Monday, May 31, 2010

Genesis 9:18-29's post-Flood (part 2) and Noah vs. Abraham

Gen 9:18-29 is an oft-overlooked story: brief, ugly, and not understood well in its context (most recently, the post-Flood law/covenant to Noah). Kass notes that “the founding of civil society, based on rudimentary but explicit notions of law and justice, rooted in the idea that all human beings are created equally in God’s image. Humankind now faces a new prospect, founded on the hope for an enduring human future protected against natural cataclysm, thanks to God’s covenant—and the hope for a peaceful social order protected against the violence of other men, thanks to the Noahide code.”

So, the story is both domestic and political/social. Will the new order succeed? Is this law and covenant sufficient?

Gen 9:18-19 reintroduces us to Shem, Japheth and esp. Ham as Noah’s three sons. As such, this is the Bible’s first [prototypical] story about a father and his sons (or perhaps more broadly, parents and their children). Again, in context, the timing of this narrative is not surprising: wrestling with the ability of Noah to pass on Law/Covenant to his sons—the next generation.

As Kass notes, this “depends decisively on paternal authority and filial piety.” If you have neither, individuals and society will be a mess. If you have one or the other, things can turn out ok, but that will be the exception rather than the rule. To be successful more often than not, you hopefully have both. Of course, mothers are important too! But Biblically and in terms of the sociological evidence, we know about the importance of fathers AND the need for fathers to be exhorted. (See: the sin of Adam’s silence, the likelihood that men will seek esteem outside the home, etc. See also: Eph 6:4, Col 3:21.)

Why? Kass: “because [the father] is capable of inspiring awe as well as security, shame as well as orderliness, distance as well as nearness, emulation as well as confidence, fear as well as hope, [he] is able to do the fatherly work of preparing boys for moral manhood, including, eventually, their own fatherhood.” Of course, this can certainly be abused; and even with good intentions, it is difficult to balance encouragement and discipline.

Already, we have two clues that something might be unusual here. First, check our Gen 8:16’s command vs. Gen 8:18’s disobedience. (See also: Gen 6:18’s command on how to enter—i.e., the old world’s model!) Kass again: “Noah, a new man rescued from the Heroic Age, nevertheless apparently still holds to a heroic model of family structure: it is only the men who count.” Remember also that there has been little mention of women since Eve (we don’t even know Noah’s wife’s name!) until their vital (and ironic) role with the patriarchs.

Second, the sons are not listed in order. It’s not unusual Biblically to have two siblings reversed. But here, Shem is the middle son (given 5:32, 7:11, 11:10)—and the model son, and thus, always mentioned first. In other words, virtue trumps birth order. Ham is the youngest (9:24)—the central character, mentioned in the middle here.

In Gen 9:20-21, we read about 20's vineyard. Here, he follows Cain into agriculture—not a good sign. And he moves into wine—portrayed as man’s invention vs. divine gift (as in pagan myths)—and thus, a mixed bag.

Then, it gets quite ugly with 21's drunk and naked. (See: Gen 19:30-35’s Lot with his daughters and Pr 23:35.) Is this a one-time slip or a recurring problem? Maybe he doesn’t know its potence or just makes a mistake. Maybe he had “PFSD” (post-Flood stress disorder)—after seeing a desolate landscape littered with animal and human corpses &/or he’s overwhelmed with his responsibilities. Perhaps all of this is related to more idle time for all of them! In any case, this robs him of (some of) his dignity and authority.

Notice also how Noah's account parallels Adam's account: 20's vineyard vs. God's garden in 2:8; 21’s sin from the fruit of the vine/tree; 21's nakedness of degradation vs. Gen 2:25 for Adam's innocence and Gen 3:7’s recognition of guilt; Adam sought cover for his shame, but Noah is not even conscious of his; and in both cases, the nakedness is a pivotal event/revelation.

In Gen 9:22-23, we see the sons’ responses. In 9:22, Ham sees—and then, tells his brothers. The first may have been accidental (although what was he doing in his dad’s tent?). But the second is clearly purposeful—and both are a breach of family/cultural ethic (see: 24's “done to him").

Contra Cain, Ham is asking “am I my father’s keeper?” Kass: “What sort of human being is Ham? What sort of person delights in rebelling against…law and authority?...Most often, he is the would-be tyrant, a man who seeks self-sufficiency.” Interestingly, Ham had enough faith/respect for Noah to get on the ark, but not enough to respect his father here. (Had Noah gone downhill post-Flood?) In any case, the big picture is that Ham implicitly rejects the new law/covenant.

There are all sorts of applications here in terms of how we handle others who have shamed themselves—from pop culture to colleagues who do something stupid at work. Do we work to restore or do we delight in those who have fallen? What’s the difference between public and private shaming? What about when the damage is mostly borne by self vs. others?

In 9:23, Japheth and Shem are surely shocked to hear of the event—or at least, Ham’s account of it. What to do? Go and see; disbelieve; ignore/wait; proactive benevolence; confront Ham. (And where’s Noah’s wife?) They decide not to look and they covered Noah—an act of mercy and then grace.

Kass: “We readers are touched by this display of loyalty and filial piety…the perfect way they found delicately to correct the problem without participating in it…but they cannot erase the memory of their deed or of what made it necessary for them to perform it.” This probably made things weird with Dad—from here forward. But again, the big picture: both embrace authority and law/covenant.

Of course, this is all quite sobering (pun intended). Cain/Abel is the first sibling story—and it ends in rivalry. Here, we have the first parental story—Dad stumbles and struggles to pass on law/covenant with noteworthy conflict. Kass points to “fundamental and troublesome aspects of the natural relationship between father and sons…not how things ought to be but rather how they are, absent some additional, corrective teaching [or other intervention]”.

In Gen 9:24-29 we find Noah’s response. Kass quips: “Noah does not take his shame lying down”—before observing “for the first time in the biblical narrative, we hear Noah speak…Noah’s anger is surely expected, as rage is the usual response to being shamed.”

Anger seems to stir Noah to rare words (and perhaps action—at least, in dealing with his sons).

How did Noah know who did what? Some combo of 24’s asked around and reasonable inferences given what he knew of his sons’ character.

Noah opens with 25's “curse” for (Ham's son) Canaan and his descendants. A “curse” communicates severity of the offense (Gal 1:8-9) and along with blessings, are analogous to prayer (see: Psalms): a supernatural petition—or at the least, what one hopes/wishes for another.

Did Noah over-react (kicking the dog and continuing his sin)? Why curse Canaan vs. Ham? First, presumably, in context, this is the last straw. Second, it’s fitting: a breach in the father's family would result in a curse on the son's family. Putting it another way: Ham sought to be free from parental authority and will be held responsible by his own son; as Ham had responded to Noah, so Canaan would respond to Ham. Moreover, slavery (9:25,27) is appropriate since “might makes right” follows naturally without law/authority (what ch. 9’s law/covenant was trying to prevent and what Ham is militating against).

But is it fair/just? In fact, things don’t turn out too well for many of Canaan’s descendants. But, although curses/blessings seem somehow effective at times within the divine economy, they are not so in a deterministic sense (see: 26, 27’s “may”). We also know that Canaan will not be punished for his father's sins (see: the crucial passage in Ez 18:2-4, including an ironic grapes/wine reference!). Instead, one can take this as God’s pre-destination and foreknowledge: a nation He knew would be wicked (vs. their future being actively cursed). And one can certainly point to the impact of nature/nurture—that Ham's nature would be transmitted to his descendants—the practicality of the sins of the fathers.

In fact, life is communal/relational rather than purely individual. (And turn the coain over: Do we count the blessings of family/generations as unfair?) Whatever the justice, it’s almost inevitable that there will be some curse/blessing from one generation to the next. To note, what kind of son would Ham likely raise? But practically, Noah is prophesying more than causing or wishing.

An important side issue: some of Ham's sons settled Africa, BUT unfortunately this verse has been used incorrectly to argue for the enslavement of blacks. But this contradicts NT teaching; Canaan didn't settle in Africa; and the Canaanites were Caucasian. (See also: Moses’ Cushite wife—and God’s defense of inter-racial marriage in Num 12:1,9-12.)

Meanwhile, Gen 9:26-27 results in an indirect blessing for Shem and a direct blessing for Japheth. Shem is the father of Shemites/Semites—the Jews. And note that Noah seems to attribute greater righteousness to Shem. Japheth is to become the father of non-Arab/European Gentiles. They lived on friendly terms with each other—with the “tents” indicating that the Gentiles will share in and be sheltered by the Jewish people and God’s blessing. In inheritance terms, Shem receives priesthood/birthright, while Japheth receives double blessing (27's "extend territory").

In sum, Kass argues that Noah’s three sons represent tyrannical man, noble/decent man, and pious man.

Why is this story in here? First, as is common elsewhere, the Bible depicts most of its “heroes of the faith” with warts. Second, this sets up the choice of the Semites as the people with whom God would choose to work with more explicitly. Third, after the flood, evil reappears in a "godly man"—not a good sign! Big picture: this continues to point us toward the Old Covenant—and eventually, the New Covenant.

And what happened to Noah? He started off so strong (Gen 6:9) and he completes an amazing task, but he has a rough finish. Is this just a bad ending or something larger?

Jewish scholars argue that it’s the latter. (This is at first surprising to a Christian, since we’re used to thinking of Noah and Abraham as roughly equivalent heroes of the faith. But of course, to Jews, Abraham is a far more important character! They point (as Genesis does) to “the silence of Noah”—as we saw with Adam (Gen 3:6) and will see with the patriarchs!

No words are recorded for Noah except his post-drunk curse/blessing. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points back to the flood narrative and is pretty rough on Noah. What does Noah say to God when it’s time to build the ark and save his family? Nothing. Silent obedience—but maybe obedience is not enough? What did Noah say to those around him? It’s unknown, except for Heb 11:7’s vague reference “by his faith he condemned the world”. To note, there is no explicit intervention with God on behalf of those to be destroyed.

Sacks: “God seeks from us something other and greater than obedience, namely responsibility...the hero of faith was not Noah but Abraham”—fought a war for his nephew and prayed for the people of the plain, even challenging God: “What might an Abraham have said when confronted with the possibility of a flood?...Abraham might have saved the world. Noah saved only himself and his family. Abraham might have failed, but Noah—at least on the evidence of the text—did not even try…Noah’s end—drunk, disheveled, an embarrassment to his children—eloquently tells us that if you save yourself while doing nothing to save the world, you do not even save yourself…”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Coulter on Democrats and Civil Rights (opposition)

Humorous and pointed observations from Ann Coulter-- on the "Rand Paul controversy" at

Watching TV this week, at first I thought Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul had flown a commercial jet into the World Trade Center. But then it turned out that he had only said there ought to be discussion about whether federal civil rights laws should be applied to private businesses. This allowed the mainstream media to accuse Paul of being a racist.

Twisting a conservative's words in order to accuse him of racism was evidently more urgent news than the fact that the attorney general of the United States admitted last week -- under oath in a congressional hearing -- that he had not read the 10-page Arizona law on illegal immigration, the very law he was noisily threatening to overturn. And really, how could the U.S. attorney general have time to read a 10-page law when he's busy doing all the Sunday morning TV shows condemning it?

...I just want to say: I think it's fantastic that the Democrats have finally come out against race discrimination. Any day now, maybe they'll come out for fighting the Cold War. Perhaps 100 years from now, they'll be ready to fight the war on terrorism or champion the rights of the unborn. It would be a big help, though, if Democrats could support good causes when it mattered.

But as long as the media are so fascinated with the question of why anyone would want to "discuss" certain aspects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, maybe they should ask Al Gore why his father was one of the leading opponents of the bill.

Or they could ask Bill Clinton, whose mentor, Sen. William Fulbright, actively supported segregation and also voted against the bill. Or they could talk to the only current member of the Senate to vote against it, Democrat Bob Byrd.

As with the 1957 and 1960 civil rights acts, it was Republicans who passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act by huge majorities. A distinctly smaller majority of Democrats voted for it.

In the Senate, for example, 82 percent of Republicans voted for the act, compared with only 66 percent of Democrats. In the House, 80 percent of Republicans supported the law, compared with only 63 percent of Democrats.

With all Democrats coming aboard on opposition to race discrimination (and it only took them 45 years!) I think we can stipulate that everyone in America is opposed to discrimination against blacks....

To her point, the C-J has four more op-eds on this today. Hilarious/pathetic!

two Larry's on Rand: Freedom 101 and sexual discrimination

Here's a link to my earlier posts on Rand Paul and the "civil rights furor". Now, more stuff...

From Larry Elder at who starts by criticizing National Review's Rich Lowry for this: "I'm sympathetic to libertarianism, but it sometimes has a weakness for theoretical exercises removed from reality."

This sounds like a white, guilt-ridden rationalization to justify an abandonment of principle. And it has real world, not merely "theoretical," consequences. For one thing, it encourages grievance-driven race-based identity politics -- and invites special-interest legislation to protect all manner of niche groups perceived...

Republicans go all deer-in-the-headlights when someone questions their colorblind bona fides. But when Nazi sympathizers want publicly to march, many conservatives correctly defend the "right." Constitutional rights extend to both saints and sinners and those in between...This is freedom 101...

The consequences of government coercion are more harmful than the certainty that some will use their freedom in ways that offend....

And from Larry Beane at who goes off on Bryn Mawr College and
page 29 of its 2009–2010 Undergraduate Catalog: "In conformity with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, it is also the policy of Bryn Mawr College not to discriminate on the basis of sex in its educational programs, activities or employment practices. The admission of only women in the Undergraduate College is in conformity with a provision of the Act." After ripping the obvious blindness and hypocrisy, makes this observation:

...nearly every private business, private or public school, and government office discriminates based on sex – at least if they have sex-segregated restrooms or locker-rooms. It is not uncommon for colleges and universities to have sex-segregated dorms. Every individual who is not bisexual discriminates on the basis of sex. Any time a business, educational institution, or government entity opts to use a sex-based title such as Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. – there is discrimination based on sex....

Only government (and their allies in the academy) can look us straight in the eye and claim discrimination is not discrimination. Of course, one of the definitions of discrimination is "to use good judgment." So maybe there is something to such denials after all.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

can you tune an economy or can you tuna fish?

Walter Williams at

"Minimum Wage Cruelty" (4/14/10) was my column about the unemployment effects of Congress' 2007 minimum wage increase on the canning industry in American Samoa, a U.S. territory in the far Pacific Ocean. The 2007 legislation mandated 50 cents annual increases in Samoan minimum wages until it reached the U.S. mainland's hourly minimum of $7.25. In response, Chicken of the Sea International moved its operation from Samoa to a highly automated cannery plant in Lyons, Ga. That resulted in roughly 2,000 jobs lost in Samoa and a gain of 200 jobs in Georgia. Prior to minimum wage increases, Samoan wages were about $3.25 an hour. With the legislated increases, Samoa's minimum wage is $5.25. So the question is: Which is preferable for the Samoan worker -- being employed at $3.25 an hour or being unemployed at $5.25?...

StarKist, the island's remaining cannery, announced that between 600 and 800 people will be laid off over the next six months, reducing the company's Samoan workforce from a high of more than 3,000 in 2008 to less than 1,200 workers. StarKist CEO Don Binotto said it's difficult to compete when Samoan workers' wages are nearly 10 times those of its competitors in Thailand and other countries.

Labor unions are the major supporters of increases in the minimum wage. Even though the overwhelming majority of their members earn multiples of the minimum wage, they spend millions upon millions lobbying for minimum wage increases. They do it because higher minimum wages protect their members from competition with low-skill, low-wage workers....

Poor people are not poor because of low wages. For the most part, they're poor because of low productivity, and wages are connected to productivity. Congress can easily mandate higher wages, but they cannot mandate higher worker productivity or that employers hire a particular worker in the first place....It's breathtakingly stupid to think of minimum wages as an anti-poverty tool. If it were, poverty in places such as Haiti, Ethiopia and Bangladesh could be instantly eliminated simply by proposing that these country's legislators mandate a higher minimum wage....

the spectre of bribery: Sestak, Obama, and their odd ideas of "transparency"

Obama's transparency continues to be an opaque thing...

From Dick Morris and Eileen McGann at

Rep. Joe Sestak, the winner of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary, says quite openly and repeatedly that he was offered a job by the White House if he would drop out of the race against Sen. Arlen Specter. Having secured Specter's conversion to the Democratic Party, thus giving the party a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the Obama administration obviously sought to keep its word to Specter that it would do its utmost to deliver the Democratic nomination to him. According to Sestak, that included a job offer.

Who made the offer? What position was offered? And when did it happen? Sestak, who was nominated on a platform of "transparency" refuses to answer any of these questions. The White House admits that a conversation took place but won't provide any details and insists that an "internal investigation" revealed that "nothing inappropriate" took place.

Or did it?

It is unlikely that Sestak was offered a job interviewing people for the census. Only a high-level job offer -- a Cabinet post or an ambassadorship to a key country -- would have sufficient gravitas to conceivably induce him to drop his primary challenge. Some have speculated that Sestak, a retired admiral, might have been offered the post of secretary of the navy. Others wonder that, since he is fluent in Russian, he was to be tapped for ambassador to Moscow.

And, before an offer of that magnitude were tendered, it would have had to have been cleared with the higher levels of the White House. How could an offer of a Cabinet post have been made without consultation with the chief of staff?

And how was the offer made? It would have to have been proffered by somebody who Sestak could reasonably assume was speaking for the president and could deliver on his end of the deal. A lower-level official wouldn't have that kind of clout. Could the offer have been tendered by Rahm Emanuel himself? It's clearly his style.

But, could Rahm or anyone else have made such an offer without consulting the president himself? You can't go around passing out Cabinet posts or ambassadorships without consulting the boss....

high school glory days, self-ownership, and ends-justify-the-means righteousness

Republican bloggers and pundits have been split on the Rand Paul civil rights "furor".

In today's in-box from, there was a spate of essays, three of which were provocative, largely supportive of Paul, and wrestle with some of the important questions that Paul raised. (The piece that opposed Paul was from Michael Medved, an incoherent critic of Libertarians.)

The title of this post comes from my favorite phrase in these three essays.

Here's Jonah Goldberg:

It has already become a cliche on the right to tut-tut at U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul's "rookie" mistake of trying to conduct a "libertarian seminar" during the campaign.

I'm not so sure. For starters, if you're not invested in Paul's political career, why not seize this rare opportunity for one of those eternally sought but never achieved "national conversations" on race?

Besides, Paul's not going to lose because of his reservations about some aspects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He's from Kentucky, a very red state. And contrary to what you might suspect from reading the national media, not only has he not made repealing the law the centerpiece of his campaign, he has no desire to do so if elected.

Indeed, it's worth noting that the only people who are really jazzed to reopen the argument about the Civil Rights Act are liberals.

And they have good reason: They won that argument, politically and morally. This is a fact liberals never stop reminding us, and themselves, about. Like a paunchy middle-aged man who scored the winning touchdown in the high school championship, nostalgic liberals don't need an excuse to bring up their glory days (which were not the Democratic Party's glory days, by the way).

...when a very clearly nonracist libertarian politician merely raises the possibility -- with admirable honesty and sincerity -- that Goldwater might have been a teensy-weensy bit right to vote against the 1964 bill (Goldwater had voted consistently for civil rights laws before then), it's an outrage....

Here's Jacob Sullum:

Last week, James Clyburn, a former civil rights activist who is now a Democratic congressman from South Carolina, warned that if Rand Paul is elected to represent Kentucky in the Senate, "it will be the first step ... to turning back the gains that we started making way back in the 1860s."

The comment, provoked by the Republican candidate's criticism of the federal ban on racial discrimination in places of "public accommodation," was not just hyperbolic but radically misguided, because Paul's position is based on the same principle that led to the abolition of slavery and the long struggle for equality that followed it: the principle of self-ownership.

If we own ourselves, it follows that no one else can own us -- the most obvious way in which slavery violates human rights. It also follows that we own our labor, which means we decide who benefits from it and under what terms, and the fruits of our labor, which means we control access to our property....

Paul's more sophisticated critics argued not that he was racist but that he was unrealistic....But before concluding that new infringements on liberty were necessary to remove the stain left by past infringements, consider some unforeseen consequences of the federal ban on private discrimination. The precedent has encouraged an assault on freedom of association, as illustrated by demands that private organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Christian student groups and online dating services adopt gay-friendly policies.

The blurring of the distinction between public and private property has invited a wide array of meddlesome regulations, ranging from bans on smoking in bars and restaurants to unfunded mandates requiring expensive renovations to accommodate customers in wheelchairs. As Paul noted, the "public accommodation" rationale even has been cited as a pretext for forcing business owners to allow guns on their property....

A broad license to interfere with property rights and freedom of contract inevitably deprives people of choices they value. Rand Paul deserves credit for pointing out that we cannot abridge the freedom of those we despise without endangering our own freedom.

And here's Bill Murchison:

The question Rand Paul forces us to look squarely in the face is a sensitive one: when, in human affairs, does pragmatism trump principle? Fairly often, is the answer...

On the technical question that Rachel Maddow put to Kentucky's Republican nominee for Senate -- was the government right to desegregate lunch counters? -- Paul made a plausible reply; to wit, he abhorred not only racism but the notion of telling private property owners what they may do with their property.

Paul was hardly the first American to make the point. In 1964, Barry Goldwater -- virtuous constitutionalist and strong civil rights supporter -- voted against the civil rights bill on grounds akin to those that Paul invoked...

Where does this leave Rand Paul? On the right side of the Law but the wrong side of History? Perhaps. Wearisome all the same is the modern habit of beating up on parties who don't get with the Moral Program fast enough and enthusiastically enough, due to one honest scruple or another...

The worst feature of arguments over the use of government power to enforce particular moral outcomes is the tendency of the winners to sweep away all objections by means of their claim to righteousness. Thus with some of Paul's critics: Don't give us that stuff about what the Constitution allows or what the prescribed powers of government should be! Give us the results that Humanity demands!

A kind of ends-justifies-the-means framework encases this grand assumption. If we're right, we're right, and that's all anybody needs to know. Paul proves himself less the politician -- quick to duck complexity -- than the amateur who just says what he thinks; a dangerous habit that, in an anti-establishment year, could boost his standing materially, to the dismay of the moral police.

We'll see. Meantime, inadvertently, the Libertarian Republican from Kentucky reminds us why the power of government remains a less certain instrument for effectuating moral change than does a general change in moral opinion....

the health care legislation will inadvertently swamp the IRS with 1099s

Gary North at makes a fabulous point about the impending explosion of 1099s, attached to the health care "reform".

Earlier this year, some staffer in some office on Capitol Hill dutifully inserted a provision into the health insurance bill that will force businesses to file 1099 forms on every transaction with another business for over $600. Buy a $601 used car for your business? You must file a 1099...The result: A blizzard of new tax forms that the Internal Revenue Service will begin rolling out next year...

The IRS will be buried in billions of new forms....If businessmen want to protest this law in a legal but effective way, they will have their tax preparers write in the numbers by hand. Then IRS will have to type in the data on each form by hand....the IRS has been unable to modernize its system after a decade. It will take another decade. It may take two. Now some staffer has created a 1099 tsunami for the IRS, which will hit in 2013....

Paperwork is the essence of every bureaucracy. Let's do it by the book: with paper.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

wow...the NYT on "why the poor are poor"

From Nicholas Kristof in the NYT (hat tip: Blue County in a Red State)...

Kristof often does interesting and provocative work-- some of which I've blogged about.

There’s an ugly secret of global poverty, one rarely acknowledged by aid groups or U.N. reports. It’s a blunt truth that is politically incorrect, heartbreaking, frustrating and ubiquitous:

It’s that if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.

That probably sounds sanctimonious, haughty and callous, but it’s been on my mind while traveling through central Africa with a college student on my annual win-a-trip journey....

Kristof details one story of a poor family where a child is about to be kicked out of the govt school for not paying fees, is behind on their rent, and has no mosquito net (despite losing two children to malaria).

They say they just can’t afford the $6 cost of a net. Nor can they afford the $2.50-a-month tuition for each of their three school-age kids....But Mr. Obamza and his wife, Valerie, do have cellphones and say they spend a combined $10 a month on call time. In addition, Mr. Obamza goes drinking several times a week at a village bar, spending about $1 an evening on moonshine. By his calculation, that adds up to about $12 a month — almost as much as the family rent and school fees combined.

I asked Mr. Obamza why he prioritizes alcohol over educating his kids. He looked pained.

Other villagers said that Mr. Obamza drinks less than the average man in the village (women drink far less). Many other men drink every evening, they said, and also spend money on cigarettes....

Two M.I.T. economists, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, found that the world’s poor typically spend about 2 percent of their income educating their children, and often larger percentages on alcohol and tobacco: 4 percent in rural Papua New Guinea, 6 percent in Indonesia, 8 percent in Mexico. The indigent also spend significant sums on soft drinks, prostitution and extravagant festivals.

Look, I don’t want to be an unctuous party-pooper. But I’ve seen too many children dying of malaria for want of a bed net that the father tells me is unaffordable, even as he spends larger sums on liquor. If we want Mr. Obamza’s children to get an education and sleep under a bed net — well, the simplest option is for their dad to spend fewer evenings in the bar.

Because there’s mounting evidence that mothers are more likely than fathers to spend money educating their kids, one solution is to give women more control over purse strings and more legal title to assets. Some aid groups and U.N. agencies are working on that.

Another approach is microsavings, helping poor people save money when banks aren’t interested in them. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the most powerful part of microfinance isn’t microlending but microsavings.

Microsavings programs, organized by CARE and other organizations, work to turn a consumption culture into a savings culture. The programs often keep household savings in the women’s names, to give mothers more say in spending decisions, and I’ve seen them work in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Well-meaning humanitarians sometimes burnish suffering to make it seem more virtuous and noble than it often is. If we’re going to make more progress, and get kids like the Obamza children in school and under bed nets, we need to look unflinchingly at uncomfortable truths — and then try to redirect the family money now spent on wine and prostitution.


First, imagine someone saying this about the poor in America. If this is true in Africa, how much more so in America with its cigarettes, booze, cell phones, fingernails, cable TV, etc.?

Second, this reminds me of what I'm studying in Genesis-- that God works with Abraham to educate him in "a new way": (proper) patriarchy. As Kass notes, patriarchy must be "properly defined so that improper patriarchy can be properly condemned". This involves good marriage and good parenting. As the Biblical and NYT stories indicate, that's not going to happen on its own.

Third, I'm all for having better public policies-- and changing incentives will help somewhat. But the bottom line is that Mr. Obamza needs a heart transplant that is best provided by embracing the grace of God and his "(still) new way".

Genesis 8:20-9:17's post-Flood (part 1)

Now we turn to three of the four post-Flood activities for Noah: his sacrifice, God’s presentation of rudimentary law, and God’s covenantal promise. (The fourth activity—Noah’s drunkenness and what follows—is overlooked but immense, so we’ll treat that separately.)

First, the sacrifice (Gen 8:20-22). Kass describes it, aptly, as “a strange and unforeseen event…[apparently] w/o any divine instruction”—and also, because Noah has been both silent and only following orders. Here, he steps out on his own—but why and how?

Was the Law (on sacrifice) given before? How did Noah know what to do? Is this a post-Cain custom or his best guess along the lines of what Cain did? (That he follows in Cain’s footsteps is troubling!)

On the one hand, we know that Noah “walked with God” and experienced God’s direction in building the ark, His awesome power and His gracious care and provision—so maybe he’s in line with God’s will here too. But it’s odd in that this is the opposite of creation and re-creation; it runs counter (at least short-term) to God’s command that the animals be fruitful and multiply (8:17); and these animals had just been his companions. As Kass notes: “Noah’s self-defining first act in the new world is an act of violence against the living world. A simple harmonious world order, led by a human being, seem to be impossible.”

What are his motives? Thanksgiving and/or hoping to stave off more rain. In any case, Noah's voluntary response is worship and sacrifice—spontaneous gratitude after he experiences God’s gracious salvation and deliverance.

God’s response? Mostly good. He is "pleased by the aroma" (II Cor 2:14-16a, Eph 5:2, Phil 4:18b). This is a good sign, but not a slam dunk. One commentator asks whether He is pleased completely or pleased as when a kid picks a flower from your flower garden to present to you. Perhaps God is pleased not by the sacrifice per se, but what it represents in Noah’s heart.

God says he will never again curse the ground (a different Hebrew word is used here, but this seems to refer to 3:17; maybe no more add-on curses—as with Cain in 4:12) or destroy all living creatures. Then, a strange line, bringing up sin nature. It’s very similar to the brutal Gen 6:5. More important, this is a really strange time to say this if God is totally pleased with Noah’s effort. In any case, God makes clear that starting over (with Noah or anyone else) is not “going to work”—as we’ll soon see for ourselves.

Second, the law (Gen 9:1-7). The passage is bracketed by 1,7’s blessing and commission to multiply/dominion (as 1:28). Kass observes that 2-6’s law is thus wrapped in blessing and infers that “the law’s paramount interest is in promoting human life”. That said, it’s interesting that the 2nd time Noah hears the blessing in this passage, it must sound different. Kass (176): “The natural good of life is now bound up with the legal good of right and the legal obligation to defend it.”

9:2's fear and dread of the animals is sad. Matthew Henry: "man in innocence ruled by love, fallen man rules by fear". 9:3's provides a menu change and a new food chain with an intro to meat. Is this a new-and-improved diet or a “divine concession” to something (now/largely) inherent in man? In any case, Kass notes that the “hoped-for harmonious relation of man and animals—re-created aboard Noah’s ark—in which man, like a true ruler, rules in the interest of the ruled, is gone…the shepherd will now tend his flock with at least part of his mind on lamb chops. Yet the shepherd is not—and must not become—a wolf.”

There are some fascinating applications of this to (degrees of) “animal rights” and vegetarianism—from a Christian perspective. Key questions: How does one balance 1’s dominion with 3’s ability to eat? Richard John Neuhaus observes that there are “animal rights”—not because animals are equal, but because they are unequal, dependent and vulnerable. In other words, it’s better to think of this as human responsibilities rather than “animal rights”. (See: Christopher Killheffer [how’s that for an ironic name?!], “Our Food from God”, Touchstone, March 2002.)

9:4's blood is a limitation to 9:3’s liberty (Lev 17:11,14). As in the Garden, there is only one prohibition within the blessing. 9:5 says that man and animal have to “account” to God for human death. So, animal life is to be respected, but man's life is to be honored to an even greater degree (Ex 21:28-29). Kass: “Animal blood may not be eaten, but human blood must not even be shed.” For the Christian, God ultimately demands an account for all of our sin—dealt with by the atoning death of Jesus Christ and His blood shed on our behalf!

9:6a is beautifully constructed: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed”. In the Hebrew, it is poetry and symmetry—word repetition with an inverted order (ABCCBA). Jonathan Sacks: “This is a perfect picture of style reflecting substance: what is done to us is a mirror image of what we do.” And Kass: “a picture of society set within bounds {man by man}. Beyond these bounds, there is bloodshed on all sides.”

This restricts justice to direct retribution (eye/eye) vs. some subjective sense of what’s appropriate (e.g., killing the entire family)—in other words, strict but proportionate/reciprocal justice. For now, this is a (very) simple law—with no distinction between manslaughter, homicide, murder.

The rationale: 6b's “for in the image of God has God made man”. Where 6a provides a disincentive (fear), 6b provides a reason (speaking to the mind/heart). In a word, killing shows contempt for man and God. Kass (191): “By willfully denying the god-like nature of human life, the killer denies his own share of god-likeness…[and] forfeits his claim to remain as a member of the human community.”

9:5’s “demand an accounting” is now specified: man becomes 9:6’s avenging agent. This allows or even endorses capital punishment. In context, Kass connects this to Noah’s sacrifice: this “makes explicit and also regulates what is implicit in Noah’s sacrifice”. First, Noah sees himself as separate from the animals; law strengthens that, even allowing man to eat animals. Second, Noah shows willingness to shed animal blood; law prohibits eating the blood and demands retribution for shedding man’s blood. Third, Noah seeks relationship with God through sacrifice; God defines new relationship in terms of justice—love God/others!

Noah’s response? Silence (revisited—and more later). “God said” four times in ch. 9 without a response from Noah (9:1,8,12,17), indicating a significant silence from a failure to understand, a resistance to the speaker, etc. Kass (187): “We have no idea what Noah himself made of what he had just been told…silence, perhaps from incomprehension or puzzlement, perhaps from understanding all too well, perhaps from fear or reluctance to comply, perhaps from despair over the human prospect. God’s speech about bloodshed and retribution could hardly have been what Noah expected to hear in response to his sacrificial offering. To address the human silence, God has to say more. God makes Noah a crucial promise…”

Third, the covenant (Gen 9:8-17). This is also unexpected. We move from 9:1-7’s sobering constraint to 9:8-17’s hopeful vision—interestingly, the very combo we seek in personal righteousness and civil society; not just law, but covenant and blessing.

After God's flood, one might think that life was cheap/expendable. 9:5-6 lays out the idea that "life is sacred" with a negative sanction. Here, the same idea is bolstered by God’s (positive) covenant with Noah. I like Kass’ thought on the combo: “Just as human nature, in the absence of law, always threatens human life through violence, so external nature, in the absence of covenant, always threatens human life through cataclysm.” Both provide hope for the future.

Where the flood is a monument to God's justice, the rainbow points to God's mercy.

Finally, a fun little list:
All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Noah's Ark

1. Don't miss the boat.
2. Don't forget that we're all in the same boat.
3. Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.
4. Stay fit. When you're 600 years old, God might ask you to do something REALLY big.
5. Don't listen to critics, just get on with what has to be done.
6. Remember that the ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals.
7. Remember that woodpeckers inside are a larger threat than the storm outside.
8. No matter the storm, when you're one with God there's a rainbow waiting.

Monday, May 24, 2010

500 SEIU members intimidate a 14-year old

Classy (but par for the course)...

From Moe Lane at (hat tip: Jefferson Review) on the story by Nina Easton at

Rand Paul abhors racism; liberals often support it through public policy; and liberal partisan hacks love it

Knuckleheads on the left are still trying to have fun with Rand's attempts to tease out a complicated topic. It's too complicated for them to understand or it's too easy/tempting for them to demagogue.

The truth is that Rand Paul abhors racism. From there, we can get into an interesting and important discussion about whether government policy is an ethical and practical means to the agreed-upon end. If a behavior is somewhere between irritating and repugnant, when should we be bring in the force of government to address the issue?

And the truth is that many liberals love racism-- at least, using it as a (sadly) somewhat effective cudgel against their political opponents. Beyond that, they often embrace policies that are explicitly racist (e.g., hiring quotas or JCPS busing) or implicitly racist (e.g., Social Security, minimum wages, the government's K-12 education monopoly, prevailing wages).

Friday, May 21, 2010

more on Paul and the "civil rights furor"

I blogged at great length on this yesterday.

Not surprisingly, with an issue like this-- and with partisans and demagogues to stoke the fires, at least temporarily-- there is more to say today. So...

First, the media responses:

1.) The C-J made it the lead story-- a reasonable piece by Joe Gerth with the inflammatory, editor-chosen headline, "Paul embroiled in civil rights furor". (UPDATE: The entire discretionary part of the two editorial pages-- aside from letters to the editor-- was devoted to this topic: 2 editorials and 3 op-ed pieces!! Even funnier, a letter to the editor takes the editorialists to task for a reference to Clarence Thomas' race in criticizing his dissent on a Supreme Court opinion!)

2.) Not surprisingly, the liberal national media continue to run hard with the story.

3.) Here are a few of the national GOP writers (the first from JewishWorldReview; the last two from; Rich Lowry on how helpful it would be to have a prominent voice like Paul's in the Congress; moderate Michael Gerson on the supposedly problematic "spectre" of the Tea Party; and Michael Reagan on Kentucky (ironically) leading the way politically through the Tea Party and Reaganesque/libertarian principles of limited government.

4.) I enjoyed Elendil's Journal, a Kentucky blogger who had some interesting thoughts on those who will overplay the oh-so-popular race card.

The prospective responses of the GOP "elites" (within the party apparatus):

I've been (somehow) surprised to see the "party elites" come out in favor of establishment candidates during the primary season-- including a number of "conservatives". It will be interesting to see whether they mess with Paul or support him.

On the one hand, they just want more GOP bodies-- even though they would prefer a sure-thing, establishment candidate-- so they'll probably support Paul. On the other hand, party purity (at the expense of purity of conservative principles) may win out-- and they may seek to sack Paul before he can do damage to the GOP's (purposefully) watered-down label. My guess is that the former line of short-term political survival and desire for power will win out (easily).

In an email conversation with a friend who was having fun with the angle of "I'm opposed to X personally, but don't support legislation against it." He sent me a list of amusing applications of this from a liberal perspective. I responded that:

It would be fun to put up a comparable list from the "conservative" side as well. The list, as is, has nothing about abortion, redistribution, govt monopoly in schools, Social Security, etc.

And then to a far-larger point:

Of course, all politicians-- in fact, all of us-- use the same argument. The question is when do we use the force of government to deal with problems we find abhorrent, repulsive, irritating, bothersome, etc. Do we want govt laws against cigarettes, adultery, Scientology, etc.?

Beyond that, there are other serious ethical and practical questions here. (I really enjoyed Paul's point about extending this to the 2nd amendment and whether restaurant owners should be allowed to make private rules about guns.) Of course, I don't expect such questions to be frequently asked in the political realm. I don't expect partisans or demagogues to raise those questions. And I don't expect the simple-minded to think of such questions. But there's "a big old world out there" on these questions-- at least for a liberal and reasoned mind to ask and try to answer!

Again, I encourage people to watch the interview. Paul handles an awkward situation quite well, avoiding the sound-bite, eschewing a yes/no answer to what is a complicated question, and laying out a cogent set of ethical and practical concerns.

If he sticks to that-- given the times, given Kentucky's relatively ornery preferences, given that he seems so reasonable-- I don't think this will last long, or more to the point, I don't think this will hurt him much at all. In fact, I'd say the danger is on the other electoral foot-- that the Dems will be tempted to overreach with this and end up looking desperate/silly. Recent precedent supports this view-- as Grayson ran into the same overreach in trying to demagogue Paul's nuanced views on abortion (a far larger issue in a GOP primary than race would be in a general election).

In a word, I don't think these sorts of arguments will work-- whether from the right or the left-- in this campaign season, in Kentucky, and against Rand Paul.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Varitek splitting the uprights

Here's the mayor of Boston-- apparently clueless about sports, but trying to use it for affect.

Maybe he has a profound speech impediment-- and if so, good for him for getting out there. But if not, he sounds drunk or otherwise unable to speak two coherent sentences in a row.

What's ionic and who's Clooney?

GOP Congressional sex scandals

With Mark Souder's admission this week-- of an affair with a staff member-- an old and intermittent but sobering pattern continues to unwind.

There are a surprising number of sex scandals among members of our government-- most notably, the U.S. Congress-- more notably still, by Republicans (given their "conservative" policy positions)-- and more notably still, by "family values" Republicans (why is this frequency significantly greater than zero?).

(Parenthetically, it's worth noting that Democrats certainly have their share of weird scandals-- sexual and otherwise-- with odd/hypocritical outcomes. Recent examples include the massive carbon footprint of famous "environmentalists" and Richard Blumenthal's lies about his supposed service in Vietnam [hat tip: Hoosier Pundit for providing a link to a more comprehensive story to this by National Review's Jim Geharty]. And then, there are the more bi-partisan examples: Clinton/Gingrich in the 1990s and Studds/Crane in the 1980s.)

To broaden this a bit, it's seemingly odd that "family values" cultural warriors (FVCW) ever end up in these outcomes-- something that makes me wince whenever I see a FVCW in action, encourages me to pray for them, and on occasion, to warn them candidly about the apparent dangers of their cause.

But all of this begs some questions: Why did Mark Souder do this? And why does this happen so/too often to FVCW's?

For Souder in particular, it's interesting that he reneged on his "term limits" commitment and then dramatically failed with respect to the even larger commitment to his wife and his professed Christian faith. And it's interesting that, by all accounts, he was not principled as a fiscal conservative-- although he claimed the mantle.

Taking this to the realm of (spiritual) disciplines, if one is not committed and principled in one area, this tends to spill into other areas. As such, people can move into hypocrisy which is built on an explicit or implicit gnosticism-- the assumption that parts of one's body or mind do not affect other parts. (For example, if I can never say "no" to a second piece of pie, I'll be less likely to control my anger.)

Do FVCW'ers fall into these sins because they are more prone to these temptations from the outset? Perhaps they see the dangers and want someone/something to relieve them and others of this temptation. Or do they fall into what would otherwise be a foreign temptation-- out of increased familiarity with it and/or out of an increasing hubris that they don't engage in that sin?

What about politicians? At least for individuals in Congress, I don't imagine that it's the weight of their work; many others have far weightier tasks.

But like others who travel a lot, they are less rooted in true community. Like those who work long hours, including many in the evening, they are less rooted in family and marriage. Like those with "power", they will be pursued by sycophants who want something from them and they are increasingly prone to see themselves in a self-deceiving way. And as those who exercise (political) power over others, it would not be shocking to see them exercise (personal) power over others when it's expedient.

One other thought: Some people avoid sin because they live with circumstances which make sin less likely. For example, I had lunch with a friend who half-joked that he avoided a lot of sexual temptation because he's "ugly and fat". Along those lines, money, looks, power, etc. all serve to increase opportunities for great and horrible outcomes.

So, there but for the grace of God go you and I, right?

Rand Paul on civil rights (legislation)

Here's his appearance on MSNBC with Rachel Maddow. (There is a five-minute introduction, including video/audio clips of his interviews with NPR and the C-J.) The primary subject is the use of federal law to deal with (local) businesses which engage in (overt) discrimination.

I saw this on some liberal blogs this morning and figured they were just digging for partisan dirt. Then I got a call to do an interview with Joe Arnold for WHAS. So, apparently, it will have a few legs. For reasons I'll cover below, I'll be surprised if it has much gas after this week.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There are a number of interesting things to consider here:

First, politically: Paul did an artful job in answering difficult questions about a nuanced position. As he did with abortion during the GOP primary (a much larger issue), he should be able to weather this as well. He's careful not to fall into the yes/no soundbite "trap" and at the end of the day, sounds like a very reasonable person. As Grayson found with abortion, attacks like this on Paul will likely seem desperate and backfire.

Second, Paul mostly alludes to the largest philosophical issue at hand (and his opponents and most of the media ignore the question altogether): If we find someone else's behavior to be repugnant, when should we seek legislation as a potential remedy? (I address this at great length in my book on Christianity and public policy.)

In a nutshell, it boils down to a distinction between "justice" (when direct and significant harm is done to others) and "morality" (when not-- typically, when the bulk of the damage is done to oneself and the behavior is still considered sinful or immoral). As such, discrimination can fit as a justice issue, but then one is left to consider practical issues.

Third, if one wants to invoke government as a means to various ends, there is still the vital question of (de)centralization: should government operate at the neighborhood, local, state, or federal levels?

Fourth, Paul makes a number of practical points in drawing comparisons and drawing out inferences of intervening in this manner. Paul allows for a distinction between public sector activity (where public sector enforcement is appropriate) and private sector activity (where private sector responses may be "adequate" and public sector enforcement may be quite troubling).

For example, private clubs and private schools are allowed to "discriminate". Will that be discontinued as well? When should we abridge "free speech" under the 1st Amendment-- even when we find such speech offensive or repulsive? If we prevent restaurant owners from having rules in their businesses, would they not be allowed to prevent people from coming in their establishments with firearms?

Three other considerations:

1.) It's interesting (and incoherent) that the C-J avidly and openly supports various forms of "institutional racism", while decrying Paul's stance on using government to deal with personal racism.

2.) Paul makes the important point that such discrimination is bad for business. (He didn't make the corollary point that competitive markets tend to drive such inefficiencies out of the market.)

3.) Maddow is referring to a law from a much different time and place-- the 1960s. Whatever the ethical and practical merits of the legislation then, it's a completely different topic today. What does/would happen to a company today that actively engaged in racial discrimination?

who was elected in PA-12 and what does it say about November

A conservative Democrat.
Not as much as one might expect, on the surface.

Here's George Will at

The candidate who on Tuesday won the special election in a Pennsylvania congressional district is right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama's health care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet's thermostat. This candidate, Mark Critz, is a Democrat.

And that just about exhausts the good news for Democrats on a surreal Tuesday when their presumptive candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut -- the state's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal -- chose to hold a news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to discuss why he had falsely said he fought in a foreign war. National Democrats may try to find a less damaged candidate for Connecticut, but first they may have to do that in Illinois.

Their candidate to hold the Senate seat Obama held, Alexi Giannoulias, has a problem: The failure of the bank owned by his family -- it made loans to Tony Rezko, the convicted developer who helped Obama with a 2006 property transaction -- may cost taxpayers many millions...

From there, he turns to Democrats trying to poke at GOP candidates-- and "their Exhibit A" is Rand Paul. For those who might be interested, Will goes into some detail on why those arguments are unimpressive...

Report: Majority Of Government Doesn't Trust Citizens Either

That's the title of a piece by The Onion.

It's a nice turn on a phrase, expressing a very popular sentiment about Congress. But at least half tongue-in-cheek, it reflects a popular sentiment within Congress-- that many/all individuals are not to be trusted with a number of our liberties and much of our money. (Moreover, they don't trust state and local governments to take care of things for which one might argue for a role for the government.)

The title alone is worth a post, but here are a few excerpts from the "story"...

At a time when widespread polling data suggests that a majority of the U.S. populace no longer trusts the federal government, a Pew Research Center report has found that the vast majority of the federal government doesn't trust the U.S. populace all that much either.

According to the poll—which surveyed members of the judicial, legislative, and executive branches—9 out of 10 government officials reported feeling "disillusioned" by the populace and claimed to have "completely lost confidence" in the citizenry's ability to act in the nation's best interests.

"All the vitriol and partisan bickering in Congress has caused most Americans to form negative opinions of the U.S. government," Pew researcher Amy Ratner said. "However, over the same time period, the government has likewise grown wary of U.S. citizens, largely due to their utter lack of foresight, laziness, and overall incompetence."

Added Ratner, "And the fact that American Idol is still the No. 1 show on television doesn't exactly make our government burst with confidence."...

Ninety-one percent of all government officials polled said they find citizens to be every bit as irresponsible, greedy, irrational, and selfishly motivated as government officials are...

ADL gets behind (school) vouchers

A lot of people support food and housing vouchers.

Cal Thomas-- at on the Philly branch of a liberal organization (rather than merely many liberal individuals) getting behind more choice and competition in K-12 education...

Few organizations are as consistently liberal as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), especially when it comes to matters of church and state....Which makes it remarkable that the executive committee of ADL's Philadelphia chapter has voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution endorsing vouchers that would allow children in underperforming schools in poor neighborhoods to escape to schools that would give them a safer environment in which to learn and, thus, a better education....the ADL's 30 regional offices are considering whether to adopt the Philadelphia resolution. The ADL's national board has scheduled a vote for June 14.

Reading the Philadelphia resolution recalls the arguments made for years by voucher advocates. It says a good education is a civil right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing equal treatment under the law....

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled a Cleveland voucher program constitutional. What's keeping vouchers from spreading across the nation? -- Politicians who have agendas other than a child's welfare. Liberty began in Philadelphia. Maybe it has begun anew.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

full vs. selective disclosure of funded science

Jack Stier at on disclosure in science...

"Commercialized" science distorts science, writes the Center for Science in the Public Interest's (CSPI) on the webpage of its "Integrity in Science" project. The very name of the project suggests that such science somehow inherently lacks integrity.

Attacks like these on industry-funded science are often cloaked in a call for simply more disclosure of the source of funding for a given study. And who could be against more disclosure?

The problem is that the only type of disclosure in vogue these days is that which comes from industry science....But if the source of funding really does suggest the possibility of bias, the "disclosure" advocates aren't giving us the whole story. They are focused only on one type of funding – one type of potential for bias. But disclosure can’t be selective.

Stier gives examples and then says...

This shoddy and uneven reporting happens all the time, but the conflicts aren't always so obvious. Countless studies are funded by foundations and, just like industry, foundations have a view of their own and an agenda to further....Other studies, produced by environmental activist groups...

The credibility of any study ought to be evaluated based on the substance of the report. Be it the science, or in this case, the policy arguments....

But if groups seeking greater regulation...are so concerned about disclosing conflicts, why aren't they crying foul...It seems these groups really aren’t concerned about conflicts. Rather, they are against the interests of the corporations that fund science – and they seek to discredit their science, regardless of the merits.

Christian or disciple of Jesus Christ?

Ask someone who goes to church: Are you a Christian?

You’ll most likely get a yes.

Ask the same person if he/she is a "Christ-follower" or a disciple of Jesus Christ-- and you’ll get an array of answers or a blank stare.

Culturally, being a Christian is often separate from following Christ. Biblically, it's difficult to find that distinction.

trickle-down politics/economics-- Democrat-style

Actually, this is quite similar to the much-crazier policies of FDR in the 1930s. I'm getting ready to finish reading a book on that and will report back soon!

hat tip: Hoosier Access...


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

boycotts are discrimination (at least to economists)

Discrimination is a choice for reasons other than "productivity".

The most obvious examples are related to bigotry-- where one decides not to deal with someone on the basis of a hatred for one's race or gender, for example. In such cases, I decide to harm myself by indulging other preferences that I have.

With the recent immigration law in Arizona, people are pointing to racism as a motive for the legislation. I'm sure this is true to some extent. But the "boycott" response is a clear example of discrimination (at least as economists define it). And interestingly, those who are choosing to discriminate are finding it reciprocal, as Arizonans respond (hat tip: Eric Grady).

athletes dominate Dancing with the Stars

I only catch a glimpse of it on occasion, but this is an interesting story-- in itself, and especially for those who follow the competition.

Here's Hannah Karp in the WSJ...

In the show's nine seasons so far, 19 jocks representing everything from beach volleyball to the National Football League have taken turns dancing with trained partners in a bid to impress the viewers and judges who determine the winners.

To say that they've dominated the show is an understatement. While athletes represent just 18% of the contestants, not counting this season, they've won five of the nine competitions, placed second three times and third once more. That works out to a collective success rate of 47%, which is far better than the rate for reality-show contestants (20%), supermodels (23%), soap-opera stars, politicians and people who are famous for being famous. The only group that compares is musicians, who've managed to claim eight spots on the podium...

The show wasn't imagined as a showcase for jocks. When it was launched in 2005, athletes were hardly the focus. In fact, half the year the show airs in the same time slot as "Monday Night Football." In the show's first season, heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield could only manage to place fifth.

But in season three, former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith shocked many viewers with his fancy footwork—earning rare perfect scores in the samba and cha cha cha. Since then, many athletes—even some who aren't retired—have started to see the contest as a competitive challenge.

In addition to Mr. Smith, racecar driver Helio Castroneves, speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and gymnast Shawn Johnson have won the competition, and three former NFL stars, Warren Sapp, Jason Taylor and Jerry Rice, have captured second place. It's become such a phenomenon that more than 100 athletes (mostly football players) called the show's casting director last year to inquire about competing...

two great visual/video on-line resources

From Susan Olasky in World...

The New York Public Library recently made available for free its online digital archives, containing over 700,000 images—historical maps, postcards, photographs, old restaurant menus, floor plans, advertisements, botanical prints, cigarette cards...

C-Span also made available its archives, a treasure trove of congressional hearings, Washington Journal shows, and speeches...23 years of material—160,000 hours' worth—easily searchable by event, program, topic, or person.

Rex Ecarma's goal: as prepared as Petrino; run his practices like Pitino; schedule and stay cool like Crum

I knew Rex and his wife-- a little bit-- from the old days in the singles' groups at Southeast. Glad to hear about his success! (At the time of this post, he had led his squad to the Sweet 16 for the NCAA championship! They'll play on 5/21 in Athens, GA.)

Here's Ray Hall in the C-J...

The longest-serving head coach at the University of Louisville is Rex Ecarma, the men's tennis coach. He has been on the job 20 years....

Ecarma, 44, played tennis himself at Louisville in the 1980s, winning 100 singles matches. Playing for a cash-strapped program, he expected little in the way of perks. Actually, no perks. “When (coach) Kevin Walsh gave me two pairs of shorts and two T-shirts, I could have kissed his hand,” Ecarma said.

After graduating with a biology degree, Ecarma went to dental school one semester, then dropped out....He did mission work in Mexico and returned to Louisville, where he taught tennis at the Jewish Community Center and Blairwood Tennis Swim & Fitness Club.

At the community center, he met Lewis “Sonny” Bass, a tennis enthusiast who had played football and basketball at UofL in the 1940s...He encouraged Ecarma to apply for the coaching job when Walsh retired. At age 23, Ecarma interviewed for the tennis job. “I went there not expecting anything, and I was so relaxed and so carefree. … I thought surely they're not going to take a chance on a 23-year-old.” UofL had other ideas...

The first nine years Ecarma was on the job, UofL's record was 106-107. Since then, it's 205-105. He was just named Big East Coach of the Year the second time. His 22-5 team whitewashed Villanova, DePaul and Notre Dame in the league tournament...

Last year, Ecarma appeared on the “Rex Streak,” in which sports radio talk show host Jim Rome interviewed 20 people named Rex....

And then, this cool quote:

“I want to be as prepared as Bobby Petrino. I want to run my practices as intense and focused as Rick Pitino. I want to schedule like Denny Crum and to be cool under pressure during the match as Denny Crum.

amazing technology

From News of the Weird (hat tip: The Economist, 2/18/10)...

on a San Diego company named Organovo which is producing...

$200,000 ink-jet-type printers that create living organs for patients needing transplants. The 3-D "bioprinter" works by spraying extracted microscopic cells on top of each other, in pass after pass. On the bioprinter's equivalent of a sheet of paper, and under laboratory conditions, the cells fuse together and grow for weeks until an organ substantial enough for research use is created (and ultimately, substantial enough for human transplants). The bioprinter is faster than growing such organs from scratch...

targeting the African-American community with abortion

From World...

There are 80 billboards dotting Georgia with the message, "Black children are an endangered species." The billboards direct drivers to, where viewers learn that although blacks comprise only 30 percent of Georgia's population, a disproportionate number (58 percent) of Georgia's 35,000 abortions are performed on black women. Although blacks make up 13 percent of the population nationwide, they account for 39 percent of the abortions...the abortion industry deliberately locates its centers in urban populations where many blacks reside, marketing them to reach blacks...

Monday, May 17, 2010

govt in theory vs. practice: regulation of the oil rig under Bush vs. Obama

From the AP's Justin Pritchard (hat tip: Conservative Edge)...

The federal agency responsible for ensuring that the Deepwater Horizon was operating safely before it exploded last month fell well short of its own policy that the rig be inspected at least once per month, an Associated Press investigation shows.

In fact, the agency's inspection frequency...fell dramatically over the past five years, according to federal Minerals Management records. The rig blew up April 20, killing 11 people before sinking and triggering a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico....

A summary of the inspection history that the MMS officials provided AP said the Deepwater Horizon received six "incidents of noncompliance" — the agency's term for citations.

The most serious occurred July 16, 2002, when the rig was shut down because required pressure tests had not been conducted on parts of the rig's blowout preventer — the device that was supposed to stop oil from gushing out if drilling operations experienced problems.

That citation was "major," said Arnold, who characterized the overall safety record related by MMS as strong....

Whatever the correct citation total — five or six — the Deepwater Horizon's record was exemplary, according to MMS officials, who said the rig was never on inspectors' informal "watch list" for problem rigs. In fact, last year MMS awarded the rig an award for its safety history.

Of course, regulators are much more a part of the bureaucracy than an administration. But it's amusing to see regulators in the Bush administration give warnings while those in the Obama administration gave awards.