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Saturday, October 19, 2002

TGIS Musings-I'm done with one of the busiest weeks I've had in a while, with 21 scheduled hours of classes (7 of it today) compounded by a flu bug early in the week. I've got the same schedule next week, minus the flu bug and minus the exam grading that kept me extra busy at the end of the week. The new chess champion, Vladimir Kramnik, did his John Henry thing and fought the computer chess champ, the German-designed Deep Fritz, to a draw. The implication I take is that Kasparov's whupping by Deep Blue wasn't a fluke; the chess computers have game. This doesn't mean AI is around the corner, but that a good expert system in an area where the variables are fairly controlled (such as chess) can do as well as a human. Nice fisking of a Universalist peacenik over at Joel Fuhrmann's digs; there are upsides to some wars that can cause good rather than just stop evil-go thou and readest. Nice set of Blog Proverbs over at Bene Diction's from himself and others-you could have corrected my typos from the comment, Bene. Here's how I should have typed them.
Comments Sections are like a box of chocolates; you're never sure what you're gonna find." "It is better not to post and have people think you a fool then to post and remove all doubt."
Or is that "It is better not to comment and have people think you a lousy speller then to comment and remove all doubt." I remember this T-shirt I saw a few years ago
I am a programmmer I am a programer I am a proggrammer I write code.

Edfier du Jour-Mattew 6:1-8(NASB)
1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 5 "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
This doesn't mean that we have to be undercover Christians, afraid of doing things where people can see them. However, our motivation needs to be helping God rather than being seen being helping God. I remember cringing when I went to a special service at a church that leaned towards the name-it-and-claim-it paradigm; they had the collection buckets up at the altar and had people come forward to make their donations. That ain't what Jesus is advising here. The other thing the Jesus advises against is long-winded prayers. God knows what you're asking for, so much prayer oratory is meant for the humans listening to the prayer. Some of the prayer might wind up explaining to them what you're praying for, but other times your prayer is meant to show your devoutness to the prayer circle more that it is to communicate with God. Pray from the heart and from the spirit and keep the speechmaking to a minimum.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 5:43-48(NASB)
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Loving our enemies isn't easy; if it were, Jesus wouldn't devote the time covering it here. One reason to pray for our enemies is that they might not stay our enemies. I was thinking of that as I walked into the office this morning. A cold front has come through earlier in the week, and the temperature this morning is in the low 60s (that's a cold wave in Florida in October-cool!). I remember the old joke for such a day: "It's like Pearl Harbor; there's a Nip in the air." During WWII, it would be natural to hate the Japanese, when you coupled a sneak attack, the vitriol of war rhetoric and an unhealthy dose of racism (Germany, being European, didn't get as much hatred). Fast forward a half-century and we're allies; friendly rivals in economics but allies nonetheless. My grandparents still held a bit of a grudge against the "Japs", but it was history to me. I remember an book on the advertising industry (Jerry Della Femina, IIRC) entitled "From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor." By the 70s, ad execs were able to joke about the war that was fought a generation before. To the eighth-graders in Eileen's classes, the Cold War is history, having ended when they were in diapers; that generation doesn't any grudge against the Russians and has to be taught anew the evils of communism. They wouldn't get the emotion that went into the 1980 Olympic hockey win or many other relics of the Cold War. Loving ones enemy will allow you to become friendly towards them once hostilities end. It's not always possible to be friends with your enemy once the conflict is over; the differences might be too great. However, if you are praying for their salvation and praying that they make good decisions that can solve the conflict as peacefully as possible, you will place yourself in a position to befriend your enemy if the opportunity arises. Even if you can't do so, you will treat them as a person rather than some subhuman thing to be squashed, saving your spirit a lot of toxic thoughts.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

The Moral Corporation-Part I-Wal-Mart and Sweatshops-I'll have more on the topic of the morality of the modern corporation and the free market, but this exchange I oversaw tonight got my mind going. I hope I don't get a third-man-in penalty, but I wanted to critique this piece from Richard Hall, who has had a give and take with Joel Fuhrmann over various economics issues.
Joel (for 'tis his name) states his position succinctly:
As a free-market advocate, I believe that capitalism is the economic system most able to provide for the well-being of humanity.
I might agree with him if I had ever seen a genuinely free market. But where is this mythical beast? The question is not whether markets should be interfered with, because that's a given - markets are routinely tinkered with.
"Serve the customer and make a profit" is in the first chapter of the Marketing textbook. Corporations also are indirectly accountable to their customers; if they don't produce a quality product at a fair price, they won't stay in business long. If they don't make a profit, they won't stay in business long. If they don't pay their workers wages comparable to what they can get elsewhere in the community, they won't have workers for long.
Of course, they have a duty to obey the law, but they evade responsibility both by operating in countries which don't have sufficient infrastructure to police their activities and by "obtaining" political influence at home. History demonstrates (at least to me!) that whenever corporations achieve positions of dominance, the "free" part of "free market" comes to mean being allowed to get away with what they like.
Laws vary from country to country; many countries choose to have different labor laws that fit their economy better. You also make a jump from influence to dominance. Please name an American company that has such a "position of dominance" that they are immune from all American laws.
Micro$oft has no interest in a genuinely free market in software. News International dominates and controls a significant proportion of the media; farmers worldwide are not free to sell their produce because the markets they operate in are controlled by 4 huge companies and it is they who dictate prices, not the producers.
I agree with you with Microsoft, and you could easily add AOL-Time Warner and Disney to News Corp (Rupert Murdock's company) as media conglomerates that make me a tad bit nervous. The four big agramonsters are ADM, Cargill, and who are the other two? If I know who were dealing with, I might have a better handle on your claim. They might depress prices due to some oligopoly power but "not free to sell their produce" seems a bit overblown.
I returned recently from the USA and while there I did most of the shopping at Wal-Mart, famous for squashing competition and dominating local markets. Freedom? Only for Wal-Mart.
It's helpful for the people in those towns who can save money there. Wal-Mart does a number of small-town mom-and-pop stores who don't have Wal-Mart's economies of size. Do we subsidize the small stores or ban the megastores from existing? That doesn't just transfer wealth from the Wal-Mart to the mom-and-pop, but transfers wealth from the other citizens of the town to the mom-and-pop due to having to pay higher prices for their goods.
Of course Joel is right when he says that nobody like injustice. But I don't agree that it is as difficult to define injustice as he suggests. "Justice" and "righteousness" are closely linked, so closely that St Paul uses the same set of words for both. So what we're looking for is not adherence to some law over which we have to agree. The call of God on his church is to be a prophetic voice for righteousness in the affairs of humanity - public and private. Certainly this will be open to mockery and may bring us into conflict. But it's in the church's job description. And the claim of the Kingdom of God upon us must always be stronger than our allegiance to any system or -ism, no matter how much we may believe in it.
We're in this to do the right thing and are striving to find what that is.
Just one more thing for now. I'd like to think that the rightness (or otherwise) of our employment practices is based on a bit more than economic expediency. We don't employ children in British factories because there is a consensus that it is wrong, not because "we don't need to". There is all the difference in the world between children working on a subsistence farm and them being put to work for 12 hours a day in a western-owned factory in South-East Asia. At least, it seems so to me.
If depends on what the alternative is. If the alternative is to work for 12 hours a day for half the price in a locally-owned sweatshop, then the Nike job would be an upgrade. In many places, we're not prying them out of the classroom but from other, lesser-paying jobs. If the result of economic activity is to improve people's live, even if it from atrocious up to lousy, then it has done some good. More on this area later.

Afternoon Musings-I've got a long weekend ahead of me. Not only do I have a four-hour night Managerial Accounting class tonight (good, almost too quiet bunch), I have an all day session of Managerial Economics for the Quantitatively Challenged on Saturday and then come back with a four-hour session of MEQC on Monday night. Add a backlog of exam grading that piled up while I was sick earlier this week, teaching my undergrad classes and a golf/dinner Business school outing tomorrow night means negligible free time for a few days. I blog during grading breaks and may get some in on Sunday. The news out of North Korea isn't encouraging. "We're building a nuke. We've been conning you for years." Visualize Dear Leader extending middle digit. Visualize B-1 flying that direction once we take care of Iraq. Some interesting football Saturday-I'm thinking about throwing in a tape to catch the Notre Dame-Air Force game late Saturday night and watching it while letting Eileen sleep in Sunday morning before church. One of the sports talkers brought up the scenario of an undefeated AF club being dissed by the BCS people for a Fiesta Bowl bid. Heck, they could be dissed for a BCS bowl, period. However, if they're in the top six or seven with a 12-0 record, they'll be playing in a big bowl. Good title here on a EU feta cheese flap-"The Velveeta Underground."

States 51-53?-Patrick Ruffini's advocating annexing Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, citing a March piece of mine (now that's research!) for backup. However, only Alberta's a reliably conservative province. BC is a swing province that acts a bit like Washington state; they replaced a NDP (think housebroken Green Party) government with a Liberal one recently, backing up Ben Kepple's comment. While I don't recall Saskatchewan’s provincial legislature, there is a soft spot for the NDP there as well. The prairies have an anti-establishment streak that can manifest itself in don't-tread-on-me conservatives or left-populists. It would be interesting if the poll Ruffini cited asked whether they would want their province annexed as opposed to Canada as a whole. If you annexed Canada as a whole, the American system would tilt to the left. If you annexed the Canadian west, the US would be tilted a bit to the right. I think Albertans and BCers would be open to being part of the US if it meant trading their Canadian identities for more take-home pay. Bringing at least part of Canada into the US would bring the added benefit of the NDP becoming a model for the American Greens of winning a few liberal hot-house districts and drawing votes away from the Democrats. The Alliance party would fit into the GOP very nicely, while the Conservatives would either turn into RINOs or defect to the Democrats. The next step would be to wait 'til the end of the decade; a continuation of Liberal rule might make such a deal feasible.

San Francisco Democrats-I hate to go against Jay Nordinger, whose percentages of getting things right approaches that of Saddam's vote count. However, I'm going to have to disagree with him on this one
Caught Chris Matthews the other night, talking with Christopher Hitchens, and would like to make a correction. Both of them said — Matthews started it, and Hitchens agreed — that Jeane Kirkpatrick’s invocation of “San Francisco Democrats” was an anti-gay slur. Nothing of the sort. Remember: Kirkpatrick was a Democrat, serving in the Reagan administration, as ambassador to the U.N. She had fought long and hard to save the Democratic party from the New Left, particularly in foreign and defense policy. She was speaking at a Republican convention, in the summer of 1984. That must have been rather a hard thing for a lifelong, committed Democrat to do. She didn’t want to knock “the Democrats,” tout court, because she was one, and she loved that party (or what was left of it, from her point of view). The Democrats had had their convention — in San Francisco. This convention, which nominated Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, was dominated by exactly the kind of Democrats she lamented and despised. So, at the Republican convention, she spoke against “the San Francisco Democrats” — those who had nominated Reagan’s opposition, weeks earlier. It had nothing to do with gays. It’s not her fault that the Democrats held their convention in San Francisco. If they’d had it in Dubuque, they would have been “the Dubuque Democrats” — and you’d’ve gotten a nice alliteration out of it.
Sorry, Jay, it had a serious anti-gay undertone to it; at least that how I read it at the time. The convention was in SF, but the added allusion of the town of Harvey Milk and Sister Boom-Boom gave the phrase a double meaning. The libertine nature of San Francisco was built into the mix, meant to sway morally conservative voters to the GOP and to give something to hoot over to the conventioneers. I don't know what was going through Kirkpatrick's mind when she crafted her speech, but I'd be surprised if the she didn't have a double meaning in mind. "Anti-gay slur" is a bit over the top, but she was likely playing to heterosexist sentiments when she gave that speech.

The Sharia Enclave-This is a predictable but dangerous precedent; the Australian government has urged it's nationals to leave Indonesia, given the Bali bombing and rumors of further attacks on foreigners. The problem with this is that the presence of westerners is a liberalizing force in Indonesia and other countries. The al Qaeda sympathizers will not want those people around, for the openness of western culture is corrosive to their brand of Islam. If terror will have the foreigners heading for the next plane out of town, then the legalists will have an easier time of it turning their country into a theocracy. Even if the foreigners aren't actively seeking the change of the overarching Islamic culture, the western idea of religion being a personal matter rather than a collective one is toxic to majoritarian Islam. Islam evolved as a majoritarian religion, where being in the minority in an area was an abnormality. The New Testament was written in an era where Christians were in a minority, and the resultant western culture that stemmed from it is more tolerant of religious minorities and advocates a differentiation between church and state. The Muslim country has three options in dealing with religious opposition. The first is to adopt a western view of religion, developing a largely secular state that allows people to practice their faith more-or-less freely; this is the tack that Indonesia seems to be heading towards before Bali. The second is to ghettoize foreigners and foreign religions, allowing foreigners in to tap their expertise and money, but to try your best to not allow them to contaminate their good Muslim country; that's the Saudi plan. The third is to pull up the drawbridge and become a hermit country, not allowing any non-Muslim person or idea in and accept the economic backwardness that results from such a move. Could we see the possibility of a series of hermit nations that pull up the drawbridge to the outside world and live pre-modern lives? North Korea and pre-90s Albania are examples of communist countries that cut off the western world in order to try and keep corrupting information out. They also became dirt poor as a result, both materially and spiritually. The Taliban tried a similar strategy, banning TVs and having very limited radio and having a limited presence of non-Islamic visitors. I remember my Econometrics prof, Dr. Bennett, at Kent State (who was a ham radio buff) back in 1991 asking what country was the hardest to reach a fellow ham radio broadcaster. Without knowing the fact in particular, I said Albania, since that regime was the least interested in having anyone freely communicating with the outside world. It's that level of control that such a hermit nation needs to do to keep the outside world out. No TV, no short-wave radio, no Internet. No copying machines or computers outside of government hands. No way of getting information about the advantages of the free market or human rights. No way to hear that Jesus is more than a secondary prophet. That's what awaits the countries that want to keep western influences out. It's hard to run a 20th-century economy with those restrictions, let alone a 21st century economy. That's why we need to keep fighting this fight and not leave the Islamic world to stew in their own natural juices. In the eyes of the more-secular person, we're condemning them to a pre-industrial, pre-Enlightenment world. For the evangelicals among us, we're also condemning them to a world with a fatally flawed vision of God. The bad guys want us to go home and leave their part of the world alone. We can't let that happen. The paleocons and paleoliberarians would want us to leave, for they don't want to pay the cost of getting those dark-skinned people a better life. The multicultis can't get past moral equivalence to see that the old-school Islamic culture needs an overhaul. Doing this job will take time, money and quite a few martyrs for the good guys. The paleos will say its too costly and the left will say it is presumptuous. It is costly; things worth having usually are costly. It is presumptuous; it's tacky to say that Western culture's better than the old-school Islamic culture, but we have to cockiness to insist that it is true nonetheless. We need to have a certain amount of humility in our own abilities and respect for other people as fellow children of God, yet we need to understand that we have a better way and shouldn't be afraid to expound on it and expand it.

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 5:38-42(NASB)
38 "You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' 39 "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
I'm still working through the Sermon on the Mount personal ethics and a pro-military stance. This passage would point to a pacifist stance. However, most of this isn't pacifism, it's generosity, a detachment from selfishness. The believer in this passage is to put greed and vengeance behind him and to put other's interest ahead of his own. Jesus is a subset of the same God that ordered the takeover of the promised land and many people wonder how the two ideas can intersect. In Luke 22:36, Jesus told his disciples to carry a sword, possibly to fend off robbers. John the Baptist's message to soldiers was "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages." He didn't tell them to become conscientious objectors and to go AWOL in protest. Self defense appears to be OK, as is being part of an army. However, where your life isn't on the line, selflessness is to be the goal.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

The Annan Grand Slam-Things aren't going well on the UN front, as France wants two votes before the bombs fly; one to authorize inspectors and a second to send the bombers after Saddam extends his middle finger. Here was an interesting line from Kofi Annan-"The new measures must be firm, effective, credible and reasonable." Sorry, I don't think you can go 4-for-4. A measure that is firm, effective and credible is going to look like something the US would want, thus the French and Russians will balk. Giving it extra layers of diplomatic glitz to make it look reasonable to the Euroweenies will decrease its credibility.

Midday Musings-I'm at (hopefully) the tail-end of a flu bug that has been at me since the weekend; I'm in the went-ten-rounds-with-the-champ-and-lost mode today, having to cut short the Personal Finance class today due to fatigue. The kids are all-too-eager to get out after 20 minutes. It looks like the CAW is playing nice for once in recorded history and has settled with Chrysler. The promice of a new Windsor plant seemed seal the deal-thanks to Bene Diction for the heads-up. The Dutch government just went under after three months as the List Pim Fortuyn members of the cabinet were at odds with the party. It might take some time for the party to find its bearings. Maybe this is the American in me not getting royal protocol, but this is a cute non-issue; Canadian fat-cat got into trouble for innocently putting an arm around the Queen in a photo-op. That's a no-no, handshakes only. Here’s this comment from a job seeker in a Mean Dean Blogs4God post “If you are looking for a knowledgeable web designer, for a network administrator, for a monkey who is willing to learn, or just for a parlor trick droid to replace your previous bot that vomitted code all over your cow-orkers, I'm your man!" Of course, he’d treat the pig-orkers and the chicken-orkers with the proper respect. From my fantasy-gaming days, I’d be tempted to spell that orcers, (orcs being brutish humanoids with no redeeming values other than toughness) but I shudder to think what orc-like things these people are doing to cows to earn them that distinction.

Interest-An interesting ramble on interest from the Hokie Pundit. He has a better post on his testimony, but that speaks for itself. He has an open offer to "feel free to tear this to shreds where it deserves it," so here's my critique
I think the concept of usury is misunderstood, especially in regards to bank interest and the stock market. It seems straightforward enough from one angle: you lend money to someone, and they pay the amount you gave back plus a little more for your inconvenience. However, there are flaws in that logic. Money is a measurement of value. Five dollars now isn't the same as it was in 1800, nor is it likely to be the same as it will be in 2525. Currently, $5 is roughly equal to four gallons of gas.
The basic theory of interest rates has rates including three basic components (1) A "real" rate of return above and beyond inflation; usually that's about 2-3% (2) Expected inflation during the length of the loan (3) Various risk premiums; default risk and maturity risk (insecurity about future inflation) are the two biggies You add the three factors to come up with an interest rate for a loan. If you have a risk-free short-term government loan, if you had a 2% real rate and 3% expected inflation, Treasury Bills would be running at 5%. A corporate short-term loan might run 6%, implying a 1% default risk premium. 30-year Treasury bonds might be running 7%, implying a 2% maturity risk factor over the T-bills.
When people speak of usury, they're condemning two evils. The first is not loving your neighbor, since you're requiring something in return for helping him. The second is taking something that you haven't earned. In modern dictionaries, usury is usually defined not simply as "interest," but as "exorbitant interest," and this seems to be nearer the original intent. It's implied when you make a loan that you want the same amount back.
If you are helping a friend or family member make ends meet, such a loan should be treated as more of a gift; if you get it back, fine, but don't lend stuff to friends and family you can't afford to like without. Any interest that is actually paid should be treated as a bonus. However, loaning to a stranger or to a friend on a non-emergency basis might have a cost of capital factored into the loan and a fair interest rate would be appropriate. Usury laws are on the books in most state protecting consumers from overly-high rates from loan sharks and/or merchants. One problem that cropped up in the late 70s is that everyday interest rates were close to 20%, bumping into usury laws that thought that 20% was Lenny the Loan Shark rates; this cut off some financing options until the laws were amended.
A small interest rate should be enough to keep up with inflation, and though a perfect accounting is impossible to predict, the spirit is right.
Note that the algorithm listed above has estimated inflation. You can't predict inflation perfectly, but you make an estimate.
With stocks, you're buying part of a company. When you bought it, it was worth one amount, and when you sell it, it's worth another, but that's okay, since you didn't make a loan. You're under no obligation to ever sell your shares. With your aid, the company has either increased or decreased in value, and whatever the market value for your shares is when you decide to sell is what they're worth. It would only be wrong if you bought stocks at a certain price and then sold them for higher to someone else by preventing them from using the market value.
I'm not sure what to make of the last sentence, but stocks are designed to go up and down in value, while loans will have a fixed principal value that is expected to be repaid.

Taking the Bull(s---) By the Horns-Interesting little piece on a flap surrounding Steve Largent, a normally squaky-clean evangelical who's running for Oklahoma governor; his responce to a overly-agressive question included a common barnyard explative and giving a proper appology afterwards. This might actually help him, as odd as it sounds. One, the question surrounding his congressional staff issuing a 9/11 responce "from him" while he was incommunicado on a hunting trip comes across one of those all-the-tact-of-a-Sherman-Tank reporter things. Two, this might make him look a bit less of a goody-too-shoes to more-secular swing voters. This reminds me of when Jimmy Carter was quoted in late 1979, when Ted Kennedy was ahead in the primary polls, that he would "whip Kennedy's a--." There were two surpises there at the time; that Mr. Baptist Sunday School Teacher would have such colorful language in his working vocabulary and that he believed that he would win (which he did).

Morning Musings-Orrin Judd has a piece on the Senate race and Zogby polls. Is it my imagination or has Zogby been an outlier lately, giving polls that swing hither and yon. This makes news ("Look, Senator Jones is now trailing... Oops, now he's got a 6 point lead.") but I wonder if something is fishy in Zogbyland. He's known for his unique application of sampling, but could this be doing a number on his polls this time? [Update 4:30 PM-Ruffini thinks Zogby's pro-arab leanings might be getting in the way. I didn't see that before posting this one. I'm not going to sign onto Patrick's charge quite yet, but I'm not the only one who's wondering why his polls are out of whack.] Is al Qaeda winning? The battle, yes, but not the war. If they destroy a big building a year and we clean up a country a year, we will slowly dry up their capability to do business. Haven't seen any poll numbers, but the pieces I see out of Michigan seems to show Posthumus doing better than expected in debates with Granholm.

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 5:33-37(NASB)
33 "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' 34 "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36 "Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.
When someone has to make a grandiose pledge to insure his veracity, he's likely not to believed anyway. Jesus points out that you don't have ownership of the things you're putting up as verbal collateral when you make such an oath. The honest person can make a statement and be believed without any flourishes.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Half of a Good Idea- Stewart Buck points out this Robert Reich editorial which makes some sense; make the first $15,000 of income FICA-free. That would amount to at least a 7.65% and ultimately a 15.3% pay increase (the employer pays a matching tax) for that part of people's paychecks. However, his rationale needs some work.
Three weeks before Election Day, most American households are still mired in recession. The American economy lost 43,000 jobs in September, the biggest drop since last February. Many people who were looking for jobs last year have given up. The ratio of jobs to potential workers continues to drop. Meanwhile, take-home pay is going nowhere; last year median household income dropped for the first time in a decade. Workers dependent on overtime, commissions or bonuses are watching paychecks shrivel. And ever-bigger portions of their paychecks are going for health insurance — single coverage is up an average of 27 percent from last year, family coverage up 16 percent.
OK, things aren't going so well for the working stiff.
Americans look to Democrats for more secure jobs and better wages. So why aren't the Democrats making Americans' economic worries more of an issue in the campaign? The basic problem is that Democrats don't have a coherent view about what ails the economy and what to do about it. Some of them accept the supply-side belief that taxes are too high on corporations and the affluent and voted in favor of the Bush administration's huge tax cut. Most other Democrats cling to the neo-Hooverian orthodoxy of the 1990's that federal deficits are inherently bad. In their view, the tax cut is largely to blame for the prolonged recession because it put the federal budget in the red. They want to restore "fiscal responsibility."
Translation-"You're listening to Rubin and the deficit hawks too much! Where are the Keynesians when you need 'em?"
While President Bush's tax cut is unfair, there's no logical connection between it and what's happened to median incomes and jobs.
Hey, he found an acorn!
The problem after the late-90's boom and subsequent collapse is that there aren't nearly enough buyers for all the goods and services the economy can produce. Businesses have cut their capital spending because corporate profits have fallen.
We do have a bit of a slump in manufacturing capacity utilization but the capital spending cuts are more likely due to an increased cost of capital as to a decrease in profits.
And with disappearing profits, businesses can't give their employees pay increases and benefit packages. Instead, they have to cut wages and health-care benefits. And they aren't in any position to add more jobs. Such businesses also don't buy more components and equipment and they don't rent more space. They stop investing. Eventually profits of their suppliers begin to disappear, too, as do suppliers' payrolls.
OK, how do we help businesses, Dr. Reich?
We could enter a long and vicious cycle. Workers whose pay and benefits are shrinking and who are afraid of losing their jobs simply don't spend a lot of money. They wait for cheap deals. So company profits get squeezed even more.
OK, How do we break the cycle of economic violence?
Even if a war with Iraq were to cost $100 billion, that amount of government spending would be too little and too late to give the economy the stimulus it needs. The Federal Reserve Board, for its part, has cut interest rates just about as much as it can.
OK. How come I here some serious Keynesian action comin' on.
The only way to revive the economy is to get more money into the pockets of average working people. And the best way is through quick tax relief. Workers will spend most of a tax cut right away — because with declining take-home pay, they have to — and their spending will spark businesses to spend more.
No, given the gloomy prospects you just outlined, they might tuck the tax cut away for a rainy day.
The simplest way to put more money into consumers' pockets is to cut their payroll taxes, which will instantly fatten their paychecks. Congress could exempt the first $15,000 of everyone's income from payroll taxes for two years, beginning immediately. Everyone gets the same tax cut but it's more helpful to lower-paid workers since the payroll tax is so regressive. And since employers no longer have to pay their share of these taxes, they would have a new incentive to keep more people on the payroll.
This doesn't give people making more than $15,000 any incentive to work harder and the temporary nature of the cuts will keep people from spending it. The Perminent Income Hypothesis states that people tend to spend money based on long-term income prospects, so that a temporary tax cut would have a limited effect on their long-term spending power. A permanent tax cut would give people the freedom to spend more of that payroll tax cut. It does give a boost to aggregate demand but detracts from aggregate supply due to the higher interest rates that the resulting deficits would create.
Yes, this would add to deficits in the near term. But deficits aren't a problem when the economy has so much extra capacity.Lost revenues can be made up in future years by repealing President Bush's tax cut after 2004, when most of the cuts are scheduled.
Great, whack away at aggregate supply some more. What excess capacity we have a year from now will shrink even further if taxes are raised (yes, it's canceling tax cuts, but it will have the same effect), not to mention the damage that the tax increases will make to aggregate demand.
A payroll tax cut for working people is that most valuable of campaign initiatives: not only good economics but also smart politics for Democrats and even Republicans.
It's dubious Keynesian economics predicated on excess capacity out the wazoo. This isn't 1932, it's 2002. Reich is giving a deep-recession proscription in an recovering economy. I'd be interested in his payroll-tax proposal if it's permanent and comes with a flat-tax proposal that will help expand the economy. That will give the Democrats some help for the little guy and give the producers and workers a boost as well.

Afternoon Musings-No, Josh, I'm not taking the Fly-Over-Country Pledge, either. I'm not going silent if the administration pulls a fast one on Iraq. When the administration goofs, like on steel tariffs, I'll give them both barrels. This is too rewarding to have some third-millennia Ollie North screw it up for me. However, I'll eat my crow politely if this thing turns into a quagmire or there was/is significant spinning of the truth. Not good, the Indonesian police are in marital law mode at the legislature's request. In a country with a longer tradition of human rights, I wouldn't sweat it too much, but this looks to be a pre-game show for a military coup given Indonesia's dysfunctional democracy. The only people who like police states are donut shops. The most recent Beltway Sniper victim was an FBI analyst. As Susanna notes, "Whatever stops weren't pulled yet, just got yanked." Fall has finally arrived in Central Florida. A cold front is coming through, taking us from the 90 high, 70 low pattern into more of a 85-65 pattern. Still not color-tour weather, but it will make the afternoons a bit less saunaish. Interesting Talking Dog piece on the death penalty which echoes a lot of my thoughts on the subject. However, isn't it odd for him to describe the Beltway Sniper as a SOB? If I were him, I wouldn't want to have that human be associated with my species. [I remember one fun memory of my gaming days, where my friend Dave and I were playing brothers. His character acts a bit jerkish and gets this close to a fight in a pub; My character breaks it up, saying "I'd call him a SOB, except I don't want to insult my mother."]

Rachel Orlampa?-An interesting Tampa Tribune piece on land use in Florida that offers up this environmentalist nightmare
Wall-to-wall, 86 million people would crowd onto the peninsula. A swath of Central Florida from coast to coast and up and down both sides would meld into an H-shaped megalopolis rivaling the Washington, D.C./Boston/Philadelphia corridor. Wildlife would be trapped inside shrinking habitats ringed by subdivisions, malls and highways. Migration would follow a zig-zag path through the urban maze. Shorelines would shrink. Finally paradise would be paved.
Most of paradise is already paved; if you go to the coastline, many areas are high-rised for dozens of miles, only allowing those with the bucks to be in the hotels and condos to see the ocean. The interior grasslands are underdeveloped, but a lot of that could be used without significant environmental harm. When we was driving up to Ocala Saturday on US-27, we saw the western edge of metro Orlando, where new upscale subdivisions filled the rolling hills west of the "Attractions." Here in Polk County, development seems to stream between cities, where there are small patches of rural terrain between cities; Lake Wales flows into Winter Haven, which flows into Auburndale, which flows into Lakeland, etc. One sign cited in the piece at an area off of I-4 north of Winter Haven- "Future site of downtown Orlampa." As Orlando heads south towards Winter Haven and Lakeland and Tampa heads west (State 60 between Brandon and Mulberry is sprawling nicely), you could see one semi-continuous "Orlampa" urban area, not unlike the urban stretch between Miami and West Palm Beach. Back in my home turf of Michigan, the line between metro Detroit and metro Flint is starting to blur, where Fenton is serving as a southern Flint suburb and a northern suburb of the edge city area of Livonia and Novi northwest of Detroit. Lakeland could wind up serving as a mid-point edge city for both Orlando and Tampa, roughly halfway between both on I-4. People like subdivisions. The crunchy crowd may want to see more centralized growth, but most people prefer the car-and-suburb lifestyle to the high-rise-and-subway alternative. Politicians who rail against sprawl might wind up not only ticking off developers who like to develop stuff but tick off suburbanites who might want to move into the next new subdivision. It will be a political issue, as development will scuffle with environmental concerns in Central Florida (and other places) in the years to come.

Midday Musings-Southeast Asia is now paying a "terror tax" that is slowing their economies, according to the IMF's chief economist. At least someone in the IMF has some common sense, or is that a Master of the Obvious concept that a standard-issue technocrat had a good alliteration for? Interesting baseball news, Lou Piniella is moving to the Devil Rays for next year. Somehow I had a flashback of Ball Four and Bouton's description of a young Piniella's temper (having a "red a--" was the phrase I remember) that has stayed with him for over three decades. It will make things interesting, but I'm not sure if Tampa-native Piniella will do much more than sell a few tickets. [Update 1:30pm-not so fast-the Mets are making a run at Le Derriere Rouge] Put this in the "How Not to Do Arson" department, where a troubled history teacher tried to torch Lake Wales High
Mellott was originally arrested early Sunday morning by Lake Wales police Officer Carlos Alfredo when the teacher was spotted near the school about an hour after the fires were discovered. Mellott was wearing a trench coat and dark clothing, and carrying a camouflage bag around his neck, a police report said. Alfredo said that, in Mellott's coat pockets, he found two empty cans of charcoal lighter fluid, one full container of lighter fluid and a knife. The bag contained a loaded revolver, hammer, flashlight, pliers, lighting cubes for starting fires and a lighter, a police report said. In his initial arrest, Mellott of 4711 Lincoln St., Babson Park, was charged with loitering and prowling, carrying a concealed firearm, and possession of burglary tools.
Can you say "Busted!!", boys and girls? I thought you could. The Beltway Sniper was at it again last night, killing a lady outside a Home Depot in Virginia. Unlike the above protagonist, this dude isn't inept. A warped scumbag, perhaps, but not inept.

Christian Political Science-Interesting Claybourn piece on evangelicals and politics. I'm not sure if it's overly helpful to be bringing Pat Robertson into the mix as the archetype. Robertson is rapidly becoming the (duck, incoming) Jesse Jackson of the right; a once-influential guy who had a feasible shot at a presidential nomination whose now a shell of his former self. Pat's time has past; sixteen years ago, he was leading a Christian conservative movement (back then, my neoliberalism hadn't quite worn off yet and liked Dole) that would morph into the Christian Coalition as he backed away from elective politics and into advocacy. He still has the somewhat bully pulpit of the 700 Club and his notoriety to speak out, but the movement that he championed in the 80s has grow up. Today, there is less of a need for an organized evangelical political movement as it has become part of the GOP for the most part; it may vary from region to region, but a cadre of evangelical elected officials and party officials has made groups such as the Christian Coalition less necessary. We have a president who was proclaiming Jesus as his favorite philosopher in the primaries and being challenged from the right for being insufficiently faithful in his political application of his faith. On a national scale, it's next-to-impossible to get a GOP presidential nomination without significant evangelical support. Josh's friend commented "Do they even need the Republican party or is the religious right its own party? Should they even get involved in issues like public education, war w/ Iraq, etc." To the first, the answer is yes; they need a larger party, since they do not make up a majority or a viable plurality. If you were to put together a free-market, "family-values" pro-life party independent of the Republican Party, it would be lucky to get 35% of the vote if you put evangelicals, faithful Catholics, small-c conservative Jews, Mormons, conservative mainliners and other fellow travelers. Most of that would be at the expense of the GOP. Such a scenario is playing out currently in Canada, as the Alliance party loosely fits that description, leaving the Conservatives with the centrist RINO-wing of the party. The problem is that neither party can command a plurality in most of the country; the Liberals have a lot of 40% plurality wins in too many swing ridings. Such an American Christian Alliance party would do well in the south and rural areas, while the remnant of the Republican party might do well in New England and some upscale secular areas. However, the Democrats would wind up wining a lot of currently Republican seats, as the Democrats might win some 55-45 GOP seats 40-35-25. While the idea of such a party is appealing, it's lousy politics in a first-past-the-post system. Moral conservatives need to hook up with libertarians and status-quoian moderate-conservatives in order to patch together a national plurality. To his friend's second question-"Should they even get involved in issues like public education, war w/ Iraq, etc;" To the extent that they are (1) citizens and (2) their faith has something to say on the issue. In many cases, there are clear areas where your faith can inform your political decisions. For instance, in the public schools, a slide towards moral relativism, sexual amorality, and tolerance of New Age/Eastern religious expressions (yoga, meditation, guided imagery) are problems that the Christian can speak out against. Even in a pluralistic system, many of those trends can be mitigated while abiding by current establishment-clause law. Many of those things you can point to passages in the Bible to have a firm argument: "Based on passages X,Y and Z, these things are wrong. Not only that, but these things are destructive to a young person's psyche." However, there are other issues where scripture doesn't speak clearly or can be seen as going on two different sides of the issue. I can speak with more Biblical clarity on extramarital sex than I can on a flat tax. My economic philosophy rest on two Biblical concepts that come into conflict in fiscal policy; the need to help the poor and the problem that since we are sinful and will work harder when we get more take-home-pay, the taxes needed for government programs to help the poor will slow down the economy. My assessment of government programs to help the less-fortunate would have to see both what benefit will be gained from the program versus what damage is done to the country by the taxes used to finance it. I can't point to chapter-and-verse to defend cutting the estate tax or opposing nationalized health care, but rely on applying what I know of economics to try and assure as fruitful a pursuit of happiness for everyone as we can. Iraq is another such judgment call. In Iraq, things are a bit more murky and depends more upon your assessment of the evil of the current regime in Iraq and whether the future danger of that regime using their better and more destructive WMDs outweighs the evils of the war that will need to be fought to avoid such future danger. I can't point to a passage that would definitively support a war with Iraq, but I think that such a war is needed nonetheless. However, when we speak on issues that don't have a clear Christian stance, we need to be careful not to give a "thus sayeth the LORD." I remember a old Church of Christ phrase "Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent." I'd like to rephrase that for our political efforts- "Where the Bible speaks, we speak boldly; where the Bible is silent, we speak less boldly." For a preacher to talk about tax cuts with the same authority as he would talk about homosexuality or adultery would be foolish. However, many politically-active pastors forget that; they are so accustomed to seeing the other side as the enemy that they carry their passion do areas where the Good-Versus-Evil fight isn't as well defined. One of my problems over the years with the Chrisitan Coalition is that they equate economic conservatism as part of a Christian message. I remember them spending a good chunk of change fighting the Clinton national-health-care proposals. While I agreed with their take, I didn't think that such a stance was necessarily a "Christian" stance, for a good believer with a more liberal slant on economics could think that having government provide health care for the working poor would be the compassionate and godly thing to do. I have empathy for that stand, but I think that the downsides of a nationalized system outweigh the benefits. The other problem I had with the CC is that they would doctor their surveys so as to put the Democrat in the most unfavorable light. If they had a list of 20 issues of concern, they would tend to list only the dozen that the Democrat had the wrong position on. If the Democrat was pro-life but liberal on other issues, it would be the other issues that would be prominent on their fliers comparing the two candidates. The Christian Coalition is about as "non partisan" as the NAALCP is. A more honest approach would be to have a nation-wide list of issues; if the Democrat had the correct position on some of them, give them their props. We're wise to avoid the "God is a Republican" trap. You might be tempted to say "He sure ain't a Democrat" but God transcends politics. Would Jesus vote Republican? No, if He were here, he would be King of the whole earth and democracy would be a moot point. In the meantime, we need to look at each candidate and vote for the one that best reflects the values and policy stands that you want to see enacted.

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 5:29-30(NASB)
29 "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
The ideas in 29 and 30 might sound barbaric, but if we translate that to looking at parts of our lives that cause us to sin, it's better to cut away that part of our life. Years ago, I would up having to get rid of the role-playing game books I had; they in-and-of-themselves weren't evil but were taking me away from God, enabling me to live in a fantasy world "better" than the real one. I had gone through at least three cycles over the decades of getting rid of the RPG stuff, then sliding back into it as a way to escape the loneliness of my life. It might not make as good a testimony as getting off of alcohol or drugs or sexual immorality, but it was a hard habit to give up. Some TV shows and movies that are enjoyable but brings up sinful thoughts had to go as well. Sometimes it might be relationships that are unedifying that need the chain-saw routine. I stopped hanging out with some more-secular buddies when they were more a bad influence on me than I was a good influence on them. It's hard to get rid of things, but even harder to live with them if God is to be the center of your life.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Not A Hurricane Fan-I'm not sure if I like being in Florida during the hurricane season. The "ditto weather" is lows in the low 70s, highs around 90 and afternoon thunderstorms. Add that to keeping an eye on tropical storms. Our part of Florida has gotten away with no storms, with all the storms either hitting the northern Gulf or spinning up north. We've got what will be Tropical Storm Marco hanging out south of Cuba; it's too early to tell, but if it veers a bit west of where the pros think it will go, we might get some action.

Afternoon Musings- Let's start off with a fatwah on Fisk. The cold-cock contract is at a cool $1500 and counting. Fisk's chalking Bali up to Australia's help in Afghanistan, setting Aussie blogmeister Tim Blair off on a f-bomb-laden fisking; cursor down from the first link for good but profane coverage. I'm not sure what to make of Ambrose's death this weekend. What I think it will do is to take away a lot of the plagiarism flak and allow people to appreciate his writing, even if he recycled quite a bit. Back in January, I suggested that he and other plagiarizers be dealt with by "knocking their prestige down a peg or two and fact-checking their derrières until they've regained our trust." Well, his butt's soon to be six feet under, making the point moot. Advance warning of some possible layoffs at Chrysler-they're having trouble getting a contract done with their Canadian workers; the CAW has traditionally been more strike-prone then the UAW. Since parts flow both ways across the border, this could shut down quite a few stateside Chrysler plants. Nice piece on Lion QB Joey Harrington- "A new Sunday song: Watching Joey grow." Why is Mitch Albom on a Bobby Goldsboro kick all of a sudden?

Bali Low-A number of predictable fallouts from the Bali bombing. The Indonesian stock market went in the tank, hitting a four-year low with a 10% dive. Expect to see a run away from the rupiah (the Indonesians are trying to prop it up-good luck, ain't gonna happen) and other regional currencies where al Qaeda might be in play, such as Malaysia and the Philippines. Bali itself is a victim; the predominantly Hindu island will take it in the neck economically, as den Beste points out. I'm not sure if there wasn't an additional reason to pick that site; the large number of Australians there. The Australians were in the lead in the peacekeeping forces in East Timor, keeping a pro-Muslim anti-separatist bloc from blocking independence for the ethnically-Catholic nation. Could this be payback for the Ausies help? I haven't seen anyone post that thought yet. [Update 10/15 6:15AM OK, Jeff, "nominally Catholic" might have been better; East Timorese are Catholic much as Italy and Portugal (the old colonial power there) are Catholic or Norway is Lutheran, the population has various degrees of devoutness and some may practice another religion but are "Catholic" as a group. The area is Catholic from Portuguese colonial days]

Byron's Bali Blathering-I haven't quite got my mind around the hotel bombing in Bali this weekend, but I think it is going to change a lot of things. Here's five quick bullet points. (1) If it's true that this is an al Qaeda affiliate behind the bombing, the Southeast Asian front, including Malaysia and the Philippines, has just come into play. (2) The bombing has gotten the Aussies mad, as many of the victims were Australian. On a per capita basis, Bali might be worse than 9/11. That will bring one more country strongly on board. (3) The world will start to focus on militant Islam in Indonesia. There has been an ongoing pogrom against Christians in Indonesia, but such news has not hit the front page. There may be a very slender link between the militant Islamic groups in Indonesia and al Qaeda; many of the groups may simply be fellow-travelers with a negligible link. (4) The focus on militant Islam might destroy the new democracy or start a civil war. To date, the west hasn't gotten on Indonesia's case to crack down for fear of creating a grid locked political system. A crackdown sufficient to do the job would have the Islamic parties walking out and forcing a unity coalition that would include the Golkar block of old Suharto cronies. The public at large wouldn't stand for such a coalition and might bring back martial law as the military decided to take over. Many provinces might decided to go independent and a world-class mess might develop. (5) If we had a pro-Islamic military junta installed (or an inept current government) that did little to stop future attacks, we could be looking at an invasion of Indonesia as a whole or of renegade sections of the country that might be run by al Qaeda sympathizers. If we had the disintegration of Indonesia, we could easily see one or more of the provinces becoming Talibanesque. Stay tuned; this could get uglier in a hurry.

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 5:21-22(NASB)
21 "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
I'm not in a overly articulate moment this morning, but the term the NASB translates as "you good-for-nothing" was the Aramaic word raca, which if I remember Bible studies of the past come closes to the modern-day "air-head." Having a demeaning attitude toward someone is more pernicious to both parties than an outright attack. We need to be careful of falling into this attitude in our writing and in our daily lives.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Morning Musings-Nice Terry Pluto piece on keeping the Sabbath in a 24/7 world. I haven't been reading him as much since I moved down to Florida, since he was one of my links to my Kent State days, reading his column to keep up with Ohio stuff; now keeping up with Michigan stuff as well as Florida stuff put him further on the back burner. Interesting Corner epic six-parter (that's part one and scroll up) from Dreher on the crunchy-cons. The political fallout seems to be more localist versus dynamist-more later. There will be a lot of sour-pusses down here today as both Florida and FSU got beat yesterday. FSU giving #1 Miami a game was honorable, but the Gators are now 4-3 after getting whupped by LSU in Gainsville. Looking at the schedule, a 6-6 record isn't out of the question if either Auburn or Vandy pull off a mild upset. It's interesting how few Miami fans we have here. However, Michigan and Ohio State both won their games, as OSU took care of business against San Jose and Michigan got past Penn State in OT. If Michigan can take care of business with Iowa next week, we might be looking at more 70s retro then you'll get in an upscale restaurant’s music-a Michigan-Ohio State game with a conference championship on the line. The retro part will be ruined by the fact that OSU might be playing for a Fiesta Bowl bid rather than a Rose Bowl bid. Nightmare scenario? Miami, Oklahoma, OSU and Oregon all run the table. Four unbeatens, two Fiesta slots. I'm getting a lot of "when I was your age" moments when teaching Macroeconomics and having to describe the stagflation of the 70s to students who weren't born yet. I had a comparable moment yesterday when Eileen and I and her seminary buddies Dave and Mandy went off to Silver Springs, a wildlife-centric theme park in Ocala. Nice low-key place, where you get to see giraffes, gators, parrots and lemurs upclose, as well as see where a lot of jungle movies were filmed. They have a corny-cute Swamp Critters music show at the park, the brainchild of Bobby Goldsboro. The late 20-somethings drew a blank on the name ("I'm supposed to know him?"), and I had to do a Army Corps of Engineers dredging of my memory banks, remembering him as a squeaky-clean singer circa 1970. When we got back to their house and Dave was talking about watching their little baby Rachel grow up, I recalled the one big hit I remember from Goldsboro-"Watchin' Scotty Grow."

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 5:13-16(NASB)
13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Salt prevents decay, and our presence in the culture helps it from decaying. Light is a disinfectant as well, as it will help the things that are living to grow and help the things that aren't growing to be disintegrated. That salt and light that is Christian culture is often problematic, in that we often retreat from the world, having little contact with the world other than our jobs. It might not be communes out in the middle of nowhere as in the days of yore, but in the form of megachurches with womb-to-tomb coverage of needs, including day-care and nursing homes. There's a Christian retirement village just of the Warner Southern campus and the big Carpenter's Home Church over in Lakeland has their own retirement community. The metaphor of the city on a hill is often used, but if we don't go into the valley to meet "the unsaved" from time to time, I'm not sure how much that light has an effect. Some believers go to work, then retreat to a Christian home and church life. If you work in a Christian setting as I do (although quite a few of the students might not know the Lord yet) , you might get out of your cocoon only when you go shopping. It's a problem that I don't have a good answer to.

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