Tuesday, June 30, 2009

great marriage joke

From a sermon series on marriage (based on the movie Fireproof; see: my blog postings on it), our pastor had a great joke a few weeks back:

A group of people learn from a husband that he's just celebrated 50 years of marriage with his bride. After they congratulate him, someone asks if they ever have arguments. The man replies that they haven't argued since the early days of their marriage. After expressing amazement, they ask how this is possible.

He replies:

Well, it all goes back to our honeymoon. We were at the Grand Canyon on one of those donkey rides into the canyon.

After awhile, her donkey bucked a little bit.

She grabbed his ear, yanked it toward her and said, 'Hey, don't do that again. That's once!'

A little while later, the donkey rubs her up against the canyon wall.

My wife got off the donkey, grabbed his face with two hands and said angrily, 'You better watch yourself. That's twice!"

Things were fine for a little bit, but then the donkey stumbled on a stone and almost threw her off.

She got off, pulled a gun out of her purse, shot him right between the eyes, and said 'That's three times!"

Stunned, I said, "Honey, wasn't that a little bit harsh?'.

She turned to me and said, 'That's once.'

Sunday, June 28, 2009

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

On God with Christians:

“Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect…And yet—this is the other and equally important side of it—this Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty…Every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk; no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, ‘God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.’”

--Mere Christianity, book 4, ch. 9

Saturday, June 27, 2009

how to (not) help teens get a job

Jaz Gray in the C-J on federal funding for a local jobs program to help teens find jobs...

A summer job program in western Louisville has had to turn away more than 500 younger teens because of a lack of government funding and a decrease in businesses that are hiring, the program's president said.

Charles King of Project One said the nonprofit has only been able to assist 300 of the 800 to 1,000 youths between 13 and 16 years old who have sought training and employment from it this year. He said the number of teens seeking aid from the program, which teaches job-seeking skills to disadvantaged teens and young adults and gives them job opportunities, represents a three-fold increase over last year....

The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allocated $1.2 billion for youth activities, including summer employment, but King said that out of the $1.4 million Louisville received, very little has gone to helping younger teens. "We took our stimulus money and invested it in (teens) 16 to 24..."

Four thoughts:

1.) Federal funding for what may be a fine local program is a great idea-- other than the fact that it is neither Constitutional, ethical (take money from you and the working poor to pay for this?), or practical (at least the funding piece doesn't work efficiently and there are far better ways to promote teen jobs).

2.) If you have federal funding of what should be local programs-- and the feds cut you off-- it puts you in a bad spot (that you should have never been in).

3.) We're getting ready to hike the minimum wage again. It's difficult to imagine how making it more expensive to hire teens is going to help them find jobs.

4.) Most politicians are outright hypocrites on this subject as well, supporting child labor laws that arbitrarily exclude under-age kids from many jobs.

Baron Hill helps House Dems pass cap-and-trade

The Blue Dogs were a mixed bag on this vote (hat tip: Political Bridge).

And unfortunately, Baron was on the wrong side of that bag.

Baron continues to confuse "fiscal conservative" with someone who occasionally disagrees with the Democratic party leadership.

Hoosier Pundit points out that Hill voted against bringing the bill to the floor, before voting to support it. HP predicts gyrations and rationalizations from Hill to try to justify his support for a massive, national energy tax.

HP also notes that 8 GOP'ers supported the bill, providing its margin of victory.

blurring the lines

Excerpts from a thoughtful and useful piece on Michael Jackson by Michael Medved at TownHall.com...

Medved's opening is an interesting historical footnote of which I was not aware:

Oscar Levant, a famous pianist and media star of the 1930s and ’40s, battled for decades against mental illness, surviving several painful hospitalizations. He once declared: “There is a fine line between insanity and genius. I have erased that line.”

And then, to MM's thesis about MJ:

The late Michael Jackson erased the same line—and blurred many other distinctions in the course of his extraordinary career.

In an unprecedented way, he obliterated the dividing line between black and white in terms of personal identity and mass appeal....

He also blurred the distinction between male and female, straight and gay. His public appearances blended macho hip thrusts and crotch-grabbing with a soprano singing voice and mincing, effeminate speech in interviews. His sinuous athleticism struck the whole world as undeniably sexy, but it involved a polymorphous sexuality untethered to any known gender.

Finally, and most poignantly, he shattered distinctions between adult and child, trying desperately to hold onto the image of boyish innocence, of prepubescent playfulness, long after he had entered middle age....the allegations of child molestation represented the dark side of all of MJ’s blurred distinctions...his fixation with children may have connected with the normal childhood he never had...

Then, a provocative parallel from MM-- of MJ to "Citizen Kane"/Randolph Hearst (!)-- followed by a more obvious parallel to Elvis. And then MM's punchline:

...the premature and startling death of The King of Pop will function to turn a mostly pathetic story into a truly tragic one—another distinction that the great performer has posthumously blurred.

Friday, June 26, 2009

surely, the Dems wouldn't subsidize health insurance ONLY for union workers


Talk about a risky political strategy...This makes the EFCA look pretty tame by comparison!

From Ryan J. Donmoyer and Holly Rosenkrantz at Bloomberg (hat tip: Drudge)...

The U.S. Senate proposal to impose taxes for the first time on “gold-plated” health plans may bypass generous employee benefits negotiated by unions.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, the chief congressional advocate of taxing some employer-provided benefits to help pay for an overhaul of the U.S. health system, says any change should exempt perks secured in existing collective-bargaining agreements, which can be in place for as long as five years.

The exception, which could make the proposal more politically palatable to Democrats from heavily unionized states such as Michigan, is adding controversy to an already contentious debate. It would shield the 12.4 percent of American workers who belong to unions from being taxed while exposing some other middle-income workers to the levy.

one more connection on race and abortion

An interesting topic (cont'd)-- and one I hope will be a catalyst for some constructive discussion...

Here's one more thought: The connection of race and abortion leads to the irony that support of abortion and slavery have been based, in (large) part, on the belief that "the other" was something less than a full person.

two radio shows yesterday

At 1:00, I was one of two economists interviewed on WFPL's State of Affairs (along with my buddy Steve Gohmann from U of L) about the state of the (macro) economy, the economic "stimulus" packages, bail-outs, and so on. A good time/show!

At 7:00, I was the guest on the My View Matters show-- one of the few local talk-shows on politics. It's hosted by Ed Springston (as best I could tell from my one hour with him, a populist/libertarian) and Ed Martin (a Libertarian). Both are active in local politics. Neither of these are professional radio guys, so it was a little rough, but it was fun and certainly got the job done for helping to inform people about politics.

Barefoot & Progressive: some abortions are evil

I blogged the other day on Nixon finding a racial justification for abortion.

Now, Barefoot and Progressive has declared Nixon's views on this to be "evil".

Since they strongly support "abortion rights", I've asked whether there are other occasions when they would see an abortion as "evil". (I can imagine a range of possibilities.) It'll be interesting to see if there's any reply-- and if so, what categories they'd include with what justifications.

I didn't ask these questions, but it'd also be interesting to hear their objections for specifying race as a reason.

In addition, it'd be interesting to hear clarification of any uneasiness they might have with the historical promotion of abortion on racial grounds by Margaret Sanger and others; the highly disproportionate practice of abortion in the African-American community today; and the ambivalence to allow people to target race in (at least) some quarters of Planned Parenthood.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

C-J understands disincentives of taxation-- at least in one context

From the editorialists of the C-J on the "death of slots" at horse tracks in this legislative session...

Mr. Williams tried to cover his own backside during the special legislative session by proposing a fatuous alternative — a phony plan for taxing Kentucky Lottery revenue and out-of-state wagering on Kentucky races. Officials in the best position to know warned that this would cost $63 million in vending machine sales....

Good stuff, if true. Anyway, I appreciate the use of dynamic analysis when the C-J specializes in static analysis (assuming no behavioral changes)-- at least when it's convenient for them.

It is not just Mr. Williams who thus flouts his responsibility...It's all those who enable him. It's Senate GOP caucus members like this area's Julie Denton, Ernie Harris, Gary Tapp, Elizabeth Tori and Dan Seum, who accept his discipline like a pack of whipped dogs. It's voters who elect GOP senators with neither bark nor bite — senators who sit, stay and roll over when Mr. Williams signals.

Wow. Harsh words for the GOP and standard party discipline. I don't recall the C-J being all that upset when Dems do equally oppressive/robotic party discipline. And were there any Dems who voted against slots? That's how you can tell a partisan from someone interested in justice. Those who should know better are excused by the former but held to a higher standard by the latter.

Obama on health care tax: good answer, bad politics, questionable motives

Some AP writers, combining to write about Obama's willingness to tax health care benefits, in the C-J...

This will prove to be controversial politically-- although it may just be floating this as an extreme position or a trial balloon. Interestingly, organized labor cartels/unions are opposed, chiefly because they receive such "healthy" benefits.

And I'm not sure about Obama's motives. His motives could range from the opportunity to raise revenues to fund his gargantuan spending and forsake some of his amazing debt. Or it could be to "encourage" people to move from private insurance to Obama-care.

But this would actually be a huge step forward if it was revenue-neutral. Or given that one will raise taxes, this would be the first way to do it.

It's a longer story that I've recounted often
. But the subsidization of health care insurance-- as a non-taxed form of compensation-- turns out to be at the heart of our health care cost and insurance problems.
With lawmakers trying to crunch the numbers on a $1 trillion health care overhaul, President Barack Obama is leaving the door open to a new tax on employer-provided health care benefits.

Senior senators said Wednesday the benefits tax could be essential for the complex plan to be fully financed....

Obama, who campaigned against the tax when he ran for president, drew a quick rebuff from organized labor....Gerald W. McEntee, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said in an interview that union leaders believe Obama is "a person of his word." He was referring to Obama's opposition to taxing those benefits during last year's campaign. "They're not going to tolerate that," McEntee said of workers' views of that proposal.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

does this bring educational vouchers in through a side door?

A provocative post from Indiana Barrister...

Or to use a more politically-correct term: should education funding follow students?

From the SCOTUS blog…

The U.S. Supreme Court today by a 6-3 vote ruled that parents of a disabled child, who decide on their own to transfer the child to a private school, are entitled to tuition reimbursement from the local school district even if the child had never received any special education aid previously.

If a public school fails to provide an adequate education for the child, the Court said in the opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the parents are entitled to be repaid for the money they spend at a private school as an alternative.

(Forest Grove School District v. T.A., 08-305).

pro-choicers on abortion find an (uneasy?) ally in Richard Nixon

From Charlie Savage in the New York Times...

Of course, at the time, Nixon was working with old-school science on life in the womb (although this is still common today, especially among older people)-- as well as a dog's breakfast of views on civil rights (again, more common among older people)...

But if you're going to allow abortion (or any form of eugenics) for whatever reason-- as a matter of personal choice-- why not race (or gender)?

On Jan. 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade, President Richard M. Nixon made no public statement. But the next day, newly released tapes reveal, he privately expressed ambivalence.

Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases — like interracial pregnancies, he said.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.”

reflections on Gov. Sanford

1.) Wow. He's a professing Christian-- an Episcopalian. That said, I don't know if he's a disciple of Christ. Looking at recent fruit, one would bet strongly against that conjecture. In any case, he's a knucklehead-- and one who needs to establish or vastly deepen his relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior AND Lord.

2.) If he's active in a church, I hope they impose appropriate church discipline. If not, they should receive a swift kick in the shorts as well.

3.) Wow. Can you believe what he's done to his wife and four boys? And on Father's Day?!

4.) There is a question of "theodicy" here-- although on an angle not commonly pursued. People want God to intervene when evil occurs, especially when innocents are harmed. God could have intervened and had Sanford killed (e.g,. by a heart attack)-- to avoid a lot of harm. God allows divorce and adultery to occur. Since children handle the death of a spouse far better than adultery/divorce in a marriage, then those who complain about God's failure to act should want Him to snuff out the lives of people before they can engage in such behavior.

5.) Wow. Can you imagine that he was doing this in the middle of the 2008 presidential campaign and considering a role as vice-president?

6.) Wow. Can you believe what he's done to the Republican Party and "conservative" principles? On the latter, he seems to be more libertarian and fiscally conservative than socially conservative. Or at the least, his priorities seem to be fiscal and whatever social conservatism he has is more tacit.

7.) Wow. It's amazing how powerful sexual temptation can be-- for people to do stuff like this.

8.) After Senator Ensign's recently-announced affair-- and the shenanigans of Senators Vitter and Craig in 2007-- GOP personal/sexual ethics continue to take an incredible beating. In tandem with the paucity of positive ideas in opposition to President Obama-- as well as a mixed bag in the quality of their opposition to Obama-- it seems increasingly unlikely that they will be in a position to take advantage of any political weaknesses in 2010.

9.) As such, I feel sorry for the GOP House and Senate candidates who will probably be on the end of another losing campaign. Sure, they'll have a few winners. But on the whole, the probability of another 2006/2008-style beatdown just increased significantly.

10.) This harms local candidates as well-- as the GOP "brand" continues to be harmed. The damage here is less, but not insignificant.

11.) This will further reduce idolatry toward politics and government among some on the Right, especially Christians. Along with the impending reduction in idolatry among some of those on the Left-- as Obama continues to tread water and worse, this is a welcome by-product of unfortunate events.

12. [New as of Thurs AM].) He has to resign-- and should have done so immediately. (Why do most people think they're different?) He was negligent in his duties as governor, failing to formally transfer his powers when leaving the country and without any apparent way for his staff to get ahold of him. He lied about a public matter and has deservedly lost the trust of those he swore to govern. He's a hypocrite, voting to impeach President Clinton over "moral legitimacy".

13. [New as of Thurs afternoon].) This was the thing that most encouraged me to post, but then I forgot it until I was going through my emails again! Yesterday, I received one update from a concerned Christian group about Gov. Sanford. This was immediately preceded by an update from a concerned Christian group about an attack on marriage through "same-sex marriage". While the latter is an absurdity (see, perhaps, civil unions-- instead), it is far more absurd to miss the point that divorce and adultery-- and people like Gov. Sanford-- have done far more damage to marriage than "gay marriage" ever could.

Other thoughts?

what will happen in Iran? (monopoly vs. competition revisited)

A little more reflection on an earlier post-- about competition vs. monopoly (power) in the religious and political settings of various countries....

The question: Will recent events in Iran parallel Tiananmen Square or the Berlin Wall?

The principle: Monopolies hold together better, preserving stasis, but are limited in their ability to hold themselves together-- especially in the face of information about the extent of oppression, how much better things could be, and so on.

We see this principle at work in domestic policy-- for example, with the erosion of the post office's monopoly power and the growth in homeschooling (in the face of inept govt schools, the labor cartel of the NEA, and the monopoly power of each).

Turning to the international arena...

In Berlin, the USSR, and the Eastern Bloc countries (starting with Poland), a strong monopoly was broken by revolution and information.

In China, a monopoly largely held-- although the government has allowed more competition and freedom, especially in more urban/westernized areas.

In Iran, a monopoly is being challenged-- both with respect to State and Religion.

What will happen? Can Islam moderate a la China's govt? Will Iran's State be broken through revolution or moderated through pressure? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

pray for Neda's family and Iran

Neda Agha-Soltan, Shot Through the Heart by Basij Militia During Election Protests in Tehran, Iran

Most of you have probably seen the following video, but my first viewing of it was a few minutes ago (hat tip: Pajamadeen).


Hopefully, her death and those of other martyrs to the Beast/State, will not be in vain.

Monday, June 22, 2009

FedEx vs. UPS

I had heard a little bit about this, but here's Chuck Muth with some helpful analysis of the political brouhaha concerning UPS and FedEx.

Conservatives continue to find themselves split in the fight between FedEx and UPS over a bill to place FedEx Express drivers under the same law as every other package delivery driver. And many who are on the FedEx side are there simply because FedEx is non-union and, hey, conservatives don’t like unions, right?

But this isn’t about unionization. This is about the government treating two package delivery companies - both of which use air and ground transportation to provide their services - equally by placing their operations under the same federal labor laws. That’s it.

On its new anti-UPS website, FedEx claims the proposed change would “force the world’s most efficient airline to operate under trucking rules that have never applied to airlines.” But is FedEx Express an airline….or a package delivery company?...

So along comes a bill (H.R. 915) which would keep FedEx Express’s actual airline employees under the Railway Labor Act while moving its non-flying truck drivers over to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) with all the other non-flying truck drivers in the package delivery industry. FedEx is objecting because of the special anti-unionization benefits the company currently enjoys under the Railway Labor Act.

I fully understand WHY FedEx doesn’t want to give up this special government benefit, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

Bear in mind we’re not talking about FedEx employees and support personnel who fly packages around the country here. We’re talking about drivers delivering packages AFTER they’ve arrived by air....

More on that in a second, but first let’s take a look at the top 20 U.S. airlines and their employees.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for 2007, American Airlines – which has the largest number of pilots and co-pilots of any airline – has zero “Transport Related” employees (truck drivers). United, Delta, Southwest, USAirways and Continental have zero truck drivers. Northwest has 165 truck drivers and Mesa has 4. But Express Jet, Sky West, American Eagle, Jet Blue, Comair, Airtran and Alaska have zero truck drivers. Heck, even UPS has zero truck drivers in its own airline operation. But FedEx lists 86,979 truck drivers.

Equality under the law. Why, it’s as American as….well, FedEx...

I’ve created a new dedicated blog/website to address the issue for those who have an interest in it.

UPDATE: In a later posting on the same topic, a commenter said that FedEx has different divisions which are under the same umbrella, but not part of FedEx per se. This allows them have different divisions under the RLA and NLRA.

I'd never heard that about FedEx. Maybe I missed it; if not, that would seem to be an easy, compelling explanation!

If so, if UPS had kept things separate, then they would have been able (at least theoretically) to have some of their work under RLA and NLRA as well.

my bro blows up Dawkins and Hitchens

Check it out!

I like the post's title and its thesis: Is this atheism's best shot?

This connects to the points of one of my recent blog posts: Looking back a few decades, why would one expect atheism books to be popular? And especially if one is trying to claim an intellectual high-ground, why not have the intellectual integrity to make an opponent's best argument?

Sometimes reading can be a little depressing. Such is the case in my recent reading of two books currently very popular - Richard Dawkins, the God Delusion; and Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Why depressing? It is simply that one would have thought such lettered individuals could have produced more compelling works....While both books did provide a challenge - I found the primary challenge involved was one of overcoming boredom. As New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright commented about the God Delusion - "I found it was the type of book that once you put it down, you couldn't pick it up again." Indeed.

Both books are largely constructed around the logical fallacy (as I have heard it called) of the proof by verbosity [or intimidation]...Dawkins writes with a breathless style of writing. Rolling opinion, invective and quotation of outside sources, one upon the other....

Dawkins' book ranges in topics covered from philosophy, psychology, biology, physics and New Testament studies to name a few. This is in and of itself a difficult challenge, as any writer knows the danger of taking on subjects in speaking or writing in which they have not studied. Dawkins shows no hint of any serious study in most of the subjects that he ranges through. Yet he feels more than free to render opinions that have no real correlation to fact....

Hitchens' book is somewhat harder to critique because it is simply "all over the road" to an even greater degree than the Dawkins book. Hitchens' book is a breathtaking wash over of opinion, coupled with verbal abuse, coupled with the citation of various "facts."...

As a Christian apologist I have learned to admit and even rejoice in the apparent intellectual difficulties (intellectual and otherwise) posed by the Christian claim. Of course, the claims of Christianity are truly based on quite strong proofs - but while one's meta view may be rationally justifiable, no one's faith perspective is provable with logical certainty beyond any doubt. To realize this is part of mature dialogue about all faith perspectives - including atheism.

Regrettably, Dawkins and Hitchens do not seem to have come to this place of understanding. Until they learn to admit the difficulties inherent to their own atheistic perspective they will simply not be able to present a coherent (or interesting) review of their own case for atheism. One of the most powerful tools in any apologist's arsenal is the phrase "I don't know..." - because it is precisely at this point that your audience is looking for what you will do next.

In the end, Dawkins and Hitchens' books will join that great litter of popular books that are here today and gone tomorrow. Poorly written and argued, both writers have supplied the market with books that obscure rather than clarify the important issue of God and our faith in him.

So then, is this Atheism's Best Shot?

old man(ager), new man(ager)

A little fun with Eph 4:22-24, there!

The Colorado Rockies were 18-28 under manager Clint Hurdle before he was fired on May 29.

Since then, the Rockies are 18-5.

Hurdle had been effective, but something seems to have gone awry!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lego Christ

A boy examines a statue of Jesus Christ made entirely out of Lego construction bricks in a church at Vasteras, Sweden, Sunday April 12, 2009. The 1.8 metre (5.9 feet ) tall statue, a copy of Thorvaldsen's 'Resurrected Christ', has taken parishioners 1.5 years to construct out of 30.000 tiny plastic pieces

Photo from Jonas Ekstromer with AP Images (hat tip: Christianity Today)...

And details in an article by Anne Thomas in the Christian Post...

Congregants at Oensta Gryta Church in Vaesteras donated almost 30,000 Lego pieces to construct the 5.8-foot high statue of Jesus, the exterior of which appears completely white, though other colors were used underneath....work on the statue began a year and a half ago...

The Lego Jesus was based upon the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsens's 19th century statue "Christus," which depicts the resurrection of Jesus....

Check out three earlier posts on Legos: to repair a village wall, to illustrate the Bible, and the 50th anniversary of the toy!

Mr. Keller goes to Manhattan

From Tim Stafford's bio on (and interview with) Tim Keller in Christianity Today...

Keller is the long-time minister at Redeemer Presbyterian in uptown Manhattan. Beyond his multi-side church and numerous church plants, he and his crew are looking to extend their model beyond NYC.

Standing 6'4", with a bald head, glasses, and a coat and tie, Keller, 58, does not look hip. Nor is his sermon funny, charming, or daring. He preaches from the first chapter of Genesis, on the doctrine of Creation. Keller speaks like a college professor, absorbed in his content, of which there is a lot....

Stafford then outlines the sermon:

Keller begins by saying that authorial intention is a key to interpreting any ancient text, and by that criterion, Genesis 1 is obviously not about evolution. Keller explains the literary principles scholars use to argue whether Genesis 1 is poetry or historical narrative. If poetry, then its six "days" may be poetically long; if historical narrative, it speaks of a young earth. Keller says he believes Genesis 1 is Hebrew poetry (though Genesis 2 is not), but pleads for mutual forbearance. "Christians used to agree to disagree on this," he urges.

He goes on to preach four points of doctrine: the goodness of creation, the finiteness of creation, the unity of creation, and the importance of creation. His audience is dead silent, apparently rapt. Citing Jonathan Edwards, Elisabeth Elliot, J. R. R. Tolkien, Richard Dawkins, and John Updike, he fills out the richness of doctrine. Along the way, for each of his four points, he manages to appeal to nonbelievers....

Keller closes by asking: "Why does nature move everybody?" Why may even the most hardened atheist find that a forest dawn prompts tears, laughter, or joy?...We are moved, Keller says, because we wish to join that chorus and cannot. He points to the Cross as the way by which we can regain that song.

Keller's final words: "Have you accepted Jesus into your life as your Creator?"

How did he (and his family) get there?

They had caught a vision for Manhattan as a place terribly underserved by the church, and a place with gigantic multipliers of influence throughout society. It was both needy and strategic.

Just as important, the Kellers discovered that they liked Manhattan....Tim found Manhattan non-Christians amazingly, sometimes naïvely, curious. Though the borough's 1.6 million people were used to religious diversity, many had never talked to an evangelical. Tim's interest in art and music was an indispensable gift in communicating. His omnivorous reading also helped....

The Kellers stick to a few rules. They never talk about politics. Tim always preaches with a non-Christian audience in mind, not merely avoiding offense, but exploring the text to find its good news for unbelievers as well as believers. The church emphasizes excellence in music and art...And it calls people to love and bless the city....

Now what?

What has Redeemer accomplished after 20 years? Keller pauses. "We have a beachhead...."

White believes Keller's unique gift is to preach to both Christians and non-Christians in the same terms, without making a choice between evangelism and discipleship...A theology of grace uses the same language to challenge both the runaway son and the solid older brother....

Of the 65 churches that Redeemer has helped to plant in the New York area, only 10 are PCA. The largest is Southern Baptist. Pastor Gyger puts it this way: "He has a practical understanding that if we are going to reach the whole city, we need a wide spectrum of the church."

Much of Redeemer's impact has been through friendships, word of mouth, and sermons passed on from one person to another. Redeemer resisted publicity, avoiding reporters. For years, Keller did little writing or speaking outside the church. But now Keller is writing and speaking extensively, and has also put formal mentoring programs in place....

religious competition in America vs. religious monopoly power in Europe and with Islam

Excerpts from an interview by Marvin Olasky in World with the authors of God is Back, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge...

I had earlier blogged on this book, with a summary of the book from their website...

What about...Europe?

Adrian Wooldridge: Religious questions are now a center of European culture in a way they haven't been for a hundred years, for many reasons. The most important is the rise of Islam and the repercussions of that in Europe. Not only is God back in the sense that He's significant enough for people like Christopher Hitchens to devote their energies and talents, such as they are, to battling Him; but also, He's there in Europe in the center of political debate....

A lot of people see competition within Christianity as a waste, but you see it as a good thing.

JM: It's a great irony that sometimes American Christians don't realize how wonderful that competition is. That is the thing that makes American religiosity different, the ability of different churches to spring up and to compete against each other....keeps American religion enduringly fresh.

Europe misses that element?

JM: Adam Smith pointed out that if you have a religion backed by the state, they're not going to work as hard to bring people in or to convert people....

Some people worry that Islamic countries have an advantage because they don't have the religious competition that we have in America.

AW: If you go to Dearborn, Mich., there are a lot of people who pray to Mecca every day. If you go to Mecca itself, I don't think you'll hear many people pray to Christ. I think that's a weakness rather than a strength of Islam. Christianity has two very powerful strengths on its side in the 21st century. One is that it has survived the acids of modernity. It's had its reformations, it's had its competition, it's had all of that and it has been strengthened by it. Islam has to go through all those tests, and it has to learn how to live with all those criticisms. It's going to be a very severe testing: The question is whether it will survive or not....

What do you make of the atheist bestsellers during the past several years?

JM: You do not suddenly wake up in a panic about God being bad or terrible if you think you've already won the argument....

Do you think they make a strong case?

AW: Two things really annoy me about the neo-atheist position. One is that they write about evangelical Christians in much the same way and in much the same tone as white supremacists used to talk about blacks. And the second thing is that there's a notion of unilateral moral disarmament where the other side is expected to disarm. If you're arguing about gay marriage, people who are liberals and who support gay marriage are allowed to bring their most profound moral beliefs to that argument, as they should be, but then they say, "You can't base your contrary arguments on religious beliefs, because that shouldn't be part of the public square." That's nonsense....

non-Christian writers testifying to Christ and Creation

From Marvin Olasky in World, notes on an atheist and a non-Christian with findings friendly to Christianity and theism...

Olasky quotes Matthew Parris at length from his essay in The (London) Times:

"As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God. Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem—the crushing passivity of the people's mindset."

Parris then noted "the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa. . . . In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good...."

Then Parris described his realization that "faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock." That's crucial, because "anxiety—fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things—strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. . . . A great weight grinds down the individual spirit..."

What's the solution? "Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God...smashes straight through the philosophical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to, to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates."


Then Olasky cites Why Us? by James Le Fanu...

Le Fanu wonders why this world holds a huge variety of bat species with extraordinary faces, when their "near-blindness should make them indifferent to physical appearances?...Why should the many thousands of species of birds yet be so readily distinguishable one from the other by their pattern of flight or the shape of their wing, the colour of their plumage or the notes of their song?"

Le Fanu notes that humans depend on "the humble earthworm, without whose exertions in aerating the dense, inhospitable soil there could never have been a single field of corn....Five hundred thousand to an acre passing ten tons of soil every year through their bodies."

Le Fanu goes on to explain how finely tuned the universe is, and why many 19th- and 20th-century minds embraced godless evolution despite all the evidence of design to the contrary. He then shows how much man's ingenuity in making artificial hearts and everything else is dwarfed by God's. Le Fanu eviscerates salvation by science: The double helix is actually impenetrable, the brain unfathomable, the genome over-rated, the self a mystery....

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

One of my favorites to have on a course syllabus!

“Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works hardest in the end...when they are preparing for an exam, the lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. Laziness means more work in the long run.”

--Mere Christianity, book 4, ch. 8

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Gran Torino...wow!

I've had Clint's latest movie on my radar for awhile. We rarely see movies in the theater these days. But we catch a movie every other week or so on disk.

In the last two weeks, we started to use RedBox. First, we saw the brutal Paul Blart. (I told Tonia that the trailer would have the only funny parts in it-- and then I let her talk me into seeing that garbage!) Then, last night, looking for a quiet night on our return from Nolin Lake, we picked up Gran Torino.

I expected it to be good, but it easily exceeded my expectations. It has some violence, a few references to sex, and A LOT of cussing (but all appropriate for the characters in the film). It is one of a handful of provocative films on race-- in recent memory, Crash comes to mind. Eastwood does a lot with racial stereotypes and a little bit with gender stereotypes. Along the way, Eastwood uses a lot of humor and three-dimensional scenes to bring depth to a topic often reduced to two dimensions. I suspect that Eastwood's choice of Thao's name-- as a synonym of Tao-- is purposeful and meant to extend his elbow-room treatment of a complex topic. (It's probably a stretch to see C.S. Lewis' use of the Tao in The Abolition of Man here as well. But the connection of Eastwood's effort to "natural law" is certainly appropriate.)

UPDATE (this paragraph): There is a poignant and provocative moment where Eastwood verbalizes his realization that he has far more in common with the Hmong family than his own family.

Eastwood also does a nice job with the priest's character. The character comes off as a bit wooden, but then again, he is somewhat two-dimensional as the movie gets rolling. And ironically and thankfully, the priest is one of the characters who emerges "with balls and teeth".

If you haven't seen the movie, check it out soon, but stop reading here!

It's funny that one cannot even refer to "the end" without messing it up for people. (If you tell them that something happens at the end, they'll likely anticipate it and it will loses some of its power.) But the climactic scene is brilliant-- everything from the cigarette (the cigarettes really killed him and the reference to the last cigarette of a man about to be executed) to the lighter (and the derogatory reference to it by Thao) to the Christ-type and crucifixion pose of Eastwood's "sacrifice".

vigilante lawnmowing

From World...

A Sandusky, Ohio, man faced criminal charges after police there objected to his upkeep of a local park. John Hamilton became so frustrated with the city's inability to pay mowers to cut the grass in Sandusky's Central Park that the 48-year-old took matters into his own hands....charged him with obstructing official business and disorderly conduct when he refused to stop.

mandated compost in SF

The AP's Michelle Locke (hat tip: C-J)...

Trash collectors in San Francisco will soon be doing more than just gathering garbage: They'll be keeping an eye out for people who toss food scraps out with their rubbish.

San Francisco this week passed a mandatory composting law that is believed to be the strictest such ordinance in the nation. Residents will be required to have three color-coded trash bins, including one for recycling, one for trash and a new one for compost - everything from banana peels to coffee grounds.

The law makes San Francisco the leader yet again in environmentally friendly measures, following up on other green initiatives such as banning plastic bags at supermarkets....

San Francisco officials said they aren't looking to punish violators harshly.

Waste collectors will not pick through anyone's garbage, said Robert Reed, a spokesman for Sunset Scavenger Co., which handles the city's recyclables. If the wrong kind of materials are noticed while a bin is being emptied, workers will leave what Reed called "a love note," to let customers know they are not with the program....

A moratorium on imposing fines will end in 2010, after which repeat offenders like individuals and small businesses generating less than a cubic yard of refuse a week face fines of up to $100. Businesses that don't provide the proper containers face a $500 fine....

Bellarmine to close 9-hole golf course

I haven't golfed in a few years-- and was at most, a hacker during college and grad school.

In Louisville, I've hardly played-- and mostly at short courses like Bellarmine. If I re-start, I'd probably continue to focus on shorter courses, since it doesn't take as much time.

In any case, I'll be sorry-- in the abstract-- to see the Bellarmine course disappear. I have a handful of memories from playing there with my wife and friends.

Here's the article in the C-J by Martha Elson...

Bellarmine University will close its nine-hole golf course July 6 and pave part of it for about 100 parking spaces....The move is intended, in part, to help accommodate a record freshman class of 615 students, compared to 560 last fall....

looking for "cart etiquette"? go to Aldi's!

A concerned letter to the editor of the C-J from Claudia Hausmann...

She complains about incidents at Kroger's and Meijer's. If you go to Aldi's, you'll have no such problems!

I have never before seen the lack of shopping cart etiquette that I've seen here. People leave their carts in the parking lot all the time. Kentucky is full of hills. Naturally, most parking lots here aren't exactly flat. Leaving a shopping cart in the parking lot and driving off is absolutely appalling...

a new international adoption clinic at U of L

A cool article by Laura Ungar in the C-J...

Her work caught my eye as a front-page article and the picture of an acquaintance from DC at Southeast, Dustin Hamilton.

...a new international adoption clinic at the University of Louisville that helps families identify and deal with medical and developmental problems among children adopted from foreign lands.

These can include physical disorders such as tuberculosis, parasites and malnutrition; language delays as they learn a new tongue; and psychiatric problems such as reactive attachment disorder, in which children don't develop healthy bonds with caregivers.

U of L's new clinic is the first in the area and one of about 30 in the nation. Until now, parents have had to travel to Cincinnati, Indianapolis or the University of Kentucky in Lexington for such specialized care...

U of L's clinic will operate on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the Weisskopf Child Evaluation Center downtown, and will help families throughout the adoption process.

Daeschner is old and should give others a chance?!

There are a handful of (good) reasons to not be excited about the hiring of Stephen Daeschner by the Greater Clark County school system.

Joan Simunic with a bizarro op-ed piece in the C-J on Daeschner's age...

Stephen Daeschner was a well-respected superintendent of the Jefferson County Public Schools. He may do a fine job for the Greater Clark County Schools. However, he should have declined the offer to apply for the job when asked to do so, and he most certainly should not have accepted the offer when it was made to him.

Daeschner has told reporters that GCCS pursued him for this position. By accepting, Daeschner is implying, whether intentionally or not, that there are no qualified educators currently in their 40s or 50s who could serve as superintendent as well as he can. This undermines the credibility of those that have 20 to 30 years of experience, many of whom have graduate credentials in education. In 1993, Daeschner felt qualified, at age 51, to take the helm of JCPS. Had he not been given that opportunity it is unlikely that GCCS would have pursued him now. It is a shame that Daeschner was not benevolent enough to give some other 50-year-old a similar opportunity....

Weird. She blames Daeschner and not Greater Clark. She argues that Daeschner should be benevolent by passing up the job. She misses the slippery slope: When should Daeschner start practicing such benevolence?

Many of the baby boomers are experiencing The Kid Syndrome effects. We sit here with advanced degrees and decades of experience under our belts. We have played by the rules, respected our elders and done the grunt work to make their projects work — even though it often took incredible creativity on our part to overcome the flaws in their systems. We have bided our time trying to work our way up the ladder....

Part of the problem: she sees this as simply moving up a ladder, presumably based on seniority.

As he prepares to take the helm at Greater Clark County Schools, Daeschner is already teaching the children the most powerful lesson for success: "Look out for No. 1."

As opposed to Simunic who is looking out for...

Indy Star on Andy's move to Texas

There was a lot of modest coverage of Any's move to Texas.

Will Higgins of the Indy Star also did a much longer piece...

Andy Horning, Indiana's most prominent Libertarian, is leaving the state -- and politics -- for a job in Texas.

I doubt that he's leaving politics!

Horning, winless in seven elections going back to 1996, goes to work later this month for Houston-based Digisonics, a medical device manufacturer.

He said he took the job for financial reasons and to spend more time with his family. Horning, 51, has a wife and three young children as well as two grown children from a previous marriage.

A confident public speaker and skilled debater, Horning has been the face of the Indiana Libertarian Party for a decade and has run for offices ranging from county recorder to governor.

"I don't think he made any good points, but he made his points in a way that you didn't dislike the man," said Dan Parker, the Democratic state chairman....

What an unpleasant thing to say about someone in an article like this! In any case, I can understand why Andy's adherence to the Constitution might make Mr. Parker so uncomfortable. Apparently, he doesn't consider the U.S. and Indiana constitutions to be/make "any good points"!

And I love this last series of remarks:

Horning's was the classic Libertarian mantra: Reduce government (in his last campaign he suggested selling off national parks); expand personal freedoms, including the legalization of drugs.

He has not changed his views but acknowledges that voters don't accept them.

"It's not like I don't get the message," he said Wednesday. "We have chosen authoritarianism, and that's what we're going to get -- good and hard."...

true success

A provocative quote from Peter Leithart in Touchstone:

We think success means being so good or so great that no one can do without us, yet a successful scholar is one whose work continues in his students long after he retires, and a successful entrepreneur is one whose company chugs merrily along while he's taking a holiday on the beach. A successful parent is one who, eventually, doesn't have to be there.

Success is a movement into invisibility. Success is decreasing so that others may increase. Success is a seed dying in the ground and bearing fruit upward. Success is becoming dispensable. The successful man is the one who will not be missed.

Are you successful?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"rats in your basement"

A great concept/quote:

"Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar, you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way, the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you turn on the light. Apparently the rats of resentment and vindictiveness are always there in the cellar of my soul.”

--Mere Christianity, book 4, ch. 7

Saturday, June 13, 2009

powerful or powerless unions?

Some silliness over at Blue in the Bluegrass...

For the death of the security guard in the Holocaust Museum shooting, the writer blames Wackenhut (the company) fully, with no blame for the (powerless?) union and the workers. There had been discussions between the union and the company about bullet-proof vests, but at the end of the discussions, they had decided-- at least before the shooting-- that it wasn't worth it.

You already know that it is only thanks to unions that we have an 8-hour work day, a five-day work week, protections from dangerous work conditions, wages sufficient to support a family, benefits like health insurance, sick time and pensions.

But did you know that if Wackenhut had not been able to stall a union's demands for safety equipment, heroic security guard Stephen Johns might still be alive?

The same unions that (supposedly) were so powerful to do everything in the first paragraph were unable to get their workers in vests? (In fact, it's a longer story, but although one can claim that unions were responsible for some improvement in some workers' conditions back in the day, it requires amazing assumptions to imagine any such result today.)

Note that the cost of hiring a worker has various components-- and a firm would be perfectly happy to spend $X on wages as $X on an additional safety feature. The firm will respond-- especially to a union [labor market cartel]-- to provide what workers [or at least the union] wants.

For such an inexpensive item, why didn't the union sacrifice an infinitesimal percentage of worker compensation to get the vests? Either it wasn't that important to the workers &/or or to the union-- at least until the shooting.

public vs. private selfishness

From Craig Ladwig at Veritas Rex-- responding to and extending Gov. Daniels' recent remarks about the selfishness of the baby-boomers...

...the thought occurs that Indiana might survive a selfish citizenry but not survive a self-centered officialdom.

My question for the upcoming generation...when does government put its list on the table?

Self-centeredness and high office have become tautology. The career of an Arlen Specter would not have survived the talk at the coffee shop even a decade ago. He is the perfect modern political machine, a constituency of one....

There are politicians we admire, including our governor. And yet, how many of even these can be counted on to fight for a principle beyond the point it might endanger re-election and continuance of a lifestyle that is regal in comparison to any our grandfathers would have tolerated?

All of which suggests a subject for next year's commencement address: real-life examples of sacrifice and selflessness among sitting public officials using their own money and time.

It will be memorable for its brevity alone.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Peter Schiff on The Daily Show

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Pilmer blows up global warming (models)

Robert Tracinski and Tom Minchin in Jewish World Review with a review of Pilmer's Heaven and Earth: Global Warming: The Missing Science. Pilmer is identified as a "leading Australian geologist".

Since the Australian government first introduced its Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) legislation-the Australian version of cap-and-trade energy rationing-there has been a sharp shift in public opinion and political momentum against the global warming crusade, and Professor Plimer's book has been one of the driving forces in that political reversal. This is a story that offers hope to defenders of industrial civilization-and a warning to American environmentalists that the climate change they should be afraid of just might be a shift in the intellectual climate....

T&M then cite an April 13th book review by "leading global warming hysteric" Paul Sheehan in the Sydney Morning Herald:

He describes Plimer, correctly, as "one of Australia's foremost Earth scientists," and praised the book as "brilliantly argued" and "the product of 40 years' research and breadth of scholarship."

What does Plimer's book say? Here is Sheehan's summary:

Much of what we have read about climate change, [Plimer] argues, is rubbish, especially the computer modeling on which much current scientific opinion is based, which he describes as "primitive."�

The Earth's climate is driven by the receipt and redistribution of solar energy. Despite this crucial relationship, the sun tends to be brushed aside as the most important driver of climate. Calculations on supercomputers are primitive compared with the complex dynamism of the Earth's climate and ignore the crucial relationship between climate and solar energy....

In response, this is Sheehan's conclusion: "Heaven and Earth is an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence."...

Plimer is not a "skeptic," a term which would imply that he merely has a few doubts about the global warming claims. Instead, he rejects the whole myth outright...His role, Plimer says, is to show "that the emperor has no clothes."...

sexism and hate speech from Letterman

The recent Letterman joke about Willow Palin was a mistake (he says it was supposed to target Bristol Palin instead) and a Mistake.

On the latter, here's Michelle Malkin at Jewish World Review on how one should (not) teach his son to talk about women. If Letterman had a daughter, I don't think he would have ever permitted that joke to see the light of day. It's not only a double standard politically (he wouldn't have made that joke about a Democrat), but it's rank sexism.

I'm a huge Letterman fan-- especially back in the day-- but it just got a lot tougher to watch him.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Birmingham AL struggles to avoid bankrupcy

From William Selway with Bloomberg.com (hat tip: Craig Ladwig)...

Alabama’s most populous county is preparing to stop road maintenance, close courthouses and shutter services for the elderly after a court struck down taxes that pay for about 35 percent of its budget.

Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham, released a plan to cut $52 million from its budget as it appeals the ruling against its business and occupational taxes to the Alabama Supreme Court. Without that revenue, the county has said it is at risk of running out of money as soon as this month.

The loss of the tax money was another blow to a county that has been struggling to avoid bankruptcy since last year...

Illinois fights back against bigger state govt

From the editorialists of the WSJ...

Taxpayer victories are rare these days, so let's cheer the good news in Illinois, where earlier this week the state House in Springfield voted 74-42 against a plan to raise the income tax rate on individuals and businesses by 50%.

When Governor Pat Quinn succeeded Rod Blagojevich in January, he immediately proposed raising the personal income tax to 4.5% from 3%, the business tax rate to 7.2% from 4.8%, and expanding the sales tax to services ranging from dry cleaners to Internet hookup....public dismay was so widespread that even 26 Democrats voted to kill this tax grab.

Just as surprising, not a single Republican voted for the tax increase. In recent times the ideological distinction between the GOP and Democrats has been as murky as the Chicago River....

Solidarity has given Republicans new leverage in the budget debates because majority Democrats are terrified to pass a tax hike on their own....

One reason Mr. Quinn's tax plan failed is because there was little effort to slow down spending that has increased 45% (to $4,700 from $3,250 per person after inflation) in the past decade.

Following the defeat of California's tax increase, the Illinois revolt is more evidence that voters are rejecting tax-and-spend politics. Beltway Democrats, take note.

Jeffersonville officials want people in New Mexico to pay for their convention center and hotel

From Ben Zion Hershberg in the C-J...

Jeffersonville officials have applied for $25 million in federal tax credits in a move to attract investment in projects including a convention center and hotel aimed at revitalizing the city's west end.

"It would be the shot in the arm the convention center needs," Jim Urban, the city's planning director and deputy mayor, said yesterday of the tax credits, which the Treasury Department is to award in October....

Other projects that could be helped with such financing include a $13 million outpatient surgery center for Clark Memorial Hospital and $4 million for the renovation of retail and office space in the Quartermaster Depot on 10th Street, the request said.

Phil McCauley, a former deputy mayor who would serve on a committee that would allocate the tax credits, said he doesn't think the convention center and other listed projects would be dead without the credits. But he said it's clear, in a recession and tight credit market, that tax breaks would attract investors and developers....

So, we might be willing to pay for it, but it's better to have other people do it?

Coulter on Obama: a (very) mixed bag

From her recent column at TownHall.com...

Well, I'm glad that's over! Now that our silver-tongued president has gone to Cairo to soothe Muslims' hurt feelings, they love us again! Muslims in Pakistan expressed their appreciation for President Barack Obama's speech by bombing a fancy hotel in Peshawar this week.

A funny opening!

Obama bravely told the Cairo audience that 9/11 was a very nasty thing for Muslims to do to us, but on the other hand, they are victims of colonization.

Except we didn't colonize them. The French and the British did. So why are Arabs flying planes into our buildings and not the Arc de Triomphe?...

I guess Ann hasn't read Dr. Pape. It's obvious why they made that choice...As with all other examples of suicide terrorism, the actions come in opposition to a militarily strong and democratic power which is perceived as occupying their land.

Obama endorsed Iran's quest for nuclear "power," while attacking — brace yourself — America for helping remove Iranian loon Mohammad Mossadegh [in 1953]. The CIA's taking out Mossadegh was probably the greatest thing that agency ever did....Mossadegh was as crazy as a March hare...True, Mossadegh had been "elected" by the Iranian parliament — but only in the chaos following the assassination of the sitting prime minister....In short order, the shah dismissed this clown, but Mossadegh refused to step down, so the CIA forcibly removed him and allowed the shah's choice to assume the office....

Good for Obama! Why does Coulter think such interventions are constitutional, ethical or practical? It's left unanswered and even unasked. Instead, we're left to admire her wit and assume her "reasoning"...