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Saturday, January 25, 2003

Full Employment and Tax Cuts-"This is your Saturday Night All Request Oldies Show on WDRB, Dr. B radio. Just call our toll-free request line at 888-ECON-R-US. We've got a call in from Marc in North Carolina looking for an oldie from 1967 from that great girl band Gal Breath; Spinout At Phillips Curve." Sorry for the poetic license. Spudlets want me to look at ways to promote full employment, bouncing off this Tech Central piece from Arnold Kling (who seems to be a supply-side Keynesian) on Israeli and American unemployment.
As a card-carrying saltwater Keynesian, I believe that sometimes the causes of unemployment can lie with the demand side. Take the United States economy today, for example. As Brad DeLong points out, productivity is going through the roof. From a supply-side perspective, our economic engine is purring like a kitten. As Brad puts it, "The only dark lining inside this silver cloud is that faster productivity growth means faster potential output growth and a widening gap between output and potential."
I don't know where you get your Supply-Side membership card, but I also believe that sometimes the causes of unemployment can lie with the demand side. If productivity is growing faster than the demand for products, you will tend to have unemployment until the economic system figures out what to do with the excess labor. One can put that extra labor to use by either expanding demand for existing products being made more efficiently or by creating new products not currently being demanded. Expanding demand can be done from a fiscal policy basis by either cutting taxes or raising spending. Keynesians like spending because a tax cut will be partly saved and partly spent. However, Keynesians (but maybe not Kling) tend to ignore the effects of cutting taxes on supply. Cutting taxes will help increase supply in the long run, as people are more interested in working harder (more take-home pay for each extra hour worked) and saving more (for your after-tax return on investments goes up), thus stimulating the economy and adding to available capital. Thus, I'd be inclined to cut taxes in order to stimulate economic growth and job creation. If we're looking to stimulate job growth, you might look at removing the FICA tax on wage income, raising income taxes to compensate for the lost revenues. That will increase take-home pay by about 14% (assuming most of the employer's share of FICA is shared with the employee; some of it will be pocketed) and allow workers to be more willing to work at current wage levels. It will add to worker's paycheck and cut costs to employers. Kling has his own ideas
To get back to full employment and close the gap with potential GDP, I am in favor of every stimulus proposal known to man. I nominate Megan McArdle for Treasury Secretary, on a platform of abolishing the corporate income tax. The Democrats want to cut payroll taxes, too? Fine, let 'em. Money to bail out state and local governments? I'll see ya and raise ya.
I just talked about the sales tax getting cut and wouldn't mind getting rid of the corporate income tax. I'm not a big fan of revenue sharing, though, for it's not overly stimulative and lends itself to a lot of pork-barrel spending.
I am willing to incur deficits in order to get to full employment. I believe that the United States can afford to live in minus for a while, because I am exuberant about the longer-term outlook for growth, thanks to Moore's Law.
Further up in the essay, he talked about the Israeli term for personal deficit spending as being "in minus." We're not that far away from full employment, at least in the economic definition of the term of a lack of cyclical unemployment. You'll always have some seasonal unemployment, some structural unemployment (mismatches of skills and/or location) and frictional unemployment (people between jobs due to non-macroeconomic reasons, like someone who's just moved or just graduated from college), but people get worried when unemployment starts to be due to a lack of demand in the economy as a whole. A high productivity economy might result in a bit more frictional unemployment, where businesses trim payrolls because more efficient production methods allow products to be made with fewer workers. Some of those workers might be bad fits for other jobs if their skills aren't in demand elsewhere, but other workers might have salable skills that could be employed elsewhere. A combination of high frictional and structural unemployment might cause full employment to be a bit higher than in the 90s. I agree that we have a good long-term outlook for growth, but I don't think that Moore's Law (computer speeds double every 18 months or so) is going to be the engine of that growth in the '00s. We're getting to the point where computer speed isn't as much of an issue. I'm typing this at home on a Pentium II-class machine circa 1998 with a 233MhZ CPU. My 1.3GhZ laptop doesn't make me five times more productive. The problem with Moore's law is that it assumes that computers become twice as cheap every 18 months, which doesn't seem to be happening. Entry-level computers stay about the same price from year to year, but have more RAM, bigger hard drives and faster CPUs than their price counterparts of a year ago. The screamer of a year ago that was selling for double the price of the bargain machine at the time is now the bargain machine. However, you can't buy a new version of last year's bargain machine at half-price; they just don't make them anymore. When hard drives models start to drop below $100, that model gets discontinued, as does the Intel CPUs models that start to drop below $100. There's a limit to how cheap the industry will allow the parts, and thus the computers, to go. [Update 1/27 3:30PM-reader Nathan Mates points out that the figure's closer to $80 these days; I am a few years out of the loop] What is going to drive the economy are new products to add to our shopping carts. Typically, those new products will come from small upstart companies rather than existing companies. The dividend exemption isn't the best way to stimulate those companies, since young companies don't typically pay dividends. Cutting (or eliminating) the corporate income tax would help there, as it would allow firms to have more net income to plow back into new investments. What do we need to stimulate job creation? Focus on ways to encourage the creation of new products and of hiring people. We should thus focus any tax cuts on cutting payroll taxes and corporate income taxes; the combination could be sold to the US people. The dividend exemption doesn't help much since it's rewarding more mature companies that aren't big job-creators or new product-creators. I don't think the majority of this slump is demand based. Some of it is demand based, due to post-9/11 nervousness. However, the rest is either due to a depressed stock market (that lowers business investment and depresses consumer demand) and higher oil prices. The best Valentine's present for the economy is Saddam's head on a pike in downtown Baghdad; Tommy Franks can do more than Greenspan can for the economy at this point. That will take away a lot of the post-9/11 jitters, lower the price of oil and raise stock prices. Winning in Iraq coupled with a modest (not too much red ink) tax cut will bring the economy back. However, unemployment rates might stay higher than in the 90s until we get a inflow of new products that will open up people's checkbooks a bit wider. If our current market basket gets less expensive due to efficiency, we might opt to save money for the future rather than spend more on stuff we're already buying. It'll take new products to truly get the economy on a major uptick. The computer/Internet push has largely run it's course for now and another growth sector will need to emerge before we get big growth rates like the 90s.

Cyberslander- I was clued into this story from two weeks ago by one of my MBA students this morning.
Web domains bearing the names of U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, and at least three other Florida Republican congressmen have been bought by the National Association for the Advancement of White People, the Bartow congressman's staff said late Friday. The name is not the one used for Putnam's official Web site. But it does incorporate his first and last names. Entering the domain name www.adamputnam.com/into a computer browser will take a computer user to the NAAWP main page and its list of "beliefs." The page makes no mention of the congressmen, but instead gives the organization's philosophy and links to other pages for the NAAWP. Similar Web domains use the names of U.S. Reps. Porter Goss, Ric Keller and John Mica to connect to the same site.
Let's have an essay question. Compare and contrast the excerpt above with the following excerpt from Kevin Holtsberry
Interesting story developing here in Columbus. Yesterday it seemed a white supremacy group was attempting to, in essence, blackmail a number of state senators. The group responsible, the Council on Political Accountability of Seattle, registered the domain names of a eight Ohio State Senators (i.e. www.bobsmith.com) and then put those domains up for bid at eBay. If you type in the senator's name as the domain it takes you to the Web site of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, a "not for profit, non violent, civil rights educational organization, demanding equal rights for whites and special privileges for none." Apparently the group is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white supremacist group started by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. ...It turns out, however, that the whole thing was not orchestrated by white supremacists but the opposite. The group who started the whole thing is now calling it a "protest":
"For 50 years, the Republican Party has had an exclusionary attitude toward people of color," said Jeremy Stamper, who identified himself in a statement as an African-American and president of the Council on Political Accountability. "My hope is that our act of protest in linking their names to the NAAWP will hold a mirror up to these people and their destructive policies."
Yeah right! This is the kind of lame crap the left likes to pull. Instead of arguing in the marketplace of ideas they use deception and illegal activities to try and paint the GOP as racist. Is this what the "civil-rights movement" has come too? This is just another example of the depressing nature of the race debate today in many quarters.
If you answered-"I bet you the folks from Florida are being targeted by this group, too" give yourself an 100. I'm going to e-mail the Lakeland Ledger's politics guy with this piece.

Edifier du Jour-Exodus 3:13-15
13 Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?" 14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
No matter what, God is. He is the one constant in a chaotic universe, for He stands outside of it. God had multiple choices for naming Himslef, but he opted for I Am. When you see "the LORD" in all caps in the Bible, that how the Hebrew for "I am," Yahweh (yes, YHWH to be more exact, the vowels are guessed at), got translated. His eternal presence, His eternal is-ness, is what He opted to stress when God named himself.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Daschleomics-The senior senator from South Dakota has his version of a stimulus package out. This piece on the Daschle plan that Kos points out is worth walking through, as is the actual plan itself. Does it stand a chance of getting passed? No, but this would be what the Democrats would waive to the public as what they would do if they were in charge. Let's take a look.
"We need an economic plan with a single overriding goal of helping the economy, and helping the economy now," he said in the speech. "The president's plan is not economic stimulus. More than 90 percent of the tax cuts wouldn't get to the taxpayers until after 2003."
Ol' John Maynard has a manure-eating grin in his grave. If you think that the economy's big problem is of excess capacity, then the Bush plan won't be too stimulative. However, if the problem is in part a lack of interest in saving and investing, then the Bush plan will be stimulative, since businesses will start investing money in plant and equipment now to take advantage of those future tax cuts.
The measures proposed by Daschle would expire after one year and carry a price tag of roughly $140 billion, far less than the $674 billion, 10-year plan that Bush has issued.
Repeat after me. Perm-en-ent In-come Hy-poth-e-sis. A temporary tax cut is more likely to be saved, not spent, since people will realize its a one-time thing and not change their spending patterns much. Bush's would average $67B/year, while Daschle's would be twice that big. Once the cuts are put in place, it will be hard to rescind them.
Bush's plan proposed the elimination of the tax on dividends, and called for the acceleration of some of the income tax cuts that Congress approved two years ago — two elements that Daschle and other Democrats have criticized and that Daschle omitted from his own plan. "If we're looking at a short-term economic goal, if we want to get the biggest bang for the buck in the shortest period of time, the dividend tax cut is not it," Daschle said.
One short-term economic goal of the Democrats is to keep the money in Washington. Another is to make any tax relief temporary so they can go back and spend it again when the economy recovers. A long-term tax cut isn't a good idea in their mind, for it shuts down programs that they prize.
Daschle proposed a tax cut of $300 per adult and an additional $300 per child, up to two children per family. Adults would qualify even if they have no federal tax liability, as long as they pay Social Security... and Medicare payroll taxes.
Note in the full text of the proposal that this only goes to people who are employed. It doesn't include the retired and may not include the self-employed, depending on Daschle's definition of payroll taxes. You could see seniors going to get a one-day temp job in order to get their $300 tax break.
Daschle also proposed additional tax breaks for businesses, including more generous depreciation designed to encourage companies to invest in new equipment. He also called for a tax credit to help small businesses pay for health insurance premiums and proposed a credit for businesses investing in broadband high-speed Internet equipment.
The depreciation allowance might help boost capital spending, but the health-insurance premium one would be a non-starter, for businesses are unlikely to start offering health insurance with just a one-year break. Aw, cute, they gave the Ideopolis a bone. Everybody turn to song 14 in the John Kerry hymnal, just the first verse. Either that, or AOL has Mrs. Daschle on retainer.
The aid to the states and local governments includes about $15 billion with no strings attached, as well as about $25 billion more to be divided among Medicaid, education, homeland security and highway and mass transit construction.
Soo-eee! soo-eee! Everybody sing "If we ever needed the Lard before, we sure do need It now." No good Democratic stimulus package would be complete without some goodies for their union buddies. In the Homeland Security section, we've got 25,000 additional "first responders on the street" (Billy Jeff, wherefore art thou). It has a $6 billion education package to "ensure that every classroom is led by a highly-qualified [translation-NEA or AFT member] teacher" and $3 billion for cities. This looks more like electioneering than good economics. Give the working people (but not the retired) a tax cut. Through the geeks a bone. Give the construction unions, the firefighters and cops and the NEA some goodies, and make it temporary, so the cost doesn't look as big.

Bustin' the Record-A record-setting day for hits, a Ruffini-led charge had the site heading towards a 200-hit day, but a Den Beste tip of the hat has folks coming in at a 70/ hour clip. 289 and counting, busting the old record of 208. [Update 7:20PM-407 uniques and counting-I had a freaking 112-hit hour, that's more like a slightly-lame day.]

Afternoon Musings-While proctoring a Microeconomics quiz this afternoon, I stumbled onto an old Lakeland Ledger. On page three, there was the headline, "Israelis, Palestinans call for halt in fighting." The paper was from Nov 4th, 2000. Pictures of Arafat and Barak (didn't he drop below radar in a hurry) grace the article. You can run that headline 5 or 10 years ago or 5 or 10 years from now and just change the picture of the Israeli PM. Hell hath no fury like a lawyer scorned; Best Buy just wiped Baggy Slims' hard drive during a repair job, and our man in Lawrence isn't a happy camper. Some help on the terror front in Spain, as they roll up 16 al Qaeda types. Gracias, España

Cold War II-Item 4-A Comparison of Revolutions-Den Beste has got the grill nice and hot and some good long twigs for a Euroweenie roast.
So Rumsfeld has come in for a severe Franco-German tongue-lashing; they have deployed their most forceful scowls his direction (their most dreaded weapon internationally, as is well known). But they're running into a bit of a problem coming up with rational arguments (not that that's ever stopped them). Here's one of the more preposterous: .
In an editorial, Bild reminded Rumsfeld of his German roots and the ideals of the French Revolution which inspired the United States' constitution. "Mister Rumsfeld, hundreds of thousands of your G.I.'s fell for 'old Europe' because they freed us from the tyranny of Hitler. You are sinning against your own heroes by disparaging 'old Europe'. Your G.I.'s died for the ideals of your place of origin," Bild wrote in an editorial.
Let's see; the US Constitution was written in 1787 and was largely based on principles discussed in the US as early as 1774, if not even earlier. Many of those ideals are in the Declaration of Independence written in 1776. So how, exactly, was this influenced by the ideals of the French Revolution, which took place in 1789? Actually, historically speaking it was the other way around: the revolutionaries in France were in large part inspired by the American example, though only imperfectly. Not to put too fine a point on it, they screwed it up. The ideals of the French Revolution led to the guillotine, Napoleon, and 20 years of devastating war in Europe leaving behind more than a million dead. France is on its, what, fifth republic since then? Something like that? (And we're still working on our first. I guess we're falling behind.)
Stevie, it's not nice to bring those skeletons out of the closet. The secular communal nature of the French Revolution is up the intelectual family tree of the EU, and the Euroweenies don't like to be reminded that we got there first and they screwed it up. How black do you like your Euroweenies? Don't tell me you put ketchup on yours?

Midday Musings-It was 29 on my car's external thermometer at 8:00 on the way in, we did get ourselves a freeze. Well, if we could get Governor Ventura, why not Senator Springer? Kevin, put that rifle down. It isn't quite as stoopid as it sounds; at least he was mayor of Cincinnati before going the full-contact talk show route.
He acknowledged that his nationally syndicated Jerry Springer Show could work against him. Guests divulge their intimate secrets -- and frequently strip down to their intimate apparel -- on episodes with titles like "Your Lover Is Mine!" and "Explosive Betrayals!"
"Claudometer Tech Support. You... need to order a new jointroint after that Springer paragraph pinned your unit. Yes, sir, that would tend to overload the system." We've got an Ebola meme in the Axis of Weasels. The PsyOps lab must have worked overtime cooking that bad boy up. I'll have to give this a full write-up later, but Jeb is starting to get down to brass tacks on the class-size amendment
Bush wants legislators to make it easier for school districts to open new charter schools, hire new teachers and even allow districts to offer private school vouchers as a way to meet the requirements of the class size constitutional amendment passed last fall. He also wants to eliminate a law that prohibits the future use of portable classrooms. If the districts fail to reduce class sizes, Bush said the state would come down with a "hammer," with the potential to order local school boards to use vouchers, double sessions, rezonings or year-round schools to meet the goals included in the amendment.
That fiery launch wasn't from the Cape, it was the FEA reaching escape velocity. This is going to be a fun train wreck to watch.

Edifier du Jour-1 Corinthians 6:9-11(NASB)
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Please note the second word of verse 11. Were. Past tense. Ain't no more. All those things are within God's power to remove from our lives. We're getting the monthly round of fundi-bashing with the removal of consideration of a somewhat over-the-top evangelical to an AIDS advisory council; the idea that homosexuality is reversible irks some, such as Andrea Harris here-"Then faster than you could say "Mario Andretti in a souped-up Lamborghini" the we-should-cure-the-homosexuals (how, with a magical spell?) guy says 'Nope, not me, I'm not going to do it.'". Harris wasn't the only one expressing that general idea, but her post hit my send button. It isn't The Force or some proper incantation to bring the inherent mana of the region to bear, but the Holy Spirit that can transform people from the inside. It's fairly old hat to use a 12-step program to beat substance abuse, invoking a generic God of the user's choice. How much better than an unspecified Higher Power is a God who takes an active interest in the believer's life. He can help people lick drugs and alcohol and, if the person wants to, help them move away from homosexuality. It doesn't always work, for some habits, especially sexual ones, are very hard to break and many people don't want to change, especially if they are open to the idea of taking the Bible on a a-la-carte basis and ignore the passages that bash their bad habits. Remember, please, lest the secularists have a field day, that God loves everyone, including the people who are doing the things on that list in verses nine and ten. He may hate the things we do, but He still loves us. God loves [insert homophobic pejorative], he just hates what they are doing with their bodies. God loves crackheads, he hates what they are doing with their bodies. God loves the greedy, but hates how they are focusing their lives on material possessions and not on Him. Remember that through that love, He has the power to change those bad habits.

Cold War II-Item 3-The Battle for Britain-One of the key battles for the expansion of American-style market democracy is getting the British to keep from getting sucked into the EU. It's important to have British military expertise, commercial heft and gravitas on our side of the fence. One of the Iraq piece that struck me was this BBC piece, where Conservative MP Kenneth Clarke was having cold feet about the war
Former Tory leadership contender Kenneth Clarke has said he is "not persuaded" about the case for war with Iraq. Mr. Clarke said he was worried Washington had taken the decision to go to war months ago. His comments came as foreign secretary Jack Straw was returning from talks in Washington with US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Mr. Straw is still insisting war can be avoided if Iraq proves it does not have weapons of mass destruction.
Before I tackle Mr. Clarke, let me have at that last sentence. Folks, you can't prove a negative, especially not in the week that Iraq seems to have before the B1s start to fly. The best Iraq can do is to show that they are honestly cooperating, and that might not be enough given their past and current obfuscations. Straw has a bad case of diplomatese, where an extra round of negotiations can cure anything. You would normally think that the Conservatives would be backing Blair on his Iraq stand, but things don't always break down along clean ideological lines. Clarke is a fan of the EU and would like Britain to join the Euro. This piece from 2000 quotes him saying that "national currencies will be considered 'quaint' in 50 years time." Generally, Labour has been more pro-EU than the Conservatives, but there are Eurosceptics in both parties, and Clarke seems to head up the Europhile wing of the Tories. The next few years will have Britain decide whether to cast their lot with the US or with the EU. For Clarke, it would be foolish to become the 51st state. It would be even more foolish to tie their economy to the increasing socialism of the EU, and the British populous will have to fight that out. If the Conservatives want to challenge Blair's mugwumping on the Euro, they will need to run on a strong Euroskeptic platform. Iain Duncan Smith beat out Clarke for the Conservative Party leadership in 2001 running on a Euroskeptic platform. A healthy fight between the Euroskeptic Tories and a Euromugwump Blair NuLabs will allow the British to decide between the Anglosphere or EU Lite. Blair might not be a true ally of the Anglosphere, but he at least has some foreign-policy values in common with the US even if he's a social democrat. The fight, as long as Blair stays in charge of Labour, will involve two friends of America. If Blair is ousted, then there will be a clear fight between an openly socialist Labour and the Anglospherian Tories, which the Tories would likely win. Thus, thinks seem good for the Anglosphere having a British outpost. We'll have either Blair or a pro-Anglospherian Tory at 10 Downing for a while, for I don't think the British public will vote for the sons of Kinnock.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Aorta Wait A Month-Florida Sen. Bob Graham is slated to have surgery on his aortic valve in early February, putting off an expected Feb 3rd candidacy announcement. The surgery will likely put off any announcement until March. At first glance, this would seem to be bad news for Graham, for he'll both lose out on a month of campaigning and fund-raising and have his physical fitness for the job questioned. However, he's expected to recover well; given Cheney's ticker, it's unlikely the GOP would be able to use the issue too effectively. However, if war breaks out with Iraq in February, it might be a good time to be having heart surgery; the announcement news will get pushed off of the front page. If he announces after things have been settled in Iraq, he'll get the full benefit from the press conference, especially if there were glitches in the campaign that his hawkish persona can exploit.

Class Size Ammendment Backlash-Trying the Old Colleges-In order to finance increased K-12 spending mandated by Ammendment 9, Florida's college spending is being slashed. This quote chimes in at about 2.5 Claudes
"What's happening here with our state budget shortfall is more of the cost of going to college is being transferred to the student," said North Florida interim President David Kline.
No kidding, Sherlock? You might want to get that search committee working a bit harder, NFU.

Evening Musings-I did a little channel surfing on the way back from my MIS class just now and caught the theme song for the State Department-U2's With or Without You. MCJ's got a good piece on Colin Powell being very POed with the French; when Powell starts to become a hawk, the diplomatic angle has assumed room temperature. We're going to get the worst freeze in years down here in central Florida. When those of you up north are having single-digit highs (and thankful that the single digits are positive), she-dogging about going down to the mid-20s seems trite. However, the folks down here aren't used to that level of cold. One of my MBA students is a manager at an electric co-op south of us and had to leave class more than once tonight to trouble-shoot deadbeat customers pleading to get their power turned back on for tonight. Whatever happened to paying your dues? Yao beat out Shaq for West center and His Airness isn't starting, having been edged out by McGrady and Iverson. The center position in the East is so weak that power forward Ben Wallace is the starting center; however, he's better than anyone else on the list. However, watch out for some bad matchups, as Air Canada has to try and guard Garnett. Why not have point and shooting guard and small and power forward spots?

Cold War II-Item 2-The Axis of Weasels-We now have in place the US' opposite numbers in the Second Cold War. May I present the EU, represented by France, Russia and China. All three are coming out against a war in Iraq. Each has its own reasons. France and Russia have big contracts with Iraq, significant Islamic minorities and little love for Israel, while China might be playing a different game. If the US goes in and takes over Iraq, the contracts and contacts that they have with the Baathist regime are gone. Thus, France and Russia have an interest in the inspection process taking years or decades rather than weeks. They aren't likely to have to tangle with Iraq militarily and are willing to play nice, for it isn't in their national interest to intervene. Secondly, both countries have significant Muslim minorites. A French invasion of Iraq might well ignite some home-grown terrorism and might make Chechens and other Russian Muslims ornery. Thus, any invasion will have a down-side at home. The US has a much smaller Islamic population and has much less to fear from domestic unrest. Thirdly, neither country likes Israel much. Both have a vested interest in sucking up to Muslim interests at home (see preceeding paragraph) and abroad and there is a long-standing anti-Jewish undercurrent in both cultures. The most likely first target of any new WMD would be Israel. It will be a while before Iraq has access to ICBMs capable of reaching Europe, but a WMD could be dropped on Tel Aviv hours after it is developed. France and Russia don't give a small rodent's derrierre about Israel, but the US does. China's a different case. Their trade ties to Iraq are limited, as far as I know. There is a large Islamic population in western China, but not enough to effect their judgement. Israel is largely off their radar. However, an active Anglospherian military coalition is not in their best interest. Action in Iraq would set precedents that they'd rather not see, precedents that could be used in North Korea or Burma or Indonesia in the near future. Such an active Anglospherian coalition, especially with a surprisingly beligerent Australia in the mix, is a threat to their future hegemony in East Asia. They're a junior partner in this anti-Anglospherian coalition, and might opt to abstain. The lines are begining to be drawn. Russia, who looked like it was cozying up to the US after 9-11, is seeming to cast its lot with the EU coalition. We might be begining to see the end of the post-Cold-War ad hoc UN effectiveness.

Jesus on Pagans-In the middle of the Guardian piece on liberal clergy bashing of an anti-Islamic church message board statement, you got this winner
On Monday, the Rev. Fred Morris, executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, which represents 3,500 congregations statewide, called Islam a sister religion and repudiated ``expressions of hatred toward any person or group.'' The Rev. Tom Borland, president of the Interfaith Council of Jacksonville, also rejected the message. ``As a Christian, I am disappointed at this unchristian effort to disparage Islam,'' Borland said in statement. ``Jesus never attacked other faiths.''
Ok, Dr. Borland, let's look it up. I'll start with Matthew 6:5-8(NIV)
5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Let's also try Matthew 5:43-48
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect
You've got Jesus doing some serious pagan-bashing here. If you want to make pagans a generic term and to say he was criticizing unbelief, I could trot out all the Pharisee-bashing verses to show Jesus' contempt for first-century Jewish legalism. It might not be PC to say that, but it's still there. Turns out that Dr. Borland's went to Eileen's alma mater, Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, and is a Presbyterian Church-USA pastor. That might explain the LibProt rhetoric and the Biblical illiteracy. [Update 10:45PM-Just told this story to his fellow alumna, who asked where he got his doctorate. I call up that bio-PrincetonTheological Seminary. Eileen said "That figures;" Princeton is your stereotypical LibProt hotbed, giving a better explaination of his rhetoric that his Union M.Div.] [thanks to Josh Sargent for the original link]

The Fickle Trickle-I don't have the energy to do a full fisking, but this Krugman piece deserves a partial slap-down
There's been a concerted effort to convince us that we shouldn't - that anyone who even pays attention to who gets what must be motivated by envy. Consider a recent cover of Business Week. Under the headline "Class Warfare," it asked: "Suppose Bush's tax plan works: It raises long-term growth, reduces unemployment, boosts workers' wages, and eventually cuts a rising deficit. ... Now suppose the rich get richer, and income inequality gets worse. Time to vote." As Superman used to say, "What th'?" Does Business Week really think that's the argument - that opponents of the Bush plan agree that it will do great things for the economy, that the increase in inequality it will cause is their only objection? In fact, those who oppose the Bush plan think it will work no better than the 2001 tax cut: that it will do little for growth or employment, and will sharply raise the deficit. (These guys now have a track record, and it's not encouraging. In the year and a half since that tax cut, which was sold as the perfect economic stimulus, the economy has lost 1.4 million jobs.)
Well, we had things like 9-11, Enron and the end of the computer/telecom gold rush in the last year and a half as well; does ceterius paribus slip out of your working vocabulary when a Republican administration's in office. No, there are other arguments, like wanting to spend the tax revenue or an ethical obligation to burden the rich more. However, income inequality is a big issue with the left, but the two other arguments are as big. Higher taxes means higher government spending, all else being equal, and the left has a high value on the efficacy of those programs. Cutting taxes will mean that programs won't get funded, worsening the country in the liberal's eye. Also, a desire to spread the burden fairly leads them to want to tax the rich much more than the average worker. However, a lack of knowledge of economics has them forgetting the secondary damage of higher taxes in decrease private sector spending and decreased investment to the economy. The burden of higher taxes on the affluent isn't just inflicted on the affluent. To the liberal, the idea that Business Week would think that a tax cut is good for the little guy is a head-scratcher. No, Dr. Krugman, it's just that they understand economics in a different way than you do.

Cold War II-Item 1-France and Mad Bad Bob-Here's an interesting BBC item
France has confirmed that it is inviting Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to take part in a meeting of African leaders next month. Mr Mugabe is currently banned from entering the European Union because of doubts about the legitimacy of his re-election last year.
The French seem to be of the opinion that insisting on human rights is bad for business and bad for their ability to influence things. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the French foreign policy as of late seems to be designed to extend French influence around the world rather than help the people concerned. Critics of US policy might want to say that the US is looking to extend their influence as well, but the US seems to be more concerned about people and progress than about influence. Is this the classic Cold War bipolarism rearing its head, heading back to the "he may be an SOB, but he's our SOB" paradigm? If the Anglosphere is against Mugabe, he might be an ally of the Euroweenies.

Edifier du Jour-Mark 10:13-16(NASB)
13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
When this verse is read the last eleven months of the year, it is a cry to witness to the young. Most people come to the Lord when they are children; it's much harder to change hearts once they've become an adult. We need to not assume that children can't grasp the complexity of the Gospel, for it's actually rather simple and understandable. It is a comfort for kids to know that they are expected to screw up on a regular basis and that God has already forgiven them for their sins. However, when you read this passage in mid-January, as our pastor did Sunday, it is a cry to permit the children to come into the world, pleading with women to not have abortions and pleading with lawmakers to scale back abortion availability. That message should be delivered forcefully but tactfully. I just reading about some of the fallout from this set of provocative Planned Parenthood parody posters over at Blogs4God, ticking off quite a few readers; you might put those posters in the "a bit too tacky" category. Reading some of the naysayers of the pieces (follow Josh's links, I don't want to reinvent the wheel) there was a combination of dislike over the strong anti-abortion stance and dislike of the snarky tone of the posters. Some of the dropouts like Jordan Cooper are to be expected, for while it's not directly stated, Blogs4God is a theologically conservative joint and liberal-leaning folks might not be comfortable there. However, we're called to speak the truth in love, and I wasn't feeling a whole lotta love in those posters; I was feeling frustration that PP gets far better PR than they deserve. It's right to mourn the tens of millions of babies that were never born. However, for every one of those babies, there is a woman grieving what she did. This comment from Richard Hall is a good one-"My plea, horrid liberal though it makes me seem, would be that all Christian conversation about abortion be conducted with compassion towards those who have been through it. Speaking the truth in love should not include rubbing people's faces in the dirt. " No, not liberal, just good, old-school "hate the sin, love the sinner." Mr. Hall may be a tad to my left, but he's correct on this one. I've given a number of lectures about not stooping to the sarcastic, sniping rhetorical level that is common to blogging. Keep those fruits of the Spirit in mind as you lay out your rhetoric.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Dim Bulbs-Ted Barlow's on a lightbulb-screwing joke kick. A few more lightbulb jokes to add to the mix. Q: How many Instapundits does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: Just one. He stands there and allows the world to revolve around him. Q: How many David Heddles does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: It depends on whether the lightbulb has been predestined to be screwed in. If it has, it takes but one, but God really does the work. Q: How many Orrin Judds does it take to screw in a lightbulb A: A RETURN TO TRADITIONAL SCREWING Lightbulb-Screwing and Crunchy Conservatism (Rob Dreher, National Review)
It's too high tech to go out and buy a metal step-stool with five pages of warnings not to put the stool on top of a beachball. Just use a chair or go borrow Yao Ming for ten minutes.
A good essay on the return of traditional values in home electronic maintenance. Q: How many Josh Claybourns does it take to screw in a lightbulb. A: Rob Dreher has a good piece on lightbulb-changing today. I was talking about the merits of the different ways of changing lightbulbs with some of my friends last night; some opt for stepstools and others opt for chairs. What do you think the best way is? Update: Dr. Byron has more on this. Update2: Kevin Holtsberry has some observations. Q: How many Kevin Holtsberrys does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: Everyone else has blogged on the lightbulb-screwing issue, including Joshua Claybourn and Mark Byron, but I'll put my $0.02 in. In the old days, we just grabbed a chair and screwed it in. We didn't make a production number out of it. Now, red tape have made it next to impossible to screw in a lightbulb without running afoul of some regulation. We've got a bill in the Ohio legislature to streamline lightbulb-screwing regulations, but it's bottled up in committee. Q: How many Ganns Deens does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: It's so different screwing in lightbulbs now that Caths can hold the chair steady while I screw the bulb in. Can you guys send me some American bulbs as a belated wedding present? We can't seem to get them here. Q: How many Patrick Ruffinis does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: The GOP has a good chance of picking up the Hispanic lightbulbs by playing to their family-values and work ethic. I reject the Coming Democratic Lightbulb hypothesis; the Ideopolis lightbulbs will eventually become Republican due to the GOP's support of electricity deregulation.

Evening Musings-Good Tom Friedman editorial on the benefits of a democratic Iraq. He's about 2/3rds conventional wisdom spiked with a third of anti-idiotarian savvy; that last third came out to play today. Future Supreme Court Justice Miguel Estrada will get another hearing, this time with a GOP-majority in charge. I don't have any inside scoop, but I don't thing that Philippe DeCroy's take of White House council Alberto Gonzales being the replacement for Rehnquist would be a net plus for the administration. Gonzales smells a bit too much of Justice Kennedy, who isn't as conservative as he looks. I'd suggest going with Edith Jones for the spot, promoting O'Connor to the Chief Justice spot to give Jones cover. Then, about '06 or '07, when Stevens packs it in, you trot out a DC Circuit-seasoned Estrada as a fillibuster-proof nominee. The Blogosphere was all over this Scott Ritter story, wondering if Iraq had turned him with incriminating pictures with teenieboppers. It could have been been an Arianna-style dive to the left as well. I'm not sure what to think about the NARAL shindig coverage. All six of the candidates were there, and the Note mention that Sharpton was suprisingly good and Dean got some good applause lines. However, you got quite a few stomach-turning lines on abortion from the evening. Josh has a few, as well as a good rundown of Roe articles.

The Decade Everything Changed-At the winter graduation here at Warner Southern, Dr Walton threw the opening paragraph from A Tale of Two Cities into his commencement address. Most of us are familiar with the first line but not the entire paragraph.
It was the best of times, it was worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was season of Darkness, it was the spirit of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period.
Dickens might have written that about the 1780s, but the early 21st century is a lot like that as well. We have wealth and poverty, faithfulness and decadence, wisdom and idiotarians (the spell checker wants Idiot Arians-use that for the next white-supremacist group that shows up on radar), Light and Darkness coexisting in almost Taoist symmetry. However, it wasn’t Dickens’ ying-yang contrasting that got my mind going. A Tale of Two Cities had the French Revolution as a backdrop and a lot of the problems we are currently having in international affairs highlights the difference between the American and the French revolutions. The American Revolution called upon God to help overturn a corrupt ruler while the French Revolution went against God as part of the ancient regime. The American polity that evolved was based on individualism and local control, while the French polity was based on communal values and centralized control. We are on the verge of a second Cold War, not between communism and capitalism, but between American-style democratic welfare capitalism and European-style market socialism, which is the ideological descendant of the French Revolution. During the Cold War, the UN was dysfunctional as the world was split along East-West lines. We saw a decade of surprising functionality of the UN during the 90s where the US, continental Europe and Russia agreed on what needed to be done in many trouble spots. However, we’re beginning to see a Cold War-style split reemerging between the centralizing forces of continental Europe and its allies and the United States and its allies. As we come up to a decision on an Iraq invasion, don’t be too disappointed that we don’t get the UN to sign off on things. This might be the beginning of a number of vetoes that will make the UN Security Council into a non-entity. In fact, the UN itself might begin to morph in the years to come. The trend of the EU and its allies will be to make the UN more of a world government with legislative and taxation powers, which the US and its allies will resist, might cause a number of countries, including the US, to drop out of it. Note that I don’t think the struggle between the EU and the US will be a military one, nor do I think the two sides will fight many, if any, proxy wars. The EU-led bloc will play to the developing world by pitching a communal, secular, more majoritarian and centralized system, while the US-led bloc will pitch a more decentralized, individualistic and more religion-friendly system. Where this might resemble the Cold War is that the US and the EU will scuffle for influence in the developing countries, discretely supporting political parties and rebel groups that share their views and trying to block the rise of groups that oppose their bloc. The US led bloc might well resemble the Anglosphere of blog mythology. Britain will have to decide if it is a European country of an Anglospherian one. Australia seems to be on board, as does Israel, Turkey and India. Some other current EU countries might bolt, such as Spain, Ireland and Italy and quite a few of the Eastern European countries might have buyer’s remorse about joining the EU. Canada will have to have a knock-down drag-out over whether to be a European country or an American one. However, this fight between the EU and the US won’t be the only thing going on in the world. There will be a fight between the two variants of market democracies and the forces that don’t want to go that route. For some reason, that Tale of Two Cities intro reminded me of Babylon 5’s Shadow War year intro
It was the year of fire... the year of destruction... the year we took back what was ours. It was the year of rebirth... the year of great sadness... the year of pain... and the year of joy. It was a new age. It was the end of history. It was the year everything changed.
Change year to decade and I got a hunch we might just be describing the ‘00s. Not only are we scuffling with the EU for world influence, we will be fighting with the forces around the world that don’t like market democracies, both from the Marxist left and the Wahhabi right. It might be stretching a metaphor a bit, but the next quarter-century might resemble the Babylon 5 universe, where the good guys rejected both the stifling statist Vorlons (the EU) and the chaotic Darwinist evil of the Shadows (Marxists, al Qaeda and other anarchy-inducing outfits), telling both parties to find another galaxy to trouble. It will be a decade of fire and destruction. There are more wars than Iraq that will be fought, and we’ve likely not heard the last of al Qaeda. Even if we get the Islamic front under control, we’ll still have to fight off narcomarxists in South America, various anarchic thugs in Africa and protect ourselves from within from our own anarchosocialists. We’ve got our work cut out for us keeping the Shadows on the run. It will be the decade we took back what was ours. This is the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade today and I have a feeling it won’t live to see 40. Liberalism is in retreat in most areas, and the elections of 2004, 2006 and 2008 will go a long was in determining whether government will live up to a higher moral standard than at present, moving back to a paradigm of government not playing religious favorites while maintaining basic morals instead of making the public square a religion-free-zone. I don't have too many eloquent things to say about Roe, but I have sensed a more away from that culture of death in the recent past as more people understand where that culture is taking us. Part of the fight between the US and the EU will be on those grounds, where the euthanasia and abortion-friendly culture of continental Europe will be at odds with the US. This fight won’t just happen in the US. There are signs of reversal of secular statism in Canada and Britain and rumblings elsewhere in Europe. In some countries in Europe, it might take civil wars to solve things, and the battle there might not be pretty. It will be a decade of rebirth. Christianity is on the move in the South of our planet; if trends continue, we will have a plurality of evangelical believers in much of Africa and South America. That will change the dynamics of politics, economics and culture and may bring about a renaissance in the developing world. While the effect might be smaller, the developed world is returning to God as well, gradually moving away from a culture of death; on the way in to work this morning, I heard on NPR a recovering feminist who cheered Roe 30 years ago recognizes that the decision brought death and a bias toward abortion as the path of least resistance rather than the freedom it promised. She isn’t the only one. [Update 7:30PM-Ben supplies the name-Fredrica Mathewes-Green] It will be a decade of great sadness and of pain. AIDS in Africa will be a Malthusian nightmare, gutting populations, leaving the more devout survivors to craft a transformed but badly scarred culture. We’ll have wars and terrorism and millions of deaths this decade before all is behind us. The anarchy of west and central Africa will be painful to watch and Indonesia is due for a nasty civil war, possibly involving US intervention, in the middle of the decade. This won’t be a decade for the faint of heart. It will be a decade of joy. Once the wars have been fought, better governments and economies will be installed. We’ve seen the good guys win in Afghanistan and in Kenya and other countries will be relieved of their dictators and strong men as the years go by, either by internal pressure or by outside force. There might be a few idiotarian governments elected, such as in Venezuela, but the trend seems to be on the upside. It will be a new age, the end of history and the decade everything changed. Will Fukuyama be proven right? Will market democracies overwhelm both their Marxist and traditionalist foes? It might not be the end of history, but we might be approaching garbage time in the next decade. This is a pivotal period for the US and its allies to contain and roll back the enemies of the future. If we play our cards right, we can have those opposition forces minimized and shepherd in a new era of peace and prosperity. However, we don't have to just content with the thugs and the autoboomers; we also have to guard against the advance of market socialists into the vacuums that will develop in the south. They are a reluctant ally in our fight to rid countries of secular or religious dictatorships, but a foe of greater freedoms. We might be on a new era of peace and prosperity, a Pax Anglosphera, that will give the eschatology buffs an anticlimax for the foreseeable future. However, if we don't play our cards right, the combination of the EU and the Shadows might just help set up a one-world government that will give the prophecy geeks a field day. The '00s might be where a new world paradigm is put in place. It will be interesting to watch.

Morning Musings-It doesn't look like SF will be getting an upgrade. Question, who would you rather hire-Mariucci or the Eagle's coordinators? When Euroweenies Attack-Barring a big turn-around, it looks like the US will likely have to go into Iraq without a UN blessing, 'cause the EUnuchs are on a peace offencive. France might opt to abstain from a vote rather than veto it; Chirac is leaving open that option. Germany's out of the loop for the most part. Not a good sign; the foreign exchange markets will be closed until next Monday in Venezuala. Looks like Chavez is going down with guns blazing, even with the Carter initiative (no smirking from the Peanut Gallery).

Edifier du Jour-Mark 7:31-37(NASB)
31 Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. 33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, "Ephphatha!" that is, "Be opened!" 35 And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 They were utterly astonished, saying, "He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."
One of the things that marked Jesus' early ministry was his desire to downplay his miracles. He had a message to deliver as well as be the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He seemed to want to downplay the miracles so people could focus on Him rather than what He did. That message could be very relevent today for televangelists who are more show than substance, or for any ministry that focuses too much on entertainment and not enough on preaching the Gospel. A deep but slowly-developed faith seems to be what Jesus was after rather than a shallow faith derived from miracles. The other part that struck me was the spit therapy Jesus applied. If you acted that one out in front of the church today, you'd get people going "oooh, gross." God wasn't always pretty in how he did things, and neither was Jesus. We don't have a crystal catherdral God, we've got a tin-roof God who's not afraid to get His hands dirty.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Evening Musings-What gives? Well, this Vogue remix from Ganns (Jan 20th post) is worth a chuckle; he might even mention your blog in the flow. Everybody--"All we are say-ing is give war a chance". The US is stepping up the rhetoric to point-of-no-return levels. However, it's starting to look like we'll have to go in without Euroweenie UN approval, for the French are reverting to form. The Man From Plains might have pulled one off; he has a plan to solve the Venezuela impasse, and Chavez seems to have signed off on it this evening. However, both plans have Chavez staying in power for months, which might not be enough for the protestors, for Chavez has a history of being autocratic, being pressured and playing nice for a while. One fine point on this set of stats coming out of the Census Bureau pointing to the fact that there are more Hispanics than blacks in the US; it's footnoted to make black Hispanics to be Hispanic and not black. If you include the black Hispanics, like many of those from the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, there are more blacks that Hispanics. As of 2000, there were 1.1 million black Hispanics, thus making up the 900,000 Hispanic lead.

Afternoon Musings-Back to the salt mines today; got to seriously play professor today, as I got to talk with a student about talking an independent study Macroeconomic class, went to a meeting where an overhaul of the MIS curriculum was discussed and went to a faculty meeting on top of having a well-done discussion of primary and secondary markets in my Investments class. Good reflections on praying for the upcoming war over at Randy McRoberts' site. My formulation is to pray for mercy and justice; justice in that the good guys prevail and establish better governments after the war is over and mercy for the bloodshed to be kept to a minimum (on both sides) in the conflict. This requires praying for the enemy as well as "our men and women in uniform." Flying the Christian flag above Old Glory will get you into trouble from people who's support for God and Country get reversed, but praying for our enemies is called for nonetheless. A bit of a call-out by Richard Hall over my alcohol post-"... I can't help feeling that this is another one where people have made up their minds before they consult the scriptures." Partly true, sir. I have a tee-totaler bias coming in; however, an analysis of scripture will allow for use and enjoyment of alcoholic beverages while advising against their abuse. We do have to be careful in not allowing our desired hermeneutic to demand a certain exegesis that isn't in the scriptures. I don't think I fell prey to that and allowed the scripture to tell it's story, but I did come at it with an anti-drunkenness bias. OK, you're Mr. Bellefonte's lawyer. Do you get him to plead aggravated stupidity or simple stupidity? When you accuse the administration of villainy, it might help with NAACP fundraising, but it doesn't advance the "progressive" cause, for you get swing voter's eyes rolling with that overcharged rhetoric.

How About a Catholic Club Ministry-the Bar Nun? :-)-Via Bene Diction and Jordan Cooper (isn't this getting tres bloggy) comes this from a Canadian missionary to the Dominican Republic
The Domincan culture can be summed up like this...drinking, celebrating, dancing, going to the clubs and partying. These things are as much a part of their culture as small town hockey rinks and Tim Hortons are to ours. As teachers here at SCS, we all have to sign a contract that says we won't drink any alcohol, smoke, dance or go to clubs. Every student knows we sign this. It sends an immediate and obvious message that that is what Christianity is all about. In a sense then, as we continue to 'present' the gospel to these kids, it appears that we are not just asking them to accept Christ but also to reject their culture.
There is two temptations when doing cross-cultural ministry. The first is to equate the Gospel with your home culture. However, you're not there to turn people into [North] Americans; you're there to turn them into Christians. To the extent that the native culture is compatible to Christianity, one should adapt the message to that native culture. The second temptation is to become syncratic, to not just adapt the message to the local culture but to sacrifice Biblical principals in order to fit in. The mission in question seems to be erring in the first direction. There isn't anything in the Bible that prohibits social dancing directly, but in cultures where social dancing takes on a sexual component, it is often made taboo by the church. I don't know how raunchy the Dominican dancing is, but if the sensuality is minimal, it would seem to be appropriate as part of a ministry to tag along, avoid getting plastered and be able to share with people where they live. Paul talked about being all things to all people. Being part of a booty call isn't going to be one of those things, but hanging out where the people hang out, if it can be done in a honorable way, seems appropriate. There are some bars that are more hang-out spot than pick-up spot; many of them double as good down-to-earth restaurants. For instance, while we were courting, Eileen and I often went to the Sanford Lake Bar and Grill just up the road from where she lived north of Midland. Some churches would have shunned such a place, but they served good food at reasonable prices in a family atmosphere, but effectively turned from restaurant to pub in the evenings. We weren't there after dinner time, but if a group of secular friends had invited me there, I'd be able to do so with a clear conscience; I've of shared in the popcorn, had too many refills of Diet Coke and been a good witness in the process. If those watering holes turn sleazy, then it would start to become damaging to ones witness to go there. Thinking back to my undergrad days at Central Michigan University, there were some bars that were good places to talk like The Bird downtown that weren't sleazy and there were others like the Wayside on the southeast edge of campus that were less-redeeming meat markets. I could see going to the Bird today but not the Wayside. If the clubs are more pubs than strip clubs, you could have an avenue for witnessing. However, if the clubs were fornication-arrangement locales, then the corrupting nature of the places would likely overwhelm the witnessing opportunities. It would take a very mature Christian with a lot of accountability to enter into such a place to witness without getting sucked into the sinful milieu. Thus, a general guide for hanging out in secular hangouts is whether you will be a better influence on the unbelievers than they will be a bad influence on you. Given the tempting nature of fitting in, this should be done to err on the side of avoiding the secular hangouts unless the upside is clearly greater. Also, if the believer has a history before coming to the Lord of falling into sinful behaviors in such places, those should be avoided until the taste for those old behaviors has had time to subside. However, a mature and/or strong believer might be able to go into a less-sensual secular watering hole and be able to add to the kingdom in the process.

The Merits of Diversity-Joshua Claybourn e-mailed over the weekend, requesting my $0.02 on his take on the UofM admissions case, jumping off of this Gutless Pacifist post questioning the merits of alternative diversification methods. I gave the topic a once-over last month, but it deserves a second look. Is a diverse student body is a desirable goal? Yes, but it's not a primary goal. A college's primary goal is to prepare students to be more productive members of society. Being exposed to people of other ethnic and socio-economic groups may be laudable, but that should be secondary to providing a quality education to students. I have learned quite a bit about other countries and other parts of the US through fellow students over my academic career, but that was a collateral benefit. Many schools will have goals beyond giving students a good education. Religious-based schools will want to prepare people to be good members of their faith as well as being well-educated citizens. A state-sponsored school will look as well to serve the state as a whole and might have a desire to see underserved parts of the state to be helped. However, selecting students by race seems to run counter to the 14th Amendment. Let's look at the UofM's case in particular-is it important that Michigan has a certain percentage of black and Hispanic lawyers? You could make an excellent case for that, having a cadre of lawyers that understands their cultural and linguistic quirks would be beneficial for those communities and for the state as a whole. However, should that come at the expense of blocking European or Asian Anglo students from pursuing a law degree? If you want to serve minority communities, could you reserve some spots for people who have a knowledge (or are willing to acquire it) of those minority communities, regardless of their ethnic background? If the goal of the programs is to make sure that a black person has a lawyer that understands life in the 'hood, would a black teacher's son from Ishpeming (small town in the UP) be a better choice than a white factory rat's kid from Southfield who grew up going to a interracial church? If there's a shortage of people who know how to deal with underserved areas, you can give preferences to people who either have that knowledge or are willing to take coursework or apprenticeships in learning how to work in those areas. New TV Series-South Central Exposure. However, the real goal of such diversity programs isn't to serve minority communities, it's to make sure the proper number of minorities get into the program in question. At the undergraduate level, minorities might not be well-served with such a quota system; it might be better for them to go to a school that they can qualify for on their academic merits rather than be put in over their heads via affirmative action and be more likely to flunk out. However, at the law and medical school level, there aren't the community colleges that will take just about anyone. In the long term, if we want to prepare minorities for graduate school, especially in medicine and law, where a more interactive touch is needed, we'd be better off focusing on mentoring minority students to get a better handle on their subject matter so that they can handle graduate work on a par with their non-minority colleagues. However, until that happens, we’re faced with the prospect of admitting lesser-qualified minority students and rejecting better qualified non-minority ones. I’ll borrow from last month’s piece
The question then becomes whether society is better served by a better educated but non-minority professional or a poorer-educated but minority professional. Is the medical system better off with the white guy who got a 3.3 in his science classes in college or the Latina who got a 2.8 in her science classes? Will her rapport with the Hispanic population make her a better doctor in a barrio hospital, overcoming being a bit fuzzier about medical theory, or are we better off with the Anglo guy who's a bit klutzy with Hispanic culture but understands the science of medicine a bit better?
For other academic endevors, a little bit of positive discrimination isn't as important, but in fields such as medicine and law, where lives are on the line and mistakes can be deadly or at least debilitating, quality should trump diversity. Preferences might well be given for people who understand underserved communities, but diversity for diversity's sake is a weak argument. Students tend to clique with people that are like themselves, so the desired effect of diversity from a idealistic sociological vantage point isn't easily achieved, especially as schools tend to resegregate with all-minority dorms, frats and minority-group studies programs.

Edifier du Jour-Mark 6:1-6(NASB)
1Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. 3"Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. 4Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." 5He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
I looked at verse four and wondered-is Jesus too much at home in the US? You see the spirit moving in the church in Africa and South America and wonder why the US (or Europe for that matter) doesn't see that same intensity. Could it be that, even though this is a secular culture, people think they have a rough idea of who Jesus is? That watered-down knowledge of God may get in the way of a real knowledge of God. In other countries where Christianity hasn't many deep roots, people will be encountering Jesus for the first time and don't have to be untaught any misperceptions of Him. In our cultures (I'm assuming a largely Anglospherian readership), there is enough of a Christian base where people will get twisted or partial visions of God; only loving or vengeful or distant or something other than the real God. People in Nazareth thought they knew Jesus and had a hard time accepting him as the Messiah. People in the US think they know Jesus and have a hard time accepting him as the Messiah. We have to get many people reeducated (sounds like Communist brain-washing) into who God really is rather than some partial version they absorbed through the culture or a church that had but a loose grasp on the truth.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Morning Musings-The Jolly Roger Super Bowl? The Raiders got in last night past my bedtime. It's been a while since the Silver and Black have been to the Super Bowl and this is the Buc's first trip. It's MLK day today; I've got the day off. If you haven't seen it yet, here's an interesting essay I wrote last week commenting through the I Have A Dream speech. I mentioned this earlier, but this seems to be a bit odd
To coincide with the holiday, the White House announced Sunday the president will propose increasing spending by 5 percent for grants to historically black colleges, universities, graduate programs and Hispanic education institutions.
The Trent Lott tribute? Tribute in the old sense of the money you pay the guy with the big army to keep him from attacking you. "Iraq promises more cooperation." Yes, and bears promise to use Forest Service toilets and politicians promise not to run attack ads.

Edifier du Jour-Proverbs 20:1(NASB)
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.
Josh had a post on Christians and drunkenness at 3AM yesterday morning (3AM on a Saturday night/Sunday morning-what were you up to, Josh?). "Is it unGodly and/or unChristian to get intoxicated? Why or why not?" The basic answer is "Yes." Most of the comments on drunkenness (as opposed to mere consumption of alcohol) in the Bible aren't pretty. Noah would up getting blitzed and sprawled buck-naked across his tent, leaving his sons to figure out how to restore his dignity without seeing him that way. Lot's daughter's got him drunk so that they could have sex with him. One of Paul's disqualifications for being an elder was being "addicted to wine." However, the mere consumption of wine isn't a bad thing. Jesus' first miracle in John was turning water into wine at the Cana wedding. Paul tells Timothy to "use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments." The combination of these two clusters of facts would lead us to a godly response to alcohol. Modest amounts of alcohol are acceptable, especially in area where sanitation isn't great. The antibiotic nature of alcohol makes wine a preferred drink to water when the water would likely be laced with various diseases, hence Paul's charge to Timothy. We're even beginning to see some statistical evidence that light alcohol consumption is good for you, although I've yet to see one with a really good methodology that separates out the people who are tee-totalers due to personal conviction from the ones who have to abstain from alcohol for medical reasons. However, I've yet to see a reference in the Bible that praises drunkards. I'm not a drinker at present and haven't been since I came to the Lord with the exception of a few glasses of wine back in the late 80s. Back in my undergrad days, alcohol was a drug, a way to blot out the loneliness of my life. I wasn't an alcoholic, but what they now would call a binge drinker. I didn't like the taste of alcohol, and still don't, but consumed it to fit in and to make the world go away for a while. I'm a quiet drunk, but other people get reckless or mean when they are intoxicated, as cultural inhibitions melt away, leaving us with raw emotions. Such rawness often can lead to violence, either via DUIs or by acting on emotions with fists or guns. Those inhibitions can lead to sexual immorality as well, as our conscience is often the first thing to go when we get plastered. My basic advice to young fellow Christians (or older ones, for that matter) is to abstain from alcohol; there doesn't seem to be much of an upside and a huge downside. Short of total abstinence, avoid beer and hard liquor and any mixed drinks that are made from them. Wine is both lower in alcohol content than mixed drinks and the grapes seem to have antioxidant flavonoids; however, grape juice seems to have the same antioxidant effect without the alcohol. Having a cold beer after mowing the yard or a glass of wine before a meal isn't sinful in and of itself (unless you've been informed by God to abstain), as long as it's a glass or a can rather than a whole six-pack. That's the example I grew up with from parents who drank in moderation, an occasional can of beer on a warm day of a glass of wine at a holiday dinner. However, you're probably safer skipping it, for zero glasses is safer than six or ten.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Evening Musings- At least one spot in the Super Bowl was filled with Tampa Bay's win this afternoon. The go-ahead TD pass late in the second quarter wasn't the perfect throw the announcer were making it out to be; it was a Billy Kilmer wounded duck that happened to be just enough off the ground for Keyshawn to snag. A few other things that were of interest; there was a near-ultimate bad taste sneaker ad with a streaker cavorting at a soccer game. The other interesting thing was Mr. Jury the Field Judge. You've probably seen this one earlier in the weekend, but Den Beste has a good piece on the Bonhomme Richard's leaving port. The Marine gator freighter doesn't mosey around off the target; when they move, they get to where their going and land the troops quickly. It'll take about two weeks for them to get there, which will tell us about when the manure will hit the fan. Another four warheads have shown up, they're starting to build a case. Interesting piece here, not for the lead story of Powell's support of the UoM's admission's policy (we knew he's pro-affirmative action) but the bottom of the piece's mentioning that the administration have asked for more money for historically black colleges and for schools with large Hispanic populations. Any help for historically evangelical institutions? This Weekly Standard piece by Victorino Matus on Cyprus seems to be precient; Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash would rather step down than sign a reunification agreement, despite mounting pressure to do so.

Edifier du Jour-Mark 2:3-12(NASB)
3 And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. 4 Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. 5 And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8 Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? 9 "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven'; or to say, 'Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk'? 10 "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the paralytic, 11 "I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home." 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."
You can't see sins forgiven. You can see people healed. That's one of the purpose of the miracles that God did in the Bible, not just to heal a particular person but to demonstrate that He's still the great I AM and hasn't gotten out of the miracle business. The miracle allowed people to believe that what Jesus was saying was true, that he was God incarnate. That's one of the reasons for various signs and wonders; to get people to notice and remember that God's still around and in the miracle business. However, He's got a tougher crowd in the modern-day Anglosphere; "That illness must of been psychosomatic, if it wasn't faked to begin with," "Those fainting spells are all just mast hysteria" or "People can't really hear from God today, they must be crazy." There are some people who are overly attuned to seeking out those miracles and can fall prey to bad teaching that sometimes flows from people who seem to have a prophetic or healing ministry. However, there are also a larger crop of people who have a more deistic view of God who may well have done miracles back in the days of Acts but isn't doing them much, if at all, today. Both views look heretical. The first camp often fails to use a discerning spirit to know when someone is speaking for God or when he's speaking for himself or the Devil. However, the second camp runs the risk of not giving God credit when He decides to work supernaturally and having their ministry limited due to not appreciation the Holy Spirit's modern-day capabilities. Don't get charisma-happy and don't ignore the Holy Spirit either; both attitudes can get you into trouble.

More Intangible Debate-I'd like to tackle this first paragraph of Florida Politics' essay on the intangibles tax-
Yesterday, Gov. Bush argued "that lower tax rates create a larger tax base. . . . And that larger tax base allows us to sustain state government during difficult times." There are two assumptions here: first, that taxes have been lowered, and second, that cutting taxes increases revenues. The latter assumption, about tax cuts increasing revenue, is of course wrong; and, the claim that taxes have been cut in Florida is only partially true - taxes have been cut for the rich, while the tax burden on the poor and middle class has actually increased under Gov. Bush.
Bush did pass property and intangibles tax cuts, both of which are more help to the haves than the have nots. A sales tax increase also added to the regressive distribution of taxes. However, Bush did both cut taxes and increase revenue at the same time. Let's check the numbers. Here's a table of Florida state tax receipts for fiscal years 1998 to 2002.

FY State Tax Revenue
1998 20,270,762,459
1999 21,631,689,345
2000 22,684,557,720
2001 23,547,200,090
2002 23,983,519,044


One of the advantages of a low-income-tax environment is that in encourages investment rather than spending. After-tax returns are higher in Florida than elsewhere, so that should encourage Floridians to save more. This should allow for more economic growth for Florida in the long run. Despite a tax cut, revenues have gone up 10% since Bush came to office. That bigger economic base will be easier to garner the extra tax revenue needed to take care of the state's needs, either through economic growth generating extra revenue or raising tax rates on the now-enlarged base. That growing economy should help everyone; yes, this is old-fashion trickle-down econ. However, someone has to man the businesses that will result form that extra investment. The lack of a income tax will give workers more take home pay and the extra investments will allow more businesses to open up to provide people with those jobs. Florida's growing faster than Michigan, and it isn't just the nice weather. I will add one caveat to that growth; a lot of it is in agriculture, tourism and elder-care, much of which provides few high-end and a lot of lower-end jobs. Also, the educational attainment in Florida is lower than other parts of the country; I'm not sure how many high-tech firms would want to set up shop in Florida due to the lack of native-born college-educated talent.

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