Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Harry Shepherd Prophecy 5

This is the fifth installment of my grandfather's prophecy book.

Let us look at the world setting at that time. Rome is Mistress of the world. The gates of the temple of the heathen God Janus—are closed for the third time in the 750 odd years of Rome's existence. These gates were opened in times of war and closed in times of peace. It then was a time of peace, with Augustus Caesar as Emperor. Wise men from the East break in suddenly upon the Roman scene with the question, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him"—the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) born in this time of Roman world peace. Also a fiery evangel appears in the wilderness of Judea preaching "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Some time later the world's greatest Evangel appears, using the same text as above. What does this world situation mean? This—that God in His Work Program has inaugurated the beginning of the third promise to Abraham of a blessing and to be a blessing. This, of course, would be brought about through the birth, coming, ministry and complete work of the world's Redeemer—Jesus Christ—the second evangel who used the text "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

The Jews Reject a Golden Opportunity
What will the descendants of Abraham—now called Jews—do with this golden opportunity to receive this third promise and pass it on to this Roman world situation? God lets his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, give the Jewish leaders and nation three years of divine teaching, ministry and works to see. At its end they reject and crucify their Messiah in His coming in humility as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief—His First Coming, saying, "His blood be on us, and on our children" (Matthew 27:25). This rejection of their Messiah suspends again mainly Gods Four Promises to Abraham. In about forty years (70 A.D.) the Romans destroy their Holy City—Jerusalem—their Herod's Temple, and scatter them over the Empire. They lose Promise One and so no nation. They lose Promise Two and no longer any land. The called-out ones, the church, born at their Pentecostal Feast with 120 Jewish members, accepted the Third Promise and preached its benefits to Jew and Gentile individually over the Roman world. The kingdom of heaven, preached by John the Baptist and Jesus was postponed and the Church Age came in.

With this national rejection of this third promise great economic loss came upon the Holy Land to continue for centuries. When Joshua parcelled out the land to the twelve tribes of Israel it was a land flowing with milk and honey with no danger of a depression. The absence of that danger was to be conditioned on the obedience of the Israelites. If they obeyed God the Holy Land would be blessed by its great Care-Taker, Whose eyes were constantly upon this land, and it would yield abundantly (Leviticus 26:3-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14) to them. If they disobeyed, God's curse would come upon them and also upon the land. It would finally become a desolation. The Israelites and the land go together. It seems this land will not yield for other peoples. This might account mainly for poor Arab farming. It has been said that with Israel obedient and in the land, world affairs are prosperous and with Israel disobedient and out of this land, world affairs are troubled. As they failed in obedience the land became desolate for centuries under God's promised curses (Leviticus 26:16-46 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Such was the Holy Land's condition 100 years ago when Abraham Lincoln was elected sixteenth President of the United States. Such it was when I was born in 1883. Let us see somewhat how far the world has come and how far God has come in the renewal of His work on the Four Promises to Abraham, in the lives of some of us older ones and thereby raise a reasonable inference as to how near we are to the coming, the Second Time, of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, as part of these Abrahamic Promises. Our fourth major point is: How Far Has God Progressed With This Program?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Review: Great by Choice 6

This is the sixth post reading through Jim Collins and Morten Hansen's book, Great by Choice.

1. This chapter is called "SMaC," which stands for "Specific, Methodical, and Consistent." The authors are suggesting that companies that performed extraordinarily well over the long haul despite crises that tanked other companies had smac recipies from which they deviated little over the course of thirty years.

Throughout the chapter, specific examples are given. Southwest almost entirely stuck to its formula of only 737s, stick to less than two hour flights, stay out of food services, etc over the long haul of some thirty years. Progressive stuck to high risk drivers, pricing for individual customers, keeping experiments to less than 5% of total revenues. Intel stuck to doubling the capacity of its integrated circuits every two years, being unbendingly reliable in delivery, avoiding markets with entrenched competitors, not skimping on R & D. Even David Breashear, Mt. Everest photographer, had a formula to which he fanatically stuck.

The point I think is that there was less overall change from the core winning formula among 10X companies than there was among parallel companies that could have succeeded similarly but failed instead. Over thirty years, the 10X companies only had 10-20% change of their basic formula. The competing companies varied from 55-70%.

"The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change; the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency"  (138).

2. That is not to say that they did not change. Indeed, several of them changed in key ways and would have failed if they had not. One wonders if this chapter could have also been written from that perspective. Microsoft "zoomed out and back in" and realized that it needed to get on the internet train in the mid-90s. Intel realized that its core business in memory was going nowhere and changed fairly significantly to microprocessors, which had only been a minor element in their portfolio up to that time.

So how does a lasting company make the changes that are needed? Here's where the previous chapters come into play. They have productive paranoia that smells a looming crisis and zooms out and then back in to refocus. They have empirical creativity that makes changes on the basis of empirical evidence.

The chapter ends by using the US Constitution as a good example of a company that has gone the distance. It set up a good core formula, but made room for amendments. But the process of making amendments is arduous and, aside from the original ten in the Bill of Rights, we have only made 17 changes in 225 years.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

4.2 Voltage in a Series Circuit

This is the second week of Module 4 in the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics series. The first week was:
1. While amperage measures anywhere in a circuit, as long as it is connected in series. Voltage can only be measured where there is a difference in potential, and it is measured in parallel.

2. A difference in potential exists either where there is a "voltage rise" across a battery or source of electromotive force... or it can be measured across a "voltage drop," something that offers resistance to that force (e.g., a resistor, a lamp, etc...).

3. The voltage source can be symbolized with an E, or Es (source voltage), or Ea (applied voltage) or ET (total voltage).

4. Kirchoff's Voltage Law is that the total voltage drop will always equal the total applied voltage. This is more or less the same as the conservation of energy. The voltage used up by each resistor or load will add up to the total voltage across the battery or voltage source.

5. A second important rule is that in a series circuit, the largest voltage drop will take place over the largest resistance.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Science: Square Root of Negative 1

A fourth post will be brief. Chapter 3 was about real numbers. This chapter talks about the "magic" of complex numbers. I didn't immediately follow everything in this chapter, and don't have the time to mull it over. But the 1700s saw the realization that there were good reasons to talk about the square root of negative one.

Of course anything squared ends up positive, so there is no "real" number that multiplies by itself and turns out negative. So mathematicians of the 1700s defined a quantity "i" that multiplied by itself to equal -1.

A "complex number" is a real number plus another number times i. So these numbers have the form a + bi.

As it turns out, complex numbers are intrinsic to quantum physics. They thus do relate in a fundamental way to reality. More on that to come in future chapters.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday Novel Excerpt: Leaving the Netherlands 2

Continued from last week
Two years before the later Maartin, the nephew, boarded a ship for America, the Peace of Westphalia had been signed in 1648. The Netherlands were now officially free from Spain. The wars were over, at least for the moment. What should the soldier class do?

This Maartin was sixty-six when he decided to take his family and start out for Nieu Amsterdam in 1650. He had no castle. The courts had taken that from his line. He himself had settled as an adult in Amersfoort in the province of Utrecht. The family had slowly moved west through Dutch territory from generation to generation.

But the intrigues of the province of Holland, the westernmost province of the Netherlands, were of no interest to his temperament. It was far too broad-minded for Maartin. They actually had a non-Christian synagogue in Amsterdam! He had seen it.

The people from Holland were always fighting over irrelevant ideas, he thought. A century ago there was that rascal Erasmus, who had pushed back against the Reformation. Then forty some years ago there was Arminius at Leiden, that heretic who unfortunately died before they could behead him. At least the Synod of Dortrecht had put an end to the Remonstrants and all their nonsense.

Give him the black and white faith of the Dutch Reformed Church. God determined everything, and everything that happened was so because of his divine decree. None of this angels on the head of a pin business.

But Maartin hoped to change his family's fortunes in the new world. The thought of a new adventure, of new territory to conquer, invigorated him, even at sixty-six. He loaded his sons Roelof and Jan, his daughter Anetje on a ship in March of 1650. He hoped to come back for his wife Maria within the year.

Maartin would die of yellow fever at sea and never return for his wife. The thirty year old Roelof and his siblings said a small word commending him to the sea and dropped his body in the ocean. God's will is God's will, Roelof said. God would raise him up from the sea again on the day of resurrection.

As for them, they were determined to make a new and better future for themselves!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Gen Eds H3: From the Cold War to the Millennium

This is the third post in the World History part of my "General Education in a Nutshell" series. This series involves ten subjects you might study in a general education or "liberal arts" core at a university or college. The first topic in the overall series was philosophy. So far in the world history section:
The Internet and Globalization
1. We might have talked more about the immense impact of the internet and social media in the previous post. However, it is just as well to discuss this epoch-changing, immense shift in world culture as we think about the world situation at the turn of the millennium. 9-11 has slowed down some aspects of globalization, but it has far from stopped it.

In 2016, as I write, there is a blip of some retrenchment on globalization. The Brexit vote this summer started a process of Britain's removal from the European Union (EU). The initial economic consequences have been soundly negative, although we will see what the long term consequences are. Most economists predict that Britain will lose far more than it will gain.

In the US presidential campaign, both major candidates oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) because of the anti-trade climate in the country at present. Donald Trump's primary demographic is exactly the kind of individual most adversely affected in the US by companies doing business outside the country. Hillary Clinton was initially supportive of the legislation (which has been strongly promoted by current President Obama). But in order to solidify supporters of the other Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, she has had to flip on this issue.

Both Trump and Sanders regularly bring up/brought up the fact that Bill Clinton when president had signed into law NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, which went into effect in 1994. Although most would say that this agreement had a net positive effect on the US economy overall, it certainly resulted in a loss of jobs for many American workers whose jobs left the country. As Ross Perot warned in the 1992 election, many local workers experienced the "giant sucking sound" of jobs moving to Mexico.

President Obama assures the American people that the TPP has provisions to guard against sweat shops and other elements of disproportionality that were not part of NAFTA.

2. Many have likened the transformation brought about by technology to the shift in the 1500s from an oral to a literary world. Thomas Friedman, in The World is Flat, points to a convergence of ten forces that together created an inevitable globalization. The ten "flattening" forces he mentions are 1) the fall of the Berlin Wall, 2) the launch of Netscape as an IPO, creating a way to set up webpages, 3) the ability to do work flow electronically, 4) the possibility to upload stuff to the web, 5) outsourcing, 6) offshoring, 7) supply chaining, 8) insourcing, 9) in-forming, 10) all this stuff on steroids.

The "triple convergence" he saw was the combination of these things taken together to create a 1) platform, that made everything 2) horizontal rather than vertical, and 3) brought together people from all over the world who used to be excluded.

We find all sorts of casualties of these changes and there will be more. Barnes and Noble has made some adjustments, but Borders is gone. Just as the "supply chain" bookstore mostly eliminated the corner bookstore, Amazon and print on demand have killed traditional print book sellers and publishers. [1] Ebook sales have leveled off a little but continue to take over print book territory.

Print newspapers and magazines have closed left and right. Only those that have managed to adjust to the electronic world are hanging on. A new model, where the content is mostly free and money is made by algorithm driven advertisement, has taken over.

The physical chain Blockbuster was run out of business by Netflix. Napster and its successors drove Tower Records and other traditional music sales stores out of business. Digital photos drove Kodak out of business. Meanwhile, online education is slowly eroding many colleges who refuse to be anything but residential.

That anyone questions that this is the new reality is utterly befuddling to me. There will probably always be a place for physical books, pictures, colleges. But they are on their way to becoming niche markets.

3. Another feature of the new reality is what Friedman calls the "horizontalization" of economic relationships. So I can self-publish a book through CreateSpace and sell it directly to someone through Amazon. I don't need a publisher. I just need to convince you that it's worth buying or perhaps have someone vouch for it.

Similarly, I don't have to sell something of mine to a "middle man" for you then to purchase used from him or her. I can sell it directly to you on eBay.

Going along with this horizontal aspect of the modern economy is the decentralization of organizations. [2] One wonders if some of the attitudes of people toward fighting terrorism assume that terrorist networks are top-down bureaucracies of the older type. This is the old "Cut off the head of the snake" approach. But terror networks don't necessarily have a head. They are more like the mythical Hydra--"Cut off one head and two others come back in its place."

Wikipedia is a great example of horizontalization and decentralization. Although some still scoff at it, it is clearly the most influential "encyclopedia" of all time. The information is apparently over 99% reliable. This is an encyclopedia put together by the public and edited by the public. It covers virtually every topic imaginable. No company could have put this resource together by hiring writers, and the expense it would have taken is unthinkable.

Google has to be mentioned as a resource beyond imagination, free to the whole world. Rather than a human sitting down to guess where you want to go, algorithms predict your preferred path based not only on your past searches but on the collective searches of everyone. Google Translate would have been nigh impossible to design on a traditional model but it gets more and more accurate as it self-corrects from the input of the countless individuals who are using it. Google maps has put the nail in the coffin for the traditional road map and atlas.

The Reagan Revolution
4. It seems to me that our next major point where a set of late twentieth century developments coalesce is the election of Ronald Reagan. Perhaps the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union would have fallen anyway, but Reagan played a key role in the actual history as it developed. So we are not necessarily saying that he was the cause of all these events, only that he aptly captures this moment in history.

Reagan won the electoral college by a landslide (although he only had 50% of the vote). He represented the cross-section of at least three strands that we would recognize as part of "conservatism" today. First he represented the older concern for national security. Jimmy Carter before him had been a president who had negotiated peace deals (e.g., between Israel and Egypt). By contrast, Reagan would rouse nationalistic fervor with his talk of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" and his desire to set up a "star wars" space defense system. [3]

Ironically, Reagan's military build up is sometimes said to have driven the Soviet Union financially out of business, unable to compete with the amount of money he was investing in the military. But of course we should not underplay the significance of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet president when the USSR was finally dissolved in 1991. You might argue that Reagan had no plan for peace with Russia. It came to him.

One of the greatest accomplishments of Reagan's presidency was the fact that he made America feel good about itself again. The decade before his election had seen President Richard Nixon resign in disgrace for lying about spying his team did in relation to his Democratic opponents, a scandal called "Watergate" after the complex in which Democratic headquarters were located. The war in Vietnam had ended in disaster and was experienced by the American people as a devastating loss. What was there to show afterward for those 59,000 troops lost?

Reagan made large numbers of people feel proud again about being American.

5. Some of the most long lasting changes under the Reagan administration were economic. Reagan put into play the economic philosophies of Friedrich Hayek, which suggest that deregulation of business is the key to economic thriving. The late 1970s saw economic stagnation, in part the result of economic events and decisions made during the Nixon administration to fix prices, as well as the oil embargo imposed on the United States in 1973 by OPEC because America was supplying Israel militarily. [5]

Reagan's economic approach is generally called "supply-side" economics, where by decreasing or eliminating barriers to the supply of goods and services, you increase economic growth. Then, the prosperity this set up brings to the leaders of industry is meant to generate jobs, increase wages and, in effect, "trickle down" to the ordinary person. [6]

The evidence does seem fairly clear that deregulation causes business to thrive, and this approach does seem to have generated economic growth at least in the short term. There is more debate about the effect such growth has on the average person. Nothing ensures that employers will increase wages and, in this age of increasing animation and computerization, there will only be less and less need for more human hands going forward. [7]

One act of deregulation that has arguably had a massive influence on American culture is Reagan's dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. Created in 1947 in the aftermath of World War II, the Fairness Doctrine required the media to present both sides of controversial issues in a "honest, equitable, and balanced" way. With this principle out the window, a climate has evolved in which particular news outlets clearly cater to specific clientele in a way that has made objectivity a liability.

6. Reagan's deregulation also fit with a political position that had shifted from Democrats to Republicans in the mid-twentieth century, namely, a bias toward state's rights. The Democrats had of course favored state's rights in the lead up to the Civil War, while the Republicans had championed the ultimate priority of the federal government. During the beginnings of the civil rights movement in the 50s, southern Democrats had continued that trajectory in their opposition to increasing moves by the federal government to undermine racial discrimination in the South.

However, this situation switched as Republicans like Richard Nixon developed what has come to be known as the "Southern Strategy." Republicans targeted the "Dixiecrats" who were opposed to the civil rights movement and desegregation, resulting in large numbers of southern Democrats becoming Republicans over the issue of race. Similarly, Democrats like Lyndon Johnson began to champion civil rights causes.

The current lay of the political landscape embodies the results of those shifts. The Democratic party has largely been the party of African-Americans ever since, while Trump's candidacy in the current election (2016) has brought to the surface white supremacist elements we had hoped had largely disappeared from American culture and the Republican party. Similarly, Republicans have definitively been the state's rights party since the 1960s, while the Democratic party is more the party of federalism.

7. Another wave that Reagan rode was the rise of the "Moral Majority." The late 1940s saw the birth of "neo-evangelicalism," with figures like Billy Graham and C. F. H. Henry leading it. For Graham, it was simply a drive to get as many people in America "saved" as possible. He went around the country and eventually the world with "Billy Graham Crusades," renting out stadiums and pressing the crowds on their need to accept Jesus as their personal Savior.

For Henry, the "crusade" was a little different. His goal and that of others was to give an intellectual respectability to the Christian response to modernism. There had been some initial response at the turn of the twentieth century to the "threats" of modernism--"higher criticism" of the Bible and evolution being the chief worriers. A group of scholars largely from Princeton had published a series of 90 essays called The Fundamentals in response to these forces from 1910-1915.

But by the middle of the twentieth century, the bulk of Christianity had simply continued on its merry way, making fun of evolution and seminary education without any significant intellectual response. [8] For Henry and Harold Ockenga (who coined the name in 1947), neo-evangelicalism was meant to be a thinking man's response to what they thought were corrupting intellectual trends within Christendom and the United States.

As the snowball has rolled, the name "evangelical" has accrued to itself a whole host of religious conservatives, including the fundamentalists from whom Henry initially sought to distinguish himself intellectually. [9] Jimmy Carter was the first president to call himself a "born again Christian," but most "evangelicals" at the time weren't buying it. Although there has always been a thread of progressive evangelicalism (e.g., Jim Wallis), the term is now almost exclusively used of a particular Christian voting block within the Republican party. [10]

8. What crystallized this alignment was the aftermath of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973, which concluded that states could only pass legislation prohibiting abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy. Roe v Wade decided that it was the woman's decision as to what she did with her body during the period before the third trimester. This ruling was modified somewhat in 1992 (Planned Parenthood v. Casey), when the trimester framework was changed to the viability of a child to survive outside the womb. In effect, that opens the door for state legislation prohibiting abortions after around the 22 week of pregnancy.

In the 1979 election, Jerry Falwell and others used Roe v. Wade as a way of rallying conservative Christians around Ronald Reagan as a candidate. Since that time, a whole host of Christians will never vote for non-Republican candidate. For many Christians, a candidate's position on abortion is the only real question to decide their vote. The argument is that only a Republican candidate will appoint the kinds of Supreme Court judges who might eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. Therefore, the argument goes, a Christian can never vote for anyone other than a Republican for president, no matter what other issues or positions might be in play or at stake.

As we already mentioned, Jerry Falwell founded the "Moral Majority" in 1979 as a rallying force for those opposed to abortion, as well as those opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment, [11] those in favor of school prayer, and those in favor of traditional family values. In 1977, James Dobson started Focus on the Family, which included a regular radio broadcast promoting similar values. Numerous other Christian outlets emerged to mobilize conservative Christians in relation to contemporary politics (Marlin Maddoux, Phyllis Schaffley). At times, the dividing line between specifically Christian concerns and the political concerns of the Republican party have undoubtedly blurred. [12]

Civil Rights Movement
9. Hostility to Supreme Court "activism" tied into a sentiment from the civil rights era, namely, the sense by many in the South at that time that the Supreme Court was making law rather than making decisions on the basis of existing law. The phrase, "activist judges" has been used as a rallying cry for Republican campaigns since that era. "Strict constructionism" is a rallying cry for those who believe that the Supreme Court must only decide on the basis of what is explicitly said in the Constitution, that it cannot extend the principles of the Constitution to areas that the Constitution does not explicitly address.

Going even further, "original meaning" advocates like Justice Clarence Thomas make decisions not only on what is explicitly said but on what was in the heads of the legislators who put it there. In other words, even if a strict constructionist today would not read the words of the Constitution necessarily to imply certain values, the meaning of the words of the Constitution is locked into what the original legislators were thinking. If they owned slaves, then equal justice for all cannot include slaves, for example, even if slaves aren't mentioned explicitly. [13]

Roe v. Wade arguably provided a respectable way to channel anger toward the Supreme Court by those in the South who were forced to integrate during the sixties and early seventies. It's hard today to champion state's rights and anti-Supreme Court activism on the basis of slavery or racism. But abortion provided a way of using a positive moral issue to channel resentment over desegregation and the overturning of Jim Crow laws.

10. World War II empowered both women and African-Americans in the United States. Both had served their country nobly during the war. While men were overseas fighting, women went to work to generate the kinds of supplies needed for war ("Rosie the Riveter"). Over 2.5 million African-American men served in the Armed Forces during the war.

This was not a genie that was going to go back easily into the bottle. Women and African-Americans had shown that they were just as capable, just as intelligent, just as American as any white male. So a new wave of feminism was launched, and soon also the civil rights movement.

The first chink in the armor--perhaps the first instance of what would come to be considered Supreme Court activism--came in 1954 with Brown vs. the Board of Education. In this decision, the SC reversed a decision from 1896 (Plessy vs. Ferguson) that concluded that "separate but equal" education for blacks was possible. The court of 1954 by contrast concluded that there was nothing equal about the separation of blacks from whites in Kansas. No doubt the recent shock of the Holocaust was fresh in the minds of many Americans at that time.

11. This opened the door wide open to begin to do what should have been done immediately after the Civil War. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the "colored" section of a Montgomery, Alabama bus after the white section was filled. It inspired a movement. Four days later, a local pastor named Martin Luther King Jr. led a boycott of the Montgomery Transit System. Finally, in another SC decision (Browder v. Gayle, again considered as activism), it was ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional. [14]

This civil rights movement would only gain steam. In 1961, there were Freedom Rides to the south to challenge in a non-violent way the refusal of southern states to abide by Supreme Court decisions (again, considered activist) that prohibited segregated restaurants and other public places. (The background of "anti-activist judge" rhetoric should by now be abundantly clear.) These Freedom Riders--both blacks and whites--peacefully violated Jim Crow laws and made police drag them to jail. They were sometimes physically abused.

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech on a "Million Man March" to the Washington Mall. President John F. Kennedy had already called for civil rights legislation that would outlaw discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. He would be assassinated (Nov. 22, 1963) before it was passed. His vice president, Lyndon Johnson, would see it through as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Lyndon Johnson was then elected in 1964 in one of the largest landslides of US history. His theme after election was "The Great Society." The goal was to carry forward the vision of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and JFK's New Frontier, to end poverty and racial injustice. 1965 saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which prevents racial discrimination in voting. Under Johnson, Medicaid and Medicare were created.

The late 60s were a tumultuous time in US history. Not only was the civil rights movement in full steam, but US military involvement in Vietnam was ramping up, along with opposition to it. Malcolm X, who represented a more militant wing of the African-American struggle, was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. At the same time, Thurgood Marshall was appointed as the first African-American Supreme Court Justice in 1967.

Barack Obama became the first African-American president in 2009. Far from ending the racial divide, it has brought race to the foreground. If anyone thought racism was over in 2008, they were wrong. Similarly, although the "war on poverty" did significantly decrease poverty, it has not eliminated it and, in fact, has had the unintended consequence of creating a phenomenon known as "generational poverty."

The Cold War
12. The United States and the Soviet Union emerged from World War II as the two primary world powers. The end of the war saw the Soviets approaching Berlin from the east and the Allied troops approaching from the west. In the aftermath of the war, the landscape of Europe largely divided along the same lines. Eastern Germany and countries to its east like Poland, Czeckoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and other areas between soon became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. These countries became communist, effectively under the control of Russia.

Meanwhile, countries that had been part of the Allies during the war (or that had been liberated by the allies) remained democratic states: western Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and (after dual occupation for 10 years) Austria. In 1949, the United States and 11 other western nations formed NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with the goal of containing the spread of communism. In response, the Soviets created the Warsaw Pact in 1955.

The tensions between the US and Russia would continue until the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991. This is generally known as the "Cold War." Although the US and the USSR thankfully never engaged in direct combat, these tensions and the preparation for such combat had a major impact on the policies and actions of the United States throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Indeed, the Korean War of the 1950s and the Vietnam War of the 1960s/70s were largely proxy wars fought against the spread of communism.

13. The Korean War was a result of a situation in Asia similar to that in Europe. The Soviets had liberated the northern peninsula of Korea from the Japanese, while the US had liberated the southern part. In 1950, with the support of the USSR and communist China, north Korea launched an offensive to unify the Korean Peninsula. China had itself become communist in 1949 when Mao Zedong took over Beijing and declared the nation the People's Republic of China.

The newly formed United Nations (1945) then came to the aid of southern Korea. An armistice was signed in 1953, although no peace treaty was signed and North and South Korea remain technically at war. As a democratic nation, South Korea is an incredibly prosperous nation, while North Korea remains one of the most impoverished and oppressive places on the planet.

14. A similar situation developed in Vietnam in the 1960s. The area had been under French control for the first half of the twentieth century, but after France was taken over by the Nazis, Japan was given full access to the country until it was defeated in 1945. In the nine years that followed, an uneasy situation between the north and the south developed, with Ho Chi Minh and the communists in control of the north (allied with communist China and the Soviet Union) and the hereditary emperor in control of the south.

Over the decade that followed, the US would become more and more involved in trying to contain the communist north from taking over the south. In 1965, regular US combat units were deployed for the first time. But the conflict dragged on and on, with some 59,000 deaths of US soldiers. Opposition to the war in the US steadily increased, and it became a political football in US elections. Vietnam was the first television war, the first "living room war," a fact which no doubt fueled anti-war sentiment.

Nixon would withdraw troops in 1973. Then President Ford evacuated the remaining Americans when Saigon fell in 1975. The effect on the American population was demoralizing. We would not regain our military confidence again until the first President Bush speedily won the first Iraq war in 1991. His son probably expected a similarly quick end to the second Iraq war in 2003.

If the end of the Vietnam War had been demoralizing, the nation faced in the end of 1974 the forced resignation of President Richard Nixon. Nixon faced impeachment for perjury over the Watergate scandal, where he and various members of his team had bugged and carried out various spying on his Democratic opponents. His fall has contributed to a deep suspicion of politicians that has become endemic to American culture.

15. A key element to the Cold War was the nuclear arms race. The US had effectively hastened the close of the war with Japan by dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshema and Nagasaki. It was not long, however, until the Soviets had also developed the bomb as well (1949).

In the ensuing years, both countries raced to improve their bombs and their methods of bomb delivery. Missile silos are scattered across the United States with Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) ready to launch. Any number of submarines also have nuclear missles from which an attack could be launched if the USSR struck our land-based missles were disabled (SLBMs). The SALT I treaty with Russia in 1972 froze the total number of missles between the US and the Soviets.

Probably the closest the US and the USSR ever came to nuclear war was in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 while Kennedy was president. After Cuba had become communist in 1959, Kennedy tried to restore the government with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. Cuba then invited the Soviet Union to station nuclear weapons on the island, much as the US had secretly placed in Italy and Turkey.

An agreement was thankfully reached whereby the Soviets removed its warheads from Cuba, the US promised never to invade Cuba again, and the US removed its nuclear missiles from Turkey and Italy (which the US public did not even know were there).

The philosophy during this era was "mutually assured destruction" or MAD as a nuclear deterrent. Both powers more or less were set up to annihilate each other no matter who started a nuclear war. Therefore, it was in the interest of neither to ever start one. The situation has changed significantly now that many nations have nuclear weapons and there is the possibility that a terrorist will obtain and set off a "dirty bomb" that is hand delivered.

Most recently, Iran has been the greatest fear. The Obama administration has received sharp critique for recent arrangements made with Iran that have at least stalled its development of a nuclear arsenal. The argument is that without this arrangement, they would pretty much have nuclear weapons already. By making the Iran Nuclear Deal this year, Iran will remain some time away from having them, and other courses of action can be pursued if and when they resume movement in that direction.

16. The United States was shocked in 1957 when the Soviets successfully launched a satellite, Sputnik, into orbit. Thus was the space race begun. Similarly, in 1961, the Soviets beat the United States to launch the first human into orbit (Yuri Gagarin). Finally, JFK reluctantly decided to make a mission to the moon a matter of national security and pride. In 1961, he gave his pitch to a joint session of Congress and on July 20, 1969, the first humans stepped on the moon.

President Dwight Eisenhower had started the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 for peaceful purposes of space science. Kennedy would now charge it to developed manned space missions, to the moon as soon as possible.

17. One of the darker moments in the Cold War were the years from 1950-56 when Senator Joseph McCarthy held hearings on Capital Hill to investigate individuals accused of being communist sympathizers. His "House unAmerican Activities Committee" wreaked havoc in the lives off Americans who were blacklisted not for any actions they had taken but for their supposed ideologies. His era is a warning to any time when some politician begins to talk about ferreting out people who are "unamerican" in their views.

18. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, signalling the end of oppressive and impoverishing communism in Eastern Europe. By 1991, the Soviet Union would crumble.

19. A final key event of the post-WW2 period must be mentioned, namely, the founding of Israel in 1948. Palestine had been under the control of Great Britain since not long after the end of World War I. Over the previous half-century, Jews had steadily moved to Palestine as part of a "Zionist" movement, a sense that it was God's will for them to be in possession of the land of Israel. In 1947, the United Nations proposed two states, one Arab and one Jewish, with Jerusalem a somewhat neutral territory under UN control.

When British control came to an end on May 14, 1948, David ben-Gurion declared the existence of The State of Israel, with then President Harry Truman giving his support the same day. The following day, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and forces from Iraq entered Palestine to secure Arab control. Ten months later, the State of Israel not only controlled all the original territory designated by the UN, but 60% of that designated for an Arab state.

The current polarization of the Muslim world with the west and the United States largely stems from the creation of Israel and US support for it. It was not the case before, demonstrating that the religion of Islam itself is not the root cause of the alienation. With every attempt to reduce Israel, it has expanded. The Six Day War of 1967 resulted in a similar expansion. Only a minority of Arab nations have come to recognize Israel as a nation (e.g., Egypt).

No one has made any major progress on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis since Jimmy Carter. The Palestinians refuse to compromise and continue to lose land. Israel has no real motivation to negotiate, since they slowly incur on Palestinian territory with every passing year.

Next Week: From Napoleon to World War II

Major Take-Aways:
  • Luddites tend to be run over by history.
  • Supply-side economics tends to grow economies but should probably be balanced with appropriate measures so that the majority have a clear benefit as well.
  • There is an ethical dimension to economics which goes beyond mere numbers.
  • Our professed reasons for certain political and "moral" positions are often not what we say they are, but rather the result from our cultural background, group affinities, and personal histories. 
  • We also tend to become more and more certain about ideas we were once tentative about, then we overwrite our past memories to think we were always that certain. 
  • Communism is a failed economic and political system. It does not lead to economic prosperity and its twentieth and twenty-first century instances were highly oppressive.
  • Beware any politicians who want to investigate other Americans for their ideas rather than their actions (hate speech is a special category, though, where certain actions are instigated by speech).
[1] Walmart eliminated most of the corner grocery stores as an earlier phase of this transition. Now the "middle man" is more and more being eliminated altogether.

[2] Check out The Starfish and the Spider for a somewhat extreme version of this reality. It is at least worth noting that the organizations Jim Collins examines in his books largely date from the period before this convergence fully was in place, although his principles still largely seem to apply. For example, the "dot-com bust" of 2001 would demonstrate some of his take-aways.

[3] As we'll mention below, the Soviet Union or U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was the communist collection of nations with communist Russia at the center. It is generally believed that Reagan's star wars idea was impossible to pull off at the time scientifically.

[5] OPEC stands for "Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries."

[6] Opponents of this approach thus often call it "trickle down economics." George Herbert Walker Bush, who would become Reagan's vice president, called it "voodoo economics" during the 1980 campaign when he was still running against Reagan.

[7] The notion that machines might eventually replace human workers is an old idea, going back to the 1800s and the English textile industry. Called "Luddites" after a man named Ned Ludd who in 1779 destroyed two stocking frames, individuals who are resistant to technological advances and the resulting cultural shifts have often been made fun of. In particular, thus far technological development has always created new kinds of human jobs, since someone has to create and maintain the machines.

However, some feel that we are reaching a new level of technological development, where the machines can make and take care of the machines. With the advent of "artificial intelligence" (AI), we can imagine a world where human workers are not needed at all. If such a world continues to unfold, we will have to fundamentally rethink the purpose of work and the way economics might work in that world.

[8] George Marsden (Fundamentalism and American Culture) and Mark Noll (The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind) have dubbed this collection of "dispensationalists," holiness people, and Pentecostals, "fundamentalists." This is an ironic name for this group, since those who wrote The Fundamentals were largely Calvinist intellectuals.

[9] David Bebbington's description of evangelicals (Evangelicalism in Modern Britain) has become very popular: individuals with a commitment to 1) authority of Scripture, 2) activism to change society for Christ, 3) centrality of the cross, and 4) importance of personal conversion. However, this is arguably an attempt to find common ground across quite different periods of time which differed significantly from each other in character.

[10] For more on one person's analysis of twentieth century evangelicalism, see Molly Worthen's, Apostles of Reason.

[11] The ERA was a proposed amendment to the Constitution which passed Congress and was signed by President Carter but fell three states short of being ratified. It aimed to put equal rights for women into the Constitution. Although it failed as a law, its values have more or less been adopted by both parties and the culture at large.

[12] In 1967, Robert Bellah called this phenomenon, "civil religion." It is the inability of many Christians to tell the difference between their Christian devotion and their patriotism or, in this case, their political affiliation.

[13] Although these categories are well-known, I appreciated the descriptions of Jim Garlow in his Well Versed (171). However, I disagree with many of his applications of Scripture. For example, although the argument is very common in certain Calvinist circles, there is simply no biblical mandate that restricts the function of government to restraining evil. Governments can do good too (cf. Ps. 72; Rom. 13:4--"do good").

[14] Justice Clarence Thomas might have dissented under his original meaning approach. If the creators of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 would not have included where you can sit on a bus under "equal protection under the law," he would have not have considered such laws unconstitutional.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Harry Shepherd Prophecy 4

This is the fourth installment of my grandfather's prophecy book.
III. God's Work On This Four Promise Program
Let us now turn to a consideration of how God has worked and is working on this program. His work will finally bring the Coming for the Second Time of the Jewish Messiah—our blessed Lord Jesus. God's work in the past, as well as in the present, was seasoned with mercy, expediency and wisdom. Although Abraham was willed the entire Holy Land, God let him be a sojourner only in it and never let him possess personally one foot of it except the cemetery lots which he bought of Ephron the Hittite among the children of Heth—namely the field of Machpelah with its cave near Hebron. Here he buried Sarah. God's mercy is seen in this in that the cup of iniquity of the Amorite was not yet full (Genesis 15:16) so God postponed their destruction and dispossession of the land. The expediency and wisdom is seen in that God's instrument of destruction—the children of Israel—was not yet available. As we have indicated before, God sent Jacob and household of seventy-five souls into Egypt in order to form the nation and build this instrument till the cup of iniquity above was filled. Then God under Joshua destroyed and dispossessed the Canaanitish tribes and gave possession of the land, under warnings and promises, to the 12 tribes of Israel. Just before they entered, Moses (Deuteronomy 11:7-21) told them that God was the great, divine Caretaker of this Holy Land—from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates—and that the Lord's "eyes were always upon it from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year" (verse 12). He also promised that economic prosperity would be theirs for wholehearted obedience to the Divine Caretaker and that reverses and chastisement would follow their failure in obedience. According to Joshua 24:31 Israel gave this obedience all the days of Joshua and all the days of the contemporary elders who overlived Joshua. Afterward failure upon failure followed till God's chastisement fell upon them and God's instrument of punishment, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed their capital city, burned Solomon's temple and carried the people into the seventy years Babylonish Captivity. Up to this time God and His work on the Four Promise Program to Abraham had carried out mainly only 2—(1) the making of the nation and (2) the giving of the Land for that Nation. On account of Israel's failure and the consequent Babylonish Captivity, God's work on the Four Promises was partially suspended.

When the seventy years Captivity was accomplished in 536 B. C. God resumed His work by causing the great Persian king Cyrus to command his Jewish captives to return to the Holy Land and to rebuild the temple. Some over 49,000 under the governor Zerubbabel returned and finally built the Second Temple called Zerubbabel's. Later under Ezra the scribe and Nehemiah the Persian King Artaxerxes' Butler, another group returned, rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and helped to restore the nation in the Promised Land. Thus God resumed His work on the promises to Abraham. If we want to understand the Bible and the meaning of prophecy we need to remember the part the descendants of Abraham through Isaac have in God's purposes and plan for our world and also remember that they will play the leading earthly role under God in the millennial earth. Israel is a key to Bible truth. With the return from Babylon and with the remainder of the Old Testament, God was shaping things for and working toward the third promise to Abraham—namely to bless him by sending his greatest Son, Jesus Christ, into the world.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Review: Great by Choice 5

This is the fifth post reading through Jim Collins and Morten Hansen's book, Great by Choice.

1. This chapter is called "Leading Above the Death Line." It deals with the third of Collins' three distinctives of companies that weather difficult times. The first two were 1) fanatical discipline and 2) empirical creativity. The third characteristic is "productive paranoia."

2. He starts with the story of David Breashears climbing Mt. Everest in 1996 trying to shoot a panoramic view from the top for an IMAX movie in the works. Coming up behind him were two experienced guides, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Given the circumstances, Breashears decided to go back down, let the groups coming up pass and any erratic weather, and then try again. He had brought enough extra oxygen to wait a little.

A day later, Hall and Fischer and their groups were dead, and Breashears had enough extra oxygen both to find them and still go to the top himself.

3. Collins breaks down productive paranoia into three aspects: 1) having reserves for a crisis, 2) carefully managing 3 different kinds of risk, and 3) being able to zoom out and then zoom back in when a crisis seems looming.

So 10X companies carried 3 to 10 times the ratio of cash to assets. Intel, for example, had a free cash flow that was 40 percent of its monthly revenue as opposed to the more average 25% of AMD). "It's what they do before the storm comes that matters most" (105). Southwest had a billion dollars in cash on hand when 9-11 hit. They were the only airline that posted a profit not only in 2012, but in the last quarter of 2011.

Breashears had the extra oxygen canisters to postpone his push to the top of Mt. Everest.

4. There are a number of types of risk that productively paranoid companies watch. The first is the Death Line Risk. These are the type of events that could kill or severely damage an enterprise.

A second kind of risk is an asymmetric risk, one where to fail would produce a much greater negative than the positive of success (think Pascal's Wager). Finally, uncontrollable risks are ones that a company would have little ability to manage or control.

10X companies made far fewer decisions in these risky areas than the comparison companies (22% as opposed to 43%).

They added another kind of risk near the end of their study--time-based risks, risks relating to the speed of decision and action. The study found that recognizing a threat early and then taking the time to make a rigorous and deliberate decision yielded better outcomes than quick decisions.

(Their example, though, involved a decision in a couple weeks, so we're not really talking about a whole lot of time. Basically, they didn't just make a decision the day they recognized the looming crisis.)

5. Being able to zoom out and then zoom back in relates to stopping to brainstorm when leadership gets paranoid about a crisis that could happen. So the threat of Motorola led Intel to spend a week zooming out to formulate a strategy before then zooming back in to go full tilt.

Let me say again, they are not counseling inaction. Dare I say that in my circles (education), there's not a lot of leaping at all. The advice to slow down is not what is needed in this case. It is to get paranoid.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Seminary PL 19: Leading Healthy Teams

How can church leaders best work together? We are in a series of posts on church leadership and management. Last week we looked at the various positions in a church and how best to formulate them.

This is the fifth post on church management in my "Seminary in a Nutshell" series. In this seminary series, first I did a section on the Person and Calling of a Minister. Now this is the nineteenth post in a section on the Pastor as a Leader (see at the bottom).
1. Patrick Lencioni has written a classic book on team dynamics called, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Although the book is written with a business setting in mind, the basic ideas apply to any organization working toward goals together, and the church certainly falls into that category as well.

The five dysfunctions are 1) absence of trust, 2) fear of conflict, 3) lack of commitment, 4) avoidance of accountability, and 5) inattention to results. Lencioni wrote the book in the form of a "fable," which helps bring the ideas home in a powerful way.

The first dysfunction, a lack of trust, refers to a team that does not open up to each other. They don't really know each other. They don't let their guard down to each other. They don't become "vulnerable" in front of each other. How can the juices flow and synergize to do great things if everyone on the team holds back with each other?

Spending time together on retreat is one way to work at trust. Going through personality inventories like Myers-Briggs or Strengthsfinders is another. Having team members who don't trust the rest of the team--or who poison trust on the team--can be so serious that the team will not be able to achieve anything great.

The second dysfunction can be particularly true of Christian circles, especially holiness circles--a fear of conflict. I personally grew up associating conflict with carnality. But an "artificial harmony" only squelches important voices of disagreement. Lencioni makes it clear that he has in mind constructive conflict, not name-calling or getting personal with sarcastic remarks.

A great team considers the positive and the negative sides, and if someone doesn't trust the rest of the team enough to push back, then you're in danger of heading down the wrong paths when you could have seen otherwise. "Consensus is horrible" (95), if you mean that no one feels free to voice contrasting points of view.

A lack of commitment to a decision is the next. This could be the person who continues to argue against a decision after it is already made or the person who doesn't go all in. Lencioni talks in terms of "buy-in." If the team doesn't buy-in to the direction you are headed, then the team isn't going to give it their all.

I might point out that Lencioni is talking about the executive team here, those who actually implement decisions. The other author we are looking at today, Larry Osborne, wisely points out that a board or congregation does not have to have full buy-in for a pastoral team to move in a certain direction. He suggests that you need "permission" from this circle more than "buy-in" (77).

Failure to hold each other accountable is a fourth dysfunction. Unless you trust each other, then this dimension can come across as destructive. But if a team recognizes each other's strengths and weaknesses and positively encourages when necessarily, the team will accomplish more. If the team doesn't hold each other accountable and has "low standards," then it won't achieve much.

Inattention to results is the last dysfunction. If the team has no collective goals, it won't achieve them. A key dimension here is that they are collective rather than individual goals. The pitfall here is the individual who is just out to achieve status or success for him or herself rather than the greater good of the group as a whole. A team owns each other's goals as their goals.

2. The second resource on teams for this week is Larry Osborne's Sticky Teams. Osborne's book is of course more directly relevant to the church situation because he is writing with the church in mind. He thus deals with the specific dynamics of the three team layers of a typical congregation: the staff level, the board level, and the congregation level. Even more helpfully, he recognizes that the dynamics of the relationships between these three teams changes as a church grows from small, to mid-sized, to a large congregation.

A helpful metaphor for the way the team dynamics change is a sports metaphor. So in the smallest size church, the pastor can be something like a "track star." He or she does just about everything. As the church gets a little bigger, Osborne suggests that the church can become a little like a golf game, the team is playing together but really everyone is playing his or her own game. Lencioni might suggest that it should never be like this.

Particularly helpful are the sports Osborne suggests for the mid-size and large church. The mid-sized church, he suggests, is like a basketball team. You are working together toward a common goal but no one person should be hogging the ball. When the church grows to a certain size, then it become more like a football team. You can't know what everyone else is doing but need to focus on your part of the game.

3. Perhaps the biggest dysfunction for Osborne is a lack of unity. Here he doesn't mean that everyone agrees on everything. In other words, he is not contradicting Lencioni's thoughts on conflict or artificial harmony. He is also not as worried about doctrinal unity or personal unity. On most church boards, he suggests, there is a doctrinal unity. He doesn't seem as worried about "respect and friendship" either, which is the kind of unity that Lencioni targets.

Perhaps he passes by these first two dimensions of unity too quickly. He insightfully points out that different Christian groups may use the same words but mean quite different things. I have found that both with transfer pastors to the Wesleyan Church from other denominations and at Indiana Wesleyan University with new professors. There are often assumptions that certain words mean the same thing as the places from which they came when it has not historically been so.

What Lencioni calls "philosophical unity" is an agreement about the priorities and methods of ministry (31). He tells a story about a conflict in a parking lot over pcolitical fliers. An attender not only assumed that the church had the same political slant as he did (which probably was a good assumption of its individuals), but he did not know that the church as a method, did not take political sides. They agreed on the ideas but not on the methods. Realizing that it's best to convey such things before conflict happens, Osborne set up a retreat of sorts for new people.

4. Osborne suggests five major roadblocks to team unity: 1) meeting in the wrong place, 2) ignoring relationships, 3) not meeting often enough, 4) constant turnover, and 5) too many members. More on meetings when we get to the administration part of this series.

He also mentions some key characteristics to look for in a good team member. So you want people who speak up (or if they don't, who then shut up). He suggests "leaders, not representatives." He wants people who are thinking of the greater good, not people who are simply representing interest groups in the church. No "theys" allowed--if you're on the team, then it is a "we." "Good enough" probably isn't. Everyone looks better on paper than in person. Character is more important than giftedness. Philosophical unity is important--on methods and priorities.

5. There are many good insights and tips in this book. For team leadership tips he gives six: 1) ignore your weaknesses. That is to say, focus on the strengths, as we've pointed out before. 2) Surveys are a waste of time, because people answer what should be the case rather than what is the case. 3) Seek permission, not buy-in. 4) Let squeeky wheels squeek. This relates to Lencioni's point about welcoming constructive conflict. 5) Let dying programs die. Languishing people and programs will sap the energy of the mission.

6) Plan in pencil, because things change. For this one he suggests fuzzy budgets and flexible policies. "A budget is a planning tool, not a straight jacket" (84). "At no point should a policy be allowed to trump common sense."

6. He gives the following advice to pastors as leaders: 1) present first drafts, not final proposals, 2) Keep no secrets from the board, and 3) Follow the board's advice.

As the sports game changes as a church grows, he suggests that the role of the church board changes accordingly too: 1) in the small church, the board does everything. 2) Then when there is some staff, the church approves everything. 3) In a still larger church, the board reviews everything. 4) In a fairly large church, the board sets direction and boundaries. 5) Finally, in the mega-church, a board gives wise council, applies brakes, and is a crisis team in waiting.

Similarly, the function of staff changes as the church grows too. 1) At first every staff member has to be a generalist, because there is so much to be spread around. 2) Then the staff shift toward being specialists in specific areas. 3) As the church grows, staff leadership become empowerers of those under them. 4) Also key, as with Lencioni's fifth dysfunction, is that the staff do not see their area as a silo but as a contributor to a greater good.

7. There's a lot of miscellaneous wisdom in Osborne's book. He has a whole chapter about making sure that "young eagles" have a seat on the table. I completely agree with him when he says that leadership roles shouldn't have to do with who has been here the longest. He has his board and staff read some of the things he's reading. In other words, he takes people who have experience from other walks of life and gives them some enculturation to ministry. Imagine when the church boss reads what seminary classes have been saying about him or her for years!

He clarifies that a pastor shouldn't "lobby." Inform of philosophy and such long before you get to the moment of conflict. People tend to polarize in a conflict and often don't back down once they've staked a public position. It's good to have addressed issues before the conflict comes. "In any field, the seemingly obvious solutions are often the wrong solutions" (130). That is to say, experts in a field often know better than what seems common sense to an amateur.

For moving forward, he gives the following advice: 1) Test the waters. Informally put some feelers out before you bring a proposal forward. You'll get good advice and won't surprise anyone. The most natural first reaction to change is resistance. 2) Listen and respond to resistors. 3) Put the idea before individuals before groups. "If there are more than 6 people in the room, then the decision was already made elsewhere" or there will be just be mindless wandering in discussion. 4) Lead boldly. Champion the cause once it reaches that stage. All in.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 20: Good Communication

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning
Church Management

Saturday, August 13, 2016

4.1 Current in a Series Circuit

Module 4 starts today of the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics series. The first three modules were:

1. Electrical Current
2. Voltage
3. Resistance

This module has to do with measuring current and voltage in series circuits. The multimeter it pictures is out of date (analog), so there was a lot in this long section that is more or less irrelevant. I've pasted in a picture of my multimeter below. The black lead goes on the negative. The red lead goes on the positive. A few key points:
  • When using the ammeter function, the multimeter needs to be connected in series. That means all the current needs to run through the meter.
  • You disconnect the power when connecting, then energize the circuit for measurement.
  • Current in a series circuit will have the same value everywhere in the circuit.
  • A series circuit is a circuit where there is only one path for circuit flow.
  • A parallel circuit is one where there is more than one path for current to flow. Each path is called a "branch."

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Science: Are Numbers Real?

This is my third post on Roger Penrose's The Road to Reality.

1. Penrose continues his exploration of the intersection between math and reality as he looks at several different types of number and asks if they have any basis in the physical world. As he proceeds through different categories of number, he interacts with Euclid, the Greek mathematicians and these questions as the Greeks first posed them.

2. So what about natural numbers, the counting numbers? Obviously they have a basis in my fingers. I can count distinct items. (Zero was of course added by mathematicians from India since the time of Christ.The natural numbers plus zero constitute whole numbers.) In the end, Richard Dedekind (1831-1916) and Georg Cantor (1845-1918) created set theory to be able to define numbers abstractly and not by way of physical objects.

3. Brahmagupta also came up with the notion of negative numbers. The whole numbers and their negatives together form the set of integers. Penrose asks if negative numbers exist in the physical world. After all, I can define a certain direction as negative (in space or time) but that's just a matter of definition. If I treat my distance as a "scalar" (directionless quantity), then all directions are positive.

Penrose suggests that the discovery of the electron and other negative entities in physics (e.g., antimatter) suggest that there is in fact a physical correspondent to negative numbers.

4. The chapter starts with the Greek quest to see if all numbers can be expressed in a rational form. That is, can all numbers be expressed as a ratio of two numbers, one number divided by another. As it turns out, they cannot. The length of the hypotenuse of most right triangles usually cannot be expressed as a fraction.

One question he addresses briefly in the chapter is the scale of the infinite. The invention of the calculus theoretically divides numbers up into infinitely small quantities. Similarly, the scale of the universe as we know it is quite large. There is debate to which he will return later in the book about whether there is some ultimately small unit of length (the Planck length), smaller than which you cannot go. I personally am sympathetic to this idea.

5. So the Greeks conceded that there are irrational numbers. These are numbers that cannot be expressed in the form of a ratio. Together, the set of rational and irrational numbers constitute the set of real numbers. The chapter that follows deals with imaginary or complex numbers, which it turns out also have a basis in the physical world.

The irrational numbers are basically numbers that when expressed in decimal form (decimals were also invented in India and based on to Europe through Arab mathematicians) go on forever without a simple repetition. Intriguing to me is that the Greeks were able to express these irrational numbers in terms of "continued fractions." These are fractions like the picture above.

The Greeks were able to find a repeatable pattern in these continued fractions. "Quadratic irrationals" are irrational numbers that can be put into the form of a whole number plus the square root of a number. (Pi would be an example of an irrational number that does not fit this form.) In decimal form, the numbers right after the first number of the square root form a chiasm (a, b, c, ... c, b, a). Then the next decimal is always twice the first one. Then this pattern repeats itself forever.

Here is the square root of 14: 3. 121 121 121 121 6...

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thursday Novel Excerpt: Drowning in Full Armor 1

Ten years after Augustine Shelburne was born in Jamestown, Maarten Peterse Schenck von Nydeck boarded the ship de Valckener with his family for Nieuw Amsterdam. The year was 1650.

The family of Schenck was a military family. Martin's father and uncle had fought fiercely in the Dutch War of Independence from Spain, which lasted eighty years (1568-1648). However, his uncle--after whom he was named--had not always fought for the same side. And his uncle had not fared well in the Dutch courts. Why live in the Netherlands out of favor when you can carve out your own destiny in America?

The tale of his uncle Maartin was infamous. Born in Goch, he had first fought for William of Orange in the Dutch revolution as the head of twenty-two men. He successfully defended the castle of his ancestors, Bleijenbeek Castle, against attack from a province loyal to Spain. But then when Dutch courts had him forcibly removed and gave the castle to his cousin, he fought for the other side for a time. Whichever provinces he fought for generally won.

But it was his death that was most infamous. Fighting now on the side of Dutch independence again, he tried to sneak into the city of Nijmegen to take it by surprise with 20 barges of men. But because the river was flooded, they overshot their mark and entered into the windows of a house where a wedding was taking place.

The alarm was sounded. His men were pushed back. And Maartin himself ended up in the river in a full suit of armor. He inevitably drowned. And once the townspeople dredged him up, they took off his head--still with a scowl on his face--and stuck it on a pike. Then they drew and quartered his dead body, placing various body parts in public for all to see.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Gen Eds H2: From 9-11 to the Present

This election year is the strangest I can remember. I think it's fair to say there has never been a candidate like Donald Trump in my lifetime. How did we get here?

Today I start looking back through world history. See my previous post for my basic framework. I am starting from the present and moving backward, and I am starting from my present. When I say "my" present, I recognize that I am an American of European descent. So that is the best place for me as narrator to start.

This is a series of posts on World History, the second topic in a series called, "General Education in a Nutshell." These are ten subjects you might study in a general education or "liberal arts" core at a university or college. The first topic in the overall series was philosophy.
1. In the previous post, I presented a rationale for the way I am approaching world history. As we start today, I want to mention two key components of my analysis. The first tool is what I am calling "pivot points." Certainly any decision we make, even the smallest ones, can have massive repercussions for later history. But I am going to focus my analysis on what I consider to be the most crucial points where history would be massively different if the event had not occurred or had happened differently. [1]

The second tool I want to use is the "counterfactual." What might history have looked like if the event had played out differently? Of course we cannot know for certain, but these thought experiments help us reflect on the real impact of the pivot point on the course of history.

Each week we will start at the moment before a major pivot point. We will start with the question, "How did we get here?" Then we will proceed back to what seem to be the most important pivot points in that period of history. Of course there are an infinite number of things going on at any one time. Any selection of certain events means we are "de-selecting" an almost infinite amount of other events. Only God knows all the events, characters, and settings in all their details and proper relationships.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders
1. This is the most unusual election of my lifetime (2016). In Bernie Sanders we had a candidate who called himself a "democratic socialist," which is truly strange given the negative connotation the word socialist has had throughout most of twentieth century US history. [2] Meanwhile, Donald Trump, a businessman, has managed to undermine the entire Republican establishment with a campaign that has channeled the anxiety and anger of a demographic whose default dominance in US society seems to be steadily diminishing.

How did we get here?

2. It is interesting to say, but I don't think the election of a female president would truly reflect a change in the current trajectory of American history. Clinton represents the current momentum of history and Sanders perhaps an accelerated version of that momentum (possibly where the trajectory is currently headed). It more seems like the election of Trump would represent a turning point or at least a turning blip.

[Turning blip option: Constantine made Christianity legal in AD313. The trajectory was then toward making Christianity the only legal religion, which happened under Theodosius in 380. But there was a "push-back" emperor, Julian "the apostate" (361-63). For a brief time, the empire went back to its non-Christian, "pagan" roots. But he was a last push back, a blip rather than a turning point.

Similarly, Bloody Mary (ruled 1547-58) tried to bring England back to Catholicism after her father left the Roman Catholic Church. But it was only a blip. When her sister Elizabeth became queen in 1558, the Protestant trajectory of England was ensured.]

If Trump were elected, it is not clear that he would ultimately change the current trajectory of American culture--at least not without a violent and devastating hand. It is more likely that he would prove to be a blip on the current trajectory. At the moment, it is looking as if he will be defeated. But many things can change in 89 days.

Supreme Court Obergefell Decision
3. The first pivot point I want to mention is the 2014 Obergefell decision of the Supreme Court. This decision afforded gay marriage the same status as heterosexual marriage in the United States. The decision did not come out of the blue. It represented the culmination of over a decade of legal back and forth on the subject, with some states having opened the door to gay marriage and others passing laws against it.

[The speed with which this situation has changed is striking. As an opinion, I tend to see movies and media as the most significant trigger of these changes. They have created a climate of acceptance that not only humanized what had largely been a distant concept, but they have encouraged individuals to be open in a way that had previously been rare.]

Obergefell put into effect a trajectory that was already well in play in American culture. However, it has had a seriously disorienting effect on a certain segment of the American population, not least conservative Christianity. Although the Trump campaign has publicly supported the current trajectory on this specific issue, the insecurity and anger on which his campaign feeds was greatly fomented by the Obergefell decision, IMO.

3. As our first counterfactual, we can ask this question: Would Donald Trump be the Republican candidate if Obergefell had not taken place? Was this Supreme Court decision the straw that broke the back of a camel that had been watching as America became more and more what Trump has called, "politically correct"?

Opposition to "political correctness" has been a key feature of Trump's campaign. In this category we might place a number of current trends and factors that play into his push-back against the cultural trajectory: 1) the empowerment of gay Americans and transgendered individuals under the law, 2) the rising dominance of the Hispanic demographic, 3) protests by the African-American community about violent treatment by law-enforcement, 4) an African-American president and the prospect of a female president, 5) increased negative pressure and rebuke in relation to language and actions that were once casual behaviors, and 6) a perception of increasing disadvantage at the same time that white males are being told they are privileged.

In consequence of these forces, a rising anger and anxiety has built within a certain segment of the American population. The animus of Trump's campaign toward illegal immigrants, toward all Muslims, and toward refugees relates at least in part to this racial insecurity (we will mention the terrorism component in a moment). Trump himself has occasionally moved beyond individuals in these categories who are threats to decry individuals who are legal and even war heroes. [3] These moments in the Trump campaign suggest that it is not merely illegal immigration in play or merely Islamic terrorism that is the driver but race itself at least to some degree.

Video of the deaths of a number of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement have set in motion first a "Black Lives Matter" movement protesting the way African-Americans are treated by the police. But the shootings of certain police officers have provided others with fodder for a counter protest ("Blue Lives Matter" or "All Lives Matter"). Long standing stereotypes are in play, fueling anger on all sides. Certainly some of those who support Trump are fueled in part by this aspect of our current situation.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
4. The recent surge in Islamic terrorism is also a major factor behind the current climate of insecurity. ISIS coming to dominance in 2014 is seen by some as a major failure of the current Obama administration.

A number of factors seem to have combined to empower ISIS, which previously was informally called Al-Qaeda in Iraq. One was certainly the withdrawal of troops by the Obama administration in 2011. Iraqi forces were simply not strong enough to resist ISIS when it stepped into a power vaccuum. The US likely resisted intervention at first because of the prevalent view among experts on the Middle East that US involvement usually creates as much future difficulty as it solves current problems. Similarly, there is the matter of giving space to Iraqi sovereignty. Nevertheless, the US resumed its military involvement in Iraq in 2014 when ISIS' forces had advanced so far as to put significant Kurdish territory in danger in the northeast part of Iraq.

5. Another factor in the rise of ISIS is what has been called the Arab Spring. It began in Tunisia in 2010 and spread to Egypt, Libya, and Syria. While the idea of democratic overthrow of dictatorships might seem desirable, the results have not been entirely positive, to say the least. Democracy without guaranteed rights for minorities usually becomes a situation where the majority party oppresses minorities.

In Iraq, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein led to a civil war between Shi'ites and Sunnis, with the Shi'ite now playing the role of the party in power where the Sunnis had been before. In Egypt, the army ended up taking back over the government because the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood began to impose Islamic law on the entire population. In Libya we had the death of Ambassador Stevens at Benghazi in the chaos after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. Meanwhile, we are currently watching "democracy" erode the rights of minorities in Turkey.

By the time these revolutions reached Syria, the US was much more hesitant to get too involved, and Russia would soon take the side of the dictator in question, Bashar al-Assad. A stalemate would ensue that created a vacuum into which ISIS began to insert itself. Those inclined to support the jihadist cause flocked to Syria to join in the cause and be trained by ISIS.

Some of these jihadists have returned to Europe, along with the flood of refugees from the Syrian crisis. We have seen recent terrorist attacks in Belgium and France associated with such individuals.

6. ISIS has arguably facilitated the rise of home grown terrorists. Al-Qaeda did not have a fixed geographical location, but it was still strongly located first in Afghanistan and then Pakistan. When it pulled off the 9-11 attacks, it sent people here.

But ISIS has catalyzed lone terrorists who have no direct connection with ISIS and yet are nevertheless following its lead. The recent shootings in San Bernadino and Orlando may have involved multiple factors, but the example of ISIS is surely one of them. We should expect to see more because it is virtually impossible to identify such individuals until they strike or are about to strike. [4]

Something should be said about the rapid development of social media. It featured prominently in the Arab Spring. It may have stopped a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. It has been a key trigger for outrage at police violence and thus the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is playing a significant role in the 2016 election and in world events today. It is having a profound effect on history.

The Great Recession of 2008 
7. If racial and national insecurity have created a climate in which a Donald Trump could become a candidate for president in 2016, the economic crisis of 2008 was the backdrop to the 2010 and 2012 elections in the United States. This economic crisis came on in the last year of Bush's presidency and some of the emergency actions that were taken in late 2008/early 2009 were taken jointly by the outgoing Bush and incoming Obama administrations. TARP, the "Troubled Asset Relief Program," was passed by Congress a month before the 2008 election.

By that time President George W. Bush had become deeply unpopular as a result of the prolonged Iraq War, the longest war in US history (with military action still continuing today). Obama won the 2008 election handily as a result. But the bail out of the auto industry, banks, and "too big to fail" corporations like AIG was seen as unfair by many when some of them had arguably played a role in the origins of the crisis.

The Iraq War, the beginnings of the bail out, and perhaps other features of the Bush era left a 10.6 trillion dollar deficit to Obama the day he took office. Continued bailouts would drive this figure much higher. [5] This economic situation gave rise to a subgroup within the Republican Party called the "Tea Party," for whom fiscal responsibility became the focal concern. They swept Congress in the 2010 election and were a major factor in the nature of the Republican primary in the 2012 election.

8. The idealism of the Tea Party in the face of the veto power of President Obama has resulted in six years of intense gridlock in Washington. One of the most defining features of Obama's administration will likely prove to be the passing of the Affordable Care Act (somewhat derisively known as Obamacare). While some of the individual components of this sweeping health care legislation are popular (no denial on the basis of pre-existing conditions, ability to keep children on a parent's plan till they are 26, 20 million more people insured), it has been widely unpopular in certain circles. Among those who previously had good insurance, it is widely blamed for a significant increase in health care cost.

This act was created during 2009 when Democrats had overwhelming control over both houses. However, it nearly did not make it fully through the system when Ted Kennedy died and was replaced in a special election by a Republican, which made it possible to filibuster any modifications to the legislation. This was ironic because Kennedy had long been one of the strongest proponents of health care reform. Nevertheless, the bill had already gone far enough through the system that it could be passed without modification. For the next six years the repeal of Obamacare would be a major goal of Republicans and a Congress now controlled by Republicans.

The deficit has been a major concern of the Tea Party for the last six years. On more than one occasion, what had been the routine increase of the debt ceiling was blocked by filibuster in protest of an ever increasing deficit. [6] In October 2013, the government actually shutdown for 16 days as this group in Congress refused to authorize the funding of several parts of the Affordable Care Act that were then scheduled to go into effect.

9. Different causes for the global Great Recession are often mentioned. Perhaps there is some truth in all of them. For example, a climate had persisted for some time in which large numbers of housing loans were given to individuals who were not likely to be able to pay them back. Similarly, a "housing bubble" was in play, where loans could be taken out on property that far surpassed the actual value of the property.

More complex was the new practice of bundling bad debt, where banks took collections of debts from bad loans and sold them to each other. This practice continues, leading some to suggest that the economic practices of Wall Street that at least partially caused the recession continue to pose a threat to the global economy. Bernie Sanders' campaign included a call for further regulation of Wall Street in these areas.

The Iraq War of 2003
10. Perhaps the most determinative event for the current world landscape was the war launched in 2003 against Iraq. Is it possible that this war was a greater pivot point in history than 9-11 itself? If we look at this event from a counterfactual point of view, the war arguably dragged on far longer than President Bush had originally anticipated. Indeed, less than two months after the offensive began, he announced that the mission had been accomplished (May 1, 2003) and that major combat operations in Iraq were ended.

Instead, the US would get mired in the middle of Iraqi infighting and insurgencies for almost nine years, with December 31, 2011 considered the final withdrawal. It is hard to imagine the profound effect this invasion has had on the world. More than 4500 soldiers lost their lives in Iraq and over 100,000 Iraqis. More than 1.5 million Americans served in Iraq during the almost nine year war. The impact of this service on families and on the soldiers themselves has been profound. It is easy to doubt if President Bush would have made the decision to go to war if he had known the way it would play out.

11. Again, it seems hard to underestimate the amount of hostility this invasion created in the Muslim world toward the United States. Most experts on the Middle East would argue that it is directly responsible for the exponential rise of terrorism in the last decade, creating a generation of potential enemies who would like nothing more than to destroy us. This is arguably the war with the West that Osama bin Laden had set out to ignite on 9-11. Without the Iraq War, there would have been no ISIS. Without the Iraq War, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would arguably not have been elected as president in Iran in 2005.

In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the entire world seemed united behind the United States, including the countries of the Arab world. There was wide UN support for the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The situation was quite different in the lead up to the Iraq War. Few major powers backed the US, and the case for war was thin, even though most of the world did believe Saddam Hussein had WMD (weapons of mass destruction).

It would turn out of course that Iraq did not have such weapons. But in the climate after 9-11, it would have arguably been suicide for anyone in Congress to vote against the war. Only those in the most liberal of districts or states could have voted no and hoped to be reelected. The Bush administration seems to have had a noble but naive hope that they could "liberate" Iraq and that the Iraqi people would flock to democracy, greeting Americans as liberators. Then, with an ally in the Middle East, the entire landscape of the region could be changed for the better.

Alas, it did not turn out that way. The culture of the Middle East turned out to be quite different than such Western expectations.

12. The attacks on 9-11 punctured the psyche of America. There had been no attack comparable to it since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. It was almost unimaginable. Some insignificant figure from the Middle East had somehow managed to take down the most prominent feature of the New York City landscape.

Before 9-11, security at airports was generally casual. You used to be able to walk back to the gate and see your family board the airplane. There was no Department of Homeland Security to coordinate the security organizations of the government.

After 9-11, everyone was paranoid. Where was a terrorist going to jump out next? The then mayor of Marion, Indiana actually barricaded the courthouse after 9-11, as if the Middle East cared about some obscure town in Indiana that no one has ever heard of. Air marshals were put on planes, and paranoid people like me were on constant look out for someone to try to take over the plane. We watched the video of planes flying into the towers over and over again in disbelief.

The sense that the world was a safe place was gone. There was a twinge of doubt that America was invincible. Someone needed to pay.

13. 9-11 interrupted what was arguably a lazy but steady progressive trajectory of American history. An event of this kind inevitably causes a surge of conservatism, for conservatism by its very nature is a protective stance. Christian college students at the turn of the millennium tended to be very interested in social justice and not particularly interested in the theological debates that evangelicals of earlier decades had conducted. In 2002, Robert Webber wrote The Younger Evangelicals, highlighting a generation of evangelicals who were quite different from their forebears in these ways.

9-11 did not eliminate that trajectory. There remains a strong strand of Christians under 40 who are committed to social justice and progressive causes. Many of them supported Bernie Sanders in the recent primary. Some of that age demographic also, disgusted by a surge of Christian fundamentalism, have become "nones," young people with no religious affiliation whatsoever. This is currently the fastest growing religious demographic in America.

But 9-11 also naturally caused a resurgence of Christian fundamentalism in various forms. The strong rise of hyper-Calvinism ("young, restless, and Reformed") in some circles is one example of a conservative backlash no doubt fostered in part by the impact of 9-11. Several Christian colleges have undergone theological purges of sorts in the last decade. The Christian classroom of 2016 includes not only the progressives I mentioned above, but zealous neo-fundamentalists as well. These are students who were only three or four when 9-11 took place, students whose psyche was arguably formed in the zeal of the post-9-11 decade.

Next week: History 3: World War II to the Millennium

Major Take-Aways
  • There are often temporary reversals in the overall trajectories of history.
  • It's best to talk through certain issues long before flash points take place.
  • Democracy is not natural for many cultures. Great care must be taken when moving in that direction.
  • Meddling in the affairs of other nations should be a last resort of action. Trying to fix other countries regularly makes things worse.
  • Don't start a war as a strategy, only as a last resort.
  • Deregulation has its limits. Unbridled capitalism does almost always lead eventually to economic crises.
  • Don't over-react to terrorists. Over-reaction tends to play into their hands.
[1] I decided to call it a "pivot point" rather than a "turning point" because I am not necessarily meaning a change in direction. In fact, in some cases the event might have meant a change of direction if it had played out differently! As a pivot point, I merely mean that history would have looked quite different if the event had not played out as it did. A "turning point" usually assumes a change of direction.

[2] Marian Tupy suggests a more accurate term for Sanders would be a "social democrat."

[3] For example, when he suggested that a judge was being unfair to him because the judge was of Mexican descent or when he insulted the parents of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq.

[4] The Constitution would prohibit any blanket action toward the Muslim community as Muslims and, in fact, the best way to stop such acts over time is for the Muslim community itself to identify such individuals among them. In the end, blanket targeting of the Muslim community is more likely to increase the number of future home grown terrorists rather than to diminish it.

[5] The federal deficit is 19.4 trillion dollars as I write this post.

[6] Filibuster can take place if the House does not have a supermajority of 60. It can thus keep a bill from even being voted on. The use of the filibuster by the Tea Party in Congress to prevent votes in the last six years is unprecented in US history. Increases of the debt ceiling are necessary in order to pay for budgets that Congress has already approved. In that sense, refusing to increase the debt ceiling prevents the government from paying its existing debts and commitments. It does not involve any new budgetary items.