Friday, April 29, 2011

Demand and Deliver

You’ve gotta love Agnes.Tony Cochran, the creator of this strip, often makes important points via Agnes.  I’m guessing this is meant only to be humorous, but I don’t want to deny Tony his due – maybe he is making a deeper point here than I am seeing.

But here is the point I want to make:  all these things that Agnes is requesting, and so many more we continue to ask governments to give, are things governments are simply incapable of providing.  Governments, at their very best (which they seldom are), can keep the peace so we can have the chance to provide these things for ourselves.

But the moment any government pretends to provide us with anything from cheese to world peace, you can expect less and less of it as time goes by.  (Now I want to start singing, “You must remember this . . .”)  Demand things all you want, but in the end government will not deliver because it cannot deliver.

For far too long, too many of us have been writing these Agnes letters to government.  It has gotten us into our current mess.  It is now time to write with only one request on our list:   keep the peace, but otherwise, leave us alone.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And They Come With Custom-Designed Wrappers, Too!

According to a recent new story:

A new campaign by Philadelphia officials to reduce sexually transmitted diseases allows children as young as 11 to receive free condoms via mail order . . .

As young as eleven?  Really?  Of course, why should anyone receive free condoms from any government?  There is, of course, a whole series of answers typically given to that kind of question:  because if we don’t give away condoms, there might be more sexually transmitted diseases and more unwanted (by their biological parents) children.  Those are problems that will cost the government in question a lot of money to clean up.  So we need to give away condoms – deliver them to your door if that helps.

Apparently, it does help.  As the story goes on to report:

"Playing it safe just got easier," the website reads. "If you live in Philadelphia and are between the ages of 11 and 19, you can now have condoms mailed directly to you for FREE. Maybe it's difficult for you to stop by one of our sites to pick up condoms. Or maybe you're just shy or feeling weird about picking up condoms."

So you might be “shy or feeling weird” about collecting your free condoms in person.  But, of course, you don’t feel at all shy about what you intend to do with those condoms.  Seems like good bureaucratic reasoning to me.

You might think someone would complain about this arrangement in Philadelphia, but apparently not:

Jeff Moran, a spokesman for Philadelphia's Department of Health, said the campaign was launched last week. No complaints had been received as of today, he said.

Probably most Philadelphians were just feeling a bit too “shy or weird” to complain.  And if no one complains, it must be a good idea!  And then, this little detail comes up in the story:

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled the campaign on April 7 as he announced the winning design for the city's custom-labeled condom wrapper.

I wonder where this contest from hell took place?  Can’t you picture all the grade school teachers in Philly announcing to their classes, “Children, the Mayor has asked that you work on a design for our glorious city’s custom-labeled condom wrapper.  And don’t’ forget – the winner gets all the condoms you can use for the rest of your life.”

I wonder if Philadelphia received federal funds for this wonderful project?

No, friends, there is simply nothing governments can do to economize.  There are no stupid, pointless, even counter-productive things that are funded by governments.  Nothing like a design contest for a custom-labeled condom wrapper for eleven-year-olds in Philadelphia.

Nothing like that.


Monday, April 25, 2011

GPA Redistribution

In an interesting video piece at Accuracy In Academia (well worth a look) students at a few universities approached their fellow students with a petition that would put in place at their respective universities a policy that those with extremely high GPAs would have some of their GPS “redistributed” to students with low-end GPAs.  The point, of course, was to note the reactions.

While some initially questioned the analogy, it was difficult to evade the force of it.  If you think the government should redistribute incomes (especially those of the highest earners) then why not do the same with GPAs?  Sure, some GPA low-earners are just goof-offs, but not all are.  Some are just less talented.  Some just are not as smart.  On the other hand, some with high GPAs work hard for them, but some just have a “knack” for academics.  So why not “even things up” a bit?

Many objected that this “would not be fair.”  But if GPA redistribution is not fair, why is income redistribution fair?  Many said, “It’s just different.”  But they could never explain exactly why it was different.  You could see that most had never thought of things in quite this way, and most of them struggled to respond, not dismissing the question or just walking away.  It is quite interesting.

One young lady did not reject the GPA redistribution out of hand, but she wanted to understand the proposal better:  was it just that students would be permitted to give some of their GPA to others, or would it be out of their individual control?  The proposal was to make this a policy out of the control of individual students.  The young lady did not think that was fair.

Of course, it would not be fair, any more than is income redistribution.  But in our current cultural climate, I would not be surprised to hear some university official propose just such a system in some form or other.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More A Slave Than You Thought

In a recent National Review article, Iain Murray complains that:

Every year we are reminded how much money the government filches from us on Tax Day. However, there is no equivalent ‘Regulation Day’ to remind us the extra cost government imposes on us through pettifogging regulation. The fact is that federal regulations (never mind state and local) cost even more than the skyrocketing federal budget deficit, and help bring the federal government’s share of the economy to over 35 percent.

However, Americans for Tax Reform does calculate a “total cost of government” day each year.  Here is a summary of what they found for last year:

In 2010, Cost of Government Day falls on August 19.  Working people must toil 231 days out of the year just to meet all costs imposed by government -8 days later than last year and a full 32 days longer than 2008.  In other words, in 2010 the cost of government consumes 63.41 percent of national income.

Many lower-income people pay little or no national income tax.  Some pay very little state income tax.  Of course, there are many other taxes that everyone pays, regardless of income.  When you try to catalog all these, a database is required.

But beyond all the taxes – and they are legion – there is the cost of government imposed on everyone via regulations.  These regulations simply (?) makes many things much more expensive than they would otherwise be.

But these regulations certainly make many things unavailable to us.  Of course, “things that might have been” are difficult to imagine sometimes.  But when regulations inhibit human creative activity, it is inevitable that those regulations also preclude the development of many ideas that might have been useful things.

But these things remain forever unseen – which is exactly what purveyors of government regulation want.  So last we were slaves of the state, on average, for 231 of the 365 days available to us.  Not only that, but we slaves of the state worked in a world missing some amazing things that might have been.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lock and Load

This excellent piece came today:

Three More Attacks on Civilization

Mises Daily: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The article concludes with this:

In these three examples, we can see the model at work: Puritans and paranoids work with bureaucrats to unravel all the gains that markets have made for civilization. And they do this not with persuasion or an attempt to convert us to their primitive faith. Instead, they do it by force, driving us back to the compost pile, the river for cleaning, and, eventually, having to hunt and gather for food that we take back to our caves, which serve as domestic environs for those lucky enough to survive their regime of coerced poverty.

Read it for the details.  Those details would be funny if they did not represent what is now a clear and present danger to civilization:  environmentalism.  Of all the recent “isms” this one might be the worst.  It now infects almost all educational institutions, many retailing corporations, most churches, and (of course) governments at all levels.

I have tried to be forgiving and understanding of environmentalists.  But the luxury of those days is over.  It is now time for all those who prefer not to live in caves to declare war on environmentalism and all of its followers.

Not long ago at the grocery store I was presented with a cloth grocery bag that was inscribed with a slogan about “saving mother earth.”  I told the store employee (in a rather loud voice so everyone around would hear) that the earth was not my mother, that the earth was in no danger from human activity, and that I was more than a little bit sick of having this garbage foist upon me when trying to buy some groceries.  This employee – a nice lady with whom I am somewhat acquainted – was baffled by what I said.  She had never thought about it, it seemed.

We are constantly bombarded with environmentalist excrement to the point that we don’t know that we are covered with it and standing in it.  It is past time to clean ourselves up, and take out the trash. 

For now this is a war of ideas.  But there could come a time when, in order to defend even the possibility of civilization, we might have to defend ourselves physically against the aggression of environmentalists and their “ism.”  As Tucker points out above, environmentalists routinely use force to achieve their insane goals.

Remember, self-defense (even according to Augustine) can be a justification for war.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

To Market, to Market . . .


People delaying religion: study


Not only are longer life expectancies allowing people to postpone retirement, they feel less rushed to make peace with God, a new study suggests.

Research out of the United Kingdom links the decline in religious participation in developed countries, where life expectancies are high, and the idea that time isn't running out as fast on people's chances to secure a place in heaven.

"Many religions and societies link to some degree the cumulative amount of religious effort to benefits in the afterlife," said Elissaios Papyrakis, an economist at the University of East Anglia and one of the study's authors. "We show that higher life expectancy discounts expected benefits in the afterlife and is therefore likely to lead to postponement of religiosity, without necessarily jeopardizing benefits in the afterlife."

Kent comments:

First of all, the University of East Anglia rings a bell.  That’s the place where some purveyors of the phony “climate change” hype were caught “massaging” the evidence.  We will assume, for the moment, that since is a different department, the economist cited here is giving this to us straight.

Now, on to the important points . . .

My first thought was:  Really?  People are doing an implicit cost/benefit analysis on when to “buy your ticket for heaven” so to speak?  Really?  I’m likely to live longer, so I can put off religion a bit longer, live it up in the interim I suppose, and still “make it to heaven” by becoming religious in my older age.  Really?

The study even had some recommendations for the Canadian church as to what could be done about this:

The U.K. study said religious organizations looking to attract members should focus less on benefits in the afterlife, and more on what can be offered in one's worldly life from the Church. Such things could include expanding one's social circle, participation in various activities, spiritual fulfilment and guidance.

In other words, “religious organizations” should market themselves more toward the “what you can get here-and-now” rather than talking so much about eternity.

But a good guess would be that the pandering that is already being done by churches (I’ll limit my thoughts to Christendom here) could well be part of the cause of this whole attitude.  Think of the kind of mindset that would even consider this cost/benefit “how long can I put it off and still cash in” approach.  It is the mindset of a consumer.  And consumers are exactly the group and attitude to which the “marketing church” has been appealing for the last few decades.

Maybe the real lesson to be learned here is not how better to “market” religion, but rather, that religion – Christianity at least – is not something that should be “marketed” at all.  Perhaps “marketing” – which might be fine for goods and services – is simply not compatible with the Christian faith, because the Christian faith is not at all something to be consumed, but rather, something to be believed, embraced, lived, and hoped.

And no, that is not a marketing appeal!  Just a statement and an invitation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Inflation Beast

There is a nice piece out from the Mises Institute today titled:

The Fed Obliterates the Savings Ethic

I won’t review all the details here; go have a read for yourself.  But the point is that when our government, via the Federal Reserve System, creates more money (there are several ways it can do this) it has the predictable effect of making existing money worth less – and perhaps, eventually, worthless.

This has, in turn, a predictable effect on how we tend to behave economically.  It becomes counter-productive to save dollars “for a rainy day” (more in the article on this) because you notice that the dollars you are holding are decreasing in purchasing power – you have probably noticed some of that lately.

Correctly speaking, inflation is the act of creating additional money or its equivalent.  Prices increases, per se, are not inflation.  You will often hear the talking heads and their kin speak of someone increasing prices as inflation.  Unfortunately, the word has been used this way for so long that it has taken on this misleading connotation.

Strictly speaking, general money prices increases are the predictable, eventual result of inflation.  The Federal Reserve intends to create constant, moderate inflation – although it has often gotten our of control.

This is based on the faulty economic views of J. M. Keynes.  The economic theories of Keynes have become the unquestioned orthodoxy of most governments today.  There is a rich abundance of literature which displays the failings of Keynes’ views, which are generally ignored by those in power.  Keynes’ views support government control of money, and government control of money is government control of people.  Thus, it is not surprising that those in power are likely to say, along with Richard Nixon, “We are all Keynesians now.”

It is interesting to think of what would most likely be the case if governments did not control money.  People trading freely would – as they have done in the past – generally settle on some commodity or commodities to use as a medium of exchange.  Precious metals have been the historic pattern in this, because it is almost impossible to increase their supply enough to be inflationary.

In this kind of setting, you might decide to save some money, whatever money might be.  If the economy grew, and the supply of goods and services continued to increase, your money would gradually become more valuable.  You would have an incentive to save “for a rainy day.”

As things now stand, government policy in regard to money encourages people to consume – which is what governments want because this is what Keynes said made economies grow.  But notice how this comes back to create an even more, and ever more, powerful state.  When people do not save, they become more dependent on government, giving government an excuse to grab more power.

So to sum up:  government controls money and maintains a policy of inflation.  Inflation discourages savings.  Lack of savings makes more people demand help from the government.  This increases the power of government.

Free people cannot tolerate this for long, or they soon will not be free.  We are probably not significantly free people in this regard even now.  The only question is whether or not it is too late to do anything about it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Short, but Amusing

from the Patriot Post:

Two Birds, One Stone

Libya wants a new Muslim leader. I say give them ours.

Solves 2 problems.

[Objections pre-noted – it’s still funny!]

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Are Statists Really Smarter Than God?

Today at church the sermon covered what has been the big objection to the Christian faith in the modern world:  How can a good God allow all the evil and suffering we see in the world?

The best answer I have ever heard (and it does explain much) is that if God wanted to create creatures with freewill such as we are, the possibility of evil could not logically be excluded.  In other words, once God decides to create human beings who can make significant moral choices, He has also committed Himself to at least the possibility of evil – evil that results from bad choices of creatures with free moral agency.

As one part of the sermon (which, the minister has informed us, is from the recent book The Reason for God) put it, if God’s wants creatures to have freedom of choice, He must also allow for evil.  This is, for obvious reasons, often called “the freewill defense.”

This set me to thinking about how this playoff is handled by our society, especially by the “progressive” element that has been in control of our government for some time now.  They seem to see the possibilities for society and the individuals who make it up in this same way:  if there is freedom in society, there can be evils in society.

But UNLIKE God – and that does not surprise me – these progressive statists attempt to eliminate evils by eliminating freedom.  God said, “Let there be freedom, although that might bring evil.”  Progressives say, “Do away with freedom so we can eliminate evil.”

Now I realize this is over-simplified.  Some of the “evils” progressives are after are simply matters of their own invention.  (Things like “climate change” some to mind, but the list is a long one.)  It is also the case that some evils (like physically coercing another human being) deserve punishment.

But consider something like “saving for a rainy day.”  A person can create a very bad situation for himself if he always spends everything he makes and saves nothing for a rainy day – and some of those days come to most of us most of the time.  This is a situation you might even call an “evil.”

Of course, the only way you can even attempt to preclude this situation is to eliminate freedom.  You have to force people to save for a rainy day.  And while it is rather stupid not to save for a rainy day, if you can be forced not to do stupid things, you are someone’s slave; you are not free.

So the statist progressives evented things like the so-called Social Security program.  It attempts to prevent personal fiscal stupidity.  It does it by eliminating freedom.

Thus do the statist progressives fancy themselves smarter than God.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Defund and Educrat Today!

Judge: Anti-gay shirts worn by Neuqua Valley students OK

Apr 3, 2011 12:28AM

Neuqua Valley High School students would be allowed to wear “Be Happy, Not Gay” T-shirts under a ruling Tuesday by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court had rejected Indian Prairie School District 204’s argument that school officials could prohibit students from wearing the shirts to prevent some students from having their feelings hurt.

In its opinion, the court said a “school that permits advocacy of the rights of homosexual students cannot be allowed to stifle criticism of homosexuality.”

“The school argued (and still argues) that banning ‘Be Happy, Not Gay’ was just a matter of protecting the ‘rights’ of the students against whom derogatory comments are directed,” the court said. “But people in our society do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or even their way of life.”

Nate Kellum, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance of Christian attorneys who represented the students in the suit, responded: “In an environment that freely allows speech that promotes homosexual behavior, the school simply cannot shut out the opposing viewpoint.”

Kent comments:

You don’t have to hate or even dislike those who practice homosexuality to hate this kind of thing.  And this kind of thing has become nearly ubiquitous, especially in government school settings.

While schools are clearly not promoting free expression about this matter, they are certainly promoting one viewpoint, the ‘homosexual behavior is a good idea’ viewpoint.  As the story goes on to explain, one young lady:

wore the T-shirt [in question] to school after the school permitted other students the previous day to wear shirts showing support for homosexuals as part of the “Day of Silence.”  That event, promoted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, intended to draw attention to harassment of homosexuals.

So the school permits an event “intended to draw attention to harassment of homosexuals” and then proceeds to officially harass a young lady with a dissenting opinion.  If the “educrats” think harassment is bad, why are they doing it?

Here is something I do not understand:  why do people continue to pay for, and put up with, the utter nonsense and malicious behavior of the government school establishment?  Well-meaning people always think they can somehow reform it, re-make, or otherwise fix it.  How much more of this kind of thing must we endue before people wake up and see the utter corruption of government-run schooling?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Non-Essential = Not Needed


Unless Congress passes a continuing resolution for spending, the national government will “shut down” on Friday this week.  But “shut down” is qualified.  If you have been paying attention, what will “shut down” are non-essential government services.

Supposedly, everyone on Capital Hill is working feverishly to avoid this tragedy.

But here is a question:  If the national treasury is trillions in arrears (and it is), and if something must be done to control our governments out-of-control spending (and it does), then why have we not shut down EVERYTHING that is non-essential years ago?

As I understand non-essential it means “not really needed.”  If it is not really needed, why was the government ever doing it in the first place?

I noticed that even the Republican Speaker of the House has been saying recently that he doesn’t want such a shut-down to happen.  I have to wonder what kind of fiscal conservative would be in favor of government doing non-essential things.  (And there are many things that are not officially in the non-essential category that are far from necessary.)

Non-essential = not needed.  They should have shut those down decades ago.  That this is even a matter of debate shows you what kind of nitwits, for the most part, inhabit the halls of Congress.

Monday, April 4, 2011

That’s No Christian!

Thanksgiving Question Nearly Deports Tortured Christian

An immigration judge was distressed that 'Li claimed that Thanksgiving was a Christian holiday.'

An immigration judge cannot quiz asylum seekers on religious doctrine to see if they are credible about their faith, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reiterated in a January ruling. . . The problem in the case of Chinese Christian Lei Li, the court said, was not only had he been tested on doctrine, but that his answers weren't wrong.

Li says he became a Christian while visiting Korea in December 1999 and hosted a house church when he returned to China. Authorities raided the church in 2001 and held Li for 19 days, repeatedly beating him. Li was fined about $900, lost his job because of the arrest, and left for the U.S. on a visitor visa. After he violated his visa by working, he applied for asylum.

Li's immigration judge said Li failed to prove that he was a Christian. He couldn't answer basic questions about Christianity, explained the immigration judge.

But in describing his faith, Li said he believed "Jesus came to save people from sin, that he willingly died on the cross, that he rose from the dead and … ascended into heaven," Judge Alfred Goodwin wrote for the Ninth Circuit that reversed the lower court's ruling.

Li also explained why he worshiped in a house church rather than an officially sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement church. Those churches, he said, "have a different Lord than we do …. [Th]eir Lord is the government, not God."

But the immigration judge was distressed that "Li claimed that Thanksgiving was a Christian holiday" and "knew little about the differences between the Old and New Testaments"—though Li noted that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek.

Kent comments:

I hate to say it, but Li knows more about Christianity that many people I have met at churches.

Then there is the matter of this “immigration judge.”  You will notice that his name appears nowhere.  Perhaps it was withheld to protect the guilty, the stupid, or some combination of both.

Did this immigration judge just not like the idea of another foreigner coming here to “take our jobs”?  Does he think Christians deserve the wrath of a persecutorial Communist regime?  Or is he just an idiot?

If, according to this so-called judge, Li’s answers do not reflect some understanding of the Christian faith, I would like to know what the judge thinks his answers should have been.

So Thanksgiving is not a Christian holiday?  Well, not for the Chinese Communist leaders, I suppose.  Perhaps not for immigration judges.  I suppose you could say that Christmas and Easter are not Christian holidays, but they tend to show up on most church calendars.

Do you suppose this judge has been to church lately?

I wonder how much the immigration judge is paid each year.  I hear the House of Representatives is looking to cut spending.  I know it wouldn’t be much in the big scheme of things, but there is a clear waste of taxpayer’s money.

If not that, we should at least send the immigration judge on an all-expense paid vacation to China for 19 days of beating.  I would be willing to pay a few extra tax dollars for that one.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Gone With the Musical Wind

I am never up on ‘the latest’ books, but I recently ran across a gem of a book, published last (2010) year:

Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns:  How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal by T. David Gordon

The link in the title will take you to The Book Depository.  I have no interest in that company, but I did notice that this is the lowest price I could find for a new copy, and shipping is free.  (It is not extremely fast, but it is free, and my copy came in excellent condition.)

Gordon is a sharp cookie, so to speak.  He is, in essence, pleading with the church not to jettison mindlessly our long, rich tradition of church music in favor of what is mistakenly (as he points out) called ‘contemporary’ music.

Like Gordon, I have been disturbed by this for a long time.  I can still vividly remember, back in the 1990s, being called into a young (and I am sorry to say, somewhat stupid) minister’s office for a chat.  He had not told me what the chat was to be about, so it was a bit awkward from the beginning.  He eventually came around to the point, which was that he did not want our church to sing any more “old” songs.

I was confused, because the songs we were singing mostly were not all that old.  In the course of the discussion he came around to the point:  he wanted everything we sang to have ‘the sound.’  I had no clue what ‘the sound’ was, and he was not very helpful as I asked about it.  Finally, he came up with this definition:  “I want our music to sound like the latest ‘Maranatha’ CD.”  That is, he wanted it to “sound contemporary.”

This struck me as bordering on idiotic.  Why would any congregation want to limit singing to any one ‘sound’?  How could the best music be only ‘contemporary’ – whatever that might mean?

Those were my initial impressions, but they were unstudied.  So shortly after that I began a quest to know more about all this.  What I did not realize was that I was observing in microcosm something that was burning its way through the ‘church world’ – and causing a lot of destruction in its path.

As my study of this matter continued, I realized that those who had succumbed to this fad had little good reason for what they were doing.  It was mostly just a musical whim, or something they had seen somewhere else and assumed they should imitate.  (This reminded me of that famous parental interrogation:  If everyone else jumps off the bridge, will you jump off too?)

So I began to compile, write, and rewrite what has become a never-ending study of this whole matter.  My thesis is that, for all sorts of very flimsy reasons, the church has generally adopted a “beauty is only in the eye of the beholder” attitude (aesthetic relativism).  The more I studied, the more I realized that this approach flies in the face of the Christian faith in many ways which I point out in the study.

So when I recently came across this little book I found – to my astonishment – that this fellow T. David Gordon had come to many of the same conclusions I had, and for the same reasons.  This surprised me because he seems to be an extensively educated (in the theological field) person, while I am whatever it is that I am – an amateur who likes to kick ideas around my mind.

If you think church music should be ‘contemporary’ (again, whatever that means), or if you have just never seriously considered this matter, I urge you to read Gordon’s little book.  I read it with an eye to writing a review of it sometime.  I began to mark what I thought were key passages.  The only problem was that almost every page had marks!

The church has inherited a great treasure of music.  It is a collection that has been reviewed and pruned untold numbers of times by untold numbers of people, so that the collection approaches only the most valuable pieces.  For the most trivial of reasons, many want to cast this great collection aside in favor of a tiny, accidental collection that happens to be recent.  Before you decide to do that – or be a part of doing that – you should read Gordon’s little book.  It won’t take more that a couple of hours of your life, and they will be two hours well spent.