Monday, June 30, 2008

why didn't the Democrats...

get rid of subsidies to oil companies?

They like to complain about them-- quite reasonably-- but unfortunately, they have not taken action in eliminating them.

did you know this about political ads?

They must be pre-paid!

Of course, that wouldn't be necessary in my case, but I certainly understand why that's the industry norm.

When I'm paying for my ads, I typically say "I can understand why you don't trust politicians. That's one of the reasons I'm running!"

practice "tolerance"

Kyle had an awesome sermon on Sunday. In the second of a three-sermon series on "bumper sticker beliefs", he tackled society's overarching obsession with tolerance. I encourage you to listen to it, but will list some key take-aways here...

Some miscellaneous stuff from the opening:
-Tolerance is a core value, but most people can't define it (at least in a coherent manner).
-He has a funny line about a Christian approach to "alternative lifestyles".
-He wrestles with the traditional and new definitions of tolerance-- from recognize and respect (accepting) to seeing all as equally valid/true (approving).
-He asserted that Matthew 7:1 is now the world's most popular verse (although most people in the world read it like a stereotypical "fundamentalist"-- without appropriate context!).
-As an aside, one should read the entire passage and note the extent to which judgment is common and crucial to the passage!

Kyle posed five questions in determining whether one should "tolerate" something or not (under the new definition of tolerance):

1.) Is there sin in my life that I haven't dealt with? Obviously this is a red herring if taken to any extreme (no one could judge anything), but rampant, pre-meditated, unaddressed sin-- especially in the same arena in which one is trying to critique others-- is ridiculous.

2.) Is the person a Christian or non-Christian? Here, Kyle used the huge text in I Corinthians 5. Often, we reverse the Biblical injunction and spend the most time/energy in critiquing the world, then the Church, then ourselves.

3.) Have I dealt with this situation personally? Instead, the common response is often gossip. Or in the case of a community of faith that practices “church discipline”—to let the elders take of it. But the Biblical injunction, in Matthew 18:15-17, is to take care of business mano-y-mano. This is quite difficult to do—not just to correct but to restore. See: Galatians 6:1.

4.) Is this a “disputable thing” (a la Romans 14:1)? If so, leave it alone!

5.) Is love my motivation in approaching this situation? If not, check your heart!

Kyle used a quote from Josh McDowell to underline this point:

Tolerance says, "You must approve of what I do."
Love responds, "I must do something harder; I will love you, even when your behavior offends me."

Tolerance says, "You must agree with me."
Love responds, "I must do something harder; I will tell you the truth, because I am convinced 'the truth will set you free.' "

Tolerance says, "You must allow me to have my way."
Love responds, "I must do something harder; I will plead with you to follow the right way, because I believe you are worth the risk."

Tolerance seeks to be inoffensive; love takes risks. Tolerance glorifies division; love seeks unity. Tolerance costs nothing; love costs everything.

give until you bleed...

I caught bits of Richard Land's interview with Arthur Brooks this weekend on his radio show.

I've blogged previously on his most recent books-- on "compassionate conservatism" (in the lives of those people) and "gross national happiness".

In the interview, Brooks shared one finding I hadn't heard previously: that conservatives are 45% more likely than moderates and liberals to give blood. I knew that conservatives gave more time and money to causes-- both religious and non-religious-- but blood? Wow! (And then, there's vital organs.)

One other thought on why liberals don't give as much as conservatives-- even though conservatives are less reluctant to use govt as a means to the same ends. Perhaps each side assumes that society is mostly made up of people like themselves-- conservatives imagining a giving society and liberals imagining a stingy society. Or more broadly, perhaps each side imagines that others ought to behave like they do.

Planned Parenthood tries to broaden its "market"

From Stephanie Simon in the WSJ (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)...

Another good reason to be upset with almost all of the Democratic AND Republican U.S. House and Senate members who have taken your money to give to Planned Parenthood.

Flush with cash, Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide are aggressively expanding their reach, seeking to woo more affluent patients with a network of suburban clinics and huge new health centers that project a decidedly upscale image.

The nonprofit, which traces its roots to 1916, has long focused on providing birth control, sexual-health care and abortions to teens and low-income women. While those groups still make up the majority of Planned Parenthood's patients, executives say they are "rebranding" their clinics to appeal to women of means -- a move that opens new avenues for boosting revenue and, they hope, political clout.

Two elegant new health centers have been built, and at least five more are on the way; the largest, in Houston, will be 75,000 square feet. They feature touches such as muted lighting, hardwood floors and airy waiting rooms in colors selected by marketing experts -- as well as walls designed to withstand a car's impact should an antiabortion protest turn violent.

Planned Parenthood has also opened more than two dozen quick-service "express centers," many in suburban shopping malls. Some sell jewelry, candles, books and T-shirts, along with contraception....

Antiabortion groups point out that Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, reported a record $1 billion in annual revenue in its most recent financial report -- about a third of that coming from federal and state grants to care for low-income women. The nonprofit ended the year with a surplus of $115 million, or about 11% of its revenue, and net assets of $952 million.

"Why are we giving them so much money?" asked Jim Sedlak, vice president of the anti-abortion American Life League. "As they reach out to more and more affluent customers," he added, "that will bolster our argument that we shouldn't be giving them any government funds."...

[And] some of Planned Parenthood's political allies question the allocation of those resources.

Last spring, the nonprofit -- which has 882 clinics nationwide -- dropped its crusading mission statement setting out the rights of all individuals, no matter their income, to "reproductive self-determination." In its place, Planned Parenthood adopted a crisp pledge to "leverage strength through our affiliated structure to be the nation's most trusted provider of sexual and reproductive health care." Ms. Richards says the new statement implies expanded services for all -- she's especially eager to draw more male patients -- but some outsiders wonder why it no longer mentions affordability or access.

"This is not the Planned Parenthood we all grew up with... they now have more of a business approach, much more aggressive," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, who runs abortion clinics in Texas and Maryland.

Ms. Hagstrom Miller competes with Planned Parenthood for abortion patients -- and finds it deeply frustrating. She does not receive the government grants or tax-deductible donations that bolster Planned Parenthood, and says she can't match the non-profit's budget for advertising or clinic upgrades. She has carved her own niche by touting her care as more holistic -- and by charging $425 for a first-trimester surgery at her Austin clinic, compared with $475 at the local Planned Parenthood. (Both Ms. Hagstrom Miller and Planned Parenthood say they work out discounts and payment plans for the needy.)

"They're not unlike other big national chains," Ms. Hagstrom Miller said. "They put local independent businesses in a tough situation."...

Even as the total number of abortions in the U.S. has dropped, the number performed by Planned Parenthood has grown steadily, to nearly 290,000 a year....

Independent providers often consider Planned Parenthood a partner in the fight to preserve abortion rights, but they'd like to see the nonprofit focus more on expanding access for the destitute or for isolated rural residents....

The strategy draws new patients -- and revenue. In Illinois, for instance, Planned Parenthood officials say they take a loss of nearly $1 on each packet of birth-control pills distributed to poor women under the federal Title X program, which funds reproductive care. But the group makes a profit of nearly $22 on each month of pills sold to an adult who can afford to pay full price out of pocket....

Their payments can then be used to subsidize other operations -- health care for the poor, sex education for teens, or political activism....

The new strategy is also designed to protect Planned Parenthood from any cutbacks in government funding while strengthening its ability to pursue its political agenda....

Nationally, Planned Parenthood's political-action arm plans to raise $10 million to influence the fall campaign. Under federal tax law, the health-care wing of Planned Parenthood cannot support political candidates but can mobilize voters and advocate on issues such as abortion rights and sex education in schools.

To encourage the new wave of patients to join the cause, an express center in Parker, Colo., sells political buttons next to the condoms and sets out invitations to activism by the magazine rack. A 52,000-square-foot center opening this summer in Denver uses about 20% of its space for health care; roughly 40% is for meetings, including political work....

WWJS: What would Jesus steal?

From Gary North via

North does a great job blowing up Sider, Campolo, and Wallis...

I remember reading Sider. My brother had avidly commended it to me after he read it in Glenn Stassen's course at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Wow, was it bad-- with respect to theology, hermeneutics, and especially, economics! I fired off a 15-page, single-spaced rebuttal-- what turned out to be one of the two catalysts for me to write my own (broader and far better!) book on Christianity and government.

Also, North is quite correct about Chilton's book. It was utterly devastating. And Sider's treatment of Chilton (adjusting to his critiques while ignoring him by name) is similar to what Sider has done with me (ignoring critiques and citing my books only in areas that are complimentary to his arguments).

If voters can be made to feel guilty about their economic success, they can be manipulated. This is why the politics of guilt manipulation is at the heart of the welfare state.

In a systematic political program to make people feel guilty, the Social Gospel movement within Protestantism has played an important role for over a century. Economist-historian Murray Rothbard in a 1986 essay, "The Progressive Era and the Family," described this development.

In many cases, leading progressive intellectuals at the turn of the twentieth century were former pietists who went to college and then transferred to the political arena, their zeal for making over mankind, as a "salvation by science." And then the Social Gospel movement managed to combine political collectivism and pietist Christianity in the same package. All of these were strongly interwoven elements in the progressive movement.

The Social Gospel movement, which began in the United States in the 1880's, shared an ethical principle with the Progressive movement, which began at the same time and in the same social circles. This ethical principle can be summarized as follows: Thou shalt not steal, except by majority vote.

The heart of the welfare state is theft. Rothbard described it accurately in a 1993 essay, "Origins of the Welfare State in America."

When the government, in short, takes money at gunpoint from A and gives it to B, who is demanding what? . . . Who are the demanders, and who are the suppliers? One can say that the subsidized, the "donees," are "demanding" this redistribution; surely, however, it would be straining credulity to claim that A, the fleeced, is also "demanding" this activity. A, in fact, is the reluctant supplier, the coerced donor; B is gaining at A's expense.

But the really interesting role here is played by G, the government. For apart from the unlikely case where G is an unpaid altruist, performing this action as an uncompensated Robin Hood, G gets a rake-off, a handling charge, a finder's fee, so to speak, for this little transaction. G, the government, in other words, performs his act of "redistribution" by fleecing A for the benefit of B and of himself.

Defenders of the welfare state may wax eloquent about justice and fairness and the moral high ground. But no matter how lofty the rhetoric may be, as you are listening, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Where is the gun?
2. Who is holding the gun?
3. At whom is the gun pointing?

Today, there is a small, dedicated movement within the evangelical Protestant camp that regards Federal tax increases and Federal welfare increases as crucial to extend the kingdom of God in history. This is a recent development.


Until about 1970, the Social Gospel was confined to the mainline Protestant denominations, which were run by theological liberals. These men were the theological representatives of the Progressive Movement. Their goal in life was two-fold: (1) to undermine orthodox Christianity; (2) to persuade their listeners that the kingdom of God is the welfare state.

From the 1890's until America entered World War I, the primary financier of the Social Gospel was John D. Rockefeller, Sr. He put up at least five percent of the seed money to launch the Federal Council of Churches in 1908. He was a staunch supporter of Social Gospel projects. This was due to the influence of his chief business adviser, Rev. Frederick T. Gates, a theological liberal and dedicated Progressive. He worked with John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to manage the charitable giving.

After 1917, the primary financier of the Social Gospel was John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The best study of his influence is The Rich Man and the Kingdom: John D. Rockefeller and the Protestant Establishment, the published version of Albert Shenkel's Harvard University Ph.D. dissertation. I have read both versions. He covered the subject well.

Rockefeller's main spiritual adviser was Harry Emerson Fosdick, the most influential American Protestant radio preacher for over two decades, from the mid-1920's until Billy Graham went on the air in 1950. Rockefeller put him on the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation in 1917. Three years later, he hired Fosdick's brother Raymond to run the Foundation, which he did for the next four decades. Rockefeller built the famous Riverside Church for Rev. Fosdick after Fosdick, a Baptist, resigned from his pastorate in a large New York Presbyterian Church. Fosdick had been brought up on heresy charges after Rockefeller sent Fosdick's 1921 sermon, Shall the Fundamentalists Win?, to tens of thousands of pastors. His defense lawyer, John Foster Dulles, got him off on a technicality in a 1924 church trial, but Fosdick resigned anyway.


The Social Gospel movement was recognized by all parties as being grounded in theological and political liberalism. But this began to change sometime around 1970, when the Social Gospel was systematically imported into a small but vocal sector of Protestant evangelicalism. It was re-baptized with the language of evangelicalism. The goal was to get inside the non-mainline Protestant churches. Mainline churches have been losing members by the millions after 1960, the year of Rockefeller's death.

In 1977, the testament of the movement appeared, Ronald J. Sider's book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. One of the chapters is "Is God a Marxist?" Sider was a bit evasive, but generally concluded that God is more like a fellow traveler. The book was co-published by the Protestant evangelical InterVarsity Press and the Roman Catholic Paulist Press – an extremely rare joint venture, then as now. The book sold over 300,000 copies. It became a brief fad. The fad faded rapidly with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The neo-evangelical pastors who had thought Jimmy Carter was the incarnation of Christian politics in 1976 switched allegiance when their parishioners switched allegiance.

I had started the Institute for Christian Economics in 1976, but began publishing my newsletter, Christian Economics, in 1977. So, Sider and I appeared as rivals at the same time. Ironically, both of us had earned a Ph.D. in history.

In 1981, I hired David Chilton to write a critique of Sider's book. Chilton produced Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators in three months. Boxes of it arrived the day before I debated Sider at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. That had been my goal. Good timing! (If you know how printers work, this was nearly miraculous timing.)

Chilton's book was devastating. I have written my share of polemical books, but I have never seen anything to match it. He showed, point by point, that Sider was a bad theologian and a worse economist. Sider responded with an updated volume, in which the cover promised "With answers to my critics." One critic was missing: Chilton. "Chilton? Who's Chilton?" Chilton went down Sider's memory hole and has remained there ever since.

I had him write an updated response. Then I had him write another. Sider wrote two more updates, ending with 1997's 20th anniversary edition, in which he backed off from his socialist rhetoric and recommended about eight of Chilton's suggested free market economic reforms to reduce poverty. But he still failed to mention Chilton. Chilton died within weeks of the appearance of Sider's lukewarm backpedaling. I wrote an essay about his concealed renunciation: "The Economic Re-Education of Ronald J. Sider."

Sider's place was taken in the 1980's and early 1990's by a sociologist, Tony Campolo, who is a fine speaker with a sense of humor. His influence in evangelical circles suffered a major setback in 1998. He had been one of Bill Clinton's spiritual counselors. That seemingly exalted position of influence did not survive the Lewinsky scandal.

I never got around to writing my critique of Campolo. Too bad. I had the title: Campolo: Compassion or Compulsion? I also had a great idea for a cover. He is quite bald. So, the cover I had in mind featured two drawings of Campolo: one with a Van Dyke beard, right fist held high, and the other with him in a loin cloth in front of a spinning machine. It was a shame that the Lewinsky scandal broke when it did. I would have loved that cover.


The other tireless laborer in the evangelical Left's ideological field has been Jim Wallis, the head of Sojourners and the author of God's Politics. He lacks Sider's ability to deal with academic issues. He also lacks Campolo's sense of humor. But he makes up for it in outrageousness.

Let me give you a taste of Mr. Wallis' theology.

On cutting food stamps:

Overcoming poverty must be a bipartisan commitment and a nonpartisan cause. The religious community will ask Democrats to stand firm against this budget violence against poor people, to make the moral choice of favoring the poor over the rich – which is also a biblical choice. Democrats must get religion on the budget.

On Social Security as an application of "honor thy father and thy mother":

Social Security is an expression of national values – and for Christians, our biblical priorities. It is about protecting the American dream, but also honoring God's community by providing opportunity and dignity. Fostering dignity for families, children, and elders in need is the true measure of our compassion, the true measure of our commitment to – and covenant with – the common good. Those who want to radically change a system that has worked so well are saying, in principle, that "me" is better than "we," that private solutions are better than shared responsibility. They want to weaken and shrink the places where we solve problems in common. They would rather each of us seek our own private solution to the issues of security, which always works to the detriment of the most vulnerable.

Of course, there is no verse in the Bible proposing that the civil government provide either food for the poor or old age pensions. But this does not matter to Mr. Wallis. Why not? Because, he says, the Bible does not offer a system of economics.

The Bible doesn't propose any blueprint for an economic system, but rather insists that all human economic arrangements be subject to the demands of God's justice, that great gaps be avoided or rectified, and the poor are not left behind. ["Seattle: Changing the Rules," Sojourners Magazine (March-April 2000).]

On economic inequality.

According to the biblical prophets, the greatest moral offense of poverty is the inequality that often lies behind it. When poverty abounds and the wealthy refuse to share their prosperity, God gets mad. . . .

If the congressional leadership has its way, American inequality is about to take a giant step forward with their efforts to destroy or gut the estate tax – an effective measure to combat inequality that has been working for 100 years.

I have set up a department on my Website: Questions for Jim Wallis. I cite chapter and verse for a list of these and similar political assertions. Mr. Wallis has yet to respond.

Somehow, this does not surprise me.

Christian economist William Anderson has exposed Wallis for what he is: an apologist for raw Federal power, a man who "decided that an expanded, violent state was just fine, provided it was aimed at people who actually produced something." He put it this way in 2004

I have never read an issue of Sojourners without finding at least one (and usually many more than one) demand to increase the power and scope of the state. Yes, for all of your claims that you take a jaundiced view of state power, there is no one in the world of organized Christianity who has championed Leviathan more than you. I have come to believe that you oppose U.S. conflicts not so much because they are immoral, but rather because they take resources away from the government's being able to wage war on productive people at home.


I plan to edit a book by Christian economists on this baptized Social Gospel/Liberation Theology movement, which is aimed at naïve and well-meaning evangelicals who barely know their Bibles and do not know economics. I hope there are some economists out there who would have as much fun as I would in producing such a book. For details, send an email to

interesting numbers from baseball

-Tampa Bay has the best record in baseball, having spent more time in first place year than all other years combined.

-During its recent ten-game winning streak, Minnesota defeated four pitchers who had won 11 Cy Young awards (hat tip: some guy on the radio).

-Minnesota and Florida are "small-market teams" who continue to produce competitive teams.

-In the National League West, there are three teams who are at least ten games below .500. In the rest of baseball, there are two others.

"the long, noble history of anti-war conservatism"

Doug Bandow with a review of Bill Kauffman's book, Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism...

American politicians routinely chatter about peace while inaugurating war. Indeed, despite the bitter partisan wrangling over Iraq, war has more often united than divided Washington's establishment. Today, despite the ongoing debacle in Iraq, Republicans and Democrats compete to breathe more and hotter fire against Iran. It is Democrat Hillary Clinton who threatens to "obliterate" that nation if it attacks not America, but a far distant allied state, one already nuclear-armed and well able to defend itself. Both of the dominant political parties are war parties.

The one constant of the wars so regularly and enthusiastically promoted is that they will be fought by Middle America. Members of today's public warrior class are private pacifists. The Bill Clintons, Dick Cheneys, Paul Wolfowitzs, and conservative pundits and activists who fill the Neocon Greek Chorus never don a uniform. A few, like George W. Bush, carefully choose the right uniform to avoid actually ending up in combat. But all chirp their thanks for the sacrifices of those who do join and fight. Some, like President Bush, even prattle on wistfully about how they wish they could join today's romantic struggles.

Worse, these faux patriots attack anyone who dares criticize the war – any war, whichever one it happens to be – as being a wimp, defeatist, or even traitor. This demonization has been made easier by the fact that opposition to war has in recent years has been concentrated on the Left. The same people who "lost" Vietnam are determined to "lose" Iraq, we are told.

Yet a different, or more complex, story comes from Bill Kauffman, onetime Senate staffer and think tank editor turned essayist and author, who lives in upstate New York – quintessential Middle America. He observes:

"[T]here is a long and honorable (if largely hidden) tradition of antiwar thought and action among the American Right. It stretches from ruffle-shirted Federalists who opposed the War of 1812 and civic-minded mugwump critics of the Spanish-American War on up through the Midwestern isolationists who formed the backbone of the pre-World War II America First Committee and the conservative Republicans who voted against U.S. involvement in NATO, the Korean conflict, and Vietnam. And although they are barely audible amid the belligerent clamor of today's shock-and-awe Right, libertarians and old-fashioned traditionalist conservatives are among the sharpest critics of the Iraq War and the imperial project of the Bush Republicans."...

Kauffman highlights these conservatives for peace running back throughout U.S. history. What sets Ain't My America apart from most foreign policy books is that it is less about foreign policy and more about America. Kauffman is a fine stylist, a literary composer whose editorial symphony appeals to the spirit as well as the mind. He discovers an eclectic mix of antiwar patriots as he joyously romps through the American tradition.

Kauffman appropriately begins with the nation's founders, men whose views on war are dismissed as quaint by most politicians today....There is, Kauffman observes, George Washington's Farewell Address, which is "as close to an expression of early American political omnifariousness as one might find," a veritable "sacred text among conservative critics of empire." American children typically read it, or parts of it, but how many learn that, as Kauffman writes, "Washington's valedictory amounts to a repudiation of U.S. foreign policy from 1917 to the present"?...

Current political heroes include Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), the sole antiwar voice in the Republican presidential race, and Rep. John "Jimmy" Duncan (R-Tenn.), an old line conservative who told Kauffman: "I've become convinced that most of these wars have been brought about because of a desire for money and power and prestige." Duncan, ever gracious to those around him, "is a throwback, a Taft Republican in search of a party of peace and frugality," as well as "a glorious anachronism as a representative of a place and a people," enthuses Kauffman.

Most disastrously, writes Kauffman, "the Republicans in the age of George W. Bush have become a War Party, nothing less and certainly nothing more. Dissident GOP voices are rare and unwelcome echoes." Even more tragic is the fact that the so-called Religious Right has joined the War Party. Notes the waggish Kauffman: "The Christian conservatives who have supplied Bush with an indispensable, almost blasphemously enthusiastic following might consider alternative Christian political traditions," such as that of William Jennings Bryan, "Or, if I am not being too much of an originalist, a biblical fundamentalist, that of Jesus Christ."

Conservatism once was an honorable term, associated with "decentralism, liberty, economy in government, religious faith, family-centeredness, parochialism, smallness," notes Kauffman. But he thunders: "The cockeyed militarism of the Bush administration, and the historical ignorance and cowardice of the subsidized Right that has cheered him on, have poisoned the word conservative. For years, if not wars, to come."...

an ambidextrous pitcher?!

From Vincent Mallozzi in the New York Times (hat tip: Linda Christiansen and C-J)...

It was a lefty-righty matchup for the ages.

Make that a righty-lefty matchup for the ages.

Pat Venditte, an ambidextrous pitcher for the Staten Island Yankees, eventually got the matchup he wanted: right-hander vs. right-hander, which resulted in a game-ending strikeout after a long and bizarre pitcher-batter sequence — make that batter-pitcher sequence.

On Thursday night at KeySpan Park in Coney Island, the Yankees led the Brooklyn Cyclones, 7-2, when the 22-year-old Venditte, making his professional debut, strolled to the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning and took part in his own version of the double switch.

Venditte, a switch-pitcher from Creighton who can reach 90 miles an hour from the right side and the high 70s from the left, retired the first two batters he faced while pitching right-handed.

Still pitching right-handed, Venditte allowed a single by Nicholas Giarraputo. Up next was designated hitter Ralph Henriquez, and he and Venditte engaged in a routine more vaudeville than Mudville.

As Henriquez walked to the plate, Venditte, assuming Henriquez would bat left-handed, stood behind the pitching rubber with his glove on his right hand and the ball in his left. Henriquez, looking out at Venditte, then stepped across the batter’s box, determined to hit right-handed and gain a righty-lefty advantage. Seeing this, Venditte quickly switched his custom-made glove to his left hand and put the ball in his right, hoping to gain a righty-on-righty advantage.

Henriquez stepped out and began asking the home-plate umpire, Shaylor Smith, to lay out his options, then summoned his third-base coach. With the matter unresolved, Henriquez again stepped across the batter’s box in an attempt to bat left-handed. Again, Venditte switched glove and ball. The cat-and-mouse game reached full comedic gear when Henriquez again strolled across the batter’s box to hit right-handed, and Venditte responded with the old switcheroo, setting up as a righty.

“My interpretation of the rule is that we each get to switch once,” Venditte said before Friday night’s Yankees game against Hudson Valley at Richmond County Bank Ballpark on Staten Island. “After that, I thought I had the final decision.”

Pat McMahon, the Staten Island manager, and Edgar Alfonzo, the Brooklyn manager, trotted onto the field for a discussion with Smith, setting off a series of separate discussions by confused members of the teams, which are Class A affiliates of the Yankees and the Mets.

In the midst of those discussions, Venditte tossed warm-up pitches — with both arms.

“I don’t think the umpires really knew how to handle it,” Venditte said. “It’s not something you see every day.”

After a seven-minute delay, Smith ordered Henriquez to step into the box as a right-handed batter, and Venditte, now pitching right-handed, proceeded to strike him out, swinging.

When asked before Friday’s game if he had ever seen anything like it before, McMahon paused before uttering softly, “Uh, no.”

But Venditte, drafted this month by the Yankees in the 20th round, said he was involved in a similar situation during his sophomore year against Nebraska. In that game, umpires ruled that Venditte had to declare which arm he would use before throwing his first pitch and could not switch until the at-bat ended. Venditte decided to pitch left-handed, and a right-handed batter “hit a laser,” he recalled, “but fortunately, it was caught.”

McMahon, who said Friday that he was waiting for an official ruling from higher baseball authorities on the subject of switch-pitching to switch-hitters, said that the way he understood it, “the rule dictates that the hitter establish the box and the pitcher establish the throw, and then each team can make one move, and then it’s play ball.”

“That’s the rule that we got from the rule book of minor league baseball,” he said.

McMahon, who said he shared that interpretation with Smith before Friday night’s game and would go over it with umpires as part of ground-rules discussions before every game, tipped his cap to Venditte.

“I thought Pat handled it very well,” he said. “Here you had a switch-hitter facing a young man who throws with both arms. It’s a unique experience and one that players and umpires will probably take a little time to get used to.”

economic wisdom from Karl Rove?

Good stuff from Mr. Rove in the WSJ (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)...

It's easier to say/do this sort of thing when one isn't trying to govern (and get re-elected), but I would have liked to see more of this while he was in the Administration!

Barack Obama and John McCain are busy demonstrating that in close elections during tough economic times, candidates for president can be economically illiterate and irresponsibly populist.

In Raleigh, N.C., last week, Sen. Obama promised, "I'll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we'll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills."

...Why should we stop with oil companies? They make about 8.3 cents in gross profit per dollar of sales. Why doesn't Mr. Obama slap a windfall profits tax on sectors of the economy that have fatter margins? Electronics make 14.5 cents per dollar and computer equipment makers take in 13.7 cents per dollar, according to the Census Bureau. Microsoft's margin is 27.5 cents per dollar of sales. Call out Mr. Obama's Windfall Profits Police!...

Mr. McCain came close to advocating a form of industrial policy, saying, "I'm very angry, frankly, at the oil companies not only because of the obscene profits they've made, but their failure to invest in alternate energy."

But oil and gas companies report that they have invested heavily in alternative energy. Out of the $46 billion spent researching alternative energy in North America from 2000 to 2005, $12 billion came from oil and gas companies, making the industry one of the nation's largest backers of wind and solar power, biofuels, lithium-ion batteries and fuel-cell technology.

Such investments, however, are not as important as money spent on technologies that help find and extract more oil. Because oil companies invested in innovation and technology, they are now tapping reserves that were formerly thought to be unrecoverable. Maybe we are all better off when oil companies invest in what they know, not what they don't.

And do we really want the government deciding how profits should be invested? If so, should Microsoft be forced to invest in Linux-based software or McDonald's in weight-loss research?

Mr. McCain's angry statement shows a lack of understanding of the insights of Joseph Schumpeter, the 20th century economist who explained that capitalism is inherently unstable because a "perennial gale of creative destruction" is brought on by entrepreneurs who create new goods, markets and processes. The entrepreneur is "the pivot on which everything turns," Schumpeter argued, and "proceeds by competitively destroying old businesses."

Most dramatic change comes from new businesses, not old ones. Buggy whip makers did not create the auto industry. Railroads didn't create the airplane. Even when established industries help create new ones, old-line firms are often not as nimble as new ones. IBM helped give rise to personal computers, but didn't see the importance of software and ceded that part of the business to young upstarts who founded Microsoft.

So why should Mr. McCain expect oil and gas companies to lead the way in developing alternative energy? As with past technological change, new enterprises will likely be the drivers of alternative energy innovation.

Messrs. Obama and McCain both reveal a disturbing animus toward free markets and success. It is uncalled for and self-defeating for presidential candidates to demonize American companies. It is understandable that Mr. Obama, the most liberal member of the Senate, would endorse reckless policies that are the DNA of the party he leads. But Mr. McCain, a self-described Reagan Republican, should know better.

Well, McCain like Bush were only self-described "Reagan Republicans". In fact, they're both just Republicans...

what should conservatives do with McCain?

Some types of conservatives are quite happy with McCain.

For those who are not, now and until November will be dominated by roughing up Obama. (This will be a temptation, even for those who positively support McCain.)

Two thoughts for conservatives who are not enamored with McCain:

One should consider the potential/probable tensions between the short-run and the long-run, including the connection between having McCain and its impact on the Congress (ideologically and in terms of coattails/backlash). For example, a McCain victory means a much smaller probability that the GOP leadership will "get it" and move/go conservative. And ignoring that, a McCain victory means that the GOP would probably take control of Congress no earlier than 2014 (assuming a Dem in 2012). Likewise, a McCain victory makes a super-majority in the Senate far more likely in the next 2-4 years. And so on. One need only think back to the glories of 1994, under Bill Clinton, to see recent evidence of such (vital) sea changes. (How many GOP'ers told us that it would be the end of the world to have Clinton?)

The other question is the potential difference between Obama on paper and in practice. While Obama is quite liberal, this is being over-sold (as one would expect). Three things. First, many Democratic senators are quite liberal and Obama happened to edge them out (slightly) in one recent measure of such things. Second, a larger issue: the nature of the presidency is to moderate whatever tendencies one brings to the table. You are constrained by Congress, by reality, by things you thought you knew but didn't, etc. Third, as has been pointed out quiet a bit, Obama is much more of a talker than a man of action. In this light, I was/am far more scared of Clinton-- who is a true believer in all sorts of govt intervention. This means that Obama should be far less threatening when push comes to the inevitable shove.

Two other things:

More broadly, at what point do various types of conservatives so marginalize themselves by voting for the lesser of two evils? at what point is one too captive to a political party to reach their goals (e.g., as is often pointed out with African-Americans and the Dems)?

And a related observation: suburban voters are (or see themselves as) more sophisticated voters. They worry much more (and I would say, far too much) about their vote, strategizing pragmatically about things like "the lesser of two evils". While campaigning in smaller towns and more rural settings, I've been struck by how little there seems to be of this sort of thinking.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

C.S. Lewis quote of the week

"Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is...If there are rats in a cellar, you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way, the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am...Apparently the rats of resentment and vindictiveness are always there in the cellar of my soul."

--Mere Christianity, book 4, ch. 7

An AWESOME, potentially life-changing quote on dealing with your responses to circumstances. So often, we'll blame "the rats", but the greater problems are the rats inside!

Friday, June 27, 2008

will it be enough? (the sequel)

Recently, I asked whether being "anti-Obama" will be enough for McCain to win the Presidency in November.

Putting the shoe on the other foot, will victim politics and platitudes about hope be enough for Obama to win in November?

why didn't the Republicans...

Thought for the day:

Why didn't the Republicans take care of the ban on drilling for oil when they controlled Congress all those years?

See also: Why didn't the Republicans get rid of federal funding for Planned Parenthood when they had the opportunity-- year after year?

suburban vs. rural/small town voters

Generalizing from what I've observed from my 1.5 campaigns in the 9th District...

Going into my congressional run in 2006, I suspected that I would have an easier time connecting with suburban, more-educated voters. But my three lowest vote percentages were in the most "suburban" counties, including Clark and Floyd where I've lived for 8 years and worked/taught for 16 years! (Ironically, my highest percentage came in Jackson County-- home to Baron Hill!)

Trying to explain this surprising result...

My first theory was paid media-- that we had bought a lot of radio time in rural/small town areas, but had not been willing to pay a lot of money for little coverage in the suburbs. For example, to advertise in Clark and Floyd, we had to buy Louisville media-- a lot of money for little (relevant) coverage for our campaign.

I still think that story carries significant weight. But now, after walking the business districts, I have another theory.

First, let me back up a step and talk about a key observation in political economy: "rational ignorance and apathy" in the general public. In a word, because people have little to offer within a political market (a vote and maybe a modest campaign contribution), the costs of becoming (more) informed and taking action are simply too high to justify much investment. Thus, it is "rational" for voters to lack knowledge and desire to become involved at anything more than a very shallow level. The result is that people typically vote on the basis of one issue (a "special interest"), political party, name recognition, anti-incumbency, etc.

Again, this is a (gross?) generalization, but here's theory #2:

Rural/small town voters tend to vote the person and suburban voters tend to vote for a particular issue or with a particular party. In my case, I'm having an easier time with voters in Huntingburg and Brownstown because many of them don't respect my two opponents all that much &/or they have a sense that things just aren't right in DC and they want (true) change. Combine that with a credible third alternative, I'm in pretty good shape if I can get the word out to those people!

Another observation and perhaps a corollary: Rural voters make more principled choices (just choosing the best candidate) while suburban voters are more pragmatic (strategic). For example, I have rarely heard the "lesser of two evils" argument in rural/small town settings but I hear it a lot in the suburbs. Putting it another way: suburban voters take their votes too seriously and are willing to lose sleep in choosing an inferior candidate. I need suburban voters to be more principled and less pragmatic!

is anti-Obama good enough for November?

It seems as though Republicans and/or conservatives-- laypeople and talk radio-- are mostly interested in trashing Obama than in lifting up McCain. Why?

a.) Obama presents a target-rich environment.
b.) McCain is not all that exciting as a candidate-- in style or substance.
c.) It's easier, generally, to be critical than to be positive.
d.) It's easier, specifically with politics these days, to be critical than to be positive.
e.) Since Obama has a (percevied?) monopoly on "hope", going negative is all that's left.
f.) All of the above.

I'll go with F.

When speculating about politicians, I think I have a tendency to be half-too-cynical on their motives and half-too-clever about their savvy. On the latter, I wonder if McCain is running a largely non-negative campaign because he knows that most of his "supporters" will do plenty of Obama-bashing. Or again, maybe that's half-too-clever...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Survey USA poll results on Hill, Sodrel and me

Last week, Survey USA released a poll showing Hill with a 51-40 lead on Sodrel. I had 4.3% with 5% undecided.

We wanted the results of the poll to build on our 2006 election results (4.5%). And when I was dreaming a bit, I was hoping for double-digits, which would have created a tremendous buzz!

The most likely explanation: If done well by Survey USA, they would pick up the fact that there are many more likely voters in a presidential election year, including a high proportion of those who would be less informed about my campaign.

An interesting result: It appears that we continue to get votes, in about equal measure, from those who would otherwise vote for Sodrel or Hill. (Not that this will probably not persuade those who will seek to scapegoat me if their preferred candidate [or "the lesser of two evils"] is defeated and the margin of victory is less than my vote total.)

Biggest result for me: 14% of independents

Biggest questions: Can Sodrel recover from this early deficit? Can my campaign get enough above the radar to make me-- not only the best candidate-- but a viable third choice in the race?

adult movie actor vs. thieves, liars, hypocrites...

With news of Sonny Landham's bid as a Libertarian for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky, given an aspect of his professional career from 30 years ago, we have statements of embarrassment in the blogosphere and wise-acre comments from a political science professor.

On the one hand, I can understand the former and I'm amused by the latter.

But shouldn't we be more embarrassed and snide in our response to politicians who are currently liars, hypocrites, thieves and so on? One says he supports the Macro stimulus package and is now opposed. One demands a debate on gas prices one year and refuses two years later. One votes to take your money to give to Planned Parenthood and then tries to make it an issue against his opponent without apologizing for his own vote. Almost all of them are quite pleased to take our money to give to all sorts of corporations. And so on.

Let's get embarrassed and fired up about larger, contemporary issues...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

sorry I haven't posted much lately...

Been quite busy with the campaign this week...I hope to get back in the groove on Sunday.

My blogging should be pretty strong through the end of August, when work and the campaign will conspire to limit my efforts until early November!

Have a great weekend and I hope to see you on Sunday!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

C-J on monopoly power: roads bad; schools good

Here's what I wrote to the C-J (wearing my econ prof hat) about their recent story and editorial on single-bid contracts for the provision of roads. I don't think they published it, but in any case, here it is:

I'm glad to see the C-J's continuing concern about a government monopoly in the provision of Kentucky roads-- through single-bid contracts.

Now, if we can just see the same concern extended to the government's monopoly power in the provision of elementary and secondary education!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

now that's how you take care of smoking in public!

From David Mann in the Jeff/NA News-Tribune, news of a voluntary solution to the public smoking problem...

It was around lunchtime Wednesday and Barbara Keehn stood next to a tall ashtray, puffing a cigarette outside of the packed Clarksville Golden Corral.

“Some people smoke all the way through their meal,” she said. “I can’t handle that.”

Some Golden Corral patrons could have been doing just that as recently as two weeks ago. However, citing business reasons, the buffet-style eatery went smoke-free earlier this month.

As anti-smoking advocates have pushed for an indoor-smoking ban in Clarksville, Golden Corral is just the latest example of a business telling customers to extinguish their cigarettes without the hand of local government getting involved.

Keehn said she doesn’t mind it.

“That’s the way all places are going,” she said. “At least we can still smoke in our houses.”

Just next door, Bob Evans did the same thing in January. Ruby Tuesday went smoke free last November. And IHOP, Cheddars Casual Cafe, McAllister’s Deli and Fazoli’s are also among nonsmoking spots in the town.

“It makes good business sense,” said Karen Maier, vice president of marketing at Frisch’s Restaurants Inc., which owns Golden Corral.

On many days, customers would be waiting for tables in the nonsmoking section, while tables were empty in the smoking section, she said.

“I don’t care how strong your exhaust system is — smoke is in the air and it wanders,” she said.

Employees are also appreciative.

Over time, she said, the company expects to hear a few complaints about the decision from smoking customers. Though, Maier noted, Golden Corral is the kind of place most people are in and out of within an hour, so many don’t mind the nonsmoking policy....

Smoking is still allowed at Frisch’s Restaurant in Clarksville, which is owned by Frisch’s Restaurants Inc. as well. Decisions on whether or not to go smoke free are made by area supervisors....

An indoor-smoking ban was introduced in Clarksville in December, but was defeated by a 5-2 vote. Jeffersonville has had a ban in place since 2006, except for bars who serve the 21-and-older crowd.

Clarksville Town Council Vice President Greg Isgrigg — who voted against Clarksville’s ordinance last year — said he applauds Golden Corral and others for going smoke free voluntarily. However, he stressed that it was the company’s decision to do so.

“There’s a line where government doesn’t need to be involved,” he said. “It’s up to them to make the decision.”

A survey conducted last year showed that most residents support Jeffersonville’s ban and would support a similar measure in Clarksville.

Andi Hannah, coordinator of the Clark County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coalition, said that volunteers have not given up on a Clarksville ban....

Thanks to Greg Isgrigg and friends!

Iran's progressive approach to the War on Drugs

From News of the Weird...

The Iranian government, treating addicts as people who need help rather than as criminals, agreed in April to install vending machines offering inexpensive syringes (at about 5 cents each) in five city welfare shelters in order to keep addicts from sharing needles and spreading AIDS and hepatitis. Iran blames its festering drug problem on its common border with opium-producing Afghanistan. [Agence France-Presse, 4-16-08]

the dignity of plants

There are difficult legal, moral and ethical issues concerning the treatment of human, animal and plant life. Here's a nugget from News of the Weird on how Switzerland handles plant life.

A provision in Switzerland's constitution recognizes the "dignity" of "animals, plants and other organisms," and a federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Gene Technology declared in an April report that vegetation has "inherent worth" and that humans cannot exercise "absolute ownership" over it but must treat it morally, measured case-by-case. For example, the committee said a farmer's mowing his field is acceptable, but not the arbitrary severing of a wildflower's bloom. The committee would permit genetic engineering of flora, since plants would still retain the "autonomy" to reproduce on their own. [Agence France-Presse, 4-14-08, Nature 4-23-08]

Incan brain surgery?!


Warning: 10% disturbing and 90% incredible/cool...

From Daniel Devine in

Health care in the Inca empire probably wasn't anything to envy, but a skull surgeon was around if you needed one. Researchers studying over 400 skulls exhumed near the Inca capital city of Cuzco observed that several dozen had been bored, cut, or scraped completely through the skull wall, usually on the front or left side. The reason? It's possible the openings were made to relieve fluid pressure from head injuries, perhaps from the blow of a right-handed opponent's weapon. The procedure, called trepanation, was similar to a modern-day craniotomy.

The researchers found trepanation to be a surprisingly common practice among the Incas, and sometimes the surgery was repeated. One skull had been operated on in seven different locations.

Older skulls were less likely to show signs of healing after being perforated—which indicates the earliest surgical attempts were often fatal to patients. But by the 15th century, success rates seem to have risen to almost 90 percent, and surgeons had agreed on a technique: They carefully scraped away bone material with a sharp tool, avoiding damage to the brain beneath.

The other neat thing is how this underlines the amazing and tentative work of archaeologists and anthropologists.

the disappearance/importance of fathers

Juan Williams in the WSJ on the importance of fathers-- and the importance of "disappearing fathers"-- for Father's Day.

Walter Dean Myers, a best-selling author of books for teenagers, sometimes visits juvenile detention centers in his home state of New Jersey to hold writing workshops and listen for stories about the lives of young Americans.

One day, in a juvenile facility near his home in Jersey City, a 15-year-old black boy pulled him aside for a whispered question: Why did he write in "Somewhere in the Darkness" about a boy not meeting his father because the father was in jail? Mr. Myers, a 70-year-old black man, did not answer. He waited. And sure enough, the boy, eyes down, mumbled that he had yet to meet his own father, who was in jail.

As we celebrate Father's Day tomorrow, we should reflect upon a sad fact: It is now common to meet young people in our big city schools, foster-care homes and juvenile centers who do not know their dads. Most of those children have come face-to-face with their father at some point; but most have little regular contact with the man, or have any faith that he loves or cares about them.

When fatherless young people are encouraged to write about their lives, they tell heartbreaking stories about feeling like "throwaway people." In the privacy of the written page, their hard, emotional shells crack open to reveal the uncertainty that comes from not knowing if their father has any interest in them. The stories are like letters to unknown dads – some filled with imaginary scenes about what it might be like to have a dad who comes home and puts his arm around you or plays with you.

They feel like they've been thrown away, Mr. Myers says, because "they don't have a father to push them, discipline them, and they give up trying to succeed . . . they don't see themselves as wanted." A regular theme of their stories is that they feel safer in a foster care home or juvenile detention center than on the outside, because they have no father to hold together the family. There is no one at home.

The extent of the problem is clear. The nation's out-of-wedlock birth rate is 38%. Among white children, 28% are now born to a single mother; among Hispanic children it is 50% and reaches a chilling, disorienting peak of 71% for black children. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly a quarter of America's white children (22%) do not have any male in their homes; nearly a third (31%) of Hispanic children and over half of black children (56%) are fatherless.

This represents a dramatic shift in American life. In the early 1960s, only 2.3% of white children and 24% of black children were born to a single mom. Having a dad, in short, is now a privilege, a ticket to middle-class status on par with getting into a good college.

The odds increase for a child's success with the psychological and financial stability rooted in having two parents. Having two parents means there is a greater likelihood that someone will read to a child as a preschooler, support him through school, and prevent him from dropping out, as well as teaching him how to compete, win and lose and get up to try again, in academics, athletics and the arts. Maybe most important of all is that having a dad at home is almost a certain ticket out of poverty; because about 40% of single-mother families are in poverty.

"If you are concerned about reducing child poverty then you have to focus on missing fathers," says Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, based in Gaithersburg, Md. This organization works to encourage more men to be involved fathers.

The odds are higher that a child without a dad will have more contact with the drug culture, the police and jail. Even in kindergarten, children living with single parents are more likely to trail children with two parents when it comes to health, cognitive skills and their emotional maturity. They are in the back of the bus before the bus – their life – even gets going....

In his own life, Mr. Myers often looked down on the man in his house: his stepfather, who worked as a janitor and was illiterate. He felt this man had little to teach him.

Then his own son complained one day that he, Myers, "sounded just like granddad" when he told the boy to pick up after himself, to work harder and show respect to people.

"I didn't know it at the time," says Mr. Myers of his stepfather, "but just having him around meant I was picking up his discipline, his pride, his work ethic. . ." He adds: "Until I heard it from my son I never understood it."

the mystery and miracle of markets

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Leonard Read's brilliant essay, "I, Pencil".

I just ran across it again as an appendix to chapter 1 in the book I'll use in my MBA Managerial Economics course this Fall.

Whether you respect markets a lot or a little, this is essential reading for open-minded people on the topic. Enjoy!

I am a lead pencil—the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.

My official name is “Mongol 482.” My many ingredients are assembled, fabricated, and finished by Eberhard Faber Pencil Company.

Writing is both my vocation and my avocation; that's all I do.

You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery— more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, the wise G. K. Chesterton observed, “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”

I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me—no, that's too much to ask of anyone—if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because—well, because I am seemingly so simple.

Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn't it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the U.S.A. each year.

Pick me up and look me over. What do you see? Not much meets the eye—there's some wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser.

Innumerable Antecedents

Just as you cannot trace your family tree back very far, so is it impossible for me to name and explain all my antecedents. But I would like to suggest enough of them to impress upon you the richness and complexity of my background.

My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and rope and the countless other gear used in harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless skills that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, the cookery and the raising of all the foods. Why, untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink!

The logs are shipped to a mill in San Leandro, California. Can you imagine the individuals who make flat cars and rails and railroad engines and who construct and install the communication systems incidental thereto? These legions are among my antecedents.

Consider the millwork in San Leandro. The cedar logs are cut into small, pencil-length slats less than one-fourth of an inch in thickness. These are kiln dried and then tinted for the same reason women put rouge on their faces. People prefer that I look pretty, not a pallid white. The slats are waxed and kiln dried again. How many skills went into the making of the tint and the kilns, into supplying the heat, the light and power, the belts, motors, and all the other things a mill requires? Sweepers in the mill among my ancestors? Yes, and included are the men who poured the concrete for the dam of a Pacific Gas & Electric Company hydroplant which supplies the mill's power!

Don't overlook the ancestors present and distant who have a hand in transporting sixty carloads of slats across the nation.

Once in the pencil factory—$4,000,000 in machinery and building, all capital accumulated by thrifty and saving parents of mine—each slat is given eight grooves by a complex machine, after which another machine lays leads in every other slat, applies glue, and places another slat atop—a lead sandwich, so to speak. Seven brothers and I are mechanically carved from this “wood-clinched” sandwich.

My “lead” itself—it contains no lead at all—is complex. The graphite is mined in Ceylon. Consider these miners and those who make their many tools and the makers of the paper sacks in which the graphite is shipped and those who make the string that ties the sacks and those who put them aboard ships and those who make the ships. Even the lighthouse keepers along the way assisted in my birth—and the harbor pilots.

The graphite is mixed with clay from Mississippi in which ammonium hydroxide is used in the refining process. Then wetting agents are added such as sulfonated tallow—animal fats chemically reacted with sulfuric acid. After passing through numerous machines, the mixture finally appears as endless extrusions—as from a sausage grinder—cut to size, dried, and baked for several hours at 1,850 degrees Fahrenheit. To increase their strength and smoothness the leads are then treated with a hot mixture which includes candelilla wax from Mexico, paraffin wax, and hydrogenated natural fats.

My cedar receives six coats of lacquer. Do you know all the ingredients of lacquer? Who would think that the growers of castor beans and the refiners of castor oil are a part of it? They are. Why, even the processes by which the lacquer is made a beautiful yellow involves the skills of more persons than one can enumerate!

Observe the labeling. That's a film formed by applying heat to carbon black mixed with resins. How do you make resins and what, pray, is carbon black?

My bit of metal—the ferrule—is brass. Think of all the persons who mine zinc and copper and those who have the skills to make shiny sheet brass from these products of nature. Those black rings on my ferrule are black nickel. What is black nickel and how is it applied? The complete story of why the center of my ferrule has no black nickel on it would take pages to explain.

Then there's my crowning glory, inelegantly referred to in the trade as “the plug,” the part man uses to erase the errors he makes with me. An ingredient called “factice” is what does the erasing. It is a rubber-like product made by reacting rape- seed oil from the Dutch East Indies with sulfur chloride. Rubber, contrary to the common notion, is only for binding purposes. Then, too, there are numerous vulcanizing and accelerating agents. The pumice comes from Italy; and the pigment which gives “the plug” its color is cadmium sulfide.

No One Knows

Does anyone wish to challenge my earlier assertion that no single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me?

Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others. Now, you may say that I go too far in relating the picker of a coffee berry in far off Brazil and food growers elsewhere to my creation; that this is an extreme position. I shall stand by my claim. There isn't a single person in all these millions, including the president of the pencil company, who contributes more than a tiny, infinitesimal bit of know-how. From the standpoint of know-how the only difference between the miner of graphite in Ceylon and the logger in Oregon is in the type of know-how. Neither the miner nor the logger can be dispensed with, any more than can the chemist at the factory or the worker in the oil field—paraffin being a by-product of petroleum.

Here is an astounding fact: Neither the worker in the oil field nor the chemist nor the digger of graphite or clay nor any who mans or makes the ships or trains or trucks nor the one who runs the machine that does the knurling on my bit of metal nor the president of the company performs his singular task because he wants me. Each one wants me less, perhaps, than does a child in the first grade. Indeed, there are some among this vast multitude who never saw a pencil nor would they know how to use one. Their motivation is other than me. Perhaps it is something like this: Each of these millions sees that he can thus exchange his tiny know-how for the goods and services he needs or wants. I may or may not be among these items.

No Master Mind

There is a fact still more astounding: The absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work. This is the mystery to which I earlier referred.

It has been said that “only God can make a tree.” Why do we agree with this? Isn't it because we realize that we ourselves could not make one? Indeed, can we even describe a tree? We cannot, except in superficial terms. We can say, for instance, that a certain molecular configuration manifests itself as a tree. But what mind is there among men that could even record, let alone direct, the constant changes in molecules that transpire in the life span of a tree? Such a feat is utterly unthinkable!

I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.

The above is what I meant when writing, “If you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing.” For, if one is aware that these know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand—that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive master-minding—then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith.

Once government has had a monopoly of a creative activity such, for instance, as the delivery of the mails, most individuals will believe that the mails could not be efficiently delivered by men acting freely. And here is the reason: Each one acknowledges that he himself doesn't know how to do all the things incident to mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. These assumptions are correct. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation's mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to make a pencil. Now, in the absence of faith in free people—in the unawareness that millions of tiny know-hows would naturally and miraculously form and cooperate to satisfy this necessity—the individual cannot help but reach the erroneous conclusion that mail can be delivered only by governmental “master-minding.”

Testimony Galore

If I, Pencil, were the only item that could offer testimony on what men and women can accomplish when free to try, then those with little faith would have a fair case. However, there is testimony galore; it's all about us and on every hand. Mail delivery is exceedingly simple when compared, for instance, to the making of an automobile or a calculating machine or a grain combine or a milling machine or to tens of thousands of other things. Delivery? Why, in this area where men have been left free to try, they deliver the human voice around the world in less than one second; they deliver an event visually and in motion to any person's home when it is happening; they deliver 150 passengers from Seattle to Baltimore in less than four hours; they deliver gas from Texas to one's range or furnace in New York at unbelievably low rates and without subsidy; they deliver each four pounds of oil from the Persian Gulf to our Eastern Seaboard—halfway around the world—for less money than the government charges for delivering a one-ounce letter across the street!

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.

faith stemming from blessings of commission

In my Bible reading this morning, I noticed that Mark 6:52 explicitly connects their faith failure in handling the "rough seas" to their failure to "understand" the feeding miracle earlier that day.

So too with us. God often grants us blessings of commission-- events that positively happen for/to us. (This is in contrast to blessings of omission where we benefit from something not happening-- and are thus, less likely to notice it.) When we have received such obvious blessings, this should inform our faith in a benevolent God (Hebrews 11:6).

While we typically receive many such blessings each day, the most obvious for believers is the gracious gift of God's grace-- as manifested most clearly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As we embrace that grace, we will have more faith in God and we will be more gracious toward others. May we better understand God's actions that we may better understand His character that it may change our hearts.

who should drill for oil off the Gulf Coast?

Kudos to Blue Indiana for pointing out a Republican congressional candidate's error in asserting that China is drilling for oil off of the coast of Cuba.

But this misses the broader and much more important point-- one to which BI does not speak: someone will be drilling for oil off the Gulf Coast. Should we join them or not?

I say yes!

What say BI, Democratic politicians in general, and Baron Hill in particular?

BI links to Josef Hebert's AP story noting the same error by Dick Cheney (based on something written by George Will):

Vice President Dick Cheney's office acknowledged on Thursday that he was mistaken when he asserted that China, at Cuba's behest, is drilling for oil in waters 60 miles from the Florida coast....

Congressional Democrats pounced on the vice president's remarks and were backed up by independent energy experts, who called the assertion hyperbole at best and a falsehood at worst....

Cuba clearly is interested in developing its deep-water oil resources, estimated at more than 5 billion barrel, including areas within 60 miles of Key West, Fla., energy experts said.

Jorge Pinon, a senior energy fellow at the University of Miami specializing in Latin America, said Cuba has awarded offshore oil leases, or concessionary blocs, in its offshore waters to six oil companies -- none of them Chinese -- and soon may announce an agreement with Brazil's state oil company, Petrobras....

China's oil company, Sinopac, has conducted exploratory drilling on a lease on land in western Cuba, but is not involved in the offshore development....

your govt in action

From World, news about one more silly regulation...

Barber Clyde Scott probably should have just taken his day off on Monday, May 19, as planned instead of opening up Clippa's Barber Shop in Houma, La., to cut the hair of a few soon-to-be [high school] graduates. The law says he shouldn't have. A police officer ticketed Scott on an obscure ordinance prohibiting barbers from cutting hair on Sundays or Mondays.

This reminds me of a Libertarian effort to bing attention to a similar set of laws regulating cosmetological services. Here's a report from WMUR-TV in NH:

A self-proclaimed manicurist decided to open for business in Concord on Monday without the state's approval, attacking state licensing laws with a nail file.

Michael Fisher, 23, of Newmarket, N.H., was arrested and charged with violating the state's license law. He said he organized the protest to call attention to what he said are needless obstacles facing small businesses in the state.

His first and only customer was Kat Dillon, of Frost, Texas, who said it was her first manicure. It was also Fisher's first time giving one."I'm going to buff it and shine it with one of these, a buffer, basically," he said.

The manicure performed without a license was undertaken right outside the state Board of Barbering, Cosmetology and Esthetics office."The reason I'm doing this is because it's one of the harmless things I can do to prove that the law is unjust," Fisher said. "Without the government's permission, you can't do nails, hair, lot of other things." Fisher said his manicure movement was inspired by the movie "Ghandi" and backed by his fellow Free-Staters, who favor minimal government and maximum personal freedom. Dillon is also a member of the group, which has organized members to move to New Hampshire in an effort to influence the state adopt a more libertarian government.

"It's wrong for the state to tell you you can or can't open a business," Free-Stater Dave Ridley said.Fisher had advertised his protest, so it was no surprise when board inspectors arrived on the scene, and it was no surprise that Concord police soon followed." Initially, we were going to issue him a summons and release him on a summons to appear in court," Sgt. Roger Baker said. "He indicated he wouldn't stop, so at that point, it was a full custody arrest."Performing a manicure without a license is a misdemeanor. Fisher remains in Merrimack County Jail, refusing to see a bail commissioner. He will be arraigned Tuesday morning in Concord District Court. He said he plans to plead guilty to "help get the message out there."