Thursday, June 19, 2014


Have you ever wondered why the sales rep in the auto dealership always has to go “talk to the boss” before agreeing to your offer? So he can come back and tell you “No,” and still be a good guy. So he can stiff arm any persuasive measures you undertake with the simple statement, “Nope, the boss won’t let me go that low.” It is a huge weight off the sales rep’s shoulders to be able to farm out the responsibility for saying “No” to someone who is absent.

What made me think about this dynamic of sales negotiation was story I saw on the internet today. A father had a T-shirt emblazoned with “Rules for Dating My Daughter.” The rules were:

1: I don’t make the rules
2: You don’t make the rules
3: She makes the rules
4: Her body, her rules 

Underneath the rules he had “Feminist Father” as a signature. The photo has gone viral and is much applauded by feminists and other politically correct oracles. The article went on to say that the man’s daughter was 20 years old. That makes her old enough to vote, an adult for most purposes, including giving consent for sexual intercourse. In light of his daughter’s age, he should have signed himself “Captain Superfluous” rather than “Feminist Father.” Whether he likes it or not, she’s on her own in fending off unwanted pleas for sexual intercourse.

You can buy the T-shirt with the rules online for $48.90, but I don’t think I’m going to buy one. Here’s why:

The article spoke of another man who tweeted (or twerked or posted or whatever) a comment that those were the rules for his 16 year old daughter. Bravo! Cheers! Wait a minute! Maybe this second dad hasn't thought the situation through clearly. His daughter is not an adult. He has just advertised that his minor daughter shoulders 100% of the responsibility for saying “No” in any high-pressure negotiations over having sex. And believe me, teenage boys can be very pushy on this subject.

His daughter is now denied the option of deploying the negotiation stopper “My dad won’t like it, and you don’t want to see him when he’s angry.” Result: Without the “Dad won’t approve” resource, she may very well be high-pressured into doing something she really doesn’t want to do.
If an adult sales rep in an auto dealership can deploy the "My boss says no" stratagem, it seems that a minor child should not be denied the option of deploying the "My dad says no" stratagem.

I saw another "Rules for Dating My Daughter" T-Shirt that puts the "My dad says no" theme front and center. This T-Shirt's rules were:
1: Get a Job.
2: Understand I don't like you.
3: Realize, I am everywhere.
4: You hurt her, I hurt you.
5: Be home 30 minutes early.
6: Get a lawyer.
7: If you lie to me, I'll find out.
8: She's my princess, not your conquest.
9: I don't mind going back to jail.
10: Whatever you do to her, I'll do to you.
Although the price of this second T-Shirt is only $20.95, I don't think I'll be buying it either.
This next story I’m going to tell has only minimal relevance to what I’ve said so far, but I was reminded of the incident as I wrote my comments above.

I once prosecuted a serial rapist/serial killer whom I’ll call Tony. He victimized and seriously injured a lot of young women and girls, and he killed at least two of them. I want to tell about a girl he didn’t hurt. Tony met a girl (who quite coincidentally was 16 years old) and asked her out on a date. She insisted he come to her house to pick her up. When he got to her house, she told him he had to come in and meet her parents. He asked her not to tell her parents his real name. She told Tony she had already told them his real name. When he first laid eyes on Tony, Dad felt very uneasy. With some trepidation, he allowed her to go on the date, but silently reassured himself that this would be her last date with Tony.

While on the date, Tony made unwanted sexual advances. She told him he could not take such liberties. He told her “I can do any damned thing I want to you.” To which she replied, “Yes, and my father and brother know who you are. They’ll hunt you down and kill you.” Tony stopped making advances and immediately took her home. “Dad won’t approve” not only saved the girl from unwanted sexual advances, it quite possibly saved her from serious injury or death. It’s probably a good thing the girl’s father wasn’t wearing that $48.90 “Rules” shirt.

Monday, June 16, 2014


ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S ALMANAC TRIAL: HOW A WAGON HAMMER WAS USED: I got an inquiry from a worker at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska, saying that they had a number of wagon hammers in their collection, b...

Monday, June 9, 2014


According to postmodern politically correct wisdom, Christian missionaries to third world countries were [and are] mere instruments of oppressive colonial rule and helping to despoil the native peoples and keep them in poverty and bondage. I vividly recall one politically correct soul who hated Mother Teresa with a passion because of the terrible damage she did to the Indian poor to whom she ministered. Nothing you could say to him would change his mind.
Robert D. Woodberry, a tenure track professor at a western university decided to measure the effects of missionary work on the colonial victims of the third world. He gathered his data, crunched his numbers, and was astounded by his results. He reworked his data, had it vetted by others, and still the results were the same. When he wrote his research paper and submitted it for publication, he did so with a degree of trepidation. In his paper he even apologized at the outset for his results, but he stood by their accuracy.  He wrote
[T]hese claims may sound overstated and offensive. Yet the historical and statistical evidence of CPs’ influence is strong, and the cost of ignoring CPs in our models is demonstrably high.
What were the results? What horrible effects did Christian missionaries have on the third world? Instead of paraphrasing, I’ll let him describe them:
[C]onversionary Protestants (CPs) were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty,  mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, most major colonial reforms, and the codification of legal protections for nonwhites in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These innovations fostered conditions that made stable representative democracy more likely—regardless of whether many people converted to Protestantism.
Woodberry goes on in the article to describe additional pernicious effects of Christian missionaries: Better health, longer lifespans, and greater personal freedom. Almost every democracy in the third world had a history of vigorous Conversionary Protestant missions. Almost every totalitarian state had no history of Conversionary Protestant missions.
He also found that Christian missionaries who were not Conversionary Protestant had little or no effect on the well-being of the countries in which they worked. Just what the blazes is a Conversionary Protestant? And how did they contribute to such miraculous changes in the mission fields where they worked? Woodberry doesn’t define the term Conversionary Protestant, he merely describes how Conversionary Protestants behave. According to Woodberry they:
(1) actively attempt to persuade others of their beliefs, (2) emphasize lay vernacular Bible reading, and (3) believe that grace/faith/choice saves people, not group membership or sacraments.
I can understand why Woodberry chose to coin the term Conversionary Protestant. If he had used the name that Conversionary Protestants commonly go by, he would have exposed himself to a firestorm of criticism for saying something nice about those ignorant Bible-thumping troglodytes, evangelical Christians. I immediately recognized who Woodberry was talking about because for most of my life I have been (and continue to be) a member of an evangelical Christian denomination.  And for most of my life in my particular denomination I have been urged to contribute to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions. I can remember wondering at times why we didn’t just leave those people alone and let them sort things out for themselves rather than trying to impose our beliefs upon them. I guess you could say I was not a very good Conversionary Protestant.
Now that we’ve figured out what a Conversionary Protestant is, we can address just how it was they helped to establish democracy. In a nutshell, they did it by being busybodies. They tried to educate the masses, to spread Christian standards of behavior, and to make the colonial authorities treat the native populations more humanely. You can read a full description of all the things they did to foster democracy in Woodberry’s article, The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy. It’s somewhat hard to read, but it is worth the effort.
It does seem, however, that Conversionary Protestants are still being busybodies right here in the USA, lobbying for behavior consistent with their understanding of Christian values such as supporting school prayer and opposing abortion. Might it be possible that their domestic activities are actually good for America? Perhaps in another hundred years another academic will do a statistical study and make a definitive determination of whether evangelical Christians, I mean Conversionary Protestants, were good or bad for twenty first century America.
Postscript: The watchword in academia is “publish or perish.” If you don’t get published you don’t get tenure and you have to start looking for another job. Woodberry’s experience was somewhat different. He got published but he did not get tenure. You can find his article online on a number of websites, and you can find him on the faculty of the University of Singapore. Postmodernism loves iconoclasm, but only of a certain type. If you are casting down the icons of traditional values, they applaud. But do not question the sacred cows of political correctness.


Saturday, June 7, 2014


Not too long ago, I saw a story which said the military was destroying tons of small arms ammunition. “That’s dumb,” I thought. Ammunition has a long shelf life. Then I saw a story about various Federal law enforcement agencies buying massive quantities of ammunition. “What do they need that much ammo for? Assuming there is a real need for the ammo why don’t they just take some of the ammo the military is destroying instead of wasting money buying large quantities of ammunition?”  Then, just recently, I heard a story about the US's only lead smelting plant being shut down because of excessive interference from the EPA. Do you see a pattern here? Obviously the Obama administration is trying to back-door gun control by drying up the supply of ammunition. At least that’s the claim being made in several quarters on the internet.

Before we get our knickers in a knot we might do well to remember the immortal words of Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary: “Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.” Ingham’s statement calls to mind Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

In isolation, the three events simply look like dumb moves on the part of our Federal Government. Are they isolated dumb moves or part of a diabolically clever scheme? I think the default position ought to be that they are a series of isolated dumb moves. To think otherwise tends to attribute more talent to the Obama administration than it has displayed thus far.

Let’s do some fact checking. First, let us ask how the story got started in the first place. I think we have three phenomena that account for the story. (1) Confirmation bias; (2) data mining; and (3) pattern recognition.

Confirmation bias: When we have a belief, we tend to develop tunnel-vision about that belief. We tend to notice evidence which confirms our belief and ignore evidence which goes against our belief. We may even search diligently for evidence confirming our belief. When we go searching for confirming evidence, we ought also to be just as diligent in looking for contrary evidence. In the more extreme forms of confirmation bias we engage in data mining.

Data mining: When confronted with a vast amount of data, we have to analyze the data to determine what is relevant to our inquiry and what is not. That’s why I always had the philosophy that in a murder investigation everything is relevant until it is shown to be irrelevant. We separate the wheat of relevant information from the chaff of irrelevance and we are able to make a sound judgment. When we data mine, however, we are not discarding irrelevant evidence, we are discarding evidence contrary to our position. We don’t look for relevant evidence, we look only for confirming evidence. We not only look for confirming evidence, we look for ways to interpret irrelevant evidence to support our theory. This is where pattern recognition comes in.

Pattern recognition: We are orderly creatures. We like for things to make sense. We like for them to conform to a pattern. We immediately recognize patterns. We are so good at recognizing patterns that we see them when they are not there. As a kid I used to lie on my back in my grandmother’s yard and look at the clouds. I saw all sorts of animals, people, and other things in the clouds. Of course they weren’t there. I was imposing a pattern on random data. That’s why we see the Man in the Moon. That’s why we saw the face on the surface of Mars. 

So how does this work with the government conspiracy to dry up the ammunition market? We start with the belief that the Obama administration is anti-gun. Confirmation bias kicks in and we notice every bit of information which confirms our belief while ignoring any information which disconfirms it. We data mine looking for confirmation and pull out the three unrelated factoids that the military is unwisely destroying ammunition, DHS and other government agencies are buying large quantities of ammunition, and the last lead smelting plant in the US has been shut down because of over-regulation by the EPA. As will be shown below, at least two of those factoids are open to question, but we ignore the contrary evidence. We look at the three unrelated factoids, pattern recognition kicks in, and we think we might see a vast government conspiracy to deplete the ammunition supply in the US. Now this is where most people would stop. They’ve got their confirmation and they’ve got a pretty little conspiracy theory.

Seeing the possibility of a government plot to back-door gun control through drying up the ammo supply should not be the end of our inquiry. It should be the beginning. Let’s ask around and see if the closure of the lead smelter is going to adversely impact the ammunition supply.

I think we can dig a little deeper and find evidence for the proposition that we are looking at isolated acts of incompetence rather than a diabolically clever scheme. On further examination, it seems that (1) The smelting plant was closed because of tightening EPA regulations which were enacted during the Bush administration. (2) There are other lead smelting plants still in operation. (3) Ammunition manufacturers have always bought their lead from the still-operating plants, not the closed plant.
See the following websites:

There goes one leg of the tripod of evidence for the back-door gun control theory. Another leg seems a little wobbly in light of Federal Ammunition’s statement that Department of Homeland Security purchases of ammo account for a very small part of their sales and that DHS purchases of ammunition are actually decreasing. See the Federal website FAQ page here:

Make no mistake about it, the Obama Administration is no friend of the Second Amendment, but the closure of the lead smelting plant gives us no reason to think they’re engaged in a plot to secretly destroy America’s ammunition supply. After all, Federal agencies need ammo too, even if the military doesn’t.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Rodney Stark is a Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences at Baylor University, the co-director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, and a prolific author on various subjects pertaining to religion. In many of his books Prof. Stark has advanced the theory that science arose as a result of the Christian belief that an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God must have created the world in a logical, coherent fashion such that the Universe runs according to set rules. In other words, it doesn’t thunder because Zeus is throwing lightning bolts or Thor is tossing his hammer, it thunders in response to orderly natural causes working in accordance with God’s design. Beginning in the Middle Ages and continuing into the Renaissance and Enlightenment Christian philosophers worked diligently attempting to discover those rules, and in the process they gave birth to modern science.

Although Stark’s proposition is open to debate, it cannot be denied that almost all of the early giants of science were either clergymen or theists steeped in the Christian tradition (Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, William of Ockham, and Isaac Newton, to name a few). If we assume the truth of Stark’s proposition, it is ironic to say the least that modern day atheists contend science has disproved the existence of God. On the contrary, if Stark is correct, every discovery ever made by science has constituted one more piece of evidence confirming the existence of God. As Stark put it in his latest book: “It could be said that the proposition that the universe had an Intelligent Designer is the most fundamental of all scientific theories and that it has been successfully put to the empirical test again and again.” (How the West Won: The Neglected Story of Modernity, p. 317).

We begin with the proposition that if there is a Christian God, he has made the world to work in orderly fashion and we can discover the natural mechanisms by which the world works. Science sees an unexplained phenomenon and sets to work trying to find a logical explanation for it. When science finds the natural explanation for the phenomenon, it also finds confirmation for the proposition that God made the world to operate in orderly fashion. Although some of these explanations contradict a literal reading of various statements made in the Bible, they do not contradict the proposition that there is an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God who has created an orderly Universe.

How the West Won makes several more claims which fly in the face of conventional wisdom: The fall of Rome was a good thing. The Dark Ages weren’t dark. There was no scientific revolution during the Enlightenment. Eastern civilizations never achieved science because Eastern religions prevented it. It makes for interesting reading.