Monday, March 31, 2014

2013 California Budget Surplus

One of the oddities of California is that the surplus or deficit is only announced at the beginning of the year.  This year the news is all about what to do with the $4.2 billion "surplus", which is considerably higher than last years "surplus", and last year was the first "surplus" in a decade.

A churlish conservative writer that I had seen claimed that the 2013 "surplus" amounted to -$12.6 billion, which was a bit less in magnitude than the +$15.6 billion "deficit" that had occurred in 2012.  This article claims that the actual "surplus" was only -$12.2 billion.  During 2012, there was a horrible screech from the state controllers office about inability to make payments, while the Republicans were clearly hell bent on destroying the states finances.  2013 came along with a super-majority, and poof!  the deficit was gone and there wasn't a peep from the controller.  There seemed to be some plausibility to this, since the stock market has been unnaturally soaring due to the fed, and rich Chinese party members are buying up million dollar properties so that they can contribute property tax.  Meanwhile, spending has also been going up.

Another journalist who specializes in California politics noted that the governor simply excluded certain payments from the deficit calculations.  For example, payments needed to keep pension funds solvent.  Of course my major hope is to witness the Apocalypse first hand, so all this is helping me to remain in a very cheerful mood.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring Showers

Just so those who don't live in California won't feel too sorry for us.



California Water Woes

I just got a warning in the mail:

"Due to the ongoing drought, the Alameda County Water District can no longer meet ordinary water demands without depleting the available supply or reducing its quality to an unacceptable degree.  As a result, on March 13, 2014, the ACWD Board of Directors declared a water shortage emergency ..."

Some forbidden practices:

"Draining and subsequent refilling of swimming pools"
"Use of non-recycling decorative water fountains"
"Hosing off sidewalks, driveways, etc."

What caught my eye was the manner or enforcement:

"REPORT WATER WASTE!

Call (510) 668-4299 or visit www.acwd.org/reportwaste if you see anyone violating these mandatory restrictions."

My immediate reaction was that encouraging neighbors to report one another is likely to bring back some bad memories to many who have resettled in the US.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Out Of The Closet Part 2

After two days and 2,000 child sponsorship cancellations, World Vision has reversed its reversal and will revert to the a correct notion of marriage.  What is fun to do in these cases is to take a look at the language of "apology".

"'They were not taking a position supporting same-sex marriage or homosexuality,' said Tim Dearborn, director of Fuller Seminary's Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute of Preaching".

Apparently recognizing same sex marriage has nothing to do with taking a position.  Then it goes on:

"'First, to focus on the aspects of the biblical mandate that are non-negotiable: caring for the poor, victims of injustice, and especially children,' said Dearborn".

Um, no.  The Bible gives us commands to take care of orphans and widows, yet even here it is with caveats.  Relatives are to take care of them first.  Our obligation doesn't extend beyond the Ekklesia (assembly), unless God calls us to do otherwise.  When the Old Testament gives commands, it isn't about free handouts, but rather it is to not oppress, to forgive debts, and to make room so that the poor can work for a living.  Finally, there is the fact that for every command regarding the poor, there is probably a dozen that apply to everyone commanding them to refrain from sexual immorality.  This is non-negotiable.  Going further, most of the injustice and suffering of the poor is a direct consequence of sexual immorality.  Anyone who doesn't care about sexual immorality clearly does not care about injustice or the poor.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

World Vision Comes Out Of The Closet

World Vision is one of the world's largest private charities and was originally founded as a Christian organization.  Apparently a majority of their current representatives felt that being saved from sin was no fun.  Instead, they are now promoting a "gospel" of salvation to sin.  That is, they have embraced a total negation of the most important Christian belief.  These things are usually a long time in coming, so I am surprised no one mentioned this a few years earlier.

I had it in my mind that World Vision was related to Samaritan's Purse, but this seems to be in error:  Both organizations were founded by the same person, but they are independent.  Franklin Graham has a statement here on the decision of World Vision to declare for Depravityism.

A side note is that I usually don't get too worked up over what is or is not a "cult".  Yes, there is a lot of differences and really crazy beliefs out there, but the worst of the cults seem to understand that sin is bad and God wants to bring us into a relationship with Him by changing us.  Most of these are still much closer to Christianity than atheism.  Modernists, however, are drawn to promoting sin, which is a vector that leads further away from Christianity than atheism.  Of course abortionists, pimps, drug dealers, and pornographers do the same, but at least they have a profit motive that they can cite as a pretext.  The modernist, however, advocates evil for no other reason than the fact that evil is evil.

"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.  Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, ad their destruction is not asleep." - 2 Peter 2:1-3

There is nothing new under the sun.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Stranger to History, A Son's Journey Through Islamic Lands

This is a book recommended by Rummuser and written by Aatish Taseer.  Aatish was born as to a Sihk journalist and a Pakistani politician as the result of an affair.  He is somewhat confused about his identity growing up, but has a sense of being a Muslim.  In this book, he writes of his journey through Islamic lands speaking to different people and trying to get a sense of what it means to be Muslim.  I still have a ways to go in the book, but so far have been enjoying it very much.

I am a Western Christian, yet I am fascinated with ideas (beliefs), particularly as they are bundled together into philosophical, religious and cultural identities.  Aatish is trying to tease out what exactly these ideas are that constitute Islam, perhaps with the goal of finding out what his identity should be.  From the updated Introduction, it is clear that he found out what his identity wasn't, but I am not sure he figured out what it is.

One notion that jumps out of this book would seem to parallel Christianity:  A Turkish Muslim explains: "There is a conflict between the world and our ideas, our beliefs, our culture".  This conversation goes on to explain the alienation of true Muslims from just about everything in the world that deviates from a 6th century Arabian Sharia Law context.  And yet technology must be embraced, if only to get this message out.  Christians have a notion that is similar on the surface: "Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul." - 1 Peter 2:11.  The Christian view begins as one of me against myself.  My home is heaven, yet I must live in a world where my desires tempt me.  May these desires pass away.  Technological contexts, cultures and much more can change, but these basic human considerations of temptation never change.  The Muslim view expressed above is strictly us vs. them and morality itself takes a back seat in all this.

There remains much to read in this book and the Muslim voice I quoted above is just one of them, so we will see where this leads.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crimea Ponderings

This is related to my complete failure to comprehend western politics regarding the events in the Ukraine.  Maybe somebody can explain to me what I am failing to understand.

My understanding is that the Crimea, and more specifically Sebastopol, is one of the most strategically important cities to Russia, given its position as the port in the Black Sea.  The local population is mostly Russian.  If this territory remained in the Ukraine, and the Ukraine became subservient to the Union of European Socialist Republics, then the port would be under the domain of a hostile empire - one that also represents a hostile modernist religious theocracy.  Why would anyone in the West expect Putin, or any other Russian politician, to behave differently?  

This also has me reflecting back to the Crimean War, which was sandwiched between two other glorious Western Wars, The First and Second Opium Wars.  In the Opium Wars, the UK declared war on China for refusing to permit English companies to sell Opium to the Chinese.  Apparently it is legitimate to blow peoples brains out with drugs if it makes a good profit.  Modern Libertarianism owes its founding to John Stuart Mill who argued that this war was "just", because the Chinese had a right to commit suicide with opium that superseded any governmental jurisdiction.  The Crimean War was likewise purely a trade war where France and England allied with the Ottoman Turks against the Russians.  But then a religious dispute was sought out as a pretext, and the western atheist politicians sold the Crimean War as a Crusade against the Russian Orthodox devils.  Thus, we became allies with Islam against a more or less Christian nation.  From my Chinese acquaintances, I know that any mention of the Opium Wars is likely to put them into a state of rage.  The same reaction would no doubt be expected when dealing with the Russians over the Crimea.

With all that in mind, we have the leftist western politicians issuing idle threats against Russia.  Then there are the right wing politicians who are angry that the left's idle threats don't have any teeth to them.  One wants to tease the momma bear while grabbing her cub.  The other wants to bite the mamma bear in the nose, while grabbing her cub.  Or is there something to else this that I am missing?

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Malaysian Airlines Thoughts

I did take Malaysian Airlines once in and out of Kuala Lumpur.  Friends and relatives are on this airline fairly regularly.  We will need to wait and find out what happened, but I presume everyone on board is dead.  May God comfort the families of those who lost loved ones.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Walter Brueggemann: Cadences of Home, Preaching among Exiles

The actual title of this book is "Cadences of Home, Preaching among Exiles".  As it indicates, this is a book about preaching that I have been assigned to read for seminary.  The theme of this book is that of exile, which is an important topic both in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  What is inescapable at the start is that this white, American, male, tenured, mainline professor who has spent his entire life as a leader in America's dominant ideology of modernism is not exactly the best person to tell us of his experiences in exile.  As I read the laments of his sense of alienation, I can't stop smirking because our current president is from the same United Church of Christ (UCC) religion as Brueggemann and he (along with an army of judges) is busy imposing the UCC's religious ideology onto the US.  Exile?  Yeh, right.

At the same time, it is a fact that the mainline religion is rapidly shrinking.  This is deemed to be something lamentable.  I should be happy to see it dead and gone, except that there is the nasty fact that the mainline is dying precisely because it has succeeded.  Christianity says that God (i.e. Yahweh per the old testament Jewish naming of God), is powerful.  He has an objective existence that transcends any group's experience.  He interacts directly with you and me, but on His terms - not ours.  We are only involved in the narrative that Yahweh authors.  And then Yahweh came to Earth incarnate, as Jesus, to save us from our sins.  Mainlineism isn't even sure if Yahweh exists.  Instead it is convinced that the power of religion is entirely bound up in the Yahweh narrative, or whatever that might be for Mayans or Tartars or Inuits.  Once you go that route, however, you have the inescapable fact that everyone can make up their own Yahweh narrative.  Thus, Global Warming or anti-Imperialism can become your Yahweh, if you are persuaded that you are more sophisticated.  For others a football team will become their Yahweh.  Even marijuana, crass materialism, and child porn can become someone's Yahweh.  It is precisely because the Mainline theologians succeeded in their message of group Yahweh narratives that their houses of worship have emptied out.  In fact, many of these alternative Yahweh narratives are ones that Brueggemann advocates in this book.  The disenfranchised poor.  The American hegemony.  Yet somehow Brueggemann thinks that prescribing a return to the Yahweh narrative will help them recover.  The problem is that if Yahweh isn't real, unique and directly involved in the affairs of mankind, then you might as well make up the Yahweh narrative that suits you.  The Mainline has checkmated itself.

Monday, March 03, 2014

California Water Woes

In spite of our recent rains - or perhaps because of them (this is California) - we are still in a drought situation.  Of course marijuana growing trumps the US Constitution, the Declaration to Independence, and the Galactic Charter of Responsibilities for Carbon Based Life Forms, so marijuana growers are busy extracting what they need to grow one of the most water thirsty crops known to man.  The article suggests that a county sheriff will take some action to shut them down.  Good luck.

Another article describes a bit of the New Logic:  Although most of California industries, including farming, are subject to more regulations than the rest of the planet combined, Marijuana is outside the jurisdiction of the regulators.  That is because Marijuana growing is illegal, therefore, it is not permissible to regulate it.  This frees the growers from any rules regarding water usage, land usage, or whatever.

Meanwhile, up in Napa Valley they are using Witchcraft to locate water.

And if all this wasn't weird enough, California's governor said something that almost sounds sensible and enraged the Reefers:  " ... how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? ...  I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."  Stay alert for what?  The Zombie Apocalypse?  To be continued ...


Saturday, March 01, 2014

Signs of Spring

This is a glimpse of the nearby hills from my house.  In a normal year, the hills would have been greener than this by mid-December since the rains start in November.  This year it has only been the last few days that things have been turning green.


The peach tree has been flowering for more than a week.  It rained hard over the last three days, so the flowers are a bit frazzled.


The ornamental Maple is sprouting some new leaves.


The lemon tree has a different notion of seasons.  We still have a hundred or so lemons waiting to be picked.  Or maybe they are limons, since true lemons would be completely yellow by now.