Friday, 31 December 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

A Zombie Apocalypse Would be Worse

Money, Love, Desire - Wealth and the Christian
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some sins, Paul tells us, run out in front of a man, while others bring up the rear. Some are screamingly obvious, while others are more subtle (1 Tim. 5:24). This means that in Bible-believing churches, cavorting with prostitutes, shooting out street lights, and knocking off convenience stories is generally frowned upon. But other sins, especially of the self-righteous variety, like envy, like going to church. They fit right in, and often they even get to sing in the choir.

When envy reigns, it is not long before we are being urged to steal from people in the name of Jesus. We are even urged in this direction from the pulpit because "we" have to learn "compassion" and "we" have to learn how to be "generous" with other people's money. We learned this, along with other subtleties, by reading Augustine on freedom, with a paper bag over our head.

Now I grant that in terms of the public weal, there could be worse things than to have the politics of envy getting established for good in the midst of the church. A zombie apocalypse, for instance. That would be worse.

The tax structure we have for personal income in the United States is most certainly unfair and unjust, but it is not unfair the way the sob sisters of the left would have it. But before offering the argument, let me just say that when envy reigns, compelling arguments are never good enough. Envy just brushes them away, like an elephant dealing with mayflies.

This is because envy is heavier than wet sand, and very few indeed are able to stand up to it.

"A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones" (Prov. 14:30).

"A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both. Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?" (Prov. 27:3-4).

So here is the litmus test. Next time you hear someone on the television decrying "tax breaks for the wealthy," and you even hear Christians going along with this, pose yourself some pointed questions based on this data. The top 1% of income earners in the United States pay about 40% of all the taxes. The top 5% pay about 60% of them. The bottom 50% pay virtually nothing at all. If, confronted with this kind of information, you feel anything but outrage over all the envy-ridden thieveries, then you need to go back to the Jesus Way Kindergarten.

And Now for Some Good News

Doing International Aid the Right Way

A World Bank research paper has hailed New Zealand's Recognized Seasonal Employer ("RSE") scheme as highly successful and "best in class". The RSE scheme was set up around 2007 as a New Zealand Pacific island aid programme. Normally these things are complete disasters, counter productive, replete with unintended consequences, and more often than not, lead to more dependency of the donee nation. But the RSE scheme appears to be working well. In fact the World Bank says it is the only international aid scheme which is successful.

The programme allows Pacific island nations to send seasonal workers to New Zealand to work in horticultural industries, picking and packing fruit and vegetables. This programme has proved to be a great boon to orchardists and winegrowers--who had lobbied for a scheme such as this. The industry was bedevilled with seasonal labour shortages. Whilst there were plenty of unemployed in New Zealand too many preferred to stay on the dole, rather than work seasonally in orchards.

The World Bank study says that the impact upon the sending Pacific Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu (which formed part of the study) has been very positive.
The results show that the RSE has had large positive effects on sending households in Tonga and Vanuatu. We find per capita incomes of households participating in the RSE to have increased by over 30 percent relative to the comparison groups in both countries, with per-capita expenditure also increasing, although by less than income. Subjective economic welfare is estimated to have increased by almost half a standard deviation in both countries, and households have purchased more durable assets such as DVD players, radios, ovens, and in Vanuatu, boats.

In Tonga RSE households also doubled the rate of home improvement, and in both countries, households became more likely to have a bank account, likely reflecting more formal savings. School attendance rates increased by 20 percentage points for 16 to 18 year olds in Tonga, and community-level effects were generally modest, but positive. Overall these results show that the seasonal worker program has been a powerful development intervention for the participating households, and that the RSE policy appears to have succeeded in its development objectives in the short run.
(School attendance rates have gone up due to parents being able, as a result of participating in the work programme, to afford school fees.)

The programme has been carefully designed to avoid some of the pitfalls of seasonal migrant worker programmes around the world.
Design of the RSE paid careful attention to previous experience with seasonal worker programs around the world, and the resulting policy contains many of the features that are believed to be best practice for ensuring success of seasonal worker schemes and to mitigate the risks of overstaying, displacement of New Zealand workers, and worker exploitation.
Clearly "overstaying" risks were a serious problem. Here is how the programme is structured to mitigate these risks:
The risk of overstaying is mitigated in a number of ways: workers may be re-employed in subsequent years, either with the same or a new employer, which can be contrasted with single entry schemes which provide high incentives for workers to overstay; employers are required to pay the costs associated with worker removal from New Zealand if workers become illegal, giving employers incentives to choose workers who they believe will return, and to not be complicit in their overstaying; and competition for places among communities and countries leads to social pressures to not jeopardize future possibilities for others by overstaying and thereby creating a negative reputation for one’s community.
Overstay rates are less than one percent--which is extremely low.
Another really good design feature of the programme is that employers are required to exercise an appropriate duty of care to their seasonal workers, not just to ensure they are not exploited, but that some basic services are available to them.
The RSE places special emphasis on “pastoral care”, with employers required to arrange suitable accommodation, internal transportation, access to personal banking services, provision of protective equipment and opportunities for recreation and religious observance. The risk of exploitation is mitigated through regulations stating that workers must not be charged recruitment fees and that employers must pay market wages and offer workers at least a minimum remuneration which depends on the length of the contract.

Is such programme easily replicable? Possibly, but we suspect there are some crucial required factors, the absence of which would mean yet another international aid disaster. Firstly, the programme had heavy input from the private sector in New Zealand, where it was clearly meeting an industry need. The industry itself worked intensively with the Labour Department to "get it right".

Secondly, the sending communities often had significant input into who was accredited to go and work in NZ. The communities chose reliable, hard-working, decent citizens who would represent their communities well. This has not been a rights-based programme, but a merit-based programme.

Thirdly, because the participants worked hard--and the labour is physically demanding--they tended to use their earnings with great care. The money was not "easy-come, easy-go".

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Evangelicals Confronted by a Leper

Douglas Wilson
Thursday, December 23, 2010 

So the sexual socialists found a few craven Republicans and jammed a sea change bit of legislation, the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" through a lame duck Congress. Instead of the president having to leave town in humiliation over the high-handed antics of a discredited Congress, this, and a few other passed and signed monstrosities, are now being touted as proof that the elections didn't affect the president the way everybody was talking like they might. "Don't count him out early!" What the elections actually didn't affect was the president's hubris and messiah complex.

Just imagine, if you have the horsepower to do so, a conservative president pulling the same tactical stunt. Your inability to do so should not be taken as a reflection on you -- the current zeitgeist is rigged against the very possibility of such a thing happening.

There are only two sacraments in the Church, baptism and the Lord's Supper. But these sacraments teach and instruct us about God's ways with man in all things, and so from them we should learn that many more things are sacramental. Sexual union is one such sacramental, or mystery, as Paul puts it in Eph. 5, and is at the beating heart of family government, and from that position it is necessarily at the heart of every civilization.

A people who screw this up are screwed up in everything. And everywhere we look, we see Christians accommodating themselves to these new sexual derangements outside the church, or preparing themselves for such accommodation when the opportune moment comes.

It will not do to prove your purity in the meantime by holding aloft a narrowly-construed and very truncated gospel, one that passes muster with our (equally narrow) doctrine cops. A truncated and inert gospel is no gospel at all. You will call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their . . . what?

One of the best books I have read in a long time was John Piper's God is the Gospel. As soon as I was done, I started right over at the beginning, and am reading it again now. It is required reading (especially chapter two) for all those believe that gospel purity can be accomplished by means of setting up a tiny little evangelical kennel, in which the gospel will be required to be a yippy dog thoroughbred. No, the gospel is as wide as the character of God Himself, and is therefore something which encompasses heaven and earth, and all that they contain. This is not to say that everything is the gospel, but it is to say that the gospel pervades everything. This includes, as it turns out, the sex lives of upscale urban professionals . . . who will almost certainly find a plain statement of this cosmic reality as judgmental and offputting.

Refusal to be specific about what these sins those might be is evangelical cowardice. But someone might reply that if he preached against sodomy, well, this would just get everyone in an uproar. Well, that's something we find in the New Testament, right? A total absence of uproar whenever the gospel is preached?

You might reply that if you tried that kind of message in Los Angeles or Manhattan, you would lose your audience. But if you leave out sin, there is no point in having an audience. There is a way of appealing to your audience which is just a (thinly) disguised way of revealing how much your audience has successfully appealed to you.

And it will not do to say that this is being done in order to winsomely reach those who have not yet heard the gospel. Those who construe the gospel as a limited set of propositions which, if affirmed in a repentance-free and abracadabra-like fashion, will get one's sorry butt into heaven may discover, at the end of the day, that this is not where their sorry butt actually went.

When the story of the collapse of academicky evangelicalism is finally written, compromises on these sexual issues will be right at the center of the autopsy. The coroner will have circled that business with a red pen.
When the winds of sexual doctrine finally blow over the cardboard cut-outs of John Knox and Hugh Latimer that we have set up in our Reformed Card and Gift Shop, there will be no end of a mess to clean up. Whenever a stiff breeze blows through this shop of ours, papers, cards, and cardboard go everywhere, cause that's all we have anymore . . . paper products.

What issues am I talking about? Here is a sampling, a representative list of issues that the respectable part of the conservative evangelical world is currently handling very badly -- headship and submission in marriage, women's ordination to the ministry, women's ordination to the diaconate, women enrolled in seminaries, women in combat roles in the military, evangelicals ceding control of what constitutes legitimate discourse about sodomy over to the perpetually offended, the legitimzation of sodomy as a federally protected vice, the delegitimization of opposition to said vice-nurturing, women doing everything an unordained man can do, pervasive hostility to genuine masculinity within the church, puff-translations of the Bible that cater to the heresy of feminism, complementarians becoming complimentarians, and the spectacle of effeminate homosexuals fighting for what they believe in a far more manly way than Christians do. How's that for starters?

Now I know that my reception at the great banquet of evangelicalism resembles, as the fellow once said, that of badly dressed leper. Quite all right. I won't stay long. I just had this message to deliver, and I'll be on my way.

Embarrassing Data

Never Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story

We have posted reasonably often upon the NZ historical temperature data series.  For overseas readers, New Zealand has a climatic government agency ("NIWA") which has published a temperature record for New Zealand stretching over one hundred years, ostensibly based upon actual temperature readings at certain temperature stations.  The official NIWA temperature record showed a warming trend during the twentieth century of 0.9 degrees Celsius.  This hard data was used to "prove" the global warming narrative and justify New Zealand establishing a cap and trade tax system upon all economic activity in New Zealand. 

Now, NIWA has withdrawn this data series.  It has done so only because a heretical group of climate scientists asked NIWA to produce not only the raw data, but also all the fudges and adjustments made to the data, together with justifications.  (This in the trade is known as hindcasting.  To produce a hindcast one goes back through the actual historical temperature records and adjusts the raw data, to, well, make it look more like you want it to look.)  NIWA refused to produce the data, the fudges, or the rationales.  You can read the backstory here and here.  The heretical group, known as the Climate Science Coalition, unhelpfully took NIWA to court seeking a judicial order to force them to fess up and put all the linen, dirty or not, on the table. 

NIWA eventually responded to the forthcoming court case by withdrawing the official temperature series and dumping it down the longest long-drop they could find.  They have now produced a new "semi-official" temperature data series.  This data series has gone back to the actual, original temperature data recorded through the century, essentially sans adjustments,  fiddles, and hindcasts. A spokesman for the Climate Science Coalition heretics has said in response to NIWA's new temperature series:
Mr Treadgold said the people of New Zealand, for the first time, now have an official (although provisional) temperature record of the last 100 years. It is provisional because NIWA still has two steps to take to complete the project:  it is working on calculations of the confidence intervals, or margins of error, which will be published later; and,it is yet to publish its methodology, which is to be independently peer-reviewed for a scientific journal.

Coalition scientists look forward to examining this new series closely over the coming months to determine its accuracy. The two steps outstanding from NIWA will be of great benefit in this regard.  Mr Treadgold said: “It’s reassuring to know that, for the first time ever, NIWA understands their own graph. This must be a tremendous relief for NIWA staff and management. It is certainly a relief for the NZ public.
What has changed?  Well, pretty much all of the hindcasting contortions of one Dr Jim Salinger have disappeared down the gurgler.  Salinger no longer works for NIWA.  Once its chief climate scientist (and NZ's leading authority on global warming) Salinger was fired for apparently unrelated matters.  For some time, NIWA stood by Salinger's data manipulations once he had gone, but under scrutiny and needing to put all the dirty linen out on the table, it has done the expedient thing--simply dumped the old Salinger hindcast, and produced one without the deft and gentle caresses of Salinger upon the data. We note, however, that Salinger was used as a consultant on this new series.  One presumes that Dr Jim has found "peer review" a bit more demanding than he wished.  His "new" series discredits his old one.  (Salinger, we note in passing, was trained at CRU, the now notorious UK institute which was at the centre of Climategate and has been exposed for, you guessed it, systemic data manipulation to support the public narrative of global warming.  In other words they too hindcasted to support a political narrative.) 
Almost all of the 34 adjustments made by Dr Jim Salinger to the 7SS have been abandoned, along with his version of the comparative station methodology.  NIWA is clearly not prepared to defend the adjustments exposed in "Are we feeling warmer yet?" But it took a court case to force them into a corner.
Secondly, and very uncomfortable presumably to NIWA, the new series shows that no warming has taken place in the New Zealand temperature record since 1960. Again, this,  from the heretics' press release:
NIWA makes the huge admission that New Zealand has experienced hardly any warming during the last half-century. For all their talk about warming, for all their rushed invention of the “Eleven-Station Series” to prove warming, this new series shows that no warming has occurred here since about 1960. Almost all the warming took place from 1940-60, when the IPCC says that the effect of CO2 concentrations was trivial. Indeed, global temperatures were falling during that period.
We suspect that this is why Salinger and NIWA had been busy in hindcasting.  The raw temperature record showed a 0.9 degree increase over one hundred years.  But not in a manner that supported the global warming narrative.  That required cooler temperatures in the first half of the century, and warming in the second half--what with all that CO2 spewing out into the atmosphere.  So Salinger and his colleagues artfully manipulated the actual data to hindcast that this was so.  Then they could use the "evidence" to support the narrative of global warming.

Thirdly, NIWA still has some work to do before this new data-narrative can be accepted as scientifically robust.  It has yet to calculate the margins of error for the series.  Moreover, it has yet to publish its methodology, which will then be peer reviewed by an appropriate scientific journal.  We expect that, since the temperature data stations are so few and their records so patchy, the margins of error will be considerable. (We suspect they may be well outside the 0.9 degree of warming shown in the new, revised data series).  Secondly, the peer review will tell us very little, because of the paucity of data. 

But, for the moment anyway, simply making things up to support a public narrative, then using a hindcast to "prove" the narrative appears, to have been ditched.  Morals of the story?  Moral Number One: never trust a scientist with fame and fortune in his eyes.  Moral Number Two: never trust a government scientist.  The temptation to serve obsequiously one's government masters is likely always too strong.

Now, for those interested in the data, here are some graphs:
Actual temperature data shows no warming for the last fifty years.

Now, here are the same weather stations, showing what happens when the hindcasting fix has been put in.  (Note that in all cases, the hindcasting has lowered the older actual temperature readings to "show" a recent warming trend.  The blue represents the actual temperature record; the red the adjusted hindcast "fix".)



H/T: No Minister