Monday, February 28, 2011

Ethics: Workplace Survivor

In parliamentary systems, those who selected the leader (government) can deselect him (it) at a later date by voting no confidence in his administration. A form of this same sort of thing we know a bit better here in America is the recall election. But certainly the far more well-known version is Survivor Island, where team members have to decide whom to eject from their midst. In thinking about this idea recently, I wondered whether it might not be useful to let co-workers similarly de-select people in their midst who either aren’t really pulling their weight or who are really difficult/disruptive to work with. Because only the boss (or management intermediary in a larger company) can fire someone, such people often find ways to curry favor with the boss or even deceive them. Would it be a remedy for some of this power to be shared with the other people in the workplace?

CC--10th Commandment: What does it say?

Text in Exodus 20:17
17"You shall not covet (Kawmad, to delight in) your neighbor's house; you shall not covet (Kawmad, to delight in) your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Text in Deuteronomy 5:21
21'You shall not covet (Kawmad, to delight in) your neighbor's wife, and you shall not desire (awvaw, to strongly lust for, wish for) your neighbor's house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.'

--Don’t set your heart upon, desire, covet, lust after, wish for, imagine yourself having, scheme to get, or consider that you need in order to be happy anything that is forbidden to you because it already belongs to your neighbor.
--There are at least two parts here: wanting what you don’t have and wanting what already does belong to someone.

02/28/11 4PM Commentary

It’s not news (the original story broke in 2004), but a recent Russian foundation came out with a warning that really bad things could happen when Apophis, an asteroid, comes near Earth in 2029. (Buy your store of non-hybrid seeds now!) Their theory is that Apophis will go through a weird gravitational field when it’s close to the Earth, tweaking its path just enough to come back and kill us all 7 years later in 2036. I was scared until I read that NASA has assured us that the chances of this happening are 1 in 250,000, odds which are good enough for me. However, I’ve got to believe that people who play the lottery are terrified right now since this makes death by asteroid thousands of times more likely than what they’re counting on for their retirement.

02/28/11 3PM Commentary

Work-related fatalities strike an average of 3.3 people per 100,000 in an industry. But those that exceed that number may surprise you. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers are 57.1, but firefighters are only 4.4 and police are 13.1 (although they do suffer a much higher number of non-fatal injuries proportionally). In contrast, Farmers and ranchers are 38.5 per 100,000, and fishermen and fishing-related workers are 200! So, if you want a (relatively) safe job, be a fireman but never work in a field or fishing.

02/28/11 2PM Commentary

In what I can only describe as “wickedly cool” new technology, a team of defense researchers has invented an entirely new way for naval warships to do communications. The old way was tons of copper antennae, which are heavy, fragile, highly visible to enemy radar, and take up lots of useful space. The new way? Carefully controlled spumes of saltwater shooting up to various lengths and widths, especially in plastic tubes! Because they’re adjustable, each one can replace up to ten conventional antennae, although it’s not yet ready to deploy to the fleet. They can send and receive on them because of the salt ions in the water. The inventor came up with the idea while taking a shower and tested it out with under a hundred dollars of ordinary components.

Friday, February 25, 2011

CC--9th Commandment: Why is lying so wrong?

o I am not in the image of God the truth-teller
o This person is not in the image of God the truth-hearer
o I will trust in my ability to lie rather than in God’s willingness to protect me
o There is something in this life that I need more than God’s approval.
--Why do we normally lie?
o selfishness and
o lack of love for our neighbor and
o failure to trust in God that He will provide as we need by His mechanisms and that In Him we already have everything we truly need.
o We should all tell more truth than we’re inclined to tell because these are the main motives behind our reluctance
o Real love and relationship presupposes knownness and transparency.

02/25/11 4PM Commentary

Facebook allows you to describe your relationship status from several options (why they don’t just let you freelance it like your status, I don’t know). These options include: “Single,” “In a relationship,” “Engaged,” “Married,” “It’s complicated,” “In an open relationship,” “Widowed,” “Separated,” “Divorced,” and now also “In a civil union” and “In a domestic partnership.” I’m sure some people are really bothered by this as yet another step of validating homosexuality and maybe even start calling for some sort of boycott against facebook. Here’s the problem with that. Aside from being just dumb, it misses the whole point of facebook in the first place. The idea of personal or micro-blogging is to reveal, express, and disclose yourself in the way you would with others ordinarily but through the enhanced access medium of the Internet. So in casual conversation if you would say you are widowed or in a civil union, they’re now allowing you to say that on your facebook page. I have a lesbian friend whose status says she’s married, although I actually have no idea whether this is a legally recognized marriage or just what she says to people. The point is that there is a vast difference between governments recognizing and/or rewarding a relationship and individuals being permitted to use free speech technology like social networking to accurately self-disclose.

02/25/11 3PM Commentary

This week, Justine Siegal became the first woman in history to pitch in the major leagues when she threw batting practice first to the Indians on Monday and then to the A’s on Wednesday. This is a really significant milestone for Major League Baseball, even though it’s only BP in spring training. Some sports really need to keep men and women separate (like wrestling!), but baseball isn’t ordinarily one of them, and certainly not to the point that a woman can’t throw mediocre fastballs for BP. Billy Beane of the A’s jumped at the chance, while others were slow to agree or against it, and this to me only again signals Beane’s marketing savvy in getting to look good at no real cost to him. Congratulations, Justine. You’ve earned it.

02/25/11 2PM Commentary

One of my favorite recent pictures in any newspaper. The caption from the front page (!) at the Arizona Republic reads: “Arthur Olivas (left), who backs anti-illegal-immigrant bills, and Jarvis Johnson, a supporter of immigrants rights, debate immigration in Phoenix on Tuesday. Hundreds converged on the Capitol to express their views on the bills.” The obvious beauty of this photo is that it depicts a fierce argument between a black man arguing on behalf of illegal immigrants (almost entirely Hispanic) and a Hispanic man arguing on behalf of the laws intended to harass them. Both racial inversions (a Hispanic arguing against Hispanics and a non-Hispanic minority arguing for them) are wonderful to see and a good sign (albeit a lonely one) that these discussions are at least sometimes completely separated from racial biases.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Various Current Events

U of A sets up civility institute (NYT)
WI union fight heats up (WSJ)
St. Croix teachers may be punished for sickout (CBS)
Pension haves vs have-nots (LA Times)
State troopers sent to find WI Dems (AP)
GOP House ends Planned Parenthood funding (WSJ)
Iowa wrestler defaults rather than face a girl (CBS News)
CBS complicit in news cover-up (Boston Herald)
Somali pirates kill Bible distributors (CT)
Murder of 4 by pirates marks shift (AZR)
MI cuts Detroit public schools in half (Detroit News)
SF may ban infant circumcision (NBC SF)
ASU to offer 7½ week courses (AZR)
New AZ bills even stricter on illegal immigrants (AZR)
AZ Bill against gender-selection-abortion advances (AZR)
Ryan’s charge up entitlement hill (WSJ)
Sex economics 101 (CT)
Video game simulates path to homelessness (ABC)
Obama declines to defend DOMA (ADF)
Read the AG’s letter to Congress (Justice Dept)
Analysis: Obama shifts on gay marriage (AP)
Gay marriage policy changes Q&A (AP)
Mr. Obama moves against bias (NYT)
AZ Senate to tackle pensions (AZR)
AZ considers budget cuts (AZR)
AZ immigration bills aim for crackdown (AZR)
AZ bills a test of federal authority (AZR)
Bieber cuts his hair (CBS “News”)
Sen Reid vs prostitution (Las Vegas Sun)
Prostitution laws in US (Pro Con)
ABC says it’ll kill jobs (ABC “News”)
FB adds two gay relationship status options (CP)
Cellphone use tied to changes in brain activity (NYT)
Why Libya means gas prices spiking (NYT)
Woman pitches to MLB spring trainees (AZR)
Army deploys psy-ops against US Senators (Rolling Stone)
Cycling to work can kill you (Daily Mail)
US pushes mortgage deal (WSJ)
What really happens in a government shutdown? (CSM)

CC--9th Commandment: How does perjury destroy communication?

--There’s an implied backdrop to the 9th Commandment which really has four components.
--Humans need God
--Humans need community
--Community needs shared standards
--Community needs reliable communication.
--God is really here declaring the absolute necessity and centrality of trustworthy communication for His community to work.
--And so it becomes vital to the very notion of having a community of people devoted to God’s standards that they would only tell the truth about each other’s adherence or violation of those standards. If I cannot trust my neighbor’s testimony about others, I certainly can’t trust his testimony about me to others, and the communication which undergirds community has been destroyed along with the ability to know whether the standards that define us really are or are not being honored.
--We tend to think of perjury as a violation of some individual’s rights (life, liberty, and or property), and it certainly is. But even more fundamental than this is the violation of the very nature of us having a society and having a system of justice to define and punish the violations against that community.
--Lying about another person’s violation of the standards (and in court, especially) is a denial of the very legitimacy of the society and its institutions.
--A person who commits perjury, then, is really declaring himself an enemy of the community and of the God who forms the standards of it.
--It’s an assault on the integrity of the society as incarnated in its institutions.
--Thus, perjury is really a form of treason. And of course, God is reinforcing the obvious notion that honesty in speech is a core component of His own character.

02/24/11 4PM Commentary

I understand that everyone is in a financial mess, and Detroit (and Michigan) is worse than most. But how does closing half the schools and creating 60 student classes (!) increase the chances that Detroit’s future is going to be brighter than it’s last couple of decades? According to the story and other stuff I’ve read, once again, we see that a major part of the financial problem is the juicy pension contracts for teachers that is causing so much trouble in Wisconsin. The petulant critic in me wants to say that they feel they can get away with this stupid and drastic of a decision because their people can’t flee the area. There just has to be a better solution than this.

02/24/11 3PM Commentary

It’s only at the signature stage for the November ballot, but a measure to ban circumcising anyone under the age of 18 is being circulated in San Francisco. What I don’t understand about this effort is whether the supporters have actually read the Constitution, which clearly permits the free exercise of Judaism, which sort of has a long-standing tradition of this particular procedure (as does Christianity). So, as weird as this is, it’s a dead lock to get struck down on 1st Amendment grounds. But what message are they trying to send? “No Jews needed in San Francisco?” “It’s unacceptable to perform an ancient surgery on a days-old infant but perfectly fine to kill him in any way you like a week prior to that?” The reasoning here baffles me, but it’s good to know that the NBC site lists locals as 69% furious about it.

02/24/11 2PM Commentary

A ministry to homeless people in North Carolina has created a video game based on interviews with their people that is designed to simulate the difficult decisions and unforeseen hardships which turn ordinary people into homeless people. Although this may seem like a cruel joke, it’s actually intended to create empathy and understanding that homeless people aren’t all that different from you and me, they often just suffer a series of setbacks outside of their control. I don’t know whether people will enjoy playing such a simulation, but if it works to decrease the view that “those people” are different from “our kind of people,” it’s wonderful. After having played it, however, both Bill and I agree that it somewhat backfires. First, the things that happen seem overly pessimistic and unrealistic. Second, even with the setbacks, both of us managed to “win” the game by making frugal money decisions (despite the game not rewarding us properly for the ones we made). The problem here is that this seems mostly to reinforce the bias that “those people” are making their own bad decisions. “See, I made it work, and that’s on top of the game being so heavily rigged with unrealistic results to begin with.” Play it yourself and tell me what you thought.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wacky Wednesday--Obamacare is Constitutional

Note: Before reading the following arguments, please understand that they are not what I believe. On Wednesdays, I deliberately argue for wrong ideas, challenging my listeners to call and defend the obvious right answer, which is usually far harder than one would expect. This is a summary of what Wacky Andrew will be arguing, not a representation of what real Andrew believes.

~Under the Commerce Clause, the Federal Government can regulate economic activity.

~No one disputes that buying health care and buying health insurance both constitute economic activity.

~Therefore, the Federal Government can certainly regulate interstate commerce by requiring insurance companies to treat people with pre-existing conditions.

~But in doing this, the Federal Government must also prevent the free-rider effects of people only purchasing insurance after they have already gotten injured or sick.

~The only feasible way to prevent these effects is to require all persons to carry health insurance.

~This has the additional benefit of putting everyone’s money into the pool of health insurance premiums and preventing the currently massive costs to health care providers of uninsured persons receiving emergency care at the cost of insured persons.

~In other words, in order to insure the benefits of a functioning national market for a product which is approximately one sixth of the GDP, it is certainly necessary and proper for Congress to mandate that all individuals carry approved health insurance plans.

~If they had enacted this as a tax credit for people who do pay for insurance rather than as a tax penalty against those who do not, we wouldn’t even be having this debate.

~Given that no individual can be sure he will not burden the health care system with the costs of his own care in the near or distant future, no individual should be entitled to ride for free as that system is maintained and paid for by others. This is especially pressing since health care providers are generally obligated to provide (at least emergency) care for people regardless of their ability to pay.

~We require car insurance as a condition of driving.

~This is no more intrusive (and certainly less unusual and costly) than Social Security.

~The idea that this is an unprecedented expansion of federal power against people only engaged in economic inactivity is neither supported by the language of the Constitution nor by the case law.

~The idea that Congress can only do things “expressly” given in Article 1:8 is inaccurate since the drafters of the 10th Amendment had the chance to use the language “expressly” and did not precisely because they thought it would limit the Federal Government too much.

~Congress can require people to do many things: register for the draft, participate in a jury, fill out a tax form, and participate in the Census.

~As a condition of participation in the economic system, Congress requires people to do a vast number of active things in complying with Federal workplace laws of numerous sorts.

Federal Judge: Obamacare void (Heritage)

Federalist 42
Federalist 45

Congressional hearings (C-SPAN)

CC--9th Commandment: How does perjury relate to God?

--One of the repeated themes I’ve been trying to communicate is the relationship between the Preamble or 0th Commandment to the rest of the ten.
--And in fact, I often think it would have been ideal for the Ten Commandments to each reiterate the preface before reading each new Commandment, as if it’s distributed to each of the individual commands. Like this:
--I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
--When we read it this way, we see that the root of perjury (and lying in general) is idolatry and a failure to consider who God is.
--If He can be counted upon to deliver us from all sorts of evil and bondage, then we should trust him in the way we communicate, to emulate Him in truthfulness and to trust His power to protect and provide for us rather than our own power to get what we want through deception.
--He will take revenge on evildoers (like the Egyptians) and so we do not need to take matters into our own hands (or mouths) by lying on the witness stand or anywhere else.
--At its root, lying is idolatry, placing either our own power to meet our needs above God’s or saying that what we really need is something we manufacture (like a legal result) rather than whatever God provides.

02/23/11 4PM Commentary

It's not the end of the debate by any stretch, but one encouraging sign from the new Republican House is their vote last week to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Obviously, the Democrat-controlled Senate will have their say, and Obama will have his influence over the final version of the budget as well, but the reason this is encouraging is that it means the libertarian amoralism which has been growing in the Republican party and is certainly a major (if not the majority) force in the Tea Party is not getting the House to heed its advice to avoid social issues and focus entirely on economic issues.

02/23/11 3PM Commentary

Texas looks posed to pass a law allowing both teachers and students to carry firearms on college campuses. As a former college teacher, I have no problem with this. I never sought permission to carry a concealed gun to class, but it always seemed foolish to deliberately put so many defenseless people in one place as vulnerable as a classroom. Seeing Israeli teachers with their weapons only reinforced my belief that teachers carrying arms is a useful thing. Whether adult students (college age) should have them is really a question of what we want to declare about college students. To say they aren't competent to do this safely with their own judgment (especially on a college campus, according to some critics) is either a direct assault on their maturity as citizens or an admission that college campuses are the sort of corrosively immoral place that prevents otherwise law-abiding people from behaving properly.

02/23/11 2PM Commentary

It's not necessarily a good synopsis of Marshall McLuhan, but the idea that the medium itself is an essential part of the message (or massage) is vital to understanding how human consciousness is influenced not merely by the content of new media but by the very form of those new media. As a person who speaks for hours and writes longer works than blog posts for a living, I'm very worried about the effect abbreviated forms of communication are having on the capacity of people to form complex, extended ideas. I use facebook, and yet the vast vapid content of most mirco-blog content is dismaying. I don't use Twitter or texting, but I am unswayably convinced that the bumper sticker is not merely just inadequate for serious human communication but that the prevalence of bumper-sticker scale communication is causing a frightening and unprecedented erosion in the real capacity for meaningful human thought and communication. If the form of communication you engage in has a direct influence on the way you order your thoughts and process other communication, I'm genuinely concerned about our future from looking at our youth.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is growth a sign of a healthy church?

To what degree (if any) can you decipher the health of a church from the change over time of its number of members? Large churches often justify themselves (and it’s quite natural to do so) by pointing to their growth, but people sometimes respond that popularity and devotion to God aren’t the same thing. Small churches often justify themselves (and it’s quite natural to do so) by saying that this world will reject the Gospel, but people sometimes respond that a healthy organism like the church should be growing. So, who’s right? Should we even care what size a church is? What things that are wrong might make it large? What things that are wrong might make it small?
Motivated in part by Learning to Count to One (Christianity Today)

CC--9th Commandment: What does perjury have to do with salvation?

--One of the amazing aspects of the 9th Commandment for Christians is what it obligates us to do in terms of our relationships with other Christians.
--At the final judgment, The Devil will try to accuse us of all the things we’ve done wrong, but Jesus will stand there proving that whatever penalty we’ve earned has already been paid by Him.
--But in this life, so much of the time we fail to treat our fellow Christians according to this basic eschatological truth, instead playing the part of Devil’s Advocate ourselves, not in the sense that we argue deliberately for the wrong side, but in the sense that we wind up being like a prosecuting attorney taking up the Devil’s side here and now against someone whose sins have already been fully atoned through Jesus Christ.
--It’s bad enough when we do this against ourselves, feeling condemnation over our sins which the Bible tells us no longer exists, but when another Christian participates in this denial of the Gospel, we are literally being false witnesses against our brothers here and now.

02/22/11 4PM Commentary

“Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of.”
--Bill Moyers
“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
--Andre Gide

02/22/11 3PM Commentary

“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”
--A.A. Milne

02/22/11 2PM Commentary

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”
--Lily Tomlin

Friday, February 18, 2011

CC--9th Commandment: Do we ever commit perjury in ordinary life?

--Thou shalt not bear false witness against your brother.
--Clearly, to speak ill of a person when it isn’t true is to commit a kind of murder of their character.
--Treating our enemies with the same respect and honesty due a person on trial.
--Imagine telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when we speak of our opponents, especially when they’re not around.
--The whole idea of perjury is that you either have a personal axe to grind with this person or else you have some material interest in the case.
--So a more ordinary form of perjury would be lying gossip that damages a person for your advantage or out of malice.
--And the underlying structure of what makes this so bad is that you’re perverting communication (a tool for blessing and community) into a device to harm someone, just like perjury turns the justice system (an institution for benefitting the community and making it even possible) into a weapon against someone.

02/18/11 4PM Commentary

LiveScience reports on a study done by USC that being a sports fan may kill you. Studying the 1980 Rams loss and the 1984 Raiders win in the SuperBowl and the rate of heart attacks in LA, they determined that the loss caused a major spike in cardiac events but the win caused no change. The theory is that we view our teams like family members and high stress events and watching them lose (die) is too traumatic for some people. Solution? Don't be a sports fan! Or maybe sporting events will now have to come with a warning that people in frail health should not consume the SuperBowl without first consulting a doctor.

02/18/11 3PM Commentary

Departments of Defense and Homeland Security research may finally be paying off. A new breakthrough in bomb-sniffing ability shows that plants can be trained to drain their chlorophyl in response to the tiniest presence of particular substances, like TNT, producing a passive alert system at airports 100x more sensitive than bomb-sniffing dogs. The "only" problem is that the response time is several hours rather than the few minutes a real world screening would necessitate. Still, DoD and DHS hope to deploy a "foliage force" within three years. I wonder whether they'll be voting members of the TSA union.

02/18/11 2PM Commentary

So, apparently Allstate released the results of a study they conducted comparing the relative likelihood of drivers with different astrological signs to be in accidents. In the process of getting their analaysis all wrong, they removed the original release from their website and posted a sort of apology assuring customers that they weren't going to be setting rates based on astrology or astrological affiliation. All this begs the question to me of, "Uh, then like what were they doing the study for?"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Current Events

USSC justices often politically active (NYT)

USSC considers appeal on non-unanimous conviction (AP)

ABA’s perspective on the case (ABA)

Hawaii goes for civil unions (CP)

Catholic priest sues LifeSite for calling him pro-abortion (CP)

WI teachers skip school in protest of GOP (WI State Journal)

Protests in Wisconsin (NYT)

“Holy Bible” edited out, restored in movie (Hollywood Reporter)

Protests, unrest, police reaction in Bahrain (ABC News)

Libya: 14 killed in anti-government protests (Jerusalem Post)

The free condom app in NYC (Reuters)

Tempe business told to take down flag-like banners (AZR)

AZ bill would protect happy meal toys (AZR)

NHTSA again tries to get AZ to require booster seats (AZR)

Computer beats Jeopardy champions (NYT)

Has Bill O’Reilly solved the federal deficit problem? (CSM)

AZ to defend gay partner benefit cuts (AZR)

CPAC winners and lowers (Wash Post)

CC--9th Commandment: Why is perjury so awful?

--The NT has numerous examples of people being convicted on false testimony, most notably Jesus.
--“I solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”
--As in, “May God both help me to do this AND strike me down if I do not.”
--Bring forth everything you know as if you had no agenda or interest in the outcome of the case so that others can decipher the information without your biases.
--capital-scale crime.
--Obligated to tell the truth in these proceedings because they lead to the loss of life, liberty, or property of the defendant.
--Turning the system for establishing justice into a mechanism for creating injustice.
--The greatest perversion one could imagine.
--The harshest condemnations in the Bible are not against individual criminals but against kings and leaders who manipulate the law so as to pervert justice and to oppress especially the poor.
--A sort of blasphemy against God, the one true and perfectly just Judge of the universe.
--Deterrence against perjurers.

02/17/11 4PM Commentary

Madina Salamova has been highly celebrated in Norway as the author of "Illegally Norwegian," a book she wrote about her experiences as an illegal immigrant to Norway. She used a pseudonym "Maria Amelie," but after a leftist magazine "Ny Tid" nominated her Norwegian of the Year, the government stepped in. Though most European countries don't deport people brought in as children, Norway is one that does. And they did. According to The Week, the Prime Minister dismissed the thing in saying, “We must handle individuals equally and not give them special treatment just because somebody receives a lot of attention.” Perhaps good for the rule of law, but really bad for PR, which is sort of important in politics, I hear. Although apparently the government is facing a challenge from the right and needs to show people it's serious about immigration.

02/17/11 3PM Commentary

Recent reports and video of a gorilla in Britain that sometimes walks upright has been celebrated by some (but certainly not all) evolutionists as "evidence" of evolution. What most fascinates me about the story is that this "news" comes after apparently Ambam has a sister and a father who did the same thing. Also, the idea that this shows apes could spontaneously in the wild learn to walk upright (and thereby eventually become humans) isn't even endorsed by the zookeepers, who openly acknowledge the apes likely learned this action by watching the humans. So, I guess the argument (again, by some) would go like this: "Humans could have evolved for the first time from apes AFTER they learned how to stand up from having watched humans who were ALREADY standing up." I've softened quite a bit on the creation/evolution controversy, but this is embarrassing for those (some) people who are treating this as some sort of developmental evidence of evolution.

02/17/11 2PM Commentary

Let me begin by declaring myself not at all an expert in international finance. However, this article made so much sense to me that I have to pass it on. Last year, everyone was throwing a fit about QE2, when the treasury spent all this money to buy back bonds, both because it was thought to cause inflation and because it's spending money. However, the effect was to drive money out of the US into China, spurring real price inflation there (something the Chinese are deathly terrified of because of social unrest) and has now forced them to revalue their currency upwards significantly. This in turn decreases the price of US imports to China and increases the cost of Chinese exports to the US, significantly altering the trade imbalance and scoring a huge victory through financial manipulation that was never able to be had through direct political diplomacy. Huge win for Bernanke, though widely misunderstood and maligned in the press. And for obvious reasons, our government is NOT going to publicly take credit for so effectively duping the Chinese.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wacky Wednesday: Christians Shouldn't Celebrate Birthdays

Note: Before reading the following arguments, please understand that they are not what I believe. On Wednesdays, I deliberately argue for wrong ideas, challenging my listeners to call and defend the obvious right answer, which is usually far harder than one would expect. This is a summary of what Wacky Andrew will be arguing, not a representation of what real Andrew believes.

You don’t become a person on your birthday, nor change your basic identity on that day. Celebrating conception anniversaries or born-again anniversaries or even baptism day would make a lot more sense.
Why should we buy presents for you on your birthday? Your mom did all the important work.
Parties are expensive, and bad things often happen at them with adults.
Ah, yes, the birthday. That special day where we celebrate those most well-known of Christian virtues: selfishness and self-importance.
Do people eat healthy food at birthday parties?
What day was Jesus born on, according to the Bible? Moses? Abraham? Daniel? Joseph? David?
Birthdays themselves, as well as the particular rites of the birthday are clearly of pagan origin.
Blowing out candles, what does that symbolize in a Christian worldview?
Making wishes?
Herod and Pharaoh are the only two explicitly mentioned birthdays, and both had real problems associated with them.
According to Josephus, the Jews never were allowed to celebrate birthdays. It forces us to look backward in our focus over time rather than forward to our deliverance from this body of evil.
Bible References:
Genesis 40:20-22, Deut 31:1-2, Job 1:1-5, Eccl 7:1, 7:8, Jeremiah 20:14, Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-29, John 10:10, Romans 14:4-6

Misc: Birthday (Wikipedia)
Misc: Birthday problem/paradox (Wikipedia)
Con: Are birthday celebrations Christian? (RCG)
Con: Should Christians celebrate Birthdays? (Radio Church of God)
Con: Did early Christians celebrate birthdays? (Church of God)
Con: Did early Christians celebrate birthdays? (Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Pro: Should a Christian celebrate birthdays? (New World)
Pro: Can Christians celebrate birthdays? (Church of Christ)
Pro: Jehovah’s Witnesses and the issue of birthdays (Spotlight)

02/16/11 4PM Commentary

According to Fox News, 1.5 million kids in America are now home-schooled, up 75% in the last 8 years! The main reasons include religion, disappointment with school atmosphere, and disappointment with academic standards of schools. I think this is more evidence of both the effectiveness of home-schooling and also the growing social acceptance of the practcie. We do it, and observing just the social effects on kids who go to school is enough to justify the decision in my opinion. I'm continuously amazed that "social skills" is the oft-trotted-out argument, since the observable evidence about impact on a child's behavior from school is so obvious and negative.

02/16/11 3PM Commentary

Recent study conducted by OneHope indicates that 61 % of teens want to be virgins until marriage. That's encouraging, especially since 69% of them say they watch MTV at least once a week. 82% believe God intended marriage to last a lifetime. However, some of the other numbers are a bit confusing: 62% think truth is relative and 63% would like to regain their virginity if possible (...when 61% want to be virgins at marriage?!?). Nevertheless, I think this is just kids realizing that sex is nothing like what the culture tells them it is: always good, never consequences, and just an animal appetite to be satisfied like hunger.

02/16/11 2PM Commentary

A man in Ballwin, PA has been ordered to take down this massive lit-up cross from his front yard after his neighbor complained. According to one account, he believes it just shows his devotion to the Lord. According to another account, every time the neighbor complained, he'd build a bigger one. She argued that a true Christian would be more considerate of his neighbors, and she's absolutely right. The Bible is pretty clear that we're supposed to have a good reputation with the community, and it's hard to see how "Love your neighbor" means "place a massive and garish religious symbol across the street from them." Imagining that some people think this is about Christianity, I wonder how they'd feel about a swastika or an ankh. This has nothing to do with the message of The Cross and everything to do with the message of this cross, which is actually quite contrary to the message of The Cross. I can't say whether the First Amendment protects him doing this, but the Bible surely does nothing to protect him in it.

CC--9th Commandment: Why is perjury so important?

--Since this is listed among other commands which were prohibiting capital offenses, the most strict way to understand this is the prohibition against perjury in capital cases.
--The Old Testament rule on perjury was that whatever penalty was to be inflicted against your victim would be visited upon the false testifier.
--This is a simple rule to understand since the person is abusing the legal system to do to someone else what would clearly be a crime if he did it directly. And so he deserves to be punished for that every bit as much as if he were simply doing the act himself. He’s using the courts as his weapon every bit as much as if he used a sword.

Deuteronomy 19
16"If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing,
17then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days.
18"The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely,
19then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
20"The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you.
21"Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Parables of Jesus 27: Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25)

Matthew 25:31-46
31"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.
32"All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;
33and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
34"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?
38'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
39'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
40"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'
41"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'
44"Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'
45"Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'
46"These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

02/15/11 4PM Commentary

According to this story in the Arizona Republic, the defense attorney for Jared Loughner has blocked release of his mug shot because federal law prohibits it due to the bias it communicates to the potential jury pool of the defendant's guilt through association of guilt with being arrested and visually shown this way. I'm glad for this law and this decision. We gain nothing from seeing such an additional photo of the man, and we want to be sure in all criminal cases that we do everything to preserve both the presumption of innocence and the actual ability to have a fair, unbiased jury pool which renders a verdict on the basis of the evidence alone rather than their expectation of the guilt of the defendant from whatever sources, including a mug shot.

02/15/11 3PM Commentary

Another card from V-Day at PostSecret. In some ways, this one speaks for itself, and I hesitate to comment. (But since they pay me to comment...) We used to live in a culture where people said, "I'll be the first one in my family to go to college," and now I think this is a painfully reasonable for many adults with divorced parents to say about their own greatest aspiration. How tragic is it to live in a culture which makes this possible? As much ink and handwringing as people spend on not wanting to bequeath a worse ECONOMIC standard of living to their kids, what about the simple goal of not giving them a worse relational standard of living? (Or inflicting so much chaos on them by divorce that they have THIS as their big goal in life!) As a child of divorce, I can tell you there's nothing I despise more than, want to avoid more than, and yet am always fully afraid of than divorce.

02/15/11 2PM Commentary

From PostSecret, a website (PG-15 sometimes) that people send their secret-revealing artwork to. From Valentine's Day, this one struck me because she's clearly rueing the fact that she still has feelings for her ex after 18 years that rather stubbornly won't go away. But this is not a defect in her, it's precisely a key part of the design God built in us: to love forever and to invest ourselves so fully in marriage that we can be safe to do so. A friend of mine is going through a divorce (and another is suffering a break-up) and both of them know rationally that they should hate the other person but they don't. In fact, they hate that they still love them. Rather than a defect, I view this as a virtue that they have PRECISELY the heart God intended us to have toward our spouses.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Show Topic: What do women REALLY want for Valentine's Day?

The culture tells men to buy jewelry, chocolate, and flowers and to ideally present them at or in conjunction with dinner at some nice (read, expensive) restaurant. But after 13 years of marriage, I have a theory. First, some women do not really like any of this. Second, most all women would actually appreciate something else not on this list even more than she would these things. Third, men don’t seek and women don’t share this information, mostly because men think they already have learned what they need to know from the culture and women think they aren’t supposed to contradict the teachings of the culture in this way. But I’m not much enthralled with the commercialized opinions our particular current culture, so I’m asking: “Women, what do you REALLY want for Valentine’s Day?” If it’s one of the standards, fine. But if not, please share and confirm my suspicion that there’s so much more to giving good gifts than picking among the V-Day trinity.

CC--9th Commandment: What does it say?

Text in Exodus 20:16
16"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Text in Deuteronomy 5:20
20'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

--Most people think this prohibits lying, and they’re not wrong, but this is much more specific than that.
--This is listed after a series of commands prohibiting things for which the punishment was death (idolatry, blasphemy, Sabbath violation, dishonoring parents, murder, adultery, and kidnapping).
--Since no one has ever held that “mere” lying is a capital offense, it’s really more specific than that.
--This is about testimony in a court of law, and primarily about capital cases.
--If you’re going to have capital offenses (just spelled out), you have to also have a clear bright line rule telling people that lying (perjury) about such matters is itself as serious as committing these offenses.

02/14/11 4PM Commentary

I really couldn't believe it when I heard of this Ohio woman's case. She wanted to get her two girls into a much better nearby mostly white school, so she falsified her residence to do so. What a tragedy in the United States that we would have such a tremendous gap between good and terrible schools that poor people would go to such lengths to try to break the cycle of poverty and adversity for their children. Bad schools for poor children is a tremendous injustice. At the very least, I'm glad that here in Arizona we have open enrollment, which is something. Here's an index to all the developments in the case.

02/14/11 3PM Commentary

A new study on how kids eat cereal shows that if you give them unsugary cereal and let them add table sugar and/or fruit to it, they'll consume far less sugar (and also less cereal) than if you let them eat super-sugary cereals. And the kicker is they won't even complain about it. Also, Post and General Mills have been reducing sugar in their worst offenders in recent months.

02/14/11 2PM Commentary

So, the New York Times heard (only 17 months later!) that Wikipedia articles are primarily contributed by men (85%). They concluded that this was a real problem, and their coverage prompted great consternation across the Internet because these numbers show the gender bias of Wikipedia and its content and explains why so many of the topics of interest to men are so thorough but ones of interest to women are not. As this excellent analysis points out, there are some major flaws with the Times's reasoning. First, the fact that men produce so much more of the content is only a problem if men produce inferior or distorted content, itself the premise of the feminist Times. Second, Wikipedia itself has tried deliberately to increase the number of female contributors, but has only had moderate success. Third, since Wikipedia is so open (free collaborative content production), this really puts the lie to allegations that gender discrimination is the reason for underrepresentation by women in areas like academia or journalism. If women are deliberately kept out of those arenas by gender bias, why don't they prove the discrepancy with ridiculously high participation in barrier-free (even encouraging!) terrain like Wikipedia?

Friday, February 11, 2011

CC--8th Commandment: What does work have to do with theft?

--Eph 4:28--He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
--A fabulous encapsulation of virtually all of the Bible’s teachings about theft, work, saving, and charity.
--The underlying principle behind the 8th Commandment is the idea that we should be productive with our time, talent, and effort so as to make more value in the world.
--Instead of undermining the system of wealth creation (private property), the thief should be creating value, saving, and transacting with others, ultimately so he can give to the needy.
--One form of greed wants to steal because it wants what others have. The 8th Commandment condemns this.
--The other, equally ferocious form of greed LOVES the 8th Commandment because he can use it to stop others from demanding he give HIS STUFF to them. He wants to keep every last little dime of whatever he thinks is “rightfully his” to spend on his own selfish desires.
--But the Bible roundly condemns both kinds of greed, teaching us to work, create, save, and be in a position to give when people need it.

02.11.11 4PM Commentary

From President Obama's comments on the sudden and unexpected resignation today of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak:
"One Egyptian put it simply: Most people have discovered in the last few days…that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever.
This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence — not terrorism, not mindless killing — but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more."
Be praying for the Middle East that God's Will be done there and that more freedom and more peace will be the result of what may be only the beginning of authoritarian regime change in that region.