Monday, November 09, 2009

Instone-Brewer on Abortion

David I-B's sermon on abortion is linked here. Christians are sometimes vexed by the lack of any mention regarding abortion in the NT. David I-B discusses this point by discussing 1st century moral values among the Jews and the Greco-Romans:
"Originally, in rural Greek & Roman society they did “expose” infants
- and some people still did so in the 1st century, but it was difficult in towns
- it was easier to quietly smother the baby at birth and throw out the corpse
- some people did still leave babies on a hillside, leaving them to the ‘gods’
- but in practice this left them to the dogs, and to brothel keepers who sometimes rescued infants as an investment for their business. "

"Jews thought that this Roman custom was barbaric, and they said so
- Philo pulls no punches when he described what actually happened in practice:
“Some of them do the deed with their own hands; with monstrous cruelty and barbarity they stifle and throttle the first breath which the infants draw or throw them into a river or into depths of the sea, after attaching some heavy substance to make them sink more quickly under its weight. Others take them to be exposed in some desert place, hoping, they themselves say, that they may be saved, but leaving them in actual truth to suffer the most distressing fate. For all the beasts that feed on human flesh visit the spot and feast unhindered on the infants; a fine banquet.”(Spec.3.114-5)
- Josephus contrasted Jewish & Roman cultures in Conta Apionem, incl: [2.202]
“The [Mosaic] Law… forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or to kill it afterward; and if any woman appears to have done so, she will be a murderer of her child, by killing a living creature and diminishing human kind.”
I-B finds a clue in Acts 15 instructions to new Gentile Christians:
19 "Therefore it is my R897 judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things R898 F362 contaminated by idols and from fornication R899 and from what R900 is strangled and from blood.
The bolded item seems curious and out of place. Some translations for pnictos use "strangled meat." So is it another form of dietary restriction?

I-B cues in:
The fourth word, pnictos is very rare but is usually translated “strangle”
- why? because it sounds similar to pnigos and that means “strangle”
- actually, this isn’t too far off, because I later concluded it means “smother”
- but what does it mean in this context? How does it make any sense?
All the other examples of pnictos were used with regard to food
- in particular a certain type of meat called “smothered meat”. What’s that?

but what would the original readers think?
- well, I think they would be confused at first
- it is rather like saying: the four worst sins you can commit are idolatry, fornication, murder and eating Pate de Foie Gras!

Studylight has a translation of pnictos:

suffocate, strangled
  1. what is strangled, i.e. an animal deprived of life without the shedding of blood
  2. of cooking: our "smothered" as a culinary term

David I-B sums it up here (bold added):

What would they explain? They tell them why “smothering” is so bad
- not the smothering of new-born baby animals, ready for eating
- but the smothering of new-born babies, or killing them any other way

Why did they use this strange rare word for “smothering”
- I think the euphemism “exposed” didn’t contain any negative value
- that’s just the normal thing you do, as a sensible father and good citizen
- instead they wanted to use a word which took away the pretence
- like anti-abortionists talk about murdering babies instead of aborting fetuses
- it may not be the most accurate language, but it conveys the moral truth
- no-one, after hearing these four words explained, would forget the message

The Apostolic Decree told new Gentile believers about a new morality
- they weren’t allowed to sacrifice to idols or eat in pagan temple dining rooms
- they weren’t allowed to have sex with slaves, or prostitutes, male or female
- they weren’t allowed to kill slaves or eat blood (probably both messages)
- and they weren’t allowed to kill babies as a means of birth control

His publication appears in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 52, 2009, 301-321

Also note that the Didache, the 1st century instructions to new Christians prohibits abortions.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Raced-based university admissions

There are interesting comments at this article.

The Test Score Advantage

Among the potential bombshells in the book are data on the advantages or disadvantages of SAT or ACT scores by race, ethnicity and economic class. Many studies -- including those released annually by the College Board and the ACT -- show gaps in the average tests scores by members of different racial or ethnic groups. This research takes that further, however, by controlling for numerous factors, including gender, status as an athlete or alumni child, high school grades and test scores, type of high school attended and so forth.

The "advantage" referred to, to take an example from the book, is what it would take to have equivalent odds of admission, after controlling for other factors. So the table's figure of a 3.8 black ACT "advantage" means that a black student with an ACT score of 27 would have the same chances of admission at the institutions in the study as a white student with a score of 30.8.

As the following table shows, there are large black advantages in the way colleges consider SAT and ACT scores, and notable disadvantages for Asian applicants. On issues of wealth, the SAT shows an expected affirmative action tilt, with the most disadvantaged students gaining and the wealthiest losing. But there is also a gain for upper middle class students. On the ACT, analysis found the advantages go to wealthier students.

The table uses ACT scores for public institutions and SAT scores for privates. The "norm" score was considered white for the race section, and middle class for the class section.

Advantages by Race and Class on the SAT and ACT at Selective Colleges, Fall 1997

Group Public Institutions (on ACT scale of 36) Private Institutions (on SAT scale of 1,600)
--White -- --
--Black +3.8 +310
--Hispanic +0.3 +130
--Asian -3.4 -140
--Lower -0.1 +130
--Working +0.0 +70
--Middle -- --
--Upper-Middle +0.3 +50
--Upper +0.4 -30

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Same Ol' New Jersey

One of the reasons New Jersey will stay New Jersey no matter who's governor, from the WSJ:

Property Taxes Could Sink Chris Christie in New Jersey

New Jersey Republican Chris Christie, who hopes to unseat Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in next Tuesday's election, is a former U.S. attorney who locked up more than 130 public officials on corruption charges. But what New Jersey needs is a governor willing to confront the state's Supreme Court over who is in charge of school funding. And Mr. Christie has shown no stomach for that fight.

New Jersey's constitution gives the state legislature the power to distribute proceeds of the state's income tax to aid local education and partially relieve the burden of property taxes. But in a succession of school-funding cases over the years, the state Supreme Court has taken control of the $11 billion Property Tax Relief Fund.

The result is a perennial property-tax crisis. The court sends more than half of the state aid to 31 largely urban "special needs" school districts, the special needs of which were for the most part created by decades of Democratic mismanagement. The remaining 554 largely suburban towns fight over the rest...[more]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Do Republicans Know More?

From Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web 10/29/09

Why Do Republicans Know More?
The Weekly Standard's Mary Katherine Ham, a distant cousin of Francis Bacon, has an intriguing blog post on a recent survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Pew asked a series of questions about current events, and found that Republicans were considerably more likely than Democrats to know the correct answers. Democrats outscored Republicans on only one question, whether health spending is higher in the U.S. or Europe, and the two parties tied when asked what policy area the term "public option" refers to. On 10 other questions, ranging from who Glenn Beck is to the name of the newest Supreme Court justice, Republicans were more likely to answer correctly.

Ham faults the media for not paying much attention to this finding, and we reckon they haven't. The survey is two weeks old, and this is the first we've heard about it. But it got us to thinking about the reasons for the discrepancy.

It reminded us of an item we did in 2003, after Arnold Schwarzenegger's election as California governor. Looking at exit-poll data, we noted that Republicans seemed to do better among more educated voters: high school dropouts are more Democratic than high-school graduates, who in turn are more Democratic than college graduates. The exception is that those who have done postgraduate study have voting patterns similar to dropouts. We suspect this is because this group includes unionized teachers.

Another possibility is that the higher knowledge level among Republicans is an artifact of public disillusionment with the GOP. For the past several years, fewer Americans have described themselves in polls as Republicans, a trend that has not yet reversed despite the unpopularity of President Obama's policies. If Republicans are in bad odor, then less-engaged citizens would be less likely to declare themselves Republicans.

Monday, October 26, 2009

WSJ: Fiat Models to Drive Chrysler

Over at the WSJ a slide-show of Chrysler's fate. The Fiats look like props from a Federico Fellini movie. So what happens when you merge a crappy American car company with an Italian one? Wasn't there a reason Fiat left the American market back in the 1970's?

The best comment from the WSJ:

"We would have been better off liquidating Chrysler and at then flying a fleet of B-52's to Italy in order to drop a few hundred billion USD out of their holds. That would have been cheaper and more effective."

Monday, April 06, 2009

The MBA is taking America down

Bloggers are weighing in on the worthlessness of the MBA. Here's one. I think it's one of the components of the trinity of disaster that academia has imposed on America. The other two are diversity and Colleges of Education.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Student Loan Debt -- Good or Bad?

Two recent articles in the WSJ and at a CNN blog illustrate the role of debt in modern life. In the WSJ article "With this Debt I Wed Thee" the author makes a good distinction:
Good debt: a mortgage on an affordable house; a loan on an affordable car; student loans to pay for a college degree. In effect, good debt improves your life permanently.

Bad debt: auto leases, since they generally finance cars you otherwise can't afford; home-equity loans or lines of credit, which too often fund discretionary purchases; any consumer expenses for which you allow the balance to roll over from month to month. In effect, bad debt only improves your lifestyle temporarily.
The CNN blogger is a recent grad saddled with student loan debt, over $100,000 studying an unspecified major that supposedly allowed her to obtain her position. She does mention that she knew her career prospects would yield low pay. It's clear that she and commentators on her blog are asking for a bailout. To what extent should society accommodate this behavior? The adage that student loan debt is a good one is in fact a fallacy. It's simple to weigh the costs -- does the degree allow for the income to pay off such debt? If not, then it's a no go. This stuff about a college degree creating well-rounded citizens is overrated. If you were take two groups of people send one off to college, the other to work or the military, you'd find the latter more mature and able to assume the responsibility of citizenry. College loan debt can be bad debt, as many use these loans for precisely for temporary improvement of lifestyle, i.e. postponement of adult responsibilities and hedonism with the pretensions of scholarly pursuits.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Is California Going Bust?

Looks like the reverse of the 1930's dust bowl where people fled the heartland for California.

From Forbes magazine:

Is California Going Bust?
Matt Woolsey 04.13.09, 12:00 AM ET

There has been many a time in California's history when it seemed to outsiders to be barreling toward a cliff and to insiders as a place for unbounded optimism. A favorite Silicon Valley bumper sticker says, "Dear God, one more bubble before I die."

That optimism is being sorely tested. Statewide unemployment, at 10.1%, is well above the national average of 8%. Per capita income growth, which used to be above average, is now lagging. In the last year home prices fell 35% in San Francisco, 30% in San Jose and 27% in San Diego, according to Radar Logic, a New York real estate derivatives firm. Half of the home sales in Los Angeles are from banks dumping foreclosed properties at steep discounts.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Have you noticed more Ponzi schemes in the news?

The king of the recent Ponzi schemes is of course Bernard Madoff ($50 billion). But I've noticed that many more mini-Madoffs are appearing in the news. Here are a few: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Out of these R. Allen Stanford ($8 billion) comes closest to Madoff. Have there been more than usual coming out of this latest bubble, or have these types always been there preying on the naive and/or greedy? Madoff's victims could hardly be called naive, but were they greedy or lazy?

And what about the mother of all Pozni schemes? This CNN piece doesn't think it's a Ponzi scheme. It's wrong

Friday, January 23, 2009

Snopes on what Democrats were saying about Iraqi WMD's

I got into a discussion with a Steve Sailor reader at one of the blog comment forums. Basically he was offering 20/20 hindsight, arm chair quarterbacking insights on W's Iraq invasion. Ignoring WMD's the invasion was morally justifiable based solely the numbers of Iraqi civilians were killing during the 1991-2003 sanctions period. Wikipedia has a good article on this. With W's invasion the sanctions are gone and the killing for the most part has stopped. The blog commenter went on to say that we should have just lifted the sanctions altogether ignoring Saddam Hussein's behavior. How possible was that? Check out the comments made by prominent Democrats, pre-invasion at Snopes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Samuelson on socialized medicine and the coming Medicare/Social Security Crisis

Robert Samuelson has two columns that do a good job of the insanity of Obama's and the voter's choices.

Obama's Unhealthy Choices:

"What really drives health spending, the study finds, is that Americans
receive more costly medical services than other peoples do, and pay more for
them. On a population-adjusted basis, the number of CT scans in 2005 was 72
percent higher in the United States than in Germany; U.S. reimbursement rates
were four times higher. Knee replacements were 90 percent more frequent than in
the average wealthy country and are growing rapidly. In 2005, there were 750,000 knee and hip replacements, up 70 percent in five years, reports the journal Health Affairs."

In an October 22, 2008 WaPo column he has this:
Young Voters Get Mad

"You're being played for chumps. Barack Obama and John McCain want your votes, but they're ignoring your interests. You face a heavily mortgaged future. You'll pay Social Security and Medicare for aging baby boomers. The needed federal tax increase might total 50 percent over the next 25 years. Pension and health costs for state and local workers have doubtlessly been underestimated. There's the expense of decaying infrastructure -- roads, bridges, water pipes. All this will squeeze other crucial government services: education, defense, police. "

"Obama's your favorite candidate (by 64 percent to 33 percent among 18- to
29-year-olds, according to the latest
Post-ABC News poll)."

"Click on the
Obama video. You'll see some world-class pandering. There are
three basic ways of reducing the costs of Social Security and Medicare: increase
eligibility ages; trim benefits; and require recipients to pay more for their
Medicare benefits (higher premiums, co-payments or deductibles). In his talk,
Obama effectively rejected all three. "

Why would young voters go against their own interests? Perhaps it's form of generational altruism, knowing in the end they'll take the lumps (huge). I think the answer is simpler than that - they're woefully ignorant of finances and purpose of state-hood. They believe they're voting for security (theirs) when actually they're voting for the financial equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. We'll see in the future that the purpose of state-hood is to provide for an orderly society and not guaranteed financial security.