Tuesday, October 28, 2008

a better shot of m and me

so a number of you commented on that last grouping of family photos, and i thought i had better follow up with a better one of m and me. this was at the wedding of a young couple from the bridge, back in july of this year.

in our fledgling congregation of about fifty adults, we've had two weddings (would have been a third, but the couple left our fellowship before they got married) and four babies (with four more on the way) -- since february! that's one way to grow a church...
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

back to your regularly scheduled program

i know that i've spent way too much blog space on non-family topics of late. i guess the combination of the presidential election and the financial crisis brings out the political philosopher in me. :-)

the good news is that the news from home is... mostly good.
  • n continues to excel in school, routinely ringing up quiz and test scores in the 90+ range; it's still a socially-challenging place to be for her, but it looks like she'll be going to the homecoming dance tomorrow night -- her first high school dance.
  • we hear from b fairly often, enough to know that she has a number of friends and is doing well enough in school. she is part of the intervarsity campus fellowship, and still finds time to tutor in harlem and enjoy new york city.
  • m is considering getting a job outside of the home, and wears a number of hats in the ministries of the bridge. she recently celebrated her birthday and her christian birthday, and she and i are getting ready to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary in less than a week -- praise God!
  • i just got back from california, where i spent a few days with my covenant group. we meet at least once a year to share, pray, encourage, and challenge one another, in the hope that we can help each other grow in Jesus and be faithful until the end. what a privilege it is to have that kind of partnership!
perhaps it's not a surprise given the turmoil in the financial markets, but we haven't been able to sell our home. we're not unhappy with this house, but were hoping to move into renton to be closer to the core of our church and immerse ourselves in the city. looks like that's not going to be possible right now, short of a miracle -- which we've been asking for. i honestly thought God was leading us in this direction. but maybe he just wanted us to clean and fix up this place so that others can come for a visit! on that front, montreal friends (and former iv staff partners) p and j will be coming next month with baby tj in tow -- whoo hoo!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

analyses of the current financial crisis

first aig needs $37+ billion supplemental loan, because apparently, the first $85 billion wasn't enough. now the banks are sitting on all that cash the government gave them (see here), pretty much guaranteeing that that move is doomed to failure. the chairman of the federal reserve and the speaker of the house are each talking about additional injections of capital into the economy (that's two separate plans), to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. and you can bet that won't be the end of it.

they say that one definition of 'insanity' is to do the same thing over and over again, but expect a different result. what do you call this?

looks like a few pundits are starting to question the orthodox view:
for some insightful analysis of our current predicament, along with a reasonable path forward, take a look at:

Friday, October 17, 2008

critiquing mccain

i've been meaning to get around to my critical review of john mccain as a presidential candidate, but i've been pretty busy, and there have been so many other things to write about. but having written critically about hillary clinton and barack obama, it only seemed fair to say a word about mccain before election day.

i want to start by saying that there's a lot that i admire about john mccain -- his courage and integrity as a prisoner of war, tortured but refusing to break faith with his fellow prisoners being among the first things to appreciate. he has spent his political career as a man with his own mind, willing to go against party orthodoxy and political expediency, even when it might cost him; i especially note his support for the surge in iraq, when it looked like political suicide. for all of his past mistakes, he seems to be a politician with a moral sense and convictions, something all too rare in this age of focus groups and poll-driven policy. and on some issues (notably his staunch opposition to abortion and his commitment to judges who will interpret the law, rather than legislate), i am much closer to him than to obama.

so why am i reluctant about mccain? aside from a variety of policy differences, some of which are significant (on the use of the military, on immigration, on the most crucial challenge facing our generation), i've begun to wonder: who is he, anymore? in 2000, mccain ran as a straight-talking, problem-solving maverick -- a kind of hybrid conservative who liked to reach across the aisle to solve problems, even when it angered the power brokers in the republican party. he still says some of those things about himself. but his 2008 campaign has seemed strangely disjointed and incoherent to me, causing me to wonder if he's really himself anymore. To wit:
  • gas tax holiday: during the republican primaries, mccain came out in favor of a gas tax holiday (along with clinton). this just seemed like an obvious pander that didn't address the underlying problem. in other words, it felt very political and not like a proposal that came out of his core values. obama got this one right by refusing to join in the chorus.
  • $300 billion mortgage buyout: mccain's proposal for the federal government to spend $300 billion to buy up trouble mortgages is certainly bold, but aside from the fact that i think it's a dubious solution, it makes me wonder about mccain's consistency -- is he really for fiscal responsbility and less government?
  • $52 billion tax cut stimulus package: i appreciate what he's trying to do here, but again, what of fiscal responsibility? mccain has spent his career as a budget hawk, but this (along with the mortgage buyout) looks like an invitation to massive deficits and an increasing national debt. in the short-term, that's a problem (inflationary pressures), but in the long term, it's immoral (saddling succeeding generations with an ever-increasing debt burden). where will he cut spending to compensate? in mccain's defense, obama's economic proposals have the same problem, perhaps to an even greater degree. but at least obama advertises himself as a big government liberal; these proposals have me questioning who mccain really is.
  • turning molehills into mountains: i've been surprised at mccain's persistence in going after greed and corruption and earmarks, while ignoring the bigger-ticket items of social security, medicare, and military spending. this seems like straining at gnats and swallowing camels. if he's really the maverick reformer he says he is, if he's really going to talk straight to the american people, how about a little truth on how we're going to address the real programs that are bankrupting america? again, obama doesn't do any better, but as a liberal, i don't really expect him to address these issues.
bottom line: i wonder if mccain has lost his true self in the midst of trying to win the presidency (a charge that might stick to obama as well). i don't need to agree with a candidate on everything, but i do want to believe that he is going to do what he thinks is best for the country -- not for his own election (or re-election). and with all of the pandering and populist rhetoric, i wonder if mccain is giving up his most attractive quality -- his personal integrity and moral convictions -- in search of enough votes to go to the white house.

perhaps my root problem with mccain is that i want him to be something that he's not. i wish he could cast a contrasting and compelling vision of an america with a constitutionally-limited government and greater individual freedom and responsibility. but what i mostly hear is a less drastic version of obama's government-will-save-the-day vision. and i just don't believe in it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

how long, o Lord?

i was telling the folks in our bible studies on acts that the greek word for 'witness' is the one from which we get our english word 'martyr.' the example of those first disciples reminds us that being a witness to the reality of Jesus' resurrection and working in the world might someday cost you your life. for most americans, that's more of a theoretical possibility than a reality. but it is what some christians are facing today, as i write this.

india is the world's largest democracy and supposedly a tolerant, secular state. but for weeks, christians have been told to convert or be murdered. dozens of people have been killed, over 100 churches destroyed, and some 3,000 homes burned -- and it hasn't really been reported in the mainstream media, until recently. check out the ny times article for more information by clicking here.

and don't forget to pray. Lord God, have mercy. please protect and save our brothers and sisters by your mighty hand. speak words of affirmation and blessing to them, and give back twice what they've lost. help them to face their enemies with courage and compassion. and bring justice and a speedy end to the violence -- in Jesus' name.

when the Lamb broke the fifth seal, i saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “how long, o Lord, holy and true, will you refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” and there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.
(revelation 6:9-11)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

all better?

so after an awful week on wall street, the market makes a furious rebound on monday -- the biggest one day gain ever. guess the government has finally fixed everything?

don't count on it.

no one is saying that the government can't make a substantial difference in this mess. they will, and in the process, they will create winners (mostly wealthy friends of the powerful) and losers (nearly everybody else). when the progress seems to stall, they will insist that what is needed is more intervention. and the problem will drag on and on. for a recent example, take a look at what happened to the japanese in the 1990s (here and here), where a similar economic crisis and series of government 'fixes' led to a lost decade in which economic expansion came to a complete halt.

they say that those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. how can we walk right into the buzz saw? unfortunately, our political leaders (and perhaps the majority of the american public) can no longer face the prospect of a painful readjustment -- the public, because we're used to living well beyond our means, the politicians, because they'd probably lose their jobs if they were perceived as not doing enough in the midst of a crisis. and since long-term problems end up being someone else's problem, they'll act, even though the long-term results are very likely problematic (cf. the unwillingness to tackle the problems in social security and medicare).

the neo-cons tell us that the great threat and challenge of our generation is militant islam. but i think that the greater challenge is internal. we are looking at a lot more than a crisis in the economy. we're looking at an american identity crisis.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

down again?

sure am glad we passed that $700 billion bailout to stabilize the economy. let's see...
somebody stop the madness! when will we all acknowledge that the government can't fix every problem -- and that in many cases, it causes and exacerbates them with its willy-nilly interventions?

why is there no emerging movement to shut down fannie mae and freddie mac and get the government out of the home loan business? where is the independent investigation of these and other failing institutions that have given tons of money to the politicians who are now bailing them out?

and where's ron paul when you need him?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

tahoma (aka mount rainier)

when grandma p was out visiting, we had the chance to visit tahoma national park. just beautiful. we often see the mountain from where we live; on a clear day, it dominates the southern landscape. no wonder -- it's the tallest mountain in the cascade range, at over 14,000 feet (almost 4,400m). it's also a volcano (scary, huh?).
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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

the end of the world as we know it?

save yourself, serve yourself. world serves its own needs
listen to your heart bleed
tell me with the rapture and the reverent in the right - right

you vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty psyched

it's the end of the world as we know it
it's the end of the world as we know it
it's the end of the world as we know it and i feel fine

(from "it's the end of the world as we know it," r.e.m.)

it didn't seem like that long ago that the u.s. economy was envied and our freedoms and opportunities were a model in many parts of the world. but that was then.

today, banks are failing, including some of the giants. the housing market is tanking. credit markets are (supposedly) seizing up. the dow dropped another 500 points today, to its lowest level in five years -- a 33% decline from its high a year ago. in the last five days of trading, that's a paper loss of $2.2 trillion (!). just to get an idea of how much money that is, if you made $1/second for every second of every day , you'd be making nearly $31 million per year -- and it would still take over 30,000 years to make a trillion dollars. and now the crisis is threatening to go global.

in response, the u.s. congress has committed something like a trillion dollars to 'fixing' the problem -- apparently with more to come. it is a power grab unprecedented in american history. will it help? no one knows for sure, but the conventional wisdom seems to be that we can't afford to do nothing.

i disagree with the conventional wisdom. i think no matter what we do, we're in for a rough ride. lots of companies could fail. people will lose jobs and houses. retirement savings could be wiped out. it might get ugly. but it could be even worse. no one knows for sure what the result of these government bailouts will be. we could end up with the same painful economic correction and pile up a mountain of debt for future generations. hyperinflation or stagflation are also possibilities.

the first rule of medicine is "do no harm." it ought to be the first rule of governing. yet if history is any guide, there's reason to believe that the government intervention will only lengthen the pain. so why do politicians insist on a bailout and predict disaster without it? some of them are staring at the trouble ahead, and hoping their 'hail mary' pass will connect. but some of them are bullying other politicians (and the public) into this 'rescue' before it can really be analyzed. and all of them surely know that it helps to solidify their power. no one wants to watch the economy tank and be perceived as having done nothing. better to do something, even if it's ridiculously costly, even if it makes the problem worse in the long haul. after all, in the long haul, someone else will have to take the blame.

our leaders on both sides of the mainstream political aisle seem to have lost the will to analyze problems with cool heads and attention to history, and to make hard decisions that put the country first, fearing that it would cost them their jobs. it's not just the financial crisis (which, imo, was caused largely by well-meaning but misguided government policies, not by the unpredictability of free markets! it's always easier to blame greed or deregulation than it is to take a good, hard look in the mirror). they know many of the issues that are blowing up and cannot continue as they have -- the deployment of american troops in over 100 countries around the world, engagement in two hot wars, the insolvency of social security and medicare, and more -- but they simply will not confront them head-on. in some cases (like president bush's prescription drug plan) they add to them.

and what are the american people doing? worrying. waiting for the government to save them. trading freedom and opportunity and their children's future for perceived security now. what they aren't doing, for the most part, is accepting some personal responsibility for what has happened and for the solution. nor are they demanding a more constitutional, restrained form of government than the one that helped create this mess. whatever else happens, the federal government will surely grow more powerful and more invasive than ever before. the old saying that in a democracy, you get the government you deserve, never seemed more true.

this may not be the end of the world. but it is, perhaps, the end of the world as we have known it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


the more things change, the more they stay the same.

magazine wrote about resegregation more than 40 years ago (find the article here). less than a decade after court-ordered desegregation, schools were becoming more segregated than ever. back then, many whites were leaving for the suburbs, leaving higher concentrations of blacks in the cities. and a number of black students, for a variety of reasons, were beginning to avoid racially-mixed schools. the article concluded, "the phenomenon of resegregation also suggests that the law can go only so far in correcting racial inequalities...."

fast forward to 2008. the christian science monitor reported recently that schools around the country are rapidly resegregating, citing a study from the civil rights project (see the article here). the reasons cited? in addition to the recent court rulings striking down voluntary integration programs, the main ones are white flight from the cities and widespread de facto segregation in neighborhoods. in a separate piece, pulitzer prize winner cynthia tucker adds that in her hometown, which remains racially integrated, whites have largely deserted the public school system -- in effect, recreating (mostly) black and (mostly) white schools.

the forces that keep us separated from one another are powerful and persistent. but God is at work. and he will reap the harvest he has sown.

for he himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in his flesh the enmity, which is the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in himself he might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (ephesians 2:14-16)