Saturday, February 28, 2009

Some flowering trees in the central valley on the way to Los Angeles.
San Luis reservoir is mostly empty today. This is a key part of the California Aqueduct.
The Economist: Bargaining with Islam in the UK.

The problem I see is that the European Enlightenment was established and fine tuned for the purpose of stamping out Christianity. This heroic attack on a religion that has meekness as one of its most fundamental values has certainly been successful. Even where Christianity still thrives in name, core beliefs have invariably been tossed aside in a futile effort to reduce the scoffing. Against Islam, however, the finely honed intellectual warfare skills of the left suddenly lose all their effectiveness.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bible trivia: Moses and the Troglodytes

"There were now come, therefore, to this well seven sisters that were virgins, the daughters of Raguel, a priest, and one thought worthy by the people of the country of great honor. These virgins, who took care of their father's flocks, which sort of work it was customary and very familiar for women to do in the country of the Troglodytes, they came first of all, and drew water out of the well in quantity sufficient for their flocks, into troughs, which were made for the reception of that water; ... So he made him (Moses) his son, and gave him one of his daughters in marriage; and appointed him to be the guardian and superinntendent over his catttle; for of old, all the wealth of the barbarians was in those cattle." - Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 2.12.1

So how many of you knew that Moses married a Troglodyte?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Looking north and waving at Delirious.
Obama's speech to congress: " ... and I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it."

Somehow I don't think Obama was referring to the invention of the automobile in Germany. Obama's inadvertent revisionism, however, does represent so much of what was wrong in the speech. Removing the life support on American owned car companies is hardly walking away from the automobile, given that non-union foreign car factories and R&D centers have been thriving. America's education system too is on life support, but thanks to the stimulus, it will continue to produce the world's worst results for a few more years. There was an array of other things that certainly caused Adam Smith to groan in his grave. For those who think socialism works, this new direction is a promise of hope and change. For those who think socialism only works when it has a large, properous free market entity nearby to munch off of, this represents a 'total and unmitigated defeat'.

There was one bit that I really liked in Obama's speech:

"In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a parent, for a mother or father who will attend those parent-teacher conferences, or help with homework, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, read to their child.

I speak to you not just as a president, but as a father, when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home. "

Amen.
Equality and the banking mess.

"Do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit ...
Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits" - Exodus 23:3-6

And so the notion of equality that western nations cherish began 3,600 years ago. Originally it was a notion of equality before the law, where no one would be treated with favoritism because either they were wealthy and upper class, or conversely that they were poor and not part of the hated upper classes.

Somewhere along the line (long after the US constitution was written) equality before the law was dumped and today's school children debate whether equality means equality of opportunity (liberalism) or equality of result (communism), which is to say that the concept of equality has been dismissed from the schools.

Banking isn't about equality. It is about risk analysis and this involves discriminating between recipients of loans based on likelihood of repayment. This is the foundation of banking. In the mid-90's, a series of hearings were held in congress investigating the fact that the banks job of risk analysis caused loans to be denied in greater numbers to poor minorities so that equality was necessarily lost. It was clear that this evil needed to be stamped out, and so it was. The poorest minority who was unable to hold a job could get a loan, just as a wealthy and prudent doctor could. Equality of banking was achieved and universally lauded as a good thing because the status of the poor had been raised to the level of the rich. In our current collapse, however, the reverse seems to be holding: the prudent and employed can't get a loan, just as the deadbeat can't either, but equality of banking is still in place. As the government vows to force banks to take less risk through regulation, but refuses to give up on equality of banking, the end result can only be a denial of credit to the credit worthy so that everyone is equal in denial.

The end conclusion is that the foundation of the banking industry since the middle ages - risk analysis - has been destroyed by liberalism. Nationalization seems to be the only alternative at the moment, but that will leave us even further away from a workable solution. Stay tuned ...

Monday, February 23, 2009

"At the first dawn of day, awake your whole detachment; that being the time when the savages choose to fall upon their enemies, you should by all means be in readiness to receive them." Roger's Rules of Ranging, #15, 1759.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

LA Times: 20% of Los Angeles county receiving public assistance.

This works out to 2.2 million people. It that pattern is statewide, then the total would be about 7.5 million on public assistance. I am all for charity, but the notion that many millions of Californians can't get by without help from the government doesn't seem plausible.
Augustine regarding multiculturalism ...

"This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained, but recognising that, however various these are, they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adapts them, so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thus introduced." - Augustine, City of God, XIX.17
News from the UK: Your Koran copy belongs on the top shelf.

Fortunately I was already in compliance. This does, however, bring up a lot of questions. My house has two floors and this book shelf is on the lower floor. Do the holy books go on the top shelf of the book shelf on the top floor? And what if there are books in the attic? Are there any other holy book handling rules that I need to be aware of?
Turkeys Gone Wild

Saturday, February 21, 2009


There is a bit of snow at the top of Rose Peak left from last weekend's snowstorm.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Marijuana growing in Alameda County ...

While wandering through the local hills, we have mountain lions, rattlers and the occasional bad tempered cow to worry about. Now there is an additional hazard: Marijuana growers in the middle of nowhere with guards carrying high power rifles with scopes. Fortunately it is all for a good cause. The local cities have a great need for medical marijuana.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thoughts on the Oklahoma City incident: "Abort Obama, Not The Unborn".

I find this kind of rhetoric offensive, no matter who it is directed towards - even Osama bin Laden. Romans 12:14 says "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse". A few verses later, Romans 13:1 gives us "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established". Ouch.

The author of the above slogan said that he was posting it because he was a Christian. For Christians, "abort" when referred to humans is a subset of the category "murder", so I won't fault the policeman who pulled the guy over. The author of the sign argued that "abort" meant "impeach", which is perhaps workable for America's sophistic culture, but it isn't acceptable for Christians. Certainly in a Democracy we have a right - even an obligation - to discuss whether policy directions and decisions by politicians are sensible or not. That is a long way from wishing ill on people. "Bless and do not curse."
California Meltdown Watch: Sold out.

And so the chance for meaningful reform to the spending part of California's budget equation was forfeited by six renegade Republicans. That is, sadly, the story of California Republicans for the last few decades. On the other hand, Californians will get the largest tax increase in the state history. Certainly this isn't the end of the California Meltdown Watch, as the tax increases may not fully materialize and the unions are still in power.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Take the BBC's bible knowledge test ...

Glad to see the BBC taking an interest in Bible literacy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Vogon Training Camp.

The Vogons have the "third worst poetry in the universe", according to the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. They used poetry as a means of abusing their victims before executing them. So what should we make of a Christian retreat dedicated to poetry?

The retreat was held at Mission Springs Conference Center in the midst of the redwoods. Our instructor for the time was pastor Brian Morgan of Peninsula Bible Church in Cupertino. Brian noted that 40% of the Bible is written in poetry, but Christians know almost nothing of poetry. David was the most prolific and he did some of his best work when he was miserable. For example, David spent time in a cave hiding from Saul where the floor was covered with bat dung to do some of his work. Oh, the Bat Cave! With David as our example, we were then coerced into writing poetry. The plot was to teach us to express our feelings, but what of us who don't have feelings? If I had feelings, I wouldn't have gone into technology!

As I noted earlier, however, the name "retreat" when Christians use it is just a ruse. It is really a time for developing and sharpening skills. Soon, the participants were scattered about the camp with pen and paper deep in trauma. Something was written, then erased or scribbled over. Gradually the paper filled with scibblings, but eventually a line or two came out. Then a bit more. Eventually we all had to gather back to the room and recite poetry. I won't relay what happened in order to protect the innocent and guilty, but it was a totally new experience for me. Confession, repentance, forgiveness, glorifying God. How can you pack so much in such a short period? But so it happened and I was glad I went.

When I organize a Christian retreat, we are going to solve differential equations.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Lupercalia.

I am off to a Christian "retreat", which means I won't be wired for a few days. The notion of a Christian "retreat" has always bugged me. Aren't we supposed to be soldiers in a spiritual war? Why are we always retreating? We could argue that it is simply a ruse, like the military commanders of the ancient world arranged (or claimed they arranged) numerous times. Christians, however, are not supposed to advance the Kingdom of God via deceptive tactics like a ruse, so this won't do.

My rationalization is that this really isn't a retreat. We aren't going there to lick our wounds, but rather to practice with the Sword of the Lord (i.e. a Bible), seek the Lord, and enjoy some camaraderie in a communal environment! Perhaps we should call it a "tactical training workshop" rather than a "retreat", but we will just need to accept that sometimes words have contradictory meanings and it is just easier to accept it than to fight it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Augustine regarding the formation of numerous sects.

"But let us omit further examination of history, and return to the philosophers from whom we digressed to these things. They seem to have laboured in their studies for no other end than to find out how to live in a way proper for laying hold of blessedness. Why, then, have the disciples dissented from their masters, and the fellow-disciples from one another, except because as men they have sought after these things by human sense and human reasonings? Now, although there might be among them a desire of glory, so that each wished to be thought wiser and more acute than another, and in no way addicted to the judgment of others, but the inventor of his own dogma and opinion, yet I may grant that there were some, or even very many of them, whose love of truth severed them from their teachers or fellow-disciples, that they might strive for what they thought was the truth, whether it was so or not. ...

For among the multitude of philosophers, who in their works have left behind them the monuments of their dogmas, no one will easily find any who agree in all their opinions." - City of God, XVIII.41

One thing I really appreciate about Augustine is his insights into human nature. The above divisions could describe many things, from the multiplication of denominations within the Christian Church to the large number of small, high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Christianity is indeed subject to all the same failings of human nature, but we trust that the Lord tempers those failings and directs us in directions which are true and pleasing anyway.
California Meltdown Watch: The "Budget Deal".

It looks pretty much like what was expected. The plan includes $10.9 billion in borrowing, although borrowing would seem to be precluded by the balanced budget rules of the California budgeting process. The $14.3 billion in new taxes will be real. There is also a $15.8 billion in spending cuts.

Long term the state is still in the death grip of public sector unions, so it is probably best to reject the deal and let the state die a quick death now rather than a slow death over years.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

'Toxic' EU bank assets total £16.3 trillion.

This heading is sure attention grabbing. Another article listed the total European bad debts as $24 trillion, but it disappeared. The Japan Times lists the total bad loans in Japan at ¥12 trillion, which is a $133 billion micro-loan these days. Japan is having troubles, but it is because the exports are drying up. The little known fact is that the US and Europe are in the exact same situation regarding toxic loans, but Japan and China aren't. Now why might that be?

The simple explanation is that both Europe and the US were following similar policies regarding banks and loans. The reason they were following the same policies was most likely because the ivory economists were giving the same advice, but perhaps the European bank regulators were working for the CIA, who were all controlled by Cheney. A conspiracy theory is much more fun.
California Meltdown Watch: Here is a summary of the current shutdowns.

UPDATE: Apparently there is a compromise that will be put up for a vote shortly. Per this description, the plan is to split the difference between republicans and democrats by matching immediate real tax increases with with unspecified cuts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When a friend's loved one dies, I am told that it is still proper to send flowers. These are for Bunc's beloved laptop which has gone to meet its maker. Ashes to ashes, rust to rust, and so the laptop finally bust. Thankfully the Lord has blessed Bunc with a frisky new replacement. This picture of wild flowers was taken a few days ago on a nearby ridge that is probably under snow at the moment.
All your bodies are belong to us.

If I understand this article correctly, the infamous Hillary Care plan which was debated and rejected has been inserted as a clause in the stimulus bill. Our Dear Leader has apparently decided that this is too important to debate in a Democracy, so it should be put in through a back door. The bill provides for detailed monitoring of all health care, universal regulation of all health treatment, additional fines and penalties to be determined at the discretion of bureaucrats for offenses that the bureaucrats deem significant, and the budget of a medium sized country to manage the new department needed to accomplish all of this. As America's health care system collapses under the burden of runaway regulation, litigation and bureaucracy, this is, um, breathtaking.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The First Kosher Federal Spending Bill in the History of the United States.

Although it is pushing $800 billion in spending, the press reports that it has no pork.
California Schools: "M" is for Meditation.

I should say that I am not totally against meditation, although there are many notions of meditation. As Psalm 48:9 says, "Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love", which certainly leaves Christians feeling less stressed if we ponder this before going about our day. The above article, however, is about Tibetan meditation being taught to elementary school children. Hmmm. Would the schools fund a Christian meditation program? Of course not. Christianity is a religion, whereas Tibetan Buddhism is a philosophy and culture. In fact, there is only one religion in the world and that is Christianity, so it is the only one that is banned from public schools in a secular society!

Setting that aside for a moment, what does this really say about our society? The dog ate your homework last night. You stayed up late playing games, and then went in sleepy before the big test. It's OK. Just take a deep breath. Relax. Even if you fail the test, you will get an A in meditation and that will help you keep your average scores up. Maybe such methods will cause the stimulus bill to work while we are at it too.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Frontinus: Life before the Davis Bacon Act.

"The care of the several aqueducts I find was regularly let out to contractors, and the obligation was imposed upon these of having a fixed number of slave workmen on the aqueducts outside the City, and another fixed number within the City; and of entering in the public records the names also of those whom they intended to employ in the service for each ward of the City. I find also that the duty of inspecting their work devolved at times on the aediles and censors, and at times on the quaestors, as may be seen from the resolution of the Senate which was passed in the consulate of Gaius Licinius and Quintus Fabius." - Aqueducts of Rome, II.95

The aqueducts of Rome were a work greater than the pyramids, but needing constant upkeep. For a few years, the job of Frontinus was to oversee all of this. Our modern era has pursued the opposite strategy of public sector unions and requiring by law that private sector subcontractors pay wages at the level of the best that the free market offers. A misconception that I have had is that the slaves of Rome were used simply for menial labor. Reading other Roman authors, we find that even their teachers were frequently slaves. Here is some more from Frontinus:

"It remains to speak of the maintenance of the conduits; but before I say anything about this, a little explanation should be given about the gangs of slaves establsihed for this purpose. There are two of those gangs, one belonging to the State, the other to Caesar. The one belonging to the State is the older, which, as we have said, was left by Agrippa to Augustus, and was by him made over to the State. It numbers about 240 men. The number in Caesar's gang is 460; it was organized by Cluadius at the time he brought his aqueduct into the City.

Both gangs are divided into several classes of workmen: overrseers, reservoir-keepers, inspectors, pavers, plasterers, and other workmen; of these, some must be outside the city for purposes which do not seem to require any great amount of work, but yet demand prompt attention; ... " - Aqueducts of Rome, II.116-117
California Meltdown Watch: "It's the Republicans Fault."

The tides come and go. The San Jose Mercury blames the Republicans for budget failure in a state that is governed almost entirely by Democrats, except for the Republican/Democrat hybrid governor Schwarzenegger. Predictably the article doesn't mention unions - who are the primary source of the budget problems.

Separately California is moving into a drought which is causing the agriculture industry to take a major hit. This years is much worse, because a judge has ordered additional water flow through the Sacramento Delta due to an "endangered" fish - the Delta smelt. The result is a conflict between wealthy urban environmentalists and poor farm workers.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Frontinus: A famous quote.

"Laying aside also all considerations of works and engines of war, the invention of which has long since reached its limit, and for the improvement of which I see no further hope in the applied arts, I shall recognize the following types of stratagems connected with siege operations ..." - Strategems III intro.

Clearly Frontinus was a bit weak on prophecy.
Frontinus: Regarding fear and discipline.

"The Spartan general Clearchus used to tell his troops that their commander ought to be feared more than the enemy, meaning that the death they feared in battle was doubtful, but that execution for desertion was certain." - Stratagems, IV I.17

Compared to what Jesus says in Luke 12:4-5 -

"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him."

And so we have a command to us as Christians that takes the notion of discipline to an entirely new level, while at the same time Jesus still calls us "friends". But this isn't all:

"Don't be afraid." - Luke 12:7

Friday, February 06, 2009

Great Communicator II transitioning to the Great Whinger?

It wasn't the right that started this, but rather a Salon.com editorial. Another Washington Post editorial notes that Obama is using fear to promote his agenda rather than hope. The "I won" line will probably go down in history as the real transition point. The Democrats never admitted the Republicans won from the time of Nixon until the present, but that isn't the real point. Even the ultra-dunce Reagan could think of better ways to communicate the need for his agenda than "I won", nor did he need to exploit fear as the economy tanked when his first term started to get people to believe in the direction he was proposing. He also didn't need to use subterfuge to mislead people about what the true policies were behind a bill, and unlike Obama, the media did not mindlessly follow Reagan believing him to be the Messiah.

The real whinging, however, is yet to come. The analysis coming across the business channels is starting to make it clear that the bill congress is trying to rush through would be far more accurately named the American Economic Waterboarding Act, rather than the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This is per the usual law of left-wing naming that the function of any policy should be the exact opposite of what is listed in the title. There is still no plan proposed in either party for getting the economy going. The only thing certain is that fingers will be pointed.
Frontinus: A cloud by day and fire by night ...

"The Arabians, since their custom of giving notice of the arrival of an enemy by means of smoke by day, and by fire at night, was well known, issued orders on one occasion that these practices should continue without interruption until the enemy actually approached, when they should be discontinued. The enemy, imagining from the absence of the fires that their approach was unknown, advanced too eagerly and were overwhelmed." - Strategems, II v.16

Compare this to Exodus 13:21 regarding the Jews being led through the Arabian wilderness -

"By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night."

Frontinus writes about 100AD giving examples going back more than six centuries. The incident listed doesn't occur in any other text which has survived, so we have no idea when this occurred. I don't want to make too much of the similarities between these two excerpts, except to note that the cloud by day and fire by night was indicative of an enemy to the Arabs of that time, but had been taken as being from the Lord by earlier generations of Jews.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

This is probably an Acorn Woodpecker. Since Bunc has so kindly corrected my ignorance on this bit of California fauna, and I pass by this place regularly, I have decided to name this family the Bunc family. Three of them is the most I have seen together at one time. This appears to be Little Bunc. There is also Mr. and Mrs. Bunc.
University of California: Dumbing down admission standards.

Currently, the top 4% of graduates from each public high school are automatically granted UC admission, while the new plan will raise this to 9%. At the same time, the SAT2 subject tests will be removed as a requirement giving the children of Chinese parents a much needed study break. The problem with this strategy is that performance scores for California public high schools vary incredibly from community to community.

The UC regents want to admit people based on race, rather than merit, but this was banned under California's proposition 209. By changing the rules to a more arbitrary method and decreasing the role of achievment, the same effect can be achieved without formally violating prop 209.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Frontinus: A ruse.

"Marcus Marcellus on one occasion, fearing that a feeble battle-cry would reveal the small number of his forces, commanded that sutlers, servants and camp-followers of every sort should join in the cry. He thus threw the enemy into panic by giving the appearance of having a large army." - Strategems II iv.7

This is one of countless little ruses that Frontinus gives a quick summary of in this book on military strategies. It is a set of examples to acompany his book, The Art Of War. Compare this to some of what the Bible teaches:

"You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors" - Psalm 5:6

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, ... Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." - Revelation 21:2,27

Is a ruse the same as deceit? I think so. Both Frontinus in the West and Sun Tzu in the East wrote books on The Art Of War, although the book by Frontinus is lost now. Anticipating the enemy and ruses are a key part of their theories, although I have a sense that Frontinus is more experienced and knowledgable, while Sun Tzu is better at the Art of Literature.

What is interesting to me is that for Christians, deceit is banned, but for many of Christianity's opponents (certainly not all), deceit is revered. Doesn't this make for an uneven playing field? Ah, but this isn't about play - it is truly a war of ideas, beliefs and culture. Then there are Christians who do practice deceit, and should probably be expelled from the church, except that they get entrenched in untouchable positions. This does make me wonder how a religion can thrive and grow in a competition where we are required to only state what it is that we truly believe, and ruses aren't admissable.
Are we HAPI (Health Americans Private Insurance) yet?

If the American Spectator's analysis is right, the US is about to have a new bill to add health insurance for 8 million uninsured, who are already covered. The fine print of the bill, however, will completely restructure America's health system into a single payer one with the US government in charge of everything. As I have noted in other posts, any reform will leave doctors in the private sector, because only privately employed medical doctors are theoretically capable of committing acts of medical malpractice and we need to maximize the amount of litigation flowing through the courts. Besides, the malpractice insurance business is good for the economy!

Before I mock too much, however, there is something I really like: Getting companies out of the health insurance business will be an incredible blessing to America's private sector. The amount of corporate resources expended on health is unbelievable. This includes not just money, but management resources in terms of time and mental effort expended along with haggling with employees. In some cases, a company health insurance negotiator has a bigger effect on the profit/loss situation than the product design department, which just creates a mess in terms of management focus.

The down side is that Americans are culturally incapable of making socialism work, so inefficiency in the medical sector will probably multiply, along with the mindless malpractice litigation. Even here, however, we have some hope. If the US voter sees the amount of money being spent on medical care in her tax bill, and also sees a relationship between that money and the medical treatment being received, there will be some incentive for politicians to get things right and fewer plausible targets for shifting blame. Pending more information on the plan, I will give a tentative thumbs up.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Obama passes a milestone: "I screwed up".

Now contrast that to Hillary and her "vast right wing conspiracy" rhetoric as a response to the unspeakable. Yes, I have hope that Obama can constructively learn and change, which does set him apart in a positive way.
Obama Ethics and America's underground economy ...

My employment life began when I was 12 years old. Work involved delivering a hundred pounds of newspapers from my bicycle on an icy Sunday morning in the dark, or mowing a lawn on a hot summer day. Money exchanged hands, but it was all illegal: no social security taxes were paid.

America's black market economy has expanded tremendously since these earlier times. House keepers, gardeners, baby sitters, drivers and every kind of handyman service is included. What happens at a "cash only" restaurant? Certainly this kind of activity is very healthy for the economy, but doesn't generate any tax revenues for the government.

There is a dilemma in all this. If the government succeeds in bringing the 12 year old child with a lawnmower into its regulatory net, how will she be able to afford a CPA to do the audits and taxes? What if state disability insurance is more than can be earned mowing lawns? Regulation would simply bring this chunk of the economy to a halt, with all of the countless goods and services that benefit everyone. On the other hand, failure to regulate generates legal precedents that allow for larger and larger employment transactions to be removed from the regulated/taxed economy and undermines government authority. Obama has promised squeaky clean government, but few can avoid being a willing part of America's black market economy. For a change, I won't judge anything. Just noting observations and memories.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Classical Author Collecting: Sextus Julius Frontinus.

Saturday I took a group to see the play, Wicked, in San Francisco. Thankfully they were short one ticket and the play was sold out, so I shed a phony tear and went down to the Borders Bookstore to hang out until the show was done. I am always collecting classical authors these days and have some hopeless goal to accumulate and read everything written by Greek, Roman, and any other authors from this time period. This particular Borders had one of the best collections I have seen, and the books of Frontinus were ones that I have been expecting to read, but also not expecting that I should encounter in a regular book shop. Amazingly, this Borders had a copy, so I bought it, along with an up to date translation of Pliny the Younger's letters.

The reason for this book collecting is related to my Bible study. A common complaint forever being launched at Christian Fundamentalists is that they read the Bible with a complete disregard to the context and an ignorance of the early Christian interpretations. In the 19th century when modernist scholars began attacking the Bible in earnest, scholars were forever collecting complaints against the Bible and alleging that some passage or another was in error because of some conflict with a classical author. I reviewed several examples of this in my comments on the book of Esther, where atheist scholars motivated me to read Herodotus from cover to cover. Not only did I discover that their complaints were full of mendacity, but it also turned out that I was greatly aided in my understanding of the book of Esther by filling in the context. (In fact I am greatly indebted to the atheist scholars, because their thorough search motivated me to check things first hand, whereas no Christian commentator has done the same.) Thus, the effort has continued and expanded, although it will probably take me another decade or more to complete the task.

Now we must return to the book store observations. I always drop into larger bookstores to peruse the classical books. Usually there is a large collection of at least 30 or 40 titles, but these are all of pagan authors. The Jewish author Josephus will usually show up and he is of great interest to Bible students. The San Francisco Borders had Josephus, along with a copy of Augustine's Confessions. There was a book entitled "Constantine and Eusebius", but this is a modern historian writing a summary, rather than an original work of Eusebius in translation. Then there was a much later author, Bede, who wrote "Ecclesiastical History of the English People", which I would certainly like to read, but it is low priority at the moment given that it was written many centuries after the classical era. The Christian book section was all recent works. What was missing was a decent collection of the early church writers, or even any pre- 20th century Christian writings. This pattern seems to repeat itself through all the bookstores I have seen. My local library had me very happy for awhile because it had a collection of the Ante-Nicene and Nicene Fathers, 38 volumes loaded with writings. Unfortunately, the translations are a bit dated now and the commentary inadequate. Finding updated translations with some scholarly comments is difficult, and my local library dispensed with the 38 volume set recently.

What this really tells me is that there is a lack of demand for the works of early Christian writers that certainly isn't healthy, but extends a lot further than just the Fundamentalist Christian community. My impression is that most Bible commentaries provide "context" which is really learned from some other commenter, who quoted an earlier commenter, ... and so on. But where is the first souce? This isn't completely fair, because some commentaries like those of Witherington do make an effort to get to the original source. Onward with the project ...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

San Jose Mercury News Front Page Editorial: Damn the Republicans.

This is with regard to the California budget impasse and the formal start of the issuance of California State IOUs. Meanwhile the public sector unions - who are neither mentioned nor scolded in this tirade article - aren't going to give a penny.

California Republicans, you are doing a great job for the first time in my memory. Let the Democrats make meaningful, real spending cuts first. There will be plenty of time to talk about new taxes once this is done.
Kevin Rudd (Australian PM) - Time to bring an end to unfettered capitalism.

"The time has come, off the back of the current crisis, to proclaim that the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years has failed, that the emperor has no clothes".

My understanding being that "unfettered capitalism" has never existed, but than again, leftist claim that "true communism" never existed either. Here in the US, Reagan merely slowed the rate of growth of the Nanny State, but never actually shrunk it, so that an age of "neo-liberalism" is really a myth. Thatcher may have done better in the UK, but that is ancient history now.

The Cold War ended under Reagan's watch, as we remember, because the communist economies imploded. Just about the whole world rejoiced. Adapting this to the current crisis, we have a competing theory that America's economy (and the world's) is now shrinking precisely because the Nanny State is now consuming more resources than the real economy can produce, while the real economy is buried under ever increasing regulation. Sustainable growth theory needs to be applied to regulation and bureacracy. Give it another year or two and it should become clear which of those theories is true.