Thursday, November 30, 2006

Meeting another optimization expert ...

This one actually did his Ph.D. thesis on genetic algorithms for optimization. He said that most of his publications were on genetics algorithms, given that this is the hot topic, but he much preferred the traditional mathematical optimization. For me, this is one of the most beautiful areas of applied, multi-dimensional calculus. Some of us were lamenting that the new young engineers begin work with no appreciation for mathematical optimization. More importantly, thanks to Darwinism, they generally view this entire field with disdain. It is an irony that Darwinists insist that they are protecting science from the fundamentalist, but in fact, they are encouraging mental slothfulness by implying that key aspects of intelligent design that have been effective for decades are useless.
From my hotel window in Taipei ...

This is a view of Taipei Truth Lutheran Church which is strategically located just across the street from National Taiwan University. It is almost next door to another multi-story building that houses Grace Baptist Church.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Heading for Taipei ...

See y'all later.
The Economist begins blogging?

As my wife can testify to, I can be quite dull regarding keeping up with things. This is the first time I noticed an Economist blog. The article is about rebranding of Liberalism which I found interesting.
The Broom, the Rug, and the Doctrine of Errancy.

"Conquest of Babylonia ... Other priests were dissatisfied. Jewish prophets were predicting Babylon's fall and hailing Cyrus as the Lord's Anointed who would grant return to Zion [Isaiah chapters 35,40-55]. The whole land was in chaos." - History of the Persian Empire, A. T. Olmstead, 1948.

As this excerpt shows, there was a high regard for the Bible by this researcher from the University of Chicago Oriental Institute. Sometimes I wish I had much more time to sift through the works of this era, because a few data points are a poor basis for extrapolating trends. My main impression is that the contempt for the Bible began to dissipate in the mid-20th century and this history takes seriously the books of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. Perhaps it was even the scholars that started the change. This book references Rawlinson, the scholar who translated Herodotus a century earlier, but who gave no credit to the Bible.

For this Fundamentalist, the memory of collective scholarly malpractice isn't going away. Most Fundamentalists aren't nearly so historically curious as I am, so retain the ideology of hostility to Scholars while not remembering what happened. Groups such as the PCA have long memories too of the Presbyterian split.

The purpose of bringing all this up is not so that the divisions can be maintained. I hope all Christians want to see more unity between those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord. This isn't going to happen if scholars insist that this era never happened.

Regarding inerrancy, I am not happy with much of the wording of the Chicago Statement. As far as the Fundamentalists are concerned, the only alternative to the Chicago Statement is that scholars will police themselves. When have they ever done that?

Friday, November 24, 2006

A old set of books:

I have a collection of 50 volumes called the "Harvard Classics" published in 1909, but probably assembled considerably earlier. The introduction to the set claims that it is a collection of the most important literature ever written, translated into English so that the laymen could discourse with the scholar. It as numerous Greek and Latin works from classical times along with the Bible, the Koran, and works of Confucious. (Yes, the scholar can read all of this in the original!) There are German, French and English philosophers and countless other minor works, such as Shakespeare. Many scientific works are included such as Newton, Pascal Farraday and others. What struck me about this set is that only one author had two volumes dedicated to him: Darwin. The volumes are "The Voyage of the Beagle" and "The Origin of Species".

The reason this is significant is the attitude of the age: Darwin was considered to be the most significant thinker produced in the history of the world. Again, this is 1909, which means that DNA and proteins and just about everything else of modern biology wouldn't begin to be understood for another half century. There was no conceivable application of Darwinism in 1909! Darwinism had been accepted as "proven", yet the science necessary to prove it didn't exist yet! As always, if we chose a "doctrine of errancy" (or something similar) as our unifying concept, then this can explained far more plausibly than by pretending that it was compelled by new scientific understanding.
Fosdick on Fundamentalists:

"This morning we are to think of the Fundamentalist controversy which threatens to divide the American churches, as though the were not already sufficiently split and riven." - 1st Presbyterian Church, New York City, 1922

Harry Emmerson Fosdick was one of the premier preachers of the era and greatly influenced seminaries around the US. One of his famous sermons was entitled "The Perils of Worshipping Jesus", which firmly establishes Fosdick as a disciple of the anti-Christ.

There are two sets of Christians which aren't the same but with considerable overlap: Those who proclaim Christ as Lord and those who take the Fundamentalist position on the Bible. Now as I have said several times, the Fundamentalists aren't without considerable faults. Regarding this era, however, theologians who accepted Christ as Lord but rejected Fundamentalist and/or extremely conservative interpretation of the Bible were silent and passive as people like Fosdick and Van Dyke who rejected Christ's divinity tried to stamp out Christianity while proclaiming themselves to be superior Christians. Division that preserves a remnant is certainly to be preferred over unity that sends us all to Hell.
Pull out of Iraq?

Pulling out probably represents a death warrant for tens of thousands if not more, but it is probably mandatory now. Both the left and right see it as necessary to engineer a defeat of Bush, but I see something else: The original assumption was that a pluralistic government could be established over an armed, Islamic society with outside agitation.

The core problem is that the fundamentals of Islam do not allow for anything other than an Islamic government and only a tyranny can suppress this. The Sunni and Shiite brands of Islam both consider each other to be infidels, so the idea that they could serve together was wrong at the outset. There are many unpleasant lessons to be learned, from the inherent weakness of Democracy to the way Islam values dialog. I am not optimistic that we will learn anything sensible.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Doctrine of Errancy when applied to other Religions.

Henry van Dyke, who I have picked on earlier, wrote a book entitled "The Other Wise Man" in which he hinted that Zoroaster was possibly related to the prophet Daniel. Certainly they were both famous prophets teaching monotheism. The Persians claim he lived during the reign of Hystaspes, who was the father of Darius, although there are many other myths about Zoroaster and claims that he lived thousands of years earlier. Documentation on Zoroaster is scant with only a few Greek references that come after the alleged time that Daniel was written. The Zoroastrian scriptures are much later.

My interest was in comparing the treatment of Zoroaster to Daniel by the scholars. Unlike Daniel, they have no trouble accepting that there was a real historical Zoroaster who preached a new religion. The treatment of the book of Daniel is systematically hostile, while the treatment of Zoroaster is entirely sympathetic in my 1910 Encyclopedia Britannica. A key characteristic of the Doctrine of Errancy, besides dissing the Bible, was in elevating things that were considered competitors to Christianity.
The Doctrine of Errancy regarding the Book of Daniel:

"Daniel, the name given to the central figure of the biblical Book of Daniel, which is now generally regarded as a production dating from the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.)."

"In view of these facts, and also of the generally inaccurate character of all the historial statements in the work there is really no evidence to prove even the existence of the Daniel described in the book bearing his name." - Encyclopedia Britannica, 1910

Translation: The Book of Daniel is garbage, which most of the rest of this article reasserts in much more detail. A typical example of their rejection being that Daniel mentions angels, but angels don't occur in the rest of the old testament, therefore it must be of later origin! Ahhh, those lying spirits! Having gone through Herodotus in some detail and compared to Daniel and Esther, I am still waiting to see a competent defense of the "generally inaccurate character" claim.

My 1910 Encyclopedia Britannica set is a treasure trove of Doctrine of Errancy proclaimations. Again, to understand Christian Fundamentalism, one must first understand what Fundamentalism was reacting against. The intelligensia had gone stark raving mad in their superior intelligence. The simpletons recognized this and just said "no"!
Happy Thanksgiving. These turkeys are thankful for a thick fog to hide in.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Doctrine of Errancy and the Titanic Eulogy.

"Where, then, does this rule which prevailed in the sinking Titanic come from? It comes from God, through the faith of Jesus of Nazareth." - Henry van Dyke, 1912

Henry van Dyke was head of the Presbyterians and a famous professor who certainly was mainstream. The eulogy he gave for the victims of the Titanic sinking was remarkable for its similarity in theology to what Thomas Jefferson believed. Jesus is a moral guru, but nothing more. There is no afterlife and God is not sovereign in his theology. Also note the little twist in words: "faith of Jesus" has been substituted for the usual "faith in Jesus". Henry van Dyke's doctrine of errancy is much more subtle, but pervades everything.
More on the Doctrine of Errancy.

"I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore to Him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of His disciples. Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus. These palpable interpolations and falsifications of His doctrines, led me to try to sift them apart. I found the work obvious and easy, and that His past composed the most beautiful morsel of morality which has been given to us by man." - Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Short, 1820.

This is about as close to a statement of the Doctrine of Errancy that can be found: The Bible is full of errors and Jefferson, being educated, believes that he is competent to sort out the fact from the fiction and proceeds to do so with the Jefferson Bible. Chronologically, Darwinism falls at the end of the establishment of the Doctrine of Errancy and was clearly mandatory to the intellectual mind no matter what the situation in science was.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Quote of the Day:

"Moses had ruled bloodlessly by inventing interviews with God, but Joshua ruled by the second law of nature - that the superior killer survives." - Will Durant, The Story Of Civilization, 1935.

I should probably keep putting in a few quotes from the doctrine of errancy for awhile. Will Durant represents the mainstream view of Christianity from this era - that the Bible was garbage.
The Economist regarding the dilemma of Islamic terrorism in England.

Option 1: Do nothing and the terrorist cells increase unchecked.
Option 2: Clamp down and new terrorists replace the ones who are caught while blaming all of their violence on the clamp down.
- The Economist only lists two options -
Option 3: Repent (i.e. dump your immorality) and turn to Jesus.

The violence is just beginning.
Miffed about Memory.

As this Digitimes article shows, the prices of memory chips have defied the laws of physics for the last year. I was hoping to load up some of my machines with 32 Gbytes of RAM for a few hundred bucks, but prices have been going up for a long time. Grrrrrr. Much of the explanation seems to be that solar panels are competing with chip making for high quality silicon production. The global warming prophets are warning of a GDP loss if we do nothing. I like solar and don't have any problem with supporting it, but there is also a big GDP loss if we reallocate resources by doing something. At this point, no one can say whether doing something or doing nothing will result in a greater GDP loss. Inane rhetoric from the global warming lobby is not helpful.
Some thoughts regarding symbolism from the story of Gideon.

"Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country." - Judges 6:3

"And he said, "I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder." (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)" -Judges 8:24

The Amalekites were descendents of Esau and the enmity between them and the descendants of Jacob is a theme throughout the old testament. In the story of Gideon, we see the Amalekites teaming with the Ishmaelites and putting all of Israel under great distress. As Galatians tells us, the Ishmaelites are slaves to the law and symbolize those who trust in rituals and rules for salvation. Esau's symbolism is explained in Hebrews 12:16: "See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son." In a sense, the religion of license and the religion of legalism are opposites and we would expect more conflict between them, but in this case, they have joined to attack the Israelites - the ones who are trusting in God's promise. It isn't hard to see how this pattern fits into many of today's conflicts.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A major yardwork project means that there will be no running around in the mud for a month or two. Sigh. There is a common misconception that people own houses. The fact is that houses own people.
Mock Gay Wedding at MSJ High school.

The gay-straight alliance organized a few days to promote their depravity-centric morality at MSJ including one day for mock gay weddings. Some other groups organized a protest day against gay marriage in response, but a few teachers stepped in and said that they would give bad grades to anyone who attended. The principal then said that he would not allow this (clarification: "this" is the punishment of anti-gay protestors via grades), but the damage was already done: There is always a subjective element to grading and the kids are fearful of what will happen if they exercise their rights to freedom of speech.
Slaves to the Law.

Islamic law is spreading further in Somalia. Islamic law has much that is positive. For example, alcoholic drinks are banned along with pornography and prostitution. Western movies and literature are usually banned.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tracking a hymn: "Jesus the Christ is born".

1. Jesus the Christ is born,
Give thanks now, every one.
Rejoice, ye great ones and ye small,
God's will, it has been done.

2. Ye mighty kings of earth,
Before the manger bed,
Cast down, cast down your golden crown
From off your royal head.

3. For in this lowly guise
The son of God do sleep,
And see the Queen of Heaven kneel,
Her faithful vigil keep.

4. Two angels at His head,
Two angels at His feet
Beside His bed the flower red,
Perfuming there so sweet.

5. Jesus the Christ is born,
Give thanks now, every one.
Rejoice, ye great ones and ye small,
God's will, hit has been done.

This was proposed as a choir piece to practice for Christmas by a lady who sung this in church when she was a young girl. She said that the church was a Baptist one in Endicott. Looking at the lyrics again, she was bothered and asked me to do some searching.

The hymn was part of a collection of Appalachian tunes collected by John Jacob Niles. With a bit of internet searching, I found that it was recorded in 1934 in Sevier County, Tennessee. This brought back some memories because much of Sevier County was my bike racing training ground when I was a kid. Unfortunately, there was nothing more beyond this that I located on the net regarding the origin or the hymn.

From the context, it appears that "Queen of Heaven" is a reference to Mary and seems to link to the Roman Catholic Mariolatry. The same phrase occurs in Jeremiah 7 and 44, probably as a reference to Ishtar, as something that provoked God to anger, but I don't think that this is the direct link to the hymn. The Shakers also use the term "Queen of Heaven" for their bizarre theology.

Anyway, I don't have a good feeling about the hymn and there are plenty of others which are less problematic, such as "The Little Drummer Boy"!
Friends of Children with Special Needs.

Last night I went to another fund raiser. This one had about 1,000 people attending a dinner and show at the Santa Clara Convention center. The group was almost entirely Chinese and was raising funds for children with mental disabilities. About 20 politicians from around Silicon Valley were present. This was one of those strange events where materialism and charity are thrown together and stirred up. In my racially prejudiced mind, Chinese and charity don't go together, but this proved to me that this was not necessarily how I should view the world.

The show was a little like the usual Chinese school shows with groups singing and performing. What was different was that the children were almost all facing severe mental challenges. The usual Chinese family that I work with has at least one Ph.D. and expects their children to get a 2200 on the SAT so that they won't be losers. What happens when the intellectually and financially perfect couple finds they have a handicapped child?

We had a soccer camp where the kids from our church could help work with the FCSN children during the summer. With materialism so strong in the Chinese community, this was quite a refreshing time to see our young people learn something about caring for others.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Who was Simplicio?

Note that all that most of what I am going to write here has been written in countless secular histories.

Simplicio was a character from Galileo's book, "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic & Copernican". It was this book that triggered the final battle between Galileo and his enemies. For the most part, Simplicio (meaning simpleton) was a blind follower of Aristotle. These intellectuals were common throughout Europe and the original purpose of the Royal Society in England was to oppose their teaching. As always, there is a reason that the context of the intellectuals is deleted by the historians when the final summation of what happened to Galileo is presented.

The next important thing to remember is that the fascination with Greek teaching had already gone on for many centuries (ref. Thomas Aquinas). Aristotle (and Ptolemy) was a higher authority than the Bible, but this couldn't be stated directly. Instead, the interpretation of the Bible was forced to conform to the Greek views. With this context, it is easy to see that Galileo offended the intelligentsia of his day. To the extent that Galileo did offend the church, it was that the intelligentsia operated out of the church. Galileo was given a minimal reprimand by the Inquisition, but this was done by the church to appease the intellectuals.

So let me present the proper view of the intellectual solar system, because it applies to Biblical times, the time of Galileo and our present time also:

1) For every outstanding Galileo, there are a hundred other intellectuals with fancy credentials.
2) Ambition is far more common than talent. Simplicio is the mainstream of intellectuals.
3) Ethics among intellectuals never exceeds that of the general population.
4) Intellectuals are always trying to make the Bible conform to their erroneous world views. At one time, that meant forcing it to follow the teaching of Aristotle. Today, we try to make it conform to Darwinism and Liberalism although some try to make it conform to a Nationalistic Conservatism or whatever.
5) When their personal positions are rejected, intellectuals insist that everything that they bundled their personal view to was rejected and try to exploit this.
6) A significant block of intellectuals enthusiastically pursue their vendettas.
7) "Beware of the yeast ..."

Friday, November 17, 2006

The NYT puts out an editorial that I can agree with regarding corruption ...

Nancy's support of Murtha being clearly a mistake. The bigger problem is that the MSM has traditionally operated hand-in-hand with the Democrats. Republicans are quick to be corrected for their corruption which will be done both by the MSM and the voters. During my lifetime, however, the Democrats have not similarly had to face house cleaning issues. Thus, senator Kennedy, famous for a midnight swim with a young lady in the Chappaquidick river, can not only remain in office but be treated as a serious moralizer. Pay-to-play was a major factor in the governator's win. The Clinton's left a trail of bizarre events (remember Filegate and Travelgate?), but established that the existence of crime was irrelevant, as long as there wasn't a paper trail.

If the NYT starts to demand similar standards for Democrats as they do for Republicans, they can go a long ways towards recovering their reputation.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What if ... Martin Luther had actually invented indulgences?!!!

You see, Christianity had been in a state of spiritual harmony and bliss for 14 centuries! Suddenly, Luther came along and started preaching against indulgences, but no one had ever heard of indulgences. People were whipped into a frenzy and went around doing all kinds of outrageous things. All Christendom was thus disturbed by this madman. Wouldn't we have been better off if we had never heard to Luther or his indulgences?!

By leaving out the Catholic context that Luther was reacting against, the entire picture is badly skewed. Indulgences, however, are really just the tip of the iceberg as one tries to understand the church of Machiavelli and the Borgias.

My problem with the treatment of Fundamentalism is that it is always handled in a manner identical to my fictitious handling of the Reformation. There is no context. In the case of inerrancy, one is always left with the impression that it just appeared out of thin air, rather than being a reaction to the doctrine of errancy. From my older history books, the doctrine of errancy for the Old Testament goes something like this: The Biblical myths were created roughly at the time of the Maccabees. They were a synthesis of ancient Babylonian ideas mixed with a Zoroastrian monotheism that was imported from Persia. The spiritual value that these 19th century intellectuals found in the Bible was rather less than a trashy novel. Similar attitudes were to be found towards the New Testament. This wasn't just a few odd balls, but the mainstream views that swept away Christian teaching in the now secular universities and in most of the mainline seminaries. It predates Darwinism by half a century and continued until the mid 20th century.

Today, most of these earlier positions have been abandoned, although there is still a considerable gap between the intelligentsia and the fundamentalists on the reliability of the Bible. Of course, today's Catholic church can't be compared to the decadence of the Renaissance, so to explain the Reformation, the Catholic church must be put into its proper context. Certainly there were many abuses by Reformation leaders, but their actions do seem much more reasonable when put into context. Similarly, to understand Fundamentalism is impossible without a proper context of the 19th and early 20th century intellectuals: The intellectuals really didn't know very much, but were hyper-conceited and contemptuous of Christians and everything associated with Christianity. With non-stop garbage coming out of the intellectuals' mouths, inerrancy solved the problem of trying to figure out what was true and what was false! Fundamentalism, being human, also had its share of abuses, but it was more than justified in its reaction to these intellectuals.
Sitting in the courtyard at UC San Diego ...

"The beginning of wisdom is a complete disregard for the Lord." - Philosophy 101

I was reading the student newspaper waiting for my daughter to finish her class. An author named James wrote an article entitled "Why I am an Atheist". He wanted to address the arguments put forward on behalf of religion. I was excited: How would an atheist respond to Pascal's Wager? Would he take on the observable that survival of the fittest doesn't favor atheists?

James brought out the most compelling argument he had encountered on behalf of religion: "religion makes you feel good"! I was certainly astounded. Is this what we get from a university ranked 7th best public university in the nation by US News and World Report and 13 internationally by another study? The same issue of the student newspaper also had two articles on "negative learning" due to the recent study of university student knowledge of basic facts about the US at 50 campuses. UC Berkeley freshmen scored 60.4% while the seniors scored 54.8% - the more you study the less you know. The UCSD paper was discussing what the university could/should do to try to improve things. Perhaps they could start by admitting total failure in their ability to teach anything about Western Civilization.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I am having trouble getting to the internet, but it is good to be in La Jolla with my daughter.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Truth About The Trade Deficit.

I guess I can't fault this NY Times for getting the "truth" wrong in this article because they didn't make an attempt to explain what the "truth" is! The "truth", however, is a large number of factors that all point to one fact: US consumers prefer to purchase foreign made products. These are the factors that I hear and/or see with US companies that preclude US competitiveness:

1) Incompetent management.
2) Militant unions.
3) Runaway health costs.
4) Permanent disability fraud.
5) Tax law that penalizes investment and hiring.
6) Runaway property costs and/or other environmental costs.

I suspect that American politicians will do exactly nothing about the problems over the next decade, but they will look at ways to attack the symptoms. Health costs, for example, are due to artificial supply restrictions mixed with massive government investment in the elderly that is only due to get worse, especially if we move to a universal system. The only practical move to cut the US deficit would be to shift the tax burden from corporations (especially payroll) to consumption taxes. The down side here is that consumption taxes are regressive and the populists would (rightly) howl that it is a giveaway to the corporations. Of course, simultaneously demonizing US corporations and whining about trade deficits is a bit silly.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The conservative argument for pulling out of Iraq:

Are Army is for fighting wars, and frankly, there isn't really a war. Yes, there is a bunch of lawlessness and a desire by Shiites and Sunnis to kill each other that is fueled by outsiders. This is a police action and the US Army isn't the world's policeman.

(Not that I think that this argument is the only or most compelling one, but I think it is important to note that people can want to pull US soldiers out of Iraq while being anywhere in the political spectrum.)
Elton John says that there is a fundamental conflict between God and gays.

He didn't quite put it that way, but said that religion should be banned so that gays can have their rights. Actually, I find this refreshingly honest compared to those who insist that God didn't say what he clearly did say regarding homosexuality. In the end, God will pass judgment on all sin. For me as a teacher, I strongly believe (and fear) that spinning God's words will be condemned more harshly than homosexuality.
Koranic Reading Competition

Across Islam, this is a favorite competition. The article provides a brief description. The Koran is memorized and recited by the young as well as middle aged scholars. An emphasis is on the competitors voice and how well he can pronounce the Arabic.
Two things that are detestable: Clean trail running shoes and an unworn Bible.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My church friend cancelled on me due to the rain. :(

Friday, November 10, 2006

I have the flu again. Tomorrow's run will need to be shortened. Another runner from the church wants to join me, so we plan to compromise with a 15 miler.
It was the corruption, stupid!

Two ladies were talking next to me a few days ago. There was a multi-hundred million dollar project at Lockheed. Many had been enthusiastically working on the project and prepared a report that acknowledged them all. The one who had done the least was the last step in the delivery process, and he erased all the other names and left his as the sole author before submitting the report to the air force. The upper management was impressed, so the know-nothing was promoted to run the entire program. Things went very badly with the next customer briefing and Lockheed was threatened with a program cancellation. The upper management responded by pressuring the other workers to support the know-nothing who they promoted. Some resigned. Others found ways to hide. The contract was lost a year later, but not to worry: Lockheed bought up the competitor who took the contract!

It is a story line that I have heard too many times with different names regarding both industry and government. Get rid of one corrupt bureaucrat or politician and there are ten more waiting to take his place who are even more corrupt!

Additional Note: At least half of the corruption picture is false accusations by the corrupt against others, who probably aren't innocent, just not guilty of the particular charges.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I remember reading about how George Washington struggled with officers whose ambition far exceeded their talent. As I look at Rumsfield, I see a similar man trying to deal with officers and journalists who have those same properties that Washington lived with. Washington lost almost all his battles, but won the war. Rumsfield, on the other hand, won all his battles, but was facing an unwinnable war. The left likes to demonize Rumsfield, but I would ask them to look at him again. Could any other defense secretary have done a better job? Was the problem really with the execution, or perhaps with the original plan?

The hard questions that weren't asked while Rumsfield was being attacked are still with us: Is democracy possible in a country of jihadis who are being armed by outsiders? Is the West's metanarrative regarding Islam correct? What motivates terrorists? Rumsfield's task was to execute a plan based on the erroneous answers of others to the hard questions. He did his job well.
Night of the Alternate Minimum Tax.

The AMT is something that Americans are about to discover. I was hit by it one year. My wife and I had routinely over withheld state taxes and applied for a refund at the end of the year. Under the AMT, we found that we were suddenly hit with a very large penalty at refund time! The AMT sets caps on deductions (home mortgage + charity + state taxes) while introducing taxes on various forms of virtual income (i.e. income that you probably will never see). The Republicans introduced a temporary reduction to the AMT which is set to expire next year. This means that Nancy can raise taxes simply by doing nothing. The Economist reports that the number of people hit with the AMT should jump from 3.4 million to 22 million.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, since the AMT targets middle-aged, two earner families (aka the top 1%). Families that extended to the limit to get a mortgage in the soaring housing market will be in for a big surprise.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Time to rejoice that an election is over. Now I have plenty of reason to put more thought into my church and less into politics! Thank you Jesus.
A picture from last winter on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More on the US lagging behind the 3rd world on math education ...

The US education theoreticians are discussing how to remedy this by changing what is taught. The issues of who is teaching and how things are being taught are off limits, as usual.
"They make many promises, take false oaths and make agreements; therefore lawsuits spring up like poisonous weeds in a plowed field." - Hosea 10:4

This note on lawsuits would very nicely characterize America today. The verse was brought to mind by this article on new attackdog watchdog groups that are setting up to collect evidence for litigation during the current election.

Monday, November 06, 2006

What was Paul's Thorn?

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." - 1 Corinthians 12:7-12

When I was younger, I was told that this was probably some physical ailment. As I looked at Paul again, I couldn't see that he would be react as described to a physical ailment. What I have also pondered is that it might be a sin or temptation that he struggles with, because this would be something much more difficult to deal with emotionally and something that would possibly keep him humble with all of the great revelations that he was given. Any other thoughts? has some interesting notes on worldwide public sector corruption estimates. I got this from The Economist.
Price controls for drugs in California ...

This bill was rejected by the California voters a year earlier when presented to them directly as Prop. 79. In fact, the final tally on Prop. 79 was 60.7% opposed and 39.3% in favor. It mandates discount pricing for "low" and "middle" income people. The gays were pushing hard for drug price controls (hopefully, no explanation needed on why this is so important to them), which is probably the reason that it was flown in under the radar.
More on bogus polls:

In all areas of life, errors due to things ranging from inaccuracies to outright fraud is expected. The regular last minute jumps in the polls before an election are usually explained by people making up their mind at the last minute. Much is probably due to this. Another chunk, however, is deliberately orchestrated: The MSM releases a scandal - such as the Foley matter - and within hours they are polling to see the effect. Manipulating opionion and discouraging their opponents (the MSM remains far-out Left) has always been a primary objective of political polling. What will really be sad is if the Left buys into the notion that voting fraud by the Right is the primary reason for the polling errors.
Election Predictions: God is sovereign and this will be true regardless of what happens on Tuesday. Relax and sleep well the next two nights.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Yesterday's trail run started at 5:20am. The fog was thick so it was difficult to see the trail in the dark even with the headlamp. It is always nice to see the sunrise. God's creation is awesome.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What is a Reactionary?

This question came up due to my son's American government class. As the teacher sees it, a Neanderthal is an under-evolved, sub-species of conservative. Like many other words, the popular meaning has somehow detached itself from the underlying meaning of the word.

A more helpful way of understanding a Reactionary is that he is characterized by the reaction. In other words, he does not have a coherent ideology of his own, but rather develops things as a series of negative reactions to ideologies that he disagrees with. We should begin this with some attempt to be honest: I have behaved in a negatively reactive way (yes, I am a contrarian!), and you don't need to work in an American company long before you see reactionary behavior to sabotage a rival. Having worked several years in Japan, the thing I appreciated the most was being spared the reactionary garbage that is unavoidable in the US.

There is still a big gap, however, between reactionary tendencies and a reactionary ideology. The primary characteristic that I see of a reactionary ideology is the lack of a coherent ideology that can be defined without reference to other ideologies. A series of reactions are thus accumulated to form the ideology, but the relationship between the reactions isn't there and the result is hopelessly inconsistent. Thus, I propose that inconsistency will be the primary feature.

As mentioned at the beginning, Reactionary was somehow attached to a sub-species of conservatives. One of the primary being those who are opposed to taxpayer subsidies (aka rights) being provided to gays and especially those who claim that levels of gay promiscuity precludes a notion of monogamy for them. These people are called "homophobes" and lumped into the reactionary category. Many of them, however, are Christians who are reasonably literate and base their reaction on the Bible. Others aren't Christians, but recognize that gays are a public health nightmare and not helpful in promoting sensible families, which are the foundation of society. Those who oppose the gay agenda have standards, so calling them "homophobes" and "reactionaries" merely earns the dunce award.

My claim is that inconsistency is the primary symptom of the reactionary. For example, when it comes to abortion, we loudly hear how "choice" is sacred and cannot be revoked. Switching the topic to schools, many of the same people will immediately switch to a choice-be-damned mode. Clearly, "choice" is not a value to them. Another issue being war, and suddenly a group of "pro-choice" types wll condemn killing, torture and the lack of proper judicial proceedings. Then there is my personal favorite: Intellectuals who intelligently design arguments to prove that intelligent design is impossible!

With both parties being totally without a plan going into the upcoming election, but hurling insult after insult at the other, it is tempting to reject them both as reactionaries.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Mission Peak from the Stanford Avenue parking lot. It is only 3.5 miles to the top, which is 2,100 feet higher. It rained the last 2 days. I am looking forward to running in the mud and seeing things turn green again.
Remembering a failed 50k trail run.

Last year about this time, I joined the Stinson Beach Trail Run. Earlier the training runs had reached 30 miles on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, so it seemed there was some hope to do this. Unfortunately I took a flu shot, came down with the flu, and then stayed sick for 3 months. Thus the run was started all drugged up to try calming the coughing. Early on, I was embedded in a group along the single track who were discussing the charms of 100 mile trail runs in the manner that others might discuss a nice resort. Their dream was the world's most beautiful 24 hours of torture, called the Hardrock 100. Thus, I have my mind set to accomplish a 100 mile trail run, if the Lord allows me to. Shortly afterwards, the asthma medicine caused my heart to start beating much too fast and I had to drop.

This year things seem to be going better. Last weeks 40 mile training run on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail went well. The coughing is still with me, but manageable. So there is some hope, although the Lord may have something more important for me to do.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Olbermann: "There is no line this President has not crossed — nor will not cross — to keep one political party, in power."

Advanced theoretical physics tells us that there are two ways that the president can cross the line. One is to step over the line, as Nixon did. The other is that all of the lines can be moved underneath the president by someone else. In this case, the crossing of the lines by President Bush tells us exactly nothing about the character of President Bush, but plenty about the creativity of his critics.
A death sentence is overturned ...

For a murder that happened in 1978. Lawyers have been litigating this for 28 years with both the prosecution and defense lawyers paid by US taxpayers. The judge said that the jury did not receive adequate evidence of the defendant's mental illness. The overall episode, however, points to mental illness being what is driving our entire judicial system.
China's African policy from The Economist.

This article outlines China's methods in Africa, which involve buying influence with a complete disregard for human rights throughout the continent. This is to gain votes in the UN, to isolate Taiwan, and to gain access to raw materials to drive economic growth. The Chinese government stirs up support at home by reminding its citizens frequently of the wrongs inflicted by the West in the 19th century along with Japan's more recent incursions. The relationship between China and the US is quite complex, as the Chinese leadership probably has many grandchildren living in the US.

While many Americans believe a foreign policy should be altruistic first, it is important to remember that there are powerful entities outside of the US who don't see things that way.
Willie Nelson commenting on horses ...

And my personal observation: When I encounter wild horses on my trail runs, they usually stop talking and pay attention - which is very unlike the children in my Jr. High Sunday School class.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

According to the BBC, John Kerry issued an apology so that he would not "allow the Republican hate machine to use Democratic candidates as their proxies in their distorted spin war". As usual, this throws even more confusion into the works: 1) I don't get where the apology is in this rhetoric. 2) The Republicans don't know who they are supposed to hate. 3) Who needs a distorted spin war when Kerry's words are most effective when quoted directly? 4) Given that John Kerry has a political science degree from Yale and a very long political career, you would think he would have the sense not to let himself be used as a "proxy" for the opposite party. Keep up the good work! No pain, no gain!
I will be glad when this election is over ...

Regardless of what happens, I am confident that God is in control and He will do things according to His good and perfect plan. The other thing is that I look forward to politics moving to the back burner and there being a bit less tension between Christians of different party affiliations.
Dan Quayle is probably feeling real smug at the moment.
Talk isn't always the answer.

"When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer." - Luke 23:8-9
We are vegetarians, but we would much rather be eating meat!

Last night, I went to dinner with a strict vegetarian friend. To accomodate him, and because my cholesterol is high, we went to a Chinese vegetarian restaurant. These are invariably Buddhist motivated and there is always plenty of religious literature to be seen as soon as you walk in the door. We had some usual delicacies like seaweed soup, but what always strikes me is the number of "meat" dishes on the menu: Goose, eel, beef, shrimp, squid, ... These aren't really from animals, but rather made using tofu with variations in texture and maybe some artificial flavoring to try approximating the texture and flavor of the meat. The attempt to immitate what they are not allowed to eat always strikes me as peculiar.