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Saturday, August 24, 2002

British Hit List-Many Bloggers have had fun with this BBC list of the 100 Greatest Britons of all time. Greg Hlatky has a good list of so-so inclusions and famous people in history slighted. I'm glad they don't have my namesake, Mr. "mad, bad and dangerous to know." This was done of 30,000 British people, so you should expect some historic illiteracy. However, I've got some nits to pick with Greg's take of Thomas Paine and William Wallace. Would an comparable American list include Robert E. Lee? I think so. The inclusion of Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Boy George and Johnny Rotten are disturbing, but I could see Springsteen and Madonna or (get the barf bag) Brittany Spears cracking such an American list. David Beckham is the Michael Jordan of English soccer, and wouldn't His Airness get on an US list. Champion rower Steve Redgrave is an odd pick-I hadn't heard of him before this. J.K. Rowling is in, but Stephen King and Tom Clancy would have a shot at a US list. There are some people I don't get either, but have been part of their culture, such as comic Eric Morecambe and anti-immigrant politician Enoch Powell

Evening Musings-For openers, you can't expect players with pro talent to stay all four years. Go get 'em, Ben. I'd like to be a little bug on the wall of this tete-a-tete between Bandar and Dubya. I saw some blogger note that you take friends to the ranch, and the Saudi entity ain't a friend. College football's starting, so I have to work on squeezing some football. Eileen's got some grading going while I have FSU-ISU and Bucs-Weasels going on the tube. We just got back from a tourist/exploration trip over towards Tampa, seeing the airport (Sister-in-law coming this way next week), Ray-J , Tropicana, USF then checking out the Gulf Coast over by Clearwater. For a Michigan kid, it's amazing how well developed the coast is. Would Lake Huron be that developed if it were warm and usable year-round? Ohio State took care of business in their opener, looking like a possible Big 11 10 champ. I hope OSU does well when they don't play UofM and MSU, for sophomore coach Jim Tressel is a class act. While I was at KSU, he was turning Youngstown State just up the road into the most feared Penguins1 since Opus, being a near-fixture in the I-AA title game in the early 90s. He did it with Paterno-level integrity to boot. While I was typing, the Noles looked good on their first drive, driving for a TD with confidence, then took a pick back for another six. They might have a New Years Eve curfew. Hoyt Wilhelm died this weekend; he brought the knuckleball to my generation, being the George Blanda of baseball, pitching more games than anyone (1070) at that time while playing into his late 40s. 1My sister has a penguin thing going, so when I got down to KSU, I made a road-trip to YSU, figuring they'd have to stock a stuffed-animal penguin mascot at their bookstore. They did, giving her a conversation piece in her collection.

Fosters-Cajun For "Not Now"- Gov. Mike Foster opted out of a rumored Senate run by not filing before yesterday's deadline, throwing his support behind John Cooksey. He might have had a better shot at Sen. Landrieu, but would have left the state with a Democratic LG moving into his spot if he won. He's term-limited, so he'll be looking for other work after the 2003 elections. Breaux's seat's up in 2004, y'all, and he might be easier to beat with Foster's good-'ol-boy charm than Mary Landrieu. Fox guys-When the piece is about Foster, why lead with Landrieu's picture? Yeah, she's nicer to look at than the governor, but she's not the story.

Jewish Conservatives-Orrin Judd posts and responds to this long e-mail essay from David Cohen. Cohen concludes his essay with this paragraph
So more and more Jews are open to conservatism. There is nothing inherent in conservatism, at least as I've defined it, that prevents Jews from being true believers. Will their (our) conservatism look in all aspects like that of the paleocons or theocons. Of course not, not least because some paleocons and theocons will define conservatism as not being open to Jews. But can conservative Jews make common cause with Christian conservatives? Absolutely. Is this Jewish conservatism any less conservative than Christian conservatism? I think not.
One of the things we have seen over the last quarter-century is the divide in American politics stopped being on where you go to worship on the weekend but how often and how devoutly. The Catholic-Protestant divide we saw in the 1960 election is largely toast in modern politics, as we see Catholics Bill Bennett and Alan Keyes be embraced by "theocons." This also extends to Jews; Michael Medved subs for Rush and Toward Tradition's Daniel Lapine dances cheek-to-cheek with James Dobson. People who seek a Ten Commandments morality make common cause against the forces of secularism. Judd goes on to point out the demographic problems of the American Jewish community
But my suggestion now is that this question must be nearly reversed. We have to ask : what are the Jews if they no longer have a religion? I think Judaism, both here and in Israel, will have to go through something resembling the Great Awakenings that we Protestants experience here periodically (some folks think we're in the midst of the third Awakening now). Demographic trends--birthrates, intermarriage, etc.--point toward the inexorable decline and eventual disappearance of Jews as a measurable cohort of the world population. Even in Israel the long term trend--and they received an artificial breathing space with the immigration of Eastern Europe's fecund Jews after the Wall fell--leads to the disappearance of Jews. In the face of this there must be both a revival of Jewish belief and a conscious effort to boost birthrates. There must be Jews and they must believe in Judaism or else in just a few decades the end of Judaism may be in sight.
I'm not ready to call it a Jewish Great Awakening, but there seems to be a trend across the board of people wanting their place of worship to actually practice their faith. In Protestant churches, the less devout people stay home while the faithful will find churches that actually preach God's word. In Judaism, synagogues are nudging themselves in a more conservative direction, with Reform synagogues paying more attention to the rituals they used to scorn and Conservative synagogues striving for a richer, fuller life of worship that will mean something to their children. However, we're starting out with a more theologically liberal Jewish polity; while about 30-40% of Christians would be considered theologically conservative, only about 20-25% of Jews would be. Barring a massive non-Messianic revival within the Jewish community, Jewish conservatism would be limited by its theological liberalism. You would then tend to see a Jewish conservatism that has more of a libertarian streak, sounding more like David Brooks than Michael Medved. I think part of what makes unprefixed conservatives nervous about Jewish (and other) neocons like Brooks or Kristol is that seem to respect moral authority more than they celebrate it, seeing a looser faith leading to a looser believe in the falleness of man. We still need all the help we can get in putting together a truly moral majority and such folks need to be part of the mix. Remember that our political allies don't need to be theological allies. The GOP tent includes Mormon Orrin Hatch and Christian Scientist David Dreier. While we might have theological differences, we can make common cause on political things we agree on while still competing in the theological arena. I don't see a good reason why conservative Jews wouldn't fit under the tent as well.

Bingo Rodriguez's Traveling All-Stars-Colby Cosh morphed my idea of a Players League into a pair of barnstorming all-star teams (August 23 AM-no post links). I think you'd need a league to give some variety of competition, but one aspect of our new league would be that you could take teams on the road, not being fixed to one site. You could pull a Packer thing and split regular season games between two sites. In basketball, Boston used to play a few home games in Hartford and Utah would show the flag in Las Vegas. I'm new to Ambassador Cosh's site-he's Canadian and has a fun look at Chretien, coming up with 10 8 things to like about him (Aug 22 AM). "8. Chretien was, at least, an authentic autocrat." With lines like that, I'll come back for more.

Edifier du jour-Micah 7:18-19 (NASB)
18 Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea.
There was a Wayne Watson song a few years back which had the punchline "It's not that I don't remember, it more that I choose to forget." Psalm 103:12 comes to mind "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." If I may make a modern-day metaphor, God has a soft spot for us and gets our sin out of His house faster than a bag of fly-catching garbage. He then flips that bag of sin into the garbage truck (not the dumpster, for we can go out and take back that Lamar Alexander's Little Plaid Book {somebody threw that one in our dumpster the other day} and other detritus) to be hauled off to the landfill. The mistake many of us make is forgiving but not quite forgetting. It often takes a while to forgive ourselves, as our minds keep going out to the dumpster and thumbing through that Little Plaid Book of sins. God is our Sanitary Engineer, hauling off our sins to a place where we can't be thumbing through it anymore. Yes, if there were a lottery ticket that got in the trash, people might try and track down the section of the dump, but God forgot where he stashed the trash. There's a family legend of my sister running after the garbage truck, yelling "Come back with my twash!" No, let the garbage go into the depths.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Afternoon Musings-I've started to get some traffic from The Talking Dog via a bottom permalink. He's got an eclectic list of links that includes The Raving Atheist. Señor Perro must be here for the politics. Bad talking dog joke; dog's part of a vaudeville act
"What's over our head?" "Roof!" "What's sandpaper feel like?" "Rough!" "Who's the greatest baseball player of all time?" "Ruth!" At this point, the audiences starts thowing things at the stage, forcing the dog and his partner off the stage. The dog looks at his partner and says, "Ya think I should say DiMaggio?"
News Section-I don't like the smell of this. Delta is looking to join the Northwest-Continental alliance. The new cooperating trio is designed to counter an United-US Air coalition. OK, boys and girls, can you say "oligopoly?" This would put too much power into a pair of hands. The Delta-Northwest combo would own Atlanta and Detroit. Thank the Lord for Southwest, Air Tran and other upstarts keeping the big boys honest. Colorado State beat Virginia yesterday. This is the second time CSU's knocked off a big-conference opponent in one of these pre-season classics. In 1998, they beat Michigan State, effectively costing MSU a bowl bid. MSU went on to finish 6-6, which would have been 6-5 without the extra game. In the past, teams needed a winning record to be in a bowl game, but this year, a 6-6 record will qualify for a bowl bid. The new rule should encourage second-tier clubs who might be looking at a 6-6 record to like those pre-season games. Yao Ming did fairly well, getting 13 points, 11 boards and 6 blocks, as the US beat up on China, 85-54, in a game that was friendlier then Ben Wallace's trash talk of yesterday would have indicated. The UN wants a new building? Let's twist the old bumper-sticker: UN out of the US. Why not move to Geneva? The land's less expensive and we'd have less of a problem with "diplomats" from other countries abusing their privileges and getting a free media field day in New York. "Ginsu 2002-It slices, it dices, it clips your short and curlies in the comfort of your own home."

Blacks, Jews and McKinney- This is a not-too-good piece on black-Jewish political relations after the McKinney defeat of Tuesday. Despite what the media would like to make use think, the Muslim money going to McKinney overwhelmed the Jewish money going to Majette. Black leaders might have to stand up to Muslim groups or face being hounded from office. In the distant past, blacks and Jews were political allies, cohorts in a liberal Democratic coalition. However, that was a day when being Jewish was as detrimental to someone as being black. I remember hearing this Rat Pack-era joke.
Sammy Davis Jr. was on the golf course. He was asked "What's your handicap?" "I'm a one-eyed Jewish Negro. Take your pick."
These days, being Jewish isn't as much of a handicap. While there are pockets of anti-Semitism and the occasional bigot attacking a synagogue, being Jewish isn't a career-stopper any more. Being black has more of a downside, albeit much less of one than fourty years ago. A half-century ago, there was much more institutionalized anti-Semitism along with Jim Crow bigotry; thus, blacks and Jews and a bond of outsiderness that saw Jews being key helpers in the civil rights movement. There have been two key changes that might lead to a greater distance between the two groups.
(1)Jews have become more accepted by Christians of various theological stripes
On the left, universalism has made mainline churches more receptive to generic theistic cooperation with Jewish groups. On the right, a greater interest in Israel's role in eschatology and a muscular Israel have lead evangelicals to become backers of Israel, endearing themselves to Jews who can look past the occasional salvation pitch. It's largely the underchurched that retain a high degree of bigotry. This seems to make Jews feel less separate and a bit more culturally, if not spiritually, assimilated. There seems to be less of a feeling of being an outsider than before. When I was a kid, it was everybody else versus the WASPs. When's the last time you heard WASP? The protestant part fell out as evangelical-versus-mainline became more of a factor. Now, the political divide is whether you take your faith at face value rather than what your faith is. This also will allow for some anti-Semitism to creep in. The more Jews are just whites, the easier it is to trash Jewish businesses.
(2) The growth of Islam as a factor in Democratic politics and the black community
As various Muslin groups start to grow in the black community and immigrant Islamic communities start to vote, support for Israel starts to be problematic. Over the last half-century, Israel has gone from an underdog to a overlord, moving them into the left's doghouse. If coupled with an Islamic presence, this leads many black leftists to be severe critics of Israel. If you couple those two factors, where Jews are becoming more accepted and blacks becoming more anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic, you can easily see the two groups on different sides of many issues. 9/11 might be a catalyst of making Jews less Democratic (I'm not sure yet if I can say more Republican) and this seems to gall establishment black liberals.

Edifier du jour-Micah 6:6-8
6 With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? 7 Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?
Here's to you, you Blithering Idiot! After you mentioned that Monday, I had Steven Curtis Chapman's The Walk running through my head, since he uses verse 8 as a bridge in that song. This is Old Testament, folks, yet Micah seems to be pre-channeling Paul. It's not the first time in the OT that God asks the believer to give honest service to Him rather than real nice sacrifices. It's a checklist would looking at. Do we do justice? Do we go to bat for the people who are being treated unfairly? Not nearly as much as we should. Do we love kindness? Verbally, the cutting remark is more fun than the soothing one, yet we're called here to practice kindness. It's one of Paul's Fruit of the Spirit, yet one that is a stranger to many of our dialogues. Yeah, I've lectured on blog civility more than once. Add one to the list. Do we walk humbly with our God? Not just "are we humble?", but are we walking with God? I tend to head off on my own more often than I'd care to admit. I remember a few years back at a department store, seeing a mother with her pre-schooler boy on a leash. Yep, literally, attached to his arm so he couldn't run off on her. My mom could have used that when I was his age. God does have such a leash, it's called our conscience informed by the Holy Spirit. We need to listen to it more often.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

The Miller Fisking-Let's start with this Tech Central piece from two weeks ago, where Sonia Arrison critiqued the Peer to Peer Piracy Protection Act. The act allows companies to hack into individual's computers in order to prevent Napster-style copying. At the time, I commented "What part of 'unreasonable search' don't they get?" The two sheriff’s deputies (in my MBA MIS class) that I shared that with later that night were shaking their heads in disbelief, agreeing with my take. Now, James D. Miller, a good U of Chicago Ph.D., is siding with the industry in his reply to the Arrison piece.
Hollywood wants to invade private computer networks so it can unleash viruses against copyright thieves. In a recent Tech Central Station article, Sonia Arrison argues against Congressional efforts to grant Hollywood hacking rights. Alas, without such rights, peer-to-peer networks will decimate the for-profit production of movies, music and even books.
Last we've checked, CD buying has gone up among MP3 swappers, with downloads acting as shareware. Not everyone ponies up, but the record companies are selling more product.
Peer-to-peer networks pose a vastly greater threat to intellectual property than Napster did. Internet thieves copy content from each others' hard drives. With Napster, these criminals needed to operate through a centralized server. Peer-to-peer computing, however, allows thieves to exchange copyrighted content directly. Napster was like a single large open-air drug market that authorities could easily locate and shut down. Peer-to-peer pirating is analogous to having thousands of drug markets operating out of private homes.
The real difference was that with a central server, you can sue and shut down the server, as the industry did with Napster. Peer-to-peer requires suing individual users, which will create bad PR.
To hinder peer-to-peer thieves, someone must hack into their network homes. Unfortunately, without monitoring, you can't identify which networks thieves use to exchange copyrighted materials. Consequently, to fight peer-to-peer piracy, Congress must curtail everyone's cyber privacy and allow copyright holders to access and sometimes disable private networks. While we should regret any loss of privacy, fighting crime often requires reducing the privacy rights of innocents. For example, our privacy is violated when we walk through a metal detector or are searched by airport security. Indeed, NASA may soon even scan the brains of airline passengers in efforts to detect terrorists. Surely, scanning hard drives is far less objectionable than scanning brains.
Metal detectors are used to protect lives, Dr. Miller. It's one thing to try and stop the next 9-11 and saving hundreds or thousands of lives. That even most hard-core libertarians will grind their teeth and accept. Also, the areas where weapons aren't allowed are clearly marked-if you don't want to be searched, don't go into those areas. The difference between metal detectors and computer snooping is that we're going from saving lives to saving the record industry a few bucks and going from an accenting-to check in a few locales to a nationwide computer hunt. Also, we'll have companies rather than security guards doing the snooping. I don't think we'd like the metal detector thing quite as much if Time-Warner reps were coming into my house without a warrant at 2AM to search for weapons. The magnitude of the financial losses doesn't justify the trashing of Fourth Amendment.
Should we, however, pay the privacy price necessary to deter Internet piracy? Some have argued that content providers need simply lower prices to more successfully compete against illegal downloads. What price, however, would copyright holders have to charge to attract paying customers away from piracy? What price would I have to set to sell you my permission to speak English? I imagine readers of this article derive massive value from conversing in English. So, if you give me a mere $10, I will give you my permission to speak English. Obviously, you have the capacity to speak English independent of my permission, so only a fool would pay me my requested $10. What if I lower my price to $1, will you now purchase my permission? Again, since you can speak English for free, why would you ever pay for my consent regardless of how low a price I set? Similarly, if consumers can costlessly download copyrighted material, they should rationally never pay for legal copies. If you can costlessly obtain an illegal copy of a song, all the copyright holder really has to sell is his permission for you to listen. But, since it's permission you don't need, it's permission you shouldn't pay for.
That a fairly lame analogy, although I'd love to have the copyright to English™. In the computer realm, we have a rough equivilent called Windows. While bootleg copies of Windows are available, plenty of people still give Bill Gates his pound of flesh. Secondly, not everyone is computer-savvy enough to download copies of songs and burn CDs. Thirdly, some of us are actually honest. The fact that downloads are illegal will deter a lot of people.
Left unchecked, technology will further facilitate copyright theft. As broadband access proliferates, Internet users will be able to download stolen music and movies more quickly. Currently, books remain safe from peer-to-peer piracy because most consumers would rather read printed words than electronic text. When e-paper becomes as readable as physical paper, however, unrestricted piracy may destroy book publishers. If you can costlessly download any book you want in two seconds from a peer-to-peer network, why buy a legal copy?
E-paper's a ways off. Technology will also facilitate the purchase of copyrighted material, as people might buy e-books more easily that they might buy hard-copies that take days to physically deliver. Why would the E-book experience be any different from what we've seen in the CD/MP3 market?
Copyright holders would like to imbed copy protection technology in their products. A movie, for example, could contain a code allowing it to be played only on your hardware. Imbedded copy protection technology is foiled, however, if even one user creates and disseminates a clean and playable copy. In contrast, hack attacks on peer-to-peer networks succeed if they merely stop unsophisticated users from obtaining illegal copies. Furthermore, imbedded copy protection can never protect e-books since you can create a copyable e-book merely by scanning the text of a physical book.
And the publishing industry in the US is quivering over the bootleg book business today? If they are, I haven't seen much press on it. Some current CD can't be played on a computer and people don't like that. The industry can use copy protection at the cost of annoying their honest customer with extra hoops to jump through. If the lost revenue from pirating is greater than the lost revenue from ticking off the paying customers, then such copy protection will make sense.
In her article opposing Hollywood hacking, Sonia Arrison suggests that Hollywood need not fight peer-to-peer thievery because, as she correctly notes, "consumers will always be willing to pay market prices to be entertained." A market price is not the fair or reasonable price; rather it's the amount of money consumers must pay to acquire goods. But in a world of easy peer-to-peer piracy, the market price of movies, books and music is zero.
In a world of shoplifters, the market price of jewelry is zero. We don't live in a world of shoplifters. Internet file swapping may depress prices for swappable material- it seems to be doing the opposite. Even if file-swapping does depress prices somewhat, I don't think such economic losses warrant the trashing of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches. I though TCS was a libertarian joint; how'd this piece get posted here?

Evening Musings-For the Uli Heitz Fan Club member who was Googling in this afternoon-he went +4 today in Jacksonville-the cut would be at +1. We're having some fun on the airwaves down here with the firing of Sami Al-Arian, a U. of South Florida prof who was axed over ties to Palestinian terrorist groups. He's suing to get his job back. USF runs the local NPR station, so they have to do a fun two-step covering this one. He was the topic of discussion over lunch amongst some of the WSC faculty- the consensus was that academic freedom isn't absolute, just like free speech doesn't let you yell fire in a theater. Hanging out with and fund-raising for terrorists goes over the line. Less Trees-More Bush. That's the inverse of a protestors sign, but the right attitude. Many forest have too much deadwood and are a massive fire waiting to happen-some selective trimming will help a lot of forests. Of course, the enviros will have none of it. Dubya's backing such a trimming plan-more power to ya, sir. Au Revoir, Jean-Prime Minister Chretien has declared himself a lame duck and won't seek another term as PM, and will step down in February 2004, a year prior to required elections. This will likely put off a leadership challenge from former Finance Minister Paul Martin; a party convention next February could remove him even earlier, but now that seems unlikely. Now the ambitious Liberals can marshal their forces for the likely leadership convention in late 2003 which will choose his successor. Don't send Ben Wallace to the State Department. The World Championships are up next week, and the US and China are playing an exhibition tonight. I don't think you can use the soccer euphemism of a "friendly" after Wallace's comments about soon-to-be-Rocket Yao Ming-"We're going to beat him up. We're going to beat him up pretty bad. Welcome to the league, welcome to our country. This is our playground. This is how we play."

Afternoon musings-Full day of business today, as we had our first chapel of the year. The music was good modern praise; the kids seemed lost on We Want to See Jesus Lifted High, but they were with the program for Lord, I Lift Your Name on High and I Could Sing of Your Love Forever and on a slow-tempo song I hadn't heard before as the closer. Campus pastor Mike Sanders is a good speaker, even if he likes Tony ("I'm preaching so good, I'm taking notes on myself") Campolo; it's the second time he's mentioned him this month. He had a good and brief message on Romans 12:5, the WSC theme of the year is "Celebrate Community." I was of two minds on his exegesis on Romans 12 and of the theme. While we are all individuals and have different gifts to offer, I struggled to get past the PC definition of diversity that's stuck in my craw to get to a Biblical understanding of a diverse community, each with our own contribution to the Kingdom. As much as we have things in common and as much as people try to pigeonhole us, we're still unique, yet we are part of a broader community. One of Sanders' phrases was that we shouldn't just tolerate our community but celebrate it, to take joy in each other's differences. Vie La Difference! I've got a session under my belt of both of the undergraduate classes I'm teaching this semester. I taught my MWF Personal Finance class yesterday and my TTh Macroeconomics class today. The Macro class seemed livelier, but not by much- there's not much you can do to make going over the syllabus lively. I gave a spiel in yesterday's class on class participation-"You don't want to hear me lecture for 50 minutes?" One guy in the back corner was shaking his head way too vigorously, giving me a good laugh. My Understanding the Bible class started today as well-it's the introductory Bible study class that is the prereq to all the upper-division Bible classes. When I was in grad school, I dreamed of teaching at a Christian college and picking up theology classes on the side; I'm living the dream, folks. Dr. Varner seems to be that classic tough-but-very-good prof. Quizzes are a possibility every period-his method is to have a no-quiz marble, a 5-question marble and a 10-question marble; a student then blindly picks one of them. A formal exegetical paper on Galatians is the big project-you're going to get some of that in the weeks to come, folks. I've got an assignment for Tuesday, a 1-2 pager on "In my opinion the Bible is ...." I might post it once I'm done with it, and if one of my classmates wants to copy, they're toast. Dr. Varner's the house expert on plagiarism, running the plagiarism workshop for our faculty meetings last week. He makes the students hand in papers via Word files, so he can search for copying with great ease.

Black Political Evolution-I'm not sure if Cynthia McKinney's loss Tuesday is part of a greater trend, but it might start to signal a desire of the black voter to move away from the fight-the-man civil activist type towards a more positive and managerial attitude towards governance. In most big black-oriented cities, mayoral politics has moved away from the race-card-playing populists like Coleman Young, Marion Barry and David Dinkins and towards a younger, problem-solving generation of leaders like Dennis Archer, Mike White, Kurt Schmoke and Anthony Williams. The legislature lends itself more to bomb-throwers, as they will be less likely to screw things up with a vote than by managing things, but even there, the voters will eventually want something more than red meat rhetoric. In Georgia, voters went for someone who could be a legislator rather than a ideologue. It will be hard to displace many of the bomb-throwers on the left, since the solidly Democratic districts preclude a general-election challenge, but we've seen two races (McKinney and Hilliard) where black incumbents were ousted in the Democratic primary. This might not turn blacks into GOP voters, but it might lead to a more rational breed of black legislator who can be reasoned with.

Fisk Alert-James D. Miller of Conservative Economist fame has a pro-RIAA-snooping piece(?) in Tech Central Station. He's getting a half-day repreive since I've got a full sked from now to 3:15. However, expect a return of blogfire on this one later today.

Simply Irresistible-Being an equal opportunity annoyer, Holtsberry's spent last night working on a laundry list of extra-Biblical Catholic doctrines and taken on Calvinist doctrine. I'm largely in agreement with Kevin's Catholic list, but I'm going to poke a few holes at his Calvinism piece. I'm not yet sure I would call myself a Calvinist, but I have a hard time arguing against the five TULIP points. Let me try to take a whack at this, looking at Kevin's critique. He has problems with Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace. Let me start with our friend called Grace, working on the Limited Atonement later today. I'll start with the idea that some people aren't going to Heaven and will not be saved. The alternative to that is Universalism, that all dogs go to heaven. If that's the case, then why all the talk about Hell? We're left with the idea, as unpalatable and un-PC as it sounds, of some people heading to Hades. God sees the universe in four dimensions in full, seeing the totality of the space-time continuum at once. He knows how everything will happen and if He doesn't like it, He will change it. If He wants someone to be saved, He vill find vays to soften that person's heart. God needs to do some work on us to bring us to Him, as Kevin agrees. However, some people don't come to the LORD. Is that because God didn't try hard enough or because God didn't bother to try? Remember, we're not buying the Open Theism argument that God doesn't really know the future, either. An omniscient and omnipotent God will not likely be giving a half-hearted effort to save someone. If God wants you, you're HIS. I'm picturing one of those Sci-Fi tractor beams, where the captured ship will make a futile effort to escape but be sucked in by the mothership. A tough case that God wants may try to rebel, like Jonah, but God will eventually reel you in. If God wants you, you will be assimilated into the Kingdom of God; resistance is futile. Thus, I find Resistible Grace hard to swallow, and then fall back to the alternative version, the RCMP God who always gets his man. This must mean that the people He doesn't get he wasn't trying to get. It's a hard theology, for some people are being helped into Heaven and some aren't, and our natural response is to feel pity for the once that God won't/isn't helping. However, it fits the idea of a omniscient and omnipotent God better than the alternative.

Did Willard Scott Have Her Picture This Morning?-German film director Leni Riefenstahl turns 100 today. She's credited for making one of the best (from a technical sense) propaganda documentary, Triumph of the Will, about an Nazi convocation at Nuremberg. Given her spot as Hitler's favorite director, she couldn't get much if any work after WWII.

Edifier du Jour-Micah 5:2-5(NASB)
2 "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity." 3 Therefore He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel. 4 And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth. 5 This One will be our peace. When the Assyrian invades our land, When he tramples on our citadels, Then we will raise against him Seven shepherds and eight leaders of men.
This passage is one of many prophetic passages that predict the Messiah. Note that One in verse 5, along with the He's in the other verses, is capitalized, usually reserved for God. The prophecy was looking for a Messiah, not multiple ones. Jesus took on the mantle of the Good Shepherd of this passage, where the predators of our lives are not wolves or lions but thieves, warlords and heretics. The one that hit me is the start of verse 5-"This One will be our peace." Sometimes we forget to claim that peace that Jesus promises, that God is doing all things for our good. These last few weeks have been a struggle at times, as I'm learning two new jobs; assistant professor of business and husband, as well as learning a new state. Through all of this, I have to keep reminding myself that God's on the case.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Dinnertime Musings-The Chicken Cordon Bleu's in the oven, but I've got a couple interesting things up. I have a bare-bones site for my WSC classes up, and will be fleshing it out in the next few days. Brown Pau's got a nice piece on the 19th anniversary of Benigno Aquino's assasination. The former senator had been in exile in the US and was assassinated, most likely by Marcos goons (official some wacko, who was conveniently killed by police). That set in place the People Power Revolution of 1986, where Marcos tried to steal the election from widow Cory, only to be forced into Hawaiian exile by pro-Cory mobs. Paulo mourns their wild-child daughter Kris' lack of respect. My favorite Cory campaign speech was responding to a Marcos rant about her lack of experience. Yes, she had no experience in corruption, no experience in bribery and no experience in murder.

Economic Inequality of the Growth of a Middle Class?-There's an interesting paper by Columbia U's Xavier Sala- a-Martin (check out the eyeballs on his home page) on world income distribution (grab your Acrobat) that has been discussed by Virginia Postrel and Mickey Kaus late last week. Don't feel bad, Ms. Postrel; I've had two semesters of econometrics and much of the jargon flies over my head-I'm not sure I knew that stuff back in 1992 when I was taking graduate econometrics. Suggestion: skip the jargon and look at the purdy pick-tures in the appendix. The most telling comes in figure 4a on page 53, where he looks at world distribution of income. Over the decades, the number of poor people decline and the number of more middle-class people increases. Only in the Nigerian kleptocracy (2i page 50) are people getting poorer over time, as poverty decreases in every other country. The US chart (2c-page 45) shows the working-class side of the curve improving a little and the affluent side of the curve improving a lot. India and China (page 44) saw a large increase in their incomes, getting rid of a lot of their dirt-poor population. My thought is that income growth, not income distribution, is the key to development. If a policy is making everyone better off but some more better off than others, it is better than a policy that has smaller but more-even economic growth. If given a choice between a policy that made the poor half 20% better off and the affluent half 50% better off versus a policy that made everyone 10% better off, only a person obsessed on equality would choose the second option. Thus, arguments about income distribution are looking at the wrong questions. If a policy helps both the rich and the poor, it isn't bad, for economics need not be a zero-sum game, as the graphs seem to show. Rising tides may not lift every boat, for some boats aren't seaworthy. However, working towards general economic growth will be a better poverty-fighter than grand governmental welfare schemes.

Knapps Sacked- I know quite a few people back in Michigan who are mildly mourning the loss of Bill Knapps, a family-fare restaurant (think Cracker Barrel without the drawl) that's been a staple for Michigan oldsters for all my life. It closed its doors without warning yesterday. My friend Rose liked to eat there; my mom would make fun of Grandma and Grandpa Byron liking the good-but-simple food there. They seemed to be doing a solid business; I'm not sure why they have to liquidate things.

Skate Ministry- Saw this piece via Christianity Today's newsblog-a Baptist church in East Tawas, Michigan, is looking to put in a skatepark on its property, but is bumping up against zoning laws. That is a surprisingly good ministry, since young, energetic skaters aren't typically the type to be in traditional youth groups. We had a guy from Hungary who was a professional skater who had a skating ministry, teaching and ministering to the young skaters in Midland. Steve was able to reach people that our youth minister wouldn't have a good way to reach. This has gotten to Luis Palau's people, for they included a big skatepark in his Seattle crusade I hope they setting the zoning stuff so that they can get the park up and running for next summer. The Tawas area is a tourist destination on Lake Huron (my grandparents had a cottage on Tawas Point north of town) and that would be a way of ministering to kids whose parents are summering there.

Afternoon Musings-There's a suprising amount of heat surrounding Jerry Regier, the new choice to head the Florida Department of Children & Families. Turns out he was helping head up a conservative Christian group called the Coalition on Revival; a 1989 document from the organization was severly pro-spanking to the point of saying that welts and bruises were OK and opposed careers for women. Regier says that he didn't sign off on that document and doesn't agree with those parts of the paper. He'll get through, but not before liberals get their fundi-bashing in. Looks like they'll be more room for football and basketball highlights, for baseball seems to be in the middle of a nasty game of chicken. This piece from union boss Donald Fehr makes it look like the player's aren't going to swerve. The only thing baseball has to fear is Fehr himself. I had to go edit a couple of posts after seeing this WaTi piece on the Wesleys. There was a legend of long standing that they had used bar tunes on many of their hymns. Luther did was alleged to, but not the Wesleys. [update 5:30-Luther's off the hook as well as per the comments]

The Clinton Show-While talks with NBC fell through, it appears that CBS is looking at a daily talk show with the FPOTUS. The more I think about it, the more I could see it work, if they did things right. Clinton's a wonk and likes to talk about stuff. A semi-serious show that could cover current events on one hand or host Mariah Carey or Survivor N+1 on the other might work. Back before he became too full of himself, Phil Donohue would often have a good, serious show. You'd check the listing, or the opening spiel, and see if it was worth sticking around for. To make the show really work, I could see having a conservative side-kick a la Michael Kinsley to WFB on Firing Line. I could picture a slightly younger Jonah Goldberg doing that role; today, he's got enough clout to not be the Big He's second banana, but someone who's conservative and witty and conversant with pop culture. Bill, give Ben D. a call, or Mr. Bauer if Ben's already booked. If they play their cards right, it might be watchable. If they don't, you've got a male Oprah. If it's the latter, I can feel CBS's pain.

Sports Musings-Maybe I didn't get much sleep and am a bit nervous leading up to my Personal Finance class at 10, but this ESPN headline got me simmering
Davis says a 'miracle' could bring him back
It's clear from the sentence that it is Terrell Davis talking; the quote mark is meant to distance the writer from the statement. It's an unnamed AP piece, so you don't have a person to send flamage to. Either the AP writer thinks that the comeback is medically feasible and wouldn't be miraculous or that miracles don't happen. Portland's giving Shawn Kemp $10 million to not play for them, buying out $41m worth of contract. Hey, I'll be happy to not play for the Blazers for, oh, a million-five. With Kemp's substance abuse problems, $10m up front might be the safer play.

Morning News Roundup Georgia Primary-It was 58-42 Denise Majette, giving McKinney the door. John Linder got past Bob Barr more easily that I thought, 66-34. A good sign in the state-wide races, where congressman Saxby Chambliss cruised to the GOP senate nomination and Sonny Perdue got 51%, getting the GOP governor nod and avoiding a run-off. All in all, a good day for my northern neighbor (ooh, did I say northern neighbor?) Abu Nidal fallout-Looks like some Iraqi agents went to his house and Nidal came out feet-first; whether this was an encouraged suicide or Iraqi-enduced lead poisoning we may never know. This doesn't look good for a lot of people. It makes both the radical Palestinians and the Iraqis look bad. Half of Zimbabwe is in famine conditions. We saw this one coming, but short of an invasion, couldn't do much about it. There wasn't as much opposition to Mugabe's stolen election as I had hoped; now we may have to have millions die before we move in. MultiCulti Alert-Interesting piece on British Hindus sanctifying the River Aire as an ashes-dumping spot, so they don't have to fly back to India to do things right. Looks like they're making themselves at home. West Palm Beach is at it again, with another voting machine controversy. Makes me have butterfly ballots in my stomach.

Edifier du jour-Micah 4:6-7(NASB)
6 "In that day," declares the LORD, "I will assemble the lame And gather the outcasts, Even those whom I have afflicted. 7 "I will make the lame a remnant And the outcasts a strong nation, And the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion From now on and forever.
Micah 4 is a moving vision of the new Jerusalem that Jesus will reign over, if I'm reading this right. The "study war no more" of verse 3 would seem to require a divine ruler in place, for I don't see a human ruler pulling that off. However, as someone who has been a misfit most of his life, I take comfort in these two verses above; I feel a part of the nation of outcasts of verse 7. God uses the weak and the misfits and uses them for his glory. He chose a small shepherd boy to be Israel's greatest ruler. When he came to earth, he didn't head to the seminaries to pick his disciples, he headed for the fishermen and tax collectors. I'll speak to the intelligent outsider that quite a few bloggers can relate to. Many of us are strangers to our own country's culture and mores, for this truly isn't our country. We're citizens of the Kingdom of God. He's creating a strong nation of such outcasts. This technology is putting these outsiders together, bringing believers from around the world together in ways that hasn't been done before. When you feel like you're not quite fitting in where you're at, know that your part of that strong nation without borders.

Birds and Grasshoppers-Can't quite get to sleep tonight, and this isn't helping. Ex-Lakelander Amy Welborn and current Orlandian(?) Andrea Harris had commentary on these grasshoppers on steriods. Was touched by a paragraph from Len Pasquarelli on Terrell Davis' retirement. The summary of his piece is that Davis had four stellar years, but that's not enough for the Hall of Fame
Columnists have suggested that Hall of Fame electors extrapolate the Davis numbers over what his career could have been. Should the same method be applied, say, to Jamal Anderson? Does that mean that if Cleveland Browns first-round tailback William Green runs for 2,000 yards this year, but then blows out his knee in a freak playoff injuries and is forced to retire, that he merits Hall of Fame consideration? Should baseball have considered, for instance, Mark Fidrych after his one breakthrough season?
Warm my Michigander heart, he invokes the name of The Bird. 1976. The kid gets called up in May and goes 19-9, with a league-leading 2.34 ERA. He starts the All-Star Game. He talks to the baseball and manicures the mound. His long, floppy blond hair and exuberant attitude gets him compared to Big Bird, thus the nickname. He fills the stands, both in Detroit and elsewhere. Favorite moment (this from memory) was a Monday Nighter ABC national broadcast against the Yankees at Tiger Stadium. Top of the ninth and we don't need no steenking closer, The Bird finishes what he starts (24 complete games that year). Two outs. Pop-up to third to Aurelio Rodriguez, the best gloveman at the hot corner not named Brooks. He drops it. Fidrych walks over, puts his arm around Rodriguez, goes back and gets the next guy to close out the game. Fidrych proceeded to have a string of injuries the following years and never came close to that 1976 year. It was fun while it lasted, though.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Bye Bye Bob and Cindy-It looks like Bob Barr will be hitting the talk show circuit come January-somehow I could see him being a sub on Crossfire. He's getting his butt kicked by fellow congressman Bob Linder 71-29 in their GOP primary, based on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution site just now, with about 2/3 of the precincts in. I thought this one was going to be closer than this. Cynthia McKinney's getting her backside rearranged 91-9 by Denise Majette with only 4 precincts in. It might be an upscale part of the district, so I don't think that margin will stick, but I think 67-33 Majette might be the total. McKinney's people are the king of dirty tricks, warning Republicans that its illegal to vote in the Democratic primary without the proper ID. True, but that ID's their driver's licence, since it's an open primary.

The Art of Politics-This is a nice Ben Domenech piece on poltics and compromise. The leaders that patch together winning coalitions may tick off the purists, but a democracy requires a majority. I remember the old quip from the Adlai Stevenson campaign.
"Sir, you've got the vote of every thinking person in America" "That's not enough! We need a majority!"
Sometimes we have to get the "idiots" on board to get the job done. That's why you have the old joke about sausages and laws-you don't want to see them being made. One of the reasons that Bob Dole was a lousy presidential candidate was that he was a legislative wurstmeister, putting everything but the squeal into a bill to get it passed. The compromise-artist doesn't look as decisive as the ideologue. However, we do need the wurstmeisters.

Evening Musings-Just set up a In Hibernation section for inactive blogs, from illness in Jeffrey Collins' case, some from overwork, such as Kevin James and some from unknown reasons, such as Louder Fenn or Dispatches. Interesting discussion on tithing over at Rachel Cunliffe's digs- just another evangelical Kiwi lady blogger -any other resident New Zealand bloggers in our circle? Be sure to dive into the comments. I'm getting to set up class web pages for my Personal Finance and Macroeconomics classes, giving them some good web links to various sites as additional reading or research. I have a meeting with the WSC webmaster tomorrow morning. Those of you who wanted to see the Byron Curve may get your wish. I don't know the last time I saw a dissident group take over their country's embassy like this Iraqi bunch in Berlin. I'm remembering an Iranian group doing so in London circa 1980. Good memory-1980 on the nose.

Pete Wilson's Ghost?-Interesting WaTi piece on Republican gains amongst Hispanics.
"The president and the congressional Republicans are scoring the highest with the newest arrivals to America — Latinos who do not speak English and also among Latinos who are not registered to vote," Mr. de Posada said. "It's the newcomers, the non-English speakers, that the Republicans should be going after before the Democrats get them." Among those interviewed in Spanish, the poll found that the president's approval rating was 74 percent, while among those who chose to respond in English, 62 percent approved of the way the president was doing his job.
A lot of the anti-GOP rhetoric stems from the anti-immigrant stance of Pat Buchanan, who was last a major factor in party politics six years ago and the anti-illegal-immigrant Prop 187 passed in 1994 with the big backing of then-governor Pete Wilson, who rode the issue to a second term. The newbies might not have the same feel about the Republican Party given that Wilson and Buchanan are non-factors in the current GOP mix. The piece goes on to mention the positive attitude of the new immigrants, thinking that things will be better for their kids. If coupled with the moral conservatism of most Hispanic immigrants, Republicans could tap that can-do attitude if they can put the redneck streak that has reared up on occasion in the past behind them. A generation of politicians raised in (and somewhat sympathetic to) a more multi-ethnic environment is replacing older politicians who were used to a paler, more Anglo America and had a bit of a redneck streak on many things. If they play their cards right, the Hispanic vote will be easily in play as the Dubya party replaces the Buchanan-Wilson party in the minds of Hispanics.

Morning Musings-Two new permalinks to Stuart Buck and Brink Lindsey. Buck shores up an already deep Blog Bar Association (Reynolds, Sulik, Schranck, and soon to be Allison-Gallimore who's joining the paper chase this term) while Lindsey had me having flashbacks of my doctoral comprehensive exam with his essay on agency costs. I might chime in a bit later on that one. Praise report-the blogspot archives are back (for now). That means I can point to this piece of mine from April on "gay genes" as a tack-on to Claybourn's recent piece and link to Buck's essay on long-term political dynamics. The priestly troubles head Down Under, as Australian archbishop is accused of sexual misdeeds as a young priest. Not sure what to think. How solid are fourty-year-old memories? We've seen a lot of funky things come out of people memories; some of them aren't true. How would you refute such a charge; it's hard to verify as well. Now I have to work on my imitation of Mindy's "Love you, Lady, Bye-Bye", for I have to go to campus to do my silly bye.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 14:1-6
1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
Back in the Roman era, butchers would typically dedicate/sacrifice the animal to one of the local deities. To a first-century believer who didn't want anything to do with false gods, going veggie was the best option. Other people, knowing that there is only one God, didn't wrestle with the Greco-Roman gods idea and chowed down. We have fights today over what is proper behavior for a believer, like (1) going to a movie theater or (2) drinking a beer or (3) wearing shorts to church. My take on those: (1) depends on whether the movie's edifying (2) I don't myself, but others can, if it is a beer rather than six and (3) as long as other people are-I don't want to be the outlier. Others would think the first two are out-and-out sin and the third is disrespectful of God. For that person, downing a brew would be sin, and he shouldn't do so. Nor should you waive John 2, where Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine, at the tee-totaler. In areas where tradition rather than scripture have restrained behavior, we need to not be judgmental either way. One church worships out of the latest praise CDs in jeans and sneakers; the members will tend to be dismissive of the hymns-and-Sunday-best crowd as stuck-in-the-mud legalists. Returning the favor, the more-restrained traditionalist will dismiss the irreverent noise and worldly attitude going on down the street. Both are worshiping God the best way they know how. Let's remember not to confuse preference to godliness. If it's definable as unbiblical behavior, and you can back it up, feel free to call someone on it. Otherwise, leave it alone.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Big Bundle of Joy-I was clued into news from Maryland by some Google hits of Gov. Glendening and his wife/former aide, Jennifer Crawford, whom he married in January. She had a baby girl yesterday.
Me-"Married in January, baby comes in August. You do the math." Eileen-"Maybe it was a preemie." Me-"Let me check-8 pounds, 15 ounces. Unless she's the biggest preemie in history, those two jumped the gun."
He's a lame duck, so the voters can't hold his indiscretions against him.

Cue Billy Preston, We've Got a Space Race-How much of this is red propaganda is a good question, but the Chinese are talking about landing on Mars in 2010. I haven't seen any of the space-experts such as Rand Simberg put in their $0.02 on this one, but I think that it might be achievable. However, they'll have to bring a lot of their tech student diaspora back home to pull it off. Should we be getting our dukes up and try to get our own Mars program up to make sure it really doesn't become the Red Planet? No, for we might be better off if we take our time and do it right. The Chinese might be doing the quick-'n-dirty method which treats its astronauts as expendable parts. If we have to have a 50-50 chance of losing the crew in order to get there by 2010, I don't think NASA would be game. We were second into space, but still became the #1 space country in the long haul. It might not even be NASA that gets us there. It might be a private venture, with corporate backing and/or energetic volunteers such as the Mars Society that might do the deed. I don't think a 2010 window is doable, but 2015 or 2020 could see a viable non-governmental venture go to Mars.

Open Primaries are Fun, because you can raid the other guy's primary if you don't have anything interesting going on in yours. I can remember raiding the 1980 Michigan Republican primary back when I was a card-carrying Democrat (yes, sins of my youth), voting for Bush 41 over Reagan, since the Democratic vote was a non-binding "beauty contest". Two decades later, similar folks gave John McCain a win in the Michigan primary over Dubya. Georgia's primary's tomorrow, and there aren't too many interesting races on the Republican side. Thus, the 4th congressional district is expected to see a big cross-over vote against Cynthia McKinney, backing former state judge Denise Majette. McKinney is one of the most obnoxiously liberal members of congress and has been Dubya's harshest critic over 9/11. McKinney also has a surprisingly large number of Muslim contributors, adding to Republican dislike over her trashing of the president. She may be a lame duck by this time tomorrow.

October Surprise-That's the underlying premise of this WaPo piece looking at how a fall attack on Iraq would reshape the November elections. A cheap shot from Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's Jim Jordan-"You mean when General Rove calls in the airstrikes in October?" It would give a rally-round-the-commander-in-chief effect and blunt any Enronomics ads that the Democrats might be wanting to try, However, suggesting that the attack would be politically timed is, well, check the second half of the previous headline.

Bull Moose or Bull----? -Interesting piece in the NY Sun (via the Corner) on McCain advisor Marshall Wittmann leaving the GOP. The Bull Moose might be living up to his name and looking to have McCain do what Teddy Roosevelt did in 1912- leave the GOP and form a third party, the Progressive or "Bull Moose" Party. The reformist TR didn't like how his more conservative GOP successor William Taft was running things and proceeded to cost the GOP the election, coming in second ahead of Taft but allowing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to get in with a plurality. Wittmann may want to model his movement on the muscular reformer of a century ago, but he may only succeed in electing President Gephardt. While we're on the subject of third parties, this Fox piece gives the Libertarian and Reform parties a once over, but ignores the party that has a shot of winning two statewide elections in a row, the Independence Party of Minnesota.

Papal Economics-Pope John Paul II has been visiting his home turf of Poland, possibly for the last time. Before I plunge into the economics issue, I'll ask a question: did John Paul do in the Polack joke? He and the Solidarity movement both being in the news in the late 70s and early 80s has made Poland respectable and helped push that form of humor off the map; political correctness might have helped as well. The left (or at least NPR) was applauding the Pope's speech on Polish economics; this piece mirrors what I heard on the way in. The Pope proceeds to blast the dark side of the free market
He lashed out at the "whole civilization of desire and pleasure which is now lording it over us, profiting from various means of … seduction. Is this civilization or anti-civilization?" Poles were stunned by the pope's harsh words, and he went on to castigate them for their eagerness to ape the moral values and social norms of Western Europe. "And what should be the criteria for Europeanism?" he demanded. "Freedom? What kind of freedom? The freedom to take the life of an unborn child?"
The Pope's economic thoughts have critiqued both capitalism and socialism, making him the patron saint of the Third Way neosocialist crowd. The left was disappointed in that he didn't say anything about Polish entry into the EU this trip when he did support it three years ago, but they seems to like his tone. I don't know how to separate the hedonism that a free-market system encourages from the wealth-generation nature of the system. Mitigating the hedonistic nature is a function of the Church, not the government. By taxation you can reduce the wealth of the affluent, but it doesn't make them any more noble. High-tax regimes tend to stifle the desire to work, for it is rewarded less, but that doesn't make people less greedy and selfish. Many communist big-wigs were just as decadent as the rest of us; their people didn't have the luxury of being decadent. We have a system that helps create a level of wealth were we can allow ourselves to be decadent. My old joke as a kid was that the height of American decadence was diet dog food-not only are we fat, but our pets are. In many corners of the world, the dog would create a good meal for a hungry family. Our wealth allows us to not have to worry about our daily bread; such an abundant life is a blessing. I'm picturing that Rockwell "Freedom From Want" picture with the Thanksgiving turkey front and center. Socialism doesn't do that quite as well. The left likes to use the phrase "You can't legislate morality." You can legislate against immorality and punish it, but it's hard to legislate against hedonism. Do we ban yachts? Jetskis? Summer cottages? Dinners costing more than $20? A good sirloin steak? We can legislate against actions against or with another person, but fighting hedonism doesn't fit well into a legal paradigm. The only good way to try and fight hedonism is to fight wealth and I don't think we want to go there. Let the economy take care of itself, and let the church work on changing the hedonistic character of the people. [Update 5:15PM -Peter Sean Bradley points out in the comments section that the Pope largely agrees with me-"As for JPII's hectoring of hedonism, I take it that he's not calling for state intervention, but individual renewal." The 1991 encyclical on economics backs a free-market system, but does recognize that the market isn't perfect. The encyclical doesn't support the Third Way crowd as much as they think it does; all they read is the headline that the Pope criticized both capitalism and socialism and think he's one of them. I haven't listed to too much NPR since moving to Florida in June, given shorter commutes and better Christian music channels in central Florida. My tolerance for liberal blather has gone down and I had a reflexive conservative reaction to a verbal steaming pile. I was going after the statists more than I was going after the Pope]

Martha Stewart Giving?-This is Drudge (via the Corner), so give it an 80% for authenticity, but Martha Stewart thinks the GOP has it in for her due to her Democratic donations (that part's new to me), casting herself as the Susan McDougal of the 21st century. Methinks she doth protest too much. If anything, it's liberals who don't like Martha for her raising homemaking to a art-form. If you're the least bit avant-garde or progressive, it's almost mandatory that you hate her, or at least look down your nose at her, for she epitomizes American suburban bourgeois lifestyle. While feminists may take heed of this divorcee marketing herself into a multi-millionaire, they see the happy homemaker personified in her shows. Other than the he-man penchant for bashing anything girly-girl, you're not going to get too much criticism from the right at Martha. They don't bring out the rack and the screws for every liberal donor. If they did, Ted Turner, Barbara Streisand, Martin Sheen and dozens of others would be ahead of you in line down the stairs to the dungeon.

Edifier du jour-With my trip into Jonah just now, I'm reminded that I've rarely, if ever, read through many of the prophets of the Old Testament (Oh, no! Not Nahum again!). Part of the reason is that there's a lot of wrath in those books. You get some positive prophecy in Joel (Pentecostals like to quote 2:28 ) and Hosea and his unfaithful wife Gomer (Gall-eeee!) are a great metaphor for God's love for Israel/the Church, but the rest can get very dark. Today I hopped over into Micah, just up the Bible from Jonah. I had a "oh, that's where that came from" moment in 1:3-4(NASB)
3 For behold, the LORD is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. 4 The mountains will melt under Him And the valleys will be split, Like wax before the fire, Like water poured down a steep place.
I remember verse 4 being read dramatically by a British-accented guy on the Michael W. Smith Worship album. The chapter goes on to show that the destructive power of God will be used on the people of Israel for their sins.
5 All this is for the rebellion of Jacob And for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the rebellion of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? What is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem? 6 For I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open country, Planting places for a vineyard. I will pour her stones down into the valley And will lay bare her foundations. 7 All of her idols will be smashed, All of her earnings will be burned with fire And all of her images I will make desolate, For she collected them from a harlot's earnings, And to the earnings of a harlot they will return. 8 Because of this I must lament and wail, I must go barefoot and naked; I must make a lament like the jackals And a mourning like the ostriches.
When the LORD does come in power, it frequently isn't pretty. I prefer to bring a message of a loving God ready to forgive our sins, but that message gets weakened when we don't also present the vengeful God ready to punish our sins. While we don't care to hear the brimstone-merchants preaching Hell for the unsaved on the campus quad, the "seeker-friendly" churches who ignore all the politically-incorrect passages on damnation and Hell aren't doing people any favors, either.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Posturing or Trouble?-Bahrain's Sheikh Hamad was visiting Iran and came out against an "any unilateral military action against Iraq." I'm not sure how nervous to be about this, but I don't think this attack will be unilateral. We'll at least have the UK on board in all likelihood, as well as a half-dozen or so of our closer allies. Would Bahrain tell the 5th fleet to go elsewhere? I think that that might just be posturing.

Corporations and Social Justice-This is a good piece from Michael Novak(thanks, Spuds), given at the recent Waco economic summit. Few people have a better take on free markets as they fit into a godly political economy than Novak. I submit to y'all this Novak statement
The business corporation is the strategically central institution of social justice. If the business corporation fails to meet its moral responsibilities, the odds against the rest of society doing so shrink to next to zero. Take one obvious example: the business corporation is strategically central to the creation of new wealth — and new industries — and new jobs; no other institution even comes close. The workers of a corporation depend on its success for their jobs, their career opportunities, their job training, their pensions, and their health care — even their friendships. When women and men enjoy their work, grow as human beings in it, prosper from it, they are happier in the rest of their lives.
Novak's dead on from the second sentence in this quote, but his hypothesis of the corporation as the focal point of social justice takes some skull-sweat to agree with. It's the focal point of economic prosperity, as it allows large, complex endeavors to take place in ways that are much harder for partnerships or sole proprietorships to do. It might also be the focal point of social prosperity, as people can pursue their spiritual lives better if they are economically secure; the corporation aids in the development of a thriving economy which fights poverty better than a socialist economy. But are corporations the strategically central institution of social justice? Novak does make a case that the ethical shortcomings of some big company CEOs give lots of ammo to the enemies of a free economy. Shooting down a free economy may strive to achieve social equality, but it does so at the cost of social justice. Is it just to take away the fruits of people's labor to aid groups that are politically well-connected or popular? Whoa, I'm channeling Walter Williams. To keep people's trust in institutions, a certain amount of moral behavior is required. When institutions are questioned, the society stagnates; the stagflation of the 70s was partly due to a queasiness about institutions brought about by Watergate and other corruptions of the era. When such institutional trust deteriorates, the siren song of the statist is stronger and the cries of "There oughta be a law" are acted upon, restricting economic and other freedoms. If CEOs are seen thoughtful engineers of the future, the society is more inclined to allow the market to do its wealth-generating thing; if they are seen as money-grubbing shysters, big government starts to sound good. Thus, businesses need to keep an eye on their collective PR, not to make themselves look good but to maintain the confidence of the public. The perception of corporate honesty is as important to a thriving economy than the actual level or honesty. Somehow, the Fernando SNL line comes to mind-"it is better to look good than to be good." I don't think the US boardrooms are collectively more corrupt then they were a decade ago or five years ago, but they do not look mah-vel-ous today. Part of the solution is to place a larger emphasis on ethics in business. As a business school prof, I need to try to put such practical morals into the skull of my students, for they don't pick up those application of moral principals by osmosis. Just because you go to church or attended a Christian college doesn't make you immune to temptation; quite a few of those Enron guys were Baptist churchmen. The job will be harder in secular settings, as you don't have as much of the fear of God to motivate people. Rewarding ethical behavior will help generate more ethical behavior; punishing unethical activity will eventually discourage it. The other part of the solution is to show people what you are doing on the ethical front. It's one thing to say that your company's not Enron, it's another to prove it. Once people see that the Enron and WorldComs of the world are ethical aborations and that the typical company's books are by-and-large honest, confidence will return to the system. However, we're whistling past the graveyard if we think it will happen on its own; bad PR takes a long time to repair. If this scandal will make the difference of pushing Congress to the left or taking a point off of GDP growth, it will be the negative catalyst of social justice of Novak's fears.

Blog-Navel Gazing-Every so often, we get into a "Why I'm Blogging" run of post-we've got one now, as Kevin Holtsberry and Ilinigirl have introspective pieces and Josh Claybourn gives the genre a good thinkover. I'm in a transitional phase, as I'm blogging more during the week (with a flextime job) and less during the weekend (with a wife to be with) than I did two months ago. It remains an intellectual outlet and a spiritual one. I'm still writing about what interests me, but the increase in evangelical blogs has given me feedback on the spiritual front that I didn't have before. I'm flattered at the attention I do get from my daily musings, as I've been sitting in the mid-300s of the most-linked-to bloggers in this BlogStreet site. As we go to press, I'm sitting in a tie for 333rd with 61 links. In the seven months that I've been running my blog, I've touched that many lives. The amazing thing is that this BlogStreet site has about 10,000 sites in its database and I'm in the top 4% of that total- I must be doing something right. Looking at who's ahead of me, the only evangelical-run sites are MCJ and Junkyard Blog. Maybe Mr. Claybourn was right in pegging me as a standard-bearer; you don't see this much evangelical theology being talked about higher up on that list. I might be one of the bigger bridges between the theology-centric section and the political-current events section of the Blogosphere. There are times when I discount the fact that around 100 to 150 people show up at my site each weekday. However, that's still quite a few people. About 20-30 hits a day come from Google searches, often on topics that I'm really not covering. Might I be touching the life indirectly of someone looking for [Amish furnature in Ohio] (remind me to spell check more often) or [Detroit Red Wings Playoff videos]? The more I write, the more oddball Google hits I get.

Edifier du jour-Jonah 4:1-3;11(NASB)
1 But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 "Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life." ... 11 "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"
I was listening to Sean Hannity on the way home this week, when he expressed a visceral disappointment that an assasination attempt on Qusay Hussein, Saddam's son, had failed. While the emotion was largely honorable, as the Hussein's aren't angles (eldest son Uday's the nasty heir-apparent, Qusay heads up the Republican Guard) , it still left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I wasn’t feeling a heck of a lot of love for my enemies at that moment when I was wishing an enemy dead. Nineveh is in modern-day Iraq, and Jonah was in Hannity's shoes, wishing his arch-enemy ill and feeling pain at their deliverance from God's wrath. He didn't want to go to the capital of Israel's enemy and give God the chance to redeem them. While his encounter with the big fish is the part of the book most people remember, it's Jonah's attitude about his enemy that God proceeds to Fisk at the end of chapter 4-"Shall I not be concerned about Ninevah?" God is a loving God, capable of loving the unlovable. Including Nineveh. Including the Hussein family. This isn't an argument against a war with Iraq, but a plea to look at our enemies as people rather than monsters, people who need Jesus as much as we do. That's not easy to do, but its a job we can do with the Holy Spirit's help.

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