Saturday, August 27, 2005


Fruedian Slip?

So, I cruising through my RSS feed reader and I run into an abstract of a story in the International section of the London Telegraph -- here's what it says
Nearly 20 years after Patrick Stübing was put up for abortion he traced his birth family in Leipzig - a fateful decision that has seen him imprisoned after fathering four children with his sister.
I click through to the story and it says
Patrick Stübing was four years old when his parents put him up for adoption in East Germany, unable to cope with a young child. Nearly 20 years later Patrick began to trace his birth family in Leipzig - a fateful decision that would eventually see him torn apart by incestuous love.
Makes you wonder who is writing the feeds and what they are thinking about, doesn't it?

By teh way, if anybody can tell me how I can link to the RSS feed so I can substantiate this, please let me know.


There's A New Button On My Sidebar...

...just look over there, you'll see it. It's the logo for the US Military's Central Command. That's the command over our forces both in Iraq and Afghanistan, making it pretty much the most active and important command in the US Military these days.

They wrote Mustang23 at Assumption of Command and asked him to get the word out on their web site and the resources it offers. Dadmanly picked it up from there. The button I have put in the sidebar links to that site for ready and rapid access, I'll share the html coade with anybody that asks if you agree to put it in your blogroll.

The command's web site gives stories about what is really going on over there, not just the body count we get from the legacy media. Like Michael Yon's great account of a couple of days ago (congrats to Hugh Hewitt for nailing that Yon interview yesterday on the radio -- look for the transcript of Radioblogger) this is the place to go to find out the real skinny.

Here's my favorite story from my first look
Karishma tried to be like any other eight year old, running and playing with boundless energy, but for her, there was an end to the energy.

She could never have had a normal, long life because of heart problems ? until a year ago.

Two U.S. Special Forces medical personnel, a medical sergeant and doctor, crossed paths with Karishma in September 2004 ultimately leading up to a successful lifesaving closed-heart surgery performed Aug. 14 by Dr. (Maj.) Michael Myers, a cardiothoracic surgeon stationed at the Bagram Airfield hospital.
So, Ms. Sheehan, our military are "terrorists," eh? When did Al Queda do something like this?

Please, make the Centcom site a regular visit -- I know I will.


Get Used

Milt over at Transforming Sermons is reading Karl Barth, and as a result has this to say
The job of the Christian is not to make the Bible "relevant" to the world in which we live. The Christian, rather, is called to make his or her heart open to the "strange new world" the Bible presents. In other words, we do not use the Word as much as we allow the Word to use us, to reshape us. To do that, we have to approach the Bible with faith.
What do you bring to scripture when you read it? Well drop it and try again.


Today's Trip Pic

One of the most distinctive attributes of the Romanov constructions of St. Petersburg is the use some very colorful minerals. Most notably they use the very green malachite and the very blue lapis. I was unable to capture the real color of the lapis, but I was able to get some malachite. It's a lovely mineral, and as you can imagine, anyone who likes the bright colors of comics like I do would like these bright colors as well.
This is a vase that sits in the Hermitage - one of many, many. Anyplace it is used, as lapis, it is used as a facing material, applied to some underlying structure as a mosiac. I wish I knew the precise technique because unlike picture mosaics, the effect is, as you can see, seamless and vein patterns look entirely natural.

I like it especially when used, not on an object, but as a part of a structure. What you see here is the iconostasis of St. Isaac Cathedral. Those columns use both malachite and lapis to extraordinary effect. Most Orthodox churches I have been to are dark places, with muted colors and while lovely, they lay on one like a burden. Not so St Isaac's. These bright colors and the many windows make the place light and airy.

This is a close up of the columns that gives you a better idea of the effect, what is does not illustrate is the goldleaf caps on the columns which sets off the color to maximal effect.

When we recently remodeled the house, I considered trying to imitate this, but that much color demands rooms far bigger than our little home can provide. Once again. "It's good to be the Tsar."


Comic Art

A brief break from the "Honorable Mentions." Regular readers probably could have guessed, but one of the things I most looked forward to on the recent trip abroad was shopping for comics! In many cases what's available is just the same stuff you get in the US, translated. Not many countires have a well developed internal industry. I found comics at a flea market in Sweden, but found nothing there of interest.
Many of the best recognized comic creators in the US are from the UK. There have always been some great UK titles, but recently the industry is really growing there. This specialty shop is located right across the street from the British Museum and I spent more time there than I probably should have. I tried to concentrate my buying on stuff I could not get in the US. It proved not be be much of a challenge -- there was a lot of material.

My wife found what ended up being the most memorable purchase. It was a graphic novel, collecting an 8-issue mini-series, called "1602." The series was written by Neil Gaiman, one of the more innovative, and certainly the most literary of people writing comics today. (He won a short story award for some of his work on "Sandman.") The series is drawn by Andy Kubert. Andy has been around quite a while and his work is widely known and well done.

The series is set in, unsurprizingly, 1602 when the crowns of England and Scotland were united under James the VI of Scotland and I of England. Not unlike the old "What If" series, the story examines what would have happened had there been superheroes in this historic age.

I found the series fascintating for two reasons. Firstly, Kubert adjusted his art style to give the book a genuine feel for the era. As these pictures illustrate, they even did covers to resemble woodcuts. The effect was remarkable. I also loved the historical setting. As a bit of a fan of British and Scottish history, the series was not inaccurate and terribly fun, having the heroes play important roles in the politics that had to have governed such a momentous governmental shift.

Frankly, I'd like to see the concept extended to other key historical periods for many nations. Imagine superheroes having to chose sides in the Russian revolution, or present in the American revolutionary war.

Though not easy to get in the US, I recommend 1602 to you.

And while we are talking about foreign comics, it's great to see stories on Japanese comics in the legacy media.


Bad Art...

A sculpture made with the pickled head of a dead foetus attached to a seagull's body has fuelled a furore in Switzerland about the boundaries of art.
Gee, do you think? This is disgusting on a whole new level.

I love my country, but when I hear about something like that, and then I read something like this
A man has been convicted of showing video footage of a hostage beheading in Iraq to a woman on his mobile phone.

The District Court in Glasgow heard Subhaan Younis, 23, showed hotel worker Charlotte McClay graphic images of a man having his head sawn off.

Younis, of Baliol Street in the city, was found guilty of committing a breach of the peace by showing explicit video images of the murder.
I sorta wish I lived in the UK. Such a prosecution would result in a first amendment challenge here, though it probably should not. I'd sure like to do the same thing to seagull boy.


Do They Take It For You Too?

Short on Sleep? Mall of America Sells Naps

Read the story -- at $0.70/minute I'll wait until I get home.


Any Bets...

...This is because PETA threatened to sue?

Zookeepers Try To Get Chimpanzee To Stop Smoking

Shouldn't an ape have full rights to chose? After all - "They as just like us!"


There Is Absolutely No Truth To The Rumor...

...That this is about my drinking habits.

Beer drinking survey has Germany's Schroeder ahead

And this was not about me either:

420-Pound Man Again Accused of Beer Heist

I only weigh 375!

Friday, August 26, 2005


Great Reading About Iraq

Yesterday featured some great reading about the war in Iraq.

Everybody's talking about it - Michael Yon's account of recent action in Iraq. This is how "war" coverage ought to be done.

Then there is Powerline's perspective on casualties.
Even in peacetime. The media's breathless tabulation of casualties in Iraq--now, over 1,800 deaths--is generally devoid of context. Here's some context: between 1983 and 1996, 18,006 American military personnel died accidentally in the service of their country. That death rate of 1,286 per year exceeds the rate of combat deaths in Iraq by a ratio of nearly two to one.
These posts are among the best examples of how blogging is going to change things, really change things. You simply cannot find things like this from the legacy media.


Not So Great Reading About Iraq

War Service Is Taking Toll on the Self-Employed

This I am finding is the latest anti-war meme -- our military people are overworked/underpaid. They atttempt to cast military service as some sort of indentured servitude.

I just don't get this. People sign up to serve and they know what they are getting themselves into -- it is a voluntary military after all. This kind of stuff just insults them.

Consider this post from Ma Duece Gunner. Back "in country" after some well-deserved R&R he talks about a recent move out of base
"Renegades, this is Renegade 6, follow my move." The truck lurches forward as we pull out of our spot and into line. The dust fills my nostrils as we move; I grip the handles of Mama Deuce for stability... I am back, and it is time to ride. I love this stuff.
Does that sound like he feels underpaid or overworked to you?

Praise the Lord some poeple have bigger values than just the pay check.


Generally Hugh Hewitt's A Pretty Fun Guy

At least he was on the recent cruise. I don't know why the Fraters guys think he would be no fun at a bachelor party. However, of the reasons they list not to invite him to a bachelor party, I can confirm the underlying fact of this one
Local hunters would mock the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle he takes everywhere
This accounts for the problems he had entering Russia.


Today's Trip Pic

And at last we arrive it the crowned jewel of our travels -- St. Petersburg, Russia. There is so much I could and likely will say about this place that I will probably post about it, move on and come back.... I'm not quite sure how to describe StP. It is light, airy, beautiful all HUGE, and all with a Russian accent.
This is Palace Square -- there on your left is the Winter Palace of the Romanovs, now part of the "State Hermitage Museum." My wife, a connoisseur of palaces and accompanying squares, was overwhelmed by the size of it. And yet, with all that size it contains a sense of delicacy that is hard to imagine. It is cliche', but the place makes the line "It's good to be the Tsar" fall out of your mouth.

StP is, by Russian standards, and enormously European city. When I was there in '91, it was the last city I visited and entering was like having a weight lifted from your shoulders after Moscow and Kiev. And yet, things like this reveal it as defintiely Russian. This spire is from a church dedicated to sailors, a mere bauble by StP's measure, but a stunningly beautiful building nonetheless.


Friday Humor

22 Reflections on government...
  1. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself...Mark Twain
  2. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle...Winston Churchill
  3. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul...George Bernard Shaw
  4. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money...G Gordon Liddy
  5. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner...James Bovard
  6. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries...Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown Univ
  7. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys...P.J. O'Rourke
  8. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else...Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)
  9. Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it....Ronald Reagan (1986)
  10. I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts...Will Rogers
  11. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free...P.J. O'Rourke
  12. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other...Voltaire (1764)
  13. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you...Pericles (430 B.C.)
  14. No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session...Mark Twain (1866)
  15. Talk is cheap ... except when Congress does it...Unknown
  16. The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other...Ronald Reagan
  17. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery...Winston Churchill
  18. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin...Mark Twain
  19. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of
    folly is to fill the world with fools...Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)
  20. There is no distinctly native American criminal class... save Congress...Mark Twain
  21. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians...Edward Langley, Artist (1928 - 1995)
  22. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have...Thomas Jefferson


I Don't Think So

Cellphones Catapult Rural Africa to 21st Century

The 21st century is just a tad more complex than cell phone usage.


Herbie Hancock:Possibilities -- A Review

Possibilities by Herbie Hancock is scheduled for release August 30. I have been privileged to receive an advance copy for this review.

Herbie Hancock is a bit of a cipher to me. His musical credentials are impeccable having played with the likes of Miles Davis and written jazz near-standards like "Chameleon" and "Watermelon Man." However, it is as if, from time-to-time, he is overcome with the desire to be mainstream and he churns out stuff like the wildly popular, but ultimately inane and boring "Rockit"

The Possibilities album is a duets album in which he is paired with people ranging from Carlos Santana to Christina Aguilera. Duet albums are usually designed to create sales for artists whose time has past, and for those with which they are paired to pay homage to those great artists. Typically the duet partners work to blend themselves with the style and sound of the primary artist.

This album is precisely the opposite. Hancock works diligently to suit himself to the work of the artists with whom he is paired. The result is an album that lacks any central themes or sound. This is just another nail in the album form's coffin. It becomes impossible to review it as an album -- the best one can do is look at the individual cuts.

There is nothing bad on this CD, but of the 10 cuts only a few could be called "good." In large part the cuts are indistinguishable background music falling basically in the realm of "smooth jazz." Four cuts deserve special mention.

"I Just Called To Say I Love You" a Stevie Wonder cover pairs Hancock with Raul Midon and contains some very interesting musical ideas which are fascinating to listen to, but ultimately they fail to please.

"Sister Moon" pairs Hancock with Sting. The cut pleases without being truly outstanding. "When Love Comes To Town" pairing Hancock with Joss Stone and Jonny Lang is a remarkably innovative cover of the old BB King blues standard. They have succeeded in breathing new life into this old song and it is a joy to hear.

Far and away, the standout cut of the CD is "Stitched Up" pairing Hancock and John Mayer. A great blending of soul and jazz, this tune puts a smile on your face and keeps your foot tapping.

While not an album I could list as great, it is an album well worth the price of admission. I just wish it bore more of Herbie Hancock's stamp and less of his partners.

Cross posted on


Oh Sure, THIS You'll Reconsider...

Age-Old Cures, Like the Maggot, Get U.S. Hearing

But calling in Christians for prayer, that would just be "superstition."


Presumptuous, Don't You Think?

Italy Eyes Concept of Selling Sun's Energy


I Would LOVE To Be The Other Guys Lawyer

Sweden's King Gets Into Fender-Bender

Deep pockets baby, deep pockets.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Thinking About A Personal Relationship With Jesus

There is quite a bit of stuff floating around the Godblogoshpere right now about the concept of a "personal relationship with Jesus." The best, if very heady, post I have seen so far is Jollyblogger's. David points out how very close the concept, as it is generally understood today is to gnosticism. I pretty much agree with what David has to say, but want to hit some highlights here and comment.
My objection here is that Mullins, and modern evangelicals have taken one part of the Christian life and made it the whole of the Christian life. I would not for a minute deny the fact that we have a personal relationship with Jesus, but the personal relationship is only one of many metaphors the Bible uses to describe the Christian life. But, in our individualistic culture, we re-define Christianity in individualistic terms. That which is an important part, becomes the totality, the whole.
I agree with this completely, but am concerned that in a effort to correct the misapplication of the idea that is so prevalent now, we will do away with an idea that has been extraordinarily vital and important. To my way of thinking we need to be very careful in our discussions of this issue becasue we do not want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Again, there is much truth here. Doctrine and theology are to "warm the heart" and not merely "inflate the head." Yet to oppose the two creates a false dichotomy. Where doctrine and theology are accompanied by "dead orthodoxy" it is not the fault of the doctrine itself, it is the fault of the one holding to it. But what Mullins has done (and again, so has modern evangelicalism) is to make experience the arbiter of doctrine rather than letting doctrine be the arbiter of experience.
I understand and agree with David's point here for the most part, but I think he is creating a bit of a false dichotomy too. In general, doctrine is the arbiter of experience, but that does not mean that in some circumstances the opposite is not valid. For example, my experience of the church today is part of what informs me that it has a problem with how it uses doctrine. After all, we are to know them by their fruits, and are not fruits something experienced. If some doctrine bears poor fruit, cannot that experience be said to be the arbiter of that doctrine? We cannot let experience suppress, neutralize, or trivialize doctrine, but sometimes, I think it is a valid arbiter of a particular doctrine's validity.
It misses the fact that God's plan is much bigger than me. Yes, God loves the Christian with a love that is greater than anything we can imagine, but His vision is so much bigger than my personal spiritual development. Without denigrating the honor of being made in the image of God, I sometimes think that there is a real sense in which I am a spoke in the wheel, not the rim. I am a tool for God to use for His glory and the maturation of the church. My personal relationship with Christ is vital in my life, but even that is a means to a greater end - the glory of God and the maturation of the church.
That may be the single most important, but never acknowledged issue in Christian life today. But David then goes on
I have always found it interesting that the Bible nowhere measures spiritual maturity the way we tend to measure it. We tend to measure personal spiritual growth in terms of our performance of the spiritual disciplines, or in terms of our sense of closeness to God, or (for the more activistic types) in terms of great feats of spiritual derring do. Biblically, our maturity in Christ seems to be measured more by our interaction in community than our individual devotional practices. Again, individual devotional practices are vital, but only as a means to enable us to interact in community.
I understand David's point here, but disagree with his formulation of it. It is only in interaction with the faithful that spiritual maturity can even be measured; one cannot measure oneself. Communinity is an essential and vital part of any Christians life, but I have a different view of it. Much as my spiritual maturity is a means to a greater end, so is the community of faith -- that community is not an end either. Most of the great corruptions of the church have been rooted in the idea that the church was God's end -- I don't think it is. God's only and sole end is Himself. The church is but another means to that end -- viewing the church as an end is as dangerous and frought with misguidedness as the currently faddish undertsanding of personal spiritual maturity.

I think it important that the idea of a personal relationship with Jesus be re-examined and reshaped to be something more in line with how scruipture presents it. However, in our rush to correct the current misunderstandings, we need to be careful not to step into new traps, nor to kill and idea that has brought much blessing to the people and to God.

Crossed posted on Adrian Warnock's blog.


On Confession

The Gad(d)about tells a great story about confession in a congregation.
That night one of the more prominent members of the church called the pastor. This man told the pastor he had scheduled to commit suicide that night, that he had been despondent for months, and had been thinking about death ever since. That act of contrition changed his heart, and the Holy Spirit renewed him. He said he has been dramatically changed and has a new desire to live to honor God.
What a testament! Confession conquered suicide -- how totally opposite of how the world thinks today.

Most would argue that if you feel bad enough to want to kill yourself, the last thing you need to do is undergo a deep self-examination and tell others all about your faults.

But see, here's the thing -- that same examination produces an overwhelming understanding of precisely how much God loves you. The more you realize your innate unworthiness, the more you come to appreciate the true nature of God's love.

Confession is very much lost in the protestant evangelical church today, but it is vital to its function. How should we go about restoring confession to the prominent place it deserves?


Is Jesus The Only Way?

Sheep's Crib is examining a recent poll that says:
There's a new poll out which points to a growing rejection among Evangelicals that Jesus is the only way of salvation.

According to the poll results of more than 1,000 adults 18 years of age and older, 68 percent of evangelical Christians believe "good" people of other faiths can also go to heaven. Nationally, 79 percent of those surveyed said the same thing, with an "astounding" 91 percent agreement among Catholics, notes Beliefnet. Beliefnet spokesman Steven Waldman calls the results "pretty amazing."
Therein lies the central problem with the term "evangelical." Not only is the defintion dependent on whoever uses the term, but no defintion of the term anybody uses has a primarily theological root. I also believe this is the biggest problem that is facing the mainline denominations -- they have set themselves adrift of their theological moorings.

I am firm in my conviction that while I adhere to a specific theological viewpoint; humility prevents me form going so far as to hold it out as definitive truth. But it remains vitally important that a put a stake in the sand somewhere; otherwise, it's not that I don't have any ideas, it's that I have all ideas.


Illuminated Scripture


Fighting Vietnam Syndrome

Dadmanly examines the tendency for people to draw the completely invalid Iraq=Vietnam equation. In the list of remedies he says this
This starts with the President. He needs to keep stating the vision and objectives of our War against terror. More speeches like his Second Inaugural, reminding us of the stakes.
I could not agree more. While in London, we visited the War Cabinet Rooms and Churchill Museum. There is one room therein where you can sit and simply listen to the unparalleled speeches of the Churchill. I bought a CD of same, they are inspiring.

I found myself reflecting on how the strength of his rhetoric held that beleagered island nation together and moved it forward against nearly insurmountable odds. Churchill was arguably the best public speaker of that last century. President Bush is not in his league, but that does not mean his rhetoric is not of vital importance. Some of the speeches he has given are among the most memorable of my lifetime.

I think he hoped to keep this war more or less below the public radar. Our ecomony is such that we can wage massive military action without requiring the energies of the entire nation, as was needed in WWII -- but public will is still what drives our government and it must be harnassed.


One Things For Sure -- It'll Be A Zoo

There's a lot of speculation about how the Roberts nomination hearings are going to go. OpinionJournal wonders if it's going to go Thomas or Bork.
John Roberts's nomination looked at first more like the Thomas fight than the Bork one, with liberal complaints of a limited paper trail, efforts to invade his family's privacy, and a dishonest attack by feminists. But 75,000 pages of documents later, liberals have as much to attack Judge Roberts on as they did Judge Bork. Targets of opportunity are more pithy and witty, but no less a treasure trove of issues. Documents recording Mr. Roberts's policy-shaping opinions over 12 years of executive branch service have revealed his views on as far-ranging a set of history-shaping interventions as the Senate has ever before scrutinized for any Supreme Court nominee.

It turns out that behind the mild-mannered judicial Clark Kent who appeared with President Bush last July is a conservative Superman. Some supporters find his lack of scarring over the years reason for suspicion, as well as his minor roles in some liberal causes. But Robert Bork received much more serious Republican fire.

Yet even though the Bork fight shows us the direction in which the Roberts fight may go, Judge Roberts's confirmation is all but inevitable, barring some scandal--and for only one reason: Democrats do not control the Senate. That is a lesson that Democrats will trumpet in a few weeks, and that Republicans should as well. Republicans also should be careful not to think that Judge Roberts's confirmation is due to anything else but that. The Democrats will fail to block Judge Roberts not because he's a "moderate" or a "stealth nominee," but simply because they don't have the votes.
While WaPo points to Arlen Specter hinting that he is going to use the hearings to complain about the court in general.
The comments mark the second time this month that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has signaled plans to use Roberts's confirmation hearing as a forum for sharply criticizing what Specter describes as the high court's tendency to denigrate Congress's thoroughness and wisdom in passing various laws. Specter's questions could present Roberts with the difficult choice of disagreeing with the committee chairman or rebuking justices he hopes will soon be his colleagues. The committee's hearing begins Sept. 6.
The more the media zeroes in on the hearings the more people are going to try and makes points about everything from old court decisions to the flavor of new Coke Zero. For those of us that support the Roberts nomination, it is going to be very important to stay focused on the central issues.


Today's Trip Pic

I described Estonia yesterday as "clumsy." "Lovable but bumbling" would be another description. The best way to illustrate that would be to tell you about our guided tour. We were slated to visit "Vasa Manor" and an outdoor museum.

On the tour we got lost not once, not twice, but three times. The third time I actually spotted the turn off and had to tell them about it after we passed it. The bus driver was completely lost and the guide who did seem to know where she was going, was so unfamiliar with her material that she was reading her speech and therefore did not look up to tell the driver where to go.

This is the "manor" -- or at least it was many years ago. Now it's a school (a severly underfunded school), and we got to hear a recorder concert from the students. This picture does not show how really under-the-weather the place was. It had been owned by some German barons a century or so ago (When the Russians weren;t in charge, the Germans were, and occassionally the Swedes) for a few years. The coolest part of the ruin of a barn that looked several centuries old. Turns out the old baron had it built that way to make himself feel more "at home."

The outdoor museum was not quite so iffy, but becasue of getting lost we had so little time with it it was really hard to tell. We missed the various demonstrations and native costumes because of the timing issues. We did; however, get to have a handmade "cake" with honey that was spectacular.

Estonia was charming. I have confidence, based on their enthusiasm, that they will soon figure out how to do things well for themselves.


Just When I Thought We Had Hit Bottom

WorldNetDaily and CNS reported yesterday on PETA's efforts to twist religion to serve it's own agenda. From CNS
Americans are accustomed to the tactics of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but the group's in-your-face advocacy is increasingly calculated to offend, provoke and otherwise show contempt for America's religious faithful, according to a new report released by the Center for Consumer Freedom.

Entitled "Holy Cows: How PETA Twists Religion to Push Animal 'Rights,'" the document claims that this animal rights group hijacks religious rituals and institutions in an attempt to impose its stated philosophy of "total animal liberation."

The report also chronicles PETA's controversial assaults on the scriptures and traditions of Roman Catholics, Protestant Christians, Jews, Mormons and Muslims and contains an inventory of scriptures contradicting PETA's assertion that only vegetarians can claim to be observant people of faith.

"The world's great religions are under attack by disrespectful PETA activists who twist scripture and history to suit their goals," said David Martosko, director of research at the center.
But that, insidious as it is, is lightweight compared to some ofthe things discussed in this opinion piece from the London Telegraph
The new-style animal rights nutter is as English as cream teas, and he or she is willing to engage in every sort of intimidation, issuing death threats, carrying out fire-bomb attacks, and basically indulging in a species of barbarity different only in degree from the "foreign" terrorists whose actions they find so incomprehensible.

Barbarity is a key word for these nutters: they think it is barbaric to sacrifice the life of small animals for the benefit of scientific research, but think it's OK to dig up the corpse of 82-year-old Gladys Hammond, as they did last October and then boast about where the parts of her body are hidden.
At some point political protest and ideas sink into depravity and mental illness -- I think we've crossed that line here.


Call To Prayer

via Blackfive
Specialist Noah Pincusoff of Alpha, 2/69 Armor was hit by a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) and severely injured.
In an update they report that after surgury he is headed to Germany -- the prayers of the whole Blogotional family are with him.


They Used Trained Crickets For The Digging

Scientists discover flea fossil


Not Where I Wanna Stay

Mo. Minister Plans Bonnie & Clyde B&B

I have a better idea, let's buy an old prison and take the former "death row" condo! Yeah, that's the ticket.


Understatement Of The Week

Boy thrown by power station shock

"Thrown?" Somehow I think "fried" might have been more appropos.


I Don't Care

The value of an unborn life has nothing whatsoever to do with it's ability, or lack thereof to sense pain. So, this story, plastered everywhere is wasted electrons as far as I am concerned.

Foetuses 'no pain up to 29 weeks'

I used the Beeb story because I love thier spelling!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Silliness Might Lead To Clarity

According to Evangelical Outpost, the SCOTUS has ruled that atheism is a religion. Joe seems to think this is a problematic ruling.
As the ruling points out, the "touchstone of Establishment Clause analysis" is the principle that the First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion. But if, as the courts claim, religious belief can be theistic, nontheistic, atheistic and inspired by religion, philosophical beliefs, and ?secular concerns?, then how can we determine what is "neutral?" Where does the neutral ground lie in a dispute between a Muslim, an atheist, a Secular Humanist, or a person who considers themselves "nonreligious?"
The analysis Joe presents in that paragraph is correct, but I am not sure its problematic. This ruling will go a long way towards stopping a lot of the legal silliness we have seen in recent years. For example, to rule that a governmentally owned park cannot host a Nativity Scene now becomes as much a promotion of religion (atheism) as hosting one. The very lack of a clear understanding of what is "neutral" that Joe bemoans could very well result in opening the doors in a completely indiscriminant manner, which is what I think the founders intended.

Not being a lawyer, I may be all wrong here, but it strikes me that this may be the court's best most rapid option to reverse the last 30 years or so of rulings that were pretty blatantly discriminatory against Christianity.


Compare And Contrast

Which one of these people is doing Christianity correctly? We report , you decide.

Pat Robertson
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson has suggested that American agents assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."
The Roman Catholic Church in Columbia
Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe has agreed to allow the Roman Catholic Church to mediate in the conflict with the country's left-wing rebel groups.
If I have to explain it to you, I will, but I'm hoping you can figure it out for yourself.


Browbeat By The LAT

This marks the first post where I have ever said anything about the Los Angeles Times. It's so bad, and so widely acknowledged as such that it almost seems pointless, but this story I just cannot leave alone.
Nearly every Monday for six months, as many as a dozen congressional aides - many of them aspiring politicians - have gathered over takeout dinners to mine the Bible for ancient wisdom on modern policy debates about tax rates, foreign aid, education, cloning and the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Through seminars taught by conservative college professors and devout members of Congress, the students learn that serving country means first and always serving Christ.

They learn to view every vote as a religious duty, and to consider compromise a sin.

That puts them at the vanguard of a bold effort by evangelical conservatives to mold a new generation of leaders who will answer not to voters, but to God.
What a crock! Faith and commitment to God renders one unaccountable to the powers of government? How? Since when? In a courtroom this would qualify as jury nullification.

And by the way, would they not have been elected by people who thought their faith was OK, and representative of them? Of course not, were it not for the power of the press, they would hide their faith from the voters, like some sort of Godly fifth column. They would be elected by stealth and subterfuge only to unleash their unrelenting religious committment once in office when it was too late.

This is more than just an anti-religious diatribe on the part of the Times, this is a complete departure from reality. This is not looking at things through colored glasses, this is a fantasy contructed from nearly whole cloth. This is why I cancelled my subscription long, long ago.


Today's Trip Pic

Talinn, Estonia was one of our stops that I really looked forward to, and it did not disappoint. Estonia, one of the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) is a historically and culturally fascinating place. Conquered and oppressed far more than it has had independence, it has always baffled me that they have so strongly retained their identity as a separate state.

As most places with strong identity, but little experience at self-goverance, the place can best be described as "clumsy."

This is a picture of the ancient gates into the old city. As proof of the vigor with which Estonia has grasped capitalism, just across from the gate behind the building to the right of the picture is a McDonalds. The gate marks perhaps the most commercial of streets in the entire central city. Even Hong Kong, the most capitalistic place I have ever been protects their old sites a little better than this.

The Russian influence (Tsarist Russia conquered this nation more often and for longer than the Sovs ever dreamed about) is unmistakable, as in this domed, and quite beautiful church. Antique stores featured huge collections of Soviet era memorabilia -- something grossly missing from Russia.

Tomorrow, the story of our guided tour, as only Estonia could provide.


They Should Have Just Asked Me

Back in 1989, I did a project in China. It was one of the more frustrating consulting contracts of my career. It is very dificult to find common grounds with the Chinese for communication purposes. We were discussing waste water treatment system designs, and they sketched it up almost exactly backwards. They were so concerned that I was wrong they made me sign my designs to show I alone was responsible (this in spite of the fact they were paying big money on a daily basis for precisely this expertise).

Anyway, they simply had such an incredibly different view of the problem that they could never get their heads around what I was saying. That's why I find this story entirely unremarkable.
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that whereas North Americans tend to be more analytic when evaluating a scenario, fixating on the focal object, East Asians are generally more holistic, giving more consideration to the context.
Of course, if they had just asked me, four professors and countless grad students would not have had grants to live off of and pay their way to China.


Need A Lung?

Kill Something!
Scientists say they have made a significant step towards making human lungs for transplantation.

The UK team at Imperial College London took human embryonic stem cells and encouraged them to grow into cells found in adult lungs.
You know, at least an organ donor had the opportunity to decide for themselves. (well, except for maybe Teri Schiavo)


The Best of Pravda

This weekly feature may be turning into "The News of Russia," we'll see...

This is hardly tit-for-tat:
There is a serious scandal being stirred up between the two neighboring states, Lithuania and Belarus. The scandal is gathering steam because of the construction dispute to build spent nuclear fuel storage facilities and pig-breeding farms.

Lithuanian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Antanas Valenis, promised to take adequate measures in return in the event Belarus was going to launch the construction of two pig-breeding complexes on the border with Lithuania. It is noteworthy that the two pig farms, which Belarus plans to build, will be the largest pig complexes in Europe. More importantly, however, Belarus plans to ?attack the Baltic state with pigs? in revenge to Lithuania's initiative to build spent nuclear fuel storage facilities on the border with Belarus, RIA Novosti reports.
Let's see, on the one hand, you have a facility that stinks to high heaven, on the other you have one with the potential to rot your flesh. Could that be a tad bit of an over response?

Ask Hugh Hewitt about Russian airplanes.
Russia's Aeroflot bans all flights of Il-96 airliner, suffers huge losses

The flights of the popular wide-body passenger jetliner had been interrupted on account of break failures
Do you think the mistranslation of "break" instead of "brake" is just the slightest bit freudian?

In non-Pravda news from Russia we learn that the greatest threat to their survivial as a nation is pure demographics.

Russians, Dying Younger, Have More Abortions Than Children

And then there is this

Soviet bloc workers flocking to Britain

Finally, I have to thank Cheat Seking Missles for the link to this story from the freer side of the Russian press.
Last Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin donned a military flight suit to fly a Tu-160 supersonic long-range strategic bomber. The plane has a four-man crew and no space for passengers, so Putin occupied the place of the first pilot.

The Russian media covered Putin's flight extensively. It was reported that Putin's Tu-160 performed a midair refueling operation and fired conventional long-range cruise missiles at targets near the northern city of Vorkuta. The Defense Ministry announced that two more Tu-160s with fully professional crews were flying alongside Putin's and that "two of the planes fired missiles."

Yet this seems very unlikely.
The story goes on to detail a number of reasons why the story as reported is unlikely. You know come to think of it, the one thing not obviously for sale on the streets of St. Petersburg was a newspaper. It's good to see some journalistic comeptition.


Like Scrubbing Your Eyeballs With Steel Wool

'Ugliest' Dog Gaining Cult Status

That's a cult I'll likely stay out of.


Really, I Mean Really, Bored

Try breaking this record.
A 43-year-old North Country man has made the Guinness Book of World Records in a new entry for the longest eyebrow hair.
Bear in mind, he had to grow it that long purposefully.


Absolute Power Breeds Absolute Silliness

Turkmen President Bans Lip Synching

To be followed closely by air guitar and karaoke.


Uhhhh, YES!

Can God and Science Mix?

Anyone asking the question does not understand one or the other, or both, whether that's Al Mohler to whom I link, or the "scientist" he quotes.


About Time

Former NASA X-15 Pilots Awarded Astronaut Wings

They DID go to space after all, the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo guys just had better press agents.


Not Going Here

Alec Baldwin to Be Given PETA Award

There simply is no way you could get me to that awards ceremony. It's too painful to even think about.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


New Visions For Church

David Routledge, guest blogging for Adrian Warnock asks,
Does the way that most churches are structured, e.g. meeting on Sundays for about 2 hours, which include worship, preaching, ministry time and social fellowship; enhance or limit our Christian experience?
Matt 10:38 - "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.Takes a little more than a few hours on Sunday to take up a cross, don't you think? David presents a much greater challenge than this to his readers -- follow the link and join the fun.


"Transition Game" -- A Book Review

cross posted at Blogcritics.

"Transition Game: How Hoosiers Went Hip Hop" by John Wertheim is a must read for any serious basketball fan and particularly for those fans that have enjoyed basketball in and about the State of Indiana -- on all levels.

Using the 2003-2004 season of the author's alma mater, Bloomington North, as a framework, Wertheim examines the huge changes that have been wrought in the basketball crazed state of Indiana since his own high school days in the late 1980's. You can only imagine how it struck this reviewer whose days in Indiana basketball date to the early 1970's.

The book is a masterful chronicle, but falls well short of truly examining the phenomena that it reports. The book makes no attempt to examine the root casues of the enormous shift in the game in Indiana, nor does it endeavor to make a significant value judgement about the changes.

The structure of the book, with it's emphasis on the Bloomington North Cougars march to the Semi-State, seems to say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same," but that conclusion is impossible to maintain given the chronicle laid out in the other chapters of the book.

The author devotes but a single chapter to the role race has played in the transition, and fails to look much of the issue squarely in the eye. For example, he rightly points out the lack of public support for the Oscar Robertson-led high school state championship for Cruspus Attucks in 1957, particularly as compared to the storied Bobby Plump-led victory for Milan the year before - the win on which the movie "Hoosiers" was based. He fails to examine that in my day, I knew the Milan story, but it was Oscar Robertson that I wanted to play like. One was legend, but the other was just good basketball.

In sum, the book is good reporting, but lacks sufficient analysis to give it real importance and depth. It is a must read for basketball fans, but disappointing in that it could have been so much more to the society at large.

I am restricting this post to being a straighforward review. I will post some more personal reactions to this book, which affected me deeply in another post below.


Transitioning My Game

Reading a book like "Transition Game" about something as cosmically insignificant as basketball should not have affected me as deeply as it did. The book is a chronicle of the demise of much I hold dear. There was little in it revelatory to anyone that follows Indiana basketball as closely as I do, but to have it all gathered in one place, condensed and organized, changed the emotional impact from that of having a wall torn down slowly over the course of years brick-by-brick, to that of being hit in the head with a hurtling cannonball.

I think the best place to start is with a comment made on the post where I announced the death of my closest friend back in May. The comment was from a fellow Hoosier and here is a portion
I think there is something about basketball that develops intimacy among young friends. Going one-on-one with a friend is literally an in-your-face competition: you talk, exchange friendly - and not-so friendly - elbows, push, shove, and have fun. There's no net, no scrimmage line, no distant bases. You swap sweat, smell one another, breathe the same humid air of summertime.
To a real Hoosier, basketball has a near religious significance; it is more than just a game. It is how friendships are made, bonds that in my case lasted a literal lifetime. Everyone plays to some extent, everyone watches, and everyone has an opinion. It was the glue that held the state together, more, it united the state in a way that I have never experienced anywhere else in the world -- that unity existed even between IU and Purdue fans, at least when it came to facing non-Hoosiers.

And the most meaningful thing about the game from my perspective was it's egalitarianism. Everyone played and was invited to play. No, not everyone played varisty, but we all wanted to play so badly, that those of us with lesser skills were let into the less organized games by those with exceptional skill because we had to have a team. More, we played a style of game that allowed those of us with lesser skill to contribute significantly. Athleticism mattered less than knowledge of the game. Even a dumpster like me could set a pick that allowed the good shooter to score, and thus I participated in the ultimate thrill of the game.

Despite the fanaticism most Hoosiers have for the game, it was also always kept in perspective as a game. It was our grossly avid avocation, but never our raison d'etre. It served a useful purpose in Hoosier society, but it never was the thing itself.

All of that is no more. Now in Indiana it is just a game, played by only the best athletes. The author even chronicles a pick-up game in which picks are frowned upon and "creation" is key. The sport in Indiana is now marked as much by the divisions (the author takes great pains to describe a very ugly incident between Martinsville and Bloomington North a few years ago) as the unity. Winning always mattered, but now, ala Vince Lombardi, it's the only thing. Even for the very young there are summer leagues and shoe salesmen. No longer a game, it is an industry, and like most industry, is has no soul.

Reading this book was like reading a chronicle of losing a part of myself -- one of my better parts at that. I am quite angry at the author because in his accurate chronicle he failed to see the utter significance of that on which he reported. He was reporting not just the changes in a game, but the death of a community and a way of life. The story he tells represents a seed change in the values and mores of an entire state, not for the better. The book has left my heart heavy and a tear in my eye.


Today's Trip Pic

Last post on material from Stockholm. (Do I hear a cheer out there?)

All royal cities contain some sort of "national cathedral." Stockholm is no exception, though pleasingly to my father, in Sweden, it's Lutheran. But, of course, it started Roman Catholic. Contained within it's confines is a rather large, old, and remarkable WOODEN statue of St. George killing the dragon.

The statue is pretty, utilizing deer antlers to give the dragon many of his "points." It is remarkably well-preserved given it's age and material of construction, and was represented as the best statue of same.

I really wondered what the Brits thought about this since St. George is their patron saint.

So important is the statue to Stockholm, there is a bronze version of it outdoors and just a few blocks away. A fact I did not know until I happened upon it -- which created an extraordinary sense of deja vu for a few moments.

Tomorrow it's on to Estonia!


How Come People LIke This Are Always From The Military?

An army sergeant has been hailed a "saviour" after rescuing nine people, including a woman in her 90s, from a row of burning cottages in Oxfordshire.
Makes you wonder doesn't it? And the guy is humble to boot
.Mr Young was driving with his girlfriend when he saw the flames.

"If we were five minutes too early we might not have seen the fire and if I didn't see it these people might have all been dead," he told the BBC.

"I kind of went into a bit of shock about what could have happened if I didn't do what I did."
Think about that-- his primary concern was not what would happen to him, but what would happen to others if he did not act. That is truly the stuff heroes are made of.


A Trip Home

This post from Gadfly's Muse was a wonderful trip home for me.
There are some occasions when all that was best about the "Old South" floods back over your awareness like a gentle changing tide on the Mississippi river. You just sense the lift and the inescapable pleasant contentment that it brings. Only someone who knew her and loved her can ever truly understand the bittersweet experience. The "Old South" will always be feminine in our remembrance, because, I suppose, Southern Ladies epitomized all about which I am speaking. There was a gentleness, a sense of propriety, a firm conviction in the "way things ought to be", that characterized the externals of Old Southern society. And it was not the least bit hypocritical, though it is easy to think it was by those who never knew her. But that which made the gentleness, the sense of propriety and conviction more than mere gloss, was the tempered steel which provided its foundation. The Old South, at its best, was the conviction that civilization meant moral conviction and apart from that conviction, barbarity reigned. And barbarity simply was not allowed. It 'twasn't nice. Nowhere was that more evident than in Southern womanhood and hence, the Old South is "she."
I was born in Mississippi, where both my parents attended Ole Miss and most of the maternal side of my family still resides. I don't talk of it often because as the Muse says
There are those, usually who did not grow in that era, whose views of the South are colored only by the caricatures most often used to depict it. This is especially true of Mississippi.
Please read this post -- it is wonderfully written and it wraps you in the warmth that REALLY is the South.


From the Edge of Taste...

On their wedding night, the young bride approached her new husband and asked for $20.00 for their first lovemaking encounter. In his highly aroused state her husband readily agreed. This scenario was repeated each time they made love, for the next 30 years, with him thinking that it was a cute way for her to afford new clothes and other incidentals that she needed.

Arriving home around noon one day, she was surprised to find her husband in a very drunken state. During the next few minutes, he explained that his employer was going through a process of corporate downsizing, and he had been let go. It was unlikely that at the age of 55, he'd be able to find another position that paid anywhere near what he'd been earning, and therefore, they were financially ruined.

Calmly, his wife handed him a bank book which showed thirty years of deposits and interest totaling nearly $1 million. Then, she showed him certificates of deposits issued by the bank which were worth over $2 million, and informed him that they were one of the largest depositors in the bank. She explained that for the 30 years she had charged him for sex, these holdings had multiplied and these were the results of her savings and investments.

Faced with evidence of cash and investments worth over $3 million, her husband was so astounded he could barely speak, but finally he found his voice and blurted out "If I'd had any idea what you were doing, I would have given you all my business!"

You know, sometimes, men just don't know when to keep their mouths shut.....


Blogs In The News

The Beeb is talking about them and so is the NYTimes. Hey, this blog was featured on TV once. How fleeting fame....


Are You Sure?

Remember the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where he would pop up out of the ground in medieval England and say, "I knew I should have taken that left in Cucamonga?" Came to mind when I saw this picture from Mars. Looks remarkably like the Mohave desert to me.


Starvation In France Solved

French countryside hit by a massive invasion of frogs


Tiny Entertainment

In Japan, you're going to be able to see manga comics on your cell phone and in the UK, Doctor Who.

Nice idea, but until they can make a wide screen cell phone, say 35" or better, I think I'll stick to TV and comics.



An international throng of pipers in Edinburgh's Holyrood Park has succeeded in its record breaking effort.

More than 10,000 pipers took part in Pipefest 2005, which was raising funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Bet they heard that at Edinburgh Castle -- which for those of you unfamiliar with the city is more than a mile away, uphill and up-wind.


Now THAT'S Advanced Planning

Astronomers gear up for 2029 asteroid pass

Monday, August 22, 2005


Answering Hugh Hewitt's Call

Hugh has asked bloggers to review parts of the great Roberts Document Dump. So working through Radioblogger, I took this rather unexciting box.

The box was subject: School Prayer, which I thought might be fun, but found this particular box routine. This particular box contained two "sets" of documents, one relating to Senate Bill 47, 1985, a bill which sought to limit the power of the Supreme Court to make judgements concerning school prayer. The other set concerned a SCOTUS decision, Wallace v. Jaffree, which struck down an Alabama law providing for a moment of silence in Alabama schools.

The set relating to S 47 contained three document. A memo (5/6/85) from JGR to Fred Fielding (White House counsel and JGR's boss) rendering an opinion of the proposed S 47, as requested by the Office of Management and Budget, a copy of the memo (5/1/85) from OMB making the request for opinion, and a copy of S47 itself.

The JGR to FF memo contained one very pertinent paragraph:
You may recall discussing this type of legislation with me in the past. After exhaustive review at the Department of Justice I determined were within the constitutional powers of Congress to fix the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, "with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as Congress shall make," Art. III, § 2, cl. 2. I also concluded that such bills were bad policy and should be opposed on policy grounds.
Well, a stance like this could hardly be considered fodder for the opposition to Roberts nomination, in fact it should give them a nice warm feeling inside. Here's a guy that thinks the Consitution gives Congress the right to set SCOTUS jurisdiction (think the Schiavo situation) but that itis bad policy for Congress to exercise that right. In other words, this guy guards pretty carefully the power of the court.

The set addressing Wallace v Jaffree also contained 3 documents. The first was a memo JGR to FF, dated 6/4/85 analysing the decision. His basic analysis is that the decision leaves room for a better drafted "Moment of Silence" bill, but renders no opinion on the wisdom of doing so. The second document is a memo FF to Russell Mack (same date) in the White House Public Affairs office advising on possible comments on the decision. A hand note on the document seems to indicate that it was never sent, but it is referenced in the first memo, and thus its inclusion. Finally, the bulk of this box is devoted to a copy of the actual Wallace v Jaffree decision itself.

In sum, I see little, or nothing, in this box that can be used to attack Roberts nomination from the left. If anything, those on the right might be disturbed at his apparent unwillingness to limit the court, but it would be foolish for those on the right to press that issue since Roberts actual presence on the court will accomplish the same thing.


Christian or Christendom?

Jollyblogger wrote a little while ago, based on his reading of Nancy Pearcy (in my reading pile -- I'll get there), that he both agrees and disagress with the thesis that the fastest growing churches are those that fail that are culturally distinct from the world around them. David rightly points to the counter exampels of the mega-churches whose apparent conformity seems to be their biggest drawing card.

Meanwhile, over at Eternal Perspectives, Mike is lamenting that he has allowed himself to coform too much not just to the world, but to the "church world."
In short, I have conformed to the world. Not just "the world," though: I've been conformed to the "Christian world" system. I left my cynicism at the gate of the kingdom, believing that there would be no need for it in the community of God's people. It never dawned on me that the values and priorities of the church might be harmful to my spiritual health.
Bottom line is this -- I get realy nervous talking about institutional matters. While uncomfortable with Mike's "freak" analogies, I agree with his sentiment wholeheartedly.
Perhaps I have been indoctrinated by the subtle, authoritative-but-not-biblical teachings of the church, but it has been my choice to follow. I am responsible, just like everyone else.
Christian institutions are two things and two things only -- by-product and tool. They are not reason, end , or purpose.

Much as I like this Pope, and I fully understand his point, this sort of thing kind of bothers me.
Pope Benedict, wrapping up a triumphant return to his German homeland, on Sunday urged young people to shun a "do-it-yourself" concept of religion where they can choose what they want and disregard the rest.
On the one hand he is calling people to radical and life-changing belief, but on the other he is cementing the power of his institution when he should be cemeting the Lord Jesus Christ.

For me, the answer to this dilemma is relatively straightforward -- it's all about priorities. When I do my work in church, I focus on people, I endeavor to place people, and the Lord always before the institution. I do what must be done to maintain and operate the institution, but it's kind of like keeping the furnace working -- it is not why I own the home.

I am not being as articulate here as I would like, that is because I have never fully resolved this tension in my life. I think it the great tension of Christianity. We cannot discard church, and yet, in my experience, it is the idol that most often replaces God. I think talking about it plainly is the best place to start. A tension acknowledged is a tension that can be managed.


The Only People Keeping Racism Alive...

...are those that claim to fight against it. In this case, it's the NYTimes.
"Blackest Land, Whitest People." Until the mid-1960's, those words were painted on the water tower and on a sign near the square in this North Texas town, a once-segregated cotton-ginning center. Joe A. Bobbitt, the county judge in Greenville, still has photographs of the water tower and the sign on the wall of his office here.

"It's part of our infamy," said Judge Bobbitt, 59, seated in a large red leather chair stitched together by inmates of the Texas penal system. "If you try to hide history, then you cannot change."

The people of Hunt County, a largely rural area of which Greenville is the county seat, are about to get a rare opportunity to break with the past. The Redeemed Christian Church of God is a fast-growing evangelical church with mostly black adherents but that espouses a multicultural mission. Founded in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1952, it is building its North American headquarters on the outskirts of Greenville.
Note they have to go back to the 1960's to find institutional racism. And then, later in the story they quote people 69 and 72 years old, and they unsurprisingly speak with racist overtones - viola', they have a potential conflict.

It is not news that older people may still harbor racist thoughts, nor is it news that there is a racist history in this country. Finally, conflict amongst people of differing races is not definitionally "racist." Anytime a big institution moves into a small town there is conflict -- like say Wal-Mart. Is that a racist conflict?

"I have a dream, that one day a man will be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin." Why is it the liberals are the ones that keep pointing to skin color?


Today's Trip Pic

As I post pictures from our wonderful vacation, I am doing it somewhat at random. We had a stop between Stockholm and St. Petersburg Russia, but this article made me want to do this. It's an article about dealing with a statue of Vladimir Iliych Lenin in Berlin and the role it is playing in their upcoming elections.

By the way, I took Russian in college and I personally did the transliteration of "Blogotional" to the Russian cyrillic you see in this logo. I claim nothing resembling expertise, so if you think I screwed up, by all means, tell me how to do it right.

The rest of the pictures in this post are from my 1991 visit to the Soviet Union which included, among 4 cities and several side trips, then Leningrad. This trip, I really missed all the representations of the Soviet biggies, and Lenin in particular. During the Soviet days that place had a bit of a 'Disneyland' fell to it.

Just like you cannot escape the Disney characters and images in Disneyland, in the Soviet Union, you simply could not escape the images of Lenin -- in every conceivable form.

And, just like in Disneyland, the images were in every imaginable medium.

Now, I have to say, my nostalgia for these images is mine alone. As a westerner in the Soviet Union, they represented a curiousity, an over-the-top bit of braggidocia. To the citizens of that very oppressed nation, they were nothing but symbols of that oppression, an ever-constant reminder of the ever-watchful eye of the state. What to me was kitcsh, was to them terrifying. St. Petersburg has left one statue standing in front of an old government building in which Soviet symbology is a definitive part of the architecture as a reminder of that which was. I think that appropriate, as the removal of overwhelming presence of Vladimir Ilyich everywhere else.


Now It All Makes Sense

Among our stops in London a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I visited Westminster Palace (Big Ben, House of Parliment, eh wot?). They had a special exihibt celebrating the 400th anniverssary of the Gunpowder Plot. The security was extremely intense. Now we know why (HT: Hugh Hewitt)
SCOTLAND YARD believes it has thwarted an Al-Qaeda gas attack aimed at ministers and MPs in parliament. The plot, hatched last year, is understood to have been discovered in coded e-mails on computers seized from terror suspects in Britain and Pakistan....

...The discovery of the suspected Commons nerve gas plot was behind the decision to increase security around parliament this summer.
Right after we left there we went to visit the War Cabinet Rooms and the new Churchill Museum, which featured one of the Nazi Enigma coding machines (3-rotor style) captured during WWII and used to break Nazi codes, pretty much saving the trans-Atlantic supply lines, among other things. All this makes this part of the gas attack story even more interesting
The encrypted e-mails are said to have been decoded with the help of an Al-Qaeda ?supergrass?. By revealing the terrorists? code he was also able to help MI5 and GCHQ, the government?s eavesdropping centre at Cheltenham, to crack several more plots.
So, the question remains -- was I just playing around here? Never forget -- Ian Fleming was a real spy before he wrote about James Bond (and Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang)



The Gad(d)about talked about being single on Saturday. It's good stuff, can't disagree with a word - I just want to make a couple of comments.

Firstly, I was single until nearly 40, my wife likewise. We have recently received some nice comments from people about our devotion to one another. Trust me, when you go that long without a mate, when you finally have one he or she will be the most precious person in the world to you. That does not mean my wife is not worth every bit of devotion I have to her, it simply means that I think I appreciate her far more than many of my friends that married their high school sweethearts. The problems with child-bearing that come with such late marriage recommend against it, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I married the best woman in the world for me.

Secondly, I think marriage for marriage sake is a mistake. That does not mean I am a romanticist that thinks you should wait for Prince or Princess Charming, that simply means, I think you should marry someone with whom you know you can build a life, and for the sake of that individual -- not just anyone because you are "supposed" to get married.

This I know for sure -- marriage doesn't solve any problems, it just changes the problem set. It's not a panacea. It makes one better simply because of the necessity to consider "the other," but it does not solve you self-image problem, or even your loneliness. I recommend marriage, but you need the right expectations.



This first item is just funny.
I know just when I started to feel like one of Barnum's one-a-minutes. Years ago, our bathroom sink started draining slowly, and my wife ordered some eco-friendly drain cleaner from a catalog. What showed up looked like it belonged less in the pipes than in the hamster cage. Earnestly we read and followed the instructions, which directed us to dump this mish-mash of twigs and dirt down the drain and wait for its magical, bio-logical cleaning action to take place.

Patience has never been my long suit. After half an hour of watching the water refuse to drain from our little Zen bog, I grabbed a wrench and removed the J-trap, now clogged with enough humus to cover the floor of an ancient bonsai forest. Then I dumped the whole mess in the compost bin. The incantation I muttered lacked reverence.
One has to wonder what a leftie is to do when they have competing causes. The latest comes from Mexico where efforts to save an endangered turtle have run afoul of womens rights group. No, really -- check it out. The biodiversity crowd is having a similar congnitive dissonance when it comes to the military. Don't you hate it when your casues are inconsistent? This; however, is simply an environmental effort gone horribly wrong.

Why do "environmentalisits" spend so much time worried about specious stuff like 'global warming' when genuine and acutely lethal hazards like this are out there.

And global warming remains as confusing as ever. Laurie David at HuffPo notes that the July heatwave is obvious evidence. I see, so there were never heatwaves before industrialization. Meanwhile, the Beeb reports that climate change is for the birds. Finally, both the Beeb and Scientific American report that climate change may have played a significant role in the evolution of mankind. And here I thought that we were responsible for it, and that it was gong to spell our demise. I am so confused.


So What?

Army Planning for 4 More Years in Iraq

The US Military plans for more contingencies than you and I can even think of.


I Can Hazard A Guess

San Francisco offensive lineman Thomas Herrion, 23, collapsed and died shortly after an NFL pre-season game in Denver.
That's been happening a little too frequently lately.
About three hours later, Aaron Salkin, a spokesman for the 49ers, confirmed that Herrion had died. The cause of death was not immediately known.
During my brief career as a student trainer for a major college football program (1 year - Vanderbilt) We had one terrifying experience with heatstroke and dehydration. Back then there were little or no steroids, and body weights were 70 to 100 pounds lighter in linemen. The added stress placed on bodies by the drugs and the weight could, I think, go a long way towards explaining these deaths.

Football players, especially linemen, are in awful aerobic shape -- they are built for maximal short term exertion -- kind of like the old guy that dies "in the saddle" from a heart attack.

Personally, I think there ought to be a weight limit on linemen.


Science As Brand

During our Baltic adventures, I happened by the Nobel Museum in Stockholm with a very real purpose. My very good friend that past away recently had a great uncle, Wendell Stanley, that won the Nobel in 1946 for discovering that a virus was a chunk of DNA and not an organism. I wanted to get some material on Wendell for my friend's kids, one of whom is named for him.

I was sorely disappointed, the museum was almost wholly devoted to Einstein, with a few mentions of other very notable winners, most of the Peace Prize. So I sort of rolled my eyes when I read this story.
The original manuscript of a paper Albert Einstein published in 1925 has been found in the archives of Leiden University's Lorentz Institute for Theoretical Physics, scholars said Saturday.
So what? The paper was published,the work is widely known -- attaching value to this manuscript is about the person of Einstien and has nothing to do with the science. Einstein has become a brand.

He was a brilliant physicist, but dead wrong about some things, and no more brilliant than many that preceded and followed him. It really honks me off that he gets so much attention when there is so much good and meaningful science that has been done by people with lesser press agents.


How Come It's Always The Other Guys Motives?

Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive

Of course, people on the pro-evolution (I really hate these terms, but they are unavoidable at the moment) side of things have no politcal agenda at all. No, none.

Yeah, right.


This Guy Is Good

The WSJ is writing about a speech the Pope gave to a largely Muslim audience Isubscription required)
Pope Benedict XVI decried the "cruel fanaticism" of terrorism Saturday and urged Muslims to join Christians in trying to combat its spread.

In blunt remarks, he told a gathering of Muslim officials in Germany that Muslim leaders had a "great responsibility" in properly educating their younger generations.

"I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up as one of our concerns the spread of terrorism," the pope told the Muslim leadership, mainly Turks, in his most extensive remarks on terrorism during his four-month papacy. "Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, sowing death and destruction, and plunging many of our brothers and sisters into grief and despair."
Go get 'em Benedict! Everybody acknowledges that Islam needs to reform if terror is to be brought under control, but there is little government leaders can do to encourage that. This is the absolutely right source and place for encouragement of this type.

Would that this pope would play as important a role in the defeat of Islamic terror as the last one did in the defeat of Soviet communism.


So that's My Problem...

...I'm addicted to Oreos! Al Mohler puts the latest food police story in just the right perspective.
Well, maybe the Oreo isn't the most important culinary invention of modern times, but it must rank right up near the top. We all know that Americans eat too much "junk food" and the nation may well face an obesity "crisis." But is addiction the right explanation for this phenomenon? Is it not tiresome to see every social ill described as the latest addition? Americans are said to be addicted to violence, video games, television, work, leisure, sugar, and now Oreos. There are persons seriously struggling with all kinds of habits and unhealthy patterns of life -- not to mention those physically addicted to dangerous substances. In the end, however, we may all be addicted to addictions, especially if the concept of addiction takes the responsibility off of us.
I've always known it was the cookies fault.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Is Jesus A 'Personal" God

Earlier this week, a guest blogger here commented
Kirkegaard's idea of a personal encounter with God is also fairly pernicious, but only because it's been misunderstood and misapplied. It makes American Christians sound especially silly. They have a personal computer on their desktop, personal hygiene spray in their medicine cabinet, and a personal lord and savior in their jeans pocket.
I like the idea of a personal encounter with Christ, but I let me guest blogger go because of his caveat about the idea being misunderstood and misapplied.

Well, it turns out an op-ed contributer to OpinionJournal has found a great example of that misapplication, a book called "Dinner With a Perfect Stranger." he op-ed peice looks pretty hard at the idea and concludes this way
So it is, as well, in a modern America marked by the increasing demands of work, strain between the generations, political acrimony, international uncertainty and peripatetic lifestyles. Into such a culture a Christian message stressing the possibility of an enduring--and often less demanding--personal relationship with the loving Creator of the universe sounds very appealing. But does such an adaptation retain enough of historic Christianity's other dimension? Or does dinner with a perfect stranger fit a little too conveniently into our lives?
That phrase I highlighted is the key.

To my way of thinking, the problem is not the idea of a personal encounter itself -- that's a good thing. That idea moves 'religion' from being something akin to a political party, to something that actually transforms my life. Jesus did not come to just build a religion -- He came to change me!

The problem arises when we dare to think He came merely to be our friend, and not to change us. I personally think the idea of a friend that does not seek the best for me, which in many cases means asking change of me, is a pretty lousy idea of a friend anyway.

"Dinner With A Perfect Stranger" probably does fit a little too conveniently into our lives, but "Intimate Dinner With The God Of The Universe" - now there's a meal I'd like to enjoy forever.


Today's Trip Pic

I also enjoyed Stockholm because of it's beautiful spires. The city is really an archipelago and best viewed from the water. We took a cruise around major islands (they go on forever, leaving port it was a couple of hours to open sea) and saw a number of wonderful views.

I never did figure out what building this spire was on, but I did indeed find it beautiful, and in a wonderful setting.

The skies on our first day there were just gorgeous. I love this picture becasue it shows both the beauty of the sky and of the architecture.

Remember that whole whimsy thing I mentioned about Stockholm yesterday? Well, this is another wonderful example. In a city where the working docks are in sucg close proximity to where people live and play, this was not only fun, but very practical.


Sermons and Lessons


François de Salignac de La Mothe Fénelon was a prominent member of the court of Louis XIV, serving as the tutor of the duke of Burgundy. A man of high esteem in the church, Fénelon was appointed archbishop of Cambrai in 1695. During this time he became acquainted with Madame Guyon and was greatly influenced by her and others of the Quietist movement in France. (Quietism stressed the importance of complete detachment from the things of this world.)

Fénelon's defense of Quietism (in his work Maxims of the Saints) created a controversy that eventually led to his denunciation by Pope Innocent XII (for ?having loved God too much, and man too little?), his banishment by Louis XIV, and his appointment to a local church where he earned the repu¬tation of being an ideal pastor.

Fénelon corresponded with many prominent figures of his day, serving as their spiritual director. His letters were compiled and published for the edification of others. The major theme of François' writing is complete love of God. The following selection reflects his constant emphasis that the spiritual life, far from being a life of drudgery, is the only way to joy.


1. A Hundredfold Happiness

Christian perfection is not so severe, tiresome, and constraining as we think. It asks us to be God's from the bottom of our hearts. And since we thus are God's, everything that we do for him is easy. Those who are God's are always glad, when they are not divided, because they only want what God wants and want to do for him all that he wishes. They divest themselves of everything, and in this divesting find a hundredfold return.

Peace of conscience, liberty of heart, the sweetness of abandoning ourselves in the hands of God, the joy of always seeing the light grow in our hearts, finally, freedom from the fears and insatiable desires of the times, multiply a hundredfold the happiness which the true children of God possess in the midst of their crosses, if they are faithful.

2. A Will That Is No Longer Divided

They sacrifice themselves, but to what they love most. They suffer, but they want to suffer, and they prefer the suffering to every false joy. Their bodies endure sharp pain, their imagination is troubled, their spirit droops in weakness and exhaustion, but their will is firm and quiet in their deepest and most intimate self.

What God asks of us is a will which is no longer divided between him and any creature. It is a will pliant in his hands which neither seeks nor rejects anything, which wants without reserve whatever he wants, and which never wants under any pretext anything which he does not want. When we are in this disposition, all is well, and the most idle amusements turn to good works.

3. So Desirable a State

Happy are they who give themselves to God! They are delivered from their passions, from the judgments of others, from their malice, from the tyranny of their sayings, from their cold and wretched mocking, from the misfortunes which the world distributes to wealth, from the unfaithfulness and inconstancy of friends, from the wiles and snares of the enemy, from our own weakness, from the misery and brevity of life, from the horrors of a profane death, from the cruel remorse attached to wicked pleasures, and in the end from the eternal condemnation of God.

We are delivered from this countless mass of evils, because placing our will entirely in the hands of God, we want only what God wants, and thus we find his consolation in faith, and consequently hope in the midst of all sufferings. What weakness it would be then to fear to give ourselves to God and to undertake too soon so desirable a state!

4. Transported with Joy

Happy are they who throw themselves with bowed head and closed eyes into the arms of the 'Father of mercies,' and the 'God of all consolation,' as St. Paul said! Then we desire nothing so much as to know what we owe to God, and we fear nothing more than not to see enough what he is asking for.

As soon as we discover a new insight into our faith, we are transported with joy like a miser who has found a treasure. The true Christian, whatever the misfortunes which Providence heaps upon him, wants whatever comes and does not wish for anything which he or she does not have. The more one loves God, the more one is content. The highest perfection, instead of overloading us, makes our yoke lighter.

5. Wings to Fly on His Way

What folly to fear to be too entirely God?s! It is to fear to be too happy. It is to fear to love God's will in all things. It is to fear to have too much courage in the crosses which are inevitable, too much comfort in God's love, and too much detachment from the passions which make us miserable.

So let us scorn earthly things, to be wholly God's. I am not saying that we should leave them absolutely, because when we are already living an honest and regulated life, we only need to change our heart's depth in loving, and we shall do nearly the same things which we were doing. For God does not reverse the conditions of his people, nor the responsibilities which he himself has given them, but we, to serve God, do what we were doing to serve and please the world and to satisfy ourselves.
There would be only this difference, that instead of being devoured by our pride, by our overbearing passions, and by the malicious criticism of the world, we shall act instead with liberty, courage, and hope in God. Confi¬dence will animate us. The expectation of the eternal good things which are drawing near, while those here below are escaping us, will support us in the midst of our suffering. The love of God, which will make us conscious of God?s love for us, will give us wings to fly on his way and to raise us above all our troubles. If we have a hard time believing this, experience will convince us. 'Come, see and taste,' said David, 'how sweet is the Lord.'

6. The Spirit of Love Which Makes Everything Easy

Jesus Christ said to all Christians without ex¬ception, 'Let him who would be my disciple carry his cross, and follow me.' The broad way leads to perdition. We must follow the narrow way which few enter. We must be born again, renounce ourselves, hate ourselves, become a child, be poor in spirit, weep to be comforted, and not be of the world which is cursed because of its scandals.

These truths frighten many people, and this is because they only know what religion exacts without knowing what it offers, and they ignore the spirit of love which makes everything easy. They do not know that it leads to the highest perfection by a feeling of peace and love which sweetens all the struggle.

Those who are wholly God's are always happy. They know by experience that the yoke of the Lord is 'easy and light,' that we find in him 'rest for the soul,' and that he comforts those who are weary and overburdened, as he himself has said.

7. Eternity Advances to Receive Us

But woe unto those weak and timid souls who are divided between God and their world! They want and they do not want. They are torn by passion and remorse at the same time. They fear the judgments of God and those of others. They have a horror of evil and a shame of good. They have the pains of virtue without tasting its sweet consolations. 0, how wretched they are! Ah, if they had a little courage to despise the empty talk, the cold mockings, and the rash criticism of others, what peace they would enjoy in the bosom of God!

How dangerous it is for our salvation, how unworthy of God and of ourselves, how pernicious even for the peace of our hearts, to want always to stay where we are! Our whole life was only given us to advance us by great strides toward our heavenly country. The world escapes like a delusive shadow. Eternity already advances to receive us. Why do we delay to advance while the light of the Father of mercies shines for us? Let us hasten to reach the kingdom of God.

8. This Jealous and Dominant Love

The one commandment suffices to blow away in a moment all the excuses which we could make for having reservations from God. 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.' See how the terms were joined together by the Holy Spirit, to prevent all the reservations which a person could wish to make to the prejudice of this jealous and dominant love.

All is not too much for God. He suffers no division, and he allows us no longer to love outside of God except what God himself commands us to love for love of him. We must love only him not only with all the stretch and strength of our hearts, but also with all the con¬centration of our thought. How then could we believe that we love him if we cannot resolve to think on his law and to bend all our energy to doing his will?

9. Follow with a Brave Heart

Those who fear to see too clearly what this love asks fool themselves by thinking that they have this watchful and devoted love. There is only one way to love God: to take not a single step without him, and to follow with a brave heart wherever he leads.

All those who live the Christian life, and yet would very much like to keep a little in with the world, run great risk of being among the lukewarm of whom it is said they will be 'spewed out of the mouth of God.'

God has little patience with those weak souls who say to themselves, 'I shall go this far and no farther.' Is it up to the creature to make the law for his Creator? What would a king say of a subject, or a master of a servant, who only served him in his own way, who feared to care too much for his interests, and who was embarrassed in public because of belonging to him? What will the King of Kings say to us if we act like these cowardly servants?

10. This Principle of Pure Love

Why would we prefer to see the gifts of God in ourselves rather than in others, if this is not attachment to self? Whoever prefers to see them in himself than in others, will also feel badly to see them more perfect in others than in himself. Hence comes jealousy. Then what must we do? We must rejoice that God has performed his will in us, and that he reigns within us, not for our happiness, nor for our perfection because it is ours, but for God's good pleasure and for his pure glory.

This is not a fantastic subtlety, because God, who wants to strip the soul to perfect it, and will pursue it relentlessly toward a purer love, makes it really pass these tests of itself, and does not let it rest until it has taken away all reversion and all self-support from its love. Nothing is so jealous, so severe, and so sensitive as this principle of pure love. It is like the gold which is purified in the crucible. The fire consumes all that is not pure gold. We must also make crucibles of our entire hearts, to purify the divine love.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Feed


eXTReMe Tracker

Blogarama - The Blog Directory