December 2008 - Posts
In the age of the Internet, XML, databases and high-speed data transfers the amount of parsed data available to you and me is tremendous. Just the other day, I showed my wife a neat applet on my cell phone that recognizes songs when the phone is held to a speaker. I held my Samsung phone up to the van speaker and, sure enough, it told us that "White Christmas" by Mr. Crosby was playing and I could own it for 99 cents.
And then just two days ago I downloaded Chessbase Light 2007 because it has a database of 32,000 chess games played since the 16th Century (the online access-only database has 4.2 million games) for my game analysis. So when I move a pawn or bishop or whatever, the program tells me that Siegbert Tarrash made the same move in 1907 and 51% of the games that included that move ended in a draw. It's crazy.
Because there is "nothing new under the sun," that means that most of what I dream up or come up with isn't original. Your stuff isn't as fresh either. But until the present, we've been able to claim it as originality because we haven't seen it or heard it and neither have our friends or acquaintances. Don't believe me? Take something as simple as your name -- your whole name. Google it. How many John Lee Smiths are there? How many Jane Lynn Does are there? Or whatever your name is?
I foresee a time when you'll have a conversation with real-time analysis. You'll say something and then your friend will say, after consulting his handheld, "That wasn't original. A 14-year old girl in Kansas said that back in 1989. What else ya got?"
So, in light of all this, I'd like to put this on the record: Peperoni innervate unexpanded gaffers. You can quote me on that. The date stamp is above. And it's original.
Holy [insert favorite swear word here*], everyone looks drunk!
Seriously. As I scan the photos of "people you may know" on Facebook, I see photos of people holding cameras at arms length or photographing themselves in bathroom mirrors. Sure, there are the usual casual photos of "friends" and their family or someone standing next to their significant other. And then there are some who are coyly gazing at something in the forefront and have softened it in Photoshop for ... I guess it's an effect or something. I don't get that. But the others? Gotta be drunk.
But here's the real funny thing. I thought that I would connect with some old Army buddies, high school graduates and coworkers. But my memory is atrocious. I scan friends of friends and wonder to myself if I know any of those people. Now I have to run home, log on to the PC and scan them with my wife and ask her if I know any of those people.
So far, I wish I hadn't even waded into the water. But since I'm there, I guess I should go ahead and jump in head first. I'm off to the house where I'll strip off my shirt, put on my best 6-pack face and photograph myself in the bathroom mirror.
* My favorite swear word is "crap," but I get emails everytime I use that word.
Our Christmas was a joyful time of celebrating with friends and family. The climax of my Christmastime 2008 was reconnecting with two fellow high school graduates over dinner at our house and having one come and share her testimony at church. Celebrating Jesus with friends is tops any day for me.
I did receive quite a few gifts. To name them all or rank them would be tough. Some of my favorites: The Gospel of John commentary by James Montgomery Boice; Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James McPherson (just to drive some of you batty); "From the library of [Joe Napalm]" book stamp; and a Napoleon Bonaparte chess set that was originally a gift to my father in 1966.
I hope your Christmas or Hanukkah was wonderful. If you celebrated Kwanzaa, I ask, "Why?!"
Okay. Now that those pleasantries have been dispensed, let's move on to other matters....
John, the evangelist, beloved disciple and theologian, wrote his gospel primarily to the Jews and Samaritans of his time. One interesting theme, according to many commentators including my New American Commentary: John 1-11 [link], is the Johannine emphasis on the Jewish festivals and Jesus' fulfillment of them. And, while this post is about Hanukkah, allow me to take a quick aside to show observational proof.
First, in John 6 we read that "the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand" (v. 4). Jesus fed five thousand people and, when he saw that they intended to make him king, he "withdrew ... to the mountain by himself" (v. 15). Later in the chapter, "on the next day" (v. 22), Jesus told his disciples that he was the fulfillment. Remember, the feast of the Jews was approaching. Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life" (v. 35).
Then in chapter 7 of John's book, we read of the Feast of Booths, also known as Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. John writes in verse 37, "On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink'" (ESV). Now, here a little background is necessary. As you may know, the Feast of Booths is a celebration commemorating God's protection for his chosen people as they crossed the wilderness after the Exodus. He provided manna and, on one occasion, water from a rock [link]. But what you may not know is that, on every day except the last of the eight-day holiday, the priest would pour out a golden pitcher of water on a rock. On the last day public prayers were offered for continued rain. It was then, on the last and greatest day of prayer for rain and continued provision, Jesus stood and shouted (literally krazō, or to speak with a loud voice), "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"
And after a short extract (pericope) about the woman caught in adultery, the theme continues in chapter 8. Again, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Feast of Booths because he is the "light of the world" (v. 12). Huge lamps were lit in the Temple courtyard to light up Jerusalem in memory of God's pillar of fire that led the people of Israel in the wilderness. And Jesus told the Jewish leaders that he was that light that lit the path.
In John's book we have the privilege to read as Jesus, the Son of God, commented on the events: "See the bread? That's me. See the water? That's me. See the light? That's me."
Continuing in chapter 10 of John, we have the crux of this post: the fulfillment of Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication. As our guest blogger astutely pointed out yesterday, Hanukkah was a post-Old Testament holiday instituted by Judas Maccabeus in 165 BC to commemorate the cleansing of the Temple after Antiochus Epiphanes defiled it. While there is debate on the origins of Hanukkah (Wikipedia sums it nicely [link]), one thing is absolutely certain: Hanukkah has nationalistic overtones. Hanukkah was instituted after the successes of the Maccabean revolt.
At Jesus' time, Hanukkah had been celebrated for nearly 200 years. It was a detestable thing that the Romans, like the Syrians before, occupied Jerusalem and, worse, they had placed a cohort of soldiers adjacent to the Temple. The Romans quashed revolt after revolt in similar bloody manner and at the time of the Feast of Dedication, nationalism and longing for a Maccabean savior was at its peak. The cohort at Fort Antonia was reinforced to keep the crowds passive.
It was at the Temple, in Solomon's colonnade, where the frenzied crowds asked Jesus, "Are you the ruler who is prophesied about in the Scriptures and about whom we sing (see note below)?" From John 10:24 "'How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.'"
Jesus' answer and explanation silenced his critics and showed how he fulfilled the Feast of Dedication. He said, "'I and the Father are one" (v. 30). In brilliant juxtaposition to Antiochus' bogus claim of deity, Jesus explained that he was consecrated (or dedicated) by God and his actions and signs proved that he was indeed the Anointed One of whom the prophets wrote. Jesus is the fulfillment of Hanukkah in that he is the King of the true Israel from the Davidic line, the Son of God. He is our royal priest whose sacrifice is complete.
Note: In a song composed in the mid-first century BC and popular at the time of Jesus' ministry, there is a prayer that the Lord would raise up a king, the Son of David, to rule over Israel. In what we now
call the Pseudepigrapha, this song is called the Psalm of Solomon [link]. The
psalm, which certainly wasn't written by Solomon, prophesies that the
Lord's king would "drive out the sinners," "smash the arrogance of sinners,"
and "destroy the unlawful nations."
Beginning today, December 22 (25 Kislev on the Hebrew calendar), millions of people will celebrate Hanukkah. For most of those people it is a secular or nationalistic holiday. But for some of our brothers and sisters in Jesus, it is a celebration of our Messiah.
A couple of days ago, I wrote Fluffy Cow, our resident Hebrew expert, and asked if she would write a guest post about the holiday. These are her words:Background
Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, is an 8-day celebration to honor the restoration of the Temple around 164 B.C. Antiochus IV, a Greek king ruling over Judea, was brutal and oppressive to the Jews living there. He took over the temple, forbade the Jews to observe or study the Torah. He went as far as to force them to bow to the Greek gods and perform desecrations under penalty of torture and death, brutally killing men, women and children. The Temple itself was invaded, desecrated and pillaged. Pigs were sacrificed upon the alter. Revolt ensued....
Enter Mattathias, a Jewish priest, and his son, Judah Maccabee, leader of a small group of Hasmoneans who used guerrilla warfare to drive out the Syrians. They regained control of the Temple, purified it, tore down the defiled alter and built a new one. During the cleaning, they found one small container of oil -- enough for only one day. They decided to go ahead and light the menorah and miraculously, the menorah stayed lit for 8 days!
Yeshua and Hanukkah
The obvious connection here is the understanding that Yeshua is the Light of the world. During the current celebration of this holiday, there is a significant focus on the lights of the menorah. The Hanukkah menorah differs from the Temple menorah in that the temple menorah has 7 branches, and the Hanukkah menorah has 9 -- one for each of the 8 days and a "servant" to light the others.
Another connection, not so obvious, is the timing of His conception and birth. (I know.... touchy subject!) However, one can find that John the Baptist was conceived around the Hebrew date of Sivan 30 (our June) which puts his birth in Passover. We know that Yeshua was conceived 6 months after John, which is the Hebrew month Kislev (December). How beautiful that the conception of the Light of the world was possibly during the Festival of Lights! (For those of you counting on your fingers, yes, this puts His birth during Tishri -- or more importantly, the Feast of Tabernacles)
The Bible tells us of Yeshua referring to himself as the light (John 9:5-7, John 12:35-36). Some believe that it was during Hanukkah that he said these things. We can see specifically his observance of Hanukkah in John 10:22: "And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter" (Hanukkah) and 23-27: "And [Yeshua] walked in the Temple in Solomon's porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, 'How long do you cause us to doubt? If you are the [Messiah], tell us plainly.' [Yeshua] answered them, 'I told you, and you believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But you believe not, because you are not my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.'"
Hanukkah is a time of miracles. Yeshua performed many miracles to show his identity as Messiah. Our God is a God of miracles. Yeshua, as God, as the Light, as Messiah, showed us himself.
(Extra bonus points for anyone finding an Old Testament prophetic reference to the events of the first Hanukkah!!!)
[Joe's notes: Thank you, Fluffy. You've certainly increased my awareness of Hanukkah. In fact, I have come across some interesting stuff and want to share it tomorrow....]
OK, put on the William Tell Overture, hold on to your skirts and we'll blow through this like a whirlwind....
1. Duggar child number 18 is here [link]. Jordyn-Grace Makiya Duggar was born yesterday. For the women readers -- because this doesn't mean much to us guys unless it's a fish -- she weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 20 inches long.
2. I've said it before and I'll say it until you carry me out on a stretcher, Brussels sprouts are nasty. More proof: [via link].
3. This made me laugh:
4. I just said "no thank you" to George Bush's billion-dollar bailout.
5. You may be surprised to read that on my secret top-10 Christmas wish list is the horror novella Coraline by Neil Gaiman. My reading has never ventured far from historical nonfiction. However, the plot and the movie website [link] have certainly piqued my interest in this Alice in Wonderland-like book.
6. Also on my super-secret wish list is Leonard Verduin's book The Reformers and Their Stepchildren [link]. If anyone opens this at Christmastime, I will tackle them and confiscate it. If anyone opens a Christmas sweater, I'll just laugh.
7. And while we're looking at books, check out The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester [link]. Wesley asked if I was "down with OED" [link]. Yeah, you know me.
8. OK, let's call it quits there. When I start talking about books, I start to feel faint. Have a good weekend. If you get snow, consider yourself blessed. It's 50 degrees here, making the snowy Christmas decorations look moronic. Again, have a good 'un. See you on Monday.
On Friday, December 5, I blogged about Jon Meacham's book, American Gospel [link]. At the time, I called it a "wonderful book." At this time, I need to downgrade it to unexceptional. He makes a very compelling case in the early chapters of the book that we are not a Christian nation, but a nation inhabited by Christians -- again, more ecumenical than sectarian. And it is in line with my hypothesis that God has blessed America despite our secularism, not because of some imaginary covenant. Case in point is Romans 9:14-18:
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power
in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (ESV)
The problem with Meacham's book, though, is the second half. I can't quite decide if he built a house of cards in the first half and then we read about its falling down or, if in his obsessiveness to take the middle road, he ends up taking the road less courageous. In other words, the position that he takes is religious humanism, for lack of a better descriptive. His point is summed up several times when he alludes to -- and sorry I can't quote verbatim because the book is at home -- he alludes to quotes by President Grant, Rev. Jerry Falwell in his early ministry, LBJ and others who said there is a place in politics where God "stops" and human creativity begins.
So, maybe it is better said that Jon Meacham's book is lukewarm.
Since blogging about the natural-born eligibility of Obama's presidency and the tenous case made by his opposition [link], some new evidence has come to light. And, I believe, it is significant. From Wikipedia.org:
Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for senators: 1) each senator must be at least 30 years old, 2) must have been a citizen of the United States for at least the past nine years, and 3) must be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state they seek to represent. The age
and citizenship qualifications for senators are more stringent than those for representatives. In Federalist No. 62, James Madison justified this arrangement by arguing that the "senatorial trust" called for a "greater extent of information and stability of character."
The Senate (not the judiciary) is the sole judge of a Senator's qualifications. During its early years, however, the Senate did not closely scrutinize the qualifications of members. As a result, three Senators that were constitutionally disqualified due to age were admitted to the Senate: Henry Clay (aged 29 in 1806), and Armistead Thomson Mason (aged 28 in 1816) and John Eaton (aged 28 in 1818).
In 1806, Framer Thomas Jefferson was president. In 1816, James Madison, also known as "Publius" in the Federalist Papers, was President. Neither mentioned Clay's or Mason's ineligibility.
And, finally, Twisted Sister [link]. I wrote that post "tongue in cheek." Certainly I don't support their work. The point, however poorly developed, is that Christmas is not a funeral. It is a celebration of the beginning of the greatest news in human history. I'll set aside the Twisted Sister comment and share this instead. It is a much better point made in a sermon by Bishop Phillips Brooks, the renowned nineteenth century preacher:
Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in an obscure village. He worked in a carpenter's shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant teacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never travelled more than two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He had nothing to do with this world except the power of His divine manhood. While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying -- His coat. When He was dead He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone. Today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the Leader of the column of progress.
I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has That One Solitary Life. (reprinted in All the Apostles of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1972)
Home ownership is not all that it is cracked up to be. Yesterday I received my gas bill of $440.69. I nearly passed out. How in the world could a single guy use that much gas? Could I have a leak? So this morning I called the Knoxville Utility Board. Here is a sample of my conversation:
Operator: Thank you for calling your local utility board. How can we help you?
Wesley: Why is my gas bill so extremely large?
Operator: We have noted that many will be experiencing high gas bills during this winter season. Here on some ways in which you can lower you gas bill. First ...
Wesley: Ma'am, that is nice, but I want to know why MY gas bill is high.
Operator: Your bill comes out to $440.69. You may like to know that November this year was the coldest November in 10 years.
Wesley: [wanting to make a snide Global Warming comment, but refrained] Okay, maybe I am not making myself clear. [kick in engineering mode] My bill said I have used 321 therms over the last 51 days. What in the world is a therm and what is the typical value for a standard household?
Operator: A therm is what is read off your meter [in other words she didn't know]. And we have no way of telling the typical value for a standard house because it is a combination of many variables.
I will not continue with the details of this conversation. The big picture, she told me that they have no standard for determining a typical value for a house. Yet in the course of the conversation I learn that twice a year they do not come out and check your meter but project your meter's value. Also for those who want a fixed rate, they can set up a set monthly rate based on the square footage of your house. Now I ask you, oh reader, are not these values based on some standard? Are you telling me my utility board does not know the typical therms a house uses and blindly projects your meter twice a year? Of course not. Here is another portion of our conversation:
Wesley: Okay, over 51 days I used 321 therms. That is an average of 6.3 therms a day. Is that a typical value?
Operator: I told you there are too many variables to determine a typical value.
Wesley: Alright, if I told you the temperature outside was 300 degrees, would you believe me?
Operator: Umm, no.
Wesley: Exactly. Because you know that throughout the year the temperature ranges from about 0 to 100 degrees. 300 degrees is not a typical value. So is 6.3 therms a day a typical value?
So in the end, I probably frustrated both me and the operator. So I thanked her and decided to look into it myself, what I should have done first. This led me to the Department of Energy website [link]. I live in the South; therefore, during the winter months [October 1 through March 31 (6 months)] an average US consumer who has gas heating uses an average of 55 mcf. mcf is another yucky engineering unit. Against the standard, m stands for 1000. So 55 mcf is 55,000 cubic feet of natural gas per 6 months. That is approx. 310 cubic feet per day. One therm is the amount of energy you can get from about 100 cubic feet of natural gas. Therefore, in the South we use about 3 therms per day.
My first bill was projected. Guess what? They projected it using 3 therms a day. During the winter months in the Northeast, an average household will use 4 therms a day. In conclusion, I am 3 therms higher than the average. So I am going home to turn down the inside thermostat and turn down the hot water heater temperature. I'll give you an update next month.
We here at Son of Liberty give you hands on learning. Now go check your bill and see what your average is ...
In my neighborhood is a pond. It is a green, nasty puddle of rainwater run-off situated behind a rent-by-the-hour motel. And around this horribly stinky basin sits an abandoned house, an empty lot and a few houses with dirt driveways, concrete objets d'art and faux flowers in white-washed tires.
Living in or near the algae splash are some of God's foulest creatures: geese and ducks. They turd the place up and congest traffic by throwing themselves in front of random cars. And there aren't enough "church" words to share my disgust of the wart-headed, web-footed trolls.
After the recent drought, the spring that had supplied a trickle of water has dried. The lily pond is a quarter of the nastiness that it used to be. All that is left is a knee-high lagoon surrounded by two acres of dry, cracked dirt and slimy duck fudge nuggets. It's a depressing lot, really.
But some in my highly-liberalized propinquity apparently have malfunctioning taste and Alzheimer's. They look at the puddle and see a clear and glistening Walden Pond. They have the nerve to call it a lake, Butterfly Lake to be exact. It is remembered by many as the place where Victorian kids ice skated, lovers kissed on the bank and deer gently drank.
Well, these Greenpeace junkies petition the neighborhood association to do something, all in the name of saving the ducks ... as if the ducks won't just fly off and find another sluice to muck up. They even convinced the city water company to fill it at no cost. And when that water went away, they raised money in the community by putting a little girl in pigtails on the local news with a sign that read, "Save the ducks." And guess what? People contributed ... thousands. And, if you guessed again that that water went away, too, you'd be right. So now our body politic of lesbians are selling t-shirts to raise money for a well.
But don't take my word. Check out the website: [link]. See the cracked mud, ugly duck demons and their stool? And by "stool" I mean the cropped photo and emotional drivel.
Now, here's irony: The property on which the lagoon sits is privately-owned. Until now the owner's permission had to be sought in order to fill it. In fact, there was a funny series of emails prior to the initial filling where I respectfully pointed out that the pond sat on private property to which many replied in disbelief and shock because, I guess, they thought it was communal property. (Remember, they're urban liberals -- some of the least bright beings on the planet.) I said "until now" because the homeowner died and the property will be for sale shortly. And the enviro-panic has begun.
Ah, sweet irony. Sweet tragic irony.
When Jesus said, "...The very stones will cry out," do you think that he meant that they'd emote or sing solemnly? NO! He meant that, if the the worshipers in Jerusalem did not shout in adulation, the stones would shout out Hosanna! much like the heavenly angelic chorus did at Christ's birth.
This weekend, we went to a living Christmas card event. Overall, the thing was wonderful. Each large card was handpainted with an image and a reference to a name of God. There was "Immanuel," "The Lord Provides," "The Great Physician" and so on. And in each scene stood one or more people depicting a biblical event. Really, I can't stress how well it was done. It was a worshipful experience.
But the point of this post is this: While listening to a group of high-school carolers, I realized how we emotionalize Christmas songs. Honestly, we make them quite depressing, don't we? Sure, "Silent Night, Holy Night" is slow and somber and is definitely wonderful. But "Joy to the World" isn't. And those that are borderline like "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" many times are sung slow and more piano than forte. Why?
Look, we're singing about the birth of our Redeemer -- our dear Savior's birth. This season is a celebration of the Good News. It's great news for all. It's not a danged funeral. That BB gun or big wheel or Lexus parked in the driveway with a red ribbon is nothing compared to the peace that Jesus Christ offers. And how do we celebrate? We squeek out a few slow verses of "Away in a Manger" when the occasion calls more for the "Hallelujah" chorus.
I think we need less "I Wonder as I Wander" and more "O, Come All Ye Faithful" by Twisted Sister [link]. That's my opinion. Make it yours.
Every year, starting around the beginning of December, the pastors and Sunday School literature writers take us through the familiar stories of Jesus' birth. We spend most of our time in the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke. However, I wish to point us to a most unexpected story for this season -- Numbers 24.
For the last few months, I have been going through the book of Numbers with the middle school boys at our church. Due to my arbitrary schedule, I skipped over Numbers 22 - 24. If you flip back to these chapters, you will recall this section deals with the man who was blinder than a jack-ass: Balaam the son of Beor. The chapters are very unexpected within the Books of Moses. The focus throughout Numbers is on the traveling Israelites. However, for three chapters the focus is removed to the hillsides surrounding the Israelites who are camping in the fields of Moab. God somehow gives Moses the insight of events taking place away from Israel.
Not only is the setting unexpected, but the situations within these chapters are unexpected as well. King Balak of Moab, who is disturbed because of Israel's presence, summons the enchanter Balaam, who is living in Aram near the River (more than likely the Euphrates), to come to him to curse the people of Israel. Balaam seeks advice from the LORD who tells him not to go. King Balak insists, and the LORD tells Balaam to go and only do what he tells him to do. In an unexpected turn of events, God's anger is kindled because Balaam went. However, we learn through Peter (2Pe 2:15) and Jude (1:11) that the intent of Balaam was for "gain from wrongdoing." Yet Balaam was unable to meet the demands of King Balak. Instead of cursing Israel, he blesses them. This brings us to his final blessings, Numbers 24.
Unexpectedly, the Spirit of God comes upon Balaam, and he speaks these words:
The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eyes is opened,
the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
falling down with his eyes uncovered;
I see him, but no now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
and break down all the sons of Sheth.
Edom shall be dispossessed;
Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.
Israel is doing valiantly.
And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities.
Amalek was the first among the nations, but its end is utter destruction.
Enduring is your dwelling place, and your nest is set in the rock.
Nevertheless, Kain shall be burned when Asshur takes you away captive.
Alas, who shall live when God does this?
But ships shall come from Kittim and shall afflict Asshur and Eber;
and he too shall come to utter destruction.
(Numbers 24:15-24 ESV)
Balaam arises and goes back to his place. About 800 years later another king is disturbed; this time because of an unexpected dream. His wise men were of no help. At the last minute before these blind magi were killed, Belteshazzar, a young Jew who was "skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, and understanding learning" and currently in captivity and now living near the River, prays to God, and God opens his eyes through a vision and reveals King Nebuchadnezzar's Dream. Similar to the vision of Balaam, Belteshazzar (i.e. Daniel) recognizes that God "changes times and seasons ... removes kings and sets up kings ... gives wisdom to the wise ... and reveals deep and hidden things." (Daniel 2)
Because of God's mercy, Daniel is elevated to chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel's prosperity continued into the Persian empire, who fulfilled the second part of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. No doubt Daniel and the Books of Moses impacted the wise men of that day and days to come. Many wise men would live to see the fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, just as Daniel prophesied. But Nebuchadnezzar's dream ended with "a stone cut out by no human hand," which "struck the image" and breaking down the sons of Sheth. When should this event come? Had not the great king himself proclaimed to "all peoples, nations, and languages" that the Most High's "dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation."
More than 500 years after this dream a star would rise in the east. Could this star be the fulfillment of Balaam's prophecy? Would you not also travel across the desert into enemy territory to inquire: "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?" Some men did.
And then one day, Mary and Joseph were visited at a most unexpected time by the most unexpected individuals ...
Tuesday night, BJ and M gathered the family at my parents' house to reveal the sex of their new baby via ultrasound video. And you know what that means. Yep, we were soon vigorously discussing political theory, judicial precedence and personal opinions concerning the "natural-born citizen" clause of the US Constitution. And on the way out the door, I promised to blog about the subject -- not M's baby, but the Constitutional clause.
Oh, and by the way, it's a boy.
First, for full disclosure, I simply have dismissed the subject of President-elect Obama's birth certificate and place of birth because of the camp from which it spawned. The argument that I've read goes something like this: George Dubya was intimately involved in the destruction of the World Trade Center towers to expedite the entrance of a one-world government through the diversions of war and devastation of the world's greatest economy. While everyone was distracted, a Muslim candidate who is the resurrected Hitler and was born in Kenya or Indonesia or Manchuria was elected as the 44th President. The alarm must be sounded and action should be taken to immediately withhold our federal taxes, enslave the blacks and crown Ron Paul as the next American monarch.
Again, I just dismissed the kookiness. I mean, if someone respectable was the driving force, I may have paused and taken notice. And that's what happened last night. Dad, who is not a certified kook, made the point that the phrase "natural-born citizen" had been discussed and it was decided by Congressional legislation in 1795 that the clause meant a person born on American soil. And that precedence, he argues, means that McCain and possibly Obama were not eligible for the presidency -- and neither was Goldwater in the 1960s or Chester A. Arthur. McCain was born of American citizens at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in Panama. Goldwater was born in what was then the Arizona Territory. Chester A. Arthur was possibly born in Canada. And Obama was born in Kenya, Indonesia, Hawaii or some other foreign land.
So, after taking the side of ignorance (which, by the way, isn't pretty in my family), I went home and searched the archives. And now I understand why the Supreme Court decided against hearing the Donofrio case. It's a mess without clear stare decisis. You see, since the framers drafted, debated and penned the Constitution, the original intent has been muddied by silence on the subject, the War of 1812, numerous court decisions, the 14th Amendment, United States code and state laws. The case for Obama's ineligibility stands on shifting sand.
First, P. A. Madison at the Federalist Blog [link] makes a compelling case that American citizenship is jus sanguinis -- or through blood or lineage. Specifically, Madison writes that the framers' intent for “natural-born citizens" is that they are "born ... to resident
fathers who were already established citizens of the United States" (emphasis mine). In other words, it isn't location (or jus soli) that determines citizenship; it is the father's citizenship that determines the child's citizenship. The theory is that a son is loyal to the country of his father.
However, Madison's case stands opposed to -- or at least does not give nod to -- the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution which reads, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." The original intent of the framers as argued by Madison is muddied by the 14th Amendment because it is not just blood line but also locale that determines natural-born citizenship. And according to U.S. Federal law (8 U.S.C. 1401) there are ten categories of birthright citizenship that are derived from jus sanguinis, jus soli or both.
The point is that there are only two ways through which U.S. citizenship may be acquired: either through birth or through naturalization. That is why the case against Obama is on tenuous ground. He is either one or the other. There doesn't appear in my research a third option available. And if there is a third option, the Supreme Court has determined not to hear it and has left it to the legislative body.
Therefore, I am of the opinion that the case of Obama's ineligibility -- as presented recently -- is flimsy. Was the framers' intent for the president to be born on U.S. soil of American citizens? Possibly. But their silence on the subject is very loud in today's multi-cultural, single-parent, illegal-immigration-paralyzed country in which we now live.
Let me take a moment to vent.
Today, my employer has laid off fifteen employees. That is about 8% of our workforce. Most were hourly-wage employees and, since we're not a union shop, everyone was eligible to be let go. They've sacked a girl who's been here for about three months and a 50-year-old grandfather who has worked here for more than two decades. And, while I recognize that it is necessary for a company with slumping sales and diminishing profits to trim head count, I can't help but think that each of the fifteen employees will have a very tough time at this holiday season to find a job as many other employers in the area are laying off.
We haven't lost customers. In fact, we've landed new business with great potential. It's just that the economy as a whole is down and, therefore, sales are down.
So, to you politicians out there who sunk -- and continue to sink -- the economy because of your greed, power-mongering and delusions of adequacy (thank you, Walter Kerr), I wait with anticipation to read of your demise.
Now that you, oh reader, have had time to digest wind and solar power, we need to look at the big picture so not to get lost in the woods because we cannot see the forest due to the trees (or something like that). In the United States the break down in our sources of electricity (2006) looks like this:
Coal .... 48.9%
Natural Gas .... 20.0%
Nuclear .... 19.3%
Hydroelectric .... 7.1%
Petroleum .... 1.6%
Renewables (other than hydro and nuclear*) .... 2.4%
Other .... 0.7%
(*: in a loose sense, nuclear is renewable)
To determine the absolute energy production from these sources, multiply each source percentage by the total yearly energy production of the United States: 4,064,702 (thousand MegaWatts-hour) [link]
Let us compare this to France (2006)
Coal .... 3.9%
Natural Gas .... 3.8%
Nuclear .... 78.1%
Hydroelectric .... 11.1%
Petroleum .... 1.8%
Wind and Other ... 1.3%
To determine the absolute energy production from these sources, multiply each source percentage by the total yearly energy production of France: approx. 540,600 (thousand MegaWatts-hour).
And since we are in the table making mood, let us now compare each energy source based on energy cost (cents per kW-hr)
Hydroelectric .... 2 - 5
Nuclear .... 3 - 4
Coal .... 4 - 5
Natural Gas .... 4 - 5
Wind .... 4 - 10
Geothermal .... 5 - 8
Biomass .... 8 - 12
Hydrogen fuel cell .... 10 - 15
Solar .... 15 - 32
I'm not sure about you, but Hydroelectric and Nuclear look very promising. Let's start with hydroelectric ... at our next briefing!
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It's Monday and my synapses are not firing on all cylinders. I took this test this Monday morning and now I feel as if I should have just stayed in bed. It is four simple questions that, like any brain quiz (IQ, dementia, etc.) should be answered as soon as you read the question. Don't hesitate or try figure it out on paper. If you do, then you're just sloooow.
OK, let's get started. Remember, answer as soon as you read the clearly stated question. The answers immediately follow each question.
Q: You are a participant in a race. You overtake the second person. What position are you in?
A: (Upside down, for you cheaters) ˙uıɐƃɐ dn ʍǝɹɔs ʇ,uop ʇnq 'ǝuo ʇɐɥʇ noʎ ǝʌıƃ ןן,ı ˙ǝɔɐןd puoɔǝs uı ǝɹɐ noʎ ˙ǝɔɐןd sıɥ uı ǝɹɐ noʎ uǝɥʇ 'uosɹǝd puoɔǝs ǝɥʇ ǝʞɐʇɹǝʌo noʎ ɟı ˙ƃuoɹʍ ʎןǝʇnןosqɐ ǝɹɐ noʎ 'ǝɔɐןd ʇsɹıɟ uı ǝɹɐ noʎ ʇɐɥʇ pǝɹǝʍsuɐ noʎ ɟı
Q: If you overtake the last person then you are ... ?
A: ¿noʎ ǝɹɐ 'sıɥʇ ʇɐ pooƃ ʎɹǝʌ ʇou ǝɹ,noʎ ¿uosɹǝd ʇsɐן ǝɥʇ ǝʞɐʇɹǝʌo noʎ uɐɔ ʍoɥ 'ǝuıɥsuns 'ǝɯ ןןǝʇ ˙ƃuoɹʍ ˙˙˙ ǝɹɐ noʎ uǝɥʇ 'ʇsɐן oʇ puoɔǝs ǝɹɐ noʎ ʇɐɥʇ pǝɹǝʍsuɐ noʎ ɟı
Q: OK, very tricky arithmetic. (Note: This must be done in your head. No calculators or pencil and paper allowed.) Take 1000 and add 40 to it. Now add another 1000 Now add 30 . Add another 1000. Now add 20. Now add another 1000 . Now add 10. What is the total?
A: ˙ʇɥƃıɹ ǝuo ʇxǝu ǝɥʇ ʇǝƃ ןן,noʎ ǝqʎɐɯ ˙ǝɯ ʇsnɹʇ ʇ,uop noʎ sı ɹoʇɐןnɔןɐɔ ɐ ɥʇıʍ ʇı ʞɔǝɥɔ ˙001'4 'ʎןןɐnʇɔɐ sı ɹǝʍsuɐ ǝɥʇ ¿000'5 ʇǝƃ noʎ pıp
Q: Mary's father had five daughters: 1. Nana, 2. Nene, 3. Nini, 4. Nono, and ??? What is the name of the fifth daughter?
A: ˙ʎɹɐɯ sɐʍ ǝɯɐu ɹǝɥ ˙ʇɥƃıɹ ʇ,usı ʇɐɥʇ ǝsɹnoɔ ɟo ¿nunu ɹǝʍsuɐ noʎ pıp
Well, there you have it. I was 0 for 4. How did you do?