Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Pastor Franklin Graham tells Obama: Islam “is a false religion”

When a pastor does the right thing, I have to feature it.

This is from CNS News.

Excerpt:

Reverend Franklin Graham, son of world renowned evangelical pastor Billy Graham, said that President Barack Obama was “fundamentally mistaken” about radical Islam; questioned why peaceful Muslims do not collectively condemn jihadist terrorism; and argued that Islam “is a false religion” and that “it is impossible for a false religion to be a true religion of peace.”

Rev. Franklin Graham also cited examples from a speech he recently gave outside the White House, decrying the actions of followers of a “peaceful religion” who practice “female circumcision,” hijacking, kidnapping, “honor” killings, and decapitation.

Rev. Graham commended President Obama for sending some U.S. troops to fight the Islamic State but, citing Obama’s Sept. 24  speech at the United Nations where the president said “Islam teaches peace,” the reverend said, “I also believe our president is completely and fundamentally mistaken about the intolerant and violent nature of hardened Islamic followers.”

“For Muslims, peace comes only through submission to Islam,” said Rev. Graham in his November commentary for Decision magazine,  published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  “When they speak of peace, they mean submission to their religion. Worldwide, tens of thousands of men, women and children have been slaughtered in the name of Allah, under the bloody flag of Islam.”

Persecution of minorities:

Rev. Graham noted the case of Pastor Saeed Abedeni, an Iranian American who is in prison in Iran “simply because of his Christian faith, beaten and tortured for the sake of Christ by the hostile Islamic regime.”

Executions:

“Mr. President, followers of a peaceful religion do not cut off the heads of innocent people in the barbaric fashion the world has watched recently,” Rev. Graham had said over the loudspeakers, addressing the president and the White House.

Kidnapping and sex-trafficking:

“Mr. President, believers in a peaceful religion do not kidnap 300 young schoolgirls as Boko Haram did in northeastern Nigeria in April and reportedly [sell] them to men to be sex slaves,” he said.  “Mr. President, no peaceful religion would tolerate, let alone practice, female circumcision, require a woman to have her husband’s permission to leave her home and take up employment, and restrict her ability to receive justice in the case of sex crimes.”

“Honor” killings:

Rev. Graham continued, “Mr. President, a peaceful religion would not condone and allow a father to drown a daughter in a swimming pool in front of the family in the name of family honor because she might have stayed out late in the evening with her boyfriend.  Mr. President, why haven’t the 3.5 million Muslims in North America rejected this gross, barbaric and despicable behavior by their fellow Muslims on American soil?”

And there is no widespread outrage among Western muslims over these actions:

Rev. Graham went on to note that the “terrible acts” he cited had not been carried out by “peaceful Muslims, but by radical extremists,” but he questioned why many, “if not most” of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world have not condemned these violent acts. If a so-called Christian commits an act of terrorism, mainstream Christians “quickly and unanimously rise together to condemn it,” he said.

I don’t think Franklin Graham is right 100% of the time, and I don’t agree with him 100% of the time. But it takes balls of steel to say things like this in today’s politically correct culture. Got to tip my hat to him. But then again, he’s not running for office, so he can say what he really thinks. And I have to say I agree that the examples of behavior by Muslims are outrageous and immoral. And I think a lot of non-Christians are going to agree with Graham, too.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

New study: being raised by married parents has huge positive effect on economic well-being

Here’s some of the findings from the Institute for Family Studies.

Excerpt:

Wilcox and Lerhman found that growing up in a two-parent family correlated with many positive outcomes for kids, well into adulthood. For example:

  • Growing up with both parents reduced the probability for dropping out of high school by 15 percent for men and 9 percent for women.
  • Growing up in an intact family reduced women’s chances of becoming single mothers by 12 percent and men’s chances of being nonresidential fathers by 5 percent.
  • Both men and women who grew up in intact families enjoyed substantial marriage premiums. Young men who grew up in intact families earned, on average, more than $6,500 more in personal income and more than $16,000 more in family income than their peers who grew up in single-parent families. Young women from intact families earn more than $4,700 in personal income and more than $12,000 more than their peers from single-parent families.
  • Growing up with both parents also increased young adults chances of marrying themselves. Men who grew up in intact homes were 10 percent more likely to get married than their peers who grew up in single-parent families. Women who grew up in intact homes were 12 percent more likely to marry.

Individuals who grow up in intact homes are more likely to marry and once they do, they are the recipients of a host of benefits associated with being married.

  • Married men age 28–30 earn nearly $16,000 more, on average, than their single peers. Their family income is nearly $22,000 higher than their single peers. And the marriage premium for men extends to less-educated and minority men who are often at a disadvantage in the work force. Married young men with only high-school educations, for example, earned more than $17,000 more than their single peers.

I don’t like to blog about these things without solutions. I have some of my own (school choice, abstinence education funding, repeal no-fault divorce, defund Planned Parenthood, double the child tax credit for married couples, provide a carry forward tax credit to each married parent for ALL income earned by children before age 21, etc.).

But the new study has some solutions too:

Wilcox and Lehrman do make recommendations for strengthening lower and middle-class families. They recommend eliminating marriage penalties from the tax code, while increasing the child credit and the earned income credit maximum. They also recommend improving vocational training and launching a national campaign that encourages young adults to follow the ”success sequence”: education, job, marriage, children.

I think a lot of kids of my generation should be reading studies like this and wondering “what did the party of premarital sex, no-fault divorce, abortion and gay rights do for me?”. If your political party embraces policies that encourage people to see sex as recreational instead of a way of producing creatures who then become the responsibilities of parents, you are in the wrong political party. The Democrat party is the part of selfishness, and that’s why they attack marriage. Marriage is about restraining adults so that children benefit, and every selfish Democrat policy that damages marriage damages children.

As Dennis Prager says:

Even today, after decades of feminism, most Americans agree that it is better for women and men — and society — when women and men marry. Yet when women marry, it is bad for the Democratic Party; and when women do not marry, even after — or shall we say, especially after — having children, it is quite wonderful for the Democratic Party.

Married women vote Republican. Unmarried women lopsidedly vote Democrat. It is both silly and dishonest to deny that it is in the Democrats’ interest that women not marry.

They have no reason to strengthen marriage, and their policies (sex education, no-fault divorce, single mother welfare, gay marriage, etc.) don’t strengthen marriage. It sounds like such a nice thing to want to not shame people for premarital sex and divorce. After all, we want people to feel good no matter what they choose, right? But there is a price to pay for this “tolerance” of adult selfishness – it’s paid by their children. That’s what happens when we put feelings about moral boundaries.

Filed under: News, , , , ,

Will robots and machines ever have consciousness like humans?

There is a very famous thought experiment from UC Berkeley philosopher John Searle that all Christian apologists should know about. And now everyone who reads the Wall Street Journal knows about it, because of this article.

In that article, Searle is writing about the IBM computer that was programmed to play Jeopardy. Can a robot who wins on Jeopardy be “human”?Searle says no. And his famous Chinese room example (discussed in the article) explains why.

Excerpt:

Imagine that a person—me, for example—knows no Chinese and is locked in a room with boxes full of Chinese symbols and an instruction book written in English for manipulating the symbols. Unknown to me, the boxes are called “the database” and the instruction book is called “the program.” I am called “the computer.”

People outside the room pass in bunches of Chinese symbols that, unknown to me, are questions. I look up in the instruction book what I am supposed to do and I give back answers in Chinese symbols.

Suppose I get so good at shuffling the symbols and passing out the answers that my answers are indistinguishable from a native Chinese speaker’s. I give every indication of understanding the language despite the fact that I actually don’t understand a word of Chinese.

And if I do not, neither does any digital computer, because no computer, qua computer, has anything I do not have. It has stocks of symbols, rules for manipulating symbols, a system that allows it to rapidly transition from zeros to ones, and the ability to process inputs and outputs. That is it. There is nothing else.

Here is a link to the full article by John Searle on the Chinese room illustration.

By the way, Searle is a naturalist – not a theist, not a Christian. But he does oppose postmodernism. So he isn’t all bad. But let’s hear from a Christian scholar who can make more sense of this for us.

Here’s a related article on “strong AI” by Christian philosopher Jay Richards.

Excerpt:

Popular discussions of AI often suggest that if you keep increasing weak AI, at some point, you’ll get strong AI. That is, if you get enough computation, you’ll eventually get consciousness.

The reasoning goes something like this: There will be a moment at which a computer will be indistinguishable from a human intelligent agent in a blind test. At that point, we will have intelligent, conscious machines.

This does not follow. A computer may pass the Turing test, but that doesn’t mean that it will actually be a self-conscious, free agent.

The point seems obvious, but we can easily be beguiled by the way we speak of computers: We talk about computers learning, making mistakes, becoming more intelligent, and so forth. We need to remember that we are speaking metaphorically.

We can also be led astray by unexamined metaphysical assumptions. If we’re just computers made of meat, and we happened to become conscious at some point, what’s to stop computers from doing the same? That makes sense if you accept the premise—as many AI researchers do. If you don’t accept the premise, though, you don’t have to accept the conclusion.

In fact, there’s no good reason to assume that consciousness and agency emerge by accident at some threshold of speed and computational power in computers. We know by introspection that we are conscious, free beings—though we really don’t know how this works. So we naturally attribute consciousness to other humans. We also know generally what’s going on inside a computer, since we build them, and it has nothing to do with consciousness. It’s quite likely that consciousness is qualitatively different from the type of computation that we have developed in computers (as the “Chinese Room” argument, by philosopher John Searle, seems to show). Remember that, and you’ll suffer less anxiety as computers become more powerful.

Even if computer technology provides accelerating returns for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t follow that we’ll be replacing ourselves anytime soon. AI enthusiasts often make highly simplistic assumptions about human nature and biology. Rather than marveling at the ways in which computation illuminates our understanding of the microscopic biological world, many treat biological systems as nothing but clunky, soon-to-be-obsolete conglomerations of hardware and software. Fanciful speculations about uploading ourselves onto the Internet and transcending our biology rest on these simplistic assumptions. This is a common philosophical blind spot in the AI community, but it’s not a danger of AI research itself, which primarily involves programming and computers.

AI researchers often mix topics from different disciplines—biology, physics, computer science, robotics—and this causes critics to do the same. For instance, many critics worry that AI research leads inevitably to tampering with human nature. But different types of research raise different concerns. There are serious ethical questions when we’re dealing with human cloning and research that destroys human embryos. But AI research in itself does not raise these concerns. It normally involves computers, machines, and programming. While all technology raises ethical issues, we should be less worried about AI research—which has many benign applications—than research that treats human life as a means rather than an end.

When I am playing a game on the computer, I know exactly why what I am doing is fun – I am conscious of it. But the computer has no idea what I am doing. It is just matter in motion, acting on it’s programming and the inputs I supply to it. And that’s all computers will ever do. Trust me, this is my field. I have the BS and MS in computer science, and I have studied this area. AI has applications for machine learning and search problems, but consciousness is not on the radar. You can’t get there from here.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Democrats spied on journalist who reported on gunrunning and Benghazi cover-up

Ex-CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson

Ex-CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson

I blogged about this before in May 2013, but this time it’s in the New York Post.

Excerpt:

A former CBS News reporter who quit the network over claims it kills stories that put President Obama in a bad light says she was spied on by a “government-related entity” that planted classified documents on her computer.

In her new memoir, Sharyl Attkisson says a source who arranged to have her laptop checked for spyware in 2013 was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” at what the analysis revealed.

“This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America,” Attkisson quotes the source saying.

She speculates that the motive was to lay the groundwork for possible charges against her or her sources.

Attkisson says the source, who’s “connected to government three-letter agencies,” told her the computer was hacked into by “a sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency.”

The breach was accomplished through an “otherwise innocuous e-mail” that Attkisson says she got in February 2012, then twice “redone” and “refreshed” through a satellite hookup and a Wi-Fi connection at a Ritz-Carlton hotel.

The spyware included programs that Attkisson says monitored her every keystroke and gave the snoops access to all her e-mails and the passwords to her financial accounts.

“The intruders discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool,” she wrote in “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.”

Attkisson says her source — identified only as “Number One” — told her the spying was most likely not court-authorized because it went on far longer than most legal taps.

But the most shocking finding, she says, was the discovery of three classified documents that Number One told her were “buried deep in your operating system. In a place that, unless you’re a some kind of computer whiz specialist, you wouldn’t even know exists.”

“They probably planted them to be able to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point,” Number One added.

In her book, Attkisson says CBS lost interest in her coverage of the deadly attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and killed her stories of the federal “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal.

Both CBS and the White House declined to comment.

Investors Business Daily has more on some of the other things they and her former employer CBS News did to her to get her to shut up. The funny thing about her is that I remember her going after the Bush-43 administration hard when Bush was in power. So she is basically doing her thing whether there’s a Republican or a Democrat administration in power. The problem is her bosses – they were willing to let her report on Republican scandals, but when it was a Democrat administration, it all had to be hushed up.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

Hillary Clinton’s views on the economy, taxes and jobs

The video above explains Hillary Clinton’s views on how jobs get created. She doesn’t think that private companies create jobs.

Here’s the story from economist Stephen Moore writing at Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

Hillary Clinton is getting deservedly attacked for her imbecilic statement at a Democratic political gathering in Massachusetts on Friday about business and jobs.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that, ah, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” she preached, to loud applause. “You know that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried, that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”

It may not be too surprising that Hillary can’t connect the dots that it takes an employer to create an employee to create wages and salaries.

That’s how some 150 million Americans get paid every week. Ms. Clinton has made her millions in the cattle futures market, as a government employee and giving speeches for fees of $250,000 a pop. Nice work if you can get it. The rest of us mere mortals need a paycheck.

Hillary’s witless statement might be written off as campaign hyperbole, and some might think the Democratic front-runner for president simply got carried away speaking to her “progressive” base and didn’t really mean it. Sometimes Republicans get into the act, as when Mitt Romney’s GOP rivals attacked him in 2012 for being rich and a successful investor.

But the scary thing is she really DID mean it. Her sophomoric comment, alas, reflects a long-simmering ideologically driven war against business that has become a central platform of the modern-day Democratic party.

Her remarks were simply an extension of President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” statement denigrating businessmen and women who have created companies — large and small.

In the left mindset, economic output and jobs are achieved collectively and thanks to the beneficence of government, not because of the ambition, drive, vision, risk-taking and guts that it takes to start a new enterprise out of nothing.

So who creates jobs then? Well, if it’s not private sector businesses then the only thing left to create jobs is the government. She thinks government creates jobs. And the more government raises taxes, the more money government has to give people jobs.

But is that really how it has worked in the past?

Let’s see.

Consider this article by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, which discusses how the Reagan tax cuts affected the unemployment rate.

Excerpt:

In 1980, President Carter and his supporters in the Congress and news media asked, “how can we afford” presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s proposed tax cuts?

Mr. Reagan’s critics claimed the tax cuts would lead to more inflation and higher interest rates, while Mr. Reagan said tax cuts would lead to more economic growth and higher living standards. What happened? Inflation fell from 12.5 percent in 1980 to 3.9 percent in 1984, interest rates fell, and economic growth went from minus 0.2 percent in 1980 to plus 7.3 percent in 1984, and Mr. Reagan was re-elected in a landslide.

[...]Despite the fact that federal revenues have varied little (as a percentage of GDP) over the last 40 years, there has been an enormous variation in top tax rates. When Ronald Reagan took office, the top individual tax rate was 70 percent and by 1986 it was down to only 28 percent. All Americans received at least a 30 percent tax rate cut; yet federal tax revenues as a percent of GDP were almost unchanged during the Reagan presidency (from 18.9 percent in 1980 to 18.1 percent in 1988).

What did change, however, was the rate of economic growth, which was more than 50 percent higher for the seven years after the Reagan tax cuts compared with the previous seven years. This increase in economic growth, plus some reductions in tax credits and deductions, almost entirely offset the effect of the rate reductions. Rapid economic growth, unlike government spending programs, proved to be the most effective way to reduce unemployment and poverty, and create opportunity for the disadvantaged.

The Daily Signal describes the effects of the Bush tax cuts.

Excerpt:

President Bush signed the first wave of tax cuts in 2001, cutting rates and providing tax relief for families by, for example, doubling of the child tax credit to $1,000.

At Congress’ insistence, the tax relief was initially phased in over many years, so the economy continued to lose jobs. In 2003, realizing its error, Congress made the earlier tax relief effective immediately. Congress also lowered tax rates on capital gains and dividends to encourage business investment, which had been lagging.

It was the then that the economy turned around. Within months of enactment, job growth shot up, eventually creating 8.1 million jobs through 2007. Tax revenues also increased after the Bush tax cuts, due to economic growth.

In 2003, capital gains tax rates were reduced. Rather than expand by 36% as the Congressional Budget Office projected before the tax cut, capital gains revenues more than doubled to $103 billion.

The CBO incorrectly calculated that the post-March 2003 tax cuts would lower 2006 revenues by $75 billion. Revenues for 2006 came in $47 billion above the pre-tax cut baseline.

Here’s what else happened after the 2003 tax cuts lowered the rates on income, capital gains and dividend taxes:

  • GDP grew at an annual rate of just 1.7% in the six quarters before the 2003 tax cuts. In the six quarters following the tax cuts, the growth rate was 4.1%.
  • The S&P 500 dropped 18% in the six quarters before the 2003 tax cuts but increased by 32% over the next six quarters.
  • The economy lost 267,000 jobs in the six quarters before the 2003 tax cuts. In the next six quarters, it added 307,000 jobs, followed by 5 million jobs in the next seven quarters.

The timing of the lower tax rates coincides almost exactly with the stark acceleration in the economy. Nor was this experience unique. The famous Clinton economic boom began when Congress passed legislation cutting spending and cutting the capital gains tax rate.

So in the past, the trickle-down supply-side tax cuts that Hillary Clinton derided in her speech created lots of jobs. We have to do what is known to work.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

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