Wednesday, June 30, 2010

lookin' like a fool wih your pants OFF the ground

From Dave Coverley's Speed Bump...

Atlas' Abs

An amusing effort from Dave Coverley in SpeedBump...

religious responses to irreverent pop culture: Islam vs. Christianity; coercion vs. persuasion

From Janie Cheaney in World...

We're familiar with the pattern by now: artist or performer produces work seen as insulting to Islam; threats ensue; artist or performer backs down. In the case of the infamous South Park Episode 201, it wasn't the creators who backed down but their network, Comedy Central....

Perhaps it was no coincidence that the Times Square car bomber's vehicle was parked near the headquarters of Viacom, Comedy Central's parent company....

How about this: a cartoon comedy series called JC, featuring an all-powerful but indifferent Father whose divine Son seeks excitement in New York City. Programming head Ken Alterman was asked the inevitable question: Won't Christians be offended?...

By now everyone knows that making Christians uncomfortable is much safer than poking certain quarters of the Islamic community. A more interesting question: Now that radical Muslims have demonstrated how easy it is to shut down blasphemy, why don't Christians show the same outrage at brazen ridicule of their Lord? The organized boycotts of the last 20 years have fizzled, and attempts to reclaim the media have faltered—we seem either powerless or apathetic. Why aren't radical Christians as dedicated to our beliefs as radical Muslims are to theirs?

We are—but radical Christianity is, to say the least, different. Culturally, we have a long tradition of freedom of conscience rooted in the Reformation and freedom of expression spurred by the Enlightenment. Biblically, we are called to appeal and persuade, not threaten and coerce. Our message is, "Believe in Christ because . . ." not, "Believe in Christ or else." Our job description is to make disciples, not break dissenters. And when we are persecuted the Lord says, "Vengeance is Mine."

But there's something else, too. He who dwells in unapproachable light deliberately made Himself vulnerable to human mocking. Those who beat, spit upon, and facetiously bowed down to Him did so with His full cooperation. His response was to beg mercy for them, "for they know not what they do." Shouldn't that be our response?...

"the devil is a preacher"

The opening line in Russell Moore's fine essay in Touchstone...

The devil is a preacher. From the third chapter of the Bible onward, he is opening up God’s Word to people, seeking to interpret it, to apply it, to offer an invitation. So the old Serpent of Eden comes to the primeval woman not with a Black Mass and occult symbols, but with the Word she’d received from her God—with the snake’s peculiar spin on it. Throughout the rest of the canon he does the same, implicitly or explicitly.

Throughout the Old Testament, he preaches peace—just like the angels of Bethlehem do—except he does so when there is no peace. He points God’s people to the particulars of worship commanded by God—sacrifices and offerings and feast-days—just without the preeminent mandates of love, justice, and mercy. Satan even preaches to God—about the proper motives needed for godly discipleship on the part of God’s servants.

In the New Testament, the satanic deception leads the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees to pore endlessly over biblical texts, just missing the point of Christ Jesus therein. They come to conclusions that have partially biblical foundations—the devil’s messages are always expository; they just intentionally avoid Jesus....

When the early Church rockets out of the upper room in Jerusalem, Satan is there, with false teachers, to preach all kinds of things that seem to be straight from God’s Word—from libertinism to legalism to hyper-spirituality to carnality. He never stops preaching...

But the devil is boring. That seems like exactly the opposite of what would be true of Satan. We think of the Tempter—and his temptations—as darkly exciting, tantalizing, seemingly irresistible.

But that’s not at all the case. False teaching in the Scripture—and in the ages of the church ever since—is boring. Read the expositions of Job’s counselors—and compare them to the proclamation of God at the end of the book of Job. Read what Balaam was paid to preach compared to what he announced through the power of the Spirit.

Satanic preaching is boring because the goal isn’t to engage people with preaching. It’s to leave the “desires of the flesh” alone, so that the hearers may continue in their captivity to the prince of the power of this air....

Jesus was often poorly received—but he never bored. When he preached, demons shrieked, crowds gasped, and services sometimes ended with attempted executions rather than altar calls. The prophets before him and the apostles after him were just like that, too. They provoked shouts of happiness or warrants for arrest, but they never prompted yawns.

If lost people don’t like your message because they’re hostile to the gospel, you’re in good company. But if you’re boring the people of God with the Word of God, something has gone seriously awry. It may be that you preach just like the devil, and that you don’t even know it.

Sometimes preachers bore because they don’t understand the nature of Scripture....Preachers who would rage against boredom can start by learning to listen to the literary power of the text. This means, for one thing, learning to form a moral imagination that can be fired up by the Scriptures. For the sake of your congregation, limit your television and stop surfing the Internet for hours on end. Read some good fiction and some poetry, and listen to stories being told—and thereby shape an imagination that recognizes literary structure, beauty, and coherence.

Some preachers bore because they misunderstand the nature of human rebellion. Sermons typically bore because they rest on abstractions at best, or on clichés and platitudes at worst....

World on Mark Souder

A little dated now-- at least in terms of the particular representative-- but eternal truths and concerns about the exercise of political power, adultery, accountability, the potential power of sexual sin, and so on.

Here's part of the intro to Emily Belz's article in World... more than a dozen emails to WORLD, [Souder] has offered an extraordinary look into the thinking and feeling of a principled legislator who violated his principles. "Politicians and any top professionals are skilled manipulators and smooth with words," he acknowledged: "Holding us accountable is hard." His emails reveal the agony of failure: "My sin, while forgiven, is greater in that God put me in a position of public trust, so I deserve whatever criticism I receive."

Manute Bol: fool for Christ

From Jon Shields in the WSJ with a moving tribute to Manute Bol-- on the occasion of his passing-- a giant in terms of stature and a spiritual/Christian giant...

Shields builds the essay around a discussion of redemption as it's commonly used within sports-- before turning to its more profound meaning within Christian practice/theology and applying Paul's frequent use of the term "fool" in his praise of Bol:

Manute Bol, who died last week at the age of 47, is one player who never achieved redemption in the eyes of sports journalists. His life embodied an older, Christian conception of redemption that has been badly obscured by its current usage.

Bol, a Christian Sudanese immigrant, believed his life was a gift from God to be used in the service of others. As he put it to Sports Illustrated in 2004: "God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back."

He was not blessed, however, with great athletic gifts. As a center for the Washington Bullets, Bol was more spectacle than superstar. At 7 feet, 7 inches tall and 225 pounds, he was both the tallest and thinnest player in the league. He averaged a mere 2.6 points per game over the course of his career, though he was a successful shot blocker given that he towered over most NBA players.

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: "Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals."

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer....boxing William "the Refrigerator" Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death....

the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death....

For all its interest in the intimate details of players' lives, the media has long been tone deaf to the way devout Christianity profoundly shapes some of them.

Obituary titles for Bol, for example, described him as a humanitarian rather than a Christian. The remarkable charity and personal character of other NBA players, including David Robinson, A. C. Green and Dwight Howard, are almost never explicitly connected to their own intense Christian faith. They are simply good guys.

Christian basketball players hope that their "little lights" shine in a league marked by rapacious consumption and marital infidelity. They could shine even brighter if sports journalists acknowledged that such players seek atonement and redemption in a far more profound way than mere athletic success.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

two amazing works of art we saw at the MOMA in Raleigh

First, Michael Richards' Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian.

Richards combined the themes of the Tuskegee Airmen with the martyrdom of St. Sebastian and a self-depiction in one bronze sculpture. Cool enough, right? The way Richards died is also amazing and eerie: in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers...

Michael  Richards and his "Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian."
Michael  Richards and his "Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian."
Michael  Richards and his "Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian."
Michael  Richards and his "Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian."

Second, Devorah Sperber's After the Mona Lisa IV: hundreds of spools of thread on strings, when viewed through a prism, turns the view upside down and converts it into a vision of the Mona Lisa. Ridiculous!

After The Mona Lisa 4, 2006, by Devorah Sperber, New York City,,  875 spools of thread, stainless steel ball chain and hanging apparatus,  clear acrylic spehre, metal stand.

helping out the charter schools? nahhh....

From Andy Gammill in the C-J...

Gov. Mitch Daniels called Friday for a law to force public school districts to transfer unused school buildings to charter school start-ups looking for space. Daniels said school districts in the state are withholding completely empty buildings from charter schools that are looking for property. Doing so, he said, unnecessarily costs taxpayers money when those charters have to buy or build new schools instead of moving in to the empty ones, since taxpayers paid to build both.

"People say they should sell them," he said. "Sell them? Hell, they should give them away. The public already paid for them."

I love the fire in that statement!

Can you believe we need a law for something like this? (More broadly, if I understand this correctly, charter schools do not receive funds for capital expenditures.) It's entirely predictable in terms of political economy. But why don't these people just do the right thing and release the buildings? And can you believe that people question the motives of agents in economic markets more than political markets?

borrowing money (and killing jobs) to create short-term jobs today

Speaking of Keynesianism, here's a local angle on the govt creating jobs through spending-- from Dan Klepal in the C-J...

About $46 million in federal stimulus money has come to Kentucky -- including $6 million to Louisville -- to create a summer jobs program for disadvantaged young people and adults with children...The program is expected to put 10,000 people to work this summer statewide, with 800 to 1,000 of those jobs in Jefferson County...the program has funded jobs that pay anywhere from minimum wage up to $28 an hour.

Temporary jobs: Is that worth it?

A summer program starting halfway through the summer: Couldn't we have started this a little sooner?

"But we need more employers and we still have federal money available," Beshear said. "I hope employers are listening. We've got a great deal for you."

The "great deal" is free labor for the employer, because the stimulus money pays employee wages and benefits. Yarmuth said all employers are eligible for the program, regardless of how profitable they are.

A great, short-term deal. If the jobs are not explicitly short-term, will this be enough for firms to bear long-term costs?

"The stimulus program is meant to create economic activity, whether it's extending unemployment benefits or paying for a construction worker on the Watterson" Expressway, Yarmuth said. "It really doesn't matter how the money gets into the economy, as long as it does."

And to Yarmuth, unfortunately, "it really doesn't matter how the money gets into the economy", whether through taxes-- or debt and future taxes. It's all about the spending, right?

Hayek's resurgence (vs. Keynes)-- the Sequel

Keynesianism has been intellectually dead for 35-40 years. But it is the grand zombie of democratic politics. Since the benefits of government activity/spending tend to be relatively obvious while its (typically larger) costs are relatively subtle, people (politicians and laypeople) routinely over-estimate the net impact of government activity.

Then, people push Keynesianism far enough or long enough-- and its flaws become obvious enough for enough people to notice.

Here's Russ Roberts in the WSJ on this playing out in the most recent resurgence of Freidrich Hayek:

When Glenn Beck recently explored Hayek's classic, "The Road to Serfdom," on his TV show, the book went to No. 1 on Amazon and remains in the top 10. Hayek's persona co-starred with his old sparring partner John Maynard Keynes in a rap video "Fear the Boom and Bust" that has been viewed over 1.4 million times on YouTube and subtitled in 10 languages.

Why the sudden interest in the ideas of a Vienna-born, Nobel Prize-winning economist largely forgotten by mainstream economists?

Hayek is not the only dead economist to have garnered new attention. Most of the living ones lost credibility when the Great Recession ended the much-hyped Great Moderation. And fears of another Great Depression caused a natural look to the that the stimulus has barely dented the unemployment rate, and with government spending and deficits soaring, it's natural to turn to Hayek. He championed four important ideas worth thinking about in these troubled times.

First, he and fellow Austrian School economists such as Ludwig Von Mises argued that the economy is more complicated than the simple Keynesian story....

Second, Hayek highlighted the Fed's role in the business cycle....

Third, as Hayek contended in "The Road to Serfdom," political freedom and economic freedom are inextricably intertwined....

The fourth timely idea of Hayek's is that order can emerge not just from the top down but from the bottom up. The American people are suffering from top-down fatigue....

Despite the caricatures of his critics, Hayek never said that totalitarianism was the inevitable result of expanding government's role in the economy. He simply warned us of the possibility and the costs of heading in that direction. We should heed his warning. I don't know if we're on the road to serfdom, but wherever we're headed, Hayek would certainly counsel us to turn around.

a drunk-driving principal? really?!

From Harold Adams in the C-J...

Lisa Nale, the principal at Borden Jr.-Sr. High School, has been placed on administrative leave following her arrest on a drunken driving charge....[Other drivers complained about her after she was swerving into their lane. Upon arrest, the officer found two bottles of vodka and Nale refused all field sobriety tests but denied drunkenness.]

Monty Schneider, superintendent of West Clark Community Schools, said Monday that Nale has been placed on paid leave pending a school system investigation. "I anticipate that she will be back with us," Schneider said. Nale has been principal at Borden for five years and Schneider said she "has done a very good job."

Wow...a probable return? Assuming she's guilty, this points to an set of interesting questions on redemption (in practice), incentives, personal responsibility, externalities, and so on. In particular, her occupation as a high school principal makes reinstatement far more problematic. How will students respond to a regrettable choice that they will be tempted to make in the coming years?

Obama thought deep-sea drilling was "absolutely safe"?!

Following the unfortunate silence of Dr. Sunstein, Byron York at notes:

There was one particularly striking moment in President Obama's widely panned June 15 speech on the gulf oil disaster. About midway through his talk, Obama acknowledged that he had approved new offshore drilling a few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion on April 20. But Obama said he had done so only "under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe."

Absolutely safe?...when the president announced his drilling plan, on March 31, he said it was "not a decision that I've made lightly" and that he and his advisers had "looked at (it) closely for more than a year." Surely he was told of the possible risks....

So how did the president get the idea that new offshore drilling would be absolutely safe? Obama has often said he relies on a "green team" for advice on energy and environmental decisions. The top three members of the team are the director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Carol Browner; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Did Browner or Salazar or Chu assure the president that new offshore drilling would be "absolutely safe"?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

can someone "Nudge" Dr. Sunstein to speak on the oil spill?

Another example of science being trumped by ideology in the Obama administration-- and a pointed and amusing observation from the editorialists of the WSJ...

The Gulf oil spill is having all sorts of nasty consequences well beyond damage to the regional environment and economy. Not least, the resulting political panic seems to be rehabilitating the thoroughly discredited theory of regulation known as the precautionary principle.

This principle holds that government should attempt to prevent any risk—regardless of the costs involved, however minor the benefits and even without understanding what those risks really are. Developed in the late 1960s, this theory served as the intellectual architecture for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is still required to eliminate certain environmental risks no matter how expensive or pointless the effort is.

This same mentality is now prompting not merely tighter safety standards, but President Obama's moratorium on all new deep water drilling, shutting down dozens of Gulf and Alaskan projects, maybe permanently....

The irony is that the figure most responsible for dismantling its premises, Cass Sunstein, is now a member of the Obama Administration...calls the precautionary principle "incoherent" and "paralyzing," as he put it in an essay in the journal Daedalus two years ago.

"Precautions cannot be taken against all risks," Mr. Sunstein elaborated in his 2005 monograph "Laws of Fear," "not for the important but less interesting reason that resources are limited, but simply because efforts to redress any set of risks might produce risks of their own."

Mr. Sunstein's insight is that there are risks on all sides of a question—doing nothing can be dangerous, but acting might be more dangerous—so the only rational way to judge regulation is to quantify the costs and benefits....

Mr. Sunstein has rarely been heard in public since he joined the Administration, and his "nudge" philosophy to encourage better choices in no way influenced the health-care bill. Perhaps he'd care to speak up now? With the reinvigoration of the precautionary principle, the country could use a little empiricism.

Obama's politics trump science (at least on oil)

From the editorialists of the WSJ...

They begin by quoting President Obama from 4/27/09:
"Under my Administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over. . . To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy. . . I want to be sure that facts are driving scientific decisions, and not the other way around."

Then, they respond:

The President has appointed a seven-person commission to take what he says will be an objective look at what caused the Gulf spill and the steps to make offshore drilling safe. But judging from the pedigree of his commissioners, we're beginning to wonder if his real goal is to turn drilling into a partisan election issue....he's loaded up on politicians and environmental activists.

From there, they detail the (telling) backgrounds of the seven, before continuing:

Whatever their other expertise, none of these worthies knows much if anything about petroleum engineering. Where is the expert on modern drilling techniques, or rig safety, or even blowout preventers?

The choice of men and women who are long opposed to more drilling suggests not a fair technical inquiry but an anti-drilling political agenda....

Even as this commission moves forward, engineering experts across the country have agreed that there is no scientific reason for a blanket drilling ban....Judging from that decision and now from Mr. Obama's drilling commission, the days of "science taking a back seat to ideology" are very much with us.

Paul blows up Obama on his handling of the oil disaster

From Joe Gerth in the C-J...

In a campaign press release Friday, Paul called Obama's actions "a case study in failure to lead, failure to act, and using a crisis to advance your own agenda rather than solve the problem."

On Thursday night..."We need to find out what happened, we need to investigate it, rationally and reasonably, and try to fix it so it doesn't happen again," Paul said. "But I don't like the idea of vilifying people....If you're the president of the United States, you can talk a business out of business simply by talking down their stock. I don't think that's good."

In his speech, Paul was especially critical of remarks by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who told CNN last month: "Our job basically is to keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum."

"I don't like the idea of judging people before they're found guilty," Paul said. "I also don't think it's good for the cleanup effort to try to put BP out of business. I want BP to pay for it...."

A great point! Paul also takes him to task for policy flaws I've already noted-- failing to waive the Jones Act, etc.

comparing the Katrina flood of New Orleans and the BP disaster

From Paul Rubin in the WSJ...

It's interesting that Rubin broadens Katrina's impact to the Gulf Coast. And factually, that's correct. But the fact is that "Katrina" is far more memorable/noteworthy for what it did to devastate New Orleans. There, we saw a combination of strong hurricane (a sizable natural disaster)-- seriously exacerbated by the massive failure of government planning in preparing for such a storm (and to Rubin's point, the failure of various levels of govt in its aftermath).

In many respects, the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Katrina are mirror images of each other. The harm from Katrina was on state land—mainly Louisiana, but also Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. As a result, President George W. Bush and the federal government were limited in what they could do. For example, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wanted to take command of disaster relief on the day before landfall, but Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco refused. Federal response was hindered because the law gave first authority to state and local authorities.

State and local efforts—particularly in New Orleans, and Louisiana more broadly—interfered with what actions the federal government could actually take. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was late in ordering an evacuation and did not allow the use of school buses for evacuation, which could have saved hundreds of lives. President Bush had no power to change that decision.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is on federal offshore territory. The federal government has primary responsibility for handling the situation, while state and local governments remain limited in what they can do. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly changed its mind regarding the chemical dispersants that Louisiana is allowed to use....As opposed to Katrina, state and local attempts to address the oil spill have been hindered by an ineffectual and chaotic federal response....

Two days after Katrina's landfall, Mr. Bush suspended the Jones Act (which restricts the ability of non-American ships to work in U.S. waters) to allow assistance for Katrina victims. During Katrina, over 70 foreign countries pledged emergency assistance. In the current situation, President Barack Obama has not suspended the Jones Act. Many countries such as the Netherlands, which would like to help and have expertise in cleaning oil spills, can offer only limited relief. This is significantly delaying the cleanup....

Mr. Bush was a Republican, and elected Democrats controlled Louisiana and New Orleans, the main victims of Katrina. Many claimed Mr. Bush neglected New Orleans for this reason. Mr. Obama is a Democrat, and the states affected by Deepwater Horizon—Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida—all have Republican governors. I have not seen anyone, even on the right, claim that the ineffectual response of the Obama administration is due to partisan politics...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

watchdog media for Paul vs. lapdogs for Conway

Some tough questions for much of the Kentucky media and Jack Conway from John David Dyche in the C-J...

Kudos for the C-J publishing it!

Kentucky media have made Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul their political punching bag since last month's primary. Meanwhile, the press coddles Democrat Jack Conway...voters can fairly wonder whether liberal bias explains Conway's free pass. Just imagine if journalists were as eager to expose Conway as an empty suit as they have been to portray Paul as a libertarian kook.

They would track Conway down where ordinary working-class Democrats like him hang out -- Belmont Park or Glenview -- and ask him questions like these.

Abortion. Where in the Constitution do you find the right to abortion?...Would you have voted for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act?

Health care. You support the health care reform act despite polling showing 60 percent of Kentucky voters favor its repeal. Are Kentuckians just too stupid to know their own best interests?

Immigration. Do you support the administration or Arizona?

You boast of a plan to save $430 billion over a decade without raising taxes, but last week 44 Senate Democrats (and their socialist fellow traveler from Vermont) voted to add $80 billion to the deficit over a decade by extending jobless benefits, giving state and local governments subsidies, postponing cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, and renewing tax breaks. How would you have voted?

Maybe media take it easy on Conway not because of bias, but because he is boring, evasive and superficial. Paul is at least interesting, engaging, and serious. Regardless of the reason, the press is indisputably reluctant to scrutinize the Democratic lawyer as intensely as it has the Republican doctor.

Platt's platitudes for Carter vs. the reality that Carter encouraged the demand for gas and discouraged the supply of alternative energy

Pam Platt in the C-J with something you don't see everyday-- an ode to Jimmy Carter!

It is at least 30 years late, but the nation needs to pull a Tony Hayward and offer an abject apology to Jimmy Carter.

Maybe after he apologizes to us, first...

He was right about many, many things...

OK, Pam, name three...I can give him credit for 1.5 things-- his incredibly important introduction to massive deregulation in communication and transportation, the most under-rated (and arguably the most important) economic story of the last 70 years. -- as we continue to absorb the staggering costs and risks associated with deepwater oil drilling gone wild and worse than bad -- we're going to re-visit why he was right about energy.

But in addition to conservation, his ideology led to deepwater drilling vs. shallow-water drilling. So, welcome to the blame game!

Throw a rock at any major speech Jimmy Carter gave to the American people in his four years as president of the United States (1977-1981) and you will hit one that featured both broad and focused strategies on how to begin the transition of American energy consumption to include meaningful conservation and alternative sources such as sun and wind. He walked the walk, too: He even had solar panels installed on the White House roof. (R.I.P. 1979-1986).

Interestingly, Carter used our money to pay for his solar panels and the resulting inefficiencies.

He was stubborn and principled in hewing to his long-held values and the values for which he believed our nation should stand...Americans preferred Ronald Reagan's fairy tales (he drew heavily on his glory-days film plots for his anecdotes) to Jimmy Carter's tough love....

What completely undermines this argument is Carter's embrace of price controls on gas-- perversely, encouraging consumers to purchase more gas and discouraging producers (of gas and alternatives) to produce more energy. (Remember [stories about] all of the crazy rationing of gas in the late 1970s?!)

With that, Platt's platitudes ring hollow and he undermined his own passionate policy goals.

good/bad news

Good news: Libertarians have risen to a level to provoke the attack of a national cartoonist.
Bad news: This attack is incredibly ignorant and slanderous. I spent some time thinking of analogies for Democrats, Republicans, and cartoonists-- but decided it wasn't worth the time.

Here's Clay Bennett in the C-J. My respect for the C-J just dropped another notch. It's one thing to draw this cartoon; it's another to publish it. Wow...

great Father's Day sermon

Kyle hit a home run on Sunday-- in between a funny beginning and a powerful finish, a crucial message. He aimed most of his efforts at men, but then had something for (nagging) wives at the end.

My favorite lines: "put away your vase" and "men love action-- in movie and sports-- from their couch".

Biggest value-added for me: his take on I Pet 3:7. It's another angle on (application of) what I've often said about the double-minded man of Jas 1:8-10-- that it's utterly ridiculous to be aggressively disobedient toward God in one area of your life, while asking His counsel or favor in that same area.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

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

On the “new men” (alluding to the transformation that God intends for His children), “They begin where most of us leave off…They will not be very like the idea of ‘religious people’…They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less…They usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When you have recognized one of them, you will recognize the next one much more easily…In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun.”

--Mere Christianity, book 4, ch. 11

Genesis 17:1-14's Centrality of Circumcision in Judaism (and at least in its essence, in Christianity and a well-ordered world)

Although chapter 12’s faithful response to God’s call and promises (from out of Babylon) and chapter 22’s faithful response to God’s command (the binding of Isaac) are key, Chapter 17’s covenant of circumcision is central—both literally and figuratively.

Here are the details of the literal claim: Kass notes the “chiastic” structure of Abraham’s 11 trials—four sets of “bookends” which bring attention to circumcision at the center. Trials 1&11 are chs. 12/22’s adventures complying with commands to go somewhere the Lord will designate once he starts on the trip (to Canaan/Moriah). Trials 2&9 are trouble in Egypt/Gerar with Pharaoh/Abimelech (chs. 12/20); while trials 3&10 are trouble with potential heirs, Lot/Ishmael (chs. 13/21). Trials 4&8 are Lot and Sodom in danger (chs. 14/19). Trials 5&7 are about aliens, justice and hospitality—Sarah’s harsh treatment of Hagar vs. Abraham’s hospitality toward the visitors (chs. 16/18). And then, it’s trial 6 on circumcision here.

So, chapter 17 is the trial in the middle—the sixth out of 11—and it is key to understanding what God wants from Abraham in both general terms (faithful obedience) and in specific terms (being passionately involved in paternity and transmission of an authentic faith). As such, I’m looking forward to teaching on this tonight. In a word, I cannot imagine a more appropriate text for Father’s Day.

God “appears” to start the events of chapter 17. It’s been 13 years since Ch. 16's troublesome episode with Hagar. It’s also been about 13 years since the birth of Ishmael—who they considered the son of God’s promise. (Soon, they will learn that the child of promise is to come through Sarah—Isaac!)

In broad terms, there is a reiterated need for faith (Gen 17:4,9). But there is now a far-greater emphasis on the works that should emanate from faith. Prior to this, Abram has received promises and commands to go—but nothing (directly) on how to live.

In particular, Kass points to the importance of fatherhood—and conveying that to Abram: “Fatherhood is more than siring…Now that Abram has a son [approaching maturity], the crucial task of perpetuation begins in earnest, and Abram must be shown what is required…Proper paternity requires, first of all, a proper orientation toward the divine—the theme of Abram’s central adventure and trial. As Ishmael approaches young manhood (age 13), God, looking to the future, appears to Abram.”

Why now? God is probably responding to Abram’s (unstated) reaction to Ishmael turning 13—looking to some initiation of Ishmael into manhood, likely thru some local/cultural rite of passage. If so, God is looking to specify the style/substance of this rite and to transform/redeem its meaning.

In Gen 17:1, God exhorts Abram to "walk before” Him and to "be blameless" (Ps 101:2,7). The former can be construed as "walk with me" (Gen 5:22, 6:8-9)—as Abram had for 24 years (Eph 4:1). But literally, the phrase means “to My face”. Kass paraphrases this as “in my presence; in my sight; under my protection”. The latter is tamin which also implies wholehearted and undivided—or Kass defines it, “wholly oriented with the Lord and wholly committed to His way”.

The combination is noteworthy. Both stem from an intimate relationship with God and a belief that in doing so, we is doing what is in our best interests. These also address larger issues earlier in Genesis: the “not goodness” of humans (in 1:26-30); the appropriate limits on human freedom; an answer to the (internal and external) conflict and division sown in Gen 3; and deals with human pride/disposition and purpose/direction (Gen 4-11). But beyond this great(er) general call to Abram, nothing is specified (yet).

Gen 17:2-8 lays out the covenant, with a brief intro in 17:2 and 17:3a’s Abram falling facedown in silence. His response is a simple but profound expression of awe/reverence, humility, and gratitude. Again, Kass: “Yet he does not flee in fear and dread; Abram holds his place if not his standing. He acknowledges that is it hard to do what he has been asked to do, but at the same time, he affirms his wish to do it.”

Interestingly, this is the first time Abram has responded like this. Why? It may point to the (growing) depth of their relationship. At the least, it indicates that he is “struck by the moment”—perhaps especially after such a long wait since he last heard from God, or perhaps with a growing sense that the covenant would not be fulfilled in the way he had been expecting.

In 17:4 for God's "as for me..." takes us back to God’s side of things—after introducing the implied conditions for Abram. In 17:5, Abram's name is changed, implying God's dominion (Rev 2:17; imagine someone changing your name as an adult!) and signaling a new beginning. Interestingly, two of the three patriarchs receive name changes from God—and the name of the third, Isaac, was given directly by God. Abram’s name meant “exalted father”—and is changed to Abraham, "father of a multitude". The focus of his name is now on his identity as the father of a (Jewish) nation—on offspring vs. ancestry, future vs. past.

Of course, all of this is with only one child in hand—and ironically, Ishmael rather than the child of promise, Isaac. As such, Abraham likely interprets 17:5b's "have made you..." as past tense thru Ishmael—rather than as the done deal it is for Isaac in the near-future (as well as other kids in Gen 25:2, and eventually us [Gal 3:16-18’s “seed”]).

Two other little things: there are 18 2nd-person pronouns in this passage (vs. 10 1st-person), using the narrative to prefigure the multiplication of “you’s”. And God has literally enlarged Abraham’s name by adding the letter H (the letter most associated with God’s primary name, Yahweh)!

Gen 17:7-8's “everlasting” is applied to the covenant and the land/possession. Such promises certainly mean more to a guy with kids. But this seems to be more conditional on man's obedience (17:9-14; Dt 28:62-63's prophecy; Jer 31:31-34). As such, Gen 17:14's cut off (so to speak) if disobedient (again, conditional; see: Ex 4:24,26!) says, in essence, cut it off or be cut off; be cut on or get cut off.

Gen 17:2 had said "between me and you". In Gen 17:9-14, we turn to the specifics of Abram's part of the deal: circumcision—and implicitly but importantly, remembering and communicating thru the generations. In a sense, God isn’t asking much—but at least for this first generation, in another sense, he’s asking a lot!

Kass contrasts this with God’s covenant with Noah: “Unlike the rainbow, the sign of God’s earlier covenant with Noah and all life after the Flood—which addressed only the preservation of life rather than its moral or spiritual character and which accordingly demanded nothing from man in return…”

Gen 17:12-13a defines "every" as all born or bought and going forward, doing this at eight days old. Spiritually, this would insure that a Sabbath had passed. Physically, we don’t have Vitamin K until Day 8; babies are now given clotting factors to do this. An adult would have no memory of his own, but would be instrumental in doing the same to/for his own son. (Thus, this means more to a father; more later). Ishmael is brought into the covenant, but given the age detail, Burton Visotzky notes that “the command seems designed for one who is yet to arrive on the scene.”

Finally, Gen 17:23,26's immediacy points to Abraham’s faithful obedience in something that was difficult for him and his household.

OK, so why circumcision?!

Some simple reasons: It required shedding of blood; it promoted good health (at least in that time); and as a common rite, it would promote nation-making for Israel.

One larger reason: it will serve as a sign of obedience and signify that one belongs to God's people. (This is akin to putting on the team uniform with baptism in NT times.) Alec Motyer: “he was literally, a ‘marked man’, the man to whom the Lord had made his covenanted promises and who carried the sign and proof of it on his own body.” And it was a daily reminder. As Cahill wryly notes: “It is impossible for any man to forget his penis.” But even in OT times, it was meant to be more “internal” than external—as a symbol of "circumcision of the heart". It is oft-overlooked that such an application is in the OT (Dt 10:16, 30:6's prophecy, Jer 4:3-4a), not just the NT (e.g., Rom 2:25-29a, 4:11-12).

Now for the big finale. The pagan used the same rite at the time of puberty—as here, incidentally and ironically, for only Ishmael and his peers. It may have symbolized human sacrifice. It was certainly a male rite of passage into society which pointed to the youth’s new sexual potency.

But Kass notes that for Israel, it had “a new and nearly opposite meaning: An initiation rite of passage of young males into adult masculinity is transformed into a paternal duty regarding the male newborn. Israel’s covenant with God begins by transforming the meaning of male sexuality and manliness altogether…It celebrates not sexual potency but procreation and (especially) perpetuation.”

And more broadly, this point to an elevated role for parents, esp. fathers. Again, Kass: “Though it is the child who bears the mark, the obligation falls rather on the parents; it is a perfect symbol of the relation between the generations, for the deeds of the parents are always inscribed…into the lives of their children. The obligation of circumcision calls fathers to the paternal task (from the beginning)…”

Thus, it is a divine command/covenant, rather than a social convention. It circumcises their own pride and underlines that children are a gift from God. (For Abraham, it’s ironic that just after he’s told to cut off part of his penis, he’s told in Gen 17:15-18 that he’ll father the child of promise thru Sarah!) It reminded them that bearing a child was easier than the more important task of raising a child well (starting with circumcision). It reminded them, more broadly, that “the sins/deeds of the fathers” are often “visited upon their sons”. It ratified their own circumcision, underlines generational impact and importance of transmission of their faith. It was both individual and communal—and both temporal and historical (pointing all the way back to Abraham—who was called and who sought to walk before God wholeheartedly).

But why males only (giving and receiving this)? It certainly alludes to male headship (properly defined). Nothing is required of females—although the promised blessings are extended to all (Gal 3:28). And women are still included here, at least in their acquiescence—submitting to God and husband. As Kass notes, this too is an important lesson: It is “Not the maternal ties of blood, but the divine bond of covenant [that] gives the child his deepest identity.”

The bottom line is that extra inducement was—and generally is—needed for men. Kass: “Freed by nature from the consequences of their sexuality, probably less fitted and less interested by nature than women for the work of nurture and rearing, men need to be acculturated to the work of transmission. Virility and potency are, from the Bible’s point of view, much less important than decency, righteousness, and holiness. The father is recalled to this teaching and, accordingly, symbolically remakes his son’s masculinity.”

May this challenge all fathers this day—and always—to fight for glorious marriages and to be passionately involved with their children. The most common option—so often seen in Genesis and ever since—is silence and passivity.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Obama tells other countries "no thanks" on oil spill

This is a very odd choice for a consensus-builder and someone who enjoys working with the international community. Perhaps this relates to labor unions? Other hypotheses?

President Obama has repeatedly said his Administration is doing everything in its power to expedite the oil clean-up and mitigate the damage. But in the two weeks immediately after the spill, 13 foreign governments reached out and offered their assistance. The U.S. response? Thanks, but no thanks....

The Belgian dredging group DEME says it has offered the U.S. specialized vessels and technology that can help clean up the spill in three to four months compared to the estimated nine months that the U.S. will need. There are only a handful of these vessels in the world, and most of them belong to Dutch and Belgian companies. So why aren't we calling on them?

Blame it on the protectionist Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also called the Jones Act, that requires ships working in U.S. waters to be built, operated and owned by Americans. Building specialized clean-up vessels in the U.S. is too expensive because of high union labor costs, and unions don't want ships built with foreign labor to be used in U.S. waters. To circumvent the Jones Act, clean-up crews have had to outfit American ships with skimming technology airlifted from the Netherlands. This has resulted in serious delays and greater harm to the Gulf.

Presidents can suspend the Jones Act in emergencies, as George W. Bush did after Hurricane Katrina. But the Obama Administration continues to maintain that this isn't necessary and that there are "no pending requests" for waivers.

...there's no excuse for turning away ships that can clean up the oil merely because that might offend Mr. Obama's union friends.

BP's risky decisions

From Russell Gold and Tom McGinty in the WSJ...

In recent years, oil giant BP PLC used a well design that has been called "risky" by Congressional investigators in more than one out of three of its deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico, significantly more often than most peers, a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data shows.

It's interesting (telling?) that federal regulators didn't share that concern.

The design was used on the well that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, killing 11 workers and causing America's worst offshore oil spill. The only other major well design, which is more expensive, includes more safeguards against a natural-gas blowout of the kind that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon.

A Journal analysis of records provided by the U.S. Minerals Management Service shows that BP used the less costly design—called "long string"—on 35% of its deepwater wells since July 2003, the earliest date the well-design data were available. Anadarko Petroleum Corp., a minority partner of BP's in the destroyed well, used it on 42% of its deepwater Gulf wells, though it says it doesn't do so in wells of the type drilled by BP.

Both companies used the design much more often, on average, than other major Gulf drillers. Out of 218 deepwater wells in the Gulf drilled since July 2003, 26% used the long-string design.

It derives its name from its use of a single, long "string" of pipe from the sea floor to the bottom of the well....A long-string design is cheaper because a single pipe runs the length of the well and can be installed in one step. But it also can create a dangerous pathway for natural gas to rise unchecked outside the pipe.

The alternative, known as liners, is seen as safer because it has more built-in places to prevent oil or gas from flowing up the well uncontrolled....

So, why wouldn't they be used all or none of the time? What are the other variables to consider?

A BP spokesman said long string is widely used and is a perfectly acceptable design, particularly in areas where other wells have been drilled and the geology is well understood....

Long-string wells are made of a continuous length of steel, which makes the well sturdier over time—a point Mr. Hayward alluded to in his testimony, noting that the design decision had "to do with the long-term integrity of the well." The Minerals Management Service signed off on BP's long-string plan for the Horizon well, he added....

Anadarko says it doesn't use long-string design for drilling exploration wells in unfamiliar areas. The company also says it only uses long strings in lower-pressure wells. The well BP was drilling with the Deepwater Horizon was an exploration well, and was well above normal pressure....

BP claims and tax evasion

It just occurred to me this morning that:

People who have evaded their income taxes will be unable to get "full" compensation from BP-- since they will be unable to document their "income".

This is similar to the plight of a tax evader who tries to sell a business, but has difficulty in credibly describing the revenues of that business.

Friday, June 18, 2010

rivals use govt to attack WalMart

An interesting example of a familiar theme-- from Ann Zimmerman in the WSJ...

Robert Brownson long believed that his proposed development here, with its 200,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter, was being held hostage by nearby homeowners.

He had seen them protesting at city hall, and they had filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

What he didn't know was that the locals were getting a lot of help. A grocery chain with nine stores in the area had hired Saint Consulting Group to secretly run the antidevelopment campaign....

As Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has grown into the largest grocery seller in the U.S., similar battles have played out in hundreds of towns like Mundelein. Local activists and union groups have been the public face of much of the resistance. But in scores of cases, large supermarket chains including Supervalu Inc., Safeway Inc. and Ahold NV have retained Saint Consulting to block Wal-Mart, according to hundreds of pages of Saint documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with former employees...

tax incentives and the probability of a double-dip in 2011

From Arthur Laffer in the WSJ...

People can change the volume, the location and the composition of their income, and they can do so in response to changes in government policies.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the nine states without an income tax are growing far faster and attracting more people than are the nine states with the highest income tax rates. People and businesses change the location of income based on incentives....

Likewise, who is gobsmacked when they are told that the two wealthiest Americans—Bill Gates and Warren Buffett—hold the bulk of their wealth in the nontaxed form of unrealized capital gains? The composition of wealth also responds to incentives....

People can also change the timing of when they earn and receive their income in response to government policies....

On or about Jan. 1, 2011, federal, state and local tax rates are scheduled to rise quite sharply....Now, if people know tax rates will be higher next year than they are this year, what will those people do this year? They will shift production and income out of next year into this year to the extent possible. As a result, income this year has already been inflated above where it otherwise should be and next year, 2011, income will be lower than it otherwise should be...

When we pass the tax boundary of Jan. 1, 2011, my best guess is that the train goes off the tracks and we get our worst nightmare of a severe "double dip" recession....

In 2010, without any prepayment penalties, people can cash in their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), Keough deferred income accounts and 401(k) deferred income accounts. After paying their taxes, these deferred income accounts can be rolled into Roth IRAs that provide after-tax income to their owners into the future. Given what's going to happen to tax rates, this conversion seems like a no-brainer.

The result will be a crash in tax receipts once the surge is past. If you thought deficits and unemployment have been bad lately, you ain't seen nothing yet.

the clear and far more important sense in which Obama is a "foreigner"

From Dorothy Rabinowitz in the WSJ...

The deepening notes of disenchantment with Barack Obama now issuing from commentators across the political spectrum were predictable. So, too, were the charges from some of the president's earliest enthusiasts about his failure to reflect a powerful sense of urgency about the oil spill.

There should have been nothing puzzling about his response to anyone who has paid even modest critical attention to Mr. Obama's pronouncements. For it was clear from the first that this president—single-minded, ever-visible, confident in his program for a reformed America saved from darkness by his arrival—was wanting in certain qualities citizens have until now taken for granted in their presidents. Namely, a tone and presence that said: This is the Americans' leader, a man of them, for them, the nation's voice and champion....

Those qualities...were never about rhetoric...They were a matter of identification with the nation and to all that binds its people together in pride and allegiance...

A great part of America now understands that this president's sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.

One of his first reforms was to rid the White House of the bust of Winston Churchill—a gift from Tony Blair—by packing it back off to 10 Downing Street. A cloudlet of mystery has surrounded the subject ever since, but the central fact stands clear. The new administration had apparently found no place in our national house of many rooms for the British leader who lives on so vividly in the American mind....

It is a White House that has focused consistently on the sensitivities of the world community—as it is euphemistically known—a body of which the president of the United States frequently appears to view himself as a representative at large...

is Obama having an impact on BP or not?

I blogged on this yesterday-- and we continue to see the dilemma play out in the C-J editorial references to the $20 billion escrow fund and outrage over the apology offered to BP by Rep. Joe Barton.

If BP is just doing what it should do, then there's no "shakedown", but there's no influence either.

If BP was forced to do what it would not otherwise do, then there's influence being exerted, but "shakedown" is not the right word. That said, there's no evidence that BP was avoiding its duty nor that the judicial system has failed in making things as right as possible.

Indiana and Kentucky get Feds to pay for local bridge

Sure, it's inter-state. But this should be worked out between the state legislatures of the two states, rather than imposing the costs on taxpayers across the nation.

Here's the unattributed story in the C-J...

The U.S. Department of Transportation has given final approval for construction to begin on a $130 million project to replace the deteriorating bridge connecting Madison, Ind., with Milton, Ky., along U.S. 421.

The federal agency on Thursday finalized a $20 million federal stimulus grant awarded in February by signing the grant agreement with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Indiana Department of Transportation. The two states will provide the balance of the funding...

to what extent should babies in the womb be protected?

From Tom Loftus in the C-J...

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a woman who takes illegal drugs while pregnant can't be charged with endangering her child.

In a 5-2 decision, the court held that such prosecutions are "expressly precluded" by the Maternal Health Act passed by the 1992 General Assembly.

The ruling came in the case of Ina Cochran of Casey County, who was indicted on a charge of first-degree wanton endangerment after giving birth in late 2005 to a child who tested positive for cocaine.

Sounds like it is in concert with the 1992 law. There would seem to be larger (and contradictory) Constitutional issues, so it'll be interesting to see if this is appealed and overturned.

I suppose one could argue that there's a slippery slope here-- that once you start regulating pregnant mothers, they could be prosecuted for all sorts of sins of omission and commission. But at least at this extreme, it's a shame that babies are not afforded appropriate protection in the womb.

Rand Paul's letter in the C-J

If you're interested, the C-J published a letter from Rand Paul on the "civil rights furor".

It reads like it was written a few weeks ago-- and it's certainly old from a news cycle perspective. But I haven't heard anything about the timing of the publication. (UPDATE: On another blog, someone wrote that it was published in the Bowling Green paper nearly two weeks earlier. Now the question is why the C-J waited all that time...)

I've spent the past 14 months traveling around the commonwealth, giving more than 400 speeches, and talking to thousands of Kentuckians.

Throughout these speeches, I never once had reason to discuss the Civil Rights Act of 1964, much less call for the repeal of this settled law 46 years later.

So you can imagine my shock when my wife called the day after the election to tell me that Jack Conway was on MSNBC outright lying, claiming that I had called for the repeal of the Civil Rights Act. Even though these lies were evident by watching the video footage, commentators on MSNBC and elsewhere have been repeating it as fact for more than a week now.

If you watch any of my interviews, you'll see I never stated that I did not support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and I certainly never called for its repeal.

I was asked if I supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I stated that "I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I'm all in favor of that." In response, the interviewer asked me about private domains, and I did what typical candidates don't. I discussed some philosophical issues with government mandating rules on private businesses. I think the federal government has often gone too far in regulating private citizens and businesses.

I made comparisons to the First Amendment and how it allows people in a free society to say things that may be abhorrent, but that is a challenge of a free society. I was speaking abstractly, not to any piece of legislation, since in general my political views are rooted in the rights of the individual over the state.

The interviewer then brought me back to the literal world of life in 1964, saying, "But it's different with race, because much of the discrimination based on race was codified into law." In the video you'll see me agree with her, ending the discussion by saying, "Exactly, it was institutionalized. And that's why we had to end all institutional racism and I'm completely in favor of that."

I think that statement is very clear. This did not stop my opponent and the liberal media from implying that I meant the opposite...

In 2010, there are battles that need to be fought, and they have nothing to do with race or discrimination, but rather the rights of people to be free from a nanny state. For example, I am opposed to the government telling restaurant owners that they cannot allow smoking in their establishments...

Now the media is twisting my small government message, making me out to be a crusader for repeal of the Americans for Disabilities Act and The Fair Housing Act. Again, this is patently untrue. I have simply pointed out areas within these broad federal laws that have financially burdened many smaller businesses.For example, should a small business in a two-story building have to put in a costly elevator, even if it threatens their economic viability? Wouldn't it be better to allow that business to give a handicapped employee a ground floor office? We need more businesses and jobs, not fewer...

King Rat

On the recommendation of a presenter at the APEE meeting in April, I read the James Clavell novel King Rat-- for general economic interest and to consider for use in my MBA class. (Clavell is best known for Shogun, but there was a movie made from this book too.)

For the Fall and Spring semesters, my students get to review a book related to Managerial Economics. (The most popular choice is Peter Lesson's The Invisible Hook on pirates.) I enjoyed Clavell's book but won't use it in the MBA class. It's strength, in terms of economics, is in depicting the benefits of mutually beneficial trade-- especially when a market is otherwise restricted-- and how such efforts are often demeaned and attacked by others. But it doesn't tie in as well to Managerial issues-- and it's a bit rough in places (to use in the classroom).

It's a gripping novel in any case. And if you're looking for a novel that speaks to economics and the ethics of property rights and trade, it's an especially good read.

Has anyone seen the movie?

Coulter on Alvin Greene and an interesting parallel from 1998

More on Alvin Greene-- this time from Ann Coulter at

Democrats have decided that Alvin Greene's surprise victory in the South Carolina Democratic senatorial primary must be the result of a Republican dirty trick...

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said Greene was not a "legitimate" candidate and called his victory "a mysterious deal." (Yes, how could a young African-American man with strange origins, suspicious funding, shady associations, no experience, no qualifications, and no demonstrable work history come out of nowhere and win an election?)...

The key to Greene's victory, you see, is that he got more votes. How do liberals imagine Republicans pulled that off? Mesmerize the Democrats into voting for an idiot? If Republicans could do that, John McCain would be president.

There is zero possibility that Republicans skipped their own primary to vote for Greene in the Democratic primary. The marquee South Carolina election in last Tuesday's primary was the four-candidate, mudslinging Republican gubernatorial primary....

...for the sake of argument, let's say a Republican paid Greene's filing fee. Even the worst-case scenario is still not half as bad as what liberals did to Sen. Patrick Leahy's Republican opponent in 1998. To the delight of the media, liberals ran a simpleton dairy farmer, Fred Tuttle, in the Republican primary that year against a millionaire lawyer, Jack McMullen.

As in the South Carolina race, the serious candidate, McMullen, spent far more than the prank candidate -- by about $300,000 to $200...Fred won the primary and promptly endorsed Leahy.

The media lavished praise on the "gentlemanly" Senate race, with The Associated Press calling it a "calm, folksy Senate campaign." Reporters think there's too much "mudslinging" when the Republican candidate doesn't immediately endorse the Democrat...

The movie starring Fred was run on PBS, sponsored by Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and Fred -- the winsome simpleton -- was fawned over throughout the media. (CBS' Bill Geist to Tuttle: "Are you a sex symbol?")

That's a far cry from how reporters are treating poor Alvin Greene:

CNN anchor Don Lemon: You're mentally sound, physically sound? You're not impaired by anything at this moment?...

I suppose you could say the Republican primary in Vermont was irrelevant anyway since Sen. Leahy was a shoo-in for re-election. But so is Jim DeMint, Alvin Greene's current opponent....And Alvin Greene is clearly more qualified to be a senator than Patrick Leahy.

Gov. Daniels looks to grow the govt

A nice piece by Debbie Harbeson in the Jeff/NA News-Tribune on "two planned DNR projects to purchase land for conservation purposes"...

Now, you would think a small-government politician would never brag about converting private property to government property. But such principles disappear...when a politician sees that he can use something to his advantage...

The federal government is also involved in this and since it works for this particular PR purpose, Daniels is fine with it. That’s why one day you see him angry because the federal government is sticking its nose in his state’s health care business and the next day he’s happy because the feds want to help his state take over private property...

...more questions when Nick Heinzelman, director of land acquisition for the state Department of Natural Resources expanded on this in the Indianapolis Star, saying, “This will all come from voluntary sellers. Some will want to sell now; others may wait,” Heinzelman said. “Any land that comes up for sale, we’ll be there to buy it right away.”

What does that mean? What if a private citizen would also like to purchase the property? Will he have a chance or is there already some government provision that says the government is the only one allowed to purchase any land that comes up for sale that falls inside the border of this project? And what about future costs on upkeep, liability and usage control?...

"Hill pledges to protect" lousy rates-of-return in Social Security

Here's the story by Kirk Johannesen in the Columbus Republic.

U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., signed a pledge today to protect Social Security from privatization, saying he wanted to protect benefits for seniors and future generations. mention of why he wants to protect its 1% average rate-of-return and its negative rate of return for African-Americans.

"I pledge to protect Social Security by protecting it from privatization. We simply cannot subject the retirement of our seniors to the whims of the stock market,” Hill said in a news release.

What about bonds-- at least government bonds-- or CD's...anything?! Hill supports choice on abortion, why not retirement accounts and education? Is he ignorant, a statist, a racist, a demagogue, or all of the above?

Here's Blue Indiana on the same topic-- with some inexplicable kudos for Baron Hill and an attack on Todd Young.

Americans and the World Cup

From GraphJam...