Friday, October 20, 2006

Why CSI is great

Again, CSI has ended with inspired theological commentary by Grissom. Last week was great. This week a young pregnant woman is found crucified inside a Catholic church. Turns out she was going to leave her "boyfriend" for the young priest who was in love with her. He was going to leave the priesthood to marry her. Turns out her "boyfriend" was the priest's best friend, and in a jealous rage, he killed her. The very last scene has the murderer pass by the priest and Grissom in the hallway. Grissom turns to the priest and says:

Grissom: Can you forgive him?
Priest: That's Christ's mandate. You know what that means, don't you?
Grissom: You have no choice.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

300 Million and Counting

At 7:46 am this morning the census bureau reports the U.S. population hit 300 million. I so badly wanted my kid to be number 300 million! I guess my timing was just 5 months off. Oh well. Okay, now let's go catch those Chinese - only 700 million to go!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Another Bright Idea

In Flower Mound, Texas, which is the city next to my "hometown," Grapevine, gas station attendants will now be the ones charged for gasoline thefts. Last month, the city enacted a mandatory pre-pay ordinance because of the growing number of gas drive-offs. The Libertarian in me is still wondering what this has to do with the city at all. Since customers now must pay in advance, the city will fine any employee who activates the pump without getting payment first. It's a misdemeanor, but it'll still cost $500. A few years ago the geniuses running Bennigans decided that the server would have to pay if anyone "dined and ducked." In Dallas a table of people did just that - the poor waitress ran outside to stop them, she got knocked over and killed in the parking lot by a car - the car carrying the people she was trying to catch!

Ryan - care to comment???

Friday, October 13, 2006

More Powerful than Bombs and Bullets

I have often held the Nobel Peace Prize in low esteem – after all, they did give it to Yasser Arafat! But, as a Christian, I could not be prouder or feel better about this year’s award. Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won the prize for their pioneering use of tiny, seemingly insignificant loans, called microcredit, to lift millions out of poverty. Through Yunus's efforts poor people have been able to buy cows, a few chickens or the cell phone they desperately needed to get ahead. He said he would use part of his share of the $1.4 million award money to create a company to make low-cost, high-nutrition food for the poor. The rest would go toward setting up an eye hospital for the poor in Bangladesh. Yunus said, “Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Development from below serves to advance democracy and human rights.”

Yunus’s Grameen Bank was the first lender to hand out “microcredit,” giving very small loans to the poor who did not qualify for loans from conventional banks. No collateral is needed and repayment is based on an honor system. The bank says it has a 99 percent repayment rate. Yunus said that his “eureka moment” came while chatting to a woman weaving bamboo stools with her fingers. He asked her how much she earned. She replied that she borrowed about nine cents from a middleman for the bamboo for each stool. All but two cents of that went back to the lender. ”I thought to myself, my God, for nine cents she has become a slave. I couldn't understand how she could be so poor when she was making such beautiful things.” The following day he discovered that 43 of the villagers owed a total of about $27. “I couldn't take it anymore. I put the $27 out there and told them they could liberate themselves and pay me back whenever they could.” They all paid him back, and his spur-of-the-moment generosity grew into a full-fledged business concept that came to fruition with the founding of Grameen Bank in 1983. The bank says it has lent $5.72 billion to more than 6 million people.

Soure: The Associated Press.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Why I Support Church/State Separation

Those of us who have any dealings with banks know how the system works – you purchase a home or car, you have credit cards, and the bank charges you interest. Granted, some banks steal from you – 27% interest on a credit card is theft! But that’s how the system works. If you play smart, you can benefit. If you have no large debts, but you invest money, then you receive interest. I know, banking 101. However, Muslims cannot pay or receive interest. This is a big problem. So today I read that several banks in South Africa will be offering Shariah-compliant services. Under Shariah law, wealth must be generated through trade and investment in assets. The Shariah financial model works on the basis of risk sharing - the customer and the bank share the risk of any investment on agreed terms and divide any profit between them. A Shariah-compliant savings account will earn the person an agreed upon “dividend” based on their annual deposits. When it comes to loans on cars, a figure that includes the profit to be made by the bank is worked out upfront. That profit plus the capital amount is then divided by the number of months it will take to repay. In this way the borrower knows exactly what amount they will be paying. Interest on deposits is similarly replaced by a dividend from the bank. When purchasing a home the bank buys the property in partnership with the client. The bank annually sells portions of its share of equity to the client at an agreed price, so that over the period of financing the client purchases the entire share held by the bank.

Confused? Will there be separate “queues” for Muslims? Will there be Muslim-only ATM’s? I know this is how the free market works – business creates ways to meet the needs of it’s customers, but this doesn’t feel right, sound right, or smell right. Will this ever happen in the US? Probably not anytime soon. However, in a couple of months everyone at the mall will greet you with the really asinine “Happy Holidays” greeting rather than “Merry Christmas.” This is why I thank God every day that we have a wall of separation between the church and the state, and our government is bound to be religiously neutral.