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Saturday, May 04, 2002

Found myself watching the White House Correspondants Dinner on C-SPAN. The president was on his best form, with the topper showing a number of pictures of all the top staff looking through a peep-hole into the Oval Office. The shot of Cheney had his hands just below waist level in front of him. "I hope you're not doing what you look like you're doing." Drew Carey (without glasses-had laser surgery) was the comedy keynoter and in good form, pointing out that neither Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are Biblical. "Why does Christianity need a mascot to sell the product? They don't have Passover kangaroos or Ramadan roosters?" "I'm not worried about tonight; if I bomb, Saddam will send my heirs a check." Quotes from memory; I reserver the right to change them to refect an actual quote.

Kingdom Now?--Both Kevin Holtsberry and Bryan Preston have sounded off on this Kingdom Now movement. The scary thought to me when I looked at the signatories is that it is headed up by a pastor of a "Vineyard Central" in Ohio. I checked to see if that was part of the national Vineyard Movement and it's there on the Ohio page just as my home church, New Life Vineyard in Midland is on the Michigan page. Note that there are the only Vineyard church on the list. I gave a read-through of their "95 feces Theses" in which they start out by bashing the generically theistic civil religion and rightly point out that the US isn't truly a Christian nation. They rail against the Ugly American. They ignore a lot of Old Testament verses by saying that “economic wealth is rarely a sign of God's blessing.” They plug for a use of the Jubilee year, where all debts are forgiven, which would throw a monkey wrench into a modern economy. They are anti-interventionist, anti-capitalist, anti-nationalistic and anti-patriotic. It's true that capitalism, nationalism and patriotism can be false gods, but so is the God-flavored Chompskyism that these folks seem to be serving up. A quick read-through of the groups reads like a who's who of the religious left. Mennonites ( often very economically liberal with a pacifist streak), Sojourners ( godly communal leftists) , lots of places with "peace and justice" (translation-hard left) in the title and not too many evangelical groups other than the Vineyard front-man. I don't think that these are the same people as the reconstructionist crowd, who seem to be politically hard right. This is more of the hard left, an expression of the anti-establishment hippie ideology of the 1960s given a Christian twist. The reconstructionists seem to be wanting to tweak the government in their direction to enforce their vision of a moral government, while the Kingdom Now bunch seem to be leaning towards an anarchism that would have more in common with the IMF protestors than the Christian Coalition. [Update 12:30AM 5/5- Louder had chimed in as well, and agreed that it's "Leftist boilerplate... until you get to the bit about "the unborn." That's a little uncommon, but it's not enough to offset the sense that these people are, politically at least, just same-old-same-old." Occasional uses of Yahweh (the more accurate translation from Hebrew of Jehovah) is OK, dwelling on it is a bit weird]

Celibacy and Singleness- The Derb had a good NRO essay yesterday, given a good historical overview of celibacy. Celibacy has become an current-events issues of late given current problems with the Catholic Church and homosexual/pedophile priests. My tongue-slightly-in-cheek suggestion of a marriage-friendly American Rite brought out some good commentary on celibacy. Emily Stimpson chimed in with this good post
In our hyper-sexed culture, this is becoming increasingly difficult. So many men and women see the universe through the prism of their own sexual desires, that they are blind to the reality of God and a purpose beyond their own temporal fulfillment. ... We need our celibate religious to give witness to the world of the battle we all have to fight against the downward pull of human nature and the flesh. Celibates remind us that our human nature is not defined by our sexual nature. And, in their very bodies, they represent the total gift of self to God that we all must make. The answer to the vocations crisis or the failures of some priest to remain chaste is not to do away with the discipline of celibacy. Rather, the Church needs to redouble its efforts at aiding religious and lay Catholics embrace the gifts of celibacy and chastity according to their station in life. The fact that the whole world is lowering the bar on sexual mores is exactly the reason why the Catholic Church absolutely must not join them.
I figure I had better comment on celibacy while I can write about it as an active practitioner, having only 63 days left of it. Our society is so sex-obsessed that people can't easily grasp the idea of a 30 or 40-year-old virgin. They will assume that if is near impossible to live life without sex. Sex is not a necessity for an individual. It is for a species, but not an individual. That's not to say that I don't have sexual drives, but human intellect guided by the Holy Spirit and our conscience can keep those drives in check. Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 7 that a single person has the ability to focus on the (hopefully honorable) desires of ones heart without the distraction of having to look after a spouse. A good spouse will have to spend time looking after and nurturing their other half and will have less time to spend on other activities. However, not everyone is cut out to be single. If one's sex drive is so strong as to be distracting and dragging the believer towards sin, then "it is better to marry than to burn with passion." Also, the built-in fellowship of marriage is another draw for many people. A single life can be lonely and a spouse provides a built-in roomie-buddy. One of my fears, as I got up into my thirties with no prospects for marriage in sight, was the idea of being old and alone, without a family. One of my mom's co-workers is a never-married guy in his early 70s. No kids, no grandkids, no wife, nothing but a dog and a TV to keep him company. That is an example of what I didn't want to see a quarter-century down the line. For the priest or nun, the fellowship of their fellow religious can be a good substitute for family, but the rest of us will struggle with the idea of a lack of emotional as well as sexual intimacy while being single. Our society, especially for us non-Catholics, doesn't have a good set of role models of mature never-marrieds. You don't see too many healthy people in their late thirties or 40s who haven't been married, especially in a church setting. Most churches are family-oriented, with much of the focus being on parents and children. Those who are single are often a fifth wheel without a good place to fit in within the church structure. Church small groups are frequently couple-oriented, leaving the single person out of place. They also are commonly treated as pre-marrieds, as a lot of focus on single's ministries is on how to find that "special someone God's saving for you." In my case, He waited until I was 39 to bring her into my life, but for many others, there will be no special someone. The fact that I wound up waiting until I was 40 to get married shouldn't mark me as fatally flawed. It also shouldn't mark me as being homosexual, as anyone of a certain age without a significant other of the opposite sex will be implied to be. Forty-something Steven Den Beste feels the need to point out in his bio "I've never been married, but they tell me that while there's life, there's hope. I'm heterosexual, and my intentions are honorable. I love children." There are quite a few people who were heterosexual and celibate [or at least never married in Den Beste's case] and led productive lives. While I frequently am at odds with their political philosophies, Janet Reno and David Souter are good examples of older, successful, seemingly heterosexual, never-marrieds. [Update 12:30PM-My mental spiel on this predated Bush 43, so I forgot Condi Rice.] Back when I first started blogging in January, there was a story of an Aussie teen with cancer whose parents set him up with a prostitute so he could experience sex before dying. This got both Kevin and I riled up, for it assumes that life is incomplete without having experienced sex. Life is more than just sex. My recovering-Presbyterian fiancée frequently cites the first part of the Westminster Confession- "The chief end of man is to worship God and to enjoy Him forever." God's given us a fun creation to enjoy while we're in our earthy bodies, but our job is to enjoy Him. Sex is part of that creation, and a good part when enjoyed within marriage. However, there are a lot of other fun parts of creation to keep us happy and content outside of marriage if we let Him lead us to them. If God wants us in a place where a spouse will get in the way, he'll put enough pleasures and non-sexual intimacies in place to make our singleness bearable. I'm finding that Eileen and I can serve the Lord much better as a team than separately, since we are able to lift each other up through the rough patches. With that mutual support, we seem to have more time and energy to serve Him than before we knew each other. Singleness is not bad, nor is being married. We shouldn't let the sex obsessed secular culture and the marriage-centric church culture get in the way if God truly has a single, celibate life for us as a way to better serve him.

Basketball Thoughts- With last night's blowouts by Boston and the Spurs, all eight of the top seeds advanced to the second round. A sign of parity in the East was that three of the four series (strangely, the top three seeds) went to five games and the other went four games. Four good wars coming up in the second round. We were watching some of the Spurs game this morning (on tape, past our bedtimes) and my mom (who's become the basketball junkie of the family) was commenting on how mature Tony Parker was at 19. I pointed out how he had been playing pro ball in France in his teens. Given Parker's precocious development, I was thinking that Europe might be an option for Lebron James, the Akron highschooler who'd be a top-five pick, possibly a #1 overall, if the NBA let him skip his senior year. He'd be getting better competition that he'd get playing against Cuyahoga Falls and earning a heck of a lot more money. Turns out that this is an option under discussion, albeit one that Mama James is playing down. My mom questioned the wisdom of sending a highschool kid alone over to Europe. For the millions he'd earn playing in Europe, he can bring his folks along for the year.

March Archives March 3-9
March 10-16
March 17-23
March 24-30
March 31-April 6

Quip du jour-"The stock market has predicted nine of the last five recessions"-anon. Edifier du jour-"It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you."-Galatians 4:18 Groaner du jour- Two atoms walking down the street "I think I just lost a electron." "You sure?" "I'm positive."

Friday, May 03, 2002

Crusader Rabid-This doesn't put the Army in the best of lights. The DoD wants to cancel the Crusader artillery piece, but the Army's has been fighting to keep it, sending talking points behind Rumsfeld's back to Congress on the plusses of the system. Rummy's not chummy with the Crusader fans who have been a wee bit insubordinate, including Army Secretary Thomas White. There could be some heads rolling at the Pentagon before all's said and done.

College and Recessions-Cpt. Clueless has a good rant at the high cost of college tuition, showing a graph that shows tuition increasing when median incomes are decreasing. I might be a biased observer, being 71 days away from being a college professor, but I think Den Beste is off here.
What's actually been going on is that the absolute income of the universities has been rising at a steady rate irrespective of external economic reality. During times of recession, when demand for college educations was down, the universities have responded by raising tuition faster to compensate. So fewer students paid more each resulting in constant income (or rather, constant rise in income). That is, by the way, exactly the opposite of how a free market is supposed to work: when demand is down, prices are supposed to fall to make the product more attractive to the customers. What we're seeing, on the other hand, is the classic signature of price fixing.
In recessions, demand for college education goes up as a stagnant job market make it a good time not to be working as much and getting an education; the oportunity cost of schooling just went down. At the same time, tax revinues to the states fall and budget cuts (or at least freezes) ensue, making the state share of the cost of education go down. Rather than cut expenses, the schools then raise tuition. The schools don't cut expenses, for that would mean laying off friends and having smaller empires to run. I do agree that the cost of college is too high, both partly due to the light courseload many professors get and partly due the the large, ever-expanding kingdoms that school administrators build. More atheletic facilities, more counciling, more health care, more student affairs budgets, more buildings, more, more, more. There's a lot of fat in most colleges' budgets that doesn't relate to the core function of getting adults a good college education.

Good News and Bad News-The April unemployment rate went up to 6%, but the underlying numbers tell an interesting story. There were more net jobs (43,000) created last month, but that job creation was swamped by 565,000 people entering the workforce. Remember that for unemployment statistic purposes, you're only unemployed if you're looking for a job and don't have one. If you're not bothering to look, you're not in the labor market. The improving economy may have brought people who weren't previously looking into the job market. It's going to make my prediction of lower unemployment by the end of the year harder, but I think this will head back down in short order.

Mideast Peace Conference, Part 4523- A team of the US, Russia, EU and UN are plugging for a big conference on the Middle East. The lead is "Powers Plan Mideast Conference." My suggestion is that the University of Texas' main campus be the site of the event: "Austin hosts Powers' Mideast Conference." For those of us who trust the Palestinians as far as we can throw them, this isn't good news. However, there's a good sub-story, "Bush Disses Arafat." Dubya may sneak a poison pill into the process by pointing out that Yasser might not be at the table. "He's had some chance to grab the peace and hasn't done so in the past" was the president's line. I don't think anything will come of this, either, but it will buy the US some foreign PR for a while. This conference is a classic case of peacewishing that won't work.

Barcia not seeking reelection-Don't have a link as of yet, but one of the pair of two-Democrat house seats in Michigan was setted as Jim Barcia elected to run for the State Senate rather than take on Dale Kildee in the new combined district. The news is on local radio this morning. [Update 5/4-Here's a link]

I Thought it Was Churches, Not Cities, Who Elected a Primate-The British town of Hartlepool elected Stuart Drummond, who is the local soccer team's mascot, H'Angus the Monkey, mayor. Drummond, running as an independent, is embarrising to the powers-that-be that recently instituted directly-elected mayors; H'Angus has a record of lewd behavior that Howard Stern might appreciate. The Prime Minister's office is keeping a stiff upper lip, stating "It is only to be expected that new faces come to the fore."

Mark's BCS Tournament Proposal-The announcement of a trio of new bowls for next season reminded me to throw out my modest proposal for BCS reform. (1) Turn the four BCS bowls into the quarterfinals of a national tournament. Keep the remaining bowls, since they don't play into the national title anyway. They're the NIT for football. (2) Seed the teams 1-8,2-7,3-6,4-5. Where possible given the seeding, place the teams in their traditional bowl spot (i.e. placing the Southeast Champ in the Sugar Bowl, the PAC 10 or Big 10 champ in the Rose). (3) Seeding will be based on something like the current BCS model. I'm open to tweaking, but the general model's OK. (4) The six power-conference (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Pac 10, Southeast) champs get automatic bids and the two highest ranked remaining teams get the at-large bids. The bowls don't get to choose a 11th ranked Notre Dame over a 7th ranked Directional State for the ratings and good-traveling alumni. (5) An exception to #4-any undefeated team gets an automatic bid. Call this the Marshall-Tulane rule. OK, I have degrees from two MAC schools (BS CMU, Ph.D. Kent State); I have a soft spot for the mid-majors. If there are three undefeated teams outside of the power conferences, the top two ranked ones go. (6) Play three of the four bowls on New Years Day as a triple-header (Fiesta 1PM, Rose 4:30PM, Orange 8PM) and put the fourth (I'll suggest the Sugar) on New Years Eve. All the other New Years Day bowls will move to other days. (7) Play the semifinals the Saturday of the NFL conference finals, usually the third Saturday in January, at two pre-determined neutral sites. Tampa and St. Louis for starters? (8) Play the finals the next Saturday at a pre-determined neutral site. RCA Dome in Indy for starters? This will raise revenue, since sports fans will lean towards watching all seven of the games. The bowls will have more revenue than the old system ,since each of the four games is a factor in the national title. Right now, the typical fan might watch the title game and the game that his favorite conference champ is in, but the other two games will have lower ratings since they're just a football game. The plan gives a clear champion. It changes the bubble equation so that teams #9 and #10 are griping about being left out, not teams #3 and #4. The one downside is that it will extend the season a game for four teams and by two games for a pair of teams. This is happening at the beginning of a semester rather than at towards the end where the Final Four play five or six games over three weeks. That seems a reasonable price to pay for the advantages of the tourney.

Pistons on to Second Round-It sure wasn't pretty, but the Pistons got past a very game Toronto club, 85-82. That was with Stackhouse being held to five points. Corliss Williamson had 23 and Jon of Arc added 12 off the bench to help salvage a win. When the Raptors get Vince Carter back, this will truly be a team to contend with. Keon Clark has come of age as a near-All-Star caliber power forward, and MoPete has stepped up his game to the level he played at with MSU. Whoever wins tomorrow's Boston-Philly game will be a hard matchup for the Pistons. They need to get Stackhouse to find his touch or else they will not get out of the second round in one piece.

A Policy Review on the Drug Wars-Vodka Pundit responded to a suggestion of mine for constructive suggestions on the Drug War.
So how do we make things better, in a way that promotes freedom, rather than detracts from it? How about legalizing a couple of non physically-addictive "weekend drugs," such as pot and ecstasy, on the booze & smokes model? Sure, some kids will still get them -- but they do now, too, same as booze and cigarettes. Let's not be Utopian mirror-images of the Libertarian Party. Between pot and X, most of your drug users are happy, and there's no need for them to do crimes to get a fix.
Marijuana I could live with, as it has relatively few short-term medical effects. It doesn't kill people in and of itself; you don't see people dying of pot overdoses. You do see people dying from ecstasy. If you can get a legal version that doesn't have the lethal bad trips, you'd have a case.
But we still have our tiny minority of hardcore users to think about. Why not make cocaine and heroin by doctor's prescription? Doctors, in the interest of their patients, would want to move them off those dangerous drugs and onto methadone or into a 12-step program. Also, the trafficking would be removed from street thugs, and kids wanting to experiment would still have their less-harmful pot and X to play with.
We already do some of that for heroin with methadone treatment. I don’t know of a safe form of cocaine that would wean people off the drug without frying their brains in the process. A larger focus should be made of getting the drug user off drugs rather than just putting them in prison. A comprehensive rehab process, including addressing any psychological problems that may lead to their use of the hard drugs, would seem to be better than prison time for most drug users. While we’re on the topic of 12-step, I’ll put in a plug for groups like Teen Challenge, who has a “faith-based” system who’s “higher power” isn’t a generic deity but the God of the Bible, whose Son died for the druggie and whose Holy Spirit is there to guide them through the rehab process. It’s not for everyone, since not everyone’s going to be comfortable with that evangelical take, but strong antidotal evidence (yes, the formal statistical studies aren’t there yet) shows that it works better than secular or generic-12-step rehab programs. I’ll trade some controlled prescriptions for addicts for a thumbs up for government help for the people who choose the spiritual-based rehab.
Harder drugs would be stigmatized, because only "weaklings who need a scrip" would be able to get them easily. Such is the hope. Not a perfect system -- it's as ripe for abuse as Vicoden or Valium prescriptions. But it's still a big improvement over the current Drug War, which tramples our rights and keeps criminals rich.
I haven’t seen my rights trampled, but a lot of the money-laundering laws could be eased if the illegal drug trade went away. A lot of our police man-hours and a lot of money on jails is spent on cracking down on drugs. Quite a few conservatives, including William Buckley, are on the side of ending the Drug War. There’s room for conversation in this area that both conservatives and libertarians can live with.

Quip du jour-"The next new bowl game-the Toilet Bowl at Flushing Meadows."-anon. Edifier du jour-"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."-Galatians 3:28-29. Front Page Haiku Twenty-eight bowl games? Are you above .500? You're in a bowl, guys!

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Good news for the Tories-Local elections were held in Britain today, and the Conservatives outpolled Labour 35-33 with the Liberal Democrats getting 27%. The BBC lead was that the nativist British National Party elected a pair of local council members, but the big story to me was the strong showing by the Tories. Could we be looking at a coalition government after the next elections in 2006? If those numbers hold, it's likely neither Labour or the Tories will get a majority of the seats. It will be interesting to see if the transition be made to have the Liberal Democrats move to the left of Labour, as Blair has positioned the party as more of a center-left party which was the LD's old domain. Labour still has the institutional backing of the labor unions, and the LDs would be hard-pressed to move away from their bourgeois roots. LD leader Charles Kennedy ducked the issue last year, saying that they were more "progressive than Labour" but not to the left of Labour. If Blair plays more to the center and ticks off his more socialist labor-union mates in the party, the LDs will have to think about playing to the left to pick up that vote. The other thing to look at is the issue of the EU. The British public doesn't like the Euro but are resigned to it. If Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith can make the case against the Euro and point out that Blair is wobbly on the Euro, it could score points with swing voters. Will it be enough to get the Tories a pure majority in parliament? If not, do you have a center-left LD-Labour coalition or a center-right Labour-Conservative combination? Unfortunately, we have four years to wait for an answer.

Justice Served in the Meadowlands-That was a thriller game 5, as the Nets got past Indiana 120-109 in 20T. It didn't come any more dramatic than the close of regulation, when Reggie Miller knocked down a long three at the buzzer to tie it up. Oops, upon futher review, he let it go just after the buzzer, but no instant replay. Reggie then forced a second OT with a driving dunk. Kidd showed why he's the east's MVP with a gutty 31-point show. One heck of a barn-burner. Go to go watch the rest of the Piston's game.

Men of Teal Heading to the Big Easy-They'd barely cleaned up the uniforms from Tuesday's game four win over Orlando when the NBA relocation committee OKed moving the Hornets to New Orleans. It'll be interesting how the Charlotte fans react to their lame-duck status in the second round.

Too Busy Not To Pray- See hand slapping forehead. DOINK! I waited until 3:00 to mention the National Day of Prayer today. In most towns, there was a prayer session at City Hall around noon. This is a good day, even though we should be doing so anyway, to pray for our nation and the world. There are a truckload of things to pray for, but here's a few that come to mind. >>> The Catholic Church could use a health dose of our prayers to get past The Scandal and the institutionalism and liberalism that helped create the problems. >>> Our nation needs a good dose for a return to the community spirit we say post-9/11. God has a truckload of foul-weather friends. An improvement in our moral climate, bringing people to their knees and acknowledge that God, not themselves or the Constitution, is in charge. >>> For a conversion of spirit in the Islamic countries. That 10-40 window that missiologists talk about isn't just woofing. If somehow, the Gospel could get a foothold in these countries, a lot of the communitarian culture of death could be lessened. >>> For a spiritual retaking of Europe for Christ. Europe has become a post-Christian territory. We need to send missionaries and prayers for revival there, not Africa. A lot of the dreck that is happening there is due to the moral vacuum. >>> For a softening of hearts in the Beijing government to allow the Church to flourish over there.

In Search of Deep Throat-John Dean has a e-book due out shortly that will supposedly reveal who Deep Throat was. Ben notes there are only four people that know who Deep Throat is. Woodward, Bernstein, Bradley and Deep Throat himself. Woodstein has said that they won't reveal who Deep Throat is until Deep Throat is dead. Well, last I heard, Deep Throat is dead.

This is a Job For (TA-DA-TA-DA) Cyberrat! The interesting news of yesterday was of being able to create a "ratbot" that was able to be directed at a distance by electronically messing with the rat's pleasure sensors. A microcam will allow the controller to see where the rat is going. This will allow some interesting applications, as they coax the rat into areas that human's can't go and have a built-in ATV to go over rough terrain that conventional robots might not be up to. Lots of applications for this, but many of them look like the come out of bad Sci-Fi if applied to humans.

MSNBC-The Bill and Phil Network?- The FPOTUS is reported to be talking to NBC about a non-political talk-show.
The Times said Clinton is not interested in a political talk show because of potential conflicts of interest with his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. But it would remain to be seen whether he would dive into more traditional daytime fare like celebrity interviews, "boot camps" for troubled teens or beauty makeovers.
Combine the last two for the Big He and you get Booty Camp.

Shanley Busted-"N@MBLA priest" Paul Shanley was arrested today in San Diego and will likely be extradited to Massachusettes for rape charges from his days there. About time.

P/E Ratios- Douglas Turnbull has a piece on high P/E ratios and chalks it up to increased demand for stocks. On individual stocks, a high-P/E is typically characteristic of a company anticipated to grow in the future, either due to foreseen high profits in the future or low profits at the present. The earnings of firms is down, as the last-years earning are typically used, and last year's mini-recession has dragged down profits. There are four long-term factors that will increase demand; lower tax rates, lower interest rates, lower expected inflation and a stable political system. As tax rates have been reduced, not only has the economy rebounded but it will increase the "take-home-pay" on investments, thus increasing the demand for investments in general and stocks in particular. Low taxes also effect economic growth, thus adding to the amount of the earnings. Lower interest rates make stocks look more attractive, as a dollar of income from either bonds or stock will be worth more. The lower taxes helps to create the low interest rate environment, as does low expectations of inflation. Much of the last half century was marred by high inflation, especially the 1970, where single-digit PE weren't uncommon. Low inflation will make future income worth more, thus raising stock prices. A stable political system that is unlikely to raise taxes dramatically is another positive. The fight isn't whether to raise taxes or hold the line, it's to cut taxes or hold the line. This will increase the security that the current tax system or something better will be in place, thus lowering the risk of future income and thus increasing its value. The financial climate's more favorable than it was a quarter century ago. There are some additional factors (401Ks, lower transaction costs) that can factor into the rise in P/Es, but there's more than irrational exuberance driving the high P/Es.

Engergy Summit- Just Tap the Gasbags- The G-8 energy minister's are meeting in Detroit today, and I get a chuckle out of this thought-"The Bush administration wants American companies to track and reduce their greenhouse gas output voluntarily." Yes, and grizzly bears use Forest Service toilets voluntarily. They even remember to flush! The best thing to come of this confab would be to corner the Russian minister and say "Keep the crude coming, comrade!" All the talk about renewable energy's nice, but mostly window dressing. It will come, but mostly at the market's pace. I somehow can't take Energy Sec. (and my former senator) Spence Abraham seriously. Maybe is because of the neighbor I had as a preschooler. His name was Spencer but he had a bit of a speech problem (as did I, I had problems with thaying sethes and not turning them into th's as a early-el kid) and his name came out Spenc-o.

Histories of Cars and Whuppins- William Sulik provides a history of Biblical mototized transportaiton. I had heard of the Fury and Accord, but Joshua's "aftermarket slip-on muffler" was new to me. Possumblog took off with my quesiton on the history of the "Can-of-Whupin'" and traced it back into antiquity. I was first suprised at the historic detail, but looking back, I can see where my references to Yorktown and Mohammad got his estimable creatitivy rolling.

Snipe Hunt-What the heck, one more deeplink, need to blog this one anyway. There's a new British-led push to corner some al Qaeda guys happening along the Afghan-Pakistan border. They've named it Operation Snipe. That's just ripe for blogging. With the success (or lack thereof) of past endeavors in this area, hunting for Osama's boys is something of a snipe hunt. For those of you who haven't heard of a snipe hunt, it's a traditional prank pulled on a newbie camper to take the unsuspecting fool on a "snipe hunt" at dusk or thereabouts. There are no snipes to be hunted, but the naïf will be led by the nose looking for the non-existent snipe until the pranksters have had sufficient fun at the naïf 's expense.

Mr. Concussion to Replace Mr. Bam- Troy Aikan's slated to join Cris Collinsworth in replacing John Madden as the A-team Fox colorman. It looks to be worse than Cris Collinsworth alone as a colorman, as I don't see Aikman being a colorful colorman. Somehow, I'm picturing a Dandy Don without any humor, just a laid-back Texas boy. I hope I'm wrong. That's my deeplink for the day. The DMN makes you register to get anything that's not on their front page, and I'm not giving them that pleasure. The Gray Lady, yes, but not them.

Peacemakers or Peacewishers?- How many times have you been in throw-shoe-at-TV mode after a clueless peacenik cites "Blessed are the peacemakers" from Matthew 5:9? It has to be the one of the most overused passage in the Bible in political discourse. I hear John Kerry use it this morning on the way into work. I found myself reflecting on the word. Peacemaker. How often do the "peace activists" actually achieve peace? Not often, since the bad guys of the world aren't going to play nice as the peaceniks want. These people are peacewishers, not peacemakers. They want peace to happen but aren't ready to do the things that would bring about peace. In a domestic drama, the peacewisher stands back shouting "You two stop that!" while the peacemaker steps between the fighters and says "OK! Break it up!" The peacemaker may even have to cold-cock the most belligerent of the parties before order is restored. Translated to world affairs, a peacemaker may have to get physically involved, get dirty and crack some heads if needed in order to separate a pair of warring factions. Peacemaking is an active verb. This will be opposed from both ends of the spectrum. Some liberals won't want us to take sides (moral relativism) and are afraid of using force to settle anything. Some conservatives will oppose getting involved if there's no "Compelling National Interest" involved. But if we are to run the country in a godly manner, shouldn't we use our military for good where feasible? Yes, we can't be everyplace at once and we can't solve every problem. But we can pick our spots and step in to improve things where merited. Some problems do not lend themselves to diplomacy, where there aren't two parties that have a possible mutually acceptable range of outcome. In those cases, if military force will help and the good done by stepping in outweighs the bad done by fighting, we should ignore the foolishness on the left and the self-centeredness on the right and step in.

Quip du jour-"Everything causes cancer now, except Swedish scientists, who cause ulcers."-Lee Ann Morawski Edifier du jour-" I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me"-Galatians 2:20

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

New Digs for the Roman Centurion- He's moving to Louder Fenn's Whirligig, home of the Louderburger: "You can hold everything except the Tomato."

Brits Out Of Europe!-Interesting post over at Airstrip One as Goldstein makes the case to get the Tories to start talking about bidding the EU adieu. He's not happy that the rightmost policy point is mild Euroskeptic and is moving to change it. You go, Sir!

Debbie Deeplinks Dallas-The Dallas Morning News (DaMN DMN) doesn't like deep linking and is suing a outfit called BarkingDogs.org. Susanna Cornett has declared tomorrow Deeplink Dallas Day and asks us to link to the DMN tomorrow. I'll try to oblige. There are a number of site you can't deeplink easily, since they hide the location of the link. For instance, in the National Post, you have to right click on a link to grab the deeplink, as the basic Nationalpost.com link will show up as the URL on each page. The DMN people can do that too if they want to stop deep linking.

Even sneaker- The latest flim-flam out of Lansing has more parts to it. I ranted yesterday at the move to make school property taxes due in July rather than in December. They're covering it with a one-time one-mill (tenth of a percent) cut in the state school tax rate for July 2003. Robbing from Peter to pay Paul. The effect of paying the property taxes six months early more than offsets that one mill, but most doofuses will hear "Engler's giving a tax cut."

Hu's on First-In honor of the visit of Hu Jintao, the Chinese VP. My apologies to Abbott and Costello. C-"Can you tell me the name of the Chinese VP?" A-"Hu." C-"OK. Who's the Chinese VP?" A-"Right.." C-"I thought he used to be Speaker of the House." A-"Who?" C-"Jim Wright. How'd he get to be Chinese VP." A-"No, it's Vice President Hu." C-"I'm asking you! Who's the VP?" A-"Hu is the VP." C-"You're the China expert. What's the name of the Chinese Vice President?" A-"Hua Guofeng was around in the 70s after Mao. Hu Jintao's the VP." C-"Jintao. That's his surname" A-"No, his surname is Hu." C-"Answer your own stinking question! Jintao is his personal name and his surname is?" A-"Hu." C-"Ey-ey-ey-ey-ey!"

Crossing Over-Andrew Careaga at A Kingdom Space points to this Crosswalk piece on the CCM scene. POD is the current focal point, a band who has hit the secular rock circuit with Christian-themed music. This is a rarity for a born-again band to hit the pop scene with regularity. In the 80s Stryper had a similar run as a heavy-metal Christian band getting into the MTV rotation. There were quite a few metalheads brought to the Lord by that, but I think that in a metal scene where Satanism was used as a prop, a group that played to the Good side in a Good versus Evil fight might have been seen as a comparable affectation to the average teen. In the adult-contemporary side, it's rare to see a Christian artist hit the pop charts on a regular basis. When they do, the evangelistic content is rather low, as they'll cross over with a romantic love song or be addressing God in a generic sense. The saying I've heard for years is "It's hard to bring the Cross over when you cross-over." A message of Jesus as Lord and Savior isn't going to play well on the Top 40, as you'll offend at least half the audience. The two recent crossovers that come to mind were Sixpence None the Richer's Kiss Me (a straight romantic song) and Bob Carlisle's Butterfly Kisses, which had very little evangelical content beyond a little girl talking to Jesus at bedtime. Smitty's Place in This World had an earnest prayer to God about fitting in, but a Jew or Muslin could identify with the song as well, since it was merely monotheistic in tone. This is Your Time was comparably generically theistic, while Picture Perfect was a love song that could be sung by anyone who appreciates inner-beauty. While Amy Grant was still primarily working the Christian circuit, her one crossover was Find a Way, which hit a female-empowerment-through-God's-love theme that was Oprah-friendly. Grant's openly pop stuff has occasionally been spiritual but not evangelical. Kathy Tracolli had a hit in the 90s with Everything Changes, but it had a lyric that could be sung to a lover as well to God. Both the O Brother, Where Art Thou and the Manheim Steamroller Christmas albums are secular albums with Christian themes. O Brother was a soundtrack for a movie set in the south, where the faith of the Bible Belt was a supporting character. Secular buyers were in the market for roots music and were largely buying it for the bluegrass music more than the Christian lyrics. Manheim Steamroller is part of a larger, perennial trend of secular acts putting out Christmas albums whether the artist has much of a faith or not. Their albums do rock on toast for seasonal music. You may see a few edgier Christian rock bands, where music tends to trump lyrics, do well in the MTV circuit, but don't expect there to be too many explicit evangelical lyrics hitting the top 40 unless the country becomes 80% evangelical.

Martin Roth has a good list (which will grow as we feed him more stuff) of Christian bloggers. I found a few more favorites via that list that I'll likely spend some time this weekend checking out. One good newcomer is Roy Jacobsen's Dispatches from Outland. His reading list looks too much like mine. Foggy memory, wasn't Outland the semi-sequal to Bloom County with Opus interacting on a less-political and more social-comic cast of characters? Yes, it was. There's even an Opus play! Another one that shows promise is Bloggedy Blog, who's complaining that Christian bloggers ignored the Doves. "Not me!" said I.

Quip du jour-"The future is not just stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine."-anon(?) Edifier du jour-"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."-Proverbs 11:2

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

May Day! May Day!-It's already May Day Down Under, and the anarchogoons are on the loose. For the rest of the world, this is their equivalent of Labor Day where the Socialists, Communists and other assorted leftists parade. It's also become a day for the anarchogoons to rage against the evil corporate puppet-masters of the global economic system. Us Yanks will wake up to news of bloody clashes in Europe in all likelihood. The less-confrontational unions in the US moved to have a seperate holiday a century ago to differentiate themselves from the Marxist overtones of May Day.

Lookin' at the Purdy Pick-tures-The pictures that Bryan Preston was bragging about are out today. I was up at Eileen's this evening, helping fix an unruly computer, and we had gone on-line when we saw the pictures on a MSNBC page. I was able to say-"One of my blogger friends works at Hubble...." Good job, Hubblites.

Financial Games in Lansing-Engler and company pulled a fast one, making a de-facto 2% property tax increase under the cover of radar.
Starting next year, property owners will have to pay all of their education property taxes in the summer under a bill signed Tuesday by Gov. John Engler. The change will ensure that the state has enough money to raise the funding schools receive for each of their students from $6,500 to $6,700 in the 2002-2003 school year, Engler said. Until now, property owners have been able to split what they owe into summer and winter payments or pay the entire amount in the winter.
Having the money in the bank earning interest for six months will create the extra $200. However, like a business changing from FIFO to LIFO to artificially boost net income, this is a one-shot deal which can't boost school payments again down the road. The state needs to fix a long-term budget gap with long-term changes rather than quick gimicks. However, making hard choices in an election year (Engler's term-limited but he'll want his LG, Dick Posthumus, to take his spot) usually means giving your rivals attack-ad fodder.

Gay Genes?-Ben pointed to this No Watermelons Allowed post on whether homosexuality is genetic or not. I'm going to put the moral and theological implications on the back burner tonight and talk on an evolutionary level, which will cover most of the pro-gay people. I'll deal with all 17 of you pro-gay creationists later. For those of you inclined to say yes, I posit this question. If there were a "gay gene," one that made people tend towards being attracted to the same sex, how would that gene be passed down to the next generation? You can make the argument that homosexuality was suppressed in the past, forcing people who were same-sex-inclined to be grudgingly heterosexual. However, there still should be a modest decline as those with that gene go into celibate endeavors (note the gay priest issue at hand today) or tend to underbreed when forced into a heterosexual relationship. Even if the gene were recessive, it would tend to breed itself out over time. There could be a three-carom genetic shot to have such a gene that only triggered some of the time. Let's make such a gene part of a package of desirable traits that make a guy a very fecund fellow most of the time, having twice as many kids as normal . However, some of the time, the "Gay gene" manifests itself and the person is all-but-out of the gene pool. You'd have to have the gene riding along with a advantageous gene package in order to make up for the times the "gay gene" manifests itself. Unless such a genetic package is found, I'd question the validity of the finding of such a gene.

A Three-Year Ban?-The French judge who was pressured into voting for the Russian pair in the Winter Olympics and the head of the French skating federation who did the pressuring were both banned from the sport for three years and are persona non grata at the next Winter Games in 2006. If that gal is judging the 2006 World Championships, would she ever be trusted again? If the French ever let her judge again, would that further point to figure skating as having Vince McMahon as its patron saint? Excuse me, but the gag reflex is coming on pretty thick.

Welcome Roth-childs-Welcome to those of you who Martin Roth (and most likely from InstaPundit first) sent my way. Here's the Blogging FAQ he was citing.

American Rite Feedback- Integrity has pointed out the shortcomings of my American Rite idea (yes, it was brainstormin' time). The roots of the early Church spread out around the Mediterranean and the various rites sprung from those. To start another, less-inspired, disconnected-from-the-founders group and call it a rite would be (to put it mildly) pushing it. Keep that in mind when someone proposes this with a straight face

Saints For Our Time-Amy Welborn has a good, if a bit bitter, rant on clericalism (Me priest-You laity), wanting to get past the institutionalism to clean things up and focus on the Gospel again.
One of the most frightening things about this moment is that in every other time of crisis in the Church's history, there's one force that has rescued it, and it hasn't been the hierarchy, not even, for the most part, popes. It's been religious orders: groups of men and women totally open to the Spirit, absolutely dedicated to bringing the Gospel they lived by into the world they knew. It was religious orders that, throughout the medieval period, continually brought the Church's attention back to Christ and prevented it from simply devolving into a political force and cultural museum. In the post-Reformation period, it was religious orders that provided the means to implement the spirit and reality of the Council of Trent. What's the modern equivalent? Perhaps it's simply not emerged. Perhaps our St. Francis is out there right now, rebuilding a little ruined church in a valley, being readied by God to work with living stones.
Our modern St. Francis might be a modest parish priest that sparks a true revival in his town or a cadre of thoughtful lay bloggers writing about God with passion and knowledge. Cheer up, Amy. The Good Guys are on the offensive. Let's press the advantage and keep it going.

The GDP Blues-Krugman's actually back to economics today in his Gray Lady piece, but he's still in a snarky mood. He starts out well, pointing out that about have of the 5.6% of the GDP growth rate in the last quarter was inventory (CW alert) but gets gloomy at the end, sniping at Pollyanna economic forecasters. Remember that in the last 20 years, Pollyanna's got a better track record than Eeyore on economics. Of course, those are the Reaganomics years that Krugman's not fond of.
Of course, it's still possible that the prophets of boom will be vindicated. But it's also still possible, and I'd say about equally likely, that the recovery will stall. Right now the best bet for the next few quarters is probably a "jobless recovery," in which G.D.P. grows but unemployment stays high. After all, the economy needs to grow at about 3.5 percent just to prevent the unemployment rate from rising — and the odds are at least even that growth will fall short of that mark.
I don't know where he gets his 3.5% figure from, but economic growth can come from two main quarters- added employment or added productivity. If the labor force grows at a 1% clip and productivity grows at 1.8%, then a 3% growth rate would keep unemployment rates stable. I don't think productivity will keep at the 1.8% clip of stated above, since a lot of the computer-related productivity may have already been done. I think the percentage of the adult population will remain fairly stable and slightly growing, as an increase in stay-at-home moms will be offset by more second-career retirees. My dad's happily retired and gainfully unemployed as a grandpa and a househusband, but my prospective father-in-law works as a gas station/convenience store clerk to supplement his pension check from his old accounting position. I've seen a larger number of elderly workers in grocery stores and fast food places which will tend to drive unemployment figures up as these old-timers would not be looking for jobs in the past. If we have a 1.5% productivity increase and a 1% growth in the labor force, a 3.5% real GDP growth will trim unemployment by about 1%. That's a likely result for 2002, since we have a third of that in the bank for the first quarter. If we can get a 2.8% annual rate the rest of the way, we'll have a 3.5% for the year and Paul "Freddie" Krugman will have to figure out what wine goes best with crow. If unemployment's higher in January than it is today, I'll be talking to the wine steward. Krugman's going to find something to snark about a year from now. If there is job growth at the low end of the spectrum, he's snark about McJobs and the lack of quality, living-wage jobs. If there's job growth at the high end, he'll say that the recovery is for the intelligentsia and not for the blue-collar "working families." If the growth is across the board, he's change the subject to a balance-of-payments deficit or income inequality or the budget surplus or some other statist rant.

There's a Blog For Everything-I think I may have found Slotman a soulmate if he wants to pick up Portuguese. Through the newly-posted section of Blogger, I clicked into a Brazilian (?) site on women's basketball. I don't speak Portuguese (have enough Spanish to be dangerous), so it was eerie to see yada-yada-yada-WNBA-yada-yada-yada-NCAA. I tried an online-translator for the first time. A quick Google found this WorldLingo site. Any better ones? Idioms don't translate well, as she has a gal "tries the luck in the NCAA."

Quip du jour-"[T]he religious group which scores the highest on the SAT aren't Jews, they're Unitarians. Of course, lots of these folks are secular ex-Jews who decided to get off on the last exit before abject atheism."-Jonah Goldberg. Edifier du jour-"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."- Romans 3:21-24 Front Page Haiku Redskins Sign Matthews Gator Alumni Meeting Ramsey, mature quick!

Monday, April 29, 2002

Unholy Alliance in France-Dodge pointed to a Martin Sieff piece that echoed what was running through my mind this weekend: le Pen has a better shot at winning the runoff than people might think. If the 28% of the electorate that voted for hard-left candidates want to screw the present system, le Pen's their guy. A common Marxist tactic is to trash the current system so that Marxism looks like a viable alternative, and a President le Pen would fit those aims. If you add that to the 17% le Pen got in the first round, you're at 45%. A few extra votes and Pepe le Pen's in charge.

401 Series Goes The Distance-Speaking of Canada, the 401 Series goes to game 5 in Auburn Hills Thursday, as Toronto fended off a late Pistons charge to win 89-83. Stackhouse couldn't hit the barn side of a broad tonight, and Keon Clark looked like he was channelling KG.

Too many Molsons?-This Canadian poll showed the stoopidity of the average voter. 18% of the voters surveyed thought that the Alliance Party (the most conservative of the Canadian parties) was to the left of the socialist New Democratic Party. Translated to US speak, this would be comperable to 18% of voters thinking the Greens were to the right of the Republicans. I see stoopid people, and they don't even know they're stoopid.

Blind EUnuch Finds Acorn-The European Court of Human Rights turned down a British parapalegic woman's request for help with an assisted suicide, stating that is not a right to die in the EU- "No right to die, whether at the hands of a third person or with the assistance of a public authority could be derived." A win for the good guys. This keeps the Kevorikan Korp in the US from pointing to Enlightened Europe as a role model in legalizing assisted suicide.

American Rite?- Warning, I'm about to posit a crazy idea to reform the Catholic Church. Many critics noted that a unmarried priesthood leads an unhealthy percentage of homosexually-inclined guys into the priesthood. A possible solution would be to allow married priests. The Eastern Rite (Orthodox style but loyal to Rome) does allow married priest. However, the Latin Rite ("standard" Catholic) doesn't allow married priest unless they came on board as married ministers from Protestant denominations and the Pope's in no mood to back down on a tradition that's been in place for over a millennia. Nor would I ask him to. How about establishing an (for lack of a better term) American Rite that would allow a married priesthood? That will allow the Latin Rite to keep its celibate priesthood, yet allow a married priesthood in this new section of the church. This would increase the pool of possible priests and help alleviate the priest shortage. Crazy enough to work.

Eight Months of Trench Warfare?- This Fox piece on the prospects (not good) for getting fast-track authority through the Senate points out the problems President Bush will have getting his agenda passed in calender year 2002. With a slim Democratic majority, the committes are stacked against him and a significant number of Democrats locked and loaded with their filibusters at the ready, thus making it hard to pass anything remotely conservative. I'm not sure whether the White House is thinking tacticly or strategicly on the next six months leading up to the election. If they are thinking strategically, they should pick their fights with the Senate very carfully, going on the offensive when the public is backing them up suffiecently to overcome liberal media spin. They should have a minimum of large compromise on big bills, settling for the status quo. The Republicans should get the Senate back, as they have an excellent shot at winning South Dakota and are within the margin of error in Minnesota, Missouri and Georgia. Even though the polls don't show it at this point, I think the GOP has a solid chance of taking Iowa and Lousianna as well. I'd expect at least two of these seats above to go Republican in November Arkansas and Texas are the two trouble spots for the GOP. In Texas, Cornyn is trailing Kirk narrowly in the polls, but that's likely the benefit of Kirk having a lot of airtime in a contested primary, while Cornyn still has his warchest at the ready. Also, black candidates tend to overpoll, as people will lean towards the PC answer. Combine those two and advantage Cornyn despite the polls. State AG Mark Pryor is polling well against Sen. Tim Hutchinson, but is only leading in Democratic polls. John Sununu the younger is favored to beat Gov. Shaheen if he can get past Bob Smith in the primary. The Democrats will be lucky to bag one of these three seats and in hog heaven if they get two. This means that the Democrats are drawing to an inside straight for keeping control of the Senate. Thus, Dubya shouldn't make any long-term decisions that he can't reverse with a friendlier Senate in 2003.

High Powered Jail Guards?- This has been well blogged already, but if the US/UK guard dawgs are going to be going to be keeping the assassination six-pack well chilled, send a large enough contingent to fend off a large raid on the post. I'd be thinking at least 100 with some tanks and with the troops locked and loaded from minute one and backup a half-hour away on chopper-bearing gator freighters in the Med. Anything less than that will be asking for a mob assault on the facility like the lynch mobs of any number of Jim Crow melodramas.

Apologies and feedback-An apology to David Janes on my post on raising the Canadian age of consent from 14 to 16. He wasn't supporting the current age of 14 but instead was being critical of this being Stephen Hunter's first move out of the box as the new Alliance leader when there are other pressing problems. According to reader MacDara Conroy, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin popularized, if not coined, the "can-of-whup-a**" line in '96.

The Almighty Hegemonic Dollar-John Ellis made the mistake of posting an uncontested link to this ill-conceived pile from Henry Liu. Liu’s railing against dollar hegemony.
World trade is now a game in which the US produces dollars and the rest of the world produces things that dollars can buy. The world's interlinked economies no longer trade to capture a comparative advantage; they compete in exports to capture needed dollars to service dollar-denominated foreign debts and to accumulate dollar reserves to sustain the exchange value of their domestic currencies.
Well, the might be somewhat interested in buying US goods with the money or to use dollar-denominated accounts for buying goods from other countries. Since the dollar is widely accepted, a transaction between Taiwan and Brazil might be in dollars a as common unit of account.
To prevent speculative and manipulative attacks on their currencies, the world's central banks must acquire and hold dollar reserves in corresponding amounts to their currencies in circulation.
They could hold pounds, yen or euros, too instead of dollars as foreign currency reserves. True, they’ll be holding a plurality of dollars, but they don’t have to keep foreign currency reserves in dollars.
The higher the market pressure to devalue a particular currency, the more dollar reserves its central bank must hold. This creates a built-in support for a strong dollar that in turn forces the world's central banks to acquire and hold more dollar reserves, making it stronger. This phenomenon is known as dollar hegemony, which is created by the geopolitically constructed peculiarity that critical commodities, most notably oil, are denominated in dollars. Everyone accepts dollars because dollars can buy oil. The recycling of petro-dollars is the price the US has extracted from oil-producing countries for US tolerance of the oil-exporting cartel since 1973.
Once again, he assumes that the only acceptable foreign currency is the dollar.
Moreover, any asset, regardless of location, that is denominated in dollars is a US asset in essence. When oil is denominated in dollars through US state action and the dollar is a fiat currency, the US essentially owns the world's oil for free. And the more the US prints greenbacks, the higher the price of US assets will rise. Thus a strong-dollar policy gives the US a double win.
What act of Congress or presidential order set this up? That’s an OPEC decision, sir. They could decide to sell in euros next month (and with the current chilly relationship with the Saudis, don’t be surprised if it does. The US doesn’t get the oil for free. All those dollars can be spent here at any time. If the petrodollars stay overseas, yes, but they don’t have to stay there.
In 1795, when the Americans began finally to wake up to their disadvantaged trade relationship and began to raise European (mostly French and Dutch) capital to start a manufacturing industry, England decreed the Iron Act, forbidding the manufacture of iron goods in America, which caused great dissatisfaction among the prospering colonials. Smith favored an opposite government policy toward promoting domestic economic production and free foreign trade, a policy that came to be known as "laissez faire" (because the English, having nothing to do with such heretical ideas, refuse to give it an English name). Laissez faire, notwithstanding its literal meaning of "leave alone", meant nothing of the sort. It meant an activist government policy to counteract mercantilism. Neo-liberal free-market economists are just bad historians, among their other defective characteristics, when they propagandize "laissez faire" as no government interference in trade affairs.
Excuse me, sir, but if I remember my history, a cornerstone of mercantilism was high tariffs on imports. Keeping tariffs high isn’t a government policy? Liu’s on a socialist-populist rant at the end. Liu plugs for an increase in consumption and “fair wages” overseas. He rails against inflation hawks and argues to err on the side of employment as opposed to controlling inflation.
No single economy can profit for long at the expense of the rest of an interdependent world. There is an urgent need to restructure the global finance architecture to return to exchange rates based on purchasing-power parity, and to reorient the world trading system toward true comparative advantage based on global full employment with rising wages and living standards. The key starting point is to focus on the hegemony of the dollar.
(1) PPP is hard to do internationally, as market baskets and retail economics aren’t identical between counties, thus interest rate parity is often more easy for the market to act upon. (2)“Global full employment with rising wages and living standards”. Full employment’s hard to define, harder yet to manage. What plan does Mr. Liu have to put people to work? How will he raise wages without creating unemployment or hyperinflation? (3) “The key starting point is to focus on the hegemony of the dollar.” No, the key starting point are freer economies with less barriers to economic activity (oh, but cutting taxes is government activism and statism isn’t).
To save the world from the path of impending disaster, we must: · promote an awareness among policy makers globally that excessive dependence on exports merely to service dollar debt is self-destructive to any economy;
The first point is OK, but the rest are trouble on the hoof.
· promote a new global finance architecture away from a dollar hegemony that forces the world to export not only goods but also dollar earnings from trade to the US;
This policy would effective prohibit anyone from holding dollars overseas. This wouldn’t help the US and wouldn’t help other countries
· promote the application of the State Theory of Money (which asserts that the value of money is ultimately backed by a government's authority to levy taxes) to provide needed domestic credit for sound economic development and to free developing economies from the tyranny of dependence on foreign capital;
They would then have the tyranny of dependence of domestic capital or lack therof. Money’s worth what it can buy. I’ll have to look at that State Theory before trashing it, but it sounds a bit too big government from here.
· restructure international economic relations toward aggregate demand management away from the current overemphasis on predatory supply expansion through redundant competition; and
Raising Keynes and government central planning of supply. Nice socialist planing, sir.
· restructure world trade toward true comparative advantage in the context of global full employment and global wage and environmental standards.
Worldwide central planning of wages, employment and the enviroment. When the Antichrist starts running such a government, I’ll leave him a note to hire Mr. Liu as his Finance Minister if he’s around.

Quip du jour-"Don’t fear the Army that goes into battle with the Ride of the Valkyres playing. Fear the army that plays Surfin’ Bird." James Lileks. Edifier du jour-"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise?" Psalm 106:1-2 Front Page Haiku Kobe Bryant drives Kicks out to Horry, for three Goodbye Trail Blazers.

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Making Hinn look like A Hinny's Behind?-Chris Johnson links to pieces on Benny Hinn and Pat Robertson. Robertson's horse-racing business is not something that preachers should be getting into, as the money in the business comes from gambling. The lame excuses he gave destroyed any remaining credibility he had, which wasn't much. I've got a few points to add to the coverage on this piece on Hinn, an over-the-top Pentecostal showman who has toned down his act in the last few years. (1) The piece makes compares him to fallen televangelists of the past (Baker, Swaggart, Tilton) without a good reason. I don't know of any significant financial or sexual scandal involving Hinn, not does the author back up the connection. (2) It's common in Pentecostal circles for someone to be so overcome by God's presence that the find it hard to stand and have to lay down. The phrase "slain in the Spirit" is a common phrase for this manifestation. In non-Pentecostal/Charismatic circles, someone that moved would find a place to sit rather than be sprawled out like a eight-day wash. In "Spirit-filled" circles, it's more expected to have this happen. A common practice to have someone stand behind someone being prayed for (a "catcher") in case they get wobbly. I inadvertently became a catcher last Friday night when a gal we were praying for was so moved by the burdens God was lifting from he that she staggered backwards; I was standing behind her and made sure she landed safely. This doesn't happen too often at the Vineyard.
His crusades around the world draw thousands who hope the diminutive preacher will zap them with power he says he absorbs from the graves of dead faith healers. The lucky ones end up on stage, where with a motion of Hinn's hand they are overcome, dropping lifelessly into the arms of a "catcher."
Hinn has talked about visiting the graves of his spiritual hero, Kathryn Kullman, and early Pentecostal pioneer Aimee Semple McPherson and receiving an anointing while praying there. He overdoes the "slain in the Spirit" routine, but his services do draw people already inclined to be so moved and be in a setting where one is supposed to be going down. Some of it is thus a real reaction but a lot of it is spiritual groupthink. (3) Hank Hanegraaff is a professional spiritual critic whose ministry focus is to find faults in various Pentecostal/Charismatic movements. He's unlikely to say anything nice about Hinn or most Pentecostals. That's about as useful as getting Ralph Nader to comment on GM. Hinn's theology has had its weird moments, but from what I've seen of him (my dad's a fan of his) he's not too far off base other than being a bit too much of a showman. The healings and manifestations of the Spirit along with the more emotional style make Pentecostal/Charismatic preachers more appealing televangelists than Baptists. There are few big non-Pentecostal televangelists, with Jerry Falwell, Robert Schuller and Charles Stanley being about the only ones showing up on radar. The more staid services and straight sermonizing give Baptists a face made for radio. The problem I see with Pentecostal televangelists is that style often trumps substance, as the preacher who puts on the best show gets the ratings and donations. A guy who is a good showman but not a good theologian can get into trouble if they focus too much on themselves and not enough on God. Accountability is key, as many scandals have erupted when a preacher surrounds himself with too many yes men. Hinn has made a point of staying accountable to the Assemblies of God, unlike Swaggart who left the AoG rather accept their discipline.

Megan McArdle had a interesting, if a bit pessimistic, on investing philosophy, and Ben Kepple had a critique of it yesterday. Let me take a look at Megan's rundown.
Patrick Ruffini asks how come I'm not giving stock tips. Well, first of all, that's not quite my area of expertise. (If I can be said to have an area of expertise.) Second of all, I'm Chicago-trained, so I subscribe to the notion that you can't beat the market in the long run.
The fancy term for that is semi-strong market efficiency. They talk about various levels of market efficiency in investment classes. The first type is weak-form efficiency, which states that you can't make money predicting future stock prices by past stock prices, which thus states that technical analysis is just voodoo finance. Research shows that various technical analysis models do not create above-market profits when commissions are factored in. The second type is semi-strong efficiency, which states that you can't make any extra money with publically-available information about a company, since the market will react very quickly to any new information. This assumes that you have no extra insight as to what the future might hold for a company. I'm of the belief that there are some people who have a better insight of the future than the market as a whole. They aren't common and it's hard to tell whether its insight or luck that is driving their success.However, if your not significantly smarter than the average bear, you're better off sticking your money in a good index fund. You can avoid the S&P 500 effect (index funds drive up the value of stocks added to the index) by moving towards a small-cap index fund, which should give you better returns over the long haul. Look to funds with low cost ratios rather that high-flying performance which they may not repeat. Vanguard's good in the area of being penny-pinchers in operating costs. If you like doing your own reseach, the low commission fees by the new crop of online brokers will make the transactions cost of running your own portfolio a lot less than was the case just a half-decade ago. I'm a bit more optimistic than Megan in the idea of only expecting 3-5% real (after inflation) returns. Historically, the stock market has clipped around at about 12% nominal and thus about 9% real returns. A stock fund that's at 3-5% real return is a snoozer. I also think a near-100% equity portfolio for those of us with ten or more years to retirement is appropriate. Megan's 40% equity proposal is very conservative, even by the age rule of thumb where you should have X% of your portfolio in bonds if you are X years old. Thus, a sixty-year-old would want 60% in fixed-income securities and 40% in equities by that standard. That's find for Megan's parents, but not for the rest of us. We have decades for our portfolios to recover from bad years, and thus a more equity-laden portolio is better in the long haul. Megan's right in that you're better off paying for financial planning advice from a fee-for-service planner than relying on a broker who will make his money on commissions on high-load mutual funds.

Purgatory and Arminism-Part 2- God's Random Number Generator (Warning-Severe Geek Alert)-One of the issues that resurfaces in a number of places, including the Jerry Walls piece on purgatory that I riffed on just below. is the questions of God's timelessness. If God doesn't fully know the future, then there is room for true free will. However, there are many passages that point to a God who sees over the future. Psalm 139:13-16 came to mind
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. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Are we then just puppets on God's strings, only moving because God gives a good yank? We'll not truly know until we can talk to God face-to-face, but here's my thought. Many Christians are uncomfortable with the apparent random nature of quantum physics. Can something be so perfectly random that even God doesn't know what's going to happen? It sort of reminds me of the old brain-twister of the infinitely big rock that God can't move. There's always a bigger infinity to be had. God is greater than the universe and can add to it if needed. God created that honkin'-big rock, H e can create a honkin'-big fulcrum or pulley system to move it. The problem of randomness and free will is that we fail to think of God as outside of time as well as space. Let me use a novel metaphor that our life is not a book to God but a spreadsheet, and that the details of our lives are accounted for by a series of equations linking to other cells in both our sheet and the sheets of others. Some of the functions will have random numbers in them. In Excel, the RAND function provides a "random" number between 0 and 1. However, random number functions aren't truly random, they are dependent on an initial seed value. If you feed the same seed value, you get the same sequence of values each time. Thus, feeding it a hard-to-reoccur number, such as the hour, minute and second of the day, into the function makes it close to truly random. This concept has help me in a lot in studying the stochastic (truly random) calculus that goes behind option pricing theory. A key construct in the derivation of the Black-Scholes model was the idea of Brownian motion, a minutely small, random movement. I was able to picture this as taking the output of a RAND function and slapping it into a cumulative normal function. However, the Brownian motion theorized was stochastic, not the result of a preordained pattern. Can God create such a stochastic construct? I think he can. Does that imply free will? To a point. I'm picturing God setting up this interlinking set of spreadsheets called the Universe and hitting the Calculate button and seeing what happens. He gets to see the history of the Universe from beginning to end standing outside of time. The universe is the spreadsheet, and He's at the keyboard changing the sheet where needed. He doesn't like what's happening in a certain cell and intervenes, plugging in a constant rather than the random value in the cell. This causes all the cells down-time from that one to recalculate. God looks at the new universe and tweaks until He gets the whole universal history the way He wants it. God then can see what the whole of history, including the future, since He's standing outside of time. April 28, 2002 9:01AM EST is just one entry on that big spreadsheet. Our decisions are free to the extent that God hasn't stepped in to change them. If He wanted something other than what you would want on your own, He can and has changed it. Is the fact that I got a glass of Diet Pepsi rather than orange juice at my desk part of a RAND function or has God manually typed in "Diet Pepsi"? If He really wanted me to drink some OJ, He'd have nudged my spirit ten minutes ago to get me to grab a glass of juice. This edited randomness still gives God sovereignty over all creation, yet makes us feel some autonomy. The God of Open Theism is at best like Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, whose creation has gotten out of His control. A God who hasn't got a clue what will happen isn't the God talked about in the Bible. The other aspect of Open Theism/Arminianism is that it presents a God somewhat detached from His creation, reminding me of the aloof Deist deity that is simply the Creator of the universe sitting back and just watching the universe. Last Saturday, at Eileen's great Uncle Carl and great Aunt Eleanor's 60th anniversary party, they had the karaoke set up with a list of some classics they'd like to hear sung. One Eileen did was the old Bette Midler song, From a Distance. The final refrain of the song is "God is watching us from a distance." I mentioned to her afterwards (and Eileen agreed) that the song's theology is off in that God is watching us, but not from a distance. His omnipresent nature allows him to be in the house wherever the house might be. The God of the Bible is not just omnipresent but omnitemporal. He's checking things out here and now, changing what He deems needs to be changed. While the Arminian view can lead to a sense of pride in being responsible for one's own salvation, while the alternative, Calvinist, view can lead to a fatalistic view towards sanctification and evangelism; "If God wanted me to lead a better life, He'll see to it. If God wants those people saved, He'll send someone else to witness to them." We need to have the security in our salvation of a good Calvinist and the evangelical hustle and moral purity of a good Wesleyan. I don't want to have to have God drag me kicking and screaming into doing what needs to be done. Might that desire to be better come from God dragging me along? We'll find out someday. If God is omnitemporal, our spirit has an omnitemporal component as well. The purging process will happen, but time will not be of the essence. At that point, the ridding of our sin nature and the lessons learned from our life's sojourn will be learned, but will not detract from the eternity to be spent in God's presence. I'm reminded of the final verse of Amazing Grace
When we've been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun
God is omnitemporal but Heaven could be better be described as atemporal, without time as a factor. The purging process is atemporal as well as best I can discern.

Purgatory and Arminism-Part 1-The Unstated Question-Veritas links to a article by Wesleyan theologian Jerry L. Walls on purgatory. Walls points out that the fact that purgatory isn't mentioned in the Bible doesn't mean, by that fact alone, it isn't valid. For instance, Byran Preston pointedly reminds us that guitars, organs and pianos aren't in the Bible either, but all but a handful of Christians freely use some or all of those in church services. However, if purgatory runs afoul of what is in scripture, then it needs to be rejected as doctrine. Walls goes on to lay out the argument in the terms of the Wesleyan doctrine of sanctification. The bone of contention betwwen is that most evangelicals will focus on positional righteousness, that we are declared righteous by our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior while Wesleyan theology will look at actual righteousness, the process of getting sin out of their lives. This Wesleyan process of sanctification involves the Holy Spirit's creating an increasingly godly life with the achievable goal of a fully-sanctfied, sin-free life. However, not everyone (I'd argue no one) gets fully sanctified in their lifetime. Walls asks
How have they resolved the problem of sin and moral imperfection that remains in the lives of believers at the time of death?
The blood of Jesus, sir. He died to take away all our sin in the eyes of God.
In other words, the work that believers in the broader Catholic tradition ascribe to purgatory is, for most Protestants, accomplished immediately, and apparently painlessly, by a unilateral act of God at death.
Yep. By George, I think he's got it. Oops, not quite. He's going to go on a sanctification riff.
An important variation on this theme appears in the theology of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Unlike most Protestant theologians, Wesley believed that complete sanctification is possible in this life. In his model of the order of salvation, such sanctification can be received in a moment of faith analogous to the way justification is accepted by faith. Wesley also stressed the progressive dimension of sanctification and thought that entire sanctification could not normally be received without years of gradual growth and progress in grace and holiness. But what is significant for our purposes is that Wesley believed that, in most cases, complete sanctification takes place at “the instant of death, the moment before the soul leaves the body.”
So far so good. If we don't quite make it to sanctification in life, God'll do it when we die.
The most basic problem for those who hold that sanctification is instantly completed at the moment of death, as Anglican theologian David Brown has pointed out, is that “there is no way of rendering such an abrupt transition in essentially temporal beings conceivable.” One way to avoid this problem is to appeal to the highly controversial doctrine of God’s timelessness and to maintain that after death we share in this condition, thereby rendering temporal considerations irrelevant. The matter of God’s relationship to time is one of the most vexing problems in the philosophy of religion, and it would take us far afield to discuss it. I will simply register the fact that I have doubts about the coherence of the doctrine of timelessness, so I do not think this move solves the problem.
This might be the core of his problem. His God’s smaller than mine is. This spins into the Open Theism argument that Jason Steffens reported on a while back. Does God really know the future in full? I think so. I don’t think God is a captive of time. Remember, He’s in the miracle biz and transcends both space and time. How fast we transition from our temporal nature to a atemporal one is God's job and I'm not going to put God in a box by saying he can't do it instantly.
More plausible is the attempt to conceive of sanctification along the lines of abrupt and dramatic conversions in this life. But as Brown also points out, there is good reason to think that such dramatic turnarounds have important antecedent causes that lead up to and prepare their way. Moreover, while outward change of behavior may occur rather dramatically, internal change of character is another matter. Real virtue is achieved over a period of time by numerous choices and decisions, often in the face of adversity. Brown concludes that if man is essentially temporal, “his capacity for moral perfection is likewise. No clear sense attaches to the claim that a human being could become instantaneously virtuous, morally perfect, and so, if God is to respect our nature as essentially temporal beings, He must have allowed for an intermediate state of purgatory to exist.”
It will take a supernatural act to cleanse us, so why be picky about the time frame? Cleaning us up in a decade or a century will be as miraculous as doing so immediately. The core of his argument stems from the Arminian (free-will; Jesus died for all, but it's up to the believer to freely RSVP) theology of free-will.
It is just this sort of consideration that led Wesley to insist that sanctification must normally be preceded by a significant period of growth and maturation. Without this process, one is not prepared to receive the fullness of grace sanctification represents. If this basic line of thought is correct, there is good reason to think that something like the traditional notion of purgatory is indeed necessary for those who have not experienced significant growth and moral progress. The classical notion of purgatory also seems necessary to a related issue in the process of sanctification: our free participation in it. Many Christian theologians have held that our necessary cooperation in our transformation constitutes the only satisfactory explanation for the bewildering array of good and evil in the world. God takes our freedom seriously and is patient with it; He recognizes that even those who have made an initial decision to follow His will often make only sporadic or inconsistent progress in carrying out their resolution. In this view, while it is God who enables and elicits our transformation each step of the way, our cooperation with His will is necessary to our sanctification. Now if God deals with us this way in this life, it is reasonable to think He will continue to do so in the next life until our perfection is achieved. Indeed, the point should be put more strongly than this. If God is willing to dispense with our free cooperation in the next life, it is hard to see why He would not do so now, particularly in view of the high price of freedom in terms of evil and suffering.
God will give us all the time we want to evolve into a godly being? That’s a near-hell in itself, a group of people in purgatory gradually, on their own, growing more godly. Unless God steps in, we’re stuck in that state of non-quite-godly forever. It reminds me a bit of Hindu theology, where reincarnation gives people time for their souls to be perfected, gradually achieving oneness with the divine. God needs to move in somewhere and close the loop. To assume that God will give us millennia of a second imperfect life is creating a too-aloof God.
Appealing to God’s forgiveness does nothing to address the fact that many Christians are imperfect lovers of God (and others) at the time of their death. This is not to say that the experience of being forgiven does not change us. Indeed, gratitude for God’s free offer of forgiveness is a powerful incentive for the believer to love God in return. But forgiveness alone, especially on a legal model, does not change us in a subjective sense. Consider in this light the words of C. S. Lewis, an author whose views are usually endorsed enthusiastically by evangelical Protestants.
Our souls demand purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleansed first”? “It may hurt, you know.”—“Even so, sir.”
Forgiveness alone does not eliminate unpleasant odors, and lack of condemnation does not clean up soiled clothes. Other remedies are necessary, and as Lewis suggests, they may involve pain.
I picture our souls being purged (the root word at issue) of our greed, selfishness and fears by the unfiltered goodness and holiness of God. The elements of our sin nature will be repelled and left behind as our freed spirit runs to the presence of God. That unwelcome baggage will be left at the door just like a winter coat and mittens would be left at the airport terminal if you were in a truly frost-proof Florida to stay.
Purgatory enables us fully to come to terms with reality. Richard Purtill has suggested that the period between our death and resurrection will be a time of “reading” our lives like a book. The entire book would be present to us and we could reread past sections, skip ahead, and so on. All of this reading would be done in what he calls “Godlight.” That is, it would be a matter of coming to see our lives as God sees them. This would involve, for instance, seeing the full force of how our sins affected others. “The only adequate purgatory might be to suffer what you made others suffer—not just an equivalent pain, but that pain, seeing yourself as the tormentor you were to them. Only then could you adequately reject and repent the evil.” The other side of the coin is that we “would see with love even those who have hurt us, because God saw them with love.”
That session at the Judgement Seat need not be a lifetime of correction to match a lifetime of sin. Our lifetime exam will be there to review, and all the red-marks explained. At this point, God can freely speak spirit-to-spirit, so that I’m envisioning the process as a quick but deep debriefing. Rather than a long process of shedding a sinful nature, the purging process could also be a quick process of reviewing the exam of life and dropping our excess baggage and running full-tilt for our Daddy, seeing His goodness unfiltered for the first time. While our temporal minds can’t truly grasp what this process will be like, my thought is that it will take “hours” rather than “years” and be more akin to checking-in than a quarantine. Wall's purgatory is a product of his Arminian theology of free-will. He doesn't want God to make him love God, so he needs to become perfected on his own. God doesn't want you to wait that long, sir. You need God to help finish the job for you.

Quip du jour- "If it's nae wind and nae rain, it's nae golf"- Scottish saying Edifier du jour-"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."-2 Corinthians 10:4-5 Front Page Haiku Postal German teen Sixteen dead at his old school Does gun control work?

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