Friday, March 30, 2007

What does it mean...

....when the windows at a daycare center are bulletproof? Evidently the windows did their job recently near Orlando, but it's troubling to think that the proprietor had enough evidence to justify installing them (they're not cheap) before this nut-job came to visit. Any former daycare workers out there care to comment?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Religion and politics

Lots of people out there will eagerly tell you that one of the banes of public life today is the convergence of religion and politics. Upon further thought, however, I'm convinced that the opposite is true.

Now what I'm getting at here is not that pastors need to endorse candidates--or James Dobson, for that matter. Rather, I'd suggest that churches need to instruct members on holy obligations towards government, especially when they're blessed to live in a republic like ours.

Some applications? Well, for starters, perhaps it would be a good idea to remind congregants that theology matters in politics. It is not as if the Scriptures have nothing to say about the death penalty, criminal justice, the sanctity of human life, and more, right? Certainly the Scriptures define the central role of government, right?

And in the same way, churches certainly have an obligation to discipline wayward members, even those in the halls of power. Imagine, for example, a church disciplining Bill Clinton or Newt Gingrich for adultery, or a church disciplining John Kerry or Nancy Pelosi for supporting abortion and such.

Certainly doing this might cause an uproar in the short run, but in the long run, I think it's better that politicians get seriously rebuked for abuse of power.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More "proof" of global warming?

I was thinking this morning (really!) about a piece of evidence regarding global climate change; that carbon 14 tests of atmospheric carbon dioxide reveal that the "new" carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is composed primarily of carbon 12. It is further inferred that because the proportion of carbon 14 is lower today than, say, a century ago, that the added carbon dioxide--about 20%-25% of the total--is all from burned fossil fuels. Hence, we're making our own greenhouse to cook ourselves, right?

Well, not exactly. Contrast the above with the fact that only 5% of carbon dioxide emissions today are from human sources, and remember that gases mix in the atmosphere. Unless we could prove that plants favor carbon 12 over carbon 14 in photosynthesis (false), a human source for increased carbon should decrease the prevalance of carbon 14 by less than 5%, not 25%.

In other words, there is a large release of stored carbon not related to human activity, possibly from volcanic activity or ocean release. While certainly a large increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is noteworthy and possibly a concern, it doesn't mean we're creating our own greenhouse. Just the opposite, in fact.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Evidently, a state governmental agency here in Minnesota has come up with a study that "proves" that taxes--state and local--here are slightly regressive, meaning that as one's income increases, the proportion that one pays in state and local taxes goes down as expressed as a percentage.

The saddest thing about this is that conservatives often implicitly accept the logic that regressive taxes are bad by arguing that the tax code is progressive when one includes federal taxation. The data hold, but the argument misses a vital point; there is nothing inherently unjust about a tax that happens to be regressive.

If you doubt this, look at a quick look of regressive taxes; gasoline, cigarettes, liquor, sales, property, and so on. Imagine, for example, what would happen if a repeal of the taxes on cigarettes and alcohol was proposed. Wouldn't it help the poor, who smoke and drink more than the rich, if these onerous taxes were repealed?

Of course not. We know that it's a bad thing to smoke or drink too much, and that supply and demand dictates that as costs rise, demand falls. Hence, dropping taxes on these items would actually hurt those it was designed to help.

So we know from experience that a just tax ought to be unintrusive (no tax collector needlessly going through your records), efficient, and it ought to promote intelligent economic decisions--working, saving, sobriety, etc..

In other words, the most unjust tax of all is one that is very intrusive, very expensive to collect, and promotes foolish economic decisions. It also happens to be the one progressive tax we have; the income tax.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I'm shocked!

Evidently it turns out that when you take children from the loving care of their parents and put them in a day care center, the children are more likely to have behavioral problems. Evidently, the correlation holds across all income levels and quality of care.

Wow, it's like God gave children into the care of parents for a reason or something.

Dewey's Promise

Having praised the NEA for something, I guess I'd better say something on the other side to balance things out. :^) This morning, I was thinking about the old proverb that it's better to spend money on education than on criminal justice--that somehow time in the government schools leads people to avoid a life of crime.

And then, I wondered what data might show this. Well, the past 50-60 years have seen a quadrupling of per student (real dollar) educational funding, and also a monstrous increase in crime.

Oops. While certainly criminals are less likely than the rest of us to have a high school or college diploma, just as certainly Dewey's promise of eradicating crime via compulsory government education has been disproved by the experience of the past half century.

It's as if Romans 3:23 still held or something like that.

Friday, March 23, 2007

From the "You can't make this stuff up" file.

Apparently, the Heimatssicherheitsdienst (Department of Homeland Security, works better in the original German) is going to open its new headquarters in a former insane asylum. Somehow it fits.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

How do we deal with homelessness?

World Magazine's latest issue has a series this week about life in the city, and one particularly interesting part to me was about the homeless; many cities are more or less "banning" homelessness by prohibiting panhandling, sleeping in public, and so on.

On one hand, I can understand what's going on; one of the best ways to kill a retail district is to spread a few panhandlers around, and people will immediately assume it's no longer safe. That said, banning begging doesn't seem consistent with how Christ and the apostles treated the poor.

I think it also misses the basic reality of today's homelessness; thousands of men who are today homeless would have been quickly hired as day laborers in Bible times, or even just a century ago. Moreover, until the past couple of centuries, large quantities of cheap liquor were not readily available.

And so I think that we really ought to re-consider how our ancestors treated the homeless. They'd take care of the truly disabled, and offer work to the able-bodied. If an able-bodied man wouldn't work, they'd let him go hungry until he would.

In addition, our ancestors were also willing to cut off the flow of cheap liquor, knowing that it's a great way to make an able-bodied man disabled. Perhaps shutting off the supply of 40 ounce bottles of beer and "Uncle Jack's fortified Prune Wine" would do more than 1000 other programs intended for the homeless?

On another note, World's review of "300" has a note that it has "gratuitous" violence. I'm personally puzzled about how a movie about a battle that claimed the lives of over 5000 men can be said to have "gratuitous" violence. Exactly what else is hand to hand combat supposed to be if not violent?

Time to annoy Shawn again.... using...lots....of....ellipsis. My lawyer can beat up your lawyer, bro! :^)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Believe it or not,

I agree with the NEA on something. If you watch school politics much, you'll see teachers complaining that standardized testing takes away too much valuable classroom time. Now, I might doubt how valuable classroom time is for kids in many schools, but certainly most standardized tests use an amazing amount of time--really up to a week. The NEA has a legitimate point here.

Does it really take this much time to verify one's ability to read, write, and cipher? Well, no; my children were evaluated using a "Peabody" evaluation in less than two hours apiece. This kind of test is a standard evaluation used when it's impractical to use longer evaluations, and it correlates very well to them.

Which ought to be expected; again, how long does it really take to verify that a child is reading at grade level? You hand him a book and set him at it, right? And then you place some arithmetic before him and have him do it, right? And you'd be done in a few hours at most, not a few days, right?

We have here a bitter irony. The industrial (see Gatto) mindset that pervades the school system gave us a one size fits all mindset in the name of "efficiency," and it turns out that the tests necessary to administer this "efficient" system take ten times longer to take than the "inefficient" method of putting a book before a child and asking him to read.

So kudos to the NEA for getting this one right. Maybe someday they'll realize that the inefficiency of "administratium" is a necessary result of applying their factory model to education.

Accuse me of dreaming. It's fair.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A "300" movie I'd like to see

Read Judges 7-10 about Gideon and HIS 300. Unlike Leonidas, Gideon won, and also unlike Leonidas and his little band, he was really fighting for liberty.

Read also of the tragedy whereby Gideon's son Abimelech built on the pagan errors made by Gideon (an unlawful ephod, etc..) and plunged Israel into civil war. It seems that the trees make some interesting commentary there about the desire to rule over one's fellow man to boot, something quite reminiscent of Dilbert's comments on management, really.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Quick Quiz

Count the errors in the 100 questions administered by the INS citizenship exam. I counted at least twelve.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Arguing theology

A few years back, I led a Bible study of young singles, and one thing I could count on was for two young men to start a parallel debate on Calvin vs. Arminius. What was most interesting to me was that I was pretty sure that at least one participant had never read a word of either theologian.

Fast forward to last night, and I was talking with a neighbor who is a member of a church that's now Reformed Baptist. Or, sort of. It's been Arminian, Calvinist, and at least two varieties of Landmark/King James Only in the past five years as well, and always with something of an emphasis on works to boot. At times, spirituality in this place often seems to be measured by how many members are expelled.

As in the former case, I'm pretty sure that the pastor has never bothered to read Calvin, Arminius, or any number of other theologians. Rather, it's just a rapid-fire set of attacks on theological opponents, and it's sent a number of people who love the Lord and each other to separate churches--very often in anguish over what they've experienced.

I would be tempted to berate people for this, but it's merely an extreme example of something we see all too often; people quit one church because it's too dispensational, too reformed, too Calvinistic, too Arminian, and so on--and that when they've never bothered to learn even the exegetical or hermeneutical distinctives of their favored perspective.

And so we see millions running from church to church, infecting each with the poison of uninformed theological views while more or less failing to lift a finger to reach the lost and encourage those in the flock.

If you think you might be partly or fully in this pattern, here are some sites that might be encouraging to you:

Living Waters

Evangie Tales

Thursday, March 15, 2007

An interesting site that of Joel Rosenberg, known for a variety of things, from writing novels to serving on Steve Forbes' campaign. He's the descendant of orthodox Jews who came to Christ as a teenager, and he's now concentrating on "watching the signs" to be found in Ezekiel 38-39 to present history. No matter what your eschatology, he's worth a look, in my opinion--if only for the references to world events that most papers completely miss, like oil in Israel, Russian moves in the Middle East, and so on.

Also, Ben got me thinking of how we might do our best to reduce crime in our communities, and the thought came that a camera (even cell phone camera) and a can of pepper spray might come in handy. The camera to photograph the crime in progress, and the pepper spray (or perhaps a more aggressive hand tool) to pacify those who don't like pictures of their crimes reaching the police.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

An interesting proposal... reduce the impact of solar emissions on global temperatures might be to simply avoid the use of dark materials in building construction. No kidding. New Scientist magazine h(H/T David Strom)as an article that makes the claim that if builders were to simply use high reflectivity materials instead of low reflectivity materials, the amount of heat retained in the lower atmosphere could be reduced and warming effects countered. On the flip side, if we accepted the "truth" of the late 1970s and global cooling was a concern, we could all reshingle our roofs with black shingles and get some relief from 30 below.

Now the reality is that it's not quite that simple; it's not for no reason that climatologists have failed to produce models that match historic data. But that said, it is well known that cities and forests are measurably warmer than their surroundings, ceterus parabus, and a major reason for this is because they're more or less darker. This also comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever painted a room lighter or darker and found that the lightbulb was too much, or too little. Charts for lighting designers include the reflectivity of various surfaces--white paint is about 0.8, and dark surfaces are about 0.3--which is, according to the article, about the mean for the earth.

This also suggests a secondary way of controlling at least local climate; use more durable concrete surfaces for roads when possible instead of asphalt. Like David, I'll be waiting for environmentalists to step up to the plate and concede that Kyoto is a failure, but sensible building guides could be a resounding--and far less costly--success.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It turns out that...

...the old joke about sharks not biting lawyers out of professional courtesy turns out to be false. Hopefully, when Adam McMichael recovers from his injury, he'll have a great time pointing this out.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Recognizing conversational terrorism

Shawn recently made an interesting post about "conversational terrorism"--in a nutshell, the many ways that one can indulge the ad hominem fallacy, as well as a few others. So as a bit of a public service, I'd like to offer a way of recognizing likely abuses of conversational partners:

If someone is flavoring his speech with extensive use of "you," "he," "she," or "they", then it's likely that this person is trying to personally attack "you," "he," "she," or "them." If one, on the other hand, is engaging the topic, one doesn't need to use these personal pronouns.

And, for what it's worth, it's derived from something I learned in premarital counseling; avoid using "you" in argument with your wife, because it tends to be a personal attack. So recognizing conversational terrorism can also be a great way to love your wife.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A reason to be thankful

...though somewhat counter-intuitive, is Richard Dawkins' newest anti-creation effort, dubbed the "Blasphemy Challenge." More or less, he's offered a video to anyone who will send him a video denying the existence of the Holy Spirit, and he's claiming that this automatically sends the speaker to Hell if there is one.

Now thankfully, his theology is a bit off, so these people who are getting his little gift aren't automatically damned. But it's telling that he's pulling a stunt like this, and not for the first time, either. More or less, one of the most prominent evolutionists in the past half century is pulling ad hominem stunts instead of approaching the evidence. It is, in my opinion, an stunning admission by one of the most decorated scientists of our time that he's not capable of (or willing to) clearly carrying his position to those who oppose it.

Thank you, Dr. Dawkins.

Smart vs. dumb taxes, part 2

It's worth noting that the gas tax is not the only smart tax that has ever been replaced by stupid taxes in history. A great example of a stupid tax is the income tax, which largely replaced duties, imposts, and excises. Why stupid?

Any number of ways, because taxes influence behavior--negatively of course. Taxing income penalizes work, while removing tariffs rewards spending. This effects unemployment, the environment, welfare impacts, and more. Let's take a look at what we could do if we reinstated a standard 15% tariff on all imported goods and used it to fund the Navy, the Coast Guard, and yes, border enforcement including a fence with Mexico.

You'd get somewhere between $100 and $200 billion dollars, and could immediately cut income taxes by about that amount--increasing dependent deductions by $3000 or more. Take the first $10 billion and build that border fence, take the next ten billion and start deporting illegals--fingerprinting them so they cannot legally immigrate for another decade.

But don't stop there. Consider that with such an income tax cut, domestic industries don't need tax breaks anymore and cut corporate welfare by the amount you have left. Increase dependent deductions by another $3000 or so.

No, don't stop now. With mass deportation of those who aren't allowed to be here, watch costs for welfare, incarceration, and other social services plunge. Keep on cutting those income taxes. Watch the tariff on petroleum reduce funding for islamicists--and you can cut military funding. Keep on cutting those income taxes.

All in all, I would suggest that a revenue tariff (15%, not the 50% "Tariff of Abominations") would, if handled right, allow us to virtually eliminate the income tax. Perhaps that doesn't make me a good modern libertarian, but it does make me one who ever more appreciates the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. They were so right when they prohibited direct taxation.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Urban renewal in Denmark

Ben and Kingdavid reference some very interesting goings-on in Denmark. More or less, a church has decided to buy blighted property to use it for their ministries, and the squatters who had been living there decided to have a riot to celebrate being evicted.

Well, that's the short story. Having been there in 1989, and possibly having met one of the "conspirators" in the church that bought the building, here's the historic perspective. More or less, an area of Copenhagen called "Christiania" fell into disrepair a few decades ago, and the owners decided to let the government have it instead of paying property taxes. When you live in a socialist country, this isn't a half bad idea, really.

As might be expected, the government didn't take care of or sell the buildings, but rather allowed hippies to live there. It became an art colony, but one where drugs and crime thrived.

Enter a church. When I visited in 1989, I met a young lady named Ulla, and while talking with her, a friend of mine (who had led me to this place) was approached with hashish at least twice. Her church was trying to lead these addicts to Christ, and later, another church (or perhaps hers) actually bought one of the buildings.

It's a great illustration of what happens, IMO, when government forgets its central mission of punishing the wicked and chooses to play landlord. It's also a great illustration of the need to count the cost as one serves the Savior.

Another great illustration; I corresponded for a while with Ulla, and she was actually ordered by her family to change her last name because they were ashamed of her testimony for Christ. It's a sad irony that Denmark used to be a great nation for sending missionaries--perhaps one day, it might be so again.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Snow Day?

No. My hopes were dashed like those of a child as my company's name did not appear on the "closed" list. Sigh. (it was fun looking, though)

And what words can a child say that will melt a dad's heart as they shovel the driveway? "Throw me in the snowbank, Daddy!" comes to mind. Betcha don't hear that one in Florida too often! (it's great exercise, too, and my wife took pictures)

And finally, here's a recipe for Minnesota pudding. You'll see why at the end:

3 tbsp corn starch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
Baker's chocolate if desired (3-4 ounces)

Mix cornstarch and sugar thoroughly in medium saucepan, mix in milk. Beat eggs together with vanilla. Stir sugar/milk/starch mixture over medium-high heat until mixture thickens visibly, and remove from heat. Add 1/3 to 1/2 milk mixture to eggs and stir until mixed, then return mixture to saucepan. Heat until mixture bubbles again.

Chocolate can be added if desired now--stir until melted. Pour/scoop pudding into bowls, and set them in the snow to cool before eating. (Floridians can shave ice to get this effect, I guess)

Enjoy. You were expecting a reference to lutefisk, hotdish, or SPAM, weren't you? Sorry.

Thursday, March 01, 2007