Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Incarnation and "the foolishness of God"

I love the song, "Mary, did you know?"--
written by singer/comedian Mark Lowry.
It's been recorded by a number of artists,
but I've decided to link to his version on YouTube.

Reflect on the words...

Mary did you know...
that your baby boy will one day walk on water?

that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know...
that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?

that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you've kissed the face of God.

The blind will see;
the deaf will hear;
the dead will live again.

The lame will leap;
the dumb will speak;
the praises of the lamb.


Mary did you know...
that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?

that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I AM.

The Incarnation is at the heart of the Gospel-- not just that Jesus came
as the GodMan in bodily form,
as the ultimate sin-bearer,
as the Perfect High Priest offering Himself
as the Perfect Sacrifice for our sins.

Beyond that, consider the manner of the Incarnation-- He didn't just
roll down here for a week,
hop on a cross,
and rise from the dead.

He lived our kind of life
from cradle
to cross.

It's all pretty crazy-- the subject of Kyle's sermon last weekend.

As Lewis and Chesterton wrote, the Incarnation--
and in particular, "the Christmas story"--
is the Myth and the Fairy Tale that is True.
Or as another popular song puts it:
this is "such a strange way to save the world".

Kyle focused on the surprising details of that First Christmas:
Nazareth and Bethlehem rather than Jerusalem or Rome;
cave and feeding trough rather than palace and crib;
shepherds and philosophers rather than kings;
Mary and Joseph-- nobodies in a nowhere place.

Why wasn't it easier?
Why wasn't it grander?
For the King of Kings.

All of this from Isaiah 55:8-9's God
whose thoughts are not ours-- and infinitely higher than ours.
All of this to signal God's power and desire to redeem.
All of this-- what looks like the foolishness of God.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 1:18-25:
For the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God...
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom
did not know him,
God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached
to save those who believe.
Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we preach Christ crucified:
a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles...
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

racial implications of the minimum wage

Minimum wages have been used by unions in our country and in South Africa to keep African-Americans out of the labor force. While the intent is not always racist, the implications certainly are....

From Walter Williams at LewRockwell.com, reiterating a WSJ article by Sarah Murray, "Black Youths Miss Out on Good Job News"...

I've grown somewhat weary writing about the devastating effects of minimum wage laws...Today's overall teenage (16-19) unemployment rate, at 25%, is the highest since World War II. Black teenage unemployment, at 50%, is also the highest since World War II.

How do you think the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton would explain the unemployment difference between black and white teens? You can bet the rent money they would say: It's racial discrimination. Let's investigate. Was racial discrimination in 1948 greater or less than racial discrimination today? In 1948, the unemployment rate for white 16-17 year olds was 10.2 percent while that for blacks was 9.4 percent. Among white 18-19 year-olds, unemployment was 9.4 percent and for blacks it was 10.5 percent. During that period, not only were the unemployment rates similar, black teenagers were either equally as active as whites in the labor force or more so....

So what might help to explain? The major villain is the minimum wage law. With each increase in the minimum wage, black teen unemployment rose relative to whites and teen unemployment rose relative to adult. Why? Put yourself in the place of an employer and ask: If I must pay to whomever I hire $7.25 an hour, plus mandated fringes such as Social Security, vacation, health insurance, unemployment insurance, does it pay me to hire a worker who is so unfortunate so as to have a skill level that allows him to contribute only $5 worth of value an hour? Most employers would view hiring such a person a losing economic proposition. Therefore, the primary effect of a minimum wage law is that of discrimination against the employment of low-skilled workers.

Teenagers tend to be low skilled....Black teens are far more likely to come from broken homes and attend some of the worst schools in the nation. Therefore, a law that discriminates against the employment of low-skilled workers will have a greater impact on black workers. Moreover, the minimum wage subsidizes racial discrimination. After all, if you must pay $7.25 an hour to whomever you hire, you might as well hire people you like the most, even if they are of identical skill...

the siren? it tolls for those in Lanesville

-spirit vs. letter of the law...
-tension between prosecuting "innocents" and failing to prosecute the guilty...
-theory vs. practice of government...
-theodicy and when should "god" intervene when people engage in "evil"-- and in particular, how we like the authorities to step and police others vs. ourselves...

so many principles in play-- in this small-town story about law enforcement gone (subjectively) awry...from Grace Schneider in the C-J...

Sharon Middleton was turning off Lanesville's main street, headed home after work, when a police officer pulled her over and issued a warning for a broken turn signal on her pickup.

It wasn't a big deal, Middleton said, but what struck her was that she couldn't remember ever being stopped by town police before, although she's lived in the area for decades.

“I didn't like it,” she said last week...Neither did most of Lanesville's 640 residents, judging from the slew of complaints about the number of citations being issued for infractions such as barely exceeding the 35 mph limit on Main Street and not flipping on a turn signal.

This year the number of citations has jumped to a level eight times higher than 2008, and calls for service on traffic stops and other police runs have more than doubled....

Not everyone is critical of Borden and his crew....“My suggestion to everyone is if you don't like our police department writing tickets then stop breaking the law!!” he wrote.

Homeowners complained about speeders on their streets a year ago, so they asked police to step up enforcement, Carman said....

private sector experience of Obama's cabinet (vs. others since 1900): amazing!

This blurb in World was accompanied by a terrific graph. It made the same point as the following text, but far more vividly...

...according to a comparative study by Michael Cembalest, chief investment officer for JPMorgan Private Bank. Starting with the secretary of commerce in 1900, Cembalest examined the prior private-sector experience of 432 cabinet members in every presidency and discovered, "One thing is clear: The current administration, compared with past Democratic and Republican ones, marks a departure from the traditional reliance on a balance of public- and private-sector experiences." While other administrations of both parties were dominated by cabinet members with firsthand experience in hiring and firing and running a business, President Obama's cabinet has less than 10 percent with such expertise....

In contrast to Obama's 10%, the next lowest were Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and Teddy Roosevelt with 30-40%. Of course, private-sector experience may lead government to favor interest groups, so that is no panacea. But it is a marked departure and it correlates, unfortunately, with an astounding array of anti-market proposals from the Obama-ites.

ClimateGate cartoon

The temperature is up a bit since this Ramirez cartoon (hat tip: World)...

If the religion of science has a hell, the perpetrators of ClimateGate should get a place there-- for the damage they've done to the name of Science and any valid concerns about "climate change".



votes for sale: politics over principle (revisited)

Gary Varvel with an aptly-titled cartoon: Louisiana Purchase (hat tip: World)...

11242009.jpg

Monday, December 21, 2009

game theory and gang tattoos

A review of a very interesting book-- from Katherine Mangu-Ward in Reason...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that messing with a guy who has facial tattoos is a really bad idea.

Getting dirty words tattooed on your eyelids—a popular choice, judging from the mug shots available online—is a serious commitment. It is, as social scientists say, a “signal that is costly to fake.” The bearer of a facial tattoo announces to the world: I expect to be in prison for most of my life, or to hang out with people who consider prison experience a character reference.

Those of us who are not a part of the criminal underworld have a much cheaper system: Asked for a reference, we happily provide our colleagues’ phone numbers and email addresses. But for crooks, broadcasting signals about their professional pasts and current social networks is a good way to wind up with a new pair of concrete shoes. In Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate (Princeton), the Oxford sociologist Diego Gambetta uses colorful stories and a minimum of jargon in his quest to analyze how people advertise when their business happens to be illegal....

The (acknowledged) ghost inside Codes of the Underworld is the Nobel-winning economist Thomas Schelling, who has for decades been applying this kind of economic analysis to the coordination and signaling problems inherent in bank robberies, blackmail, and negotiations. Schelling’s 1960 book about the nuclear arms race, The Strategy of Conflict, centers around those paradoxical situations when it makes sense to impose limits on yourself in order to improve your negotiating position. His famous “madman theory” holds that a “careless or even self-destructive attitude toward injury…can be a genuine strategic advantage.”

Guided by those words, Gambetta sets out to illuminate the world inhabited by these face-tattooed, duel-scarred, razor-brandishing inmates. The result is a book that explains the hidden logic of their behavior in language intelligible to those of us who make it a point to steer clear of both well-armed dictators and well-decorated mafiosi....

V and applications to all sorts of beliefs

I haven't seen this and don't know if it's changed in the past two months, but this caught my eye-- from Todd Hertz in Christianity Today...

In the first episode of ABC's remake of the '80s alien-invasion series V (Tuesdays 8/7c), a teen boy is led down the path of destruction by a powerful force: the winsome smile of a cute girl. The dark threat behind innocent flirtation illustrates [that]...things are rarely as pretty as they look.

And the show asks: Would we believe them? "The chief allegory here is the idea of blind devotion," said V executive producer Jeffrey Bell..."If anyone is showing up and saying something too good to be true, are people thinking? Are they asking questions? Are they prepared and informed? Are you just accepting and believing what you are told?"

The show's chief cautionary voice is Father Jack, a priest. He is skeptical of the Vs—indeed, of the existence of aliens. "I don't see any basis for this in Scripture," he tells his elder priest, who has quickly concluded that the aliens are part of God's plan—not because of miracles as much as increased attendance at worship. Surely, he thinks, God is in this. Besides, the Vatican has officially endorsed the Visitors as part of God's creation. So Father Jack is initially the lone skeptic, preaching that people should fully explore anything they are tempted to believe in. They must compare claims to what they know is true: Scripture. It's refreshing for a strong Christian character—especially one facing his own existential crisis—to speak for informed, intelligent belief....

For many readers of this magazine, the series will yield comparisons to the Christian walk, spiritual warfare, and the church. Others may see the story's depiction of blind devotion as an indictment of the Christian faith. Others still may view the story politically—associating the aliens' hidden agenda with recent presidential administrations.

In the end, this suspenseful alien yarn suggests a passage from 1 Thessalonians: "Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil." Whether they look like lizard aliens or not.

celebrating the Ogle Center

From Dale Moss in the C-J...

[Kyle Ridout, the Ogle director] will figure it out. He has, ever deftly, since the center opened 14 years ago. It was added to provide Southern Indiana its best outlet for culture and IUS a higher regional profile. Success would involve adults enjoying new experiences and bumping into old friends. Children, too, would have fun and be impressed by the burgeoning campus at the foot of the knobs.

As expected, success did not come overnight. But it's come. Some 35,000 people — most from Southern Indiana but not all — will attend at least one show this season. The center will pay for itself or come close, despite the balky economy....

Support grew but only eventually outgrew debt. Five years in, the center was nearly $300,000 in the hole. It wedged itself steadily into the already-crowded metro Louisville arts scene by learning a niche that includes shows for students on field trips. Ridout expects 17,000 youngsters this year, all entertained for free thanks to sponsors....

Wesley Korir in the C-J

More on Wesley Korir from Katya Cengel in the C-J...

Former University of Louisville distance runner Wesley Korir purchased his home near campus after he won the 2009 Los Angeles Marathon.   (By Sam Upshaw Jr., The Courier-Journal)

A wall in the maintenance room [where he works] is covered with newspaper clippings exalting Korir's distance-running ability. In the center of the clippings is a map of Kenya, where Korir was born in a village in the west of the country. He ran barefoot on dirt roads until he was 18. He had no coach, just a mother who threatened punishment if he didn't run to the store fast enough. There was no running water and he had never ridden an escalator, let alone been on an airplane.

How he went from there to winning the 2009 Los Angeles Marathon, a Nike endorsement and a home in Louisville is as improbable as it is inspiring. It is as if Cinderella married her prince, but kept on cleaning houses....

Although he won $160,000 and a 2009 Honda Accord EX-L in L.A., he told Whitehouse the only reason he would quit is if Whitehouse left. His winnings also did not affect his choice of home, a small beige-paneled shotgun-style near campus that he had chosen before winning in L.A. and which he bought after he returned, said his “American mom,” Linda Stiles. It is this humility that really makes him distinctive, she said....

In Korir's mind, the credit belongs to God. It wasn't a conviction Korir always held....

...his feet alone wouldn't have carried him to Kentucky. For that, he needed intelligence, which is where God comes in. School wasn't Korir's thing. He avoided it as long as he could by hiding behind a bush and later, copying his cousin's work, even going so far as to buy a red pen to imitate the teacher's marks. When he finally went to class, he focused on entertaining his classmates, not studying. That is, until one day when he decided to pay attention during religious instruction and a pastor read a Bible passage that sounded too good to be true: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Curious if the instruction was really true, Korir decided to investigate. He began to ask God to help him to be a good child, to pass his exams and to respect his parents, and a strange thing happened — it worked....

The proof came during Korir's first marathon in Chicago in 2008, when he finished fourth despite starting five minutes behind other elite runners. In May 2009, he won the L.A. marathon with a time of 2:08:24, setting a course record. At this year's Chicago marathon, he placed fourth after battling cold weather. A promising start for a career that could last another 10 to 15 years, Mann said....

couch potato

From Dave Coverley's Speed Bump...

Obama's plan involves two tweezers and a much larger obstruction

From Dave Coverley's Speed Bump...

some historical context for A Christmas Carol

From Lisa Toland in Christianity Today...

Just in time for the holidays, Walt Disney has released what looks to be another memorable adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol....

It's a much-loved holiday story. Part of its charm is that it immerses us in a Victorian-era Christmas, replete with frosted windows, mistletoe, plum pudding, and jolly good cheer. But Dickens's classic also continues to capture our imagination because of its portrayal of a social and economic world of great inequity and deep suffering. It's a world more brutal than we sometimes imagine, and one that in many ways is not too different from our own....

Only nine years before the book's release, Parliament had passed the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which sought to adjust existing care for the poor in light of growing populations and urban migration. What makes Scrooge's comments so biting is that the Poor Law, with its accompanying workhouses, was despised by the poor. The legislation's driving principle was that inmates were to reside and work in conditions deliberately sparser than those in which they would have lived and worked had they had steady subsistence-level work. The difficulty with a system that tried to separate the "deserving" from the "undeserving" poor was that many, most notably children, fell through the cracks....

Where was the church in all of this? England's urbanization and demographic re-arranging in the 1700s and 1800s made existing systems of charity within single parishes impractical and ineffective....

There is also the accusation—though it must be leveled with caution—that the established church of the 18th and 19th centuries was a bastion of elite, intellectualized men unconcerned with the plight of those over whom they ruled. It was this realm of need that many sectarian religious groups—including the Methodists, the Congregationalists, and in the 1860s, the Salvation Army—stepped into, with varying degrees of success....

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rand Paul's spokeman and liberal government policies

The actions/comments of one of his spokesmen were evil. But Rand dealt with the controversy quickly and as effectively as possible.

That said, I wish there was just as much energy devoted to getting rid of government policies that do so much damage in the African-American community-- the education monopoly, Social Security, payroll taxes, the "War on Drugs", various labor market regulations, redistribution to all sorts of interest groups, etc.

Some day...

Friday, December 18, 2009

human embryos as caviar: the dignity of the human person?

From Thomas Berg's review in First Things of Gilbert Meilaender's book, Neither Beast nor God: The Dignity of the Human Person...

A wonderful opening anecdote/illustration/question from a dialogue on an ethics committee:

I asked my colleagues whether there is anything the committee would agree should never be done with human embryos. One colleague conceded he would not want them served in an upscale restaurant as a kind of caviar; another, that she would not want them used for cleaning floors or for powering cars. As to the prospect of using them to develop cures for disease, however, none of my colleagues would object.

As futile as such discussions might seem to those of us attempting to uphold the sanctity of human life in the arena of public policy, they are not entirely fruitless. That discussion in particular forced everyone in the room to confront unwieldy questions: When should “respect” for incipient human life begin? In what degree and to what extremes? And just what is it about the human embryo that demands any respect at all?...

Giving structure to the entire work is Meilaender’s insistence on a twofold manner of speaking about dignity...."human dignity" and "personal dignity".

Human dignity, he explains, “has to do with the powers and the limits characteristic of our species—a species marked by the integrated functioning of body and spirit.” Personal dignity, by contrast, “has to do not with species-specific powers and limits, but with the individual person, whose dignity calls for our respect whatever his or her powers or limits may be.”...

On this interpretation, when a man lives like a beast, betraying his rationality, he loses the dignity of virtue; he does not, however, relinquish the dignity of his nature....

Science and "the afterlife"

From Mark Galli's interview with Dinesh D'Souza in CT-- on his new book, Life After Death: The Evidence...

Why do we need a book on life after death when it appears that most people believe in it?

This book is different in that it doesn't attempt to present what the Bible says about life after death. Rather, it's an attempt to provide secular corroboration through reason and science for what believers have affirmed by faith. There's a lot of powerful evidence, and new evidence, that shows that not only the afterlife but also the Christian conception of the afterlife can be affirmed by modern science.

What to you is the strongest argument against life after death?

There are two strong arguments. One was made most famous by Sigmund Freud. It essentially says that belief in the afterlife can be safely dismissed because it is a case of wish fulfillment...

So how would you refute Freud's argument?

Heaven is...But what about hell? Hell is actually a lot worse than what we endure in life...dubious for a group of people who are trying to make up a better life to compensate for the difficulties of this one by inventing the idea of hell. In other words, when you look at what religions actually believe about the afterlife, the wish fulfillment thesis doesn't hold up very well.

This seems weak to me. In most cases, the believers see themselves as bound for Heaven-- whereas "the other" (often "the bad") are going to Hell. The exception to this is the difficulty of believing in loved ones choosing Hell-- when Heaven is viewed as having a relatively narrow gate (and thus, Hell seems to have a large population, including many of those I like/love).

What is the second strong argument against life after death?

The argument that insists that science has searched for the soul, some ghostly immaterial part of us, and has found nothing....

So how would you answer that?

The materialist agenda can be reduced to the idea that the mind is simply a manifestation of the brain. But there are actually a number of things that are true of the mind that are not true of the brain....Second, the brain has innumerable physical attributes, but the mind has no weight, no dimensions. Finally, you can't be wrong about your mind....Just because mental events and brain events are correlated doesn't mean that the brain is the cause of mental events.

You say that there is new evidence for life after death.

...if the Christian view of the afterlife is viable, there must be other matter and other realms.

If we lived 200 years ago in Newton's time, all of this would seem impossible because space and time stretch indefinitely backward and forward, so what it meant to be outside of time was very hard to articulate. Also, it was hard to posit any other kind of matter.

But revolutionary discoveries in the past 25 years suggest that there is dark matter and dark energy that make up 95 percent of all the matter in the universe. All materialist generalizations about matter are immediately rendered partial, because how can you claim to know something if you've seen only 5 percent of it?

How might science explain heaven and hell as places that could exist?

Scientists now posit through string theory the presence of multiple realms, multiple dimensions. One of the implications of the big bang is that space and time had a beginning, and that space and time are properties of our universe. If that's true, then outside our universe or beyond our universe, there would be different laws of space and time, or no space and no time.

The idea that our universe may not be the only one and that there may be other universes operating according to different laws is now coming into the mainstream of modern physics. So the Christian concept of eternity, which is God outside of space and time, is rendered completely intelligible....

What is the role of this kind of apologetics in convincing someone to become a Christian?

Apologetics is a very powerful tool, but it's ultimately janitorial...Apologetics can come in and help to make important distinctions and clarify some of the difficulties. You are doing no more than clearing away debris that blocks the door to faith, and ultimately it is God's love that has to work its way into a heart. Conversion ultimately comes from that; apologetics only clears the driveway.

beauty and Evolution

From Janie Cheaney in World...

We learned in junior high that certain atmospheric conditions produce the lighting effects [of a great sunrise], but the phenomenon itself sidesteps science and produces an answering cry in the soul. The heavens declare the glory of God at every hour, but sometimes, in these cracks between day and night, they shout....That's the real phenomenon: not that the sight can be glorious, but that we recognize it as glorious...

Dennis Dutton examines that question in The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution...What primal purpose is served by "the art instinct"? First, it aids natural selection by giving humans an imaginative edge over predators....

Fascinating, but purely speculative. Art is an imaginative exercise that depends on language, and the evolutionary psychologist can't explain where language came from. Even more vexingly, no one can chart that great leap from mindlessness to mind....

That's Evolution on the big questions: narrative laced with scientific flavor. Good stuff, I guess-- but more Story than Science.

TARC responsive to squeaky wheels rather than fiscal responsibility

From the C-J editorialists...

Several weeks ago, when the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) announced proposed changes in routes and schedules to reflect the decline in revenue, it was clear that the step was necessary.

What follows will indicate that the C-J'ers have an erroneous idea of "necessary".

Through a public ascertainment process, TARC heard from 94 people at public hearings and another 150 by e-mail or phone. And as a result, some service that had been scheduled for elimination was spared.

We urge the agency to take a better look at smaller vans and buses for the less popular routes. But meanwhile, the TARC board deserves praise for being responsive.

Surely, they're already using appropriate vehicles. TARC should be praised for being responsive-- at the expense of fiscal responsibility-- or they were crying wolf. Neither is impressive.

ID vs. Evolution and philosopher Nagel vs. anti-Science Leiter

From David Gordon (hat tip: LewRockwell.com)-- an excerpt from a review of Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament: Essays 2002–2008, by Thomas Nagel, in The Mises Review.

Thomas Nagel addresses another issue that libertarians will find of interest. Much controversy has arisen in recent years over teaching alternatives to Darwinian evolution in public schools....From a libertarian standpoint, intractable controversies of this kind are the near-inevitable results of public education....With private education, by contrast, these problems do not arise, since parents can select schools in accord with their preferences.

Nagel's remarks on Intelligent Design are of great philosophical significance. He is an atheist and does not accept the view that a designing mind directed the evolutionary process. But he opposes what he deems a contemporary prejudice in favor of reductionist naturalism. He doubts that Darwinism can adequately explain the existence of objective value and looks instead to an immanent teleology in the world.

Although he does not accept Intelligent Design, Nagel refuses to dismiss the movement as merely religious. Critics claim that design cannot be a legitimate scientific hypothesis; but at the same time, they maintain that the theory can be shown to be false. Nagel pertinently asks, how can both of these assertions be true together?

Nagel's opinions on this issue have led to a remarkable episode. Brian Leiter runs a blog, Leiter Reports [widely-read for its information on university philosophy departments]...When Nagel's article on Intelligent Design appeared, Leiter could not contain his rage (see here and here). We were presented with the unedifying spectacle of Leiter's speaking in abusive and condescending terms about one of the foremost philosophers of the past half-century....

Matters worsened when Nagel recommended in The Times Literary Supplement Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell as one of his "Best Books of the Year"...Nagel did not endorse Meyer's conclusion but praised the book for its account of the "fiendishly difficult" problem of life's origin. This recommendation aroused Leiter to new heights of contumely. It seems quite likely that Leiter never bothered to look at Meyer's book....

I have gone on at some length about this, because the attempt by Leiter and others to block inquiry that challenges naturalism seems to me altogether deplorable....even if these avid naturalists are correct in their metaphysics, debate needs to be encouraged rather than suppressed...


You'd think or at least hope that Leiter would be party to his own folly. But such blindness is what you get, many times, from fundamentalists. Perhaps some of his more open and tolerant fellow travelers will be awakened to see such garbage from a compatriot.

more on the Russian connections to ClimateGate

One of our commenters, William Lang, noted a Russian connection to the emails stolen in ClimateGate.

Here's more on that-- and some rough stuff on "peer review" and the "science" of at least some global warming studies-- from James Delingpole of the Telegraph (hat tip: LewRockwell.com)...

Climategate just got much, much bigger. And all thanks to the Russians who, with perfect timing, dropped this bombshell just as the world’s leaders are gathering in Copenhagen to discuss ways of carbon-taxing us all back to the dark ages.

Feast your eyes on this news release from Rionovosta, via the Ria Novosti agency, posted on Icecap. (Hat Tip: Richard North)

On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data.

The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.

The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century....

What the Russians are suggesting here, in other words, is that the entire global temperature record used by the IPCC to inform world government policy is a crock...

UPDATE: As Steve McIntyre reports at ClimateAudit, it has long been suspected that the CRU had been playing especially fast and loose with Russian – more particularly Siberian – temperature records. Here from March 2004, is an email from Phil Jones to Michael Mann.

Recently rejected two papers (one for JGR and for GRL) from people saying CRU has it wrong over Siberia. Went to town in both reviews, hopefully successfully. If either appears I will be very surprised, but you never know with GRL.

Cheers
Phil

Thursday, December 17, 2009

CEOs and Settlers of Catan in the WSJ

Good to see those awesome German board games in the news again-- here in the WSJ (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)...

At an invitation-only executive retreat earlier this year in Sundance, Utah, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs including LinkedIn Corp. founder Reid Hoffman and Mozilla Corp. Chief Executive John Lilly discussed the latest tech trends.

Then, as the night wound down, they began trading bricks, sheep and wood.

Over a German board game called Settlers of Catan...

"It's like our kind of golf game -- none of us have time to play 18 holes of golf, but we can handle a pizza and a board game."...

High-tech chief executives who don't play Settlers say they feel left out....

if "universal" health care didn't work in Oregon, let's bail them out and extend their system to the whole U.S.!

Some nice research-- and a huge burn on the New York Times-- from Ann Coulter at TownHall.com...

The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof recently wrote a column about John Brodniak of Oregon, who developed a cavernous hemangioma, causing him great pain as blood leaks into his brain.

According to Kristof, Brodniak can't get medical help because we don't have universal health care. Senators who vote against ObamaCare, Kristof said, are morally equivalent to someone who would walk past a man "writhing in pain on the sidewalk."

In another article in the Times, William Yardley wrote about Melvin Tsosies -- also of Oregon -- who ended up with $200,000 in medical bills after having a heart attack.

As of March 2008, Yardley reported, Tsosies was waiting to find out if he would win the Oregon lottery for health insurance...with 600,000 uninsured state residents and a "universal" health care program with only enough money to pay for about 24,000 of them...

How can this be happening? Oregon already has "universal health care"! (Probably just a coincidence, but isn't Oregon also the only state with physician-assisted suicide?)

Once again forgetting about the existence of the Internet, the Times neglects to mention its own erstwhile enthusiasm for Oregon's universal health care plan, introduced back in 1990.

Back then, the Times published an editorial titled "Oregon's Brave Medical Experiment," hailing this technocratic monstrosity as an example of "hardheaded compassion" designed to make "health coverage available to many more families."

Ron Wyden -- then a congressman from Oregon, now a U.S. senator at the forefront of pushing "universal health care" onto the nation -- said: "This is a strong dramatic step toward universal access of health care." He predicted, "[T]his is going to be copied everywhere."

No wonder Wyden is such an ardent proponent of national health care -- it will force states that didn't adopt these idiotic universal health care schemes to bail out the ones that did.

Liberals cite medical horror stories from the very states they once cheered for enacting universal health care in order to argue for a national health care plan that will wreck the entire nation's medical care the same way liberal states already wrecked their own medical care.

Only Democrats could propose fixing one Bernie Madoff-style scam with an even bigger Bernie Madoff-style scam....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

why should you get to go to Heaven?

I read Luke 7:1-10 to the older two boys tonight and was struck by a few, new things-- in the somewhat famous passage on "the faith of the centurion".

The centurion wants his servant to be healed. He sends "some elders of the Jews" to Jesus. In response, Jesus goes along. Then, the centurion sends friends to meet Jesus, telling him that saying the words will be sufficient. Jesus expresses amazement at his faith-- one of the few (three?) times we see this in the Gospels.

Tonight, I was struck by the speeches by the two sets of emissaries.

The first group says "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue."

The second group speaks for the centurion and says, "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you."

Luke means to lay out a clear contrast by using the same word "deserve". From the perspective of the elders, the centurion deserves this favor; from the centurion's perspective, he doesn't deserve any such thing.

Two punchlines:

1.) These are the two basic approaches to God. For example, in response to "why are you going to heaven when you die?", many people will say "because I'm a good person." In other words, I deserve it. The biblical record indicates that only a second approach will be effective: "I don't deserve it, but I accept your gift of salvation and grace by faith."

2.) When one claims to deserve something, it begs the question "why"-- an explanation for why one is (supposedly) deserving. Here, the case laid out by the elders is interesting and parallels similar problems today. They base their argument on his love of country and his service to the church. Likewise, people are often idolatrous toward their country and confuse the church or even the Church with Christ as Savior and Lord.

Especially in this season, don't confuse grace and works; don't confuse deserving and undeserving. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Jesus did not come for grins, but to die for your sins. Embrace that grace and enjoy abundant and eternal life with a gracious Savior and Lord!

UPDATE: I forgot to add a link to an excellent Steve Taylor song, Jesus Is for Losers!

the hockey stick-- in context

Referenced by James Delingpole (via LewRockwell.com) on YouTube...

global warmism's impulse to be totalitarian, anti-scientific, and utopian

From Bret Stephens in the WSJ-- who opens with a litany of "ills seriously attributed to climate change". And then...

Never mind that none of these scenarios has any basis in some kind of observable reality, or that the chain of causation linking climate change to sundry disasters is usually of a meaningless six-degrees-of-separation variety.

Still, the really interesting question is less about the facts than it is about the psychology. Last week, I suggested that funding flows had much to do with climate alarmism. But deeper things are at work as well.

One of those things, I suspect, is what I would call the totalitarian impulse. This is not to say that global warming true believers are closet Stalinists. But their intellectual methods are instructively similar. Consider:

• Revolutionary fervor: There's a distinct tendency among climate alarmists toward uncompromising radicalism, a hatred of "bourgeois" values, a disgust with democratic practices....

• Utopianism: In the world as it is, climate alarmists see humanity hurtling toward certain doom. In the world as it might be, humanity has seen the light and changed its patterns of behavior, becoming the green equivalent of the Soviet "new man"...

• Anti-humanism: ...whether warming or cooling, the problem for the climate alarmists, as for other totalitarians, always seems to boil down to the human race itself.

• Intolerance: Why did the scientists at the heart of Climategate go to such lengths to hide or massage the data if truth needs no defense? Why launch campaigns of obstruction and vilification against gadfly Canadian researchers Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick if they were such intellectual laughingstocks?...

• Monocausalism: For the anti-Semite, the problems of the world can invariably be ascribed to the Jews; for the Communist, to the capitalists. And as the list above suggests, global warming has become the fill-in-the-blank explanation for whatever happens to be the problem.

• Indifference to evidence: Climate alarmists have become brilliantly adept at changing their terms to suit their convenience....

• Grandiosity: ...deal with global warming by re-engineering the world economy....

the (figurative) death of Mann, Jones, and the reputation of scientific peer review

Gary North at LewRockwell.com on ClimateGate, the New York Times and its [implied] hypocrisy, and peer review...

A generation ago, Daniel Ellsberg stole thousands of documents from the Rand Corporation [The Pentagon Papers], photocopied them, and gave them to the New York Times, which began publishing them. Ellsberg was prosecuted by the government. So was the Times. The defendants won...This led to Nixon's decision to stop the leaks with the Plumbers squad. That led to his defeat...

Fast-forward a generation. Because of the World Wide Web, the stolen "Climategate" emails were on-line within hours. The mainstream media did their best not to promote the story, but it could not be stopped. The perpetrators' careers are finished. Jones has left the institute that had flourished as a promoter of global warming. Mann is under investigation by his employer, Penn State University.

The details of the science are beyond you and me. So are the details of just about everything. The world is complex and growing more complex. What we do understand is deliberate chicanery by experts with a political agenda...[Mann and Jones] are now pariahs. They did the unforgivable in any ideological movement. They got caught....These academic con men got their hands caught in the cookie jar. This has undermined the #1 myth of the global-warming crowd: the myth of peer review....

Peer review is the central issue of Climategate – not temperatures. The peers reviewed, then suppressed. The scientific peer review mantra has died for this hotly contended political issue....

As for the perpetrators of the fraud: Jones, Mann, etc., "Bernie" Madoff got 100 years for stealing or loosing a few billion dollars from a few thousand people. The climate mob have ripped off or wasted ten times as much with billions of victims....

Al Gore's no-good, very-bad month

Big Al has had a rough month or so-- indirectly through ClimateGate and directly through a series of foot-in-the-mouth snafus:

the temperature in the center of the earth

the timing of the ClimateGate emails (here's amusing/sad video of a reporter's efforts to ask Gore to retract)

his Arctic ice predictions (as good as any other?), dropping a scientist's name who wasn't real happy about it

He and Tiger are taking a big hit-- in terms of reputation and the ol' pocktbook. Here's to hoping Al gets more self-inflicted grief in 2010...cheers!

Kyoto results without Kyoto regulations

From Dick Morris and Eileen McGann at TownHall.com...

Morris is missing (perhaps purposefully) the impact of the recession, but it's still a very interesting point!

The worst nightmare of the left is about to come true: The United States is about to achieve the carbon emissions goals set by the 1997 Kyoto Accords. Once seemingly beyond reach, the United States is already halfway toward meeting the stringent Kyoto goals for reduction in carbon emissions without a cap-and-trade law or a carbon tax or carbon dioxide being declared a pollutant.

Environmental nightmare? Yes. The goals of the climate-change crowd are not reduction in global warming but the enactment of a worldwide system of regulation that puts business under government control and transfers wealth from rich nations to poor ones under the guise of fighting climate change. Should the emissions come down on their own, as they are doing, the excuse for draconian legislation goes, well, up in smoke.

The facts are startling. In 1990, the year chosen as the global benchmark for carbon emissions, the United States emitted 5,007 million metric tons of carbon (mmts). Kyoto specified that emissions must be reduced to a level 6 percent lower than in 1990. For the U.S., that means 4,700 mmts.

American carbon emissions rose year after year until they peaked in 2007 at 5,967 mmts. But, in 2008, they dropped to 5,801. And, in 2009, the best estimate is for a reduction to 5,476. So, in two years, U.S. carbon emissions will have gone down by more than 500 mmts -- a cut of over 8 percent.

President Obama has pledged to bring the U.S. carbon emissions down by 17 percent. He's halfway there.

A combination of the recession and an increased emphasis on cutting emissions is working and may make onerous regulation unnecessary and even redundant....

the futility of Kyoto-like efforts

From Richard Muller in the WSJ...

[MullerSub_D]

Imagine a "dream" agreement emerging from Copenhagen...The U.S. agrees to cut greenhouse emissions 80% by 2050, as President Barack Obama has been promising. The other developed countries promise to cut emissions by 60%. China promises to reduce its CO2 intensity by 70% in 2040. Emerging economies promise that in 2040, when their wealth per capita has grown to half that of the U.S., they will cut emissions by 80% over the following 40 years. And all parties make good on their pledges.

Environmental success, right? Wrong. Even if the goals are all met, emissions will continue rising to nearly four times the current level....and—if the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models are right—global temperature will rise about six degrees Fahrenheit at mid latitudes....

The reason is that most future carbon emissions will not come from the currently industrialized world, but from the emerging economies, especially China. And China, which currently emits 30% more CO2 per year than the U.S., has not promised to cut actual emissions. It and other developing nations have promised only to cut their carbon "intensity," a technical term meaning emissions per unit of GDP.

China claims it is already cutting CO2 intensity by 4% a year as part of its five-year plan. President Hu Jintao has hinted that at Copenhagen China will offer to continue such reductions. By 2040, that will add up to a 70% reduction in intensity.

Sounds good, but here's the catch: With 10% annual growth in China's economy, a 4% cut in intensity is actually a 6% annual increase in emissions. India and other developing countries have similar CO2 growth....

If the issue is rising emissions in the next several decades, the bottom line is simple: The developed world is rapidly becoming irrelevant.

Every 10% cut in the U.S. is negated by one year of China's growth....

Any cause for hope if you believe that this will lead to global warming?

A small cloud increase would significantly reduce predicted warming. The IPCC gives such cloud feedback only a 10% chance. My estimate is 30%. Clouds may already be kicking in, responsible for the negligible global warming of the past 12 years. Maybe, but we don't know...

Perhaps we could geoengineer a solution: Squirt a few million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight, emulating the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption. We'll certainly get pretty sunsets. Or we could foam up the oceans to increase reflectivity. Many people find such ideas scarier than warming because of the threat of unintended consequences.

Another option is that we could learn to live with global warming....

But the bottom line is that 80% cuts in U.S. emissions will have only a tiny benefit....we need to recognize that make-the-West-bear-the-burden Copenhagen proposals are meaningless.

Should we ignore the science and the economics here-- or not?

the (hopefully transparent) politics of "stimulus"

We've been trying "stimulus" for nearly two years-- first, under Bush and now, under Obama.

Obama's efforts have been prolific and more debt-laden than Bush's. But those who like to trash Obama need to make sure they throw some blame at the "conservative" Bush who blazed this unfortunate trail and helped make all of this garbage possible.

Obama has been sly-- hopefully, too sly by half-- in seeming to hold back the stimulus. This has allowed him a little more wiggle room to propose spending more money. Perhaps he thinks it will work. In any case, he's certainly enough of a political beast to recognize the political benefits of correlation. If he keeps spending, then sooner or later, his efforts will be at least correlated-- albeit not causal-- with recovery. (For those who think it will eventually be causal, why haven't the last two years worked?)

Here's Jonathan Weisman in the WSJ with the news coverage...

President Barack Obama pressed forward with an expansion of his $787 billion stimulus plan Tuesday, unveiling job-creation proposals that largely build on the initial package, including a hiring tax credit that his own party jettisoned as unworkable and some business owners deemed ineffective....

The biggest political question will be the federal deficit. Mr. Obama said Tuesday that lower-than-expected losses from the TARP give the administration room to spend more on job creation and lower deficit projections for the coming year. Republicans are largely united in their demand that all $200 billion in unanticipated TARP savings be devoted to reducing the deficit.


Here are the WSJ editorialists on the politics of this:

When it comes to spending, the Democrats who run Washington can't decide on their message. On the one hand, as President Obama said this week, they claim we have to "spend our way out of this recession." On the other, they keep telling us the deficit is too large and isn't "sustainable." In this tug of political spin, watch what they spend, not what they say....

Even harder to figure is Mr. Obama, who is likely to sign this budget behemoth even as he keeps telling us it's time to "make the hard choices necessary to get our country on a more stable fiscal footing in the long run." Word is that his 2011 budget proposal will propose a spending freeze of some kind, which is another election-year pivot.

After so much double talk, we've concluded this is all part of a conscious political strategy. Spend so much and run up the deficit to unprecedented levels, then turn around and claim that there's a fiscal crisis that can only be solved with higher taxes. They spend, you pay....


Here's another (micro) angle on the politics from the WSJ editorialists: buying votes one at a time, program by program-- with our own money...

If at first fiscal stimulus doesn't succeed, spend, spend again. That's the motto President Obama embraced...

But wasn't that also supposed to be the point of last February's $787 billion stimulus, or for that matter of the Nancy Pelosi-George W. Bush $165 billion stimulus of February 2008?

Nearly two years after that first Keynesian stimulus that was supposed to prevent a recession, and nearly a year after the second that the White House said would keep the jobless rate below 8%, the President now feels obliged to propose a third....sooner or later the White House is bound to get the political timing right....

There's also a flood of new spending, with the amount presumably to come later from Congress (oh oh!), on highways and other public works. Perhaps you thought these "shovel-ready" projects had been included as part of Stimulus II. Alas, that was merely the sales pitch. In the event, the bulk of that money was shovel-readied to such transfer payments as Medicaid, welfare, community block grants, and cash for the clunkers who run failing public schools. This time, we're told, roads and bridges really will get the money—and you can bet they'll all be built with higher Davis-Bacon wage rates that will balloon their cost, too....

Mr. Obama is also proposing to use funds repaid by banks to the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. When Congress passed TARP a year ago, the Democrats who ran the joint vowed that the cash was intended to save the financial system and that any returns would promptly go to pay down the debt. As Candidate Obama put it, "every penny" would go "directly back to the American people." That was then....

TARP is now morphing into a revolving line of Democratic political credit. Barney Frank wants to divert at least $4 billion to bail out more home owners. Virginia Senator Mark Warner wants $50 billion for loans to small business. Mr. Obama proposed yesterday to use TARP to finance his own ideas as part of Stimulus III, and if he and fellow Democrats succeed the taxpayers will never see this cash again....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

70th anniversary of a bad, popular movie

Gone with the Wind debuted 70 years ago.

Tonia and I try to watch classic movies here and there. (I have more interest in this than her. So, when it doesn't pan out, I catch grief for awhile!)

We watched GWTW a few years ago-- and were appalled at the quality and surprised at its immorality.

As often as I've talked about the propensity of some to exaggerate "the good ol' days", I fell prey to it here. I thought it was going to be a "clean" film. But it was nothing of the sort-- glorifying adultery, etc.

Brutal...
If you haven't seen it, don't bother!
If you have, any thoughts?

last week's LEO

It was kind of an odd week for LEO...

They did not run my two favorite recurring features: News of the Weird and The Video Tapeworm (an irreverent and sometimes off-color rundown on films).

But they had three nice essays:

Jim Welp on Obama's war

George Halitzka's cover story essay/interviews: "Death becomes us"
-- a poignant look into the ways in which people handle the death of loved ones, from evangelical Christian Doug Barnett to atheists and others

Jonathan Meador's account
of Lt. Gov. and Senate candidate Mongiardo's hilarious proposal for massively subsidized public transit in Louisville. Check it out: Mongiardo wants people in Fargo ND, Concord NH, and Mobile AL to pay for mass transit in Louisville. Cracks me up...

another reason to change the BCS

Eric Crawford makes a nice point in the C-J about another useful by-product of moving from the BCS garbage to a Division I Football playoff system.

Everyone focuses on finding the true champion, inviting the little guys who go undefeated with lesser schedules, and breaking the BCS cartel (although no one calls it that). And I agree with that. You could have 8, 16 or 24 teams in games at neutral sites-- most of the current bowl roster-- and have a whole lot more interest and make a lot more money (except perhaps the biggest bowls in the BCS).

But Crawford notes that it would eliminate-- or at least, greatly lessen-- the coaching carousel shenanigans. At present, coaches and universities are in a very uncomfortable position between a regular season that ends in early December and a bowl season that ends in early January. A playoff system would keep more teams playing and make a cleaner break between when one can/cannot talk with other coaches.

Paul Samuelson's place in the history of economics and economic thought

From the AP's Polly Anderson in the C-J...

Economist Paul Samuelson, an Indiana native who won a Nobel prize for his effort to bring mathematical analysis into economics, helped shape tax policy in the Kennedy administration and wrote a textbook read by millions of college students, died Sunday. He was 94....

In 1970, Samuelson became the second person, and first American, to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences...The award citation said Samuelson “has done more than any other contemporary economist to raise the level of scientific analysis in economic theory.”

Samuelson was a liberal, and like many of his generation a follower of British economist John Maynard Keynes, who proposed that a nation needs an activist government that could foster low unemployment by steering [spending and] tax and monetary policies...

It's weird that the author leaves out spending policies-- the most important (and popular) piece of the Keynesian policy prescriptions which were discredited in the 1970s but have been followed religiously by Bush and Obama over the last decade.

He was among a circle of JFK advisers, who also included John Kenneth Galbraith and Walter Heller, who led Kennedy to recommend the historic income tax cut that Congress eventually passed in early 1964, three months after the president was assassinated. The cut was widely credited with helping foster the 1960s economic boom.

I had no idea about this! Samuelson and Galbraith were supply-siders, working to reduce the top marginal tax rate from 91% to 70%. (Reagan and his Democratic Congress would later reduce it again to 28% in 1981.)


And then this, from fellow economist, David Henderson, in the WSJ, focusing on Samuelson's promulgation of mathematics within economics...

His influence has been profound, but the mathematization of economics has been a mixed blessing. The downside is that the math hurdle in leading U.S. economics programs is now so high that people who grasp the power of economic concepts to explain human behavior are losing out in the competition to mathematicians. The upside is that Samuelson sometimes used math to resolve issues that had not been resolved at a theoretical level for decades....

In the 1954 Review of Economics and Statistics, Samuelson gave a rigorous definition of a public good that is still standard in the literature....

He revised his own widely read textbook, "Economics," about every three years since 1948. One of the best and punchiest statements in the 1970 edition was his comment about a proposal to raise the minimum wage from its existing level of $1.45 an hour to $2.00 an hour: "What good does it do a black youth to know that an employer must pay him $2.00 an hour if the fact that he must be paid that amount is what keeps him from getting a job?"

This is the kind of comment that causes many on the left to grit their teeth; and yet Samuelson was a liberal Keynesian and the best-known rival of the late libertarian monetarist, Milton Friedman. The two men respected each other highly, but the intellectual influence was mainly one way. Over time, Samuelson came more to Friedman's views, especially on monetary policy.

In the 1948 edition of his textbook, Samuelson wrote dismissively, "few economists regard Federal Reserve monetary policy as a panacea for controlling the business cycle.'' But in the 1967 edition, he wrote that monetary policy had "an important influence'' on total spending. In the 1985 edition, Samuelson and co-author William Nordaus (of Yale) would write, "Money is the most powerful and useful tool that macroeconomic policymakers have,'' and the Fed "is the most important factor'' in making policy....

Samuelson had an amazingly tin ear about communism. As early as the 1960s, economist G. Warren Nutter at the University of Virginia had done empirical work showing that the much-vaunted economic growth in the Soviet Union was a myth. Samuelson did not pay attention. In the 1989 edition of his textbook, Samuelson and William Nordhaus wrote, "the Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and even thrive."

A funny story on this last paragraph: In the mid-1990s, I was attending a wedding at one of those big old homes. I looked around in the library and bumped into an old edition of Samuelson's text. There was a graph depicting the then-supposed growth rates of the U.S. and USSR. At the current rates of growth, the USSR was scheduled to pass the U.S. during the year that I happened to be perusing the book. Of course, history had already been quite unkind to such prediction; the USSR had dissolved a few years earlier and revealed itself to be an economic basketcase.