Thursday, May 20, 2010

more What I Read Today - Thursday May 20, 2010

From: The Wall Street Journal (online version)

Welfare Wagons

The new electric cars are powered by taxpayer credits.

Congratulations. You're about to buy a fancy new Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt . . . for someone else.

This is news masochists will want to grind their faces into after sending a big check last month to the IRS. GM's Volt is expected to arrive on the market first, in November. Nissan, whose all-electric Leaf will roll out in December, landed a preliminary blow last month, announcing a surprisingly modest price for an electric car of $25,280. That's after a $7,500 federal tax credit is counted.

Buyers will also have to spring for a $2,200 charging station, but another tax credit cuts the cost in half. Wonder why Nissan aims its first deliveries to California, Georgia and Tennessee? Those states will chip in additional consumer tax credits as high as $5,000.

GM originally floated a price of $40,000 for its Volt, but it certainly is rethinking that now. Neither car will make a profit for its maker. In their mental if not actual accounting, both undoubtedly will charge part of the cost to corporate marketing, since they hope the cars will lend a shine to their entire lineups. Both will mentally charge some of the cost to their pickup and SUV operations, since electric cars will create headroom under EPA rules to sell more of their bigger vehicles.

But understand something else: By pricing low and going for volume, Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn is making a calculated grab for the lion's share of the available tax dollars—and also pressuring Washington to extend the program when the money runs out.

Mr. Ghosn has made no secret of his expectations—"We are negotiating with the U.S. government to make sure we have a reasonable return on our investments and continue to develop the technology," he said last year.

And so a boondoggle is born. Last month, after a meeting with White House Car Czar Ron Bloom, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers produced a multipoint proposal for how the handouts can be made to flow more or less in perpetuity.

Let's concede that the Leaf and Volt will be nifty gadgets, but not unless we're going to start subsidizing Ferraris for the tiara set is it possible to imagine a more regressive tax subsidy.

In particular, the Leaf is a car for a wealthy hobbyist, good for a trip of 100 miles after which it becomes an inert lump at the end of your driveway (or behind a tow truck) for the many hours it will take to recharge.

The Volt at least is a car someone might live with, since it can run indefinitely on gasoline once its 40-mile battery charge runs out. Nonetheless, GM continues to make startling claims that the car will get 50 mpg in gas-powered mode and will have a 300-mile range—even as the company strangely declines to specify how many gallons the gas tank will hold.

Never mind. iPad lust applies to cars too, and early adopters can be expected to line up around the block. But it is insane to subsidize these vehicles with taxpayer dollars.

Even if you believe saving gasoline is a holy cause, subsidizing electric cars simply is not a substitute for politicians finding the courage to jack up gas prices. Think about it this way: You can double the fuel efficiency of any car by putting a second person in it. You can increase its fuel efficiency to infinity by refraining from frivolous trips.

These are the incentives that flow from a higher gas price. Exactly the opposite incentives flow from mandatory investment in higher-mileage vehicles. You paid a lot for a car that costs very little to operate—so why not operate it? Why bother to car pool? Why not drive across town for a jar of mayonnaise?

Though as eager as any to clamber aboard the electric-vehicle bandwagon, German parts maker Robert Bosch notes with rare honesty that electric cars may end up responsible for more CO2 than their conventional counterparts in regions (like much of the U.S.) where electricity is produced from coal.

Saving a certain magical amount of gasoline won't allow the U.S. to disentangle itself from the Middle East. It wouldn't allow the U.S. to walk away from its global policeman labors. We could convert all our cars to electricity and the U.S. would not willingly relinquish its military hegemony.

Unwillingly, of course, is a different matter. Tax handouts for electric vehicles are emblematic of an alarmingly childish refusal to take account of circumstances. The U.S. government is deeply in debt. In people and nations with their backs to the wall, one looks for signs of rationality. Running up more debt to subsidize electric runabouts for suburbanites is not such a sign.

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What I Read Today - Thursday May 20, 2010

From: Our Daily Bread

Don’t Forget

READ: Deut. 24:17-22

Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share. —1 Timothy 6:18Some mornings as I leave for work, my wife says to me, “Don’t forget to . . .” Later in the day, she’ll phone me and ask, “Did you forget?”

We all have a tendency to forget. I think that may be why God repeats important truths to us. Twice in Deuteronomy 24, the Lord reminded the Israelites that they were slaves in Egypt but they had been rescued and redeemed by Him (vv.18,22). Through Moses, He told them, “You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you from there” (v.18).

Because they had been redeemed, the Israelites had certain responsibilities that the Lord wanted them to remember. Moses said, “I command you to do this thing” (v.18). What was “this thing”? They were told to care for “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow” (v.19). If part of the harvest was left in the fields, they were to leave it for these needy people. He reminds them of the people in verses 20 and 21 also.

We are redeemed people through Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection. We too are told numerous times to be willing to share with those in need. Hebrews 13:16 says, “Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” — Albert Lee

For Further Study
Read the following Scriptures and determine how you might apply them to your life: Romans 12:1-13; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8; Titus 3:14.

Getting gratifies, but sharing satisfies.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

more What I Read Today - Wednesday May 19, 2010

From: The New York Times

Obama and the Oil Spill


President Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill has been disappointing.

I say that not because I endorse the dishonest conservative critique that the gulf oil spill is somehow Obama’s Katrina and that he is displaying the same kind of incompetence that George W. Bush did after that hurricane. To the contrary, Obama’s team has done a good job coordinating the cleanup so far. The president has been on top of it from the start.

No, the gulf oil spill is not Obama’s Katrina. It’s his 9/11 — and it is disappointing to see him making the same mistake George W. Bush made with his 9/11. Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those rare seismic events that create the possibility to energize the country to do something really important and lasting that is too hard to do in normal times.

President Bush’s greatest failure was not Iraq, Afghanistan or Katrina. It was his failure of imagination after 9/11 to mobilize the country to get behind a really big initiative for nation-building in America. I suggested a $1-a-gallon “Patriot Tax” on gasoline that could have simultaneously reduced our deficit, funded basic science research, diminished our dependence on oil imported from the very countries whose citizens carried out 9/11, strengthened the dollar, stimulated energy efficiency and renewable power and slowed climate change. It was the Texas oilman’s Nixon-to-China moment — and Bush blew it.

Had we done that on the morning of 9/12 — when gasoline averaged $1.66 a gallon — the majority of Americans would have signed on. They wanted to do something to strengthen the country they love. Instead, Bush told a few of us to go to war and the rest of us to go shopping. So today, gasoline costs twice as much at the pump, with most of that increase going to countries hostile to our values, while China is rapidly becoming the world’s leader in wind, solar, electric cars and high-speed rail. Heck of a job.

Sadly, President Obama seems intent on squandering his environmental 9/11 with a Bush-level failure of imagination. So far, the Obama policy is: “Think small and carry a big stick.” He is rightly hammering the oil company executives. But he is offering no big strategy to end our oil addiction. Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have unveiled their new energy bill, which the president has endorsed but only in a very tepid way. Why tepid? Because Kerry-Lieberman embraces vitally important fees on carbon emissions that the White House is afraid will be exploited by Republicans in the midterm elections. The G.O.P., they fear, will scream carbon “tax” at every Democrat who would support this bill, and Obama, having already asked Democrats to make a hard vote on health care, feels he can’t ask them for another.

I don’t buy it. In the wake of this historic oil spill, the right policy — a bill to help end our addiction to oil — is also the right politics. The people are ahead of their politicians. So is the U.S. military. There are many conservatives who would embrace a carbon tax or gasoline tax if it was offset by a cut in payroll taxes or corporate taxes, so we could foster new jobs and clean air at the same time. If Republicans label Democrats “gas taxers” then Democrats should label them “Conservatives for OPEC” or “Friends of BP.” Shill, baby, shill.

Why is Obama playing defense? Just how much oil has to spill into the gulf, how much wildlife has to die, how many radical mosques need to be built with our gasoline purchases to produce more Times Square bombers, before it becomes politically “safe” for the president to say he is going to end our oil addiction? Indeed, where is “The Obama End to Oil Addiction Act”? Why does everything have to emerge from the House and Senate? What does he want? What is his vision? What are his redlines? I don’t know. But I do know that without a fixed, long-term price on carbon, none of the president’s important investments in clean power research and development will ever scale.

Obama has assembled a great team that could help him make his case — John Holdren, science adviser; Carol Browner, energy adviser; Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winner; and Lisa Jackson, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency. But they have been badly underutilized by the White House. I know endangered species that are seen by the public more often than them.

Obama is not just our super-disaster-coordinator. “He is our leader,” noted Tim Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics. “And being a leader means telling the rest of us what’s our job, what do we need to do to make this a transformative moment.”

Please don’t tell us that our role is just to hate BP or shop in Mississippi or wait for a commission to investigate. We know the problem, and Americans are ready to be enlisted for a solution. Of course we can’t eliminate oil exploration or dependence overnight, but can we finally start? Mr. President, your advisers are wrong: Americans are craving your leadership on this issue. Are you going to channel their good will into something that strengthens our country — “The Obama End to Oil Addiction Act” — or are you going squander your 9/11, too?

What I Read Today - Wednesday May 19, 2010

From: Our Daily Bread

Secondhand Faith

READ: Judges 2:6-12

Another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. —Judges 2:10When I was growing up in Singapore, I remember that some of my school friends were kicked out of their homes by their non-Christian parents for daring to believe in Jesus Christ. They suffered for their beliefs and emerged with stronger convictions. By contrast, I was born and raised in a Christian family. Though I didn’t suffer persecution, I too had to make my convictions my own.

The Israelites who first entered the Promised Land with Joshua saw the mighty acts of God and believed (Judg. 2:7). But sadly, the very next generation “did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel” (v.10). So it was not long before they turned aside to worship other gods (v.12). They didn’t make their parents’ faith their own.

No generation can live off the faith of the previous generation. Every generation needs a firsthand faith. When faced with trouble of any kind, the faith that is not personalized is likely to drift and falter.

Those who are second, third, or even fourth generation Christians have a wonderful legacy, to be sure. However, there’s no secondhand faith! Find out what God says in His Word and personalize it so that yours is a fresh, firsthand faith (Josh. 1:8). — C. P. Hia

O for a faith that will not shrink
Though pressed by many a foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe! —Bathurst

If your faith is not personalized, it’s not faith.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What I Read Today - Tuesday May 18, 2010

From: Our Daily Bread

Triumphing Over Giants

READ: 1 Samuel 17:33-50

The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. —1 Samuel 17:37In 1935, the debate team of Wiley College, a small and unranked black school in Texas, unexpectedly defeated the all-white championship team from the University of Southern California. This was a classic case of the unknown triumphing over a national giant.

When ancient Israel was in peril at the hands of the Philistines, there was a boy named David who actually triumphed over a giant (1 Sam. 17). The armies were drawn up on opposite sides of the Valley of Elah. They were probably afraid of one another and decided that the outcome of the battle should be determined by a battle of champions. The Philistines offered Goliath, a giant (about 9'9"), but Israel could not find anyone who was worthy or brave enough to fight. David heard of the dilemma and appealed to Saul to let him fight Goliath (vv.32-37). Saul was reluctant, but he agreed. David, armed with five smooth stones (v.40) and unswerving faith in the Almighty God (v.45), triumphed over the Philistines’ national champion.

We all face giants in our lives—worry, doubt, fear, sin, and guilt. But with limited and unlikely resources and unswerving confidence in our all-powerful God, we too can triumph over them. — Marvin Williams

Come, Lord, and give me courage—
Thy conquering Spirit give;
Make me an overcomer
In power within me live. —Anon.

God gives us courage to challenge our giants

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What I Read Today - May 12, 2010

From: Our Daily Bread

The Boat

READ: Acts 6:1-7

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. —1 Peter 4:10A group of teenagers on a ministry trip in Jamaica were enjoying some downtime with a game of Ultimate Frisbee. But when someone noticed that a boat had overturned off a nearby beach, the game ended and the teens eagerly rushed to the water to help.

There they found a small group of professional boat operators struggling with their craft—trying to turn it upright. That’s where the teens could help. They waded in, put their young strength to work, and together they were able to right the boat.

What happened that day in the Caribbean Sea reminds me of what can happen in the church. The “professionals,” the pastor and others who are trained to lead the church, face a task they can’t do alone. It’s often a struggle to get the work of the church done until laypeople join in and work alongside the leadership.

This was the situation in Acts 6. Some people in the church were being neglected, and the “professionals,” the apostles who were leading the church, realized they couldn’t do everything by themselves. Only when seven laypeople pitched in to help the leaders could the church proceed.

How can you come alongside your pastor and other leaders to help keep your church moving ahead? — Dave Branon

O Lord, help me in every way
To have a faithful heart;
Teach me to love and serve Your church,
And always do my part. —Fitzhugh

Teamwork divides the effort and multiplies the effect.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

more What I Read Today - Wednesday May 5, 2010

From: Our Daily Bread

Letting God Choose

READ: Genesis 13:9-13

Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan. —Genesis 13:11We may have secret longings too deep to utter to others—perhaps a desire for marriage, or a work or ministry we’d like to perform, or a special place to serve. We must put each desire in God’s hands and pray, “Lord, You must choose for me. I will not choose for myself.”

Genesis 13:10-11 tells us that Lot made his own choice about a desire he had. He “lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere . . . like the garden of the Lord . . . . Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan.”

The plain of Jordan, with its rich soil and copious water supply, looked best to Lot. But the land was polluted with wickedness (v.13). Pastor Ray Stedman wrote that “Lot, presuming to run his own life, ‘chose for himself,’ and, deceived by what he saw, stumbled blindly into heartache and judgment. Abram, on the other hand, was content to let God choose for him. . . . Abram saw it in its true light.” Lot chose for himself and lost everything—his family, his fortune, his favor with man.

It is always the best course for us to let God choose and to follow His direction, knowing as we do that all our heavenly Father’s choices are prompted by infinite wisdom and love. — David H. Roper

Long ago I made my life’s decision
To serve the Lord and have Him choose my way;
And when I’ve felt uncertain at a crossroad,
He’s never failed to lead me day by day. —Hess

Contentment comes when we want God’s will more than our own way.

What I Read Today - Wednesday May 5, 2010

From: The New York Times - Wednesday May 5, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist

No Fooling Mother Nature

There is only one meaningful response to the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and that is for America to stop messing around when it comes to designing its energy and environmental future. The only meaningful response to this man-made disaster is a man-made energy bill that would finally put in place an American clean-energy infrastructure that would set our country on a real, long-term path to ending our addiction to oil.

That is so obviously the right thing for our environment, the right thing for our national security, the right thing for our economic security and the right thing to promote innovation. But it means that we have to stop messing around with idiotic “drill, baby, drill” nostrums, feel-good Earth Day concerts and the paralyzing notion that the American people are not prepared to do anything serious to change our energy mix.

This oil spill is to the environment what the subprime mortgage mess was to the markets — both a wake-up call and an opportunity to galvanize a constituency for radical change that overcomes the powerful lobbies and vested interests that want to keep us addicted to oil.

If President Obama wants to seize this moment, it is there for the taking. We have one of the worst environmental disasters in American history on our hands. We have a public deeply troubled by what they’ve seen already — and they’ve probably seen only the first reel of this gulf horror show. And we have a bipartisan climate/energy/jobs bill ready to be introduced in the Senate — produced by Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham — that would set a price on carbon and begin to shift us to a system of cleaner fuels, greater energy efficiency and unlock an avalanche of private capital to the clean energy market.

American industry is ready to act and is basically saying to Washington: “Every major country in the world, starting with China, is putting in clear, long-term market rules to stimulate clean energy — except America. Just give us some clear rules, and we’ll do the rest.”

The Kerry-Lieberman-Graham bill is an important step in that direction. It is far from perfect. It includes support for more off-shore drilling, nuclear power and concessions to coal companies. In light of the spill, we need to make this bill better. At a minimum, we need much tighter safeguards on off-shore drilling. There is going to be a lot of pressure to go even further, but we need to remember that even if we halted all off-shore drilling, all we would be doing is moving the production to other areas outside the U.S., probably with even weaker environmental laws.

Somehow a compromise has to be found to move forward on this bill — or one like it. But even before the gulf oil spill, this bill was in limbo because the White House and Senate Democrats broke a promise to Senator Graham, the lone Republican supporting this effort, not to introduce a controversial immigration bill before energy. At the same time, President Obama has kept his support low-key, fearing that if he loudly endorses a price on carbon, Republicans will be screaming “carbon tax” and “gasoline tax” in the 2010 midterm elections.

Bottom line: This bill has no chance to pass unless President Obama gets behind it with all his power, mobilizes the public and rounds up the votes. He has to lead from the front, not the rear. Responding to this oil spill could well become the most important leadership test of the Obama presidency. The president has always had the right instincts on energy, but he is going to have to decide just how much he wants to rise to this occasion — whether to generate just an emergency response that over months ends the spill or a systemic response that over time ends our addiction. Needless to say, it would be a lot easier for the president to lead if more than one Republican in the Senate was ready to lift a finger to help him.

Our dependence on crude oil is not just a national-security or climate problem. Some 40 percent of America’s fish catch comes out of the gulf, whose states also depend heavily on coastal tourism. In addition, the Chandeleur Islands off the Louisiana coast are part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. It was created by Teddy Roosevelt and is one of our richest cornucopias of biodiversity.

As the energy consultant David Rothkopf likes to say, sometimes a problem reaches a point of acuity where there are just two choices left: bold action or permanent crisis. This is such a moment for our energy system and environment.

If we settle for just an incremental response to this crisis — a “Hey, that’s our democracy. What more can you expect?” — we’ll be sorry. You can’t fool Mother Nature. She knows when we’re just messing around. Mother Nature operates by her own iron laws. And if we violate them, there is no lobby or big donor to get us off the hook. No, what’s gone will be gone. What’s ruined will be ruined. What’s extinct will be extinct — and later, when we’re finally ready to stop messing around, it will be too late.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What I Read Today - Tuesday April 4, 2010

From: Our Daily Bread

God’s Devotion

READ: Ephesians 3:14-21

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend . . . the love of Christ which passes knowledge. —Ephesians 3:17-19In 1826, the British author Thomas Carlyle married Jane Welsh, who also was an accomplished writer. She dedicated herself to his success and served him wholeheartedly.

Because of a stomach ailment and a nervous disorder, he had a rather ornery temperament. So she made special meals for him and tried to keep the house as quiet as possible so he could do his writing.

Thomas didn’t often recognize Jane’s helpful spirit nor did he spend much time with her. However, he wrote this about her to his mother: “I may say in my heart that she . . . loves me with a devotedness which is a mystery to me how I have ever deserved. She . . . looks with such soft cheerfulness into my gloomy countenance, that new hope passed into me every time I met her eye.”

We too have Someone who loves us with a devotedness that is a mystery how we as sinners ever deserved it! He is God the Father, “who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). His love is wide, long, deep, and high and exceeds our knowledge (Eph. 3:18-19).

Understanding and appreciating God’s love is so vital that Paul prayed for the Ephesians to be “rooted and grounded” in it (v.17). May that be our experience as well. — Anne Cetas

I can always count on God, my heavenly Father,
For He changes not; He always is the same;
Yesterday, today, forever, He is faithful,
And I know He loves me, praise His holy name. —Felten

There is no greater joy than to know God loves you.