Friday, May 29, 2009

Luke Scott = Babe Ruth * 5?

Playing for the Baltimore Orioles, Luke Scott has 13 hits in his last 19 at-bats, including 6 HR's and 14 RBI's.


UPDATE: 14 for last 23 with 7 HR's and 16 RBI's after Saturday's game...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

govts always threaten to cut vital serivces first

A basic application of "Public Choice" economics: Because people don't pay much attention to a broad array of political issues (it's rarely rational to do so), you can accomplish your policy goals by exaggerating and downplaying costs and benefits as appropriate.

Here's an example from Columbus, OH: a story by Robert Vitale in the Columbus Dispatch (hat tip: Craig Ladwig)...

Columbus police will be pulled from highways, high schools and other duties if voters reject a proposed city income-tax increase on Aug. 4, Chief Walter Distelzweig said yesterday.

Nearly 300 officers would lose their jobs in layoffs. When added to the number of retirees who wouldn't be replaced, Columbus would have 324 fewer police than it has today.

"This is devastating for our division," the first-year chief said. "You've heard the old adage, 'doing more with less?' We're going to do less with less."

I love how government often starts by threatening to cut their most vital functions first. (That said, in this case, most of what city govt does is police and fire.)

And notice that the police chief threatens to cut jobs with no mention of reducing compensation. (Has that been discussed elsewhere?)

Calipari: revealing mistake vs. fell through the cracks

This story is interesting on at least two levels...

From Brett Dawson in the hard copy of the C-J this morning, I read about the transfer of three scholarship players AND the dismissal of UK's walk-ons. The dismissal of the walk-ons looks particularly bad because Landon Slone says he couldn't get a "five-minute" meeting with Calipari or even get anyone to return his phone calls.

In the web edition of the story, only the scholarship players are discussed. About the walk-ons, we only get an updated post-script on Brett's blog: a report of a Tweeter-ed apology from Calipari to Slone.

So, let's talk about the on-line coverage first. Two options: Do you print the original story with an update-- or just the apology? If I trust Landon Stone, I would have gone with the former.

Second, does this tell us anything about Calipari? Is this a sign of flawed character (mistreating vulnerable people) or a flaw in what must be an incredibly busy process? Is the apology genuine-- or given that he's been busted, that's what he has to do to put out the fire?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

some bodies are more sacred than others

Two staggering stories-- one from News of the Weird...

Convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols...filed a 39-page federal lawsuit in March alleging unconstitutional "cruel and unusual punishment" because the refined-food, low-fiber meals give him "chronic constipation (and) bleeding hemorrhoids." He demanded fresh raw vegetables and other high-fiber foods, necessary to "keep one's body (i.e., God's holy temple) in good health."

Nichols was joined in the lawsuit by fellow...resident Eric Rudolph (the convicted abortion-clinic and Atlanta Olympics bomber), who claimed "gas and stomach cramps" and observed that "our bodies" are "sacred and should be treated as such." [KMGH-TV (Denver), 3-29-09]

...and one that should be there (or maybe will be there in the future)-- given the irony of the spoken concerns about her body-- from Kevin O'Neal in the Indy Star (hat tip:

Covered with a carpet, a 750-pound woman who died Tuesday was taken from her home on a flatbed wrecker, outraging her loved ones and leading the Marion County coroner to concede that his office could have handled the situation better....

"You know how you hoist a car on a flatbed with a chain? That's how they took her up there," [Teresa Smith's boyfriend] David Johnson said Thursday....

Coroner Frank Lloyd Jr. said Smith's body could have been treated in a more sensitive manner. He said his office hopes to get equipment to accommodate similar instances in the future....

Previously, after Smith had fallen, the Indianapolis Fire Department had helped her get back into her bed, Johnson said. But firefighters were unavailable Tuesday. Lloyd said he reached out to funeral directors, who also were unable to help. He turned to Zore's, a wrecker company.

According to Johnson, Smith was dragged out of the apartment on the mattress on which she had died....Johnson said the wrecker hooked a hoist to the mattress and lifted Smith onto the flatbed truck, which had backed into the apartment courtyard.

Smith was covered with a carpet from her apartment, which Lloyd said was the only covering available. He conceded that Smith's body still was visible to residents in the small courtyard between buildings....

government in action

Two doozies from St. Louis and Seattle-- courtesy of News of the Weird...

East St. Louis, Ill., policeman Kristopher Weston apprehended a murder suspect about 20 minutes after the crime in April, which was such a nice piece of police work that the mayor called Weston before the city council to commend him. Five minutes after Weston left the room, the council got down to regular business, the first order of which was to approve a list of police and firefighter layoffs due to budget shortfalls, and on the list because of low seniority was Officer Kristopher Weston. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4-15-09]

Recently the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Seattle had for two years improperly charged water customers for servicing hydrants when the city should have covered the service from general tax funds, and it ordered customer refunds averaging $45. However, Seattle then discovered it had insufficient general funds to pay for hydrant service and thus imposed a water surcharge of $59 per customer, according to a February KOMO-TV report. The most likely reason the surcharge was higher is that the city had to pay $4.2 million to the attorneys who filed the account-shuffling lawsuit. [KOMO-TV, 2-13-09]

cool art: dogs in real life and the human etch-a-sketch

From News of the Weird...

A pedestrian bridge over Interstate 80 in Berkeley, Calif., opened late last year, decorated with $196,000 in public art by sculptor Scott Donahue. At each end of the bridge are 28-foot structures to honor the "history" and "daily life" of Berkeley, notably its tradition of citizen protests, but smaller sculpted medallions feature street scenes such as dogs romping playfully in city parks.

However, as initially noted by a Fox News reporter in February, one of the medallions shows a dog defecating and another displays two dogs mating. Said a local art program official, "I think they're just, you know, natural science ... what dogs really do." [Fox News, 2-12-09]

New York artist Ariana Page Russell has a dermatological disorder that makes her skin puff up immediately at the slightest scratch (which renders her, she says, the "human Etch A Sketch"). She now scratches herself in deliberate patterns, to create artistic designs, which she photographs and offers for sale. Russell says she must work quickly, for her skin usually returns to normal after about an hour. [Daily Telegraph (London), 4-13-09]

Connor Kelty, Bible lover and scholar

From a letter to the editor of the C-J today...

Let gay couples marry

There is no logical reason that gay marriage isn't legal in this state. How can equal rights exist if one couple has the right to get married and another couple doesn't?

Uhhh...Can we count the problems with and exceptions to this claim? How about the definitional problem: Connor might reasonably support civil unions, but he's not describing marriage.

If it's the Bible that's holding back your vote, don't let it. The Bible is a great book full of good teachings, but it wasn't written to decide what an entire nation should do. Jesus never said anything against two people of the same sex getting married, so why can't they?...

"A great book full of good teachings"? Really? I don't think Connor means it. He means that it's full of good teachings when he agrees with it.

Jesus never said anything about this? Really? Check out Matthew 19:1-6.

two-year old pool shark

Actually, it's billiards, to be more precise.

Here's Samuel Goldsmith with the NY Daily News (hat tip: C-J)...

An upstate New York two-year-old is being dubbed a billiards prodigy by dazzling crowds across the country with his pool playing prowess.

Keith O'Dell Jr. of Johnstown [NY] was invited to perform at the American Pool Association's championship competition in Las Vegas last month, and he's booked to show his skills on the Rachael Ray show in July.

The wiz kid learned the game on a child size table, but recently switched to regulation size. He reaches the balls by standing on a chair....

The O'Dells have no explanation for their son's success, but say he learned by watching his dad shoot 200 racks every night...

Kids follow the example of parents all the time. No big surprise there!

His parents say the boy's learning hasn't been limited to billiard games - pool is also teaching their son colors and how to count.

Joe McCarthy and the (old) politics of mean-ness

Back to the themes of Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers, Joe McCarthy, Communism...

Here are some excerpts from a review of M. Stanton Evans' Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies by Brian Domitrovic in The Intercollegiate Review....

Washington used to be a nice town, the reminiscence goes. Before our own day, when “the personal is political,” time was when the partisan fighting was fierce at the Capitol, but everyone played by the rules and went out for drinks together after all the wrangling was done. This is one of the most intransigent clichés in American politics.

In February 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin made a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, in which he said he had a list of 57 names of Communists working in the State Department. The next month, a Senate committee chaired by Maryland’s Millard Tydings convened to discuss the McCarthy list. The committee did not devote itself to investigating the accuracy of McCarthy’s list, much less to forming policy about what to do about the situation if it were true. Rather, its effective purpose was to frame McCarthy in a criminal act.

McCarthy was set in the dock before the Tydings committee and permitted to give his statement. In “his first 250 minutes on the stand [McCarthy] was allowed to read a statement for 17 minutes, and was interrupted 85 times,” as one historian counted it years later....

As the proceedings went on (and as other deponents were treated graciously), it became clear that the committee chairman, Tydings, was determined to hang a perjury charge on McCarthy.

The idea was that McCarthy, under oath before Tydings, said falsely that he had used the number 57 in Wheeling. The local paper (the Wheeling Intelligencer) had reported at the time that McCarthy had used the number 205. The reporter, but not his editor, was sticking by the story and had an audio recording. So if McCarthy, under oath before the Senate committee, said he had said 57 at Wheeling, he was making a false statement to the Senate—a punishable offense.

The problem for the committee’s argument was that all the evidence for the number 205 lay in the newspaper account and the reporter’s vouching for it. The recording had been erased, and nobody outside the newsroom, including those who had heard McCarthy’s speech, verified 205. Indeed, in various addresses made by McCarthy in the days after Wheeling, he by all accounts used the number 57....

The case was a closed one—according to the canons of evidence, the 205 figure was poorly sourced, whereas the 57 number was better sourced. No matter to Tydings. He said that he had an LP of the event and had photographers take pictures of him with the record, of which he claimed he had multiple copies. McCarthy would be proven a liar before the Senate once the thing was played—but that event never came to pass. A few years later, after McCarthy was disgraced, Tydings admitted that the record was a phony....

For all we have heard about the blustery and bullying tactics of McCarthy himself, Evans has compiled a thick book’s worth of examples of just this sort of behavior toward McCarthy by his colleagues and other high-placed mandarins. It is Evans’ inescapable conclusion that others treated McCarthy worse than he treated others....

McCarthy’s charges met evasions....It is a sordid story, made the more sordid by the likelihood that McCarthy had people in his sights who really did malignly influence American policy because of their philo-Communism....

What to make of the mess that has become our culture’s memory of Joseph McCarthy? To be sure, the man deserves a fairer hearing, and Evans has supplied it....

baptism at what age?

My brother (a Southern Baptist minister) baptized his daughter on Sunday!

It’s funny that I had not thought of my niece as "not baptized". We don't see them often since they live about 10 hours away by car. But the last few times I’ve seen her, she has seemed like a Christian.

As an aside, it’s interesting that, in my Christian Church circles, we tend to promote baptism at age 8 (assuming they profess the appropriate beliefs). I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with that. I heard Dr. Mohler (President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) talk one time on his radio program-- and he discouraged baptism until age 10, or more likely 11-12.

Perhaps the earlier age in my circles is a function of the historic importance (and even over-emphasis) of baptism for the Christian Church and Churches of Christ?

tweaking the definition of human, biological life

In the Journal of Perinatal Medicine, Erik Hauzman and Zoltan Papp look to tweak the standard definition by defining biological life as conception given “biparental origin of the chromosome set”.

From the abstract:

Conception sometimes results in products that are not capable of developing into an embryo and fetus....We elucidate the generation of these abnormal growths and provide explanations as to why they cannot be regarded as human individuals or human beings. We argue that it is not the number of chromosomes that is required for a given form of human life to become a human being but rather the biparental origin of the chromosome set.

Click here for a set of textbook definitions of biological life.

Monday, May 25, 2009

miscellany from Chambers' Witness

After the first three posts on Whittaker Chambers' Witness...

Chambers on sin (p. 489): "It is only the sins of the spirit that really appall me. The sins of the flesh affect me chiefly as unseemingly and embarrassing, like the lapes of children..."

Nixon comes in for high and ironic praise by Chambers and others. I knew he was an anti-Communist hero, but was still surprised by the specifics: the "one man on the Committee who asks shrewd questions" (p. 532); Nixon had "one of those direct minds which has an inner ear for the ring of truth" (p. 555); in the face incredible public pressure, the committee's "stand was greatly strengthened by one man, Richard Nixon...made the Hiss case possible" (p. 557).

One last irony about Nixon, given the more famous examples of the importance of TV to his career-- with the Checkers speech and his debate with JFK (p. 630’s FTN): "the August 25th hearing was the first to use TV to bring congressional hearings into the home..."

Some rough, early-in-his-career words about James Reston of the New York Times-- "perhaps the most powerful, influential, and widely-read journalist of his era". It's amazing that he got beyond the slam Chambers lays out casually here. It's too long of a story to cover here, but Reston comes off as a moron, a hack, or a defend-at-all-costs apologist for Hiss -- on the silliest of matters (p. 648, 710-711).

Two Supreme Court Justices, Felix Frankfurter and Stanley Reed, were voluntary character witnesses for Hiss in his perjury trial-- after all the dung hit the oscillating device (p. 741). Dean Atcheson, Secretary of State, said "I will not turn my back on Alger Hiss" after his conviction on perjury charges-- and his implied guilt of espionage.

Robert Cleveland, the younger son of former President Grover Cleveland, was one of Chambers' attorneys as things proceeded (p. 728).

Finally, Hiss comes off like OJ Simpson's reference to searching for the real killers (p. 687): As the noose tightened and his story had been skewered, Hiss said in his testimony that "I have not found any evidence yet. I will continue to search for evidence." I wonder if he ever found that evidence?

Chambers' Witness: faith and reason (and the screams), Christianity and Communism, fooling oneself and others

After an introduction to the book in part 1 of this blog posting, I finished part 2 with a discussion of Chambers’ witness against Communism—which he sees primarily as a witness for Christianity.

Along those lines, here’s a great excerpt from a passage cited by Chambers (p. 505-506) in his now-amazing 1948 essay on Reinhold Niebuhr in Time (hat tip: Brothers Judd blog)…

Under the bland influence of the idea of progress, man, supposing himself more & more to be the measure of all things, achieved a singularly easy conscience and an almost hermetically smug optimism. The idea that man is sinful and needs redemption was subtly changed into the idea that man is by nature good and hence capable of indefinite perfectibility. This perfectibility is being achieved through technology, science, politics, social reform, education. Man is essentially good, says 20th Century liberalism, because he is rational, and his rationality is (if the speaker happens to be a liberal Protestant) divine, or (if he happens to be religiously unattached) at least benign. Thus the reason-defying paradoxes of Christian faith are happily bypassed.

And yet, as 20th Century civilization reaches a climax, its own paradoxes grow catastrophic. The incomparable technological achievement is more & more dedicated to the task of destruction. Man's marvelous conquest of space has made total war a household experience and, over vast reaches of the world, the commonest of childhood memories. The more abundance increases, the more resentment becomes the characteristic new look on 20th Century faces. The more production multiplies, the more scarcities become endemic. The faster science gains on disease (which, ultimately, seems always to elude it), the more the human race dies at the hands of living men. Men have never been so educated, but wisdom, even as an idea, has conspicuously vanished from the world.

In that powerful passage (can you believe that was published in Time?!), Chambers deals with some of the competing faiths in modernism—most notably, progressivism, Statism, Christianity, and so on.

As with any faith, beliefs can be absorbed gradually and subconsciously—or there can be a Damascus-Road-type conversion. Chambers experienced the latter—twice…as he moved into and then out of Communism. He describes the conversions in eschatological terms—that history had shown the democratic market system to be a fatal failure. And then later, that whatever the fate of the status quo, that Communism was an unethical means to whatever ends.

In describing the conversion—and the choice to make oneself open to the opportunities for conversion and awakening that are available to all—Chambers starts by citing one man who said “one night he had screams” (p. 14). From there (p. 14-15), Chambers says:

“What Communist has not heard those screams? They come from [an array of social evils perpetrated by Communism]…Those are not the screams of man in agony. Those are the screams of a soul in agony….a soul in extremity has communicated with that which alone can hear it—another human soul. Why does the Communist hear them? Because in the end there persists in every man, however he may deny it, a scrap of soul. The Communist who suffers this singular experience then says to himself: ‘What is happening to me? I must be sick.’ If he does not instantly stifle that scrap of soul, he is lost. If he admits it for a moment, he has admitted that there is something greater than Reason…he has betrayed that which alone justifies faith [in Communism]—the vision of Almighty Man. He has brushed the only vision that has force against the vision of Almighty Mind. He stands before the fact of God.”

Chambers charts his conversion to and then from Communism through two interesting aspects. First, Victor Hugo’s book, Les Miserables (p. 134-135):

In its pages can be found the play of forces that carried me into the Communist Party, and [those] that carried me out...It taught me two seemingly irreconcilable things: Christianity and revolution…It taught me justice and compassion…It taught me revolution, not as others were to teach me—as a political or historical fact—but as a reflex of human suffering and desperation, a perpetual insurgence of that instinct for justice and truth that lay within the human soul…

And second, abortion (p. 325-327; see also: this interesting quote about abortion and “hearing screams”):

One extreme group among the Communists held that it was morally wrong for a professional revolutionist to have children at all. This could only hamper or distract his work…Abortion was a commonplace of party life. There were Communist doctors who rendered that service for a small fee…Abortion, which now fills me with physical horror, I then regarded, like all communists, as a mere physical manipulation.

One day in 1933, my wife told me that she believed she had conceived. No man can hear from his wife, especially for the first time, that she is carrying his child, without a physical jolt of joy and pride. I felt it. But so sunk were we in that life that it was only a passing joy, and was succeeded by a merely momentary sadness that we would not have the child. We discussed the matter, and my wife said that she must go at once for a physical check and to arrange for the abortion.

[After visiting the doctor]
My wife came over to me, took my hands and burst into tears. "Dear heart," she said in a pleading voice, "we couldn't do that awful thing to a little baby, not to a little baby, dear heart." A wild joy swept me. Reason, the agony of my family, the Communist party and its theories, the wars and revolutions of the twentieth century, crumbled at the touch of a child…If the points on the long course of my break with Communism could be retraced, that is probably one of them- not at the level of the conscious mind, but at the level of the unconscious life.

When embraced seriously, Communism also compares to Christianity (and other religions) in terms of some degree of sacrifice or even asceticism (see: children above), the need for evangelism, and the implications for “worldview”. On worldview, it’s interesting that all religions (broadly defined) see the world in some type of crisis—and have their own versions of Creation, Fall, and Redemption/Eschatology.

During the Hiss trial, interpretations of the available evidences were interpreted through a religious/faith lens. Although Chambers was questioned and doubted at every turn, faith in Hiss’ story was nearly universal early-on—and then more interestingly, continued on for many people, despite the mounting evidences. They knew Hiss—or thought they did—and just could not imagine the Truth.

As Chambers asks rhetorically (p. 673):

“ was it possible that any man of honest mind and plain intelligence, following Hiss’ testimony and behavior closely, observing the tireless twists and turns of his calculated equivocation varied with flashes of calculated insolence—how could such a plain man fail to know after the evidence of the Ford roadster?...Not to know, a man must not have heard or read the testimony, not have understood it, or not have wanted to understand it.”

As an aside, Chambers seems unsure whether Hiss had even fooled himself or was just stuck in a corner from the lies he had uttered. At the very end of the hearing, Hiss asserts that Chambers must have broken into his house to use his typewriter (p. 783-784). By that time, his credibility was shot and the response of the jurors was laughter.

Finally, one must be struck by the Communist assertion that the means justify the ends. Given the crisis—and their perceived enemies, Chambers sympathizes with this view. He notes that:

“...espionage never presents itself to them as a problem of conscience, but as a problem of operations…the act will not appear to him in terms of betrayal at all. It will, on the contrary, appear to him as a moral act…committed in the name of faith on which, he believes, hinges the hope and future of mankind…” (p. 420)

But it is still staggering and sobering to those who have not considered the ethics of the means they use to pursue ends they believe to be godly or at least goodly. And Chambers bore the brunt of those means—specifically, through a wide variety of nasty ad hominem attacks and slanderous accusations against himself and his wife.

Chambers on being a "witness"

This is part 2 of a four-part blog entry (click here for part 1, part 3, part 4)...

This may seem trite, but I learned a lot about the term “witness” from Chambers.

1.) Chambers notes that one “is not primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something.” (p. 5)

A lot of Christians are confused about this—and are seen as against the World more than they are for Christian doctrine and practice (as the exclusive but free way to relationship with God—and the best way to live life).

You see the same sort of mistake in politics—where people are more often against policies than proactively proposing solutions (whether more or less government).

2.) Chambers notes that one’s “witness” is different from a “testimony” (p. 762):

“It was a simple expose the evil that beset and secretly threatened other men…But the testimony and the witness must not be confused…The testimony fixed specific, relevant crimes. The witness fixed the effort of the soul to rise above sin and crime, and not for its own sake first, but because of others’ need, that the witness to sin and crime might be turned against both. There was always the possibility that the world would see only the shocking facts of the testimony [against Hiss] and not the meaning of the witness [against Communism]…”

In other words, they could catch the big trees, but miss the forest. As to the underlying nature of this witness, given its connection to sin, Chambers notes that (p. 762-763):

“Plain men understood the witness easily. It speaks directly to their condition. It is peculiarly the Christian witness…A man must bear such witness only in shame and pain…[To do so], strength must come from elsewhere. That is why such witness completes a greater witness, and why, out of its ugliness and ordeal, rises the truth that fills men’s souls with hope.”

And here’s something I knew, but I love the way it’s expressed by Chambers (p. 798). Why is it important to fight such evil?

“...evil is not something that can be condescended to, waved aside or smiled away, for it is not merely an uninvited guest, but lies coiled in foro interno [in the inner chamber of conscience] at home within ourselves. Evil can only be fought."

In describing his call to witness, Chambers sounds like the apostle Paul in two key ways.

First, he was worried far more about faithfully dispensing his perceived duty than about how his effort would be received. (The watchman in Ezekiel 34 is along the same lines: the watchman must warn or the blood is on his hands; if he warns and they don’t heed, it’s on them.)

In fact, he believed he might well be on the losing side. He told his wife that they were “leaving the winning world for the losing world” (p. 25). But “I knowingly chose the side of probable defeat…in the last instance, men must act on what they believe right, not on what they believe probable.”

Second, Chambers pursued the call as well as possible—wrestling with dilemmas, overcoming barriers, being shrewd but truthful, walking by faith, and so on—whatever the cost. Chambers risked his life—at least to some extent. But he viewed the cost as worth it—given the stakes and more precisely, given the call.

One sees in all of this a fight for Truth—whether explicitly about Christianity or the outpouring of a Christian worldview opposed to Communism—and a fight walked in faith and dependence on God.

Whittaker Chamber's "Witness"

A few weeks ago, I finished Witness by Whittaker Chambers—part auto-biography and part warning about the spiritual and material perils of Communism (and Statism). The book is seen as one of the great “conservative” books of the 20th Century and is credited with converting many (including Ronald Reagan) from various forms of liberalism to various forms of conservatism.

Chambers spends a lot of time on his own story with respect to Communism—both his attraction and eventually his revulsion to it. But the narrative centers around the legal trial of Alger Hiss—and the related personal trial of Chambers as his accuser.

It is a long book (about 800 pages in my 1978 Regnery Gateway edition), but it was relatively easy to read. It was quite compelling in parts—especially as he moves into the trial. Perhaps most interesting, like Al Capone and (ironically) one of his chief antagonists, Richard Nixon, Hiss was tripped up in perjury by little things—lying about an old Ford and a small bird.

My limited understanding of that period has been marked by ignorance—having only studied the period—and the relatively standard ambivalence that people feel toward the anti-communism of the 1950s. There was some good reason to be worried about the USSR and Communism—as a threatening world power and frightening ideology. But “McCarthyism” toward domestic variants is typically seen as an over-reach or even an unnecessary response to the problem.

If Chambers’ accusations are correct, there were grave reasons for concern. For example (p. 427):

"In the persons of Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White, the Soviet military intelligence sat close to the heart of the United States Government. It was not yet in the cabinet room, but it was not far outside the door…Hiss became Director of the State Department’s Office of Special Political Affairs and [Harry Dexter] White had become Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. In a situation with few parallels in history, the agents of an enemy power were in a position to do much more than purloin documents. They were in a position to influence the nation's foreign policy in the interests of the nation's chief enemy, and not only on exceptional occasions like Yalta (where Hiss’ role, while presumably important, is still ill-defined), or through the Morgenthau Plan for the destruction of Germany (which is generally credited to White), but in what must have been the staggering sum of day-to-day decisions. That power to influence policy had always been the ultimate purpose of the Communist Party's infiltration. It was much more dangerous, and, as events have proved, much more difficult to detect, then espionage, which beside it is trivial, though the two go hand in hand."

Chambers thoughts on the New Deal—both what he thought and what he came to believe—are sobering in light of the current administration. Eventually, Chambers grew to see the use of the New Deal—not just as perhaps-appropriate and humane legislation, but as a Communist tool (p. 471-472):

“It is surprising how little I knew about the New Deal, although it had been all around me during my years in Washington. But all the New Dealers I had known were Communists or near-Communists. None of them took the New Deal seriously as an end in itself. They regarded it as an instrument for gaining their own revolutionary ends. I myself thought of the New Deal as a reform movement that, in social and labor legislation, was belatedly bringing the abreast of Britain or Scandinavia. The New Deal was a genuine revolution, whose deepest purpose was not simply reform within existing traditions, but a basic change in the social, and, above all, the power relationships within the nation. It was not a revolution by violence. It was a revolution by bookkeeping and lawmaking.”

I'll blog in three separate posts about 1.) the profound and poignant philosophical aspects of his "witness"; 2.) the connection of Communism to other faiths including Christianity; and 3.) some interesting miscellaneous things from book.

an odd way to define democracy

From Harold Meyerson as republished in the C-J...

If our nation was governed by business' version of democratic choice, we would hold elections to determine the winner, but nearly half the time the incumbent would remain in power even if he lost.

In its campaign to derail the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), business has fearlessly depicted itself as the defender of elections and the secret ballot as well as the foe of the dread "card check" — the process, championed by unions and included within EFCA, that would allow workers to sign union affiliation cards rather than compelling them to go through a ratification election in which harassment and firings of workers are all too common....

Mr. Meyerson would like to have "elections" to choose Presidents, Congressional reps, judges and dog catchers-- and decide referenda, etc.-- by collecting cards as well?

[The status quo is] a lovely system for businesses that don't want to pay higher wages or accord their workers some rights...

Workers have rights; Meyerson wants to give them more. He should start with an accurate description of the status quo before proposing changes.

Of course, firms don't want to pay higher wages-- anymore than workers want to accept lower wage or consumers want to pay higher prices. The bigger issue: Firms don't want to deal with the power of a labor market cartel. Meyerson apparently trusts (some) monopolies and cartels for equitable and efficient outcomes.

Among the suggested alternatives to card check are proposals to shorten the currently open-ended period between the request for election and the actual vote (today, management can stall a vote almost indefinitely) and to allow workers to vote by mailing their ballots to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, which (like absentee voting) would preserve the secret ballot but enable workers to escape the regimen of threats they often encounter in the weeks preceding an election.

Both of those sound quite reasonable...

Mr. Moffett wants to force you and your kids to build character-- his way

From his letter to the editor of the C-J...

On the continuing saga of JCPS forcing various diversity measures on the population through "busing", given its substantial monopoly power...

The paper reports protests of school assignments, as a new group of eastern Jefferson County parents learned their children face long bus rides to schools not of their choosing. That the vast majority of African-American children in the West End have coped with this for over 30 years doesn't enter their minds.

Not sure about that. We can be sure, from he's written here, that most of the African-American children and parents not wanting this-- doesn't enter his mind either.

On the same day, another news story featured high honors won by a college graduate pursuing opportunities by pushing ahead over objections and obstacles. She broke out of her restrictive environment and persuaded family and friends to help her explore educational options in another city and then in Africa and Turkey....

Nice...think about what he's implying here.

I hope that a great many of the distraught parents will take a deep breath and boldly encourage their children to take advantage of the remarkable opportunity which JCPS is giving them. They are being handed "free" rides to the kind of multicultural education that others have had to struggle to find.

It ain't "free"-- in terms of time. And if they wanted that, why wouldn't they just buy less expensive housing in that part of the school district? Bottom line: Mr. Moffett is paternalistic and values community &/or Statism over individuals.

silly stuff on car regs from the LA Times

From the editorialists of the L.A. Times (hat tip: C-J)...

To listen to the global-warming deniers, the Obama administration's announcement last week that it plans to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles will hurt the economy, force consumers to buy cars they don't want and endanger the lives of motorists. The opposite is closer to the truth.

Uhhh no...

By definition, it hurts the economy;

unless one assume consumers are morons (or assuming the market is monopolistic-- and thus, you're a moron), then you're forcing them to buy something they don't want;

and the subsequently smaller cars will be more dangerous.

Until the banking crisis overtook the issue, the nation's top economic concern was high gasoline prices. The financial meltdown caused oil prices to plummet, but that will change when the economy recovers.

From what follows, I'm guessing that they're thinking about the increase in demand for petroleum products, but one must also consider the dollar which probably continue to weaken.

Improving fuel efficiency will dramatically reduce U.S. demand, which accounts for one-quarter of the world's oil demand. That will put far more downward pressure on prices, and do it more quickly, than opening more domestic land to drilling possibly could.

Assuming that bankrupt car companies can survive while making increasingly inefficient cars, this would decrease U.S. demand and put moderate pressure on prices. (OPEC would respond by cutting supply, so this mitigates whatever gains we might see.)

And for no good reason, the editorialists see drilling vs. MPG as either/or rather than both/and-- a remarkable blindness or a deceptive and ridiculous agenda.

The safety argument is based on studies that have shown past regulation of fuel efficiency increased the number of deaths in auto accidents by encouraging smaller and lighter vehicles. That's mainly because people in lighter cars are in greater danger when they're in accidents involving heavier ones; if everybody drove smaller cars, we'd all be safer....

Unless that's part of the regulation-- then more of us, but not all of us, will be driving smaller cars. (And then there are the trucks...will those be as small as the new Obama-biles?)

These elements will add to a new car's cost — about $1,300 more per vehicle by 2016, according to the Obama administration...

Key term: "according to the Obama administration"— vs. reality.

tolerance vs. acceptance

A useful distinction in terminology-- but not well-defined here and ultimately begs the question-- from a letter to the editor by Veda Pendleton McClain in the C-J...

She opens with Obama's recent commencement addresses...

President Obama is asking us on many levels to move beyond tolerance and on to acceptance demonstrated through service.

Tolerance means that I put up with you, and that because I do so, I never have to examine my own beliefs in light of what someone else believes. It means that we co-exist without ever taking the time to truly understand each other in a meaningful way...

[A] a way of living that dares each of us to take the time to listen sincerely and to examine the points of view of others. It is through that listening and examining that we learn more about who we are as we learn about the lives of others and begin to understand them and ourselves. It is communicating clearly and loving wholeheartedly...

Move beyond tolerance to a life of acceptance as you serve others....

She seems to be describing a tolerance that ranges from apathy to a weak version of tolerance. Minimally, (true) tolerance requires some tension between beliefs. (The Latin word implies to "bear" or "endure". ) The absence of meaningful examination of one's beliefs is not allowed with "tolerance". (The examination may be flawed, but not absent.)

Her definition of acceptance is a strong version of tolerance-- a laudable thing. But it conflates two crucially different terms. True acceptance takes another step-- from understanding to embracing. And embrace implies value-neutral (you like pepperoni; I like sausage) or in its far more robust form, value-consistent (we both think it's ok to kill a baby in the womb). If you and I don't share values, then we can accept each other (in the sense of general respect for the human person) and we can accept each other's right to hold different positions. But we cannot accept each other's position.

A variation on this theme is when we profess the same values but have different data or a different understanding of the data. For example, you might believe (despite the science) that human life does not begin at conception. We cannot agree on the implications of abortion-- and again, we cannot accept each others' position.

100,000 milestone

100,000 separate visits to SchansBlog (according to StatCounter)-- in a little less than 22 months....

I have no idea whether that's good or really modest, but it is what it is.

And maybe putting out the info allows other bloggers to see where they stand.

Enjoy your Memorial Day!

2/3rds in U.S. are "cultural Christians"

Along the lines of Kyle's sermon series (are you a fan or follower of Jesus Christ?), researcher George Barna finds that:

66% of the U.S. population are "cultural Christians" (otherwise known as cultural or cafeteria Christians);

16% are "captivate Christians";

11% are skeptics; and the other 7% are a smattering of other faiths.

Barna has released a new book on his work, The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter.

In a mock interview about the book, Barna says that cultural Christians are, in large part, either "minimally active born again Christians and moderately active but theologically nominal Christians".

Then he concludes that:

If a catalyst were added to this mix to deepen this tribe’s integration of faith and lifestyle, or even to simply create a more extensive sense of community and purpose within the tribe, unprecedented changes could occur.

Two thoughts:

1.) There are two large subsets within the largest tribe. So, one might find movement in one subset and not the other.

2.) This is chicken and egg, to some extent. If people are self-selecting into those two subsets, it may be difficult to "convert" them to another tribe. Barna implicitly describes a top-down emphasis, where changing the institution would change the people. While true to some extent, there are limits-- perhaps overwhelmingly so.

Barna also wrestles with why people join that tribe:

Casual Christianity is faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition for this tribe, providing a faith perspective that is not demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee – and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves....

It offers them life insights if they choose to accept them, gives them a community of relationships if they desire such, fulfills their inner need to have some type of connection with a deity, and provides the image of being a decent, faith-friendly person. Because Casuals do not view matters of faith as central to one’s purpose or success in life, this brand of Christianity supplies the multi-faceted levels of satisfaction and assurance that they desire.

Interestingly, Barna's description-- and accurate to the Casual's perspective-- is that it's "all (or mostly) about them".

a comprehensive list of Christian Libertarian blogs

From The Holy Cause...


Sunday, May 24, 2009

theology and practice: community in Islam vs. Christianity

From Daniel L. Monahan's insightful letter to the editor of First Things...

Here is where Islam fails to understand the basis of peace among the peoples of the earth. If God is one and alone, then relationship is not an inherent attribute of God, nor is it necessary for the human made in God's image to be fully human. It leaves open the possibility that men and women can please God while still at enmity with one another and having contempt and disregard for the rest of creation. Peace on earth might be a religious value for some Muslims, but it will become simply a rule or ethic without being understood as a condition of the fulfillment of their being. As a rule or ethic, it becomes optional. For the Christian, the human is not fully human and human life is never complete until there is peace on earth, and that end is therefore not optional and must remain a central Christian value.

Christianity has never understood force as a legitimate means of spreading the Word. The Crusades and the wars around the Reformation were about things religious, but they were not about witnessing to the truth. Even if one wanted to believe these wars were about spreading religion, they would have to be understood as a historical aberration. On the contrary, Islam has always understood the sword as a primary tool of domination and propagation. Perhaps it is the doctrine of the Trinity as opposed to a doctrine of God alone, and the consequences of understanding relationship, that leads to this conclusion.

As Wilken points out, Islam was regarded early on as a heresy. I wonder if its primary heresy is its mistaking the oneness of God for a lone and lonely God....

Liberty University drops Dems; GOP next?

From Anita Kumar of the Washington Post (hat tip: First Things)...

Liberty University will no longer recognize its campus Democratic club because, officials say, the national party's platform goes against the conservative Christian school's moral principles.

Hopefully, they'll drop the "Republican club" next-- for sins of commission (e.g., irresponsible spending and debt; Iraq) and omission (e.g., nothing on a range of economic justice issues where special interests benefit at the expense of others-- especially the lower and middle income classes; not getting rid of federal funding for Planned Parenthood when they controlled the Presidency and both Houses).

fair-weather fans of Jesus Christ

Kyle's second sermon in a three-part series on "not a fan" of Jesus-- on whether one will casual (based on convenience) or committed...

Key passage: Luke 9:23's "take up your cross daily". The call is voluntary, entails suffering and sacrifice, and is daily.

He made a great point that the phrase sounds almost poetic these days. But it wasn't jewelry or an icon when Christ said it; it was an instrument of torture and death-- nothing positive.

A funny but powerful point: What if I approached my marriage without commitment. I love my wife, except on Tuesdays. Or let's mark out "for richer for poorer" and "forsaking all others" from the marriage vows.

As for a "biblical worldview", he and Barna were talking about what I would describe as a biblical view of (Christian) theology and doctrine. In other words, you will believe the Bible-- and here's what you will believe about the Bible-- if you have a biblical view... A worldview seeks to apply a set of beliefs to the world around us, including Creation/Fall/Redemption (in broad terms) and applying it to specific realms like politics, beauty, history, ethics, morals, etc. In our circles, it is common for people to describe an attenuated worldview, encompassing only the things important to them-- politics, ethics, and morals.

Fireproof at Southeast on June 5

Southeast-- both the main campus and the new one in So. Indiana-- will show Fireproof on Friday, June 5th at 7:00 PM in the Sanctuary.

Admission is free. No child care provided.

It's an impressive movie with a great message on a vital topic. If your marriage is strong or struggling, it will give you hope and ideas for pursuing a more glorious life and relationship with your spouse.

But it's not just some lame preaching on marriage. It is expressly Christian. But it's also surprisingly funny (given the theme), very well-done (for a low-budget movie), dramatic and suspenseful, etc. Here's my earlier review.

Hope to see you there!

C.S. Lewis quote-of-the-week

They all say "the ordinary reader does not want theology"…I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means "the science of God", and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available…If you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas.

-- Mere Christianity, book 4, ch. 1

Reminds me of a favorite C.S. Lewis line-- paraphrased: We're all theologians. The question is whether we're good theologians or bad theologians.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

ironic since so many people want to abort them

Those with Down Syndrome are less likely to get cancer-- and why it may help scientists deal with cancer in the broader population.

From Disaboom, citing a Harvard study (hat tip: Sevens)...

You won't find "reduced risk of cancer" on most lists of the effects of Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21), but scientists have long known that people with the condition rarely get most types of cancer. Now, a Harvard study has identified one of the factors that protects people with Down Syndrome against tumors. The discovery could lead to new methods of protecting all patients against cancer.

People with Down Syndrome have extra versions of 238 different genes due to their third copy of human chromosome 21....One of the 238 genes found in the third chromosome 21 is called Down syndrome candidate region-1 (DSCR1, also known as RCAN1). This gene...affects angiogenesis-- the process by which tumors grow blood cells to nourish themselves....

By studying induced pluripotent stem cells from a volunteers with Down Syndrome, as well as mice genetically altered to have a [similar] condition...Harvard University's Sandra Ryeom and colleagues discovered DSCR1's affect on tumor growth.

dollar weakens...

As people are less worried about the world economy imploding from a banking system crisis-- and as our debt and probable future debt increases-- the dollar continues to weaken.

This should be no surprise.

And the fruit of this-- especially higher gas and food prices will be subtle but painful.

Another thing to watch for: Will the trade deficit in goods and services continue to drop? If so, the other side of that coin-- a declining investment surplus (those in other countries investing more in us vs. us in them)-- could be a very bad sign. The last time we ran a trade surplus was during the lousy economy of the 1970s.

the limits and costs of regulation (revisited)

Impressive analysis in an article from the AP's Dave Carpenter (hat tip: C-J where only some of it is available on-line)...

The topic: the costs (and not just the benefits) of the new credit-card law. Hallelujah!

The new credit card law is receiving widespread kudos as a victory for cardholders over the lenders that impose "gotcha" fees and penalties with scant justification and little notice.

Indeed, an industry that has been virtually unregulated will now be reined in in many ways, to customers' benefit....

Still, there are pitfalls to the legislation...and some are likely to hurt consumers....

HIGHER RATES: Issuers are considered certain to bump up annual percentage rates soon to compensate for the fact they can't increase them on new customers for one year after the regulations take effect in late February. Not only are introductory rates likely to rise, APRs on existing accounts may well go up too...

ANNUAL FEES: The free ride is likely to end for many who use their credit cards as a convenience and pay off their balances in full every month....Expect to pay at least $50 to $100 a year.

LOST GRACE PERIODS: Trying to make up for lost revenue, banks are considering charging interest from the date of a purchase instead of allowing a grace period, now typically 20 to 25 days....

OTHER FEES AND PENALTIES: The new regulations put no restrictions on fees for balance transfer, cash advance or late payment. All are likely to rise...

TIGHTER CREDIT: Consumers with lower credit scores will find it harder to persuade strapped card issuers to give them credit because of the new regulations....

SMALLER CARD ISSUERS MAY VANISH: Six mega-companies issue 80 percent of all credit cards: American Express Co., Bank of America Corp., Capital One Financial Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Discover Financial Services....some of the smaller banks and issuers that make up the other 20 percent are likely to stop issuing cards....

pool grates cost about $200 million per saved life

Two bits of bad news from our local pool yesterday:

1.) Their website and literature indicate that there is a 10% discount for any passes purchased prior to May 29. But when I made the purchase, the computer and then the worker decided that the discount does not apply to the 5th and 6th passes we bought beyond the "family (of four) pass".

2.) The pool will open a week later than expected. (Wouldn't it be nice to swim over the Memorial Day weekend?) The catalyst was new federal regulations. Whether Jeff Parks responded in a timely manner to the regs, I don't know.

Aside from the unconstitutional nature of these regulations, they're rather expensive. This has resulted in delays, higher taxes, and closed pools.

Here are the details from Derek Poore in the C-J...

A new federal safety law is closing pools across the region and delaying the openings of others.

Because of the law, pools at four Kentucky state parks and another in Jeffersonville, Ind., will not open this Memorial Day weekend and four pools in Bullitt County may close for the summer.

Pool facilities are scrambling to make last-minute upgrades to comply with the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act [named for the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker who died after being trapped underwater by a spa drain], which took effect in December and requires drains to be covered to prevent children from being trapped by suction....

Pools at hotels, apartment and condominium complexes, country clubs, camps, schools and public parks also are affected by the law. Pools at private residences are not.

Of 525 pools in Jefferson County, some are rushing to complete upgrades, others will open later than usual and still others will close entirely, said Mike Ballard, a Metro Health Department engineer who oversees compliance with the new law.

"There is no one quick way to fix every pool," Ballard said, because upgrades to older pools require more labor and more money than newer pools do....

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. nine children died...nationally between 1997 and 2007 after being trapped by suction.

Were all of those children in a pool with lifeguards? Assuming so, we have a very expensive regulation that might have prevented nine deaths.

The safety upgrades come when many pools have been closed because of budget constraints. Last year, pools at five Louisville sites -- Breslin Park, Hazelwood Elementary, Shelby Park, Watterson Elementary and Western High -- were closed because of city budget cuts.

The four remaining pools -- Algonquin, Nelson Hornbeck, Camp Taylor and Sun Valley -- will be open following $250,000 in off-season repair work -- most of it because of the new law....

Sara Kraft, director of the aquatics center in Jeffersonville, Ind., said the repairs can be costly. The custom grates there cost $13,000 and took a while to come in. The center will open May 30 as a result. She said older pools might have to spend more than $60,000 to upgrade their drains.

Here are some vague numbers, so let's speculate about the cost: 525 pools at an average cost of $36,000 would be almost $2 million in Jefferson County alone. Jefferson County has 1/300th of the U.S. population. With nine deaths over the decade, the law may have saved as many as .01 people. So, we're spending about $200 million per saved life.

Tim Hunt blows up prevailing wage and proponents

I blogged on the original story yesterday...

Today, a wonderful letter from my campaign buddy, Tim Hunt, in the C-J...

Metro Councilmen Jim King and Rick Blackwell's feeble attempts to defend their so-called prevailing wage ordinance by saying that they do not cost taxpayers any additional dollars are nothing more than a smoke screen.

Let's be clear on what these types of laws do: They're governmentally enforced price-fixing conspiracies. On construction projects, these laws kick in and forbid construction firms from competing on labor price, which is set at the "prevailing wage," which is the union scale, not the local common wages paid by over 80 percent of the companies in the region.

The sole purpose of "prevailing wage" laws when they were passed decades ago was to protect unionized construction firms against competition from more efficient and productive non-union firms. Perhaps the defining characteristic of union construction is its inefficiency...

Prevailing wage laws are special-interest legislation pure and simple, squeezing extra money out of a large uninformed group (taxpayers) and funneling it to a small but well organized and politically influential group (union trades)....

And then, this ZINGER to wrap up:

Ask King why he does not use a "prevailing wage" requirement on his own bank construction projects. I will tell you why. It simply costs more. What's good for the City should be good for his own bank [account].

not a fan of Jesus...

Week 1 of a three-week series on being "not-a-fan" of Jesus...

Not a in not merely a fan, but a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ.

The related sermons-- from earlier series-- are available here.

Kyle opens with the "define the relationship" talk that marks dating/courtship-- when one or both members of a couple reach a point where they want to figure out where the relationship is "going". For those who don't want to commit within that relationship-- but want it to remain casual, for the benefits of that arrangement-- such talks engender nervousness, discomfort, etc.

Kyle cites Jn 6:66 where the crowds were following Jesus "because of his miracles". So, too, many follow Jesus because of the perceived benefits-- or because it's a cultural or familial affiliation.

Others claim to embrace Jesus more explicitly, but cordon off parts of their life from obedience and discipleship. I love Jesus, but let's not talk about money and stewardship, or reserving sex for marriage, or how Jesus would have approached public policy, or how I treat my spouse and kids...

The bulk of the message focused on obedience within the call to be baptized-- part of the biblical package of faith, belief, and repentance. If you claim to be a Christian but have not been immersed-- out of obedience-- as a representation of your choice to follow Jesus Christ, why not?

Friday, May 22, 2009

I never thought about it that way...

From GraphJam...

song chart memes

Abramson stands up to union extortion....oh my!

Good for him!!!

"Prevailing wage" (or Davis-Bacon) laws inflate wages-- to the "prevailing" union standards-- for state and federal building projects. (Unions often seek to extend prevailing wage legislation to locally-financed projects as well.) Unions love them because they tend to price out their non-union competition.

They increase the cost of such projects to taxpayers, but since the costs are subtle and spread out over the population, people rarely notice. But it adds up to billions of dollars per year, redistributed from taxpayers and given to union workers. (Check out the extortion comments by Joe Wise toward the end.)

The origins of Davis-Bacon (during "the New Deal") were explicitly racist-- one more reason for most people to dislike them. The proposed ordinance required 20% minority participation. This is necessary because Davis-Bacon would otherwise drive minority participation from 20% to nil (as it has done in the past).

From Dan Klepal in the C-J...

Mayor Jerry Abramson vetoed a controversial construction-wage ordinance yesterday, saying it would put Louisville at a competitive disadvantage with other cities.

The union-backed ordinance would have set minimum wages for construction workers on projects that receive at least $500,000 in city tax dollars.

It was only the third time in his 20 years as mayor that Abramson has used his veto power.

A two-thirds vote of the Metro Council -- 18 of the 26 members -- is required to override a veto. That seems unlikely in this case because the ordinance was approved last week on a contentious 16-10 vote.

In a letter to the council announcing the veto, Abramson said the ordinance would create "obstacles to job creation and economic investment" and would "put Louisville at a serious disadvantage with competitor cities in attracting private-sector jobs and economic development."

"As leaders, I believe now is the time to focus our energies on creating jobs, not obstacles to job creation," the letter said....

[Supporters] say the so-called prevailing wage provision wouldn't drive up the cost of projects, but instead would take a small bite from the profit margin of large companies bidding on such work.

Are they ignorant of Econ 101 or deceitful?

And then, this beauty to close things out:

Joe Wise, secretary/treasurer of the Greater Louisville Building and Construction Trades Council, promised his members would remember Abramson's action come election time....

Obama argues that Guantanamo encourages terrorism

This is a smaller and more dubious version of a larger and certain argument by Robert Pape.

Pape argues that suicide terrorism is ALWAYS a function of a militarily weak power attacking a democratic country which is perceived to be occupying the former's land. (Religious differences-- often presumed to be primary or exclusive-- are only a SECONDARY cause, but can exacerbate the primary determinants.)

Obama is correct to be concerned about the feedback effects of our policy at Guantanamo. But it seems unlikely that our policy there will be perceived as strongly as our general foreign policy-- with its perception of occupation of Middle Eastern lands through the growth of military bases and the prevalence of troops (despite our promises) since the early 1990s.

Chronicle cartoonist confused about cultural Christianity and cafeteria Catholicism

From the Houston Chronicle's Nick Anderson (hat tip: C-J)...


Half of the congregation disappears when the priest invokes Catholic/Biblical teachings?

Not quite.

As recent polls show, a growing majority of Americans are pro-life.

Beyond that, self-identifying Catholics are even more likely to be pro-life.

Of those, many are likely to be cultural Christians or cafeteria Catholics-- identifying with a religion out of culture, family affiliations, or convenience (much) moreso than faith, practice and discipleship to Jesus Christ.

So, beyond that, practicing Catholics are even more likely to be pro-life.

Although one could critique the relatively small but significant fraction of practicing Catholics who endorse or condone abortion-- most notably, Democratic politicians at the national level-- the reference to half is deceptive hyperbole.

a well-paid "public servant"

Steven Daeschner's compensation package from Clark Co. Public Schools as described by Joe Arnold at the WHAS Political Blog...

My favorite part: the membership to an athletic club across the river in Kentucky. I'm glad to see he supports free trade.

Former Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendant Stephen Daeschner is back in Kentuckiana after a two year stint in depressing Aurora Illinois. I'm just looking over his contract from Greater Clark County schools. Here are the highlights:

  • $225,000 per year salary (part of which to be raised by private donors)
  • 20 vacation days per year
  • $1500 per month stipend until his Illinois house is sold (up to 24 months!)
  • Moving expenses
  • Vehicle
  • Cell phone
  • Family membership to Louisville Athletic Club