Saturday, May 21, 2005


Media Hatred

It seems to be emerging this week that the MSM just hates the military. They have come to view their independent role as an oppostional role. As proof, I offer that they are trying to generate a "news swarm" their lame version of a "blog swarm" as a a counter offensive to this week's Newsweek debacle.

Hugh Hewitt devoted his Friday show to the topic with details to be found at Radioblogger. Look around Radioblogger as he is liable to be adding info all weekend.

At teh very center of this storm is this article from the NYTimes. It is a recount of criminal action on the part of soldiers in Afghanistan. Criminal actions that military justice has well in hand. Obviously the NYTimes is trying to show build a case for the "false but accurate" defense by showing that the military really is bad.

It is ashame that we have to defend the military in circumstances like this. Lest you wonder that this has real affect on our men in women in uniform, please read this post by Dadmanly.
As a member of the U.S. Military in Iraq, let me say something very clearly to Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, CBS, ABC, and any other media organization of any integrity.

You are creating greater risk for me personally. You are creating incredible hostility in Muslim countries due to incessant negative reporting out of context and ignoring orders of magnitude of good news in doing so. Yet, in your jaded imaginations, you believe every misconception you spin is ever more confirmation of what you always knew about the U.S. Military. These unrelenting Vietnam analogies are like press versions of drug addled flashbacks.

You create added danger for my soldiers. You feed into enemy (yes, enemy) propaganda efforts in yielding unlimited access to pre-staged voices with calculated intent. You are entirely ignorant of the countries you claim to cover, and you know as little about the U.S. Military, its culture, climate, training, procedures, and ways of operation. You diminish and demean our service.
There it is, from the horse's mouth. Believe it, and quit buying, watching, listening, or reading from these people. Our men and women in uniform deserve no less.


Evil Christians!

The demonization of Christianity continues apace on the left and in the media. The latest shot comes from a TV drama for pity-fied sakes!
But the most recent episode of NBC's doddering Law & Order series is where I draw the line. The episode tells the story of a racist who committed murder nine years ago but who, in shame and remorse, subsequently found Jesus and was born again. In the nine years since he dedicated himself to Christ, he has led an exemplary life. But his guilt is discovered, and he decides to confess and show true contrition.

So far, so good, right? I'm sure the writers and producers thought they were being eminently fair to all sides. They even showed Jack McCoy (played by Sam Waterston) stunned beyond words that a born-again Christian could be so sincere. In one scene I swear he made the same face my old basset hound would make when I tried to feed him a grape: total and complete incomprehension. His assistant even confessed she goes to church regularly and knows decent born-agains herself.

But this was all grace on the cheap. The rest of the storyline was festooned with nasty and dishonest ?shots. For example, as McCoy and his assistants work to bring the murderer to justice, the shadowy forces of the Christian right seek to have him absolved of all accountability for his crime because he?d accepted Jesus as his personal savior.
Thus said Jonah Goldberg in NRO this week. Fortunately, RealClearPolitics carried a piece by Quin Hillyer that shot back
These pundits also ignore how overtly political the national bodies of the "mainline" Protestant churches have become -- always in support of the left. Go to the Web page of the National Council of Churches: You'll find headlines urging support of the Democrats' filibusters against judicial nominees. You'll find support for a more liberal federal budget, and opposition to oil drilling in Alaska.

On the Web pages of the Episcopal, United Methodist and Presbyterian churches, you'll see official statements in support of liberal positions on gun control, economics, abortion and foreign affairs.
But with stories like this, we do not do ourselves any good.
The pastor of a Louisiana church and six of its members, including the pastor's wife and a sheriff's deputy, have been arrested in what the police described as a cult-like sex ring that abused children and animals.
When I started to read the story I wanted to categorize it as another one of those falicious "recovered memory" nursery prosecutions that happened back in the '80's. But then I read this
The Rev. Louis Lamonica, 45, pastor of Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula, a town of 5,000 about 40 miles northwest of New Orleans, is both the chief suspect and the man who broke the case, which deputies had been investigating since a woman called from Ohio five weeks ago. She said her children had been abused but was reluctant to give specifics, Deputy Reed said.

On Monday afternoon, the authorities said, Mr. Lamonica walked into the Livingston Parish sheriff's office and began to confess. "I don't really know what motivated him," said Detective Supervisor Stan Carpenter in Livingston Parish.
I'd like to think this is the Holy Spirit in action, wonder if any of the Christian attack pundits will acknowledge that?


Smart Move Pres!

President Bush on Friday said he would veto legislation that would loosen restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and expressed deep concern about human cloning research in South Korea.
says FOXNews.

In a world where people fight to the point of violence to preserve animal life, how can they argue with the preservation of nascient human life? And yet they do. Such things make it very easy to believe in the devil; it's just too twisted.



This weekend of the second weekend of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. The new qualifying format this year is exciting. Holy Coast made mention yesterday that there is some sort of NASCAR event this weeked as well. I have found NASCAR useful for those times when things get a little dull at the IMS.

NASCAR really isn't too bad if you don't mind using a calendar to time them going around the track, given that they go the same speeds the Indy cars went the first time I went to the track in 1969! Rick says this weekend's tank on wheels event is unique
This is a non-points race, which means it's all about the money - $1 million to the winner - and the bragging rights. The drivers are basically told by their teams to either win the race or don't bring the car back.
In other words it is little more than a high speed demolition derby. Genuine racing takes skill, teamwork, and superior engineering. Any numbskull can wreck a car.


Impress The Wife

Have you always wanted to get your wife that diamond too big to actually carry? You may have your chance as scientists are now using Chemical Vapor Deposition to make them. Though man-made these diamonds remain expensive, but fear not, all you really have to do is cobble one of these together in the kitchen, tap directly into the power company main line, and you're in business. Time to rummage through the tool drawer....


Help -- I'm Being Crushed!

Years ago there was a comedy show out of Canada called "Kids In The Hall." One of their funnier bits featured a complete nerd that would look at "enemies" from a distance, placing their head between his thumb and forefinger. He would then "pinch" theri head repeating to his lonely self "I'm crushing your head. I'm crushing your head you *&^%."

I could not help but think of that sketch when I saw this story
Earth Puts Big Squeeze on Los Angeles
I push back everyday, but apparently I am losing.


Comic Art

A very long time ago, before and during WWII there was a comic book character called the "Blazing Skull."

A long time ago in the early 60's there was a western hero in white called the "Ghost Rider"

Sometime in the 1970's somebody got the bright idea to combine them and this is what fell out

The modern motorcycle riding, blazing skull headed Ghost Rider has had some decent success and ther eare even rumors of a movie. He's a demon, even if a heroic one, so not necessarily my favorite character, but the look, the art is timeless and sometimes quite lovely.


A Breath of Fresh Air

This op-ed from yesterday's WSJ is just refreshing. The Author?
Mr. al-Ahmed is director of the Saudi Institute in Washington.
His conclusion?
The lesson here is simple: If Muslims wish other religions to respect their beliefs and their Holy book, they should lead by example.
After the riots this week, isn't it nice to hear that from a Muslim?


Real Americans

Read the comments for this Chrenkoff post. It's about Donald Trump's current crusade to rebuild the WTC as is was, but one story taller. The idea is that to rebuild tells the world "we will not be intimidated" -- a thought I had about 3 days after the attack. The comment show Americans at their strongest. Here's a couple of my favs
I too think Trump is a pompous [jerk] with a huge ego. However, he's spot on with this idea. It's totally American in concept, and HONORS the memory of those who died in the attack AND those fighting against terrorism worldwide. It's the perfect response... bigger and better than ever, just like the free world after the eventual defeat of jihadist terrorism.
Abso-frigging-lutely, build them again...I like the cartoon design I saw with THREE towers instead of two, and the middle one taller...America's middle finger meme again.
I have some ideas myself, but this is a family oriented blog.


New Words

LiveScience reports that Merriem-Webster asked for submissions of words not in the dictionary. Here is the 'unofficial list' of the top 10. Here are my favorites:

flusterpated - a state of being flustered that's so intense, one's actions and words become bound up

fahoodled - confused, esp. when trying to think of too many things at once

Both of these are states that I occupy frequently.


Freak Show, Freak Show

Calf Born in N.M. With 5 Legs, 6 Hooves
It used to be that you had to go to the carny sideshow to see stuff like what is in that story. Reading about it on the Internet is not nearly so much fun. Barkers make it so much better.


Yabba Dabba Dead

The voice of Fred Flinstone has died. Henry Corden was a Hanna-Barbera regular, and did a great job for them. Only one problem -- this paragraph is true, but please, tell me which one of these things does not belong
Corden moved into voice acting in the 1960s, and deployed his dialect skills in bit parts for Hanna-Barbera, including "Jonny Quest," "Josey and the Pussycats" and "The New Tom & Jerry Show."
Leave your comments, I would love to know how many of my readers are serious animation fans.


I Need A Shower...

...after reading this
Mary Kay Letourneau and her former sixth-grade pupil ? the father of her two youngest children ? will be married Friday night, "Entertainment Tonight" and "The Insider" reported Thursday.
You know that part in the ceremony? - "If anyone has reason that there two should not be married...." I am tempted, I am sorely tempted.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Pepsi The Blog Swarm

It' commencement season which means all sorts of educational institutions all over the country are looking for people of "influence" or "importance" to speak -- many of whom are not generally public speakers and who do not generally understand how fast word gets around these days. So they put their foot firmly in their mouth, and make a fool out of themselves and whatever institution it is that they represent.

Well, I had another of those live at the client's days yesterday and came out into the latest example. It's Indra Nooyi and Pepsico's turn on the chopping block. She gave this speech at the Columbia School of Business commencement. It's a real corker -- bascially she accuses America of giving "the finger" to the rest of the world.

First she explained Now she is sort of apologizing.

There is a call to boycott Pepsico (not a bad idea) and here's a list of their products.

Get the latest from Hewitt - he is all over this like white on rice.

Bascially, the women is obviously sucking her toes right now. I think this sort of stuff should cost Pepsi something -- thus my agreement with the boycott. But let's keep it in perspective. This is not a government person, this is not a politician, this is not even the media. The world is full of idiot jerks running companies. This one just went public.


Support GodBlogCon!

I hope every Christian blogger out there is planning on attending the Godblogging conference in October. If you can, register now!

But if you cannot go, or don't know if you can go yet, or are going and want others you know to go too, or just like the idea, I hope you will support the casue by adding one of the logo buttons to your blogroll -- I have one in mine. You can get them here.


Jollyblogger Rises

It's been almost 2 weeks since I asked someone to exegete Hebrews 6:1-3 for me. I got a lot of discussion, both here and here. But it was only on Wednesday that someone, namely Jollyblogger, put up a post on that passage, and its context. David does not in that post acknowledge my challenge (he has elsewhere), but it is an exegesis of the passage in question.

It is a great post, I recommend it to all.

And while we are reading Jollyblogger, read this great post as well.
In other words, when we ask today about the keys to church growth and church planting we'll get sociological answers rather than theological answers. Rather than saying the keys are a clear gospel, biblical preaching and biblically based ministry we'll be told that the keys are things like location, adequate parking and facilities, and accurate demographic analysis of a community.

To be sure, the importance of the gospel, biblical preaching and biblically based ministries aren't denied, these are taken as baseline minimums which all churches must have. The mindset seems to be "well of course we need those things, but in and of themselves they aren't enough to grow a church." The keys to growth are these sociological factors.

I am not saying that sociological factors should be unimportant, I am just saying that we've turned things upside down. It's the theological factors that are key and the sociological factors are the tangential matters.
Right on David -- Right on!


Meddling With Education

It is really hard to get an education anymore with all the propogandizing that is going on in schools. Found some examples.

Here is a story about continuing legal battles over the place of prayer in schools. The devil is in the details in this story and I cannot tell precisely what is going on. Bottom line is this. I think optional or generic prayer in schools is fine, but if a court has specifically ordered against it, fight the court battle, but do not disobey the order. But more troubling is the enormous amount of resources put into the issue. As I said, fight the court battles, but the civil disobedience just wastes school resources.

This story really is troubling.
The National Parent-Teacher Association has refused an ex-homosexual group?s request to exhibit at its annual convention while welcoming a pro-homosexual activist organization ? even inviting it to present a workshop.
I don't think the subject ought to be discussed at PTA conventions at all. But if it is all sides must be heard from. This really is discriminatory.


Friday Humor

Send this link to everyone you have ever gotten an annoying "chain" email from. Everyone! -- Stop the junk!


Out Of The Park

Sctowise strikes again with this post.
Is it any wonder that so many Christians are leaving the Churches? They have no one to emulate! In times past the man or woman who was in the pulpit, emulated Christ. They put into practice the things that were preached by the Pastors, who in turn, preached what Christ taught! Even the Apostle Paul got it right when he said? For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, - 2 Thess 3:7.
I'd send this post to every pastor I know, but they would either worry that I don't love them anymore, or tell me I was insensitive...


Another Great CMH Story

In this month where we remember those that have fallen in defense of our nation, Hedgehog Blogs posts on Congressional Medal of Honor winners is especially moving. The latest installment is up and recommended.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


More Newsweak Wake

This thing is a huge mess, an enormous mess. Just a few links to give you some insight into the continuing debate.

Sheep's Crib is not afraid to say outright, what I nodded at the other day. Islam is a religion found wanting. I am not sure I agree with John's conclusions, but I really agree with his analysis.

As usual Claudia Rossett hits the nail right on the head.
But to whatever extent the press is engaged in the business of trying to report the truth, or contribute to the making of a better world, it would be a service not only to U.S. journalism, but to the wider world--including Muslims--to spend less effort dredging Guantanomo Bay, and more time wielding the huge resources at our disposal to report on the prisons of the Islamic world. It is in such places that the recent riots had their true origins.
But what is truly amazing is that the media isn't learning from this -- it's deeper than the old "fake, but accurate" defense -- their loathing of the military and conservatives is now becoming apparent. Check out Tuesday's White House press briefing. (HT: Best of the Web Today)
Q Scott, you said that the retraction by Newsweek magazine of its story is a good first step. What else does the President want this American magazine to do?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's what I talked about yesterday. This report, which Newsweek has now retracted and said was wrong, has had serious consequences. People did lose their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged; there is lasting damage to our image because of this report. And we would encourage Newsweek to do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region.

And I think Newsweek can do that by talking about the way they got this wrong, and pointing out what the policies and practices of the United States military are when it comes to the handling of the Holy Koran. The military put in place policies and procedures to make sure that the Koran was handled -- or is handled with the utmost care and respect. And I think it would help to point that out, because some have taken this report -- those that are opposed to the United States -- some have taken this report and exploited it and used it to incite violence.

Q With respect, who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not telling them. I'm saying that we would encourage them to help --

Q You're pressuring them.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying that we would encourage them --

Q It's not pressure?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, this report caused serious damage to the image of the United States abroad. And Newsweek has said that they got it wrong. I think Newsweek recognizes the responsibility they have. We appreciate the step that they took by retracting the story. Now we would encourage them to move forward and do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done by this report. And that's all I'm saying. But, no, you're absolutely right, it's not my position to get into telling people what they can and cannot report.
Then a littel later in the briefing
Q Let me follow up on that. What -- you said that -- what specifically are you asking Newsweek to do? I mean, to follow up on Terry's question, are you saying they should write a story? Are you going that far? How else can Newsweek, you know, satisfy you here?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I said, we would encourage them to continue working diligently to help repair the damage that has been done because of this --

Q Are you asking them to write a story?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- because of this report. I think Newsweek is going to be in the best position to determine how to achieve that. And there are ways that I pointed out that they can help repair the damage. One way is to point out what the policies and practices of our United States military are. Our United States military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is treated with care --

Q Are you asking them to write a story about how great the American military is; is that what you're saying here?

MR. McCLELLAN: Elisabeth, let me finish my sentence. Our military --

Q You've already said what you're -- I know what -- how it ends.
The disdain and the ego is so incredibly apparent. In their defense, they are harming themselves even more. There is a lot left to this story and I don't think it is going to be pretty. Hugh Hewitt did an interview with one of the questioner's. You can read a transcript here.


Preaching A Round The World

All I wanted to do, was have a little discussion with a few bloggers, most notably Adrian Warnock, and now look at what has happened. Broken Messenger called it a "Blog Storm," which my be correct, but I really think is is more of a "Blog Shower." Since I last posted on the subject here is what has happened:

Adrian Warnock called out Jollyblogger, then he added thoughts here.

Jollyblogger answered the call and Adrian linked to it here.

There were great contributions made by The Gadabout, Unveiled Face and Crossroads.

Scotwise, in one of his daily encouragements, also added some interesting input, though he did not actually enter the fray.

Clearly, I have a great deal packed into this discussion other than strictly preaching. I want to look at several things in this post.

First I want to discuss if there really is a difference in salvation and sanctification. Without getting too heady here, let's just say salvation is "coming to Christ" and sanctification is "growing to maturity." In his post, Jollyblogger says this
I could at this time digress into a discussion of our modern evangelical propensity to divide evangelism and discipleship, but for now I'll just say that this is a very modern thing that is not biblical. I don't think the biblical writers had the same worries that we have about potential problems from improperly targeted messages.
Boy there is a lot in there, and I think it is really important stuff. I got to know Adrian over a discussion of the simple gospel - a simple formulation of the good news of Christ, with which I had and have whole hearted agreement. But it is important to remember that we call people to transformation. The apostle Paul said

Phil 2:12 - So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

This would indicate that the reception of the gospel is not a one time event, but a lifetime journey. Too often preaching focuses on "answering the altar call." When I say that I believe Sunday morning preaching should be to the found, not the unfound, I mean simply that it should measure its success by other than answer to the altar call. That may happen, hopefully, that will happen, but I do not think that should be the aim.

I know people that answered an altar call and never come back. I know people that answer an altar call every week, but I never see any signs of change in them. The goal is to bring them there and move them on. There is a tyranny in any metric we use to judge success. Altar call response is an inadequate metric.

This is going to open up a while other can of worms, but I am not assured of the final destination of someone who has merely answered an altar call -- in whatever form that may have taken. Mere ascent to the gospel is, as best as I understand, insufficient to guarnatee one a place in God's kingdom. I am incapable of telling you what will (hey -- I'm a Calvinist), I just know that is not enough. That is the start of the journey to that place -- a journey only taken by grace, but it is a journey with no destination in this life.

When I say preaching should be about maturity, not evangelism, that is what I mean -- preaching should take/help us on the journey -- it should not lead us to a destination at which we may stop.

For my second point, I want to start with this quote from Paul Rees that Scotwise has at the beginning of the post linked above
"Revival and evangelism, although closely linked, are not to be confused. Revival is an experience in the Church; evangelism is an expression of the Church."
The church has a lot to do. This quote emphasizes a distinction between just two of those things. It is after all the body of Christ and therefore, must carry out all aspects of Christ's ministry. Thus Paul talks continuously about all the different body parts (I Cor 12) and all the different roles (Romans 12)in a church. It takes the entire church to carry our the entire ministry of the church, which, as we just established, is to make mature Christians. Unveiled Face put it this way
One aspect I guess I could point out about this is that many people who complain about their preachers etc. could really be achieving a massive amount in this area through one-on-one or small group relationships. Just get out there and counsel people with the true knowledge of the Son of God!
I agree with Mick here, but have to say that in my particular experience, preachers often encourage the kind of situation that he is arguing against.

Which leads me to my final point about what is the role of the preacher in the congregation. Let's start by asking if the preacher and the pastor are the same. I contend not necessarily. In some sense, this depends on your denomination. I am PCUSA, which means the Session is supposed to run the church, freeing the pastor to be a preacher. But let's be honest, very few Sessions are strong enough to make that model a reality. Some other denominations despense with the model altogether and just go ahead and call the pastor the head of the congregation. I guess what I am saying is that regardless of denominational affiliation, functionally, pastors end up with the same job -- organizing and leading the congregation. Filling the pulpit, preaching, is just one small part of that large job.

Most of my pastor friends feel called to preaching and end up frustrated at what a small part of their job it really is. Many of them feel ineffective because they do not get to do as much, or do it as well (time constraints) as they would like. I try to encourage all of them that by building up the congregation (this is not church growth, this is helping the congregation build maturity) they are in fact achieving their goal of adding to the Kingdom.

This also is what I mean when I say preach to the found, not the unfound, because in a very true sense, preaching to the found IS preaching to the unfound.

So what does "preaching to the found" mean? It means preaching the simple gospel not as a formulation, but in application. It means offering encouragement to reach for maturity, not stopping at mere ascent. It means preaching about more than that short laundry list of topics presented in Hebrews 6:1-3. It means preaching out of the Old Testament, maybe even the really hard stuff like Proverbs. It means daring to say that "Not everyone who says to [Christ], 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." It means risking that some will not come back to hear you preach again. It means taking Matthew 10:14 to heart everytime you wirte a sermon. It means...

Well, I could rant like this for a while, but I trust you get the message. We call people not to an endpoint, but to a journey, and then we must take the journey with them. That's preaching.


Rising To The Challenge

Jollyblogger has called me out.
But because I don't want to be left out in all of these challenges, I want to issue a challenge of my own. That's right, I take a backseat to no one in these matters - if my buddies Adrian and John can issue a challenge, well so can I.

With this challenge we will see who the elite of the blogosphere really are, yea verily this is a challenge which will cause the cream of the blogosphere to rise to the top. The question is - have you got what it takes to rise to the challenge??...

...I challenge every blogger to send me a check or cash in an amount not less than $25 nor to exceed $100 and then to write your own personal love letter to me on your blog. And I'll even expand the challenge to non-bloggers. If you don't have a blog you can send me a hand written love note when you send in your check or money and I'll post it for you on my blog. Yep, you're welcome, I'm just that kind of guy.
I wish to point out that I did not call David out -- Adrian did. My "challenge" was mostly to Adrian and a way to make a point, I had no idea it was going to erupt into what it has...It was not, as I think David may be suggesting, a gimmick to generate links and traffic. But that aside, and in the spirit of the challenge...

Gal 2:20 -- I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

1 Cor 15:3-4 -- For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

John 15:11-14a -- "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and {that} your joy may be made full. "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. "You are My friends,

That David, is the best love letter I know how to write to you or anybody else (well, except maybe my wife). Now, where do I send the check? And have you contributed to my mission fund yet?

UPDATE 5/20/05 6:15AM PDT

Apparently, I have this all wrong. Jollyblogger is now subject to arrest for daring to challenge the rest of us. I feel somewhat guilty as David seems to think I started all of this "challenge" business. David, if they find you call me. The number is US BLOG OTI ONAL -- I'll be happy to post your bail and you can give me that contribution to the mission fund.


The Filibuster Fight Is On!

Finally! Priscilla Owens and Janice Rogers Brown are now on the floor of the Senate for debate as judicial nominees. And, in typical parliamentary fashion getting to the votes that count will be a labyrinthine journey.

Pray for the Senators as this debate continues, and support the Republican senators that argue to break the filibuster. Send the emails and encourage them. Let them know we are rooting for them.


Godblog Funnies

There is funny stuff out there, really funny stuff.

Amy's Humble Musings has had two in the row. This one is good for a smile, but this one is good for a chuckle.

But Adrian Warnock takes the comedy prize for his whole hog theft of this post from Wittingshire.


Insights on Tom Bombadil

One of the greatest disappointments for LOTR fans in the movies was the absence of Tom Bombadil. The movie makers decided that he did not move "the story" forward, so he never even made it into a draft of the screenplay. I admit to loving that part of the story, but wondering why it was there.

I think Matt Anderson at Mere Orthodoxy may have solved the riddle of Tom Bombadil. It's a long literary post, but if you love LOTR, its worth the energy and effort.


Illuminated Scripture

Another great work from the easel of my wife...


Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

Of course it is, it's California, we have earthquakes. And now the USGS is making available an earthquake probabality map. That's the press coverage link -- this is the link to the site itself.

Needless to say, the press is making more of this than they probabaly ought to. I called contacts at the Survey who pointed me to this page at the site.
The primary use of this map is educational. Watching the fluctuations in the probabilities will help you understand the nature of earthquake clustering and how the patterns change with time....

...The only time that the probabilities become large enough to affect you is after a significant earthquake that may have already caused damage. You already knew that aftershocks are likely in this situation.
In other words, this map puts numbers on what most people that live in earthquake country already know -- if you have a big shaker, more are likely to follow. This site will not tell you when it's time to hop a plane.



The Los Angeles Mayoral election is over. Antonio Villaraigosa won. The excitable boy beat the boring boy. The fact of the matter is that the county government is so much more powerful in southern California, that the LA mayor's job is mostly a cheerleading job, which is why excitable matters. Villaraigosa is wrong on almost everything, but then so was Hahn. At least he won't be able to do too much damage.


It Is Here Again

Comes around every week just like clockwork -- getting longer and longer. Here is this week's Christian Carnival. Enjoy!


Inanity and Acidity

OK -- This is the funniest yet from HuffPo.

First check out this post from Kathy Ireland (Yes, that Kathy Ireland - the fashion model, great intellectual credential)
Can anyone tell me, are they going to bring back the draft? I have three sons -- all nearly teenagers -- and am terrified that they will. Why don't they make it that just Republican kids get called up?
Someone called Chelsea Peretti answered Ms. Ireland this way
I agree! Yes.

Children should die!
Some people really just should not blog, and if they do, they better be prepared for the shots.


Look Out Below...

...flying snake coming your way. OK, I'll admit it, I am mostly putting up this post to give my wife and other snake squeamish individuals a little rush. Seems that some guy at the University of Chicago with a grant and nothing better to do has figured out how certain snakes that glide out of trees control the glide. You can see videos of the snakes "flying" here.


Get A Life

I readily admit to my comic book superhero geekdom, but I would never stand in line dressed like Captain America. So, I worry about people that waited in line in costume for the Star Wars III opening. Really people, in the end it is just a movie -- fun, but not a lifestyle. And then there is this. Focus, people, focus...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


The REAL Cost Of Newsweek's Hubris

The conditions that led to this latest mess have two very real, and unfortunate costs. The first leads to the second.

The first is a huge gap between the media and the American public growing larger with every event like this. Blogging is, in large part, about knocking down the MSM, but we need them, at least for now. News and information is important to the functioning of our democracy, and this technology is just not yet pervasive enough to give information to the average joe out there. This is a great medium for the news junkies, but it is just not there yet for anyone else.

This gap grows because they are not about reporting, they have become about crusading. Best of the Web yesterday looked at this quite well, as did I to a small extent. I love this quote from Taranto
It's not just that the media are biased against conservatives and Republicans, though they certainly are. It is that they see every war as another Vietnam and every supposed scandal as another Watergate--at least when Republicans are in the White House, which they usually are.

The obsession with Vietnam and Watergate is central to the alienation between the press and the people. After all, these were triumphs for the crusading press but tragedies for America. And the press's quest for more such triumphs--futile, so far, after more than 30 years--is what is behind the scandals at both Newsweek and CBS.
Paul Krugman's Monday colum in the NYTimes is proof positive of that thesis.
At this point, the echoes of Vietnam are unmistakable.
In your dreams Paul! These leads me to my second cost.

I am put in mind that during WWII it was standard practice for journalists to withhold information from the public if that information put American soldiers at risk, even a little risk. Because of the mindset Taranto describes, American GI's have died -- and other American GI's are more than a little upset about it. Here is what some of my faves have to say -- Dadmanly -- Major K -- Ma Duece Gunner.

A week or so ago, I found myself defending our military against some shots from a cartoonist. I wrote this in that post
It sickens me that Dadmanly and Mustang have to defend themselves against this kind of stuff. They have people with IED's and AK47's to worry about. They should not have to worry about shots coming from back home.
When I wrote that I thought I was writing about rhetorical "shots." I honestly thought that as biased as the MSM is they would stop short on genuinely endangering American lives. Now I have been proven wrong, and what is so much worse is that it was because they failed to withhold information, it was because they reported a falsehood.

Newsweek should pay a price -- a very dear price. For God's sake, cancel your subscription. A friend of ours has given us a subscription for years. Some months back we started throwing it away without bringing it in because we could not bear to read it. Now I am going to call my friends and risk insulting them because I do not want those people to get any money on my behalf. I do not know if there are legal ramifications here, but we need to do whatever we can to make them pay. Please join.



The trailer for the upcoming Narnia movie is now available. I watched it and cried like a baby -- much as the recent LOTR trilogy seemed to hit the right resonant cord with my personal visualzations of the books, this trailer does the same thing.

Speaking of crying, there was a wonderful cartoon of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" in 1979. I saw it in TV, watched it with my girlfriend in the social room of her sorority house. I cried when Aslan resurrected. Not the coolest thing for a college guy surrounded by good looking women, but I lived to tell the tale. I started thinking about that when the tears came while I was watching the trailer, and it gave me a thought.

In my opinion, Aslan is the best literary metaphor for Christ ever. The reason is the fantastic ways in which Lewis described the great lion. I think of all the times Lewis juxtaposed the love and fear of the lion. "Beautiful, but terrifying," is the phrase that comes to mind. As I think about it, it is impossible to depict that sort of thing. I cried when I watched the cartoon not because I thought the Lord had risen, which I did when I read the book, but because I shared the joy of the kids at his appearance.

Aslan figures prominently in the trailer, which is good. However, I am preparing myself for the fact that I will not think him holy as I do when I read the books, because I am not sure you can depict holiness. I did not think the Christ in "The Passion" was holy either. I am trying to develop a mindset that allows me to enjoy the movie in the same way I enjoyed LOTR -- a great depiction of a story I love. The trailer sure does excite me.


Help The Scouts!

Today at 12:30Pm pacific there is going to be a webcast of a panel discussion regarding legal challenges currently being faced by the Boy Scouts. (Thanks to Hedgehog Blog for this info)

Most people are aware of at least some of the legal obstacles that are being set in the way of the Scouts. They can't use schools as charter institutions anymore. Now they are trying to prevent them from using public parks.

In some ways, these attacks on the Scouts trouble me more than the attacks on Christianity, like this latest one. The Scouts just are everything good about this country. Attacking them in this way is attacking the American way of life.


Do You DO Community?

Adrian Warnock is getting all fired up about teamwork in the church. He did a post based on a quote from John Hosier
Community is the commitment to care for each other and act together- it is not friendship
While I would like to think I am friends with everyone I am in community with, I understand the point this quote is trying to make. Adrian then goes on to present a great list of things that you do with people in your community. Here are just a few that really struck me:

Read the whole post for a bunch of great ideas. When I see a church wehre these things are happening, I know something is going well.


I Wanna Go!

Commercial spaceflight is on the horizon.
Fares for a suborbital spaceflight would start at $250,000, which would include 14 days of training, according to a PlanetSpace fact sheet.
Someone on that trip is going to need to hear the gospel -- so I am now collecting sponsorship donations for this mission trip. Send me an email with your pledge today!


Where are...

The Blue Fish Project posted a poem yesterday that is very worth passing on.


The Best of Pravda


This Pravda story says that failure to breast feed babies leads to obesity. Yeah, Mom's fault -- that's the ticket -- Mom's fault -- I'm not fat, just not breastfed -- Yeah


They publish a story about the problems of xenotransplants. I really lov the Russian when they get something right.


Just read this -- it was good that Stalin invaded the Baltics prior to WWII. No really, they said so. It's all an American myth because. of course, there are no Russian myths - particularly out of the Stalin run Soviet Russia.


There They Go Again...

Check this out as the lead in an Op-Ed from yesterday's NYTimes (no by-line
)Every time the critics of Darwinism lose a battle over reshaping the teaching of biology, they evolve into a new form, armed with arguments that sound progressively more benign, while remaining as dangerous as ever.
Dangerous!? Please -- that is quite a charge, and no where to they support it in the piece. This is as close as they come:
Although the chief critics say they do not seek to require the teaching of intelligent design, they add the qualifier "at this point in time." Once their foot is in the door, the way will be open.
OH -- so now we buy a slippery slope argument. There is a good reason there is no byline on this thing. I no great proponent of ID, but I would never describe it a "dangerous."



Twenty-five years ago today Mt. St. Helen's blew her lid. So, needless to say, volcanoes are in the news. This article about preparations for an eruption of Mt. Rainer is interesting. If we learned anything from St. Helens it is that 1) people won't cooperate, and 2) the mountain will never blow like you expect it to.

In my book, if you are really worried about Mt Rainer erupting -- move to the midwest. Oh wait, the Yellowstone super-volcano can reach you there. Guess you'll have to move to Atlantis. Oh wait, that's how it sunk...


Potential Use For Kudzu!

If you have never been the the south eastern part of the United States, you may not know about kudzu. It's the stuff of science fiction. Consider

The worst part is it probably only took a few weeks to grow that much!

They planted it to prevent soil erosion and it took over most of the old south. And it's useless -- at least until now.
Kudzu, an ever-expanding plant considered a pest in much of the South, appears to contain a compound that can be effective in reducing alcohol intake among humans.
Now, if we can triple the population of the planet, and they all become alcoholics, we might have a chance of taking care of the kudzu problem.


Space Station in Trouble

The oxygen generator on the international space station has quit working. Should not be a problem as there is plenty of reserve before those manning it have to come home. But why would it fail?
A balky Russian oxygen generator broke down on the International Space Station, but its two-man crew has a reserve air supply that would last about five months, NASA officials said Friday.
Is any other explanation really needed?


Great Sporting News

It's the best sports time of the year in Indianapolis with the Indianapolis 500 stuff in full swing and the NBA playoffs.

It's a shame defending race champ Buddy Rice is out of the race, but I am truly impressed that the Pacers are still fighting hard (even though they lost last night) after last fall's debacle.

I've been a way a long time, and generally am happy where I am, but this time of year...


It's The Motion In The Ocean...

...NOT! At least not for the mosquitofish. All I really want to know is who funded this study?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Blogging Lite

Given the hourly consulting rates I charge, it is rare a client wants me around for tweleve hours...but it does yesterday. Thus the reading is light today.


Darfur -- Read All About It

Educate yourself about the genocide and humanitarian crisis in Darfur with this great collection of posts at Allthings2all. Good enough to warrant an Instapundit mention! This is an important issue and this round up will bring serious attention to it.


Newsweak Comments

Because of the time constraints I mention above, I do not have time to put together a really meaty post on the Newsweek misreporting and subsequent disaster. Just a couple of questions:

Christians would not riot and kill people if you flushed the Bible -- what has Christianity done in the last 2 centuries that is even comprable.

This makes it so apparent that this was motivated entirely to make the administration and the military look bad. What else could explain it? The MSM is history, they just don't know it yet.


Violence In Uzbekistan

The chaos and violence in the former Soviet republic continues. It is hard to tell who is the party to back here, the rebels or the government. The rebels are claiming a "democratic revoltion," but according to the NYTimes they are "Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan," which sounds like it may be a terrorist front. The Brit government is taking a lot of heat for not backing the rebels. The leader of the government is a hardliner, former commie, which makes him far less than sympathetic.

Ugly as this situation is, and the despite the fact that shooting unarmed protesters is criminal, I am not sure enough facts are in to make a call on this one right now. Were the protesters really unarmed? The circumstances are just too unclear.

I think the US/Brit policy to "wait and see" is wise at this point.


From the Edge of Taste

Ananova has outdone themselves this time with this story. All I can say is, "What a waste, What a tremendous waste."


Short, But Oh So Sweet

Sometimes it's the little things that really count. Like two posts that Adrian Warnock put up Sunday. First this one.
'Shaking is the customery reaction of the Earth to the divine presense'
That is an awesome quote, but living in earthquake country, I have to wonder if that means God is here more than other places? And then there was this great quote.
"Growth is never the goal, it is the natural by-product of doing something right"
That may be the greatest wisdom needed in the church today.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Christianity As A Brand

On Saturday, I started looking at the concept of branding and it's uses and effects in Christianity. Yesterday, I looked at the idea in light of denomination and the megachurch and emerging church phenomena. Today,I want to look at the idea of Christianity itself being a brand, particularly a political brand.

Much is being made in politics of faith, values and religion these days. It is generally accepted that the last election in the US swung on so-called "values voters." Most people derive their values from their faith and/or religion so the role of Christianity in politics is increasing.

Politics is all about grouping people into consituency groups to which a candidate can then appeal. Once you define a group, you can then give that group a story, or a brand. Right now, there is a huge fight or what precisely is the story or brand for those that are in the group "Christian." Evangelical Outpost looked at that fight some this morning. SmartChristian posted over the weekend on a rather unusual attempt to use the brand "Christian."

John Mark Reynolds has taken a shot at defining a brand for that group here. (HT: Mere Orthodoxy) Dr. Reynolds defines 6 basic beliefs that would define a member of the "religious right."
a. believes basic human rights are given by the Creator God. These rights include:...
b. believes that liberty is found in an absolute freedom to do what is right and not in the freedom to do what is wrong. There is no fundamental right to do harm or evil.
c. believes that "right and wrong" can be broadly known by reason and by divine revelation. Divine revelation is knowledge and can be used in the secular realm. However...
d. believes that given human nature and a pluralistic society that a small central government is the best means to obtain a good society.
e. believes that the Kingdom of God will not come in this life. There will be no utopia. Humans are so fallible that no one institution can be trusted with too much power. Church and state must always check each other in influence.
f. believes that of late the "secular" sphere has been hi-jacked by "secularists," those who think religion does not provide useful knowledge, and who would exclude religious knowledge from public debates.
That's probably fair, but religion is not definitionally associated with right wing politics. That is an alliance that has arisen recently, and with good cause.

The political left is; however, trying to co-op the brand. Consider this post from a blog called "tdaxp." (HT: Dawn's Early Light)
A billboard campaign was launched Monday by the Minneheha County?s Grassroots Democrats, letting people know what their party stands for, says chairwoman Lisa Engels.

Green, black and white signs at Seventh Street and Minnesota Avenue and at Russell Street and Westport Avenue say: ?"Jesus cares for the poor, so do we. Democrats make America stronger."
Cheat Seeking Missles looks at how this story reflects disingenuous branding on the part of liberals, which is one of the problems with branding, it tells a selective story, not the whole story.

But then while the left is attempting to co-opt the brand they are also deriding it. Certainly this derision lies at the heart of the contest Hugh Hewitt is running for essays to define what the left means by the term "religous right." I'd enter, but I far too old to be Hugh's research assistant, particularly without credit.

This debate, to assign a brand story to Christianity in the politcal arena,is in my opinion a good thing, but as with most good things, it comes with a danger built in.

The good part of it is that is is causing people to evaluate their faith. For many, faith was a belief/emotion without application and this debate forces them to consider application. For others, Christianity was just do-goodism, and this debate forces them to consider the spiritual aspects of their faith.

The problems; however are manifold. For one thing the effort to define the brand can overcome basic Christian doctrine. Consider this article from yesterday's NYTimes. In it Kristoff is using arguements from and Episcopal bishop that require an extra-scriptural hermenuetic to complete. In a little different language that means that they are not interpreting scripture, but instead laying it alongside other sources of information and giving those other sources "equal weight" - they are challenging the authority of scripture. (Cheat Seeking Missles had some interesting comments on this piece too.)

This is a classic example of the someone wanting the political brand identity to override the actual product. Sola Scriptura, "scripture alone"is foundational to the Reformation and the protestant church and while that doctrine arose to countermand some abuses in the Roman Catholic church, it is a doctrine to which they adhere rather closely in modern times.

The Kristoff piece is rather obvious in its attempts to bend scripture to meet an objective -- and in it's accusation that conservatives do the same. He also sets up a straw man on the women thing. Women have a huge role in church leadership anymore, about the only thing they cannot do is be Roman Catholic priests. But this issue is, again, a question of scriptural interpreation -- to then transfer the arguments to homosexuality in misleading, disingenuous, and bad hermeneutics.

The hardest part about this is that Kristoff's source is from within Christianity. And that fact belies the largest problem with attempts to give Christianity a politcal brand. Because, as I have demonstrated in the other posts on this, you always end up managing the brand, not the product, arguments like this cause the church to lose focus. Not that this discussion would not have arisen without the political aspects, the debate over the role of homosexuality in the church actually predates heavy politcal activism by gays, but the political aspects adds a power and authority to the debate that the church should not have to struggle with.

This underlies why I think it is vitally important that churches, as opposed to individual Christians, cannot become politically active. That very political activity co-opts the brand the church has, which should be about GOD. The brand we have should be like the brands of old -- a label that describes a distinction, not a label that distinguishes the otherwise indistinguishable.


No More Fooling Around With The Filibuster

This week is widely anticipated to be THE week that the filibuster is broken. Lord, I hope so, this is getting very, very old. However, I am not going to be surprised if is does not happen. Given the manner in which the Bolton nomination moved to the floor last week and the fact that even the Foreign Relations committee had a defector I understand the delays to date. This is not something we can do unless we know we have the votes.

Yesterday both sides claimed to have enough votes.

However, the pressure is building. The grass roots are getting angry. The Republican base is at risk here, and while many in that base do not understand the behind the curtain dealing sthat go on to stage manage a vote like this, they do know the longer it takes, the less actual will there is within the party to get done what they were elected to do. That kind of ineffectiveness is from what Ross Perot rose and cost the Republicans the White House last time.

The punidts are banging the drum ever more loudly as well. The Editors at NRO say it's time. They have gotten so worked up that they have opened a new blog just on judges -- that ought to create some pressure.

Jon Podhoretz is starting to call the Senate "bullies."

Even the usually calm and somewhat moderate Charles Krauthammer is stepping up the rhetoric.
This technique is defended by Democrats as traditional and rooted in history. What a fraud.
With the base at risk it is time to pull the trigger, even if it is a dud. The base has shown a willingness to do what has to be done. In the last election the Republican majority was increased (highly unusual for a second term presidential election) and Tom Daschle was axed. Voinovich is not long for his seat, all it will take is a challenge in the primaries, the base will take care of the rest.

PULL THE TRIGGER! If it is a dud, the world will know why and those people will not be long for their seats either. PULL THE TRIGGER! The time for civil debate is past, the time for war is here. PULL THE TRIGGER! We did not start the war, but it is up to us to finish it. PULL THE TRIGGER! IF we lose we live to fight another day. PULL THE TRIGGER! Those of us that contibuted, worked, and voted for you demand it.


REALLY DIsturbing Abortion News

According to a new study from France, abortion puts future pregnancies at significant risk. (HT:Challies)
A French study of 2,837 births - the first to investigate the link between terminations and extremely premature births - found that mothers who had previously had an abortion were 1.7 times more likely to give birth to a baby at less than 28 weeks' gestation. Many babies born this early die soon after birth, and a large number who survive suffer serious disability.
This is quite significant. Premature births have been on the rise. It would be fascinating to compare premature birth statistics with abortion statistics, which I tried to do, but getting those statisitics altogher in one place is pretty difficult.

This also means the Roe Effect has a built in geometric progression.


Take That!

Mark Steyn lets the UN and American lawmakers that support it (i.e. the anti-Bolton lot) have it with both barrels in yesterday;s Chicago Sun-Times. (HT: Cheat Seeking Missles)

He starts the piece by laying out some statistics about how much UN sponsored tsunami relief aid has not made it to the places it needs to go. And then describes how Bolton's real problem is that he points issues like this out to people.
John Bolton's sin is to have spoken the truth about the international system rather than the myths to which photo-oppers like the Canadian prime minister defer. As a consequence, he's being treated like a container of Western aid being processed by Indonesian customs. Customs Inspector Joe Biden and Junior Clerk Voinovich spent two months trying to come up with reasons why Bolton's paperwork is inadequate and demanding to know why he hasn't filled out his RU1-2. An RU1-2 is the official international bureaucrat's form reassuring the global community that he'll continue to peddle all the polite fictions, no matter how self-evidently risible they are. John Bolton isn't one, too. That's why we need him.
I think that illustrates a real liberal mindset -- "we don't want to make people feel bad about themselves by pointing out their mistakes." Of course, it's more important that the UN not feel put-upon than it is that they actually do their job!


Remind Me... move far away from any meteor craters. This one is one state over
but that is apparently far enough to avoid these kinds of problems.
"On Mars, the craters anchor the low-pressure system that dominates the southern polar ice cap, and keep it in one location," Colaprete said.
Of course, the one pictured is in the middle of the desert and hasn't seen ice in decades, but one can never be too safe.


Waaaaaaay Over The Top

British retail billionaire Philip Green has hired chart-topping R&B group Destiny's Child to perform at his son's bar mitzvah.

The stars are set to entertain guests at the three-day event on the French Riviera estimated to have cost the Bhs and Top Shop boss £4m ($7.4m).
OK look that's a lot of money for a kids party, but if he's got it and he wants to spend it I guess that's his business. But a bar mitzvah is a religious thing, and the last time I checked Destiny's Child was nowhere near jewish.

I'm thinking they ought to just call this a birthday party and forget about it.




Greenpeace Found Guilty of Negligence

This organization and its ilk have burdened the lives of so many with such regulation that it can be overwhelming. It is good to see them get a taste of the own medicine. Seems they forgot to complete some necessary regulator environmental paperwork.
Greenpeace's ship came to Alaska to conduct an anti-logging campaign in the Tongass National Forest. The ship was carrying more than 70,000 gallons of "petroleum products" at the time, court papers said.

Under state law, a large non-tank vessel must file an oil spill response plan application five days before entering state waters.
Speaking of regulation and loving it, check out this story about lobster men doing a better jobof managing their fishery than the government.


Fuel efficient low polluting hybrid vehicles seem to be taking hold. So much so that gas tax revenues are dropping. So Oregon is considering a tax-per-mile-driven.
To administer this tax, a global positioning system would be mounted in each car. As a driver fuels up, the device would relay mileage information to the gas pump, which would calculate the VMT. A simple electronic odometer-reading device would do the trick, but Oregon is looking at GPS devices because they would also allow for charging higher VMT rates for miles driven in "congested" areas during rush hour or to exempt miles driven out of state.
That is downright big-brotherish, which is the problem with so much environmental regulation.


Toxics have been big in the news lately.

MSNBC give a summary report of the latest Toxics Release Inventory data digestion by the EPA. Needless to say it is full of good news, but they emphasize the bad. I repair TRI reports for a number of my clients. You have no idea how much it costs to produce these reports just so these guys can write news stories.

There is another international treaty afoot to tranfer wealth under the guise of environmental preservation. Included in this toxics ban, DDT -- the existing partial ban of which has been shown to have casued numerous human deaths.

My favorite toxics story though is this one about perchlorate. First, the story is anecdotal -- about a single town. Check this quote
Officials and townspeople, meanwhile, want to know just how hazardous perchlorate is. High amounts can be dangerous ? the chemical can interrupt the production of thyroid hormones, which are needed for pre- and post-natal development. But how much exposure should be permissible sparks debate in governmental and scientific circles.

The conclusion of city leaders: Piping any amount of perchlorate into homes posed an unacceptable gamble.
They have no where near high amounts, but they HAVE to do something. But here is the real kicker
Perchlorate was little-known before 1997, when tests were developed that could detect it at lower levels than before.
Now, the same story indicates that the perchlorate contamination dates back to WWII and military activity. That means the contamination has likely been present for decades, undetected and there is no epidemiological data to indicate a health problem -- and still they create a public panic and a budget crisis. Does that make any sense to you?


Lots of people are figuring our what eanybody with any sense has known for a long time. Nuclear electrical power generation is the cleanest method we have yet to devise, even considering the potential dangers. So says the Independent of London (HT: HuffPo, of all places), the NYTimes, and for those of you with subscriptions the Wall Street Journal.

Chernobyl, as horrific as it was, simply cannot happen with western reactor design. The waste, while horribly toxic, is in a far smaller volume, and far more manageable, largely because of that small volume, than any other type of power generation. I am really glad to see these articles.


Sick Kids

I've taken a little heat for my discussion yesterday of dog dissection. I am not; however, heartless when it comes to animals -- ask my cat. Along those lines, this is completely heinous.
Three teens who blowtorched one chicken and beat others at a children's nature camp were arrested and charged with cruelty to animals, police said.
These are some sick, sick kids. I hope the arrest is the start of a very long process for them and their families.


This Is Cool & It Will Never Fly

University of Rochester engineers have deveoped a battery, based on tritium decay, that will last a dozen years or more -- a vast improvement over conventional batteries. They are discussing it's use in pacemakers and other devices where changign the battery is enormously problematic.

Tritium decay is, of course, beta radiation. thus, they'll never see market, despite the fact they are perfectly safe. "Why so pessimistic?" you ask.

Back in the 1950's Tareyton cigarettes used beta radiation for quality control. Insuring that the cigarettes they produced were of uniform size, tobacco content, and other factors that contributed to makig a good cigarette. It was, at the time, the most advanced and precise quality control system in consumer manufacturing. So proud was Tareyton that the advertised about this QC system. (I tried to find some links for this, but they just don't exist, I got this story out of a college textbook when I took radioanalysis way back when. Can't find the textbook either.)

The public was so afraid of the radiation (even though beta radiation cannot penetrate skin) that Tareyton sales plummeted. They were forced to remove their multi-million dollar investment. The real kicker is that the cigarettes themselves represented a far greater health risk than any radiation they might be exposed to.

I just don't think anyone is going to let a radiation source be implanted in their chest - although they should.


For Those With Too Much Money... can eat GOLD. Thanks to Scotwise for this little bit about "Buddha Broth" - $263/bowl Seems this soup contains
shark's fin, abalone, Japanese mushrooms, sea cucumber, dried scallops, chicken, ham, pork, ginseng and a sprinkling of gold leaf
All of that is commonly available save the gold leaf. Gold closed at about $420/oz on Friday -- so that means either they are putting about a third of an ounce of gold in a bowl of this soup, or the profit margin on this stuff is outrageous. I'm betting on the latter. If it is the former, I'd be watching the toilet and doing some recycling....


Awwww - Poor Baby

Spit the morning caffiene when I read this yesterday morning. From a guy that writes for Slate and teaches at Rutgers
What else did I learn by sitting in for Dan Drezner? That I'm not cut out for blogging.
The article reads like a little first person ode to bloggers, but I think it reveals a couple of important facts.

First, I think it points out that liberals are used to pontificating, but not discussing or arguing. Hence the lack of anything resembling good liberal talk radio. Which I think accounts for why their ideas get so screwed up -- anything arrived at in that much of a void....

But I wonder if this is not also a slam at those of us hanging around in the "tail?" A back-handed way of saying, "If I can't cut it, how can you 'amatuers' even have a chance?"

All I can say is, "Sorry David, maybe next time."


Sometimes Old Tech Is Better

Here is actual experimental proof.


Not So Big Bang

This story makes no sense to me.
"We like to say that the Big Bang is nothing special in the history of our universe," said Sean Carroll, an assistant professor in physics at the University of Chicago.

The Big Bang could be a normal event in the natural evolution of the universe that will happen repeatedly over incredibly vast time scales as the universe expands, empties out and cools off, say Carroll and graduate student Jennifer Chen.
Old news, depends ont eh dark matter question and the final determination of the mass of the universe, been debated for years. So why am I reading this story? -- especially this
The duo wondered why time flows in only one direction, and whether the Big Bang ? a theory that has not been proven ? arose from an energy fluctuation in empty space that conforms to the known laws of physics.
NOT PROVEN?! Then why did Penzias and Wilson and Kapitsa get the Nobel in '78? Why is NASA doing this?

If you go on to read the rest of the story you find these UC scientists are really just proposing a big bang variant that is, as best as I can tell from a popular press piece, different in the mathematics, but not so different in the actual affects in the physical universe. Without reading their papers, I can't judge for sure, but this looks to me like a reporter looking for a "big" story, and maybe some grant seekers pulling some mathematical sleight-of-hand as opposed to some huge shift in our understanding of the universe.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Intra Christian Branding

Yesterday, I introduced the concept of "branding" and started to wonder about how it is affecting Christianity.

You'll recall that the concept of branding was orginally a way to distinguish similar, but not necessarily identical products. For example Green Giant Brand vegetables were of very high quality, while the grocery store brands were usually somewhat lower.

Many people have said that in Christianity, the various denominations are just different brands. Traditionally, I think there was some truth in that. There were genuine distinctions, and the denominations were labels to attach to those distinctions. For example, Presbyterians could be counted on to be Calvinist and engage in infant baptism. Lutherans, of course, pulled their theology from Martin Luther.

For a minute, I need to refer back to the book that started me thinking along these lines, Branded Nation : The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld by James Twitchell. We'll get into the megachurch thing in a minute, but I need to take great exception with something he said in that book. Twitchell argues that the "product" which church has to sell is "epiphany." That is to say, "good feeling about God and themselves." Therein lies the problem.

I strongly disagree with this. The product that the church sells is God. Some might say, "Don't you mean salvation?" No -- I mean God, salvation is a by-product of us "buying" God. Think about it. That is why the traditional denominational distinctions matter, they are based largely in theology, and theology is what we think about God -- thus there are genuine product distinctions, even if they are in many cases subtle.

Twitchell is right when it comes to megachurches in general. When I say "megachurch," what comes to mind? For most people I think one of two things, either "successful," or "comfortable." Both of these things are great for brand identity and that are great if your product is indeed "epiphany," but they say absolutely nothing about God.

This truly is branding in its modern form. The brand is more important than the product. The brand no longer marks distinctions, instead it is the story that you sell and the product itself is relatively unimportant. Thus a "swoosh" sells not just shoes, but clothing, sports equipment, and even drinks. And what is the "swoosh?" -- Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods.... You are now selling a logo that is associated with an image and the product simply does not matter.

In general, with the megachurch, you are selling the image of success and the feeling of comfort, you are in fact selling "epiphany," but what about the real product? Does anyone ask what the theological stance of a given mega-church is? Does it matter? Oh yeah it matters.

Now, truly, we are not saved by theology, God is not subject to our understanding -- but theology in the proper perspective matters tremendously. Remember, it is nothing more than a "college" word for "what we think about God." It matters because in the proper perspective it is about GOD. In other words theology is about the product, not the brand.

Now, I will grant you, the mega-church has risen out of the failure of the traditional denominations. The old-liners lost their quality control. Consider this, franchising is just a way of selling a brand. Franchising operations fail when they lose their quality control over their franchisees -- the brand loses it's story. The theological unity that once marked the protestant denominations is now gone. Why I heard a Presbyterian pastor proudly declare a while back that he was most decidely not a Calvinist. He even admitted that 10 years earlier such a statement might have cost him his job.

Because of a lack of quality control, the stories associated with the mainline denominational "brands" have eroded. But you know, some brands that lost their sparkle, have been known to revive. Holiday Inn is a classic example. They had gone to the dogs, but they have cut loose the old line bad franchisees and modified the logo, and they are back in business strong. They did this by recapturing what their brand always stood for -- quality affordable lodging -- not by trying to become Hilton.

Now, or course, a lot of old line denomination congregations think they are doing the same thing by imitating the megachurches, they think they are recapturing their brand. But they aren't -- they are trying to horn in on someone else's brand.

No the key for the old liners is to recapture what their "brands" used to stand for.

Which brings me to the "Emerging Church." This too is rapidly becoming a brand. And what is the "story" associated with this brand. First of all, I think it is pretty identifiable. This post from a blogger called The First Epistle of Mark readily identifies what all emerging church blogs say, over and over again. (HT: SmartChristian) It's a pretty tight story.

But it is this post from Jesus Creed that I think really defines the brand. (again HT: SmartChristian)
Emergent is a reaction to what the Church has to offer and what the Church is today, and what it has to offer is not enough, not good enough, not biblical enough, not spiritual enough, not radical enough, not relevant enough,...
In other words, the "emergent" brand is simply "not church." Call it the anti-brand.

It would seem at first glance the the emerging church might be the answer. If branding is the problem, reject the brand. But it's not, because again, it is identified not by the product, but by the brand story.

The bottom line is this. Christianity is not about branding, marketing, or packaging. We can produce a lot of "success" with those tools, but can we produce the product? I don't think so. We don't need new brands. we just need to remember the product. We just need to call on God.

The next post on this will be about "Christian" as a political brand.


DJ Chuang looks at the application of business practice to church building in general in this post from yesterday. (HT: SmartChristian) Andy says it well
The branding concept is just one example of a greater issue.


Christian Perspective

Transforming Sermons borrows from this post by Paul Littleton and then makes this point:
Viewing the Christian life as a long-term project does indeed make it easier to accept frustrations and pain--even those extending our entire lifetime on earth. Taking the long term also gives us the opportunity for joy in knowing how the war will end, and that our Master's side will be victorious.
I think that is a great point -- How long term is your view? Do you want immediate results? The transformation that God brings about in our lives takes a lifetime. The key is to give that lifetime to God.


Idealism is Good

Daniel Henninger had a piece in the Friday WSJ that I really loved.
Atop the Bush template sit the oft-repeated words "democracy and freedom." This is the D&F model. The standard criticism of Bushian D&F is that it is too idealistic. But the Bush speech explicitly admits that point, arguing that "it does not end" with independence and elections. Democracy's promise, he insists, is gained only by equal justice under a rule of law, secure rights for minorities (a 21st century sine qua non), a media that isn't phony, viable political parties, an independent judiciary and limits on executive power.

Too ambitious? As opposed to what alternative? The status quo? The status quo is called managing festering grievances, aka, the 20th century. Been there, died doing it.
Idealism is a guide. Things never get better if we lack a vision for where to go. Ideals form that vision.

Bush 43 has it all over his father when it comes to "the vision thing." The nation and the world are better for it.


Sliding Down The Slippery Slope

Slippery Slope arguments are rountinely dismissed. Those that argue same-sex marriage will open the door to incest and beastiality are routinely poo-pooed. Well, the post on NRO's the Corner would indicate that even though the same-sex marriage debate is far from over, we have started down the slope so ignored. Read it and weep.


Where Theology Doesn't Matter?!

Jollyblogger had a real rambler this past week. (HT: Adrian Warnock) He frames his post around a discussion of the theology of NT Wright, but hits on a lot of points. I liked this one
But who decides and how do we decide what is central to the Christian faith, or what is of utmost importance in the theological encyclopedia? We all intuitvely suspect that some doctrines are more important than others - i.e. what you believe about justification is more important than what you believe about baptism or eschatology. But then again, on what basis do we believe this? Do the Scriptures contain a table of contents or an answer key which tell which matters are of utmost importance and which are peripheral? They don't. So what justification do we have for saying that one's view of imputation is more important than one's view of something else?

Well, I said I was only asking questions but I'll take a stab at that last one. Romans 14 is a classic passage on the fact that there are some matters that are legitimately disputable and it is reasonable to conclude that they are therefore, lesser matters. Those are things that we are to agree to disagree on. Then Romans 16:17 tells us to mark those who cause divisions and stay away from them. There are some matters which we ought to divide over - these are weightier matters. Hence, there is Scriptural warrant for believing that some matters are more important than others.

The book of Galatians gives us a clue to what the weightiest matters are - matters pertaining to the gospel. I realize that Galatians is a battleground between Wright and his critics but I'll skip that debate for now and simply point out that the gospel is central here.

Having said all of that, we've got very rough Scriptural outlines for determining what doctrines are of utmost importance. But we want to be careful about this. We should all have the humility to admit that our ideas of what is most important are often governed by extra-biblical factors. In the reformation era disputes over the nature of the sacraments were life and death matters, today they are matters of yawning for most evangelicals. In my own reformed tradtion there are all kinds of arguments about what is of utmost importance. I have had my salvation called into question because of statements to the effect that we can enjoy fellowship with Arminians and Dispensationalists, and have also been chastized for placing too much importance on the five points of Calvinism.
David hits a great balance here. But I might phrase it differently.

God matters more than what we believe about God, that is to say theology. And God is, ultimately beyond our comprehension. But one has to believe that the closer we are to God the more what we believe about Him will be both true, and in accord with others that are also close to Him.

But in the end, the key word is humility. We never know it all.


How Does This Happen?

You read about modern slavery and you picture the third world. Which makes this story extraordinarily startling.
Scotland Yard today revealed it has been unable to trace all but two of 300 black boys aged four to seven reported missing from school in a three-month period.

Child welfare experts say the number highlights the scale of the trade in children brought to Britain as domestic servants and covers for benefit fraud.
We are supposed to be the civilized ones. The benefit fraud thing I sort of understand, but in the modern world that we would still trade children for servants is just appalling.


Sermons and Lessons

My friend Scotwise posts every weekday something he calls "Daily Encouragement." They are mini-sermons and they are usually wonderful. I thought this one was especially good, so I am sharing it for this Sunday's Sermons and Lessons. Here's a tease
Many Christians suffer from an inferiority complex for many reasons, and feel that because of their past, God can't use them. Jesus came to set us free... So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. -- John 8:36. Next time you feel like God can't use you, just remember...

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