June 30, 2003

New Jersey government shutdown averted

Looks like the New Jersey State Senate has averted a government shutdown by working out a balanced budget and killing some of Governor McGreevey's proposed tax hikes.

I've been silently rooting for a government shutdown, just so that people could see that life goes on, and pretty well at that, without government bureaucrats running the details of our lives every day. The essential services would still be there, police would still be making arrests for crimes committed. I believe criminal courts would still be in session. Civil trials might be delayed.

I heard a commercial on the radio going into work this morning, about how McGreevey had proposed a balanced budget without raising the income tax. Half-truth! He raised taxes on corporations, which is in effect a higher tax for everyone in this state as higher prices are passed on to consumers, and raises to workers are not given, due to all the wealth being sucked out of the economy and fed to the government beast.

One item I heard today is that a law is being proposed to prohibit school boards from a negotiating strategy known as a "last and final offer" (I'm not sure I'm using the right technical term for this, I'm having trouble finding a link to it - I'm just writing what I remember hearing on the radio this morning). The commentary I heard said that it is a valuable tool to use in averting strikes, and to hold down frequent and large pay increases which would result in large tax hikes. The bottom line is that a lot of commentators are saying that if this negotiating tool is lost, property taxes in New Jersey will go a lot higher real soon. No wonder one of Governor McGreevey's proposed tax hikes is a real estate fee on people selling their homes (thankfully, killed by the State Senate Republicans) -- he wants to make a bundle of money on all the people fleeing the state when they cannot afford to keep their homes.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2003

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 27 Mr. Honest, Mr. Fearing, and Mr. Selfwill (Part Two)

After all the introductions are complete, the pilgrims continue on their way. The conversation turns to the discussion of another pilgrim. Great Heart asks Old Honesty if he has ever heard of a pilgrim named Mr. Fearing. Honesty says he has, and knew him very well, though he was one of the most troublesome pilgrims he ever met. Great Heart says Honesty has described Mr. Fearing very well, and Honesty replies, "Knew him! I was a great companion of his! I was with him almost to the end. When he first began to think of what would come upon us hereafter, I was with him." Great Heart also replies that he was with Mr. Fearing from his Master's house to the Gate of Celestial City.

Honesty says that Great Heart must have found him a very troubling case, and Great Heart replies that it's all part of his job, "I certainly did, but I could bear it very well, for men of my calling are often entrusted with the conduct of such as he." Honesty asks Great Heart to describe how Fearing fared under his guidance.

Great Heart describes Fearing as a man who was always afraid of coming short of wherever he had a desire to go. He was in the Swamp of Despondence for over a month, not even accepting a hand when offered by the other pilgrims who passed him by. At the Gate, he stood by, unwilling to knock while others entered before him. At last, he gathered the courage to knock, and was granted welcome and blessing, and was then sent on his way. At the Interpreter's house, he stood outside the door for a very long time, even though he had a Note of Necessity for the master which would have granted him full access to the comforts of the house. Great Heart, who was in the Interpreter's house at the time, saw him outside and brought him in, though with much difficulty. When inside however, the Interpreter treated him most lovingly.

Great Heart served as escort for Mr. Fearing upon leaving the Interpreter's House, and Fearing seemed to make better progress from then on. At the Cross and Tomb, he lingered, but in such a way as was appropriate to the beauty of the place. The Hill of Difficulty and the lions were no problem, as Fearing's fear was of not being accepted. At the house Beautiful, Great Heart pushes Fearing in before he is willing to go, and though he is embarrased in the presence of the ladies who live there, he does appreciate seeing the ancient things.

Going on from there, in the Valley of Humiliation, Fearing seemed to thrive. Great Heart says, "he went down as well as I ever saw a man do in my life, for he didn't care how little or how low he was as long as he could be happy at last. Yes, I think there was a kind of sympathy between that valley and him, for I never saw him better in all his Pilgrimage than when he was in that valley."

In the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Great Heart is afraid he is going to lose his man, however. Fearing is ready to die from fear. Great Heart cannot shake him from this fear, and is even afraid that his crying out will attract the enemy. Great Heart notes that the valley is unusually quiet for their passing however, a sign of grace from our Lord.

Wrapping up the story, Great Heart says that Mr. Fearing was unusually full of zeal at Vanity Fair, ready to fight with every man in the place. He is also very alert on the Enchanted Ground, but when he reaches the river separating him from Celestial City, he is afraid to cross. Great Heart notes that while Fearing is crossing the river, the water is low, as low as he has ever seen it in fact. The water is not even above Fearing's shoes. They part ways and Fearing is accepted into Celestial City.

Returning to the current conversation, Honesty expresses gladness that Fearing wound up well at last. Great Heart says, "I never had a doubt about him. He was a man of a choice spirit; only he was always kept very low, and that made his life so burdensome to himself and so troublesome to others."

Honesty notes that Fearing was a very earnest man, "He didn't fear difficulties, lions, or the Vanity Fair at all. It was only sin, death, and Hell that were a terror to him, and that was because he had some doubts about his share in that Celestial Country."

The others also relate how their lives are similar to Fearing, also noting some particular differences. Christiana also felt fearful in the beginning of her pilgrimage, but her fear inspired her to knock all the louder at the gate and get on in the way as quickly as possible. Mercy says that Fearing's experience pretty much matches hers, she has always been more afraid of the lake and the loss of a place in Paradise than of any other thing.

James adds "No fears, no grace, although there isn't always grace where there is the fear of Hell, yet, to be sure, there is no grace where there is no fear of God." Great Heart concludes the discussion, "Well said, James. You've hit the mark, for 'the fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom.' "

(to be continued)

Thoughts on this chapter
Have you ever known a Christian, perhaps in your church, who was so humble or so self-abasing, that it was a pain to be around them? The experience that Great Heart shares with us tells us that the best way to deal with such people is with extreme patience. Maybe we should be looking at them for wisdom instead of impatience. God has such people in the church for a reason, and while they may not be claiming all the grace and fullness God has for them, they are beloved of Him all the more for it.

The next segment of this chapter deals with another individual, SelfWill, and he is a completely different character, in every way, than Mr. Fearing.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:46 PM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2003

The Pilgrim's Progress - Chapter 27 Mr. Honest, Mr. Fearing, and Mr. Selfwill (Part One)

Great Heart, Christiana, Mercy, and the boys continue the journey, leaving the battle with the giant Maul. Leaving the Valley of the Shadow of Death, they come upon the point where Christian met up with Faithful. Christiana and her sons have some questions for Great Heart.

Christiana: "But weren't you afraid, good Sir, when you saw him come out with his club?"
Great Heart: "It's my duty to distrust my own ability so I might rely on Him who is stronger than all."
Matthew: "When you've all thought what you please, I think God has been wonderfully good to us, both in bringing us out of this valley and in delivering us out of the hand of this enemy. For my part, I see no reason why we should distrust our God anymore since He has now given us such a testimony of His love in such a place as this."

Going on, the party encounters a sleeping pilgrim, who wakes up, and is apparently ready to fight. Great Heart calms him down, claiming to be his friend, and the pilgrim says that he was afraid that the party was in the company of those who robbed Little Faith of his money.

Great Heart asks the pilgrim for his name, but the pilgrim is not willing to share it. He only claims his hometown, which is the Town of Stupidity, beyond the City of Destruction. Great Heart then guesses the pilgrim's name, which is Old Honesty. Honesty blushes, and says "I hope my nature will agree to what I'm called. But Sir, how could you guess that I am such a man since I came from that kind of a place?" Great Heart replies that He has heard of him, from his master, but expresses wonder "that anyone could come from your place, for your town is worse than what the City of Destruction is itself."

Mr. Honest replies, "Yes, we're farther away from the sun, so are more cold and senseless. But even if a man lived in a mountain of ice, if the sun of righteousness arose upon him, his frozen heart would feel a thaw; and this is how it has been with me."

Everyone is introduced, and Mr. Honest is especially enthusiastic about meeting Christiana, and has special blessings for her, her sons Matthew, Samuel, Joseph, and James, and Mercy, Christiana's companion from the City of Destruction.

(to be continued, this is a long chapter)

Thoughts on this chapter
This chapter begins a change of style in the narrative. From here on, we are going to be picking up more pilgrims until the entourage resembles a small church. Part Two is not the walk of a couple of individuals that Part One was. Three people are introduced today (though the last two are not actually encountered, just talked about). I'll add more comments when I finish this chapter.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:27 PM | Comments (0)

I was a 'Bright' once, then I wised up

Reverend Mike has a post linking to two other bloggers, One Hand Clapping, and Kingdom Come.

Here's some testimony: I was a 'bright' once. Indeed for about twenty years, I thought I was too smart to be a Christian. I was a secular humanist most of that time, sometimes not too fervently (tip for seekers out there - Humanism is boring!), and tried Ayn Rand's Objectivism for a couple of years (the last two - and I credit her for blasting post-modernism out of my brain)

There were two questions that influenced my thinking, that got me turned around. One political, one religious.

1) First off, as an open-minded seeker of truth, I read the Black Book of Communism, which led me to ask, "If humanists are so smart, then why are they so apologetic for socialism?" If you look at the magazine put out by the American Humanist Association, The Humanist, you'll see that that magazine is as bold as The Nation in its support for socialist policies and ideals. Didn't these people ever consider the track record for socialism in the twentieth century? Can they truly claim to be smart? The seeds of my doubt were sown. I began to doubt the wisdom of what I heard in humanist circles, but before going any further, I had to get rid of a post-modern mindset. For that, I turned to Ayn Rand's Objectivism. Ayn Rand was a fierce critic of post-modernism, and believed in the existence of Objective Truth. I had to change my mindset because in my former Unitarian Universalist-belief, I believed that one could never know the truth. Seeking for it was ok, but finding it was a sure sign of heretical closed-mindedness.

2) If God created the universe, and if Jesus is The Son of God, or God Himself, given the divinity of the entire Trinity, why would the Resurrection be an incredible thing? Really, why would it be such a big deal for Jesus to be able to do this if He was who He claimed to be? I did a bit more research on manuscripts which led me to believe, based on real evidence, that all the books of the New Testament were written by people who either saw the Resurrection or were in the company of someone who did. I could never say with complete intellectual honesty, "The Resurrection never happened". I believed, and my belief has evidence backing it up.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:51 PM | Comments (1)

Some news

It's deja vu all over again. Got a phone call two days ago. My dad was in an accident. He's injured, but going to be ok. Scary, especially so soon after our mom's passing away. Dad's not going to be living alone after next week. One of my sisters is going to be with him soon, and another, with her family, is going to be with him soon, moving the family to Hereford to be with him. Our prayers are with you Dad. Get well soon.

In other news, I've had to put the trombone down since Easter due to wrist pain - carpal tunnel syndrome. I played on Easter Sunday, but the wrist hurt, and soon after going down to Texas for family matters I saw a doctor for the pain, and I've been wearing a brace and all that. It still hurts some, but I'm hoping that it will be better in time for me to play trombone again this summer.

Also, it's time for me to pick up The Pilgrim's Progress again. For those who want to read my previous posts on this book, they are all available under the Categories link for Book Reviews on the left.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:23 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2003

Mark Byron has a good piece on Democrats and Winning

Mark Byron has an excellent opinion piece on Dick Gephardt, Democrats, and winning. Mark says,

However, what Gephardt seems to be exhibiting here is a manifestation of a common theme on the left; the desire to win at any cost, even if the cost is to gut the Constitution and the political and social infrastructure of the country. If you can't get your way in the political process, get the courts to write the law for you. If you can't get a majority in the Senate, fillibuster. If the Supreme Court doesn't cooperate with you, either ignore it or demonize it. Tradition and the rule of law are secondary to this spirit, for achieving their goals is the most important thing; the ends justify the means.

I've been thinking that for a long time Mark, even before the attempt to steal the 2000 election.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)

Affirmative Action

I'm disappointed that affirmative action programs were kept alive by our Supreme Court. So it's still ok to judge people by the color of their skin, and people may still have to check those little boxes. It's about what I expected from our court however. We've politicized the court to the point where a person can become a judge and have no actual knowledge of our Constitution. All they have to do is support the concept of unlimited availability of abortion, and they can be assured of a cooperative Democrat, and liberal Republican vote. Our Constitution is, for all practical purposes, just a dead letter. Another bit of proof of that is the recent statement by Representativ Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), "When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day."

One concern I have about this decision: Does this mean that California's Proposition 209 may be overturned?

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:19 PM | Comments (1)

The falcons have all fledged

The falcons are now all flying and taking hunting lessons from their mom and dad. Since they are rarely in the box, I am going to remove the link - so happy hunting, Edge, Chayton, Destiny, Tlohtli, and Isaura!

Anyone interested in reading first-hand reports from bird-watchers can still read the discussion board over at Kodak (go here, then follow the link to the discussion board)

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

Should we be witnessing to people of other faiths?

I've been thinking about the recent controversy regarding Christian-Muslim dialogue, especially the criticism of the Rev. Franklin Graham, who has used harsh words to describe Islam, and who also operates a Christian humanitarian-aid organization, Samaritan's Purse.

In the mission-related literature I receive from the United Methodist Church, there is no emphasis at all on telling people about Jesus Christ, in fact, the denomination seems to be dedicated to understanding and meeting people where they are in their own faith, be that Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever. There is hardly any difference between them and the the doctrine of Universalism, with respect to preaching the Gospel.

I don't agree with this belief or practice. Jesus told us to go out and make disciples. Now words are important; Franklin Graham used very confrontational words, "wicked" and "evil". Maybe he should have been a bit 'nicer'. However, Christian critics miss the point when they accuse him of wrongdoing because someone would be offended. Jesus told us we would cause offense, and He told us to go out and preach knowing we would be persecuted.

It's not a sign of compassion to just let people of other faiths be. Since we know, from John 3:36 (NKJV), "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him," then it would actually be an act of hate to ignore them.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:45 PM | Comments (4)

China adoption program resumes

Yea! The suspension of adoption-related travel to China has been lifted.

I knew it wouldn't be a show-stopper, I just had this gut confidence that everything would be ok; nevertheless I know people who thought SARS might cause China to delay their adoption program for a very long time. So, thanks be to God, we are looking forward to being in China within the next year and adopting our first child!

Update: Wording of link was revised to reflect the wording of the LaVida announcement. It was only child assignments and travel that were suspended, not the entire process

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 12:24 PM | Comments (1)

June 22, 2003

Back from the Poconos

Back from the Poconos, and yes it rained all weekend, but I did get some good reading time in. I'm going to catch up on some errands, and see about adding those category-based archives in, then sometime this week, I'm going to pick up The Pilgrims' Progress again.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2003

A Special Anniversary

This weekend is a special anniversary for me. It was two years ago, on Saturday June 23, that I decided to follow Jesus Christ, and renew the faith I grew up with.

The experience of that day was very much like Jesus described in the parable of The Prodigal Son. I didn't feel very good about myself that morning, nor in the days leading up to the decision, but I knew immediately after that prayer that day that I was forgiven and renewed.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:02 PM | Comments (3)

Import Complete

The import of all old content is complete!

Going back and re-reading my old posts was very interesting (a cause of delay, in fact), especially around 2002 election time and my first posts. It's enlightening to see the progression in one's thinking. Given that, I wish I had a track of what I was thinking back to say, around 1997. I'd like to know more about the decisions I made along the way, to remember what motivated them.

For anyone interested in the background of this blog, which was born on 9/28/2002; it was originally named Religious Left Watch, and my intent was to highlight examples of religious groups using religion as a stalking-horse for political activity. My favorite targets of criticism were the Unitarian Universalist Association and the National Council of Churches. A secondary intent was to highlight departures from orthodoxy by more liberal mainline churches. Oftentimes, the groups involved are the same, but not necessarily.

Here's a quick test of my archives: My favorite post from my first day of blogging. (I was always afraid to link to myself when using Blogger)

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)

Colonialism the Cause of Third World Poverty?

locdog, Joshua Claybourn, and Susan b. all weigh in on the superiority of Western Culture. I can only add one little thought:

If colonialism is the cause of third world poverty, then why is the US so rich today? After all, we were a colony too, about the same time as many other countries were. The cause of third world poverty is obviously something other than colonialism by itself -- I'd say bad government and bad economic systems, by the very governments in control of the poorest countries.

The Heritage Foundation releases, each year, an index of Economic Freedom. It shows that the strongest indicator of economic prosperity is the degree of liberty the citizens of that country have.

Today, in The Corner, a famous liberal economist, Friedrich Hayek, is quoted as saying that you can have an egalitarian society, but only at the lowest possible level.

Hayek wrote his famous book The Road to Serfdom as a warning to Britain (and America) to avoid going down the path to Socialism as Germany (yes-Germany) did earlier.

Hayek's definition of the word "liberal" is not the same as the one commonly used in conversation today. The word liberal in the classical sense refers to the recognition of "liberal" individual rights, most notably the right of the individual to make economic decisions in their own self-interest without excessive government interference.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:31 PM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2003

Everything's almost here

I'm almost through importing all my old content from the other site. I was thinking of deleting the site, but then started thinking of all the links to posts on that site, they would be broken (all ten of them - heh, no really there's more than that). So, delete and free up the space on some server somewhere?

I'm taking the liberty to remove posts like "Arggh - Blogger isn't working tonight!" or "Sorry for late posting tonight", or "we're going on vacation next week", stuff that doesn't really contribute to the message. I'm also going back to some of the posts and giving titles to them, but I'm not going to get to all of them. Just note that any imported post may have a strange title assigned to it by MT, since it just takes the first five words of the post as a default title.

I'm also adding categories to my posts, and as soon as I read the MT manual and see how to display category archives on the main page I plan to do that. When I do that, all my posts for the The Pilgrims' Progress will be grouped together and I plan to finish the series, probably in a set of weekly posts done on weekends so I can write and read in an unhurried state. I'll take the book with me to the Poconos with me this weekend so I can sit in our RV and read while the rain pours.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:02 PM | Comments (2)

Flying the Coop

The falcons are flying the coop today! (link is live picture to main site, and will be different for each ping)

Edge has apparently already flown away, and Chayton is hanging aroung the top of the nest box. The others are wing-flapping and acting crazy, and I think it's going to be just a day or two before they are all gone. After that, it is a very rare occurence to see any of them in the nest box ever again, and I will remove the link, until next year.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2003

Almost Ready to Fly

The falcons are looking great, going through a growth spurt this last week.

If you haven't seen them in a few days, as I didn't over the weekend, the change is surprising. They are either sleeping or at the edge of the box, looking out, exercising their wings (and hitting each other-it's so crowded in there now). Any day now one or two of them will jump out of the box onto the ledge, then it gets real crazy. This coming Monday is the six-week point after their hatching. It's about this time they're going to leave the box. After that it's an empty next, literally.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2003

Party at 16W!

Amy and I just got back from the New Jersey Devils' victory party at Continental Airlines arena, where all the team members and coaches were introduced, speeches were made, lots of loud music, and overpriced food ($3.50 for a bottle of water!). We were too far back in the crowd to see much, but they had the action on big screens up at front - which was the only way we could see it at all, and could not make out much of the speeches, so we just screamed and yelled with all the people around us. I think the loudest cheering went to John Madden, and he certainly deserves a lot of the credit for winning the Stanley Cup this year.

We didn't stay for the whole party though, it was real hot, and the event was outside, on the asphalt of the parking lot, so we left after the team introductions. As we were leaving, we heard a lot of booing. I was wondering, who could that be? I looked back at the screen to see. It was our governor, Jim McGreevey.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2003

Commencement Wisdom

Ben Domenech has an excellent post on what graduates should be hearing at their commencement.

I can attest to the truth of his wisdom. A couple of years after I graduated from college, I was unhappy with my church, yet instead of just looking for another church, I just turned my back on God altogether and went off on my own. I did some things I shouldn't have done, but it all comes down to this: I ignored God, living as though He didn't exist, or didn't care. I certainly didn't care about Him during that time.

Sometime in the late 1990's it started to hit me that the message that groups like Promise Keepers were trying to get across to America was right after all. Faith matters -- Families matter -- and for the same reason. God is the foundation, and provides a solid foundation for living. There's a verse in Psalm 11, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?". It has to do with this I think. There are all sorts of spiritual forces around us telling us that compromising on our standards is alright, no one's going to get hurt. Anything that makes us view others as anything less than a being created in God's image is going to harden us to the reality of God's commandment to "love our neighbor as ourself" however.

One of the best sources for inspiration and motivation for me is Psalm 37, which says that righteousness and justice grow in us as we trust in God. I pray around these verses a lot:

Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. Psalm 37:3-6 NKJV

Later in the Psalm, David also says,

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand.

Psalm 37:23-24 NKJV

I'm familiar with both halves of that as well. I can get rolling in my walk with God, and really feel like I'm making progress, and then POW!! I'm flat on my face, getting up and asking God to help me get up and move on. It isn't fun when that happens, but I'm committed to getting up and following Him each day.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

A Fresh Start

I've got a new home page up now, though there is really no reason to go there. It just has a link to this blog, and several pages under construction. It looks a lot better than the old clunker I had there until about an hour ago.

I'm also very pleased with Movable Type. I feel a lot more comfortable having all the code under my domain. Its features provide a lot more control over the structure of the blog, and I think the blog just plain looks better (though a lot of that is just getting rid of the old orange/red/blue combination - I was getting tired of that). I'll get a new stylesheet up eventually, right now I'm just getting into blogging again, and importing most of my blogger posts over, usually in one-month chunks. For actual content, not counting appearance issues, I think I've got just about everything I want on the blog now, mostly the same as the previous site, with a lot of fluff removed. I've seen some new links I like, and I often ask myself why I don't have a link to some others I read regularly, they'll be there soon.

Evaluating what I've done with this blog, I've got to admit that during Lent, my Pilgrims' Progress blogging got to be kindof tedious, and I think I lost some focus during that time, especially with the illness, and passing away, of my mother, and the war against Saddam which dominated the news. Concerning the war, it was a bad time to quit active blogging on current events.

I'm about ready to resume the blogging on the Pilgrims' Progress, but I'm not going to make it a daily entry like I did (unsuccessfully) during Lent. Now that I can categorize my entries, they can be filtered and viewed consecutively by anyone who wishes, if I only had the appropriate links on the page (back to the templates!)

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:13 PM | Comments (0)

Tell It Like It Is

It is really refreshing to hear a man speak honestly of his views, even when those who have a considerable amount of power of him don't agree with him.

Byron York tells of William Pryor, nominated to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, who readily admits, and still stands by his comment, that Roe vs. Wade is "the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law."

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2003

Gotta Fly --- Now!

The eyasses are getting their feathers and wings ready! We're about a week and a half from first flight. Sometime around the weekend of June 21-22, the birds will start jumping out of the box onto the ledge below, exercising their wings. They'll see their mom and dad flying around and want to join them. Soon one of them will take the 22-story plunge and learn what their wings will do! Then it's on to hunting lessons!

What could possibly motivate them to take that 22-story plunge? Well, I'm sure that flying is a big thrill, but they don't know about that yet. Maybe it could be the condition of the nest box? I'm glad it's not over my front porch!

Gotta get out of here! This place is filthy!

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2003

Government Compassion?

My first links!

Susan b. on government vs. individual acts of charity.

Lee Anne Millinger has comments too.

My take on this is pretty much the same. When Jesus preached in Judea, He was living in the Roman empire, which wasn't known for its compassion. The Romans practiced slavery after all. I don't think Jesus was preaching to Caesar (though Caesar wouldn't have been turned away if he showed up at Jesus' feet - but then he wouldn't be Caesar anymore either!). He was preaching to the man sitting on the grass, saying "Love your neighbor as yourself", extending that to include those you consider your enemies, meaning that we are to stretch and extend this compassion to the point where we do things we couldn't do unless we had the motivation of loving God first.

Can the government do this? No, the government protects our rights, and enacts and enforces laws which should reflect righteousness and justice, which the Lord loves (this is a modification of what I used to believe as a former disciple of Ayn Rand - the modification is based on Psalm 33:5 and Psalm 103:6). Now the source of much disagreement between leftists, conservatives, and liberals is: "just what is justice anyway?" Is it an equitable distribution of resources so that everyone pretty much has the same? Or is it a way of rewarding people for their work in a way proportional to their contribution to society? My own view is the latter, modified by teaching in the New Testament to give of ourselves to others.

So, why shouldn't we just give more to the government in order to help others? My main reason is that our government is not particularly that good at helping others. Most money that goes to government programs goes to pay for government employee salaries, very little goes to the needy, and the money that does go to the needy is not delivered to them in a way that will truly benefit them, i.e. encourage them to move out of their situation of need.

What about the other view of justice - that everyone should have just about the same? This view of justice does not lend itself well to "the rule of law" or equal protection under the law. Indeed, in practice, it seems to set up a two-tiered system of oppressors and victims, where a state of victimhood is seen as a justification for different standards for different civil classes, thus enabling unequal protection under the law. That's where our national debate on hate crimes, racial profiling, and affirmative action is leading us now.

Looking at the results of how socialism has worked in other countries, it can hardly be considered just. I'd say it was a system designed to promote human misery instead. From Communism, which has killed millions, to what President Clinton called The Third Way, Sweden-style European socialism, which isn't known for killing people, but rather for lowering their standard of living, people living under socialism have never been better off for it.

UPDATE: Add tax policy to that list of two-tiered institutions too. Indeed I can hardly believe I left it out.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:33 PM | Comments (1)

Lots to do

Well, this blog is now up and running, and no posting will be done at the old site. I could play with the setup a long time, but I think I'll save that for the weekend, however some things had to be done (like changing the default logon password).

I think I'd like to import only some of my posts from the last blog, and eliminate a lot of 'fluff'. I'd like to keep my serious political and religion - related posts. Can I do that?

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:31 PM | Comments (2)

Congratulations to the New Jersey

Congratulations to the New Jersey Devils for winning the Stanley Cup - again!!! I knew they would do it, but the Ducks were a great opponent. Jean-Sebastien Giguere was very deserving of the Con Smythe trophy. There was no booing for him at my house last night (indeed, unlike many other fans, I do not boo at all, even when I am at the games - some would say I'm not into the game, or no fun; I disagree, I love the game just as much as anyone else, I just have some standards).

So - Why didn't I post my congratulatory message last night? Blogger was down! arghh!

Moving to Movable Type soon, the new address will be: www.joelfuhrmann.com/blog. It's actually up now, but no content other than a test message. I'll tell you when you can look.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)


OK, this is cool, I'm using MovableType! Let's see if my first post shows up.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 05:37 AM | Comments (3)

June 04, 2003

Today was banding day for

Today was banding day for the falcons on top of Kodak headquarters in Rochester NY. Five eyasses, named

  1. Isaura (f)-- Named by Matt Bernius-- Black Band
  2. Chayton (m)-- Named by Aafke-- Blue Band
  3. Edge (m)-- Named by Siobhan Ruck-- Red Band
  4. Destiny (m)-- Named by Sue Long's Fifth Grade Class-- White Band
  5. Tlohtli (m)-- Named by Kenn Martinez-- Yellow Band

Here comes trouble!!
(link from the Kodak discussion board)

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2003

From the columns today Writing

From the columns today

Writing at National Review Online, Byron York, on The Truth About Bush's Lies.

Link via Opinion Journal's Best of the Web, a link to a New York Times column by Paul Krugman, Standard Operating Procedure. Donald Luskin fisks another column by Mr. Krugman at National Review Online, A Not-So-Beautiful Mind.

So what do I think about the concept of truth?

It's been in my thinking lately, because I've been dealing with the statement, "All politicians are liars, so whatever they say or do isn't important". The implication is that if a politician represents your ideology, or policies you like, then their words and actions aren't important.

I've got some real problems with this point-of-view. For starters it sets up a huge double-standard for how laws are enforced in this country. Imagine this: What if laws were passed with the understanding that they would only be enforced against people who were members of the Republican party? Sound far-fetched? Were laws passed forbidding sexual harrassment? Two names: Clarence Thomas - Republican, Bill Clinton - Democrat. I know people who believe that Clarence Thomas should be banned from government service for life because of what he was accused of doing by Anita Hill. Invariably these same people think that Bill Clinton was a great President who was the victim of a right-wing conspiracy. What was different between these two? The allegations against Justice Thomas were never proven. The allegations against President Clinton were proven. Justice Thomas is conservative and is pro-life, President Clinton is a Democrat and pro-abortion.

Another reason I have trouble with this is that it is a cop-out for intelligent discussion of public issues. If you can't believe anything politicians say, then there is no need for paying attention to news or opinion, and our elections fall prey to candidates who promise the most with no regard for preserving the constitutional rule of law that is supposed to serve as a foundation for our republic. There is a need to be careful in choosing what to believe, because there is a lot of stretching the truth, to say the least, both on the left and right. I'd say most of it falls short of outright lying however, except in the view of one's political opponents. One weakness of our election system is that it encourages voting numbers without encouraging voting intelligence. Looking back at the election of 2000, seeing how get-out-the-vote workers bribed homeless people to vote, just screams to me that one party was dedicated to getting a higher number of less-intelligent, ill-informed people out to vote.

So, risking repeating what has already been said by Byron York (National Review) and James Taranto (OpinionJournal), here's what I've come up with concerning how I view the statement, "They all lie, get over it":

In the view of my opponents, of course I lie. They disagree with me, they think they're right, so therefore they think I'm wrong, therefore I'm lying. Accusations of lying of this sort dominate every political campaign. It's just someone's opinion, not a hard and fast fact.

There are lies of fact that people disagree on, citing various misquotes and press statements out of context, such as all the accusations flying about Al Gore's inventing the Internet, Vice President's continuing profit-making with government contracts at Halliburton, President Bush's intelligence, and so on. A lot of this is ideological fluff, designed to discredit one's ideological opponents, creating sympathy for one's own point-of-view, or favorite candidate. These lies can be more or less proven to be true or false, but people rarely believe the other side, so it usually takes a lot of evidence to move people to change their mind. Not that it's impossible: I'm a former Democrat who now votes mainly Republican, and a lot of the evidence that moved me came in the late 90's.

There are hard and fast lies however, ones that can be proven for instance in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. We saw instances of that in the late 1990's, confirmed with a contempt of court settlement and articles of impeachment. People don't deny that President Clinton lied, they just don't agree on the proper punishment for it. People who commit lies like this are likely to commit lies of the next category as well.

The most egregious lie of all, the one that takes advantage of peoples ignorance: deliberate misrepresentation of truth. And here's where I beg to differ with those who think that all politicians lie, for there is a big difference between having a different point of view or interpreting numbers differently, and deliberately lying. And those who deliberately lie regarding issue 'A' will invariably have no motivation to be honest with issue 'B', so such people cannot ultimately be trusted with anything, and deserve to be unelected as soon as possible.

So who is not telling the truth? Well two examples, on the issue of judicial nominations (a pet peeve of mine): Senator Daschle is not telling the truth when he says Miguel Estrada doesn't have the experience required to be a federal judge (many judges have been confirmed with less experience). Senator Schumer is not telling the truth when he says we need the memorandums Mr. Estrada wrote when he was Solicitor General (no other Solicitor General who has been nominated has been asked for them). These are not innocent lies, created out of a misunderstanding of our political process. They are deliberate lies presented to a public which is not expected to know or understand the truth.

There's a lot more I can say on this subject, but I'm going to close this post now. Maybe I'll add more later, and if anyone wants to email me a thought or two, I'll post those too.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:55 PM | Comments (0)