Saturday, August 23, 2003

Morning Musings-The good judge has been suspended for his little stunt. The ALCU types and the Transi crowd are chortling, but it seems appropriate. If a judge gives the middle-diget salute to the law, that's not good for the law. At what point will the Bush administration start tackling the ELF? I'm reluctant to call this terrorism, but when you torch a car dealership (thankfully no casualties), you can't merely call this vandalism. The FBI is treating this as terrorism. The next step for this bunch will be murder of offending parties (some have already died by booby-traps in lumber trees set by like-minded groups) and a crackdown needs to take place before that happens. PETA needs to be looked at as hard as suspecious Muslim charities for helping support groups like the ELF and Earth First ,we'll exploit the other planets later.

Edifier du Jour-Philippians 1:21-26
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
I'm not sure what to make of this passage; Paul seems about to start playing Hamlet. He does come down on the to be side of the question, but someone who's ambivalent about death either has a great faith in what awaits him or that his current life stinks. I find myself too-firmly on the to be side; my faith is squeamish about that next step and prefers the status quo. However, as I grow in faith, I get less squeamish, getting closer to Paul's ambivalence. We're not supposed to have a death-wish, to go sky-diving or drive at 120MPH in order to give God extra chances to do us in. However, we're not supposed to fear death, either. We're supposed to do our jobs for the Kingdom here and now. We'll get to our final destination in due time. Enjoy the ride.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Theocon Trek-The Next Generation-Ben had an interesting post last night
The day that Dr. Bill Bright retired to heaven marked the most recent departure of a leader of the social conservative movement. Francis Schaeffer and Dr. James Boice were among the first to go, and there are many more who are probably destined to leave us in the near future. Some of the other prominent social conservatives who are getting on in years: James Dobson Chuck Colson Phyllis Shlafly Paul Weyrich Morton Blackwell Tim & Beverly LaHaye Pat Robertson This list does more than highlight the graying of the movement -- it also reminds us that, for many of the folks listed, there's no clear line of succession within the organizations they lead. There are a handful of younger conservative leaders, to be sure. Yet most of them aren't original-style social conservatives -- instead they're grassroots activists within the party structure.
Many younger evangelicals of a political bent have become political operatives within the Republican party rather than be part of policy-oriented parachurch groups. People like Robertson protégé Ralph Reed and Dobson ally Gary Bauer moved into the political sphere. However, there will still be a call for people of faith to address policy issues, sometimes as part of a bigger agenda, such as Focus on the Family, or as the prime part of their agenda, such as the Christian Coalition, Family Research Council or Concerned Women For America. Let me take a quick run through Ben's list of the aging lions of the movement. James Dobson-I don't think that a particular person will succeed him; someone will be chief of Focus on the Family, but that person won't get the full mantle of authority as a leading spokesman. That person will have to earn it. Focus on the Family has grown into a major media empire which should live on after Dobson steps down. The successor may not have the cache that Dobson has today, but he will have a well-respected organization to work with. Chuck Colson-Colson is sui generis. His story of hard-boiled Nixon lawyer coming to the Lord while serving time for Watergate crimes is hard to duplicate. I looked upon his jail cell conversion with some skepticism at the time, but he's had three decades of witness to prove me and others wrong. He has a prophetic tenor to his approach that is also unique; prophets aren't supposed to be cute and cuddy and universally loved. Colson will tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may. Prison Fellowship will go on without him, for prison ministry is on the hearts of many believers around the country. What may not go on is his unique giftings. Phyllis Shlafly-She won't have a successor. She served her purpose in the 70s by derailing the ERA; she stood athwart feminism yelling "Stop!" and got it to stop. She's become a bit too much of a pessimistic paleocon to be palatable to me and many others, almost a Pat Buchanan in a dress. Other women leaders seem to have a more optimistic attitude about changing society for the better rather than fighting against further degradation. Those gals will be her successors. Paul Weyrich-I think there will be plenty of people involved in things like the Free Congress Foundation. Weyrich also has a bit of the prophet in him in that he's going to stick to his guns even if he's in the minority. One of the problems with the success that conservatives have had in politics is that they are part of the formal GOP structure. We still need the prophets who aren't on the king's payroll that can tell him when he's screwed up. Morton Blackwell- I never heard of Blackwell until today, but he seems to have been active in conservative circles. His bio has this quote
He has worked nationally since 1960 to help conservatives become effective in the public policy process. In 1979, Mr. Blackwell formed the Leadership Institute to identify, recruit, train and place conservatives.
The farm system of good young conservatives has produced. Without such efforts in the 80s, we wouldn't have seen the Republican takeover of 1994. As religious conservatives become part of the GOP structure, getting conservatives in politics might not be as much needed as before. Beverly LaHaye-Her work with Concerned Women for America picked up Shlafly's banner and took it a notch further. CWA has far more members than NOW, despite what's you'd assume in the media. She'll have one of any number of articulate Christian women ready to take over. Janet Parschal would be a great choice. Pat Robertson-His founding of the Christian Coalition was a needed part of the integration of evangelicals into the conservative camp. However, the idea of evangelicals being a political force to be reckoned with will survive him. While the CC may be far less potent than it was a decade ago, the model of political activism has been taken to heart by dozens of grass-roots groups. There will be young evangelicals who will grow up to be the leaders of the future. However, they will be coming up into a system where they can function a lot easier because of the efforts of the people who came before them. Few on Ben's list will be directly replaced, but God's voice in the public square will continue to be heard.

How To Fight The Culture War-Part I-Judge Roy Moore, Lawless West of the Pecos-The rest of the Alabama Supreme Court has gone against him, but Moore's still fighting for his Ten Commandments monument. I heard this quote on the radio this morning
If the `rule of law' means to do everything a judge tells you to do, we would still have slavery in this country
On that basis, he's equating the removal of the monument to Dred Scott. How did we get rid of slavery? In Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri, it was done by the 14th 13th Amendment. In the rest of the South, it was done by the Civil War. Nigel Ray commented on one of my earlier posts
The citizenship ceremony includes an oath to protect the constitution against all enemies, domestic and foreign. Seems to me the Constitution trumps the courts. If the First Amendment were vague it would be one thing, but it is clear as crystal.
If we are to defend the Constitution, how then do we overthrow a regime that is misapplying it? I don't think anarchy is the answer. To be effective as a political tool, civil disobedience needs to shame the establishment into changing its views. I don't think Judge Moore's stunt is going to change Sandra Day O'Connor's mind on the issue. Changing the courts through conventional political means will be a long-term project. It will take at least two, and likely three, conservative nominees to the Supreme Court before a more traditional view of church-state issues takes over. That will likely take well into the next decade to effect. Shall we wait eight, ten years for Stevens and O'Connor to retire and count on conservative presidents to nominate conservative justices and conservative-friendly Senates to confirm them? If not, we'll need to overhaul our entire political system. Will this require violence? Should we issue a fatwa on the six center-left infidels so that Bush can appoint conservative replacements? If not, how do you overhaul the judicial system right away peacefully? What about expanding the Supreme Court to 15 (a nine-member Supreme Court's not a requirement), adding six conservative justices to pack the bench with good guys? That will assume that we can get those conservative justices through the Senate. However, that creates a lousy precedent; FDR toyed with that idea when he kept getting New Deal stuff blocked as unconstitutional. Will it take a Constitutional Convention? Do we need to start from scratch, or pass amendments to correct the problems? If so, what do we want the new amendments to be? These questions aren't going to be solved by dragging Judge Moore and his backers away from the courthouse in handcuffs. We need to have a serious discussion about how to stop the Brightization of our judicial system and our culture. Civil war may be the answer. Hard political efforts may be the answer. Political street theater isn't the answer.

Edifier du Jour-Jeremiah 24:4-7
4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 "Thus says the LORD God of Israel, 'Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. 6 'For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. 7 'I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.
I feel like Israel today. Verse seven's "a heart to know Me" hits how in a special way this morning, for I was up in the wee hours of this morning wrestling with the selfishness remaining in my heart. I had an analogy run through my mind where giving the believer Spirit-informed conscience was like giving a corporate manager stock options. On our own, we're going to be selfish and do what we want to do, rather than what the Owner wants us to do, for we're more concerned about our pay and our perks rather than the well-being of the firm. When we have a stake in the firm, our well-being is linked to how the company does and we're more likely to do things in the Owner's interest, for it is now in our own interest. A Spirit-informed conscience has us hurting when God hurts and joyful when God is joyful. When we're selfish and doing things that aren't in God's interest, our conscience hurts. It becomes in our best interest not to sin, for the pleasure we get from the sin in outweighed by the pain it causes our conscience. We've got a stake in God's business and are acting like co-owners of the family business as co-heirs with Jesus. I'm still selfish. I'm still looking out after my best interest. However, when God's best interest becomes your best interest, it winds up making a virtue out of acting selfishly.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Jihad Isn't Mentioned in This Sura-This Bobby Sura for Cliff Robinson trade looks interesting. The Pistons had a log-jam in the middle with too many 4s and 5s. With Wallace and Okur and Rebraca and draftee Darko Milicic and newly signed Eldon Campbell, not to mention Big Nasty doing a 3-4 swing, the middle was well covered. Robinson was excess goods. Sura gives the Pistons a legit scoring shooting gaurd off the bench who can make his own shot, filling Jon Barry's spot. With the blossoming of Tayshaun Prince in the playoffs, that might mean that Michael Curry winds up dropping out of the rotation; Curry can't make his own shot and can't hit the three. Pistons are lookeeng good for next year.

Word Up!-Blog has made the Oxford Dictionary. My favorate from this article is prairie-dogging for poking your head out of a cubicle to see something.

Midday Musings-School's getting back in session, with our second full day of classes and our beginning-of-year convocation. A 50-something local pastor gave the address. The good laugh line is that BMOC no longer means Big Man on Campus but Balding Man, Old and Chubby. "Give me your whales, your chubbs,your huddled massives yearning to eat free." No, being overweight isn't a good claim for asslym, even in the kinder, gentler Great White North. Chemical Ali is on ice. The noose tightens. Ahnold seems to be saying all the right things; no new taxes, a serious, systematic look at cutting spending, and telling Buffett to drop and give him 500 if he mentions repealing Prop 13. Easier said than done, especially with a Democratic legislature, but a good start.

Edifier du Jour-Jeremiah 23:16-24
16 Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 "They keep saying to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You will have peace"'; And as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, They say, 'Calamity will not come upon you.' 18 "But who has stood in the council of the LORD, That he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? 19 "Behold, the storm of the LORD has gone forth in wrath, Even a whirling tempest; It will swirl down on the head of the wicked. 20 "The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; In the last days you will clearly understand it. 21 "I did not send these prophets, But they ran. I did not speak to them, But they prophesied. 22 "But if they had stood in My council, Then they would have announced My words to My people, And would have turned them back from their evil way And from the evil of their deeds. 23 "Am I a God who is near," declares the LORD, "And not a God far off? 24 "Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?" declares the LORD. "Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?" declares the LORD.
Too many time, people will try and pass of their own opinions as God's word; I'm probably guilty of doing that myself from time to time. However, those who do that on purpose put themselves and the people they are misleading into serious danger. God's not a distant Deist deity; He's in the house. He's approachable. One of the things that happen on crucifixion day was that the veil to the Holy of Holies was physically ripped in two. Before, only the high priest could see God face-to-face. Now, anyone can. Don't be afraid to ask God about stuff; he's big enough to handle the smallest thing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Evening Musings-Got to sing When I'm 64 to my Mom tonight. She hit three-score and four today. Got word that my nephew is now walking at 10 months. Eileen's off at a woman's-retreat planning meeting tonight; when she gets back, we'll call her mom to wish her a happy birthday. Yep, both of our moms were born on August 20th. Maybe Baylor can play Division III basketball this year? No, that would screw up the Big XII sked. Most of the scholarships players are bugging out; the players have been granted a waiver from the rule that has transfers sit out a year before playing for a new school. It will be interesting to see the caliber of walk-ons that Baylor can get. At a school that size, there are likely some good players capable of playing Division II ball but choosing to go to a big school. So much for Pittsburgh mass transit; be ready to have the HOV diamond lanes fill up, for the Bus isn't running. At least not as a starter, Amos (Where 'zers a Will ) Zereoue gets the nod. [Update 9:20-One guy beat me to that last bon mot, but only one] Interesting piece on supermarket's response to Wally World Supercenters; you go upscale. For me, I don't buy a heck of a lot of upscale stuff, but a store that's easy to get in and out of with reasonable prices will get a lot of my business. If I want to save money, I'll swing by Wal-Mart. If I want to get in and out without wading through a sea of humanity or walk half a mile to get to the milk and OJ in the rear of the Supercenter, I'll do Publix. I'm looking forward to the new Publix opening up this fall on US-27 just north of Lake Wales; right now, there's no supermarket on or near the highway for my daily commute between Warner Southern and Cypress Gardens Boulevard.

Ten Commandments Now! Ten Commandments Forever!-I don't think this is great PR for Alabama, even if they are on the side of the angles on this one; the Supreme Court has refused to stop the removal of a Ten Commandments statue in the state Supreme Court building. They haven't ruled on the case proper, but have refused to grant an injunction. If Chief Justice Roy Moore, who rode the Ten Commandments into his current post, gets his way, they can bring the statue back. The problem I see coming down is some hard-right [insert adjective of derision here] will want to play Operation Rescue with the statue. Folks, let's remember what's on top of the monument-here's part of Exodus 20:
4You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Last I checked, what they're trying to get out of there is a piece of stone. A piece of stone with some fine words written on it, but a piece of stone nonetheless. Yes, our court system doesn't understand the free exercise or the establishment clause of the First Amendment overly well. This isn't a unborn child you're doing civil disobedience over, it's a big rock. By blocking enforcement of the court order, you're going to look like George Wallace standing at the schoolhouse door. Alabama conservatives will get tarred with the brush of bigots of old, even if they don't deserve it, and that type of civil disobedience will bring bad PR to both the state and the Church. That's not the witness I want to see done in Montgomery.

Welcome to the Tigris Roach Motel-...where the jihadis check in, but they don't check out. This was an interesting National Post piece looking at the various hard-cases heading to Iraq to do battle with the Great Satan.
"Far from a new Vietnam, we appear to be heading for a new Afghanistan, Somalia or Chechnya as the next battleground between Islam and the infidels," an official in Washington told the Daily Telegraph.
Nice rhetorical shotgun. Do you want the Soviets fighting the mujahadeen, the US fighting Somali warlords or the Russians fighting local Islamic rebels? None of them are great fits.
Rather than confronting the Americans directly, Muslim nations, in step with al-Qaeda and the Iraqi resistance, are waging the "war of the flea," in which guerrillas use their agility and local knowledge to damage a bigger, stronger enemy. The model for the guerrilla campaign is clearly Afghanistan, where Islamic fighters backed by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (not to mention the U.S. and Britain) conducted a decade-long war of attrition against the Soviets, which lost 15,000 soldiers before retreating.
Three problems with the Afghanistan model. The first is that the US isn't the USSR; we're there with the approval of the majority of the population. Even if we're a bit slow in delivering the goodies, the jihadis would be even slower, and the Iraqi street knows that. We're not there to expand our empire, as much as some on the left find that hard to believe, but to (within the limited resources of a finite government) help the Iraqi people as best we can. The second problem with making the US into the Soviets is that the jihadis don't have the US backing them this time. There may be some men and materiel flowing from other Islamic areas, but not as much as the Afghan rebels got. A third problem is that the US will fight a lot smarter than the Soviets did. With technology, human intel (as long as the people are against the jihadis, there will be leaks of their movements) and smarter fighting methods, we'll be a tougher foe than the Red Army.
There have been continuing reports that Muslims from the Middle East have been streaming into Iraq to fight what they see as a jihad against the West. More than 70 foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan were killed last month when U.S. troops raided a terror training camp west of Baghdad. In June, American troops captured 15 Saudis and seized a massive haul of weapons and ammunition.
Better in Baghdad then West Palm Beach. If they want to fight us in Iraq, that takes the battle (and the collateral damage) out of our backyard. Sorta like playing with the house money. This is where the Roach Motel comes in. If we can sucker al Qaeda into doing battle in Iraq, they will tick off the Arab street if all they are doing is trying to terrorize Iraq back to the Stone Age. You can make a case for secular-leaning Muslims for kicking Israel out of Palestine, but it's a harder case to justify get rid of a fledgling democracy (if we fast forward a year) to replace it with the second coming of the Taliban. If we win the Iraqi Intifada, we'll give al Qaeda a black eye and take out quite a few of its resources.
A similar scenario played out in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. Tens of thousands of young Muslim radicals from around the world converged to train and fight. Later, bin Laden united them under his al-Qaeda organization and dispatched them around the world to commit such acts as the Sept. 11 attacks.
Afghanistan showed the jihadis that they could beat the infidel. Sometimes you get the infidel, and sometimes, the infidel gets you. This time, it's going to be the latter, for the US can't afford to lose this one.

Morning Musings-Here's an example for my Macroeconomics opening lecture on supply and demand; there's new compitition for the Pfizer Riser. Glaxo has been approved by the FDA to offer Levitra (Levit-ra; expect bad jokes about magic carpet rides) as an alternative to Viagra. A third impotence drug is in the pipeline. OK, class, what happens to the demand for Viagra? This confirms what I've been seeing at the pump; gas prices have crept up 10-15 cents an gallon , mainly due to a shortage due to a pipeline breakage in Arizona. That shouldn't shift prices up in Florida that much; when we had a similar problem with a Michigan pipeline a year or two ago, prices rose mostly in the Great Lakes area. No Mailman at the Americas qualifing tourneyment? He's home at his mom's funeral; Keynon Martin will sub for him on the US team. Here's a scary statement-"U.S. coach Larry Brown said a spot would be held on the 2004 Olympic team for Malone if the team qualifies." That's a lot more of an if than it used to be.

Some Baptism Musings-This comments on this Amy Welborn post on liturgical music was a bit of an eye-opener. An interesting discussion broke out on Amazing Grace and how it didn't fit Catholic theology. Commenter Christine sums it up nicely
My problem with "Amazing Grace" is its decidedly "decision theology" which makes more sense in a church body like the Baptists who only practice adult baptism. Catholics receive the gift of faith in baptism, although to be sure this involves a life-long growth in faith and nurture. For a Baptist Christian baptism is simply a public witness of the decision to follow Christ, involving no sacramental grace. To sing "the hour I first believed", to me, negates that baptismal gift given to us.
Catholic doctrine does state that saving grace is imparted in baptism, even to someone too young to express such a faith. The Catholics are not alone in that theology; a quick review of other infant-baptizing churches find the Episcopal, Presbyterian (PCUSA) and Missouri Synod Lutheran doctrines in basic agreement that baptism imparts salvation. That runs counter to what appears to be the pattern in the New Testament, where people believed, then were baptized. As I try to learn from the Bible, these four questions come to my mind as I struggle with the topic.
1-Does the belief in the saving power of baptism lessen the desire for a personal relationship with Christ?
While there are people with a strong evangelical spirit within infant-baptizing churches, the idea that one is saved upon being baptized as a tyke can take away the desire to know and follow Jesus. If you're salvation is already covered, why go through the struggle of a restrictive walk with the Lord? It seems that the adult-baptizing churches seem to have a stronger drive to seek God. Secondly, that view of the saving power of baptism can seem to lean to a very permissive view of sin; since we're all saved, it doesn't really matter what we do. God's forgiven us, so who am I to judge someone who sins? Even disbelief in Jesus, the one who we were baptized into, is OK.
2-Since the custom of Catholic and traditional Protestant churches is to baptism every child in the congregation, is it assumed that everyone who is a part of the denomination is saved?
That comes close to that. If it is a formality that all children of the church are baptized, then all are saved, with the exception of a few people who fell through the baptismal cracks. Few pastors will have the guts to tell degenerate parents that they're not good enough to get their kid baptized. I remember this case from last October where a homosexual couple had quadruplets via artificial inseminating a women with one of the guy's sperm, then brought them up for Catholic baptism. This quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia would back up such a view "Should a priest baptize the child of non-Catholic parents if they themselves desire it? He certainly can do so if there is reason to hope that the child will be brought up a Catholic (Conc. Prov, Balt., I, decr, x). " Thus, baptism is open to anyone who walks in the door, whether their parents have an earnest desire to follow God or not.
3-Does such a belief lead towards a universalist theology?
If anyone can be baptized, regardless of their faith, how much does it mean? If it becomes a pro-forma event, and everyone who gets baptized is deemed saved, it's not much of a leap to assume that everyone, whether they get baptized or not, is saved.
4-Does the belief in the saving power of baptism lessen the desire for orthodoxy or orthopraxy?
It seems that way. If we're all saved, what we believe or how we believe is immaterial in the big picture. It might not be the prime cause of the liberalism in the Episcopal Church, but that attitude seems to be part of the package
5-Is infant baptism cocky Calvinism in that we assume that all the children of the church are members of the elect?
Infant baptism plays well with Calvinist theory; we're chosen and there ain't nothing we can do about it. However, if baptism equals salvation, we assume that we're in Lake Woebegone (good Lutheran territory, after all) and all our children are spiritual above average. It seems a bit cocky to me. Just a long rant that's been on my heart the last few days. Feel free to point out where I'm wrong.

Edifier du Jour-1 Peter 4:12-14
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
God doesn't promise us a free ride in life. Often, if we are doing our job, we will encounter opposition. I don't quite think I've seen "fiery ordeals" yet, but I've had to defend my faith where it wasn't the most expedient thing to do from a career standpoint. This is a good antidote to the Prosperity Gospel folks. If things are going badly at the moment, it might be that Satan is trying to get you off course; sometimes troubles increase the closer you are to doing good works. So, don't take persecution or "bad luck" as a sign that God's not happy with you; it may well be that you're on the right track and Ol' Sloughfoot doesn't like it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Evening Musings-It looks like South Dakota will be in the market for a new Congressman; their lone member, former governor Bill Janklow, killed someone in a car accident where he seems to have run a stop sign. Looks like a good vehicular homicide case against someone with a history of being a leadfoot. Baghdad didn't have the only autoboomer today; Jerusalam had yet another one. I loved the WaPo sub-head that ranks a couple of Claudes-"Palestinian militants claim responsibility for suicide attack in Jerusalem that jeopardizes peace." If peace were in jeopardy any more often, Alex Trebek would be on the Hamas payroll. Speaking of pinging the Claudometer, Fox takes the cake for the evening "Davis Blasts Calif. Recall, GOP." You're expecting him to do something else, Sherlock?

Afternoon Musings-Got a Google Hit for "Cruz Bustamante Biography." Check out who advertising there-Peter Ueberroth's campaign. Patrick Ruffini's new Bush campaign site has a news feed function. I'll open it up to the Peanut Gallery-would you like that over to the left here? Patrick, you don't get to vote. I'm leaning against it (just a tad), for I don't want to seem too much of a Bush shill, but I'm open to suggestions. Interesting bio on the late Sergio Vieira de Mello. He seems to have been a diplomat's diplomat, a Brazillian UN lifer who did his college at the Sorbonne. Now, keep the sneers to a minumum back there.

Musings From a Conflicted Heart-This is making the Paleoeuropeans squeamish; the death toll is up to 15, including the top UN guy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. This is making plugs for an increased role for the UN more difficult. I'd like to grieve more for the people killed in the building, but the people who died there remind me too much of the NPR reporter and her interviewees who took pleasure in the big American blackout last week, saying that that gave Americans a taste of what Iraqis are dealing with post-war. I've got little love for the people who tried to stop the US-led ending of the Baathist regime at all costs short of declaring war on the US. If this Marine's report is any indication, the country's better off now than at the begining of the year. I can assume that most, if not all, of the people who died were there looking after what they felt were the Iraqi people's needs. This wasn't the trashing of a symbol, this was a trashing of 15 people's lives. My heart has to go out to the families of the dead and injured and put geopolitics on the back burner, but it's hard to not think of all the damage the UN tried to do to the Iraqi people in the lead-up to the war in the name of diplomacy.

California Electric History Revisited-I've given up fisking Krugman much for the same reason I've given up Diet Pepsi; they both raise my blood pressure. However, I'm going to make an exception today. Other bloggers will take the whole thing apart, but I'd like to hit on one key paragraph in his The Road to Ruin-
Incidentally, there seems to be a weird reluctance to face up to what happened in California. Since the blackout, I've seen national news reports attributing California's woes in part to environmental restrictions, while ignoring the role of market manipulation. Huh? There's no evidence that environmental restrictions played any role; meanwhile, even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which strongly backs deregulation, has concluded that market manipulation played a major role. What's with the revisionist history?
First of all, enviromental issues did contribute to the crisis, for a combination of regulations and nimbyitis led to few, if any, plants build in the southern half of California in the last two decades. That meant that the area needed to import power from the north and east. Secondly, the electrical grid had a limited capasity to bring juice from the north; if I recall correctly, the grid had a bottleneck around Fresno that limited the amount of electricity that could come through. Thirdly, the half-aseled deregulation plan that was put in place allowed wholesale prices to float while fixing retail prices via state utility regulators. When demand spiked and costs went up due to high natural gas and oil prices, you quickly saw the cost of energy get higher than the price they were earning. Part of the market manipulation was likely the fear that power suppliers would be selling to soon-to-be-bankrupt firms that might not pay for their power for a long time, if ever. I'll give Krugman credit, he opted not to utter the word Enron in this mix. However, those enviromental issues were real and not revisionist history. It's easier to blame corporations rather than the Sierra Club.

Midday Musings-Found a new plaything-the Blog This button on the Google Toolbar-I did the last three posts from it. It doesn't work for multi-link posts, but for one-timers, it's a nice toy. One minor problem; I have to have it move away from a Department of Theology default setting. There's some bad news in Iraq; the UN HQ got bombed, killing ten. You, back there! Did you say "A good start"? Stay after class and write 100 times on the white board "Schradenfrude isn't godly." Good news from St. Loius-the Bucs got out of last nights game without any injuries, other than to the defense's pride. Kurt Warner looked like his old self last night in the part of the 24-14 Rams win that I did see. One more lawsuit out of the way; the Justice Department has signed off on a trimmed-down list of polling places in counties that need Justice oversight for low minority turnout. The Davis backers have one last suit up their sleeves, going after punch-card ballots that are being phased out next years in some poorer districts. That's not likely to work, but that's the liberal way; if you can't win at the ballot box, win in the courts. Interesting piece on a pan-Arab American Idol clone that just finished with a Jordanian gal nudging past an Syrian gal in the final; there were protests in Lebanon when their favorite son got knocked off in the semis.

Playing Second Fiddle's Hard Without a Bow-One more piece of good news out of Iraq:they've captured Saddam's VP. However, this VP is small-fry, only 20th on the most-wanted list. Question? Where would Cheney be on al Qaeda's card list for US biggies? Second, most likely. That's not typical for most VPs.

Don't Tax You, Don't Tax Me, Tax the Hicks out in the Trees-Our ever-wise Polk County Commission may actually (GASP) cut spending if they can't agree to raise utility taxes from 2% to 7% for us who aren't in a city (where I live is just outside of Winter Haven city limits). Guess what they're likely to do; tax the hicks in the sticks.

Southern Strategy-Interesting WaPo piece on Lieberman running a centrist campaign. There are a few chucklers, including calling People for the American Way a "left-leaning" organization (if it leaned any more, it would be horizontal), but the interesting thing is that Lieberman is essentially trying Al Gore's strategy of 1988; ignore Iowa and New Hampshire and run as a southern moderate (at least that how he was marketing himself then). Does this undermine the party liberals? Yes. Does it make it hard for them to beat the president when one of their own paints them as being too liberal to win a gereral election? You betcha. However, these are things the nominee will have to get used to (assuming that Lieberman isn't the nominee), for they will have the airwaves filled with attack ads that will be far less charitable than Lieberman is. One thing that stuck me about this campaign is that Lieberman is counting on the Bubba vote to win the election. This says loads about how far anti-Semitism has been beaten down that a Orthodox Jew is getting support from moderate and rural wing of the Democratic Party, not the liberal wing. Either that, or that the Bright takeover of the Democratic Party is so complete, that the remaining God-fearing members of the party will take anyone who stand for traditional values.

The Prodigal Returns-Patrick Ruffini has emerged from his hiatus; he's the webmaster of the President's campaign site, GeorgeWBush.com. I've known about this for a couple of months, shortly after his Rants page went dark, but the information was embargoed. I think I did say cryptically when the issue had come up on other blogs that he was working on a big project; here's the project.

Edifier du Jour-1 Peter 3:18-22
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
Verse 21 is hard to get around, for it challenges the standard evangelical definition of baptism if read literally. It would also seem to challenge the infant-baptizing bunch as well, for that appeal for a good conscience would seem to come from the baby, who's not in a position to coherently ask God for one. You could say that the parents, godparents and others involved in the baptism to be making the appeal for the tyke. In this reading, the first idea that flows is that something happens during baptism that gives your conscience an overhaul. That seems close to the idea of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that John the Baptist claimed was within Jesus' power and that showed up in Acts. That opens up the question of whether the baptism that Peter is talking about is water baptism or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit (concurrent with salvation, not a secondary, later event) may be in play here, not a trip to the dunk tank or the sprinkle bowl. It is that interaction with the Spirit that informs our lives and leads us away from our sinful natures. That is what gives a good conscience. I'm not sure if my desired hermeneutic is leading my exegesis here, but it's the best way I can make sense of it.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Afternoon Musings-Classes at Warner Southern start Wednesday, so I spent today dealing with last-minute schedule changes and putting the finishing touches on syllabi for my three traditional semester-long classes. I got a good chuckle as I was coming back from getting my big glass of ice water (Diet Pepsi methadone) from the cafeteria. One of our campus security guys was manning the "Auto Registration" table. I asked why, if they had auto-registration, why all the students were registering manually, going from station to station. I have to give the thumbs up to Shaun Micheel for the best 18th-hole approach shot in golf-major history. Up one, he sticks his approach two inches from the hole, tapping in to win by two for his first tour win. Not just his first major win, mind you, but his first PGA Tour win. We had a year where all the majors went to first-time-major winners, and the last two went to first-time winners on tour. Interesting news from Cleveland; Tim Couch is getting to sit on the couch, as Kelly Holcomb has gotten the starting nod. June 1, 2004 will be the likely last day Couch is a Brown if this holds up. One of the reasons the NFL has to pay so much in signing bonuses is that the contract is only binding one-way; players who are underperforming their salery can be cut without honoring the remainder. I was all set to pick Michael Vick with the first overall pick in Blogger Bowl 2K4. However, he'll likely slide to the sixth or seventh round since he broke his leg this weekend. We'll find out Saturday who the Blogger Bowl 2K3 runner-up Florida Blogistas take with their pick on Saturday.

Simon Sez-Drop Out-This piece is wondering whether Bill Simon will drop out and endorse Ahnold. I don't think he'll have to. Plenty of voters will vote strategicly. If I were in California and asked my opinion right now, I'd be supporting either McClintock or Simon, probably McClintock. However, if I see the race boiling down to a Ahnold-Cruz race, while my guy's stuck in single digits, I'd likely hold my nose and vote for Ahnold. That happened to me back in 1980, when I was a misguided teenager wearing an Anderson button to work in the EMU cafeteria back in my neoliberal days. Come election day, I held my nose and voted for Carter (yes, you may reach for the barf bag, sins of my youth) rather than cast a protest vote. I remember this kind of thing happening in the y'all come Lousiana primaries, where only the top two get into the final. Poor-polling GOP candidates will often drop out in order to build-up support for one of the stronger Republicans. Even if McClintock doesn't drop out, prudent supporters would opt to vote for Ahnold in order to make some positive change in the governorship. He'll pick up those three percent (he's down 25-22 to Bustamante) with defecting Republicans.

Midday Musings-Thanks to those of you who have been praying for my health; I just got back from a stress test, and my blood pressure has dropped back down from ~170/110 levels to ~120/80. I'm still going to stay off of caffeine and keep at the weight room, and keep taking my blood-pressure medication, but that new blood pressure reading does take a load off my mind. Interesting Irving Kristol piece in The Weekly Standard; Bill asked Daddy to do a piece on neocons, which got Ben a little steamed, "My statist-tolerance meter is beeping like mad after reading that article." Shouldn't that be your statist-intolerance meter, Ben? I have to watch how I calibrate mine, one of our new Business profs supposidly likes Jimmy Carter and (barf bag, pleeeze) Hillary. Unsolicited plug for the Google Toolbar. I haven't used all the features yet, but the Page Rank one is interesting. I've got a 5 rating,noting a good C-level blog. A quick test had Megan getting a 6 and Vohkol and Papa Blog getting 7's when I checked at home; somehow Instapundit got downgraded to a 6 this morning, the same as Kevin. Suprisingly, both Ben and Josh only get 5s. I'd expect both of them to get 6s. However, the best thing about the toolbar is that it blocks pop-ups. Ya gotta love it.

Edifier du Jour-1 Peter 2:4-6
4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture: "BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
Literally, believers don't fit in this world. We're designed to fit into a better place. We can still function in this world, but we won't quite be comfortable with the fit. Collectively, we're designed do build a temple for God, not build a school or a factory or a strip mall. Eileen and I were praying through a hard feeling of not fitting in last night, especially for Eileen, who's working at a secular locale at the moment. The bad news from this verse is that we're not supposed to fit in. The good news is that we have a better place to fit in to.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Survivor Stories-Lee Ann Millinger, writing from metro Detroit, leaves a two parter on her time without power; here's part one. Bene Diction, up in Ontario, has another two-parter.

We're #49!-There's an old joke that Alabama thanks the Lord for Mississippi, for they'd be dead last in more stats without them. Their state spending levels are among the lowest in the nation. That would lead many to suggest that taxes and spending are too low and need to be raised. However, that same logic gets applied on a national level when (usually) liberals point out that the US has smaller government spending than Europe does, and in that case, I'd make and argument that it's not that we tax too little, but that Europe taxes too much. It's an awkward argument when you're an outlier and to say that "I'm OK, y'all suck." The issue at hand this years is a plan to raise property taxes and upper-bracket income taxes and raise the standard exemption on the state income tax. This is being proposed by their Republican governor, Bob Riley. Here's one of many Chip Taylor pieces on the ballot proposal. Go and read many other good piece from Taylor, who seems to be a native Alabamian with a Econ Master's degree.[Correction-"I'm not a native Alabaman, but rather a native Georgian who spent most of my life in Missouri and is now transplanted to South Carolina. And I've got a masters in public administration, not econ." It sure look liked you knew econ and you knew Alabama, sir] The interesting thing about the press coverage is that the mainline media has a Republican they can love; I heard a NPR interview with Riley the other day that is the biggest puff piece I can recall them giving to a Republican that wasn't an abortion-supporter. Raising property taxes, especially on timberlands (the timber industry has gotten a good deal over the years), and upper-bracket income taxes while raising the standard deduction to take a lot of the working poor's wages off the tax rolls, seems to be more a Democratic idea. Gov. Riley is sounding a bit like this Susan Hamill piece I ran across in February that used liberal Christian rhetoric to plug for more spending and more progressivity in the tax code. The net result of the tax increase will be to spend more money on schools, especially rural schools that have been relatively underfunded. The question on the table is whether Alabama's spending too little on its schools and other state programs and whether more progressivity in the tax code is called for. That, I'm not sure of. I know when I was a low-wage earner, the low exemptions in Michigan had me paying state income tax in years where I paid no federal income tax, so the raising of the exemptions seems proper. However, I'm not sure if the property tax increases and income tax increases will do more damage to the Alabama economy then the extra school spending will help. More on that after I get back from church.

Edifier du Jour-Luke 5:17-25
17 One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. 18 And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. 19 But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." 21 The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" 22 But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23 "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24 "But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"--He said to the paralytic--"I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home." 25 Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God.
This morning, I was scanning through Fox News' sight, and two headlines seemed interestingly placed. A piece on Dave Bliss has the headline "Report: Baylor Coach Urged Lies" with the following headline being "'He's Going to Face Eternal Judgment'" That depends on whether Bliss knows the Lord or not (or Idi Amin, the real subject of the second article). If some of Baylor's Baptist convictions rubbed off on Bliss, he might well have. God has the power to wipe out anyone's sins, even Idi Amin's. Remember that He used a mass murderer name Saul to write the lions-share of the New Testament. If his answers to James Dobson were legit here, Ted Bundy found the Lord before visiting Ol' Sparky. Jesus makes sure that he points out that he has that power by a healing. You can't see a slate being wiped clean in God's books, but you can see earthy miracles. This came from faith, a faith that doesn't have to be 20 times as strong to blot out 20 times the sin. God's eraser's one size fits all. If someone had snuck into his Saudi villa the last few days and brought Amin to Christ, he'd have been one more name in the Lamb's Book of Life. It doesn't seem fair to those of us who've led a much-less-sinful life, but it's God forgiveness to give, and we all need that eraser used on our slates. God's eraser's bigger than your sins. If your way to God in your mind is blocked by your past, remember that if God can forgive a mass murderer, his eraser's got room for your sins.

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