Thursday, December 05, 2019


Last night in my small group my friend Jerry asked us to think back to our 'best' Christmas memory. I had an immediate answer that had to do with being in Jakarta, Indonesia and having my dad - dressed at Santa - terrify dozens of small local children: "red demon man, red demon man!". But as I listened to the others talk about their best Christmas experiences I decided I was wrong. My best Christmas memory happened the year my son Sam was born. He was born a month before Christmas so had nothing else happened it probably still would have been my best Christmas.  A brand new baby is an incredible gift any time of year.

But as I think about, I don't believe that was only thing that made that Christmas special. For some time we had been helping Mildred, an elderly woman who lived in a small apartment near our home. Among other things we always brought her to church with us. And we didn't particularly like her. She was a rather miserable, bitter and terribly lonely 75 year old woman who apparently had never fit in anywhere. She was often critical and rude but it wasn't much of a sacrifice to drive a few blocks and pick her up so we tolerated the occasional outbursts.

From what we could tell she had been alone for most of her adult life.  She had never married or had children. She'd worked as a department store salesperson and had been fortunate enough to retire with a small pension that paid for an apartment in a nice part of town. But it was barren, empty of art, pictures of family members or any of the markers of a life lived with others. She was alone and apparently she had almost always been that way. 

On Christmas eve - as was common in the first few months after Sam was born - it took us longer than anticipated to get going so I drove over to pick up Mildred while Sam's mom finished all of the complex procedures necessary to bring an newborn infant out on a snowy winter's night. When we got back, mother and child still weren't ready so I brought Mildred inside to wait. And Sam's mother, being far more intuitive than me, brought him in and plunked him into Mildred's lap so she could finish getting ready.

It was then that a small miracle unfolded. Mildred leaned over him and with tears in her eyes whispered and sang him a tuneless song, the melted snowflakes on her coat glistening in the Christmas lights. She was a woman transformed. For those few minutes she wasn't bitter or miserable, she was filled with the true joy of Christmas: celebrating the birth of a baby who would love the world but also could be loved.

It's been twenty six years since that night but I think I've finally realized what God and Mildred and Sam had to teach me: that the key to surviving as a Christian in this world isn't in being loved, it's in loving. Because we Christians can survive even if no one loves us. After all Christ died for us and sent his Holy Spirit to minister to us. It's not ideal and not easy but God promises us that He is always with us and always will love us and that is enough. No we don't need other people to love us but we do need others to love. We must love others the way he does, for there is no other way to truly be like be Christian.

And so on that snowy St. Louis night we - but mostly baby Sam - gave Mildred the most precious gift she had ever received: someone that she - even in her limited, bitter state - could love. And I think that's the best gift we've ever given anyone.

I 'work' with the homeless at church. Mostly I hang out and do what my brilliant friends Andrea, Sarah and Carolyn tell me to do. I've gotten to know a whole host of what I call 'lost boys' - mostly men who have fallen between this world's cracks, people like LaKeith and Chris. And I've always thought that what I was doing was showing 'love' for them. But I realize now that as Christians they don't need my love so much as they need to have real people in their lives that they can love. The task of 'lifting' them out of their struggles isn't my job, it's their's and God's and the first thing they need to master is the vocation that we all are called to: to love one another.

Which can be very hard for me. All I need to do is admit my weakness and limitation and they'll do the rest. Because it's only when my pride dies, that I can become someone who can truly help the lost and the lonely progress on they journey to Christ. So this Christmas, I'm trying to focus less on 'proving' my love to others and more on making my self vulnerable and approachable enough so that other people can do God's will through me. Which will be strange for a rather hyperactive and self righteous man like me. 

I would love  to see Mildred holding Sam again....

Thursday, September 12, 2019

My encounter with T. Boone Pickens

T. Boone Pickens is dead. Here's a Forbes piece on him.

I have a personal recollection of T Boone: I was attending the University of Chicago when he came to give a speech. I was able to weasel my way into the handful of students who were invited to have lunch with him beforehand. I did this because at the time he was making a play for Phillips Petroleum which was my father's company whose then headquarters were in the town I graduated high school from: Bartlesville, OK. The news even featured a prayer service at the Church I attended (I suppose beseeching God to hex Boone or something). Each of us got to introduce ourselves to the great man and so I pointed out my connection. After lunch as we walked to the speech site Boone sidled up to me and worked me the entire time, emphasizing his concern for Phillips and the people of Bartlesville and so on. The ironic thing was being a Good Chicago economist, I was rather agnostic on the whole affair. But Boone was clearly more than just a cold corporate raider: he wanted to be seen as the hero. But I'll let History be the judge of that.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The dying liberal order

It's amazing that I don't even think that this is  abnormal any more. The amount of factually false statements that I see from so called "educated" friends on social media is frankly shocking. And they always cite a "news" story. I have well educated friends that have posted (in all seriousness) about the "imminent end of the world" (actual phrasing). We don't have an independent press or government anymore. Which makes it hard to have a "diverse liberal democracy".

Because if you can't trust the state or the news or educational institutions to play it fair, then you fall back on the old ways: clan and tribe.  "Blood of my blood". So much "diversity", so little honesty.

And those whose families have been obliterated by generations of social "innovation", welfare and taught helplessness are like abandoned children wandering in a war zone.

See to your neighborhood, your church (seriously, you should have one) and your kin because the broader institutions we have used to transcend them are rapidly bleeding out what's left of the trust they spent so many years accumulating.

And that's what I think about that.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Is the flight to identity politics is driven by family collapse?

I think you'll find this interesting.  Not particularly partisan but very relevant.  The Church tries fitfully to be a family substitute for the increasingly atomized lower half of our society.  It's a poor substitute for kin. When I talk to homeless about their problems I always ask 'where are your kin?' because in the dark, evil past, that's where many of these people found help and shelter (and discipline).  Today we have 'experts' who focus on bits of people but take no ownership.

It's not a solution. It's just immense expense joined to immense misery. But the commercialization and professionalization of 'social services' that used to be performed by families is So. Damned. Profitable.

The technocracy is eating us alive and nobody knows how to stop it. You see it at its worst in our most 'hip' precincts. (To be clear: the piece isn't partisan. But I am).

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The savior of the world.

In an uncharacteristic lapse in judgement, a friend asked me to give the invocation (church talk for kickoff or warm up prayer) at church. This is what I said:

Dear lord thank you for this day.
Thank you for the sunshine
and the truth of your gospel.

Lord Jesus give us eyes to see,
ears to hear,
and the faith to know that you are the savior of the world.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Is there an America if citizenship doesn't matter?

If citizenship means so little that the government doesn't even want to count how many of us there are - because they simply don't care - then is it really our government?

Or is the US government just another stationary bandit like Dubai? Delivering services in exchange for tribute? And if so, why should anyone pay income taxes...i.e. share the wealth with anyone else?

If the borders are open and the government is just a technocracy validated by people who show up at polls without ID or better yet fill out and mail in a form, then why share wealth with this ever shifting global craps game called America?

Governance becomes completely transactional....fee for service and if service gets bad.....

Nobody in their right mind would DIE for Dubai. Maybe since citizenship would be meaningless under CA style rule nobody should die for America.

Of course if citizenship increasingly means nothing then there really isn't an America is there?

In that world the universal longing for belonging would be filled by places like.....Texas or Minnesota who would strive mightily to sustain and bolster the critical sense of belonging that is required for people to be willing to sacrifice their wealth and lives.

Maybe that sense of belonging, that sense of responsibility and commitment is why the social breakdown we see in CA isn't spreading to TX or MN. Maybe we poo differently because our loyalties are different, more real.

The canary in the already collapsed California coal mine would be a second Texas Revolution: Flight from Sobbing Woke Pointlessness to True Meaning.

Because the true meaning of life is what we do, who we love and sacrifice for. Not how big a victim we are

Monday, June 24, 2019

Another example of climate change incoherence

Time Magazine recently put the current UN Secretary General on its cover promoting climate panic on the island nation of Tuvalu. So it MUST be true that these coral atoll nations are doomed. After  all why would such an august figure as the Lord High Secretary General "dip trou" if it were not?

But I also know that these coral atolls are made of, you know, coral and that coral are living things and they grow. So in theory as the water level rises, the coral grows and the islands remain above sea level. I also know that a recent survey of Tuvalu published in Nature Communications* has found that their islands are in fact growing, not shrinking. So what gives? Is the sea level rising faster than the coral can grow? Could it? Had it done so in the past when we had far more ice to melt and temperatures rose much faster coming out of the last glaciation event?

So I went to our best, official source of historical and prehistorical sea level data at NASA GISS and found the page on past sea level trends. And this is what its first, summary paragraph said:

Climate warming is expected to result in rising sea level. Should this occur, coastal cities, ports, and wetlands would be threatened with more frequent flooding, increased beach erosion, and saltwater encroachment into coastal streams and aquifers. Global sea level has fluctuated widely in the recent geologic past. It stood 4-6 meters above the present during the last interglacial period, 125,000 years ago, but was 120 m lower at the peak of the last ice age, around 20,000 years ago. A study of past sea level fluctuations provides a longer-term geologic context, which can help us better anticipate future trends.

So first: Hang on a tick, what is this "Global sea level has fluctuated widely in the recent geologic past. It stood 4-6 meters above the present during the last interglacial period, 125,000 years ago"?
Yet we are told that global temperatures are at a "record high". Hmm.  So back before man generated excess CO2 the climate was warm enough to melt 1.4 to 2.2 Trillion more Metric Tons of ice than is melted today? Really? And this in the "world class" experts' own published reports.

Another way to put it is: given the suspiciously precise current 'official' estimated 2.8mm of sea level rise per year, it would take between 1400 and 2100 years to equal the sea levels in the last interglacial - a span of time that separates us as far from that 'dystopian' future as Julius Caesar is from us. "Friends Romans, Countrymen, lend me your high tech windmills".

The second thing I learned is that according to best experts, the estimated peak prehistoric mean annual sea level rise rates at the end of the last glaciation were slower than the growth rates of many coral species. Meaning that even at rates over 5 times the current claimed "rapid" mean sea level rise, coral reefs could have "kept up" with rising seas. Which means there is no way that the many coral reef ringed islands are threatened with inundation.  Indeed Coral experts use the metaphor that Coral atolls "float" on the surface of the ocean.

But when there's so much money to be made by pretending they sink.....

Which means the Secretary General is an ignoramus who ruined his pants for no reason (bet you he didn't even take off his Manolo Blahniks - expense account dontchaknow). But you already knew that.

Oh one more detail: Coral reefs are made of Calcium Carbonate which is fabricated by the Coral organisms from calcium and CO2 in the ocean. The more CO2, the more island. Just like the more CO2, the more plant life. But don't worry about that, I'm sure all that extra flora that it supports is just terrible.

And one more thing: if brainless coral polyps can outfox rising sea levels it would seem reasonable that sentient humans wielding 21st century technology could do so too.

*Specifically the studies of the Tuvalu island groups showed that:
“Here we present the first comprehensive national-scale analysis of the transformation in physical land resources of the Pacific atoll nation Tuvalu, situated in the central western Pacific (Supplementary Note 1). Comprising 9 atolls and 101 individual reef islands, the nation is home to 10,600 people, 50% of whom are located on the urban island of Fogafale, in Funafuti atoll28. We specifically examine spatial differences in island behaviour, of all 101 islands in Tuvalu, over the past four decades (1971–2014), a period in which local sea level has risen at twice the global average (Supplementary Note 2).Surprisingly, we show that all islands have changed and that the dominant mode of change has been island expansion, which has increased the land area of the nation. Results are used to project future landform availability and consider opportunities for a vastly more nuanced and creative set of adaptation pathways for atoll nations.”