Saturday, December 21, 2002

Home For the Holidays-Just got in from 17 hours on the road. Eileen and I are now back up in Midland at my parents. Don't expect too much posting until the 30th when we return.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Thank You, Trent-He stepped aside a week too late, but Lott did step aside as Senate Majority Leader today. He'll be staying on in the Senate, which makes the 51-49 edge a bit more managable. The next question will be if Bill Frist, who was making a strong move to challange Lott, will get the SML spot. He's a better speaker and a more telegenic guy than Lott. The worst raps that can be made on Frist, other than that he is a solid conservative, is being a minority owner of a for-profit hospital chain who's had some less-than-honest medical billing practices in the past and having snagged cats for research under false pretenses as a young doctor. A good day for the republic. Blog trimuphalism, anyone?

Democratic Racism?-Let me get in my licks on this Marshall-Rufinni donnybrook. Marshall posted a piece on Clinton's bashing the GOP for racist campaigning both past and present, Rufinni retorted with a litany of interracial problems inside the Democratic party, then Marshall laid down return fire this morning, pointing out the dated nature of some of Ruffini's examples. First of all, I'd think Marshall would have stumbled across the word statist before; he's either less well read than I think he is or he's faking ignorance. Let's refresh his memory-from my office copy of Webster’s New World Dictionary, here's the definition of statism-"the doctrine or practice of vesting economic control, economic planning, etc., in a centralized state government." It covers the economic portion of socialist/liberal politics, but many right-wing governments can be statists as well, like many Latin American countries or the Parti Quebecois. The right wing of the Blogosphere is a heavy user of the word to denote policies that favor government intervention To the extent that Democrats want economic control in Washington, they're statists. Marshall might thing Ruffini is overstating his interventionist nature, but that's the nature of the accusation. Now, on to the substance of the fight between arguably the best conservative political-specialist blogger and the best liberal political-specialist blogger. In many big cities that are about 30-40% black, the Democratic primary often breaks down on racial lines. Both sides will play racial cards in many cases, where whites might be uncomfortable about a black activist candidate and blacks want to get a say and get one of their guys in City Hall. Sometimes you can get a black technocrat that can cross these racial lines, but the politics in cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York will often get testy along racial lines. It might be more of a US-Mexico testy rather than US-Iraq testy, a muted form of racial friction, but it exists nonetheless. Are there more blue-collar Democrat Slats Grobniks that aren't comfortable voting for black candidates than there are GOP-leaning Bubbas, as Ruffini suggests? It'd be within the margin of error. The factory rats of Southie, Chicago or Royal Oak are Democrats but not exactly progressive on racial or ethnic matters. Does that mean the GOP gets a free ride on racial issues. Nope. They still have to show that the mean it when they want a color-blind society. Blacks who want to hang onto bigger government and positive-discrimination policies will tend to vote Democratic even if they think the GOP candidate is a color-blind saint unless they can be convinced that a free-market, color-blind system works better for them. However, the battle ground on the racial issues is to show swing non-black voters that the GOP isn't a bunch of rednecks. Does that mean that the Democrats are better on racial issues than the Republicans? Once you factor out the Dixiecrats, who were a product of another era, the Democrats were better in the 70s and 80s. Republicans who were honestly in favor of federalism and reluctant to get the federal government overly involved, got painted with the "states rights" label, which was a synonym for pro-segregation in the 40s-60s. For the last decade or so, the parties are about even. The Republicans are reluctant to have the federal government take over state and private functions when fighting racism and the Democrats are focused on various forms of positive discrimination. In voting rights issues, the Republican focus on checking for proper identification of new (often minority) voters (prompting screams of "disenfranchisement") is offset by a calculated laxity in wanting to check ID of new voters in the Democrats. There's about as much pro-black bias in the Democrats as there anti-black bias in the GOP. Patrick-lay off Robert Byrd, the segregationist heritage of southern Democrats (almost all those classic bigots were Democrats back then) and Rizzo. Josh-lay off the Southern Strategy of the '70s and the ex-Dixiecrats in the GOP. Let's try to judge the parties on their modern merits.

Blogging From My Laptop-Just set up the AOL account and am now posting from my office. I'm still getting used to the laptop keyboard, but the speed is good and I can get around the blogspot blockage that the nannyware that the school has up.

Productivity Rules!-Interesting Economist article found by Georgetown econ student Simone Koo on company profits growing a projected 5% for 2002. The article has this bit of sour grapes-"However, much of the gain is likely to come from cost-cutting and restructuring, not from a robust recovery in profitability." Sir, profits are revenues minus expenses, last I checked. You can add to profitability by either increasing revenue and/or decreasing expenses. Cutting costs through productivity gains is a legit way to decrease expenses and increase profitability. Schumpeter would call it creative destruction.

The Big He's Big Lie-Go read this excellent Byran Preston piece on Clinton's latest speech branding the GOP racists; Josh Marshall ran a piece on it yesterday morning. I would have laid down some blogfire were I not up to my eyeballs in Macro finals; he does it better than I would have. I'll part company with Bryan on one of Marshall's hypothesis
One needn't think that the Republican party itself is racist. I don't. (In any case, that's too big a word, too general a question.) What the Republican party does have is a history -- not by accident, but by design -- of playing to and benefiting from the votes of racist and crypto-racist constituencies in certain parts of the country -- particularly, though not exclusively, in the South. They built the Republican party in the South on the foundation of racial resentment and civil rights rejectionism. Since then they've built a whole house on top of it. But the foundation's still there.
I think that Republicans knew (and know) that being against affirmative action would (does) sell in the white South. You can campaign in a color-blind manner and still know that the rednecks will get the message. To the extent that a GOP candidate stresses anti-AA in the South more than in the rest of the country, they play to that redneck streak. That isn't to say that the GOP is racist, but that candidates might tweak a color-blind message to play to the local crowd. Clinton's charges are suitable for use as fertilizer. In South Carolina, GOP governor Roy Barnes got voted out of office for opposing the Confederate flag. Clinton was fully full of it; Marshall only partly so.

Midnight Musings-Did everyone take off for Christmas early? My hit counter didn't break 100 yesterday, the first workday since July that didn't hit three figures for unique hits. Maybe all my college student readers are either swamped with finals or packing to go home for Christmas. I'll be heading north later today (I'm wired at the moment, so I'll blog myself to sleep), picking Eileen up at her new job in Lakeland and getting a 5-hour drive in, then finish the job of getting to Midland Saturday. We're spending Christmas with my parents, then driving to Rockford, IL on Christmas night to spend a couple of days at my grandma-in-law's for Eileen's clan's Christmas. Blogging will be sporadic during the next week, but probably more than you'd expect. How come when I here "material breech," I expect to hear "Capt'n, we need ta jettison da warp core!" If Powell is on board, the next stop is the UNSC; getting the French on board will be the trick. It looks like Bill Frist's hat is in the ring as a possible replacement for Lott. Stick a fork in Trent, Joe. He's only medium rare? Give him a couple of more days to cook. Governor Frank Murkowski will name the replacement for Senator Murkowski later today, it's expected to be Senator Murkowski. As in current state rep and first daughter Lisa Murkowski.

Edifier du Jour-I'm starting to get into a Christmas mood, as Eileen and I are heading north later today, so I'll give Romans a rest and exegete on some carols. Let's start with Silent Night-I'll skip to the second verse
Silent night, Holy night Shepherds quake at the sight Glories stream from Heaven afar Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah Christ, the Savior is born Christ, the Savior is born
Shepherds were about as blue-collar as things got in those days, yet it was to shepherds that the angels gave the good news to. Shepherds were tough customers, for their job was to protect their flocks from wolves, lions and other predators. These guys don't quake easily, but they did when the angels came to down. This was the good news of a savior; not just a king, but a savior.
Silent night, Holy night Son of God, love’s pure light Radiant beams from thy Holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace Jesus, Lord, at thy birth Jesus, Lord, at thy birth
The dawn of redeeming grace. I at first thought that the phrase is overstated, for grace wasn't unknown in the Old Testament. However, the redemptive grace that would come at Golgotha is new; Jesus' birth marked the beginning of that process. This was Love's pure light in human form, sent to die for us.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Midday Musings-Light posting today; getting my exams graded and final grades posted. Any wonderful opuses will have to keep for tomorrow. For your reading pleasure-go snag today's Lilek on Christmas. Via Papa Blog's radar, Mr. Anglosphere, James Bennett, has a piece on getting Turkey (and Eastern Europe as well) into NAFTA. His proposed TransAtlantic Free Trade Area would make the EU change their Depends. That would be a good post topic in the near future, when I've got an hour to myself over Christmas. The pro-detente candidate, Roh Moo Hyun, won in South Korea's presidential election, beating his more hawkish foe 49-47. I wonder if the campaign slogan was "Just Say Roh"; a leading R is pronounced as an N in Korean. [Update 12:30-Found this while grazing on a snackplate of Financial Aid office goodies in lieu of lunch-Randy McRoberts has a nice piece on the evolution of worship in his life.]

Dimbulb Economics?-Interesting and very disturbing Dimbleby lecture from the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (thanks to Jesus Gil for the heads-up). The excerpts here don't directly call for a one-world, socialist government, but they head in that direction.
In his speech, the Dimbleby Lecture, which will be broadcast on BBC One tonight, Dr Williams argued that without religion “our whole politics is likely to be in deep trouble”.
With the wrong religion, politics is in even deeper trouble.
He said it was inevitable that governments can no longer deliver in terms of setting out a moral basis for ordinary citizens to live their lives by.
You can't expect a post-Christian government such as Britain’s to deliver a moral platform
While governments are successful at encouraging enterprise and consumerism to an unprecedented degree, they are no longer capable of guaranteeing long-term security.
When were they capable of that? They can move towards a more prosperous and secure future, but they can't gaurentee it.
He made it clear that he believes that in a post-September 11 world, it is God that has to define how we live rather than our political leaders.
Brilliant deduction, Watson. What's He been telling you?
At the press conference to mark his nomination earlier this year Dr Williams spoke of his determination to “recapture the imagination of our culture for Christianity”. His lecture was an indication of how he intends to set about doing that. Dr Williams took as his starting point The Shield of Achilles, a seminal work describing how the traditional model of the nation-state is being superseded by the market-state, by the American academic and former White House adviser, Philip Bobbitt
Bobbitt was Clinton's National Security Council director of intelligence. This book review of The Shield of Achilles, points out that modern states are less militaristic and more market-oriented than in the past. However, I want to question this hypothesis from the book review
Nation states in the past promised to look after the material welfare of their citizens, which is why they felt entitled to mobilise those citizens as a mass to fight wars. By contrast, the modern state, born from the marriage of minds between Thatcher and Reagan, defers to the market and contents itself with maximising opportunities for its citizens.
This is a critique of a free-market based state; fans of free-market economics would point out that it does a better job of looking after the commonweal than a more statist system. Was the US better off in 1980 than it is today? I don't think the most statist governments of the 60s and 70s were doing a great job in looking after the material welfare of their citizens. The review goes on to map out Bobbit's dystopic markets-and-technology-run-amok view of our future with a joint channeling of Paul Krugman and Bill Joy. If this is what the Archbishop has on his nightstand, he'll wind up even more of a socialist pruneface. Now, back to more of the Dimbleby lecture.
He said that we were living in a period “where the basic assumptions about how states work are shifting.” He said: “The idea that’s being increasingly canvassed is that we are witnessing the end of the nation-state, and that the nation-state is being replaced in the economically-developed world by what some call the market-state.” A new form of political administration has arisen in which the idea of being a citizen and a politician has changed. Where the job of those who ran the state was once seen as guaranteeing the general good of the community, the state no longer has the power to keep its side of the bargain. The international power of the markets and consumers meant that any one country is unable to guarantee employment — one indication of how things have shifted.
The state still has that power to look after the general good of the community, and opts to allow free markets to do most of the work. Countries weren't able to guarantee employment before globalization.
In addition there are “sinister implications” in the revolution in electronic communication, with international conspiracy harder to detect and frustrate. “Al-Qaeda and similar networks inhabit a virtual world, not an identifiable headquarters in a single place.” The deregulation involved in the new political mode has meant “the withdrawal of the state from many of those areas where it used to bring some kind of moral pressure to bear,” he said.
Moral pressure must equate to regulation of industry and wealth-transference. The question I would pose is whether such "moral pressure" upon businesses to abide by extra regulations is beneficial to the commonweal. Is such "moral pressure" what God would have in mind? If we look at government in a parental capacity, keeping the child (the free markets) from getting into trouble, we have to remember that there is such a thing as overparenting, of being too protective. It's often in the child's best interest to be given a long leash and skin their knees once in a while. To the socialist, the market is a Terrible Two-year-old, and he has to make the country child-proof. Breakable things will be put away, gates put up in key places and doors locked up. However, if the market is more of a sixteen-year-old, an 11PM curfew and proper moral council might be enough boundaries.
Dr Williams described how the educational system, despite the best efforts of teachers, is empty of vision. He said: “It means that government is free to encourage enterprise but not to protect against risk, to try and increase the literal and metaphorical purchasing power of citizens, but not to take for granted anything much in the way of agreement about common goals or social good.”
Where do I start on this one. Risk works two ways, an upside and a downside; if you eliminate risk, you stagnate. Protecting against risk is essentially locking in the status quo. It's possible to have government help people when the free market makes a small boo-boo, such as welfare and educational retraining, but protecting against risk runs counter to the long-term commonweal of a nation. What about common goals? Not all goals need to be managed collectively. This might be something that doesn't quite translate across the pond, but the Declaration of Independence listed our basic rights to be life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Beyond a basic police and military (and arguably public health) systems to protect life, the management of those goals is left to the free market, mitigated by a legal system to map out the rules of the road. There are some common goals that can be pursued collectively; a good education for our kids, safe streets, a strong, agile but frugal military, help for the truly needed, a good transportation system, a clean environment (how clean is the debating point) are points that can be part of a governmental system, but most other things are better left to the private or not-profit sector. Even some of these item can be partly privatized while government funded.
One “worrying sign” of this underlying philosophy was the way successive governments have dealt with education, with the emphasis on parental choice and the publication of results. He conceded these in themselves were not “social evils”. But he said: “They also fit all too neatly into the consumer model and allow the actual philosophy of education itself to be obscured behind a cloud of sometimes mechanical criteria of attainment.”
We've had discussions amongst faculty over whether students are the customer or the product. Frequently, it appears that educators (especially more liberal ones) want to be able to teach children the way they see fit and want minimal interference from the parent. A more customer-friendly approach gets in the way of the education system teaching/indoctrinating them in their preferred world-view. The less-quantifiable attitudes and mores that they want to teach don't mesh well with a standardized test. Tests can be poorly used, as teachers will be left to "teach to the test" and leave off anything that isn't on the exam. However, a standard curriculum backed up with exams will at least give some accountability. A kid which is a good, well-rounded model citizen (depending on what your model is) but can't function in a real-world economy isn't a desirable product.
Dr Williams said that modern politics was about sating consumer needs. “The unspoken model of political expectation now is increasingly the consumerist one: the individual confronts the state, asking for what is promised — maximal choice, purchasing power to determine a lifestyle. Policies that restrict lifestyle choices are electoral suicide.” He accused politicians of only concentrating on the short term, bouncing from one election to the next.
Does he wish that choices be restricted? There's an elitism that comes through in that paragraph. I might be wrong, but there is a sentiment that choices that aren't what the educated elite want are sub-optimal.
Religious belief could fill the vaccuum, he said. “If specifically religious tradition has a place here, it is because of those elements that only religious conviction seems to secure in our sense of what is human. To see or know anything adequately is to be aware of its relation to the eternal,” he said. “Without that relativising moment, our whole politics is likely to be in deep trouble.” The challenge for religious communities is how to offer a vision as a way of opening up some of the depth of human choices, he added.
How come I here echoes of Hillary’s Politics of Meaning here? Williams seems to be only offering a vague sense of comfort here. I don’t think the Church is called to make us secure in our humanity, it’s called to secure us to Christ. It’s more important to see our relationship with “the eternal” than to see the corner store’s relationship with the eternal. I don’t think the vague generic theism that Williams is offering is going to be much comfort to British society, nor does his discomfort with the market economy translate into policies that will expand the commonweal. He seems to be campaigning to be Old Labour’s chaplain.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 11:1-6(NASB)
1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 "Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE." 4 But what is the divine response to him? "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL." 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.
Sometime when the inmates are running the madhouse, it seems that you're about the only one left with any reverence for God left. God's got far more than 7000 men and women left who worship Him. Hang in there; we've read the end of the book, and the good guys win.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie-Part I-Definitions-Mr. Claybourn has an interesting post in the wee hours of this morning on Communism.
One of the chief downfalls of the Soviet Union was its rush into communism. Indeed, the Soviets seemed to ignore what their founders had to say about it. A transitional phase necessarily exists between capitalism and communism. Karl Marx wrote, "Between capitalist and communist society lies a period of revolutionary transformation from one to the other." This period is usually labeled by the Marxist as "socialism," although you'll sometimes see it called "dictatorship of the proletariat." Scientific Communism: A Glossary makes it clear: "The different stages in the development of society based on public ownership of the means of production are the two phases of communism, the lower - socialism, and the higher - complete or developed communism." Modern day Marxists still hold this view.
Socialism is the control of the means of production by the blue-collar workers {my loose definition of proletariat), while communism marks the lack of need for such control when people automatically do the right things. Given human nature, communism will never be achieved while humans rule.
This transitional stage of socialism will be a blend between capitalism and communism. The main difference between communism and socialism is that, in their eyes, socialism will not have abolished all the problems created by capitalism.
It doesn't do away with greed. In the old USSR, the rulers lived better than workers, for connections were more important than money. Lacking the constructive outlets for rational self-interest, they turned to laziness, theft and corruption.
The stage is necessary, in part, because not everyone will accept a dictatorship of the proletariat. Pure communism, the final phase of development, will only result from a constant mutation into the socialist phase. Did the Soviets fail because they moved too quickly? That's a somewhat subjective question, but my own belief is that they did.
It's been a couple of decades since I seriously studied Soviet history (had a class on Soviet government in the early '80s) but one of the toughest nuts for Lenin to crack were the small farmers (Kulaks) who didn't want to be collectivized. A lot of productivity went down the tubes as they forced the kulaks into communal or state farms. The force needed to move to a state-run system was too traumatic.
But the inheritance of the communist's cause - the modern day far Left - seem to follow Marx's advice more closely by engaging in a much slower advance toward total socialism. Republicans love to proclaim that Reagan won the Cold War by defeating the Soviets. Did he win the war, or just a battle? I suppose only time and history will be the judge of that.
I remember back on GIGO, the NRO protoblog of the late 90s, one poster would mark a good day for the left by asking "Dr. Hayek, what milepost are we on?" The road to serfdom is largely paved with good intentions, for many liberals want merely to smooth out the rough edges of the free market system. They are egged on by the hard left, who would like a socialist state. The old analogy of boiling a frog slowly might apply; incremental changes to the size of government are lest apt to be rebelled against than dramatic ones. One problem that the modern-day Marxists have is that they have to overcome a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, bobo and otherwise. The average American doesn't see himself as lower-class, he wants to think of himself as middle-class (bourgeois in Marxist lingo). The bourgeoisie pay more taxes than they get back as benefits as a group. To increase the government, the bourgeoisie has to be persuaded that it is in his best interest to do so, typically driven by fear of the worst things happening. The conservative's aim is to show the bourgeoisie that a free market and lower taxes are in their best interest and that larger government is more bother than it's worth. I doubt the voters in Europe or the US will voluntarily vote in a hard-core, nationalize-everything Marxist, but there's a lot of room to screw things up short of a return of the hammer and sickle. For the next 50 years or so, the fight won't be American-style welfare capitalism versus USSR-style communism but with European-style market socialism. I'll revisit what I wrote a couple of weeks ago on Market Socialism
The key difference between the two systems (as I see it this evening) is that the American system has the individual as the core operating unit of society while the European system has the state as the core operating unit. Power flows to the government from the people in the US, while power flows from the government to the people in Europe. European "market socialism" looks like the American system at first glance, but there are two different assumptions based on European collectivism and American individualism. The first is that the European systems assumes that it is the government's job to look after the individual while the American assumption is that the individual can largely fend for themselves. This leads to a larger, paternalistic government, with guaranteed health care, guaranteed income and subsidized child care and culture. That larger government leads to slower growth and less wealth, but the underlying collective cultural assumptions are hard to shake. The second assumption is on collective wisdom; Americans feel that the individual is wiser than the collective, while Europeans seem to think that the collective is wiser than the individual. This leads to a greater tolerance of government intervention and of centralization of both government and businesses. In economics, the diversity of ideas that is the free market makes smarter decisions than a central planner, but that runs counter to a collectivist mind-set. The "unilateralist" flaps in geopolitics is a subset of this; if the rest of the world thinks X and the US thinks Y, the Euroweenie thinks that the collective must be right. Paternalism and collectivism both lead to slower-growing economies, while individualism and dynamism helps create faster-growing and richer economies. The continental Europeans see that, but have yet to get rid of the old paradigm. When the French bash Anglo-American economics, they're retreating to their collectivist roots, even though they know it's inefficient.
The fight will be between that more collectivist, more-risk-adverse European system and the more individualistic, less-risk-adverse American system. I don't see out-and-out communism making a comeback anytime soon, but the centralized European systems would be more prone to a spasm of Marxist popularity and could lead to a popularly elected Marxist screwing things up, al a Allende in Chile. However, it would likely take a generation or two for that to happen, for the memories of how bad things were in Eastern Europe are still fresh. For the meantime, conservatives will have to fight Market Socialism. Coming Soon-Part II-Market Socialism: How to get there and how to avoid getting there.

What Will They Call The Pacer's Fieldhouse?-The insurance subsidiaries seem safe for policyholders, but Conseco's parent company just went into Chapter 11. An merger binge seem to do it in. It's the third largest bankruptcy in US history. From the odd seat of a sports fan and a business professor, it's interesting that we've now seen two stadium sponsors (Remember Enron Field in Houston) go belly-up in less than a year. I would like to think that the companies that get to name stadiums would be pillars of the community-no, it's whoever's got the cash to buy the rights.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 10:8-11(NASB)
8 But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
If you want to have a works-based salvation theology, you'll have to work your way around this one, for the only work that is required is to move ones lips. One will do more than just move ones lips, but that confession of ones faith as Jesus as Lord is sufficient. I remember fisking the Christian Blogging Manifesto for only having "Jesus as Lord" as their creed, as opposed to the Lord and Savior that most evangelicals will recognize. A quick reading of this passage might say "Chill, Mark, they're just quoting Paul." However, look at the second part of verse 9; do people that merely recognize Jesus as Lord also recognize his substitutionary death and resurrection? Verse nine clearly focuses on the resurrection, but assumes belief in Jesus substitutionary death. Thus, even if you aren't required to say that Jesus is your Savior, it's a heart requirement. One interesting thing I saw in the NIV Study Bible notes to this yesterday is that it was the first-century Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, used Lord (Kyrios) for YHWH. This gives a clear implication to the Greek-readers of Paul's letter that "Jesus is Lord", but that Jesus is God as well. It's second-hand evidence, but it's another hoop to jump though if you want to try and take away Jesus' divinity.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

More Midday Musings-"TAG HIM AND BAG HIM"?-C'mon Bryan, show a little respect for the dead. Good, you won't make long pig out of him. That's some respect, at least. I'll grade exams later, but now, I'm going domestic, doing two loads of laundry and making a trial batch of "Chex" Mix. The first batch is using semi-stale store brand stuff, but I got the real deal ($1.99 special at Kash and Karry, why not the real stuff?) ready for when I get the seasoning perfected. I'm scrapping seven Christmases of rust of that part of my culinary playbook; I did some for myself when I was in grad school, but hadn't made any since getting my Ph.D. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Bacteria-A Marine recruit was killed by a flesh-eating strep in San Diego who died a few hours after going to the doctor for a bad rash, over 100 other recruits were affected. Sorry for the bad subtitle, but the B-minus movie classic was filmed in San Diego; even the KGB Chicken got a cameo in.

Midday Musings-Saw my first, and likely last, Wellstone! (like Lamar!) sticker on my way back from work just now; The car with Minnesota plates wasn't quite a limousine liberal (it was a Hyundai Sonata), but a Minnesotan with enough money to winter in Florida. Laptops are nice. I just got done proctoring my Macro final, and was able to write the Education and Anti-homosexuality<>Bigotry posts while keeping the young 'ens honest. I was able to sneak in a game of pinball (sound muted) as well; I missed the game that was on Win95's Plus package but not on Win98's. They're already taking side-bets on who would be Lott's replacement if he decided to throw a snit and step down. Former Ag Secretary/Congressman Mike Espy, state AG (and tobacco lawsuit frontman) Mike Moore and outgoing congressman Ronnie Shows are on the short list. Shows would be the safest bet as a moderate who's not tainted by scandal. Moore reminds me a bit too much of John Edwards (the crusading lawyer thing) to sell in a Senate election and Espy was put on trial for getting a few too many goodies from Tyson Foods; Espy was acquitted, but the Tyson stuff would be good attack ad fodder. Side point that you've likely seen-if Lott resigns by the end of the month, a special election would be called within 90 days, while a 2003 resignation would allow a replacement (made by Democratic Gov. Musgrove) to serve until a special election in November.

Get an Ark, Trent-The Blogosphere's sure flooding the zone on the BET Lott thing. Hit-and-Run (Reason's answer to The Corner, give it a look-see if you haven't done so yet) has declared it a "masterpiece of mendacity--the sort of spectacle that can only deepen distrust of politicians, regardless of ideology or party affiliation." Jonah's got a faux AP report on next year' Sharpton-Lott ticket, scroll down for more carpet-bombing from The Corner denizens. Papa Blog quotes a reader's Julius Caesar remark-"Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once."

Anti-homosexuality<>BigotryA basic trick of political discourse is to paint your foe as being like the most disagreeable elements of your half of the spectrum. For instance, Nixon got his Senate seat in part by pointing out his foe’s voting record was near identical to a Communist congressman; you’d get the same effect today of matching a liberal congressman’s record with Bernie Sanders. People outside the mainstream will often hold views that overlap those of the edges of the mainstream. The tag of socialist doesn’t hold as much water in the post-Cold War era. However, the left now has the various tags of intolerance to label the right, especially religious conservatives, with. Expect the left to run this gambit more than once in the months to come, for the gay-rights backers have frequently made parallels to the black Civil Rights Movement and thus equating anti-homosexuality thoughts akin to racism. This Atrios article is one such example, looking to associate Sen. Don Nichols with the white-supremacist Christian Identity move and with the evangelical fringe Reconstructionist groups due to all three being anti-homosexual. First, liberals would like to associate anti-homosexual stands with other bigotries, especially racial ones. While there are pockets of redneck attitudes in evangelical circles, the average evangelical I have encountered over the years is less racist than their unchurched peers. The idea that we’re one in Christ makes bigotry hard to maintain. Yes, churches are still very segregated, but that is more due to housing patterns and different styles of worship than blacks being unwelcome in majority-white churches. For example, my old Vineyard church in Midland had a black praise leader, while the Lakeland Vineyard has a Hispanic worship leader/pastor. The other whacking-stick is the Taliban Hypothesis (saying Reconstructionist (here's a good post of mine on the topic from March) is the more theologically literate version) of Christian conservatives wanting to establish a theocracy. The vast majority of evangelicals don’t want to go back to the Mosaic Law of stoning adulterers and homosexuals (among many things); firstly, Jesus died to free us from that system. Secondly, many of the most ardent Bible-thumpers are dispensationalists, who see that Old Testament law as applying to the Jews of the BC era and not to today. That’s not to say that Christian conservatives will not want to discourage sexual promiscuity (especially of the homosexual variety) and encourage marriage, to want to block abortion and euthanasia and to put in a plug for school vouchers, but such a platform stops well short of the burqa brigades. Most will agree with the First Amendment’s establishment clause, even if they will want to tweak the edges of how we define it. A State Church ain’t likely to be yours. Yes, the Bible comes out against homosexuality. People who promote homosexuality as normal aren’t going to be thought of well by people who take the Bible at face value. Atrios’ example of the Hormel nomination requires a rebuttal; he wasn’t shot down by the Senate simply because he was gay but that he was an over-the-top gay rights activist and not someone even moderate Republicans were comfortable sending to Luxembourg to represent the US. However, trying to lump an orthodox Christian belief in the sinfulness of homosexuality with racial and ethnic bigotry doesn’t hunt. You’re more likely to have unchurched people doing hate crimes or holding racist thoughts than churchgoers. If you want to go after the GOP for not being in favor of same-sex marriage or granting benefits to same-sex couples or for promoting a heterosexist sex ed policy, feel free. However, don’t pull out the redneck brush when you do so. [Update 1:20-Looks like Buchananites are Reconstructionists in Atrios' eyes-he has this factiod at the end of a Council for National Policy piece-"Howard Phillips, of course, is the perennial Christian Reconstructionist wingnut presidential candidate of the Reconstructionist wingnut Constitution Party." I'll buy the wingnut part.] [Update 6:15AM 12/18-It looks like Atrios is right on Phillips-I knew his politics but didn't know that he's been inspired by Reconstructionist guru R.J. Rushdoony. Here's a World magazine piece from '98 on Phillips. Thanks to Evan Donovan in the comments for the heads-up.]

Education and the Jubilee-One thing that struck me about Old Testament economics is that people weren’t allowed to get too far in debt and that debts were forgiven every seven years. Land had to be returned to its original family every 50 years. This meant that every family had long-term access to land and prevented the emergence of a landless underclass. In a post-frontier economy, it’s not feasible to give everyone a plot of farmland to call their own, or to turn land purchases into 49-year-or-less leases. How do we apply that concept to a modern economy? We can do better than give people 40 acres and a mule; we can give them a quality education. A good education gives people the human capital that they will need to succeed in a post-agrarian culture. This seems to call for education being a universal requirement and leans strongly towards something that the government should finance; we can debate how that money should be spent, but I’ll argue that not mandating it would lead to an underclass of people without anything to offer society other than a warm body. This doesn’t work at the problem of differences in financial capital between families; kids from rich families will have advantages starting out that poor kids won’t. However, the goal of giving every kid a solid education will keep people from having a total lack of capital. People without land in an agrarian society were serfs or sharecroppers; people without human capital today are minimum wage “burger-slingers” or candidates for welfare. In an earlier era, such low-education folks could get a decent factory job; today, many factory jobs need a certain amount of math and computer skills. This makes the need for quality schooling in poor areas even more important, if we are to give people hope of something more than a low-end job.

Third Thoughts on Lott-I had thought late last week that it would only encourage the left to get rid of Lott as Majority Leader, but if the BET interview is any indication, it seems like he's either been brainwashed by the pressure or pleading with the left to let him survive, supporting "across the board" affirmative action and reconcidering the Pickering nomination. A few more days of this and he'll be ready to become a Democrat. Pull the plug while you still can, Senate Republicans. Save the senators from further grief and remove him from his post.

Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Has a Mailing Address-The chattering classes have clamped onto the Council for National Policy as their topic of the day; ABC did a piece yesterday, and Krugman has chimed in on it today. I'm not sure how much we should read into this-a group of prominent conservatives, primarily from the religious conservative camp but not exclusively, get together for off-the-record, no-reporters discussions on the issues of the day. This Canadian piece on the CNP from last year seems to point to a fairly benign group, with a newsletter and non-PAC tax status, but it does have a who's-who of American conservatives. If you're from the liberal camp, such as Atrios or Paul Krugman today, you might see the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy personified; the only thing missing is Richard Mellon Scaife. The closed-door nature of these meetings bother the watchdogs, but it's not just the right that has closed-door policy confabs. I remember President Clinton heading off to Renaissance Weekend every New Years at Hilton Head, a close-door meeting of center-left movers and shakers for a mix of fun and serious talk on various issues. Conservatives wound up setting up a rival Dark Ages retreat. I don't remember the media (even the right-wing media) going into full throat over it, generally allowing him a few days to be off stage and chill out.

The Media Primary-Interesting point here by John Ellis, who points out that the media only wants to cover two candidates.
One thing to remember is that the 2004 primary season will be exceptionally short. The whole thing begins and ends inside of 8 weeks. Once the winnowing process (Iowa and New Hampshire) weeds out the Howard Deans and General Clarks, South Carolina will be the state where the race goes from 3 candidates to a two-man race (the TV networks can only afford to cover two candidates once the Super Tuesdays begin).
One problem with that theory is it assume that it is clearly a two-man race. If there is a front runner and two challengers closely bunched, the coverage will be roughly half to the leader and half to the other two candidates. The secret is not to fall out of contact of the second place candidate, for the media will want to make it mano-a-mano if they can. The other assumption Ellis makes is that Gephardt will be the anti-Kerry. I don't see him making a case outside of the union vote; he's more of a old-school (pre sexual revolution and environmental movement) liberal. Kerry or Dean or Daschle would be more to their liking, unless Gephardt runs hard on protectionism to appeal to the Green wing of the party. Gephardt would have been a cleaner sell to the DLC wing of the party than Kerry or Dean or Daschle or Edwards; Lieberman's presence co-ops that angle. Gephardt will do well, but will struggle to get much past 20% nationwide.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 9:30-33(NASB)
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, "BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
Keep this in mind as we finish celebrating the Christmas season; the baby Jesus isn't as threatening as the adult Jesus. The baby brings peace on earth and good will to men (or to men of good will), while the empty tomb of Easter gives the non-believer the Liar-Lunatic-or-Lord question. The babe in a manger doesn't question whether we know him or not. Sweet little Jesus boy doesn't chide us about lusting in our hearts or call us hypocrites. We give him expensive but affordable gifts rather than our whole lives. People embrace Jesus at this time of year, but not at the other times of the year; at Christmas, the manger scene is at least a supporting player to Santa; the empty tomb isn't even on radar between the bunnies and the eggs on Easter. So use this opportunity to talk about Jesus as the one who died for our sins; when the Wise Men come up, point out that the gift of myrrh (a burial ointment) spoke of how his death was the key.

Monday, December 16, 2002

The Next Graham- Interesting piece on the Graham clan and the history of the modern evangelical movement in US News-not much real news there for anyone who's followed the family, although I didn't know the Anne Graham Lotz story until her Just Give Me Jesus tour hit Tampa this fall. I'm not sure if Billy is a unifying figure more than he's a figure that most evangelicals (save the hyperseperitists) respect. Billy also has a combination of Biblical directness with a diplomacy about tangential issues that keeps him out of trouble. If you have trouble with what he's saying, you're having trouble taking the Bible at face value. The media want a largely apolitical Mr. Evangelical to look to as the nation's chaplain and wonder who will be his successor. Franklin Graham has come into his own in the last few years enough to earn fatwas from the Middle East. He's staking out some ground on the left edge of evangelicaldom with an emphasis on AIDS and on poverty-fighting. If he's not careful, it could turn into a social-gospel thing that will leave the salvation gospel behind. If he plays his cards right, his Samaritan's Purse organization could be able to get to the Salvation Army level, where secular folks will help out even though there is an underlying evangelical message.

Evening Musings-Lott may not get to be Majority Leader-he's got three weeks to save his butt before a Jan. 6 meeting of the Senate Republicans. It's hard to read the tea leaves at this time, but more people are calling for review than are supporting Lott. I didn't get around to saying anything on the 9-11 commission prior to this, but former NJ governor Thomas Kean seems a safe pick to head it up; New Jersey people might correct me, but I remember him to be a competent moderate-towards-RINO governor. Continue to watch Venezuela-Oil prices have gone up as a result of the strikes there.

Midday Musings-Da Doctor's got a new play-thang-my new laptop just arrived while I was proctoring my Personal Finance final. That will allow me to do some blogging on the road when Eileen and I go north for Christmas. I can bum my dad's computer in Midland for posting, but this will allow me to surf and post from hotel rooms and Grandma-in-law's as well. Don Nickles is calling for a vote on Lott's leadership. How many other co-conspirators does he have? We'll find out. He must have quite a few, for you don't try and oust the King unless you think you can win. If you think bigotry is just a white thing, check this piece from the Great While North, where a First Nations (Canadian for Native American) leader, David Ahenakew, made some Nazieqsue statements about Jews. Care for a white sheet with that headdress? Lieberman's now talking openly about a run. "What was until yesterday only a possibility, an abstraction, this morning becomes a reality, a concrete reality, and it is an awesome opportunity, one to be taken with the greatest of seriousness{.}" Translation-"Hot diggity dog, the stiff decided to drop out! Now I can run!" It's getting less and less pretty done in Venezuela. "On national television, Mr Chavez said troops should ignore judges and court rulings and obey only presidential decrees." Doesn't that sound just a tad autocratic?

Tax Reform Thoughts-There's some (dare I say it) Clintonesque changing the terms going on with the Bush team, where they are seeming to want to avoid including payroll taxes in figuring out overall tax burden; this will make the tax burden of the working poor a lot lower, since they pay payroll taxes from $1 and don't pay income taxes until about $5-7000 in income. Of course, the left is in full-throat on this one, and rightly so, although the tax-increases for the poor line is overplaying their hand. Here's a proposal to help both sides of the issue at once. (1) Abolish the FICA tax and fund Social Security based on income taxes. This would require a hefty increase in the income tax, but would help lower-income workers who have to pay FICA on $1. Keep the format for determining how much SS everyone would earn for now. You could discuss a privatization plan as well, but that's a second issue for now. (2) Give a Net Investment Deduction to taxpayers. Savings at end of year minus savings at beginning of year would equal the deduction. Savings in this definition would include checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual fund, rental real estate, partnerships and individual businesses. This will turn the income tax into a de facto sales tax, for what you earn less what you save is what you purchased. If you look at the economic impact of the abolishment of the FICA tax, it would help the working poor at the expense of everyone else. It would also tend to help labor-intensive business over capital-intensive ones. To make this change more equitable for the more capital-intensive firms, and to encourage investment, we then move the income tax into a de-facto sales tax. The investment deduction will allow the cost of capital to drop, allowing firms to raise money to buy plant and equipment easier. A move towards a consumption-based system will encourage savings and thus encourage long-term growth. The reduction in FICA tax will encourage small business growth, as small business will pay 7% of their payroll in taxes whether they're profitable or not, as well as giving a break on the cost of capital.. Who wins in this combination of changes? The working poor, labor-intensive industries, people with money to invest. Who breaks even? Capital intensive industries-the higher income taxes are offset by lower cost of capital. Who loses?-Middle-income-or-higher taxpayers who don't save much. How about that as the starting point for some serious tax reform that might be salable to both parties?

The Race to be Dubya's Foil-Upon further reflection, it might well be a Kerry-Lieberman race now that Gore has dropped out of the race. The establishment liberal wing of the party will be for Kerry while the DLC wing will break for Lieberman. The key for the other candidates is to gain access to "the pack" and to have the media get down to the third or fourth candidate. Getting to 20% (or to within 5% of the leaders, whichever is less) in the polls should give then that access. Edwards -He could make some inroads as a populist fresh face, but he'll have to do more that just be a fresh face; I'm sensing Edwards will be a Democratic analog of Alexander the Plaid, where Lamar got to 25% in 1996 largely on style, but couldn't make a case on substance. He's got a bit of an opening to get some of Gore's southern votes, but will have a hard time winning non-Southern states. Gephardt-He could sneak up to 20% and be part of the lead pack if he can put together a labor-centrist coalition; he would have a better shot of doing this without Lieberman in the race. Daschle-I don't see him running; he has an opening, but I don't think he'll sell well in a primary campaign; he's fighting in Kerry's terrain with a charisma deficit. Dean-If Edwards is an Alexander 1996 analog, Dean is Bruce Babbitt 1988. He'll be the reporter's favorite candidate as something of a freethinker and a good quote man. He could get off some zingers in the early debates, but will get lucky to get into the teens. If he does, and there's a four or five man race, he could run as the candidate of the left from outside the Washington orthodoxy. In which case, he'll not be Babbitt '88 but get the Birkenstock crowd going "Clean for Dean" a la McCarthy '68.

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 24:29-36
29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. 31 "And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. 32 "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34 "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
I'm going to be talking about something more touchy than eschatology; does verse 36 mean that there are some things that the Father knows that Jesus isn't privy to? I frequently refer to Jesus as "an infinite subset of God," for if verse 36 is correct, there's at least one factoid that is password-protected. Various passages point to Jesus' divinity, but this might point to a partial division within the Godhead. People have taken me to task in the past for that infinite subset thought, but if Jesus doesn't know the day and hour of his return, there's part of the Trinity that isn't Jesus. The closest analogy I can think of is an infinite hard drive that has been partitioned. The data of Jesus return date is on the F drive; a search of the J drive will turn up empty. There is but one hard drive, but it has three virtual hard drives on it. Open discussion point-if you don't like the idea of Jesus as an infinite subset of God, how do you make Him the entirety of God while still denying him the date of his return, leaving that data in the Father part of God?

Quality TV Advocates Cheer-Less Gore in 2003-The FVPOTUS decided not to run yesterday. That will get the Blogosphere in full voice over the ramificaitons. Big winners in my first thoughts are Kerry and Lieberman. Kerry gets rid of the other standard liberal in the race and Lieberman is now free to run after saying that he'd not oppose his old running mate. I'd think that Gephardt is a loser, in the he and Lieberman would be fighting over the same crop of voters. It also opens a window for Daschle to run as the establishment liberal candidate, but I think Kerry has that ground well covered. Edwards could pick up some of the Southern vote from Gore.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

On to the Semis!-Barring a monster game from Jeremy Shockley, it looks like my eighth-seeded Florida Blogistas blew up the Blogger Bowl brackets, knocking off William Sulik's top seeded Asylum Idiots. The last-second TD catch for Randy Moss was key; both Moss and Duce Staley produced a pair of TDs today, while Drew Bledsoe and Charlie Garner had off days for the Idiots. My informal count has me with a 60-39 lead going into the 4:00 games; with the Cowboys-Giants game being of interest with Shockley the only guy left for the Idiots and Emmitt Smith going for the Blogistas.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 9:1-8(NASB)
1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED." 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
We might not have that kind of heart for Israel, but we'll often wish that people in our own family or other people we know would come to the Lord, and would do most anything to see that happen. The problem is that it's God's job to lead people to Him; we're just the messenger boys. Do your best and let God do the rest; it's pithy, but it's the best I've got this morning.

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