Sunday, December 30, 2007

Daniel Endorses Fred Thompson

Since you're an insider, you get to hear it here before the mass media picks it up. The DANIEL officially endorses Fred Thompson for the Presidency of the United States.

Fred offered up a "serious case" for his candidacy today.

See here for a list of his principles...very different from the tired cliches that we're used to from our politicians. It is inspiring.

This video runs just over 17 minutes...take the time to watch and consider why you ought to vote for Fred Thompson...then forward it on to everyone you know.

Meanwhile the Sioux City Journal runs a hit headline, "Thompson: Not Particularly Interested in Running", though reading the article shows that his point was that he's not doing it for personal ambition. I believe he exemplifies the type of leader we want: principled, experienced and void of too much personal ambition.

Leadership Lessons - Why I Don't Hate Capital Blue Cross

Scenario: Vision Loss, Hospital Visit, Wireless Access in the Hospital (YAY!), Receive E-Mail from Insurance Broker While in Hospital (BOO!), You're Group Insurance is being Dropped (what?!?) Two Weeks...(rage, gnashing of teeth).

Health Insurance is a very confusing undertaking if one does not deal with it on a daily basis. When looking at providing health insurance for employees and choosing for oneself, one must consider:

  • Which broker to use
  • Which company to choose
  • Which plan to choose
    • Must consider:
      • PPO? HMO?
      • High Deductible? Really High Deductible? Co-Insurance?
      • What does the plan cover? Prescriptions? Co-pay?
      • Require Referrals from PCP?
      • What about HSA, Flex Spending Accounts, HRA?
      • Don't forget about HIPAA requirements!
So, not knowing much about the whole thing, you can bet I was terribly eager to get back to work and begin to tackle this beast! I not only had to make sure that my family was covered appropriately, I also had to make sure my employees got good coverage and understood what was happening.

While scrambling about that first week back to work, I finally realized that since we had to go to individual insurance, there is no way to take premiums pre-tax because, as was explained by a kind individual, "that would be forming your own group"... hmm... still not seeing the problem with that. I have some wit and wisdom about this that I'll post with another label.

So, why do I not hate Capital Blue Cross? After all, they gave me less than a month's notice that we were being dropped, which left me on my own to figure out the insurance maze in an extremely short amount of time (I found out that there are no experts in this insurance maze).

I don't hate them for one reason and one reason only...customer service. Every time I call, without exception, the person taking the call is professional, (mostly) knowledgeable, friendly and empathetic. They answer every question I have, patiently explain the plan about which I am inquiring and work with me on figuring what may be the best plan.

Even though their company created a major hassle in my life, the customer service has kept me basically satisfied.

Another factor here may be the rock bottom expectations on my when you go into a movie thinking that it is going to be a bomb, and it's mediocre. " didn't make me want to jam my thumbs in my eyes!"

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Liberal Fascism

Teaching political science to my students, I would typically draw a continuum of political monikers that looked something like this with the extreme liberal as Radical and the extreme conservative as Reactionary.

According to the typical definition, the Radical (1) places high trust in human nature, (2) sees change in culture or institutions as progress and (3) holds individual freedom as paramount.

At the other end of the continuum is the Reactionary. He is (1) distrustful of human nature, (2) places great trust in tradition and institutions and (3) sees individual freedom as important, but subject to social mores.

The ideal government of the Radical is anarchy or communism, the ideal of the Reactionary is fascism. (Pop Quiz: Which governmental system has been given much more time by books, movies, etc., outlining and examining the atrocities? Which governmental system killed more people in the last century? What do you think is the cause of the discrepancy? Please comment!)

All this has been radically altered in the last twenty years by everyone's favorite generation, the Boomers. The arrogant idealism of the 60's has revealed the lie in these definitions. The Boomers as a generation are so arrogant that they truly do believe that, even though they don't trust institutions in general, their institutions should be trusted. Individual freedom is paramount, but only according to their definition.

So, now we have this thought process that not only promotes individual liberties, but forces others to not only accept, but to approve of and participate in the exercise of those (contrived) liberties. This is the essence of collectivism, found in both communism and fascism.

Which brings me to Jonah Goldberg's new book, Liberal Fascism. I don't believe it's out yet, but Glenn Reynolds said that

Goldberg has a lot to say about the “progressive” roots of both socialism and fascism and the way they’re reflected in contemporary politics.
If you go to the above link, Glenn conducted a very interesting interview with a good discussion on the content of the book. See some rough notes of the interview below:

Mr. Goldberg encourages people to read Hillary's It Takes a Village. Her vision of a village is a "profoundly totalitarian which the helping professions are empowered to intervene to smash the sanctity of the family." Quoted Woodrow Wilson in saying that "educator's job is to make children as unlike their parents as possible." No natural boundary where the state stops and the family begins -- no islands of "separateness"--"if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem - very fascistic."

Referring to the nice liberalism that just wants to help..."An unwanted hug is still an oppressive thing -- soft totalitarianism is still dangerous."

Compares the platform of 1932 Nazis with 1972 McGovern - practically the same minus the ethnic Jewish hatred. From the beginning, Nazis were socialists.

Left wing believes that they are the arbiters of political morality.

He also see "compassionate conservative" as being dangerously close to Liberal Fascism. It works on the assumption that the government can love you...It can't...It's not your daddy or mommy. Talks about Huck coming from the classic social gospel position.

Nationalism and Socialism is the same thing...when you nationalize health care, you socialize it.

Great Interview...listen to it, then buy the book!

Friday, December 28, 2007

How to Use Labels

Hello New Reader!
If you've just come across daniel and you're interested in catching up on all the wit, wisdom and wonderful free research in a particular subject, go to the bottom of your favorite post, click on one of the labels and voila! all posts relating to that topic appear before your very eyes. This can be helpful if you're interested on the ongoing Boumadiene case, the discussion on energy, Leadership Tips, or trying to track down the vision loss story from the beginning.

If you use an RSS Reader (I use Google Reader) to collect information, you can easily add me to your reader by clicking on the "Get the Feed!" link on the right, or just enter your e-mail address and receive engaging content in your inbox.

Don't forget to check out LinkedIn while you're at it!

Thank you all for reading, and if you think someone else might enjoy it, forward it along by clicking on the "email post" icon. Being a new blogger, it's fun to see readers from all over the U.S and some from Kuwait, UK, Czech Republic and France.

You all rock!

Energy: Are Nuclear Power Plants Really Safe?

Reader markymark states:

Reactors are so safe, that I wouldn't object to having one in my backyard (thats a bit of a stretch) and I am an environmentalist.
What about Chernobyl? Highly radioactive fallout, 56 direct deaths and 4,000 more from cancer.

What about Three-Mile Island? No loss of life, but a partial meltdown occurred.

What about the other nuclear accidents? (ahem)...none. Out of "12,700 cumulative reactor-years of commercial operation in 32 countries" these are the only two accidents.

A friend of mine is trained to run nuclear power plants and submarines, and he verifies markymark's comments on redundancy:
Even with all the varied designs in the US, the safety systems are extraordinarily redundant.
For every safety component there is a duplicate component. Each of the components is monitor by safety code written by two different programmers using different programming packages. All of this reports to two separate master systems. If any of the monitoring systems fall out of step by 1 millisecond it initiates an alarm sequence.
What about terrorist attacks? Check out this video of a test of a jet vs. reinforced concrete. I'll give you a hint...the jet lost...96% of the aircrafts kinetic energy goes back into destroying the aircraft itself, with the remaining 4% entering the reinforced slab of concrete. Pretty cool seeing things disintegrate...

Also, this from the Australian Uranium Association:
The analyses used a fully-fuelled Boeing 767-400 of over 200 tonnes as the basis, at 560 km/h - the maximum speed for precision flying near the ground. The wingspan is greater than the diameter of reactor containment buildings and the 4.3 tonne engines are 15 metres apart. Hence analyses focused on single engine direct impact on the centreline - since this would be the most penetrating missile - and on the impact of the entire aircraft if the fuselage hit the centreline (in which case the engines would ricochet off the sides). In each case no part of the aircraft or its fuel would penetrate the containment. Other studies have confirmed these findings.
I am proud to say that I do practically have one in my backyard.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Leadership Tip 2.1

In my Leadership Tip 2 post, I delineated six reasons why most things happen (i.e. gifts given, leaders followed, deals made), irrespective of the cause being supported. They are:

#1 - Pleasant
#2 - Polite
#3 - Intention toward a specific goal
#4 - Energetic
#5 - Record of Success
#6 - Ambitious Goal

This is not definitive and is certainly not the case in every instance. One can look at this list and identify people who have been very successful that were neither pleasant nor polite. Well...I can also identify several women that could beat a man down, but most probably can't -- without cheating. The point is, most good leaders demonstrate these traits to some extent.

First, some background...

I begin my trek this morning by talking to the insurance problem...I go to the primary care doctor...I wait a good while, but still no problem (they had the January edition of PC World)...I head to the lab next door...small problem. But just a small favorite people in the world informed me that they couldn't do this particular blood test, I had to go to hospital to get it done. But, they were very understanding and answered all of my questions (wrongly, unfortunately).

So, off to the hospital. I register, take my paperwork to the bored looking lady at the desk...

"How may I help you?"
"Hello, here's my paperwork for my blood tests."
"Oh, you have to schedule an appointment for this test. You'll have to call to set it up and come back."
"They told me that if I got here by 3 they could do it."
"No, you have to schedule an appointment and make sure you're not taking aspirin 5 days in advance."
More questions and answers...I thanked her and left.

So, what's my point here? Empathy. I left the lab feeling pretty good, even though I had to go out of my way and take up more time. I left the hospital feeling that she was glad to be rid of me.

Both were polite and answered my questions directly.

But, the phlebotomists informed me that they couldn't do the test with empathy in their voice. The pencil-pusher at the hospital delivered the bad news with no expression if she was repeating a mantra and I just happened to be the object upon which her eyes rested for no particular reason.

I think this is huge...people want to know that you are putting yourself in their position, even if you can't do anything about it. And if you attempt to do something about it, so much the better. People want to connect, especially with one whom they consider a leader.

So, how do you connect? It differs with personality, but all it would have taken is for her to look at me and say, "Oh, I'm sorry that you came down here without knowing this, but..."

And don't look at people with those bureaucrat eyes, it really is a bit creepy, almost soulless when people deliver bad news with no expression. And it's downright maddening to be on the receiving end...think Motor Vehicle Administration when you don't have the 3 proper forms of ID...

1. People seek a connection, and empathy provides that

Action Steps:
1. Look into the next person's eyes that you deal with (especially if delivering bad news) and see the person, not an obstacle or annoyance.
2. Think about what you would like to hear in that situation -- empathize -- and verbalize your empathy.

Bhutto Assassinated

This news leaves me with the hollow feeling of lost opportunity, evil quenching potential before it is able to flower -- she represented so much of what was possible, snuffed out by Islamists. For all her faults, she was a courageous soul.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Good Day

A successful day of posterity investment...another chance to grow my children as they unknowingly meander toward speak into their lives and nurture and point them to encourage with words, affection and talk about thankfulness.

Continuing a tradition from my mother of a scavenger hunt in the morning for that first present...watching M get more confident in her bike riding...discussing single point perspective while walking by the train tracks...telling a crazy story during lunch about the nectarine that grew to the size of the kitchen table...both kids so pleased with their presents and sharing well (mostly)...E continuing his obsession with the alphabet sounds...enjoying a leisurely pace throughout the entire day...

This investment is not only for their happiness, but also for the good of the many people they will touch. I don't just see adorable little kidlings...I see eternality embedded in their souls. Very, very cute eternality, but eternality nonetheless.

Yes...a good day...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Energy: On the Path to Energy Independence

As we see Congress flail around attempting to develop some sort of coherent energy policy, kowtowing to environmentalists one moment and succumbing to corporate welfare the next, Robert Zubrin, in his book Energy Victory has a very simple, inexpensive idea that seems to make sense to me (I haven't yet read the book). Clifford May at NRO outlines the idea:

Right now, 97 percent of the cars on America's roads run on gasoline. Only three percent are Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) — automobiles that can be powered by either gasoline or alcohol fuels, or any mixture of the two. The additional cost to make a new car an FFV is only about $100 per vehicle

For the sake of individual security, the government mandates that all cars have seat belts. For the sake of national security, Dr. Zubrin proposes, the government should mandate that all new cars be FFVs.

In three years, the change would put 50 million FFVs on the road. The free market would then mobilize to do what it does best: Entrepreneurs would compete to produce alternative, non-petroleum fuels for these potential customers.
I've said before that I think that an energy policy is a federal matter and federal mandates, though not popular in my book, seem to be practical in this case...
But mandates are required to solve the chicken-and-egg dilemma. Dr. Zubrin writes: “Filling stations don't want to dedicate space to a fuel mix used by only three percent of all cars and consumers are not interested in buying vehicles for which the preferred fuel mix is extremely difficult to find.” This is one of those very rare problems that actually can be solved just by passing a law. Build the cars. The non-petroleum fuels will come.
The simple fact is that until we change our consumption habits, we will continue to finance those that proclaim "death to America!"-- and this will have a much greater impact than the silly outlawing of my wonderful 100w Reveal light bulbs.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Vision Loss Redux Part VII - Containment

Two weeks out after my last episode, Kate and I visited traveled to see the Wizard again. Kate and I spent some quality time together in the waiting room...6 hours of it, to be exact.

Here are those six hours in a nutshell:

Dan to Kate: Boy, that drive is not bad at all! 45 minutes straight shot...and we're here early!
Dan to Receptionist/Nurse: Here is my insurance card...same company...different number since I got kicked off the group plan.
Dan to Receptionist/Nurse: I was just here 2 weeks ago, my referral should still be good!
Dan with phone in hand, talking to primary care physician office: ...and when can I expect the referral to be sent? 3? (glancing at the clock, taking note that it is 11:30). Do you understand that I am in the office right now? Yes, I understand, but I'm here now...Yes, ok, thank you for describing the piles of paper on your desk, and (not wanting to reduce his chances of having it completed today) I appreciate you doing this at all. Thanks...
Dan to Receptionist/Nurse: Reschedule? I do not know what is wrong with me and I am losing my vision. I am not rescheduling.
Dan to Receptionist/Nurse: It will cost how much if the referral doesn't come through? hmmm...that referral will come through, I'm sure of it.
After waiting for 1 1/2 hours, Dan to Receptionist/Nurse: (with relief) Thank you for giving me a copy of the referral.
Kate to Dan: It's 2:00 and we haven't eaten anything since breakfast, would you like me to go find some food?
Dan to Kate: Yes! That's a great id...[Nurse to waiting area - Daniel Tubbs?]...ea. Oh well...
Technician to Dan (after test): Hmmmmm
Dan to Technician: Hmmmmm?
Technician to Dan: Well, the inflamed areas from 2 weeks ago are gone, so that's good.
Dan to Technician: I see other areas...
Technician to Dan: Yes, these areas area all inflamed--they're in your extreme peripheral, so you can't see them.
Wizard to Dan (after a longish conversation): It's more positive than negative.
Wizard to Dan (after realizing some information is missing): Nurse, will you have the other office fax his records?
Wizard to nurse (after about 30 minutes - holding up a six page fax): Is this everything?
Nurse to Wizard: Oh, you wanted everything?
Wizard to Dan (after an additional hour): (with disgust) So, did they finally get records?
Wizard to Dan (about 6 pm): We'll keep you on your current dose of prednisone, and I want to you get these 45,000 other tests done. We're going to bring in other doctors to look at things. Call me on my cell if anything changes. See you in two weeks.

Boumediene habeas corpus debate

The government, in response to the plaintiff's brief in Boumediene v. Bush, which claimed a "common law constitutional right" to habeas corpus, has issued a supplemental brief to contradict the argument for this particular interpretation.

From Ben at SCOTUSblog:

The Court has said that the scope of habeas rights at the current time depends in part upon their meaning in past history, especially in 1789. At that time, [U.S. Solicitor General Paul D.] Clement argued in the new brief, there was a common-law rule that a confined individual seeking release “was not permitted to controvert the facts” the government had cited for the confinement. That rule, along with geographic limits that the government argues restrict habeas rights, would have kept today’s detainees from “obtaining anything like the review” they will receive if they challenge their detention in the D.C. Circuit Court under the Detainee Treatment Act.
Ben left out the third reason Clement cited for the detainees lack of access to habeas. The brief says, "That common law rule, together with the geographic limits on the writ and the historical unavailability of habeas to 'prisoners of war,' would have precluded petitioners from obtaining anything like the review they receive under the Detainee Treatment
Act of 2005."

This historical unavailability assertion was supported by saying:
Post-1789 British cases underscore that the British courts did not view prisoners of war as a specialized class, but used the phrase generically to refer to enemy combatants. Indeed, the “prisoner of war” label was even extended to a non-combatant German national who had been resident in England for 25 years. See, e.g., The King v. Superintendent of Vine St. Police Station, 1 K.B. 268, 278 (1916) (Eng.) (If the executive “represents to this Court that it has become necessary to restrain the liberty of an alien enemy within the kingdom, and treat him as a prisoner of war, he must be regarded for the purposes of a writ of habeas corpus as a prisoner of war.”).

Leadership Lessons - Paul Johnson

In this month's Imprimis, Paul Johnson outlines six "Keys of Democratic Statesmanship" that have direct relevance to leadership principles and help us in looking at who we choose to elect as our next executive.

The ability to see the world clearly and draw correct conclusions

Mr Johnson identifies the pattern of confusing directives as being the reason that three major wars that didn't turn out well. The Suez War of 1956, Vietnam and the first Iraq war, which led directly to the second invasion

Only a few essential ideas and beliefs

The best kind of democratic leader has just a few—perhaps three or four—central principles to which he is passionately attached and will not sacrifice under any circumstances...I am not impressed by leaders who have definite views on everything. History teaches it is a mistake to have too many convictions, held with equal certitude and tenacity. They crowd each other out. A great leader is someone who can distinguish between the essential and the peripheral—between what must be done and what is merely desirable.
A politician can have immense intelligence and all the other virtues, but if will is lacking he is nothing. Usually a leader has it in abundance. Will springs from unshakeable confidence in being right, but also from a more primitive instinct to dominate events which has little to do with logic or reason.
Mere flashes of will are not enough. The will must be organically linked to resolution, a determination to see the cause through at all costs...But doggedness should not be confused with blind obstinacy—the obstinacy of a George III or a Jefferson Davis. As with will, resolution must be linked to sound aims.
Ability to communicate
The value of possessing a few simple ideas which are true and workable is enormously enhanced if the leader can put them across with equal simplicity.
Greatness of soul. It is not easy to define this supreme quality, which few even among the greatest leaders possess. It is a virtue which makes one warm to its possessor. We not only respect and like, we love Lincoln because he had it to an unusual degree. It was part of his inner being. And Churchill, who also had it, made it one of the top quartet of characteristics which he expected the statesman to show. A passage he penned as the First World War was about to end reads: “In war, resolution. In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity. In peace, good will.” This is a sentiment which all those in public life should learn by heart. It encapsulates the lessons of history better than entire books.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Energy Bill: Comments

In reaction to this post on the energy bill, astute reader markymark says:

One the issues that struck me with Duke Energy (and the US) is this: every single reactor was custom built.

In France there are two basic designs. Thats it. As an engineer I can walk into any French facility and understand the safety system layout within 10 mins. In the US: 2-3 weeks. In some cases 2 months.

Their entire nuclear energy system is close to a perfect model. Even their use of breeder reactors to process spent fuel rods is 10+ yrs ahead of anything used in the US.
This buttresses my point that we've been incredibly lax in developing upgraded nuclear systems and pursuing ways to produce energy on our own. No new plants in 30 years, with the last license granted in 1995 (see graph).

France is way ahead of us as they derive over 75% of their electricity from nuclear energy, while we come in at around 20%. This is one time where I think we should use France as a model.

The federal government, in addressing a national problem, should at the least be encouraging uprates of existing plants - a much more cost-effective and immediate boost to energy production, according to the Energy Information Administration.

This article talks about these issues and sees a possible resurgence of nuclear power on the horizon.

Leadership Tip 2

Last night, while purchasing sundry items at the grocery store, I purchased a tiny little piece of paper for $1. This, of course, was the Toys for Tots train that the USMC promotes. When the cashier first asked me, I said no, like I do every other's how it went.

Cashier: Would you like to donate a dollar to Toys for Tots...please?
Me: No thank you.
Cashier: (not necessarily in response to me) I only have 37 more to go...
Me: Oh really, how many are you trying to get?
Cashier: I'm trying to reach 1,000 and I'm almost there.
Me: Really, when does your shift end?
Cashier: at 7 (in 1.5 hours). I have tomorrow, but I'd like to complete it tonight!
Me: Ok, I'll help you out!

Let's look at why I chose to pay an extra dollar, and why I think most things happen, regardless of the cause being supported.

#1 - She was smiling. She was not the typical cashier that would rather be somewhere, anywhere else and be paid for it...
#2 - She was polite. She said please. This counts for a lot, especially if you live in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast regions where rudeness is considered to be polite and politeness is just weird.
#3 - She had a specific goal in mind. She wasn't just asking in general. She was intentionally focused on a particular outcome.
#4 - She was excited (albeit probably for purely selfish reasons) about reaching her goal, and it made me want to help her out.
#5 - She had a track record of success...she had already sold 963 trains.
#6 - She was ambitious. She wanted to gain 37 more buys in 1.5 hours and she was determined to get it.

Notice, none of this has to do with the little tots that will receive a toy because of my donation. Granted, if she asked me if I wanted to donate a dollar to "TNT for Terrorists", I would not only have declined, but furtively glanced at her askance and scurried out to become an anonymous tipster.

The important precursor is that I know that the organization does good...but so do a million other non-profits asking for money. I already give to church, the Academy and our WorldVision child in Ecuador (incidentally, I could have just as easily put a dollar in the red pot--the SA is an excellent organization--but that guy looked like he might've been sippin' the juice).

So, in order for me to give...even a another charity required more than a good cause, it required positive interpersonal interaction.

Takeaway: People primarily give to, and follow people, not causes.

Action Step: Go back to Leadership Tip 1 and repeat to develop the positive interpersonal interactions referenced today.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Leadership Tip 1.1

1.1 Edification

Yesterday's tip emphasized encouragement as form of edification. Did you do it? Oh come couldn't find one person to compliment or encourage? Oh, you forgot? You were depressed because all the snow is going to disappear just in time for Christmas (around here)?

A general rule of thumb that you ought to follow is this: You are not a victim. There are always circumstances that you control, and in those areas, you are not a victim. Yes, stuff everyone. Some get it much worse and some have it easier, but there is alway an area in which you are not a victim.

Though I've not read it (I intend to soon), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a great example of what I'm talking about. The man suffered a severe stroke leaving him immobile except for blinking one eye. He wrote a book. He would have been justified in being victimized...but he chose what he could control and acted. He was not a victim.

So, are you a victim of your mood, your poor memory or your lack of motivation? You are not a victim. Identify the problem and take specific and routine measures to change. Easy? No, and if you're like me, you'll mess up every day...but you are not a victim.

Takeaway: You are not a victim (did you guess this one?)

Action Step: Go to Leadership Tip 1 and repeat.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

...but we support the troops!

Energy Bill: Federal Meddling

When the federal government continues on the path laid down by incorporation of the 14th Amendment, it always makes life more difficult.

Take just one example: the freewheeling elimination of the incandescent bulb. Why do you suppose federal grandaddy thought that it was necessary to tell me how to light my home? Is he really concerned about reducing my electric bill? Or maybe it's energy consumption. EarthEasy tells me (with no substantiation)

Replacing a single incandescent bulb with a CFL will keep a half-ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb. If everyone in the U.S. used energy-efficient lighting, we could retire 90 average size power plants. Saving electricity reduces CO2 emissions, sulfur oxide and high-level nuclear waste.
Well, there you have it... grandaddy is going to "retire 90 average size power plants" and save the world by forcing me to purchase light bulbs that are not as brilliant and contain mercury, which makes disposal more difficult and possibly costly.

Don't get me wrong...I have compact fluorescents...I just don't want grandaddy mandating something that he doesn't understand...something that Congress has shown a marked propensity for doing lately.

Want to know why this is in there? Two words: Corporate Welfare

Manufacturers expect over the next decade to provide consumers with other choices as well, since CFLs don’t work as well in applications such as reading lamps.

“It’s the right thing to do,” says Randall B. Moorhead, vice president for the North American affiliate of Royal Phillips Electronics NV of the Netherlands. “But we’re also hoping we’ll make some money. It’s not entirely altruistic.”

No kidding.

Huckabeeing Examined

An interesting take on Huck from his home state.


Leadership Tip 1

As I sit here, baking* rich chocolaty sweetness for my teachers and staff, I thought of another leadership lesson. I will be starting a periodic series called "Leadership Tips." My sister gave me this idea with her comment...These tips will be random in nature, but organized by labels, so that when you want to see the whole collection of wisdom, just click on the label and you'll see, unrolling before your very eyes, leadership concepts that are stunning in simplicity, applicability and effectiveness when implemented. Here goes...

1. Edify your team members. οἰκοδομή - the act of one who promotes another's growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness.

This requires a sincere desire and motivation to build up your team members, not a schmoozy manipulation. Leadership principles do not have to come naturally to be implemented. As an INTJ, it is not easy for me to remember to build up those who work with me. However, I know this is important, so I delegate much of the ceremonial type remembrances to those who thrive on it and focus on interpersonal edification.

For me, this takes the form of short talks with people, inquiring about how they are doing, being present when someone is talking to me. Being the way I am, I must force myself to stop what I am doing to attend to a need brought to my attention.

There are more pieces to this edification point, but today we'll stop here.

Takeaway: Sincere encouragement builds up your team members.

Action Steps: Identify one person in your sphere of influence today that you will intentionally build up through a positive comment or piece of encouragement. Act. Report Back via comments if you are so inclined.

*When I was a child, my career goal was to be a baker. My best friend did not, despite my cajoling, want to go into business with me. He said something about wanting to be a doctor...what a loser! It is a good thing I am not now a baker, my first batch of cookies are lousy.

Energy Bill: Higher Costs, Lower Return

The President has said he will sign the new energy bill today. We have needed a new energy policy for years and we're finally getting one...what's not to like? Three things: 1. Increasing food costs with no reduction in fuel costs, 2. Continued foreign oil dependence, and 3. a failure to pursue nuclear technologies.

1. The bill requires additional spending on ethanol which has spiked the demand for corn in the past two years. Simple supply and demand then requires that supply must increase to meet demand. If the supply doesn't increase at the same rate, the mechanism that market uses to level out the disparity is price. Higher priced corn = higher priced food = higher grocery bill. In addition, opportunity cost comes into play here. The farmers have gone all out in producing corn because that is where the money is. What are they not producing now because they switched over to corn. This reduces supply of a particular commodity, thereby increasing price.

2. Continued foreign oil dependence. The omnibus bill passed by both houses last night

prohibits funding for oil shale commercial regulations which makes commercial production of the United States’ 2 trillion barrels of oil shale resources is impossible.
3. Failure to pursue nuclear technologies. Not a word. This is the surest path to energy independence and it is rarely even discussed.

Oh, and grandaddy federal government is telling us we can't use 100 watt bulbs any more...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

McConnell Amendment Passes


So the omnibus bill will go back over to the House, who approved the bill earlier but with the stipulation that military spending go only toward the effort in Afghanistan. Nancy Pelosi will just love to get this bill back from the Senate with this amendment attached.

She is probably starting to hear the howling for her scalp coming from her sidewalk even now. Sometimes I almost feel sorry for her...almost.

HT: Hugh Hewitt

Omnibus Disaster

An omnibus bill is a bill that combines multiple spending bills into one huge, ginormous bill that no Senator has time to read before voting upon it--he or she must rely almost solely upon staffers to digest it. As such, it is absolutely guaranteed that there will be kilatons of pork in there. Rep. Tom Coburn has counted 9,241 earmarks which total over $23 B.

The bill the Senate is considering tonight combines 11 of 12 appropriations bills. It's 3,565 pages long.

Heritage has done a great job in identifying what's wrong with this omnibus bill. Read this and you'll see that I was right when I told you about Mr. Crockett's lesson...

Hugh Hewitt explains the circumstances around three amendments that have been offered that may kill the bill. The two anti-war measures have already been defeated. If McConnell's amendment (which provides $70B for the war effort without a withdrawal timetable) passes, then the bill will probably pass. Can't blame him...he's probably just trying to find that silver lining. It's just that they should pass a continuing resolution.

And, in case you didn't know it, the Democrats' favorite KKK member (no, it's not Mr. Potter) has truly lost his marbles. You need to watch this and behold who the enlightened electorate of West Virginia have voted and kept in office for 48 years in exchange for bringing home the bacon. And please note...the display below is not just because he's 90 years old...he's been doing this for years...

Black-Hearted Black Hole

There is a fight going on somewhere out there. Daniel Evans, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says,

"What we're looking at is a really extraordinary act of violence by a black hole," he says. "We can see that a very powerful jet of particles is being ejected from a supermassive black hole in the center of a distant galaxy, and there's an unfortunate neighboring galaxy that has moved directly into its line of fire. Not only does this cause the jet to be significantly disrupted, but it may actually have disastrous consequences for any Earthlike planets that happen to lie in its path."
And to make matters worse, I'll bet that galaxy is acting unilaterally!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Good News from NPR

I caught an NPR reporter saying something like, "When an Al Qaeda member waves a flag in Iraq, it is now just a matter of who's going to shoot him first? The Shia who they call infidels or the Sunni who used to be their allies?" (:15)

The NPR anchor intoned that the surge that has been in place for almost a year seems to be working, with the only question being, "what will happen when the troops draw down and force the Iraqi government to take over?"


"Congressman are returning to their districts and facing a firestorm of opposition from their constituents. Although increased numbers of Americans believe that we are making progress in Iraq, 60% of the American people are against the war."

At least 2 more minutes of citing opinions from different segments of people about their view of the war--all negative. Quote from a military father: "The way this is going, we'll be in Iran in a year."

That's NPR, hold the positive news of actual developments to a minimum, then really delve into the opinions of selected individuals -- because that's the real news!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Limited Government Lessons

Davey Crockett as a congressman learned a valuable lesson from one of his constituents. Crockett had proposed to have Congress pay an amount of $20,000 to a widow of a service member. His constitutent, Mr. Bunce addresses this with him

So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other.
It's a great story and demonstrates how easily corruption sneaks in through the guise of charity when giving other people's money. Obvious current examples FEMA, Medicare and Medicaid are just a few of the easy targets created when the people's money is being passed around by programs run by bureaucrats.

Now it's really getting serious...

I found out today that "Films at risk if writers strike lingers." The Da Vinci Code prequel featuring the long-haired Tom Hanks has been postponed! AUGGHHH!

What about hiring non-union writers? Or what about a entertainers writing for themselves?

Carson Daly, Ellen Degeneres ... the soaps?

People don't much like "scabs" I gather...

In my opinion, the WGA jumped the shark when Jesse Jackson picked up a sign on day 5.

I don't pretend to understand the union mentality. As an independent educator, I have never had a desire or seen the need to be involved in a union. Independent schools must produce a service that the customer is wiling to pay twice for, since the state plunders its citizens to pay for others children's education first, then allows them to pay tuition on top of that.

So, I suppose that the emotions that come out of this strike have something to do with a perceived solidarity among the writers. When a substitute writer comes along the collective is betrayed and scorn is heaped upon the "scab."

So, when Romo took over for Bledsoe, do you suppose he was taking an opportunity given him or that he was acting out of naked and immoral ambition?

I'd be interested to hear opinions from my Hollywood friends on this topic...

Blog on the writer's strike

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Leadership Lessons

10 am

So there I was, engaging in a little posterity investment by playing the role of human jungle gym. I receive a phone call from a parent...your team is warming up to play their game...

You ever have a dream where somehow, someway you just totally missed out on all the preparations for your wedding? You're drunk with sleep and your bride-to-be calls and exclaims in high-pitched tones only a dog (and you) can hear, "WHERE ARE YOU? WE'RE ALL WAITING!" Then somehow, someway you are instantly there all decked out in your birthday you spend the rest of the time hiding? neither, but you could dream it...then you'd get a sense of the panic that I experienced earlier today.

Well, to make a long story...I got there after the start of the 3rd quarter, the team started playing with only 5 guys, missing two starters...the reason they were there is because the JV boys had played at 9...we weren't due to play until noon. The call comes at 10. I arrive at the gym at 11:00 (away game, of course). We ended up losing, no surprise because of the circumstances.

As I tell my students, every day is a preparation for leadership. Today, one of my principles of leadership was demonstrated: Communication is one of the hardest and most important areas of leadership. I talked to them about this after the game. Whoever's fault it was...the breakdown in communication produced a cascade of ill effects: the game was a sham because of missing players and coach, the individual players and thus family's schedules and plans are disrupted (which may have its own set of consequences), momentum built from our last win was lost, develops the potential to have ill-will between the people representing the two organizations, the professionalism of both parties can come into question...I could go on.

So, one misplaced phone call or forgotten detail can disrupt and cause dissension. This is on a very small scale. Now apply this to large organizations and the potential for mayhem and disillusionment grows exponentially.

Quality leadership must have a vision and protect it with godly character. However, the leader must also develop a tool chest of skills to implement the vision. Without the tools, the vision lies dormant inside the leader's head, where it does no good to anyone.

In fact, if the vision stays in his head, he ceases to be a leader, either because he will be removed from the leadership position, or (more likely) people will merely cease to follow him. If you fancy yourself a leader, look back. If there's no one following you, you're just taking a walk.

Friday, December 14, 2007


A thoughtful discussion of time and Advent by Jill Carratini at RZIM.

To the English reader, chronos and kairos both appear to us as “time.” But in Greek, these words are vastly different. Chronos is the time on your wrist watch, time on the move, passing from present to future and so becoming past. Kairos, on the other hand, is qualitative rather than quantitative. It is time as a moment, a significant occasion, an immeasurable quality. In the New Testament, kairos is God’s time, it is real time--it is the eternal now.

Whether we are ready for our calendars to announce the arrival of Christmas, Christ will come. He comes quietly and unexpectedly; he comes and upsets our very notion of time and all we discover within it. The eternal Word steps into flesh, into our bounded realm of time, and literally embodies the reality that time is meaningful because of the eternal one in our midst.

Liberty and Christianity Part I - Render “What” Unto Caesar?

As a Christian anarcho-libertarian, I wrestle continuously with the passages of scripture regarding the relationship and authority of secular government within the human realm. To many of my brothers and sisters, these scriptures putatively ascribe divine endorsement for the State, whatever that is.

The subject has been discussed in my friend Doug Bandow’s wonderful book Beyond Good Intentions, and elsewhere. Those discussions have always proved to be unsatisfactory to me and insufficient for me to arrive at a comfortable level of understanding and enaction.

In the upcoming essay “On Christian Citizenship” I will turn my attentions to those passages that appear to promote the legitimacy of civil authorities such as Romans 13 (almost universally misinterpreted), but for the moment I’m sticking to the memorable passage from Matthew 22.

15. Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
16. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
17. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18. But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19. Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21. They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
Living as a believer of more than 40 years and among conservative evangelicals, I have always been surrounded by this tension of competing yet simultaneous citizenships. I am a member of the human race, a citizen of the nation-state USA, and a redeemed child of God. One urges me to be humane (usually without objectively defining it), another to be lawful, yet another to be righteous.

Recently I have gone back to the to the question of “Rendering therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.” Perhaps as a result of living as a hostage through the reign of Xlintoon and contemplating its reprise, I wonder exactly what does that phrase mean?

The “render” part I get without difficulty. But what about “that which is Caesar’s?” I have no desire to be sacrilegious, but is it as superficial as the old economics joke punch line, “You can set the tax rate as long as I get to determine what is taxable”?

Who gets to say “What Caesar’s” is?

I am not talking about the instances where Caesar is explicitly commanding us to place him above God, to violate directly our duties to faith and obedience to God as we live out our lives of devotion and ministry. Only in the radical religious Left is there any sense that Caesar trumps God at all times.

“That which is Caesar’s” could have two very distinct and dramatically different meanings. The first, a materialistic view, could be paraphrased “that which is owned by Caesar.”

The second meaning, a more ephemeral construct, might be expressed as “those areas of human activity where Caesar has legitimate authority to regulate and control that behavior.” And, in fact, the vast majority of civil laws follows the latter model. Ideally, and mostly in practice, law serves to tell us what we cannot do that we would rather do if left to our own inclinations. This principle has been augmented (and corrupted) by the notion that law also requires us to do that which we would rather not do.

Yet a third concept, and the basis for all modern government, is that the State serves as the catalyst and vehicle for taking the property of one person or entity and transferring it to another to whom it does not belong and who has no rightful claim to it. [ed. note: See Bastiat's The Law for a discussion on "legal plunder."]

Let’s return to an analysis of “What Caesar’s is” first in the material, then in the behavioral realm.


Am I Caesar’s property? Is my mind? Is my labor and its fruit? Are my possessions his property?

As a practical matter of realpolitik and societal circumstances, the answer might be “yes,” but the coercion of politics is not the same thing as legitimate authority. Caesar may treat me as chattel and confiscate my abilities, my labors, and my possessions at the point of a gun, but that doesn’t make it legitimately his. One thing is certain: Scripture is explicitly clear about the role of self, talents, labor, and property in righteous stewardship. These things are not Caesar’s. They are God’s, entrusted to humans to use as wise stewards in His service.

But what about those who are not believers, who don’t accept the Lordship of Elohim and Logos in their lives? It doesn’t matter. Acknowledging or not acknowledging God cannot be the determining factor is describing the relationship of a citizenry to its civil authorities. To argue otherwise would be to justify the notion that “equal protection under the law” is an abhorrent idea. Caesar does not own us, he does not own our talents, he does not own our labors, he does not own our property regardless of our relationship to God.


But what about the realms of behavior? Doesn’t Caesar have a legitimate authority to control that? Absolutely yes. Emphatically no. The distinction, and ensuing confusion, descends from competing visions of “What behavior?” and “Who is controlled?”

While Scripture has a clear message for what human behavior should be, it is far more focused on what behavior must be for certain humans, namely the Remnant of believers, who are commanded to righteousness. The principles of general human behavior are codified in the Ten Commandments. This becomes even more specific in the New Testament exhortations on living devout lives. It is a set of instructions on how Christians should, and in some cases, must, live, not how their pagan neighbors should or must live.

In so doing, Scripture is drawing a distinction between righteousness and lawfulness, and sin and crime.

Caesar's Owns Almost Nothing

But what is the right and ultimate purpose of Caesar? To, protect me from myself, or to protect me from others, and them from me? Things I do to myself, or in concert with other willing participants, may be sinful but not necessarily criminal. On the other hand, behaviors I inflict on others who are unwilling participants, may certainly be sinful and criminal, and are therefore a legitimate area of “that which is Caesar’s.”

Since the passage in Matthew explicitly mentions currency, it is fair to conclude that transactions involving state-sponsored currency are also arenas falling under Caesar’s authority. But what about transactions based on bullion, or private scrip, or barter?

In the end, I have derived the following understanding of that “Which is Caesar’s.”
  1. Caesar has the legitimate authority to protect us from each other. That’s about it.
  2. He does not own me, although he may, as a practical matter, enslave me by force.
  3. He does not own my time, talents, and labor, although he may, as a practical matter, conscript me illegitimately.
  4. He doesn’t own my possessions, although he may extort or confiscate them at the point of a gun.
I now have no internal conflict about “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's” because that which is Caesar’s is almost nothing. In everything else I owe no allegiance to him, and do not feel compelled to render anything.



I have asked a good friend of mine, Don Williams, a Smithsonian conservator, evangelical and all-around rabble rouser to write an essay detailing his definition of liberty and government as seen in the Scriptures. These are important questions to have in mind as we face another election year.

Read and enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Language Barrier

Why has Mike skyrocketed in recent weeks? I think I know, and it has little to do with a national sales tax or his positions on immigration, taxes or foreign policy.

He speaks our language. As evangelicals, we have an ear for particular phrases and thoughts that seem to go together naturally (ex. showing that the crux of the evolution debate is a debate over God's existence, emphasizing the sanctity of life at all levels). When we listen to those who are obviously not one of us, it is painfully obvious, and generally we humor the person politely, but know that he is not one of us.

At PBU, there was a woman who spoke in chapel. She was there to give out an award, I don't remember exactly what it was for. But instead of merely giving out the award, she attempted to take a whole assembly of Bible college students through several passages of Scripture. Now, if I was presenting an award to students at the physics department of any college or university, you can bet your britches I am NOT going to be discussing string theory from the stage. After three words, they just know that you don't.

This is what she did and it was painfully obvious as she took passages out of context and made them say things that fit the purpose of her award, but not the intent of the passage.

On another note, I have been complimented on my inflection when I speak what little Spanish I know. When I was on a mission trip in Venezuela, I boldly ordered a hamburger (so far so good), pointed at a napkin and said "Dame la cerveza, por favor", which translated means, "Please hand me the beer." They smiled and handed me the "servieta." They knew. The inflection sounded good, but the words didn't fit.

Listening to secularists espouse "values" is bit like these two varying examples. One, the words are the right words, but the inflection or pacing or something is off. Two, the words just don't fit. For some reason, religion has come back into vogue, and the secularist politicians know when it's time to get on the catwalk, sashay with proclamations of belief in God and dazzle you with their wise and tolerant embrace of "faith", (all the while campaigning in churches without the slightest apprehension while the ACLU intimidates conservative churches over voter guides).

Well, Huck does not have that problem. He says things the way I'd say them. When he made the point that if one can just set aside faith when he assumes office it is no faith at all, he might have read some of my writing (I flatter myself).

He firmly understands the sanctity of life and speaks well in support of it.


I clearly remember when I was 3, that there was a gentleman who wooed evangelicals with his Southern Baptist charm and was elected with great hopes. In my book, that man is running neck and neck with Buchanan for "worst...ever."

National Review had this to say

He wants to anthropomorphize international relations and bring a Christian commitment to the Golden Rule to our affairs with other nations. As he told the Des Moines Register the other day, “You treat others the way you’d like to be treated. That’s to me the fundamental issue that has to be re-established in our dealings with other countries.”

This is deeply naïve. Countries aren’t people, and the world is more dangerous than a Sunday church social. Threats, deception, and — as a last resort — violence must play a role in international relations. Differences cannot always be worked out through sweet persuasion. A U.S. president who doesn’t realize this will repeat the experience of President Jimmy Carter at his most ineffectual.
At The King's Academy, we emphasize godly character...but also knowledge and wisdom. I have no doubt that he is one of us...I don't doubt his sincerity, just like I don't doubt Carter's. I will not vote for Huck in the primaries as the specter of another Carter gives me the willies.

When the general election comes just remember, though he's from Arkansas...he's no Clinton.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New brief in the Boumediene case

Interesting development in that the detainees in Bouemediene v. Bush are arguing that they have a "common law constitutional right" to habeas corpus.

Basically, they are saying the common law (which is widely understood to be the basis of our current system -- see Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England -- a book said to be on the desk of every person during the Constitutional Convention) embraced the principles of their case prior to the creation of federal judiciary. Therefore, this right precedes the authority of Congress to change it.

They are in effect asking the court to equate the right of habeas to natural right as written in our Declaration - our primary organic document. The difference, of course, is that natural rights have no suspension clause, that is to say, no time at which the legislature is authorized to withdraw recognition of the right.

Although common law arguments are always interesting, they carry small weight simply because our system, though built on common law and carries with it many of the principles, is a different system. The question continues to turn on whether or not these particular detainees even have the right of habeas given their circumstances and identity, not necessarily whether or not Congress has the right to remove it.

Repub Debate

I missed the debate today...something to do with work. It seems to have been a decent debate where they talked about issues, though the Spectator doesn't agree. The Des Moines Register will have the debate here hopefully soon.

Sports and Education

Ever stop to think about why most schools have sports teams? Instantly, everyone knows the natural answer. Sports has much to teach students: teamwork, discipline, sportsmanship, mental and physical fortitude, health, etc.

All good answers, but are these things being accomplished? And shouldn't all students have a chance at this type of education? In our current system, only the best players get to be on a team. This is my problem with large schools...if the benefits of sports are so great, why can only 15 guys from a high school of 2,000 play on the basketball team? And whatever your answer is, does that justify failing to offer this opportunity to the rest?

Small schools provide much more opportunity for all students to experience the valuable lessons taught through sports. Whether interscholastic or intramural, the lessons are the same and more valuable, because the emphasis is rarely on "win at all costs."

We won last night, by the way...but we're not getting press in the Reading Eagle because we're not "official." That's all's not about the press, it's about what these kids are learning.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lessons to Learn

In talking to my students, I consistently stress to them the importance of taking every day as a preparation for that moment where God will open up opportunity. In some metaphysical way, our habits shape our souls. The daily grind of performing duties slowly produces virtue, if performed with intention.

I can practically guarantee that, at some point, you will have opportunity to lead. If you have wasted the days of drudgery in mindless repetition and begrudging melancholy, you will not be ready. However, if you are alert and look for areas of growth and learning amidst toil, you will find that when opportunity arises, you WILL be ready. Others will look at you and say, "I never knew he had it in him!"

Look, Moses was 80 years old when God began to use him. Some would argue that he still wasn't ready because God fetched Aaron into the wilderness to accompany him to Egypt.

All that to say, Kate and I have been thoroughly disabused of the arrogant notion that we are in control. We would never have planned this, however, we are being prepared for an opportunity that we would never have otherwise encountered, and we are attempting to stay alert and ready to learn this day's lesson.

In a purely physical sense, this days' lesson was that prednisone will keep you up all night if you're not careful!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What is a law?

Sometimes I ask my students this question. What is a law? I get answers's a rule, it tells you what you should or shouldn't do, etc.

We must understand that a law is a moral statement. It is a statement by society that says that we think certain things are good and certain things are bad. Take a stop sign. How can that be a moral statement? Take the purpose of the stop is to prevent large hunks of metal carrying human beings around from smashing into one another, thereby causing injury, destruction and general mayhem.

Society has determined that these latter results are bad, therefore laws are passed to prevent these bad things. So, when one performs a california stop, he is wary of law enforcers.

Why are the law enforcers given the rights to enforce a ticket on you? Because they have guns? Cars with pretty lights? Badges? No, because we believe as a society that injury, destruction and mayhem are bad, and it is the law enforcers job to punish the bad and reward the good.

This is one reason why earmarks are morally repugnant--they are supposed to be making clear moral statements, all the while buying votes with my money.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Separation Doctrine

My local paper today the Reading Eagle, has a regular editorialist John Forester. Today's editorial uses Mitt Romney's speech on his faith as a springboard into a lamentation that

Today, it would appear that the ideal president would be someone who took his orders directly from the Almighty himself.
Well, I'm going to use his editorial as a springboard myself...

Mention Separation of Church and State and people usually take it to mean a denial of any mention of religious belief in the public sphere. Thanks to several SCOTUS decisions we've come to this place. In a poor attempt at originalism, Justice Black in Everson v. Board of Education (highlights mine) sought to use Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association to insert the "wall of separation" phrase into Constitutional jurisprudence.

The Constitution is a federal, not a state document.
Therefore, the limitations in the Constitution are federal, not state, unless specifically designated.
If you read the letter, you see Jefferson's opinion that the states ought to follow the federal government's lead.

Of course, the previous paragraph is no longer true because this same Justice introduced incorporation, which applies the Bill of Rights to the states. We may talk more about that later.

Even in Jefferson's letter, there is a distinction between governmental establishment and support. Under our Constitution, government has always been free to support one particular religion over another. Federal government was restricted from coercing its citizens into a particular religion by way of taxation or religious tests for office, for example.

The idea of a cleansing of religion from the public sphere is thoroughly unconstitutional. Those that support strict separation can only point to past cases that have all developed from Everson...not the undergirding philosophy in the Declaration or the text of the Constitution.

Vision Loss Redux Part VI - The Dream

So there I was, sitting in the doctor's chair in a little examination room. He had what amounted to a Styrofoam coffee cup with the bottom punched out over my left eye, while checking my intraocular pressure with a Q-Tip. It didn't hurt because he had numbed my eye, but he just kept poking and poking and poking. It was starting to hurt and I was getting annoyed...then I woke up. It was Friday morning.

What a way to start the day! I don't typically remember much detail from my dreams (unlike my wife who can tell you the 5 W's of every dream--and it's usually relational stuff...the kind of stuff that would bore me into an even deeper sleep and give me night terrors). However, this one stuck with me for obvious reasons.

On the way to work...more my left eye...sorta creepy, with the dream and all. I waited to make sure, then called the Wizard of Wills. Providentially, he was in the office closest to where we live (where he works once every two weeks) and we were able to get in the same day, after some health insurance wrangling.

After a flourascein test, he identified the area of vision loss and, disconcertingly, identified three other areas where leakage was occurring. Click here for an informative video on the procedure. He was "concerned" by this development and wanted to address this right away. I will be calling him first thing Monday morning as well and anticipate reporting that there were no new occurrences.

So, now I'm on a Barry Bonds-level dosage of steroids...I'm using them for the anti-inflammatory effects...honest! I wonder if I will grow 2 hat sizes? The idea is that the prednisone will combat the inflammation of the blood vessels in my eye. We still don't know the cause, but this is the best way to combat the effects.

The cause is not what was assumed before, but he blames Susac's for the closing of the blood vessel.

I left the office with so many prescriptions stuffed in my pockets, I felt like Sandy Berger, although, even though I feel sure my and his documents are equally innocent, I didn't feel the need to stuff them under a trailer.

The saga continues...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Worst Congress Ever

This is a fun read...although Rush does (as he usually does) oversimplify the numbers, he is always fun to listen to...sort of like eating Reese's Peanut Butter to eat, just don't eat too much.

The oversimplification has to do with the fact that people tend to rate Congress as a whole lower than their own congressman. So, this overwhelmingly negative number may or may not mean that 69% would say that "electing this Congress was a mistake."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Constitutional Rights For Everyone!

There was a fascinating argument before SCOTUS today. The case of Boumediene v. Bush, in which a detainee at Guantanamo Bay is suing for a hearing under the Constitutional right of habeas corpus, literally "you have the body", meaning that under the Constitution, an individual has a right to face his accusers in a court of law observing due process. (How's that for a run-on sentence?)

First, we need to look at who is bringing the enemy combatant - a new term devised to define those fighting against our nation without the sanction of a recognized nation. Think Barbary pirates, Indian wars, and in some instances, Vietnam.

What is twisting up everyone's panties, however is that this individual is claiming that he is not a combatant, but that he got caught up in a raid and has been held without a trial for six years.

On the face of it, this is not right. I mean, how would you like to be swept away by the government and separated from your family for six years, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Wait! Remember, this is not about whether it is a nice, good or edifying thing to be incarcerated for six years. It is about whether or not a non-citizen, let alone an enemy combatant has Constitutional rights. Whenever an individual engages in a social contract with a nation, either through birth or naturalization, the rights and duties of the nation are bestowed. They are not bestowed merely by claiming them.

Unfortunately, some of the Justices didn't seem to want to dwell on the issue of whether or not a non-citizen should be granted Constitutional rights--they see it as a foregone conclusion. Many see being on US soil as being the only requirement to grant the writ (a major reason why they haven't been moved). Justice Kennedy pretty clearly takes this position and is clearing the path to his forthcoming decision by saying the there is no substantive difference between US soil and GTMO.

They are also looking at whether or not the military tribunals that were put in place are an adequate substitution for habeas. This is patently silly because if they don't have a right to habeas, there is nothing in the Constitution that says they should have some sort of substitute. Therefore, SCOTUS should keep its nose out, as this becomes a political, not a judicial issue.

Andrew McBride, in a fascinating debate on the issues in this case over at the Federalist Society says,

The idea that the judiciary would have any role in deciding whether foreign nationals were enemy combatants would have been utterly incomprehensible to our Framers. These were quintessentially “political questions” having elements of both war powers and foreign affairs beyond judicial ken or competence.

The right to invoke the constitutional writ of heabeas corpus (and the constitutional guarantees it is designed to help enforce) is limited to those who have voluntarily created some peaceable relationship with this body politic. Someone whose only connection to this country is having been captured by our military while trying to harm it or its interests has no more right to invoke the writ of habeas corpus than he does to invoke a Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Also Brad Berenson,
To extend constitutional protections to them [enemy combatants] on this basis would be to reward the very civilian disguises that make their belligerency unlawful and so uniquely dangerous to real civilians, ours and other nations'.
I have little confidence that SCOTUS will come down on the right side in this one, judging from Kennedy's questions. Probably the decision will be mixed, with some details being handed back to the circuit court.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Education Scores

In the last two weeks, we've heard news about how American kids are falling behind the world in test scores. Last week, it was 4th graders and today it was math and science scores. You could interpret this a several ways:

  • The Europeans Know Best way: We need to put our students on a track and withdraw funding if they change their minds. No wishy washy teenagers!
  • The South Korean way: Students are lazy. They need to go to school from 9-5, then 7-10, and Saturday morning. They bring shame to their family if they score low!
  • The Bush Republicans way: We need to strengthen the Department of Education to hold schools accountable to test scores. Federal Power can be used for can cure racism, poverty and stupidity.
  • The Democrats way: See "the NEA way"
  • The Christian Right's way: See, that's what happens when you take God out of schools...Hell in a handbasket, ah well, the rapture will be here soon anyhow.
  • The Socialists way: see "The Democrats Way"
  • The Student's way: What do you mean? I got straight A's!
  • Milton Friedman's way: Competition! We need competition to cause poor schools to fail and replace them with high quality.
  • The Founder's way: Use the Bible, Shakespeare and McGuffy's Reader. Reading readiness? What's that?
  • The Classical Liberal's way: Allow local control of the schools. Praise achievement whereby students gain confidence. Break up the monstrous districts that treat students like widgets. Use more than four textbook publishers so that texts don't all emanate from the same echo chamber. Study classic philosophy grounded in reason. For goodness sake, stop using students in social educational theory experiments! Education is not complicated.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Did you know?

The total forest area in the U.S. has been stable for the last 100 years? We currently have 747 million acres of forest land (32% of our total land mass). So...why do people make such a big deal about planting trees? Oh, that's right...we're merely responding to the moral imperative.

Living in my Parent's Basement

An apt analogy:

Which brings us to a fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives want the freedom to pursue happiness on their own terms. Liberals think they have a right to happiness and that it should be delivered, like a pizza.

When you understand this, you understand why the liberal version of the American dream -- no worries, free health care and a guaranteed income, among other things -- would be like living in your parents' basement, for life.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Walter Willliams on the legitimate role of government:

Look around the world: you will see that what receives the least care tends to be commonly owned; that which receives the best care tends to be privately owned. In free markets one's personal wealth is held hostage to socially responsible behavior. To take another example, the citizens of New York derive their daily meals not from the benevolence of the Missouri farmer (who may in fact hate New Yorkers) but because it is in his own private self-interest to supply them. Most things get done because of self interest and private property rights.

Widespread government ownership and/or control of property is the antithesis of voluntary exchange. Government is the major source of forced exchanges, the most prominent of which is taxation.
Hugo Chavez

President Hugo Chavez called for radical changes to Venezuela's constitution Wednesday night, proposing reforms that would eliminate current limits on his re-election and extend presidential terms.

Chavez, speaking to the National Assembly, said presidential terms should be extended from six to seven years. Chavez also proposed ending autonomy of Venezuela's central bank, which would give him access to billions of dollars from the banks reserves, creating new types of property that would be managed by cooperatives and creating "a popular militia" that would form part of the military.


Hillary Clinton has unveiled the third part of her plan to ensure that all Americans have affordable, quality health insurance. Building on her proposals to rein in costs and to insist on value and quality, her American Health Choices Plan will secure, simplify and ensure choice in health coverage for all Americans. This Plan covers every American – finally addressing the needs of the 47 million uninsured and the tens of millions of workers with coverage who fear they could be one pink slip away from losing their health coverage – with no overall increase in health spending or taxes. For those with health insurance, the plan builds on the current system to give businesses and their employees greater choice of health plans – including keeping the one they have – while lowering cost and improving quality.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Vision Loss Redux Part V

Well, if you made it all the way through my Dr. Seuss impression, you already know that I have been "diagnosed" with Susac's syndrome.

I put this term in quotes because I have become acutely aware of the game of 20 questions that is medicine. Once you get to the end of the checklist of symptom/disease correlation, the doctor looks at you with a blank and (if he's good) frustrated expression and says, "I don't know."

Thankfully, Dr. Singh is one of those sincere, resilient doctors who did not just ship me off when I took up too much of his time. But he too is at the end of his expertise.

So, I trot down the yellow brick road to another obviously very intelligent wizard at Wills Eye. Wisely looking at my whole range of symptoms that started the day I moved to PA (I am firmly refusing to see causation instead of mere correlation), he believes that I have this extremely rare syndrome. If the diagnosis is correct, and my amazing mathematical skills haven't failed me, the chances that I have this are 1 in 20 million or always said I was special!

What's next? I figured you'd ask that. I'm planning on sending my records to another doctor for another look. I think I've undergone most every test there is to take for the head, so it'll just be attempting to gain access to another doctor's experiences and sleuthing capabilities, and seeking ways to avoid ingesting rat poison for the rest of my life.