Saturday, May 07, 2005


No, There Is No War On Religion?!

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America reads
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Nowhere does it say that religions may not have a voice in government, or participate in the political process, only that government cannot create or restrict it. People seem to be having a really hard time understanding that.

Courtesy of Best Of The Web consider first this story and then this one.
If he were still alive, Richard Berry, the man who penned the lyrics for the iconic fraternity-rock anthem "Louie Louie," might be shaking his head in disbelief.

Berry wrote the song as a simple sea shanty about a sailor trying to get back to his lady love. But a middle school marching band in Benton Harbor, Mich., was almost banned from playing "Louie Louie" at an upcoming festival because of what the school's superintendent called "sexually explicit lyrics."

Benton Harbor Supt. Paula Dawning reversed her decision Thursday after parents at McCord Middle School came out in support of the song.
Fair enough. Those rumors about "Louie, Louie" have been hanging around for years. It's a pretty fun song. Not that I have personal experience, but I hear it was really fun in college after a few beers. But then
A dance teacher working for a public school district was terminated from her job after a complaint that she used religious music in her instruction. The complaint came from a school district staff member who alleged that the music referenced Jesus several times. In addition to secular music on the day in question, the instructor used a rendition of Dona Nobis Pachem and O Si Funi Mungu. Dona Nobis Pachem is a classical piece by J.S. Bach and is sung in Latin. O Si Funi Mungu, which is translated as ?Praise God,? is sung in Swahili, though it has some English interspersed.
Bach! We're going to ban Bach for religious content -- No, no religious war here.

And consider what some of the leftie bloggers are saying. From Partidiot Watch
The King of England is not only the titular head of the country, but he is also the leader of the Church of England. In the 17th Century, King James declared that no one could perform Christian worship anywhere except in an Anglican church. Christians who believed deeply in Christ but not in the Anglican Church had their properties taken, their bodies imprisoned and their families torn apart by the King. These Christians were persecuted by Christians.

People who felt that they should be free to worship Christ and God as they felt was right were called Separatists. Among the first Separatists was William Bradford, a leader of the Pilgrims who fled England for religious freedom, landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and are today celebrated as the first Americans.

Today we are facing the same Christian-on-Christian persecution. If you do not worship in the way that some radical right wing Christians think you should, they say you are anti-Christian.
I have yet to hear James Dobson declare catholicism illegal, or even ask the government to do it. Then there is this from culture kitchen
Of the reality of the danger there can be no question. The zeal of the fundamentalists has been enormously quickened by an anticipatory taste of triumph, and they will push any victory they may gain to the fullest possible extent.
Danger?! Fullest Extent?! So far, all we asked for is to get a few judges voted up or down. Call me when the witch trials start up again. Finally, Bull Moose says
The right has become the mirror image of all they dislike about the left. Both the secular and the religious right kvetch about their victimization while they control at least two branches of government and their penetration of the media is thorough and growing. They are crybabies who patrol the halls of power.
I guess it's true, we're actually all sleeper agents penetrating the institutions waiting to strike.

The left has won for years by rasiing the rhetorical bar. They have coarsened political discourse to the point that we felt compelled to back off out of shear taste and courtesy. It looks like they are trying it again. It is possible to stand firm without becoming equally as coarse. Let's do it.


Evidence That Demands A Verdict

No, not about the person of Jesus, though it was a pretty good book. Just about simple, Christian family values, from Scotwise.
Max Jukes, the atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly girl, and from the union there were 310 who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars.

But, praise the Lord, it works both ways! There is the record of the great American man of God, Jonathan Edwards. He lived at the same time as Max Jukes, but he married a godly girl.

An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards of which 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one a vice-president of the United States, 80 became public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. His descendants did not cost the state a single penny
Res ipsa loquitur


Fight The Fat?!

We reported 17 days ago that the Center for Disease Control had revised it's work to conclude that obesity is not anywhere near the killer they previously thought it was.

People are just waking up to that fact now. There were two pieces on it yesterday. One from JunkScience via FOXNews and the other from Daniel Henninger via OpinionJournal. Henninger seems to think the CDC's reversal makes it OK to talk about obesity again, that the great steamroller of public policy is no longer rolling.
But we are fortunate that obesity has returned to earth as a discussable issue, rather than rumbling across America as a quasi-religious crusade. There is much we don't know about the complexities of body weight, illness and mortality.
JunkScience thinks the juggernaut has been loosed and cannot be stopped.
When the new study was published, CDC chief Dr. Julia Gerberding told the Associated Press that the agency won?t scale back its anti-obesity campaign which, by the way, won?t mention the new reduced death toll estimate.

?There's absolutely no question that obesity is a major public health concern of this country,? Gerberding insisted.

The translation, of course, is that CDC receives plenty of taxpayer funding to promote the obesity scare and it?s not giving it back.
What I want to know is why is this anybody's business. Whether major or minor, why is this a "public health issue?"

JunkScience has it right -- it's about money. Places like the CDC exist to deal with real public health issues, typhoid, malaria -- highly contagious diseases that require governmental intervention to prevent wiping out huge segements of the population. Problem is, anymore, such things are not that common, at least not in the US. Well God forbid all those bureaucrats might find something else to do, no, now they have to create a public health crisis out of something that is purely a behavioral issue -- Trust me, I know a great deal about obesity.

Then there is the whole third party payer thing when it comes to health care. Tell you what, my weight every becomes a serious health problem for me, I'll die, or I'll pay the bill -- it's not your problem. So stay out of my face.


Very Silly

Thanks to Ales Rarus for this little bit of time wasting silliness.

Be sure and stick with it, it only gets funnier as you go.


This Should Be Bigger News

The Sudan simply has to be hell on earth. The combination of ancient tribal rivalries with modern weapons has created a gross genocide which is, while not numerically as large, equally as horrific as "The Final Solution" of the Nazis.

And the world just watches. Well, if deaths in the million won't move you, maybe this post from Allthings2all will. Catez looks at the effect of the genocide on refugee children through the pictures they draw. Young children just should not have images like that in their minds - ever.


Found It!

Rememeber a few years ago when a Mars landing craft went missing? Looks like they found it.
Global Surveyor will take higher-resolution images later this year in an attempt to confirm the missing lander's location.

"It looks intriguing," said Michael Meyer, the lead scientist for NASA's Mars Program. He said the images show just one possible location of the missing Polar Lander, and more images are needed.
Cool but it still doesn't work. Usually when my tools break, I don't bother looking for them.


Comic Art

Technology creeps in everywhere, comics are no exception. Consider, in the old days, a comic page would be laid out like this:

Notice the nice panels, and the white edge surrounding the page. Oh ocassionally, they would combine two of the six panels into one like in the middle of the page, or do what was called a "splash page" where all six panels were combined into one, but that was about it. Now, with new printing technology they do pages that look like this

This is essentially a full page drawing with panels inserted. Note how the drawing runs all the way to the edge of the page. When pages like this first started to appear, they were called "premium format" and were significantly more expensive that regular comics. Now they are commonplace and formerly "regular" comics are the exception. Yes, this drove up the prices of comics, but the miracle is that prior to the new technolgy, it would have been completely unaffordable.

And then there is color. Formerly, comics were primary colors like this:

Now, with the new technology they are bright and many-hued. Consider this example

Note how with the new technology, light is more apparent, the colors are brighter, more vivid. And this is still and ink and color drawing. Some comics are purely painted.

I have to say that sometimes I miss the old days. These days, with all this technology the artist gets so carried away with what he can do that he forgets his primary role as a storyteller. Also, the increased price in comics this technology created has largely killed the child market, though the publishers are now making efforts to regain that market and create a new generation of readers.

As with most advances, it's a mixed bag, but when it is done right, boy is it great!


Poor Guy

Radioblogger celebrated the 50th anniversary of Disneyland by trying to ride It's a Small World 50 times. You can read about his adventures here. He survived - barely.

I wonder if this would be a good way to interogate that Al Queda #3 we caught the other day.


An Age Old Dilemma

What do you do when you are confronted with a person of authority that is clearly an idiot? Kevin Francois did not make the best choice when confronted with this issue, but I am having a hard time finding fault with the boy.
Francois, a junior at Spencer High School in Columbus, was suspended for disorderly conduct Wednesday after he was told to give up his cell phone at lunch while talking to his mother who is deployed in Iraq, he said.
How, you may ask, do I know that the school officials in this case are idiots? Why just check this quote from Assistant Principal
"They are really allowed to have those cell phones so that after band or after chorus or after the debate and practices are over they have to coordinate with the parents," said Alfred Parham, assistant principal at Spencer. "They're not supposed to use them for conversating back and forth during school because if they were allowed to do that, they could be text messaging each other for test questions."
Not only did we just figure out why this kid was suspended, I think we have also figured out why Johnny can't read.


Apparently, not the slighest bit embarassed my his malapropism as cited above, school authorities have proudly announced they have reduced the boy's punishment from 10 day to a 3 day suspension.
"We are empathetic to all students whose parents serve in the armed forces ... (but) we do have behavior standards which we uphold," said Superintendent John A. Phillips Jr
Yeah, but what about the language standards for your faculty and staff?


More Gratuity

The edict has yet to be rescinded, so this post in mandatory. For those of you new to this game, a reminder. My mother's maiden name is Salmon -- my middle name is Salmon -- my company's name is Salmon & Schroeder; therefore, we link to anything we find having to do with...salmon. It's a fish thing.

Fell free to play along -- send those links in emails or comments.

Thursday, we learned that the salmon run on the Columbia River this year appears to be low. The article we read on Thursday said the low run was not the fault of sea lions enjoying the salmon buffet provided by the Bonneville Dam fish ladder. (I have been to that fish ladder, it's a really cool way to waste some time watching fish, particularly salmon. )

Today; however, we learn that "officials" are using firecrackers to scare away the sea lions that are not the problem with the salmon. This is. of course, purely specieist, promoting salmon over sea lions for no other reason than they are salmon. But I should not complain, I like salmon since my middle name is Salmon.

And now, the salmon in my head demands that I post this

This whole think may strike some of you as rather fishy. It's really a salmon occasion.


Evolutionary Evidence?

Well, most people want to think this is.
Caught in the act of evolution, the odd-looking, feathered dinosaur was becoming more vegetarian, moving away from its meat-eating ancestors.
Before we get too carried away here, about "catching evolution in the act" regarding phyla that did not go extinct five million years ago.



Michael Medved did an entire hour this week about potential political bias at Google. It sounded more like bad quality control than actual bias to me, but then Little Green Footballs came up with some further examples.

But I got really worried when I read this.
Web search leader Google Inc. has applied for U.S. and international patents on technology to rank stories on its news site based on the quality of the news source, according to patent applications obtained by Reuters on Thursday.
How exactly will "quality" be judged. This sounds like anti-Internet stuff to me. The best thing about the WWW is the ability to find stuff that used to be filtered out.

Stay tuned to this blog, we won't let a biased Google filter keep us from the important stuff.


Nerd Party

Us science and engineering types have are own unique sense of humor, and resources. Some of the younger members of the clan at MIT have a unique idea
What's more, it is possible to travel back in time, to any place, any era. Where would people go? Would they zoom to a 2005 Saturday night for chips and burgers in a college courtyard, eager to schmooze with computer science majors possessing way too many brain cells?

Why not, say some students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have organized what they call the first convention for time travelers.

Actually, they contend that theirs is the only time traveler convention the world needs, because people from the future can travel to it anytime they want.
This is really a VERY funny idea. Right up there with the infinite improbability drive. These are some very bright students
They built a human-size hamster wheel - eight feet in diameter. And they concocted the "pizza button," a plexiglass pizza slice mounted in their hallway; when pressed, it calls up a Web site and arranges for pizza delivery 30 minutes later.
I wish I could tell you some of the stuff I did when I was that age, but they might retroactively take away my degrees.

Friday, May 06, 2005


Free From The Law

Conrad Gempf posts on Romans 8. (HT: Transforming Sermons) I love this
Tell someone Christ has freed them from the Law and it's no biggie. For each of us, the Law of God -- like the speed limit, like copyright laws -- is something that applies to someone else, not me, because I'm a little different, I'm worth it. Tell someone Christ has freed them from the Law and it means nothing. But tell them Christ will free them from Murphy's Law and you've got their attention. How sad our state and how far down Christ stoops to pull us out of the waves.
If you ask me, he is slightly understating the case here - a lot of people think God's grace is a birthright. That fact scares me, really scares me.

Rather than argue this, I am just going to emote for a minute. Every morning I get to wake up and find my wife next to me. That is, without a doubt, one of the most wonderful sensations I have ever experienced. After 10 years, I am still amazed she loves me enough to be there every morning. I am such a schlub that I would not blame her one bit if she didn't bother one morning. And I am willing to bet you there is not a married man on the planet that, if honest with himself, wouldn't say the same thing.

Given how common an experience that is, how come we can't figure it out about God?


21st Century Reformation takes a similar look at Romans 8.
The early Christians refused to exercise any physical force but simply stood up heroically and proclaimed that Jesus was the true Lord and that freedom and liberty FROM SIN only came from Jesus. For this boldness, the Christians were killed.

I want you to think about this for just a second. As Paul proclaims Jesus as the Lord and true king with a mandate from God to deliver all mankind, he gives us the very personal story of Romans 7 and his personal struggle with sin.
Brad's thoughts relate to what the church corporate should be doing. I agree with his theological point entirely. When it comes to Christians being involved in politics and governance, I would remind you that in Rome revolution was the only option -- In America, political activism is a legitimate and encouraged activity. The church is not about political activism, but it's congregants, if they are good citizens, should be.


Rhetoric Heats Up

Remember when you would have a small cut when you were a kid, and your mom would put merthiolate on it? You'd scream and carry on, often louder and more vigorously than you did when you were actually hurt.

I am beginning to get that feeling about people objecting to the insertion of religion into America's political conversation. You'd think we were threatening, to continue the analogy, to amputate their hand instead of just apply a little sterilizing agent.

Cheat Seeking Missles has a post about a way too vehement discussion on a neighborhood discussion room.

Yesterday's WSJ did a bit of point/counterpoint between, from the right, James Taranto and, from the left, Christopher Hitchens. What is truly fascinating is to compare the rhetoric of the two pieces. Here's Taranto's concluding paragraph:
And the religious right includes not only Christians of various stripes but also Orthodox Jews and even conservative Muslims. Far from the sectarian movement its foes portray, it is in truth a manifestation of the religious pluralism that makes America great. Therein lies its strength.
Well said, and calmly stated. Now check out how Hitchens ends his piece, I've added some emphasis
Thus far, the clericalist bigots have been probing and finding only mush. A large tranche of the once-secular liberal left has disqualified itself by making excuses for jihad and treating Osama bin Laden as if he were advocating liberation theology. The need of the hour is for some senior members of the party of Lincoln to disown and condemn the creeping and creepy movement to impose orthodoxy on a free and pluralist and secular Republic.
Apparently, the less of a point you have, the more over-the-top and superlative your language will become.

I think Dadmanly really says it right when he looks at John McCandlish Phillips piece from Wednesday's WaPo.
Phillips corrects the grossly stereotyped presentation of Evangelical Christians as wanting to force all of America into church, or persecute those who deny Christian faith. Rather than an offensive war, Phillips describes this as a defensive struggle, one for the very right to worship as we see fit.
It really is a defensive struggle, and we have allowed ourselves to be put in this defensive position because for a very long time now we confused retreat with compromise. We're winning, or else the rhetoric would not be getting so heated. When the battle is done, let's not get so flush with our victory that we become what they are accusing us of being.


Are You Prepared... enter the wardrobe? This web site is a preview of the upcoming Narnia movie. It is exceptionally well done.

I remain trepidacious about the movie. Don't quite know why - after all, the books, while truly inspriational, and wonderful, do not rise to the level of scripture. I got a little nervous toruing the web site -- it is big and bold and fantastic. The Chronicles were for me small and inviting and charming. I hope the charm does not get lost in the battles.


Are You On Board?

Are you a blogger? Are you a Christian blogger? IF you answered "yes" to those questions and have not signed up for GodBlogCon 05 then shame on you. Follow the link and do it now.


A Bit Of A Stretch

SmartChristian reports that long time Christian publisher Eerdmans is publishing a Mormon book. There is quite a debate in the comments.

I have to say I think it is premature to debate. Eerdmans is a publishing house, not the church. I personally think Mormonism is a highly cultic and errant form of Christianity, but far from the only one. I doubt this would be the first time that Eerdmans published something that was errant.

I think there are some key questions here -- How do they market the book? What does Mouw say in his foreward? (Knowing Dick, it will be a little too accepting for my taste.) IF Eerdmans claims that this book represents the Christian mainstream, then maybe there should be some pressure brought to bear so they start calling themselves a "religious" publisher instead of a "Christian" one. But if they publish the book without such a statement, well then I'm guessing they realize there are a lot of Mormons in the country and they represent a significant market segment.

Seems to me that if a publishing house was charged with maintaining doctrine, they'd quit charging for the books and rely on donations.


So that's How They Do That

Looks like they have figured out how butterflies naveigate. Here's my favorite part
The new study also pinpointed the location of the butterfly's circadian clock, a processor in the brain that governs 24-hour activity and metabolic cycles of insects, humans and other animals. Key genes responsible for the clock's molecular "ticks" were expressed in a brain region called the dorsolateral protocerebrum. In there, tiny neural fibers connect the clock to polarization photoreceptors in the eye.
Those must be some instruments they have, It's hard enough to find a butterfly's brain, let alone a small part of it.


Friday Humor

A sloth in the forest had spent all day gathering berries and was making his way home when he was mugged by a gang of snails. They knocked him down, knocked him out and made off with all his berries.

A while later he was found and aided by a very concerned monkey who asked him what had happened. The monkey told him he should go to the police, that if he gave them a good description of the culprits the chances were good that the thugs would be caught and punished.

Unfortunately, the sloth revealed, "I'm afraid I never saw them; it all happened so fast."
-- Sounds like me!


Good People Doing Brave Things

Despite the fact that our military is subjected to awful religious coercion, they seem to be reenlisting at a pretty steady pace. Here is just one example:
In Iraq, there were the days that ran together in a never-ending stream of patrols, mission after mission that left him cursing the superiors who sent him out into the teeth of the insurgency. There were the nights when mortars crashed nearby, close enough to smell the sulfur. And there was the question that went unanswered every time a friend was ripped by shrapnel or cut down in an ambush: Why are we fighting this war?

Yet when the time came for Sgt. Jason Waits to decide what he would do when his tour in the Army National Guard ended, he barely paused. Before he even left Iraq, Sergeant Waits reenlisted. And if he is sent back, he "won't have a problem."
This is not surprising at all. Good people understand that life involves hard things, and really good people are willing to endure those hard things so other people do not have to.

As far as I am conerned, the only thing that needs to be said to people like this is - THANK YOU


Is This A Good Idea?

Human eggs which could grow into embryos have been created in a laboratory for the first time, scientists announced yesterday.

They were created by scraping stem cells off the surface of ovaries and exposing them to a chemical which stimulated growth.
There are really only two applications of this technology mentioned in the piece, infertility treatment and "farming" embryoes for research. That second application is horrifying.

The first one troubles me. For the life of me, I cannot understand why something like this would be preferable to adoption, especially in older couples. There is a reason God left child rearing to the young.


Same Thing?

This article is about the use of foster children in drug trials.
Government-funded researchers tested AIDS drugs on hundreds of foster children over the past two decades, often without providing them a basic protection afforded in federal law and required by some states, an Associated Press review has found.
You read that and you think it is horrifying, fortunately it is not quite as bad as it sounds. We are talking about some bureaucratic oversight here, not a genuine "basic protection" like giving the kids toxic drugs or some such nonesense. There is no evidence that any child in the studies suffered any health consequences not common to trials of the type under stricter bureaucratic operations.

What really bothers me is that they want to create outrage about this, but not about the story above. This is an error that needs correction; embryo farming really is an outrage.


I've Been A Bad Boy

I should have linked to this week's Christian Carnival at Kentucky Packrat Wednesday. Shame on me. But then I'm from Indiana and he is from, well, Kentucky, where they have been ruining the great game of basketball for years.


Indiana Basketball

Since that Kentuckly guy started the conversation, here is a great tribute to the retiring Pacer Reggie Miller. Regardless, I still wished it had been Alford.


Award or Political Statement?

Al Gore may have been lampooned for taking credit in the Internet's development, but organizers of the Webby Awards for online achievements don't find it funny at all.

In part to "set the record straight," they will give Gore a lifetime achievement award for three decades of contributions to the Internet, said Tiffany Shlain, the awards' founder and chairwoman.
Now what a minute, Gore said:
Gore, who boasted in a CNN interview he "took the initiative in creating the Internet," was only 21 when the Internet was born out of a Pentagon project.
Gore did:
But after joining Congress eight years later, he promoted high-speed telecommunications for economic growth and supported funding increases for the then-fledging network, according to the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which presents the annual awards.
So, driving funding legislation qualifies as "creating." Sounds like a bit of stretch to me. I smell a political motivation here -- Never forget that Silicon Valley borders San Francisco.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Labour Wins, "Blairly"

Pun like that has got to hurt...

It appears that Tony Blair will remain British Prime Minister, though the Parlimentary majority enjoyed by Labour has been greatly reduced.

This is good news with regards to American foreign policy. For UK domestic policy, let's just say I'm glad I don't live there, though I really like visiting and am looking forward to doing so this summer.


Breaking News I Should Not Laugh About

Two homemade grenades exploded outside the Manhattan office building that houses the British Consulate, shattering windows in the pre-dawn hours on Thursday as voters in Britain went to the polls in a general election, New York officials said.
I laughed when I read this, it's not funny, but it is so pathetic that I laughed. First there was 9-11, then the disaster in Madrid prior to their elections, utterly tragic, but on a far smaller scale than 9-11. And now this is what the terrorists are reduced to
There were no injuries reported, and no motive was known.

The explosions occurred shortly after 3:30 a.m. and were caused by two metal "novelty grenades," one in the shape of a pineapple, the other a lemon, both packed with gunpowder, police said.
Won't be long and it will be plastic tipped sucker darts. Bombs, even ones that don't hurt anybody, are not funny, but I am just pleased at this evidence that we are winning.


Run For The Hills

Today is the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth (well, actually sixth but this is more fun) year of the 21st century. 05-05-05 That has got to mean something! Panic - worry - general unease are bound to dominate the world today. Tread lightly.


The Value Of Liturgy

Voyage of the Dawn Treader tells a wonderful tale of shared liturgical prayer before a meal with friends.
Though the little liturgical moment created some momentary awkwardness, I really liked it. I tend to associate liturgy with perfunctory worship. This family's natural blending of liturgy into family tradition was special. Creeds and liturgy are really the reciting of truth ? uttered together down through the centuries by God's people. It is cool when you think about it. It connects us with the faithful of the ages and reminds us of God's faithfulness as the keeper of covenant promises.
Liturgy is under attack these days. More and more congregations are jettisoning liturgy to help "seekers" avoid the "momentary awkwardness" my friend at Dawn Treader describes.

I am currently reading Brothers Karamazov and yesterday at lunch read a passaage where a character describes finding understanding of the liturgy for the first time. Though it is a truth I have known for some time, I was stuck while reading the passage that liturgy has meaning when we allow it to, and it is "perfunctory," when we are perfunctory.

Now, I have heard many people use that truth in defense of jettisoning liturgy from worship - since we assign it its meaning, we can do what we want for the sake of making our church more inviting. But here is the thing, that momentary awkwardness forces us to react, true sometimes negatively, but react we must. When we make church comfortable and inviting, people are free to come, and free to not react.

Do we really want to operate our churches in a fashion that allows people not to the react to the gospel? I don't.



I said before that I am suspicious of what gets defined as a species these days. So, when there was a big announcement of a new species of salamander, I was a little skeptical, especially when I read this:
"I've discovered and named nearly 50 species of salamanders - more than 10 percent of the total in the world. I've discovered new genera in Guatemala and Costa Rica. But this tops everything I've ever found by a long ways," said David Wake, an expert on amphibians at the University of California, Berkeley.
One guy, in my most recent of lifetimes, has found 10% of all known species of salamander? Yeah, I think skepticism is called for, particularly when they are "finding" species thought extinct. So I went looking.

I found this site and this site, neither of which can come up with a reasonable definition of what actually constitutes a species. I was surprised, when I studied zoology the "phylum" and "genus" were pretty easily understood and defined concepts. "Species" was too specific for the classes I took, but I assumed (big mistake) that "species" would be similarly well defined.

Given how much public policy is based on the idea of "species" I found this lack of agreed definition rather troubling. "Surely," I thought, "laws involving the concept will contain a precise and useful definition." So, I fired up Google, looked up the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and found this:
...any subspecies of fish of wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species or vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature.
Now I'm really worried, they are defining a word, based on itself when there is no agreed upon definition. And here's what really gets to me, interbreeding is the closest to a precise characterization in that definition, but it would make a lot less species, not more. For example, if interbreeding is the only qualification, then lions and tigers are then same species (see liger) and are zebras and donkeys (see zonkey.) One has to wonder if these soon to be evolved animals wil be a new species or not.

This research does not make me happy. One suspects a couple of things. First, "discovering" a species is a great way to attract funding, so it is in science's best interest to have a slippery definition. Secondly, if you want to stop a development, or take someone's land from them, passing the ESA with a slippery definition is likewise in your best interest. I was hoping this research would allay those suspicions, instead it confirms them. The entire "biodiversity" concern is built on a terribly shaky foundation.

Bad science combined with bad law is a dangerous combination. This really does give an enormous amount of power to a relatively few judges and a likely even fewer number of "experts." People are losing real property, or having their real property rendered valueless based on this house of cards. That's criminal.

What to do? Two things -- First, lobby congress to repeal the ESA, or modify to give species a precise definition. Second, go here and click the link at top and write the wobbly Senators to make sure the President Bush's judicial nominees get and up and down vote, hopefully resulting in judges on the bench that will not abuse the enormous power this situation gives them.


Miracle Reporting!

This may be a first. The Independent reports on a tornado in England, even files the story under "Environment." While common here in America, tornadoes in are an infrequent occurence in England.
According to the Meteorological Office, between 30 and 50 tornadoes strike each year in Britain (ed: Here in American that's just a stormy day) but many go unreported as they occur in unpopulated areas. They strike mostly inland, typically in the Midlands and East Anglia.

Tornadoes in the UK are little more than a mild breeze compared with those in America, especially in the Mid-West, which can travel at speeds up to 300mph, devastating communities and claiming many lives.
But the miracle is not that no one was hurt, or the relatively rare tornado itself, no the miracle is that it does not attempt to blame this freakish weather on global warming!


Illuminated Scripture

Another colorful entry from my wife's easel:


Christianity Under Attack

I am aghast at the incresing directness of attack against Christianity. Some of it is to be expected and Christians are growing in political influence, but some of it is just ugly. The latest, and most egregious, salvo has been fired by "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State" (AUSCS) in the form of a report to the Secretary of Defense concerning the Air Force Academy. The Boston Globe reports on it here and Hugh Hewitt blew a gasket on air yesterday.

Read the report for yourself, it's a pure slander job, based almost entirely on hearsay evidence. Hewitt described it as McCarthyite, and he is right. Frankly, I found it funny. Consider this accusation
We have been informed, for example, that, during a Basic Cadet Training session attended by a team of observers from the Yale Divinity School, one of the Academy chaplains - Major Warren 'Chappy' Watties - led a Protestant worship service in which he encouraged the attending cadets to return to their tents and proselytize cadets who had not attended the service, with the declared penalty for failure to accept this proselytization being to "burn in the fires of hell."
AUSCS considers this "coersion." Being as this is hearsay, who knows if this is true or not, but assume it is. These are young men and women studying to be United States military officers. If they are coerced by another cadet threats of hellfire, how will they stand up to actual enemy interrogation. Here is another goody
And if those incidents were not enough to demonstrate the severity of the problems at the Academy, it seems that General Weida has established a system of code words that he shares with evangelical Christian cadets in order to provide them with opportunities to proselytize others in the Cadet Wing. Specifically, at a Protestant chapel service during Basic Cadet Training, General Weida told the attendees the New Testament parable of the house built on rock ? a metaphor for building faith on the firm foundation of Jesus. See Matthew 7:24-29; Luke 6:46-49. General Weida then instructed the cadets that, whenever he uses the phrase ?Airpower!,? they should respond with the phrase ?Rock Sir!,? thus invoking the parable from the New Testament. General Weida advised the cadets that, when asked by their classmates about the meaning of the call and response, the cadets should use the opportunity to discuss their Christian faith. And General Weida regularly invokes the "Airpower!" call in official statements in order to prompt the religiously based "Rock Sir!" response.(emphasis added)
Code words?! Oh please. That really is a McCarthyite accusation. And watch out for the Masons, they really control the world you know.

Again, let's assume the truth of this at face value, a wild assumption. How in the world does creating opportunities for discussion of Christianity constitute establishment of religion?

What a crock. It is troubling the Air Force did anything but round-file this waste of paper, ink and electrons. Sigh.


Hugh Hewitt was able to use his radio show last night to gather very substanitive evidence at what a crock of manure this report really is. He has recounted most of it this morning on his blog. He also urges contacting your Senators and Congresspersons to end the investigation before it really begins. I agree. Call today.


But It's "Science" Class

Apparently the last bastion of objective truth in our educational system is not as objective as it used to be. The Weekly Standard has a piece on the decreasing standards of science textbooks. (HT: Holy Coast) Here's a doozy:
Thus, a chapter on climate in a fifth-grade science textbook in the Discovery Works series, published by Houghton Mifflin (2000), opens with a Native American explanation for the changing seasons: "Crow moon is the name given to spring because that is when the crows return. April is the month of Sprouting Grass Moon." Students meander through three pages of Algonquin lore before they learn that climate is affected by the rotation and tilt of Earth--not by the return of the crows.
Climate modeling has been one of the greatest drivers of incresing computer power. There is an enormous amount of very hard science behind weather prediction. Good scientists have died in order to gather data useful in severe weather prediction - and students have to hear about Indian lore? Here's another:
Affirmative action for women and minorities is similarly pervasive in science textbooks, to absurd effect. Al Roker, the affable black NBC weatherman, is hailed as a great scientist in one book in the Discovery Works series. It is common to find Marie Curie given a picture and half a page of text, but her husband, Pierre, who shared a Nobel Prize with her, relegated to the role of supportive spouse. In the same series, Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, is shown next to black scientist Lewis Latimer, who improved the light bulb by adding a carbon filament. Edison's picture is smaller.
Al Roker? Al Roker? The guy is a professional goofball, not a scientist. The article goes on from there, read it for yourself. And then contact your local school board and make sure these textbooks are not used in your school system.

Oh, and while we're at school, check out this story.
A local woman went 'through the roof' when a deputy took his anti-drug message to high school.

She says he showed students how to make methamphetamines, and she has the video to prove it.
I have no doubt about this. I was doing jury duty down by LA City Hall years ago and on lunch happened by a press conference on the steps where then Mayor Bradley was demonstrating "how easy it is" to make crack cocaine. I asked him if he realy thought it was wise to conduct such a demonstration in front of television cameras and let's just say that's the last time I ever had access to the mayor.


God Acts

On Tuesday, I felt it necessary to respond to some rather ugly comments made about myself and others who fought for the life of Terri Schiavo. A small child was dying in Houston Texas and the hospital had decided to remove life support. The accustions were the typical charges of "hypocrisy" since we were not fighting as hard for that child's life as we had fought for Terri's. I listed my reasons why not in the link above. Now the child has died, even before life support was removed.

While this fact vindicates the stance I took, I take no joy and feel no sense of victory. I mourn for the child and offer what comfort I can to its parents. May God be with them.



This is a post I must do in accordance with the edict.

First I ran across this article:
Springtime on the Columbia River usually means hordes of Chinook salmon swimming up the river, nourishing on their way centuries-old Indian traditions and a voracious commercial fishery.

This year, however, thousands of salmon seem to have gone missing - and no one knows why.
I worried until I read the end of the piece
Scientists are careful to note that the fish count continues through early June, but say that even if it turned out that the run was simply delayed this year, or even if daily counts jumped into the thousands, this year's run still won?t come close to the numbers initially predicted.
Number one the fish could come a lot faster than anyone expects, what if the count jumped to the tens of thousands, could they even count it? And who says thier "predictions" are any good to begin with.

A gratuitous link must lead to a gratuitous picture

This link is entirely gratuitous, based solely on containing the word "salmon." It's nice to know there is an entire industry based on my namesake!


Got 'Em

The man thought to be al-Qaida's operations commander, and who might know where Osama bin Laden is hiding, has been arrested in Pakistan, the government announced Wednesday.
The only thing that will make me grateful he survived the arrest is if he gives up bin Laden. Otherwise, the cost of jailing him is a huge waste of money.


Found In Food

Yesterday we noted that there was practical-joking severed human finger loose in the country, hiding in people's food jumping out and yelling "Gotcha'" Apparently though, the wild finger chooses his shots carefully
Despite the horrifying find - and widespread media coverage of an infamous finger incident at a Wendy's restaurant in California in March - work place statistics show that the chance of a body part winding up in food is extremely small.
My guess is that the finger, now under heavy suspicion, has fled the country for England where it is now presenting itself as a snake.
Five-year-old Jordan Willett, from Dawley, Shropshire, discovered the live reptile inside his box of Golden Puffs on Bank Holiday Monday.
Bank Holiday sounds like a good reason for a practical joke to me.


A Sense Of Comfort

Dawn's Early Light reports that the defense expenditures of the United States will exceed the rest of the world combined in the next twelve months. That gives me a warm and secure feeling. I also bet it increases immigration requests.


Not A Pretty Picture

Sheep's Crib links to some interesting stories concerning the homosexual agenda, and how they appear to have a death wish. Apparently some organizations are distributing condoms with a 13-20% failure rate. Compassion my eye.


Regulation I Agree With

I haven't done much hunting in my life, but what I have done, I have enjoyed. I have nothing against hunting, but I have to agree with this limitation.
Wildlife regulators in California took the first step Tuesday to bar hunters in the state from using the Internet to shoot animals, responding to a Texas Web site that planned to let users fire at real game with the click of a mouse.
When hunting, I really think you should eat what you kill, but no one in this day and age needs to hunt to eat. It's about being out in the wilderness and a whole host of things besides the kill. "Internet hunting" is just about the kill, and as such sounds like a bad idea to me -- even if somebody dresses the game for you and sends it on -- you might as well go to the local game butcher.


Good Idea

One of the reasons illegal immigration is such a difficult problem in the US that the courts have granted illegal immigrants so many rights that local law enforcement is virtually powerless on the matter. Based on that this story sounds like a good idea.
A man from Mexico pleaded guilty on Tuesday to trespassing in the town of New Ipswich, N.H., as the police passed the first test of whether they can use trespassing laws against illegal immigrants on public property.
The most amazing thing is this is in New Hampshire, not one of the border states.


I have received an email correcting the above by reminding me that New Hampshire is a border state -- with Canada. Fair enough, but the immigrant involved in this event is from Mexico and New Hampshire remains a long way from the Mexican border, unless they have moved it and didn't tell me.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


"Cat Amongst The Pigeons"

That is how Unveiled Face described my questioning response to Adrian Warnock's post on Charles Finney's description of his encounter with the Holy Spirit. Adrian echoed my questions and Scotwise posted one of his excellent bios on Christians of old. Plenty of commenters everywhere.

I really like Unveiled Face's paraphrase of JI Packer -- a Blogotional favorite. Most people have rightly surmised that my question had an agenda -- I suppose it is time to reveal it.

I, like Packer, would eschew the term "charismatic" but believe in phenomena like that described by Finney. Adrian and I had a conversation some time ago on the proper use of that word.

I think the key to the whole matter lies in I Corinthians 14. In that passage, Paul addresses specifically the gift of tongues, which is why I tried to link tongues and Holy Spirit baptism in my questions post. Regardless, I think that the principles that Paul examines in that chapter can apply to a "tongueless" Holy Spirit baptism.

The comments all around seem to confirm my suspicion. All comments that do not simply deny the phenomena point out that it is not an objectifiable experience. Now while I will not deny its reality based on that, I will say it greatly limits its application. As Paul says
For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church
The phenomena of Holy Spirit baptism is a deeply personal experience between God and believer -- and them only.

I do not think that, beyond acknowledging it's existence, it can rise to the level of "doctrine." Some people have it, some people don't. It is a gift that God grants to those He sees fit, and as with all such gifts based solely on grace, not worth. It is something to be discussed in the quiet of the prayer closet with the closest of spiritual kin, it is not for public worship or display. It is to be not to be urged, and should be denied only when it bears egregiously evil fruit and is clearly from the evil one. Generally when it is not public, it is not from the evil one.

The lessons I share here I learned the very hard way. In my youth a pentecostal revivalist came to town and set up camp. He ended up staying and founding a congregation. Many of my friends became involved. The least egregious thing that came from that was that one of my best friends, someone with whom I had shared much of my formative faith, told me that I was not a Christian because I had had no such experience.

In the more egregious category my mother's closest friend refused medical treatment for cancer and died. That same woman's daughter some years later similarly refused medical help and gave birth to a seriously damaged child because her labor lasted 3 days and the child was beaten hideously against her hips. The child died within a few years of birth.

This cult, built almost entirely on the offer of Holy Spirit baptism, was a thing of pure evil. Eventually the head of the cult was jailed for tax evasion -- he'd been ripping off his congregants for years.

I consider it a great blessing that God has preserved by belief in the phenomena in the face of the evil that I saw "it" create.

Again, I think Unveiled Face hit a very good tone. God works in far more ways than we will ever understand, including this one. But if He has chosen to work in your life that way, it is best you keep it to yourself and enjoy it manifestly. God may not chose to grant it to someone else, you are no better or worse than them, you just have a different blessing. They lack nothing because they do not have it.

What blesses you will not bless another. For you such a phenomena may be a cause for great joy, for another it will be nothing but a burden, or worse yet a gross temptation.

We always do God a great disservice when we attempt to say "He will always work this way," but in this case, I think you do more than a mere disservice, you can create mischief, and even evil. If you want this experience, then I urge you to pray for it, privately and urgently, but I also share the caution of Paul
Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues,...
When you pray for this, also pray for the greater things.


Bryans Nonesense shares his personal testimony on his Holy Spirit baptism. For clarification, I do not disagree with anything in that post, I would however point out that it is a personally useful thing and not something for the edification of the greater body of Christ. In that context, I think this ia a fine thing.


On Christians and Government

I wish I had (maybe took?) the time to write posts like the ones I am going to link to in this post. They both relate to the relationship between Christians, Christianity, and government.

The first comes from Wittenberg Gate. (HT: Allthings2all)
So when Christians say rape is wrong and a crime, and cite a Scripture to support that assertion, most people wouldn't object, because they agree with the conclusion, if not the source. However, when someone says unborn life has legal standing and quotes Scripture for that, suddenly the Christian is said to be foisting his or her morality on someone else or blurring the line between Church and State. Because one disagrees with the conclusion, one attacks the source, rather than admit that in both cases the Christian relied on an authoritative source outside of him- or herself, and the non-Christian relied on his or her own self-defined source. Somehow, the person with the Biblically-informed opinion is to be considered less than the person with the self-informed opinion. Yet both are opinions, aren't they?...

...As Christians in the marketplace of ideas, we do expect our voices to be heard, and our standing in politics and in the courts to be equal to those who claim to be nonreligious. Yet, reading criticisms such as Margaret's ought to also remind us that we must communicate fairly and without bitterness, even as we hold to the absolute truths that God declares in His Word, and we ought to guard ourselves against attempting to bind anyone where the Scriptures leave us free.
The other is from Evangelical Outpost.
This double standard is embarrassingly obvious. When the Religious Left supports abortion and gay marriage they are praised as compassionate and progressive. When the Religious Right opposes these same issues they are denounced as religious zealots who want to impose their morality on others. There’s a sense that these critics believe that the right to vote and influence legislation should be limited to the people who have politically correct religious views. The enthusiastic applause that followed Garrison Keillor’s plan to "pass a constitutional amendment to take the right to vote away from born-again Christians" is a shocking reminder of the bias against religiously orthodox Americans.

Apparantly, everyone has a right to be heard - until they start listening to God.
Democracy is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that we, unlike the first century church, have a voice in our civil government. The curse is that if we use that voice inappropriately, we put it at risk. That is actually true for anyone in a democracy, but the burden is heavier for those of us that have the Spirit to teach us how to use it appropriately.



Some things should not be forgotten -- EVER. Among them are those who have died that to preserve our nation. Hedgehog Blog doing that remembering in May by telling the stories of CMH (Congresional Medal of Honor) winners. Here is his first installment. We owe much to such men.

Christweb reminds us that "Victory in Europe" day approaches. So many died in defense of Europe and America -- They should be remebered and honored.

And so many died so needlessly in the same conflict. Sharing Life, who is in Germany, reminds us of the genuine evil that we finally defeated on VE day.Have you thanked God for these heroes of days gone by? You should. Have you prayed for the innocents that suffered so at the hands of a mad man? You should.


Here's Some Fun

As a chemist this pun from Grace and The News really hit my funny bone.

And if you are really bored, try and help Daffy Duck hit the parachute target. This is guaranteed to waste an enormous amount of time, but entertainingly so.


Crazy Finger On The Loose

Apparently a severed human finger is on the loose, running all over the country playing practical jokes on people by hiding in their food. What other possible conclusion can you draw from this story.
State officials are trying to determine how a worker cut off part of his finger and how the severed piece wound up in a customer's ice cream at a shop that was cleared by the state after a similar accident last summer.
Particularly in light of the recent Wendy's story. Or perhaps this is really the same severed finger as the one from the "similar accident last summer." Regardless, I am not sure I would want to either patronize, nor work at this establishment. Would you buy your ice cream from a guy with only eight fingers?


This Explains A Great Deal

Ugly Children May Get Parental Short Shrift

No wonder I could never get my parents to pay attention to me.

Now that I have told the joke, I have to comment that I have never read a worse "scientific" protocol in my life.

Researchers at the University of Alberta carefully observed how parents treated their children during trips to the supermarket. They found that physical attractiveness made a big difference.

The researchers noted if the parents belted their youngsters into the grocery cart seat, how often the parents' attention lapsed and the number of times the children were allowed to engage in potentially dangerous activities like standing up in the shopping cart. They also rated each child's physical attractiveness on a 10-point scale.
They rated the kids on a one to ten scale? Oh please! To make such a thing even slightly less than utterly subjective they would have to use a large panel and average the ratings. And how would that look in a supermarket? Tweleve people following you around deciding if your baby is ugly or not.

Since when is standing in a grocery cart dangerous? And how do they account for other possible factors that could affect the parents behavior? Maybe there is a connection between ugly kids and stupid parents?

I hope there is a lot more to this "study" than reported. I have seen junior high school students design better experimental work.


The Best of Pravda

Want One Of These

The armored ZIL limo used by Soviet leaders is for sale. The thing is a tank -- designed as much to push traffic out of the way as to protect its occupants -- a needful thing for Southern California traffic.

Pravda Imitates SNL

If you are old enough to remember Saturday Night Live in the 1980's you will remember a very funny bit about men's synchronized swimming. Apparently, parody has become reality. First time in a while "Russia Makes It Funny" has really been funny.

There is a Theme Here

Check out this article about deaths by poisoning in Russia.
According to experts' estimates, up to 90,000 people die every year on account of acute poisoning. There is no exact statistics on the matter; the same applies to careful approach to the problem. Furthermore, 80 percent of people, who die from poisoning, do not even ask for medical aid.

Alcoholic intoxication comprises the majority of such incidents,...
Then see this article about medical patients beating up their doctors.
Three doctors and two nurses suffered abuse from the patients of that room over a short period of time. You just can not treat the patients because they are often under the influence and ready to insult you verbally or use their fists at first opportunity.
Think they like their vodka in Russia?



Last week, I linked to this post from Hedgehog Blog about illegal immigration and a billboard here in Southern California proclaiming Los Angeles as a part of Mexico. I also introduced the UGH Award, and it is time to give another. Cheat Seeking Missles once again give us the winner.
"Our intent with the ad was to instill pride in L.A.-area Hispanics and to promote a newscast -- not to make a political statement."
How can you possibly instill pride by in a place by saying it belongs in another country? UGH!


Pot Calls Kettle Black

Former President Clinton announced Tuesday the launch of a 10-year initiative to combat childhood obesity, saying "We've got to change the eating habits of America's young people."
So now that he's eaten McDonald's out of business he is going to worry about somebody else? Nanny state here we come -- again! Shouldn't that be up to parents and the kids? Why do we have to? They'll still live longer than my grandparents, regardless.

Obviously, Bill is just a little peeved that his doctor won't let him have one of these

Pa. Eatery Offers New 15-Pound Burger


Must Have Been A Full Moon

An Inverness man was arrested Saturday after breaking into his neighbors' house and threatening them, shocking himself by sticking his fingers into a lamp socket, threatening a deputy with a metal rod, running naked through his yard and chewing through a cable in a patrol car, authorities said.
That must have been one heck of a party. I just hope the guy remembers it in the morning.


Oxymoron Alert

"We have revealed what may be the most beautiful mummy ever found in Egypt," Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said
What museums do you think Dr. Hawass is hanging out in? I realize it's cool that they found a new mummy, but have you ever taken a good look at the things? They're old and really shriveled up.



Just because scientists don't think they should talk about something, it's not going to stop the press.
Scientists are fond of running the evolutionary clock backward, using DNA analysis and the fossil record to figure out when our ancestors stood erect and split off from the rest of the primate evolutionary tree.

But the clock is running forward as well. So where are humans headed?

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins says it's the question he's most often asked, and "a question that any prudent evolutionist will evade."
Yet somehow they manage to put together a very long article on the question. I can't figure out what the big deal is -- any mild science fiction fan knows what humanity will look like in the distant future who needs evolutionary voodo?


News From Space

We may get a better look at Mars than ever before.
A radar on the Mars Express spacecraft which will look for water and ice under the Red Planet is due to be deployed after a delay of over a year.
So, if there is a year delay in an unmanned martian probe deploying a radar -- how long do you think it will be before this happens?
The future of human space transportation, not only into Earth orbit, but also back to the moon and on to Mars, kick-started this week as NASA received contractor proposals for the Crew Exploration Vehicle.
It may have "kick-started" but I bet it takes a loooooong time to warm up.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Crying Shame...

Thanks to a commenter for the link to this story.
A baby's life support battle continues but time is running out for baby Knya. The five-month-old is on life support at Memorial Hermann Hospital. The deadline to stop treatment is Sunday.

Could the sad case Knya Dismuke be entering a new phase? Her parents are certainly hoping so. The child is currently slated to be removed from medical treatment at Memorial Hermann Hospital next Monday.

Knya was diagnosed with leukemia in December. She underwent treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center, but was later returned to Hermann Hospital, about three months later.

A committee at Hermann Hospital has decided to discontinue medical care. With chemotherapy, doctors say the child has about a 5% chance of survival. Without it, she has about two weeks to live.
This story points out one of the very great tragedies of all these circumstances --- money. While it goes unspoken in the story, it is obvious what is happening. Charity hospitals with limited budgets have to decide on which treatment candidates can those limited budgets have the greatest effect. Thus a child with a relatively hopeless case, such as this one, gets passed from hospital to hospital.

I have personally watched a child die of leukemia, it is a painful, tragic, gut-wrenching event that I hope to never repeat. It is a pain I would wish on no parent or caregiver.

This is a tough one, much tougher in my opinion that Schiavo. Schiavo was NOT DYING. This child is. That creates a real moral dilemma. The pain of leukemia in a terminal stage patient is terrifying. In the case I witnessed, the child was older and able to communicate that pain. He hurt so bad he made me want to hasten his death -- sometimes still, in my darker hours, I wish I had. While this baby has a slim chance of survivial, the pain between here and there that the baby would suffer would be incredible, and perhaps unbearable.

It is criminal that money plays a role in the care decisions of this child. If there was a charity listed to provide for this child's care, I would donate. I would urge you to as well, hopeless as the situation may be. However, despite the intimations of my commenter I do not see a role for race or politics in this story. I only see tragedy. And before any more arrows are slung my way, I should point out that the leukemia patient I worked with was of a different race than I. I should also point out that I am among the top ten historical donaters of blood products for leukemia patients at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, having donated nearly 30 gallons.

My heart aches for everyone involved in this tragedy. My prayers are with them all as well.


Prayer Works!

Rather dramatically according to this story.
For two teens left adrift on a sailboat for six days, prayer and improvised survival tactics kept the best friends alive.

"We just prayed every day," 17-year-old Josh Long told FOX News on Monday. "The first night, we lost almost everything we had. Waves were taking us over."
Don't you just love the fact that that is reported straight without scare quotes? I do.


The Price Of Unity

The A-Team Blog has an interesting post. (HT: SmartChristian)
Over the past week I've been in quasi-dialogue with leaders from the church I just left. Have we gotten anywhere? Not really. The problem is that we haven't even been talking about whether or not the church is in step with scripture; instead, we?ve been talking about how mean I am for claiming that what the church is doing doesn't line up with scripture.

The questions I've asked, without answers, are 1) am I not allowed to compare the church with scripture? or 2) am I just not supposed to say anything if they don't jive?
I have had more than one conversation like that in my life. They are no fun. Frankly, this is one of the places where I draw the dividing line between "church" and "cult" in the perjorative sense of that word.

God speaks to us through other Christians, but we are all imperfect vessels. Spiritual authority must be earned, and maintained -- it is not granted by virtue of position.


The Very Root Of Genuine Faith

21st Century Reformation continues to examine true discipleship. In a post yesterday Brad asks,
Do you have a confidant to whom you are accountable? Do you have someone who you have confessed all your shortcomings and who knows your private life? Have you confessed and are you continually confessing the exact nature of your shortcomings and sins to this person?
I have long though Catholicism has the idea of confession right, if not the precise form. Truly intimate encounters with God begin on our knees and in humility.


Examining Demons

I complained yesterday about the demonization of politically active Christians that has been going on lately. Holy Coast looks at the phenomena much more deeply. It's well worth the read.

Whil you're at it, check out the comments on my post from yesterday. Apparently because there really is a lunatic fringe that calls itself Christian that believes that dominionism and reconstructionism garbage, all Christians get to be painted with the same brush. Still sounds like a straw man to me, most Christians have never heard of that nonesense, and those that do will loudly repudiate it, just like they do abortion clinic bombers. Just like I do now.

Now, if we could just get a lot of leftie organization repudiating things like tree spiking, vandalism, and terrorism just as plainly and loudly...


I Believe This...

...From Scotwise:
BEING the life and soul of the party could be good for the heart, according to a study linking loneliness with furred-up arteries.

Researchers found that men who were socially isolated had raised levels of a blood chemical linked to heart disease.
I was single for 20 years before I met the love of my life. Praise the Lord I met her!


Sex and Politics

Don't mix very well. Sex is a moral matter, not a legal one. This is why so many are working so hard to eliminate religious voices from political discourse. Unfortunately, those of us with religious convictions are forced to enter the conversation because the other side forced it into the political arena.

John Mark Reynolds and Sheep's Crib both here and here had some great posts yesterday on the subject.


From the Edge of Taste

Sorry, it's not funny this week, just in bad taste -- from the world of art. This is silly and disgusting and pointless. This is just a bad idea. Didn't art use to be about beauty, not "personal demons" and politics?

What I don't know is if this is bad taste or not.


Art, Or Something Like It

While we are talking about "art," PBS seems to be big news lately. Current PBS people claim they are politically neutral, but they are decrying the new guys trying to achieve balance. Check some of this out:
But he has repeatedly criticized public television programs as too liberal overall, and said in the interview, "I frankly feel at PBS headquarters there is a tone deafness to issues of tone and balance."
How does that quote support the thesis of the sentence?
Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive of PBS, who has sparred with Mr. Tomlinson privately but till now has not challenged him publicly, disputed the accusation of bias and was critical of some of his actions.

"I believe there has been no chilling effect, but I do think there have been instances of attempts to influence content from a political perspective that I do not consider appropriate," Ms. Mitchell, who plans to step down when her contract expires next year, said Friday.
This sounds like a distinction without a difference.

If you ask me, this sounds like the usual bellyaching that goes on when there is a new guy making changes. And by the way, contending that PBS is not left leaning is like claiming FOXNews is not right-leaning. Get real.


Life Imitates Art

Well...that is if you consider movies art. Remember the scene in Caddyshack when a Baby Ruth candy bar, dropped in a swimming pool, casues an enormous panic? I could not help but think of that when I read this.
A 911 call about a possible weapon at a middle school prompted police to put armed officers on rooftops, close nearby streets and lock down the school.

All over a giant burrito.
I can think of ways to turn a burrito into a weapon, but that is a subject for "Edge of Taste."


The Govenator... learning California politics the hard way according to John Fund. I just hope he learns fast. I remain hopeful, but things are looking a little dim right now.


Waste Of Time

This sounds like a waste of time to me.
Eighty years after a famed courtroom battle in Tennessee pitted religious beliefs about the origins of life against the theories of British scientist Charles Darwin, Kansas is holding its own hearings on what school children should be taught about how life on Earth began.

The Kansas Board of Education has scheduled six days of courtroom-style hearings to begin Thursday in the capitol Topeka. More than two dozen witnesses will give testimony and be subject to cross-examination, with the majority expected to argue against teaching evolution.
If not teaching evolution in schools, or teaching intelligent design makes a whit of difference in developing real faith in Jesus Christ, then I have such a thorough misunderstanding of what real faith in Jesus is that I should probably just not bother anymore.


No Clone Zone

Generally, I don't support moves by Democrats - they're usually bad ideas. But not this one.
A Los Angeles County Democrat is spearheading a state Assembly campaign to make it illegal to sell cloned pets in California, including allergy-proof cats being contemplated by a company in San Diego.
Besides, a "hypoallergenic cat" is not quite as simple as people seem to think.


Can You Feel It?

That anticipation in the air? The sense of celebration? It is that most wonderful time of the year. I realize for most of you Christmas is that season, but I grew up in Indianapolis, home of The Indianapolis 500. THE GREATEST SPECTACLE IN RACING. Race month -- May -- is a month long festival of parties, events and speed.

I'll try not to bore you with too much racing news, but I get all giddy this time of year.


Head Butting In Indianapolis

While we are talking about Indianapolis, looks like the local Children's Museum in getting a new dinosaur skull. The new breed of dino discovered apparently has a flat forehead, so they depict it as butting heads in some sort of fight. What's the deal with all these "action pose" depictions of dinosaurs lately? I'd like a good look at the beast.

Monday, May 02, 2005


Rounding Up Schiavo This Week


The nature of the Roman Catholic Church produces some very interesting internal politics. None more so than those covered in this story. I'm not going to comment because not being catholic, it's none of my business, but I personally disagree with the guy featured on some points.


This article is from a lawyer that talks about how well the legal system worked in the situation. I have no doubt the legal system worked very well, but as we all learn in civics class, legal and just are often very different things, and in this case, that fact had deadly consequences.

Which raises a very interesting point. Legally, this case boiled down to the courts choosing who gets to decide. Do we really want justice to be such a personal decision?

This piece from the Navy talks about living wills. It is my understanding that living wills are generally contested, and almost never anticipate the actual circumstances in which one might find oneself, rendering them useless. Legally, it is better to assign someone durable power of attorney to make the decision at the time. Just choose wisely and update often.

This article addresses unintended consequences of legal decisions such as what we have seen.
A 14-year-old girl who claimed she shot her father to death to help him commit suicide has been charged with second-degree murder.
When it was trumpeted so loudly int he wake of the Schiavo situation that "people have a choice about how to die," and "Michael should be allowed to carry out his wife's wishes." can you blame a 14-year-old from believing her father when he says "It's OK honey, just shoot me."

Just for fun, check out this post revealing the true nature of the Florida judiciary.


Apparently it is all politics, at least based on this duo of articles. Terri Schiavo is no longer a dead person, just an issue, and Bill Frist has seemingly pinned his presidential hopes on it. At least so says this article. Meanwhile, in the Indianapolis Star, Frist is waging war with Jeb Bush over capturing the issue for a White House run. But I thought Jeb said he wasn't running? Well, I grew up in Indianapolis, we always were a little behind. I am alwasy struck by how accusations ususally come from those that are most worhty of them.

This is simply not helpful. Protests are spectacle without action. Better to spend you time working the phones and email on the filibuster.


My Schiavo inspiration Allthings2all reprints a priestly account of Terri's last hours. There is great shame on this nation, great shame.


Preaching Towards Maturity, With Wisdom, And Without Legalism

Unveiled Face looks at my post from Saturday on preaching and asks
The question is, how do we go about preaching the Wisdom Literature (especially Proverbs, but also Ecclesiastes, Job) in a way that leads believers towards maturity, but also avoids legalistic moralism and accounts for the fact that Christ has come?
Isn't that the great tension of Christian life? And more on point, isn't that the great difficulty in preaching -- how do you get the audience to keep in mind the whole when you are going to concentrate on one small portion?

Being a scientist, I think very mathematically. One thing leads to another, leads to another, quite logically and quite sequentially. Thus, if I were going to write a blog post about measuring viscocity, I would start by writing down the fundamental equations of motion and friction that I would use to derive the equations of viscosity. It would take one paragraph, and assume that my reader knew much, but it would lay the groundwork, and remind the reader where we come from before we continue the journey.

First of all, I think this points to the great wisdom in preaching from a full lectionary. Whenever the text for a sermon is just one passage and not several, from a variety of sources, Old and New Testament, I start to worry before the sermon even begins.

If one is going to preach a series on Proverbs, why not begin by examining Jesus' claim that he came "not to abolish, but to fulfill." Then examine Paul's discussions of grace and the law. Maybe this could be done in one or two sermons. The object would be to lay goundwork so that this context could be provided in a single paragraph at the beginning and end of each sermon out of Proverbs. For those coming in on the middle of the Proverbs series, these groundwork sermons could be provided in writing or tape versions. Piper does this kind of thing very well.

With Proverbs in partciular, I think little stories about how it is done right and wrong are most helpful. "When the Pharisees did this, they were true to the letter of this Proverb, but when Jesus did this He was true to the Spirit." I love Scotwise because he always has a great story about some hero of the faith, and they are most useful in these situations.

I also would not be afraid of legalism to some extent. The church in general has been so afraid of it for so long that it has largely lost its ethical moorings. Faith in Christ demands our best efforts at ethical living. I not sure there is anything wrong with saying there simply are rules.

Most importantly, though is discipleship. If a pastor is actively involved in discipling his congregation, and that congregation sees in him the tension between grace and the law lived out in its proper balance, then any particular sermon will be have a living context in which it will be understood.

This, ultimately gets to where Adrian and I differ on preaching. Some lessons simply cannot come through the pulpit -- even through scripture. The Holy Spirit must indeed write them on our hearts. Which takes me back to my science analogy.

In science, we attempt to tie various ideas together. We build a theory of viscocity based on the basic theories of motion as laid out by Newton. In recent times, Newton's great framework has proven insufficient and been replaced by quantum mechanics and relativity. And now we seek to tie these together in a giant theory called the "Grand Unified Field Theory."

Christianity is full of theories and tensions and seeming contradictions. I am a calvinist largely because it puts all the mystery and all the tension in God's character. It makes perfect sense to me that I cannot explain fully God, I am comfortable with His mysteriousness. Most other theological schools leave mysteries hanging out there like an unanswered question, responded to with a shrug.

The "Grand Unified Field Theory" of Christianity is the Holy Spirit. He ties together the seemingly contradictory strings of grace and the law. So, if I am preaching on Proverbs, I will invoke the Holy Spirit in prayer at the beginning and end of each sermon. I will ask the Holy Spirit to specifically indwell us all and to unify the tension. I would avoid the common, but meaningful, "May the words of my mouth and meditations of our hearts...," and say, "Holy Spirit, keep us ever mindful that you call us to grace and behavior. Create in us the proper balance between the lessons of Proverbs and the grace of the cross."

But most of all, I would preach boldly on Proverbs. It needs to be done.



Apparently that is what the religious right really is, demons. At least if you attended "the two-day conference at City College of New York called 'Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right,'" as reported in the Washington Times. (HT: Hugh Hewitt)

Check out a few quotes
"This may be the darkest time in our history," said Bob Edgar, general secretary of the left-leaning National Council of Churches...
The Depression, either world war, The Civil War were far better days than these. No hyperbole here. Let's move on.
The United States is "not yet a theocracy," Joan Bokaer, founder of, said Friday night, but she argued that "the United States is beginning to fit the model of a reconstructed America."
Tax cuts combined with increased funding for faith-based social programs and decreases in welfare spending, Ms. Bokaer said, were examples of "the theological right ... zealously setting up to establish their beliefs in all aspects of our society."
Call me when we are tearing down statues of Buddha or gassing Jews. But here is my fave
Speakers outlined such concepts -- others would say conspiracy theories -- as Christian reconstructionism and dominionism to a crowd that Mr. White said does "not understand the further reaches of religion."
Dominionism is the theory that the account in Genesis in which God gave man dominion over the earth has become a political teaching advocating that Christians gain and hold power. Christian reconstructionism is the theory that Christian conservatives intend to impose Old Testament law in America.
Who makes this stuff up? I spend a lot of time in church and reading Christian literature and I have never heard of this before. "Impose Old Testament law?" - getting out from oppression by OT law is the very heart of Christianity.

Nothing like a straw man to battle....



Read this and be moved. It is the story of the memorial service for a fallen soldier. Mustang 23 does great service to SPC Colburn, who has given the ultimate service to his country. Mustang has my thanks and SPC Colburn has my profind gratitude.


Controversial Concepts

In modern times, I cannot think of a more controversial Christian discussion than that of "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit." I believe in such a thing, but fear it. I have prayed ardently for it, but have experienced it only in small and quiet ways. I have seen it bring great blessing and I have seen it cause the ultimate harm.

Therefore, I read this post from Adrian Warnock with anticipation and trepidation. Adrian quotes Charles Finney's testimony, which is amazingly absent a manifestation of tongues, which is generally associated with the experience.

Because of some experiences in my youth with this phenomena, ones that hurt many, many people about whom I still care greatly, I have studied this area with some urgency. But rather than pontificate I would like to hear some discussion on the matter. Here are some important questions.

In all my studies I have answers for these, but am not fully satisfied with them. I am interested in the thoughts of others. This much I know. The experience is utterly ecstatic, but if not grounded in deep thought and understanding, it can be highly misleading and dangerous.

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