Thursday, December 27, 2007

Leadership thoughts on the fly

There is a real problem when a leader fails to communicate effectively and thereby facilitate the development of competent individuals under him.

A leader can make any number of astute observations, but they ultimately mean nothing to him if he fails to interpret them and respond effectively. If, for example, he just keeps a mental list of a person's deficiencies but develops no plan to address them, eventually his emotions dictate the inevitable action. This can come in the form of an irrational explosion of anger and frustration, half of which should be directed at himself for allowing something to progress to this point, and the other half falling on deaf ears since we know "a harsh word stirs up strife."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Song of Mary

I was talking to a brother at church today -- I observed how nicely the Song of Mary has been set to music -- I have been in choral groups that sung some versions and it is usually quite beautiful. Our sermon was on Luke 1 so the topic came up. He said he thought it was in our hymnal and didn't think so. It turns it is after all...for those who are interested, number 332 in the 1959 copyright of the Psalter Hymnal. From what I remember it has a great harmony. I should keep it in mind.

As printed in the book:

My soul doth magnify the Lord;
In Him my spirit doth rejoice,
For He beheld my low estate,
And in His love made me His choice.

All generations from henceforth
Shall now my blessedness proclaim,
For He has done great things to me;
Mighty and holy is His Name.

His mercy shall abide on them
That fear the Lord from age to age;
He has revealed His mighty arm,
Routing the haughty in their rage.

He has abased the mighty ones,
Exalted those of low degree;
He filled the hungry souls with good,
And smote the rich with poverty.

He helped His servant Israel,
In honor of His mercy sure;
E'en as He spake to Abraham
And to His seed forevermore.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ron Paul regression

First, let's clear the air:

Dr. Paul has a lot of awesome things to say. I fancy myself somewhat of a libertarian myself -- I strongly support free trade and believe that it is the greatest possible good to the most amount of people. You can't artificially enhance wealth in one area without hurting someone else. You must allow those who have the ability and capital to put it to work and only then are you most likely to improve the people in the poorest bracket (here or abroad). Wealth is not a static number that has to be smoothed out over a large number of people -- all that does is create a large number of poor people. Rather, wealth is created! It is alive and holds potential for more wealth -- I don't believe Jesus was just talking about divine justice when he talked about more being given to the haves. It makes complete sense when you talk about to parable of the talents -- wisdom does not let resources lie dormant.

And now for three crucial problems with Dr. Paul (let's limit ourselves).

First, free trade does not happen in a vacuum. But if I have heard the good doctor correctly, that's the practical result of his logic. He seems to do just fine when talking about the problems with our own government meddling in private enterprise, but as soon as foreign influence is added to the equation, he seems to become a protectionist in spite of himself. Sure he has the same goal as I do -- to keep trade unhindered -- but the result of his proposals would completely stymie the global economy, or at least any investment the U.S. could reasonably make to remain competitive in the global economy. Paul seems oppose pretty much every single "treaty" we are a part of -- basically because they require some kind of subordination. What treaty doesn't, and yet the constitution provides for them. The irony is that we don't participate in a myriad of them out there (International Criminal Court for one) and those that we do (WTO), we often end up bucking anyway -- just ask the Canadians in the softwood lumber dispute. Treaties and mitigating bodies are usually made to discourage protectionism (tariffs), which just hurts everybody.

And moving on to the second problem...

"Noninterventionism."

If Ron Paul were able to map out exactly what this means, then I would be impressed. Because so far, all I've heard is isolationism -- the same brand that gave us WWII.

Call this the basic foreign policy problem. The idea that we can be passive and never get into any trouble is to deny both reality and history. Paul and Co. cite our our first foreign policy (which they also confuse with the original intent of the constitution) as mandating nonintervention (isolation), a gospel principle that means we can never, no matter what the times, think outside our borders. The problem is that we haven't had a policy like that since the Monroe Doctrine gave us a boast in the world. Besides which, we also are faced with the facts that precipitated WWII. One has only to remember Neville Chamberlain's pronouncement that we had achieved "peace in our time" after giving way to Hitler's demands -- and you know the rest of the story.

Additionally, Mr. Paul complains that "often we give foreign aid and intervene on behalf of governments that are despised." This is indeed true. But to make blanket statements about individual decisions made by multiple administrations with different state departments over a period of several decades, and say you are going to do different *breath* is rubbish. Foreign policy mistakes are inevitable because everyone is hated by someone. You CANNOT make everyone happy by minding your own business and then expect to have a free trade going on.

The third problem with Paul is the one that should be staring everyone in the face -- and ultimately will keep him from getting elected. To be exact he promotes getting rid of the CIA, IRS, et al. Normally this would be something that piques my interest. But try to find a coherent explanation of how this would work (or even a carefully dealt with reason for doing it in the first place), and one comes up short. Granted we all have our frustrations with these various departments and organizations (and I won't even get into all of them), but the fact is, you can't sit back and say "shoot em all" without telling me you have a better idea -- you can't even guarantee that you wouldn't just come up with a worse abuser of power!

I'm going to let this one fly now, having had only sporadic moments over the last month when I could sit and chew on it. I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible in the process, so bear with me.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Journalism with Kalashnikov

Talk about stirring the pot. I must say I don't know if I would consider this until I was more established in my job. Way to show some guts.

As David Postman of the Seattle Times put it, "I've tried various ways to convince people I have no political bias. But maybe I'm just not thinking big enough"

Sam Taylor of the Bellingham Herald blogged a picture of himself holding an AK-47 which he claims he spent Thanksgiving Day firing in Idaho. Yes, the pic is funny, but he did make the point, to his credit, that people shouldn't make assumptions about his personal bias.

Here's the original post from Monday.

Here's Editor and Publisher and their story.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Scientific faith

And you thought people didn't think anymore! Paul Davies wrote an op ed in The New York Times on the faith of science. Perhaps it may be hard to follow him completely but one of the most important points he makes is the fact that scientists have ceased to ask "why?" Therefore they must have strong faith since they refuse to look for a reason or source for the laws of physics or structure of universe.

His conclusion is still a secular argument but it still works because he outlines what science needs in order to be truly "science," and it's (admittedly) questionable whether they can fully accomplish that.

Excuse the long quote...you really should read the whole thing if you have time!
When I was a student, the laws of physics were regarded as completely off limits. The job of the scientist, we were told, is to discover the laws and apply them, not inquire into their provenance. The laws were treated as “given” — imprinted on the universe like a maker’s mark at the moment of cosmic birth — and fixed forevermore. Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.

Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are — they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality — the laws of physics — only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science.

Can the mighty edifice of physical order we perceive in the world about us ultimately be rooted in reasonless absurdity? If so, then nature is a fiendishly clever bit of trickery: meaninglessness and absurdity somehow masquerading as ingenious order and rationality.

Starstruck

I don't really know what to say about this article on the Biola University Web site.
Hanks, who starred in blockbusters Forest Gump and Saving Private Ryan, talked with the group for about five minutes. He mentioned that he regularly attended Saint Sophia, a Greek Orthodox Church. He also mentioned he had seen the Biola sign on the freeway and knew approximately where the school was located.

Liesch, who teaches the worship foundations class, introduced Hanks to each student. “He was most cordial and friendly. He asked the students questions like what they were majoring in. When I asked if he wouldn’t mind taking a picture with Katie, he said ‘Absolutely not,’ and he put his arm around her shoulder while posing. Justin had a digital camera so we snapped a couple of pictures,” Liesch said.

As soon as they got out of the church, the music students were on their cell phones, dialing up their parents, brothers and sisters, and calling students in their dorm rooms to tell them about their encounter with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Easy does it! Talented yes, but not a god.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Use your God!

Far be it from me to be reactionary, but I'm afraid I will not be following AP (Associated Press) Style to the extent of a certain recent addition to the venerated journalism style guide.
Allah:

The Muslim name for God. The word God should be used, unless the Arabic name is used in a quote written or spoken in English.

Notice it requires an uppercase G.

And I suppose next time, while referencing Al Gore or the Sierra Club et al., perhaps I should refer to the planet as "God," since that is clearly Who they are talking about.

And satanism? That's just their name for God.

How about humanism. I bet no one would mind if I constantly referred to their mental faculties as "God."

e.g. Maybe the folks at the Associated Press should start using their God.