Tuesday, October 16, 2018

On the death of women's sports and other transgender news

Here's an interesting article where a transgender person has won a cycling competition, and appears to be discounting the notion that his male physique and (apparently) remaining testosterone gives him an advantage.  Apparently the notion that a "transgender woman" ought to be at least one going through hormone therapy before competing is a bit too much to ask these days, and if we want to kill off women's sports for good, we're doing exactly the right thing.


And in other news, Stormy Daniels' lawsuit against President Trump has been tossed out of court, rightly I think.  She's even been ordered to pay Trump's legal fees, and given my hunch that this whole deal is really a midlife crisis on Michael Avenatti's part coupled with the need for both Avenatti and Clifford to make bank to pay for their divorces, this one is likely to leave a mark.  This is especially the case since this is the second consecutive bold pronouncement by Avenatti that has been slapped down hard by reality. 


My prediction at this point is that Avenatti's other initiatives get slapped down, and he finds himself (rightly) in the position of a number of middle aged divorcees--without money, and having just trashed his professional reputation so he's unable to earn a living.   Maybe with a little improvement in his personal skills, he could become a greeter at Wal-Mart.  And sadly, I dare suggest that Ms. Clifford will find herself in that position, too. 

OK, time for me to buy a Prius!

Climatologists and environmental activists have pointed out that climate change could imperil the growing of barley and the ability to make beer. 


Well, not really, as I'm not persuaded that a Prius would actually reduce my carbon footprint much (just the opposite in fact), and of course if the climate changes, one can simply plant barley further north--it's already centered in the Dakotas, Canada, and Minnesota. 


But that said, there is actually a very real, insanely cheap way to both reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in the air and enhance the growing of barley; stop subsidies for corn and soybeans.  Without those, agriculture would return to a greater dependence on pasture (alfalfa roots go up to 30' into the ground and are a serious carbon sink), and those fields that are plowed would more often be planted in flax, barley, and other traditional cool weather crops. 


Then, in turn, people could wear more linen, be cooler, enjoy some liquid bread, and turn off the air conditioning.  Now exactly how much of a consequence this might be is up to debate, and should be, but it illustrates how a great part of helping the environment does not consist in fancy new technologies, but rather can be done simply by stopping stupid programs like corn and hybrid/electric car subsidies.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Nasty hangover for the Democrats

"Democratic socialist" (communist) darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez argues, in public, that there is no argument that fossil fuel production needs to stop.  Fair enough, young lady, but let's try leading by example.  Go to your next campaign event with no help from fossil fuels; no taxis, no cars, no subway, no bicycles, and finally, no clothes brought to you with the help of fossil fuels.


And no coffee or hot chocolate to warm you up heated up with the help of fossil fuels, either.  I'd guess it would take you about three seconds (and a possible ticket for indecent exposure) to figure out how nonsensical your positions are.


Democrats, this is what happens when you elect people with zero experience in, and understanding of, the real world.  We conservatives would have warned you, but obviously you weren't ready to listen.  It's the political equivalent of what happens the night morning after you meet a really attractive person....after having about ten drinks.


Side note: you never want to wish harm on people, but this article suggests that a feud between the Bloods and Cosa Nostra could be in the offing.  I hadn't even known that the Bloods--formerly just an LA area gang that spread throughout the west as people sent their kids to live with relatives in places like Utah and Colorado--were in New York, but what do I know?

Truth

...courtesy of the Babylon Bee.  I'm all for introducing modern rhythms and genre into church and Christian music, but....folks....let's learn the genre before stamping vinyl, OK?

A very interesting report

John Manly, attorney for many of Larry Nassar's victims, linked this report from USC on his Twitter feed.  It is a bit lengthy, and there are a few places where I am having a little bit of trouble reconciling the numbers, but I'm attributing that to the simple fact that statistics on sexual assault are messy.


Two things that strike me in particular is that in about 2/3 of cases, alcohol or drugs were involved, and in about half of cases, there was physical injury to the victim.  I would infer here first that if we can persuade people either to not get drunk in the first place, or to know that sex with a drunk person is indeed rape, we could cause the overall rate of reported sexual assaults to plunge.


Second, the high rate of physical injuries noted suggests that if we can only persuade victims to report promptly, we might be able to move a lot of cases much closer to the point of "able to prosecute." 


One final thing that I noted is that USC has about ten different groups involved in the reporting of sexual assault, and students were asked if they knew about all of them.  That's too complex to make reporting simple; instead, I'd recommend a simple symbol on their doors and websites to indicate they are trained to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault.


Finally, this tweet by Manly shows a huge problem of child sexual abuse.  He's not just a lawyer, he's a victim grown up, and who has apparently lost faith as a result of his abuse.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Book Review: The Rock Generation

On another forum called Sharper Iron, I've had a number of discussions regarding whether modern music, especially rock-n-roll, is permissible in the church, and was always disappointed that nobody ever really had a Biblical exegesis that would, really, lead one to come to that conclusion.  I figured that since a lot of commenters mentioned Frank Garlock, professor of music from Bob Jones University, that maybe, just maybe, one of his books might be a little bit more scholarly.


Well, perhaps somewhere he's done this, but that is not done in The Rock Generation: 6 Decades of Decline.  As is noted above, there is no Biblical exegesis presented by Garlock that would lead one to suggest that any genre, let alone rock & roll, would be Biblically impermissible.  What Garlock does, really, is to tenuously tie together a litany of bad things he's observed about the modern music scene, and assert that there's something there.  In other words, it's 100 pages of the slippery slope fallacy.


But that noted, it's not just the slippery slope fallacy, as Garlock quite frankly tells a few howlers as "evidence", from false roots of band names and song lyrics to using the wrong units for sound power (watts vs. dB), from thinly veiled references to the "jungle beat" arguments of the Victorian era to a ton of guilt by association.  In short, it would be a great reference for an informal logic class to teach about logical fallacies--in all the bad ways.  Garlock even asserts that soft rock--e.g. Air Supply--is a gateway drug to heavy metal.  Now that would be a fun poll at your Metallica or AC/DC concert!


And why was it so bad?  Well, it starts quickly with a basic failure to define what constitutes "rock" music.  Garlock more or less says because it's "always loud", which of course comes as something of a surprise to factory workers who hear pop music played all day at basically a whisper level, and would further suggest that the end of the 1812 Overture diverts suddenly from classical/romantic in style to rock-n-roll--not to mention the Halleluiah Chorus and Beethoven's An der Freude. 


Totally absent was the notion that rock-n-roll borrows blues, jazz, and black gospel cues, combines them with hints of old style country music, and tends to be performed by small ensembles.  Of course, if Garlock had done that, none of his arguments would have worked, either, as he'd be in the very rough place of implicitly asserting that the spirituals that sustained blacks through slavery and Jim Crow were in fact sinful.


The end conclusion: there may be an argument against certain features in music, or against certain genres of music in the church, but quite frankly Frank Garlock does not make the case any more than does Bill Gothard.  Maybe instead of continuing to fight on this wretched terrain, the church needs to abandon Garlock and Gothard's arguments in toto and address the central question; does singing in the church function to impart God's Word to God's People in lyric form, and if so, what characteristics ought it to have?


Rating: -5 stars.  And to make up for this review, a little bit of the Harp Twins.



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Inspiration

This week's assignment in art class for my son is to illustrate a Bible verse or passage.  He chose Esther 7:6-10.  (the hanging of Haman)


Gotta make some Hamantaschen for that boy sometime....

More on false rape accusations

It occurred to me that, beyond the reality that false rape accusations appear to be more common than rape convictions, and beyond the fact that up to 1% of men are falsely accused, there is yet another fact.


Specifically, it appears that almost all sexual assaults are done by 3-5% of men.  Conversely, that means that 95% of men, plus or minus, have no fear of a valid rape accusation, but each one of them can be falsely accused.  When we also consider that--see the Kavanaugh brouhaha--that many so-called advocates for sexual assault victims seem to be unwilling to consider contrary evidence, it's no surprise that most men, along with the women who love them, are unwilling to sign up for such a system.


And as I noted previously, these people are going to be on juries.  The simple fact is that if sexual assault victims are going to get justice--and that is my hope and prayer--we cannot simply take their stories at face value simply because they are female and have made an accusation.  This process matters.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Thank you, William Jefferson Clinton

....for going on tour to angrily denounce people who remember you taking advantage of an intern and groping Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones, not to mention what you did to Juanita Broadrick and a host of other young women you bedded in your younger years.  I was afraid that people would actually think that Democrats cared about abused women for a while, and thankfully you've come out of the woodwork to remind all of us how Democrats looked the other way for you, Teddy Kennedy, Gerry Studds, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, and others. 


I haven't been this grateful to you since your wife's health care plan gave Congress to the GOP in 1994.

Impeachment for T-Bone's friend?

New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, infamous for his invention of his friend T-Bone, says he wants to impeach Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh for allegedly lying during Senate hearings, showing that (a) he forgot which house of Congress he's in and (b) he's got a stunning lack of self-awareness, having not only lied about his imaginary friend T-Bone (who is in reality a friend of Clifford the Big Red Dog), but having also claimed to hand out private materials during those same hearings.


So if Booker, who appears to be making a mockery of his Rhodes Scholarship and Yale Law degree, wants to bring it on, sure, but this humble site and a million others will be happy to remind Mr. Booker of his slanders of Clifford's buddy and our newest Supreme Court Justice.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Be careful what you ask for

Activists in San Francisco (where else?) are moving to require that 30% of public art statuary feature women.  Um, given what a great portion of statues featuring women are, maybe, just maybe, the feminist left might want to think about this one a moment?


Though I have to admit that a statue of Stormy Daniels surrounded by San Fran's famous street poop would be oddly appropriate...

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Improving statistics on sexual assault

Again, with regards to sexual assault, let's begin with these numbers.  Reality will differ somewhat, but let's go with it:
  • 1000 assaults reported anonymously
  • 310 assaults reported to police or other authorities
  • ~57 arrests
  • 11 referrals for prosecution
  • 6-30 false accusations
  • 7 felony convictions
  • 6 imprisonments
What is worth noting here is that of 310 assaults reported to police, ~ 255  (~80%) have insufficient evidence to arrest.  Of those arrests made, ~46 (again, 80%) have insufficient evidence to indict.  It would be interesting to learn where those false accusations are discovered--before or after arrest, before or after referrals for prosecution.  It makes a big difference in how extensive and painful that is for the victim of a false accusation.


We could argue that things will improve with "I Believe You", but our legal system rightly requires cross examination, and quite frankly believing every claim lends itself to false accusations. 


Perhaps better would be a good look at why ~60% of those who say they were assaulted don't report, and why 80% of those reports do not end up with an arrest, and why 90% of arrests for these crimes do not end up with jail time--80% do not even reach prosecutors.


And in reported cases, the simple fact is that there are a few basic reasons they go nowhere:
  • Police don't have the resources to investigate (e.g. unprocessed rape kits)
  • Prosecutors don't have the resources/motivation to indict
  • Insufficient evidence is provided to proceed.
The first two are fairly simple to solve; simply move police from traffic crimes to real crimes, and provide adequate resources to process rape kits and the like. 


The third is stickier, and it does suggest that the abysmal resolution rate for sexual assault could be improved if we simply taught all high school students how the justice system works.  Little things like how difficult he said/she said allegations are to try before a jury, the importance of corroborating and physical evidence, the importance of promptly reporting crimes to police, the importance of telling the truth about every matter (falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus), and the importance of working with investigators.


And, finally, the importance of prosecuting obvious perjury for maintaining witness credibility.  Yes, it's no fun bringing a report of any crime to the police, especially sexual assault, and cross examination is no picnic, either, but if you want crooks in jail where they belong, that's what you've got to do, and here's how you go about it.


But, ahem; didn't that used to be part of civics?  It seems as if a majority of our country has absolutely no clue about this, and that ought to scare the heck out of us.




Wednesday, October 03, 2018

More on false accusations

In a previous post, I commented on why false accusations are indeed a big deal--they are most likely as frequent, or more frequent, than incarcerations for sexual assault.  Now part of that is due to ignorance on the part of prosecutors, as well as bad tactics on the part of supposed supporters of victims, but let's take a look at the overall numbers and what they mean.


The best statistics we have regarding self-reporting (e.g. to researchers, not police) is that about 25% of women--say about 500,000 to 600,000 annually--report some level of sexual assault.  Allowing for repeat sexual assaults, and we might infer that about a million sexual assaults are committed each year, of which 310,000 might be reported to police. 


Of those, 2-10%--or 6-31,000--are false reports.  If we were to "lowball" the estimates and say only 500,000 sexual assaults occur annually, you might expand that range to 3-31,000.  Yes, it's a wide range, but for obvious reasons, these statistics are messy.


We would infer that up to 3-31,000 people, mostly men, are the victims of false reporting each year; somewhere between one in sixty and one in six hundred men have been falsely accused of sexual assault.  If we assume that a portion of "insufficient evidence to indict" is also false accusations, and we should, that number rises.


And let's put this in perspective; a man who is convicted and sent to prison disappears for years--he is incognito to his peers at that point, really.  However, the man who is falsely accused--the one who loses his reputation, maybe his job and key relationships, and the funds in his bank account dealing with the false accusation--interacts with his peers every day.  For each falsely accused man, dozens learn of his story.  Let's draw a wild guess and guess that about one in twenty prospective jurors knows for a fact that false accusations are made, and can name a case where clearly false accusations were not punished with a perjury prosecution.


Do you think it will affect whether they will believe accusers?  I'm guessing it will, and on any particular jury, the odds might be around 50% that at least one juror knows someone who was victimized by a perjurer.

Democrat Don Quixotes

This time, it's because apparently they're trying to change the subject from Christine Ford--whose story is clearly in the "insufficient evidence to indict" category, if not the "outright false" one--to whether Brett Kavanaugh drank to the point of passing out. 


And again, the Democrats are tilting at windmills, and the reason is very simple; Brett Kavanaugh's drinking was predominantly beer, which reminds me of the old drinker's proverb "Liquor then beer, never fear; beer then liquor, never sicker."  In other words, the person who gets "buzzed" on hard liquor, then switches to beer, will get drunk, but not dangerously drunk, because you have to be able to lift the glass, can, or bottle to your lips and drink.  Get too drunk, and the beer goes anywhere but in your mouth. With hard liquor, you can, while sober or only moderately drunk, manage to get enough additional alcohol down your throat to pass out or even kill yourself.  It's a simple function of 3-7% alcohol vs. 40%, really.






Democrats, it's time to lift that paper mache beaver blocking your view, and admit that the simple fact is that you don't want any originalist on the Supreme Court, and you're willing to pull any stunt, no matter how immoral, to prevent that.  And sensible voters, it's time to reward the Democrats for this by voting them out of office next month. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Now that's fascinating

Brett Kavanaugh's accuser notes that she decided to "come forward" when reporters started coming to her classes, and outside your her home.  Um, help me out here, Dr. Ford.  Since you hadn't come forward yet as an accuser, tell me how those reporters knew that you were so interesting.  It suggests that either you, or one of your handlers--like Senator Nifong Feinstein--was getting the word out, contrary to your, ahem, sworn testimony.


Also very interesting is that she "doesn't know" who paid for that polygraph test--and how she took it when the day before, she was said to be on an island in the mid-Atlantic.  It casts her veracity in doubt regarding both her polygraph, and her unwillingness to fly. 


As someone who (I believe) helped expose a predator, I understand not coming forward at the time, and being shy about testifying.  However, the manipulation of the process, and the total lack of corroborating evidence not originating in Ford herself, makes me skeptical of where this is going.


Update; National Review is doing great work covering the hearings, as befits an outfit filled with lawyers.  Her "fear of flying" appears to be overcome rather routinely, doesn't remember details of what she shared with the Washington Post, and also didn't know any details of the polygraph test she took.  She also appears to have refuted her husband's claim that she'd mentioned Kavanaugh's name to her therapist in 2012. 


But we should be totally sure of what she says she experienced back in the early 1980s while intoxicated, of course. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Well, actually, I don't, yet

Say what?  Well, it strikes me that one of the most dangerous things many people in #MeToo are doing is to say #IBelieveYou.  How so? 


Well, it introduces a presumption of guilt and an absolutism that is really more of a product of faith than of evidence.  When this happens, something very dangerous occurs; the question of guilt or innocence becomes unfalsifiable.  The trouble with this is that if a hypothesis is not falsifiable, it simultaneously cannot be proven, and when unfalsifiable premises like #IBelieveYou are introduced, that reduces a great portion of sexual assault investigations and trials towards a mere popularity contest. 


You can see this, really, in the behavior of Democrats who supported Hilliary Clinton, wife of serial philanderer and sexual abuser Bill and head of Bill's "bimbo eruptions" team, but then assume the guilt of Brett Kavanaugh on far flimsier evidence than caused Bill to surrender $850,000 and his law license in a sexual harassment lawsuit.  When we say #IBelieveYou, we discard the notions of witness credibility, corroboration, and other evidence.


This also has a very nasty side effect (again, see "Bill Clinton") of empowering the people who are most likely to commit sexual assault while victimizing the best possible allies of abused women.  How so?  Simple.  Those with a narcissistic personality disorder are both "sexually adventurous" and able to manipulate others--a deadly combination enabling them to commit, and get away with, sexual assault.


Those without the disorder are, then, left with little defense when politicians with NPD, like Dianne "Nifong" Feinstein, seek to try them in kangaroo court.  Here is a defense lawyer's view on what shows him that accusations are "off" in terms of evidence.  Yes, it is precisely what the handlers of accusers like Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford are doing.   Word to the wise.


Those who would support #MeToo need to come to grips with the fact that #IBelieveYou may be one of the most counter-productive ideas they've come up with, actually making the world more dangerous for women.  It's time to replace it with "I'll take you seriously" and restore the primacy of evidence and the legal process to these matters.

Monday, September 24, 2018

In a just world....

....this little demonstration by many at Yale Law School would make them difficult to employ.  How so?   Simple; of all people, students at and graduates of the most prestigious law school in the country ought to know that he said/she said investigations rarely go anywhere, that politically motivated outrage rarely arrives at the truth, that people who admit they were drunk during events in question rarely make good witnesses, and that the four people believed to have been there by the first complainant have all said that it didn't happen. 


The second accusation fell on the same hard rocks of evidence, and who wants an attorney who does not instinctively clue in to these things--or who ignores them when they are politically convenient?


What is especially galling to me is that nobody seems to be asking their "allies", Dianne Feinstein and Richard Blumenthal, where they were when Planned Parenthood was found to have been ignoring their responsibility to report clear evidence of statutory rape?  Or, for that matter, where was Feinstein when the matter of an admitted sexual harasser, and probable rapist, was before the Senate in 1998? 


"On the wrong side of the argument", of course. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

On a lighter note

....at least two former Buffalo Bills players claim that at least one child was born due to there being nothing to do in Buffalo besides, well, you know. 


Beyond the obvious question of whether this is a bug, or a feature, of living there, I've got to wonder about someone who is so taken with the restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and theaters in his city that he neglects to show affection to his wife.  I enjoy good food and a good movie, but seriously?

A way out

It's probably not a total solution, and I'm guessing David French wouldn't say it is, either, but French makes a great case here that one big way to improve our society's performance with regards to sexual assault is to (duh?) treat it as the criminal matter that it is.


Duh, again, and this means a lot of things.  First of all, it would mean that Title IX investigations would more or less encourage the complainant to (rightly) talk to the police, and the conclusion would more or less be a suspension if the accused is indicted, and an expulsion if convicted.   You might have a little more for university specific rules--say prohibition of fornication at Christian colleges--but otherwise, the matter would go to the police and courts--and sex crimes units would be adequately funded and staffed.  No more rape kids ignored for years, no more cases neglected.


In companies, it would mean the same thing--HR's role would be, apart from company specific policies and non-criminal harassment issues, to nudge complainants to the police, firing at a point ranging from indictment to conviction. 


How to implement it?  French gives a hint there as well; what about teaching kids about what filing a police report entails in these and other cases to de-mystify the process?  What about teaching kids that "he said/she said" rarely goes anywhere, and that the police and prosecutors are simply trying to see if the case has a firmer basis?


It makes a whole lot more sense, in my view, than retaining Title IX as it currently stands, with "preponderance of evidence" standards and a failure to allow cross examination of witnesses in many cases.  Which is, of course, why Democrats would fight tooth and nail to prevent it.


These hard cases are, after all, a gold mine for them, where Senators who looked the other way when Bill Clinton and Planned Parenthood broke these laws can posture piously and tell us how the latest halfway credible accusation is incredibly significant.....as long as the accused is a Republican, or someone they can do without like Weinstein.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Statistics in perspective

I was looking at this tweet from one of my heroes, and it occurred to me to try and put things into perspective.  Yes, it does appear from this study that false rape accusations are in the range of 2-8%, probably with a best estimate of 6% or so.  Now, let's put it in perspective.


For every 1000 estimated sexual assaults (defined broadly), only 370 victims report the crime to police.  From those reports, only six perpetrators ever do jail time.  Presumably some get probation or other penalties.  Let's assume a total of 10 people get penalized, probably representing a much larger portion of sexual assaults than we might guess--those who rape, rape repeatedly.  So, apart from wrongful convictions, we might guess that, say, 50 of 1000 victims actually get some degree of justice, although they might not know it. 


However, if we have a 2%-8% false reporting rate, we would presume that in addition to 370 factual reports that cannot be proven false, eight to thirty false reports are filed.  This means that not only is there insufficient evidence to indict, but moreover that the police found sufficient evidence to declare the report false.  Yes, we might infer that there ought to be a lot more perjury trials, as the victims of Mike Nifong and other corrupt prosecutors would tell you.  A false accusation can put a man (or woman) through Hell, and apparently we've got more clearly false accusations than convictions.


That leaves 360 accusations, plus or minus, that are in the "insufficient evidence to convict" category.  Some are genuine crimes, some are mistaken identity (this is my best guess on the Ford/Kavanaugh controversy now), and some are flat out false accusations where the police can't quite prove that they are false.


Part of this makes sense; sexual assault almost by definition occurs without extra witnesses, and delays in reporting prevent physical evidence from being collected and impair the accuracy of reports.  The huge prevalence of intoxicant abuse among both perpetrators and victims of sexual assault takes a toll as well. 


But with that known, let's understand what that 2-8% false accusation rate really means.  Again, it means that false accusations are as common as prison sentences for sexual assault, and if we can't improve that ratio, people can and will lose confidence in the system for punishing these crimes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Word to the wise

Apparently, a "loving couple" in California, apparently a surgeon and his aspiring schoolteacher/dancer girlfriend, have been accused of drug-induced rape after over 1000 videos of them having sex with unconscious victims were found in his home.


Now "innocent until proven guilty" and all that, but as the evidence looks pretty damning, we might conclude a few things.  First of all, sometimes people will do some seriously sick stuff, and sometimes people will help others do so.  Honestly, an aspiring teacher helped her boyfriend rape other women?  Seriously?  But yet there is video; she was at least being the female equivalent of "cuckolded."


Second, sometimes these things can go under the radar for a long, long time.  It boggles the mind to think that dozens, or hundreds, of women who woke up in a strange home with a nasty hangover and pain/foreign substances in strange places without anyone ever going to the doctor or contacting police.


Third, it can take police a long time to take action even when there are credible allegations--in this case, it's been 23 months since a woman was rescued by police after being raped, and 29 months since a woman went to police with multiple drugs in her system.  It almost seems as if it took the police months, or years, to take action even when they knew the very apartment where the crimes occurred.


Finally, if you're going to go out drinking, this sad case suggests that you'll be wise to go with a friend who will remain sober enough to help you out if someone "puts the moves" on you in this sort of way, and quite frankly it might be smart as well to commit to remaining relatively sober overall.  It might also be smart to avoid what we used to call "singles bars"; like it or not, I don't know that an "anything goes" sexual culture is compatible with personal safety.   Things that Grandpa would have instantly recognized as the work of a "rake" go under the radar when it's acceptable to go home with someone that very night.

Friday, September 14, 2018

I guess I missed that

Apparently the latest thing in critical race theory is the notion that white men who grow a beard are doing so because of racism.  I guess that explains why Bull Connor was clean shaven, and why Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass wore beards.


On the bright side, if the frontiers of racism have receded so far that we are free to worry about whether or not a man wears a beard, we are in better shape than almost any society in the history of the world.  I don't think we're there, but that some people apparently think we are is a promising sign.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Fashion Industry in One Quote

From model Karlie Kloss:


my body became more womanly....hips and thighs appeared....I started losing jobs.


Keep in mind here that many would argue that even now, she's quite slender.  What she's saying, really, is that the fashion industry's view of a woman doesn't exactly equate to how women are actually built.  I know that it makes the sewing more difficult, but I do have the dream that someday, somewhere, a fashion designer will figure out how to clothe real women instead of the "boys with breasts" that inhabit fashion runways.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Terroir Incognito

On Sharper Iron, a fundamental Baptist website I read often, one contributor linked an Amazon link to Gisela Kreglinger's The Spirituality of Wine, a book where the author attempts, in a semi-secular way, to present both the Biblical view of wine, as well as how the world of wine developed in Europe and the world as a whole, and finally goes into something of a dissertation on the risks of commodities vs. local products.


In other words, it's three books in one, in a manner of speaking, at least from a "fundagelical" perspective.  In the "first book", Kreglinger does what we would suggest any good fundamental Baptist ought to do; she simply takes seriously the Biblical passages telling of the ubiquity of wine, its blessings in moderate use, and its dangers in overuse and drunkenness. 


Coming from a Lutheran perspective, and from a family that has produced wine for half a millennium, however, she also feels compelled to discuss how the monks and nuns of old--and of modern times--developed many of the techniques used in wine-making, as well as most of the major hybrids/land-races of wine grapes. 


This leads to the most fascinating, confusing (to me at least), and controversial part of the book; where she discusses the differences between mass market wines (and even beers) and those which really speak of the climate, hybrid, soil, and more in the making of that wine.  Her writing has a bit of a "Wendell Berry" vibe, being a touch anti-commodity in the process.


And this is, really, why I read the book four times to try and grasp this argument, as Scripture simply does not speak obviously of things like terroir--roughly meaning "terrain", but in practice meaning all of the subtle factors of a vineyard that make its wine unique.  But that said, I did some thinking about the matter, and I remembered the case of Bezalel, the artist behind the Tabernacle and the Ark.  Noteworthy is that Bezalel used a number of supplies from various localities--the origin was, in a manner of speaking, the product.  Terroir, no?


I thought of Proverbs 22:29, where the skilled tradesman would find his work before kings.  I thought of Jesus' comment that the "old wine is better", and the amazement at the wine He made in John 2.  And so I am persuaded that there is a case to be made in Scripture for distinctly local products, to include wine.  So there is at least some Biblical support for the notion that we can honor a Bordeaux or a Franconia wine for its origins. 


In this section is as well a good discussion of the benefits and risks of alcohol.  Kreglinger is a huge fan of wine as an antiseptic, aid to heart health, and the like, but does not downplay the risks of abuse and addiction.  In responding to this, she notes that there is a huge difference between the risks of wine and of hard liquor, and that societies that enjoy wine simultaneously learn the methods of using it responsibly. 


All in all, I give this book 4 of 5 stars (corks?  glasses?), and the missing star is really because the author has tackled a huge topic, and simply does not have the space--or perhaps the inclination?--to fill in the gaps needed to go from the obvious Biblical truth that wine is a blessing in moderate use to the point of affirming wine as a local product instead of a commodity.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Word to the wise

Check out this tweet from John Manly, attorney for hundreds of Larry Nassar's victims in their lawsuit against Michigan State University.  Read it very carefully; he is picking on (rightly) interim MSU President John Engler for mismanagement leading to the $500 million award to his clients.  To me, it almost seems as if--as I've suspected--Nassar's victims are by and large far more interested in repentance and apologies than they are in money.   In other words, they took blood because it was all Engler offered, but they were not out for blood.


Not that a certain amount of money is not needed--they have lost certain opportunities and many require mental health care and the like--but if you're in leadership in an organization that is dealing with crimes like those of Larry Nassar, you might do well to consider the possibility that the complainants are far more interested in an apology and action that will prevent it from happening again than the deed to your organization's property. 

Thursday, September 06, 2018

This is your Democratic Party, I guess

Democratic Senator Kamala Harris asked SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh whether he had ever spoken to anyone at the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres about the Mueller investigation.  Keep in mind here that the firm has 350 lawyers and numerous other personnel, and one could hardly live in DC without discussing the investigation with a few lawyers over dinner.  Never mind the reality that, as a judge, he would have no particular role in this investigation, and interactions with lawyers are often "privileged", as a lawyer like Harris ought to be well aware.


In other Democratic brilliance, Senator Cory Booker (CCCP/D-New Jersey) cited a copy of emails as evidence of Kavanaugh being open to racial profiling, emails that were classified as "committee confidential", and which were not provided to Kavanaugh for review.  Um, yes, Cory, they taught you something about this at Yale Law, and it wasn't how you did this.


Maybe the Democrats do indeed have Senators who are indeed qualified to be on this committee, but it's certainly not showing at this point.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Does the FBI even do traffic enforcement?

Why do I ask this?  Well, apparently it took the FBI over 13 months after being notified of Larry Nassar's crimes to actually get anything going.  John Manly, lawyer for many of Nassar's victims, notes as well that his office's (clients') requests for meeting (to give them evidence) were refused, and that in his opinion, the investigation appears to have been slow walked by both the FBI and U.S. attorneys.   Obviously, they've got some speeding tickets to issue or something.


Of course, those who have been watching the FBI lately are keenly aware that there are a number of things more important to the FBI these days than investigating obvious crimes, like pinning false accusations of Russian collusion on President Trump (or nailing him with a Mickey Mouse allegation from one of his former staffers), ignoring Hilliary's corruption, and the like.  Actually issuing a subpoena or warrant on an obvious case, or even sending a note to local police forces so they could get an investigation started, simply didn't fit the model.


Ugly reality is that this is going to get worse and worse.  It hit MSU hard (rightly so), it's hitting USAG and the USOC hard, and now the list of culprits is extending to the FBI, U.S. attorneys, local police forces, and the like.  Next up: Nassar's former employers at Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, and his high school.  The University of Michigan is an interesting case, since I'd suspect Nassar had something of a fixation or fetish for female gymnasts, but he worked with the football and track teams there.  One has to wonder whether they knew, or suspected, something even then.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Aieee.....

It appears that the barrier between the International Space Station and the zero-pressure, close-to-absolute-zero temperature of outer space is something like 0.040" of aluminium.  I realize that weight is at a premium up there, but yikes.

More on bad behavior in public places

According to the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins, The Ohio State University concussion-ball coach Urban Meyer appears to have tolerated a litany of abuses by Zach Smith, the grandson of former coach Earle Bruce, including domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and the inability to even purchase airline tickets and meals on his credit card, all while issuing him glowing performance reviews.   (h/t Rachael Denhollander and others)  One point of particular interest is that OSU sent Smith to rehab and did not discipline him when he left that program.


Why so significant?  Simple; getting sent to rehab by your employer means you are no longer a "high functioning drunk", but that your problems are big enough that it's impacting your performance.  In short, Urban Meyer wasn't just facilitating (and deepening) Zach Smith's addictions and abuse of his now-ex-wife, but he was also making his team worse than it otherwise would have been. 

Gutting Title IX protections?

Or, perhaps, not.  I've looked up a number of articles on the (allegedly) proposed reforms of federal Title IX sexual assault guidance, and one thing that strikes me is that I'm not seeing any links to any federal documents written in the past year.  In other words, the New York Times, which broke the story, is carrying on its well established pattern of leaking to damage political enemies.  Who are those enemies?  Well, did you oppose Hilliary?  You're one of them.  The whole kerfuffle has its origins in a political hit job.


And what is that for?  Well, apparently it's to support the old Obama guidelines using preponderance of evidence as a standard of guilt, and also to prevent the accused from cross examining the accuser, among other things.  Proponents cite that preponderance of evidence (50% likelihood plus one iota) is used in civil cases (true), and that the accused can more or less cause the accuser to relive her rape.


Regarding the first, reality is that court after court is slapping college after college down for biased Title IX decisions--a result anyone could have foreseen--and the use of a civil law standard of guilt is dubious to begin with, given that a Title IX judgment does lock the accused out of further education at good colleges.  Want to create a group of mostly male, significantly minority victims who are reasonably intelligent and have very real grievances?  People who might act out those grievances in antisocial ways?  Keep that preponderance of evidence standard.  Want justice?  You might want to change.


Regarding the second, the simple fact is that a Title IX judgment is pretty much a criminal conviction in terms of its effects, and hence you've got to protect the accused's right to confront evidence against him, which would include accusers.  Worth noting as well is that defense lawyers (your other option, really) are not exactly renowned for their manners towards sexual assault victims, either.


Maybe instead of "filtering" the right to confront evidence, or abrogating it completely, we need to consider how we might create a few guidelines for "out of bounds" interrogation?  Maybe we need to work to prepare accusers to work--given that these are at their heart criminal accusations--within the system that can compel testimony and collect physical evidence?


As men wiser than I have commented, to every complex problem there is a solution which is simple, appealing, and wrong.  I do not know--not having seen the actual proposal--whether the DeVos proposal is an improvement overall or not.  I do know, however, that the guidelines in the 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter actually endanger victims by destroying trust in the system.  It's time for a good portion of them to go.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Want to do urban ministry?

LeBron James shows the way, in a manner of speaking, by sharing some of the attitudes he'd picked up--and then discarded--upon attending St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School in Akron.  He appears to have made some of the same kind of cultural errors that I made the opposite way when I would visit Compton, CA on Saturdays as a college student.  Want to do urban ministry, or, for that matter, ministry outside your particular culture?  Understand that the people you're going to get to know may live in a very different world, and that you've got to understand a lot of people simply don't understand your world. 


Side note is that some of the most difficult cultural differences to overcome are those where you don't have an immediate visual cue--like race--that people think very differently than you do.  For example, when a conservative tries to minister on a prestigious college campus, or when someone from the suburbs goes to poor rural areas.


Well done, LeBron.

A bit from Oswald Chambers

Referencing Luke 10:19-20, Oswald Chambers wrote this. 


Jesus Christ says, in effect, Don’t rejoice in successful service, but rejoice because you are rightly related to Me. The snare in Christian work is to rejoice in successful service, to rejoice in the fact that God has used you. You never can measure what God will do through you if you are rightly related to Jesus Christ. Keep your relationship right with Him, then whatever circumstances you are in, and whoever you meet day by day, He is pouring rivers of living water through you, and it is of His mercy that He does not let you know it. When once you are rightly related to God by salvation and sanctification, remember that wherever you are, you are put there by God; and by the reaction of your life on the circumstances around you, you will fulfil God’s purpose, as long as you keep in the light as God is in the light.
The tendency to-day is to put the emphasis on service. Beware of the people who make usefulness their ground of appeal. If you make usefulness the test, then Jesus Christ was the greatest failure that ever lived. The lodestar of the saint is God Himself, not estimated usefulness. It is the work that God does through us that counts, not what we do for Him. All that Our Lord heeds in a man’s life is the relationship of worth to His Father. Jesus is bringing many sons to glory.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Yikes

Investigative reporter finds that horrendous allegations, including murder, related to at least one Catholic orphanage, have a basis in fact.  Add this to homes for poor mothers in Ireland, and apparently even a sad case at Boys' Town, and the sad reality is that it seems Rome has problems that could well rival those in DC or the public schools. 


I'm going to guess that Father Flanagan, given his advocacy of reform of Catholic institutions in his native Ireland and the U.S. alike, would have been rather peeved that, 70 years after his death, the church he served and loved hadn't figured out what he learned starting about a century ago. 

Who makes the Catholic Church look clean?

According to a 2004 study, apparently it's the public schools and teachers' unions, which are apparently spending far more money and have far more victims than any Catholic ever had a nightmare about.  Apparently the NEA/AFT money has been successful as well, as the study hasn't been repeated despite the obvious significance of what's gone on.


Time to let loose the dogs of war, so to speak, and bring some of this out into the open where we can deal with it in a way corresponding to its nature.  I suspect that we've been paying--welfare, medical costs, incarceration costs--far more than we need to simply because your average victim suffers in silence.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Just one thing missing

Former Trump staffer Omarosa is ready to testify at Trump's impeachment trial any time, any place, according to this article.  Just one thing appears to be missing, however; evidence of impeachable offenses.  Omarosa says she has some and is "cooperating" with Robert Mueller, but if it's as obvious as she wants us to believe, exactly why hasn't Mueller indicted anyone yet?  Omarosa, in praising Michael Cohen, also glosses over the very real crimes of tax evasion and the like he could have been convicted for.


Seems to me her most recent interview is as fact-filled as her recent book. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

On the Asia Argento kerfuffle and Catholic priests

People are saying a bunch about how Asia Argento's apparent settlement with a young man who accused her of sexual assault somehow invalidates a movement Argento had a good part in starting: #MeToo.  Apart from the obvious point that this is a simple example of the tu quoque ("You Too!") fallacy of informal logic, let's take a look at the facts.


Argento is said to have been more or less compelled into non-consensual sex acts (a.k.a. "sexual assault" or colloquially "rape") with Harvey Weinstein in the 1990s, and in 2013 was single and made a number of social media posts suggesting, shall we say, a very intimate friendship with her alleged victim.  I can't say whether she's guilty or not, but they aren't the kind of thing you want provided in a court of law.


But for the sake of argument, what does it mean if she is guilty?  Well, we know that Argento is a victim, and that victims often become victimizers.  Now, does this minimize the importance of #MeToo, or does it emphasize realities of which we were already aware?  I'd argue the latter. 


In the same way, the recent report listing ~ 300 offenders in a few dioceses in Pennsylvania offers the Catholic Church a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the conversation if they will only take it.  The offenders may be out of the reach of the law, but shouldn't part of their penance be to talk with psychologists and other experts in the area about how they first found out about their perverse desires, how they acted them out, and the like?  Maybe do some community education about how to prevent this kind of thing in the future?


Yes, part of me wants blood here, but another part also wants people to recognize the signs that something is seriously wrong.  Rome can help a lot with this.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Yes, speak up

This tweet from one of Larry Nassar's victims says a lot about how a predator can, or can not, be stopped.  You see, the conventional wisdom was that Nassar's crimes started at MSU when he became an osteopathic doctor.  However, Ms. Klein says she was first abused 30 years ago, around 1988, when Nassar was only an athletic trainer at USAG.


Keep in mind here that athletic trainers generally do not work in as private a setting as doctors, and they are not allowed to do the range of services that doctors are, either.  So it would seem that USAG missed a golden chance to stop Nassar back when his career in crime was barely started.


Or, perhaps it had already started when he was an athletic trainer at the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, or perhaps it started as far back as 1978, when he was a student athletic trainer in high school.   It seems that as ugly as this is already, it's  likely to get a lot uglier.

George Orwell, please call your office



It appears that Chelsea Clinton has learned the wrong lesson about "newspeak" from your novel 1984, as she's using it quite well to say absurdities like "pro-choice is pro-life".   Because what is more pro-life than ripping pre-born babies limb from limb?  Duh.   In other news about Ms. Clinton, apparently she's claiming that the Holocaust added $3.5 trillion to Nazi Germany's economy.  (for the humor impaired, that is a joke from the Babylon Bee)


Seriously, if this is the best thinking Ms. Clinton can come up with, I have to suggest that she and her parents are due profound apologies from Sidwell Friends, Stanford, Oxford, and Columbia--and full refunds of all tuition and fees paid.  She is entitled to her point of view, perverse as it is, but coming into adulthood as a total dingbat despite multiple prestigious degrees is in part the fault of her "educators".



A groan and a suggestion

Apparently two more Olympic gymnasts have said #MeToo; they too were molested by Larry Nassar.  I pondered a while back if Nassar had any patients he hadn't molested, and increasingly it's looking like such unmolested patients of Nassar's are like hen's teeth.


And with that, it strikes me that if I had access to large numbers of dried up cowpies, I'd collect them, paint them teal, and spread them around the campii of Michigan State, USC, Ohio State, the USGA, and the USOC, so that the leadership there could have "teal shit" in front of them wherever they went.  And if I happened to be the leader of one of these institutions, I would pick one of them up and put it on my desk. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Now this could be fun!

Apparently the environmental left is moving to ban balloons because of the likelihood that they also could hurt aquatic life, just like plastic straws.  Now of course, there's little evidence that suggests it's a huge effect, but since when has that stopped American environmentalists?


Besides, I can think of something that liberals love and have promoted since the early 1980s that closely resembles the latex balloons that the environmental left would like to ban.....yes, I'm humming along to "Up, up and away" (in my beautiful balloon), remembering Rush's use of the song for one of his updates....yes, we could help save the environment AND make the environmental left really, really grouchy to boot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What would be the worst thing?

Numerous sources today are reporting that a Pennsylvania investigation of molestation by Catholic priests is naming 300 as abusers--for perspective, Wikipedia suggests that there are only about 37,000 total in the U.S., and the diocese involved represents perhaps 75% of Pennsylvania's 3-4 million Catholics.  Doing a bit of hand-waving math, we would expect that about 5% of U.S. Catholics are in this diocese, which would be expected, then, to have somewhere around 2000 priests.


Leaving some allowance for priests moving from one diocese to another, and leaving a bit of room for the fact that these offenses occurred over 2-3 generations of priests, it would seem that previous estimates of about 4% of priests being abusers may be low, and that another round of Hell is about to break loose for the Catholic Church.


Update: apparently the dioceses in question have about 1.7 million congregants, about 2.5% of U.S. Catholics, which would suggest only about 1000 priests.  Even accounting for 3 generations in the last 70 years, that would suggest only about 120 offenders overall (how many of them known?), which would suggest either a lot of movement between dioceses and/or that the rate of offense there is quite a bit greater than 4% of priests.



And then, I'd have to guess, another round of Hell will then break loose for churches in "my" tribe, sad to say.  It brings to mind the question of "what is the worst thing that could happen?"  Apart from people who rightly belong in jail for what they've done, it would stand to reason that a lot of church property may soon be owned by trial lawyers and their clients, and that believers are going to need to figure out different places to worship and serve God.


It sounds bad, but we need to remember that one of the greatest periods of growth for the Church was when Rome was killing whatever Christians they could find, and when God's people had to meet quietly in homes and do their acts of benevolence without hiring time on TV and the like.  If things go down like I anticipate, it will be a set of tough lessons, but a set of tough lessons that will remind God's people of what's really important.


And as we anticipate that, we might decide to change our ministries from property and buildings to people.  Double bonus, no?

Friday, August 10, 2018

More California dreaming

As many who follow the news are aware, California is committed to spending something like one hundred billion bucks to put a bullet train between LA (or really its far out suburbs) and the Bay.  Now, while I've got huge differences with rail transit in general, it struck me that the bullet train is classic 1960s technology, and if Californians can milk the taxpayer to get such technology, why can't I?  So here's a short list of the 1960s technologies I'd like to have not just available today (though many aren't), but subsidized for me by the taxpayer.


  • A 409 with 3 deuces under the hood. 
  • A dishwasher that actually works and lasts 20 years.
  • A clothes washer that actually works and lasts 20 years.
  • Dish and clothes detergents with phosphates that actually work.
  • A firearm purchase without background checks or a paper trail.
  • A clothes dryer that actually works.
  • Appliances with a pilot light that don't constantly need new igniters.
  • A toilet that works
You know, we could work this, couldn't we? 

Thursday, August 09, 2018

All true, it appears

I just got back from a two week vacation in California--Bay area and northwards--and sad to say, a lot of what I've heard about that great state's decline is absolutely true.  Even in the very prosperous towns of Mountain View and Palo Alto, you've got garbage strewn all over and signs warning drivers to lock their cars lest someone steal their things, tech workers living in RVs (and strange traffic control methods in Palo Alto to prevent it), and the fa├žade of prosperity along with the reality of empty homes and buildings. 


It is as if residents of the state have forgotten what formerly made their state work, and I saw that when I visited Stanford's campus in Palo Alto.  There is a degree of beauty there that I've rarely seen elsewhere (and I've been to Cambridge MA and Heidelberg), but there was something striking and quite frankly appalling as I watched those on campus act as if the dozens of Rodin sculptures (including a complete Gates of Hell and a bigger than life Le Penseur) were simply freshman sculpture projects. 


Loved the whales, sea lions, redwoods, and wineries, but the state is cruising for a bruising, societally speaking.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Points of reference

With reference to the modern #MeToo movement, here's an interesting article (and horrifying, BTW) that documents part of the English movement to end prostitution.  Evidently part of the problem was that numerous members of Parliament thought that visiting brothels--often government-controlled at the time--was a normal part of growing up.  It illustrates the fact as well--relevant then as now--that the real dividing line between "jailbait" and someone one could legally (if not morally) pursue is not really physical maturity, but rather whether society has decided that a person is "off limits" or not--and that "off limits" designation really has more to do with emotional and mental maturity than anything else, along with a perceived balance of power in the relationship.


Here's another interesting thing; resorts are putting spray sunscreen booths by beaches.  Apparently the old pattern of wearing swimwear where you'd either be able to apply sunscreen yourself, or where you had companions you'd trust putting sunscreen on your back, is fading, and people are deciding to go to these resorts without having trusted friends nearby.  Raises all kinds of questions for me, really.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cry me a river

Larry Nassar was apparently attacked in prison, following a pattern seen often for those who violate minors.  He wants to blame the judge for this, because she was harsh during sentencing. Poor widdle baby.  If only he'd known that sexual assault was against the law.  Oh, wait....




I know I should be more concerned about jailhouse assault, but when my favored punishment for him would have involved battery acid and an industrial meat grinder, sorry, I can't get all worked up about this. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Plenty of guys giving speeding tickets, though

The (Red) Star-Tribune is not my favorite newspaper, but credit where credit is due.  See this expose (H/T Jim Peet) of the effort, or lack thereof, put into investigating sexual assault in Minnesota.  Lots of effort put into traffic enforcement, but prosecution of rape, not so much.  Apparently even basic DNA profiling sometimes is omitted, despite the DNA being readily available.


I get a lot of why this is, too.  I'd bet it's pretty traumatic to deal with such crimes, and the article also makes clear that a lot of these cases are hard to win.  That said, I'd have hoped there would be reasonable effort made to deal with such life-changing crimes, and at least to a degree, that hope appears to be dashed.  It's time to take some guys off traffic patrol and have them investigate real crimes like these, and I for one would be glad to pay a little more in taxes for that.  Well done, Star-Tribune.

Why these things are tough

Check out the New York Times on how one of Jim Jordan's accusers, Mike DiSabato, decided to come forward with his allegations against former wrestling doctor Richard Strauss.  (H/T Jacob Denhollander)  More or less, watching hundreds of women (and I think at least one man) step forward with the same story about Larry Nassar informed DiSabato (and evidently about a hundred others) that what they'd experienced was not just weird, but a crime.


And that's a challenge as we assert that an organization or person "should have known" that something wrong was going on; if the very victims had to figure out that it was wrong, then (absent clear training on what to look for) those around the victims are going to have even more trouble figuring out what's up.  That makes the OSU case far more difficult than the MSU and PSU cases, where there were specific reports about both Larry Nassar and Jerry Sandusky that the schools ought to have acted on.


On the flip side, there was a known issue where people were indeed visiting the wrestler's showers to ogle them.  What is uncertain here is whether the victims are out for blood and money, or if they were seeking predominantly repentance.  I have a hunch most of Nassar's victims were looking for the latter more than the former, to be honest, and MSU probably threw a few hundred million dollars down the toilet by refusing to give an apology with a commitment to an independent set of audits.


So my prediction here is that if the victims are seeking primarily repentance, OSU can get past this with about $20 million for mental health treatment of victims and a commitment to audit the relevant departments--unless OSU refuses to give a real apology.  If no real apology is made, or if the victims are seeking blood (personally I doubt they are), we're talking $100 million or more.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Time to sell? Part 2

If the issue of needless assets were merely an issue of summer camp, that would be one thing, but regrettably, that's not the reality.  Just for kicks, I thought through the number of attendees versus the size, and cost, of the physical plant.


Some churches did very well.  A church I attended in Colorado had about 8000 square feet and about 150-200 consistent attenders, or about 40-55 square feet per person.  One I attended in the Twin Cities, sharing space with a day school and seminary, typically used about 50-60,000 square feet and had 600 or so attendees, about 100 square feet per attendee. 


On the flip side, one local church with about 50 attendees and 10,000 square feet, about 200 square feet per attendee, and my current church, with about 45000 square feet (my estimate) and 300-400 attendees, about 110 to 150 square feet per attendee.  Another church in Waseca typically had about 20 or 30 in attendance and 5000 square feet, or about 200 square feet per attendee.


The same equation goes for land; some churches are more or less on a city block, others have 15-30 acres on their property.  For reference, 10 acres is ~435,000 square feet of land, so if one splits the property between parking (5 acres/ 400 cars), building (2.5 acres/100k square feet), and green area (2.5 acres), you've got a nice facility for about 1000 attendees. 


In many cases, however, the extra land is going to athletic fields, spare space, and the like.  It's nice, but let's be real; it takes a while to mow, is a resource that could be put to other purposes, and quite frankly, many park boards do a much better job of maintaining these fields because they get more usage.


I'd suggest that in many cases, churches have a lot of property that, even with very optimistic growth goals and estimates, they simply will never use well.  It's in many ways a waste of money and space.


There is also the question of what all this extra property does to the church.  In my view, the end result is that pastors who ought to be "men of the Word and prayer" end up doing things like repairing lawnmowers, administering repair/maintenance efforts, and coordinating big mowing and snowplow crews.  I have even seen a fair number of commentary that being able to do this is a key qualification for the pastorate.  In the same way, men who ought to be learning to evangelize and make disciples end up....mowing lawns and the like.


Now to be sure, some degree of these tasks will be necessary as long as churches own physical property, but one might infer that churches ought to consider their property in light of reasonable ministry expectations.  I love driving my church's new zero turn mower--and I'm getting reasonably good at it--but Matthew 28 simply tells me that I've got bigger things on my agenda. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Scary if true

At face value, it would seem to be my alma mater once again "mooning a pit bull"; they have claimed, apparently in contradiction to Michigan's mandatory reporting law, that their counselors are not mandatory reporters.  The lawyers are citing MSU policy defining a category of counselors as "confidential sources" who apparently are not "MSU employees." 


The response would seem obvious--counselors working under the aegis of the "MSU counseling center" are indeed representing MSU, and state law overrides MSU policy in any case.  And if they are not MSU employees, are they unpaid?  You've got to question MSU's sanity if they're not paid--quality will suffer--and again, if one goes to the "MSU counseling center", exactly whose employees are they if they are paid?


On the flip side, there is one thing that can override state law, and that is federal law, specifically laws like Title IX.  I have to wonder if MSU is, rightly or wrongly, under the impression that Title IX allows this loophole.  And as much as I dislike what MSU General Counsel Bob Young has done there, he's a former Michigan Supreme Court justice and was on President Trump's short list for the U.S. Supreme Court.  He's no legal dummy by any stretch of the imagination.


Could it be that this is yet another place where Title IX or other federal laws create a loophole for universities to protect their sportsball programs by putting "ringers" in counseling programs to evade reporting responsibilities?  Time will tell, but if there is anything to this, it's horrific.

Monday, July 16, 2018

One must wonder...

...if the mass of bloodthirsty hymnals which (H/T Babylon Bee) killed a worship leader could have themselves been eliminated if the worship leader had started singing Ronnie Dosmond's Puberty Love  "Breathe".   Or, rather, was that actually the provocation that drove the hymnals to murder? 

Time to sell?

It's summer camp time, again, and one of the interesting things going on in my church's association is that, for a variety of reasons, Bible camp attendance is again down.  Some blame an aging church, some blame modesty standards and how they're presented, some blame cost, and I'm sure there are a host of other reasons.


That noted, what we're presented with, really, is a list of Bible camps out there that have multimillion dollar facilities used less than a month a year with only a few hundred children benefiting.  Sure, we do have professions of faith and renewals of faith, some of them genuine, and that is a good thing, but I have to wonder whether we ought to really take a look at the cost/benefit equation.


To draw a comparison, my son and I attended a weekend expedition of "Trail Life" in facilities far superior to those at my association's summer camp for about $50 apiece including meals at the local state park.  The cabins were clean, comfortable, well cared for, and heated, as were the bathrooms and kitchen facilities.   We had the use of a nice meeting hall, games, hiking paths, water access, and more.


Where was this wonderful Scout camp?  It was the group camp at Whitewater State Park here in Minnesota, and it has a history going all the way back to its original use as a POW camp for Germans in World War II.  Great trails, a museum nearby, and a bunch of other recreational activities for a very reasonable--and probably taxpayer subsidized--price.


And as such, it strikes me that churches everywhere might do well to consider whether they really need to hold onto various facilities they own.  If the state parks, or other church camps, do a better job and are more viable, why not help keep them in business by using them?  Keep in mind as well that if you value evangelism, one of the biggest things you need to do is to get out of the fundagelical "cocoon" and interact with those outside the fold.   Easy around state parks; difficult in isolated church camps, no?


Moreover, in the case of my church's association, the likely proceeds from a sale would fund youth pastors in about two thirds of member churches for about a year as well, and the time, effort, and money spent maintaining the camp might be better spent maintaining our local church buildings. In other words, if we want to keep summer camp viable, our best option might be to sell our facilities.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Mental note

Don't practice physics without a license in Manitoba.  How so?  Apparently, a retired engineer is in trouble for saying something that I've noted as well; short yellow lights--in this case, 4 seconds or less--are a safety hazard.


Now is there perhaps a scientific reason that a retired engineer needs a government license for this?  Really, no; this kind of calculation is something that anyone who remembers first semester physics ought to be able to figure out.  When the light turns yellow, if you're within a certain distance of the light, you need to stop, and it takes about a second for your foot to find the brake.  So when your foot hits the brake, you've got (n-1) seconds to stop, and at 50mph (or 88'/s), that's 264 feet.


Assuming an approximation of constant deceleration, you find that requires about six seconds to decelerate 88'/s, or your deceleration is approximately 15'/s^2, or pretty close to half a g.  If you look up actual stopping distances and times assuming less than optimal conditions, you quickly find that short yellow lights are indeed a safety hazard, especially on wet, snowy, icy, or dusty roads.  Even the best tires only allow deceleration of about a g (force of gravity) in perfect conditions. 


If you wonder why our first amendment is so important, read this again.  There is no reason anyone ought to be punished for pointing out the consequences of Newtonian physics, even if the target is government.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Now who do I disbelieve here?

....in the case where Republican Congressman Jim Jordan has been accused of turning away from his responsibility for reporting sexual misconduct by a doctor serving athletes at The Ohio State University?  On one side, the seven accusers are, as far as I can tell, not saying they pulled Jordan aside to report the abuse, but are simply saying "he must have known", which is far less compelling.  On the flip side, Jordan is attacking them personally, which is generally a bad sign for the accused. 


On the other side, The Ohio State University (not just any old Ohio State U.!) has hired Perkins Coie, a law firm well known for its involvement in liberal causes, to investigate allegations that may embroil a top conservative lawmaker.  Moreover, at least two of the accusers have had "adverse involvement" with the criminal justice system themselves, and are hence not exactly brilliant witnesses for the "prosecution".   And in Jordan's defense, at least six coaches have spoken up in his defense, though it's unclear what proximity they had to Jordan and/or the alleged victims. 


All in all, it seems that "he shoulda known" is a fairly weak accusation, and lends itself to the defense "I didn't catch that" or "I thought he was joking", so I tend to want to believe Jordan there.


What can I not debate?  Well, if indeed non-team members were allowed to shower with the wrestling team, then OSU had a serious problem.  Yes, coaches go in the locker room, but team doctors hanging out there?  That's one warning sign that I can fault Jordan, who had a locker in that locker room, for missing. 
And one final thought is that if you get harassed or groped or worse, it appears you really ought to speak with someone specifically about the matter.  You can't just count on them overhearing it and expect them to take action. 

Friday, July 06, 2018

Yikes

This article illustrates some huge issues with Title IX investigations at universities, specifically my alma mater.  Specifically, Title IX creates (mandates really) a set of investigations parallel to police investigations, and women are getting caught in it.  Well, men too; it appears to be something of an equal opportunity debacle, and my chief question is why we're bothering at all instead of simply deferring to the police.  Again, universities cannot compel testimony, cannot lawfully collect physical evidence, and simply aren't equipped to deal with what properly belongs to the criminal justice system. 


A simpler solution; Title IX can collect evidence, but not do investigations.  When a person is indicted for certain crimes, they are suspended from the school, and if they are convicted of certain crimes, they are expelled.  Complainants can be protected by this, and schools shall have the responsibility to help them transfer to another school if they like, since not every complaint will result in a conviction. 

Monday, July 02, 2018

....but not this way...

.....several major funders of SWBTS are saying that they won't be funding the seminary anymore unless "wrongs" perpetrated against Paige Patterson are rectified.  Given that the strongest evidence for firing Patterson came from Patterson himself, apparently they're demanding the trustees go back in time and put duct tape over his mouth and disconnect the keyboard from which his "break her down" email was composed.


And as much as the idea appeals to me, and as much as that would do for the cause of the Gospel, I'm sad to say that I'm pretty sure that it would violate the laws of physics.  This is the wrong way to be weird for Christ.


Seriously, I think it's simply a group of major donors who really haven't clued in to the notion that the behavior of Mr. Patterson really was abhorrent, and that SWBTS really didn't have the option to wait for full, formal hearings given the furor over Patterson's actions.  Moreover, they appear quite unable to understand that when Patterson's friends released what should have been confidential records from both SEBTS and SWBTS--those records which form the core of their own "defense" of Paige Patterson--that in itself constitutes yet another reason to fire him.  He had, really, provided confidential, sensitive records to form a "scorched earth" policy against his employer. 

Make Christianity weird again

How so?  Well, Rosaria Butterfield--whose life story alone is very different--gives us a hint with this little bit about hospitality.  Want to contribute to her coffee fund?  Follow the links and I think you're going to see some books you can buy.  If, of course, it won't delete too much from yours!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Help wanted; a mirror

Apparently some of Larry Nassar's victims are being harassed by (sigh) a former MSU staffer because the former staffer is of the opinion that support for any Republican equates to support for Donald Trump, who of course hasn't had the best history around women.


Now apart from the non sequitur in logic, I have to wonder if the dear lady has forgotten against whom Mr. Trump was campaigning--the head of her husband's "bimbo eruption" teams, the wife of the only President who has ever lost a civil judgment for sexual harassment, and the wife of a President credibly accused of forcible rape. 


I don't have to sign off on Mr. Trump's bad behavior to suggest that, ahem, if the left wants to bring the matter up, they seriously need to remember for whom their ballots were cast.  I would dare suggest that their gal did far more to make things worse for women than Mr. Trump ever could.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Yes, they think you're stupid

My "alma mater", Michigan State University, is making the absurd claim that because the initial funding of their $500 million settlement with the victims of Larry Nassar is going to (theoretically) be paid for using bond revenues, that tuition money and funds from the state will not be impacted.  As if, I guess, those bonds will be interest free, and as if this bond issue won't increase the cost of borrowing in the future, and as if repaying those bonds when they mature won't require any money.  For that matter, insurers are going to price their products to account for their portion of the expenses, too.


Sorry, Michigan (and federal) taxpayers, MSU alumni, and present and future Spartans.  You are going to be paying for this in your tax and tuition bills, and portions of gifts to your alma mater are going to this as well.  You might as well get used to it, and do what you can to see that this "unwanted expense" gets the biggest bang for the buck. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Gestapo, Stasi, KGB

....and the New York Times.  What do they have in common?


Apparently, all four are experienced in running "honey traps" to get sensitive information, as it's apparent that disgraced reporter Ali Watkins has dated not just one, but two of her sources.  One would have hoped that her FBI sources would have been aware that compromising confidential information (and the penalties for doing so) is a fairly high price for such gratification, but apparently not.  Or maybe they just didn't care.


At any rate, this ought to put to rest any thoughts that what a man does in his personal life doesn't matter.  Obviously it does. 

Word

An attorney who apparently works a fair amount with survivors has this to say about hotlines:


Victims/survivors should never ever call the wrongdoers hotline.  It is only an information gathering tool for USC -- worst thing you can do.


In this context, what he's arguing--perhaps before the evidence is entirely clear, but he probably has insight that I don't--is that when one makes a Title IX report, one can only expect that the institution under which it is made will work to protect itself, not the reporter.


Now I don't know how widespread it is--it certainly appears to have happened at USC and MSU--but if attorneys like Mr. DiMaria and John Manly are persuaded that this is a very real problem with Title IX, I'd hope that a smart legislator in the District of Columbia can be persuaded to schedule some hearings and work to fix the system. 


And having watched as MSU clearly gamed this system, all I can say is that if you're a student who is sexually assaulted, you just might do well to skip Title IX altogether and go to the police.  If you need a buddy, I'll go with you if I can.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Word

This quote is dead on.  H/T Boz Tchividjian and Brian Zahnd, obviously.  Coming up soon, by the way; review of Gisela Kreglinger's book The Spirituality of Wine


Grape Juice Christianity is what is produced by the purveyors of the motivational seminar, you-can-have-it-all, success-in-life, pop psychology Christianity....I want the vintage wine.  The kind of Christianity that is marked by mystery, grace, and authenticity.


There are things to be said for grape juice as a commodity.  It is nourishing, has even some vitamins and minerals, and can be enjoyed without risking drunkenness--though not diabetes of course.  However, we might assert that the mysteries of the faith are not adequately described by a homogenized commodity.  For that matter, can we describe spiritual growth as a commodity, or is it really something that needs to be worked out in the heart of each believer? 


Should our appraisal of growth in Christ resemble more the lists of best fast food chains, or a Michelin review?



Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Interesting question

Apparently, a West Point (USMA) graduate who espoused Communism has been removed from the Army for "less than honorable" reasons.  Now exactly what this means isn't clear to me--it appears he may have a tattoo or two visible outside his uniform, which at least used to be forbidden, and his attitude towards the site of his service is "less than complimentary"--but the question of what level of political freedom can be accommodated within the armed services, or for that matter among immigrants, comes to mind as well.  If we are talking about someone who would forcibly confiscate the property of prosperous citizens, as the Communist Manifesto seems to indicate, one would simultaneously think that such a person would be incapable of honoring the Constitution's protections of life, liberty, and property.  Such a person ought not be allowed to immigrate or join the armed services, in my opinion.


And along those lines, it's almost a pity that we didn't keep a portion of East Berlin and the Berlin Wall in place, or perhaps one of Stalin's gulags, so that those who would forget the atrocities of Communism might be reminded of them in the same way we might send a Holocaust denier to Auschwitz or Dachau.  Of course, probably even that wouldn't be sufficient, since there appears to be a growing number of Holocaust deniers out there, too.   But it might help.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A dangerous sign at the SBC

Apparently the 46,000 + churches of the SBC are sending a total of fewer than 10,000 messengers (representatives) to the national convention.  Each church can send a total of up to twelve messengers based on various factors.  What does this mean?


Given that this meeting selects the SBC President, and given that the same person makes some huge appointments that will determine the future course of the association, theologically and practically speaking, I think this is a huge danger sign for the SBC.   You can't reasonably accommodate over 100,000 representatives anywhere outside the mega-cities, and sending the full quota of representatives will be impossible for most churches to begin with. 


It would seem that the SBC would be wise to, with a supermajority of pastors/churches signing on, decide some things cannot be changed except by a 75% supermajority, and that a lot of these things cannot be decided in an annual meeting that only a small portion of churches can attend.  Otherwise, the SBC is signing up for political games by a small minority.

Friday, June 15, 2018

To Russia with love?

The Department of Defense is saying that a new artillery program with a maximum range of 70km is intended for possible conflict with Russia, but it strikes me that such  a weapon would be really neat to have deployed in South Korea.  More or less, with adequate spy satellites and shot detection, the average lifespan of a North Korean artillery piece could be measured in minutes.  The number of rounds that the North Korean artillery piece might fire might be just one--or zero.


Which is just fine by me.  I would also suspect that this might be just fine with South Koreans.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

News from "Lake Woebegone"

Or, rather, Winsted, which is (appropriately in this case) close to Darwin, MN, home of the world famous twine ball memorialized by Weird Al Yankovic.  You see, we are awfully proud of our public schools here in Minnesota, because, as somebody MPR would like to forget ever existed used to say, all of our kids are above average. 


How much above average?  Well, one above average Minnesota girl, 19 year old Kaitlin Strom of Litchfield, figured out a way to get her head stuck in the tailpipe of a diesel pickup.  And yes, as you might have guessed, alcohol was involved.  She's so smart, she figured out a way around our legal drinking age, too.   Thankfully, her only "Darwin Award" is getting that tailpipe sent to the Darwin Tavern for display--and presumably paying the pickup's owner to get a new one welded on.


So if you're proud of your state's public schools, just ask yourself this; when was the last time a graduate of YOUR state's public schools got drunk and stuck her head in the tailpipe of a pickup?  You are almost certainly hanging your heads with shame at how poorly your state's schools are performing, aren't you?  Thought so.  Need a hug for consolation?  No luck, buddy, we're going to rub it in DEEP.


One note for the Weird Al fans in my vast audience; the Darwin Tavern is not the Twine Ball Inn from the song.  That's this building, and at least when I visited it, it was a great place to get Twine Ball memorabilia, as well as one of very few decent pieces of pie I've ever had in a restaurant.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

How not to do it: Exhibit A

Apparently, my alma mater, and the current President, John Engler, decided for some reason that he was going to float theories about the attorney for Larry Nassar's victims/survivors paying Rachael Denhollander to "manipulate" other claimants into participating. 


Not only is this something that her husband, proud driver of a ten year old minivan, finds hilarious and infuriating, but had Engler paid attention in the "legal ethics" classes he took at Cooley Law School, not to mention continuing education with the ABA and the lawyers that quite frankly infest Michigan State, he would have known that if a lawyer is caught giving or taking kickbacks, they're likely to get disbarred and jailed.


In other words, between John Manly and Rachael Denhollander, there were two people who knew very well not to try such an arrangement.  Moreover, Larry Nassar's attorneys had apparently tried the same stunt, only to have it go over like a lead balloon. 


What this illustrates, in my view, is a mindset in the Hannah building and Cowles House that thought that if they could only wait out the Denhollanders until money ran out, their problems would be over--and that their major risk was an illegal pre-payment of anticipated revenue from the civil suit.  More or less, they were hoping procedural calculations would overcome the evidence.  Thankfully, this comment related by Kate Wells of Michigan Public Radio holds:  Why would you keep messing with Rachael Denhollander?  She's just going to kick your ass.


And not only am I hoping and praying she does indeed kick his gluteal regions right back to Mount Pleasant, or better yet past Houghton into Lake Superior, but I pray as well that this sad spectacle serves as an example of how not to treat complainants.  If you don't take the evidence seriously, but try to finagle procedural tricks incessantly while making unsupported allegations against the accusers, expect that things will go very badly for your side.


On the flip side, if you suspect that someone has a big need to have metatarsal structures impact his gluteal region, the best way to achieve that is to mind one's Ps & Qs ethically while putting together the evidence that will make that case clear.