Jun 30 2010

Walter E. Williams: The Poor in American are mostly only poor in spirit… and not in the Beatitude sense

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 11:15 am

Where Best To Be Poor

Imagine you are an unborn spirit whom God has condemned to a life of poverty but has permitted to choose the nation in which to live. I’m betting that most any such condemned unborn spirit would choose the United States. Why? What has historically been defined as poverty, nationally or internationally, no longer exists in the U.S. Let’s look at it.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 2009 poverty guideline was $22,000 for an urban four-person family. In 2009, having income less than that, 15 percent or 40 million Americans were classified as poor, but there’s something unique about those “poor” people not seen anywhere else in the world. Robert Rector, researcher at the Heritage Foundation, presents data collected from several government sources in a report titled “How Poor Are America’s Poor? Examining the ‘Plague’ of Poverty in America” (8/27/2007):

– Forty-three percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage and a porch or patio.

– Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

– Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded; two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.

– The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)

– Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.

– Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.

– Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

– Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

What’s defined as poverty is misleading in another way. Official poverty measures count just family’s cash income. It ignores additional sources of support such as the earned-income tax credit, which is a cash rebate to low-income workers; it ignores Medicaid, housing allowances, food stamps and other federal and local government subsidies to the poor. According to a report by American Enterprise Institute scholar Nicholas Eberstadt, titled “Poor Statistics,” “In 2006, according to the annual Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, reported purchases by the poorest fifth of American households were more than twice as high as reported incomes.” That additional money might represent earnings from unreported employment, illegal activities and unreported financial assistance. A proper measure of well-being is what a person consumes rather than his income. A huge gap has emerged between income and consumption at lower income levels.

Material poverty can be measured relatively or absolutely. An absolute measure would consist of some minimum quantity of goods and services deemed adequate for a baseline level of survival. Achieving that level means that poverty has been eliminated. However, if poverty is defined as, say, the lowest one-fifth of the income distribution, it is impossible to eliminate poverty. Everyone’s income could double, triple and quadruple, but there will always be the lowest one-fifth.

Yesterday’s material poverty is all but gone. In all too many cases, it has been replaced by a more debilitating kind of poverty — behavioral poverty or poverty of the spirit. This kind of poverty refers to conduct and values that prevent the development of healthy families, work ethic and self-sufficiency. The absence of these values virtually guarantees pathological lifestyles that include: drug and alcohol addiction, crime, violence, incarceration, illegitimacy, single-parent households, dependency and erosion of work ethic. Poverty of the spirit is a direct result of the perverse incentives created by some of our efforts to address material poverty.

Anyone can fall temporarily on hard times. If you STAY poor for a decade, you’re probably doing something wrong, absent some radical medical condition and the like. Multi-generational poverty in the USA is almost always a values problem. If you stay out of jail, finish high school, get married, stay married, don’t make babies till you’re married, and don’t get addicted, you will eventually be able to find work if you keep looking, and the factors that keep people poor for years, decades or generations will not tend to be true for you.

The federal government has done a lot to encourage bad behavior (the kind that keeps people poor), by creating incentives for it, and literally subsidizing it.


Jun 29 2010

International Space Station Sex Ban

Category: science,spaceamuzikman @ 8:55 am

From the London Telegraph:

Commanders do not allow sexual intercourse on the International Space Station. “We are a group of professionals,” said Alan Poindexter, a NASA commander, during a visit to Tokyo, when asked about the consequences if astronauts boldly went where no others have been. “We treat each other with respect and we have a great working relationship. Personal relationships are not … an issue,” said a serious-faced Mr. Poindexter. “We don’t have them and we won’t.”Mr. Poindexter and his six crew members, including the first Japanese mother in space Naoko Yamazaki, were in Tokyo to talk about their two-week resupply mission to the International Space Station. The April voyage broke new ground by putting four women in orbit for the first time, with three female crew joining one woman already on the station.Sexual intercourse in space may appear out of bounds, but astronauts have been known to succumb to earthly passions. In 2007 former NASA astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak allegedly wore adult diapers when driving hundreds of miles across the United States without bathroom breaks to confront a suspected rival in a romance with a fellow astronaut.

Given the sheer number and magnitude of problems facing us at home and abroad I can only say how relieved I am that this issue has been dealt with decisively.  I will now proceed to check it off my list of concerns.


Jun 28 2010

Sleeves

Category: energy,environment,Obamaamuzikman @ 8:55 am

One can tell much by noting a person’s sleeves, that part of a person’s garment through which the arms pass.  As a musician I have had many opportunities to observe sleeves.  The favored condition among many of my peers is sleeves neatly pressed with cuff fixed neatly around the wrist by either button or better yet, by cuff link.  Less seen, especially just before or just after a performance is a musician with their sleeves rolled up.  This is because both literally and metaphorically when one has their sleeves rolled up it is an indication that they are doing or are about to do some sort of physical labor.

Many musicians I know feel such a condition is beneath them or to put it more politely, better suited for someone else.  After all, we are “artists”.  We have a gift.  We spend countless hours practicing, studying, preparing to bring glorious music to the world.  We can’t be expected to move chairs, carry equipment, or pick up the discarded sheet music from the floor.  That’s why we have roadies, cartage companies, and students.  Let others wrinkle their sleeves by rolling them up,  conductors, performers and composers must keep their sleeves fully deployed.

Yes it is a sad commentary on many, not just musicians, who for whatever reason decide they are above rolling up their sleeves.  Some feel as though they have paid their dues.  They spent a large part of their lives with sleeves rolled up, now it is someone elses turn.  Some have no idea how to roll up their sleeves.  The very notion that sleeves could be rolled up has never occurred to them.  Some understand the concept in theory only.  They are dreamers who  believe that if they have big enough dreams and can inspire others with a passionate articulation of the dream that those around them will be inspired, they will roll up their sleeves in admiration and then they will go about fulfilling the dream, having been captivated by the vision.

Sometimes this works.  Sometimes different kinds of sleeves can come together in a synergistic way.  The dreamer, with sleeves firmly buttoned leading a phalanx of those with sleeves wrapped up around biceps can bring a dream or vision into reality.  This can work great in the creative world of music, theater, film, and art.

But it doesn’t work so well when it comes to government. History has shown that.  Utopian dreams and those who dream them often become twisted, frightening caricatures of the dream when realized.  I fear such is the case with our nation now.  What will the dream of a “green” future look like when it has become reality?  Charles Krauthammer has a sobering commentary on this subject:

Obama is dreamer in chief: He wants to take us to this green future “even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet precisely know how we’re going to get there.” Here’s the offer: Tax carbon, spend trillions and put government in control of the energy economy — and he will take you he knows not where, by way of a road he knows not which. That’s why Tuesday’s speech was received with such consternation. It was so untethered from reality. The gulf is gushing, and the president is talking mystery roads to unknown destinations. That passes for vision, and vision is Obama’s thing. It sure beats cleaning up beaches.”

I for one plan to pay great attention to sleeves in November.


Jun 27 2010

Multi-culti theology at Claremont

Category: church,God,higher education,theology,universityharmonicminer @ 8:48 am

Incredibly, the Claremont School of Theology is getting ready to expand its offerings, just a tiny, wee bit:

In a bow to the growing diversity of America’s religious landscape, the Claremont School of Theology, a Christian institution with long ties to the Methodist Church, will add clerical training for Muslims and Jews to its curriculum this fall, to become, in a sense, the first truly multi-faith American seminary.

The transition, which is being formally announced Wednesday, upends centuries of tradition in which seminaries have hewn not just to single faiths but often to single denominations within those faiths. Eventually, Claremont hopes to add clerical programs for Buddhists and Hindus.

Although there are other theological institutions that accept students of multiple faiths, or have partnerships with institutions of other religions, Claremont is believed to be the first accredited institution that will train students of multiple faiths for careers as clerics. The 275-student seminary offers master’s and doctoral degrees.

“It’s really kind of a creative, bold move,” said David Roozen, director of the Institute for Religion Research at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. “It kind of fits, to some extent, California…. I think there will be a lot of us who will be watching that experiment.”

Claremont’s administration sees the multi-faith expansion as the wave of the future in American theological training. But it is straining relations between the school and more conservative elements of the United Methodist Church, which this year was expected to provide about 8% of Claremont’s $10-million budget. The church suspended its support for the school earlier this year pending an investigation.

I’m not sure just what is meant by the phrase, “the more conservative elements of the United Methodist Church.”  Would that mean the people who think Jesus was actually the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, who was born to the virgin Mary, died on the cross, and was bodily resurrected by the Father on the third day?  Whose sacrifice is the means for our forgiveness, who atoned for our sins by the crucifixion, who demonstrated the He alone has the power of eternal life, as demonstrated in the resurrection?

I suppose that these days only “conservatives” believe these things.  For all the rest, who think the “narrative” is what matters, that the “metaphor” of the resurrection is meant to apply in some analogical way to human life and society, nothing much is true enough to fight for.  Why shouldn’t Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc., get their innings?  After all, don’t they have a narrative, too?  Don’t they have some of God’s truth?  What are we worried about, anyway, if all truth is God’s truth?

In the meantime, I think it’s a safe bet that John Wesley, founder of Methodism in the 18th century, would be beyond appalled.  I can’t help but wonder what (few?) remaining United Methodists who believe in orthodox Christian teachings are thinking about this.  I would guess the response of the United Methodist Church to this decision is going to tell the tale.   I am not very optimistic about it, given its recent history.  Essentially, if the UMC doesn’t rise up as a body and resoundingly reject this out of hand, they should just give up, and change their name to Social Justice, Incorporated, or maybe United for Leftist Politicians (ULP).  Or they could just join the Unitarians, who don’t believe in Jesus either.

In the mad dash to be a better exemplar of “diversity” than the other guy, look for other (especially denominationally untethered) seminaries to follow Claremont’s lead.  One can only wonder where they’ll draw the line.  Why not mix in a little Hopi Indian tradition, some voodoo, and a dash of Shintoism?  And these multicultural days, what about Zoroastrianism, or, for that matter, cannibalistic fertility cults of the south Pacific, or African tribal rites?  Who is to say where some slice of God’s truth may not be found?

When Claremont starts building Aztec pyramids in the parking lot on Foothill Avenue, I’m going to begin sticking to the 210 freeway whenever I drive through the area (well…  if the freeway sniper doesn’t make a reappearance, anyway).  I don’t think I would be an acceptable sacrifice to appease the Sun God (who, to the surprise of the eco-pagan Cult of Gore, seems to be unusually quiescent this year), but I don’t want to find out the hard way.  Hey…  maybe the new religion of eco-pagan EarthWorship could get a department at Claremont, too!  Oh, I forgot….  they already have one at most universities.  They just need to move it into the School of Theology, where it belongs.  So maybe Claremont will be ahead of the game.

When this whole Aztec-sacrifice-in-the-parking-lot thing really gets up in high gear, it’s going to do a number on the restaurant trade in the city of Claremont.  Talk about eating meat sacrificed to idols….


Jun 26 2010

It’s better to bash corporations than to feed people, it seems…

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 2:48 pm

The Right to Choose – For Farmers in Haiti

The Monsanto Company is learning a valuable lesson in Haiti: no good deed goes unpunished at the hands of radical anti-corporate elements of Western society.

Like so many other concerned citizens, Monsanto responded to the tragic January 12 earthquake that further devastated this impoverished country. It worked for months with Haiti’s Agricultural Ministry to select seeds best suited to local climates, needs and practices, and to handle the donation so as to support, rather than undermine, the country’s agricultural and economic infrastructure.

From Monsanto’s extensive inventory, they jointly chose conventionally bred hybrid (not biotech / genetically modified / GM) varieties of field corn and seven vegetables: cabbage, carrots, eggplants, onions, tomatoes, spinach and melons. Instead of giving the seeds to farmers, the company worked with the USAID-funded WINNER program, to donate the seeds to stores owned and managed by Haitian farmer associations. The 475 tons of hybrid seeds will then be sold to many thousands of farmers at steep discounts, and all revenues will be reinvested in local agriculture.

Other companies and donors are providing fertilizers, insecticide and herbicides that will likewise be sold at a discount. The companies, Agricultural Ministry, farmers associations and other experts will also provide technical advice and assistance – much as the USDA’s Cooperative Extension System does – on how, when and whether to use the various hybrids, fertilizers, and weed and insect-control chemicals.

The goal is simple. Help get the country and its farmers back on their feet, improve farming practices, crop yields and nutrition levels, and increase incomes and living standards.

The reaction of anti-corporate activists was instantaneous, intense, perverse, patronizing and hypocritical. Monsanto wants to turn Haiti back into “a slave colony,” ranted Organic Consumers Association founder Ronnie Cummins. Hybrid and GM seeds will destroy our diversity, small-farmer agriculture and “what is left of our environment,” raged Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of the Peasant Movement of Papaye.

Other self-anointed “peasant representatives” waded in. The seeds are genetically modified and “will exterminate our people.” Farmers won’t be able to afford the seeds or feed their children. The fertilizers are carcinogenic. Fungicides on the seeds are toxic poisons. “Seeds are the patrimony of humanity.” We support “food and seed sovereignty.” Traditional seeds and farming practices “provide stable employment” for the 70% of Haitians who are small farmers. And of course, “Down with Monsanto.”

Various U.S. churches and foundations chimbed in. “Spontaneous” protests were organized in several Haitian and American cities.

These would be the same people who banned DDT for environmental reasons, the proximate cause of 50 million malaria deaths since the ban was imposed.

Anti-capitalist environmentalism is not safe for children and other living things… except mosquitoes and agricultural parasites, of course.


Jun 25 2010

Anti-semitism on the rise in Europe

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 11:54 pm

Youths attack Jewish dance group in Germany: (Ah… it’s those “youths” again)

Arab youths threw stones at a Jewish dance group during a street festival in Hannover, injuring one dancer and forcing the group to cancel its performance, German police and dance officials said Thursday.

The teenagers also used a megaphone to shout anti-Semitic slurs during the attack Saturday, Hannover police spokesman Thorsten Schiewe said.

“I don’t remember such a dramatic attack in Germany in recent times,” said Michael Fuerst, the head of the Jewish community of the state of Lower Saxony.

Six suspects have been identified — five Arabic immigrants and one German — and police are looking for the other three, police said. The six range from nine to 19 years old and have been questioned by police.

Hannover prosecutors are investigating those involved on suspicion of incitement and causing serious bodily harm, prosecutor Irene Silinger said.

This would be an excellent topic for your Christian university’s Justice Week, don’t you think?

More details at the link above.


Jun 25 2010

How to plug the hole in the Gulf

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 12:05 pm

Sorry…  It came in email, and I couldn’t resist.


Jun 25 2010

Would all humanitarians in the room please raise their metal rods?

Category: Hamas,Iran,Islam,Israelharmonicminer @ 8:32 am

Just in case you never heard what was actually on the “humanitarian aid ship” Mavi Marmara, the one you’ve seen in videos of “peace activists” clubbing Israeli inspectors with metal rods, It’s Official: There was No Humanitarian Aid on Mavi Marmara

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed Israel’s representatives the world over that there were never any humanitarian supplies or equipment aboard the Mavi Marmara, where Israeli commandos were ambushed by armed mercenaries posing as peace activists. The commandos opened fire and killed nine of the attackers after three soldiers had been brutalized and temporarily captured.

Of the seven flotilla ships that were intercepted by Israel on May 31 and afterward, only four were freight ships, the MFA reported to its embassies and consulates: The Challenger 1 (a small yacht), the Sfendonh (a small passenger boat) and the Mavi Marmara (a passenger ship) did not carry any humanitarian aid, and had only the passengers’ personal belongings.

The four freight ships are the Gaza, the Sofia, the Defeny and the Rachel Corrie. As of June 7, Israel had only offloaded equipment from the Defeny. The equipment offloaded was loaded onto 26 trucks, and an additional eight trucks are waiting at the Kerem Shalom crossing to enter Gaza.

The equipment includes:

1. 300 wheelchairs
2. 300 new mobility scooters
3. 100 special mobility scooters for the disabled
4. Hundreds of crutches
5. 250 hospital beds
6. 50 sofas
7. Four tons of medicine
8. 20 tons of clothing, carpets, school bags, cloth and shoes
9. Various hospital equipment – closets and cabinets, operating theater equipment, etc.
10. Playground equipment
11. Mattresses

The equipment remaining at Ashdod Port on the three cargo ships which have not been offloaded include some 2000 tons of construction equipment – building materials and tools, and construction waste (rubble, toilets, sinks and cement) for re-use.

The MFA noted that:

The equipment does not constitute humanitarian aid in the accepted sense (basic foodstuffs, new and functional equipment, fresh medicines).

The humanitarian aid on the four cargo ships was scattered in the ships’ holds and thrown onto piles and not packed properly for transport. The equipment was not packaged and not properly placed on wooden bases. Because of the improper packing, some of the equipment was crushed by the weight in transit.

The medicines and sensitive equipment (operating theater equipment, new clothing, etc.) are being kept in cool storage at the Defense Ministry base. Some of the medicines had already expired, and some will expire soon. The operating theater equipment, which should be kept sterile, was carelessly wrapped. A large part of the equipment, particularly shoes and clothing, was used and worn.

In other words, this whole thing exists as a proxy for Iran, working through intermediary Turkey (with which it is friendlier and friendlier), to break the blockade into Gaza, which is part of the reason Israel hasn’t been on the wrong end of missile attacks for awhile.

No one is starving in Gaza, other than maybe the political prisoners that Hamas has locked in basements.


Jun 24 2010

Will California do this?

Category: economy,governmentharmonicminer @ 8:32 am

New York State Wants to Borrow From Pension Fund, to Pay the Fund

Gov. David A. Paterson and legislative leaders have tentatively agreed to allow the state and municipalities to borrow nearly $6 billion to help them make their required annual payments to the state pension fund.

And, in classic budgetary sleight-of-hand, they will borrow the money to make the payments to the pension fund — from the same pension fund.

As word of the plan spread, some denounced it as a shell game and a blatant effort by state leaders to avoid making difficult decisions, like cutting government spending or reducing pension benefits.

“It’s a classic Albany example of kicking the can down the road,” said Harry Wilson, the Republican candidate for comptroller, who holds an M.B.A. from Harvard.

Pension costs for the state and municipalities are soaring, a result of enhanced retirement benefits for public employees and the decline in the stock market over the past two years. And, given declines in tax revenue and larger budget shortfalls, the governments are struggling to come up with the money to make the contributions.

Under the plan, the state and municipalities would borrow the money to reduce their pension contributions for the next three years, in exchange for higher payments over the following decade. They would begin repaying what they borrowed, with interest, in 2013.

But Mr. Paterson and other state officials hope the stock market will have rebounded to such a degree by that time that the state’s overall pension contribution burden will have been reduced.

It looks like New York isn’t in much better shape than California, where the legislature has been doing a combination routine for years, lemmings being led by ostriches with heads in the sand.

Talk about robbing Peter to pay Peter.


Jun 23 2010

A teacher’s conditions on assessing her teaching

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:32 am

Is U.S. Edu-Rhetoric a Pipe Dream? A Teacher Wants to Know

Michele Kerr, a graduate of Stanford’s teacher education program and a guest author at NAS.org, has an admirable op-ed in the Washington Post today. In her piece, “The Right Way to Assess Teachers’ Performance,” she notes the backlash from teachers over being tested by student performance, as required by Obama’s Race to the Top program. She says she, and probably most teachers, would be willing to be evaluated based on students’ test scores, provided a few conditions are met. “Let’s negotiate,” she says.

Kerr proposes that:

1. Teachers be assessed based on only those students with 90 percent or higher attendance.
2. Teachers be allowed to remove disruptive students from their classroom on a day-to-day basis.
3. Students who don’t achieve “basic” proficiency in a state test be prohibited from moving forward to the next class in the progression.
4. Teachers be assessed on student improvement, not an absolute standard—the so-called value-added assessment.

“Accepting these reasonable conditions might reveal that common rhetorical goals for education (everyone goes to college, algebra for eighth-graders) are, to put it bluntly, impossible,” she asserts. “So we’ll either continue the status quo at a stalemate or the states will make the tests so easy that the standards are meaningless.”

I can’t disagree with the conditions the teacher wants to put on assessing her teaching performance. The problem, of course, is that in many urban school districts, this would mean that teachers would be getting assessed based on the performance of only about half of the students.

Therein lies the problem.  We have tolerated a huge decline in expectations, both in academic performance and behavior at school, while clinging to politically correct rhetoric.  We are now in a situation where any imaginable solution is going to be very painful. 

But not as painful as doing nothing, or doing something that is merely cosmetic.


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