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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Inflation heats up?

Inflation is on the rise, says the Fed and many economists.  Yahoo Big Story is that apartment rents, haircuts, Starbucks Coffee, and gym memberships are higher.  Um, well, those don’t affect me.  My honey does my haircuts, I own my home, sweat every day on the job—the last thing I would think of is a gym membership, and don’t drink coffee.  If I did drink coffee, I’d tell you that you are wasting money on Starbucks.  You can get the same thing at 7/11 for 99 cents.

But I rather welcome the economists to a belated acknowledgment of inflation.  It’s just that we live in such an urban nation these days.  70% of Americans live in the top 100 urban areas.  That’s where you find gyms and Starbucks.  Well, actually here in small town America we have a tiny Starbucks kiosk in the grocery store which I call Son of a Bucks.  If the economists wanted to study inflation, they should check the price of the groceries because that’s where all the action is around here.  Maybe I should give them my shopping list—Meat, chocolate, and sweet corn.  But the government CPI doesn’t count food, fuel and pharma.  That’s because people in the cities just go vegan when meat goes up.  These are the same guys who, when I asked for a barbecue beef sandwich, served me something that looked like a sloppy Joe.  So anyway, beef has gone up 17% in two years.  Haircuts are alarming everyone because they are up 2.8%?  Horrors!

They won’t count fuel either because that’s just Big Oil and OPEC artificially setting the price.  Really?  So why was it that a bunch of enterprising independent Okie engineers, drillers and geoscientists invented the fracking miracle, which now sets the price?  Well, prices are down, thus anti-inflationary.  Still, they should be counted as they are a big part of most people’s expenses. Oh, and speaking of fuel, last time I bought an Oregon chain for my saw, it was $24.  5 years ago it was under twenty.  I hope I haven’t lost any readers from those urban areas with this sentence.

Practically no inflation up to now? When Oriented Strand Board went from $5 a sheet to $9 that seemed like an indicator to me.  2X4 studs have gone from $2.25 to $3.25 in five years—supposedly in the midst of a housing bust.   And how come builder’s tiles, which used to be 70 or 80 cents are all over a buck now?  I guess those Fed bankers and federal bureaucrats don’t know which end of a hammer to hold.  Maybe they are looking at the price of suing a local police department for racial abuse as an inflation indicator.  That’s gone down in price because the law schools are generating far more lawyers than we need and they tend to bring up frivolous unusual cases on contingency to try to win the recognition lottery.  Supply and demand.

Pharmaceuticals don’t count in the CPI.  But I now pay almost double for blood pressure pills.  Checked your health insurance premiums lately?  In 5 years these are up 74% under Obamacare. Some things Obama cares and some things he doesn’t care at all.

Have you bought a lawnmower this year? Garden plants? Hot water tank? Fast food? Electric bills? They’ve gone up.  How about the cost of educating a kid? Here in stingy Oklahoma, the educrats howl about how we keep cutting budgets, yet the state figures show budget increases in 38 of the last 40 years.  Educrats spend money, just not on teachers.

If you accuse me of picking items that affect seniors as an inflation gauge, I am probably guilty.  No gym memberships, thank you.  I got yards to mow and roofs to fix.  The price of Aleve gets more concern.  But I wonder if the government has succeeded in re-defining a CPI that underestimates inflation so that they can’t be accused.   

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Notes on Locke, pt. II

I thought it would be fun to look at the scriptures Luther and Locke focused on.  How do the principles of America come out of God’s word?  Oh, by the way, when Locke came up with these principles there was nothing in daily life either in England or elsewhere that would confirm them.  Historians are stunned at how a guy studying the human thought process and scripture could have arrived at these profound ideas.

            LibertyTake a look at Romans 9:1. I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit

Heb.9:9,14 According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper…

What is the function of conscience concerning the Holy Spirit? 

I Tim. 3:9 They must hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience

What is the function of conscience in faith?

Romans 13:1-7 however, says we are to be subject to the governing authorities.  What function is conscience in being subject?  Are there any limits to what Government can ask one to do? ( “We ought to obey God rather than man”Acts 5:29) 

Lk. 20:25  Finally, Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God, that which is God’s.” So does Caesar own everything? Why or why not? (We belong to Two Kingdoms—spiritual and temporal) Luther concludes that conscience is one voice the Holy Spirit uses and thus an individual’s conscience of faith trumps government.  Locke concluded this to be our most important  freedom. 

American colonists had more thoughts? America was the place you came to get free land and practice your faith as you saw fit.  If you deny people freedom of their conscience or freedom of their faith, that is, you deny them the ability to be the kind of person they aspire to be in relation to God, that not only quenches the Holy Spirit, it denies something called the American Dream—ability to be the person they want to be.  Hence the 1st Amendment’s “free exercise clause” is vital to the entire social contract.  See also Gal. 5:1.  For freedom, Christ has set us free.  Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Slavery to sin, of course, is what Paul is writing here.  But if God gives you a job to do, does this passage have a subsequent meaning? Please note the American Dream is much larger than getting rich or an easy life. Rom. 14:17 “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy.”

Rights Property protection is fundamental. God, in a relationship with Himself, puts us in charge of certain resources (Parable of talents, etc. shows God expects us to ‘profit’ and advance his cause.) The resources i.e., property must be held inviolate.

Jeremiah 17:5-8.Thus says the Lord, cursed is the man who trusts in man…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green and is not anxious in the year of drought for it does not cease to bear fruit. Hence, the spiritual man is fearless with God at his side and this works best when government protects each person’s mission and resources

 Augsburg Confession, Luther:”All government in the world and all established rule and laws were instituted and ordained by God for the sake of good order…and this temporal power is not in place to protect the soul, but with the sword and physical penalties it protects body and property from the power of others.”  Locke concluded that one of the vital purposes of Government was to protect property, which God gives us to fulfill His mission.  In Declaration, Jefferson supposedly changed Locke’s “Life, Liberty and Property” to “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” because some founders didn’t want to protect slavery.  Slavery was scheduled for limits and repeal according to the Constitution later written.  (Then repeal was ignored when cotton became king with the cotton gin.)

.  Free speech? See Romans 10:9. Because if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Faith talk isn’t optional.  Silence is unloving when God commands us to speak. “We cannot help but speak of the things we have seen and heard.” Acts4:7

Separation of Powers Is 33:22  For the Lord is our judge: the Lord is our Lawgiver; the Lord is our King.  He will save us. Thus, three branches or functions.  But only God can fulfill all three.  The rest of us are flawed men and it is best that we have checks and balances on each other, that is how a social contract or common morality works.

Tolerance Now the founders all were kids in 1740-42 when the Great Awakening took place, a religious revival that stunned the colonies because so many people found faith and renewed faith.  They were also surprised that neighboring colonies with a different state religious denomination reacted the same way they had.  Conclusion: We are all one country!

But does everyone have the same walk? Of course not!  See Rom 14:13, Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Luther said this means we would be wise to tolerate our brother and not interfere with his walk with God.  Also Rom 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus, that together with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is Locke’s theme of tolerance  We must repent and acknowledge our own sin too. Jesus tolerated.  As son of God he could have called down lightning on those who disagreed with him.  Instead he just let them walk away.

EqualityAre all men equal? Rom. 3:10-12. None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;no one does good, not even one. They sure are in sinfulness!  How about in faith?  John 3: 16 for God so loved the world that whosoever… Let me see a show of hands. How many of you are a ‘whosoever’?  And see Gal. 3:27-28. For as many of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. The Old Testament also has passages that God favors no person, but each man must pay for his own sins.

Nature and Nature’s God originates the idea of Government among men—left this out in the interests of time.  Self-evident truth, Jefferson said.

So if someone asks who gave us July 4, say it was many people but it started with God inspiring Paul writing to legal-minded Romans, then Luther, 500 years ago today and Locke and finally our founders.

One more thing. Anybody been to Independence Hall in Philadelphia? Is it big and impressive? Everyone says how small it is and the furniture is so plain.  These were such ordinary men.  Yet they staked “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” on simple government that, with the faith of the citizens, followed God. Now you are an ordinary person, right? Given what they started, how in faith they gave birth to a country unlike anything else in the world, is there any reason you would not join their effort to continue it?  Is there any good reason you would fail to vote?  I mean, even if you don’t like politics or the politicians, wouldn’t you vote your principles of faith in faithful government.  Think what the future world would say about our country if we fell under tyranny just because we didn’t take the opportunity to think about our vote and do it.  So I want to encourage everyone to register, to get involved, to vote.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Notes from class on John Locke, inspirer of our founders, Pt. I

Standing on the shoulders of men of faith  Luther/ Locke/ Jefferson

The founders said some fascinating things in the Declaration and Constitution. So where did these guys get this stuff?  Make it up? Borrow it?  Pulpit? Masons?

If you said Pulpit you get half credit. Pastors of the time routinely talked faith and government and citizenship.  John Wise 1710, published sermons all about governance principles from Bible.  Long after the Revolution, they asked John Adams who were most significant in founding the country.  He answered: Washington, Jefferson and Rush. BenjaminRush was a pastor/educator who started 5 colleges and first Bible society—also the main advisor to the conventions. The British, mistakenly thinking that Presbyterian pastors were at the core of the revolt, invaded at NYC. Frederick Muelenberg, first speaker of the House, lead congregation to enlist in 1776 by taking off his robe after a service and underneath was a Continental officer”s uniform.

But most historians would like you to answer that they got most of it from John Locke.  

Who was John Locke?  Wikipedia will give you all sorts of facts about him but none of the motivation like Will Durant, The Story of Civiliization. Locke was a medical doctor who graducated in 1658.  His father had been a hero of the English civil War in 1650 and had political connections.  He got young John a job as personal physician of William Shaftsbury, head of the Whig party in Parliament. Shaftsbury was in bad health.  People expected him to die.  He “had one foot in” as my grandmother used to quip.  But Locke correctly diagnosed him with a cyst on his liver and then with several assisting surgeons, did a life threatening operation and saved Shaftsbury’s life.  (In those days without anesthesia, the surgeon had to perform surgeries in under 2 minutes lest the patient die of shock.)They became lifelong friends.  And Shaftsbury invited Locke to help him write the charter for Carolina colony in the new world.  Then he asked Locke what his dream job was and the young man responded that he wanted to do research into mental health.  Quicker than you can say gastroenterology, Locke had a professorship at Oxford College.  And over the next 30 years he did some early landmark research and published it in Essays on Human Understanding. Some call him the father of psychology.

Oxford was the main seminary for Anglican priests and of course the church followed much of the writing of Luther.  Locke, a Puritan, developed a keen love for Luther’s thoughts.  I’d like to ask,

How many of you grew up or attended a Baptist/Presb./Reformed church and also a Lutheran church?  Then you have something in common with the man who inspired American government. Locke merged Calvinist yen for organization of reasonable principles with Luther’s conviction that Bible has understandable answers for everyone. He became a Christian author and wrote “Common Prayer Book of the Bible” and “Reasonableness of Christianity

            Thirdly, in about 1679, Locke set down a rethinking of the Carolina Charter in a two volume book Two Treatises on government.  He quoted the bible 1500 times in these books. They were radically liberal for their day.

 In the 1680’s England had a crisis with a king.  James II declared that if he didn’t like the laws passed by Parliament, he would just ignore them, and if he wanted some other law he would just pass a royal executive decree to get it.  Parliament and the people rose up and kicked James II out.  Using Locke, who had fled to Netherlands as a go-between they enticed the only other surviving Stuart relative, Mary of Orange and husband, William III of Orange. Mary insisted they be named co-rulers.  William asked for a convention to spell out how he was to rule.  In 1689 William and Mary’s Convention wrote the English Bill of Rights. This was called the Glorious Revolution.Oh and whenever you hear the term Convention, it originated from William and Mary’s Convention of 1689.

So what did John Locke believe in that was so radical?  Do you watch Wheel of Fortune? So what are the 6 letters they give you free in the bonus round?  RSTLNE.  So you can remember Locke

Rights given all men

Separation of Powers of the King (leader) and Parliament (laws)

Tolerance of our fellow man’s choice of church

Liberty of all men, especially of their conscience

Natural Law originated governance.  People make a Social Contract for their nation.

Equality of all mankind

“The people are absolved from obedience when illegal attempts are made upon their liberties or properties.”

            Locke got it from rethinking Luther, especially Luther on Romans.  Luther wrote the second great bombshell bestseller ever printed on the Gutenberg press, “Compendium of Romans”, 1515—500 years ago today! (1st widely published book had been Erasmus’ Greek New Testament in 1509)

Luther started lecturing at Wittenberg in the Psalms(1513-1514 Tower Experience) but continued with Romans and Galatians, then published a summary of his notes in 1515. Erasmus read Compendium of Romans and was in awe of Luther’s abilities to translate and interpret. But then came Reformation. Papal authorities destroyed the book—except that copies of the introduction survived.  200 years later, John Wesley, listening to the introduction of Compendium at Aldersgate suddenly found faith. I have to ask, how many of you have attended a Methodist church and knew this?

Locke read Luther on Romans in other places such as Augsburg Confession.  1970, Vatican sheepishly found and published Compendium.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Franchise Fours

MLB asked fans to vote on the greatest players of their teams, each team to select 4 players as “The Franchise Four”.  And when you ask fans to vote, I guess you get what you pay for.  All the players seemed to come from the last 50 years.  Not surprising but when you consider that the Cincinnati Red Stockings got started in 1871 as the first fully paid professional baseball team, doesn’t it seem a bit odd that the oldest good player they can find was Johnny Bench and Pete Rose? Weird that they didn’t have anybody before about 1970 to elect.

            Now of course some teams haven’t had a lot to cheer and some are so new all their players are still playing (Rays).  But the Phillies missed the boat when they couldn’t remember Connie Mack who played and then managed for a total of 53 years, won 5 World Series and 9 pennants.  Well, of course he wasn’t that smashing a player, I understand. So pick Grover Cleveland Alexander whose 1.22 ERA was the lowest ever until Bob Gibson of the Cards beat it in 1968.

            And either the Giants who couldn’t elect anyone older than Willie Mays, or the Orioles should have named John McGraw.  He hit .350 lifetime on the 1890s Orioles (of course the present Orioles in Baltimore derive from the St. Louis Browns) and went on to manage the Giants for 30 years and 10 pennants.  He was brilliant, innovative and a tyrant.  He cursed fans and was famous for his battles with umpires, once organizing a lynch mob after a game in search of an ump.  Or the Giants could have chosen Christy Matthewson, the first well-educated and wholesome player in an era of baseball by street punks.  He won 373 games and invented the curveball and screwball.  He won 30+ games in 1903, 1904 and 1905, a consecutive record that surely will stand forever. And what happened to Bill Terry who hit a lifetime of .341 over 14 years and was considered the best shortstop in baseball?

 I wonder, why didn’t the Cubs select Pop Anson who not only was a terrific early player, but a manager and principal author of the rules of modern baseball.  Well, I guess we should also point out he hated blacks and was also responsible for the fact that they were shut out of MLB for 50 years. Or alternatively select Al Spalding, the dominant pitcher of the 1880s who went into the business of making balls and gloves and became a household name.  He and W.A. Hulbert organized the National League in 1876.  Their rules of ownership, no liquor at games, no gambling, and published schedules became a model for all sports leagues. Or why not choose Frank Chance, the first baseman who immortalized Tinkers to Evers to Chance and invented the 6-4-3 double play?  As player-manager he won 4 pennants and 2 world series.  Evers went on to play for the Miracle Boston Braves of 1914 who went from last place on July 19 to WS winners in 4 games.

Of course some guys didn’t stay in one place, like Al Pujols or Hippo Vaughn who went from Yankees to Senators to Cubs.  He was unstoppable from 1908 to 1921 and had a lifetime ERA of 2.49.

The Cards, Tigers and Yankees elected old-timers with Hornsby, Cobb, Greenburg, Ruth and Gehrig. These teams have a long history of stars although Cards and Yanks began badly before 1918.  Hornsby was considered the best all around hitter to have ever lived with a lifetime .358 average. His lifetime slugging avg. of .557 is still the National League record.  But ‘Rajah’ was arrogant and tactless and played and managed 5 different teams because he couldn’t get along with anybody.  Ty Cobb, the Georgia boy who lost his father and turned bitter, was probably the only guy who was more hated.  But it was also Rogers Hornsby who, in 1919 was told as a rookie to “gain some weight”, went home to the farm and put on 40 pounds of pure muscle.  When general manager Branch Rickey asked in astonishment what he had done, he said, “farm system” which gave Rickey the brilliant idea to buy up small town minor league teams and organize them into a “grow your own talent” system.  The Yankee voters didn’t even consider Lefty O’Doul who played with a succession of teams and had a lifetime .349 avg.  He started and ended with the Bronx Bombers.

The Redbird I voted for and wasn’t elected was Dizzy Dean who holds the 5-year record of 120 wins which will surely stand as an MLB record forever.  You couldn’t shut him up and his extremely colorful hillbilly language popularized baseball as Cardinal announcer and CBS Game of the Week announcer.

All things considered, I guess the fans had their vote.  Just wish more of them knew some history which is pretty fun.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Riding around on the Pope's encyclical

  I finally got my hands on an abridged version of Laudato Si, the Popes encyclical on climate change.  Now I know why I’m what they call a Renegade Catholic, or Lutheran for short.  But Laudato Si makes for some interesting reading nonetheless.  First, I should point out that I learned that an encyclical is just an advisory letter to the church.  The Pope doesn’t try to say he speaks inerrantly. 

            It’s pretty conventional wisdom.  You have to Sacrifice Big in order to avoid global warming, like ride a bicycle, throw your used beer cans in another hopper, and stop eating big greasy cheeseburgers and farting.  (Just kidding about the last one!)  But, he points out, “A very solid consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming…” So there we have it, a scientific consensus, just as we’ve had scientific consensi before—bleeding patients gets rid of bad blood (1700’s), the earth is flat  and covered by a large dome with little holes seen as stars at night but that is where the rain leaks through (ancient HebrewsH), and mountains are caused by swelling sections of the earth’s crust (pre-1968).  And it is getting warmer which is all our fault.  This is surprisingly arrogantly humanistic considering that up until now, we can’t change tomorrow’s forecast let alone climate for the ages.

            Who then is responsible?  Surely, I think, it is not the world’s rich who often give their old furniture to Salvation Army for recycling.  Instead it would revolve around the poor who rent from me and often, upon transfer, leave several truckloads of detritus that they are too lazy to wash or pick up. Our Personal Best Record was a woman who left 55 large trash barrels of dirty clothes.  Rather than do laundry, she just bought more at garage sales.  But no, the Pope says I err.  The poor are not responsible.  The evil rich are. They possess the automobile which emits CO2 and unburned hydrocarbons.  Do I need to take this guy on a tour and show him my renters with cars that belch black smoke thick enough to choke a goat?  Do I need to show him the piles of discarded old tires?

            And then there is water.  By wasting water, the rich of the world “deny the poorest of the poor, a right to life and inalienable dignity”.  Access to clean water is “a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and as such, is a condition for the exercise of other such rights.”  Oh yeah? So if CO2 exhaled is also necessary for survival, do we have a right to CO2?  What I notice in this writing is the confusion of “rights” with “stuff”.  And it seems the rest of us are held liable when someone goes without water.  Worse, those of us from South Louisiana must conserve, lest the guy in the Sahara gets thirsty.

            Holding an innocent party guilty for results they cannot change is what fascists do.  Where does this happen, Argentina?  The Pope goes on to accuse the rich of unjustly depriving the poor of a right to life.  Isn’t that normally called murder.  Murder, I guess, by using an old toilet which uses 3 gallons of water.

            The Protestant in me wants to ask, “where do you find that in scripture?” Here’s what I am reading.  Romans 9:1 and Hebrews 9:9,14 imply that the Holy Spirit uses our conscience to direct our lives. God puts a relationship inside us when we have faith. That relationship is not manmade and is sustained by God. Men must have the inherent and inalienable right to follow wherever that inner voice leads.  This is termed “Liberty”. Hence we conclude that any governing authority that seeks to obstruct this inner voice or prohibit “the free exercise thereof” of Liberty sets itself up against—not us fumbling men—but God.  Moreover, Jesus’ parable of the Talents (and many more of his stories about money) illustrates that The Almighty put certain resources in our hands to fulfill a personal mission He sets us upon. Woe to any godless government that deprives people of their property.  Separation of powers is spoken to as a principle in Is. 33:22.  The equality of all is ringingly proclaimed in Gal. 3:27-28.  Tolerance?  Jesus was truly God’s Son, yet when people disagreed with Him, He just let them walk away.  Romans 14:3, and 15:5 prescribe this principle.  Above it all, God who watches every little sparrow also watches every lousy little king.  These are the principles of our Declaration of Independence.

            You think I need to write the Pope an encyclical?

Friday, July 10, 2015

This ain't hard

Why do some people think some things are so hard to solve?  It doesn’t seem so to me.  Take the Redskins.  Obama says he doesn’t want to see the Redskins back in Washington unless they change their name. The federal patent office has declared their copyright to be void.   Okie Dokie.  Move the Redskins to Oklahoma City.  Oklahoma means red people so we have no problem with this. 19% of our population claims Indian and another 36% of the Caucasian population is part Native American.  Then if someone in the federal realm wants to say the name dishonors, we ask “Who? You got some problem with us?  You bigoted or something?”

            And then there is the seemingly unsolvable problem of sanctuary cities.  Here are the statistics. Illegal aliens represent 3.5% of population and comprise 27% of federal inmates.  They number 11.5 million but 480,000 are felons.  Both statistics are 8 times as high as US citizens. This makes San Fran unsafe.  Advertize it as such.  Boycott.  Warn people not to go to San Fran or other sanctuary cities unless you really have business there.  The boycott and bad PR would cripple their tourism.  Let their politicians answer questions about empty hotels and higher crime rates—and that anecdote about the person killed by an illegal.  Let the Chamber howl and lobby to remove sanctuary status.  Let the unemployment grow. I’d bet a lot of cities would quietly drop their sanctuary status.

            The R’s are all whining about Donald Trumpet.  I’d love to see a candidate follow Trump around. “Okay, Trump points out the problems of illegal immigration. But here’s the solution…”  Be the Shell Answer Man instead of attacking a fellow R.

            Then there is the business of the gay mafia and the fears of religious freedom.  I remember sitting in the office of my lawyer who handed me a sheet of paper detailing the 8 categories that you cannot discriminate against.  Things like gender and faith and race are legally protected.  In fact it is even chancy to talk about such issues.  Other than that, you can discriminate all you want. “So,” I blurted, “you mean you can say I won’t hire you or sell to you because I don’t like your attitude?”  “Or your smile,” he added.  It’s perfectly legal to say you won’t do business because of some tertiary issue, but you cannot discriminate  against the Big 8.  So a pastor doesn’t want to marry two gays he has just met.  Just say you will have to find an open date and all dates they propose won’t work.  (to which he can tell himself that he just decided he might take vacation that day.)  And if you get sued?  Just say you didn’t like their attitude.  Or their smile(s).