How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone Not to Proselytize?

Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

One of My Favorite Songs

An Inspiring Song


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Recommended: Architects of Ruin

I would love to give Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy and How They Will Do It Again if No One Stops Them a full review, but the more I contemplate it, the more it seems like the work of hours. The story it tells is simple enough. Alinsky-influenced radicals started out by using various forms of pressure--like, for example, getting hundreds of people to open up savings accounts with only a buck, and then coming back the next day to close those accounts, which more or less shut those banks down for real business--to induce banks to lower their lending standards so people less likely to be able to pay a mortgage could get one. Then they managed to get law passed that made it necessary for banks, before they could do things like mergers, open new branches, and so forth, to get the community to agree that they'd been properly socially conscious, which ultimately led to banks committing more funds to risky loans in order not to have their applications for such business moves stymied by activist groups. Then the Clinton administration came along and very aggressively implemented that law, going as far as to threaten perfectly good banks with all sorts of investigations and suits in order to pressure them to make such loans. Then people started packaging those bad loans into various kinds of securities and selling those. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were hip deep in this sort of thing. Then the Clinton administration kept bailing out Wall Street investment firms--I believe Goldman Sachs got bailed out three or four times during the Clinton administration, if I recall correctly--which encouraged more and more investment in those bad, but politically correct, socially conscious loans. Then a Republican congress failed to ride roughshod over Barney Frank and Maxine Waters, which they certainly should have done, but apparently they were afraid of being called RAAAAAAAAAcists, to get those laws repealed, and the whole mess festered until it all imploded and threatened to take down the world's financial system with it.

Like I say, the story itself is pretty simple. But I have rarely run across--how shall I put this?--so fact-dense a book. If you pull quotes from the book, you are almost inevitably going to find that you need to quote something else explaining some term or some bit of history. It's hard to review a book like that in any detail, so I'm going to just point out one thing and give you one quote.

Ever since President Obama--and yes, this book will give you some interesting information on just what being a shakedown artist community organizer meant to him--started aggressively pushing the statist takeover of the health care system that he calls "reform," I can't tell you the number of people who--blogospherically speaking, nobody says this sort of thing to my face, at least not yet--give an exasperated shrug of their shoulders, place their hands on their hips, and sigh, and say, "I just don't see what you could possibly have against us helping poor people with their medical care! I mean, wouldn't that be tragic if we did that!" They act as if the simple fact that I do understand what would be tragic about that means I am some kind of amoral monster.

Well, the people that started the problems that caused that financial meltdown were prone to the same sort of thinking. Many of them started out saying, "I just don't see what you could possibly have against us helping poor people get mortgages! I mean, wouldn't that be tragic if we did that!"

Well, it did turn out to be tragic--ironically most hurting, as liberal social and financial policies usually do, the very people that were supposed to be helped. And the health care fiasco, which, I assure you, is not dead, but only sleeping, will do the same thing. So will "green energy." If you have not previously understood how this sort of thing works, Architects of Ruin will go a long way to helping you understand. It's only 184 pages; you can almost certainly check it out of your local library.

Go get it. Your time won't be wasted.

The quote? It's this, which I wish everyone, conservative or liberal, would take to heart, for too few understand it:
It's important here to draw a critical distinction: there is an enormous difference between being probusiness and pro-free market. The former position, which the Clinton administration embraced, is concerned primarily with the health of large businesses, in this case the big financial houses. Being pro-free market means being concerned with the health of the capitalist system as a whole and its underlying principles of profit and loss, risk and reward.
Too few putative conservatives understand this, too. Too many of them assume that what's good for business--and they often mean corporate giants--is good for America. What they often fail to appreciate is that there is more than one way to get, or to stay, big. A business may get or stay big by efficiently serving the needs or desires of many people. They may also--sometimes--get or--more often--stay big by working to rig the system by actually trying to make their field more regulated (so as to freeze out smaller competitors) or rigging the tax system, or, as in the case of some of these big financial houses, accepting a horrid alliance with government that leads to foolish risks being taken on the assumption that government will bail them out when the risks prove fatal.

That's not capitalism anymore.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Ol' Memory Works Slow, It Does

After the comments-exchange I had with Russ yesterday, I knew that the whole thing reminded me of something, but it took me a few minutes to remember exactly what. It is this passage from Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, which expresses quite well what I think about the whole issue of God's sovereignty in salvation and what Christians believe about it. Here 'tis, for those interested. Emphasis, where present, is mine and in bold: I going to spend time proving to you the particular truth that God is sovereign in salvation. For that, too, you believe already. Two facts show this. In the first place, you give God thanks for your conversion. Now why do you do that? Because you know in your heart that God was entirely responsible for it. You did not save yourself; He saved you. Your thanksgiving is itself an acknowledgement that your conversion was not your own work, but His work. You do not put it down to chance or accident that you came under Christian influence when you did. You do not put it down to chance or accident that you attended a Christian church, that you heard the Christian gospel, that you had Christian friends and, perhaps, a Christian home, that the Bible fell into your hands, that you saw your need of Christ and came to trust Him as your Saviour. You do not attribute your repenting and believing to your own wisdom, or prudence, or sound judgment, or good sense. Perhaps, in the days when you were seeking Christ, you laboured and strove hard, read and pondered much, but all that outlay of effort did not make your conversion your own work. Your act of faith when you closed with Christ was yours in the sense that it was you who performed it; but that does not mean that you saved yourself. In fact, it never occurs to you to suppose that you saved yourself.

As you look back , you take to yourself the blame for your past blindness and indifference and obstinacy and evasiveness in face of the gospel message; but you do not pat yourself on the back for having been at length mastered by the insistent Christ. You would never dream of dividing the credit for your salvation between God and yourself. You have never for one moment supposed that the decisive contribution to your salvation was yours and not God's. You have never told God that, while you are grateful for the means and opportunities of grace that He gave you, you realize that you have to thank, not Him, but yourself for the fact that you responded to His call. Your heart revolts at the very thought of talking to God in such terms. In fact, you thank Him no less sincerely for the gift of faith and repentance than for the gift of a Christ to trust and turn to. This is the way in which, since you became a Christian, your heart has always led you. You give God all the glory for all that your salvation involved, and you know that it would be blasphemy if you refused to thank Him for bringing you to faith. Thus, in the way that you think of your conversion and give thanks for your conversion, you acknowledge the sovereignty of divine grace. And every other Christian in the world does the same.

It is instructive in this connection to ponder Charles Simeon's account of his conversation with John Wesley on Dec. 20th, 1784 (the date is given in Wesley's Journal): '"Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions...Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?" "Yes," says the veteran, "I do indeed." "And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?" "Yes, solely through Christ." "But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?" "No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last" "Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?" "No." "What, then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother's arms?" "Yes, altogether." "And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?" "Yes, I have no hope but in Him." "Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: It is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree."
Couldn't a-said it no better m'se'f...except that I would add that it is also all my predestination, all my the-will-is-not-free.

An' that's 'bout all I have to say 'bout that.
But it is not all that might be said. I have had way too much time on my hands today. It has not even been realistic for me to try to figure out exactly why my Bronco II isn't running well enough to drive. Maybe tomorrow. But I was poking around and found something very similar to the above material, only from C.H. Spurgeon. Here's the quote:
You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer—for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying,
Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists. Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that 1 have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but l do. There are many that wilI go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as l am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them.
That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out. I ask you again, did you ever meet a Christian man who said, “I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?” If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, “My dear sir, I quite believe it—and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” Do I hear one Christian man saying, “I sought Jesus before he sought me; I went to the Spirit, and the Spirit did not come to me?” No, beloved; We are obliged, each one of us, to put our hands to our hearts, and say—
“Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes o’erflow;
‘Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go.”
Is there one here—a solitary one—man or woman, young or old, who can say, “I sought God before he sought me?”No; even you who are a little Arminian, will Sing —
“O yes! I do love Jesus—
Because he first loved me”

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Bondage of the Will Online

I have been going to Southern Baptist churches for about twenty years or so, and in all that time, I've heard the topics of predestination, election, free will, and so forth, addressed perhaps three or four times. I do not think I have ever heard them addressed from the pulpit. Most modern Baptists seem, if they ever consider the subject at all, satisfied with statements like, "The Bible teaches both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man," and leave it at that. That is kind of weird, to my mind. Certainly C.H. Spurgeon, regarded by many as "the prince of preachers" and doubted by few to be among the greatest preachers ever to have lived, was not shy about talking about them. And, too, as Dr. Thomas Nettles has demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt (in my opinion) in his By His Grace and For His Glory, Calvinistic soteriology was once overwhelmingly dominant in the Southern Baptist Convention, and it was certainly preached from the pulpit. More than a few people, as well, have said that Calvinism is very, very popular among more recent graduates of Southern Baptist seminaries, and at least one of those seminaries is led by an unabashed Calvinist, Al Mohler.

Saying that it is rare to hear those subjects discussed within Southern Baptist churches is not to say that there is no interest in them, but it seems to me that most of the people who are interested enough to discuss them do so in e-mails and blogposts.

This isn't going to be one of them, even though the subject has recently been brought to my attention again. My mind on the subject was made up long ago, and the process of doing the reading was also a process of discovering yet again that Dr. Francis Schaeffer was right: when it comes to the big questions, there are really very few available answers. The major arguments have been made, over and over, so often that discussion of the subject of predestination very often falls into a fairly predictable pattern. I do not propose to spend a substantial chunk of my time over the next few months reviewing the arguments from Paul, Augustine, Pelagius, Arminius, Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon, White, and Piper, not here, at least not at this time.

What I do propose to do is point the way to a splendid resource, the existence of which I was unaware of until this morning: Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will online. The Bondage of the Will is an absolutely fascinating book, written as a response to Erasmus's Diatribe on Free Will (which, sadly, I was unable to find on its own, either online or in a dead-tree edition). You can pretty much tell where Luther comes down on the subject from the title. Luther does not believe in free will. Luther believes in free choice, but not in free will, holding that the will is chained, either a slave to sin or a slave to Christ. But I would recommend the book for anyone interested in the subject, whether he believes in free will or not, whether he believes in predestination or not. I say that because, simply, Luther is, in my opinion, one of the most entertaining authors in history. I do not think he is given sufficient credit for this. Your time in reading the book will not be wasted, no matter what your position. And now you can do it for free! Here, as a sample, is the introduction:
THAT I have been so long answering your DIATRIBE on FREE-WILL, venerable Erasmus, has happened contrary to the expectation of all, and contrary to my own custom also. For hitherto, I have not only appeared to embrace willingly opportunities of this kind for writing, but even to seek them of my own accord. Some one may, perhaps, wonder at this new and unusual thing, this forbearance or fear, in Luther, who could not be roused up by so many boasting taunts, and letters of adversaries, congratulating Erasmus on his victory and singing to him the song of Triumph—What that Maccabee, that obstinate assertor, then, has at last found an Antagonist a match for him, against whom he dares not open his mouth!

But so far from accusing them, I myself openly concede that to you, which I never did to any one before:—that you not only by far surpass me in the powers of eloquence, and in genius, (which we all concede to you as your desert, and the more so, as I am but a barbarian and do all things barbarously,) but that you have damped my spirit and impetus, and rendered me languid before the battle; and that by two means. First, by art: because, that is, you conduct this discussion with a most specious and uniform modesty; by which you have met and prevented me from being incensed against you. And next, because, on so great a subject, you say nothing but what has been said before: therefore, you say less about, and attribute more unto "Free-will," than the Sophists have hitherto said and attributed: (of which I shall speak more fully hereafter.) So that it seems even superfluous to reply to these your arguments, which have been indeed often refuted by me; but trodden down, and trampled under foot, by the incontrovertible Book of Philip Melancthon "Concerning Theological Questions:" a book, in my judgment, worthy not only of being immortalized, but of being included in the ecclesiastical canon: in comparison of which, your Book is, in my estimation, so mean and vile, that I greatly feel for you for having defiled your most beautiful and ingenious language with such vile trash; and I feel an indignation against the matter also, that such unworthy stuff should be borne about in ornaments of eloquence so rare; which is as if rubbish, or dung, should he carried in vessels of gold and silver. And this you yourself seem to have felt, who were so unwilling to undertake this work of writing; because your
conscience told you, that you would of necessity have to try the point with all the powers of eloquence; and that, after all, you would not be able so to blind me by your colouring, but that I should, having torn off the deceptions of language, discover the real dregs beneath. For, although I am rude in speech, yet, by the grace of God, I am not rude in understanding. And, with Paul, I dare arrogate tomyself understanding and with confidence derogate it from you; although I willingly, and deservedly, arrogate eloquence and genius to you, and derogate it from myself.

Wherefore, I thought thus—If there be any who have not drank more deeply into, and more firmly held my doctrines, which are supported by such weighty Scriptures, than to be moved by these light and trivial arguments of Erasmus, though so highly ornamented, they are not worthy of being healed by my answer. Because, for such men, nothing could be spoken or written of enough, even though it should be in many
thousands of volumes a thousands times repeated: for it is as if one should plough the seashore, and sow seed in the sand, or attempt to fill a cask, full of holes, with water. For, as to those who have drank into the teaching of the Spirit in my books, to them, enough and an abundance has been administered, and they at once contemn your writings. But, as to those who read without the Spirit, it is no wonder if they be driven to and fro, like a reed, with every wind. To such, God would not have said enough, even if all his creatures should be converted into tongues. Therefore it would, perhaps, have been wisdom, to have left these offended at your book, along with those who glory in you and decree to you the triumph.

Hence, it was not from a multitude of engagements, nor from the difficulty of the undertaking, nor from the greatness of your eloquence, nor from a fear of yourself; but from mere irksomeness, indignation, and contempt, or (so to speak) from my judgment of your Diatribe, that my impetus to answer you was damped. Not to observe, in the mean time, that, being ever like yourself, you take the most diligent care to be on every occasion slippery and pliant of speech; and while you wish to appear to assert nothing, and yet, at the same time, to assert something, more cautious than Ulysses, you seem to be steering your course between Scylla and Charybdis. To meet men of such a sort, what, I would ask, can be brought forward or composed, unless any one knew how to catch Proteus himself? But what I may be able to do in this matter, and what profit your art will be to you, I will, Christ cooperating with me, hereafter shew.

This my reply to you, therefore, is not wholly without cause. My brethren in Christ press me to it, setting before me the expectation of all; seeing that the authority of Erasmus is not to be despised, and the truth of the Christian doctrine is endangered in the hearts of many. And indeed, I felt a persuasion in my own mind, that my silence would not be altogether right, and that I was deceived by the prudence or malice of the flesh, and not sufficiently mindful of my office, in which I am a debtor, both to the wise and to the unwise; and especially, since I was called to it by the entreaties of so many brethren.

For although our cause is such, that it requires more than the external teacher, and, beside him that planteth and him that watereth outwardly, has need of the Spirit of God to give the increase, and, as a living Teacher, to teach us inwardly living things, (all which I was led to consider;) yet, since that Spirit is free, and bloweth, not where we will, but where He willeth, it was needful to observe that rule of Paul, "Be instant in season, and out of season." (2 Tim. iv. 2.) For we know not at what hour the Lord cometh. Be it, therefore, that those who have not yet felt the teaching of the Spirit in my writings, have been overthrown by that Diatribe—perhaps their hour was not yet come.

And who knows but that God may even condescend to visit you, my friend Erasmus, by me His poor weak vessel; and that I may (which from my heart I desire of the Father of mercies through Jesus Christ our Lord) come unto you by this Book in a happy hour, and gain over a dearest brother. For although you think and write wrong concerning "Free-will," yet no small thanks are due unto you from me, in that you have rendered my own sentiments far more strongly confirmed, from my seeing the cause of "Free-will" handled by all the powers of such and so great talents, and so far from being bettered, left worse than it was before which leaves an evident proof, that "Free-will" is a downright lie; and that, like the woman in the gospel, the more it is taken in hand by physicians, the worse it is made. Therefore the greater thanks will be rendered to you by me, if you by me gain more information, as I have gained by you more confirmation. But each is the gift of God, and not the work of our own endeavours. Wherefore, prayer must be made unto God, that He would open the mouth in me, and the heart in you and in all; that He would be the Teacher in the midst of us, who may in us speak and hear.

But from you, my friend Erasmus, suffer me to obtain the grant of this request; that, as I in these matters bear with your ignorance, so you in return, would bear with my want of eloquent utterance. God giveth not all things to each; nor can we each do all things. Or, as Paul saith, "there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." (1 Cor. xii. 4.) It remains, therefore, that these gifts render a mutual service; that the one, with his gift, sustain the burden and what is lacking in the other; so shall we fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. vi. 2.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Paul's Valley, OK, the Broken Arrow of my Childhood, and the Culture War

The notes for this post were written a few months ago, just before the end of October, I think. Almost forgot about them.
I was in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma today, and found myself, as I went through their downtown, which is very attractively paved with brick, wishing that I had allowed enough time to take pictures. It is really quite a picturesque little downtown, very much like so many of the small-town downtowns I've seen all over Oklahoma, filled with buildings, many nicely maintained, that are clearly eighty, ninety, even a hundred years old.

As I drove through the town and gradually became aware that it was somewhat larger than I had first thought, something began to tug at my memory. A little while later, as I passed Stevenson's BBQ and got a good whiff of one of God's finest gifts, hickory smoke, I realized what it was.

"This," I thought, "is about what Broken Arrow was like when I was a kid."

And then I immediately thought of A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and then I felt a little sad.

I will explain.

I am 47 years old, born in 1962. I was born, to my everlasting regret and embarrassment, in an Arkansas military hospital, and then spent about the first year of my life in Paris, France. We spent a short time in Wisconsin, then came back to Oklahoma, where my family--on both sides--has lived since before The War of Northern Aggression. First, in a little green house, then in a red brick one, the address of which, believe it or not, I can still remember. Both were in Broken Arrow. I have memories of going to school in Broken Arrow, and of playing there, from the time I was about five 'til I was about eleven or twelve. I have a few vague memories of going to a Baptist church.

This was all 35-40 years ago, one biblical generation.

I remember playing all over the neighborhood, quite unsupervised, for hours on end. My mother sometimes wouldn't see me for hours. Everyone did that. Nobody thought anything of it. There was no fear.

I remember trick-or-treating. Yes, my parents checked the candy, but I don't think they really expected to find anything wrong.

I remember that you might see an occasional schoolyard fight, but nobody worried about weapons being used.

Everyone spoke English. You never heard anything else.

Most people--or at least a lot more people than now--went to church.

This was before LBJ's Great Society programs had time to create a permanent--and apparently permanently resentful--underclass, before our government managed to effectively destroy the black family as an institution.

This was before the Supreme Court manufactured a right to murder the unborn out of the "emanations and penumbras" of the Constitution.

This was before a radically changed immigration policy, a wide-open border, multiculturalist propaganda, and an almost continual assault on the idea of American exceptionalism combined to so erode and denigrate the country's common cultural basis as to bring it to the brink of balkanization and fill it with millions of illegal aliens, many of whom have no interest in assimilating into the dominant American culture.

This was before judges decided that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." actually meant that high-school valedictorians couldn't offer up graduation prayers in the name of Jesus.

This was when a TV Christmas special could actually quote Scripture saying that Christ is "Lord," and climax with a hymn that decares that through Him, God and sinners are reconciled.

This was before policies of "free trade" and profligate spending stagnated working Americans' real wages.

In short, the Broken Arrow of my childhood looked much like the America portrayed in those two Charlie Brown TV specials. No, it wasn't perfect. Yes, it needed to change some things. Overall, though, it was a pretty good place.

Some of you disparage the idea of a "culture war."' Perhaps that's because you don't quite get or are too young to remember just how massively different this country was only a generation ago (A biblical generation, that is, generally held to be about forty years). I think there is a culture war. I don't see how anyone could doubt it, not when they've witnessed, over three or four decades, their culture gradually becoming a casualty. I still don't see what the dickens was so bad about it, that some people felt the need to do their best to bust it all to pieces.
Just as an aside, I can't help but repeat a few of Ted Kennedy's quotes vis-a-vis that now long-ago immigration act:
First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same.... Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.... Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or the most populated and deprived nations of Africa and Asia.... In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think.... It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.
Sure, Ted. Sure.

And now that I've noted that, I have to include my standard disclaimer: No, I do not have anything against immigrants, not from anywhere in the world, as long as they come here legally and desire to become Americans.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

From Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy--and How They Will Do It Again if No One Stops Them

I checked Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy--and How They Will Do It Again If No One Stops Them out from the library a few days ago. I'd love to reproduce the whole book here, but, copyright violations aside, I just haven't got the time. Those unfamiliar with a more conservative analysis of the mortgage-related financial troubles we've experienced over the last two years would do well to start with this column by Thomas Sowell. That will give you a little more background so that you can better appreciate this material from the introduction to Architects of Ruin.
All of this has led Americans to wonder: What happened? How the heck did we get here? Whose fault is it? Who do we blame? What mistakes were made? How can we get out of this mess?

There has been much debate about this question, but the ultimate source of the problem, it is generally agreed--the triggering event that caused the chain of other dominoes to fall--was the collapse of the subprime mortgage market in the United States. Banks and mortgage companies had made trillions of dollars in loans to individuals with terrible credit. They signed loans with illegal immigrants, offered so-called NINJA (No Income, No Job, No Assets) mortgages, and allowed people with bad credit to leverage their money. When the loans began to fail in large numbers, a new term entered our national vocabulary: toxic assets. And so the crisis began.

Still, an underlying mystery remained: What explains this perplexing behavior? Were they nuts? Did they simply take leave of their senses?

The conventional narrative was written in the first days of the collapse. And as usual, the loudest, most obstreperous voices seemed to prevail. "The private sector got us into this mess," Congressman Barney Frank indignantly declared as events began to unfold; "the government has to get us out of it."

According to this view, deregulation of the banking industry had encouraged the rise of "predatory lenders" who had pushed home loans on people who couldn't afford them. Those loans were then sold to unscrupulous Wall Street financiers, who repackaged them in the form of mortgage-backed securities. The securities were sold in turn to mutual funds, pension funds, and various foreign investors. but their value was grossly overstated and ultimately rested on the faulty assumption that housing prices would keep rising indefinitely. Once again, the supposed result of irresponsible deregulation of financial markets.

This explanation, coming from Frank, had the obvious benefit of pinning the collapse on his political enemies, the Republicans, while completely exonerating any Democrat (such as himself) who had responsibility for overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed lending institutions that traditionally acted as a backstop to the housing market. It is not an accident that Frank has been in the forefront of attempts to minimize the crisis or (when it could no longer be denied) deflect the blame to his opponents. When some conservatives pointed out that Fannie and Freddie had abandoned their sober mission of stabilizing the middle-class housing market in favor of a misguided crusade to expand minority home ownership by forcing banks to lower their lending standards, Frank and his allies brazenly shouted them down.


...the rush to heavy government intervention, new programs, and massive spending was now treated as inevitable. It was the 1930s all over again, and Obama was the new FDR. Free-market economics had been tried and found wanting. Obama referred to its theories dismissively as "failed ideas" and refused to entertain any talk of tax cuts or (God forbid) "doing nothing" in response. To the contrary, the crisis proved that it was time to return to stronger government controls. Anyone standing in the way was seen as part of the political fringe, a die-hard ideologue on par with a Holocaust denier.

This is the self-serving fairy tale propounded by Barack Obama and his allies in Congress and the press. The actual truth about what happened was a much more interesting and complicated--and incriminating--story, too complex to be conveyed in a media sound bite.


It was a massive social engineering project, a grand generational enterprise, thirty years in the making, carried out by an ad hoc alliance of radical activists, labor unions, liberal politicians, federal bureaucrats, and Wall Street financial titans who sought to make getting a mortgage and owning a home a civil right.


...the heart of the story is the role that radical activists and liberal politicians in Washington played in trying to harness the U.S. financial system to advance their socialist agenda. Properly understood, it is a cautionary tale about the perils of trying to use the power of the state to do good, to help people by giving them a leg up, to "level the playing field." Ironically, such efforts have usually ended up doing the most harm to the very people they were intended to help. The result in this case was no different.


...two additional facts should be very disturbing to American taxpayers.

First, the same people who caused the debacle have now been tasked with cleaning it up. The Obama administration is full of Clinton retreads, and they show no signs of having learned anything from the damage they have wrought.


Second, the same cast of characters is busy leveraging state power to manipulate capitalism for their next great social cause: the so-called green economy. Just as occurred in the subprime mortgage crisis, federal authorities and environmental activists are working in tandem, browbeating energy companies and the automotive industry, using the power of the state to compell the creation of carbon-trading schemes and the forced development of green technologies that are simply not profitable. This approach essentially co-opts the regulatory power of the government to create false incentives to invest in green technologies.

The Silicon Valley investor Eric Janszen (who according to the New York Times accurately predicted the dot-com bubble) says that the hype and activism behind green technology will create enough "fictitious value" that the coming green tech bubble will reach an astonishing $20 trillion...before it bursts. In the meantime, environmental activists and their political allies stand to profit handsomely: former Vice President Al Gore has already netted $100 million in profits from green economy schemes.

Plus, of course, the green agenda offers plenty of scope for good old-fashioned political self-dealing. See, for example, this story from the Washington Times of July 15, 2009: "Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado inserted a provision into the recently passed House climate change bill that would drum up business for 'green' banks, such as the one he has invested in and his family and a political donor helped found in San Francisco...Mr. Perlmutter, a two-term Democrat, has two investments in the 3-year old New Resource Bank, which calls itself the nation's first green bank."

Needless to say, there will be much more to come. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

We have not nearly seen the end of liberal activists trying to manipulate the capitalist system for their own profit and social goals. Unless they are stopped, the rest of us are going to pay the price.
Time and again, since I was but a wee sprout, I have observed that a remarkable amount of the time, politicians get elected by promising to "fix" problems that they have caused. They use the massive power of government to fix some perceived injustice, never dreaming--they haven't the training or background reading to understand the subject, all too frequently--that they are going to cause more problems than they solve, and then, utterly unable to perceive that they have screwed up, blame everyone else for the resulting chaos and try yet again to "fix" the problem.

The story is told of a baseball manager who, unsatisfied with the play of his left fielder, benches him and plays the position himself in the critical last inning. After muffing an easy pop fly, the manager heads back into the dugout and announces to the left fielder, "Son, you got left field so messed up, can't nobody play it."

Right now, more than seventy years of government interference in the natural activity of the marketplace has so fouled up the field that can't nobody play it--and yet if you offer the obvious solution: let the air out of the balloon, get the government off the field--you will be shouted down as the obvious lunatic.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Try Bullshido

I just read a little something on a martial artist that made me mildly curious, did a little searching, and came up with pretty much what I expected: the person about whom I was searching gives every indication of being a fraud. Not merely a fraud, but quite possibly a rather perverted fraud, at that.

Friends, you would not--would not, repeat, NOT--believe how much fraud there is in martial arts. Fraud, exaggerated or outright fabricated stories of incredible skills or abilities, exaggerated claims of rank, and so forth.

Off the top of my head, I can think of, very easily (Heck, no, I'm not going to name names! You think I'm eager to get sued?):

One local instructor--and I mean, in this case, "in the Tulsa area"--claims to be a high-level black belt in several different systems, including at least two that appear not to have heard of him at all.

Another person in Oklahoma who claims to have been granted teaching rank in a system that, last I heard, says that he attended a seminar--at most. Perhaps not coincidentally, the first person I mentioned claims to have been trained by this person--among others.

One person who very obviously had picked the "ninja" sections of the martial arts supply shops completely dry, and, having mastered some basic American Kenpo or something similar, attempted to pass himself off as a ninjutsu instructor. This person was also in the Tulsa area.

One person who attempted to pass himself off as a teacher of a school of kenjutsu, as well as a few other varieties of martial arts, including, if I recall correctly, a form of aikijutsu. I was utterly unable to trace the man's background. Every link, every mention, of those "martial arts" led directly back to this man. To this day, I strongly suspect that he picked up his skills from video and books. He actually wasn't bad; based on what I have seen elsewhere, I would have said that he would make a fairly decent aikido brown belt, and I would never knock someone for picking up skills from video and books (done it myself, for at least a few things), but if I'm correct, it's reprehensible that he passed himself off as having instructor's rank from anywhere.

There was a person running a "karate" school in Tulsa for a while who'd earned his shodan in Taekwon-do from a reputable instructor and then struck out on his own, and, according to what I've heard from people in a position to know, attended a seminar or two with Taika Seiyu Oyata and then tried to pass himself off as qualified to teach pressure-point techniques.

At least one fairly well-known system of martial arts is, as best I can tell after looking into it, simply Hapkido under another name, marketed as an ancient martial art practiced by a certain caste of Oriental warriors.

Taekwon-do itself is often marketed--or at least I've seen it marketed this way more than a few times--as the modern form of ancient Korean martial arts, when the reality is that it was founded in the 1950s and was, at the time, Koreanized Shotokan, right down to using the same kata. It has since changed and is now basically a kicking sport. Hasn't appreciably changed the marketing, as far as I can tell.

I can think of at least two highly-respected--and truthfully, pretty highly skilled--practitioners who promoted themselves to tenth dan (tenth-degree black belt).

The number of people who try to pass themselves off as masters of pressure-point techniques is, at this point, legion. At least one well-known figure has tried to pass himself off as having mastered no-touch knockouts, or knockouts by voice alone!

Another very popular system of martial arts in the United States was, as far as I can tell, founded by someone who added makiwara training and basic Okinawan karate to what he'd already learned from unknown sources in Hawaii and passed it off as a centuries-old family system. His students took off from there and added this and that and eventually came up with something that is actually not too bad, but it's amazing how many people think they're learning something centuries old when it really only dates back to the thirties, max.

Then there are the airport promotions--where a person gets on the plane in the Orient at second or third dan, and gets off the plane as seventh, eighth, or ninth dan.

I've seen one advertisement repeatedly in some martial arts magazines that advertises a video course of instruction that, if I recall correctly, guarantees to get you up to black belt level in that system. It's only a thousand bucks. You don't think they're actually selling black belt certificates for a thousand bucks, do you?

As far as I can tell, one of the first karate teachers in the United States came to the United States with some very basic training in what might be termed "generic" karate and gradually added to it over the years, picking up training from others when he could, 'til he knew enough to teach a whole system--only he didn't have a name, so, again, as far as I can tell, he made one up. It's not necessarily bad karate, as karate goes in the United States, it's just that you would get the impression from the name that the system was practiced by the palace guards on Okinawa or something, and the reality is that it's about as good a cobbled-together karate system as you could hope to find.

Shoot, years and years ago, when I was just a sprout, a Marine Reservist not too long out of Infantry Training School (I think I have the time frame right), I was working in a restaurant and the topic of martial arts came up. A co-worker said that he'd studied tai chi. Knowing that there are several different styles of tai chi--Chen, Wu, Sun, and Yang spring rapidly to mind--I asked him which style. He said, "Claw."

Ummmm--Hmmmmmm. And the pitiful part is that he didn't even stand to make any money off his deception, was just trying to impress me--me, a simple fast-food employee at the time. Other people have tried to tell me that they studied "ninja" (apparently not knowing that the name of the ninja's art was ninjutsu) or similar things.

I could go on. That's just what comes to mind off the top of my head, without having to refresh my memory in the slightest. I don't mean to be depressing. I'm just telling you that not every claim you see out there is legit. Some people rely on stuff like the Mormons do--you've heard about the "burning in the bosom" thing? Where they tell you that if you feel a burning in the bosom, that's their god telling you that the Mormons are telling you the truth?--and will make you think that your hot flashes are signs of internal energy and so forth. Some people rely on ridiculous stage magic. Some people just misrepresent themselves and what they teach.

If you're interested in studying martial arts, for cryin' out loud, please at least go to the trouble of doing some googling. Or search Bullshido, not to say that I agree with every jot and tittle of what those guys write, but since their ostensible specialty is ferreting out martial arts fraud, it's a good place to start.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Height of Unintentional Irony

Michelle Malkin has published a few "best of 2009" posts, one of which highlighted the hate mail she gets in large volume. For those who choose to follow the link, be aware that the language of many of Mrs. Malkin's correspondents is less than charming. Personally, I thought this somewhat-edited-by-me comment absolutely took the cake; one can't help but wonder if the writer has any clue how this makes him sound. Emphasis is mine::
You are the biggest ---- on the face of the earth. Wait- maybe coulter is. No, it is you. Shove your bitter rhetoric up your stinking ---, ----ing idiot.
I frankly find such comments delicious, in a way, as I have been accused of being a "hater" and "intolerant" on more than one occasion--by people who would never admit that liberals can be intolerant haters.

"Bitter rhetoric," eh? Really?