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Saturday, January 04, 2003

Anglosphere Freaks Saving the World-The comment section has a fairly high signal-to-noise ratio on this site, so it's not often I give both barrels to a comment. J.F. Karr took umbrage with this post on US war policy and left this-"You neocons should take something for your Messiah complexes." The evangelical part of me wanted to fire away on the grounds that we the US isn't the savior of the world, Jesus is, but I decided to take Mr. Karr on the underlying merits of his argument, that the US, or at least the "neocons" running it, wants to save the world. Most conservatives, regardless of prefixes, and a good chunk of the liberal crowd, would agree that that a major goal of American foreign policy is to spread American-style democracy, with its free-markets and emphasis on human rights, around the world, encouraging it via trade and cooperation where it exists, promoting it where it is in short supply and opposing its foes. The foes of this policy are a crop of liberals and socialists (who don't like free-markets and free trade much) and a crop of paleoconservatives (who don't like free trade and are xenoscepetics). I might be painting with too broad a brush here, but the difference between paleocons and other conservatives is that the paleocons seem to place a lesser value on a foreign life than other conservatives do. Part of it may be a pessimism in the paleocon (especially where it blends into paleolibertarian) on the government's ability to do anything right, but I think a good hunk of the issue is that other conservatives (and liberals) may give more of a damn about lives of people elsewhere. "It's not worth risking American lives to fight a war in [insert country/region]" is the common refrain. Kosovo is a good example; the use of US airpower kept tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians from being slaughtered or at worst driven off. It didn't have a "vital national interest" like oil or major trade routes or major geopolitical importance, but the US intervened to extend human rights to that corner of the world. Treating minorities fairly and not resorting to ethnic cleansing is part of a vital national interest; that the world look more like us than like the thugs. I also thing that paleocons tend to think of the US as a people and others think more of the US as a set of ideals (dare I say a macromeme, a complex of contagious ideas) that all people can believe in. It is those ideals and not our predominantly northern European heritage that make this country great. Paleocons might be looking to protect America in the sense of a piece of land and the people who have historically dwelled there; non-paleocons not only want to protect America the idea but project American values around the world. There's been talk of an Anglosphere in the Blogosphere-that's the area where the American macromeme has sunk in, regardless of the nationality or skin tone of the people accepting it. Yes, the non-paleocons are trying to make the world a better place. You can even accuse them of wanting to "save the world" from various thugs. However, those of us who aren't paleocons may want act proactively, protecting America by making the rest of the world more like America. From an evangelical prospective, that will also include sharing the Gospel overseas. However, you don't have to be a Bible-thumper to be want to spread the American macromeme; a good hunk of the Weekly Standard style neocons are either Jewish or Catholic. Do we sit back, err on the side of building a fortress and have the world go away? Or do we try to make the world more like us? The latter route will cost more lives, but will better spread the macromeme of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The latter route is more presumptuous in that we assume that people are better off if infected with the American macromeme. To the paleocon or the IMF-protestor, it might look messianic in that we are spreading the American secular religion with the fervor of a true believer. Let them call us messianic Anglosphere Freaks. The sobering thought comes when we bring ourselves to take military action against the bad guys in the name of making a safer and freer world. We need to take a hard look whether the costs of a war outweigh the benefits. Quite a few people in the bash-Saddam camp are too quick to look at the upside of a war without looking at the downsides. As we go about spreading this American macromeme, we need to pick our spots and only go to war where the costs of not doing so are grave. A little humility is helpful. However, if the costs of inaction are too high, we shouldn’t be afraid to act. It might not help Joe Sixpack today, but it should later on.

Evening Musings-Eileen and I made a road trip up to the south side of Orlando to the new Mall at Millennia; it's a double-decker upscale mall with enough SUVs parked outside to send a Nadarite into an escape orbit. We're bargain shoppers, not trendoids, so we got out of there with a seriously-marked-down $9 blouse for Eileen. It also allowed us to let loose with some bad puns, like "Gucci, Gucci, Goo" or "Don't go to Louis Vuitton, the company has too much baggage." Congrats to Ohio State for winning last night. A double OT title game-cool! They were outplayed but turnovers did Miami in. For a Michigander to respect Ohio State is troubling, but Jim Tressel is hard to dislike. 2003 will be the Pac 10's year; the five years of the Rose-Bowl-in BCS have had five different conferences win. Sandwich Musings-If it weren't already taken, Miracle Whip would be a good leather shop brand name. Josh has me down as the best American and best political blog here on his Blogs4God post, while over here at his home digs, the American category isn't mentioned and I'm merely honorable mention for political blog in a tough crowd. I was flattered by the HM on his site (and a comparable HM by Ruffini) and floored by the complements at Blogs4God; he justifiably puts the Corner ahead of me and takes some homer pride in the Hoosier Review and I can't complain about Ben beating me out. However, how do I bump Ben down to second in Political Blog over at Blogs4God? I noticed (or noticed again for the first time) Peter Sean Bradley's comment on his permalink of me "Byron's a Bapticostalist writing from that other tradition's perspective." There's a Bapticostal tradition?

Edifier du Jour-Genesis 11:1-9
1 Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2 It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." 5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 The LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. 7 "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech." 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.
The world's starting to come back together, at least electronically, as English is becoming the modern universal language. I remember an episode of Babylon 5, where Delenn rattled off "...English, the human language of commerce..." in her list of alien languages she had under her belt. Give us a century or two and we might get there; not that we'll be visited by Minbari or Vulcans but that we'll have turned English into a standard second language for most people. I don't have too many profound thoughts on the ramifications, but the last time the earth was this united, we got cocky. That unity can be used for good or evil; given human nature, the latter is very likely. One that quickly comes to mind is the ease that Antichrists both figurative and literal could use that linguistic unity to help set up a one-world government and the autocracy that would result. There are plenty of advantages of being able to speak the same language; we have to be careful how we use it.

Friday, January 03, 2003

"The US Is a Danger to World Peace"-True, But Is That a Bug or a Feature?-The Conservative Journal (stop it with all these good new blogs, stop it, you're swamping my bookmarks!) goes off on some Time-bashing for a reader poll which concluded that the US poses the biggest danger to world peace. The liberal denizens of Time are correct. For my readers who think I've had a neoliberal relapse, let's rephrase the question. If you ask the question "Who's most likely to initiate military action in the next year" Uncle Sam wins the prize. I don't think Saddam will go on an offensive in the next year; the US is more likely to invade Iraq for non-compliance than the North Koreans are to send their tanks to pick up some take-out kimchi from Seoul. However, world peace isn't necessarily a good thing if it means that the bad guys get to abuse their people and build up a big WMD arsenal for even bigger future wars. What the US is after isn't peace but something more like shalom. I recall that the word has a law-and-order, everything-in-its-place ring to it in Hebrew; heads may have to be cracked open before we get the world where things are in their place. Diplomats will often see conflict as a failure when warfare is needed, while other, more realistic, folks might understand that "aggressive negotiations" are sometimes called for. Yes, the US is a threat to world peace. The bad guys like Iraq want peace, or at least a lack of all-out combat, for the time being because it's in their best interest. For now. It might not be in the US' or the world's best interest, thus that treat to world peace might well be a good thing.

The Basic Investigative Template-. I was rummaging through the first week of my blog (the birthday’s January 8th) and found a great piece that newer readers (other than the eight of you who were around a year ago) would enjoy seeing. Here’s the blockquoted remix of that Jan 11 post. Newly discovered memo from network news division showing a template for a basic investigative piece 1: Find winsome victim-child or young mothers are best.
“Susie Jones was an active, funloving teenager form Smallville, Iowa, until tragedy struck last year.” Show pictures of Susie in basketball uniform and helping out with children at church.
2: Have survivor fighting off tears remembering how they lost victim.
Mrs. Jones, “If it wern’t for that sidewhomping jointroint, sniff, sniff, Susie’s still be with us today.”
3: Explain problem with authoritative consumer safety agency. Show people looking very scientific, white coats and testing gizmos visible.
The Center for Jointroint Safety reports that 124 people have been injured and 8 killed by jointroints over the last 3 years. Studies have shown that when placed at a 34 degree angle, jointroints exhibit calamitous sidewhomping motions.
4: Allow industry to rebut, but make it hard for them to do so. A printed statement is good, getting them to refuse to talk to us looks even better. Show the press release, magnifying the pertinent parts when the reporter starts referencing them.
While no one from Jefferson Jointroints would speak on camera with XBC News, they issued a press release stating that the jointroint design has been rigorously tested and that they see no tendency towards sidewhomping.”
5. Have consumer advocate trash the manufacturer.
Jane Wakefield from Citizen Action: “The jointroint industry has known about sidewhomping for years and is too interested in their bottom line to fix the problem.”
6: Note the bill to fix problem is before Congress. Have emphatic Democrat support tighter regulation.
“The Republicans have been in bed with the jointroint industry for years. The blood of dozens of sidewhomping victim is on your hands, Mr. Speaker! How many people like Susie Jones have to DIE before we come to our senses and pass this bill?” (Pause for large applause from floor)
7: Allow a very dull Republican to defend the industry.
“This is another unneeded regulation that will cost consumers money while attempting to solve a problem that is negligible at best.”
8: Close the piece by showing survivor walking forlornly across yard (gravesite if possible).
If the proposed bill passes, jointroint safety will be improved. However, it will be too late for the Jones Family. Mike Standup, XBC News, Smallville, Iowa.

Morning Musings-Yao over Shaq in the All Star Voting?
Yao, the top pick in the NBA draft, is averaging 13.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and two blocks. O'Neal is averaging 26.4 point, 11.1 rebounds and two blocks after he was initially sidelined this season because of a toe injury.
Not that I'm a big Shaq fan, but Yao's not the better of the two yet. Not even close. When Diplomats Attack-SK president-elect Roh is trying to play peacemaker, wanting to set something up where North Korea would give up its nukes in return for a non-agression agreement with the US. The Fox header had "Roh Rides to the Rescue." How come I picture a dramedy where the peacemaker gets coldcocked by both parties in the fight simultaniuously. Private Dick?-no, Commander in Chief Dick. At least in a certain congressman from Missouri's dreams. Gephardt's setting up an exploritory committee for a presidential run. We could be in for a long campaign, but we always say that when we have a handful of evenly-matched candidates.

PolState Launch-The Political State Report's up and running, with Kevin Holtsburry, Will Vehrs, Matthew Yglasias and myself (to name four names you've likely seen in the Blogosphere) among the state editors. I've put up my first post on last year's losing AG candidate Buddy Dyer running for mayor of Orlando (good executive experience if he runs for governor in 2006) and Bob Graham working the chain gang at the Orange Bowl. Democratic political geek Kos is masterminding the thing, so the D-to-R ratio is a bit high at the moment. There are plenty of holes to be filled on the GOP side. Josh, we've got an Indiana spot open. Mr. Carver, MS is blank. Baggy-Slims, we need a R in Kansas. Mr. Haney, New Mexico is wide open. [Update 11AM And Jason Steffans for Iowa, adds some idiot in the comment section]

Edifier du Jour-Genesis 6:5-8(NASB)
5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 The LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
Read verse six and think about it for a minute. God was sorry that he made man? Sorry would indicate that He had done something wrong, which runs counter to what we think of his omnipotence and omniscience. Are we one of God's bad lab experiments? No. God wants to have fellowship with us, yet He made us with minds of our own. His heart grieves when we do the wrong things. Yet if He were to have fellowship with man, he would need a creature with a mind of its own, for fellowship with a bunch of robots would be hollow. He decided to refine this group by taking the best of the lot and starting over. God knew that a certain amount of freedom was needed to create a creature worthy of His fellowship, yet the cost of such freedom is rebelliousness. He saw the result of that. Yet he must of known what He was doing, for it got done. Parts of the batch were butt-ugly, but mankind is designed to have butt-ugly patches. We are flawed as part of God's perfect design, as odd as it sounds. God didn't want robots, or else He would have made us that way. In order to have a being that could choose to appreciate him, he had to create a being that could choose not to, else the appreciation is merely hard-wired. God intervenes in order to bring us to Him, but that element of a separate intellect seems to be needed to create someone God can fellowship with rather than toy with.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

The Permanent Income Hypothesis and Stimulus Packages-Virginia Postrel had a good op-ed in the NYT on a stimulus package and hits a good point on temporary tax cuts
Reducing the payroll tax would give every worker an immediate tax break and encourage companies to hire (or retain) employees. It's a winning idea whether you're looking for a Keynesian jolt to consumer spending or a supply-side boost to hiring. And it would particularly benefit low-income workers, who pay little or nothing in federal income taxes but still owe payroll taxes. The problem arises in defining what it means to "cut the payroll tax." A permanent rate reduction, the ideal reform, is not what lawmakers have in mind. The most common suggestion is a one-year exemption on the first $10,000 or $15,000 of income. This idea has two problems. To spur either spending or long-term hiring, income tax cuts need to be permanent, not short term.
Not quite true. Permanent cuts would work better than short term ones. Let's read on
Of course, employers and workers would appreciate even a one-year break, especially a large one. The idea is a political winner, but a temporary cut does little to encourage hiring or spending. Companies aren't likely to expand their permanent work force if the after-tax cost of new workers is going to shoot up a year later. And consumers generally base their spending on what they expect to earn over the long term. They save windfalls, including tax rebates, and borrow to cover temporary shortfalls. This principle, which is known in economics as the permanent income hypothesis, may explain why the 2001 tax rebates don't seem to have stimulated spending as much as boosters had hoped.
This is solid macroeconomics; even my Keynesian Macro Theory prof at Kent State (ironically, Dr. Kent) covered it. People only change their buying habits if their long-term income changes. Give me fifty bucks today and I have a little extra money in my checking account; I'm not likely to rush out and buy three CDs with it. Give me fifty extra bucks a paycheck for the long haul and I start to spend more. A small change in their bank account today won't effect spending, but the promise of extra take-home pay for the future might. Of course, this bunched up Mr Kaus' drawers.
One question, concerning her invocation of the "permanent income hypothesis," which holds (in Postrel's words) that a "temporary [tax] cut does little to encourage hiring or spending." This presumably means that a traditional Keynesian countercyclical tax cut is impossible -- if taxes are just going to be raised when the economy recovers, then a tax cut now will have no Keynesian demand-boosting effect.
Not impossible, just not quite as effective as it would seem; only a fraction of the money would be spent. The Bush rebate was more PR than good economics; it helped passed the tax cut and gave taxpayers their lower-bracket tax cut for 2001 in advance.
b) Or are one-shot spending increases ineffective demand-boosters also?
In the short term only. If the recession is due to a lack of demand, then a classic spending package would make sense. For instance, it would be a good time to build roads and government buildings (assuming the projects are worthwhile) if the construction industry is in a slump due to lack of private-sector demand.
In that case there would seem to be only two strategies available:
1) Permanent tax cuts followed by tax cuts followed by more tax cuts, in a repeated ratchet like process. This seems like the conservative's nirvana, except that eventually it either shrinks the tax base to zero or, if there is a bedrock minimum of tax revenue necessary, ends in a situation where no more tax cuts can be made (and thus no more tax stimulus can be provided); or 2) Permanent spending increases followed by more permanent spending increases -- the liberal nirvana. Except that this process, too, would seem to eventually approach an unsatisfactory end-state, in which government-directed spending accounts for most or all of GDP.
Combine strategies 1 and 2 and you get an economic game plan that would permanently increase spending and cut taxes during every recession, with no attempt to undo them in between. That means a budget deficit that permanently grows and grows -- a situation that seems all too familiar. (Surely even the current anti-Rubinomics crowd agrees that at some point increasingly huge permanent budget deficits hurt economic growth.)
Economists talk about a cyclically-balanced budget, where you run small surpluses (more income to tax, less welfare/unemployment payments) in good times and small deficits in bad times. However, the reality is that politicians can't keep their hands off the surplus; "We're running a surplus; we can afford to [insert pet project/tax cut here]." The surpluses of the 90s were due to gridlock, where the GOP wouldn't let Clinton spend the surplus and Clinton and the Senate Democrats wouldn't let the GOP give the surplus away in tax cuts. Put Bush in charge and the tax cuts, recession and 9/11 take us back to a deficit.
c) Since none of these outcomes is very satisfactory, shouldn't we resist the "permanent income hypothesis"? So what if merely temporary tax and spending changes only have a small effect -- not "as much as their boosters had hoped." It's still an effect, no?
What we should resist is short-term stimulus packages. You put in a safety-net of welfare and unemployment benefits to cushion the shock of people getting laid off and let the economy take care of getting out of a recession by itself. Typically, there is a long lag between when a recession hits and when Congress gets around to passing a stimulus package. By the time a bill gets to the President's desk, the economy is usually recovering on its own. Also, most packages have enough pork attached to make the package a net minus for the economy. The current slump has three roots; the end of the computer/telecom boom of the late 90s, 9/11 and the Iraq war overhang and the accounting scandals of the last year. There's not much that can be done about the maturing of the Internet in ways that didn't meet the hyped expectations of the bubble days, but the last two will play themselves out in the next year or so. None of these three problems can be countered easily by a classic Keynesian recession spending binge. The accounting scandals have an indirect effect on the economy, as the drop in the stock market has left investors less wealthy and less interested in spending. Prosecution of the Enron finance guys will help restore confidence in the economy, as will enforcement of tougher accounting standards. An improved attitude of investors in the general honesty (they'll always be a few cheats) and transparency of the markets will increase stock prices and decrease the cost of capital, thus expanding aggregate supply. A successful conclusion of our problems with Iraq will give both the oil markets and the stock markets a boost, as lower factor prices and lower costs of capital (investors will be more bullish on the future with the question marks removed on Iraq) will help both supply and demand along. Tommy Franks has more to do with a recovery than Alan Greenspan at this point, especially as we approach a Japanese-style liquidity trap in short-term interest rates. Thus, I think the problems with the economy are more supply than demand based. Higher oil prices and lack of confidence in the stock market have risen factor prices and the cost of capital, thus discouraging growth in aggregate supply. A stronger stock market and lower oil prices will help recovery on the supply part of the equation and improved consumer confidence from greater wealth and a safer world will stimulate demand. The stimulus package that the president needs to deliver is a big industrial-sized can of whuppin' sent to Saddam and some people at the SEC and the Justice department that aren't afraid to kick corporate butt if needed.

Midday Musings-Via MCJ, we've got just about the ultimate Claudometer pinner.
Two teenage girls have been shot dead and two injured following a dispute at a New Year party in a hairdresser's salon. "There has clearly been some sort of dispute which has resulted in people coming to the premises with guns, discharging their weapons and causing this incident" [Ch Supt Dave Shaw] said.
No kidding, Sherlock! Is there any greater outburst of schadenfreude than when Notre Dame gets its butt kicked? If so, tell me. I could have used him in the Bloggger Bowl finals, but McNabb seems to be on course for being ready for the playoffs next week.

[Insert Nominee]-Richardson 2004-Kos is pontificating on John Edwards' semi-announcement and the standard free-media-milking routine of announcing you'll announce an exploratory committing, then announcing the committee, then announcing your candidacy announcement.... He discounts the idea that Edwards is running for VP
As for those that see him as a VP candidate -- god I hope not. While I am far from declaring a preferred candidate, I can say this much -- the Democratic Party has gone too long without running a ticket that looks like its supporters. The ticket must include a woman, African American, or Latino. I actually don't see a Latino that is ready for a top-two slot (Richardson will be ready in 8 years). But, there are plenty of women and African Americans that would make an excellent number two. Let's make that the first choice, rather than Edwards (yet another white male).
The first thing the Democrats have to avoid is going for a token. The problem the Democrats had two decades ago when the nominated Ferarro was that they had few women with the gravitas to be a plausible president. I was a Democrat at the time and thought that Pat Schroder would have been a better choice if they were going the women route; she was a tad liberal for my tastes even at the time, but she was a more senior congresswoman and a better speaker. However, she was a Hart backer, so she might have been pushed aside for that reason. They were left with a three-term congresswoman who got seen as an affirmative-action pick. The second thing the Democrats need to do is to find someone who will add something to the ticket other than punching a liberal constituency card. There isn't a black leader on radar that would be both a plausible candidate and add to the ticket from a campaign standpoint. Most of the blacks in the House (there are none in the Senate) are too liberal to be an asset on the ticket; they'd scare off more white swing votes by their liberalism than the party would gain by the extra turnout. The female pickings are a little better. Mary Landrieu might be a good choice for a northern nominee, a southern moderate from a Republican-leaning but winnable state. Hillary's too toxic to be helpful at this point. Diane Feinstein always shows up on this list, but she gives the GOP the chance to do the "San Francisco Liberal" shtick. None of the other Democratic women have both the gravitas and the appeal to the swing voter. What about Hispanics? We might have a winner here in Bill Richardson. I'd argue that Richardson is ready now, not in 2012 as Kos suggests. Look at his resume-House leader, UN ambassador, energy secretary (he got some flack for the Los Alamos security breeches, but that was more of an lower-level administrative problem that happens regardless of who's in charge) and now governor of New Mexico. He's an honest-to-goodness nice guy to boot. That's a package that will very nicely go mano-a-mano with Cheney. He's in a swing state that Gore won in squeaker last time and is Hispanic without that being the first line in his bio. He's also a free-trader. When he was majority whip, he was in position to be the head Democrat for NAFTA in the House when his two superiors were against it. He's not an idiotarian, either. From what I've seen of him over the years, he's about as straight a shooter as liberals get. That might just make him too loose a cannon for the party orthodoxy to accept, but he'd make a lot of swing voters more comfortable with the ticket. The biggest rap on Richardson is that if I like him, the Democrats won't.

Draft Musings-A draft meme got loose in the Blogosphere after Charles Rangel proposed it a few days ago. Orrin Judd has a number of pro-draft-related posts. Here's my $0.02. I served briefly in the Army, but never got out of boot camp. I was too emotional to make a good soldier, as my emotions and the rigors of boot camp didn't mix; I lasted two weeks before being let go. However, this was in 1984, well after the draft had ended. I was a volunteer, figuring that a spot as an Army officer might be a viable option for a kid in a bad economy with a less-than-saleable liberal arts degree. Plenty of high school grads then and now see the military as a good option, especially if they are from a more blue-collar background. However, our volunteer army is made up of volunteers. A draft isn't the most toxic thing to a society, as it does bring in the sons of the better-off into the mix and broadens the base of those serving. However, draftees will have to put their life on hold for two or three years while they serve their tour of duty. Those that were college-bound will have to scrape a few years of rust off of their math and science skills when they get back to school. Those with good beginning jobs will have to start over when they get back from the service, albeit with some good military training. Relationships will be weakened by distance. I'm not sure how to factor then officer corps into this analysis, but the occupational slots within the enlisted ranks are essentially blue-collar jobs; it's not surprising then that we see blue collar (and extra percentages of minority) youngsters filling them. There are plenty of good technical jobs available in various mechanical fields, but I'm not sure if the country is well served by taking the person who'd rather be a college student or a construction worker and turn him into a paratrooper or tank gunner. According to the DoD's Defense Almanac, we have 1.16 million enlisted people. Let's say that we will need about 250,000 draftees each year, assuming that the average enlisted person stays about four years to allow for some people to reup and become sergeants. Let's also say that we draft a random selection of all (male and female, for sake of argument) 18 year olds and that we have about 4 million youngsters in each age cohort. Assuming no deferrals or exceptions, a kid would have a 6.25% chance of being drafted. In a class of 18 students like my Personal Finance class, one of them would be snagged off by the draft, while a kid who would have otherwise wanted to join the military is now left to his own devices to find a career. That draft percentage would be higher if people are given a civilian service option if they don't want to serve in the military. If we go to a universal service requirement, as many people have bandied about, we'll only need a tenth or less of that cohort in the military. If we have a 2-year military or 3-year civilian requirement, as Kos suggests here, we'd have ten million youngsters in government jobs; what the heck are all of them going to do? I don't think Kos is suggesting universal service, but if we get a quarter of youngsters opting for civilian service rather than military service (what's your guess as to a percentage if they're given a free choice?) in a limited draft scenario, that will leave us with a gang of 250,000 Civilian Service Corps people to find work for; ASCME will be thrilled-NOT! A fair draft without deferment would snag about a tenth of our college (and non-college career-starting) youngsters and put them into the enlisted ranks while taking the people who would want to serve under the present system and putting them back into the civilian workforce. The kid that would rather be manning a radar screen is stuck stocking shelves while the guy who would rather be tackling Calc I is tackling dummies in boot camp. I don't think this is the highest and best use of our young people, having the government arbitrarily select who is going to serve rather than have individuals select (with the recruiter’s help) who wants and doesn't want to serve. People would argue that we could get away with paying the enlisted people less if we went to a draft. I don't think it would be that much less. We already have quite a few privates with families eligible for food stamps and our political system wouldn't easily allow that to become the norm. I can see the C-SPAN excepts now: "We can't allow these men and women we have forced to serve this country to live below the poverty line!" Thus, going to a draft to save money is a fairly lame argument. We're left with the argument that service should be spread out across the socioeconomic spectrum so that the intelligentsia sends its share of sons and daughters to the military. A smaller military means that a small minority will wind up serving. Back in the 50s, when we had about 3.5 million people serving with a population of about 150 million; about 2.3% of the population was in the military. Today, that figure is about 0.5%, so people were four times more likely to be in the military a half-century ago than they are today, even more for guys when the military had a much smaller percentage of women than today. The high percentage of people being drafted coupled with the GI Bill aiding the vets to go to college meant we have a lot of older pundits like Shields, Novak and Buckley (as Judd mentions here) who are vets. If the 18-year-olds-needed ratio is 6% today, it would have been closer to 40% for males back in the 50s and 60s when our pundit crew was coming of age. With those higher ratios, being a vet was a lot more common then. Given the smaller military, the merits of seeding vets through all of our society seems to be a tough sell when you factor in the disruptions that a draft would cause. If the military starts to have severe recruitment problems, a draft might be called for on national security grounds, but until then, a draft would cause more harm than good. Replacing blue-collar and darker-skinned kids who want to be there with white-collar and lighter-skinned kids who don't want to be there isn't helpful. The military is a good job tool for blue-collar kids, especially minorities; Rangel's district would see a lot of young black kids having to hunt for jobs if their military spots are replaced by drafted kids from the suburbs. Unemployment in the tougher parts of town would go up while college attendance would likely go down. A draft is egalitarian. So's the common cold. A draft would be an intervention into our economy that would place demographic equality over efficiency. The advantage of seeding vets who understand the military across the socioeconomic spectrum so as to spread the burden (as liberals advocates) or to educate the intelligensia about the military (as conservatives advocate) is a nice effort, but the idea of having a vet at a 20-person cocktail party in the suburbs doesn't justifies the disruption of lives that a draft would entail.

Edifier du Jour-Thumbs up to Gary Peterson for getting this online Bible-reading devotional going. Eileen and I were in Romans 14 last night, but I said my piece back in August. Thus, we'll move to today's reading in the new devotional:Genesis 3:22-24(NASB)
22 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"-- 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
I remember a sermon on this verse pointing out that God was doing us a favor by blocking the way to the Tree of Life. If our knowledge of good and evil seperates us from God, eternal human life would seperate us from God forever, thus creating a low-grade living Hell for us all, forever seperated from our Creator. Death allows us to break that cycle and allow Jesus' blood to cleanse our soul. It comes accros as a bit perverse to think that God's doing us a favor by letting us be mortal, but being a mortal sinful creature is better than being an immortal sinful creature. [Update 12:40PM-Mr. Collins expounds further, using Tolkien eloquently.]

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

The Anti-Rush-Both Messieurs Preston and Johnson have chimed in on this NYT piece about liberal she-dogging about conservative radio talkers and Fox News and wanting effective liberal counterpart.
The efforts among influential Democrats, particularly liberals, range from a grass-roots talent search for progressive radio hosts to the creation of research organizations to provide a Democratic spin for the news media, to nascent discussions by wealthy supporters about starting a cable network with a liberal bent.
Radio-Jim Hightower was doing well with a weekend show and might be able to do so again; he had enough humor to make his populist rants listenable. However, if you want to counter Rush, you've got to get someone that can cover the issues with humor and can go on the offensive. One of the problem with liberal talk radio is that liberals are largely on the defensive with the exception of gay rights, defending a liberal status-quo against conservative roll-backs. Offense is sexier than defense, especially when delivered with the tongue-in-cheek elan of Mr. Limbaugh. Spin Tanks-The existing liberal NGOs aren't enough? The liberal advocacy groups will get their press releases published near-verbatim as news far too often already. The left has more think tanks than the right and many more lobby groups; they just have to do their job better. Liberal Cable Network-I'll skip the obvious CNN and MSNBC cheap shots. They'd better have deep pockets, for they'll have to have pickets complaining that the network's staff are making less than Vietnamese sweatshop workers if there going to make a profit. They could talk PBS into having a PBS American Citizen cable network, giving Moyers a daily rant if they were sneaky. The NYT gets one wrong here
Conservatives have Mr. Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Reagan and Neal Boortz, who collectively draw an audience of at least 30 million people per week with a strictly conservative message.
First, there's quite a bit of overlap between the Limbaugh and Hannity listening audience, so they might overstate the number and Boortz isn't a conservative but a self-avowed small-l libertarian not too unlike Glenn Reynolds; he'll bash religious conservatives on some things.

New Years Musings-Eileen and I didn't spend the day in the classic Rose Parade followed by football orgy fashion; we went south to Punta Gorda to visit some friends from Midland who were vacationing at/near their parent's snowbird digs. We took US-17 south, which passed through some small farm towns en route to the upscale resort town. The declining use of pay phones documented in this WaPo piece from earlier in the week sure didn't apply in Wauchula (who Polk county folks like to pick on as the hayseed/redneck capital of Florida) and Arcadia, where almost all the pay phones were in use; we had to go past two occupied gas station phones in Wauchula before finding a unused phone at the third station (we were calling to tell our friends we were running late); it had two phones and one was being used. Poor farm towns might have quite a few people without phones. Or cars. One of the interesting sites in Arcadia this morning (and on the way back, but I didn't see as much in the dark) was the number of people (mostly Mexican in appearance; central Florida has a surprising number) on foot and the number of people hanging out in front of gas stations and convenience stores. Is that a small-town thing, a Mexican thing, or both? Once we got down their, I had a number of "wow, this ain't Michigan" moments; those moment are coming up less and less but still show up. The patriarch's condo was on Charlotte Bay; we were sitting on their porch in shorts overlooking the bay, then hanging out by the pool-that's my kind of New Years. Got another round of praise for my Chex mix; suggestion from Chez Byron-don't be skimpy with the margarine or the onion and garlic powder and make those boys taste good.Michigan beating up on Florida helped to make the bunch of Michigan ex-pats (some for the winter, some for the week, some like us permanent) happy. The other "this ain't Michigan" moment came when we went next door to Fisherman's Village, the marina and tourist-bait shopping complex. A lot of nice little gifty shops were there, where we got a little stone necklace charm for our friend Kim's birthday today. When we went out on the marina pier, there were some obese seagulls that could stunt double for C-140s and a big fat pelican. Kim got a picture of Eileen and I with that pelican in the background. Turns out there was a veritable colony of pelicans hanging out at the marina; we saw six of them as we chatted at a vacant table by the marina. That's something you don't see on Tawas Bay.

Is Ruby Tom's Wife?-I'm not sure Josh Marshall deserved the blasting Mr. Preston gave him here for the North Korea Ruby Ridge blockquote piece. I agree with Byran that the analogy doesn't work. However, I don't think Marshall uses that Waco/Ruby Ridge analogy in the Chris Nelson quote in the way Byran's suggesting; I'd read that to state that the "cop" is not just judged on bagging the perp but how cleanly he does it. Marshall's take seems to be that Bush's more confronational policies has had the consequence of backing NK into a corner and that they now have to back it up.
Tough talk sounds great until your opponent calls your bluff and everybody sees there's nothing behind the trash talk. Then you look foolish. That's where we are right now with North Korea.
I disagree with Marshall's take on Bush's policy; the Clinton line had too much faith in diplomacy and the good faith of the NK government and a harder line was needed. Where Marshall might be falling into partisan hack mode isn't with the Nelson quote but in clasifying the Bush policy as inept and ameturish. When you disagree with a policy, you can either fight on the merits or go for the ad hominem, making fun of the person or assuse him of ineptness. Going with the ad hom saves you from talking policy. I don't see the Bush policy as any more inept as the Clinton policy, but high diplomacy always get better press. However, we are in put up or shut up mode and there aren't too many pretty options-that I can agree with.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 13:9-10(NASB)
9 For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Easier said than done. We're selfish critters who still have that rugrat "Mine! Mine!" mentality far too often. If you break down the dos and don'ts, there isn't much there that will spoil people's fun. Putting the lid on envy is healthy for us, for we'll always want what we don't have and stopping adultery (including pre-marital sex) is in our physical and emotional best interest as well. The one that is the hard one is loving one's neighbor. We might see that the Ten Commandment stuff is a good idea; it gives us a finite list. Loving one's neighbor is open-ended and hard, nay, impossible to do perfectly. Don't worry. Just give it your best shot and Jesus will handle the rest.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

2002 Musings-Happy New Year to those of you in Europe and the Australia-Philippines time brackets. I'm not going to make any grand predictions, but just reflect on what 2002 has meant. On a personal note, I'm living a delayed dream, getting married and being a college professor, albiet a bit later than I might have liked a decade ago. Spending New Years sweating in Winter Haven wasn't what I would have counted on a year ago; bundling up in Saginaw or Bridgeport would have seemed more like it. The blogging that started in January has expanded new horizons for me. Over a hundred strangers a day wander on to my site on average to read what I have to say about stuff. I would up making pen pals around the world, from computer programmers in the Philippines to Canadian and Australian journalists. I wind up getting into a fantasy football league of bloggers, beating a Maryland lawyer and a Virginia Tech college student en route to a finals loss to a HHS Department speechwriter. All in all, not a bad year.

Deprolitarization-While I was over at Mark Cameron's, I found a link to a piece of his on Wilhelm Roepke, a mid-century center-right economist whom Cameron expouses as a model for modern Catholic economics. He compaired his lack of fame compaired to Hayek and von Mises, but those two made it over to the US later in their careers while Roepke stayed in Europe. Here is the two-paragraph meat of the piece
Roepke believed in state intervention in limited areas-the provision of essential infrastructure and public goods, prudent fiscal and monetary policy to ensure non-inflationary growth, and acting as a "vigorous umpire" within the economy to ensure that legal rules and economic morality are adhered to and that there is competition between enterprises. He was especially concerned about protecting family farms, artisans, and small businesses from the depredations of giant corporations. Roepke supported firm anti-monopoly laws and a decentralized federal form of government. In his support for a thorough decentralization of economic and political power, his skepticism towards technology and economic rationalism, and his rejection of the "cult of the colossal," he anticipated later writers, such as E. F. Schumacher, and could be considered the prototypical "green capitalist." Although he supported social assistance to ensure that the poor and needy were not reduced to destitution, Roepke was wary of the welfare state policies of Britain and Scandinavia, which he worried would sap incentive and self-sufficiency. Instead, he called for measures of "deproletarianization," which would allow workers to enjoy greater self-sufficiency through home ownership, and measures such as the creation of community gardens to allow people to grow their own produce. He regretted that the trade union movement was not interested in "deproletarianizing" workers, or ensuring that factories remained at a human scale, but was solely interested in increasing the money wages of its members, even though this often undermined workers' actual purchasing power through inflation.
This is the first time I recall hearing of the guy. He's a bit too localist and communitarian for my taste at first glance, but this concept of deproletarianizion could explain the difference between the US and Europe. In the US, factory workers are more likely to see themselves as middle-class (bourgeoisie if you'd like) than working-class, which muted the hard-socialist left in America. I think I'd like to read more about this guy. I might still agree with the more libertarian economists, but Roepke seems to be a guy devoted to maximizing the commonweal and thus someone potentially worth reading.

Chosen People But Unchosen Persons?-Interesting discussion over at Mark Shea's on a Mark Cameron piece on Catholic-Jewish relations. I'm an outsider to much of the Catholic nuance here, but a healthy and scriptural take on supersessionism (the Church took the place of Israel after the Resurrection, IIUC) might be that God has a soft spot for the Jews as a group but still offers salvation to individuals through Jesus. The presence of the Jews as a people after three millennia of persecution is a testimony of God's grace, but does that extent to the Jewish individual? It's a stretch to conclude that Gentiles have to come to Jesus for salvation while post-resurrection Jews get grandfathered in with the Mosaic covenant. It might not be politically correct to say so, but it's the best take I can come up with based on what I know of the New Testament. There's too much scripture pointing to believing in Jesus and His death on the cross for our sins to say that a otherwise good and faithful Jew who blows off Golgotha and the empty tomb is still heaven bound. Might God give an godly person who either hasn't heard of Jesus or is conditioned to reject Him some slack at the Pearly Gates? I'd like to think so, but scripture points away from that view. Yes, that would mean that a very good Jew (Michael Medved comes to mind) gets locked out while some fallen televangelist or repentant pedophile priest gets in. It ain't pretty, but "I am the Way, the Truth and the Light; no one comes to the Father but through me." ain't PC.

The Tuna and Contract Law-The Parcells story thickens. This time a year ago (well, almost, my baby blog had this link on 1-16), Parcells was this close to signing with Tampa Bay, only to back away and see the Bucs go get Chucky away from the Raiders. Now the Bucs claim that they have Parcells under contract and are looking for compensation from the Cowpokes. They have his signature on a contract, but the opted to ignore the signed contract when Parcells got cold feet the next day. I only got a 2.5 average in my two semesters of business law, but it would appear that the contract that Parcells signed in January is void, given that both parties agreed to void the contract and that no money changed hands and that the Bucs hired a replacement coach. If both parties voided a signed contract and there was no undue duress on the part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then the contract is null and void. Having the Bucs come back eleven months later and block Parcells from seeking employment with another teams based on that voided contract seems to run counter to contract law. If I recall correctly, a contract requires that both parties receive something of value; Parcells got bupkis from his voided contract. To then give the Bucs the retroactive right to get compensation from future employers based on something that Parcells got nothing from doesn't seem consistent with what I understand of contract law.

-isha Girl- Eve Tushnet has a good string of pieces on racial issues yesterday. The one that caught my eye the most was her take on a Yale resume-discrimination study, where they sent resumes with the same datapoints but either seemingly black or white names and check for response rates. When I worked at an inner-city hospital, one of my jobs is to keep a database of all the inpatient stays in order to find all the patients who were Medicaid eligible. Race wasn't a data point, but first names that ended in -isha or -esha seemed to be more prone to being either a Medicaid mom or Medicaid baby; it wasn't something you'd run a regression on, but the likelihood of an -isha being a single mom would have been a lot higher than a white-sounding Kirsten. Funky naming was common among the Medicaid babies; I had a standard joke-"You know you've been working here too long when the baby names look normal." If you look at the Yale report, bopping down to page 30, you see that four of the five bad-performing names are -ishas (Aisha, Keisha, Lakisha and Tanisha); Tamika ruins the pattern. When you throw the -ishas out, the remaining five female names are hot on the heels of the white-bread names, a bit behind but probably not statistically significant. Could the resume viewers have more of a poor black bias rather than a black-white bias. There wasn't a good pattern to break down the black male names, but could the resume readers be reading "welfare mom" when an -isha came over their desk? In most cases, that would be a lame racial stereotype, but with an -isha, it would be even more pronounced. I know my mind would come to that stereotype and if I had to choose between a Julie and a Lakisha, my gut would tend to go with the Julie. Less color-blind folks would tend to be more willing to act upon that stereotype. My thoughts on racism is that a lot of our race problem is more of a culture than a skin-tone problem; suburban folks aren't comfortable with the idea of undercivilized and undereducated inner-city folks. They don't have a problem with suburban and/or educated blacks but distrust the gang-bangers and, to a lesser extent, their homegirls. To the extent that inner city blacks will tend to have "black" names, this cultural bias might manifest itself in the lack of selection of such names.

Latenight Musings-I've done some revamping of the links, as some people came out of hibernation, including Anne Wilson. Spinster Lee Ann Morawski got promoted to the Augustinian Posse; with Gina's departure, Lee Ann deserves the distinction. Score one for a lack of a industrial policy. The first paying-passenger maglev line opened in Shanghai yesterday. A German firm got the contract, and Chancellor Schroeder was there to bask in the limelight; however, maglevs are energy hogs and aren't much better than conventional track bullet trains. With France and Japan in a tight maglev market as well, it looks like it might be a Concordesque boondoggle (anyone willing to date themselves to say they remember the SST?) that the US was wise not to spend public R&D money on. This piece falsely makes this look to be a good thing-Brazil had a $60 billion trade surplus last year. That sounds good, but a trade surplus is generally offset by an foreign investment deficit; investors bugged out of Brazil prior to Lula taking office. The rest of the world would rather buy Brazilian goods than Brazilian stocks and bonds and the locals weren't crazy about Brazilian investments.

Edifer du Jour-Romans 12:14-16(NASB)
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
The first two verses of Romans 12 are the money verses most believers hear on a regular basis. Verse two talks about not conforming to the world; here's some of the ways we're called upon to differentiate ourselves. Blessing our enemies is hard; the natural man wants to drop a ten-meg on their foes. Dealing with the lowly is hard, since our tastes and mores are often different. The hardest, especially for those of use with a lot of schooling, is not to be legends in our own mind; we need to look to the wisdom of others to inform us. We need to be quick to praise and slow to trash, quick to listen and slow to speak. It ain't easy, especially in a "don't get mad, get even" world.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Football Musings-Looks like we're going to get chicken-fried Tuna (believe it or not, there were 54 Google listings for it, including this menu claming the dish was inspired by former Texas Gov. Bill Clements, but none for the Tuna yet), as Bill Parcells is apparently about to sign with the Cowboys. If Ballcoach and Jeff Synder can coexist in DC, maybe Parcells and Jerry Jones can get along. Jones has been through three coaches who have been junior pardners after running Jimmy Johnson off, and the Cowpokes have suffered. Maybe a strong coach who can be the go-to guy rather than have the players looking at Jones as the boss will help. They blew up Riverfront Stadium yesterday-Kevin has the details. That's a classic case of economic obsolescence; the stadium was fine, but it lacked the luxury boxes and neoclassical ambiance that is the rage today. The home of the Bench/Rose/Perez/Sparky Big Red Machine and of the Ice Bowl AFC final with San Diego go boom-bye-bye. Da Playoffs-Cleveland had the tiebreaker gods smile upon them, winning a four-way split with Miami, New England and Denver. We'll have a Pittsburgh-Cleveland grudge match in round one of the AFC, with the Jets hosting the Colts in the other matchup. Look for a Colt upset even if Chad Pennington guarantees a win over the Colts. In the NFC, Green Bay might get to go home early, getting their cold treated by Vick's vaporizing their defense. The Niners should be able to handle the Giants.

Evening Musings-Yet another quiz-this one for Which Supreme Court Justice Are You via Illinigirl (who's back from her honeymoon)-I came up Scalia; I was expecting Renquist. The rankings are a fair right-to-left-layout of the court with a civil libertarian bias (I was against random car searches and flag-burning laws). I'm suprised Breyer came ahead of Souter. 1.Scalia 2. Renquist 3. Thomas 4. Kennedy 5. O'Connor 6. Breyer 7. Souter 8. Ginsberg 9. Stevens The Kenyans don't waste much time-they swore in the new president Mwai Kibaki (doesn't that look like a bad Scrabble rack?) today after having elections Friday. Airstrip One has a political obit for Daniel arap Moi; that's one more strongman gone from the scene. Kenya deserves a better government than they've had in the past. Here's a cautionary tale about those government databases that seem to be in the works; a dozen Canadian government workers have been fired for poking through the national police database. Idle hands may be the Devil's workshop, but a good database with lots of juicy data is the Devil's Tim Taylor powertool set.

Michigan Watching-They're prepping for Granholm's inaugural Wednesday; the state Senate snuck through some Engler appointment before he left office, but failed (due to some absent Republican votes) to get an expanded charter school bill passed. It will be interesting to watch Granholm grapple with a big budget deficit; I'll give her some props if she sticks to her guns and gets the budget balanced without tax increases.
She plans to change the name of the Family Independence Agency to the Department of Children and Families. Her first 100 days will be spent setting spending priorities, in light of the immense budget deficit. Some controversial issues -- such as making it easier for same-sex partners to adopt children -- will have to wait.
Quite a long time, I hope. After six years in Ohio in the early 90s, I got a chuckle out of Engler's name games, changing the unemployment agency's name to Michigan Works and changing the welfare office's name to the Family Independence Agency. Those two bordered on the Orwellian. At least there's one thing I'll agree with Granholm on. Michigan hasn't have a Republican in the AG spot for at least forty years; Frank Kelly held the post for just about my entire life until he retired in '98, with Granholm taking over. Both Kelly and Granholm were aggressive consumer advocates; the good PR from that was likely the deciding factor in her win this years. It will be interesting to see the new AG, Mike Cox, take over. Will he focus on the crime-fighting part of the job as an ex-prosecutor or continue the consumer advocacy function ?

Cost-Push Deflation?- Billmon in the Daily Kos comments had some interesting comments on economics. He is afraid of deflation kicking in and doing a number on the economy.
But as I look around the world and the world's capital markets -- which is part of my current job -- I see some truly brutal deflationary pressures bearing down just about everywhere. These aren't the kinds of economic problems supply-side remedies like lower marginal tax rates and deregulation were designed to fix (not that it will stop the supply siders from trying). And wars just aren't as stimulative as they used to be. So that leaves Uncle Al Greenspan with the weight of the world resting squarely on his narrow bureaucratic shoulders. Shrub just better hope that Atlas doesn't shrug.
Deflation might not be that bad of a thing for the economy, depending on where the deflation is coming from. If cost-push inflation gave us the stagflation of the 70s, what would cost-push deflation look like? If the deflation is due to a decrease in factor prices, especially imported factors such as oil, that would help shift the aggregate supply curve outward. Prices for factors go down, allowing the businesses to cut the cost of their products. The lower price for the products will spur increased demand for the products, thus increasing the real amount of good sold and increase employment. Yes, Bilmon, supply-siders can deal with deflation. If you substitute productivity and technology gains for factor prices, that is what we’ve seen in the last decade. The Clintonistas will chalk up the 90s to a sound fiscal policy, but the lower interest rates of the era were offset by higher tax rates, creating a aggregate supply wash at best as a result of active government policies. As long as the deflation is factor-price based, we have little to fear. If the deflation is due to a decrease in demand, then we have problems. If demand-pull inflation due to a goose in consumer demand creates inflationary growth, demand-pull deflation would cause a deflationary recession. I don’t see that happening, but we could see that happen if we get a lack of new electronic toys for people to buy. Computers are in the process of becoming a mature industry, as is the VCR. However, we may start to hit a lull in electronics development, where we might have a few years without too many new gizmos to buy. That lack of new tech in the stores might put a crimp in new purchases. Deflation has its other side-effects. Since interest rates=real interest rates + expected inflation + risk premia, you could see near-zero interest rates if that expected inflation factor become negative. That makes the interest-rate cut game of the Fed a non-issue; we can see a foretaste of that in Japan, where their equivilent of the Fed Funds rates hovers just a few basis points above zero. If we get the significant deflation that Bilmon is sensing, the Open Market committee can take a few months off, unless they change their focus to managing the amount of the money supply as opposed to the interest rate. Then, they could quietly manage the money supply without a interest rate focus but a true money supply focus, growing the money supply at the rate real GDP chanes. However, Japan's deflation seems to be demand based rather than supply based. Having the Fed on autopilot for a few months wouldn't be the worse thing in the world

Is a Big Mac a Inferior Good?Interesting AP piece on the burger wars, pointing out the price cutting going on at McDonalds and Burger King. "You can't make money selling a Big and Tasty at $1," but you can if you sell them a dollar glass of soda or a $1.25 big fry as well. The money's in the pop and fries, as they have higher mark-ups than the sandwiches. I don't expect the Big and Tasty to stay on the dollar menu; I had one last night on our way home (we had a Bizzard craving and were passing through what has to be the longest Dairy Queen-free zone in Central Florida, we had a B&T to go with our McFlurries) and it's a good buy at a dollar. However, the article chalks up part of the burger joints woes to the bad economy. I'm not sure that's totally the case; some people might opt to eat in rather than eat at McDonalds, but other people who are eating at sit-down restaraunts might opt to round down to a fast-food place if things are tight. If the former group is bigger than the latter, then sales at McDonalds might go up. In economics, that's called an inferior good, stuff you buy less of the more money you have, like mac and cheese or Raman noodles. Note that that's not a rap on the quality of the goods, just the term used when income is inversely related to demand. "If I had a million dollars ... we wouldn't have to eat Kraft dinners (but we would)." I don't think the income coefficent of the Mickey D's demand curve is that significant; a change of taste away from burgers and fries seems to be a bigger culprit in the tough times in Burgerland.

Afternoon Musings-Congratulations to Ben for winning Blogger Bowl 2Y3, with his San Juan Pirates soundly defeating the Blogistas 57-42 in the final. Neither team had its best day; of our WRs and RBs, only the Pirates' Koren Robinson found the end zone. A great day for the Washington defense was the difference maker. Thank you, Ben, for inviting me into the league; I look forward to the 2Y4 version if you'll have me. Since I've been on vacation, the Raelian clone-cult has claimed to have produced a clone girl. I'll believe it when they check the DNA. Mr. Gil has a slew of Raelian links here. Lee Ann Morawski has some thoughtful comments here (links fubared-Dec 27 entry)
Human cloning is the ultimate renunciation of unconditional love and the end of humanity as we know it. Human cloning is the reduction of human life to the status of a consumer good.
I'm not sure if we weren't already there in certain quarters of society pre-cloning. In a post-agrarian society, kids are consumer goods rather than production goods, for parents don't raise kids to have people to tend the family farm/business when they grow old, but to have children to enjoy them. Some Christians and people of other faiths will add religious components to their decisions to have kids, but we're already in consumer good territory in the industrialized north; note the severly sub-replacement-rate stats in Europe and Japan. The difference in cloning (and other reproductive science developments) is that we can order our babies without the pickles and lettuce. Would a cloned baby be loved any less than a now-standard IVF baby? I'm not sure. The difference is that a clone will be expected to be like the DNA donor; however, nurture will change how the clone will grow up. There are a lot of side issues with cloning; Hannity's sub (a lady talker from SF, don't remember the name) was talking about cloning taking men out of the loop; at least with IVF, you need a sperm donor. Odd Sci-Fi plots of a feminist parthenogenetic cult producing girl clone offspring to continue the line come to mind, but the key problems with cloning is that the kid will be given a lot of baggage of being a duplicate of its DNA donor. At least the Raelians have a twisted respect for life; the same can't be said of this Islamic zealot who shot up a Southern Baptist hospital in Yemen-three American medical missionaries are dead. How many innocent Yemenis will also die from the lack of good medical care?

The Devil's Hinnmaiden?- I didn' t get to see the Benny Hinn piece on NBC Friday, but the links that Dean Peters provides don't paint a pretty picture. Even adjusting for the Trinity Foundation's dislike of televangelistsand the Apologetics Index's skepticism of most Pentecostals and Charismatics, the portrait of Hinn marks him as a flawed source at best, prone to fish stories about his past and of dubious theology. I'd like to bounce off of Gary Peterson's piece on the issue.
For what it's worth, and to make sure that all y'all understand my position, I believe that Benny Hinn is not a man of God. I believe that he is not a faith healer. I believe that he is taking advantage of people by using God's name to take their money.
I'll buy the last statement on fleecing the faithful (that's a general indictment of big-time pastors) but hold judgement on the last two,
In my opinion, anyone who believes that they can be healed or receive a touch from God just because Benny Hinn waves his coat in their direction isn't paying attention to what God tells us in the Bible. That doesn't mean they deserve to be relieved of their money, mind you, but they bear responsibility to test God's will so that they can understand it, per Romans 12:2 (NIV):
2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Being transformed by the renewing of your mind is not the same as swooning over Benny Hinn's arm-waving or touches.
There are three issues here. The first is whether miraculous healing exists today. To say that there isn't is putting God in a box. While non-charismatics won't be conformable with the showy guys on TV, to tell God that He can't do any more healing miracles seems a bit above our pay grade. The second is how God chooses to deliver a healing. It could come from earnest prayer or from the touch of a faithful believer. Healing doesn't have to come by the hand-on-forehead "In the name of Jesus, be healed!!" route, but it is a valid Biblical model if you use the various healings in the Gospels and Acts as a guide. The third issue is whether God is using Hinn's theatrics to advance His kingdom. This Apologetics Index piece lays out some of Hinn's heterodox theology, the most troubling being a past believe that each member of the Trinity had three aspects, making a nine-way Godhead. He has backed off of that theology, but some of his statements of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us making us a divine creature can come across as a bit New Agey. He is prone to fish stories (to put it kindly) about his past as well, which will call into question his godliness. Does that make him a flawed preacher or an agent of the Devil?
I don't doubt for a minute that Benny is imparting power through his touches. I just believe that the power comes not from God, but from the devil.
It's one thing to call him a fraud, but to call the healings an act of the Devil is skating on dangerously thin ice; you've just grieved the Holy Spirit if you're wrong. Is this an indictment of charismatics and Pentecostals in general as agents of the devil? If so, we've got us one heck of a theological food fight coming. If the indictment is to Hinn, then we'd have to ask what the Devil would have to gain by drawing people to Hinn. 1 John 4:1-3 is the key verse for me in this front
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
I'd make the case that the spirit that inhabits the Hinn crusades is of God, fish stories and sloppy theology notwithstanding; the underlying tone of Hinn's preaching is to confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior rather than the alternative. I'd be hesitant to call it a work of the Devil, for you'll be quickly moving towards damning quite a few other ministries that have a theologically sloppy but heart-felt faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

North Korea Musings-The have been playing hardball for the last week, kicking out nuclear inspectors and starting up a small nuclear plant which seems to be much more important in making plutonium for nukes than for a meager amount of power production. Den Beste has a pair of good articles on the issue, one pointing out that we do have the assets to go after Iraq and North Korea and a second on the various distasteful options available to the good guys. An option Den Beste doesn't list is giving Kim Jong Il a golden parachute and have the top leaders leave peacefully. It sounds good; even with a few billion in payola, it would be cheaper than an invasion. However, that assumes that the NK leaders are on the same page and willing to contemplate a plush retirement. That's something that Mr. Moomaw fails to take into account; this set of leaders may be so acculturated in the PRDK ethic that they might not think along those lines and might prefer to go down with nukes blazing rather than cede power. That leaves us the options in Den Beste's piece. Economic isolation via trade sanctions isn't a great option since they don't have anything to trade other than weapons. The three viable options are blockade, taking out the nuclear plant(s) and invasion. The problem with all three is that they would be acts of war and would need to be justified to at least the American (if not the world) public. There have been enough bad acting among the North Koreans over the last half-century to warrant an attack, and such a laundry list could be written up at the UN if needed. Blockade would be the best option for the next few months; tell the aid groups to send the food to the Sudan or Afghanistan. This might well result in food riots and the overthrow of the current government. An Israeli-style bombing raid on the reactor (and any other nuclear facility) would be the second choice. An all-out invasion seems to be the last option; that would be best left as a counter-attack to a Northern invasion.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 150(NASB)
1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. 2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. 3 Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. 4 Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!
I'm a rather staid worshiper, despite hanging out at a charismatic church; maybe that's a leftover form having my mom keep me from squirming in my seat at church. While I don't have anything against pipe organs and classic hymns, the Psalms point out that God's to be praised robustly. We frequently forget to give Him his props for being the Creator of the universe and for the miracles both great and small he does on a daily basis. Such grand greatness calls for an strong reply, one that my post-trip grogginess struggles with. The Hallelujah that this Psalm ends with isn't a tepid praise; it's calling for us to be foolishly over-the-top in our praise. It also has a full praise band going; God's got a rhythm section on top of the strings and trumpets. As we wind up the new year, let's remember to give God his proper praise tomorrow as we go about our celebrations.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Florida Musings-The prodigals have returned to the Sunshine State, having pulled into Winter Haven less than an hour ago. Regular blogging will resume tomorrow, with a good deflation post that is in my laptop. Google Hit "J.D. Hayworth President 2008." Anyone want to get a boomlet started; we could do worse. It looks like the good guys won one in Keyna, where the founding party was shown the door for the first time.

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