Saturday, November 30, 2002

Presidential Musings-This 2004 presidential campaign will be the first blogged presidential campaign, giving political junkies both ways to communicate their candidates views and to read up on the views of others. There's already a Howard Dean blog up. Dean is the kind of quirky candidate, being a pro-second-amendment liberal, that might sneak up on people like Gary Hart did twenty years ago. Let's look at the likely field, which at this point is Gore, Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt and Dean. You've also got the possibility of Al Sharpton actually being a playa, but he's likely to get a 3-5% radical black protest vote at best at this point. Daschle's thinking about a run, but he doesn't have any good political ecology to run in with Gore and Kerry already running. The one thing that strikes me about the bunch is how liberal they are; there isn't a DLC guy in the bunch. You have five varying shades of liberal. Gore and Kerry are your new-establishment liberal, Edwards is the new-establishment-populist, Gephardt is the old-establishment New Deal liberal and Dean's a wild card liberal. I've got five questions for the campaign. The answers will likely decide the nomination. Does Gore have a Southern edge?-Not any more; it's been 12 years since he ran for office in Tennessee and has become an establishment liberal, even running well to the left on Iraq and on single-payer health care. Also, the South of 1988 isn't the South of 2004. Gore might play well in the Ideopolis south, but the down-home Atticus-Finch-goes-to-Washington motif is offset by his modern voting record and platforms in the old South. Edwards is the New South's Atticus Finch, the crusading civil-litigation lawyer rather than the crusading defense attorney; Finch didn't get rich enough to finance his own Senate run. The old-school south is up for grabs. The person who represents small-town values best will do well here. Who gets the Nugent Democrats?-In the South and Midwest, you have a large chunk of blue-collar voters that enjoy hunting and the outdoors. A pro-gun Democrat could make inroads. Look for Dean to surprise in this area, the Yankee could do very nicely, if he can do a sprightly tap-dance around the civil-union issue, but he could do well with the rural blue-collar folks.. Gephardt could do well here as well. Who gets the crunchy Democrats?-There's that block of liberal voters that will look for an anti-establishment edge, Gore doesn't have that anymore, for he's the personification of the modern establishment liberal. His pitch for single-payer health care might help, but I don't think he'll get the Green Weenies hot and bothered. If Dean gets some momentum, he could grab some of that student-aging-hippie vote, but if not, expect a solid Green push in 2004. Who gets the establishment black vote?I don't have a clue. The black vote might be either a non-issue, as all the players are liberal enough on affirmative-action issues as to make the issue moot, or we could see a lot of brown-nosing of key black leaders. Who gets the Latino vote, especially in Texas and California?No comprende. This might be a key area as those two big primaries come up. Immigration reform and bilingual ed could cut both ways, as activists will want liberal policies on both, while everyday people will have a more conservative stance on both issues. At this point, you've got five candidates who have a legitimate shot at the nomination. Gore and Kerry will divide up the new-liberal establishment vote, Gephardt will get the labor vote, Edwards will get the young-vibrant-populist vote and Dean will get an odd Green-'n-Gun coalition cooking. Each can get to 20% without too much trouble (Gore and Kerry are already there with the party establishment), but getting to the 35-40% that will be needed to get the nomination will require reaching out beyond the establishment Anglo-liberal vote. Lots of questions, few answers. The key first test will be whether Gore and Kerry can break out as the establishment choice. If one does emerge, they will likely get the nomination. If they are going mano-a-mano through 2003, each getting 25-30% of the vote, one of the other candidates has a shot of emerging to challenge them. The second test will be to see if one of the other three gets enough into the teens to be seen as the Third Candidate. Press coverage doesn't do well in multi-candidate races and want to distill the race down to two or three faces. If none of the three does well, then you'll see two stock pieces, the Gore-Kerry fight for the establishment vote and the Gephardt-Edwards-Dean off-brand fight for third. If none of the second pack emerges cleanly and the Gore-Kerry race stays too-close-to-call, we could see a five-horse race all the way to Boston.

Morning Musings-Nebraska finished 7-6 after losing to Colorado yesterday, which is their worst season in decades. Give Baggy-Slims his props for calling the Huskers' demise early. The Pistons keep winning ugly, but there were two interesting things in last nights box-score. The first was another "DNP-Coach's Decision" by Michael Curry's name and the 13 points made by new starting small forward Tayshaun Prince. The torch might have been passed, but the fresh Prince's butt was singed by Rick Carlisle for his lack of defense-they only held the Bucks to 91. Look for the media to play up Anti-Death Penalty Day-too many good liberal protestor shots to ignore. It's blood-feud day down here as Florida and Florida State lace 'em up this afternoon up in Tallahassee. We could see a 8-5 BSC club in FSU if they lose today. We're starting to see weather down here that looks like fall. We've had lows in the 40s the last two days, with areas an hour north of hear getting frost. I'm almost nostalgic for the 90 degree days this summer.

Unseating Caesar Chavez I-Keep an eye on Venezuela again, where anti-Chavez feelings are rising and a general strike is being called by both the largest union and the largest business group. Chavez just sacked 15 of his top generals and colonels and is about to turn over the police functions to his Bolivarian Guard goon squads. We had a short-term coup there in April, this might trigger an all-out civil war. Via Papa Blog-an interesting Latin-American-issues blog-El Sur-which seems to digest news from the region.

Edifier du Jour-Hebrews 1:1-5(NASB)
1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. 5 For to which of the angels did He ever say, "YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU"? And again, "I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME"?
This is one passage that will blow away the concept that Jesus was merely an angel. The writer (Paul's the leading candidate, but there isn't a consensus on that) alludes to John 1, which not only has Jesus creating the universe but declares Him to be God. The writer even has a bit a sarcasm in verse 5. Jesus does have a more excellent name than any angel, but the word "name" means more than what we commonly use it for; it's referring to reputation and honor. I'm often taken aback by the Hispanic tradition of having Jesus be a common name for boys (as in blogger Jesus Gil); the northern European tradition has the name off-limits for mortals. If you see Jesus as a first name, you pronounce it Hey-Seuss like you're hailing The Cat in the Hat author, since it will typically have a Spanish pronunciation. However, we northerners have no problem with Joshua, which is a better transliteration of Yeshua than "Jesus" is. The OT Joshua was Yeshua as well, but it's a name we associate with the Jericho guy rather than with our Lord and Savior. I wondered why that was, whether we northerners were stuck up or whether the Catholic tradition of paying attention to saints and Mary downgraded Jesus to the point where using his name for your boy seemed OK. However, us northerners aren't lily-white, either; we might not use it as a common name up north, but His name gets used as an expletive far too often. We all need to respect the glory and majesty that is Jesus and better respect his name.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Morning Musings-Now this is suppressing the vote, gunmen shot up a poling place for the Likud primary yesterday, killing 6. Sharon seems to be crusing to a 60-40ish win over Netanyahu. They're now exporting autoboomers; there was an attack in Keyna, where three autoboomers did in 15 people at a hotel popular with Israelis in Mombasa and a plane heading back to Israel was fired at with a missile (it missed). Sharon's ticked, he's ready to do the remake of Unforgiven. Do we go from flying the frendly skys to filing the freindly Chapter 11? Looks like United might go the way of the dodo without some labor concessions. We've got some sickly airlines and I've got a bad feeling that the $10b in bailout money is going to get wasted. I'd have liked it better if the Piston had been able to do this, but the Mavs finally lost yesterday to Indiana, falling to 14-1 and falling one short of Houston's 15-0 start back in '93.

Edifier du Jour-Revelation 2:1-5(NASB)
1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2 'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. 4 'But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 'Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.
I haven't read through the seven churches section in a while, and this part hit me harder than normal, for I've been in a somewhat dry spot spiritually the last few days; not a backsliding thing but more not acknowledging God much. Most Christians have a "crush" on God when they are first saved, a giddy closeness that typically fades. God's calling us back to that first love. This isn't just to bring us back to the level of devotion that we had at the time, but for the closeness to God that we had as well. I'm in need of rediscovering that closeness, and I'm starting to rediscover it this morning.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

The Bob Jones Review-There's been plenty of bloggage over the Rittenhouse Review's secondary boycott of Little Green Footballs by refusing to link to sites that link to LGF. While the RR people are well within their rights to do so, such actions tend to ghettoize the Blogosphere and cut off dialog between the liberal section that RR wants to champion and the more conservative/libertarian section that appreciates LGF; by instituting this boycott, he cuts himself off from the mainstream of conservative blog thought, for most of the big-name blogs on the right have an occasional LGF link. I don't have a link to LGF, but not because I don't like what he's up to; I have him bookmarked, but have yet to be sufficiently moved stuff of his to blog on something he's written. The comment section is legendary for having more than its share of nasty flamage, but that's often the cost of running a popular blog. The secondary blockages will prevent RR from linking to a large swath of conservative and libertarian web sites who either permalink LGF or will cite a piece of his from time to time. This will allow him to ignore some solid critiques of liberal orthodox thought. In the absence of such commentary, he might be leaving out parts of the debate that his liberal-leaning clientele would be well-served in hearing. Without having to deal with the critiques of the right, he can have a freer hand in laying out the witty-but-bile-filled conservative-bashing that seems to be RR's hallmark. He's got talent, but seems to be more interest in name-calling than serious debate. If he can add some more detail to that flamage, he might actually get some following on the right. The secondary boycott reminds me a lot of the insular nature of some of the capital-F Fundamentalists groups who go whole-hog on separation from unbelievers. Second-order separation required true believers to not associate with believers with the proper theology who dealt with people with improper theology. Thus, outfits like Bob Jones University wouldn't deal with Billy Graham, who while having a solid evangelical theology, worked with mainline churches and even (gasp!) Catholics in his crusades. Such a separation made such groups more and more isolated from the rest of society and lessened their impact of society. If RR and his friends want to have a liberal enclave safe from conservative thought and filled with only liberal bile, they are well within their rights to do so. However, by setting up such an enclave, they limit their effectiveness in changing the opinion of swing voters. Unlike Steven Den Beste's piece on the topic, where he delivers the middle-digit salute to RR by hyperlinking each and every reference to LGF, I'll allow myself to be (at least for now) a LGF-link-free zone, so as to allow some conservative thought to get behind the Rittenhouse Curtain. I'd like to be able to have civilized debate with the left if they are willing to debate rather than name-call.

The Disposable Income/Blackout Hypothesis of Point Spreads-I've been successful in the prognostication game over at Spudlets this season in large part of picking the occasional home underdog (here's this week's predictions, where I've got a lot of home dogs picked) , being able to pick a good number of upsets. At first, I thought Vegas was undervaluing home field advantage, but the following theory came to me. [A quick primer for the sports-illiterate- a point spread is the projected amount of victory for the favorite. In football betting, the favorite has to win by more than the spread in order to win a bet on the favorite. For instance, New England is a six-point favorite over Detroit this afternoon. If the Patriots win 20-17, the people who bet on Detroit would win the bet, for New England won by less than six, failing to "cover the spread."] First, lets review how the point spread is determined-it's not the thinking of a few hotshots in Nevada but the "price" that clears the market, getting half the betters picking one team and half picking the other. That way, the bookmaker pays off the winners with the loser's money and pockets his commission without any risk. This might not reflect the true strengths of the teams, but it's the figure that gets betters ambivalent about placing a bet either way. Assume for the moment that there are two types of betters, the homers and the handicappers. Homers want to bet on their team, while handicappers will bet if the point spread is out of line, regardless of whether he's a fan of the team he's betting on. For the homer, betting on sports is part of his entertainment budget, as are tickets to the home team's games. Let's look at the New England-Detroit game as an example. Joe Southie is a Pats fan who'll go to the game on a regular basis; he's not a season ticket holder, but makes it down for a lot a games. With the Pats out of town, he's got some extra cash to spend this week, so he lays a bet on one of those offshore betting sites (or with the local bookie at the pub) on the Pats. He has a opposite number, Sam Shoprat in metro Detroit. He'll plunk down a 20 on the Lions, but he's heading down to Ford Field before consuming large quantities of strategically-burned dead avian flesh. With his pockets a bit empty from getting the ducats to the Lions game, Sam's going to pass on betting on the game this week. Thus, the road team's homers will have more spending money than the home team's homers; the homer money will thus tend to favor the visiting team. This should move the point spread in the favor of the visiting team. Won't the handicappers step in to correct the spread? Yes, but only when the spread is off enough to make a bet worthwhile. If the bookies get a 5% commission, the spread will need to favor the home team at least 55% of the time for the game to be a good bet for the handicapper. This might throw the point spread off a couple of points in the direction of the visiting team before the market intervenes to take advantage of the mispricing. You might also have an additional away-team factor in that a home-team's games are blacked out in the host city if they don't sell out 72 hours ahead of kickoff. Teams with poor attendance thus will not be able to have the home fans watch the game. Inability to watch the game will tend to lessing demand for gambling on the game, for the fun of seeing whether you team win is lessened if you have to listen on radio. That's my theory, open to anyone who wants a quick quantitative-analysis term paper topic to run the traps on. If true, the discrepancy would be a function of walk-up sales of each team (for season tickets paid for in advance wouldn't have this effect) and whether the game was blacked-out or not.

Bizzaro Universe?- Let's read these two paragraphs of the BBC's coverage of the Likud primary and wonder what has happened to Israeli politics as of late
Latest opinion polls of party members give Mr Sharon - who is portraying himself as a national father figure and the voice of moderation on the key Palestinian issue - a commanding lead of over 20%. Mr Netanyahu, who says he will never agree to the creation of a Palestinian state while militant attacks are being made against Israelis, has accused pollsters of exaggerating the gap between them.
Ariel Sharon as a moderate on the PLO? No self-respecting journalist could have written that without adding a "Yeah, suuure" a year ago. Not good for Yasser and the boys.

Some Good News for Thanksgiving-The popular antihistamine Claritin has been cleared for over-the-counter sale in the US, which pleases allergy sufferers and insurers but not the drug's maker. The drug's safe-Claritin had been OTC in Canada for years; I had friends "smuggling" it back to Michigan after trips to Ontario. However, with the drug becoming OTC, it won't be covered by most insurance plans, thus driving the price down, as people will now have to pay for it out of pocket.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 106:1-5(NASB)
1 Praise the LORD . Give thanks to the LORD , for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise? 3 Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right. 4 Remember me, O LORD , when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, 5 that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise.
Most of us have a lot to be thankful for today, and even those of us who are in the middle of overwhelming problems still have some things to be thankful for. Even I started rattling off the things he's done in this past year (a wife, a good job as a college professor, a nice place to live, a new church family that has adopted us and a blog community that has enriched my life) I'm not going to do come close to doing justice to God's grace. Enjoy your turkey, but try to enjoy God more today.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

The Marriage Definition Battle-There's been more than a bit of writing in the conservative corner of the Blogosphere on the possibility of Massachusetts' supreme court mandating homosexual marriage. I'll point to this Chris Burgwald post for starters, and add more links as I rediscover the writers. Chris points to this Stanley Kurtz article yesterday as a good starting point. Even though Kurtz reports that almost three-quarters of the states have one-man-one-woman marriage laws on the books, the problem lies in Article IV, section 1 of the US Constitution
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
That means that marriages in one state are assumed to be valid in all states. When we moved to Florida, Florida couldn't second-guess our Michigan marriage license. That general theory would make a Massachusetts gay marriage valid nationwide. Same-sex couples would then flock to the Bay State to get hitched and force their home states to accept their new marital status. Do we have to change the constitution to avert this? The US has passed a Defense of Marriage Act back in 1996 stating that one-man-one-woman was the federal law and that other states didn't have to give any benefits of marriage to same-sex marriages from another state. The trick is whether that is constitutional. If you look at Article IV, section 1 again, note the last sentence; Congress can prescribe the effect of the acts of states. That's something I could see O'Connor backing up on appeal, making a constitutional amendment unnecessary. If we need to go the amendment route, putting one-man-one-woman marriage into the constitution, would we have a two-thirds majority in both houses? I think so, but the race to 290 in the House might be close. Would we have three-quarters of the states? Most likely. The debate will help Republicans, for the swing voter is heterosexist but doesn't want to be cast as a homophobe. The swing voter is more comfortable with the traditionalist view of the conservatives than with the "if it feels good, please wear a condom while doing it" view of the liberals, but doesn't want to interfere with other people's lives as long as it doesn't effect him. This effects the swing voter by giving legal equality to same-sex couples, raising his insurance premiums (more married couples with a tendency for AIDS) and making products more expensive (companies passing costs of the extra marriages on). I'd say it might raise taxes, but the marriage penalty in the tax code might make it a revenue-positive thing. Joe Sixpack (I'm thinking of the late, great Slats Grobnik, Mike Royko's alter ego) then would be able to see that the liberals are indirectly raiding his paycheck in order to support their gay buddies. Joe's also a bit old-school; he might not be much of a church-goer, but he knows right from wrong, and this just isn't right. He might not be in the mood to start quoting Romans 1, but the idea of gay marriage gives him a bad feeling in his stomach, it ain't natural. He gets along with the homosexuals he runs into day-to-day, but he knows what marriage is supposed to be, and that ain't it. Conservatives (and sensible liberals and libertarians) should appeal to that gut instinct in most people in a refined way. People are naturally heterosexist, in that they think that heterosexuality is the normal and prefered state. If you do too-much gay-bashing, you will rub against the egalitarian streak in the swing voter and make him harder to reach. However, if you play up the one-man-one-woman angle rather than bash the alternatives, you'll reach a lot of people. This is a fight that can be won as long as we don't let the rednecks run the show. Kurtz points out in his piece that taking down the one-woman-one-man concept of marriage will likely bust open other constraints, legalizing various plural marriage forms and giving public sanction to dysfunctional family forms. That points out the need for defending the status-quo. Some will argue that allowing for same-sex marriage will help domesticate the wild lifestyles of many homosexual guys. However, the destructive power of the message that homosexuality is a legal and acceptable alternative makes it undesirable. Life will go on if such marriages are legalized, but it will go on easier without them.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 1:22-27(NASB)
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
This is one of many Pauline verses that condemn homosexuality. The passage goes on to talk about other ungodly social behaviors, but Paul kicked off a laundry list of sins with idolatry and homosexuality. Verse 27 can even be read to anticipate HIV and other STDs; such diseases might well be the "due penalty of their error" The promiscuousness nature of most homosexuals coupled with the public health nightmare that is anal sex (just remember what that orifice is supposed to be used for) lends itself to the spreading of disease even without God deliberately targeting homosexuals. As we look into the continuing debate over how to deal with homosexuality in the public square, let's not forget verse 32 and not give hearty approval to such activities in the name of diversity and tolerance. That doesn't mean that good Christians need to go into "God Hates [Insert anti-gay noun here]" mode. As cliche as it is, "Hate the sin, love the sinner" still applies, and we need to be loving to homosexuals as individuals while lovingly pointing out the sinful nature of their choices.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Signs of the Coming Apocalypse-McDonalds is about to accept credit card payments, as it is planning to roll out systems in a quarter of its stores by next summer. Right now, about the only places that don't take credit cards are fast food joints and vending machines; cross the first off the list. This is moving us a notch further towards a cashless society and it has some implications for the banking sector and for monetary policy. We're slowly moving to a system where people won't need to carry cash for the vast majority of transactions. It will likely decrease M1 (for it will decrease the transactional demand for currency) and increase M2, as people put some of that old walking-around money into interest-bearing accounts. It will decrease the demand for ATMs and make banks a notch more profitable, as more transactions will go on-line.

Moron Liberation Front Scores A Victory-Francoise Ducros, Canadian PM Chretien's communications director was shown the door, as Chretien accepted her resignation after rejecting it at first. She was diplomaticly radioactive after refering to Dubya in a off-the-record news conference as a "moron." It took a week for Da Little Guy to show her the door, but he finally did. There were probably more than one person in the Chretien administration that agreed with her, but it's not polite to say that in public.

The Sandpaper Divorce-How long will Nigeria continue to exist in one piece? There's been an increased militancy in the northern Islamic regions of the country that is unlikely to be stopped by conventional policing. The Miss World riots are just the beginning; this piece on a Zamfara-state sponsored fatwa on the newspaper writer signals the beginning of a likely civil war with thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of refugees. I'm not an expert on Nigerian politics, but the country isn't all that unified. I remember the civil war there in the early 70s, where the breakaway state of Biafra was the humanitarian poster child of the era. If the central authorities can't maintain secular civil law in the north, they can either maintain it via martial law or allow the northern states to form a separate Islamic entity. If the latter happens, I'd expect many of the partition hassles that India had when Pakistan was split off upon independence. Either way, it's likely to be bloody. Add that to the ongoing wars in Africa and we could see a lot of peace-keeping or peace-making efforts in the months and years to come. Zimbabwe is close to being a Ethiopia-level disaster, committing genocide by starvation, as Mugabe is looking more like a cross between the worst of Pol Pot and Idi Amin every day. West Africa is a mess and the Congo is still in civil war. The sad part is that there isn't much that can be done without some sort of neo-colonialism, where the western powers come in, separate the factions and start a long-term nation-building process of establishing the rule of law and respectful democracy; Jonah had a nice piece along this line two years ago. It would be expensive, bloody and controversial, probably too much so for the US to stomach. However, it's something that we might have to do later in the decade once the Southwest Asia theatre of the War on Terror has subsided.

Just Another Martyr?-I haven't got a truly coherent comment on this Bonnie Penner story (the missionary killed in Lebanon a few days ago), for it has become commonplace to lose a missionary in a hostile environment. It becomes background noise in the news cycle-mobs kill a missionary in, where? India? Indonesia? Columbia? Mexico? It all starts to become minor attrition losses in a bigger fight. However, a lot of the coverage was blaming the victim; if she weren't pushing American-style Christianity, she'd still be alive. Evangelization asks people to consider rethinking their spiritual beliefs; in Lebanon, religion is often as much tribal as it is spiritual and changing religions effectively means dissing the other clans. That's dangerous, and violence can be the result. The evangelists, even if they are unarmed and friendly, are a threat to the old social order and can be expected to be attacked physically on a regular basis. The secular press doesn't quite understand why they would risk their lives and the lives of their converts to preach the Gospel. The reason is that they would be risking people's eternal lives if they didn't.

Kesher Conserativism-Part III-A Just and Compassionate Conservatism- In the Judith Weiss piece that I cited Sunday, she was doubting that Republican economic policy “aligns with our deepest desires for a just compassionate society.” OK, lets give this a look-see. Just and compassionate. First, let’s look at just. The dictionary doesn’t help us much-definition 1 in my Webster’s New World Dictionary in my office is “right or fair; equitable; impartial.” To the liberal, it isn’t fair for one person to make more than another; to the conservative, it isn’t fair that one person should be taxed to pay for someone else’s mistakes. Free markets aren’t equitable since some people will earn more than others, but they are impartial in that the government isn’t stepping in deciding who will get taxed and who will get the money from the taxation. Using the definition of just, you can trot out a fair and equitable “social justice” platform or a fair and impartial free-market system. Let’s look at compassion-“sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by a urge to help; deep sympathy; pity.” Compassionate people show compassion. Let’s take welfare for starters: liberals are trained to have sorrow for the sufferings of the poor and want to spend government money to help. Conservatives have sorrow as well, but have a longer-term view of how to help. Policies that predicate help on gaining skills and moving quickly towards employment seems to be more helpful in the long term than simply writing a check without any strings attached; it’s “tough love” but seemingly more compassionate than classic welfare policies Liberals are inclined to show that compassion by spending money on the poorer parts of society and taxing the wealthier parts to pay for it. However, conservatives have compassion on the non-poor as well. They feel sorrow for the working stiff who sees his take-home pay dwindle with higher taxes. The feel sorrow for the businesses that didn’t open (or had to close) and the jobs that didn’t get created (or were lost) due to the higher taxes. A compassionate society isn’t just compassionate for the poor; it should look to create a system that maximizes the commonweal, the collective well-being of society. It needs to weigh the benefits of spending money on the needy with the pain caused by the taxes. Those losses aren’t just the direct losses of pleasure by the taxpayer, but the slowing down of the economy due to higher taxes. As taxes get higher, leisure becomes less expensive, as the benefits of an extra hour’s work go down. Spending looks better than savings, since the after-tax returns on investments go down. This will thus create a more shortsighted and less robust economy, hurting more people than just the taxpayers. If voters are compassionate towards their fellow man, they should strive to elect people who will enact policies that will maximize the commonweal. In my not-so-humble opinion, liberals tend to have their compassion focused too tightly on the poor. Yes, many conservatives have their compassion focused too tightly on the own wallet. However, voters who are looking to make the country a better place need to take a closer look at the total economic costs of government programs. There isn’t a bogometer that can measure pain and give us a neat formula as to what policy maximizes the commonweal; that’s left up to the individual voter. If I thought that a more socialist policy would do that, I’d support it, but I think that smaller (but also smarter) government would better maximize the commonweal. I do think that the current administration’s policies are leading towards a more just and more compassionate society than the alternatives. Neither party has a monopoly on compassion. Republicans are just as compassionate as Democrats; they just have a broader definition, looking at the country as a whole rather than just certain segments of it. I would suggest that Democratic-inclined voters give that broader definition an once-over. You might still thing a big-government program is worth it even after you give the costs of a program a clearer look. Note that even conservatives will back some welfare programs on those grounds. Having a broader view of compassion might not turn you into a fire-breathing supply-sider, but it might give some respect to conservative opinion.

Edifier du Jour-Isaiah 2:2-4(NASB)
2 Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. 3 And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.
With war looming in Iraq and Muslim violence so ready to explode in Nigeria that a newpaper column on a beauty pagent can spark riots killing hundreds, it seem Pollyannaish to look forward to a day where there will be no need for weapons. Dubya won't bring it about and Kofi Annan can only dream of pulling this off. However, there will be a day were we won't study war no more, as the old hippie ditty went. But it won't come with the help of the UN or the EU or Jimmy Carter, it will only come when Jesus come back for his encore. Take a moment and get a warm fuzzy thinking about it. Turning tanks into SUVs, Harriers into crop-dusters, AK47s into lightposts. It's going to happen, and we believers will get to see it happen.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Kesher Conservatism-Part II-The Right is Good on Rights-I promised I'd look at this piece today and look at Ms. Weiss' goals-let's look at the individual rights issue first-I'll hit the just compassionate society part tomorrow. I'd make a good case that the GOP is more the party of individual rights than the Democrats are, who focus on group rights and governmental rights. There is no lasting security for individual rights as long as five Supreme Court justices can rewrite the Constitution, but let's take a look at her subset of individual rights. Freedom of Worship-It's conservative justices that have defended religious groups from intrusion from government regulation, while liberal judges tend to err on the side of state intervention. Freedom of Assembly-At first, this looks to be advantage liberals, I'll give a bit of credit there. However, the cases that come most into play are often gang related, where people hanging out where and when they shouldn't be hanging out can be ACLUed into a freedom of assembly. If this were a Nation of Islam lady talking, she'd have a better case, but the constitutional law in question wouldn't come to play for liberal-leaning Jews too often. However, the conservatives have some points in this area that are religion related. They've defended the right to have home churches or home synogogues against secular zoning laws. Upon further review-call this a tie. Freedom of Conscience-Conservatives tend to be more supportive of people not being forced to do something against their religious beliefs than liberals. Liberals might not like this, for much of the issues have been forcing people to accept a liberal status quo on abortion, homosexuality, safe-sex based sex ed or New-agey meditation/guided imagery stuff in the school/workplace. Liberals will point out a creeping school-prayer issue in some places and some spiritual harassment from the right, but I'll argue that conservatives better defend freedom of conscience than liberals. Freedom of Speech-By and large, liberals have been greater opponents of free speech, especially of personal religious speech. A liberal might point to the "gag order" blocking family-planners from talking about abortion or flag-burning, but I can list a litany of speech codes on college campuses and restriction of religious-base speech on the K-12 level, as well as speech-free zones around abortion clinics. You decide, but I'd argue that conservatives are better defenders of day-to-day free speech than liberals. Based on this, the conservatives go 3-0-1 on the four freedoms Ms. Weiss points out. I'm open to counter-arguments, or addition support for my arguments, but I think you're going to have to point to a lot of niche decisions to make a pro-liberal argument here.

Page Ted Nugent, They're RINO Hunting in Michigan-Interesting Detroit News piece on an intra-GOP feud in Oakland County (the largely upscale NW suburban Detroit area). The more traditional Republican conservatives, lead by country exec (and former county prosecutor and general GOP animal) L. Brooks Patterson were seemingly aced out by a theocon takeover of the county party this weekend. The piece leaves some information out
Former Gov. William G. Milliken, a moderate Republican who served a record 14 years (1969-82) and now has become a critic of the party's right wing, believes Patterson has become the type of person the Republican Party needs to woo the moderate and independent voters needed to win statewide races.
Milliken was (and is) Chaffee-center-left; he's been a critic of the party's right wing for a couple of decades at least. The big year that I can remember the theocons making their presence known in the Michigan GOP was 1982, the year Milliken was retiring. A conservative pro-life businessman knocked off Milliken's lieutenant governor protégé in the Republican gubernatorial primary and the RINOs have never been back in charge. Patterson has a track record as a good law-and-order guy and a bit of a man on the make back in the 80s, having almost gotten elected to statewide office a number of times. However, he's just centrist enough on some issues to make the theocons nervous; the loose cannons of the 80s are now party elder statesmen acceptable to the old-line party establishment. In 1986, they had knock-down-drag-out county convention fights, not unlike the Oakland County donnybrook, statewide. The party, in its infinite wisdom, decided to pick the presidential convention delegates internally. That left the August 1986 precinct delegate races a proxy fight between the backers of Bush 41, Kemp and Pat Robertson scrapping for 1988 convention delegates. The informal nature of county conventions changed. Normally, there are more precinct delegates slots than people interested in filling them; if there was an open slot, you'd typically be granted a seat from your precinct if you showed up. Not that year. The local conventions and state conventions were just as ugly as this Oakland County one that year. Since then, there's been an ongoing fight between the Millikenesque moderates and conservatives, with the conservatives holding the upper hand and moderates having a steady diet of sour grapes. [Update 12:50AM 11-26-I was only joking with the title-turns out we've got a real Nugent 2006 boomlet seen via Mr. Judd.]

Pizza Purgatory-Interesting Bleat about pizza delivery Hades. Be a man, sir, and tell wifey-pooh that you have a good pizza joint that does the job. By the way, the Bird’s supposed to say “pa-pa-pa-u -ma-mau-mau.” I can't vouch for the wait time, but Papa John's tends to do a better bang for the buck than Pizza Hut or Dominos for deliveries. I've yet to be impressed with a Domino's pizza, although the stuff we had at our Spiritual Life Committee meeting last Wednesday was solid. Monahan's a good guy, but his pizza's only average. Pizza Hut's solid but pricey; not bad if someone else is picking up the tab. Often, you're better off finding a good local store that doesn't have the franchise overhead. Back in Midland, there was a Good Times pizza that made Domino's quality at 60% of the price-they'd have people lined up out the door for their $2.99 medium pepperoni Wednesday special. Here's my quick-and-dirty at-home pizza method-just use bread dough as your crust; you can buy a three-pack in the frozen food section, just remember to get it out in the morning, put the dough in a zippable bag and put in fridge to thaw. One loaf's worth will make four solid adult pieces, good for four small or two big-eatin' adults (or one trencherman). Spread out dough to proper thinness; I tend to get something more oval than round, given the cylindrical shape the dough starts in. Add garlic and onion powder to top of dough before adding toppings for a special touch that most people like. Add pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and toppings of choice; I'm partial to pepperoni and ground beef (if I have some ready to go, pre-browned bovine flesh pebbles in the freezer's a great tool). Put in oven at 400 for about 8-10 minutes and you've got some simple good eats.

Política Izquierda-How come I smell a strong whiff of Hugo Chavez in the incoming Ecuadorian leader Lucio Gutierrez? Another left-leaning former coup leader gets elected president.
"Colonel Gutierrez doesn't have an economic plan," Mr. Noboa said in one televised ad. "So when the people demand jobs, houses, unemployment bonuses, he'll turn into a dictator and give them bullets, bullets and more bullets." Mr. Gutierrez has denied the accusations, calling Mr. Noboa a "little liar." "I'm an ex-military man without any doctrinaire leftist formation," he said in an interview with the Associated Press. "As an ex-military man, I have a philosophy of service to the poor, to the neediest."
I don't think Chavez has a "doctrinaire leftist formation," either. Things aren't looking good in South America, as two more leftists (remember Lula down in Brazil) are adding to the problems in the south.

Morning Musings-This will have to be the most blogged item of the day-the Bush girls turn 21 today. Now they don't have to worry about getting busted for underage drinking. They settled the west coast longshoreman’s contract Sunday. Good quip (on an NPR news on the way in) from the head labor rep when asked if Christmas shipments were on target, he came back that freight's heading to Wal-Mart, too. Add another permalink for Jesus Gil, a Madrid-based blogger who covers a wide-range of topics. It took me a while to figure out what his URL signified-it's Atletico Rules-highlighting his fandom of Athetico de Madrid, one of the big athletic clubs in Spain. A few days ago, Fox has added pop-under ads-that's not going to make me that happy. Add that to the tabloidy nature of their coverage, and I'm tempted to start going to the Moonie Daily NewsWashington Times for my basic news. The ads that cheese me the most are the animated ones that are incorporated into the screen and make you watch them before getting to the text. A close second are the ads for an online travel agency-they put the top-right corner of the screen off-screen, so that you have to either close it out from the toolbar or slide it over to the left, revealing the X in the top-right corner.

Alleged-Euroweenie for "Inconvenient fact"-The BBC is trying for the Reuters' Award for Creative Language here in a piece on the left-leaning Roh Moo-Hyun, who has edged ahead of the conservative Lee Hoi-chang in the South Korea presidential race
South Korea's current "sunshine" policy of engagement with the North has been put under severe strain by Pyongyang's alleged admission that it has a nuclear weapons programme. Mr Roh, 56, supports the continuation of exchanges with the North, despite such revelations, whereas Mr Lee has called for financial aid and economic exchanges to the North to be halted until its alleged nuclear programme is dismantled.
OK, last I checked, North Korea has admitted it has a nuclear program. You save the word alledged for cases where the facts are in contest, as for defendants at a trial; however, if the perp has confessed and isn't claming the confession was forced, the modifier isn't needed. The existence of a nuke program runs counter to the pro-Roh tone of the article, so the Beeb writer seems to use "alleged" in order to make Lee's stance less credible.

Edifier du Jour-Isaiah 1:17-19(NASB)
18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. 19 "If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; 20 "But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword." Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
God wants a reasoned consent from us. There are two parts to the contract-we follow His guidence and He helps us now and eternally. This verse is addressed to Israel, but it still has meaning to us. Our sins are there to be forgiven by God and we will be looked after in life; if we don't follow God, we will ultimately be judged by his word (the Sword of the Word of God in Ephesisans 6:17). A resonable person might well consider that a fair trade.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Kesher Conservatism?-This piece from Judith Weiss over at Kesher Talk points out the dillema that Republicans have getting the Jewish vote, especially the more secular-leaning Jew. There's a well-earned fear of the pre-Warren court public schools that were generically Protestant and of a lot of earlier bigotry. This helped drive Jews into the Democratic camp along with other ethnic and racial minorities. By the 60s, the Republicans had the stereotype as the middle-class WASP party and the Democrats were made up of minorities and unions. Catholics have started to swing over towards the Republicans, but the Jewish vote remains elusive. I'll post this paragraph from Ms. Weiss' column overnight and get to it tommorrow
In short, Jews will vote for whichever group aligns with our deepest desires for a just compassionate society and lasting security for individual rights (including freedom of worship, assembly, conscience, speech, etc., which in turn guarantee our survival as a distinct ethno-religious group). Is this the Republican agenda? You decide.
More than Ms. Weiss thinks.

Fisking, Iraqi style-Has blogging rubbed off on Baghdad? Foreign Minister Naji Sabri doesn't like the UN resolution (goll-eee, wonder why?) and sent a letter to Kofi Annan:" Mr Sabri's letter analyses each of the 13 paragraphs of the resolution text, highlighting the parts he considers unjust and illegitimate." He took apart the UN resolution paragraph by paragraph, pointing out that a technical breach could be theoretically trumped up into a material breach.

People's Choice-The traditional right-of-center People's Party picked up market share in today's Austrian elections, getting 42% of the vote and becoming the clear senior partner in a center-right government. They picked up 16% from their 1999 totals at the expence of the nationalist/nativist Freedom Party, who went down to 10% from their 27% haul of 1999. The Euroweenies can brag that the "neofascists" were beaten back, but it might also be that the People's Party might have tacked to the right to pick up the Freedom Party, sorta like the Republicans absorbing the Wallace Democrats in the 70s. Governing to the right might have helped the PP to get the conservative votes that had went to the Freedom Party; prior to this, they had typically been part of a center-left coalition with the Social Democrats.

Circular Firing Squad-The local Democrats are looking for a scapegoat, possible state party chair Bob Poe, after failing to unseat Jeb and losing US House and state House and Senate seats. This Florida confab might mirror what is going on at the national level.
Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox's name has been floated as a possible replacement for Poe, and he said he was open to an offer. "I'd give it strong consideration," Maddox said. "Florida deserves to have two viable political parties and different points of view."
There were two different points of view, but most of the ads I saw tried to paint the Republicans as unethical and devious rather than talk issues. The mudslinging didn't stick. If they felt they could win on issues, the ads would have been on issues.
Whether the meeting was helpful was debatable, according to the participants. Mitch Ceasar, a former party chairman, said the gathering was a "cathartic gripe session." But just moments before, Broward County's Susan Glasser called it a "colossal waste of time." Aside from the simmering debate over Poe's future, one of the biggest matters raised was what the party believes in and where it is headed. "The Democratic Party stands for demographic groups, not issues," Maddox said.
Ain't that the truth. You keep the black activists happy, the unions happy, the feministas happy, throw the gays and environmentalist some bones, but it doesn't add up to a coherent strategy for the 70% of the electorate that isn't part of one of the Democratic demographic groups.
Cindy Ciro, a state party committeewoman from Citrus County, said, "We're spineless Democrats." Ciro and the chairwoman of Polk County's Democrats, Sharon Becker, said the party needs to get back to its roots as the honest alternative on the left.
An honest alternative? One that tells the truth even when it's inconvenient? One that will take on the opposition without mudslinging or scaremongering? Or does she merely mean a neosocialist alternative?
"We need to get back to saying that we are Democrats and we are not a pale imitation of the Republicans," Becker said. "'Me too' is not going to cut it."
If modern liberalism doesn't sell, neolibs might. However, if the Democrats want to go to a pure progressive politics, they can get 30-35% of the vote and be looking for a way to convince the swing voter that their policies make sense .

Kerry is So Very... Nominatable-This was an interesting poll of 312 Democratic National Committee Members (other bloggers have had this story, but Girl on the Right lays out the stats well), where John Kerry trails Gore by 19%-18%, with John Edwards at 13% and Dick Gephardt at 10%. I wondered who would be staffing the Iowa country offices for Kerry-I think I may have found a few. As Gore leans so far to the left that he can lick the floor, their might be a desire among the Democratic faithful to find a alternative that is liberal but electable. When asked whether Gore should run, the responce is 48-35 No. Edwards is too Southern and Gephardt too old liberal for the party rank-and-file, but I think Kerry might be able to catch that liberal vote. It would keep the Democrats from having a Mondale/McGovern style flame-out and losing three of four extra Senate seats in the process.

The Ol' Cover-up-Interesting comments from Mr. Collins on the Princess Haifa story and whether the US knew about the connection and was keeping it quiet to appease the Saudis. It's always cheap commentary to ask "Did the US know and, if so, when did they know it?" The answer is typically "about the same time we all did." With the Saudi royal family so large (something like 250 grandchildren of the original King Saud, IIRC) it would be surprising if there wasn't a handful of al Qaeda sympathisers in there. However, you don't do things on conjecture-to alter our relations from chilly business partners to adversaries. Someone's going to have to deliver the goods of actual direct financing of anti-American terrorism (as opposed to just financing the madrassas that are the spiritual breeding grounds of the jihadists) before Powell and Co. will declare Riyadh "the Kremlin of terror."

Morning Musings-The Saudis' dodged one PR bullet by handing over the Kuwaiti shooter but now have a 10-meg nuke of a PR problem in the story that Princess Haifa al-Faisal, the wife of the Saudi ambassidor to the US, was helping fund the terrorists. This will be very interesting to watch. For those in the Blogosphere who wondered out loud how high up Saudi support for al Qaeda was, we're starting to get answers. Look for the European left to be up in arms here-a British UN worker was killed in a Israeli raid in Jenin. Talk about being in the wrong place (on the Autoboomer U campus) at the wrong time (just after a autoboomer killed 11 Israelis).

Football Musings-Ohio State punched their ticket to Tempe with a 14-9 win over Michigan. This time, field-goal kicking wasn't the problem for Michigan; taking care of business in the red zone was. Washington State played their way out of a possible trip to Tempe with a triple-OT loss to Washington. WSU still has the inside track to the Rose Bowl if they can beat UCLA in two weeks. For a life-long Big Ten fan, the concept of "settling for the Rose Bowl" is oxymoronic, but that is the position that WSU and Iowa are in. Right now, it looks like Iowa and Notre Dame have the two at large BCS spots; but Notre Dame still has to beat USC next week to clinch that. I don't know who has the first pick of teams, but would the Rose Bowl go with Iowa to preserve a Big 10-Pac 10 matchup or go with the Irish and all the subway alums? The other wildcard might be the Orange Bowl picking Florida if they can sneak into the top 12, thus possibly leaving a third-ranked, 10-1 Iowa Citrus-Bowl bound.

Edifier du Jour-Hosea 6:4-6(NASB)
4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud And like the dew which goes away early. 5 Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth. 6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
God wants a 24-7 relationship with us, not the foul-weather friend that we often become. We are often as constant as that morning dew, on our knees in the bad times and then forgetting all about him once the crisis is past. While I've come around to tithing on the gross rather than the net, God wants more from us than just some ritualistic following of a few rules; he wants us.

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