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Saturday, March 15, 2003

Evening Musings-The Warner Southern campus might well be a ghost-town Monday; WSC knocked off #3 seed Jamestown to get into the NAIA semis. A big contingent will be heading up for Monday's semis; I was short four guys from my Micro class and one guy in Personal Finance, now I'll be short a big number of fans. CMU's heading to the Big Dance, having knocked off Kent State this evening. You have to go back to the Dan Majerle Chips of '87 for their last trip to the NCAAs We had a great evening session at our retreat, with a real moving praise session moving quite a few of the guys.

Retreat Notes-We have this piece on "spiritual listening" from a guy name John Paul Jackson as part of our devotional this morning.
When we listen to another in a non-spiritual manner, we are continually thinking about how we feel concerning what they are saying. We look for a place to insert our story into the conversation. Thus, we are actually listening for our own benefit. But, spiritual listening requires that we focus and listen for the benefit of the person telling their story.
This come close to Dale Carnegie's approach of being actively interested in what the other person has to say. If we are listening to someone with a view of being to pray for them, we need to be focused on their problems rather than getting in our two cents worth.
It requires listening and paying attention to the breath of the Holy Spirit. It requires that we ask questions more than we make statements. Spiritual listening cannot be accomplished without love and vulnerability or a willingness to admit that you, as well, may have something to learn from this encounter.
This reminds me a bit of Rogerian therapy, where the councilor primarily asks questions, getting the patient to come up with his own diagnosis and solutions. However, if done with the Holy Spirit's help, such a stream of questions might be able to point the listener to spiritual as well as psychological problems to be surmounted.
Spiritual listening requires lowering your inner defensive walls and giving up the need to tell the other person your story. By truly listening with all of your senses and the aid of the Holy Spirit, trust is built. The level at which trust takes place is the same level that healing takes place. It has true spiritual substance and that substance allows the other person to feel they have value. It is this sense of value that gives them courage to step out and become all God desires them to become. This is how Jesus listens to us.
If you're trying to help someone, you need to put the other person first and devote yourself to helping. "Letting go and letting God" is what is needed, but we're also going to need to let go of our egos and your pride and be able to be real.

Pinning the Claudometer One Mo' Time-"Spending Cuts Are Likely In Future." Shucks, I thought Talahassee was rolling in dough.

Don't Get Juiced on These Numbers, Guys-Even when advertising works, as it seems to do in this piece on generic orange juice advertising, it might not be profitable
The department spent about $22 million annually on generic orange juice advertising during that period, according to the report. After adjusting for inflation, each dollar in spending led to the sale of an additional 0.62 gallons.
If I'm doing the math correctly, it costs the orange industry about $1.50/gallon to get that extra supply. Given that you can get generic OJ for about $2.50/gallon, I'd be suprised if the industry had a $1.50/gallon marginal profit. If they're making less than $1.50/gallon, the advertising's not worth it. It might even justify some officials jobs, creating a even larger hidden cost.

Edifier du Jour-Acts 5:12-16(NASB)
12 At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico. 13 But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. 14 And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, 15 to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. 16 Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.
The early church wasn't a bunch of first-century yuppies; they were a blue-collar bunch. However, they were following God and God was able to use them. As we start to become part of the power structure, we can get to playing to the powerful when we need to be playing to God. If we do so, we can see some of the power that the early church saw.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Retreat Blogging-I took my laptop to our retreat, and the building we're staying in has a phone in the common room (two eight-bunk-bed rooms on either side). Warner Southern made it through to the quarterfinals this afternoon, winning 99-93.

Raise Your Steyn-One goodie before I hit the road-Mr. Steyn puts one in the cheap seats with this one on the future of Europe. Thanks to Kathy Kinsley for pointing it out.

Afternoon Musings-I'll be heading off to a men's retreat for the weekend in a little bit; barring access to a computer at the retreat site, there'll be blog silence until Sunday PM. The in-laws are on there way back to Tejas, so I can look forward to having Casa de Byron come back to normal and not feel like a guest in my own household when I return. It isn't that they were a burden, it's just that they were there that changes the dynamic, like having my father-in-law listening to webcasts of his talk-radio shows (and fighting him for having to share the computer) and getting meals for four rather than two and having to close the bedroom door to get privacy and having to go into the bedroom to get privacy. Interesting piece on the troops in Kuwait on the "Axis of Evil World Tour." Windy City Slash?-Kordell Stewart's heading to the Bears. I'll love to see what offensive coordinator Gary Crowton can do with Stewart. Crowton thinks outside the box more than just about any OC; I remember taking a truckload of his Louisiana Tech plays and adapting them into my computer football playbook. It might be one heck of a lot of fun. [Update 12:43AM 3/15 Memory Burp-I remembered that Chicago had picked up the old LT coach. I Googled to get Crowton's name, but got a stale site that still had him with da Bears. Turns out he's now with BYU] We're going to have another round of Pete Rose in the HoF stuff; Bud Lite is considering lifting the ban. If he does a full mea culpa, which he has yet to do, I'd be inclined to give him parole from a lifetime ban after 14 years. However, whether he's in the Hall of Fame is a moot point, for everyone knows that he was a great player. What might not be a moot point is him being a color-commentator for or coaching in some capasity. If he doesn't do said mea culpa, he can stay on the TV shopping circuit. This is sad; Kenny Lofton, who once was one of the better leadoff guys in the game, hanging on with the Pirates for a "mere" $1,025,000. He's 35. It's been a dozen years since he came up with that young Indians crew that came together for a great run in the second half of the 90s and it doesn't seem like it's been a dozen years.

Joe Shoprat as a Commodity-I've been covering labor markets in my Micro class this week, and I picked up some insights that I don't remember covering in my Micro classes. Textbooks present labor markets as a single market, when in reality there are multiple labor markets; the market for orange-pickers doesn't have much of an effect on the market for college economics professors. One of the key difference between the markets for unskilled labor and skilled labor is that unskilled labor is essentially a commodity. When you're a small supplier of a commodity, you're generally stuck taking whatever the market price is for your product. Only by forming a cartel (translate to union in the labor market) can you negotiate price with the buyers. If you can differentiate your product, making it different (and hopefully better) that other products of your type, you can ask for a better price without having everyone laugh in your face. Skilled labor, especially college-educated labor, is more of a differentiated product; our curricula, experience, GPA, et cetera, can be used to make one person a bit different from another and be able to ask for a better salary if warranted. In addition, the computer and telecommunication revolutions have made white-collar labor much more efficient than it was years ago, increasing the demand for (and wages of) "information workers." There are some cases when you head into Dilbertland where the product isn't too differentiated, but the cubicle rat has more bargaining power than the shop rat. A lot of the wage differences in the US are due to the fact that skilled labor has become both more productive and better able to ask for a raise than unskilled labor. Better transportation has increased the competition for unskilled labor, further expanding the gap. The answer isn't to try and hold down the wages of the information workers, the answer is to give the unskilled workers skills that will make them more productive and be able to demand a higher wage.

Midday Musings-Last night's home group was interesting. My Presbyterian in-laws came along, as did six students from a very spirit-filled F.I.R.E. ministry school up in Pensacola were here getting some third-world missions training at WSC's HEART Institute; one of our home group members is an instructor at HEART and often has students come along to home group with him. Some serious intercession went down during the prayer time. The in-laws didn't seem to be too freaked out; if they did, they didn't say anything. Next stop, seeing what my mom thinks of the Vineyard when she and my dad come down in three weeks and go to church with us. I'm not sure if this Azores Summit is going to be diplomatic in nature. I'm picturing a press conference with Bush, Blair and Aznar where they echo Ari's comment that the French are "ungettable" and stick to a March 17th deadline or close to it. In essence, we'll have a press conference to tell Saddam that his derriere is grass and the Coalition of the Willing is the lawn mower. What if Iraq attacks first, especially at Israel? I don't think he'll win any PR points with the west, but there's an outside shot of him getting a few radical countries to join him in an anti-Israeli campaign. Even short of that, he can then cast the pending fight as a pro-Israel western crusade, putting the best (from Saddam's point of view) spin on his pending loss. Action Democratique, anyone? This is an interestingly idiotarian idea out of Quebec
MONTREAL - Bernard Landry, the Quebec Premier, said yesterday a re-elected PQ government would force companies to give parents with a child 12 years old or younger the option of a four-day workweek as of Jan. 1. Employer groups immediately raised objections, as Mr. Landry, campaigning for the April 14 election, said the government expects business to pick up the tab. The Parti Quebecois estimates it would cost about $100-million; employer groups believe it could cost them $200-million to $300-million. The extra day off would be unpaid but full benefits would remain in effect.
This is the kind of paternalism that you'd expect of European "conservatives." I haven't seen any polls lately, but expect the free-market AD to make some serious inroads next month. Liberal party leader Jean Charest had the best come-back ''I think it's a great idea. Everyone thinks it's a great idea. I happen to think a three-day workweek would be great, too. Some say two and a half is even better."

The Quiet Time-I've not been doing too much blogging as of late, partly due to a busy schedule and partly due to a lack of big news to blog about. In international affairs, the pending Iraq War has been about as talked over as it can be. The possible fallout in the UN and EU of French diplomats acting like a bunch of 14-year-old playing a Avalon Hill diplomacy game has been hacked into the ground. The idiotarians around the world have been properly fisked on the issue. It's time to get it on. Domestic politics is in the doldrums. The Democratic stalling of judicial nominees has simply moved from the Judiciary committee to the Senate floor. A partial-birth abortion bill finally passed the Senate (with Daschle and Leahy voting for it?), but the Republican senate hasn't covered the point spread of expectations. The Invisible Primary has entered the Long Summer phase of rounding up money and supporters, where there's a lot of activity but little news. Since it's March, the budget battles are on the back burner; we haven't seen much rhetoric on tax cuts or big deficits. Sports are in the doldrums. Pro basketball and hockey are in the long winter grind to the playoffs, baseball's off at spring training, leaving football's Hot Stove League the one thing to talk about. However, March Madness is just around the corner (or already here if you're at Warner Southern-they're talking about getting vans to go to the semis if WSC wins two more games; the Sweet 16 is today) which should liven things up; I should have two alma maters going to the dance, with Michigan State primed to get an at large bid and Central Michigan and Kent State the top two seeds in the MAC tourney. Theology is even in the doldrums. A lot of bloggers are cutting back for Lent. However, things will change in a hurry. Baseball starts its regular season in two weeks. Iraq will happen, as Karzai put it, in a few days. Tickets to the Big Dance get sent out Sunday evening. Politics will get more lively. Blog hope springs eternal.

Edifier du Jour-Mark 9:20-29
20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22 "It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" 23 And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." 24 Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief." 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again." 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!" 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not drive it out?" 29 And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."
This came out of last night's home group meeting. Verses 23 and 24 stick out here. I remember thinking that some praise song lyrics that state that "all things are possible" were overblown, but there it is, straight out of the Horse's mouth. I don't want to go down the name-it-and-claim it route, but no miracle's too big for God to do. Mind you, it doesn't mean God winds up doing all those big miracles, but He could. The Oral Roberts U slogo "Expect a Miracle" comes to mind, but I'd be a bit less cocky and say "Don't Rule Out a Miracle." The other verse that is commonly mentioned is the "I believe, help me with my unbelief." None of our faiths are 100% rock-solid, and we need help rounding out that faith from the Holy Spirit. Having doubts is natural. Dwelling on them and letting them fester isn't good.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Answering Questions-I'm with Den Beste, I'm ready to get Iraq behind us. However, let's answer some of the basic questions on the table to help clear the air. Why are we doing this? There are multiple reasons, but the first reason is to remove from power a ruthless junta with access to oil wealth to spread his ambitions and to acquire more weapons. Is Saddam the worst dictator around? No, there are a lot of worse places to live. Zimbabwe, North Korea and Turkmenistan come to mind for dictators who can go ego-for-ego with Saddam. However, they don't pose as much of a long-term threat as Iraq under Baathist rule does. Does he have the nastiest set of WMDs? No, I think the North Koreans have him beat there. We can assume the North Korean have a few nukes as well as more mundane WMDs to pull out as well. However, North Korea has largely limited itself to low-grade terrorism for the last half-century, while Iraq has invaded three of its neighbors and fired missiles at a fourth within the last quarter-century. Iraq has the most pernicious combination of ruthlessness, current malicious capabilities (and the willingness to use them) and the resources to acquire more of the same. That makes Saddam Bad Guy #1. Note that it isn't just Saddam; the upper echelons of his Baathist regime will need to go as well and a democratic government installed. Democracies can do some stupid things, but invading their neighbors isn't usually one of them. That's the second reason for an invasion, to set up a democratic government. We're unlikely to get a stable and peaceful Iraq by merely letting Saddam get a Mediterranean villa and left Henchman X take over. A quick and clean war will be in the Iraqi people's best long-term interest, for currently, their oil wealth is being wasted in propping up the Baathist regime and buying an army of conquest and terror. Should we do the same to help the people of Zimbabwe or Burma or other countries with nasty dictators? Probably, but the motives there are purely humanitarian and harder to sell. Here, we get democracy as collateral benefit for making the Middle East a safer place. Does this help with the battle against al Qaeda? Not that much. There seems to be some al Qaeda cells working inside Iraq, but the connection is tangential. However, we'll have set a standard for our ability and willingness to kick butt and take names, so countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will think twice before actively or passively helping al Qaeda. Will this cause more terror?Hard to tell. In the long run, it will help by cutting off one source of help and putting other countries on notice. In the short run, a cell or two might do something, but they might have done something anyways. al Qaeda's fight's not about Iraq; there's a bit of Islamic brotherhood, but the Wahhabis don't think much of Saddam's largely secular government; Saddam's about as Islamic as Jacques Chirac is Christian. Is this a just war?- I think so. We're stopping a major source of evil. We will win; fighting a losing battle's not the question. We can do this with a minimum of damage and the good caused by the war will most likely outweigh the damage caused by it. We've essentially exhausted any diplomatic means of doing the job. That means it's clobberin' time, but we'll clobber smart, trying to get at the command infrastructure rather than bomb in general. How can we judge others countries when we've got so much baggage in our country's past? Since the Cold War, we've largely been on the side of the angels. There was quite a bit of "he's an SOB, but he's our SOB" games that went on in the 50s-80s, but that is in the past. Since the UN isn't with us, isn't this war immoral?Are the French, Russians and Chinese governments the repository of moral wisdom? The French aren't exactly the epitome of morality, a majority of Russians think that Stalin was a net plus for the country and the Chinese Communists seem unlikely to have God on the hotline. Just because something doesn't get past the UN doesn't make it moral. In fact, getting passed by the UN is too often a sign of a proposal's immorality. We have a broad coalition of countries, broader than the ones who oppose us. It isn't unilateral; if anyone's being unilateral in this mix, it's the French. Isn't it about oil and Dubya's Texas connections?Not really; his Texas buddies would prefer things stay unsettled and oil prices stay high. This will do a number on oil producers in the US. It is about oil in the sense that Saddam has oil wealth to buy all kinds of arms to better terrorize his neighbors. Why didn't we do this sooner? Good question. Going to war's not fun. You don't know exactly how things will turn out. The rationale had to be strong enough to push past all the questions.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 35:1-8
1: A Psalm of David. Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me. 2: Take hold of buckler and shield And rise up for my help. 3: Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me; Say to my soul, "I am your salvation." 4: Let those be ashamed and dishonored who seek my life; Let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me. 5: Let them be like chaff before the wind, With the angel of the LORD driving them on. 6: Let their way be dark and slippery, With the angel of the LORD pursuing them. 7: For without cause they hid their net for me; Without cause they dug a pit for my soul. 8: Let destruction come upon him unawares, And let the net which he hid catch himself; Into that very destruction let him fall.
In this pre-war mode, I have trouble not relating to David's "please do a number on my foes, God" psalms. Does this negate the need to pray for our enemies? No, but the two aren't mutually exclusive. I remember the old joke about the woodsman being chased by a bear, praying that the bear be a Christian. After catching the woodsman, the bear put his paws together and said "Thank you, Lord, for the meal I am about to receive." We can pray that our enemies find the Lord and that life goes well for them, but we can also pray that they fall flat on their face in their efforts to harm us.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Freedom Kisses-Just when the Freedom Fries/Toast meme started to take off (the normally apolitical smooth jazz channel in Tampa was in on the act yesterday), Lileks puts a dagger to the heart.
We have French doors in this house. We do not have Freedom doors. I do not put Freedom’s Mustard on my hot dogs. I do not want my legislators to rewrite the scripts of “Family Affair” so Sebastian Cabot’s butler character is named “Mr. Freedom.” What am I supposed to call my niece - someone who has dual American-Freedom citizenship? You like the sound of that distinction? Holy temporarily satisfying empty symbolic gesture, Batman!
If you get a bit too passionate with your significant other at the capital, is it a Freedom Kiss?

Morning Musings-I had bad completion for my student's attention this morning; Warner Southern's mens basketball team is in the NAIA championships, and their first-round game against Rio Grande was going on even as we speak. They were playing the radio play-by-play and projecting this webcast on the wall of the Rigel Center, just down the hall from my Personal Finance classroom; half the class was playing hooky and the other half was distracted. Good news; we're up 22 with two minutes to go as we go to press, set to advance to Friday's Sweet 16. It reminds me a little bit of the 60s or early 70s when the World Series games were played on weekday afternoons; people would sneak radios into class or work to keep up with the games. Bad news from the Balkans, the Serbian PM, Zoran Djindjic, got assassinated this afternoon Belgrade time. Hopefully, the reformers will keep up the fight there and the Serbs don't backslide into ethnic back-biting. Autoboomer U, Baghdad campus? This will make surrenders interesting; a person could walk up with a white flag and let the plastique rip as they got in amongst the troops. Might we ask the surrenderees to strip to their skivvies before we let them get close? An insult to their Islamic dignity, yes, but it might be a necessity. ANWR drilling might just pass. They've got 49 votes and if they put it in a budget resolution, it's filibuster-proof.

A Bit of Yooper Humor-Got this story from a friend from Michigan who's parents are from the Upper Peninsula. They use to have a bumper sticker, "Say Ya to the UP, eh?" A genre of Yooper jokes has grown up for us people under the Mackinac Bridge; think "ya, you betcha" Minnesotans with five less IQ points.
Two Yoopers die and wake up in hell. The next day the devil stops in to check on them and sees them dressed in parkas, mittens and bomber hats warming themselves around the fire. The devil asks them, "What are you doing? Isn't it hot enough for you?" The two guys reply, "Vell, ya know, we're from Nordern Michigan, the land of snow and ice and cold. We're just happy for a chance to warm up a little bit ya know." This gets the devil quite steamed so he decides to fix the two guys. He cranks the heat up as high as it will go. The people are wailing and screaming every where. He stops by the room with the two Yoopers and finds them in light jackets and hats, grilling walleye and drinking beer. The devil is astonished, "Everyone down here is in abject misery, and you two seem to be enjoying yourself." The two Yoopers reply, "Vell, ya know, we don't get too much varm weather up dere in Marquette, Michigan we've just got to have a fish fry when the veather's this nice." The devil is absolutely furious; he can hardly see straight. Finally he comes up with the answer. The two guys love the heat because they have been cold all their lives. The devil decides to turn all the heat off in hell. The next morning, the temperature is below zero, icicles are hanging everywhere, people are shivering so bad that they are unable to wail, moan and gnash their teeth. The devil smiles and heads for the room with the two Yoopers. He gets there and finds them back in their parkas, bomber hats, and mittens. They are jumping up and down, cheering, yelling and screaming like mad men. The devil is dumb founded, "I don't understand, when I turn up the heat you're happy. Now it's freezing cold and you're still happy. What is wrong with you two?" The Yoopers look at the devil in surprise, "Vell, don't ya know, if hell froze over dat must mean da Lions von da Super Bowl!!!"

Edifier du Jour-James 1:22-29(NASB)
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Going to church and cracking open the Bible is easy compared to befriending the friendless. I was moved this morning by this John Adams piece on his 18th birthday (quite a future to be played out with this guy)
I've known this girl for years, but never really talked to her. She was always really quiet and kind of removed, her parents have religious beliefs that don't resemble mine too closely, and I found myself sucked into the trap of trying to be like the cool kids. Reading her words made me remember all the nights I cried myself to sleep because I couldn't find acceptance. I used to crave the acceptance that she seeks now. Why is it that even those who have spent years on the outside looking in betray those left outside once they are admitted to stand by the communal fire? Is it so much to open the door every so often? To share another's pain? By and large, from what I have seen, and felt myself, most would say yes. It is too much effort to reach out. But for Christians, it is not an option. The world is full of hurting, lonely, depressed people. I should know, I used to be one of them. We as Christians do not have a choice between reaching out and not reaching out. Our lives should be nothing but reaching out, empathizing, and sharing in one another's joys and pains; in short, being like Christ. As a society, Americans tend to be a people absorbed with themselves. I ask you to examine yourself, and see if there is any way you could better serve those around you. As for me, I have failed my friend for the last 2 years. I implore you not to make the same mistake.
I added the italics in the second paragraph; I have been there too, John. I can remember the first week of my sophomore year in high school, when one of the easiest-to-tease kids in school decided to sit at my lunch table; he was short, a bit overweight and looked like something two or three steps back down one of those Ascent of Man charts. I got more than my share of teasing in junior high; my fist thought was that having Dave there would make that table a magnet for all the immature jerks at Midland High. I didn't know the Lord at the time, but I didn't have the heart to walk off on this guy; the sensitivity that had made me that teasing target had its godly side. Dave died in 1991, but we were best friends for the preceding decade and a half. Had I gone with my lesser instincts, I'd have walked off on him and left him to his lonely self. Instead, I found an intellectual playmate, spending a lot of time talking on the thing we'd be blogging about today. How many Daves are at your school? Your workplace? Your church? Yes, church; you get a lot of people who aren't rich and pretty that need people to befriend them. Reading John's piece, Elenor Rigby's refrain "All the lonely people; where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?" came to mind. To borrow from another 60s song, you can reach out and touch somebody's hand and give them a place to belong. That is true religion, not going to church or putting in a big tithe check.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Mo' Evening Musings-Kevin's getting another dose of link love here after he does what you're supposed to do to a Lew Rockwell article; fisk it to within an inch of its life. I'm not sure what the Security Council midgets are thinking
Six countries that hold crucial swing votes in the United Nations Security Council united yesterday behind a proposed compromise that would give Iraq one more month to disarm, setting a new deadline of April 17. The six -- Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan -- said the extra time will allow the council to set tests for Iraq against which members can see if the country is complying with weapons inspectors.
Does Chile want a free trade deal? Does Mexico want the Tortilla Curtian built? If they show up the US, the US won't be in the best of moods. Spudlets made my evening and got father-in-law to get up from his viewing of A Few Good Men when I laughed at the new 10-ton Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) munition, quickly getting the nickname Mother of All Bombs. Some interesting sports news; Jim Herrick has been shown the door at Georgia and the Dawgs are banishing themselves from the post-season after some transcript-padding got exposed. The other news was Chris Osgood getting traded to the Blues at the trade deadline; he might get a chance to go mano-a-mano with the Wings in the playoffs. That trade reminds me a little bit of the Gretsky trade of a few years back that turned the Blues into a Cup contender.

Evening Musings-OPEC's not cranking up production just yet; they're afraid that the war will go too well and have any increased production swamp the market. The good news (if there ever is any from an OPEC meeting) is that they're standing ready to crank up production if needed. Saudi Oil minister Ali al-Naimi had a good quote "There is no reason to lift the quotas...Eliminate the drummings of war and the price will moderate." A bit too poetic, but the price of oil will go down at least five bucks a gallon once the war is over, barring some real scorched-earth stuff. I wonder if it's an innie or an outie (I think outies are disgusting), but Kevin's gazing at his belly-button wondering why he isn't getting as many links as he'd been used to. Here's some link love to ya, as well as to an comparable contemplative piece from Baggy Slims (if links from me get you heady...) My father-in-law just got introduced to Bob the Tomato; he sat down on the love seat and got "God made you special, and he loves you very much" coming from said talking stuffed tomato on the cushion. Veggie Tales ain't in his 5,000 tape collection, but he doesn't have grandkids yet.

More Google Fun-"Guy Lombardi Lyrics"-"Auld Lang Syne isn't everything, it's the only thing." "asuse mother board"-Asus is a good bang-for-the-buck motherboard (or at least they were a few years ago)

Midday Musings-The in-laws are in; Eileen and they are going off to see the east cost over by Vero Beach for the day. The one fubar was when we went to fill up the air matress; the air pump required 12 hours of charging, which we neglected to do. I had to drive over to a friend's house to borrow a cannister vacumn cleaner that can be reversed to blow air (of course, the Spaceballs "She's gone from suck to blow" had to be uttered), saving the day. Interesting footnote embedded in this BBC piece on UN tussles; the US public's behind a non-UN-blessed war. A morning wouldn't be complete with a good fisking, and Ben takes apart Michelle Cottle's piece on God and Dubya to the point of needing DNA evidence to identify the corpse. I got a dead-tree photocopy of this Chronicle of Higher Ed. piece from January on post-modern economists. A big of Googling on the players in the piece found this anti-neoclassical web site "Post-autistic Economics Review" (the neoclasical focus on free markets and statistical analysis is labled as autistic) that has a lot of fiskable stuff. One more to add-over at Samizdata-Mr. de Havilland has a good look at the collateral benefits of an Iraq war for the world and for Europe.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 33:1-5
1: Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright. 2: Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. 3: Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. 4: For the word of the LORD is upright, And all His work is done in faithfulness. 5: He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the LORD.
Praise is becoming of the upright. It looks good on us. Not just mealy-mouthed praise, but a full-throated shout of joy. Excuse me while my charismatic side comes out, but I'm probably not alone in underpraising God. We've got a good God whose filled the planet with good things, so don't be bashful in giving God his props.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Evening Minutia-One of the weirdest hits yet-I was linked to in an etymology discussion on "kick butt and take names"

Afternoon Musings-Is the Chief a Hall of Famer? I don't think so. Robert Parrish and James Worthy are new HoF nominees. Parish was a good player for a very long time, but not quite a great player. Likewise, Worthy was good, but not quite HoF material. Both benefit from being with the great Celtic and Laker teams of the 80s, but being third banana behind McHale and Bird or second banana behind Magic aren't HoF credentials. The same can be said for Gus Johnson, Dennis Johnson, Mo Cheeks and Bobby Jones, good players but not great ones. The three I could make a case for would be Meadowlark Lemon, Chick Hearn and Eddie Sutton, although the mess Sutton left at Kentucky makes me want to disqualify him. On a darker note, it looks like the Russians and French are not only going to veto anything pointing towards war with Iraq but are putting the screws to the non-perminant members. If the UN were Catholic, it'd be a candidate for Last Rights Rites, especially if this story of chemical cluster bombs designed to "crop-dust" a broad patch of land is true.

Mark's ISM-Section 1.3- Utility theory-Climbing Mount Joytron. What I’m going to look at next is what economists call indifference curves. We can think of this as a topographical map of Mount Joytron. We’ve got good X going across and Good Y going up, although you can also view this in terms of good X and all other goods. Each of the contour lines is a combination of Good X and everything else that creates the same amount of joytrons. The further to the “northeast” you go, the higher the joytron count and the happier you get.

The curves are bowl-shaped (convex) because in order to keep you at the same level of happiness, you’ll have to give up some other goods in order to get more of X. Also, since we’ll get fewer and fewer joytrons for each additional unit of X, we’re willing to pay less and less to get another unit of X, thus making the curve flatter the further we go east. Unfortunately, we can’t have everything, so we’ll introduce the concept of a budget constraint. Let’s say we have a $1,000 budget and X costs $5. If we blow our entire budget on X, we can get 200 units of X. Thus, we’ll draw a line between 200 units of X and $1000; we’ll set up shop somewhere on that line.

How then do we decide how much X to buy? You get as high up Mount Joytron as you can, to where your contour line just touches (“is tangent to” in mathese) that budget line. You can look at the joytron tradeoff between X and Y by looking at the slope of a tangent line at a given point. The slope will be - (marginal joytrons per X/ marginal joytrons per Y). The slope of the budget constraint will be –(price of X / price of Y). At the point where the budget line and the tangent line have the same slope, we’ll have the marginal joytrons per dollar (MJ/$) of X be equal to the marginal joytrons per dollar of Y. At that point, you get the same bang for the buck for both X and Y.

At our equilibrium point, we’ll have
MJ per unit of X/MJ per unit of Y =$ per unit of X/ $ per unit of Y
Doing a little algebra will give us
MJ per unit of X/$ per unit of X= MJ per unit of Y/$ per unit of Y MJ/$x=MJ/$y
If you set up shop at a point northwest of your equalibrium point A (let's say point B on the graph), you'll get more bang for the buck for X than Y and want to swap for X, for the MJ/$x>MJ/$y. If you set up shop southeast of point A (let's say point C) you'll get more bang for the buck for Y and want to swap X for Y, since MJ/$x<MJ/$y. Translation into everyday language: people will look to get the most bang for the buck for the things they buy and that the joy-per-dollar they get out of one more good X should be about equal to the joy-per-dollar they get out of good Y (or Z or A or B or C). If something game them a better bang for the buck, they probably already purchased it. Coming Soon-Section 1.4-Movin' Those Budget Lines-Income and Substitution Effects.

Mark's Ism-Section 1.2- Quantum Economics and the Joytron. It might be helpful to go back to the Declaration of Independence, where Thomas Jefferson stated that the Creator gave us the right to life, liberty and disco the pursuit of happiness. If that’s what a good government is supposed to insure, we need to find out how to maximize these things. Economic theory doesn’t do a good job and looking at liberty, but they do take a stab at measuring happiness. How the heck do we measure happiness? A quick history of the young field of Quantum Economics might be helpful. It started out as an offshoot of computer engineering and programming in the 1980s, where geeks discovered what turned out to be the first quantum economic particle, the bogon. Early antidotal evidence suggested that these quantum particles of bogosity, or misery, had an exponential effect on software; when multiple people watch a presentation, bogon effects go up logarithmically proportional to the number of people. Detection equipment, called bogometers, were created, but were very fragile and tend to malfunction when faced with large quantities of bogons, such as emitted by politicians or used car salesmen. It took until the early 21st century to discover the elusive anti-bogon. In 2002, a team of crack quantum economists from Michigan was able to document the presence of the anti-bogon, the quantum particle of happiness. The lead scientist renamed the anti-bogon the joytron. The bogometers proved to be able to detect joytrons when there mechanics were altered to note a positive charge as well as a negative one. Thus, despite the name, quantum economists will use bogometers to detect joytrons. The effect of joytrons differs from product to product and from person to person. Basic necessities create more joytrons per dollar than luxury goods. A basic part of quantum economic theory is that for most people is that the joytrons created per each extra dollar of wealth goes down as a person gets wealthier; a dollar given to a struggling college student will generate more joytrons that if given to a college professor. We’ve yet to devise a good quantum explanation for that; some quantum economists have suggested that joytrons exhibit a slight repulsive tendency towards each other, making it harder for joytrons to mass in one place. Anecdotal evidence points towards people buying the biggest joytron-generators with their early dollars, thus giving later dollars a lower marginal joytron-to-dollar ratio. There are a number of applications of this joytron behavior to economic theory, which I will explore later in the chapter. Coming Soon-Section 1.3- Utility theory-Climbing Mount Joytron.

"In his boots, I would be shaking, hmmmm?"- This comes close to a battle of wits with an unarmed man, but this lastest nuggets of wisdom from Canadian PM Chrétien is just too ripe to pass up-
"You know, the President has won. I have no doubt about it, he won," Mr. Chrétien said. "He has created a situation where Saddam cannot do anything any more. He has troops at the door and inspectors on the ground. Planes flying over and he cannot do anything."
The troops are at the front door (Kuwait), but he's got back doors (Syria) and side doors (Jordan and Iran) to sneak stuff out with. The inspectors Clouseau aren't going to find the things that the Iraqis are taking any efforts to hide.
"You know, Blix says that he's making progress," said Mr. Chrétien. "I don't know why it's taking so much time. But in fact, [Saddam] is trapped and he cannot move. Two hundred and fifty thousand American and British soldiers waiting there. I'm telling you that if I were in his ... you know, in his boots, I would be shaking."
When Chretien goes mano-a-mano with English, he can sound like a hung-over Yoda- "In his boots, I would be shaking, hmmmm?" He can move a lot, as long as he's discrete. It doesn't take much to move vials of contraband, or even a small nuke, in a truck or two. It's taking so long because Saddam doesn't want to disarm, he merely wants to be seen to be disarming.
Mr. Chrétien called Saddam "a terrible man," and said "we have to take away anything dangerous in his hands." But as long as weapons inspections are producing results, he said, it is not necessary to go to war to do so.
We're not going for find anything really dangerous with the current regime of inspections; we could keep up the pretence of inspections for years without taking away anything significant. Some people prefer bad diplomacy to a good war, and the Fearless Leader of the Great White North seems to be one of them.

Signs of Spring on Campus-I had to chuckle when I saw this piece in the Indiana U school newspaper about students protesting tuition hikes. For at least a quarter-century, this song-and-dance routine is as common an occurrence as people wearing shorts and sunbathing on the first 50+ degree day in March (applicable only where you actually have a winter). (1) The school will raise tuition (2) The usual suspects on campus will raise a stink, making front-page news on the student birdcage-liner. (3) The regents or whatever the governing body will accept their petitions (4) The regents will put the petitions in the circular file and raise tuition anyway I'm thinking back to my post on superstition-one of the definitions was "a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary." When's the last time a school dropped a tuition increase due to student protests? Do the words "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" mean anything?

Morning Musings-My Managerial Econ class is behind me (it was one of those one-month classes that are very trying to teach), so you might see some more blogging this week. However, I won't have as much time for blogging as normal, since the in-laws are coming today from Houston, likely to arrive in Winter Haven even as I speak. Eileen had the advantage of spending a year-and-a-half getting to know my parents and becoming part of the family in a real way. On the other hand, I've spent about a grand total of a week with her parents. This week could be interesting. One of the interesting things coming out of the weekend's news was that Iran is far along the nuclear path. At this point, Iran is the junior partner in the AofE and deserves to be watched very closely. The thing I would be fearful of is Iran giving Hizbollah the bomb under the table. We had some interesting discussions on advertising in my Managerial Econ and Microecon classes. It doesn't pay for an individual firm to advertise if they are selling a commodity that doesn't differ from firm to firm, but the industry as a whole might be in position to advertise, like the milk, cheese ("I didn't leave him cookies, I left him cheese!"), beef and raisin (my Micro class got a kick out of me singing the opening bars of I Heard it Through the Grapevine) campaigns. However, my favorite was when the old Juan Valdez coffee ads were brought up; one of the ads mentioned had a Juan sighting in the coffee aisle of the supermarket-"maybe they were consuming a bit too much of that other Columbian export" was a student comment. Speaking of drugs, it looks like the North Korean might be financing stuff through drug smuggling to Japan. There's only so many cheap suits you can sell the Japanese. The weekend wouldn't be complete without a good fisking-watch Mr. Peterson eviscerate the Man From Plains with extreme prejudice.

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 5:43-50
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
As we seem to be on the verge of a war with Iraq and doing some serious saber-rattling in Korea, we need to check this passage out. How do we mix the kick-butt-and-take-names God of the Old Testament with the turn-the-other-cheek Jesus of the New Testament? I think the key is to look at the last verse of chapter 5-"...be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." In personal relationships, we are to be giving, forgiving and peaceful; I don't think Matthew 5 would preclude all personal self-defense, but the non-lethal head-slap is not to be retaliated. However, there is a place for righteous violence on the collective level, if the Old Testament is to be a model. Does the peaceful mandates of the Sermon on the Mount extend to international geopolitics? John Adams asks some interesting questions on this front
I think it is utterly simplistic to advocate peace based on your disdain for war. It is equally simplistic to advocate war based on your disdain for a dictator. I do not want to be caught in either camp. So let me reiterate my questions: Would loving our enemies to the extreme work? Is this the government's responsibility? If so, should we do this instead of bombing them?
Would "love-bombing" work? Would Saddam or the North Korean leadership changes their attitude if trillions of dollars of US aid flowed into his docks as the US is put into a subsistence budget in order to divert all available assets to send to Iraq? I don't think so. An individual, or even a large group of church activists, putting themselves and their resources at the Iraqi government's disposal would likely be just useful pawns to him. Where such extreme love might work is on changing the hearts of non-believers. Such devotion might bring a few of the people working with the love-bombers to Christ, but unless it changed the leadership's hearts, it wouldn't change the way the government's run. The money and man-hours spent of humanitarian projects would free up monies to be used in less-than-savory ways to prop up the military and the mechanisms of maintaining the dictatorship. The phrase "useful idiots" comes to mind. We are to be perfect, as God is perfect. We're now in WWJD territory-is this a time to love-bomb or to bomb-bomb? Remember, we don't have any Spirit-Filled Mind Tricks to magically talk Saddam into surrendering. If the damage caused by the war is far less than the good that likely can be gained from the war, and peaceful means have run their reasonable course, it would seem to be moral to do so and immoral to do otherwise. I think we have reached that point with Iraq, but it's not something that I'm happy to see.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Cultural Literacy in a Video World-Last week, when The Note (and others) was mentioning the Clinton-Dole 60 Minutes story, they made passing reference to a wicked Saturday Night Live parody of the 70s Point-Counterpoint segment, with the faux James Kilpatrick saying in his counterpoint- "Shana [Alexander, the liberal commentator], you ignorant slut!" Somehow, that phrase has worked its way into the pundit lexicon. An interesting question to pose her is how do we incorporate those bits of electronic pop culture into our education process; not that this particular SNL skit needs to be in the canon, but a lot of non-print pop culture is. For instance, from Casablanca, we get "round up the usual suspects," "I'm shocked, shocked...," "we'll always have Paris" as well as the never-actually-uttered "play it again, Sam." Most of us will have picked up on most of those without ever watching Bogey and Claude Raines. To fast forward a third of a century, look at how much of the Star Wars universe has filtered in to the lexicon, with comments about Jedi mind tricks and Death Stars; the movie title itself became a synonym for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Movies, TV shows, even video games add to the political lexicon; two decades ago, Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" ads became part of the Mondale-Hart race and buying a competitor who was attempting a takeover of you was christened a "Pac-Man Maneuver." In the past, our basic cultural literacy set has a lot of classic literature and history to draw upon; today, a lot of those cultural references aren't in print form. Would we need to add some sort of 20th Century Video Literature to our American Literature and British Literature sequences for high school students? If so, what would you cram into it?

Edifier du Jour-Revelation 3:14-16(NASB)
14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
If Satan can't drive someone away from Christ, he can make their faith so bland that it becomes unattractive or make them so compacent that they don't have the desire to bring others to Christ. If someone really turns their back on God, eventually they'll notice that they were once closer that they were and come back. However, what is more pernicious is when someone gradually grows cold; you don't have to put a hot meal into the freezer to have it become distastful, you just have to leave it out and let it cool down. If your faith has assumed room temperature, it's dead. How long has your faith been out of the oven of fellowship, the stove of study of the Word or the microwave of prayer?

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