And now .xxx

There will now be a new domain name just for pornography:  .xxx.  However, pornography will still continue to populate the .coms and every other domain also.  The big opponents:  The porn industry, which knows that the creation of an internet red light district will mean their product be easier to block:

On Friday in San Francisco, the California nonprofit that oversees Internet addresses gave the green light to the virtual red-light district. The vote comes after several years of clashes and deliberations by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers.

Adult-entertainment sites will still populate the .com space and every other corner of the Internet. But now, many pornographic sites can also join a specialized domain that instantly telegraphs its content with the infamous suffix. ICM Registry, a Florida-based company that will run .xxx, said the domain’s Web sites will be the Internet’s most trusted place for adult entertainment: ICM will monitor the sites to ensure that they prohibit spam, viruses and any other illegal behavior. And it says it will use some of the registration fees for an affiliated foundation to promote free speech and combat child pornography.

“At the moment, the consumer has no way of knowing who is operating to good standards or has viruses,” Stuart Lawley, ICM Registry’s chairman and chief executive, said in an interview. “This new domain allows webmasters to associate with best business practices.”

But the dirty domain has a slew of critics. The Obama administration and some foreign nations say the domain’s offensive material will only encourage oppressive regimes to block .xxx entirely. A Commerce Department spokeswoman said the administration neither supports nor objects to the domain’s actual content or merit.

“We are disappointed that ICANN ignored the clear advice of governments worldwide, including the U.S.,” said Lawrence Strickling, assistant Commerce secretary. “This decision goes against the global public interest, and it will open the door to more Internet blocking by governments and undermine the stability and security of the Internet.”

Another set of foes, oddly enough: major pornography industry players, who fear that .xxx will be easily vulnerable to governments’ censorship. They also are concerned about aggressive policing by ICM and worry that porn Web sites will be forced to pay thousands of dollars in registration fees to buy multiple .xxx addresses simply to protect their brands from cybersquatters.

“This is putting a red target on us,” said Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association representing multiple adult-entertainment organizations including Hustler. “People who are pedophiles and child pornographers are not part of the adult-entertainment system. We have a code of ethics.

via Coming soon online: Dot-XXX – The Washington Post.

Right.  Anyway, pro-family groups also tend to oppose this, I suppose because it seems to legitimize pornography.  It seems that if porn will continue to operate from it current .com sites, this will do little one way or the other.  And if pornographers oppose it, they have no reason to put their material on .xxx sites.  If porn could be all moved to the .xxx sites, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

Black swans

In the new words department:

The disaster bureaucrats talk about black swans: calamities from out of the blue, terrible and strange. The world is now transfixed by the black swan disaster of Japan — an earthquake larger than seismologists thought could happen in that part of the country, leading to a tsunami too big for the sea walls, and now a nuclear crisis that wasn’t supposed to be possible.

via Japan’s ‘black swan’: Scientists ponder the unparalleled dangers of unlikely disasters – The Washington Post.

I like new terms that are not mere abstractions but vivid images.  “Black swan” gives us a picture of something that is very unlikely, but that occasionally, creepily, happens.  (It turns out, though, that there is a whole species of black swans in Australia that wasn’t discovered until the 18th century.)

See this for “black swan events”

Karl Popper uses the example of a black swan to show how, contrary to naive scientism, you can’t jump from the observation of particulars to make universal conclusions, but how particulars are useful to meet the criterion of falsifiability.

Then there is the ballet movie Black Swan, which plays off of some imagery in Tschaikovsky’s Swan Lake , but that’s different, positing in the white swan and the black swan a contrast between purity and sensuality.

Now that we apparently have a new word, what are some other rare, unexpected, and weird calamities that would qualify as black swans?

War #3

We started our third war.   The United Nations called for a no-fly zone in Libya, to try to stop dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s military strikes against Libyans protesting his rule.  This time NATO allies are playing a big role, with the French launching airstrikes against Gaddafi’s tanks.  (How do aircraft attacking ground targets, other than air defense sites, relate to the mandate of establishing a no-fly zone?)  But the U.S. is in it too, launching 112 Tomahawk missiles against Libya, as well as co-ordinating coalition efforts from American bases.  See  International coalition launches strikes on Libya – The Washington Post.

But here is the problem:  It may be too late.   Gaddafi may have already crushed the revolt.  His forces had already entered Benghazi, the city of a million people that was the center of the uprising.  What good would a no-fly zone, or even airstrikes do, to stop the urban warfare that is now taking place in that city?

President Obama has ruled out sending ground troops.  (Was that wise to let Gaddaffi know that?)  It looks like the Europeans are going to do the heavy lifting–in addition to the French, the Danes, the Spanish, and others have sent in their American-made F-18s and are preparing them for action–while we launch our missiles from afar to prevent any American casualties.  (Is this  Obama style of warfare, in which we no longer lead but follow and let other countries do the fighting for us, worthy of our country?  Or is it about time other countries police the world and we start holding back for once?)

But what will the coalition do if the rebellion is put down and Gaddafi is still in power?  Try to overthrow him, as the Americans did with his nearest counterpart, the late Saddam Hussein?  Which would surely require sending in ground troops after all?  Or just give Gaddafi  his victory?

UPDATE: American jets have attacked Libyan ground forces

Majority of Americans now back gay marriage

And majority rules:

A slim majority of Americans now support gay marriage, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.The results underscore the nation’s increasingly tolerant views about homosexuals, and parallel a string of recent legal and legislative victories for gay rights advocates.

Five years ago, at 36 percent, support for gay marriage barely topped a third of all Americans. Now, 53 percent say gay marriage should be legal, marking the first time in Post-ABC polling that a majority has said so.

via Slim majority back gay marriage, Post-ABC poll says – The Washington Post.

Problems with the food supply

Just in case you need something else to worry about, global food prices are skyrocketing (here not so much–yet), due to increased demand and shorter supplies:

Since last summer, several events — floods in Australia, blistering drought in Russia, the threat of a poor winter wheat crop in China — have compounded concerns about the food supply and pushed world prices to the highest levels measured since the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization began calculating its index in 1990.

For decades, the world was often swimming in surplus food because farmers were so productive. But rising demand has caught up, and reserves have become so tight that global food markets are vulnerable to even minor shocks. Many analysts say that higher, more volatile prices may be here to stay.

The new dynamic reflects in part the rising demand for meat in developing countries such as China, which has almost single-handedly driven up prices for the soybeans it imports for animal meal, as well as the increasing use of corn for ethanol. Today, at least a third of the U.S. crop goes for making fuel. In addition, there is spreading concern that climate change may make weather less settled and more disruptive to growers.

“For the last 60 years, the simple story was agricultural productivity — great productivity gains, unabated,” said Joseph Glauber, chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “But in the last five years, prices have lifted, and you see this real strong demand.”

Since last summer, the market price for corn to be delivered in May nearly doubled from $3.67 to $7.23 as of late last month, according to data compiled by Dan O’Brien, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University.

Grain reserves have dwindled. The latest USDA estimates, released Thursday, show U.S. reserves of corn and soybeans at historic lows, less than 5 percent of projected demand for the coming year. Typical reserves have been three or more times that amount, a chief reason why it does not take much to send prices skyrocketing.

via Higher food prices may be here to stay – The Washington Post.

The Calvinist case against Lutheranism

Darryl Hart, a Reformed theologian who favors  “confessional” Protestantism over against the new American varieties–including  “neo-Calvinism”–takes up and interrogates the Calvinist critique of Lutheranism.  He quotes the venerable B. B. Warfield:

Just as little can the doctrine of justification by faith be represented as specifically Lutheran. It is as central to the Reformed as to the Lutheran system. Nay, it is only in the Reformed system that it retains the purity of its conception and resists the tendency to make it a doctrine of justification on account of; instead of by, faith.

It is true that Lutheranism is prone to rest in faith as a kind of ultimate fact, while Calvinism penetrates to its causes, and places faith in its due relation to the other products of God’s activity looking to the salvation of man. And this difference may, on due consideration, conduct us back to the formative principle of each type of thought. But it, too, is rather an outgrowth of the divergent formative principles than the embodiment of them.

Lutheranism, sprung from the throes of a guilt-burdened soul seeking peace with God, finds peace in faith, and stops right there. It is so absorbed in rejoicing in the blessings which flow from faith that it refuses or neglects to inquire whence faith itself flows. It thus loses itself in a sort of divine euthumia, and knows, and will know nothing beyond the peace of the justified soul.

Calvinism asks with the same eagerness as Lutheranism the great question, “What shall I do to be saved?” and answers it precisely as Lutheranism answers it. But it cannot stop there. The deeper question presses upon it, “Whence this faith by which I am justified?” And the deeper response suffuses all the chambers of the soul with praise, “From the free gift of God alone, to the praise of the glory of His grace.”

Thus Calvinism withdraws the eye from the soul and its destiny and fixes it on God and His glory. It has zeal, no doubt, for salvation but its highest zeal is for the honour of God, and it is this that quickens its emotions and vitalizes its efforts. It begins, it centres and it ends with the vision of God in His glory and it sets itself; before all things, to render to God His rights in every sphere of life-activity.

via Old Life Theological Society » Blog Archive » Did Warfield Make the World Safe for Piper?.

Now let’s think about this.  Lutheranism rejoices in the comfort of the Gospel.  But Calvinism is not content with that, going on to rationally speculate about where faith comes from–that is, according to that system, in double predestination and limited atonement–to the point that the comfort gets lost!

Furthermore, here is what Dr. Hart has to say about this quote, drawing on Luther’s Theology of the Cross:

Several items are worth noting in this quotation. First is Warfield’s notion that Reformed Protestantism is not content with faith alone but embarks upon a deeper quest to find the origins of this faith. He does not explain here what this quest looks like, but his could be an argument in favor of the kind of introspection that experimental Calvinists like Edwards and Piper favor.

A second curious feature of Warfield’s contrast is the idea that Lutheranism emphasizes justification while Reformed Protestantism stresses the glory of God. This suggests common view in some union with Christ circles that Lutheranism manifests an anthropocentric view of Christianity (e.g., man’s salvation) that contrasts with Reformed Protestantism’s theocentric outlook (e.g., God’s glory). After all, an oft-made contrast between Heidelberg (which is considered a catechism that made concessions to Lutheranism) and Westminster is that the former catechism begins with man’s “only comfort” while the Shorter Catechism begins with “God’s glory” as man’s chief end.

The danger in this contrast so far – man’s salvation vs. God’s glory – is that Lutherans had good reasons for not becoming absorbed with God’s glory. Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation was a forceful warning to theologians who were tempted to identify God’s glory with outward and external signs or forms. In other words, writ large in Luther’s theology is the idea that God’s ways are not man’s, and so God may not actually glorify himself the way that man expects. The cross is folly. Preaching is weak. Christians are poor and humble. In which case, God saves an unlikely people through surprising means. And that may also mean that God’s glory is not always as glorious as human beings expect it.

If God’s glory can be a complicated affair, then perhaps Warfield is wrong to draw the contrast between Lutheranism and Reformed Protestantism the way he does. If Lutherans actually believe in God’s glory but are also aware that it comes in surprising ways, then maybe Reformed Protestants need to learn a thing or two about how to be truly theocentric. The Lutheran theology of the cross could teach Reformed Protestants a measure of humility in their self-ascribed ability to locate God’s glory in every nook and cranny of the created order. Reformed might also consider that Lutherans understand better than Reformed triumphalists and experimental Calvinists that God’s glory is nowhere more on display, at least in this world, in the justification of sinners. After all, if man is the crown jewel of the created order and if Christ took on human form to save fallen sinners, then contra Warfield, we may not need to go much beyond justification and man’s salvation in seeing the glory of God.

If this is so, then Reformed Protestants may need to be content with the glory that is revealed in the cross and the salvation it yields instead of yielding to the temptation to find God’s glory in human powers of discernment. If Reformed Protestants followed the lead of Lutherans more, we might be spared many of those neo-Calvinist efforts to show the “Christian” meaning of calculus, Shakespeare, or Dutch history.

So while the game of saying that Reformed highlight God’s glory and Lutherans stop with justification sounds theocentric, it may turn out to be an unintended example of anthropocentricity in which believers try to prove their own godliness by discovering God’s glory through forced interpretations of general and special revelation. Perhaps Lutherans are the truly biblical ones who rest content with the glory that God has revealed in the salvation accomplished by Christ for weak and poor sinners. What could be more glorious than that!


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