Saturday, May 03, 2003

Edifier du Jour:Judges 17:6-11 (NASB)
6: In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. 7: Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite; and he was staying there. 8: Then the man departed from the city, from Bethlehem in Judah, to stay wherever he might find a place; and as he made his journey, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. 9: Micah said to him, "Where do you come from?" And he said to him, "I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to stay wherever I may find a place." 10: Micah then said to him, "Dwell with me and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a suit of clothes, and your maintenance." So the Levite went in. 11: The Levite agreed to live with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons.
Verse 6, a common refrain in Judges, points out the libertarian dystopia that was their era; everybody did their own thing, made up their own moral code. I read this piece from Jeffrey Collins a bit earlier this morning (3:55AM?-I'm praying for something in your life that's got you up then, Jeff), and he reminds us that democracy isn't the only thing that is needed for a good government, as pure democracy is mob rule. If we collectively ignore our responsibilities to God, the democracy that results will ignore our responsibilities to our fellow man. Micah's patch of Israel was so barren of godly instruction that he hired himself a house priest. Some days, the US feels almost as barren. However, we don't have to hire a personal priest out; we typically will have a good church to attach ourselves to and the Holy Spirit to guide us. I'm reminded of Chuck Colson's prologue to Steven Curtis Chapman's Heaven in the Real World
Where is the hope? I meet millions who tell me that they feel demoralized by the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us have is not in who governs us, or what laws are passed, or what great things that we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people, and that’s where our hope is in this country; that’s where our hope is in life."
Not that having a good and godly government isn't important, but a good and godly government can only stem from good and godly people. Such people are those who know God, who understand Him and worship Jesus as Lord and Savior. Getting people there isn't the government's job, it's the Church's job. Laws can point people away from some sinful behavior, but they can't change the core of a person's heart. National Days of Prayer will tend to focus us too much on our governments and too little on basic evangelism and discipleship; the ecumenical nature of the day will tend to downplay the need for us to help transform ourselves and our fellow man. POTUS #2 John Adams said that "Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other." I also remember the Ben Franklin line when he was asked what the constitution convention had created; "A republic, if you can keep it." If we keep evangelizing and discipling, we have a shot at keeping the republic.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Evening Musings-I saw a piece on the Inferfaith movement (The NCC with Muslim and Reform Jewish help) wanting to have the US out of Iraq and was tempted to give both barrels, but the MCJ, scorge of liberal Protestants, gives them a fisking for me, also trashing them for not understanding that the Catholics ain't gonna give up transubstantiation. Today was the last day of classes; finals are Monday and Tuesday. "What do I have have to do to get an A for the course?" Do well on the final. Duh. Other question I don't want to hear for at least eight months-"Is that going to be on the final?" However, we did have a nice dinner for the graduating business seniors this evening, getting to see the first half of the Detroit-Orlando game before the party petered out, ticking off Dr. Wiseman for enthusiasticly cheering for the Pistons as they turned on the jets in the first quarter; Detroit's hanging on to a 10 point lead as we go to press. This is interesting; al Qaeda was looking to have a 9-11 style plane-crashing at the US embasy in Karachi, except with a small private plane rather than a passanger jet. If that's the best they can do after we unleash a big can of whuppin' on Iraq, we're ahead of the game. The other interesting thing is Powell heading to Damascus, giving Bashir Assad the terms of Syria's double secret probation. That after getting a dig in with the Paleoeuropeans by getting a ICC-protection accord signed with the Albanians. And this is the good cop? Not bad. How about this for a claudometer-pinner-"Dems Mine Hollywood for Donations." Unfortunatly, it's not a fossil fuel.

McCain-Feingold 2002-2003 RIP
The case is finally heading to the Supreme Court-the appealate court struck down a big hunk of the rules, including corporate and union giving to political groups and restrictions on advertisements near an election. This is one that Sandra can support, so expect the old rules to be back in play by the fall.

Hubristic or Just Cocky?-I didn't get to see the video of the President's speech, but the text seems to hit most of the right tone. The one nit-pick I'd have done to the speech was to move up recognition of the Brits and Aussies into the sentence were he said "Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment yet it is you, the members of the United States military, who achieved it." The one nit-pick that seems to be common, including Dr. Reynolds was that the use of the aircraft carrier with a Navy One touchdown with Dubya at the wheel was laying it on a bit thick- "The whole leader-who-flies-jets thing seems, somehow, Third World to me." It does have a bit of Alpha Male BSD show to it, but let's remember that most Third-World leaders don't have aircraft carriers to land their planes on (India would be about the only one I can think of with full-fledged carriers; the Peanut Gallery can remind me of others) and that 90,000 tons of diplomacy was used as a prop to send a message that the thugs around the world would easily get-"Coming soon to a despot near you!" The speech itself is ambitious. The dead-tree newspaper headline I saw at lunch referred to it as the unofficial kickoff of the 2004 reelection campaign, but there is a bigger campaign that beating Kerry, Lieberman or Dean next year-
Our war against terror is proceeding according to principles that I have made clear to all: Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice. Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist crimes. Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups, and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction, is a grave danger to the civilized world, and will be confronted. And anyone in the world, including the Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States. Our commitment to liberty is America's tradition -- declared at our founding, affirmed in Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms, asserted in the Truman Doctrine, and in Ronald Reagan's challenge to an evil empire. We are committed to freedom in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in a peaceful Palestine. The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world.
Dubya’s just getting warmed up; the war against radical Islam is still going and won't end anytime soon. It's a war with combatants without uniforms and targets without borders; the British autoboomers in Israel is a chilling reminder of the global scope of the conflict. Andrew Sullivan's comments were-how do I put this politely?-provocative
But I agree with Glenn Reynolds that the whole backdrop, including the fighter-pilot entrance, was - how do I put this politely? - hubristic. It's one thing to arrange a beautiful and moving photo-op to commemmorate an historic event, as Reagan did so masterfully at Normandy. It's another thing to mark the end of a liberation by addressing the military and the nation at the same time.
Hubristic. "Sufficiently arrogant as to be asking for trouble" would be how I would translate hubris; "wanton insolence or arrogance resulting from excessive pride or from passion" is what my office dictionary has. I'm often associate a word in the context in which I learned it; I thought a "categorical" denial was one that was false and pro-forma since there were a lot of "categorical denials" of stuff in the Watergate era. I learned hubris in high school Western Lit as what would get the tragic Greek heroes in trouble; hero gets cocky, god does number on hero. However, I'm reminded of the old sports aphorism, "It ain't bragging if you can back it up." The US has been able to back it up in Afghanistan and Iraq. If anyone gets the hubris prize, it seems to be the paleoeuropeans; I can't think of a better place to hang the label "wanton insolence" than the Chirac administration. My Western Lit version of hubris has the hero getting too big for their britches, and the US has the resources to back up most desires it might have. The one place where the charge can get laid is in the Bush administration's willingness to give the middle-digit salute to the paleoeuropeans when needed-"Who does he think he is to turn his back on the UN?" He's a Champion of Freedom®, that's who he is. He's going to confront tyrants rather than try to start the umpteenth round of diplomatic negotiations. That's going to look arrogant to liberals and paleoconservatives, who tend to have a more pessimistic view of the US and the world. Dubya’s team are optimists, the true progressives. I think back to the old Bobby Kennedy saying-"Some people look at what is and say 'Why?' I look at what could be and ask 'Why not?'" Rather than explaining and tolerating the bad things around the world, this bunch is going to try and do something more that financing another overpriced factory or another corruption-ladened anti-poverty project, looking to get rid of the despots. Mullah Omar and Saddam were just the first two stops on the tour. I'm not sure what the third stop will be, but there are plenty of candidates. I'll echo Josh's comments, it's not cocky, it's cool.

Edifier du Jour-John 14:2-6(NASB)
2 "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 "And you know the way where I am going." 5 Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Coming to the Father through Jesus' blood, clearing the way for taint-free fellowship with God. That's as politically incorrect a statement as the Bible says, for it shoots down a number of arguments, especially universalist ones. Jesus is the gatekeeper and there isn't a back door. However, he's not just the gatekeeper, but the innkeeper. There may have been no room at the inn where He was born, but there's plenty of room at His digs. He is preparing our room, but my innkeeper analogy is a bit off, for we're not heading to Heaven for a visit but an eternal stay; the room preperation is more like a mom getting the adult child's room ready when they're returning home. However, even that analogy doesn't work, since the friction of living under your parent's roof won't be there with God.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Midday Musings-The British are probably a bit nervous to see that the latest autoboomer in front of Mike's Place in Tel Aviv was a British Muslim and that a second would-be autoboomer (the second recorded veteran suicide bomber (here's the first)-his belt didn't go off) was British Muslim as well. That makes the idea the Muslims in western countries are more civilized than the nasty Arab Street rather questionable I was looking to clean something in the bathroom the other day and Eileen had moved the Kaboom bathroom cleaner, promting me to do my Marvin the Martian "What happened to the 'kaboom?' There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering 'kaboom!'" Our veteran suicide bomber must of asked the same thing. The Democrats are at it again, filibustering Pricilla Owen's nomination. This should be a campaign issue next year, for the policy of the Senate Democrats seem to be to oppose any nominee that is significantly conservative, especially if they are nominated an appellate court position. In the past, nominees that had nothing wrong with them other than being ideologically representative of the president got nominated; if someone was pointedly ideological, it might be 70-30 or so. Now, any Bush appellate nominee seems to be fair game for a filibuster. That's something that needs to be brought to bear on all Senate races, especially those in "Red" states. He's got a fool for a client, but Al-Arian's lawyers had a fool for a client as well, until he fired them. This could turn out to be some bad theater a la Colin Ferguson. However, Al-Arian's imitation of a Hamas lawyer might be better than Howard Dean's imitation of Jean Chretien; he's launching a universal health care plan that puts all youth from 23 down on Medicaid and promises "public-private partnerships, vouchers and tax breaks." That's a good imitation, but you need a little extra Novocain to duplicate the nerve damage, the arrogance needs to be doubled and any recognition of free markets need to be stripped.

Green Mountain Girly-Boy-I don't think Howard Dean will get the Democratic nomination, but in May of 1971, most pundits didn't think George McGovern would get the Democratic nomination, either. However, if lightning does strike and Dean jimmies his way into the nomination, the quote that conservatives will ram down Dean's throat will be this gem-“We have to take a different approach (to diplomacy). We won’t always have the strongest military.” I looked at that issue a year ago; the EU isn't going to have the economy to support both the social spending they love and a big military and keep up with US growth rates. China and India would be the country most likely to do so, but that will be well after Gov. Dean has assumed ambient temperature, if ever. The only way I could see someone else becoming a greater military power is if we let them by severely cranking back our military spending, which may well be what Dean wants. The defeatist attitude of Dean is something that the Republicans can exploit; Democrats would have to run away from Dean or have the peacenik label attached to them.

Morning Musings-Expect a bit more free ice cream as the Spring term is starting to come to a close; my Thursday and Friday classes are review sessions, so I don't have a lot of prepping to do. I'll have a lot of flextime during the summer, but I'll still be busy. I have two classes to teach in June and a mid-July-through-August MBA class as well. On top of that, Eileen and I have a couple of trips planned for the summer, heading to Michigan and Illinois in early July and to Richmond in late May. Speaking of the end of classes, I was remembering the last Friday of classes at CMU; they had a custom called Gentle Friday, where a fair atmosphere pervaided the old pre-WWII part of campus and "Live music, free food and merchandise, and various games are offered," as the CMU web site states. My memories go back two decades to the early 80s, but the tradition still is going on. The other CMU memory (more from the news than as a participant) was of the big megakegger that would happen in the "Student Ghetto" (as my Urban Politics prof called it) just north of campus where some big older homes are commonly converted into student housing. The Friday of Spring term finals week was the annual holding of the "End of the World" party where a five-block-square area turned into one big party. Shortly after I graduated (~1984) they had a overly rowdy version that had just about every cop and sheriff's deputy from a 30-mile radius of Mt. Pleasant helping calm down a riot and generating nearly 100 arrests; legend has it that they asked for National Guard help and were turned down.

Edifier du Jour-John 14:7-13(NASB)
7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." 8 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
In the past, I'd likened the Trinity to an partitioned hard-drive of infinite size, each of the three partitions being of infinite size themselves and cut of the same cloth (sorry for the mixed metaphor), yet there are parts of one that aren't parts of the other. I'm going to change that simile a bit and include a common area on the metaphysical server where everybody in the network is equally at home. I don't understand the quantum metaphysics that allows two beings to cohabit the same space, yet we're left to assume that it is so. The spiritual dimension isn't like our normal four-dimensional world; time and space are less of an issue. Thus, two or more beings can cohabit in a piece of spiritual space. I'm not sure what this celestial mind meld looks and acts like, but a common database on my metaphorical server will allow Jesus and the Father to be on the same page and for part of the Father to show through into the brick-and-mortal realm.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Pomos and Moonies and Bears, Oh My!-At dinner, I heard an interesting story that Eileen heard on Moody Radio's Prime Time America show on the way home this afternoon describe a Easter Sunday movement to take down the crosses in churches and replace them with crowns and that it had something to do with Rev. Moon. A Google for "down easter Moon cross" found this site describing the Moonie call, a project titled "Tear Down the Walls" What I was able to find via some further Googling was a site from an organization called the American Clergy Leadership Council (ACLC). Here's a cached Google page describing a March conference on the subject. A quick look at the speakers showed a majority-black population of Pentecostal-leaning pastors; “not that there’s a problem with that” but that stuck out. Turns out that the ACLC is a Moonie front organization that got a lot of black pastor friends when they helped sponsor Farrakhan’s "Million Family March" back in 2000; the link is from (of all places) Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Moon shows up on their radar since the Unification Church has been a big player in conservative circles, running the Washington Times and trying to make friends with religious conservatives of various theologies. This time, he's playing to the left, or at least black, side of the street. Quite a few people who looked at the ACLC as a legit parachurch group left; others were given the left foot of disfellowship for associating with Moon. Moon and the ACLC made some noise in 2001 with a national tour; here's a piece on a couple of Detroit pastors who were listed as sponcers without their permission. However, it seems that the ACLC has been largely out of the news lately, a Google News search came up empty. One of the things that bothered me is about the crosses-crowns swap is that it plays to both a seeker-friendly ear and to the Positive Confession school within some Pentecostal circles. Why emphasize pain and suffering when we can celebrate his resurrection and our salvation? That could encourage a anti-cross meme that could leak out of the ACLC bunch and into the broader Pentecostal/charismatic movement. Now, let me bring in the post-modern angle in. I've been reading a bit about postmodern (pomo to the cognoscenti) Christian thought; start with this Lee Anne Millinger piece and the Rachel Cunliffe piece and follow the links. As I understand the pomos, they tend to emphasize experience and relationship more than logic. This makes them more likely to respond to a charismatic approach; the emphasis on a personal relationship with both Jesus and the Holy Spirit coupled with modern music would more likely appeal to pomos more than staid and "rational" churches. I'm not comfortable with an overly-experiential framework; the Word and the Spirit need to work in tandem. A good grounding in scripture can help you steer clear of false prophecy and false teaching, for when you start to emphasize personal prophetic revelation, a lot of bad theology can be cooked up. Pomos are more likely to be mostly Spirit and not much Word and could be more likely to be swayed by bad theology. What the ACLC is cooking up is bad theology. I don't know if this ACLC/Moonie move is going anywhere, but if you do away with the cross, you're doing away with the emblem of Jesus dying for our sins, being the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Ignoring that also ignores our sin nature that needs a savior. If we don't need a savior for our sins, we're heading towards universalist thought, or (as the Moonies are shooting for) putting down the cross as Jesus' option B when marriage was the better option A. If pomos are going to respond to charismatic circles and a cross-downplaying meme starts creeping into the charismatic culture, a lack of sound systematic theology might catch some people off-guard. I'm not sure how you can inculcate a respect for the Bible as the Christian's constitution in people who are raised to reject absolutes. We might start by showing them how it's in their best interest to follow what it says, since it works to keep us out of trouble.

Reductio Ad Adsurdum-Ben Domenech pointed out a pernicious quote from a Jonathan Weisman Wapo article on Bush's tax cut. The article is skeptical of the stimulative effect of further tax cuts and
"Some members of Congress support tax relief but say my proposal is too big," Bush said in his Saturday radio address. "Since they already agree that tax relief creates jobs, it doesn't make sense to provide less tax relief and, therefore, create fewer jobs."
Weisman then cites this denizen of academe
But few economists would argue that tax policy is so straightforward. Taken to its extreme, Joel Slemrod, a tax economist at the University of Michigan, said that Bush's argument would support eliminating taxes altogether for the sake of job creation. "Logically, the statement that more tax cuts are better is certainly wrong," Slemrod said.
Dr. Slemrod is working on a reductio ad adsurdum strawman. If we did have a zero income tax rate, we'd likely not have enough revenue to run the needed functions of the federal government, unless we substituted some other revenue source. Such a minimalist government might lead to more anarchy than is helpful and harm the economy. However, we're not talking about scrapping the income tax entirely, but marginal tax cuts from the current levels. Such tax cuts would have a stimulative effect on investment and a related stimulative effect on job creation. A tax cut will have some people decide not to work, taking some moms, retirees and students off the payroll from the income effect of a tax cut. However, other people will be encouraged to work harder given higher take-home pay from extra hours worked. If you look in the longer term, a tax cut will encourage investment, both by giving people more money to invest and by making the after-tax returns on investments more rewarding. That should increase investment; if it increases investment more than the amount of the tax cut, it will add to private-sector investment, which will create new jobs. Once the new businesses, plants and equipment are built, someone will have to staff them. The big question in my mind would be whether investment would go up enough to cover the deficit needed to finance them. If not, then job growth might not be that great and might be negative due to the crowding-out effect. However, if the combination of higher incomes and higher return on investment should add more investment than the dollar amount of the tax cut, then you'd have more investment and eventually more employment. Not "certainly wrong" Dr. Slemrod. "Probably wrong" I could see, coming from a Harvard Ph.D. However, it's a wee bit of hubris to conjure up "certainly wrong." He may be right, but I'm not certainly wrong.

Edifier du Jour-Luke 4:16-21(NASB)
16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." 20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
For those of use who are well-off Blogospherians who aren't poor, captive, blind or Help! Help! I'm being oppressed, what does this passage offer other than ammunition for "progressives" to proof-text their cause? Well, check out verse 19, the favorable year of the Lord, a.k.a. the Jubilee. There, all debts were cancelled and property that had been sold returned to its original family. There's a bigger debt involved here; our debt to God for all our sins. In the Mosaic system, only interest was paid, in the form of ongoing animal and grain sacrifices. Jesus had come to pay the principle and set us free from that debt of sin, freeing us from the installment plan. And before we all get too cocky about verse 18, many, if not most, of us are poor in spirit, captive to sin, blind to God's will and oppressed by the corruptions of the world. We might be materially well-off, but we're blue-collar working-stiffs at best in the spiritual realm when compared to the riches that await us.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Bubble-Gum Ma-sheen Gone n' Hit the Jackpot-The big brokerages setted for $1.4 billion in fines for their long-standing buy-side bias on stock analysis; New York AG Elliot Spitzer just got his big case in his portfolio to move up to governor or mayor.
The brokerage firms will have to sever the troublesome links between financial analysts' research and investment banking, pay a total $432.5 million over five years for independent stock research for their customers and fund an $80 million investor education program. A fund of $387.5 million will be set up to compensate customers of the ten firms; $487.5 million in fines will go to states according to their population.
A few questions come to mind. 1) Why do the states get more than the people actually harmed? Spitzer can brag about bringing about $30 million or so for New York. 2) Who gets to supervise the "investor education programs?" Will they be allies of Spitzer? Campaign contributers, perhaps? Will the programs be politically neutral, or have a political agenda? 3) Who gets to run the "independent" stock research department? It would likely be people untainted by positions in the bad old brokerage firms, leaning things towards more liberal watchdog groups. This could easily be fully on the up-and-up, but keep an eye on who gets the money and the power in this settlement.

Yeah, Whaddya Gonna Do About It!-My office desktop's acting up this morning, so I turned over to my laptop and AOL-no, I'm not an AOL fan, but my laptop came with a free year. They had a unscientific poll of their French, German and British members on how they would describe the US; the results-
France Germany UK
Arrogant Superpower 77 68 46
Well intentioned but too impatient 14 17 29
Champion of Freedom® 9 15 25
Yes, it's unsceintific and slanted to give the PC answer, but we got the British in our corner. How about all of the above? We're arrogant, we're well intentioned, we're too impatient by European standards and we are the Champion of Freedom® .

Taxes, Sodomy and the Commonweal-That sounds like a disjointed premise, but let me tie things together. When we pass laws, ideally we are passing them in order to make a better country, to improve the collective well-being of the country. The two-dollar word for "collective well-being" is commonweal. On taxes, we're shooting for a tax package (and the commensurate level of spending that results) that will maximize the commonweal. Josh asked yesterday whether the Bush tax cut "may go too far." That depends on whether the tax cuts will increase or diminish the commonweal. Tax cuts will encourage more investments by both giving people more take-home pay to invest and to increase the after-tax income on investments. As I explored yesterday, it's likely that the lower tax rates will offset the crowding-out effect of a higher real interest rate due to increase competition by the government for investment money; in fact, it might create more private-sector investment as well, helping to grow the economy down the line, increasing income and decreasing the deficits in the future. However, that only addresses the investment side of the equation. In the short term, you won't see a huge income increase from the tax cut, for there are two effects of a tax cut, an income effect and a substitution effect. The income effect means that people can afford to work less with a lower tax burden; students might opt to go to summer school, moms might opt to stay at home more, and seniors might opt to retire sooner. The substitution effect means that an extra hour of work brings in more take-home-pay than before, making leisure (or at least uncompensated time; that would include schooling and housework) more expensive. Given that it's easier for most people to work less than work more , I'd expect the income effect to be dominant. If you combine the empowering aspect of the tax cut, allowing the people who want to work hard to enjoy more of the fruits of their labor and the people who want to get away from the workplace the option to do so, that might offset the loss of government programs now and in the future that the deficits needed to finance the cuts will cost. It should grow the economy economically by increased investment and grow the commonweal by giving families the option of having fewer hours in the workplace. Is that tax cut too much? If you add the extra benefit of putting a collar on future government spending which generally seems to be net bogon-producers, I don't think so. It encourages investment, hard work for those who can work harder on a marginal basis and the option of staying away from work for people who have good uses for that uncompensated time and makes the big-government folks job that much harder. "What about the sodomy stuff?" Since that's a topic in play these days, I felt it was a good time to look at a general philosophy of governance. Our goal should be to increase the commonweal. In general, government intervention is a net minus unless the action is to either stop something that's clearly disruptive to the commonweal or to promote something that is clearly conducive to the commonweal. Are laws against consensual sexual acts in our best interest? If the acts are clearly disruptive to the commonweal, yes. Three categories come quickly to mind-sodomy, incest and prostitution. We can start with the concept that they're sinful, but we need to make a better case to make a law against something, since most people need more than a Bible verse to make a decision. Prostitution tends to have a lot of externalities of damaged lives, both for the prostitute and for the johns. It carries STDs including AIDS, and tends to disrupt healthy marital sexuality and destroy families. Prostitution is often a marker of bigger problems in the prostitute's life; for every woman (I'll leave the male ones out for the moment) who made a "shrewd career decision" (the Jamie Lee Curtis character in Trading Places comes to mind), you have many more with badly dysfunctional lives. Incest is another one that doesn't add to the commonweal. Even if both parties are above the age of consent, the dysfunctional nature of the act, both from a genetic and from a emotional basis, makes it a no-go zone. A teenage girl (or boy, but it's usually a girl) may be "of age" but not in a position to easily turn down a father or older brother. Banning such predatory sexuality is the reason we have both incest and statutory rape laws, to insure that any extramarital activity is truly consensual. Now, on to sodomy. Let's break it down to oral and anal sex. Both tend themselves towards dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships. Oral sex is more likely to be seen outside a long-term functional relationship, often being part prostitution or abuses of power; I'll introduce Monica as State Exhibit One. Anal sex is inherently unhealthy; for a moment, let's recall what an anus' primary function is. It is a recipe for the spread of STDs. You can make a good case for making sodomy illegal on a omnisexual basis, but Texas (in the case before the Supreme Court) has opted to ban homosexual sodomy only. On the whole, anal and oral sex between two men (I'm not going to go to the mat for the anti-lesbian case today) is unhealthy on a number of levels. The first is the inherent physical unhealthiness; it's a disaster from a public health perspective. The second is that it gives men an option to scrotch their crotch outside of a environment that leads to family-development; yes, some gays do lead devoted, monogamous lives, but they are the exception to the rule. For people who are omnisexual, failing to legally discourage homosexual activity will tend to lead them away from healthier heterosexual behavior, where a morally and culturally healthy family can develop. There is a sexual desire in the vast majority of us; homosexual sex has an appeal for some. It lacks the burdens of child-rearing and conventional male-female roles, and that is liberating to some while still getting one's crotch scrotched. However, it comes at a cost of higher spread of STDs and the civilizing role of a nuclear family. It might not be fun for the people who are clearly homosexually oriented (we'll have the nature-versus-nurture fight another day), but it will help keep the omnisexual in a healthier place. The foes of the sodomy law have a valid point about selective enforcement; sodomy laws are infrequently applied. Gambling laws are loosely applied, yet serve a purpose to keep such activity at a low level that reduces the externalities. Even if we're not bashing down doors of same-sex housemates to see if they're doing the Wild Thang at 1:30AM, it still worth keeping it on the books to be able to point people away from such activity and to have a rationale for shutting down bathhouses, seedier massage parlors, and other places of ill repute.

Edifier du Jour-I Chronicals 12:23-38(NASB)
23 Now these are the numbers of the divisions equipped for war, who came to David at Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the LORD. 24 The sons of Judah who bore shield and spear were 6,800, equipped for war. 25 Of the sons of Simeon, mighty men of valor for war, 7,100. 26 Of the sons of Levi 4,600. 27 Now Jehoiada was the leader of the house of Aaron, and with him were 3,700, 28 also Zadok, a young man mighty of valor, and of his father's house twenty-two captains. 29 Of the sons of Benjamin, Saul's kinsmen, 3,000; for until now the greatest part of them had kept their allegiance to the house of Saul. 30 Of the sons of Ephraim 20,800, mighty men of valor, famous men in their fathers' households. 31 Of the half-tribe of Manasseh 18,000, who were designated by name to come and make David king. 32 Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command. 33 Of Zebulun, there were 50,000 who went out in the army, who could draw up in battle formation with all kinds of weapons of war and helped David with an undivided heart. 34 Of Naphtali there were 1,000 captains, and with them 37,000 with shield and spear. 35 Of the Danites who could draw up in battle formation, there were 28,600. 36 Of Asher there were 40,000 who went out in the army to draw up in battle formation. 37 From the other side of the Jordan, of the Reubenites and the Gadites and of the half-tribe of Manasseh, there were 120,000 with all kinds of weapons of war for the battle. 38 All these, being men of war who could draw up in battle formation, came to Hebron with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest also of Israel were of one mind to make David king.
Focus if you will, as Pastor Dave did on Sunday, on verse 32. All the other tribes were praised for their battle prowess, while the sons of Issachar were praised for their understanding and knowledge. That passage gave me flashback; it was about a decade ago that my dad made a trip to Australia to visit his missionary friend Geoff (sp?). While he was there, a local prophetess in a part of Australia away from Geoff's home turf of Cairns, not knowing either of them, came up and called my dad and Geoff sons of Issachar; well, Dad does have a gift for the prophetic, getting many more than one word of knowledge over the years. She also told them that they'd be going to Israel soon; that was not on either of their dockets. Shortly thereafter Dad and Geoff got an offer from a Japanese friend of Geoff's to join them on a trip to Israel; the Japanese gal knew nothing of that prophecy. This is the only other time that I'd have heard that passage invoked and it's a good one to remember. Some people may have big numbers and big muscles, but the guy who has wisdom and has a gift for understanding what to do next is better than ten guys who are physically gifted but unwise. Good leaders will have some "sons of Issachar" on their staff, people with extra-strong sets of spiritual antennae for picking up the Holy Spirit, or at least having a seemingly more mundane sense of the times; I'm tempted to brag on Dubya's staff right now. Those people will be able to advise the leader what to do, and more importantly, what not to do; I'm reminded of the old sports adage that the best trade is often the one you don't make. Thus, don't snicker at leaders who have a few people who might not have the flashiest resumes but who's advice the leader trusts. In a political leader, they might be trusted friends from back home that add to the [insert leader's locale] Mafia they bring to the capital. In a pastor, they might be the church elder that may not be the richest or smartest, but has wisdom beyond their station in life. They might just be modern sons of Issachar.

Monday, April 28, 2003

The Road From Here-Part I-Us and the Axis of Evil- We’re beginning to see the end of the Iraq war and how politics and geopolitics are going to play out. The last year has had the Iraq war hanging out there; now it’s over, largely on good terms. The casualties were light and the war was short; not as short as some of the Shock and Awe advertising would have led us to believer, but short nonetheless. Saddam is AWOL at the moment, but we find more key Baathist leaders, documents and WMD finds each day. What we’re finding largely confirms what the hawks have been saying; Iraq was hiding a WMD program, including an active nuclear processing program and chemical warfare capabilities. The links to al Qaeda were stronger than I anticipated. The French and Germans were playing more of an anti-US role than their public obstinance let on and the news that a leading British anti-war activist was on the Iraqi payroll makes the hawk’s case even stronger. The transition to a new government has been awkward, but it shouldn’t have been expected to be a cakewalk. The US is taking things methodically, working with local leaders fairly free of Baathist taint to start setting up local governments and trying to avoid the warlordism that marked Afghanistan. We’re going to see a lot of calls for an Islamic state from Shia militants, but that is natural once the Baathist lid is taken off the political system; I’m reminded that some of the Founding Fathers, including Alexander Hamilton, floated the idea of an American monarchy, so the idea of less-than-democratic models being popular shouldn’t be surprising. General Garner seems to be playing things pretty much by the numbers. He’s not going to be a miracle worker, and will have to firmly and tactfully tell the militants where to stick Sharia. However, the American plan seems to be working, albeit with some expected snags; starting things from the bottom up creates some inconsistencies that will have to be ironed out, as in the lack of kids in school when the schools were reopened. The question becomes “Who’s next?” Syria is on a lot of people’s radar; if the US can pinpoint who the Syrians are hosting and what goodies from the Baathist’s Going out of Business Sale the Syrians picked up, then they can firmly ask them to hand them over or risk the US having a Road to Damascus moment that has nothing to do with Saul of Tarsus. I think a few targeted strikes or special operations could take care of things if Syria refuses to cooperate; I’m not envisioning a trip to Damascus and Beirut, for if we’re going after the Syrians, we have to get rid of their hegemonee to the west. I don’t think Iran will be the next to be invaded. I think the pro-reform movement will do the lion-share of the work for us. However, I could envision a nightmare scenario where the conservative mullahs do some anti-US, anti-Israel terror campaign as a way to rally the people around the Islamic Revolution as they’re on the way out. In that case, a preemptive strike against Iran, Syria and Lebanon (for we’d likely need to root out Hezbollah {the spellchecker wants Ebola, almost as bad} in Lebanon as well) would be needed to pull that off, and that would be doggone close to WWIII; if we were ever going to have the mythical Arab Street rise up, that would be the time. What about our friends in North Korea? That’s the toughie. I think we may have to go to war at some point; but the North has had bouts of saber rattling in the past and hasn’t made any major moves. If they make any significant hostile action against the US, as in attacking planes or ships in international waters or make a border incursion into the South, then we’d be within our rights to take out their air force, navy and nuclear facilities, essentially duplicating our Iraq war. The question is whether the Dear Leader wants to pick a fight with the US. If we wind up calling his bluff and not back down from their bluster, then they have two choices: either back away from the bluster or go to war. Would the North Koreans prefer a lower WMD profile an survive a while longer on their own or do the risk war by making provocative actions? If they try the later, the US has shown the ability to take them out. If they try the former, they will lose face but may live to survive a few more years until their dysfunctional economy becomes non-functional. Things are more positive than the nay-sayers seem. People tend to be somewhat rational and all but possibly the Iranian leaders would be better served by avoiding a confrontation with the US. The Iranian mullahs might decide to try for their 72 virgins rather than leave the scene quietly, but the others could be persuaded that messing with the US isn’t a cool career move.

Taxes and Interest Rates-Josh wanted me to comment on his post on tax cuts and interest rates; here's my quick take before I have to head off to a 3:00 MBA committee meeting; more in the next 24 hours. The classic view of interest rates is that it is made up of a "real" interest rate plus expected inflation plus any risk premia. However, from the investor's vantage point, taxes need to be taken into account. For the moment, let's ignore risk premia and look at the T-bill market, where maturity risk is negligible.
After-tax return =[ (1+Real Rate) (1+Expected Inflation)-1] * (1-Tax Rate)
If you run a deficit, you are going to increase the real interest rate, for you'll need to raise interest rates in order to coax people who'd otherwise want to invest in stocks or private-sector debt into buying the Treasury bills and bonds needed to finance the debt. That will lower the total amount of money available for private investment, slowing economic growth; economists refer to that as the Crowding-Out Effect. However, people ignore the effect the tax rate will have on this equation. With lower tax rates, investment looks more attractive. Some of the money people received from the tax cut will be saved; in fact, many critics of tax cuts will point out that the Bush tax rebate of 2001 was saved rather than spent. Temporary tax cuts tend to have a higher percentage saved as opposed to the permanent (or at least until the next tax-happy majority) tax cut that is being proposed. Even so, a permanent tax cut will see a growth in the amount of investment due to people having extra take-home pay. In addition, the lower tax rates will make investments more profitable. Lower tax rates mean higher after-tax income; as people are making the save-versus-spend decision of "Goodies now versus More Goodies later," the tax cut will give them extra goodies in the future. That will also lead to more investment. If we assume that investment is a normal good compared with current spending, investment would go up due to more money being available at present via the income effect and go up more due to the substitution effect of higher after-tax returns. Thus, you could have seen interest rates go down in the 80s both from the Volker Fed clamping down on inflation and from the Reagan tax cuts reducing the tax rates and increasing the investment take-home-pay. The combination of lower taxes and lower inflation helped to counter the crowding-out effect. In the 90s, you had a continuation of a tight monetary supply and gridlock leading to budget surpluses. Even though we had higher taxes due to Bush 41 and Clinton (the tax cuts of the mid-late 90s only partly undid the raises), the lower real rates and continued low inflation offset the increase in taxes to create stable interest rates. Now, in the 00s, you have Dubya cutting taxes and running a deficit. The Greenspan Fed's keeping a lid on inflation, although a somewhat sluggish economy tends to make his job easier. Thus, a tax cut should counter the crowding out effect by producing more money to invest that will offset the money the government's needing to borrow. If the tax cut adds to net private sector investment, the tax cut will help the economy to grow.

Edifier du Jour-1 Chronicles 13:1-11(NASB)
1 Then David consulted with the captains of the thousands and the hundreds, even with every leader. 2 David said to all the assembly of Israel, "If it seems good to you, and if it is from the LORD our God, let us send everywhere to our kinsmen who remain in all the land of Israel, also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their cities with pasture lands, that they may meet with us; 3 and let us bring back the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul." 4 Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people. 5 So David assembled all Israel together, from the Shihor of Egypt even to the entrance of Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. 6 David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim, which belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, the LORD who is enthroned above the cherubim, where His name is called. 7 They carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. 8 David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, even with songs and with lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals and with trumpets. 9 When they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, because the oxen nearly upset it. 10 The anger of the LORD burned against Uzza, so He struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark; and he died there before God. 11 Then David became angry because of the LORD'S outburst against Uzza; and he called that place Perez-uzza to this day.
Part of the problem was that they were too much in a hurry to bring back the ark to pray about it. David talked about getting the approval of both God and man when the approval of God alone was what was needed. When you try to get man's opinion about what should happen, it usually doesn't fully match up with what God wants. They also forgot to check how they were supposed to handle the Ark; back in Numbers, they were instructed to cover the Ark before moving it. Pastor Dave dwelled on the idea of the new cart that held the Ark, wondering how many new carts that aren't what God intended we have in the modern church. I don't want to cast doubt upon all modern innovations, but do we change things in order to follow God's lead or to fit in with the latest trends. How many things do we change that God would prefer stay the same? Likewise, how many things do we keep that God thinks should be scrapped?

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Sports Musings-Crank up Ringo's No-No Song; Philly/Blogista pitcher Kevin Millwood pitched one this afternoon. That should improve the ERA and runners-per-inning ratios. I'm not a big draftnik, so I'm out of my league talking too many details about the NFL draft. As a expatriot Michigander, Houston's sixth round pick of Drew Henson is interesting. Henson's got a sweet deal with the Yankees for about $13 million, but with Henson well below the Mendoza line at AAA, one could smell buyout. If Henson's still having trouble hitting his weight by this fall.... The first two picks should pan out nicely. I'm not sure if Carson Palmer's going to pan out as a great QB for the Bengals, but I think he'll be a solid starter somewhere; he may have to go the route of Vinny Testeverde, who suffered with the old Bucs before getting refurbished by the old Browns et al. Charles Rodgers, from my alma mater of Michigan State and my dad's home town of Saginaw looks to be a keeper, a Randy Moss Jr. who's only substance abuse problem is water. There are a few interesting picks; Is Jacksonville is going to keep Byron Leftwich or do they plan to have him be Mark Brunell's understudy? If Jacksonville picks up a good-but-not-great veteran QB in the next month, look for Brunell to be nervous around June 1st's Capology Cut Day. Chicago got Rex Grossman to be an understudy to Slash; I can picture the Chicago fans after his first bad interception "Gross, man!". That might be a good long-term pick. Buffalo's pick of Willis McGahee is a flyer; four months ago, it looked like he'd have to cash in on a Lloyd's insurance policy he took out the day of the Fiesta Bowl, now his knee is back to where he might be a playa. If his knee comes all the way back, the Bills have the steal of the draft.

Afternoon Musings-Not much free ice cream this weekend-I've been recovering from the bug that got me Thursday. Weekends are slow blogging times; usually either early in the morning or when Eileen's either napping or talking with freinds and family on the phone. Yesterday, it was me who was napping, sleeping most of the day. This little factoid on the French passing diplomatic info onto the Iraqis is great news for the Gallo people, for that will give us one more reason to put Chirac and friends into maison du chien. {thanks to Eileen for the French correction-I had le chateau chein] Add this to the paybacks-are-a-she-dog column; leftist British MP George Galloway appears to have been on the Iraqi payroll and may be up on treason charges. He's got the name Galloway but the common sense of J. Fred Muggs. Our inspectors had some Sarindipity; we've finally found some chemical weapons; Blix's boys didn't have luck such working for them, I guess. I hope that shuts up the "there wern't any chemical weapons" crowd. Interesting that more than one person beat me to that pun, including a Chicago Hope episode title.

Edifier du jour -Judges 2:1-5(NASB)
1: Now the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you, 2: and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.' But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done? 3: "Therefore I also said, 'I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.'" 4: When the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. 5: So they named that place Bochim; and there they sacrificed to the LORD.
In the first chapter of Judges, a number of tribes of Israel hadn’t kicked out the previous inhabitants as they were instructed to do. As a result, they’re going to have to live with those people and their pagan ways. This may seem to be the vengeful side of God at first, but it’s more loving than that. A world with a minimum of temptations to sin is better than one with a greater amount, and the early Israelites didn’t do the dirty-work needed to set that up, If you don’t get rid of the things that God want you to get rid of, they’ll come back to haunt you. They might not be Edomites or Philistines, but bad TV shows, music, books, movies or other inputs into your life can be leading you away from God just as easy as a bunch of blood-eaters.

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