Saturday, February 15, 2003

Edifier du Jour-Isaiah 22:20-23(NASB)
20 "Then it will come about in that day, That I will summon My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 And I will clothe him with your tunic And tie your sash securely about him. I will entrust him with your authority, And he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 "Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open. 23 "I will drive him like a peg in a firm place, And he will become a throne of glory to his father's house.
I spent last night listening to what I would charitably describe as a pair of prophecy geeks; we were at a region-wide prayer-for-statewide-revival meeting at an AoG church in Winter Haven. About 1000 people were there. One of those prophecy geeks, a guy name Dutch Sheets (I'm not making this up), was our main speaker last night. He was dwelling upon Isaiah 22:22, from this link, that's his verse of the hour. Don't worry, I'm not about to become part of that prophecy geek underground, but that verse triggered a vision (how much of God and how much of Mark was behind it is a good question) that clarified quite a few things, but not in a way that Dutch planned. Our missions week at the Lakeland Vineyard a few weeks ago had the slogan "Windows of Opportunity Become Doors of Possibility," creating the equally catchy and cloying acronym "Woo-b-dop." That metaphor seemed a bit lame, to be honest, until I rested upon Sheets' use of this verse to talk about opening doors that no one else could open. That vision/thought I had last night regards the coming war with Iraq. It needs to happen, for this isn't about destroying weapons of mass destruction but deploying weapons of mass revival. It has been hard for Christians of any stripe to have a solid missionary effort in Muslim countries; a US-led coalition should set up a open, religiously pluralistic, regime in Iraq that will result in millions (I wanted to hedge my bets and say thousands, but I'm saying millions, this vision's got me thinking big) of Iraqi Muslims coming to the Lord and many existing ethnically Christian Iraqis drawing to Jesus like never before. The Islamic world makes up the big chunk of what mission-geeks call the "10-40 window," a window that was hard to crack due to the deep-seated grip that Islam has on those cultures. This war is going to allow that window of opportunity to be a door of possibility, the first of many currently Islamic countries to be shepherded away from Islam and towards Jesus. It sounds a bit messianic (Mr. Jones and Mr. Karr will likely say something to that effect), but I feel the God might just be using the US and the Bush administration to open up doors that couldn't be opened before. I felt that many people in that crowd last night will wind up heading for Iraq to do ministry there, even though the theme of the evening was "Transformation Florida" It's important that we have a regime change in Iraq. From a secular Anglospherian standpoint, it will provide, if we play our cards right, a democratic, pluralistic Iraq that can be a model for other currently Islamic countries. From a spiritual standpoint, the Gospel isn't going to be easily spread with Saddam in charge. Neither can happen if we go the Blix route of painfully slow disarmament. This is both about destroying weapons of mass destruction and deploying weapons of mass revival; not going to war might, if things play out just as the diplomats hope (fat chance), do the first but is even less unlikely to do the second. This won't be pretty. For what it's worth, the other prophecy geek speaking last night, Chuck Pierce, has been envisioning a seven year war that started on 9-11. Grab the appropriate number of grains of salt, but that rings true geopolitically, giving us 5.5 years left of the Anglosphere struggling with Islam. Everyone and his uncle will be praying for the troops; pray for the Iraqi people that their country and their spirits be transformed by a new government. Pray for the other currently Islamic countries and a people that need Jesus as much as we do and don't know it yet. Pray for the Anglospherian Christians who will have ministry opportunities in the years to come as the currently Islamic countries to be ready when that time comes.

Friday, February 14, 2003

The Bible and Taxes-This Christianity Today piece that warrants a bit of skepticism. The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page piece on a paper by Susan Hamill, an tax equity activist from Alabama making a biblical case for making the Alabama tax code less regressive. However, most of her case simply uses a biblical veneer in order to try to raise revenues. It’s fairly widely agreed that we should help the poor; that’s not at dispute. What might be in dispute is how to go about doing that. Most of the text isn't dealing with the theology of taxes but a center-left critique of the tax system and the timber industry which seems to be in her craw. On page 65 and 66 she distills her case down to the purist form, where she declares that
Moreover, in his declaration that he has come “to preach good news to the poor” and “release the oppressed,” Jesus himself, invoking Old Testament scripture and moral principles, elevated the specific instructions concerning the poor and needy as necessitating broader changes to societal structures.
She footnotes Luke 4:16-21
16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." 20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
She goes on to say
Although the degree of social change required by the teaching of Jesus is the subject of an intense debate, at the very least this passage, along with the other moral teachings of Jesus, calls for societal structures that provide the poor, vulnerable and powerless persons within the society a minimum opportunity to improve their economic circumstances. A community that operates in a manner consistent with the moral principals of Judeo-Christian ethics must foster the minimum well-being of everyone in the community and cannot be based solely on an economy driven by money and power that only guards the well-being of those with power enjoying access to sufficient money and material possessions.
She creates a good straw man, creating a ruthless and corrupt capitalist system to offset her more just alternative. Her basic thesis that a good education is a fair substitute for Old Testament long-term gaudiness of land is sound; I echoed the same basic idea back in December. Her primary proposal is to raise the property tax on timberland and other properties to the level that the property would be worth as fully developed land, if I’m reading the paper correctly. She also wants to raise the state income tax. The extra revenue has the goal of giving better funding of poor, rural school districts. Currently, residential and agricultural and timber property are to be valued as it is presently used rather than market value of the property as optimally used by the market. However, forcing market valuations of residential and farm property will increase sprawl, as farmland and older homes are taxed at the price they would sell for as new development land. If the law were changed to increase the tax base, many of her backers would decry the oldsters and farmers being forced off their land by having to sell to developers who will use the property to its "highest and best use." Owners of timberland would especially be hard hit if forced to pay taxes at developed-property rates, possibly prompting a cry of people to save the forest from development. I don’t know if Alabama is in the clutches of the timber industry as much as she seems to make it out to be; possibly some Axis of Weevil members can either confirm or deny Hamill's contentions. Unless the timber industry runs Alabama like Boss Hogg ran Hazard country, the people down there need to find a broad-based way to get solid schooling to poor districts. Would Jesus boost the top income tax rate or put the screws to the timber industry as she seems to suggest He would? I'm not sure The local Christian Coalition people mentioned in the Christianity Today piece didn't like her work; however, they are as much Republican as evangelical and their anti-big-government bias might color their view. However, Hamill seems to have an anti-big-business bias, or at minimum an anti-timber-industry bias. The tax code might need reform, but I'm not sure we can look to the Bible to figure out the details. Her desired hermeneutics (that progressive taxation is good and low taxes on agricultural and timber land are bad) seem to be overstate the exegesis of a basic call to look after the poor.

Midday Musings-Busy teaching load this week, as I'm grading first exams and started up an MBA class this week. Larger blogging should resume this weekend. Different reading from different quarters on this one. The WaPo's seeing the glass 20% full, pointing out that the stock market went up on the news (fire away, Mr. Steffans) while Fox is seeing things 80% empty. A quick scan of the WaPo itself points to a good Dell earnings report as a possible reason for the uptick.

Edifier du Jour-Proverbs 11:1-2(NASB)
1 A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight. 2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.
"The kid kept insisting that Charlie Pride would be at the county fair in August because Pride comes before the fall." We don't have a big problem with false scales these days, but we often have problems with creative accounting. I was hearing some news items on Enron on the way home yesterday and how their tax accounting department acted as a profit center. Many companies will try to cook the books, trying to look better than they are when they report the income statements and balance sheets (or their taxable income). Accounting rules are put into place in order to promote transparency, that all can see what the company really is like financially. The IRS and the SEC don't like shady accounting, and neither does God. We also need to look at transparency in our personal lives as well. Many of us will have emotional tax shelters and psychological off-shore accounts to make us look better to the world. When you put up those facades, you're trying to fool people into thinking you're something that you're not. Worse yet, they can keep you from God transforming your life, for he sees through the facades down to the real you anyway. Let Him work with the real you, not the Potemkin village version of you. With the humility of being real with God will come wisdom, as God can get a chance to change your life from the inside. Insisting on ones pride will eventually lead to dishonour.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Midday Musings-Busy day, with too much grading to do; don't except too much wisdom from this corner today. A bit of a counter-attack against the Anglosphere?-Hindu militants going after Valentine's Day stuff. The folks who gave us the Kama Sutra are upset over over this? I haven't been keeping track of interest rates too well, but a 1.06% three-month t-bill (at press time) doesn't bode well. That smells like deflation is what Greenspan should be worried about. Don't pity these fools-Mr. Steffans has a nice piece from the Motley Fool on reporters giving plausable but bogus reasons for stock market movement.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 11:19-26(NASB)
19 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23 Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; 24 for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. 25 And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
Messiah people. Christ-ians. We're so used to the term that we forget what the word truly signifies. Maybe because we pronounce the word with the softer i. It's not about being a good citizen or being polite or helping the poor, for people of many other religions do that as well. Are we Messiah people? Are we Jesusians? Are we following that member of the Godhead that came to earth, died for use, then rose again? We have forgiveness for our sins. That's something most other religions don't try to offer, for the other religions don't have a sacrifice to end all sacrifices, for Jesus is both the Good Shephard and the sacrificial Lamb of God. As a kid, I looked upon that Lamb image as a meek, mild, tender critter, like the baby in Silent Night or Away in a Manger. The true meaning of the Lamb was to be a sacrifice. That's what we have to offer the world, both Jew and Gentile, not the ongoing guilt-trip Satan loves to send us on, but a message of freedom from guilt (not to say we won't feel sorrow for our sins and want to do a 180) that was paid for at Golgotha. God's perfect, we're not, and that Lamb came and died to bridge that gap.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Return of the Checkout Lane-Outland has this piece from the comic strip Zits on an all-vegitarian diet that prompted one of the best LOLs I've had in a while. That stringy meat is best served on PETA bread. This WSJ piece on libertarians was a bit hard to swallow for me. Orrin had the same problem and brought up some undigested Lew Rockwell in the process. I haven't permalinked Dave Barry's blog yet, but he's proving to be a micro-Lileks, providing a high chuckle quotient. He points to this piece on squirrel hazing that’s a keeper, it has a subpage on black squirrels entitled Squirrels in Black. They even mentioned the black squirrels at Kent State University. That brings back some fond memories, including a Bloom County-esque student newspaper strip called Ubiquitous Black Squirrels, with the squirrels making appropriate social commentary. [Update-4:05PM I just ruined a Googlewhack on Ubiquitous Black Squirrels]

Coalitions-Tom Friedman has an interesting NYT piece on Iraq today. He's the Reggie Jackson of op-ed, when he makes contact, he gets all of it; when he doesn't, he looks awful striking out. Unfortunately, he doesn't make contact today.
Let's start with the Bush hawks. The first rule of any Iraq invasion is the pottery store rule: You break it, you own it. We break Iraq, we own Iraq — and we own the primary responsibility for rebuilding a country of 23 million people that has more in common with Yugoslavia than with any other Arab nation. I am among those who believe this is a job worth doing, both for what it could do to liberate Iraqis from a terrible tyranny and to stimulate reform elsewhere in the Arab world. But it is worth doing only if we can do it right. And the only way we can do it right is if we can see it through, which will take years.
He's got the thing nailed. The only problem is that he added one more sentence to that paragraph.
And the only way we can see it through is if we have the maximum allies and U.N. legitimacy. We don't need a broad coalition to break Iraq. We can do that ourselves. But we do need a broad coalition to rebuild Iraq, so that the American taxpayer and Army do not have to bear that full burden or be exposed alone at the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. President Bush, if he alienates the allies from going to war — the part we can do alone — is depriving himself of allies for the peace — the part where we'll need all the friends we can get.
Let's see; we'll have the British, the Canadians, the Australians, the Italians, the Spanish and most of Eastern Europe on board. We can probably hit Japan up for some cash. Russia would be little help financially, and the French and Germans are having trouble keeping within Euro deficit rules as is. How much cash are we going to get out of the paleoeuropeans?
No question — Saddam never would have let the U.N. inspectors back in had President Bush not unilaterally threatened force. But if Mr. Bush keeps conveying to China, France and Russia that he really doesn't care what they think and will go to war anyway, their impulse will be to never come along and just remain free riders.
Better a free-rider than a meddler. If the FOE is in the coalition, a post-war Iraq won't be as free as it would be with the current Anglospherian coalition (to answer the recent Google hit, "Is Berlusconi the Antichrist?"-Nope.). They would bring some manpower and some money but also bring a more secular and statist attitude that might be detrimental to a thriving, democratic Iraq.
The allies also have a willful blind spot. There is no way their preferred outcome, a peaceful solution, can come about unless Saddam is faced with a credible, unified threat of force. The French and others know that, and therefore their refusal to present Saddam with a threat only guarantees U.S. unilateralism and undermines the very U.N. structure that is the best vehicle for their managing U.S. power.
One more time, the French aren't allies anymore. At this point, they are a rival power, not unlike China, who's best interest rarely overlaps that of the US. Friedman's right in that the UN reins in US power; the UN split thus might be not a bug but a feature.
We need a compromise. We need to say to the French, Russians and Chinese that we'll stand down for a few more weeks and give Saddam one last chance to comply with the U.N. disarmament demands — provided they agree now that if Saddam does not fully comply they will have the U.N. authorize the use of force.
"Please give me just one more last chance before you say I'm through." No, Lucy, not this time. This time, we're going for two.
If war proves inevitable, it must be seen as the product of an international decision, not an American whim. The timing cannot be determined by the weather or the need to use troops just because they are there. You cannot launch a war this important now simply because it's going to be hot later. I would gladly trade a four-week delay today for four years of allied support after a war. I would much prefer a hot, legitimate, U.N.-approved war with the world on our side to a cool, less legitimate war that leaves us owning Iraq by ourselves
It is the product of an international decision, just not international enough for Friedman's taste. "Allied" can be translated as FOE support; that may be more bother than its worth. The troops sent will be less willing to stamp out terrorism. The bureaucrats sent would be less willing to allow a free Iraqi economy to flourish, moving towards a more centralized economy and political structure. We wouldn't be by ourselves without the FOE, we'd still have our Anglospherian allies to help out, which would be the majority of any international support we'd likely get anyway.
France, China and Russia have to get serious, but so do we. The Bush talk that we can fight this war with just a "coalition of the willing" — meaning Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — is dangerous nonsense. There is only one coalition that matters to the average American and average world citizen. It is one approved by the U.N. and NATO. We may not be able to garner it, but we need to be doing everything we can — everything — to try before we go to war.
I'd rather do it right with the current coalition than do a half-assed job with the UN's blessing. Friedman’s concept that "[t]here is only one coalition that matters to the average American and average world citizen. It is one approved by the U.N. and NATO" is more pernicious than the "coalition of the willing" for it allows France and Russia to filibuster any plans that go against their wishes. Remember, at this point, "UN approval" more accurately translates to "French approval," for neither the Russians of the Chinese want to be in position of being the bad cop.
Why? Because there is no war we can't win by ourselves, but there is no nation we can rebuild by ourselves — especially Iraq.
Read my beak, Thomas. We're not rebuilding by ourselves. The difference between having the French on board and not is a negligible difference in men and materiel. It might mean ending NATO and the UN as we know them. NATO is suffering from March of Dimes Syndrome, having served the purpose of containing the USSR. It'll be hard to recreate the Warsaw Pact when Poland's a western ally. Having it go the way of the dodo might not be that bad and make Europe pay its own way if it wants a military presence. The UN might be outliving its usefulness. The current model of the UN only works if the five permanent members can agree to do something. It was dysfunctional during the first Cold War. It was briefly functional in the 90s, when Russia became a loose ally for a time. Now, the French and Russian favor a status-quo that is more to their economic and geopolitical liking rather than moving to more democratic and more market-oriented cultures elsewhere, thus returning us to the dysfunctional UN of the first Cold War. The UN might be worth keeping as a diplomacy forum (I remember Churchill's line about jaw-jaw being better than war-war), but giving it anything more than ad-hoc power means having the French, Russian and Chinese sign off on that power, which is likely more bother than it might be worth. We will have a coalition of the willing, as Bush puts it. It may fall short of a full UN, but may be more effective in its compactness.

Midday Musings-Mean Dean does an Onionesque piece on the Southern Baptists boycotting "French Wines and German Beer". Just to make it clear, that is a parody Dean's doing; there was no such call. Baptists aren't big drinkers to begin with, so the effect of such a boycot would have been negliable. The FOE backed down a bit on their blockage of NATO aid to Turkey. NATO lives on, but on life support. Cute line here from Orrin Hatch on the pending Estrada filibuster, the Democrats using Weapons of Mass Obstruction. The Talking Dog has labled me a Markiesje. Let's see how good a fit it is looking at a dog-breeder's site. "Small". Not quite, I'm 6'5" and way over the 20-pound limit. "Happy-Playfull:Sunny friendly disposition. A happy out-going personality." Among friends, yes, more of a loner otherwise. "Off Lead:Needs to burn off energy within a safely enclosed area. Needs room to run and time to play in order to be mentally and physically fit." Intelectually, at least. All work and no mental play makes Mark a unhappy camper. "Field, Farm:Hunter, worker, or livestock. Makes himself useful in practical ways." I'd like to think I'm making myself useful.

Sadaam a 2-3 Favorite...To Make it to April-The British and Irish will bet on anything, including the odds on Saddam staying in power
On Monday the ask price on a contract specifying Saddam will not be Iraqi leader by March 31 was $40.0 -- meaning the market thinks Saddam is 40 percent likely no longer to be in power at the end of next month. The likelihood of him being out of office by end-April was put at 68 percent, end-May 78 percent, and end-June 84 percent.
If I were a gambling man, I'd go long on the March contact, counting on the US doing its job in the next six weeks. I'd also be tempted to put $16 on Saddam staying through June; if he makes it to April Fools day, he's there for the long haul, for if he's still there at the end of March, he somehow signed off on some very-tough inspection plan that will take a year or so to complete. That's a $54 outlay that will flop with only a long-lasting regime change that takes place later this spring.

The Republican West Wing-Patrick Ruffini proposes the first-season story line for The West Wing once President Bartlet is defeated by Republican Gregory William Prescott. I can even envision a good transition from the current crew to a new one. In late 2003 as Bartlett's second term is winding down, Ainsley puts Prescott's book, detailing his vision for America and heartfelt born-again Espiscopal faith, on Donna's desk. Donna, in the dumps after yet another downer boyfriend, becomes a convert both spiritually and politcally. For months as the primaries take shape, Donna keeps pestering Josh on theology and free-market politics as she becomes a believer. Josh, going though trauma from the shooting and facing a mid-life crisis, starts to seek spiritual help from a local pastor and starts to question liberal dogma as well. By May, 2004, Josh resigns, takes some time to regroup and get up the courage to actively change sides, and offers his services to the Prescott campaign before the convention, bringing Donna with him. For the 2004 stretch run, the show is bimodal, as the remainder of the Bartlet team run the country and campaign for the Democratic nominee, while Josh becomes part of the Prescott inner circle once the Saul-in-Damascus effect wears off and they see that he's a true neo-conservative at heart. When Prescott wins, we already know the Prescott team as they take over for Bartlet. Ainsley stays on, so we'll have three familiar faces from the old crew.

Edifier du Jour-Ecclesiastes 3:11(NASB)
11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end
We have a native sense that there's somehting more that just this world. While a majority of people in this country aren't particularly religious, a solid majority still looks to God as the creator of the universe despite all the evolutionist propagandizing. This hard-wired sense of the eternal isn't just an American thing; the verse brought to memory from my Cedar Campus days a book Eternity in Their Hearts, which showed that a native sense of God is part of many distant cultures. However, God doesn't give us a perfect view of Him from the get-go. He gives us just enough of a sample to have us looking to seek a bigger helping of it.This verse comes right after the "For everything, there is a season" passage (if you're old enough, Turn, Turn, Turn will be going in the back of your head); however, all times are good for learning more about the LORD.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Afternoon Musings-The opening of my MBA Managerial Econ class has got me busy today. I've got a little breather to catch up on my reading. France a "second-rate power" who "set a world record in World War II for the quickest surrender by a world power?" Did someone kidnap Peter King and put a well-disguised Jonah Goldberg in his place? Bob Dole could get a tag-team partner for the Viagra ads; John Kerry going in for prostate surgery. Nah, the chance is only 1 in 10 that he'll be impotent after the surgery. However, that will both set his campaign back a bit logistically and put some doubts about his long-term health in people's mind. Feel free to turn off your claudometers for the next piece. Former Maryland governor Parris Glendening is heading up a think tank named the Smart Growth Institute. That begs the question: growth in government or economic growth? Not the latter, it's an anti-sprawl group.

Morning Musings-Thanks for any prayers send my way for my flu bug; I'm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning; I'm trying to figure how to fit that daggum tail into my pants. How do you manage that, Mr. Possum? Isn't it nice of Saddam to allow Bono to get an aerial view of Iraq? President Bush is holding out for trips by the Stones and Springsteen as well. This is fun-we're having an intergovernmental food fight over in Germany, with Green Party Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer ticked that Chancellor Schroeder is more anti-war than he is, leaving him out of the loop too often. You know you're a lefty when... you're running to the left of the Greens. The fun question will be whether the government will fall apart over this; unlikely, since the Social Democrats would get hammered in a new election and the Greens would likely be more inclined to be in the government than in the opposition. If the good die young, then it's no coincidence that "Mr. Perfect" only made it to 44. Steroid side-effects, anyone? [Update 8:00-Got a Google hit for "United States" Vorlons Iraq-and I actually used all three in context. Another warped mind heard from.]

False Flag-Josh Marshall has this sentence-"As we noted earlier, GOP Marketplace's founder and president, Allen Raymond, is also the Executive Director of the Republican Leadership Council, a GOP PAC known for libertarian social policies and tax-cutting." More the former than the latter; I've been of the impression that the RLC is the anti-Religious Right caucus of the party; here's the second paragraph from their mission statement
The Republican Leadership Council was formed in 1997 by leading Republicans throughout the country concerned that the Republican Party is being increasingly defined by the actions of an intolerant vocal minority that divides the GOP.
To lead with the group's pro-market stance is to cover the groups main raison d'etre, even if the group stresses their economic libertarian credentials in the first paragraph. If the group were that libertarian, why would RINOs like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe be on it? There are a few standard conservatives on the advisory board, but the bunch is more RINO than conservative.

Edifier du JourActs 4:33-42(NASB)-[The Jewish leaders were responding to continued Christian preaching in defiance of orders to stop]
33 But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 "For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 "After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 "So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God." 40 They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Gamaliel's advice is good for modern believers; before you go overboard bashing a new branch of Christianity, see if God is working through the new branch. Over the months of blogging, I've seen traditionalist Catholics blast more progressive ones and only give the hope of invincible ignorance for the poor Protestants, with the Johnpaulists returning fire at the "Lidless Eye" crowd. I've seen traditional evangelicals bash post-moderns and see the PoMos return fire. I've seen hard-core Fundamentalists bashing pretty much everyone else. Before you bash away, firm in your belief that you're right and everyone else is shades of wrong, check to see if God is using the groups you're blasting. If God's not using them, they'll generally wither away (granted, there are exceptions like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses) and vanish from the scene; if He's using them, it might be that either they're not as wrong as they seem or that God has a greater tolerance for differences in biblical interpretation than you do.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Cold War II-Item 8-Den Beste's Declaration-I think Cpt. Clueless gets the idea of the coming Cold War; he's on his A game here, so read the whole shooting match. However, this lays out the case for Cold War II better than I did in this piece on the upcoming decade.
There's one other consequence to the actions of France and Germany now: they are making it more and more likely that anything our people find which is damaging to them will be revealed. For all practical purposes, both nations are now enemies. Or rather, their governments are. The people of those nations are not, and we need to keep that in mind. I have friends in Germany and they are still my friends. But their governments are not acting like "allies". They're acting like enemies. There is no alliance, and there is no friendship. This is no longer a deep difference of opinion between friends; it is fullblown opposition. They are actively opposing us and actively supporting our enemies, and there's no other way we can consider them now except as active cobelligerents against us. Their reputations and their influence are now direct threats to us, and we will need to damage them. This is, effectively, war now between the US/UK and France/Germany. It isn't going to be a shooting war, however; it's a war of diplomacy and propaganda and influence. So if we come upon records in Iraq, or find people there who can prove that France and Germany have been actively trafficking in forbidden goods, or that they have been collaborating in other even more damaging ways, then public revelation of it will make their positions far less strong and reduce their threat to us. It doesn't matter how French or German voters react; what will be important is how everyone else, in Europe and in America and around the world view it. Some will smile quietly about how they'd been shafting the Americans for years. But no one would trust them, and as a practical matter their international influence would be shattered. This would also have the effect of completing the destruction of the UN if it was shown that a veto power had been actively violating trade sanctions it had voted for.

"The US Is a Danger to World Peace"-True, But Is That a Bug or a Feature?-Part II-Here's yet another keeper from the over at USS Clueless
Britons see U.S. as Biggest Threat to Peace - Poll The majority of Britons do not regard Iraq as the biggest threat to world peace and one in three people say the United States is more dangerous, a poll published on Tuesday showed. However, a majority of Britons would back military action against Iraq -- even without a specific mandate from the United Nations -- and seven out of 10 people believe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has a dangerous arsenal of weapons.
Now what, exactly, is a "threat to peace"? Seems to me what it means is "the nation most likely to go to war in the immediate future." The largest number of Brits think it's the United States. I sure as hell hope so! But of course, the phrase "threat to peace" is deliberately loaded, since of course no one can possible really, be in favor of threatening peace, can they? So obviously what this means is that the British people now oppose the US, don't they? Evidently not, given that they also found that the majority of Brits favor military action against Iraq. So what in hell was the point of asking them who "threatened peace"?
Time ran a similar poll of their international readers about a month ago and I had this comment at the time
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, we threaten the peace, but the bad guys like the status quo.

Unemployment 101-Anne Wilson has a good rant on unemployment that's a bit ignorant (not stupid, mind you, ignorance is curable) on economic statistics.
Bob Herbert wants to know why, if the unemployment picture as put forth by the US Department of Labor is so rosy, why thousands of Chicago-land residents swamped a local junior college rumored to have applications for Ford Motor Company assembly plant jobs. Me too.
Well, if we have 5.7% unemployment, that means that 57 out of every 1000 people in the workforce (either employed and/or looking for a job) doesn't have a job at present. If there are 2 million people in the Chicagoland workforce (quick guestament), that would mean that a bit over 100,000 are looking for a job Even in a healthy economy, you're going to have a certain amount of unemployment. A good hunk of those thousands looking for factory jobs might be between jobs naturally, others might have been laid off due to a cyclical downturn in the economy and still others might be employed elsewhere and are looking at the Ford jobs as an upgrade.
I am a diehard Republican. But more and more I find myself channelling my inner Dorothy Day as I contemplate my middle-class friends and their families devastated not only by unemployment, but by one layoff after another, with each subsequent job paying less and demanding more work than the last.
Economic lore has the idea of structural unemployment, where people either don't have the skills needed in a changing economy of will need to more to where the jobs are. What Ms. Wilson's writing about might be better described as structural underemployment, like the one-time factory rat working at McDonalds or the local grocery store. Changes in the economy will leave many 40-somethings without saleable skills, too old to retire and too young to easily start a new career.
We went through our own unemployment horror this summer and fall, as the engineering startup for which my computer engineering husband worked first closed its St. Louis laboratory, and then finally declared bankruptcy. Our own situation was cushioned by (grab your seats) the Plant Closing Act (sponsored by one Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts) and so we had two months of income while my husband looked. Unfortunately, a good portion of that income vanished to pay $1000 a month premiums for COBRA medical insurance. It took months before he became comparably employed again, and only recently have the last few engineers from his old company found jobs - and not necessarily permanent ones, either.
The engineers might have found jobs in growing areas, but aren't ready to pick up and move families, especially if they have roots of long standing in that community. Part of structural unemployment is the reluctance of people to move to more fruitful ground; much of this is natural and honorable, our culture is already very mobile and asking people to become even more nomadic wouldn't be proper. To the extent that we prize community and emotional ties to friends and family, we're stuck with some extra structural unemployment. Another problem with higher-end workers is that it takes time to get a good job; an old rule of thumb is that it takes a month per $10,000 of yearly salary to find a job. Such specialized workers will command a high salary, but finding the right spot will take time, especially if a lot of their peers have been laid off in that area. White collar workers will have longer stretches of frictional (naturally between jobs) unemployment due to their higher salaries; you can get a burger-flipper job faster than an accounting job.
Other friends with engineer husbands have even worse stories. For my friends whose husbands *aren't* in technology, this has been the picture for them for the past five years now. These are college-educated people with skills supposedly in demand, like the skilled trades. The women have been committed to staying at home, raising their children responsibly, some of them home schooling, but now they're working, or looking for work too. So yes, I too would like to see an overhaul of the labor statistics. We also need to add those *entering the labor force for the first time.* It should include teenagers as well, so that 16-18 year olds not in school and not working should be counted as unemployed.
They're already in the stats. If you're actively looking for work, you're in the labor force. As long as the teenagers are looking for work, they're counted.
Similarly, extend this to those *returning* to the labor force after a certain period has elapsed (let's say five years.) This would include people like returning housewives; people who retired once but need to work again, etc. These people seeking work should be counted as unemployed until they find a job.
Already there. As long as you're looking, you're in the labor force and counted as unemployed. The housewives, students and retirees that aren't looking for work are the ones that aren't counted in the labor force.
We should also count the "unemployed but not seeking employment." That would include people like me (at the moment.) It needs to be called out separately so that statistics can be analyzed without this population. The numbers are important because they let the government know how many *potential* workers are out there.
The unemployment stats do include a "not in work force" line.
We should also figure out a way to track *underemployment.* This would be more difficult (because salary compensation alone isn't enough, as salaries vary widely by geography.) It would involve studies and surveys. But it's still very important, because underemployment inevitably leads to decline in the living standard.
Good idea; defining underemployed would be tricky as heck. Am I underemployed given that I could be teaching at a more prestigious school or working at a think tank? Eileen's underemployed right now by that count, but that won't last for too long. My mom is underemployed, working as a florist while having a Bachelors degree in history, but she opted to take the florist job a quarter-century ago rather than go back into teaching after being a stay-at-home mom for 17 years.
On the other hand, that might cause a bit of a political problem for the current administration, which (I say this as a diehard Republican) seems to care more about the well-being of companies outsourcing to Bangalore & Beijing than that of American citizens.
Pointing out the people who are underemployed is one thing; figuring out how to get them properly employed is a bigger problem, and a government program to guide people into proper employment might be more trouble than its worth. I'd be open to suggestions, but it sound more Swedish than American.

Loyal Opposition-Richard Hall has a good post thoughtfully opposing the coming war with Iraq. Before I critique his post, I'll respond to Hall's comment on my post a Methodist bishop's anti-war statement
When you say, "Liberal theologians underestimate the presence of evil and thus overestimate the power of diplomacy" do you have any particular theologians in mind? Seems like a bit of an over-generalisation to me.
A generalization, granted; I'll disagree with overgeneralization. I'd say, in general, that modern liberal theology downplays the fallen nature of man and makes human nature more reasonable than it is.
I don't think anyone mentioned "one world government" before you did, certainly I didn't read anything in the Bishop's statement that suggested any such thing.
That's a fair shot. The "transcend political ideology and national interests to act on behalf of the welfare of the whole human family" sounded like a plea for UN action, a UN with the ability to spend money on problems. Add that to her emphasis on UN approval smelled a bit too one-worldy to me. Now, on to Hall's essay of today.
The reasons most often publically given for the necessity of this war are that Saddam is a violent tyrant who oppresses his people, he possesses weapons of mass-destruction and that he is a supporter of international terrorism. What everyone knows, however, is that this war is being proposed as a direct result of 9-11. The link between the two is ingrained in public opinion in a way that cannot be accidental. Does anyone honestly believe that if there had been no 9-11 that there would now be 120 000 US troops in the Middle East? But if 9-11 is the real reason for the war, it is a pretty dodgy one. No one seriously thinks there was any connection between those hijackers and Saddam. But Osama escaped public humiliation and Afghanistan was insufficient to expiate the crime: someone has to pay. If Saddam is the wrong religion, he has at least got approximately the right skin tone and, let's face it, he's a pretty ghastly bloke. He'll do.
He's correct in that 9-11 has little connection to Iraq, but that the US and its allies are more willing to shed their children's blood to clean up things. It's a valid criticism; we'd have much less support for such a move two years ago than we do today; the Wolfowitz crowd wasn't overly popular two years ago. It doesn't invalidate the need to go in, but 9-11 does make it easier to sell.
Let's not pretend that the US and British governments have any problem with Saddam's regime. I'm not suggesting that they approve of it or like it, but the fact is that both the United States and the British have been happy to deal with him when it has suited them to do so. Saddam hasn't changed. His regime has always been odious and repressive. But in the real world of modern politics, governments can and do reach accommodations with such people. I don't like it any more than you do. I wish we didn't deal with Saddam and his like. But we do. As to those weapons of mass destruction: surely we have to wait for the inspectors to do their work. The French/German plan recently announced seems to me to have much to commend it. But I hope that the international community will be similarly stringent with other dodgy states. North Korea springs to mind. Israel has to be another candidate. While we ponder the danger of Saddam and his ilk possessing WMD, perhaps we should also ponder the fact that it isn't so long ago that our governments were approving weapons sales to him. When this present crisis is resolved one way or another, it is time to turn our attention to the evil of the international arms trade. The late Cardinal Basil Hume once likened the arms trade to the traffic in heroin, with more than a little justice.
The sins of the past don't justify inaction in the present; that's a frequent gambit of anti-intervention activists, playing to the dishonorable past of the US. The better question is to ask whether intervention is valid now, despite the mistake we made with Saddam in the 80s. We're talking about two decades since the US was selling stuff to Iraq-it's the Russians who supplied the bulk of the Iraqi armory.
I have no answer to the third of the reasons for this war, except that many governments have worked through terrorist groups to promote their interests abroad. The Soviets used to do it. The US has done it. Britain has done it. But it has never been used before, as far as I know, as a reason for war. The British experience in Northern Ireland is that it is simply not possible to defeat terrorism by military means. It may be unpleasant, even repellant, but terrorists have to be talked to eventually. Saddam may be a supporter of terrorism but rolling tanks into Baghdad won't make those terrorists go away.
No, but it might make them a tad less well armed. Terrorism in the name of a popular cause will often have to have both a military and political solution. However, I don't think al Qaeda's quite the IRA; I'd suspect that the average Muslim has less of an opinion of al Qaeda and it's worldview than the average Irish Catholic has of the IRA. The Troubles have a political solution-give the Catholics a bigger say in the Northern Irish government. There isn't a good political solution to al Qaeda and the Wahhabists, unless you're willing to force the world to convert to Islam. Like it or not, we'll have to fight this one back by culturally and spiritually making that brand of Islam unattractive and militarily and policewise roll back the people willing to bear arms against the infidel.

Kerry's Gender Gap-Patrick Ruffini put up the stats from this LA Times poll showing Liberian leading Kerry 25-20 amongst registered Democrats. Lieberman whoops Kerry 35-17 among women, but loses 12-24 among men. Here's my quick take on this. Lieberman is better on moral issues than Kerry. On areas like TV violence, his paternally moral streak comes across well, while it might grate against the male voter. Remember that there are more women than men in most churches, and the Democratic women with a moral streak might find Lieberman attractive. Kerry might also act like too many women's exes for their comfort (ditto Hart and Sharpton but not Gephardt). Lieberman's the only one with bigger female support; the male voters are much more up for grabs.

Cold War II-Item 7-Ameriphobia?-I found this NYT piece on paleoeuropean phobia over geneticaly-modified (GM) foods interesting, Is it GM foods or American innovation that Europe is afraid of?
Tinkering with the genetic makeup of crops to make them grow faster and more resilient, something done routinely in the United States with seldom a pang of consumer concern, is seen here as heretical, or at the very least unhealthy. In some countries, there is an unofficial moratorium on the sale of genetically modified foods.
How many times could a writer use this stock sentence?
{Insert free market/moralistic concept], something that is routine in the US, is seen in Europe as [immoral or moralistic or unethical].
There might be some solid fear of the unknown here, but there is more tolerance for change in the US and more love of the status quo in Europe. There is a common status-quoian attitude, epsecially in France, that seems to say "They might do that in the US, but they'll do it here over our dead bodies." Thus, you'll see the FOE countries continue to stagnate while the US grows faster.

Afternoon Musings-The US and its friends are picking apart the Franco-Germanic Spaghetti-Os (there's nothing in the middle) proposal. This quote was a keeper
Lord Powell, a former adviser to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, said increasing the number of inspectors would not help prove the existence of Saddam's arsenal because "their role is not one of a detective, but one of an auditor."
The inspectors can't be traipsing around Iraq hunting for stuff, they're best used to vouch for an honest accounting. It doesn't look like Saddam wants an honest account but instead is looking to buy time. A handful of lightly-armed, disinterested troops from Upper Slobovia won't help, nor will three times the inspectors on Saddam's Snipe Hunt. The Dell pitchdude (who seemed like a bit of a stoner in 20/20 hindsight) got busted for marijuana possession-Fox snagged the perfect blog headline-"Dude, you're getting a cell." Hey, save the straight lines for us to use! Pencil in Nigeria and South Africa as members in the Federation of Old Europe or FOE (my working title for our opposite number in Cold War II), both of them don't think Mad Bad Bob deserves further Commonwealth sanctions. Australia, proud member of the Anglosphere, disagrees. Henceforth, I will adopt Paleoeuropean as the official replacement for Euroweenie, placating those who felt the latter term was demeaning.

Midday Musings-Light blogging the last few days has been due to a flu-like critter; I got home from church at 4 (first session of a personal finance class I'm helping with from 1-3) yesterday and went straight to bed. I managed to get through my Personal Finance class this morning in one piece and have an Microeconomics exam to proctor at 1, so I somehow managed to do my professorial duties today. Pray for tomorrow-I've got a four-hour Managerial Econ night class. I'm not sure what to make of all the diplomatic twists of the weekend. The inspectors-on-steriods plan that Old Europe came up with is nasty-effective[update 3:50PM-from a diplomatic standpoint only]; one would hope the Iraqis are dumb enough to reject it. France and Germany are stalling a request for help from Turkey; they might want to nuke NATO along with the UN. The Russians are on board the Old Europe plan as well. Is this playing out like some weird diplomatic role-playing game or am I working under too much of an IQ deficit? Question- why does the BBC have problems capitalizing acronyms? The New Republic falls into that problem on a regular basis as well.

Edifier du Jour-Proverbs 9:7-10 (NASB)
7 He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. 8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
It doesn't take a Ph.D. to start to understand God; in fact, intellect often gets in the way of knowing God. Wisdom isn't knowledge, it's how one applies the knowledge he has. Such wisdom comes from knowing God and respecting His power; the fear in verse 10 isn't the "God's gonna gitya" fear, but a respect for His greatness I'm not sure I'm quite wise yet, for I'm not in love with my correctors; grudgingly appreciative is more like it. However, I do learn from other people still, so I might yet be a candidate for wisdom.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Edifier du Jour-Acts 26:22-29(NASB)
22 "So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; 23 that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles." 24 While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad." 25 But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. 26 "For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. 27 "King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do." 28 Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian." 29 And Paul said, "I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains."
I can think back to the people who witnessed to me before coming to the Lord in 1985. I think of one of my college girlfriend’s roommate, who did a Christian rock show on the campus radio station (1983-that was early CCM); I envied the easy and clean fellowship those churchgoing students had. I remember a roommate in 1982 who was so nice and so friendly that I thought he was gay and hitting on me; he was a part of a small church that met at the high school and had a deep witness. Neither of those two people brought me to the Lord; it was my father who was the catalyst in 1985. When witnessing to people, you'll get people thinking you're crazy to put your faith in someone who died two millennia ago. You'll also get people who'll not quite be ready to make a commitment; having someone think about such a serious commitment is better than someone who makes a faked commitment and falls away. However, you may be priming the pump for someone to close the deal (sorry for the mixed metaphors) somewhere in the future. We don't know whether Agrippa accepted Jesus later on, but Paul did what he could. Just because you didn't get the witnessee to drop to their knees and convert on the spot doesn't mean you weren't doing your job. Sooner or later, if God's got His sights on a person, they'll come around.

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