Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas

.....to you, my "legion" of readers.  Let's start with a nice ornament my daughter made.

Now, let's not forget dinner:

And finally, knowing how cold it gets this time of year, a place to warm up (sort of a Christmas gift to my wife and I)

It's not like we needed that half of the garden shed for tools, anyways.  :^)

What to do instead of protests

As far as I can tell, the goal of the protesters at the MOA this weekend (and elsewhere) is that the officers involved in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases be prosecuted.  OK, fair enough, but the grand jury's word is pretty much final; they didn't find enough evidence to indict.  So to indict them now would be to violate various parts of due process, probably including the sanctity of grand jury investigations, the prohibition of ex post facto laws, and the prohibition of double jeopardy.

In other words, to indict more or less brings back the state of affairs very well known to civil rights activists before 1964, and allow me to say that I think that black lives matter enough for us to keep the legal advances we've had since then in place.  No sane person wants a return to Jim Crow, after all.

So what is to do?   One possibility is that activists could take a good look at the evidence--it's public for the Michael Brown case at least--with the help of a good detective and lawyer and see if the prosecutor has a pattern of downplaying or even suppressing evidence that would tend to get policemen indicted.  If they find anything--and I would suggest that the USDOJ and Eric Holder are probably already looking into this--then that is cause for removal from office, disbarment, and in extreme cases, probably even jail time.  Just ask Mike Nifong.

But that said, given that the "D Team" of the USDOJ is presumably scouring everything near Ferguson and Gotham to make exactly this case, that's probably a stretch.  So the goal I'd suggest--and contribute to as God gives me the resources--is to do what it takes to reduce the chances of it happening again.  Some suggestions:

Encourage dashboard and body cameras for police, and pay for a few of them in some areas.  If the police had simply said "roll tape" to show Michael Brown either being submissive or aggressive just prior to his death, a lot of trouble could have been prevented.

Teach kids the law regarding the use of deadly force, and that picking a fight with a stranger can be the last thing they'll ever do, especially if they are large, athletic, and male. 

Encourage welfare laws to be reformed to favor work and family formation instead of penalizing those who marry those they love and get out of the house to find a job.  After all, we have 50 years of evidence now that says that what we're doing is only filling welfare rolls and prisons.

Get to know the police in your town.  Maybe everyone involved can get a sense of ownership. 

Probably a few other things can be done, and hopefully those that Walter Williams calls "race hustling poverty pimps" can get out of the way long enough to let some genuine progress be made.

Monday, December 22, 2014

On the light side

I had to laugh this morning when a GEICO commercial commemorating their 75 years of existence, dating back to 1939, claimed that way back then, there wasn't much  in terms of entertainment.  Yup, after all, it's not like anyone remembers Shirley Temple, Bill Robinson, Satchmo, Donald O'Connor, Roy Rogers & Trigger (and Dale, too), John Wayne, Fred MacMurray, Glenn Miller, Fats Waller, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and a host of others who proved that one could be entertained without seeing the private parts of the actors and actresses.

Isn't it scary that people who think there wasn't much entertainment in the late 1930s are registered to vote?

Along the same lines, my kids (and their dad) were watching Disney's version of "Robin Hood", and it struck me that not only were clear references to Biblical doctrine (e.g. one to the widow's mite), but also that the "Maid Marion" character conveys a tremendous amount of beauty and appeal while dressed (cartoon style) in the next best thing to a nun's habit, and does it while being "a real dog" (or fox I guess) without the advantages of being Julie Andrews.

So a cartoon canine and a young sister dressed in untailored robes/dresses with little skin exposure convey beauty more effectively than today's starlets, apparently.  Just might be a lesson somewhere there.


As my dear wife notes, my family was at the Mall of America when last weekend's protest of the exonerations of two police officers took place.  Now, without going into my view of the motivations of the protesters, it strikes me that this is a great way of seeing what happens when those involved have a sense of ownership.

As I noted before, one of the tragedies in Missouri is that the protesters did not seem to have a sense of ownership in their community, and this weekend's events indicate to me that I didn't go far enough in my argument.  Another part of the tragedy is that the Ferguson police do not seem to have a sense of ownership in their community. 

I missed that part, and the Bloomington Police and the MOA organization made that very clear.  As soon as the protesters coalesced into a "flash mob" and started the protest, hundreds of police officers surrounded them as mall security (the hotel where we were had at least five or ten men at the door where we were, rocking the "Secret Service" ear bud and suitcoat look) lowered security gates to most stores and stood watch.

Since the MOA is a large portion of the tax base for the city, there was ownership, and it showed.  Reports have it that the 25 or so people arrested are going to be prosecuted fully, and this is appropriate.  The MOA didn't do anything to these people--they're not refusing to serve them at lunch counters or anything like that--and the protest probably cost the MOA and the city north of a million dollars.

Hopefully the lesson is learned; you protest those who have actually hurt you, not innocent bystanders.

Update: a commenter on my earlier post on this subject suggested that most of those arrested/making trouble were not from the area.  The Washington Post actually tested this, and 80% of those arrested are from Missouri, most from the St. Louis metro.  Now this doesn't mean that outsiders didn't have a significant impact, but it does mean that there is a significant population there that does treat their home as if it were not their own.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Coming interrogation techniques

If things keep going here and in the U.K., this apparently where interrogation is going to go in the future.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to spot naked politics

If a Senate report is signed unanimously by one party and rejected unanimously the other, it's a good bet.  If that report makes clear that the committee did not talk to anyone at the agency critiqued (and accused of torture) by the report, then it's all but certain.

The proper punishment for Senatress Feinstein and the Democrats on the committee is, of course, waterboarding. The problem is, of course, that the result of waterboarding is in general confusion, and the Democrats are showing plenty of that these days without being subjected to "enhanced interrogation."  Who would notice the difference?

Another example; Jonathan Goober (oops, Gruber) has apparently been caught on tape saying the very things he denied in sworn testimony before Congress.  Just like I said.   Or, like I said elsewhere, what exactly does it take before a professor loses tenure?  Lying for fun and profit is not supposed to be protected behavior, and it got Ward Churchill removed at Colorado.

Finally, apparently in the NFL, it's OK if you knock your girlfriend unconscious--the same injury that is suspected in many suicides of former football players--but if you leave bruises on your son during discipline, that's completely wrong.  Not excusing AP here, but seriously....?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My thoughts on Jonathan Gruber

....are that the Congressman investigating this scandal are being way too nice to him. Yes, they've got him nailed to the wall, as they should, but if it were me doing the questioning, I'd simply point out that, as a Congressman, I agree that he was telling the truth in those videos.  Calling something a tax is a great way to get a bill killed, as is admitting the real costs of a policy.  Congress routinely (e.g. HIDA) banks on stupidity and ignorance to get bills passed.  It is not an accident that no time was allotted for reading and debate prior to the vote for HIDA/Obamacare.

Recognizing these facts, and recognizing his status as an MIT professor who gained millions by doing HIDA consulting, I would proceed to reject his claim that he was just satisfying his vanity, and ask him why he didn't take action, knowing that the arguments made for HIDA (no tax, low cost, nobody loses coverage, etc..) were a complete line of....nonsense.

It's almost like they're coddling him because they don't want to learn the real truth.

Avoiding scalability

A while back, I commented on a wonderful book called The Millionaire Next Door, which explored the realities of wealth in America.  Most press was put into the reality that the truly rich generally don't drive high end luxury cars, don't wash their caviar with top flight champagne every night, don't inherit their wealth, and don't live in the toniest neighborhoods.  Rather, they are in general entrepreneurs who make a point of saving a portion of their income to build financial security.  It is, more or less, a secular version of what Dave Ramsey teaches.

There is another part of what Stanley and Danko write about, however, and that's that most of these entrepreneurs don't earn their wealth in flashy ways.  They are plumbers, shopkeepers, dentists, electricians, and the like.

What unites them in their professions is not tools or skills, with the notable exception of one skill; they develop relationships.  And to that point, here's an interesting big from The Art of Manliness pointing out the criticality of building relationships that are deep as opposed to wide.  If you fail at this, good luck making a small town business work, and that's where most of us live--even New York City is divided into neighborhoods served by small businessmen.

And it strikes me that this is a big crisis confronting the church.  My pastor last weekend noted that there is a huge problem when the pastor--celebrity or otherwise--becomes the sole point of contact.  This is, in a nutshell, why Mars Hill in Seattle dissolved so quickly.  Without Mark Driscoll, it simply didn't make any sense, and it's worth noting that people left quickly--it was not only a single point of contact, but it was a casual, and not a deep, contact.

And along those lines, take note of passages like Colossians 4:7-11, where Paul specifically mentions others in their relationship with the church.  In other words, Paul is making sure that the Colossian church is connected to someone else besides him.  We should take note of the same.

Thoughts for the day

Per my earlier comment, it appears that the problems at the University of Michigan go far, far deeper than Brady Hoke.  How so?  Well, apparently they're recruiting their new football coach from.....traditional powerhouse doormat Duke (and got rejected!), and they've just dropped two games to Eastern Michigan and New Jersey Institute of Technology.  Oddly, it seems that NJIT shirts are being shipped to a lot of the same addresses where Appalachian State t-shirts were shipped in 2007.  Go figure.

Seriously, I'm hoping that Jim Harbaugh gets the job, as it would be really good for Michigan and the Big 10 as a whole.  The trick is whether they'd let him get rid of the general studies program that is the shame of Michigan athletics, and would they give him a few years to get excellent players who can also read. 

I'm guessing no, but if it happens, it could put a lot of pressure on my alma mater to curtail some of the "comm arts" majors taken almost solely by athletes.  And they need the help, as the state of scholarship there is such that feminist groups are calling for George Will to be uninvited because.....he questioned statistics and methods related to the issue of sexual assault.  Good to know that Michigan State is doing such a good job teaching people how to think.  Sigh.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Great times in family Bible time

We were discussing Gideon's destruction of his father's shrines to Ba'al and Asherah as a family last night, and my children not illogically suggested cutting down all the trees (Asherah is said by many to have been worshipped in sacred groves in the same way that Druids and Teutonic pagans did) to prevent this.  My response;

The poor trees didn't do anything to deserve a bunch of naked pagans dancing around them.

Somehow my kids thought that was a pretty funny picture.  So if anyone tells you that reading God's Word as a family is boring, think again.  And as people who have lived around Boulder could tell you, it's not just Gideon who has the opportunity to cut down sacred groves infested by naked pagans.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Tears are flowing in Columbus, East Lansing

....Madison, St. Paul, Lincoln, College Park, State College, Evanston, and probably even Iowa City, Bloomington, West Lafayette, Champaign-Urbana, and Piscataway.  Not to mention Crawfordsville, where the Little Giants were hoping to get a big payday playing the stinky weasels.  Why so?

Our favorite Michigan football coach ever, Brady Hoke, has been fired.  Let's all hope that blue can get another coach to do as well as Hoke and Rich Rodriguez did there.  Word has it that this was sung at his firing:

Hail to the Unabomber's school
where the students smoke and drool
Hail to Michigan, 4-20 hash fest!

hail to the Unabomber's school
where the profs smoke and drool
Hail to Michigan, the weenies of the West!

Well, at least those are lyrics, cleaned up a touch, a little like those we'd sing in East Lansing and Columbus.  Go get 'em, General Studies majors from the "Harvard of the Midwest."  If Harvard were known for a 50% graduation rate for their football team, and half of those with degrees which are completely worthless, that is.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A missed chance

Brad details an egregiously stupid comment made by the head of the St. Paul Government Schools--more or less, she asked what she was going to tell her black students about the situation.  The police union responded--showing, I'm afraid, some ill fruits of their membership having attended schools like St. Paul Public in their diction--and I'm afraid also missed a golden chance to educate.  Here's how I would have responded:

Ms. Silva

You tweeted an interesting question regarding the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Wilson of the Ferguson Police in the death of Michael Brown; what does one tell black students in this case?  Well, our position is that it would be wise for teachers to simply tell the truth, and here's how we'd phrase it.

"The grand jury decided after 200  hours of deliberation that Officer Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown because Mr. Brown had committed aggravated assault with likely intent to kill, including the attempted theft of Officer Wilson's service pistol.  They have released all of the information on which they based this decision, and it's worth noting that 90% of the information came from blacks at the scene, and that almost all of them agreed that Michael Brown had committed aggravated assault with likely intent to kill.  This is, by the way, the same thing that got Trayvon Martin killed.

Kids, I'm going to be very blunt with you; there are times in school where you may have gotten away with having a fight, even a fight where the loser needed to go to the hospital.  However, when you get out in the real world, your victim does not know that you are going to stop "once you've made your point."  When you start punching him--especially if you are much larger and male--your victim will assume that you are intending to kill or maim him.

And that, under the law, allows your victim to respond to your likely lethal force with lethal force, whether he is a police officer or not.  So choose your behaviors wisely, again, especially if you are large, athletic, and male."

See, that's not so difficult, is it?  Moreover, as we look at the crime rates from students in and graduates of the schools you run, it's pretty obviously a lesson that many of these kids need to learn.  So let's give it a try, OK?


David Titus
St. Paul Police Federation

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Feeding the fires of riots

No, I'm not going to blame the media here, though Mitch does a good job of that here and here.   Rather, I'd like to build on what Powerline notes here and here; that if one looks at the footage from the media and ignores the reporters and commentariat, it appears not that people are rioting because they are enraged at the grand jury, but rather because the system is set up to reward those who riot, at least if they're the right skin color. 

Take a look at the reports; people are prying up bricks from walkways and buildings to throw at police.  They are destroying businesses that serve them and looting them.  Vehicles on the streets are being overturned and burned.  What are they saying with this, besides "I am a criminal."?

They are saying "This is not mine.".   In other words, the rioters have no sense of ownership or belonging in the community where they live.

Now look at the proposals to help the situation.  Someone should come from outside and reform the police.  Someone will come from outside and provide jobs, housing, educational opportunities.....

.....and thus reinforce the lesson; "This is not mine, but I can get what I want when I make a stink.".   If we really want to help, we need to make sure that help has a very clear message:

This is yours.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Much belated on music.....

....I have been, as time permits, reviewing the book of Psalms to see a little bit more of what I'd discussed earlier; that it seems that the Psalms utilize more complex thoughts than even most hymns, and that they tend to lead with the "facts on the ground" about God's provision, nature, and such, and then let emotion flow from that.  Just the opposite of what one would figure reading "Vertical Church" by a friend of Mark Driscoll's, really.  We can also infer a little bit about what Temple music would look like from modern interpretations in Hebrew, infer a beat and physical movement with music from some of the Psalms, and even remember that strictly speaking, music is not worship.

To learn what it is, however--besides the obvious category of "praise" that one would infer from all of those Halleluiahs (praise y'all the Lord) in the Psalms and elsewhere--let's  take a look at Ephesians 5:19. 

addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Notice here that we are to address, or speak to, one another in three (?) types of music.  OK, so we're not bound to just the Psalms, and whatever we do, we "speak" to one another.  Some kind of information is being imparted, and hence I would affirm that the song ought to (a) contain some theological information  and (b) ought to convey it clearly--no coffee shop mumbling or heavy metal screaming a la Hillary Clinton Brian Johnson, please. 

We can infer from the second phrase of Ephesians 5:19 that believers ought to join in the singing, and that the melody ought to be somehow in our hearts.  Hopefully this is not too much of a stretch, but a "melody in our hearts" can imply both that the Scripture resonates in our hearts, and that the way the song is formulated is winsome--it is poetically and musically good.  It ought to have some discerning marks in meter, rhyme, alliteration and the like, it ought to have a decent tune (no amelodic hymns, please), and the presentation of the song (hymn, Psalm) ought to be appropriate and memorable. 

What seems very clear is that James MacDonald's prescriptions for music are pretty much dead wrong.  It should convey theological content, is not as a rule repetitive or simple, there is no restriction on the grammatical person therein, and in light of the range of topics presented in Psalms, it doesn't as a rule need to lend it self to physical movement.  Imagine, for example, trying to dance to "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."  It is, like many of the Psalms and Lamentations on the fall of Jerusalem, solemn. 

Or, to address the final part of MacDonald's "Vertical Church" prescriptions for music, "When I Survey" builds its emotional value off the horror and awe that we ought to see when we consider ourselves in the shadow of the Cross--and does not need to be "emotive" in its wording because it is already powerful in its content. 

In short, I would argue that those who would write, or perform, music in the church can do little better than to--beyond learning the Scriptures and possibly even hearing or reciting the Psalms in the original Hebrew--learn the depth and breadth of good music and poetry, including secular sources.  Read Ben Johnson, the Bard, Frost, and others to get a "feel" for powerful poetry.  Listen to a variety of music to get a "feel" for powerful music--concentrate especially on the music which is notable enough to be remembered on the "oldies" stations and such.  You may quickly see what dreck is being pushed on us from many of the sources you may be hearing at church and elsewhere.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A thought regarding the Obama immigration usurpation....

.....or a couple.  For starters, this move by the President is in a way only doing what the INS/ICE and previous Presidents have been doing for decades; ignoring the problem.  The only real innovation is that he is going to illegally hand out work permits.

But that said, I reckon that if I told my employer that I was not only not going to do my job, but was going to prevent my coworkers from doing theirs, my manager would promptly let me know that I was welcome to resign my position or be fired.  I'll be sending such a note to the President, as well as my Senators and representative.  I am, as a citizen and taxpayer, their employer, and if they're not going to do their job, they are welcome to resign or be fired.

Regarding the specifics of the plan, Hugh Hewitt makes some guesses, and (as is typical for the President), it turns out that his plan will hurt those who are not here legally.  The trick is that the fraudulent documents Mr. Obama plans to hand out to illegals will.....

.....clearly identify them as what they are.  As such, employers who don't want a hassle from angry neighbors for hiring illegals won't hire them, and illegals won't want a clear paper trail to exist when (God willing) we get a law-abiding President in 2017.

In other words, President Obama is about to do for the Constitution and the immigration issue what he's done for the rule of law in taxes and healthcare.  God help us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Regarding the Gruber/HIDA scandal

One question that comes to mind regarding Jonathan Gruber's "paid to obfuscate" testimony regarding the Health Insurance Deform Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare", is what consequences Gruber and his minions and cronies ought to face for more or less deceiving the public to get HIDA passed.

For my part, it is my opinion that tenure ought to protect the right of professors to investigate unpopular areas and propagate their sincerely held views, but that it ought not protect those who use their credentials to lie for political gain.  There is a place for ethics requirements in academia, and there ought not be a place in academia for liars like Jonathan Gruber.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Good and bad news

Well, the good news is that it's extremely unlikely that my Spartans will be humiliated in the NCAA playoff this season.  :^)  Well done, Buckeyes.

The bad news is that activists in Ferguson, MO, have released a list of 19 demands that, if agreed to, will make the situation a lot more dangerous when the grand jury conclusion in the Michael Brown case (all but expected to exonerate the police officer) is released.  Here's the list for reference.

What's wrong with it?  Here you go:
  • Demand #3 is that advance notice will be given--OK, 48 hours to prepare for a riot.  What could possibly go wrong?
  • Demand #4 is that the rioters be informed of the police chain of command--"Hey Honey, have a nice time while I'm at work.  By the way, the rioters know who and where you are."
  • Demands #7 and #8 are that the police not wear riot gear, use rubber bullets or tear gas, or use crowd control equipment.  OK, if I'm an officer and do not have crowd/riot control equipment, and I'm faced with a possibly lethal situation, what tool on my belt do I use?  Hint; it's not the nightstick, the flashlight, or the Taser.
  • Demand #9 is that the police not interfere with the communications of the protesters--because it's not like rioters have ever coordinated to create a much more dangerous result, is it?
  • Demand #10 is for individual arrests and not bulk arrests.  Because apparently the police have never faced a situation that became more dangerous because people refused to disperse, which is a crime.
  • Demand #11 is for "safe houses" so the rioting leaders can run the riots without interference from the police.  Um, say what?
  • Demand #15 is for police to tolerate "minor lawbreaking" like throwing water bottles.  Because a bottle filled with an unknown liquid has never been used as a weapon, of course.
Put bluntly, if I wanted to get a bunch of these protesters killed, I don't know that I could do any better than to release these recommendations.  Are we sure it was civil rights protesters, and not a local KKK chapter, that came up with this?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Election predictions

Now as much as I hope that Harry Reid gives up his position, and as much as I think it's likely today, here is my somewhat pessimistic prediction for the outcome of the elections today at the national level.  Whether the GOP wins the Senate or not, the President is a consummate politician with the media in his back pocket and guarding him well.   As others have noted, if only the Secret Service were that good.

Hence, my prediction is that whatever gains are made, they will be stymied by Mr. Obama.  The Democrats will stymie attempts to vote on repealing Obamacare, as there is little chance the GOP will take a filibuster-proof majority there, and even if a vote is taken, the bill will be vetoed by the President. 

The most I am hoping for is a slowing in the rate of growth of government, and perhaps a slight roadblock for the worst of Mr. Obama's judicial and other nominees.  Real progress will have to wait for national repentance for the debacle of Barry Soetoro and 2016.

Monday, October 27, 2014


I just gotta say that I love Coach Hoke.  Michigan should keep him for a long, long time if he keeps this up.  Spartans for Hoke!  And Buckeyes! And Gophers!  And....Scarlet Knights?   If it keeps going this way, they're going to be playing the Little Giants again soon.

OK, seriously, lest I be accused of total Schadenfreude, let it be noted that Rich Rodriguez is 6-1 at Arizona this year.  He's doing great with a school that hasn't traditionally been first tier in the PAC-10, and this raises the question of whether someone has "put a spike" into the University of Michigan's ability to put a good football team on the field.   Is that je ne sais quoi lost?

And I've also got to admit that, looking at the game pictures, many of the MSU players are true physical specimens.  I am hoping that this indicates great recruiting and great training, and not the kind of steroid nonsense that the George Perles teams that Tony Mandarich played on were known for. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paging "Urban Dictionary"

Apparently Monica Lewinsky has found her mission in life; having been hurt greatly by "cyberbullying" in the 1998 scandal for which she is rightly infamous, she is going to campaign to stop the same.

My prediction is that within a few weeks, "Urban Dictionary" adds a new definition for the term corresponding to the actual reason she suffered, and count on comedy shows to feature sleazy guys telling ladies of dubious character "you can cyberbully me anytime."

Prediction #2; Miss Lewinsky will not learn the real lesson of scandal, which is to apologize for your part in it and move on with life.  Just like her former boss, I guess.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In "honor" of Oregon's first "lady"....

....or "first stoner", I guess.  Enjoy.


For the uninitiated, the live-in lover of Oregon Governor Kitzhaber has apparently not only fraudulently married an illegal immigrant (to give him legal status), but has also invested in an illegal marijuana growing operation.   And yes, if you're curious, Kitzhaber is a Democrat. 

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of banning "funny weed", but I've got to admit that if a couple more people had been arrested for using it--specifically Barack Obama and this Ms. Hayes--this world just might be a much better place.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Columbus Day

I will confess that there are things that make it somewhat difficult to celebrate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas.  Things like his mistakes in navigation, his enslavement of natives, and the bringing of European diseases to the Americas, among other things, come to mind.  History is rarely a simple endorsement in full of everything anyone did.  It's like we're all sinners or something. 

And then, quite frankly, I do a little bit of thinking, and I remember that many of the "natives" were engaged in constant warfare and human sacrifice (e.g. Aztecs, Mayas, Pawnee, Incas), and that those diseases were going to come to the Americas sooner or later, as the English did find the Grand Banks off eastern Canada for fishing not long after Columbus--which was why Samoset was able to be kidnapped by them and develop a taste for beer while a slave. 

And so, with the coming of true religion to this hemisphere and the end of constant wars to feed human sacrifice, I have to say something very politically incorrect; a lot of the natives had it far better under Spanish rule.

Along the same lines, a Christian was recently rejected for a position with Amaruk Wilderness Corp. in part because of her faith, and the managers who rejected her appear to be endorsing traditional Norse religion as superior to Christianity.

Now that's their right if they like, and therefore it's my right--being descended mostly from the tribes victimized by the pre-Christian Norsemen--to point out that we're really a lot better off since the Vikings stopped worshipping Thor, Odin, and the like.  So if you're thinking of taking a trip with Amaruk, maybe consider what those ViQueens did when the party got out of hand, eh?

Happy Columbus Day.  Happy end of legal human sacrifice in the Americas!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A thought on the Secret Service scandals

Now I will grant that there are numerous issues with the Secret Service--failures to do background checks of those who will be near the President, failing to stop a White House intruder, failing to keep the front door closed and watch the White House lawn, etc..--but it struck me that reports are claiming that the first agent who failed to make a tackle once the intruder was in the White House was female.

Now I will grant, cheerfully, that there are likely many places for female agents.  Attending female members of the President's family comes to mind, and it also occurs that there are many places where the best intelligence can be gleaned by a woman.  There are probably a lot of other great places for women in the Secret Service.

However, I would also hope that we could agree that the most important duty of the Secret Service is to make sure the most likely perpetrator--say a large, athletic male--does not get close enough to the President or his family to injure them or worse.  And as such, I would hope that we would agree that a key qualification for those closest to the President and his family is to be able to block or tackle a 250 lb, athletic man.

And, like it or not, with all due respect for former East German swimmers, I believe that the job description will all but read "only large, healthy, athletic males need apply."    Just like in the NBA, and just like in the Marines, sometimes physical ability matters.  Hopefully we get some people in the Secret Service who understand this before someone gets hurt.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Speed trap in Waldo, FL

I posted earlier about what I thought a speed trap means to visitors--more or less, don't do business here because we'll take advantage of you--and today I got somewhat unexpected confirmation that the city of Waldo, Florida was losing its police department due to declining property tax and ticket revenues.  It's especially worth noting because Waldo lies about ten miles from Gainesville (Go Gators) and should therefore benefit somewhat from the U. of Florida. 

However, I would guess that thousands of former students whose rent money was taken by the speed trap on their way home to Jacksonville decided, for some odd reason, that they'd start their business or live elsewhere, and the city is now finding out that a speed trap can be a very, very expensive way to raise revenue.  It was striking, when looking at the town's pictures on Google maps, how barren a town right at the intersection of two four lane highways can be in a state without an income tax.

Serves you right, Waldo.  Now elect a mayor who understands how to treat visitors.  Things might get better in a hurry.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A dilemma

At this point, I am torn on whether my favorite Michigan football coach is Rich Rodriguez or Brady Hoke.  RichRod had the advantage until last weekend's shellacking by the Gophers, so now I'm warming up to Hoke.

And not that my heritage of being born south of Columbus and having matriculated from Michigan State have anything to do with this, but if this pattern keeps up, I'm one of Hoke's biggest fans. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

In Praise of Harvest Bible Chapel

This will probably not be the type of praise Mr. MacDonald wants, but it's worth noting that his teaching on music is something of a "Rosetta Stone" in deciphering the problems with modern music.  Let's go back to what Challies notes;  that MacDonald notes that music ought to be addressed to God, not about God, that it ought to be simple and repetitive, and that it ought to be emotionally driven--and finally express itself physically.

Now, let's apply this to the text of Psalm 1.  Does God follow the formula MacDonald prescribes?

Answer; not by a long shot.  Psalm 1 is about the relationship of man to God and does not use the 1st or 2nd person at all.  Like many Psalms, it's all in the third person.  Moreover, its six verses are similar in complexity to the hymns so disdained by MacDonald, and there is no repetition at all.  In fact, apart from refrains, few if any of the Psalms utilize much repetition.  Finally, the Psalm--like most Psalms--is not emotionally driven.  The emotion--comfort, gratitude, etc..--is supposed to flow from the circumstances and acts of God described in the Psalm.  And an incitation to movement?  Not at all.  If we are blessed, that invites repose.

Now an interesting fact is that, whether influenced by MacDonald or not, or possibly vice versa, most modern church music, including a great portion of revivalist camp songs, more or less follows MacDonald's model.  Simple, emotive, repetitive, and a tremendous use of the 1st and 2nd person, and an outright invitation to move. 

And so it would seem that, whatever God intended by His example in Psalms, most modern Christian composers are missing it.  And if that lesson is important, we're quite a bit poorer for it.

Now since God does not give specific commands in music, there is presumably some wiggle room here, but going forward, I'm going to attempt some thoughts on what is truly important in music to be used in the church.

Monday, September 08, 2014

An addendum on the debate about church music

In my comments about the debate between traditional and modern music in the church, I've tried my best to abstain from using one of the oldest arguments in the book; that modern music is too often doctrinally shallow and emotionally driven.  More or less, I've seen it as a cheap shot.

Well, as a rule, I'll still hold off from using it, but it is worth noting that James MacDonald all but admits it in his book, "Vertical Church", as reviewed by Tim Challies.   Keep it simple, repetitive, and emotionally driven, because all that doctrine of old hymns is like drinking from the fire hose.

OK, let's test that hypothesis by looking at the first verse of one of my favorites, "Amazing Grace."
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
 Now I can confess that we need to define grace, wretch, lost, found, blind, and seeing, and perhaps poetic language is a bit difficult in our prose-heavy society that considers Executive Order 13423 to be an essential part of learning literature, but for someone who can read at a 6th grade level, this should not be an insuperable challenge.  It certainly does not require the gift of glossolalia.

In short, what we have here is a music ministry designed for people with at best a 4th grade reading level (Chicago Public Schools graduates I guess), and a preaching ministry that will not help congregants to understand these concepts.  In other words, it's a church model designed to keep congregants in spiritual infancy--if even that. 

So if your church is using Harvest Bible Chapel products to guide music or other ministries, you may want to ask some serious questions. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Lord of the Sabbath

My family and I were reading through Joshua 6 yesterday, and it struck us that it was on the seventh day, presumably the Shabbat, when Israel marched around Jericho seven times (presumably a bit longer than the Pharisees' Sabbath walk) and conquered Jericho. 

In other words, as Jesus told us, the Sabbath is for man, not man for the Sabbath, and He is Lord of the Sabbath. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Belated thoughts on tragedies in the church

The recent difficulties of Doug Phillips (Vision Forum) and Bill Gothard (really a good portion of his family) have gotten me to thinking of a very obvious question; what do you and I do to avoid falling into the same trap as they did?  I've read a fair amount arguing that the problem at hand was a rather nebulous "patriarchy"--that somehow if Phillips and Gothard had walked away from the Biblical doctrine of male headship, they would have avoided this problem.  Which is, of course, exactly why a darling of the feminist left, Bill Clinton, has been a byword for this sort of thing for over two decades, and crimes committed by abortion doctors are glossed over by many.

Well, scratch that, then, as we obviously have other things going on, but perhaps Nina Burleigh--who infamously noted that she'd give Mr. Clinton a sexual act in return for keeping abortion legal--gives us a hint as to what is really going on.  Specifically, there is a cause, and a person connected to that cause, which is so important that the ordinary considerations of morality are of no import in comparison to that.

In other words, as far as evangelicals and fundamentalists are concerned, a lot of the abuses rest on a rejection of Paul's words in 1 Timothy and Titus to those who would be pastors, elders, and deacons; that it is a great task and a wonderful desire, but it must be given only to those whose character is shown to be fitting to the task.  In the case of Vision Forum, and in the case of the Institute for Basic Life Principles, the problem is not excessive fidelity to Biblical principles, but rather insufficient fidelity to those principles that ought to govern the church.

And how do we avoid these people before their moral failings become known?  Well, simply look at their teachings--others have gone into the details far more than I can here, but suffice it to say that the man who ignores God's Word and proceeds to church office when he knows he is not qualified is going to ignore the Bible on other issues, too. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Some thoughts on church government

Apparently, a mega-church pastor has gotten into some trouble--apparently including losing at least one affiliate--partially as a result of claiming that "Congregationalism is from Satan."  Now apart from obvious objections--like how does the "church" separate unrepentant sinners per Matthew 18:17 separately from the counsel of the elders apart from the consent of the congregation, or exclude or welcome back the sexual sinner (1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2) without the consent of the congregation, or test and approve elders like Mr. MacDonald without, ahem, the guidance and consent of the congregation--it strikes me that every church in the history of mankind has had, in effect, congregational polity. 

Now this does not mean that the Bishop of Rome, or the Archbishop of Canterbury, or other church bodies are necessarily putting things up to a vote, when a pastor--or bishop, or Pope--loses the trust of congregants, they vote by refusing to take part in ministries, by refusing their tithes and offerings, and finally by refusing to come at all.  It is the same vote that buyers of shoddy goods cast when the deficiencies are known, no?

It is interesting to note that as MacDonald has come up with this un-Biblical idea and failed to support it Biblically (or even acknowledge the counter-arguments), this is exactly what happened.  Attendance at Harvest Bible Chapel has plunged, and the church (which is deeply in debt) has undergone an austerity program

Why has this happened?   It is a simple thing; if one refuses to acknowledge (1 Cor. 12) the evident gifting of the congregation to handle the matters the Scripture does hand to church members, one signals a spiritual and emotional distance from that same congregation.  It is no accident that many pastors of mega-churches fall into the trap of assuming "my way or the highway" leadership, as they have the best "opportunity" to become distant from ordinary church members.  They simply no longer have the relationship needed to exhort and rebuke effectively, and therefore they grab for power because they no longer have that relational authority.

As for us, let us pray for the repentance of "my way or the highway" pastors, and remember for ourselves that leadership manifests itself not in "dominant" behavior in the church, but rather in service and love.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Time to change Vacation Bible School?

Ever since I came to Christ, I've been associated with churches which do a few days to a week of Vacation Bible School each summer.  Often, the youth pastor will speak a Sunday or two before VBS, reminding the congregation of the need to reach people while they are young, encouraging them to take part in VBS, and the like.  During VBS, there will be crafts, games, high energy music, and quite frankly a fair amount of "encouragement" to "pray the prayer" and become a Christian.

Afterwards, there will typically be exultation over the number of children who have "come to Christ", praise for the VBS team, and......

....afterwards, the VBS team and youth pastor go into a weeks-long decompression and coma from all of the activity.  At this point, it's a good thing that few if any of those kids who decided to pray the prayer actually follows through and goes to church, because the youth workers are too tired to shepherd them.

Oops, wait a minute.  That's not a good thing, is it?   Let's go to Matthew 13 and see what Christ says about this.....OK, we have the possibility that we've actually done evangelism for other churches.....OK, they're not seeing a huge increase in attendance, either.....or what we have is either seed on stony soil, seed choked out by weeds, or seed not planted at all, as far as I can take the Parable of the Sower.

More or less, I've been involved in children's ministry in seven churches since I came to Christ, and out of the thousands of "decisions" that these churches would claim from VBS, I can't think of anyone I've met who actually followed through and followed Christ who wasn't in church already.  There are presumably exceptions, but all in all, the overall effect is as if you'd sent the sower out into Death Valley.  Food for the birds and nothing more, really.

So what is wrong?  Well, allowing for people moving, changing churches, and the ordinary difficulty of following up with new believers, I'd have to argue that what is going on is that the "pressure tactics" (loud music, pressure to "pray the prayer", etc..) does not regenerate people.  Rather, they "go along to get along" and then....."snap back" the day after VBS ends to their former state.  They'll tell you they had a great time (and they enjoyed games, snacktime, and such, to be sure), but you will not see them in church.

What's to be done?  I'm not sure what all needs to be done, but it strikes me that if we want to see real decisions for Christ, churches might do well to sit down with the VBS team and say something like this.

Folks, as far as I can tell, we spent $3000 and 2000 man-hours preparing for VBS this year.  We had 35 apparent decisions for Christ, but I hate to tell you this, but none of them are in church with us.  We have done a great job making false fruit. 

What we're going to do is this. We're going to reduce the time spent preparing for VBS by half, reduce the decorations by half, and let's spend the time and money we save studying some books on evangelism that do not use pressure tactics.  In the meantime, the deacons and pastor are going to look carefully through the VBS programs we've been using, and we're going to make sure we're actually presenting the Gospel to these kids in a coherent way.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

La Leche Levity

A friend of my wife's gave her a few samples of a shake that will, theoretically, help her "gain back what she's lost while nursing."  Since the most obvious thing she's lost during nursing is about 20 pounds of pregnancy weight for each of our six children, we're not quite sure this would be a good thing.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Thoughts on the NBA snafu

Now that Donald Sterling is crying all the way to the bank, his soon to be ex-wife having negotiated a deal to sell the team for about twice what people thought it was worth, it's probably time for a thought;

Yes, it's time for the NBA to get rid of every NBA employee owner or employee who has been unfaithful to his wife, or has used racial slurs in adulthood.

Not gonna happen, but it would be fun to watch as the inmates realized the consequences of "sauce for the goose" being put on the gander, too.

Thoughts on the IRS and VA scandals

Well, beyond the exorbitant amount of money we're spending on both agencies, of course.  But regarding the difficulties we've had, if we had leadership that was interested in solving problems, it's actually a pretty simple task--certainly one that after years of delay ought to be done.   More or less, it's called a "process audit", and every ISO certified organization--and yes, this would include hospitals like those run by the VA, and yes, it would also include service (or malservice as it were) organizations like the IRS.

How is it done?  Well, you either select a customer at random, or use the case file when you have complaints, and you walk through the process and see how well the records match what's supposed to happen.  If you find that something is wrong, that is a "finding".  "Findings" are divided into "minor" and "major" findings, and falsifying records is always a major finding that calls for clear corrective action.  If a major finding is uncorrected after a year, that is grounds for the accrediting agency to revoke accreditation--and that, in turn, is grounds for firing managers.

Now since there are auditing agencies that work with the IRA and VA, and they did note the problems for the VA as far back as 2009.  What do we conclude?

Well, either the Obama administration has nobody on staff that understands basic process audits, or they have intentionally prevented major findings from being corrected.  Given that these issues (and many others are dragging on with significant noncompliance in terms of providing requested information to Congress, you know what my guess is. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

The perfect ambassador for pro sports?

Yes, I'm talking about Donald Sterling, of course.  How so?

Well, we have a man who, like a large portion of professional athletes--like the one he didn't want photographed with his ex-girlfriend--is not faithful to his wife.  As a former divorce lawyer and slumlord, he has numerous ethical lapses in his business career--just like the "pay to play" and "get richer quick" schemes that have impoverished so many retired athletes.   Like all too many athletes, he's flashy in his personal style, spends enormous amounts of money on entertainment, and his thinking leaves something to be desired.  To wit, he apparently objected to his girlfriend's taking pictures with Magic Johnson, but apparently he would have had no problem if she'd slept with the HIV-positive basketball legend.  Like many professional athletes, he (move to LA from San Diego) seems to be something of a financial mercenary.

And, like all too many professional athletes, he's got some repugnant personal views that are ignored in the name of the game until those views get too obvious to ignore, and he even had (like many pro athletes) organizations like the NAACP conned in this regard--again, at least until his views became too obvious to ignore.

In other words, he's the perfect representative of the game, at least until the NBA decides to get serious about the moral and ethical lapses of its owners, players, and office staff.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It boggles the mind

Apparently, the owner of an NBA franchise has been caught yelling at his partially black girlfriend because he didn't want people close to him being photographed with African-Americans.

In related news, the owners of the Edmonton Oilers and the Maple Leafs told their families they didn't want them seen with Canadians, seven NASCAR owners told their teams not to give high fives to rednecks, and half of Congress and the chief resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue told their families they didn't want them photographed with lying thieves.

That last one's got promise, doesn't it? 

Friday, April 04, 2014

A thought for November

....is that the GOP could do little better than to take populism back.  President "Aragula is so expensive at Whole Foods" Obama talks it well, at least with TOTUS' help, but let's be serious.  He's a man of the people in far less degree than are Warren Buffett or Bill Gates.  Can't the GOP make these arguments:

Please tell me why the poor and middle class should be subsidizing hybrid and electric cars for the rich--especially when they're not environmentally sound at all?

Please tell me why the poor and middle class should be subsidizing entertainment--PBS, NPR, the NEA, and the NEH--for the rich?

Please tell me why the poor and middle class should be subsidizing windmills owned by the rich, solar companies owned by the rich, and the like?  Again, especially when one considers that the environmental "benefits" of these are far exaggerated to nonexistent?

Please tell me why the poor and middle class ought to subsidize corn farmers who own tens of millions of dollars worth of land, and ethanol refiners whose use of water requires them to drill new wells for many of their neighbors?  (real example from Janesville, Minnesota, by the way)

Please tell me why the poor and middle class ought to be subsidizing college professors through the 50% of Pell Grants and student loans granted to students with no serious chance of graduating?  We're victimizing the poor twice this way--first by taxing them to pay for this, second by saddling their children with student loans.

One can go on and on, but you get the picture.  Many of the most egregious offenses in the federal budget fall, directly or indirectly, under the banner of "programs which tax the poor and middle class to benefit the rich."  If we can't get some of these programs killed, we more or less are giving up the republic.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A thought on the Ukraine

As far as I can tell, the battle to save the Crimea was lost a long time ago--when President Obama removed anti-ballistic missile systems from eastern Europe in 2009, really, and was made a lot worse as he telegraphed his decisions, more or less telling the world "you just sit back a while, you'll get what you want if you wait until after the U.S. withdraws."  And then there's that "we'll have more freedom once I get reelected" bit.  Afghanistan and Iraq are even now paying a bitter price for this, and now it's Kiev's turn.

But that said, the controversy of the Crimea is about a former Muslim Khanate--the Tatars that tormented the Czars--absorbed into Russia, filled mostly (but not fully) with Russians and Ukrainians (58% and 24% respectively), then granted to the Ukraine in an effort to make it difficult for Kiev to operate independently of "Mother Russia."  It's a controversy that is more or less designed to be a pain in the rear for everyone involved.

So the solution?  Well, if I'm understanding things correctly, shedding the Crimea and a couple of other majority-Russian counties could be a huge blessing to the Ukraine.  Immediately the number of votes for the Pro-Russian party drops by about two million votes, and if the remaining Tatars want to be a pain like Chechnya, that would belong to Russia.  It might even reduce the fuel bill--though that's unsure, as Crimea does produce some natural gas.

In other words, you use the Russian tendency towards empire to make Ukraine a viable nation while ensuring that Russia has yet another headache to deal with.  You might even get Russia to pay for the Ukrainian bases and infrastructure they're taking.

OK, probably a moot point now--"leading from behind" is no way to run a superpower--but if we had someone in the White House who actually understood Russia and Eastern Europe (hint; they're all paranoid about being invaded, since it's happened so often), we might have had a much better result.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Where everybody knows your name

Back when we lived in a small town, but with its own emergency room, we were a little bit chagrined when our fourth daughter got on a first name basis with all of the doctors in town--but then remembered that there were only four of them, so it wasn't that bad.  Fast forward to this week, when our son was greeted at St. Mary's in Rochester by a nurse saying "weren't you just here last week?".    Since St. Mary's (the hospital used by the Mayo brothers and the Clinic today) is THE "go-to" emergency room for most of southern Minnesota, northeast Iowa, and western Wisconsin, it takes serendipity or some seriously bad luck to be recognized there.

Thankfully it was serendipity, and he's going to be OK, and he's going to get a whittling lesson from Dad before he tries again.  And the arrows he was whittling look great.

The little guy hard at work watching Cars while waiting for 5 stitches!

And it pays to patronize small business around here, too.  On one day, the gracious proprietress of "Ginny's Fine Fabrics" gave us some patterns for Civil War era dresses, and we got an invitation to the Wasioja Civil War Days ball from friends.  Just might have some sewing to do, and somehow I'm reminded of Famous Dave's.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Humor in fatherhood

I had a situation last night in a kids' program where I had to tell a child that I'd have to tell his mother about what he'd just done, and he begged me to give him the spanking instead of telling his mother.

When I mentioned this to my wife, her first response was that if any of our kids had been in the room, they'd have quickly told the poor soul that what he'd just said was a very, very bad idea.  None of them disagreed with Mrs. Bubba for some odd reason.

Worship Shul

I did a bit of Hebrew and Greek study of the words for "worship"--Hebrew "Schachah" (Strong's 7812) and Greek proskyneo and sebomai, and I learned a few things that might make a very strong point in the "worship wars" of whether hymns, meeting and revival songs, or modern praise music ought to be used in worship.

The verdict I come to--and failed to arrive at in these earlier posts about worship and music--is that none of these forms ought to be used in worship, properly speaking.  No, I'm not urging Bach's cantatas and toccatas, Gregorian chants or the Orthodox equivalent, or even the singing of the metric Psalms--though I would be quite happy with these in church services, assuming the lyrics are orthodox.

Rather, the point is that worship, strictly speaking, does not refer to music.   It refers to bowing down before one who is acknowledged as superior, more or less utter submission in its implications.  Sometimes--as when Abraham talks about going to Mt. Moriah to worship--it can quietly refer to sacrifice, but it does not refer to music in the Temple, in the synagogue, or at church. 

It is not always used with reference to the God of Abraham, but can be used with reference to pagan "deities."  About 3/4 of the time that "schachah" is used in reference to false gods, however, it is used this way--"to serve, and to worship"  It seems to imply that while one can simply fall down prostrate before God Almighty, some service must be rendered to the demons before one can submit to them.  One might suggest that it's a parallel of the Protestant doctrines of sola fide, sola gratia, and Solus Christus.  God did it all for us, therefore we can simply bow down before Him and worship

Moreover, I wonder if there is a great treasure to be gained if Bible believers would only regain the proper doctrine of worship.  We seem to "mess around" a lot with music, prayer, skits, preaching, dance, offerings....but none of these are, strictly speaking, worship.  What would God do in our times of singing, prayer, preaching, offerings, and the like if only....we got out of the way at the beginning of each church meeting for a time when we could bow down and worship? 

What if Protestant churches provided a way--yes, I'm thinking something akin to Catholic "kneelers" or the Pilgrim times of solemn humiliation--for the congregation to kneel and assume a posture of utter submission, a posture of worship?  What if we learned to walk into the auditorium with a hushed silence--yes those great old tall churches are wonderful for this--and assume an attitude of worship?

What would happen to the evangelical heresies of today--I am thinking specifically of evangelical feminism, among other heresies--if we understood worship as it truly is, as the pure and utter submission of the Church to Her Savior, of the Son to the Father.....and thus of a wife to her husband, a child to his father, and the like?  After all, Christ does not bow down to the Church, no?

So if you're asked about your position about the "worship wars", just let them know; worship isn't about music.  It's about our solemn humiliation and submission before God.  And once we get this down, then we might be able to think more clearly about lesser matters like music. 

Saturday, March 01, 2014

The death of project management?

Let's take a look at some recent debacles:

1.  The failure of the Lockheed-Martin designed speed skating suits at the Sochi Olympics.

2.  The debacle of the "Health Insurance Deform Act" portal at the federal level.

3.  The implosion, apparently, of up to 35 state exchanges for the Health Insurance Deform Act.

What do all of these have in common?  All admitted that they did not do significant testing prior to release, and as a result, all self-destructed.  In similar news, I've noted before that many of the "compact fluorescent" light bulbs I've bought--really anything but those producing about 500 to 800 lumens with the "corkscrew" configuration--are great candidates for getting a full refund because they simply don't last anywhere near the warranty period.  In other words, they didn't do reliability testing prior to release--and it would seem that the Department of Energy never called them on it, either.

(no surprise, really; the DOE has never, ever helped to develop an energy source that can compete in markets without subsidies.  It's not like they're interested in affordable energy or anything, after all)

Now it's particularly telling that these omissions were made, because the standard tools for risk management--FMEA, accelerated reliability testing, and the like--were by and large invented and promoted by none less than....the government.  And yet government officials allowed these programs to go live.

In other words, in government circles, the basics of program management are being ignored because the political realities loom greater for government officials than the impact on citizens.  Yes, be very, very afraid of the consequences, which shall be dire.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Well, there goes that theory

I've been of the view that the collapse of the American family is in great part due to the disaster called the Great Society and LBJ's "War on the Poor", sometimes mis-labeled the "War on Poverty."  While this may be true, it interestingly does not fit some of the data, specifically the proportion of American adults living in wedlock.  Take a look:

H/T Sunshine Mary

Now take a look; all ethnic groups show a decline starting not in 1964, when LBJ started the War on the Poor, but rather around 1950, when he was a junior Senator.  Particularly interesting is the plunge in black marriage rates at this time.  It doesn't correspond to the Great Society or even the Civil Rights movement--those were still in the future--but it does correspond well to both the second Great Migration and the graduation of the first soldiers studying under the G.I. Bill--soldiers who had served with all races in Italy and elsewhere with the 92nd Infantry and other units, and who had been welcomed as liberators there.

Of course, getting away from "Jim Crow" is a good thing, even if northerners were not altogether hospitable at all times(to put it mildly), but one thing that is likely here is that as blacks became a distinct minority in their new homes, they didn't have the clear support of institutions like family and church (those they'd left back in the South), and they also had to wait to establish themselves in homes before marrying and starting families.  And, of course, being lonely and far from home, I'm guessing some did what lonely people of all races do....with or without a marriage license, and their families and churches weren't there to give them a nudge towards marriage.

And so perhaps, just as the great migrations of whites to the West resulted in a culture (excepting the Mormons of course) with less regard for traditional mores, marriage, and the like, perhaps the migrations of blacks to the north and west did the same thing....and the question, then, is how to fix the problem after decades of hurt.

A parallel note; the rise in crime rates in the inner city started soon after this....again, exactly what you'd expect from lonely people of any race, and it is worth noting as well that the race riots of the sixties all occurred in the north and west.  Now granted, fear of "Bull Connor and company" may have suppressed things in the South, but Richard Daley was no slouch during the Democratic Convention of 1968, either.

The moral of the story, I think, is to welcome your new neighbors.  It'll do them, and you, a lot of good, and it's in the Bible, too.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: "Overdressed"

My wife and I recently read "Overdressed; the Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion," by Elizabeth Cline, and we can recommend it with some reservations.  First the excellent; with what seems to be pretty keen instincts for reporters these days, Ms. Cline details the collapse of the U.S. clothing industry and some fairly shocking conditions and realities at clothing manufacturers and clothing retailers.  Those who wonder how "fashion" houses with little to add like Abercrombie and Fitch, Gap, and Old Navy manage to survive will marvel at the marketing acumen used by these stores.

The book also details a process I commend; Ms. Cline's transformation from an addict of cheap fashions to a careful selector of better quality clothing--often vintage clothing.  This is something I can heartily commend, as I am wearing a 25 year old sweater right now.  (gift from my mom, Irish lambs-wool)  Apparently, she want from over 350 garments (pants, skirts, shorts, shirts, jackets, everything but undergarments) to a bit less than 100, and I can only say "well done."

While Ms. Cline has demonstrated quite well how to reform her own life, however, it's my opinion that she short-changes the reader in terms of the real costs suffered by those who are in a way "addicted" to the latest thing from their favorite store. 

Specifically, my 100 or so garments (not doing as well as Ms. Cline in this, sad to say) fill the top three drawers in a dresser and about four feet of closet space--including about two feet of shelves partially shared with blanket storage--take approximately 20 square feet of storage space.  Now if I triple that, my clothes would require about 60-80 square feet of storage space.  With a "cost to build or buy" of about $100/square foot, a "primo" A&F or Old Navy wardrobe for myself would cost me somewhere between $4000 and $6000--enough to buy a custom suit from a bespoke tailor, my wife reminds me.  Multiply that cost by my family size of eight, and it's enough to buy a brand new SUV.   Which, by the way, we recently did--one could argue our family's thrift in clothing has a very real benefit to us.

(we heartily recommend the GMC Acadia, by the way....solid all the way through)

Along the same lines, there is a cost in comfort.  Our family's mostly "natural fiber" wardrobe simply performs better in cold weather and hot, allowing us to keep the house a bit cool (65) in winter and a bit warm (78) in summer, saving us a good chunk of money on utilities--and my employer on space heaters that I do not use.  (there is that gift from my mom again)  The linen shirt my wife made me is cooler than a bare chest in the sun. 

This leads to a third major savings with good clothing; while other families are gathered around the TV in winter and summer to take advantage of climate control while they wear their poly-cotton blends and polyester stretch knits, my family is out skating, skiing, bicycling, and the like.  So just as a $10,000 bicycle has a pretty decent ROI (return on investment) when you consider the medical benefits of physical activity, so does decent clothing.  Just take a look at Lileks' pictures of men waiting for the trolley fifty years ago; think about doing that in poly blends and shiver.  Consider where people are at the church picnic in the summer--think that some people in the shelter might do well to consider real cotton?  I think so.

Two other places where I disagreed with the author were about her position on unions, and her position on natural fibers.  With regards to unions, her consistent refrain assumes that if only the workers in Bangladesh were unionized, things would be better--but the reality is that when the Maersk Line is ordering ten ships that dwarf the Emma Maersk, a union in Bangladesh will only result in production moving to Pakistan, India, or other developing countries.  Unions work well with capital-bound industries, but not so well with industries that can move as easily as clothing production.

Regarding fiber, is often claimed that there are not enough natural fibers to clothe the world, and just for kicks, I looked it up.  Between cotton, wool, linen, and hemp, there are about 27 million tons of natural fibers produced worldwide each year--about 8-9 lbs. per person, or about (assuming average of 6 oz. fabric) about 23 yards per person.  It takes about two yards of fabric to make a shirt or pair of pants for a large adult--so if you're keeping your wool shirts for 20 years, cotton shirts for 3-5 years, and your slacks for a decade (as I do), you're going to have little problem getting most of your clothing in natural fibers.  This is especially the case when you consider leather for clothing as well.

Plus, you'll be more likely to be able to afford that nice new SUV and the high end bicycle to ride when  you're not in the SUV.  Your doctor will be happy to wait for the business, I hope, and maybe it'll help prevent further debacles like the collapse in a clothing factory in Bangladesh last year that took over 1000 lives.

Well done, Ms. Cline, and may your reporting grow to understand the nuts and bolts of corporate governance, and may your wardrobe grow ever more delightful.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thoughts on a blizzardy day in Minnesota

You might wonder what Minnesotans do when it's 15 degrees out with winds over 30mph.....well, in our family, we ski into town to get ice cream, and then when we find (boo hoo) the ice cream shop is closed, we get donuts. 

We had a wonderful time at a youth concert yesterday, and when tempted to complain, we can remember people like Bob, Tom, and Todd.  Bob is about 60, and lost his eyesight and his eyes 30 years back to diabetes.  Many would have been content to just take Social Security disability checks, but not Bob.  Through four transplants (three kidneys and a pancreas), he's also gotten a master's degree and worked for 25 years.  He just retired, just had heart difficulty, but you'd never know he'd had difficulty from his attitude.

Our family has also known Todd and Tom for years--twin brothers born with a congenital muscle disease that also entitles them to lifelong disability checks, they have both gotten degrees and--this is remarkable in this economy--both have found work in their area.  They are wheelchair bound for life and need special assistance in many areas, but you will no sooner hear them complaining then you'll see them wearing a dress.  My hat is off to them, at least.....when I'm inside. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

A question of the philosophers

Women are evidently routinely mocked because of wearing ill-fitting "Mom Jeans".  Now given that I, and most of my (male) colleagues wear loosely fitting denim as well, why are men not mocked for wearing "dad jeans"?

I blame the patriarchy!  We have met the enemy, and he is us!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Our political problems, illustrated by bridge construction

Now I have no idea whether Governor Christie actually intended the partial shutdown of the George Washington Bridge to be political retribution against political rivals--given he won in a landslide last year, he'd have been insane to do so--but there is a reality that very often, local politics is the dirtiest.

That, in turn, is a difficulty for those who would hope to clean up the system, because we find that even Presidents are often drawn from the ranks of community organizers who manage to persuade the courts to unseal divorce records of their opponents.  So if we wonder why we have a President who, after literally thousands (perhaps *billions, really) of felonies committed by the NSA and other departments, still has yet to even bother to fire anyone, let alone indict the perpetrators, we have only ourselves to blame.

We did not, after all, turn out the city council member or county commissioner who used his position the same way in our hometown, or home county, did we?  He might have been a member of our church, or a "respected businessman", and we didn't call him on it.  And now we might call him Congressman, or Governor, or even Mr. President, and we're all wondering why he's doing exactly the same things we let him get away with when he was an alderman, a county commissioner, or a state representative.

Well, duh.

*Yes, billions and perhaps even trillions; each lawless search of private records by the NSA is a count of that felony.