Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How long does it take..

...for a socialist government to torpedo the prosperity of its subjects? Unfortunately, the experiment has been going on in Zimbabwe and Venezuela for the past few years, and the answer is troubling; months.

Just as Lenin caused starvation in the breadbasket of Europe, Mugabe has caused famine in one of Africa's breadbaskets. Even more shocking, Hugo Chavez has managed to empty his country's grocery stores via price controls during the biggest bull market in petroleum in decades.

Accountability groups

Anthony Bradley has a series going on about how he and others consider accountability groups to be "lame"; ineffective at best, legalistic and distracting from Christ at worst. One the one hand, I agree, but on the other, I must remember that it's easy to say what's wrong with Baptists like myself. Fixing the problem, on the other hand, involves a little bit more work. :^)

So here's a stab at it, and emphatically from a Baptist perspective. If you want to get to know a man, learn what's on his heart, and encourage him in Christ, you've got to sit down and eat with him, preferably something nice and fattening.

Other possibilities include working with him, or possibly playing golf or shooting skeet. The fact remains, though, that the radical feminists are wrong; the best way to a man's heart is not by going between his 7th and 8th ribs with a well-sharpened K-bar, but rather through his stomach with some fries or barbeque. Give it a try and encourage your brother.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Separated at Birth?

While listening to an angry rant of Hillary Clinton one night driving home from work, it occurred to me that I'd heard that same voice somewhere else. Specifically, I'd heard it during high school sock hops courtesy of "The Thunder Down Under."

Yes, you read it first here; compare Brian Johnson and Bon Scott of AC/DC to New York's junior Senatrix. You'll be sad you did.

But whatever you do, listen to "Highway to Hell" or "Dirty Deeds," because some of the other songs will, in connection with the Clinton legacy, induce more than a little bit of nausea. That said, "Highway to Hell" might make a good campaign song for her, don't you think?

Friday, February 23, 2007

On love

This probably should not come as a surprise to anyone, but a consistent issue in most any religious or political discussion really comes down to a definition of how does one love one's neighbor. Wondering about what tack to take in a theological debate? Isn't the choice of whether to be firm, or "live and let live," often a factor of determining how significant the issue is? After all, a minor detail of application leads to a slightly tarnished crown of glory; an issue of soteriology may send the deceived to Hell. One can compromise on the first out of love for Christ, but not the second. It might seem "loving" at first to "live and let live" in the church, but not when it ends up with people in Hell.

In the same way, we end up at the same point with discussions about politics. We might think, for example, that it is a noble thing to provide food, shelter, and clothing for the poor. No problem, right?

Well, in reality, we might find out (like Dinesh D'Souza did) that the poor are often overweight, well clothed, and have plenty of shelter--and what they need most is actually a bit of hunger to encourage them to find gainful employment.

We would do well, I think to remember that God's love for us is not always manifested in day to day comfort, but rather in discipline--sometimes painful discipline. To bring someone temporary comfort at the cost of lifetime or eternal rewards is not love.

Urban redevelopment and basic priorities

One interesting thing I've noted lately is the propensity of governments, large and small, to decide that it's their job (and thus the taxpayer's) to "redevelop" areas. Examples include something like $43 million paid by Minneapolis to "rebuild" Block E, St. Paul's consideration of "forgiving" $65 million in loans for the Exel Energy Center, light rail (about $1B), Malaysian development of cell phone links, and my own town's goal of making its downtown like that of Stillwater(tens of millions, most likely).

In all of these, I must wonder something very simple; how much more development might occur if just a fraction of the amount spent had been put into, say, police, roads, sewers, and fire departments--areas traditionally under the responsibility of these governments.

To use "Block E" as an example, Borders didn't lose money on the deal (along with the city) because the buildings were poorly constructed. They lost money on the deal because customers are afraid to go downtown these days. If the city takes care of its responsibility for roads and public safety, the builders will do the rest for them.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Completely missing the point

Evidently "The Beeb" (BBC America) has a new series out on Robin Hood, and I saw a promotional poster on Townhall.com. Just for fun, check out the promotional poster on their website.

I guess they missed the point that the group was called Robin Hood's "Merry Men" in the legends. Not a single one can even crack a smile? Like always, you can count on filmmakers to produce something with gorgeous scenery, wonderful special effects, excellent acting, and completely trashing the story.

(as bad as Mel Brooks' version was, at least he got THIS right)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A really dumb idea

Evidently, state governments are concerned that people moving to more fuel-efficient vehicles is going to reduce the amount of gasoline purchased, thus reducing gas tax revenues and the funds available for road construction and repair. In a sane world, you'd assume that they'd simply adjust the gas tax to cope with the new reality, right?

Wrong. People are seriously arguing that we ought to monitor how many miles each vehicle is driven instead with an electronic device that would allow the state to tell where your vehicle is at any given time.

This is incredibly stupid on so many fronts, it's hardly even funny anymore. First off, gasoline usage does correlate rather well to road wear & tear, and it's a fairly noninvasive excise. On the other hand, electronic devices are prone to breaking down, and mileage driven doesn't correlate nearly as well to road wear as gasoline usage does.

Second, we have here an example of a tax that is doing exactly what it's supposed to do. It penalizes gasoline consumption, and is driving people (pun intended) to choose lighter, more fuel efficient cars and live closer to their workplace. It cleans up the air, maintains older neighborhoods, reduces road wear--liberals should be happy, right?

Nope. Moving to abandon a system that works reveals the real goal of the left; state control.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

She's not smiling, boys.

With the recent death of Anna Nicole Smith and bizaare behavior of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, perhaps it's time to remember an adage many of us learned on the playground.

You remember the situation. You were playing with someone, and all of a sudden an adult came by and reprimanded you--or someone tormenting you. When the inevitable "we were only playing" or "it's just a joke" came, the adult would point to a little tear-stained face and say three words: "he's not laughing" or "he's not smiling."

It's a point we ought to remember with the media circuses that surround all too many entertainers today. Oh, they might have publicity photos showing teeth, but look closer. All too often, she's not smiling.

A vicious argument brewing in Minnesota

Evidently, people in Albert Lea and St. Louis Park (towards the bottom of link) are arguing over whether Al Franken is "from" Albert Lea (where he lived 2 years as a small child) or St. Louis Park (some older years).

All I can say is that it's a matter of civic pride in Chaska that Franken didn't spend much time here.

Friday, February 16, 2007

How to really enjoy the Scriptures

Write out your own copy, of course. No kidding; when you slow down to take a pen (preferably a nice fountain pen, or even a quill) and write out the text, you start to notice things that you'd previously "blipped" over. It's worth noting as well that the Torah contains a requirement that each king of Israel write out a copy of the Torah for himself--see Deuteronomy 17:18.

It's also worth noting that the Bible has no record of any king, even David or Hezekiah, doing this, and the books of history are filled with examples of blatant disregard for basic principles of the Law, even among the God-fearing. Failure to fulfill the Law's command to write it out--a whole copy for the king, portions on doorposts and such for others--most likely contributed to a failure to fulfill its other commands, leading to horrible degradations and the end of that kingdom.

As beneficial as it is to have the Word online, I dare suggest that we could do worse than to emulate the monks of old, pick up a pen (or quill and knife), and put it to paper for ourselves.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More on remedial college

Here's a link about the graduation rates for college students in Minnesota. Overall, it looks like about 32% of private college students, and about 50% of public college students, fail to graduate within six years--statistics which more or less parallel the fact that about 30% of students are taking remedial courses.

While it is certainly true that not every student who takes remedial courses fails to graduate, it does suggest that a great way to save about 30-50% of the $2.8 billion our state spends on higher education each year would be to eliminate remedial courses in our government-run universities--not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars more in loan guarantees, Pell grants, and so on.

I don't know about you, but I certainly could put that $500 or so that my family "contributes" to the creation of college dropouts to a better use.

Time to sell Dell?

I read this morning that Dell has hired Michael Cannon, formerly of Maxtor and Solectron, as its new President of Global Operations. If you look at the histories of Maxtor and Solectron, what you'll see under Cannon's leadership is declining stock value, lost market share, and lost jobs. Cannon is, ironically, called a "turnaround specialist" by some. Of course, why someone would hire someone whose turnarounds are mostly negative puzzles me, but then again, it's not my company.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Things people will believe....

First, evidently environmentalists in Britian are apparently making the claim that flowers reaching London have gone 33,800 miles on average--about 30% more than the distance around the world--on their way to market from the Netherlands and Africa to London. Yes, energy used in transporting goods can be a concern, environmentally speaking, but these folks seriously need to consult a map.

Second, there are apparently people who are teaching young black children that men don't like large breasts on women, among other falsehoods. I would guess that this comes as something of a surprise to plastic surgeons in Edina. (don't worry, the link is work safe)

You know, it seems to me that there is virtually no limit to what people will believe when they don't think.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

90% confident?

Apparently, the most recent summary (not the full report) by the IPCC's leaders states that there is a 90% confidence level that human activity is causing global warming. Such is the evidence that climatologist--er, columnist--Ellen Goodman is apparently willing to compare those who doubt the word of climatologists with Holocaust deniers. So perhaps it behooves us to explore what that 90% figure means.

For starters, Goodman is incorrect that 90% is about as good as science ever gets. If you doubt this, throw an apple up in the air, and I guarantee you that you will be more than 90% sure that Newtonian mechanics works. Turn on the radio, and you are more than 90% sure that Maxwell's electromagnetics is operative--not to mention semiconductor physics and some quantum physics to boot. In the testable areas of science, confidence levels exceeding 99% are routine.

But what does that 90% mean? Traditionally, a confidence level is the statistical likelihood that your test sample differs from a control. At this very point, the global warming hypothesis runs into a big problem; the whole earth is the test sample, and there is no control. Oops.

So we get to contrive a control, right? Well, the climatologists run into a problem there, too; none of their models have been validated against the historical record. So they can't exactly contrive a good control then, either.

So what is this 90% confidence level? Well, it's what Six Sigma trained statisticians like myself gently call a "rectal data extraction," pulling numbers out of one's nether regions. In other words, an elegantly crafted lie.

And, for what it's worth, I have ten times more CF bulbs than Ellen Goodman does, and I don't drive to the hardware store solely for the purpose of buying just one of them, either. In that way, my V8 powered pickup is being used far more efficiently than Ellen Goodman's Prius.

Gosh, does that mean that Ellen Goodman is denying global warming by her actions? I guess she'll enjoy getting to know her new friends.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Question of the day

Given that Mike Huckabee has all but declared candidacy, as has Ron Paul, and the writer of Mallard Fillmore (and my friend Mark) is wanting to draft Walter Williams, what would the best lineup be?

This is a tough one, like deciding between a Kimber and a Heckler & Koch for a sidearm. I hope that I get to help make it. Let's go with Williams/Huckabee, with Ron Paul (Get the U.S. out of the U.N!) as Secretary of State.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Presidential candidates

For those who are interested, here is a website for Mike Huckabee's campaign. The bright side is that he's got a carry permit, and is good on the 2nd Amendment and the issue of life. On the down side, he doesn't appear to be committed to enforcing our immigration laws (build the fence and start deporting people), and he seems to like W's policies and style a bit too much for my taste.

And here's an interesting bit about Rudy Giuliani. While I don't like his stance on abortion or firearms, he did manage to cut taxes and also do a very interesting improvement in NYC's college system (CUNY). What did he do? He eliminated remedial classes and open admission.

In short, he insisted that CUNY admit only those who were ready for college. Although it's really not a federal issue, I must concede that he got this one right. If only states would start to do this, I'd suggest that parents would also enact the greatest reformation of the government schools since Dewey. That is, angered that their child got As and Bs through high school, but yet could not get into "the U," they'd raise Hell in school board meetings until an A or B in high school English or math meant that a student would be ready for college level rhetoric and mathematics.

Monday, February 05, 2007

If America were economically literate,

...comments like these by Hillary Rodham Clinton would be greeted with derisive laughter. The idea that we should trust government with something as essential as energy should be laughable.

Hopefully this tape, and an explanation that she's more or less proposing delegating energy development to Amtrak, will play a prominent, and negative, role in her campaign for this nation's highest office.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A really messed up tax system

An indication of how screwed up our tax system is was given last night at my church's deacons' meeting. Among our deacons are two accountants (one of them specializing in taxes) and a lawyer specializing in estates. In short, three men who should really know taxes inside and out.

There was a question about how a deacons' fund (emergency assistance) gift to an employee ought to be handled, and none of them were sure.

No, they aren't incompetent, as the tax accountant made clear later on. The accountants were talking to one another, and the tax accountant described this method for determining tax law. First, consult the tax code. (duh?) Since the code is often obtusely worded, his next step would be to look at case law, and then finally a call to the IRS would often be made--where of course, they're wrong about 35% of the time.

In other words, actual tax law is more or less the IRS's judgment call of existing case law based more or less on IRS-written codification of actual law. If you wonder why it's so messed up....

A final post on translation and paraphrases

One reasonable objection to my objection to paraphrases is "well, if it's only one book, even a significant book, that's being simplified, does it matter that much?" I would tend to sustain that objection, even if the book is the Bible. If someone understands the impact of the paraphrase--that it tends to hide the nuances and connections of the text--and is willing to do what it takes to overcome that weakness, no harm is done.

That said, I'm afraid that most of the time, it simply isn't the case. Exhibit A is the classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. If one looks it up on amazon, one will quickly find not one, but at least two revisions of this work. Original copyright date: 1917. Oldest writing in the work: 1911.

We should be sobered, I think, by the fact that we can no longer understand homilies that our great-grandfathers would have readily comprehended. We should be even more sobered by the fact that they understood with an eighth grade education, while we need revisions despite years in college.

If the failure to understand older works of theology doesn't bother us, let's consider a few other documents of that vintage that we might not be able to understand, like the Federal Reserve Act, the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Amendments to the Constitution, the Treaty of Versailles, the treaty creating the League of Nations, and so on. And if we cannot understand these, how can we understand the Gettysburg Address, Emancipation Proclamation, the Dred Scott decision, or for that matter, the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.

You see, the ability to comprehend a document is not primarily innate, but learned. If we refuse to train our minds with the primary document we use each day, we shall quickly find ourselves unable to decipher the rest of our lives.