Thursday, May 31, 2012

The First Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion in Overturning DOMA

Rather than challenging the right of states to define marriage as they see fit, the appeals contest the right of Congress to undercut the choices made by same-sex couples and by individual states in deciding who can be married to whom.

-from the Opinion, which is here.

After a lapse of some 150 years since the beginning of the War Between the States, it is interesting to see a New England, federal court of appeals affirm states' rights.

It is also interesting to read through the list of organizations that filed amicus briefs for one side or the other.  That list is at the head of the opinion.

Here are the religious-affiliated organizations and their counsel supporting DOMA:

Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., Jeffrey Hunter Moon, Michael F. Moses, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Von G. Keetch, Alexander Dushku, R. Shawn Gunnarson, Kirton & McConkie and Carl H. Esbeck, Legal Counsel, Office of Governmental Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals, on brief for U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; National Association of Evangelicals; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; The Massachusetts Catholic Conference; The Brethren in Christ Church; The Christian and Missionary Alliance; The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference; The Evangelical Free Church of America; The Evangelical Presbyterian Church; The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel; The International Pentecostal Holiness Church; The Missionary Church; Open Bible Churches [USA]; The United Brethren in Christ Church; The Wesleyan Church, Amici Curiae.

Here are the religious-affiliated organizations and their counsel opposing DOMA:

Harvey J. Wolkoff, Jessica M. Lindemann, Russell P. Plato, Samuel P. Bickett, Ropes & Gray LLP, Robert O. Trestan, Steven C. Sheinberg, Steven M. Freeman, Deborah Bensinger, Anti-Defamation League, on brief for Anti-Defamation League, Andover Newton Theological School, California Council of Churches, California Faith for Equality, Central Conference of American Rabbis, General Synod of the United Church of Christ, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, Hindu American Foundation, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Japanese American Citizens League, Jewish Alliance for Law & Social Action, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, MA Conference of the United Church of Christ, National Council of Jewish Women, People for the American Way Foundation, Society for Humanistic Judaism, Union for Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry California, the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, and Women of Reform Judaism, Amici Curiae.

There were other organizations with amicus briefs.  Labor unions were on the opposing side, for example.

Kindly Sit Over There, Uncle; We'll Handle This

For SpaceX, a closely held Hawthorne, Calif., company created in 2002, Friday's by-the-book splashdown in many ways amounted to validation of the lean management style and nimble corporate culture that Mr. Musk has stressed. Known for pushing engineers hard to solve problems and maintain schedules, the company says it developed Dragon "from a blank sheet [of paper] to its first mission" in four years.

The mission represented a new way of operating for NASA, too, by allowing a private contractor to be at the forefront of making decisions. NASA took a back seat and reduced day-to-day supervision of the company. The agency permitted SpaceX on its own to set the design, establish test procedures, check prototypes and take the lead in determining details of manufacturing hardware. NASA often had only a handful of its officials based at SpaceX facilities to supervise those efforts, which were funded with nearly $400 million of taxpayer dollars. Mr. Musk, a founder of online-payment service PayPal Inc., invested more than $100 million of his private fortune in the endeavor.

 NASA's hands-off approach with the unmanned capsule focused on achieving clearly defined goals, rather than mandating technical or production steps to get there.

-from today's WSJ, concering the successful splash-down of the Dragon space capsule.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lethal Scissors

Jane reports a telephone conversation with her credit card company about a suspicious charge.  The person she was speaking to said that the charge was for "Lethal Scissors."  Jane asked the person to spell the name, after several tries to understand whom the person at the other end was describing. 

"L I T T L E  C A E S A R S."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fish is not a Health Food

Now this.

Cheerios is a Drug!!

Last month the FDA issued a "Warning Letter" to General Mills, which letter states in part:

Based on claims made on your product's label, we have determined that your Cheerios® Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease. Specifically, your Cheerios® product bears the following claims on its label:
• "you can Lower Your Cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks" "
• "Did you know that in just 6 weeks Cheerios can reduce bad cholesterol by an average of 4 percent? Cheerios is ... clinically proven to lower cholesterol. A clinical study showed that eating two 1 1/2 cup servings daily of Cheerios cereal reduced bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol."
These claims indicate that Cheerios® is intended for use in lowering cholesterol, and therefore in preventing, mitigating, and treating the disease hypercholesterolemia. Additionally, the claims indicate that Cheerios® is intended for use in the treatment, mitigation, and prevention of coronary heart disease through, lowering total and "bad" (LDL) cholesterol. Elevated levels of total and LDL cholesterol are a risk factor for coronary heart disease and can be a sign of coronary heart disease. Because of these intended uses, the product is a drug within the meaning of section 201(g)(1)(B) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321 (g)P)(B)]. The product is also a new drug under section 201(p) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(p)] because it is not generally recognized as safe and effective for use in preventing or treating hypercholesterolemia or coronary heart disease. Therefore,under section 505(a) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 355(a)], it may not be legally marketed with the above claims in the United States without an approved new drug application.

 I was at Publix just the other day, and overheard a lady ask the manager where that cereal was that treated hypercholesterolemia.  He pointed right at the Cheerios box.

Doesn't this agency have other things to do?

The Herald Discovers CrossFit

It's the cover story in today's Business Monday.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Lingua Franca of Miami-Dade

Years ago, when Macon and Walter were younger teenagers, they rode around Miami Springs on their bikes and made a movie for the use of the Pulpit Search Committee of our church in its recruiting of a new minister.  They narrated it.

When the new minister arrived, we went to a social event that welcomed him and his wife.  At some point we told his wife that our sons had made that video.  His wife said that people back in Iowa, where they came from, were fascinated by their "accent" and wondered where they had lived before the United States.

Anyway, the way we speak Miami-Dade lingua franca is useful.  We can use the same word for several things.  For example, this afternoon Carol is in the kitchen chopping the vegetables that she purchased at Whole Foods and Publix where she went chopping yesterday.

When we need something to put on our feet, we choose what we want at the store that sells choose, whether at the shopping center or, more frequently, the internet.

There is a lawyer of Haitian descent who practices in our building with a Jewish lawyer.  They are great friends of the lawyers in our firm.  The Haitian-descent lawyer's name is Gerald, written out.  Spoken by the two of them, its "Jaw."  Jaw is much bigger than I am, although a lot nicer than I am.  I would, therefore, never hit Jaw in the jaw.   You wouldn't either.

We are not talking Spanglish here.  We are talking Miami-Dade.

UPDATE:  I  had to splane this to Carol.  She couldn't see how Gerald equals Jaw.  "I said 'Jaw,' Carol."  I guess it sounds like "Gee-Aw" to her, but it sounds like Jaw to me.  Do you get it now, Carol?  'Gee-aw" equals Gerald with a Haitian assent.  (Yes, you get it now, right? Accent is pronounced assent.)  At least that's what his partner David calls him.  David doesn't mean to call him that bone with teeth in it.  But it sounds like that to me.  I'm sorry, Carol, but Gerald's my friend and his name is Jaw and he answers to that.

Raymond E. Brown; Homosexualtiy

I purchased a bargain, used copy of Raymond E. Brown, S.S., An Introduction to the New Testament from the Anchor Bible Reference Library, on  Although I am reading it straight through,  I can't help delving ahead in it.  This afternoon I read "Paul's Critique of Fornicators and Homosexuals (6:9-10)" in Brown's chapter on 1 Corinthians.

(This web page has excerpts of chapters copied from Brown's Introduction.  Once reaching that page, click on the link to 1 Corinthians and then scroll down to the "critique" section.  It is not a complete transcription, but it gives you a sense of his argument.  If you can, buy the book.  Brown is not to be missed, even by a few sentences.)

Here is the last sentence from that section:

Nevertheless, in insisting on the sexual limits imposed by the divinely commanded state of marriage between a man and a woman, Paul and indeed, Jesus himself, walking among us in our times, would not be frightened by being considered sexually and politically "incorrect," any more than they minded being considered overly demanding in the Greco-Roman and Jewish world of their times. [page 530; footnote omitted, although the footnote is important and classic Brown.]

Saturday, May 26, 2012

X-Fitting the Garage

This looks pretty good.  The nearest Tractor Supply is in Clewiston.  There's one near Sebring too, so we could combine a visit to HH.  (Now that would be a "healthy journey.")

This is the flooring at Crossfit Downtown Miami.  I'm not a fan of these tiles, because they are hard and the bumps, while providing a non-slip surface, hurt my ancient knees, tail-bone, etc.  On the other hand, they are expensive.

Dealing With the Next Big Wave of European Immigration

The Brits address the consequences of Europe's economic problems (h/t Drudge).

As immigration Czar for the US, I would see this as an opportunity and not a problem, and cherry-pick the daylights out of the situation.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Intervarsity's "Open Letter" to Vanderbilt Leadership

Here.  See my earlier post on this religious freedom problem.

If Vanderbilt thought it could somehow be like Harvard by forcing its students to become Christians, then they would force people to become Christians. It's all about academic status. There's nothing really personal about the matter as far Christianity is concerned. It's just business, as Mr. Corleone would say. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Alice Dalton Brown: Patrick's Front Porch (1988)

Last night Pepe had his annual auction at our church to raise funds to send his Campus Life kids to camp this summer.  (Walter donated some Glennz Tees.)  Friends in our church had donated a good print of this beautiful work.  It captured me and we bought it.

The image is from the artist's website.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Death of the Messiah; Reading and; the Anchor Bible Reference Library

The Passion Narrative (henceforth PN), as it proceeds from arrest through trial to condemnation, execution, and burial (thus from Gethsemane to the grave), constitutes in each Gospel the longest consecutive action recounted of Jesus. Aesthetically, more than any other section of the Gospels, indeed even more than the infancy narrative, it has captured the attention and imagination of dramatists (passion plays), artists, and musicians. Literarily, passion vignettes have left their mark on language and imagery : thirty pieces of silver, Judas kiss, cockcrow, washing one's hands of blood. Historically, Jesus' death was the most public moment of his life as figures known from Jewish or secular history (Caiaphas, Annas, Pilate) crossed his path. Indeed, alongside "born of the virgin Mary", the other phrase that made its way into the creed, "suffered under Pontius Pilate", has become a marker anchoring Christian belief about the Son of God to a Jesus who was a human figure of actual history. Theologically, Christians have interpreted the death of Jesus on the cross as the key element in God's plan for the justification, redemption, and salvation of all. Spiritually, the Jesus of the passion has been the focus of Christian meditation for countless would-be disciples who take seriously the demand of the Master to take up the cross and follow him. Pastorally, the passion is the centrepiece of Lent and Holy Week, the most sacred time in the liturgical calendar. The custom of Lenten preaching has made it a most favoured subject for homilies, In sum, from every point of view the passion is the central narrative in the Christian story.

-from "Preface and Acknowledgments" in Raymond E. Brown's two volume The Death of the Messiah, from the Anchor Bible Reference Library (Doubleday 1994).  (The link is to the website for an online bookstore known as PrintAsia, specifically to PrintAsia's page on this work.  That page has the first three paragraphs of the "Preface and Acknowledgments" and the table of contents.  In that short excerpt, Brown's marvelous prose is on display.)

Amazon sells this work in paperback for $26.25 per volume, $52.50.  There is a hardback, boxed set edition of the two volumes, selling new for much more.  I was able to get the boxed set, in very good condition for $29.88, plus shipping, through  The internet makes such bargains in books available!  The main temptation to "retirement" is simply to quit and spend the rest of my days reading.  With such accessibility to good books and a few more authors like Brown and Stott, the practice may be history.

Brown's, The Death of the Messiah, is published as part of the "Anchor Bible Reference Library."  The General Editor of this attractive series, in 1994 David Noel Freedman,  describes the library as follows:

THE ANCHOR BIBLE REFERENCE LIBRARY Is designed to be a third major component of the Anchor Bible group, which includes the Anchor Bible commentaries on the books of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Apocrypha, and the Anchor Bible Dictionary. While the Anchor Bible commentaries and the √Ānchor Bible Dictionary are structurally defined by their subject matter, the Anchor Bible Reference Library will serve as a supplement on the cutting edge of the most recent scholarship . The series is open-ended; its scope and reach are nothing less than the biblical world in its totality, and its methods and techniques the most up-to-date available or devisable. Separate volumes will deal with one or more of the following topics relating to the Bible: anthropology, archaeology, ecology, economy, geography, history, languages and literatures, philosophy, religion(s), theology.

As with the Anchor Bible commentaries and the Anchor Bible Dictionary, the philosophy underlying the Anchor Bible Reference Library finds expression in the following: the approach is scholarly, the perspective is balanced and fair-minded, the methods are scientific, and the goal is to inform and enlighten. Contributors are chosen on the basis of their scholarly skills and achievements, and they come from a variety of religious backgrounds and communities . The books in the Anchor Bible Reference Library are intended for the broadest possible readership, ranging from world-class scholars, whose qualifications match those of the authors, to general readers, who may not have special training or skill in studying the Bible but are as enthusiastic as any dedicated professional in expanding their knowledge of the Bible and its world.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bill Pearl

After my diagnosis of NHL in the early 90s, the chemo treatment that followed, and my recovery from the treatment about eight weeks following its end, I became very interested in physical fitness and went through a weight-training phase.  During the course of that phase, I banished the car from the garage, parked the camper in the backyard, and replaced them with barbells, dumbbells, a rack for the plates, and even a  used "universal" weight lifting machine that a friend of mine gave me, just to get it out of his garage.  Of course I read a lot of books, and one author was Bill Pearl.  Still on my bookshelf are his Keys to the Inner Universe and Getting Stronger

During the present Crossfit era, with its emphasis on high intensity training and developing "the core," Body Building, Bill's sport, may seem a little quaint. But to Bill and many others it remains a completely serious pursuit.  Diet was extremely important.  Bill's approach to diet was (and is -  he's still in business) very enlightened.  Here are some excerpts from his discussion on diet in Keys to the Inner Universe, pages 33-35:

The high protein myth is so permanently engraved in our thinking that I hesitate to suggest it may be erroneous. Yet due to my desire to help the sincere seeker of lasting health and physical power, I am compelled to try.

It is not difficult to understand how the high protein myth originated. Proteins are important components of our daily nutrition. Your body is built largely of proteins. Your muscles, hair, skin, vital organs, and glands, even your hormones are made up of proteins. Twenty percent or more of the cellular composition in your body is protein. Since your body is constantly renewing and repairing itself, you need lots of protein in your diet for the building of new cells.

And that leads us to the question, "Just how much is 'lots'?" Many experts suggest that you need from seventy to two hundred and fifty grams or more of protein each day. Scientists around the world are beginning to suspect a mistake in their original estimation of our protein needs. More and more evidence is turning up to show that enough protein is good, but to much is bad. Sugar is essential for our health, but too much sugar in the diet has been established as a cause for many health disorders. We certainly need fats, but too much fat in the diet will cause a legion of troubles. Even too much of certain vitamins or minerals may cause ill health. And so it is also with proteins, especially cooked animal proteins, which may cause disorders in the metabolism and a biochemical imbalance in the tissues. These conditions may lead to the most common degenerative diseases, including arthritis, arteriosclerosis, and heart disease

Studies by well-known nutritional authorities show that our actual requirement for protein is somewhere between thirty and forty grams per day. One of the most reliable sources on matters of nutrition today is The International Society for Research on Nutrition and Vital Substances, the scientific council which is comprised of four hundred doctors of medicine, bio-chemistry, nutrition, and natural science. This foremost scientific authority has stated that our "classical" protein requirement tables need an overhaul. "Meat, fish, and eggs supplement a basic diet, but a daily intake of these foods is not necessary," says The International Society for Research on Nutrition and Vital Substances.

The outdated calculations with regard to human protein needs were based on nineteenth century research by Justin Von Liebig, Karl von Voit, and Max Lubner, who believed that man's daily protein requirement was one hundred twenty grams. Until today, many of the beliefs and opinions regarding protein requirements were based on these men's faulty calculations. As Dr. H. B. Lewis had pointed out, it is, indeed, "very dangerous when great men make mistakes." Although the official tables of protein requirements have been showing lower listings for the past several decades, and are now set at about one-half gram per pound of body weight per day, many authorities continue to cling to the old, outdated, "more, more, and more protein" idea, with a heavy emphasis on animal proteins, mainly from red meats.

In accord with the latest research, and taking into consideration the great variation of protein need of each individual, plus the extra demands under conditions of stress, a general conclusion would be that fifty to sixty grams of protein per day - with seventy-five to eighty percent derived from vegetable sources - is sufficient for optimum health. Proteins in excess of those amount are not needed by the body and are only burned as fuel for energy, or stored as fat. As fuel, proteins are inferior to natural carbohydrates and fats.

You do not need meat for protein.  .  .  .  The long held belief that meat proteins are superior to vegetable proteins has been disproven  .   .   .   You do also do not necessarily need meat protein for strength.  .   .   .

The only thing Bill seemed to miss is the problem with dairy and eggs.

"Coffee Drinkers Live Longer"

Just sayin'.

Seriously, however, the article to which Althouse links deserves careful reading.  I'm staying clean.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Vanderbilt and Religion

[T]oday, Vanderbilt officials are restricting the liberty of the very sorts of religious folks who not only founded the school but whose followers led many of the nondiscrimination battles of 19th-century higher education.

-from a column by John Murray on May 10 in the WSJ on Vanderbilt's "decision to stop recognizing campus religious organizations that require their leaders to accept certain religious beliefs on which they are founded. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Vanderbilt Catholic, Navigators and other groups—ministering to about 1,500 students—would effectively be moved off campus in the name of 'nondiscrimination.'"

The column also reports that the Tennessee legislature has voted to withdraw the state's $29 million annual support of the school, an action that the Republican governor, Bill Haslam, promises to veto, because it is, he states, "inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution."  I'm not at all sure that the governor has it right. 

What may be inappropriate is for the state to give private institutions any subsidies at all, but that issue is way past reopening.

Murray's thesis is that this action will strengthen the cause of Christ and weaken the school.  Repression has often failed to work on Christianity, a striking example in the last 100 years (maybe the last 500 years) being its suppression by the Chinese Communists after WW II.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Presbytery of Tropical Florida Votes on "Gracious Separation" Today

Here is the article from the Sun-Sentinel this morning that reported that today Presbytery would meet to take up the question of 9 of its churches seeking dismissal.

I attended the meeting as an Elder-Commissioner from FPC Miami Springs, a church among the 9 seeking dismissal.  Presbytery voted to dismiss each one, subject "to the way being clear."  There are some tasks that need to be addressed so that the way is clear, but they are reasonable tasks, under the circumstances, and not meant to be insurmountable.  It was a sad day for all.

UPDATE (5/16/12) : Here is the follow-up article in Wednesday's Sun-Sentinel.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Docetic Jesus, or Not; Remembrance (Ordinance) or Sacrament

Creation matters because God in Christ entered creation in order to bring about complete renewal.  Evangelical orthodoxy has more and more discounted created things because it features a docetic Jesus whose divinity tends to overshadow his humanity and who only brushes against creation for a time in order to lift (rapture) us to heavenly safety.  If Christ is essentially unconnected with the created world except to come here and save some souls, then created things can never bring us in touch with divine reality.  Or, more to the point of this study, sacraments can never be the means by which God unites us in Christ.

-from Leonard J. Vander Zee, Christ, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, as I prepare a Sunday School lesson on John 6: 47-59.

 Docetae: "An early heretical sect which held that Christ's body was merely a phantom or appearance, or that if real its substance was celestial."  Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, Unabridged (1938).

Raymond E. Brown's thesis is that Jesus' words in John 6:51-58 refer "to the Eucharist,"  an event which is otherwise missing from that Gospel.  (Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII, page 281 ff..)  Jesus in John 6 refers to his "flesh" not to his "body."  (In verse 51b, "This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.")  The other Gospels have "this is my body," which to me (and to Brown) seems less literal.  "However," Brown notes, "there is really no Hebrew or Aramaic word for 'body,' as we understand the term; and many scholars maintain that at the Last Supper what Jesus actually said was the Aramaic equivalent of 'This is my flesh.'"

The Lord's Supper is so watered down at our church (no pun intended).  We do it by "intinction" and the minister seems to say about as little as he possibly can.  It is brief, tacked on at the end of the service.  At my Baptist church growing up, it was such a serious event, on the other hand.  It took a long time.  The deacons were arrayed at the front.  The "table" was carefully prepared.  Dr. Angell's words were straight from 1 Cor. 11.  It was full of prayer.  The bread and the grape juice were each introduced separately and the minister called upon a deacon to offer prayer at each introduction.  (Now and then he asked my dad to pray, and I was very proud.)  The people themselves were in prayer, with their eyes closed and their heads bowed.  We waited until everyone had the wafer or the little cup, and then together we ate or drank.  After eating the wafer or drinking the juice, we sat there in silence for several moments, and we thought about Jesus dying for us.  It was very serious, very warm, and very good.  At the end of the ceremony, we all sang "Blest be the Tie that Binds."  Singing that hymn after such a solemn ceremony, you could almost hear the people relax; we all exhaled in a way, there were smiles, the hymn was happy.  At the end of the hymn, Dr. Angell simply said, "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out."  The Lord's Supper was over and we adjourned.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Form and Function; Technique and Performance

Efficient movements are especially appreciated by older athletes, who realize that proper technique allows them to conserve energy and employ it strategically. Inefficient movements, in contrast, force the athlete to waste energy and time in trying to compensate; for a vivid example of this kind of waste, watch a tired, unskilled runner’s gait—a bobbing head, arms that drag instead of pulling, and a posture that looks like someone about to keel over. With each ragged step, such runners work against themselves. Their efforts to compensate for inefficient movements sap their bodies of energy and reduce their stamina. After a certain point, they might as well walk. This is why many runners are coached to “hold their form.” Efficient movements can also create a synergy of quickness, timing, and strength that generates power and explosiveness even as it improves endurance. The energy conserved by moving efficiently reduces distractions caused by pain or discomfort during sports performance. 

-Buddy Lee in Jump Rope Training: the Complete System for Fitness and Performance (Second Edition), p. 7. 

In Dr. Holley's American Intellectual History class at Duke, he exposed the idea that form and function are profoundly related, that the beauty of a thing as we perceive it, the quality of the aesthetic, depends on whether it reflects good function.  He said that form should follow function and not dictate it and that this idea is part of the American genius.

This idea appears in Crossfit, where it is not the weight of what one lifts that is important, it is the way that one lifts.  We can call it "technique," as the coaches do, but to see a perfect lift, to see the explosion of focused energy and the burst of sound, is to perceive a beautiful thing.  It is that perfect lift that will enable progress in terms of the weight of what one can lift.  We want to get stronger.  We must get stronger beautifully.

Thus, Buddy Lee, as he introduces the jump rope as an extraordinarily inexpensive, portable, and highly effective exercise apparatus, at the threshold of his book introduces the matter of "technique."  In the passage quoted, he uses running as his example.  He points to runners who "hold their form."  He will state that to use the rope successfully one must hold the right form, and he teaches what that form is.

I think one must hold one's form in any enterprise to achieve success.  Good form will drive good performance.  Good performance should drive good form.

(Matthew 6:33 has the same idea, as it pertains to existence itself.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

"UM Med School to Lay Off Up to 800"

The above-the-fold headline of an article on the front page of this morning's Herald.

The cutback is the largest of any employer in the state since the medical school's campus neighbor, Jackson [Memorial Hospital], announced 920 layoffs in February.

-from the article, but read all of it.

What appears to be happening is that a bloated institution, under pressure from reduced government subsidies, is taking a good look at itself with the help of outside consultants and a new chief operating officer.

More from the article:

Some critics have long warned about looming disaster at the medical school. Last October, car dealer Norman Braman, a long-time UM trustee who has donated more than $5 million to the university, wrote a scathing letter to Leonard Abess, chairman of the board, complaining that “poorly conceived decisions by the medical school administration have put the university at significant risk. ... In the ‘for profit’ world, administrators would have already been fired for repeatedly failing to perform according to stated goals. Unfortunately, this is not the case at UM where people are instead given bonuses and raises as the university gets weaker and weaker.”

(Norman Braman, whom I have not yet had the honor to meet, is one of God's signal blessings on our community.  Wiki has a very inadequate article on him.)

Read more here:

Monday, May 07, 2012

John Stott on the Church

[W]e are not only committed to Christ, we are committed to the body of Christ.  Indeed, we cannot be one without the other.  For the church lies at the center of the purpose of God.  God's purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to call out a people for himself and to build his church.  Indeed, Christ died for us not only to redeem us from sin but to purify for himself a people who are enthusiastic for good works (Titus 2:14).  So, then, the reason we are committed to the church is that God is.

-Stott, in Through the Bible Through the Year, page 305.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Rope Climbing Machine


Or I could hang a rope from the oak tree in the backyard.

Let me think about that.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Ban College Football?

Well, maybe  .   .   .

In more than 20 years I've spent studying the issue, I have yet to hear a convincing argument that college football has anything do with what is presumably the primary purpose of higher education: academics.

That's because college football has no academic purpose. Which is why it needs to be banned. A radical solution, yes. But necessary in today's times.

-From Why College Football Should be Banned, in today's WSJ.  This is written by Buzz Bissinger, the author who wrote Friday Night Lights.

This idea started going through my head as a student at Duke who lived in a quad across from the KA section.  The KA's gave a home to the football players, except for the skill players, who were either Phi Delts or ATO's.  I didn't have much use for any of them.  (Somehow the University of Chicago seemed to get along just fine without much of a football program.)

On the other hand, college football undeniably builds "community," and community - at least healthy community - has to have a positive impact on "academics." 

I would also suggest that to define "higher education" in terms of "academics" begs the question of what is (are?) "academics," as Mr. Bissinger views academics?  For that matter, what does he mean by "higher education" beyond a simple definition of what happens after high school.   I would suggest that college football needs to be put in its place, rather then banned, and I would also suggest that the problem can be traced to the board of trustees at a given institution. 

Bissinger, then, can't really be serious about banning college football. And, finally . . .

Go, Canes!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

"Men have Forgotten God"

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.

What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.

-Alexander Solzhenitsyn from his Templeton Address.

As I consider the decline and failure of institutions with which I am associated, large and small, Solzhenitsyn's analysis of the Russian disaster applies to all of them.

For example, yesterday Juan and I attended a very important hearing together, and this morning we reviewed what  happened.  We noted that that the hearing proceeded well from the standpoint of the behavior of both the judge and the other lawyers, even though we did not get all we wanted.  That discussion moved on to discussions of other cases, other judges, and other lawyers, where we were not able to say that the professionals acted with integrity.  As to the lawyers whom we discussed in those other matters, the question, unfortunately, was simply truth telling.  I believe that the issue of one telling the truth under stress depends in the main on a lively sense of a sovereign God.  Truth telling, truth finding, is at the heart of the matter where justice is concerned.  ("Ah," as Pilate said, acting in a supreme judicial capacity, "what is truth?"  No wonder in that case we had the outcome that followed the Roman's rhetorical question.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

God's Purposes and the Wickedness of Men

Acts 2: 23:  This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. (NIV 1984)

Stott observes that Peter attributes Jesus' death "simultaneously to the purpose of God and the wickedness of men."  Thus, "human evil and divine providence were not incompatible with each other.  God forwards his purposes even through the wickedness of men."  (TTBTTY, page 300)