Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sermon illustrations I'd rather not hear

....yet have regrettably heard too often.  They belong to the genre of "sappy story that will guilt you into good works" (or not), and two of the worst are (a) the story of the little boy who is going to give blood to his sister and thinks they're going to drain him and (b) the story of the bridge operator forced by circumstances to crush his own son in the machinery to save a train full of passengers.

Now one would hope that "guilt you into good works" would die for that reason alone, as the good works only last as long as the guilt does--maybe a few days, really.  But no such luck, and hence we need to appeal to the question of whether the stories are true.

And they almost certainly are not, sad to say, and we really ought to spot this more readily.  For both stories, we can start with the fact that there is no journalistic record of either event--are we to believe that such a "good story" went unreported?

Regarding the first, the story is generally told that the child is "wheeled" into the room, and that the tube goes from donor to recipient.  Now speaking as a guy with 15 gallon pins, it's not how it's done--never has been and never will be. You never take from a child because he'd need a transfusion afterwards, and since you only need to match blood type and Rh factor, you don't need a tight donor match like you do for kidneys, hearts, and such.  You never need a family match for a blood transfusion.  It's also important that the person walk to the donation, because if he can't, you've got to assume that he's not healthy enough to donate.

Plus, you need to test the blood for disease, measure how much you've taken, and finally you need some pressure to carry the blood from the bag to the recipient, typically about 100mm Hg or a rise of about 1 meter.  That's why transfusion blood goes on the same stand with the other IV solutions.  You can't just put a tube between two people and hope all goes well. 

The second story is as much nonsense as the first for a very simple factor; it is the bridge operator who signals that the line is clear after he closes the bridge.  So if he sees someone in the machinery, he does nothing, the signal remains red, the train stops, and no one gets hurt.  And if a train should ignore the signals, there is nothing the operator can do because closing the bridge takes minutes.  It's been this way since the 19th century--it's why you will to this day see a telegraph line beside many railroad tracks.

Hopefully this will help some dear brothers and sisters in Christ take a stand against emotional blackmail as a sermon tool.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Can you blame her?

Apparently, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg had a few drinks before going to the SOTU speech, and nodded off under the influence.  Can't say as I blame her, and it's worth noting that now, even liberals must tie one on to cope with the imbecility coming from the White House.  It took them a few years to figure out what those "smart pills" really are, but hey, they're finally catching on.

That said, there isn't enough wine in the world to cope with Obama's response to the murders in a kosher deli in Paris; he made the claim that it was just people who "randomly shot a bunch of folks in Paris".   No, Mr. President, the perpetrator chose that location because he wanted to kill Jews.  His asinine statement--to paraphrase his wife--really makes me say

For the first time in my life, I am embarrassed to be an American.

Not that my country is perfect, or ever has been, but if the President is able to say what he said without embarrassment, and persuade two prominent members of his staff to repeat that b******* nonsense, we are in a load of trouble these days.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ignorance and Corruption

Yesterday, I read a wonderful column by Michelle Malkin where she decries Michelle Obama's campaign against foods including "cheese dust" because it seems that the Obamas earned hundreds of thousands of dollars on the board of "Tree House Foods", a manufacturer of things like store brand macaroni and cheese.

Now on one level, Mrs. Obama's rant is hilarious because cheese dust is, indeed, food.  Specifically, if you look at the label of foods containing it, it's powdered whey, the same kind of thing used on protein drinks and those "muscle milk" canisters that GNC and others make a mint selling.  It's also the same stuff used to make baby formula that is pushed so hard by WIC.   Not only is it food, but it's also a dairy product, high in protein, but without high levels of butterfat.  Admitting quibbles over whether low fat diets actually are healthy, it's right up the power alley of a lot of dieticians.  They'd tell us that it's not only food, but also good food.

A byproduct of cheese making, it's historically fed to pigs, and hence one might also infer that it may also be more environmentally responsible--adding a pound of muscle to a pig to get pork protein takes more than a pound of whey, after all, and hog production is known to have some deleterious (and hilarious) side effects.

But instead of doing the hard work of "reading the label" and spending ten minutes learning that "cheese dust" is indeed a healthy part of many foods we eat, Mrs. Obama and her daughter, oblivious to the fact that curds are not whey, decided to try to pulverize an innocent piece of cheddar.

And that brings me to the "corruption" issue.  Mrs. Obama, despite apparently not having enough expertise in food preparation to read the first few words of the ingredients list, just happened to be elected to Tree House's board just after her husband was elected to the Senate.

One wonders what Tree House did between 2005 and now to earn Mrs. Obama's ire.  Maybe they didn't contribute enough to Barack's reelection fund, and hence she's leveraging her complete lack of expertise in food to wedge them out of a business that keeps a lot of people fed.  And don't forget for a minute; the drive to "improve" school lunches and childhood nutrition is being led by a woman who apparently cannot read a list of ingredients. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Yet another reason I homeschool

Check out these social studies questions from Wisconsin--theoretically one of the top five states in the nation for educational achievement.  It's supposed to be a test on recognizing different political movements, but really ought to be named "how to stereotype and ignore the real issues."

One would figure that teachers would at least get their own political persuasion right, instead of a pitiful caricature, but apparently not.  And one would also figure that a teacher who had spent some time in Madison during college ought at least to quote Marx correctly in questions about Marxism, but that dream is dashed on the hard rocks of reality (near Superior I believe, or perhaps in the Dells) as well.

If that's as good as public education gets, I think I'll keep homeschooling, thank you very much.

Thoughts on the Brian Williams debacle

Apparently, servicemen who flew Brian Williams around Iraq are speaking up about his stories of being there, telling little subtle facts such as his helicopter was not hit by an RPG, which carries sufficient explosive power to destroy a tank.  In other words, if his helicopter had actually been hit by an RPG, he most likely wouldn't have been around to talk about it.

In other fiction served up by Mr. Williams, he apparently made up a slew of stories surrounding his experience--or non-experience as it were--reporting the results of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Now that last part catches my eye, as there are any number of people in the media who were around Mr. Williams in both cases who could have, and should have, told the truth.  The fact that they did not until now suggests that media bias is not an accident. It is a culture of deception. 

And given that the reporting on the Katrina disaster arguably was a great part in giving Congress to the Democrats in 2006, I have to wonder if there was an intentional effort there.  Now I don't have any "smoking gun" documents, but it certainly was a nice little coincidence that dozens of people all decided not to tell the world that Williams' account was, to put it politely, fertilizer, wasn't it?

What are we trying to achieve?

One good comment I received--OK, THE comment I received--about redefining teaching about modesty is the notion that we ought to dress for what we do.  It's a good point, as it gets rid of blaming a woman for a man's sexual sin, and it also points to the fact that we ought to dress for the relationships--employment and personal--that we desire.

It is much the same as when I tell my kids to put on a coat, hat, gloves, socks, and shoes before we go somewhere in winter.  Might as well be able to tolerate cold and snow for a few minutes if the car breaks down.  Now how does this relate to plunging necklines, extremely tight clothing, and the like?

Well, come to the office and see how many people you see wearing black stretch pants sans something to cover the derriere, or check out the pool--the 50 meter one for exercise--and see how many people you see wearing a bikini.   Reality is that achievement at work, or in athletics, does not correlate well with being a distraction, or tugging at your clothes all the time to make sure "everything important" is covered.  It correlates well with, well, being able to work.

In other words, certain attire--excessively tight, revealing, etc..--is the attire of leisure, the attire of....

....people who aren't going anywhere in their career or relationally, really, unless they make it in show business.  And for that matter, how likely is it for people in show business to have success in their personal lives?  Maybe there's a connection there.

I saw a young lady recently who demonstrated she understood half of this principle as she left the "medical careers vo-tech" school that uses the building where I work.  In the hallway, she took off her scrubs to expose her "high school fashion."   She understands that clinics expect her to dress for success.  Hopefully she learns in time that she needs to do so for her personal relationships, too.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thoughts about "my tribe"

One of the most heartbreaking things I can think of is when horrendous sin is uncovered in my church, or in my church movement--which I define broadly as baptistic and Bible- believing, a la GARB or the best of the Evangelical Free churches.  Back in Colorado, I knew of a pastor's suicide, and a man I knew reasonably well from my own church was convicted of murder. 

More recently, a report came out from GRACE  about sexual assault at BJU, and one of the scarier things is that the victims were to a degree blamed.  This has also been seen in other fundamental institutions--one sad case involves, directly or indirectly, at least three churches, a school, and at least three Bible colleges.

Not exactly part of a good Gospel presentation, to put it mildly.  What is up with this?

Part of the issue is probably what we see elsewhere; "closing ranks" to protect an institution and choosing the easiest target--the victim--to make the problem go away.  But the GRACE report, and other reports, allege more.  Specifically, much counseling seems to blame the victim, even to the point of asking a victim whether she enjoyed forcible rape.  Why is this?

One hint can be found in advice commonly given on the topic of modesty; Ladies, please don't lead men astray with your clothing choices.  Notice something missing there?  Yup, the man's responsibility.  In its extremes, it can become burqa theology.

But it's justified by Proverbs 5-7, right?  Well, no.  Read closely; the woman is doing many things, not just dressing like a harlot, to get "customers."  Moreover, the father's instruction presumes that the son is sinning if he "hires" her.  No matter how hard she tries, the man is still a moral agent.  And, quite frankly, I'm pretty sure all those immodestly dressed women I see out there are not trying to seduce me personally. 

So it seems to me that we need to come up with a new way of recommending personal modesty that (a) reflects the reality of seduction and mixed messages, but (b) does not suggest that sexual assault is caused by the victim.  I'm going to suggest, again, Leviticus 18's use of "uncover nakedness" as a picture of unlawful sexual relationships.   Combined with Proverbs 5-7, we may infer this:

 If we reveal the contours of our private areas--hips, bust, upper thigh--whether it be direct line of sight or by tightness of clothing--we may suggest that we are available for an unlawful sexual relationship. 

Closer, but still needs some tweaking.  Suggestions?

Yet another reason to homeschool

After finding feces on the school gym floor, teachers and administrators force two dozen elementary school students to drop their trousers.   Apart from the blatant invasion of privacy and humiliation of these kids, exactly what were they trying to find?  It's not as though "racing stripes" aren't commonly found on the underwear of flatulent young skulls full of much, after all.  Teachers yet again proving that yes, the college of education does have the lowest SAT and ACT scores in most colleges and universities, I guess.

Speaking of which, I'm very grateful this morning that my colonoscopy results came back as "come back in three years."  And if you're considering whether you really ought to go in for yours and endure the unpleasant preparation, I can say unequivocally that it beats the tar out of a morphine drip.  Visit someone in hospice care for a few hours if you doubt this.

Finally, on the light side, I heard that there is a reason that many politicians have to get "virtual" colonoscopies.   They tried the standard procedure, but after a few cups of GoLytely or Moviprep, there was nothing left.  Come to think of it, we should require the real thing for politicians, shouldn't we?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Part of what we're up against.

Powerline, or perhaps the "Kool Aid Report", reported on President Obama's attempt to get India to commit to a "peak year" of greenhouse gas emissions.  Their point is mostly that the "Light Worker" failed miserably to get this concession, and that India is also taking action, for better or worse, against Greenpeace because of their actions in India.

I am not enough of an expert on the actions of environmental groups in India to comment on that last part, but it strikes me that there are multiple follies at work with the first part.  First of all, in a parliamentary system like India's or a republic like ours, committing to a peak emissions year is pure folly and nonsense.  The laws can change every month and will. 

More importantly, the very notion of a peak year for greenhouse gas emissions presumes government control over all facets of the economy.  First of all, that's explicitly un-Constitutional.   Second, it makes no consideration for the certainty of change, and third....we have some examples of what happens, environmentally speaking, when government controls the economy.  The Warsaw Pact nations were riddled with environmental disasters in the 1990s, and China is well known for some of the worst air quality worldwide.   It is utter folly to try the same method and expect different results.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Well, almost the point I'd make

Lori Alexander links an interesting list of things by a newlywed, and is mostly troubled by item #2; that the man has "learned" that since he's gotten married, he's usually wrong.  On the "marriage wars" theme, it strikes me that this is a variant of the old joke; If a husband says something in the forest, and his wife isn't there to hear him, is he still wrong?  She probably has a point, although the man could simply be recognizing his sin in the light his wife casts. 

What bothers me more, however, from a Biblical point of view, are thoughts #3 and #5; that there will be a lot of movies and Bravo network in the house.  Now I'm a fan of old movies, where actors and actresses were able to convey romance without disrobing, but the inclusion of Bravo--home of "Real Housewives", featuring housewives so real they'll melt if they get close to a fire--suggests that the fare being watched is not always what you'd want your kids to see.

And so I am reminded of something my wife and I learned in marriage counseling; that certain literature and film acts for women the same way that porn does for men, setting the expectation that no matter what one's own character or behavior, one will attract a rich, handsome person who will be at home at six every day and.....you know the rest.  It is a prescription for dissatisfaction, covetousness, and even adultery--the ludicrous becomes plausible in the same way it does for men with pornography.

And so the man whose wife is involved with this--or romance novels, or whose daughters have gotten hooked on horse romances--needs to step forward and fulfill his Ephesians 5 & 6 responsibilities to wash his wife in the Word.  That, along with not "lording it over" people, is a lot of what servant leadership is all about.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Solving problems vs. fishing for votes

There is plenty to dislike in President Soetoro's "State of the Union" speech, but probably the biggest obnoxious thing in it is his plan to make community college "free".  We of course start our criticism with the TANSTAAFL principle; there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.  Yes, community college costs, and the only question we have about the matter is who is paying. 

And who is paying?  Well, of course, people who are wise enough to pay for their own education--Obama desires a tax on 529 plans to pay for it.  In other words, he's proposing that the government break a promise not to tax the interest on these plans, hurt the "ants" who saved for the future, and all to bless the "grasshoppers" who did not.  It's a nasty low blow if it gets passed, to put it mildly.

And what is the benefit?  Well, the graduation rate from community colleges is an abysmal 20% or less, and anyone who's been in college knows what happens with most students who do not have skin in the game--study is an afterthought at best.   For example, Pell Grant recipients have a 40% graduation rate, well below the national average.   That's what comes when the government pays your tuition without regard to your ability to get a degree.

So our supposed "benefit" is more students spending years in community college instead of learning a trade--more or less, a net loss of billions of dollars in tuition costs, plus a net loss of tens of thousands of young people in the work force learning valid trades. 

However, as Dear Leader knows well, it buys votes from those who think they are being helped, no matter what the truth of the matter is. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Potemkin SOTU

Apparently, not only are the policies President Obama has proposed economic make believe, so is the story he presented.  The family he presented as representative of common Americans is....

.....one where the wife has been a Democratic operative.   And it's not the first time he's used her as a speech prop, either.  Seems like except for the golf course, vacations in Hawaii, and dinners at clubs where it costs a half million bucks to join, the President doesn't get out much.

Not that this will stop the media from acting as if Mr. Obama is a "man of the people", of course.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Sending the folk song army....

....is our Dear Leader, who apparently chose to send crack infantryman James Taylor to France to play "You've got a Friend" to atone for Mr. Obama's failure to send someone of significance to a rally in support of free speech after the "Charlie Hebdo" atrocity.  Now part of me wonders why Taylor needs to stare at his guitar to play a song he's been playing for nearly 44 years, but another part of me sees a parallel in another singer popular in the hippie era.

Yes, Dear Leader is taking diplomatic tips from Tom Lehrer, regrettably.  But enjoy.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Is "disparate impact" really a problem?

Powerline discusses an important--maybe--case before the Supreme Court where the Court is being asked to establish whether the criteria of "disparate impact" applies to housing.   They define it as when a policy excludes or injures a group without a legitimate interest, and give the examples of school disciplinary standards or employment standards (say for police or firefighting work) as examples where this standard has done harm.

But that said, any parent can tell you that relaxing disciplinary standards in school is guaranteed to cause problems where good students aren't allowed to learn.  Relaxing standards for police or firefighting work guarantees that crimes do not get solved and fires don't get put out readily. 

In other words, I'm at a loss to think of cases where the disparate impact criteria are met--you will find plenty of places where one minority is harmed, but not too many of them are cases where there is no legitimate reason to do so. 

So what's the problem, then?  The problem, as far as I can tell, lies in attorneys general (state and federal level) who use the tool to intimidate school districts, police departments, and the like into doing their will.  It is a legal blackmail tool. 

And so if it's happening in your area, there are two things to be done.  One can either repeal disparate impact laws, or alternatively simply rein in the attorneys general who mis-use it and encourage the victims to point out that yes, there is a very real reason for the policies in question.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Criminy

I had wanted to give the annual "Barack Obama knowledge of the Constitution Award" to Kirby Delauter for his impressive lack of devotion to the 1st Amendment, but now comes some serious competition.  Houston mayor Annise Parker has followed up on trying to subpoena sermons (another impressive 1st Amendment violation) by an impressive sixth Amendment violation; trying to unilaterally impose a bench trial in a case trying the city for wrongly invalidating petitions.  Which is, of course, another egregious 1st Amendment violation.

The question here is whether Mayor Parker leaves office due to a Texas attorney general investigation, or whether she takes a top post at the Department of Justice first.  She would be a worthy recipient of the BOKOTC award, but the year is young.