28 April 2008

Context, context, context

One of Jeremiah Wright's complaints during his interview with Bill Moyers (transcript here ) about the clips from his sermons was that he was taken out of context. Hugh Hewitt has context, lots of context. I don't think the context really helps Obama. At all.

Joan Walsh, an admitted leftist, wasn't very impressed by the Bill Moyers interview, either.

I would be willing to agree that nothing Wright says is relevant to U.S. politics generally, or to Senator Obama's compaign particularly, but for two things: 1) politics involves questions of ultimacy, hence will necessarily at some point become about religion; 2) as I mentioned previously, if John McCain were a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, there would be heck to pay (and rightly, I believe). I'm also not bothered by Wright's desire (if it be such) that God damn the U.S.A. (It's not a desire that I share.) (Of course, on the other hand, those folks over at Westboro share Wright's antipathy to the U.S.A., albeit for different reasons. But I digress.) First, I don't hold it as an article of faith that a Christian must believe the U.S.A to be sinless; that would be idolatry. Second, Wright strikes me as using the same sort of hyperbole Jesus employed when he says such things as, "If your right eye offends you pluck it out," "Hate you father and mother," etc.

I have just finished reading the book of Daniel. One thing I find noteworthy every time I read it, is Daniel's love for those who are his captors, as well as how that love was reciprocated. When Judgment was announced to Nebuchadnezzer through a dream, Daniel wished that the judgment was on Nebuchadnezzar's enemies! Daniel 5.19. Then, under Darius the Mede (conqueror of the Bablyonian empire), when Daniel's enemies conspired to have him tossed into a lion's den, Darius spent a night fasting in hopes that God would deliver Daniel from the lion's mouth. Daniel 6.18.

Daniel, a Jew, captive in the Bablyonian, and then Medo-Persian empires for seventy years was, in those lands, what we would call a loyal citizen a patriot. Why?

Writing to the Jews in captivity, the Prophet Jeremiah (how ironic!) wrote:

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, "Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare." Jeremiah 29.6,7.
You could call this my own "theme passage" on how I seek to conduct myself as a Christian living in the U.S.A. I doubt Daniel would have had much patience for synagogue sermons in Bablyon that sounded anything like some of Reverend Wright's. And, like Wright, there were plenty of Jews who served in the Babylonian and Medo-Persian armies. That service would not have earned them a pass for such sermonating.
25 April 2008

Speaking of inexpensive – but healthy – fun

In a previous posting, I said the things I do for fun don’t cost much, if any, money. Here are some samples of things I find fun. They’re free too.

Most of us could use a lot of that sort of fun.

I’m just sayin’.

And no, I am not the demonstrator in any of these clips.

The candidate of all the people

That’s what John McCain – bless his heart – wants to be in this election. It is also the reason for his aforementioned swipe at the North Carolina Republican Party. That’s the sort of thing that sounds good, really, really good. Sweet, even. I think I feel my eyes tearing up. (No, just threw up in my mouth.) But it’s also the sort of thing that means he will ultimately stand for little else than getting elected.

Don’t get me wrong. Like Senator McCain, I too have a pipe dream: I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony Or, alternatively, buy it a Coke. (It’s the real thing.)

One really cannot be a candidate for all of the people where, apparently, being that type of candidate means pleasing all the people all the time. (Or perhaps McCain’s real desire is to be the candidate of all the correct people.) It’s very simple: You have positions or you don’t. If you do, what are they? And why do you think your positions accord with wisdom? And in contemporary politics those positions will be either to the right or to the left of center, the only question being how far from center one is.

Besides, there really is a difference between being President of the United States (i.e., President of that union of states which was formed by the states) and being president of all the people (there is no such office). The key is not to convince people that you can be a candidate pleasing to all of them; that’s impossible. The key is to stake out those positions – whether of the Left of the Right, preferably not both (as if political positions were like items at a buffet!) – and convince as many of the people as possible that those positions are wise, not popular, not easy – but wise and (here’s something new) constitutional. (Let’s face it: President Bush is not the only one who – arguably – doesn’t care what the constitution permits or doesn’t permit.)

Wherever Obama’s loyalties ultimately are, I agree with Arnold Ahlert:

Mr. Obama is not running for college president on some lunatic left-wing campus…. He’s running for the most powerful office in the world, and the public ought to be well acquainted with the company he’s kept and keeping–loud and often.


This is one American who’s damn tired of a Republican candidate for president who thinks going toe-to-toe with two irredeemable socialists is “unseemly.” Better to “disrespect” them than that part of the American electorate–hopefully a majority–which yearns to see a Republican show a little backbone. Nothing is more “hardball” than a presidential election.

“Man up,” Mr. McCain.
What concerns me about Obama is that he seems not to understand federalism. He thinks that Senator McCain’s inability to get the NCRP to pull the ad is indicative of his leadership ability. Ostensibly, Obama does not know that in our federal system there are national politics and state politics. Since it's really none of his business how state parties conduct their affairs, he may object all he wants, but he has no leadership authority over those parties. McCain may be the presumptive leader of the Republican Party, but he’s not the Party dictator – neither at the national lever nor (certainly!) at the state level.

Why Wright matters

Senator McCain would have us believe that it is racist for people to raise the issue of some people's loyalties with respect to his pastor. Particulary, he objects to this ad by the North Carolina Republican Party:

I doubt the senator would take the same position if the circumstances were entirely identical but for Obama and Wright being white, instead of black.

On one hand, it’s easy to see why some might think it irrelevant to Obama’s fitness for office that his pastor has certain views. My pastor has certain views with which I disagree. On the other hand, if John McCain were a member of The Westboro Baptist Church, I doubt he’d be able to extricate himself from the ensuing predicament! And most of us wouldn’t be convinced that it was racist for anyone to run an ad which included a clip of one of Fred Phelps’ sermons and wanted to know if McCain’s sentiments were similar to Phelps’. And most of us wouldn’t believe a denial. We’d still wonder: If he doesn’t share those views, why be a member – for twenty years?

It’s real simple. As President of the United States Senator Obama will take an oath of office which stipulates that he will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. It is relevant whether he feels the same way about the nation as his pastor does. It does matter where his loyalties are.

Some might say, “Yes, James, but Obama has asserted that he doesn’t share Wright’s views. People ought to consider the matter resolved.” Sure. As long as you think Obama isn’t lying about it.

Perhaps he isn't lying. I have no evidence that he is. But it is still legitimate to raise the issue.
24 April 2008

Apparently your wallet says something about you

Very interesting article on how the way you handle the cash, if any, on your person may be indicative of how you handle money generally. That, in turn, has implications for your economic status, which is therefore probably something that no federal program is going to be able to fix for you.

Incidentally, I belong to the “File Folder Funds” category. My bills are not only organized from higher to lower denominations and all facing the same way, they are grouped in two: discretionary and non-discretionary. And I know exactly how much is in my wallet at this moment, as well as how much is discretionary and how much is non-discretionary.

Of course, I'm informed that "having all the dead presidents right-side up and facing the same way...might mean [I] 'have a problem allocating enough money toward fun'." What it really means -- in my case -- is that as a man of simple (i.e., "Spartan") tastes, the things I do for fun are relatively inexpensive and rather healthy -- physically, mentally, and psychologically. Also, I spent most of my childhood in the ranks of the poor so there wasn't a whole lot of money to spend in the first place. As a consequence I never really learned to spend it.

I have a lot of discretionary money in that wallet. Not because I get a lot of discretionary money, but because I spend very little of what I do get as discretionary money. What I put into my wallet as non-discretionary is usually spent within two weeks, and goes, presently, mostly towards fueling my cars.
18 April 2008

And now for something completely different...


a free advertising for RockyNational.com

This is my favorite scene in ‘Crocodile Dundee’:

I too like a good knife. Indeed, I feel about knives the way Obi Wan Kenobi feels about light sabers, "A more civilized weapon for a more civilized (And yes, I did happen to notice Linda Kozlowski. It was 1986; I was young and single. And she was only seven years older than me. Gosh, I guess she still is. Anyway, in general, I find brunettes more attractive. But I digress.)

This is the knife I have in mind for myself:

Anything less would be uncivilized.

As you can see, it’s a very versatile knife. Hunny, if you’re reading, you can order it for me here. (It would be a great birthday gift.) Sweetie, if you’re reading this it would make a great Father’s Day gift.

NOTE: I didn’t have time to look around UTUBE for a version with no subtitles.
17 April 2008

‘Yes’ or ‘No’?

What is it with politicians and closed-ended questions? Last night Senator Obama was asked if the D.C. gun ban (D.C. Code sections 7-2502.02 , 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02) is constitutional. It was a simple thing: it is; or it is not. After Obama’s two minute response, Charles Gibson replied that he didn’t think he got his question answered.

Senator Clinton was no better. She was asked an even simpler question: Do you support the D.C. gun ban? It’s a question which doesn’t call for a legal opinion, but for a personal opinion. Do you support the gun ban or not? She also gave a several minutes long response, which included the fact that she didn’t have all the facts, and supported gun legislation within the bounds of constitutionality, and so forth.

There is room for nuanced answers here. For example, to the question, “Is the D.C. gun ban constitutional?” one could offer principled arguments for and against. An argument for the constitutionality of the ban would take account of the text of the second amendment, noting that the amendment seeks to curb the power and authority of the federal government, leaving such matters in state hands. Since D.C. is not a state but is under direct control of the federal government, the federal government does have power to limit weapons ownership in D.C., which authority (one could argue) has been delegated to the D.C. municipal government. In short, and as Laurence Tribe has argued, the provision is not applicable in the nation’s capital. The nation’s capital is effectively federal territory and thus not subject to a provision which limits the power of the federal government over the states. When looked at that way (which I think is the correct way to look at it) I think that the D.C. gun ban is constitutional.

Sadly, we can no longer look at it that way. There is a school of thought which has it that the Fourteenth Amendment wraps up the Bill of Rights and makes them applicable against the states. There are also those who argue for D.C. statehood. Those people should put their statehood money where their statehood mouths are, apply that Bill of Rights they enjoy applying against the states and acknowledge that since a state can no longer make laws respecting an establishment of religion, they darn well can’t infringe upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Looked at that way, the D.C. gun ban should be seen as unconstitutional. But since D.C. is not a state, that really is not the correct way to look at it.

So, for the record, I do not support the D.C. gun ban because I think it is unwise. But I think the ban is constitutional because the Constitution curbs the federal power with respect to weapons, and D.C. is federal territory.

See how easy that was?
08 April 2008

Bring back the draft

Well, sort of.

If a government is going to promise free healthcare, it must somehow be able to assure the requisite number of healthcare professionals to meet healthcare needs. What if the requisite number is not there?

That, as the New York Times reports, is the situation in Massachusetts. (Read the story here.) Previously, one of the problems in Massachusetts was that physicians didn't particulary care for some of the details of Commonwealth care, especially the reimbursements. Those reimbursements, it seems, are as pitiful as the state's Medicaid program, Mass Health (here). It isn't bad enough that physicians can't determine their own schedules (they are required to give patients a first-appointment within 45 days); no, their incomes will also be determined by the state.

With strictures like those it is possible that people who might otherwise be interested in the health professions will decide upon careers which give them a bit more freedom. Should that fact lead to a healthcare-professional crisis we shall have to institute something like a draft.

Your typical leftist can rationalize it this way. If we can force people into the military in order to take lives in a war (and possibly have their lives taken) we should feel no compunction about forcing people into the healthcare system in order to save lives (without the risk of losing their lives). This is especially case since we shall be paying for their undergraduate and professional educations. (It's irrelevant that we don't have a military draft. The rationale is still useful.)

Your kid wants to be a fireman, does he? Well, make sure he doesn't show any interest in, or aptitude for, the sciences. It would be bad.

Serendipidously, Limbaugh mentioned a report yesterday on how long it took major technologies to reach 50% of households. (Graph here. 2004 story here.)

Part of the reason for the rapidity with which any technology reaches more and more households is the drop in price over time, as well as our relatively high standard of living. Generally, prices for new technologies drop further and faster the longer the technology is available. When I was a kid only rich people had VCRs. Now you can pick one up (but why would you?) for a fistful of dollars (when you compare that fistful with the value of the dollar back when the VCR was new).

Somehow, when it comes to healthcare, prices go up and up rather than down, making it available to fewer and fewer, rather than more and more. Typically, if prices for anything go up it is because of limited supply relative to demand, like crude oil, for example. We talk about the increasing cost of healthcare, but ignore the possibility of a demand which in some way exceeds the supply. Somehow -- we are told exactly how -- supply must meet demand, regardless of cost to the supplier.

What we're told, however, is that greed best explains the higher prices. But look, the people who make DVD players and iPhones and so forth are just as greedy as those in the healthcare and petroleum businesses. The fact is, raising prices just for the sake of greed is not a wise long-term policy for any business operation. But it doesn't matter: in the end politicians don't campaign for the votes of thinking people, but for those of the "distracted multitudes". And those multitudes are rather superificial in their thinking. For the superficial, greed is as good an explanation as any, even if only because it is the most obvious of all explanations. And obvious is what superficial people love most. The politician who wants the superficial vote need point to nothing but the obvious in order to get it.
07 April 2008

If it's good enough for San Francisco...

Some of us here in Nolodicere think that our small community ought to declare itself an explicity Christian municipality. (Don't worry, the heathen will be allowed to remain, especially the ones who work in restaurants. The sabbath-breakers among us need people to feed them after church. "Feed me, Seymour!" Ahem. I digress.)

There is a catch: we are governed by U. S. federal law. According to that law such an act as we propose would be unconstutional.

But who cares? I think we should do it anyway. If a city as large and visible as San Francisco can disregard federal law, an insignificant municipality such as I live in should easily be able to pull it off. (Side bar: My favorite part of the story is where opponents of the ad campaign are referred to not as "anti-illegal immigration" but "anti-immigration".)

Wait. Actually, there is another catch. Both St. Paul and St. Peter are on record as exhorting obedience to governing authorities (see, e.g., Romans 13.1-7; 1 Peter 2.13-17). I guess it's awfully convenient, for San Francisco, that San Francisco is not a Christian municipality, nor can be.

Maybe I wouldn't have made such a good monk after all

Early in my Christian life -- which began in 1988 -- when I was still a Roman Catholic (as opposed to a Reformed Catholic), I contemplated becoming either a Benedictine, a Dominican, or a Jesuit. Probably in that order, too. Eventually, I threw in with Reformation thought and left the Catholic church (or, to borrow from President Reagan, discovered that it had anathematized me).

It is still my habit to read the Rule of St. Benedict. In the past I read it through at least once a year. But my wife recently purchased an edition which divides the text into daily readings and includes the Declarations and Constitution of the American Cassinese Congregation.

The April 6 reading was in Chapter 54 of the Rule. What was most disturbing was this, from the ACC's Declaration 66: "As to the reading of newspapers, let all take good care not to stay at it with loss of time. And let no one acquire the silly and pernicious habit of listening to the radio."

I'm addicted to talk radio. I don't know if I could have handled such a stricture. Of course, the particulary Benedictine monastery I was interested in was Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey Benedictine Monastery, in Pecos, New Mexico, a member of the Olivetan Congregation. I don't know anything about the Olivetans' declarations. So maybe I'd have been allowed to indulge my "silly and pernicious" habit. (I selected Our Lady for two reasons: My father's familiarity with one of the monks there; and it wasn't terribly far from home, so, with Father Abbot's permission, of course, family members would be able to visit from time to time.)

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to return to "silly and pernicious" habit.



About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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