31 March 2010

When Resources are scarce ...

What is the best way to distribute them?

Some of us believe that a free market, appropriately regulated, is the best, if still imperfect, mechanism.

One of the "problems" with the market system is that it does create disparities between "haves" and "have nots." I would suggest that this is, in many cases, simply an outcome of a meritocracy. If A has a skill and a work ethic that gets her a job where she gets gold plated health insurance coverage, and B is dependent on charity or government programs for coverage, and therefore receives coverage that is less appealing, then the natural response would be for B to seek to change her circumstances to have the same advantages as A.

(The "progressive" solution is to take the "haves" and "have nots" and equalize them all as "have littles.")

Many who distrust the market believe that the government should be the "neutral" arbitrator of scarce resources, because it is "impartial." Two recent stories belie that suggestion. First, the Chicago Tribune reports

While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.

Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city's premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan's office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan's tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley's office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

Non-connected parents, such as those who sought spots for their special-needs child or who were new to the city, also appear on the log. But the politically connected make up about three-quarters of those making requests in the documents obtained by the Tribune.

Select congressional leadership staffers -- some of whom wrote the health insurance act -- are not governed by new rules governing millions of Americans and the rest of their colleagues on how they buy insurance -- and the special exemption has the Hill hopping mad.

Come 2014, all 100 U.S. senators, all 435 representatives in the House and every one of their personal aides will have to go to the newly formed state exchanges for health insurance -- just like everyone else in the country who isn't covered by their employer.

But select congressional leadership staffers -- some of whom wrote the health insurance act -- won't. And neither will White House staffers and Cabinet members -- nor the president himself. They will be allowed to keep their current plans, which are offered to all other federal employees.

And now many congressional aides who like their current health insurance policies and will be forced to switch are asking: Why?

They want to know: If an exchange is good enough for them, why isn't it good enough for the people who wrote the plan? Why isn't it good enough for the president and his Cabinet?

The answer to these questions is actually very simple. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Best and Worse Covers of Bohemian Rhapsody

And I really liked Suzi McNiel on Rock Star .......

30 March 2010


Wow. The guy who threatened to kill Republican Whip Eric Cantor (incidentally, the highest ranking Jew in the US Government)

donated money to the Democratic Party!

How big a deal is this?

Zero. Nada. Not significant at all.

Political parties have no control over what nut cases donate to them. But if the shoe were on the other foot, you can bet it would be a big deal in the MSM.

All Across the Multi-verse

I have written on the religious nature of multiverse theories here, but Captain Thin has a really great take on the phenomena that, using multiverse theory, proves the existence of God:
If, indeed, infinitely possible universes must arise in the multiverse, then surely there must have already arisen (in the infinite past) universes where “gods” began to exist. And surely, in the infinite possibilities of the past, some of these gods must have discovered a way to not only control their own universes, but further to leave the confines of those universe and enter consciously into the multiverse. Moreover, in the infinite past, one of these gods now observing the multiverse must inevitably take control of the multiverse itself. And at that point, the multiverse would cease to be infinite; it would become a machine, operating under the orders of one particular entity.
Read the whole argument here.

29 March 2010

Life Lessons

At John's funeral (he was 90+) a few years ago, Lee (c. 70) stood up to tell this story:

When I was about 16, I was walking through town one day. I saw John working on his truck, so I asked what he was doing. He told me he was rebuilding the transmission, and asked if I could help. "Sure,"He replied. We worked for a couple hours and got the whole thing put back together. We got in the truck and started up, and John put the truck in first gear. He eased his foot off the clutch... and the truck lurched backwards 4 feet!

John shut off the truck, looked at me and said, "Let that be a lesson to you, Lee. Whenever you test out a transmission, always look behind you first."

Lee finished the story, "I have no idea what that means, but I've never forgotten it, and I've tried to live my life by it."

A true story. All of which serves as an entrée to this video clip.

When did schism become a bad thing?

I am still involved in what is now being called the reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America. It is now working out that there are three major parties involved in this. First, there is the ELCA, or, as I like to call it,The GBLC (Great Big Lutheran Church. And I have been calling it that from well before the current difficulties; the moniker was never intended to stand for anything else.)

Last summer, the GBLC made some decisions regarding the authority of Scripture in matters of sexuality that have very much upset many people. As a result of that, some of those people are looking to leave that church body. One of the groups some of them are looking to lead that departure is Lutheran CORE, and LCORE is forming something they are calling the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). It will come into existence later this year.

Others of us have been upset with the GBLC for some time. I personally think they departed from Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions in 1999 when they adopted the historic episcopate from the Episcopal Church. Those of us who are of that mind formed LCMC in 2001.

There is no real battle between the NALC and LCMC folks, because we have very different understandings of what the church is and how it functions best. The big fight is between the ELCA - who doesn't want to lose any property - and those who are trying to depart to one of these two groups. There are numerous sources for tracking this; one of the best is here.

With that as background, my comment:

One of the charges being leveled against those wanting to leave the ELCA, and against me and others who are trying to help them, is that we are the dreaded "schismatics!"

Consider this:
  • In Exodus 14:21, as Pharaoh's army arrives to kill the Israelites by the Red Sea, it says that, "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided." (ESV)
  • When Jesus was baptized, it says "And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove." (Mark 1:10 ESV)
  • When Jesus was crucified, "... the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two." (Luke 23:45 ESV) ( The same wording appears in Mark 15:38 and Matthew 27:51 to describe the same event.)
Each of those italicized words above is the same Greek word: schism. In each of these cases, schism is used to describe God at work. So when did schism become a bad thing?

Those who are convinced that this reconfiguration is a "schism" that they must oppose might do well to heed the advice of the Pharisee, Gamaliel: "I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" Acts 5:38-39 ESV

26 March 2010

I'm back

I have been facebooking for the last 10 months or so. But there are some things that I want to say that do not fit the 4 line format. So in case anyone reads this, I may be here for a while.

I was wandering around in another forum. It was an avowedly "progressive" religious forum, and I was defending a traditionalist point of view.

One of the funniest things about that experience was this: I do not think I ever identified myself as a pastor. They were discussing the association I belong to (and quoting from a Google group I run) so I chimed in to offer facts instead of speculation. Someone learned / knew that I was a pastor and commented on that. Later, another person, who willingly described herself as a medical doctor, complained that I was playing the authority card. I noticed a couple of other things.

First, they really did not want to discuss anything; they wanted an echo chamber.

Second, they were perfectly willing to Google me, look up everything they could about me, and use that as a basis for conversation and attack. But when I tried to Google them, to try and understand their point of view, I realized that ...

Third, of all the people on the list who were making comments, some of them quite nasty, only the blog owner (who has a book to sell) and the conservative / traditionalists were using their real names. Everybody else, including all the "progressives" were using pseudonyms or first names only.

To me, it is a question of integrity as much as courage. If you are going to put it out there, especially if it is unpleasant to someone, own it. Otherwise you are just ...