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Saturday, November 16, 2002

Morning Musings-One of my fellow bloggers (alas, can't remember, and it's not showing up in Google yet save a Free Republic reference) made reference to Bella Pelosi; the writer was likely shooting for a horror-film motif, but had the overtones of Bella Abzug, an outspoken congresswoman in the 70s. She was as liberal as Pelosi and nowhere near as good-looking (in a grandma sort of way); think Barbara Mikulski with a tacky taste in hats. People underestimated the Pistons last year all the way to a Central Division title, and it looks like they're doing it again. 7-2 after last night, doing it butt-ugly with defense. Rip Hamilton's filling the Stackhouse stat sheet slot sufficiently.
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers Shooting% Free Throw%
Hamilton 2002 21.7 3.6 2.9 0.89 2.6 0.469 0.855
Stack 2001-02 21.4 4.1 5.3 1.01 3.5 0.397 0.858
The assists are a bit off, as is the turnovers, but it looks like the Pistons have found Stack Jr. What's in your wallet? The grubby little hands of a bunch of state governments, that's who. 31 states have gotten together to try and get a national sales tax regime for Internet sales. Does the words "No taxation without representation" mean anything?

Tempus Doth Fugit-Bloggedy Blog noted that the Class of 2003 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame includes the Clash, the Police and Elvis Costello. I'm largely out of the contemporary music loop these days, with my six FM buttons on my car radio going to four Christian channels, the local NPR outlet and a "smooth jazz" (more like half instrumental jazz, half clean adult contemporary) channel. On occasion, as I did tonight, I'll channel-surf a little. Tonight, it hit the Clash's Rock the Casbah as I was pulling into the parking lot and I had to avoid the urge to sit in the car and listed to the conclusion of the song. I didn't know of the HoF nomination, and found it hard to believe that it's been 20 years already. It doesn't sound dated. The Police's induction brings an odd melancholy to me; they were my first girlfriend’s (and only significant romantic interest prior to meeting Eileen) favorite band. I didn't appreciate them that much, for they were a bit melancholy for my tastes then, and still are. I can remember her getting a bit obsessive over Every Breath You Take and going to Joe Louis with her to see them in concert in the summer of 1983, her dancing alone (I'm a klutz on the dancing front) in the back aisle to Everything She Does is Magic. I was enjoying her enjoying the concert more than I was enjoying the concert, which might have been a signal; that melancholy that she appreciated more than I showed through in her emotional life; we broke up as a romantic item shortly after school started that fall. I'm not sure if it is a great comparison, but I'm comparing Sting to Rich Mullins in my mind. Mullins' had a similar moodiness, yet was comforted by God; the loneliness of Sting's music is there, but it offset by a hands-on, comforting God. Sting might have reflected the mildly depressed me prior to conversion, while Mullins spoke to the mildly depressed me being comforted by the Holy Spirit. That's one of the advantages of Christian music; while secular musicians can speak to the heart (Kenny Loggins was another artist that hits home to me) they don't typically speak to the spirit. [Update 8:20AM-If I recall correctly, Amy Grant released her first album in 1978, making her Rock Hall eligible next year. As a pioneer of modern Christian Contemporary music, she might be a viable candidate for induction. If some obscure but influential punk bands get nods, why not her? Yes, I know why not, the average rock aficionado isn't paying attention to the Christian stations, even if more people listen to her over the years than Elvis Costello or the Clash.]

Edifier du Jour-Acts 23:6-10(NASB)
6 But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!" 7 As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, "We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?" 10 And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.
I'm going to have to trot out one of my top five theological puns-the Sadducees don't believe in an afterlife; that's why they're sad, you see. We have a lot of Sadducees in the modern world who deny anything supernatural, and I'm not just talking about your Carl Sagin types. Many believers have a tin ear when it regards spiritual warfare and don't really have a good concept of Heaven. Without an active God who has built a place for us, day-to-day life becomes removed from God and the fear of death becomes more real; that's why theological liberals are sad, you see. That's why showing people a hands-on God starts to break down worldly stereotypes and get them to think in an extra dimension. If you're not looking in a spiritual dimension, you're not likely to find it.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Hardball to be followed by Hardbody-John Ellis doesn't like this move-MSNBC is looking to hire Jesse Ventura to host an evening talk show once he leaves his current gig as governor. Why not? An outspoken centrist could give both parties fits, if he plays down the flamboyance and becomes MSNBC's answer to Bill O'Reilly. He could fall flat on his kiester, but if Jesse does his homework, he could put together a good show. Let him borrow the Hardball behind-the-camera team and let them go to town in getting good guests. I'd be tempted to watch if he delivers the goods. If it turns into Smackdown Politics, than MSNBC will be fully and totally in the toilet

Afternoon Musings-.Another big piece of excrement has hit the fan in Israel; someone shot up a Friday night Sabbath service in Hebron, killing 11. Islamic Jihad's saying "Yassir, that's our handiwork." I don't remember a orthodox worship service being shot up before, this might prompt more than the now-standard IDF road trips into West Bank hot spots. Many portions of the Blogosphere have been roasting Spotted Al slowly over a mesquite flame for his advocating a single-payer national insurance plan a la Canada. However, the best version of Gore flambe comes courtesy of David Frum; the refugee from the Great White North shows from experience why we don't want it down here. By the way, give Frum's diary/blog a bookmark Argentina just defaulted on its foreign debts, paying the interest but not the principal on loans due yesterday. They have an energy mess that makes Gray Davis look like a financial mastermind and an economy that is diving so fast it's getting the bends. More on that tomorrow. We've got some sort of al Qaeda "big fish" in custody. We'll see how big a fish story this is later.

Edifier du Jour-("Blogger Ate My Homework This Morning-Honest!" Edition)-Revelation 19:1-6(NASB)
1 After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; 2 BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS ON HER." 3 And a second time they said, "Hallelujah! HER SMOKE RISES UP FOREVER AND EVER." 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!" 5 And a voice came from the throne, saying, "Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great." 6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
I saw this factoid in the church bulletin last week-while anyone who's hung around a church knows that Hallelujah translates as "praise God," I didn't know that the first part of the word, hallal, was better translated to boast, celebrate, to be clamorously foolish. This is the one passage in the New Testament where Hallelujah comes out and it does so in spades, as the denizens of Heaven are whooping it up after God scored a torchdown of the Whore of Babylon. God's goodness, glory and especially his salvation are worth being crazy foolish with joy over. David expressed some of this hallal in 2 Samuel 6 when he danced before the Lord at the return of the Ark.
12 Now it was told King David, saying, "The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God." David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. 13 And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. 16 Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. 17 So they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. 18 When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. 19 Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house. 20 But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, "How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants' maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!" 21 So David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 "I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished." 23 Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
He was willing to be crazy for the Lord, but effectively lost his wife in the process. We have a lot of Michals in our lives, people who tell us that we shouldn't be that joyful and that we should contain our enthusiasm for God. Tell them to get lost. Jesus did just that here in Luke 7 when a women went hallal with some perfume.
37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." 40 And Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he replied, "Say it, Teacher." 41 "A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 "When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have judged correctly." 44 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 "You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 "You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48 Then He said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven."
We also have our Pharisees who want to limit how we worship God. Jesus was having none of it, praising her lavish devotion. I don't have enough hallal in my life. How about you?

Hawks and Eagles Living Together-Interesting sequence brewing over at Sullivan's digs around his new nomenclature for libertarian-leaning folks. He's offering the moniker "Eagle" (That will be fun, considering that Phyllis Schlafly has her Eagle Forum digs) to describe the pro-free-market, pro-military but morally permissive brand of ideology he'd like to see grow. Libertarian doesn't quite work, for it has a bit too much of a fringe persona to it, especially since many capital-L Libertarians look at the military with distrust and want a minimalist military to go along with a minimalist everything else, retreating to a "defend the borders and the rest of the world can fend for itself" isolationism that is unappealing in a post 9/11 world.
I'm tired of this hawk-dove paradigm. And we all know how tired left and right are as useful labels. (Yes, I know I use them, but sometimes, you gotta.) More revealing, perhaps, is the fiscal-conservative-social-liberal category, in which I think I'd probably be counted. (The roster of categories is therefore: social and fiscal libs; social and fiscal conservatives; socially liberal but fiscally conservative independents; and socially conservative and fiscally liberal independents.) But the war changes the matrix again, I think. There's a new group of people out there who are socially liberal but also foreign policy realists, especially among those who have been awakened to political engagement by September 11. Some of these used to be Scoop Jackson Democrats, but today's breed doesn't buy into the big government liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s either. Some are neocons who don't love the social right. Others are just Generation X and Y, who simply accept the social diversity of modern culture and want to see it defended against theocratic barbarians. These people are not comfortable with the Republicans' flirtation with the religious right, or their prosecution of the drug war or mixing of church and state; and they're not impressed by the Democrats' lack of seriousness in foreign policy or enmeshment with public sector interest groups. They're politically homeless, these people - but were probably key swing voters in the last election. Instead of hawks and doves, call these people "eagles." I think they'll play a key part in shaping the politics and culture of the next few years. Are you one?
No, I'm not, but Sully thinks Brink Lindsey is, pointing out this piece as a possible Eagle Manifesto.
But here's my problem, and the problem of the intolerant cookie-cutter-brains who want to read me out of libertarianism: If I'm not a libertarian, what am I? Am I a conservative? Let’s see -- I support the legalization of drugs and prostitution, abortion on demand in the first trimester, and the use of early-stage embryos in scientific research. I think that a flag-burning amendment and the restoration of prayer to public schools are dumb ideas. I don't subscribe to any organized religion. And I'd argue that much of the social and cultural ferment of the 1960s was positive. You think the conservatives will have me? Am I a liberal? Actually, that's how I think of myself. But calling myself a liberal in early 21st century America doesn't make much sense. I support a flat tax, full Social Security privatization, and school vouchers. I can call myself a free-market liberal, and I sometimes do, but that still doesn't clear up the confusion. After all, I’m for capital punishment, and I oppose racial preferences. I favor restrictions on abortion after the first trimester, and an outright ban on late-term procedures. And I find bobo prejudice against red-state America to be insufferable. Who will understand what I mean when I call myself a liberal? There's the rub: There are three labels that are strain to cover the whole range of American political opinion. Three boxes do not exactly make for a rich and nuanced taxonomy. It's inevitable that sizable groups of people will find it difficult to label themselves satisfactorily.
This isn't a standard-issue conservative. Let's take a look at the third paragraph of the excerpt. All the policy stands are supported by a majority of Republicans (maybe only a plurality on the flat tax, but most would want to move to a flatter tax) and are opposed by a majority of Democrats (although capital punishment would be close). Let's then take a look at the second paragraph where he lays out his liberal creds to see whether he’s that bad of a fit in the conservative camp. Legalization of Drugs It has a bigger constituency in the Democratic Party, but drug legalization is a minority position in each party. The Democrats are more agreeable to dealing with drug abuse as a medical rather than a legal problem, going easier on users and saving the wrath for the dealers. However, there are a lot of non-libertarian conservatives that have soured on the drug war; William Buckley has raised some eyebrows by being in favor of raising the white flag. If you present the argument from a more utilitarian, “the Drug War’s doing more harm than good, we’re better off regulating it than criminalizing it” approach and not as a druggie wanting to make his mind-alterer of choice legal, you’ll get a fairer hearing than you’d think within the conservative ranks. Legalization of Prostitution That’s a minority position in both parties as well, and is likely to stay that way for a while. First Trimester Abortion He’s pro-restrictions rather than hard-core pro-abortion-rights or anti-abortion. Could I make the case that he’s better off without Roe vs Wade? Without it, we can regulate second-trimester abortions and ban most late-term ones, replacing the current hands-off rule imposed by the Supreme Court. Give us three conservative Supreme Court nominees (one to replace Rehnquist and two to replace a pair of pro-Roe judges to get us to 5 votes) and we’ll have a shot of overturning Roe. If Roe is overturned, it doesn’t outlaw abortion entirely, but would allow states to regulate it. Most states would be about where Lindsey wants things; some states would ban it outright while others would keep the current Roe status-quo. Embryonic Research That's a legit rap for it's bumping into the religious conservative ethic that embryos are people worthy of protection. That’s one you’re going to have to grumble over with your more religious brethren. Banning flag-burning is a dumb idea I agree. Most of the flag-burners are making a political statement, which is “[Expletive deleted] the establishment!” I don’t have any concrete data to back it up, but I think that passing a constitutional amendment to make it possible to make flag burning illegal would only encourage it, for most protestors who would be in the mood for some flag-burning would love the street theater of being dragged off by the Gestapo for expressing their contempt for the system. A majority of Republicans would disagree, but if you point out that making it illegal will cause more dissing of the flag rather than less, you’d get a better hearing that you’d think. Prayer in public schools is a dumb idea Organized prayer is problematic, for any prayer that would be acceptable to a majority of people would be so watered down as to be useless. Individual prayer in school is a free-speech issue which most Eagles would back-up, but plugging for some sort of universally recited prayer is a fool’s errand. Unreligious There are plenty of non-Bible thumpers in the GOP. Newt wasn’t a choir-boy, and there are plenty of other people more likely to be watching the political shows on Sunday morning than to be in church. The 60s were good on balance Depends on what you are looking at. We’re a more egalitarian country then we were when I was a rug rat, with more avenues for advancement and fulfillment for women, racial and ethnic minorities and the disabled. We’re a more casual country. We have better respect for people’s personal rights. Such things have allowed our country to grow faster than if women were stuck at home or in a limited number of acceptable fields and if minorities were still blocked as a matter of course (yes, we still have some rednecks, but it’s illegal and social unacceptable to do so openly) from positions of importance and from a good education. However, the decay of respect for traditional moral values that blossomed in the 60s gave us a culture where sexual immorality, drug abuse, disrespect for the rule of law and lack of honesty became more accepted. When most conservatives blast the 60s, they aren’t looking to go back to Jim Crow or force families into the “Hi Honey, I’m Home” 50s sitcom mold. These Eagles have more in common with conservatives than they think. They don’t have much in common with the stereotype of the conservative bigot who wants his wife barefoot and pregnant and doesn’t think blacks and Hispanics are his equal and wants to convert the public elementary school into a week-long Sunday School class. When most conservatives long for the 50s rather than the 60s, they long for an era where morality was a bit stronger and people respected authority more. There is a cultural difference between people who grew up in the post-60s egalitarian era than those who grew up in the more bigoted and more sexist eras that came before. Older people will have more trouble accepting women and minorities in positions of authority. Even if these old-school oldsters say the politically appropriate things, their unease in this new egalitarian paradigm shows. As those oldsters retire from the political scene, a newer generation that’s used to having women and minorities around and occasionally in charge will replace them, helping to take away the stereotype of redneck conservative like Jesse Helms. If we get past the stereotypes, conservatives and Eagle libertarians can get along nicely. There will be frictions, but the slightly prudish dynamism of conservatives is a better fit for the Eagles than the permissive statism of the modern liberal. Right now, an Eagle party might get 20-25% support in a three-way race with a standard conservative and a standard liberal, if we assume we would have a run-off and people were free to vote their true preference. Barring a serious secularization trend or a total repudiation of big government by the left, the Eagles need to choose camps in order to get things done, and they are a better fit in the conservative camp.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Nancy Drew More Votes Than Harold-Pelosi thumped Harold Ford, 177-29, to get the minority leader's job. I don't remember who in blogdom made this comment (I'll post the link here if I find it) that it is noteworthly that we've been talking about her liberalism rather than her gender in the race; the fact that she's the first woman to head up a party's delgation in either chamber is but a footnote(except to the BBC). The fact that Harold Ford was running as the moderate's champion, not as the minority's champion, is noteworthy as well. This is a good day for egalitarianism.

The Politics of Spending-Tony Woodlief has a good pair of essays on libertarians. Here’s an early, thought-provoking paragraph in the second essay.
Most libertarians believe in some version of public choice theory, which suggests that government grows because state officials: 1) want more money, power, and prestige; and, 2) spread the costs and concentrate the benefits of government (except when targeting unpopular minorities). The latter insures that citizens will not oppose government, either because they are direct beneficiaries, or because the costs of organizing people to eliminate a particular program far exceed its cost to the individual. In short, libertarians largely accept the economic model of man as a rational maximizer of personal utility.
That last sentence is the key to the issue; voters will cast their ballots for the candidate that will provide governmental package that they like the most. Note that this may not be the package that will best line their wallet, but the package that gives them the most pleasure. If people are altruistic, they will want a government that gives the most overall pleasure; if they are selfish, they will vote for people who bring home the bacon for them in particular. The average voter is a combination, voting for both themselves and others in varying proportions and with varying priorities. Let’s look at three categories of government spending #1- True public goods-things that “everyone” benefits from and that are awkward to finance via the private sector. Examples: Military, police, public health, pollution controls, pure scientific research, most roads (bring it on, Mr. Haney). These often boil down to “how much” rather than “whether.” #2 – Subsidized private goods – Things that could be financed by the private sector but are paid for, in full or in part, by the public sector. Examples: Parks, NPR, Amtrak, expressways. #3 – Spending on favored categories of people. Examples: Social Security, Medicare, welfare, education, parents. A libertarian would be in favor of spending only in category one, and then only at a low level. Most conservatives nuke the items in category two, but the real big-ticket items are in category three. Let’s look at five questions that will help point out the issues involved with category three spending. #1 How much of a tax break should parents get? #2 How much should the government help the elderly with their medical care? #3 How much help should the government give college students? #4 How much should the government spend on K-12 education? #5 How much help should the government give to the poor? It’s unlikely that you answered “Zero” to all five questions. If you did, you are a serious economic libertarian. The rest of us stand charged with social engineering, using the government’s economic policies to reward certain classes or people or certain behaviors. We think that the country will be a better place if certain things get tax money, that the benefits of the spending outweigh the costs of the taxes. Yes, we’re guilty of social engineering; something more than a minimalist government might create a greater commonweal. For instance, parents get preferential treatment in the tax code, for they get an exemption for each kid they have. The population hawk (or militant childless person) might ask, “Why should we give you a tax break for breeding?” Because we, as a public, value children and want to get parents a lesser tax burden. We will debate how much to subsidize each kid and which parents to aid, but the basic concept of giving a lower tax burden to parents has been decided in the affirmative. We value our elders, giving them subsidized medical care and a bare-bones retirement income. We have an ongoing fight as to how to finance the retirement system and how generous the subsidy on the medical care should be and for what items, but we’re in general agreement on protecting and valuing our elders. We value education, giving our children a free K-12 education at government-run schools in order to (in theory, we’re working on the practice) turn them into productive citizens; to do otherwise would be to ask for a generation of undereducated adults that would be a great burden to society. We value a college education, but only give partial subsidies to everyone. We’re having a debate over whether to extend the financial help that currently goes to “public” schools only and give it to private schools as well. The debate is complicated by public school teacher’s unions not wanting the competition and by more secular individuals not wanting to lose kids to religious schools. However, the underlying idea of having government help pay children’s education bills has been agreed to by our society. We largely believe in helping the poor and that some government assistant in that area is called for. We have a large disparity of opinion as to how much help to give, what form should it be in, who should give it and how many strings should be attached to that help. However, we do have a broad consensus that such help should continue in some form. The hard-core economic libertarian will complain that we conservatives are not much different from the liberals; we both believe that redistributing wealth can be beneficial. However, conservatives and liberals will disagree on the efficacy of government and the damage of taxes. The conservative argument focuses not just on the benefits of these programs but the costs to the commonweal of the taxes needed to fund them. Those cost are from both the lost utility of the taxpayer and the economy-slowing effects of tax increases. People will tend to work and invest less when faced with higher taxes, thus slowing the economy and impoverishing everyone else a bit. People understand the problems of high taxes and regulations on an intellectual level but it sometimes doesn’t sink in deep enough to counteract the awwwww-inspiring rhetoric of the left. “What about the children? They are our future.”” Should we not have compassion on the least of these? “ “What ever happen to respecting our elders?” That’s why Democrats poll better the further away from an election they are; the more people think about economics, the better the free-market argument looks and the less bleeding-heart they are. Many small programs can get passed due to their small nature; if couched in the language of pennies a day per taxpayer, it sounds benign, but if you get dozens of these programs sneaking through, it becomes dollars a day in a hurry. To rephrase the old Dirksen line, a penny a day here and a penny a day there and pretty soon, you’re talking real money. Thus, we need to take a hard look at each program and ask hard questions as to how much help is actually being provided and whether that is worth the tax money needed to pay for it. Given the problem that most programs have with red tape and inefficiency, the burden of proof should be on the backers of the program, rather than have them plead “this is a rich country; we can afford to fund [insert pet project here].” The nature of personal utility makes creating a nice, neat formula next to impossible. However, taking a hard look at the real benefits of a program, being realistic about government’s ability to do things effectively and efficiently and knowing the downside of the taxes needed to fund the program will create quite a few more conservatives.

Liberalizing Islam?-Good Luck, You'll Need It-Josh Claybourn was writing on the exact thing the guest of a local news-talker was talking about; the concept that there are enough violent make-war-with-the-infidel passages in the Koran to make a uniformly peaceful Islam unlikely. There will always be people who want to take their faith at face value rather than conform it to the mores of the day and a literal reading of the Koran will produce a few bin Ladens from time to time, willing to more into jihad mode. It will thus be hard to totally eradicate the jihadist wing of Islam as long as there are people who revere the Koran as God's word. It might lessen or go underground, but it will be hard to wipe out in entirely. As much as our Constitution is set up to protect religious liberties, Muslims will be "picked on" for decades and centuries to come to make sure that they aren't ready to act out those satanic verses1. Other religions will get less scrutiny, for their scriptures contain less actionable violent imagery. Some people will overstate the case, as I've covered before. Mohammad was a warrior but not a terrorist in a tight definition of the word. Robertson’s declaring Islam worse to Jews than the Nazis is factually challenged. If you look at Jewish treatment in Islamic lands over the centuries, you've seen a lot more tolerance of Jews that we saw in the Third Reich and nothing close to a mapped-out Final Solution complete with death camps. It wasn't all that friendly with frequent persecutions, but there were also eras that Jewish treatment was almost on a par with the modern-day US. Especially today, there is a hatred of Jews by many Arabs, but it still is not quite to the level of Hitler and his henchmen. That's not to say that Ariel Sharon's going to be invited over to the next big post-Ramadan feast, but the Third Reich still is the leader in the clubhouse in distilling down Jewish hatred into its most concentrated form. 1Sorry, straight lines don't get out alive.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 21:10-14(NASB)
10 As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" 12 When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." 14 And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, "The will of the Lord be done!"
This is one of those verses that I as a fat and happy American find troubling; I'm not sure I would have Paul's conviction if faced with such danger. Would I be ready to jailed, be ready to die, for Jesus. The theologically correct answer is "yes, I would", but I'm not sure my gut would honestly give the same answer. However, we do have an honest fear of death and pain that God has build into us. It's the job of the Holy Spirit to get us past those fears when called upon. I'm reminded of Dr Shmidt's testimony in department chapel last week; he was a paratrooper with a fear of heights (great combination) before getting into academe and was telling of the first time he had to be the first person to parachute out of the plane, where the lead man has to hang at the edge of the door, with his toes hanging out into the air, waiting for the go signal. While in that position, the sergeant in charge asked if he was afraid-yes he was, he admitted. The sergeant then told him that being afraid was good; if you stop being afraid, it's time to stop jumping, for you have become crazy1. Being fearful is OK, as long as you can recognize the fears and, with the Holy Spirit's help, stare them down. Even Jesus had to stare down His own fears at Gethsemane; He knew exactly what he was up against and did it anyways. I remember a line from George of the Jungle that was going around my computer store, especially when a Packard Bell came in for repairs; "George must do this-this gonna hurt!" Bravery is knowing it’s gonna hurt and manage to do it anyway; the Holy Spirit's there to help supply extra doses when needed. If called upon to face persecution for following Christ, I think the Holy Spirit would equip me to do so, to be able to suck it up and do the right things. The brave person isn't less fearful than the "coward," he just manages to overcome the fears for a bit longer. Policemen and firefighters do this as well, face dangerous situations and perform their tasks despite the risks. Soldiers manage to do the same in combat, to contain their fears long enough to do the job at hand. In this spiritual warfare, we can, with and only with the Holy Spirit's help, face those fears and help expand God's kingdom. 1-That's not far from the original Catch-22; if you tell the shrink you're afraid of flying combat missions, he'll tell you that's normal, fly 'em anyways. If you're not afraid of flying combat missions, you're crazy and should be removed, but the shrink will only find out if you tell him, which, since you're not afraid, isn't likely.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

The Coming Republican Majority-There is a lot of glee in the conservative camp over the seeming disarray in the Democratic Party. Ben's outlining the decline of the party as Pelosi is poised to take over the minority leader's spot. This is a time to actively reach out and explain the benefits of what we call a conservative agenda rather than passively sit back and assume Democrats will implode, morphing into the Green Party and allowing the Republicans free reign at the polls. The national vote, when pruned of third parties, was 53-47 Republican. This is with a popular president and a disoriented Democratic party. While conservatives will crow that this is the first time in over a century that a Republican president picked up House seats in a mid-term election, remember the squeaker that Bush came in with two years ago; there were no coattails to elect freshman congressmen that are then easy prey in two years when they're running by themselves. Instead, the public grew in respect for Bush over the following two years, as he showed intelligence and character that had difficulty showing through the electoral clutter in 2000. However, Republicans need to do more than ride Bush's coattails. I'm seeing the possibility of a bait-and-switch by the Democrats. We're looking at a rather liberal House leadership and a Boston convention in 2004. However, the party liberals might get their comeuppance in 2004, allowing the party to swing back towards the center in 2006 and 2008. The skunking of the Democrats in 1972 led to the more centrist Jimmy Carter and back-to-back whuppins in 1984 and 1988 gave us Bill Clinton. It would be nice if the Democrats went left and stayed left, letting the Republicans waltz to a 60-40 majority. Look for more thoughtful neoliberals to come to the fore in the next half-decade. If the Democratic Party wants to be more like the Green Party, that could wind up being bad news for the Republicans in the long haul. If we start to look at a 65-35 majority for the Republicans, there would start to be room for a centrist Ventura-style party to emerge with neoliberals and centrist Republican mavericks joining forces to form a secular bourgeois party with a shot at a plurality. A Democratic party that at least makes an attempt to appeal to the white middle class keeps a national Independence Party from having the political ecology to form; I don't think the party is dumb enough to run that far to the left. Even if they do, more centrist Democrats could triangulate against the Pelosi Democrats, showing their independence from the liberals of the party. If I might use a British analogy, we're seeing the Democrats looking like Neil Kinnock, the hard-socialist Labour Party leader. It was easy for the Conservatives to beat Kinnock, for the swing voter didn't want him in power. After getting their butt whupped three elections in a row, Labour put up a more moderate face in Tony Blair and won two elections in a row. Baring something unforeseen, it's hard to see the Democrats winning in 2004, since the candidates that are moderate enough to be elected are insufficiently liberal to be nominated. My fear is 2008-will we see the Democrats nominate a Kinnock (Hillary, Daschle, Gephardt, Kerry) or a Blair (Ford, Breaux, Bayh, Lieberman, Miller(dream on, Mark))? Rather than assume that Democrats will keep putting the "Hit Me" sticker on their back and keep nominating liberals, the Republicans should get cracking and work at weaning minorities away from the Democrats by stressing the advantages of free-market economics and strong moral values and showing that they're not the party of Jesse Helms anymore (as if they ever were). Republicans need to show Joe Average that the market works for them, countering the big-government pitches of the Democrats. Republicans need to show that the mildly-devout people that old-school morality is better than the if-it-feels-good-do-it school of amorality. If they do those things well, they can keep the majority well into the next decade. If they don't, they are vulnerable to Democrats coming to their senses and putting an articulate neoliberal in the White House in 2009.

Iraq and a Hard Place-Yesterday wasn't a good PR day for Iraq, with their parliament nixing the UN resolution and news coming out that they have been trying to stockpile nerve gas antidotes (assumption being they'd give it to their soldiers when they gas the opposition). So what's a dictator to do-go on a peace offensive, of course, do a 180 and allow inspectors in. Cute, Saddam plays good cop to the parliament's bad cop. Look for the fine print, folks. If they let them in, then block access to them, it makes things really squirrelly, allowing the Euroweenies to say "that's not really a material breech, is it?" Bush and Blair will then have to say loudly "You bet it is-B1s away!"

The Steffans Manifesto-Part III-A Nation of Investors-One thing that we forget is that the average American is a stockholder, as a majority of Americans own stock, either via directly owning stocks or owning mutual funds that hold stocks. Even more people have traditional defined-benefit pension funds that hold stocks in their portfolio. Thus, most swing voters will have a vested interest in corporations being treated fairly, for their profits are paying for their retirement or their kid’s college. An underlying theme of this free-market campaign is that the average voter is a “have” rather than a “have-not”, and is likely to pay more in taxes than they get back in government services. Taxing corporations means taxing themselves; regulating businesses means regulating themselves. You’re hitting Joe Average in the pocketbook when you start going after businesses. Even Joe Shoprat has his pension play tied up in stocks and bonds; We’ve met the class warfare enemy, and they is us. Even for those whom don’t own stocks, treating corporations as something other than a boogey-man will help the economy. A common line with economic conservatives is “I’ve never had a poor man offer me a job.” It’s people with money (or the consortium of people with money that is a corporation) starting businesses that make the private sector possible. People understand that in theory, but often forget that in practice. Here’s my second ad. In the Sesame Street tradition of the Count, Placido Flamingo and Meryl Sheep, I present the Merchant of Tennis, a Muppetesque character to be our tongue-in-cheek spokescritter. He’s blue-faced (think Cookie Monster color) with a preppy sport coat with a tennis racquet on the lapel and a tennis-ball tie. He has a veddy, veddy British accent that’s a light mocking of a serious English actor; I’m shooting for three parts Rex Harrison, one part John Cleese and one part Charles Winchester from M*A*S*H. Start with picturing The Merchant in his office, overlooking a factory floor producing tennis racquets, staffed by a few Muppetty characters in the deep background. Given the character’s name, we’ll of course do a send-up of the classic Shylock soliloquy. Play the old Masterpiece Theater theme in the background for starters. Merchant-“Hath not a corporation eyes? Are we not afflicted with the same inflation, plagued with the same high oil prices, subject to the same recessions? If you regulate us, do we not bleed red ink? If you tax us, do we not mourn? If you give us subsidies, do we not feel joy? If you wrong us, do we not seek vengeance?” Pull out TV screen-voice over “Senator Jones is the devil incarnate. Remember that in November” Wise-acre sidekick Homer pulls out big magnifying glass to show bottom of screen “Paid for by Merchants for a Better America-Merchant of Tennis, Chairman”. The Merchant swats away magnifying glass. Homer-“Boss, I don’t think corporations have eyes.” Start playing some patriotic music in the background-maybe American the Beautiful Merchant-“This is not China, Homer, where they can rescind your poetic license. Ladies and Gentlemen, businesses are people too. It might surprise the class warriors to know that most people own stock. So, when you attack corporations, you’re smiting the majority of Americans who are relying on the profits to pay for their retirement, their kid’s college and other meritorious things. You’re also smiting business’ ability to build up new plants, new stores and new jobs. When you’re hurting corporations, you’re hurting the American Dream.” Homer and Merchant-”Corporations are People, Too!”

Edifier du Jour-Acts 20:28-31(NASB)
28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
Be alert-we need more lerts. The search for heterodox doctrine shouldn’t be focused outside your church; Paul pointed out that the most dangerous heresies come from within the church, corrupting it from within. Take the modern-day United Church of Christ, one of the more theologically and politically liberal denominations in the US. Rewind the tape three-and-a-half centuries and that bunch is the Puritan Congregationalists of 1600s New England. Guys like Cotton Mather weren’t politically correct universalists; they were as much a Bible-thumper as Billy Graham. However, allow a little decay each generation, and the Bible-thumpers turn Unitarians in all but name within two centuries. It’s hard to weed out heresies within a church; excommunication or the right foot of disfellowship isn’t easy to administer. Sometimes the zeal to weed out heresies can kick out people who had a different but biblically valid view on things. However, we still need to look for the wolves; when domesticated, they can look like innocent dogs (sheepdogs helping the shepherd), so we need to know our scripture to differentiate between the dogs that are helping the church and the wolves that will tear it apart.

The Steffans Manifesto-Part II-De-Demonizing the Corporation-I'll start this section with part of a David Hogberg (isn't that a great Iowa name) reply to Steffans' piece
The problem is that too many people think that corporations are opposed to the interest of the average American. Consider the following passage from an editorial by the Des Moines Register about the pharmaceutical industry’s participation in the recent election:
They've said that one plan is favored by the industry. That doesn't mean, however, that is the best plan for the American people. It most likely isn't.
I imagine that seemed non-controversial to many of the people who read it. The reason, I suspect, is that the word "corporate" evokes images of men in thousand dollar suits arriving at a large office high-rise in their limos. That makes it very easy for Democrats to demagogue the "corporate interest" issue.
Let's remember what a corporation, especially the big multinational types, is. A publicly traded corporation (one you can buy stock in via your broker) will have thousands (sometimes millions) of individual investors, each owning a small share of the company. The large number of investors is needed, for the multi-million (or multi-billion) dollar scale of a large organization often can't be financed by a small handful of people. Here's my rough draft of a GOP ad. Start with a cartoon villain, the cheesier the animation, the better. On screen; CEO Simon Sleazebag (show nameplate on desk) in suit behind his big desk "Hehehehe. Yes, we're polluting the Smallville River and are blackmailing the mayor in order to keep those uppity townsfolk in line, but it's all in the name of the bottom line." Show hero team (Powerpuff Girls homage/knockoff would work)-"Do you believe the nerve of the guy? We got to do something. Let's get 'em, team." Towards end of that scene, start showing shot on big-screen TV, panning to live narrator, I'm thinking 30-ish female with a lightly ironic sense of humor. "Now that's two dimensional. Corporations always seem to be the villain, but they're what make America go. They're not owned by Simon Sleazebag, they're owned by millions of people like you and me (show on big-screen guy at den desk writing a check, then mom at kitchen table writing a check) who put their hard-earned money in to stocks in order to save for collage or retirement or for a rainy day. Those millions of investors give the size to be able to make things less expensively (show panoramic shot of a warehouse store) and allow them to come up with most of the technical advances (show shot of computer chip clean room with techs in "spacesuits") that we use everyday. So when politicians start bashing corporations, they're not just bashing Simon Sleazebag, they're bashing the American economy and they're bashing you and me. Closing Caption-Corporations are people, too. Coming later today-part III-"The Merchant of Tennis."

Closing Accounts at the PACOB-Someone notify NASA, Krugman must be floating real high today. A week after the critics were served the head of SEC chief Harvey Pitt, they got their desert plate of newly named Public Accounting Company Oversight Board chief William Webster, who resigned after a possible conflict of interest of his wasn't reported. Webster served stints as both FBI and CIA chief. I don't have a link for this, but I vaguely remember that he left the FBI job under fire due in part to some questionable expense accounts; if true, not a guy to be the head accounting watchdog. Does anyone have a better memory on this one?

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

"Don't Get Cocky, Kid!"-Han's advice to Luke would well apply to the GOP as they prepare to take back the Senate later in the month. Josh Marshall has a slightly-left-slanted but valid point in this Sunday post.
If the Republicans see this as a mandate for their domestic policy agenda they're fools. Yet I think they will see it that way. Indeed, they're telling reporters they see it that way. There is going to be heavy pressure -- and pressure not bucked by the White House -- to push through a lot of very conservative and not-particularly-popular legislation. And that will hurt him.
Only if the legislation they push through is unpopular to swing voters. The next paragraph is where Marshall misses the boat.
Basically, we're still in the same ideological world we were a few weeks ago. A mix of a wartime mood, a personally popular president, and a poor Democratic campaign allowed the Republicans to pick up seats. But an unfettered political and policy-making hand for this White House will do a lot of things that cut against where the country is politically. And that will create problems for the president in 2004.
We're also in the same legislative world we were in two weeks ago, except that we'll have Republican committee chairmen in a few weeks. The biggest change will be in judicial nominations, where nominees who were defeated or bottled-up in committee can be passed on to the floor. However, once there, any legislation passed through the newly constituted committees will face the Democrat's best friend, the filibuster. Even if the Republicans have 51 or 52 (if they win Louisiana) votes, they'll still have to bring a dozen Democrats on board (at least 8 or 9 plus a few more to allow for RINO defections) to pass a cloture resolution. Prior to this election, they needed about 15 Democrats to get past a filibuster, now they need 12. That's three less moderate Democrats to bring aboard, but that going to insure that any bill or nominee getting through the Senate will have the OK of a lot of Democrats. If the Republicans had just regained the House, that would have changed things, for the House is much more winner-take-all than the Senate is. Senate rules allow a determined minority, especially one that can get 41 votes to block cloture, to make life miserable for the majority. If there are issues that are "not particularly popular," the Democrats can block them without having to pay a price. If they are blocking popular issues, then the GOP can put their feet to the fire and let them filibuster. I've yet to see someone do this-if you've got a 58-42 vote and the public is 65-35 in your favor on this issue, let them filibuster; not the gentleman's filibuster where they don't bring up a bill without 60 votes, but an honest-to-goodness, 24/7, Robert Byrd reciting the entirety of Robert's Rules of Order at 3AM filibuster. Let them cancel Book TV on C-SPAN2 for a couple of weeks while the Senate is in continuous session. Let the leftist sound bites from the Democratic obstructionists flow over the airwaves, as well as the GOP message that this is a popular bill that has bipartisan support. Let the telephone switchboards light up in protest. Let thoughtful neolibs (no, that's not an oxymoron) point out the error in their ways. Let the blogfire fly. Sounds like a plan.

The Steffans Manifesto-Part I-Macroeconomics for Dummies-Here's an interesting proposal from Jason Steffans-he posted this last week, and it skipped under my radar during election week.
But once, just once, I'd like to see a Republican essentially say that the Democratic charge is right. Just come out and say: "My opponent charges me of being 'tied' to corporate interests. While I am not tied to whatever corporations want, I am in favor of creating an environment in which corporations can do the things they do best, things they do better than anyone else. Corporations create jobs like no one else can. Competition between corporations drives down prices for consumers. And corporations, in general, create retirement assets through stock value appreciation. That is why I favor reducing the corporate income tax rate, tort reform, and not increasing the minimum wage. The resulting growth in the economy, which benefits all of us, will more than offset any loss of government services, many of which are grossly inefficient. When my opponent says to you that corporate interests are not worth looking out for, he is saying to you that he is not going to allow the economy to grow, because he would rather have the government grow. That view is wrong. And that is why you should vote for me." Make that the primary campaign issue. Just run with it. I don't know if it would work. But I'd like to see it. It would certainly create a more interesting race than what we normally get.
The key part in this will be selling the benefits of tax cuts to the average voter. The readers of this blog aren’t the average voter, but y’all will (hopefully) be explaining the advantages of a lower-tax, free-market economics to your friends and acquaintances. Here’s a quick primer on modern economics, both the standard Keynesian approach to economics and the modern “supply-side” alternative. There are two ways in the basic macroeconomic model that you can stimulate the economy: boosting aggregate demand and boosting aggregate supply. The traditional1 Keynesian method is to focus on demand. Some background first. The basic Keynesian model divides GDP into consumer spending, business investment spending, government spending and net exports. Since Keynes was doing his writing in the 30s during the Great Depression, the proscriptions of Keynesian economics were devised to get out of an economic downturn. If business isn’t building new plant and equipment and consumers are tight with their money during bad times, it's up to the government to step in and stimulate the economy by extra government spending and tax cuts. There are some things that will stimulate private-sector demand; lower taxes, greater overall wealth, better economic expectations and lower interest rates. However, Keynesians tend to focus on government spending as a stimulus, as the government spends the whole amount, while a tax cut will be partly spent and partly saved. This gives the excuse for the more socialist partisans to spend, since it's a better way to stimulate the economy. Keynesian econ has its merits if you're fighting a recession. If you're going to build roads, schools and tanks, it makes since to do it during lulls in the economy, where you can get the resources on the cheap. However, Keynesian economics doesn't do that well in growing economies without a lot of excess capacity to soak up. At some point, you need policies that will encourage the development of extra supply of goods or else any extra demand will just drive inflation to the moon. Traditionally, Keynesians ignored aggregate supply, thinking it was a non-factor in recessions (excess capacity there to be sucked up by demand) and fixed once "full-employment" was reached (once everyone's working, the economy's maxed out). The last quarter-century's seen a growth in economists who have started to look at stimulating aggregate supply as a way to stimulate economic growth, especially in low-unemployment settings. The focus on aggregate supply led to the nickname "supply-side economics." What stimulates businesses to grow, starting more businesses and adding capacity to existing businesses? Some major ways to stimulate supply are improved technology/innovation/productivity, lower cost of capital/interest rates, lower taxes on corporations and investors, lower regulations and lower factor costs (such as oil or wages). Things that stimulate aggregate supply will lower inflationary pressures while expanding the economy. The economy as a whole will tend to grow, making us collectively richer. Lower tax rates, especially if they are seen to be permenent, will reduce the cost of capital. As tax rates go down, it will increase the after-tax returns on investments, making people willing to accept a lower nominal rate of return than before. Lower corporate tax rates will increase the after tax-returns on corporations; without a corporate tax cut, only unincorporated businesses or S-corporations (who pay taxes like partnerships) would get the full benefits of a tax cut. Lower regulations would lower the cost of doing business, this making people more interested in expanding businesses or starting new ones, as would lower prices of things you need to buy in order to run the business; the costs of your supplies would be lower if taxes went down for your suppliers, for they would be able to get the same profits at a lower price. However, the fans of larger government will oppose many of these policies. Looser regulations will be opposed by people who like the regulations as they are. People who want to use the tax revenue to fund government programs will oppose tax cuts. What dynamists (a.k.a. free-market conservatives) need to stress is that there are two benefits to a tax cuts. The first benefit is that they have more disposable income after a tax cut. The second benefit is that they will have an economy that will grow faster than in a higher-tax environment. The dynamist can sell this as a two-for-one “You’ll have more money in your pocket now, and even more money down the line as the economy grows. That's better than a slightly-bigger set of government programs." The people who will directly benefit from those added programs might complain, but they are in the minority. It's the people who are the indirect beneficiaries who need to be educated into why a smaller government is better. The person who wants Granny to have help with her drugs or to get government funding for this or that pet project needs to see how they will pay for it with lower take-home pay and a slower economy. 1 Update 6:30 11/13-I used "Classic" here at first, a poor choice of words. Jeffrey Collins reminded me that Classical is the name used for pre-Keynesian free-market macroeconomics-you can call the supply-siders neoclassical if you want to add some gravitas to your arguments

Morning Musings-Remember, "a Buckeye is nothing more than a worthless nut." Congrats to OSU for topping the BCS for now. Cue the B-1s-The Iraqi parliment unanamously (that's how you do things there) voted down complying with the UN resolution. Of course, they are acting independently of Saddam's wishes. We've got a few more days of Majority Leader Daschle-Interim Minnesota senator Dean Barkley is not voting with either side, allowing the senate to stay in Democratic hands until Jim Talent takes offices later in the month. Groaner du Jour-Were all the fairy-tales prior to Hansel and Gretel pre-Hansel tales?

3/4 Bush, 1/4 Powell- Josh wants me to chow down on some crow now that Bush got a resolution through the Security Council, but I'm not sure if Bush got all of what he wanted; maybe a breast and a drumstick only is what I'm slated for. This was a good but not a great accomplishment in that consequences of non-compliance were not laid out. Giving the UN the middle-digit salute on this one will confirm that Iraq is in breach of the cease-fire agreement of 1991, according to the latest resolution. However, it did not specifically authorize military force. The US and Britian (and anyone else willing to join in the "fun") will apply it as such, but the Euroweenies will she-dog and moan that they didn't sign off on an invasion. Thus, you'll have the left wing of the Anglospherian media recycling their two-decades-old caricatures of Reagan, casting Bush as the unilateralist trigger-happy cowboy. There was just enough multilateralist lingo to get the thing through the UNSC and just enough ambiguity to give the left some grumbling room. It might have been the best the State Department could do, as France and Russia may have been unwilling to sign off on a clear authorization of force. Foggy Bottom might have had its fingerprints on it, but the bottom line is that we have indirect UN cover for an invasion, and that puts a bit of crow meat on the plate.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 19:11-18(NASB)
11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. 13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches." 14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. 18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.
I caught the intro of Billy Graham's radio show while getting ready for church Sunday; the teaser line was that people are looking for religion, but that religion is dangerous if you don't know Jesus. Those Jewish exorcists were a great case-in-point; they simply copied the formula of casting out demons "in Jesus' name," not realizing that they didn't have the authority to act in His name. You can only act as a agent of someone if you have been authorized to do so. If you're not authorized, passing yourself off as an representative is a fraud. In the physical realm, that's grounds for a lawsuit. In the spiritual realm, that's grounds for Satan to get out the industrial-strength can-o'-whuppin'. Even believers can be exceeding their authority when they start putting Jesus' imprimatur on topics that He never addressed. Before you act in the spiritual realm, do a quick prayer check and make sure you're not exceeding your authority.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Just Add David Boren For the Kerry-Okie Ticket- Now that 2002 elections are over, 2004 is on deck and the Invisible Primary (as The Note calls it) is becoming visible. John Kerry seems to be this close to declaring, which would screw up the New Hampshire primary with a pseudo-native son from Taxachusettes. I don't think he'll win, but he'll get a good hearing, and if he's willing to spend his wife's inheritance, he could make a serious run at the nomination. I don’t think he’ll win, for I don’t think he’s got any large level of support nation-wide or a set of issues to run on that differentiates him from other Democrats. I try and use what I call the bumper-sticker test for a primary candidate: who will be sufficiently enthused by the guy to put a bumper-sticker on his car? I can see Gephardt and Hillary and Edwards having supporters that will stick their necks out for them, but Kerry seems bland and generically liberal. Who are the volunteers to staff the Kerry campaign offices? Who will head up the Kerry county operations in Iowa? That being said, Kerry might be a handy sacrificial lamb to Dubya in 2004. If the economy is not bad and Iraq went well, the Democrats would have little traction in which to get the White House back. In that case, they could use a low-risk standard bearer who would keep the base intact and not do something to cause a blowout in the Congressional election, allowing them to make a comeback in 2006 and 2008. Gephardt is a bit too much of an economic class warrior while not keeping the Green wing at home, while Edwards is a bit too southern for the classic liberal wing to swallow, despite his populism. Hillary is 2008, not 2004, for she’ll need her own political creds to make a serious run; she also knows that she won’t win in 2004, so she’ll hold off. Picking Kerry would be like punting on 4th and 2 at midfield; it won’t win the game for the Democrats, but will allow them not to embarrass themselves and not lose field position.

Morning Musings-We're down to a clean two undefeateds in the college ranks, as Oklahoma and Bowling Green (as if they had a shot at a BCS bid) got beat over the weekend, leaving Ohio State and Miami the only ones without a loss. Michigan and Virginia Tech could throw a monkey-wrench into this, giving us the now-classic scenerio of a lone undefeated and three or four one-loss teams making a case for the #2 spot. The pros were interesting this week; my flyer pick of the Lions fell flat on its face in the Spudlets game, but the Blogistas got past Pigskin this weekend, moving them back into playoff position. Iraq's thinking about the UN proposal. I don't see them outright saying no, that isn't Saddam's style over the years; that would make the invasion too easy. They're buying time and might opt to buy a few days by saying that they will comply and then renig later on small details to try and wedge the US from the Euroweenies. Don't expect much more posting today-after my 10AM class, I'm off to EPCOT with Eileen and my family, who's down from Michigan for the week. Prayer request-Eileen left her teaching job two weeks ago; trying to run herd over a bunch of malbehaved eighth-graders and getting meetinged to death as well was too much for her. She's been able to use the last week-and-a-half to organize the apartment and rest up emotionally, but she's now back in job-hunting mode; pray for wisdom of how to use her English and Christian Education background to good use- working in a senior center in some sort of activities-coordinator position is one product of brainstorming.

Edifier du jour-Acts 17:22-31(NASB)
22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' 29 "Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."
It's always a struggle in apologetics whether to deal with other religions from a "You've got it wrong" standpoint or to take the existing theology and say "you've almost got it right." Verse 27 speaks to this; many people flail away striving to get closer to God when he's already just a prayer away. Even others seem to be praying to that unknown god of the Greeks, they are covering their bases just in case. Many people have a loose sense of that unknown God, and it's up to us to explain to them the God they are trying to worship and His Son that died for us all.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

The Future of Religion-Part II-Let me finish up on that Pruitt post of yesterday.
I put that down to ecumenism, which is fine in theory, but which ends up looking for the similarities among religions while ignoring or downplaying the differences. The resulting thin gruel is devoid of both flavor and sustenance.
Once again, people will tend to look for either real religion or secular alternatives. However, I'm not sure if Pruitt gets the bigger picture of Christianity. Evangelical churches only get airplay when there are internal fights (such as the schism within the Southern Baptists) or scandal. There are plenty of growing churches who do teach right from wrong and provide meat rather than thin gruel. They don't show up on the nightly news or even in the Web's better news outlets, for much of this work doesn't make headlines. If 30 people marched on City Hall demanding a living wage, it would make the paper; 250 people worshiping God at the Lakeland Vineyard (or 3000 people worshiping God in the big Carpenter's Home Church) doesn't make news since it happens every week. The news media doesn't handle longitudinal stories well, but the world has slowly grown more evangelical, especially in the third world. Pastor Dave had a good factoid this morning that my Operation World book confirms; in 1970, 70% of the world's evangelicals were in Europe and North America. Today, 75% of the evangelicals are outside of that area; not that the numbers of evangelicals have declined in the traditionally Christian areas, but that the growth of the evangelical churches have skyrocketed elsewhere. This Phillips Jenkins Atlantic article, although a bit too focused on the mainline churches in the US, is a solid look at how the liberalization of the church in the northern countries is being offset by the growth of conservative church movements in the south of the globe. We're already seen African and Asian Anglican bishops sponsoring schismatic churches in North America who have had it with liberal local church leadership; the entire Anglican communion could split in two, largely on geographic lines with the incoming liberal Archbishop of Canterbury. The Catholic church is alive and well, even having strong charismatic elements that will bring the power of the Holy Spirit back into the mix and ward off the loss of "market share" to the charismatic and Pentecostal Protestant churches. The more liberal European church leaders will begin to see themselves outvoted by their uppity southern coreligionists.
...it seems to me that Islam's appeal is that it does present that "right-wrong" aspect; it just draws it out to the point of absurdity, with fatwas on everything down to how to pee correctly (Muslims are supposed to squat because The Prophet did) and how to pack the pork to the Little Woman.
People turn to religion for answers to how to live; too much freedom gives people an overload of options. Most religions have their legalistic wing; Orthodox Jews have their hoops to jump through and, to a lesser extent, some more legalistic Christians will have their own long set of do's and don'ts.
The one will die because it's bloodless, and the other because it's bloodthirsty.
The mainline churches will likely slowly die due to lack of life, but the evangelical wing of the church will live on. As for the Wahabbi brand of Islam, it will likely have to be tamed. Countries that are aiding the jihadists will be quarantined and/or invaded and any Islamic contact with the rest of the world will have to be ones that stress the greater jihad. It's a bit contrary to American values of respecting other's religion, but if a religion demands the right to take over the world by force, then they have crossed the line.

The Future of Religion-Part I-Fred Pruitt's got this bit of thoughtful yellow journalism (he highlights his typically cheeky comments on the news in yellow; here, he's rather serious) that begs a response.
A hundred years from now, when the world is mostly divided between agnostics and atheists, an historian will analyze why religion died en masse. Here's the reason: this man, an educated Muslim, cannot come out and say that killing innocents is wrong. The reason Christianity is on the edge of disappearing is exactly the same — Unitarians, Episcopalians, United Methodists, and the like cannot bring themselves to say "this is an abomination in the eyes of God." Even more fundamentalist branches of Protestantism spend much, much more time evoking the Glory of God than they do examining right and wrong. I put that down to ecumenism, which is fine in theory, but which ends up looking for the similarities among religions while ignoring or downplaying the differences. The resulting thin gruel is devoid of both flavor and sustenance. Chris Johnson and Mark Byron know much more about the subject than I do, but it seems to me that Islam's appeal is that it does present that "right-wrong" aspect; it just draws it out to the point of absurdity, with fatwas on everything down to how to pee correctly (Muslims are supposed to squat because The Prophet did) and how to pack the pork to the Little Woman. The one will die because it's bloodless, and the other because it's bloodthirsty.
Fred's (as far as I can tell) a honorable agnostic, and since we all typically want to see the "good guys" (however we define them) win, he's seeing the world of 2100 as a secular playground gradually purged of its devout religious people. Let's take this paragraph on sentence by sentence-this might look like a fisking, but it assessing a honorable argument line by line.
A hundred years from now, when the world is mostly divided between agnostics and atheists, an historian will analyze why religion died en masse. Here's the reason: this man, an educated Muslim, cannot come out and say that killing innocents is wrong.
Actually, if you phrase killing innocents as "collateral damage", you will have a hard time getting an educated [fill in religion here] to say that killing innocents is wrong if it is part of a cause defending the good guys from the bad guys or, in the more aggressive faiths, expanding the domain of the good guys. One of the problems with Islam is that it has some bloody roots. Muhammad led his people to a conquest of much of Arabia, and his actions are recorded for his followers to imitate. If you take the writings of the Koran and of the other written traditions of Mohammed’s life at face value, you can justify going to war against the infidel. Islam was also written as a majoritarian religion; the Arabia of Mohammed’s lifetime merged the power of the state with the power of the spiritual, allowing a prophet-king to go to war with the unbelievers and having the resources of the state to bring it up. The less-literal modern reader of the Koran could say "that was a seventh century thing; it doesn't apply today." However, the more-literal modern reader might take Mohammed’s model of making war with his foes to heart. Most good Islamic clerics will not that jihad means struggle, and that the believer should focus more on the greater jihad against one's own personal sin rather than the more common use of the term as "holy war," but there are plenty of not-so-good clerics around. Unlike, Islam, Christianity grew up as a minority religion. Jesus will be around as a ruler, but only on the second trip will he play conquistador, as He opted to play sacrificial lamb on the first trip. The Old Testament has plenty of ethnic cleansing, but much of the Old Testament law has been rendered moot by the cross; the vast majority of modern Christians would not look to follow Joshua's lead in parking-lotting ones enemies. Instead, the model is that of missionary, preaching the Good News and accepting voluntary converts rather than putting a sword to the neck. Yes, feel free to bring up some of the barbarity of the crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, but those aren’t the model that the modern believer combing the Bible will find in the early Christians. The Jews of Jesus’ day had a good chunk of contempt for Gentiles, it took multiple hits with a 2-by-4 to get the early Jewish believers to accept non-Jews as equals and not to dump the minutia of the Mosaic law on them.
The reason Christianity is on the edge of disappearing is exactly the same — Unitarians, Episcopalians, United Methodists, and the like cannot bring themselves to say "this is an abomination in the eyes of God."
The less-litteral modern reader of the Bible says "that was a first century thing; it doesn't apply today." In the name of understanding, many liberals within the church will look to water-down their message rather than offend modern sensitivities. If the Bible says X and the culture says Y, they often will side with Y, feeling that the Bible must be out of touch. This is the reason that the mainline churches (add Presbyterian and Congregational/UCC to the list above) are bleeding members; people who want the Bible to win in a Bible-versus-culture fight will go to more evangelical churches and people who want conventional cultural wisdom with a slight spiritual coating can stay home and watch Oprah.
Even more fundamentalist branches of Protestantism spend much, much more time evoking the Glory of God than they do examining right and wrong.
You might have a case in some of the more experiential charismatic churches and in many “seeker-friendly” churches where the love of God is focused on to the near-exclusion of discussion of man’s sin nature. It’s easy to head towards the touchy-feely side of the Gospel and ignore a God who’s got a place called Hell waiting for people who don’t want to follow Him. I remember a passage of Steven Curtis Chapman’s Blind Lead the Blind
There's a preacher in a nice church Anchored in the heart of town People flock to hear his eloquent delivery He talks of Jesus how he can please us But the cross cannot be found
That describes a larger number of evangelical churches as well as the mainline churches Chapman was seeming to go after in the song. However, you’ve got no shortage of preaching against various sins in a good evangelical church. Do we spend much, much more time at the Lakeland Vineyard in praise and worship (the closest translation of “evoking the Glory of God” I can come up with) than in talking about right and wrong (good Bible-based preaching on living a godly life)? I’ll buy “more time”, nip-pick on “much more time” and say “I don’t think so, Fred” on “much, much more time.” Heading off to church-I'll finish up this afternoon.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 11:5-18(NASB)
5 "I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me, 6 and when I had fixed my gaze on it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air. 7 "I also heard a voice saying to me, 'Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' 8 "But I said, 'By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' 9 "But a voice from heaven answered a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.' 10 "This happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky. 11 "And behold, at that moment three men appeared at the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 "The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. These six brethren also went with me and we entered the man's house. 13 "And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, 'Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; 14 and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.' 15 "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16 "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17 "Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" 18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."
Thank the Lord that He got the Jews to go out and spread the word to the Gentiles; otherwised practacally all of us would be lost, since few modern believers come from a Jewish Christian background. Just remember that when we look at a culture with our nose in the air; someone hauled their butts to our country and preached the Good News there.

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