Monday, May 31, 2010

Indy 500 and Seat Belts

Yesterday, while watching the Indy 500, I was treated to a number of commercials about the "Click It or Ticket" campaign, which tried to encourage me to wear my seat belt. The annoying thing about these commercials [aside from the inherently annoying "Beep Beep" theme] is that they were likely paid for by my tax dollars, spent by a government which has no extra money.

After the race, Dario Franchitti (the winner), his wife, his car owner, two others I didn't identify, and a driver all piled into a Corvette and took a victory lap around the 2.5-mile track.

For those who haven't yet had the thought: A Corvette only has two seat belts.

But at least they were seated. Take a look at this video of Helio Castroneves's victory lap a year ago:

Thanks to theblogprof for the link!

Not By Chance, Chapter 8: Silent Providence

This chapter of the book Not By Chance focuses on the book of Esther. Even though God is not explicitly mentioned in the book of Esther, it is obvious that He is working throughout the entire narrative.

The chapter begins with a lengthy introduction and overview of the book of Esther. The most obvious unusual feature is that there is no direct reference to God, by noun or pronoun; this occurs in no other book of the Bible. Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, are living in Shushan, the seat of Persian government. They are the "human heroes" of the story, used of God to save all the Jews. As today, God's presence is not overt, but assumed; He does not communicate directly with men; and his modus operandi is the "silent providence" mentioned in the title.

The functions of the book are several. As a work of literature, it is a "divine drama, a suspenseful demonstration of providence" (p. 124). Its theme is the governing providence of God. It serves a historical purpose by recounting the events that led to the establishment of the Feast of Purim, still observed by Jews today. Theologically, it highlights God's providence in ruling and overruling in the affairs of men and to demonstrate His protective care for His people. Practically, it illustrates truths related to God's providence and our lives.

The chronology of the book is important both within the story and in the larger historical context. Ahasuerus (known generally as Xerxes I) becomes the king of Persia in 485 B.C. at the age of 34. Three years later, at the feast described in Esther 1, he deposes his wife Vashti. Before the events of Esther 2, he leads the famous invasion of Greece (480 B.C.) which was ultimately successful. In 478 B.C., Esther becomes queen; Haman's plot and subsequent events occur five years later (3:7). It is important to note that the key events of the book are all unanticipated and crucial to the final outcome.

Several emphases are found in the book of Esther.

  • The "nonmention" of God. There are implicit references to God in 4:13-16, 6:13, 8:17, and 9:2-3.
  • Wrath is an important feature of the story: Of the king against Vashti (1:12, 2:1), of Bigthan and Teresh against the king (2:21), of Haman against Mordecai (3:5, 5:9), and of the king against Haman (7:7, 10). God used the hatred and hostility of man, as well as restraining it, to effect His will.
  • Destruction: First, Haman intends to destroy the Jews; then, the Jews destroy their enemies. There are eight references to each of these in Esther.
  • Chance—but from the perspective of man. A number of events appear to be "chance" but are truly providential. Interestingly, the word "Purim" is from the Persian word for dice.
  • Reversal: Both a literary feature of the book, as well as the very real evidence of God's hand at work.
Lessons from the book of Esther (from pp. 135-140 of the book):
  • God controls and directs the free acts of evil men—including the wrath of His enemies and the enemies of His people—for His own praise and purposes (Ps. 76:10)
  • Recognize that God is in control when you do not get what you think you deserve, or even what you may rightly deserve (Es. 2:23)
  • Resting in the providence of God, determine to do right because it is right, regardless of the consequences (Es. 3:2)
  • Realize that God is in control of who and where you are (Es. 4:13-14)
  • Be sensitive to God's leading, and give God time to work providentially (Es. 5:1-8)
  • Be assured, despite all apparent odds and even apart from all human intervention, that the king's heart is like a channel of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes (Es. 6-8; Prov. 21:1)
  • Be patient; payday always comes eventually and providentially (Es. 6-7; Gal. 6:7)
  • Be content; vengeance belongs to God and His providence, not to us (Es. 8:10-12; 9:10, 15, 16; Rom. 12:18-21; Deut. 32:35)
  • Be trusting; God's providential protective care for His people runs deep (Zech. 2:8)
  • Be persuaded that, with God, there is no such thing as chance (Es. 3:7, 9:23-28)
Do you realize that the "common, everyday experiences" of daily life are filled with God's presence and activity? Or are you oblivious that God is at work around you?

For Previous Chapters:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7

Sunday, May 30, 2010

One of the Funniest Things I Ever Saw

The day after I took the National Debt Clock picture in NYC (see next post), we went to Philadelphia to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and other nearby attractions. This photo was taken near where we parked in downtown Philadelphia:

Draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

National Debt Clock...back in the day

The picture below, as you can see from the date, was taken just five months ago.

The National Debt reached $13,000,000,000,000 this week.

I Think This Used to Just Be a Joke

From an e-mail I uncovered from last year:

The Americans With No Abilities Act (AWNAA)

Washington , DC - (Dateline February 26, 2009)

President Barack Obama and the Democrat controlled Congress are considering sweeping legislation that will provide new benefits for many Americans. The Americans With No Abilities Act (AWNAA) is being hailed as a major legislative goal by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition.

"Roughly 50 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society," said California Senator Barbara Boxer - Democrat. "We can no longer stand by and allow People of Inability (POI) to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation, employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they work hard and have some idea of what they are doing."

In a Capitol Hill press conference, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi - Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - Democrat - pointed to the success of the U.S. Postal Service, which has a long-standing policy of providing opportunity without regard to performance. Approximately 74 percent of postal employees lack any job skills, making this agency the single largest U.S. employer of Persons of Inability. At the state government level, the Department of Motor Vehicles also has an excellent record of hiring Persons of Inability (63%). Labor unions are another great example of getting Persons of Inability into the work force.

Under AWNAA, more than 25 million mid-level positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real responsibility, thus providing an illusory sense of purpose and performance and improving their self-esteem. Mandatory non-performance-based raises, promotions and awards will be given so as to guarantee upward mobility and recognition for even the most unremarkable employees. The legislation provides substantial tax breaks to corporations that promote a significant number of Persons of Inability into middle-management positions, and gives a tax credit to small and medium-sized businesses that agree to hire one clueless worker for every two talented hires.

Finally, the AWNAA contains tough new measures to make it more difficult to discriminate against the non-abled, banning, for example, discriminatory interview questions such as, "Do you have any skills or experience that relate to this job?" "As a Non-abled person, I can't be expected to keep up with people who have something going for them," said Mary Lou Gertz, who lost her position as a lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint, Michigan, due to her inability to remember rightey-tightey, lefty-loosey. "This new law should be real good for people like me," Gertz added. With the passage of this bill, Gertz and millions of other untalented citizens will finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Said Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat-IL), "As one of many senators with no abilities, I believe the same privileges that many elected officials enjoy ought to be extended to every American with no abilities. It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and every American citizen, regardless of his or her inadequacy, with some sort of space to take up in this great nation and a good salary for doing so."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Memorial Day Thought

As a Christian, I find the show American Idol offensive to my faith. But as an American, I think the cartoon below is much more appropriate:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Not By Chance, Chapter 7: The Means of Providence

[As before, I apologize for the interruption in posting this series of lessons from the excellent book, Not By Chance, by Layton Talbert. See the end of the post for links to earlier chapters.]

The key thought of this chapter is that God has an infinite variety of "means" that He can use to effect His providential will. This chapter is mainly limited to explicit references from the books of 1 and 2 Kings. Here are several examples:

God providentially uses people, including a wicked king (1 Kings 16:11-13) and a poor, starving widow (1 Kings 17:9-16).

God providentially uses animals, including ravens (1 Kings 17:4-6), a lion and donkey (1 Kings 13:1-32), and dogs (1 Kings 22:38; 2 Kings 9:30-37).

God providentially uses inanimate objects, including a wall (1 Kings 20:28-30) and dry ditches (2 Kings 3:9-20).

God providentially uses "coincidence"—events which converge at some point and time. In other words, God arranges and coordinates events. The events of Esther 6, Judges 7, 1 Kings 22:34, and 2 Kings 8:1-6 all give illustrations of this.

God providentially uses human imagination, both visual (2 Kings 3:21-25) and auditory (2 Kings 7:6-7).

The story of Jonah gives several very specific examples of this. We read there that God prepared a "great wind" (1:4) that caused a "mighty tempest," a "great fish" (1:17), a gourd (4:6), a worm (4:7), and a "vehement east wind" (4:8). A review of the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) also gives several more illustrations.

It is worth remembering that when "things look bad" to us, we must remember that God may very well be working out something good in or through our lives! Do not "misread" God or misinterpret His motives (indeed, do we even know those motives in the present?). Do not doubt that God can intervene in our circumstances, for as we read in Genesis 18:14, "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" Clearly, it is not!

For Previous Chapters:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Arizona Seeks to Reassign Heavily Accented Teachers - Arizona Seeks to Reassign Heavily Accented Teachers

I am a firm believer that if you are planning on living in our country, you need to make haste to learn our language...and you need to make sure that your children learn our language, too. [That language is English, by the way.]

Consequently, it is of the utmost importance that English teachers in our public schools are fluent in English. This makes just as much sense as having math teachers who are skilled in math, chemistry teachers who have mastered the basic principles of chemistry, etc.

Therefore, kudos to the Arizona Department of Education for taking an effort to make sure English teachers know English.

The union had no comment.

Question for further research: Why were teachers hired to teach English, if they were not fluent in English?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How's This for Public Shame?

Similar to an article I blogged about two months ago, another person has been punished by the IRS for providing (what might loosely be called) incorrect tax advice. Here is the complete news release from; note especially the final sentence.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has accepted an offer of consent to suspension from bond attorney Michael W. McCall. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, McCall will be suspended from practice before the IRS for at least 24 months for writing a false tax opinion. Thereafter, he may petition for reinstatement.

“Practitioners have a duty to their clients, the system, and the municipal finance bond community to ensure that the tax advice they are giving their clients complies with the law and is complete and accurate,” IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) Director Karen L. Hawkins said.

McCall was engaged by a state of Washington county municipal sewer district to act as co-bond counsel and special tax counsel to write an opinion as to the tax-exempt status of the district bonds issued in October 2000 and to perform due diligence with respect to certain transactional matters relating to the bond issuance. The district issued the bonds for its utility local improvement district for a proposed commercial development. The bonds were issued in violation of state law as the utility local improvement district was located outside of the sewer district boundaries. The bonds defaulted and have been determined to be invalid.

The OPR alleged that McCall’s opinion on the tax-exempt status of the district bonds was false under Circular 230, Section 10.51(j), and that McCall's opinion on certain transactional matters was also false under Section 10.51(j). In addition, the OPR alleged that McCall failed to perform due diligence under Circular 230, section 10.22, with respect to transactional matters related to the bond issuance, including an undisclosed payment to him from bond proceeds received by the developer.

Following an OPR investigation, McCall admitted to violations of Circular 230 for giving false opinions, knowingly, recklessly, or through gross incompetence (Treasury Department Circular 230, Section 10.51(j) (2000)), and for failing to exercise due diligence (Treasury Department Circular 230, Section 10.22 (2000)).

The settlement agreement included a disclosure authorization that allowed the IRS to issue this release.

This is, as you might suspect, a highly specialized field—but if you're going to make the big bucks that people make in this field, you'd better know your stuff.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

On Tasers and Crazy Fanatics

A teenager thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to run out onto the field during a Phillies game. Hopefully, he was right about the "once-in-a-lifetime" part. He got tased and fell to the ground in the outfield; the video of this has been seen by millions.

Some have criticized the use of a taser as being too forceful; a few would have preferred something stronger. I have no problem with the use of the taser. (The only real problem I saw is that the police officer, quite frankly, should have been more fit. Then perhaps he could have just tackled the kid.) The fan was not seriously injured, which is the norm with taser use.

Consider these two perspectives from a recent article:

1) The players and managers, for the most part, applauded the use of the taser. Why? Because they are the ones who are likely the targets of the fanatics who run out onto the field. They don't mind being protected from people who might be drunk, on drugs, or contemplating something stupid and/or violent.

2) And consider this quote from a 17-year-old fan who was watching a game in Minnesota:

"When I first saw it, it seemed a little over the top and unnecessary for someone who wasn't causing trouble," Anderson said. "But then when you think about it, if you let that go, what are you going to let go in the future?" [Emphasis mine]
Exactly. The use of force is a deterrent. Crazy people in Philadelphia and elsewhere may decide to stay in their seats now...and that's a good thing.

Penn State Football Schedule

As a public service, here is Penn State's 2010 football schedule.

Sept. 4 Youngstown State
Sept. 11 at Alabama
Sept. 18 Kent State
Sept. 25 Temple
Oct. 2 at Iowa
Oct. 9 Illinois
Oct. 16 Open
Oct. 23 at Minnesota
Oct. 30 Michigan
Nov. 6 Northwestern
Nov. 13 at Ohio State
Nov. 20 at Indiana (Landover, Md.)
Nov. 27 Michigan State