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? 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


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!