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Saturday, November 09, 2002

Morning Musings-Successful day yesterday, as we finally got new bedroom furniture and an entertainment center in; now the apartment isn't furnished in Early American College Student. The keyboard and monitor are still on a card table for the moment, but we've got an order in with Santa to fix that. Santa (a.k.a. my parents) is coming to town, though. My parents, my sister, niece and nephew flew into Orlando yesterday and are due in to visit this morning. My brother-in-law is due in this afternoon. They had a Orlando trip to take niece Jessica to see Disney et. al. planned before I got my Warner Southern job. So, Eileen and I are looking forward to meeting little Tyler, who was born in September, for the first time. We had dinner last night over in Lakeland with the parents of two guys who have been in singles Bible studies with me in Midland, one in the late 80s and one in the last few years. Never met them before, but when they heard that we had moved down to Winter Haven, their mom called us and invited us over. We had a nice dinner, good conversation and a properly vicious game of Uno; seeing a couple of 70-somethings get juiced over a well-played Draw Four makes old age seem not as worrisome. Updated my Bio page just now-lousy formatting. Seen in squad car in Lakeland last week-"Bad Cop! No Donut." Got two wierd Google hits, one for "Atomic Wedgie"-(yes, I used that in my AgEcon Noir epic, The Big Cheese) and one for "Pricing Nikkei Put Warrants"-I don't have anything to offer on the site, but that was my dissertation topic. We're now seeing the change of seasons. The High 90 Low 70 pattern of the last five months has changed to a High 80-Low 60 norm; I even had to trot out a sweater to wear to work Thursday. The other change of season is some new fauna in Central Florida; not only has some geese shown up for winter, but the Snowbirds are starting to arrive. My commute down to work on US-27 has been complicated by grandpas and grannies with northern plates (so far- good drivers but a bit slow), and the restaurants are filling up with a lot more gray-hairs than normal. We made a foray into Publix on our way over to dinner in Lakeland at the strip mall that has our favorite Lakeland eatery, Plantation Cafe; the gray-hairs were backed up outside waiting to get in. That place might be like the old Yogi Berra line; it's so crowded, no one goes there any more.

Assume the Position-It ain't perfect, but they got a decent resolution on Iraq out of the UN Security Council; the Cliff’s Notes version of which is "let the inspectors look at whatever the want whenever they want to without restrictions or else." The key downside is that it's vague about what the "or else" is. It's vague enough to keep the French and Russians happy while giving the US and Britain the ability to go in if they fail to fully accept the inspection plan. However, there is a lot of diplomacy yet to be played; when (I assume Saddam won't assume the position) the Iraqis aren't compiling, then the US can point to the section that a cease-fire is based on Iraq complying with inspections. The Euroweenies will say "Hey, who says you get to attack now?" and Dubya and Tony will say "Effectively, you did in that resolution." Bush has to back it up with resolve, to show the world he means business.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 16:25-34
25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!" 29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.
Verses 30-31 sound so much like a archetypal street-preacher, yet that is the PDQ Gospel -Believe in the Jesus, and you will be saved. There was baptism later, but that is something believers do rather than a saving act. Note that believing in Jesus isn't just an acknowledgement of his existence but knowing that he died for us and rose again. Obedience and good works will follow, but they are a result of that salvation rather than a prereq of it. It ain't a long, seven-point thesis with footnotes and citations; it's just believing in God made flesh. Jesus didn't hire the top seminarians of his day to be his inner circle, he called a bunch of simple blue-collar guys to spread the word. Paul's an exception to that rule, for he was a Pharisee’s Pharisee, but this is a simple message (to borrow an old Clay Crosse tune) of a man dying on a cross and saving the world.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Phillips Curve, R.I.P.-In my Macro class, I’ve been going over the chapter on the Phillips curve (the basic idea that inflation goes up when unemployment goes down and visa versa) and wage theory and finding that what I learned when I first took Macro as a freshman back in 1979 (yes, it was that long ago) doesn’t hunt anymore. First, to the basic idea of the Phillips curve; it works just fine when inflation is due to an increased demand for goods (typical of the 40s-60s), or demand-pull inflation as it’s described in the textbooks-people want more goods (which drives up inflation) and more people are hired to make those goods (thus driving unemployment down). It doesn’t work as well when the inflation is due to increased factor costs (cost-push in the textbooks), such as the oil shocks of the 70s. OPEC threw the Phillips curve a wicked curve, for you got increased inflation and increased unemployment. The higher cost of doing business due to the higher oil prices will be passed on to the consumer, who will buy less of the products as a result. Fewer products being made translates to layoffs and higher unemployment. The 80s saw screwballs and knuckleballs added to the economy’s repertory, as technology and the Reagan tax cuts and investment incentives helped keep prices down while the stagflation of the 70s and early 80s subsided. We saw combinations of low inflation and low unemployment that had economists scratching their heads. Also, the addition of women to the workforce and the decreasing percentage of unionized workers helped mitigate wage inflation. The 90s continued the trend of a lack of relationship between inflation and unemployment. Two oil-price-related recessions didn’t help matters. Also, the technological adaptations of the 90s and the addition of more women, seniors and the disabled increased the workforce. Lileks has a nice Bleat today about “motorized” customer-service reps and mentally-challenged stock clerks at Target. He doesn’t even dwell upon the increasing number of seniors working in the service sector since we were kids. A lot of the thinking in the economics of the past revolved around the idea of “full employment,” that there was an unemployment rate (short of zero) that we couldn’t get past without having massive inflation. The problem with the full-employment concept is that there are a lot of people that aren’t in the workforce that can be brought into the workforce as wages increase. Stay at home moms might not stay at home if the jobs are out there. Would-be retirees might work a bit more if the pay’s right, and students might work on the side or quit school altogether if there are good paying jobs without getting the next degree. Immigration can be factored in to this mix, as bringing in tech workers has offset shortages in our high-tech sector; my next-door neighbor here in my office bay is a Computer Science professor from Armenia. Thus, the idea that we will max out the economy when we get to a given rate of unemployment isn’t as valid as it used to be. Also, automation has made switching to a more capital-intensive workplace possible; a tight labor market can lead to spending more money on machines to allow the most bang for the buck for each worker. We’ve also seen a change in how wages are set on a long-term basis. Until the 70s, unions were used to getting pay increase after pay increase. I remember the quote from early labor leader Samuel Gompers; when asked what Labor wanted, his response was “More.” That had been the bargaining orders for the first eight decades of the last century. The last quarter-century has seen the decrease in bargaining power of unions, as the value of technology has often seen the marginal value of capital far outpace the marginal value of labor. It’s been the increasing use of technology, including the lower cost of transportation making imports easier to bring in, that has diminished the value of factory labor, not some GOP plot to screw the little guy in order to help Big Business’s bottom line. One of the economic theories that gained popularity in the 70 was “adaptive expectations,” where workers myopically overreact to inflation, causing a wage-price spiral that helps create stagflation. It tended to be favored by the Keynesian crowd, but seemed to underestimate the economic intelligence of the shop rat. That might have been true of the 70s, but modern economics has changed; we’re getting closer to the shop-floor econometricians that the neoclassical “rational expectations” theory would come closer, where workers are willing to take pay cuts or increases that don’t quite match inflation if the alternative is to be laid off. So, a growing workforce, added technology, falling tax rates and more economically realistic workers have essential buried the Phillips curve.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 16:6-13(NASB)
6 They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10 When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11 So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.
I remember a playoff game of two decades ago, the Lions were playing San Francisco in the NFC semis; Detroit was down one with a few seconds left and set up for a winning field goal. Coach Monte Clark was seen praying on the sidelines prior to the field goal. Murray missed the field goal and Detroit lost. After the game, some reporter went up to Clark and pointed out that his prayer must not have been answered. Clark replied that the prayer had been answer-the answer was "No." God doesn't always answer prayers in a positive manner; he can also block us from things in order to have us available to do something else. I was prepared to get a permanent job at Hurley Medical Center a year ago; all that was needed was for HR to get off its keister and start the hiring process. After a rather pokey pace of searching for (largely non-existent) qualified alternative candidates, in March I decided to send off some resumes to colleges-the result was a great job here at Warner Southern, something that wouldn't have happened had the people on the 6th floor been a bit quicker. So, don't always take a door shut in your face or a rejection letter as a setback, it might also be getting you a step closer to where God really wants you to be.

The Art of the Protest Vote-Both Bobby Allison-Gallimore and Kevin Holtsberry have chimed in on the issue of ideology and politics; go thou and readest if you haven't already. [Update 9:00 11/9-Add Ben Domenech to that list; good stuff] There seems to be two schools of thought on protest votes, which I define as voting for a third-party candidate (or a third person in a clearly two-horse non-partisan or primary race-Alan Keyes in the 2000 primaries was a protest vote) that stands no chance of winning. One school would hold that you should vote your conscience regardless of whether your candidate stands a chance of winning; the other will vote for the best of the two major-party candidates that most closely reflects their views, wanting to have some say in who will hold that office. I’m generally in that more realistic second school of thought. One rant I heard on one of the radio ministry shows leading up to Election Day was railing on people who vote for candidates who have “unbiblical” positions on issues like abortion and homosexuality because they are better on economics; in context, it wasn’t chiding evangelical Democrats, but Republicans voting for more libertarian candidates. The question I would posit is to various people of the “right” be they evangelical and Catholic conservatives who hold their nose at moderates and libertarians or libertarians who hold their nose at the “religious right:” is it better to “send a message” or to have an say in who will have the seat? In most cases for both libertarians and religious conservatives, a flawed Republican candidate will advance more of what we want than the Democrat. The only way that a message vote will be effective is if the GOP nominates someone more to our liking next time, but even that is problematic, as the other factions might sit on their hands if “our guy” gets the nomination. Baggy-Slims points out that a pro-life Reform party candidate cost the GOP a house seat in Kansas; large-l Libertarians were the difference in many races, including the South Dakota Senate race. Do both camps prefer a Democrat in office? Not likely. To the religious conservatives who are tempted to vote for hard-right third party candidates in protest; are we better off venting or getting someone who will vote for Republican committee chairman and majority leaders and will vote on some of the issues, or do you want to vent and see a Democrat get the seat? The venters remind me of a Mad sticker from three decades ago-“Express how you feel in the voting booth”-with a yellow puddle coming out of a occupied and curtained voting booth. Voting for the “lesser of two evils” isn’t fun, but if we want to improve things, we should be better to vote for the RINO and do a better job of campaigning for our guys next time. To the libertarians: is permissive statism better than prudish dynamism? Some would say Yes; there are some libertarians who have a visceral hatred of fundamentalists. This piece “Our Secularist Democratic Party” looks at the demographic of secular voters who are characterized by such a mindset. Even though the Republican package creates greater liberty than the Democratic run, more secular libertarians may vote Democratic (or Libertarian) in order to vote against the Religious Right rather than vote for liberty. This is one are where the perfect is the enemy of the good. Sometimes we’re better off settling for 80% of what we want rather than go on a quixotic quest for the whole loaf. In a first-past-the-post system, you’re going to get coalition building that doesn’t make all the members of the coalition ecstatic.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Make Greenspan Breathe Easier-Kick Saddam's Butt-The Fed dropped interest rates 50 basis points (that's half a percent for all of you in Rio Linda), they are spooked that the economy's spinning its wheels. Usually, they do things in 25 point chunks, a 50 point move is an exclamation point. There are two key reasons why the economy's been sluggish the last year-the first is an increase in the price of oil and the second is a unease about the future caused by 9/11 and accentuated by the accounting scandals. Part of the oil price increase is due to the oil market figuring a rumble with Saddam was in the not-to-distant future; the price is bid up expecting a disruption of supplies from the Gulf. Getting the war over with will remove that cloud from the market. The second problem, market uneasiness, will be aided by a fairly clean win in Iraq. The rest of OPEC will see that the US means business and won't back down when faced with European multilateral wimpiness or vague threats about the Arab Street. Oil prices will come down, the post-9/11 queasiness will lessen, and our friend the aggregate supply curve will shoot outward, aided by lower oil price and lower cost of capital. With interest rates down to 1.25%, the Fed has pretty much shot the monetary policy wad, verging on a old-fashioned liquidity trap, where the markets are unresponsive to additions to the money supply. We're left with either fiscal policy or "non-governmental" means of moving the economy along. I don't think we can expect much more in the way of help on the tax front, the Republicans might be able to make the tax cuts permanent (they are officially phased out in 2010), but don't expect much other than maintaining what was passed in 2001. However, having a solid success in Iraq will shut up a lot of the Euroweenies and their allies around the world, will lower oil prices and give the world economy a boost of confidence. Right now, Tommy Franks can do more to boost our economy than Alan Greenspan can.

Mahatma Hussein? Not!-Saddam's getting nervous about a possible invasion and is pulling out the rhetorical stops. Making allusions to Hitler is typically over the top, but this Saddam whopper is a classic Big Lie that Goebbels would have been proud of
"Any just position by the world against the evil wishes of these countries will not be in the interest of Iraq alone but also in the interest of the countries of the world... If these two American and British administrations are able to achieve their wishes, the world would see a new law, which is the law of evil based on power and opportunity rather than law, love and justice."
A better fisker than I could have a field day with that last sentence, pointing out that the Baathist regime is the one based on power and opportunity and that the US and Britain are far closer to being lawful, loving and just than he is. I'm not quite in the mood to have at that steaming pile, so I'll nominate Chris Johnson to do that one justice.

Adios, Dick-Another piece of Washington news is that Dick Gephardt is stepping down as House minority leader. Gephardt is a bit of a class warrior, but he has shown streaks of common sense, geniality and occasional bipartisanship. He is more of the old New Deal (great oxymoron, huh?) laborite school of Democratic politics that isn't as socially liberal or anti-military as the McGovern babies. The plurality of the Democratic leadership of today cut its teeth on the protest movements of the 60s and early 70s; that anti-establishment New Left is now the Democratic establishment. Gephardt is a bit of a throwback to the pre-60s Democratic Party. He also knows that he's not going to become speaker any time soon, so he'll become a back-bencher/elder statesman and possibly look towards a presidential run. If he touches on enough truly populist points, he's got a shot of winning if Bush doesn't bring his A game for the next two years. He's championed tax simplification in the past, as he was one of the fathers of the 1986 tax cuts-he could run on that. If he can be somewhat pro-Second Amendment and run as a patriotic liberal who's not afraid to go after the bad guys of the world, he could cut into some of the blue-collar conservative vote that made the difference in a lot of states in 2000. However, Gephardt's passing the torch leaves two factions fighting, the DLC/Blue Dog crowd and the McGovern Babies. Nancy Pelosi is the champion of the left wing while Martin Frost seems to be the choice of the centrist wing. I think Pelosi would be a mistake for the Democrats, for her stridency might not go over well on TV and play into Republican stereotypes of liberal Democrats. Frost will be out of step with the majority of the Democrats in the House and might not be electable within the party. The best response at this point is "none of the above," but that might not be an option. At this point, the Democrats will likely be stuck with naming Pelosi and going for the idea of creating a difference with the Bush administration, running a left-populist rhetoric for the next two years. It will be a convenient straw man that the Republicans can use to scare swing voters with and pick up a half-dozen or more swing districts in 2004. The rhetoric in Washington will get a lot more shrill, as Republicans pass a bit more of their agenda and Democrats fight a rear-guard action protecting their statist fiefdoms.

Youthful Indiscretions?-This is an interesting point to ponder; how long in a candidate’s past do moral transgressions have to be in order to be out of play as an issue? There is a Gary Hart 2004 presidential boomlet (maybe only in the chattering classes) going down, and I wonder if how much the Monkey Business that came out in his abortive 1988 campaign would come into play today. To an extent, it would depend upon the political party and how long ago the transgression was. Democrats have an easier time getting through sex scandals, as their base is less concerned about adultery. I remember Don Riegle winning multiple elections in Michigan despite multiple divorces and affairs. Clinton managed to get elected president twice with an implied admission of infidelity. However, a Republican who had an affair as a mature adult would have a hard time getting elected. This is the problem Tim Hutchinson ran into, having divorced his wife and marrying one of his staffers. There might not have been any extra-marital hanky-panky involved, but there’s enough of a track record of politicians having affairs with staffer, divorcing, then marrying staffer to cast the assumption of infidelity on Hutchinson or other politicians in a similar circumstance. It’s hard to run on a “family values” platform and dump your wife; it makes the candidate look like a hypocrite. If you’re a liberal or a small-l libertarian, you can go through a divorce or an affair and be less damaged, since you’re not running as a guardian of the public virtue. However, even they will have to answer the old Perot question: “If your wife can’t trust you, why should I?” In the case of Henry Hyde, a forty-year-old affair that came to light during the Clinton impeachment hearings wasn’t flattering, but he had a quarter-century record of being on the right side of moral issues to mitigate his past failings. J.C. Watts might have had kids out of wedlock in his younger days, but his support for a moral public policy and present morality mitigate against past indiscretions. This also applies to drug and alcohol problems. Dubya’s DWI as a twenty-something was less damaging than Rostenkowski’s DWI as a veteran congressman. College-age pot use by any number of politicians was less damaging than the law-professor use by Douglas Ginsberg, which shot down his Supreme Court nomination. Is a fifteen-year-old affair long enough in the past to make Gary Hart electable? Assuming that he was a front-runner (and he ain’t), he might be nominatable, but it sure wouldn’t help him with swing voters.

The Generic God of the Boy Scouts-The issue of banning atheists from the Boy Scouts has been percolating in my mind for awhile ever since the original Volkoh article on the subject, and I think Kevin gets close, pointing out that this is a freedom-of-association case, but doesn't quite nail it. The Boy Scouts are generic theists that accommodate most, if not all, religions in America. Basic morality is part of the Boy Scout code; a duty to God to be reverent and "morally straight" is in the code. This allows people of all faiths to send kids to Scouts and know that they are getting a wholesome message. "Can't an atheist be a good Scout?" As in “be a good citizen”, yes. However, taking the generic God out of the picture allows for other forms of "inclusiveness" to poke its nose into the tent. If there is no transcendent moral standard from God, even a watered-down civil religion generic God, many of the underpinnings of the scouts go bye-bye. The ban on homosexuals would go out the window as simple bigotry rather than a constitutional-protected expression of religious belief. Other moral standards, such as sexual purity, anti-substance abuse and honesty, would likely be challenged and quickly become unenforceable. If the Scouts become a-theistic (God isn't an issue rather than God doesn't exist), then the old-school values that make Scouting popular with parents will disappear and more sectarian versions will pop up. Many evangelical churches have scout-like programs for kids with a more open evangelical message; a secularization of the Boy Scouts will increase this trend. The problem with having atheist scouts isn't that a tweenaged Stevie Den Beste would corrupt the other kids (Captain Clueless has had some interesting musings on ethics as of late) but that the resultant secularization that would be forced upon it by the courts due to its non-religious nature would help do it in.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 15:1-11(NASB)
1 Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. 3 Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. 4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses." 6 The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 "And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are."
This is a great verse backing up the concept of being saved by grace rather than by works. Since the very early Christians were mostly Jewish, they brought the Old Testament law with them. The Gentile believers, not having been exposed to this law, but only to the basic Gospel of Jesus' sacrificial death for all who would believe in Him, weren't following the circumcision, dietary and other rules that good Jews were supposed to follow. Paul points out, and the Jerusalem believers agreed, that the Mosaic law wasn't enforceable on the Gentiles. The chapter goes on to ask believers from refraining from meat sacrificed to idols or meat from strangled animals, but doesn't force all the uncleanness regulations upon the Gentiles. Remember, that's us; unless you grew up Jewish, you're a Gentile in this sense. That gives us a freedom of action that Jews don't have. That doesn't mean we're to get cocky about our freedoms or rub it in the nose of the legalists, but we do have freedom in Christ.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Battleground 2004-Senate-After all the punditry fun predicting the 2002 Senate, here's a jump start on 2004. There are 34 seats up, Democrats currently hold 19.
State 15 Republicans Chance of Going Republican
Alabama Richard Shelby 1
Alaska Frank Murkoswki to name his successor 0.8
Arizona John McCain 0.7
Colorado Ben Nighthorse Campbell 0.9
Idaho Mike Crapo 1
Illinois Peter FItzgerald1 0.35
Iowa Charles Grassley 0.9
Kansas Sam Brownback 1
Kentucky Jim Bunning 0.9
New Hampshire Judd Gregg 0.8
Ohio George Voinovich 1
Oklahoma Don Nickels 1
Pennsylvania Arlan Specter 1
Texas Kay Bailey Hutchenson 1
Utah Robert Bennett 0.9
State 19 Democrats Chance of Going Republican
Arkansas Blanche Lincoln 0.25
California Barbara Boxer 0.35
Connecticut Chris Dodd 0.1
Florida Bob Graham 0.15
Georgia Zell Miller 0
Hawaii Daniel Inouyye 0
Indiana Evan Bayh 0
Louisiana John Breaux 0
Maryland Barbara Mikulski 0.2
Nevada Harry Reid 0.3
New York Chuch Schumer 0.3
North Dakota Byron Dorgan 0.4
Oregon Ron Wyden 0.1
South Carolina Ernest Hollings 0.4
South Dakota Tom Daschle 0.5
Vermont Patrick Leahy 0.1
Washington Patty Murray 0.35
West Virginia Robert Byrd 0.05
Wisconsin Russ Feingold 0.15
Democratic Vital 5
(1) Illinois. Of the incumbents, I'd have to pick Fitzgerald as the lone underdog. A good campaign by a garden-variety Democrat could win back this seat. I don't know who would step to the plate, but new state AG Lisa Madigan might be a possibility. (2) Arizona. McCain's retirement will open up this seat. Arizona leans Republican, but a good Democrat could win this seat. The Republicans will have an interesting dilemma in picking a replacement. Jim Kolbe would be a slam-dunk winner if he could get the nomination, but are Republican primary voters ready for the first openly gay senator? If not, J.D. Hayworth or incoming Secretary of State Jan Brewer might be a good choice. The Democrats could counter with new AG Terry Goddard. (3) New Hampshire. Judd Gregg versus Jeanne Shaheen could be a death-cager. (4) Alaska. Frank Murkowski will get to pick his successor after getting elected governor yesterday. Outgoing governor Tony Knowles might be a possibility for the Democrats. (5) Colorado. They always save an extra share of bile for defectors, and the Democrats would love to dispatch Campbell. Ain't likely to happen, but the right candidate could pull an upset; I'd give them a slugger's chance.
Republican Vital 5
(1) South Dakota-Assuming Thune loses, a Thune-Daschle race would be a death-cager. Governor and congressman-elect Bill Janklow would be a likely replacement if Thune wins in a recount. (2) South Carolina-Fritz might have outstayed his welcome. I don't know who would be the replacement, but a good basic conservative, maybe LG Andre (the Gamecock Pundit) Bauer, could give one of the most Republican states two GOP senators. (3) North Dakota-A very competitive state for Republicans; Dorgan could be beaten by a solid Republican campaign (4) California-Republicans would love to start a Boxer rebellion. Finding the right person to send her packing would be the trick. Arnold's eyeing the Governor's mansion, so we'd have to look elsewhere, either to an electable moderate like Doug Ose or to some self-funded businessman who could pull off an upset. Paging Ron Unz. (5) New York-While they might have a better shot at sending the Mom in Tennis Shoes back to Washington State, they'd love to get rid of SchemerSchumer. Rudy's marital woes will be far enough behind him where he would win this one. I'd expect the Republicans to pick up two seats in 2004; my odds added up to 16.95 seats, a gain of just under 2. While no Democrat looks to be an underdog at this point, two or three of them should lose next year. 1 Thanks to Illinigirl for catching the braino-it's Fitzgerald, not Fitzpatrick.

Midday Musings-Looks like SD went to Johnson in a late surge-he has a 500 vote lead. Thune-Daschle 2004, anyone? Johnson could run on being a reasonable Democrat who got along with the President on many issues, but Daschle can't say that. That still leaves the Republicans with 51 seats, possible 52 if Louisiana goes their way, a Chaffee-proof majority. The October Suprise never materialized, but we could have a November Whuppin' in its place. The US has badgered the French on board a disarm-or-else resolution on Iraq; now comes the Russians. If Putin proceeds to play hardball on this, it could doom Russia into becoming a third-world country, for any goodwill that existed with the US would be shot. The BBC's riffing on the Yemeni Predator kill, compairing it to the terrorist targeting of the Israelis. It's still against US policy to assisinate people, but this tippy-toes that line.

Time to Digest It All-The Senate went just as I thought it would, with SD, MN and MO all going Republican in nail-biters, losing Arkansas and winning Georgia in the big surprise for everyone else (even I didn’t expect the margin), but Landrieu did a bit worse than I expected, so my Ben prediction of 53 seats is still in play. The Republicans picked up seats in the House (the AP has it at 227 for a +4) as well and seem to be heading to no worse than a 25-25 split on governors. The Democrats have some governor races to crow about, grabbing Republican seats along the Great Lakes in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Tennessee, Kansas and Oklahoma (darn, those Largent '08 stickers won't come in useful). However, the Republican trend in the south continued with wins in South Carolina, Georgia and maybe Alabama. The breakthroughs in Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Hawaii were helpful as well. South Dakota is a real squeaker-Thune has just under a 200 vote lead. That will give full employment for election lawyers; they can slide over from Minnesota, where Coleman’s margin is bigger than expected. So could the Oregon gubernatorial race, where the Republican is trailing by only 2600 votes with a quarter still to be counted.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 14:8-23(NASB)
8 At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother's womb, who had never walked. 9 This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, 10 said with a loud voice, "Stand upright on your feet." And he leaped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have become like men and have come down to us." 12 And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 15 and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. 16 "In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." 18 Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them. 19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." 23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
God isn't promising a free-ride in life, although he can and often will provide us with an abundant life. Paul tells the seekers in Lysta that God is a god of plenty and tells the Antioch believers that they have tribulations ahead. The two aren't as mutually exclusive as they seem. He will supply our needs, but we will also be persecuted to one degree or another for our faith.

Final Musings of Night-Thune has pulled ahead as the western votes come in. Talent's still clinging to a 1.5% lead with 10% of the precincts out. Steve Largent came up 6000 votes short in Oklahoma (do they have absentee votes to count?)

SD and California update-The Fox crew mentioned in the SD race that the Republican western part of the state hasn't come in yet, which should close the 3000 lead Johnson has. Talent still has a 3% lead, but Carnahan is closing in. With 25% in, the California vote is straight down the middle between Davis and Simon. Interesting.

Midnight Musings-Well, I might be a bit groggy tomorrow morning (Eileen bailed out at 10), but this is fun. Thanks to Real Clear Politics for giving direct links to the state election HQs. Coleman has a 2% lead over Mondale with 15% in. Tim Johnson's hanging on to a lead in South Dakota, but Talent's pulling away in Missouri. The Fox guys are talking about New Orleans Turducken for Thanksgiving, for Landrieu has only 45%, forcing a December 7th runoff.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Bam-Bliss-They've just declared Saxby Chambliss a winner-he's got a 10% lead-I told you so, and Romney has 52-43 win in Massachusetts.

House Good News-It looks like the GOP is picking up a seat in Ohio-Dayton's 3rd district is going to Republican Michael R. Turner 53-47 with 68% in. District 17, Trafficant's district, seems to stay Democratic with Ryan leading Benjamin 52-35. Republicans are leading all four races where there were dual incumbants. However, Democrats seem poised to pick up a pair of open seats in Georgia.They're declaring the Chocola win in Indiana.

Senate-Good Early Night-Elizabeth Dole's doing her acceptance speech and they've declaired Sununu the winner in New Hampshire. With Alexander the Plaid running up a 10% lead in Tennessee and Cornyn winning easy in Texas, that leaves Colorado and Arkansas as possible Democratic pickups, but there are a half-dozen ones still in play for the Republicans to steal away. Early returns aren't good for Thune in South Dakota and Pryor is leading in early returns in Arkansas. Good report in Lousiana; Mary Landrieu isn't close to 50%, getting 43% with 25% in, with three Republican candidates getting 52% between them. Suzanne Haik Terrell is getting the #2 spot, good for the GOP but bad for conservatives.

House Stuff-A Republican pickup seems likely in Indiana as Chris Chocola seems to be poised to pick up a Democratic second district seat. The Thurman-Brown-Waite has swung to Brown-Waite with a 56 vote margin with 93% in (whoo-baby).

Updates-Florida-We've got recount-bait in the Thurman-Brown-Waite race, Thurman's has got a 250 vote lead, a 47-47 tie, with 88% in. Kathleen Harris is cruising to a 55-45 win. Jeb's cruising 58-41. Up in Georgia-Chambliss is pulling a 50-48 lead-good summary here at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution site-with 10% in. Sununu's hanging onto a 50-47 lead in New Hampshire with 26% in. Elizabeth Dole's got a 10% lead and the AP has called it per Fox TV. Talent's holding to a 51-48 lead in Missouri, but Lautenburg seems to be cruising to a 10% win. Cornyn's cruising in Taxes.

Burrying a Pitt-The Bush Administration got rid of SEC chair Harvey Pitt today, burrying the story in the election news. I think Krugman is giving people in the room a high five about now.

Early Returns from Florida-Jeb's up 60-39 with 16% in; that's a lot to make up from Dade County. Virginia Brown-Waite has a 49-46 lead over Karen Thurman with 55% in.

Exit Poll Blues-It looks like the VNS consortium is scrapping exit polling-they couldn't seem to get it to work. Score one for the people who blast the media coverage of modern elections.

Israel or Tom Clancy?-This was like a piece out of a good geopolitical thriller-the CIA killed a key al Qaeda guy in Yemen with a missile fired from a Predator unarmed drone. This seems to be a good thing, but it reminds me of the Israeli tactic of firing on key terrorists with missiles when they get a clean shot. Half military maneuver, half assassination. I'm not sure if we quite have the stomach for such tactics in the long haul.

Time to Fact-Check A couple of errors cropped up in their election reporting. This Fox piece has made avowed socialist Bernie Sanders a conservative
Since Republicans outnumber Democrats by only 223 to 208 in the chamber, only six seats need to change hands for the Democrats to win control. There is one independent who votes with the GOP, plus three vacant seats formerly held by Democrats
Only if the vote is unanamous, ma'am. The second mistake came in the Washington Post's description of the Independence Party in Minnesota.
Barkley, 52, is one of Ventura's closest advisers and a co-founder of the state's third-party movement. He helped persuade Ventura to run for governor in 1998 and managed his campaign. He ran twice for the Senate as an independent and, while losing, drew enough votes to put Ventura's Independence Party -- which grew out of Ross Perot's Reform Party -- on the ballot.
The Independence Party pre-dated the Reform Party. They later hooked up with the Reform party, only to withdrawl after the Buchanan mess of 1999/2000.

Voting Day Report-There's been a high turnout at our precinct just outside Winter Haven; about 60% had already cast their ballots when Eileen and I just went up to vote. There were a lot of people voting but the lines were short-there was one person in the A-B line ahead of us. They use optical scanner (those fill-in-the-bubble #2 pencil things we all know and love (not!) from our school days) ballots. Other than the long ballot (two double-sided pages), things went smoothly.

Morning Musings-Here were my predictions as mailed to Ben D.-
Senate-Republican 53-Dem 46-Jeffords 1 House-GOP 229-Dem 205-Bernie Sanders 1 Governors GOP 26-Dem 24
I think the Senate pick might be one too optimistic, as the Republicans would have to get a net +4 to get there. That would mean that the Flyover Three (South Dakota, Minnesota and Missouri) all go Republican and that they go +1 elsewhere. I'm really smelling a +3, as I smell an upset in Georgia with Arkansas falling to the Democrats. They're going to the polls Feb. 4th in Israel, as the Likud-led coalition didn't hold up. Now the interesting fight will be that Bibi-Sharon Likud primary. The post-election Knesset should be a notch more hawkish than the current one. I'm gearing up to vote in a Florida general election for the first time. We're got more propositions than a [don't go there] on the ballot; with ten statewide proposals and eight county-wide ones. I think I'm voting for Amendments 1 (to clarify state death penalty law) Amendment 6 (to ban smoking in most public places-go ahead, cry "nanny state", I don't like smoke in my face) and Amendment 7 (to give property-tax relief for people who build "granny rooms" for their elderly parents or grandparents) and voting no on the rest. There are quite a few nasty ones to vote down. Amendment 9 is the class-size amendment that would mandate class sizes state-wide, while Amendment 8 would mandate the availability of "high-quality" pre-K classes for 4-year-olds. I don't like supermajorities, so #4 on two/thirds majorities to pass open-records exceptions goes, and I don't like micromanagement, so #10's bigger cages for pregnant pigs (a real high priority, dontya think?) goes down as well. The state GOP is plugging for Amendment 2, which would require a economic impact statement be done for future proposed amendments. It might make future debates on Amendment 9 a bit less toxic, as you can make low or high estimates of what it will cost. However, it's unclear who would be doing the impact statements; backers of the bill can always find a cock-eyed economist to give them the figures they want to here. I'm going on the "if you're not sure, vote no" rule on this one. The one I'm still not sure on how to vote is on the retention elections for judges. If I say "Lawton Chiles appointed them all; they all must be liberal slime," I start to sound like the inverse of Democrats of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I haven't had the time to look into the records of the individual judges, and I haven't see any ads blasting these guys. I've seen some commentary against Supreme Court Justice Lee Anstead, who was one of the guys who voted for a statewide recount. I'm inclined to give Jeb a chance to appoint someone else. On the partisan races-expect Jeb to coast to a 8-10 point win, something of a 54-45 margin. As I said yesterday, I smell blood up north-Karen Thurman may go down.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 13:44-49(NASB)
44 The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. 46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 "For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'" 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.
The metaphor that struck me this morning as I read this is to the North and South of the world and how the once-Christian areas of Europe are almost a Christian-free zone and the US struggles to maintain a semblance of Christian roots. I feel we're in the position of the Jews in this piece, being given the Gospel first but repudiating it. God will have people expanding His kingdom; if it isn't Europeans and Euro-Americans, he'll use Cameroonians and Argentineans. I'm reminded of Luke 19:39-41
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." 40 But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"
Our countries might be rejecting the Gospel, but let's see to it (to borrow from the Ron Kenoly song) that we don't let no rock outpraise us.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Attaturk Spinning in His Grave-This could be interesting-a pro-Islamic party has gotten a pure majority of the seats in the Turkish elections. The government has played a song-and-dance routine of banning the main Islamic party if they got too anti-secular; now they make up a majority of the new Parliament. The "Justice and Development Party" got 34% of the vote, and only one other party broke the 10% barrier. Could we see the prospect of a military coup (long the guardian of the secular order) if the new Parliament starts to lean against the secular state. This isn't a Taliban West, but it could get nasty if the military steps in. Remember this is a NATO member, and a possible coup on NATO's eastern flank (and just north of Iraq, lest we forget) has a lot more geopolitical ramifications than one would think. It's entirely possible for the generals to pull a Musharraf and "rescue the people from a dysfunctional democracy" and have the world sit by and do little-to-nothing. However, it's entirely possible for Turkey to slide into the first functional Islamic democracy if the generals let the political process run its course. Two nightmare scenarios-one would be an ongoing civil war between Islamics and the military looking a bit like Algeria and the other would be a Iranian-style "democratic theocracy". I don't see the second nightmare happening-Turkey seems a bit too secular to have that happen, but I could easily see the first nightmare if the military takes over and cracks down on Islam in all forms. Keep an eye on this one.

Political Musings-Don't get Jesse mad-he just gets even. Ventura just named fellow blue-collar libertarian and former Reform party (now Jesse's Independence Party) Senate nominee Dean Barkley to fill the rest of Wellstone's term. That might give the Republicans an extra vote for organizing the Senate. A Jim Talent win might make the lame-duck margin Chaffee-proof. Thing are looking good elsewhere. The Wellstone funeralpep-rally back-lash has put Coleman back in the lead (it's from that Republican outfit called Minnesota Public Radio, so consider the source), and Ruffini does the first recorded fisking of a poll, going after Zogby's internal data in the Missouri race. If those numbers hold up and Sununu can hold on in New Hampshire, we might see a Republican Senate in 2003 as well. Look out for an upset in my backyard. Karen Thurman's Orlando-area seat's in danger, and the Republicans are running some effective ads, pointing out some anti-senior votes she had (Republicans can play "scare granny," too) while using a rather unflattering picture of her in the process. Look for Ginnie Waite-Brown to knock her off tomorrow.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 12:18-25(NASB) [Note-this is just after an angel busted Peter out of prison]
18 Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter. 19 When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there. 20 Now he was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and with one accord they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king's chamberlain, they were asking for peace, because their country was fed by the king's country. 21 On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. 22 The people kept crying out, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" 23 And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24 But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied. 25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.
Remember to give God his props. We tend to be foul-weather friends with God; on our knees when things are going bad and neglecting Him when time are good. Let's be Herod opposite and praise God and give Him the credit He's due. Going against God's kingdom isn't a cool career move, but some things anger God more than others. Saul's zealousness in persecuting the early Christians could be more easily forgiven in that he was trying to squash what looked like a heretical movement, doing what he felt God would want him to do. However, Herod (this is the grandson of the baby-killer of the nativity stories) wasn't seeking after God, but looking after his own political well-being. He went after the Christians when he saw it helping him get more of the Jewish vote (listening to a pre-incarnate Dick Morris?), not because he felt it was what God wanted. Allowing his rhetoric to be praised as God like was the last straw for God. God doesn't always "getya for that” right away, but Herod got some "instant karma" (almost instant-Josephus says he took six days to die) in this story.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Edifier du Jour-Genesis 25:23-34(NASB)
23 The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger." 24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them. 27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished." Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright." 32 Esau said, "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?" 33 And Jacob said, "First swear to me"; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Eileen and I were at a pair of praise music/revival sessions over in Lakeland lead by Rita Springer (busy sked last two days-no time for normal posting) on Friday and Saturday night. During a mini-sermon last night, Ms. Springer used this passage of Genesis to compair a lot of us modern-day believers to Esau; we're often all to eager to sell out what God has for us for that bowl of stew. It takes patience to hold out for the birthrights that God has given us as His children. He has something better for us that the things the world can offer. Hang in there and keep reaching for the greater gift.

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