Saturday, January 26, 2002

Stranger in a Strange Sci-Fi Debate- I was interested in a back-and forth between Justin Slotman (Philip K. Dick) at the IRB and Megan McArdle (Robert Heinlein), bringing back memories of my teen years, when I read nearly the whole Sci-Fi section of the Midland library. Heinlein was one of my favorites. I somehow missed Dick's writing, but from the two movies that got mentioned, Blade Runner and Total Recall, his work seems a bit dystopian, and I like to leave a book feeling better than I came in. Heinlein's male characters seemed to be optimistic curmudgeons (is that an oxymoron?), like Jubal in Stranger in a Strange Land or Lazarus Long in Methusalah's Children and Time Enough to Love or the father in Farnham's Freehold. However, most of his work has a lightly misogynistic and amoral feel that doesn't sit well with my today. His books may not make good movies since the triumphalism of the 40s and 50s has given way to a more cynical attitude and his best work, Stranger in a Strange Land, will likely never be made into a movie due to the non-raunchy nudity; a PG-13 book would turn into a NC-17 movie. Another good book I liked, Podkayne of Mars (I had a crush on her), assumes life on both Mars and Venus, and thus would have to be done with a Captain Proton-level tongue-in-cheek to be filmed today. The Number of the Beast might be the basis for an interesting screenplay, with a can-do female protagonist, although the TV show Sliders has covered the multiverse theme. I still use a line from Jubal in theological discussions-"The predestinationists and the free-willers are tied in the fourth quarter, last time I checked." However, I wouldn't go back and reread them today.

I, too, have seen this Richard Scarry ABCs video one time too many (via my niece Jessica)- Check out this anarchist rant in defense of Bananas Gorilla by James Lileks.

Three points for a takedown-Gregory Hlatky over at A Dog's Life has this piledriver on Krugman.

Krugman seems like a most unpleasant columnist, sort of the Anthony Lewis of the Dismal Science. His journalistic sins, if any, are venal, not mortal. Sure he accepted 50,000 smackeroos for some do-nothing, window-dressing position with Enron ("Look Kenny-Boy, we got us a gen-u-ine Princeton egghead. Shore looks good hangin' over the fireplace, don't it?") but any connection ceased when he joined the Old Gray Lady. His position isn't a lot different than Bush's: both took Enron's money, then kicked Enron in the teeth when it went down the drain.

Anthony Lewis? That's cold, even for Cincinnati in January, ranking up with MCJ's Steve "Antichrist" Spurrier. I'll accept it if someone calls me the Instapundit of the Dismal Science. [Update-While at that link, scroll down to the Enronism section. It's even better.]

Dodgeblog has a goodie from AG Ashcroft-"Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends His Son to die for you." Dodge proceeds to rip Ashcroft a new one for the statement, citing the injustices done by believers in the past. Mr. Dodge seems to mix together all nominal adherents of the faith. In Northern Ireland, the Catholic-Protestant fight is ethnic rather than religious, with ethnic Protestants and ethnic Catholics resenting each other based more on tribalism (and past discrimination against Catholics) than transubstantiation. Catholic Croatians and Orthodox Serbs don't like each other, either. WWI was fought primarily amongst nominally Christian countries, as was the American Revolution and Civil War. Godly men and women were on both sides of each war. Each of these wars would have been prevented if the leaders on both sides actually practiced their faith and treated their fellow man properly. There was an old joke about The Troubles-"Why can't the Protestants and Catholics act more like Christians?" If both were, we'd have no problem. The Crusades were a defensive war with nominal Christians looking to kick Islamic invaders out, even though there were plenty of unbiblical activities by the Crusaders. Salidin comes away looking more noble than a lot of the "Christians." In many wars, people will use the flag of religion to justify looting, rape and pillage. The Serbs who gang raped Kosovars and Bosnians weren't following Biblical principals while doing so. Someone could come up with a counter example of someone devoutly trashing an enemy, but history is littered with more nominal belivers abusing their faith in wartime. For instance, many of the IRA are Catholic like the Godfather dons were Catholic. I remember one scene where one of the dons was a principal at a baptism, vowing to reject Satan, while at the same time, we see his guys performing multiple hits on his rivals. It's that hypocritical, ungodly spirit that creates most of the carnage that Dodge is ripping on, not an honest effort at following Jesus.

News while I was at lunch-Margaret Thatcher had a minor stroke while on vacation in Spain. Hopefully, she'll start getting more praise for what she did for Britian and the world than she's been getting. I think back to the Falklands War, as she stood up to Argentine agression, making it easier for future leaders to stand up to bullies around the world. Her partnership with Reagan helped end the cold war. Her no-nonsence defence of free markets and moral standards make her more loved in the US than in Britian. Pray for her good health.

I found a pair of interesting new (to me) bloggers, More than Zero and Benjamin Kepple. Kepple, a former Investor's Business Daily writer, has a nice bit of advice on individuals and derivatives: "As an individual investor, you should probably not even consider trading in futures unless you're one of those few people able to trade oil for cotton for orange juice and still make a mint." The old joke is "How do you make a small fortune in futures? Start with a large one." Only the real pros make money in futures. So, ignore those "the widget market is about to explode; a $1000 in widget future options can control $100,000 of widgets" ads. He links to a good article on derivatives at More than Zero but a primer (I've given three quick definitions below) might be an order; I did my dissertation of Nikkei put warrants (long-term options) and learned about tranches teaching Real Estate Finance, but I had to work at following the finance of the piece. Futures: The commitment to buy or sell a set amount of an item at a given time in the future. These can be used to hedge risks, such as farmers entering into futures contracts to fix the price they'll get for their crops or power companies buying electricity futures to lock in a price on the juice. Enron was making a lot of its money managing energy futures. Options: The right to, at the holder's option, buy (call option) or sell (put option) a set amount of an item at a given time in the future. Tranche: Subset/Group. A package of bonds or mortgages are often divided into groups. For instance, a package of mortgages (CMO) will be divided up so that the first group, or tranche, will get the principle of the early repayments, then (once the first tranche is paid off) the second tranche, et. cetera. The MTZ piece describes a Collateralized Bond Obligation where the first batch of defaults get given to the first tranche (they'll pay much less for theirs since they're the first to be screwed). The Media has a fear of the unknown, especially when the fat cats are involved. Joe Farmer will be in the futures market as a part of everyday business. Most business use of derivatives are to manage risk, not bring it on. Enron was not done in by being the manager of an energy futures market but by overleveraging their balance sheet and hiding it from view by shady accounting. However, what the liberal fears, he wants to regulate. By waiving a hand, invoking "Derivatives, complicated stuff you wouldn't (translated, I don't) understand. Scary," the media create an environment that is bad for financial innovation. Derivatives get a bad rap whenever abuses occur. Orange County got screwed by playing with inverse floaters, were interest goes down on the bond when interests rates go up. Those weren't proper for a county money-market fund to be investing in, and the whole derivative industry gets a black eye from a county treasurer who was clueless . The Barings Bank fiasco was another example, where one gonzo broker in Singapore gambled big on Japanese futures and lost big, bankrupting the company. Long Term Credit Management, run by the people, (Robert Merton and Fisher Black) who pioneered modern option pricing theory, went under when their financial model didn't model the market right, leaving the media asking "If the financial rocket scientists can't understand it, who can?" The public doesn't see the upside of derivatives, only the failures. Here's the liberal's thought pattern: (1) Enron went bankrupt (2) Enron was into derivatives (3) Enron and the Republicans wanted looser regulation of the derivative markets (4) The loose regulation of the derivatives must have caused the collapse (5) We need to regulate derivatives more. The first three are true, #4 isn't. Thus, #5 is a bogus assumption based on that logic. Explaining what's happening to the public is crucial in keeping things from getting over-regulated

Very good first counseling session yesterday, although the Kleenex box normally doesn't get used more by the prospective groom. Pastor Milton had the line that a spouse should make one say "they make me feel better about me." That brought me to tears; part of the confidence to be posting blogs comes from Eileen's love. Excellent young adult (yes, I'm fudging the age boundry, but I fit the demographic) Bible study Eileen and I went to last night. I was a little worried when one of our new guys, Don, was hosting. A divorced dad, he had custody of his two kids for the weekend, so this was a way for him to be with us. Rather than throwing in a praise CD to start worship, we had Don on guitar and Joel (our church praise band drummer) on bongos leading a great session for the dozen of us at Don's apartment. The kids were well behaved, other than the time that they sent a remote-control toy monster truck into the festivities. A great give-and-take study on forgiveness followed. The counseling session and the Bible study more than made up for the cranky computer yesterday; the computer and I are back to being simpatico today. I'm blogging from work while Excel bashes on a big text file I downloaded from our Medicaid database.

Unexpected Memories-stumbled into a obit of a guy named Peter Gzowski, who hosted a CBC radio show called Morningside, a smart, charming talk show that I'd listen to back in 1990, working at Cedar Campus in Michigan's U.P. The nearest large town was Sault Sainte Marie ("the Soo"), Ontario, about 40 miles to the north, so we got CBC radio as well as a variety of US stations from Soo Michigan, Alpena and Traverse City. Running the general store at the conference center, I'd do the "town trip" every morning ,driving into Cedarville to pick up mail, fill requests from campers and staff from stores in town and other gofering. Morningside was typically on the radio. Relapsed Catholic made the remark, "I'm too young to have ever really dug the guy, but if you're Canadian, this counts as religion." I spent a little time with him, and undestand their loss.

Interesting back-and-forth over at The Corner on a possible Chief Justice O'Connor. Ramesh Ponnuru states that "...conservatives won't be too upset as long as that elevation is coupled with a solid conservative appointment to fill the vacancy on the bench." Bingo! Hold your cards, we have a winner. The alternatives are Scalia and Thomas, not easy sells. If you have a limited amount of political capital-spend it getting a good conservative to replace Rehnquist as associate justice rather than two Senate brawls.

Layne Out the Details.-NYT piece on plagarism software, checking for lifting of passages from other publications. Doris, Steve, you've been warned.

Quip Du Jour-"When you copy from one sourse, it's called plagiarism, if you copy from many sourses, it's called research"-anon. Edifier Du Jour-"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised"-Proverbs 31:30 (and I've got one of those, praise!) Groaner du joir- "The goaltender invited my dad and I to a party at his place-got a picture of the three of us: the father, son and the goalie host."

Friday, January 25, 2002

We're past using the Japanese business model- Former Enron vice-chair John Baxter apparantly commited suicide today. This reminds me of Japanese practices for disgraced leaders to commit hari kari rather than lose face. The Junkyard Blog's making allusions to Vince Foster. The other spooky part is that my future in-laws live in metro Houston, so the upscale suburb of Sugar Land where Baxter lived rung a bell; it was Sugar Land Hightower that knocked Eileen's alma mater, Humble High, out of the state playoffs.

Connie Chung-the Steve DeBerg of network news. As per Junkyard Blog's question-neither a hot propery or a has-been, just a journeywoman newsie. DeBerg was a OK starter for a number of teams, but never a star and never without a paycheck, be it San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Kansas City or Atlanta. Chung is a newsroom tweener, not serious enough to be a anchor and not cutsie enough to do the morning show stuff well. However, she's good enough that networks will want her. She'll add bench strength to CNN, and can relearn how not to throw softballs.

The IRB had two interesting sports pieces, the one on HORSE-I'm old enough to remember the CBS halftime shows-Westphal's trick was that he was fairly ambidextrous and would hit short jumpers and layups with his off hand. The other piece was onthe expansion draft. Charlie Batch has been injury prone and underachieving the last few years, while McMahon became the boy wonder at QB late in the season. Some good bangs for the buck on that list. Troy Walters, Terry Kirby, Batch (pick a good QB as #1 and let Batch be the regent until the prince is ready to rule) , Jesse Armstead, Santana Dotson, Danny Wuerffel (as a #2/#3), Tim Biakabutuka (if healthy), Jamal Anderson(ditto). Thought on the IRB-it has two adjectives in its name, thus won't likely live up to them. It must be a rich dictatorship.

Interesting piece on the next Pope in the WSJ, looking at some possible candidates. I have neglected to add Amy Welborn to my permalink list, a sweet Catholic writer/mom who's In Bewteen Naps blog shows promise to be from the next Peggy Noonan. I'll try to remember to do so tonight.

Grossed out- To Little Sanity-The Fresh Air comment was talking content rather than quality, but the quality's good. She had to start somewhere a quarter century ago when she was 11. ;-) If you haven't heard this NPR show, check out Todd Mundt. He has a 1-2PM show on Michigan Radio which would seem to be Blogistani-friendly. He covers a lot of science, history and sociology as well as a few trips into movies and books. No annoying callers, either, just a good smart Everyman host and an interesting guest. [ Update-I gave his site a once-over- HE IS a Blogistani-but hasn't posted since Christmas] LS has a good link to a New Republic piece by editor Marty Peretz on the Saudi's unvarnished. Being a Christian there, especially a evangelical who'd want to put in a plug for Jesus, is very hard. This is the kind of piece that earns TNR a permalink. They're neolibs, but honest ones who'll occasionally press charges. I'll be impressed more times as I'm ticked, which about is Samizdata's batting average as well.

First pre-marital counseling session with Pastor Milton this afternoon. This is another milestone, like proposing and getting the engagement ring. I'm reminded of how blessed I am to have Eileen in my life-at my age, I wondered if I would ever find a soulmate. I'm in tears as I write this, remembering the lonely years without any really close friends and thanking God for the gift of a soulmate that is a smart, godly young (she'll be 29 next week) woman who laughs at my jokes. I'm also thankful that He kept both of us from jumping-the-gun on sex-she'll be able to wear white with a straight face and so will I (but I'll wear a suit instead). My computer at work isn't wanting to multitask today, thus I may be sparse in my posting-I often browse for a half-minute here and there while files are loading, saving or running long macros. It didn't like that today.

Given Case Law, its not Amazing-Grace has been banned at VMI by order of a federal district judge. A standard non-denominational grace had been read before meals, but since it was done by the superintendent, it was a "state-sponsored religious exercise." I was thinking of VMI prof Stonewall Jackson when I heard this piece-a godly guy with a lousy taste in sides in the Civil War. He had a extraordinary level of devotion to God and probably ain't happy today looking down at all this.

Does this discharge make congressmen unclean?- Campaign finance reform backers, with some help from Enron news, finally got a majority of House members to sign a discharge petition to bring the center-left Shays-Meehan (the House incarnation of McCain-Feingold) bill to the floor. The key features of the bill would be to end large donations to political parties and restrict how non-candidates talk about candidates in ads. Of course, restricting free speech has one minor problem- the first amendment. Some background for non-political-junkies: Donations to individual congressmen or senators ("Hard Money") are limited to $2000 per donor, while donations to parties or other non-candidate groups ("Soft Money") are unlimited. Those non-candidate groups are supposed to use that money for things like voter education and registration and not be used to directly support candidates. However, as long as an ad doesn't say, "Vote for Congressman Jones" or "Vote against Candidate Smith", they'll claim they are just educating voters that candidate Smith is the Devil incarnate, and the FEC looks the other way. This doesn’t mean that Shays-Meehan will pass. An alternative coalition of Republicans and black Democrats (who rely on soft money in their poorer districts) could pry loose some of the Democrats and about 20 moderate House Republicans backing S-M (Oh! They like S-M?) by well-placed amendments.

Biology 397:Special Topics in Ecology-"Political Ecology of Blogistan"-Will Hester muses:"Is the reason that blogging is largely a "conservative" phenomenon (though I would not argue if you think a better choice would be "neoconservative", "libertarian", "independent") the result of a biased media culture?" I'm writing this at 12:30AM, at least two hours past my bedtime (mind's not slowing down tonight), so adjust for IQ deficit. I'm not sure what to call the ideology of Blogistan. Libertarians will launch the bombers if you call them a "conservative." In Europe, conservative has a aristocratic, undemocratic undertone, hence free-market icon Freidrich Hayek's famous "Why I am not a Conservative" essay. Some purists will go with "Classic Liberal" in the 1800's sense of taking power from the aristocrats and giving it to the people at large. Whitaker Chambers ducked by calling himself a "man of the right." I broke down the standard paleocon, of which Pat Buchanan is a charatature, earlier. The two main strains of "classic liberalism" I'll call neoconservative and libertarian. 20th century liberalism (market socialism?) took power from the individual and gave it to the government; both branches of CL opposed it to varying degrees. Where the two strains differ is on the ability (and desirability) of government to enforce moral discipline on the public. Libertarians will argue against laws on drugs, on sexual issues such as abortion, prostitution or pornography and on safety issues like seat belts. The libertarian will also tend to be more skeptical about government and institutions in general. Virginia Postrel coined the term dynamist to describe people who believe in a dynamic, changeable system. Blogistan is definitely dynamist territory, with a few of us parting company over human biotech, drugs and prostitution. The blog world that I've been exposed to is right-of-center with a strong libertarian leaning. However, you link to who you reading links to, so you will tend to stay in the same philosophical space. I'm not linking to The Nation or The American Prospect since their ideologies are near-polar opposites of mine. Here are some possible explanations for the dynamist tendencies of Blogistan. (1)-Computer users tend to be better educated and wealthier. Geeks have a basic libertarian streak, believing in a free-market meritocracy of which they have a good deal of merit to offer. (2)- A factor in dynamist blogging is that free-market arguments require more intellectual explanation than liberal arguments, which often are based on fears. The free-form blog allows the writer to make a one-paragraph cutter or a two-page essay, neither of which would make a good editorial. (3)-Liberals have more segmented interests. The dynamist community has more things in common. "It's a libertarian thing, you wouldn't understand" wouldn't sell as a T-shirt here. Also, since most bloggers fall into the dreaded "white male" category, there isn't a X studies program to vent on at college. (4)- A lot of blogging is humor, a good hunk of it decidedly non-PC. ("How many feminist does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" "That's not funny") Liberals take themselves and the world too seriously. Dynamists realize that the world's imperfect and will stay that way. We can't save the world, so lighten up. For 1:45 in the morning, not bad.

Quip Du Jour: "Cher is interested in cloning herself, so we'll have Cher and Cher alike"-Anon. (Katherine's interested too, she'll dupla-Kate herself) Edifier Du Jour-"The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out." Proverbs 10:9 (Lay it out for us, Ken) Groaner Du Jour-Reading Matthew 8:28-34. Jesus casts demons into pigs, who then drown themselves in lake. First recorded case of "soo-eee"-cide.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

SermonWatch- (delayed but not forgotten)- The sermon proper was on seeking God. A key point was a quote (that Pastor Milton attributed to Oprah but came up empty on Google) "You become what you think about most." Very true. I've been blogging too much and being with God too little this week, and Eileen noticed, gently calling me on it last night after church. Today, I still blogged a lot while programs were running at work but made sure to get some "quite time" in today. I was reading in Matthew 7, and made the edifier for today verses 13-14. The narrow road may not be sexy or popular, but is the most rewarding in the long run. The most interesting point came before the sermon, when the worship leader was talking about reading Leviticus 5, comparing the offerings that had to be made by the priests to get close to God while we have a built-in high priest in Jesus. My thought-the Levitical priests had a rite to approach God; through Jesus' blood , we have a right to approach God.

Lay's-Bet you can't bankrupt just one.-Enron Chair Kenneth Lay resigned yesterday. The commentary on the way in this morning was answering subpoenas will be his new full-time job. This guy went from being a possible Bush cabinet member to possibly being Spike's new roommate in six months. California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer was making a tasteless joke at Lay's expense about prison rape last year during the electricity shortages; now, if Lay had a hand in some of the more fraudulent stuff, he could actually get prison time. The Enron shell game (how much Lay was in on the details is still in question) is much worse that Michael Milken's insider activities, and Milken served hard time.

Newbie on the block-Nice fan letter from Will Hester and his new blog, Little Sanity. It's more culture oriented than the average blog, sort of a (for the Enemy Radio/NPR listeners) Fresh Air to my Diane Rehm (Rehm? No fair! I have a better voice, I'm less condescending and no Naderite calls). So far so good for a rookie blogger (can I talk smack for a three-week-old?). He's earned a permalink.

Mr. Preston over at Junkyard Blog has done it again. He almost matches his great essay on creation (hard act to follow) with a spirited and thoughtful defence of his pro-life stance. A key point Bryan makes is that if life doesn't begin at conception, when does it start? He points out that abortion-rights people would rather quibble at the conception issue rather than defend another point, because there isn't a defendable other point.

"Would you like the Ollie or the Hillary model?"- High theater on the Hill as Arthur Anderson's chief Enron guy David Duncan took the fifth, not wanting to answer questions on shreading documents. The question is still open as to whether Duncan was the man who ordered the shreading, or whether higher-ups ordered it done. Reporters and pundits are happy, a shipment of fresh meat just arrived in time for the weekend chatter.

Welcome to Blogistan, NRO-The new National Review blog The Corner is all over bioethics, riffing on the NYT piece I noted below. It also linked to a killer article by Ramesh Ponnuru with the 5-page, wish I wrote it, version of libertarian versus conservative on bioethics. My one-pager this morning wasn't bad (I had a anti-anti-Kass rant in me for a while and I got it in cogent form last night) but Ponnuru nails it to the wall. If I had seen the article yesterday, I might have put off the Papa Blog critique for a later date and just linked with a "check this out" comment. While it may be a controversial call calling this a blog, I've put The Corner in the Blogistan section to the left.

Peggy Lee update- I shared that Lady and the Tramp thing when I got home yesterday. The whole clan, including Eileen and my sister Kathy, were over for dinner. Kathy, Eileen and I wound up breaking into "We are Siamese if you please", and the two of them continued on to harmonize on the first verse, flooring my dad. Those two spend too much time with kid's videos (Eileen teaches pre-K at church and Kathy has 5-year-old Jessica). A fun time was had by all.

Aye, there be blogs here- NRO's The Corner is up-and is lookeeng good. Thanks to Kevin for the link

Justin at the IRB gives an interesting NYT link on liberal foes of cloning research. This reminds me of the anti-pornography coalitions of religious conservatives (who think it's sinful) and feminists (who think it's exploitive). The same rationales apply here, but you have the Luddite Left added to the mix. I would be cautious in calling it a statist coalition, since the conservatives would not likely be on board on other issues. In the Postrelian (first time I've seen that, nice) paradigm, I am a dynamist on most issues. This one is an exception.

Kevin Holtsberry points to this Columbus Dispatch article on a bill to require "that all theories on the origins of life be included in any school instructional program and that students be taught to think critically and understand why the various theories might create controversy." I'm not quite sure if Intelligent Design theory is ready for scholastic prime-time, but I'm leaning in that direction. As I understand it, ID argues that life is too complex to have happened accidentally, and has quite a few adherents among professional biologists. If there's enough professional air cover to make it a viable alternative, I'd be willing to back the Ohio bill.

It's fun again to be a Michigan sports fan- the Pistons seem to have rebounded from a West-Coast induced slump and got out the whuppin' can on Minnesota yesterday. They're tied for the 6th seed and only 2.5 games out of fourth. That coupled with cap room to improve makes this a fun bunch. Add that to a kick-butt Red Wings team, and there will be plenty of playoff stuff to watch this spring while the Tigers most-likely stink-up Comerica.

Philippine Encouragement- The nationalist-leaning VP, Teofisto Guingona, has signed off on the US military presence training troops to fight southern Muslim rebels, including the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf. Guingona had been a backer of the US military leaving the Philippines a decade ago. Another warn fuzzy for America.

How do you say "mob hit" in Hindi?-The attack on the American consulate in Calcutta may have been the work of a Dubai-based crime leader named Aftab Ansari, and not a Kashmir-related item. A possible explanation is that the Ansari gang may have been attacking the local police rather than the US.

Keep an eye on this topic- The US has slapped a 19.3% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber imports, claiming that the lower royalties Canadian firms pay to harvest lumber on provincial lands amount to an export subsidy. This has done a number on the Western Canadian timber industry and has Canadian pols steaming. It's going to U.S. court and to the WTO. The export subsidy claim is rather iffy and may not stand up in court.

If you see this piece on hard-core pro-lifers setting up a "National Congress for the Protection of Human Life" in the Washington Times, note who is the spokesman. Howard Phillips has been the leader of the Buchananesque Constitution Party, which may not make him representative of the overall pro-life movement.

Jonah.blogspot.com?- Turns out NRO is going to get an in-house blog called "The Corner", with running commentary from Goldberg, Lowery, Dreher et al. Might be interesting. That and the news that Mark Steyn may be entering the blog world will make for two extra bookmarks.

Two funnies from my ongoing overview of the 2002 election at Blogistan Political Journal. There is a Idaho congressman named Butch Otter- Doesn't that sound like the title for a South Park spinoff? Adam Smith is a Democrat? Yep, congressman from Washington state.

Bioethics or Biomorals?- I’ve been following the president’s bioethics commission headed up by Dr. Leon Kass. Papa Blog has been a harsh critic of Kass’ world-view; their differences are descriptive of the differences between libertarians and conservatives. The new quip is that the conservative “stands athwart history, yelling 'Stop!',” while the libertarian “stands athwart history, yelling ‘Yee-Haw!’” Is it the neocons job to stand athwart history, trying to keep it out of the ditch? Not to stop progress, but to guide it away from danger. Paul’s admonishment to the Corinthians was ” ’Everything is permissible’--but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’--but not everything is constructive.” We aren’t out of place to ask some hard questions, questions that may be more metaphysical that scientific. On cloning, some of the questions go straight to some core questions as to what a person is and what it isn’t. Is a fetus a person or property? If it is property, can the owner dispose of it as it wishes? Can the state declare eminent domain and forcibly buy the “property” from the owner? If cloning is allowed, especially if artificial “wombs” are created, at what point, if any, does the being gain personhood? If clones or other artificially-generated humans aren’t people, can they be enslaved or carved up for parts? Most of these questions have no good scientific answer; they are as much a realm of theology as science, yet they are still valid questions. Reynolds and others (he’s more civil than most in his trashing) have sought to belittle and treat as intellectual inferiors people who oppose embryo-based biotech on religious grounds.In this piece Reynolds makes light of the gut instincts of Kass and others, and seeks to avoid invoking God on the issue of abortion by pointing out the number of miscarriages (spontaneous abortions in medical-speak) that He allows. Another Reynolds piece chalks up the dislike of cloning to simply a “having the willies” feeling that is without any intellectual basis. Yet another invokes this Simpsons dialogue

Bart: "How would I go about creating a half-man, half-monkey-type creature?" Ms. Krabapple: "I'm sorry, that would be playing God..." Bart: "God schmod. I want my monkey man!" What would Leon Kass say? Come to think of it, he kind of reminds me of Ms. Krabapple. . . .

Come to think of it, Glenn, you kind of remind me of Bart. Let's skip the ad hominems, shall we. If the critics of biotech can be called out for a crude "playing God" critique, the fans of biotech can be called out for wanting their monkey-man, morals be damned. While the critics of cloning and other embryo-based biotech may not be the most intellectual, they need to be heard and treated with respect.

Quip du jour-"The only things in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead armadillos"-Jim Hightower Edifier du jour-"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Ban H2O- You may have seen this before, but this page from the Coalition to Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide is a hoot. It originally took me a little bit of reading before it sunk in that this toxic scourge is ...water. I had seen this parody in the past, but didn't save the link. A Dog's Life was the provider of the link.

Looks like I'm a low-level Colts fan-They signed Tony Dungy yesterday. If Dungy can get a good offensive coordinator to look after Manning, James and company and let him do his thing, the Colts could do very well.

Quirky thought-How many times have you seen a live opossum? You usually only see them as road pizza, but one skittered across Wheeler Road this morning on my way to work. Granted, it was 6AM and still dark for these critters. I cannot recall the last time I saw one live.

Why the Fuss About Club Fed?- Well, there are good pictures of guys coming off planes in shackles, which you don't get with Enron. Pieces without pictures aren't easy to do on TV. Second, the media feels more comfortable in confrontation mode rather than simply reporting. They jumped all over Enron hoping that there would be some big figures brought down-no luck so far. Lacking a good kill with Enron, many of the pack jumped on this Guantanamo story. Finally, human rights stories are ways to make freinds in liberal circles, even if there aren't any violations other than making double sure the detainees don't pull somthing. Hey, Rummy said there’s no story there, lay off. Yeah, sure they will.

A e-mailer took me to task for not mentioning "what Jesus said" in regards to abortion in my post on abortion on Monday. The word abortion doesn't show up in the Bible, whether it be the NIV, Revised Standard, New American Standard or King James versions. The closest analog is in Exodus 21:22 -"If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide." It doesn't say anything about intentional miscarriages. However, in many verses, include the one in the previous post, the unborn child is clearly God's creation and known by Him. Deuteronomy 30:19 gives a good general creed: "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants." It faced with a decision of life and death, the believer should choose to maximize life. This is why the abortion rights crowd were hot and bothered when Florida signed off on optional "Choose Life" license plates with added proceeds going to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. I base my decision on abortion on the concept that babies are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by God and shouldn't be killed to ease a few months of a mother's pain. Before becoming a Christian, I went through the mental process of Monday's post, weighing the value of the unborn life against the mother's suffering in pregnancy and came down upon the side of the baby. I didn't have a good understanding of God at the time (I'm still working on it), but I figured if I was going to answer to Him for one of those two, I'd rather answer for the mom's suffering than the baby's life. Bible study and the Holy Spirit's council have firmed up that belief, but it is weighing the two options and choosing life that is still my framework for opposing abortion.

Quip Du Jour-The Politician's Prayer-"Lord, may my words be sweet and tender, for someday I may have to eat them" Edifier Du Jour: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Should we pass the McArdle Act? Megan McArdle has proposed abolishing the corporate income tax. Let’s dissect her arguments. 1: Corporations aren’t people Yes, but allowing income to pile up tax free may not be what we want to do, to allow corporate status to be a no-string-attached IRA, deferring taxes until a dividend is paid. Fair point, but not hugely persuasive. 2: The Corporate Income Tax Costs the Economy More than it Earns I’m not on board with her prof’s stats of $300B in costs to bring in $205B. Some accounting would still be done, if for investors if not for Uncle Sam. If the point were true, even a liberal would be on board. A fairer statement would be that the cost of compliance is an additional drag on the economy. 3: The Corporate Income Tax is extremely Distortionary This one doesn’t hunt too well. In the article, McArdle posits an 8% return and borrowing at 9%. If you can get a 2.5% tax break from the borrowing, you’d get a (8+2.5-9) 1.5% net return. This would only be true if the 8% were tax free. The real result from her scenario would be a 1% before-tax loss. She does have a point that there are many games that can be played with tax policy, like having a non-profit’s building owned by a corporation (who can deduct depreciation to increase cash flow) and rented back at a lower net cost to the non-profit. Comparable games could be played in with a no-corporate-tax universe as well. Bond and money market mutual funds will, instead of paying dividends, reinvest profits tax-deferred and set up loan departments to borrow money against the balance for people needing cash flow. Such tax-deferred schemes would take $20-30 billion out of tax revenues. 4: It is Impossible to Close the Loopholes 5: Eliminating the Corporate Income Tax Makes Corporate Welfare Harder These two go together-loopholes are corporate welfare. Without tax breaks, businesses would have to get direct subsidies to do things, which will be harder to justify. Getting rid of the corporate income tax will cause a mass evacuation of lobbyists from Washington and dry up the corrupting influence of campaign donors trying to buy tax breaks. It will trash the real-estate market on K Street, and that’s good. This is actually one of the better selling points of the plan. What are the upsides of the McArdle Act? Trashing K-street, putting a lot of the tax industry into more productive endeavors and giving investors a better return, thus encourage equity investments and giving a long-term boost to the economy What are the downsides? Somewhat less tax revenue in the short term and some new tax-avoidance schemes. Over the long haul, the economic boost from the tax abolition will be made up by additional taxes from personal income. In the short term, however, we’ll have to account for a possible tax revenue shortfall in the early years. That will make it a real tough sell.

More Loonie Tunes-Checking the National Post for my quick check on the Great White North, I get this manure-ready headline-"Weak loonie not our fault: Martin." Treasury minister Paul Martin is trying to blame the international financial markets for under-appreciating the Canadian economy. Just as I was about to launch into another anti-Liberal spiel on how big government and high taxes are what the markets are looking at, not low deficits and low inflation, I scan down a line to the editorial title, "Talk is Cheap-So's the Dollar". Editorialist Peter Shawn Taylor does the job very nicely for me.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword- Excellent Krugmangate piece by Mark Steyn in the National Post. Watch how, in one continious motion, Steyn runs through both the Grey Lady and the Loonie. "And now in the most hilarious twist the sozzled rep actor has junked the script entirely and bit The New York Times in the ass. Last week, a gazillion paragraphs deep into a butt-numbing roundup of developments in the 'rapidly exploding' scandal, the Times confirmed that in 1999 its star economics columnist Paul Krugman had received US$50,000 (that's eightysomething Canadian, probably more if you're reading this after the markets open) for serving on Enron's advisory board." I'm not shedding any tears over the smug sanctimonious statist who needs to retake International Econ.

Jonah has an interesting piece on paleocons, as does Mr. Holtsberry. This leads me to take a second look at what a paleoconservative is and whether Pitchfork Pat is a good exemplar. Both Neos and Paleos are small-government fans, believe in a strong military and are generally moral conservatives. What seems to separate the two that paleocons tend to be xenoskeptics. They tend to have a discomfort of things and places that aren't American. It doesn't, in most cases, equate to xenophobia (fear of foreign stuff), so I'll coin xenoskeptic to describe a milder form. This xenoskepticism makes them reluctant to be militarily involved overseas unless absolutely necessary, while the "National Greatness" neocons are happy to help out the rest of the world when they can do some good. Immigration is a sore point, as the xenoskepticism will show as ethnocentrism. They will be uncomfortable with unassimilated immigrants and will work to hold their tongues with assimilated ones. The paleocon will also tend to be more of a status-quoian "conservative", not wanting too much change; the creative destruction of the free market, magnified by free-trade changing the job mix, will grate on both the status-quoian and xenoskeptic fronts. Xenoskeptics tend to be less intellectual than the chattering classes, thus they are easy targets for elite pundits. Often, it's a lack of exposure to real people from other cultures that magnifies their discomfort. They might like the Pakistani doctor at the hospital or the Vietnamese family that moved in five doors down, but may not have a lot of experience with foreigners compared to people in more cosmopolitan areas. "Yeah, Dr. Khan's nice, but I still don't feel comfortable with 'em." More worldly neocons (and libertarians and internationalist liberals) will have to be patient with Grandpa and Aunt Lorraine as they learn to accept the rest of the world. It's often fear and ignorance, not malice, that are motivating their actions Buchanan has both a pronounced xenoskepicism and a bad case of status-quoism, thus making him a caricature of a paleocon. He seems to have a optimal world-view that is set in about 1950, before the US had a lot of non-European immigrants. He doesn't like all these strange accents and all the changes that have happened in the last half century, be it large numbers of Hispanics or Wal-Marts doing in rural downtowns. His presidential fiasco last year, combined with a more internationalist tone in the body politic after 9/11, will put him into crank status in short order.

Heartwarmer #2- NPR piece on changes in India's flag laws . Prior to now, only high-ranking officials could fly the flag personally. The NPR piece featured Naveen Jindal , who caught the flag bug watching Texas patriotism while going to college in Dallas, and wanted to fly the Indian flag in that manner. He decided to fly the Indian flag at the family factory and has been in in and out of court for a decade. One take is that Jindal shamed the leaders into changing the law, the other is that the BJP wanted to drum up patriotism in their spat with Pakistan

Interesting warm fuzzy on the way in today-NPR had a obit piece on singer Peggy Lee-a bit before my time, although I do remember hearing Fever as an oldie. However, the piece pointed out her voice-work on Lady and the Tramp, including the Siamese Cats. Thinking of that prototypical pair of perniciousness-with-claws ("We are Siamese if you please. We are Siamese if you don't please") brought a smile on the way in.

MLK and Afghanistan. I was listening to the highlights of the King Day commemorations in Atlanta, where Coretta Scott King, MLK's widow, was plugging non-violence in all spheres, including international relations. I stopped to think why the King approach works in everyday life but not in the global sphere. There is a spiritual dichotomy between the ethnic cleansing of the Old Testament and the "turn the other cheek" of the New Testament. We have decided as a culture to have a legal system and not to "take the law into our own hands." Violence by a common citizen is only accepted in imminent defense of yourself or others. This stops feuds from boiling out of control and makes a generally safer place. However, pockets of violent evil occasionally arise, and must be met by collective force. In the Old Testament, when God pointed out evil and told them to kick butt and take names, the Israelites did just that, or faced dire consequences. In modern life, that means occasionally going to war against the evil-doers. Yet many people are leery of making the distinction of what is a sufficient evil to justify military action. "Who are we to judge? We have our own sins." Modern culture has taught us to be afraid of judgment and of judging others. Liberals are quick to point out Matthew 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." leaving out the rest of the thought "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Jesus was guarding against hypocrisy, not judgment. We need to see evil where it exists and can start by seeking and knowing the goodness of God and then noting its antithesis. If you don't know good, you don't know evil. Insensitivity to evil and fear of judging is what make liberal theologians like the Archbishop of Wales such pathetic examples of their religion.

Quip Du Jour-"A neoconservative is a liberal who's been mugged by reality. A neoliberal is a liberal who's been mugged by reality but has refused to press charges."-Irving Kristol Edifier Du Jour:"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." II Chron. 7:14

Monday, January 21, 2002

"My doctor told me to avoid water sports, so I don't Roe or Wade"-Tomorrow is the 29th anniversary of Roe V Wade, and the rhetoric will fly in Washington. However, there isn't too much debate there, just shouting between the anti-abortion and abortion-rights crowds. Trashing abortion by quoting Isaiah or Jerimiah doesn't do it for me. What does do it for me was weighing the 6-7 months of crap the mother will have to put up with (assuming she's a few months in) versus the snuffing out of a young life. Very few people will want to look at a fetus as just a blob of protoplasm that can be discarded without any queasiness. The fact that this queasiness is not intellectual but a gut feel doesn't disqualify it. Most people will try to make a decision they can live with, not knowing exactly what the right answer is. They will pick the lesser of the two evils, instinctively judging the bogon count on each of the options. On other reproductive-based issues such as embryo research, libertarians will argue that there is no right answer and that they should not slow down research just because of queasiness. If an out-of-the-womb human life has a value of 1.0, what fraction of that is a fetus at 3 days? 3 months? 8.99 months? It's greater than zero, but less than one. Running an INT(baby) function that truncates the value to zero isn't proper. For those of you who are truly "pro-choice" in that you don't like abortion but don't want to force that on people, look at that value you place on the unborn unit and compare that to the burden of pregnancy. When faced with that question, many pro-choice people will be pro-restriction instead, wanting to keep abortion legal in the tougher cases as in rape, danger to the mother or severe deformity and banning it in others. Give your gut a hearing, it's right more times than its wrong. [Update-(1/22 10PM) Got my first slam mail, questioning my salvation. I am solidly pro-life, and if you read my bio, solidly born-again. The only possible situation I would sign off on an abortion is where both mom and baby would die without it. The quote above was a quip from the Justice Souter hearing , not my personal opinion. I was trying to pose a non-Bible-thumping argument against abortion. One guy didn't get it.]

Mark's Contemporary Christian Starter Set. Please note, my tastes are fairly straight adult contemporary, so if you're a rock buff, I'm not your guy Michael Card- Joy In the Journey (1994) His greatest hits album, including Heal our Land, Celebrate the Child, and El Shaddai (which Amy Grant popularized). Carman-The Absolute Best(1993) This has the classic story songs Lazarus Come Forth and The Champion as well as Radically Saved and the David Foster-produced Serve The Lord. A good starter set. Heart of a Champion would be a good second album, covering the time since. Steven Curtis Chapman Heaven in the Real World (1995) The best of many good albums from Chapman, leading with the title track with the Chuck Colson intro as well as King of the Jungle, Dancing with the Dinosaur and Remember Your Chains. Bryan Duncan Mercy (1992) A good singer-songwriter writing songs of practical devotion. Into My Heart is a plea to avoid over-intellectualizing ones faith while Five Smooth Stone brings out the David in all of us. When it Comes to Love is a song that would be top-10 pop if it had Phil Collins or Michael Bolton on the label. 4 Him - Best Ones (1999) Good greatest hits set, including Center of the Mark, The Basics of Life, The Message and Real Thing. Amy Grant The Collection (1986) A good glimpse at a pioneer before she went crossover. Emmanuel, El Shaddai, Thy Word and her first pop crossover, Find a Way, are here. Ron Kenoly God is Able (1994) Kenoly's soul-tinged praise music gives new meaning to inspirational. It's hard to choose just one from a half-dozen of his good albums. You're My Everything, Jesus is Alive, The Battle is the Lord's and the tear-inducing Use Me make this a must get. Rich Mullins Winds of Heaven ... Stuff of Earth (1988) The now-classic anthem Awesome God is here, as well as If I Stand, and Ready for the Storm. A very evocative album. [Update 1/30 A greatest-hits album, Songs, might be a better fit for the starter set- saw it at Friends Group last Friday] Twila Paris A Heart That Knows You (1992) A first decade greatest songs set, including He is Exaulted, Lamb of God, Runner and The Warrior is a Child. I can tell my spiritual mood by this album-if I'm not walking close to the Lord, I'm uncomfortable with this one, since Twila's devotion will put me to shame. Phillips, Craig and Dean Lifeline (1994) The best of a number of good Southern Gospel-tinged pop albums from this trio. Toe-tappers like He Believes in Lost Causes and Can I Get a Witness are complemented with sweet ballads like I Want to Be Just Like You and Strong Determination, while the closing track, Will You Love Jesus More, was a reminder to me while courting Eileen that God comes first, not milady. Point of Grace Point of Grace (1993) While they haven't had a bad album yet, the first is still the best. One More Broken Heart and Jesus Will Still Be There are still regulars on Christian radio., while Got To Be Time will remind you not to be stuffy in your walk with the Lord. Michael W. Smith- The First Decade 1983-1993 (1993) Unlike Amy Grant, who's band he started out in, Smitty has stayed part of the CCM scene while having the occasional pop hit. The top-40 crossovers Place in This World and Picture Perfect are here, as well as Christian radio classics Friends, Give it Away and Rocketown. Michael W. Smith-Worship (2001) Smitty's new to recorded praise and worship, but he proved a master of the genre with this offering. His new composition, Above All, is an instaclassic, while he does excellent versions of Open the Eyes of My Heart, Breathe and The Heart of Worship. [Correction 1/30 Lenny LeBlanc and Paul Baloche wrote Above All-I gave this CD to Eileen for Christmas, have it playing at work today, just checked liner notes] Various Artists-I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (2000) This is a good compellation of modern praise from Sonic Flood, Passion, Matt Redman and Delirious among others. Such songs as Open the Eyes of My Heart, Come, Now is the Time to Worship, Better is One Day and the title track are staples in our worship services at New Life Vineyard. Darlene Zschech-Shout to the Lord 2000 (2000) The album includes the title track, Jesus, Lover of My Soul and The Potter's Hand, as well as guest vocals from Ron Kenoly and Alvin Slaughter. Here's a few more from the oldies bin if you can track them down Phillip Bailey Triumph (1986) The falsetto-voice from Earth, Wind and Fire, Bailey did this while EWF was on hiatus in the mid-80s. The lead track, All Soldiers, got serious airplay on Christian radio, but the album as a whole is excellent, with good ballads such as The Same Way and Bring it to Jesus and EWF-style uptempo in Thank You and The Other Side Michael English Michael English (1991) A out-of-wedlock pregnancy and substance-abuse problems cut short a promising career. English had put out two super albums, this debut effort and Hope before cratering. He popularized two classics, Mary, Did You Know and In Christ Alone, on this album and added the pop-rock radio classic Solid. I'd like to hear Gloria Estefan do a cover of Take the Time. This is as good a front-to-back album as they come. First Call God is Good (1987?-Tape's at home) Great mixed harmonies with a touch of jazz. Breaking Throughis one of my all-time favorites, while Someday, Forgiven and Parable of the River head up the rest of a solid album. Petra -More Power to Ya (1982) If your musical tastes lean towards a Journey/Rush album rock style-here's your guys. From the up-tempo rockers Stand Up and Run For the Prize to the ballady title track, this is an album that won many a teen over to Christian music. Russ Taff Medals (1985) Another great front-to-back album. The ballad Silent Love is the classic from this. Uptempo numbers such as Vision, Rock Solid and Not Gonna Bow are weaved in with ballads such as Here I Am and God Only Knows

More on the IRB- I just looked at the guy's links list and saw Terry Pluto on the list. He's the best sports writer no one's ever heard of. He writes for the Akron Beacon-Journal. I started reading him in my Kent State days, and keep a bookmark (I'm in IE mode today, but I still think Netscape) for him to keep up on Ohio sports. He also has a good sorta-weekly religion column, seeming to come from a practicing (you never get it quite down) Catholic vantage point. This shows that Justin is (a) from Northeast Ohio and (b) has excellent taste. [Correction(1/22)-A isn't true-He's from New Jersey. He's knows of Pluto via a book he wrote on the ABA. B still seems to hold]

I got to look at the cartoon history of modern Christian music in Reason, and it's cartoonish in more ways than one. I'm going to give a quick tour guide and history of "Christian contemporary" music from a guy who's been listening to it for almost two decades. It's a common part of church history to bring contemporary style into worship music. Hymnist Charles Wesley, one the founders of the Methodist movement, took drinking songs of the era and gave sanctified lyrics to them. [Update 8/21-Wesley and drinking songs seems to have been an urban legend, although Martin Luther did do so] Thomas Dorsey (not big-band Tommy Dorsey) was credited with starting modern black gospel by blending blues styling with a Biblical message. Eventually, the rock era would get sanctified, too. While there were Christian artists who worked in a contemporary mode in the 60s and 70s, a genre didn't start to develop until the 80s. Key artists that came up in that era were the album-rock-styled Petra and the adult-contemporary-styled Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. Soon, more Christian artists were producing music with a top-40 feel with biblically sound lyrics. Stryper, a heavy-metal Christian band, was getting MTV play. Hard-to-genrefy Carman, who combined story-telling and contemporary music with a "radically saved" demeanor, became a frame of reference for many young believers. The theologically deep and gently moving songs of Michael Card and Twila Paris reinforced many people's faith, and First Call brought a Manhattan Transfer-style of coed vocals to the mix. The 80's also saw a generation of Christian parents brought up in the rock era that didn't instinctively equate it to rebellious sensuality. Church music was reformed as well, as charismatic and some other evangelical churches started to use more folk-based praise songs to supplement or replace the traditional hymnal. By the 90's, most media markets had a "Christian Contemporary" station to supplement the old hymn-based music of the standard Christian station. While Amy Grant went off in search of pop stardom, Kathy Trocolli, Cindy Morgan, Margaret Becker and Out of the Grey filled in the female pop niche. Point of Grace brought a Wilson Phillips-like female harmony while 4 Him and Phillips Craig and Dean brought an adult contemporary male harmony sound to their biblically sound music. Avalon picked up the First Call mantle of mixed harmony. DC Talk (in the spirit of today, check out "Free at Last") brought hip-hop to the fore. Steven Curtis Chapman brought a mix of southern-tinged pop, while Bryan Duncan brought a McCartneyesque (check out his recent remake of "Maybe I'm Amazed") gentleness to the scene. The sibling act of BeBe and CeCe Winans brought an R&B touch to the scene. The late Rich Mullins was the poet-lauriet of the group, with his "Awesome God" resting as one of the great anthems of the genre. A generation of modern praise and worship music blossomed in the 90s, with Ron Kenoly, Darlene Zschech, Alvin Slaughter and Matt Redmon helping to redo the musical canon of many churches. As the millennium hit, new artists came up to reflect the times. The modern boy band has its analogs in Plus One and True Vibe, while The Darins and ZoeGirl provide the girl group analogs. Rebecca St. James is becoming the next generation's Twila Paris, while Salvador does gospel Santana-style. Stacie Orrico , Michelle Tumes and Rachel Lampa have promise as the next lady divas of the circuit. Third Day gives a Hootie and the Blowfish roots-rock feel to their music. Delirious? and Sonic Flood lead a group of energetic praise bands. I have a link at the bottom to K-love, a national Christian Contemporary network, which is extremely representative of the genre. There's even more diversity today; in my area, there's a Christian rock-alternative station for Gen Y listeners that think that 4 Him and Steven Curtis Chapman are too bland. I'll give a good list of a few key albums for a Christian Contemporary starter set later today. I'll thank the Insolvent Republic of Blogistan for the link-you've earned a spot on the Wall of Fame. [Update 1/30- Jaci Velasquez, maybe the most evocative female singer going, was left off. She showed up later in the 90's, thus mentally missing my 90's and up-and-comers paragraphs. The Newsboys and Audio Adrenalin, while a bit too rock for my tastes, should have been given a mention in the 90s section as well]

King for a Day- For those of you in the rest of the Anglosphere, this is Martin Luther King day in the U.S.- the federal government and many Afrocentric locales (including the clerical union at my hospital, thus the quip below) take this as a paid holiday. I'm not sure that King deserves to get the secular sainthood that having a holiday to himself signifies, putting him with only Jesus and Columbus (I'll be happy to trim that holiday) as people getting a day to themselves. That being said, it is good to see where we were four decades ago, how much the lot of the Americans of African descent has improved and how much they still need to improve. I remember a quote from Harry Truman, which I couldn't successfully Google to confirm-"For every Negro down in the gutter, there is a white man with him holding him down." Discrimination hurts the bigots as well, as the economy doesn't grow as fast if we take efforts to crap on people who have the wrong skin color. Our country is richer today that a half-century ago because we've allowed "people of color" to move up, get educated and to do things that a bigoted society wouldn't allow them to do 50 years ago. I have a smart, godly black finance intern next door-don't tell me this would be a better place if he were manning a garbage truck, or that we'd be better of if the sweet Accounts Receivable chief was working as a maid. Thus, it is good to remind ourselves we were, to hear the "I have a dream" speech one more time; to see the godly courage of the people fighting Jim Crow; to get God a good plug by showing how critical the black church was in the cause. It isn't good to have the Sharptons and Jacksons of the world using the holiday to extort more money or plug for passage of their latest big-government plan. I'm of two thoughts on "affirmative action", translated to give minorities an advantage in hiring and college placement to offset racism. Doing nothing makes me uncomfortable; a "color blind" policy will miss some subtle discrimination (bigots are smart enough not to say "We don't hire [insert bad word] here"). However, I'm less uncomfortable with that than a de-facto quota system, which will make minorities less ambitious and make everyone else jealous. I do think that the country, including blacks, would be better of if we took the political capital being spent on affirmative action/quotas and applied it to improving education and thoughtfully directing business into poor areas that need the help. I'm a Jack Kemp-style conservative on that front; for trickle-down economics to work, you occasionally need to do some irrigation. Just make sure the irrigation project isn't pork.

Man Bites Dog-part 2- NPR aired a piece partly debunking global warming. Turns out that most of Antarctica is cooling, not warming and that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that envrios feared melting and flooding the world is growing, not shrinking. Note the headline whistling past the graveyard- "Despite Global Warming Trend, Icy Region May Be Cooling." A more objective (or at least less ecophile) version of that story can be found in this Tech Central Station piece.

Another interesting piece on the Marketplace show- turns out that the British parliament had commissioned a 8-foot-tall statue of Margaret Thatcher. Problem is, she has to be dead before they can display it, and no British museum wants to touch it (because the statue is "overpowering" or because it's of the Iron Lady?). Lake Havasu, Arizona, home to the old London Bridge, will take custody of the statue until five years after Lady Thatcher dies.

Item from the Afghanistan donors conference(via Marketplace radio)-Prime Minister Karzai wants to appoint a "reputable international accounting firm" to oversee the funds to avoid having warlords skimming the aid money. Shucks, it looks like Arthur Andersen's out of the running.

Quip Du Jour- "Free at last, free at last ... to get a better parking spot-the union gals have the day off." Edifier Du Jour- "The Bible is like a watch- it doesn't say anything unless you look at it."-Max Lucado Groaner Du Jour- Guy's clock isn't quite right; it goes "tick........tick.....tick" instead of "tick, tock, tick, tock." He takes it in to the clock repair place, run by old immigrant. Repair guy looks at the clock and says-"Ve have vays to make you tock."

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Memory bank kicked in on the NE-Oakland Snow Bowl yesterday- the best parallel was the "Sneaker Game" of 1934. Cleats weren't working on the frozen field, so the (if memory serves) Giant's equipment guy, who also worked at Fordham U, raided the Fordham locker room for sneakers. That gave the Giants the traction to beat the Bears.

Philippines update-It looks like the U.S. is getting serious about cleaning up Mindanao. There is a large Muslim community on the big southern island, which has an al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf terror-separatist group fighting the government. Muslim separatism has been festering for decades, going back to the Marcos era, but a new, less-nationalistic, government will seemingly accept a U.S. presence in helping root out the terrorists. Nationalistic sentiment forced the U.S. out of Subic Bay and Clark Air Force base ,although Mt. Pinatubo trashing Clark made the goodbye easier to swallow. It's nice to see the new Arroyo government is more hospitable.

Clue Stick, please- Things aren't getting any better in Zimbabwe- Mugabe ain't listenin'. We're a few months away from a uprising which might deteriorate into civil war, with Zimbabwe made persona non grata by the rest of the civilized world. Keep this one up on radar and in your prayers.

Matthew Harris in the London Times has a good, blunt assessment of American foreign policy. He sees America as

...not unusually greedy; and not, in any malignant way, bullying. It is a simple conviction that America will decide. Her citizens do not see her as one country among many but as nonpareil, the biggest, the best, the one-and-only: final judge of her own interests and a pretty fair judge of what’s good for the rest of us too. None of this is inconsistent with a strong sense of justice: a sense of justice characterizes America at home and abroad, but it will be their justice and they will be the arbiters. Nor is it inconsistent with a wish to do good abroad: no people have shown such a consistently generous ambition to make our world a better place. But their help will be given ex gratia and its terms dictated by them. America will save the planet if America must, and it will pay the piper: but it will then call the tune. A negotiated process of cooperation is not what America has in mind.

The piece does have quite a bit of the European sophisticate looking down at the boorish Americans but still gives a stirring defense of what you might call "enlightened unilateralism." Read it, it'll make your day.

The Diplomat's Diplomat- Cyrus Vance, Jimmy Carter's Secretary of State, died last week; the funeral was yesterday. From my vantage point as a teenager, used to the larger presence of Henry Kissinger, Vance came across as a bit wimpy by comparison, a diplomat rather than a player. The Fox article states that "[d]uring his early tenure as secretary of state, Vance played a key role in normalizing relations with China, winning approval for new Panama Canal treaties and helping negotiate the Camp David treaty between Egypt and Israel." The first two item were (and still are) criticized by conservatives. If you remember the history of the Panama Canal, we got the Canal Zone, a 10-mile swath of the country, for helping Panama break loose from Columbia. As Sen. Sam Hayakawa quipped during the late 70's Canal Treaty debate: "Why should we give it back? We stole it fair and square." We got a century of use of it and still have protected rights to use it. Even though Carter and Vance gave it back in part to placate an increasingly nationalistic Gen. Torrijos, the return of the canal to Panamanian sovereignty was the right thing to do. Camp David has given Israel a peaceful western front and being on good terms with China has improved both countries' material (if not political) well-being. I started writing this wanting to trash the Carter over-emphasis on diplomacy rather than decisive action. Vance quit as Secretary of State over the decision to try a military rescue of the Iranian embassy. Upon further review, the call is overturned- Carter and Vance's diplomacy did start out well and was a net plus. Matthew 5:9 is a favorite verse of the Carter crowd :"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." May the Vance family rest on that thought.

I missed a good game while I was in Auburn Hills- saw the highlights of the NE-Oak game this morning. Raiders, you wuz robbed. Brady was pumping, not passing, and there wasn't enough evidence on the video to overturn an on-the-field fumble call. This is the first time in my memory that snow played that big a factor in a playoff game. There have been cold playoff games (the Packer-Cowboy Ice Bowl NFL tile game in 1967 or the Chargers-Bengals Siberian conference championship of '82 come to mind) but the closest thing in recent history was the '88 Bears-Eagles playoff game where Soldier Field was enveloped in fog, making the play nearly invisible to the fans. At least they kept the snow plow guy from clearing a spot for the winning field goal this time.

Good game to go to- The Pistons rallied from 17 back to pull out a 94-91 win in my first live NBA game. The natives were restless (it's January in Michigan but I hear a flock of boo-birds) early as a string of close calls went Boston's way and Antoine Walker was unconsious from three-point range. My ticket benefactor Alan, who refs locally, was complementing Dee Kantner's work while torching the other two guys. The Pistons went on a defensive jihad for the last ten minutes, holding Boston to nine points in the fourth, bringing the fans to their feet without PA and jumbotron prompting. Other than the typical highway robbery at concessions ($3 sodas, $3 hot dogs, $7 beer for Alan) the trip was good. It was interesting to watch a game without commercials and play-by-play commentary (we'd supply our own). It was interesting to see the gimmicks that went down during commercial breaks. They had a kindergarten dunk contest with 4' rims and half-sized ball, the tyke who did a 360 5' out before dunking got more applause than the chunky kid who did his gorilla power dunk that nearly brought the standard down. The had the donut-shop race, where the coffee sprinted past the bagel at the wire to win the lower bowl a free beverage at the sponser. They also had the standard NBA dance crew for the guys to ogle. They would also have frequent exhortations to make noise in the commercial breaks, running mini-videos to get the crowd noisy. A good time was had by all.

Quip Du Jour-"Any time Detroit scores more than 100 points and holds the other team below 100 points they almost always win."- Doug Collins Edifier Du Jour-"I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness"- Isaiah 42:6-7 (We need to be living in such a way that the light will show through.)

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