Democrats, the Party of Cruelty?

Sure looks that way…

Some Republicans might not like that we are gay, and might not like that we support the Clintons, but no Republican has ever threatened our lives, libeled us, thrown rocks through our windows, punched us in the face, or sought to deprive us of employment opportunities and ruin our good names.  Leftists did all of those things, because we do not support “The One”, oh He of the Hope and the Change.

The most a Republican ever did was say, “I’m going to pray for you boys so the Lord straightens you out, and then you’ll get nice wives”.  Which, honestly, is kind of sweet, considering the source and knowing the intent was something along the lines of “I really like you guys and I believe you have been challenged and I am praying for you because I want you to have a happy life like I have so that you can be happy as I am the way I understand happiness”.

The Left, should you not agree with them, will pound you and hit you and beat you into the ground until you submit.  If you won’t ever buckle, they will just seek to destroy you, throwing every possible weapon they can dream up your way.

Kind of like they did (literally) to Hege Storhaug…

Simon Cowell Engaged to an Afghan

I don’t normally follow this kind of stuff, but I can’t resist this one…

It’s official. Simon Cowell is getting married!

Beautiful Mezhgan Hussainy told RadarOnline.com exclusively that she and Simon are officially engaged.

Until now, there have been only whispers and rumors about the couple possibly getting married — but their plans have been a secret…

Mezhgan, 36, is an Afghanistan native and has been dating Simon for nearly a year, according to previous statement’s by Simon’s publicist Max Clifford.

As we say in Tennessee–another place that produces ornery mountain people–Mezhgan is probably the only one Cowell could find who can stand him.

The U.S. military has found out that the Afghans are good fighters, and if he hasn’t already, Cowell will find this out too.  But he deserves it.

Women in Ministry and Authority in Churches: A Response to the Ugley Vicar

It seems that the prospect of women in ministry–and especially women as diocesan bishops–is always linked to a discussion of the nature of authority in churches.  That was certainly the case in my own 2007 piece on the subject, Authority and Evangelical Churches, and now the CoE’s “Ugley Vicar” takes on the issue in his own post Anglicanism, Authority and Ordination.  Although our two church environments are different (they are both episcopal in nature, however) many of the underlying issues are the same.

One point I’d like to make from the outset is this: if it is unacceptable for a woman to have any kind of authority over a man at an episcopal level, i.e., a female bishop over a male priest/minister, than it’s unacceptable for a woman vicar/pastor to have the same kind of authority over a male layman.  The reverse is likewise true.  Once you allow women in what many of us would refer to as “credentialled” ministry, then you’ve blown your argument about the authority issue at a higher level.  That’s the situation that both the CoE and my own church find themselves in right at the moment.

But John Richardson (the Ugley Vicar) introduces something into the debate which, frankly, I wish I had explicitly done sooner: the concept of more than one kind of authority.  Taking his cue from John Goldingay’s book Authority in Ministry, he comes up with the following:

In it, he identified two kinds of authority. Authority A is the institutional kind possessed by the centurion, who said to one man “‘Go’ and he goes, to another ‘Come’ and he comes.” Authority B, he said, is the kind possessed by Jesus who, “spoke with authority because he was in touch with God and with truth” (8).

Goldingay then went on to consider the implications for the church’s ministry, with the following observation:
… in the church it is the position of elder-presbyter-priest/bishop that has become, as it developed clearly into two offices, the most important locus of Authority A in the church. (22)
Goldingay’s distinction may be criticized in the details of presentation (did Jesus not possess an ‘Authority A’, precisely as recognize by the centurion?), but it is helpful in considering the nature of authority itself, particularly as it applies to the ordained ministry. For what many members of the Church of England do not realize is just how much the authority of their ‘hierarchy’ is an Authority A, not B.

Richardson then spends a great deal of time applying this to the CoE.  To be honest, much of the discussion is specific to his church, a state church where “Authority A” is tied up in its legal status.  One thing he brings out that is relevant to my earlier treatment of the subject is the nature of the Act of Supremacy: he states the following:

The engineers of the 1534 Act of Supremacy viewed it as a tidying-up operation, not so much extending of the rule of the monarch as removing the interference of the Pope.

That’s significant because, if one accepts the “engineers” premise, it absolves Anglicanism (or at least the C0E) of the great besetting problem with most of Evangelical Christianity, the one that is at the centre of my whole thesis in Authority and Evangelical Churches:

The honest truth is that every Evangelical church–without exception–is the result of an act of rebellion from constituted ecclesiastical authority. That trend started with Protestant churches in general, although most of these complicated the issue by their alliance with the state.  But look where it went from there.  The Methodists seceded from the Anglicans, the holiness and Pentecostal churches in their turn seceded from the Methodists, and the Baptists simply seceded from everybody including themselves.  The multitude of denominations is a testament of one secession from another, of one rebellion against existing authority after another.

What I’d like to spend the rest of this piece doing is to generalise his concept of “Authority A” and “Authority B” and perhaps use this to shed some light for the rest of us who are involved with this issue.

If one looks at things objectively, any organisation–secular or religious–requires Authority A to function.  That just goes with the territory.  There’s nothing unique to the church about this.  This applies whether the church has state sanction (as is the case in the UK and many European countries) or not (the US.)  It also applies if the church is incorporated or an unincorporated religious association (and we see both in all parts of the world.)  And I’m also inclined to think that this kind of authority isn’t what is referred to in the New Testament when the subject comes up.  In fact, some writers (the Jesuit John McKenzie comes to mind) contend that one of the main points of the New Testament is that the church get past this kind of authority altogether.

Authority B is another matter altogether.  Although it certainly has New Testament sanction, how it’s implemented varies depending upon the ecclesiastical environment.

At one end of the spectrum is Roman Catholicism, whose implementation of this is tied up in the concept of magisterium, the inherent ability of the Church to authoritatively speak on matters of faith and morals.  That in turn is tied up with its ecclesiology, and I’ve discussed that issue many times on this blog, starting many years ago with We May Not Be a Church After All.  I’ve always felt that the Roman Catholic Church can never admit the sacerdotal ministry of women because of this and many other issues, unless they modify their underlying idea of themselves.  In this environment, Authorities A and B are effectively a unity.

At the other end are the “independent” Evangelical churches (the Baptists in this part of the world are foremost in this) who have, whether they care to admit it or not, evicted Authority B from their churches altogether.  They have done this through the aforementioned process of rebellion to be sure, but they have also done so because their concept of church is a complete rejection of the church possessing either the magisterium or the status of a formal intermediary between man and God.  As a consequence of this they have no grounds to exclude women from credentialled ministry unless they can demonstrate that Authority A is what the New Testament refers to.  Today, however, what we’re seeing in many Evangelical churches is a de facto entry of Authority B into the church, something which I think is objectionable and defeats the whole purpose of such churches.

Somewhere in this mix are the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches and groups, whose idea is to restore the spontaneous, Spirit-led appointment to leadership that we saw in the New Testament.  This is the mirror image of the usual Evangelical model: it has a clear concept of Authority B but in a sense evicts Authority A from the church.  This has in turn led to the woes the movement has experienced: lack of accountability, self-validating leadership and ephemeral organisations.  The Classical Pentecostal churches were the first attempt to fix these problems, and have done so in varying ways and with varying degrees of success.  Most of these lessons had to be learned the hard way once again during the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960’s and 1970’s, with even more variation in the results.  Women have always done relatively well here because of the Spirit-led nature of leadership, underscored by the explicit conferring of the gift of prophecy on women in Joel and Acts (something that Lord Carey likes to note.)  But back-pedalling has taken place here too, as we all know.

With Anglicanism, we have a muddle.

Richardson points out that, in the formation of the Church of England, the whole concept of the sovereign being a part of the doctrinal formation of the church was taken out of the equation.  English sovereigns had good precedent for doing so, as Roman Emperors made the fourth and fifth centuries an exciting time picking winners and losers in the Christological controversies.  But they, wanting a Protestant church (especially Edward VI and Elizabeth I) passed this up.  The 39 Articles notwithstanding, the Church of England also passed up the explicit assumption of magisterium, preferring to see itself as a restoration of New Testament and Patristic Christianity that had gotten lost in Roman Catholicism.  And I’ve always been inclined to think that Anglicanism is one of the better attempts to get back to this, all things considered.

But having done all of these “Protestant” things, the Church of England still retains the decidedly “Catholic” structure of bishops as successors to the Apostles.  And that’s where the tricky part comes in.  It’s true that the CoE’s ministers and bishops have legal authority and a structure, the “Authority A.”  But as bishops women would have (in theory at least; as Richardson alludes to, it doesn’t always work out) whatever spiritual authority comes from the “Catholic” side of the episcopacy, and, as he points out, for those who see this as an impossible combination, no provision has been made.

Given Anglicanism’s equivocal nature (and I mean that in the scholastic, not pejorative sense,) I think that there are three possibilities for resolution.

The first would be to actually adopt a consistent, univocal theory of the authority of the church, i.e., either Roman Catholic, Evangelical or even Charismatic.  Given that this hasn’t been properly resolved on either side of the Atlantic, this is unlikely, and given some Evangelicals aversion to women as ministers (let alone bishops) it may not resolve anything.

The second is that of parallel jurisdictions.  This flies in the face of the concept of the “holy Catholic and apostolic church,” but the blunt truth is that, considering these churches as a whole, we already have parallel jurisdictions.  As Richardson reminds us, the Articles state that “The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England,” but subsequent to that he established a presence in the UK and has certainly made a nuisance of himself lately.  (Personally, I think the term “flying bishops” used in this context is a promotional scheme for the airlines, but I digress…)

The third would be for the church, as have many churches, simply decide to ordain women as bishops and let the chips fall where they may.  And that’s what I think is going to happen.

I’ve been a supporter of women at all levels in ministry, and remain so.  But that support is based on an ecclesiastical environment where churches have either a) denied, b) forfeited or c) adopted a Charismatic concept of “Authority B.”   Taking this step needs to be done with a clear idea of authority in the church, and very few have thought this issue through.  Richardson is to be commended for having explored the issue the way he has.

Highway Trust Fund to Shut Down Monday

The opposite of progress is at it again:

The federal Highway Trust Fund will shut down first thing Monday, suspending all payments to state transportation departments, and four U.S. Department of Transportation agencies are expected to furlough employees beginning Tuesday after Congress was unable to reach an agreement this week on legislation to extend surface transportation authorization past its Sunday expiration date.

“No reimbursements to states for their share of federal highway funds, no vouchers they have submitted or will submit to the Federal Administration will be able to be paid beginning Monday, March 1,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-MN, told reporters on a conference call this afternoon. “The shutdown of the federal highway program means the Federal Highway Administration will not be able to reimburse states for any federal highway or transit funds.”

The immediate cause is the following:

Senate Democratic leaders kept the chamber in session until near midnight late Thursday night attempting to gain approval of the House’s one-month extension bill. However, Sen. Jim Bunning, R-KY, continued objecting to multiple requests to adopt the legislation by unanimous consent. Under Senate rules, all senators must concur to passing a bill without a formal debate or vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, said Bunning was the only senator who refused to agree to allow the bill to pass to buy Congress an additional month to work out an agreement on a longer-term extension.

Bunning said he objected because the extensions were not paid for. He proposed covering the bill’s $10.3 billion cost by rescinding unobligated balances from the recovery act, an amendment Reid declined to accept.

“I’ll be here as long as you’re here and as long as all those other senators are here and I’m going to object every time because you won’t pay for this and you propose never to pay for it,” Bunning said Thursday night. “We have a debt of $14 trillion. We can’t sustain it.”

This is one place where I profoundly disagree with many in my own party.  Transportation spending, especially if properly done, is an investment with productivity returns for our economy, and they in the long run pay for themselves.  This is more than one can say for most entitlement programs (which take such a large portion of our budget,) but even the Republicans are scared to take those on.

Beneath the surface, however, we have this problem:

In the House, Oberstar opposes the Senate’s 10-month authorization language because of three significant differences with what the House has approved.

Oberstar said in a statement issued last Friday that he has serious concerns regarding how the Senate’s version earmarks two discretionary highway categories so that four states (California, Illinois, Louisiana, and Washington state) receive 58 percent of the $932 million allocated and 22 states receive zero. The House version would allow the U.S. Department of Transportation to select projects to use the categories’ funds on a competitive basis based on merit. The two categories are Projects of National and Regional Significance and the National Corridor Infrastructure Improvement Program.

That could be driving much of this logjam.  It’s the same problem we saw in the health care debate.  Many state DOT’s have the reputation for serious politicisation of their road spending; if we start making this a habit on the federal level, we’re going to have serious problems.

Tony Perkins Gets the Boot From the National Prayer Luncheon

Disappointing but unsurprising:

Two days after President Obama’s State of the Union speech, in which he announced plans to repeal “Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” Perkins received a letter from the chaplain’s office at Andrews rescinding the invitation.

The letter cited Family Research Council statements calling them “incompatible in our role as military members who serve our elected officials and our commander in chief.”

The current main preoccupation of the military these days is to combat Islamic careerists in their quest for the expansion of the dar-al-salaam.  As a Vanderbilt University faculty member reminded us recently, homosexuality is punishable by death under Islamic law and the implementation of that law is a goal of same careerists.

The LGBT community has two choices: it can either allow the military (where Evangelicals are well represented) to protect them from their real enemies or it can demoralise large portions of the population to the point where they won’t bother to defend others’ right to exist.  To some extent, that’s what happened in the Roman Empire (in that case over taxation and the government’s suppression of groups such as the Donatists and Monophysites) in the years before Muhammad’s successors swept out of Arabia and conquered much of the civilised world.

Coastal Engineering in the Classical World

Another excerpt from the Coastal Engineering Manual, this time concerning coastal development and construction in the Greco-Roman world and before that.  It should be of interest to ancient history aficionados and engineers alike.

I-3-1.  Ancient World

The history of coastal engineering reaches back to the ancient world bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf.  Coastal engineering, as it relates to harbours, starts with the development of maritime traffic, perhaps before 3500 B.C.  Shipping was fundamental to culture and the growth of civilization, and the expansion of navigation and communication in turn drove the practice of coastal engineering.  The availability of a large slave labour force during this era meant that docks, breakwaters, and other harbour works were built by hand and often in a grand scale similar to their monumental contemporaries, pyramids, temples, and palaces.  Some of the harbour works are still visible today, while others have recently been explored by archaeologists.  Most of the grander ancient harbour works disappeared following the fall of the Roman Empire.  Earthquakes have buried some of the works, others have been submerged by subsidence, landlocked by silting, or lost through lack of maintenance.  Recently, archaeologists, using modern survey techniques, excavations, and old documents, have revealed some of the sophisticated engineering in these old harbours.  Technically interesting features have shown up and are now reappearing in modern port designs.  Common to most ancient ports was a well-planned and effectively located seawall or breakwater for protection and a quay or mole for loading vessels, features frequently included in modern ports (Quinn  1972).

Most ancient coastal efforts were directed to port structures, with the exception of a few places where life depended on coastline protection.  Venice and its lagoon is one such case.  Here, sea defenses (hydraulic and military) were necessary for the survival of the narrow coastal strips, and impressive shore protection works built by the Venetians are still admired.  Very few written reports on the ancient design and construction of coastal structures have survived.  A classic treatise by Vitruvius (27 B.C.) relating the Roman engineering experience, has survived (Pollio, Rowland, and Howe 1999).  Greek and Latin literature by Herodotus, Josephus, Suetonius, Pliny, Appian, Polibus, Strabo, and others provide limited descriptions of the ancient coastal works.  They show the ancients’ ability to understand and handle various complex physical phenomena with limited empirical data and simple computational tools.  They understood such phenomena as the Mediterranean currents and wind patterns and the wind-wave cause-effect link.  The Romans are credited with first introducing wind roses (Franco 1996).

I-3-2.  Pre-Roman Times

Most early harbours were natural anchorages in favourable geographical conditions such as sheltered bays behind capes or peninsulas, behind coastal islands, at river mouths, inside lagoons, or in deep coves.  Short breakwaters were eventually added to supplement the natural protection.   The harbours, used for refuge, unloading of goods, and access to fresh water, were closely spaced to accommodate the safe day-to-day transfer of the shallow draft wooden vessels which sailed coast-wise at speeds of only 3-5 knots.

Ancient ports can be divided into three groups according to their structural patterns and the development of engineering skill (Frost 1963).

a. The earliest were rock cut, in that natural features like offshore reefs were adapted to give shelter to craft riding at anchor.

b. In the second group, vertical walls were built on convenient shallows to serve as breakwaters and moles.  Harbours of this type were in protected bays, and often the walls connected with the defences of a walled town (for example, ancient Tyre on the Lebanese coast).  Often these basins were closable to traffic using chains to prevent the entry of enemy ships (Franco 1996).

c. The third group were harbours that were imposed on even unpromising coasts by use of Roman innovations such as the arch and improved hydraulic cement.  Projects like this required the engineering, construction, and financing resources of a major empire. All ancient ports had one thing in common: they had to be kept clear of silt at a time when mechanical dredging was unknown.  This was accomplished by various means.  One was by designing the outer parts of the harbour so that they deflected silt-bearing currents.  The second was by allowing a controlled current to flow through the port or by flushing it out when necessary by means of channels.  For example, at Sidon, a series of tanks (like swimming pools) were cut into the harbour side of a natural rock reef.  The tanks filled with clear water that was held in place with sluice gates.  When the gates were opened, currents of clear water would flush the inner harbour.  Documentary and archaeological evidence show that both Tyre and Sidon were flourishing and powerful ports from the Bronze Age through the Roman era and must therefore have been kept clear of silt for over a thousand years (Frost 1963).  Another method of preventing silt consisted of diverting rivers through canals so that during part or much of the year, the flow would enter the sea at location
well away from the harbour.

The origins of breakwaters are unknown.  The ancient Egyptians built boat basins with breakwaters on the Nile River at Zoser’s (Djoser) step pyramid (ca. 2500 B.C.) (Inman 2001).  The Minoans constructed a breakwater at Nirou Khani on Crete long before the explosion of Santorini (Thera) in ca. 1500 B.C.  The breakwater was small and constructed of material taken from nearby dune rock quarries (Inman 1974, Figure 4).  In the Mediterranean, size and sophistication of breakwaters increased over time as the Egyptian, Phoenician, Greco-Macedonian, and Roman civilizations developed and evolved.  Breakwaters were built in China but generally at a later date than in the Mediterranean.

Probably the most sophisticated man-made harbour of this era was the first harbour of Alexandria, Egypt, built west of Pharos Island about 1800 B.C. by the Minoans.  The main basin, built to accommodate 400 ships about 35 m in length, was 2,300 m long, 300 m wide and 6-10 m deep.   Large stone blocks were used in the many breakwaters and docks in the harbour.  Alexander the Great and his Greek successors rebuilt the harbour (300-100 B.C.) in monumental scale.  The Island of Pharos was joined to the mainland by a 1.5 km breakwater with two openings dividing two basins with an area of 368 hectares (910 acres) and 15 km of quay front.  Alexandria is probably best known for the 130m-high lighthouse tower used to guide ships on a featureless coast to the port from 50 km at sea.  The multi-storied building was built with solid blocks of stone cemented together with melted lead and lined with white stone slabs.  Considered one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, it eventually collapsed due to earthquakes between 1326 and 1349 (Franco 1996, Empereur 1997).

Another feature of the Greek harbours was the use of colossal statues to mark the entrances.  Colossal statues of King Ptolemy, which stood at the base of the lighthouse, have been found with the lighthouse debris. Historians report the most famous harbour statue was the 30 m high Colossus of Rhodes, which stood on the breakwater heads.  Three ancient windmill towers are still surviving upon the Rhodes breakwater (Franco 1996).  Frost (1963) notes that the Greeks had used hydraulic cement long before the Romans.

I-3-3.  Roman Times

The Romans introduced many revolutionary innovations in harbour design.  They learned to build walls underwater and constructed solid breakwaters to protect exposed harbours.  They used metal joints and clamps to fasten neighbouring blocks together and are often credited with discovering hydraulic cement made with pozzolanic ash obtained from the volcanic region near Naples, which hardens underwater.  Frost (1963) notes that the Greeks had used hydraulic cement long before the Romans.  The Romans replaced many of the Greek rubble mound breakwaters with vertical and composite concrete walls.  These monolithic coastal structures could be built rapidly and required little maintenance.  In some cases wave reflection may have been used to prevent silting.  In most cases, rubble or large stone slabs were placed in front of the walls to protect
against toe scour.  The Romans developed cranes and pile drivers and used them extensively in their construction.  This technology also led them to develop dredges.  Another advanced technique used for deep-water applications was the watertight floating cellular caisson, precursor of the modern day monolithic breakwater.  They also used low, water-surface breakwaters to trip the waves before they reached the main breakwater.  The peculiar feature of the vertical wall breakwater at Thapsus (Rass Dimas, Tunisia) was the presence of vents through the wall to reduce wave impact forces.  This idea is used today in the construction of perforated caisson breakwaters (Franco 1996).

Using some of these techniques, the Romans built sophisticated breakwaters at Aquileia, Italy (ca. 180 B.C.), and at Caesarea, Israel (ca. 20 B.C.).  The south-western breakwater at Caesarea contained a “forebreakwater” that acted as a submerged reef that “trips” the wave causing it to break and dissipate energy before encountering the main breakwater  (Inman 2001).

The largest man-made harbour complex was the imperial port of Rome;  the maritime town at the mouth of the Tiber River was named Portus (The Port).  It is now some four km from the sea, partly buried under Rome-Fiumicino airport.  Despite its importance to the capital of the empire, (300,000 tons/year of wheat from Egypt and France), the harbour always suffered siltation from the river.  Trajan, who also built the ports of Terracina and Centumcellae, built Portus’ inner hexagonal basin.  The port of Centumcellae was built just to serve his villa at a site with favourable rocky morphology.  A grandiose engineering project between 107-106 B.C. created a sheltered bathing and boating retreat.  Slaves from all parts of the empire excavated a harbour and hauled in massive stones to create an artificial harbour to dampen the force of the waves.  After the decline of Portus, it became, and remains, the Port of Rome.  After remaining unchanged for over 1,000 years, the inner Roman Basin, which was dredged from rock (200,000 m3 or 260,000 yd3), is still in use.  Roman engineers also constructed harbours in northern Europe along the main waterways of the Rhine and Danube and in Lake Geneva.  They became the first dredgers in the Netherlands to maintain the harbour at Velsen.

Silting problems here were solved when the previously sealed solid piers were replaced with new “open”- piled jetties.  In general, the Romans spread their technology throughout the western world.  Their harbours became independent infrastructures, with their own buildings and storage sheds as opposed to the pre-Roman fortified city-enclosed harbours.  They developed and properly used a variety of design concepts and construction techniques at different coastal cites to suit the local hydraulic and morphological conditions and available materials (Franco 1996).

The Romans also introduced to the world the concept of the holiday at the coast.  The ingredients for beach holidays were in place:  high population density coupled with a relatively high standard of living, a well-established economic and social elite, and a superb infrastructure of roads.  From the end of the republic to the middle of the second century of the empire, resorts thrived along the shores of Latium and Capania, and an unbroken string of villas extended along the coast from the seashore near Rome to the white cliffs of Terracina.  Fine roads connected these resorts to the capital, allowing both the upper crust and the masses to descend from sultry and vapour-ridden Rome to the sea.  For five hundred years, the sybaritic town of Baiae reigned as the greatest fashionable beach resort of the ancient world.  Seneca the Younger called Baiae a“vortex of luxury and a harbour of vice,” an alluring combination that Romans found irresistible (Lencek and Bosker 1998).

References:

  • Empereur, J. Y.  1997.  “The Riches of Alexandria.” Transcript of a 1997 Interview on NOVA Online, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sunken/empereur.html (28 Aug 2000).
  • Franco, Leopold.  1996.  “History of Coastal Engineering in Italy,” History and Heritage of Coastal Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, NY. pp 275-335.
  • Frost, H.  1963.  Under the Mediterranean, Marine Antiquities.  Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  p 278.
  • Inman, D. L.  1974.  Ancient and Modern Harbors:  a Repeating Phylogeny. Proceedings of the 14th Coastal Engineering Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, June 1974, American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, VA, pp. 2049-2067.
  • Inman, D. L.  2001.  History of Early Breakwaters.  Association of Coastal Engineers Newsletter, Alexandria, VA.
  • Lencek, L., and Bosker, G.  1998.  The Beach:  The History of Paradise on Earth.  Viking, New York, 310 p.
  • Quinn, Alonzo DeF.  1972.  Design and Construction of Ports and Marine Structures, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, N.Y., 611p.

Akio Toyoda’s Testimony: Getting the Japanese to Admit a Mistake is Easier Said Than Done

Akio Toyoda’s testimony concerning the woes Toyota is having regarding its spontaneous acceleration makes me think of an incident in my own family business many years ago, as related by the field service man who experienced it.

In the 1960’s, we imported a Japanese vibratory hammer called the Uraga. It’s purpose was to drive piles by vibrating them into the ground.

Below: a Uraga unit at a California power plant.

It was basically a good unit, ahead of its time in many ways.  It inserted the drive motors inside of the eccentric weights which generated the vibrating force, a feature that I’ve not seen before or since.  It also sported a modular construction, which allowed new “layers” to be added to the hammer, increasing the vibrating force.  But that feature made the alignment of the bearings and the eccentrics even more critical than usual; improper alignment led to the rapid internal self-destruction of the hammer.

We were having this problem with one of the units, so we set our field service man to California.  He met his Japanese counterpart there.  It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on.  Admitting to the problem, however, was another story altogether.  The dialogue between the Vulcan and Uraga service personnel went something like this:

Vulcan: “This hammer does not work.”

Uraga: “Yes.”

Vulcan: “The eccentric bearing bores are out of alignment.”

Uraga: “Yes.”

Vulcan: “This is what is causing the problem.”

Uraga: “Yes.”

Vulcan: “This happened at the factory, therefore it is your fault.”

Uraga: “No.”

Our man found it very difficult for his Japanese counterpart to admit that the factory made this mistake.  But he wasn’t one to take no for an answer, so he persisted, and finally forced a conference call with the factory.  The factory provided a solution and things were better.

For us and the contractor, at least…for the Japanese service man, it was another matter altogether.  His superiors called him back and told him in no uncertain terms to never, ever put them on the spot like that again.  To make sure he got the message, he was reassigned to a remote place in South-east Asia which, as Vietnam veterans will attest, could be very miserable.

The key issue here, of course, is saving face.  Losing face is a disaster in the Far East and many other parts of the world.  Part of the Japanese obsession about consensus building–which delayed a solution to both this problem and Toyota’s–is linked to avoiding hanging shame around an individual or individuals in an organisation.  Having that happen can lead to suicide more easily there than here.  There was a time when this was true in Western civilisation, but Christianity showed that suicide is a sin.  Japan, for the most part, is a non-Christian culture, thus their idea is different.

The Japanese rise after World War II–even with the “lost decade” of the 1990’s–is one of the most remarkable developments in human history.  But it has come in a context of a culture that is very different from ours.  Whether our government will appreciate that will indicate how cosmopolitan our leadership really is.

Knowing Who Your Real Friends Are: The Daily Kos and Bill Gothard

While beating around the net, I came across this bizarre 2008 piece in the Daily Kos:

The attendance at the Lifebuilders Conference is notable as a very damning link to neopentecostal dominionism; Lifebuilders is a yearly “Lay Missionary” conference of the Church of God of Cleveland, TN, a neopentecostal dominionist group which can be considered a sister church of the Assemblies of God (both are splits from the Christian and Missionary Alliance, one of the earliest pentecostal denominations) and which shares similar theology to the Assemblies; in some ways it is even more explicit, in that part of the church’s mission explicitly calls for growth rates of over 10 percent per year to be expected for churches.

Let’s see, where do I start?

  1. LifeBuilders is the men’s ministry of the Church of God.  So they’re halfway there: they got the denomination right.  And yes, until our General Assembly in July I’m still working for the Laity Ministries Department, which oversees LifeBuilders.  So I can speak with some knowledge on this subject.
  2. Unfortunately, we don’t have annual, national meetings.  The 2008 series they linked to were sponsored by the then Executive Committee of the church, and that hasn’t been replicated since (the 2008 series was the first in the decade.)  These conferences–dating back to the first one in 1996–were certainly not “Lay Missionary” conferences (our department’s “Consultation on Lay Ministries” comes closer to that description, but they were much smaller.)  So obviously the Kos’ research prowess is either lacking or characteristic, depending upon your point of view.
  3. As far as the church’s growth rate is concerned, one only needs to review this report to see how that’s panned out.
  4. I am blissfully unaware of any connection between the Laity Ministries Department and Bill Gothard.

And that last point is a good thing for me, because I’m not a big Bill Gothard fan, as regular readers of this blog know.   The Kos series was a) inspired by the fact that Mike Huckabee is a Gothard Man and b) written during his 2008 Presidential run.  The series is designed to inspire fear of the “Gothard cult” in the heart of liberals and other readers.

Unfortunately, the left doesn’t know when it’s being done a favour, and Gothard, in his own strange way, has done them a big one.

There’s no question that Bill Gothard is one of the most influential Evangelical leaders of our time.  Although his name has been forgotten, those he trained in the Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts and elsewhere have gone on to become pastors and other leaders in Evangelical Christianity.

Gothard’s disciplined approach has served these people well in their “moving up in the organisation.”  But the leaders he’s raised up tend to be unimaginative, “inside the box” types of thinkers which have left the Evangelical world in the lurch at at time when it needs really creative people with a fresh view to counter the assault it has received from the other side of the spectrum (and that would certainly include the Daily Kos.)  Gothard people (or those who act like Gothard people, like George W. Bush) are sitting ducks for an opponent who can move fast and outflank them both in the bureaucracy and in the court of public opinion.  The most successful turning of the tables took place after the 1994 election, when Bill Clinton managed to survive a Republican congress and his own scandal woes to win re-election in 1996, and then survive impeachment as well.

Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was yet another turning the tables on a party full of “Gothard people.”  But Obama and his colleagues in Congress have squandered much of that advantage in their own version of Gothard thinking–by resurrecting the old statism and unionism in the nationalisation of GM and Chrysler, in their attempts to get “card check,” and most famously in the health care initiative.  They have taken a sure victory and turned it into a mess.

Now the Tea Party activists have their shot at greatness.  But the right in general hasn’t resolved the tension between its insistence on economic and other freedom and the Gothardian obsession for authority.  That tension undid the Bush Administration and, until we get back past the authoritarianism to the freedom, we’re going to have a nation with nowhere else to go but downward.  And Evangelical Christianity, if it continues to blindly tie its fortunes to that nation, will go down with it.