Pass the Brexit, Please

“Once we step outside the moral universe of the [post-national, post-democratic] elites, there is no case whatever for Britain to surrender its self-governing democracy to Brussels.”  — the Editors of the National Review

“The vote for Brexit is a vote for sovereignty and self-determination.”  — Nile Gardiner, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

When I first heard the term “Brexit”, I thought it was a new breakfast “bisquit”. Or, maybe a certain cut of meat? Alas, I was very wrong. (And, apparently, feeling a bit peckish.)

Brexit - for and againstIn the past couple weeks, I’ve learned what Brexit was all about. Well, sorta… I confess, I never got into the details. But, I did learn enough (I think) to be in favor of it — i.e., I would have voted “Leave”, if I were a Briton. Leaving the European Union (EU) seems a bit scary to many. In fact, while 48% of Brits who voted voted “Remain”, I wonder if many were not so much sufficiently informed to make an educated decision as they were frightened — thanks to David Cameron’s “Project Fear” (as the Scots called it) — into thinking that the UK would fall over a financial, economic, and cultural cliff if left to itself. (Sounds like many of my fellow Americans, to be honest.) Rubbish! Those who are in favor of the “progressive”, globalist idea of the EU are/were particularly appalled at the idea of the UK’s secession. To which, I can only say, “Too bad!” (I say that in my best Lt. Worf imitation, hoping that some “Star Trek: TNG” fan out there understands the reference.)

While there are sure to be “bumps” along the way for the UK, the rest of the EU, and even the U.S., I think such fear is largely unfounded in the long term. Particularly, for the UK. I mean, it could go very badly, especially if people panic and make major decisions based on fear and/or spite. But, it doesn’t have to and certainly isn’t inevitable. I’m not about to attempt to detail any path-to-success for the UK, which would be well out of my wheelhouse, but there are other countries in Europe that do not belong to the EU and they are doing OK. (To be fair, a couple of them have tried to join the EU but were either rejected or dropped their bid.) Of course, the UK is a much bigger player — 5th largest economy in the world — so the impact for it and those it does business with is much broader.

Consider this, as explained in a National Review editorial published before the vote:

“Economically speaking, leaving the EU would mean that Britain was outside both a customs union with an average tariff of 3 percent and a system of massive and intrusive regulation. The first would be a trivial disadvantage, the second a strong positive benefit…. [C]omparable countries — Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Australia — are doing much better than those in the EU. Countries in the euro zone are doing worst of all. And Britain’s trade is already being diverted from Europe to the Americas and Asia because that is where the growing markets are. In other words, even if leaving the EU were to produce transitional market disturbances, the long-term fundamentals for Brexit would be fine.

Admittedly, it is true that both the British and the world economies are suffering from a serious attack of nerves about growing debt and, in the case of the U.K., a balance-of-payments deficit equal to 7 percent of GDP. When markets are nervous otherwise, modest problems can send currencies spiraling upward or downward temporarily. In such circumstances, governments should stress the transitional character of any change, pointing out that currencies and other indicators quickly adjust to the economic fundamentals…. Instead of soothing the markets, however, almost all governments and international economic bodies now exaggerate the financial risks of Brexit. That is deeply irresponsible, of course, but it also invites the observation that the current debt levels and higher risks of the world economy are the result of policies pursued by the very authorities that now use them as bugaboos to frighten the voters.”

The whole article is quite informative and a very helpful read for understanding the European Commission’s control over the EU’s member states and “Why Britons Should Vote to Leave the EU”.

Switzerland not in EUThere are at least three directions the UK could go as an independent from the EU. Some (e.g., Andrew Stuttaford at the National Review) have recommended the “Norway option”. Norway is one of four members of the intergovernmental trade organization known as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The EFTA has a co-ordinated trade policy which allows its members “jointly concluded free-trade agreements” with many other countries. However, to do business in the EU’s internal market (aka the European “single market”), members must sign onto the Agreement on a European Economic Area (EEA), which is regulated by the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court. Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway have done so. (I’m not sure why this is called the “Norway option”, except perhaps due to its being of more comparable size to the UK.)

Polling earlier this month had British voters overwhelmingly in favor of this option, at least for a 5-10 year transitional period. However, Norway’s own Prime Minister warned, “They won’t like.” While such a relationship grants greater flexibility over agriculture, fisheries and external trade, the think-tank Open Europe points out, “it would still be bound by great swathes of the EU regulation that rankles with businesses and the general public, but — and this is the crucial point — without any vote on it.” This would probably include the lax border/(im)migration policies (i.e., “free movement”), which many see as part of the current problems.

Note: According to the survey commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), 42% of Britons who said they would vote for Brexit also believed that EFTA membership should be considered, versus 45% of leavers who said it should not.

The second option would be to follow the lead of the fourth member of the EFTA, Switzerland. Refusing to agree to all the EEA stipulations, Switzerland instead independently negotiated a set of bilateral agreements with the EU. This seems like the best option to me. Considering the size of its economy and everything else mentioned by the National Review above, I would think the UK brings a lot to the bargaining table, and the other European nations literally can’t afford to be too picky or proud about their trading partners. (Some are willing to do business with some pretty “bad actors,” too, unfortunately.) However, there is something to be said for a Norway-like transitional period to alleviate short-term impact on GDP.

Another option for the EU-free UK is “relying on the minimum tariff rates secured by the UK’s membership of the World Trade Organisation,” rather than forging new trade agreements. That one doesn’t sound too promising. I’m sure there are other options, hybrid models and the like, but those are the three I’ve seen discussed most — especially the first two.

UK and US flags crossed - sky bkgrdI’m confident that the UK can come out of all this as a much stronger nation, with returned control of their own borders, laws, and trade policies, along with reduced regulations and the accompanying bureaucracy. If the rest of the EU a) doesn’t panic and b) starts making some smarter (i.e., right-leaning and security-minded) decisions, they should survive, too. In fact, if a few more EU members (e.g., France, Netherlands) jump ship and follow the UK’s lead, perhaps partnering up on some things, all the better. As for the U.S., Brexit works in our best interests, as well. Nile Gardiner and Matthew Dunn, for example, believe that Britain can now be a more reliable ally against Russian aggression, Islamist terrorism, and other threats. Gardiner also points out,

“The United States should seize upon Brexit as a tremendous opportunity to sign an historic free trade agreement with the United Kingdom — a deal that would advance prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic…. Britain’s decision to leave the EU should be a cause for celebration here in America. Brexit embodies the very principles and ideals the American people hold dear to their hearts: self-determination, limited government, democratic accountability, and economic liberty. A truly free and powerful Great Britain is good for Europe and the United States.”

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher seemed to think the UK was better off outside the European Union, too. For what it’s worth, I agree.

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Should Free Speech Have Limits When It Comes to Terrorism?

“With an enemy committed to terrorism, the advocacy of terrorism — the threats, the words — are not mere dogma, or even calls to ‘action.’ They are themselves weapons — weapons of incitement and intimidation, often as effective in achieving their ends as would be firearms and explosives brandished openly.”  — Andrew C. McCarthy, columnist, author, and former federal prosecutor

In a recent column, Newt Gingrich took Congress to task for “passively allowing the American left to set the focus for responding to the Orlando attack.” As we have seen over the past few days, many Democrats and the MSM have bent over backward to avoid admitting that the real problem is Islamic supremacist terrorism, instead blaming guns, the NRA, Republicans, even (somehow) Christians. In the Washington Times piece, Gingrich then went on to examine a few facts about the recent terrorist attacks in Orlando, France, and the Philippines — each with a different kind of weapon, btw. After quoting CIA Director John Brennan on the health and tactics of ISIS, he advised that some serious assessment by Congress is required re the “Long War”. I want to focus briefly on his third recommendation:

“[W]e have to develop new laws for American citizens who want to wage war against America. For example:

  • nyt- orlando terrorist shootingsAmericans who pledge loyalty to ISIS and other Islamic supremacist movements are engaging in treason and should lose their citizenship.
  • Americans who learn about potential terrorist attacks should be charged as accomplices if they fail to turn in the plotter.
  • Supporting Islamic supremacist groups overseas (as the Orlando killer’s father does) should lead to being put on a watch list and other restrictions, subject to judicial review.
  • Islamic supremacist propaganda should be outlawed and its possession should be a criminal offense. Limits on the First Amendment in wartime are unavoidable, and we are at war. I first made this point in 2006, and it is still true today.”

What do you think of this? Others have promoted similar legislation. I think they are reasonable actions to take, given the current state of world affairs and the strength and reach of ISIS (thanks largely to the foreign policy and strategies of the Obama administration). But, I think there may be some pushback from various quarters. I’m not sure where the most resistance will come from — Liberals, Libertarians, conservative Republicans, Constitutionalists — but some will be quite squeamish about restricting First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens, even of terrorists and their supporters.

Now, I want to turn to what Gingrich said in that 2006 article he mentioned, from when he was a Senior Fellow for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). After referring to comments he made at a First Amendment rights-focused dinner, he wrote:

“I’ve heard from many Americans who understand the seriousness of the threat that faces us, Americans who believe as I do that free speech should not be an acceptable cover for people who are planning to kill other people who have inalienable rights of their own.

A small number of others have been quick to demagogue my remarks. Missing from the debate? Any reference to the very real threats that face Americans.

There was no mention of last week’s letter from Iranian leader Ahmadinejad that threatens to kill Americans in large numbers if we don’t submit to his demands.

There has been little attention drawn to any of the many websites dedicated to training and recruiting terrorists, including a recent one that promises to train terrorists “to use the Internet for the sake of jihad.”

No mention of efforts by terrorist groups like Hezbollah to build “franchises” among leftist, anti-globalization groups worldwide, especially in Latin America.

The fact is not all speech is permitted under the Constitution. The First Amendment does not protect lewd and libelous speech, and it should not — and cannot in 2006 [or 2016] — be used as a shield for murderers.”

My boy joined ISISGingrich is absolutely right. The reality is that today’s technology allows “speech” of all sorts to spread worldwide. As a still-relatively-free country, we generally balk at censorship. Indeed, though we have to keep reminding the political Left of this, the First Amendment was written to protect the rights of people — at least, citizens and legal residents — to say things that would be considered nasty or offensive by some who hear it. (After all, who needs to assure the right to say things everyone agrees with?) But, does that right extend to enabling terrorists — from within the nation or without, citizen or otherwise — to not only spread hate but direct others how to kill and maim others in violent acts?

We Constitution-minded conservatives are so used to defending First Amendment rights that we sometimes forget it is not holy writ or absolute moral law. It makes me nervous to say/write this, but there are times when the general rule of the F.A. can and perhaps should be bent or exceptions made, as long as it is in keeping with the larger spirit and intent of the Constitution (e.g., general welfare and security of the nation). And, of course, any actual changes must be enacted through the amendment process.

Gingrich continued with the following recommendations, much like the ones above from his current article:

“We need a serious dialogue — not knee-jerk hysteria — about the First Amendment, what it protects and what it should not protect. Here are a few baseline principles to consider.

We should be allowed to close down websites that recruit suicide bombers and provide instructions to indiscriminately kill civilians by suicide or other means, or advocate killing people from the West or the destruction of Western civilization;

We should propose a Geneva-like convention for fighting terrorism that makes very clear that those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction and those who would target civilians are in fact subject to a totally different set of rules that allow us to protect civilization by defeating barbarism before it gains so much strength that it is truly horrendous. A subset of this convention should define the international rules of engagement on what activities will not be protected by free speech claims; and

We need an expeditious review of current domestic law to see what changes can be made within the protections of the First Amendment to ensure that free speech protection claims are not used to protect the advocacy of terrorism, violent conduct or the killing of innocents.”

Notice that part I italicized in the third paragraph? I truly hope it isn’t too late, already. I also wouldn’t count something like this getting very far under the current administration, who cannot even acknowledge the true threat. But, I am hopeful that a more conservative President — even Trump — would support and encourage a bipartisan effort in Congress to take Gingrich’s advice. This isn’t the only “serious dialogue” that needs to be had by Congress and the American people in general, as well as by our counterparts in other nations. But, hopefully, with the tragedies of Orlando, Paris, and other attacks fresh in our minds, it is one that most of us can largely agree on. With such policies and programs in place, maybe we can actually start to turn the tide of the advancing, brutal, and decidedly INtolerant, Islamist caliphate.

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Unicorns in the Bible? Not a Problem…

“God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.” — Numbers 23:22 (KJV)

This week, I decided to do a fun (but, it turned out, rather laborious) study on an issue that some Bible skeptics have used to mock or dismiss the reliability of God’s Word. You see, in nine different places in the Bible (Num. 23:22; 24:8; Deut. 33:17; Job 39:9,10; Psalms 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; Isaiah 34:7), it refers to unicorns. One could assume that the author and his original audience knew they were mythical and merely used it/them for literary effect. But, many (most?) readers now tend to read those passages as if they are referring to real creatures. Of course, “everybody” knows unicorns are fictional, which would be further evidence that the Bible is a bunch of myths and fables, right? Well,… that’s exactly what I want to investigate here.

395px-Unicorn.vinycomb1907When most of us hear the word “unicorn”, we think of a creature that looks something like the one in this picture — a majestic, horselike creature, usually white, that has a long, straight(?) horn growing out of its forehead. Or, as it says in my copy of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1977),

“a fabulous animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse, the hind legs of a stag, the tail of a lion, and a single horn in the middle of the forehead”

Tales of these unicorns go back many hundreds of years. They are usually considered to be very intelligent (as quadrupeds go) and possessing mystical powers of some sort, either in life or death. Nowadays, they often show up in fantasy literature, TV shows, and movies, from Disney and C.S. Lewis to Blade Runner (director’s cut) and Harry Potter. But, they’re not real. Are they? Some people might try to defend the Bible’s reference to unicorns by positing that the legends were based on reality, that they are either very rare creatures who stay hidden and/or they existed in biblical times but are now extinct. As skeptics and anyone else familiar with zoology past and present will tell you, there have been no reliable sightings of these creatures in modern times, and there is no fossil evidence anywhere to substantiate that they lived in any era in Earth’s past. Of course, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, and the stubborn proponent of this idea will probably stick with it. But, there are better explanations.

A second way to address this challenge is to look more closely at the word “unicorn”. Now, part of the issue lies with the particular Bible translation being quoted — usually, the ever-popular King James Version (KJV). Modern translations do not use “unicorn” in these verses, which I will get back to in a minute, but very early translations — e.g., Wycliffe Bible (1382), Bishops’ Bible (1568), Geneva Bible (1599), King James Version (1611; 1769), et al. — all say “unicorn”. So, in order to know what that word meant back then, we need to find a really old dictionary.

The first English dictionary, Robert Cawdrey’s A Table Alphabetical (1604), was rather limited (120 pages, 3000 words) and had no entries under “U”. Next best I could find was Nathan Bailey’s An Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1756), which has this entry: “UNICORN (of unus, one, and cornu, L. a horn) is by some supposed to be a very rare and beautiful beast, like an horse, having one long horn in the middle of the forehead twisted. But this creature not being well attested to have been seen, may well be thought to exist rather from its being mentioned in scripture; some persons suppose there must be such a creature….” What follows is mention of associated legends, as well as anecdotes of encounters with “unicorns” of varying size and description. The entry concludes, “It follows plainly, from all that hath been said, either that the generality of such accounts that mention unicorns must be false, or that travellers have blinded [sp?] and confounded several species of animal into one.” So, there was a bit of skepticism about the mystical horselike version back then, too, at least among some more educated folk. Very interesting…

Northern White Rhino

Northern White Rhino

The original edition of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) has the following: “U’NICORN, n. [L. unicornis; unus, one, and cornu, horn.] 1. an animal with one horn; the monoceros. this name is often applied to the rhinoceros. 2. The sea unicorn is a fish of the whale kind, called narwal, remarkable for a horn growing out at his nose. 3. A fowl.” If one then looks up “rhinoceros” in the same volume, we see this: “RHINOC’EROS, n. [L. rhinoceros; Gr. nose-horn.] A genus of quadrupeds of two species, one of which, the unicorn, has a single horn growing almost erect from the nose. This animal when full grown, is said to be 12 feet in length. There is another species with two horns, the bicornis. They are natives of Asia and Africa.” So, we see that two types of rhinoceros were known to the British almost 200 years ago and possibly long before that, one with a single horn and one with two horns. (We now know of two extant single-horned species and three extant two-horned species.)

Modern rhino species are not native to anywhere near Ancient Palestine, with the closest being the now-endangered northern white rhino (see pic) of East and Central Africa south of the Sahara and the Indian rhinoceros, or greater one-horned rhinoceros, of the Indian subcontinent. There was, however, a lot of travel and trade with surrounding regions — including northeastern Africa — that the ancient Hebrews and their precursors (e.g., Job) could very well have been familiar with them, though rarely via personal encounter. Rhinos were likely the source of some ancient tales of one-horned beasts. However, this only seems like a possible — not probable — scenario for the biblical “unicorn”.

Elasmotherium sibiricum by phil chenFor what it’s worth, there once was a genus of Eurasian rhinoceros, Elasmotherium, at least one species of which was the size of a mammoth and is informally known as the “Great Rhinoceros” or “Great (Siberian) Unicorn”. Current estimates are that it died out about 29,000 years ago; but, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that a few survived into the time of the Biblical patriarchs. Some young-earth creationists (e.g., Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis) believe that this is indeed the animal God is describing in Job and that the other passages refer to. (Of course, Ham believes the Earth is only about 6000 years old, so Elasmotherium probably would have gone extinct about 3000 years ago.)

So, why would the KJV (and its predecessors) use the word “unicorn”? Stick with me, as I need to get into the ancient languages a bit here…

First, a couple things about the King James Bible: 1) The Hebrew text used by the translators (i.e., the Masoretic Text) was sufficient for the task, but the translators’ understanding of Hebrew vocabulary was somewhat lacking. 2) The king instructed the translators to use the wording of the Bishops’ Bible whenever possible, unless a more accurate rendering could be found in either the Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew/Rogers, Whitchurch/Cranmer, or Geneva Bible. These English translations were based either in whole or in part on Latin translations. It is interesting to note that the Latin Vulgate, completed by St. Jerome in AD 405, uses five different words in the verses in question, all variations on “rinoceros” and “unicornis”. The translators into Latin may have seen (con)textual clues that convinced them to use different words. I have read an explanation (by a layman) for why the one (supposedly referring to two-horned rhinos) is used in some places and the other (supposedly referring to one-horned rhinos) in other places, but I didn’t buy the argument.

When the early Latin translations of the Bible were done (2nd-5th cent.), Hebrew was even less favored and less known than Greek. There were also few Hebrew texts available by then. So, the translators often used, or at least consulted with, the Greek Old Testament. (Note: Even Jerome did several books of the Vulgate based on the Septuagint before switching over to Hebrew source texts.) It should also be noted that the Greek for the verses in question uses variations of “monokerotos” (i.e., one horn). This background about the Greek and Latin explains why the early English translations kept using “unicorn”, even though the Hebrew does not demand it.

Now, we get to the crux of it. Lest we forget, the Old Testament books were originally written in ancient Hebrew. So, rather than focusing on a particular English word, or even a Greek or Latin word, we should really check out the Hebrew word being translated ultimately as “unicorn”. The word is transliterated “rem” (or “reem” or “ram”) in the singular and “remim” (or “ramim”) in the plural. Truth is, even with better texts and superior Hebrew scholarship, current experts admit that they aren’t entirely sure what animal this is referring to. The early translators did their best, and it may indeed be some sort of rhino. However (and I could be wrong), I see no examples among the nine verses that demand the creature have only one horn. In fact, Psalms 92:10 is the only one that refers to a horn in the singular, and six of the verses don’t refer to horns at all. On the other hand, there is a pretty good argument that the horns of the animal in Deut. 33:17 are of different lengths, since they seem to represent the “ten thousands of Ephraim” and the mere “thousands of Manasseh”.

Artist's rendition of a great aurochs

Artist’s rendition of a great aurochs

By the late 19th century, English Bible translators recognized that “unicorn” was misleading and began to use other words. For example, the Darby Bible (1890) used “buffalo”, the Douay–Rheims Bible (1899 Amer. ed.) used “rhinoceros”, and the American Standard Version (ASV) (1901) used “wild ox”. Most modern translations — e.g., CEB, GNT, ESV, HCSB, ISV, LEB, MEV, NABRE, NASB, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, REB, RSV, TLV, WEB — opt for “wild ox(en)” or “wild bull(s)” in these verses. As I said, the exact meaning of the Hebrew word is unclear, but many believe it refers to the now-extinct great aurochs (Bos primigenius), aka urus. (Last recorded specimen died in Poland in AD 1627.) This “wild ox” was the ancestor of today’s domestic cattle, known for its size, strength, and long horns that were quite effective at goring.

So,… the third explanation is that the word “unicorn” was simply an ill-advised attempt at a translation way back when, from the Greek to the Latin and then into English. (Maybe it got into a few other non-English translations, too.) But, current scholarship, while not 100% sure, points to a creature a little less exotic and much more believable. This is no reason to doubt the credibility of Judeo-Christian Scripture.

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Ramm’s Interpretative Principle for Geology & Biology

“Almighty God is Creator, World Ground, and Omnipotent Sustainer. In his mind the entire plan of creation was formed with man as the climax. Over the millions of years of geologic history the earth is prepared for man’s dwelling, or as it has been put by others, the cosmos was pregnant with man…. From time to time the great creative acts, de novo, took place. The complexity of animal forms increased. Finally,… he whom all creation anticipated is made, MAN, in whom alone is the breath of God.”  — B. Ramm

Young Bernard Ramm

Young Bernard Ramm

While looking through some old files, I came across the following, which I thought might be of interest to those of you interested in science-faith issues and the creation/evolution/ID debates. They are the concluding remarks from a paper by noted Christian theologian Dr. Bernard Ramm, presented in absentia to the American Scientific Affiliation over 65 years ago, then published in the Journal of the ASA (June 1949). The title was “The Scientifico-Logical Structure of the Theory of Evolution”.

If you are familiar with some of Ramm’s later writings (e.g., Protestant Biblical Interpretation (1950), Protestant Christian Evidences (1953), The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954)) you know that he was an apologist who spent a lot of time studying and writing about these issues, along with biblical hermeneutics and apologetics in general. Both Ramm’s theology and his approach to apologetics evolved (hah!) over the years. But, when this paper was written, Ramm was theologically a conservative evangelical and a proponent of evidentialist apologetics.

“[W]hat is the interpretative principle that the Christian brings to the myriad of facts, biological, geological, and the like?

The general interpretative principle that this writer adopts is that Genesis 1 records in broad outline the successive creative acts of God in bringing the universe and world to the state when it could be inhabited by man. Being a very general and broad sketch, Genesis 1 leaves considerable room for the empirical determination of various and diverse facts. Hence a multitude of facts now generally accepted by scientists would remain unchanged according to this view we are advocating.

Secondly, there is no advance upward apart from the creative activity of God. There may be horizontal radiation of life but no vertical. This is precisely the point where this view differs from theistic evolution. Evolution, theistic and naturalistic, believes in the radiation of life from lower to higher forms, from the simple to the complex. According to our view radiation can only be horizontal. That is, the “root-specie” of, shall we say the “dogs” may radiate outward into wolves, coyotes, and dogs and all the varieties of each. But there is only unraveling of gene potentialities — no upward evolution. And this seems to be in keeping with the fact that we do have in geology no demonstrable vertical radiation but plenty of horizontal radiation.

Thirdly, Genesis gives us the general movement of the origin of geological strata and life forms. The six work-days are geologico-biological work days. We expect then the basic rocks to be azoic. We expect the simpler forms on the bottom layers. We expect the higher forms on the higher levels, and man the highest form on the highest level.

This presentation is, of course, limited by space, and thus somewhat sketchy but if fully worked out we believe that it would constitute a general interpretive concept that would replace the evolutionary one because it can account for all that evolution tries to account for, and then can go on and account for the things that evolution cannot. The reason for this is, we believe, that the basis of it, namely Genesis 1, is a divine revelation.

fossil-recordIn closing we wish to point out that to indicate weaknesses and inconsistencies in evolution theory is all right but it does not go far enough. For example, in modern psychology there are serious objections to all the major schools of psychology yet the adherents to these various schools do not give up their convictions. Convictions are surrendered when a more unifying and integrating hypothesis is suggested and demonstrated. So, we as Christians must not think we have done our job by indicating the difficulties with evolutionary theory. We must go on and present clearly and factually the Christian interpretative principle in geology and biology. If we can show that this view has the maximum of internal consistency, and has a high degree of accuracy in material prediction, then we have really done something to the evolutionary theory. Until then we fight pretty much of a guerilla warfare that may sting but does not force a retreat.”

This generally concordist approach was and is taken by many Christians, both professionals and laymen (like me), while often differing on how best to work out the scriptural and natural details. I think Dr. Hugh Ross and the scholar team at Reasons to Believe (reasons.org) have done a wonderful job of building on such a foundation and developing “a more unifying and integrating hypothesis”, known as the RTB Creation Model. Plus, as Ramm recommended, they not only point out “weaknesses and inconsistencies in evolution theory” but also present positive arguments for divine Creation by the God of the Bible. I think Ramm — or, at least, Ramm c.1950 — would be pleased.

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A Brief History of Memorial Day

“By the flow of the inland river, Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver, Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
Under the sod and the dew, Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the one, the Blue, Under the other, the Gray.”
– first stanza of “The Blue and the Gray”, by Francis Miles Finch

Even before the American Civil War ended, it became customary in some communities for women to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. Normally, Southerners only decorated graves of Confederate soldiers and Northerners those of Union soldiers. But, there were instances of non-partisan honors, one of which inspired the above poem by Finch. On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of Union veterans, issued his General Order No. 11, calling for May 30th to be designated a national day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Memorial Day montageOriginally known as Decoration Day, the first official memorial was held May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. General James Garfield and other officials gave speeches before 5000 attendees, then flowers were scattered on the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there, while prayers were recited and hymns sung. Some accounts say that flags were placed on the graves, as well. Flowers and small American flags have become the customary decorations at such ceremonies, though sometimes family & friends add a photo or other memorabilia to specific gravesites.

Beginning with New York in 1873, the Northern states had all officially recognized the holiday by 1890. Most Southern states, on the other hand, stubbornly refused to do so. However, they relented after World War I, by which time the purpose of the holiday had broadened to memorializing members of the American military who died in war, regardless of which one. Also, it was following WWI that the U.S. (along with several other countries) erected a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (or “Tomb of the Unknowns”, or some variation thereof).

I might also mention that it was during World War I that the National Poppy Movement began in the U.S, France, & Belgium, in which people wore red poppies in honor of those who died while serving their nation in war. The proceeds from selling poppies — real and artificial — went to benefit war widows and orphans. The VFW’s “Buddy Poppy” Program continues that tradition, with the artificial poppies being assembled by disabled and needy veterans in VA Hospitals. The proceeds, though, now go to help those disabled and needy veterans, “provid[ing] financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans’ rehabilitation and service programs and partially supports the VFW National Home For Children.”

Over two dozen towns across the North and South claim to have been the first to celebrate a “memorial day” for American soldiers killed in war. For example, a gravestone in a cemetery in Carbondale, IL, Gen. Logan’s wartime home, says that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866. In 1966, though, Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, NY, to be the official “birthplace” of Memorial Day. On May 5, 1866, the residents of Waterloo had begun a tradition of closing businesses for the day and flying flags at half-staff in honor of local veterans who had fallen during the Civil War. Reasoning in favor of Waterloo’s claim includes the facts that, as opposed to other towns, their ceremony was formal, community-wide, and not a one-time thing.

Decoration Day slowly became known as Memorial Day in some quarters, but it was always celebrated on May 30. That is, until 1968, when President Johnson signed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act” (PL 90-363) into law, thus assuring a 3-day weekend for federal employees by establishing Memorial Day as a federal holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May. (Other federal holidays were similarly affected.) This is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the “National Holiday Act of 1971″, presumably because the law didn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 1971. It should also be mentioned that several Southern states have set aside their own days for honoring Confederate veterans only.

“We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance…. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”  — John A. Logan, General Order No. 11

In December 2000, Congress passed (and President Clinton signed) “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” (PL 106-579), which created the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. As per VA.gov, “The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.” Or, if you have three minutes to spare, you could watch this very moving video montage:

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Racial Profiling, Black Crime, and Criminal Justice

“Though prosecutors and judges may well make discriminatory judgments, such decisions do not account for more than a small fraction of the overrepresentation of blacks in prison.”  — James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein, Crime and Human Nature

Please Stop Helping Us - books13_1Once again (as I did here, here, and here), I would like to cite from Jason L. Riley’s very educational book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed. The combination of personal insights and statistical facts make what he has to say particularly worth taking note of. In this section, Riley begins by discussing how he was racially “profiled” in his youth:

“While attending the University at Buffalo, where I lived off campus, I was stopped regularly while driving through the main drag of a tony suburb on my way to morning classes…. Like so many other young black men, I was also followed in department stores, saw people cross the street as I approached, and watched women clutch their purses in elevators when they didn’t simply decide to ride a different one. It was a part of growing up…. Was I profiled based on negative stereotypes about young black men? Almost certainly. But then everyone profiles based on limited knowledge, including me.

In high school I worked as a stock boy in a supermarket. The people caught stealing were almost always black. As a result black shoppers got more scrutiny from everyone, including black workers. During college I worked the overnight shift at a gas station with a minimart. Again, the people I caught stealing were almost always black. So when people who looked like me entered the store my antenna went up. Similarly, when I see groups of young black men walking down the street at night I cross to the other side. When I see them on subways I switch cars. I am not judging them as individuals. Why take the risk? If I guess wrong my wife is a widow and my children are fatherless. So I make snap judgments with incomplete information.

My attitude and behavior are hardly unique, even among other blacks. Like white cabdrivers, black cabdrivers have been known to avoid picking up black males at night, something I also experienced firsthand upon moving to New York City after college. Black restaurant owners ask groups of young black diners to prepay for their meals, seat them away from the exit, or take other steps to make sure that the bill is settled. And the lady who is nervous about sharing an elevator with a black man might be black herself. Describing her numerous conversations about racial perceptions with other black women, former Spelman College president Johnetta Cole wrote, ‘One of the most painful admissions I hear is: I am afraid of my own people.’

o-LOS-ANGELES-POLICE-CAR-facebook-661x349Some individuals who avoid encounters with black youths may indeed be acting out of racism, but given that law-abiding blacks exhibit the exact same behavior it’s likely that most people are acting on probability…. My encounters with law enforcement growing up were certainly frustrating: I was getting hassled for the past behavior of other blacks. But that doesn’t necessarily make those encounters arbitrary or unreasonable. After all, perceptions of black criminality are based on the reality of high black crime rates. I say that as though it’s a given, and it is a given in the real world. But in the alternate universe of academia and the liberal mainstream media, there is still a raging debate over whether people’s fears of young black men have anything at all to do with the actual behavior of young black men.

Michelle Alexander, an associate professor of law at Ohio State University, has written an entire book, The New Jim Crow, that blames high black incarceration rates on racial discrimination. She posits that prisons are teeming with young black men due primarily to a war on drugs that was launched by the Reagan administration in the 1980s for the express purpose of resegregating society…. ‘What this book is intended to do is to stimulate a much-needed conversation about the role of the criminal justice system in creating and perpetrating racial hierarchy in the United States.’ Liberals love to have ‘conversations’ about these matters, and Alexander got her wish. The book was a best seller….

But the conversation that Alexander wants to have glosses over the fact that black men commit a hugely disproportionate number of crimes in the United States. The New Jim Crow is chock-full of data on the racial makeup of prisons, but you will search in vain for anything approaching a sustained discussion of black crime rates. To Alexander and those who share her view, the two are largely unrelated. Black incarceration rates, she wrote, result from ‘a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control.’ The author seems reluctant even to acknowledge that black people behind bars have done anything wrong…. ‘Hundreds of years ago, our nation put those considered less than human in shackles; less than one hundred years ago, we relegated them to the other side of town; today we put them in cages.’ Really?

When I say that someone is being treated like a criminal, I mean that person is being treated like he broke the law or otherwise did something wrong. (When I want to say someone is being treated as less than human, I say that person is being treated like an animal, not a criminal.) Her chattel slavery and Jim Crow analogies are similarly tortured and yet another effort to explain away stark racial differences in criminality. But unlike prisons, those institutions punished people for being black, not for misbehaving. (A slave who never broke the law remained a slave.) Yet Alexander insists that we blame police and prosecutors and drug laws and societal failures — anything except individual behavior — and even urges the reader to reject the notion of black free will. ‘The temptation is to insist that black men “choose” to be criminals,’ she wrote. ‘The myth of choice here is seductive, but it should be resisted.’ What Alexander and others who buy into her arguments are really asking us to resist are not myths but realities — namely, which groups are more likely to commit crimes and how such trends drive the negative racial stereotypes that are so prevalent among blacks and nonblacks alike.”

Question: If, God forbid, a black man were to commit a violent crime against Ms. Alexander or a loved one, would she be content to rail against poverty, unemployment, and an imperfect criminal justice system? Or, would she demand that the police find & arrest the SOB who chose to violate her rights, work with the prosecuting attorney to build a case against him, and expect the courts to sentence him to the fullest extent of the law?

SDT-racial-relations-08-2013-03-11“The black inmate population reflects black criminality, not a racist criminal justice system, which currently [i.e., at the time Riley wrote this, of course] is being run by one black man (Attorney General Holder) who reports to another (the president). Black crime rates are vastly higher than white crime rates. And it’s hard to see how wishing away this reality, inventing conspiracy theories to explain it, or calling those who point it out ‘racist’ will help improve the situation.

Perceptions of black criminality aren’t likely to change until black behavior changes. Rather than address that challenge, however, too many liberal policy makers change the subject. Instead of talking about black behavior, they want to talk about racism or poverty or unemployment or gun control. The poverty argument is especially weak. In the 1950s, when segregation was legal, overt racism was rampant, and black poverty was much higher than today, black crime rates were lower and blacks comprised a smaller percentage of the prison population. And then there is the experience of other groups who endured rampant poverty, racial discrimination, and high unemployment without becoming overrepresented in the criminal justice system….

Those who want to blame crime on a lack of jobs cannot explain why crime rates fell in many cities during the Great Depression, when unemployment was high, and spiked during the 1960s, when economic growth was strong and jobs were plentiful. Indeed, the labor-force participation rate of young black men actually fell in the 1980s and 1990s, two of the longest periods of sustained economic growth in U.S. history. Shouldn’t ghetto attitudes toward work at least be part of this discussion?”

I’ll stop there, but Riley goes on to discuss gun control and other related issues, citing many statistics that counter the claims of many Black “leaders”, academics, and other liberals.

Contrary to what some might assume, I don’t bring this stuff up because I’m a racist who likes to see Blacks fail. Rather, I see a segment of American society that has effectively shot themselves in the foot, and liberal/progressive policies have provided the metaphorical gun to do it, while continuing to blame others for their problems. The more people who recognize and acknowledge this, and the sooner they do, the sooner steps can be taken at all levels of government and in local communities to halt the harmful attitudes & practices and to institute policies that really will help Blacks in America to get past the victim-mentality, take advantage of opportunities, and truly succeed.

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My White House ‘Dream Team’, cont’d

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”  — Prov. 11:14 (ESV)

A couple weeks ago, I presented my picks — suggestions and preferences, not predictions — for President, Vice President, and Executive Cabinet. Unfortunately, Cruz and Kasich have now suspended their campaigns and Trump is virtually certain to be the Republican candidate for the general election. So, at least my first two picks are out; but, maybe some of my Cabinet picks will be considered. Who knows? In any case, I have a few more suggestions for other senior positions in the Executive Branch. These first seven are Cabinet-level Officers (i.e., within the Executive Office of the President), even though their offices/agencies aren’t officially parts of the Cabinet, and they don’t have “Secretary” in their titles.

White House Chief of Staff:  Dinesh D’Souza

Dinesh D'Souza

Dinesh D’Souza

o  The White House Chief of Staff is the highest ranking employee of the White House and oversees the Executive Office of the President (EOP). But s/he is no mere office manager. Duties vary from one administration to the other but generally require a mix of both managerial and advisory expertise. As such, one should have a sharp mind, a broad knowledge of “the players”, and possibly policy expertise, as well. D’Souza is brilliant, unapologetically conservative, and a former policy adviser to President Reagan. He is a seasoned author, political commentator, and has been a Fellow at both American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution. He even served a stint as President of The King’s College in New York. All things considered, I think D’Souza would be a great choice for Chief of Staff in a conservative administration. [UPDATE: After publication, it occurred to me that Hugh Hewitt -- law professor, political commentator, & radio show host -- would be a very good alternative.]

Director of the Office of Management and Budget:  Rep. Tom Price or Sen. Mike Enzi

o  I considered Rep. Paul Ryan, who has proven his facility with budgets and once turned down this very job offer from George W. Bush when Rob Portman resigned in June 2007. But, he’s probably quite happy as Speaker of the House. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is currently Chair of the House Budget Committee, and he scores as well or better than does his predecessor, Ryan, according to conservative thinktanks. Price’s counterpart is Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chair of the Senate Budget committee. Enzi has long been ranked one of the most conservative members of the Senate.

Administrator of the EPA:  Christopher C. Horner or Dr. Roy Spencer

o  Assuming the EPA isn’t disbanded (which I would not object to), a less obtrusive version should be led by someone who is not sold out to the liberal activist brand of environmentalism. Horner is an attorney and a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who writes (and testifies before Congress and in federal court) against the purported scientific evidence for man-made global warming. Spencer is a meteorologist with a distinguished career as a research scientist. One of his two positions at NASA was as Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at Marshall Space Flight Center. He is also very outspoken — in books and congressional testimony — in his skepticism about claims re the dangers of man-made global warming. Either one works for me.

U.S. Trade Representative:  Linnet F. Deily or Amb. Rita Hayes

o  “The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy, and overseeing negotiations with other countries. The head of the USTR… serves as the President’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues.” I actually considered Donald Trump for this but rejected him for both personal and policy reasons. So,… not really knowing about any SMEs in trade, I looked at a few former Deputy Trade Reps. Deily’s background is in international banking, holding various executive positions since 1988. She served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in Geneva and U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization from 2001 to 2005, including leading the U.S. team in Geneva in the Doha Round of trade negotiations. Hayes has served in many capacities since the 1980s dealing with international trade and economics. This included various important negotiations while U.S. Chief Textile Negotiator in the USTR from 1996-97. She was then Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and Ambassador to the WTO from Nov. 1997 to Aug. 2001, and she served as Acting U.S. Trade Representative during the transition between Bush and Obama administrations. Both Deily and Hayes appear eminently qualified to serve as U.S. Trade Representative.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations:  Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice

o  I mentioned in the previous post that I had a position in mind for Rice, and this is it. Seems like a natural fit. Obviously, her service as National Security Advisor and especially as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush provided her much experience on the world stage, representing the United States and her President in the international community. She is very bright, articulate, and diplomatic. (Note: This is all true, regardless of what one might think of the policies/positions of Rice or Bush.) I just think she would be a great ambassador of the U.S. to the United Nations — assuming, of course, that the U.S. doesn’t pull out of the UN completely, as some have recommended.

Chairman of Council of Economic Advisers:  Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams, Arthur B. Laffer, or Stephen Moore

o  Sowell is America’s premiere economist and free market advocate. He is incredibly bright, insightful, and has been associated with a number of respected institutions. He is my first choice. But, he is already in his mid-80s, so I’m not sure he would welcome the added stress and responsibility of advising the POTUS. Though a bit more libertarian than Sowell, Williams is similarly esteemed; but, he also just turned 80. Laffer is another well-known American economist, who was a member of Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board. His “Laffer Curve” theory is somewhat controversial, plus he is in his mid-70s. Moore (b.1960) is an economic writer/policy analyst and free-market/supply-side proponent. He founded and served as president of the Club for Growth but more recently was named Chief Economist, then Distinguished Visiting Fellow, for the Heritage Foundation. His relatively young age definitely works in his favor, here. Now, if we could get them *all* on the Council….

Administrator of the SBA:  Herman Cain

o  Most people remember Cain from his 2012 Presidential bid (before suspending his campaign half-way through the primaries) and subsequent radio show. But, we shouldn’t forget his business history. In the 1970s, he worked as a computer systems analyst for Coca-Cola, then as a director of business analysis for Pillsbury. As such, he was assigned to analyze and manage 400 Burger King stores in the Philadelphia area. Pillsbury higher-ups then made him president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, which made an amazing turnaround under his leadership. (Cain was part of a group that then bought Godfather’s Pizza.) He served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. After leaving Godfather’s Pizza, he served as CEO of the National Restaurant Association. He has also served on the board of directors of several companies. All this to say, Cain has intimate knowledge of business and entrepreneurship, which would seem to make him a prime candidate to run the government’s Small Business Administration.

The next few are considered important advisory/administrative positions, too, though not Cabinet-level:

Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (aka National Security Advisor):  Frank Gaffney

CSP-About_Us-Franko  Back in March, Cruz appointed Gaffney as part of his campaign’s national-security advisory team, though I thought of Gaffney long before that. Many years ago, Gaffney worked for President Reagan as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy, then as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. (However, he was shortly forced out under the new Sec. of Defense.) Nowadays, Gaffney is founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, a pro-Israel advocacy group and national security think tank. He also writes and podcasts on various matters of national security. Some (mostly on the political Left) have accused him of various extremist positions and “conspiracy theories”. Regardless, Gaffney is obviously incredibly knowledgeable on security matters, and Sen. Cruz agrees that he would be a valuable asset.

Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy:  Rudy Giuliani

o  In 1981, President Reagan named Rudy Giuliani as Associate Attorney General, which gave him supervision over federal agencies that included the DEA. But, he really made a name for himself in the 1980s as the tough-on-crime U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, taking down mafiosos, drug dealers, and corrupt financiers. Then, as NYC Mayor, he and Police Commissioner William Bratton instituted policies and programs that greatly reduced violent crime in the city. Giuliani also gained international fame as he led the city in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11/2001 attacks. Since then, he has been involved in endeavors ranging from security consulting to investment banking, as well as offering political commentary on radio and television. Yes, he has come under fire for some of his claims and decisions. (True of most politicians.) But, I think Giuliani has the law-enforcement background (as DoJ attorney and NYC mayor) and toughness to tackle such a role. However, he may have to re-think his approach to certain non-violent crimes (e.g., marijuana possession). He would also be a great candidate for Sec. of Homeland Security, come to think of it.

Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality:  Christopher C. Horner or Dr. Roy Spencer

o  See above rationale for Administrator of the EPA.

Surgeon General:  Dr. Ben Carson or Sen. Rand Paul

o  Carson seems like an obvious choice, given his background as a world-renowned and respected pediatric neurosurgeon. However, his positions on stem cell research and vaccination mandates give me pause. Paul, of course, is also a physician/surgeon. Long before getting into national politics, he was a board-certified and practicing ophthalmologist. He maintains his license and established a humanitarian foundation years ago to provide eye surgery and exams for the poor, many of which he does himself (when Congress is not in session). Either of these gentlemen could be a terrific Surgeon General.

Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Dir. of the Office of S and T Policy:  Dr. Vern Poythress or Dr. Cornelius G. Hunter

Dr. Vern Poythress

Dr. Vern Poythress

o  Poythress is a Christian theologian and New Testament scholar with several advanced degrees, including a PhD in mathematics. His particular interests include philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of science, and he often writes & lectures on the areas of math and science in relation to theology. Examples of his published books include Philosophy, Science, and the Sovereignty of God; Science and Hermeneutics; and Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach (which I currently have on my stack to read). Alternatively, Hunter was once Senior Vice President of Seagull Technology, Inc.; then he went back to school to earn a PhD in Biophysics and Computational Biology. He is now an Adjunct Professor and continues to research and write about matters of evolution and Christian theology. His books include Darwin’s God; Darwin’s Proof; and Science’s Blind Spot. Poythress and Hunter are obviously smart guys and deep thinkers, and either one could be an inspired (ahem!) choice for this position.

There ya go. Again, some of these candidates are more politically moderate/centrist than I prefer, but they would be required to follow their President’s directives. There are many more important positions for any administration to fill, of course. For example, what about the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dir. of CIA, Dir. of NSA, Dir. of IRS, Dir. of DEA, FCC Commissioner (Anjit Pai?), etc.? There are also many more conservative notables who would be great assets in a conservative administration. For example: Sen. Mike Lee, Rick Santorum, Sheriff David Clarke, Gov. Mike Pence, outgoing U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, Rep. Darrell Issa, etc. On the other hand, they might better serve the conservative cause (and maybe their respective careers) staying right where they are. In any case, I think I’m done with my recommendations. I only hope that Donald Trump — assuming he wins the general election in November — will seriously consider some of the candidates suggested in this post and its predecessor.

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My New ESV

“16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  — II Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

Not quite sure how to categorize this post. It is part review of a specific Bible translation, but mostly review of a particular format. (Well, two of them, in fact.) Of course, this is a very subjective “review”, based on my personal needs and preferences. But, hopefully it will be somewhat instructive and helpful to you, as well.

As some of you may recall, I ended one of my January posts by saying that I had ordered my first English Standard Version (ESV) Bible. (I ordered a couple more versions, too, which I might write about at some point.) When it comes to “essentially literal” translations, I still like the New American Standard Bible (NASB) (1995 update) for accuracy’s sake, but it isn’t perfect and can be a little clunky here and there. I liked what I had been hearing/reading about the ESV, so I finally decided to pick one up for myself.

Gen 1 in ESV Reader's Bible

Excerpt from ESV Reader’s Bible

Rather than get a big ol’ study Bible or something like that, I opted for something a bit more simple. The format of the ESV Reader’s Bible is supposed to encourage one to read bigger chunks of the Bible at a time, because there are less “distractions”. I liked that idea. The single-column paragraph format for the text was intriguing, and it is supposed to encourage the feeling of it being “like reading a novel”. (Note: This is for pleasure reading, not study.) It has chapter numbers but no verse numbers, and it also lacks any section headings, cross-references, or footnotes of any kind. (Note: Most ESV’s come with these things, and the study notes are supposed to be quite good.) No images or sidebars, either. There are four standard maps in the back in gray & tan. For what it’s worth, the book titles and chapter numbers are in red, which was different and a welcome bit of color. I got the cloth hardcover edition, which is fairly dull looking, but it’s sturdy and relatively cheap — under $20 on sale at CBD.com. It came with a couple nice ribbons, too.

Front Cover of ESV Reader's Bible - cloth hc

Front Cover of ESV Reader’s Bible – cloth hc

First, the translation: Simply put, I like it. I like it a lot. It maintains that “formal” feel of the “essentially literal” translations, but it manages to be more accurate in a few places and to smooth out some of the more awkward wordings of other “formal” translations (e.g., NASB) in other places, so that the text flows a little better. That said, I wouldn’t call it “standard English”, and there is still room for improvement. But, generally speaking, the exegetical and (for what it is trying to accomplish) stylistic decisions are quite good. If you are a fan of either the NRSV (for style, not necessarily the gender-inclusiveness or other questionable choices) or NASB, you’ll probably like the ESV. If you are a KJV or NKJV devotee, you might like it, too, since the ESV claims to be in the tradition of the KJV. However, if you strongly prefer the Textus Receptus or Majority Text over the eclectic source-text, then some verses and word-choices might be sticking points.

Here are three examples where the ESV has improved on the NASB:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

NASB — 5 Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along, and the caperberry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street.

ESV — 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—

John 1:43

NASB — 43 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.”

ESV — 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

II Corinthians 11:3

NASB — 3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

ESV — 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Now, the format of the Reader’s Bible: I have long preferred the paragraph-style over single-verse, but I am growing quite fond of single-column, too. Since it was supposed to be like reading a regular book, I had pictured a typical hardcover novel, maybe 9.25″ x 6.5″. I should have double-checked the dimensions in the description, because it is actually 8″ x 5.5″. (Slightly more in the slipcase.) Not a major issue. The paper is thinner than I would have liked, so it can sometimes be hard to separate and tends to crinkle. The 9-pt. text is lined up well, thereby minimizing ghosting. Still, if the dimensions were what I had expected, Crossway could have gone with slightly thicker paper and kept the total thickness at or less than the current 1.5″.

Despite the benefit of “less distractions”, I found that I really missed the usual verse numbers (especially when comparing with another translation), footnotes, and even occasional section headings. I had to force myself to not keep going to another Bible to compare or see if there was a note of some sort, particularly on strange or strangely-worded verses. Would have liked a couple more maps, too.

Excerpt from ESV Heritage Bible

Excerpt from ESV Heritage Bible

I read through Genesis, jumped over to Job, then back to Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, before getting another ESV that better suits my needs. This time, I got the “Single Column Heritage Bible” in TruTone (i.e., imitation leather), brown/burgundy with band design. I got it for about the same price, but at the moment it is on sale at CBD for $7.99! It seems to be pretty well made, though I’m no expert on that stuff, and I love the look of it (including gold gilt pages). Ironically, the dimensions are slightly smaller than the Reader’s Bible, but I don’t mind. I’m not sure, but I think the paper is about the same thickness, or maybe just a tad thicker. However, there are slightly fewer overall pages in the Heritage (1809) than in the Reader’s (1856). I think this is because the textblock in the Heritage is actually wider than in the Reader’s. (The outer margin is still about 3/8″, so it doesn’t look cramped.) The inner margin on both editions is about 1/2″, and they both have sewn spines and lay nicely flat (except maybe for the first & last couple books), so there is no trouble with trying to read in a cramped “gutter”.

Front Cover of ESV Heritage Bible - TruTone

Front Cover of ESV Heritage Bible – TruTone

The Heritage Bible has the same size font, and everything is still lined up well. It’s a great relief to finally have verse numbers in my ESV, let me tell ya! The footnotes are minimal but mostly good enough for “pleasure reading”. It comes with only one ribbon, but it has eight maps — not brightly colored, but they have shades of green, blue, and brown.

Overall, I like the ESV translation and, now that I got a format that is less plain-Jane (yet still not too busy with “distracting” extras), I am enjoying reading it more. (Not that Deuteronomy is all that thrilling. Looking forward to Joshua and Judges, though.) The ESV Heritage Bible may not be a thinline/slimline, but it is compact enough to keep in one’s car and/or comfortably carry to church or Bible study. (Unless, of course, you like to lug around a full Study Bible, and I totally understand that.) I recommend it!

P.S.  Anyone in the market for a slightly used ESV Reader’s Bible…?

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My White House ‘Dream Team’

“I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I’m in a Cabinet meeting.”  — Pres. Ronald Reagan

I have been giving this some thought, off and on, for many months, but with the recent announcement from the Cruz campaign of his potential running-mate, I decided I may as well go on record with my choices for a “White House Dream Team” — i.e., President and his (or her) Cabinet.

President:  Sen. Ted Cruz
Vice President:  Carly Fiorina

cruz-fiorinaI guess that first one isn’t really much of a surprise for those who have read my earlier posts about the candidates or for my Facebook friends who have seen my posts there. Early on, I favored Gov. Scott Walker and also considered a couple others. But, shortly after the Republican field began to shrink, I honed in on Cruz as the strongest, most conservative candidate with a good chance of winning. Nobody’s perfect, but I think most of the accusations against him are either greatly exaggerated or pure bunk. I honestly think Cruz would make a great POTUS; he’s the one that has the best chance — within the limitations of Executive Branch authority — of restoring security, prosperity, and liberty to the United States.

It took me a little longer to decide on a good V.P. choice, but Fiorina was always in the running, and I finally picked her a few weeks ago. (Honest. I did.) You may remember that she was in my Top 5 early on. Admittedly, there were a couple issues from her past that bothered me, but nothing insurmountable. (For example, believe what you will about her executive record, but she clearly operates with more integrity — simply, a stronger ethical foundation — than does Donald Trump.) I think Fiorina makes a great partner for Cruz, both because of what they have in common — from a mutual love & respect for the Constitution to their shared ability to communicate conservative principles & solutions — and what additional experiences and attributes Fiorina brings to the ticket and will bring to the White House. Also, like Cruz, Fiorina is *not* an arrogant, thin-skinned narcissist, whose idea of “acting Presidential” includes whining, name-calling, and insulting how his/her opponents eat.

Part of the President’s authority is to appoint what Article II calls the “principal Officer in each of the executive Departments” and “Heads of Departments”. These have become known collectively and officially as the “Cabinet of the United States”. George Washington only had four, but the current group (which now includes the Vice President) numbers sixteen. Now, some have argued, and I tend to agree, that the Executive Branch is bloated and needs a bit of restructuring. (Read Andrew Linn’s great ideas about this in his article, “It’s Painful, But Somebody’s Gotta Do It: Restructuring the Executive Branch”.) This includes the reduction or elimination of a few of the current Executive Departments. For example, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs should be folded into the Dept. of Defense. The Dept. of Education and Dept. of Energy can simply be disbanded, since education should be the responsibility of the states and municipalities, and any worthwhile DoE offices & laboratories can be moved under the Dept. of the Interior. Others have recommended eliminating the Depts. of Commerce, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development, though I am less certain about those.

That said, while I’m sure there are *many* worthy candidates that I am unaware of, here are my Cabinet suggestions:

Bolton_470123292

John Bolton

Sec. of State:  Amb. John Bolton

o  Bolton is or has been, among other things, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney, and is involved with several politically conservative think-tanks and policy institutes, including currently being a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He may be blunt and sometimes controversial, but he knows and understands the enemy, and he’s no pushover. I greatly respect him and always listen to what he has to say.

Sec. of Treasury:  Comm. Michael Williams

o  Though he more recently served as Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, Williams served for many years as Texas Railroad Commissioner (which regulates oil, gas, coal, etc.), Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement at the Dept. of the Treasury, and as Special Assistant to Attorney General Richard Thornburgh at the Justice Dept. He is a solid conservative with a great record and previous experience at multiple departments, state and federal.

Sec. of Defense:  Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal (Ret.) or Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn (Ret.) or Lt. Col. Allen West (Ret.) or Lt. Col. Oliver North (Ret.)

o  Obviously, I can’t decide. But, a retired, senior military officer seems like a natural for this position and makes a lot more sense than having a physicist or lawyer in charge. These four gentlemen have all served their country with distinction, and they all seem to have a much better handle on the threats to national security and how to engage & defeat them than anyone in the DoD or White House now does.

Attorney General:  Rep. Trey Gowdy

o  The A.G. is, of course, head of the Dept. of Justice. Thanks largely to his dogged work as Chairman of the House Benghazi Committee, but also his consistently conservative stances on legislation, Gowdy’s relatively short time in Congress has earned him a lot of respect from those on the Right and enmity from the Left. Before that, he had a pretty impressive record as an attorney, both private practice and federal. He is a strict constructionist, and he has no patience for hypocrites or for those who twist the law or the facts to further an activist agenda. He is a person of strong conviction and moral integrity. We desperately need a man (or woman) like that as the chief law enforcement officer and chief lawyer of the United States government.

Sec. of the Interior:  Gov. Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich(?)

o  The Dept. of the Interior is “responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land [i.e., except for that land managed by the Agriculture department's U.S. Forest Service] and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native American, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States.” Perry had to deal with a lot of that stuff when he was Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Lt. Governor, and then Governor. Gingrich is mostly known for his long stint in the U.S. House of Representatives, including 4 years as Speaker. But, he has also been very interested and involved in conservationism, even co-writing a book titled, A Contract with the Earth.

Rep. Steve King

Rep. Steve King

Sec. of Agriculture:  Rep. Steve King

o  As a Congressman from Iowa’s 4th District, King is very familiar with the issues of agriculture, conservation, and energy. (I guess he might be an alternative for Sec. of the Interior, too.) As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, he helped write the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (aka the Farm Bill). He seems to have a handle on this stuff and would be a pretty good fit. However, the department could be eliminated — or, at least, greatly reduced — since many of its pieces fit as well or better under the Dept. of Interior or Dept. of Commerce. Speaking of…

Sec. of Commerce:  Newt Gingrich

o  I didn’t have a candidate for this position, until I started writing this up, and I realized he was right in front of me (so to speak). Assuming he isn’t begging for the Interior job, I’d like to see Gingrich in this one. The Dept. of Commerce is tasked with “promot[ing] job creation and improved living standards for all Americans by creating an infrastructure that promotes economic growth, technological competitiveness, and sustainable development.” This seems right up Newt’s alley, and I think he’d be phenomenal at it. Check out his books — e.g., To Renew America, Winning the Future, Real Change, Breakout — to see what I mean.

Sec. of Labor:  Gov. Scott Walker or Gov. Chris Christie

o  We all know the battles Walker has had with labor unions since he’s been governor, as has Christie. Both of these guys are not afraid to take on the entrenched union lobbies, the bullies and the unethical practices. At the same time, they aren’t afraid to work with unions to come to fair and reasonable solutions. That’s the kind of person who needs to head the Labor Department.

Sec. of Health and Human Services:  Dr. Ben Carson or Dr. Rand Paul or Dr. John Goodman

o  The mission of the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) is to “enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans… by providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services.” That’s a pretty tall order. As always, the department needs someone in charge who has a good understanding of the various health and related issues, as well as conservative solutions for addressing them. You are probably familiar with Carson and Paul, so you can understand why I though of them. Goodman is a libertarian economist, the founder and former CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), and is currently President/CEO of the Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research. He has written against Obamacare, including a book titled, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, and has been called the “father of Health Savings Accounts.” Bobby Jindal is another excellent choice, but I have another position in mind for him (see below).

Robert Rector

Robert Rector

Sec. of Housing and Urban Development:  Robert Rector

o  If you aren’t familiar with Rector, he is a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. Most of his interest and expertise is on poverty issues, though he also researches and writes on immigration and abstinence. He has written extensively about wealth & poverty and was one of the key architects of the landmark welfare reform legislation signed by President Clinton — i.e., the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). He also served a stint as a commissioner of the Millennial Housing Commission. I have read a few of his articles, and this guy is incredibly smart and has the facts & statistics to back up his observations and proposed solutions. Rector would be a great asset for a Cruz administration on these issues.

Sec. of Transportation:  Rep. Tom Graves

o  Why Graves? He has been championing the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA) for years, so I figure he is passionate about the subject and knows his stuff. Among other things, the bill is “a plan to reform the bankrupt, messy, and unfair federal highway program into an efficient, locally controlled system that improves the quality of life for every driver and commuter in America while reducing gas taxes and increasing spending on highways at home. The bill transfers almost all authority over federal highway and transit programs to the states over a five-year period.” So, if TEA gets passed, Graves would be working himself out of a job; but, I’m sure he’d be fine with that.

Sec. of Energy:  n/a (the DoE s/b folded into the Interior Dept.)

Sec. of Education:  Gov. Bobby Jindal or Condoleezza Rice

o  Assuming this department isn’t eliminated altogether, I think Jindal would be a great choice to lead it. Prior to serving two terms as governor of Louisiana, and three years in the House of Representatives, Jindal was Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation under President George W. Bush. Before that, he was appointed president of the University of Louisiana System at the age of 28. Before that, he was appointed Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals at the age of 24. Rice, on the other hand, was a professor of political science at Stanford University, as well as serving as Provost, prior to her time in the Bush administration. Afterward, she returned to teaching at Stanford and is now a director of the Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Global Center for Business and the Economy. I have another position in mind for her, but I can definitely see her doing some good in this one.

Sec. of Veterans Affairs:  n/a (the VA Dept. s/b folded into the DoD)

allen-west-guardian-of-the-republicSec. of Homeland Security:  Lt. Col. Allen West (Ret.) or Condoleezza Rice

o  This may be an obvious statement, but this department needs a strong leader who understands security issues (from illegal immigration to terrorism), including properly identifying and neutralizing threats. Since leaving Congress, where he served on the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Col. West has been a TV commentator and is currently CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). I thought of West because he is the former military officer that I am most familiar with, and he has been very vocal against the security & military policies of the Obama administration. Any of the other three mentioned for Sec. of Defense would probably be a good choice, too, though. Alternatively, Rice has served as both National Security Advisor and Sec. of State, so she is definitely familiar with the issues and how much of “the system” works. She’d be great, but as I said, I also have another position in mind for her. (More on that later.)

So? Whaddayathink of my choices? Some are more conservative than others, of course. But, it’s probably good to have a mix along the generally “conservative” spectrum. In the end, though, it is the President who sets the tone and agenda for the departments, and I am confident that Ted Cruz is the right man for that job.

In a future post, I will propose some names for a few other important posts in the Executive Branch. Stay tuned…

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Why Black Students Aren’t Prepared, part 2

“I have no desire to get rid of safety nets for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency in able-bodied people.”  — Dr. Ben Carson

Continuing excerpts from Jason L. Riley’s enlightening and insightful book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed

saggy-pants-_t23b“Education is not the only area where an oppositional black mindset has been detrimental to social and economic progress. Black cultural attitudes toward work, authority, dress, sex, and violence have also proven counterproductive, inhibiting the development of the kind of human capital that has lead to socioeconomic advancement for other groups. But it’s hard to see how blacks will improve their lot without changing their attitudes toward school. A culture that takes pride in ignorance and mocks learnedness has a dim future. And those who attempt to make excuses for black social pathology rather than condemning these behaviors in no uncertain terms are part of the problem. ‘The middle-class values by which we [middle-class blacks] were raised — the work ethic, the importance of education, the value of property ownership, of respectability, of “getting ahead”, of stable family life, of initiative, of self-reliance, et cetera — are, in themselves, raceless and even assimilationist,’ wrote race scholar Shelby Steele. ‘But the particular pattern of racial identification that emerged in the sixties and that still prevails today urges middle-class blacks (and all blacks) in the opposite direction. This pattern asks us to see ourselves as an embattled minority.’

Black culture today not only condones delinquency and thuggery but celebrates it to the point where black youths have adopted jail fashion in the form of baggy, low-slung pants and oversize T-shirts. Hip-hop music immortalizes drug dealers and murderers. On a 2013 album Jay-Z, one of the country’s richest and most popular rappers, referenced one Wayne Perry in a song. Perry was a hit man in the 1980s for one of Washington, D.C.’s most notorious drug lords. He pleaded guilty in 1994 to five murders, and received five consecutive life sentences. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2010, President Barack Obama expressed his affinity for rappers like Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, whose lyrics often elevate misogyny, drug dealing, and gun violence. At the time of the president’s interview, Lil Wayne was imprisoned on gun and drug charges.”

A couple years ago, I was taken to task for writing, “I hope that the Black Community will recognize and takes steps to counter the harmful contributions made by certain aspects of “urban culture”, as represented by the hip-hop/rap music glorifying all manner of violent, criminal, and immoral behavior.” But, I wasn’t saying anything different than Riley and Steele.

“Rappers have long expressed pride in spreading degeneracy among black youths…. Meanwhile, liberal sages are preoccupied with ‘contextualizing’ this cultural rot. Cornel West describes rap as ‘primarily the musical expression of the paradoxical cry of desperation and celebration of the black underclass and poor working class, a cry that openly acknowledges and confronts the wave of personal coldheartedness, criminal cruelty and existential hopelessness in the black ghettos.’…

Black intellectuals, it seems, are much more interested in attacking those who are critical of these black cultural expressions. When black officials in Louisiana and Georgia moved to pass indecency laws aimed at the proliferation of youths who refused to cover their backsides in public, [sociologist and TV commentator Michael Eric] Dyson criticized not the kids or the culture but the proposals…. And Benjamin Chavis, the former head of the NAACP, vowed to challenge the ordinances in court….”

You may remember from the previous post that I linked much of this to liberal/progressive policies. It’s sometimes easy to lose the connection, so here’s a bit more on that from Riley….

2014-Black-Poverty-Chart“There is a much stronger case to be made that efforts to help blacks have had more pernicious and lasting effects on black attitudes and habits than either slavery or segregation. Social welfare programs that were initiated or greatly expanded during the 1960s resulted in the government effectively displacing black fathers as breadwinners, and made work less attractive. Even before Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty began in earnest, New York and other states had already been expanding their social welfare programs. And despite the best intentions, the results were not encouraging. [Riley then goes on to discuss increases in broken families and plummeting student performances primarily within the Black Community.]

Ideally, welfare dependency should be a passing phase, and for most people it is. But for too many black families it has become the norm, and even those who escape it often return…. By retarding or otherwise interfering with black self-development, government programs have tended to do more harm than good. And black elites who choose to focus on the behavior of whites are encouraging these youngsters to do the same, and thus perpetuating the problem.

A sad irony of the black cultural obsession with avoiding white behavior is that the habits and attitudes associated with ghetto life today can be traced not to Mother Africa but to Europeans who immigrated to the American South…. These immigrants brought their Old World habits and patterns to America and passed them along to the people who lived around them, which included most black people in America…. In the opening essay of his 2005 book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Thomas Sowell neatly summarized some of these findings:

The cultural values and social patterns prevalent among Southern whites included an aversion to work, proneness to violence, neglect of education, sexual promiscuity, improvidence, drunkenness, lack of entrepreneurship, reckless searches for excitement, lively music and dance, and a style of religious oratory marked by strident rhetoric, unbridled emotions, and flamboyant imagery. This oratorical style carried over into the political oratory of the region in both the Jim Crow era and the civil rights era, and has continued on into our own times among black politicians, preachers, and activists.

Most whites have of course abandoned this behavior, and have risen socioeconomically as a result. How ironic that so many blacks cling to these practices in an effort to avoid ‘acting white’. And how tragic that so many liberals choose to put an intellectual gloss on black cultural traits that deserve disdain. The civil rights movement, properly understood, was about equal opportunity. But a group must be culturally equipped to seize it. Blacks today on balance remain ill equipped, and the problem isn’t white people.”

Ironic and tragic, indeed.

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