Monday, February 28, 2011

Some thoughts on hippies and natural food advocates

I went to a local "health food" store--Lakewinds--last weekend, and noticed a few interesting things.

First of all, hippies appear to be getting a little bit smarter, as the "Lakewinds bans guns on these premises" signs have been removed.  Hopefully this store did not learn the hard way that these signs merely tell criminals "Your victims are disarmed for your convenience."

That said, they're not that much smarter, as the checker seemed to be unaware that rye and oats can be ground to make food--he was under the impression that people simply planted them.  What one would do with the crop after it had been grown without a means of grinding it into flour is beyond me, but apparently this is something that the health food crowd does.

Finally, there was a bit of hilarity in the bulk foods aisle, where about a dozen "no grazing please" signs have appeared since my last visit.  Apparently hippies, like the rest of us, can often be unclear on the concept that one ought to actually purchase food from one's grocery before eating it.  Either that, or they're bringing their free range goats in for a snack to increase organic milk production....

Friday, February 25, 2011

Why government's role should be limited

Witness the brouhaha over which company, Boeing or EADS, will make new tankers for the Air Force.  Now apart from genuine technical issues, the fact is here that the Air Force has not obtained any new tanker planes since 1965.

Now let's consider this; what airline in the western world is still flying planes made in 1965?  For reference, only about 80 of 1800 Boeing 727s (built from 1963 to 1984) are still in service.  You will not find 707s flying, by and large, in the western world.  Even early 747s (first built in 1969) are largely taken out of service for reasons of efficiency and air fatigue.

And the Air Force is going to start replacing these planes in 2017 at best, when the oldest KC-135s are 60 years old.  It's not good for our national defense, to put it mildly, and.....

.....OK, imagine what this mindset could do to you in medicine.  Who's up for having the original Siemens pacemaker of 1958 instead of the new versions from Medtronic, Boston Scientific, and St. Jude?  What about the chemotherapy drugs available in 1957?

Count me out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What could possibly go wrong?

OK, we have a situation where Mexico is all but fighting a civil war with drug lords in border states and others--and high on the list of sources for arms and personnel for the drug lords are the Mexican police and army.  In addition, the demand to get into the United States has led to (armed) "coyotes" shepherding those who desire to come to our fair country raising a fair amount of mayhem as well.  Even law-abiding Mexican citizens are known to greatly resent the fact that the United States desires to limit immigration from Latin America.

So what do we do?  We send unarmed ICE agents, in uniform, into Mexico, and then we act surprised when they get attacked, killing one and wounding another, under the "logic" that drug cartels would not attack U.S. agents.  Apparently, ICE has never heard of drug-related ambushes of U.S. police officers, and how drug cartels aren't terribly bashful about shooting at, and killing, those with a badge.

And so members of Congress are discussing ways to make sure ICE officers are armed when they go into Mexico.  That's a good start, I guess, but I'd thought that diplomacy--and the responsibility to keep ICE officers safe--really rests with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Why hasn't the guy living there told Felipe Calderon that if he wants help with his war on the drug gangs, helpers from the United States are going to be armed?

Do you owe your soul.... the company store?  Odds are, these days, the very chances of this are ludicrous, but the fact of the matter is that the 19th and 20th century unionization movements owed their existence, more or less, to the thing that Tennessee Ernie Ford's famous song decries; workers paid in company scrip owed large, enforceable debts to the company store--the only place where you could spend your pay.  Hence, you literally, and legally, could be trapped at a dead end job.

Fast forward to today, where unionization is endorsed as an unequivocal good by its supporters--but in a world that has repudiated the conditions that led to their creation.  Seems to me that union supporters need a good dose of Adam Smith's teaching (and Bastiat's, and a lot of other good economists') on the dangers of monopoly.

Oh, and enjoy:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Do you believe in atheists?

I'm starting to doubt there is any such thing as an atheist.  Why?

Apparently, atheists report more anger at God than do believers.   As I'm one who doesn't believe you can be angry at something you don't believe exists (but I so much hate flying pigs covered in marinara sauce and Lindt chocolate!), I'd have to suggest that these "atheists" are not atheists at all, but rather angry people who need to come to faith.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Begging for trouble......

One of the joys, and challenges, of having daughters is trying to find them apparel that actually fits.  All too often, it seems that fashion designers ignore the fact that real women have something called "hips", and that real girls tend to "grow."

Why so?  Well, consider low and mid rise jeans.  Yes, some young men and fashion designers (we'll call them "not the marryin' kind") like to see young ladies in them, but given that the waist is a great place to hang clothes, what happens when one tries to hang a skirt or pants well below the waist?

OK, physics here--the tension needed to hold up a pair of jeans will go as the cosecant of the angle around the waistband.  Translated, that means that the lower one goes on the hips--as they curve around towards the legs--the more tension you need to hold up those pants or skirt.  This is why you see so much "muffin top" on ladies wearing low and mid rise jeans--less curves on the hips than at the waist means more tension, and softer tissues simply fold over the top of the pant.
Now consider what happens when one is buying apparel for a young lady (say my oldest daughter) whose hips can reasonably be expected to grow; either one begs for trouble by buying jeans that may fall off, or one begs for trouble by buying pants so tight they will be uncomfortable for the wearer.  Yes, you can help that a little with Spandex, but let's be serious here; Hooke's Law and basic mechanics still hold; you need a certain tension to hold those pants up.

Worse yet, in the store my family was shopping at last night, there were no women's belts available.  What could possibly go wrong for someone wearing ill-fitting jeans without a belt?

Monday, February 21, 2011

A crisis of motivation

I have been thinking about the various issues we have in our home lives, in our churches, and in our country, and of course one answer to my questions--rooted in the fundamental side of Christianity--are (like some good advice on how to be a pilgrim ) this time found in the writings of a Catholic priest named Longenecker.  (H/T Traditional Catholicism)

Where can such Catholics be found in such a soft and decadent age? They are here. I see them day by day and week by week. They are here in our pews, in our schools, in our parishes. They will stand up for the faith if they have leaders, and they will move forward with great sacrifice and courage once they have a cause.

Now note what the priest says here; he notes that those in the pews of the churches he serves will make great sacrifices once they have a cause.  No disrespect here--especially as the same thing could be said about my church, my workplace, and more--but does not the Church have a cause already?  Something about our Lord and Savior, and bringing His Good News to the world?

In short, the difficulties I've seen in church--and elsewhere--really come down to a point where we simply don't know how to motivate--and this in turn comes from a failure to understand what we really have to offer.  All too often, one argues in terms of morality, "social justice," "standards," or some such thing, when what we really ought to be dealing with is the nature of God, the glory of His name and His life, death, and resurrection.

And as a result, those who have forgotten their first love then turn not to the motivational strategies of a betrothed (which is after all what we are if we are in Him), but rather those of the drill sargeant--and we wonder why, when we use the weapons and methods of this world, the church looks so....worldly.

Not terribly surprising, when you think about it.  Teach marriage as a worldly, rather than a spiritual (Ephesians 5-6) enterprise, and you will get fornication and divorce..  Teach finances as an earthly, rather than as a spiritual concern, and you will get bankruptcy and greed.  Teach "church growth" instead of true life in the Gospel, and you will get stagnation.

Separated at birth?

The first is, of course, Colonel Gadhafi of Libya, and the second is Howard Stern.  I think.  :^)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mind-boggling applications of Sharia

According to this column, rape can only be proved under Sharia law if there are four witnesses.

OK, I can grant that ancient law can be perplexing to us moderns--see the "Torah" for many an example--but I cannot for the life of me envision why anyone at any period of time would require a rape victim to provide four witnesses.  It's not as if (Genesis 19, Genesis 34, Judges 19) the ancients lacked object lessons as to why a potential rapist might hesitate to perform that abominable act in front of four men who might testify against them.

(shouldn't those four men kill the rapist/s, or die trying? )

If indeed the Qu'ran condones this practice, I'm having more than a little bit of trouble seeing how Islam can--along with Sunni veneration of Mohammed's 9 year old wife Aisha, honor killings condoned by Sharia, and so on--become a religion of moderation suitable for respect in the modern world.

What part of "unconstitutional" does Obama not understand?

Apparently, Dear Leader has instructed the Department of Justice to "clarify" a decision ruling the Health Insurance Deform Act unconstitutional so they can enforce a law ruled to be unconstitutional against the state of Alaska.

If I'd been one of Dear Leader's students while he was a law lecturer at the University of Chicago, I'd be asking for a refund of my tuition with legal "thinking" like that coming from the guy.  It just boggles the mind.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A warning for "Hanoi Justin"

...the sad case of the family of Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus.  I do not know how seriously "Billy Ray" and his family took their faith, but it serves as an object lesson that it's pretty difficult to pursue both God and the brass ring of success.

And here is a great work of art that puts the pursuit of temporal fame in its place.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Good political news!

Florida's governor has rejected $2 billion in federal funding for high speed rail between Orlando and Tampa.  Democrats are, of course, enraged that their trolley project is derailed, and they're warning that this is a death knell for affordable, efficient transportation.

Well, to answer this, let's take a look at the map:  Orlando to Tampa is about 85 miles, typically driven in about 90 minutes.  In other words, travelers are being asked to spend 90 minutes getting to the station and waiting for the train in order to....spend another 70 minutes on a train that goes marginally faster than their car.

Or, just a little bit slower than....Greyhound, which charges the princely fare of $28 for the trip, and only runs four buses each day along this route.  In short, the feds wanted to devote two billion dollars of capital to serve a few hundred passengers daily--a remarkable waste even for the current spendthrifts in DC, to put it mildly.  Thank you, Governor Scott, for rejecting this boondoggle.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The real pain of tax hikes

Apparently, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (CCCP/DFL) has come up with a budget plan that includes increasing taxes on top earners from 7.85% to 14%.  Of course, that doesn't affect our state's biggest fan of Renoir, as his lifestyle is supported primarily by his trust fund.

For the rest of us--those of us who might like a competent surgeon when, say, we need gallbladder surgery--here's a breakdown of how the equation works. 

FICA will be $6000 plus 9.3% of income (no, the employer does not "volunteer" that money to the government), federal income tax is up to 35%, and then there is an additional 3.1% to 6.15% paid on taxable incomes above $130,000 and $500,000.

The end result; about a 10% drop in disposable income for high earners.  Now even if the rich disposed of extra money by burning it on the fireplace like the widow love interest of Foghorn Leghorn (not really the case), the fact remains that confiscating that money will induce some of them to leave the state--not what I want when I need a competent surgeon or employer, to put it mildly. 

Now if we could put a heavy surcharge on wealth from inheritances from department store fortunes, that would be another matter.....

Why are the poor, poor?

Walter Williams tells us; it's the government, of course.  More or less, virtually every third world/"developing" country that fails to advance economically is one in which, to use the example of Egypt, the poor man who wants to open a bakery needs to wade through regulations and red tape for a year and a half.  Big companies can devote the manpower to deal with this; the little guy, not so much.

As one who has traveled to a developing nation (Malaysia), I can also comment that all that regulation does not produce better, safer products.  Rather, those heavily regulated food stands--and often even the restaurants at good hotels--were likely to cause a great deal of "digestive acceleration" among those who did not know the rules of what not to eat. 

So if you want poverty, ask the government to do a little more for you.  If you're particularly "lucky," a bout of dysentery might be in the cards as well.  As for me, I'm thinking that the private sector might have an interest in "repeat business" and might take a bit better initiative to keep me safe.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Separated at birth?

I haven't found the picture of today's most notorious pop rodent  ("Bieber" is "beaver" in German) with a North Vietnamese surface to air missile battery.  Yet.  However, we can never underestimate the harm that can result when one listens to pop rodents or gets smitten with 1960s movie starlets.  Hanoi Justin it is.

H/T Dan Phillips of Biblical Christianity

Say what?

My local newspaper is running an ad decrying the possibility of budget cuts (fair enough) by pointing out that an across the board budget cut at the state level could impact well over 1000 police officers.  OK, I differ with the politics, but fair enough.

Now guess who's running it.

No, not the Fraternal order of Police.  The Teamsters--you know, the guys whose Mob ties have led to dozens of FBI and DOJ investigations in the past 40 years.  Certainly police officers, of all people, would understand why a law officer would not do well to affiliate with the Teamsters, right?

Oh, snapSnap.  This would explain some things, I dare say, starting with why they never found Hoffa.

Friday, February 11, 2011


My favorite seminary president delivers a body blow to practices of old school hyperfundamentalism and others who love to say "my way or the highway."  I have, alas, seen many places where the Word of God was subordinate to the doctrines of men--let us never think that the Pharisees were the only people who ever subordinated the written Torah to the oral one.  Notably, Dr. Bauder is one who grew up in fundamentalism and loves it dearly--there is little more grievous to his heart than the "assassinations" too often found in this camp.

It is also worth noting that our Lord said that the gates of Hell, not the battering rams of the evil one, would be the thing that would not withstand the onslaught of the Church.  In a manner of speaking, God's army protects its walls with men, like the old boast of the Swedes (under Gustavus Adolphus, if I remember right), not its men with walls.

Alpha, Beta, Lion, Beaver, INTJ, ........

Following up on my earlier comments about people surprisingly not being wolves or baboons (and especially not Al Gore or Naomi Wolf for the most part, thankfully), it seems to me that a lot of the big issues we deal with are more or less the result of simply "accepting people for who they are".

"Say What?", you might ask.  Let me explain.  If you go to a Gary Smalley event, you'll learn a lot about how he--a "lion-otter" by his own admission--has learned to love his wife better, significantly by.....

....doing things where my wife and I looked at each other and wondered whether they would still be together if it were not for the Bible's proscription of divorce and amazing patience on the part of his wife.  Smalley gave no Biblical reasons for divorce, of course, but some of the incidents he detailed simply boggled the mind. 

In the same way, if you take a look at corporate behavior, you'll see that the leaders are generally "lion-something", and extensive permissions are granted to them to indulge behavior that would never be tolerated out of any subordinate, to put it mildly.  Look in government, and you'll find the same thing--a recent example is the Obama administration's "mysterious" reluctance to comply with FOIA requests from conservative groups.  By the way, failure to comply with FOIA requests is a crime; nobody, including the President, is exempt from its requirements.

In short, there is all too often an effort to normalize abhorrent behavior based on analogies to the animal kingdom, appeals to psychology, and such; anything but an appeal to the moral conclusions that have made western civilization work for the past 2000 years.  So what, then, is "game," or desiring to be "alpha," "lion," or such?

Nothing less, really, than the Social Darwinism---legitimate offspring of the Origin of Species--that we had all been told was thoroughly discredited.  In a manner of speaking, we are building our society today on a Haeckel diagram.

That should scare us guppies pretty good....

Missing the point......

I saw a Prius outside the grocery store last night, idling to keep the occupant warm while another went in to do some shopping.  In comparison, my 22mpg minivan was pretty efficient, 'cause at least the minivan's owner had the good sense to turn it off while he was shopping.

As my brother says, "environmentalist" all too often means "person who can not do math."  Or logic, apparently. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A bit of levity

Apparently, to reach the highest levels in many corporations, one does not need to be very observant or intelligent.  How do we know this?

Take a look.  Apparently, nobody at Ferrari thought people at Ford might mind if they named their new Formula 1 car the "F150," and apparently, nobody at Ford considered that nobody would ever confuse a Ferrari with an F150.

And even though I'm currently driving a GMC, even I can figure out that Ford's pickup is the better car.  Unless you allow me to sell the Ferrari and both pay off my mortgage and get a new Traverse or Suburban.  Then I'd like the Ferrari better.

Until I sell it to some sucker lucky buyer.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

I am not alpha male

One of the most hilarious bits the Rush Limbaugh show has had, IMO, was a parody of Al Gore's attempt in the 2000 elections to--at the recommendation of feminist (?) icon Naomi wolf--position himself as "Alpha Male."  In true Paul Shanklin fashion, Gore was positioned as a leaden-voiced wimp whose attempts to convince himself (and presumably the electorate) that he's an "alpha male" led to Tipper's conclusion that he'd been doing some serious drinking.

Why do I mention this?  Well, apparently there is something out there called the "manosphere" where "men" (loosely speaking) speak of how horrible the world is for men, tell of how women won't commit to marriage, and describe how their escape is more or less to mimic the behavior of wolves, chimpanzees, and baboons in the epic struggle for leadership of the pack or troop--presumably while flinging poo or something like that.

The outgrowth of this move doesn't really look like this, sad to say, as at least real alpha males have the decency to try to protect the females of the pack.   There is, however, ample flinging of poo and fighting for control, resulting in what can only be described as Hobbesian nightmare for all involved, or worse yet a typical singles bar scene. 

Again, no insult intended here to wolves, chimpanzees, baboons, or Thomas Hobbes.

Now with all due respect to Naomi Wolf, Thomas Hobbes, and others, it has occurred to me that (appearances aside) people really aren't meant to act like baboons, wolves, or chimpanzees.  Somehow it seems that 6000 years of "one man one woman" marriage for life has provided wonderful protection for most men and women against the barbarities of those who, like many in the "boyosphere" and Al Gore, would like to pretend that they ought to be the sheikh with a large harem.

So if anyone in the "boyosphere," or sympathetic to it, is out there reading this, suffice it to say that it's about time you left Hobbes behind and started reading some Calvin.  Man up, and come to grips with God's design for us in Genesis.  And put that down and wash your hands.  It's disgusting!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Why the economy isn't recovering.....

.....take a look at John Lott's column about President Obama's castigation of companies for not hiring (in an uncertain tax and regulatory environment, and then at the latest proposal from the White House for "revitalizing" business.

Now from a Biblical perspective, the proposal to make interest payments taxable sounds reasonable--until you realize what it would do to certain businesses.  For example, banks live from interbank loans, and loans from the Fed--it would crush them.  In the same way, taxing the interest paid on corporate bonds would crush the bond market, and....ahem....tremendously favor "Government Motors" and Chrysler--whose "debt" is hidden in federal bailout money--over Ford Motor Company, which avoided bankruptcy with a massive bond sale. 

Consider also startups, very often founded with borrowed money.  One would figure that long time smokers like President Obama would want to encourage startups like "Genentech", makers of some of the best chemotherapy drugs in the world, but apparently not.

Not only is it an extremely bad idea from the prospect of what taxing interest payments would do to companies, his proposal would also make an already miserable accounting situation for companies worse.  Historically, interest expense is a legitimate accounting expenditure, so what the proposal would do would be to create yet another category where honest accounting contrasts with the accounting required by the government.

It's almost as bad as the failure to rein in the EPA's efforts to control non-pollutants via the Clean Air Act.  Let us pray that someday, men come to Washington, DC, who understand the principles of basic accounting.

What government can do to a country

Egypt, breadbasket to Rome 2000 years ago, now is the world's biggest importer of wheat.  Looks like the Aswan Dam didn't exactly do for Eygyptian agriculture what annual Nile floods did free of charge.

China is apparently pulling a mummy from exhibition in the west because it has some caucasian features--and in the minds of many in Beijing, apparently, a 4000 year old mummy with caucasian features argues against China's claims on the area where the mummy was found.

Closer to home, a half million person drop in employment figures is accompanied by a claimed .8% drop in the unemployment rate.  What does this mean?  That about 1.5 million people dropped off the unemployment rolls and simply quit looking for work.  It didn't stop the Obama administration from trumpeting it as a success, of course.
And we wonder why there are wars, and rumors of wars, with logic like that.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Working moms and obesity

Hard on the heels of another study my local paper cited noting that mothers working outside the home had no discernible effects on children's well being comes this study noting that the children of mothers who worked outside the home are six times more likely to be overweight or obese.  (H/T Vox Populi)

Now while there are certainly other factors involved (I would have to guess socioeconomic status, presence of the father, and such are linked), I'd have to guess that a big part of the issue is that a mother is far more likely to care whether Junior parks his rear end in front of the idiot box or computer with the Super Big Gulp and a bag of chips than is the daycare provider.

So if you want to reduce obesity, reduce medical costs from heart disease and diabetes, and improve family stability, work to end subsidies for daycare providers.  Given that incentives to fatherless households are strongly linked to crime and poverty, it might be the best thing to do fo the country short of ending corn subsidies.

All it needs is curtains..... it just me, or does the styling on the new Honda Odyssey remind others of a hearse?

A thought about pornography and rape

A few years back, researchers came up with a startling claim; that areas with widespread use of pornography, especially Internet pornography, actually show lower rates of rape than other areas.  Now this is counter-intuitive; men who break societal rules to access images of women not their wife ought to also be more likely to break societal rules to access....well, women not their wife, and forcibly so, no?

Now certainly there may be methodological issues with the earlier study, but there may be a more basic reason that the earlier researchers were able to find this correlation. 

Read this article here, and note carefully that researchers are finding that men exposed to pornography are often incapable of finding ordinary women sexually attractive.  Well, if the population that ordinarily breaks our society's sexual mores is effectively rendered into "eunuchs" in real life by constantly viewing the antics of loose women with completely unnatural physical attributes (no, fella, those ain't real), we would expect that these men would not commit the rapes that they otherwise would have.

It doesn't make porn into a "good thing," of course, but perhaps it does explain what we see, and it's a tremendously sad thing to consider legions of men--and women--who have been so damaged that they cannot enjoy the love of a spouse, even if the rape rate is lower.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

More damage done by higher education

A Harvard study has found clear evidence that for a large portion of students, going to college may actually damage their ability to adjust to adulthood.  It's as if it's a bad thing for young people to be put into a setting where they don't belong (35-40% need remedial classes) where the liquor flows freely, the classmates are loose, and actual requirements of classwork don't kick them out for a few years--all at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars of student loans and a lack of work experience.

That said, given the cash cow that remedial lecture/recitation and video classes (the worst way to teach anything, IMO) are for colleges and universities, don't expect them to lead the way in getting rid of students who simply don't have what it takes.  Probably the quickest way of achieving real reform would be simply to tell students that if they don't get at least a combined score of 1000 on the verbal/math portions of the SAT, there will be no student loans backed by the government for them.

Not that Congress can be expected to do this, of course, but if by some miracle they did, we could expect two wonderful side effects.  First of all, high schools would suddenly be able to tell kids that there are very real consequences for not learning to read, write, and cipher.  Second, the pathetic state of modern colleges of education would be made very clear, as there are few areas of modern universities which would be hit harder by minimum SAT score requirements than the College of Education.