Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Free Market?

Friday's WSJ front-page headline reads "Cheers and Skepticism Greet European Deal." I took a deep breath this afternoon and read both of the articles linked to this headline, one datelined Berlin and the other Brussels. More required reading lives inside Section A of the paper (yes, I still prefer that hard copy. Sorry.). There I learned again of Credit Default Swaps or CDSs. These are financial instruments bought and sold in what the WSJ calls a "default insurance market," a "vast market in which banks, hedge funds and investors trade insurance against debt defaults." Debt like Greek government bonds.

The deal worked out by "euro-zone leaders" games the CDSs by skirting the technical definition of default in these contracts by defining the principal reduction that is required of lenders as "voluntary." So, then, your house is burning down and the government and your insurance company are making a deal that will give you pennies on each dollar of insurance you thought covered your risk. And you had better take it voluntarily, or find your government not very helpful in providing the permits to rebuild your home, assuming you otherwise have the money to do so.

The price that banks charge for their loans is less expensive where they can hedge in an unhindered default insurance market. Now that the market has been gamed, it will be more expensive for borrowers to get financing for ventures that will grow the European economy. The economy may grow again. Someday. But it will be much slower.

Meat Glue, the McRib, and Other Reasons To Eat Plant-Based

Even bacon-loving Glenn Reynolds is getting concerned.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kevin Burke, Irish Fiddler

Just click on his website, sit back, and listen to his music.

Rebuilding Soldiers and Marines

Terry Gross of NPR's "Fresh Air" interviews veteran combat reporter David Wood about the catastrophic injuries suffered by our soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan and the remarkable ways in which some are "rebuilt" and, sadly, some are not. The interview is fascinating and moving. The link takes you to an amazing podcast and related resources.

Looks Like Mary is in for Some Weather this Weekend

But maybe she's out of the direct path of this storm.

Post-Christendom vs. Post-Christian

I used "post-Christian" with Gary Cameron of IVCF at our Friday morning breakfast, in referring to our culture. He prefers "post-Christendom" rather than "post-Christian." Is that a distinction with a difference? He thinks so. Does "post-Christendom" refer to a loss of cultural hegemony, where "post-Christian" simply means the culture no longer has a certain proportion of Christians in it? I'm not sure about the distinction.

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Thy Will be Done"

It struck me this morning what this part of the Lord's prayer is about.

For my entire lifetime until now, I thought it meant that somehow my prayer was facilitating God's will being done.

This week, however, I have been thinking a good bit about God's sovereignty. This morning the light bulb finally went on about this part of the prayer. It is an expression of one's submission to God's will. Because God's will will be done, whatever I think or I pray. That's not the issue being addressed, whether it will be done or not. The issue is whether I will acknowledge him as truly, thoroughly, absolutely God and will therefore acknowledge my submission to his will.

"Toddler Hit by Truck and Ignored Sheds Light on China's Moral Dilemma... "

From a blog post by Carlos Espinosa. Carlos is one of Juan's friends at Little Flower Catholic Church, where Juan and his family attend. The video is really tough to watch, but you can get the point from what Carlos writes about the matter.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its first estimate of third-quarter GDP growth. The economy expanded at an annualized rate of 2.5 percent. Certainly, considerable headwinds remain, but the recovery is intact.

It pays to keep a clear head and stick to the actual data. For several months now, while panic has reigned in the streets and markets, we have been saying that the U.S. economy is sound and that there was little chance of a recession any time soon. Our proprietary business-cycle indicators have consistently painted a picture of slow but continuing growth.

-from an email I received today from the AIER.

Miami as Modern Day Ephesus

A casino bigger than the ones in Vegas.

Tony Villamil, an economist hired by Genting [the Casino firm], noted the company plans to let guests use casino debit cards at restaurants and other businesses off the Resorts World property. “It’s not a box where you simply put a casino,’’ he said. “It’s tied in and integrated to the rest of [the] community.”

"[T]ied in and integrated to the rest of the community?" That's just great!

Fixing Man's Brokeness with Economic Policy

"Nobody should take for granted another 50 years of peace and prosperity in Europe. They are not for granted. That's why I say: If the euro fails, Europe fails," Merkel said, followed by a long applause from all political groups.

"We have a historical obligation: To protect by all means Europe's unification process begun by our forefathers after centuries of hatred and blood spill. None of us can foresee what the consequences would be if we were to fail."

"It cannot be that sometime in the future they say the political generation responsible for Europe in the second decade of the 21 century has failed in the face of history," the chancellor continued.

-Germany's Merkel

(When I was a teenager, it was already "post-Christian Europe" among Southern Baptists. Did I say Southern Baptists? It was post-Christian Europe among the Pilgrims.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Nomination for the Nobel Least Self-Aware Prize for this Century

Who else.

The Theology that Conquered the American Wilderness

[Solomon] Stoddard [Jonathan Edwards' grandfather] put the case for an absolute divinity who chooses one man rather than another solely because He pleases, and who still would be a God of mercy "if it had pleased him never to have exercised any."

-from Perry Miller's Jonathan Edwards, which I read in college and which I am reading again.

Jensen Farms Cantelope Outbreak Kills 29

Twenty-nine dead (including a miscarriage); 133 confirmed ill; 98% of victims hospitalized, according to the latest CDC figures released yesterday (October 25th).

-More here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mmmm! Carol Served This Tonight!



French Ambassador to Britain Calls Israel a "Shitty Little Country"

More evidence that two and a half centuries of war and emigration have essentially bled out a once great nation.

Glenn, so Funny!

Here at

So what's the real story here? Maybe what happens to an American child when his parents see that he is interested in detonating water balloons. Or what the government will soon require of parents to protect their children from dangerous water balloons.

Electromagnetic Communication Between Brain Hemispheres (Updated)

Even when not connected. (Thanks, Kurzweil)

Will my brain, then, communicate with Carol's? They are often in close proximity as they are with the brains of no one else. And what about a mother with her new born or her pre-born? What about twins in the womb? Mary in Rochester and I in Miami? What if we live in a sea of thoughts?

And what about James 5:16b?

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Prophet at the Miami Herald

Before the onside kick ever bounced off the grass, off a Dolphin, back onto the grass and into the arms of a Denver Bronco, Tim Tebow and his receiver Demaryius Thomas talked and prayed.

Prayed just for the opportunity to win the game against the winless Dolphins and avoid torturous embarrassment for at least a week.

“We sat together on the sideline, talked and prayed,” Thomas said. “I just saw it in his face, his want-to.”

That prayer, of course, had no bearing on how the football bounced.

-Israel Gutierrez, Sportswriter for the Herald, writing about Denver's victory over the Dolphins yesterday.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Denver beats Miami in overtime!

Of course I like the Dolphins, but their season is toast. They would do well to lose the rest of their games so they could get a franchise quality quarterback in the draft.

As to Tebow, unbelievers remain (and understandably so).

Did you wince when, during the still-on-the-field post-game interview, he said, "First, I would like to thank my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ"? Then he immediately thanked his teammates and down-played his own role.

What if he had said, "First, I would like to thank [insert any of the following numbered alternatives or your idea of another source of success to which he could point]?"

1. His intrinsic moral worth
2. His genes
3. His parents
4. Natural Selection
5. The Fates
6. Random circumstance
7. God
8. Chaos

Compared to these alternatives (or your alternative), just what would be wrong with crediting Jesus, if you were looking at matters objectively. That is, from the standpoint of the authority to which or to whom you would want successful sports figures to point, what would be wrong with Jesus? I'm not asking what is wrong with the history of Christianity, the Hundred Years War, the Crusades, the Inquisition, Colonial Salem, or Ante-Bellum, Southern Presbyterian slave-owners. I am not even asking what's wrong with Christians. I'm asking about what's wrong with Jesus. What would the world be like if other leaders in our culture thought that Jesus was a model for them and a source of their success and they behaved in a way that is consistent with their model?

Christians, at least, dare not wince.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

FL's Hurricane Fund $3.2B Short

The Herald reports that if a major hurricane hits Florida (or several smaller ones), the government sponsored insurance fund will not have nearly enough money to keep its promise to pay for the damage. Private insurance companies have pretty much withdrawn from the market or at least limited whom it will insure, because the state government limits what a private company may charge for premiums or otherwise interferes with coverage design.

The insurance coverage problem has been the case since Hurricane Andrew. What is "news" about the Herald report is that some experts looked at the problem anew and, lo and behold, it is even worse now.

Part of the problem is that the banks will not finance the acquisition of real estate without the coverage. The banks make money loaning money, however, and the state government wants Florida's real estate market to thrive. So, then, let's pretend that we have an insurance company of some sort that will supply that coverage.

There are a number of "let's pretend" games that our corporatist governments, state and federal, play. For example, let's pretend that real estate values will only go up; let's pretend that the key to social and economic success at the individual level is that a person "owns" his own home; let's pretend that owning one's home is the same as owning a small and volatile slice of equity in one's own home; let's pretend that people will tell the truth on their loan applications and that the bank's mortgage agent will not turn a blind-eye to the lies (after all, the loans will be packaged and sold to people in the rest of the world, like China sells its sickening wallboard). Government is full of "let's pretend" games. Furthermore, it's OK to play these games, because the taxpayer will indemnify any losses that occur.

PS: The Florida legislature has been dominated by the Republican Party for years and the Governor's mansion occupied by people from that party, not that the Democrats would have done any better. It's not the party, however, regardless of the posturing by the Republicans. It is the space in our economy we permit these people to occupy. As Pogo says, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

477 of Yours for One of Ours

That just about says it all.

Glennz Hits Another Home Run

Glenn entitles this "Outfished," and that's clever enough.

It is even deeper (pun intended), of course. It is a marvelous metaphor for the perils of not watching your back (and right side, left side, the over, and the under). Or of being mistaken about just who it is who benignly seems to be backing you up or, as we might say, "behind you." Or of thinking that where you "are" is an unconditionally safe place, one without risk, a place in which you need be aware only of the next item of gratification that seems so near to your mouth.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"The 'Monumental Stupidity' of Alternative Medicine"

You mean Steve Jobs didn't have to die?

When I was being treated for NHL, I learned of a missionary home on leave with the same diagnosis. A contemporary. I went for CHOP (the standard chemo at the time - monoclonal antibodies were just in the experimental stage) and prayer. He went for "macrobiotics" and prayer. He died. I lived.

Just correlations maybe. His NHL may have been far worse than mine from the outset.


(I do remember absolutely despising the way the prednizone made me feel. Prednizone is the "P" in CHOP. A lovely woman in my support group suffered heart damage from the chemo. People died in the group - half of them, which was about what the 5 year survival rate was then.)

"Gender Reassignment" Costs and the Tax Code

The United States Tax Court held last year that "gender identity disorder" is a disease and that the costs of hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery were medical expenses under Code section 213(a), thus qualifying for an income tax deduction and, if a third party pays those expenses, exclusion from the gift tax. (However, the court held that the cost of breast augmentation surgery was not covered because there was a lack of evidence in the case in question that such surgery treated the taxpayer's gender disorder.)

Here's a post on the case at the TaxProg blog. There is a link to the actual Tax Court opinion at that post.

Perhaps this strikes you as outrageous. Perhaps not. But this is simply another example of social engineering that is all over the Internal Revenue Code, its Regulations, and the court cases that apply the Code. We can differ, of course, on whether the engineering is benign or not in a given case. But why should there be any at all, since so much of it (if not all of it) is value driven? Let's get such engineering out of the Code, both "good" and "bad."

But what about the charitable deduction I get for my tithe? My mortgage deduction? What about the pastor's housing allowance? Etc.

What about it, I say. Why should all Americans, regardless of regious affiliation or none at all, subsidize my religious choices? Or renters my housing choices?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

But What About Fish?

Today I had a business lunch and one of the people with whom I ate noticed what I ordered (pasta primavera, whole wheat pasta with a tomato sauce and as little oil as possible and all the fresh veggies the kitchen had mixed in). She asked if I was a "vegetarian" and I said "vegan." She said that "for protein" she mainly eats fish, and I said something nice. Empty. But nice.

My concern with fish - other than the problem of it not being plant-based - is the problem of mercury contamination.

Today, the Forks over Knives facebook page linked to this article. It lists nine other reasons not to eat fish, in addition to the mercury problem. It grossed me out pretty much.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Clever App!

WeBIRD. (Thanks, Ann Althouse!)

It's All Coming Together

Tebow is starting for the Broncos at their next game. The Broncos have a by-week this week. Their next game is against the Dolphins on October 23, here at Joe Robbie ("Sun Life") Stadium.

That is the very game during which the Dolphins organization will, during half-time, recognize the Gators and their 2009-2009 National Champion football team. Tebow was the quarterback on that team.

The Miami Herald reports that Tebow "will not be asked . . . to participate in the half-time ceremony."

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Mark Achtemier's Presbytery Ordains Practicing Homosexual

We became acquainted with Elizabeth Achtemier, the Presbyterian minister and denominational leader, not personally but through our many years of attending the Christian Life Conference in Montreat. Now deceased, she was the sort of solid, orthodox person who helped maintain the backbone of the fading PC(USA). Her son, Mark, another PC(USA) minister and a teacher at Dubuque seminary, seemed to be similarly orthodox and to give some hope for the future of the denomination. But in 2009, the Presbterian Outlook celebrated his "surprising" affirmation of the legitimacy of the homosexual alternative in an article that included the following:

Mark Achtemeier, an evangelical theology professor from Iowa, is in many ways an unlikely candidate for radical change. He’s a white, middle-aged Presbyterian father and husband who grew up in the church, the son of Biblical scholars.

But Achtemeier, to his own surprise, has made a trek through uncertain land over the last eight years, a journey from life-long certainty that homosexuality is “a kind of destructive addiction” to what he is today: a man who sees the Holy Spirit leading the church to “a new and better place,” and who thinks that gays and lesbians should be able to marry and be ordained.

In the kick-off plenary of the 2009 Covenant Network of Presbyterians meeting last month, Achtemeier gave his testimony, telling the story of his journey in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), from a man who grew up sure that homosexual practice was wrong to one who now sees God working in the committed relationships of his gay and lesbian friends and in the faithfulness of their lives.

Yet some things have not changed.

“If there is one thing I want to emphasize above all else in this testimony, it is that this journey has not involved any kind of retreat or qualification of my strong commitment to the authority of Scripture, the Lordship of Christ, and the belief that God calls people to lives of personal holiness,” Achtemeier told the Covenant Network. “I come to you today as an out, self-affirming, practicing conservative evangelical.”

But Achtemeier, who was a member of the PC(USA)’s Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church — told of a journey both personal and theological, and to him deeply surprising.

“I cannot get around the fact that it was a God thing,” he said during a question-and-answer period.

This morning the Sun-Sentinel ran in its print edition, an article published yesterday in the LA times, under the headline "Presbyterian Church to Ordain First Openly Gay Minister." The article states in part:

[T]oday, [Mark] Achtemeier will deliver a sermon at the ordination of his friend, Scott Anderson, who will become the first openly gay minister in the church after the very restrictions Achtemeier once advocated were abolished.

In July, the Presbyterian Church USA amended its constitution to allow gay and lesbians to serve as ministers and lay leaders. With the move, the 2.3 million-member church became the fourth mainline Protestant denomination to allow gay ordination, following the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches and the United Church of Christ.

I checked Google News and found that the LA Times article is being republished by newspapers across the country. The left has anointed a poster-child for PC(USA) ordination and it is not the person being ordained by a commission that includes Mark Achtemeier. It is Achtemeier himself. This diabolical strategy (a phrase I use advisedly) seeks to replicate Achtimeier's "journey" or transition from a middle-class, white, cradle Presbyterian, and Orthodox believer to something else again.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Japanese Commuters Moving to Bicycles

I like the "high-end park-and-shower" facilities that are helping this trend. (Thanks for the link, Instapundit.)

(Maybe Austin is a place to introduce a business like this.)

Years ago, I seriously considered this option. The shower problem and the sheer danger discouraged commuting downtown, but I did bike to the Metro-Rail station for years.

Think about how transformative a significant adoption by Americans of plant-based diets and greater bicycle use would be.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


I am not making this up.

From the article: "Florida is the land of opportunity when it comes to invasive exotics," Mr Gaskalla said.

Well, yeah!

Monday, October 03, 2011


The WSJ reports this morning that a "Senate Panel found that the U.S.'s three largest home-health companies tailored the care they provided to Medicare patients to maximize their reimbursements."

What till you see what the "largest" medical service delivery companies/insurers, etc., will do with ObamaCare.

At the risk of resurrecting a tired old slogan, why don't we think about restoring power to the people to make their medical decisions. And then letting people bear the consequences of those decisions, so that it is a real decision and not make believe.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Sick Employees Cost Us

Dr. McDougall's latest newsletter has an article that argues that the Standard American Diet compromises our competiveness on the world stage, because it makes us sick and less productive. So, then, it is not just the high cost of group health insurance premiums. It's those lost days and inefficient hours on the job.

This is certainly our experience at our law firm. That is, we have had employees over the years whom we like very much, who are faithful and smart, but whose illnesses have compromised their productivity. We know what they eat, and they don't eat well at all. There are other things in their lives, but this is a very obvious factor.

Dr. McDougall writes, in part:

The downhill spiral for the American worker must be stopped, and there is no better place to start than at the dinner table. Replacing the current animal-food-based diet with a starch-based diet will return workers to a productive state of health, almost overnight. You, personally, do not have to wait to be saved by another government-sponsored stimulus program. Take control, get back your health, get off medications, and away from frequent visits to doctors, laboratories, and hospitals. Switching from beef and butter to beans and barley will cut your personal food bill too, from $14 to $3 a day today. That would mean a $44 a day savings for a family of four, which equates to an extra $1,300 a month saved on food alone.

That Bad Government Loan Aside, What Happened to Solyndra?

The market happened to Solyndra, as the prices of the competing, standard solar panel, built in China and heavily subsidized by its government, simply plunged during the recession. (The price of high-grade silicon, according to the linked-to LA Times article, went from $1,000 a pound to less than $100.)

If our government is going to subsidize industry, then I suggest that it retain as consultants the masters of the technique, the Chinese government itself, import docile, subsistence wage labor (actually we tend to do that with our easy border access, the genius of which approach is that the people who use that access are "illegal" so that they do not qualify for government benefits, making them - and us - more like the Chinese than we might like to think), and create a free zone of government regulation of all sorts, including but certainly not limited to environmental and safety regulations. We might also think about taking the lid off the small number of visas we extend annually (via lottery) to highly qualified people from other countries who want to come and live here or foreign graduates of our universities, which institutions we also subsidize, who would like to stay.