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Saturday, October 26, 2002

The Economics of Innovation-Interesting set of articles pointed out here by Kevin Holtsberry. Kevin finds himself aggreeing with The New Republic on economics; given that the neoliberals over at TNR generally refuse to press charges after getting mugged by reality. The TNR piece discounts the effect that interest rates have on innovation, bouncing off of this Robert Shapiro piece in Slate. First, let's look at what makes the supply side of the economy go. These are the four areas that I talk about as ways that would stimulate aggregate supply in my macroeconomics class. (1) Technology/Innovation (2) Tax cuts (3) Interest Rates (4) Lower regulation. Here we're talking about innovation, which I will lump in with technology. For instance, FedEx didn't invent anything patentable that I know of; instead, it figured out how to use planes, trucks, computers and people to get stuff around the country fast and efficiently. Can the government boost this? That's what's on the table. With that prologue out of the way, let's look at the TNR piece.
TECHNOLOGY BUST: We pretty much agree with Robert Shapiro's assessment of the relationship between innovation and economic growth (basically, that the former drives the latter by increasing productivity). But Shapiro, a former Clinton administration official, seems to be grinding a bit of a partisan axe when it comes time to make a policy proposal at the end of his piece. Here's the offending paragraph:
But the most powerful spur for innovation is low long-term interest rates for businesses, which reduce the cost of investing in, developing, and applying new technologies and techniques. Here we see a disturbing difference between current policy and that during the '90s boom. The sharp and steady deficit reductions of the '90s lowered real long-term rates, but the renewed prospect of red ink for years to come has reversed that trend. While productivity gains remain strong for now, Washington's current fiscal stance bodes ill for productivity and innovation in the future.
Now there are all sorts of reasons to prefer smaller budget deficits and lower long-term interest rates--the most important of which is that it encourages investment, as Shapiro points out. We're glad that Shapiro's former boss made these things a top priority, and we wish the current president would, too. But do lower long-term interest rates really encourage innovation? As this Wall Street Journal article points out, the mid-1980s were a pretty important time in the history of innovation, but also a time when rising federal budget deficits were exerting upward pressure on long-term interest rates. For that matter, much of the groundwork for the '90s tech boom was laid before long-term rates began to fall in the middle of that decade.
Let’s refer back to what gooses Aggregate Supply; the tax cuts of the 80s helped stimulate the business climate of that era, offsetting the deficits effect on interest rates. The tech boom of the 90s allowed the economy to grow despite tax hikes from Bush 41 in 1990 and Clinton in 1993
The problem with Shapiro's analysis is that while higher interest rates have a direct and immediate effect on investment, which companies often finance by taking on debt (even if they pay in cash the opportunity cost of buying equipment is higher when interest rates are higher), it's not at all clear that companies base their R&D expenditures on interest rates. Companies basically fund R&D by hiring scientists and engineers to sit around and experiment with new ideas. (Obviously these people use some equipment, but it's not nearly as expensive as, say, manufacturing equipment--and, relatively speaking, companies don't have to buy very much of it.) Those hiring decisions may be affected by overall economic conditions--consumer demand, investment demand, corporate profits, the unemployment rate--but we'd assume the effect of interest rates would be vague and rather marginal.
No, not vague and not marginal in the common sense of negligible rather than in the analytical sense of evaluating changes. Businesses look at the present value of the cash flows they would expect a project to bring in. The basic formula for calculating the suitability of an investment that gets taught in Finance 301 is Net Present Value. If the company looks out N years to the future, it will calculate this:
(ΣExpected Cash FlowN*(1+Cost of capital)-N)-Investment
Interest rates factor in to this , as lower interest rates will result in lower costs of capital. Lower interest rates will also tend to lower the cost of equity, since people will tend to shift their demand to stocks if interest rates are low, thus lowering the required returns on equity. A company’s cost of capital (a weighted average of their cost of debt and expected return on equity) will go down as a result. That lower cost of capital will mean that the future cash flows are discounted at a lower rate, making them more valuable today. Lower cost of capital will then result in more projects being down, whether it be building a new Kwicky-Burger or doing research into a new computer processor. Lower taxes will give companies bigger cash flows to plug into the equation, as taxes will take a smaller bite out of each year’s activities. Lower taxes will also lower the cost of capital by increasing the after-tax returns of investors. Deficit hawks will note that the increased deficits that the tax cuts represent (we could have paid down the deficit with it) will tend to raise interest rates, but unless that raise overwhelms the double effect of higher profits to business and higher after-tax returns on those profits, a tax cut will help investment, including investment in R&D. I'd like to look at the Shapiro article that kicked this off in more depth.
All the bad news in the business section—falling payrolls, rising oil prices, slow business investment, record consumer debt, the specter of deflation, a shaky stock market—shouldn't obscure the economy's underlying strength. The productivity of American business and workers continues to surge. And modern growth theory can tell us why: Innovation across the economy is still alive and well. U.S. productivity—the key to rising incomes and living standards—may be establishing a promising new pattern. In the last five years of the '90s boom, productivity grew nearly two-thirds faster than the average for the previous quarter-century. As that boom wore on, productivity did not, as usual, slow down. It stayed strong and even accelerated. Moreover, productivity continued to rise even when the economy headed south last year. And this year, despite the economy's troubles, productivity will grow at least another 4 percent and perhaps more. Unless unemployment skyrockets, these gains should guarantee reasonable growth. After several years of heated debate, most economists finally agreed that the key to the productivity gains of the 1990s was the strong investment in, and application of, new information technologies. Studies by fed economists Stephen Oliner and Kevin Stiroh, Harvard's Dale Jorgenson, and others have shown that more than three-fourths of the increased productivity can be traced to the impact of these innovations and the high rates of investment in them. And Commerce Department economists have found that '90s productivity gains were concentrated in sectors that invested heavily in IT.
OK, economists finally figured out that computers are making people more efficient. This implementation of computer technology, coupled with Moore's Law driving down the price per megahertz of computers, helped spur the growth of the 90s. This computer-driven boom in the economy helped put egg on some conservative economists faces when the Clinton tax increases didn't cause an economic slowdown. Going back up to our four factors that drive aggregate supply(AS), we had increasing technology and lower interest rates driving AS up, while higher taxes were driving AS down. The deficit hawks saw the result and said "You supply-siders are full of it. We raised taxes, cut interest rates and saw the economy grow. Take that, you capitalist fiend!" However, it was both technology and interest rates that was doing the job. I would make the argument that had taxes not been raised, the economic effects would have been even greater and we'd have had so much rational exuberance that Greenspan would have needed to place a bulk order for Depends.
So why does productivity continue to rise when business investment in IT, as in all equipment, has slowed? One clue is that firms continued to invest in IT services to help them figure out how to make effective use of their new hardware and software. This would confirm analysis by the Commerce Department and others that productivity gains occur when firms change the way they operate in order to make better use of their new IT. You can't just buy a bunch of new workstations. It's the combination of innovation in technology and business operations that usually produces the big benefits. And that's probably why we see no productivity rise in Japan or much of Europe, where IT investment has been nearly as high as here: Labor regulations and other barriers inhibit companies' abilities to use their new IT to change the way they do business. All this makes the late boom a convincing illustration of modern growth theory. In the 1970s and 1980s, MIT economist Robert Solow (who won a Nobel Prize for the effort), the late Edward Denison, and others identified the critical factors that explain American growth and productivity gains through much of the last century. Setting aside normal increases in the work force, they found that the most important factor, by far, is not capital or labor but innovation in its various forms. More than half of real productivity growth from 1929 to 1982 can be traced to the development of new technologies, materials, products, and processes; new ways of financing, distributing, and marketing goods and services; and new ways of organizing a business and managing a workplace. (Where does the rest of the productivity gain come from? Click here to find out.)
It's not just the technology that drives things, its finding the ways of using them. No everyone will be happy with the changes. You'll have some classic fear of change coupled with a self-interest that sees change a threat to a status-quo that many people have a vested interest in. Such problems are magnified in more labor-freindly places such as Europe. A classic case of this is the longshoremen's fight with the port managers out on the west cost. There are a lot of technologies that will streamline the processing of freight, but those will mean that fewer workers will be needed to handle the freight; thus the longshoremen are fighting implementation of such changes or insisting on feather-bedding payrolls at current levels. Postrel's book defining dynamism and statism is called The Future and It's Enemies- those longshoremen are one of the enemies.
How does innovation work in practice? Take a familiar recent example. Apple invented graphical interfaces for its Mac operating system, a new technology that enabled an average person to perform complex computer operations. Apple's small market share limited the impact, so it wasn't until Microsoft adapted graphical interfaces to its market-leading Windows operating system that the new technology could help boost overall productivity. Firms quickly recognized that a digital workplace could mean higher profits and accelerated their capital investments (purchasing more computers and software) and training programs (teaching workers to use the system). But the bulk of the productivity gains came when businesses with their recently computerized workplaces identified new efficiencies and new opportunities they could exploit and changed their operations to do so—by adopting just-in-time inventories, for example.
Just-in-time has a big effect on politics. Lower inventories mean less cushion for businesses when problems hit; strikes have bigger impacts when they can shut down plants waiting for their supplies to come if the plants measure their inventories in hours rather than weeks. It also means that plants have fewer inventories to draw upon when things turn around. Recessions will be shorter in this environment.
If innovation is so critical, why do policy-makers largely ignore it? The reason is that the traditional theory of markets holds that there's virtually nothing anyone, including government, can do to promote more innovation. Free markets are said to allocate resources so that all available capital and labor are used to produce the highest returns. But if that's the way it is, no one has any economic incentive to come up with something new because doing so would involve using valuable resources in an effort that may not yield any return. The inescapable logic of traditional economics—and the view of most economists who advise policy-makers—dictates that the most important factor for productivity is "exogenous," which means it occurs outside the realm of economic incentives and calculation. To hold to the theory of markets, you have to conclude that innovation just happens, as when a genius has a bright idea.
The easier it is to translate changes into dollars in investor's wallets, the more change will take place. Waving extra dollars in front of the manager will help him break out of old paradigms. It will still happen haphazzardly, but their will be more force behind change if a system that rewards productivity by higher returns is in place.
This analysis may well describe how a lone inventor, toiling in his garage or lab, behaves. But it seems a pretty fanciful way to explain why Genentech or General Motors, with a payroll to meet and stockholders to satisfy, invests hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development. Enter "endogenous growth" theory. Drawing on the work of Joseph Schumpeter, Paul Romer of Stanford and others argue that when innovators use resources that otherwise could earn a normal return, they are responding to a normal and very powerful economic incentive: potential monopoly returns. GM is spending on R & D in hopes that its tech wizards invent a more efficient engine or a safer body and give them a monopoly edge, if only temporarily. This analysis may wreak some havoc with the traditional view of the economy because it implies that a growing and productive economy contains not only market forces, but thousands of bubbles of temporary monopoly power. But it does explain innovation.
This "monopoly power" is being able to do something that other people aren't doing. Even if there wasn't a true monopoly on it, it will allow companies to gain higher profits until their competitors figure out the trick. In patents, the company has a 17-year run of exclusivity, in non-patentable innovation, they have the advantage as long as their competitors don't know about it. Once everyone knows the trick, it still helps the economy as a whole, as the product in question is made less expesively, allowing resourses to flow to other areas.
So if innovation responds to economic incentives, the government should be able to actively promote it, just as it does in education. Subsidies for basic research and development are one obvious way. Another is open trade, which can help avoid redundancy in R & D and gives a country access to the rest of the world's innovations—witness the enormous productivity gains achieved by the Asian Tiger economies after they opened their markets.
Basic sciece, the high-level theories that don't result in marketable patents, are a valid government endevour. However, beware of pork-barrel stuff or special-interest presure twisting the system. Free trade is good, lowering prices to all parties concered; it's only harmfull to inefficient producers, who don't like the competition.
But the most powerful spur for innovation is low long-term interest rates for businesses, which reduce the cost of investing in, developing, and applying new technologies and techniques. Here we see a disturbing difference between current policy and that during the '90s boom. The sharp and steady deficit reductions of the '90s lowered real long-term rates, but the renewed prospect of red ink for years to come has reversed that trend. While productivity gains remain strong for now, Washington's current fiscal stance bodes ill for productivity and innovation in the future.
Sorry, wrong answer. While I described earlier that interest rates cuts will lower the cost of capital, tax cuts will both increase cash flows to the corporation and decrease the cost of capital. The red ink is due in part to tax cuts (as well as a mild recession and extra spending due to 9/11 and attempts at Keynesian stimulus) that will help to lower the cost of capital. The tax cuts will especially be effect if allowed to tax effect. A long-term cut is better than a short-term one, for it allows people to count on that tax cut for the long haul, lowering long-term capital costs. Kevin rightly notes that "To be fair, too many conservatives act as if lowering taxes - any taxes - will automatically spur economic growth. This is not true either. A number of tax giveaways do very little, if anything to spur growth." If you have a cut in tax rates that stay put, you will lower the cost of capital by those lower rates. Partucular subsidies will have a less of an effect, rewarding a governent-approved activity rather than rewarding innovation in general. If that activity happens to spur innovation, you can hit the jackpot, as the Japanese did in the 80s. However, you have to get it right; if not, you'll see the stagnation of 1990's Japan.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Afternoon Musings-I've been too busy thinking about the political angles of the Wellstone crash to actually mourn the guy's (and his family and staffers) death. He might of been a arch-liberal but was an honorable one. Hannity and Snow were talking just now about how nice and honest the guy was. I don't think he was a beleiver, but I pray that God might be merciful to them. Chris Burgwald hit an excelent tone on the Wellstone crash and the Blogger crash-"Next time you get frustrated with little things, remember the greater gifts you have." While waiting to check out at Publix a few minutes ago, I was in the ten-items-or-under line and a gal with a McBride sticker on the sleeve on a "Florida Recount 2000" T-shirt was in front of me. She had nine items. Had she had 11 or 12, I would have been sorely tempted to ask for a recount. This Moscow standoff sound likes the plot of a bad TV movie-"Ve Vill Kill You at Dawn." However, you're not going to get Mr. Action Hero sneaking in from the roof and killing all the captors in a thrilling fire-fight. To borrow from another movie-I've got a bad feeling about this. I've got a feeling in the pit of my stomach that the Chechens will pull the trigger on this one.

Wellstone Implications-The first question is- Who the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor as the party's officially titled in Minnesota) name to replace him? By state law, they have until next Friday [Update 4:45-I'm also hearing Thursday, the law says four days] to come up with a replacement. If they are smart, they'll name someone sufficiently centrist to win over some swing voters. Mrs. Wellstone died in the crash, so they can't play that scenario. I don't know Minnesota politics too well, but someone like former state AG Skip Humphrey (VP/Senator Hubert's son), who was the DFL's nominee for governor four years ago, would be a plausible alternative. Coleman is leading in some polls, but I would think that a symphathy factor, coupled with a more moderate nominee might bring some swing voters over to the DFL side. The second question is-who will Jesse Ventura Janos nominate to be the temporary Senator? He's been talking about resigning before his term expires and letting Lt. Gov Mae Schunk be the state's first woman governor for a few days. Why not resign now and have her name you Senator for the next ten weeks? The Washington media would love it, especially if you voted to make Majority Leader Daschle a thing of the past. [Update 3:04-I just remember:that has happen before in Minnesota. Back when Walter Mondale was elected VP in 1976, opening up his Senate seat, DFL Governor Wendell Anderson resigned, then had his LG, Rudy Perpich name him Senator. The manure hit the fan in 1978 over that stunt, as Anderson lost the fill-in election, Perpich lost his election bid and the DFL even lost the regular election for Hubert Humphrey's seat (he had died a few months earier and widow Muriel filled in the remainder). That was the ugliest day in DFL history.] [Update 4:45-According to Tony Snow on Hannity's radio show, it's Walter Mondale (let's go retro) or Skip P. (the Minnesota Kangaroo) Humphrey who are the leading names for a replacement. Snow also noted that Ventura doesn't know what he going to do about a short-term replacement.]

Wellstone Journal-Blogger would have to go down just as the news of Paul Wellstone's plane crashing hit the news. Here's my journal of the last hour. 1:41-The news just came over the radio that Sen. Wellstone’s plane went down. 1:53- Found the state of Minnesota election law section. It allows the party to replace a dead candidate up to four days before the election. The state party has a week to name a replacement. I e-mailed this factiod to some non-blogspoters to help cover this. Ruffini e-mailed me back, noting that the Wellstone absentee votes likely won't count. 2:04 What will Jesse do? He now gets to appoint a replacement for the next two-plus months. Normally, it would be a non-event, but with the Senate 51-49, a libertarian-oriented Ventura type might vote with the Republicans. If you have Jim Talent win in Missouri and, say, Tim Penny as the temporary Senator from Minnesota, you might be able to have a couple of extra votes for sensible stuff in a lame-duck session. 2:10 No Jean Carnahan scenerio. Mrs. Wellstone went down with the plane as well. 2:20-Simberg has his condolences up. “I don't think that anyone wanted to see the Republicans regain control of the Senate in this tragic way.” No; if the replacement wins, the Democrats might retain control that way.

Lies or Differences of Opinion?-From listening to Krugman today, you'd think the demon of deceit that possessed the Clinton administration stayed in the White House when Slick Willie left.
A few days ago The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote an article explaining that for George W. Bush, "facts are malleable." Documenting "dubious, if not wrong" statements on a variety of subjects, from Iraq's military capability to the federal budget, the White House correspondent declared that Mr. Bush's "rhetoric has taken some flights of fancy."
Mmmmm, blood in the water. However, fancy rhetoric and lies are two different things. If one of your guys takes poetic license, it's "vibrant speechmaking." If your political enemies do the same, it's "demagoguery" or "lies and distortions." I'm not just pointing fingers at the left here; conservatives can frequently go over-the-top with their rhetoric as well.
Also in the last few days, The Wall Street Journal reported that "senior officials have referred repeatedly to intelligence . . . that remains largely unverified." The C.I.A.'s former head of counterterrorism was blunter: "Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements." USA Today reports that "pressure has been building on the intelligence agencies to deliberately slant estimates to fit a political agenda."
The first comment of unverified reports might just be the secretive nature of intelligence gathering-"President Hussein, could you confirm the nuclear facility the CIA says you have? You can't, huh? It's still unverified, then." Note that the evidence isn't specified, nor is the agenda specified. Some of the evidence might be cooked in a anti-confrontational way if some of the pro-diplomacy forces are doing the cooking.
Reading all these euphemisms, I was reminded of Monty Python's parrot: he's pushing up the daisies, his metabolic processes are history, he's joined the choir invisible. That is, he's dead. And the Bush administration lies a lot.
How does the parrot get into this? It's the shopkeeper that tells the lies about the parrot in the Python skit. If he's lying, what is the dead parrot that Bush is trying to sell the public, Dr. Krugman?
Let me hasten to say that I don't blame reporters for not quite putting it that way. Mr. Milbank is a brave man, and is paying the usual price for his courage: he is now the target of a White House smear campaign.
Haven't seen a "smear campaign" yet beyond pointing out the shortcomings of the article.
That standard response may help you understand how Mr. Bush retains a public image as a plain-spoken man, when in fact he is as slippery and evasive as any politician in memory. Did you notice his recent declaration that allowing Saddam Hussein to remain in power wouldn't mean backing down on "regime change," because if the Iraqi despot meets U.N. conditions, "that itself will signal that the regime has changed?"
That's a no-win situation for Bush. Had he not said that, you'd be accusing him of being a warmongering danger to the world. Now, he does an ungainly 180 and you blast him for his change in policy. Do you prefer him to be consistently "wrong?"
The recent spate of articles about administration dishonesty mainly reflects the campaign to sell war with Iraq. But the habit itself goes all the way back to the 2000 campaign, and is manifest on a wide range of issues. High points would include the plan for partial privatization of Social Security, with its 2-1=4 arithmetic; the claim that a tax cut that delivers 40 percent or more of its benefits to the richest 1 percent was aimed at the middle class; the claim that there were 60 lines of stem cells available for research; the promise to include limits on carbon dioxide in an environmental plan.
Let's walk through these one-by-one. (1) Social Security-Krugman doesn't like the Bush plan, for he fears that the stock market won't deliver over the long haul and that enough money won't be set aside to cover his generation's retirement. If we go the Bush route and the stock market holds to its traditional form, we can get out of the trans-generational transfer scheme we have now, where the kids and grandkids pay for Grandma and Grandpa's retirement. Fast forward a couple of decades, and the scheme will start to break down as the Baby Boom starts to retire. If we go the Bush route and the stock market doesn't deliver, we'll have to raise taxes, cut benefits or push back retirement ages. If we do nothing, we'll have to (guess what?) raise taxes, cut benefits or push back retirement ages. Calling this a lie is to question Bush's economics rather than his veracity. "You can't honestly believe that his plan will work?" is what I hear Krugman and others on the left saying, that we're either crazy or deceitful to have this response. Yes, I can honestly believe it, as I have confidence in the economy's ability to keep growing. (2) Tax cuts helping everyone. Last I checked, the top 1% of income paid about 40% of the income taxes, so an across-the-board cut will be top-heavy in direct benefits. Unlike the spending plans that Krugman likes that will help only aggregate demand, a tax cut will help increase aggregate supply as well. In an economy fairly close to full employment, such a broad-based tax cut is needed to encourage investment, especially after the recent accounting debacles and 9-11 have combined to sour confidence in the market. Such investments will help grow the economy by increasing the number and size of businesses via making the cost of capital cheaper, since a tax cut will increase investors’ after-tax returns (take-home pay). Providing people with more places to work will increase jobs and paychecks, which will help the middle class. Call it trickle-down, call it supply-side, call it voodoo economics, call it late to dinner, but it is a better long-term policy for the average American than what Krugman's offering up. (3) Stem cells. I'll give him a quarter-point on this one. Some of the lines of cells were "stale" and others were held on a proprietary basis. The numbers weren't as good as they were first made out to be, but I wouldn't call this one out as a lie. (4) CO2 standards. Yes, that was a flip-flop. I'd put steel tariffs in that category as well. The question on the table was whether Bush had such a bait-and-switch in mind, not intending to implement the standards in the first place, or whether he saw a price tag for such standards that was higher than expected. Krugman would look at the first option (or that he was strong-armed by the business community once in office) while the change might be closer to the second option. On balance, this president has had fewer flip-flops from what he ran on than either his dad ("Read my lips...") or his predecessor (what middle-class tax cut?) did. Not perfect, to be sure, but not a congenital liar, either.
More generally, Mr. Bush ran as a moderate, a "uniter, not a divider." The Economist endorsed him back in 2000 because it saw him as the candidate better able to transcend partisanship; now the magazine describes him as the "partisan-in-chief."
The president always becomes the leader of his party. Standing closer to the center of his party than most of his predicessors, he is more representative of (and has fewer back-biters within) his party than Clinton or Bush 41. The Economist was right in it's 2000 assessment-Gore would have been more partisan in office. That's not to say Bush isn't pro-Republican, but does so with less venom at the other party than most politicians.
It's tempting to view all of this merely as a question of character, but it's more than that. There's method in this administration's mendacity. For the Bush administration is an extremely elitist clique trying to maintain a populist facade. Its domestic policies are designed to benefit a very small number of people — basically those who earn at least $300,000 a year, and really don't care about either the environment or their less fortunate compatriots. True, this base is augmented by some powerful special-interest groups, notably the Christian right and the gun lobby. But while this coalition can raise vast sums, and can mobilize operatives to stage bourgeois riots when needed, the policies themselves are inherently unpopular. Hence the need to reshape those malleable facts.
Here we get to the core of Krugman's critique; free-market economics doesn't help the average voter much and that a more regulated, higher-taxed system would look after Joe Sixpack better. He ignores the benefits to the economy of lower taxes encouraging aggregate supply and thus expanding the economy as a whole. If the government doesn't directly help someone, it doesn't quite factor into the equation. I don’t know too many cases of staged “bourgeois riots” other than possibly a Dade county courthouse incident after the 2000 election. The left is a lot better at staging riots. The Republicans have won six of the last nine presidential elections with the current coalition; the three exceptions were Jimmy Carter winning after Watergate and Clinton’s two triangulation wins, running to the right of his policies. Either the GOP has the flim-flam action down cold or people might actually like conservative policies better than liberal ones.
What remains puzzling is the long-term strategy. Despite Mr. Bush's control of the bully pulpit, he has had little success in changing the public's fundamental views. Before Sept. 11 the nation was growing increasingly dismayed over the administration's hard right turn. Terrorism brought Mr. Bush immense personal popularity, as the public rallied around the flag; but the helium has been steadily leaking out of that balloon.
In the summer of 2001, you had a little leakage in his popularity; to call the nation “increasingly dismayed” may be technically true, as liberals were surprised that he would actually govern as a conservative. What has changed is people’s impression of Bush as a leader; he wasn’t the bumbling idiot of the late-night comedy shows, but a competent, decent guy. Yes, the balloon is losing altitude, as the rally-round-the-president effect has worn off, but the last year has seen him handle foreign affairs fairly deftly, bringing down a hostile government in Afghanistan with a minimum of casualties on both sides and getting respect that he didn’t have before. When faced with a real-world expression of evil, this Bible-reading plain-spoken Texan looked better than the hand-wringing left did.
Right now the administration is playing the war card, inventing facts as necessary, and trying to use the remnants of Mr. Bush's post-Sept. 11 popularity to gain control of all three branches of government. But then what? There is, after all, no indication that Mr. Bush ever intends to move to the center.
Other than the inventing facts parts [please specify something other than not liking supply-side economics if you want to be taken seriously], that’s just good politics; he handled things well, and reminding people of how the last year would have looked with Gore in charge will give the swing voter cause to vote Republican. Krugman wants to give the swing voter a scare over a conservative Supreme Court in the future with the “all three branches” line. That last sentence about moving to the center puzzles me. He is governing from the center, as you need moderate Democrats on board to get things past Senate filibusters. He’s had to water-down a lot of his proposals, especially in education. However, if you use Democrat-speak where centrist Democrats are “conservatives” and Hillary is a “moderate” and you need to be singing the Internationale to be considered liberal, Krugman might be right; he won’t be moving to the center of the Democratic party.
So the administration's inner circle must think that full control of the government can be used to lock in a permanent political advantage, even though the more the public learns about their policies, the less it likes them. The big question is whether the press, which is beginning to find its voice, will lose it again in the face of one-party government.
Ah, yes, the New York Times will become a GOP organ or NPR will start singing the praises of free markets and abstinence. Wins in 2002 and 2004 might get them an extra Supreme Court seat, but Krugman seems to think Bush is about to name himself Fuhrer if he gets control of the Senate next month. Last I checked, there’s an election in 2004, and if you can get enough people to vote against Bush, you can replace him.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 4:5-20(NASB)
5 On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6 and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. 7 When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of the people, 9 if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead--by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 "He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. 12 "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
There is the politically-incorrect truth in a nutshell; Jesus is where our salvation comes from and nowhere else. It would be convenient if it weren't the case and other ways to Heaven were valid, but as far as I've been able to deduce, it's the truth; there's a strong body of evidence of two millennia of changed lives to say otherwise .
13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, 16 saying, "What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 "But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name." 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."
The powers that be often prefer a generic, distant God to a particular, hands-on God. The generic God doesn't change people's lives. The generic God doesn't upset the status quo. The generic God doesn't demand obedience or repentance. A real God is dangerous. He tips apple-carts. He changes the status-quo. He changes lives. He changes cultures. He won't go quietly. Nor would Peter and John. Nor should we.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Brave New World-The Boston Expos?I'm not sure if this makes more sence than contraction, but this ESPN piece (thanks to Kyle Still for the heads-up) has Montreal moving to Boston, sharing Fenway with the Red Sox for at least a year. It worked for the two St. Louis teams, who shared Sportsman's Park (IIRC) for many years before the Browns became the Baltimore Orioles (hey, didn't they steal another Browns a half-century later?). Even in my lifetime, the Mets and Yankees shared Shea Stadium for a couple of years in the mid-70s while Yankee Stadium underwent an overhaul. However, why Boston? If Montreal sucks bilge water as a baseball city, try some other town that would be happy to support a MLB team. New Orleans? Louisville? Or even San Juan? [Update 10:25 3:30PM-Kevin James was right-San Juan isn't that crazy-they're actually thinking about playing a quarter of the home games in San Juan.]

"Fisk" or "fisk"?-Joel Fuhrmann ponders whether we should capitalize the word or not. Good question. Looking at my usage, I'm moved away from capitalizing it; as a verb, it looks awkward being capitalized. There are a number of verbs that started from a proper noun; bowdlerize and gerrymander come to mind, and neither are capitalized. A questioned dawned on me on the subject of fisking and fair use copyright law. If you post the entire article of your fiskee on your site, interspersed with your commentary, is that fair use or not? Lawyer-bloggers, have at that one, please.

The Great Pickle Monopoly-No, that's not the next Veggie Tales movie but what the FTC wants to stop. The holding company that owns Vlassic wants to buy Claussens. Nope, that violates anti-trust law. Hey, anti-trust law is alive and keek-eeing.

Afternoon Musings-MCJ has this chuckler, where MSNBC put Alabama in Mississippi's spot on the map in a sniper-location graphic. This Moscow theatre thing could get very ugly for the long-term. This, if it does turn into a bloodbath, will likely have the downside of allowing Putin to get into more of a scorched-earth policy on dealing with Chechen and other Islamic foes. However, that might also allow Putin to give the US some slack on Iraq.

Beltway Sniper Found-The solving of the sniper case is interesting, and will undoubtedly bring some blogfire. So we have a black American Muslim named John Allen Muhammad (JAM henceforth) and his step-son nabbed last night in Maryland-they found the murder rifle in the car. JAM is an army vet competent with the M-16. So, we have a merger of two theories, the Islamic terrorist and the home-grown nut-case. It looks like we have an Islamic home-grown nut-case. I'll cede the floor to people with more background in profiling than I, but doesn't JAM fit the profile of a lot of serial killers; thirty-ish guys with a military background with lady troubles. JAM might have been a Muslim, but I'm wondering whether anti-western rage is the trigger or whether there was other stuff kicking around in his psyche. He looks more Son of Sam than Carlos the Jackal. The one mass-murderer that comes to mind was Colin Ferguson, the Long Island commuter-train killer, a black guy who had lost it and wanted to take out as many whities as he could, then was loopy enough to serve as his own defense council. How much of JAM's motivation Islamic and how much just good old-fashion rage against the system? I'm not going soft on the guy; if Virginia or Maryland wants to terminate him with extreme prejudice, I'll not shed any tears, but I'm not quite in the mood to go on an run of Islam-bashing. [Update-6pm-turns out Matthew Yglesias beat me to the theory-merger thing by a few hours. Jim Henly's got a truckload of questions about motivation and not a lot of answers.]

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 6:7-13
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. 9 "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 'Give us this day our daily bread. 12 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]'
It's not been the best of weeks for me, so I found myself in tears this morning when they played Let My Words Be Few at chapel this morning. It brought me back to that introduction to the Lord's Prayer; I don't have a whole lot of eloquence about the stresses I've been going through the last two weeks, so just being able to stand in awe of the maker of the universe and love Him would have to do. My class overload (the equivalent of 27 semester hours at once due to two accelerated MBA classes along side my undergrad schedule) was so overwhelming that I was near (no, try AT) the breaking point Monday; I was in tears at 5:30 Monday at a loss for how to present an undoable amount of material to the students. The class session that followed was a bit less than professional. Thankfully, the remainder of that Monday night class has now been transferred to another professor. We all overestimated what I could handle at one time. They aren't disappointed with my teaching and aren't about to fire me, but they want to prevent a total breakdown. I sure didn't have the word to express my frustration on Monday or the relief that I felt yesterday when my load has gone from 27 hours to a normal 15. He gives us our daily bread; not our weekly bread. He delivers us from untenable situations. He forgives our sins and makes sure His will is done. It sometimes isn't pretty, but we often need to be stretched in order to grow.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

I Love the Smell of Flame-Broiled Krugman In the Morning-Arnold Kling (Kling is a new one for me-thanks, Instaman) has a good dissection of a Krugman income-inequality piece from Sunday.-he tells us to check the inflation-adjusted quintile data for ourselves. More on this tomorrow when I have less of an IQ deficit.

More Senate Punditry-Three of the races that Republicans have eyed for a while are Missouri, Minnesota and South Dakota. In the Missouri and South Dakota, you have states that voted for Bush in 2000; if the Republican candidate was on a par with the Democrat, it would indicate an edge for the Republican. In both of those states, the Republican candidate is very solid. John Thune has won statewide (with bigger margins than Sen. Johnson) as the at-large House member, so he doesn't have to introduce himself to the voters in the rest of the state as House members in other states do. Neither does Jim Talent, who ran for governor and lost two years ago under the Carnahan mourning vote. Jean Carhahan has to run as Senator rather than as Widow in 2002, and has seemed to run a clunky campaign. Minnesota didn't vote for Bush, but a moderate Republican has a chance here. Norm Coleman fits the mold of Dave Durenburger of a moderate Republican that Minnesota can vote for, especially if the foe is Paul Wellstone, one of the most liberal members of the Senate. Coleman is dull, while Wellstone tries to act like Senator Bartlett. There are two wild cards at play; the Independence party candidate (who does he draw votes from?) and the Get-out-the-vote efforts of the Wellstone crew and possible abuses of the register-on-Election-Day law. This one could be very squirrelly; a narrow Wellstone win would make Florida 2000 look like a pillow-fight. There are a few seats that Democrats have their eyes on. Arkansas is the only one they are likely to get; Mark Pryor should be able to beat Tim Hutchinson, where the senator's divorce and Pryor's pedigree will offset the Republican lean in the state. Colorado and Oregon are two that were high on Democrat's list, but Smith and Allard should be able to fend off challengers that are a bit too liberal for their states. The Democrats have dreams of winning New Hampshire, but John Sununu should beat Jeanne Shaheen. Ron Kirk made an early surge of the polls, but the seat should go to John Cornyn, holding onto the Gramm seat. Dole will hold on to Jesse Helm's seat. There are some other Democratic seats that are winnable. Louisiana could be won in a run-off, and Ganske has an outside shot of ousting Harkin in Iowa. However, I think the one race that could surprise people is in Georgia. Max Cleland is too liberal for Georgia, but has the earned reputation of a Vietnam vet who became a paraplegic due to a combat wound. However, his voting record might be enough to get Saxby Chambliss into the Senate, even with Zell Miller stumping for Cleland. The polls don't show it yet, but I smell an upset. That leads us to a 52-48 Republican senate if the Georgia upset happens, 51-49 otherwise.

Political Punditry Without A Net-Ben's got his picks up, as does Patrick Ruffini, as to what will happen in the Senate. I'm going to predict a +3 gain for the Republicans. I'd put the over-and-under at 50.5 seats for the Reublicans, for an net gain of +1.5. This is quick on the way out to dinner, but I think Thune will win in SD, Coleman will win in Minnesota (yah, ye-betcha) and Talent will win in Missouiri. I think Pryor will win in Arkansas. That gets the Republicans to +2 without predicting an upset. I know that Cleland is ahead in the polls in Georgia, but I smell an upset there; Put Chambliss in the Senate for a +3.

McBridesmaid-part II--I chimed in last night just after the Bush-McBride debate, but let's see some other takes. Orrin Judd cites an McBride-critcal Miami Herald piece, while one of his commenters brought up a McBride-friendly Orlando Sentinal piece. Here's a fairly neutral Tampa Tribune piece, but I think this is the key section that expresses what I saw last night
But several questions appeared to catch him flat- footed, especially a direct inquiry from debate moderator Tim Russert as to whether McBride, a career attorney, would support eliminating the tax exemption for legal fees, essentially freeing up more than $400 million by Russert's estimate that could be applied toward education. McBride stammered before blurting out, ``No!'' Another question, this one concerning the cost of implementing a proposed class-size initiative, not only caught McBride off guard but drew loud laughter from Republicans sitting to his left in the audience. McBride was criticizing Bush for a recent attack ad and questioning a controversial comment the governor made to lawmakers in early October. He said Bush was picking numbers - $8 billion to $27 billion to fund the initiative - that scared voters. ``Where do you think it is?'' Russert asked. ``Somewhere in between,'' McBride said as the laughter began. ``Twelve to 15 billion?'' Russert pressed. McBride reluctantly agreed. ``Yes, I think so.''
Flat-footed and off-guard were two good adjectives to describe McBride's performance when the subject turned to his weak spots. The polls might have gotten up to 48-43, but I don't expect it to get much closer. I think 54-45 will be the final spread.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 3:12-16(NASB)
12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, "Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 "But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 16 "And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Remember that what power you have comes from God. Even the most sucessful person has to have a sence of humilty, for the sucesses are ultimately gifts from God. Peter could have taken some of the credit, not fully glorifing God, but he didn't. While we might not be doing miraculous healings, we still have plenty of gifts that God has given us. Thank Him for them. I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh much anymore, but one of his pet phrases was "...with talent on loan from God...." Be glad he's not charging interest, Rush.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

McBridesmaid-I just got done watching the Bush-McBride debate. McBride didn't look all that good. He looked stiff in the first debate and was defensive tonight. He couldn't give Russert a straight answer on how he would finance Proposal 9 (the class-size-cutting proposition), saying he wouldn't go beyond his pet $0.50/pack tobacco tax and would only talk about general cuts. He also didn't look good at responding to Miami NAACP's Victor Curry comments declaring the Bushes NeoNazis. I don't see how this debate won him any votes. Bush was a bit too slick and a bit light on the details as well, but came across better. If the swing voter liked McBride, he saw a different debate than I did.

Dog and Cats Living Together, Sorta-A little back-and-forth going on over "Catholics and Evangelicals Together" a conservative coalition of some high-powered players on both side, including Chuck Colson and Richard Neuhaus. Chris Burgwald starts off the festivities and David Heddle chimes in. Chris is responding to a piece from a hyper-orthodox Catholic site (I think that's what CAI is, IIUC) that is critical of making common cause with Protestants while Heddle has some problems with the mushy theology of the statement. I agree with Heddle that the "sheep stealing" clause isn't useful; if someone is dissatisfied with the Catholic church, who am I to tell him to stay put? If someone's current church isn't helping them serve God, then go to someplace that does. However, part of the problem with such ecumenical groups is that the purists on either side won't like it. The key point of this group is for the two factions to make common cause on moral issues we can agree on. By definition, this group isn't going to affect some sort of theological merger between the two factions; there isn't a unified evangelical church to merge with anyway. The hard-core evangelical has to remember that there are quite a few Catholics who have a saving faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior and the hard-core Catholic has to remember that God can work outside of the Catholic Church. Both sides think that they are closer to what God is looking for. Their closeness to God allows them to make common cause on issues that aren't in dispute. This bunch isn't looking to merge churches, it's looking to stop the libertine culture around us. Yes, the statement isn't anywhere near good theology; this is a theological camel (a horse designed by committee) and looks butt-ugly and watered-down, but it was likely something that everyone could sign off on without gagging. They're agreeing to disagree on the stuff that makes the two parties unique. Let's work together where we can and agree to disagree where we can't.

Detroit Discount Demolition?-There's an interesting battle brewing up in my old home turf. Down here in Florida (and other places) , Wal-Mart has a lot of "Supercenters" that combine a grocery store with the discount department store; were I in a less-stressed mood, I would have stopped to shop at the Lake Wales supercenter this afternoon. While Wal-Mart had started to put in some department stores in Michigan, they hadn't done those supercenters up in Michigan; that market was dominated by Meijer, a Grand-Rapids based chain that has over 100 such superstores in the eastern Great Lakes area; my sister used to be a manager at the Midland Meijer. I figured that Wal-Mart might not want to tangle with Meijer. Well, guess what? Wally-World is making a move on Michigan, as this Detroit Free Press piece points out that Wal-Mart now has 14 supercenters in Michigan. If Wal-Mart is smart, they'll put a twist on Meijer's "Why Pay More?" slogan and ask it right back. They can undercut Meijer on price on most products (Meijer is lower-cost but not that low) and either cause Meijer to match prices or cede the field. This will be worth watching-if Meijer can hold its own with Wal-Mart, then other chains could take comfort in that Wal-Mart isn't unstoppable. If Meijer is bashed into Chapter 11 by the encroaching Wal-Mart, it might be a sign that economies of scale and aggressive merchandizing is the way of the future.

Football Musings-They've put out the first official BCS standings, and have Oklahoma nudging out Miami for the top spot. However, look at #3; the boys from South Bend are in the third spot. It's been so long since Notre Dame's been this good, it's hard to react how all the subway alums will react-they tend to be a cocky bunch. The other interesting position is FSU at #12. They aren't out of the hunt for a BCS spot; if they win the ACC, they've got a big bowl bid, and they could wind up doing that with an 7-5 record if they lose to Notre Dame and Florida yet win the ACC. Notre Dame seems to be a lock for one of the at-large BCS bids; who gets the other one? The Miami-VT loser or the Michigan-OSU loser? If Michigan wins and goes Rose and Miami wins, then Ohio State, with their bigger alum base and Heisman candidate Maurice Clarett , might get the other at-large spot, sending the Hokie Pundit to the Gator Bowl. However, if OSU wins, then the VT-Miami loser will likely be Big Easy-bound. Last night was fun on the way home; I came into the evening up 12 in the Blogger Bowl match against Ben D.'s San Juan Pirates. He's got Payton Manning playing on MNF against the Steelers, while I have Bettis and Colts TE Marcus Pollard. I get into the car after my night class last night; as my car is pulling out onto US-27, Manning hits a 40+-yard TD pass to Pollard. Ben must be thinking "He had to find Pollard open." Add that to ruling the roost in the Spudlet game-prediction contest again and it was a good weekend.

Shooter Musings-Another showing of the I-95 shooter in Maryland. Wierd piece that has hit the news on David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam" killer of the 70s, pleading with the shooter to stop. Berkowitz has become a born-again guy while in prison. This dude isn't quite as kinky as Son of Sam, who liked to dispatch couples, but I can't think of a better analogy. This is starting to get serious. This Fox article looks at how the shootings might affect the DC economy. Closing down I-95 and any other nearby highways is bad for business and it doesn't exactly incourage tourism; if I were a trucker or driving long-distance through the DC area from north-to-south, I'd be tempted to steer inland (I-81 possibly) if I were heading along that part of the country.

Edifier du jour-Acts 2:37-41 (NASB)
37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
The big event in Act 2 is the gift of the Holy Spirit and of tongues, here the speaking of actual languages. However, this passage describes the proper response to this move of God-repent and be forgiven of your sins. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given to all believers, not just some Pentecostal subset. People many manifest some supernatural “gifts of the Spirit,” but all believers have the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit as councilor and guide. That isn’t just for these first century people; it’s for all believers. I don’t see a sunset provision.

PM Proverb-"It is beddier not to pos' an' gots pooples dinks you dah fool dan to pos' an' remove all doubt." Thanks to MCJ's pointing out of this Chretienizer send-up .

Monday, October 21, 2002

The Best Bill Might Be The One You Don't Pass-Interesting piece in the Orlando Sentinel on the do-nothingness of the current Congress.
Here's what the 107th Congress, consumed by partisan politics and the prospect of war, failed to do this year: Help senior citizens pay for rapidly rising prescription-drug costs, which are leaving some of them unable to afford both food and medicine.
That's not a bug, that's a feature. Getting it passed would have required signing off on a government-run program whose cost would have been very hard to control.
Reorganize the government to fight terrorism.
That's not a bug, that's a feature.A Homeland Security department would have its own bureaucrats doing their Jabez routine, looking to expand their territory. A new department doesn't seem to be an improvement.
Beef up port security. Pass new protections for workers' pension plans to keep them from living the nightmare that employees of failed companies such as Enron Corp. face.
I don't know what the proposals for port security was and whether it would be worth doing, but not doing anything to require diversification of pension and 401(K) plans was a shortcoming. We're now at 2-1-1 for not doing anything.
Pass a budget.
When's the last time we didn't have a continuing resolution? 2-1-2
Give HMO patients new rights.
Yet another feature-the right in question is to sue your HMO, which will create rich widows, cripples and trial lawyers and will do more to raise the cost of insurance than it will to improve the care of people who can still afford it.
Reform Social Security.
This wasn't the year to do it. There are three main solutions. Raising payroll taxes (no thanks), cutting benefits or pushing back the retirement age (not a vote-getter) or a partial privatization/setting up of individual accounts (not doable due to the stock market being in the tank, even though it would make for some great bottom-feeding to start such accounts). This is a group of mortals in Congress. 3-1-3.
Give workers extra weeks of unemployment compensation or a higher minimum wage.
It's now 4-1-3 for the do-nothings, lady. A higher minimum wage would tend to increase unemployment and only help the unions who want to get rid of cheap competition.
Lessen U.S. dependence on imported oil.
4-1-4.Two ways of doing that; one would be to open up ANWR and other areas for exploration or to start to mandate fuel economy standards or taxing the heck out of energy consumption. They couldn't get either passed, so call that a tie.
Improve the welfare system.
Depends on what Ms. Lytle considers improvement; it's not likely that it would be good for the economy as a whole or even for the long-term best interests of the people concerned, as most critiques of the current system come from the left. 5-1-4. Lytle then proceeds to quote a conservative on this mess.
"You've hired these people to do their jobs, and they haven't done it," said Tripp Baird of the conservative Heritage Foundation. Experts such as Baird are calling this one of the most do-nothing Congresses in recent history.
I don't think Baird would like the alternatives. Of the things that Lytle lists here, only reforming pensions would be something that would be beneficial to the average America It's interesting the choices of quotes she uses, citing two democratic Senators and no Republicans. The conservative quotes she uses don't make a conservative argument while the liberals advocate bigger government. While Heritage is labeled as "conservative," she gives us this
Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that focuses on low- and moderate-income Americans, said the budget limbo means federal programs don't keep up with inflation.
That bunch is as liberal as Heritage is conservative, yet they are "focused on low- and moderate-income Americans." She makes understated acknowledgement of another group's leanings here
Other bills affecting the economy also died. Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that receives some of its money from the labor movement, had hoped for an extension of unemployment benefits. Workers got an extra 13 weeks, in addition to the usual 26 weeks, after Sept. 11. But that additional aid expires Dec. 28. He also had hoped Congress would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.65.
Of course, labor would like this, for it would decrease competition for higher-paid labor factory jobs if non-unionized places have to raise their wages. This could have been an interesting piece if she had looked at the alternatives to not passing a liberal agenda.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 1:6-11(NASB)
6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." 9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."
This isn't a verse that the prophecy geeks are going to like. Jesus isn't going to tell us when he's coming back, so we will have to be ready for that day while not having our heads on a swivel looking for His return. He's given us a task to do in the meantime-being witnesses to the world. If we put ourselves in the disciple's shoes, Judea is "our country" and Samaria is the neighboring country we don't like much. But we're also supposed to deliver the message in our hometown (Jerusalem) and all over the world. Why spend a lot of time and energy on listening to the prophecy geeks when we have work to do? Yeah, I'm asleep at the switch for the most part, I'm the pot calling the kettle black on getting the world evangelized, but we need to spend more time reaching people than on end-times-clock-watching. Note: This is a jump-shift from my walk through Matthew, I've started a morning devotional with Eileen in Acts and will likely be working from that for now. I'm thinking of continuing my walk through the Gospels in another format.

Left On-Nice piece from Bryan Preston this morning citing the Christopher Hitchens piece-here's Preston's take
It is truly not a good thing, for our country or our culture, that so much of the left is so reflexively anti-American without pausing to consider the alternatives to our imperfect union. It is truly not a good thing that so much of the left is so reflexively anti-war that they no longer understand that some things are still worth fighting for. And it is truly not a good thing that so much of the left is so blinded by its hatred and mistrust of President Bush and his team that it can't see common values in the ongoing war to rid the world of a fanatical tyranny currently burning much of the world to ash. But it is a good thing that Christopher Hitchens understands what's going on and is willing to tell his fellow travellers why they're wrong--he may be the only person they'll listen to.
Some leftists get it. Hitchens is one of them, a free-thinking leftist who is willing to take an anti-idiotarian stance even if it is the left who are the idiots du jour. Bono's playing at a flag-wearing Super Bowl halftime show was another-he's about as leftist as Hitchens but could put the poltical infighting aside for a moment and see that we have more in common than we think.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

PoliSci or Polyanna?-There are a lot of people in Blogville, including Orrin Judd, who seems a bit pessimistic about taking back the Senate; Judd pooh-poohed this WaPo piece on planning for a GOP return to power. You've got Democratic seats that could easily swing Republican in South Dakota, Missouri and Minnesota; Louisiana, Georgia, Iowa and New Jersey are still winable for the GOP. Arkansas seems to be the one the Republicans are likely to lose, with Colorado and New Hampshire tight but leaning Republican. I'm putting Texas, Tennessee and North Carolina and Oregon in the bank barring some serious foot-in-mouth action. If the Republicans can get two of the four toss-ups (SD,MN MO,AR) and hold serve elsewhere, you're at a 50-50 split. If they get three of those four, it's 51-49 and they can afford to have Lincoln Chaffee to join the Jeffords Causus. If one or two of those leaning-Democrat ones drops, then it's even better.

The Check-Out Lane-Byran Preston has a nice piece on North Korea and how their inclusion in the Axis of Evil was well justified. I don't comment much on David Heddle's stuff (since he nails most things and I'm not as good with the attaboys), but he has a nice post on justice and fairness. It reminds me of a line from Marcus in Babylon 5-Life isn't fair, and that's good, for if it were, we'd get exactly what we deserve. Which is eternal flames. I was too swamped last week to chime in on the Econ Nobel, but Brad DeLong seems to have the killer piece on it-thanks to Volokh for the heads-up. The quick-and-dirty on the Kahneman-Smith research on imperfect information is that markets don't work as well as they are drawn up in the Econ textbooks, but they still work. Expect a good piece on the topic on Tuesday, or late Monday if grading my Macroeconomics exam goes quicker than I think it will.

Peaceful Religions?-There's been a bit of blogfire as of late over the inherent violence of Islam. Muhammad took over most of Arabia by force, but you can say the same for Joshua and David. Comparing Jesus to Muhammad is a somewhat unfair comparison to Islam in that they look at him (small h) as merely a prophet, albeit the prophet to end all prophets. The operative question isn't as much how it was founded but what it asks of the believer today. The core Biblical teachings for the believer is one that leans towards peaceful coexistence with ones neighbors. There isn't a jihad ethic in Christianity; the blood-and-guts in the Old Testament was frequently done with a deliberately undersized Hebrew force in order to give God the glory rather than the warriors. Conversely, dying for the Islamic cause gives the worst sinner a free pass to Heaven in Islamic theology. One of the things you learn in economics is that you get more of what you reward and less of what you punish. If you reward turning the other cheek and loving ones enemies, you'll get a more peaceful religion. If you reward dying in battle for the cause, you'll get a more violent religion, producing willing warriors wanting to get their 72 virgins. There are plenty of Christians in the military, but they are there to serve and defend their country, not to get brownie points in Heaven. A civilized Islam will need to stress the "greater jihad" against sin and downplay subduing the infidel by force if it is to be housebroken and to peacefully coexist with us.

Memorial Day-It's already Monday Down Under, so I'm not quite sure what to add to Sunday's national memorial for the Bali bombing victims. The one service I saw on the TV news this evening was of Coogee, where six of the town's rugby players were killed in the blast. This is Australia's 9-11 in more ways than one; not only did the country have a loss proportionate to the WTC loss, but the reality of terror hit home in a real way, and in many ways even more intimately. Since the Bali blast killed people from around the country, it has an effect on Australia that 9-11 didn't have, since 9-11 was mostly an east-coast thing. Australia is possibly the most American of the rest of the world, even more so than Canada. While we may have more cultural commonalties with Canada, we share more of an informal can-do spirit with the Aussies. Some of the sports are different, but the spirit (a bit more laid-back and less money-centric) seems very familiar. Hang in there, mates; your past help in this war has been appreciated and will be appreciated even more in the future.

Just Say No-That is the theme over at Ruffini's joint on sales tax increases in Virginia and other issues. Generally speaking, ballot initiatives are lousy ways to make laws, for they have to distill a subject into a simple (dare I say simplistic) format that might not be good law. Initiatives are often a sign of a dysfunctional legislative process if too many of them are passed. The big one down here in Florida that Democrats are championing is a state constitutional amendment limiting school class sizes. When the New York Times-owned Lakeland Ledger comes out against it, you know it has overreached. The idea of limiting class sizes (18 at K-3, 22 in grades 4-8, 25 in grades 9-12) sounds appealing except when you realize that you're going to have to find extra teachers and extra classrooms to put all those kids into. For instance, most of Eileen's eighth-grade classes are just over 22 students; her school would have to put in some sort of temporary facility to house extra teachers. Florida is having a teacher shortage as is, allowing people with bachelors degrees without any education coursework to teach and go and get the coursework later; being constitutionally mandated to bringing an extra crop of marginally-qualified teachers on-board would make things worse. The sad thing is, such a proposal could pass with the right ad campaign from the yes folks. I'm not sure that having a 25-person classroom with a good teacher is better than having a 20 person classroom with a so-so teacher, especially when you're going to have to build extra schools and raise salary expense by 25% to do so.

Evening Musings-Busy Sunday without a lot of time to write. Just got done seeing Philly beating Tampa Bay, with Duce Staley providing the Blogistas with a 60-yard stat-stuffer run to get to 152 yards for the day to seal the deal. Might actually win one in the Blogger Bowl this week.. I'm not sure if this is good news or not, but Ireland's voters signed off on EU expantion yesterday, with the measure passing with 63%. It will be an interesting question whether the ex-communist countries will be more of a good influence on the EU than the EU will be a bad influence on them. Stay tuned. "Powell: N. Koreans 'Nullified' Deal. US conciders nuclear deal dead." Duh! Ya think? How about three Claudes, ladies and germs. It looks like Bowling Green is left as the Great Mid-Major Hope after Air Force lost to Notre Dame yesterday, 21-14. However, the Falcons from Ohio have no chance of getting a BCS bid, whereas the Falcons from Colorado Springs would have been BCS-bound had they run the table. The other big news from the Saturday games was Oregon's loss to ASU, depriving the Pac-10 of a shot at a Fiesta Bowl bid. With the exception of Ole Miss (better spelling but lousy result, Mr. Carver) getting beat like a stepchild by Alabama, all the other ranked teams played to form, although a blocked field goal late in regulation kept the Zook lynch mobs from forming in Gainesville.

Edifier du JourMatthew 6:9
9 "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
I need to break the Lord's Prayer into bite-size pieces for morning reflection, so bear with the slow pace. How often is God's name hallowed these days? I wound up making a quick forey into the dictionary
1 : to make holy or set apart for holy use 2 : to respect greatly : VENERATE
First of all, it often is not set apart for holy use-his last name isn't Damn. However, it isn't the three letters G-o-d that we are respecting, it is His whole essence and reputation that we are respecting. People do not greatly respect God, even in the church. People don't have to use God's name in a curse in order to dis him; just treating him flippantly will do so just as well. That goes for the people in the church pews as well. We can get a bit sloppy at times think of God in the Abba Daddy mode or think of Jesus as our buddy. God is our Daddy; we can come to Him and sit on his lap without fear, but that doesn't mean we stop respecting Him as Creator of the universe. We do have a friend in Jesus, and what a friend we have! However, he is nonetheless Lord and Savior and we get into trouble if we start thinking of Him as one of our homies.

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