Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Unintended humor 11/30/05

Whether you are on a business trip, on excursion or have moved to a different region, PDA Church List will help you find quickly a local church in your neighborhood and never miss spending time in the presence of God.

So goes the plug for a Palm OS program I read about today. Thankfully, those of us working for an omnipresent God and enjoying the practical benefits of "the priesthood of believers" aren't dependent on particular holy spots to interact with the Almighty. But beyond that, this program is a directory of "more than 14,000 Churches and 43 Denominations worldwide".

Of course, if you are including forty-three denominations, you definitely need this special feature:

* Error Tolerance Search …

because even though there may in fact be forty-three distinct Baptist denominations alone, there's still a wide range of theology in that group.

But wait … before you rush to download this useful program, read the definition: what they mean is an error-tolerant search function, for finding results even if you do not know the exact spelling.

No help in predicting the results of the teaching, even if you do not know the exact doctrinal standing. Another opportunity missed …

Monday, November 28, 2005

National repentance, long ago

This is a prayer of the Levites, when Judah began to return to the land from Babylon.  It strikes me as uncomfortably current in its assessment of the country's spiritual condition.

… However, Thou art just in all that has come upon us; for Thou hast dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.  For our kings, our leaders, our priests, and our fathers have not kept Thy law or paid attention to Thy commandments and Thine admonitions with which Thou hast admonished them.  But they, in their own kingdom, with Thy great goodness which thou didst give them, with the broad and rich land which Thou didst set before them, did not serve thee or turn from their evil deeds.

Behold, we are slaves today, and as to the land which Thou didst give to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty, behold, we are slaves on it.  And its abundant produce is for the kings whom Thou hast set over us because of our sins; they also rule over our bodies and over our cattle as they please, so we are in great distress. ...

Nehemiah 9:33-37 (NASB)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Who are you hanging with?

Recently I was fed up with the host on talk radio going home so I scanned to a nearby station. The one I landed on was playing to the "Loser" demographic -- the commercial stack at the top of the hour included, in this order,

  • a car dealer marketing to people with bad credit ("a car for your lifestyle"),
  • an online computer dealer who also promotes to people with bad credit,
  • an Internet business opportunity ("we do all the work, you make all the money! Send for free CD"), and
  • an ad for a municipal referendum for no less than eight separate bond issues ("to build the Durham we all deserve"), i.e. more deficit spending.

This did not make me want to hang around this station long.  My usual listening is funded by home improvement companies, mortgage lenders, and professional practices … though every demographic, I suppose, is out shopping for wheels.

Book review: His Excellency, George Washington

The November issue of Carolina Journal is posted online now; I have a review of Joseph Ellis's His Excellency, George Washington on page 20.

George Washington is the original American icon, as close as our pocket change and enigmatic as his monument. Joseph Ellis recalls his own childhood in Alexandria, Va.; the great man, he says, was “ubiquitous … like one of those Jeffersonian truths, self-evident and simply there. And the beauty of all self-evident truths was that no one needed to talk about them. They were so familiar that no one felt obliged to explain why they merited an annual parade.”

Washington has long suffered from biographers “oscillating in a swoonish swing between idolization and evisceration.” Ellis aims for the middle course and hits it squarely. The cold and formidable Washington, so imposing that even close associates drew back from familiarity, emerges as a man of like passions with ourselves. ...

Reagan said who's paying the bill

I neglected to post a comment celebrating the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's election, but this fits with it. I recently finished reading an interesting collection of RR's radio addresses and miscellaneous other writings called Reagan In His Own Hand. In one of them dated November 1976, he tallied the number of federal government employees (civilian as well as military), federal retirees, families of both, as well as Social Security and welfare recipients and other people depending on government assistance.

He then compared them to the number of private wage earners in the workforce, adding their families to the government dependent group. He makes the point that since the government doesn't produce anything on its own, only absorbs or redistributes the fruit of private people's labors, that pool of private earners supports everyone else. I don't have the numbers at my fingertips this morning but it was something like 60 million earners supporting 180 million others. It was an eye-opener.

To make this observation is not to criticize those paid by "the government" in some fashion. We need some level of government, we need the military and certain other indispensable services, and those employees are justified to expect a pension at the end of their service. Likewise, if you accept a governmental role in charitable endeavor -- certainly debatable, but leave it for now -- there are those who ought to be considered reasonable recipients of welfare programs. And certainly, even if there were no government tomorrow, my work is still supporting eight other people just in my own family. But the recognition of that crucial ratio points out that the pool of taxable income earners is finite and relatively small, and squeezing that goose in a vise does not accelerate the delivery of golden eggs. Eventually the goose dies or escapes.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

News from the World ... Of socks

The Asia Times Online reports on a pending new textile trade agreement between the U.S. and China:

    … The squabble over textiles dates back to January 1 of this year, when the expiration of the Multi-Fiber Agreement opened the global textile market to the most competitive producing country - China. Vast increases in import quantities for particular goods quickly followed; Chinese imports of socks to the US, for example, increased from fewer than 12 million a year four years ago to a staggering 700 million pairs (five Chinese socks for every man, woman, and child in the US) in the first eight months of 2005 alone.

I haven't analyzed the economics of it yet -- the article has a detailed explanation I just don't have time to read this moment -- but the concept of "five socks per person" sounds exactly like a typical load of laundry for us.  The article does not say whether the five socks are four different colors or not.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Benefit No. 2937 of Having a Large Family

At the N.C. State Fair recently, several of us were taking a break outside a livestock display and watching the front of the "World's Largest Steer" exhibit, which frankly didn't have the world's largest audience. 

After a while, the proprietor came across the street to us and asked, "What are you guys about?"  We were wearing our blue "uniform" shirts which help with crowd control and team identity in busy venues. 

When we explained we were all one family, he did some quick math and said, "Tell you what -- the whole family can come see Big Jim for $5" … which we did.  It really was a very big steer, certainly the biggest I've ever had my portrait made with -- but when the passers-by saw eight or nine people (us) coming out of the exhibit, curiosity took hold and business picked up.  Mission accomplished?

Benefit No. 2937:  Sometimes you can serve as an advertising gimmick.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Dinner with Zell

Recently we were invited to an awards banquet sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, with former Senator Zell Miller the keynote speaker. John and Susannah went along; John's friend Kiefer Wynn is sitting to John's right. Both young men made a favorable impression when they met the Senator afterwards -- as we always expect they would.

I only had back-of-an-envelope notes of Sen. Miller's speech, and those I didn't expand for a while afterward so I may have forgotten some of the connecting phraseology of what I did catch. The refrain from his closing was a good catch line, though:

"Have we met the demands of freedom, or have we abandoned our responsibilities?"

I'll have to hand it to him, the Senator didn't pull any punches on the idea of reforming medical insurance. In his view, the reform needs to come from our expectations as consumers, not from a D.C.-downward restructuring. The illustration he used was a hypothetical auto policy, where we expected the underwriters to cover the cost of tune-ups, tire rotation, oil changes, in addition to the very occasional accident. A point well taken; it is very easy to look at someone else's "entitlement program" and see a cost center, but we cling tenaciously to our own. Everybody needs to shoulder some personal responsibility -- it's out there.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

More "Hard Times"

Two more state groups have reprinted my article, "Hard Time Homeschooling" and made it accessible on their websites -- the Indiana Association of Home Educators and the Christian Home Educators Confederation of Kansas

I did get to talk with the editor from the Michigan group at the Philadelphia conference, and she confessed that she had changed the title to "Hardship Homeschooling", which I actually like better than the original.

Thanks, folks --