Friday, December 31, 2010

Something interesting.....

I've noticed over the years that very often, the most enthusiastic customers of family-oriented ministries like Vision Forum are women--that the husbands in the family are just "along for the ride."  In this, it seems that.....ironically the end result of a ministry with the stated desire of reestablishing patriarchal families is often creating.....matriarchal families that feminists only dream of--except that the matriarchs think they're building up their patriarchs.  Somehow it seems that there really isn't much out there that really reaches the hearts of men in a meaningful way.

(if my readers have evidence to the contrary, that would be greatly appreciated)

Also, a political thought; if I listen to the left, the people are not competent to select their own medical insurance, educate their own children, provide for their own retirement, protect themselves, and a host of other things free people do routinely.  Somehow these same people, however, think that the most infantilized people are somehow qualified to vote--for people who will make choices regarding insurance, education, retirement, safety, and that same host of other things.

(reason # 4, 324, 897 that I am not a liberal)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

START treaty ratification imminent,

....and it raises some interesting questions.  First of all, why couldn't five Senators--all Republicans apparently--be bothered to attend the cloture vote?  It's not as if this treaty could set, or shut down, the stage to World War Three, after all.  Oh, wait; it will.

More interestingly, exactly what did President Obama do to get those ten votes?  Again, given the stakes of nuclear armaments, the persuasion had better be pretty good.  If it's simply pork barrel spending or something, we have some Senators we need to remove--perhaps 67 of them. 

Yes, 67.  A treaty this darned important deserves full consideration, and the fact that the President chose to use the lame duck session for it indicates that he's not going to give arguably the most important treaty the Senate considers that consideration.   He's more or less conceding that he got rolled by the Russians, and 67 Senators have hopefully signed their resignation papers with this vote.

Now this is interesting.....

Contrary to the guiding principle here, it apparently seems that older men are not grumpy, but actually are simply at a stage in life where they are less willing to tolerate known evils, and are willing to let the world know their displeasure.

Now, of course, as a contributor to the "Grumpy Old Men" blog, I find this utterly humiliating--well, no, not really.  Rather, it explains to me that I'm hardly alone in being more reluctant to go along with the majority when the majority is "full of pre-digested food" or confused about the difference between shoe polish and....

....and hey, it feels good, and dare I say it (contrary to all sound science, of course), a bit ....grumpy.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ending the Minnesota Mystique.....

.....were the carolers we joined yesterday, half of whom went out in the 15 degree heat wave without even a hat (and who didn't stay outside too long as a result), and this columnist, who inexplicably argues that football ought to be played inside.  You might as well argue that baseball ought to be played at night and without ivy.

We're losing our touch, people.  :^)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I love a story with a happy ending!

Houston jewelry store owner shoots and kills three men who attempted to rob his store.    At Christmastime, isn't it good to hear about someone making our world a better place?  Pray that his stomach wound heals quickly!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Something in common; dress codes and Christian intellectuals

I saw two very interesting things this morning; first, Swiss bank UBS has apparently issued a dress code for its employees that goes to 42 pages, and second, a dear brother has issued a call for more Christians to be "public intellectuals." 

What do these have in common?  More or less, a lack of thinking; my take on Dr. Bradley's call to intellectualism is that I don't care whether it's the pastor, other elders, deacons, laymen, janitors, or the organist's poodle Fluffy, I'd like to see anyone in the church doing some serious, logical thinking.  In the same way, the reason that UBS's dress code runs to 42 pages is because either the people writing it, or the people reading it, are either unwilling or unable to think through the issues at hand.

To illustrate the point, here's my family's dress code that we've been trying to apply since 2005.  Just for fun, it can be summarized not in 42 pages, but rather about 42 words.

1.  Pants, skirts, blouses, and shirts come together at the waist or upper hip.

2.  Garments which give a view of large portions of the torso or thigh--whether by tightness or openness--are called "swimsuits" or "undergarments."

3.  Watch out for eye-drawing patterns.

It works equally well for men and women, and I'd suggest even UBS--though one might clarify suit & tie for men, and some equivalent for women.  Maybe 100 words are needed.

As well as some logic instruction in the church, starting of course with the organist's poodle Fluffy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

OK, so exactly what is the Rapiscan good for?

This article, which (NB) contains an actual Rapiscan image of a woman, indicates that the Rapiscan machines currently being used by the TSA can easily be fooled by contoured places on the body, and that they are virtually useless against plastic explosives.

In other words, they won't detect a gun, knife, or detonator as long as it's covered under a well contoured region of plastic explosives.  It's not exactly clear to me exactly what advantage is conferred by replacing metal detectors with this technology, to be very blunt.  Maybe it's time we actually pay attention to what the Israelis are doing.

Or does that make too much sense?

Addendum: Gorfinkel gets it exactly right.

A touch about stewardship

I thought about my friend Jim's recent comments on stewardship this morning while I got dressed.  Why? 

Well, the Dockers I bought a few months ago are already developing a hole.  The seven year old wool slacks I put on after asking my dear sweet wife to patch the Dockers?  Just fine.  So what was cheaper--Dockers for $50, or the wool slacks for over $100?  I'm going with the wool, and they look a lot better, too.

Now of course, you could get something out of polyester for even less than cotton, but that said, when you buy polyester, well, you get polyester.  Ick.  OK, actually there are some decent things out there in polyester, but still, it's not natural fibers!  The good and the bad of polyester is exactly the same; it lasts just about forever.

Also, a hint for any southern readers who may periodically have a need for warmth in the winter; a windbreaker or rain jacket over a good sweater is just about as good as a light to medium weight winter coat.  I've used a heavy sweater and windbreaker for going around at about zero.  Add a hat and  a pair of cotton work gloves, and you're good to go--and apart from the hat, you've probably already got all of this.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's wrong with higher education today?

No, not the Columbia University professor who has gotten millions to rewrite hillbilly jokes as "Ivy League Professor" jokes, but rather the sad case of many who cannot get their Wayne State University degrees because....

.....apparently they cannot pass a test of basic algebra skills.  No, not college freshman algebra, but rather the level of mathematics typically taught in eighth or ninth grade.  Now the person profiled in the article may be entirely correct that she does not use algebra in daily life--though a decent financial adviser might be able to tell her exactly why she might want to to maximize her retirement and minimize her taxes. 

That said, we face the sad spectre that this woman apparently cannot get her act together enough to pass freshman algebra--and yet she would, if she could, possess a college degree.  In short, it proves that for too many, a college degree is merely a glorified vo-tech college certificate.

More "Real Italian Pizza" for young skulls full of mush

When I was a skinny young lad in the government's schools, one of our favorite activities was to see how many napkins full of grease one could get off the "Real Italian Pizza."  Generally, you could fill at least eight napkins with the oil that came out after cooking--yes, Gino, this version of "pizza" did qualify as an ethnic slur.

So imagine my "joy" to find out that President Obama has signed a bill expanding the school lunch program, bringing greater federal funding and control to the school lunch.  Yup, more "Real Italian Pizza" for young skulls full of mush, and young bellies and arteries filling so early with cholesterol.  When you want something done poorly and wrong, you can count on Washington, DC.

Weekend thoughts

Some things of interest over the weekend

Dr. Bauder's weekly missive (a must read for me) details how hyperfundamentalism doesn't just attack Christian growth.   Rather, by attaching extraBiblical teachings to the requirements for orthodoxy, it imperils the Gospel itself just as certainly as liberal theology does.

Also, while reading Genesis 34, I noted that while most see the episode of "Dinah and the Shechemites" as simply Jacob's sons administering a bit of vigilante justice, Hamor and Shechem noted in their speech to their fellow citizens that (1) Jacob and the Shechemites would become one people and (2) all that belonged to Jacob would then belong to their city.  In other words, the plan of Hamor and Shechem was the destruction of Israel as a unique people and the pillaging of their God-given resources.  It was already well underway, as Jacob had to tell his sons to get rid of their idols (35:1-2), and it would have been the end of God's promises to Abraham if it had succeeded.

As such, it seems that what really went on was that the rape of Dinah (a common act among the pagans of that time, remember Genesis 19 and Judges 19) became the "wake-up call" for Jacob and his sons to come back to God--and the means by which (through the anger of Simeon and Levi) God preserved His people.

Not a bad deal for all of us, really.

What's Missing Here?

Take a close look at this article about (in)Justice Stephen Breyer's claims that the Founding Fathers would have endorsed restrictions on firearm ownership.  What is missing?

Yup, actual quotes and evidence to demonstrate his point, which even if true would not excuse his asinine votes on the wrong side of the Heller and McDonald decisions.  For reference, if you want real quotes and information on what the Founding Fathers believed about firearms, go to Gun Owners of America or Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.  Suffice it to say that, just like his postions in Heller and McDonald, Injustice Breyer is quote wrong here.  The real position held by Madison and others was that certain rights ought to be so obvious that we ought not need to enshrine them in law.  Fortunately, the Founders realized that there might be silly people like Breyer in the future, so the Bill of Rights was included as a condition for ratification of the Constitution.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Problem solved!

Well, at least it could be.  Apparently, large numbers of British college students are rioting because the government had the unmitigated gall to suggest that they ought to be paying for a larger part of their college education, having tripled fees.

Call me entirely sympathetic; let's make sure the rioters never, ever pay any fees for university again.  (expel them, of course)

Music review: Psalms in Hebrew

Well, as one might have guessed, my family plunked down a few schekels to purchase this, and suffice it to say that each CD--musical as well as reading of the Psalms in Hebrew--has been in our family's CD player a few times.  The musical styles range from virtual klezmer (heavy on fiddle with someone different tonality than modern classical music) to ballads to...well, there are a couple that hearken back to the 1970s, and thus are not exactly our favorites. 

The good; musically, it's a lot more interesting and diverse than most other sources I've seen, even if the singers aren't exactly Sills and Pavarotti, and the violinist ain't exactly Haifetz. 

The unknown; how the Psalms originally sounded.  This work is good, and it is fun, and it communicates to head, heart, and feet per Psalms 149 and 150.  That said, the music generally does what the Geneva Psalter does; takes a few verses of a Psalm for the song, not the entire Psalm--as at least a cursory reading of Tehillim (Psalms) might indicate.

Maybe it's time to brush up on Hebrew and see where one can get by reading them for myself....overall, though, it's a "buy", in my opinion, for those who get tired of both CCM and traditional Christian music.  Get it with a few CDs of Bach, Handel, and other true greats.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Want to hamstring Islamic radicalism?

It might help if we made this kind of thing known to ordinary people in Saudi Arabia and Iran, at which point they might rightly tell the mullahs and their government enablers to pound sand.   I was actually told once that my step-father's uncle reported hosting Jordanian officials in a somewhat boozy party as well, so I'm aware of independent corroboration of this kind of thing.  Think also of what Rush Limbaugh reported on "booty call" with Saudi princes leaving the United States right after 9/11; more or less, the last thing that left their private plane was a group of young blondes in short shorts.   And then there are the stories of Sheherazade in "Arabian Nights..."

Evidently, Sharia is for the little people in these nations, and if we value our freedoms, we'll let the "little people" know about this hypocrisy.  For that matter, if we value our freedoms here, we'll let our "little people" know about the hypocrisy of our leaders, won't we?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

What's at stake with theological "hobby horses"

About 15 years ago, I had the privilege of doing what my friend Jim does; leading a group of young singles in a Bible study, hoping to encourage them in the faith.  By God's grace, many of them did grow in Him, leaving promiscuity for marriage, growing in evangelism, and more.  Others.....not so good, sad to say. 

One interesting thing, though, is that I could count on two or three of the young men to get into a discussion of God's sovereignty vs. man's free will just about every time.  Neither had actually read Calvin or Arminius, of course, but that didn't stop them for throwing those names around for an hour or so each week.  It got to the point where I simply attempted to guide the rest of the group through Hebrews while the argument raged.

What was at stake here?  Well, arguably, the debaters missed out on...well, probably not the best discussion of Hebrews ever, but they were missing the fellowship, teaching, and application of Hebrews.  Now contemplate other hobby horses; hymns vs. contemporary music, no drinking, no smoking, no dancing, KJV only, Landmarkism, "be there when the church doors are open," and so on.    What's at stake?

Well, every minute spent on a hobby horse--especially the non-Biblical ones like "KJV only"--is a minute not spent discussing genuine theological issues.  Every minute spent on the "Trail of Blood" or "hymns vs. contemporary music" is a minute not spent on what the Bible actually does say about stewardship, marriage, the church, and more.

The result, all too often, is divorced fifty-somethings with forty-something years in Christ and no retirement savings, or divorced seventy-somethings with sixty years in Christ asking the deacons for help paying the heating bill.  By going off to hobby horses instead of teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God, many do incredible damage to the Bride of Christ.

Getting, but missing, the point with Michelle Rhee

Michelle Rhee is the highly regarded, now former, chancellor of the Washington, DC government schools, and she's now making headlines by attempting to start a group that will tend to advocate for the interests of parents and children in the highly volatile mix.

While I commend her for realizing that politics is highly involved in government schooling, I don't think I'll join her group for a simple reason; politics does not need to be a big factor in education, and her successes in the District of Columbia were in significant portion due to DC's asinine infliction of draconian regulations on homeschoolers.  If you think pushing homeschoolers into the government schools wasn't on the minds of DC educrats and the city council when they did this, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.

Regarding politics in education, the experience of homeschoolers demonstrates that no one group can adequately advocate for the interests of all children and parents.  You will see advocates of classical liberal education (like my family), unschoolers, Charlotte Mason advocates, A Beka, Bob Jones, and a host of other groups in the mix.  The only real thing all of these groups have in common is a desire to be the ones to train their children for adulthood.  We don't even agree on phonics for reading and repetition for math, for goodness' sake!

So what's the solution?  Probably the simplest one is to simply roll back federal spending and state mandates for education, and while doing so, work to make it clear to parents and other interested parties that there is a heavy penalty for failing to educate your child adequately; your child will be living in your home until he is 40, and you'll need to subsidize their life until you die--either by direct payments or by the taxes you pay.

If you want to counter special interests and get their attention drawn to the concerns of parents and children, that's the way to do it, I think.

Book Review; Ussher's "Annals of the World"

Growing up, I learned about the work of Bishop James Ussher of Ireland mostly in a mocking way; he was "that fool" who counted the years in the Bible and came up with a creation date of 4004 BC.  Through high school and college, this was the narrative I received.

A few years ago, I was surprised to see the book available in new translation, and to learn that for decades, there had been no readily available version of it in English--and not too many places had a copy even in Latin.  Hence, the critique I received was mostly a "hatchet job," criticism by professors who had never read the work quoting what they'd learned from their professors who had never read the work get the idea.  If you didn't read Latin, you hadn't read the work, and my professors weren't trained in that language. 

Learning this, my family obtained a copy of the new translation, and I've been wading through it for a few months.  Far from being only a justification of a young earth, it's rather a summation of the history of the world (as Ussher knew it), drawing from the Scriptures and ancient historical works--Livy, Josephus, Cato, and so on.  With the limited resources available to him, Ussher's history is really a summation of the history of the Mediterranean and Middle East from "the beginning" to the early Christian era.

It is a very difficult work to read, even in translation, as Ussher does not attempt, as modern historians do, to form a "narrative" that guides the work.  Rather, Ussher divides history in to a series of thousands of events and sub-events described by the ancient historians, and he compares and contrasts the reports of one historian versus another.  The translator moreover makes occasional notes about where the Loeb editions of these works (which have the same manuscript issues any other ancient text will have) differ from those which Ussher used.

By concentrating on the big events, rather than forming a narrative (a theme that really only started in the late 19th century, more or less), one will learn quite a bit about the kings, caesars, imperators, and such, but you will not learn a whole lot about the lives of the common people.  The book discusses a bit of the technologies used by the people (mostly of war), but all in all, Ussher covered what the ancients wrote, and that was the deeds and exploits of the kings.

Which were, apart from some minor good examples, mostly wretched, consisting in betrayals, adulteries, rapes, wars, and even murders of one's own children for the sake of political gain (Cleopatra and others).   The book also details the places where the ancients disagreed--making very clear that if history is anything, it is messy.  Just because one authority mentions something doesn't mean others agree, to put it mildly.

As such, it's a good work for those with good endurance in reading and a bit of maturity in reading history.  Those who don't like to read will struggle mightily with this one, and those who want history to be simple and easy won't like it, either.  However, those who have a touch of endurance and maturity can benefit greatly by struggling through this work.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

On those unemployment check extensions

John Lott hits one out of the park with his latest, and raises a question that I've asked as well; by exactly what magic is government spending more powerful in helping the economy than private sector spending--or is it?  The standard Keynesian answer is that the economy is driven by consumer spending, not capital investment, but that's largely an argument that because there is more consumer spending than capital investment or other categories, we ought to stimulate consumer spending.  As far as I can tell, there is no serious reason why we should believe that giving someone an unemployment check is economically preferable to allowing those funds to remain in the hands of his prospective employer.

In fact, it may be far worse for many reasons, starting with the fact that this extra burden reduces capital available for hiring, and increases the price point at which people will be willing to work--not too many take jobs at or below the value of their unemployment checks, of course.  Worse yet, it's creating a class of workers who have not worked for over three years, leading to a certain "staleness" in work ethic and skills in those workers.  In other words, we may be creating a class of people who are more or less permanently unemployable by paying them to sit on their rears.

So why doesn't Comrade Obama figure this out?  Well, to jump on a soapbox I use often, I'm guessing that he has not, despite his Ivy League degrees, gotten a liberal education and learned how to think. 

Save your country; train your children in the Trivium.

20 ways to mess up a church....

....the actual article is about 20 ways to screw up one's management career, and it is of course always dangerous to use business as a metaphor for the church.  However, in this case, if one substitutes "congregants" for employees and "deacons" or "elders" for "yes men," it seems like a very good warning to pastors.  Churches function best when leaders dream big and convey the significance of that dream to believers in an appropriate way.

Monday, December 06, 2010

How to be a better Pilgrim

No, not reader Pilgrim, but the Separatists who came from England to Plymouth, Massachusetts back in 1620.  Yes, this is later than Thanksgiving, but it's worth noting one big reason the Pilgrims landed in cold Taxachusetts instead of much warmer Virginia; they were running out of beer.  Along the same lines, the first words of Squanto to the Pilgrims were, it is said, "Do you have any beer?"

However, these days, far too many people think this kind of brew (kindly reviewed by Saint Paul of Fraters Inebritas) qualifies as the "liquid bread" enjoyed by the Pilgrims, and they not surprisingly enjoy what can only qualify as....a little bit more than the Scriptures (say Ephesians 5:18 and elsewhere) would allow.

So what does one do?  Ironically, to be safely like the militantly anti-Catholic Pilgrims, one might do well to consult the beer ratings of the very Catholic Chad the Elder.  The reason is simple; Chad's rating system favors flavorful, well-hopped (somewhat bitter) brews, the kind where drinkers can be satisfied with just one or two.  They're not "drunken man" brews at all.  Kudos to Chad for his good work in helping recover authentic fundamentalism, as ironic as it might seem.

Encouraging Gerrymandering.... this column by Dick Morris.  One of these days, I dream that the districting authorities simply realize that the purpose of districting is not to make "competitive" districts that might consistently be won by a few points either way, but is rather to create compact districts which will be able to send a representative who concurs with the views of the vast majority.

In other words, they are not to be "competitive," as courts have claimed in ridiculous rulings (e.g. Colorado redistricting in 2000), but are to be as homogeneous as possible.  Shame on Morris for advocating the silencing of large minorities in virtually every district.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Stupid me, and yes, OSHA is out of control

After getting a paper cut today lifting cardboard boxes, I was (foolishly)  honest enough to ask our site's safety coordinator whether I needed to report it.  I expected a form with name, phone #, and nature/time of the incident.

Nope.  Full OSHA form and a workman's comp form, all for a paper cut.  On the bright side, the shot of morphine that they gave me made the forms a lot more fun to fill out.  (j/k)

Maybe I'll call in sick on Monday for the paper cut..... :^)

About that Pentagon "study"

I figured it might be good to clarify a bit here what the recent Pentagon "study" suggesting that most soldiers are not opposed to ending "don't ask don't tell" and allowing homosexuals to serve openly.  What does it really say?

First of all, it says that higher-ups at the Pentagon don't understand the difference between a poll and a study.  Their "study" is really just a poll, and has all the military significance of....well, a poll about what kinds of candy ought to be carried at the PX, to put it mildly.

Going further, there is a remarkable disconnect between combat troops (60% against) and non-combat personnel (well over 70% for).   In other words, the majority of servicemen are not in combat roles (lopsided tooth to tail ratio), and they really don't understand what the infantry and cavalry face in their roles.

Finally, the generals appear to be pretty adamant that the views of 67% of combat Marines and 58% of infantrymen in the Army do not matter--that they will override their concerns to implement a new policy if Congress agrees.  Given that the effectiveness of our armed forces depends to a great deal on these men, it is scary to think that our modern day Pompeys and Alexanders are ignoring their concerns.

Overall, the only conclusion that seems tenable is that the leadership of our armed forces has become servile to the ruling political class--at least the liberal ones who were just rejected at the polls.  It's not a good sign for our country, no matter what one thinks about the issue being debated.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Nes gadol hayah sham!

Well, not here on this humble blog, but today begins the annual festival of Chanukkah, commemorating the Maccabees' victory over the Greeks/Syrians, the cleansing of the Temple, the preservation of the Scriptures (the Greeks tried hard to destroy them), and finally the burning of Temple lamps with consecrated oil for seven days instead of just one.

Yiddish or goyesh, if you love God's Word, it's a great reason to enjoy some latke with applesauce.  Something great will happen.  Latke, or potato pancakes, are easy to make; simply grate some potatoes, add a touch of flour and egg to bind them together, and fry in olive oil like an ordinary pancake.

And of course, this might be one day you might choose NOT to enjoy bacon with your pancakes!

An interesting subtext

....Ann Coulter asks, without entirely asking, whether there might indeed be a very good reason to ask about sexual orientation among soldiers and diplomats.  She does not present statistical information, but the anecdotal evidence suggests that a survey or two of historical evidence might be in order.

Also of interest; General Mullen suggests that soldiers must either agree with a new policy or get out.  No word, of course, on what a reduction in force of up to 60% of combat troops--the proportion of combat troops disagreeing with the proposed policy change--would do to military readiness. 

Finally, a new study from nature finds that birds exposed to methyl mercury are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior.  This is probably the most damaging study for the hypothesis of a genetic link to homosexuality since the LaVey identical twins study that found only 50% correlation between identical genes and homosexuality.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Why not tax the rich?

Just ask Calvin Coolidge's Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon.  When tax rates were hiked to "tax the rich," those prosperous few (about 200 before the tax hikes were enacted) suddenly shifted their income to tax-free investments.  When the tax hikes were repealed in 1925, all of those millionaires suddenly had high income again.

It's as one would guess; people may become super-prosperous by either legitimate (Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie) or illegitimate (Capone, Obama, Conyers) means, but they don't get there by being stupid and ignoring the implications of tax law.

It also bespeaks the folly of punitive taxation on the highly productive; when the super-rich shift their assets into tax shelters, they are simultaneously shifting it away from their highly productive businesses.  In doing so, the people hurt worst are those who could otherwise be employed in those highly productive businesses.

(end punitive taxation of the it for the poor and middle class!)