Wednesday, September 30, 2009

what's more frustrating (politically)?

a.) when supposed supporters do big stuff you find offensive and should know better;


b.) when opponents do bigger stuff you find offensive

GOP'ers have a version of that with "fiscal conservatism": Obama is a nut, but Bush was bad-- and he should have known better.

Now, Dems have one. You knew the GOP wouldn't support a massive increase in govt's role in health care. But you should be able to count on the Dems to "take care of" health care. But they haven't (and probably won't).

Of course, it's important to note that few in the GOP are fiscal conservatives-- and few Dems are actually interested in social justice and the working poor. (For example, most Dems want to increase payroll taxes instead of ending a regressive, horribly burdensome tax on the working poor.) But both groups talk a mean game!

Don't trust in politicians. Your idolatry will die a slow, painful death-- or degenerate into blindness.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

optimal prayer positions

A priest, a minister and a guru sat discussing the best positions for prayer while a telephone repairman worked nearby.

"Kneeling is definitely the best way to pray," the priest said.

"No," said the minister. "I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven."

"You're both wrong," the guru said. "The most effective prayer position is lying down on the floor."

The repairman could contain himself no longer. "Hey, fellas," he interrupted. "The best prayin' I ever did was when I was hangin' upside down from a telephone pole."

(hat tip: Susan Astroff)

the priest and the rabbi

A Jewish Rabbi and a Catholic Priest met at the town's annual 4th of July picnic.

Old friends, they began their usual banter.

"This baked ham is really delicious," the priest teased the rabbi. "You really ought to try it. I know it's against your religion, but I can't understand why such a wonderful food should be forbidden! You don't know what you're missing. You just haven't lived until you've tried Mrs. Hall's prized Virginia Baked Ham. Tell me, Rabbi, when are you going to break down and try it?"

The rabbi looked at the priest with a big grin, and said, "At your wedding."

(hat tip: Susan Astroff...)

eugenics and health care

The unedited version of my essay, as commissioned by the Center for Public Justice...

Eugenics is the study of the hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled, selective breeding. The word derives from its Latin components—eu meaning well or good and genics meaning born or birth. In other words, eugenics seeks the products of “good birth” or being “well born”—“better” human beings or a “better” human race—through selective breeding.

From there, two categories emerge. “Positive eugenics” is the study of “good” outcomes achieved through breeding. “Negative eugenics” is the study of “bad” outcomes—when undesirable characteristics are lessened or eliminated through selective breeding. But beyond mere study, eugenics typically leads to a set of recommended practices.

Even though we are now repelled by explicitly eugenic sentiments, the eugenic reflex still lives. In its heyday, the embrace of eugenics was often connected to racism and concerns about poverty, those with mental handicaps, and immigration. Today, such sentiments are still occasionally expressed in politically-incorrect circles on the Right. But in polite company on the Left, it's still permitted if not desirable to talk about eugenics, given misplaced concerns about over-population and environmental issues.

From there, the prescriptions range from the personal (the desire to control one’s own life) to the corporate (the desire to use government policy to regulate the lives of others).

How does eugenics play out today? Let's start with abortion—from state policy in China to cultural pressures in India to personal preferences in the West when babies have less desirable characteristics. Beyond abortion, “medical eugenics”—in utero and in the test tube—are increasingly used to produce "designer" babies.

But the implications of a eugenics reflex are far wider—influencing a broad array of issues within sexual and reproductive ethics (e.g., birth control), ethics within scientific research (e.g., cloning and embryonic stem-cell research), and most broadly, in speaking to a "culture" of death or life (e.g., euthanasia).

This brings us to the current debate over health care reform.

I've written frequently on eugenics. (My essay on eugenics in American history—which ironically starts in my state of Indiana—is available at But it was not until recently that I was struck by the following combination. First, the health care reforms proposed by Democrats would result in more rationing of health care services. Second, especially when listening to some of those who would implement the additional rationing, it seems likely to be concentrated among the elderly, newborns, and those with "bad" lifestyle choices. Third, society in general—and the Left in particular—have a significant eugenics reflex.

Developing the first point, government proposals to increase health care coverage would almost certainly result in higher costs, more rationing, or both. (The unlikely exception: if the federal government can, somehow, provide an increase in efficiency.) At present, it looks like both costs and rationing would increase under the current Democratic proposals. Cost estimates range from $900 billion to $1.6 trillion. Meanwhile, President Obama pledges to decrease spending in Medicare, implying reduced services for the elderly. Beyond that, as the health care costs supported by taxpayers continue to increase, the subsequent budgetary pressures are likely to yield future cost-cutting measures and more rationing.

Developing the second point, consider Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel—the brother of Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff. Dr. Emanuel has already been appointed as a health-policy advisor at the Office of Management and Budget and is a member of the Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research. He clearly will play a significant role guiding the White House's health initiative.

In January 2009, Dr. Emanuel had an article published in The Lancet—a prominent medical journal. In the article, he proposed rationing guidelines, including a relatively famous graph depicting an ideal “probability of receiving an intervention” at various ages. Babies, toddlers (up to age 4), and those over 60 years old would be least likely to receive an intervention—less than one-third as likely as those who are 20-30 years old.

Of course, we don’t know whether Dr. Emanuel’s preferences would become the drive behind bureaucratic fiat. In any case, increased rationing will result in more difficult choices. Under dramatically increased government involvement, this translates to politicians and bureaucrats making more and more decisions about the care that would be available to people.

Over the past two decades, more and more attention has been paid to lifestyle choices—whether stricter prohibition efforts in the War on Drugs, the increasing squeeze on tobacco use, or the increasingly louder drumbeat against obesity, fat intake and unhealthy diets. A natural application of this paternalistic mindset would result in greater rationing efforts upon those who make the “wrong” decisions about diet, smoking, and so on.

Less treatment for the obese and those who smoke will result in earlier deaths for them. Maybe that's one of the points. This certainly resembles a Darwinian emphasis on the survival of the fittest and healthiest. Meanwhile, those who are the least healthy and lowest on the utilitarian scale of usefulness will be culled from the population through natural selection.

I know this sounds harsh—and I don’t mean to imply that proponents of health care have connected these dots. But the results—intended or not—are likely to follow the path I have laid out here.

It’s also worth noting that the (free) market—if allowed to work—would achieve similar ends, even if by profoundly different means. The unhealthy would pay higher insurance premiums and be encouraged to change their lifestyles—or pay the proverbial piper.

Even so, the motives of the market-oriented are more about individual freedom and responsibility than having a set of elites who would ration care to those who "deserve" it.

What will we do with health care and health care reform?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

govt has not controlled health care costs over the last 40 years, so why would we expect it now?

The govt share of health care spending has risen from 25% to 50% in the last 40 years-- a time period in which health care costs have increased dramatically.

Of course, there are good reasons to believe that this is cause-and-effect. More government involvement can easily increase costs.

In any case, mere correlation should give us pause. Govt has been unable to regulate costs as they have become more and more involved.

Or if they suddenly get successful in regulating costs, what will that look like? A lot more rationing...

Bill Sparkman's death: anti-govt sentiment or War on Drugs?

My buddy Cary Stemle has an article in Time about Bill Sparkman's murder...Congrats, Cary!

Cary offers anti-government sentiment as the most likely explanation (at least, the first and most emphasized in the article)-- but with illegal drugs as a significant possibility.

Neither hypothesis is unreasonable, but I'd be betting (heavily) on the illegal drug angle...

What's more likely? Anti-government sentiment-- so strong-- that it leads one to murder and putting one's own life on the line through criminal prosecution. Or belief that one's livelihood and a chunk of one's life is on the line through the loss of one's business and criminal prosecution? Looking at an individual weighing his costs and benefits, the latter seems far more likely.

If so, it's one more death you can chalk up to our War on Drugs. And if so, ironically, Mr. Sparkman was a victim of the State for which he worked.

In any case, prayers for his family as they grieve their loss and celebrate his life...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

how a GOP Congress might help Obama

From Michael Medved at

Medved makes good points here, but I would tweak it a bit:

-Obama would gain from having a Republican Congress because he could divert some/much of the blame for his failed policies.

-Obama would gain from having a Republican Congress since they would temper his approach-- at least to the extent that the GOP has any principles. Medved probably overstates this point, given the rudderless state of the GOP at this point (especially in comparison t0 1994).

The last 65 years of presidential history show one clear, consistent preference on the part of the American electorate: the public feels vastly more comfortable with divided government, and grows worried and disillusioned under one-party rule. This conclusion should shape political strategy for both Republicans and Democrats as the two parties prepare for an epic struggle in 2010....

What political magic allowed Ike, Reagan and Clinton to escape the dire fates of their colleagues and, despite their share of mistakes, scandals and personal failings, to conclude their two terms with potent public support that resembled their first months in office?

One crucial factor shared by the three fortunate White House survivors was that they all presided over eras of divided government with opposition parties controlling at least one house of Congress during most or all of their presidencies....

It's not an accident that all three of the most durably popular presidents of the last three generations have learned to cope with two-party rule...

This deep-seated American instinct expresses both common sense and Constitutional principles....

A Republican comeback a year from now wouldn't destroy the Obama presidency and it may, in fact, promise the best hope for saving it.

What, after all, is John Piper? And what is Tim Keller?

A paraphrase of I Corinthians 3:3-6 and the temptation of pastor worship-- or more accurately, preacher worship-- from Acton Institute's Anthony Bradley at World's blog...

Anyone aware of the alarming state of American evangelicalism’s celebrity-driven church culture would not have to try hard to draw parallels with the church in Corinth. The “big name” pastors, as we sometimes call them, thanks to the Christian conference circuit, book publishing, the internet, and so on, tempt many evangelicals to cannibalize each other in the spirit of following “Paul” or “Apollos”...whomever people would rather download and listen to instead of their own pastor.

The problem is not the wonderful ways God uses these men. The problem is with us, the people holding these great preachers and teachers of our time too highly...

Paul challenges the Corinthian church saying:

“You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. (1 Corinthians 3:3-6)

A short column like this is clearly insufficient to cover this topic, which is worthy of much discussion in book form at least. I’m not sure, however, who would be brave enough to write it and which publisher would be bold enough to publish it. However, I can’t imagine that Jesus is smiling on a church in tension because of trifling Paul and Apollos followers....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

scientific/religious "urban legends"

From Mark Kalthoff's review in First Things-- of Ronald Numbers' Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion...

...the historical sleuthing of eminent science historian Ronald Numbers and his cadre of two-dozen “myth-busters,” we have ample evidence that much received wisdom concerning the historical relations between science and religion has caused real intellectual trouble because it just ain’t so....

The volume’s careful organization and execution reveal the kind of planning and teamwork absent from too many edited collections, but which have come to be expected from Numbers....

Was Galileo imprisoned and tortured for advocating Copernicanism? Of course not...Nor did medieval Christians teach that the earth was flat, nor did Copernicanism demote humans from the middle of the cosmos....

do you know the best part of "The Informant" and his story?

I'm not sure if I'll ever see the movie-- although it looks pretty good.

But, to borrow from Paul Harvey, here's "the rest of the story"-- his turn to Jesus Christ-- from Marvin Olasky's interview with the real-life Mark Whitacre in World...

Whitacre is best known publicly for his whistleblower role in the 1990s ADM price-fixing case, which ended with a $100 million fine for the company and prison for some top officials. ADM's 2005 annual report also lists a $400 million payment to settle a class action suit. But Whitacre, while secretly taping price-fixing discussions, was also stealing $9 million from ADM.

His saga of corruption and mania will receive new attention over the next several weeks as The Informant!, a movie starring Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, hits theaters around the country. (See: Megan Basham's review: "Unfaithful telling," Sept. 18, 2009.) The film is a dark comedy that does not deal with Whitacre's conversion to Christ...Whitacre told me that had he avoided prison or received only the six-month sentence that could have been his at one point, he would have remained merely a nominal churchgoer who worshiped financial success...

Here's the craziest part of his story:

Q: Your personal venture into deception began in 1991 when you responded to one of those scamming letters from Nigeria. There wasn't even email then, it was by fax, and it was new. They made all these promises that we would make $20 million, $30 million, $50 million. Being hyper-ambitious, over-compulsive, I invested, along with a couple other vice presidents under me.

Q: When you lost $200,000, how did you respond? I wrote a check to myself from ADM.

Q: You submitted phony invoices? That's correct.

Q: As a divisional president you had check-writing authority. Yeah. I knew about the price-fixing which was a billion-dollar crime, so I sure wasn't worried about the company turning me in for a $200,000 crime...

Here's the coolest part of his story:

Q: While all this is happening you're going to church every Sunday. My family went to the Methodist church. I considered myself a Christian. People saw our 13,000-square-foot house, our 8-car garage full of cars. People would say, the Whitacres are behind these iron gates, they've got horse stables, they've got everything. We really had nothing—or at least I didn't....

Q: [Prison was a] Dangerous place, and you didn't want to go. They took the hour break. I did not. I was reading the Bible, reading in Psalms, and that's when I started really relying on God, as compared to going to church on Sunday and saying I'm a Christian. I got on my knees and said, "God, for someone in prison for almost a decade, the divorce rate is over 99 percent. They don't survive as a family six months in prison, let alone a decade. Would I even have any employment after nine years in prison, a convicted felon?"

To view a video of Mark Whitacre's recent appearance at The King's College in New York, click here.

what obscure board game has sold twice as much as Halo 3?

We love "German" board games. (Our latest addiction is Agricola.)

Here's Andrew Curry in Wired on Settlers of Catan and its maker, Klaus Teuber (hat tip: the anonymous faculty member who left the article under my door!)...

By the way, my favorite sentence in this article ends in the word "foot".

Since its introduction, The Settlers of Catan has become a worldwide phenomenon. It has been translated into 30 languages and sold a staggering 15 million copies (even the megahit videogame Halo 3 has sold only a little more than half that)...Most impressive of all, though, Settlers is actually inducting board-game-averse Americans into the cult of German-style gaming. Last year, Settlers doubled its sales on this side of the Atlantic, moving 200,000 copies in the US and Canada—almost unheard-of performance for a new strategy game with nothing but word-of-mouth marketing....

Along the way, it's teaching Americans that board games don't have to be either predictable fluff aimed at kids or competitive, hyperintellectual pastimes for eggheads. Through the complex, artful dance of algorithms and probabilities lurking at its core, Settlers manages to be effortlessly fun, intuitively enjoyable, and still intellectually rewarding, a potent combination that's changing the American idea of what a board game can be. the US, only a few types of games have really taken off. There are so-called lifestyle games, like Scrabble and chess, intellectual skill-based games whose devotees are interested in playing little else; party games like Trivial Pursuit and Jenga; and traditional strategy games like Risk and Monopoly, which are generally seen as child's play or possibly something to do while trapped in a snowstorm without power—just before you eat your own foot.

But part of the reason we don't play much Risk and Monopoly as adults is that those are actually poorly designed games, at least in the German sense....Monopoly, in fact, is a classic example of what economists call a zero-sum game. For me to gain $100, you have to lose $100. For me to win, you have to be bankrupt. Gouging and exploiting may be perfect for humiliating your siblings, but they're not so great for relaxing with friends.

Monopoly also fails with many adults because it requires almost no strategy....The only meaningful question in the game is: To buy or not to buy? Most of its interminable three- to four-hour average playing time (length being another maddening trait) is spent waiting for other players...Board game enthusiasts disparagingly call this a "roll your dice, move your mice" format...

German-style games, on the other hand, avoid direct conflict. Violence in particular is taboo in Germany's gaming culture, a holdover from decades of post-World War II soul-searching... Instead of direct conflict, German-style games tend to let players win without having to undercut or destroy their friends....They are balanced, preventing one person from running away with the game while the others painfully play out their eventual defeat. And the best ones stay fresh and interesting game after game....

One of the driving factors in Settlers—and one of the secrets to its success—is that nobody has reliable access to all five resources. This means players must swap cards to get what they need, creating a lively and dynamic market, which works like any other: If ore isn't rolled for several turns, it becomes more valuable. "Even in this tiny, tiny microcosm of life, scarcity leads to higher prices, and plenty leads to lower prices," says George Mason University economist Russ Roberts, who uses Settlers to teach his four children how free markets work....

Since every roll of the dice in Settlers has the potential to reap a new harvest of resource cards, unleash a flurry of negotiations, and change the balance of the board, every turn engages all the players....

govt plays Scrooge in squashing small business through toy regulations

From Walter Block in the WSJ...

Last Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee finally held a hearing on the highly controversial Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, the children's-product-safety law that took effect on Feb. 10. Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) allowed a single witness: Inez Tenenbaum, the newly installed chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), who, like himself, is a strong advocate of the law. Not one of the thousands of craftspeople, retailers and small manufacturers the law has sent reeling was permitted to testify.

This law has saddled businesses with billions of dollars in losses on T-shirts, bath toys and other items that were lawful to sell one day and unlawful the next....

Yielding to a business outcry, the agency postponed until next February the law's highly onerous product-testing requirements...Nevertheless, the law's latest shock hit businesses on Aug. 14. That's when the law's tracking-label mandate went into effect...

Why did Congress rush to pass this bill, and why is it so reluctant to amend a law whose burdens fall mostly on products that have never been linked to poisoning? One reason is the skill of antibusiness groups claiming to speak for consumers. Groups such as Public Citizen and the Public Interest Research Group seized on and promoted the Chinese toy panic for their own legislative ends...

ohhhh, mixing religion and politics is ok for liberal politicians...I see!

Here's CT's Mollie Hemingway in the WSJ...

In 2001, President Bush issued his first executive order as president. He created a program to encourage religious organizations to receive taxpayer funds to perform social services. The Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, as it was called, infuriated many. Civil libertarians said it violated the separation of church and state, liberals suggested that the office was paying off political supporters...Now that Mr. Bush is gone, however, no one seems particularly worried about the entanglement of the federal government with religious organizations. A recent study sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that President Obama's "faith-based initiative has so far generated little of the contentious press coverage associated with Bush's effort."...

This scant media attention is all the more incredible given that, as Americans United for Separation of Church and State has noted, Mr. Obama has left "the entire architecture of the Bush Faith-Based Initiative intact—every rule, every regulation, every executive order." More controversially, the office has become a major hub of political outreach. In frequent conference calls, the administration informs faith-based leaders of its policy initiatives, as when it recently asked rabbis around the country to give sermons on health-care reform during the coming high holiday season....

Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was a vocal critic of Mr. Bush's faith-based office. Now, under Mr. Obama, he serves on the advisory council's task force to improve the functioning of the office. Explaining his turnaround, he said he doesn't view Mr. Obama's office as partisan—the way Mr. Bush's was. But acknowledging that there was no substantive difference between the offices yet, Mr. Lynn said: "We have a guarded optimism that when the advisory council, Justice and the White House act and get down to the nitty gritty, they will make this a constitutionally protected program. However, we have no proof of that and no guarantee."

Now [that's] the audacity of hope.

Some of this might be chalked up to the newness of Bush's proposal vs. Obama changing an existing program. But most of it is, as Hemingway notes, ridiculous inconsistency and hypocrisy.

Mexico looks to decriminalize drugs

A nice start for them (as it would be for us)...

But how much pressure will our government apply to them, asking them to continue the staggeringly destructive policies of Prohibition II?

Here's Mary O'Grady in the WSJ...

Mexico announced recently that it will decriminalize the possession of "small amounts of drugs"—marijuana, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamines, heroin and opium—"for personal use." Individuals who are caught by law enforcement with quantities below established thresholds will no longer face criminal prosecution. A person apprehended three times with amounts below the minimum, though, will face mandatory treatment....

Mexico's big problem—for that matter the most pressing security issue throughout the hemisphere—is organized crime's growth and expanded power, fed by drug profits. Mr. Calderón's new policy is unlikely to solve anything in that department.

The reason is simple: Prohibition and demand make otherwise worthless weeds valuable. Where they really get valuable is in crossing the U.S. border. If U.S. demand is robust, then producers, traffickers and retailers get rich by satisfying it.

Mexican consumers will now have less fear of penalties and, increasingly in the case of marijuana, that's true in the U.S. as well. But trafficking will remain illegal, and to get their products past law enforcement the criminals will still have an enormous incentive to bribe or to kill. Decriminalization will not take the money out of the business and therefore will not reduce corruption, cartel intimidation aimed at democratic-government authority, or the terror heaped on local populations by drug lords.

Nevertheless, Mexico's attempt to question the status quo in drug policy deserves praise. Unlike American drug warriors, Mexico at least acknowledges that it is insane to repeat the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome....

The war on supply is a failure, something any first-year economics student could have predicted. But this plan is unlikely to reverse the situation. It is demand north of the border that is the primary driver of organized-crime terror. And that shows no signs of abating.

whatever data gets the job done (for global warming)

From David Evans in Environment and Climate News...

There has been a change in direction by global warming alarmists, as shown by “Synthesis Report—Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions,” published in Copenhagen and released in June.

In that report, those claiming there is a human-induced global warming crisis have abandoned air temperature as a measure of global climate and switched to ocean temperature.

The change in focus from air temperature to ocean temperature was predictable given the sustained decline in global air temperature over recent years.

The new report claims ocean temperatures are rising, and fast.

This is rubbish, but it will take time to inform the public and politicians that it is rubbish. With the U.S. climate bill and the Copenhagen meeting of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change coming up, proponents of carbon dioxide restrictions need only to make the public believe these fables for a few months.

All the public education the climate realists have accomplished regarding air temperatures will have to start all over regarding ocean temperatures. Here are some key points to be made:

* Ocean temperatures can be measured adequately only by the Argo buoy network. Argo buoys dive down to 700m, recording temperatures, then come up and radio back the results. There are 3,000 of them floating around all the world’s oceans.

* The Argo buoys have been operational only since the end of 2003....

* According to Argo temperature measurements, the world’s oceans have shown a slight cooling since Argo became operational in 2003.

* The Argo data contradict claims humans are causing rapid global warming, because ocean temperatures are not rising as fast as predicted by global warming alarmists.

Doing some follow-up, I find this NPR story on the Argo buoys...

why do the new green light bulbs come in plastic packages?

There may be an environmentally-friendly angle here, but I don't see it.

If you know, please do tell!

Barna on the ministry of Jesus Christ and how it applies to a Christian response to health care

Here are some excerpts from an essay by George Barna on a Christian response-- not just rhetoric and appeals to public policy-- on the subject of health care...

Barna starts out with a very nice summary of the big picture:

Just one out of every five adults believes that solving poverty is an individual duty, and a mere one out of 25 people assigns that task to non-profit organizations, and another one in 25 assigns it to churches.

As we assess how individuals deal with poverty on a personal level, we find that Americans do get involved, but in a kind of arms-length manner....

Given that mind set, it’s no wonder that the current health care debate centers not on what every American can personally do to help alleviate human suffering, but on how we can get the government to provide a more efficient alternative that will neither break the bank nor hinder our lifestyle....

Then, Barna turns from society as a whole to Christians in particular.

Given the fact that devout Christians mirror these attitudes, it raises the question of what a Christian’s obligation to the poor is in the matter of health care. Should Christians feel comfortable accepting the “let the government handle it” philosophy?

Christian failure here is due to idolatry toward government, a failure to live out the Gospel as disciples of Jesus Christ, the impact of cultural decline and the inertia of compassion atrophy from the extension of government programs over the last 70 years.

From there, Barna turns to seven lessons on health care-- from the healing aspects of Jesus' ministry as recorded in 26 passages by Luke:

1. Jesus healed people because He believed that good health matters.

2. Jesus invested Himself in their healing because He loved and cared for people (Luke 7:13).

3. Jesus healed everyone who presented a medical need because He saw no reason to screen some out as unqualified.

4. Jesus healed every kind of illness He encountered.

5. Jesus pursued them because He saw Himself as a servant.

6. Jesus allowed them to disrupt His schedule because He realized that people’s pain and suffering was their top focus in life.

7. Jesus expected His closest followers to heal others (Luke 9:1; 10:1,9,17).

You can describe Jesus’ health care strategy in four words: whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever....Contrast the Jesus model with the preferred American model. The latter might be described as deciding to throw some money at the problem – but not too much – so that somebody else can do what needs to be done, for those who qualify, in a manner that does not inconvenience us....

Finally, some more specific applications and a closing "challenge":

• Do to others what you would like them to do to you (Luke 7:31).

• Produce results (or, in biblical language, bear fruit) (Luke 6:43-45).

• Do whatever it takes to love God and all people with your heart, mind, strength and soul (Luke 4:8, 6:27-36).

• Always try to do the will of God (Luke 12:29-31).

So, if Jesus went to such lengths to put feet on His health care strategy, what is yours? He did not seem inclined to wait for the government to provide for the poor. His strategy called for people to help people, through the power and ability that He entrusted to His followers. One must wonder if the American preference for government programs is the best solution to the existing needs – and if a nation where 83% of adults label themselves “Christian” can blend that religious connection with a desire for state-based solutions....

what the parable of the Good Samaritan says about a Biblical/Christian response to health care

Impressive exegesis in a staggeringly good letter to the editor of the C-J. Frankly, I can't believe something like this was sent in and made it into print. Wow; well done, Mr. Tucker!

I would like to pass along a few salient points as to what the Bible says regarding providing health care to those without the resources for such. These points are taken from a lecture given at the 1994 Evangelical Theological Society by Dr. John W. Robbins. Christ's parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) provides a gold mine of instructions about the ethics and economics of health care. Let me unpack a few of its implications.

First, the possession of health and the administration of health care are always individual. There are no such things as “national illness” or “national health care,” for nations cannot and do not get sick or injured; nations cannot and do not care; only individuals can and do.

Second, the politico-religious establishment, represented in the parable by the priest and Levite, is uninterested in actual health care. Perhaps the priest and the Levite were hurrying to a national health care discussion.

Third, the Good Samaritan appears to be a businessman on a business trip: He had an animal; he was carrying oil, wine and money; and he was making a round trip.

Fourth, the Samaritan businessman used his own resources and spent his own time helping the victim.

Fifth, the Samaritan businessman paid the innkeeper for his trouble. He apparently did not think that the innkeeper had an obligation to help him or the crime victim without being paid. The Good Samaritan was not an altruist who believed that need creates an entitlement to the property of another. He acted out of compassion, not compulsion, and he did not try to compel anyone else to be kind.

Sixth, the Samaritan businessman spent the night in the inn with his victim, making sure he would recover, and after the emergency was past, he continued on his trip, leaving the victim in the care of the innkeeper. The Good Samaritan did not organize a lobby to agitate for a national health plan, for that has nothing to do with love for one's neighbor. Instead, he continues on about his business. This traveling Samaritan was the good neighbor by sharing both his own goods and his own time with the crime victim, and it is his example, not that of the political and religious leaders, that Christ commands us to imitate.

The bottom line is this: The biblical command to love one another does not find its application in the confiscation of wealth under threat of punishment (taxes), but rather through charitable giving of one's time and money based upon the sacrifice of Christ for His people.


Louisville 40222

Monday, September 21, 2009

selective application of "interstate commerce" causes double trouble in health care

Here's Judge Andrew Napolitano in the WSJ with a quaint citation of the U.S. Constitution-- with respect to health care "reform". Unfortunately, the Constitution has been vitiated by both major political parties. But I suppose it's nice to see someone come to its defense.

Last week, I asked South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, where in the Constitution it authorizes the federal government to regulate the delivery of health care. He replied: "There's nothing in the Constitution that says that the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do." Then he shot back: "How about [you] show me where in the Constitution it prohibits the federal government from doing this?"

Rep. Clyburn, like many of his colleagues, seems to have conveniently forgotten that the federal government has only specific enumerated powers. He also seems to have overlooked the Ninth and 10th Amendments, which limit Congress's powers only to those granted in the Constitution....

Napolitano reviews the relevant precedent before concluding with this case:

The Supreme Court finally came to its senses when it invalidated a congressional ban on illegal guns within 1,000 feet of public schools. In United States v. Lopez (1995), the Court ruled that the Commerce Clause may only be used by Congress to regulate human activity that is truly commercial at its core and that has not traditionally been regulated by the states....

Applying these principles to President Barack Obama's health-care proposal, it's clear that his plan is unconstitutional at its core....

And here's an especially painful and costly irony:

Congress refuses to keep commerce regular when the commercial activity is the sale of insurance, but claims it can regulate the removal of a person's appendix because that constitutes interstate commerce....

Obama bows to the tort bar vs. pursuing useful health care reform

Practically, tort reform is only a small piece of an ideal health care reform effort. But it's still rough to see the President dance around this issue in such a hypocritical manner.

Here's Kim Strassel in the WSJ on Obama's "tort two-step"...

On Wednesday the president told Congress "I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are." In fact, the administration is standing by to allow its most special, special interest to drive this debate. What the tort bar wants, the tort bar gets....

For Republicans, legal reform has become a litmus test, proof that Democrats have no interest in a deal, and therefore a reason to step back. For many Americans, legal reform has become proof that President Obama is more interested in an ideological triumph than his stated goal of lowering health costs.

Tort reform is a policy no-brainer. Experts on left and right agree that defensive medicine—ordering tests and procedures solely to protect against Joe Lawyer—adds enormously to health costs. The estimated dollar benefits of reform range from a conservative $65 billion a year to perhaps $200 billion....

It's also a political no-brainer. Americans are on board....

The only folks not on board are a handful of powerful trial lawyers, and a handful of politicians who receive a generous cut of those lawyers' contingency fees. The legal industry was the top contributor to the Democratic Party in the 2008 cycle...

health care rationing showed up in the Obama "stimulus" package

A powerful but sobering and observation from Edward Lee Potts in World...

It's also frustrating, given the denials and the obfuscation on the part of those who support Democratic proposals for health care "reform".

Largely lost in the current healthcare debate is that the Obama administration did not wait until the president's televised speech in September to step prominently into the fray but used February's stimulus package to push its healthcare agenda. By allocating $1.1 billion for "comparative effectiveness research"—a phrase often heard in the British healthcare system—the stimulus provided what some fearfully call the first down payment on healthcare that could lead to rationing...

The law also created a 15-member panel dubbed the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research. Tasked with corralling the federal government's health research, the council is to work closely with HHS as well as the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense to determine "the relative strengths and weakness of various medical interventions"....

One of the members: Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel...

Christian non-profit, low-budget, high-quality, health care

From Emily Belz in World on CrossOver health clinic in Richmond-- one of three award-winning programs chosen by World for their efforts in the face of poverty...

CrossOver is evidence that not everything in U.S. medical care for the poor is dysfunctional. While doctors at CrossOver agree reform is needed, their ministry has succeeded in using parts of the system that work: They serve 4,300 uninsured patients a year on a $2.5 million budget....

Dr. Daniel Jannuzzi moved to Richmond 20 years ago after his wife noticed an ad in a medical journal seeking a doctor for the fledgling CrossOver. He inquired about the position—and it turned out that he was the only person who had responded to the ad.

At that point Jannuzzi had to decide whether to take a risk....It's rare for nonprofit clinics to have fulltime physicians, but Jannuzzi has worked full-time for CrossOver ever since and helped it build a reputation for doing whatever it takes to help people....

CrossOver gives the uninsured regular check-ups to keep them on medications for chronic illnesses, and that protects against more costly medical services down the road....CrossOver makes use of philanthropy from hospitals, backed up by charitable donations and a host of volunteers, to provide first-class care for free....

Though CrossOver doctors don't sit down and present the gospel to patients, Jannuzzi said they offer what is missing in much of the healthcare system, compassion born of faith...

will Obama force these people to get "insurance"?

From Edward Lee Potts in World...

Representing about 34,000 families but growing, healthcare sharing ministries (HCSM), in which a pool of believers share their insurance costs, are pouring limited resources into lobbying efforts to ensure they are not left out of a final healthcare overhaul. But they face a long road.

Samaritan Ministries International, Christian Care Medi-Share, and Christian Health Care Ministries are not recognized by the federal government as official health insurance providers. That's bad news if Congress passes a bill that includes mandates requiring individuals to purchase federally approved insurance plans....

The groups did not succeed in getting language protecting such organizations into the 1,000-page House healthcare bill that has already passed committee...more hopeful about prospects in the Senate....

is a booming recovery right around the corner?

An optimistic piece from James Grant in the WSJ...

As if they really knew, leading economists predict that recovery from our Great Recession will be plodding, gray and jobless. But they don't know, and can't. The future is unfathomable.

Not famously a glass half-full kind of fellow, I am about to propose that the recovery will be a bit of a barn burner. Not that I can really know, either, the future being what it is....

A good dose of humility and transparency at the front end of the essay!

Growth snapped back following the depressions of 1893-94, 1907-08, 1920-21 and 1929-33....

To the English economist Arthur C. Pigou is credited a bon mot that exactly frames the issue. "The error of optimism dies in the crisis, but in dying it gives birth to an error of pessimism...."

Our recession, though a mere inconvenience compared to some of the cyclical snows of yesteryear, does bear comparison with the slump of 1981-82. In the worst quarter of that contraction, the first three months of 1982, real GDP shrank at an annual rate of 6.4%, matching the steepest drop of the current recession....Yet the Reagan recovery, starting in the first quarter of 1983, rushed along at quarterly growth rates (expressed as annual rates of change) over the next six quarters of 5.1%, 9.3%, 8.1%, 8.5%, 8.0% and 7.1%. Not until the third quarter of 1984 did real quarterly GDP growth drop below 5%.

One may observe that Ronald Reagan stood for enterprise, free trade and low taxes, whereas Barack Obama stands for other things. Yet President Obama's economic policies seem almost as far removed from Roosevelt's as they are from Reagan's....

He may be right. But...

It's not until this last sentence that I get off Mr. Grant's train. Bush and then Obama have pursued policies that can have long-term damage-- within an environment of debt, a culture of entitlement, and a staggering dose of unfunded liabilities from an array of expensive social welfare programs. Add to that an array of policy proposals that would be quite painful to business, labor, and the economy (from cap & trade to health care)-- and it's probably apples and rocks.

The real test is how he's investing his own money. It'd be nice to know if his money is where is mouth/writing is!

"Mr. Obama quintupled down on Mr. Bush's 2008 Keynesianism..."

A great line at the end of this excerpt from Peter Ferrara, as he continues to dog-pile on the Keynesians in the WSJ...

From the beginning, our representatives in Washington have approached this economic downturn with old-fashioned, Keynesian economics....the theory that you fight an economic downturn by pumping money into the economy to "encourage demand" and "create jobs." The result of our recent Keynesian stimulus bills? The longest recession since World War II—21 months and counting—with no clear end in sight. Borrowing close to a trillion dollars out of the private economy to increase government spending by close to a trillion dollars does nothing to increase incentives for investment and entrepreneurship.

The record speaks for itself: In February 2008, President George W. Bush cut a deal with congressional Democrats to pass a $152 billion Keynesian stimulus bill based on countering the recession with increased deficits....

Learning nothing from this Keynesian failure, which he vigorously supported from the U.S. Senate, President Barack Obama came back in February 2009 to support a $787 billion, purely Keynesian stimulus bill....

The fallacies of Keynesian economics were exposed decades ago by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Keynesian thinking was then discredited in practice in the 1970s, when the Keynesians could neither explain nor cure the double-digit inflation, interest rates, and unemployment that resulted from their policies. Ronald Reagan's decision to dump Keynesianism in favor of supply-side policies—which emphasize incentives for investment—produced a 25-year economic boom. That boom ended as the Bush administration abandoned every component of Reaganomics one by one...

Mr. Obama showed up in early 2009 with the dismissive certitude that none of this history ever happened, and suddenly national economic policy was back in the 1930s. Instead of the change voters thought they were getting, Mr. Obama quintupled down on Mr. Bush's 2008 Keynesianism...

to Bush, Obama and all other Keynesians out there: ATTENTION, ATTENTION! The stimuli did not (and will/can not) work...

From three prominent Macro guys-- Drs. Cogan, Taylor and Wieland-- in the WSJ...

Is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 working? At the time of the act's passage last February, this question was hotly debated. Administration economists cited Keynesian models that predicted that the $787 billion stimulus package would increase GDP by enough to create 3.6 million jobs. Our own research showed that more modern macroeconomic models predicted only one-sixth of that GDP impact. Estimates by economist Robert Barro of Harvard predicted the impact would not be significantly different from zero.

Now, six months after the act's passage, we no longer have to rely solely on the predictions of models. We can look and see what actually happened.

Consider first the part of the package that consists of government transfers and rebates....

[Taylor Chart]

The increase [in disposable personal income] is due to the transfer and rebate payments in the 2009 stimulus package. However, as the chart also shows, there was no noticeable impact on personal consumption expenditures. Because the boost to income is temporary, at best only a very small fraction was consumed.

This is exactly what one would expect from "permanent income" or "life-cycle" theories of consumption, which argue that temporary changes in income have little effect on consumption. These theories were developed by Milton Friedman and Franco Modigliani 50 years ago, and have been empirically tested many times. They are much more accurate than simple Keynesian theories of consumption, so the lack of an impact should not be surprising.

Indeed, one need not have looked any further than the Bush administration's Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 to find plenty of evidence that temporary payments of this kind would not jump-start consumption....

Consider next the government-spending part of the stimulus package....If we rely on predictions of models, again we see disagreement and debate. According to our research with modern macroeconomic models, the increase in government spending would add less than a percentage point...Prof. Barro's model predicts zero.

So let's look at the data...By far the largest positive contributor to the improvement was investment--which went from minus 9% to minus 3.2%...[But] One is hard put to see what specific items in the stimulus act could have arrested the decline in business investment by such a magnitude....

Kerry joins Ted Kennedy in rank hypocrisy and pure, partisan politics

I asked this about Kennedy; now, I ask it about Kerry:

How can people sleep at night when they do stuff like this?

From the WSJ editorialists...

John Kerry...was back in Boston Wednesday, urging the state legislature to change the law governing U.S. Senate vacancies [by special election].

Mr. Kerry said, "[It] is hardly's hardly even unprecedented, even in Massachusetts." That's for sure. The law in the Bay State provided for interim appointment by the Governor as recently as 2004. That, of course, was the year that Mr. Kerry won the Democratic nomination for President. Just in case he won, the state legislature changed the law to strip the Governor of this power. That change also came at Senator Kennedy's urging.

What changed in the ensuing five years? In 2004, the Governor, Mitt Romney, was a Republican. [The current governor Deval] Patrick is a Democrat....Raw partisan advantage explains why Mr. Kerry, like his departed colleague, was for the 2004 change before he was against it.

And he wanted to be President? His stand on this issue is not exactly a mark of greatness...

polypropylene, polystyrene...ahhhh, what's the difference?

From World...

Instead of banning Styrofoam coolers from a number of Show Me State rivers, a law that took effect in August will ban Tupperware from Missouri waterways....The law bans polypropylene [but they]...were seeking to ban expanded polystyrene...So for now, beer drinkers can keep their coolers on the river, but they will risk a year in jail if they bring along leftovers in Tupperware...

Armstrong and Dawkins take a beatin'

Five letters to the editor, following the Armstrong v. Dawkins debate in the WSJ about evolution and God...

The combination of Richard Dawkins and Karen Armstrong as presenters of two contrary views on the existence of God is in itself a "creative act." For one, God is a fairy tale, and for the other "at least it's a nice fairy tale." One may as well have asked Osama bin Laden to write his thoughts on America and then ask Hugo Chávez for a counter perspective.

Mr. Dawkins says: "What is so special about life? It never violates the laws of physics." Let's grant him that for the moment. But the fact of physics is that however you section physical, concrete reality, you end up with a state that doesn't explain its own existence. Moreover, since the universe does have a beginning and nothing physical can explain its own existence, is it that irrational a position to think that the first cause would have to be something nonphysical?

A spiritual, moral first cause is a much more reasonable position than questions that smuggle in such realities without admitting it...

Ravi Zacharias

Norcross, Ga.

Unwilling to concede that God is cruel, Ms. Armstrong seems to conclude that God isn't in control. But there are other ways of resolving the age-old question, "If God is good and all-powerful, why do evil and suffering exist?"

The best answer was provided by the medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas. In his "Summa Theologica," he wrote that God wills only the good directly but permits some evils and indirectly wills others. God wills the beautiful harmony of the whole created order, but for the sake of the whole, God permits and indirectly wills defects in some of its parts.

While Thomas Aquinas didn't conceive of evolution, his thought complements it, for evolution teaches us that defects produce conditions for new, more wonderful things to emerge.

The wisdom of this plan peaks in humanity. But while we are the high point of this world, we are its most dangerous part, uniquely able to destroy the whole. Why would God make something capable of such evil? God permits the evil of sin because God directly wills the good of human freedom.

The ultimate wisdom of this order is apparent only in light of what Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan calls the "supreme good," namely love. There is no love without freedom, and no freedom without the chance of evil.

Thus, this world order—with all its current imperfections—shows not that God is redundant as Mr. Dawkins believes, nor that God is not all-powerful as Ms. Armstrong implies. Rather, an evolutionary world order demonstrates more clearly the wisdom, goodness and power of God.

Mark T. Miller

San Francisco

My friend and erstwhile neighbor, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was asked by reporters in the 1960s for his reaction to the fact that some intellectuals thought God was dead. The president replied, "That's odd; I was just speaking to him this morning." Mr. Dawkins goes one better; he says God was never alive in the first place. I'll cast my lot with the former president, as well as the Psalmist who wrote "The fool says in his heart there is no God."

Ms. Armstrong opts for God, but her God is no more than a mythic evolutionary journey on a road less traveled that we make up as we go along. No "unsustainable certainty" for her. Presumably she's OK with the "story" of the death and resurrection of Christ, for example, if (making no pretentions to historical accuracy) it gives one the needed psychological boost to cope with human grief and helps one find ultimate meaning in life's struggles. St. Paul would beg to disagree. Writing to the early Corinthian church, he said that if Christ isn't raised, then our faith is in vain; and if we only have hope in Christ in this life, we are of all people to be pitied. Once again, I vote with St. Paul rather than Ms. Armstrong.

John E. Archibold


Mr. Dawkins should leave the God question to others and stick to the evolution-versus-creation debate. Even I, an agnostic scientist, find his commentary polemic and off-putting. It is no wonder the God crowd is gaining in number; they are easier to read.

Katherine Helmetag

Troy, Mich.

Ms. Armstrong doesn't speak for Christians, who believe that historical events are foundational to faith in God. Whether God used evolution or some other means to create the Earth, the belief that he did so in an historical act is foundational to the Christian faith.

For Christians in the mainstream of the faith, God was never as Ms. Armstrong asserts, "merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence."

The Rev. Josh Miller

Church of the Ascension


two movies to check out: Up and Flywheel

Two nice movies:

Up is a funny, animated, recent release. (Funniest running joke? Squirrels!) It has a strong pro-family message. Even more impressive is how the movie underlines the beauty and power of simple and enduring commitment-- not just within marriage, but to one's word and to doing the right thing.

Flywheel is the first of the trilogy of movies produced by the fine folk at Sherwood Baptist Church. (Facing the Giants is relatively well-known and a nice sports movie with a Christian backdrop. Fireproof is, by far, the most famous of the three-- a huge movie on fighting for one's marriage.) It was very low-budget-- only $20,000. Not expecting much, I was blown away by the quality. Beyond that, the story line and punchlines are excellent. Check it out!

men: trowel and sword

Check out minutes 20-26 of Kyle's sermon from a week ago....

He reiterates a point I've made a million times-- about the "sin of Adam", the sin of passivity and omission...

Step it up, (Christian) men!

Friday, September 18, 2009

hating on the Presidents (from the pulpit?!)

From the WaPo's Colbert King in the C-J...

King opens with some brutal "pastoral" examples...

On Aug. 16, pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., told his congregation that he prays for the death of President Obama. In a sermon titled “Why I Hate Barack Obama,” Anderson preached: “I'm not going to pray for his good, I'm going to pray he dies and goes to hell.”

Anderson is not the only man of the cloth to wish widowhood upon Michelle Obama. In June, the Rev. Wiley Drake of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., said he was praying for the President's death.

Anderson, however, was explicit in his wish. “I'd like him to die of natural causes. I don't want him to be a martyr; we don't need another holiday. I'd like to see him die, like Ted Kennedy, of brain cancer.”

I pray God will not answer their petitions....

There's something loose in the land, an ugliness and hatred directed toward Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American President, that takes the breath away.

Yes and no. Similar hatred-- if not more of it-- was directed at Presidents Bush and Clinton. King refers to Obama's race, implying that race is a primary factor in the ugliness. While you can't dismiss the existence of such malice, the data do not support that explanation as primary.

We've seen similarly despicable things said on the left, including by church leaders. So, conservatives have no monopoly on saying stupid things.

Jimmy Carter's logic: Wilson is a racist, so Carter is an anti-Semite

More on President Carter's knuckle-headed statement...

Here, a helpful piece by the WaPo's Charles Lane in the C-J...

An overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward Israel is based on the fact that it is a Jewish state. I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many non-Jews, not just in the United States but around the world, that Jews are despicable and that a Jewish state is inherently illegitimate. I think it's based on anti-Semitism. There is an inherent feeling among many that the Jews should get out of Palestine.

Actually, I do NOT believe this. I'm altering former President Jimmy Carter's words — substituting “Jews” and “Israel” for “blacks” or “African Americans,” and “anti-Semitism” for “racism” — to illustrate what was both true about his statement blaming white prejudice for the most intense opposition to President Obama and what was so irresponsibly wrong about it....

That slippery word “many”...sounds ominous, but could mean ANYTHING from a sizable minority to almost all whites. There are data on this question. Ninety-four percent of respondents to a 2007 Gallup poll said they would vote for a black presidential candidate of their party, whereas only 88 percent would vote for a woman (like Obama's then-opponent Hillary Clinton), and 57 percent would vote for someone who, like John McCain, was 72 years old....

I am not saying race has nothing to do with any of the hostility Obama is facing. What I am saying is that it is far from the whole story.

we're still talking about Joe Wilson?

a combination of

scoring cheap political points


how difficult it is to defend Democratic health care proposals on their merits

Thursday, September 17, 2009

baseball vs. football

There was an interesting discussion on ESPN radio this morning on the differences between baseball and football. (It was occasioned by a football commentator's appearance on the show, talking about both football and his son's work in baseball.)

I've always enjoyed baseball moreso as a sport. But football is a busy man's sport-- ideal for paying attention for a weekend and then leaving it alone. And so, over the years, I watch less and less baseball-- and at least, relatively speaking, more football.

Baseball requires more constant attention in one way (it happens throughout the week), but less attention in another way (any given game will probably not have as much impact on a season)

And this parallels some other important differences. Baseball is more subtle. It has a slower pace with far more variance in its pace and length. Success in baseball is not as much about working harder as working smarter. In fact, working harder can easily make things worse.

how to divide up the Ten Commandments (and does it matter)?

Our kids are in Catholic schools this year and we bumped into one of the differences in beliefs between Catholic and (most) Protestants.

The Catholics and Lutherans divide up the "ten words" or "Ten Commandments" by combining the two references to God (one God and no idols) into one commandment-- and taking the two covet references as two separate commandments.

Most Protestants divide the 10 by separating "one God" from "no idols" and combining the covet references into one commandment.

Both are feasible.

But it struck me this morning that perhaps the combining of two into one would diminish the attention to sins in those areas-- whether idolatry for Catholics or covetousness for Protestants. Or maybe it's no big deal...

pro-life activist murdered last week (and I didn't see this in the news)

I didn't see this in the C-J or anywhere else (hat tip: Rebecca Yeager).

That seems odd...

If it'd been a pro-choicer, I would have had to peel the blisters off my eyeballs that would be caused by the coverage.

Here it is from CNN...

Authorities have charged an Owosso, Michigan, man with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder in the Friday shooting deaths of an anti-abortion activist and another man, a prosecutor's office said.

Authorities say the suspect, Harlan James Drake, was offended by anti-abortion material that the activist had displayed across from the school all week.

Drake, 33, is accused of shooting anti-abortion activist Jim Pouillon, 63, and Michael Fuoss, 61...

Pouillon, whose anti-abortion activity was well-known in the area, was protesting across the street from Owosso High School about 7:20 a.m. Friday when he was killed by several shots fired from a passing vehicle...

yeah, what's the deal with those people?!

A brilliant observation, with graphical depiction, from GraphJam...

song chart memes

the per-dollar benefit/cost of "Cash for Clunkers"

I don't know about the precision of the numbers, but they sound reasonable. Anyway, it underlines what we know, intuitively, to be an inefficient program-- even if it had been run well (hat tip: Greg Clark)...

So, the average Cash for Clunkers transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year.

They claim 700,000 vehicles so that's 224 million gallons saved per year.

That equates to a bit over 5 million barrels of oil.

5 million barrels of oil at $70 per barrel costs about $350 million dollars.

So, the government paid $3 billion of our tax dollars to save $350 million.

We spent $8.57 for every dollar saved.

How good a deal was that???

And then, a punchline I had used earlier:

They'll probably do a great job with health care though!