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Saturday, May 17, 2003

Early Entry Musings-Interesting list of players making themselves eligable for the draft; many of them seem to have no chance of playing in the NBA anytime soon. One that came quickly to mind are MSU's Erazem Lorbek, who didn't look NBA-ready this year. The one that's a tad disappointing is CMU's Chris Kaman. He has sufficient game to make it as a backup NBA center with a little time in the weight room, but I'd have loved to seen him play his senior year and get the Chippewas to make another run in the NCAA's. Of course, 'cuse fans would have liked to see Carmelo Anthony stick around for another three years, too. As a college professor, I'm in the job of preparing young people (or not-so-young people in our OM and MBA programs) to be successful in their chosen fields. In the case of an elite few, they're ready before their normal four-year stay is up. If a investment banking firm wanted to hire one particuarly bright sophmore to a million-dollar, multi-year deal, I'd tell her to go and take advantage of your blessings. Thus, I'm not against players going pro early if they have the talent. However, you've got some of the people who aren't ready to make that jump and are getting bad advice. The Lebron Jameses and Carmelo Anthonys will do just fine, it's the Erazem Lorbeks and Sani Ibrahims that I'm worried about, people that are leaving far too early for their level of talent.

Morning Musings-On to the conference finals-Detroit beat Philly last night in OT. People are finally starting to give the Pistons some props; despite being the top seed in the East, people didn't buy into the idea that a team who's biggest star doesn't score in double figures. Some strange target choices yesterday in Casablanca. The Belgium embassy? The Spanish restaurant and synagoge I can see, but the Belgiums were against the Iraqi war. I'm not sure if the group that pulled this one off is the same group that did the Saudi bombings Monday, but the M.O. seems the same. The President's officially looking to run for another term. Don't get too cocky, guys; you still have to bring the A game to help bring some coattails and get closer to 60 Senate seats.

Edifier du Jour-Proverbs 25:11-13(NASB)
11: Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances. 12: Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise reprover to a listening ear. 13: Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters
We're typically too quick to criticize and too slow to praise, and when we are critical, we aren't often constructive. Sometimes, its the complement that is that special word at the right time, especially if its going to support staff who normally don't get a lot of praise. Compassion isn't native to us, that's a gift from the Holy Spirit. However, a good correction spoken in love is equally important. Often, we're reluctant to make such a statement for fear of being out of place or feeling too unworthy of telling others what to do and what not to do. Godly correction is compassionate as well, for it helps the other person hone his walk with the Lord.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Midday Musings--The king is dead. Long live the Pistons. The Mid-Atlantic governors look to be forcing the reallignment issues, plugging for Virginia Tech to be the third school in ACC expansion rather than Boston College. Will this be a stare-down between Donna Shalala and Mark Warner? Ben pointed to an interesting piece on DLC politics. However, this got a chuckle out of me
The memo took a milder shot at Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) for his proposal to guarantee universal health insurance coverage, which From and Reed deemed far too costly. "Every primary season unleashes the pander virus," they wrote. Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith said the criticism is a good sign. Gephardt's plan "has been attacked from the left and from the right. We must be onto something."
There are two reasons why someone get slammed from both sides. One is that they have a sensable, centrist solution. The other is when they're so bogus that everyone but the clueless target knows it. Unfortunately, Gephardt's plan falls into the second catagory, being a payoff to factory workers and their employers at everyone else's expence. They have a tax cut bill through the Senate with a temporary dividend tax exemption. Let's see that the conference committee does with this bad boy. The AWOL Texas state reps are back in state, now that they can block passage of the redistricting bill and still be in Austin. Are they mature legistators? No, but they stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.

Blog Scholarship?-I did my self-evaluation this morning and had a head-scratching question-"Describe your professional growth/development/scholarship activities during 2002-03." I wound up citing my blogging as one of my scholarly activities
...My weblog (www.markbyron.blogspot.com) has been an outlet for intellectual thought in economics and finance, as well as theology, political science and other topics of general interest. By writing things down and exposing them to a general audience, I’ve been able to distill some thoughts that can then be used in a classroom setting. Also, my interaction with other bloggers has been helpful in getting a better handle on newer areas of economics; Megan McArdle (www.janegalt.com) has increased my understanding of Nash’s Equilibrium and James Haney (home.earthlink.net/~jhaney94) was critical in exposing me to Coase’s Theorem in advance of teaching it in Microeconomics; neither were discussed in my college coursework.
The pertinent definition of scholarship is "serious, detailed study" or from my desk dictionary " the systematized knowledge of a learned person, exhibiting accuracy, critical ability, and thoroughness; erudition." Can a blog do that? Are we accurate? Pretty much. If not, we get our keister's fact-checked. Blogs are surely peer-reviewed; the good bloggers will correct mistakes promptly. Do we have critical ability? In spades. If blogs are anything, they're critical; sometimes too critical. Are we thorough? We can be when we want to be. Blogs stereotypically come in two flavors, the linkers and the thinkers, although a lot of people can both metablog and come up with a thoughtful post. The best thinkers are scholars of the first order. They might not write in a dry, professional-journal tone, but they will often have the rigor to match an academic journal article. Often, what we see isn't the finished product, but rough drafts posted for their peers to pick over. In a way, blogs may be more scholarly than journal articles, for people will posit ideas and bat them back and forth amongst our peers. If you have thick enough skin to take some critics, you can improve your academic game by interacting with smart people from around the globe. Are we erudite? Good bloggers are erudite-"having or showing a wide knowledge gained by reading." Writing for an intellectual but popular audience, our prose will have a more down-to-earth feel to it that what would show up in a academic journal, thus John Adams paid me a great complement when he called be "both erudite and earthy". You don't have to be stuffy when expressing what you know. Thus, good blogging does fit the definition of scholarship when we are having serious discussions. Not everything here is scholarship; we have fun talking about redneck Jedis or college football, but we do have some serious scholarly game.

Edifier du Jour-1 Timothy 2:3-6(NASB)
3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.
We're back for another round of the Calvinist-Arminian 12-round death-cage match. David Heddle, the Blogosphere's preeminent Calvinist, reiterated his case last week, essentially saying "What part of Romans 9 don't you get?" That post got Jeffery Collins thinking-
[S]uppose David is 100% correct about predestination? So what? To put it another way, what are the ramifications of the doctrine itself? What are the ramifications of accepting or rejecting the doctrine? In the long run, does it really matter?
I decided to try and see what Biblical case can be made for an Arminian standpoint; our personal theology collection came up short of citing verses, but found this lecture set from a Free Will Baptist theologian. The passage for today was cited in the second lecture on the extent of the atonement; a Baptist is usually good at quoting scripture. This verse is very problematic for this Calvinist-leaning fellow. If God desires to see everyone be saved, why doesn't He get off His kiester and do so? If he did, we'd be working with a universalist theology, which would seriously contradict other parts of the scripture that talk about heaven and hell. Thus, we have a God who wants everyone saved, but will choose not to go to the mat to do so. The idea that crossed my mind this morning moves towards the question of Irresistible Grace. "How cute is she?" The Arminians think that God's grace is resistible. I am going to offer up a work-in-progress alternative that might allow me to mugwump on this one. Might there be a general flow of grace that draws us to God, but only some people are un-evil enough to be drawn along by this spiritual tide? This would assume that are depravity isn't perfectly total; I've got the Calvinist chorus from Linda Ronstadt in my mind-"You're no good! You're no good! You're no good! Baby, you're no good!" Meanwhile the Arminian chorus from West Side Story tries to counter "There is good, there is good, there is untapped good! Like inside, the worst of us is good!" You could make a case that everyone has a conscience, some better developed than others, that the Holy Spirit interacts with. Are we so corrupt that we can't respond to God with a nudge from our conscience interacting with the Holy Spirit? Or does God have to drag us kicking and screaming to His side? Depending on how strong the spiritual tide is, someone with a better-developed conscience might be brought along. However, not everyone responds to that offer; they're too stuck in the sandbars of sin to have this prototype general grace bring them to the Father. If God wants those people, He'll have to bring out the heavy artillery. God is free to grant particular grace, as Jesus did we He hit Paul up-side the head with a 2-by-4 on the road to Damascus or with Thomas when Jesus made a special point to let him see the wounds from the cross. Such a combination of general and particular grace could allow for free will to operate in the spiritual realm, while allowing God to grab someone He particularly wants by His side. Let the theological food fight discussion begin-I'll be adding to the discussion on the implications of Calvinism later.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

May the Farce Be With You-Got this link e-mailed from one of my Midland friends-Canada has 20,000 declared Jedis. I can't call up blogspot stuff from here, but I'd love to see what Dave Barry does with this one. Canuck Jedis I can live with, but if Alabama had 20,000 Jedis, I'd be worried. [Update 8:50AM 5/16-He snagged it a day before I did, using the same site; that bad boy page must of made the rounds]

Collegiate Musical Chairs-The recent move to add Miami, Syracuse and a Big East team to be named later (Boston College would be a better TV fit while Virginia Tech would be better geographically) has a lot of long-term permutations. Coupled with a rumored move that a number of the basketball-only members of the Big East are looking to start a Catholic League of sorts, the result could be the demise of Conference USA. The Big East would likely look to pick off some of the better CUSA schools, such as Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis and East Carolina. They have a pipe dream of getting Penn State into the Big East, but it's more likely that Pittsburgh would hook up with the Big 10. Marshall and Central Florida might be a good fit for the revamped Big East, as might CUSA schools UAB and Southern Miss. When the Big 8 grabbed the best of the old Southwest Conference, morphing into the Big 12, it killed it off, leaving the survivors to move to the WAC or CUSA. Ironically, it might be a couple of those schools, Houston and TCU, who might get the short end of the stick again. Mass defections to the Catholic League and the Big East would leave a unviable rump (Tulane, Houston, TCU, UNCC and maybe St. Louis) to either gather in some independents or split up. St. Louis might fit in the Catholic League, UNCC might gravitate towards the Atlantic 10 and the three western schools would be candidates for the WAC. What does this mean for Football?-The ACC becomes a powerhouse rather than a weak-sister to the top four of the BCS conferences. A title game will mean one more big payday in December. The Big East will likely lose its automatic spot in the BCS, for with Syracuse and Miami gone, only Virginia Tech would have a perennial Top 25 program, and if they're the third club rather than BC, then the Big East has become a three-quarters-major like the Mountain West. Given that deterioration, Pittsburgh might look at the Big Ten as a good alternative. That would give the Big Ten, or whatever we'll call it by then, a 12-team format and yet another title game. Notre Dame would benefit from the demise of the Big East, for it would give three at-large BCS spots. If the ACC and Big Ten get championship games, when would all four big-conference championship games be televised? With three, you could go with a 1PM-5PM-9PM triple-header, but with four, you'd have to move one to a Friday night or have two of the title games go mano-a-mano. What about Basketball?- I've seen some comments that a new Catholic League wouldn't have an automatic bid in year one. However, the projected conference is deep enough that it would earn three or four at-larges, making an automatic bid a moot point. The revamped Big East will be down a peg but still a major conference. The ACC will be watered down a bit, but Miami has had some good teams and Syracuse is the defending national champs and a perennial power. The Atlantic 10 seems to be the biggest loser, as the Catholic League and the Big East will compete for airtime with them. This will be interesting to see play out.

Morning Musings-You can have some good fun with this poll showing that only a third of the American public can name someone runiing for the Democratic nomination. However, only about a third (or less) of the American public gets out to vote in the primaries and the key activists and political junkies do know who's running, including one Canadian uberpundit's mailbox page
It would be helpful if you could indicate your city or town or, at least, your state, province or country. Failing that, your continent or hemisphere will do. If you seriously think Howard Dean has a chance of becoming President, do let us know what planet you're on.
Seriously, nine months away from the nomination, Joe Sixpack will not have heard of John Kerry or Howard Dean, may vaguely remember Dick Gephardt and remember Joe Lieberman somewhat. The rest of the field will draw blank stares from the average American. However, that will change by Chrismastime as the campaign kicks into gear. Good news on the economic front-we had record deflation last month as the drop in oil prices kicked in. Now the Fed's going to be a deflation hawk-who'd a thunk it? Detroit held serve last night, going up 3-2 in their series. Maybe if the get to the conference finals, ABC will actually show one of their games. The focus tonight will turn out west, as the Lakers have a last-stand game against San Antonio. Can we hope the Spurs slap some competitiveness into the league.

Saudi Bombing Musings-A local guy, Todd Bair, was one of the victims of Monday's bombings. His dad is the Lake Wales High swim coach; IIRC, Dr. Schwatze shared at one of our meetings yesterday that his son knew the younger Bair. On The Corner earlier today, Rich Lowrey ask for some "interesting thoughts" on Bob Graham's criticism of President Bush's security policy, that the bombings might not have occurred if less attention were paid to Iraq and more were paid to al Qaeda. I E-mailed him this. For Graham's charge to have merit, we'd have to assume that (1) There were allied intelligence sources in Saudi Arabia capable of stopping the bombings and (2) Said sources were redeployed to do work on Iraq. Given the broad base of al Qaeda sympathizers in Saudi Arabia, including quite a few in the government, it would have been hard to shut down the operation without an invasion. Also, the two efforts used different types of intelligence assets that didn't have much of an overlap, so that resources needed to prepare for war in Iraq wouldn't have been pulled. Of course, it is hard to say that extra staff couldn't have made that one key connection needed to break the case, but wouldahs, couldahs and shouldahs can always take four to five strokes off your golf game.

Edifier du Jour-1 Samuel 3:1-11(NASB)
1: Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. 2: It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well), 3: and the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was, 4: that the LORD called Samuel; and he said, "Here I am." 5: Then he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, lie down again." So he went and lay down. 6: The LORD called yet again, "Samuel!" So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he answered, "I did not call, my son, lie down again." 7: Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him. 8: So the LORD called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli discerned that the LORD was calling the boy. 9: And Eli said to Samuel, "Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, 'Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10: Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for Your servant is listening." 11: The LORD said to Samuel, "Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.
As I did back last June, I'm thinking about the old RCA logo, "His Master's Voice." To be sure, Samuel isn't a mere sheep; he's destined to be the last judge of Israel before the start of the kingdom and is learning how to hear from God. Eli teaches Samuel a key lesson: in order to hear God, you have to listen. That sounds a bit like the old Yogi Berraism, "You can observe a lot just by watching." However, listening to our Master's voice isn't a thing you do with your ears, but with your spirit. It requires waiting for God to speak and being able to operate in a spiritual dimension. It requires the ability to discern what God is saying and what your mind is saying; too often, we'll try to put words in God's mouth. It requires calming down our brain so that we can not be so busy with everything else that we forget to listen to Him. Once we do be still and begin to know God, we can start to better understand Him. As His ambassadors, we need to be on the lookout from cables from Whom we represent.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Spudonomics-Spudlets proprietor Marc Velazquez has e-mailed a few interesting questions on economics
I don't recall you tackling this subject lately, but I have been wondering about the confluence of recent events. Two weeks ago I thought that the return of our military personnel back into the workforce would help boost the economy: increased demand for goods, increase in productivity by companies not paying out for absent people, less tax dollars paid out to servicemen. I did not anticipate a big bump, since the military was bringing people back slowly, rather than all at once, but I hoped for a bump up.
First of all, any extra spending from the troops would likely to be reflected in the May and June numbers rather than in the April numbers. Not all of the troops are back, and those that have come back came back too late to affect the April numbers. Secondly, I don't think there is the pent-up demand for consumer goods that there was after WWII. A lot of consumer goods weren't being made during WWII and families were put on hold for years while the guys went off to fight WWII. The stereotypical dynamic of the late 40s and 50s was-GI gets home, marries sweetheart, moves to Levittown, starts the Baby Boom and buys cars, appliances and furnature to stock house and driveway. In the case of Iraq, the guys will have been gone for only months rather than years and their absence hasn't thrown off durable goods spending in most cases; our economy generally didn't get disrupted by the war and their won't be that after-war durable goods blitz. True, the guys in Iraq may be eating MREs rather than groceries from Publix, but both are part of GDP. For the non-reservist, there was no decrease in income. Where the economic effect might be felt is for the reservists who took a pay cut while on active duty. Their reduced income would have reduced spending, but that would likely be viewed as a one-time event and not significantly affect family spending, if the Permanent Income Hypothesis holds up. To the extent that work was put on hold while a reservist was overseas, that might negatively effect GDP, but if the reservist was replaced by an otherwise-unemployed temp, it would likely increase GDP.
With the tornado damage over the last two weeks, will we be seeing an effect similar to 9/11? Businesses out for an extended time, insurance payouts mounting and losses in productivity can inflict more damage on a weak economy. Will the two cancel each other, or do you think one will have a greater effect than another?
One of the key differences is that the tornados won't have a nationwide effect like 9/11; we didn't have the entire air transport system shut down for most of a week. Thus, any impact will be small and hard to detect on a national scale. One part to remember is that imputed rent is calculated for owner-occupied homes; for GDP purposes, you're renting your home to yourself. Thus, a lot of that imputed rent won't be there while people are staying at South Elementary gym or Aunt Betty's. Also, there will be lost hours from work as people take time off to recover, even if their workplace is still standing. If it isn't standing, they're on unemployment until they find another job or the place rebuilds. In the months following a disaster, that loss of property value and disruption caused the tornado will mean a loss of GDP. Once everyone gets into long-term temporary housing, the rebuilding process may well mean a temporary increase in GDP, as homes and businesses get rebuilt; if more people are rebuilding destroyed stuff than are dislocated, you'd see an increase of GDP for the time. The next question that follows is whether the added GDP of the rebuilding phase outweighs the disruption and damage caused by the disaster; that might well be a net plus for the GDP figures, for it measure income, not net worth. For a moment, let's assume that the destroyed property takes a year to rebuild. You will have lost the rental value of the property for the six months but gained the sale a new building. We're not any better off as an economy, but we kept a lot of construction people busy.

Choose Life Isn't Just a License Plate-A severely mentally retarded woman was impregnated by some unknown person; Gov. Bush is looking to appoint a guardian for the fetus, which is causing the usual suspects on the left to achieve escape velocity. In this case, the mother is unable to express her intentions and the biological father is not in the picture. This would be a case where you don't have an easy "pro-choice" argument, for the woman isn't able to make a choice; the guardians will have to make the choice for her. For those of you on the fence on abortion, weighing the badness of ending of the unborn child's life against the pain and inconvenience of continuing the pregnancy to term, the carry-to-term side's a lot lower that normal. The pregnancy isn't disrupting this woman's career plans. Normally, rape would be a mitigating factor in favor of abortion, but any anguish from the woman about carrying the attacker's baby to term is minimal at best in this case. So, as strange as it may seem, this seems to be a good case to err on the side of life. The only good pro-abortion argument would be that the baby is likely to be a ward of the state and that an abortion would be cheaper, but that's a rather callous argument that few people would want to make. This is one that the abortion rights folks don't want to have discussed, for there is little downside in having the baby carried to term in this case. They don't want to think about giving the unborn child any consideration. However, a lot of people who mugwump on abortion might agree with the anti-abortion folks on this one, and like the partial-birth cases, this one may put the "pro-choice" camp in a bad light. I don't know how many of my readers are centrist on abortion, but I'd like some feedback on whether my argument holds any water with you.

Afternoon Musings-Today was end-of-year-meeting day, as I had a MBA committee meeting, a Business School meeting and a Learning Resourse (a.k.a. Library) Committee meeting. Couple that with forgetting to set the alarm last night, and I just now sat down and did my morning devotional. I woke up to find my pocketbook lighter-the voters in Polk County passed a half-percent sales tax increase for school construction 59-41. Eileen and I were among the 41; I felt that property tax would have been a better route, but without a organized opposition, the measure passed. Give Tiger some more props; he scored points in the blogosphere for coming out for the Iraq war, he scores more with me by encouraging Annika Sorenstam's try at the PGA tour. There are some sports, like boxing or wrestling, where modesty and courtesy would make mixed competition morally difficult, but golf's not one of them. If her lack of length off the tee makes her non-competitive, she'll find out the hard way. This should lead to some interersting discussion down this way-Miami's heading for the ACC. Two more football-playing Big East teams (most likely including Syracuse) are likely to follow. That will mean two big things-Florida State no longer gets to win the ACC football title 80% of the time and a 12-team conference will mean a championship game. The question I'd wonder is how they'd divide the league into two conferences; the four North Carolina schools make a north-south split problematic, if Syracuse and Boston College are the other additions. I'd think that a Piedmont Division (Maryland, UVA, NC, NC State, Wake Forest, Duke) and a Tidewater Division (Miami, FSU, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Syracuse, BC) might be how things break down; if you don't like my division names, I'm open for suggestions. The autobooming art has moved to Chechnya, where a women blew herself up at a funeral, killing 10. It would have been more efficient to do it at the funeral home and save time with the corpses. It looks like a Saudi guy might be behind the latest round of Chechnyian bombings, which will make life more interesting for the Saudi entity. Things aren't looking good in Argentina, where a old-school Peronista, Nestor Kirchner, is leading a runoff race against former president Carlos Menem. Memem is thinking about conceding the vote in order to deny Kirchner a mandate; Menem outpolled him in the first round. Another era of statism down south.

Edifier du jour-Ephesians 5:1-4 (NASB)
1: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2: and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. 3: But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4: and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
This is one passage that those of us who don't fall pray to the "big sins" need to be very aware of. I remember struggling being around some of my more secular friends back in Midland, for they would often drag me down to their level. That level might have "only" been PG-13 rather than R, but it would have enough filthiness and course jesting to make things unedifying. Steering clear of such worldliness seems to be called for. However, there's more here. Check out the greed section. Are we falling prey to the American Dream or merely allowing God to bless us? I spend a good part of lunch today talking with a colleague whose spouse left them in part because the colleague left a better-paying job to be a college professor. Greed helped break up that marriage and many more. It can also drive us into less-fulfilling jobs that pay more and drive us away from the priceless non-economic things God has for us. What about silly talk? This site mentioned that silliness tends to promote disrespect, which is counterproductive to a functioning society. The NIV goes with "foolish talk", which would point towards general ungodliness, even if it isn't filthy or coarse. When our kids get a steady diet of disrespectful protagonists in the media, we might want to bring a more sober approach. When our speech isn't much different from the secular people around us, they might not see how our lives are different, and that affects our ability to witness. If we're just as raunchy as they are, how is this Jesus affecting things? Thus, we need to look at what we say and how we say it, even if it isn't involving swear words.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

This is a Job For (ta-da-ta-dum) Super Majority!!-Let's watch the current installment of Stoopid Human Tricks unfolding in the Southwest, where Texas Democratic state reps have fled to Oklahoma in order to avoid having a quorum and losing a vote on redistricting. They've fled north, for state law allows for AWOL state reps to be arrested and brought back to the chambers; however, as Buford T. Justice found out, his authority runs out at the state line. The Texas government has looked just about as good as ol' Buford; Democratic governors in New Mexico and Oklahoma have allowed the Texas GOP to stew in it's own natural juices and ignored extradition requests. This type of gamesmenship seems to be more common as of late. Filibusters have become commonplace in the US Senate, and both sides of the aisle have used it; Republicans filibustered used the hold process agressively on some of Clinton's judicial nominees and Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick was part of a similar stunt in 1971. However, Democrats have upped the ante and taken procedures that were last-resort actions only used to stop drastic wrongs and made them commonplace. [Update-5/14 7:30AM Mr. Furman corrects me on judicial filibusters, the Republicans didn't do a actual filibuster in the Clinton years] In the US Senate, things effectively need 60 votes to pass if it isn't a budget issue.You effectively now need a two-thirds majority to do business in Texas' lower chamber. The legislative process takes on a different tone as the minority party can shut down government if it doesn't get their way. Are we looking at having to have grand coalitions where things can only happen with the mutual consent of both parties? With political parties increasingly polarized, such a prospect isn't promising.

What is Church?-Via Bene, I came across this discussion on "can be a christian without attending church?" A lot depends on if you have something that fills that niche. Towards the end of his post, Dan gives this definition-"I see a church as a group of people intentionally and regularly gathering together for the purpose of challenging, learning, growing and keeping each other accountable in their christian lives." The problem with that definition is that many churches don't meet that definition, especially in the accountability part. You may go to church for an hour or two on Sunday, get a good message and good music, but not really be in a community of belivers. A stealth congregant can attend without being kept accountable by anyone in the church. I remember a church in Midland which had the best two hours of worship on Sunday mornings, with a professional-grade praise band and choir and excellent preaching. However, the thousand-person church didn't have a gifting for small groups, and I moved on looking for that personal connection. Sometimes a Bible study will fill that role. When I was at Michigan State, the grad IVCF chapter was more my spiritual home than the handful of churches in metro Lansing that I attended. Likewise, my Intervarsity friends at Kent State were more of a constant than the two churches that I bobbled between in the Kent/Akron area. Before finding Midland's New Life Vineyard, a single's Bible study at the E-Free church was more of a home than the three different churches I had attended while being a part of the study. However, such groups are meant to be part of a broader Christian community and not the primary focus. In some cases, house churches can evolve from a small-group study. A charismatic prayer group my dad was part of morphed into the "Love Street Revival Center," which started having Sunday services as well as their weeknight meeting. A number of the business faculty here at Warner Southern has started a house church where the families will get together for singing, Bible study and prayer. The early church was mostly made up of such house churches. However, such small churches can wind up having some funky theology, being outside of a standard theological framework. One of the things that I appreciate about how the Lakeland Vineyard sets things up is that everyone is expected to go to one of about a dozen weekly home groups, where a dozen or so people will have some singing, some Bible study (typically taking Sunday's sermon passage a bit deeper) and serious prayer time. While you can get ministered to at a Sunday morning service, the smaller scale of a home group give a better venue to express needs and to talk and pray things through. A good Sunday School class can meet that need as well, if it's small enough to be able to get to know people. Most of us need the encouragement and accountability of a small group setting to thrive in our walk with Lord. Churches that ignore that personal touch do so at their peril. You run the risk of people becoming stealth congregants, walking out when they realize that they don't know anybody and that no one knows them.

Morning Musings-An estimated 10 Americans, 20 overall, were killed in yesterday's attacks in Riyadh. This might well be the catalyst for a full split between the Saudis and the US if they repeat the behavior of the Khobar coverup investigation. Many bloggers had fun with this, but Micro$oft said that the iLoo was a joke put out by their British subsidiary. No streaming media? No Star Trek aps?-"There's Klingons on the starboard bow-wipe 'em off, Jim." Ben points out this admission that WV Gov. Bob Wise has admitted to an affair with a state trade official. The wronged husband, Phillip Frye, is not pleased-
"I had private detectives all over this thing. I've got pictures and documents -- all kinds of hard evidence." Frye said he is going to withhold exact details of the allegations or a copy of his divorce filing for the time being, but said he placed much of the blame on Wise for failure of his almost seven-year marriage. "That little weasel-faced [person born out of wedlock]... Typical Democrat."
No, not quite typical. He's not the first Democratic governor to be doing the Wild Thang with the female staff, but not typical. Things are not looking good in Seminole-land. This ESPN piece points to football players getting paid for autographs and the Adrian McPherson gambling case might implicate a big chunk of the baseball team as well as QB coach Daryl Dickey. FSU has run a seemingly clean program, not having any probation in my memory; the quality control might not be there anymore.

Edifier du Jour-Ephesians 4:11-16(NASB)
11: And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12: for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13: until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14: As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15: but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16: from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
I get nervous when some in the spirit-filled crowd start obsessing over the "five-fold ministry" of verse 11, for you have a lot of self-styled apostles and prophets running around with an unhealthy dose of ego, but the ministries are there nonetheless. We all need teachers to give us good, solid biblical instruction. We often undervalue the people who lead Sunday school classes and Bible studies who lay down what solid doctrine is and how it applies to our day-to-day lives. It's not a good sign when a church downplays such outlets as to be seeker-friendly, for the seekers, once caught, have a rather thin soup of Sunday sermons to grow on. Some sort of weekly small group session, be it a Sunday school class or a weeknight small/cell/home group, is needed for good spiritual development and maintenance. We all need good pastors, both for the exhortation of a well-crafted and Spirit-led sermon and for the day-to-day guidance and personal ministry. A pastor's more than just a sermon-giver, for he's the guy who'll comfort the family of the deceased, council the emotionally wounded and help look after the sick. Some people are teachers but not pastors, who have the knowledge of the Word but not the "bedside manner," but that's why there are multiple ministries. Evangelists are a needed part of the mix. While everyone's called to spread the Gospel to the best of their abilities, some people have a special gift for delivering the Gospel to people who need to know Jesus. It's a politically incorrect calling, for it assumes that people are heading to the smoking section of eternity if they don't know Jesus, but one that is vital. Prophets are needed as well, the people how give direction to a church, modern-day sons of Issachar who understand the times and know what to do next. Many times, prophets aren't user-friendly, and may not be good pastors or evangelists, but are one of those spiritual body parts nonetheless. Not every prophet will have grand words of knowledge of hidden illness or secret sin in the church body, but may have advice that the pastor needs to hear and factor in as the church moves forward. I'm less clear how a modern-day apostle would function in this mix. In the first-century, they seemed to be pastor's pastors, overseeing the growth of the Church as opposed to overseeing a church. It seemed to be different than modern-day bishops or state coordinators or whatever a denomination calls their regional chiefs. What seems to be helpful is to have a respected small-p pastor in an area be able to guide other pastors and make sure that they are on the right page spiritually. Without oversight, churches can become heterodox in a hurry. While some churches may not have all five of the ministries in their polity, the functions should be there if they are to thrive spiritually.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Post-Dinner Musings-The semester's in the books. I posted grades this afternoon, marking the end of my first acedemic year as a professor. I've got a couple of weeks of unstructured time before a trip to Richmond later in the month, and I need to make sure to prep more and blog less than I did on Christmas break. At graduation Saturday, I actually felt like I belonged as one of the Boyz in the Hoodz, as the professors get to wear their doctoral (or master's degree for some) robes and hoods for the ceremony. I have a weird flashback after dinner, as our dishwasher was getting full; my mind thought-"This is like Earl Weaver going up to Luciano; it's going to get run." On a more somber note, this might be the begining of something ugly in the Saudi entity or just a death spasm of al Qaeda; three apartment complexes of expatriot westerners were bombed today. If this is the begining of an anti-western campaign, it could mean a civil war may be brewing pitting hard-core Wahhabists against the royals. I think we've found the first recorded Fijian redneck in VJP Vijay Singh. Vijay, if you're paired with Annika, just outdrive her by 50 yards and beat her by 10 strokes, if you think she's that lame. Let's see how she plays from the men's tees; it she plays well, so be it. Or is he afraid of being beat by a girl?

Morning Musings-This isn't good news for the Alliance party; presumptive new Liberal Party leader Paul Martin is not promising cabinet positions to his two more-socialist-leaning rivals for the leadership/Prime Minister post. It might be good news for Canada in the short run, for a more business-friendly regime in Ottawa would be helpful, but bad in the long run, for Martin might just turn the Liberals into the PRI of the Great White North, as a solid neoliberal government would be hard for a fractured right to beat. Small-c conservatives might have to wait another decade, barring some major screw-up from the Liberals. The manure may be about to hit the fan in Ache; a no-holds-barred war of independence might be starting, for monitors have bugged out prior to an army offensive. Keep your eye on this one, it could be messy. It's not a religious fight, since Ache is a nominally Muslim area, unlike the nominally Catholic East Timor which got its independence earlier in the decade. However, the chaos might give al Qaeda outfits like Bali bombers Jemaah Islamiyah some room to maneuver. Interesting obit of Russell Long, Senate tax guru and son of archetypal populist Huey. My favorite quote from him was "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax the guy behind the tree." If you want to place the blame for the complexity of the modern tax code on any doorstep, Russell's is as good a place as any to dump it. However, he was a old-school, pro-business Southern Democrat in the Zell Miller mold rather than his more socialistic dad. Bad news for the Pistons, home court held over the weekend, as Philly evened it up 2-2 yesterday, as did the Lakers. Only the Nets are cruising; they can get the broom out tonight against the Celtics.

Edifier du Jour-1 Samuel 1:9-20(NASB)
9 Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10 She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11 She made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head." 12 Now it came about, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli was watching her mouth. 13 As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. 14 Then Eli said to her, "How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you." 15 But Hannah replied, "No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD. 16 "Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation." 17 Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him." 18 She said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. 19 Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned again to their house in Ramah. And Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked him of the LORD."
Pastor Dave did yesterday's Mother's Day sermon on the first chapter and a fraction of 1 Samuel. What struck me here is that Hannah (found out that means joy in Hebrew-pretty name) might well have been the first charismatic, seeming to pray in the Holy Spirit up in verse 13. This reminds me of Romans 8:25-" In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words[.]" I think Hannah had such a moment their. She laid her heart out to God, and God answered, which is just about what Samuel translates to-"God heard." You don't have to have some sort of "prayer language" or any kind of tongue to function in the Holy Spirit. God knows your heart, especially when your feeling are too deep for words. You may not have the words, but God does. You may not know the entire situation, but God does. You might not have a preferred solution to ask for, but God knows the best one and the best time to answer it..

Sunday, May 11, 2003

This Isn't Going to Work-I'm not sure if the Bush people really want a Palestinian peace treaty or just get some diplomatic cover. The Arafat people aren't that thrilled about the deal, and the violence from Hamas and company isn't stopping. Israel won't be serious about negotiating until Hamas is corralled; the PA knows that doing that would be civil war. That means that there will be no progress until there's a knock-down, drag-out between Fatah/PA and Hamas, and there's no telling who's going to win that death-cager. You can throw the "roadmap" into the dustbin of history.

It is a Good Day to Cry-This almost looks like an Onion piece-a Portland mental hospital is looking to get Klingon interperers for Trekkers who have gone off the deep end. What will Dave Barry do with this one? Question whether we want sane Klingons; he beat me to it by four hours. [Update 7:40PM-Volokh just posted the goods; it's a semi-hoax. Someone had jokingly put Klingon down on the list of possible languages but no more than that.]

Edifier du Jour-Edodus 20:12(NASB)
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
This is the only one of the Ten Commandments that has only a positive promise attached to it, but it's one that is probably the most ignored of the ten commandments except of Mother's and Father's Day. It's hard to honor your parents when they're in nag mode. If you're single, the classic nag is about getting married. If your married, it's about having kids. If you have kids, the raising of same is the topic of frustration. We're supposed to honor and love them through it all. It's hard to honor your parents when they head off into stoopidity. Whether it might be crazy politics, frustrating quirks, or something as benign as the My Big Fat Greek Wedding dad who cured everything with Windex, we need to tolerate and love and honor them through it all. It's hard to honor your parents when they're giving bad advice. Sometimes the advice isn't bad, but guarding you from mistakes they may have already made. Before discounting advice out of hand, see if their is a basis for their comments and whether you might (GASP!) be wrong for a change. It's especially hard to honor your parents when they're a few fries short of a Happy Meal. When our parents become old and senile, it's easy to make fun of them or to put yourself in the parental position. I remember my dad having trouble honoring his father when Grandpa Byron was taking about non-existent maids or falling asleep in the middle of the conversation or not being able to sink the battleship anymore. It take a special discipline to be able to minister to the senile, and the Holy Spirit can give us that discipline. However, if we do honor our parents, we'll be blessed. If she's still with us, give your Mom a call and love her through her quirks.

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