December 2004

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Is it? Could it be? Oh my God, it is! It’s Lutheran-Themed Humor! The last time I saw this was when Woody on Cheers was getting married!

Hey, that consubstantiation stuff is pretty important, but dead elvis has a point: I spent 13 years in the Lutheran school system, learning about Lutheran history and doctrine, and sometimes it was all about kicking the Catholic church’s ass.

Later, I noticed that Lutheranism is one of the most marginalized religions in America. Every time the news media talks about Christianity, it’s always about them Pope-lovin’ Roman Catholics. If they mention other types of Christians it’s usually the born-again folks or just “Protestents,” as if there weren’t many different kinds of Protestants–and there are many, many different kinds. (I’d like to give a big Lutheran Shout-Out to my homies in the Missouri Synod, especially the fine people of the English District. Righteous!)

From the Cheers episode:

Woody: “Ask her why she thinks the Book of Concord is not in line with the Scriptures!”

Kelly: “Because it’s not.”

Woody: “HERETIC!”

Trust me. Lutheranism doesn’t get much funnier than that.

Over on Left2Right, Don Herzog is talking about equal opportunity, using a race as an analogy. Not that I object to his conclusion, but I’ve never liked the race analogy because it can be misleading.

Wealth is not a race, or at least not a normal one. A race is about more than just a race, it’s about winning the prizes at the end. When it comes to personal financial success, there are no prizes at the end. The prize is awarded for every mile you run, not for running the most miles. The very act of accumulating wealth is itself the prize.

(I’m simplifying by talking about wealth. The real goal is happiness for you and your loved ones, but happiness is also about how you live your life and not about who was happiest when it’s all over.)

If someone in a real race gets a head start, he has a better chance of winning the prize. This reduces everyone else’s chances at the prizes, and that’s where the real damage occurs. But in the wealth race, there’s no prize. Why should I care if some rich kid has a head start? I’m paid by the mile, not by my standing at the end. He may get more, but that doesn’t mean I get less.

(Unless he’s getting more because he’s stealing from me. That’s a whole different problem.)

Now, if you want to help me, the Harrison Bergeron plan of tying an anchor to the rich kid’s leg does nothing to speed me up. Making him poorer won’t make me any wealthier.

Herzog’s argument for an opportunity floor is not incompatible with this line of reasoning. The problem he will run into, I think, is that the very nature of government and taxation is that in order for government to provide anything to the poor, it has to take something from somebody else. This makes it complicated.

The Gleeful Extremist is bitching about the fact that federal employees leaving work are perfect mugging victims because everyone knows they’re not allowed to bring weapons to work.

I think I have a solution.

After 9/11 a lot of people realized that disarming airplane passengers had a bigger downside than previously believed. But what weapons to allow the passengers for self-defense? Guns were obviously too dangerous, and chemical sprays are very bad in such a closed environment. Knives would be safer, but probably still too concealable and likely to be abused. That leaves striking weapons. My first thought was police batons, but then I got the idea for the perfect patriotic weapon: Each airline passenger should be issued a regulation Lousiville Slugger.

So, do they allow sporting goods in federal buildings?

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson might be a good administrator for all I know. Certainly his earlier work on Wisconsin’s welfare system showed that it was possible to reform welfare without putting poor people through hell. But I’ve never found him reassuring when it comes to bioterrorism.

Which is a little ironic, when you consider that during the Anthrax attacks of 2001, reassurance seemed to be the only thing he had to offer. Consider this from an October 5th NY Times article by Gina Kolata:

“It is an isolated case, and it is not contagious,” Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, said at a White House briefing yesterday afternoon. “There is no terrorism.”

(Thompson’s office disputed this quote on November 1st, claiming that he was interrupted as he said “There’s no evidence of terrorism — at this —-” By then, of course, everyone knew it was terrorism.)

Anyway, in an AP story by Terence Hunt, Tommy Thompson tries his best to undo the reassurance:

Thompson had said he worries “every single night” about a possible terror attack on the food supply, and despite dramatic increases in inspections of food imports, only “a very minute amount” of food is tested at ports and airports.

“For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do,” Thompson said. “We are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that.”

Thanks man, for helping out in every way you can.

(On the other hand, if Tommy Thompson is spreading fear and uncertainty about a terrorism issue, maybe it’s a sign of something really scary. Damn…)