed to do this.

Because the morons in the MLA, living as they did in their Ivory towers, didn't look around and see that typewriters were improving into word processors on home computers the MLA also fails in another area. By the 1980's the work of inserting the notes was rapidly being assumed by a machine which freed the researcher up to write. A computer as simple as an old Commodore "VIC-20" or "Apple 2B" can run a quite competent word processing program that will automatically place the foot-notes or end-notes for you. The MLA, on the other hand is not and cannot be made simpler by technology because you still have to type the parenthetical note and the citation at the end. The MLA is no less difficult using a word processor but because the drudgery of placing footnotes has been automated a foot-noted system is now very easy. In fact, writing a paper with foot-notes is now easier than using the MLA.

By the mid 1980's typewriters were dinosaurs which were if not extinct then well on their way to becoming fossils. Thus the MLA was formulated to solve a problem that was being solved better in another way. The Modern Language association should have ditched the MLA like an ugly girl-friend at that time before it was so firmly entrenched in schools, they didn't and we're stuck with it. It is the only system English teachers know and so they foist it on everybody else!

So I was left having to admit to this student that the MLA isn't really easier but in fact more cumbersome to use than a foot-noted system.

I always had the ultimate teachers fall back position. "We want you to do it this way because that's the way that college English departments want you to do it and that will help you in college." Or, in other words, We're training you in an inferior research system simply because some academic fat-ass has too much intellectual capital invested in this inferior system to let you use something better. But, that is is a kind weak position once you are dealing with High School students. But, never fear, I didn't say it quite that way.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger Who Still Uses Foot-Notes