Monday, December 29, 2014

The Accumulation of Public Debt

For a bit of drive-by blogging, this is an interesting illustration of the federal spending hemorrhage:

And true to the perverse notion of finally taking some (any!) sort of responsibility for this fiscal Frankenstein's monster, the 112th Congress, when Harry Reid's Senate refused to even come up with a budget and all of Congress voted almost unanimously to reject Obama's budget proposals, came up with the Sequester in the Budget Control Act of 2011, touted as an even split of drastic cuts with half coming from domestic spending and the other half from defense. 

That might make sense if you ignore (as does the press) the fact that defense constitutes only 18 percent of the federal budget.  Thus we are placing the proportional lion's share on the backs of our military, at a time when the jihadi threat continues to escalate.

Obama, though, has taken a few moments yesterday from his golf game in Hawaii to declare that the Afghan War is over.  So shall it be written; so shall it be done.  We needn't bother with wars henceforth according to his light, though he and his journalist lotus eaters forget that fundamental idea that it doesn't take two sides to fight a war - only one, and no one has thought to include the opinion of the Taliban.

But the accumulation of this massive overall debt continues, and the press parrots the administration when they spread the good news that the pace has slowed somewhat, but always compared to the beginning of Obama as president.  One should always wonder why the historical analysts start at a certain point in time, as opposed to any other, and take note that Obama is on track before the end of his reign to add more debt to this nation than all other presidents combined.

We must hope that the incoming 114th Congress, now with the Republicans in charge, will do better.

And we should always heed the words of 17th-century English historian and pastor Thomas Fuller: "Debt is the worst poverty."

Thursday, December 25, 2014

WSJ: In Hoc Anno Domini

The Wall Street Journal has restricted its pages almost exclusively to subscription only, in an attempt to maximize its income no doubt, but this leaves the vast lot of us closed to its insightful articles.

Every year at Christmastime, though, it re-publishes the great editorial of Vermont Royster of 1949, which I copy here as a public service to spread his message, irrespective of its original source, which I trust is now safely in the public domain.  One simply doesn't see such elegant prose in the newspapers of today.

His words, like those he quotes, still have particular sway over current events.

The Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus, 1865
When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.
Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.
But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression—for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?
There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?
Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.
And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.
So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.
But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.
Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter’s star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.
And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Christmas: Es ist ein Ros entsprungen

There is a division among Christians, notably within the United States (where one would expect a division to be, what with its distinct Christian history and development) on the manner of religious music.  I belong to the old school, with the emphasis on liturgical music that reflects a scriptural basis.  By way of explanation, I submit a fine example for this Christmas season.

Dresden Kreuzkirche, the Church of the Holy Cross in Dresden

The following piece is of the old German hymn Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, sung by the Dresdner Kreuzchor, one of the oldest boys' choirs in the world, established in the 13th century and associated with the construction of a basilica that eventually became the Kreuzkirche.  [The development of the church structure was ironically aided by a series of fires that struck the site over the ensuing centuries, as well as its partial destruction by an artillery barrage during the Seven Years War (contemporaneous with the American French and Indian War), and most significantly by the devastating bombing campaign of the USAAF and RAF during World War II, which effectively destroyed practically the entire city by the beginning of 1945.  The church was rebuilt around the only remaining portion of the structure - the wall surrounding its entrance - in the 1950s, and suffered still by the fact that the project was undertaken during the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic.]

It is a fitting place, then, for a hymn dedicated to the idea that the birth of Christ is likened to the flowering of a tender rose, in a place so battered and besieged, physically and spiritually, yet which still can bring forth such ethereal harmony to praise the Christ arisen.

The hymn can be traced back at least to the late 16th century, and the harmony was set by the German composer Michael Praetorius in 1609.  The lyrics were translated by Theodore Baker in 1894 into Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming, and the music was also used for the hymn A Great and Mighty Wonder.

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,
aus einer Wurzel zart,
wie uns die Alten sungen,
von Jesse war die Art
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht
mitten im kalten Winter,
wohl zu der halben Nacht.
Das Röslein, das ich meine,
davon Jesaia sagt,
ist Maria die reine
die uns das Blümlein bracht.
Aus Gottes ew'gem Rat
hat sie ein Kind geboren
Welches uns selig macht.

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow'ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God's love aright,
She bore to men a Savior,
Who makes us blessed.

Though hardly an authority, I nevertheless consider music of this sort, classic in the true sense of the term, to be the well-spring of liturgical music, not to be confused with other music heard in present churches, or the radio.  American Gospel, both black and white (separate but equal, as it were) is a musical category unto itself, and many can enjoy it without ever considering its message.  Don't get me wrong, I am among its fans, though my consideration of its lyrics as religious or nostalgically entertaining depends on my mood.

There are many in what can be categorized as the charismatic movement and its ripples that have diverged into a New Age mesmerizing chant, which can be summarized with the example of "You are the light of the world" (repeat 27 times, affettuoso accentato).

For those who receive spiritual nourishment from such music, all the better, but I do not believe that it rises to the intent of such hymnodists as, say, Charles Wesley or Martin Luther.  This is clearly an unresolvable discussion, but the appeal of this German hymn is ever enchanting.

Friday, December 12, 2014

An Example of the Success of Capitalism

Everything in this photo has been reduced to a device that can fit into your pocket, and it is capitalism that has enabled it:

It's a good start and puts its point across, but it still lacks a few items.  The telephone receiver affixed to his right shoulder suffers because the color blends in – the original black would be better – but it is the fundamental basis for our smart phones (hence the inadequate name for a device that does so much more). 

A stack of maps should be prominent.  The mapping, location and direction function of the GPS program is worth the price of the device alone.

The Library of Congress would be difficult to portray in so small a space, or a symbolic instrument which would include all current newspapers, magazines, journals and the like.

Likewise, a weather station would have the same problem of presentation.

Easier fixes would include a calendar, an address book, a photo album, a flashlight, a Canon or Nikon camera, a gaming console, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a timer, and a Dictaphone.

A government, and certainly its communist or socialist form, has not provided such a system that is embodied in a smart phone, nor has it provided all the precursors that are pictured.

The current regime here, however, is attempting to shortstop the process by handing out Obama phones.

(H/T to Gerard van der Leun)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Foundation of Religious Freedom to a Free Society

An insightful message, from the perspective of one able to look at our culture from outside and thus unhindered by the white noise of our pop culture, from a Chinese Marxist scholar as told to Clayton Christensen, the Kim B Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School:

Christensen is a pre-eminent intellect on the subject of innovation.  Besides his soothing brilliance, he looks to me to be a 6'8" version of a brother of Ronald Reagan.
"That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."   --Ecclesiastes 1:9

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

An Addition to Bubba Gump's List of the Universality of Shrimp Preparation

Don't worry about the translation - the Japanese just adds to the charm.

Instructions were thoughtfully included:
Today's theme is fried shrimp to cook in 3 seconds.  Heck, how Will finish in 3 seconds to.  Please pay attention to wonders of the cooking speed.  Order to represent the characteristics of the full-LTE called "two bands LTE only", developed/manufactured all cooking apparatus such as shrimp pop out two lanes for the current imaging was.... and speed shrimp pops out, wheat flour, the timing of egg, bread crumbs, flame, each out wipe is all a careful calculation, has been programmed by verification.  Also, cooking the landscape without using the CG, gave a shot in live action.  Come in this video, please experience the speed of full LTE!  After the end of the ingredients that were used photography, staff gave delicious.
That should clarify matters.

Beyond a mere hat tip, this was shamelessly ripped off from Gerard van der Leun in his recurring "Japanese: nuked too much or not enough?" series in his American Digest.

Don't try this at home ... but you know you want to.