Saturday, September 03, 2005


Some Things To Think About When Wondering "What Went Wrong?"

The conversation is endless and even before the job is near done, the fingerpointing has begun concerning what's going on, and what is apparently not going on, on the Gulf Coast.

First of all, everyone is focused on New Orleans, when the disaster is so much larger -- that should tell you something. Consider this email that came into my inbox from friends of friends in the area. It is truly terrifying, particularly if you have been there and know the landmarks the writer mentions.
"I just got back from a 3.5 hour flight over the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Bay St. Louis to Pascagoula.

I have no words--I'm not sure there ARE words--for what I just saw. I am in shock. The destruction of the Gulf Coast was of a level that Hurricane Camille only began to begin to approach.

Personal. Janet's and my house is gone. An oak tree from the east side is lying on top of what looks like a section of the roof. Whatever else is left is in a pile of debris at the CSX railroad tracks to the north, along with every other house in the neighborhood, save the one house next door (Archie & Margaret's). Theirs is a spanish-southwestern style built in 1925, and it used to stand out against all the other homes. Now it IS the only other home. The windows are all out, and it looks pretty bad. Grasslawn, an antibellum home on the other side, is gone.

Going down the coast from east to west...

Ocean Springs has heavy damage along the beach. I don't know how far back it goes.

Biloxi. Point Cadet is gone. The Hwy 90 bridge is gone. The old hwy bridge is gone. The railroad bridge is gone. All spans are down--every last one of them--except for the drawbridge in the middle. The Biloxi Casinos are mostly standing, but the barge from the Grand is north of hwy 90 now. Mary Mahoney's Restaurant is standing, but most of the surrounding buildings are gone. The Seashore Manor Methodist retirement home is the only structure standing on that stretch of beach. The windows are even unbroken. The Broadwater Marina is gone. What's left of the President Casino barge is north and west, and across Hwy 90. Edgewater Mall is standing, but it has large holes in the structure, high, all along the south side. Edgewater Village strip mall is gone. Everything south of the railroad tracks has severe damage, if it's still standing. I didn't see the Back Bay area.

Gulfport. The Legacy Condominiums are standing, and apparently did quite well. Nearly everything around them is gone. The VA hospital complex did well. Most of the homes on either side of it are gone. The water went beyond the railroad tracks in multiple places near there. There is a continuous debris pile pushed up against the tracks all along what used to be Second Street. Almost every house there is gone. Downtown is mostly standing, but there has been water up to the tracks. The roofs of most of the buildings have visible damage. The Hancock Bank building and the MS Power Co building seem to have fared the best. The Baptist and Presbyterian churches looked good. I couldn't see the GPT Methodist church. The new courthouse appears to be undamaged, including the windows. The harbor is mostly gone. The roof of Marine Life is down. The shipping terminal warehouses are there, but they have debris on the roofs, indicating that they were underwater. The Grand Casino hotel (and Oasis) did very well, but the casino barge is blocking Hwy 90 to the west. The homes in West Gulfport did better than on the east side, but only for a space. Approaching Long Beach it gets worse quickly.

Keesler AFB and the Gulfport CBC. One hangar at Keesler looks bad. The rest of those structures look intact from where we were flying.

Long Beach. Everything from about 1000' south of the RR tracks is gone. The Baptist Church is standing, but gutted. St. Thomas has parts standing, but it is mostly gone. USM Gulf park looks pretty good, and it is the only structure on that section of Beach. The Methodist Church is standing, and the New Life Center looks good. The roofs look good. Water came up as high as the house next door to the Associate Pastor's parsonage. Everything south of Magnolia Street is gone. North of Magnolia Street, there is heavy damage up to about 1000' of the tracks. On my old street of Buena Vista Dr., my old house is the first one standing. It appears from the air to have had water up to the second story. The High School, Middle School, and Reeves Middle School appear undamaged. Harper McCaughan is hurt, but I couldn't see how bad. It probably had water, and it is about at where the survival line norms. North LB did much better, but there was lots of roof damage. Pecan Park seems to have fared the best. The Wolf River is flooded so badly I couldn't see any structures above water. It is up to within a couple of feet of the I-10 bridge--enough that I worry for the integrity of the bridge. The harbor is gone. Every structure in the vicinity of the harbor is gone.

Pass Christian. The Wal Mart is standing, but it has been underwater. Some downtown buildings are standing. St Anne's is there, but it has had water over it. From the LB line westward, everything south of Second Street is gone. The only exception was Scenic Drive, where about half of the houses are standing. From Downtown west I saw nothing standing anywhere in Pass Christian. The only houses I saw standing in West Pass were the newer ones on the North Side, near the Bay of St. Louis, and those two new millionaire acres-looking houses on the beach about halfway to Pass Marianne. The Du Pont site is there, but we didn't fly north far enough to assess.

The Hwy 90 bridge over the Bay of St. Louis is down. Every span. The railroad bridge is down. Every span.

Bay St. Louis appears to have had water in the downtown area. Most of the buildings are standing, but most have roof damage. All the homes southwest of the downtown area, along the beach road, are gone. The homes west of the beach road had the heaviest roof damage I saw anywhere except in East Biloxi.

Waveland. We didn't fly all the way to Waveland, but I could see down the beach road quite a ways, and I saw nothing standing.

Other. Hwy 90 is washed out in sections all along the coast, from Biloxi to Bay st. Louis. Huge sand drifts obscure many more sections of pavement. There is a lot more natural sand along the beach, maybe another 500-1000'. Ship Island is mostly gone. There is a clump of trees on a sand bar on the east, and there is a sand bar on the west. Fort Massachusetts is there, but has sand berms about 15' high along the southwest side. Cat Island has a new shape. It doesn't have "fingers" any more. It is just a continuous stretch, like Ship Island used to be, only with trees.

My estimates. Based on the debris lines and what I know of the geography of the MS Gulf Coast, the tides were indeed in the 30-foot range, all the way from Bay St. Louis to Biloxi. Based on the damage I saw to roofs, and to structures unaffected by water, the winds would have had to be greater than 100 knots, possibly as great as 140 knots. I couldn't see looting/looters, but I could see the opportunity for it. The casualty numbers, when they come in, will be staggering.

In closing. I have never seen any manner of destruction like this. It is bad in Biloxi and bad as anything I saw after Hurricane Camille in 1969. The devastation of Pass Christian is indescribable. The news reporting only scratches the surface.

Janet and I are praying for the survivors on the ground there. Please join us. I will report more later. Please pass this report along to others who have evacuated, and need to know."
The New York Times of all places has a pretty decent report on some of the technical issues involved in this circumstance. On that subject, I have some relatively random thoughts that people may want to consider.

The last time any where in the world that city was rapidly and efficiently evacuated was Pripyat (population 20,000-30,000 about 20% the population of NOLA), next to Chernobyl. Consider -- it was evacuated at gun point. Citizens were allowed to bring only what was on their backs at the risk of being shot. It was a total dictatorship, the government owned every bus in the country -- when they wanted them in Pripyat -- all it took was a phone call. Here it takes negotiations, contracts, etc. Shall I go on.

Second thing to think about. Disaster response is a local government matter -- the fed can only intercede at local request, something that is typical and normally routine. However, Louisiana has a very long and very storied history of corrupt local government on the state and municipal level. It will be a while before we know what, if any, role that may or may not have played in the mess, but I won't be surprized. There is an old Louisiana joke about it being every governor's right to plead guilty in a court house named for him. I wonder if these events will result in significant reform, and if so how? What, if any, role can the federal government play in such reform? Some of you legal scholars out there have any ideas? The destruction is widespread, but only NOLA seems to be in chaos -- that should tell us something.

Third thing to think about. Last time our nation even thought about moving anywhere near this number of people around, and supplying them with sustenance, it was the military in Iraq. Consider that it took a year to generate the material and equipment necessary prior to Desert Storm. Operation Iraqi Freedom took several months but then we had the majority of the supplies and material cached in the region and only had to put the soldiers in place. And yet, we have people that expect similar action, on a civilian level, in a matter of days?!

Fourth and final thing to think about. NOLA is a geographically and geologically inaccessable city. Right now there is no way to go heading north, east, or south -- there is only west. Makes things even tougher than they are already. I worry about the same thing if "the Big One" ever hits in LA -- west is water, east and south is god-awful desert and all ways out mean climbing mountains....

Where do we go from here? Hugh Hewitt has some governmental and civilian ideas. They all sound good to me, and I am sure there will be more, and in some cases better, ideas to come. Whatever we have to do, we have to find a way not just to see to the physical needs, but the spiritual as well. The soul sickness is obvious and healing is needed.



Read all about it here.

BTW -- things are improving on my family front. The eldest of the clan are being transported to my parents in Indiana, the merely old caring for the truly ancient, but better than the situation in Mississippi. The remainder of the family is, as predicted, hanging tough and pitching in. I am just grateful we heard from them again.


Today's Trip Post

No pictures today as we continue the break from St. Petersburg and I tell you about the beginning and ending of our cruise.

You see, the day we left Stockholm, and the day we arrived in Copenhagen were marked by each of those cities' hosting a gay pride festival.

Stockholm was not so bad, the city is not so centralized that you can move around it and avoid certain things. Also, given the timing of event, we were getting on the ship just as things were really getting into gear. All told, it was not much worse than when the parade goes off here every year.

Ahh, but then there was Copenhagen. We got off the ship as things started to fire up. The festival occupied the main square in the center of town, and at least from our hotel, it was impossible to get to anywhere interesting without wandering through this enormous mass of people, often engaged in behaviors that were at a minimum lurid.

If gays wish equality, should homosexuality not be viewed as "normal?" There was nothing normal about this -- from modes of dress to public displays of affection that would be disgusting even from heterosexuals -- this was a celebration of the aberrant, and it pretty well kept me pinned in my hotel for the day. But here is the deeper question -- is "normalcy" worthy of celebration? Particularly celebration this over-the-top. The homosexual equality movement is doing itself no favors with this sort of thing. They claim to be just like me is almost all aspects, save for to whom they are sexually attracted -- there was nothing visible here that vaguely resembled me, sorry.

That's enough, I don't want to get all political and moral in these travelogue posts, but this is very worthy of mention.


A Hero's Hero

Marine Becomes Citizen After Making the Ultimate Sacrifice

Talk about earning it!

I'm with Blackfive: "Godspeed, Corporal Herrera."


Curmudgeonly California

Dan Weintraub looks at the lastest Field Poll here in CA
The survey makes it clear that folks are down on the governor (approval rating: 36-53) and are not happy about the special election (57-34 for calling it off). That should be the end of the story.

But then there was this:

"Do you agree or disagree: The state Legislature is more to blame than Gov. Schwarzenegger for blocking the reforms needed to improve the way state government is run."

Agree: 49 percent
Disagree: 35 percent
No opinion: 16 percent
We got problems here, that's obvious, but maybe, just maybe, people are beginning to figure out where they come from.


Comic Art

Since we temporarily suspended looking at "the Honorable Mentions" for British comics. let's look at perhaps the most widely known -- it's called "2000 AD" and features "Judge Dredd." 2000 AD has never been distributed in the US, it's an anthology book which just don't sell here, but much of the Dredd material has been reprinted under a "Judge Dredd" name and sold reasonably well. Most people, unfortunately, know this character from the abysmal Sylvester Stallone movie of the same name.

If out have seen the movie, please do not judge the character from the film. Stallone played him entirely too likably.

This guy is a curmudgeon's curmudgeon, with an attitude to boot.

He is proof of my theory that art sells comics, more than writing. This guy has a great look -- you see it on the shelf and it just sucks you in. It also doesn't hurt that he has been paired with characters of all sorts -- the tougher the better.

Which brings me to my weekend reading for Labor Day -- Dredd and Batman. It will be truly difficult to decide who is more grim, in the end I think the nod will go to Batman, that red on Dredd's helmet is just a little too happy.


Drink Milk - Puke Milk - Get Fired?

Cirillo, 19, was working last month in the visitors' clubhouse when he accepted a dare from Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny. A former Marlins pitcher, Penny offered $500 if Cirillo could drink a gallon of milk in an hour without throwing up.

Cirillo said he drank the milk in 59 minutes but then vomited outside the clubhouse, so he didn't collect the money. The episode prompted the Marlins to suspend Cirillo throughout this week's homestand, but also earned him an invitation to appear Thursday on "The Late Show With David Letterman."

Cirillo told Letterman he's unclear about the reason for the suspension.

"Honestly they never told me," he said. "I guess I got in trouble for supposedly gambling, but it was a dare. The money was just an extra part of the dare."
Just one question -- if the gambling was the issue, shouldn't the player have been suspended as well?


Brave Politician

By this time, everyone knows Tony Blair is a very brave politician, he has crossed his party repeatedly regarding Iraq and succeeded in getting them re-elected at the same time. Now there is this.
Respect for other people must be learnt within families first, said Tony Blair as he launched a new drive against bad parenting and anti-social behaviour.
The best way to avoid re-election in this country would be with a "drive" like that. You go Tony!


Call The SciFi Channel

The first cases of BSE or "mad cow disease" could have been caused by animal feed contaminated with human remains, says a controversial theory.

Some raw materials for fertiliser and feed imported from South Asia in the 60s and 70s contained human bones and soft tissue, the Lancet reports.
I can see it now -- herds of cattle having acquired a taste for human flesh go rogue, trampling cowtowns across Texas. Soon, only one lone small-town sheriff, with a deep dark big city secret in his past, stands between that herd and the obliteration of all mankind. But he is a resourceful man and can redeem himself from that secret past by saving mankind -- soon -- Steaks for everyone!


Whale Of A Tale

Clever Whales Bait Gulls With Fish
First, the young whale spit regurgitated fish onto the surface of the water, then sank below the water and waited.
Whale puke -- The Bait Of Champions.

I think this is proof a seagull will eat anything.


Write Your Own Punchline Here

Nigerian president to be probed

Sometimes, they make it too easy...


LIfe Imitates Monty Python

This here's the wattle, symbol of our land, stick it on your collar, forget the motherland
A Monty Python joke at Australia's expense finally came true yesterday when a minister sought to boost the cause of republicanism by praising the humble wattle shrub.

Australia's immigration minister argued that the country could be persuaded to cut ties with Britain if it showed greater appreciation of the Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha.
Now, if only the immigration minister's name was Bruce. Think he'll mind if I call him Bruce?

Friday, September 02, 2005


Why I Hate 'Survivor' -- Lessons From NOLA

I can say with pride that I have never watched a singel episode of "Survivor." When I heard about the show, I found the idea objectionable. See here is the thing, in a genuine survival situation, the key to prosperous survival lies in cooperation, not competition. The events of the last couple of days in New Orleans are all the evidence I need of the truth of that statement

Consider - the AP describes rape and "anarchy" - CNN describes NOLA's mayor as "desparate" - the BBC describes their citizens in the area as "scared" - the WaPo reports on web sites scamming for 'donations.'

Cooperation is clearly not the order of the day in NOLA at the moment. My suspicion is that the cooperative types as rapidly getting out of town leaving only the competitive types who may consider themselves "winners" but all they have "won" is a demolished and flooded city - a shallow victory indeed. Somehow, I cannot help but think that those that get out alive and well will, in the long run, be the real winners.

The fact that we have to send in troops to keep the peace is just sad to me. The fact that we are a nation that needs military force to maintain the veneer of civility makes us less than the America I always thought we were. There will be much written in the weeks, months, and years to come about why this reaction has happened as it has, particularly when compared to the cooperation that marked 9-11 in such chronological vicinity. On the right side of the politcal aisle, much will be written about the excessive welfare rolls in NOLA, the preponderance of hip-hop cultural. On the left side of the aisle, it will no doubt be the the failing of the Bush administration. Some of my ultra far right Christian aquaintances will no doubt claim this God's latest Sodom and Gomarrah judgement.

There will likely be some grain of truth in most of the explanations -- some more than others. But I think my fellow Christian blogger with Southern roots, Gadfly's Muse has hit on a very important reason -- the increasing removal of religious considerations from the public dialogue.
I will readily admit that many non-Christian cultures have had strongly developed senses of community and have been able to develop as civilized people. I also readily admit that "community" alone does not guarantee civilized behavior, especially outside the community. But I know of very few truly civilized cultures which achieved that status apart from religion. For community to exist there has to be shared values and agreements with regard to status. There has to be a coordinated sense of approval and disapproval and a binding sense of heritage and tradition. Religion is emininently capable of achieving these things apart from the immediacy of coercive force. The threat of future punishment has some effect in these matters but surprisingly little when push comes to shove. So even the threat of Hell has never truly been very effective at restraining man's barbaric impulses. But community has. And religion as a basis of community seems, at first blush, to my mind, to be the most effective ground for civilization ever to be shown.

Perhaps all of those who today are so intense upon despising religion in all of its forms might at least consider the alternative. On what other basis can community be achieved? And even more importantly, why is it that the human psyche is so disposed toward barbarism apart from community restraints? And is this fundamental disposition and the prevailing need for "community" to offset it, an indicator that it is time for some sobering reassessment of the policies and practices and pseudo-intellectual content of much of the "progressive" agenda being promoted by many of the more strident voices throughout our land.

What is happening in New Orleans lacks only a sufficiently widespread catastrophe to make it a nationwide phenomena. The barbarians are not at the gates, they reside in our midst.
Once the immediate stress of simply saving life has passed, I know what one priority needs to be -- introducing the barbarians among us to the Christ of civilization.


Other News From The Katrina Zone

Can good news come from an area as devastated as the Gulf Coast? I don't know for sure -- I ocsillate between anger at the idiots I discussed above, despair when I think of all the friends and family I have there about whom I have so little information, fear for them, hope as only the Lord can provide, and some amalgam of unspecified emotion that periodically reduces me to long periods of staring punctuated by a welling of tears.

I am grossly frustrated that blogging seems to be the only way I can help right now. I constantly fight the urge to get in the car and drive there -- to find my family -- to help them -- to help others -- to bring them back to rest. Alas, if I plunged in as I want I would but add to the confusion, wandering aimlessly in search of poeple who are wandering aimlessly in search of aid.

One frustration is the overwhelming coverage of NOLA and how little news there is from Mississippi and Alabama. The Clarion-Ledger is the best source of Mississippi news I have found. It' still pretty thin, but it is far more than I am getting from other sources.

The Hedgehog Blog carries a riveting report from a physician inside New Orleans.
In a sort of cliche way, this is an edifying experience. Once is rapidly focused away from the transient and material to the bare necessities of life. It has been challenging to me to learn how to be a primary care phyisican. We are under martial law so return to our homes is impossible. I don't know how long it will be and this is my greatest fear. Despite it all, this is a soul edifying experience.
You have to admire that kind of optimism -- "a soul-edifying experience."

MSNBC's 'Cosmic Log" contains links to before and after satellite shots from around the region. FAscinating and horrifying all at the same time.

Red State explains why the National Guard kerfuffle is not a kerfuffle at all.

And, as I figured, the feared "toxic stew" of flood waters is not nearly as toxic as predicted.

I got an interesting suggestion in an email from a friend -- You know all those bases closing that have been talked about so much lately?
How about shipping these people to army bases which have been closed or soon to be closed. i.e. Arkansas

Many good reasons:

  • Facilities are built for numbers.....but people can be divided up and kept in specific areas (in the many ways that could be interpreted)
  • Empty or minmally used.........
  • Food and health facilities designed for numbers....
  • These people will have to be put up for more than a few days....
  • While people there, they can be trained for jobs....many are unemployed......
  • Then people can be moved to an area of the country where they can be employed.....
That is an idea whose time may yet come, but for now -- food, water blankets are the order of the day. Give and give generously to the charity of your choice in the Relief Roll on your left.


Today's Trip Pic

Time to take a brief break from St. Petersburg, lots more to talk about there, but there is a lot of other stuff to talk about too. Have I told you about our ship? The Raddison Seven Seas Voyager? She's a beauty!
Here she is docked at Talinn, Estonia -- next to a more common cruise ship. She's the small one. Big enough to be wonderful, but small enough to not feel lost in the crowd. Can't imagine it getting any better. I've told you of the rough weather. Many people would worry about being in a "smaller" ship in weather like that -- don't. Frankly, I slept through it.
See this -- this is our cabin -- the smallest cabin on the ship! Pretty roomy for a cruise ship, eh? This more than anything is what convinced us to take this cruise. I'm not one to have to spend all my time in public spaces -- this was a great room to whech we could retire.
And service? This greeted us upon boarding. We were celebrating our 10th anniversary and they made sure we celebrated well.

It was a wonderful ship -- I can recommend it to anyone.


Friday Humor

Amusing Things Grade School Students Have Written In Papers:


Never Happen!

Scientists Turn Cow Waste into Electricity

Livestock waste is a "gross polluter" and heavily regulated. Despite the fact that this idea makes all kinds of sense.


You Can't Win

When I visited the Soviet Union, many, many years ago -- most of the people I met with complained that when it comes to regulation, there were so many of them that they could rest assured they were always in violation of something.

Seems like Disney finds themselves in a similar conundrum, not with regulation, but with politically correct issues, in the opeing of it's new Hong Kong park.

Among the horrific 'blunders' they have committed are putting shark fin soup on the menu for wedding parties and euthanizing stray dogs on the park land. I'm wondering is this wasn't a deep pockets thing ala Jesse Jackson?


Cat Falls, Lands On Feet

Whodda thunk it?


There's Being Afraid Of Spiders...

...and then there is this.
A German woman laid waste to her family home by setting fire to it as she tried to kill spiders in a garage with a can of hairspray and a cigarette lighter.
Well, bug spray is soooo toxic.


I Should Think So

Travel warning for hens and stags

Can you get deer and poultry on an airplane? Wouldn't they stink up a car?

And what's the warning? "DANGER: Placing deer in your backseat may result in holes in your roof or kicked out windows?"


I Probably Have Too Many British Friends To Do This Joke...

Young children in Merthyr Tydfil have the unhealthiest teeth in the UK, according to a new survey.
Punchline 1: How'd they tell?

Punchline 2: That's the pot calling the kettle black!

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Blogging For Katrina Relief

Instapundit and Hugh Hewitt put their heads together, got N.Z. Bear involved, and a huge blog effort to provide relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was born. Thursday September 1 has been designated as Hurricane Katrina: Blog For Relief Day.

Here's what is happening. If you are a blog, put up a post and list your favorite charity, and tell us all a little about why you supportt hat charity in this effort. Then you can go here at The Truth Laid Bear and join the party.

Blogotional is backing Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Soldier's Angels Operation Katrina Soldiers Relief Fund. As the former Chairman of my Church's Missions Committee I have worked with PDA on many occassions. They are committed to getting the dollars into the field. Mrs. Blogotional and I have been with Soldier's Angels almost since it's inception at the outbreak of post-9/11 hostilities. We have found them to be a great organization and the men and women that have defended us abroad deserve special treatment in this mess when they come home.

The SoCal Bloggers Alliance is taking things a step farther. We have compiled a list of the charities we are supporting, as well as those being mentioned by Hugh Hewitt and Glenn Reynolds and putting them into an automated blogroll -- you'll see it in the sidebar of this blog.

We are going to make the code so you can add this "Relief Roll" available to you right here:

All you need to do is cut and paste that code to your blog! Please do so.

Thanks to Cadmusings for this list of sites that can try and help you find loved ones in the region

I love Hugh Hewitt's idea

Longer term, I hope my own congregation finds a partner church with the idea of staying the rebuilding course with that church, offering much more personal care over the long haul, and that Catholic parishes from far off states do the same for Catholic parishes throughout the region, West LA synagogues for synagogues in the Gulf region hit by the storm, etc etc.
But we are in the short term right now -- we need to give to these charities right now. Please find one and give!

Technorati Tag: ;


Illuminated Scripture I

This wonderful and timely piece was created by Mrs. Blogotional using a photograph of a memorial in the family graveyard in Mississippi. With thanks to the Lord, we will not be visiting that graveyard for any of the family now.


Illuminated Scripture II

Welcome to my first ever effort at an Illuminated Scripture.


Personal Stories From Katrina

As I have said, we have word that all my family in the path of Katrina is alive and uninjured. That's the good news, no that's the only news. It is simply too hard to get information out right now for us to know details -- needless to say, that's pretty frustrating.

The first hand accounts I am reading are amazing -- there are two I would like to mention. The New Orleans Times-Picayune is running a blog at that is great. Tuesday night they carried a post by columnist Chris Rose about his "escape."
We left my in-laws behind in Picayune. They wouldn't come with us. Self-sufficient country folk; sometimes you can't tell 'em nothing.

We don't know what happened to them. My wife's dad and her brother and their families: No word. Only hope.

Like so many people around the country wondering what happened to those still unaccounted for; we just don't know. That's the hardest part.

If you take the images you?ve seen on TV and picked up off the radio and internet, and you try to apply what you know to the people and places you don't know about, well, the mind starts racing, assumptions are made and well - it consumes you.
Boy do I know that feeling. Even now that I know everyone is "OK" I am really wondering how "OK" they really are. My cousins are very strongly civically minded people, much I as I would like to get them out of the mess to here in SoCal where they can relax, I am fairly certain they would not come -- they will stay and drain, and dig, and build, and re-build tirelessly. They will work until they cannot work anymore, then somehow, they will work some more.

Then Al Mohler linked to this CNN piece
Harvey Jackson, of Biloxi, Mississippi, told CNN affiliate WKRG-TV that he believed his wife was killed after she was ripped from his grasp when their home split in half.

"She told me, 'You can't hold me,' ... take care of the kids and the grandkids," he said, sobbing.
Yeah, it sounds like it's right out of a Hollywood script, but it's not -- it's real and you really have to admire people whose last thoughts are of others....

There will stories like this by the dozens. May God care for all of them.


Important Questions In The Wake Of Katrina

A couple of my favorite bloggers are asking questions that seem most appropriate in light of the events of this week.

Transforming Sermons is wondering if it is acceptable to be a Christian and experience anger. Milt draws on a post at anti-itch meditation looking at Jesus' anger when he cleansed the temple.

Squelching righteous anger is one of those places where pop-psychology has adversely affected Christian thought. God gets angry -- what's more, people get angry with God -- consider Abraham or Moses. Anger is a tool that God uses. Anger is not a sin, wrong responses to anger are, but that is a story for another time.

The point I really want to make here is that in circumstances such as those being experienced on the Gulf Coast right now, many are undoubtedly angry at God. We help neither them nor God by telling they they "should not be." They are best served by encouraging them to take their anger to God and discuss it with Him. Amazing things will happen.

Then SmartChristian is wondering if in reducing human suffering, we are reducing God's suffering.
The cross of Jesus Christ was actually an event experienced by God. If this is correct, which I believe it is, then a reflective and practical question emerges: Does God suffer less when we lessen human suffering on earth?
Certainly it does. As lessening the pain of a child, lessens the pain of a parent, so happens in this situation.

The point? Make God feel better -- do what you can to help the victims of Katrina today!


Meanwhile, In The Rest Of The World...

Let's take a quick survey of the other news, ala Paul Harvey.

While Putin seems to be tightening the reins on Russia daily, he still has to suffer many of the slings and arrows of wholly democratic leaders.


Fat people seem to be in the news "big" time. Seems Mercedes is using a driver's weight as an excuse for automotive failures and a judge told them -- "No Way." If this doctor really made the comments he is accused of making then he has the worst bedside manner ever in the medical profession -- I'm not sure he should lose his license, but I doubt he is going to attract a lot of patients.

Page Threee

Look into space and you are going to see galaxies collide and then collapse into black holes with a bang.


Scotwise seems to have discovered the world's smartest dog.


If this story is not the stuff of cold fusion it could change the world.
"We have discovered a catalyst that can produce ready quantities of hydrogen without the need for extreme cold temperatures or high pressures, which are often required in other production and storage methods," remarks Mahdi Abu-Omar of Purdue University.
As a big fan of Indiana University, that whole Purdue thing is problematic, but otherwise it sounds cool.


Can't Leave This Alone

Broken Messenger is examining the foundations of being a Christian. The thrust of his post is great, but I think he works a little hard to make the point. Here's the thrust
We are not Christians because we are champions of morality. We are not Christians because we can identify that there is a God. We are Christians because we are ?little-Christs?, we are imitators of what He was on earth and what He now is in heaven.
Amen and Amen, but here is the problem
Christianity is supposed to be representative of one persona: love.
We are indeed becoming "little-Christs" but His character is so much more complex than simply love. God can and does condemn, He grows angry, he chastises, He punsihes. Limiting God's character can and does have as many negative consequences as those that the Messenger is battling in his post.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Genuine Apologetics

There seemed to be a theme ringing in the world of apologetics yesterday. Broken Messenger opened up the discussion with this gem
But as Lewis states elsewhere, Christians are the best example for and against Christianity - and so we Christians should take heed. No one wants to go looking for more evidence about God, if the testimony they see before them seems hypocritical.
To be fair to the Messenger, his post is about not letting "bad" Christians stand in the way of your faith, but in doing so, he has hit on a very important point.

Glenn Lucke at Common Grounds Online hits the nail pretty well examining I Peter 3:15
So again, is this what Peter intended?

The general context of the letter suggests that Peter was possibly in Rome and he was writing to Christians who were suffering various forms of persecution. Peter?s language about trials and suffering sounds jarringly different from the prosperity blandishments of some television preachers. He exhorts the believers to live as sojourners and exiles in the world, and he exhorts them to live holy lives radiating heartfelt love for their brothers.

Woven throughout the letter are Peter?s imperatives. ?Do what is right. Suffer for righteousness, not for evil deeds.? Immediately before 3:15 Peter writes, ?But even if you should suffer for righteousness? sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.?

If I may paraphrase, Peter is saying, ?Do good, and not evil, and much of the time people won?t persecute you. But even if they do persecute you for righteous living, do not fear them. When they make fun of you, when they exclude you, when they fire you or boycott your business, when they beat you, when they are doing their worst to you, even in those moments?do not fear.?
Jollyblogger summarizes Glenn in this way
But Glenn is getting at something more profound and that is that the defense of the faith goes beyond intellectual argumentation. It seems that our most powerful apologetic defense of the faith comes in our response to suffering, not our intellectual arguments. In other words, the apologetics that are enjoined here are apologetics that give a reason for hope in the midst of suffering. Sure, if the theistic arguments are the things that bring you comfort and hope in the midst of suffering then by all means use them. But for most of us, suffering is not a merely intellectual thing with intellectual responses. Glenn's closing paragraphs get at the heart of suffering and the heart of our hope in the midst of suffering.
Which brings us full circle to Messenger's citation of Lewis -- the best evidence for Christian faith cannot be stated. It is not an argument or a syllogism. Intellectual acknowledgement of Christianity is but a step on the journey to genuine faith. They great apologetic work is not in the words of the professor, but in the life of the believer. By all means learn, study, read, but more -- LIVE! Live like Jesus is the most important person in the world to you. Live like you mean it on Sunday morning.


May Be Time To Take To The Streets

There are not words to describe how much my heart sunk when I read this post from Assumption of Command. Mustang quotes an NRO piece
Just ask Marine sergeant Marco Martinez, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a full-time psychology major at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif.

"A woman on campus had apparently learned I might be a Marine. When I told her I was, she said, 'You?'e a disgusting human being, and I hope you rot in hell!' "
Mustang, and I for that matter, really had figured that this kind of stuff did go the way of the dinosaur after Vietnam -- alas, no.

Now is the time for us to rise up -- we cannot let things like this stand. Here's the plan. If you are in the Mission Viejo area, find Sergeant Martinez (I have sent an email to the NRO authors to try and find him), send him a card, tell him what a fool the woman who confronted him is, and tell him how much you respect him. Then thank him for his service. Sergeant Martinez, and any soldier anywhere that has received this kind of treatment should receive 20 compliments and statements of support for every insult like this.

If things like this continue to happen, then we may need to organize teasm to visit campuses and listen -- be present to refute this nonesense when it raises its ugly head.


Eerily Familiar

The devastation in the wake of Katrina is mind-boggling, but this really struck home for this Northridge quake participant.
Portions of the Interstate 10 high-rise bridge over the mouth of Lake Pontchartrain east of New Orleans have collapsed. Another bridge, the causeway running across the middle of the lake, has structural damage, and engineers are inspecting U.S. 11, which also crosses the lake, to determine if it is structurally sound.
If you can find it when you see this post CNN has some amazing vidoe of this particular part of the destruction linked by the words "Interstate in Pieces"

The biggest single problem after the Northridge quake was the fact that it was nearly impossible to get good in and out of town with virtually all the highways suffering damage somehow. I had to leave the country on business just about 5 days after the quake and the normal one hour trip to LAX took about two and a half because of all the freeways that fell. Life in the hurricane zone has become incedibly difficult, and will be for some time to come.

Fortunately, there is Mark Steyn to put a rather interesting perspective on the whole thing. Can't say I disagree with him, but to date we have one very short phone call from family out of Jackson, Mississippi confirming that everyone, themselves and farther south, is alive and OK, but that there is "lots of property damage." Until we can get them a little better squared away, I hope you'll forgive me for not paying too much attention to the "big picture."

Join me in praying everyone on the devastaed Gulf Coast..


Today's Trip Pic

Back at the Hermitage for a second day -- the place could literally take weeks to fully comprehend. The collection they have is immense and notable for its breadth and depth, even if its quality is not always top notch. There are some incredible pieces, world shattering pieces, but they are fewer and farther between than in some smaller but more impactful collections.

The thing that sets the Hermitage apart from other world-class art museums (though it is definitley in the top five) is the museum itself. I have never experienced, and frankly cannot imagine, a more glorious setting in which to view fine art.

It is, after all, at it's heart a palace, and what makes a palace a palace? Why a throne, and throne room, of course.

The room itself is ornate and beautiful an the throne impressive, but it is also johnny-come-lately. Remember, St. Petersburg was built only beginning in the 1700's. The coronation throne, dating back to Ivan the Terrible, the first true Tsar of all the Russias still resides in the Kremlin. Frankly, as beutiful as this throne and room was, it did not strike me with the power of say the British coronation throne, a rather plain affair in Westminster Abbey which looks terribly frail now that the Stone of Scone has been returned to Scotland, or even the Queen's throne in the House of Lords.

The delicay of the 18th century architecture fails, in my opinion, to convey the awesome power the monarch actually had.

Now this hallway was impressive. This picture gives the overall impression but cannot possibly convey the detail present and the absolute mastery involved in creating it.The walls are all painted copies of Raphael frescoes. The Russians themselves admit to being masterful mimics and this hall proves the point more than almost any other place.

They have rendered the frescoes almost perfectly in paint, including texture. Copying, yes, but masterful copying indeed. The effect is quite busy, but in a pleasant and enjoyable way. This, along with the Malachite Room, as my personal favorites in the Hermitage.

This was just fun -- It's the third time I have seen the coronation coach of Catherine the Great. I saw when I was there in '91 and again when it was here in LA at the Hammer Museum. Is it ornate enough for you? I find it somehow suitable considering how the lady got the throne. She was full blooded German you know, imported to be a bride to a future Tsar husband of questionable ruling capability and sexual orientation. She bore a son of most uncertain paternity and her husband died under very questionable circumstances, after which she declared herself sole and supreme ruler of Russia. With that kind of back story why not go all out when you are getting crowned, eh?

While we're in Russia, yesterday's OpinionJournal contained a great piece by Edvard Radzinsky about the changing role of women in post-Soviet Russia. It's great to get this perspective from a native.

Where shall we turn tomorrow? Only tomorrow will tell.


Democracy -- Some Get It, Some Don't

I could not help but be struck by the sharp contrasts in a couple of stories yesterday. The first was this news from Iraq
One of Iraq's top Sunni political leaders, Adnan Dulaimi, said on Tuesday he would work hard to ensure the country's draft constitution was rejected in a referendum due by October 15.
I realize opposition to the proposed constitution is not a good thing, but how the opposition is being planned is just flat out wonderful. He is not talking about car bombs or suicide bombs at polling places -- he is talking about that great democractic institution -- debate and politicing. The process is working, and that matters -- a lot.

The contrasting story concerns Venezuela.
Chavez also said Venezuela would "exercise its rights" under the law in response to Robertson's remarks calling for his assassination. He has said his government could ask the United States to extradite Robertson.
Uh...President Chavez? You know, Pat Robertson's comments were pretty doggone stupid, but see, here's the thing -- we're a democracy with guaranteed freedom of speech -- It's the good Reverend Robertson's right to be an idiot. I love the State Departments understated response to this threat
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday that Venezuela does not appear to have a sound legal basis for seeking Robertson's extradition.
I'll agree with that.


Behind The Press Veil In Iraq

Everytime I read about what is happening in Iraq from people there, instead of reporters in hotels in Bahgdad, sounds like things are going just fine. Two great reports in the last few days. One from Dadmanly and one from Major K, both about the development of the Iraqi Army. Dadmanly even manages to inject a little humor
The CG said they were learning mutual respect as well. When the Americans first came, Officers and superiors, if someone stepped in the room, might yell at them harshly. They see the American Officers and Enlisted treat each other without yelling, or rudeness. The CG identified this change as an example of learning democracy. The General said he still can?t accept that he should consider a Command Sergeant Major the equal of Officers, and our CSM assured him that whoever told him he needed to was not telling him the truth. (Some of us weren?t so sure how he meant that.)
Major K points out that the training process requires patience
There are plenty of bugs to be worked out, but they are doing better than when we started two days ago. We had a visit yesterday from a British Lieutenant Colonel who was getting ready to do the same thing with the Iraqi 10th Division south of here. There are many disadvantages and frustrations in being the first ones to do this for the first division. I hope he will benefit from our errors and snafus. "Rome was not built in a day..."
All sounds good to me -- I've never trained an army, but I have trained people in dictatorial countries how to do business, it's never easy but it's always rewarding, and in the end, American's success at almost everything is the only motivator you really need to train them. In the end, they want what we have so they'll do what it takes.


The Best of Pravda

Ah, there is a bit more of the tabloid Pravda I have come to love this week. Consider these rather purile headlines...

Erotic film about Ukrainian Prime Minister Julia Timoshenko ready to hit movie theaters

Someone in the government of Thailand had a penis enlargement operation

Britney Spears cannot wait to give birth to her baby and recover her shape

But that is just the vulgar tabloidism, this is the real deal:
Looks like the moon will be crowded again. Programs of moon exploration were launched in the USA and in the USSR in the mid-sixties. In ten years the two countries put the flights to an end claiming that the programs do not have any practical value. However, the exploration of Venus, Mars and other distant celestial bodies continued although with no financial profits. What is the reason for revival of the interest in the Moon exploration?

Scared of UFO

NASA went public with the results of its moon program in 1973 for the first time. It made a statement that all in all 25 astronauts came across UFO activities during their flights to the Moon.
So much for the consiracy people that think we faked the moon landing, to the contrary we were scared off by aliens!

Never to be overlooked by Pravda is America bashing
Watching news coverage of the refugees trying to enter the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans for safety from the approaching force-five Hurricane Katrina, I was incredulous how the people attempting to enter the stadium were being treated by the national guard troops and local police. The people were made to stand for hours outside in the awful Louisiana climate while they were admitted one or two adults at a time so they could be searched "for firearms and alcohol."
We will not talk about what it took for me to enter their country, nor will we ask him what he thinks after someone flies a plane into the Kremlin or Hermitage.

And finally there is the great delusion about Russia iteself.

China takes advantage of the Russian riches

Last time I checked, the Chinese economy made the Russian economy look like a pauper. Whose got the riches here?

Nice to know some things never change.


No, Christianity Never Lets The World Influence It

Time magazine, of all places, reports that the is a "Christian Yoga" movement.
The platform is an altar, the tinkly tune is praise music, and the practice is Christian yoga. Senarighi's class, called Yogadevotion and taught in the main chapel of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minn., is part of a fast-growing movement that seeks to retool the 5,000-year-old practice of yoga to fit Christ's teachings. From Phoenix, Ariz., to Pittsburgh, Pa., from Grand Rapids, Mich., to New York City, hundreds of Christian yoga classes are in session. A national association of Christian yoga teachers was started in July, and a slew of books and videos are about to hit the market. But the very phrase stiffens yoga purists and some Christians--including a rather influential Catholic--who insist yoga cannot be separated from its Hindu roots.
Christianity has a long history of adopting to local practices, but for some reason this strikes me as a little too close to the edge. What about you?


Great News From Scotland

Scotland is one of my most favorite places on the planet -- maybe even more than Russia. I could wax eloquent for long periods about that wonderful land. It may be the place were our concept of freedom originated, and it is just easy on the eye, truly lovely. Thus I was happy to hear of good news from that land in a couple of stories.

The first story concerns concerns Scottish monks and a possible aid for dieters.
A herbal remedy developed by Scottish medieval monks could be turned into a new dieting pill.

The monks of Soutra Aisle, just south of Edinburgh, used the bitter vetch plant as a means of suppressing hunger....

...Dr Moffat said: "These tiny tubers are eaten two or three at a time. Chewed, they taste of leathery liquorice.

"Quite simply, according to all the reports we've compiled, around 300, people forget to eat and drink.
As long as each tiny tuber does not contain 2000 calories, sounds wonderful.

The Scots have a grand warrior history. Their ancestors held off the Roman Legion, and they have fought valiantly for the United Kingdom for centuries. Now some of them our participating in our military too. From the DoD via Blackfive
Turner, 29, originally from Glenrothes, Scotland, is a medic attached to the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment. He has been a pillar of dependability for the battalion since it began combat operations in eastern Afghanistan in mid-July.
Everytime I read about foreign born and foreign nationals serving in our military, I am reminded about how great our nation must be when others wish to serve it so. That feeling is doubled when they come from a nation like Scotland, from where they have little to gain by coming here.


Let Me Know When They Fit In A Holster

DARPA's HELLADS (High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System) will be light enough to fit on a fighter jet or drone aircraft, and yet powerful enough to fire a 150 kilowatt beam of energy. Star Wars laser cannon may be closer than you think.
Oh yeah, and make sure they have a "stun" setting as well.


Philosophical Conundrum

World's oldest person dies aged 115

If you're dead, can you be the world's oldest person?


It's Even Better To Be The King Than I Thought!

Topless virgins vie for Swaziland?s king


How Could They Tell?

Ostrich Gets Loose on Golden Gate Bridge

Given how "colorful" San Francisco can be, I'm sure it was not easy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Discussing A Great Quote

Jollyblogger is quoting Blogotional favorite G.K. Chesterton.
I am proud of being fettered by antiquated dogmas and enslaved by dead creeds (as my journalistic friends repeat with so much pertinacity), for I know very well that it is the heretical creeds that are dead, and that it is only the reasonable dogma that lives long enough to be called antiquated.. -- From Autobiography (1936) --
It is so typical of Chesterton to say so much with so few words.

Consider what that quote says about journalism -- sounds like something you'd read in a blog today, but he write it 70 years ago.

Consider what that quote says about the value of time -- there is a great value to time in terms of understanding what is and is not important, and what is or is not true. Time tests ideas, the consequences of those ideas are measured and evaluated and understood, and the ideas themselves can then be evaluated.

There are those that might disagree with me here. Challies posted yesterday about the philosophical school of pragmatism. Therein he said this
Pragmatism and Sola Scriptura must stand in opposition as each claims to be the key to determining truth. As Christians we need to decide if we are going to depend upon Scripture as the absolute standard of truth or if we will determine truth by consequences.
I cannot entirely agree with this formulation as Challies makes it. As Tim does opine, Pragmatism cannot be allowed to override scripture, nor can it be used as a substitute. However, is it not possible to use pragmatic concerns to distinguish between competing ideas developed within the context of scripture? Is that not the point that Chesterton is driving at in the quote?

Take for example the doctrine of penal substitution. This is hotly debated at the moment, and those who do not hold the doctrine have arguments that, while not entirely convincing, are based in scripture. The problem in this debate is not reliance on scripture, rather it is the presuppositions that people bring to scripture. So how settle the issue? While I consider the opposing arguments to be weak, they consider mine the same and debate simply rages.

But time, time will tell. One hundred years from now it will be fascinating to see which churches are still standing -- those that adhere to penal substitution, or those that do not. Is that not a valid test of the doctrine? Is that not pragmatic?

There is another qualification to the use of pragmatism in this fashion. Pragmatism as misused, as Challies correctly illustrates, is pragmatism considered in the very short term. We worship a God that is infinite and timeless -- a God whose perspective is equally timeless. God measures results in time frames that exceed our lifetime. What is pragmatic today, may be infinitely unpragmatic when viewed from the perspective of a hundred years hence.

I agree with the pragmatic Chesterton -- I like ideas that have stood the test of time. It will take a long time, more time than I have, before a new idea will gain the validity of an idea such as penal substitution -- about a thousand years at least.

Cross posted at Adrian Warnock's UK Evangelical Blog.


OH NO! Roberts Is In Serious Trouble

I was afraid of this -- the great Roberts document dump has turned up a weakness, a fatal flaw -- something so devestating, so utterly awful, as to disqualify him from consideration as a member of the Supreme Court bench.

What is that fatal flaw, you ask? He is smarter than us, and he is not afraid to show it.
A cheerfully ruthless copy editor over the years, Judge Roberts has demanded verbal rigor from his colleagues and subordinates, refusing to tolerate the slightest grammatical slip, and boasting an exceptional vocabulary and command of literature himself.

Nowhere are Judge Roberts's tendencies as a grammarian more evident than in his memorandums from the Reagan era, when, as a lawyer in the counsel's office, he frequently peppered notes and documents with minor syntax corrections even when the basic legal arguments were sound.
This article is amazing to me -- a lawyer is nothing if not a wordsmith. Words are, in fact, a lawyers product -- can there be law without words? The last thing I want is a lawyer with bad grammer, and unfortunately I have met a few.

Turns out he also supported his boss.
The meeting came as the National Archives released more documents from Roberts' time as a government lawyer in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. In one document, Roberts suggested that a conservative supporter of President Reagan "go soak his head" after he criticized the White House for avoiding a friend's fight with immigration officials.

In other documents, Roberts pushed the Reagan administration to get its conservative policies enacted so future presidents could not readily overturn them. And he showed displeasure with the federal judiciary, saying the Justice Department needs to get legal solutions "less dependent on the fiat of unelected jurists."
Boy is that a problem. What? Was Reagan gonna hire him because he disagreed and did not support his policies?

The left is going to have to work a lot harder than this.


It's No Substitute

The NYTimes is trying to pitch podcasting as a substitute for church.
Just as Christian organizations embraced radio and television, podcasting has quickly caught on with religious groups. Since the beginning of July, the number of people or groups offering spiritual and religious podcasts listed on Podcast Alley ( has grown to 474 from 177.
I was completely unaware that Christianity had "embraced" radio and television. In fact there are some that might argue that radio and television ministries are not even legitimate Christian ministry.

This I do know, scripture does not command us "listen to the podcast," but it does tell us to "not give up meeting together." But then, I doubt the NYTimes knows the difference between real religious conviction and the simple consideration of ideas either.


Today's Trip Pic

Meanwhile, back in St. Petersburg, let's spend a couple of days in the Hermitage. Most people do not undestand what the Hermitage really is. It is a five building formerly royal complex consisting of the Winter Palace, the Old Hermitage, the New Hermitage, the Small Hermitage, and the Theater. The palace and the theater should be self-explanitory. A hermitage, in this setting is a royal place of retreat. As a hermit dwells alone, so a hermitage is a building where royalty can escape the comstant push of humanity that their position thrusts upon them. Catherine the Great, who began the Russian Imperial art collection, used the hermitage's existing at the time to house the collection and added one of the buildings to the complex. Once the Romanovs were out and the Sovs were in, the state used the complex as a museum for the collection, along with some of the other collections belonging to the former nobility.

The impressionist collection is enormous. It belonged to some merchants at the time of the revolution and was split between the Hermitage and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. My wife, a huge impressionist fan, was appalled at the condition the collection was in and how it was cared for. The stuff in the Pushkin (I saw it in '91) is in better shape than this, but not wonderful. This is the third time I have seen impressionism in Russia and the Russians seem to ignore it altogether. Restoration is necessary for many, many paintings in the Hermitage, as well as better display techniques to preserve them, but the impressionists seem to be getting the shortest shrift of all.

This would be El Greco and perhaps the most famous painting in the museum. They have a lot of spanish art, heck, they have a lot of art period. Probabaly the most important thing to note here is that my wife took this picture with a flash. All the pictures you see here, we took. Try that at any other major museum in the world. Oh sure we had to pay an extra $5 for the privilege, but hey. So here is a question for serious discussion, what is more grossly commerical, marketing the image of a painting to put it on every imaginable gee-gaw in the gift store, ala the Chicago Art Institute, or charging people to take pictures so they can make their own gee gaws, or in this case blog posts? Furthermore, when do you think the decendents of these artists are gonna start suing for residuals? I would

Lastly, this is a DaVinci -- this just impressed me no end. This is the only original DaVinci I have ever seen, least 'til I get to the Louvre, and since the Mona Lisa is kind of synonomous with "painting" I figure this is just too cool. (How's that for sounding like an uneducated boorish American redneck in the "arty" museum?) What is impressive is the access one has to such a piece in the Hermitage -- it's just sitting there, no glass and completely approachable.

Tomorrow let's look at a few of the objects (as opposed to paintings in the Hermitage.


Katrina Is An Awful Disaster...

...perhaps the largest weather related disaster in decades. Flooding, homelessness, destruction of buildings, no that's not enough -- that does not even begin to scratch the surface of the problems that come in the wake of this catastrophe.

Turns out it's an environmental disaster as well. People, people, people you get flooding like this, you get problems of all sorts, is it really necessary to break them down into politcal categories? Let's just get busy solving them.

But there is more. Not content to solve the problem -- some must use it to make entirely specious political points. Turns out the hurricane only exists because Bush failed to sign Kyoto and the fact that the National Guard is deployed to Iraq is making matters so much worse. The Kyoto thing is beneath response, but I was completely unaware that the primary mission of the National Guard was disaster relief. Somewhere I got the idea that it was to guard the nation! Silly, silly me.

And while we're considering ill-considered response to Katrina, this Scrappleface piece cracked me up.

Katrina Belts New Orleans: Journalists Hardest Hit

As I watched reporters standing and playing in the winds yesterday morning, I really could not help but think they were enjoying themselves.


Interesting Questions

Thanks to Allthings2all for linking to this interesting set of questions. It's actually a pretty serious examination of how to improve your life, but a few can be just plain fun, so I'm going to tackle some select question with a bit of flippancy.

11. What's the most important decision you need to make this year? - to get up.

24. What's the most important trip you want to take this year? - If you're a regular reader, I bet you can guess, if you're not a regular reader -- here's a hint.

25. What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year? - Blogging!


From the Edge of Taste...

Sometimes a tasteless problem has awful consequences in realms that transcend just taste. This is also, by the way, is an example of a real and genuine environmental problem.


Why Is It...

...most snake oil salesmen used to be pastors.
The state board has accused its maker, Dan Raber, a pastor-turned-healer, of practicing medicine without a license.
It may the the single greatest mystery of God I have -- why He lets so many call His name so wrongly. I really hate it when stuff like this happens.


Biting The Hand That Feeds You

A 10-year-old Iranian boy has launched a landmark legal case against the Australian government.

Shayan Badraie claims his time in refugee detention camps caused catastrophic mental health problems.
If things were that bad, maybe he should have stayed in Iran.

I'm not saying the detention camps were perfect, or that the boy has not suffered, but did not Australia take them in -- feed them and give them a place to live? Does this not strike anyone else as just a tad bit ungrateful? After all, the Australians would have been well within their rights to leave the refugee boat floating around, or to deport the family.


Was This A Part Of The Disaster Plan?

Jellyfish Cause Reactor Shutdown in Sweden

Won't be long and a giant jellyfish will eat Stockholm. Quick, call the SciFi channel.


Not Possible!

A computer simulation of the Earth's climate 250 million years ago suggests that global warming triggered the so-called "great dying".

A dramatic rise in carbon dioxide caused temperatures to soar to 10 to 30 degrees Celsius higher than today, say US researchers.

The warming had a profound impact on the oceans, cutting off oxygen to the lower depths and extinguishing most lifeforms, they write in the latest issue of Geology.
Global Warming? 250 million years ago? But there was no power generation, no greenhouse gasses. Heck, there was no mankind. This could not have happened, just couldn't have.

Yeah, uh-huh.


No Kidding

Starving won't make people live longer


What Do You Mean "Looks Like"?

Vet: Dead Rabbit Looks Like a Jackalope

Certainly it IS a jackalope -- how dare they refer to the beast in the story as "mythical?"

Monday, August 29, 2005


Continue To Pray For My Family Please

This tells you why.

And this shows you what thinkgs are like at "post" time



Hugh Hewitt addresses some media issues I have been wanting to hear him discuss. His discussion is based on a recent article in the LAT and his recent profile in New Yorker. As I said last week, I am not sure the LAT if really worth the effort unless they find a new way to be stupid, but then I think the article Hugh addresses qualifies.

What I was happiest about was that in the middle of Hugh's lengthy post he adresses an issue I have been genuinely anxious to hear from him on -- the recent reported decline in talk radio ratings.
Of our 45 minutes, Rutten and I spent at least 30 on the failings and decline of his newspaper, which are far more pronounced and urgent than the alleged mild drop in ratings for political talk shows overall between August 2004 and August 2005. (The one thing Tim might have described more completely in the interest of full reporting on the actual subject of his column is my assertion that the talk radio "cycle" is four years long, and that the audience for center-right talk in August, 2005 is much bigger than it was in August 2001. Political talk is the middle of a long and, I believe, sustainable growth period as hosts who practice the craft as Bennett, Prager, Medved and I do --and as Rush, Sean, and Laura Ingraham do-- attract the audience that wants reliable, up-to-the-minute information delivered with timing and wit, not screaming rants.)
I have no data upon which to make any assessment of the four year cycle claim, but I have felt that the "long and sustainable growth" period was real, figuring the drop was due extraneous causes. I honestly think it's Hugh's "not screaming rants" note explains most, the format is still finding itself, there are bound to be some failures in such a period.

To me, the bigger question is what future blogging? With it's low cost on entry, for every really good blog there are hundreds or even thousands of not good blogs. Will the not good crowd out the good, or simply camoflague them. Hugh thinks not
I don't have, as Tim puts it, "messianic confidence that new media - mainly talk radio and the Internet - inevitably will undermine and destroy the economic health of mainstream media - especially newspapers."

I do have confidence in free markets. Which is why the Times' circulation is at 900,000, down more than 50,000 subscribers in one year. Indeed, the Times has been stagnant or moving backwards for a decade, even though the population growth in the region has been enormous.
I understand his point, but consumers, with the advent of the strength of martketing we see these days, have become remarkably lazy. It's not easy to find the good blogs from scratch -- will they put in the effort? Will the blogosphere find some sort of self-stratification system? (linking patterns do that, but how to decide where to put your first finger in?) The future will be fun, that I know for sure.


Out Of Ammo?

The battle has not yet been joined, and appears the Dems may be out of ammo in the effort to fight the Roberts appointment to SCOTUS. On Saturday, OpinionJournal pointed out that the latest line of attack is to attack Roberts lack of support for the legal doctrine of "comparable worth" - a doctrine struck down by the court 20 years ago. You remember comparable worth -- the idea that a woman librarian was "worth" the same pay as a male plumber?

So the best they have is that Roberts agreed with the court! Hmmm...


What Happens When Stupid Liberal Ideas Blend With Stupid Conservative Ideas?


Stupid conservative idea? That God would punish the nation becasue of it's current state of legal affaris vis-a-vis homosexuals.

Stupid liberal idea? That soldiers death in Iraq are somehow misguided.

Members of a church say God is punishing American soldiers for defending a country that harbors gays, and they brought their anti-gay message to the funerals Saturday of two Tennessee soldiers killed in Iraq.
Bad, bad idea.


Today's Trip Pic

Let's leave St. Petersburg behind, just for today, and continue with our next port of call - Helsinki. This was a memorable port, but not for the usual reasons. Do you remember this story?
A helicopter carrying 14 people, including two Americans, crashed in the Baltic Sea off the Estonian coast Wednesday, and all aboard were believed killed.

The U.S.-made Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, operated by Finnish firm Copterline, was on a commercial flight from the Estonian capital, Tallinn, to Helsinki, Finland, when it went down in strong winds shortly after takeoff near the island of Naissaar, about three miles off the coast, officials said.
Well, we sailed to Helsinki in those self-same winds, and during the day that we were there, they abated only from about 70 mph to around 40, it was rainy and not a tad bit chilly.

When you add to that the fact that Helsinki is a lovely city, but with only fairly recent history, it was reminiscent of visitng someplace like Columbus, OH in rotten weather. Not that Columbus, or Helsinki, are not nice places to visit, but gale force winds and St. Petersburg hangover make it pretty unremarkable.

This is the Luteran Church on the hilltop at the center of town -- beautiful and along with the library next door about the only really memorable thing in town. There is also the "Church In The Rock," a modern architectural achievement, carved out of a very large piece of solid granite where we were treated to a brief piano concert and we heard "Finalandia" -- AGAIN!

I am afraid I am sounding too negative about Helsinki, under other circumstances I am sure it is lovely, but as it was I hurried back to the ship for a nap.


Note To A Friend

I have a friend who staunchly insists that Isreal has to "account" for its actions towards the Palestinians. In withdrawing from Gaza, Israel has done something with which he agrees, for the first time in a long time. So how do the Palestinians thank Israel for this move? (HT: Captains's Quarters)
Twenty-one people were wounded Sunday, two seriously, in a suicide bombing at a central bus station in the southern Israeli town of Beersheba, Israeli officials said.
Now, is it clear? the Palestinians do not want land -- they want the destruction of Israel, nothing less will do in their minds. And apparently many of them would rather die than see it's continued existence.

So as you ponder the issue, remember this -- at least one side in this conflict is playing an all or nothing game. The last time the world found itself in such a setting it was us and the Japanese and we ended it by convincing them we really could utterly destroy them. Can you think of another solution with these circumstances?


There Are Capabilities and Then There Are Capabilities

Check out this sales video displaying the rather incredible flight envelope of the Russian built Su-35. This is some of the best the Russians have to offer. I have seen some of our last generation fighters (F-15 and F-16) display similar capabilities when fitted with forward canards, but I have no idea about the newest F-22. What I have heard aout the F-22 is that 1) it can "supercruise" - meaning break the sound barrier - without afterburner and 2) It does not need to turn tighter than the other guy (even if it can, which I don't know) because it'll kill you before you see it.

Anyway, It's just a really cool video to watch.


Recommened Reading From Iraq

Thanks to Dadmanly for linking to this great description of a soldier's life deployed in Iraq. Here's a taste
They come from everywhere and nowhere, little towns, our largest cities, and countries near and far. They joined for many reasons, money, adventure, education, and patriotism. But ponder this; On September 11th, 2005 it will have been four years since 9/11, most military enlistments are 4 years in length for the initial term. That means that the men and women in uniform today (a majority of them) are here because they want to be. They are here to fight and to win, the bear this out, while the Army is having a small problem with initial recruits, it is having no problems whatsoever in retaining its combat veterans. Ponder fact number 2: The U.S. military now has the largest pool of combat veterans in the world today. Since 9/11 we have cycled nearly one million total soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines through Iraq, Afghanistan, and the other fronts in the War on Terrorism. These combat veterans by and large are electing to stay and continue the fight. That speaks of the American character and the uniqueness of the American experience.
Great stuff -- read now.



Stranger and stranger is the world of environmental regulation. As if the regulation of cattle flatulence is not silly enough, it seems now we have to control the effluent of ethanol fumes from wine-making.
The San Joaquin Valley's 109 wineries emit 788 tons a year of smog-forming gases, air pollution officials estimate. The vintners ? which include E.&J. Gallo, Ironstone and Bronco ? are some of the world's biggest winemakers, producing more than 300 million gallons of wine annually. The largest valley wineries mass-produce a wide array of red, white and blush wines, but their biggest volume is in inexpensive table wines sold in bulk sizes.

The district is scheduled to approve the proposed regulations before the end of the year. As it stands, the rules would require mass producers of wine to install on their fermentation tanks the pollution controls that are typically used in oil refineries and steel mills.
This is the oldest chemistry known to mankind, it has only taken us some four to five thousand years to figure out it is pollution causing?

Remaining in the somewhat strange category, the latest mantra seems to be destroying dams because they change the environment too much, but what happens when we tear them down -- why toxic pollution, of course.
As state and federal officials toasted the final agreement that allows the removal of the Milltown Dam near Missoula early this month, people in this blue-collar settlement despaired. The agreement means that toxic waste behind the dam is coming their way, headed by the truckload to a 3,000-acre mine dump next to Opportunity, where on windy days clouds of dust darken the sky.
Global warming remains pure mystery,and a grand opportunity for mischief. Greenpeace is suing the US government for failing to sign Kyoto and some states have decided to take matters into their own hands, which from a technical standpoint is like spitting in the wind. Apparently global warming causes the Great Lakes to thaw "early" in the spring but is not responsible for th meltback in glaciers. And if CO2 does not boost forest growth -- can it really have effect on planetary temperature we think it might? Hmmmm.....

And all this debate and political posturing is going on while there are genuine environmental problems arising and being quietly taken care of.

My conclusion? Some people just really like telling other people what to do and environmental "issues" give them a means to do that. Sometimes I'd like to tell them where to go.


What's Worse Than An Activist Court?

An activist Attorney General, that's what.
Potato chips and french fries could soon come with a warning label in California if the state's top attorney prevails in a lawsuit filed Friday against nine fast food chains and snack-food makers.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer asked for a court order requiring McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Frito Lay and other companies to warn consumers that their fries and chips may contain acrylamide, a chemical the state says causes cancer.
Pure and simple, this is Lockyer trying to make law. It is not, I repeat not the AG's job to make law, it's his job to enforce law. Actually, this is Lockyer trying to position himself as the Anti-Schwarzenegger and run for governor.

Speaking of which, how's Arnold doing politically, really?

Stalemate and infighting between the executive and legislative branch is common in American politics, but this is within the executive and it is ugly, and it makes it quite clear why this state is so screwed up. You would have thought that Lockyer, whom Arnold thoroughly trounced in the recall, would have figured his best bet was to cooperate, turn the state around and then run from a position of strength, but no, contrarian he has to be....


I'm Sorry, But This Is Just Funny

According to the NYTImes the super rich up in the Bay area live in a neighborhood that has a few mountain lions. They won't go out, afraid of the lions, and killing the cats is against California law.

That is just delicious! It's a battle to to see who can be the wimpiest. On the one hand we have people afraid of their own shadow and unwilling to venture outdoors on the 1 in a billion chance a big cat will attack. On the other hand we have the "save the animals" crowd so worried about wiping out what is obviously a very robust animal -- I mean after all the cat has adapted well enough to wander into these people's yards. These people absolutely deserve each other.

This really cracks me up
Mr. Lane said he would do the deed himself if it were not against the law. Except in emergencies, the California Department of Fish and Game must approve the killing of mountain lions, which were given special protection by voters in 1990.
Mr. Lane -- it's a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of $10,000 and a year in jail -- that's maximum penalty. Anybody that can afford to live in this neighborhood can afford the ten grand, and do you really think a judge is going to throw you in jail for killing a predator in your yard when you have small children -- get a life, if you see the cat - shoot it.

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