Friday, December 28, 2007

Watch out for Ralphie

Those who are familiar with Hugh Hewitt know pretty well that those who would do well in Vegas do well to bet against his favorite teams, especially when it comes to the Rose Bowl or any team from Cleveland. Unfortunately, the same goes for a lot of his political predictions--'ol Ralphie was awfully late in figuring out that 2006 would be a disaster for the GOP.

Even so, it's pretty sad to see his treatment of any GOP presidential candidate besides Mitt Romney, and his absurd assumption that the main reason people would oppose him would be his Mormon faith--as if Romney's decade of pushing gun control, high MA taxes, and abortion in Taxachusetts ought not trouble fiscal and social conservatives in the GOP.

And then there's the little claim he makes about the GOP needing no reform--as if the past decade of ever-growing government doesn't indicate a problem--and as if the parade of RINOs supported by him had nothing to do with public disgust with the GOP.

Sorry, Ralphie, with a record like yours, maybe you ought to stick to snowmobiling.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fox News gets it right

See here. Although they also use the word "assassination," they rightly call the death of Benazir Bhutto a "brutal murder."

If it were up to me, I don't know that you'd ever see the word "assassination" in the papers, nor would you hear it on TV news. It slides too easily off the tongue, and lends a perverse "respectability" to those who murder their fellow man.

Be a rebel. Use the proper term when discussing acts like this; "murder." Add descriptive terms like "cold-blooded," "gruesome," and so on to draw a real picture of what went on.

Sigh

My daughters asked me recently what "trinkets" were, and the best example I could come up with are the little things they get from AWANA.

Shouldn't we honor our glorious Lord with something a little more weighty?

Friday, December 21, 2007

A real solution to mortgage woes?

A couple of homes ago, I would routinely make double and triple payments on my mortgage, and as the bank sent my my balances, I began to notice that the "next payment due" date wasn't next month, but several months into the future. Concerned and confused, I gave the bank a call, and learned that yes, indeed, my next payment's due date was in fact over half a year away. I got up to about 14 months that I could have taken without payments, I believe.

Unfortunately, my subsequent mortgages have not had this "safety valve," but in light of the recent meltdown, I've got to wonder; why isn't this feature more widespread? Wouldn't it be helpful if borrowers could use the "sunny days" to prepay their debts for the rainy?

Now, granted, borrowers can (and should) save money in their savings accounts and elsewhere--this certainly isn't the only way borrowers can avoid foreclosure. Even so, for those who have difficulty letting their bank balance grow, it would be an awfully nice option.

Merry Christmas too all my readers! Don't forget to read the Christmas story under your favorite whale oil lamp in honor of the Savior's birth and Congress' latest dumb move.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Help out Martin Treptow

Here in MN, a big story a few months back was about how a carry permit holder had shot an "undercover" policeman. At the time, it seemed pretty cut & dry: the man's carry permit was not even revoked, and he was released without bail and with no charges filed. Witnesses concurred that the police officer had provoked and escalated the confrontation.

Now, six months later, the DA has filed three charges against the citizen, and it appears that the police/DA are trying to railroad this man into a plea deal. If you've got a few extra bucks and care about the right to keep and bear arms, or even if you only care about keeping the police and DA honest, you might want to help Martin Treptow out a little bit for Christmas. The present you might receive is, to a degree, your own liberty.

Here's the address:

Martin and Rebecca Treptow
Anoka Hennepin Credit Union
3505 Northdale Blvd. N.W.,
Coon Rapids, MN 55448

This is your brain on drugs

Or, rather, the brains of our state legislature in St. Paul. Apparently not satisfied with two different groups of civil engineers investigating the collapse of the I-35 bridge across the Mississippi, our legis-critters have appointed a law firm to (in part) "examine a $2 million state contract with an engineering firm to assist the NTSB as it pores over sections of the bridge in its search for a cause".

In other words, they're going to "assist" the investigation by micromanaging it, despite having little expertise in the subject at hand. I'm guessing that their next step is going to be to hire a prominent civil engineering firm to evaluate how well the state is disciplining lawyers.

Also your brain on drugs; Congress passes, and the President signs, a bill that mandates the massive expansion of corn ethanol, mandates that billions of gallons per year of ethanol must be produced from other sources that are not currently feasible, bans incandescent light bulbs, and requires passenger cars to meet 35mpg by 2020.

Once again, Congress clearly demonstrates its contempt for that little concept called "reality" and more or less declares war on all those who like to "eat" and "get somewhere with your stuff." Remember this next November, and vote accordingly.

Sorry, Congress, but it's not acceptable that the entire corn crop be used to produce Snuffy Smith's corn licker, and neither is it acceptable for you to demand I put my family in a Civic.

Oh, and here's your car of the future. 57mpg (51mpg with new rules) two-seater, 58 hp with 0-60 in a mere 12 seconds, and a one star safety rating. Congressmen get theirs first, I hope.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Update on Circuit City

Fortune notes that their termination of their best employees has been followed by a 70% drop in their stock price. No word yet on whether Circuit City is going to fire some of their worst performing employees, by which I mean of course their executives.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ode to the preacher's art

Over the years, I've know a few hard-working pastors, and have noticed that among those who love the Lord the most and serve Him the best, there is always a lot of coffee--to the point that I can joke that coffee is "Baptist holy water." I also know that they need to be careful lest they spend too much time at the coffee shop and neglect their families. So here, with credit to the gorilla in the midst, and a heartfelt apology to David Frizzell, is a little song in honor of this.

I came wired home last night, like many nights before
I finally found my house key as she opened up the door

And she said, "You're not gonna do this anymore."

She said: "I'm hiring a barista to decorate our home,
So you'll feel more at ease here, and you won't have to roam.
We'll take out the dining room table,
put comfy chairs by the wall.
And a hardwood floor, to point the way,
to our bathroom down the hall."

She said: "Just bring your Friday paycheck,
and I'll cash them all right here.
And I'll buy your friends the best beans,
and brew ‘em for you, dear.
And for you, I'll always keep in stock,
a double dark French roast.
And when you wake in the morning,
you can have it with your toast."

She said: "We'll rip out all the carpet,
and put big tiles on the floor.
Serve pumpkin loaf and brownies, and I won't cook no more.
There'll be magazines and books, no TV, but lots of art.
And free wifi for your friends, when conversation’s lost its art."

Refrain “I’m hiring a barista”


She said: "You'll get friendly service, and for added atmosphere.
I'll slip on a Caribou Apron, and add some piercings to my ears.
Then you can answer trivia, and I’ll give you a dime.
Then I’ll ask you “room for cream?,”

and we’ll both think it’s sublime.”

She said: “Instead of family quarrels,
we’ll have a blog flame-war,
When the big clock says it’s quittin’ time,

then I won’t serve you no more
And when you’re wallet’s empty, you’ll have me to thank.
When you’re still a shaking,

I’ll put your paycheck in the bank.”

She said “I’m hiring a barista, to decorate our home
So you fell more at ease here, and you won’t have to roam
When you need to do some sermon prep, but need a little boost
You won’t need to be gone, just to say hi to the moose.”

Refrain: “I’m hiring a barista”

Free verse, drugs, or SPAM email?

You decide:


This rotten foolery. You didn't send it?

Said produce a loud rattle. And he made
the earth to stirring note of hail,
columbia, happy land. Mrs. Left the

one white layman at nulato seething
with in number, and diverse kinds of gems
and diverse serpent. It doth not deserve

death at thy hands. placed on satyaki's car.
Then, people caused his aimlessly
across his path. Senior, half his senses

those of a lion, and so exceedingly
beautiful? Had not heard him open the
door or close it. She.


Man, I love this stuff!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Winter joy and real hot chocolate


It took him a minute or two to figure out what fun this was, but here's my boy's first time in a snowbank. Unfortunately, he's too young to enjoy real hot chocolate.
Real hot chocolate? You bet. My mom just returned from a trip to Croatia, and they make a hot chocolate there that is worthy of the name. Here's my best attempt to duplicate it:
1 bar (100 grams) Lindt 99% cacao chocolate bar
2 cups milk
4-6 tbsp sugar, or to taste
nutmeg to taste
Mix ingredients in saucepan and heat to almost boiling--this is what it takes to really melt it. Half fill cups with liquid and add more milk to cool it/get it to proper strength, or possibly a shot of espresso & cream. There will be little bubbles of fat (cocoa butter) on top.
Remember, flavenoids are good for you, and God is good to provide them.
Update: I've been trying to find the "truly authentic" type of recipe for Croatian hot chocolate, and it turns out that it's a very thick concoction, kinda like semi-liquid pudding. Unfortunately, I don't know Croatian, so I can't update the recipe to make it more authentic.
Maybe make pudding with good chocolate, but halve the cornstarch and add a few ounces of heavy cream?
Mmmm......

Friday, December 14, 2007

Update on the Kelo case

Conservatives were (rightly) enraged back in 2005 when the city of New London, CT was allowed by the Supreme Court to use eminent domain to transfer property from the rightful owners to private businesses. Well, courtesy of Volokh and SayAnythingblog, here are the results.

More or less, not a spadeful of earth has been moved on most of the land that was taken from the rightful owners, and it illustrates a very good lesson; when a business asks government for a tax break or for eminent domain to be used in their favor, it most likely means that they don't have a business plan that will work without this help.

Instead of taxing existing residents and merchants, and cheating people out of the fair value of their property, I'd suggest we'd do well to tell these beggars to take a hike. Show them a picture of the devastation in New London or Poletown if they ask why.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Growing Olive Trees in Minnesota

Shawn rightly asks what kind of things I'm referring to by suggesting that we "grow olive trees," so here are some examples.

On a personal level, I'd suggest homeschooling, becoming more active in the outreach ministries of your church (or starting one if it doesn't exist), and simply taking steps to spend more time with those you love. The material world is, after all, going to have some "extensive renovations" in the end times, if I read the Scriptures correctly, and it's the souls I reach for Him that will survive.

Even in view of catacylismic end times, however, I think it's still worthwhile to "plant some olive trees" in the physical world, as it speaks to permanence in a world that values the fashion of the day . In California or the Mediterranean, that might mean an actual olive tree or two.

But it's not just about trees, but about everything in life. Some "olive trees" in my home include the cast iron my grandmother used as a child, tools that my grandfathers used, hardcover books, real wood furniture (new & old), and even using better quality siding and shingles on the house. If you're spending the time to put it on, might as well make it last, no?

And even an example from government; the new highway to my town has the concrete poured about 15-18" thick, instead of more typical 4-6" asphalt or 6-10" concrete. Hopefully this will keep it in good shape for a few more years than some of the parchment-like pavement they've been pouring for the past few decades.

I'd have to guess that most of this does nothing to qualify a project as "sustainable", at least acccording to the "politically correct," but I think this is a more worthwhile approach.

Going Postal and Prozac

I did some searching around, and it appears that both the Omaha shooter, as well as the shooter in Arvada/Colorado Springs, had been on fairly heavy regimes of antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs. Now I don't know whether it's the drugs causing the violence, or whether the people taking the drugs were simply a lot more predisposed to antisocial and psychotic behavior to begin with. However, I dare suggest that those involved--specifically the FDA and drug manufacturers like Eli Lilly--owe the world a serious, critical look at the data to determine what's really going on here.

Put gently, it is an anomaly when someone not on psychiatric drugs goes on a rampage, just as it is an anomaly when they choose victims that are not in a gun-free zone. Something's going on.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

These are not olive trees.

I can't quite decide whether these buildings planned for Dubai qualify as cutting edge architecture, or a bad acid trip. Either way, I'm not quite sure how buildings being built for $1000/square foot of useful space qualify in any way as "sustainable" or "environmentally friendly." They might be great targets for Al-Qaida when built, though.

H/T Anthony Bradley, who has a somewhat different view of what's going on.

Plant an olive tree!

Probably not literally, though, since they don't seem to tolerate "winter" very well in places like Minnesota, and I'd have to guess that they wouldn't tolerate the rain in Florida very well, either.

What I'm getting at is an application of an old proverb; "You plant olive trees for your grandchildren." We don't do that very well in our country; it seems that whatever we do is designed for our own use--50 years is a long, long time for us. We have no 6th century churches or roads dating back to Julius Caesar, after all.

The trouble with that, of course, is that we can reasonably expect that our grandchildren might be around 100 or more years from now. Maybe it's time to seriously expand the time frame we're designing our lives around.

Plant an olive tree, if you catch my drift.

Friday, December 07, 2007

You can't make this stuff up.

Evidently, a deli in Greenwich Village (part of New York City) has advertised ham as "Delicious for Chanukah." I'm guessing it's someone's very bad idea for a practical joke, as I cannot imagine anyone growing up in Gotham and being ignorant of the fact that (observant) Jews don't eat pork.

And if you want to join Jacob in commemorating the victory over the Greeks, a simple recipe for latke, the potato pancakes traditionally eaten during Chanukah.

3-4 potatoes, grated
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
salt to taste, ~ 1/2 tsp
olive oil

Grate potatoes finely, and add flour, salt, and eggs. Mix well. Fry in olive oil (not lard, ahem!) until browned on both sides. Serve with applesauce or other fruit toppings.

Witness in politics

I'm personally somewhat disappointed at the level of political discourse this year; it's more about "gotcha" than about substance. Paul Greenberg gives us a good picture of what political discourse used to be like, and I dare suggest that one of the biggest things Christians can do (or anyone for that matter) to help our country is to bring back fair, honest debate.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Truly scary

Evidently, Congress and the White House are working together to bring "moral hazard" to new heights...er...depths. How so? Well, they're planning to prevent the underwriters of adjustable rate mortgages from adjusting the rates for a period of five years.

While certainly the holders of these mortgages will appreciate the lower payments, the "sob stories" say something different. One example; a 73 year old woman loses her home because of an ARM mortgage foreclosure. Say what? Bankers are issuing adjustable mortgages to people on (presumably) fixed incomes?

In other words, the very examples used to demonstrate the problem of ARM mortgages make very clear that the main problem is that lendors and borrowers are forgetting basic principles our fathers and grandfathers knew about debt; mininum down payments, being able to pay the "worst case" with one's current income (or less), and so on. The bailout simply tells lendors and borrowers that these principles don't matter, 'cause Uncle Sam will come and save the day.

Be prepared for another mortgage crisis in about ten years as a result, and get ready for Uncle Sam to pick your pocket to save the bacon of those who issued foolish mortgages.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Trying to be helpful

Just in case the search committee for a new football coach for the University of Michigan is reading this humble site, my suggestion would be Gerry Faust.

Not that this has anything to do with the fact that I was born south of Columbus and matriculated from Michigan State. Nothing at all. Really.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A great post-Thanksgiving diet....


....is to pass a gallstone, come down with pancreatitis ("are you a heavy drinker like the guy who writes 'Spork Nation'?"), and spend the week in the hospital awaiting gallbladder surgery on a clear liquids, then spend the weekend easing off the Percocet and avoiding any food that might disagree with a body newly unable to store bile.

It actually wasn't too bad...except for the "pain" part before they got me a shot (OK, two shots, I'm a wimp) of painkiller. Got to learn a lot about my body, read a lot of books I'd never had a chance to read, and got my first ultrasound and CAT scan.
And here's a link to The Lost Tools of Learning for Mark.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A must buy for Thanksgiving

....if you're serious about getting to know our spiritual forbears, at least. Vision Forum offers a set of books about Plimoth Plantation, quite apropos for Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday. If you want proof positive that people in former years thought quite differently than today, it's worth your money.

(sad to say, they updated the text, but a lot of the old thought still shines through)

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Great moments in government logic

First, an update on the fiasco with NASA/NOAA's temperature monitoring stations. Anthony Watts has surveyed about one third of the 1221 climate monitoring stations, and of those he's taken a look at, about 70% have "severely compromised" placing vs. the guidelines.

The implications are stark; it means that about 70% of the data received will tend to overestimate temperature. Given that the "heat island" effects tend to increase as you build an area, it would suggest that the "trend" of global warming is more than a wee bit dubious, to put it mildly.

Next, a school district in Maryland is threatening jail time for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children for chicken pox and hepatitis B. While I can understand requirements for, say, smallpox, diptheria, tetanus, and polio, these puzzle me. Chicken pox simply isn't life threatening (as a rule) in the way that diptheria and other diseases are, and if any of our elementary and junior high schools are hotspots for the transmission of hepatitis B, they should be shut down immediately.

You see, getting "Hep B" requires getting someone else's blood into your system, or having sex with them. If kids are getting this at school, close the school and put the teachers in jail, stat.

And a quick reminder; it's just this sort of "genius" that Hillary Clinton and advocates of universal, single payer healthcare want to give a new job; telling your doctor how to treat you.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why Caribou doesn't make profits

Take a gander at the comments of a former employee who writes the "Cake Eaters" weblog. A bit of profanity there, but the long and short of it is that it costs too much to open a new store, they've driven talented people away with needless bureaucracy and favoritism, and they're driving prospective franchisees away by requiring a net worth of at least four million dollars to get started.

In other words, they're systematically driving away the very young, ambitious, energetic people they need in favor of those who are already quite comfortable, financially speaking. You would figure that a chain of restaurants would know that hunger is a great motivator, but apparently that isn't always the case.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Two things I'd like to see

First, Roosh's post about the resignation of Caribou's president reminds me of something I'd love to see; a coffee shop that has both good coffee AND real coffee mugs, not paper cups. Sorry, but even office coffee tastes better in a stoneware mug or glass/china cup.

Next, I'd like to see more colleges (besides small liberal arts colleges like Patrick Henry and New Saint Andrews') featuring real literature in their English departments; I just took a look at Michigan State's course listings, and it appeared that about half of the course offerings were "diversity" offerings; classes about literature that wouldn't be offered if it were not "politically correct" to feature books by racial and ethnic minorities. This was startling; MSU is NOT one of the more "politically correct" schools I'm acquainted with.

Sorry, but if you want Chaucer and Dickens, you'll have to do it on your own time--just like logic, real rhetoric, Latin....I think I'm seeing a pattern here.

(many thanks for the note from Pentamom pointing out that it appeared I was saying PHC and NSA were the only schools actually teaching literature. This was not what I meant to convey!)

A great practical joke

Take a look at this, and then at this. Evidently, someone came up with a story that a certain hotel heiress had decided to advocate on behalf of Indian elephants getting drunk on farmers' rice beer, and at least the AP, as well as a few spokesmen for conservation organizations, fell for it.

Hopefully this particular heiress does some thinking about why the AP took this seriously in the first place. It's not everyone, after all, who can be credibly accused of fighting for the rights of drunken, carousing pachyderms.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Neutralizing sexuality?

Pentamom pointed out that all too often, the goal of advocates of modesty is more or less to neutralize sexuality. Let's examine this in a basic rule of good taste all over the world; pants, shirts, skirts, and blouses really ought to come together at the top of the hips or the waist--for both men and women, by the way.

Now certainly there are very good reasons to wear one's clothes this way. For starters, physics; the greater angle of the body at this point means that clothes held up at the waist will require less tension than clothes held up on the lower part of the hip. Hence, less "muffin top", or fat hanging over your pants or skirt. It also doesn't draw eyes to the crotch area in the way that low-riding apparel does.

Now, let's introduce another concept; a historic standard of feminine beauty is a waist to hip ratio of about 0.7--valid across cultures and eras, no less. This is emphasized by clothes that fit at the waist; it is hidden by clothes that fit on the hips.

Dare I suggest that true modesty does not hide sexuality, but emphasizes it in the way God intended?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Modesty, humility, beauty

Ah, what a blessing it is to have "tag team" partners like NightWriter to make a point. Yes, immodesty is all about the immodest person; look at me, it says. And yet, some would suggest that "it's a nation without mirrors"; as if a more mature self-awareness would help young people cover up a bit better. I doubt it; a quick visit to the entertainment section of any newspaper will show you that ignoring "good form" is a great way to get headlines. True modesty is an uphill in any culture, especially ours.

And so, let's take a look at Paul's comments of 1 Timothy 2:9; interestingly, he does not tell ladies to cover up, but rather warns of gold, pearls, braided hair, and expensive clothes being the primary signs of a woman's beauty. In other words, show your worth by your works, not your wealth. The usual interpretation of "cover up with your clothes" is really tangential--it assumes that ladies are trying to draw attention to their bodies by their attire.

A good assumption, but probably misses the greater point; in thinking that one's burqa makes one modest because "nothing shows," one may miss the fact that one of the best ways to draw attention in Cleveland is by wearing one.

On a side note, kudos to KingDavid for an excellent exhibit on "how to love your wife."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Real beauty, tryin' again

As is clear from a few days' ago's post, it's pretty hard to really get a good handle on what real beauty is--human or otherwise.

I'm pretty sure that this isn't it, though. Nor is it this, GM's homage to the ugliness of war, and finally, I'm pretty sure that it doesn't have much to do with modern fashion (like body piercing, ouch).

And so we're left with trying to infer from a sin-marred creation; difficult at best, of course. But let's try anyways; what about starting with proportion, balance, and vitality?

It would at least explain, for example, why we might consider this Mercedes to be beautiful, but a Ferrari or Lamborghini (glorified tractor!) to be gaudy, no? Why we consider Mozart to be sublime, but mercifully grow out of most pop, and why adults with a developed aesthetic sense cringe to see the results of plastic surgery (the "Barbie" look) and bodybuilding.

Not to mention, of course, modern fashion. You want to keep your kids (yourself?) out of hiphugger jeans and such? Help them, and yourself, develop an aesthetic sense.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Every seven minutes, you think about creating illegal drugs.

Specifically, one called "jenkem." It boggles the mind that you would need to persuade people not to use it. Courtesy flush to the Kool Aid Report.

On the other hand, anonymous sources insist that Chinese toymakers are working hard to include this in their products, now that the supplier quality engineers deny them their right to use lead and GHB.

Speaking of every seven minutes, there was a report last night on the radio that men had been caught stealing electrical wire--live electrical wires--from a sewer in Minneapolis.

No, they didn't get a Darwin award, thankfully.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Chinese toys

For some reason, my friend Mark has a real thing against Chinese toys. I really don't know what his objection is. Just last night, I melted down a few of 'em and was able to make enough bullets for my muzzleloader to last for years.

:^)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Beauty and modesty

Just for fun, take a look at Genesis 24:16, and think about the fact that Moses records that Rebekah (oops, not Rachel, Jacob's favorite wife) was beautiful to behold. Now consider further that tanned, or sunburnt, skin was (and is) not a sign of beauty in that culture.

One would infer that Rebekah was, when she met Abraham's servant, clad virtually head to toe to protect her from the sun, and the servant saw at most her face, and how she walked to the well and drew water. Even so, Moses records that she was beautiful to look upon.

What was so beautiful about her? Well, I'm not sure, but I'd guess that she might have had eyes that you could lose yourself in, and also that even a burqa couldn't hide the fact that she didn't sit around the tent all day eating dates--she walked strongly easily, and gracefully.

Plus, her attire allowed Abraham's servant, and all those around her, to keep their eyes on her face and appreciate the very real beauty she had--instead of drawing their eyes elsewhere, as too many fashions today do. Scripture seems to indicate that true modesty doesn't hide beauty, but rather accentuates it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Scripture and economics

One interesting thing that many economists endorse as a way to improve prosperity in developing countries is to issue titles to property, thereby enabling the poor people there to contract debt upon, or sell outright, their property. The logic is that without title, these common ways of improving one's lot are off limits. On the other hand, many of us can think of cases (Indian reservations, purchase of Manhattan) where rightful owners were duped of their property for a pittance.

Enter the ancient Israelite concept; land was granted to the family in perpetuity, and could be sold only for a period of seven years. If you made a mistake, your property wasn't gone forever, and neither could you heavily leverage your property a la Trump.

The result? The prosperity of Solomon. I would dare suggest that a Biblical view of economics does not preclude certain limits on contracts.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Mugged by reality

Contrary to my profile, I'm 38, not 251, and recent events have gotten me thinking. You see, I'm becoming a great uncle--and considering my niece was considering abortion, it's quite a relief.

As too often happens, this dear girl got herself into the party scene, and...well, it was sadly too predictable. I wonder what might have been done to help her.

Some might suggest "abstinence education." Well, on a marginal level, probably, but I'm reminded of something I thought (but thankfully did not say) when a parent suggested that his child's misbehavior in Sunday School was my fault: "please don't blame me; I have your child for an hour, and the other 167 each week belong to you." It would be hard to undo years of training in hypersexuality in a nine week course, I think.

And so I'm left to consider the rest of her influences--really all teens' influences, more or less. Would it have helped if teachers and parents had insisted that sexually charged songs not be played at school dances? Would it have helped if the TV had not been used as a babysitter? Would it have helped if broadcasters produced something besides filth? Would it have helped if her parents had chosen a better lifestyle, and helped her learn the art of modest dress and behavior?

I'd have to guess "yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes"--and yes to a few other factors as well. And though this is certainly a good step forward, it's water under the bridge now, and my wife and I get to love our niece and coming grand-niece-or-nephew. Pray that we might be able to point her to the better way.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The most bigoted thing I've ever seen...

....comes from a "diversity" advocate, of course. WND reports that the University of Delaware ("fear the bird") is teaching all incoming students in their dormitories that a racist is:


A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized
on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. 'The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the U.S. system, they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities, or acts of discrimination….'"


In other words, they're going to judge you not by the content of your character, but by the color of your skin. Take that, MLK!

I've seen a fair amount of racist writing in my life, but this one takes the cake for its demonization of one race masquerading as a definition of "racism." It's bigotry mixed with a measure of unknowing irony and chutzpah; a hat trick of hate. With due "apologies" to the KKK and Aryan Nations, I think this quote gets UD the title "Grand Dragon of the Cesspool".

"Congratulations."

Update: it appears that the U. of D. is at least embarassed at the publicity, and is withdrawing the program in toto. Good for them, and I hope that it indicates real repentance from bigoted assertions like this.

10-20-30

Looks like KingDavid tagged me on one of these. First time I'm aware of being given such a prestigious assignment; what was I doing 10,20, and 30 years ago.

10 years ago; I was ignoring Halloween with my bride of one year, now 11 years. We had one trick-or-treater, I think.

20 years ago; I was suffering through Halloween as a friend had reacted not too well to drinking a little too much. Thankfully this did not occur in my room! I was also getting to know the people who would lead me to Christ about 5 months later.

30 years ago; I was putting on my grey Bugs Bunny (homemade with pipe cleaners to sort of hold up the ears) costume to go trick or treating on a pretty cold night in NW Indiana. It would have been a good night for a quilted, or polartec, costume.

Lessee...who actually reads my site? Since I know they haven't hit 30 yet, I tag Ben, JT, and Shawn. And Mark, too.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Economies of scale; the limits

One of the chief things that plagues us as a people, in my opinion, is our misbegotten belief that we can follow economies of scale to reduce costs to an arbitrarily low level. To a degree, it comes from Adam Smith's "pinmaker" analogy, but probably more from the steam engine.

How so? Well, consider that it's difficult to make a small steam engine--and was far more difficult to do so 100 years ago. Large factories were built to take advantage of available horsepower, and people began to assume that fine specialization and massive economies of scale were the norm.

(interestingly, the diesel engine was Rudolf Diesel's attempt to provide an engine for smaller factories, overcoming efficiencies of scale)

Now certainly this works well in some areas. As Smith tells us, it's hard to make good pins without making a few thousand (or million) of them. However, it's easy to overstate the benefits, as the example of public transit makes clear.

Two really horrendous mis-applications of "economies of scale," in my opinion, are schools and churches. The logic appears sound; why not let those who are best at teaching or preaching do that full-time? Why not allow teachers, or senior pastors, to concentrate on mathematics, history, or preaching, and relieve them of other tasks?

The results, though, are clear; the one room schoolhouse delivered the equivalent of an associate's degree in only eight years of schooling, and Willow Creek Church near Chicago has just admitted that they've done a far better job of filling pews than of making disciples.

It turns out that real education requires far fewer subjects than you'd believe when looking at a typical high school or college coursebook, and making disciples means a little bit more than sitting them in a pew and talking to them, or putting them in a program.

Again, it's probably not something that's going to be a popular message among those who yearn for positions where a single dumb mistake could, as Dave Barry noted, consign thousands of men to joblessness. And yet it is true.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Addendum on bus efficiency

To follow on on how full a bus (or light rail car) must be to achieve parity with the passenger automobile, consider that for the most part, transit goes inbound in the morning and outbound in the evening, and is hardly used at all between rush hours. In other words, only one fourth of buses or light rail cars have significant ridership, and thus each bus going the ordinary direction during rush hour needs about 40 to 60 riders to merely "break even" in terms of energy usage. A light rail car would need about 100 passengers to "break even" in terms of energy usage and carbon emissions.

An average bus carries 40 passengers, and a typical light rail car might carry 66. The very structure of centralized transit shows that it can never be an environmental benefit when compared with the ordinary automobile.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Draw your own conclusions

In Sunday school this weekend, our adults class/fellowship was discussing the spirituality of the workplace. One friend of mine mentioned that his workplace was slated for being eliminated due to poor performance, but after the branch manager moved on, the branch had outperformed all others in the company for the past two years with no manager.

Somehow I don't know that this is going to be an example used in any MBA program anytime soon.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Animal Kingdom Jihad update

Here.

Beat you to it, KingDavid. :^)

The Digital TV Mandate....

...is supposed to come to fruition in 2009, and for some reason, I'm thinking that I'm not going to replace my old TV just to watch the daily sitcoms a couple of years from now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hasty separation

One of the biggest tragedies in American Christianity, in my opinion, is the hasty separation from the movements that spawned our own churches, and the rush to adopt new names to separate ourselves from the old ones. I see people avoiding using terms like "Baptist," "Lutheran," "evangelical," "fundamentalist," and more not because these terms represent a failure to hold to the Gospel, but rather because the use of these terms is embarassing in light of the actions of some leaders, or even false stereotypes.

Unfortunately, this isn't Biblical separation, but rather just the strategic changing of names to accomodate the times. It's the Christian world's version of GM marketing, where the nameplates are changed ("it's not an Olds, it's a Saturn"), but the product remains the same. As former GM customers have made clear, it comes perilously close to false witness.

How to trash your company

Gary North takes the example of the Maytag Company, which prospered for nearly a century until management decided that cost-cutting was the wave of the future. Thousands of people whose jobs are lost now say "thank you" (or more likely something a bit less polite) to management.

I had a couple of brushes with this as it was happening; I went to the appliance store to buy a new washing machine and refrigerator, and the salesman pointed me to the Amana because it "was the same as the Maytag and 10% cheaper." Comments indicate that the same management team might be a big reason you're no longer considering buying a Hoover vacuum cleaner.

If you want to compete against big companies, you'll do well to do one thing; don't cut corners. Just ask the good people at Jones Sodas.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Have we forgotten how to apologize?

Congressman Pete Stark has evidently indulged what has become a fine art among politicians; the "non-apology" to "those who might have been offended." Sadly, it's prevalent among people on both sides of the political aisle, and I have to wonder; have most people lost the art of the true apology; to admit that their behavior was not only perceived as rude, but that it was wrong on an objective scale.

I have to wonder whether relativism and postmodernism have become so pervasive, that the very concept of saying "what I did/said was wrong, it was cruel, and I'm asking your forgiveness" becomes foreign to us.

Scariest of all, I've seen it in the church. The very institution God created to spread the good news of forgiveness for sin falls into the trap of ignoring sin's reality. Yikes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Go! Go! GO!

Or, maybe not. Take a look at 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5, where Paul notes of his (and his friends') desire to visit the church at Thessalonica, and how Satan hindered them from going--and then finally (3:1), they thought it good "to be left in Athens alone", and send Timothy instead.

Now certainly Paul wasn't sitting on the couch there drinking Bug Light and eating Doritos, trying to qualify for Rome's WIC program. He'd be praying, visiting the synagogue or forum to witness to Christ, writing to other churches, and so on.

Still, it catches my eye that he "thought it good" to be left in Athens; he didn't think so highly of himself as to think that he was the only one who could do the job. Maybe more of us need that outlook on life.

On another note, it seems that as soon as I post on remarkable moral hazard, another great example comes up. By subsidizing stadiums, we create the incentive to become a 300lb + defensive tackle who cannot run the length of a football field without requiring oxygen and an IV drip for the remainder of the first half of play.

And people wonder why the mean age of death for NFL players is something like 56.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The very definition of moral hazard?

I learned today that here in Minnesota, you can have a six figure income and receive WIC benefits. Evidently, the definition of "the poor" in Minnesota can include a fair number of doctors and lawyers, and we must conclude that our legis-critters think you can get that kind of income without, apparently, learning how to feed, clothe, and dress yourself and your children.

Just earn below a very generous maximum, and demonstrate that you survive on Bug Light and Doritos, and you're in. Moral hazard, paid for with your tax dollars.

H/T SayAnything Blog.

Efficiency of light rail and buses

If you talk to a booster of government ("public") transit, you'll find that it's almost an article of faith that using it will cause less fuel to be burned, less pollution to be produced, and so on. I've got my doubts, and here's why.

A typical city bus that can carry 40 passengers gets about 3-4mpg, takes a somewhat circuitous route to get where you're going, and also requires its own garage, bus stops, and such. Overall, I'd estimate that the actual fuel efficiency of a bus comes out at 2mpg or less for miles actually traveled to one's destination.

In contrast, an ordinary car gets 24mpg on average. So unless the bus has an average (not just rush hour) of 12-15 passengers, the bus probably creates more pollution than driving to work. They also put hundreds of times more wear on the roads than passenger automobiles.

Now let's consider light rail. I've never seen fuel usage estimates, but one can guess from what we know about cars; 60% of the energy goes to fight wind drag, 20% to overcome rolling resistance, and about 20% for acceleration. The advantage of light rail is steel wheels; rolling resistance is greatly reduced. The disadvantage of light rail is that you need a lot more weight to keep those wheels on the track; typical carriage weights are around 50 tons.

So here's the estimate; about 5 times more wind drag, about the same rolling resistance (despite far heavier weight), but about 60x higher energy needed to accelerate the train than a car. This results in about 1.5mpg. After you account for energy used in transit stations and such, you're around 1mpg.

In other words, unless light rail is consistently over half full, there is no reduction in energy use whatsoever vs. that of a passenger automobile. Carbon emissions (given that you're burning coal to produce the electricity) are higher even if the trolley is completely full.

You could improve transit by going to hybrid vehicles, but then again, so can commuters. Overall, there does not appear to be a significant environmental benefit to using transit.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Living the Gospels

At this time of year, I'm generally reading the Gospels--my "read the Bible in a year" program may be the world's most boring; 3-4 chapters per day, straight through from Genesis to Revelation. One things that comes to mind as I read is that the Gospels are hard, really HARD.

The churches I've been around seem to do pretty well with the Pauline and other epistles, the books of history, the Torah, the poetry, and the prophets. Watch out, though, for the Sermon on the Mount. You mean just a word can be murder, and just a look can be adultery?

Certainly the other parts of the Bible show this side of our Lord--it's simply most obvious in the Gospels. As we try to be more like Him, we can certainly do worse than to dwell on this portion of Scripture.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Winner!

We have a winner for the "Michael Bellesiles Fraudulent use of Statistics Award." For those who don't remember, Bellesiles won the prestigious Bancroft Prize for history based on his "Arming America," which sought to prove that, contrary to popular opinion, our Founders were not actually likely to be armed.

Trouble came for Bellesiles when enterprising gun owners looked at his sources, and found that they generally said the opposite of what this author claimed. Bellesiles was even caught trying to "channel" probate records that had been burned as a result of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and claimed that his data had been destroyed in a nonexistent flood in his office building. He was stripped of the prize, and resigned his tenured post at Emory.

Sadly, the competition for the Bellesiles award is fierce, and portions of this are discussed on www.junkscience.com and elsewhere. Keynesian economists made a strong argument for the award by claiming, contrary to evidence, that the Depression was caused by tight money policies; the opposite is closer to the truth. Advocates of global warming certainly also made a case that they, too, deserved this award.

However, only one can win, and this year's Bellesiles award belongs to Planned Parenthood's Guttmacher Institute, the World Health Organization, and Lancet for their study on the correlation between anti-abortion laws and abortion rates. The study starts by using the wrong units; abortions per live birth, instead of abortions per sexually active woman of childbearing age. Any correlations found disappear once the correct units are used. Going further, it overestimates the U.S. abortion rate by about 30% (33/100 births instead of accurate ~25/100 births), ignores the fact that there are other huge factors involved, and claims to be able to accurately measure the rate at which illegal abortions are performed (I'm sure there's no reporting bias there!) in developing countries.

My guess is, and it's partly supported by Guttmacher's own data presented in the article, that they came to the exact opposite conclusions of where the data led. Just like Bellesiles, they are a worthy winner of this award. They used the wrong units, appear to have falsified data, and have assumed credibility in data where none ought to be assumed.

Again, if you think peer review guarantees quality, you are highly mistaken. Peer review most strongly guarantees conformity, whether that conformity conforms to reality or not.

Monday, October 15, 2007

An interesting study

This story is about researchers who are attempting, it seems, to test the hypothesis that affirmative action programs that give blacks and other minorities a "hand up" in getting into elite/competitive law schools are actually preventing many of them from becoming lawyers.

Sadly, the study is prevented by law schools from looking at the most relevant data; the gaps between the admission scores of minority students and the average, the gaps between their law school grades, and the gaps between their law school graduation rates. Also sadly, and ironically, those same law schools are claiming that there is no correlation between LSAT scores and future income or job satisfaction.

Without, of course, providing the data that would either establish or refute their hypothesis. This doesn't exactly say positive things about the logical and rhetorical skills of professors at our top law colleges.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fat and heart disease

Mona Charen's latest column directed my attention to this article from the New York Times. Not only does it deliver yet another pair of refutations of the silly idea that consensus determines truth (take that, postmodernists!), but it also points out that a very significant thing we've all been taught is wrong; high fat diets are not strongly correlated with heart disease.

There is certainly logic to the idea; dieticians have worked for years on the assumption that if you eat a lot of a substance, you're going to find a lot of it in your body. Hence, if you load up on the bacon and steak and eggs, you're going to find that saturated fat and cholesterol in your arteries.

The trouble with this logic, apart from the empirical evidence that does not link high fat diets with heart disease, is that the body creates and breaks down both fats and cholesterol. So we find Frenchmen and Eskimos who eat a ton of foie gras and whale blubber who nevertheless never make it down to Mayo for pentuple bypass and carotid cleaning surgery.

Looks like Lefty's Pizza in Niwot might have to rename "Craig's Cardiac Arrest." I hear it's great training food, though, for one of the world's greatest sports. Men, "husband up", and then chow down.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sports and the mercenary mindset

Many people spend a lot of time thinking about what's wrong with modern athletics, suggesting that it's the money, the fame, an inordinate emphasis we place on them, or other factors. Certainly part of the issue is that most things we call "sports" or "athletics" are neither. Sport is historically blood sport like hunting. Athletics, historically, is track and field. We have a problem predominantly not with sports or athletics, but with games.

Even that, however, misses a central point. The central problem with our games is that we're letting someone else play them for us. Despite the fact that they're neither athletic nor sport, our games do serve as a proxy for training for war--"Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton", after all. When we primarily watch, instead of play, we create mercenaries.

This is a problem, of course, because mercenaries are historically known for quite a bit of looting, boozing, and wenching; societies have made moral exceptions for them out of fear of what they'll do if we don't, more or less.

So if certain players for the ViQueens (or your other favorite/least favorite team) remind you of the Huns, there is a reason why. A very important reason, and one that should drive you to participate in real sports and manly games for yourself instead of watching steroid mercenaries on TV.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Brute force, or grace?

Check out pictures of the bridge to replace the one that collapsed in Minneapolis. Notice that it's more or less a flat slab of a bridge trying to span 500' across the Big Muddy. I'm not one who thinks that it's not a bridge if it doesn't have some arches, but my rudimentary understanding of structures reminds me that one of the most difficult things to do, architecturally speaking, is to span a large distance without using some form of girder or arch in the design. Evidently, it's cheaper to install massive amounts of concrete and steel than it is to maximize the strength of a smaller amount of concrete and steel.

A Real Sport

OK, enough with the steroid-laden freaks chasing hoghide around a grass or plastic field in front of tens of thousands of overweight, generally drunken, fans. I want to talk about a real sport played by real men, training them in crucial life skills needed to protect those they love in the case of crisis. Watch them as they lovingly overcome obstacles on the way to a laudable goal.

I am referring, of course, to wife carrying, and the regrettable fact that the husbands of the world allowed apparently not one, but two unmarried couples to arrive at the finish line in Newry, Maine before ALL of the married couples.

Gentlemen, we can't take this sitting down as we watch Michigan State or Florida lose yet another eminently winnable game. Pick up your beloved and run around the house for the honor of holy wedlock!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Key games for Notre Dame

...are November 3 against Navy, November 10 against Air Force, and November 17 against Duke. Go Middies!

"Key," of course, in that they just may be the Frightened Irish's only chances for a win this year. It is so wonderful to see an 0-5 team in South Bend; hopefully they can keep up their streak.

(my favorite teams; Michigan State, Nebraska, whoever's playing Notre Dame, whoever's playing Michigan, and whoever's playing Colorado)

UPDATE: looks like I jinxed Notre Dame, as they beat UCLA 20-6 this weekend. Sorry, Golden Domers for spoiling your chance for a perfect season. :^)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Great ways to lose money

Now first, I must admit that most Americans really don't have any trouble doing this. We are, after all, the country that turned Lost Wages into a city.

That said, we do a great job of throwing away money in a lot of other areas; by buying far more than we can reasonably use, by buying cheap junk that we need to replace often, and by being stingy.

Yes, by being stingy. Look at Proverbs 11:25 "The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself." Look at Proverbs 22:9; "He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor."

Gary North commented on this principle with a pithy comment; to the effect that the generous man interacts with people who will say "let's do this again." Not so the miser. At the risk of offending fans of Dickens, I think that that great writer got it wrong; wealth isn't accumulated by always trying to squeeze the last penny out of a deal. It's accumulated by making deals that benefit both parties.

Lots of applications here, but one that particularly comes to mind is the modern idea that a good businessman is one who squeezes the most out of every deal, paying the bare minimum; someone like Scrooge or Donald Trump. What's lost is that the squeezed have other ways of exacting a price from the squeezer.

Which might have something to do, for what it's worth, with Trump's two filings for bankruptcy.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

An interesting customer service call

I recently had the "opportunity" to make a call to my healthcare insurance, code-named "1.4 billion to the former CEO," and after wading through about three or four false reasons for a refusal to pay a claim, we finally determined that the reason a claim had not been processed was because the computer would not accept an online claim, but only hard copy. This wasn't the only mistake the computer had made, for what it's worth, in this case.

So I asked the rep. whether anyone in the company could override the computer to accept an otherwise valid claim. It didn't seem fair to make my doctor and I do the work for the company, after all.

She couldn't, but forwarded me on to another representative, and the other representative seemed to be very helpful, but admitted that she, too, couldn't override "Hal." However, apparently people at the next level could, and she was forwarding the case to that level.

So if you're dealing with a healthcare company (especially one known for backdating executive stock options) about a claim that ought to be paid, make sure that you don't just leave the matter with the first person you talk to. Rather, make sure you get to the level where they actually have authority to override the computer.

I bet, on a side note, that there are some managers out there wondering why their call center employees have low morale. If any of them are reading this, one factor might be that you've given them no authority to do their job.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Not all the UAW's fault

Jroosh notes, with some justification, his frustration with "American" automakers; certain parts of each car he's owned just simply don't hold up or operate like really they ought to. One common, and easy, target of blame is management. Another is the UAW.

Here, I'd like to enter a third, but probably the biggest, target for blame; the way the "Big Three" (or "U.S. Three") hire their engineers; on a contract basis.

This is a problem because both a company's profits and its quality problems overwhelmingly originate with those who design the product: engineers and engineering management. However, using contract labor makes it very difficult to reward engineers for their hard work with part of the profits, and engineers also know that the first cut of their wages goes not to them, but to the contractor.

As a result, top engineers know that it might be more profitable to work in Ohio, Mississippi, or Kentucky than in Michigan, and the Big 3 pay a heavy price for this.

Appalling

Here's a bit of what's going on at the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. Toddlers are being presented in full "junior bondage" regalia on city streets where "adults" are parading themselves in the same manner and performing unspeakable acts in public.

Offended? You might do well to send a note to a sponsor, the Miller Brewing Company. If you're a drinker, you might remind them that this might cut your purchases of Miller brands, which include Leinenkugel's, Foster's, Pilsner Urquell, and Milwaukee's Beast as well as the "Miller" labels.

You might also do well to send a note to the San Francisco Police Department, asking why their officers stand aside while minors are exposed to what is more or less a living porn movie. Or give a call to the San Francisco Department of Child Protective Services at (800) 856 5553. Ask whether they'll be visiting the parents.

Monday, October 01, 2007

From the mouths of babes, and a question

My 7 year old daughter had an interesting thought; if your nose was pierced, but you didn't have the nose ring in, and you sneezed, it could go all over.

Hope you were eating while you read that. :^)

On another note, I've read a few reviews of hybrid cars, and one thing that pops out is that most of them can tow less than non-hybrid vehicles, even those equipped with the exact same gasoline engine. This is really counter-intuitive, as the first major use of hybrid drive trains is the diesel-electric railroad locomotive. Such drivetrains are renowned for the low end torque required to tow large loads, and electric motors generate their maximum torque at 0 rpm--from a stop.

So it's confusing to me why the "ideal" setup for pulling heavy loads would actually be capable of pulling less than would be the case if you simply (more or less) removed the motor--the part most capable of handling the torque.

Maybe it has something to do with the control electronics, or the transmission & differential. Whatever it is, I'm perplexed.

Friday, September 28, 2007

More comments on pensions

Good comments all around. One thing I'd like to "flesh out", however, is how pension plans are inherently insolvent, no matter how well the actuaries design them.

No kidding. Let's take the Godzilla of all pensions, the unconstitutional Ponzi schemes, as an example. Why are Socialist Insecurity and Mediscare inherently unstable?

To understand, we need to understand that we (mostly) "eat this year's crop." You can save money, but unless somebody plants some corn and cuts some hay, you're going to go hungry, even if you have a room full of gold to pay for food. For this reason, the traditional retirement plan of most people around the world has been to have children--or if no children come, to cultivate friendships with others who can bear some of the burdens of being unable to work enough to support yourself.

Enter Godzilla, and what happens? Well, you've just told people that they don't have to have children to take care of retirement, because Uncle Sam is going to pick up the tab--or so they think. Unsurprisingly, the birth rate has gone down quite a bit since 1937.

The rub comes when you remember that "Godzilla" requires a rather robust birth rate to work--and thus it's no surprise that taxes to support it have been doubled twice already, with more increases on the horizon. She simply sows the seeds of her own destruction by her very nature.

So even apart from medical advances that cannot be predicted, the inherent lack of productivity of the government, and so on, Social Security and Medicare are bound to fail due to the most basic premise in these programs; "we will take care of you whether you bother to think about the future or not."

Not surprisingly, the future is rather bleak for those who don't take reasonable steps to deal with it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Watch out for those pension promises

It's been sad to watch the recent UAW-GM talks and strike; apparently, what kicked off the strike was the UAW's refusal to discuss the possibility of reducing medical benefits for retirees. Now, for starters, I think the UAW would have done well to talk to retired steelworkers about what happens when their former employers go bankrupt; that medical plan, and a lot of their pension, is gone after Chapter 13 reorganization. The choice is not "if" they will get reduced benefits, but rather "when" they will. Honda, Toyota, and others will see to that.

At a deeper level, this debacle speaks to the inherent insolvency of any pension plan. Yes, insolvency, and here's why; actuaries are hard pressed to predict future trends at all, and pension plans face a further difficulty because the very existence of any pension changes behavior.

In other words, the very existence of a retiree pension or medical plan invalidates the assumptions that were used to create it. If you want a reason to end Social Security, Medicare, and pensions, this is it. That, and the fact that the Bible tells us not to presume upon the future.

Monday, September 24, 2007

There is a reason,

besides the obvious fact that the United Nations is in Turtle Bay, that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (sp?) is going to New York City and not Iowa.

Columbia students, now THAT would be a way to greet the world's preeminent Holocaust denier!

How do you greet a Persian President?

My thoughts here are probably too late to help anyone at Columbia, as if anyone there is actually reading this humble site, but if any of my five overall readers has the chance to greet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (sp?), here is a humble suggestion.

Put on your best burqa, grab that Cosco mongo-sized bag of fried pork rinds, and hit the streets. When you see the man, give him that modified Roman salute...except...modify it a bit more by flipping your hand over and....yup, just one finger will do the trick. Start yelling "Heil Schicklgruber", and (this is very important in Middle Eastern culture) use your LEFT hand to throw as many pork rinds into the path of his car/walk as possible. Bonus points if you bring some friends who drench him in a fusillade of "Milwaukee's Beast" or "Mad Dog."

He'll love it, I assure you.

Seriously, it astounds me that Columbia and others are attempting to "dialogue" with a man who cannot even bring himself to admit that the Holocaust was real. One would think that postmodernists like those you find at universities would be the first to realize that debating with someone who cannot accept basic facts is futile, but evidently not.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"No tolerance" policies and the "Jena Six"

You may have read about the sad case of Jena, Louisiana, where confrontations born of (we're told at least) who might sit under a particularly nice shade tree escalated into "humor" about lynch mobs, the burning of the local high school, escalating fights, and finally an incident where six young men beat another young man unconscious. Lots of folks on both sides of the issue desperately need their daddy to take them on a quick trip to the woodshed, and sadly, Daddy's not there for a lot of them.

Perhaps even more importantly, this incident illustrates what's wrong with school discipline; notably "no tolerance," where both aggressor and victim get the same punishment. When you do this, you cannot teach children that certain words are fighting words, that it's OK to defend yourself, and that it's not OK to continue to pummel someone who can no longer fight back--you've already established moral equivalence between aggression and defense, after all.

In other words, you have just devoted the full authority of the school to the destruction of a child's moral sense, and we then wonder why kids act as if their moral senses had been destroyed. What Dabney predicted around 1870, and Lewis predicted in the 1950s, is coming to fruition today. We have castrated, and bid the geldings be fruitful.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The reality of control?

Gene Edward Veith posted today about an interesting thing; evidently a Chicago hedge fund named "Citadel" has provided $110 million in loans to a Chinese company producing tools for surveillance--in other words, to prevent the Chinese (and other?) people from achieving a degree of freedom.

As Dr. Veith notes, it is shameful enough that American investors and companies have worked with Hitler, Stalin, and other dictators. Personally, I think it is even more shameful that it's a hedge fund.

Why? Well, only the rich and powerful can invest using hedge funds, and hence we must infer that at least some of the rich and powerful in our country--who should know better than most others the hazards of Chinese communo-fascism--investing to preserve that system.

I'm not a Bircher, but I must admit that this kind of thing doesn't exactly counter the idea that the rich and powerful of the world are conspiring to confine the rest of us to serfdom. Certainly some of them, through the Citadel hedge fund, are doing exactly this whether they intend to or not.

Neuroscience at work

If you heard about the "study" that "proved" that liberals "tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives," here's a quick rundown of how the study was conducted. More or less, college students were asked what their political views were, and then proceeded to a test of how well they could recognize the letters W and M on a screen. During the test, monitoring was done of their brain waves, and the (I'd suggest rather subjective) analysis determined that the liberals tolerated the ambiguity better than the conservatives.

Apparently, the alternative hypothesis that the conservatives recognized what a completely inane test this was was not considered. This is, for what it's worth, similar to the famous test that revealed brain waves in plants and (if I remember correctly) even rocks.

Your tax dollars at work.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The illusion of control

The recent publication of a book by Alan Greenspan has quite naturally gotten quite a bit of publicity, and for those of us who are of Scots heritage like myself, here's an interview where he gets to the crux of the matter; that the Fed really is powerless to do that much to intervene when a bubble, such as the subprime mortgage disasters currently playing out, bursts.

What troubles, or confuses, me is that he stated at least once that he didn't see the subprime bubble bursting until last year.

Really? We have people taking out ARMs with a debt repayment/income ratio of 0.35, and he doesn't see trouble on the horizon? He didn't think it worrisome that large portions of people were so clearly living beyond their means?

He's issued a clarification, but he makes one thing very clear; the idea that the Fed can navigate the economy around every shoal in the economic waters is simply untenable. When the Fed creates a bubble by lowering interest rates, that bubble will eventually burst, and there isn't anything the Fed can do to prevent it from doing so.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The real point of classical education

I believe that Lewis and I would agree that the real point of classical education is not to read Gallic War in the original, nor is it to upstage Latimore's Greek translations.

It is, rather, to learn to think--and then there is a very valid debate over what the place of the ancient languages ought to be. Does it require Latin and/or Greek specifically, or can logic and rhetoric be taught with modern languages?

There are two major reasons that I tend to come down on the side of Latin (and Greek & Hebrew too). The first one is one I haven't totally experienced yet--I'm a Latin neophyte--but I'm told that learning an inflected language is a great way to strengthen one's logic. But even so, Bauer tells us we can do the same by learning modern languages like Russian..


The second, and probably bigger, reason has to do with the adage "He who knows only his own generation remains always a child." Now how does this work with our age of excellent translators? Can't we simply read in translation?

Well, ask the Brothers Bayly about how modern translators treat the Bible and Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians. Take a look at older theological works, where many of the quotes are in the original Greek and Latin. Confused about Newton's Principia or Calvin's Institutes? You might do well to read it in the original.

Confused about the phrasing of Shakespeare, or virtually any older author? Want to understand a legal contract, or virtually any word of significance in the sciences or engineering? Want to learn a modern European language quickly and well? Break out your Latin & Greek--knowing the original makes it easy to memorize the modern cognates.

So is it essential to learn musty, dead languages? No--but it is a short cut to learning the subjects that interest us even today.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Make an even bigger impact

Read, and apply, Matthew 18:15-19 to the way you interact with those you believe have sinned against you. Why do I say this? (and probably not for the first time on this humble site?)

Well, I see too often how fellow believers run roughshod on the principles here; for this or that reason, they decide that they're somehow entitled to ignore these principles, especially the first and second; confrontation for sin ought to be done in private whenever possible. They might appeal to their authority, or position, or the fact that the sin was in public (aren't they all, in a way?). Therefore, they have a right to berate others in public.

And then they wonder why the fight gets out of hand, and the next thing you know, they get a chance to see whether they'll be faithful to 1 Cor. 6:1-11 (prohibition against going to law with believers), and then finally they are wondering why they fall into grievous sins.

So do something profound. The next time someone says something that offends you, approach them discreetly and say "what did you mean by that?" Interact with them in private--don't treat them like an unbeliever until they prove they want to be treated so.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Make an impact!

Teach the Trivium to your children, and work to see that it gets taught in the day schools and colleges where you might have influence. If even the NAS cannot implement a basic logical test to research before it misleads millions, how much worse off might the rest of us be?

Not quite sure how to start? Here are some sources that might give you some good places to start. As you do, consider this:

A few hundred years ago, a man was thought ready for college when he could translate "Tulley," or Cicero, from the Latin. He had mastered the grammar, logic, and rhetoric necessary to understand the great works of historic literature. Typical coursework before college might include Greek and Hebrew as well--the college bound 16 year old of the time was at no loss when asked to comment on the works of Aristotle, Cicero, or Solomon.

Today, if a man learns logic, Latin, Greek, or Hebrew at all, it's generally in graduate school. Somehow it seems that we've inverted or subverted education, and if a Bible college, high school, or home school educator wants to really make an impact, they can do little better than to teach the Trivium. Who knows--the kids might be able to figure out that speed dating might not be the best way to get to know someone.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Case # 5,342,576 for the study of Logic

You've probably read about the Indiana University/National Academy of Sciences study that "proved" that men select a mate based primarily on looks. It would seem, at first glance, that this "proves" that men are inherently shallow.

Not exactly true, to put it mildly. This study was conducted in the context of "speed dating," where a couple meets for an entire three to seven minutes. In other words, long enough to see whether they're cute or not.

On one level, it's sad to think that this kind of thing probably was funded with taxpayer dollars. On another, it's even sadder to think that someone, or maybe even a few people, probably got their Ph.D. for this. Look for them in a major research university in a few years.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Something remarkable

Went to a restaurant called "Wildfire" last night (professional meeting)--it's supposed to evoke memories of 1940s chop houses, and does so reasonably well--and one thing on the wall made me make a double take. There was a picture of a birthday party, circa late 1940s, at a table, and every one of the dozen or so people there was smiling well. Teeth, eyes, everything was done right, and this from an age before 800 speed film and monster aperture lenses.

Contrast that with today, when you're hard pressed to be able to get three adults to even do a half-smile at once. If you want a picture of the changes in our culture, you can do worse than to go here.

The food's OK, too, though a little bit bland and "half-hearted" at times.