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February 28, 2005

My Initial Take on Million Dollar Baby

I just saw Million Dollar Baby, one night after it won an Academy Award. I thought that perhaps I should digest the movie and talk about it later, but I do not believe that is possible. Too much has already been about the film, but I shall add my piece nonetheless. To begin, let me say that this is a masterfully crafted movie, well-made in every aspect. I was unable to see any of the other films nominated for Best Picture, but this was a fine film.

Yet art does not let us go so easily; we are forced to ponder questions and perhaps develop a few of our own. This is a troubling movie on many levels. It is existentionalist at its best; purely nihilistic at its worst. God is indeed dead in this film. I do not know whether Nietzsche would be proud of the film, but surely he would concede its implications. It is no coincidence that Clint Eastwood's character reads Yeats throughout the film. Yeats admired Nietzsche and again, I cannot say that Yeats would agree with every decision made in the film. Surely, however, Yeats would admire the sheer will of Frankie and Maggie. They both exemplify Der Ubermensch as Nietzsche saw him. Hemingway would be proud, and perhaps D.H. Lawrence, as his notion of the will to power ran rampant thoughout the film.

As a Christian it was most difficult to view this movie. Of course it is well made in all areas, but it is a film about a world where God is silent, if He even exists at all. The characters in this film are hopeless, striving only to achieve satisfaction in self. One watches the film and wants desperately at times to tell Frankie and Maggie and Scrap that there is hope.

I shall write more on this later. This is a deep, deep film and no amount of knee-jerk reaction should distract us from the philosophical implications that lie within. Thus far, Mike Potemra and Thomas Hibbs, both writing at National Review, have the best analysis. They do not fall into the trap of arguing politics or excusing sin and despair. They do a fine job of examining the film; its merits and its flaws. I have yet to read much else from conservatives or Christians that offered such a critical analysis. Potemra is right; this not a movie about what sin has done to humanity. See Kill Bill for a gruesome lesson on that topic. No, this movie comes to the tragic conclusion that our fleeting moments of glory are all we have. Once they are gone, so are we.

How sad and terrible! I'll talk more about this film later. Despite its controversy, there is much here to discuss. We should not abandon the public square, least of all not in these times. Even when it makes us uncomfortable and challenges us, as this movie does, to passionately defend Truth in all spheres.

Posted by Matt at 10:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Love Divine: The Atlanta Sacred Chorale Sings at Emory

This weekend we attended a concert of the Atlanta Sacred Chorale, with The Michael O’Neal Singers and the Atlanta Boy Choir. It was an evening of great, uplifting music in the beautiful new Schwartz Center at well-endowed Emory University. It was a joy to listen to sacred music in the liberal university setting. Classical music is one area where the expulsion of God would pretty much shut down the discipline, since so many composers are dead white male Christians.

The Atlanta Sacred Chorale (a client of my PR firm) is arguably the finest chamber chorus in the nation dedicated to a sacred repertoire. They sing almost everything a cappella, with amazing precision and beauty.

The evening ended with the combined choirs singing the great hymn by Charles Wesley, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788. Music: John Zundel, 1815-1882):

Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down; fix in us thy humble dwelling; all thy faithful mercies crown! Jesus thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art; visit us with thy salvation; enter every trembling heart.
Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit into every troubled breast! Let us all in thee inherit; let us find that second rest. Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be; end of faith, as its beginning, set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

What a sound. What a song.

Posted by Jim at 01:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

State Constitutions: Grateful to God

All fifty state constitutions include a reference to God, most in the preamble. A sampling:

California 1879, Preamble. We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom ...

Iowa 1857, Preamble. We, the People of the State of Iowa, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings ... establish this Constitution ...

Massachusetts 1780, Preamble. We...the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe... in the course of His Providence, an opportunity ... and devoutly imploring His direction ...

North Carolina 1868, Preamble. We the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for ... our civil, political, and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those ...

The rest are here.

Posted by Jim at 01:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Behind the Information Curve

Drudge links to a Time Magazine story that is revealing of how much the world has to learn of democracy, freedom of speech, and, just how far behind the curve we are regarding global information dissemination.

Vladmir Putin of Russia truly thinks that the US Government was responsible for the firings at CBS over Rathergate.

According to an MSNBC report of the episode:

It's not clear how well Putin understands the controversy that led to the dismissal of four CBS journalists over the discredited report on Bush's National Guard service. Yet it's all too clear how Putin sees the relationship between Bush and the American media—just like his own. Bush's aides have long feared that former KGB officers in Putin's inner circle are painting a twisted picture of U.S. policy. So Bush explained how he had no power to fire American journalists.
Last week was not the first time Bush had to answer a question out of left-field from the Russian President. Once, while at Crawford TX, Putin reportedly asked Bush if the US had two different chicken plants; one superior for Americans and another inferior for Russian consumers. The Rathergate question "reinforced the Administration's view that Putin's impressions of America are often based on urban myths fed to him by ill-informed aides."

I don't think that Putin is a fever swamp moonbat like Democrat Congressman Maurice Hinchey; he's just grossly misinformed - and that is OUR fault.

U.S. aides say that to help fight against this kind of misinformation, they are struggling to build relationships that go beyond Putin. "We need to go deeper into the well into other levels of government," explains an aide.
That would be a start; but, I sure hope our government is exploring ways in which the blogosphere can be used to influence public opinion and convey information globally. Russia is only one front of the information war. Iran is another. Europe and China are others that are ripe for information priming.

Posted by Rick at 09:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Public High Schools Obsolete?

Bill Gates has declared US High Schools obsolete.

[Gates] called for a get-tough approach toward schools that fail.

"When the students don't learn, the school must change," Gates said. "Every state needs a strong intervention strategy to improve struggling schools."

"This needs to include special teams of experts who are given the power and resources to turn things around," he said.

It seems to me that the education of our children is impeded by failed institutions.

First, the family institution has failed. Parents have abdicated the responisibility of being the primary educators of their children. Second, the public education system has been hijacked by teachers unions.

I am told that in the "good old days," parents would have the presence of mind to register complaints with a local principal about an underperforming teacher and that principal was empowered by the School Board to take the necessary corrective action. Now, it seems that fewer parents are involved enough to complain, but when they do, underperforming teachers are protected by unions and given a pass.

One of my first blog posts was on this subject. In that post, I referenced an article that reported that 53 percent of workers ages 16 and older are functionally illiterate, and asked: Who Do They Sue? Students, who can't read, are passed through the school system and graduated, only to realize that they don't have the basic skills to thrive. My solutions?

Teaching needs to become a profession, not an occupation. Teachers should be required to earn an equivalent of a master's degree to before they lead a class. They should also spend two or perhaps three years completing a residency (low-pay).

As a reward for their hard work, teachers should also be paid VERY well. I'm talking $75K (California dollars) to start, with $100K+ after a five years. This should be a priority in State funding and should be implemented without the crying to the feds.

For this to work, teachers must be accountable to local school boards, which should be empowered to fire or discipline non-performing teachers. What we have now is a charade. The teacher's unions are so powerful they easily stock local boards with "puppets" through grassroots campaign support.

Part of accountability is testing. I can hear it now (especially from my sister who is finishing up her undergrad work at University of Washington and is passionate about education issues), standardized tests don't measure intelligence and can be inherently biased.

While I agree with these criticisms, standardized testing at the high school level can be an effective measure of competence. We're not talking complex alegbra or writing composition here. The study referenced above is measuring basic reading ability.

Any system that allows social promotion or does not hold students back who can't pass a VERY simple test, is a failed system that needs systemic change. Transforming teaching into a profession is one way to effect this change.

Unfortunately, this solution would only impact one institution. It would sure be nice if families met the teachers half way and cared more for their kids' education.

Posted by Rick at 09:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cry, the Beloved Country: Life Expectancy Plummeting in Africa

This from the 2005 Economic Report of the President

"As a result of its lethality and the relative youth of its victims, HIV/AIDs has reduced life expectancy by more than 20 years in many African countries. Life expectancy in some countries is projected to fall to roughly 30 years within the next decade, whereas in the absence of HIV/AIDS some were expected to approach or exceed 70 years. (h/t: Ben Muse and Trolling in Shallow Waters).

I am shocked by this graph.


I always turn to World Vision when confronted by the enormity of an international humanitarian crisis. They have something called The Hope Initiative.

The Hope Initiative is an unprecedented campaign to address the needs of children, families and communities that have been devastated by the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. There is an urgent need to mobilize the Christian community and the general public around the global HIV/AIDS crisis.

Posted by Jim at 08:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Free Speech for Churches and Charities: Pass the Houses of Worship Freedom of Speech Restoration Act

Churches and non-profit charities lost their right to free speech 51 years ago when Lyndon Johnson, then a Senator, introduced and forced through a terrible piece of legislation to silence his critics.

As a result, churches and charities have forfeited their right to free speech as the price for exemption from certain taxes under the IRS code, section 501-C-3. If a church or charity violates regulations that prohibit them from “substantial” lobbying or the endorsement of political candidates, the IRS can revoke the group’s 501-C-3 status, and individuals who donate funds to the group cannot deduct these contributions.

It’s time to stop this nonsense and allow church and charities their First Amendment rights. Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ wrote last fall:

The special power given to the IRS not only stifles the First Amendment rights of pastors and churches, but the IRS has been selective and biased in its enforcement.

The law is flawed, misplaced and a disaster.

Sekulow continues:

The IRS often ignores political involvement from liberals and targets conservative churches and ministers such as the Church at Pierce Creek in New York, which had its tax-exempt status revoked after the pastor placed newspaper ads in 1992 calling attention to then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton's position on the critical moral issues of abortion and sexual abstinence outside of marriage.

Religious leaders not only have a constitutional right to address the moral issues of the day; many believe they have a responsibility to do so - especially in the context of political campaigns. And pastors should have the ability to speak out from the pulpit - and support or oppose a political candidate based on where the candidate stands on the issues. Unfortunately, that is not permissible now.

This article from the trade publication for CPA is extremely helpful in defining the limits. It begins:

In 1954, at the height of the McCarthy era, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson sought a legislative route to silence some of his anticommunist critics. Encouraged by Johnson, the U.S. Senate passed a major tax code revision by a voice vote. Although Johnson’s revision was targeted specifically at nonprofit groups that were contesting his seat, churches—which also are nonprofit organizations—fell under the new tax code provisions.

Although the ban excluded churches and other IRC section 501(c)(3) organizations from active participation in the political process, years passed without major incident. Then, in 1992, the religious organization Branch Ministries, Inc. (BMI), purchased a newspaper advertisement urging Christians to vote against presidential candidate Bill Clinton, and the IRS initiated an investigation. In January 1995, the IRS revoked BMI’s status as a section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. By contrast, in the 1994 New York gubernatorial campaign, the IRS chose not to initiate an investigation when Governor Cuomo received vocal support from the pulpit of a Harlem church.

The liberals should want the law changed, as well, since the political axe can swing both ways. As LaShawn Barber writes, the NAACP has been whining about being targeted by the IRS for its political violations.

The social club liberals at the NAACP thought they were above the law. Well, there is no such thing as skin color entitlements when it comes to the IRS and its rules against political activity.

But as the Washington Post pointed out:

The Internal Revenue Service followed “established procedures” in deciding which tax-exempt entities to investigate for possible improper involvement in last year’s political campaign, and there is no evidence that the agency’s decisions were politically motivated, according to an inspector general’s report released yesterday.

The IRS attracted headlines last fall when the NAACP announced that the agency was threatening to revoke its tax-exempt status because its chairman, Julian Bond, had given a speech attacking the Bush administration.

In the early days of the 2004 presidential campaign, the Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act was proposed as a means to reverse a portion of the 1954 legislation and to return First Amendment speech protection to America’s churches, synagogues, and mosques. That bill (HR2357) failed to pass the House in October 2002.

In October 2004, a Republican congressman joined African-American clergy and other members of Congress to re-introduce the legislation.

North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones enlisted Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) to drum up support for Jones' bill, the Houses of Worship Freedom of Speech Restoration Act (HR 235).

"There is a muzzle upon the clergy. As ministers, we are obligated to speak about the moral and political issues of the day, and taking away that right is harassment. It is wrong, and it is extortion," said Clergy United leader Bishop Anthony Muse, who called on the Congressional Black Caucus to back Jones' bill and to push for its passage. (Source)

The House bill introduced by Congressman Jones, HR 235, was referred to the Ways and Means Committee, where it remains.

It’s time to return freedom of speech to America's churches and charities by passing the language in HR 235.

Posted by Jim at 07:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 27, 2005

Shamus to India

A buddy of mine, Shamus, took off for India the other day. Shamus is my age and we're about the same age in the Lord (~6 years). We met at a College Bible study at Horizon Christian Fellowship almost 5 years ago and both went through Horizon's School of Evangelism (different classes).

We were also roommates while Sunny and I dated. He would set his alarm for 5:00am and hit snooze until 6:00am and I felt like throwing a shoe at him it made me so mad! Another fond memory of Shamus; he gave me reason to kiss for the first time my future wife. Being the romantic and all, I grabbed Sunny close and said, "Quick! Kiss me! Shamus is coming!" Sunny gets a kick out of this story and God willing it will make us smile for another 50+ years.

With the heart and gifts of an evangelist, Shamus continued in the School of Evangelism as a student and leader. Shamus will spend six months preaching in the streets and serving the people of India.. I think I've convinced him to start a blog while he is gone, but am not sure. Please pray for my friend Shamus, that God would work mightily through him.


Posted by Rick at 11:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Come Again Howard Dean?

The more I think about Howard Dean's statements, the more outraged I become. Dean and his brand of pro-choice Democrats think they are agents for good in a battle against evil. Really?

Evil can have a clear face. (WARNING: Links are graphic and highly disturbing).

Evil looks like this and this. Evil also looks like this, this, this, this, this, and this.

Some of those linked images and video depict the heads of decapitated babies, while others show the heads of decapitated hostages. Both were done by the hands of man.

When Dr. Dean spoke of a war between good and evil, he was clearly alluding to Bush's rhetoric in describing the global war on terrorism (GWOT). What is more evil Dr. Dean? Pastors who preach life? Or Islamofascist terrorists?

I am so angry and disgusted, I want to puke.

Posted by Rick at 09:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dean and the Domestic Axis of Evil

Howard Dean recently characterized the Democrats' domestic political agenda as a battle between "good and evil." (HT: Hugh via Polipundit and Kathryn Jean Lopez). Oh. In case there was any doubt where Dean was going with this, he added that the Democrats are the "good."

On abortion, Dean said:

"The issue is not abortion," Dean told the closed-door fund-raiser. "The issue is whether women can make up their own mind instead of some right-wing pastor, some right-wing politician telling them what to do."
"Moderate Republicans can't stand these people (conservatives), because they're intolerant. They don't think tolerance is a virtue," Dean said, adding: "I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant."
Okay all you "right wing" pastors who encourage your flocks to stand for life - the Democrats have you in their cross-hairs. You are now a member of their domestic Axis of Evil.

As many of my readers know, I am not the archetype conservative. I'm fairly "liberal" when it comes to many Democratic bread and butter socio-economic policy issues. But in the case of pastors who support life, the leader of the Democratic Party has called evil what is obviously good. Thanks Howard Dean and the Democrats who elected him for making my political party preference clear.

Posted by Rick at 08:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

All but Won?

This article by Jack Kelly all but made my morning (HT: Hugh Hewitt).

It will be some months before the news media recognize it, and a few months more before they acknowledge it, but the war in Iraq is all but won.
Great, quick read and I hope to read more accounts like this in the months to come.

Posted by Rick at 03:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Million Dollar Controversy

I mentioned the other day that I was wanting to see Million Dollar Baby sometime before the Oscars. I haven't had the chance yet, but I might try this afternoon. On its face, it looks like a well-made movie. Beyond that, of course, is the controversy surrounding its ending.

Do not read any further if you don't want to know the movie's ending.

Thanks to Rush Limbaugh, I've already had the movie's ending ruined for me. Rush and Michael Medved both seem to take the opinion that the script's utilization of a very controversial and (in my mind) immoral medical procedure is a de-facto endorsement of such an act.

Contrast that with Jeffrey Overstreet's review in Christianity Today. Though I've yet to see the movie, I find Overstreet's review to be very fair. Perhaps too much so. For a different opinion, examine this brief analysis from Mike Potemra at The Corner. I can appreciate both reviews, and their final conclusions, because both of these men are critics. They are - unlike Limbaugh - men who spend much of the their time examining art for its flaws and its praise-worthy attributes.

I was also bothered by Al Mohler's "review" of the film. Mohler's piece isn't so much of a review as it is an analysis of the controversy. I certainly don't endorse the actions taken by the film's characters at the end of the movie. Maybe Clint Eastwood does, but simply showing an action in a movie is not in itself endorsement or propaganda. Mohler's article, however, takes the movie as an opportunity to rail against the procedure. This is reasonable and I agree with his premise concerning the procedure. Yet Mohler takes a highly uncritical and almost shallow view of art. Shall we denouce every work of art that utilizes actions and procedures that by any stanrdard of Judeo-Christian morality are wrong? Based on Overstreet and Potemra's reviews, I fully expect to appreciate the artistry of the movie and yet be disturbed by its moral conclusions. However, I reject any notion that this is an example of Hollywood tossing an agenda down our collective throats or that Eastwood is attempting to emerge as an advocate for the procedure that the movie protrays. He may yet do so, and should he do that, I shall be sorely disappointed. But until then (and until I've seen them film), I find it unfair to treat this an example of all that is wrong with Hollywood.

I hope to have more on this point after viewing the movie. Right now I'm simply trying to wade through the loud noise being blasted from every angle.

Note: For about twenty minutes there was a line in the above paragraphs that in retrospect was unnecessary. I have since edited the post.

Posted by Matt at 12:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 25, 2005


Has it been five months already? Martha is scheduled to be freed from prison next weekend.

Martha Stewart will also be wearing the must-have accessory for the convicted felon on the go: an electronic anklet that will allow authorities to monitor her movements.

After five months in prison in West Virginia, Stewart will be released next weekend to her 153-acre estate in the rolling horse country 40 miles north of midtown Manhattan. There, for another five months, she will serve the home detention portion of her sentence for a stock scandal.
Yikes! That's roughin' it!

My wife is a huge Martha fan; she's also a WalMart fan. I'm neither a Martha fan, nor a frequenter of WalMart - but I am forced to consume products of both vendors (choke choke hack hack). WalMartha gives me the heeber jeebers. They prey on the weak in the name of capitalism; and do it with a smile and feel good slogans. No, Martha. In reference to WalMart - it's NOT a good thing.

Posted by Rick at 09:20 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Vigilantes Dealing Justice?

Knight Ridder news service reports that revenge killings of members of Saddam's former regime are on the rise.

Although pretty grotesque, this latest story of revenge against Saddam enablers is pretty tame considering what I expected. I figured that the Bathist loyalists would fight American, Shiite, and Kurds with everything they had because they had nothing to lose. With Saddam dethroned and humiliated, I envisioned streets running with blood from impaled and hanged corpses of Bathist henchmen as millions of Iraqis rose up against their former oppressors.

Former regime enablers at the higher levels of government should be rounded up and tried - Nuremberg style; not hunted, intimidated, and executed - SS style.

"They can do whatever they like now. Let's hope God grants us all restraint," said former Baathist, Abu Muqdad.


Posted by Rick at 08:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Grace Church Blog

Another Pastor who gets it: Tim Theule of Grace Church in San Luis Obispo. He started blogging after reading Hugh Hewitt's book, Blog.

Although he's just started, check out how he is using his blog to communicate to his flock.

DISCLOSURE: I grew up in nearby Santa Maria and my parents live in San Luis Obispo. It's good to read of a God Blog from SLO.

Posted by Rick at 08:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

GodBlogCon 2005

Keep the SmartChristian Blog URL on speed refresh as an announcement regarding the location of GodBlogCon 2005 is imminent. The convention will be in California, so I'll do my best to represent SCO. Anyone else planning a trip?

Oh - and Smart Christian and Blog is a good resource as well.

Posted by Rick at 04:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Tammy Faye with a law degree"

Peggy Noonan says this is how you know Hillary is running for Presient.

Ten days ago a reporter interviewed her in the halls of the Senate . . . and asked if she planned to run for president. She did not say, "I'm too busy serving the people of New York to think about the future." She did not say, "Oh, I already have a heckuva lot on my plate." She said, "I have more than I can say grace over right now."

I have more than I can say grace over right now. What a wonderfully premeditated ad lib for the Age of Red State Dominance. I suggested a few weeks ago that Mrs. Clinton was about to get very, very religious. But her words came across as pious and smarmy, like Tammy Faye with a law degree. Maybe she still thinks in stereotypes; maybe she thinks that's what little Christian ladies talk like while they stay home baking cookies. Whatever, it was almost as good as her saying, "I'm running, is this not obvious to even the slowest of you?"

Posted by Drew at 01:18 PM | Comments (3)

The New Peculiar Institution

Joe Carter considers The New Peculiar Institution: Abortion, Embryos, and Property Rights:

"Prior to abolition, slavery in the U.S. was often referred to as the “peculiar institution.” The phrase was used not because chattel slavery was considered unusual but because the English word peculiar is derived from the Latin peculiaris – personal property. While the concept of human beings as personal property may seem anachronistic, abortion supporters are left with few alternatives but to accept the semantic shift in order to continue to justify denying the dignity of the unborn."

Posted by Jim at 09:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Israel Drawing A Line

The Big Trunk at Powerline wonders why Israel has not produced a great statesman, explains why he doesn’t see Sharon as one, and disagrees some with Charles Krauthammer’s column. I understand the concerns but agree with Krauthammers larger arguments (as usual).

He writes:

“Last Sunday Israel crossed two Rubicons. The Cabinet decided once and for all to withdraw from Gaza and dismantle 25 settlements -- 21 in Gaza and four in the upper West Bank. Yet, had Israel done only this, it would be seen, correctly, as a victory for terrorism, a unilateral retreat and surrender to the four-year intifada. That is why the second Israeli decision was so important. The Cabinet also voted to finish the security fence on the West Bank, which will separate Israeli and Palestinian populations and create the initial border between Israel and a nascent Palestine. The fence decision makes clear that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is only part of a larger strategy, the first serious strategic idea Israel has had since its period of utter confusion and demoralization at the beginning of the 2000 intifada. The idea is this: Israel must (unilaterally, if necessary) rationalize its defensive lines -- in order to (1) protect its citizens, (2) permanently defuse the Palestinian terrorist threat and thus (3) open the door to a final peace.”

Posted by Jim at 09:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Blog Radio on Social Security

The fifth Homespun Bloggers Radio program is a special edition on the topic of Social Security. Here's the list of contributors:

· Jay has a couple of segments. One (representing his blog The Radical Centrist) notes that to have a reasonable and honest discussion about Social Security, we have to understand the program as it really is and how it was intended to be. Representing his other blog (The Bird's Eye View), he gives us a bird's eye view of the Homespun Bloggers group and reports on how some of us are covering this topic.

· Derek (Weapon of Mass Distraction) asks how people lived before Social Security existed, and wonders if we dare consider how senior citizens managed before the New Deal?

· Doug (Considerettes) gives the history of the politicization of this issue among Democrats who now say there is no crisis.

To listen, go here.

Posted by Jim at 08:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Yes, it’s true--Blue Goldfish rolls his eyes—there actually is a Al Gore 2008 website. That’s not going to happen.

Posted by Jim at 08:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Genocide in Darfur

The continuing genocide in Darfur is not generating outrage among the American public, which as Blue Goldfish points out, may be why Washington has been tepid in its response. This is the worst man-made catastrophe in the world right now. It isn’t necessarily an American problem (although I believe we should do what we can), but something needs to be done. How about the Arab nations sending troops to stop the killing by their Muslim brethren. Wouldn't that be a shock.

Posted by Jim at 08:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More on Wal-Mart

Concerning my Wal-Mart post below, I initially failed to check out Hewitt's link to a post by Professor Bainbridge. My goodness! The professor absolutely nails the case against Wal-Mart. It's a must read.

Check out Professor Bainbridge on the conservative case against Wal-Mart.

Also: Jay Nordlinger practices more Wal-Mart love in this morning's Impromptus. Maybe I am an elitist, but I invite Nordlinger to leave his operas and symphonies in New York City. Come to any medium-sized city south of the Mason-Dixon line and check out the Wal-Mart Supercenter on the edge of town. The first trip might be nice, but keep going and see how "great" the store can be. Not so much, really.

I just love how big-city conservatives praise flyover country as though it is the noble Shire, a Tolkien-esque world of peace and tranquility. Sorry folks, it's just not true. Sure there are open fields and mountains and nice folks and fishing and hunting and college football and fine churches, but there's also crystal meth labs, depressing Wal-Marts, poor aesthetics, dirty McDonalds and the same set of strip malls in every single town.

The view of red state America might be fine from Manhattan or L.A. And no, things are not insufferable. But they're not the Paradise some of our conservative brethren would like to believe. They would be well-served to leave the Beltway and spend significant time in a suburban red state area. They might find that spending every Friday night at the same medium-sized Barnes and Noble gets old in a hurry.

Posted by Matt at 07:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

35 Facts You Were Perfectly Happy Not Knowing

Just because it’s Friday and some of these are actually interesting, here’s a list I picked up somewhere (sorry, can’t find the source).

1. Rubberbands last longer when refrigerated.
2. Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.
3. There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.
4. The average person's left hand does 56% of the typing.
5. The shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.
6. There are more chickens than people in the world.
7. Two-thirds of the world's eggplant is grown in New Jersey.
8. The longest one-syllable word in the English language is "screeched."
10. All of the clocks in the movie "Pulp Fiction" are stuck on 4:20.
11. No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver or purple.
12. "Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt".
13. All 50 states are listed across the top of the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the $5 bill.
14. Almonds are a member of the peach family.
15. Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance.

16. Maine is the only US state whose name is just one syllable.
17. There are only 4 words in the English language that end in "dous" - tremendous, horrendous, stupendous and hazardous.
18. Los Angeles' full name is "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula"
19. A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.
20. An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.
21. Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.
22. In most advertisements, the time displayed on a watch is 10:10
23. Al Capone's business card said he was a used furniture dealer.
24. The Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie were named after Bert the cop and Ernie the taxi driver in Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life."
25. Some dragonflies have a life span of 24 hours.
26. A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.
27. A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.
28. It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.
29. The giant squid has the largest eyes in the world.
30. In England, the Speaker of the House is not allowed to speak.
31. The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.
32. Mr. Rogers was an ordained minister.
33. The average person falls asleep in seven minutes.
34. There are 336 dimples on a regulation golf ball.
35. "Stewardesses" is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand

Posted by Jim at 07:12 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Anglican Leaders Tell Rebellious North Americans to Stay Home

The worldwide Anglican communion is thrashing about desperately to find a way to avoid schism. Many of the Anglican leaders around the world were infuriated by the Church’s relatively mild rebuke of the American Espiscopalians last fall when they consecrated an openly gay man as bishop.

Now, (from the NY Times) the Anglican hierarchy has asked the “Episcopal Church U.S.A. and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw their representatives temporarily from a key governing body of the denomination.”

“The annual meeting was regularly scheduled, but the main task facing the 35 primates who attended was fashioning a response to a report last fall that examined the North American churches' decisions on homosexuality, their impact on the global communion and the options of continuing as one denomination in light of fierce opposition among many other national churches to the moves.

The request to withdraw representatives from the June meeting was meant to appease critics, including many bishops in Africa, Asia and Latin America, who wanted a sharper rebuke of the North American churches than the fall report offered, members of the Episcopal clergy and experts on the church said."

Posted by Jim at 07:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 24, 2005

Hewitt and Wal-Mart

Hugh Hewitt contintues the proud coastal conservative tradition of loving Wal-Mart. I'll say it loud and I'll say it proud: I loathe Wal-Mart. It's an ugly store. It takes over every town it visits. Yes, it provides jobs but conservatism should stand for something other than a financial bottomline. And even conservative and libertarian types have noted that Wal-Mart has become notorious for abusing imminent domain.

My colleague Jim detailed it earlier this week. I also discussed the battle of Target vs. Wal-Mart back in the fall. And yes, I know, Target made a boneheaded corporate decision regarding the Salvation Army, but it wouldn't take me long to find some information about Wal-Mart's delightful reputation of employee abuse. Then we can all have a fun contest to see which corporation is nicer. And here's a newsflash - no one is winning that contest.

Posted by Matt at 11:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Saint Vladimir: Putin Religious, by Russian Standards?

Russian President Putin communicates well with the Christian U.S. President George Bush because Putin is quite religious, by Russian standards. So said Mortimer Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report today on Fox News.

That is an unexpected thought, given Putin’s history as the chief thug of the KGB.

But evidently, Putin has many faces. This from The Atlantic Online:

“Over the years, Atlantic correspondent Paul Starobin has researched Putin's history and background and spoken both with those who know him personally and with political analysts who have studied his behavior. In "The Accidental Autocrat," Starobin portrays Russia's leader as a complex mixture of seemingly incongruous parts. There is Putin the fighter—a man who describes himself as having a "pugilistic nature," and who has long held a black belt in judo. There is Putin the canny former KGB operative—rigorously trained to calculate his every move and to dispense information sparingly. And then there is Putin the believer—a man of faith, who as a child absorbed his mother's strong Orthodox Russian beliefs and continues to practice devoutly.”

I have a relative who teaches in a seminary in Moscow. I’ll see what he thinks about all of this.

Posted by Jim at 03:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Name a Guardian ad litem for Terry Schiavo

The best route for the Florida legislature to protect Terry Schiavo from her estranged husband (to put it mildly) is to declare him an unfit guardian.. The court could name her parents as guardians, or perhaps name an independent guardian ad litem, as the court sometimes does for a minor child.

Terry Schiavo’s parents, the Schindlers, are urging the Legislature to amend state law so a spouse cannot serve as a guardian if he is living with someone else.

The Florida Senate President hints that such a change may be the most feasible action the Legislature could take.

“We have a guardian who essentially has moved on and is living another life but retains the responsibilities and obligations of guardianship," said Sen. Tom Lee. "I think that is unique in this situation."

Posted by Jim at 02:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Korn's guitarist quit the band due to moral objections to their music (HT: What Attitude Problem?).

Guitarist Brian "Head" Welch, a founding member of Korn, has left the band and has rededicated his life to Christianity, according to the group's management.
In 2000, Korn toured Europe with Christian band, Payable on Death (P.O.D.). Former P.O.D. guitarist, Marcos, used to attend my church (as did other members of the band on occassion) and I recall him saying shortly after the tour with Korn that, while they never really connected with any of the band members, a couple of Korn's crew gave their lives to Christ while on the road through their ministry.

Some plant, some water, some reap, but all do God's work. You may not see immediate fruit from your ministry, but that doesn't mean your work for Him is in vain.

SIDE NOTE: In 1995, before I was saved, I attended a concert headlined by a band called Sublime, with No Doubt. This was before either band had made MTV, although Date Rape (Sublime Song) made it to KROQ. The opening act was P.O.D. When I got to the show, buses were all over the parking lot with chruch names. I was so confused.

P.O.D. was loud and very annoying, but there were about 500 "kids" moshing and crowd surfing and stuff with all these youth pastor types hanging out around the crowd (and a few mixed in with the fun). I was standing in the back next to Gwen Stefani of No Doubt who had the same expression on her face as I did: What is this?

When P.O.D. finished their set, the place cleared out, leaving only a couple hundred for the "headliners." That was my first encounter with P.O.D. Class guys who love the Lord.

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: I was snowboarding in Aspen Colorado in 1994 and No Doubt and Submile were playing at a club. I wasn't 21, so I couldn't get in, but I stumbled across Bradley having a Rum and Coke at one of the open bars on the slopes. I stopped, he got me a drink, and we chatted for quite a while. He was pretty drunk. I noticed him playing with his hand. I asked him what he was doing and he looked up with a fiendish kind of smile and said, "A new vein!" I knew then that he was going to die. Two years later, Bradley Knowell died of a heroin overdose. My uncle died of a heroin OD only a few years before.

Brian Welch of Korn is making a good decision leaving Korn. The industry is near impossible to navigate as a Christian without being surrounded by others for accountability.

Posted by Rick at 10:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Evangelical First Things in Public Life: 12 Things We Should Expect of Evangelicals

After the election, I wrote a post at The Rooftop Blog titled What Do the Evangelicals Want? As evangelicals continue to gain visibility, I think it is worthwhile to turn the topic around and ask: What Should We Expect of Evangelicals in the Public Arena?

What is the role of individual followers of Christ in the public arena? By this I do not mean solutions presented by the political parties and the governing philosophies that must guide public policies. For evangelical Christians in public life there must spiritual first things--the bedrock that precedes and provides the foundation for actions, traits, and political positions, and that must supercede interest in re-election.

Individuals that are engaged in the public arena in any way find it tremendously difficult to find—and even to do—thinking about public policy and public life that precedes political philosophy and does not rely on the positions articulated by politicians, media commentators, and other political observers.

With some exceptions, Christians looking at public issues are faced with religion-based information in two groups. First, biblical teaching on spiritual life and personal growth that does not attempt to address public issues. And second, political discourse that starts with political philosophy then seeks biblical proof-texting.

I agree with what Jim Wallis wrote in the introduction of God’s Politics: “The best contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable or loyally partisan but to maintain the moral independence to critique both the Left and the Right” (pg. xix).

Unfortunately, Wallis immediately puts his counsel in question by his own measure when a few pages later he reprints the copy from his pre-election advertisement: God is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat. The language sounds like it is directly from a John Kerry campaign speech (“Do the candidates policies pursue wars of choice or respect international law and cooperation.” “Do the candidates tell the truth in justifying war.”) How is repeating the Democratic litany for international cooperation anything close to a biblical issue or moral independence?

I have probably posed bigger questions than I can come close to addressing at this time, but I will plod forward, nonetheless, with brief thoughts in 12 areas. Perhaps I will return to each at another time.

12 First Things
What should we be able to expect of evangelical Christian in the public arena? I suggest that there are the 12 first things that should be embraced by faithful Christians whatever their political philosophy. While there can be honest and worthy disagreements on how to apply political philosophy to adddress these concerns, they should transcend the call of the party.

1. Value Character
2. Support Human Rights
3. Develop a Consistent Ethic of Life
4. Honor and Protect Families
5. Help the Poor and Imprisoned
6. Be Responsible Citizens
7. Be Good Stewards
8. Do Justice
9. Recognize Evil
10. Seek Spiritual Vision
11. Demonstrate a Graceful Spirit
12. Share Your Faith

Now, a closer look at each of these:

1. Value Character. Recognize, honor and create public policies that promote personal character and virtue, such as personal responsibility, temperance, duty, respect, kindness, perseverance, and patience. These and other virtues are clearly held in high regard in the Scriptures, and they need champions among policymakers.

2. Support Human Rights: I do believe that the basic human rights of safety from abuse and bondage, the opportunity to worship as we please, freedom of movement and livelihood, and fundamental fairness are God-given, not government-given. It is the role of government to confirm and protect these human rights.

3. Develop a Consistent Ethic of Life: The ethics of life are perhaps the most difficult and divisive issues in the public arena, although there are those who would say that they are the simplest.

When people say life ethics are simple they are in most cases speaking of the unacceptability of taking innocent human life through abortion. I agree that it impossible to develop a Christian ethic that supports abortion on demand as a means of birth control.

To back up a bit, it is essential that the Christian in public life develop a consistent ethic of life. Something like this: To influence culture and create laws to best save and extend lives; to honor the inherent value of human life, made in the image of God; and to safeguard lives in the present and in future generations.

Death Penalty
A life ethic that argues only against abortion is not complete. I believe it must also re-examine the death penalty, which is routinely supported on both sides of the aisle. The taking of human life by the government is always troubling, and must be constantly scrutinized. If execution is necessary to save lives, then there is an ethical reason to continue is use for capital offenses. But both the death penalty and life imprisonment without the chance of parole effectively remove the perpetrator from society. As such, the death penalty is not necessary for that purpose. If, however, it can be proved that the death penalty is a deterrent to other potential murderers, we should support the death penalty, because it will save lives. I haven’t seen such findings, by the way, but would be open to this proof.

Is it necessary to kill a murderer in order to exact justice or fairness, or is that simply retribution masquerading as “closure?”

Life is a precious gift of God. But what should we allow when the gift is terrible burden to its holder. Should we allow the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. Strong emotional arguments for euthanasia are presented in cases where an individual’s pain is overwhelming or remaining days will be essentially unconscious. But as merciful as it seems at times, and do not believe that we are granted the divine right to take innocent life before God’s time.

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D. wrote:

"... we must be wary of those who are too willing to end the lives of the elderly and the ill. If we ever decide that a poor quality of life justifies ending that life, we have taken a step down a slippery slope that places all of us in danger. There is a difference between allowing nature to take its course and actively assisting death. The call for euthanasia surfaces in our society periodically, as it is doing now under the guise of "death with dignity" or assisted suicide. Euthanasia is a concept, it seems to me, that is in direct conflict with a religious and ethical tradition in which the human race is presented with " a blessing and a curse, life and death," and we are instructed '...therefore, to choose life." I believe 'euthanasia' lies outside the commonly held life-centered values of the West and cannot be allowed without incurring great social and personal tragedy. This is not merely an intellectual conundrum. This issue involves actual human beings at risk..."

Our Christian duty as we approach the issues of war and peace is to first look at them as issues of life and death, not geopolitics. Although the temporal issues may need to be factored, questions of life must be first because warfare kills people. Not going to war can either save lives or cost many more lives that the war itself. That recognition is why a longer view of impact must be considered in life ethics. I do believe that strength is the best peacemaker, a contention that has gained great credibility with the collapse of communism.

However, war is unacceptable to satisfy national ego, to gain creature comforts, or to settle scores.

4. Honor and Protect Families: God ordained the institution of the family and His children need to try to keep it together. We must recognize that the family is the primary conduit of the values that civilize us. The leading cause of economic and moral poverty is a broken families. Kids need to grow up with a mom and a dad to love them, to teach them virtue, and to train them up in the ways of the Lord.

There is probably no greater challenge for our culture than maintaining strong families, and there are many forces pulling in the opposite direction. Curbing these negative forces is a worthy role of the public servant.

(By the way, I believe the advance of homosexual unions is way down the list of dangers to the traditional family).

5. Help the Poor and Imprisoned: There is no clearer mandate in Scripture than to bear good news to and serve the poor, those in prison, and the brokenhearted. (Luke 4:18). To care for the widow and orphans. This should be high on the agenda of individual Christians and the church. It is vital that believers personally demonstrate that they follow Jesus Christ by their care for the poor.

How do we deal with this mandate as it relates to the levers of government?

As my colleague Matt at SCO wrote:

“I see the Bible with a lot to say about caring for the less fortunate, but I never see Scripture advocating that we use the state as a means of doing so. If anyone can provide with clear Biblical teaching and some church history that suggests otherwise, I'm all ears, but I've yet to see it. I don't believe that the state is an effective means of curing poverty. It has never proven to be such a thing.”

If government largesse was effective at creating anything dependence, I believe we could assume biblical support. The Bible certainly doesn’t prohibit action of the state to assist the poor. But our history shows that government isn’t good at anything but providing relief. Government fails at community and personal development.

6. Be Responsible Citizens: As Christians we are called to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13). Although in cases when the laws of the state violate God’s laws civil disobedience is the right path, there are far fewer times when that is necessary than some lead us to believe. The Bible clearly calls for submission in most cases, even when the authorities are unjust.

Christians in public life must lead by adhering to this teaching, but must also appreciate and teach the tension between the state and the church. In The City of God, Augustine wrote:

“The heavenly city, or rather the part of it which sojourns on earth and lives by faith, makes use of this peace only because it must, until this mortal condition which necessitates it shall pass away. Consequently, so long as it lives like a captive and a stranger in the earthly city, though it has already received the promise of redemption, and the gift of the Spirit as the earnest of it, it makes no scruple to obey the laws of the earthly city, whereby the things necessary for the maintenance of this mortal life are administered; and thus, as this life is common to both cities, so there is a harmony between them in regard to what belongs to it.” (Book XIX, Chapter 17)

7. Be Good Stewards: We should expect evangelicals in public life to acknowledge that all good gifts are from God and that He calls on us to be grateful for them and to be good stewards and worthy caretakers of all he has given us.

When there is bounty, God calls for personal generosity. We are to enjoy good things in moderation. And we are to care for the earth, our temporary home. It is right to determine the truth on the impact of human actions on the environment, and exaggerations and blatant lies have undercut the credibility of environmentalists. We cannot fall prey to the emotional earth-worship of hyper-environmentalism.

However, there is simply no biblical support for being anti-environment. When we blindly follow the ravings of many conservative commentators in their criticism of all things pro-environment, we are falling in line with a political strategy, not biblical teaching.

For more on the evangelical approach to the environment, look at the Evangelical Environmental Network and its Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation.

8. Do Justice: When we hear someone calling for justice, it is usually a cry for a right to be wronged or for the government to help with pay-back. Getting even. Micah 6:8 says that God requires us to “do justice,” or to “act justly.” The task of the public servant is to look deeply at the biblical call for justice, which has embedded the understanding of fairness, of justification, of equal treatment, and of reconciliation:

"[In biblical times] when wrongs were done, ordinary people went to the city gates to seek justice in a 'legal assembly' in which citizens participated. The focus of this court, sometimes called an 'organization of reconciliation', was not to satisfy some abstract concept of justice but to find a solution. Restitution and compensation were common outcomes. Biblical Justice seeks first to solve problems, to find solutions, to make things right, looking toward the future." (H. Zehr, Changing Lenses, p. 140-1, 152)

9. Recognize of Evil: The Bible teaches that the forces of evil are aligned against the forces of good. Evil is not a concept; it oozes from every heart not constrained by love. It seeks to overcome the world. The Christian seeking to impact public policy must recognize what the founders did—man is inherently inclined toward evil and dominated by self-interest. It is not a popular thought, but thinking otherwise makes for deadly policy.

“The total depravity of man,” said G.K. Chesterton, “is the one doctrine empirically validated by 4,000 years of human history.”

We have lost sight of this in modern society, which endangers the republic.

“The most common myth of [our time] is that people are good. We aren’t,” wrote Charles Colson, who after a career in cut-throat politics and 20 years in prison and prison ministry knows of what he speaks.

10. Seek Spiritual Vision: The Christian cannot view the struggles and triumphs of our days only through the lens of our immediate interests and of our age. The eyes of the Christian soul must see further, with a view of the unseen (spiritual vision) and a view of the world (world vision).

Although we acknowledge in our churches and personal study that we are only passing through this world, it is difficult to apply this to the rough and tumble struggles of our days and in public life. When we are granted spiritual vision, we see a spiritual dimension to how history is unfolding and our role in it. Paul wrote: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).

Also, I am not sure that a mature Christian can be a thorough isolationist, at least not as he or she becomes aware of the violation of human rights around the world, and the persecution of the church. This requires a world vision.

11. Demonstrate a Graceful Spirit: The Christian in public life undercuts his witness and diminishes his effectiveness if he does not show the grace that his been shown to him by God. For the many in leadership the twin challenges in this area are showing humility and forgiving others. Both of these graces are in rare supply in the halls of power and there is no higher work for the Christian public servant than to model these disciplines.

C.S. Lewis said to British servicemen after World War II (the text of which was to become Mere Christianity):

Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. “That sort of talk makes them sick,” they say. And half of you already want to ask me, “I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?”

So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must no deny my religion even to save myself from death by torture, I wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you in this book what I could do—I can do precious little—I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.” There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. What are we to do.

12. Share Your Faith: Those who observe evangelicals for any length of time should at some point be aware that they are telling others about their faith in Jesus Christ for the grace to live each day and for eternal salvation. IN a day when “proselytizing” is said with curled lip and a sneer, it should be known in the public square that this is part of the Christian’s obligation. To be obedient we must tell of the hope that is in us and the source of that hope. It is gives us joy to do so. To do otherwise creates a much high level of condemnation.

Observers should also expect evangelicals, along with everyone else, to fail. We are but “jars of clay” who recognize that it is through our weakness that God’s strength can be seen.

Posted by Jim at 08:45 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

February 23, 2005

Sanctity of Life #1 Moral Issue Facing America

Greg over at "What Attitude Problem" passes along this list from Chuck Colson, outlining what Colson feels are the top ten moral issues facing America today. It should come as no surprise that Colson puts "Sanctity of Life" at #1. Colson doesn't limit this to mean only abortion, but defines this as "preserving sanctity of life by resisting the encroachment of abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and embryonic stem cell research."

One might also add: defending the disabled from those who seek their destruction. Terri Schiavo, for example. Stand in the Trenches is one of many blogs that has been following her story closely.

Today on his "Breakpoint" radio program, Chuck Colson highlights a sneaky bill going through the Washington State legislature that purports to outlaw human cloning. In fact, the bill doesn't do that at all. It merely outlaws bringing a cloned human to full term.

The bill] takes advantage of the public’s confusion about cloning to sell the moral equivalent of snake oil. To understand why this is the case, we need to understand cloning. It’s a process known as “somatic cell nuclear transfer,” or SCNT.

In SCNT, a “biotechnologist removes the nucleus from a mature human egg.” He replaces that nucleus with “nucleus of a body cell from [a] DNA donor. . . . A little shot of electricity comes next, and if all goes well, a new human cloned embryo comes into being.”

While all of this is much easier said than done, the important part is that “there is no more cloning to be done since a new human organism now exists.”

The Washington bill, like similar legislation in New Jersey, does nothing to prevent SCNT. All it would do is prohibit implanting the cloned embryo “with the purpose of producing a human being.” But since a human being has already been produced, when they use the words producing a human being, what the sponsors mean is bringing the cloned embryo to birth. Anything short of that is permissible under this bill.

You could clone human embryos and harvest stem cells, or you could grow fetuses for medical experiments, or let embryos gestate for nine months, abort them, and harvest the organs. Wesley Smith, writing in National Review] gives these moral horrors a fitting name: “fetal farming.” People in the state of Washington have been misled into thinking that the bill would prevent the advent of a “Brave New World.” Instead, as Smith says, it ushers it in.

In other news, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Bush Administration's challenge of Oregon's assisted-suicide law -- the only law of its kind in the country.

Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, the administration's target, was approved twice by the state's voters and took effect in November 1997. According to the state, in a brief filed last month, 171 patients have used the law to administer lethal doses of federally regulated drugs that their doctors prescribed for them. In the administration's view, suicide is not a "legitimate medical purpose" under regulations that carry out the federal Controlled Substances Act. Consequently, the administration will argue before the Supreme Court, as it did unsuccessfully in the lower federal courts, that doctors who prescribe drugs for committing suicide violate the federal law and are subject to revocation of their federal prescription license. The license applies to broad categories of medications and is necessary, as a practical matter, for a doctor to remain in practice.

Posted by Drew at 09:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What the heck does "heteronormative" mean?

Posted by Drew at 07:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

iPods and Our Love/Hate Relationship

A few weeks ago, over at Matt Crash!, I pointed to this piece in the New Atlantis. The crux of the article was that technology has left us more isolated than in the past. I tend to agree. I can walk around campus and see otherwise normal people zoned out, thin white wires connecting their ears to the iPod in their pocket. Lord knows I've got nothing against an iPod, but surely we can make it from the car to class without slowly fading into our own world of music.

Apparently I'm not alone in my criticism. Andrew Sullivan had a similar argument last week's piece for the Sunday Times. He's not always right, but when he's on - he's on.

Witness this quote:

You get your news from your favourite blogs, the ones that won’t challenge your view of the world. You tune into a satellite radio service that also aims directly at a small market — for new age fanatics, liberal talk or Christian rock. Television is all cable. Culture is all subculture. Your cell phones can receive e-mail feeds of your favourite blogger’s latest thoughts — seconds after he has posted them — get sports scores for your team or stock quotes of your portfolio.

I discussed the idea of split subcultures in a post last week. See here, and I would like some comments on the idea.

Posted by Matt at 06:31 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Would You Vote for A Woman for President?

More than 80 percent of Americans would vote for a woman for president, according to a poll, conducted by the Siena College Research Institute and sponsored by Hearst Newspapers. (Source)

Of those polled, 53 percent think New York Hillary Clinton should try for the job, 42 percent of voters said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should run for the White House, and 33 percent named North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

Posted by Jim at 05:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Two or Three

Two or Three is a new collaborative blog written by the authors of three individual blogs:

Tom of Daddypundit is a friend of this blog and I'm excited to hear of the other contributors. Be sure to bookmark their new blog and visit often.

How did Two or Three form?

Aaron from The Wardrobe Door was overworked from trying to be a one man posting machine, and asked about co-blogging. So seeker from When You Return and Tom from DaddyPundit responded, and here we are.
Hey, sounds a lot like the way SCO got together!

Read this for more information how they formed, their mission, and statement of faith.

Posted by Rick at 03:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Skepticism on Deep Throat

I wrote earlier this month that Woodward and Bernstein’s Deep Throat May Be A Composite of Multiple Sources, which has been the opinion of Nixon aide Charles Colson. Here, Jonah Goldberg explains why he believes Deep Throat is “Bob and Carl’s imaginary friend.”

Goldberg also adds to the composite theory:

Recently, Fox News media analyst Eric Burns revealed that the late, great historian Stephen Ambrose had told him there never was a Deep Throat. Burns' evidence was second-hand at best. He said Ambrose had shared an editor with Woodward and Bernstein - the legendary Alice Mayhew - and she had told him that Deep Throat was a composite of various sources. Mayhew told Ambrose that the first manuscript of "All the President's Men" contained no references to Deep Throat and that she told them the book needed a stronger plot device. D.T. was the result.

Posted by Jim at 03:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pardon me, You’re in My Kitchen: The Supreme Court and Eminent Domain

When you walk through the housewares section of your local Wal-Mart, remember that it used to be Maggie Smith’s kitchen, and she’s not happy you’re there.

Or at least there a fair chance the area used to be someone’s kitchen, or living room, or back yard.

Wal-Mart has been a common beneficiary of local governments using their power of eminent domain to seize private property for the economic advancement of the community. Wal-Mart is hardly alone, as communities across the country have found more and more reasons to seize private property for the enrichment of their citizens (except the property owners whose homes were taken).

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a typical case brought by a group of New London, Connecticut homeowners. The Supremes heard oral arguments yesterday.

It’s risky to jump to conclusions on the sentiment of the Court based on oral arguments. Here’s what some media outlets thought:


Striking an unusual populist tone, the Supreme Court appeared divided Tuesday over whether city officials in Connecticut have the authority to seize homes in a working-class neighborhood and turn the property over to private developers.

Detroit Free Press:

The Supreme Court appeared sympathetic Tuesday toward a group of New London, Conn., homeowners fighting to keep their land, but justices seemed equally skeptical of their own power to keep the city from seizing property to create an upscale development.

It's the first major case on eminent domain -- the power of the government to condemn property for redevelopment -- to reach the high court in years.

Washington Post:

An attorney for a group of Connecticut homeowners told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that his clients have a constitutional right to stay in their houses even though their city says it needs the sites for privately developed offices, hotels and parking, in a case that could affect property rights nationwide.

The lawyer, Scott Bullock of the libertarian Institute for Justice, said that if New London, Conn., can use its power of eminent domain to force Susette Kelo and six other owners to sell for the sake of jobs and tax revenue that private-sector development brings, the Fifth Amendment guarantee that private property cannot be taken for "public use" without just compensation would be a dead letter.

If you think private property rights are important this may very well be the most important case facing the Supreme Court in our lifetime.

Posted by Jim at 10:55 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

He Gives and Takes Away - Blessed be His Name

Abigail Brayden manages to praise God even as she grieves with a family close to her who recently lost their 3 month old baby boy.

Abigail's attitude toward the terrible loss reminded of the Matt Redman chorus:

He gives and takes away,
He gives and takes away,
My heart will surely say
Blessed be His name.

Please visit Abigail and remember this family in your prayers.

Posted by Rick at 09:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

New Blog Suggestion

Ben Cole at the Pen and the Sword expalins why conservatism is a good kind of dangerous and liberalism is, well, done.

Posted by Matt at 08:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Lileks is Podcasting!

Posted by Drew at 12:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 22, 2005

Outting the Simpsons

My thoughts on the gay Simpson.

Posted by Matt at 11:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Battlestar Galactica offers a surprising faith challenge

Yesterday I mentioned the blog maintained by Battlestar Galactica producer Ron Moore. On it, he'll respond to fan questions about the show. Moore used to do this on AOL's "Star Trek" forum back when he was one of the producers on "Deep Space Nine," so I'm not surprised to see him doing it again.

Here's one question posed to Moore that I find rather curious.

"The question I would really like to see addressed is how to reconcile the underlying quest of Battlestar Galactica with actual scientific plausiability. The quest of Battlestar Galactica is to find Earth, the 13th Colony. However, it is a basic and well-substantiated tenet of science that human life here on Earth evolved slowly from a primate ancestor. Attempts to deny evolution based on the notion that human kind deserves a far more worthy origin than what evolution details, are a diservice to the pursuit of scientific truth and endeavors in our own world. There was always that reactionary sense to the original series, which drove it away from a secure standing as *science* fiction. How will the new series avoid this pitfall?"

(Here's where William Shatner steps in and says "Get a life!")

Okay, since Battlestar Galactica suggests that the origin of life on earth is found in outer space, not only does it run counter to evolutionary theory, but it runs counter to the Christian teachings on the origins of life. So neither of the competing theories is supported by the show.

But as a Christian I'm not offended at all.

Maybe it's because I'm used to the way science fiction assumes that God is a myth. Maybe it's because I've heard Captain Picard announce once too often that humanity has outgrown the need for God, or I'm no longer surprised when Q whisks us back in time to watch life spring up from the primordial ooze.

And maybe it doesn't bother me because . . . it's fiction!

But I find it interesting that someone is seriously bothered that a fictional television show might not support the theory of evolution. Every day I encounter challenges to my faith in the entertainment industry. Yet my faith suffers not. How strong is this viewer's faith in evolution if a fictional television show causes such a crisis?

Moore's response should cheer him:

I don't have a direct answer for this question yet. There are a couple of notions rolling around in my head as to how we reconcile the very real fact of evolution with the Galactica mythos, but I haven't decided which approach to take. However, it was a fundamental element of the orginal Galactica mythos that "Life here began out there..." and I decided early on that it was crucial to maintain it.

"The very real fact of evolution."

Don't worry, little fanboy. The producer is on your side.

Posted by Drew at 11:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Importance of Homeland Security in Flyover Country

When homeland security emerged as a major issue in the election -- and a major reason George Bush was re-elected -- New Yorkers whined that red staters have no right to declare homeland security their issue because the red states weren't attacked by terrorists. Al-Qaeda, they argued, targeted New York and Washington, not the Amana Colonies.

Today in the Wall Street Journal, Brendan Miniter explains why homeland security spending is just as important for New York as it is for New Ulm, and consequently, why homeland defense is a nationwide issue, not just an issue for blue-state cities on the east and west coast.

From New York City much of America may look like a collection of cow towns. But rural Homeland Security spending is here to stay, and we are lucky it is. Just because al Qaeda targets big cities doesn't mean that's their operatives aren't living in the heartland awaiting the opportunity to strike. To catch them, we have to go on the offensive by giving first responders around the nation the equipment and the training necessary to spot and kill or capture terrorists. We also must imbue in them a sense that in this war, we are all on the front lines. Thwarting the next attack likely depends on the actions of an alert sheriff's deputy or border agent well outside of Los Angeles or New York.

We saw this in late 1999, when an alert border agent in Port Angeles, Wash. -- population 18,000 -- unraveled the so-called Millennium Plot. Ahmed Ressam tried to cross the border from Canada with more than 100 pounds of explosives in his car. Likewise, Zacarias Moussaoui -- now on trial for his alleged involvement in the 9/11 plot -- was picked up not in Los Angleles or New York, but in Minnesota, where he was taking flight lessons.

Many Americans probably don't realize that the North Star State's large Muslim refugee population and its proximity to Canada make it an attractive place for militant Islamists. That's one reason why Coleen Rowley, chief legal advisor in the FBI's field office there at the time, was alert enough in August 2001 to realize Moussaoui might be part of a larger plot to attack the United States after he was discovered taking flight lessons in Eagan, Minn.

Posted by Drew at 10:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Terry Shiavo Update

Terry Shiavo's feeding tube was supposed to be removed today against the wishes of her family. Minutes ago, Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer judge issued a one-day stay.

Posted by Rick at 03:24 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

What End, The Wounded Butterfly?

The hammer is poised over the wounded butterfly, Terri Schaivo, and the dark day has arrived. There is still much that the blogging community can do. Catez at AllThings2All has a good summary of the situation and the actions that can still be taken, which follows her post with the haunting title:

Who Crushes a Butterfly with a Hammer?

Posted by Jim at 08:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Take Two and Call Me in the Morning

Jonah Goldberg has some advice for the blogosphere.

I tend to agree with him.

Posted by Matt at 07:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pay For Your Own Erection

“Drug companies,” it is reported, “are strenuously resisting bipartisan efforts in Congress to prohibit Medicare from paying for Viagra and other drugs for erectile dysfunction.

The drug companies need to shut up.

Look, I feel bad for the guys who have had some physical issues that leave them impotent or with some degree of ED. And I’m sure the performance enhancement drugs such as Viagra have provided fuller lives for many men, most of them senior citizens.

But frankly, the Constitution doesn’t grant the right to an erection. It is a violation of the rights of others to force them to pay for yours. Further, the estimated costs of Medicare’s new prescription drug benefit have spiraled wildly beyond original estimates, and we certainly cannot afford to cover these or other “lifestyle drugs.”

It’s hard to believe government has become so involved in our lives that this even has to be debated.

Posted by Jim at 06:42 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 21, 2005

I'm rooting for the polytheists

I've mentioned a couple times over at Darn Floor that I am enjoying the new Battlestar Galactica series. It's definitely a post-9/11 drama, showing us a military and civilian population in the aftermath of a sneak-attack that wipes out all of humanity, save 50,000 survivors. Unlike the 70s-era "Battlestar Galactica," this is a grown-up show. It's dark, gritty, occasionally violent, and has quite a bit of sex. (Watch it after the kids are in bed.) But it's more than just a good Sci Fi show . . . it's good drama, with the sort of continuing plotlines designed to hook viewers like me. Plus it's got Mary McDonnell, who is fantastic.

After watching last Friday's episode, I didn't quite know how to react. The Cylon Sex-bot character has talked about God in previous episodes, but never quite so . . . "evangelically" as she did in this latest episode.

I remembered reading on producer Ron Moore's blog that he decided to make the Cylons monotheistic and play up the religion angle to go along with the "Cylons as Al-Qaeda" theme. But he's made the good guys polytheistic and the bad guys monotheistic. Given that my sympathies weigh heavily toward the monotheistic point of view, this is an odd thing to wrap my brain around.

Sandy's got more at the new MAWB Squad blog. She points out that not only are the Cylons monotheistic, but they use the sort of lingo common to Christianity, and detects a hint of the oft-heard refrain that Christian fundamentalists are no different than Islamic jihadists.

Like Sandy, I've grown accustomed to the often negative way Christianity is depicted in science fiction, but this a new twist, and I will be interested in seeing where this is going.

Posted by Drew at 11:37 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

More Visceral MSM Bias Exposed

Bill Keller, New York Times executive editor reportedly had a few words about bloggers and the new media (HT: Drudge):

[Keller] noted that, according to a recent opinion poll, the public’s trust in journalists is at its lowest point in decades. He attributed this in part to the increasingly polarized nature of the American public, who look to the press for support of their viewpoints.

“At the moment,” he said, “the major press is under attack from ideologues on the right and left.”

Keller revealed the hopelessness of his position with the following words as characterized by the Columbia Spectator reporter:
Keller also sees “blogging,” or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger’s ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog’s inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. “A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole,” he said, noting that it can sometimes fall as low as being a “one man [censored].”
Rather than point the finger at biased bloggers for masquerading as journalists, perhaps the MSM elite should remove their veils from behind which they pedal their bias that masquerades as objectivity.

Keller's remarks remind of a line from the CBS report explaining what went wrong with Rathergate:

The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network’s news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles. (emphasis added)
The fact that the CBS report could not determine political motivation for airing the segment, is proof enough to me of the extent to which the MSM is viscerally biased.

My previous post on visceral bias and the MSM can be read here.

Posted by Rick at 08:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

For President’s Day: Presidential Greatness

George Washington.gif

James Thomas Flexner wrote in George Washington: In the American Revolution of what may be considered the most important unknown moment in American history. On March 15, 1783 in Newburgh, New York, General George Washington resisted the perennial revolutionary temptation advocated by some of his officers to address their frustrations by taking power as king. Although the troops gathered in a large hall were not deterred by Washington’s rhetoric, the atmosphere changed when he began to read a letter to the group and, as Flexner writes, “he pulled out something that only his intimates had seen him wear. A pair of glasses. With infinite sweetness and melancholy, he explained: ‘Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.’”

This simple statement exposed his humility and his humanity, and the revolutionary temptation passed. As a result of that, many other decisions by men, and the providence of God, America became and remains the model of representative democracy for the world.

Posted by Jim at 10:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

For President’s Day: Presidential Quirks

Just for the fun of it, here are 20 things you may not have known about American presidents, from Encarta’s Lists of Lists:

1. In warm weather, 6th president of the United States John Quincy Adams customarily went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River before dawn.

2. 9th U.S. president William Henry Harrison was inaugurated on a bitterly cold day and gave the longest inauguration speech ever. The new president promptly caught a cold that soon developed into pneumonia. Harrison died exactly one month into his presidential term, the shortest in U.S. history.

3. John Tyler, 10th U.S. president, fathered 15 children (more than any other president)--8 by his first wife, and 7 by his second wife. Tyler was past his seventieth birthday when his 15th child was born.

4. Sedated only by brandy, 11th president of the United States James Polk survived gall bladder surgery at the age of 17.

5. 15th U.S. president James Buchanan is the only unmarried man ever to be elected president. Buchanan was engaged to be married once; however, his fiancée died suddenly after breaking off the engagement, and he remained a bachelor all his life.

Abraham Lincoln.jpg

6. Often depicted wearing a tall black stovepipe hat, 16th president of the United States Abraham Lincoln carried letters, bills, and notes in his hat.

7. 17th U.S. president Andrew Johnson never attended school. His future wife, Eliza McCardle, taught him to write at the age of 17. (Bonus fact about Andrew Johnson: He only wore suits that he custom-tailored himself.)

8. Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president of the United States, died of throat cancer. During his life, Grant had smoked about 20 cigars per day.

9. Both ambidextrous and multilingual, 20th president of the United States James Garfield could write Greek with one hand while writing Latin with the other.

10. Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th president of the United States, underwent a secret operation aboard a yacht to remove his cancerous upper jaw in 1893.

11. The teddy bear derived from 26th U.S. president Theodore ("Teddy") Roosevelt's refusal to shoot a bear with her cub while on a hunting trip in Mississippi.

12. William Taft, 27th president of the United States, weighed more than 300 pounds and had a special oversized bathtub installed in the White House.

13. Warren Harding, 29th U.S. president, played poker at least twice a week, and once gambled away an entire set of White House china. His advisors were nicknamed the "Poker Cabinet" because they joined the president in his poker games.

14. Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, had chronic stomach pain and required 10 to 11 hours of sleep and an afternoon nap every day.

15. Herbert Hoover, 31st U.S. president, published more than 16 books, including one called Fishing for Fun-And to Wash Your Soul.

16. 32nd president of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt was related, either by blood or by marriage, to 11 former presidents.

17. The letter "S" comprises the full middle name of the 33rd president, Harry S. Truman. It represents two of his grandfathers, whose names both had "S" in them.

18. Military leader and 34th president of the U.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower loved to cook; he developed a recipe for vegetable soup that is 894 words long and includes the stems of nasturtium flowers as one of the ingredients.

19. 40th president of the United States Ronald Reagan broke the so-called "20-year curse," in which every president elected in a year ending in 0 died in office.

20. George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, and his wife Laura got married just three months after meeting each other.

Posted by Jim at 10:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

France Pushes EU to Lift Chinese Arms Embargo

Just as President Bush visits Europe and will “talk about how this is a time to move beyond past differences and work in unity,” the EU announced plans to lift its arms embargo against China.

“[A U.S. official said] the United States had "real problems" with EU. plans to lift an arms embargo imposed on China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.” (Source)

(When my wife and I visited Tiananmen Square last August our Chinese guide told us it was the place where “a few bad characters misled a large group of students.”)

From The Scotsman:

“The issue of military sales to China will be much harder to fudge. The EU, pushed by France, is set to lift an embargo imposed in 1989. US officials including Karl Rove, Mr Bush’s chief of staff, see the EU move as a fundamental challenge to US interests. Mr Bush has promised to defend democratic Taiwan from China.

China claims Taiwan is a renegade province, and Beijing yesterday condemned US support for Taiwan. America’s stance on Taiwan "concerns China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security, and the Chinese government and people firmly oppose it," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Richard Fisher, a prominent Washington analyst and commentator on Chinese affairs, said the EU move was a serious provocation to the president’s pro-democracy agenda.

"As both Japan and the US begin to seriously prepare for a real war on the Taiwan Strait, it is simply sickening that European leaders are proposing to take any steps that would help to enable a dictatorship to kill democracy," said Mr Fisher.”

When was the last time the French have shown any cooperation with the U.S. or support for the expansion of democracy?

Posted by Jim at 07:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hunter S. Thompson - Dead.

Hunter S. Thompson has killed himself.

What a tragedy. Thompson fully embraced the hedonism and nihilim of our age in a way that would have given Fitzgerald nightmares. But what an incredible writer.

It's a shame that his life never, at least to public knowledge, found the true peace and happiness that's found in Christ.

Posted by Matt at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 20, 2005

Time for an Intervention?

Okay... Hugh's an addict. First, read this. Then read this and this. And the "long weekend" is only a little more than halfway through! Maybe he's beginning to buy his own meme, "you have to post or you're toast" (scroll down).

Is it time for an intervention? :-)

Posted by Rick at 07:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"R" Rated Movies on Decline?

According to this article, the number of "R" rated movies produced by Hollywood are declining - and the writer attributes the decline to the "political climate." (HT: Drudge)

Despite moral watchdogs lamenting Hollywood's vile tendencies, the studios have actually been cleaning up their act. R-rated films, once the studios' mainstay, are on the decline, both in numbers and in lure. In the last five years, R-rated pics have dwindled from 212 in 1999 to just 147 last year.
Does anyone buy this? The "studies have actually been cleaning up their act?" It seems to me that what used to be an "R" rated movie in 1999, is now a "PG-13."

UPDATE: I didn't catch this on the first read through, but half way down the article there was the following parenthetical note:

(At the same time, there is evidence that today's PG-13 is more like yesterday's R. Last summer, a Harvard study found that current films with PG-13 ratings and below had more violence, sex and profanity than films of the same ratings 10 years prior.)

Posted by Rick at 07:09 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

A Change of Heart?

It's hard to tell from here what is going on in behind the scenes as the power brokers wheel and deal for positions of influence and authority in the new government. But every so often, I catch a glimpse of hope from an MSM report out of Baghdad. This AP story contained the following lead and quote:

As the Shiite majority prepared to take control of the country's first freely elected government, tribal chiefs representing Sunni Arabs in six provinces issued a list of demands — including participation in the government and drafting a new constitution — after previously refusing to acknowledge the vote's legitimacy.

"We made a big mistake when we didn't vote," said Sheik Hathal Younis Yahiya, 49, a representative from northern Nineveh. "Our votes were very important." (emphasis added)

I won't presume to tell the newly elected Iraqi government how to draft their constitution, but perhaps they could leverage this opportunity and get these Sunni clerics to start preaching for democracy, in support of the new Iraqi government, and against the insurgency.

Someone get this man a microphone and podium.

Posted by Rick at 06:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Case for Condi Replacing Cheney

Early in George W. Bush’s first term, before 9-11 changed his presidency, I predicted that Dick Cheney would step down either with real health problems or as a strategic move, and Bush would name Condoleezza Rice as his new vice president. Rice would the run as Bush’s vice presidential candidate in 2004.

This, I thought, would be a the right political calculation because it would change the dynamics of the 2004 election in a way that would breathe life into what appeared to be a vulnerable Bush re-election candidacy, and it would set Rice up to compete with Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Of course none of that happened, and Cheney has served the nation with distinction and class.

Now this report from Jack Wheeler at To The Point that Vice President Dick Cheney likely will step down next year due to health reasons and be replaced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (h/t: WorldNewsDaily)

Wheeler says there's a "red-breasted rumor bird" flying around Capitol Hill that has whispered the same thing to most congressional committee chairmen.

One such chairman evidently told Wheeler: "None of us will be surprised if, sometime next year, he will step down from the vice presidency due to his health."

According to the Wheeler, in this scenario these Members of Congress believe Bush would appoint Condoleezza Rice. “As a sitting vice president, Condi would be in an impregnable position for the GOP nomination in 2008 and would suck every breath of wind from Hillary's sails.


Posted by Jim at 08:05 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 19, 2005

Like Peas in a Pod...

I've yet to read Jose Canseco's new book, but when I heard Allen Barra - as credible a source as any - say it wasn't worth the read, I pretty much marked it off my list. The reason being? Jose Canseco is about as great a truth-teller as Michael Moore. Funny then, that Slate's Bryan Curtis should give the man even an ounce of respect. At the same time, it's not all that surprising that the increasingly-erratic Andrew Sullivan should quote Curtis' review.

Is this supposed to be Sullivan's way of taking a shot at professional sports? Is he suggesting that there's a lot of homoeroticism in professional sports?

I would say that Sullivan has become a collosal bore (give him a week or two), but he's dead-on concerning Larry Summers.

Posted by Matt at 07:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tony Snow

I'm bedridden with a terrible cold that my wife and mother are convinced is the flu. I don't know, but I feel like I got hit by a truck. Serves me right though; I've been firing on all cylinders for a couple weeks now trying to make deadlines at work and school.

In a state somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness, with Fox News on in the background, I heard Jim Angle say a few minutes ago that Tony Snow has colon cancer. This may not be news to anyone else (I don't know how long this has been public), but it got my attention and sent me to my knees. Please join me in praying for Tony and his family.

Posted by Rick at 02:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A St. Patty's Day Gambit

I missed the article when it first appeared on Tuesday, but John O'Sullivan has some advice for the President:

Disinvite Sinn Fein leaders from St. Patrick's Day festivities at the White House.

Posted by Matt at 01:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Vatican, Paul’s Grave, and Noah’s Ark

The Vatican will make a public announcement soon that archeologists have positively identified the tomb of St. Paul the apostle, according to Catholic World News. (h/t: WorldNetDaily via Considerettes.)

From Catholic World News:

“A sarcophagus which may contain the remains of St. Paul was identified in the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, reports Giorgio Filippi, an archeology specialist with the Vatican Museums. The sarcophagus was discovered during the excavations carried out in 2002 and 2003 around the basilica, which is located in the south of Rome. Having reached what they believe is a positive identification of the tomb, Vatican experts will soon make a public announcement of their discovery.”

From WorldNetDaily.com:

“Giorgio Filippi, a specialist with the Vatican Museums, said a sarcophagus that might still contain the apostle's remains was identified in the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. ‘The tomb that we discovered is the one that the popes and the Emperor Theodosius [A.D. 379- 395] saved and presented to the whole world as being the tomb of the apostle,’ Filippi said. He has no doubt, Paul was buried on the site, ‘because this basilica was the object of pilgrimages by emperors; people from all around the world came to venerate him, having faith that he was present in this basilica.’"

I’ve been to active archeological sites in Israel and I fined archeology a fascinating discipline. The painstaking examination of layers of rock and soil has told us much about human history, and it has done much to verify the truth of the Scriptures. But there are dangers.

The Dangers of Discovery

Unfortunately, this kind of discovery presents a major problem. The burial site will be a site of worship, not of the Christ preached by Paul, but of Paul himself. Veneration of the saints is already a far too common diversion from the worship of Christ.

Another issue is the use of archeological discovery as an evangelism tool. Whenever there is a find—-and there have been many—-that affirms biblical accuracy, Christians and Jews celebrate the confirmation of their faith. Nothing wrong with that. It’s healthy.

But it isn’t the evangelism tool some think it would be.

Noah's Ark

All of this reminds me of a project that I worked on seven years ago. I took a call at the public relations agency where I worked from one of the best-known figures in evangelicalism, now deceased. I will let him remain unnamed, because the corpus of his life work is laudable, and he was one of the most humble servants of Christ I’ve ever met.

It was late 1998 and this Christian leader felt that God was calling him to facilitate the discovery of Noah’s Ark, because it would show that the Bible is true and would prompt mass conversions around the world. The timing was important because this leader believed it was important to complete the task of world evangelization by the year 2000.

He was offering a $1 million prize to the individual or group that provided inconvertible evidence of the existence of Noah’s Ark. Now by this time there had been books written and movies made that recounted the proof that adventurers had that remains of the ship were on Mount Ararat or nearby. But they weren’t treated with any great interest, and it hadn’t resulted in millions of new believers.

Our client thought a better approach was to advertise the contest in Turkey. “Certainly there are people in the villages of the Turkish mountains who know about the whereabouts of Noah’s Ark.” A million dollars would loosen their tongues.

He wanted proof that would convince skeptics, media, and the world community.

So we created ads, in Turkish, and had them placed in several newspapers in Turkey. And, indeed, we received a lot of mail and emails. Much of it in Turkish (which created significant translated expenses). And lots of fuzzy photographs.

Nothing rose to the level of certainty. After about a year, the project was declared over. The new millennium arrived without the benefit of Noah’s Ark.

What if the proof had been convincing? What if the ossuary recently found is that of James the brother of Jesus? And what if the Vatican archeologists have found Paul’s body?

What will be the impact on world evangelization? A similar scenario was posed by Jeusus in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). In hell, the rich man asks for Abraham's permission to send Lazarus back to warn his five brothers, for “if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”

The response: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

Nor will many unbelievers be convinced by archeology. (I still hope it really is Paul’s grave.)

Posted by Jim at 12:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 18, 2005

Is Liberalism Dead?

Is liberalism dead? Thus sayeth The New Republic. This is particularly interesting in light of our discussions of liberalism's intellectual tradition. I'll likely pick up that meme later this weekend. I realize I'm going on and on about it, but the intellectual underpinings of a movement and (this is crucial) its implications for public policy must be understood if one is to offer either support or condemnation.

Posted by Matt at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Harvard Releases Transcript of Summers Remarks on Gender Differences

A transcript of remarks by Harvard President Lawrence Summers on women in science was released by the university yesterday. Disgruntled members of the faculty had been calling for the transcript of the January 14 speech to be made public. The university had previously declined to release the transcript, saying they had been given in an off-the-record setting.

The transcript includes his contention that intrinsic differences between the sexes, along with family pressure and employer demands, probably play a bigger role than cultural factors and discrimination in explaining why fewer women than men have top science jobs. (source).

Here’s the salient comment by Summers on why women are generally not in high positions in science and engineering:

"In the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.”

At the vortex of political correctness, Harvard’s president committed the cardinal sin of surmising that there is an intrinsic difference between men and women, and that this and the desire of women to spend more time with their children—-not only discrimination—-has resulted in variances in the work force.

Here’s a site with links to many of the articles written on Summers remarks.

Two Harvard professors wrote in The Boston Globe:

“Considerable evidence exists on women making different choices than men with regard to the family-career tradeoff. Female medical doctors, for example, reduce their practice hours when they have families, particularly after the birth of their second child. But male doctors do not. Women economists occupy positions that have less intense tenure pressure. Female lawyers shift to smaller firms and the government sector.”

Often, women are making the decision that spending time with their families is more important that reaching the highest positions. Anywhere west of the Hudson River and east of the Sierra Nevada’s this is generally seen as a good thing.

However, now that the comments are on the record, the pressure will mount for Summers to be ousted, and that this cardinal transgression by the Charles River be declared a mortal sin.

Posted by Jim at 08:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Shortest Seminary Course

Organizations use a distribution feature offered Religion News Service to send their news releases out to people like me. Yesterday’s releases included this one:

“The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, in conjunction with the Chicago Theological Seminary, has launched a first-of-its-kind curriculum, ‘Theology and Reproductive Choice,’ to teach seminary students theological perspectives on reproductive freedom as a distinct subject.”

It seems to me this would be the shortest seminary course in history.

Posted by Jim at 07:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 17, 2005

Apology to Catez

In the initial version of my post entitled The Barnabas Project below, I wrongfully mischaracterized the website Allthings2all, written by Catez Stevens. The incorrect sentence has been removed and I think it would only perpetuate the wrong to repeat it here. However, I want to publicly apologize to Ms. Stevens. It was wrong to mis-characterize her site. I should not have done so.

I would, however, like to say something about Allthings2all and Ms. Stevens. Her site is very inspirational. Ms. Stevens posts on a number of different topics that all Christians can find uplifting, inspiring, and/or thought-provoking. In particular, she is involved in a street ministry to people that most of us just walk by on a daily basis. She and those she works with, instead of just walking by, minister to them and reveal the love of Jesus. Her range of topics is much broader, but her posts on that particular ministry are powerful. In addition, Ms. Stevens is a terrific writer.

My post was intended to be about uniting Christians. By my sloppiness, I have caused the reverse. I am very sorry.

Mark Sides

Posted by Mark at 11:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


I promise to continue blathering on about economics later this weekend (I know; you're all thrilled). For now, here's a few things to read and ponder.

Crux Magazine discusses Ten Fils That Ask the Right Questions. Well worth the read. Very challenging stuff here, and some great movies, to boot.

Michael Spencer is explaining himself. You won't agree with all of it (I don't), but it's a thoughtful read. Check it out.

Spencer also wades into matters of Scripture, and Jollyblogger offers a kind rebuttal. Again, you'll likely fall more on side than the other, but this is a really interesting discussion.

Fox-hunting banned in England. Say it with me now: Laaaaaaaaame.

I said I'll deal with economics and Scripture later - see Mark's post below on the Barnabas Project - but one final thing (for at least twenty-four hours) about Jim Wallis. One of my major, major issues is that Sojourners is presented as a bridge-builder. Not so, folks. Click the link. Read the action alerts page. First, is there anything on this site that your typical National Review-reading conservative (not the populist, Neil Boortz breed) could agree with? Second, is the content of this site markedly different from the folks at A.N.S.W.E.R., IndyMedia or even Michael Moore? I mean come on - they're railing against "death squads." What is this, El Salvador in the 1980s?

I'm just asking, but I sure would like an answer.

Posted by Matt at 06:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dispatches from Glass Houses

James Taranto's "Best of the Web" today points to blogger David M's piece pondering the identity of the person who wrote Monday's Wall Street Journal editorial on the Eason Jordan "kerfuffle." (The word "kerfuffle" being a big clue, apparently.)

I've made no secret about being freaked out lately by the power of the blogosphere, particularly as it pertains to the Eason Jordan incident, but Taranto responds in such a dismissive, condescending manner that . . . well, it wouldn't surprise me to see Taranto in the blogosphere's crosshairs soon (if he's not already.)

David forwarded us his blog entry, asking if we did indeed write the editorial. That is a question we cannot answer, for Journal policy is to keep the authorship of editorials confidential. An exception is made when editorial writers are nominated for prizes--which means that bloggers who wish to learn who wrote this editorial should be rooting for the author to win a Pulitzer.

Isn't this a perfect example of how bloggers are amateurs (amateur: "one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession")? If David enjoys puzzling over the authorship of newspaper editorials, more power to him--but it's hard to imagine anyone making a living that way.

There's also something sweet in how the bloggers have taken such offense at the editorial. Rather than bask in their victory, they are focused on letting the world know how much they crave the approval of the big boys at the Journal.

Perhaps Taranto hasn't noticed, but his "Best of the Web" is essentially a blog, pointing out newsbits from across the web and commenting on them. The only difference is that Taranto gets paid to write his blog while the "amateurs" he sniffs at do not.

WSJ's Peggy Noonan, on the other hand, gets it.

Posted by Drew at 05:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Free Speech on Campus

Interesting free speech issues have emerged on the campus of the University of Alabama. On the one hand, a group of students preparing to perform The Vagina Monologues has been kicked off campus for no apparent reason. At the same time, the faculty Senate is proposing something of a speech code for University-funded events. This is somewhat different than an across the board speech code, but it certainly raises an eybrow. Some students are opposing the measure.

I actually think the University was wrong to deny the women the opportunity to use student facilities to perform their play, however lewd it might be. (And it is, believe me - I saw it once on HBO) The speech issue is somewhat trickier. The Faculty proposing the resolution is doing so on the grounds that only University-sponsored events would be subject to restrictions. It still makes me uncomfortable. Slippery-slope and all that. It's bad enough we're forced to have a "free speech zone."

Posted by Matt at 10:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blogosphere Appeals for Terri Schaivo

Are you tired of the Terri Schaivo story? Those who wish to see her killed have not tired and it seems the clock is ticking to a February 22 slow execution. Many are calling for the blogosphere to try its hand at turning the scythe of the Grim Reaper. The Anchoress has written compellingly on this. I hope you'll read it and do what you can.

Posted by Jim at 09:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Noonan on Blogging

Peggy Noonan today on why the MSM is so upset by the bloggers, and why the smart money will join rather than fight. A good read, of course.

Posted by Jim at 08:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hillary, Abortion, and the Partisan Juggernaut

Even those who might be otherwise viewed as ideologues often get caught up with the juggernaut of partisanship, putting preservation of the party over advocacy or principle.

We’ve seen support among conservatives for changing historic Senate filibuster rules because the Republicans are frustrated by Democratic misuse of the rule that protects the minority party. But even more blatant is the failure of the pro-life movement to recognize and even praise unquestionable shifts within the Democratic Party on abortion.

“Since its defeats in the November elections, nothing has put the fractured soul of the Democratic Party on display more vividly than abortion. Party leaders, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and the new chairman, Howard Dean, have repeatedly signaled an effort to recalibrate the party's thinking about new restrictions on abortion.” (Source)

When Senator Clinton moderated her public position on abortion restrictions, infuriating the pro-abortion cabal, the only thing we heard from conservatives was skepticism and analysis of the enemy’s political calculation.

William Saletan wrote in Slate:

[Clinton said]: "There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances."

Does not ever have to be exercised. I searched Google and Nexis for parts of that sentence tonight and got no hits. Is the press corps asleep? Hillary Clinton just endorsed a goal I've never heard a pro-choice leader endorse. Not safe, legal, and rare. Safe, legal, and never.

Senator Clinton’s move is no doubt a political adjustment, not a change of heart. But if we discount changes by politicians that are, well, political, we will discount much that is done in Washington (maybe a good idea).

Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t hear any pro-life conservatives celebrating this shift by Clinton. All I heard were observations about how early in the election cycle she was moderating her positions in order to be electable. I’m sure she is doing just that, and that is the right political commentary. But the pro-life movement should be celebrating any new successes and praising Democrats for the changes that are being made.

And it’s not just Hillary:

Other examples:

Senate Democrats named a professed opponent of abortion rights, Harry Reid of Nevada, as the leader in the Senate.

Many Democrats supported another abortion opponent, Timothy J. Roemer, for the party's chairmanship.

The party has recruited Robert P. Casey Jr., Pennsylvania's treasurer and a Catholic opponent of abortion (and son of one of the party’s renowned abortion opponents) to challenge Senator Rick Santorum.
One Republican Senator has noticed.

Pro-life Senator Sam Brownback, (R- Kansas) said: "Just the language that allows for the Democrats to open up and even encourage people to run for office as a pro-life candidate is an enormously positive development for me."

(I guess the pro-life groups are otherwise occupied. I just noticed that the American Life League has announced its National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day. I’m sure that will change a lot of hearts and minds.

The list of thoroughly pro-life Democrats is short, mind you (Note the website of Democrats For Life), but progress on the issues of life on both sides of the aisle should be praised by pro-life advocates, if indeed saving lives is more important than electing Republicans.

Posted by Jim at 08:10 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Barnabas Project

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord . . . ." Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, . . . , but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia . . . . They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, . . . . (Acts 15:36-40)

Most Christians know the story of the parting of Paul and Barnabas, after the disagreement about Mark, who was the cousin of Barnabas. (See Colossians 4:10) The three eventually reconcile, as Paul subsequently refers to Barnabas twice (1 Co. 9:6 and Col. 4:10, although it appears they did not minister together after the separation) and Paul later asks that Mark come to him in prison (2 Timothy 4:11).

Although Christians today, particularly Evangelicals and, increasingly, Catholics, are often associated with the Republican party, the truth is that faithful Christians are found at all points on the political spectrum. This mix also plays out on the internet, with a spectrum of Christian blogs running from right to left. Two blogs that tend to be on the left side are Sacking Rome, written by Ray Grieselhuber (who helped design this blog), and Itsara, written by Adam Heine. Both tend to eschew labels, but I would argue that Ray is a bit more politically liberal than Adam. Both, however, are to the left of me and, I would contend, the other Stones.

Ray and I have had extended debates working through politics and faith between Sacking Rome and my other blog Sidesspot. (See this post, which will link you back through the rest.) Ray and Rick Brady have also had some debates, most of which are contained in various comments at Ray's blog. We have sharp differences; however, I would say that we all tried to be careful to follow Paul's instruction in Ephesians 4:2-3:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

I think that we politically conservative Christians have much to learn from Christians who are left of center. I think it is good for us to be constantly reminded of the oppressed and less fortunate and that it is our duty to help them. I think we ought to expose ourselves more to our brethren who are more left leaning politically. I believe the reverse for politically liberal Christians (not, by the way, to be confused with liberal Christians--those who are necessarily orthodox). I think that politically liberal Christians ought to regularly expose themselves to conservative Christian thought.

To that end, I commend to our conservative readers a post by Ray, which lists several sites by faithful Christians who tend to be politically left of center. I would suggest that you read one or two of those sites regularly. As mentioned, I make Sacking Rome and Itsara regular weekly reading.

Similarly, I would suggest that those who tend to be left of center read regularly a few of the right of center Christian blogs. You can start with almost any of the blogs on the Stones Cry Out blogroll.

Visit the sites, leave comments, post responses on your own blogs. Be humble and gentle, and bear with one another in love. We can all improve our walk and sharpen our reasoning if we do this. Let's meet together under the Cross and see what we can accomplish if we work together, even when we disagree.

(I want to thank Pastor Mark Roberts, who suggested this post.)

Posted by Mark at 07:29 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

February 16, 2005

Drugs Are Bad, Mmmmkay?

Hugh Hewitt and Andrew Sullivan (second point) are talking about Crystal Meth. I don't support any kind of recreational drug use, though like most conservatives, I support some loosening and restructuring of the existing drug laws. Crystal Meth is a complete exception - this is a very, very dangerous drug. I can honestly say that I don't know anyone who has used this drug, at least to my knowledge. Yet every article I've ever read on it, including a huge Rolling Stone piece a few years back, is just terrifying in its depiction. Everything suggests that this is the most dangerous drug out there; more than heroin or any form of cocaine.

I'm not sure what we can do about it, though Hewitt suggests an attempt be made. Here's a starter: Honesty. Honesty from the government. Make sure D.A.R.E. officers tell kids that meth is far more dangerous than pot or beer. Pot and beer might make you a bum, but meth will turn your brain into sludge. The anti-drug warriors should be just as honest. I don't want to hear the folks at Reason suggest that crystal meth usage is acceptable. It's not. It's dangerous, and if it makes its way into the cities the same as cocaine or heroine...well, we're all in a lot of trouble.

Posted by Matt at 10:57 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Confirm Them

I have disagree with Jim, my much wiser (and elder - heh) colleague, regarding use of the nuclear option. Jim wrote,

We should be careful seeking rule changes that serve immediate political goals but may be dangerous for long term protection of the power of the political minority. I’m not ready to assume that the current domination by the Republican Party will last.
If the Dems were in our position right now, they would not hesitate to go nuclear. The Dems have already done it - four times in the 1970s and 1980s.

From one article on the subject:

As Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) said at the time: "We cannot allow a minority" of the senators "to grab the Senate by the throat and hold it there." Senators Leahy, Kennedy, Byrd, and Biden, all agreed. Nearly a decade ago, Lloyd Cutler, the former White House Counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton, concluded that the Senate Rule requiring a super-majority vote to change the rule is "plainly unconstitutional."
Had the Dems had fewer votes, they would have changed the cloture threshold from 67 to whatever number they so desired; but they only needed to lower the threshold from 67 to 60 and so they did. They have established the precedent and the philosophy for breaking the filibuster rule.

Republicans have never filibustered nominees to the circuit court of appeals. The Dems filibuster of Bush's circuit court nominees was unconventional and unprecedented. The right response to an unconventional attack is nuclear.

Confirm Them is the best resource for information and commentary on the Senate confirmation debate. Bookmark the site and refer to it often.

Posted by Rick at 09:40 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Changing the Filibuster Rules

Senate Majority Leader Bill First has the votes needed to change filibuster rules, which would clear the way for easier confirmation of judicial appointments, according to The Washington Times.

Hugh Hewitt agrees with Frist “that the Constitution does not provide 41 Senators the power to block nominees. Thus every time a filibuster is employed against the nominee, damage is done to the Constitution's intent. I think that is a damage worth halting at the first opportunity.”

And Hugh argues that the fact that Republicans may need to use the nominee filibuster at a later date is unconvincing because it is “the embrace of extraconstitutional means to reach political objectives.”

Yes, but not unconstitutional. We should be careful seeking rule changes that serve immediate political goals but may be dangerous for long term protection of the power of the political minority. I’m not ready to assume that the current domination by the Republican Party will last. The political landscape could easily trend back toward the Democrats, particularly if inroads into the Hispanic community don’t continue.

Posted by Jim at 06:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 15, 2005

When Did I Become a Policy Wonk?

I'm going to address Rick's post below later tonight. For now, let me establish one thing that I (apparently) haven't made clear. When I suggest that I find the liberal welfare state to be un-Biblical, I don't mean to suggest that is (by default) sinful. I mean to say that Scripture establishes certain notions of government that I find overwhelmingly compatible with the free market. I think the Bible does very little to establish the State as a means of charity, laying that responsibility at the feet of individuals acting collectively - on a voluntary basis - in the Church. It's not sinful to accept a government handout, nor is it sinful to support some means of government assistance. Government-forced welfare is a sin only if it reaches a point that our sensitivities have been dulled to those around us, the taxes have harmed ability to help others and - here's the kicker - we have abdicated our responsibilities to the State and away from the Church and the private sector.

Posted by Matt at 06:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Shelter Poverty

According to this AP story, a recent study by an organization known as the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness found "a 28 percent rise last year in emergency food assistance requests, and a 27 percent increase in requests for emergency shelter."

I suspect that most conservatives are willing to dismiss a report's findings simply because the name of the organization certainly indicates that it has an agenda - but that would be a terrible mistake.

As a planning consultant, clients often have me analyze and assess the gap between homeless needs and shelters/services to meet identified needs. The gap is getting larger and the alarming part is that more an more people, especially families with children, are either seeking food and other services, or are forced onto the streets for the first time in their lives.

Homeless advocates blame the Bush budget:

Kathleen Barr, the report's author, said the Bush administration's 2006 budget proposal hurts many programs aimed at low-income Americans and could set back emergency assistance providers further.

"It's hurting their ability to help folks," said Barr, who added that private donations of time and money weren't enough to keep pace.
Unemployment and wages too low to afford enough food are among the main reasons that people seek help from shelters and soup kitchens, Barr said.
Others point to the increasing gap between housing costs and incomes:
Unemployment and wages too low to afford enough food are among the main reasons that people seek help from shelters and soup kitchens, Barr said.

Many people are also hampered by high housing costs that force them to spend more than 30 percent of their income on the rent or mortgage payment, said Susan Ban, executive director for ShelterCare, a Eugene, Ore., organization that provides emergency shelter for families with children who are homeless.

The Bush Administration blames local and state regulatory barriers:
Among the concerns listed by HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson were slow permitting procedures and complex environmental regulations that can significantly increase the length and cost of home building review and approval processes.
They all identify parts of the problems, but none identify a real solution.

I realize that many of the homeless are bums, hobos, and tramps and I've met many homeless who make a decent living (relatively) shaking down folks with a guilty conscience or who do not know better when they see them with their signs on the street corner. But, these represent less than the majority of our nation's homeless. According to this 2002 US Conference of Mayors study of 25 cities,

  • 41 percent of the homeless population are families with children

  • Requests for shelter by homeless families alone increased by 20 percent since last year, with 88 percent of the cities reporting an increase.

  • 48 percent of the people requesting emergency food assistance were members of families -- children and their parents.

  • 38 percent of the adults requesting food assistance were employed.
  • While I'm sure it is easy to nit-pick these statistics (I'm aware of the Heritage Foundation criticisms), the trends are alarming. The homeless and hungry are increasingly families and not tramps.

    There is an immediate need and a long-term need. The immediate need is seen every day at the emergency shelters that are operating on inadequate staff and budgets. I have interviewed homeless service providers who are, for the first time in years, turning people away because for food and shelter because they cannot meet the need. The best they can do is give them clothes and wish them luck (people love to give away their rags to homeless shelters - it must make them feel good to know that they've done their part).

    While true that Bush's budget proposes a $200 million increase in immediate shelter assistance (Emergency Shelter Grants), the same Budget slashes about $2 billion from other community development (CDBG) and housing (HOME) programs that provide more mid-level fix, while doing nothing about what I see as the greatest source of the problem: inadequate supply of housing in proximity to jobs, services, and amenities.

    Michael Stone, Professor at UMass Boston, wrote a fabulous book in 1993 with the title Shelter Poverty. In the book, Dr. Stone outlined a very elegant case for defining who and who cannot "afford" housing. The Shelter Poverty scale is worthy of an entire post, but it basically takes household income by household size and matches that to subsistence budgets (poverty level for food, clothing, medicine, transportation, etc.). If housing costs plus the poverty level household budget exceed income, then that household suffers shelter poverty.

    Dr. Stone found that while the overall number of shelter poor was no different than the number of those who paid over 30% of their income on housing (the conventional HUD measure), the demographic distribution was much different. Some people can afford to spend 80% of their income on housing, while other households can't afford to spend anything on housing without comprising their ability to subsist.

    The shelter poor are the at-risk homeless population. Either they spend more money on housing costs and less on food and clothing and other items, or the spend money on subsistence items and lose their housing. Tough choices for too many Americans.

    Most of the book was wonderful, but I had to throw it across the room and scream when I read Dr. Stone's "solution" to the problem of Shelter Poverty in America: Public Housing. Stone believes that the best solution to our housing problems is to covert the majority of America's housing stock to public housing. Unfortunately, his elegant definition of the problem is marred by his thoughtless attempt at a solution.

    I've argued (see comments here and here), and I will continue to argue, that government is forcing market failure in the provision of housing at the local levels. This market failure is highly complex, but in my experience on the west coast, this market failure is lead predominantly by NIMBY's who use local development controls to restrict the supply of both market rate and affordable housing (including emergency shelters and transitional housing). I'm not talking public housing here folks. I'm talking non-profit, in many cases, Christian charities who are trying to build affordable housing and provide shelter services to homeless and needy populations, but meet exceedingly tough opposition in the town halls. This is Madisonian tyranny by local parochial factions. It is real. It must be stopped.

    Some people, including Christians, say "tough luck" and are content that they tithe to their local church and the church offers its facilities once every few months for a rotating ecumenical shelter. Others realize that this simply won't do. I believe that "we" (as individuals and society) should meet the immediate need first and develop and implement a long-term strategy that creates the institutional and social reform necessary to reduce the problem.

    Posted by Rick at 03:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    I'm thinking out loud.

    Posted by Matt at 08:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Why Baseball is Better than Football

    Hope springs eternal. Tomorrow is the first day of baseball Spring training. There has never been a year when we so desperately need baseball. Football is over, basketball--well, can anyone name more than about five players anymore, and hockey has a death wish, with the rest of the season about to be cancelled.

    This year, baseball returns to the Nation's Capital, and one of the nation's best sports writers, Thomas Boswell, is as enthused as he can be.

    As a salute to the beginning of Spring training, here's the classic (1987) Boswell piece: Why Is Baseball So Much Better Than Football? (h/t: Daddypundit).

    Posted by Jim at 07:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Jerry Falwell and Jim Wallis

    I can 't remember ever being so embarassed to be a conservative Christian as I was last night driving down the highway listening on the radio to Jerry Falwell lambasting Jim Wallis on the Sean Hannity show, without any regard for civilty, decorum, or good taste.

    Falwell's boorishness sunk to its lowest level when he began namecalling Wallis a "secularist liberal." And then flashed some of the famous Falwell arrogance as he demeaned Wallis spiritual credentials because Wallis is a church attender but not a church member.

    The gospel according to Jerry is that the mark of a Christian is church membership. Particularly if we disagree with your politics.

    I am delaying any comment on Jim Wallis' new book God and Politics until I read more of it. I've followed his Sojourners work for decades and find it interesting that he has emerged from virtual anonymity at this time.

    I am no fan of Wallis' political views. But this is a man who has spent his entire adult life living among the poor in Washington, D.C. He has, as we used to say, "walked the talk." This doesn't make his political views any better, but I believe it earns him more respect than Jerry Falwell showed him last night.

    Actually, everyone has earned more respect than that from a follower of Christ.

    Posted by Jim at 06:16 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

    Tuvaluans Plea for Help!

    Islands in the South Pacific are being inundated by tidal waves, but not from tsunamis like the one that devastated islands to the west. Whereas the tsunami that ravaged the region was a single massive blow, it appears from this article, that islands like Tuvalua in the South Pacific are suffering death from a 1,000 mini-tidal waves.

    "I for one do not want my island wiped out from the face of the earth, and I call for help, from those in power who can do something to change our island's situation," she said.

    "Your help and consideration will be treasured by every Tuvaluan around the globe." In an address to the U.N. General Assembly in October 2004, the Tuvalu government pleaded with the world to save the island nation from climate change...

    Global warming from greenhouse gas pollution is regarded as the main reason for higher sea levels...

    While what is happening to Tuvalu is unfortunate, am I wrong to be doubt whether humans are causing it? Am I wrong to be skeptical of the idea that an international protocol could stop it?

    Certainly the globe is warming, but how is it that scientists have made a causal relationship between greenhouse gas pollution and temperature increases? What is the probability of a Type I error here?

    Part of my job requires that I analyze outputs of traffic, air quality, and noise models. These simple models operate with a finite set of assumptions. Tweak the assumptions slightly and the outputs can vary tremendously. Every once in a while, I'll spot something that doesn't look right and ask the technician to rerun the model with a slightly different assumption. Voila! I get the output that I think looks "more like it."

    I have to wonder how much of this type of monkey business goes on with global warming modeling. I read Michael Chricton's Cal-Tech Lecture series a while back and it touched on this same point. Very good read.

    I ask again, am I wrong to be skeptical that Americans are either to blame for the sinking of Tuvalu? Am I wrong to be skeptical that Kyoto will stop Tuvalu from sinking?

    Posted by Rick at 01:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    February 14, 2005

    How "transformed" are we?

    Ten years ago, Mark Noll wrote The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, asserting that "notwithstanding all their other virtues, . . . American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking." Now comes Ron Sider's The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, which asserts that we evangelicals aren't exemplary for our virtues, either.

    In the latest issue of Christianity Today's Books and Culture (a fantastic bi-monthy that should appeal to any thinking Christian) Ron Sider writes what must be a sort of condensation of the conclusions of his book. It's loaded with statistics, but if these statistics are reflective of the truth about Evangelical Christians, then we must face up to a sobering truth -- we do not live like people whose lives have been transformed by Christ. In fact, on the whole we're not much different than those whose lives we would say need transforming.

    The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. "Gallup and Barna," laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, "hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general." Divorce is more common among "born-again" Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their nonevangelical peers.

    Alan Wolfe, famous contemporary scholar and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, has just published a penetrating study of American religious life. Evangelicals figure prominently in his book. His evaluation? Today's evangelicalism, Wolfe says, exhibits "so strong a desire to copy the culture of hotel chains and popular music that it loses what religious distinctiveness it once had." Wolfe argues, "The truth is there is increasingly little difference between an essentially secular activity like the popular entertainment industry and the bring-'em-in-at-any-cost efforts of evangelical megachurches." It is not surprising that George Barna concludes, "Every day, the church is becoming more like the world it allegedly seeks to change." We have very little time, he believes, to reverse these trends. African Christian and famous missions scholar Professor Lamin Sanneh told Christianity Today recently that "the cultural captivity of Christianity in the West is nearly complete, and with the religion tamed, it is open season on the West's Christian heritage. I worry about a West without a moral center facing a politically resurgent Islam."

    Sider quickly points out that our first concern "must be internal integrity, not external danger." (Although, to phrase that last statement another way, there should be some concern whether an America with no moral foundation can face an enemy with a strong foundation of anti-Americanism.)

    In the article, Sider cites a series of statistics that should be cause for self-examination in the church, if not a call for outright reform.

    In a 1999 national survey, George Barna found that the percentage of born-again Christians who had experienced divorce was slightly higher (26 percent) than that of non-Christians (22 percent). In Barna's polls since the mid-1990s, that number has remained about the same. In August 2001, a new poll found that the divorce rate was about the same for born-again Christians and the population as a whole; 33 percent of all born-again Christians had been divorced compared with 34 percent of non-born-again Americans — a statistically insignificant difference. Barna also found in one study that 90 percent of all divorced born-again folk divorced after they accepted Christ.

    . . .

    John and Sylvia Ronsvalle have been carefully analyzing the giving patterns of American Christians for well over a decade. Their annual The State of Christian Giving is the most accurate report for learning how much Christians in the richest nation in human history actually give. In their most recent edition, they provide detailed information about per-member giving patterns of U.S. church members from 1968 to 2001. Over those thirty-plus years, of course, the average income of U.S. Christians has increased enormously. But that did not carry over into their giving. The report showed that the richer we become, the less we give in proportion to our incomes. In 1968, the average church member gave 3.1 percent of their income—less than a third of a tithe. That figure dropped every year through 1990 and then recovered slightly to 2.66 percent—about one quarter of a tithe.

    . . .

    Popular evangelical speaker Josh McDowell has been observing and speaking to evangelical youth for several decades. I remember him saying years ago that evangelical youth are only about 10 percent less likely to engage in premarital sex than nonevangelicals.

    True Love Waits, a program sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention, is one of the most famous evangelical efforts to reduce premarital sexual activity among our youth. Since 1993, about 2.4 million young people have signed a pledge to wait until marriage to engage in sexual intercourse. Are these young evangelicals keeping their pledges? In March 2004, researchers from Columbia University and Yale University reported on their findings. For seven years they studied 12 thousand teenagers who took the pledge. Sadly, they found that 88 percent of these pledgers reported having sexual intercourse before marriage; just 12 percent kept their promise. The researchers also found that the rates for having sexually transmitted diseases "were almost identical for the teenagers who took pledges and those who did not."

    Read the whole article here.

    Sider is the president and founder of Evangelicals for Social Action and a professor of theology and culture at Eastern Baptist Theolgical Seminary. A lot of people would call Sider a "liberal," including Tony Campolo, perhaps the poster boy for liberal Christians. But I don't know if Sider is that easy to nail down.

    Here's an article in Christianity Today on Sider -- from 1992, I'll grant you, and people certainly change over time -- but it may be a good starting point.

    Here's an interview with Sider regarding the "Evangelical Agenda" for Bush's second term.

    I haven't had the time to read either of these two articles yet, but plan to soon.

    In the meantime, I think I'll pick up Sider's new book. If even half of what he says is true, then all of us need to pay attention.

    Posted by Drew at 10:42 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Prayer Request

    My grandmother writes asking for prayer for their good friends Dick and Ruth. Ruth has Alzeimhers and was just recently confined to a care center. Almost a year ago their son Greg and his wife Shan Marie had a baby girl who was born with lots of problems. This is their only child and Greg is a couple of years older than my Uncle Craig (early 40s). The baby has had an up and down year with more downs it seems than ups. She is now in the hospital on life support with some very difficult decisions to be made in the next few days. The mother has asked for specific prayer for strengthing Baby Sophia's heart since that is the primary problem at the moment. Sophia will be a year old on Thursday. According to my grandma, this is a child that was so wanted and so looked forward to and she has been such a little fighter that we can hardly bear to think of losing her. Thank you!

    Posted by Rick at 10:42 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    Whatever happened to the "loyal" opposition?

    I don't link to DailyKos on principle. Friends don't let friends read Kos, and they surely shouldn't send total strangers that way. But everyone should read this, because this is a fine example of the sickness that festers in the left.

    Doug pointed me to this link, and added some thoughts that leave me with nothing to add but an affirmative "What he said."

    You cannot have a functioning civil society when half the members of that society have decided the other half seriously intends to institute the equivalent of a new Nazi regime.

    This stuff started as simple hyperbole, and both sides were equally guilty of using it. There's even a cute little Internet custom that says the first side who resorts to a Nazi analogy loses the argument. Ha, ha. Yet at some point a scarey-large number of people missed the joke. And then a scarey-large political party told those same folks to come on in.

    It's not like the left has always been this way. And I'm not even claiming this is a common belief even now. It's just too d*mn easily tolerated by those who should know better.

    When a political ally says, "I think President Bush is trying to make the United States just like Nazi Germany, so I oppose him," the proper response is not, "Well, that's a bit of a stretch for me. But since we both agree we don't want him elected, let's join forces." The proper response is "Get away from me you freaking lunatic! I don't want anyone mistaking my rational opposition with your nutjob ravings!"

    Like Doug, I've seen friends become seduced by the anti-Bush nutjob ravings, and I've given up trying to hold a civil political conversation with them, because such a thing is impossible.

    The Republicans need a loyal opposition if only to keep them honest, but somewhere along the way, the Democrats forgot the "loyal" part, and settled on being simply the "opposition."

    With Howard "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for" Dean in charge of the DNC, I doubt we'll see the Democrats regaining their sanity. The sooner a third party can gain enough support to replace the Democrats, the better.

    Howard Dean was chosen partly for his ability to raise funds for the DNC, but funding alone won't put anyone in the White House. Michael Barone has a great column that touches on what the prominence of lefties like DailyKos and Howard Dean mean for the Democratic party. (Hat tip: Th' Anchoress.)

    The Democratic Internet constituency was and is motivated by one thing more than anything else: hatred of George W. Bush. To see that you only have to take a look at dailykos.com, run by Democratic consultant Markos Moulitsas, which gets 400,000 page views a day--far more than any other political weblog--and which received funding from the Dean campaign (which Moulitsas disclosed). It seethes with hatred of Bush, constantly attacks Republicans, and excoriates Democrats who don't oppose Bush root and branch. When four American contractors were killed in Iraq in April 2004, dailykos.com wrote, "I feel nothing over the death of the mercenaries. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them." This repulsive comment produced no drop-off in page views. This was what the left blogosphere wanted. Kos was an early enthusiast for Dean's campaign for Democratic chairman and disparaged other candidates.

    For 12 years, Democratic chairmen were chosen by Bill Clinton. He built a new generation of fundraisers who relished contact with the Clintons. Now the big money comes from the left blogosphere and Bush-hating billionaires like George Soros. Dean gives them what they want. As Dean says, "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for." Hate. But Bush hatred was not enough to beat Bush in 2004--while Democratic turnout was up, Republican turnout was up more--and doesn't seem likely to beat Republicans in 2006 and 2008. The left blogosphere has driven the Democrats into an electoral cul de sac.

    We can only hope. Because the alternative is a party in power that's motivated solely by hatred for the "other." And that is one of the scariest things I can imagine happening to this country.

    Posted by Drew at 08:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Is This Torture?

    Andrew Sullivan is - gasp! - having another hissy fit over torture. I'll confess to having some questions about all this, but is this complaint legit? See Quote #2. Is it really so outrageous that skanky-looking woman sits on a prisoner's lap? Heaven forbid that we prod at a cultural sensibility. Cutting off limbs is one thing; nitpicking at a repressive Arab culture is something else entirely.

    Posted by Matt at 07:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Not extinct after all!

    It's rare, but sometimes a species thought to be extinct manages to survive, hidden away in some remote valley where it continues to thrive.

    To my amazement, I learned today that something once thought to be extinct survives in the valleys of western Virginia: Bible classes for public school students.

    The Bible classes began in Virginia in 1929 after a majority of students failed a simple Bible test.

    The lessons were conducted inside public school classrooms until 1948, when the Supreme Court ruled that the lessons violated the principle of separation of church and state. A few years later, the court revisited the issue and approved classes held away from school premises.

    Most towns have done away with the classes, but the 20 school divisions that have kept the classes generally stretch along Interstate 81 in western Virginia, known to some as the state's "Bible Belt." In the Staunton area, more than 80 percent of first-, second- and third-graders participate.

    These Bible classes are completely voluntary. Students are transported from public schools to nearby churches where they take part in what the CNN story quoted above calls "Christian lessons and activities."

    Some parents object, arguing that children who opt out of the voluntary classes are stigmatized. I've never thought much of the "stigmatization" argument. The only way to avoid stigmatization is to eliminate diversity altogether, and we'd all be one big happy majority, rejoicing in our sameness.

    Objections based on the establishment clause probably have more validity, although this has already been tried in the courts once. At the moment no lawsuits have been filed.

    I'm sure modern courts will find a way to eliminate these classes. And I'm sure most students will get their religious education in other ways.

    But not all students will. Think of it this way: a person cannot be culturally literate without a knowledge of Christianity. History and literature, to name only two courses, depend on a working knowledge of the Christian faith. For some students these courses may be their only exposure. I would have a hard time arguing that such knowledge is unimportant to a well-rounded education.

    I'm sure these classes will be gone faster than you can say ACLU, but for now, let's marvel at the fact that they survived this long.

    Posted by Drew at 07:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    More on the TNIV and HCSB Bibles

    Since my post on the TNIV and the Holman Christian Standard Bible created a lot of interest and a long string of comments, you may be interested in a more scholarly treatment of the topic. Mark Roberts, senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church (Calif.), is starting a series on the TNIV today on his blog.

    While to some it seems as though a new translation of the Bible is introduced every year, most are revisions of existing translations. The Holman CSB is one of a handful of English translations in the last 500 years.

    Below is a list of the major English translations and revisions familiar to most people:

    Tyndale Bible 1526, 1534
    New English Bible 1961-1970
    Jerusalem Bible 1966
    New American Bible 1941-1970
    Good News Bible 1966-1976
    New International Version 1973-1978
    Holman Christian Standard Bible 2004

    Coverdale 1535
    Geneva Bible 1560
    King James Version 1611, 1613, 1629, 1638, 1762, 1769
    American Standard Version 1901
    Revised Standard Version 1946-1952, 1971
    New King James 1979-1982
    New American Standard 1963-1971
    Living Bible 1967-1971
    New Living Translation 1996
    English Standard Version 2001

    A reader pointed out that the NET Bible is also translated from the original languages. This was created first as only an online edition, but it is now in print here.

    Posted by Jim at 01:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Nice Tribute by an Iraqi Artist

    A beautiful new statue stands outside the Iraqi palace, now home to the 4th Infantry division. The statue was created by an Iraqi artist named Kalat, who for years was forced by Saddam Hussein to make the many hundreds of bronze busts of Saddam that dotted Baghdad.

    Kalat was so grateful for the American liberation of his country that he melted three of the heads of the fallen Saddam and over several months made the statue as a memorial to the American soldiers and their fallen warriors.


    To the left of the kneeling soldier is a small Iraqi girl giving the soldier comfort as he mourns the loss of his comrade in arms.

    It's a nice tribute to the brave men and women who have died in service and to those who are at arms so far from their homes.

    The statue will eventually be shipped home and put in the memorial museum in Fort Hood,Texas.

    Posted by Jim at 09:29 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    A Tax Bill Worth Getting Excited About

    If you haven’t heard about the Fair Tax bill introduced and championed by Georgia Congressman John Linder, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, it’s time to read up.

    Congressman Linder (R-GA), reintroduced his personal consumption tax proposal, H.R. 25, also known as the “FairTax.” on the first day of the 109th Congress.

    Linder said:

    “The time is ripe for fundamental tax reform and a completely new Federal tax regime. I am pleased to reintroduce my Fair Tax proposal today, and look forward to the Congress creating a fairer, simpler tax system that advances our core goals of lower taxes and more freedom for our citizens.”

    The only thing as painful as paying taxes is reading about tax codes, theories, and comparative plans. At least that’s the way I feel about it. But this idea is simple to understand and fair to people at all levels of income and stages of life. The Fair Tax eliminates the federal income tax and puts in its place a consumption tax.

    Americans for Fair Tax explain:

    “Simply put, the FairTax replaces the way we're currently taxed - based on our annual income - with a tax on goods and services. The FairTax is a voluntary “consumption" tax: the more you buy, the more you pay in taxes, the less you buy, the less you pay in taxes.
    Everyone pays their fair share of taxes, and with the FairTax rebate, spending up to the poverty level is tax free. The Federal government is fully funded, including Social Security and Medicare, and you don't need an expert to determine your Federal taxes.”

    Here’s more on the Fair Tax by Linder. Linder and radio host Neal Boortz are wrting a book together on this subject. Should be out soon.

    This really should precede the social security issue, but it hasn’t. A total tax overhaul will take enormous political effort, but Linder sees good momentum in Congress. It’s time to get behind this commonsensical tax bill that lives up to its name—“fair tax.”

    Posted by Jim at 07:52 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Keeping the Blogger Press Pass Idea Alive

    It’s time now to push for a White House press pass for a blogger or two each day, as a means of continuing the realignment of media sources and the dismantling of the MSM monopoly.

    As a reminder (Rick posted on this Friday), White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan enlivened this discussion when he said at a briefing Thursday--concerning discredited conservative writer James D. Guckert:

    "He, like anyone else, showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly and so he was cleared two years ago to receive daily passes just like many others are. In this day and age, when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide, to try to pick and choose who is a journalist. It gets into the issue of advocacy journalism. Where do you draw the line? There are a number of people who cross that line in the briefing room."

    Patrick Ruffini wrote:

    “The story was a hot topic among the Beltway pundits this morning. On Chris Matthews' show, Howard Fineman predicted the expose of a "blogger" in the press room would trigger a new "who is a journalist?" debate; the White House Correspondents Association may come down hard on this one.

    Wouldn't it have been interesting if, instead of vilifying the guy, the blogosphere's reaction to this had been to get one or two real bloggers into the White House on a daily basis? A Paul Mirengoff or a Kevin Aylward would certainly have been more suitable representatives of new media than Gannon (Guckert).”

    Let’s do it. Stones Cry Out would like a place in line.

    Posted by Jim at 07:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    February 13, 2005

    Shocker! US Spying On An Enemy!

    U.S. Uses Drones to Probe Iran For Arms Surveillance Flights Are Sent From Iraq

    Is this morning's Washington Post headline supposed to be a shocker?

    The Bush administration has been flying surveillance drones over Iran for nearly a year to seek evidence of nuclear weapons programs and detect weaknesses in air defenses, according to three U.S. officials with detailed knowledge of the secret effort.
    If you recall, the Bush administration was roundly chastised for not having adequate intelligence on Iraq's WMD programs. How many mainstream Democrats are biting their nails right now wondering how Howard Dean will react to this latest news? Will he have the gall to criticize the President for provoking Iran with these "incursions"? What will be the Democratic Party line on this story? It should be interesting.

    We are fighting simultaneous cold wars in Iran and North Korea in support of the GWOT. I suspect we are doing more right now than sending in drones.

    Oh! Be sure to catch Natan Sharansky, author of "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror" on Meet the Press tomorrow morning. If you want to understand Bush's foreign policy - Sharansky's book is an excellent primer.

    Posted by Rick at 03:49 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    February 12, 2005

    First Principles

    See my post below for more on Christians and politics, but as it pertains to First Principles, let me make an explanation. First Principles is not a term referring to set body of laws, like the Ten Commandments or the Bill of Rights. It refers to the idea that there are universal truths. The self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence are first principles. The belief that human life should be respected is a first principle. The belief among conservatives that government has no right that the citizenry has not first granted it is a first principle. So too is the notion that any right granted the people was first endowed by our Creator.

    So let us not be confused about what I mean. I am not just referring to the values enumerated by Russell Kirk, though they are of high importance. I would point out here that if you need a primer on true conservatism, turn off Sean Hannity and pick up a copy of The Conservative Reader.

    I am in no way trying to sound elitist, but if we are to call ourselves conservatives, we should truly have a proper definition of the term. If you regard Bill O'Reilly as a conservative, you have a faulty defintion. If you think the President's idea of government is truly conservative, you have a faulty defintion. I don't mean to imply that there should be a test for anyone claiming the term, but doggone it - words have to mean something. Hmmph. Maybe I do think there should be a test.

    I say all that to further expand on what I define as conservatism and the value of first principles. Rick mentioned the greed and sublte racism of many suburbanites. I concur! I see in my home city of Birmingham suburbs that are flourishing while the inner cities rot. Developers are chomping at the bit to develop a very sensitive watershed on the Cahaba River while the only ones trying to put on the brakes are liberals. It's liberals who are working to renovate downtown Birmingham, and it's probably the same in any metropolitan area. Beleive me, I understand the problem. I said in another post that too many evangelicals - typically GOP voters - have not worked with the less fortunate in poor neighborhoods. I lump myself in with that group, though I've managed to be a part of a few mission projects.

    Where I take issue is with the idea that the state is an adequate tool for reducing poverty. I say reduce because I believe, as Scripture and millenia of recorded history assert, the poor will always be with us. It shall never be eradicated, though Christ commands us to help the fatherless and the widow. How do we do this? Do we abdicate our own responsibilities as believers and a Church, and do we deliver it to the State? Do we give our alms as taxes? I should hope not. And the problem here is not so simple as to say "well, in my town, I see..." Has no one read Hobbes? Do we not understand that the State is almost never a flexible tool to accomplish our ends? The state has never demonstrated a capacity for working in a timely, efficient manner. The government cannot fix a road in a timely fashion; you've got to be pretty generous to think it can help the homeless. The problem with cuts in housing is not that the cuts are being made. The problem is that the program existed in the first place. Furthermore, the use of the government as a means of charity is dangerous in that it numbs our capacity to feel concern. We can write off a neighborhood because we know everyone will get their check each month. The safety net becomes a hammock and we slowly lose our willingness to help. Why help a neighbor when the government does it for you? The desire to help takes on a particular irrelevance when taxes go up. I would ultimately argue that we are better served when the government does absolutely nothing, and concerned Christians filled with a desire to see people come to Christ show a willingness to get their hands dirty in bad neighborhoods. We'll have to show a willingness to help people get on their feet, to avoid companies that trash the environment, to slow the spread of urban sprawl by fixing our schools and revitalizing old neighborhoods. I implicate myself in this, and I pledge to work towards solving many of these problems.

    Lastly, Rick made the remark that God can use the state to accomplish anything he desires. This is certainly true. God is sovereign, and I would not dare suggest that he could not do so. Yet there is nothing in Scripture or in any part of Christian history to suggest that God ultimately intends for the state to be the means of charity and goodwill. Again, if anyone - Jim Wallis or Howard Dean or whomever - can thoughtfully and rationally prove otherwise, I'll renounce my conservatism. I simply do not believe it can be done. I believe the government is ordained as a means of protecting endowed rights. It can work to provide infrastructure, regulate commerce and provide for common defense (sounds familiar, doesn't it?), but I refuse to accept any notion that the state is an effective means of charity, and I refute any suggestion that Scripture makes a command to the contrary.

    Government-run charity has not and will not work. The New Deal failed. The Great Society failed. Any similar prgrams paid for by confiscatory taxes and run by government bureaucrats will fail as well. Call it high-minded if you like, but faith-based charities run by honest folk simply have a different character, and will ultimately do more good in changing the lives of the less fortunate in America.

    Posted by Matt at 11:21 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Jesus and the Tax Man

    Michael Spencer posted this link about Jim Wallis over at the Boar's Head Tavern. I think it fits in nicely with my post concerning Christians and First Principles.

    Let me make a caveat and then post a question for Rick and others who are open to the Democrats if they soften up on "moral issues."

    I am the first to admit that the GOP is not strong on the environment. I've been listening to Rush Limbaugh for thirteen years now (I'm only twenty-three) and I still think he stereotypes and degrades the environmentalist movement. Sean Hannity does the same thing, though green types rarely help themselves. I think many, many Republicans and certainly many conseratives have too much faith in the free market and not enough visible concern for the poor. I'll even go so far as to suggest that race plays something of a factor here, as it becomes easy for white suburbanites to overlook folks of other races who live on the wrong side of town. Furthermore, I'm not a big fan of the Falwells and Dobsons. I would generally, though not absolutely, sympathize with Spencer's view of Dobson. I have far greater respect for Christian leaders like Richard Land and Al Mohler.

    With that out of the way, let me get to my issue with Wallis and other social-justice Christians. I believe the Church can do a lot to alleviate suffering in this world, and I think we can be doing more. I don't mean to unnecessarily criticize and I know that not every church can run a soup kitchen. Wallis talks a lot about helping the poor, and I want to stand with him on that point. I just can't support a guy who believes that progressive taxation is some sort of Biblical mandate. Can anyone else? I see the Bible with a lot to say about caring for the less fortunate, but I never see Scripture advocating that we use the state as a means of doing so. If anyone can provide with clear Biblical teaching and some church history that suggests otherwise, I'm all ears, but I've yet to see it.

    Additionally, look at the Sojourners website's list of Current Action Alerts. Compare it with what you read on Z-Mag or IndyMedia. See much of a difference? I don't. It's not moderate or in the middle. It's full-tilt liberalism that refuses to be labeled as such. And that's the rub. Wallis isn't just suggesting that the GOP be more "caring." He's softening up Christians to the idea of voting for the Democrats. Remember O'Sullivan's rule: All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.Does anyone really believe that the Democrats are doing soul searching? As it relates to winning back the Senate, sure they are. But I don't think for a single moment that Harry Reid or Barbara Boxer cares a thing - in political terms - for religous, red state voters. On a private level, I make no speculation about their dealings with God. That's not for me to judge. But on a political level, I think Wallis is a tool for the Democrats, and he knows it.

    Again, I'll concede that evangelicals could do far more to help the helpless. I know plenty of friends who made it through six years of youth group at conservative evangelical churches and were never involved in any project to help the hurting around them. That has to be turned around.

    I return to my post about First Principles. I don't believe that the state is an effective means of curing poverty. It has never proven to be such a thing. For every greedy Republican, I truly believe that there are conservatives who believe in charity and the power of the market to help alleviate poverty. If Christians are going to vote in favor of tax cuts and a multitude of free market proposals, we must commit ourselves to working in our own communities and those around us - perhaps even those populated by folks of another race. I'm not out to point fingers but surely we can all agree that there is a problem. I just don't think that Wallis' Euro-socialism for Jesus is the answer. That's where I was going with my post on First Principles: What does Wallis believe about the State? the Church? What is the role of each? What does Scripture command? What has the Church historically believed? Was it wrong or right? Why? Is conservatism wrong? Is liberalism right? This is a hard fence to straddle. My guess is that he won't have much success, and it is dangerous to follow him to closely.

    I touched on this last weekend. See here.

    Posted by Matt at 09:16 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    Bad Christian Art?

    Joe Carter is asking some tough, but needed questions.

    Posted by Matt at 02:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Christians and First Principles

    I'm not a huge fan of what we traditionally call "Christian" music. I don't have much against it; I'm just picky. A lof of my favorite bands are full of believers; Over the Rhine, mewithoutYou, Pedro the Lion, the Innocence Mission, Damien Jurado. I was a pretty big fan of Caedmon's Call in high school and my freshman year of college, right before I developed a ridiculous jazz and blues fetish. (This is going somewhere - I promise.) So when I started hearing some mp3s of Derek Webb (former CC singer) and reading interviews, I liked what I heard and read. He's going to be in town in a few weeks for a free show, so I'll definitely be there.

    This morning I was checking out his website. The links page was full of good stuff until I saw the link to Sojourners.

    I'm not one who believes that a commitment to Biblical Christianity forces us to make a lifelong commitment to either the political Right or the Left as they exist right now in America. And I'm not calling Jim Wallis a heretic or anything of that sort. But I know where Wallis's ideas lead, and that's straight to the Democrats. And something about the way it's done really bothers me.

    So here's my question for my colleagues and our readers:

    Do Chritians in America today - Catholics and Protestants - believe in First Principles as a matter of politics? Not regarding theology or philosophy; a huge swath of us do. I'm talking about our views on economics, foreign affairs, public policy. Do we believe in First Principles that are transcendent to every society? My fear is that we don't. What do you think?

    For more on the definition of First Principles, see here and here. Yes, I realize that those links are to conservative sites. if liberalism had any cogent body of philosophy outside of Foucault and Rousseau, I might have something work with. Jim Wallis might also have something to defend.

    Posted by Matt at 11:02 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    February 11, 2005

    Eason Jordan Quits

    Breaking news (well for me anyway - it broke a couple of hours ago): Eason Jordan resigned his position at CNN today.

    On Hardball this past weekend, Hugh told Chris Mathews something that he didn't know: the Eason Jordan story would be huge news this week. I doubt even Hugh could have guessed that Jordan would have resigned by week's end.

    Another chapter for the 2nd Edition of Blog. Hugh, future editions of your book will practically write themselves. What a great gig you have! :-)

    MEMO TO BLOGOSPHERE: The victory lap needs to be short and sweet. Time to move on (Confirmation hearings, North Korea, Iran, Social Security, etc)

    Posted by Rick at 08:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    More on Twixters

    I've written before in defense of my generation of "Twixters." (See here and here) I think most of the criticism thrown our way - whether from Rush, NRO, Al Mohler or whomever else - is overwhelmingly undeserved.

    The folks at Signs of the Times blog agree in this post and this one.

    The blog is part of the new Crux Magazine, which promises to be really great.

    Posted by Matt at 06:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Romney Elevates Life Over Self Interest

    Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's decision to oppose stem cell research using embryos created for that purpose is a courageous stand for a politician in the most liberal of states. What is most impressive about Romney's decision, however, is that he has surprised the political establishment by elevating the ethics of life above personal and family interests.

    That should cause all of us to take a closer look at the Massachusetts governor as the presidential derby 2008 begins.

    Here are the details.

    Proponents of a bill that would allow creating embryos for the purpose of conducting "assumed they would have the backing of Mr. Romney, a Republican whose wife, Ann, has multiple sclerosis, a disease that could potentially be helped by the research. Mr. Romney had previously said he supported stem cell research in general, but had not elaborated.

    But in an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Romney said that he was strongly against a type of embryonic stem cell research that many scientists consider extremely promising: research that involves creating human embryos specifically for scientific experimentation."

    Mitt Romney said:

    "My wife has M.S., and we would love for there to be a cure for her disease and for the diseases of others. But there is an ethical boundary that should not be crossed.. . .creation for the purpose of destruction is wrong."

    Romney's position runs counter to the actions that many other states are considering. After California's decision last year to invest $3 billion in embryonic stem cell research, at least seven other states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, are considering steps to encourage researchers in the field or provide economic incentives.

    He is not totally opposed to embryonic stell cell research, however. He favors the use of embryos that are left over from in-vitro fertilization "if the couples who created the embryos gave written permission, were not paid, and were offered the options of rejecting research in favor of storing the embryos or giving them up for adoption."

    Posted by Jim at 06:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Bloggers with Press Passes?

    According to Drudge, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan made some interesting statements on Thursday:

    In this day and age, when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide or try to pick and choose who is a journalist...There are a number of people in that room that express their points of view, and there are people in that room that represent traditional media, they represent talk radio, they're columnists, and they represent online news organizations.
    Is the White House setting the stage for giving bloggers White House Press Passes?

    Posted by Rick at 03:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Ward Churchill

    Just about everything you wanted to know about Ward Churchill is being compiled at a single website: Pirate Ballerina. The database they have collected so far is quite impressive. (Thanks to a commenter on my old blog for pointing drawing my attention to the site).

    Churchill is the University of Colorado Professor who called those who died in the WTC on 9/11,

    "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who organized Nazi plans to exterminate Europe's Jews. Churchill also spoke of the "gallant sacrifices" of the "combat teams" that struck America.
    I'm not one of those folks that think the ivory tower should be immune from accountability to the public. There is a difference between having a right to free speech and having a right to be free from the consequences of that speech.

    Prosecution for his remarks is of course out of the question. But if the good people of Colorado decide that enough is enough, they should be able to fire him. Churchill would still have every right to assemble freely with his group of America haters and speak to any audience that is willing to listen.

    If someone has the right to speak freely, shouldn't others have the right not listen? Perhaps a suitable compromise would be to ensure that Churchill never teaches a class that is required for graduation.

    Maybe I haven't thought this through well enough, but this is how I feel. Please feel free to set me straight.

    Posted by Rick at 02:28 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    February 10, 2005

    Eden cast out

    The New York Observer has the full story of Dawn Eden's firing from the New York Post, officially for blogging on company time, but coming right after an incident where she was criticized for "inserting a pro-life viewpoint" into an article she was copyediting. Dawn corrects a few of the story's errors at her own blog, but otherwise says

    "But overall, I'm elated. Gurley set out to draw a portrait that would--as with all his work--go deeper than the average personality profile, and he's unquestionably succeeded."

    So what happened? Here's an excerpt from the Observer piece.

    Ms. Eden was given a story by Post reporter Susan Edelman to copy-edit. The story was about women with terminal cancer who want to have babies: Through in-vitro fertilization, multiple embryos are fertilized and implanted one at a time until as many as 12 survive.

    According to Ms. Eden, she was repelled by what she interpreted as a "cavalier" attitude about the embryos in Ms. Edelman’s story: "Treating them as a manufactured commodity that don’t have significance as human life," Ms. Eden said. (Ms. Edelman declined to comment when reached by The Observer.)

    "I got choked up," Ms. Eden said. "How are people going to ever understand the complex issues involved here, if the story they’re reading reduces it to ‘Oh, isn’t this nice? We can just make lots of embryos and not worry about whether they live or die.’"

    Ms. Eden read a line in the draft of the story: "Experts have ethical qualms about this ‘Russian roulette’ path to parenthood." She saw her opportunity: She added a phrase: " … which, when in-vitro fertilization is involved, routinely results in the destruction of embryos." And where Ms. Edelman had written that one woman had three embryos implanted "and two took," Ms. Eden changed that to read: "One died. Two took."

    Ms. Eden said she thought she was performing a service for the reader, since she believed that the Post had been "notoriously oblivious" to the nuances involving embryonic life.

    After publication of the article, Eden wrote to Susan Edelman, apologizing for what she'd done, and calling her actions "unwarranted and wrong." Edelman wrote back, using the word "sabotage" to describe the editing, and calling Eden "unprofessional" and "a disgrace."

    Then the Post editors discovered Ms. Eden's blog, and found it "very disturbing." Officially, Eden was fired for blogging on company time. Unofficially? . . .

    The Post hired her full time in 2003. She loved editing and writing punning headlines. But she landed in hot water after giving an interview to Gilbert, a G.K Chesterton magazine, in which she talked about her faith and working at the Post.

    She said her boss, chief copy editor Barry Gross, chided her, telling her, "Some people already think the Post is conservative, and we don’t need New York readers also thinking it’s a Christian paper and that there are Christians working there."

    "I don’t recall saying that," said Mr. Gross. "But I can’t swear that I didn’t. I mean, there’s no question people think we’re conservative." He added that he did caution her to cool it a bit in the future.

    There was another chat with Mr. Gross after Ms. Eden resisted working on an article about a murdered porn star. She’d made it clear that she was disgusted with the cheerful, lurid commentary.

    So according to Eden, the Post found her viewpoint problematic prior to this latest incident.

    We may never know the true motives behind her firing -- whether it was merely for blogging on company time, or for holding a viewpoint that the editors found incompatible with their own.

    But the profile of Ms. Eden is, indeed, a good look at a modern Christian who shatters the usual stereotypes. Click and enjoy.

    (Hat tip: GetReligion)

    Posted by Drew at 10:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    North Korean Nukes

    Blog.jpgThe logic is impeccable: We need our nukes because the US is increasingly hostile.

    Scary part is - there are probably millions of Americans that are nodding their head in agreement right now. Five years ago, Albright was trying to arrange a meeting between President Clinton and Kim Jong to solidify Bill's legacy as the President who reached an agreement with the dictator on nukes. Thanks, but no thanks Bill. It's your "agreement" that got us into this mess.

    Posted by Rick at 10:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Best Bible Translation for Today is Not the TNIV

    The complete Today’s New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible has now been published (the New Testament was released earlier) to mixed reviews that continue the gender neutral controversy that is well documented at BaylyBlog by Tim Bayly, part of the World magazine family. Here is Zondervan’s news release defending the new revision of the NIV.

    I recommend that you look elsewhere--to the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Released in 2004, it is the only new translation from the original languages since the original NIV in the early 70’s. We worked on the introduction of the Holman CSB, and I am using it now for both reading and study.

    It is as readable, if not more readable, than the NIV, and those who study these things say that it is as accurate as the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Because of its commitment to precise translation, the Holman CSB avoids the current gender neutral controversy.

    Posted by Jim at 08:34 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

    Blogging and Journalism

    Is blogging journalism? It is part of the modern media mix, but is it journalism? Since my undergradute and graduate degrees are in journalism and I have worked either in media or with media (in public relations) my entire career, I guess I should be some kind of expert on this. My answer would be a resounding “sometimes.”

    Since I have been blogging, I have observed some really great blog journalism, and much that is not only bad journalism, but unconscionable misuse of facts and ad hominen attacks. On the other hand, we’ve all seen the good and the bad in the traditional media.

    Rather than try to fit blogging into a journalistic box, I see the blogosphere as more of an endless conversation that enriches and challenges the traditional flow of information.

    "I think there's really not that much to distinguish between journalists and bloggers except for a formalized edit process before print,” said Choire Sicha, editorial director of Gawker Media, one of the leading publishers of independent blogs, in an interview with Steve Outing at Poynter Online. “Nearly all journalists traffic privately in gossip, anonymous sources, and thinly veiled juicy items -- they just don't usually get to throw those things into print, and so they IM these tidbits to us bloggers," he says. "Bloggers are really just the id of the journalism world."

    Outing has written two articles that help the two types of communicators learn from each other. They are titled, What Bloggers Can Learn From Journalists and What Journalists Can Learn from Bloggers.

    Posted by Jim at 07:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    February 09, 2005

    ??? v. Kennedy

    Funny thing I suppose. Last night I e-mailed Mark Sides regarding the site Dayton v. Kennedy and said that I thought it could be next year's Daschle v. Thune.

    Well, Dayton v. Kennedy was even more successful that I had thought: Senator Dayton pulled out of the race today. Three cheers for our good friend Doug of Bogus Gold and the rest of the Dayton v. Kennedy gang for their successful blog swarm! (Hee hee).

    Seriously guys, the Dems aren't going to roll over - I hope you'll have your new site ready when they do.

    Posted by Rick at 09:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Food for Thought

    I'm an unapologetic fan of my television. Despite the trite and the obscene stuff out there, I think a lot of quality work is still to be found on the tube. Yet I think this quote from Paste's interview with Tom Waits, one of my favorite songwriters, really speaks some truth about culture:

    P: Wait a minute! No TV? That means you’re missing some great new shows this season, like Lost and Desperate Housewives!

    TW: I heard they’re good. But I’m afraid of incorporating all that into my diet—I’m afraid it’d just send me off. I dunno, it’d be like eating Styrofoam. You remember in the old days, when you’d send away for something from the back of a cereal box? And you had to wait for 30 days, and it was coming from Battle Creek, Michigan? Life is different now, because in the time that it took for it to arrive, a lot of wonder took place. I remember wondering about the town of Battle Creek—What’s it look like? Is it like the North Pole? Who lives in it? Is there an actual creek?

    Posted by Matt at 06:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Sex and the Evangelical Campus

    Stanley Kurtz has a piece up on NRO today concerning Naomi Schaefer Riley's God on the Quad. I don't mean to sound whiny or cynical, but I have a question:

    Why is it that when religious universities are mentioned in pieces like this, it's almost never an evangelical institution? I realize the book itself deals with evangelical schools, but why does Kurtz find it acceptable to make an ommission?

    Posted by Matt at 06:13 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    "God can use those who are not filled with themselves."

    I heard these words from a speaker on the Promise Keepers radio highlight this morning on KTIS (you can listen online if you're interested): "God can use those who are not filled with themselves."

    I thought this a fitting statement for today, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent (in most traditions). It is a time for us to reflect on Christ, his Passion, the Scripture and our lives. It is a time for reflection on our relationships with others. It is a time to make sure we are not filled with ourselves so that we can serve God and serve others.

    Pastor Mark Roberts has a nice post on Ash Wednesday and how it is celebrated at his church. Much like Pastor Roberts, I did not know about Ash Wednesday until my thirties.

    Dulcius ex asperis has a nice post on Ash Wednesday as well. (HT: Pastor Tod Bolsinger)

    Pastor Tod Bolsinger posted on Fat Tuesday and will begin a series on Lent today.

    The Anchoress has been collecting other posts on Lent and has been posting her own thoughts.

    Take some time to make sure you're not filled with yourself this Lenten Season. I know I will. I hope I am not. If so, may God deal with me.

    Posted by Mark at 08:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Deep Throat May be a Composite of Multiple Sources

    As the 30-year-old Deep Throat national office pool heats up again with the release of many of Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate notes and a column by John Dean in the Los Angeles Times, at least one Nixon White House insider contends that Deep Throat cannot be one person.

    The guessing game reignited with the release of the new materials. The Washington Post reports:

    Thousands of pages of notes, memos, transcripts and other materials collectively known as the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers open to the public today at the University of Texas, minus the most fascinating detail connected to the demise of the Nixon administration: the identity of Deep Throat. . . .

    Attempts to uncover the closely guarded identity of Deep Throat, known only to Woodward, Bernstein and former Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, have been the subject of books and college journalism class projects for years. One book, "In Search of Deep Throat," published in 2000 by former Nixon aide Leonard Garment, speculated that White House colleague John Sears was Deep Throat. Sears and Woodward denied it.

    In 1999, Bill Gaines, a journalism professor at the University of Illinois and a former investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, began a class project to solve the mystery. Four years later, he and his students concluded that Nixon White House deputy counsel Fred Fielding was Deep Throat. Fielding also has denied it.

    Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, perked further attention:

    “We'll all know one day very soon, however. Bob Woodward, a reporter on the team that covered the Watergate story, has advised his executive editor at the Washington Post that Throat is ill. And Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Post and one of the few people to whom Woodward confided his source's identity, has publicly acknowledged that he has written Throat's obituary.”

    But Nixon Special Counsel Charles Colson, who like Dean is not on the list of possibilities because they left the White House in 1973, has said consistently over three decades that he believes Deep Throat is not a single person but a device used by Woodward to combine the information he obtained from multiple sources. Colson has said that no one person had access to all of the information that Woodward claimed he received from the secret source.

    As recently as 2002:

    “Chuck Colson told CNN news that he thinks there is no such person as Deep Throat. Colson said that information Woodward and Bernstein attributed to one person they labeled Deep Throat in their book "All the President's Men" came from several different sources. In other words, Deep Throat may not exist and Woodward and Bernstein may have been lying to us for all these years. In other words, Woodward and Bernstein may be far from ethical journalists who deliberately lie to their readers.”

    It is completely credible that Woodward and Bernstein would use what may have been an actual parking garage encounter with a source, which they named Deep Throat, and attributed several other details to that same source, both to simplify the reporting and to protect a number of sources.

    Since the creation of the fictional glue necessary to tidy up gaps in his reporting and writing has been a characteristic of Bob Woodward’s work over the years, this twist of the truth in the Deep Throat story is not at all unlikely.

    Posted by Jim at 05:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Examining the "Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy"

    A day after Edison/Mitofsky released their much anticipated report on the 2004 Presidential Election exit polls, the University of Pennsylvania issued a press release announcing that an "expert" on the presidential election exit poll errors has access to a satellite link and is available for interviews.

    UPenn is the home of the Annenberg Center, a widely respected Public Policy institution that regularly conducts public opinion surveys. Given that Dr. Freeman is a non-tenured visiting professor to UPenn and not affiliated with the Annenberg Center, I wonder if Dr. Jamieson, Director of the Center knew that she had an expert on exit polls on campus?

    Please forgive my snarky question (one that is definitely rhetorical), but rather than prove his expertise on exit polls, Dr. Freeman exposes himself as a dilettante with his latest version of his Research Report, The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy.

    Freeman's analysis hinges on the "Critical Battleground States" of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. He analyzes the discrepancy between data obtained from saved screenshots of the CNN exit poll web-site taken shortly after midnight on election eve and reported election tallies. Dr. Freeman's paper concluded:

    In this report, I have: (1) documented that, in general, exit poll data are sound, (2) demonstrated that it is exceedingly unlikely that the deviations between the exit poll predictions and vote tallies in the three critical states could have occurred strictly by chance or random error, and (3) explained why explanations for the discrepancy thus far provided are inadequate.
    With this paper, I will demonstrate that Freeman did not accomplish points (1) and (2). With the release of the Edison/Mitofsky report, point (3) is moot.

    Did Dr. Freeman Demonstrate That, “In General, Exit Poll Data Are Sound”?

    Either Dr. Freeman is a poor researcher, which I do not believe for a moment given his credentials, or his argument is weakened having suppressed evidence. Freeman's argument that exit polls are generally sound rested largely on statistics from German, BYU, Mexico, and Ex-Soviet Block exit polls.

    German Exits

    Dr. Freeman selects and analyzes data from several national German exit polls that show that the estimates were highly representative of the election tally. His data were compiled by several individuals, but his analysis does not appear to be based on any published research on German exit polls and fails to include information on the methods used in the cited polls.

    First, a note European exit polls in general. Mystery Pollster (MP) Mark Blumenthal uncovered this opinion prepared by the ACE project, which is funded by the UN and the US Agency for International Development. As excerpted by MP, the opinion states,

    [Exit poll] reliability can be questionable. One might think that there is no reason why voters in stable democracies should conceal or lie about how they have voted, especially because nobody is under any obligation to answer in an exit poll. But in practice they often do. The majority of exit polls carried out in European countries over the past years have been failures (Emphasis added).
    In his post, MP indicates that he warned Dr. Freeman during a telephone conversation to check the methodology used in the German exit polls before comparing them to the NEP exit polls. MP contacted Dr. Dieter Roth of FG Wahlen, the organization that generated the data used by Freeman in his analysis. Dr. Roth provided some information about methods, which from a review of MP's postmade it easier to understand why the errors would be smaller in Germany's exit polls. Dr. Roth made the following statement to MP:
    I know that Warren Mitofsky's job is much harder than ours, because of the electoral system and the more complicated structure in the states.
    Dr. Freeman's paper failed to include basic information regarding methodology, which is crucial when comparing different polls, either demonstrates a desire to suppress evidence or an ignorance of survey research methods.

    BYU Exits

    Dr. Freeman wants everyone to know that the BYU poll came within .03% of predicting the Bush percentage and 0.1% of the Kerry percentage. To him, this is one more piece of evidence that exit polls are "generally" accurate. But once again, Freeman doesn’t compare methodologies.

    MP also dealt with the BYU exit poll methodology in his post directed at Dr. Freeman. When compared to the NEP methods, the BYU methods are far superior - hence one reason the BYU exits would be more accurate than the NEP exits. Is it not curious though why Freeman would choose the BYU exit poll of Utah as evidence of exit poll accuracy, but not look at the NEP exit poll of Utah? The NEP exit poll of Utah showed 3% Kerry bias.

    Memo to Dr. Freeman: It's not the best idea to use an exit poll (BYU) that nailed the election result in Utah this year as evidence of the accuracy of exit polls in general, when the NEP exit poll that you are trying to prove as being accurate in OH, PA, and FL showed large (3%) Democratic bias in the same state and in the same year.

    Mexico, and Former Soviet Block Exits

    Dr. Freeman does not present data regarding the accuracy of any Mexico or Former Soviet Block exit poll; however, he mentions that they were used and that they added legitimacy to the process.1

    How about an Apples to Apples Comparison?

    Why did Freeman not include the literature on US Presidential Exit Polls? Dr. Freeman's Bibliography hit all the major exit poll literature sans one chapter by Warren Mitofsky and Murray Edelman written in 1995. In that chapter on the 1992 VRS exit polls, the authors wrote,

    The difference between the final margin and the VRS estimate was 1.6 percentage points. VRS consistently overstated Clinton’s lead all evening...Overstating the Democratic candidate was a problem that existed in the last two presidential elections.2
    Certainly this year's US Presidential exit polls showed greater bias than other years, but that is not the case that Dr. Freeman built. He chose to highlight data from exit polls that employed methods that are highly disparate from the methods typically used for media-funded US Presidential Exit Polls. He did this also while ignoring literature on the media-funded US Presidential Exit Polls that demonstrated chronic Democratic bias.

    Did Dr. Freeman Demonstrate Statistically Significant Discrepancies in OH, PA, and FL?

    To conclude the section of his paper entitled, "Statistical Analysis of the Three Critical Battleground States: Ruling out Chance or Random Error," Freeman wrote:

    Assuming independent state polls with no systematic bias, the odds against any two of these statistical anomalies occurring together are more than 5,000:1...The odds against all three occurring together are 662,000-to-one. As much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error.
    Let me make myself clear: The following analysis is NOT to be construed as an attempt to prove that chance alone can explain the exit poll discrepancy in OH, PA, and FL. I intend only to demonstrate that Dr. Freeman knows little about statistics, let alone exit polls.

    Freeman's Data and Methods

    Dr. Freeman's null hypothesis states that, assuming independent state polls with no systematic bias, Kerry's predicted proportion should not significantly exceed his tallied proportion.

    To test his null, Dr. Freeman compared data extrapolated from data posted on CNN's web-site shortly after midnight on election eve to election tally data.3 The CNN data were presented in tabular format and reported the predicted proportions for Bush, Kerry, and Other candidates by gender. From the Male/Female split, which was reported as a whole number, Freeman extrapolated to achieve a value significant to a 10th digit. Although Freeman reported both Bush's and Kerry's "predicted" (exit poll) proportion of the vote, his statistical analysis is solely based on the Kerry's proportion; therefore, I have only reproduced these data for Kerry’s proportion in Exhibit 1.


    Freeman correctly recognizes that exit polls are not simple random samples, but cluster samples, and therefore have higher standard errors than typical phone surveys of similar sample size.4 The difference between these standard errors is referred to as the design effect.

    Dr. Freeman chose to apply a 30% adjustment to each state to account for this design effect and relied on a single citation for the adjustment. Merkle and Edelman (2000) calculated a 1.7 design effect for the 1996 Presidential Elections, the square root of which is 1.3, leading the authors to state that the 1996 exit polls showed "a 30% increase in the sampling error computed under the assumption of simple random sampling."5

    Freeman then performed a single-tailed test for comparing the results derived from a single sample to a mean of samples (or established standard) and determined that Kerry's proportion significantly exceeded the election result in all three battleground states at the 95% Confidence Level. In the statistics world, if a finding is "significant" (p-value <.05), then one can reject the null hypothesis. If the result is "not significant" (>.05), then statisticians do not reject the null hypothesis; in fact a non-significant finding is just that - non significant. Freeman rejected the null hypothesis by stating that the observed discrepancies are "impossible" to have been due to chance or random error (i.e., the discrepancies in each state were significant).

    Dr. Freeman's "statistical" analysis fails on three main points: it 1) violates the "rule of significant digits"; 2) improperly calculates the design effect; and 3) employs a single-tail test when the assumptions require a two-tail test.6 When considered, these issues dramatically affect Freeman's analysis and conclusions.

    Rule of Significant Digits

    Freeman determined that the exit poll predicted Kerry would win 49.7% of the vote in FL, 52.1% in OH, and 54.1% in PA. He "divined" these data by building partials from an extrapolation of the CNN data by gender. The CNN data were presented in whole proportions. The rule of significant digits states,

    In a calculation involving multiplication, division, trigonometric functions, etc., the number of significant digits in an answer should equal the least number of significant digits in any one of the numbers being multiplied, divided etc.
    That means that since the CNN data only reported a whole number, Dr. Freeman cannot justify his predicted Kerry proportion without considering the error bounds with the data (i.e., the data that he used are "fuzzy"). Given the data available to Dr. Freeman, it was impossible to know, for example, whether Kerry's predicted proportion in FL was 49.5% or 50.4%. Exhibit 2 shows the range of possible values for Kerry's predicted proportion given the error bounds of the data when a significant digit is considered (10th).7

    What Design Effect? Why?

    For Ohio, Dr. Freeman calculated the standard error of a poll with sample size 1,963 and multiplied that value by 1.3 to obtain a standard error.

    Why 1.3 again?

    As mentioned earlier in this post, the 1.3 factor was applied because this was determined by Merkle and Edelman (2000)8 to be the difference between the standard error of the 1996 presidential election exit polls and the standard error of a poll based on a simple random sample of the same size. This factor is also known as the design effect square root (DESR).

    Warren Mitofsky explained to me in an e-mail that the factor calculated for the 2004 exit polls ranged from 1.5 to 1.8 depending on the average number of samples per precinct.

    The Merkle/Edelman paper is not what we computed this year...both Merkle and Edelman participated in this latest calculation.9
    Dan Merkle of ABC News wrote the following regarding the use of this factor for analysis of the 2004 Presidential Election exit polls,
    What was in the Merkle and Edelman chapter is only a general estimate based on work at VNS in the early 1990s.

    The design effect will vary state by state based on the number of interviews per precinct and how clustered the variable is. More work was done on this in 2004 by Edison/Mitofsky. Edelman and I did participate in this. I would suggest using the design effects calculated by Edison/Mitofsky for their 2004 polls.10

    Complicating the computation of the DESR is that the fact that there are likely two different factors used for the intercept interviews and the telephone interviews. Dan Merkle wrote,
    [Mitofsky's DESR's] only applies [sic] to the intercept interviews. [T]here may be a separate (smaller) design effect for the telephone survey component.11
    I checked with Jennifer Agiesta of Edison Media Research whether there was a smaller DESR associated with the telephone survey component than that which was conveyed by Mitofsky. Ms. Agiesta replied,
    According to Warren, we did a new study since the one that Dan Merkle and Murray Edelman did some years ago and the design effects Warren reported to you were the latest ones computed. The whole advisory council, including Dan Merkle and Murray Edelman, participated in it and agreed that the information on design effects that Warren sent you is correct.12
    Although I'm not certain that Ms. Agiesta understood my question and I have a follow-up question pending with her, it should be clear that use of the 1.3 factor is not appropriate; the confidence interval varies by state (by ratio of interviews per precinct) and is at least 1.5, but could be as high as 1.8 in FL.

    I shared all of this information with Dr. Freeman before he published the latest version of this paper, so the omission/errors are not due to ignorance.

    How Many Tails?

    Dr. Freeman's null-hypothesis stated that, assuming independent state polls with no systematic bias, Kerry's predicted proportion should not significantly exceed his tallied proportion. Exhibit 3 is a reproduction of Dr. Freeman's Figure 1.2, which depicts a normal distribution for OH given his calculated standard deviation for all three states.13

    Exhibit 3
    Normal Distribution of Kerry’s Tallied Distribution
    with Kerry’s Predicted Proportion


    The normal distribution depicts the range of possible proportions that could occur if the exit poll were conducted 100 times. Kerry's "tallied percentage of the vote" is the established standard, or, in this case, the mean of samples. The 95% Confidence Interval shows the range of proportions that would result for 95 of 100 exit polls and is commonly referred to as the "margin of error." With this figure, Freeman is attempting to show that the OH exit poll is outside the margin of error and therefore the discrepancy is "significant" at the 95% Confidence Level.

    Notice though that there are two "tails" outside the 95% Confidence Interval: left and right. The right tail consists of the 2.5 exit poll samples of 100 that could be expected to significantly exceed the tallied percentage, whereas the left tail represents the 2.5 exit poll samples of 100 that could be expected to be significantly lower than the tallied percentage.

    Unless Freeman sets aside his assumption of no bias, he must include the probability of a significant finding at BOTH ends of the normal distribution. By insisting on a single-tail test, he is hinting that either the exit poll is biased or the tally is wrong. This insinuation is inappropriate prior to, or in the process of, testing a null hypothesis that assumes no bias. Dr. Freeman's failure to properly apply a two-tail test means that his p-values are 1/2 what they should be.

    Implications for Dr. Freeman's Analysis and Conclusions

    Using Freeman's Data, I calculated Z-scores and p-values under three scenarios, each of which considered the lower and upper bounds of the data when using a significant digit (10th). The first scenario assumed Freeman's use of the 1.3 DESR and a single-test is appropriate. The second scenario considered a 1.3 DESR, but a two-tail test is applied. The final scenario considered a conservative estimate of the DESR as supplied by Mitofsky (1.5 for OH and PA, but 1.6 for FL, which could easily be 1.8). The results of these tests are presented in Exhibit 4.


    If you recall, a p-value of <0.05 represents a significant finding. If the p-value is >0.5 then statistically, nothing can be said about the discrepancy - it is not significant. As shown in the table, when the lower-bound of the data is considered using Freeman's assumptions for the DESR and a single-tail test, the discrepancy is significant under all scenarios. However, if the more appropriate two-tail test is applied and a 1.3 DESR is assumed, the lower bound for each state is no longer significant. The same results occur when the more appropriate two-tail test and the conservative estimate of the design effect as conveyed by Warren Mitofsky are considered. If you notice though, all three proportions remain significant at the upper bound under these last scenarios as well.

    What does this mean?

    Given the data analyzed by Dr. Freeman, it is impossible to determine whether the discrepancies in OH, FL, and PA were significant.

    In Conclusion

    Almost every point presented in this post was made available to Dr. Freeman weeks before he published his final paper. In fact, I went over some of the points with him via telephone. Other analyses of the data were sent to him via e-mail.

    Had Dr. Freeman considered the error bounds associated with his data and applied an appropriate statistical test, he would have realized that statistically, his point was weak; the data are too fuzzy for rigorous statistical analysis. Rhetorically however, he had a solid point: The exit polls were off and off more so than they ever have been in the history of US Presidential exit polling. We don’t need a PhD to tell us that. At the time Dr. Freeman published his paper, even Mitofsky had acknowledged that something went wrong with the exit polls and that chance error could not account for 100 percent of the discrepancy.

    Dr. Freeman, recently ordained by UPenn as an "expert" on the US Presidential exit polls, believes that Bush stole the election and his analysis of the exit poll data is supposed to be highly suggestive of foul play sans any reasonable and falsifiable explanation from Edison/Mitofsky. In this press release, Dr. Freeman declared,

    "Although the authors of the report state that, 'the differences between the exit poll estimates and the actual vote [are] most likely due to Kerry voters participating in the exit polls at a higher rate than Bush voters,' they provide little data or theory to support this thesis," said Freeman.
    After carefully reviewing the Edison/Mitofsky report, I must admit that there are some claims that need further empirical substantiation.14 However, Dr. Freeman didn't simply make his point about the shortcomings of the Edison/Mitofsky report; instead he went on to say that the report bolstered his research:
    "Rather, the report only confirms the exit poll official count discrepancy that I documented in my Nov. 12 paper, corroborates the data I collected, and rules out most types of polling error."
    That statement of Dr. Freeman’s provoked me to write this post earlier than I had planned: While the Edison/Mitofsky report certainly ruled out most types of polling error, it did not confirm or corroborate anything presented in his paper.

    One final thing: Freeman wrote a book based on his research that is due out in a couple of months. (What’s the universal symbol for a simultaneous sigh and rolling of the eyes?)


    1My review of the literature on exit polls turned up one review of the 1998 Ukranian Parliament exit polls (see Kucheriv, Ilko, Elehie Skoczylas, and Steven Wagner. 2000. Ukraine: 1998: Parliamentary Election Exit Poll Kennan Institute Occasional Paper #275. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars). This review did not present the poll’s confidence interval or a quantitative comparison of the poll and the election result, but did note that the exit poll “accurately predicted the vote” (pp. 3). See the following for a comparative analysis of the recent Ukranian exit polls and the NEP 2004 exit polls that found that the US Presidential Exit Polls were designed better than the 2004 Ukrainian exit polls.
    2Mitofsky, Warren J. and Murray Edelman. 1995. “A Review of the 1992 VRS Exit Polls.” In Presidential Polls and the News Media. Eds. Lavrakas/Traugott/Miller. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. (pp. 81-100)
    3I could not locate the source of Freeman's election tally data.
    4For a more thorough discussion of standard errors associated with cluster samples, refer to: 1) Frankel, Martin. 1983. Sampling Theory. Handbook of Survey Research. Eds. P. Rossi, J. Wright., and A. Anderson. Orlando, FL: Academic Press. (pp. 47-62); 2) Kalton, Graham. 1983. Introduction to Survey Sampling. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. (pp. 28-47); 3) Kish, L. 1965. Survey Sampling. New York: Wiley; 4) Mendenhall, William, Lymann Ott, and Richard Scheaffer. 1971. Elementary Survey Sampling. Belmont, CA: Duxbury Press. (pp. 121-141, 171-183); 5) Sudman, Seymour. 1976. Applied Sampling. New York: Academic Press. (pp. 69-84, 131-170); and 6) Williams, Bill. A Sampler on Sampling. New York: Wiley. (pp. 144-161, 239-241).
    5See page 72 of Merkle, Daniel M. and Murray Edelman (2000). "A Review of the 1996 Voter New Service Exit Polls from a Total Survey Error Perspective." In Election Polls, the News Media and Democracy, ed. P.J. Lavrakas, M.W. Traugott, pp. 68-92. New York: Chatam House.
    6Freeman omitted data from other states, which indicate that the magnitude of the discrepancy in Democratic stronghold states like NY, VT, and RI was substantially larger than that observed in FL, OH, and PA. I consider this omission to be another example of supressed evidence, but did not address this omission further because it is not necessary to demonstrate my point.
    7It would be preferable to include at least two more significant digits for more precise analysis, but to remain consistent with Freeman’s extrapolations, I stick here with the 10th.
    8See note 4 above for citation.
    9Mitofksy, Warren J. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 7.
    10Merkle, Dan. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 15.
    11Merkle, Dan. 2004a. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 17.
    12Agiesta, Jennifer. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 23.
    13This normal distribution for OH is constructed with the incorrect 1.3 desr.
    14The primary issue with the Edison/Mitofsky report is their analysis of Within Precinct Error (WPE) by voting method. As noted in the comments to this Mystery Pollster post, I conveyed my concerns to Edison/Mitofsky. My next post on exit polls will be an overview of the Edison/Mitofsky report.

    Posted by Rick at 03:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Give Us Clean Hands

    We bow our hearts, we bend our knees;
    Oh Spirit come make us humble.
    We turn our eyes, from evil things;
    Oh Lord we cast down our idols.

    Give us clean hands, give us pure hearts,
    Let us not lift our souls to another.

    Oh God let us be, a generation that seeks
    That seeks Your face Oh God of Jacob.
    --Charlie Hall

    This song was on my heart tonight and I got the opportunity to share it with my two young children while my wife was away at a women's study. I hope your evening was as blessed as mine.

    Posted by Rick at 12:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    These stories never cease to amaze me... God never ceases to amaze me...(HT: Drudge)

    Posted by Rick at 12:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    February 08, 2005

    Green Christians

    A reader alerts me to this Washington Post article on the Greening of Evangelicals. (Registration required) I won't comment on the global warming aspects, because science gives me a headache and I've known reasonable people on both sides of that aisle. Still, this article demonstrates one way in which Christianity is not the same thing as Republicanism, even if Jim Wallis might snidely suggest otherwise. Furthermore, I would argue that environmentalism should be an area where conservatism can, but does not have to, break with the GOP. For more on this, and because I love stirring up a hornet's nest, see Rod Dreher's NR cover piece on the topic a few years back.

    Posted by Matt at 06:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Major Props

    Michael Spencer is showing some major love for SCO over at the Boar's Head Tavern.

    See the last bulletin.

    Thank you, sir!

    Posted by Matt at 06:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    I Love a Good Firestorm

    Derb on I.D.

    I post without comment.

    I will, however, heartily concur with one part of Jonah's ID post:

    "But regardless of the merits, I think the Christian Right (and some sympathetic neoconservatives) make a political mistake when they switch their agenda from concrete policies to the teachings of science, religion and metaphysics. Abortion is about deeds. It is an area where science is increasingly on the side of the pro-lifers. Gay marriage is about fundamental social arrangements. Trying to get rid of evolutionary theory in favor of intelligent design or creationism is an abstract battle which saps energy from more important issues and makes it easier to dismiss the Right on other fronts. An atheist or agnostic with an open mind can be affected by pro-life arguments. It's very difficult to imagine them being swayed by assertions the world was created in six days."

    Posted by Matt at 06:11 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Easongate Debuts in the MSM: But What's Missing?

    Two MSM stories this morning on Easongate, neither of which include Jordan's actual statements, but instead what others have attributed to him (here and here - HT: Hugh Hewitt and Daily Thoughts via Easongate).

    Why do both accounts fail to mention that: 1) there is a tape; 2) it's being witheld; and 3) the tape could clear up a lot of the he said/she said that is currently making the rounds in the blogosphere?

    The headline of the Howard Kurtz piece in the Washington Post this morning reads, "Eason Jordan, Quote, Unquote CNN News Chief Clarifies His Comments on Iraq." Kurtz opens with,

    What CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan said, or didn't say, in Davos, Switzerland, last month has become a burgeoning controversy among bloggers and media critics.

    To "clarify" his, as of yet unheard and unread comments at Davos, Jordan said to Kurtz,
    I have never once in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist. Never meant to suggest that. Obviously I wasn't as clear as I should have been on that panel.

    This of course is in direct contradiction to many accounts of the talk, including Barney Frank's, which was provided in the WaPo story.

    Kurtz closes with a quote from David Gergen,

    Gergen said Jordan had just returned from Baghdad and was still "deeply distraught" over the journalists who have died in Iraq. "This was a guy caught up in the tension of the moment," Gergen said. "He deserves the benefit of the doubt."

    The MSM is giving Jordan the benefit of the doubt. Gergen provides a big picture context of Jordan's comments, but we still do not have the entire context.

    Now comes word that the Davos people will not release the tape (HT: Hugh). Blogger Sisyphus has been in contact with a Davos organizer and thought he was going to receive a tape, but now they say that some of the sessions are off the record:

    We would of course revisit the topic if all participants agreed for it to be released - but even then we would have to consider carefully since the rules are set for all the 'off the record' sessions - we would have to change the policy for the whole meeting - which would have much wider implications.

    I'm not holding my breath.

    The MSM doesn't represent America. Give America the immediate context (i.e., the tape) and let her decide whether Eason Jordan deserves the benefit of the doubt.

    Posted by Rick at 09:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Prager’s Case for Judeo-Christian Values

    The most serious wars being fought in the world today don’t involve military hardware. In the battles that will shape the course of human history the weapons are ideas. The combatants are aligned by worldview, not geography or nationality. These epic contests will determine what value system humanity will embrace.

    California-based radio talk show host Dennis Prager, one of the truly thoughtful conservative radio commentators, says there are essentially three competitors in this battle for men’s hearts and minds: European secularism, American Judeo-Christianity, and Islam. To that list I would add a fourth—Eastern Mysticism. (Having spent some time last year in Beijing, I learned that as the communists have sought to minimize religion, traditional spiritism and superstition are rampant. It has the people in virtual spiritual and emotional bondage.)

    Prager, has been writing a series in his weekly columns that makes the case for Judeo-Christian values.

    He writes:

    “I believe [biblical values] are the finest set of values to guide the lives of both individuals and societies. Unfortunately, they are rarely rationally explained - even among Jewish and Christian believers, let alone to nonbelievers and members of other faiths."

    In the first column, Prager cites the civilizing effect of Christianity:

    "Chesterton was right. The collapse of Christianity in Europe led to the horrors of Nazism and communism. And to the moral confusions of the present - such as the moral equation of the free United States with the totalitarian Soviet Union, or of life-loving Israel with its death-loving enemies.

    The oft-cited charge that religion has led to more wars and evil than anything else is a widely believed lie. Secular successors to Christianity have slaughtered and enslaved more people than all religions in history (though significant elements within a non-Judeo-Christian religion - Islam - slaughter and enslave today, and if not stopped in Sudan and elsewhere could match Nazism or communism."

    In the second column, Prager discusses the divine basis of morality. He writes:

    "A major reason for the left's loathing of George W. Bush is his use of moral language -- such as in his widely condemned description of the regimes of North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an "axis of evil." These people reject the central Judeo-Christian value of the existence of objective good and evil and our obligation to make such judgments. Secularism has led to moral confusion, which in turn has led to moral paralysis."

    The third part deals with reason's incapacity to lead to moral conclusions. Prager writes:

    "[A] problem with reason alone as a moral guide is that we are incapable of morally functioning on the basis of reason alone. Our passions, psychology, values, beliefs, emotions and experiences all influence the ways in which even the most rational person determines what is moral and whether to act on it."

    All three columns are worth your time.

    Posted by Jim at 08:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 07, 2005

    The Anchoress and Pastor Bolsinger on Lent

    The Anchoress answers the question in my post on Lent, and knocks it out of the park. In doing so, she reminds me of my almost daily lament: the sad absence of grandeur, pomp and circumstance, pageantry, beauty, tradition, and sense of history that so characterizes, and so impoverishes, the Evangelical church in America. Really, you don't have to turn into an idolater to pretty up your service and have a little more piety. It is possible that we have gone well beyond what Luther, Calvin and other early Protestant leaders intended.

    Pastor Tod Bolsinger is also going to post on Lent, particularly the communal aspects of Lent. (You mean there's a communal aspect to Christianity Pastor? Don't let Evangelicals know, they're kind of in to the individualistic part of Christianity.)

    Posted by Mark at 11:13 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    Intelligent Design -- The Sternberg Controversy

    A little over a week ago, there was a bit of a blogswarm around this editorial in Opinion Journal regarding biologist Richard von Sternberg. The article noted that von Sternberg's career was in jeopardy because he published a peer-reviewed article on intelligent design in the August issue of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. I wrote about it here.

    It must be noted that the article, titled "The Branding of a Heretic," was an editorial in Opinion Journal. And because it was an editorial, we probably shouldn't have expected to get both sides of the story.

    Jonathan Coddington, von Sternberg's supervisor at the National Museum of Natural History, responded to the editorial over at my other blog, here, correcting what he saw as errors in the Opinion Journal piece.

    Today I discovered Richard von Sternberg's own website through the Grapevine blog. On it he discusses the whole controversy surrounding the publication of the article on intelligent design. The page is dated from September, but like Coddington's response, it sheds more light on the situation.

    I suspect there's more to come on this incident as ID is suddenly becoming a hot topic.

    Stay tuned.

    Posted by Drew at 09:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Wimps and Twixters

    Al Mohler astutely notes that we are becoming a nation of wimps. I love his analysis, but it naturally begs the question: Why is he so surprised to learn that young adults act like kids?

    I had a lot to say about this a few weeks back. See here and here.

    Posted by Matt at 06:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    More on Bill Bellichick

    On the topic of Bellichick's greatness, I think it's fair to say it's too early to make the call. There are other coaches with as many Super Bowl wins, and one coach with more. I think the one thing that helps Bellichick's case is that he is doing this at a time when teams aren't supposed to win three out of four championships. The system is designed to keep everything even, and Bellichick and his staff have found a way to overcome that. The key now is to see if Bellichick can maintain this current winning streak without Charlie Weiss and Romeo Crennel.

    Here's one question to consider. I've always looked at Lombardi, Walsh and Gibbs the same way I look at Bryant and Paterno on the college level. They're tough, hard-nosed coaches who are tremendous motivators. They won and they are still revered. A guy like Bellichick or Norm Chow seems less like a motivator and more like a systems analyst. They're so cerebral in a way that Lombardi didn't seem to be. Maybe Bryant and Lombardi were just as smart, and it's all a matter of image.

    Am I right or am I wrong?

    Posted by Matt at 06:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Dixie Fuller

    Jim, that's unfortunate about Millard "Dixie" Fuller. He is a fellow graduate of the University of Alabama. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at UA's December commencement, when my good friend Eric G. Mann walked across the stage. He is a class act, and I hate to see something like this happen. Your questions about Habitat remind me of the eternal necessity of O'Sullivan's First Rule:

    All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.

    Incidentally, Millard Fuller was named after Millard "Dixie" Howell, who played for the mighty Crimson Tide, and was named MVP of the 1935 Rose Bowl.

    Posted by Matt at 06:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


    Mark Krikorian has a nice post regarding Lent.

    “I have sinned against the rays of your dawn, dark sinner that I am.”


    Posted by Matt at 06:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    NRO's Misunderstanding...

    Some dear reader tries to inform Kathryn Lopez about the ways of flyover country.

    Here's the dirty little secret: Most of the best country artists aren't conservative. And there's lots of good "country" music flying under the radar.

    Posted by Matt at 06:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Ethical Questions in Habitat's Firing of Millard Fuller

    Contrary to headlines prompted by Habitat for Humanity’s board statement, the organization’s founder and president Millard Fuller was fired due to changes in corporate culture, not unsubstantiated sexual harassment allegations.

    This troubling finding is included in an article that I wrote for Christianity Today, which was posted this afternoon.

    Although I am restrained from saying more at this point, because I may do additional reporting on this issue for CT, as is the case in many of the dramas surrounding the interaction of men and women in the workplace, it is unlikely that anyone but the participants will know whether Fuller was inappropriate with the female employee last spring, and others before her, or if the warm and friendly nature of the 70-year-old south Georgian was an uncomfortable fit with the modern era’s climate of sexual politics.

    What is certain is that the events that led to the firing reveal the changing culture of the highly successful housing provider, and the inability of its charismatic founder to thrive in the environment he helped create.

    The board’s decision to use the allegations in the first paragraph of its announcement demonstrates the rancor between the parties, and raises ethical questions about the board’s handling of information that personally smears one of the Christendom’s fine, hardworking servants.

    Posted by Jim at 03:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Not "No," But...

    Sounds like someone is tired.

    Can't say I blame him.

    Posted by Matt at 11:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Question of the Day...

    In the wake of the Patriots win in Super Bowl XXXIX, one big question is being tossed around:

    Is Bill Bellichick the greatest coach in the history of the NFL?

    I'll post my thoughts on this later today. For now, do our readers have any ideas?

    Posted by Matt at 10:16 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Judge Rules Embryo Is A Human

    A Chicago judge has ruled that an embryo mistakenly discarded by an Illinois fertility clinic was a 'human' and its parents can sue under the state's wrongful death law (h/t: Freedom of...)

    Posted by Jim at 08:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Judge May Rule on Terry Schaivo's Life This Week

    The life of Terry Schaivo in Florida hangs in the balance and a judge may make a decision as early as today.

    Tim at Blogicus points to new information that may become important with Terry Schaivo’s fate is in the hands of the Florida judge.

    It is not surprising that several pro-life groups say they plan to flood Florida with activists should a local judge set aside the stay that is in place prohibiting Michael Schiavo from starving her to death. Judge George Greer could decide as early as [today] whether to lift the stay. Should he do that, the pro-life groups will bring "scores of people" to the state to "pray, lobby and peacefully intervene on Terri's behalf."

    Janet Folger at Faith2Action reports on her site that

    Christian organizations announced [last Thursday] a nationwide campaign to save the life of Terri Schiavo if feeding and hydration tube is removed. Groups will encourage all those who cherish the culture of life to come to Florida and stand in solidarity with Terri and her family should the courts order food and water withheld from her. Organizers hope scores will come from around the nation to pray, lobby and peacefully intervene on Terri's behalf.

    Posted by Jim at 08:46 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

    Mickey Gets It

    Mickey Kaus takes down Frank Rich on Nipple-Gate. Scroll down the headline concering...well...the nipple, since apparently Slate can't spend a few extra bucks on permalinks. Good points, by Mickey, though.

    Posted by Matt at 08:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Super Football, Average Commercials

    It is always a pleasure when the Super Bowl turns out to be a good, competitive game, which this one was. Just when you thought the Patriots were going to pull away, the Eagles’ goal line defense stiffened, forcing a field goal; and then a long McNabb to Lewis pass closes the gap to three points.

    Generally, the game was better than the commercials this year. There weren’t any great ones, but a handful of quite good ones. We viewed the Super Bowl with a group of about a dozen party guests who joined us in also analyzing the commercials.

    We rated whatever commercials we watched between refilling our plates and other conversations using four criteria: Overall quality of the advertising spot, creativity, effectiveness in promoting the product (will you just remember the clever commercial or will you remember the product name and attributes), and good taste (not as in “less filling, tastes good,” but where does the spot measure on your scale of appropriate and tasteful inclusion in a family program).

    Using these measurements (a scale of 1 to 10 in each of four categories), the spots that best played in Peoria (actually Lawrenceville, Georgia) were the following:

    Anheuser-Busch: Thank you to the troops---34
    Cadillac: Speeding bullet---33
    Heineken with Brad Pitt---32
    Pepsi: Hunky man drawing crowd---32
    Bud Light: Bird---32
    Federal Express: Burt and the Bear---31
    Michelob: Rich (in furniture store---29
    McDonalds: Lincoln in fries---29
    CareerBuilder.com: Monkeys---29
    Tabasco: sunburn under bikini---28
    Mustang convertible in winter---28

    Our focus group yawned at many of the commercials and had a really bad reaction to just one that tried to spoof Janet Jackson: GoDaddy.com’s “wardrobe malfunction” at a Senate hearing. It got the only badly negative ratings on the “taste” scale.

    Some reactions: Anaheiser Busch’s tribute to the troops was classy. . .FedEx’s Burt Reynolds and the Bear was really funny…Loved Pepsi’s play on the old Coke commercial with the women following the good looking guy, with one gay fellow joining in. . .McDonalds seeing Abe Lincoln in the French fries was a great parody of the woman seeing Mary in the grilled cheese sandwich and the man selling the fishstick with Jesus’ face on EBay. . . The Cadillac speeding bullet car got a lot of reaction and was one commercial where you could tell what the advertiser was trying to do; in this case help give the car a sportier image. . . The CareerBuilders monkeys worked, but got tiring by the end of the game. . . Really clever idea when Tabasco’s bikinied girl couldn’t stop the skin from burning from the inside . . .Good gag with the hot Subway sandwiches of the two rednecks steaming up the parked car windows.

    The best commercials were in the first half, and we could tell why. Our focus group started thinning at halftime. Had to get kids to bed and prepare to return to reality.

    Posted by Jim at 08:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 06, 2005

    So, what are you doing for the quadragesimale?

    This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, and the commencement of the Lenten Fast. I will be giving up all beverages alcoholic for the fast. I would be interested in hearing what others are giving up. Also, I would love to hear about family traditions for the Lenten Season. We do not have any in our family (we're trying to overcome the shocking lack of tradition within the US Evangelical Church, which has unfortunately left us without familial traditions to which we can turn).

    Here is a nice description of the fast from the The St. James Calendar of the Christian Year:

    Lenten Fast: Originally, the word Lent, now associated exclusively with the liturgical year, was simply the Anglo-Saxon term for Spring and had no religious significance. In English usage, however, its reference was gradually limited to mean the season of preparation for Easter that does, in fact, occur every Spring.
    In most other languages of Western Christianity, the word for Lent is some variant of "forty," derived from the Latin quadragesimale. Traditionally this was a 40-day fast in imitation of the Lord himself, who fasted 40 days prior to beginning his earthly ministry. It was also associated with the 40-day fasts of Moses on Mount Sinai and Elijah as he journeyed to the same mountain.

    Doubtless it was this combination of Jesus, Moses and Elijah together on a single mountain that determined the ancient choice of the Transfiguration story as the favor Gospel reading of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches just prior to the beginning of Lent. Also, at the Transfiguration, the two prophets spoke with Jesus about his impending Passion (Lk. 9:31), a fitting theme for Lent.

    I encourage you to consider giving something up for Lent, or recognizing it in some other meaningful way. Use your fast as a means of focusing on God and focusing on how you can become a better person in Christ. Lent can be a time of introspection and purification for all Christians, not just Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox.

    Oh, and Happy Transfiguration Sunday.

    Posted by Mark at 11:21 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    The Conservative Mind

    Here's a nice post on intellectual conservatism.

    Posted by Matt at 09:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    The Sorry State of Education

    Erin O'Connor notes a very disturbing trend.

    O'Connor doesn't get into the merits of public education versus those the private sector, but studies like this demonstrate there is a real and deep problem out there.

    Posted by Matt at 07:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Is Anyone Else Surpised

    Two former Presidents appear at the Super Bowl.

    "Ultimately, though, Clinton didn't pick a winner."

    I am shocked...shocked!

    I'm also shocked that New England's defense isn't doing any better right now.

    Posted by Matt at 07:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Super Bowl Talk

    The idea of Michael "Never Met An Anti-American Cause I Didn't Like" Douglas introducing the nation's colors...well, that's just too ironic. And not in a funny sort of way.

    Posted by Matt at 06:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    FDR and the Future of Social Security

    Joshua Clayborn draws attention to a message given to Congress by FDR in 1935. Betsy's Page found a reference to the same speech in a Fox story (HT: Power Pundit). In the message, FDR seemingly endorses an idea similar to that which is proposed by President Bush.

    I wonder what an investigation of the full body of FDR's comments on Social Security made during his tenure would reveal? Anyone live near the FDR Presidential Library?

    Posted by Rick at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


    The blog swarm gets more lethal as Easongate takes point. (HT: Powerline via Michelle Malkin)

    UPDATE: For some reason, the Google bots chose this post to be the number one page for the keyword "Easongate." Sorry to disappoint. I have written a bit more thoughtfully on Easongate here and here.

    But... You are really wanting something more, so please visit Hugh Hewitt, Bogus Gold, and Power Pundit first, but La Shawn Barber's Corner, Captain's Quarters, and Michelle Malkin are pulling a lot of weight on this story. Enjoy!

    Posted by Rick at 02:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Sudan Watch

    The Sudan Watch is a great resource for those following the ethnic cleansing genocide in Darfur and elsewhere in the Sudan.

    Posted by Rick at 02:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Are You Sure It Wasn't....Nothing?

    Catherine Seipp is excited about the return of Family Guy.

    Yep, me too.

    Posted by Matt at 12:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


    All apologies for my silence. I was slammed with a twenty-four hour stomach bug, the kind that makes you question the universe at five a.m.

    But we're all better now. We hope. It's Super Bowl Sunday, and even more than the commercials, I'm excited about watching a game that has the potential to be very, very good.

    My own prediction: The Patriots win by a field goal, with a score of...let's say...27-24. Tom Brady gets another MVP, and his ticket to Canton.

    Posted by Matt at 12:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Rating Super Bowl Commercials

    “Quick, go get your food before the commercials come back on.”

    For millions of Americans, the Super Bowl broadcast has become a time to watch the best Madison Avenue has to offer, and to check in on the last football game of the year, too.

    And advertisers are quite interested in what we think of their ads, and this year they want to feel the pulse of the blogosphere. This, from Frank Barnako, of MarketWatch:

    “While you watch the Super Bowl, dozens of online-savvy consumers and Web loggers will be watching the Net to see how the game's TV commercials are playing in Peoria. Intelliseek Inc. of Cincinnati and New Media Strategies of Arlington, Va., have lined up dozens of people to surf Web sites, blogs and message boards to get a fast read on the effectiveness and popularity of marketers' commercials. With TV costing as much as $2.4 million for a 30-second spot, companies want to know whether their money was spent wisely.

    "Conversations all over the Internet, from message boards to blogs and beyond, now allow us to get a true pulse in real time," said New Media Strategies Chief Executive Pete Snyder in a statement. His firm is doing a similar monitoring process of the entertainment industry and the Oscars contest.”

    We’ll play along and poll our Super Bowl Party guests on their opinions of the commercials, rating them on best overall, most creative, most effective in promoting product, and “good taste.” We’ll post the results.

    Posted by Jim at 08:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 05, 2005

    Jordan v. Mattis

    Hugh Hewitt is a master of his craft and proves it with his description of the MSM's disparate treatment of Jordan and Mattis.

    It took only 48 hours for four major newspapers to run stories on comments made by Lt. Gen. Mattis this past Tuesday (here, here, here, and here [HT: Hugh]). The General provided the MSM with a meaty sound bite, "It's fun to shoot some people" and they went with it.

    But why the blackout of the apparently equally meaty soundbites provided by CNN Chief Eason Jordan? According to one blogger who was present during Jordan's remarks,

    Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.

    We know that there is video of the event, and we know that the MSM is "investigating," but why, after more than a week since Jordan's statements, has there not been a single MSM story on the subject?

    CNN asserted that bloggers have taken Eason's statements out of context. This is laughable coming on the heels of the Mattis story where almost every MSM sound bite of Mattis that I saw left out key context. The point is that Jordan's comments may be taken out of context or misrepresented by numerous witnesses, but this possibility makes it is more imperative, not less, for the MSM to cover the story and to set the bloggers straight. Judging from this account, and Jordan's history of similar statements, the full context is likely to be more condemning of Jordan.

    At first I was willing to cut the MSM some slack on this one. But they have now run out of rope.

    Posted by Rick at 07:33 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    The Right Kind of Censorship

    It's time to talk about decency again as we come to the anniversary of the breast that launched a thousand gasps. This year’s Super Bowl promises to be carefully protected from “wardrobe malfunctions,” and other capers that would further drag our minds and those of our children through the cultural mud.

    Censorship is good thing. But it’s only a laudatory response when the government isn’t the institution that must or chooses to engage in censorship.

    It is a failure when we turn to the strong arm of the government to bring the arts and media into line with cultural norms.

    As a culture we have allowed almost every private or prurient thought to be shown or suggested on television, radio, and certainly the big screen. When someone in the media crosses the few remaining lines, we cry to the FCC. But determining media content is not the true role of government, and it has shown itself to be awkward, ineffective, and uncomfortable at drawing and enforcing the limits of permissible speech or content.

    When the breast was bared during a CBS’s Super Bowl half-time show and whena sexually provocative skit was used to lead into a primetime football game, as ABC did several months ago, we turn to government to enforce our outrage. Politicians huff and puff about the drift from decency. But the penalties are laughable—CBS was fined $550,000 for the Super Bowl offense--about 15 seconds of Super Bowl commercial time.

    The role belongs to the people; to all of us as viewers and consumers. Media content is a reflection of our cultural mores. Although we blame Hollywood or New York, our attention has to be corporate board rooms. Media content does not endure if it is not supported by advertisers and viewed by those who consume the advertisers’ products.

    Of course, our outrage is selective. How much more provovative and deliciously instructive is the surprise hit, Desperate Housewives,than the flash of skin at the Super Bowl. We have come to the point as a culture where the only lines we draw are timetables, not decency or social edification. As long as Johnny or Suzy are probably in bed, roll out the crud.

    As decision makers in the entertainment industry continue to push up against and frequently cross the lines of acceptability, the Americans who voted for moral values in the last election will push government to do something. However, the call for action is misdirected. It is for the newly discovered “values coalition” to organize consumer action, not government hand slapping which is both misplaced and ineffective.

    So if you’re offended by something you see tomorrow, or any day, call (or organize action against) Chevrolet or Proctor and Gamble, and CBS—not the FCC.

    When Ford previewed a Super Bowl truck commercial that mocked a man of the cloth—who looked most like a priest—by making having him lust for a new truck, the relgious community made its disgust known. And Ford pulled the ad.

    There are also examples of failure to move the corporate giants on issues of moral content. Yes, the tools we have used thus far have mixed results. But for the interaction of our cultural institutions to be healthy, we must find ways to deal with societal filth and bad taste without forcing the government to be a culture cop.

    Posted by Jim at 03:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    General Mattis

    USMC Lt. Gen. James Mattis stepped into a bit of controversy Tuesday when he told a group in San Diego, "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ..It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."

    While these words were widely quoted on the local news here, the full context didn’t make the soundbite:

    You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis continued. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.

    The General has been “counseled” and apparently wishes he chose his words more wisely.

    When I first heard the story, I queried my father in law, USMC Lt. Col. (ret) for a comment on Mattis’ remarks. He replied:


    Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner about Gen Mattis' comments. It took awhile for me to stop laughing. I guess the audience didn't see the humor here. The General is just telling it the way it is. Maybe he should substitute some word like "rewarding" instead of "fun" or a "hoot" when describing the act of eliminating some of the worst humans off our planet. Unfortunately, he is not the first high ranking person to get into trouble over a few no so politically correct words. I'll bet if Al Grey were still the Commandant of the Marine Corps you would not have heard a word in the news about the Gen Mattis being reprimanded. In short, politicians ask the warriors to fight their battles when it's clear that fancy words are no longer the solution. The General is a Warrior, not a politician (thank God).

    Semper FI, Lee

    The Marines are trained killers. Pure and simple. They aren’t trained to be peace keepers. They aren’t trained to be humanitarian aid workers. They are killers and the best killers on earth. That realization is a bit unnerving to me, but it’s the truth.

    Although I can’t imagine that shooting another human could ever be “fun” or a “hoot,” I also can’t imagine being a Marine in the heat of battle, so I’m in no position to criticize. From what little I know of the USMC, I bet Mattis’ remarks put a spring in the step of many young privates and corporals in Iraq and Afghanistan – as strange and sick as that may seem. But why is it that I’d have it no other way?

    Posted by Rick at 11:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Losing Jesus' Language

    Christian History & Biography, a Christianity Today publication, has an interesting interview with Dr. Eden Naby, an Assyrian woman, on the experiences of Assyrian Christians in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq. Theirs is a history of brutal oppression and exile. Despite all that, Assyrians work hard to maintain family and community:

    The basic connection is family. People in our community, as in most Middle Eastern communities, remain closely connected to extended family. When people immigrate from Iraq or Syria, part of the family stays behind. This is a plus and minus because when you have your great uncle still living in Baghdad you're very careful about what you say about Saddam Hussein or anyone who could turn around and harm your people.
    The second connection is through religious organizations or cultural institutions.

    What is sad to me is that, in this country, in which we have freedom and general economic prosperity, both family and community have been given short shrift in the exultation of the almighty individual. As we continue to witness the wholesale project to sever those ties that for millennia have served to nourish and strengthen the lives of men and women, we would do well to learn a lesson from those who have faced terror and oppression on a daily basis: when times are tough, people need strong families and a strong local community for sustenance.

    Posted by Mark at 08:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    February 04, 2005

    More on Film and Faith

    An entry which I posted here and at Darn Floor, seems to have generated a lot of response (relatively speaking), and drawn my attention to some great resources.

    Blue Goldfish linked to the original post, and added a couple of his own on the subject.

    He also links to Gideon Strauss, who along with his own suggestions for films fit for discussion, pointed out this excellent resource which has lists of discussion questions for a number of great movies. See, for example, this discussion guide for "Crimes and Misdemeanors," one film I definitely want to have included in the discussion group.

    Matt also links to some excellent resources below.

    Thanks for the resources and film suggestions, folks. Keep 'em coming.

    Posted by Drew at 07:55 PM | Comments (0)

    This Is Getting Old

    NRO continues its noble savage fixation with red state America.

    Posted by Matt at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)

    Christian Politics

    Rick's post about his coalescing of faith and politics reminded me of Rod Dreher's powerful piece for Touchstone Magazine a few years back. The article was somewhat controversial, prompting this reply from editor S.M. Hutchens, entitled "Practical Atheism."

    Hutchens nailed his argument to the door of Church of the Christian Left with this point:

    We know with certainty that abortion and sodomy are evil, but we do not know with any certainty whether any particular disbursement of funds for the poor is good or bad or mixed. Our faith directs us to give alms, quietly and generously, and to bless and care for the widows and the fatherless, but it also tells us that those who will not work shall not eat. Distinctions, often difficult ones, must be made in our policies between who should be marked as poor and who should not, and on how collective monies should be spent or not spent for their relief, the kind of distinctions that have historically marked differing party philosophies, and upon which Christians have historically had differences of opinion. A Christian may think the Democrats’ social, economic, or environmental programs are superior to the Republicans’, but he knows that the Democrats’ moral policies are aggressively ungodly.

    I have come to firmly believe that liberalism, as it exists today, is not compatible with Scripture. That so many Christians can be led astray by Jim Wallis' socialism in Christ's name is further evidence that the Christian mind is slowly eroding.

    This speech by Robert P. George
    further explores the idea.

    (Note: I'm not labeling Rick a liberal, nor am I tossing him in with Jim Wallis. His post simply brought to mind an issue that slightly predated this recent blog explosion. I felt the issue was worth revisting.)

    Posted by Matt at 03:17 PM | Comments (4)

    Christ at the Cinema

    Thanks to Jonah Goldberg's piece on Groundhog Day, there's been a lot of talk about movies that have implicit themes that Christians will find relevant. Drew talked about it, as did Gideon Strauss.

    Christians and film buffs interested in spiritually significant films should check out the Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films as established by the Arts and Faith Forum. This is a very challenging list, but worth exploring if we are to adequately engage the culture. Also, the Looking Closer blog is invaluable.

    Posted by Matt at 02:59 PM | Comments (2)

    Am I a Progressive Christian?

    Readers of my old blog know that I'm not entirely "conservative." I count myself as moderate (and even left) on taxes, housing, regionalism, immigration, race relations, environment, and the death penalty. But does that make me a "progressive" Christian?

    Ray of Sacking Rome has a nice thread going about what he describes as Jim Wallis' (Editor of Sojourners) New Vision for Progressive Christians.

    Ray provides a quick summary of a recent Wallis article:

    [Jim] talks about the 3 traditional options we’ve had in American politics. The first is a strictly conservative, "America as Empire" option. That’s what the Republicans think they have a “mandate” for today. The second is a strictly liberal, “America as Teddy Bear” option. That was so 90’s. The third option is the Libertarian option, the “America as a Fine Place to Live as Long as it Leaves Me the Hell Alone” option.

    I think Ray slightly mischaracterizes Wallis' first and second options, but his representation of the third option seems fair.

    Of the first option, Wallis wrote:

    The first political option in America today is conservative on everything - from cultural, moral, and family concerns to economic, environmental, and foreign policy issues. Differences emerge between aggressive nationalists and cautious isolationists, between corporate apologists and principled fiscal conservatives, but this is the political option clearly on the ascendancy in America, with most of the dominant ideas in the public square coming from the political Right.

    Wallis wrote of the second option:

    The second political option in contemporary America is liberal on everything - both family/sexual/cultural questions and economic, environmental, and foreign policy matters. There are certainly differences among the liberals (from pragmatic centrists to green leftists), but the intellectual and ideological roots come from the Left side of the cultural and political spectrum - and today most from the liberal/left find themselves on the defensive.

    Wallis believes that the Republican's mandate is very tenuous and introduces a 4th option that, if adopted by candidates opposing establishment Republicans, could build a lasting and powerful political coalition.
    I believe there is a "fourth option" for American politics, which follows from the prophetic religious tradition we have described. It is "traditional" or "conservative" on issues of family values, sexual integrity and personal responsibility, while being very "progressive," "populist," or even "radical" on issues like poverty and racial justice. It affirms good stewardship of the earth and its resources, supports gender equality, and is more internationally minded than nationalist - looking first to peacemaking and conflict resolution when it come to foreign policy questions.

    Jim has more thoughts about this 4th option, but what I've quoted gives you the gyst of what he is saying.

    So, would I vote for a "4th Option" candidate?

    In the same article, Wallis wrote:

    (4th Option Candidates) would not be mean-spirited and, for example, blame gay people for the breakdown of the family, nor would they criminalize the choices of desperate women backed into difficult and dangerous corners.

    If Wallis is saying (and I'm not clear that he is) that Abortion should be legal in all cases, or that marriage should be legal between gay men and women, I am clearly not a "4th Option" voter. Mark Sides encouraged us to not wait for Roe to be overturned and to work to reduce abortions. If Wallis' position is anything other than Mark's, I don't know how it is Biblically supportable.

    Another characteristic of the ideal 4th Option candidate is that she would be "committed to a foreign policy that emphasized international law and multilateral cooperation over pre-emptive and unilateral war." Not to disparage, but this position is simply stupid. Although the left would love to keep using the terms, our war in Iraq was not entirely pre-emptive and by no means unilateral. We were at war with Iraq since the early 1990s and acted with a coalition of the willing that consisted of 30+ nations.

    I must ask then: Is there a 5th Option for Christians like me? Unfortunately, at this point, the answer is no.

    The United States electoral system is First-Past-The-Post. In FPP systems, there will only be two dominant parties. Voting for a member of a fringe party, in all but very rare instances, is completely useless. Parties are coalitions and therefore a single party or candidate may never mirror my values or beliefs, but on issues that matter most to me and my family, there is but one party. I will fervently support the Republican party (for now), but will continue to work to convince members of my party that moderate (dare I say, liberal) socio-economic and environmental policies are more Christian than the policies advocated by the "oppressors."

    As Jim Jewell pointed out in his fine post Virtues that Transcend Political Ideology, we can never legislate moralism and values constitute more than political positions on abortion and gay marriage. Not that we should abandon voting as a means of reforming society and its institutions, but that personal obedience to Christ is to be our highest calling; by yielding to Him, our lives will bear virtuous fruit.

    Our activism has order. First in line is my relationship with Christ. Then I look to my family and my church and ask, are these "institutions" honoring God with their decisions? If not, I advocate for change, which is not always successful. Outside the family and church are other institutions of which I am involved. I'm thinking here mostly of the institutions of government. As I work within my family and my church to make them more Christ-like (understanding their weaknesses as being comprised of and lead by flawed people), I also work within the polity that gives power to the government so that it can better emulate Christ. I have no illusions here. Man's institutions, although constituted by God, will never perfectly conform - but that's no excuse for ambivalence.

    Call me a Christian progressive who wants our governmental institutions reformed to glorify Christ. For now, I think the Republican party is the best vehicle for this type of progressive activism.

    (Drew has a related post on Wallis and reaction from secular liberals.)

    Posted by Rick at 10:27 AM | Comments (2)


    Time Magazine’s list of 25 most influential evangelicals was gratifying for many reasons. Mostly obviously, it is always welcome when a major news outlet treats devout Christians with respect and affords them some recognition. I love lists and horses races, so its fun to see if my favorites are the winners. I am a great admirer of some of the individuals on the list.

    (Disclosure: I worked as Chuck Colson’s chief of staff and communications director and then as his public relations consultant over a course of nearly 20 years. I know him well and regard him as, although not perfect, a great and wise man of God. I’m delighted to see him on this list).

    Here are a few thoughts:

    o No Televangelists: It is gratifying that the flamboyant fundamentalists who used television to argue their cause and alienate much of the nation are not on list. I’m thinking here of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

    o Too Much Washington: It is good to see some variety of missions, but Time primarily is defining influence as political impact. The selections lean heavily to people who have had an influence e in Washington politics and the measuring stick for clout is an individual’s connections in Washington. This is a myopic view because political influence is just one, and most would argue one of the lesser, roles of the church and leaders in the church.

    I understand this “inside the beltway” obsession, having worked in Washington, D.C. and in a politicized arena for 14 years, and I remain involved with Washington clients in my current enterprises. That’s why I recognize it. Judging political influence is the Washington parlor game.

    If we measure evangelicals who have had and are having an influence on the church, the church’s biblical faithfulness, the culture’s spiritual tenor, the theological maturity of the nation, and the dissemination of the Gospel around the world, the list woudl be somewhat different.

    o Missing Bill Bright: No one has replaced Bill Bright’s passion and persistence to evangelize the world. There are thousands who share his heart on international domestic and international missions, but no one is providing the kind of leadership he did. His death has left a hole. The closest one on this list would be Ralph Winter who, although different, provides the focus on international missions.

    o Connections: You can connect the dots between the Fellowship’s Doug Coe, who was in the small group who discipled Chuck Colson after his Watergate-era conversion. Colson hired the current presidential speech writer Michael Gerson right out of Wheaton College to write for him. Richad John Neuhaus and Colson are joined at the ecumenical hip. And James Dobson and Chuck Colson are close friends.

    o The Money People: The selection of the Ahmansons is an example of the favoring of those who have Washington influence (big donor to Diane Knippers and her DC group), rather than much more familiar foundations whose funding tends toward evangelism—such as The DeMoss Foundation or the MacClellan Foundation.

    o Few Southern Baptists: There are more Roman Catholics on the list than Southern Baptists, by far the largest Protestant denomination. The one prominent Southern Baptist listed is Richard Land, head of the SBC agency that deals with public life and has lots to say on, you guessed it, Washington politics. The Southern Baptist with much broader impact would be Jimmy Draper, who heads the agency, that produces enormous amounts of Christian books, literature, and Sunday school materials, Lifeway.

    o The Charismatics: T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, and Steven Strange provide the charismatic balance. I’m relieved that the charismatic-turned-motivational speaker Joel Osteen didn’t make the list.

    o The Grahams: Franklin’s influence is derived from the pulpit his father created. But Franklin Graham is doing some good work around the world with Samaritan’s Purse. And his post election comments on the dangers of Christian leaders getting too carried away with political influence were excellent.

    o American Worship: Like it or not, Bill Hybels has had more influence than anyone on how the American church conducts its worship, and how to reach those in their neighborhoods who are not coming to church. Rick Warren is also having an influence by changing the way the church thinks and reaches out to others.

    o Making Strong Contributions: Stuart Epperson’s Salem Radio is changing Christian radio and making it far more professional. Ted Haggard is bringing the National Association of Evangelicals back from the ashes. Jay Sekulow is an extremely effective barrister on religious freedom.

    o Really Smart: Mark Noll and J.I. Packer give the list some additional gravitas. Packer holds up the Reformed end of things. This could have been R.C. Sproul, but Packer is less prickly.

    o Left Behind: Never been a big fan of the LaHaye’s or the books.

    o Why the Senator?: Rick Santorum is a strong supporter of Christian conservatives, but it seems odd to have this Roman Catholic on a list of evangelicals. Perhaps he’s an evangelical Roman Catholic. A list of influential Roman Catholics friendly to the evangelicals would include Sean Hannity. The Roman Catholic with the most influence on evangelicals in the last year may have been Mel Gibson.

    o New To Me: I confess that I’d never heard of David Barton, Luis Cortes, or Brian McLaren.

    Posted by Jim at 07:59 AM | Comments (5)

    February 03, 2005

    Looking at the Heresy of Joel Osteen

    Joel Osteen, the pastor of America’s largest church, is preaching about having a better attitude, about being blessed if you’re properly motivated, about doing well financially. There’s one problem. He isn’t preaching about Jesus Christ, and he isn’t preaching the Gospel. Not even a confused Gospel. Sin is never mentioned. Apparently you can attend for weeks without hearing the name Jesus (except as a prayer salutation) from the pulpit.

    If half of what Michael Spencer is writing about at Internet Monk is accurate, Osteen is a frightening presence in pop religion. Michael is calling for Osteen to be blogged-out. Check out his research and do some of your own. I know I will.

    Posted by Jim at 06:25 PM | Comments (5)

    Galveston’s Social Security Alternative

    You’ve got to learn more about The Galveston Story. It’s a Texas county that opted out of Social Security back when you could and set up a private system similar to the one the President is pushing. Their benefits today are through the roof compared to Social Security.

    Neal Boortz talked about it on his program today (but it’s not on Neal’s Nuze), and CNS News has a story.

    Posted by Jim at 05:14 PM | Comments (1)

    Mow Your Own Lawn

    Interesting post by John Derbyshire at the Corner.

    I've often wondered about this, as well. Certainly there are some jobs that parents might want their teenagers to avoid for issues of safety and a desire to enjoy being a teenager, but are we now incapable of mowing our own lawns? Painting our own houses? There are very few jobs Americans can't do; there are just a lot of jobs we won't do. Why? I'm not completely confident in my thesis, but I'll take a shot.

    One of the reasons poor white Southerners supported secession was they felt that free blacks would make their own work seem less meaningful. If the slaves were freed to work on their own, then suddenly poor whites would find themselves at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder and in the same basket as the former slaves. At the time, one was hard-pressed to find a stronger form of degradation. Perhaps a similar thing has occurred today. Americans are no longer willing to work in manual labor because they'll find themselves working with poor immigrants.

    I'm not trying to paint my fellow Americans as racists or nativists. There are practical barriers to immigrants working well with Americans, namely the issue of language. But aside from that, I wonder if our new attitude goes something like this:

    I'll work a summer job at the Gap with other middle class kids, but I won't work at Burger King. I mean...have you seen who else works there?

    Posted by Matt at 11:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Eason Jordan Update

    If you're following the Eason Jordan mess, Powerpundit offers a nice roundup. Excellent for folks like me who have been out of the loop the past couple of days.

    I'm appalled by Jordan's statement, deeply troubled to learn that he has made similar statements in the past, and highly unconvinced by his recent "clarification."

    Although Hugh didn't find anything on the story in the Washington Post or the New York Times this morning, his e-mail from blogger Rony Abovitz is encouraging. I think we can expect a major print story soon; hopefully, we'll have several. Sure, some will try and sweep it under the rug, but I hold out hope that other members of the MSM take their job seriously and will provide a fair and well-researched account of the events.

    I'm taking Geraghty's side on this one...for now.

    UPDATE: Doug of Bogus Gold comments that Captain's Quarters has done some fine research on Easom Jordan. The "context" in which Jordan spoke at Davos should include these previous statements that CQ has uncovered. (Doug has several posts on the subject.)

    UPDATE II: La Shawn Barber provides an extensive round up of developments in the story here and here.

    Posted by Rick at 09:50 AM | Comments (2)

    More on the Passion

    For a few additional thoughts on the Oscars, see here and here.

    Just some food for thought.

    Posted by Matt at 08:57 AM | Comments (0)

    Views on the Passion Snub from a Hollywood Insider

    In late December, as we considered the events of the year past, I looked (at The Rooftop Blog) at the top ten Christian news trends of 2004. First among them was the success and impact of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. There was plenty of agreement among analysts who looked at important religious news.

    So I was surprised and I suppose dismayed when the Academy Award nominations were released that The Passion was essentially snubbed. It earned three nominations, for cinematography, makeup, and original score. But nothing major.

    The Passion had won in the best drama category at the People’s Choice Award. But this was cheapened when it shared top honors with the animated green ogre, Shrek, and the constipated liberal ogre, Michael Moore.

    But to be honest, I’m not much of film critic, so I wondered if, perhaps, the movie simply didn’t meet some of the highest standards of the industry. So I asked for the opinion of a long time friend who is one of the most successful evangelical Christian writers and producers in Hollywood (withholding his name because of the politics of Hollywood). He was the producer of one of the most successful television series of the last decade, and has written a number of movies and for many TV programs.

    I asked him why he thought The Passion was snubbed by the Academy. He responded:

    “A couple of perspectives on the snub.

    One, it wasn't completely snubbed. It received 3 nominations, but it definitely was snubbed in the big four categories (writing, directing, acting, best picture).

    Two, it would have had to qualify in the foreign film category anyway because it was in a very foreign language, which makes it more difficult to compete for best picture.

    Three, the studios engage in incredible gamesmanship to campaign for these nominations. They lobby, they take out expensive, continuous advertisements in the Hollywood trade papers, and they send out free screeners to all members. Mel Gibson made a point of not going out of his way to lobby the industry, and I respect him for it, but I think it cost him some nods. The only thing he did was send out the screeners, but created no profile for the movie in the trades.

    There's no doubt that much of the Hollywood community wasn't enamored of the film (except for the studio execs who were blown away by its success), so there was undoubtedly a "protest" non-vote across the board when it came time for nominations, probably fanned by all the anti-Semitism controversy. I personally have met very few people in Hollywood who actually saw the movie. They all just sat back and scratched their heads as the rest of the America turned out in droves.

    One thing the film has done in Hollywood is make the money people stand up and take notice. One was Rupert Murdoch at Fox, who called his execs on the carpet and asked them why they passed on "The Passion." They made the excuse that everybody passed and that the movie was a fluke. Murdoch corrected them by saying the audience is not a fluke, and if you build movies for them, they'll come, and he said he wants to see Fox put out more faith-based movies. Fox owns Zondervan, so Murdoch suggested an adaptation of "The Purpose Driven Life," [which is being made].

    So, Academy Award or not, Gibson has changed the landscape.”

    This friend and former colleague is, by the way, in a small group Bible study with Hugh Hewitt, which should give him some clout here in the blog nation.

    Posted by Jim at 07:52 AM | Comments (18)

    The State of the Union Spectacle

    Unlike an inaugural address, it is difficult to make the State of the Union address uplifting and poetic. So when, every four years, the report to the Congress and nation comes so quickly after the Inauguration, the second speech suffers in comparison.

    The most interesting elements are the playing out of the spectacle—the performance—and the nuances of human interaction.

    Tom Shales, media critic at The Washington Post was watching the speech as a performance, and wrote of the most dramatic moment of the day.

    “Bush spoke, inevitably, of the valor of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq with no end in sight, or at least announced, and paid tribute to a fallen Marine from Texas, Sgt. Byron Norwood. Then came the most emotional moment of the evening. Janet and William Norwood, the young man's parents, were also seated in the gallery and stood up to tumultuous and prolonged applause. Janet Norwood hugged the Iraqi voter (one finger purple as a symbol of having voted), and they seemed to get briefly entangled in each other's jewelry as the applause went on.

    The president, strikingly, stared up at the balcony with little visible emotion on his face but eyes that appeared to be growing misty. Was this a genuine expression of America appreciating its men and women in uniform, or a shameless political stunt using grief-stricken parents as pawns? As we all know in the age of media moments, it matters less what it was than what it was perceived to be, and to a greater degree than perhaps any other time since he's been in office, Bush appeared to have the perception presidency well in hand.”

    The Iraqi citizen emotionally embracing the parents of a fallen deliverer was a powerful symbol of the march of freedom.

    The New York Times saw the speech as the launching of George Bush’s two final campaigns:

    "One is to persuade Congress and the American people to go along with his plans to remake not just Social Security but also large swaths of other domestic policy along conservative lines through judicial appointments, legislation and executive action. The other is to shape his own place in history as a leader who extended freedom and democracy more broadly into the world even as he unleashed American military might to combat what he had cast as the terrorist threat to those values.”

    Of most interest to me were the statements on social morality and the institutions of society:

    1. Church and Family as Purveyors of Values

    "Our second great responsibility to our children and grandchildren is to honor and to pass along the values that sustain a free society. So many of my generation, after a long journey, have come home to family and faith, and are determined to bring up responsible, moral children. Government is not the source of these values, but government should never undermine them.”

    2. The Defense of Marriage

    “Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.”

    3. A Culture of Life

    "Because a society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable, we must strive to build a culture of life. Medical research can help us reach that goal, by developing treatments and cures that save lives and help people overcome disabilities — and I thank Congress for doubling the funding of the National Institutes of Health. To build a culture of life, we must also ensure that scientific advances always serve human dignity, not take advantage of some lives for the benefit of others. We should all be able to agree on some clear standards. I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts, and that human life is never bought and sold as a commodity. America will continue to lead the world in medical research that is ambitious, aggressive, and always ethical.”

    4. A Conservative Court

    “Because courts must always deliver impartial justice, judges have a duty to faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. As President, I have a constitutional responsibility to nominate men and women who understand the role of courts in our democracy, and are well qualified to serve on the bench — and I have done so. The Constitution also gives the Senate a responsibility: Every judicial nominee deserves an up-or-down vote.”

    5. Compassionate Conservatism

    “Because one of the deepest values of our country is compassion, we must never turn away from any citizen who feels isolated from the opportunities of America. Our government will continue to support faith-based and community groups that bring hope to harsh places. Now we need to focus on giving young people, especially young men in our cities, better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail. Tonight I propose a three-year initiative to help organizations keep young people out of gangs, and show young men an ideal of manhood that respects women and rejects violence. Taking on gang life will be one part of a broader outreach to at-risk youth, which involves parents and pastors, coaches and community leaders, in programs ranging from literacy to sports. And I am proud that the leader of this nationwide effort will be our First Lady, Laura Bush.”

    Mr. Bush is in charge. You could hear in his voice and see in his eyes the recognition that at no other time, except perhaps in the weeks after Sept.11, has he wielded such power to keep alive the American dream.

    Posted by Jim at 07:03 AM | Comments (0)

    Help Stop Those Who Want to Stop the Dead Woman

    Well, I got this email today asking me to help stop Madalyn Murray O'Hair and get the FCC to reject Petition Number 2493, which O'Hair and her atheist organization have put in front of the FCC to prevent Christian programming over the airwaves. Doctor Dobson wants all good Christians to help stop this threat to our freedom.

    I'd love to help, but you see, this email is a hoax. It's been a known hoax for almost ten years (during which time Ms. O'Hair died). I was actually astounded to receive it, as I thought everybody knew this was a hoax.

    Here's a good rule of thumb for emails. If you receive one that asks you to forward it on because of something outrageous that it is reporting to you, do yourself, and your potential recipients, a favor. Go visit snopes.com, do a search on a prominent term in the email, and make sure it's not a hoax. Here is the snopes entry on the O'Hair email.

    A public service announcement by your friends at Stones Cry Out.

    Posted by Mark at 01:29 AM | Comments (2)

    "And when I say that the groundhog is Jesus, I say that with great respect."

    Do you suppose that video rental places experience a one-day run on the Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day" each February 2nd? I haven't seen the movie in years, but after reading what Jonah Goldberg has to say about it, I think I need to watch it again.

    When the Museum of Modern Art in New York debuted a film series on "The Hidden God: Film and Faith" two years ago, it opened with Groundhog Day. The rest of the films were drawn from the ranks of turgid and bleak intellectual cinema, including standards from Ingmar Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. According to the New York Times, curators of the series were stunned to discover that so many of the 35 leading literary and religious scholars who had been polled to pick the series entries had chosen Groundhog Day that a spat had broken out among the scholars over who would get to write about the film for the catalogue. In a wonderful essay for the Christian magazine Touchstone, theology professor Michael P. Foley wrote that Groundhog Day is "a stunning allegory of moral, intellectual, and even religious excellence in the face of postmodern decay, a sort of Christian-Aristotelian Pilgrim's Progress for those lost in the contemporary cosmos." Charles Murray, author of Human Accomplishment, has cited Groundhog Day more than once as one of the few cultural achievements of recent times that will be remembered centuries from now. He was quoted in The New Yorker declaring, "It is a brilliant moral fable offering an Aristotelian view of the world."

    Oh. Er, . . . geez, I love it when films are all multivalent and stuff, but . . . Groundhog Day?

    I know what you're thinking: We're talking about the movie in which Bill Murray tells a big rat sitting on his lap, "Don't drive angry," right? Yep, that's the one. You might like to know that the rodent in question is actually Jesus — at least that's what film historian Michael Bronski told the Times. "The groundhog is clearly the resurrected Christ, the ever-hopeful renewal of life at springtime, at a time of pagan-Christian holidays. And when I say that the groundhog is Jesus, I say that with great respect."

    You know, I've had this idea of starting up a film discussion group at my church. Sort of like one of those ubiquitous book clubs, but with movies instead of novels. Film, after all, is simply a modern way of storytelling, and I suspect that people go to more movies each year than they read books. So why not a movie-watching-and-discussion group? The format allows everyone to experience them simultaneously, and because they're short, the viewing and discussion can all take place in the same evening.

    So I'm going to try to run a film discussion group, with the idea of discussing movies as both works of art and a presentation of the filmmaker's worldview.

    After reading the above, I may have to include "Groundhog Day." If nothing else, I certainly want to see it again now.

    But I'd also like some advice. What other films would make for good discussions -- both of the filmmaker's technique, and of the themes? I'm trying to avoid films that everyone will have already seen, or if immensely popular, will have seen recently. I'm also hoping to discuss the thematic elements with regard to the Christian worldview. I'd be interested in hearing your suggestions in the comments below.

    Posted by Drew at 12:31 AM | Comments (18)

    February 02, 2005

    Some Additional Thoughts

    A few more thoughts on the State of the Union address:

    Yahoo! has some nice pictures of the most touching moment of the speech. Simply beautiful.

    What's the deal with Sheila Jackson Lee and Dennis Kucinich getting aisle seats? Did they wrangle to get them?

    David Frum's take is spot on.

    Posted by Matt at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

    State of the Union Thoughts...

    It's quite obvious that W. loves his job. Whether light-hearted or serious, the President was having a blast tonight with the State of the Union address. A few quick thoughts.

    I really enjoy the way the President swings for the fences. His aims for the tax code and Social Security are bold, and he is an unabashed social conservative. No conservative can take issue with this speech, save the vague remarks on immigration. I loved the remarks on Social Security, the manner in which the President called upon the words of both Democrats and Republicans. I enjoyed hearing his vision for the Middle East, calling on Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to work for greater freedom. GWB was just...on...tonight. Three cheers.

    In other random news...Joe Lieberman looked lonely. The First Lady looked stunning, as always. I need a Texas girl. John Kerry looked satisfied enough. Was he wearing a Vineyard Vines tie? He's an aloof old lout, but a well-dressed one. The boos and groans on the parts of Democrats were a display of sheer classlessness. Then again, what else did we expect? The GOP, on the other hand, seemed very fired up. It can't be a bad thing.

    More commentary to follow, I'm sure, here and around the blogosphere.

    Posted by Matt at 10:02 PM | Comments (2)

    Liberal Christians still too Christian for the Left

    I will admit a certain preoccupation lately for the way the media and other lefties depict Christians, although I had previously assumed that they confined their mistreatment to conservative Christians. But it seems that even liberal Christians are heretics to the left-wing gospel. (Hat tip: Blue Goldfish)

    Jim Wallis is a Christian, the founder of Sojourners (and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine), and holds the sort of political positions that would make Michael Moore proud. Just take a look at this list. Democrats have apparently invited Wallis to help them figure out how to reconnect with the evangelicals in "Jesusland."

    So what is it about him that still freaks out lefties? It's that God thing.

    Writing in The Nation, columnist Katha Pollitt takes a look at Wallis's recent book God's Politics -- and at Wallis himself.

    I admit I approached the book with a bit of an edge, having just seen the new film version of The Merchant of Venice, in which the callous anti-Semitism of the Venetian smart set is rendered with unusual vividness. This led me to further gloomy instances, from the Crusades and the Salem witch trials to the Magdalene laundries and the anti-evolution policies of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board. After all, the case for Christianizing progressive politics is not just about quoting the Bible more, or framing healthcare as a religious value. It's about lowering the wall between church and state, giving churches more power, more rights and more taxpayer money.

    Whoa! I mean, after that opening, is there any reason to read the rest of the column? But, she's just warming up.

    The argument in favor often boils down to majority rule--most Americans claim to be devout Christians--but that's actually the argument against it. Look what Christians did when they had the chance! Preventing religious wars and godly tyranny was the original purpose behind the Founding Fathers' ban on the establishment of religion, and subsequent history has hardly outmoded their wisdom.

    Okay, this is standard "wall of separation" boilerplate. I'd poke away at it, but I won't because Pollitt piques my interest a few paragraphs later.

    Wallis's God calls on Christians to fight racism, poverty, war and violence--what's wrong with mustering support for these worthy goals by presenting them in the language spoken by so many Americans? The trouble is, the other side does that too. You can find anything you want in the Bible--well, almost anything. Thus, the more insistently people bring Christianity into politics, the more political argument becomes a matter of Christian hermeneutics. Does God say gays should be executed or married? "Spare the rod" or "suffer the little children"? I don't see how we benefit as a society from translating politics into theology. We are left with the same debates, and a diminished range of ways in which to think about them. And, of course, a diminished number of voices--because if you're not a believer, you're out of the discussion. In this sense, Wallis's evangelicalism is as much a power play as Pat Robertson's.

    She really makes me want to read Wallis's book. I, too, worry about the combination of politics and faith, not because I think Christians shouldn't hold public office or have a voice, but because I think power brings with it strong temptations. I have also known too many people who think that becoming a Christian means becoming a Republican, and vice-versa. This close association can sometimes create a false impression that God is a Republican.

    But Pollitt's chief complaint seems to be that, for all of Wallis's liberalism, he fails the one litmus test of the left. He opposes abortion -- and on religious grounds.

    Wallis often points out that the Bible mentions poverty thousands of times and abortion only a few. I'm not sure what this tells us--first we eradicate poverty and then we force women to have babies against their will? But in any case, Wallis is wrong: The Bible doesn't mention abortion even once. Wallis cites the text antichoicers commonly use to justify their position: "For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13). Say what? Nothing about abortion there, pro or con. Nobody who wasn't sure that somewhere in the Bible there must be a proof text against terminating a pregnancy would read that meaning into these words.

    That so many Christians are firmly persuaded that the Bible condemns abortion suggests that God's politics tend to be the politics of the people who claim to speak for him.

    If Wallis was a non-believing liberal, he might get a pass. But he argues for liberal policies from a Christian worldview, and to Pollitt this makes him no different than conservative Christians who use the same religious framework.

    Pollitt would rather have none of this God stuff -- not even if it supports her own politics.

    Posted by Drew at 09:32 PM | Comments (3)

    Eason Jordan's Motormouth

    Hugh Hewitt is talking about the Eason Jordan dustup at this site. He took some submissions, and among them was my good (and recently engaged!) friend Eric G. Mann.

    Posted by Matt at 07:12 PM | Comments (0)

    Conservative Intellectualism Redux

    The comments thread regarding my post below makes me think that I have not been very clear in my concern over the lack of evangelical involvement in intellectual conservatism. Let me try to explain.

    I am not going to publish a long essay expounding upon my definition of intellectual conservatism. When I speak of intellectual conservatism, I am speaking of the work of people like William F. Buckley, Norman Podhoretz, Russell Kirk and George Will. There are certainly more names to be added to that list, but that should give you an idea of what I mean. If that list doesn't mean much to you, then I would highly suggest you turn off your computer and run buy everything you can find by those men. I appreciate the work of folks like Michael Behe, but I want to go a step further.

    I would put Behe and Dembski in a different league. These men are on the side of some, though by no means all, conservatives. Yet they are not political conservatives in the sense of a Buckley or Will. Their work is relegated to a specifc cause. That's what I'm talking about here in a nutshell: politics. Not Dobson-esque activism. Not intelligent design. Not media criticism. Not pro-life, anti-embryonic stem cell research, pro-FMA activism by folks like Robert P. George (a Catholic, by the way). The men above would no doubt support such matters, but they will be remembered as conservatives well-versed in all things political. I realize that WFB and Podhoretz are giants. They are men of letters that will long be remembered for their influence in the last fifty years. Yet I am strongly concerned that the evangelical movement is not seeking to become part of the mainline conservative movement found in the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute or the magazines and journals I've already discussed. There's no bias here. There's just a lack of involvement on the part of evangelicals.

    Where are the evangelical college professors? Yeah, I know they're teaching at evangelical institutions, but why aren't they teaching at major research universities? Why aren't they working at conservative and libertarian think tanks? I'm not talking about working inside the mainstream media; that's a rant for another day. I'm speaking about evangelicals, who are overwhelmingly conservative in their politics, who are not involved in the intellectual defense of the movement. Again, I'm not talking about specific issues like intelligent design or gay marriage. I'm talking about the entire scope of American politics.

    Again, there is no bias here on the part of conservatives. If such were ever discovered, I should hope it is dealt with severely. Until that day, evangelicals should seek to find influence in the think thanks and policy institutes just as much as we seek it in the blogosphere and in the halls of Congress. I listed a few important conservatives, and certainly we could add more names. To date, evangelicals have not added a name to the roster. I pray it is not just a question of "if", but "when..."

    Posted by Matt at 06:23 PM | Comments (1)

    Trouble in Dixie

    Readers of my personal blog will know that I've been in a firestorm over the federal trial of Logan Young, a former booster of the University of Alabama.

    Young's trial ended today, and I have a few thoughts up over at Matt Crash! If you're aware of this trial, or if you are a fan of college football, follow the links. I'll have more to say here at SCO over the weekend.

    Posted by Matt at 06:18 PM | Comments (0)

    State of the Union Resources

    Two good resources for analysis of President Bush's 2005 State of the Union address from Gideon Strauss of Dialogical Coffee House. This website provides links to web broadcasts and to news coverage. And this is a collection of the full text of all State of the Union addresses since Woodrow Wilson in 1913.

    Posted by Jim at 03:52 PM | Comments (0)

    Hugh on Dennis Miller Last Night

    Blog.jpgDriving home yesterday I caught the last few minutes of Hugh Hewitt's radio broadcast. He encouraged his listeners to watch him flog Blog on Dennis Miller's show that evening, so I clicked on the tube when I got home to check it out. Miller's intro was very shaky and a bit R-rated, but Hugh did a fine job with his segment.

    If you haven't purchased your copy of Blog, please do. The book will help you understand better what this project is all about. (Disclosure: Hugh flogs the old SCO a couple of times, but that's not why I'm encouraging you to buy his book. Buy and read the book because it's good and will teach you a few things about the new media!)

    Posted by Rick at 10:35 AM | Comments (5)

    More on the Intellectual Evangelical

    Mark addressed my post below, and I think he makes a strong case that while there is room for improvement, things aren't nearly as bad as they seem. But allow me to flesh out my own idea a little bit. I'm thankful for men like Ravi Zacharias and Lee Strobel, but in terms of intellectual conservatism - in the tradition of Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley, Norman Podhoretz and George Will - where are we as evangelicals? I'm not trying to throw stones; I'm twenty-three and still trying to read my way through the conservative canon, to say nothing of the Western canon as a whole.

    I said in my original post at Matt Crash! that I felt blogs and Dobson-esque social activism can be a good thing (though not neccesarily). I stand by that, but I wonder if, in addition to our great theologians, apologists and philosophers, evangelicals will ever have a Bill Buckley or a Norman Podhoretz?

    (Note: I originally attributed Mark's post to Jim, but have since made a correction. Also note the comments section in my post below that Rick and our pal DaddyPundit have reminded me that the Weekly Standard's Terry Eastland is also an evangelical. I stand corrected.)

    Posted by Matt at 08:51 AM | Comments (8)

    Christian Carnival

    This week's Christian Carnival is up at Wittenberg Gate. Dory has done her usual excellent job:

    We have the honor of hosting the Christian Carnival here at Wittenberg Gate this week. Forty-one Christian bloggers of a large variety of denominations and perspectives have contributed their best writing of the week for your reading pleasure and edification. We hope you will use this opportunity to broaden your reading among the Christian blogs.

    I have sorted the posts into broad categories and then listed the categories alphabetically. Within each category, they are listed in the order they arrived in my email inbox. In this case promptness has its rewards!

    Posted by Mark at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

    Archeologicalist Accidentally Supports Biblical History

    A Canadian archeologist Russell Adams “unearthed information that points to the existence of the Bible's vilified Kingdom of Edom at precisely the time the Bible says it existed, and contradicting widespread academic belief that it did not come into being until 200 years later,” reports the Globe and Mail (subscription required for full story) (h/t: Considerettes)

    The article says: “The findings mean that those scholars convinced that the Hebrew Old Testament is at best a compendium of revisionist, fragmented history, mixed with folklore and theology, and at worst a piece of outright propaganda, likely will have to apply the brakes to their thinking. Because, if the little bit of the Old Testament's narrative that Prof. Adams and his colleagues have looked at is true, other bits could be true as well.”

    As the years pass, proof of the veracity of the Bible increases rather than decreases.

    More from the article:

    Professor Adams's interest is in Bronze Age and Iron Age copper production. He never intended to walk into archeology's vicious debate over the historical accuracy of the Old Testament -- a conflict likened by one historian to a pack of feral canines at each other's throats.

    Yet by coincidence, Prof. Adams of Hamilton's McMaster University says, he and an international team of colleagues fit into place a significant piece of the puzzle of human history in the Middle East -- unearthing information that points to the existence of the Bible's vilified Kingdom of Edom at precisely the time the Bible says it existed, and contradicting widespread academic belief that it did not come into being until 200 years later.

    References to the Kingdom of Edom -- almost none of them complimentary -- are woven through the Old Testament. It existed in what is today southern Jordan, next door to Israel, and the relationship between the biblical Edomites and Israelites was one of unrelenting hostility and warfare.

    The team led by Prof. Adams, Thomas Levy of the University of California at San Diego and Mohammad Najjar of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities was investigating copper mining and smelting at a site called Khirbat en-Nahas, by far the largest copper-production site in the region.

    They applied high-precision radiocarbon-dating methods to some of their finds, and as they say in the British journal Antiquities, "The results were spectacular."

    They firmly established that occupation of the site began in the 11th century BC and a monumental fortress was built in the 10th century BC, supporting the argument for existence of an Edomite state at least 200 years earlier than had been assumed.

    What is particularly exciting about their find is that it implies the existence of an Edomite state at the time the Bible says King David and his son Solomon ruled over a powerful united kingdom of Israel and Judah.

    Posted by Jim at 06:40 AM | Comments (0)

    Radio Free Blog

    Check out the streaming audio radio program over at Homespun Blogger Radio. It's their fourth program, and it is very well done. This week it includes the following segments:

    * Jay Dean (The Radical Centrist) shows how California politics could be made more responsive to the voters.
    * Andrew Ian Dodge (Dodgeblogium) has advice for British libertarians who are trying to regain a foothold.
    * Derek Gilbert (Weapon of Mass Distraction) observes that in the evolution / creation debate, certain news organizations and certain bloggers are ignoring discoveries that don't conform to their positions.

    To listen, click here.

    Posted by Jim at 05:51 AM | Comments (2)

    Spiritual Lion in Winter: Pope Rushed to Hospital

    Pope John Paul II, 84, who was rushed to the hospital last night with breathing problems, is by far the most influential spiritual leader of our time, perhaps the individual most responsible for the collapse of communism, and an unparalleled conservative force in the church and world. Catholic Online reports on the Pope’s health crisis.

    It is difficult to imagine a pontiff of such intellectual, spiritual, and even political expansiveness and strength succeeding him. Christians of all traditions should pray for this spiritual lion in winter, that he might continue to lead, in his words, “the great springtime of the human spirit.”

    Posted by Jim at 05:44 AM | Comments (0)

    True Confession

    I only recognize 13 names on Time Magazine's list of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America. (I guess I'd better read the article and find out who the rest of them are.) But I do know that at least two of these evangelicals are Catholics.

    Posted by Drew at 01:22 AM | Comments (2)

    Facilitating the Growth of the Evangelical Mind

    In The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, historian and Professor Mark Noll wrote that:

    The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind. An extraordinary range of virtues is found among the sprawling throngs of evangelical Protestants in North America, . . . . Notwithstanding all their other virtues, however, American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations. Despite dynamic success at a popular level, modern American evangelicals have failed notably in sustaining serious intellectual life. (1994 ed., Page 1)

    In reflecting on the ten-year anniversary of the book in First Things recently, Professor Noll reconsidered his conclusions and wrote that:

    [O]n the whole, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind still seems to me correct in its descriptions and evaluations. What is true throughout the Christian world is true for American Christians: we who are in pietistic, generically evangelical, Baptist, fundamentalist, Restorationist, holiness, "Bible church," megachurch, or Pentecostal traditions face special difficulties when putting the mind to use. Taken together, American evangelicals display many virtues and do many things well, but built-in barriers to careful and constructive thinking remain substantial.

    Professor Noll provides examples of improvements, and offers suggestions for additional action, but his conclusion remains, although he ends on a hopeful note:

    Evangelicals of several types are beginning to learn the lessons taught by such exemplars. As they do so, many are becoming more serious Christian thinkers. To embrace the energy of American evangelicalism, but also to move beyond the eccentricities of American evangelicalism into the spacious domains of self-critical, patient, rooted, and productive Christian tradition, remains the great challenge for the evangelical mind.

    (If you are interested in further reading, First Things held a symposium on Noll's book in 1995.)

    Our own Matt, in a post at Matt Crash, offers similar thoughts with respect to evangelical political thought:

    I've talked before about how I'm bothered that the major conservative publications don't have many writers from the red states. Nor do they have many evangelicals. In fact, I can only think of two - Hugh Hewitt and Fred Barnes, both at the Weekly Standard. Hugh's talked a lot about influence, and Joe Carter's doing a great job gathering traffic for the God-blogs, but we should not limit ourselves to the blogosphere. There will always be a place for conservative publications like the Standard, NR and Commentary. At what point will evangelicals make a concerted effort to be a full-fledged part of intellectual conservatism? Not just the blogs or social activism of the Dobson variety. Both of these things are good. Indeed, they have become crucial to party mobilization. Yet, if as they claim, evangelicals have something to offer conservatism (and I believe we do), then we should seek to become a part of all aspects of the movement. Are we trying?

    As to the overall state of the evangelical mind, and evangelical religious thought in particular, I don't quite share Professor Noll's pessimistic current evaluation. The periodicals First Things, Touchstone, and Christianity Today and the audio journal Mars Hill Audio provide substantive intellectual content on matters religious, social, political and artistic. (I recognize that, with the exception of Christianity Today, none of these can be termed exclusively evangelical, but I believe each has a strong evangelical following.) Authors such as Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, Norman Geisler, Walter Elwell, Alister McGrath and Chuck Colson are providing solid books on faith. In addition, many evangelical studens are going to solid institutions of higher learning and forming their minds.

    Unfortunately, though, for every Ravi Zacharias, there is a Benny Hin, for every Alister McGrath, a Joel Osteen. Bad theology and sloppy thinking abound in the evangelical world, not just on the internet, but in Christian bookstores that cater to evangelicals--the Left Behind series being a prominent fiction example, and at evangelical churches.

    Evangelicals, then, have their share of intellectual heavyweights, but at the everyman level, there is much work to be done.

    Where is this going? I think that evangelical blogs can help in this task, both with the issues that Professor Noll identifies, and with the issues that Matt identifies. Blogs are a good medium for addressing specific topics and many evangelical bloggers are already providing great content on important issues. For examples, see the sites listed in our blogroll at the left (not all are evangelical but a number are). In addition, check out Jollyblogger, Adrian Warnock, Wittenberg Gate, Allthings2all, and any of the blogs in the Decablog not included in our blogroll or above.

    One goal of this blog is to aid in this effort. We are all dedicated to facilitating the growth of the evangelical mind. Obviously this cannot be done in a systematic way through a blog. It is done topically. However, working together with journals, books and solid Christian schools, blogs, including this one, can aid in the reformation of the evangelical mind.

    For those of you who are either Christians from other traditions, or who are not believers, please note that this blog is for you too. We offer an evangelical perspective on the world, particularly religion, politics, social issues, arts, and sports. However, we are here to engage the world. This is not intended to be an evangelical echo chamber. Please interact with us. If you don't like evangelicals, tell us why. If you don't like Christians, tell us why. If you're not an evangelical but think we have an interesting take on an issue, let us know that as well. Come now, let us reason together.

    In any event, this is what motivates me, and I think, to a certain extent, the others. We want to improve the state of the evangelical mind, and we want to engage the world, from an evangelical perspective. We need your help to do it.

    Posted by Mark at 12:52 AM | Comments (0)

    February 01, 2005

    The Conservative Evangelical Mind

    About a week ago I posted the following link over at Matt Crash! In the post, I discuss the lack of evangelical involvement in intellectual conservatism. Think about this for a moment. The major conservative publications are National Review, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, the American Spectator and perhaps the New Criterion. I can think two evangelicals working for those publications: Fred Barnes and Hugh Hewitt. That's it. No one else. This is rather disheartening.

    Evangelicals with a conservative bent should ask themselves why we have found ourselves in this predicament. It can easily be fixed, mind you, but here at our new venue, I hope to call attention to this issue. I don't mean to imply that the our friends at these publications - be they Catholic, Orthodox, Hebrew or otherwise - are in any way bad. Indeed this is not the case. Yet if evangelicals want to maintain the influence we constantly discuss, then it's imperative that we train our minds to become part of the vibrant intellectuall spirit of conservatism.

    Posted by Matt at 10:35 PM | Comments (3)

    Moyers has a Meltdown

    A couple bloggers alerted me to this recent essay by Bill Moyers which was published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. In it, Moyers asserts that those crazy Christians are planning to destroy the environment in order to hasten the end of the world and the return of Christ. He's completely convinced of this premise and I don't even know where to begin with this exercise in moonbattery.

    But I'll try.

    The whole piece is a minefield of stereotyping and bigotry. All that's missing is Moyers presenting a "final solultion" for dealing with Christians. If Moyers was someone the general populace actually listened to, I'd be worried. Moyers is just a pale ghost trying to frighten people with his hysterical moanings, and you can see right through him if you bother to look. But it is worrying enough that the Star Tribune should print this anti-Christian rallying cry.

    (Just for fun, count the number of times Moyers presents opinions as facts throughout the piece.)

    For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.

    What Moyers means is not just that there are Christians holding elected office (and that's scary enough for Moyers) but that there are elected officials that are (gasp!) backed by Christians! This is enough to cause Moyers to wet himself in panic.

    Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality.

    If we accept Moyers' definitions, then this makes Moyers himself both a theologian and an ideologue, as we shall see.

    When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

    The biggest danger comes from loony old columnists who are just plain oblivious. But I digress.

    Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

    Here's the column in Grist to which Moyers refers. It's another helping of fearmongering over creeping fundamentalism. I was planning to blog about it last week, but never got around to it. Thank you Bill Moyers for the reminder that you're not alone in your bigotry.

    Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true - one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index.

    That's right - the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the "Left Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious-right warrior Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

    Moyers acts as if he's just discovered a heretofore unknown people group. I must congratulate him on being able to fool PBS into employing him as a societal commentator for many years without ever letting on how ignorant he is of American society.

    By the way, here's the Rapture Index. It looks to be a sort of Eschatological Atomic Clock. Moyers would have you believe that millions of Americans check this website regularly to find out how close we are to Christ's return. And that they destroy the enviroment to move the index ahead.

    The Rapture Index looks to be the work of two people.

    Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon.

    As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

    I'm not making this up.

    Yes, Bill. That's one of many different beliefs about how the world will end. If you were honest you point out to your readers that there are other ways of interpreting the Revelation. Your only excuse is that you're just plain ignorant or too lazy to do any research into end-times beliefs. Which label would you prefer: dishonest or ignorant? There are no other options.

    By the way, here's George Moonbat's Monbiot's article to which Moyers refers. It's yet another screed about those religious people who are "bonkers" and who apparently set George Bush's middle east policy.

    Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed - an essential conflagration on the road to redemption.

    Pet peeve: Bill, it's the book of Revelation. Not Revelations. There's just one Revelation, okay? I'd think a guy as smart as you, employed for years by PBS, would know that.

    Anyway, note how Bill the armchair anthropologist speaks about "these people." It shouldn't surprise anyone that he singles out Texas. You know, . . . because George Bush is one of them! Booga booga booga! Hide the children!

    The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 - just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.

    Bill is also pretty ignorant of Google. Bill, here's a hint: you can find support for just about anything on the internet, and Google will happily guide you to the strangest things. Google is pretty cool that way. But just because you find it on the internet, Bill, does not mean that millions of Americans believe it. You can find my blog with Google, but that doesn't mean millions of Americans agree with me about everything written there. (Although they should, shouldn't they?)

    For what it's worth, I'd never heard of the "rapture index" until Moyers brought it up, and I mark myself as one of those "crazy" Christians Bill claims follows the index like a pillar of fire. (Note to Bill: that's an Old Testament allusion. You may have heard of the Old Testament. It's in the same Bible where you find the book of Revelation.)

    Here's more from the armchair anthropologist again:

    One of their texts is a high school history book, "America's Providential History." You'll find there these words: "The secular or socialist has a limited-resource mentality and views the world as a pie . . . that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." However, "[t]he Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth . . . while many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people."

    No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that militant hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions of the foot soldiers on Nov. 2, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.

    It is hard for the journalist to report a story like this with any credibility.

    You said it, Bill. I didn't.

    Ask yourself: what is the point of Moyers piece? Or to put it another way, as a piece of persuasive writing, of what is this essay trying to persuade people? What is Moyers' solution to this problem? He closes his rant with these words:

    The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we need is what the ancient Israelites called hochma - the science of the heart ... the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you.

    Believe me, it does.

    So what does he mean when he calls on his readers to fight and to act because the future depends on them? What, exactly, does he want his readers to do to preserve the future? The most obvious answer is that he wants them to fight and to act against those people who he sees as enemies of the future -- Christians. And how are they to act against the enemies? Moyers doesn't say. He leaves that up to his readers. Maybe violence is the answer. Maybe they're supposed to enact laws to ensure that Christians are not allowed to hold elected office. Maybe internment camps and such. I don't know, but Bill irresponsibly sounds the alarm anyway.

    Ask yourself how this would play if Bill had used the same language to warn everyone that Muslim believers posed a threat to the future. Would the Star-Tribune run it?

    Posted by Drew at 06:02 PM | Comments (8)

    Clinton(s) 2008

    There should be no doubt that Hillary is running for higher office. Hillary Rodham's recent statements aimed to paint her as a centrist by seeking common ground on abortion make it clear that she is gunning for the presidency in 2008.

    But is Bill also running for higher office? I've wondered before, but Kofi Annan's announcement today makes me think that something is up.

    Secretary-General Kofi Annan has selected former President Clinton to be the U.N. point man for tsunami reconstruction and ensure that the world doesn't forget the needs of those devastated by the Dec. 26 disaster, a U.N. diplomat said Tuesday.

    President Clinton is an excellent candidate for this job. The relief effort will be well managed under his leadership. But forgive me for being a bit cynical when it comes to the Clintons: Could this be just the opportunity for Bill to launch his campaign for UN Secretary General? I'll bet the thought has at least crossed his mind.

    Dick Morris once wrote that "Bill and Hillary Clinton have one central idea in their uncluttered, ambitious minds: Hillary in 2008."

    Dick's analysis here may not be is correct; after all, Morris thought the SBV Ads would "backfire"). But what if he is correct and Bill is obsessed with the idea of Hillary as President?

    As UN Secretary General, Bill Clinton could use the bully pulpit to confront President Bush on global policy like no other person could. And, let's face it folks, he is much better on that bully pulpit than our dear W. He could hammer conservative politics and, with the MSM having heart palpitations over his return to the spotlight, his message would be carried into every American home, every day.

    But, what if Bill's candidacy for UN Secretary General is some type of move to preempt Hillary's candidacy? Can anyone imagine having one Clinton run the United States, while the other Clinton ran the world (so to speak)? And, if Clinton were to wear the 5-star Blue Helmet, do you think he would give up the power that comes with that helmet so that Hillary could run for President?

    I have no idea. But, I think it's safe to say that the Clintons are up to something.

    UPDATE: Former Senator Jessie Helms weighs in:

    "I'm sure you might agree that putting a left-wing, undisciplined and ethically challenged former President of the United States into a position of such power would be a tragic mistake," wrote the 83-year-old Republican, who left office in 2003 after five terms.

    The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter Tuesday. It contains a petition asking President Bush to "rebuke all efforts by Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and every other liberal in Congress to push for Bill Clinton to become Secretary-General of the United Nations."

    Is the first shot in a long drawn out war? Or is Senator Helms just ranting?

    There was another line in the Helms article that caught my attention:
    "Clinton has said nothing publicly about wanting to lead the U.N" (emphasis added). Hmmmm...

    Posted by Rick at 03:07 PM | Comments (9)

    Is the "Governator" No Longer Invincible?

    The headline of this AP story screams: "Once-Invincible 'Governator' Dips in Polls."

    A new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that while 60 percent of the state's residents still approve of the job he is doing, he has lost considerable ground among Democrats and Independents, who together form the vast majority of the state's voters.
    Well...not exactly.

    The PPIC poll compared the Governor's January 2005 job approval rating to his January 2004 approval rating. Exhibit 1 compares the data for both years by party and for all Californians.

    PPIC Surveys.jpg

    The single-tail p-values for the change in the proportion of those who “Approve” from 2004 to 2005 were as follows: Dem (.10), Rep (.28), Ind (.30), Californians (.26). Statistically, the Governor's "Approval" rating did not change from 2004 to 2005, even amongst the surveyed Democrats. Although, the survey indicates that Californians shifted from not knowing if they approved or disapproved of the Governor's performance in 2004 to expressing firm disapproval of his job performance in 2005. As noted in the PPIC report, this shift was largest amongst Democrats and Independents.

    What do you think could account for this marked shift in opinion of the Governor amongst Democrats, Independents, and even some Republicans?

    I suggest that much of the shift can be attributed to the PPIC survey design and administration.

    In this year's survey, the job approval question was #22. I suggest that questions #19 or #21, which preceded the approval rating question, provided information that may have "pushed" Californians (Dem. and Ind. in particular) from "Do Not Know" in 2004 to "Disapprove" in 2005.

    These questions informed the survey respondents that the Governor's budget includes "withholding money from K to 12 public education," "reducing certain health and human services and general government spending," and asked "how concerned" Californians were about the effects of the Governor's proposed "spending reductions."

    In 2004, surveyed voters were asked to make value judgments based on their prior knowledge of the issues. The survey questionnaire did not provide the type of preamble, like it did most prominently in questions #19 and #21 of the 2005 survey.

    If the article suggests that in 2004 Arnold was "Invincible," this survey does not indicate an Achilles Heal for the Governator. Given the preamble of questions #19 and #21 in the survey, why did the Governor's "Approval" rating remain unchanged across party lines? Now there's the story!

    Posted by Rick at 10:06 AM | Comments (2)

    Is this thing on?

    Good morning, blogosphere! So here we are at the new Stones Cry Out super-duper megablog. Thanks for joining us.

    I would love to start my first post here with some profound insight into the ways of the world, but alas, after a night at the symphony I woke up late and it's cold and rainy and well...I've got nothing.

    My colleagues Rick, Jim, Mark and Drew are already bringing the content. I shall return later, but until then check out Al Mohler's thoughts on the Iraqi election.

    Sidenote: I wonder how many GWB supporters paid attention to the Iraqi election returns? I'm not questioning anyone's support of the President, but if someone is not a political junkie, it might be easy to overlook what happened. I know a lot of war supporters looked on the whole matter as a security issue, and the liberation itself was not as important. I hope the emphasis can be placed now on self-determination for the Iraqis, and that our countrymen who cheered Saddam's capture can also cheer the self-liberation of the Iraqi people. The tip of my right finger is stained with ink in support of their cause.

    Posted by Matt at 10:04 AM | Comments (1)


    The great danger of the emphasis on moral values in the recent election and continuing public debate is that they have narrowed the view to public policies related to same-sex marriage and abortion. By defining these two enormously important issues as the nexus of morality, we may have safely acceded much daily moral initiative to others--since most us are neither gay nor inclined or able to abort.

    With the great rhetorical battles concentrating on these few values issues, a vast array of social issues and enormous areas of need are ignored. For our greatest need as a nation is not for value judgments on matters from which we are largely isolated, but personal virtue in private and public places.

    The Political Illusion
    We are inclined to seek government solutions to moral problems because we desperately wish that there would be sweeping institutional solutions to the gritty personal rebellion of our souls. As such, we make politics an overwhelming concern. Many of us have fallen prey to what Ellul called “the political illusion” that politics provides the antidote to all personal and societal ills.

    While law can be a moral teacher, politics is hardly a school of the virtuous arts.

    Worse, the political diversion of moral energies has given rise to a new kind of hypocrisy. It is now possible to consider ourselves morally exemplary simply because we adhere to an enlightened set of social principles. And we take pride in expounding on our enlightenment (particularly if it is well-linked).

    Virtue is Not an Ideology
    When we disengage a bit from the daily battles, we realize how petty, selfish, and downright cruel the political wars and public discourse can be. And it is obvious that the followers of Jesus Christ are not called primarily to the values of the right or left, but to the virtues of the kingdom of God. We easily forget in the midst of the fray, when the posts are flying, that there are Christian virtues that transcend ideology and trump politics.

    While we may (and should) advocate and vote in accordance with a set of moral principles, this requires nothing of us personally. Being right politically doesn’t require us to lift a finger to help anyone. Political superiority still permits us to be ruthless in relationships with other people.

    Because morality has been sublimated into ideology, we often feel that we have an adequate moral identity merely because we hold the “right” view on public policy matters--same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia. environmentalism, militarism, and many others. We may lead narrow, self-indulgent lives, obsessed with our physical health, financial affluence, political power, creature comforts, and personal growth, yet still feel a moral advantage over those who—despite lives more attuned to biblical principles—are ideologically unsound.

    The Contrary Virtues
    What are our ethical standards? What virtues are called for in public life and private practice? There are many historical perspectives on the virtuous life. Drawn both from classical Greek and from the early Christian church, there are a number of versions of the virtues. Listed here is what has been called the contrary virtues, derived from the epic poem “Battle for the Soul” by Prudentious (c.410). They are called contrary because they confront each of the Seven Deadly Sins.

    Humility (against Pride)
    Pride can run through everything we do. And the worst of it, as Dorothy Sayers warned, is that “the devilish strategy of Pride is that it attacks us not at our weakest points, but in our strongest. It is preeminently the sin of the noble mind.” Humility is a form of clear-sightedness. It is realism about ourselves, plus trust in God. Jesus addressed pride in his parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. Jesus said: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    Kindness (against Envy)
    Kindness is often seen in the rough and tumble of public life as the soft retreat of weak minds. But it can be more accurately seen as the strong response to the temptation of an envious heart. Envy is a product of our age. Henry Fairlie writes in The Seven Deadly Sins Today:

    “The idea that we are equal has been perverted into the idea that we are identical; and when we then find that we cannot all do and experience and enjoy the things that others do and experience and enjoy, we take our revenge and deny that they were worth doing and experiencing and enjoying in the first place. What we are unable to achieve, we will bring low. What requires talent and training and hard work, we will show can be accomplished without them.”

    Kindness is an antidote to envy, for it is hard to have destructive envy for someone you are kind to, just as it is difficult to hate someone you pray for. The real solution to envy is deep satisfaction with what God has given and a deep understanding of our own unworthiness. Seeing ourselves in the light of God’s grace.

    Abstinence (against Gluttony)
    Americans are the fattest people in the world. Has there ever been a more obvious need for an entire nation to just say “no” from time to time.

    A recent news item: “A recent assessment of obesity in the US found that more than a half of all adult Americans were overweight. About 54 million adults were classified as obese - that is people who are about 15 kilos or more over the healthy norm based on height - and hundreds of thousands of deaths each year were attributed to obesity-related diseases. Health groups say one of the biggest culprits for this growing epidemic is junk food, and that the best time to break the cycle between obesity and bad eating habits is when people are young.”

    Chastity (against Lust)
    Lust is the exaggerated sin of our time, not nearly as seriously as pride. It is a sin of the flesh, yet it can corrupt the spirit. While the chaste life is the result of victory over lust, the antidote is better stated as purity of heart. Whereas lust blinds and dissipates our strength, purity of heart can concentrate our strength and purpose. Kierkegaard wrote: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” Thus to love God with a love that is pure, simple, and total is the counterpoint to lust. But such a strenuous ideal can crush us with disillusionment if it is not accompanied by grace and forgiveness, through which Jesus upsets moralistic expectations. As William F. May said, we need to remember that “the ancient Hebrew circumcised the penis; he did not amputate it. Jesus forgave the adulterous woman; he did not stone her.”

    Patience (against Anger)
    The New Testament uses the imagery of fruit to describe the virtues of the spirit-filled Christian. Galatians 5: 22-23 says “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” Bearing this fruit will certainly enable us to combat anger.

    One devotional says: “It is through patience that we get a better understanding of the Creator, and our relationship with our Creator. It is through patience that we get a better understanding of the crosses that we bear day to day. The one that is without crosses, has ceased to be of notice, “For, whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth and scoureth every one whom he receiveth. If you endureth chastening, God dealeth with you as sons, for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" We may be called upon to bare not only our own crosses, but also those of others. If we would approach the Throne, we must come leaning on the arm of one we have helped. "Look not every man to his own things, but every man also on the things of others."

    Liberality (against Greed)
    Many of us compassionate conservatives properly cite government’s inability to deal with poverty of purse and spirit. We call for private institutions to address the needs of the poor, but too often it is an excuse for personal selfishness. Liberals call for more help for the struggling classes, but really mean requiring people wealthier than they are to pay for government programs that have proved abysmal failures.

    Yet as liberal or conservative followers of Christ we are called to love mercy. To show personal compassion to those who have failed or faltered. To feed the hungry ourselves. We’ve turned good deeds over to government, to agencies, to experts, even to our churches, without personal responsibility. As such the acts that constitute the social morality of our time are being performed by paid professionals in large public institutions, private or governmental, not by those who respond to the call of God to personally take up the needs of others—not as ideology, but in gratitude.

    Diligence (against Sloth)
    We live in a lazy, victim society. We blame anything or anyone but ourselves for our problems, and expect the government to help us if anything goes wrong. In the meantime, don’t interrupt our favorite television shows! Notions such as diligence, discipline, and responsibility seem antiquated. Sloth is defined by the coach potato.

    We succumb to the temptations of sloth--both physical laziness and spiritual dejection that has given up on the pursuit of God, the true, the good, and the beautiful--when we lose our purpose and yield to what Vaclav Havel calls Nothingness. Havel was political prisoner before becoming president of the Czech Republic. He wrote:

    “The temptation of Nothingness is enormous and omnipresent, and it has more and more to reset its case on, more to appeal to. Against it, man stands along, weak and poorly armed, his position worse than ever before in history. And yet I am convinced that there is nothing in this vale of tears that, of itself, can rob man of hope, faith, and the meaning of life. He loses these things only when he himself falters, when he yields to the temptations of Nothingness.”

    Diligence is purpose. It is the pursuit of God, and as such, the rejection of nothingness.

    We can only touch in this space on the many dimensions of the virtuous life. And we recognize the need to, as Os Guinness writes, “be on guard against the lurking danger of moralism—removing grace altogether and reducing the many dimensions of life to the single dimension of morality.”

    But as he points out: “The forgotten classical tradition of the virtues and vices is fundamental to the renaissance of the ‘good society.’” For the passionate need of our time is not to revolutionize society, but personal virtue writ large.

    Posted by Jim at 09:36 AM | Comments (1)

    Welcome to Stones Cry Out

    Welcome to the new Stones Cry Out. We are grateful that you have stopped by. We have been working out a few kinks, but most are now fixed. Please let us know if something does not work properly.

    Posted by Mark at 09:20 AM | Comments (4)

    It Ain't About the Oil-Stop Talking Nonsense

    Ok, I've heard enough of the "Iraq is All About Bush Controlling the Oil" nonsense. See Darn Floor's post for an example. To those who are purveying this lie, please do me just one favor: Provide one (only one now) fact supporting your statement. I don't need a number of them; one piece of evidence will do. If you can't provide the evidence, then stop saying it. Also, in two years (or perhaps less), when the oil production of Iraq is in the hands of Iraqis, would you do me the favor of copying me on your note of apology to the President?

    Posted by Mark at 09:05 AM | Comments (3)