Friday, August 29, 2008


At TaxProf blog. I am still not convinced that either candidate has the answer to this.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Another McCain ad. Whoever is writing his stuff is very good from all the examples I have seen in the last two weeks.


A good case for taking a year or two off doing something that will give you life experience. Do it before or after college.

Just do something that will make you a more complete person. I suspect that it'll also make you appreciate your education more (and, ironically, make you more attractive when you do apply for college or enter the job market).

Why should an 18- or 22-year-old head for Nepal instead of the University of Illinois or Wall Street?

For three reasons. First, because you can. Because the world is an interesting place, life is short, and there just aren't that many opportunities to take long stretches to do really cool things.

Second, and perhaps more practical, it'll make you appreciate your education more, whether you do it before or after college. I remember the first time I saw terraced rice paddies in Indonesia. I'd taken a course on monsoon Asia in college but the concepts seemed remote and academic. But when I was standing in Bali, staring up at the remarkable green fields carved into the mountainside, I finally understood all the facts that I'd memorized for the exams.

Last, it'll impart perspective and maturity. I've encountered a small but growing number of students -- amazingly smart and talented people -- who just seem intellectually immature and even emotionally unhealthy. They're obsessed with grades more than learning (because good grades are necessary to do the next hypercompetitive thing).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008


James Hudnut-Beumler, In Pursuit of The Almighty's Dollar. A History of Money and American Protestantism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

I can't say this was a well-written or edited book, but it was a very interesting read. I haven't seen any books that discuss an historical perspective of how Protestants handle money. Sometimes I have seen books and articles that deal with current issues like the "Prosperity Gospel," but these do not give an analysis of how this all evolved. Hudnut-Beumler's book focuses more on the mainline denominations, although in the late 18th and early 19th centuries the term "mainline" really was not used. Someone looking for information on denominations other than the larger Presbyterian and Methodist denominations will be disappointed, but the author believes this is not an important issue because all Protestants tend to act alike when it comes to raising money. But the key point is that he studies the "materialization of religion," specifically American Protestantism. However, I am not sure "materialization is inevitable," although looking at how some churches conduct giving campaigns, he might be right. Also he really doesn't get into issues since the 1960s in as extensive detail.


1. Church funding as it is now was not an issue when you go back to as late as the early 19th century when local governments supported churches or people paid for pews to sit in. With separation of church and state, churches had to develop private systems of funding. Churches were not longer seen as a public good, but now were supported for private or personal reasons.

2. Getting rid of the "pew system" democratized the church, but it also led to the need to raise money to pay for the church. This led to an increase in books and sermons on tithing and other reasons why a person should contribute to the local church.

3. Ministers were the most educated individuals in a community before the WWII period and were seen (or saw themselves) as "public officers" and "intellectual elites." As I look at this issue today, with the prevelance of higher education, ministers may be some of the least educated in many communities.

4. The theological views and interpretations on tithing presented in many churches today really has its foundation in the interpretation of various biblical tithing passages in the last half of the 19th century.

5. The structure, design, and organization of a church has changed over the last two hundred years to reflect how we see ourselves or God. What has evolved is a flexible, entertainment-oriented design. As I thought about this, I do believe that God's pulpit or altar has become a stage for music, drama, etc. The focus has moved from the Word to experience and visual effects.

6. He argues that the tithe was "reinvented" in the 19th century, but it could be argued that it was rediscovered biblical teaching. To me the tithing sermons of the late 1800s are quite similar to tithing sermons in the 2000s, although the process of implementing tithing has certainly changed. I don't recall any church having a "Loyalty Sunday" in which church members came together to pledge their tithe for the year (of course it could be happening in churches I am less familiar with).

7. Salaries of leading clergymen in a community may have been larger when one considers the standard of living than what I think many clergy are paid today.

8. He had a chapter on ministers' wives and how they had to budget and live with community expectations.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Daniel Pipes has an online essay on terrorist infiltration. He gives a number of examples. Aifia Siddiqui is only one.

Aafia Siddiqui, 36, is a Pakistani mother of three, an alumna of MIT, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Brandeis University. She is also accused of working for Al-Qaeda and was charged last week in New York City with attempting to kill American soldiers.

Her arrest serves to remind how invisibly most Islamist infiltration proceeds. In particular, an estimated forty Al-Qaeda sympathizers or operatives have sought to penetrate U.S. intelligence agencies.

Such a well-placed infiltrator can wreck great damage explains a former CIA chief of counterintelligence, Michael Sulick: "In the war on terrorism, intelligence has replaced the Cold War's tanks and fighter planes as the primary weapon against an unseen enemy." Islamist moles, he argues, "could inflict far more damage to national security than Soviet spies," for the U.S. and Soviet Union never actually fought each other, whereas now, "our nation is at war."

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I love these quotes:

The fact is that all Russian politicians are clever. The stupid ones are all dead. By contrast, America in its complacency promotes dullards.

Think of it this way: Russia is playing chess, while the Americans are playing Monopoly. What Americans understand by "war games" is exactly what occurs on the board of the Parker Brothers' pastime. The board game Monopoly is won by placing as many hotels as possible on squares of the playing board. Substitute military bases, and you have the sum of American strategic thinking.

Chess players think in terms of interaction of pieces: everything on the periphery combines to control the center of the board and prepare an eventual attack against the opponent's king. The Russians simply cannot absorb the fact that America has no strategic intentions: it simply adds up the value of the individual pieces on the board. It is as stupid as that. But there is another difference: the Americans are playing chess for career and perceived advantage. Russia is playing for its life, like Ingmar Bergman's crusader in The Seventh Seal.

It is somewhat ironic that the article is accompanied by an ad "Find Your Own Russian Beauty!"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


From the September issue of Radar magazine:

Sheridan Middle School, New Haven, CT:
Action: Student buys a bag of Skittles from a classmate.
Ruling: Violated an anticandy "wellness policy."

Central High School, Providence, RI:
Action: Sophomore snaps photos of the principal smoking and posts them online.
Ruling: "Disrupted the learning environment."

Killian Middle School, Lewisville, TX:
Action: Student rubs hands with hand sanitzer, then smells them.
Ruling: Openly flouted antidrug rules.

If you want to see the 100 "Signs your College Isn't Prestigious" you will have to get a login and password. Some examples:

#1 sign: "Courses offered in-class, online, and drive thru."
#82 sign: "Professor holds office hours in his taco truck."


A superb photo documentary. More photos.


Communism was not above anti-semitism.

Jewish Communists returning from exile to the Soviet occupied part of Germany were confronted with prejudice and suspicion and sometimes even had to fear for their lives.


The Beloit College Mind-Set List.

For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.

1. Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.

2. Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.

3. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.

4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.

5. Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.

6. Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.

7. Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.

8. The students' parents may have dropped them in shock when they heard George Bush announce "tax-revenue increases."

9. Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.

10. Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene.

11. All have had a relative—or known about a friend's relative—who died comfortably at home with hospice.

12. As a precursor to "whatever," they have recognized that some people "just don't get it."

13. Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando, Fla.

14. Grandma has always had wheels on her walker.

15. Martha Stewart Living has always been setting the style.

16. Häagen-Dazs ice cream has always come in quarts.

17. Club Med resorts have always been places to take the whole family.

18. WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.

19. Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.

20. The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.

21. Students have always been "Rocking the Vote."

22. Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.

23. Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism.

24. We have always known that "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

25. There have always been gay rabbis.

26. Wayne Newton has never had a mustache.

27. College grads have always been able to Teach for America.

28. IBM has never made typewriters.

29. Roseanne Barr has never been invited to sing the national anthem again.

30. McDonald's and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.

31. The students have never been able to color a tree using a raw-umber Crayola.

32. There has always been Pearl Jam.

33. The Tonight Show has always had Jay Leno as its host and started at 11:35 p.m. Eastern time.

34. Pee-wee has never been in his playhouse during the day.

35. They never tasted Benefit cereal with psyllium.

36. They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.

37. Authorities have always been building a wall along the Mexican border.

38. Lenin's name has never been on a major city in Russia.

39. Employers have always been able to do credit checks on employees.

40. Balsamic vinegar has always been available in the United States.

41. Macaulay Culkin has always been Home Alone.

42. The students' parents may have watched American Gladiators on TV the day they were born.

43. Personal privacy has always been threatened.

44. Caller ID has always been available on phones.

45. Living wills have always been asked for at hospital check-ins.

46. The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.

47. The students have never heard a gasoline-station attendant ask, "Want me to check under the hood?"

48. Iced tea has always come in cans and bottles.

49. Soft-drink refills have always been free.

50. The students have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about "nothing."

51. Windows operating systems have always made IBM PC's user-friendly.

52. Muscovites have always been able to buy Big Macs.

53. The Royal New Zealand Navy has never been permitted a daily ration of rum.

54. The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.

55. 98.6 degrees F, or otherwise, has always been confirmed in the ear.

56. Michael Milken has always been a philanthropist promoting prostate-cancer research.

57. Off-shore oil drilling in U.S. waters has always been prohibited.

58. Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.

59. There have always been charter schools.

60. Students always had Goosebumps

Sunday, August 17, 2008

GEORGIA has some good things to say about the performance of the Georgian army. Obviously the Georgians were overwhelmed, but they killed a Russian commander and took some planes out. I wonder what they would have done if they had more surface-to-air missiles?

Russian troops beat the Georgians on the ground, not so much because of superior numbers, but because the Russians had more troops with combat experience, and very recent experience in fighting this kind of war. The Russians got this way by fighting a successful campaign just across the border, in Chechnya.

A more pessimisic report from the DEBKAfile is that Putin is threatening to place missiles in Syria and Iran in retaliation for American missiles in Eastern Europe and ex-Soviet republics.

DEBKAfile's military sources report Moscow's planned retaliation for America's missile interceptors in Poland and US-Israeli military aid to Georgia may come in the form of installing Iskandar surface missiles in Syria and its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.

Russian Baltic and Middle East warships, submarines and long-range bombers may be armed with nuclear warheads, according to Sunday newspapers in Europe.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I thought Rick Warren, a pastor, did a better job of asking questions and bringing out what the candidates believed than all of the network and cable debates of the primaries. I would argue for more forums on other issues or themes. During the primaries the moderators kept asking the same questions over and over again.

Both candidates did well, but I thought McCain did much better. Maybe it was because I was expecting less of him. McCain came out with a depth of thinking and personal experience that I felt was lacking in some of Obama's answers.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Russia's attitude toward Georgia:

Russia's foreign minister declared Thursday that the world "can forget about" Georgia's territorial integrity, and American and Georgian officials said Russia appeared to be targeting military infrastructure -- including radars and patrol boats at a Black Sea naval base and oil hub.

This is a very alarming statement.


Camilia Paglia, a supporter of Obama, tells him to get real.


I can't say I ever liked John Edwards--maybe it was his hair. But I think he seemed manipulative and somehow phony. That's why I liked this comment:

Everybody who retained any objectivity could see that he was a phony, and were not surprised by this. When a guy talks populism and green-ism while building the biggest mansion in the county, there's a 99% chance that he's a sham. When a guy spends minutes in front of a mirror fluffing his hairdo, there's a 99% chance that he will not resist the sexual temptations available to a celebrity.

Most importantly, what you are comes out in your life. If you are real, then a presidential campaign will bring lots of stories to the surface, from people who were impressed with the candidate's actions long before they could be helpful in any campaign. If Edwards really cared about that poor little girl supposedly shivering because she could not afford a coat, he would have been spending time working with groups who help the poor. And doing so long ago, before it might gain him any advantage. (And if Shapiro were a real journalist he would have taken note that cheap coats are available at any thrift store, and that people just give old coats away by the ton. The story was always bogus.)

The observation that Most importantly, what you are comes out in your life is one all politicians should seriously reflect on. But I expect the lessons of John Edwards will not be easily learned.


An interesting interview on Hotline about the inner workings of the Hillary campaign.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Three Cheers for Brave Georgia!

This is not a case of Moscow supporting the right of national majorities to secede - the Abkhaz have no majority, not even a plurality, in Abkhazia. Nor is it a case of Moscow supporting the right of autonomous entities of the former Soviet Union to secede - Moscow has extended the same support to the separatists of Transnistria, which enjoyed no autonomous status in the USSR, while denying the right to secede of the Chechen Republic. This is simply a case of naked Russian imperialist expansionism.

More from ThreatsWatch.

The Kremlin decided it was time to act, since Georgia was only growing stronger under its democratically elected government. Although NATO has been hemming and hawing about admitting Georgia, the Russians didn’t want to take any chances. (Just last month, 1,000 US troops were in Georgia for an exercise.)

Calculating that the media and world leaders would be partying in Beijing, the Russians ordered North Ossetian militiamen, backed by Russian “peacekeepers” and mercenaries, to provoke the Georgians earlier this month.

Weary of the Russian presence on their soil, the Georgians took the bait. President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered his US-trained military to respond.

That was the excuse the Kremlin wanted. Immediately, a tank brigade from Russia’s 58th Army (the butchers of Chechnya) crossed the international border into Poland - sorry, I meant Georgia.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


This past week Solzhenitsyn died. It seems so long ago when One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch was published and then later followed by the Gulag Archipelego. Coming to America e gave a famous speech at Harvard which was critical of the materialism of the West. Rod Dreher in the Dallas Morning News summed it up well in his column:

Two men stood astride the 20th century as prophets without peer: Pope John Paul II and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Their experience and testimony contained and transcended the terrible truths of the bloodiest epoch in human history. And they died tragically – tragic, in the Greek sense: They were admired and even beloved. But largely ignored.

fact, as much as they loathed the atheistic, materialistic barbarism of the East, both warned in uncompromising terms of the spiritual and moral decay at the heart of the liberal capitalist democracies.

In his most famous address in exile, Mr. Solzhenitsyn spoke at Harvard's 1978 graduation, delivering an apocalyptic vision of Western civilization as spiritually decrepit, given over to pleasure and material gain instead of virtue and higher values – and no model for post-communist Russia to follow.

Many liberals who had admired the dissident novelist thenceforth considered him a reactionary crank. Conservatives who championed his anti-communism struggled with the Russian Orthodox believer's harsh criticism of capitalist democracy.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Margaret Baacke, Tainted Blood? Memoirs of a Part-Jewish Girl in the Third Reich, 1933-1945.

As far as memoirs go, not a particularly smooth reading book. However, it gives a good overview of one young girl’s growing-up experience under the Nazi regime from 1933 until 1945. As a Mischlinge she was not sent to the concentration camps, but if Hitler had won, she certainly would have been. She was forced to leave the Hitler youth and suffered discrimination, although she ended the war working as a nurse for the military. Fortunately, her hospital was captured by the Americans; if the Soviets had captured her, there may not have been a book. A reader of the book will get a first-hand account of the war-years and all of the challenges faced by “average” citizens.

1. She discusses Hitler’s euthanasia program which began with the mentally retarded and moved on to the insane.

The regime tried to prepare us in many ways, through movies, books, newspaper- and magazine articles to appreciate sterilization and mercy-killing. The message was that mercy-killing would relieve the poor suffering individuals painlessly from their torment—they might even be thankful to be delivered from their agony.

One of the most memorable films of the time was Ich Klage an (’I Accuse’), with the famous actress Christina Soederbaum. In the film, she suffered in great pain through the last stage of multiple sclerosis, and implored her husband, a medical doctor, to give her the final injection. But he refused. For a medical doctor, he said, this would not only be unethical, it was also prohibited by law, by the Christian Churches, and, of course, by themedical profession. Lastly, he told his beautiful wife that he loverd her so dearly that he recoiled at the idea of killing her.

The film lead [sic] the viewer to the edge of what seemed tolerable. I felt like screaming at the hesitant doctor to go ahead and do it, honor her last wish and relieve her from her unbearable suffering. He finally complied, but was sentenced by the Court of Justice to a long prison term.

Hans and I saw this film with our Aunt M.M.. “Yes,” she agreed with us, after a lengthy discussion of the film on the way home, “were were all deeply moved by this film. But I have to tell you something you don’t want to hear right now.” She looked around to see if there were any listeners and then said almost in a whisper, “This is nothing but propaganda, thought the film is well-made.”

2. Confirmation:

We were amazed that his (the instructor) confirmation instruction contained a lot of Nazi lingo. This was a pastor? We had heard some of this language, though not the content, in the Hitler Youth where it belonged, but here, in the Church-environment, those patriotic words and slogans sounded ridiculous. We didn’t study the Old Testament at all, for our pastor called it Jewish history.”

He often repeated that his church, the Deutsche Christen (‘German Christians’) ascertained that “Providence” had sent Hitler to free the German people from oppression, from greedy Capitalism, from Bolshevism, and the Jews.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


A satire coming from the FOX. If the McCain campaign did this, I am sure there would be problems. It is very creative. I am sure somebody is working on the McCain version.


Both candidates have missed the boat on energy policy.

That smell on the nation's highways isn't just car exhaust. It's also the rank odor of political populism, as John McCain and Barack Obama both try to score points with dubious energy ideas.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


I have heard those on the right (Gingrich) and on the left (most recently Obama) want to tap into the strategic oil reserve. I have felt this was short-sighted and wouldn't really help oil prices. The reserve is there for an emergency. Dinocrat has a post that deals with many potential complications, especially if the Strait of Hormuz were closed.

For example, if the Strait of Hormuz were shut for any extended period of time, the US economy, and the warmaking capability of the US could be crippled. (What would happen if the Persian Gulf were irradiated or the largest Saudi fields disabled, for example?) Such a disaster would be far less likely to happen if our dependence on foreigners for energy were relatively modest, but that is not the case.


An interesting report. Some congressmen are questioning why the State Department is working with certain Islamic groups.

"The fundamental question boils down to: Is the State Department using the Islamists to advance its agenda, or are the Islamists using the State Department to advance their own?"

In testimony on July 31, Emerson urged Congress to review the State Department's interaction with such organizations as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Palestinian American Research Center, Islamic Society of North America and Citizen Exchange Program. He said the department must also come under congressional oversight for its hosting of Muslims convicted or indicted in terrorism cases.

Members of the House and Senate have expressed concern over the State Department's outreach to pro-jihad groups. Sen. Tom Coburn and Sen. John Kyl, Republicans from Oklahoma and Arizona, respectively, urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to stop funding groups that support what the senators termed a radical Islamic ideology.


I don't know if this guy was for Hillary, but this did appear on the liberal Huffington Post. I think he makes a good point about Obama changing most of his Democrat primary positions--he has. Hillary was being much more careful about being pigeon-holed.

At each place and stage, as Barack Obama chronicles the chapters of his life, he tells us how he has re-invented himself, becoming the role he inhabits, though not falsely or in-authentically, like Bill Clinton. He actually seems to transform himself, becoming what must be next. He has been called distant, aloof and somewhat unapproachable, perhaps because we cannot approach what he does not have, a solid core. His soul seems to be molten and made up of dreams, which is at once breathtakingly inspiring and forbiddingly indeterminate. When this young man with the flowing, passionate core, when this candidate without the solid-center changes positions and transforms himself as we watch, it leaves Americans much more in doubt about who he is and how he would lead us. It also reveals an Obama of unapproachable arrogance and inestimable self-regard: He appears confident voters will appreciate his superiority regardless of where he journeys or what he becomes to meet his political ambitions.