Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Reformation Day!

While Wally is Alice, and vice versa, you can remember with joy (except perhaps for Gino and Mark) that today is the day Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door, kicking the Reformation into high gear.  (I would argue that the seeds of Reformation were planted much earlier by Hus, Wytcliffe, Gutenberg, and others--not the least of whom was Pope Leo X)

Here's a commentary on the results (Semper Reformanda!) from Gene Veith, an explanation of their significance from Wiki, the actual text in English (translated from the Latin, link to Latin exists), and a link to two versions of the "Reformation Polka," sung of course to Supercalafragilistic-expealidotious.  (sp?)

Make sure you greet trick-or-treaters with the proper greeting of "Happy Reformation Day", "Sola Scriptura", "Sola gratia", "Solus Christus", "Sola fide", or "Soli Deo Gloria".   If you're like me, you'll groan as the kids in your heavily Lutheran town just don't get it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Update on the debate about redefining marriage

I've noted before that it did not take long before France and Brazil applied doctrines allowing same-sex marriage to allow polygamy and allow the distinction between man and woman in childbearing.  This is simply the outgrowth of the most basic argument against redefining marriage; that if you define marriage in terms simply of a romantic relationship instead of in terms of the traditional bedrock of family law--weaker vessels called mothers and children--you will automatically tend to neglect the traditional bedrock of family law and thus hurt mothers and children.

From Canada come some more examples of this principle.  Again, when you ignore the basic premiss upon which family law is established, you will in turn erode the protections that are crucial to family law, and those who should be protected by family law are instead injured by it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thoughts on the Benghazi debacle

According to this column's sources, apparently the attack on our diplomatic compound in Libya was more or less watched in real time for no less than seven hours by top State Department officials.

This raises all sorts of questions, starting with whether anyone can believe that the Obama administration wasn't flat out lying when they blamed, repeatedly, the attack on a "riot" caused by a rogue video about Islam. 

Worse yet, however, are some additional security questions, like whether things might have been "decidedly different" if the two SEALS and another agent had been adequately armed, and why nobody bothered to try and send a rescue team from U.S. bases a few hundred miles away in Sicily. 

What is certain, however, is that this leak (most likely from some very ticked off State Department staffers not willing to take the fall for this) indicates that we need a new Secretary of State and a new President.  Someone who, as the Fraters crew writes, understands a basic of sound government:

1. Don’t blow up our buildings or kill members of our military or civilians here or overseas. If you do, we will find you and kill you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thoughts on the presidential debate

It's worth noting that the United States (as well as Great Britain and Japan) had aircraft carriers by 1916, and that the United States is using both horses and bayonets in military actions even today.

As anyone who has watched the President try to identify shoe polish would have told you, of course.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Some random thoughts....

Interview went reasonably well; no absolute results yet.  Pray.

I don't know if it's a couple of days of "normal" food (vs. my ordinary "made from scratch" menu) or the fact that I missed a day of my blood pressure medication, but the combination of the two was worth a quick three pounds.

Could not avoid seeing a little bit of television on the plane flying back, and it's striking how quickly the scenes change now.  Is modern entertainment a shrine to ADD?

When kids pick up when Dad is out of the house, then you know that there is some fruit to your parenting.

Lots of companies are using some sort of behavioral testing these days.  As it becomes more popular, I have to wonder (a) what does it correlate with in one's genetics and nurture and (b) what happens to those who are not in the top percentiles of the test?  One would think that ambitious parents would be very keen to do what they could to develop "go-getter" children who would be able to take care of them when Social Security and Medicare collapse, and those not currently doing well on the tests would like to figure out how to even the scales a bit.

To no one's surprise, the UCI has stripped Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France and other titles,and is rightly (given that 20 of 21 placers since 1999 are implicated in doping) leaving the titles vacant.  Hopefully the UCI and USADA keep looking into other cyclists' records and ban some more.  I might have a chance of winning the tour yet, at least if my nasal steroids are allowed.  :^)

Thought on the tragedy/atrocity in Libya; wouldn't a real leader simply note that all diplomatic posts will henceforth be protected by the Marines as well as natives, and that their guns will be loaded?  What does our country gain from refusing to protect our diplomats?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Obama's real position on guns

As quoted by the Washington Examiner:

"What I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there's an awful lot of violence and they're not using AK-47s. They're using cheap handguns."

Now Obama is 100% correct that in Chicago, where handguns are prohibited to all but favored politicians and other criminals, handgun crime is sky-high.  And apparently, he wants to restrict them more--apparently not having read the Heller or MacDonald decisions, and apparently not having learned that there is no correlation of gun control to gun violence.

Except, of course, to a nearly perfect correlation of gun confiscation to 20th century genocide, and a great correlation of gun confiscation to the crime rates in places like Chicago, New York City, and Washington DC.

Vote accordingly.  And remember, a vote for someone who caucuses with Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid eventually becomes a vote for this program, even if they claim to support the 2nd Amendment.  The law will simply be snuck in as a rider on a bill that "needs to be passed."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Michelin Stars, coming right up!

Yes, this may be the first weblog awarded a Michelin star by our good friend "Bibendum."  How do we know?

Well, I've heard that really great cooks don't use a microwave, and our family microwave just died.  So either we get a new microwave, or we're going to get a Michelin star.  If my Scots heritage holds out, we're listed.  :^)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Everything that's wrong about DC

Right here.  How so?

Well, apart from the fact that it's insane to burn your food, and that doing so is creating a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and that corn likker isn't a terribly good fuel to begin with, let's walk through the troubles with the first linked news.

First, the President is apparently entitled to decide which laws shall, and shall not, be enforced--as the Founding Fathers roll over in their graves at this news, of course.  Worse yet, he's doing so in a way to cause the maximum economic confusion possible, by delaying the decision as long as possible, even as it's clear that the corn crop has been decimated, and food prices are on their way up.

In short, it's a decision almost designed to cause economic uncertainty, and in my work search, I can vouch for the results; at least two companies I've been interviewing with have reorganized positions out of existence during the interview and selection process.  In other words, the level of economic uncertainty is such that companies are unable to plan ahead even on the scale of months.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Update on the Lance Armstrong debacle

H/T to the Bayly Brothers.  USA Today links the USADA report, and more details can be found from the USADA. 

Now a layman's explanation.  The main drugs taken appear to be EPO, which enhances red blood cell formation, blood doping (re-infusion of one's own red blood) to achieve a higher hematocrit, cortisone and testosterone.  The steroids are helpful in building and repairing muscle.

I'll illustrate the significance with a personal story.  In college, I walked on to the track team as a distance runner, and found after a spring of 70-90 miles per week, accompanied by a generally unappealing variety of iron-rich foods at the dorm cafeteria, the local Red Cross blood center refused me.  Why?  My hematocrit was too low to give blood--below 40, if I remember correctly.  The nurse informed me that the combination of endurance sport and low iron diets was linked to this.  This corrected, my hematocrit returned to a "high normal" range of 45-47, and I started running faster, too.

Now look at the report; Armstrong, with a far rougher training regimen than mine, was concerned when his hematocrit got down to 41.  The cycling federation limits cyclists to a hematocrit of 50--just like the FDA for blood donors, for what it's worth.  So what's going on with EPO is that the athlete gets the chance to train much harder, followed by higher capacity to transfer oxygen to the muscles during competition--translating to a 10-20% advantage, or more, in terms of the energy that an athlete can expend without "going anaerobic", which is a 5-8% advantage in peak speed.  Blood doping will do much the same thing, except without helping the athlete in training as much--the body only makes so many red blood cells, after all.

Now there are of course limits to what can be done--the body can only process so much sugar and recover muscles so quickly, so it's not quite as big as that.  That said, the data presented indicate that Armstrong did indeed have a fairly significant advantage over non-doping participants.  How many there were is uncertain, as the cycling federation notes that 20 of 21 podium participants in the Tour de France since 1999 are implicated in doping.  Finding a non-doping cyclist could be like finding a Mr. Olympia participant not taking steroids, or a Miss America participant who doesn't know any plastic surgeons.

So the data do indeed bear out the cycling federation.  What's to be done?  Again, I have to suggest that cycling needs to police itself if it wants to be taken seriously.  I'll be waiting for that announcement.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Waiting for the phone to ring....

Pyromaniacs has a great post up today about the pastoral call--and how we ought not wait for one before we begin ministering, but rather ought to simply heed what the Scripture actually says--that if a man desires the office (which means "duty" in Latin, by the way) of elder/pastor, he desires a noble work, and that he ought to joyfully conform with certain moral requirements.

The problem with "the call," besides the fact that it's really given to apostles and prophets, not pastors, is that (a) it substitutes a private experience for the authority of Scripture of whether one is qualified for that duty, and  (b) it allows the lazy to avoid their duties by making it an issue not of Biblical commands, but rather of a subjective "call."

Monday, October 08, 2012

Some random economic thoughts

First of all, it was fascinating that the stock markets hardly budged last Friday when theoretically stellar jobs numbers--a drop of .3% in the unemployment rate--came out.  Here is my friend Jim's note on the matter;  evidently about 2/3 of the jobs coming out are Christmas temporary, and the Labor Department has overestimated them by about 60-100,000 the last two years.  Actual workforce participation and U6 (the real unemployment/underemployment rate) remains at 14.7% unemployment for U6 and a workforce participation of about 133 million--essentially unchanged since the start of 2009, and well behind population growth.

It's that last two words that really make me think.  We define a recession as negative GDP growth, and a recovery as positive GDP growth, but when you get down to it, the average Joe feels the sting when GDP growth is less than population growth, at least when adjusted for inflation.  In the same way, shouldn't we index jobs numbers to reflect population growth as well?

As such, we'd end up with an interesting new reality; 2% or less (approximately) GDP growth would qualify as a recession, as would jobs growth of 150,000 jobs/month or less.  It would certainly put the heat on politicians. 

Side note; pray for a trip to Kalamazoo late this week or early next week.

Friday, October 05, 2012

My take on Romney's position about PBS

Yup, it's about time for dinner.  PBS funding should have been ended back about the same time cable TV came out, or at least when satellite radio became popular.  Update: hold the gravyWell, I guess it would have been pretty gamy anyways.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Why are research papers retracted?

According to a study out of Yeshiva University, it's usually because of fraud.  Now to be fair, the study is not linked, and the article does not suggest what percentage of papers are retracted overall, but they do suggest that the number, as a percentage of papers published, has grown by an order of magnitude since 1975.  The study is also published by the NAS, which I would assume would usually be respectably peer reviewed.

Love to hear from Brian on this if he reads this site.  My take is that if the methodology of the study can be defended, it is intuitive that we'd see a fair amount of fraud.  After all, nobody gets tenure because they do work that defends the null hypothesis.  There is a very real pressure to "show something new."

I have to wonder if it has a lot to do with requiring a Ph.D. to teach in most colleges (even freshman level courses that a high school teacher could lead), and a general "publish or perish" mood.  If the study holds, I would not be surprised. 

Another possibility is the strong push for full acceptance of evolution in bioscience; I do not have numbers, but I would have to believe the vast majority accept the hypothesis without reservation, and that a large portion of these have followed that with Richard Dawkins to atheism, or at least agnosticism.

At which point John Paul Sartre's comment about the nature of French existentialism comes to mind:

If there is no God, everything is permitted.

(in reference to Ivan Karamazov of the Brothers Karamazov)

And if you think that I'm enjoying quoting Sartre, as cited by "", about the importance of Exodus 20:16 as it related to the scientific process, you would be entirely correct.  It is absolutely delicious irony!

Thoughts on the debate....

....and or course, I didn't actually WATCH it.  If I want to soak in the smell of manure for an hour or so, all I need to do is to go to one of the local feedlots, or downwind of the sweet corn processing plant, or downwind of our town's under-designed sewage treatment plant.  It's one of the, um, "benefits" of living outstate.

However, some commentary on the debate amused me, specifically the part about Obama being at a disadvantage because he hadn't debated in four years.  Now really?

Are we to really assume that trying to make the case for his programs does not qualify as debate?  Are we really to assume that the day to day interactions with political rivals and foreign leaders do not qualify as debate?  Seriously?

And yes, seriously. It seems that we have created a system where a so-called "leader" can really be a creation, as is joked elsewhere and here, of TOTUS, the Teleprompter Of The United States.  And then we wonder why our "leaders" don't do well when they're called upon to make decisions day to day, and to understand the real motivations of foreign leaders.  Well, they get four years between times of thinking on their feet.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Let's be unbiased

In the heated political season, it's worth noting that there are a lot of calls for news sources to simply reveal their bias, and then readers could make their decisions accordingly.   Now apart from the reality that thousands of journalists would have to reveal their politics just to the left of Gus Hall--and good luck on that one--I would argue that this will not work for a very simple reason.

Many in the media have gone beyond simple bias (what do we report) to actively re-write the facts in a case.  To wit, here's Mitch's comment on a recent "Politifact" article about charges that President Obama has allowed states to gut welfare work requirements.  Since the Obama executive order illegally modifying the work requirements allows states to count non-work-related activities as work for the purposes of the 1996 law, it would seem to be an open and shut case, right?

Nope.  Instead of looking at the executive order, Politifact simply takes the President's spin as the truth. 

So what is going on here is that influential media sources--see Shot in the Dark for details--are more or less fudging the data, ignoring Thomas Sowell's dictum that we're all entitled to our own opinion, but not our own set of facts. 

A great picture of this is the debate--of course it's still going on--about President Lincoln.  Thomas DiLorenzo and Carl Sandburg have/had widely differing views on the man, but what came through--having read both--is that they are truly going from the same set of facts.  It's simply the opinion--Sandburg views some things as a regrettable necessity, DiLorenzo as an atrocity--about the facts that differs.

So when someone suggests that all will be well if all simply note their biases, think about this.  One can see through someone's bias, but if the very factual basis is assaulted, those labels do us no good.  So it's not time for us to simply reveal our biases, but to come back to basic principles of honesty.


A candidate for state senate from Illinois has pointed out some very interesting things about the Health Insurance Deform Act:

We are going to be gifted with a health care plan that we are forced to purchase, and fined if we don’t,” Bellar continues, “signed by a president who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that’s broke.
More or less, Professor Bellar points out what Dr. Kenneth Cooper has been pointing out for decades; that if people would simply eschew tobacco, get a bit of exercise, and have a basically decent diet (fellow Wal-Mart shoppers, I'm talking to you!  And me!), we could cut medical spending by about half with no change in the current system.

Think of this absurdity this fall when you vote.  Please, or else we may well end up like Greece.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

If Barack Obama were a Republican,

...these are some things that the media would NEVER have let go.  H/T Gino

1.  The deaths of over 300 Mexicans and at least one border patrol agent due to his horribly flawed "Fast and Furious" gunrunning program.  (honestly, why are the Mexicans so quiet about this?  It's almost an act of war!)

2.  The fact that in Fast and Furious, he's claiming executive privilege.  The media would have rightly pointed out that this must implicate the President or a member of his Cabinet as one of the wrongdoers.

3.  Holding the economy hostage with a $500 billion tax hike in order to tax one group more.

4.  The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is more or less taking over Egypt, and threatens other Middle Eastern nations.

5.  Unconstitutionally offering defense contractors money for fines if they willfully fail to abide by WARN Act requirements.

6.  Standing by his tax plan and Obamacare, despite the fact that the GAO estimates that each will cost about 700,000 jobs.

7.  Going on "The View" and David Letterman while the leader of an important ally would like to talk with him about nuclear proliferation.

8.  Bribes to pass Obamacare.

9.  Failure to prosecute a racially charged voter intimidation case.  (the Black Panthers case)

10.  Trillion dollar deficits with no serious plans to cut spending.

11.  Holding the defense budget hostage for the sake of his pet social programs.

12.  Numerous provocations to our longest term allies.

13.  Forcing religious groups to violate their consciences.  (yes, imagine it had been United Methodists and Episcopalians forced to violate their consciences instead of evangelicals, and all **** would have broken loose)

......and there is a long list beyond.  If anyone doubts that the media are in the bag for the left, take a look at that list and ask yourself; would things be so quiet if a Republican had done this?  Of course not, but at this point, a liberal Democrat is the culprit.