I Became a “Decline to State” July 3, 2018 No Comments

Nine years ago I became a nominal Democrat, a DINO [Democrat in name only] as I called it.  I did so because it seemed to me at the time that the Republican party was being taken over by a group of people led at the national level by Grover Norquist that I called NTSEBREE [a clumsy and unpronounceable acronym for No Tax Shall Ever Be Increased Ever Ever] and I concluded that while I believed that certain aspects of government [and not just the federal and state government, as BlueKennel declares ad nauseam] were indeed a cancer, the no increase in taxes ever, or ‘starve the beast’ approach was like trying to shrink a cancer by starving the patient.  As governments’ revenues shrank, the ‘cancer’ would continue to hoard the remaining resources and starve the rest of the ‘body’.

I also had the fear of two other groups that might contend to take over the party:  one, the small but elitist group marching under the slogan “Fiscally conservative, socially liberal” [one could possibly argue that they, in Western and Northeastern States, Read the rest of this entry »

The Real Reason I Liked the Insurance Mandate May 25, 2018 No Comments

I have often clashed with my conservative friends as to why I liked the insurance mandate of Obamacare [alas, it went away early this year].  For one thing, how is it different from the Social Security Tax, except it gives you more of a choice of providers.  Medicare is funded by a mandated tax, isn’t it?

But one of my motives, to be candid, may be just a little bit nativist.  Our emergency rooms here in California are swamped with poor immigrants who have no other alternative and go there whenever they catch a cold.  Some of them are probably ‘undocumented’.  To be perfectly candid, I would like to see an insurance mandate so broad it would apply to them, including the undocumented – especially the undocumented!  And the State of California should say to them, as it supposedly does now about drivers’ licenses and liability insurance.  “Get a drivers license if you drive, buy drivers liability insurance and medical insurance, or we will turn you over to the federal arm – the INS!  If you comply with what we ask, ‘sanctuary cities’ will apply to you.

In general, I am not one for bashing immigrants, including ‘undocumented’ ones, but I would hold up to them Jeremiah 29:7; “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  I’d say, be willing to do that, or leave.

Unease about Self-Driving Cars April 3, 2018 No Comments

Just recently, Arizona [a more progressive state than California, in the non-political sense] experienced its first pedestrian death at the hands [pardon the expression] of a driverless car.   My unease was thereby justified.  Computers and machines, for all their ‘artificial intelligence’, are not very bright.  And specifically they do not have, and never will have, what we call Read the rest of this entry »

The Theonomization of Anabaptism March 23, 2018 No Comments

At the time of the Reformation, certain groups emerged which said that one ought to be baptized again [despite one’s infant baptism] when one came to conscious faith in Christ.  Therefore, they were called Anabaptists, which means ‘again-baptizers’.  But they went further than that.  Trying to extract from the penumbras of Jesus’ own sayings and the apparent practices of the early church, they became ‘radical Christians’.  After the cult of John of Leyden was forcibly suppressed at Muenster, Westphalia, the Anabaptists became apolitical and tried to avoid military service and participation in government.

[One group of English Christians adopted the doctrine that baptism should be administered to people of conscious faith, without adopting the rest of the Anabaptist cultural package; they became Read the rest of this entry »

Keep Health Workers in Line March 13, 2018 No Comments

Here is an article about the misbehavior of employees at a residential-care facility.  The elderly residents are not the problem.  The sort of people who work there, however, seem to be not well-behaved.  The residents should work with the company to see that the employees turn off, or down, their loud radios as they drive into the neighborhood [I trust they don’t play loud music in front of the actual patients!], drop their cigarette butts into the trash can and keep the trash can covered, and don’t do activities that involve leaking oil onto the sidewalk or the street.  If these neighbors are the sort that have time on their hands, they can go out and police the situation themselves, as they should.  If they go out in groups of two or more, they can intimidate any health worker who won’t turn down his radio.  They could also visit the home and build relationships with the patients, if they know how to do that [communicating with the Alzheimer’s types is a skill].  If they are the sort that commute over the hill and don’t have any free time [and aren’t at home much!] they might still find something to do.  I can’t help seeing this not so much as a land-use issue as a behavioral issue.  The neighbors should be supportive, while insisting that the employees conduct themselves in a way appropriate to such a neighborhood.

Some of these comments hint that the companies running these homes are profiteers doing it on the cheap. Read the rest of this entry »

Two Dilemmas Urbanists and Housing Advocates have to Face March 6, 2018 No Comments

First, we often have two inconsistent objectives.  The first is good housing for all and ownership for many. The second is that home ownership should be a ‘wealth builder’ for those who achieve it.  You can’t have it both ways.  What makes home ownership a ‘wealth builder’ is a relative scarcity of land for housing.  Housing is expensive now because it is not abundant.  And I will concede to the single-family home advocates that we need ‘both-and’.  We need densification in a lot of spots, and we also need to eliminate most ‘growth boundaries’ [though certain special landscapes should be preserved].  There are a lot of good reasons why people aspire to home ownership other than it being a ‘wealth builder’. Read the rest of this entry »

A Letter about ‘Freedom’ and Christianity March 3, 2018 No Comments

I have wrestled with the tensions between Christianity and ‘freedom’; and they have been a major part of my thinking, at times even an obsession.  So I think it’s time that I told my whole story and thinking about this issue.

An important event in my life, five years before my conversion, was being whipsawed between Occidental and Menninger’s.  I reached the conclusion that ‘freedom’ is the right to act against your own best interests, provided what you want to do is not wrong for other reasons.  The authority that Menninger’s claimed was most like that of parents over minor children.  It was justified [as I figured out] by the chain of reasoning:  (a) you do not have the right to act contrary to your own best interest, and (b) we are the infallible definers of what that is.  Later I realized that part (b) was actually more questionable than part (a).  The authority of parents over children is often defended on these technocratic grounds, but the Bible merely says a more modest, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is the will of God concerning you.”  And on technocratic grounds, there is always the danger of official psychologists claiming that they can define the child’s good more infallibly than the parents!

I made the decision to believe in Jesus Christ and His Resurrection and His status as God the Son [note that there is a heresy called Arianism that believes He is the Son OF God, but not God the Son] on April 6, 1973, on my way to a Lake Avenue Church retreat.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Tastes of our Southern Neighbors, and our Housing Issues February 3, 2018 No Comments

Instead of Berbers, ‘Arabs’, Turks, and other Muslim groups, we have to our south Mexico.  Maybe we could consider ourselves relatively fortunate because of this.  The best book in English on Mexican culture in recent times that I know of is Mañana Forever? by Jorge Castañeda.  In the last part of his first chapter, he has a subsection called “Housing the Family and Clinging to the Land.”  Mexico City, he declares, is contrasted with Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo because Read the rest of this entry »

My Cartesian Moment: How I Got Repoliticized December 19, 2017 3 Comments

After I became a Christian in 1973, I lost interest in politics for a while.  Partly, I was learning about new dimensions of reality above and below the earthly that were fascinating.  But also, the view that I was getting from the classical Protestant world at the time, through Bill Gothard, Wycliffe Bible Translators, and such, was one that did not inspire interest.  It must be remembered that large parts of Classical Protestantism are heavily oriented to world missions, and in that day mission tended to be oriented to what I call Great Commission Utilitarianism:  get people saved and discipled, and everything else will take care of itself.  Wycliffe’s and SIL International’s view of politics was that every prevailing form of government, from democratic to kleptocratic, was ordained by God and was to be obeyed when it did not command us to sin.  [I still think, reluctantly, given my rebellious nature, that this is true.]  This is a view that has little in common with today’s Religious Right or Religious Left.

As I might have said before, it was the attack on the Santa Ana Rescue Mission in the late 1970s that awoke me to politics again.  It was declared to be ‘blight’ and to be removed from the city.  As Descartes doubted everything but could not doubt that he doubted, I could not doubt that I thought the city government should not, in a just and democratic society, have the right to do that.  And I sort of rebuilt my political convictions from there.  Among them:

1. Justice sometimes requires the limitation of government authority, over property and other things.  As I would put it now, freedom may not be the first Christian value, but it is hard to have justice without a measure of freedom.

2. ‘Big Government’ must be opposed at the local level and not merely in Sacramento and Washington DC.  ‘Local Control’ is a lesser evil, but only because you don’t have to run as far to escape.

3. The interests of the ‘common good’, or at least what gets defined as the ‘common good’, are not always in sync with the interests of those people in whom Jesus took a special interest:  the poor, the crippled, the excluded and marginalized [the tax collectors weren’t poor].  In fact, I’m not sure that Jesus was seen as ministering to the ‘common good’!

This puts me at odds with a lot of political philosophy on the right and on the left.

Time to Stop Using Political Terminology for Theological and Moral Views December 11, 2017 No Comments

Some portions of the American church, it is asserted, have gotten much more politicized in recent years.  It is at the point where many want to ditch the word ‘evangelical’, because ‘evangelical’ is seen by the public as a political category.  I think we need to do more than that.  I think it is time to stop using terms like ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’, ‘left’ and ‘right’, and even ‘progressive’ to refer to theological and moral views.  They are properly terms referring to political philosophy; how much we need to trust existing institutions versus replacing them hastily, and what classes in society should dominate the political world.  It was a mistake, I think, to talk about Read the rest of this entry »

Reno vs. Sirico: A Debate on Economic Justice November 22, 2017 No Comments

I rarely link to videos, much less watch them myself.  But this one I actually did.  It contains a debate between two scholars on economic justice, both of them, interestingly enough, identified as ‘conservative’.  They are Rusty Reno, editor of First Things magazine, and Robert Sirico, ordained priest and head of the social justice think tank Acton Institute.  They are both Roman Catholic, and the debate was hosted by a Classical Protestant college, King’s College, NYC.  I remember when, back in 1960, the idea of a Classical Protestant college sponsoring a debate between two Catholic scholars could not even be imagined!  [Yes.  I’m of a certain age.]  Plus, my organization Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Draper’s Latest ‘Three Californias’ Plan is not Acceptable November 3, 2017 No Comments

Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley tycoon who gave us the ‘Six Californias’ plan a couple of years ago, has come up now with a ‘Three Californias’ plan.  It is not acceptable in its current form.

The main point of dividing the state was to relieve the far northern and Gold Country counties of the burden of Bay Area rule.  [Actually, as much of the state as possible from Bay Area rule.]  This Three Californias plan does not do that.  The western state in this plan stops just north of Monterey and Salinas.  If it were expanded to include all of ‘Silicon Valley’ from the Six State plan, plus Marin County, it might have a degree of sanity.  There is a case for including Napa and Sonoma counties in the western state – it depends on whether those two counties identify more with the Bay Area or with the cannabis belt to the north.  I might even try to put Solano and Yolo counties in Coastal California, to take in the leftist enclave around Davis. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Didn’t Harvey Weinstein Get His Face Slapped? October 31, 2017 No Comments

My wife’s grandmother, who grew up around the turn of the last century, would tell my wife, “Never be afraid to slap ‘em and walk home” in reference to predatory young men.  And evidently such men have existed for a long time.  In old movies, before about 1960 or so, you often see a woman slap the face of a predatory or even ‘fresh’ male and then bustle out of the room.  It was still part of the culture in my childhood.  Women today do not seem to think themselves empowered to do this.  They need the protection of some kind of authority.  Did something happen? Read the rest of this entry »

The Deals October 29, 2017 No Comments

There has been some unhappiness among the ‘base’ about President Trump’s recent agreement which might mean the continuation of Obama’s order protecting the Dreamers, those who were undocumented immigrants as children.  Excuse me. Mr. Trump was known for writing a book called The Art of the Deal. What exactly did you expect?

The vice presidency of Mike Pence, and the seat on the Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch, was a deal he made with the weakening but not yet impotent Religious Right.  [I still say weakening, because if the Religious Right were really as strong as we used to think it was, Trump would not have won the Republican nomination.]  I do not think it was a matter of conviction.  I don’t know as he has any.  Currently he is still going along with efforts to restrict abortion, but I doubt that is because of any conviction other than ‘he needs those people’.

The homosexualists [I use this word to distinguish activists from the LGBT population as a whole] seem to fear him, but he had already launched his presidential campaign ten days before Obergefell came down, and the silence from him about it was deafening.  If I were a practicing gay, I would have no sleepless nights about him.

I think he does probably share, like most of the Republican donorate, a desire to cut certain taxes:  the corporate [which should be cut, though at the same time certain outrageous loopholes should be eliminated] and the top individual rate [which probably shouldn’t be cut].  I certainly don’t expect a balanced budget on his watch.

Drawing Lines: The Fences of the Church September 6, 2017 No Comments

The modern Church tries to be open to as many as possible, in order that as many as possible might hear the Gospel.  Jim Belcher has written about a model of the Church not as a fenced enclosure but as a waterhole in the desert.  But you have to do something when the barbarian hordes on horses come over the horizon.  I believe there are two ‘fences’ that are necessary within the church.  One is around the Communion Table.  No Reformed person really dissents from this one.  We have an announcement each week that while all are welcome in the service, the Table is for believers, not searchers.  That is Biblical and supported by Paul in First Corinthians.

The second is a little more pragmatic; there is an argument for a ‘fence’ around those activities and small groups of the Church that include Read the rest of this entry »

Did the New Testament Prophesy Islam? August 16, 2017 No Comments

Muslims sometimes claim that the coming of Muhammad is prophesied in John 14 under the name of the Helper.  I doubt this; there is not a lot of similarity between the actual work of Muhammad and how the Helper is described here, so I must contend that the Helper is Read the rest of this entry »

Did Jesus Give Us Our Individualism? July 27, 2017 No Comments

Patrick Deneen has warned that modern ‘liberalism’, which includes American style conservatism, has stressed the individual and dominion over nature so much as to weaken community.  In trying to liberate the individual, the state, and for conservatives the market, expand to protect us from the arational [as Fukuyama calls them] spheres of authority, which is to say, religion, social communities, neighborhoods, and the family.  So all we have left is the state and the individual.

I agree that individualism has gotten out of hand in Read the rest of this entry »

‘Faith’ vs ‘Relationship’ No Comments

Christians have traditionally spoken of ‘faith’ as the means of taking hold of the salvation of Christ. Roman Catholics have tended to speak of ‘faith plus works combined’, but at their best they don’t regard salvation as a matter of ‘earned success’ but simply want to stress that the faith that justifies leads to works. But in the last 40 years it has become the trend to speak not of our ‘faith in Christ’, but our ‘relationship with Christ’ as the shibboleth and marker of our salvation and true Christian status. Maybe there was some back room at the Lausanne Conference of 1974 where this decision was made. I’m not sure that anything was gained by it.

Do we as Christians have a ‘relationship’ with Christ? Read the rest of this entry »

Why There Are So Many Single Occupant Bathrooms Nowadays July 11, 2017 No Comments

A California law went into effect saying that single occupant bathrooms need to be mixed gender.  Now in my office we have two of those upstairs and two multi-occupant bathrooms [with showers] downstairs.   Changing the downstairs bathrooms to mixed gender would create a cultural earthquake in our office and make almost everyone very uncomfortable, but I have no real problem with the upstairs ones.  The women might, because they might think men make a mess of things [if you know what I mean] and they are welcome to organize a protest if they like.  Besides, I think a protest for traditional gender roles will, like claims of sexual harassment, be more effective if it’s led by women.

But why are there so many single occupant bathrooms nowadays in the first place?  Why so many where you open the door and the ‘throne’ is in the open space?  Well, that goes back to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a time when no one had ever heard of transgender or cisgender or anything like that.  [Actually that was not quite true:  We had Christine Jorgensen and Jan Morris, but they did not insist on our accepting them as female until after they had been ‘fixed.’  The idea that we should accept your gender of choice prior to being ‘fixed’ is a very new one.]

Anyhow, in the days before the Americans with Disabilities Act, a smaller bathroom often consisted of an enclosure containing one toilet and a larger space outside with the urinal, the sink, etc.  [I cannot speak to ladies’ rooms except that the urinals were lacking, so I don’t know how this story affects them.]  Well, what the Americans with Disabilities Act decreed, in 1990, was that at least one of the toilet enclosures in any bathroom needed to be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, and where there was only one such enclosure, it needed to be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.  Quite a few smaller bathrooms were too small to accommodate expanding the toilet enclosure to the required size.  So the toilet fence, in compliance with the law, came down altogether, and the ‘throne’ sat openly in the middle of the room.  Since most of us don’t like to use the bathroom when someone is on the ‘throne’ in the same space, these bathrooms became the single occupant bathrooms we know today.  And, they just happened to be a lot easier to make gender neutral than the other bathrooms.

On Feeling Guilty for Ordering Stuff Online June 16, 2017 No Comments

I like ordering things online and not having to hunt for them in stores.  And sometimes the alternative is being eliminated.  Just like paying cash or taking public transit, live stores, especially bookstores, are disappearing.  There is only one major bookstore chain left:  Barnes and Noble.  And yes you have to have an Account, and a Username and a Password, which only makes me want to deal with fewer sellers because I would have to have a new account for every place I bought from, even if only buying one book or piece of clothing.  When they make phones with slots Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus Did Not Teach Universal ‘Acceptance, Tolerance, and Inclusion’ June 14, 2017 No Comments

We are often told today that Jesus taught radical ‘acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion’.  Well, he did open the door to many the Pharisees thought beyond hope, and on the other hand he excluded many of the Pharisees themselves.

Let’s start with the Sermon on the Mount.  In it he excludes:

Those whose righteousness is not “better than the righteousness of the teachers of the religious law and the Pharisees.” (Matthew 5:20)

“Those who call people idiots or curse them.” (Matthew 5:22)

“Those who do not gouge out their eyes or slice off their hands if these body parts are leading them to sin or lust.” (Matthew 5:27-30) Read the rest of this entry »

How do I Stack Up for the Summer? June 9, 2017 No Comments

Given that it will probably be summer before this month of June is over, Georgea Kovanis from the Detroit Free Press has published a list of things that men ought not to wear if we want dates.  Of course I’ve been married for 30 years and my wife is pleased with any date she can get with me, but how do I measure up to Ms. Kovanis’ standards?

The first on her list is cargo shorts.  I think I may still have a few of those.  But I have so much stuff to carry with me that my wife decided to get me a purse, rendering cargo shorts unnecessary for me.  There are certain things that I’ve learned the hard way to take out of the purse if I’m going to park at the beach, but the purse works quite well.

I wonder, however, whether she has an opinion about Read the rest of this entry »

Why I’m Not Ultimately a Pessimist May 1, 2017 No Comments

These are strange times indeed.  The traditional ‘fusion-conservatism’ has been shattered, to be replaced by a form of nationalism that in some forms seems to lean in the unfortunate direction of white nationalism. Some of the old social conservatives have taken to looking to Putin’s Russia, of all places, as their beacon of hope.  This is, frankly, a little too much for me.

There are two things that I lean on that keep me from being a total pessimist.  One is from the book of Isaiah.  In Isaiah 10:20-22, the prophet declares,

In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy one of Israel, in truth.  A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.  For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return.

In fact, we find out in Isaiah 7:3 that the prophet has named one of his sons Shear-jashub, Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Classical Protestant. What’s ‘Solidarity’? April 8, 2017 1 Comment

Since the age of 23, I have been a believing orthodox Protestant Christian.  I was recently reading the latest book by R. R. Reno, Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society.  This book seems in many ways to go deeper than the other recent wave of books – The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, Out of the Ashes by Anthony Esolen, and Strangers in a Strange Land by Bishop Charles Chaput.  But Reno, and many Catholic writers, refer to something called ‘solidarity’ and I am having trouble figuring out what it is.

On the one hand, it might be the same thing, or similar to, the virtue of loyalty, one of those highlighted by Jonathan Haidt in the masterwork The Righteous Mind that is a value of cultural conservatives but not of cultural liberals.  On the other, it may be linked to identity, which seems to be of greater value to cultural liberals than Read the rest of this entry »

Suggestions for the Democratic Party, Part 2:  The Housing Issue March 29, 2017 1 Comment

I just put out a post on the weaknesses and inconsistencies of the Democratic Party, and then realized that I had omitted one issue that is close to our heart here at Blue Kennel.  I refer to, of course, the issue of housing.  Jed Kolko and Derek Thompson discovered that the housing crunch was most severe in metropolitan divisions that voted Democratic.  The outlier among expensive metropolitan divisions was Orange County; and Orange County was narrowly captured by the Democratic presidential candidate last year for the first time since 1936.  The least expensive Democratic area was Read the rest of this entry »

Several Suggestions for the Democratic Party of California No Comments

The Democratic Party of California has reason for complacency.  It is the only state level political party of significance.  It unites the majority communities of color with the creative class portion of the still powerful non-Hispanic white minority.  The tensions in this should be obvious, and I admit that I pounce with great Schadenfreude on any and every sign of the inevitable tension between the East LA Democrats and the Hollywood–Silicon Valley Democrats.  Their priorities are so different that it is some kind of a miracle Read the rest of this entry »

California’s Trump-like Moment, 22 Years Before Trump: The Adventures of Pete Wilson March 22, 2017 No Comments

The United States on the whole has seen a rather sudden pivot, or so it seemed, of ‘conservatism’ from a coalition of religious or moral conservatives, economic conservatives [the latter were split into ever lower taxes fiscal ‘conservatives’, and deficit hawk ‘moderates’, the latter being pretty much run out of the party after Reagan], and foreign policy hawks.  What it shifted to was a sort of protectionism and white identity that was mainly directed at recent immigrants and not so much at long-standing groups like blacks, Jews, and others.  Michael Lind, once again, announced this in 2014.  And we also know how closely the new Republican model resembles the models that have come from Europe, far more than they resemble anything that we have called ‘conservatism’ in the past.

But did California, now regarded as a Democratic state, lead the way in this shift?  And is that part of the reason it is now a Democratic state? Read the rest of this entry »

If It’s Within the Law, Why Should There Be Hearings? March 16, 2017 No Comments

David Zahnizer, at the Los Angeles Times, has given us an article on the problems with the City of Los Angeles’ community plans, one of the major ones being that they are not finished yet.  This is helping to create the demand for Proposition S, which I oppose, because a lot of the buildings where ‘permission’ is granted are exceptions to the ‘rules’.  Part of the problem is that in our current environment elected officials gain by the fact that most projects are ‘exceptions’ to the ‘rules’, because that way they exercise discretion and get contributions from developers.  The goal of community plans is supposed to be to write the ‘rules’ so everything we want is within them.  This is called ‘by right’, and seems to be exceedingly unpopular with all concerned.  One project in Granada Hills Read the rest of this entry »

Manhattan Beach Tries to Find Itself February 27, 2017 No Comments

In California Development Report I recently saw a story [unfortunately inaccessible to those without an account], about Manhattan Beach and the regulations it was putting in place to define itself.  Manhattan Beach is at one and the same time a beach community, and therefore visited by all kinds of people, and an affluent suburb.  According to the article, it is defining itself the opposite of its East Coast namesake.

One of the big problems seems to have to do with rowdy and noisy dance parties taking place on the second floor of restaurants.  Now I don’t know Manhattan Beach that well and I don’t know how close these are to residential areas, but their solution Read the rest of this entry »

How Employers Impose Their Own ‘Growth Boundaries’ February 10, 2017 No Comments

There has been a lot of publicity about how the imposition of ‘growth boundaries’ on metropolitan areas often succeeds mainly in driving up the price of land within the boundaries.  But companies and employers often impose their own ‘growth boundaries’ by where they choose to locate, or not locate.  A person with a car will be unlikely, for example, to drive to a job more than two hours away – many will avoid driving more than one hour!  A person without a car either depends on the punctuality and reliability of their transit system, or if that is not an option, is limited in job choices to a six mile radius, if that.  [That’s rather arbitrary.  I don’t think we need to have affordable housing absolutely everywhere, but I think we need to have it within six miles of everywhere.  There are a few location, like coastlines and view lots, that will never get that affordable no matter how much we build.]  And in today’s economy, people [other than very young adults] probably change jobs more often than they do residences.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, ‘edge cities’, which were usually not urbanist, or only minimally so, sprouted outside many of our cities.  The granddaddy of them all was, of course, Read the rest of this entry »

Is it Time for Northern Country Music? December 13, 2016 No Comments

A few years ago I did a post on how country music seemed to have a Southern bias.  Well, Donald Federikovich Trump owes his victory to the northern counterpart of rednecks, whatever they are called, that won him the states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, which, as I said before, were last carried by a Republican in the last year that California was carried by a Republican, and, most notably, Wisconsin, which was not even carried by the Republican in that year of 1988.  So, now more than ever, it’s time for the North to get equal time in country music!  Fargo accents, baseball caps, snowmobiles, ice fishing, Scandinavian jokes, Garrison Keillor material, and Paul Bunyan now deserve to get equal space with Southern drawls, cowboys [actually a lot of cowboys are pretty far north], stock car racing, beach parties on the Gulf or in the Caribbean, etc., etc. Country music has pretty much gotten rid of the Confederate flag, but doing without it is all the more important now.  For many of these Northern working-class folks, if they were not post-Civil-War immigrants from countries bordering on the Baltic, are descended from people who marched through Georgia with Sherman.  No more should Bob Dylan, a Jewish boy from the Iron Range of northern Minnesota, have to imitate the Okie, Woody Guthrie!  [A word to the younger generations:  Dylan’s generation, and mine, are not particularly obsessed with ‘authenticity’, the way Generations X and Millennial are.]

On another point, I’ve found out that several young country stars, Kip Moore, Gary Allan, and Jake Moore are passionate surfers.  I always suspected that the Beach Boys, if they appeared today, would be classified as ‘country’.

Michael Lind:  Can You Restrict Immigration Without Alienating Recent Immigrants? December 6, 2016 No Comments

Michael Lind is one of the most perceptive political and social observers of our time.  He ‘scooped’ the Trump revolution, as I have said, before Trump even declared himself a candidate.  And he has continued to be as perceptive.

But where does Lind stand on immigration? Read the rest of this entry »

Opportunities for Positive Testimony October 24, 2016 2 Comments

The candidacy of Donald Trump, and his takeover of the Republican Party, has split the American evangelical world and is, I think, purging it.  But it is creating opportunities for positive testimony as well.  The Daily Beast, far from a religious right site, posted recently a story about the Christians of the ironically named town of Liberal, Kansas.  When it turned out that three people from their town had plotted to blow up a mosque in nearby Garden City, most of the Christians of Liberal were distressed.  The pastors affirmed that America is a land of religious liberty and that they hoped to see these Muslims come to Jesus, not kill them or interfere with their religious liberty until they did so.  And, as for the Somalis settled in their town, the Christians believed in responding with kindness to the strangers among them. Read the rest of this entry »

An Addendum to the Manifesto: My Youth as a Deficit Hawk – Howard Ahmanson October 17, 2016 No Comments

It occurred to me that during the first period in my life that I was a conservative, which was in my youth, I was motivated mainly by deficit hawkery.  I was ten in the year that Nixon ran against Kennedy, and I read somewhere in the paper that Nixon and the Republicans favored sound money, and Democrats favored deficits.  So I was leaning Republican for that reason.  When Kennedy came out with his tax cuts, I was very worried.  Republicans tended to oppose the tax cuts.  Many Republicans were also opposed to the effort to reach Read the rest of this entry »

A Manifesto:  Important Events That Shaped My Political Views – Howard Ahmanson October 10, 2016 1 Comment

As I reflect upon the beginnings of my present political views, I believe that three specific events shaped my way of thinking.

  1. The first was my conversion to Christianity.
  2. The second was my introduction to ‘Reconstructionism’ and my subsequent move beyond it.
  3. The third was my exposure to the writings of Francis Fukuyama.

As a child, I attended Sunday School and parochial school, and I learned a lot of the flow of Biblical history.  I also learned lots of Bible stories, and that Jesus cared particularly for the poor and the hurting.  But I do not call this experience ‘Christian’, because no one taught me why I should believe that Jesus was Read the rest of this entry »

The ‘Single Family or Bust’ People Will Probably Leave Southern California, No Matter What Land Use Policy We Now Follow September 15, 2016 No Comments

A lot of people, especially families with children, would prefer a single-family home.  Of course they would, and I’m not going to find fault with that lifestyle as long as it’s not forced on everyone.  Perhaps they should be required to pay the full cost of maintaining the costly infrastructure it takes to maintain single-family areas, but that’s another issue.  There are two reasons why a family with children might accept something else:

  1. They simply cannot afford a single-family home and can afford a condominium or apartment.  A lot of incomes are rather low nowadays, especially in relation to the cost of housing.
  2. They may desire to live in a less expensive place now, in order to be able to save up to buy a McMansion for three or four generations at a future time.  This is also legitimate.

So there is nothing wrong with wanting to build more single-family homes, in addition to other types.  But there is one catch:  In order to increase the housing stock appreciably, single-family homes have to be built on greenfields or at least semi-greenfields.  I suppose that you could allow dwellers on five-acre lots to break up their lots and put 19 new homes where you once had one, but I’m not sure how happy they’d be with that. Read the rest of this entry »

The Religious Right Failed to See What Was Coming August 29, 2016 No Comments

We have repeated Francis Schaeffer’s warning about ‘personal peace and affluence’ often at Blue Kennel, but it’s time to do it again.  He declared, back about 1970, that the ‘Silent Majority’, a term Nixon had begun to use, was composed of two parts; a minority within the Silent Majority that was either Christian or had a strong Christian memory, and a majority of the Silent Majority which had only two ultimate values, which he called affluence and personal peace.  [‘Personal peace’ has nothing to do with pacifism, but it is connected, I think, to  the ‘freedom from speech’ and other ‘freedom from’ movements of our day.]  And if freedom or justice conflicted with these values, freedom and justice would have to take a back seat.

Many Christians, especially large parts of the ‘religious right’ which emerged at the end of the 1970s, failed to heed this warning.  One can argue that Schaeffer himself, Read the rest of this entry »

Do We Have Something to Offer Working Class Whites? An Open Letter to the CCDA Leadership August 23, 2016 No Comments

In the last couple of years there have been a number of stories about an increase in the death rate of working class whites that has not been paralleled among their African American and Latino counterparts.  At the same time, even the Pentecostals and Catholics now are losing their grip on the white working class.  Four sociologists, W. Bradford Wilcox, Andrew J. Cherlin, Jeremy E. Uecker, and Matthew Messel, issued a paper provocatively entitled “No Money, No Honey, No Church” back in 2012, explaining that the white evangelical church was increasingly affluent and that the white working class was losing faith in it; while the church plays a different role in black and Latino cultures.  [Wilcox is in fact a Christian in a tenured post at the secular University of Virginia.]

Ross Douthat and even more Rod Dreher have commented that the white spiritual problem is that they “do not know how to suffer successfully.”  The traditions of the black and Latino churches Read the rest of this entry »

Authoritarianism is a Hot Subject Nowadays July 22, 2016 No Comments

There is a lot of intellectual fuss about ‘authoritarianism’ nowadays, because of the rise of Donald Trump and what appears to be the overthrow of traditional ‘fusion’ conservatism.  A long essay by Amanda Taub in “Vox” is the most thorough discussion of this phenomenon that I have found.  In it she quotes a vast number of personalities like Matthew MacWilliams, Marc Hetherington, Jonathan Weiler, Karen Skinner, Stanley Feldman, Elizabeth Suhay, and Kyle Dropp.  And, this is an old subject; such as Theodore Adorno of the Frankfurt School [which became the New York School for Social Research] were concerned about this right after World War II, for obvious reasons – why had the Germans allowed this to happen?

I will not attempt to summarize all of these people here.  But I will go to a starting point – Stanley Feldman’s ‘four questions’ about child rearing where he claims that certain answers are the mark of an ‘authoritarian personality’.  And I will try to evaluate these questions in Christian terms, an uncomfortable exercise, because by the standards of our culture today, I will concede that Christianity has ‘authoritarian’ leanings.  After all, was not the original sin Eve’s substituting her ‘reasoned judgment’ for what the God in Charge said about the ‘apple’?   Read the rest of this entry »

The Adams Map: A Different Spectrum, A Challenge – Part 2 June 28, 2016 No Comments

It occurs to me that Adams anticipates Trump.  However, when I wrote this I thought the people on the lower left corner weren’t going to turn out to vote.  Therefore the culture wars between the upper left and lower right were going to continue.  I may have been wrong.

Richard Nixon: A Precedent for Donald Trump? June 12, 2016 No Comments

It occurred to me that a possible precedent for Donald Trump might be none other than Richard Nixon.  Now I think that Nixon was a far more intelligent man than Trump, and, for all his sins, a person of superior moral character to Trump.  [Nixon’s most serious moral failing was deciding to cover up the Watergate break-in after he found out about it, and perhaps creating a climate of paranoia in which break-ins like that could happen].  In this case, democracy worked.  As I said in “Andrew Sullivan on Trump”, dangers of authoritarian dictatorship are not rare in this country, but the White House is the least likely place for Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew Sullivan on Trump and Tyranny: A Response June 1, 2016 No Comments

Andrew Sullivan, having retired from blogging and writing after first giving us the idea of same sex marriage and then being lambasted by his followers for wanting to be tolerant to their enemies who lost over that particular issue, has returned to the public square, inspired by Donald Trump.  His long essay in New York magazine recently was entitled the rather inflammatory “America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny.”  In it he shows his familiarity with both the Republic by Plato and The True Believer by Eric Hoffer.  I have read Hoffer, but I have not read Plato in the original.  [If I were doing my college years over again, I’d do something like St. John’s or Thomas Aquinas.]  Anyhow, Sullivan sums up Plato’s ideas of late democracy thus:

And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become.  Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread.  Deference to any sort of authority would wither; tolerance of any kind of inequality would come under intense threat; and multiculturalism and sexual freedom would create a city or a country like “a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.”

This rainbow-flag polity, Plato argues, is, for many people, the fairest of regimes…… But it is inherently Read the rest of this entry »

Asset Forfeiture – Again May 21, 2016 2 Comments

As a result of a conversation I recently had with an Assemblyman, I’ve decided to clarify my view on Asset Forfeiture.  When a person is arrested on drug charges, or whatever other charges trigger these things, I don’t mind if the assets are ‘frozen’ or held in a sort of escrow pending the results of the trial.  We do the same with people; we hold them in jail awaiting trial unless a suitable bail is posted.  But when the person is found innocent, all the frozen assets revert back to him.  The point is that the holding of the assets should remain under the criminal law, with all the civil rights pertaining thereto; it should not be a separate case under civil law, where our Constitutional civil rights, as I have pointed out, are not as strong.

And a Third Legal System: the Laws of War May 19, 2016 1 Comment

Andrew Rosenthal, in the New York Times here and here writes about the pressure to treat Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, [who I can’t resist calling ‘The Joker’] not as a criminal but as an ‘enemy combatant’, largely because that pesky Bill of Rights would not apply if he were not a criminal.  I thought the Geneva Convention did.  Oh well.  That was what that Guantanamo thing, the waterboarding, and all that was supposed to be about. McVeigh, of the Oklahoma bombings of 1995, or Jared Lee Loughner, the attempted killer of Gabriel Giffords, and James Holmes, the movie theater killer of Aurora, Colorado, were all tried under criminal law.  Rosenthal is quite right that Muslim criminals and such need to be tried under the same law as everybody else.  I would qualify this in one way, however.  I would not object to confidential surveillance of Muslim mosques.  This does not justify open discrimination against their religion in land use law or anything else!  If a lot of terrorists and criminals emerged out of the networks of my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, I would expect the government to be confidentially watching it too!

Mental Health and ‘Punishment’ versus ‘Treatment’ May 16, 2016 No Comments

If you think about it, we also have two parallel prison systems, one under criminal law, the other under civil law.  We worry a lot about ‘incarceration’ and the ‘mental health’ of prisoners.  Yes we have too many people in prison, even under the criminal law.  But we have two systems of incarceration, a criminal one and a civil one!  The civil one, of course, is ‘insanity’ or ‘mental health’.  After a period in which the second was abused, drastic reforms were made in the ‘70s that may have gone too far and given us some of our homeless problem. They blame Reagan, but at the time many on the left were supportive of these reforms as well.  But the civil track still exists.  In fact, some sex offenders in the ‘criminally insane’ institutions come to the end of their criminal sentence, and are handed over to the civil arm, and stay in the same institution!

There seems to be a distinction in the status of prisoners and mental patients.  Criminal prisoners have very few ‘rights’, to be sure, only ‘privileges’, but they may access attorneys and are regarded as adults being punished.  Mental patients are legally something like underage children; their ‘will’ or ‘choice’ has no rights, only their best interest as defined by their guardian.  And their return to adulthood is defined, Read the rest of this entry »

Asset Forfeiture May 12, 2016 No Comments

Many organizations, from Institute for Justice to Reason and Cato, have crusaded for the elimination or limiting of the practice of asset forfeiture.  Property can be confiscated for crimes where one has not been found guilty.  The reason is, as I have declared in a previous post, that there is a great difference between our rights against American government under civil law, and those at criminal law.  In particular,

“nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

The provision against being required to be a witness against oneself applies only to criminal law.

Asset forfeiture is considered to be a civil case between you and the government, not a crime; more, I suppose, like taxes.  To convict you of a drug crime the government has to prove something; but in a civil case between you and the government the statutory law can make whatever rules it likes, including making an administrative agency that is not really a ‘court’ the determiner of fact, and any dispute about that becomes an ‘appeal’.  This is not the case at criminal law.  The police can ‘charge’ you with a crime, but pleading not guilty is not an ‘appeal’.  If government can turn it into a civil case between it and yourself, as with political fines and many other such situations, the equivalent of pleading not guilty is an ‘appeal’, because at civil law the administrator does not merely ‘charge’ as the police do, but rules, and the burden of proof is to disprove this rule.

The Parallel Structures of Criminal and Civil Law, and the Hole in the Bill of Rights May 11, 2016 No Comments

American criminal law, first on the federal level, and later, when the Supreme Court started to apply the Bill of Rights to the states in the 20th century [and at local level as well], has some restrictions on the government in the Fifth and other amendments as to how it can deal with people accused of crimes.  Increasingly, however, governments have found ways to bypass these restrictions by moving to the area of civil and administrative law, where most of these restrictions do not apply.

The Bill of Rights, or for that matter the Constitution, never contains the words ‘innocent until proven guilty’ or ‘presumption of innocence’, but nevertheless presumption of innocence is an important part of our freedom from injustice.  It is limited, it turns out, in two ways:

  1. It applies only to criminal law.  The government has to prove you committed a crime.  It doesn’t have to prove you committed an act which makes you liable for a ‘civil’ fine, just as it doesn’t have to prove you owe the amount of taxes it claims.  If you are charged with criminal tax fraud, you have to prove that you don’t owe them what they claim, but they have to prove that your intent was criminal.
  2. If you claim innocence, not because you did not do what they say you did, but that the regulation or order, or law, prohibiting it or requiring it was invalid or not properly authorized by Constitution or statute, the law or regulation or order, not you, becomes ‘innocent until proven guilty’.  Presumption of innocence is confined to matters of fact, not law.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dictator’s Ex-Wife Finds a New, Younger Love April 10, 2016 No Comments

Dictators ain’t what they used to be, if they can’t put a stop to this!

Trump and Sanders: Where You’ve Seen Them Before March 27, 2016 No Comments

The rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is kind of a shock to the American system.  But a European would know exactly, in my opinion, where they fit in.  Trump is not at all a conservative according to the American model of ‘fusion’ conservatism.  But he does correspond to what Europeans call the ‘right.’  Le Pen, Joerg Haider, BNP, UKIP, and other such native [often anti European Union] parties do not advocate trimming the welfare state, imposing moral conservatism, or going on military adventures in other parts of the world.  As for Trump’s antics, there’s Italy’s Berlusconi and his ‘bunga bunga’ for a model.  Bernie Sanders, also, is not a ‘socialist’ in terms of government ownership of all property.  He is a social democrat of a classic European type.  Anyhow, it looks like American ‘exceptionalism’ is getting a little less exceptional.  And, come to think of it, both Trump and Sanders seem to be most popular among Americans of European descent; the growing number of Americans of non-European descent seem to have little interest in either of them!  But, once again, I will remind you of what Francis Schaeffer told us almost fifty years ago when Nixon coined the term ‘Silent Majority’.  He told us that a minority within the Silent Majority were either Christian or had a strong Christian memory; but that the majority of the Silent Majority had only the two ultimate values of personal peace and affluence.  Thus, the real ‘moral majority’ was a minority, not only of America as a whole, but even of the ‘Silent Majority’.  This reality has explained local politics for a long time.  This year it seems to be on the path to throwing over our ideologies and operating on a national scale.

The Anthropocene is 50,000 Year Old March 21, 2016 No Comments

Here is a story about how there is supposedly a new bio-geological age now replacing the so called Holocene. But if ‘Anthropocene‘ means a period when human activity has drastically altered nature, it began 50,000 years ago, when the first humans arrived in Australia, and shortly afterwards the large marsupial mammals – the equivalents of lions and tigers and bears and all that – went extinct.  It spread to North America less than 40,000 years later; when humans arrived in North America there was a great extinction of large mammals.  So I think we have some nerve saying that radical human alteration of the environment is some recent thing.

The Working Class Might be Shooting Itself in the Foot by Being Anti-Free Trade 1 Comment

One of the explanations of the rise of Donald Trump is the concern by his working class followers about free trade, as well as immigration.  After thinking of just how and where their standard of living is declining, I wonder if they’d be only shooting themselves in the foot if high tariff walls were enacted!

Here’s why. As I’ve said before, the standard of living in terms of what one wage earner, working 40 hours a week, can buy, has declined.  [This is a fairer comparison than comparing a one income family in 1965 with a two income family today!]  Which is why wives ‘have to’ work.  But it has not declined evenly.  Since 1981 they say inflation has gone away; I think it is better to say that inflation has confined itself to three critical areas, which are Read the rest of this entry »

The Unbreakable Contradiction in Our View of Housing March 15, 2016 No Comments

Daniel Kay Hertz, a young urbanist from Chicago, [his website is https://danielkayhertz.com] has written the most succinct expression yet of why the whole issue of housing is a dilemma for Americans.  It got a fair bit of notice, and was reproduced in The Atlantic.  Anyway, in the article he says this:

Here are two ideas that, if you’re like most Americans, you probably mostly agree with:

  1.  Government policy should help keep housing broadly affordable, so as not to price out people of low or moderate incomes from entire neighborhoods, cities, or even metropolitan areas.
  2. Government policy should protect residential neighborhoods from things that might negatively impact housing values, because homes are an important investment and wealth building tool.

Having read them together like that, you’ve probably already jumped ahead to the big reveal, which is that these two ideas are almost entirely mutually exclusive. The first essentially says, “Use housing policy to keep home prices down”; the second says, “Use housing policy to keep home prices up.”

It’s no wonder, then, that housing policy is a bit confused.  The same municipal governments that require that housing on scarce urban land be taken up only with resource-intensive, high-building-cost single family homes; that use zoning to separate out unwanted apartments, shops, transit lines, and other uses on the grounds that they may hurt home values; and promote neighborhood beautification and other projects on the grounds that they will raise housing values, also issue affordable housing reports trying to understand why home prices aren’t lower, and levy ‘impact fees’ on new development for the alleged crime of, you know, raising home values.

Thus the eternal contradiction. Read the rest of this entry »

The Beach Bum’s View of Real Estate Values March 14, 2016 No Comments

As one who lives by the beach in California, I’m prone to think of housing values as being almost exclusively the land underneath the house, and the improvements as almost irrelevant.  Several times a year a widow dies, and her old fashioned beach house is torn down to be replaced by a two story blocky house that takes up most of the lot.  I tend to instinctively apply this principle in other places.  For example, suppose I read of a high rise tower with 100 units, each selling for $500,000.  I will tend to assume that if this tower were destroyed and a single McMansion were put on this site, its value would be $50 million!  That is, the land value is a constant, and is divided among the units.  Now we’re not going to get high rise towers here, and I’m not sorry; I don’t worry that much about the Coastal Commission’s impact on housing affordability, because Large Bodies Read the rest of this entry »

The Gasoline Tax: Charles Krauthammer Breaks with Republican Orthodoxy No Comments

Charles Krauthammer, generally regarded as a conservative writer, declared more than a year ago that he had been for a gasoline tax increase of $1 a gallon for 32 years.  That would be, if I calculate right, since 1983. I’ve been of the same view, especially since I started spending a lot more time in Europe after the turn of the millennium.  Thinking of a state level tax, I, recognizing the burden that this tax would have on working families, imagined some kind of Cal – Earned Income Tax Credit.  Krauthammer, it turns out, advocated this tax on a national level, and he would compensate for it by cutting the FICA, or payroll tax, that highly regressive tax that hits the less affluent harder than the income tax, by what I figure to be $624 a year.  A so-called carbon tax, as far as I’m concerned, would be similar to a gasoline tax, and should be similarly compensated by a tax cut for the less affluent.  The Cap and Trade system, which California has adopted, is to me less desirable, as I have said before.

I must have felt pretty strongly about this.  It was the imposition of Norquistian ideology, ‘No Tax Shall Ever Be Raised Ever Ever’, that meant the Republican Party could never Read the rest of this entry »

Rest In Peace, Nino Scalia – But! March 7, 2016 No Comments

Antonin Scalia [1936-2016] was one of the best loved judges for his wit, and hated for his legal reasoning.  For the most part, he was a hero to those who wish to uphold the text of the United States Constitution as opposed to those who wish to read fantastic things into it.

But I am going to break the rule of ‘speak nothing but good of the dead’ and point out a few errors that I believe Antonin Scalia made.  There was, of course, the egregious Citizens United, but there were also the cases that affirmed that the Second Amendment affirmed an individual Read the rest of this entry »

Polynesian Paralysis, or the Vetocracy at Work February 15, 2016 1 Comment

Among its other oddities, Hawaii has no water level travel between its islands.  If the inhabitants of four out of the five counties should wish to travel to Honolulu, they have to fly in a small plane and rent another car when they get there.  And the same applies to people from Honolulu wanting to visit the other islands, or for that matter anyone from any island wanting to visit any other [the exception; there is a pedestrian-only ferry between Lahaina, Maui, and Lana’i].  Try to imagine the inhabitants of Aarhus or Odense having to fly in a small plane and rent a car every time they want to go to Copenhagen, or the Copenhageners having to do the same if they ever want to go to Legoland or Ystad. Read the rest of this entry »

Face, Respect, the Sin of Gossip, and ‘Freedom From Speech’ February 8, 2016 No Comments

The debate about ‘freedom from speech’ has accelerated.  Greg Lukianoff, author of the Freedom from Speech broadside, has cooperated with Jonathan Haidt, an author I have quoted on Blue Kennel to write an article for The Atlantic criticizing the concept of ‘freedom from speech’ and its negative impacts on mental health.  And I have done a post already on the misuse of some Bible verses to support ‘freedom from speech’.  But there have been other cultures and other ways of dealing with this issue.  Freedom of speech is not universal in world cultures!

Theron Bowers, at Mercator.net, wrote on how insults have been dealt with historically in the West.  In the earlier West, they had court jesters [often people with neurological problems, I’ve heard] that could say things that no one else safely could about the kings and the establishment.

In the not so distant past, angered kings and nobles punished insolence by death, beatings or imprisonment. Although not a jester, the French satirist and court gadfly Voltaire was imprisoned for insulting the aristocracy.  Even in democratic America, men violently protected their honour.

Our leniency with insulting behavior is taken for granted in this age of historical illiteracy.  The legal change is not as amazing as our attitudinal shift.  In 2006, Australian actor Russell Crowe pleaded guilty to third-degree assault for throwing a phone at a surly hotel clerk in New York.  Crowe says that the incident was overblown.  History is on his side; but the law and the social mood are against fights for honour.

Jerome Neu in a new book, Sticks and Stones, the Philosophy of Insults, explores insults and our response to them. vIt has only been within the last century that insults were no longer a justification for assaults and even homicide.  Society did try to regulate the responses to attacks on honour with such customs as the duel.  From our judgment seat of the here and now, most would consider duels and gunfights irrational barbarism.  However, as Neu notes, duels initially limited violence and helped to avert larger feuds between families. . . . Moreover, when we stopped burning blasphemers for insulting God, it was inevitable that lesser creatures, even a king, would have to turn the other cheek. Read the rest of this entry »

Christians May be Decreasing in Number in America, But Not Because of any ‘War’ December 30, 2015 No Comments

Jay Michaelson, in The Daily Beast, proclaimed on Christmas Day that there is a decrease in the numbers and influence of Christians in America, but that the “war” on Christianity is a myth.  I’m not sure the war on Christianity is a myth, but it’s not the cause of our problems, and to the extent there is one, it is a result, not a cause, of any cultural changes.  BTW, I’m sure he didn’t write the sensational headline; Christianity is not dying in America, even if it is decreasing a bit.

Michaelson lists a number of causes of the cultural shift:

. . . greater secular education, multiculturalism, shifting social mores, the secular space of consumer capitalism and celebrity culture, the sexual revolution, legal and constitutional changes, the breakdown of the nuclear family, the decline of certain forms of family and group identification, and the association of religion in general with nonsensical and outdated dogmas.

Of course, which came first, in a lot of these cases?  Some say the breakdown of the nuclear family is partly driven by changing economics, but the Great Depression didn’t have the same effect.  The sexual revolution may be as much a result of a cause of any decline in Christian commitment.  And would we be seeing dogmas as “nonsensical and outdated” if our worldview hadn’t shifted first? Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s “allergy to antithesis” strikes again? December 11, 2015 No Comments

Please read “WaPo columnist slams ‘dry,’ ‘detached’ Obama” in response to my previous BlueKennel post “Obama and the Allergy to Antithesis“.

Rich Kid at Work – Interview: Howard Ahmanson, Jr. December 5, 2015 No Comments

Interview from July / August 2002 issue of Philanthropy magazine

More on the Whole ‘Judeo-Christian’ Meme December 2, 2015 No Comments

In my post four years ago, “9/11, Ten Years Later” I talked a little bit about the concept of ‘Judeo-Christian’.  I’d like to expand on it.  As my source says, the meme ‘Judeo-Christian’ originated in the United States after World War II, partly in response to the Holocaust, partly in recognition that Jews were still unjustly discriminated against in some quarters [the use of the term ‘Christian’ to mean ‘Gentile’, offensive to me today, had not vanished from the scene], and third, America was invoking an undefined theism on its coins and in its flag salutes to differentiate itself from the Communists, i.e., “In God We Trust” but Jesus is divisive and we’ll leave Him out of it [I’ve called this Moralistic Stoic Deism, to contrast it with the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism of our time].  This meme bore an interesting resemblance to the ‘Pancasila‘ that the founders of Indonesian national identity had made into ‘founding principles’ of that country; one of the principles is “Belief in the One God” and although Indonesia is 85% Muslim or nominal Muslim, this principle is intended to embrace Christians, Hindus, and even Buddhists as well.  Another delightful feature of the Judeo-Christian meme Read the rest of this entry »

What Really Happened to Poetry and Classical Music? November 30, 2015 No Comments

In recent years one would get the impression that both poetry and classical music have declined in popularity except in rather esoteric “hip” circles; at least the newer kinds of poetry and classical music being written are not, for the most part, popular among the masses.  But is that really their fate? Or did they really go to a very different place?

My father told me that in his youth, the early 20th century, newspapers often carried popular poetry of the sort written by Edgar Guest and James Whitcomb Riley on the front page.  In my youth we didn’t have that, but there was “comic verse” by such as Ogden Nash and Richard Armour that could frequently be found on the back pages of newspapers.  What happened?

Technology happened, I think.  Poetry originally was an oral companion of music.  The Psalms were sung, though we have no idea what tunes like “Do Not Destroy” or “Lilies of the Covenant” might have sounded like.  Eventually we did have a way of writing tunes, but it was always a bit more esoteric than writing speech.  So as we developed more literate cultures, people began to write poetry without a defined musical tune.  By the beginning of the Christian Read the rest of this entry »

Camel Driver to Taxi Drivers No Comments

The Prophet Muhammad started out as a camel driver, and apparently varieties of the name are now the most common first name for taxi drivers in New York City.

James K. A. Smith and the Pentecostal World View 1 Comment

Is there such a thing as a ‘Pentecostal philosophy’?  James K. A. Smith says there is.  They don’t necessarily talk about it in ways we are accustomed to, but he says they have one.  And here are its major elements according to Smith:

1.  A position of radical openness to God, and in particular, God doing something differently or new. . . . We might simply describe it as openness to the continuing [and sometimes surprising] operations of the Spirit in church and world, particularly the continued ministry of the Spirit, including continuing revelation, prophecy, and the centrality of charismatic giftings in the ecclesial community.

2.  An ‘enchanted’ theology of creation and culture that perceives the material creation as ‘charged’ with the presence of the Spirit, but also with other spirits [including demons and ‘principalities and powers’] with entailed expectations regarding both miracles and spiritual warfare.

3.  A nondualistic affirmation of embodiment and materiality expressed in an emphasis on physical healing [and perhaps also in gospels of ‘prosperity’].

4.  Because of an emphasis on the role of experience, and in contrast to rationalistic evangelical theology, Pentecostal theology is rooted in an affective, narrative epistemology.

5.  An eschatological orientation to mission and justice, both expressed in terms of empowerment, with a certain ‘preferential option for the marginalized’.

In terms of ‘radical openness to God’, Smith quotes the first Pentecost in Acts 2, where the appearance of the Holy Spirit looked and felt different from anything the apostolic community had ever experienced or read about in Scripture, but they were instantly able to see it as a work of God.  Surely we have no business telling God what He can or cannot do:  whether it includes putting myths and perhaps even a couple of fictional books in an inerrant Scripture, or maybe not being obligated to save ‘America’ or ‘Western Civilization’ but perhaps starting a new thing in completely different parts of the planet.

Let me make my own position clear.  I am not a cessationist.  It would not bother me if one of the small groups at our PCA church prayed in tongues.  It would bother me if they thought they were somehow one step ahead of us, or on a higher level, because they did so.  But I would argue that the miraculous can never be normative.  It is the very nature of the miraculous to be exceptional. Christianity, as C.S. Lewis, is the one religion that absolutely requires the miraculous to be historical fact.  But he also wrote a volume called The Problem of Pain, a usable devotional book by the way, that could also be called ‘Why Miracles Don’t Happen All the Time’.  That’s the big question.  Before I became a Christian at the age of 23, I doubted the possibility of the miraculous because, basically, “I wasn’t getting none of it.”  I still, when I misplace my house keys or something like that, ask God, “Well, if you did all those things for people in the Bible, why can’t you levitate my house keys to me from wherever they are?”  But no, the miraculous is exceptional.  I would even say [and as a philanthropist I have had to work through this] that God can reveal to me to give a certain amount of money to a certain organization, or attend a certain event, or meet with a certain person, but that is not His normative way of operating.  God is the Lord of both the miraculous and the non-miraculous. If we don’t see that, we are drifting into the heresy of Catharism.  Christianity, for all its dependence on the historical truth of miracles, gave birth to science.  I’m not sure that a Christianity that saw the miraculous as normative, as some forms of African Christianity seem to, could have done so.

As to an ‘enchanted theology,’  I believe that, even though the miraculous is not normative, the Holy Spirit animates the world and angels and demons do contend.  “There is a deep sense,” says Smith, “that multiple modes of oppression – from illness to poverty – are in some way the work of forces that are not just ‘natural’. . . . Prayer and worship are a mode of struggle against ‘the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places’ [Eph 6:12]”  Fine. I think it’s much healthier to recognize demonic forces than to blame everything on the Bilderbergers, the International Bankers, or the One Per Cent, or whatever. And there is a danger that we may come to take a magical view; as if we said our prayers the right way, we could empower God, rather than it being He who empowers us.  Prayer and worship can be transforming; but I suspect that the transforming power of prayer and worship can only come from our making it the second thing, and the first thing to be an objective honoring of God, and our dependence on Him, not His on us.

Smith criticizes the attitudes of some Pentecostals who regard the material world as ‘evil’ while at the same time affirming bodily healing!  He understands why Pentecostalism often veers off into ‘prosperity theology’ heresies.  I’ll interject my own opinion here; ‘faith’ doesn’t in and of itself make you prosperous.  But sometimes when you are transformed you lay off dysfunctional habits and attitudes that have been holding you back, and become a little more prosperous than you were.  And so evangelical and Pentecostal upward mobility is a thing, and we are constantly having to start new works for the benefit of those who are still at the bottom.  Max Weber accused the later Calvinists of holding to a ‘prosperity theology’; I have seen no evidence of this, only of the effect of the ‘Protestant Ethic’ that I have described – and you don’t have to be Protestant to benefit from it.

An affective, narrative epistemology.  Story tends to come before propositions.  Fine, but propositions are always assumed even if they aren’t articulated, and if the wrong ones are assumed, you can get off base very quickly.

An eschatological orientation to mission and justice – “an eschatology that engenders a commitment both to mission and to social justice, with a certain ‘preferential option for the marginalized’ tracing back to its roots in the fishermen at Pentecost.”  The Azusa Street event was in fact an event of racial reconciliation, though it ended up giving us two churches; Church of God in Christ for the blacks, and Assemblies of God for the whites.  The Pentecostal commitment to ‘social justice’ concentrates on empowerment and bears very little resemblance to the ‘evangelical left’s any sort of Left.  And the poor seem to prefer it to ‘social justice’ churches formed by downscaling middle class people moving into the less affluent portions of the city.  Though now, according to some sources, the Pentecostals are now losing their grip even on the younger poor and working class white Americans.  Brad Wilcox et al suggest that Latinos and Blacks have a better theology of suffering than whites and so their faith is better able to stand up to adversity.

Smith then has a section on “Pentecostalism and Countermodernity,” which I could easily think of as ‘Pentecostalism and Postmodernity’.  But it is strange that he writes a whole book on this subject without once referring to his Canadian countryman, Marshall McLuhan.  I find it absolutely impossible to contemplate what Smith is writing about [or the appeal of Pentecostal and charismatic practices overall] without running it through what little I know of McLuhanian thought.  According to McLuhan, how we receive input – whether visually, by ear, or by writing – influences how we think and how we view the world, and as Smith would hasten to add, what we desire and how we desire it. Thus, the spread of printing after Gutenberg gave us Protestantism, after people started paying more attention to the text; photography, starting in the 1840s, began to orient us more to the visual again; between 1920 and 1950 the dominant form was radio, which encouraged an oral listening culture in which Hitler, Churchill, and FDR prospered, and nobody cared whether they were good looking; after 1950 the rise of television, which began to reorient us to the visual again.  Famously, there was a debate between presidential candidates Kennedy and Nixon in 1960 after which those who listened on the radio thought Nixon had the better of the debate, but those who saw it on television thought that Kennedy won.  And we have not yet figured out what the effect of the internet will be; the mixed short text and pictures of Facebook, the abbreviated shrink-think of Twitter, and the picture orientation of Instagram will have various effects.

It seems clear to me that one of the things driving Pentecostalism is a move away from print-oriented culture.  At the same time, Pentecostalism has not really produced great visual art; I suspect it is a predominantly oral culture, or where it is visual, ‘talking head’.  Since I have been taken many places to see a lot of religious art, in churches or outside, I can testify that Catholicism and Orthodoxy are the visual branches of the Church, and that is a major part of their appeal.  I have thought that Pentecostalism was a way of incorporating some of the myth, mystery, and miracle of Catholicism without the hierarchical baggage; I think it does, but its visual tradition is more about talking faces [and indeed a lot of people draw conclusions from being able to see the whites of one’s eyes that they can’t draw on radio] and not visual imagery.  Besides, by the late eighteenth century even Catholics were starting to do bad and sentimental art!  Sacred Heart of Jesus?  How about, in memory of the late Dallas Willard, who always insisted that “Jesus was smart,” a cult of the Sacred Brain of Jesus?

Does Jesus Oppose the Death Penalty? October 25, 2015 1 Comment

For some reason it is hard for people, including even most evangelicals, to imagine Jesus supporting a death penalty for any sort of crime.  On the other hand, if He claimed to be God the Son, “I and the Father are one,” and to forgive sins, and those outrageous claims He made, it was clearly the God who revealed Himself in the rest of the Scriptures that Jesus claimed to be, not some other god.  The heretics who dissent from this are historically called Gnostics or Catharists.

There are a lot of death penalties in the Torah, most Christians being agreed that many of them are not required in our time.  And, in regard to a different issue, Jesus [the very Author of the Torah] concedes that it — as written for a civil and ethnic society — compromised His ideal.  In Matthew 19:8 He makes a marked concession; Read the rest of this entry »

The Irrational Jacket September 18, 2015 No Comments

There has been a spate of articles recently about the strength of air conditioning in offices and the fact that women are often freezing in temperatures that men are barely comfortable in.  Even before you take into account the differing wardrobes, women generally like the temperature slightly higher than men anyhow. But the normal business and “smart” dress for women is quite light, Read the rest of this entry »

Some General Observations about China: Languages, Romanizations, Air Quality, General Appearance September 4, 2015 No Comments

I am late getting out this post, which should be my last about China.

China does not feel like Europe.  It feels like America in some parallel universe.  I had always hated the science fiction tales on TV that had all these parallel universes, but now I’ve spent time on one.  The biggest cities, Singapore, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, have a feeling of Coruscant, the highly urbanized planet in Star Wars [Beijing less so].  Chinese cities are laid out on a grid pattern more like Midwestern and Western American cities than like the piazza a plan that most European cities seem to follow.  There is a grid of wide boulevards, which usually have a lane on the outside for cars preparing to turn and motorbikes [bicycle is now a rare sight], then a hedge or fence to keep the Chinese from running out into the street except at crosswalks, then the traffic lanes [and there is often a fence down the middle of the traffic street as well!], then another hedge, then another side line for cars preparing to turn right and motorbikes, going the opposite way.  There is usually a recognized older city, Read the rest of this entry »

If We’re ‘Better Behaved’ Just Because We’re Affluent, God is Not Impressed September 2, 2015 No Comments

It is often believed that poorer people are worse behaved and therefore undesirable neighbors; and certainly enough, certain pathological behaviors are more common in the poor communities.  This is used as an argument for zoning and government land use control [a form of social engineering] to keep them out of more affluent areas; and interestingly enough a recent study found that poorer boys [not girls] were often worse behaved if they lived in a mixed income community than if they lived in an entirely poor community! There are, of course, a lot of debates of the chicken-and-the-egg type; does poverty make people act this way, or does acting this way keep people poor, or quite possibly both?

I confess that during my twenties I was pretending to live on a limited income, and I would often stall on paying my medical bills [though I eventually paid them] Read the rest of this entry »

Why I Am Not a ‘Caucasian’ July 27, 2015 No Comments

The term “Caucasian” for so-called white people, in reality people of Old World ancestry who are not Negroid or East Asian in appearance, comes from bizarre 19th century racial theories.  It in fact was coined by the German Christoph Meiners in 1785 [for comparison to “white people” see Wiki “White people” and Wiki “Non-Hispanic whites“].  There are people who should very properly be called Caucasian; among them the Armenians, Georgians, Azeris, Chechens, Adygey, Ossetians, Dagestanis, and the Abkhazians, among others.  [The Arabs used to call the Caucasus the “mountain of languages” because there were so many languages of different origins and relationships.]  None of my ancestry, to my knowledge, traces to that region; therefore, I am not a Caucasian.

The rather clumsy “non-Hispanic white” is my ethnic group, and this makes me a minority in California, because Read the rest of this entry »

‘Christian Colleges’ for The Heathen? July 18, 2015 2 Comments

There has been plenty of publicity about “political correctness” on campus and on the extreme sensitivity of today’s generation to “microaggressions”.  I posted “Freedom From Speech” not long ago, getting that title from Greg Lukianoff”s book of that name.  I modestly propose to divide American secular colleges and universities into two kinds, to deal with this situation.

The first kind would be a college of free inquiry, where anything could be said or investigated and if people were “hurt” or “microagressed” so be it.  The second kind would be a secular counterpart of the traditional Christian college.  Doctrinal statements would be written describing exactly what opinions could be taught by professors or expressed by students.  Anyone who expressed a different opinion would be disciplined.  There would be “community service” requirements for graduation.  There would be no smoking of tobacco allowed on the campus.  There would be strict rules against sexual harassment of any kind.  Oh wait, some of the colleges are doing this already!  It would be a “safe” place for tender young people who desire safety from “hurtful” opinions and “microaggressions”.

But many of the historic Christian universities were doing Read the rest of this entry »

Some Things People Can’t See or Understand Anymore July 14, 2015 1 Comment

In my last post I wrote about how the secular mind can no longer understand the difference between ‘forgiveness’ and ‘tolerance-acceptance-inclusion’.  Things like this are not a surprise; in 1Corinthians 2:14, Paul informs us that

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Forgiveness is one of these.  Another one, in secular society, is the distinction between the four things usually rendered in modern English by the word ‘love’.  [To refresh the reader:  agape – charitable love, storge – familial affection, eros – sexual love, and philia – friendship based on a common interest outside yourselves.]  It’s not that the secular society loses all the distinctions; they mostly still consider incest a monstrously evil thing, and incest involves taking eros into the territory of storge.  What they absolutely cannot see is that if God Read the rest of this entry »

Forgiveness and ‘Tolerance’ in Charleston July 6, 2015 No Comments

There has been some coverage about the ‘forgiveness’ offered to Dylann Roof by some of the Christian parishioners of Emanuel AME church that survived his attack.  Matt Schiavenza in the The Atlantic describes this. [For some other responses as to why people do or do not forgive Mr. Roof, which I have not had time to read, check out this Google page.]  I have to say for myself that I am willing to forgive him as these people did, but I still think he should suffer the earthly penalty.

But what is important is that in a time when we are trying to remodel the gospel of Jesus to one of ‘tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion’, Mr. Roof’s behavior cannot be tolerated, accepted, or included.  So the old Jesus, who spoke a gospel of forgiveness, can include Mr. Roof in it; but the new Jesus cannot include him.  Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal happened Read the rest of this entry »

Beijing – At the End of the Road July 1, 2015 No Comments

Because Beijing, as the capital and second largest city, gets the most media attention, most people go there first.  We made a point of going there last.

The first surprise is that the air there was the clearest we had run into in China, except for Yan’an!  I guess the thick smog is a seasonal thing; it was June, and the smog season is the late fall and winter.  The climate is similar to that of Omaha, Nebraska, but there is a lot less winter rain and snow.  In June, however, we experienced some rain – for several days there was a thunderstorm every afternoon!  The hills that are on the west side of the city could always be seen, and sometimes the mountains to the north.  We got off the Read the rest of this entry »

150 Years Later, People are Getting All Excited About the Confederate Flag June 27, 2015 No Comments

Recently, a young racist terrorist shot a bunch of people in one of Charleston’s historic black churches.  This kind of stuff happens.  But it has aroused a whole new controversy about the Confederate flag, a century and a half after the supposed country it represents was crushed!  Someone has recently proposed that a school in the San Diego region that is named after Robert E. Lee be renamed.

Here is what can be said.  The primary, though not the only, motivation of the original secession in 1860-61 was to protect the institution of slavery.  I can’t say, however, that that was the motivation for the common soldiers who fought for it.  It is clear that Robert E. Lee was not primarily motivated in choosing sides by a love for the institution of slavery, but that he Read the rest of this entry »

Dynasties and All That June 16, 2015 No Comments

It will occur to the reader that I have been talking about dynasties and this and that without giving any clear background on them.  The time has come to clarify.


In case you don’t know, a dynasty is a period where all the kings, princes, or emperors descend from one ancestor, usually through the male line, or are in one family.

Xia.  This dynasty, which ruled from 2070 to 1600 B.C. in the Hwanghe valley, is semi-mythical, though the excavations at Erlitou may provide eventually proof of its historic existence.  Contemporary with the Bronze Age (e.g., the Biblical Patriarchs).

Shang, sometimes called Yin (1600 to 1046 B.C.), thought by some to be semi-mythical too, until the excavations at Anyang starting in 1898.  Contemporary with the decline of the Bronze Age in the West (e.g., the Trojan War, the Sea Peoples, the Exodus, and the era of the Judges).

Western Zhou.  1046 to 771 B.C.  Based in the Wei Valley near modern Xi’an.  Contemporary with the Archaic Age of Greece, including Homer, David and Solomon, and Elisha and Elijah.

In 771 B.C. rebels and barbarians overran the Wei Valley and the kings fled to near Luoyang, Henan, and become the Eastern Zhou from 771 to 256 B.C.  During this time China became like Europe’s later Holy Roman Empire between 1555 and 1806; a nominal entity populated by a large number of independent states.  The first part of this, through the time of Confucius and his disciples, came to be called the Spring and Autumn period; the later part, the Warring States period, which ended with Qin Shi Huangdi’s conquest of the last free state in 221 B.C.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our China Journey Part V: Shandong June 5, 2015 No Comments

About half of Shandong is a mountainous peninsula that sticks out into the East China Sea, dividing it into the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Gulf. But a considerable portion of it projects into the great plain to the west.  I suspect that at one time it was an island, before the Huanghe Delta filled in the space in between.

We woke up in Jinan to find that we could actually see hills through the haze on the other side of town.  We went, of course, to the Provincial Museum, to see artifacts of all kinds and a little bit of history [the inhabitants of the peninsular portion in early times, called the Yi, resisted inclusion in the Chinese state, and I tried to find out whether they had been ethnically Chinese or the ancestors of the later Japanese and Koreans.  We never got a clear answer].  Warning; this is one of the newest and fanciest museums, but there is less labeling in English than in most of the others I have been to.

After lunch we went to one of the spring parks.  Jinan is known for its cool springs of water coming up out of the ground, and in this case they have been preserved in a typical Chinese park.  No swimming, however. After that we took a walk through some preserved narrow streets and alleys in what must have been the older part of the city, and actually saw a swimming spring in the middle of it where people were swimming, though the water didn’t look like American swimming pool standards.  [The giveaway on the map is a rectangular shaped area surrounded by a canal; it must have been where the walls were.]  We ended up at a lake called Daming Lake on the north side which was a beautiful spot, but no swimming.

The next day we headed to Mount Taishan and the city of Tai’an which lies below it.  Even some emperors, starting with Qin Shi Huangdi himself, have climbed that mountain.  It’s mostly Taoist, though I was told that there were a few Buddhist shrines to be seen elsewhere.  We stopped for an hour at the shrine in Tai’an where the emperors would stay for a week or two Read the rest of this entry »

Comment on WSJ – Walter Russell Mead – On the Future of Middle East Christians May 31, 2015 No Comments

Walter Russell Mead really hits the nail on the head, here.  He explains that the four older empires, Ottoman, Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian, were, whatever their weaknesses, “multiethnic and multi confessional states.”  After the fall of these empires, all these groups wanted their own states and not all this “diversity,” to use a term now fashionable in the West but not necessarily anywhere else.  And Mead also outlines the strategies that Middle Eastern Christians have used:
1.  Stay invisible, keep your head down in urban areas, stay remote in rural areas.
2.  Look for foreign protectors, however, these foreign protectors proved a lot less faithful as the Western nations no longer defined themselves as Christian.
3.  Supporting the secular concept of “Arab Nationalism.”  When I first visited the Middle East in 1963, it was this ideology of Arab Nationalism, not any form of Islamism, that was opposed to Israel.  But after Islamism arose,
4.  Trust in strong non-Islamist rulers; Hafez el Assad, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak,
and Abdel Fattah al Sisi.  But these rulers are not popular with the rest of the people.
Mead concludes that the choices open to Middle East Christians, given the situation,  are to “fort up,” develop a military capacity, flee, or die.

Our China Journey, Part IV – Henan, The Center of the Universe May 28, 2015 No Comments

We bundled our luggage into a van and got on a train and headed for Luoyang, Henan, a place which has frequently been the capital of China, though a bit of a backwater now.  Here were a number of things to be seen.  We went to a place where ancient tombs of kings and nobles of various eras have been gathered and put in one place, slightly below ground level, so it was actually cool inside, different from most museums in China or elsewhere.  Some were carved, a few were painted, some still have grave goods.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our China Journey, Part III – Xi’an and Yan’an May 26, 2015 No Comments

From Nanjing we got on a plane and flew 600 miles to the northwest to Xi’an, Shaanxi.  This city is now a second tier city about the size of Chicago, but during the Tang dynasty [618-907] it was Chang’an, the largest and most cosmopolitan city on the world.  It was laid out on a large grid pattern; Kyoto, Japan, was modeled after it, and more of that era, it must be said, survives in Kyoto.  The Tang was more open to outside influences than China later became, and these mostly came from overland in those days, for Chang’an was the end of the Silk Road.  There were, for the benefit of the traders, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Read the rest of this entry »

Our China Journey, Part II – Shanghai and the Lower Yangtze Region May 24, 2015 No Comments


We next flew to Shanghai, though the largest city in the country it is not in its core area historically Chinese. Shanghai was a small town until 1842, when just north of it two large concession enclaves were carved out; the International [really British] concession, and just south of it, the French concession.  The British Concession portion looks very European on the outside.  The French Concession had trees planted on its streets, and there are still plenty of low rise areas in it, which make it the most desirable and expensive residential area in the city.  [It should be noted Read the rest of this entry »

Our China Journey, Part I – Singapore and Guangzhou May 22, 2015 No Comments


David, Roberta, and I started our adventure in Singapore, which is a 75% Chinese city but was ruled by the British from 1818 to 1957 and after 1965 by the late great Lee Kwan Yew, who established English as the common language.  Far from being Third World, it is a place I call ‘Toronto in the Tropics’ and it has had to preserve some of its older Chinese, Malay, and Indian quarters just to have them, for the local people as well as tourists.  The downtown section of the city reminded us of the planet Coruscant in Star Wars, but then again most of the larger Chinese cities give that impression.  We stayed two nights at the Raffles to get over jet lag, and another two nights at a house away from downtown leased by a family that is friends of ours that has a fund that invests in ’emerging markets’ like Ethiopia and Georgia.

The Raffles Hotel is an old landmark in old British colonial architecture, quite unlike what surrounds it, which looks like a tropical American city with a higher skyline.  It is such an attraction, in fact, that part of the grounds are fenced off for guests, and part is open to the public with shops and restaurants.  The area where our friends live, however, Read the rest of this entry »

‘Freedom From Speech’ and Freedom From Other Things May 18, 2015 No Comments

“Freedom of speech” has been a slogan in America and the Western World for some time.  But how to explain the rise of “political correctness,” which has not much affected our civil law, but has affected policies on campus, and, as young people graduate from campus and enter the workplace, increasingly the workplace?

Greg Lukianoff, of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has published a short Encounter Broadside book called Freedom From Speech; he has also written a longer book on the same subject called Unlearning Liberty,  and a number of other shorter essays on the subject.  A radical anti-free-speech activist from Australia, Tanya Cohen, has coincidentally used the phrase “freedom from speech” as a good thing in an essay; I am relieved to see that the comment threads under the essay run highly negative!

There are certain aspects of Christian ethics that display a superficial resemblance to “political correctness” and “freedom from speech.”  I, as a young Christian, learned early, to my shock, that there’s no First Amendment with God or in the Bible.  I can start with James 3:5-6: Read the rest of this entry »

Our Adventure in Ethiopia April 29, 2015 No Comments

In March of 2015, our family and some friends took a 3½ week trip through Ethiopia, one of the most unusual of sub-Saharan African countries.  Ethiopia is exceptional in two ways;

  1. It became a Christian culture in the 300s, whereas Christianity did not spread from there into the rest of sub-Saharan Africa;
  2. It successfully evaded colonization until 1936, when it was conquered by the Italians and held for five years before it was liberated by the British in World War II.  This episode is regarded by Ethiopians as the ‘occupation’ rather than a colonization, because it was so brief.

I don’t have photographs for this expedition like I did for my San Andreas Fault Tour a few years ago, mainly because my wife is so mad for taking pictures that I didn’t want to compete with her, and the San Andreas Fault expedition was a bachelor trip, which this was not.  In her defense, she gives illustrated lectures on art and architecture, and if she takes her own pictures, she owns the images – a big deal nowadays when people are sensitive about intellectual property.  If you are interested, and are a member of Instagram, she has a site there under the name “@balticlight.”

Incidentally, the country called ‘Ethiopia’ or ‘Cush’ in the Bible was probably not this Ethiopia, but Northern Sudan. Read the rest of this entry »

Before Generalizing about American Culture, Travel a Bit April 1, 2015 No Comments

David Bosworth, author of the new The Demise of Virtue in Virtual America:  The Moral Origins of the Great Recession, writes about the effect of constant cyberspace and television on the American character.  But is there anything distinctly American about this?

I am, at this moment, in Ethiopia, in a country that in the 1970s and ‘80s was one of the world’s poorest, though it has been doing better since it got rid of its Communist government around 1990 and installed a semi-democratic government.  We were in Axum, near the northern border, [at a brand new hotel I think Chinese-built], though the guests are all either African or European.   Read the rest of this entry »

Surveying Marriage vs. Cohabitation: Not a Binary Choice Any More March 30, 2015 No Comments

I have been following the Institute for American Values, led by David Blankenhorn, and the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, led by W. Bradford Wilcox.  They have been working, among other things, on the fortunes of children born outside of either wedlock or cohabitation versus children born in cohabitation, in marriage preceded by cohabitation, and in marriage not preceded by cohabitation.  David Blankenhorn has in fact famously decided to be no longer opposed to same sex marriage, it not being relevant to his concerns.  I am writing under the assumption that same sex marriage will Read the rest of this entry »

LARCS, Abstinence, and Other Matters of Education March 26, 2015 No Comments

I have read Isabel Sawhill’s new book, Generation Unbound.  In this, she tells us that she would encourage young people to be ‘planners’ rather than ‘drifters’ when it comes to relationships, marriage, and child bearing.  [Among other implications of this, it implies that ‘falling in love’ is not the best thing to do or the only valid way to enter a marriage.] One thing that she believes is helpful is LARCs, a clumsy acronym for Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives.  These are of two kinds:

  1. Intra Uterine Devices [IUDs]
  2. Chemical implants like Norplant and Depo-Provera.

The advantage of these is, rather than having to be donned in the, um, heat of the moment, they have to be specifically undone when the woman is ready to have another child.  I am not sure whether the Roman Catholic Church will bar from the Eucharist women it knows to be so equipped.  I am pretty sure that conservative Protestants will not.   Read the rest of this entry »

Which Taxes to Raise – A Revision February 27, 2015 No Comments

In earlier posts I suggested that the top bracket income tax could be raised to up to 40%, as in the Clinton era, without hurting government revenues or damaging the economy.  It still might not, but I have decided that there are changes I would like better.

The payroll tax is a regressive tax that falls mainly on the less affluent.  Make it a flat tax that takes the same percentage of everyone’s income, no matter how earned.  It is, after all, out of this tax, not the income tax, that the major burdens of the government will be paid in future; Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid; these programs dwarf the means tested programs for the ‘poor’.

The capital gains tax should be at a lower rate for the first million of income earned from it.  This encourages people to invest in markets.  Above $1 million, capital gains should Read the rest of this entry »

The Upper Middle Class Versus the 1%? February 3, 2015 No Comments

Matt Miller, Californian commentator, comments in his book The Tyranny of Dead Ideas that it probably will be the upper middle class, or ‘lower upper’ as he calls it, that will lead the opposition to the so called 1%, and that they have the clout to do it.  He starts quoting Richard Hofstadter and the Progressive era writer Walter Weyl to the effect that the appearance of a new class of extremely wealthy people during the First Gilded Age [1876-1929] aroused resentment among the moderately affluent and professional people of his day, and they led the Progressive charge.  I will reproduce part of Weyl’s quote:

To a considerable extent the plutocracy is hated not for what it does but for what it is.  Our over-moneyed neighbors cause a relative deflation of our personalities. . . . Everywhere . . .  Read the rest of this entry »

“Shared Intentionality” and its Implications February 2, 2015 No Comments

The ‘developmental and comparative psychologist’ Michael Tomasello, an American who now works at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, has come up with a concept called “shared intentionality” as a mark that separates humans from chimpanzees and bonobos [asserted in many circles to be our closest blood relatives].  Where I first read of this, in Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, it was illustrated by the statement, “You never see two chimpanzees carrying a log together.”  In other words, only among humans do two beings ever form a common purpose and act together to achieve it.

This means, to me, that Shared Intentionality is one of the significant marks of the Imago Dei, the image of God in human beings that sets them off from chimpanzees and bonobos and the other animals.  If you don’t believe in the blood relationship Read the rest of this entry »

C.S. Lewis and the World of Modern Technology January 22, 2015 No Comments

C.S. Lewis, in his important apologetic work The Problem of Pain, tried to envision an alternative pain-free universe [Chapter 2]:

The permanent nature of wood which enables us to use it as a beam also enables us to use it for hitting our neighbour on the head. . . . We can, perhaps, conceive of a world in which God corrected the abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound-waves that carry lies or insults.  But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; . . . . All matter in the neighbourhood of a wicked man would be liable to undergo unpredictable alterations.

Sometimes in cyberspace and in the general electronic world, it seems like we are approaching the situation that Lewis here imagined!  When I pull out a credit card, my mere possession of such a card establishes nothing; for some computer in Read the rest of this entry »

So-Called “Bro-Country” is a New Thing, and an Old Thing January 20, 2015 No Comments

I spent a few days in Jackson, Mississippi, last fall, and for the interest of the thing had a country music station on in my car, because you never know.  It turned out a large number of the songs were more like, say, Jimmy Buffett material than like traditional country; songs like “Redneck Yacht Club” about a boat party, and others involving pickup trucks and dancing in the moonlight with underdressed females.  Jody Rosen of the New York Times labeled this style “bro-country,” from its similarity to the fantasies of frat boys, and Emily Yahr, of the Washington Post,  gives us a long list of its chief performers.

We have had this before; but we didn’t call it country.  I’m not sure what Jimmy Buffett is considered to be, but if he were being launched today I think he would be considered to belong to country.  More to the point are the Beach Boys.  Surfing may not be the most accessible sports in Nashville [though it has given rise to two spin-off sports, sailboarding and stand up paddling, that can easily be practiced in the Nashville area, and in the original surf music era, the ultimate Arizonan musician of the days before Linda Ronstadt, Duane Eddy, recorded some tunes of ‘water ski music’ clearly to make a little fun of the Californians], but cars and girls are as abundant there as anyplace else; “Little Deuce Coupe” would appeal to NASCAR fans as much as to anyone in Southern California.  And what are “I Get Around” and “Help Me, Rhonda”?  Surely if the Beach Boys had never existed, and if they were to surface now, the country charts is where they would be found.

But we are forgetting the granddaddy of all Bro-Country and Spring Break compositions.  The lyrics called Carmina Burana were discovered in an old German monastery, set to music by Carl Orff, and premiered in Frankfurt in 1937.  Despite the date, there is nothing Nazi or anti-semitic about them.  The lyrics are mostly in Latin, with some in Old German, and a few lines in Old French.  They are proof that medieval university students knew how to party as much as ours do today!

The Strange American Inversion of the Liturgical Year January 6, 2015 No Comments

Historically in Christian liturgy, Advent was supposed to be a sort of penitential time, a little Lent leading up to Christmas, as Lent led up to Easter. Anglican hymnbooks have an Advent section and a Christmas section. Songs like “O Come O Come Emmanuel” are in the Advent section; most major Christmas carols, from “Silent Night” to “O Come All Ye Faithful” are in the Christmas section.  In church, it is not until the afternoon of December 24 that the songs in the Christmas section are sung!  And they can be sung until January 5, the day before Epiphany. Read the rest of this entry »

Valentine’s Day Carols? And Other Observations December 25, 2014 No Comments

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers.

As usual, what Americans call ‘The Holidays’ is an odd mix, especially in the special music now played.  What are effectively Gospel carols [especially if they sing all the verses] invade the public square in a way that would be unthinkable and promote outrage any other time of the year.  There are plenty of songs, too, about that well known cargo cult deity, and then others simply celebrating the joy of an excuse to dine and party with family and friends, which is the part most people really like anyhow.

Some of the songs celebrate weather phenomena that are a bit unusual in half of the United States, mainly snow.  I confess that I have, as far as I know, never actually seen live a one-horse open sleigh!  But there is also a genre of songs that mix snow with Romance.  You know the ones:  “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow,” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”  It occurs to me that the chances of having a white Valentine’s Day anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere are probably higher than the odds of a White Christmas, though I am willing to be corrected on this; yet snow seems to play a very limited role in Valentine’s Day iconography.  We need carols and special music, I think, for occasions other than Christmas; why not these songs as Valentine’s Day carols?

Edward Kleinbard Says, Don’t Soak the Few and the Rich December 22, 2014 No Comments

Edward Kleinbard, a professor at the University of Southern California, has pointed out that despite and in the face of extreme income inequality, not only is America’s tax system fairly ‘progressive’, its spending is fairly progressive in that the less affluent benefit more from it and the rich can often opt out of the public square altogether.  So government needs enough revenue to sustain what it does at high Read the rest of this entry »

Where in Southern California Could We Fit New Suburbs? December 10, 2014 No Comments

People like Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox have argued, to some extent rightly, that the majority of Americans prefer a suburban environment; and even the younger Millennial generation, willing to live in more urban places during their single and cohabiting years, hope to raise their children in a more suburban environment.  Some have argued, in this vein, against trying to densify places like Hollywood further.  I am not sure what this has to do with anything.

I don’t support efforts to forbid new suburbs and compel people to live in density, but you run into one little problem trying to find place to put new suburbs in Southern California; Read the rest of this entry »

If I Were Muslim: Why Do Muslims Hate Jews Nowadays? December 3, 2014 No Comments

Our friend Hillel Fradkin has sent out a fascinating article on the relationship between Islam and German nationalism.  In two world wars both types of German nationalists, both the relatively mild sort of the Second Reich and the pathological ones of the Third, hoped that the more manly faith of Islam would come to their side against Christian weakness.  It didn’t work.  During World War I the Arabs were more interested in getting rid of the Turks than in fighting an artificial jihad against the British.  In World War II the Muslims Read the rest of this entry »

The Midterm Turnout Problem November 20, 2014 No Comments

It is well known that important constituencies, especially those for the Democratic Party, have not been turning out in ‘midterm’ elections in the last few years.  In fact, a New York Times writer has endorsed eliminating ‘midterms’ for that very reason.

But these ‘midterm’ elections are not midterm for any office but the Presidency.  They are certainly not ‘midterm’ for the Governor of California, or for the numerous Senators, Representatives, state legislators, and local officials.  Do the groups who stay home have some kind of view that the President of the United States Read the rest of this entry »

If We Treated Food the Way We Treated Housing November 18, 2014 No Comments

Josh Barro, an economics columnist at the New York Times who used to be at Forbes, has written an interesting column on what the food marketplace would be like if we owned lifetime resaleable futures in our food instead of buying it weekly or daily.  The incentives, he said, would be very different.  Instead of wanting food prices to be lower, owners of food Read the rest of this entry »

Hasn’t it Always Been Babylon? November 15, 2014 No Comments

Rod Dreher, one of our favorites on this site, has written a column called “From Israel to Babylon” of which the sources are largely drawn from the Southern Baptists.  The younger Southern Baptists expect to be a religious minority, which, of course, they are.  To quote Ryan Booth, “Older Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Israel.”  I actually was a Southern Baptist once, when I was living in Texas and going to graduate school 40 years ago.  And I never heard from them at the time that the USA was a ‘covenant nation.’ I don’t think it is.  The covenant nation of Israel has been succeeded by the international, multiethnic, multicultural Church, Read the rest of this entry »

Now, Even Apartment Dwellers are Getting Choosy about their Neighbors November 13, 2014 No Comments

It has been known for a long time that homeowners have wanted to control who their neighbors are.  In the past it was race; now it is for income and for how they might use their property, and often for culture.  The best book I have found on this is almost 40 years old and out of print; it is Everything in Its Place by Constance Perin, from 1977.  She interviews all kinds of people on their views on how land use should be controlled.  Given the date of the book, it is before the Great Inflation really kicked in; the present day reader will have to multiply all the housing prices mentioned by at least 10, and the other consumer prices by 8, in order to make any sense out of the book.

Now, we find that even prospective New York apartment dwellers are getting choosy about their neighbors. Joanne Kaufman has explained in the New York Times that potential tenants or condo buyers have tried to find out details about what sort of people live in the building they want to move into.  And the law does not allow real estate brokers to inform their clients about the age, ethnicity, sexual practice, marital status, race, or religion of the tenants of any building.  But, as Ms Kaufman explains, there are other ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Republicans Are Not Always Reliable Defenders of Economic Liberty November 10, 2014 No Comments

As an activist against ‘redevelopment,’ I often wondered why Republicans, who posture themselves as the party of  ‘small government’ or ‘limited government,’ were so hard to convince to repeal redevelopment.  Josh Barro, a clever columnist for the New York Times, explains that it’s not just real estate issues like redevelopment.  Uber, the taxi alternative, has been suppressed in Philadelphia, but not so much by the city government as by the Philadelphia Read the rest of this entry »

Very Bad Taste Not A Reason To Forbid Anything: A Thought For 9/11, Nine Years Later October 17, 2014 No Comments

There has been quite a to-do about building an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan close to Ground Zero. I have to say I think the whole thing is in very bad taste. With one possible exception. The famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is officially called the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia. Gaudi intended it to be “expiatory” of, or sort of apologetic for, some destructive riots in Barcelona in 1906 in which a lot of priests were killed. If I knew that the proposed mosque was a sort of Temple Expiatori, like Sagrada Familia, I would actually welcome it. I’m not sure that Islam has such a concept. I fear they do not, in fact. But they should not be forbidden to build it. The last thing I want to do, as a Christian, is sharpen legal tools that can be used against us later. It is an interesting fact, historically, that when Bob Jones University was threatened with its tax status because of its beliefs about interracial dating, which I cannot justify from any Scripture I know, liberal mainline churches filed briefs in support. Why would they do this? Not because they favored segregation, surely; but if the IRS couId take away the tax status of Bob Jones on that, could they not also take away the tax status of a mainline church for opposing a war?

We must remember that most Muslims are horrified by 9/11, and we must not treat them as if they were not, or as if they were somehow covenantally guilty. If we want them to come to know Christ, we will not do that. Those Christians in the past who held Jews covenantally specially guilty for the Crucifixion were wrong and innocent lives were lost. Any serious Christian today finds the notion abhorrent. We don’t need to make the same deadly mistake Muslims and the Twin Towers.

Living with Same Sex Marriage October 16, 2014 No Comments

Several of the Federal circuit courts have found that the Fourteenth Amendment, which became part of the Constitution in 1868, requires the states to validate same sex marriage as equal with opposite sex marriage. Of course, I think this would be a bit of a surprise to our ancestors in 1868, but that seems to be irrelevant nowadays.  And to think we missed this obvious conclusion for 146 years!

Anyway, the view I will take for myself is not so much that the courts have raised ‘civil unions’ to ‘marriage’, but rather they have busted civil marriage down to the level of a domestic partnership.  So my wife and I remain married in Holy Matrimony, but at civil law, as far as I am concerned, we are only ‘domestic partners’ and no more.

In my view, the morally conservative clergy of the various religions should stop exercising their traditional rights to Read the rest of this entry »

Suppose We Applied Some of the Theories of Today to the Culture Wars of 90 Years Ago? October 8, 2014 No Comments

Wesley J. Smith warns us that the ACLU is now maintaining that the rights of access of people to not only abortion but Death with Dignity should override the rights of physicians, pharmacists, and health care workers to conscientious objection regarding abortion and, in the states that have it, ‘Death with Dignity’ (i.e., assisted suicide).  And California has gone a lot farther than the Hobby Lobby controversy Read the rest of this entry »

The Residential College Experience and New Urbanism October 7, 2014 No Comments

Matthew Gerken, in Philanthropy Daily, has a nice essay entitled “Why We Love College.”  For all the problems with the American university experience – they’re not preparing the kids for jobs! – they’re not preparing the kids for anything but jobs! – those who have the residential college experience [and I would remind Mr Gerken that these are a minority of people who are taking college classes, for commuter students are the majority] it is an exceptional experience, Gerken explains that “college often constitutes the single strongest community that we will ever be a part of.”  There are songs; people bond around sports teams; people join various Read the rest of this entry »

‘Beach People’ vs ‘Brunch People’ – the Eternal Struggle September 12, 2014 No Comments

I have concluded that there are two kinds of people, ‘beach people’ and ‘brunch people’.  The first are those that like outdoor activities; the second are those that like to sit in one place for hours and read, or study, or converse.  And I think they have a tendency to marry each other.

My wife is a rather extreme example of a ‘brunch person’.  [I should mention that she’s from the Midwest, which may have something to do with this.]  Her ideal restful day is to sleep till almost noon and then go and sit in a restaurant where she can read, eat, and drink iced tea from say about 1:30 to 4:30.  And, one of her favorite places to do this looks over the ocean; but it is not a beach, and one has to wear shirts and shoes.  And she likes to have company when she does this.  At one time I burned with resentment; now Read the rest of this entry »

Sympathy versus Empathy September 9, 2014 No Comments

I think I have finally figured out the distinction between ‘sympathy’ and ’empathy’, and why we have two words. ‘Sympathy’ is a much older word, and has been in use for centuries; ’empathy’ is a fairly new one, becoming fashionable only in the last half of the 20th century.  No one, at least that I know of, speaks of sending an ’empathy card’ to a friend whose parent, wife, or child died; and the Romance languages describe a nice person as ‘simpatico’, not ’empatico’.  As a matter of fact, I wonder if ’empatico’ is used in Spanish at all!

But here’s my handle on it.  What does “sympathy without empathy” look like?  At worst, it’s the ‘toxic charity‘ that Bob Lupton writes about.  An example might be a ‘mission trip’ where young American kids dig a water ditch for some African village instead of merely, at best, digging alongside the locals and at least allowing the locals to get to do some work; or sending the village things they don’t particularly want; or dumping so much donated food in an area that the existing farmers go broke.  This is the kind of ‘charity’ that makes donors feel good about how much they care, but isn’t particularly helpful.  On a lesser level, it applies to gifts that we receive, Read the rest of this entry »

If 65 is the New 45, is 20 the New 13? September 4, 2014 No Comments

Anna Sutherland, in, Family Studies, points out that teenagers are getting less risky in their behavior nowadays; they are drinking less alcohol, and actually having less sex, not just less unprotected sex.  [In fact, the average young person today is more likely to have smoked marijuana than tobacco.]  Is a lot of this to be credited to the style of “helicopter parenting” that has been common since 1980?  We used to trust our children to roam the streets.  [Or rather, our parents used to trust us to roam the streets.  My father’s style was considered overprotective in his day; today it’s normal.]  The new style was triggered by the high crime rates of the ’70s and ‘80s, and partly by a wave of child-molestation hysteria that swept the nation in the ‘80s that some have compared to the Salem witch hysteria of 1692.  Jeffrey S. Dill explains it is in “The Irony of the Overprotected Child.” [I would point out that for all the lectures about “be careful of strangers”, most children who are molested are molested by people they know; I will betray my advanced age here by mentioning the “wicked Uncle Ernie” in the musical Tommy, an important musical to those of a certain age.]

And, interestingly enough, according to Frank Bass at Bloomberg, the number of latchkey kids seems to have declined.  It’s not that that many households have been more content to live [God forbid] on one income, but that many parents have found ways Read the rest of this entry »

The Adams Map: A Different Spectrum, A Challenge August 29, 2014 No Comments

Michael Adams’ 2005 book, American Backlash: The Untold Story of Social Change in the United States, got little attention in the States.  In fact, since he is a Canadian author, only used copies can be found on the regular amazon.com, whereas new copies can actually be found on the Canadian version, amazon.ca.  I found Adams’ work in the footnotes to the original Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility book by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, who maintain a site we often refer to at Blue Kennel.

Adams’ analysis cuts across not only the traditional “left” vs “right” but even the newer spectrum of “libertarian” vs “populist”.  His company polled Americans on a broad spectrum of values, ranging from “Father should be head of the household” to “Violence is sometimes useful” to “look good feel good” to “just deserts” and other such that do not always have an obvious connection to politics or theology.  I have tried to reproduce his basic diagram below. Read the rest of this entry »

No, “New Urbanism” and “Smart Growth” are Not the Same August 26, 2014 No Comments

There are two political movements in urban development that have a lot of overlap but are not the same.  ‘New Urbanism’ advocates the legalization and building of communities resembling the 19th century American town, with a fair number of single family homes [or maybe ‘single family’ with granny flats], row houses, and clumps of apartments, close enough to commercial places to be walkable, and diverse in terms of income, hopefully without subsidy.  Smart Growth, on the other hand, goes farther and advocates the forbidding of building that is not either New Urbanist or denser, sometimes even high-rise; and also any building at all outside a ‘growth boundary’.  It is a fact that perhaps 90% of New Urbanists are also Smart Growthers, though many of the leaders of the New Urbanist movement are not; that still does not mean the two philosophies are identical.  Smart Growth, in fact, finds itself an ally in many areas of No Growth, Read the rest of this entry »

Allergy to Antithesis, Yet Again August 20, 2014 No Comments

The New York Times has just done a story on how Obama is not getting along well with the Democrats in Congress. To quote it: “In one sense, Mr. Obama’s response was a reminder of what made him such an appealing figure in the first place:  his almost innate aversion to the partisan squabbles that have left Americans so jaded and disgruntled with their political system.”  But you heard, or could have heard, about that on Blue Kennel four years ago.

Blue Kennel saw it first!

Amusement and Awe: John Muir and Walt Disney No Comments

In a recent issue of Orange Coast magazine, Bob Sipchen of the Sierra Club contrasts John Muir, the naturalist, and Walt Disney:

Walt Disney, who also shares a place in California’s Hall of Fame, appreciated the natural world Muir loved, honoring it in his movies and theme parks.  But the great amusement magician probably understood that his best efforts would fall short.  Yodeling bears entertain.  Bobsleds running down concrete mountains thrill.  But shudder under a perfumed waterfall in Sequoia National Park, or watch a rising moon light Yosemite’s Half Dome, and you just may be transformed.  (Orange Coast, May 2014, p. 91)

Several things to be said here. First, God intended the natural world to be awesome, and as Romans 1 assures us, partly to impress on us His character.  Second, both awe of the natural world and amusement can turn to idolatry, “worshiping the created thing rather than the Creator,” very easily.  Third, Sipchen’s issue can be applied not only to nature, but to the arts, and more to the point, to the liturgy of the church.  The church can center its liturgy on the awe of God, or it can make its liturgy [and every church has a liturgy of some sort] a thing of amusement and entertainment and lessen God’s glory.  While there is much to be said for the ancient liturgies of the church, a liturgy does not need to be ancient to inspire the awe of the Glory of God.  The church has to continually resist the temptation of ‘entertainment’.  I do not like it, for example, when a church building looks too much like a place of entertainment.

Agrarianism Without Agriculture? August 8, 2014 No Comments

The ever-surprising Ralph Nader has recently been reading some paleo-conservative sources, and has written a book entitled Unstoppable; the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.  In the acknowledgements at the end, he specifically thanks Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative think tank, for keeping in print a tome from the 1930s called Who Owns America?  A New Declaration of Independence.  Nader devotes the seventh chapter of his book to a discussion of this volume.  He quotes Edward Shapiro’s 1999 foreword at some length: Read the rest of this entry »

Art Epiphany, Part II: the Millennium Bridge August 2, 2014 No Comments

I write this, and the previous post, from London.  One of the newer features of the city, finished in 2000 [opened for two days, shut down for repairs, and reopened in 2002], is a pedestrian bridge called Millennium Bridge.  It connects two major institutions.  At the south end is the great art museum called Tate Modern, an old electric plant converted in a really quite beautiful way into a large art museum, which, unlike the Guggenheim Bilbao, actually has a lot of good exhibits in it.  At the other end is St. Paul’s Cathedral, built around 1675 [opened in 1708] in a style that strikes Americans, especially the dome, as looking more like a legislative building than a traditional church!  Of course, it was 1675, and it was more in Victorian times, 200 years later, that the Gothic Revival taught us that ‘traditional churches’ are supposed to be spiky Gothic, or at least we associate that style with the old fashioned religious.  In those Victorian times, oddly enough, the Houses of Parliament were rebuilt in a spiky Gothic style!  This leaves Americans with a rather odd impression – the legislative building looks churchy, and the biggest cathedral in town looks like a legislative Capitol, as we would call it.  O England!

But sorry for the digression.  It seems to me that the Millennium Bridge strikingly connects two major shrines; that of the Old Religion, and that of the New.  Both are crowded with visitors and tourists.  I, not being that much of a connoisseur of modern art, am amazed that the Tate Modern is so crowded.  I can see a few black clad Brie eating [or even weed-smoking] sophisticates might be interested in what is in it, but I cannot see what the general public sees in the place.  At the same time the New Religion has a use for the shrines of the Old Religion.  The great cathedrals and churches of Europe are valued.  Instead of worshiping God in churches, the New Religion worships Read the rest of this entry »

My Great Art Epiphany of 1995 July 31, 2014 No Comments

I think I must have read, somewhere before 1995, that arts institutions were taking the place of religious institutions among the upper classes of this country.  But it did not stick with me until an important epiphany I had in 1995.

It happened that in August of 1995, I was in Seattle with my family, and that one day I took my then young son to the amusement park at the Seattle Center by monorail.  Going to the center, I failed to notice the banners on the street lights on the way to the monorail station; coming back, I saw them!  They were preachy banners, of the general tone of “Do you know what it feels like to be homeless?” the one I remember.  I drew a conclusion, logical to me, as to whom had put these up; surely it was the local Council of [liberal mainline] Churches.  But shortly after that I read what was really going on; a major art museum in the city, having been refurbished, was reopening, and the community of artists had been allowed to put up these banners.

There could be no possible doubt; the artists were the new clergy, the people who were regarded as having moral authority.  It threw a different perspective on the battles then raging regarding the National Endowment for the Arts.  The business community was protecting its clergy, the same way a Catholic community would react if Read the rest of this entry »

The Closer to Home, The Farther from the People: The Media have Turned the Founding Fathers’ World Upside Down July 29, 2014 No Comments

In an essay in the recent book The Beholden State [pages 96-101], William Voegeli, of the Claremont Institute, writes about the scandal in the Los Angeles borough of Bell, where the city officers were found to be ridiculously overpaid.  He questions whether people today have the ability to exercise the level of oversight at the local level that the Founding Fathers assumed they would when they created a fairly decentralized United States with the federal government of limited powers acting concurrently with the states.  Voegeli agrees, and I will quote a whole paragraph; Read the rest of this entry »

“Addicted to Inflation,” Indeed July 25, 2014 No Comments

Paul Krugman has just issued a column charging conservatives with being “addicted to inflation,” not that they are pro-inflation necessarily but that they believe, and always believe, that hyper-inflation is imminent. Well, we had the real thing back in the 1970s; the cover price of the major news magazines of the day jumped from $.25 to $2 within the space of months, and Nixon’s attempt to control it through price controls led to shortages of toilet paper.  They talk of ‘preppers’ today, but the survivalist movement of that time, which sought ways of living without having to depend on outside inputs of electricity, water, natural gas, and the easily availability of food stores, was bigger than today; and it was linked with the hard money movement, which believed that gold and silver was much better than fiat currency because it could not be ‘printed’ at will.  Incidentally, it has been forgotten how much the hard-money and survivalist movements contributed to the revival of the New Right in the late 70s and early 80s.  I would in fact argue that they contributed just as much to it as the more publicized Religious Right, with which they overlapped.

In 1981 Ronald Reagan succeeded to the Presidency, and his first act was to remove the price and other controls on petroleum products.  The price of gasoline went down, and there was a glut, Read the rest of this entry »

Man of the Left George Skelton Admits California Income Tax is too Top-Heavy on the Rich! Plus, Apparently Man of the Left Thomas Piketty Endorses Proposition 13! July 21, 2014 No Comments

George Skelton, LA Times columnist and generally a ‘progressive,’ admits, that the California state income tax is too top-heavy on the few and the rich.  A welcome insight from someone on his side of the political spectrum.  Note that Mark Paul, a close associate of Joe Mathews, one of my favorites, disagrees.  Evidently Skelton has been sounding this alarm before.  Paul argues that the overdependence on the rich was a consequence of the Internet bubble of 2000 and the resulting crash, and that outside of the rich nowadays, nobody has any money anyhow; the top-heaviness of the tax is only reflective of the top-heaviness of California incomes.  But I looked at the date of Mr. Paul’s essay, and it was May 2008, before the Great Recession became Read the rest of this entry »

What Kevin Starr Doesn’t Get About Small Towns July 9, 2014 No Comments

I have been enjoying Kevin Starr’s volume in his cultural history series, Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963.  It is a period of which I have some living memory, and I have heard of, or met, in my childhood a number of the characters in this book.  But I’m afraid he doesn’t understand the difference between the mythical Midwestern small town and the real one.  He writes of Disneyland,  “Opening in 1955 in Anaheim, Disneyland perfectly expressed this sustaining mythology of small town life and identity . . . . At the entrance to Disneyland was Main Street USA; that mythologized small town fixed forever in the American imagination . . . ” (Kindle, loc 423 of 15070)  And shortly afterwards he adds

Americans believed, moreover – so [Constance] Perin reports – that home ownership provided the middle class a means of deliberately separating itself from people who were racially or ethnically different, disruptive for one reason or another, or merely lower down the social ladder.  Life in the big cities, by contrast, was based on elaborate and complex rituals of avoidance through which the middle and upper classes avoided threatening elements.  Middle-class Americans preferred to live among their own kind of people; people, that is, who looked like they looked, earned what they earned, had been raised the same way they had been raised, and generally shared the same philosophy of life.  Homeownership . . . . ensured such a willful segregation.  Families voluntarily came to these places to be with their own kind.

Home ownership, Perin argues, was also believed to protect sexual stability and propriety.  In the mid-nineteenth century, housing historian Gwendolyn Wright tells us, New Yorkers were scandalized that newly constructed Paris-style apartment buildings allowed unrelated men and women to live along the same corridor.  Into the twentieth century, urban apartment buildings continued to sustain hints of that larger promiscuity that was an ongoing component of urban life.  (Kindle, loc 456 of 15070.)

The fact is, these ‘suburban’ values of wanting to live among people who “looked like they looked, earned what they earned, had been raised the same way they had been raised,” were never the values of Midwestern small towns; Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Lind’s New Paradigm, and the ‘End’ of Social Conservatism July 6, 2014 No Comments

Michael Lind has released a new essay titled “The Coming Realignment” in The Breakthrough Journal, one of the most innovative magazines around today.  He predicts that social conservatism as we know it will fade away, but that we will not have a political consensus; there will be two camps, one he calls “liberaltarian” based in the denser urban areas that he calls “Densitaria”; the other, “populiberalism,” will flourish in the loosely settled suburban areas he calls “Posturbia.”  He contends that Densitaria will be primarily occupied by wealthy urbanites and their poor, often immigrant servants, while Posturbia, being dominated by the single family home, will not be accessible to the poorest, and not very desirable to the richest; it will be, however, racially diverse.  Neither of these cultures will be hostile to the welfare state, but they will have different preferences.  Densitaria will support the means tested welfare programs that have been called ‘welfare’ in American political discourse, but it will want to control their costs, and will want to put restrictions on things that damage the health of potential welfare clients, like smoking and getting fat [apparently not dysfunctional sexual behavior, which is perceived in a different category now].  The Posturbians will favor the type of welfare that comes out of the New Deal, which in American political discourse has not been called ‘welfare’; non-means tested programs like Social Security and Medicare and other forms of social insurance, public libraries and schools, and other government programs available to all and not just the ‘poor’.  The Republican Party could actually become representative of either camp, depending on how things go.

I would remark that polls of Millennials seem to indicate that abortion and euthanasia will continue to remain live issues, even as other forms of social conservatism fade; Read the rest of this entry »

Why June 28, 2014, is a Really Big Anniversary June 26, 2014 No Comments

First of all, it is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke (i.e., Crown Prince) Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.  This led, of course, to the Great War and a series of wars and cold wars that lasted for much of the 20th century and in my view effectively brought ‘Christendom’ in the West, already very thin and shallow, to its end.  Margaret Macmillan had an excellent essay last weekend in the Wall Street Journal on this. Incidentally, the 1950s did not perceive itself as the Golden Age that so many think of it as now; anyone who has ever been to Disneyland, or has seen a lot of Disney movies of the era, will see that the era 1890-1914 [often called the Belle Epoque] was the 1950s’ 1950s, the era that people looked back to with nostalgia.

June 28, 2014, is also the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, the riot at the gay bar in New York City when the police tried to crack down.  This is the most spectacular event at the opening of the Gender Revolution, which to my mind includes both the feminist and homosexual revolutions, and has as its thesis “men are infinitely substitutable for women, and women infinitely substitutable for men, in any role whatsoever.”  Perhaps, as many say, this revolution was driven by technology; as most jobs became other than physical labor, women could do them as easily as men; one consequence was that starting in the 1970s, two income couple could outbid one income couples for a finite supply of housing; therefore most couples in many parts of the country had to become two income couples whether they really wanted to or not!  I understand the idea Read the rest of this entry »

Some Bleats About the ‘Common Good’ No Comments

James Davidson Hunter is doing commendable work trying to restore the interest, of Christians especially, in the ‘common good.’  Not a bad thing, but first we have to think about what the ‘common good’ is.

1.  First of all, we must recognize that in any ‘community’ there is a tendency for the ‘common good’, or the ‘good of the community’, to come to mean ‘the good of the more powerful and influential members of the community.’  This often means the wealthier members, but not always; it can mean the most organized, or sometimes, especially on the neighborhood level, it can mean empty nesters who have time on their hands!

2.  There are also different levels and sizes of the ‘commons.’

a.  The ‘common good’ of the neighborhood may differ from the desires of the property owner, but it also differs from the ‘common good’ Read the rest of this entry »

Declining Hubs: A Good Location for Experimenting with High Speed Rail May 17, 2014 No Comments

I stumbled recently on a page in Therichest.com listing seven airports in America that are declining in their status as hubs, and it is interesting that they seem to be concentrated in one region: the area between the Great Plains and the Appalachians.  Three of them are in Ohio [actually the Cincinnati airport is in Kentucky, but the main portion of the city is in Ohio] one is not too far from Ohio [Pittsburgh] and two are in Missouri. These are also places that tend to be overlooked by meeting planners of the kind of conferences I attend; most of my American domestic travel is related to conferences in some way.  As a matter of fact, I have never been to Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, or Memphis ever!  Large cities that are not mentioned on this list are Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, and Birmingham; of these, I have never seen Louisville or Birmingham.  Perhaps they were never hubs; or it’s possible that Nashville, being the third media and publishing city in America after New York and Los Angeles, sustains its own traffic.

It occurs to me that it might be practical to connect these cities by high speed rail to the active hubs of Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta Hartsfield, and DFW, and to each other.  They are spaced less than 300 miles apart for the most part, and the territory between them is either flat or the hills are not that high and don’t pose a major obstacle.  The longest distances are Chicago to Cleveland at 343 miles, and Detroit is about 60 miles off a direct route; and Memphis to DFW at 475 miles, which is long but would at least give access to Little Rock and Texarkana as well. Read the rest of this entry »

The Shoe Is On The Other Foot? April 30, 2014 No Comments

A United Church of Christ is, it seems, suing the state of North Carolina because its ‘religious liberty’ is being denied because it cannot pronounce a same sex couple married under state law.  The UCC should have the right, I believe, to declare ‘holy matrimony’ [as distinct from civil marriage] under its own canon law.  And on the other hand, so should we Christians.  [Despite its name, I do not consider the United Church of Christ a Christian denomination nowadays.  Yes, it’s judgmental, but it’s the kind of judgment we are supposed to make.]

I’ll go a step further and clarify.  It is not heretical for a Christian to support ‘marriage equality’ at civil law.  A Christian could have without heresy voted against Proposition 8, for example, though I supported it.  It is heretical for a Christian to advocate that his church recognize same sex couples in its canon law, much less perform ceremonies.  The church needs to have a different ‘definition of marriage’ than the state.  Frankly, it should have had this for 40 years, since ‘no-fault divorce’ came in.  This would even be true in North Carolina, because, I trust, the civil marriage laws of North Carolina allow for no-fault divorce.  The state of North Carolina should allow its churches to define ‘holy matrimony’ as they see fit and not require a marriage license; and they should define ‘civil marriage’ as the people of the State see fit and require that a justice of the peace, not any religious officer, ‘solemnize’ or make legal these licensed civil marriages.  And California and states that have ‘civil marriage equality’ should do the same.

Pansies April 7, 2014 No Comments

PansiesWhy are pansies associated with unmanliness and deviation from heteronormativity?  They are some of the hardiest flowers there are.  When I took this picture the temperature in Washington D.C. had risen to a high of 34F (1C) and they have been blooming for some time, as opposed to the cherry blossoms, which have not shown up yet. They and daffodils in fact dare to appear during what is really the last stage of winter, before spring really breaks out.  See my post from last year on “Daffodil season” in Michigan, which is also pansy season, and is, it seems, about a month later in southern Michigan than here in the Capital.

China’s High-Speed Rail April 3, 2014 No Comments

Yeah!!!  I admit there are a lot of problems with California”s high speed rail, and it was probably a mistake, but if high speed rail could replace a lot of airplanes I would be very very happy.

In Response To: “China”s High-Speed Rail Is So Popular, It”s Hurting the Domestic Airline Industry” by Heather Tommons at The Atlantic

June Gloom All Year Round March 24, 2014 No Comments

Joel Kotkin has got a post up, partially entitled, “Coastal Cities are Old News – It’s the Sunbelt that’s Booming.”  In it, he declares, “people seem to, once again, be streaming toward the expanse of warm-weather states extending from the southeastern seaboard to Phoenix.”

Now wait a minute.  When the term ‘Sunbelt’ was coined, by Kevin Phillips in 1968, it definitively ran as far north and west as Silicon Valley.  Now, it seems, the west end of the Sunbelt has been clipped off, and it ends at Phoenix.  There is of course the phenomenon of “June Gloom;” which I myself like to call ‘Indian Winter.’ Southern Californians pity the out of state tourists who flock to the state during the period between when school lets out – which seems to be earlier every year – and the fourth of July, who imagine that that time of year is actually summertime!  [If you come from England, however, you will feel right at home, and it hardly actually rains during this season except for early morning drizzle.] And, the gloom reappears every night all summer long, but after the Fourth of July it breaks up usually by 11 a m or so.  Read the rest of this entry »

More Minimum Wage Games March 15, 2014 No Comments

I am in New York City again, and the hard copy New York Sunday Times was delivered to my room.  As usual there is interesting stuff in it, despite some of their editorial policies.  In particular there are two articles that, to me are connected, though nobody at the Times seems to have drawn the connection.  The first one is on millennials, people born in the 80s or later, being trapped in an endless karma cycle of internships and not being able to move out of it into full time jobs.  The other is about the economics of the Oregon-Idaho border and the differing minimum wages on both sides.  It is interesting that no one has drawn the connection that the proliferation of free [unpaid] internships might be related to the existence of a minimum wage.  It is legal to pay these interns nothing.  It is legal to pay them the minimum wage, and there are some paid internships that do so.  But it is of course a crime to pay people anything between zero and the minimum wage.

The observations about the Oregon-Idaho border were interesting too.   Read the rest of this entry »

Am I an Occasionalist? Christian Philosophy Critiques Intelligent Design March 12, 2014 No Comments

First Things is a magazine I like and find interesting.  Just recently they have come out with a criticism of Intelligent Design by philosopher-scientist Stephen Meredith of the University of Chicago.  He charges that Intelligent Design assumes the philosophy of ‘occasionalism’, which has been expressed by al-Ghazali and al-Razi in the Islamic world, and Nicolas Malebranche in the Christian world.  This belief holds that “create substances cannot themselves be efficient causes.”  I’m wondering whether I am an Occasionalist, since I didn’t know what that was till a few hours ago.

I am not a Young Earth Creationist of the Ken Ham type, and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, does not represent my views.  The earth is billions of years old, it goes around the sun, and God can breed as easily as He can create from the dust, and has done so.

Nevertheless I find certain aspects of Meredith’s argument rather puzzling.  I am absolutely an amateur when it comes to theology, philosophy, or science, so maybe I’m just displaying my ignorance.  But if they can’t explain it to me, they can’t explain it to anybody. Read the rest of this entry »

The Homeless Prefer Suburbia March 11, 2014 No Comments

Even the homeless see the virtues of suburban life, apparently.

What to do about Ukraine March 4, 2014 No Comments

In other words, Berezow says they need a Nelson Mandela.

My own suggestions are more in the Congress of Vienna – Treaty of Versailles tradition:  Cede everything east of the Vorskla and Dnipro rivers to Russia.  This includes Crimea, Kharkiv, and Donbas.  Allow EU troops [which really means French] to be stationed in the rump Ukraine, but not any troops associated with NATO.  This would be too much of an insult to Russia.

Odesa may be largely Russophone, but Ukraine needs to hold on to it as an outlet to the Black Sea.  The rump Ukraine would also be permitted to annex Transdinestria.  The rest of Moldova would be given a choice as to whether to join Romania by plebiscite, or not.

In Response To: “How Ukraine’s New Government Could Destroy the Country” by Alex B. Berezow at RealClearWorld

Academics, Politics, and Business February 28, 2014 No Comments

David Brooks has written a fascinating essay on how self-presentation in politics is very different from that in the academic world, and how Michael Ignatieff came to grief in Canada finding this out the hard way. I don’t feel the need to comment further on politics here, but I wish Brooks had written about a third area of life: the business world. I fear that it is more like the political world than the academic world. Of course Brooks probably doesn’t know anything about business, but I wish somebody competent would write a follow-up to Brooks on how self-presentation in business differs from what occurs in academics and politics.

It’s a Consensus World, After All? February 25, 2014 No Comments

We often speak of our era as a very polarized age.  I will demur.  First, I remember 1968 in America, and the polarization and hate between cultures then was a lot worse than it is now, with actual riots and shootings. Watts, Chicago, and Kent State hardly represented a more peaceable world than now.  Second, Andrew Bacevich, the pacifist conservative, declares at Front Porch Republic that we actually have a consensus; lots of people reject it, from Occupy to the Tea Party to the Social Conservatives, but the opponents of the consensus seem to be relatively impotent.  The consensus endorses military intervention overseas, corporate crony capitalism, and sexual liberation from historic restraints.  Bacevich declares, “Are the troops in Afghanistan fighting for our freedom?  If so, the package of things they fight for includes . . . no fault divorce, abortion on demand, gay marriage, and an economic system that manifestly privileges the interest of the affluent . . .”

I declared in an earlier post a few years ago that I thought that the events of 9/11/2001 had changed the course of the culture wars, because if the enemy was now Islam rather than ‘Godless Communism’, we had the choice of defending ‘Christendom’ and clarifying how its values differed from Islam, or defending the New Order.  The cultural leadership chose the New Order.  Shortly after that I heard Tim Keller, of Redeemer Church New York City, saying the same thing, which, of course, proves how smart he is.  But in terms of the establishment that really controls things in this country, do we not have a consensus on a lot of very important issues?

In response to: “American Political Praxis” by Andrew Bacevich at Front Porch Republic

Two Theories of a Lasting Marriage February 22, 2014 No Comments

Reading the Sunday New York Times always fertilizes the imagination, for good or ill. Today they had a psychologist named Eli J. Finkel writing about how since 1965 we have been in the era of the “self-expressive marriage,” which is “for self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth” and “less . . . an essential institution and more as an elective means of achieving personal fulfillment.” This sounds potentially selfish, and indeed I fear that people are looking to their marriages and relationships to get that which only God supplies, but Finkel declares that the best way to hold these “self-expressive” marriages together is to “invest time and energy in their marriage,” which unfortunately is easier for more affluent people. [I can testify that if you are married to an honest spouse, you will get more “self-discovery” than you ever wanted!]

Finkel also declares, “among spouses with children at home, spousal time declined to 9 hours per week from 13, and much of this decline resulted from an increase in time-intensive parenting.” But Richard Reeves, of the Brookings Institution, apparently thinks Read the rest of this entry »

Why Does Talk About “Evangelism” Make Me Nervous? February 20, 2014 No Comments

At an event I was at recently I heard about a new effort to get Christian colleges united around the concept of ‘evangelism’.  Well, fine.  Jesus desires that people in all cultures be brought to Him and taught to do the things He commands [Matthew 28] and we certainly desire that the maximum number of people in all cultures be brought to the truth and love of Jesus.  Of course, I wondered at first who they were going to evangelize on Christian college campuses.  Some of the professors, maybe?

But if I desire to see people who don’t know Christ come to Him, why does talk of ‘evangelism’ often make me nervous?  Is it that I don’t really believe He is the appointed savior for all?  Or are there things about the way ‘evangelism’ has often been approached that give me concerns?  Here are some possibilities.

1.  For a long time most of evangelicalism was dominated by the mentality I call “Great Commission Utilitarianism,” or even sometimes “Great Commission Deism.”  This is the mentality that Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Freedom (and its Relationship to the First) February 18, 2014 No Comments

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World seems, for the most part, to be closer to the future we are facing in the West than George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.  I do think that parts of Orwell’s vision are still important, however; in particular the appendix to Nineteen Eighty-Four on Newspeak and Orwell’s essay on “Politics and the English Language.”  But I want to focus on an important passage from Huxley’s preface to the second edition (1947) of Brave New World.  I will quote it here:

Nor does the sexual promiscuity of Brave New World seem so very distant. There are already certain American cities in which the number of divorces is equal to the number of marriages.  In a few years, no doubt, marriage licenses will be sold like dog licenses, good for a period of twelve months, with no law against changing dogs or keeping more than one animal at a time.  As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensating to increase.  And the dictator (unless he needs cannon fodder and families with which to colonize empty or conquered territories) will do well to encourage that freedom.  In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.  [Italics mine – HFA]

It is one thing that many libertarians want to add sexual freedom to the long list of freedoms that they would like to promote.  And we have seen “conservatives” mocked because they would shrink government and yet insert it into the bedroom.  [How does that apply to abortion?  Abortionists don’t do house calls, do they?] But let’s look at the other side of the coin, the “progressives”, often in American English called “liberals”.

“Progressives” are generally known for wanting to increase legislation, regulation, and restriction on our lives. Guess what is the exception.  They want to keep government “out of the bedroom”, but if you want to build an extra bedroom on your house, you will be answering to City Hall, and Read the rest of this entry »

“Spoiled Rich Kids” and “Ghetto Gangsters” February 6, 2014 No Comments

Trustfunders like myself are accused of a lot. We are accused of being ‘spoiled’, whatever that is. Some of us take the route of a Paris Hilton, others of us follow the rather ostentatious simplicity of the so-called ‘trustafarian’. But the common moral weaknesses boil down to these:

1. The sin called ‘acedia’ or spiritual sloth. Since everything we do is in some sense a hobby, as a book years ago called “Robin Hood Was Right” put it, we tend to fall into that.

2. Regarding our wealth as an ‘unscalable wall’ as the Book of Proverbs puts it; we think we don’t need to concern ourselves with our reputations or our image in the community, or with the troubles that might otherwise happen to us. The wall does not protect us against health problems or relational problems, though it allows us to buy solutions. First generation wealth, which is the vast majority of wealth in this country, can incline toward this vice as well.

3. A lack of empathy, and a judgmental attitude, toward people who must work. Or a complete misunderstanding of their circumstances; the ‘let them eat cake’ syndrome. The judgmental attitude is very much a moral issue. I am not sure whether all of the lack of empathy is a moral issue. Read the rest of this entry »

After a Century, Why is the San Francisco Bay Area Kicking our Butt Now? February 2, 2014 No Comments

I was young in the early Sixties, when the cultural rivalry between Los Angeles and San Francisco was strong and active. Jack Smith, for Los Angeles, and Herb Caen, for San Francisco, used to feud regularly in their newspaper columns and entertain the public with the North-South rivalry. Los Angeles, since about the time of World War I, had been the larger city, but San Francisco maintained its distinct culture and way of life. And at that time, they dismissed the growing city of San Jose, and basically everything south of Stanford University, as sort of a northern outlier of the barbaric Southern California lifestyle. [This is before the term “Silicon Valley” came into common use.]

Because San Francisco had been, from the Gold Rush to World War I, the larger city, it had the headquarters of the banks, and continued to have a more imposing skyline [and still does]. It had jazz clubs and coffee houses. And the Bay Area had Berkeley and Stanford. Los Angeles had the savings and loans, institutions which were in those days much more distinct from banks than they are today; their posh headquarters lined Wilshire Boulevard. Pasadena had Cal Tech, an institution, if anything, more prestigious than Stanford in the scientific world, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Los Angeles had Hollywood, and had, Read the rest of this entry »

How Michael Dell Ruined My Vacation January 28, 2014 No Comments

For seventeen years my wife and I have been going to the Four Seasons Hualalai, on Hawaii Island [known as the Big Island] for a month every winter.  The beach in front of it is full of lava rock and unswimmable, but the next door resort, much older than the Four Seasons and indeed than the highway, is called Kona Village and has a sheltered beach where one can actually swim in the ocean and launch canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.  The water at that spot is certainly rough compared to Newport Bay or any lagoon, but by Hawaii standards it is quite sheltered.  The concession for both hotels was there, and I had my first stand up paddleboard lessons there four years ago, in a tougher school than my later lessons in Newport Harbor.  Thus I learned my favorite sport, one that I love and that distracts me, it must be confessed, from doing more regular posting on this blog!  Many a day do I have posts on my head, but the water beckons.

In 2006 a corporation partly owned by Texan software entrepreneur Michael Dell bought the Four Seasons, Read the rest of this entry »

Why I Won’t Support Unz’s Minimum Wage Initiative – And What I Will Support January 24, 2014 No Comments

Some important people on the Right, starting with the maverick Ron Unz but apparently including such as Phyllis Schlafly and Bill O’Reilly, have come out in favor of a higher minimum wage, such as $12 per hour. The argument against that, which I cannot dismiss, is that it prices a lot of marginally employable people out of the market. In the short run, this is of course true, and we cannot view a higher minimum wage as some Moses’ rod by which we strike the corporate rock and more money comes out. The counter-arguments that seem to have some validity are three:

  1. Those that do receive the minimum wage increase will spend most of the increase – and that will stimulate the economy enough, and create enough for low-end labor, to hire back most of the people, at this higher wage, that were priced out of the market in the short run.
  2. Higher minimum wages will encourage businesses to invest in capital rather than labor, ultimately raising productivity for all. [One problem with this is that the new jobs being created here may not be the ones for which those who were priced out of the market are qualified.]
  3. Real minimum wages have been higher in the past than now, and at some of these times unemployment has been lower than now.

Ron Unz adds an interesting argument; raising the price of cheap labor will price some of the immigrants out of the market, Read the rest of this entry »

The Late Chaim Potok and the 2012 Election January 4, 2014 No Comments

My apologies for my long silence.  I was gone for five weeks, mainly on my wife’s business, but the last portion of the trip was a journey through the north of Greece looking mostly at painted churches.  I should start posting from the road, though I have no desire to compete necessarily with my wife’s new sister website, Postcards for Pilgrims, which is opening up next year.  The one big travel post I did make on this blog, the San Andreas fault trip, was a bachelor trip that she wasn’t on.

And I apologize for responding to an article that is a year old.  The fact is that I just stumbled upon it.

Christopher Caldwell, in his essay after the 2012 election, drew, whether he as aware of it or not, [he doesn’t mention the name] on categories devised by the late popular author of cultural-clash novels, Chaim Potok. Potok used to speak of core cultures [centered on strongly held values] versus peripheral cultures [which are superficial and not centered on anything].  In Potok’s view, a core culture, however cultic or perverse, will always defeat a peripheral culture with no clear center.  When two core cultures clash, it results in a bloody struggle; when two peripheral cultures clash, eccentricities and madnesses appear.

Christopher Caldwell argues that Obama, in 2012, ran a values oriented campaign, and Romney, ultimately, did not.  In Potokian terms, Obama ran a ‘core’ campaign, and Romney, before most of the public, ran a ‘periphery’ campaign.  There is a contingent of people Read the rest of this entry »

After Jesus, A Better World December 20, 2013 No Comments

Mark Judge, a Roman Catholic writer, has, just in time for Christmas, given us his version of why the coming of Jesus into the world was an improvement.  Judge quotes the former pope Benedict XVI as saying that the ancient Greeks “considered eros principally as a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a ‘divine madness’ which tears man away from his finite existence and enables him . . . to experience supreme happiness.”  [Just listen to almost any twentieth or twenty-first century song lyrics and you will hear precisely that message.]  But “the prostitutes in the [Greek] temple . . . far from being goddesses, they were human persons being exploited. . . . Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence . . .”

Mark Judge declares that “the evil is ancient,” more ancient than Jesus, and that far from “hold[ing] back the modern world [i]t’s about trying to hold back a world that history has already lived through – a world of pederasty, prostitution, false gods, and the will to power.”

Christianity preached, according to Judge, “morality, a properly understood concept of love, and the primacy of loving a God who is not just love and mercy but ultimate justice [a concept often not understood today – HFA]” and gave us “great architecture, philosophy, books, music . . . universities, the dignity of women, stable families, the civil rights movement, and U2.  It destroyed the old temple, where it was the official law of the state that people could be used sexually, treated as objects, and discarded in the name of fleeting pleasure.”

Mark Judge has isolated an important part, though only a part, of why we should rejoice at Christmas, and sing with those strange songs they are now playing in the shopping malls –

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease

It is rather amazing what we get away with this one time of the year!  I swear one of these years someone is going to listen to the actual words of some of these carols and declare a campaign of outrage.

The Virtues And Vices Of Daffodil Season April 28, 2013 No Comments

Between winter and spring intervenes, in many areas, the Daffodil Season. Here in Michigan, it is St George’s Day, April 23, as I write this, and the ground has turned green and the daffodils are out in force, but the trees still look bare and the weather is neither wintry nor particularly warm.

The daffodil season has a lot of virtues for touring and sightseeing. Except in low latitudes, the equinox has passed, and the days are fairly long, pollens and allergies have not yet kicked in (if I’m in Europe in May, June, or July, I have to bring my allergy pills with me); it may be a little bit cold, but it is a lot easier to study carved stones while listening to a lecture (which is what a lot of Old World outdoor tourism is) in this kind of weather than in summer heat. And, while the rain is incessant, it is no more so than many other times of the year, and at the very least the relatively cold rains are not steamy. Snow is confined to rare flurries that do not build up.

The vices of the daffodil season is that winter sports are done, and, while the hardy may be playing golf or tennis, outdoor sports, especially water sports, are not very comfortable. So I will still be seeking indoor gymnasiums to work out in. We itch for warmer weather. But at the same time, I enjoy the freedom from allergies and pollen, which will soon beset us.

California Law and Sex Partner Switch April 17, 2013 No Comments

This is a strange story. A man got a woman to sleep with him by pretending [in the dark, I suppose] to be her boy friend. Now apparently if you impersonate a husband in this way, it is rape under California law, but not to impersonate a boyfriend. The judges recommended that the legislature fix this, and the legislature probably will.

But what about the reverse? Suppose someone impersonates a girlfriend or wife in the dark?

There is in fact an important Bible story revolving around this. The patriarch Jacob wakes up the morning after his wedding night [and presumably a consummation] only to find in his bed not his beloved Rachel, but her somewhat older sister Leah. He ends up with both of them, and on the fact that he favors his two children by Rachel outrageously more than his other eleven children [ten sons and one daughter] hangs many a tale. How would that be treated under California law? And Jacob’s son Judah is victimized similarly not long after that. He goes to a prostitute only to discover that it is his own disguised daughter-in-law, Tamar, who actually conceives [and according to Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus Christ actually comes through this child]. I can’t help but wonder what California law would do with this!

The Story: “Judges overturn rape conviction, urge law change” by Juliet Williams (AP) for DailyColler.com

God = Not Society and Not the Autonomous Individual April 16, 2013 No Comments

Conor Friedersdorf, fortunately declares that children do not belong to the ‘community’ or ‘society’.  Actually, they don’t really belong to their parents anyway; they belong to God, and their parents are temporary stewards of them.  While we cannot say it quite that way in the political sphere, I have pointed out in a previous post that the political meaning of the word ‘God’ in our culture is Not Society.  I think I should expand it now to ‘Not Society and Not the Autonomous Individual’.  The late Lady Thatcher was not quite right when she declared “there is no such thing as society,” but society does not ordain our morals, our governments, or our family structure – it only ordains, in my view, our manners, customs, and languages.  These really are relative.

An Interesting Twist on “It’s a Wonderful Life” April 15, 2013 No Comments

In view of the recently released book Building Home and the upcoming conference No Place Like Home here’s an interesting twist on the famous film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  The author seems to like Potterville better.  I don’t think I do, because it seems to me a place filled with vice. But some people prefer that.

Related: “Why ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is anything but” by Jim Treacher at DailyColler.com

Arellano Defends the Fire Pits April 14, 2013 No Comments

Columnist Gustavo Arellano, in his inimitable way, defends the fire pits.  He even threatens to name the director of the AQMD to the ‘Scariest People’ list that he keeps, a list that I made once in previous years due to my views on marriage.

Related: “Chris Epting, HB Independent Columnist, Freaks Out AQMD Officials Over Awesome Journalism on Proposed Beach Fire Pits Ban” by Gustavo Arellano at OCWeekly.com

Related: “[W/VIDEO] AQMD Chairman Compares Huntington Beach Fire Pit Smoke to “Carpet Bombing” Devastation of Vietnam War” by Gustavo Arellano at OCWeekly.com

Nashville: The Nation’s New ‘It’ City April 12, 2013 No Comments

Well, Nashville has been the nation’s third media city – and that in regard to book publishing, not just music – for at least 40 years!  It is the one red-state place where someone leaving Hollywood would feel reasonably comfortable.

In Response to: “Nashville’s Latest Big Hit Could Be the City Itself” by Some at NYTimes.com

A Strategic Political Realignment for Evangelicals? 1 Comment

Darryl Hart, of Hillsdale College, in these two links (From Culture to Party Wars? and Abandon the GOP, Join the Democratic Party) proposes that evangelicals, probably soon to be rejected by Republicans, could consider joining the Democratic party to evangelize it or be salt and light in it.  That was part of my reasoning for becoming a DINO (Democrat in Name Only).  First: Republicans will eventually reject evangelical concerns.  Second:  there is already a colony of evangelicals within the Democratic Party; most of them happen to be black or Latino.  I know a number of these through the Christian Community Development Association.  Interestingly enough I was at an advisory board meeting of CCDA a couple of years ago.  At this it was announced that Cornel West, who was on the list to be one of the plenary speakers for their annual fall conference, had been disinvited because he gave an interview to Playboy.  Most of the white members of the board thought that disinviting Cornel West was a trifle excessive.  Most of the black members defended the disinvitation, because they resented Dr. West’s making any concession to the Playboy culture they believed to be corrupting their own communities and contributing to illegitimacy!

California, Sea Otters, and the Russians April 10, 2013 No Comments

Interestingly enough, the reason that sea otters remain a threatened species even today is because the Russians, when they occupied the Fort Ross enclave from 1812 to 1841, they nearly exterminated them.

In response to: “End of ‘no otter’ zone will allow sea mammals to roam” by Sandy Mazza at DailyBulletin.com

Why The Dream Declined April 7, 2013 No Comments

The best single post on the decline of affordable housing that I have seen on one of my favorite sites, newgeography.com, is this by Roger Selbert.  He most succinctly explains the reasons why the American dream of subsidized home ownership [discussed in Eric Abrahamson’s new book, Building Home] imploded in the 1970s despite the fact that the FHA, VA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Federal Home Loan Bank, and all that other alphabet soup of agencies was not abolished or even cut.  [The Howard Ahmanson of that book is not me but my father; I may be old, but I’m not that old.]  Even before Howard Ahmanson Sr. died in 1968, according to Abrahamson, the rise of neighborhood opposition and local land use regulation meant that he could not build the kind of innovative communities Ahmanson might have desired to build.  I call to witness the Ahmanson Ranch in Calabasas, Read the rest of this entry »

Changing my mind about single family homes April 5, 2013 No Comments

I used to believe that social justice required that a region be overbuilt [or at least over-entitled at law] in high-density housing and other locally undesirable land uses.  Now, thanks to Joel Kotkin’s influence, I believe that social justice requires that a region be overbuilt, or at least over-entitled, in ‘both’ high-density housing and single family housing.

The more housing available, the more affordable it will be.  The higher density housing does not necessarily have to be high-rise, as Edward Glaeser desires, except in some very expensive areas; I would prefer that be concentrated in ‘transit oriented developments’ around major transit stops and hubs, though you will still need lots of parking garages, because transit will not go everywhere for most people.  Similarly, single-family homes don’t have to be on large lots in inaccessible cul-de-sacs.  They can be on gridded streets, at least in flatter areas, as they are in older towns and New Urbanist developments.  [Most New Urbanist developments are not that dense; New Urbanists are not fond of high-rise.]  And they can have alleys in back and mother-in-law units; I live in an area that abounds in ‘1/2’ addresses, and I don’t think my neighborhood is less desirable because of it.

The issue is where to put all this housing, especially the single family housing.  There isn’t a lot of room left in the L.A. Basin and the San Francisco Bay Area narrowly defined.  And if we put this new housing out at the edges, we will want to find ways to encourage jobs to move in that direction as well rather than forcing long commutes.  We will always have some long commutes, for in this fluid job market, in which one does not hold the same job for 40 years, families cannot be expected to move next door to every new job; especially when more than one member of the family has a job, a reality that is driven primarily by housing costs, tuition, and health care anyhow.  Nevertheless, the key to prosperity in the Inland Empire and the Antelope and Victor Valleys is more jobs, especially good ones, in those regions, and if jobs are not following the people, we need to figure out why.

No Place Like Home Conference – June 3, 2013 April 1, 2013 1 Comment

This conference is being hosted by me and others to discuss the current state of subsidized home ownership in America, something that has been happening since the end of World War II but since the 1970s has been less successful in building new homes affordable to working people, who have since had to rely mainly on ‘trickle down’ housing [the affluent buyers of new homes vacate other older ones, which are sold].  The conference was inspired by two things:

1.  I encountered Walter Russell Mead’s essays on the death of the American dream (The Death of the American Dream I and The Death of the American Dream II).

2.  A biography,  “Building Home:  Howard F. Ahmanson and the Politics of the American Dream”  of my father [who died in 1968 after pretty much inventing the savings and loan industry as it functioned in the mid twentieth century] by Eric John Abrahamson, came out earlier this year.  I and others were interviewed thoroughly for this biography.  This conference is partly intended to honor my father and help publicize this book.

I do hope that most of my readers will come if they can.  On-line registration can be had at www.noplacelikehomeconference.com.

Last Call in California March 20, 2013 2 Comments

Huh? It would make a lot more sense, automobile-dependent as California still is, to keep the alcohol closing hour at 2 a.m. and insist that Starbucks and other coffee houses stay open till 4 a.m. If I went pub-crawling in a place I had to drive home from, I’d like [for the safety of the public] a non-alcohol place where I could chill out for an hour or two before I went to my car.

In Response to: “Bill could extend last call for alcohol in California cities” by Patrick McGreevy at Los Angeles Times

Thoughts on St. Patrick’s Day March 14, 2013 1 Comment

In a few days comes one of the strangest holidays in our American calendar, in which we honor a saint who actually deserves honoring or remembering, and at the same time the first major non-Protestant ethnic group to come to our shores voluntarily.

St. Patrick was not Irish, but ‘British’ [which really means Latin speaking Welsh, at a time that the people we now call Welsh controlled most of England and Scotland]. He was kidnapped by Irish pirates, eventually escaped and returned, and after he went into the ministry [there is some evidence he may have gone to seminary on an island off the French Riviera, called Lerins] he developed what we evangelicals call a ‘burden’ for the people who had kidnapped him.

So he went to Ireland for the rest of his life, and had a Read the rest of this entry »

Is Hawai’i the Bellwether for California? February 20, 2013 1 Comment

California used to consider itself the leading state and the bellwether for the entire country.  Now that the entrepreneurial initiative has mostly switched to Texas and other such places, and Texas’s infrastructure has pulled ahead of California’s in its quality [I lived in Texas in the 1970s, and it was not so then!], California is, at the very least, still thought of as a bellwether for the whole country, if perhaps a dystopian one.  But there is a state that even Californians look to for popular cultural leadership, visit frequently, and admire.  And, while it is often said that California became the first “majority-minority” state, it is not true.  This other state, which lies far to the southwest of California, has always been “majority-minority”.  It is, of course, Hawai’i. [The apostrophe is a letter in Hawai”ian, and it is pronounced.]  It has wrestled with “multicultural” issues for longer than it has been part of the United States.  And one born in Hawai’i is now President of the United States.

The majority of the residents of Hawai”i are Asian, the largest number being of Japanese descent with some Chinese and Filipinos and a few Koreans, though Koreans have mostly preferred California.  Obama is exceptional; people of African descent have never been numerous in Hawai’i.  Five-to-ten percent of the people have some percentage of native Hawai”ian blood, though there are almost no pure blood Hawai”ians. On the mainland, Read the rest of this entry »

A New Federal Department of Cities? February 17, 2013 1 Comment

Oh good grief.  Don’t we already have a Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Florida?  As C. Northcote Parkinson pointed out more than 50 years ago in Parkinson’s Law, only dictatorships have a cabinet larger than approximately 20.  It is time to start to be vigilant about the size of our Cabinet. Veterans’ Affairs should not be its own department, for example.

Related: “Obama, build a lasting urban legacy” by Richard Florida at NYDailyNews.com

Allergy to Antithesis, Again February 4, 2013 1 Comment

Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal, declares that Obama is trying to destroy the Republican party using a Marcusean strategy of ‘liberating intolerance’.  But in the previous term, Obama was trying a policy of including the Republicans and everyone he could possibly include.  Has Obama changed completely?  What is the connecting link between this Obama and the previous one?

Well, in the first year of Obama’s administration, I posted on “Obama and the Allergy to Antithesis.”  If you have an “allergy to antithesis,” you can either try to include your opponents in your camp by stretching your boundaries wide, or you can try to destroy them.  What you cannot tolerate is Read the rest of this entry »

Respect For Women, Respect for Property, Social Compassion: The Real Proof of the Pudding January 30, 2013 2 Comments

There has been a lot of international notoriety about some gang rapes in India.  I don’t know how many they have had in the past, but many of the women have had it.  The attached in the Wall Street Journal, by an Indian man himself, wonders why India is so violent.  Well, there has always been a tradition in Hinduism of great extremes; from philosophical nobility to thugs [an Indian word] and widow-burning; from the expansiveness of Vedanta, which seeks to view all world religions as mere aspects of Hinduism, to the intolerance of Hindutva and of the BJP; from the hyper-non-violence of Jains and of Hindu holy men to the violence that pervades parts of Indian society.

Vishal Mangalwadi has argued that the wrapping up of young women in these cultures is not really a cultural commitment to chastity, but a defense against the lack of a cultural commitment to not only chastity but the right of women to consent.  I think he is right.  If I go into those parts of Los Angeles where wrought iron bars are on most of the windows Read the rest of this entry »

Evangelicals: From ‘Mind their own Business’ to Activism January 28, 2013 1 Comment

I don’t think opposition to abortion rights is ‘hating women’, but it is very true that the Evangelical Right, unlike the Catholics, came to its anti-abortion position rather late.  It was Francis Schaeffer, his son Frank, and the man who became Surgeon General under Ronald Reagan (i.e., C. Everett Koop), who turned evangelical opinion around in the late ’70s with a video series called Whatever Happened to the Human Race?  [The Schaeffers were trying to bring about broader thinking about bioethical issues on a broad front; in this, they did not succeed as well.]  At about the same time, under the ‘Christian President’ Jimmy Carter, the Internal Revenue Service began its attack on the growing Christian school movement by requiring the schools to prove their innocence of being ‘segregation academies’.  While some of these schools had gotten their start that way, in may ways the evangelicals were now repenting of that particular sin and moving away from it; and there has been, for more than 40 years, all too much “guilty until proven innocent” in civil rights law.  Prior to about 1978 the evangelicals, especially in the Christian school movement, really had wanted to “mind their own business” and not impose their standards on society, just as people are nagging at them now to do.  Or, they had had high hopes for Jimmy Carter as an ‘evangelical’ President.  The events of 1978, the IRS attack and the Schaeffer videos which revealed abortion as the taking of a human life, went a long way to convince evangelicals that they could not in fact safely “mind their own business.”

In Response: “Right-wing Christians didn’t always hate women” by Valerie Tarico at Salon.com

Recommended Video: How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

Driver’s Licenses for the Undocumented January 26, 2013 1 Comment

I actually favor the issuance of driver’s licenses to the undocumented.  They, however, should be of a distinctive marking.  But it gives us some control.  If an illegal immigrant drives without insurance, or if he attempts to apply the Fifth Amendment to auto accidents, where it does not apply (i.e., leaving the scene) then his license can be pulled, and the state police should cooperate in deporting him right away.

In Repsonse: “California advocates believe this is the year for immigrant driver’s license” by Jim Sanders at SacBee.com

Where Did The Adoptable Children Go? January 21, 2013 No Comments

USA Today less than two weeks ago wrote about the “critical adoption shortage” now that Russia is cracking down in international adoptions. In addition to that, we are told that “as single parenthood becomes more acceptable,`there are just not as many women placing their children for adoption’.” And, as we are now upon the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, I think I know where a lot of the potential adoptable children went to – the dumpster back of Planned Parenthood.

A good society would consider divorce and surrendering for adoption as equally tragic options. Instead, we have made divorce easy and surrendering for adoption the one most unthinkable option of all, with the possible exception of the good old shotgun wedding. Genesis 2:24 famously declares, “This is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh.” But in modern society I fear Read the rest of this entry »

Minimum Wages: A Modest Proposal January 3, 2013 1 Comment

Ron Unz, generally considered a conservative but quirky, came out for a radical increase in the minimum wage here last year, not something you generally expect of conservatives, but then Ron Unz and his magazine, The American Conservative, generally take positions we’re not used to expecting of conservatives. He has several arguments.

He admits that increasing the price of low end labor will decrease the demand for it in the short run.  He is not one of those people who treat American business like Moses’ rock, which you can just strike with a rod and more water will come out.  But he contends that those who do get their wages raised will spend more money and in doing so may create enough new low-end jobs at the new minimum of $12 an hour to make up for those lost in the short run.  [I might have added that a high minimum wage would encourage businesses to invest in technology and machinery – and there would be new jobs created, but whether those displaced from the old jobs would have the skills to take the new jobs is something to doubt.]  And Unz also crusades against the supposed need for universal college education.   Read the rest of this entry »

Declining Birth and Marriage Rates Threaten Whom? January 2, 2013 No Comments

Jonathan Last says declining birth and marriage rates are “a threat to the right’s political survival”[?]  More likely the left’s political survival; the right is making such babies as are being made, and all they have to do is educate and bring them up properly.

In response to: “Demography as destiny: The vital American family” by Joel Kotkin at Reuters.com

Why Social Conservatives are Still Needed December 26, 2012 1 Comment

David Frum, who has written an e-book called While Romney Lost, says here that social conservatives [for which read Christians] are still useful, because they are the ones more likely to call attention to inequality and the declining living standard of the working class. I appreciate this.

In response to: “Social Conservatives: We Need You!” by David Frum at DailyBeast.com

On the Inhabitants of LA and CA December 24, 2012 No Comments

From Derek Sivers, one of the best descriptions of Los Angeles life I’ve ever read, and a lot of it applies to Orange County, even though the OC is not so much a center of the entertainment industry.  [Before the crash of 1990; The Industry in Orange County was real estate development; it was to that industry what Hollywood is to entertainment.  It is no longer so dominant.]

It’s important who you know; Christians make an interesting application of this, as you might imagine.  They have displayed a recent tendency, in the last 40 years, to stop talking about “faith in Christ” and instead talk about “relationship with Christ” whatever that means, but this worldview may have been influenced by commercial realities such as we see here.

And, we also learn that the notorious flakiness of Southern Californians comes from their optimism, their belief that they can actually do what is asked of them, so they say Yes without counting the cost.  Maybe this is the time to bring in Siver’s other “HELL YEAH” post, and count the cost before we say yes to anything.  I remember driving on a new freeway bypassing Edinburgh, Scotland, some years ago, and there was a sign saying “Completed ahead of schedule.”  Well, perhaps those dour Scots were as pessimistic as possible about the schedule.  I would say, give me the dour Scots!

In response to: “Advice on moving to Los Angeles” by Derek Sivers at sivers.org

There’s More to the World than America December 23, 2012 2 Comments

I am not all that upset about the November election, for two reasons:

1. The church is growing so fast in Africa and China that it more than makes up for our losses in America and the West.  I feel bad for America, in many ways, but there’s more to the world than America.

2. As Isaiah said,  “sher’ar Yashuv” [“a remnant shall return”].  And a remnant always does return.  The whole nation never returns, but a remnant does.

In response to: “America has changed, but God hasn’t” by Mark Judge at DailyCaller.com

On Derek Sivers on Smart People December 22, 2012 No Comments

I have discovered a few wise sayings in the website of one Derek Sivers.  This one is, “Smart People Don’t Think Others Are Stupid.”  This is helpful to me.  There are quite a few things I know that most people don’t know, and talents I have, like reading paper maps, that a lot of people don’t have.  And yet there are things that I don’t have, like good short term memory and three-dimensional spatial intelligence, that a lot of people do have.  It is hard to be interdependent, but sometimes I must be.

Anyone who has employees will notice that they have a talent, when you give them any kind of direction, for finding some other meaning in your words than that which you intended, or finding an ambiguity which means they cannot execute your instructions until it is clarified.  I used to think of that as stupidity, but I have learned to see it, if anything, as a form of cleverness!

In response to: “Smart people don’t think others are stupid” by Derek Sivers at sivers.org

California Steps Up Its Oil Drilling December 21, 2012 1 Comment

People don”t associate California with the oil business nowadays, but anyone who has ever driven through Huntington Beach, Brea, Bakersfield, or a host of other places should know better.  There was a time in the early 20th century when California”s oil industry rivaled that of Texas or Oklahoma, and it was not so much environmentalism that lowered us from our high position as an oil state, as that we eventually consumed more than we produced.  It was the oil spill of January 1969, about 44 years ago, that really got people upset against further undersea drilling, but where there was drilling in 1969, it has continued.  At least one California aristocratic family, the Dohenys, got its fortune from oil; the name Doheny is all around us.

In response to: “Green California to Vie With Texas as U.S. Oil Heartland: Energy” by at Bloomberg.com

"HELL YEAH!!" December 20, 2012 No Comments

Derek Sivers, who I have run across recently, says we should never say Yes unless it”s on the level of “HELL YEAH!!” and otherwise we should say No.

As a philanthropist I can see this clearly. We must say No to 99% of the requests made of us so that we may fulfill the 1% that we are called to fulfill. But most of us nowadays are deluged with invitations, requests for assistance and volunteering, and requests for meetings. Sometimes as Christians we feel guilty about saying No to things when we have not felt God”s specific permission to do so. But if we need God”s specific permission for anything [and I don”t believe He normally works in that way] it”s probably permission to say Yes!

Generosity in the abstract is a virtue. But so is prudence, because we are finite and the needs are infinite.

In response to: “No more yes. It”s either HELL YEAH! or no.” by Derek Sivers at sivers.org

Raise Everyone’s Taxes, Including Mine December 19, 2012 No Comments

A number of millionaires are fine with their taxes being raised. I myself could live with slightly higher taxes, though I don’t like the idea of going higher than the Clinton era levels on federal taxes. The Clinton-Gingrich era was not a bad one economically. I voted for Prop 30 because it had an increased sales tax component that hit the general public as well. I won’t vote for any initiative that raises taxes only on the rich, except maybe excise taxes on luxury items like yachts. In a way, if we go over the fiscal cliff, as I expect we will, it will not be a bad thing, because it will affect everyone, not just the rich.

In response to: “Millionaires to Congress: Take our taxes, please” by Josh Richman at Political Blotter

Why I am not a Communitarian November 26, 2012 2 Comments

A philosophy called ‘communitarianism’ has often been proposed recently as an alternative to the growing libertarianism of our time.  This philosophy, they say, can combine social conservatism and economic moderation, as well as potentially reviving an emphasis on the local community, depending on how ‘community’ is defined; some define it at the nation-state level!  This of course should be of interest to me, because I define myself as a ‘social conservative’ and a ‘fiscal moderate.’

But I’m afraid I can’t entirely buy-in to communitarianism.  There is a lot of vagueness as to how ‘community’ is defined. Based on Kuyperian philosophy and some diagrams in Francis Fukuyama’s The Great Disruption I posit five basic forms of authority; other spheres, like education and science, are derived from these five and are often hybrids between them.

Three of them have been recognized in evangelical thought; two have not.  The state is the first form of authority we Read the rest of this entry »

Science Under Attack, and Not From the Christians and Muslims Either November 8, 2012 No Comments

Alex R. Berezow informs us that not the American ‘red states’, but Italy, have become a troubled land for science.  Some scientists were sent to prison for six years for failing to predict an earthquake; and I thought some of our Bronx juries and trial lawyers were bad, but they’ve never done anything quite like this!

In America, opposition to science is often blamed on the religious right.  I doubt that that is the case in Italy. I’m not a Catholic, and I don’t know much about the Magisterium, but I rather doubt that the liability of science to predict earthquakes, and opposition to genetically modified foods, is part of the Catholic Magisterium – maybe during Lent, but not the rest of the time, surely!  And, isn’t pasta the original processed food?

Related: “Italy’s War on Science and Reason” by Alex B. Berezow at The Daily Caller

Andres Duany: Living Small November 1, 2012 No Comments

In the same USA Today 30 years special in which Marc Andreessen gave his dire warning in my last post, Andres Duany, not a man of the left, talks about the urban future.  Global warming will not be prevented, he says [which is just as well with me, as I’ve advocated adaptation].  We will see a lot of retrofitting, planting of gardens in the yards that we do have [there will still be yards for many; New Urbanism is not about high-rise], Read the rest of this entry »

Marc Andreessen: For Most of Us, It Will Get Worse October 29, 2012 No Comments

Jesus said, “The master replied,`I say to you that everyone who has will be given more, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away”.”  [Luke 19:26, Common English Version]

Jesus was, given His other sayings, not talking about the economic world He desired, but on the one hand of grim reality, and on the other hand of the ultimate choice of heaven or hell and the lack of an eternal middle ground.  But according to Marc Andreessen, interviewed in a special 30th anniversary of USA Today, Jesus’ dystopic vision is going to be closer to the reality in the next 30 years.

Andreessen declares that there will be two classes; those who tell computers Read the rest of this entry »

Is it Now Cool to Bully? October 25, 2012 No Comments

I was bullied on occasion up through my freshman year in high school, but never, as far as I could tell, by the most popular kids.  In elementary school the one bully that I encountered was overweight and socially more isolated than me.  My junior high school was pretty large, and I never figured out who the school-wide popular kids were, but assuming they were student government and athletics they were not the ones that tried to persecute me.  In high school it was the same, and they were gone from the school by the time I entered my sophomore year.  The ‘cool kids’ may have teased, but they never bullied.  Of course, this was the first half of the 1960s.  If I’m to believe the few films I see or hear of about high school kids, it may now be considered cool to be a bully.  Not being in high school, and my son having been home schooled in high school, I know no more than I see in the movies or read in the media.  Have things really changed?

Related: “The Popular Kids Who Tortured You in High School Are Now Rich” by Katy Waldman at Slate.com

The D.C. Mistake October 23, 2012 2 Comments

We have been warned both by Nate Silver and by the Washington Post that there is a possibility of an electoral tie with each side getting 269 electoral votes.  How did we end up with that possibility?  How did we end up with an even number of total electoral votes, 538 to be precise?  The number of electoral votes each state has is equal to the number of Representatives in the House plus two, the number of Senators.  And the House of Representatives has an odd number, 435, and of course the Senate always has an even number.

In 1961, the District of Columbia was given three electoral votes for the Presidency and still no formal representation in the House and the Senate.  It is the only electoral constituency never to have gone Republican in its history.  It would be better, I think, to repeal Read the rest of this entry »

Why Do They Think Pennsylvania is a Swing State and We’re Not? October 13, 2012 No Comments

I have seen it said that Pennsylvania is a ‘swing state’ in this election. Nobody maintains that California is. But I looked at the presidential electoral maps of the past, and I found that Dukakis, against Bush Senior, lost ten states that have never been lost by a Democratic presidential candidate since. The ten are Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, and California. That’s a rather long list. Micah Cohen of Five Thirty Eight attributes the change in California partly to the immigration of Latinos, who tend to be socially conservative and economically liberal but whose bottom line is insistence on a ‘path to citizenship’ for the illegal immigrants; and partly to the fact that after the aerospace industry Read the rest of this entry »

Does Mitt Romney Have Status Guilt? October 1, 2012 2 Comments

I have here a transcript of the controversial Mitt Romney ‘47%’ speech to his donors in Boca Raton last May.   It strikes me as a bit manipulative that Mother Jones waited three months to release it.  Apart from a few notorieties like the ‘47%’, most of the speech I thought rather good.  But I agree that, while 47% don’t pay income tax, many of these pay the highly regressive payroll tax, and, as was pointed out, if they are not, they are likely as not receiving the proceeds of the payroll tax, which is set aside to fund the specific welfare programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Of these three, only Medicaid is ‘means tested’; the other two are available to people of a qualified age no matter how much income one already has.  I am more worried, actually, about government employees and public sector unions; their members are not at all part of the 47%.

Of interest to me as a trustfunder is another passage fairly early in the text.  It reads,

By the way, both my dad and Ann’s dad did quite well in their life, but when they came to the end of their lives, and passed along inheritances to Ann and to me, we both decided to give it all away.  So, I had inherited nothing.  Everything that Ann and I have we earned the old-fashioned way, and that’s by hard work and . . . I say that because there’s the percent that’s, “Oh, you were born with a silver spoon,” you know, “you never had to earn anything,” and so forth.  And, and frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you could have, which is to get born in America.  I’ll tell ya, there is – 95 percent of life is set up for you if you’re born in this country.

First of all, he reveals that he’s an ‘anchor baby’, born on American soil!

Second, whom did he give it all away to?  That would be of interest.  And did he have the kind of trust you could give away just like that?  I did not own my trusts, only Read the rest of this entry »

Islamist Hypocrisy on Free Speech: Suppose They Got What They Wanted? September 29, 2012 1 Comment

Eric Posner, legal scholar and son of the scholar and judge Richard Posner, declares in Slate that free speech is overrated and that internationally, even to a small degree in Europe, it needs to take a back seat to order. He seems to think that the United States government should have found a way to suppress the video that led to the killing of the American ambassador to Libya. Justin Green [at David Frum], meanwhile, is appalled. He thinks that Posner’s article looks like something you would be more likely to find in the satirical paper The Onion. I think, “suppose we did change our laws to ban defaming of religions?” It would be these Islamist radicals that would be the first to get into trouble under such a law. Some of them still quote, for example, the discredited volumes The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. That is illegal in Germany; under the ‘no defamation’ standard that they would like us to adopt, it would be illegal in the U S as well.

Not that I would ever propose such a constitutional change. Religions, at least in the Western Tradition, hold that they are true and that other faiths, to the extent they differ, are therefore wrong. What is the point otherwise? From a strategic point of view, of course, Christians should not try to bring Muslims to Christ by Read the rest of this entry »

Tea Party Advocates Big Government? September 24, 2012 No Comments

Because the quote I want to use is from a comment on Lisa Hymas’ post at Grist.org that is way down toward the bottom, and because I mainly want to respond to that comment, I will quote it here in full:

Marc 1875:
What I fail to understand is why the Tea Party advocates for government control over every aspect of urban development – from mandatory controls on density in suburban areas (density limits) to opposition to infill development in urban areas to mandatory minimum parking standards. Added to this is opposition to efficient transit systems and even . . . to quality-of-life parks systems. Several conservatives, such as Weyrich in “Moving Minds” and the American Chamber of Commerce more recently, have made the case for multi-modal transportation systems.

[Bragging rights: My philanthropic foundation was one of the major supporters of Weyrich’s “Moving Minds.”]

Now I have avoided the Tea Party, pretty much, and I am not at all sure what the Tea Party’s views actually are on the power and authority of local government over the use of land [which I have said before are one’s basic view of government], or if they have any. I certainly would not speak with Marc 1875’s confidence about what Tea Partiers’ views on this subject are. Read the rest of this entry »

Politician Speak with Forked Tongue: Or, The Electorate and The Donorate No Comments

Peter Beinart in the Daily Beast speaks of the desirability of having the press crash fundraisers.  In today’s American political world, people seeking elected offices have two audiences, the electorate and the donorate; and in many ways, the donorate [or, as I would like to call them, the donorcracy] is more important than the electorate, because they make it possible for politicians to reach the electorate.  And, it is the donorate whom candidates see face to face, unless [like me] the donors wish to avoid that, which most do not.  I do not have a solution for this.  But, as we discovered with the recent exposure of Romney’s notorious ’47 per cent’ speech Read the rest of this entry »

Little Europe? September 19, 2012 1 Comment

The coastal strip west of the Cascades, including the large cities of Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland, has a very similar climate to that of Western Europe away from the Mediterranean.  The area is much smaller; a drive from Seattle to Spokane is less than five hours, but takes you from the climate of London to that of Yerevan, Armenia.  And, the coastal strip’s reputation as the ‘None Zone’ theologically, with one of the highest percentages of people not associated with any organized religion, also has a very strong European flavor.

Now I read in the United Airlines inflight magazine that one of the major sports rivalries in the region is between the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timber, and the sport they play is – is this America? – soccer. Well, they don’t have quite as much great art, and they are a bit short on glorious cathedrals, but their scenery is more stunning – unless you’re close to the Alps or the Pyrenees – why bother with Europe at all, one wonders.

The Cascadians have not yet developed a taste for Gauloises cigarettes or Speedos, but on these points the younger generation of Europeans is converging with Cascadian culture rather than the other way around. They mostly also speak some degree of English, which is also the native tongue of most Cascadians.  I’ll probably keep on going to Europe, but mainly for the cathedrals and the diversity of cultures.  If I wanted European climate and attitudes, I only need to fly 1200 miles north.

‘Streetcars’ vs. Light Rail September 13, 2012 No Comments

Samuel L. Scheib, editor of Trip Planner magazine, argues here that so-called ‘streetcars’, trams which actually run in the street with the cars, are not so much ‘public transit’ in the manner of light rail as a tourist amenity and should be funded privately. Two private short ‘streetcar’ lines in Los Angeles [the one at the Grove and the one at Americana Brand in Glendale] are actually run by the shopping center. The new ‘streetcar’ in Tampa runs from the cruise ship dock to the historic Ybor City district and is basically of use to tourists more than most residents. In Portland, the ‘streetcar’ does not belong to TriMet, the transit agency that controls all the other metros and buses of Portland. [Scheib mentions nothing about the cable cars of San Francisco, the ultimate tourist transit system, but of course San Francisco Read the rest of this entry »

Portland Public Loos Are The Best September 12, 2012 No Comments

Here’s an article from The Atlantic Cities explaining why Portland, Oregon’s, public loos are the best.

In response to: “Why Portland’s Public Toilets Succeeded Where Others Failed” by John Metcalfe at The Atlantic Cities

Immigration Policy: Offending Everyone II: Whither Evangelicals? September 11, 2012 No Comments

If immigration is a ‘social issue,’ it is one that cuts very differently from the traditional social issues of abortion, euthanasia, and gender. And an anti-immigrant stance alienates a whole different set of people than conservatism on moral issues does. I’ll admit, as I may have said before, that I both think that the Dream Act should be passed and executed, and that ‘anchor babies’ born on U.S. soil to parents not legally in this country and not having their taxes withheld, or here on a tourist visa, should be declared to be not born “under the jurisdiction of the United States” and therefore not citizens till they apply for the Dream Act. I would revive the New Deal era Civilian Conservation Corps and make participation in it earn points for fulfilling the Dream Act. I would issue drivers licenses to illegal aliens if they can show insurance, and take the licenses away if they screw up or let their insurance lapse, and perhaps deport them. But evangelicals now seem to be also realizing that immigration is not like other ‘social issues.’ As a matter of fact, the strictly religious right has always been rather soft on immigration, because immigrants tend to be closer to the religious right’s view on most social issues than, on the average, are native born Americans.

In response to “Will Evangelicals’ Immigration Shift Mean Common Ground With Obama?” by David Sessions at The Daily Deast

How Much Does Immigration Change Character? September 10, 2012 No Comments

I am opposed to immigrant bashing. But we all bring ourselves and our deficiencies with us wherever we go. The Latinos are not the first immigrants to flock to California only to find they had brought their old selves along with them; and they will not be the last.

In response to: “Mexico’s challenge: for the law” by Some at LATimes.com

Where I’ve Been, And Why I Haven’t Posted In A While August 19, 2012 3 Comments

I apologize to my Gentle Readers for my long silence.  I’ve just been on a long road trip around the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia; up from Copenhagen to the top of Sweden, then down through Finland, then through the three Baltic states to Poland and Germany and back to Copenhagen.  I am attaching a few pictures that I took, though I did not take very many because it’s my wife’s hobby to photograph churches and ecclesiastical art and so I don’t try to compete with her in that.  Generally, I’m too tired from marching around cities looking at things to do any posting later in the day – my energy in the late afternoons is usually quite low.  And I didn’t have that much free time – we were usually either driving or marching around cities most of the days.

This says, “Pay with a credit card. It’s better for the environment.” I thought that a rather unusual sentiment.

It is not uncommon to see votive offerings of thanks for a healing in a Catholic Church, but I had never before seen votive skateboards before – and this was in a Lutheran church in Vadstena, Sweden. Vadstena was the home of the important Saint Brigid of Sweden.

I brought an inflatable paddleboard along, which saved my marriage and made me more willing to go on long expeditions of this kind. Here is me coming in for a landing in Trakai, Lithuania.

And here is me coming in for a landing near Mragowo, Poland. Now, Gentle Reader, you know more about what I look like than you probably wanted to know!

Peenemunde is where, under the Nazi government, they experimented with rocket launching before there was ever a Cape Canaveral or a Baykonur or astronauts or cosmonauts. Here the V1 and V2 rockets were developed that irritated the British greatly in the last portion of World War II. One reason that Hitler didn’t give up even though Allied and Soviet armies were sweeping through Germany is that he thought some miracle weapon was about to be developed that would turn the whole situation around. The German scientists were partitioned after the war. Werner von Braun, among others, fled to the West, and the CIA saw to it that his record was magically cleansed so that he could work for America.

The New Spirituality of ‘Connectedness’ August 15, 2012 2 Comments

Most of us nowadays can probably recognize what this spaghetti of wires that I have photographed here is. Without it, my laptop, my iPad, and my phone will be useless pieces of metal in a day or two, though my Kindle may last, oddly enough, several weeks. And it is important to note that that black thing in the wall outlet, and the white thing right next to it, are essential parts of the puzzle. If I had all the rest of the assemblage and not those, the spaghetti of wires would be useless outside the Western Hemisphere, for I would not be able to plug into an electric outlet. The black thing is a universal adapter.

I live in a world of “connectedness”, which means that all these devices depend on something outside themselves. My phone depends on the network of the country I am in. My laptop depends on my ability to get WiFi or something like it at the spot where I am. In a real way, all these devices become different objects wherever they go, working differently and under different rules. And it is not just these devices. There is the electric connection, and there is the wireless connection. When I present a credit card, that in itself does not establish me as automatically able to actually use it. Some computer in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, dares to pass on whether I am indeed “worthy” to use the card at that point for whatever I intend to use it for. Traditional tools were not so. If I have a hammer and a nail, the hammer works on the nail substantially the same everywhere in the world, and no computer in South Dakota is going to rule on my fitness and worthiness to use that hammer on that nail at this particular time. And there are “connections” having nothing to do with these wires. If Cellular Data or Wi-Fi are not working at whatever spot I am, my phone is deprived of all of its functions except telephoning and texting; and if the phone company signal is weak, I lose those two functions, too. And the same with this laptop. I will probably not be able to send this post from Mragowo, Poland, where I am typing it.

I think all this affects how we see our “connection” with God. People in my “boomer” generation, who grew up when credit cards were not automatically validated by computer, and whose typewriters [an old kind of computer, in case you haven”t heard of the term] may have run on electricity or not, but the main ways of communicating with people out of earshot were writing letters and calling on the telephone, which consisted entirely of what we did not know are called “land lines”. So our generation of Christians put a rather touchy-feely, if not almost erotic, spin on Biblical passages like John 15: “A branch can”t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can”t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.” It was my generation that plagued the Christian world with what I tend to call “God Is My Girl Friend” music, whose lyrics were interchangeable with girl friend and boy friend songs; Jesus and the girl friend are declared to accomplish very similar changes in our lives. Gen X, the current in-between generation right now [ages 32 and 47], to its credit, seems to have put a stop to a lot of that; most Christian chants, even the relatively mindless ones, at least recognize God and His attributes as something unique. But I suspect that a new model of “relationship” to Christ may be current among the younger folks, and it may be illustrated by the picture above. That is probably their mental image of the “vine” of which we are the “branches”. Of course, other parts of the “vine” are invisible; our worthiness to charge on a credit card, our text messages, our e-mails from phones glide through the air invisibly. So unlike a grape, we have several kinds of “connection”, not just one. It is quite true that we are dependent on Christ for everything we do; what kind of effect will this new image have on our spirituality, or even our theology?


Issue of Hybridization between Philanthropy and Investment June 28, 2012 No Comments

Another approach by David Bornstein to the issue of hybridization between philanthropy and investment from my recent post Philanthropy and Investment: The Distinctions Begin to Blur.

Related: “For Ambitious Nonprofits, Capital to Grow” by David Bornstein at NYTimes.com

Melinda’s Choice Crusade for Women: Breaking the Planned Parenthood Monopoly? June 22, 2012 1 Comment

I read here that Melinda Gates has decided that ‘birth control’ and ‘family planning’ are important.  On the one hand, I have a lot of concern about the ‘contraceptive culture’ and the impact of separating the way we make babies from the actual matter of making babies.  [Full disclosure:  we did use those things in the first year of our marriage because we wanted a year off before we had to face pregnancy and birth.]  And, the ‘population explosion’ panic of the mid-twentieth century seems to have not panned out as feared.

On the other hand, Melinda says that her campaign is not about ‘population control’ but about giving women choices.  I noticed that the desired contraceptive of choice in the parts of Africa where she visited is something called Depo-Provera, which is injected into the female at an office visit and the ‘husband’ Read the rest of this entry »

The Rise of Redneck Stand-up Paddleboarding June 15, 2012 No Comments

Image credit: http://www.dragonflypaddleboards.com/2011/12/whos-on-board-doesnt-this-say-everything/[Props to my co-parishioner Miles Stoudenmire for coming up with these pictures.]

It appears, from the evidence of these pictures, that the SUP culture can harmonize with the huntin’ and fishin’ culture of the rednecks and their northern counterparts.  [The site he got them from is in Florida, so strictly speaking these are Florida Crackers, a kind of hybrid between rednecks and Jimmy Buffett parrotheads.]  Perhaps boards and paddles will soon be on sale at Cabela’s, the famous chain of huntin’ and fishin’ stores that is a major institution in the outer Midwest and has made Sidney, Nebraska, a major retail mecca.  Vacuum-waterproof containers are available Read the rest of this entry »

L.A. vs San Francisco: Who Runs California? June 14, 2012 No Comments

Zócalo wonders why the Bay Area, with half the population of the Los Angeles Basin, tends to dominate the state politically.  I don’t have a theory about that, but I have several suggestions.

1.  A lot of Southern Californians are immigrants, and either haven’t registered to vote, or aren’t from cultures like the African-American and the Irish that place a high value on political participation.

2.  The late Chaim Potok used to speak of ‘core’ cultures and ‘peripheral’ cultures.   Read the rest of this entry »

Philanthropy and Investment: The Distinctions Begin to Blur June 12, 2012 2 Comments

I grew up believing that ‘philanthropy’ and ‘investment’ were two distinct things and not to be confused. They both serve the public, but in different ways; investment in business by [hopefully] producing worthy products at enough profit to make a good living for employees, executives, and entrepreneurs. [Milton Friedman is wrong; “maximizing shareholder value” is not the main purpose of a business. The main purpose of a business is to fulfill its calling. The Widget Company’s calling is either to make widgets, or provide in some new form the service that the widget used to perform. But a business is not ‘sustainable’ {ah the chance to use a green word!} without profit.] And non-profits serve the public by doing those things that are good and useful but where a sustainable profit cannot be had, by totally or partly relying on donations.

There have been attempts to blur the distinction in the past. One example is Girl Scout Cookies. If you buy them, Read the rest of this entry »

How The Tobacco Companies Should Spend Their Money June 2, 2012 1 Comment

Once again, in the debate over California’s Proposition 29, the tobacco companies seem to have all the money in the world, even though relatively few people smoke nowadays.  Under the circumstances, I don’t shed much of a tear for them.

1.  They could put on their packs, in type as large as the health warning, “DISPOSE OF PROPERLY – PUT BUTT BACK IN PACK.”  Or, they could include a little plastic bag with each pack, of the kind that we insist dog walkers carry – no one crusades against dogs as a health hazard, and the way we deal with solid dog waste is the way we should deal with cigarette waste.  It’s amazing, in a society where so few people supposedly smoke, how much litter is composed of butts.  In fact, one reason I took up smoking cigarettes Read the rest of this entry »

RIP Thomas Fuentes, 1948-2012 May 29, 2012 2 Comments

Thomas Alexander Fuentes, long time Director of Communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and also Chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County, died in May 2012.  People had actually expected him to die the previous fall, but he hung on, held court from his bed, helped and advised people, and occasionally actually showed up, as when Rick Perry came to town.

Tom’s ancestors in the male line did not come to America; he was among the rare Hispanic surnamed people in California whose ancestors were here when American troops arrived in 1847.  Not that he minded; he loved the country that had come to his ancestors, and made sure that the Pledge of Allegiance to it was said at any event Read the rest of this entry »

Our Second Linguistic (Phonemic) Test May 8, 2012 3 Comments

A few months ago we gave our readers a phonemic test about the distinction between pen and pin.  Now we will try our second, on a much newer shift that is obscuring a distinction that most English speakers used to be able to make.

Try these sentences:

Don and Dawn practiced la-la law in La La Land.

The caller told me to fix my collar.

I got to meet Mr. Lawther’s father.

Carter Hawley Hale sold a lot of holly bushes.

I got it at Otto’s Auto Parts.

Supposedly this distinction is being lost in Canada, most of the Western United States, and around Pittsburgh and the Connecticut Valley.

There’s another distinction that’s more widely made; some Texans have trouble with it:

He was formerly a farmer?

I gave her part of the bottle of port?

To me, the first contrast is there, but the two sounds aren’t that far apart.  I suspect Read the rest of this entry »

Prison not the Answer: the Veterans-Only Court and Brother’s Keepers May 7, 2012 No Comments

What these war veterans do for each other models what the Body of Christ, especially in smaller groups, is supposed to be like.  These vets are “moving from a highly disciplined environment where violence is normal to an unstructured environment where violence is prohibited.”  So they are their ‘brother’s keepers’ in a way rarely seen in our world.

Related: “Convicted Combat Vets Watch Each Other’s Backs to Stay Out of Prison” by Michael Phillips at WSJ.com

New York City Transit’s Inconvenient Pricing May 5, 2012 2 Comments

New York City, much to my disappointment, has discontinued its transit one-day unlimited ride ticket.  [You can still get such a ticket for a week, but I’m never in town that long.]  What you can get is cards with $10.70 worth of rides for $10.00, $21.40 for $20.00, or $53.50 for $50.00.  This sounds like a bit of a bargain, and I suppose it is.  But each individual journey costs $2.25.  None of these cards are evenly divisible by $2.25.  I did the math and figured out that if one adds 55 cents to the $10 card, $1.10 to the $20 card, and 50 cents to the $50 card, it will all come out even and the value of your card will be divisible by $2.25 and no odd cents are left over.  But it seems to me that they could sell a card in an amount divisible by $2.25, or raise the price to $2.50 and eliminate the “bonus,” and it would come out even.

Transit pricing has a tradition, in America, of being in uneven amounts and not making a whole lot of sense.  Especially when bus systems require “exact change.”  I often don’t venture on buses, unless I know that they are on the same tickets as the rail systems, for this very reason.

Urbanist Observations On A Bachelor Spring Break May 4, 2012 No Comments

[I apologize that I have not gotten pictures for this post, unlike the one about my San Andreas road trip two years ago. That I took with three friends; this one I went by myself. So I took very few pictures.]

During the last week of March of this year, we had been through some major events including my mother-in-law’s death, my son was back at college, and my wife was traveling. So I decided to take for myself a little paddleboarding spring break. Interestingly enough, the two places I chose to stay were both “planned communities,” of a very different nature than Irvine, The Woodlands, Reston, or Columbia.

Lake Havasu City was built from scratch according to a plan starting in 1963. On maps older than that, the place is called Site Six. The plan was made by Robert P. McCulloch, a successful millionaire who made airplanes and boats, but actually made most of his money on chainsaws. Then, of course, in 1968, McCulloch arranged to buy the London Bridge and have it shipped over, and dug the Bridgewater Canal to make a peninsula into an island, and put the bridge over the canal. A lot of people were a bit disappointed, because Read the rest of this entry »

St. Paul, Bad Words, and Greed May 3, 2012 1 Comment

In a recent post, the one on the fire pits [which turned into a website and a Facebook page, I’m told] I used an eight letter b-word which pushed the Kennel Kode to the limit.  I thought it justified in view of the outrageous acts of the City Council.  Then I read in Ephesians 4:29-5:5,

Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth.  Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. . . . Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. . . . Sexual immorality, and any kind of impurity or greed, shouldn’t even be mentioned among you, which is right for holy persons.  Obscene language, silly talk, or vulgar jokes aren’t acceptable for believers.  Instead, there should be thanksgiving.  Because you know for sure that persons who are sexually immoral, impure, or greedy – which happens when things become gods – those persons won’t inherit the kingdom of Christ and God.  [Common English Bible]

Oops.  I had been thinking in terms of Read the rest of this entry »

Why Land Use is One of the First Liberties April 18, 2012 No Comments

[Note:  This post is taken from a short address I made to legislators in Sacramento on April 16, 2012.]

I was first politicized by this issue perhaps 33 years ago, when an attempt was made to run the Orange County Rescue Mission out of Santa Ana by declaring it to be ‘blight.’  Well, what kind of people does the Rescue Mission, and other religious and charitable agencies of that kind, serve?  By that standard, all such agencies are ‘blight.’  It struck me that the right to own and use land is one of the most basic of all rights, because if you do not have the right to exercise your constitutional liberties of religion, speech, press, and also the economic liberties that conservatives hold dear, in a place, then these rights are theoretical at best.  There is a lot of talk today about ‘society’ or ‘the community.’  I believe in the importance of ‘the community,’ but if all places ultimately belong [in terms of who decides the use of places, not just the right to buy and sell land for profit] to the ‘community,’ what does that mean?

My religious tradition likes to talk about giving special attention to the ‘least of these,’ the poor, the lame, the sick, and the marginalized.  And yes there is a lot of selfish individualism nowadays that tends Read the rest of this entry »

Sign the Petition and Save the Fire Rings!! April 14, 2012 2 Comments

The latest local government outrage is the attempt of the Newport Beach City Council to tear out the fire rings at Big Corona and other places.

Fortunately, they have to seek the approval of the Coastal Commission to do this.  There is a petition online here directed to both the city council and the Coastal Commission.

I can testify that the reasons supposedly given for pulling out the rings are utter bullshit.  I have never smelled any offensive odor from those rings.  My wife, who is one of the most persnickety people I know, has never found anything to complain of.  If anything, we enjoy the spectacle!  Is it that the wrong kind of people use them?  When I’ve walked down there at night I’ve heard lots of evangelical groups singing.  If you want a private beach, you should live in Emerald Bay not Old Corona.  Or, better yet, Woodbridge.

In response to: “Petition Surfaces in Response to Newport Beach’s Vote to Extinguish Fire Rings” by Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime at CoronaDelMar.Patch.com


Washington D.C.: The Center of the Universe: And Who to blame? April 7, 2012 3 Comments

Joel Kotkin on Newgeography.com writes about the nearly recession-proof nature of Washington, D. C. and its metro area.  It is a city of government and the mandarin classes, and they never go out of style.  But it seems to me that even during Republican administrations – the age of Reagan and Bush Senior, and that of W – the social and think-tank life of America got more and more centralized in the capital region, if anything perhaps more radically so among conservatives than among liberals.  The irony is that conservatives have been traditionally the ones arguing for ‘decentralization’ and ‘local control,’ Read the rest of this entry »

Three Californias? Integrating a Couple of Recent Proposals April 5, 2012 No Comments

It has often been proposed to split California into two states.  In the past, these proposals generally agreed on dividing Northern California from Southern California; the cultural differential between the two was strong in the Kennedy years.  The reader may go to iTunes and check out Dick Dale’s instrumental version of  “Misirlou,” an iconic anthem for Southern Californians who were young in that period, as I was; and then check out Vince Guaraldi’s jazz version of the same song, released virtually simultaneously with Dale’s in 1961.  But more recently cultural differences have tended to arise more on a coastal-inland basis.  For one thing, the climatic differences between San Francisco and Sacramento, and between San Diego and Riverside, are far sharper than those between San Francisco and San Diego, critical as the north-south difference is.  For another, inland Northern California has turned increasingly conservative over time, whereas the secessio patriciorum of the late 60s and the 70s, in which much of the old Los Angeles elite fled to coastal Orange County, left Los Angeles much more under the domination of Hollywood than it had previously been.  [My old private high school, Black-Foxe, had a very pro-Goldwater student body in 1964; it folded in 1968, a victim, I think, of the secessio patriciorum.]

In 2009, Bill Maze, a rural legislator disturbed that urbanites should tell his constituents how to raise chickens, offered a proposal to slice off a new state called Coastal California.  But the boundary he proposed was Read the rest of this entry »

Global Warming Not a Bad Thing April 4, 2012 1 Comment

Robert Zubrin, in this article from National Review, takes a different approach from most conservatives on global warming, and to my view the most sensible approach.  Instead of denying that global warming is happening, or insisting that human activity has nothing to do with it if it is, he declares that global warming is in general a good thing for humankind.  Temperatures around 1000 A.D. were warmer than now, and that was not a time of great distress.  It was the cooling and Little Ice Age from 1400 to 1800 that was a challenge, at least for Europe.

I do think that he dismisses too easily the fact that there will be some real losers who will need help.  The island nations of Read the rest of this entry »

The Migrations of California April 3, 2012 No Comments

We have been accustomed recently to think of California as a place people migrate out of to the rest of the United States and that receives immigrants from abroad.  But apparently there are levels.  The Bay Area is so much more expensive than So Cal that Bay Area folks move to Los Angeles and San Diego Counties, the way people from So Cal go to Las Vegas or Phoenix.  Pretty soon I may post on my modest proposal to divide California into three states, which will never be enacted.

Related: “Bay Area Residents Leaving in Droves” by Aaron Glantz at BayCitizen.com


Recently it was revealed in a column by Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish liberal Muslim, that Newt Gingrich is a fan of none other than Mustafa Kemal Atatuerk. Say what? Kemal Atatuerk was one of the most radical secularists of the 20th century outside of the Communist world itself. Ruling Turkey from 1923 to 1939, he remodeled the legal system of the nation on a French Revolutionary model, made it illegal to wear headscarves, required men to wear brimmed hats instead of fezzes [remember that till 1960, most men in Read the rest of this entry »

Observations on California’s Political Geography March 24, 2012 5 Comments

A recent series of political maps from PPIC, Public Policy Institute of California, provides some fascinating information. One of the maps inflates or shrinks the various regions according to population; it makes clear why the Democratic Party dominates the state, largely because they dominate two large urban regions. But the fourth map and the auxiliary maps make clear that party loyalty in California is primarily determined by economic issues, but that the two chief moral issues [not counting attitudes toward immigration here as a ‘social issue’], left to themselves, cut somewhat differently.

I used to be a Committed Conservative; Read the rest of this entry »

Adding to my Swede jokes March 23, 2012 No Comments

To add to my collection of Swede jokes, and of Ethnic Jokes that Really Happened, I heard this story:

A gentleman of Swedish ancestry was being interviewed for the post of provost at an evangelical college. He was asked, “So why are you excited about the prospect of becoming provost of [this particular college]?” And he declared, “I’m not excited.” He got the job.


In this link we read that organizations are demanding disclosure of Facebook passwords as a condition of employment, or of being allowed to play on a college athletic team. Conservatives, especially of the more libertarian variety, have often displayed a passion for informational privacy; they also have displayed a passion for defending the rights of organizations [which are extensions of property rights, which I do favor] to establish the conditions under which they will employ people, or do business with people. Often the two come in conflict. Read the rest of this entry »

SLAP ‘EM AND WALK HOME – A way of promoting abstinence in our culture March 22, 2012 2 Comments

I must start with a word of explanation.  Lysistrata was a comic play by Aristophanes in classical Greece, in which the women, in order to stop a war they thought senseless, agreed to not sleep with their men until the war was stopped; I cannot resist the atrocious pun ‘peace or no piece.’

In our culture – and no, I have not wasted the time to sit through endless episodes of Sex and the City, so I have more or less depended on hearsay – young unmarried women spend a lot of time complaining that they cannot get their men to ‘commit.’  Well, why should young men commit, when they already have everything they want from marriage – access to sex, domestic care, etc. – without committing?  The church [and at one time the general culture] frankly recommends a Lysistrata-like strategy to deal with this!  Instead of withholding sex until the war stops, withhold sex until you get a ring.  And if you don’t do this, girl, don’t come whining to me about how your man doesn’t ‘commit.’  I won’t waste time throwing words like ‘slut’ or ‘ho’ around; they don’t help anybody.

When my wife’s grandmother was young, she was on the way back from a dance with her date in a horse and buggy Read the rest of this entry »

The Politician who Defeated Santorum March 21, 2012 1 Comment

I have seen it asserted that Rick Santorum is such a loser that the people of Pennsylvania rejected him and his social agenda.  Him, maybe, but before you conclude that they utterly rejected his social agenda, Gentle Readers, take a look at a few links about the man who defeated him:

“Senate Dems defeat contraceptives-policy repeal, without Casey”

“Rob Casey Versus the Rights of Women” 

Video: “Sen. Casey Wants to Reverse HHS Rule Mandating Contraceptive Coverage”

Yes, Bob Casey Jr. is somewhat of a social conservative himself.  So much so that if Bob Casey had taken it on himself to run against Arlen Specter instead of Rick Santorum, many of the sort of people who like Santorum would have been strongly tempted to cross party lines and support Casey because of Specter’s strong pro-choice streak.  Santorum himself would probably not have endorsed Casey; Santorum is professional enough to maintain party loyalty.  For example, a couple of years ago he stuck with Specter against Pat Toomey, who may have been a social conservative but ran on a fiscal platform mainly, to the best of my knowledge.  Santorum, on economic issues, is no liberal, but he is not as extreme as many Republicans.  Maybe that’s why it’s hard for him to talk about them; the media keeps wanting to drag him back to ‘those divisive social issues.’

Stealth Democracy: A Summary of the Thesis of John R. Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse February 22, 2012 1 Comment

It was fashionable in the sixties to talk of ‘participatory democracy.’  But John R. Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, claim, on the basis of much research and reading, that that is exactly what the people at large want to avoid.  Rather, what they want could be best described as ‘stealth democracy.’  The people do not want to intervene in public policy, but they want the ability to do so if needed, somewhat like the theistic-evolutionist God, who lets the universe run by itself most of the time but makes occasional interventions.  And the reason the system needs to be intervened in is not that leaders have the wrong ideologies or platforms.  It is that they have a tendency Read the rest of this entry »

Some Vice-Presidential Speculation, Already February 13, 2012 1 Comment

Obama’s recent attempt to force Catholic institutions to act contrary to their beliefs if they serve the public at large has tempted me to cross party lines and vote Republican for President this fall. So I might as well speculate on who the Republicans should nominate as vice president.

I think Mitt Romney will win the nomination, but Rick Santorum would make a good vice presidential nominee. He is a lot less of a loose cannon, or a hypocrite about marriage, than Newt Gingrich, who should not be taken seriously. And yes, Santorum did lose Read the rest of this entry »

Agriculture in the ‘burbs and exurbs’ February 11, 2012 No Comments

Looks like the plummeting housing market has given a new lease of life to agriculture in the ‘burbs and exurbs.’

Related: “U.S. Farmers Reclaim Land From Developers,” by Robbie Whelan at The Wall Street Journal

We’re The Trustfunders! February 10, 2012 No Comments

Actually, Forbes is as prejudiced as Occupy.  You can’t generalize about us one percenters.  Some have indeed provided excellent products and services, or done good philanthropic work.  Some have made money without doing much really productive for society, like hedgefunders.  And 10% of the 1% didn’t do anything at all, and are just trying to cope with what we’ve got; we’re the trustfunders!

Related: “What You Don’t Often Hear About Those ‘Greedy’ One Percenters,” by John Tammy at Forbes

Marijuana In Public Spaces February 9, 2012 1 Comment

While I find the odor of marijuana a little less offensive than that of tobacco, a lot of people don’t, and I think the same standard should be applied to marijuana in public spaces as to tobacco.

Related: “Marijuana dropped from Marin smoking ban,” by Nels Johnson, MercuryNews.com

President Obama’s Difficulty with Diversity February 7, 2012 No Comments

The San Francisco Chronicle, not a right wing publication, reports on Obama’s difficulty in getting along with people of diverse opinions. Too much antithesis for him, I guess.

Related: “Obama’s 2012 slogan: Can’t work with others” by Debra Saunders at SFGate.com

Peter Schrag’s Disillusionment February 6, 2012 No Comments

Peter Schrag is very much a man of the left, so it is nice to see him getting disillusioned with the teachers’ union establishment.

Related: “AWOL At The Kvetching” by Peter Schrag at California Progress Report

Proposition 13 — The Good and Bad February 5, 2012 1 Comment

As I”ve said before, the famous part of Proposition 13 – the part that protected existing homeowners from being gouged by their own rising home values – should be kept.  Large cash taxes, when cash or liquid assets are not changing hands, are destabilizing and force the unnecessary sale of homes.  For most people, their home is not a cash earning asset.  But maybe there should be a large tax on home equity loans!  That, at least, would discourage them.

Other parts of Proposition 13 – the commercial tax rates, for example, and the two thirds vote requirement – are quite negotiable, as far as I”m concerned.

Related: “Overturning of Prop. 13 sought in lawsuit” by Bob Egelko at SFGate.com

Obama’s Dilemma, High Speed Rail, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and Other Miscellaneous Observations February 1, 2012 No Comments

Joel Kotkin, director of one of our favorite sites, Newgeography.com, has exposed how Obama has alienated people on all sides, even though he will probably win the election.  I notice, now that I think about it, that while the Occupy Movement has not spent a lot of time denouncing Obama, they have not greeted him with the fulsome praise that we heard in 2008. Once again, Obama’s “allergy to antithesis,” which I wrote about quite a while ago is not serving him well.

Kotkin supports bringing back the Works Progress Administration; I think, at the very least, we could revive the Civilian Conservation Corps.   Read the rest of this entry »

Help the Environment with Cactus Sucking Selenium January 31, 2012 1 Comment

It has been discovered that the prickly pear cactus sucks up selenium, regarded as a pollutant in the West San Joaquin Valley, slowly enough to not be toxic but enough to be of benefit to selenium-deficient diets.  In small quantities, it seems, selenium is actually an essential nutrient for human beings.  Now, if we can get the people of Europe, Asia, and Australia to develop a taste for nopales, we have achieved both a natural way to help the environment and a new exportable agricultural product.

Related: “Cactus may offer cure for poisoned Valley cropland” by Mark Grossi at SacBee.com

The Salinas Gang Problem and Restricted Housing January 30, 2012 No Comments

Is there any connection between the fact that Salinas has the gang problem that it does, and the fact that Monterey County’s restrictions on the building of housing are very strict? I can see why the inhabitants of the Monterey Peninsula might want to protect the coastal strip. But if they apply their policies to the whole county, it becomes very difficult to build any housing. I saw a proposal 40 years ago from Ralph Nader’s think tank that would encourage the building of Italian style hill towns along the hills along both sides of the South Santa Clara Valley, thus leaving the lowlands along the river for agriculture; such a plan could be applied to the Salinas Valley as well. I don’t have the expertise to draw the connection between restricted housing and the gang situation in Salinas, but surely the situation is worth looking at. What kind of novels would a John Steinbeck write, if he were growing up in Salinas today?

Related: “In a Gang-Ridden City, New Efforts to Fight Crime While Cutting Costs” by Erica Goode at NYTimes.com

On the Whole Postmodern in Law and Economics Thing January 18, 2012 2 Comments

Victor Davis Hanson, in this attached essay, claims that President Obama has a postmodern vision of law. I am not necessarily going to argue that point. I have maintained, already, that President Obama has what I call an allergy to antithesis. But I did feel moved to comment on the whole Postmodern in Law, or Law and Economics, thing.

The basic law, I believe to be revealed; whether in our hearts as Romans 1 says, or explicitly as described in the first five books of the Bible – the fact that other religions and philosophies have a similar, though not identical ethic argues for the Romans 1 point of view. At the same time, it is a fact that many of the rules and laws that are actually in fact enacted are to the advantage of Read the rest of this entry »

The Suburban Paradox January 17, 2012 No Comments

The attached article criticizes the effect of ‘greenbelts’ in Britain, and calls for ‘green patches’ instead of ‘green belts.’  The paradox is that a lot of what people move out to the suburbs for is precisely what these anti-suburban NIMBYs are trying to protect.  And, more to the point, when people do move out to the suburbs, they often join the ranks of the NIMBYs and try to pull up the drawbridge behind themselves.  I commented on this in my post earlier on “Why Non-Suburbanites Distrust Suburbanites.”  This is the paradox of suburbia, and there is no real way to resolve it.  The best idea is the ‘green patches’ that this article proposes.

In Orange County we have one true greenbelt, which separates the very un-OC town of Laguna Beach from the rest of the county [there are only three roads into Laguna Beach from the rest of the county], and I suppose the Cleveland National Forest, on the other side, is a greenbelt too.  Otherwise, we have a pretty good collection of green patches, especially in the south county; and there is the gigantic Blue Belt, otherwise known as the Pacific Ocean, on the county’s southwest side.

Related: “Three Cheers for Urban Sprawl” by Martin Durkin at NewGeography.com

The Continuing Presumption of Airlines January 12, 2012 1 Comment

I am prepared to admit that the California Bullet Train may prove to be a failure, even though France, Spain, Germany, and China have them! I voted for the train originally, not so much to eliminate automobiles, but as an alternative to airplanes, where you have to jump through so many security hoops to get on them [this, I admit, is not the airlines’ fault] and the airlines schedule connections so tight that they can only be made if it’s 70 degrees and no wind! In the presence of any other weather or other conditions, their extremely fragile schedule shatters. I don’t like fragility anyhow; it seems to me there should always be some wiggle room. But I guess that’s not ‘efficient.’

Now in the Wall Street Journal we read that airplanes flying westward from Europe to America have, because of high level winds, had to make unscheduled fuel stops at places like Read the rest of this entry »

Popular Music: The Ancients and the Moderns No Comments

In eighteenth century Europe, one of the favorite intellectual debates was the Debate of the Ancients and the Moderns, whether Europe had now exceeded the greatness of the Greco-Roman era or had not yet done so. There is a similar debate about popular music at any given time nowadays.

The Wall Street Journal writer Jim Fusilli has written about older people of my age who think there is nothing worthwhile in today’s music. I have to admit that it’s a lot easier for me just to find the ‘classic rock’ station, yet at the same time there is some good and worthwhile stuff being produced today. I like Coldplay, for example; in fact, their famous song Viva la Vida, coming out at the end of 2008, helped throw me into a serious Read the rest of this entry »

Comments on the Film “The Descendants” January 10, 2012 No Comments

I recently saw a film called The Descendants, about a large family of landed aristocratic background in Hawaii. Though the Hawaiian setting is interesting, it is a story that could happen in many cultures – California is not without a landed aristocracy of its own. Matt King, the character played by George Clooney, is the trustee of an extended hapa-haole [partly white] family descended from missionaries and also King Kamehameha I the Great. He is faced with the question of selling a large portion of beautiful land, which belongs to the family trust. He himself has refused to live on his inheritance, living exclusively on his earnings as an attorney. His wife, frustrated, goes in for exciting sports and is Read the rest of this entry »

Who is the Santa Claus Party? December 31, 2011 1 Comment

After the 2004 election, in which the states that went for Bush formed a relatively neat geographical unity and in all the states that went for Kerry maps and T-shirts were circulating labeling the Republican states as ‘Jesusland,’  I thought, what should the rest of the USA and Canada be called?  Santa Claus Land?

As a matter of fact, from the Left, ‘fake consultant‘ proposes some candidates for the new Santa Claus – among them Michael Moore, Meghan McCain, and Lady Gaga – who would confirm the role of the Left as the Santa Claus party.  But the Right has invented a Santa for their own purposes.  I thought at first that the term ‘Two Santa Claus Theory’ was a nasty term invented by the Left, but it turns out, according to Bruce Bartlett that the term originates with Jude Wanniski himself, out of memories of the Goldwater disaster of 1964.   Read the rest of this entry »

‘The End’ of Redevelopment Agencies December 30, 2011 1 Comment

The best news of a rather dreary year. Redevelopment has done a few good things, like gaslamps, but they could as easily be done through Business Improvement Districts or the city treasuries, which are more directly accountable to the electorate. Also, a defeat on one front for the ‘patrimonialism’ as I have mentioned in some of my other posts.

A prosperous New Year to all my readers, in the spiritual as well as the economic sense.

Related: “Court OKs end of redevelopment agencies” at OCRegister.com
Related: “California high court puts redevelopment agencies out of business” by Maura Dolan, Jessica Garrison and Anthony York at LATimes.com


‘Donorcracy’ and ‘Patrimonialism’ December 29, 2011 No Comments

Newgeography.com, one of my favorite sites, has deviated from its usual agenda to post this post on what I have called the “donorcracy.”  The pursuit of money is more important to every person pursuing electoral office than the pursuit of votes.  I don”t know who to blame for this; the nature of technology and modern media, the character of the voting public who will respond to the kind of ads that this money buys, or whatever.  Social conservatives in the 80s and 90s, and the Left now through the Internet, have sometimes been able to organize small donor campaigns which from time-to-time partly dilute the influence of the donorcracy.  But pollsters should do polls of the donorcracy as well as of the electorate; for these purposes I define a “donorcrat” Read the rest of this entry »

I Couldn’t Resist . . . December 19, 2011 1 Comment

Low Carb Fuel Standards? I shall have to check into this.  Somebody needs to develop an automobile that will run on lentils, bacon, lean chicken breast, and smoked salmon.  What impact that will have on the environment, I have no idea.

Sorry, couldn’t resist that.  The Gentle Readers will be aware by now that I can’t resist much!

Related: “California Dreams and Low Carbon Fuels” by Michael Whatley at Townhall.com

A Linguistic Test: Blue Kennel’s First December 17, 2011 2 Comments

I have been reading a work called From Bible Belt to Sun Belt by Darren Dochuk about how settlement from the western South [Texas and bordering states] in the 1930s and 40s reshaped California evangelicalism and culture.  It inspired me to give my readers my first phonemic test; this particular one measures Southern influence on California speech.

Read out loud:

Sentimental sinners lent Linda money.

The eminent theologian explained that God was immanent as well as transcendent.

Did you ask for a safety pin or a ball point pen?

Kendall likes his new Amazon Kindle.

Those who show Southern influence will pronounce all the underlined parts alike:  those who do not will make a noticeable contrast.

I have a couple more of these up the pipeline if the readers are interested.  You are welcome to respond in Comments and tell me whether these are

  1. two sounds
  2. one sound
  3. supposed to be two sounds, but through carelessness often in fact one

Will Riverside, Fresno, and Bakersfield Become Civilized? December 15, 2011 1 Comment

Joel Kotkin and William Frey, in an article written before the crash, speculate that as Coastal California prices itself out of the market, Inland California may become a more civilized and upscale region.  In fact, the crash and the wave of foreclosures hit Inland California the hardest, while making the coast [much to the discomfiture of existing homeowners, who dominate politically] a little more affordable.  Inland California, as compared to other states, is not quite as unique as the coast – it has more variety of weather and temperature for example, somewhat like other parts of the country – but it doesn’t have that much to be ashamed of compared to the rest of the country. There may be a little more frost, but there isn’t any more snow than on the coast – and the summers, while Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas and Steven Pinker’s Decline of Violence December 11, 2011 1 Comment

A few months ago biologist Steven Pinker released a paper (Article 1, Article 2) and a book claiming that despite 9/11, Rwanda, and other such events, violence is actually declining in the world. He rebukes the myth of the ‘noble savage’ by pointing out that most savages and our pre-civilized ancestors were incredibly violent. He gives the lie to the notion, popular among liberals but also the assumption of the more conspiracy-oriented people on the Right, [see Isaiah 8:11-13] that humankind is naturally good but is corrupted by ‘society’ and institutions, or [one has to say it] the 1 per cent, or whatever.

Interestingly enough, I was at a place this morning where we sang a couple of songs. Usually the songs we sing Read the rest of this entry »

Suburbs Up, Exurbs Down: California in 2010-11 December 10, 2011 No Comments

I had the fortune recently to stumble on the California Department of Finance’s estimates of population change in California during the period July 1, 2010 – July 1- 2011. This is distinct from the Federal census, which tried to establish the number of people in all localities as of April 1, 2010. These California statistics are for a short period of only one year; they are not as reliable, of course, as a real census. [I wonder how they got them. You can count registered births and registered deaths easily enough; but how they tell who moves in and out, and whether they’re going to or comong from someplace in the USA, or outside it, I have no idea.]

Percentagewise, the county that grew fastest was a Sacramento suburban county called Placer, which grew by 1.45% [or, I suppose, what financial people would call 145 basis points] during that one year. It was also only one of two counties where Read the rest of this entry »

How to do Deficit Spending or The Trouble with Keynesianism December 8, 2011 1 Comment

The prescriptions of John Maynard Keynes have been controversial since his time:  the idea of deficit spending for “priming the pump,” the idea of the “paradox of thrift,” and others that seemed to go contrary to traditional financial virtues.  Many have blamed John Maynard Keynes, in fact, for the fact that America’s national budget is usually in a state of deficit.  It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Keynes never advocated deficit spending in times of prosperity.  The trouble with his theory was not so much economic as political; since the state must cut back its spending in times of prosperity, who volunteers to be the thing on which the state spends money in hard times but cuts off money in good times?  [Ominous silence.]  I didn’t think so.  So, while I would hold that deficit spending in times of recession is legitimate, there are only two types of things that I would spend deficit money on:

  1. Unemployment insurance.  Assuming that a “recession” or “depression” is defined mainly as a period of high unemployment, deficit money can be spent on unemployment insurance, because the amount of money spent will automatically decrease if the economy pulls out of recession.  Other forms of welfare that do not vary much with the unemployment rate, such as welfare [including Social Security, food stamps, and the like] and health care, must be covered by tax money.
  2. Infrastructure projects, of the kind that have a defined completion.  These are also the kind that politicians like, because they can have ribbon cuttings at the end and have their pictures taken.  Unfortunately, we are short now in America on maintenance of existing infrastructure.  And maintenance of existing infrastructure is a never ending thing.  It is said, for example, that as soon as they finish painting the Golden Gate Bridge, they start over again.  Because of this, maintenance of infrastructure needs to be paid for by higher taxes, if necessary, not by deficit spending.

If deficit spending is devoted exclusively to things of these two types, it should not have to be a permanent phenomenon, as it has become, but as Keynes never intended it would be.

Devil’s Punchbowl to Salvation Mountain, Part 3 November 11, 2011 No Comments

Devils Punch Bowl

View from road

After two nights we left the Abbey, but started out originally in what might appear to be the “wrong” direction, because we were headed up to Devil’s Punchbowl, a bowl of spectacular pink rocks wedged against the very foot of the mountains, between the mainline San Andreas Fault and the north-end of its daughter fault, the San Jacinto Fault. We took a little walk to look around. And we ran into a very friendly ranger, who explained that the Devil’s Punchbowl is no longer believed to be the opposite half of the similar looking Cajon Beds near the interchange of I-15 and 138. This is what I had imbibed when I first read Robert Iacopi’s book Earthquake Country in 1964, the book which sparked my interest in the fault line. But the ranger told us that it is now believed they are the other half of something much further south in Mexico. Not having been around in those days, despite my great age, I can hardly speak to this. Read the rest of this entry »

San Miguel to Valyermo, Part 2 November 10, 2011 No Comments

The Bent Bridge near Parkfield

The Bent Bridge near Parkfield

So we left San Miguel, initially on the same road that we had entered the town on, but then taking a different road toward Parkfield.  The road ascended up a canyon that looked like the one we had descended, came over the ridge, descended into the fault valley, and turned toward Parkfield.  As we approached Parkfield, we crossed a bridge that crossed both the creek and the fault line at the same time, and is very slightly bent because of it.   [In the section from Hollister to Cuyama, the fault is very loose compared to in the sections to the north and south of this stretch, and there are many small earthquakes rather than the dreaded Big Ones of 1857 and 1906.]   About all there is to Parkfield is an inn with, I think, six rooms [it could be eight] and across the road a popular restaurant.  They are under the same ownership under the name of both the Parkfield Inn and the V Ranch Resort.  And if we had come in the next night, there was a rodeo and there would not have been room.  The rooms at the inn, instead of numbers, have brands.  And the brand is on your keychain.  The rooms are comfortable and have lofts in case several people want to share rooms.  The food for lunch and dinner is quite good, although rather heavy on the beef – a good selection of wines for a ‘cowboy’ restaurant. Read the rest of this entry »

The Poor and Cars November 8, 2011 No Comments

I am as much in favor of a good public transport system as anyone, but it will, for the foreseeable future, be only a partial solution to our transportation needs.  In particular, neither the poor nor the rest of us want to be confined to the job opportunities conveniently accessible to us within walking distance or on the public transport system.  Nor would we wish to be confined to the retail opportunities available – big box stores, even in Europe where they were invented, are generally close to the freeway, not the Metro, and even so, how are we going to get all that stuff home on the Metro?  Public transport is good for accessing downtowns and other areas where parking is expensive and inconvenient and road traffic is often horrible.  Walkable neighborhoods are good and convenient for some things, though rarely for our job and all our desired shopping.  There is one activity for which it is extremely desirable that the venues be accessible on foot or by public transport – even more important, that we be able to return from it on foot or on public transport – and that is going out drinking.

Related: “A hard road for the poor in need of cars” by Ken Bensinger at LATimes.com

Occupy and the Teachers Unions November 7, 2011 No Comments

The goals of the Occupy movement are mystifying enough as it is without their apparently accepting the teachers’ unions in their ranks.  While admittedly teachers are not among the 1%, they are certainly not among the “least of these,” and they and other public sector unions may not be among the ‘rich’ but they are certainly ‘rich’ in political power, which is another kind of wealth.  There is a lot of overlap, perhaps too much, between the financially rich and the politically powerful, but they are by no means identical.  And the teachers’ unions have fought, most generally, to oppose government support of alternative forms of education – charter schools, religious schools, etc.

While the state has an interest in education, both for the sake of democratic wisdom in the people and for economic development, can it only be delivered through the ‘common school?’  The ‘common school’ originated in America, in a New England culture that had a ‘common church.’  And since we no longer have, and should not have, a ‘common church,’ there is no reason for a ‘common school.’

Related:  “Teachers Unions Join Occupy Oakland’s ‘Day of Action’” by Mike Opelka at TheBlaze.com

San Francisco to San Miguel, Part I November 6, 2011 1 Comment

Muscle Rock

In the month of September, 2010, I had the privilege of going with some friends on a road trip the length of the San Andreas Fault, from San Francisco to the Salton Sea. September is not the most aesthetically beautiful month to take this trip, I should warn the reader. April would be the best month to do it, because if there are any flowers in bloom on the route it will most likely be then. But September was the only time that both I and my friend the former professional geologist could make the trip. I had two other friends on the trip – strange to relate, they were both artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Some Points on Housing November 3, 2011 No Comments

Recently The Weekly Standard ran an article by Ike Brannon and Benjamin Gitis suggesting that the mortgage deduction was no longer so important as it had been in the past, and recommending instead a program in Wisconsin called WHEDA, which stands for Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, which helps marginal homebuyers [those with incomes under $80,000 per year] buy homes by covering a portion of the closing costs, but also by requiring eight hours of classes to participate.  At the same time, I saw a story in USA Today describing how a federal program called HOPE VI has been tearing down and rebuilding housing projects in a superior and better looking way, reducing crime.  Both of these features – the classes and a focus on beauty – have long been characteristic of the private philanthropic program in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called Inner City Christian Federation.  The ICCF model does work with the relatively poor, and it requires more classes, not only in finance, but in home maintenance.  My wife and I have the fortune of knowing Jonathan Bradford, the head of ICCF, and we have been privileged to tour its projects.

Related: “The Mortgage Interest Boondoggle” by  Ike Brannon and Benjamin Gitis at The Weekly Standard
Related: “HOPE VI program to renovate housing projects faces cuts” by By Brian Haas of The Tennessean at USAToday.com

9/11, Ten Years Later November 1, 2011 2 Comments

When the 9/11 attacks happened, ten years ago, we knew that we didn’t like it.  But we in the Western World were forced to think about the delicate question of, if we were against this, what were we for?  Were we defending the older Western Christendom?  Or were we defending a new order that entailed sexual freedom and the elimination of distinctions between genders to the extent of same-sex marriage?  Would we now have same-sex marriage in New York State and other states and countries if it had not been for 9/11?  [When the attacks happened, only one nation in the world had ‘marriage equality,’ the Netherlands, and that was relatively recent.]

Would we have the New Atheists?  The last Cold War had been against a world order that claimed to be Read the rest of this entry »

‘Smart Growth’ or Housing Opportunity October 30, 2011 3 Comments

John Crawford, of Sierra Madre, misunderstands the proper purpose of SB 375.  Yes, it is a form of social engineering, but so are the existing policies in those towns forbidding high density housing.  Yes, it is mistaken if it is trying to get suburbanites out of their single family houses and into apartments.  It is not so much a question of whether there is social engineering; it is “whose” social engineering; the state or metropolitan community, the local neighbors, or the land owners and developers?

While in theory I am a land use libertarian, I would in practice draw a half-mile circle around these major Read the rest of this entry »

Civilian Conservation Corps October 28, 2011 No Comments

This story about troubled teens being exposed to nature reminds me that while there was a lot to dislike about Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps got lots of young people out into the natural world doing work. And so the Civilian Conservation Corps is something I would like to see revived. Appreciation for natural beauty is a feature of affluent culture, but it is not so much part of ghetto and barrio cultures. They, however, being human beings, have the capacity for appreciating beauty, natural and otherwise. A Civilian Conservation Corps would expose un-affluent young people to both the beauty of nature and the virtue of steady work, both of which would be very good for them. And, while I admire the military in many ways for its inclusiveness, I would be glad to see another option for these young people.

Related: “At-risk teens, young adults learn life skills from nature” by Patricia Leigh Brown, at California Watch

Earned Success October 21, 2011 1 Comment

Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute and public conservative spokesman, has been writing and speaking recently about happiness.  He spoke at the recent Christian Community Development Conference, and declared that money does not necessarily bring happiness except that a slight increase in income or wealth does make the poor happier.  What makes people happier, he declared, is “earned success.”  Lottery winners and trustfunders are not made necessarily happy by their wealth.  Since I am a trustfunder, I can agree with that point.  The car I drive, the house I live in, and where it is are not reflections of any success I might have achieved.  So I have a difficult time understanding “prestige,” and I don’t understand what these material signs mean to the “successful.”  However, there are other forms of “earned success” besides the material and financial.   Read the rest of this entry »

Herman Cain and a New Party October 8, 2011 No Comments

DeWayne Wickham comments on Herman Cain’s campaign.  Supposedly he does not understand that historically black people, conservative on some issues, have tended to view the federal government as their protector and to distrust state and local governments; and, knowing history, for good reason.  If there were to be a new political party, then, it should not be “socially liberal and fiscally conservative.”  If anything, quite the opposite, it should be conservative on moral issues, uphold vouchers, tax credits, and educational diversity, and be for law and order if law and order can be upheld in ways that do not involve profiling or “driving while black” or anything of that sort.  Similarly, Latinos might be more open to restrictions on further immigration if it did not involve policies in which brown people were more likely to have their papers checked.  Respect is a major issue in both these communities; if they have been ‘dissed,’ a word that comes from Black English originally, they will vote for things and people they don’t even particularly like in order to get back at those who have ‘dissed’ them.  And, while the new party can and should be concerned with fighting excessive and oppressive regulations, which fall harder on black and brown entrepreneurs than on anyone else because they can least afford to pay the costs imposed, it should show an equal solicitousness toward oppressive regulation coming out of city hall, the county seat, and the state capital as out of Washington D.C.; rhetoric about ‘justice’ will sell, but rhetoric about ‘decentralization,’ as if Washington D.C. were the source of all our troubles, will not fly at all.

Related: “Column: Cain more interested in white than black votes” by DeWayne Wickham at USAToday.com

Spinning the War of 1812 October 6, 2011 No Comments


Canadian Blitzkrieg captures Detroit and Chicago!

Toronto and Buffalo left in ruins!

British intervene on Canadian side and capture Washington D.C.!

Sounds like some kind of a fantasy novel, doesn’t it!  Well, it actually happened.  It was the War of 1812, and Americans don’t remember it much, though our National Anthem came out of it.

The Canadians are proposing to celebrate the centennial of the War of 1812 as a ‘great victory’ without stirring up too much anti-American sentiment in the current environment.  Now in the States we have often put somewhat of a different spin on this particular war.  I just happened to be at Fort McHenry recently and that is the site where the British, in the last campaign before the peace treaty, attempted to capture Baltimore and failed.  One Francis Scott Key, on a truce ship in the harbor, waking up in the morning, saw that Fort McHenry had survived the British bombardment and was moved to write the poem that, attached to a challenging tune, has become our American National Anthem.  As a consequence Fort McHenry is one of the few places where the flag is allowed, by presidential order, to fly 24/7. The war ended with pretty much a return to the status quo ante.  The Americans did not come out of it feeling defeated – if anything, they had more confidence than ever.  The New England states, which had been opposed to the war and had threatened succession, were so discredited that after the Federalists were again defeated in the election of 1816 their party was dissolved, and James Monroe, the victorious Dem-Rep candidate, appointed John Quincy Adams, son of the last Federalist President, as his Secretary of State.

Arguably the last serious battle on the Canadian front was in fact an American victory.  It was the battle of Lake Champlain or Plattsburgh, where an American fleet defeated a Canadian one Read the rest of this entry »

Why Non-Suburbanites Distrust Suburbanites August 30, 2011 No Comments

I’ve had the great Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs, on in my car recently, and have been inspired by it to a few thoughts.

Most people, especially people with children, aspire to a real house and not a condominium or an apartment, a house you can walk around the outside of, with at least a semblance of a private back yard.  And they are willing to sacrifice easy access to alternatives to the automobile in order to have this. Is there anything wrong with this?  No, not if

  1. you can afford it,
  2. you don’t demand that the price of gasoline be controlled or subsidized
  3. The costs of setting up and maintaining infrastructure, and costs of new schools, public and private, must be paid.  I think there are aspects of Proposition 13 that could be reformed, but the principle that the buyers or occupiers of new homes must pay for the infrastructure that their homes make necessary, rather than burdening the existing residents, is one that we are stuck with, and even though I would like to see housing less expensive I think that this is probably a good thing.

However, people move to suburbs not just to get things, like bigger houses and yards, but to get away from things in their old neighborhood:  crime, traffic, and bad schools [if they’re not religious, they Read the rest of this entry »

The Two Income Trap August 29, 2011 No Comments

We have referred to Ms. Warren and Ms. Tyagi”s book, The Two Income Trap, rather often in these pages. When Obama wanted to appoint her consumer czar, she was attacked. Here is Christopher Caldwell, of the neocon magazine The Weekly Standard, defending her.

In reference to: “Elizabeth Warren, Closet Conservative” by Christopher Caldwell at The Weekly Standard

How To Talk About Abortion in California: Accentuate The Positive August 16, 2011 No Comments

I think it’s OK to be pro-life in California politics.  I am not planning to run for office. The notorious Oscar Wilde is rumored to have said, “The problem with socialism is that it will take up too many evenings;” and I’ve found that the same is true, in our society that is oriented to event-based fundraising, of conservatism, capitalism, and even, ironically enough, family values.  It does create employment for babysitters, who are often of an age that is difficult to employ.

The aspiring candidate should mainly talk about economic issues, and when someone asks him about abortion or gay marriage, I’d say, Read the rest of this entry »

Learning from Francis Fukuyama August 10, 2011 2 Comments

I have finished Francis Fukuyama’s magnum opus, The Origins of Political Order, and as you might expect I like the way he cuts across traditional categories.

Of course I have read his notorious The End of History and the Last Man, which became a laughingstock – somewhat unfairly.  I think his point is that under modern conditions people are becoming hollowed out and shallow – a point made in Francis Schaeffer’s comments on “personal peace and affluence,” in C. S. Lewis’s essay “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” and in Don Henley’s song “Garden of Allah.”  I also enjoyed his The Great Disruption, which traces the moral chaos of our time to the fact that technology has made most work in our society suitable to the muscles of women, whereas in the past, say, Rosie the Riveter was Read the rest of this entry »

The Motivation of Conservatives and Liberals July 19, 2011 2 Comments

In Gareth Cook’s article the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, following Romans 1, suggests that there are five inborn ‘instinctive’ virtues that humans recognize, though they do not always live up to, of course.

These are:  i. fairness, ii. not harming others, iii. loyalty to one’s group, iv. respecting authority, and v. purity [I am not sure what this refers to; I suspect it includes sexual morals, while not being by any means confined to them.]

“And in psychological experiments, conservatives value all five of the instincts, yet liberals [sic] tend to Read the rest of this entry »

Unintended Consequences of Arizona’s Clean Elections Act July 18, 2011 No Comments

Conservatives oppose campaign finance reform of any kind, even when, as in Arizona, the Tea Party has been benefiting from it!

Related: “Arizona conservatives scramble after campaign finance law’s defeat” by Nicholas Riccardi at LATimes.com

Raise Revenues by Reducing Taxes? July 16, 2011 2 Comments

Now, Ramesh Ponnuru, long time of National Review, sees it. And Pawlenty is still convinced we are above the tip of the Laffer Curve, and that there are more revenues to be got by reducing taxes. This is debatable.

Related: “Free Republicans From the Middle-Class Tax Trap” by Ramesh Ponnuru at Bloomberg.com

This President Triangulates the Debt July 14, 2011 No Comments

Obama has been willing, in his desperation, to reform Social Security.  Like Clinton and Welfare Reform.  Maybe the Republicans forced him to it, but you could say the same of Clinton.  And maybe only Obama could have taken on Social Security, just as only Nixon could have gone to China.

Related: “Dem déjà vu: Obama triangulates on debt” by Sam Youngman at TheHill.com

Bakersfield Freeway July 13, 2011 No Comments

I think they ought to move Route 58 to Stockdale Highway and not Rosedale.  Stockdale comes in where 58 meets 99, and it goes straight to the I-5.  Rosedale, the current numbered route, takes a pronounced jog.

Related: “Future Freeway Route Through Bakersfield Gets Update” by Gretchen Wenner at Bakersfield.com

And Republicans Were All So Pious About ‘Local Control’ . . . July 9, 2011 3 Comments

And Republicans were all so pious about ‘local control.’  They don’t want local government to raise taxes or fees, but it seems to be OK with them – except for the ever-reliable Chris Norby – for local government to declare a ‘redevelopment area,’ freeze the taxes going to the county and the schools for the redevelopment slush fund, and [in some cases] throw ‘blighted’ businesses and tenants out of their property.  Go Darrell!!  What’s also to be said for his proposal is that this way people and businesses don’t have to move out of the state – just to a nearby town.  And that way they can stay in California.  Once again, Republicans are incomprehensible.

Related: “Darrell Steinberg Throws a Tax Pitch” by George Skelton at LATimes.com

Cigarette maker spends big to fight per-pack tax July 7, 2011 No Comments

If we are going to add to the expense of cigarettes, I can suggest better things to do with the extra dollar per pack than put it in the government coffers.

1. Have the manufacturers (or sellers) put a Ziploc type bag with each pack. Then in open spaces, such as parks and beaches, make sure people who are trying to smoke are carrying the little Ziploc bags. This is what we already do with dog walkers. The problem with smokers in open air spaces is usually not second-hand smoke, which is rarely at serious levels in open spaces, but litter. Relatively few people smoke nowadays and yet butts are still about half of all litter.

2. Assemble a fund to find some way of recycling filters and turn them into something. Fund a 1 cent per filter award for filters turned in for recycling. If Altria and other cancer magnates are willing to find a use for old filters, I”d offer them the money to do it. If not, find someone else. But for all the decrease in the use of their product the cigarette companies never do badly financially, and surely they can afford to do something constructive like this.

3. If we want to soak the rich, why not tax cigars? That will hit the Republicans where they live. Of course, the Republicans, when they get into power, will revenge themselves on the Academic Elite by taxing pipe tobacco!

Related: “Cigarette maker spends big to fight per-pack tax” by Christina Jewett at CaliforniaWatch.com

Who is tossing whom over a cliff? July 6, 2011 3 Comments

This column by Chris Laureys of New Jersey is one of the best I’ve ever seen on the distortions of our current welfare state.

Related: “Who is tossing whom over a cliff?” by Chris Laureys at USAToday.com

Identification Cards Required to Leave the State July 5, 2011 1 Comment

Some rather interesting requirements imposed for flying. It declares, “If you plan to fly out of the state, federal regulations mandate that all adult passengers (ages 18+) must provide a valid state or federal photo ID that includes the passenger’s name, gender, date of birth, and expiration date, prior to passing through airport security.” Now most of these details are not difficult. But since I do not reside in such a fortunate jurisdiction as the Kingdom of the Netherlands or the State of Oregon, where I can know and plan my expiration date, that certain detail does impose a certain amount of difficulty!

Related “Identification Cards Required to Leave the State” at eHow.com

If a picture beats a thousand words… 1 Comment

If a picture beats a thousand words, how come so many art commenters can get two thousand words out of every picture?


Democrats Are 1955 Republicans June 29, 2011 No Comments

Reinforcing my earlier comment on Barack Obama’s allergy to antithesis, here is Michael Lind claiming that Obama is, for practical purposes, an Eisenhower Republican.  As for the so-called social issues, Allan Carlson, in The American Way, pointed out that the Republicans, before about 1965, were the “socially liberal” party, advocating equal opportunity for women in the workplace and being friendlier to Planned Parenthood, while the Democrats were the party of the so-called “family wage” for the working married man.

Related: “Why the GOP should nominate Barack Obama in 2012” by Michael Lind at Salon.com

No, Hal Lindsey did not discover the Book of Revelation June 24, 2011 No Comments

One of the blessings of being dragged across Europe frequently is that you learn that medieval and Renassance people did read their Bibles and use them in art work. Yes, they added things, like a whole biography of Mary and many saints stories, and many legends about people like Joseph of Arimathea traveling westward with relics [it’s interesting that they mostly headed west!], but they read the Bible too!

In Revelation 4:6b-7, we read, “In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle.” Well, when you put the face of Jesus, or whatever else, on the dome of your church, there are four corners at the four posts. And it’s practically a cliche to put in these four beasts – not covered with eyeballs, however – on these corners.

They have come to be associated with the four Gospels. The lion is the Gospel of Matthew, because Jesus is there presented as the Lion of Judah; because the ox is the beast that serves, it is associated with the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus is presented most clearly as the suffering servant; the man represents the Gospel of Luke, where the humanity of Christ is explored as the most length; and the eagle represents the Gospel of John, where Christ’s divinity is most clearly and unambiguously presented.

A chapter later I read, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.” My friend and I just saw, in Gent, Belgium, the famous Van Eyck brothers painting from the 1450s based on that scripture. A Lamb with wounds is standing on an altar in a green field [He doesn’t have seven eyes or seven horns however] and blood from His wound is pouring into a chalice, and all kinds of people – monks, nuns, secular people, etc., – are converging on Him from different directions. In the upper corners are Adam and Eve and just above them God’s rejection of Cain’s sacrifice and Cain’s murder of Abel. It is probably the most famous non-Italian European painting of that century.

Here’s another one: Revelation 12:1-2, “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” Here is an image, in the Bible, that could refer to Mary, and so you could see why it was popular. [As a non-Catholic friend once reminded me, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear” is in the Bible too.] So frequently in churches you see Mary with twelve stars, or standing on the moon, or clothed in the sun. [You also sometimes see her stepping on a snake, a reference to Genesis 3:15.] But there’s a bigger surprise! Do you know why the European Union flag has a circle of twelve stars on it? They didn’t start out with twelve members, and they have more than that now. Well, it comes from this!

What a Seemingly Innocuous Request But Such a Triumphal Statement June 2, 2011 2 Comments

Why don’t the Muslims just buy the churches, if they want them? The Catholics need the money.

Related: “Muslims in France Ask to Use Empty Churches” by Soeren Kern at Hudson New York


Beyond Red vs. Blue May 18, 2011 No Comments

Interesting. I scored New Coalition Democrat, not conventional liberal.

Related: “Beyond Red vs. Blue” at PewResearchCenter

The Garbage City May 17, 2011 1 Comment

That the Zabaleen are mostly ethnic Copts, because Muslims don”t handle garbage. For all that, they were not very good Christians, being sunk in drugs and alcohol and the like, until a preacher named Abu Samaan came in and helped clean things up, at least ethically, and revived the Faith. He also caused a beautiful church to be carved out of Mount Mokattam, which rises just behind the Garbage City. During the swine flu epidemic a couple years ago, the police came in and slaughtered all their pigs, a vital part of the recycling work, and a month ago, after the Revolution, an Islamist mob attacked the Garbage City and people were killed. Life is riskier now for the Copts, in general, than it was under Mubarak.

Related: “Garbage City Cairo

Life in the Slow Lane May 15, 2011 No Comments

Our infrastructure has been squeezed between resistance to raising taxes on the one hand, and welfare demands on the other. 

Related: “Life in the Slow Lane”  by The Economist

The Changing Meanings of the Word ‘Passion’ May 14, 2011 1 Comment

The word ‘passion’ has gone through some fascinating gyrations in its meaning, at least in English. First, it is clearly related to the word ‘passive,’ which is the opposite of ‘active.’ And it originally refers to someone who receives action rather than someone who does action. Other words that are related are ‘patient,’ one who suffers the attention of a doctor or a medical procedure, and ‘patience,’ Read the rest of this entry »

A $300 Idea That is Priceless May 13, 2011 No Comments

$300 for the house, and, here in California, $1,999,700 for the land it occupies. There’s the real problem.

Related: “A $300 idea that is priceless”  by The Economist


The Political Meaning of ‘God’ May 12, 2011 3 Comments

I have never been a great advocate of ‘prayer in public schools’ except for voluntary Bible clubs and things of that sort. I was, in fact, going to a public school in 1962, when the decision was handed down, and there was nothing we were doing that we had to change at the time, I just figured prayer in public school was some practice that those hidebound people ‘back East’ [and remember, for Californians, that’s everything east of Denver and El Paso] were into. Then I went to a private high school, Read the rest of this entry »

Once Again, the Laffer Curve Curves May 9, 2011 No Comments

Michael Barone, whom I usually respect, confuses, like most Republicans, the issue about tax rates. Yes, when Kennedy cut the top rate from 90% to 70%, federal revenues did actually go up. And when Reagan cut the top rate to 38.9%, federal revenues actually did go up. But the effect of cutting tax rates doesn’t continue forever. The Clinton years, with a top rate of 38.9%, were not exactly lean years for the economy or the government. And G. W. Bush’s decreasing of the rate to 28% did not increase federal revenue. The rate of Clinton’s time, and the rate we would return to if the Bush tax cuts expire, 38.9%, is, I believe, precisely that point on the Laffer curve at which federal tax revenues will be maximized; or if not, very close to it. I’ll admit I’m no fan of a highly progressive tax, because since the government serves all of us, it should cost all of us something. The rich don’t have enough money to fund the government without everyone else sacrificing as well. But the rate of 38.9% was not oppressive, and the most all-inclusive boom in recent times, that of the Clinton-Gingrich years, happened at that rate. We now again have a Democratic President and a Republican House. I have, rightly or wrongly, been hoping for a repeat of the late ‘90s. Time will tell, however.


L.C.B. says Brown’s Redevelopment Plan is Illegal May 4, 2011 1 Comment

I was tempted to say horrible things about Legislative Counsel, but if the money were to go into the cities’ regular budget instead of the redevelopment slush fund, I would have no problem with that.

Related “Legislative counsel says Brown’s redevelopment plan illegal” by Kevin Yamamura at SacBee.com

Redevelopment and Housing April 27, 2011 No Comments

There is a lot of worry that getting rid of redevelopment will get rid of the one affordable housing program we seem to have in California.  A quota of 20% of redevelopment land to be used for “affordable” housing was, given the nature of redevelopment, a good law that was forced on the agencies.  But there are other ways of doing this.  I would require cities, and counties, to zone 20 per cent of their land area permissive of high density housing open to families with children.  I say “permissive of,” because Read the rest of this entry »

Progressive Consumption Taxes April 26, 2011 1 Comment

I agree with Frank, not with Henderson.  I have a lot less problem with progressive consumption taxes on the rich than with progressive income taxes.  That way if the rich use their money constructively, for capital investment, saving, or philanthropy, they are less likely to be penalized for making the money.  Note that consumption or sales taxes, if equal on all items, tend to be ‘regressive,’ since the less affluent usually spend a higher portion of their incomes.  If we want to soak the rich, it’s less unhealthy to do so when they are spending it on bling than when they are making or receiving it in the first place.

Related: “Robert Frank’s Strange Case for Taxing The Rich” by David R. Henderson at Cato.org


Are Corporations People? Part II No Comments

I have another observation to be added to my Corporations post.  And it’s kind of a compliment, incidentally, on the work of corporations and business in general in creating wealth.

In John 6:15, Jesus, after feeding the five thousand, “knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

Are we seeking to make corporations and businessmen ‘kings by force’ in this way? Read the rest of this entry »

Sex-selection Abortion In Asia April 22, 2011 No Comments

The ugly specter of sex-selection abortion is a reality in Asia, and unfortunately not just in China.  Modern technology has met old attitudes and made this possible.  It is legal here in the USA de facto, but not much practiced except a little bit in the Asian community.  [Abortion for sex selection is not specifically legalized, but abortion as such has been declared to be a ‘civil right,’ and the state cannot inquire about the motives.]

The one country that seems to have embraced sex selection and then moved away from it is that supposedly Christian country, Read the rest of this entry »

Will Riverside, Fresno, and Bakersfield Become Civilized? April 21, 2011 No Comments

Joel Kotkin and William Frey, in their article “The Third California,” speculate that as Coastal California prices itself out of the market, Inland California may become a more civilized and upscale region.  In fact, the crash and the wave of foreclosures hit Inland California the hardest, while making the coast [much to the discomfiture of existing homeowners, who dominate politically] a little more affordable.  Inland California, as compared to other states, is not quite as unique as the coast Read the rest of this entry »

The Fate of Planned Parenthood: It Isn’t Just About Abortion April 20, 2011 1 Comment

In the last two weeks votes were taken on whether Title X should continue to fund Planned Parenthood’s work in pregnancy prevention, prenatal care, and education.  No Federal money, and to my knowledge no state money, funds Planned Parenthood’s abortion work directly.  If anything, abortions, though only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s work, have the reputation of being a profit center for them, so that they hardly need direct subsidy in that area!  But on ethical grounds I would like to take a stand. Government money should not be funneled through Read the rest of this entry »

Are Corporations People? April 19, 2011 1 Comment

The ‘corporation’ has been an item of controversy in the past, and not only on the left.  This The Economist article, “Peculiar people,” is a good primer on the issue.  I would add that:

1.  Most corporations in America are not ‘big corporations’ but ‘small corporations.’  Most of the small ones, and occasionally a few large ones, are privately held, under the control of their founders or owners.  The effect of regulations on ‘corporations’ in general, as on all business, is like a fly swatter:  swat my behind with a fly swatter, and it stings, but swat the behind of a fly with a fly swatter, and the fly dies.  In other words, the costs of regulation, health and safety or otherwise, can be met more easily by big corporations than by small business; and big business is not entirely unhappy, because the cost of regulation restrains potential rivals.

2.  From a theological point of view, a corporation can die, but it can potentially live forever, and in either case it faces no eternal judgment or reward.  Therefore there is no point Read the rest of this entry »

David Stockman, Again April 17, 2011 No Comments

In this article, David Stockman, although both a hard-money man and a social liberal, comes out against continuing the G. W. Bush tax cuts! Read it to find out why.

Related: “The Triumph of Politics Over Economics” by Nick Gillespie at Reason.com

2011 is not 1995 April 16, 2011 No Comments

I confess that I was hoping that 2011 would be 1995.  After all, we had just climbed out of a serious recession in the earlier part of that decade – dwarfed by the more recent one of course, but big at the time – and we had the configuration of Democratic President and Republican Congress.  Ezra Klein says 2011 isn’t 1995, because the economy is still so bad. Maybe I was wrong!  Being wrong is an exceptional and rare event here at Blue Kennel, but I may have managed it this time.

Related” “2011 is not 1995” by Ezra Klein at WashingtonPost.com

Club Wagner April 15, 2011 3 Comments

I have asked to become a member of Club Wagner. I cannot be both that and a California Republican, that has been made abundantly clear.

Related: “Club Wagner” by Douglas Holtz-Eakin at NYTimes.com Blogs

Related: “Conservatives for Higher Taxes” by David Leonhardt at NYTimes.com Blogs

Different Kinds of Freedom April 9, 2011 No Comments

Here is a quotation from Aldous Huxley’s 1946 foreword to Brave New World:

“As political or economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase.  And the dictator (unless he needs cannon fodder and families with which to colonize empty or conquered territories) will do well to encourage that freedom.  In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.”

Unlike my usual pattern on this blog, I don’t really feel I need to add any comments!

The Triumph of Politics Over Economics April 8, 2011 No Comments

In this article, David Stockman, although both a hard-money man and a social liberal, comes out against continuing the G. W. Bush tax cuts!  Read it to find out why.

Related: “The Triumph of Politics Over Economics” by Nick Gillespie at Reason.com

Taxes and the Schadenfreude of the Rich April 7, 2011 2 Comments

It is unwise for a state to be too dependent on the fluctuating incomes of the rich – or, for that matter, in my view, any organization.  Instead of this being made an argument for “lower taxes on the rich,” it could be just as easily made an argument for higher taxes on everybody else.  We rich folks are not innocent of Schadenfreude and envy, any more than anyone else is.

Related: “The Price of Taxing the Rich” by Robert Frank at WSJ.com

Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play in Traffic No Comments

P. J. O’Rourke has taken off on the absurdity of bicycles.  However, there are some people that really need and use them, and I’m thinking of “Los Midnight Riders” from my earlier post.  There does need to be some safe place for bicycles, and cars do need to recognize the bicycles are ‘vehicles.’  However, I do appreciate O’Rourke’s point!

It would be hard to commute to a white collar job on a bicycle – unless you’re Danish.

Related: “Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play in Traffic” by P.J. O’Rourke at WSJ.com

Tort Reform and Avoiding Lawyers: Good and Bad Ways To Do It April 6, 2011 No Comments

One of the features of our legal system is that if an organization or business rips you off for $3 million, it’s pretty easy to get justice, but if it rips you off for $30, you’re out of luck unless you can inflate the worth of pain and emotional distress to $3 million.  And one way that organizations have been doing their own tort reform, according to this report from The American Prospect, is to demand agreement to arbitration as a condition of doing business or being hired.  And whatever the arbitrator declares is the law, without appeal to the civil court system, which automatically ratifies it.

Incidentally, a major source of ‘law’ in our society is not the government, but private organizations establishing the Read the rest of this entry »

The Uses of Classical Music in the Public Square No Comments

It turns out that classical music in the public square has a function of value.  Adolescents tend to disperse from where it is played, so even such as McDonalds are now discovering the delights of the Western classical music tradition.  If McDonalds and other businesses have discovered the usefulness of the Great Tradition, it ought to be easy to get corporate support for our orchestras today to continue it.

I don’t think it would have worked with me at that age, which yes was in the mid 60s, I would not have been driven away by classical music.  If they wanted to drive me away, the best things to choose would have been jazz or country music.  What was actually popular for the purpose at the time, however, was ‘beautiful music;’ lush, exclusively instrumental, arrangements of the Great American Songbook done by people named Mantovani and the like.  This was often quite effective.  I myself liked that kind of music less than rock or classical, but more than jazz or country.  Because my father was especially fond of ‘beautiful music,’ I grew up knowing all the tunes of the great American songs of the pre-rock era, and none of the words!

About 1964, a group called the Hollyridge Strings began to set the works of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and others into a similar format, and we were on our way to the ‘elevator music’ of today.  Interestingly enough, Jan and Dean, a duo in the general school of the Beach Boys, actually produced their own ‘elevator music’ version of their own songs!  Later on in the 80s, the ‘New Age’ tunes of George Winston, Kintaro, etc., became the heir to this tradition.

Related: “Classical Music Still Effective at Dispersing Loitering Teens” at LATimes.com

California Republicans Are Crazy. Like a Fox. April 5, 2011 No Comments

David Atkins of Calitics on the left suggests that for the Republican Establishment, the magic 34% in one house of the legislature is enough, under the California Constitution, to achieve their purposes.  Warning: Calitics is too far to the left even for me:  they are supporters of public sector unions, as well as being social liberals.

Related “California Republicans Are Crazy. Like a Fox” by David Altkins at Calitics.com

The Courage Factor April 1, 2011 No Comments

The Economist on Obama’s general lack of courage.  He campaigned on ‘audacity’ and ‘we can’ but it looks like we don’t.  Remember you heard it first here on Blue Kennel.  I hadn’t quite thought of ‘allergy to antithesis’ in terms of cowardice, but I guess I should. As a trustfunder, I have to be careful about being too judgmental about the behavior of people whose livelihood depends on their reputation.  After all, that’s why libel and slander are torts at civil law, as well as being frowned on in the moral law.

Related: “The Courage Factor” by The Economist

Driven to Extinction, Indeed March 31, 2011 2 Comments

Well, that leaves 140 countries where religions (I prefer to use the plural, because there’s no such thing as ‘religion,’ only religions) are doing fine.  What’s going to be interesting about the nine is that when ‘religion’ goes extinct, a lot of the incentive to have children, especially more than one or two, also goes extinct, and because of this, eventually the people start to go extinct as well.  So in these countries it will be a race to see whether Muslim immigrants from Islamic parts of the world, or Christian immigrants from Africa below the 10th parallel, Latin America, and the United States, are going to be the main people to repopulate these countries.  The curse of living in interesting times!

Related: “Organized religion ‘will be driven toward extinction’ in 9 countries” by Richard Allen Greene at CNN.com

Today’s Educational Paradigm March 30, 2011 2 Comments

I might take some of what is said with a grain of salt, but this cartoon video explains issues about education – the number one interest of conservative philanthropists – with a clarity I have never seen before.

An Amazing Millay Sonnet March 29, 2011 1 Comment

This sonnet by Edna St Vincent Millay has, for some reason, been sitting on my desk for a year or so, and I just found it. Keep in mind that it was written in 1939, thirty years before men actually landed on the moon, and the sonnet, among other things, predicts that event. But in many other ways, if you read it today, you say, “Now more than ever!”

Upon this age, that never speaks its mind,
This furtive age, this age endowed with power
To wake the moon with footsteps, fit an oar
Into the rowlocks of the wind, and find
What swims before his prow, what swirls behind—-
Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts …. They lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric; undefiled
Proceeds pure Science, and has her say; but still
Upon this world from the collective womb
Is spewed all day the red triumphant child.

Obama’s Oxymoron: Government Innovation March 26, 2011 No Comments

A former Oxy student’s oxymoron.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist that.  (For the uninformed reader:  Oxy is the common abbreviation for Occidental College, which both our current President and I attended at different times.)

Related: “Obama’s Oxymoron: Government Innovation” by Debra J. Saunders at SFGate.com

Somebody Must Like Irvine March 24, 2011 No Comments

Jerry Sullivan in Irvine, By Design points out that Irvine is not that different from what the hipster gentrifiers of places like Echo Park would do if they had full control!

I need to correct an error. Don Bren does not deserve all the praise, or blame, for what Irvine is. He became sole owner of the Irvine Company, feudal lord of the city and of large portions of Tustin and Newport Beach, in 1983, long after the shape and culture of Irvine was set. The original plans were drawn up by William Pereira in the early 60s and envisioned a university-based community. Most of the city exemplifies suburbia, but on a much higher level than the older ‘midopolis’ [Joel Kotkin’s word for the suburbia built between 1940 and 1970], and has set a pattern emulated nationwide for suburbia built since 1970. Most of the city is automobile-dependent, though there is more accommodation for bicycles than in traditional cities; in many areas cul-de-sacs are there for cars but not for pedestrians; and two areas, the area across the street from UCI and the area called Woodbridge, actually have a few New Urbanist features. In Woodbridge in particular, the shopping area is in the middle instead of on the edge as in most villages, and a diversity of different housing types, single family, condo, apartment, and single-story triplex, huddle closely together. All of this dates before 1983. The biggest and best achievement of the Don Bren era is the rebuilding of the Fashion Island mall to make it a more fun place for people, and this happened in the late 80s. Also, Newport Coast is not the most exemplary place in the world, but it could have been so much worse! The houses are mostly boring Tuscan mansions, but the common area landscaping uses local materials and less water than traditional landscaping. Most of the area makai of Coast Highway was saved, and Crystal Cove has become a little oasis of nostalgia where one can forget that the last 50 years happened. And it does not look like anything the Irvine Company ever possibly conceived of!

Does Justice Equal Entitlement: A Book Review March 18, 2011 No Comments


Marvin Olasky, one of the most saintly people I know, has also done a review of Timothy Keller”s new book, Generous Justice. I’m sure it is superior to mine. Nevertheless, I think I have something to say.

Timothy Keller, the innovative pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church PCA in New York City, has come out with a book that borders on the political by addressing the issue of God’s special concern for the poor and marginalized as an important concern for all Christians. The doing of charity overall is Read the rest of this entry »

Moms March 16, 2011 No Comments

Abby Wisse Schachter, in a recent Weekly Standard, unfortunately not available to non-subscribers, finds fault with both the Tiger Mom and her chief opponent on the ground that one cares about achievement, the other about following your bliss, but neither seems to make moral character a priority.

Related: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” by Amy Chua at WSJ.com
Also Related: “In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom” by Ayelet Waldman at WSJ.com

What I Fear March 14, 2011 2 Comments

The poll shows that, while Americans do not greatly love labor unions overall, they seem to want to defend the collective bargaining rights of the public sector.  What is frightening about this is that the public is very cynical nowadays about the officials it elects, but may be very friendly to government workers and bureaucrats that it does not elect.  This is a frightening trend for those who like electoral democracy; I confess I have been worried about this trend for some time.

Related: Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions” by Michael Cooper at NYTimes.com

Dishwasher Detergent March 12, 2011 No Comments

The interesting thing about the impulse to give us dishwasher detergent that doesn’t actually clean dishes is that it comes from the Spokane area, an area traditionally regarded as conservative.  They did not like the idea of phosphorus in their river, however.

Related: “Another Triumph for the Greens” by Jonathan V. Last at The Weekly Standard

For and Against the Negative Income Tax March 11, 2011 1 Comment

Two different perspectives on the negative income tax, a less bureaucratic substitute for the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Guy Sorman is for, Jim Manzi is against.  I’m not sure where I stand.  (Don’t you welcome a little ambiguity for a change from the arrogant Blue Kennel?)

Actually, one of the persons who first proposed a negative income tax was none other than Milton Friedman, who was not as Randist as is often thought.  I, for one, in theory believe that welfare (including Medicare and Social Security) is the province of the church and the family; in practice, I think a government role is inescapable, but the church and the family should not be elbowed out of the way or have an excuse to shrug their shoulders and abandon welfare to the state.

Related: “Why Not a Negative Income Tax” by Guy Sorman at City Journal

Also Related: “Against the Negative Income Tax” by Jim Manzi at National Review Online

Regulations March 10, 2011 2 Comments

Mark Lacter, in Los Angeles magazine not generally regarded as a right wing magazine, describes the regulatory problems in the City of Los Angeles with regard to establishing any kind of a new business.  It does not fall much short of what Mario Vargas Llosa described in Peru in his classic The Other Path .  The blessing of the USA is that the bureaucrats do not, mostly, take bribes.  Apparently they love power more than money.  This is very much a lesser evil, and I hope the Latino immigrants flocking here understand the importance of this.  But it is not a good thing.  I may have broken with certain conservatives on some tax issues, but regulation is another matter.  It works like a fly swatter.  The effect of a fly swatter on my behind is a little sting.  The effect of a fly swatter on the behind of a fly is that the fly dies.  Similarly, big and established business can shrug off costly regulation.  The small entrepreneurs, who we claim to love in this country, face its full burden.

And I, as a Swede, can think of an even worse scenario.  Most of the public distrust about government, especially in the younger generations, has been directed against elected officials.  The officials described in this article are mostly unelected.  And because they do not take bribes or political contributions, they are more trusted and unquestioned by the public at large – at least the public that isn’t trying to start a small business – than the elected officials.  This may be changing as public sentiment begins to turn against the public sector unions and their irresponsibly large pensions and privileges.  I would plead with the younger generations; if you distrust elected officials, you’re responsible, because you either voted for them or stayed home.  But give a thought to the unelected officials; it is they who really run your lives!

PS: it’s time for another shameless plug for the Institute for Justice, www.ij.org, the nearest thing we have in America to a Small Business Civil Liberties Union.

Related: “The Tale of the Tape” by Mark Lacter at LAMag.com

Jeffrey Anderson Proposes March 7, 2011 2 Comments

Jeffrey Anderson proposes some ideas for Obamacare phase II.  Some of these are:

1. Lowering health costs by

a. allowing health insurance to be bought across state lines

b. allowing small businesses to join together in larger pools, which makes insurance more affordable

c. lower premiums for healthy lifestyles

d. limit malpractice lawsuits

e. encourage Health Savings Accounts, don’t discourage them

2. Give the same tax break to those who buy insurance not from their employers, that employers get.

3. High-risk pools, like they do for car insurance now, I think.

These are great improvements that would accomplish things that Obamacare phase I was unable to fix.  And just because these ideas are offered by Republicans is no reason to hold them in contempt.

Related: “The Replacement” by Jeffery H. Anderson at The Weekly Standard

Californians Need to Suffer More February 28, 2011 No Comments

A good article by Greenhut on the pensions crisis, but I find it rather amusing that a Libertarian wants people to suffer.  Generally I thought it was we heartless social conservatives who wanted people to suffer!

Related: “Steven Greenhut: Californians need to suffer more” by Steve Greenhut at OCRegister.com

Dan Morain: One Town’s Enterprise Zone Steals Another Town’s Lunch February 24, 2011 No Comments

Apparently enterprise zones have turned out to be the same sort of corporate welfare and beggar-thy-neighbor deal that redevelopment has been.  I don’t know much about Business Improvement Districts, but I think they’re kind of like residential homeowmers associations and can assess dues.  They might be the most viable format for brick sidewalks and cute gas lamps, which I’m not against.

Related “Dan Morain: One town’s enterprise zone steals another town’s lunch” by Dan Morain at Sacbee.com

You’ve Seen Dan Morain’s Article… 1 Comment

You’ve seen Dan Morain’s article. For those of you who are interested, here’s the link to the actual answers I wrote!  And you’ll get to find out what NTSEBREE and NESEBREE are.

Related: “Howard Ahmanson, now a conservative Democrat, holds forth” by Dan Morain at The Swarm Blog/Sacbee.com

Dan Morain: Unlikely Ally for Brown’s Big Fight February 23, 2011 No Comments

I get some notoriety for cutting across political lines on behalf of an important social justice issue.

Related: “Dan Morain: Unlikely ally for Brown’s big fight” by Dan Morain at Sacbee.com

Leroy Grannis February 21, 2011 1 Comment

Leroy Grannis, famous surf photographer, was my ninth cousin or something like that. I wonder whether that explains anything about me, at least my current passion for stand up paddleboarding. I didn’t surf, but it was so much part of the culture in my youth – and I’m old enough to remember the Dick Dale – early Beach Boys era – that I consider that I was a ‘surfer’ in about the way that the average American in those days was a Christian! And it’s even more amazing that he died on my birthday. That only adds to the fun of it.

Related: “LeRoy Grannis dies at 93; photographer documented California surf culture of the 1960s and ‘70s” by Valerie J. Nelson at LATime.com

Herdt: On taxes, redevelopment and teamwork February 20, 2011 No Comments

Timm Herdt of the Ventura County Star does an excellent column on how redevelopment cuts across traditional partisan lines.  I still say we have the social justice opportunity of the century!

Related “Herdt: On Taxes, Redevelopment and Teamwork” by Timm Herdt at the Ventura County Star

Cal-EITC and Gasoline Tax February 15, 2011 1 Comment

I don’t know whether the state can afford it at the moment, but a Cal-EITC would be a good and civilized thing to have. If we institute a higher gasoline or carbon tax, especially, which I do advocate, common decency requires that we balance it with a Cal-EITC that would be enough to cover the costs of the gas tax increase for the least affluent of working people. And they could keep the money if they found less gasoline or carbon consuming methods of commuting that they could afford!

Related: “Reduce tax burden on working poor, study suggests” by Sam Pearson at CaliforniaWatch.org

CA Special Election February 10, 2011 No Comments

Mimi Walters is doing a commendable thing standing up against the no tax ever ever Republicans but using the Republicans’ leverage to have a public vote on public sector pensions, to install for future public employees a “defined contribution” plan like every one else in the state has. She should be commended, not obstructed.

Related “Add pension measure to special election” by Union-Tribune Editorial Board at SignOnSanDiego.com

OASDI Taxes Are Also Unconstitutional February 9, 2011 No Comments

If this court is right, OASDI taxes are also unconstitutional. If it is upheld, I will so interpret. And the payroll tax is far more ‘regressive’ than the income tax. On the other hand, I am fine if we want to call an insurance requirement unconstitutional, but only if we can call “the hospital can’t make these people bleed to death in the street” unconstitutional. People who won’t purchase medical insurance have no right to use health care facilities, their obligation is to bleed to death quietly and not take resources away from those of us who have our health insurance.

Related: “Federal Judge Says Healthcare Law is Unconstitutional” by Noam N. Levey and David G. Savage at LATimes.com

What Do Words Really Mean to our Contemporaries? February 7, 2011 No Comments

Not long ago I was at church and we happened to sing a well known song called “Power in the Blood.” Here are a couple of lines from it:

Would you be free from your passion and pride?

There’s power in the blood, power in the blood.

Now what does that mean to our contemporaries? I fear it means Read the rest of this entry »

I Like Some Taxes Less Than Others, Notes on the California Situation February 3, 2011 1 Comment

Originally the Republicans were going to be totally obstructive and try to keep the necessary ballot initiatives for the special election regarding taxes from going to the public at all.  Now Mimi Walters, who had been the Republican candidate for Treasurer in the last election, says she might consider voting to put the initiatives on if the public employee pension issue is confronted as well.  Public pension’s are Brown’s biggest challenge, because he was elected with the support of public employees as his main donors.  Simple justice requires that, at the very least, new public employees get a “defined contribution” plan like private employees do nowadays.  I remember 25 years ago when the question was first Read the rest of this entry »

San Francisco Leaders Defend Redevelopment Agencies February 1, 2011 2 Comments

I would like to see all the local government leaders involved in trying to defend redevelopment to lose their re-election campaigns, whenever they may be. Except who has a vested interest enough who could afford to support such an effort?

If only the Tea Party would see the importance of this – if they really want smaller government, start here!

Related: City Leaders Vow to Defend Redevelopment Agencies by Wyatt Buchanan at SFGate.com

Chinese Parenting, Part II: Why Chinese Mothers are Superior January 29, 2011 1 Comment

Here is David Brooks defending the upper middle class American approach to parenting.  He declares that Amy Chua sheltered her daughters from the kind of social interactions that teach us how to deal with people in the real world.  In Anglo culture, home schooling parents, though usually much less manic than Ms. Chua, have the same question directed at them – are not your children learning to get along with others?

But I thought it was Confucianism, rather than Christianity or Western neopaganism, that stressed ‘harmony’ Read the rest of this entry »

Chinese Parenting, Part I: Why Chinese Mothers are Superior January 28, 2011 No Comments

This article is not only interesting for its own sake, but because it illustrates a cultural division that has been raging in mixed Asian-Anglo communities such as Irvine, California.  There are not separate school systems, but there are “Asian” churches and “Anglo” churches and some trying to bridge the gap, and many Irvine public schools have two PTAs apiece because one culture insists on music practice and academic perfection, while the other insists on the importance of sports, socializing, and building “relationships.”  These divisions extend onto our university campuses as well.  How they will affect society in the future, I do not care to speculate here just yet.

Related: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” by Amy Chua at WSJ.com

Inflation January 24, 2011 No Comments

Michael Brendan Dougherty says that the Fed has, under Bernanke, pursued an expansionist philosophy of letting asset prices rise and never trying to limit or deflate “bubbles.” This is a different one than it followed in the Paul Volcker era, when it allowed interest rates to spike in 1981 to stop the Great Inflation of the 70s.  What strikes me as odd is that Bernanke”s generation, and mine, have no personal memory of the Great Depression, but we do have a memory of the Great Inflation of the 70s.  I remember Nixon imposing price and wage controls in 1971 and within two years there was a shortage of a lot of items like toilet paper.  (And some of this was before the “oil shock” of “73-74.)   Read the rest of this entry »

In a Rather Interesting Magazine Called “The American Conservative” January 22, 2011 No Comments

In a rather interesting magazine called The American Conservative, which is not conservative necessarily as we understand it in Orange County, but actually represents pacifist conservatives of all kinds (and yes there is such a thing as pacifist conservatives) Stephen Baskerville has written an excellent essay maintaining that “Marriage exists primarily to cement the father to the family” and that “Homosexuals did not destroy marriage, heterosexuals did. The demand for same-sex marriage is a symptom, not a cause, of Read the rest of this entry »

The Social Justice Opportunity of the Century January 20, 2011 3 Comments

Much to the surprise of all of us, the new governor of California, Jerry Brown, has proposed shutting down all redevelopment agencies in the state.  The reason for this is that a city (or probably a county, where a county rules directly) has had the right to declare an area a “redevelopment area” and then the portion of the property tax that goes to the county, government schools, or whatever else is frozen.  And if there is any increase in the value of the property thereafter, the extra tax revenue goes to a “redevelopment agency “ usually controlled by the city, which then provides corporate welfare for developers and other political favorites.  Redevelopment has gotten some notoriety because Read the rest of this entry »

You Know You’ve Spent Too Much Time in Europe if… January 14, 2011 2 Comments

1. You find it just as easy to think in terms of Celsius and kilometers as you do in Fahrenheit and miles.  You hear it’s in the 20s outside and momentarily think, “Oh, good, I can go outside in T-shirt and shorts!”

2. All the hotels and office buildings in America seem to be lower than you expect; the first floor has sunk to ground level.

3. You notice that most American hotels seem to be filled with the smell of chlorine and the clank-clank of ice machines.

4. You wish they could strain the ice cubes out of your water in restaurants.

5. You think the waiter incredibly rude for dropping the check on the table when you didn’t ask for it, even if you and everyone at the table has dozed off.

6. You are shocked at the idea of regular passenger railroad lines having only one track and not two.  And they don’t go anywhere.

7. You want to ask your pastor why there isn’t more art in the church building.

8. You also want to have a conversation with him about your family possibly dedicating a side chapel.

9. You do not think it too much to walk a mile in an urban environment.

10. You never ever leave the house without a little umbrella in your purse, even if there is not a cloud in the sky and it’s the dry season anyway.

Christians Creating Culture: Charles Schulz Did It January 12, 2011 2 Comments

The last couple of nights I happened to watch two famous television specials on DVD:  A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  I pity any members of younger generations who have not seen them.  Today people like Andy Crouch and Gabe Lyons have been recommending that Christians, instead of taking a political-adversary stance toward culture, create positive culture.  And C. S. Lewis long ago wrote that it was not books about Christianity but books about all kinds of subjects from a latent Christian viewpoint that changed minds and prepared the way for the Gospel.  And we have James Davison Hunter, in his new work, To Change the World, encouraging us to follow a pattern of “faithful presence” Read the rest of this entry »

There is apparently a shortage of sodium thiopental… January 11, 2011 3 Comments

There is apparently a shortage of sodium thiopental, a drug mainly used to execute people.  In a way, that is just as well.  The death penalty is not a medical procedure, and should not be disguised as one.  Gurneys, needles, and IVs are the instruments of health care, and not of its opposite.  And it could be messy; I myself am aware of how much I must cooperate to even have my blood drawn!  To be candid, my first preference would be for the guillotine.  The executee does not suffer pain very long under the guillotine either.  And the severed head Read the rest of this entry »

The Place of Sharia Law in a Free Society January 3, 2011 No Comments

There has been some controversy recently, because the Archbishop of Canterbury, no less, suggested that sharia law could in some ways be incorporated into the British law code.  This suggestion created a certain amount of outrage; and in the last election the state of Oklahoma, not a state with a large number of Muslims, passed an initiative to declare that sharia law could not be incorporated into their state law.  (I do not know whether Cherokee Law has been incorporated into their state law, which is a much more likely prospect historically.)

There is no need for this.  And there is, interestingly enough, Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas Greetings December 24, 2010 1 Comment

A Happy Incarnation, Jesus’ Birthday, and Solstice to all my readers.  And a more prosperous New Year than, for most of us, the last one.

– Howard Ahmanson

If I lived in Virginia . . . December 23, 2010 No Comments

Ah. I suppose if I lived in Virginia, I could stop paying my Social Security (also known as OASDI and FICA) tax. That’s ‘insurance’ too. [Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance] And it’s a regressive tax that falls mainly on middle and lower income people. If this decision is upheld but my application of it is not, the only third alternative is that the “public option,” which we rightly rejected, I thought, may be the only constitutional way of imposing an insurance requirement. That would be singularly unfortunate.

BTW, my wife, who remains a Republican, has found one feature of Obamacare she likes: the privilege of young people being on their parents’ plan until age 26. Well, as we know, 26 is the new 18 anyway.

Related: “Judge Voids Key Element of Obama Health Care Law” by Kevin Sack at NyTimes.com

In my youth, people knew that the only way to stop arbitrary exercises… December 22, 2010 1 Comment

It is a pity that, apparently, no one got arrested. In my youth, people knew that the only way to stop arbitrary exercises of government authority like this one was to force them to arrest you or give you your way. This is especially true in dealing with unelected administrative ‘authorities’ such as fire marshals, health officials, building officials, etc., etc. If we are not willing to uphold the limits of government the hard way, we will not have any limits at all. It must cost them something to try to arbitrarily chase people out of a public space like that. Some shopkeeper should have refused to close, also, and given refuge, and been willing to be arrested themselves.

Related: “Westfield Galleria open for shopping day after flash mob” by Ed Fletcher and Matt Kawahara at Sacbee.com

Immigration Policy: Now I Will Offend Everyone December 20, 2010 2 Comments

I don’t know whether this should be the official stance of the PAN Norte, but I wish to inform my readers that I endorse both the DREAM Act, beloved of the left and the proposals of the right to redefine “birthright citizenship” by defining the 14th amendment’s phrase “under the jurisdiction of the United States” as not including large numbers of illegal immigrants.  If the redefinition of “birthright citizenship” happens, then I would hope that the DREAM Act would become applicable to those born on American soil but not “under the jurisdiction of the United States.”  It’s only decent.

The H-word, and the Other H-word December 6, 2010 2 Comments

In the ‘60s we had a lot of slang phrases using the word “head” –
“head trip”
“got a crazy idea in his head”
“feed your head” (Jefferson Airplane)
“we’d like to change your head” (The Beatles)
“out of my head”
“big head”
“hard headed woman” (Yusuf Islam)

In other words, the significance of the word “head” in popular music and slang was not at all confined to the purely intellectual and cognitive, but made reference to attitudes as well. In popular music, Read the rest of this entry »

A New Word – ‘Blurb’ December 4, 2010 No Comments

In the old days a ‘blurb’ was a positive promotional recommendation statement on a book jacket.  I have done a few myself.  Now we are informed by the developer of Civita, an urban infill project in San Diego, that ‘blurb’ really means a cross between suburban and urban.  Are they going to put a picture of it on a book jacket?

As for villages, I live in one myself.  Fine and dandy.  Very nice to have shops, bars, and restaurants you can walk to.  But most people are not going to want to be limited to the retail and recreational opportunities of their ‘village,’ nor even to those one can reach by good public transport from said ‘village,’ and most particularly, most people are not going to be able to be limited to the job opportunities reachable on foot or by public transit from one’s ‘village.’

Related: “Construction starts on Mission Valley’s largest development” by Roger Showley at SignOnSanDiego.com

Schrag on Voters’ Muddled Thinking December 1, 2010 No Comments

Peter Schrag is a man of the left, but he is strikingly honest here on the desire of Californians for well funded education in the face of lower taxes. Even more interesting is his theory that after Proposition 13, “fiscal conservatives” and business interests lost interest in local governments and school districts, after these entities lost authority to set tax levels (though, as I’ve said here, local governments can rule on just about everything in your life other than that). In consequence, the public sector unions have all the more been able to dominate both local governments and school districts and impose their policies in all matters other than tax levels.

Related “The New Polls: Plumbing Gridlock” by Peter Schrag at California Progress Report

Bahnsen on D’Souza and Catholic Protestants November 27, 2010 1 Comment

This is my opportunity to introduce my friend David Bahnsen to Blue Kennel readers. I myself happened to be under the impression that before D”Souza relocated to NYC he was in fact attending an evangelical megachurch in San Diego. But be that as it may. Yes, the Protestants mostly abandoned the Protestant “world and life view” for what I have called Great Commission Utilitarianism, the belief that the occupations of ordinary life mainly exist to support the so-called Great Commission, whether narrowly or holistically conceived. And Catholics, especially Jose Maria Escriva”, the founder of Opus Dei, have moved in the other direction. Read the rest of this entry »

The Passive Aggressive Public November 26, 2010 1 Comment

Joel Fox here reflects on the inconsistency that the people seem to oppose “higher taxes” but favor many well funded government services. His conclusion is that there has been a breakdown of trust in our leadership, not any move towards “smaller government” in theory. I think that if the distrust has now gone beyond our elected officials and is beginning to extend to our unelected ones, it is a good thing. There has been too much deference to unelected officials. If the public is willing to challenge the public sector unions seriously, Read the rest of this entry »

Partido de Accion Nacional Norte November 24, 2010 No Comments

My suggestion: Shut down the Republican Party in California for four years, then launch a new political party to be called Partido de Accion Nacional Norte (PAN Norte). Depending on what position this party decided to take, I could probably even join it. The Mexican PAN is pretty good for a Mexican political party.

Meanwhile, my right-wing friend David Bahnsen is excellent: “While America Demands Change, California Pursues Ruin” at RedCountry.com

Related: “California GOP needs new name to survive” by Doug McIntyre at DailyNews.com

Rational consideration of “adaptation” for California… November 23, 2010 2 Comments

Rational consideration of “adaptation” for California as well as merely quixotic attempts at “prevention.”  A great book on this subject, about the British Isles, is Turned Out Nice by Marek Kohn.  I don’t know of any equivalent volume of that quality about the natural scene in California and the West.

Related “Climate Change Planning for California Urged” by SS at SFGate.com

Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic finds… November 11, 2010 No Comments

Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic finds something actually positive in Schwarzenegger’s legacy.  An achievement on Ambinder’s part.

Read: “Judgement Day” by Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic

The Pro-Life Vivaldi November 8, 2010 1 Comment

While being taken around to various churches in Venice looking at art – Italy may be working on the Separation of Church and State, but there isn’t much of a Separation of Church and Art – we happened to stumble on a situation connecting Music and care for unwanted children.

Antonio is the 18th century Venetian composer whose “Four Seasons” are quite popular today. Well, it turns out his day job was to conduct and write music for the choir of a “foundling home” (a more accurate term than “orphanage” for many of the world’s “orphanages”) for young girls whose parents or mothers could not take care of them or be responsible for them. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to the Nineties November 4, 2010 1 Comment

The current election results are making us remember 1994, when also, under a Democratic President, and with health care issues in the air, the Republicans won control of the U S House of Representatives.  I’m concerned with social issues, and what I remember is that Republicans did not fight to the death to oppose Clinton’s judges; but the configuration of a Democratic President and a Republican Congress led to the biggest and most inclusive of all the several economic booms since 1982.  People that were considered unemployable in other booms were finding jobs in that one.  President Clinton triangulated his way to ‘welfare’ reform.  (The really big welfare programs, Social Security and Medicare, were not reformed at that time; Aid to Families with Dependent Children was.)  The Internet boom pulled the country out of the savings-and-loan, or commercial real estate, crash of the early 90s.  And in one year the Federal budget actually balanced – under a Democratic President, yet.  The great inflation of the 1970s, which my generation fears, did not recur – prices remained very stable.

If the American people like divided government, if we like taking advantage of that opportunity which a ‘presidential’ system gives us, the dispensation of Read the rest of this entry »

Jonathan V. Last, Part 2: Testing November 2, 2010 No Comments

I will discuss Mr. Last’s article again, for he also made an important point that I had never heard of before, and that had nothing to do with the land-use issues which Blue Kennel takes a great interest in.

It seems that there was, in 1971, a case called Griggs vs. Duke Power. In this case, the Supreme Court employers were forbidden to make use of any kind of IQ tests, SAT, ACT, or any other such test. Why? Because certain disadvantaged minorities did not tend to perform as well on these tests. Colleges and universities, however, have not been forbidden to use these tests. Since employers can’t test people’s intelligence, they prefer to use people who have been tested by the colleges and found worthy. Whether the college or university is teaching any knowledge or skill that has anything to do with the job is not necessarily relevant. For some jobs, the knowledge and training gained at university are really helpful; but for some others, they are not – and yet, a college degree is required for other reasons – namely, that colleges can test intelligence. So if it were not for this case, lots of people who shouldn’t really be going to college might not have to do so.

Article cited: “America’s One-Child Policy” by Jonathan V. Last at The Weekly Standard

New Urbanism: Not Suitable for Large Families November 1, 2010 No Comments

Jonathan V. Last has written an excellent article on natality in America and why we have few large families now, whereas 50 years ago they were very common.  (I can testify, being of a certain age myself, that I as an only child was very unusual in my own childhood.)  While I do not have time to discuss the entire article, I will comment here on those aspects of it that hit my favorite hot button, land use and land use law.

Mr. Last declares, “Studies show the same results over and over – all things being equal, women living in apartments or condominiums have fewer babies than women living in single-family homes.”  The implication of this is, Read the rest of this entry »

Election Recommendations – November 2010 October 28, 2010 2 Comments

Partisan Office: I was rather disappointed in the Democrats, so I voted Republican on all partisan offices.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Larry Aceves.  I checked the Internet and his opponent, Tom Torlakson, is the one endorsed by the Teachers Unions.

Judges: I voted NO on all, but I had failed to do my research.  I should have voted YES on Ming Chin.  He voted to uphold the important Proposition 8.

Schoolboards and Community College Boards: Insufficient knowledge of the personalities involved; left blank.

City Council of Newport Beach: Insufficient knowledge of persons, left blank.  In Costa Mesa or Irvine, it would have been easier to get good information.


19.  Legal sale and marketing of marijuana without ‘medical’ excuse.  YES.  The drug war has failed.  It’s not a ‘rights’ issue to me, just the most prudent way to handle the matter.

20.  Apportionment commission, currently handling State Assembly and State Senate, to have U. S. House of Representatives added to its responsibility.  YES.

21.  Vehicle license fee of $18 per year for support of state park system.  YES.

22.  Restores to local governments money plundered from them by the state.  Unfortunately also restores money to redevelopment districts. I decided to trust Christopher Norby on this one.  NO.

23.  Suspends AB 32, harsh “global warming prevention” law, until unemployment falls to a certain level.  YES.

24.  Suspends certain tax incentives for business.  NO.

25.  Eliminates the requirement of a 2/3 vote to approve the state budget.  Maintains 2/3 requirement for some taxes.  YES.  Instead of relying on a 1/3 rump to protect us, let’s throw the bums out if we don’t like what they do.  I might favor keeping the 2/3 requirement for raising some taxes, if we also had a requirement that ballot box budget setasides like the notorious Proposition 98 – and yes, the Prop 21 above that belongs in the same category – would have to be supported by 2/3 of the electorate also!

26.  Requires a 2/3 vote to increase any fee.  NO.

27.  Would eliminate redistricting commission and return redistricting to the legislature.  NO.

Urban Bicycling – Or, Another Bicycling Tribe? October 26, 2010 No Comments

Right after I did my post about bicycling cultures, the LA times came out with an article about urban bicycling and designing clothes for it. Trying to use a bicycle for transportation! Imagine that! Well, in the early ‘70s, when I taught myself to ride a bicycle, that is exactly what we were doing. We didn’t know we were doing “urban bicycling.” Then again, we didn’t know that the telephones we were using were “land lines,” that the music we were playing was “vinyl,” or that the computers we were using were “mainframes,” or that we were “retro.” What an ignorant generation! Would anyone today recognize those huge things, which we connected to with keyboards with no screens, in things called Fortran and Basic, via punch cards which said “Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate” – what did “spindle” mean anyhow? – as computers?

Related: “Urban cycling spawns its own peddlers” by Cyndia Zwahlen at LATimes.com

The Various Tribes Of Bicyclists – And Will Bicycles Ever Become Mass Transit? October 20, 2010 No Comments

The attached inspired me to set down what I notice about bicycles and bicyclists.

On the first day of our San Andreas fault tour which I took with some friends – and there will be some posts on that soon, hopefully with pictures! – we passed large numbers of people riding back and forth on bicycles.  They were not commuting. They had brought their bicycles up there on the back of SUVs and were riding back and forth, exercising their legs.  Most of them were dressed in bicycle helmets and costumes that looked like a cross between a surfer’s short wetsuit and a ballet tutu.  It did not seem to me that this sort of thing was really going to replace the automobile for any serious purposes.

Here in my own community, we have the people of the helmets and ballet tutus, who use the streets, but the regular folks, Read the rest of this entry »

A Generational God October 19, 2010 No Comments

The God of the Boomers says:

I know you believe in Me and trust Me, but I need love! I need attention! Faith sounds so old fashioned, I’d rather talk about R*E*L*A*T*I*O*N*S*H*I*P!

The God of Gen X says:

I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life and all that, but in the end remember I’m a Trinity, and if you turn your back on Me I’ll be unhappy, but I’ll never be lonely!

The God of the Millennials says:

Many great deeds have I done, as I’m sure you know, but what have I done lately that you find worthy of praise and glorification? How am I doing, precisely? If I could figure out how to open a Twitter account, I would. Sometimes I wonder whether the Closing of the Canon was such a good idea . . .

The Devil’s Favorite Religion? October 8, 2010 2 Comments

We Historic Christians, who believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, as well as being God the Son, sometimes come up with theories as to which other religion is the polar opposite, or the devil’s favorite.  Many people instinctively assume that atheism is it.  More recently, especially since 9/11, a lot of people have assumed that Islam was the devil’s favorite.  Now Islam isn’t necessarily any “falser” than any other false religion.  What is unusually problematic about Islam is that unlike Christianity and most other faiths, Read the rest of this entry »

California Tea, Like California Housing, Evidently Pricey October 5, 2010 1 Comment

According to Steven Greenhut, who I admire greatly, even though he is a philosophical Libertarian, one reason the Tea Party has not been so effective in California is that the state, being so large, requires candidates for statewide office to be so wealthy they can fund their own campaigns.  That means the “grass roots” cannot really affect statewide elections very much.  I would add that the cultural appeal of the Tea Party has been mainly to white Anglos, who comprise 45 per cent of the population.  That doesn’t mean the other 55 per cent cannot, in the long run, be educated to America’s founding principles.  They can.  But anyone who saw the results from the Prop 8 election [in which it is declared that marriage is between two people of the opposite sex – a position held by every culture and religion in history before 20 years ago] saw that the proposition carried the Latinos and actually lost among the Anglos.  This means that the Republican Party has to choose between being a White Peoples Party and being a socially conservative party; it cannot have it both ways.  Now, of course, the wealthy haute-bourgeois elements would like to steer the GOP to being neither of those two.  But this is not a good option either; Latinos and blacks are liberal economically and conservative socially; the reverse of the views of most of the haute bourgeois. Read the rest of this entry »

Four Deformations of the Apocalypse October 4, 2010 1 Comment

David Stockman understands the difference between what they used to call fiscal conservatism and what they now call fiscal conservatism. Given the modern definition, I’m a “fiscal moderate.”

Related: “Four Deformations of the Apocalypse” by David Stockman at NYTimes.com

WSJ Reports an a Wealth Camp for Heirs… October 1, 2010 No Comments

The Wall Street Journal reports an a wealth camp for heirs. Something like that would be a great thing for trustfunders, especially the ‘true’ trustfunders who will probably not be going into ‘business.’  Heirs often have mental blocks about the complexities of trusts, estates, investments, and such things that they are often assumed to know instinctlvely.  We know every college salivates after these people; one of them ought to start a “Rich Studies” program!

Also, trustfunders are the ideal market for a Great Books or classical education program.  Not having to worry about earning a living, they can focus on classical liberal education singlemindedly; and what they learn there will help them in both philanthropy, which requires knowing a little bit about a whole lot of things, and the history of art, which all rich people are expected to know instinctively these days anyway.

Why The Religious Right Is Soft On Immigration: Plus, I Propose To Revive A New Deal-Era Institution September 23, 2010 No Comments

I read a recent New York Times article on the Mormon editor who is being lambasted by the conservatives for his views on immigration points up a little known fact – the strictly religious right is fairly soft on immigration.  First, they see a mission field, a chance to recruit new people to Red America rather than Blue America, and strengthen the numbers of social conservatives.  It should be noted that both African Americans and Latinos, though they vote Democrat, tend to act more like Red America culturally.  And second, it is hard for the strictly Religious Right to forget that Proposition 8 lost the Anglo and Asian vote and won because of African-Americans and Latinos.  So on the list of the Religious Right’s favorite issues, immigration does not necessarily pose much of a threat!  Maybe if all the Swedes and the French were flooding into our country . . . Read the rest of this entry »

The Language of “Mad Men” September 20, 2010 No Comments

I found this on the New York Times website.  Comparative linguistics, or philology, has been one of my favorite subjects since my high school days, though I could hardly converse about it with my friends; it was the era of “Little Deuce Coupe” and the surf culture was fading from its earlier dominance (interestingly enough, the height of the early surf culture, especially in terms of the two distinct types of surf music it produced, was simultaneous with the era in which “Mad Men” is set).  And I have been looking for an excuse to post on comparative linguistics for some time.  Note that the hero of C. S. Lewis’s “Space Trilogy” was a ‘philologist;’ I hope I don’t get drafted to go to some other planet and try to kill some demon-possessed guy with my bare hands! Read the rest of this entry »

Byzantium on the Pacific, A Visit to Alaska September 13, 2010 No Comments

This summer, for the first time, my wife and I made a visit to America’s largest state, Alaska. In her case it was especially poignant, because she had passed up a chance to go there with her parents at age 17 and had regretted it ever since. We had been interested in the place, not only for its frontier delights and natural beauty, but because it was the one American state that was established in the Chalcedonian Orthodox tradition, not Protestant or Catholic. The state had also gotten notoriety from Sarah Palin and her family, who seem not to know much about the Orthodox tradition; and also I’d gotten to know a local OC band called Eye Alaska, the founder of which claims that the name came from the Aleut for “that which the sea breaks against.” I confess I forgot to check that out when I was there and had the opportunity. Anyway, none of them have ever been to Alaska. Their closest link to Alaska is that, given the bandleader’s last name, his ancestors in the male line were quite likely under the same government as Alaska during the years 1815-1867. Read the rest of this entry »

Elizabeth Warren, Co-author of a Book We Like… September 11, 2010 No Comments

Elizabeth Warren, co-author of a book we like to quote on this site, may be about to be appointed the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I am very pleased. I figured she herself was probably not a Republican, but she had suggestions in her book for what the pro-family movement ought to support, and she did not dismiss them altogether. The Senate had better confirm her, if they know what is good for them.

American Christianity – Soon a Phenomenon of the Educated? 1 Comment

For years and years we have been fed with the story that orthodox Christianity and other conservative and demanding religions were primarily, though not exclusively, the domain of the less educated, and that the highly educated were inclined toward more “liberal” and “postmodern” forms of spirituality that did not claim to be exclusively true.  Now an essay by Andrew J. Cherlin and W. Bradford Wilcox says that the millennial generation may be turning this all on its head.  It’s the way of the Wall Street Journal to not keep its materials online for the public for long, so I shall have to summarize. Read the rest of this entry »

More CA Teens Stay in the Passenger’s Seat August 23, 2010 3 Comments

Well, for one thing, kids have other ways of getting out of the house nowadays – into Cyberspace and Facebook, most notably.

Related: “More Calif. Teens Stay in the Passenger’s Seat” by Tracey Correa at Fresno Bee.

When I Was Young in the 1950s and Early 60s… August 16, 2010 1 Comment

When I was young in the 1950s and early 60s it was just assumed that ‘progress’ was leading us toward a life of more and more leisure and that work was going to get easier and easier.  Actually, it didn’t quite happen that way.  As technology made work easier, more and more work became things that women were capable of doing.  There were plenty of “women’s jobs” then, contrary to what young people today may think.  In particular, nurse, telephone operator, secretary, file clerk, lower level office worker, were all thought of as women’s jobs.  The difference is that the price of housing was such at that time that more women could take off of work during their childbearing years than at any other time in history.  [In America, it was also the time that the age of marriage was earlier than ever before or since.  A theme in 50s teenage music is “We’re in young love, but our parents won’t let us marry”!  I suppose some of them resorted to pregnancy to force their parents’ hand; a shotgun wedding in reverse!]

Read the rest of this entry »

The Unusually Cool Summer in California Reminds Me… August 10, 2010 3 Comments

The unusually cool summer in California reminds me of one of my pet theories:  that cold winters drive white Anglos to vote economically “progressive,” whereas cold or cool summers push them to liberalism on social issues. This applies to overall climate.  What I don”t know is whether an unusually cold or hot summer will have an effect on the next November election.  There isn”t anything on abortion or same sex marriage on the ballot this November; the only “social issue” is legalizing weed, and I wonder if the dynamics of that issue are the same.

One Reason to be a Red Sox Fan… August 9, 2010 1 Comment

One reason to be a Red Sox fan is that they were the one team to rehab their stadium without using any government money – and this in blue big-government Massachusetts! Mark Yost describes this in the Wall Street Journal and then some letters say that Fenway Park isn”t really that great after all.  They do set a great example!

The Galilee Option or the Gaza Option August 6, 2010 No Comments

In this piece from World Magazine, Mindy Belz explains something that a lot of us don’t realize, “Many Americans are surprised to learn that private property is a near unknown in modern Israel.  According to the Israel Land Authority, 93 percent of the land in Israel is in the public domain – either property of the state, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), or a development authority. The process of expanding housing in Jerusalem is inherently political….” Read the rest of this entry »

Living Like a Liberal August 3, 2010 2 Comments

In this article Matt Labash explains how being liberal, or progressive, is becoming more than a political belief but a way of life – I would almost say a spirituality of sorts. The text, he says, is Justin Krebs” work “538 Ways to Live Work and Play Like a Liberal.” Ultimately, this is a trend to encourage. Liberalism will evolve in the direction of being a sort of spirituality and even a religion. And when that happens, we can declare “separation of church and state!” and declare liberalism excluded from public political discourse on religious grounds. Read the rest of this entry »

The New Suburbs, a Plane Ride Away July 30, 2010 3 Comments

Does anyone air-commute from Phoenix to LA or OC? I”ll bet they do!

Read: “The New Suburbs, a Plane Ride Away” by Nick Wingfield via WSJ.com.

Would the Beach Boys be Considered Country Today July 27, 2010 No Comments

While my wife and I were on a road trip recently, we had a rented car where we had not taken the time to learn how to operate the Sirius XM satellite radio system.  So we had a country station on for several days.  I would have dreaded that, but I found out differently.  The music, except for the few bluegrass numbers, does not sound that different from adult rock nowadays.  But many of the lyrics are more ‘adult,’ not in the sense of being ‘explicit,’ but in the sense that the narratives are about people with kids trying to live life. Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of Inheritance July 20, 2010 6 Comments

In a recent newsletter of the evangelical The Gathering, Erik Johnson and Gabriel Schulze discuss the question of whether it is wise to leave money to your children.  I have some opinions about that.  Here are the options:

  1. As Ron Blue put it, “Do your givin’ while you’re livin’ so you’re knowin’ where its goin’.”  I consider this always the best option. Sometimes the money does not need to be put into a foundation at all; it becomes tax deductible when it is given away. Read the rest of this entry »

Respectable ‘conservatives’ are Becoming More Open to ‘Metropolitan Government’ July 15, 2010 1 Comment

The article in the Wall Street Journal shows us that some respectable ‘conservatives’ are becoming more open to ‘metropolitan government.’ I would actually not have a problem with this as long as the ‘metro’ government were a kind of super-county, hopefully with a more ‘republican’ form of government than most counties with a stronger executive, rather than the European Union-like unaccountable bureaucracy that some of these metro governments have tended to be in the past. And the current small city governments have their place, I think. Following Duany, Plater-Zyberk, and Speck, I believe that county or metro governments will have to allocate Locally Undesirable Land Uses such as waste dumps, high schools, social service organizations, and housing of higher density to the more local governments, who can then decide where to put the LULUs as long as they include them in their plans. The value of county or metro governments is they are large enough to include all class and income interests–the people who might desire to live in a neighborhood, as well as those who already live there! And, wouldn’t making decisions in a democratic government at a metro level offer more ‘local control’ than making them at the state capital? “The Metro Moment” by at The Wall Street Journal.

Exotic Maine July 13, 2010 5 Comments

Recently my wife and I had the pleasure of going as far as you can from California and still be in the lower 48 states. Maine is at the northeast corner of the country. It is our easternmost state and is the only one to border on one and only one other U S state. It was also a return to the 20th century. No internet access, and spotty I-phone usage, in both the places we were in. I’m sure there are business hotels in Portland, which has the reputation of being a nice town, that have both these services. But I was cursing myself for having left behind my Verizon Treo, which I would bring to such places as Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota. I could have used it in Maine.

Read the rest of this entry »

I Take on Christopher Hitchens July 3, 2010 4 Comments

A few months ago Vanity Fair magazine published an essay by famed atheist Christopher Hitchens criticizing the Ten Commandments and proposing a new set for today. There are plenty of errors and misunderstandings in his critique, but I will address only one of them now; the major meaning of “thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain” is actually “thou shalt not use the name of God to get people to do what you want or what you think they should do when it isn’t clear that God wants them to do that.” Misusing God’s name in a profane way is not a good thing, but it is not the main meaning of this commandment. And it’s interesting how we think of oaths sworn on the hind parts of our body and excretions therefrom as actually more serious than theological oaths nowadays.

But I couldn’t help noticing that most of his new commandments are really Biblical too, in an odd way.

1. *Do not* condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or color.

Prejudice is the eighth deadly sin and is dealt with in the Bible by the fact that there is one Adam, one Noah, one Jesus, and one Pentecost. That settled it for me. Read the rest of this entry »

Maoist War Against India’s Criminalized Capitalism July 1, 2010 2 Comments

Capitalism based on relationships with persons in the state who can dispense or withhold permissions or favors is crony capitalism. Capitalism with too weak a government or moral standards is gangster capitalism. Here’s an example of gangster capitalism justified by local theology. – Howard Ahmanson

Editor’s Note: Vishal Mangalwadi is an Indian philosopher. His lectures can be watched on RevelationMovement.com.  This article is XIII in a series titled “Why Are We Backward?” being published in India in a bilingual monthly magazine FORWARD Press by Ivan and Silvia Kostka.  This series is now being turned into a book.

On Saturday June 12, 2010 at 10 o’clock in the morning, army-trained Special Forces launched the massive Operation Hawk. Its objective: to capture a hilltop on the Jharkhand-Orissa border that had become a Maoist camp. At 4 p.m. the next day, after sixteen hours of gun, grenade and mortar battle, the Special Forces declared victory, claiming that 300 Maoists had fled the camp. Indian forces airlifted their wounded away from the battlefield for medical help, admitting one casualty. They asserted that the Maoists must have carried their dead away on their backs, since no dead bodies were found.

Four days later, in a different operation in West Bengal, our Special Forces returned from their triumphant hunt of wild pigs, parading on a pole the dead body of a young Indian woman.

Militant Hindu parties are not the only ones calling for an all-out military action against the Maoists. But the army has declared its preference not to get involved directly – at least not for now.

Why? Read the rest of this entry »

New World Order June 26, 2010 2 Comments

A sample of the new pessimism that transcends typical categories of right and left. Is Chinese fascism our future?

In Response To: “New World Order” by Patrick J. Deneen at Front Porch Republic

A Return to City Life After 20 Suburban Years June 24, 2010 No Comments

Ah, so the real reason people with kids live in different places than people without kids – it’s hard to find a three bedroom place in the hip parts of town.

In Response To: “A Return to City Life After 20 Suburban Years” by C.W. Nevius for SFGate.com

Why I Could Never Be a Good Catholic June 19, 2010 1 Comment

I think most anti-Catholicism is either based on rather outdated stereotypes or is the “anti-Semitism of the respectable” as has often been said.  Nevertheless, there are several reasons why I would find it difficult to be a good Catholic [it is, on the other hand, very easy to be a bad Catholic].

  1. Probably the most important reason is that while the institutional church structures can validly mediate authority and law, in the end, I think that the institutional church cannot mediate grace; only Jesus does that.  He is the one Mediator between God and humankind, and the Church is His people and His bride [not His harem, for those who get too carried away with the individualistic “love relationship with Jesus” bit].  In Presbyterian doctrine, still preserved in the PCA and OP denominations, we administer infant baptism, but that admits the baby into the visible covenanted people of Christ, hoping that she is part of the eternally redeemed as well – but we could be wrong!  And we are given Church Discipline to “fence the table” and bar openly rebellious people against visible standards from the Table unless they repent – we often think that a permanent excommunication means the road to hell, whereas all our members in good standing are on the narrow way – but we could be wrong! Read the rest of this entry »

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism June 15, 2010 1 Comment

Sometimes there are advantages to my advanced age. The World magazine article here from a few years ago was part of a major rumpus concerning something called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism that most of our adolescents, including many in evangelical churches, actually believe. Big deal, I thought. It bore a great resemblance to what everyone around me believed in the Eisenhower administration. I never really personally met people of a different view (except for a few conservative Catholics) until I ran into Jesus Movement people in college after 1970. The one difference is that I would call the Eisenhower era version of this Moralistic Stoic Deism. It was the established religion behind the Protestant-Catholic-Jew establishment of that era. I think it was more ‘stoic’ than ‘therapeutic’ because memories of the Depression were green, and because many people had served in the military (a more stoic than therapeutic institution, by its very nature) because of the recent unpleasantness in Europe and the Pacific (i.e., WWII). It differed from today’s MTD in some of its ethical beliefs, particularly about sexuality – conflicts between MSD and evangelicalism tended to focus on drinking, smoking, and dancing, and other not very Biblical issues. But theologically, MSD and MTD hardly differ at all. C. S. Lewis refers to a similar phenomenon in his essay from God in the Dock, “The Decline of Religion” in England even earlier. I think it was the God of MSD that was put in the flag salute and on our coins in the early 50s, and it is the God of MSD and MTD that was prayed to in public schools before ‘prayer’ was removed from public schools, and that would return if “prayer in public schools” were ever restored. I have taken Religious Right stances about some social issues, but as a Reformed Evangelical, I have never been enthusiastic about that particular one. Now, prayer FOR public schools, maybe. That sounds like a good idea!

Poll Shows ‘Sea Change’ in Californians’ Attitudes Toward Illegal Immigration June 10, 2010 No Comments

I personally favor some restrictions, but from a political view you can not win office by running against immigrants any more than Sitting Bull could have won the presidency campaigning against the white man. Yes, the average Californian is 30 and brown, and not from lying on the beach either, anymore; and the average California voter, on the other hand, looks like me and is about my age: but this is hardly a long term situation.

Related: “New Poll Shows ‘Sea Change’ in Californians’ Attitudes Toward Illegal Immigration” by Ken McLaughlin

Who Are All These People on the Ballot? June 7, 2010 No Comments

Ballots nowadays are crowded with all kinds of names that one has never heard of, for offices one has never heard of. Originally the reason for all this was that these small local offices were closer to “the people” than the national offices. Well, that was fine when “the people” were white male owners of agricultural land. But an urban media-dominated society has flipped the world of the Founding Fathers on its head. Now the people who are most likely to know who all these obscure candidates are for minor offices are people in the local elites, either educational or commercial, and the candidates have to spend money to get name ID among the rest of us, the public, who is faced with the burden of having to judge the character and likely political behavior of people they have mostly never met – it’s like a businessman making hiring decisions out of the phone directory, at worst, and Facebook, at best.

The so called “constitutional” statewide offices in California should become a ticket with the governor, as the Vice Presidency of the United States is with the Presidency. This means each gubernatorial candidate, or his party, would have to choose beforehand the Lieutenant Governor, the Treasurer, the Secretary of State, the Controller, the Insurance Commissioner, and whatever else, and run as a ticket. This would have two advantages. First, we would have advance knowledge of, at least, who the would-be governors wanted to work with. Second, the people would never stand to give up entirely the right to vote on these other constitutional offices and have them appointed after the fact by the Governor.

Judges should not be elected at all. They should be appointed for fixed terms of 12 to 20 years. The idea of judges having to raise money to run for their offices is simply appalling to me. One exception: I would allow for judges to be recalled by public petition and ballot, as in the case of Rose Bird. That I would allow. I confess I would like to make the U. S. Supreme Court serve rotating terms of 12 to 20 years (how about 18 years, so we get a new one every two years?) instead of until they die or voluntarily step down, as it now is. That would add predictability to a system which is already politicized and not likely to get de-politicized.

All other offices, like school board, city council, etc., community college trustees, water board, Board of Equalization (why do we need to vote on that one?) should be made partisan. That way parties could “vet” the candidates for us, the public, as to their character and their likely behavior in regard to public policy. I could see new local political parties forming that never run a statewide or national candidate, being focused on local issues such as reform of redevelopment, scope of authority of local government, methods of taxation, vouchers and tax credits, educational policy, reading methods, what is to be taught about sex, etc. It is very difficult for the average voter to connect a personal name on a ballot to things he cares about, so often as not he leaves it blank.

Do people not want to be bound to political parties? The person, not the party? Well, here is a give back. I think that there is enough media information available concerning the candidates for governor that we could make tolerably informed decisions about them without the help of a political party. I would still require every gubernatorial aspirant to select his choices for all the other constitutional offices, and run as a ticket, even without a party label. Similarly, I think we have enough media attention to the candidates for President of the United States that we can make decisions on them without the help of a political party to vet them for us. There is only one legislative body in the United States, however, that I would be willing to make non-partisan. That is the United States Senate. There is enough media attention on senatorial candidates, because they run statewide, that we can probably make adequate decisions about them. Besides, the United States Senate is a unique body. It is the only legislative body in the country that does not have to be elected by population. They represent states as states. And the article of the Constitution that gives every state two senators is the only one that can never be amended. And they have unusual rules, such as the filibuster, which now means that 60 out of 100, rather than 51 out of 100, votes are required to pass important bills. In such a body, non-partisanship might be a good thing.

The U. S. House of Representatives is elected by smaller districts, and only a few of their members get major attention from the media, especially in large states like California. It needs to stay partisan.

State Senates, of which there are 49, will need to stay partisan. They are not like the U. S. Senate. They do not represent counties or other lesser units of government; they are elected by population, like the “lower houses” of the states, but they often have districts that are twice as large, and terms that are twice as long, as their lower house compatriots. It is interesting, by the way, that since this system was imposed in 1964 as a result of a rather creative reading of the Fourteenth Amendment of 1868 by the Supreme Court, no state has followed Nebraska’s example and gone to a “unicameral” legislature.

That signifies that apparently state senates, even though elected by population, are useful.

Proposition 14 June 6, 2010 1 Comment

I decided to vote for Proposition 14, which makes the general election a runoff between the two highest polling primary candidates even if they are in the same party. I decided that the effect of the proposition might be to weaken the power of social conservatives in the Republican Party, but to strengthen social conservatives in the much larger Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is divided into two parts: the well funded Hollywood establishment, whose priority is social liberalism, and what I call the South and East LA Democrats, who have very different priorities and who mostly voted for Proposition 8, which defines marriage as every civilized nation in the world, Christian heritage or not, did until ten years ago – as between a man and a woman. Proposition 14 will make it easier for alternatives to the Hollywood Democrats not to have to carry the label Republican, which is unacceptable in East and South Los Angeles, and still be competitive.

In some ways this proposition is not fair to minor parties. My solution to the problem for minor political parties is the New York State rule. In New York State, they have parties like the Conservative or Liberal that are permitted to nominate Republican or Democratic candidates as also their own, and have them so labeled on the ballot: but if they do not like the Republicans or Democrats, they can nominate their own candidates instead. As it is now, the Greens, Libertarians, Peace and Freedom, and American Independent cannot share candidates with the larger parties. This would enable them to do so, and give them more weight.

Girls Beat Boys: And Some Reasons Why Everyone Has to Have a Job Now June 1, 2010 No Comments

A lot of the gap between genders can be blamed on the fact that technology has made a lot of jobs physically easier and mentally harder.  Women are still on the average physically weaker, so now a lot more jobs are those in which women can potentially compete with men in a way they could not in the past. Francis Fukuyama, in his excellent work The Great Disruption, says that this change is a major cause of the moral chaos of recent years; as women and men become substitutable for each other in more and more work situations, technology allowing, so women and men are increasingly substitutable for each other in other contexts – including, in some places, as a marriage partner!  Rosie the Riveter, during World War II, was happy to stop riveting and go back to being a housewife.  A lot of women”s jobs aren”t like that now. And where they are, I don”t think that there is a “lump of labor” or a fixed amount of work that needs to be done, so that every woman working necessarily displaces a man, but there is a “lump of land” for housing, so that once there is a critical mass of two income couples, housing prices and rents are bid up and all spouses must now work.  Warren and Tyagi, in their book The Two Income Trap, make clear that at least before 2007 it was not the price and labor value of most consumer goods, but the price of three or four particular things that have meant that spouses “had to” work.  They are housing [both rented and owned], tuition [for those in public school, “tuition” is factored into housing], health care, and income tax bracket creep.  Wages had not fallen behind in relation to most things one buys at the mall.  They have fallen behind in relation to those four things.
Related: “Unraveling the Achievement Gap on Campus” by The Contrarian

An Even Better Butts Solution May 27, 2010 3 Comments

I have long been an advocate that smokers should carry a little bag, like dog walkers, to clean up after themselves.  But I saw an even better idea on a comment thread recently.  That, like with bottles and cans, a recycling fee could be imposed and for every filter returned to a recycling center, whoever brought them in could get 5c a filter, or some amount that would pan out economically.  We don’t need any more taxes on cigarettes, but this special fee would help.  And I think Big Tobacco has enough money that it could figure out some constructive way of recycling all the used filters.  If the beverage industry can do it, so can these people.

More Atlanta Oddities May 23, 2010 No Comments

The territory of Incorporated cities in Georgia is often circular, giving a stroking appearance on the map.  They do not cover most of the urbanized territory.  I would guess that half of Atlanta’s population of 5.9 million lives directly under one of the 20 county governments.  There is a City of Atlanta, but it accounts for less than ten percent of the metropolitan population. Read the rest of this entry »

Atlanta May 22, 2010 3 Comments

As I take more of the tours provided by the New Urbanism conference I am attending, I get to find out some of the attractive and interesting things about Atlanta.  It’s easy to dismiss:

  • “Sprawlanta”
  • When people from here want to see a really urban environment, they go visit LA
  • Phoenix, Arizona, without Arizona
  • Washington DC without L’Enfant, the Government, the Smithsonian, or the Potomac (actually, “DC without the government or French master planners” may be the attraction!)

It is true that Metropolitan Atlanta comprises more counties than any other metropolitan area in the country. Read the rest of this entry »

LA the Least Gentrified Major City? May 13, 2010 2 Comments

Los Angeles has been “gentrified” and made more stable in many of its areas by immigrant settlement, but the phenomenon of Anglo gentrification by what used to be called “yuppies” or their more contemporary counteparts (most of the original “yuppies” are now in their 50s) in terms of upgrading a formerly “bad” neighborhood by pushing up rents and squeezing out existing relatively poor folks, is rarer in Los Angeles than in almost any other American city. The nearest thing to it has happened in a few “paleo-urbanist” beach communities. (“Paleo-urbanist” means planned to New Urbanist specifications, but nearly a century ago!) And I think the reason for it has to do with the massive projects by the Irvine Company especially in the 60s and 70s. They, plus the nearby existence of Newport Beach, which was already a “watering spot” for the WAS (WASP but including Catholics, this being California), plus the riots of 1965, plus the perception that the air in the Irvine and Newport region was less polluted at a time when smog was worse than now, led to a massive secessio patriciorum, a secession of the patricians, a physical manifestation of Christopher Lasch”s Revolt of the Elites [link to Amazon.com]. Corporate headquarters relocated en masse. Second homes near Newport Bay often became first homes. Many of the people that might otherwise be gentrifiers in Los Angeles were removed to the first great Edge City, at the head of Newport Bay.
Los Angeles proper ultimately recovered from the Great Secession, It did so with the help of immigrants on the one hand, and the entertainment industry on the other. In days of old “Hollywood” and “Los Angeles” had been two separate cities occupying the same space. Outsiders who were concerned with the film industry often didn”t refer to “LA” at all, but to “Hollywood” or “The Coast.” “LA” was the rather bourgeois city that happened to occupy the same physical space. I remember, for example, when Los Angeles magazine was socially conservative enough to declare, “Why is it they never organize against the popular smut [pornography] – movies like Beach Party, for instance?” [Does this have to be documented? can it be?] This is unimaginable now. I also remember that few were the movie stars in attendance at the openings of the major Music Center (now LA Performing Arts Center) in 1964 and 1967. It is now recognized that Hollywood is at the center of cultural life in Los Angeles. The two largest political parties in the state are the Hollywood Democrats and the Eastside LA Democrats, with quite different social priorities, and the third party, the Republicans, is desperately trying to hold on to its veto on taxation and the budget. As a matter of fact, the terms Westside and Eastside are used a lot more now. When I lived in Hancock Park in my high school years, I had somewhat of a perception that I was in the exact middle. Wilshire Boulevard, the grand prestigious street of Los Angeles, had, because of foolish zoning, a strip of vacant lots where it went by the Hancock Park residential district (not to be confused with the city park of the same name, two miles west, where LACMA and the Page Museum are}. They were not built on until the 70s, when condos were allowed there. The so called “Park Mile” did provide a separation between the Miracle Mile on one side and the Wilshire Center – not in those days Koreatown, and in fact a serious rival to Downtown – but the separation between West and East has grown sharper as the Miracle Mile has faded a bit, and Koreatown is what it is and not a rival of Downtown any more. And the perceived border between Westside and Eastside LA seems to run near Vine Street, through Old Hollywood and Hancock Park. And Pasadena and Santa Monica, both singularly uncool places 40 years ago, have become among the coolest parts of the city. Remarkably, Pasadena and nearby areas were the the main source of the secessio patriciorum of 40 years ago. The vacuum has been filled in a very interesting way!
In contrast, downtown San Diego feels a lot tike downtown Denver, except with palm trees and water. Both of those downtowns fill up on weekends at night with hard-partying young Anglos, not exactly to be seen on Broadway in LA at any hour. If there was a secessio patriciorum in San Diego, it was only to the UCSD area near La Jolla, much closer. If the secessio had gone, say, to Carlsbad, and upper class San Diegans had relocated to Carlsbad and La Costa en masse, Carlsbad being 30 miles away (though the few Carlsbadiaos I know seem a lot more loyal to San Diego than OCers do to Los Angeles) downtown San Diego might be the ethnic wonderland Downtown LA now is. Who knows?

Los Angeles has been “gentrified” and made more stable in many of its areas by immigrant settlement, but the phenomenon of Anglo gentrification by what used to be called “yuppies” or their more contemporary counteparts (most of the original “yuppies” are now in their 50s) in terms of upgrading a formerly “bad” neighborhood by pushing up rents and squeezing out existing relatively poor folks, is rarer in Los Angeles than in almost any other American city.  The nearest thing to it has happened in a few “paleo-urbanist” beach communities. (“Paleo-urbanist” means planned to New Urbanist specifications, but nearly a century ago!)  And I think the reason for it has to do with the massive projects by the Irvine Company especially in the 60s and 70s.  They, plus the nearby existence of Newport Beach, which was already a “watering spot” for the WAS (WASP but including Catholics, this being California), plus the riots of 1965, plus the perception that the air in the Irvine and Newport region was less polluted at a time when smog was worse than now, Read the rest of this entry »

Northern Country Music May 5, 2010 3 Comments

Anyone who judged American history by its popular vocal music would get the impression that the South had won the Civil War [perhaps freeing the slaves in the process, but] if you count both blacks and whites dominating the scene.  Someone might be a native of Seattle, Toronto, Glasgow, or even Sydney, but when they open their mouth to sing [not to talk] the vowel of ‘my mind’ moves toward being a monophthong, the vowel of ‘raw dog’ to being a diphthong, and the ‘y’ of ‘tiny baby’ from the short ‘ee’ sound to something like ‘eh.’  This is of course in tribute to the Southern origins of jazz, rock, and country.  Country music is generally distinguished by pronouncing final r’s fairly clearly, whereas in rock they are given a rather British treatment.  Bob Dylan, a native of Minnesota who misses being Canadian by less than a hundred miles, imitates Okie Woody Guthrie when he begins to sing.

The New England blogger Ezra Dyer has suggested that at least in country music, it’s time for New England, Canada, and the North in general to get equal time.  Where are the songs about moose, lumberjacks, snowmobiles, lobster traps, and canoes?

It’s interesting to me that the one definitively northern pop culture figure in our culture is Garrison Keillor and his Lake Wobegon.  He has done much to put at least one northern culture back on our southern-dominated mental maps.  Unfortunately he doesn’t sing.  Actually I think he does, occasionally, but not enough to be famous for his music.  I’d like to see him spread Mr. Dyer’s challenge!

Envy Isn’t Just a Left Wing Vice April 26, 2010 3 Comments

Envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and it involves wanting to deny other people things whether you have them or not. We generally think of it in terms of what the Australians call the Tall Poppy Syndrome; the more talented and outstanding people get cut down to “size” by the rest. And in many cultures excellence or superiority in any field is often blamed on witchcraft.

We tend to think of envy as a vice of the left. The left wishes to tax the wealthy heavily enough to control or liquidate fortunes, and it gets some of that energy from resentment of people who have money. Read the rest of this entry »

Representing our Jesus to Their Jesus, A Book Notice April 22, 2010 2 Comments

Todd D. Hunter, Christianity Beyond Belief:

Following Jesus for the Sake of Others

. 2009: IVP Press. Author’s website: 3isenough.org.

At first I think I had Todd Hunter mixed up with Joel Hunter of Florida, but Todd Hunter is a native Californian, to which I am partial, now setting up an Anglican AMIA church that meets on the Rock Harbor campus. He bases his book and ministry on four norms: Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus’ Theology of Earthquakes April 19, 2010 1 Comment

It has been more than a week since the Easter Sunday Mexicali earthquake, but better late than never.

Many of us have thought, or, frankly, even hoped, that natural calamities would mainly fall on sinners.  A famous verse came out of the San Francisco earthquake: Read the rest of this entry »

Taxes to Raise, Taxes to Lower April 14, 2010 3 Comments

I thought that I had better get this out, because April 15 is just around the corner. 

Taxes that should be raised:

The gasoline tax, by $.50 to $1 a gallon.  I oppose cap and trade, however, because it is a bureaucratic mess.  If California were in a position to afford it, I would say that we need to compensate for this by adopting a Cal-EITC that would about make things even for lower middle income working families.  I’m not sure that California can afford this at the moment, but in the long run I’d like to see it. Read the rest of this entry »

Now That Health Care Has Passed April 12, 2010 2 Comments

In general, I think that the new health care bill is an improvement over the old order. I hope it is not repealed, but I’m sure that some adjustments will be necessary.

Does this make America a more compassionate nation? I don’t think so. If anything, it proves that we are not, that we need the government to do this. And I hope the role of philanthropy and of charitable and “free clinics” is not squeezed entirely out of the system. I believe the same about welfare states in general. I am not rigorously against welfare states, as I was in my youth, but they do not prove a society to be more compassionate, but less; just as if I go into a neighborhood where there are wrought iron bars on the windows everywhere, and powerfully visible police and security guards everywhere, I suppose I am justified in thinking of that neighborhood as one with strong respect for the rights of private property and “Thou shalt not steal!” (lol) And in a country where the women are kept in the house and wrapped up tight so that they show almost no skin in public, are we really to view such a society as one where women and sexual morality are really respected by men? (I owe this last example to the writings of Vishal Mangalwadi.) I still do not believe that health care, or any other form of welfare (and that includes Medicare and Social Security) is a moral entitlement. The nearest thing we have to entitlements are property rights. When there is a potentially infinite demand for a finite resource, you cannot have the demand for the resource be a “right” unless it is a property right to a share of the resources that actually concretely exists.

That said, I hear that some people are launching a suit to declare the provisions requiring people to buy insurance unconstitutional. If this suit is upheld by any court, I have only two things to say:

i) When I’m in the emergency room on the weekend for my hangnail, and you come in all bleeding from a drunken brawl, don’t try to cut in front of me in line!

ii) If such an idea passes muster with any court, I shall stop paying my Social Security Tax. Recall that the other name for the Social Security Tax is OASDI, which stands for Old Age, Survivors, and Disability I*N*S*U*R*A*N*C*E, just in case you were wondering.

I guess I shouldn’t stop my car insurance. After all, I don’t absolutely have to drive a car, and it is a privilege, and all that. But then again, this is the OC. I don’t absolutely have to have a car. For that matter, I don’t absolutely have to go to a doctor or a hospital when I’m sick. I’m sure there are plenty of curanderos and faith healers and herbalists available, and if not, as Lord Keynes said, “in the long run we are all dead,” anyway.

I am glad, however, that the public option was not passed. And I will admit that, whatever I think of Republicans, which isn’t much, it wouldn’t be bad if they won control of Congress in the 2010 election. The reason I say this is that I remember the last time we had a Democratic President and a Republican Congress (i.e., 1994-2000) we had one of the better and more all inclusive booms we ever had. Even some of the people we would usually consider unemployable were getting jobs. This is a better record than the reverse, which prevailed 1980-92. The boom of that period was less all-inclusive and the deficit continued to increase radically during that time. I will admit that the Republicans will not fight as hard against socially liberal judges, but I have reached the conclusion – reinforced by the results of the Prop 8 election – that social conservatism is a bipartisan cause, not a Republican one.

A Brief Review of “The Secret of Kells” (And an Even Briefer Review of “Alice and Wonderland”) April 8, 2010 No Comments

My son dragged Roberta and me to see a new animated movie called The Secret of Kells, and I was glad he did. The style of this animated film is what you might expect if Hayao Miyazaki had a. Been Irish, and b. had studied under both Eyvind Earle and the UPA.  (If you don’t know what Eyvind Earle and the UPA are, you should study more about animation and stop being such a layman.)  The artistry is wonderful.  The worldview is, it must be said, modern European neopaganism trying to make sense of its Christian heritage. There were teams of people from Ireland, France, Flanders, Wallonia, and even Italy working on this film. The  Book of Iona, which becomes the Book of Kells, is viewed as magic – no one seems to care about the actual text, which I think were the New Testament Gospels.  In the movie it is partly saved by woodland fairies. The Norsemen are depicted something like orcs or Disney style demons – I suppose I should be offended, since I’m of Scandinavian descent!  One of the most important plot lines is that the abbot of Kells is indifferent to the book, which has come to Kells with a refugee fleeing Iona.  The abbot puts all his trust in his wooden walls around his fortified community, not in God or Jesus (whose names are never mentioned anyway in the whole movie).  But the Norse-demons break through all the walls and doors anyway, and his faith proves misplaced. They leave, not because they are defeated but because they are more interested in plunder than conquest. (In actual fact the real Norsemen founded Dublin and several other of Ireland’s coastal cities, and settled a large chunk of central-eastern England.)

The Book of Kells is a spectacular movie, on the level of Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, and I was glad I saw it. Alice in Wonderland was a bit of a disappointment.  Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and the other actors were excellent, but the whole movie is trying to do a Harry Potter in Wonderland.  Alice as a young woman is called back to Wonderland to slay the Jabberwock, who in Part II of the book was a character in an embedded poem and slain by a male hero.  The thing doesn’t work.  Lewis Carroll’s original Wonderland, in both Parts I and II, was a little more like Gilbert and Sullivan on acid than like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or anything resembling them.  I still like the book better than either the Disney version of 55 years ago or this; and I like Part II, Through the Looking Glass, a little better than Part I; I think because it has a chessboard in it and Alice has a clear goal – the queenship.

Down With Downhill Skiing March 24, 2010 1 Comment

California’s most popular winter sport exposed!

Related: “Down With Downhill Skiing!” at The Daily Beast

Church Fights Back After… March 21, 2010 1 Comment

So much for the libertarian reputation of Goldwater’s state!

Related: “Church Fights Back After Arizona Town Bans Home Bible Study” at FOXNews.com

Political Partnership and the Prophet Jonah March 18, 2010 1 Comment

In the course of my “annual” reading of the Bible I happened to come across the book of Jonah.  This book has been spoiled for us by arguments about “did it really historically happen?”  I take the position that it could have happened, because we can’t rule out the truth of anything just because it contains miracles; but even if it is not factual history, it is still the Word of God and a wonderful story.

If you have not read it, this prophet is asked to go to Nineveh, at that time Israel’s enemy, to prophesy against its sins and get it to repent so that it will not be destroyed by God’s wrath.  Now, the last thing Jonah wants is for Nineveh to be spared, which on the off-chance might actually happen if he follows God’s instructions; so to make things perfectly clear, he hops on a boat to Spain, which is in the other direction.  A big storm comes up and, well, this is where the big fish (it doesn’t specifically say “whale”) comes in.  And  I won’t spoil it for you, but it kind of goes on from there. Read the rest of this entry »

What "Luck of The Irish?" March 17, 2010 1 Comment

This is a time of the year when the phrase “luck of the Irish” is often heard.  What “luck”?  Except for the golden age before 1171 AD, and the “Celtic Tiger” years from 1990 to 2007, I would not wish the “luck of the Irish” on my enemies! The luck of the Irish, for most of these years, has been the English.

And We Expect Libertarian Politics From… March 16, 2010 2 Comments

And we expect libertarian politics from Arizona?  What would Barry Goldwater do?

Related: “Church Fights Back After Arizona Town Bans Home Bible Study” from FoxNews.com

Obama and the Allergy to Antithesis March 8, 2010 3 Comments

The so-called “progressives” are going to be more and more disillusioned with President Obama in the immediate near future, I predict.  And not because he is a “moderate.”  He is manifestly not.  At least in his ultimate aspirations, he is as radical as they.

Rather, he shares an attitude – I wouldn’t call it a world view, because it doesn’t have much content to it – that is common in our culture, and not generally just on the left by any means.  I call it Allergy to Antithesis.  (How alliterative!)  Allergy to Antithesis is an attitude, or frame of mind, or really of the heart that there are not really good guys and bad guys, that we can all just get along if we sit down and talk together, that in the end there is no reason to fight.  And in such little experience as I have, the elements of society most likely to assume this attitude are the business community; probably in big corporate business more than small business, because to rise in an organization you have to “get along” with everyone.  And there is also the factor that if there are enemies, there’s a whole segment of people you can’t sell to or do deals with.   Read the rest of this entry »

Prudes at Dinner, Gluttons in Bed March 2, 2010 2 Comments

Apropos of my post more than a month ago on New Year’s Resolutions (attached to refresh your memory) I just found a column by George Will on a similar theme.

It seems to me that the words “sin” and “sinful” occur in modern secular prose most often next to the words “chocolate” or “Las Vegas.”  I suppose the ultimate wickedness, to people today, would be to eat chocolate in Las Vegas!

Related: “Prudes at Dinner, Gluttons in Bed” by George Will at The Washington Post

When I am elected to the Board of Equalization… February 27, 2010 2 Comments

When I am elected to the Board of Equalization, I will move my headquarters to Fresno. It is well located at the center of the state, and for reasons specified here it is the best place from which I can fulfill my campaign promises.

Related: “Fresno, Calif., tops list of ‘drunkest’ U.S. cities; Boston least” at USA Today

Global Warming: If You Can’t Beat It, Join It. February 24, 2010 3 Comments

This recent article in Reason Magazine by Ronald Bailey raises the issue of whether Global Warming is worse than the sort of society and government it would take to stop it. Actually, I think a more efficient way of dealing with global warming might be to adapt to it.  That solves two problems.

First, I don’t have to deny that global warming is taking place.  There are still some valid questions as to whether it is entirely a result of human activity, or even if it’s going to continue, but I don’t have to be committed to a position of denial.

Second, I think the cost of adaption will be a lot less.  We will not have to shut down our entire economy.  There are certain expenses that humankind will have to bear.  For example, much of the population of Bangladesh will have to be relocated.  The Russians are not reproducing themselves and have a very low life expectancy, so they can carve out a New Bangladesh somewhere in their territory.  There are some other similar resettlements from low lying coastal areas that will be needed.  An international version of the old Civilian Conservation Corps can be recruited to plant species of trees at higher altitudes in the mountains, or at more northerly latitudes, than in the past.  Also some animal species will need help to be relocated in the same way.  There is a lot of talk about “desertification,” but is the Sahara really likely to expand in both directions?  The alarmists can’t have it both ways.   Read the rest of this entry »

In Which I Make Pompous Suggestions Concerning Transit in Los Angeles February 22, 2010 1 Comment

METRO: Study Area for Western Extension of Red Line

Source: LA Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Anyone looking at a map of the LA Metro notices that it is an East Side phenomenon – the westernmost point it reaches on the coastal side of the hills is Hollywood and Highland.  It is kind of as if BART did not go under the bay to San Francisco! As a matter of fact, in Los Angeles there is not a bay, but underlying the whole Miracle Mile area is a whole sea of tar that is miles deep.  (The famous La Brea Tar Pits are but the tip of the tar-berg, as it were.)  My dad told me that when they were building the taller buildings in that area in the 50s they had to put in a heavy foundation and sort of float the buildings in the tar, like ships.  So this has been a bit of a scary prospect for anyone who contemplated building an underground metro line along Wilshire.  Yet, that is where the main traffic or action is.

On the other hand, the so called Expo Line, Read the rest of this entry »

Padding? Or Something Reality? February 20, 2010 1 Comment

There was a recent discussion in the Wall Street Journal about why a flight from Los Angeles to New York, which takes six hours under ideal conditions, should be scheduled at seven hours.  Some wonder whether this practice is ethical.

I say it’s quite ethical.  If anything, I wonder whether they’ve padded enough.  What is unethical is for them to set up a tightly wound schedule of hubbing and connections that is so fragile that it only works when it’s 70 degrees and clear skies and not a thunderhead or snowflake in the country. Read the rest of this entry »

Sorry Wrong Number: A Basis In Reality February 17, 2010 2 Comments

One of the less cheery films that we as a family like – because it reminds us of some of our relatives – is Sorry, Wrong Number, a 1948 noir film with Barbara Stanwyck.  As a young girl, the Stanwyck character has heart palpitations, or many of the symptoms of a heart attack, when she does not get what she wants; and unfortunately, when this happens, she does get what she wants, and is positively reinforced.  By the end of the film, even though she has nothing organically wrong with her, she finds herself a semi-cripple, which works greatly to her disadvantage when she figures out that she is on tap to be murdered.

Well, the Wall Street Journal recently had a story and a video on a condition that the Japanese call takotsubo, or octopus trap, in which the left ventricle of the heart, under physical or emotional stress, froze in a shape like a Japanese octopus trap.  (It is not clear to me whether anyone actually dies of this, but they lose consciousness and display many symptoms similar to that of a heart attack.  A true heart attack is triggered by an obstruction of the blood flow to the heart muscle itself.)  I wondered whether the medical professionals, either Japanese or American, had ever seen the movie!  And I wonder if a proclivity to takotsubo syndrome can be encouraged by rewarding people who display it!  That would be an interesting bit of research.

Related: “Hearts Actually Can Break” by WSJ Online
Video: “News Hub: Why You Can Die of a Broken Heart” WSJ Online

Tax Auditors Keep Tabs on Bars by Imbibing… February 16, 2010 1 Comment

I have never considered running for office, but I think I shall now consider running for the Board of Equalization. And I promise to anyone who votes for me that I will not delegate the important matter of liquor taxes to any faceless unelected bureaucrat, but shall take responsibility for these particular matters myself!

Related: “Tax auditors keep tabs on bars by imbibing” by Sacramento Bee

San Jose Mercury News: Tech Group’s Poll Suggests Candidates Should ‘Friend’ Voters February 13, 2010 1 Comment

I’m not surprised on the least.  They already “friend” anyone who gives them more than $100 – more than that, if you do that, they will structure a whole social life for you.  If I was lonely and single, that would be nice….

In Response To: Tech Group’s Poll Suggests Candidates Should ‘Friend’ Voters by Bruce Newman

A Theology of Earthquakes and Culture February 12, 2010 5 Comments

After the Haiti earthquake, Pat Robertson declared that the earthquake was punishment for Haiti’s voodoo culture.  How does he know?  And is it any of his business?  Pronouncements of this sort, I believe, fall into the category of “taking the name of the Lord in vain,” a commandment often misunderstood to be about what you say when you hit your thumb with a hammer.  Actually, it means to speak for God when He has not authorized, or to use the name of God to get people to do what you want when it’s not clear that that’s what He wants.

Haiti’s problem is not that God singled it out for an earthquake (if I were He, and operated like that, I’d have a lot of other places higher on my list) but that its extreme poverty means that an earthquake is inherently more damaging and disruptive.  And why the extreme poverty?  Now there might be a connection between that and the voodoo culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Native is Now Normal February 11, 2010 3 Comments

I am of such an advanced age (let’s just say that my current age was a favorite number of the Babylonians!) that for me to announce that I was a native Californian was to claim something rather special and unusual. According to Dowell Myers of USC, however there are now enough of us native Californians so that we will soon be in leadership of the state.  It seems to me that there is as much immigration as ever, but most of it seems to come from outside the United States – mainly Mexico, Asia, and Latin America – and concentrate in the old industrial neighborhoods first and the suburbs later; and more people now move from California to the other 49 states than the other way around.  Perhaps as Iowa gave us our Anglo culture, we shall transmit our culture to Idaho and Colorado.  But I feel good about being more the norm in many ways than ever before – particularly as I’m an Anglo, which is not the norm!  (And where else does someone of Scandinavian and Northern Irish descent get to be called an Anglo)?

Related: “The Oh Decade: Native Californians are fast becoming the state’s engine” by Dowell Myers

Are “Big Corporations” People? And Can Everything Be Blamed on Them? February 4, 2010 1 Comment

The recent decision that corporations and unions are free to make independent expenditures and public commentary on elections frightened a lot of people.  It did not empower these organizations to contribute directly to campaigns in unlimited qualities, only to engage in “independent expenditures” and advocacy, as individuals can.  People being frightened of the large size of some corporations compared to individuals, some commentators made the point that corporations exist by grace of the state and should not have all the same rights of human beings when it comes to property, political participation, etc., etc. I have a few things to say about this.

Read the rest of this entry »

Great Commission Utilitarianism February 3, 2010 2 Comments

Darrow Miller of Disciple Nations Alliance (disciplenations.org) writes about Great Commission Utilitarianism. I frankly claim credit for coining the term, and the issue is certainly one of my passions, but he writes about it more effectively than I could.

Document: Great Commission Utilitarianism by Darrow Miller

More on Healthcare: A Libertarian Speaks Well of the French System January 14, 2010 2 Comments

Readers of the libertarian magazine Reason were shocked recently to find that one of the editors of that magazine, Matt Welch, has spoken highly of the French health care system.  Mr. Welch is married to a French woman, and he spends 90 percent of the time in the U.S. while getting most of his health care in France.  Here’s why:

“Why I Prefer French Healthcare” by Reason.com

I think that what Welch has to say is well said.  And, in addition, here is Jonathan Rauch on if airlines were run like health care.

“If Airline Travel Worked Like Healthcare” by NationalJournal.com

Rauch made an interesting choice.  The airlines, for a long time, were bad enough.  Their schedules, except for the closing time for baggage to be dropped off, were so aspirational and dependent on perfect conditions to be fulfilled that they were, in my view, lies.  It would be very difficult for me to comment on the airline industry within the terms of the Kennel Kode!

My Long Awaited Healthcare Post (In the Form of a Book Notice) January 12, 2010 2 Comments

T. R. Reid, The Healing of America:  a global quest for better, cheaper, and fairer health care.  New York:  The Penguin Press, 2009.

T. R. Reid is a correspondent for the Washington Post and a commentator on National Public Radio.  One of his other books is The United States of Europe.  In this work, The Healing of America, he goes to investigate specifically what the major health care systems outside the United States are like.

And what health care systems in the United States are like.  On pages 20 and 21, Reid informs us of what countries our systems resemble.

Read the rest of this entry »

I Saw This Poster at a Jewish Temple January 5, 2010 No Comments

Music PosterI was amused when I saw this poster at a Jewish temple nearby. I have seen the rise of so-called Christian Contemporary Music, the counterattack by Gen Xers such as Mark Joseph who charged that Christian Contemporary Music was a ghetto and the equivalent of the Negro Leagues, to a situation where Christian Contemporary Music, worship music excepted, has pretty much disappeared from the scene, and Mill Gen (born after 1980) musicians of Christian background don’t have to worry about it any more. So I wondered, are the Jews now going to go into a cycle of Jewish Contemporary Music for a while before they draw the same conclusion? I know a certain artist called Matisyahu is hot, though I haven’t listened to his stuff.

New Years Resolutions, Neuroscience, and What We Calvinists Knew All Along January 1, 2010 1 Comment

Greetings, beloved fans, and welcome to the decade of the teens, and farewell to the decade of the “aughts.”  Some of you are no doubt thinking about New Years’ resolutions.  For some of you your resolutions, no doubt, have to do with issues of morals and manners, but for many of you they may have to do with issues of “fitness” and “wellness,” one of the significant “religions” of our time. (“Why There’s Not Much Intellectual Activity in Orange County“) But Jonah Lehrer, in the Wall Street Journal on December 26, has given us a fascinating survey of the latest neurology concerning “willpower. “

For one thing, willpower uses a “muscle” in the brain tissue that is the same as that part of the brain that holds short term memory, an area called the prefrontal cortex.  At Stanford, one batch of students was given a two-digit number to memorize.  Another was given a seven-digit number to memorize.  They were then walked down a hall to a room where fruit salad and cake were available to them.  Of the students that had memorized the seven digit number, twice as many percentagewise went for the cake as did those who had memorized a two digit number.  Even more interesting, at Florida State University, a group of students was asked to fast totally for three hours and then given a boring video to watch and asked to focus on it and not on words running across the bottom of the screen.  And then half of them were given lemonade with Splenda, a sugar substitute, and half lemonade with real sugar.  Then there were tests of self control – attention, or suppressing negative stereotypes, maybe some provocations to anger – (that’s what I think of when I think of self control) and the students who had had the sugar did a lot better on these tests than those who had drunk the Splenda.  It turns out that a brain deprived of calories has less self control than one not so deprived.

Another issue is that those who delay gratification best do not so much exercise self-restraint as substitute other thoughts for tempting ones.  Some four year olds were given marshmallows and told that if they could hold off eating them for 20 minutes, they would get a second marshmallow. The kids who did hold off were those who did not focus on the marshmallow and not eating it, but sang songs, played with shoelaces, or in other ways focused on other things.

However, it does seem that the willpower muscle can be exercised.  One group of students at Florida State was asked to work on their posture for two weeks – sit up straight, stand up straight, and all – and another was not.  Those who had been practicing their posture had a greater ability to exercise self-control in other ways than just posture.  Their “brain muscles” had been stretched.

For Christians who know their Bible, there might be some surprises here, but this information is exactly what they really should expect.

First of all, the fact that willpower is limited and has to share space with short-term memory comes as no surprise.  We all knew we could never be “good” by our own efforts, or in any way merit our salvation.

The second point, that self-control and willpower are best gained by focusing on something else, has lots of Biblical support.  When Paul tells us in Col 3:8 to “put off .…anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” he follows it right up at verse 12 by telling us to “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” etc.  You can’t put something off without putting something on in its place!  And he tells the Philippians, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true….noble.…just….pure….lovely….of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” (Phil. 4:8.)  Not just spiritual  thoughts, but anything that is true, noble, lovely, or whatever.  Yes, it is good to pray when under temptation, and God appreciates it, but you need to put something in its place.  If you are tempted by porn, think of something you think beautiful that isn’t porn, like saguaro cactus in bloom or snow-covered volcanoes or red rocks, and punch it up on your computer!

The third point is that willpower and self control can actually be improved, though not made perfect, by practice, and that this practice can actually carry over to other things.  Confessional Protestants have often soft pedaled these aspects of “practicing” virtue; Catholics and Orthodox have done better at talking about them.  The “Kuyperian” Calvinists have been a little bit more open than what I will call the “Kierkegaardian” Calvinists, who tend to think there is little or nothing that we can do ourselves to improve our character. (A friend took offense when I called the Kierkegaardian view “creeping Lutheranism”, so I will call it Kierkegaardian Calvinism.)  I would just remind everyone concerned that improving one’s character is not the same as earning one’s salvation!  But this point does explain why the military, in forcing you to be aware of your surroundings, your posture, your language, all the time, can establish the kind of self-control necessarily to stay at your post when you are being shot at and might seriously be killed.  Which is what they have to do.  And perhaps, why in certain situations we dress up in slightly uncomfortable garments – being less relaxed, we may behave more graciously in an office, or at a party, or other such situations.

Related: WSJ Online “Blame it on the brain”

Why They Sometimes Call New Year’s Eve “Sylvester” 1 Comment


If you go to a New Year’s Eve dinner or party in a continental European country – and for all I know, probably in Mexico and Latin America as well (I’ve never done New Year’s in Mexico) you’ll find it’s probably called Sylvester or San Silvestro or something of that sort.  What is that about? Well, December 31, the day, just happens to be the day on which the Catholic Church commemorates one St. Sylvester.  Who was he?  He was the Bishop of Rome at the time of Constantine’s conversion.  He was not at the Council of Nicaea, but sent representatives. Constantine himself moved his capital from Milan to his New Rome – Constantinople – on the site of the old town of Byzantion.  He established a patriarchate there, and had presumably a better relationship with it than with the bishopric of Rome.

But Sylvester, later on, got a notoriety that was not his fault, but was because of a forgery.  In the Middle Ages a document called the Donation of Constantine was circulated, that claimed that the Emperor Constantine had deeded to Sylvester and his successors lordship over the entire western half of the Roman Empire.  This document was one of those used in Rome’s claim to headship over the Western Church.  But about 1440 one Lorenzo Valla of Naples, being a student of Classical Latin, declared publicly that the Latin of the Donation document was clearly eighth century Latin and not fourth century Latin, using some words unknown in fourth century Latin.  It would be like if someone came along with what he claimed was a manuscript of a hitherto undiscovered Shakespeare play.  But in this manuscript, the characters regularly greet each other with “Yo, wassup dude?” instead of “How now, cuz?”  I think most of us would be rather skeptical of the true Shakespearean origins of the manuscript.  Valla’s conclusions were so conclusive that by the time of the Reformation in the next century, the Catholic Church did not base any of its claims whatsoever on the Donation of Constantine, and that document was no longer even an issue.  So now you know.

January 1 was not always New Year’s Day, by the way.  In ancient Rome New Year’s Day was March 1, and then during much of the medieval and early modern period New Year’s Day was March 25, the feast of the Assumption, as I pointed out in a previous post.  January 1 has always been, however, the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, or of the Holy Name of Jesus, because it is on the eighth day that Jewish babies are circumcised and given their names.

BlueKennel Declares It’s First Official Consumer Boycott! December 31, 2009 2 Comments

I had heard about all this before, but this explanation [link to Rohrlich] by Justin Rohrlich on the evils of corn (maize, for non-North Americans) based ethanol as opposed to sugar based ethanol explains not only the situation, but the history of how the situation came to be.

But why should we just sit and grind our teeth? Blue Kennel calls on all its fans, and fans of fans, and fans of fans of fans, to



Ask your ethanol dealer. It may be, that for the political reasons that Rohrlich describes, corn based ethanol may be unavailable to you. In that case,

  1. Use pure petroleum gasoline or diesel with no ethanol in it.
  2. If you require ethanol, and live near Canada or Mexico, find out whether sugar based ethanol is available in either of those countries. (And let me know so I can publicize that fact.) And drive across the freakin border to get your fuel.

That’s enough for now. I am contemplating calling other follow-up boycotts in the future, but need a lot of research help.

One possibility is a boycott of Archer Daniels Midland. We’d have to find out how many consumer products they are involved in. I fear it’s a lot.

Another is a boycott of all foods and other consumer products that contain High-Fructose Corn Syrup. This requires a lot of research too. Most soft drinks and candies, and many snacks and crackers, contain it. I understand the Orthodox Jews use only corn-free sweets during Passover, so at that time corn-free products are usually available.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to check the labels on my microbrews, and get my whiskey-sippin’ friends to look on the labels of their bourbon and Tennessee whiskey!

Related: American’s Crazed Corn Habit

Death Penalty is Considered a Boon December 27, 2009 No Comments

If you’re going to state prison, and want posh accommodations safe from murder and rape by other inmates, make sure you commit a capital crime! You’ll get to enjoy the luxury for quite a while.

Related: LA Times: Death penalty is considered a boon by some California inmates

Happy Holidays and What They Really Are December 22, 2009 2 Comments

The so-called Christmas holidays are really a rather complex thing – they are three different holidays happening simultaneously.

WINTER SOLSTICE.  This is certainly the first and oldest of the reasons to celebrate at this time of the year.  Of course, for a Christian, the coming of Christ is more important, but historically, there was a B. C. (Before Christ) but there has not been a Before the Winter Solstice in a billion years or so.  It is perfectly legitimate to commemorate this natural event.

A really odd experience I had a few years ago was celebrating these holidays in Australia.  There, of course, they do not coincide with the winter solstice, but with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  It gave us an eerie but delightful feeling to experience long days and sunlit evenings in the context of Christmas.  One striking thing I noticed is, that because it is the summer solstice, outdoor Christmas decorations there depend much less on artificial light and are brightly polychromed to be seen in full daylight, much more so than we would do.

Read the rest of this entry »

Aesthetics and “Property Values” Even Dethrone Technology December 20, 2009 No Comments

Aesthetics and “property values” even dethrone technology, one of the American gods!

Related: LA Times: Court says cities have the right to bar telecommunications towers

A Water Conservation Tip December 18, 2009 No Comments

While we’re on water conservation, unofficial San Diego laureate Jason Mraz has some advice for us.

Maybe Levi’s saw this, because Details magazine has a Levi”s ad with a guy peeing in a field. I will spare you that picture. You just have to take my word for it.

Related: Jason Mraz’s Thirsty Thursday: A Water Conservation Tip

Creeping Lutheranism? December 14, 2009 1 Comment

I have no interest in making my non-believing readers feel uncomfortable, but I did reserve a Theology category in this blog. And you may not understand everything I write about theology, but I hope you find it entertaining. My wife, in her career at the Register, was able to make religion stories interesting, entertaining, and relevant for outsiders. I apologize if I don’t do as well.

There actually is a fair bit of Christless Christianity around. Leadership Magazine recently published a report on a survey that classified “five types of Christians” each of which composed about one fifth of those claiming to be Christian in America. Two of these said “`accepting Christ as Savior and Lord’ is the key to being a Christian,” but the other three kinds said that “`believing in God’” was, so in essence they are sort of Unitarians or Arians. I have met moderate Muslims who have hoped that, because the so-called Unitarian Universalist Church has moved so far to the left, that a moderate Islam might appeal to these conservative semi-Unitarian people.

But that, apparently, is not what Dr. Horton is talking about. He is more concerned about the church that does believe in Jesus; that it is putting too much stress on what you can do, and what God can do for you now, and not enough on the eternal salvation through Christ, which is “The Gospel.” John Frame, the reviewer, does not entirely trust secular accounts of how bad off Christianity is in terms of knowing the Bible and other matters. For statistics are not neutral (how postmodern). (As far as how this affects journalists, may I insert here a shameless and blatant plug for the website getreligion.org and the book which my wife helped write, Blind Spot: Why Journalists Don’t Get Religion.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Lights in the Store Window December 13, 2009 No Comments

Holiday WindowThe lights in the store window look white, unfortunately, in this picture.  But they are actually a sort of light blue.  I know from being there at this time of year that the British love these light blue Christmas lights and put them up everywhere.  It looks like the fashion may be about to spread here too.  After all, the British custom of “crackers” is spreading here too.  Crackers are elegantly wrapped toilet paper cardboard roll bases with tissue paper crowns, cheap cracker jack like prizes, and corny jokes inside them.

How sweet is life when you live next to a celebrity in Malibu? December 11, 2009 3 Comments

How sweet is life when you live next to a celebrity in Malibu?  Outside Bob Dylan’s house, the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.  That’s what some of the singer-songwriter’s neighbors are claiming in an increasingly onerous dispute…

Related: Los Angeles Times: Malibu residents upset at Bob Dylan’s outhouse

New York is a Very Strange Place December 2, 2009 1 Comment

Last week I had the pleasure of being in New York City for some events associated with the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA). New York City has plenty of waterfront; most of it is on islands, and it occupies the entirety of two islands, Staten and Manhattan. And in the middle of Manhattan they had the foresight to set aside a large swath of land, called Central Park. But the strange part is, the edge of the southern part of Central Park became the effective beach front, or what have you, of the city, whereas the shorelines of Manhattan were surrendered to first commerce and industry and then expressways. One’s mind boggles at the thought of developing an island, by definition entirely surrounded by waterfront, in such a way that everything faces inward, away from the water. An idea for a fantasy contest I have had is to pretend that the five boroughs of New York City were vacant land under a single owner, like the Irvine Company, and have a contest with various Orange County developers, including the Irvine Company, as to how they would develop it. I bet it would be quite different from what is there now!

Read the rest of this entry »

Real Men Do Ask for Directions, But… November 27, 2009 No Comments

A recent article in the Canadian magazine The Walrus [link] reminded me of the time I took an unscheduled tour of the Oakland ghetto because someone used the route planning of a GPS system instead of their own brain to get to Emeryville.  I formed an opinion which I still hold; real men do ask for directions, but only of other real men and women, or of maps, not of computerized systems.  I love Google Maps; I love how they can pinpoint where anything is, where I am, and how the streets and even the buildings can be seen from the air.  The Search function finds businesses, hotels, and restaurants for me.  But no real man ever pushes the Directions button.  Or if he does, it’s only out of curiosity.  I admit that I have pushed that button out of curiosity as to what route it would recommend from Orange County to places in the Midwest.  But I would never rely on it.  I know a lot of people can’t read maps nowadays, but at least if you ask human beings for directions, you get the benefit of human experience, of the reasoning of people made in the image of God.  No computer is capable of that sort of sophistication.

Related: The Walrus: Global Impositioning Systems

Palestine: More than one way to do a two-state solution. November 18, 2009 No Comments

Why does everyone assume that in order for there to be a two-state solution in Palestine, the Palestinian state has to include the entire pre-1967 West Bank? Why could they not just enlarge the current Palestinian zones considerably? You would have a “Samaria” in the north, an entity probably called “Idumaya” including the Palestinian portions of Bethlehem and Hebron, the Gaza strip, and autonomous “free cities” of Jericho, Qalqilya, and possibly Tulkarm if it can’t be connected to Samaria. These areas will be fully autonomous, and perhaps eventually an independent nation or nations, but until trust is established, which will be many years, the border fence will be necessary.

A couple catches that may make this hard to swallow for the Israelis.

First, rural lands in Palestine are associated with a particular village or town, and belong to it – sort of a township system. You can see that referred to in Leviticus. The Wall should run on township boundaries. If it separates any village from the farmlands or pastoral lands that belong to that village, the wall must be moved.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Real Danger to the Faith 1 Comment

Last weekend the Wall Street Journal had a weekend feature on “Man vs. God” in which neither side defended the Biblical Christian faith.

Back in the ‘70s there was a book called the Peter Principle that declared that people rose in the system till they got to a position whose duties they were incompetent to fulfill, and there they stayed. Richard Dawkins, a competent scientist whose concept of the “meme” is very useful (Andy Crouch uses it without the name in his latest book!), eminently reaches his level of incompetence as a theologian and philosopher. But Karen Armstrong declares,

“The best theology is a spiritual exercise, akin to poetry. Religion is not an exact science but a kind of art form that, like music or painting, introduces us to a mode of knowledge that is different from the purely rational and that cannot easily be put into words.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Where I’m Still Libertarian (With a couple of shameless plugs.) 1 Comment

Now that I have become a big government Democrat, I am farther removed from the Libertarians than I ever was before. But as a Christian, I could never be a philosophical Libertarian, much as I would have liked to be in my youth. I did think, and still do, that some libertarian thought is worth looking at for its social justice implications.

I would say, first, that I am still concerned about religious liberty in relation to land use law. Religious liberties, and all our liberties, are liberties to be exercised in a place, or they have no meaning. It is quite true that, as the nature of the church has changed, it is more desirable for a church to be in a light industrial neighborhood than a residential one, in the past. But the system of “conditional use permits” implies that the church or Christian service organization exists by grace of the state in about the way as a minor child acts by the grace of his parents. And I don’t believe the government was to have that kind of discretionary authority over the church. And yes, these are usually local governments. Your view of local government is your view of government, no matter how you go on about “centralization” of power in Washington D. C. and “local control” and all that. Shameless plug #1; probably the best organization in the country dealing with the issue of land use and religious liberty is the Becket Fund.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Heart vs. The Gut 3 Comments

One of the common errors in modern Western thinking is to confuse the “heart” with the “gut,” the home of the emotions and moods. My emotions and moods change over time. The attitudes that trigger my moods and feelings are much more stable and change, if anything, very slowly. The Bible speaks constantly of the importance of the heart and its seriousness to God; it is not primarily speaking of our emotional states, though emotional states, much to my chagrin, are not morally neutral, but of our attitudes and unexamined assumptions and idees fixes and dispositions and desires that trigger emotions and other actions. (To my chagrin also, all emotions are “behavior,” not internal private matters.)

I had to see, for example, that I was not responsible for my wife’s happiness or unhappiness. Because I thought in my heart that I was, I would be very distressed in my gut. There is a whole school of psychology now called “cognitive therapy”; the “heart” is exactly what it addresses and deals with.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sons of Italy “Assimilate” to Country and Western No Comments

If the Sons of Italy is doing a country western dance, not tarantellas, why are we so worried about immigration? When I’m in Europe I like to tell them, in hell, the Americans are in charge of health care and public transit. In Heaven, we are in charge of handicapped access and immigrant assimilation. Both those two things, in Europe, basically suck.

Related: Sons of Italy to hold Country Western Dinner Dance (Daily Breeze)

I Do Not Have to, and I Will Not, Choose Between Being “Morally Superior” and Being A “Robber” No Comments

I enjoyed Jonathan Chait’s review of two books about Ayn Rand’s world in a recent New Republic. I have not actually read the books reviewed, but I, and members of my family, have been at various times exposed to and fascinated by Ayn Rand, from her first novel, We the Living, which is possibly her best, to Atlas Shrugged, which is basically Left Behind for capitalist atheists. [Insert links to Amazon.com for all books.] But it is the last part of Chait’s article that I need to respond to.

There are two propositions that I, being a person of wealth, will not accept:

  1. That I am in any way morally superior to those with lower incomes than myself.
  2. That my possession of this wealth represents an inherent injustice.

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to BlueKennel! November 15, 2009 No Comments

Welcome to my new blog! I invite you to respond, comment, and make suggestions through your own comments on the blog.

This blog will cover subjects that interest me from the realms of world events, politics, religion, history, morality, ethics, travel, health and medicine, law, and the arts. In other words, it will be pretty wide ranging. My sources will likely be books, periodicals such as The Economist, The Week, World, and my own life experiences.

Needless to say, BlueKennel is not intended to be an alternate channel to present grant requests to me. All requests for grants should continue to be submitted to my office, my philanthropic arm Fieldstead & Company, and any posting to the blog that requests, even implicitly, a grant, a loan, a request for me to use my influence to obtain a grant or loan from someone else, or any other kind of favor will be deleted.

Steven Ferguson serves as the Managing Editor of the blog, and all usage questions and technical issues should be addressed to Chris Meadows, the Technical Manager of the blog.

I intend to have some fun with BlueKennel and to expand my learning through conversations with others of similar interests, although sometimes not, I expect, similar points of view.

I invite you to join in the conversation.

Howard Ahmanson

Why There’s Not Much Intellectual Activity in Orange County November 9, 2009 2 Comments

My friend asked me to write on why there isn’t much intellectual activity in Orange County. My basic answer is a simple one. First, it isn’t considered healthy. Second, it’s too much like work. Third, it’s not considered character-building.

Actually, you need to go back farther than that and start with a classic little book written in 1899. It’s called Theory of the Leisure Class, by Thorstein Veblen. At the same time that Max Weber was writing about the Protestant Ethic, Veblen wrote that the prestige class of a society showed its power by assuming the appearance of avoiding labor, however labor is defined at that time. If labor is defined as dirt and sweat, the prestige class devises for itself a “business suit” and a “tuxedo” which may not be the most comfortable of clothing, but certainly one cannot do dirty and sweaty labor in them. The women of the class are dressed up in elegant outfits that are even more useless for any practical labor. And also, when labor was mainly outdoors in agriculture and building, the person of leisure cultivated a pale skin. As labor moved indoors, to the factory and then increasingly to the office, the appearance of leisure was gained through a suntan, at least for people not born of a dark color already.

Read the rest of this entry »

Is There Something Wrong with Me? Or am I Just Protestant? October 19, 2009 1 Comment

I have just had the privilege of attending the preview opening of The Sacred Made Real, an exhibition of Spanish polychrome sculpture and painting from the 17th century, at the National Gallery in London.

Some of the artworks are paintings, some are brightly painted wood statues. In some cases the paintings appear, in fact, to be paintings of nearby statues! I was struck with the fact that the paintings and statues were very clear and very beautiful. But I do not find myself much moved spiritually, oddly enough, by having pictures of important spiritual events paraded in front of me. I know my salvation depends on Jesus’ death on the cross, but images of it do not necessarily inspire me to prayer or praise. Nor do constant parades of images of the Annunciation or the Madonna and Child move me to prayer or praise on the mystery of the Incarnation. Good poetry or music is actually a lot more likely to do that.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Left Would Rather Bargain with the Redevelopment Monster October 14, 2009 No Comments

I had the fortune to discover a little piece written by one Alyssa Katz in American Prospect Online, after the Kelo decision. The AARP and the NAACP, not organizations of the right, had joined Cato and Reason, of libertarian leanings, in filing briefs for Kelo, which would have restricted the use of eminent domain to true public use, not private urban improvements. But Ms. Katz worries that the commitments of such as Cato and Reason, and Pacific States Legal Foundation and Mountain States Legal Foundation, are for a slightly broader political agenda, one that is aimed at environmental laws and other state controls on land.

What she seems to say is, instead of outlawing eminent domain for “urban redevelopment,” that leftist activist organizations should approach each redevelopment on a case-by-case basis. And they should make noise and extract specific concessions, like “affordable” (often subsidized) housing, “living wage” jobs for locals, and community centers to be thrown in. This, of course, puts a premium on people who can do like ACORN and organize. Smaller organizations, like rescue missions and other church social services, might not be able to make such a fuss. In my opinion, political power is a form of “wealth.” It often coincides with economic wealth, though not always. And I believe that the function of justice is to protect the poor and powerless, including the politically poor and powerless.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Surprising Fruit of 9/11 September 11, 2009 2 Comments

Today is the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York City. In the US, the event seemed to me to have an effect on the results of the 2004 election, but by the time of the 2008 election the impact had faded. And yet I would contend the long-term impact of the 9/11 attacks has been quite different from what “patriots” often figure.

On the morning that the planes crashed into the buildings, only one nation in the world had so-called “marriage equality” in that recognized partnerships between man and man, or woman and woman, were defined for legal purposes as the same as marriage between a man and a woman. And this was less than two years old. (How the Netherlands got from Abraham Kuyper to this in less than a hundred years is another story, which I wish I understood!) Today, Flanders, Brussels, Wallonia, Spain, Norway, and Sweden have been added to the ranks of so-called “marriage equality” countries in Europe, and the Republic of South Africa – once again making itself the odd country on the African continent – in Africa, and, in North America, all Canada and most of the New England states, and Iowa _ though in Iowa the decision was imposed unilaterally by a creative judicial interpretation and is vulnerable in the long run to the democratic political process.

Read the rest of this entry »