Saturday, April 05, 2003

Morning Musings-Greetings from Mouseland-I'm blogging from my parents' time-share in Kissimmee. Don't expect a lot of day time posting, we're off to the Magic Kingdom for the day. Weekend at Saddam's-the good guys are in downtown Baghdad with a sidetrip to Medina (the division HQ). It doesn't seem like he's been at it that long, but Sammy Sosa hit his 500th last night. And he did it for the baseball Florida Blogistas, who have been the no-hit wonders so far-great pitching but no offence. This is interesting-I heard this urban legend on Martin Savidge on Boortz's show Thursday morning. Still, the truth behind it still holds; our guys are a lot better than they get credit for, especially if you contrast them with the fragging, pot-smoking crew manning the foxholes in Vietnam.

Edifier du Jour-James 3:13-18(NASB)
13: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14: But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15: This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16: For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18: And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Worldly "wisdom" tends to breed arrogance, that you think that you're better than other people due to your knowledge. "Smell me, I'm a college professor [or your job title] and you're just a lowly [fill in position]." As we climb the various ladders in our lives at work, in organizations and at church, are we advancing so that God can better use your skills or to give your ego a boost? Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Are you looking to move up because you want to be at least equal to the big-shots? Are you looking to improve yourself in order to have more goodies or to lord your position over people? If so, that's not what God's shooting for. This is easier said than done, but we should look to improve ourselves and our standing in order to better serve God. If we get a little more bling-bling or more pats on the back in the process, so be it. However, the material things aren't what we're here after, it's the hereafter that we're here after.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Bullish Musings-It's a Friday afternoon. Classes are done for the week. Just after my Micro class, one of my students complemented me on doing essay exams (they make the student tell what they know rather than pick at existing answers) even while nit-picking my scoring. On the way back from getting a big glass of pop from the cafeteria (fringe benefit-faculty and staff get to raid the beverages for free if we bring our own containers) I got momentarily included in a kick-the-soccer-ball session with three students in the quad and had a perky coed from last semester's Personal Finance class greet me. My folks are coming to town and we're heading up to their timeshare in Kissimmee for the weekend, doing the Mouse tomorrow and taking them to our church on Sunday. I'm in a good mood and it's not just from the "Doctor B!" salutations hollered by the basketball players. This is a good place to live; walking in shirtsleeves in early April and being a bit warm (low 80s, I'm guessing) is nice, but the US is a nice place to live in general, as Patrick Crozier comments over at Samizdata. We're on the verge of winning the war in Iraq.Terrorists have yet to rear their heads in solidarity with Saddam. This should mean that the economy should recover. The Iraqi win will take a lot of burdens off the economy. Oil prices will return to normal once things are finally settled. The lack of terrorism over the win should allow markets to breathe a sigh of relief. Krugman is making SARS to be a growth-killer, but I don't see it being a major factor in the US economy at this point.
Optimists now place their faith in the supposed salutary effects of victory in Iraq. The theory is that businesses have been postponing investments until uncertainty over the war is resolved, and that once that happens there will be a great surge of pent-up demand. I'm skeptical: I think the main barriers to an investment revival are excess capacity, corporate debt and fear of accounting scandals. (The revelations about HealthSouth suggest that there is still plenty of undiscovered corporate malfeasance.) I also wonder whether victory in Iraq will mark the end of uncertainty, or the beginning of even more uncertainty. Are we on the road to Damascus (or Tehran, or Yongbyon)?
" The excess capacity he whines about is primarily in the computer and telecom industries. While Enron was a tragic crash-and-burn, there doesn't seem to be any more accounting chicanery today than there's been in the past and investors will regain confidence in financial statements. Yes, there's plenty of undiscovered corporate malfeasance, but you could use that phrase at anytime in the last half-century. You have to take accounting statements with a grain of salt, but I don't think the required dose of NaCl has changed much since I started following finance two decades ago. Will Pax Americana continue to march? Probably not as much as he'd like us to think. Syria seems safe, unless they are actively hiding some of Saddam's goodies; a few targeted strikes at terrorists or WMD stashes might be called for, but an all out road trip to Damascus seems unlikely. Iran will most likely be allowed to stew in its own natural democratic juices. I had to Google the Yongbyon reference, that's the main North Korean nuke plant. That might be the one most likely to be raided. However, North Korea hasn't used any WMD in its existence, so containment might work better in their case. Iraq has oil money to buy the bad stuff with, but the North Koreans don't have much besides weaponry to sell. Unless war breaks out in East Asia, the markets seem secure. I'm looking at a fairly full glass. Lower oil prices and reduced threat of terrorist attack should give the markets confidence. SARS doesn't appear to be a big enough problem to affect GPD and the next war seems a ways off. I majored in PoliSci, not Pollyanna, but I don't see the downsides that the naysayers bring up slowing things down that much.

Edifier du Jour-James 2:1-8(NASB)
1: My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2: For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3: and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," 4: have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5: Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6: But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7: Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? 8: If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well.
I have to fight off classism in myself from time to time. A couple of weeks ago, one of our friends brought a family from down the road to church. The young mom’s straight out of trailer-trash Central Casting, while the guy's got a rap sheet and a face piercing halfway between his lip and chin. I had a hard time feeling comfortable with them. However, Mr. Chin Piercing needs Jesus just as much as my fellow professors. I’d prefer to love the stockbrokers and schoolteachers in my circle, but that’s not what God’s calling us to. I’m thinking of the parable of the Good Samaritan; we’re quick to forget (if we ever knew it in the first place) that the Samaritans were the trailer trash of the day and the phrase would have been an oxymoron to a devout Jew of the era. The other passage that comes to mind was Jesus with the Samarian woman at the well. Now there’s trailer trash for you, working on her fifth husband. Yet Jesus spoke to her with the same love he showed to everyone else, if not more. We need to look at snobbery as a sin on a par with racism.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Dynamic Scoring Blues-Jane Galt reports on the CBO using dynamic scoring on the Bush budget and disappointing the supply-siders by saying that it will reduce revenues. One of the commenter asked " can you explain why supply-side tax cuts do not pay for themselves?” Here’s my shot. Tax cuts would work in two areas; the first is the decision of how much to work, where you have a tradeoff between work and leisure, as people have to choose between working more for more stuff or having time to enjoy the stuff. A tax cut will give you more take-home pay and give a greater reward for extra work. We have two things to take into account; the substitution effect and the income effect. The substitution effect would have people working harder if the cost of leisure was increased; lowering taxes will increase people’s per-hour take-home pay and make leisure more expensive. However, the tax cut will also raise people’s take-home pay, allowing them to “buy” more leisure by working less. So, will people work harder if you cut taxes? A lot depends on how much leisure is a normal good, one that people buy more of as they get wealthier. As people get wealthier, time off seems to be more valuable than extra pay. Our economic theories assume that work can be added incrementally; it's hard for more people to choose to work 38.1 or 42.3 hours to maximize their utility. The dificulty of adding hours might make the effect of people leaving the workforce for school or homemaking via the income effect bigger than the effect of people reintering the workforce or working more hours due to the substitution effect. A tax cut might allow a mom to stay at home or a student go to summer school rather than work over the summer. I’m not sure how the CBO sees the labor supply increasing due to this proposal. If anything, tax cuts would tend to decrease the labor supply. The lower taxes might lure some people out of retirement or school or homemaking, but they are more likely to give households the purchasing power to allow members of the household not to work. If people respond to a tax cut by working less and getting the same take-home pay, a tax cut would then reduce personal wage income, while likely increasing the take-home pay. However, we have yet to look at the effect on investment. The decision to invest or spend is a question of goodies now versus more goodies later. People will tend to invest more if taxes have been lowered for two reasons. A lower tax rate will give them more take-home pay to invest and also increase the appeal of investment since the after-tax return on investments will have gone up. If the pool of investable funds goes up more than the added deficit, you will see increased investment in the private sector. Investment will likely go up, but the private capital stock might go down if the deficit spending is bigger than the added investments. In the case of investments, both the income and substitution effects lend themselves to higher investments that will bode well for income in future years. The short-term effect of the tax cut will lead to decreased revenues, as it is unlikely that investment income will offset the loss in wage income from the cuts. However, if the investments are fruitful, the demand for labor will increase and wage income will go up in time as well, as more people will be employed to help utilize the extra capital. This extra productive capacity will increase GDP via both wage and investment income and will dampen the revenue losses in later years. So, in the short-term, the tax cuts aren’t going to start to pay for themselves, but in the long term, they will start to increase GDP to the point where they might pay for themselves. Even if they don’t quite pay for themselves, we’ll have a stronger economy, and we’re looking to maximize overall well-being and not tax revenue.

War-What It Is Good For-It’s interesting that as the US troops close in on Baghdad, old R&B singer Edwin Starr died of a heart attack. This conflict puts the lie to his big ditty War. What is it good for? Getting rid of tyrants, sing it again. War. UMMH. What is it good for? Getting rid of despots, yeah, yeah, yeah. If you have one corrupt regime fighting another, which seemed to be the case to many in Vietnam when Starr’s song went up the charts in 1970, war’s not good for much. I remember the brief China-Vietnam war of 1978, where Howard Baker emoted that he didn’t have a dog in that fight; such wars only add to the bottom lines of the arms dealers and the undertaking industry. Or the florists. My mom works at a flower shop, and funeral work is a big chunk of their business. A big page of obits in the Midland Daily Mistake News will get the Digger O’Dell “Business is look-ing up” shtick going from me. However, sometimes you have good and bad guys and that it’s helpful to be able to resort to violence if that is the only way to improve things. If you’ve got someone holding people captive, you send in a SWAT team. If you’ve got someone holding a people captive, you send in an army. War only makes sense if the good done by going to war overwhelms the damage done by it. So far, the damage to non-military buildings seems to be minimal, as this piece from Den Beste points out; either that or we’ve gotten one heck of a snow job out of Doha. Yusef Sixpack seems to like having Saddam out of his hair. The next step will be rebuilding Iraq. The UN should be kept as far away from running Iraq as possible. A UN presence will make the country less free, less open to Christianity and more statist. I don’t think that democracy will create another Iran; Iraq seems a bit less devout in their Islam than some other places. The US might not build any churches (other than a chapel or two on any bases we have) but we should see the growth of the small Iraqi Christian community as well as new, less traditional churches planted by outside missionaries. A free Iraqi will be free to go to mosque and free not to. Since the Baathists are secular socialists, the transition to a secular government will be easier. Will there be jihadists in a new Iraq? Probably. There are jihadists in the US and we have to keep a discreet lid on them. I think that Iraq is capable of becoming a democracy in fairly short order, giving the rest of the Arab world an alternative to the sheiks and strongmen that they’re used to.

Midday Musings-The AOL news blurb (blogging from my laptop while I defrag my desktop) was titled "Going Downtown." The days of the Baathists seem to be numbered. I'm remembering the reconquest of Earth eposode of Bablyon 5; Dictator/President Clark committed suicide with the words "scorched earth" scralled on his desk. Let's hope that whoever's in charge doesn't do likewise. Interesting Google fun-a collegue wanted to know how to spell Daphne. She thought it ended in "ie," but I typed in "Daphne Shaggy" to see if the Scooby Doo redhead was spelled that way-bingo. Neil Boortz was praising Private Lynch on the way in for letting loose a can-o-whoopin' on the Iraqis before falling; a "Tonya Harding with class and a rifle," IIRC. It was meant as a complement.

Morning Musings-We're closing in on Baghdad, just in time to enjoy a Weekend at Saddam's-"Hussein would be the perfect despot, except for one small thing... he's dead.". "China Allows WHO Into Guangdong"-
"I'm asking you who's getting to look after the SARS cases?" "WHO's investigating." I don't know. Who's making the decision?" "Hu's making the decision. In fact Hu will meet with WHO early next week." "First, I don't know either of the guys, and second, that should be 'who will meet with whom'."
They're in conference on the tax cut plan and the president's package seems to be cut in half. The dividend tax exemption might be gone, but the accelerated rate reductions look like they'll stay in the tax cut package. Not as great for Wall Street, but since I don't earn any dividends, I'll take the rate reductions, thank you. I was about to jump out of my chair when I heard that the airlines were getting another $3 billion, but if this is the form it will take, I can live with it
The Senate proposal gives the airlines a tax holiday for the security fee from April 1 through Sept. 30, reimburses them for specific security measures, extends unemployment insurance for aviation workers and gives airports $375 million.
Other than the extended unemployment, that seems to be merely funding their mandates. It's now official. Matt Doherty got the axe at UNC. This is one of those "you're getting old" moments. When I saw the news of his hiring three years ago, I noted that he was younger than I was and had a lot of gray hair. Out-on-a-limb projection: Roy Williams is Option 1-if he turns them down, look at Illinois' Bill Self or Marquette's (and former MSU assistant) Tom Crean to get the job. There are other big names on that wish list, but a lot of them would either be bad fits or be lateral moves (why would Tubby leave Kentucky?), Self and Crean seem to be class acts that would be worthy successors to Dean Smith and yet have the job be a distinctly upward move.

Edifier du Jour-1 Peter 1:14-16
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."
Not that I thought I had licence to sin, but that's a bit of a wake-up call to get rid of some of my minor infractions. We're all going to screw up on an hourly basis, but our goal is to strive to be holy. One reason to be in regular, ongoing prayer during the day is to remind you that God's in the house and that He is hurt when you do the wrong things. The toxic thought, the desire to go back for seconds when you're trying to watch your weight, the lustfull gaze, need to be brought captive. They'll be a jailbreak from time to time, but we need to do a better job at our Kingdom security. Sending out patrols to capture those bad thoughts and have cells of dicipline and faith to keep the bad thoughts locked up. Or better yet, exiled.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

This Week in Blog History-My first introduction to Miguel Estrada via a NYT piece on stalled nominees. Still stalled a year later. We were in the middle of the Church of the Nativity standoff. April 2nd, 2002 market the 20th anniversary of Argentina invading the Falklands. Phil Donohue's comeback was announced. No tacky comments allowed. The news of Centcom moving to Qatar came out. "Saddam, guess what? Your derriere's grass and we're getting the lawn mower lubed up for the spring." Well, it was the spring, but of 2003. I had a number of good essays on D&D, euthinasia, how to tax employee stock options, Christian libertarianism, multiculturalism and American exceptionalism.

Evening Musings-I remember a candy bar called Chunky with a slogan "Open wide for Chunky." Our family wound up using that phrase when we were widening an opening of a bag or drawer. I had to explain that one to Eileen last night, noting that there was a big candy bar, about the size of a big peppermint pattie, but square and about an inch or more high. I did a Google for the "Open wide..." phrase, and confirmed that I wasn't hallucinating. Such a Google isn't for the faint of heart, for half of the hits were about the candy and half used the phrase in a much more prurient manner. Interesting link. The Media Matters blog page has a link to me. Thanks to whomever sent it in. Dr. Strangelove II-How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Regime Change. Staring Joschka Fischer with Jim Carrey as President Shrub and General Tommy Candid. "Are we there yet?" We've got fifteen miles to go, honey. "I've gotta pee!" See that landmind field over there, kid-there's a potty just behind that hill. We've got a Black Hawk down for real; however, all six on board are dead. 999,999 Mogadishus to go, Dr. De Genova.

Vast Left Wing Keiretsu-Religious Subsidiary?Whacking at the National Council of Churches is often too easy, but this WaTi piece on the financing of anti-war groups was interesting.
But TrueMajority.com, an Internet activism group founded during the summer by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, boasts of its fund-raising prowess. TrueMajority.com says it is bringing in substantial amounts of money thanks to high-profile newspaper ads. These started in November, when 150 members of its related nonprofit corporation, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities Inc., ran a $40,000 antiwar ad in the New York Times. ... TrueMajority.com webmaster Andrew Greenblatt, who has free office space at the National Council of Churches headquarters in uptown Manhattan, says the site brings in several thousand dollars a month.
Hmmm. Here we have an outfit headed up by a couple of rich (and not overly religious, IIRC) hippies getting support from the "mainline" national church group. The NCC is ceasing to be a religious outfit and is quickly moving towards being just another liberal interest group. For those of you who are out of the theological loop, the NCC makes up the left half of the theological spectrum; few, if any, of the NCC members would be considered theologically conservative. What's theologically conservative? I'd take it to be taking the Bible at face value and emphasizing a personal faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Where there are theological divides in a stream of faith, it's the more liberal ones that are in the NCC. The left-leaning ELCA is in, while the more conservative Missouri and Wisconsin Synod Lutherans are out. The Southern Baptists are out while the more centrist American Baptists are in. The center-left Presbyterian Church USA is in while the conservative PCA is out. What these left-of-center denomination agree upon is a more permissive, more statist world view. A lean towards a social gospel approach leans them to the left. As the begin to take the Bible on an a-la-carte basis, it's more politics than theology that binds them. Time to start treating them as yet another liberal special interest group and stop treating them as if they speak for Protestants.

Somebody's Knockin'-"U.S. Forces Poised on Baghdad's Doorstep"-What's on the doormat, folks? "As for me and my house, we will serve Allah"?

Diplomatic Channels-Roy Jacobsen had this goodie yesterday
Crossing Over Department: The newscast I'm listening to has just said that Saddam Hussein will be addressing the Iraqi people sometime during this hour. No mention of whether John Edward would be participating
I know Jesse Jackson will parachute in wherever a camera's running, but why would the Senator from North Carolina want to outflank Howard Dean on the anti-war left? He must be counting on the war going badly. Oops, that's without an "s" at the end. Still, we haven't seen Baath #1 for a while; did they run out of tapes?

What Part of "Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof" Don't You Understand?-The Evanston Vineyard won one in federal court, getting full use of their church building; the zoning rules allowed for cultural events but not religious events. That should have been easy to swat down; the Lamb's Chapel case comes to mind. However, some localities seem to want to give chuches a hard time; liberal college town, anyone?

Homeo Boys-Here's a pair of BBC pieces trying to show where there is no practical value to homeopathic medicines. I remember hearing someone at lunch last week plugging homeopathic stuff and I had to bite my tongue for fear of having a less-than-edifying response. As I understand homeopathic theory, the active ingredients are ultradiluted to one-in-a-million or less amounts. Unless there is some reason that the body responds better to itsy-bitsy amounts of something far better than modest amounts, the effect that you from homeopathic treatments is a placebo effect. That doesn't mean that there isn't an effect, but that the effect is from the recipient getting a good feeling about getting treatment. Thinking you're getting treatment will give a positive attitude that helps the immune system and healing process. The trick for care of things that don't have a good treatment is to find a way to get people into a positive frame of mind without bilking them out of their money. Part of me wants to say that if people pay $10/bottle for water and gets better as a result, then you should let them get conned. If you tell them they're just getting a bottle of water with a round-to-zero amount of the active ingredient, you lose the placebo effect. Not all "alternatve medicine" is suitable for use as crop nutrients. There are some natural remedies that show promise, and acupuncture seems to have some practical effects as well; I remember seeing a Discover magazine piece a few years ago where researchers were looking at the real effects of acupuncture. Also, chiropractic care has some benefit, but nowhere near as much as the hard-core backers claim.

Patriotic Kitsch-This little figurine got Jordon Cooper started on a minirant. Let's take Bene's advice and look at it before we critique Jordan. It's cute. It's got a tot in cammo and helmet with a rifle with the caption "Lord, Bless This Defender of Freedom and Keep Him Safe In Your Hands." In times of war, we have a surge in patriotic kitsch, of which this might be Exhibit A. Patriotic kitsch doesn't dwell on the downsides of the US, it looks at the US as the good guy. It produces flag decals and "God Bless Our Troops" bumper stickers and road side ad signs. It produces a handful of patriotic country songs for each era. It produces kitschy patriotic hardware. Some of us, myself included, have a soft spot for Precious Moments-type kitsch, for those figurines and stuffed animals that are awwwww-inspiring. Other people, who pride themselves on being counter-cultural, will have a reflexive distaste for kitsch. Kitsch is the folk art of the bourgeoisie, snuggly cute and clean and removed from all things dirty, pessimistic and nihilistic. If you’re rebelling against the culture at large, you're rebelling against kitsch. There is a valid Christian argument against some of the more egregiously kitschy stuff, especially some of the more cutsie angelic stuff. Life is full of evil and spiritual warfare, and the universe of kitsch is blissfully unaware of the world's problems. Kitsch tends to sugar-coat things too much. Kitsch can also give a watered-down commitment to goodness that doesn't want to get its hands dirty. Kitsch is preferable to nihilistic realism, but it can lead to a too sheltered world-view. If you're of a liberal counter-cultural bent, you're going to have a double allergy to patriotic kitsch. If you're not an American, patriotic kitsch has the liberal reaching for the antihistamines, and if America is asserting itself around the world as it is now, the liberals are reaching for the inhalers as they gasp for air. Jordon’s grabbing the inhaler in his post.
Don't know what bothers me more, the reinforcement of a "manifest destiny" worldview, the commodification of war and the idea that war is in God's name, or that is a child holding the rifle.
Manifest Destiny-a historic way of talking about American empire. Last time I check, that essentially stopped at the Spanish-American War. We may go to war, but we don't act as an empire. We may not be 100% right, but in the post-Cold War era, we've been acting in the best interest of the regions involved. If Iraq becomes an American colony rather than a functioning democracy, you can redo that phrase. The commodification of war -Got them dead to rights there. Bourgeois kitsch is all about commodifiacation. Child holding the rifle-I don't know much about the Hamilton people, but this seems to be in that Precious Moments motif of children in adult settings. That's part of that shtick.
Here is the description...
No matter where his mission takes him, he'll never be beyond the reach of God's protection. As the brave members of the U.S. military head out to defend our freedom, it's comforting to know that each one is sheltered in the loving hands of God.
The US military is out to protect even Jordon's (who's Canadian) freedom. Is God on our side? I think so, but I think He's looking out after His people, regardless of which side they're on. Even if our soldiers were out on a mission to grab oil for Bush's Texas buddies, God would still be looking after His people. If this picture had a light-skinned child "doctor" helping a child Arab "patient" with some pithy saying about spreading our blessings, I don't think it would have gotten to Jordon quite as much. He's honorably against the war, he's a bit cranky about the heat he's getting and let it rip on a cute figurine.

Red, White and Blue Screen of Death-This piece (via Mr. Simburg) on a special version of Win95 sent to the Iraqis is a hoot; what's funnier is that Microsoft's advertising on the page.

Morning Musings-Was it Vince's financial troubles that doomed the Raptors this year? Air Canada just wrote a new chapter in it's history, Chapter 11; well, not quite, since they're filing for Chapter-11-like bankruptcy protection under Canadian law. Since Air Canada is the big airline in the Great White North, this is a much bigger story from our northern friends. They aren't shutting down, just getting some time to reorganize, often by getting creditors to trade bonds for stock and lessen the interest payment load. That picture of freed Private Lynch looks too much like a Army recruiting picture or a perky assistant in a JAG episode. I hope that she wasn't badly abused in her stay, but somehow I think the captors were in the "kill the men and 'enjoy' the women" mode, since all the other male missing troops were killed. In this day and age, Radio Free [fill in region] isn't enough, so the US is looking to start a "Middle East Television Network." If they can avoid making it too scrubbed-down like a lot of VOA stuff, it might be a competitor to al-Jazeera. On a comparable front, Tom Friedman is coming around to the idea that the Iraq war is destabilizing, but rephrases it as revolutionary. He's not fully sold on it, as he notes how the al-Jazeera viewers is "better misinformed than you think." However, he's got one foot on the steps of the "destability is not a bug but a feature" bus.

Edifier du Jour-Deuteronomy 31:3-6(NASB)
3: "It is the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the LORD has spoken. 4: "The LORD will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when He destroyed them. 5: "The LORD will deliver them up before you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you. 6: "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you."
God's our advance man and no president or rock band got everything set up any better. We may not be pulling out swords and bows, but God is working on the people that we'll be dealing with during the days and weeks to come. It things wind up setting up "just right" in our daily endevours, remember that if it's important, it isn't luck but God laying things out for you. I'm not going to discount the possibility that there is some randomness in the universe, but it is a randomness that God allows. To twist the old Einstein phrase, God may well play dice with the universe, but He can also play with loaded dice if He wants to. He can turn a stochastic variable into a constant if He so chooses. Thus, I try not to give the salutation "Good luck" for if it matters, it's not luck, it's God.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Beachhead of the Iraqi Revival-Keep an eye on this issue; as the war starts to wind down, we'll see a lot of NGOs in to help out, including some evangelical ones. Not everyone's happy to see this, especially our friend Mr. Hooper (defiantly not from Sesame Street) from CAIR-"I think it's a colossally bad move to have a group whose leader says Islam is 'evil' follow in the wake of U.S. troops in Iraq[.]" Bad move for Islam since they don't want the competition. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse outfit and the reliably un-PC Southern Baptists are looking to help out the Iraqis materially and spread the Gospel while there at it. If you can help someone when they need it the most, it may speak well of your faith. However, people are the most willing to look at changing their paradigms when their backs are to the wall, and such aid ministries do bare fruit. Mr. Hooper again-"They go after them when they’re most vulnerable and hope they can get them to leave their faith. It’s a very despicable practice.” Oh, and Islamic groups will give up their prison ministries and outreaches to the poor like the one in Tampa this weekend? Expect many liberals, as laid out in the Chrisitanity Today write-up, to oppose such evangelical efforts. The fans of multiculturalism don't want another culture rolled back by evangelical Christianity.

Midday Musings-Regular Blogger publishing's still down; is this a ploy to get people to round up to the still-functioning Pro? Saddam might be like the Monty Python parrot-he's not dead, he's only sleeping and getting someone to read his speech for him. It looks like we've got a Havana-Key West route running on a regular basis; two hijackings in the last two weeks. Back in the 70s, people hijacked planes to Cuba. The British tab The Daily Mirror picked up Pee-tah who is "still in shock and awe at being fired." Who says that campaign didn't work?

April Fools Jokes in the Blogosphere-The greatest spoof in the young history of the blogosphere is Bjorn Staerk's spoof of last year, turning his blog into a Marxist mouthpiece. He's got a first anaversary edition up today. The other classic from last year was The Register's story of AOL's takeover of a number of major blogs, including Instapundit and USS Clueless. Alan Henderson has a report earlier today of Geraldo going rogue in Iraq-"I have everything I need to cover the war: a laptop, a cell phone, a digital camera, and five months worth of granola bars. I won't have any problems getting around or keeping out of the Army's sight. A dark-haired guy with a mustache blends in quite well in these parts." Had this not been 4-1-03, I'd have almost bought that one.

Morning Musings-If you followed the link on the previous item, you got a link to the best April Fools Day scam in literary history, George Plimpton's "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch" from the April 1, 1985 SI. Sidd was an English Buddhist monk who had a 160-MPH fastball that was in the Mets training camp 18 years ago, or so the story said. The first letters of the beginning paragraph from an acrostic of "Happy April Fools Day" The Iraqi Olympic Committee HQ was bombed-no war atrocity here. for Odai Hussein was in charge and had torture chambers in the joint. Former Iraqi athletes have documented the tortures that were given to underperforming athletes under Odai that sounded like something Caligula would have blanched at. Name's Bombed, James Bombed
Crackling over the British communication equipment come references to "Operation James" and its military targets, code-named "Goldfinger," "Blofeld" and "Connery."
No, no, no. Connery's the quintessential Bond, he's not one of the evil geniuses, unless you want to grill him over his Scottish nationalism More bad news on the SARS front. It seems to be hitting Toronto hard with 30 new cases reported yesterday and Hong Kong has quarentined an apartment complex with 200 cases. Bene Diction is the SARS Czar of the Blogosphere, check there for regular updates.

Saddam's Road to Damascus-Let's start out the morning with a DEKBA report that after two weeks of bombing, Saddam has had a vision from God to convert to Chrisitanity and to surrender himself to coalition authorities. The report goes on to talk about Saddam sneaking out of Baghdad towards Mosul in order to get away from any henchmen who might kill him before he can defect. Of course, we need to take DEKBA reports with a grain of salt.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 53:1-3(NASB)
1 The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God," They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good. 2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God. 3 Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.
The communists would have been more accurate making April 1 (rather than May 1) their big day of celebration, for it is a fool that turns his back on God. We all turn our back on Him from time to time, but it is the true fool that ignores him completely. Outside of God, we're bad influences on one another. How do we avoid playing the fool? By seeking after God. If the fool denies God, the wise man seeks him. Proverbs 9:10 says it well- "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

Monday, March 31, 2003

Midday Musings-This is the first day back from spring break and the young'ens are having a little trouble hitting the fastball. The conference last week seems to have helped my confidence as a teacher, as I had the best pair of lectures that I can recall. At lunch I got to get a little belated rubbing-in at Dr. White's expense over the Florida-MSU game last weekend; he already got it rubbed in by some Michigander snowbirds in his Sunday school class. It wasn't the best day for the cafeteria; the school president came in behind me
President Hall-"What's in the Mexican casserole?" Cafeteria staffer-"Try the meatloaf instead"
Not a good sign when the help is steering you away from an item. It was a good day for the soup and sandwich bar. To be fair, the cafeteria does a good job, but they'll occasionally go 0/2 on the main entrees. I was talking about regulating monopolies in my Micro class today, and I used the example of Canadian pharmacutical pricing, where the government sets a price just above marginal cost. If everyone did that, companies wouldn't be able to recoup their R&D costs and research would dry up, sticking the government with the cost of research and making every new possible drug a political football. I've seen a couple of Canadian drug outlet stores set up shop in Polk County (I saw one in Winter Haven and one in Lakeland) and wonder if the reimportation of Canadian drugs will do in the cheap prices. If the drug companies are losing more profits from reimportation than they're gaining from selling to Canada, they might just tell the Canucks to do an unnatural act with themselves. Megan McArdell had a good piece on this last year that I just reread. Lord, this one pinned the claudometer so bad, shrapnel from the machinery is flying all over the office-
Pakistan, a key partner in the U.S.-led war on terror, will declare Al Qaeda a terrorist organization so it can prosecute low-level followers of the group, the interior minister said Monday.
They're a terrorist group? How do you say "Brilliant deduction, Watson!" in Urdu?

Don't Let the Door Hit Ya Where the Lord Split Ya-Andrew can add this to his "Nuanced Objectivity Watch"-NBC fired "top journalist" Pee-tah Arnett. The BBC people waited until the last two paragraphs to mention the Tailwind fiasco of 1998 and didn't talk about Pee-tah losing a lot of credibility by being too cozy with the Baathists back in the first Gulf War. I don't think anyone outside of the Paleoeuropean mindset concidered him a top journalist after the Baby Milk Factory incident.

How'wedoin?-Not bad, all things considered. Senor Gil has a worth-considering piece on groupthink, tangentially comparing Iraq to the Bay of Pigs. There might have been a bit of optimism about how various factions in Iraq would react, but the comparison is a bit lame. The somewhat fair comparison is that the Iraqis weren't sufficiently shocked and awed in surrendering and that the Cuban people didn't rise up in 1961 to support the invasion. Where the two situations differ is that we have the tools to do the job today and we didn't in 1961. The relatively motley assortment of Cuban ex-pats that landed in the Bay of Pigs were quickly wiped out by the Cuban military and lacked sufficient US back-up. Had they run the Bay of Pigs like we ran Afghanistan, giving the exiles all the air support they needed and a little Special Forces help, it might have worked. Not having enough firepower isn't the question here; the only question is how quickly and how messy the victory is going to be. Shock and Awe didn't work as well as advertised, but it may well have been oversold. Den Beste points out that the criticism stems from the US not covering the point spread; a lot of press was devoted to how quick this war might be, but the Iraqis are a notch tougher than planned. His closing note is that "There is no point spread in war"; Nebraska might only beat Directional State by 24 in their opener when they're supposed to win by 48, but they still win. That being said, we've done well in the first ten days. We've got the southern half of the country close to under control. We're about to have Baghdad surrounded. We have air supremacy. The Scuds have done minimal damage and none have headed to Israel. The job isn't done, but we're up three touchdowns in the second quarter. We're running out of things to talk about for the moment on the macro level, for we're at a lull that's a bit reminiscent of trench warfare. However, we've got a lot of airpower bombing the crap out of the Iraqi side while they have the occasional autoboomer or guerilla attack against our supply lines. This is the apply industrial-strength can-o-whuppin’ to the Republican Guards phase and the punditry will have to be low-key due to a lack of information. Suman Palit and Punditwatch seem to be on that same page.

Both Sides of a One-Sided Story-Peter Sean Bradley has a piece on Pee-tah Arnett's reportage
Obviously, Arnett's statements are not accidental. It is not a coincidence that he has been given unusually broad freedom by the Iraqi government. The other thing you have to wonder about is why Arnett has not had a "road to Damascus" experience like so many other naive leftists have had. Is he talking to average Iraqis? If not, why not?
It's usually a road to Amman experience that these leftist have had, for that's the typical exit route from Iraq, via Jordan and not Syria. Once you've outlived your usefulness to the Baathists, you're homeward bound with a fresh taste of the reality of evil that is in Baghdad. It takes liberals, especially secular ones, longer for the concept of evil to sink in. Oh, you're talking about Paul's conversion? God hasn't hit Pee-tah over the head with a 2-by-4 yet. Saul was dedicated to rooting out the Christians, while Pee-tah and other capital-J Journalists are dedicated to covering both sides of the story. These Journalists have a higher calling that transcends religion and transcends nationality; they cover both sides of the story in route to the truth. However, Journalists have a few blind spots. Most are so jaded by spin that they assume that each side spins equally. If you set up a press-tachometer, you might get a reading of 30 RPM (leaving out classified and occasionally some embarrassing facts) out of Centcom in Doha and 400 RPM (180-proof propaganda with only a passing relationship to the truth) in Baghdad's information ministry. To the Journalist, that means that both sides are spinning, both sides are less-than-forthright, and both presentations are to be given equal weight. A good Journalist must cover both sides of the story equally with few exceptions; the environment is one of the few areas where only one side is allowed. If there is a terrorist action, the politics, psychology and socioeconomics of the insurgents must be considered. If you are doing a piece on heroin, the plight of the junkie must be given a fair shot. If you cover pedophiles, the arbitrary nature of the age of majority must be fully explored. In Iraq, the undiluted spin put on by the Information Ministry (woe to the country who has such a beast) get reported in full without mentioning how little relation the piece has to the truth. If they were to accurately report that the Iraqi statement is suitable for use as a crop nutrient they would be packing their satellite phones and have a Road to Annan moment. Not wanting such to happen, the Journalist will present the steaming pile from the Information Ministry as-is with a bare minimum of adornment. Some Journalists might do so out of career advancement, wanting to be the Man In Baghdad like Pee-tah was in the first go-round. Others might truly buy into the moral equivalence and think that the spin is equal on both sides. Either way, they're either unwilling or unable to recognize that one side has the superior argument, for they're required as Journalist to take both sides of a one-sided story.

Morning Musings-Sad days for Spartan fans-MSU didn't have enough to get past Texas yesterday. However, one of my blog buddies is happy. We use whiteboards and erasable ink in the classroom these days, but we'll grab some Rock Chalk for next weekend. They're bombing the heck out of Baghdad; at least the military and leadership targets. Remember that it took three weeks of softening up before we went in last time. Good sign for the East-the Pistons managed to beat the Kings. At the Palace, but still a step in the right direction. Good chuckler from Steve White over at Rantburg as he fisks Belgium's PM Verhofstadt
"America, a power deeply injured, and has become very dangerous, and it thinks to take over the whole Arab world," Belgian RTL TV quoted him saying. He said the US regards the Arab world responsible for all terrorism. Well not all of it, but it sures to be a growth industry there. "This is a logic which I do not share," he said. It's not clear you share any logic. Okay, obvious cheap shot, but this is Rantburg.
Steve upholds the grand Fred Pruitt tradition of yellow journalism (done in blue here since I have a yellow background)

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 6:8-10
8 "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. 9 "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
That's another one of those scary prayers that Pastor Dave focused on yesterday. How does God do his kingdom work? Mostly through people, including you. Are you ready to do the things He's going to ask you to do to advance His kingdom? Not as much as we'd like to admit. The kingdom isn't as well established as it will be for the fact that God's using fallen creatures to bring it about. Things will go faster when He returns in the flesh, but He's left with us for now.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 119:97-105(NASB)
97 O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Your precepts. 101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word. 102 I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, For You Yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
This is one of those scary passage where you have to admit you don't have the zeal of the reader. Do I meditate on the Word all day long? No. Have I restrained my feet from every evil way? Maybe, but it's my eyes, ears and mouth (and occasionally keyboard and mouse fingers) that get me in trouble. However, the more we get into the Word, the more likely we are to be following what it says. We'll be wiser than out elders, assuming our elders aren't in the word as much as us. By getting a handle on truth, we'll better see evil.

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