Saturday, June 18, 2005


Find A Friend -- Live Longer

The Beeb says so.
Good friends promise to be there for you, and their presence can actually help you live longer, researchers say.

Australian scientists said having friends around in old age can do more for life expectancy than having family members around.
Lends some credence to the old adage, "you can pick your friends, but not your family," doesn't it? Make some today!


Late To Dinner

I posted last Thursday about that wonderful haven of polygamy known as Colorado City, AZ. Now thanks to commenter Gad(d)about, I find out I am very late to the table regarding this story. There is a reporter in Phoenix who has been covering it for years.

The more I learn, the uglier this situation becomes. Because the polygamous marriages are not state sanctioned, they look to the government like unwed mothers -- thus they get welfare. Essentially, because this sect controls the community they are able to bilk the rest of us out of millions in welfare, under fraudulent circumstances. So now, in addition to turning young men out on the streets, they're stealing -- all in the name of some god I don't quite recognize.

I'm still wondering what the law enforcement hold-up is here. From the press I'm finding and my travels in the area, what's going on seems to be fairly common knowledge. I wouldn't think evidence of some sort of crime would be that hard to come up with, at least enough to gain a warrant to raid the whole town (been there, not that big) that would have to turn up something.

I always knew there were individuals that practiced this sort of nonsense up in the hills and under the radar, but we're talking a community of 10,000 here, it's a place on the map. I am having a hard time thinking our society has tolerated this for this long.


A Little Analysis

John Danforth (R-MO) had an op-ed in the NYTimes yesterday. Money quote 1
In recent years, conservative Christians have presented themselves as representing the one authentic Christian perspective on politics. With due respect for our conservative friends, equally devout Christians come to very different conclusions.
Money Quote 2
But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws.
Wealth Quote 1 responding
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him,"' You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
Context matters, there is a higher priority. Wealth Quote 2 responding
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.
You have to read the whole thing Rev. Danforth. Your oversimplification of the Bible is as egregious as anything the conservatives have put forth.


Mohler Over Steps Again

I posted earlier this week about Al Mohler grossly overstating certain biblical recommendations concerning child-rearing. If Unveiled Face is to be believed, I think he is at it again.
One of the more attention-grabbing statements that Mohler makes is regarding marriage as the default position - and he goes so far as to recommend a form of church discipline (a different form than we may be used to!) for men who should be married by now but are not.
Why only men? As someone who did not get married until much later than "he should have" -- I was not the problem, at least from the standpoint of lack of desire or effort. Don't the women have some obligation? Like maybe looking for Mr. Good instead of Mr. Perfect?

And what discipline do we use? And what is that "magic" age?

Look, no one should argue what is ideal, but it is far from an ideal church and far from an ideal society. And when society routinely kills the unborn and people of the same sex want to marry, aren't those more important issues than someone who waits to get married until they are 30. And politically, wouldn't we be better off making friends of such people rather than enemies?


Comic Art

What else can I post in this space on the week a new Batman movie comes out than on the art of Batman. Few comic characters have had more variations of artistic interpretation than Batman. This site gives you a pretty good idea. When you visit that link, be sure and click on the facial images to see the full rendering.

When it comes to drawing Batman there is always the original -- Bob Kane creator of the character.

In the beginning Batman was a dark, and simplistic character. Parents killed by crook -- stop all crooks. He really was pretty vengeful. But then along came the Comics Code and vengeance could no longer sell comic books. The Code, and the awful 60's TV show really turned the character so silly as to be ridiculous. Lots of guys drew him during this period, but the one I remember the most was Carmine Infantino.

Eventually the Code became less and less respected. Though the Batman character could never cross the line into actually killing his protagonists. This has become the place where his various creators have chosen to draw the line between justice and vengeance, right up until now and even in the latest movie -- more on that in a minute. The artist/writer that finally put Batman firmly back in the dark was Frank Miller.

Miller's influence on the character as he currently exists and on comics in general as they are now cannot be underestimated. So much has been written about him and Batman that there is little I can add to the conversation other than I much prefer him as a writer than as an artist. I think other people draw the Bat much better. Most notably is today's hottest Batman artist, Jim Lee

In my never to be humble opinion, Lee may now be the definitive renderer of Batman -- I cannot think of anyone that better captures the character.

Batman strides over comics books in a certain stratosphere occupied by the very few -- Superman and Spiderman may be the only others in that category. There is so much to like about him, but I currently find him unsatisfying. He is not blessed with great power, so he has no responsibility. His sacrifice is not heroic, it is inflected. He is obsessed, it's as simple as that. I simply cannot buy a character that would be as obsessed as he is that would be able to draw the very careful lines between justice and vengeance that this character strides. I find myself now whenever I read a Batman comic wanting him to either go ahead and kill the bad guy, or to hang up his cape and find some sort of personal peace. So much I feel this way that in the only foray into fiction I have ever taken in my adult life I have written a rather lengthy treatment for a Batman story in which he finally finds peace. Alas DC Comics is not accepting any submissions for the character so the story is destined to remain electrons on my computer.

My frustration with the character's current depiction is; however, only temporary. Comic characters this well loved will always change and be reinterpreted. Some day a Batman I can love unreservedly will once again emerge and that will be a happy day indeed. In the meantime, I can always look at Jim Lee renderings of him and enjoy them immensely.


Why I Hate "Napolean Dynamite"

If you don't know what I'm talking about, "Napolean Dynamite" is a movie that has been tremendously successful amongst young people. I would never even have bothered with it except the kids in our high school Bible study talk about it all the time so I figured I had to see what all the fuss was about.

I despised it. It is the story of an extremely mal-adjusted young man -- not dangerously so, just a poor clueless guy that everybody laughs at. For the longest time now, I have thought I hated the movie because it was just making fun of a guy that all I wanted to do was take to the mall, buy some clothes and give some socialization lessons to.

This movie is so popular with kids that our high school youth group is including a visit to the town where the movie was filmed in its summer camping adventure. They have had movie nights featuring the film. All of this, because of how much I dislike the movie, has troubled me. When I have discussed this with people, they have pointed out that Napolean "wins" in the end. I will not bore you with the details of the movie to explain that, but I have been refelcting on that viewpoint and now I think I have finally put my finger on why I find the movie so dissatisfying.

Napolean "wins," but he does not change. The point of the movie is that "it's OK to be a complete dunderhead and clueless and maladjusted -- you'll win in the end." Compare that with "Revenge of The Nerds" wherein the nerds win, but are also transformed by their victory.

So, I don't like a movie...why is that a big deal. Well, when church youth groups are basing so much activity around it, one has to wonder if it is appropriate. Is the message of "victory without transformation" really a message we want to give youth in church?

I don't think so -- that is a message of cheap grace. Christ did not provide us with victory over sin and death so that we could go on being sinners. Not, by the way, that Napolean Dynamite was a profligate sinner -- I am talking analogously here. Napolean Dynamite's "victory" in the movie was momentary at best because he remained his own worst enemy. Thus it was dissatisfying.

There are lots of bad movies out there that people like -- that's just a fact of life. But we do not need to embrace them as a part of our church culture just because they are popular.


The Martians Are Coming!

Tsunami May Have Spread Alien Species

OK, It's not quite that bad.

The Indian Ocean tsunami's devastating waves brought more than death to this island nation _ they upset some of Sri Lanka's key ecosystems, the U.N. environmental agency warned Friday.

Nearly six months after the disaster that killed more than 31,000 people in Sri Lanka, studies have found that the tsunami waves have pushed seeds of so-called alien invasive species from their coasts farther inland on the tropical island, the United Nations Environment Program said.
So if a naturally occurring species invades a new ecosystem via a natural process -- it's still a problem?


Bible Red Letter Edition -- Evil?

Bluefish had an interesting post.
Evangelical's often read the Bible as if some bits are more important than others. A few books will appear very dogeared in most Bible's which others are untouched. We're good with the gospels and some of Paul's letters but much of the rest stands neglected.

And then there are Jesus' words in red editions. These Bibles highlight the words that Jesus said by putting them in red text rather than black. On the surface this is fine, but actually its a problem.

What it ends up doing is to say that the words in Bible that matter most are the ones that Jesus said. But the whole Bible is Jesus' words. Every last word of the Bible is God speaking.
I can't argue the primary thesis of this post, but I think he may be reaching a little bit in his examples. We must consider scripture as a whole, and the Jesus Seminar coding he refers to earlier is heinous, but I have always thought of red letter editions as study aids, not priority markers.

I mean, how far do we want to carry this stuff -- I know people with study Bibles that spend more time in the helps than in scripture. Devices like red letter editions are what we make of them -- they are not inherently a problem. Rather than attack the tool, ought we not be dealing with the user of that tool?

Friday, June 17, 2005


Even Fox Falls Into The Trap

Now I'm really honked off. I posted last week here and here about the MSM rush to use the historically loaded word "fragging" as concerns an incident in Iraq. Yesterday FOXNews reports that arrests were made in the incident and they to insisted on using the term, relying on the "strict" definition that I discussed earlier.

We all know that words have definitions and then they have implications. The term "fragging" in this setting serves no purpose other than to conjure the image of Vietnam and continue the left wing drumbeat that Iraq=Vietnam. That equation is false; purely the product of the fevered imaginations of those opposed to this administration.

But that is not the real reason I started this post. The initial post (linking to this from Dadmanly) that I did on the incident, before American involvement as anything other than victims was known, concerned the MSM's breaking of blackouts and calling families from the units involved and asking them if they knew if their soldier was injured...something that is just heinous and dishonorable.

Well, Dadmanly's wife, as one of the families caught in that trap, is now sharing her insights.
My turn again! Today marks one week that I did not know whether or not my husband was alive or with the Lord. It has been a week of many twists and turns and an extremely heavy, heavy weight that I could physically feel over me and I could not seem to shake it.

God being God "again" showed me His Power, His Strength, His Provision, His Love, His Compassion, His Grace, His Mercy, His knowing exactly what I need when I need it. I have been sharing with many and asking for prayer and praying myself, but last night was the time God chose to allow me to again "let Go.?
Heroism involves sacrifice, and the sacrifice of those our soldiers leave behind is enormous. Their heroism is immense. Thank them and pray for them at every opportunity.


Assumption of Command picks up the issue of the media rush to the term "fragging" in this case. It's good to get a soldiers perspective! He points out the differences between the official military version of the story and the MSM embellishments.



...we need to think more before we post. This post from Allthings2all would indicate that I should have done that yesterday with this post. I cannot find a thing I disagree with in Catez' post, and I don't think she really disagrees with me, as much as she clarifies -- which means I did not communicate my thoughts as well as I had hoped.

One thing I should clarify immediately -- Catez says in her post
I do need to mention, as I'm not sure if John was referring to my post when he said "Too many people approach Christianity on a purely intellectual level", that I never advocated that.
No, she did not, nor did I an in anyway mean to imply that she did advocate such. One need only read Catez' posts on her street ministry to know that she engages God with both her heart and her head. My post was born far more out of where I am living right now, than a specific intellectual engagement of the discussion.

What do I mean when I say "out of where I am living right now?" I mean a couple of things. Catez says this
One of the points underlying the discussion in my previous post was that too many people don't use their intellect. I know that from years of church experience and observation. And we all know that anti-intellectualism has been a flaw in modern evangelicalism. We have missed the opportunity to be effective and make a difference in many areas and disciplines because of this unfounded mistrust of people exercising their God-given intellectual capacities in a way that is in service to God.
I cannot agree with that statement more, but it kind of reflects the opposite of my own life. I knew and studied far more about Jesus and Christianity than I had ever experienced for much of my life. It was only through a series of extreme life challenging circumstances that shook my intellectual understandings to the very core that I was able to get in touch with the spiritual side of my life with Christ. It was, and sometimes remains necessary for God to strip me of my intellectual safeguards -- to move me out of my comfort zone -- so that I begin to interact with Him, instead of what I think about Him.

Secondly, because of who I am, the people I tend to interact with most (again, not implying anything about anyone out there in the blogoshphere) are much the same way, and therefore, I find myself so often engaged in intellectual pursuits but hungering for deeper understandings -- as Paul put it, "groanings too deep for words." I also find myself hungering for those around me to share my hunger.

I agree with Catez' point that intellect and faith do not have the duality that most people think they do. The divide itself is artifical and a result of sin. In the end, too much reliance on my intellect is too much reliance on myself, which is sin.

I guess in this sense I am not a part of modern evangelicalism -- which I find interesting, because I have used that word to describe myself for years, long before it came into its current vogue, and for those early years, it meant precisely the kind of person I am. I once heard CS Lewis described as the father of the evangelical movement and I cannot imagine Lewis being accused of "anti-itellectualism," but then words have a way of changing meaning, as bloggers are not always as clear as they would like to be. Thanks to Catez for helping clarify where I was unclear.

Oh yeah, and since we are discussing the artificial duality of intellect and conviction, I can't resist this:


Friday Humor


Clyde, a farmer in Alabama, decided his injuries from the accident were serious enough to take the trucking company (responsible for the accident) to court.

In court the trucking company's fancy lawyer was questioning Clyde.

"Didn't you say at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine?" asked the lawyer.

Clyde responded, "Well, I'll tell you what happened. I had just loaded my favorite mule Bessie into the..."

"I didn't ask for any details," the lawyer interrupted, "just answer the question. Did you or did you not say 'I'm fine' at the scene of the accident?"

Clyde said, "Well, yes, but I had just got Bessie into the trailer and I was driving down the road..."

The lawyer interrupted again and said, "Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the Highway Patrolman on the scene that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question."

By this time the Judge was fairly interested in Clyde's answer and said to the lawyer, "I'd like to hear what he has to say about his favorite mule, Bessie."

Clyde thanked the Judge and proceeded, "Well, like I was saying, I had just loaded Bessie, my favorite mule, into the trailer and was driving her down the highway when this huge semi-truck andtrailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side. I wasthrown into one ditch and Bessie was thrown into the other. I was hurting real bad and didn't want to move. However, I could hear ole Bessie moaning and groaning. I knew she was in terrible shape just by her groans.

"About that time a Highway Patrolman came on the scene. He could hear Bessie moaning and groaning so he went over to her. "After he looked at her he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes.

"Then the Patrolman came across the road with his gun in his hand and looked at me and said, 'And, how are you feeling?'"


The United Way realized that it had never received a donation from the city's most successful lawyer.

So a United Way volunteer paid the lawyer a visit in his lavish office.The volunteer opened the meeting by saying, "Our research shows that even though your annual income is over two million dollars, you don't give a penny to charity. Wouldn't you like to give something back to your community through the United Way?"

The lawyer thinks for a minute and says, "First, did your research also show you that my mother is dying after a long, painful illness and she has huge medical bills that are far beyond her ability to pay?"

Embarrassed, the United Way rep mumbles, "Uh... no, I didn't know that."

"Secondly," says the lawyer, "my brother, a disabled veteran, is blind and confined to a wheelchair and is unable to support his wife and six children."

The stricken United Way rep begins to stammer an apology, but is cut off again.

"Thirdly, did your research also show you that my sister's husband died in adreadful car accident, leaving her penniless with a mortgage and three children one of whom is disabled and another has learning disabilities requiring an array of private tutors?"

The humiliated United Way rep, completely beaten, says, "I'm sorry, I had no idea"

And the lawyer says, So... if I didn't give any money to them, what in the world makes you think I'd ever give any to you?"


Genuine Prayer Power

Brand new blogger Semper Gumby shares how prayer works for him in Iraq. That is genuinely powerful prayer. He should know I prayer for him daily as well.


Horrific Stories

Three stories I can't quite believe I came across.

This one concerns pets and relationships.
About a year ago, I made the heart-wrenching decision to leave a great job, house, friends and family to move to Hawaii with my fiancé.

As part of this transition, I also chose to have my two beloved chow chow dogs put to sleep.
Next time, call me, I'll take in the dogs, is it any wonder the euthanasia line has become so blurred. That's just criminal.

This one involves an abortionclinicc and I frankly have a hard time swallowing it. What it describes is too horrific to repeat here, but I wonder if this does not stray into hyperbole for the sake of the pro-life crowd? Research is necessary to determine for sure.

This one is monstrous.
Boys from Africa are being murdered as human sacrifices in London churches.

They are brought into the capital to be offered up in rituals by fundamentalist Christian sects, according to a shocking report by Scotland Yard.
Again, I almost don't believe it, but with this one, I will assume the worst. The story describes efforts by "churches" to deal with supernatural evil in this manner.

For the record -- THIS IS NOT CHRISTIANITY. This is evil and perverse and completely antithetical to the will of God. Those engaged in this activity may call upon the name of Christ, but they do so at their own peril. Every Christian simply must renounce this. With a charge this vile we cannot afford the subtleties -- condemn them -- that is the only option that works.

After this, I need shower...


The Blogdom Of God Has A Whole New Look

Check it out here. This had to be a lot of work. Thanks to all involved for the effort.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Wandering Into Polygamy

I love going where few ever go. The Colorado River basin, in places, affords such opportunities. It is rugged country and not readily accessible. There is a small town in southern Utah, just over the border from Arizona, that gives unprecedented access to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce National Parks, and other exciting river destinations like one of my personal favorites, Marble Canyon and the Lee's Ferry area. These later places are the only place one can get down to the Colorado River without falling off a cliff for many hundreds of miles and has, as such, had significant historic value. The town is Kanab.

Lee's Ferry is where all Grand Canyon rafting adventures start and can be kind of crowded, but not overwhelmingly so, in the summer. But in the off season, you can have the place to yourself.

To get to Kanab, which we have used more than once as a home base from which to explore the river basin, we travel through a town called Colorado City, Arizona. The first time I travelled through it, I could not for the life of me figure out what a town was doing so far out in the middle of nowhere on a high desert plateau.

On a later trip, I found out why. We were visiting Lee's Ferry in the off season and got to have an extended visit with the ranger that managed the area. The area had had Mormon settlers for a good long time. They moved on when highways went through and bridges were built and the river ferry was no longer needed. He was telling us the story of the dispersal of the family that settled the property and told us about Colorado City, where some of them went. That town is a small haven for a sect of Mormons that still practice polygamy - which of course explained its isolation. I still; however, wondered how they supported themselves in that isolated and desolate place.

A series of articles that have appeared in recent days are beginning to explain. First there was this in the LATimes. And there was also something in the Guardian of London. And now I am learning there is a blogger that follows the stories out of the community from the local area.

The stories answer my questions about support -- the "church" owns the towns, people there are essentially supported, they do not support.

The MSM stories are, predictably, about the exile of the even slightly defiant -- something to be expected in such a cultic setting.

What I find deplorable is the lack of law enforcement when the polygamist practices are so well know. From the LA Times piece
In 1953, Arizona state police swarmed into Short Creek, now Colorado City. They arrested the men and transported crying women and children to detention camps. The result was a public outpouring of sympathy for the families ? and scorn for state political leaders. The governor, Howard Pyle, lost the next election.

Today, law enforcement officials are going after the FLDS by targeting child sexual abuse, welfare fraud and tax evasion rather than polygamy. The Arizona attorney general's office has opened a branch in Colorado City, where an investigator looks into alleged illegalities.
Somehow, I think the detention camps, and not the arrests were the problem. When you read the articles about what is happening to the exiled, this is simply atrocious, and it is shameful that politicians cannot find a way through this.

The bottom line is this, regardless of how these people are caled to account legally, their very foundational belief systems will be yanked from under them and much pain and suffering will ensue. Get the job done.


Illuminated Scripture


Compare and Contrast

Some people use every American death in Iraq as an excuse to pump a (generally wrong) political agenda. Warriors like Dadmanly reflect and respect the dead as they should be respected.
I have never fully understood the devotion expressed by survivors of past wars and conflicts. I must have thought somehow that such attachment of sentiment had to have something to do with something unique about the individuals or the units, or even the war. The Greatest Generation was great, wasn't it, because of the depth of their sacrifice or magnitude of their struggle or the great consequence of their triumph?

I don't think that anymore. I think I now understand the bond that veterans speak of, the bond of common experience, of course, but a bond of common sacrifice and loss as well. We have shed blood here. We leave a piece of the whole here. Innocence lost, some scarring in a place that had for most of us not known wound before.
Be very thankful that we have men like Dadmanly and his colleagues defending us, the alternative is too diifcult to contemplate. Please send your prayers to God on behalf of him and other people in that area. They need all they can get.


How WOULD I Answer Larry King?

That's what Allthings2all wants to know. Quoting a discussion at Maria Swoffer Catez sets up her post
"Recently, I saw Larry King ask a well-known Evangelical pastor how he knows that salvation is only through faith in Jesus. The pastor answered, "The Bible is the authority and I believe the Bible." Simple? Yes. Thoughtful? Not really."
She then goes on to describe how she might deal with that setting.

I'm wondering if I might not duck the question. Here's the thing - Christian faith is informed and shaped and strengthened and supported by intellect, but it is known only on a spiritual level. Let's face it, there is, ultimately, no rigorous, scholarly answer to King's inquiry. As Catez suggests, there are far better answers than "the pastor" gave, but in the end that Jesus is the only means to salvation is not knowable -- it may only be experienced.

Too many people approach Christianity on a purely intellectual level -- to often as evangelists, we settle for intellectual ascent, but these things do not last. Genuine life changing transformation comes as a result on something on levels other than intellectual.

The intellect can be a barrier to genuine faith, and it must be overcome, but genuine faith is far more than the intellect. I do not believe it possible to argue someone into a relationship with Jesus -- they must be loved and prayed into it. There will be in the context of those activities be arguments, but those discussions are stepping stones on the path and no more.

Thus if a question such as that posed by Larry King is put to me in a private setting my tendency is to turn it back on the asker -- "Why do you ask?" "What alternative means to salvation can you posit?" "Why are you concerned about salvation?" In a public setting where there is no opportunity for relationship, like on a television show, I think I would duck the question, for in that setting it serves only as a barricade to a genuine encounter with Jesus, and cannot, absent relationship, be turned into something else.


Something I Need

Robotic benches and bins with Sirius Cybernetics Corporation GPP (Genuine People Personalities) straight out of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy have been created by Greyworld, a group of London artists.
This is no joke.
The bins and benches can be found at the Piazza, the new public square for Cambridge at the center of the Cambridge Leisure development. The benches love to be sat on - it makes them so happy that they may take up new positions to make themselves more attractive. The bins roam the piazza, but are more solitary.
I have to call these guys and see if they will share the technology -- church pews that behave this way would be an absolute riot!


Politically Correct Warning

Given the tragedy that was last December's tsunami, it is not surprising that officials issued a warning after a small quake off the California coast Tuesday night. But I wish they'd be a little more honest about their reasoning.
And while there were no destructive waves after Tuesday night's temblor, experts Wednesday praised the decision to announce a tsunami warning for the entire West Coast ? better safe than sorry, they said....

...The quake actually did generate a tsunami of 1 centimeter ? roughly the width of an adult's finger. It wasn't detected by any equipment on shore, but rather an ocean pressure-measuring buoy located about 350 miles off the coast of California.
The fact of the matter is that the science here is very imprecise. They don't really know what is going to happen, so they issue a warning rather than get caught with their pants down later. It's a political decision, not a scientific one. People are recalcitrant to understand these things, but they really need to, or else "Chicken Little syndrome" is going to settle in.


Genuine Elders

Jollyblogger shares his notes from a speech he heard on "Why God Invented Ruling Elders." It's good, if disjointed, stuff.
In our day it is common for elders to see themselves as a spiritual board of directors. We must not denigrate the administrative function of elders, but we must never let this overshadow his role as a discipling shepherd.
As an elder, and a former Nominating Committee Chair (therfore charged with finding new elders) I have held this view and worked hard for it, and experienced much resistance.

The resistance comes in two forms -- good poeple unwilling to make that level of committment -- and ever increasing staffs that view such elders as threats to thier jobs. This is a deadly combination.

Quite frankly, I have longed for but never experienced the role of elder as described in David's notes. I work hard to administrate my committees in a fashion that allows for the other, far more important duties of an elder, but I find either other elders, or more usually staff, throw such monkey wrenches into the works (you know little things like showing up at meetings and demanding agenda time without discussing it with the chairman in advance) that the adminstrative becomes overwhelming. It is only when I am not serving on Session that I can teach and truly lead. How can we fix this?


Batman Reviewed!

The good news -- the Batman movie franchise is alive and kicking. The bad news -- this is not the best Batman movie that could be made.

It is hard for someone that is as much a fan of the superhero genre, regardless of its expression, and is as intimate with a characater like Batman for as long as I have been to be fully objective in reviewing a movie like this. Of necessity, when a character has had as many outlets and incarnations as Batman, the essential question for a fan such as myself becomes -- "Is this the 'true' incarnation, or the 'best' incarnation?"

I am going to try and set those questions aside in this review and just critique movie on it's own merits. Let's start with the negatives.

Biggest negative - the mano-e-mano fight scens are done with a very rapidly moving camera and extreme quick cuts. It gives the impression of a fight, without really seeing what goes on -- that is annoying, particularly during Wayne's training phase. Christian Bale is good as Batman (far better than either Kilmer or Clooney, and in some ways better than Keaton, but not in all ways) but not outstanding.

Biggest complaint -- the movie is so dark it forgets its cartoonish origins. Certainly the Schumacher movies (here and here) were way too campy, but the Burton films (here and here) while dark, never forgot that a guy dressed up like a bat to fight bad guys was essentially silly. This movie takes itself just a little too seriously and expects us to take Batman far more seriously than he should be taken.

Minor irritants -- the homage to sequel is just a little too "in your face." Katie Holmes turns what could be THE pivitol supporting role into just another bit of eye candy. That fact doesn't really take away from the movie, just keeps it from being better. The big "surprise" regarding the bad guy is not the least bit surprising to any person that is at all a Batman comics fan.

High points -- supporting performances by Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and most especially Gary Oldman are superb. Michael Caine truly moved me, and if it wasn't for the type of movie this is, I would think Oldman a serious "Best Supporting" contender.

Thematically, the movie explores the line between redemption and condemnation. This is the theme that has been most addressed by the underlying legend certainly since the comics code. The movie and the legend seem to contend that the fight for redemption is what matters. I have never been comfortable with this. Redemption demands sacrifice. Wayne's sacrifice, his parents, is not a result of his demons, so in the end it is insuffcient for redemption, and therefore in the end, redemption can never be achieved. While that drives the legend forward, it never leaves me satisfied.

In summation, Batman Begins is a triple, maybe even with an RBI or two, but it is not a home run. Definitely worth the price of admission, but not wholly satisfying.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


That's A Mouthful!

Transforming Sermons points to a post from Peter Bogert at Stronger Church.
A few posts ago I used an illustration from Ramesh Richard's book Preparing Expository Sermons. On page 22 he provides a sermon outline that apparently was something he actually witnessed. The sermon involves nothing about the original meaning of the text, how the author would have intended it to be understood, or how the original readers would have understood it. Richard states that it is simply moralistic preaching, disconnected from any textual authority.

I don't believe that this kind of treatment of Scripture is that uncommon. Especially in devotional-type preaching or speaking, we are inclined to look for "deeper" insights. Such insights often convey good moral lessons, even ones that sound very spiritual. But as Richard points out, they lack textual authority....

...Some may protest that it is the right of the Holy Spirit to reveal these "insights" to us. Right? Sure, I'll go along with that. But I don't think he uses that right. Despite what our "every promise in the book is mine" individual-American mind thinks, the Bible is not a personal love letter from God. It is a book written to a community, teaching the same thing to every individual of the community. Certainly there are applications to a passage that strike us differently, but let's realize that what we are reading is already the product of the Holy Spirit. Frankly there is enough there to hold us accountable and guide our lives and thinking without having to bend the meaning of the text to "get something personal" out of it.
I think the two approaches to preaching that Peter contrasts here may define the great divide in the church today. I don't think we are divided any longer by denominations or theological schools -- those distinctions exist, but they are just that -- distinctions, not divides.

The divide is between those that seek God as an aid, and those that seek to submit themselves to God. Christianity is, in many ways, and by worldly measures, succeeding better today than perhaps ever before in American history. Much of what is going on is exciting and wonderful, and certainly is at least part of what the church and Christians should be doing. But I find myself feeling uncomfortable, in charismatic terms "I have a check in my spirit."

I think Peter has hit on the reason why I feel that way. So much of the success that I am seeing uses Christianity as a tool, as opposed to being a tool for Christ. Think about it

This divide is not modern, it's as old as the church, but I think it is more stark today than perhaps at any time since the Reformation. Which side of the divide are you on? Which side do you want to be on? Which side is your church on, and how can you help it move to the correct side?


So, When Is It Deliberate?

Al Mohler contends that deliberate childlessness in a married couple is a sin. (HT: SmartChristian)

So when do we cross the line into deliberate? Does refusing to consider IVF because of it's countless moral dilemma's count? What about adoption? Are childless Christian couples mandated to adopt? Mohler says this
Morally speaking, the epidemic in this regard has nothing to do with those married couples who desire children but are for any reason unable to have them, but in those who are fully capable of having children but reject this intrusion in their lifestyle.
Bottom line is this, I do not disagree with Dr. Mohler's essential point -- people who resent the intrusion of children into their lives have a problem, but, as half of a childless couple, this has to be the cruelest Christian pronouncement I have ever read.

I'm trying to avoid TMI (Too Much Information) syndrome here, but when we discovered our biological inability, the decisions concerning other options that we made, and they were decisions, were the most painful and difficult of our marriage -- and I cannot foresee any others that will come close. They were made in the deepest of prayer, and the highest degree of consultation with the Almighty that we could muster.

So, Dr Mohler, and I mean this in the deepest sense of Christian brotherhood,...sorry, I can't finish this sentence, or I'll get in a lot of trouble.


OK, Class...

...discuss amongst yourselves.


Diagram This Sentence

From the California Insider:
So now we have an unelected arbitrator telling elected officials that the contract they're working from does not mean what it says because negotiators for a former governor in a secret meeting agreed to look the other way and not enforce the provision.
Welcome to California!


I've Been Cursed... Scots/Gaelic no less. (see the comments in the link) Apparently I have been banned from salmon fishing in Scotland as well. All over posting this picture

Look, she did it, all I did was find the picture and pass it on. Why am I getting cursed? And now that I've said "salmon" I have to do this:


The Best of Pravda


Probably not the best treatment for alcoholism ever devised. One has to wonder what the husband was imbibing upon to take a step that radical?


Humans to extract billions of tons of precious metals from asteroids
Not only is what they propose in that headline not feasible, the story doesn't say anything about it, just what other celestial bodies are made of. Some day I want to read the style book at Pravda!


An investigating experiment connected with a lawsuit filed by Muscovite, Olga Kuznetsova, against McDonald's corporation is to be conducted at one of the company's restaurants in the Moscow region on June 15th. The claimant sued the fast food giant over a cup of hot coffee, which she spilled on herself while she was opening a heavy door of the restaurant on her way outside.

"We are going to reproduce the moment, when the claimant was leaving the McDonald's restaurant, holding a tray in her hands. There will be a cup of coffee on the tray during the experiment," lawyer Maksim Dombrovitsky told Interfax.

The lawyer reminded that the hot coffee burnt Olga Kuznetsova's skin, and the woman decided to sue the corporation.

A Moscow court previously adjourned the hearing of Kuznetsova's lawsuit against McDonald's. The claimant evaluated the damage at 100 thousand 400 rubles, which is some $3,500. Olga Kuznetsova suffered first and second degree burns over the spilled coffee. The incident occurred on May 5th, 2004.
In this country you could not get a consult with a lawyer for that kind of money -- but then they say "imitation is the most sincere form of flattery."



They're everywhere!



A Kansas student faces a misdemeanor charge after throwing up on his Spanish teacher on the last day of school.
There is a difference of opinion between the kid and the teacher as to whether is was purposeful or accidental, but let's assume it was purposeful. Does the teacher have so little control and authority that he has to involve law enforcement for something like this? I had a teacher this wimpy once, never puked on his shoes, but that's because I didn't think about it. Any teacher that has so little control of his classroom that he would resort to law enforcement over something like this deserves whatever he gets. If the student needs any ideas, he can give me a call, I've got plenty.


Today's The Day!

Batman Begins

But then I'm not excited or anything, it's just a movie based on a COMIC BOOK, that would not cause me any excitement, no, no sir, not me!


How'd They Do That?!

Undetectable Waves Detected
Tad bit oxymoronic, don't you think? The mind reels:

Suggestions being accepted in the comments now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Completely Out Of Step

The is hereby declared as a Michael Jackson free zone. I have not paid enough attention to know about legal guilt or innocence, but he is one wierd, bizzare human being and best out of public view, so he is officially out of view here.


The US Army Is 230 Years Old Today!

So says, Assumption of Command. Mustang 23 celebrates by listing his favorite Army movie quotes from movies like "Stripes," "M*A*S*H," and "Forrest Gump." But he lieft out one of my personal favorite military movies -- "Full Metal Jacket" Actually, FMJ is two movies, the first half in boot camp, which is great, and the second when deployed in Vietnam which is just wierd. It is also about the Marine Corps and not the Army, so technically, it does not qualify for Mustang's celebration, but I cannot resist the opportunity -- With apologies to the undoubted superiority of the Army. (Is that enough butt kissing to keep them from attacking me later? -- If not, let me know, I'll post more.)

Anyway, R. Lee Ermy plays the boot camp drill sargeant and is absolutely unforgettable. This and This are soundboards where you can click and hear any number of his grossly profane comments. My personal favorite
You are so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece.
Now that is an insult.

And of course, now that I have opened, at grave personal risk, the door to the Marine Corps, there is also "Heartbreak Ridge" with Clint Eastwood in which he utters, in response to an inquiry by a general officer about the state of a deployment, "Frankly Sir, I think it's a cluster*&^*."


You Can't Do That -- It Would Prove My Point

Two eighth-graders who spent months working on a science project to prove how dangerous BB guns can be were disqualified from the state middle school science fair. The reason for the dismissal: BB guns are too dangerous.
That almost stands alone without comment, except the story also contains this gem
"The scientific review committee does not consider science projects involving firearms to be safe for middle school students," Degon said.
OK, I understand the need for some caution with BB-guns, but they ARE NOT "firearms." That term implies an explosion, combustion, you know, actually burning, like gunpowder. Hence the firearm. BB-guns work on air pressure, there is no explosion, combustion or burning. I have been shot by a BB-gun at close range, heck I shot myself just to see what it would feel like -- it stings, and it is never wise to point a gun of any type at anybody, unless you are deadly serious about it -- but firearm? Please!


Amazing Insight

I became familiar with the Sacramento Bee's Daniel Weintraub during the recall election that gave us Arnold as Govenator. He is about as "middle" a reporter I have ever heard. I thought this was a great insight from his blog.
The more I watch politics, the more I am convinced there are basically two kinds of politicians in the world. There are those who see their job as forcing others to do things (for their own good or the good of others, of course). And there are those who see thier jobs as freeing people to do things for themselves.
So, which party do you think has more of which?

He also posted this yesterday that was very funny.
Live by Hollywood, die by Hollywood.

Michael Jackson steal's Schwarzenegger's thunder and headline space by getting himself acquitted on charges of child molestation, false imprisonment and lesser charges.
This is about Arnold -- not the other guy that is not being mentioned in this blog. He is referring to the announcement that the Guvenator made yesterday about a special election in November. But then everyone knew that was coming anyway.


Other Places In Africa

Darfur remains the place of greatest need in Africa, but the continent remains pretty messed up in general. A friend of mine that grew up in what used to be know as "Rhodesia" sent me this link to stay up on the latest in Zimbabwe. It's worth some attention.


Maybe The Press Wasn't The Problem

I got big traffic back in February when I looked into a story about Christian missionaries demanding conversation in exchange for tsunami relief. Needless to say the story appeared to be a fabrication. I figured it was the press capitalizing on a misunderstanding to advance thier known bias.

Now I am wondering if it wasn't a purposeful fabrication.
Angry Hindu youths beat three American missionaries and tried to kidnap one as they held a bible studies class in Bombay, police said on Monday.

About 30 or 40 men attacked the three, part of a group of eight, on Saturday night because they thought the missionaries were trying to convert Hindus in the Indian financial capital.
I have some Hindi friends -- I did not think them capable of this kind of stuff. But then they are having to defend themselves constantly against the Muslim minority in that country....


From the Edge of Taste

Berlusconi's fat becomes soap
Apparently some artist that hates the Italian PM got his liposuction waste product from the clinic that did the procedure and made soap from it as an artistic political statement. Soap is made from animal lipids (liposuction? - get it) so this is easy to do. Leave the politcal statement aside, what a great personal souvenier! If I ever get liposuction....

Oh yeah, while we're on the edge -- this has to be the worst job in the world. I dare you to find a worse one.


Didn't They Think It A Little Weird...

...when this guy had to shave every day.
A 31-year-old serial impostor who passed himself off for a whole month as a schoolboy - aged 15 - is being questioned by police in France.
This is actually pretty ugly, the guy took serious advantage of some poor couple's irrational hopes about a son that had disappeared years earlier, which may be one of the cruelest things I have ever heard.


If Your Going To Make It Legal...

...then you might as well capitalize.
Las Vegas cab drivers should be able to earn bounties for steering passengers to strip clubs, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn said on Friday.

In a statement, Guinn said he would veto a bill that would ban the practice in which strip clubs paying
[sic] cab drivers for luring and delivering customers.
What are we worried about here -- that the cabbie's fares will not have "free choice" about which club they are going to? Let's be real -- if they don't specify the club to the cabbie, they don't much care. If these legislators had any smarts at all -- they'd TAX the bounties.


They Ought To Be Smarter Than This reports the findings of an extra-solar solid planet in a star system about 15 light years away. That actually pretty cool.

See, here's the thing --we cannot actually see extra solar planets, they are too small. We find them by detecting rotational or translation perturbations due to gravitational effects in the stars they orbit. It's sort of like knowing there is a fat guy hiding in the room when all the donuts disappear. Anyway, it's an indirect detection method.

So why in the story above do they have a picture? Isn't that misleading.


How Do I Reconcile These Stories?

Rain queen dies at 27

Modjadji VI, the South African queen believed to make rain, has died in hospital aged 27, just two years after being crowned, her office said on Monday.
But if that is true -- how do we explain this?
After years of drought, Salt Lake rising

The water in the Great Salt Lake has begun rising again after years of drought, changing the landscape and starting to submerge one of Utah's best-known artifacts: an enormous earth sculpture called the Spiral Jetty.
Please, if anyone out there has some grant money -- send it my way -- this mystery absolutely must be solved.


When Is Wool Not Wool?

New Wool Doesn't Itch or Shrink

The new process, called "bio-polishing," was developed by the Agricultural Research Service branch of the USDA. Bio-polishing uses a series of chemical and enzyme treatments to provide smoother and softer wool than by conventional methods.
This is truly fascinating science, but aside from the fact that the raw material is harvested from sheep, by the time they are done with it, how do you know it's wool? That's like saying, "You can write on a new lumber." (Paper comes from wood for those of you that have spent way too much time in the city.)


Huh? Wa?

You ever been on public transit when the next stop was announced and had no idea what came over the loudspeaker? Apparently, so have a lot of people -- so, In Washington DC at least, they are giving transit workers elocution lessons. Speaks well of our public education system, doesn't it?

On the subject, George Will has a few things to say about school choice that are well worth considering.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Bad News Travels Fast

I posted late Saturday about a developing story out of Iraq concerning the death of some officers under suspicious circumstances and the rush by the press to call it "fragging." (Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for linking to that post.)

At that time, the investigation into the incident was being reported, but the use of the term "fragging" was fairly limited. NOT ANY MORE. Google News produced 77 'related' hits(not all of which contained the magic word, but a good number of them did) and a Technorati search produced 866 hits at press time. (Again, not all of them in this context, but a real good percentage).

Of course, I have not had time to get through all of that material. But of all of it I have, the MSNBC report has to be my favorite. They trump CNN in their efforts to call it "fragging." Check the lead
The military has opened a criminal probe to determine if two Army officers who were killed earlier in the week in Tikrit died in a "fragging incident," the intentional killing of a friendly soldier by another soldier in a wartime setting.
Note the use of scare quotes around the term. Now, of course, they justify the quotes by putting the definition right after them, but it also calls immediate attention to the term as well. They justify the use of the term in the last paragraph of the story
One U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said investigators were looking into the possibility that the case was a fragging incident since the company commander and the operations officer were killed.
Note the term is not in quotes in this paragraph, indicating it is likely the anonymous official did not use that term.

I think the press is going to take some heat over this. They are guarding themselves closely, but it's coming. Note the narrow definition of the term "fragging" MSNBC gives, "...the intentional killing of a friendly soldier by another soldier in a wartime setting." That is exceptionally narrow, enough so to justify their choice of the term, but it completely avoids the historical context of the word and it's almost entirely derogatory implications. No, they are leaving it up to the lefty bloggers to set the rest of the plate.

There is one other question I have. Remember back in April when a sergeant was convicted of murdering two officers with a grenade? How come we did not hear the word "fragging" back then? That incident certainly meets the criteria MSNBC so narrowly offered above. My theory is that the miscreant was apprehended almost immediately in that instance and his motives were clear -- which robbed the MSM of their opportunity to speculate and by so doing undermine the military.

The bias and intent is obvious here. In our nation, it is only the citizens like us that can exercise control over the media. Please join me in doing so, If you blog, post on other instances you find. If you are not a blogger, please complain to the particular news outlet of your choice that engages in speculation like this.

UPDATE: Lest you think I am making "much ado about nothing" - Powerline's Iraq correspondant in a post yesterday, notes precisely how important the press coverage is:
The insurgents have fought to break the will of the troops and have failed. They have fought to break the will of the Iraqi people and failed. They will continue to attack both fronts, but there remains another strategic front that they are now targeting more and more. The insurgents, in my opinion, are now seeking to break the will of the American people.

To do this, they are using more car bombs which make great sound-bite visuals on television, but while the weapon is sometimes tactically effective it is strategically irrelevant. They also conduct attacks against symbolic targets such as the Abu Ghurayb prison complex which are tactically ineffective and strategically irrelevant. In the most potent enemy action, all attackers were killed and none penetrated even the outer fence. These tactics cannot stop our mission here from moving forward, unless the frequency and manner in which they are reported makes the American people think we are not winning or that it is not worth the sacrifice.

Please do not let that happen. This is worth the fight.

If the daily bad-news bombardment from networks and newspapers starts to erode your confidence in the effort, remember the confidence shown by the troops, the Terps, and the Iraqis who stood in line for hours to cast a vote--even after a murderer struck.

Just as you are counting on us out here in Iraq, we are counting on you back home. Thank you for your support and prayers. Things are going much better out here than some who sell news--or pathologically despise a certain Commander-in-Chief--would like you to believe.
In other words, each of us has a very important role to play the war -- we cannot juts leave it to "them." Do what you can by supporting our troops, and by ignoring, and correcting, the press.


TAG! - I'm It

At least if Catez at Allthings2all has anything to say about it. She has sent me a meme. As she said in the comments of one of my posts
Hello. This is your blog topic selector speaking. You have been TAGGED
What can I say -- I know an order when I hear one so, without further ado:

Total number of books owned, ever: Hard to count, particularly the discarded ones. Let's put it this way, when we remodeled the house a couple of years ago we built a library just for the books. We thought we left shelf space for the next 15 years of accumulation, but alas, we find the room shrinking far more rapidly than imagined. Now, if we included comic books -- those I have roughly 8,000, want to know years of publication? Author? Artist? Value?

Last book I bought: Still waiting for delivery - Selling Out the Church The Dangers of Church Marketing. Bought it because of this review. Actually sounds like they accumulated some of my blog posts, and "scholared them all up" --Yeah right, but every now and then I love being in the preached-to choir.

Last book I read: I have read several enjoyable, but insignificant, techno-thrillers on airplanes lately (Dale Brown and Larry Bond) but I don't know if they count when it is this hard to remember the plot when I just read them 3 weeks ago. Last book of substance - Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky - Hey I'm going to Russia this summer, and I'm about three-quarters of the way through The Brothers Karamazov.

Five books that mean a lot to me: Oh Jeez!

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I know, 7 books, but deal with it.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Rather ambitiously read it for the first time as a freshman in high school. Very formative in my thinking as a Christian.

Fundamentals of Analytical Chemistry by Skoog and West. Laugh if you want at my inclusion of a college textbook, but it pulled me in like a great novel and gave me a career and a business. I'd say that counts as "meaning a lot to me." I still pull it off the shelf and read sections just for fun from time-to-time. Makes me one huge nerd, but that is a different issue altogether.

Paul's Epistle To The Romans by the Apostle Paul Technical violation? Perhaps, it's not really a book, it's a letter, and it's published in a much larger book, but I decided saying "the Bible" would be too cliche, and Romans really is where I have spent more time than any other book in the Bible, probably more time than any other document in my life - a statement which just hacked off all those "gospel firsters" out there.

California's Permit-By-Rule Handbook: A Guide To Compliance - because I wrote it. It has, in the 13 years since its publication sold slightly less than 100 copies, and given its highly technical and regulatory nature, reading it is a bit like scrubbing your eyes with steel wool. Nonetheless, I sweat bullets for many, many months to produce that thing - on Wordstar for crying out loud. I no longer have any pride in it at all -- too long with too little sales for pride to be a possibility, but when it comes to personal significance, nothing compares to writing a book, even a god-awful technical manual.

Well, there you have it, and now in accordance with the rules of this particular game of blog-tag, I need to tag 5 others -- here they are (in no particular order): John at Sheep's Crib, Rick at Holy Coast, Lowell at Hedgehog Blog, Dadmanly, and Mike at Eternal Perspectives. Looking forward to what these people have to say.


This Is A Discriminatory Blog...

...mostly because I refuse to sound like an idiot when I write. I perused FOXNew's Tongue-Tied feature and am just amazed.

Eh, read the rest of it for yourselves. We have really got to get a hold of ourselves. If I have offended you, then know that I am offended by your offense so we are offended together -- so keep you offended state to yourself.


Oh, So Now We Don't Want To Jump To A Hasty Conclusion.

How many times have I linked to a news story where people rush to and draw unwarranted conclusions based on the data presented? Happens everyday, Particularly when science is done in service of a political agenda. So, this headline caught me eye
Men and Women Really Do Think Differently
That ought to challenge some common thinking runs through my mind as I read, but NOOOooooo! Check the first few paragraphs
Men and women do think differently, at least where the anatomy of the brain is concerned, according to a new study.

The brain is made primarily of two different types of tissue, called gray matter and white matter. This new research reveals that men think more with their gray matter, and women think more with white. Researchers stressed that just because the two sexes think differently, this does not affect intellectual performance.
Political correctness must prevail, even in the face of contrary data. Now, admittedly, the data is not quite as contrary and it appears at first glance, and when you consider the definitions of "intelligence" and other brain functions, the point has some significance, but why are they so fast to protect their turf? Naw, there is no bias in the news.




Cheat-Seeking Missles carried a post this past week about "activists" that are planting endangered plant species on property in order to prevent development. Laer has some fun with the story reporting the incident, and it is funny, but this is so totally outrageous that I can't appreciate the humor.

While we're talking about development, this story really gets to me.
Coral mining, landscaping and other instances of human development in Sri Lanka helped last December's devastating tsunami sweep even further inland than it might have, causing intense destruction, scientists said Thursday.
Let me get this straight -- development too close to the coast increases damage from natural disasters, development inland threatens endangered species,...Obviously the best thing to do is just kill ourselves and leave the planet to the animals.


By century's end, much of southern Louisiana may sink into the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas coastline, including Galveston, could soon follow.

That's the sobering - and controversial - conclusion of a new report published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that finds the northern Gulf of Mexico is sinking much faster than geologists thought.

The report centers on the humble benchmark, a small metal disk bolted to the ground, that provides a standard elevation above sea level for land surveying and mapping as well as determining flood-prone areas.

But there's one problem with benchmarks: They don't give reliable elevation readings if they're sinking along with everything else.
When I first checked into this story, I was expecting something about how the melting polar icecaps were raising sea level...yada, yada, yada. Instead I got a completely legitimate story on a natural geological phenomena and the difficulties of measuring it. Sometimes, it's worth pointing out when the press gets it right.


I usually like this current administration, but I am glad they got slapped down this time. (subscription required)
The utilities fought back with some success in court, and in 2003 the Bush administration clarified the NSR rules, essentially restoring the pre-Clinton interpretation. But in an all-too-typical piece of policy dissonance, the administration decided to continue pursuing Clinton-era enforcement actions against the utilities lest it provoke the ire of environmentalists.

As Judge Virginia Hopkins noted in her ruling in favor of Alabama Power Co., "This leaves the anomaly of utilities, like APC, being prosecuted for conduct that, if engaged in now, would not be prosecuted. Put another way, this action is a sport, which is not exactly what one would expect to find in a national regulatory enforcement program." She rejected the government's entire case, including requests for fines and compliance.
"NSR" refers to "New Source Review" for power plants, and the fight was over it's application to existing plants, Clinton had tried to broaden the definition of "new," kind of like he tried to redefine "is" and "sex." I am saddened at this administration that they did not have the courage of their convictions, but I am angry that environmentalists are so shrill that the administration felt that kind of pressure.


From the NYTimes no less.
Oil is now so expensive that when it is blended with ethanol, a gasoline additive, to make high-octane fuel, the price of the blend is now often lower than that of regular gasoline.

As a result, some service stations, particularly those in the corn belt states that produce ethanol, are selling gasoline with ethanol for 7 cents to 10 cents less per gallon than regular gas.

Some analysts said the trend demonstrated ethanol's potential as a fuel source, though others said it was simply a matter of supply and demand and timing.

The pricing phenomenon is limited to regions where the gasoline additive is produced, because the cost to ship ethanol - which must be sent by highway or rail tanker instead of through petroleum pipelines, where it has the potential to be contaminated - is high.
"Simply a matter of supply and demand?!" -- Puhleeze - the problem with alternative fuels and technologies all along has been price, there has never been any question in my mind that once they became economically viable, they would be adopted. Hybrid cars may get there, but right now if people do the math, as opposed to knee-jerk react to pump prices, the higher costs cannot be justified. There is nothing simple about this -- this is exactly how it is supposed to work -- the miracle of the free market strikes again.


Strange Bedfellows

Who knew we would see Homeland Security and Greenies working together? But they appear to be on at least one issue -- water chlorination.
Chlorinated drinking water is generally regarded as one of the most important advances in public health. Yet the lifesaving practice of chlorination has never been in such jeopardy as it is now -- thanks to an unfortunate alliance between junk science-fueled environmentalists and overzealous homeland security officials.
Homeland Security has some real, if zealous concern -- it's a way that could be used to poison a population, but that can be answered with security measures. The Greenies are just nuts though.
During the Peruvian cholera outbreak in January-February 1991, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) directed health and water agencies to take measures to ensure all water distribution systems were chlorinated, a very effective technique for killing or inactivating the cholera pathogen.

But as recounted in a new paper authored by Fred Reiff, a Pan-American Health Organization official from 1981-1995, the PAHO encountered resistance to chlorination from local health officials in Peru and other countries. Press releases and reports from the EPA and WHO had raised concern that chlorination by-products may increase cancer risk.
OK, for the record, if I am ever in a situation where I have to choose between sure death for 100's if not 1000's of citizens or something that may give some of them cancer and cause them do die at age 70 instead of 80 - or right now, I am going with the possible cancer risk every time.

Have we completely left common sense in a ditch by the road somewhere?


Big Changes At The Blogdom

Adrain Warnock is working on a big project to update the Blogdom of God. Here's his post on what's in the works. He needs some help with some things if you have the time -- AND if he does not know you, now is the time to make sure he does so you can be included. Check it out.


Introducing Chuck

My wife, in her never ending search to find deployed soldiers to support, ran across Chuck, and a correspondence developed. After reading some of Chuck's epistles, which included a sort of personal log he keeps, I suggested he might want to blog himself. He's a shy lad, unjustifiable so in my opinion, but still a tad nervous about the undertaking.

He agreed to send some stuff for me to post, but no sooner than he gets that done then he up and starts the blog -- Semper Gumby (have you ever heard a better blog name in your life?) Anyway, here is what he sent me, which is repeated in part on his new blog.
First Ramblings-10 June 2005

I am scared to put my thoughts in writing. For then I am held accountable for them. Knowledge is power. I am not sure I am ready to let someone have the power to criticize me by reading my ramblings. However, I feel the push of the Lord to start this undertaking. I pray it will go favorably for me with God and man. I fear the pride of being told this undertaking is good and fear the reproof of being told it is bad. Woe is me because of the duality of life. Or is it the sin of immaturity/insecurity as a Christian?

Weak is the man who criticizes others when he himself lacks the strength to say or do.

I regrettably must say that I am an elementary school level Christian. Where have the last 25 years gone? It is miraculous the Lord hasn't struck me down for being mediocre. I know it says in the Bible be either hot or cold not lukewarm. My new motto will be:


Now I need to surround myself with teachers and accountability partners. Why don't we Christians do better at discipleship? We rejoice when a soul is won for the Lord but we don't equip him/her to become a warrior for Christ. Who is accountable for the new Christian? The soul winner? The pastor? The deacons/elders? We have soldiers joining our ranks but we forget to send them through boot camp to teach them the fundamentals. After boot camp, they need advanced individual training (AIT) just like an US Army soldier. Some want/need special training to become all they can be. However, we stop after recruitment. Then wonder why they don't become great spiritual leaders. I really need to finish Stu Weber's book, Spiritual Warrior. I bet we have a lot of similar ideas. Another great book of examples is The Three Meter Zone by CSM J. D. Pendry. He talks of the three, fifty and one hundred meter zones of influence. The person who makes the biggest impact on you in the person in your three meter zone; Sunday School teacher, bible class leader, accountability partner, etc.
Chuck's a good man -- why not drop be and see what you like about Semper Gumby.


What Is Our Responsibility?

So, you are sitting in the pew -- and from in front of the church comes a real corker. You know what I'm talking about, not an interpretation that you disagree with, not something that is an obvious slip of the tongue, no, I am talking about a flat out factual error. Say someone contends multiple times in a short speech that it was the Greek army that held siege on Masada when in fact the Greek army had not existed for a couple of centuries by the time of the Maccabeen revolt which culminated at Masada, that it was in fact the Roman army that held such siege. What do you do?

I know, I know, tradition says you hold your tongue and you speak to the individual quietly after the service, or you let it drop altogether -- but by that time 100's, if not 1000's of people now have an absolutely wrong fact lodged in their skulls. And, if you are say a Bible study leader at that church and the issue comes up, you will now have to bring in 20 different reference books to prove your point, because the wrong information came from the pulpit.

The traditional approach would be fine if the individual involved came back the next week and owned up to the error -- but the last few times I have run into this situation, such admission of error has not been forthcoming.

Bottom line is this -- differences of opinion are one thing, but errors of facts are another. Can we let them stand? If not, how do we challenge them in an appropriate fashion? Inquiring minds want to know!

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Sounds LIke A Book I HAVE To Read

Challies reviews a book that sounds like a must read.
Selling Out the Church The Dangers of Church Marketing
Here are a few of Tim's comments:
In short, they show that there is no biblical basis to support such a marketing orientation. In fact, the marketing orientation is antithetical to Christianity because it presupposes an exchange mindset in which goods or services pass between parties. Yet the Gospel is a message of grace. There is no equal exchange. Instead, God gives us a gift of grace. A marketing mindset may lead us to feel that God has an obligation towards us (in which we exchange service for blessing) or may lead us to seek reciprocity in relationships, despite the biblical emphasis on self-denial.
The authors go on to examine the false understanding that the church is primarily a service agency that exists to meet the needs of the "consumer," believer and unbeliever alike. This view teaches that a felt need is a legitimate need because in a marketing paradigm the customer is always right. At the heart of marketing is an assumption that theology has long denied - that people know what is best for them. Scripture teaches the exact opposite - that the church has something people need, but something these people do not want and do not know they need! The church has no business asking unbelievers (ie consumers) what they would like in a church, for the church already knows their deepest need.
Rather we need to ensure that we are learning from God along the way as He shapes us into the men and women He wants us to be. Kenneson and Street question where church marketers leave room for God in the grand drama of the church. They also point out the danger in valuing measurable objectives because this tends to filter out theological objectives that cannot be neatly weighed and measured. Thus goals tend to be number-driven even though numbers are not a reliable indicator of theological depth and understanding.
I'll be ordering this book as soon as I save the post.


Sermons and Lessons

This week, I thought we could listen to a sermon by none other than Adrian Warnock.

Give a listen.

And while I am talking about Adrian, he gave a totally unecessary mea culpa yesterday.
Dave Warnock (no relation!) has produced a post that convicts me somewhat, although I have always agreed with his sentiment at least in theory! Essentially he seems to be outing me as someone who exhibits "a consistent assumption echoed by many others that mainstream 'traditional' Churches are dying, non scriptural, liberal, non evangelical and in some cases even non Christian."

I dont think I have ever said exactly that in a blog. But perception is everything and so I owe David and others an apology.
I have not met Adrian personally, though I hope to when I am in London in August, but I have corresponded with him, and argued with him in posts. I have yet to encounter anyone in blogging that is more open and welcoming. I am very much a traditionalist - PCUSA for pityfied sakes. I love traditional worship, and while I do not deny the reality of the charismata, I am so fearful of their misuse that most people think me a cessasionist. Adrain is the most open, least hostile charasmatic I have encountered. Dave Warnock just must not be vary familiar with Adrian -- and Adrian, don't apologize for things you have not done.

If I may be so bold, IMonk is very prophetic in his blogging, in the most traditional sense of that word. He is dramatic, highly emotional, and tends to overstate his case. I generally agree with him, but find that he tends to state things in a way guaranteed to create conversation, and sometimes controversy, even when none is called for. He writes with his heart, and tries to wrap his mind around it. When I have interacted with him, I have found the best thing to do is let his posts age, several days before I react to it, let the emotional heat of his rhetoric cool and then react to the meat of what he is saying. Otherwise, you end up with people taking offense where none was given, or even considered.

I think an interaction between Michael Spencer and Adrian Warnock would be most interesting, but I think they need to get to know each other a little better before it can be really meaningful.


Not Supposed To Happen This Way

Soldiers die -- it is a sad but necessary fact of military life. Each of us should have undying and unmeasurable levels of gratitude for those that make that sacrifice. Fortunately, their families and those they love can take pride and comfort in the fact that their death had meaning, and served a greater good.

Usually, but not always. Mustang 23 linked to a brief announcement by 365 and a Wake Up, but it is Major K that tells the story.
You expect it from all of the arhabi's dirty tricks; IED's, ambushes, suicide bombers, etc. You do not expect it from street punks while you are home on leave. The NightStalkers lost a very good man last night. Specialist Jorge Estrada was murdered while home on leave for the birth of his daughter.
Please read all of Major K's tribute to this great soldier. Given that I experienced a similarly senseless loss just a few weeks ago, I can understand how these soldiers must be feeling right now. I cannot help but enjoy Major K's sentiment
I know that had he perceived a threat from this scumbag that sucker-shot him, I would not be writing this post now, because that scumbag would be in the hospital or jail, and Specialist Estrada would still be enjoying his leave with his wife and daughters.
That our finest are dying overseas so that our worst can do things like this is one of the great ironies of a free nation like ours. I have no doubt that Specialist Estrada's assailant will have justice visited upon him, but I cannot help but wish that he had received Specialist Estrada's special form of justice personally.

Pray for Specialist Estrada's family, and for the men in his unit. I hope that God will visit His comfort on all that need it.


Sunday Funny

The blind leading the lame -- may be the story of my life:


You Asked For It

Some wisenheimer commented that last Thursday's "Illuminated Scripture" would be better in the ESV. Well, we here at Blogotional live to serve--

Gotta love that poetry.


It's Rare...

...that I agree with a NYTimes op-ed, but it happens. This is an example, even if an entirely too shallow one. John Tierney draws the comparison between the Circus Maximus of Rome and the sports stadia of today, particularly in light of urban planning.

Now I realize that the "Fall of the Roman Empire is analogous to today," is an old and hacknyed arguement, but I think Tierney does himself an injustice be examining only what his analogy has to say about building stadiums with public money. What did the Circus mean to Roman society and what do the stadiums mean to us today? Do they represent the same amount of distraction from the business of being a society? Is it a measure of impending doom, or success?

Just something to think about.


Not All Non-Americans Hate Us!

Here's proof.
It is unbelievable that America gets badmouthed all the time. America has helped the cause of freedom more than anyone else. First of all I'd like to thank America for saving Australia's butt at the Battle of the Coral Sea in WWII. This prevented the Japanese from landing here, and bringing with them the concept of "comfort women". I think Australia's nature is such that we would have sacrificed 90% of our population rather than hand over any woman. America's intervention meant that we were never required to make that terrible choice. Thanks America!
He goes on from there. Everybody who can should link and read this post, and leave a comment. This guy needs as much positive feedback as we can muster, just because he is doing the same for us.

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