Saturday, March 31, 2012

It's not just OK, it's approved to kill your sick wife of 60 years and then yourself.

After all, the two of you are over 80.

I think this is the thrust of the editorial policy of the NYT behind this article.

Thanks to Ann Althouse and her post, "Romanticizing Suicide," for spotting this.  (I would have extended the title, however, to "Romanticizing Murder and Suicide.")

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lookin' Good! (UPDATED)

Joe Biden
I'm pretty sure the Veep got his teeth capped.  I had a client who had his fixed at something like $1,000 a tooth.  It looked really good.  He was in his low eighties.  He died his hair black and was tan and looked fit.  He was a character.  He encouraged me to get it done as well.  I didn't.  What's wrong with a snaggle tooth?  My dad had one.  What else has the Veep done to himself?  He looks just great.  I understand he is looking at running again in 2016. As to his interior, well . . .

UPDATE:  Joe Biden's smile, as I now see, is old news.  Google "Biden Cosmetic Dentistry" and you get things like this.

What do we do when older people won't look or act reasonably for their age?  (I know I am pushing against the tide here.  Note, however, my careful use of the word "reasonably."  I think it is reasonable to take scrupulous care of your body.  That will have an affect on one's looks.  Cf. 1 Cor. 6:19)   One thing we do is tell jokes about them (about us?).

Marvin Olasky has a funny story about the self-deception that sometimes characterizes one not acting his age in a reasonable way:

Before the current newspaper depression, editors were often well-paid. One editor, about to retire, confided to a friend, "I'm 70 years old, never married, and have $2 million saved up. I'm madly in love with a 30-year-old. Do you think I'd have a better chance of marrying her if I told her I'm only 60?" His friend replied, "Frankly, you would have a better chance if you told her you're 90." 

-from the April 7, 2012 issue of World Magazine.

That sort of self-deception works both ways.  Years ago I had a wealthy friend in his eighties, a widower with no children but with a 30 year old girl friend.  She looked miserable to me whenever I saw them together.  He died and left everything to charity in the name of his deceased wife.  He left the girl friend nothing.

No self-deception, however, for these beautiful women.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

They will know we are Christians by our . . .

Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin gave The Golden Rule treatment to the ex-ESPN employee who was fired for writing a racially offensive headline about the Knicks star last month.

"The fact that he reached out to me," Federico said. "The fact that he took the time to meet with me in his insanely busy schedule . . . He's just a wonderful, humble person. He didn't have to do that, especially after everything had kind of died down for the most part.

Federico says that like Lin he's a devout Christian, which was a big part of their conversation.

"We talked more about matters of faith (and) reconciliation. We talked about our shared Christian values and what we're both trying do with this situation," Federico said. "We didn't talk about the headline for more than three minutes."

Federico, 28, apologized after he was fired and said the headline was "an honest mistake."

- from the March 27, 2012 issue of USA Today.

"Pink Slime" Probably Safer then "Real" Meat Products

A little irony from the meat industry.

UPDATE:  More "pink-slim" push back.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Rev. Mr. J. T. Jordan of Camp Creek PB Church, Lilburn, GA

Camp Creek Primitive Baptist Church and cemetery is located just east of the town of Lilburn on Main Street-Camp Creek Road at the corner of Lilburn-Stone Mountain Road.   The first conference of this church was held in May, 1823.  The charter members were Martha Adams, Elizabeth Hale, Lucy Cannimore, Sarah Cannimore, Prodence Wells, Frances Landers, Susan Lee, Ridda McKinney, Mary Ward, Rachel Williamson, John Price, Thomas Mason, Tyric Landers, James Wells, and James Hale.

       The current building was built 1906.  Ministers to this church from its inception until 1911 (when James Flanigan published his History of Gwinnett County Churches) were Rev. James Hale (33 years),  D. T. White (2 years), Rev. H. D. Teat (2 yrs), Rev. G. P. Bradley (4 years), Rev. W. D. Almond (2 years), Rev. J. T. Jordan (44 years in 1911).

-from a Brief History of the Church.  (My bold.)

Rev. R. T. Jordan was my mother's great-great grandfather.

 No minister in Gwinnett county (sic) is held in greater esteem than the Rev. J. T. Jordan, of Lilburn. He has given his life to the people among whom he was born and reared. He was born in this county in 1840, was educated in its common schools and received a hope in Jesus Christ in 1858 when 18 years of age. 

He united with the church at Camp Creek in 1860, was ordained to the great work of the ministry in 1866, and was elected pastor of four churches during the same year. He has the extraordinary record of serving two of these churches from the year of his ordination in 1866 to the present time. To state it again, he has been pastor of two churches continuously from 1866 to date, a period of 44 years. 

During his entire ministry, he has served eight churches as pastor and of these eight churches, he has served four at a time continuously from 1866 to the present. Perhaps no preacher in Georgia or the South has served so long and so well the people among whom he lived and labored. 
 - from Flanigan, J. C., Gwinnett Churches: A Complete History of Every Church in Gwinnett County, Georgia, with Short Biographical Sketches of its Ministers (1911), as quoted here.

It is interesting that Rev. Jordan is described to have "received a hope in Jesus Christ."

My mother told me about going to services at Camp Creek PB Church when she was a child, with her grandmother, "Granma Jordan" (pronounced "Jerden").  Granma was Mrs. Nancy R. Della Lanford Jordan, my great-grandmother.  Granma was very close to our family as I grew up and a very important figure in my mother's life.  Macon's middle name is Lanford, in honor  of her.

Reading Thomas Manton

Last Saturday's Stott reading was on John 17 (page 238 of Through the Bible Through the Year).  He writes of it in part:

 [It] is one of the profoundest chapters of the Bible.  Whole books have been written to expound it.  Thomas Manton, for example, at one time Oliver Cromwell's chaplain, preached forty-five sermons on it it.  When published in a book, it ran to more the 450 pages.

I didn't know who Thomas Manton was, but got a start here.  Following a link from Wiki, I tracked down his "works' to this site.  I did not buy the whole set.  I kept looking and found that I could buy the book on John 17 alone here, at the publisher's web site.

(The publisher, Sovereign Grace Publications, describes itself as a "Primitive Baptist Bookseller."  My great-great grandfather, on my mother's side, a Lanford, was a Primitive Baptist minister.)

The book came yesterday.  I can't get past the first two pages of the first chapter, which is on the first verse of John 17.  I am not having trouble with the 17th century Puritan prose.  It is what Manton exposes so clearly.  I have to stop and think about it, and then talk about it to Carol.  (Who is a marvelous listener.)

John 17 is "the Lord's Prayer."  The one that Jesus taught his followers has been better described as "the Disciples' Prayer."  I believe it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bank of America's Alternative to Foreclosure

Bank of America Corp. is launching a pilot program that will allow homeowners at risk of foreclosure to hand over deeds to their houses and sign leases that will let them rent the houses back from the bank at a market rate.

- from today's WSJ.

Makes sense.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Majestic is Thy Name in All the Earth!

The Kingdom of God, when finally realized upon Christ's return, will be so great when we can all get together and sing like this!

Tebow to the Jets!

What was I thinking?  Of course Tebow would choose the Big Apple!  Not for the money, but for the stage.  Is it over the top to say, "Jesus to Jerusalem, Paul to Rome and Tebow to NY?"  Probably.  But good on you, Tim.

"I can't imagine a more unlikely fit for Tim Tebow than the New York Jets, just given what we know about the culture of that team. It seems to me, and a lot of outside observers, a team that has a pretty broken culture - at least a messy culture," said Patton Dodd, the executive editor of, a website designed for dialogue on religion and spirituality, and author of the ebook, "The Tebow Mystique."

"(But) in some ways, it's sort of ideal for him," Dodd added. "Even though it doesn't seem like a likely fit, if he's serious about what he believes, this is the kind of place that he ought to, to use Christian language, feel called to."

-from "New York Sure to Test Tebow, On and Off the Field," by Nancy Armour, AP National Writer.

Read more here:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is Miami Hot or What?

All of these events within walking and/or MetroMover Distance of our office:


MARCH 23-25, 2012
The weekend of March 23-25, 2012 will see a variety of events occurring within and around the Downtown Core of the City of Miami. These events will bring well over 200,000 attendees throughout the weekend. The main event will be the Ultra Music Festival, which will occur at Bayfront Park for three consecutive days. Below is a list of individual events, their dates, times and locations.
Bayfront Park

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 Bayfront Park Amphitheater Concert/movie
7:00pm – 11:00pm

Thursday, March 22, 2012 Bayfront Park Amphitheater Concert/movie
7:00pm – 11:00pm

Friday, March 23, 2012 Ultra Concert
4:00pm- 12midnight

Saturday, March 24, 2012 Ultra Concert
12noon - 12midnight

Sunday, March 25, 2012 Ultra Concert
12noon – 11:00pm

American Airlines Arena: Disney on Ice (show times listed below)

Thursday 10:30am – 7:00pm
Friday 10:30am – 7:00pm
Saturday 11:00am – 3:00pm- 7:00pm
Sunday 11:00am - 3:00pm – 7:00pm

Bicentennial Park: Cavalia (show times listed below)

Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 3:00pm – 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm

Adrienne Arsht Center: Shows varied (show times listed below)

Come Fly Away:
Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00pm – 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm – 7:30pm

Beethoven’s Pastoral (Cleveland Symphony - one of the best)

Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 8:00pm

Musica Fantastica:

Saturday 2:00pm

Emilio and the Enchanted Cow:

Saturday 11:00am – 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm

James L. Knight Center: I Need a Man (show times listed below)

Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 3:00pm – 8:00pm

Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center: New World School of the Arts: Rising Stars

Friday 7:30pm

Grand Central Park 721 N. Miami Avenue (Old Miami Arena Site)

Masquerade Motel
Friday 1:00pm – 12midnight
Saturday 1:00pm – 12midnight

Downtown Miami Entertainment District will be open for business throughout the weekend.

Tebow to Jacksonville?

I'm thinking yes.

"Top Athletes and singers have coaches. Should you?"

Mary spotted (and commends) this piece in the New Yorker about a surgeon at the top of his game who employed a coach.

"Feds consider securities charges against City of Miami after lengthy investigation"

At every level, government continues to disappoint.  Do you suppose that there might be an essential brokenness in the people who run government? (And in the people who elect them?)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Whatever, SouthBy

Ultra Music Festival  en Miami

"Age on the Run"

"Three longtime friends - all in their 70s - have no attention of slowing down."

The Herald this morning spotlights Mimi Oliveira, Sally Molina, and Lois Balafas, three septugenarian ladies who run hard.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stories Stimulate the Brain

Speaking of parables, a New York Times piece entitled "Your Brain on Fiction,"  seems to confirm their effectiveness.  (Thanks, Juan, for bringing it to my attention.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Forgiveness and the Kingdom of God"

Van was out of town this morning, and Session asked me to preach.  This is a rare event for me.

Here is my script.  The Scripture passage was Matthew 18: 23-35, the "Parable of the Unforgiving Servant."

Only one person in the congregation made substantive comments on my sermon.  They were from Steve, our Roman Catholic music director.  With a smile, he mentioned the unforgiving servant losing the grace that the King had given him.  "I'm glad you preached on a Catholic parable, Paul!"  He also compared the unforgiving servant to Bank of America and the American banking industry, which the federal government apparently saved with its interventions over the last four years.  The foreclosures the banks brought against individual homeowners seem to him to describe the conduct of the unforgiving servant toward the second servant.

I have friends who sought shelter under one of the government's loan forgiveness programs, when their home was foreclosed.  The bank involved in that case seemed to do everything it could to put obstacles in my friends' way.  After getting help from Senator Bill Nelson's office, they finally managed a successful "short sale," a remedy provided under the government program.  In that case, the bank takes the home, but the debt is forgiven to the extent that the loan balance exceeds the value of the home at foreclosure.  My friends are in their mid-seventies.  There would be no way they could ever pay a deficiency judgment.  But the bank made it very difficult to achieve the benefit that the government's ameliorative rules gave them, the forgiveness of that part of their debt.  (They have since moved out of the home, free of deficiency debt.  The bank now has the home.  The housing market is recovering, albeit slowly.)  This is the same bank that the government let off the hook on much greater debt.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mary at Work in Haiti

The team included three physicians: a surgeon and two anesthesiologists.  Two operating rooms were in use at the same time, each patient with a sub-team, comprised of one of the anesthesiologists, a "first assist," and other personnel.  The surgeon moved back and forth between the operating rooms.
One operating room had the surgeon's wife, an experienced operating room nurse, as the "first assist."  The other one had Mary in that role.  One of the duties of the "first assist" is to assist the surgeon during the procedure and then, when he finishes and goes over to the other operating room, to sew up the patient.  The photo shows Mary closing the surgical wound of a patient who had hernia repair surgery.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mary's Off to Haiti

The obligatory MIA Starbucks photo.

300 Muslim Lawyers Storm Egyptian Court, Prevent Lawyers for Christian From Entering

Here,  A careful reading of this article shows that, despite violent opposition from their peers, two Muslim defense lawyers showed up on behalf of the Christian, and the judge, seeing the problem, postponed the hearing altogether rather than allow it to proceed.  As easy and convenient as it might be, we simply cannot paint all Muslims with the same brush. God's grace will fall on them and he beckons them.  (Thanks, Instapundit.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Somehow the President Missed the Patrick O'Brian Series

The Navy doesn't like to advertise this, but it is trying to fulfill its traditional global role with a fleet of 285 ships—the smallest it has been since before the First World War, even if modern warships are more capable than ever before. That number is likely to decline further under President Obama's proposed budgetary cuts. If you sleep better at night knowing that a powerful American Navy ensures the freedom of the seas in places like the Gulf, the time to start worrying about the Navy's future is now.

-from Brett Stephens' opinion piece in today's WSJ.  (About O'Brian's Master and Commander.)

UPDATE (Be sure to read Sean's comment to this post.)

Adelante, Miami!

The company behind Miller, Coors Light and Corona plans to move its Latin American headquarters out of Bogota and into Miami, according to several people familiar with the deal. The move involves a relatively small office — between 50 and 70 people will work at the SAB Miller office at 1450 Brickell Ave. — but is seen as a coup for the city’s standing as a corporate hub for the Americas. “It’s a stamp of approval for Miami,’’ said William Holly, head of the Cushman and Wakefield brokerage in Miami. 

-from today's Miami Herald.

OK, so it's not Amplifier's Latin American HQ.  But it is progress.

Read more here:

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Most Convenient Lie

The credit event and triggering of the CDS (credit default swap) is something internal. This is a kind of dealing room between banks and financial entities. It’s not something important for us as a real economy.

-Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, in an interview with CNBC.

On the other hand, the WSJ says it doesn't feel all that bad about the CDS triggering.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Minnesota Orchestra in Miami

Last night, Carol and I drove downtown to hear the Minnesota Orchestra at the Adrienne Arsht Center.  There was a huge traffic jam, because not only was the MO performing at the Knight Concert Hall, but across the street at the Ziff Ballet Opera House, the Flamenco Festival Miami 2012 was presenting Estrellas del Flamenco.  Furthermore, just south of the Center, at Bicentennial Park, "Cavalia returns with Odysseo, a new Cirque-style show that takes the horse and human act to another level." Finally, the Heat played the Pacers in the American Airlines Arena, just south of the Park!  What a mess!

We and at least a hundred other people got into the concert hall too late for the Brahms Variation on a Theme by Haydn, but were in time for  Sibelius' Concerto for Violin in D minor, with Midori and Beethoven's Fifth.  This was my introduction to Midori, the MO, and its music director and conductor Osmo Vänskä.  All three were simply a joy.

The most fun was the Fifth.  Usually, before such a weighty piece, the conductor comes out, bows to the audience, mounts the podium in a dignified way, turns to the orchestra, looks around, brings the orchestra to attention, and then begins.  In this case, however, Vänskä, who is tall, lean, and athletic, bows, turns, and leaps to the podium and, as he comes down, so also comes down the baton.  The orchestra is poised and waiting (I didn't notice that, as I was looking at him).  Out rings the famous theme of the first movement, full, and rich, and with gorgeous power and strength.  Wow!  It was the orchestral equivalent of a slam dunk, but it wasn't the end of the play.  It was the beginning of a heady experience that easily grabbed us in the Third Tier balcony seats.  My complaint was that it was over simply too fast.  And no encore!  If any of our Minneapolis kin read this, don't, don't miss the MO.  Mary, whom we picked up at the airport after the concert, asked if it compares to the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Oh, yes!

Here's the Herald's post of yesterday on the concert.

(This is now on my wish list.)

Friday, March 09, 2012

Today is CDS Judgment Day

In light of today’s EMEA Determinations Committee (the EMEA DC) unanimous decision in respect of the potential Credit Event question relating to The Hellenic Republic (DC Issue 2012030901), the EMEA DC has agreed to publish the following statement:

The EMEA DC resolved that a Restructuring Credit Event has occurred under Section 4.7 of the ISDA
2003 Credit Derivatives Definitions (as amended by the July 2009 Supplement) (the 2003 Definitions)
following the exercise by The Hellenic Republic of collective action clauses to amend the terms of Greek
law governed bonds issued by The Hellenic Republic (the Affected Bonds) such that the right of all
holders of the Affected Bonds to receive payments has been reduced.

-from the EMEA DC Statement of March 9, 2012, as reported upon and linked to by Forbes.  Thanks to Instapundit, who calls this "Disturbing."

I noted that this was coming a few days ago.

My hope is that the market knew this was coming and has already adjusted to it.   On the other hand, because of the delay caused by governments who think they can manipulate that market, the inevitable consequences may be quite aggravated.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Florida Court Rules that the State Government Cannot Unilaterally Modify State Employee Contracts

The ruling at the trial court level overturned  the Legislature's decision last year to cut public employees salaries 3 percent, eliminate cost-of-living adjustments, and shift the savings into the general revenue fund to offset the state's contribution to their retirement account.  The court ruled that doing this without renegotiating their contracts, reached as a result of collective bargaining, was an "unconstitutional taking."  The State of Florida will appeal the decision.

I can't tell from what I read whether, had the State attempted to renegotiate the contracts and the employees union resisted any changes whatever - so that there was an impasse - the State would have been able to make these changes.  Or whether the State's action resulted from its knowing that there was no use to the effort.

This is where we are when government grants collective bargaining rights to its employees.  This battle is being waged across the country as the tax base contracts.  In making those contracts, the government gives up a slice of its sovereignty.  If the government is a representative democracy, then that means it gives up a slice of the freedom of its citizens.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

"Apart from me, you can do nothing . . . This is my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Stott's reading this morning (page 235), "The Vine and the Branches," strikes home.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a Jewish friend, Bill, from my days as a freshman at Duke.  He dropped by and wanted to hear about our trip to Israel.  I told him about the visit to Mt. Carmel.  He didn't know anything about Elijah (even though he is active in his Reformed Temple), except the "story about him setting the bears on the boys."  Someone had told him that story to ridicule the Scripture.  I told him that was Elisha, not Elijah, but conceded that he was God's prophet and a protege of Elijah.

I told him about Elijah's confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, his spectacular victory, how instead of being rewarded by men, he had to flee for his life and descended into depression, how God's angel sought him out and fed him, how to further encourage him God showed him his power and glory and, finally, spoke to him in a still small voice.  (1 Kings 18:16 through 19:18) Bill was fascinated.  I told him that no one could make a story like that up, and promised to send him the text reference.

He said that the objection he had to God was the suffering in the world.  I said that if God didn't allow men to make all kinds of decisions, even bad ones, then we would not be humans but simply robots.  He got the point.  I wish I had had John 15: 1 - 8 in my head, the Scripture that Stott addresses today.  In part, Stott writes:

The first [of the secrets of the vine's fruitfulness] is the pruning of the vine.  God is an indefatigable gardener.  He prunes every fruit-bearing branch so that it may bear more fruit.  This pruning is surely a picture of suffering.  And pruning is a drastic process.  The bush or shrub is cut right back, usually in the autumn.  To the uninitiated it looks extremely cruel.  Sometimes only a stump is left naked, jagged, scarred, and mutilated - but when the spring and summer return, there is much fruit.  The painful pruning knife has evidently been in safe hands.  Some form of suffering is virtually indispensable to holiness.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

My Time on the Board of Trinity

Sean, in a comment he made on an earlier post, asked about my being on the board of Trinity College, Deerfield.  This service was a privilege and a blessing.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, I served on the board of a small Bible college known as Miami Christian College ("MCC").  It turned out some fine graduates and was a bright light in the fairly dark spiritual world of Miami-Dade.  The college developed one of the finest Christian radio stations in the country, WMCU, and the radio station became an important center (if not the center) of evangelicalism in Greater Miami.  That is, its Christ centered message cut across church lines and leaped over the ministerial ruling class, right into minds of both church-goers and non-church goers.  (I remember from time-to-time hearing testimonies from people who said that, while listening to WMCU on their car radio, they had been moved to pull over to the side of the road, pour out their hearts to God, and accept his Son as Savior and Lord.  It still gives me goosebumps.)

The college struggled financially during the years I was on the board.  It was accredited by the Bible college accreditation agencies, but not by the agencies that accredit secular colleges.  Nevertheless, the University of Florida accepted its credits for transfer, as did many other secular colleges and universities.  Florida International University, however, a new and powerful kid on the block located in western Miami-Dade, emerged as the go-to state school for Latin kids who didn't want to go to UF or FSU.  (It is now a huge school with a big-time football team.)  Its founding president, a powerful, driving local Cuban-American politician, was not going to accept transfer credit from a tiny North-Dade Bible college whose mission he did not understand.  That hurt the college.  Furthermore, the neighborhood surrounding the 40 acre campus had become dangerous and uninviting.

By the late-1980s, MCC, was looking for a merger partner.  Quite a few suitors showed up, but they all were really interested in the radio station, which by that time was worth millions of dollars.  Our board, however, persisted in its view that WMCU was an adjunct to the central mission of the college, to offer a Christian liberal education to the young people of our region.

Finally, Dr. Kenneth M. Meyer, then president of Trinity Evangelical School and Trinity College came to see us.  I have never met a more complete Christian leader, a visionary, a fine preacher, a hard-headed businessman, and a great educator.  He understood the mission and he saw the radio station as a fit auxiliary to the college.  The board simply gave the school and its radio station to him, that is to Trinity (but it was really to Ken).

As a result of that merger, MCC was renamed Trinity-South Florida and, instantly, gained Trinity's secular accreditation.  Ken asked a couple of the MCC board members to come on the board of Trinity College, and I was one of them.  A few years later, Trinity College and TEDS, which shared a campus near Deerfield, Illinois, merged officially and Ken asked me to serve on the board of Trinity International University ("TIU").  As I said, it was an honor to serve on those boards (as it was on the board of MCC) and, especially, to see how Ken exercised his marvelous leadership gifts and to learn from him.

I served until 1998.  Ken retired about that time, and I had the sense that my time on the board had ended, so I left the board.  During the first decade of this century, a new administration took control of TIU and a board with a profoundly inadequate institutional memory assumed control.  It withdrew Trinity-South Florida's presence from Miami-Dade to a small refuge in Broward County and sold the radio station for many millions of dollars, taking the money back to Deerfield.  What a hurtful chapter in the history of that fine institution.  But that's another story.

(Sean will be interested in this article about Leslie Frazier's connection with Trinity and Ken.)

Friday, March 02, 2012

My New Choos

For years and years I've worn the New Balance 900 series shoes for anything athletic.  Now I have these minimalist shoes from NB for Crossfit and am beginning to wear them everywhere.  I find it a completely new way of dealing with one's feet, especially during very stressful use of those feet.  I had some doubts about whether I was walking (running? lifting?) into a whole new world of plantar fasciitis.  But so far, so good.  The feet are adapting to it, and seem glad to have become an active and important part of the rest of the body, instead of merely a cushioned link between the bottom of my legs and the earth.  (Shortly after I took this photo,  I ditched the white socks for black ones with tiny tops one can hardly see.  This is a relief to all my new young friends, but not as great as the relief they experienced the first day that I walked into the box with the new shoes on.)

The Brave, Not So New Anymore World of Contraception

At Duke, I had the privilege of taking I. B. Holley's intellectual history course my senior year.  I remember the discussion he led of the impact of available contraceptives.  His basic point was something like "Now we will see whether sexual morality really means anything, where the consequence of pregnancy is removed."

Of course, we were already seeing those consequences by the 1967-1968 academic year.  I had a notion of contraceptives in high school, and learned that they were in active use among a couple of my peers during a trip our church youth group  took to the World's Fair in NY in 1964.  By my senior year at Duke, one of the brothers and his girl friend from East Campus had taken up living together in his dorm room in the basement of our fraternity's quad section.  (During graduation week, I sang at their wedding!  So marriage wasn't completely dead.) It was by then routine for unmarried student couples as a group to travel to Myrtle Beach for the weekend in the spring.  Consequence-based sexual morality was already in full flight from the battlefield.  In fact, the battle was over.  It just took awhile for the news to spread.

Now, government provided contraceptives pretty much caps it off.  In a related development, the approval of same-sex marriage affirms the triumph of childless relationships.  It is left to some of the churches (and some ethicists, a few economists, psychologists, and sociologists, and at least one, once popular comedian) to promote the idea of "chastity in singleness and fidelity in marriage."

I don't recall Dr. Holley ever saying that Western Civilization as we know it depends on such morality.  His purpose was to get us to think about the issue.  We knew what he thought about it, however.  (That was very important to me - what he thought.  Still is.)  But it takes a huge leap of the imagination for a person's conduct to be affected when short-term consequences are removed.  That's why Dr. Holley taught the class and what we used to call a "liberal education" was so valuable: so that our minds could make those leaps.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Credit Default Swap Judgment Day Upon Us

A secretive panel of representatives from 15 large banks, hedge funds and investment houses holds the key to potential multibillion-dollar payouts to investors as a Greek default looms. The group meets Thursday morning to rule whether Greece's debt restructuring should trigger payments on insurance-like contracts known as credit-default swaps, or CDS. The impact of their decision will reverberate beyond the narrow confines of the Greek debt market and could affect investors across other European bond markets and the holders of $2.9 trillion in CDS on government debt around the world.

- from today's WSJ.

People bought the credit-default swaps with real money, thinking they were insuring the risk of a default.  Now, those who bought them from financial vendors with regard to Greece's debt stand not only to get pennies on the dollar with the bonds themselves, but no indemnity from the CDS.   Who are these vendors and how many of them are represented by interests on the "secretive panel?"  "Thieves break through and steal" in numerous and sometimes very sophisticated ways.

Happy Birthday, Chopin!

Rubenstein plays the Military Polonaise.  (Rubenstein played this in the basketball stadium at Duke my senior year, and I was there!)

"I have to coupon. We don't qualify for food stamps."

From Instapundit.  Government's subsidizing the purchase of any item tends to make a consumer less concerned with its cost.  Even making borrowing easier loosens financial discipline.  Yesterday a wealthy client and I met with his accountant, and at a break we discussed financial discipline:

The client said he is attending a Dave Ramsey seminar.  At that seminar, he said, the video states that people who use credit cards spend 17% more than people who use debit cards, even those credit credit users who pay off the card completely every month.  I would like to know about the study that produced that finding, but I can see that in our own household's financial behavior.  Between Carol and me, I am by far the primary offender.