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March 31, 2005

The Docs WERE in his Socks!

Okay, maybe not in his socks, but Sandy Berger will plead guilty to swiping classified documents from the National Archives.

Posted by Rick at 08:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pope John Paul II Condition Worsening, news agency reports

Pope John Paul II is probably more gravely ill than the Vatican has said.

This just came across the wire from APcom, the Italian news agency.


BabelFish.com translation:

Fox News says the agency is reporting that the Pope's health is worsening, with concerns about the drop in his blood pressure.

UPDATE: Vatican reports at 3:55 that the Pope has a high fever as a result of a urinary infection.

Posted by Jim at 03:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Requiem for Terri

Heaven opens its doors this day for a soul in flight from its diminished body, a life cut off from its fullness years ago and cut short today because she could not ask otherwise and those assigned to guard her in her weakness grew weary of her unnecessary presence.

We cannot celebrate her passing, for although Terri’s spirit is eternally alive without tubes or tethers and--no longer an object of pity or revulsion--in the embrace of God, we mourn for those who wanted more time with their damaged kin and for a nation that would not rise above legal arrogance to give life another day. We mourn in shame.

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine

Terry Schiavo.jpg

Posted by Jim at 10:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Neuhaus on Colson

In the newest issue of First Things, Richard John Neuhaus' column, The Public Square, has a very kind blurb on Chuck Colson. The piece is not yet online, but if you're a reader of FT - and you should be! - you'll find the piece very refreshing.

Posted by Matt at 08:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Generation M: More Multi-tasking Media

Young people are spending more time using computers, the Internet, and video games without reducing the time they spend with television, print, and music. Young people are able to fill increasing amounts of media content into the same amount of time each day because of "media multi-tasking," e.g. going online while watching television, according to the study. (Source)

This from a new study released earlier this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds.
One area of concern raised by the study is that children's bedrooms are increasingly becoming "multi-media centers." Two-thirds of all 8-18 year olds have a television in their bedroom, and 49 percent have a video game player there. Fifty-four percent have a VCR or DVD player; 37 percent have cable or satellite television; 31 percent have a computer; and 20 percent have Internet access in their bedroom. The study shows that youth with a television in their bedroom spend almost 1 ½ hours more in a typical day watching television than those without a set in their room.

The study also finds that a majority of all 8-18 year olds say their parents have no rules about television watching. Forty-six percent indicated they do have rules, but only 20 percent say their parents enforce the rules "most" of the time.

Now if Gen M could do all of this and communicate with other human beings at the same time, we'd be getting somewhere.

Posted by Jim at 08:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Rumor of War

Instapundit notes the possibility of civil war in Venezuela.

This doesn't sound pretty.

Posted by Matt at 07:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Legislation to Protect Religious Freedom in the Workplace

There is good bi-partisan support for a reasonable bill introduced by an odd couple of northeastern Senators to require workplace accommodations for an employee’s religious practice or observance, such as time off and attire.

The Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) of 2005 was introduced in the Senate by Rick Santorum (R-PA), and John Kerry (D-MA). Similar legislation will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Mark Souder (R-IN), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Bobby Jindal (R-LA), and Anthony Weiner (D-NY).

Santorum said:

“Throughout the ten years that I have been in the Senate, I have worked to raise the profile and importance of religious freedom, both domestic and international, including currently leading a working group to discuss these issues. “While most employers recognize the value of respecting religion in the workplace, sometimes employees are forced to choose between dedication to the principles of their faith and losing their job because their employers refuse to reasonably accommodate certain needs. We need to be respectful of people’s expression of faith in the workplace and in the public square. Senator Kerry and I hope that through this legislation we can find a balance for people who want to have their religious convictions respected at work and an employer who is trying to run a business.”

Kerry said at a press conference that he has been pushing the bill for almost a decade, since he was contacted by "two Catholic ladies who lost their jobs because they couldn't work on Christmas. No American should ever have to choose between keeping a job and keeping faith with their cherished religious beliefs and traditions.” (Source)

However, leave it to the ACLU and a homosexual lobby to find a problem with the WRFA.

Evidently, the ACLU sent an action alert to its members on June 9, implying that the Workplace Religious Freedom Act is an attempt designed to restrict access to abortions and to privilege harassment of homosexuals. (Source)

Christopher Labonte, legislative director at the Human Rights Campaign, said that though the bill was apparently created with good intentions, the way it is written could cause harm to gay people.

“The concern here is that employers would have serious difficulty resolving instances where an employee posts a sign reading ‘God hates fags’ in his office or cubicle; where workers proselytize on the ‘sins of the homosexual lifestyle’ over lunch and on breaks; where a social worker proffers a religious objection to being the case manager or counselor for a youth who is gay or transgender; or where a truck driver on 24-hour driving shift who gives a religious reason for refusing to drive with a co-driver who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.”

More on the legislation from Family Research Council:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ' 2000e-2, prohibits employers with fifteen or more full-time employees from discriminating against an employee based upon that individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Title VII requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious belief or practice, unless such an accommodation would impose an "undue hardship" on the employer.

The "undue hardship" standard worked well until the Supreme Court ruling in TWA v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63 (1977). In Hardison, the Court ruled that requiring an employer to "bear more than a de minimis cost" in order to accommodate an employee's religious request constitutes an undue hardship on the employer's business. The Court specifically cited as the reason for its ruling Congress's failure to define "undue hardship" in Title VII.

Because the de minimis standard is exceptionally low, employers routinely and summarily deny requests and religious workers are left to deny their faith or lose their jobs. Many lawsuits asking for reasonable accommodations are unsuccessful.
The WRFA would restore the intent of Congress in Title VII by providing clear statutory guidance to those employers who wish to comply with the law but are unsure what level of deference the law requires. The WRFA is also good for business, as it is likely to significantly reduce employee lawsuits and any associated costs.

Case Examples:
· In 1999, Edward Pipkin, a truck driver, was forced to leave D. M. Bowmen, Inc., a Maryland trucking company, because he refused to compromise his Sabbath observance even though he had expressed his beliefs about Sunday work during his job interview and was assured that his beliefs would be accommodated.

· In 1999, California nurse Michelle Diaz was fired from the Riverside Neighborhood Health Center for refusing to distribute the "morning-after" pill based on her belief that dispensing the medication would be assisting with an abortion, a violation of her religious beliefs.

· In 1996, Kmart fired Karen Brauer, an Ohio pharmacist, for refusing to dispense Micronor, a birth-control pill. K-mart did so even though Ms. Brauer had informed them when she was hired in 1989 that, based on her religious beliefs, she would not do so.

· California's Department of Financial Institutions refused to allow an employee to hang a religious calendar in his work cubicle because the calendar was "inappropriate and offensive."

· A twenty-seven-year-old evangelical Christian filed suit against the Delaware State Police after being denied a position as a state trooper because a psychological screening test determined that he had strong religious beliefs.

· The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority has threatened to fire a Christian bus driver for wearing a head covering on her job based upon her religious beliefs.

The Rutherford Institute has issued a special report and 10-year overview of religious discrimination in the workplace. Specifically, the report calls for the passage of the proposed legislation.

Posted by Jim at 07:48 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

US Count Votes to Release Study

US Count Votes will release a "Scientific Study on Exit Polls" tomorrow that they say will highlight National Election Pool (NEP) data, which suggest that election fraud may be the best explanation for the 2004 exit poll discrepancy. The study is signed by the following academics and analysts:

*Josh Mitteldorf, PhD - Temple University Statistics Department
*Steven F. Freeman, PhD - Center for Organizational Dynamics, University of Pennsylvania
*Brian Joiner, PhD - Prof. of Statistics (ret) University of Wisconsin
*Frank Stenger, PhD - Professor, School of Computing, University of Utah
*Richard G. Sheehan, PhD -Professor, Department of Finance, University of Notre Dame
*Paul F. Velleman, PhD - Associate Prof., Department of Statistical Sciences, Cornell University
*Victoria Lovegren, PhD - Department of Mathematics, Case Western Reserve University
*Campbell B. Read, PhD - Prof. Emeritus, Department of Statistical Science, Southern Methodist University
*Jonathan Simon, J.D., National Ballot Integrity Project
*Ron Paul Baiman, PhD, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago

For an insight into the thinking of one of the US Count Votes' statisticians, read this article from The Capital Times of Madison Wisconsin. The retired University of Wisconsin statistics professor,

can't just pretend everything is rosy, he says, when he reads that Steven Freeman, a respected University of Pennsylvania professor, says the odds of the exit polls in the critical states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania all being so far off were about 662,000 to 1.
Dr. Joiner is referring to a quote from The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy by Dr. Freeman.

I recently circulated a paper critical of Dr. Freeman's work and have previously posted similar criticism in response to analysis from Jonathan Simon and Dr. Ron Baiman. (The Social Science Research Council, National Research Commission on Elections and Voting posted my recent paper and Mystery Pollster, Mark Blumenthal's review can be found here.)

I know you all are drooling over the study's pending release. I certainly am. No, really - I am. This is quite exciting for a data dweeb like myself (scary huh?). In all seriousness, most of these professors are affiliated with major universities and have distinguished careers. Sure they are biased and have an agenda, but who doesn't? Hopefully they didn't let this bias get in the way of their science. Should I find time in the next week to pour over their analysis, I'll do my best to report back. I bet you all can't wait (hey! clean that slobber off your keyboard!)

Posted by Rick at 02:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

Jonah Says Chill

In the second of a three part series, Al Mohler examines the implications of the Terri Schiavo tragedy. Take a look at Question Four, wherein Mohler examines conservatism's future. I won't quote too much of the piece, because none of it really stands out. At the same time, it's worth a read. See this one small quote:

"Conservatives need to acknowledge the divisions in the conservative movement and the reality of conflict in conservative principles."

I realize Mohler's "blog" is more column than blog, but where has he been? This conversation has been going on for years. And it's been pretty intense throughout the blogosphere for the last two weeks. It took him this long to comment? I'm not sure his analysis is that on target, at any rate. Jonah Goldberg's syndicated column, without dealing with Mohler specifically, addresses such worry in a pretty clear fashion.

Speaking of syndicated columns, Deroy Murdock nails the argument that Terri's Fight is only for Christians.

Posted by Matt at 06:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Old Man on A Feeding Tube: Extending Schiavo Ethics to the Pope

On the wire this morning comes the troubling news that Pope John Paul II is now being nourished through a feeding tube. Why in the world would we use the precious resources of the Church to artificially maintain an elderly prelate who has outlived his usefulness? My goodness, the aging bishop of Rome couldn’t even speak a blessing over the Romans on Easter. What good is he? Not just is he having trouble breathing and eating normally, which greatly restricts his effectiveness as Catholic leader, but his body is wracked with Parkinson’s Disease. And that isn’t going to be going away any time soon.

Let’s use some logic here. It’s time for a new Pope and there are quite a number in men in red prepared to step in. If there’s anyone who is ready to meet his Maker, it’s got to be this wonderful Pope who has served so long, so well. It’s practically a moral imperative for us to unplug him.


Yes, that’s where the culture of death will take us!

Posted by Jim at 03:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

This Just In . . .

The Minneapolis Star Tribune passes on this Washington Post story about a new study of academia:

College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.

* * *

The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty members are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

"What's most striking is how few conservatives there are in any field," said Robert Lichter, a professor at George Mason University and a co-author of the study. "There was no field we studied in which there were more conservatives than liberals or more Republicans than Democrats. It's a very homogeneous environment, not just in the places you'd expect to be dominated by liberals."

Religious services take a back seat for many faculty members, with 51 percent saying they rarely or never attend church or synagogue and 31 percent calling themselves regular churchgoers. On the gender front, 72 percent of the full-time faculty members are male and 28 percent female.

Shocked! Shocked and dismayed I am. College faculty are liberal? Who'd a thunk it? Seriously, does this "study" surprise anybody?

In any event, given the clearly pro-Democratic party tilt of college faculty, I wonder if the Federal Election Commision should start looking into this?

(I acknowledge stealing the title for the post from the Wall Street Journal Online's The Best of the Web Today.)

Posted by Mark at 01:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"No Hard Evidence That The Memo Is Fake"

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post establishes a new standard for determining "news" in the old media: If a memo comes into your hands that is embarassing to the Republican Party and you have "very reliable, multiple sources who indicated the memo was distributed to Republicans on the floor of the Senate," but have no idea who produced, or even circulated the memo, then the story is worthy of national headlines.

Also, see Joshua Claybourn's Mea Culpa (HT: La Shawn Barber's Corner).

Posted by Rick at 09:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Religious Right and The Reasonable People

Most contemporary references to the religious right are an attempt to tarnish today’s Christian conservatives with the unsavory image of those who awkwardly returned fundamentalism to political life 20 years ago. It became a pejorative term some time ago, and is used to discount the arguments of the newly powerful evangelical activists.

Unfortunately, when media are looking for conservative Christian voices, they often look not to the experts in a given field who are Christian conservatives, but to the tried and true voices of the right who will speak on anything (whether or not they have speak with an authority on the topic). The messages aren't that different, just the messengers and methodology.

The old voices of the religious right—Falwell, Robertson, and others—are joining the new voices of evangelicalism in the fight for Terri’s life. They are joined by people of all stripes who recognize the profound evil in starving a handicapped woman to death. Jesse Jackson is passionate on the subject. As Matt mentioned below, Ralph Nader of all people is aligned on the side of life.

The moral bankruptcy of the right-to-murder campaign cannot be hidden by the tired tactic of besmirching those lobbying for life with old labels like “the religious right.”

Jeff Jarvis ended his Easter post trashing people of faith who are passionate about saving Terri Schiavo’s life by separating them from himself and others who on Easter morning “go to church -- huge numbers of them who may not be devout in media terms and, in fact, go only once or twice a year. These are the reasonably religious, not the zealots, not the theocrats, just Americans.

Let’s see. Religious people who attended houses of worship a couple of times a year and aren’t passionate about human life. Neither hot nor cold. Jesus had a few things to say about them (Rev. 3:16).

Posted by Jim at 09:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Drunkard's Prayer

The new Over the Rhine album is, in a word, fantastic. I shall give a more in depth review of it later, after a few more listenings. My initial response is one of pure enjoyment; a husband and a wife have created something majestic and beautiful, addressing God and marriage and love with a delicacy that is stunning.

Posted by Matt at 09:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Few More Thoughts...

I had said that I won't be posting anymore links on Terri Schiavo, but here's a couple more.

First, Rod Dreher on Jess Jackson's appearance:

"It strikes me as profoundly meaningful, and profoundly depressing, that Jesse Jackson -- Jesse Jackson, for crying out loud! -- made a point to go to the hospice and stand by the Schindlers and speak out for Terri's right to life, but not a single American Catholic bishop has done so."

Indeed. One could also substitute the words "evangelical leader" for "Catholic bishop," as well.

Also see Jay Nordlinger's NRO piece this morning:

"I am asked — by readers — whether I think the Bushes have done enough. The answer is no. I am further asked whether Governor Jeb should go for the (Bill) Bennett option: Do what it takes to feed Mrs. Schiavo, risk impeachment and jail. Yes. There is more to being an American — and more to being a leader — than following the edicts of judges."

Food for thought, no?

Posted by Matt at 09:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Glimmer of Hope in Atlanta? Is It Too Late for Terri Schiavo?

[The Court of Appeals] will consider the request for a new hearing based on the facts of the case, rather than whether previous Florida court rulings have met legal standards under state law. (Source)

Why didn’t the 11th circuit consider this before? It is a new finding of fact, not cold rulings on points of law or jurisdiction, that the family and others have been looking for all along.

Posted by Jim at 05:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An Honest Being-With

This March 15, 2005 entry from Henri Nouwen's Daily Meditations struck me as being particularly apt, coming as it does in the midst of Terri Schiavo's ordeal:

Being with a friend in great pain is not easy. It makes us uncomfortable. We do not know what to do or what to say, and we worry about how to respond to what we hear. Our temptation is to say things that come more out of our own fear than out of our care for the person in pain. Sometimes we say things like "Well, you're doing a lot better than yesterday," or "You will soon be your old self again," or "I'm sure you will get over this." But often we know that what we're saying is not true, and our friends know it too.

We do not have to play games with each other. We can simply say: "I am your friend, I am happy to be with you." We can say that in words or with touch or with loving silence. Sometimes it is good to say: "You don't have to talk. Just close your eyes. I am here with you, thinking of you, praying for you, loving you."

Sometimes your presence, and gentle silence, is all that those who are suffering need.

Posted by Mark at 12:14 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 29, 2005

Unsearchable God

Interesting insight from a weed picker:

The lenten [liturgy] last night included words from Isaiah 40
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
It struck me at the time that an unsearchable God has new meaning in the age of Google.
Venture on over to Agricolae and read the rest of the post...

Posted by Rick at 08:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What Is the Religious Right?

Continuing with our discussion of the religious right, John Mark Reynolds offers his definition of the subject at hand:

A person is a member of the religious right if and only if he is a person who allows his religious knowledge to impact his decision making, he votes, he votes for Republicans, he does not privilege secular beliefs over religious beliefs as demanded by people with secular beliefs, and argues that some behavior at present favored by the majority of the editorial board of the LA Times is wrong and should not receive the approval and support of the state.

Interesting definition, and I wouldn't entirely disagree with it. It's a definition that I need to consider. In a post below, I took issue with some of the spokesmen of the religious right. In retrospect, a few of my comments were particularly strong, so let me offer a mea culpa. In my post I said, "I have very little use for the public face of the religious right, as identified in Dobson, Falwell and Robertson. I believe these leaders have outlived there usefulness as public spokesmen." To say I have "very little use" is perhaps stronger than I intended, particularly in light of Rev. Falwell's recent hospitalization. My prayers of with him and his family.

Still, I am unabashed in noting that I am uncomfortable with these men as figureheads. While I am thankful for their work over the last twenty-five years, I simply believe that at this stage in our society, these men have become ineffective as spokesman. Is it likely that nonbelievers, particularly those outside the red states, find these men convincing? I have a hard time believing it. James Dobson isn't doing anyone - the GOP or the Church - any favors by arguing with George Stephanopolous, and Jerry Falwell arguing with Al Sharpton is completely unnecessary. At some point, we as believers are going to have to decide if these men are effective public figures. In my own estimation, and feel free to correct me, that hour will be sooner rather than later. I say this with a great deal of hestitancy in light of Rev. Falwell's illness, but I am not speaking of him alone; he is part of the issue, not the root or even the center of it.

So where does that leave us? What is the proper marriage of faith and politics? Is it wrong to have Reynolds' stance where faith and theology informs political decision making? Is Rick Santorum wrong?

And here's my neverending quandry when it comes to public figures: Why is that I almost always feel comfortable with William F. Buckley, John Podhoretz, Hugh Hewitt and Rush Limbaugh? Why do I usually, though not always, feel comfortable with Al Mohler and Richard Land? And why do I rarely feel comfortable when I see James Dobson on my television?

Posted by Matt at 06:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Instapundit on the Religious Right

Glenn Reynolds is commenting on the Hugh Hewitt/Jeff Jarvis discussion on the religious right. He offers us all some sage advice:

On the other hand, here's some advice, very similar to advice I gave to the antiwar movement: If you don't want to be confused with a movement led by theocrats, don't let actual theocrats be seen as your spokesmen. It may be impossible to shut Randall Terry up -- though if I were Karl Rove, I would have tried really hard -- but he needs to be loudly and regularly denounced as a nut. Otherwise you're in the same boat as lefties who don't want to be identified with Ward Churchill, but happily use him when they want to draw a crowd.

Words of wisdom, methinks.

Posted by Matt at 06:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Statement from Governor Owens

Sean Duffy, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications to Colorado Governor Bill Owen passes along the following statement from the Governor:


Owens: Ruling "demeaning, subjective"

(DENVER) - Gov. Bill Owens today issued the following statement on the Colorado Supreme Court's decision to not impose the death penalty on convicted killer Robert Harlan:

"Today's decision is demeaning to people of faith and prevents justice from being served. The death penalty in a heinous crime has been overturned by a highly subjective ruling that truly splits hairs. Even the justices who voted to overturn the penalty agreed that moral values and religious beliefs are important and can be part of the debate among jurors.

"For example, a juror could recite biblical passages from memory. But because of a subjective interpretation that reading the same passage is somehow prejudicial, a convicted killer has avoided the appropriate sentence. I'm disappointed to see that the Court would supersede the will of the jury and the people of Colorado regarding the death penalty on such a technicality."

I believe that a majority of us at SCO are against the death penalty, or at least lean that way, but the issue here is not about the death penalty, but the rationale of the courts in reaching this decision. I recommend Jim's post on this subject below.

Posted by Rick at 03:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Michael Schiavo Guility of Bigamy; The Court Ignores Marriage

Terri Schiavo moves ever so close to death. The only thing we don’t know about this right-to-murder case is the truth. We hear the hyperbolic screeches of Randall Terry and Michael Savage, we cringe at the calculation of Michael Schiavo, who may very well be an evil man, and we almost have to look away from the wishful thinking of Terri’s grieving family.

I believe the President and the Governor—and even the Congress—have done what they can under the law. It has failed. But to expect them to engage in civil disobedience and do for Terri by force what the courts have not down by law is to wish for a breakdown of constitutional rule that would be far worse than the tragic result we are about to endure.

The original and fundamental error made by the Florida court was to ignore the fact that marriage is a civil and spiritual relationship defined by law, by many faiths, and by 4,000 years of human history. There are reasons that it is solemn, sacred, and given rights and responsibilities. Two people in a marriage are expected to have special consideration for each other, their mutual interests are intertwined, and their common experiences are expected to create a future desire to provide and protect each other.

The marriage between Michael and Terri Schiavo has been over for some time. Perhaps not when Michael began seeing other women, but certainly when he established a common law marriage with another woman and started a family.

I should make it clear that I do not blame Michael Schiavo for moving forward with his life and settling down with another woman. That is understandable.

In most cases, there is no reason to formally divorce a spouse in this condition. But how could a judge grant the hangman’s power to a man who has in body and in spirit gone through a de facto divorce?

In Utah, by the way, Michael Schiavo would be charged with bigamy. And in Florida, he could be charged with Openly Living in Adultery. (h/t): A Soft Answer.

When the Florida court ignored the responsibilities of marriage, it seems now, Terri’s fate was sealed.

From Release the Hounds:

Here is something that troubles me deeply about the Terri Schiavo situation. I have heard more than once from the proponents of simply killing her...pardon, letting her die...that withholding food and water would not result in a painful death but rather would allow her to peacefully "slip away.'

Why then is she being administered morphine when nurses noticed Terri Schiavo was "moaning and grimacing"?

Posted by Jim at 03:12 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Faith and Decisions

Questions of innocence and guilt and life and death are moral judgments. On what shall jurors derive their morality, if not on their own faith and values.

In an interview Christianity Today editor Stan Guthrie did with Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the senator said:

"The idea that we cast aside our faith and don't replace it with something else to influence your worldview is ridiculous. If you don't have faith, you replace it, I assume, with some secular concepts, or with some other belief system, which goes unidentified. I think that really is—I won't say dishonest, but I think it certainly lacks intellectual honesty to say that by removing your faith as a component of how you conduct yourself that you somehow can do so neutrally. You don't. You just do so with another worldview or another set of values that come from another source."

Posted by Jim at 02:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An Argument for Bible Memorization

Just when we think the courts can’t get any more absurd, along comes this case from the Colorado Supreme Court.

“In a sharply divided ruling (3-2), Colorado's highest court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision throwing out the sentence of a man who was given the death penalty after jurors consulted the Bible in reaching a verdict. The Bible, the court said, constituted an improper outside influence and a reliance on what the court called a ‘higher authority.’”

In the decision on Monday, the dissenting judges said the majority had confused the internal codes of right and wrong that juries are expected to possess in such weighty moral matters with the outside influences that are always to be avoided, like newspaper articles or television programs about the case. The jurors consulted Bibles, the minority said, not to look for facts or alternative legal interpretations, but for wisdom.

"The biblical passages the jurors discussed constituted either a part of the jurors' moral and religious precepts or their general knowledge, and thus were relevant to their court-sanctioned moral assessment," the minority wrote.

Would it matter to these three Colorado judges if the jurors had the Bible verses memorized, rather than consulting the written text?

Good fodder for the U.S. Supreme Court.

After the last couple of weeks maybe I’ll change my vote on whether to use the nuclear option to make judicial appointments filibuster proof. There are just too many judges outside the mainstream of American justice and out of touch with ancient wisdom.

Posted by Jim at 02:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Black and Asian Women Earning More Than White Women

I’m going to recommend that my wife file a lawsuit, or stage a protest, or write a scathing article about the terrible inequity she and others like her are suffering.

Last week, the Census Bureau released data that showed that black and Asian women with bachelor's degrees earn slightly more than similarly educated white women. A white woman with a bachelor's degree typically earned nearly $37,800 in 2003, compared with $41,100 for a college-educated black woman and nearly $43,700 for a college-educated Asian woman. Hispanic women took home slightly less, at $37,600 a year.

You can practically hear the hand wringing by liberal groups that can’t quite explain how this has happened.

Notions that black women are struggling financially as much other groups are should not be dismissed, said Barbara Gault, research director of the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

We’ve reached equity in this area, and exceeded it. The advocacy groups will need to whine about something else.

Of course white men with four-year degrees still make more than anyone else. So sue me.

Posted by Jim at 01:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Foreign Affairs

Now for something we can all agree on. Instapundit points to two very interesting foreign issues.

First, Glenn notes an article reporting the difficulties facing the Iraqi resistance. Sounds good to me.

Second, Zimbabwe looks to be in the news soon. Elections are upcoming; see here and here.

Third, and completely unrelated, the new Over the Rhine record comes out today. I can't wait to break open my copy this afternoon.

Posted by Matt at 08:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Okay all you new SCO readers, baseball season is right around the corner and if I don't get www.rickbrady.net up and running soon, I will take over this blog with posts about the Texas Rangers.

My cousin, Rod Barajas, is their catcher. Here's a great little story announcing that Rod will get the starting honors April 5 against the Angels. Rod walked-on to the Arizona Diamondbacks and played his first pro season in 1999. He had a so-so career until last year when his bat got hot and he earned the respect of the Texas pitching staff. Rod's hitting .385 in pre-season, so let's hope he can carry some of that flare into April!

Oh. I have another cousin that plays with the Giants - Noah Lowry. But, I don't recall ever meeting him. I'm told that I have, when I was younger, but I'm an old guy (28) and that was a long time ago. Besides, I don't really like the Giants. :-)

Posted by Rick at 02:34 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

LA Times Hit Piece: DeLay in the Crosshairs

After reading and posting on what I thought was a decent and fair article from the LA Times on Jim Wallis, my jaw about dropped when I read this article from the paper that asserts hypocrisy on the part of Tom DeLay regarding both his leadership in federalizing the Terri Schiavo case and his push for tort reform.

The article starts:

CANYON LAKE, Texas — A family tragedy that unfolded in a Texas hospital during the fall of 1988 was a private ordeal — without judges, emergency sessions of Congress or the debate raging outside Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice.
DeLay’s father was in a terrible accident that left him severely brain damaged and on full life support, but DeLay consented when his family decided it was time to pull the plug.

The article continues with this jab:

And DeLay is among the strongest advocates of keeping the woman, who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay has denounced Schiavo's husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls "an act of barbarism" in removing the tube.
In 1988, however, there was no such fiery rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus
to let his father die. (emphasis added)
The article’s authors include a token quote from a spokesman for DeLay who tried to said that the situations were not comparable, but the LA Times reporters inserted quickly pointed out the broad similarities in the cases. Further on in the article, the Times is sure to note that the DeLay family filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the tram equipment that killed DeLay’s father, but that the Representative “since has taken a leading role promoting tort reform, wants to rein in trial lawyers to protect American businesses from what he calls ‘frivolous, parasitic lawsuits’ that raise insurance premiums and ‘kill jobs.’” The family settled for what is said to be $250,000 and DeLay is said to have given his portion to his mother. The
The article ended with a nice interview with DeLay’s mother:
Like her son, she believed there might be hope for Terri Schiavo's recovery. That's what made her family's experience different, she said. Charles had no hope.” "There was no chance he was ever coming back," she said. (emphasis added)
Is it not important to the LA Times that DeLay’s father’s organs were failing and was on full life support as opposed to needing only a feeding tube? Mr. DeLay was dying – Terri is not. Is it not relevant that Mr. Schiavo has abandoned his wife and is engaged to another woman with whom he has lived for years and has two children? And perhaps the most basic and pertinent distinction missed in this LA Times hit piece on DeLay: There is no among Terri's family about her wishes, chance for recovery, or what should be done with her; but with DeLay, there was not a single dissenting family member.


Posted by Rick at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Simon Cowell is good for Self-Esteem

Accompanied by a rather frightening illustration of Paula Abdul, Bret Stephens' WSJ editorial last Friday focuses on "American Idol," and suggests that the real star of the show is Simon Cowell, not because he's a particularly pleasant individual, but because he's "judgmental."

Of the three judges, Stephens has this to say about Randy Jackson:

He is strictly about performance. If a singer does poorly, he'll complain she was "pitchy"; if she does well, then she's Mr. Jackson's Dawg: "You were hot, man: I give you props for that." In the Jackson world view, either you succeeded or you didn't, but no performer's feelings will ever be hurt by a word he says because it's all about the singing, never about the singer.

I'd also like to add this: Randy Jackson needs to build a bigger vocabulary. A'ight, dawg?

Of Paula Abdul, Stephens says:

Although she is the only performer among the judges, she never seems to care about the performances themselves. What she cares about is each contestant's "potential": She wants them to feel proud no matter what. If she were a pedagogue, she'd be into social promotion; her fundamental belief is self-belief. It certainly took her far.

And Paula Adbul certainly seems to enjoy her role. Watch closely and you will often see her leaping to her feet and groovin' along with the contestants. She'll also swoon dramatically if some crooner makes her weak in the knees. And she also seems to be the most emotionally invested in the contestants, and perhaps it's because as a performer herself she remembers all too well the cold hand of judgment.

But the cold hand of judgment is what's needed sometimes, and that's where Cowell comes in:

And then there is Mr. Cowell, the daddy who is not afraid to spank the children. . . . The greater part of Mr. Cowell's appeal, however, is his honesty. . . . of sparing people from the worst of themselves. "I met someone the other night who's 28 years old," Mr. Cowell said once, "and he hasn't worked a day since he left college because he's pursuing a dream he'll never, ever realize: He thinks he's a great singer. Actually, he's crap. But nobody has said to him, 'Why have you been wasting your time for eight years?'"

Sure, Simon's harsh judgments garner him lots of boos from the audience, but aren't his judgments exactly what some people need to hear?

Back in February, USA Today had this interesting article on how the seeds sown by the "Self-Esteem Movement" back in the 70s have now grown:

Kids born in the '70s and '80s are now coming of age. The colorful ribbons and shiny trophies they earned just for participating made them feel special. But now, in college and the workplace, observers are watching them crumble a bit at the first blush of criticism.

"I often get students in graduate school doing doctorates who made straight A's all their lives, and the first time they get tough feedback, the kind you need to develop skills," says Deborah Stipek, dean of education at Stanford University. "I have a box of Kleenex in my office because they haven't dealt with it before."

. . .

Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, says he had "high hopes" for the benefits of boosting self-esteem when he began studying it more than 30 years ago. But his lengthy review of 18,000 articles, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, ended with the realization that only two clear benefits emerge from high self-esteem: enhanced initiative, which boosts confidence, and increased happiness. "There is not nearly as much benefit as we hoped," he says. "It's been one of the biggest disappointments of my career."

I don't find any of this particularly surprising. Nor did Orson Scott Card, who wrote on the subject in his Jan. 23rd column at Ornery.org. Card manages to bring in both American Idol and the Baumeister study which was the subject of an article in the January issue of Scientifc American.

Roy F. Baumeister, Jennifer D. Campbell, Joachim I. Krueger and Kathleen D. Vohs published an article in the January 2005 Scientific American titled "Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth."

Their method was not so much research as a review of research.

They went through all the published research on self-esteem and immediately eliminated all the studies that depended on self-reporting along.

Here's the problem: If somebody reports that they have a very positive self-image, and then tells you that he is very successful in his job and his social life, what have you actually learned?

That people who have a high opinion of themselves have a high opinion of themselves.


. . .

There is no statistically significant connection between high self-esteem and genuine achievement, ability, or successfulness. Not in the real world.

Except in one area: Making new acquaintances like you. If you have high self-esteem, you're probably a little bit better at making friends (though it's not inevitable -- just slightly more likely).

Card doesn't suggest completely eliminating "You can do it!" boosterism, but says it's important to strike a balance between building up esteem and leveling the necessary critique. Failing to provide the honest truth, Card says, is actually a selfish act, which I think is an interesting way to look at it.

The truth might hurt at the moment -- but nowhere near as badly as seeing themselves made ridiculous in front of an audience of millions.

Yet I can also understand their friends and family. It's so much easier just to say, "Sure, you're great, you're wonderful" and then change the subject. No confrontation. No moments of unhappiness that you've caused.

Praising people who have done nothing to deserve praise is the lazy, selfish thing to do. It makes them like you while setting them up for embarrassment and failure later.

He closes with some good advice:

Here's what works: You teach children the connection between work and achievement.

Great achievements aren't made by feeling good about yourself. They're made by boldness, originality, hard work, painstaking attention to detail, long practice, self-effacing cooperation, reliability, and a host of other attributes and actions.

Whom would you rather hire to work for you? The person who thinks he's wonderful all the time, regardless of what he does, or the person who is always questioning the quality of his own work and trying to do better?

. . .

Children need encouragement -- but they also need realistic assessments of their current level of achievement so they know what they need to work on.

The people who know them best and love them most are in the best position to do this.

. . .

Praise real achievements, however small, and you help a child. Praise him regardless of achievement, and you do damage, either to your own credibility or to the child's ability to know himself well enough to improve.

This is so obvious it shouldn't even need saying.

Probably. But it's always good to hear people say it.

Boo Simon Cowell if you like, but he might just be doing these contestants a favor.

Posted by Drew at 11:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Two Easter Tales

Rod Dreher recounts a conversation from this Easter weekend. Yep; this is how things get done down in Dixie.

My own thoughts on Easter Sunday.

Posted by Matt at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Progress Report: No Child Left Behind

Surprise! Accountability seems to be working:

Seven in 10 schools in districts represented by the council have improved math scores since 2002, when testing under the act began, according to the group's study, "Beating the Odds." Four in 10 have improved reading scores.
The report isn't all rosy though, as nearly half the 7.3 million students tested from urban areas were still less than proficient for their grade level. In addition, high schoolers still aren't doing so hot.
"Results show clearly impressive gains at the elementary level," Casserly said. "However, high school levels remain fragile and uncertain."

I suspect that there is not a whole lot one can do for high schoolers that have been allowed to skate through school for more than 8 years. Sure, you could throw a ton of money at the problem, but I suspect that the problem has more to do with a teenage "culture" that has been cultivated by the education system than with a lack educational programs or low teacher-student ratios. If you have been promoted from grade-to-grade since kindergarten without basic proficiency at each level, study habits (or lack thereof) and attitudes are likely codified by high school. I hope I'm not being too pessimistic about our nation's high schoolers, but I really fear that they have been failed by our education system that has lost sight of its basic purpose. I'm happy to hear that there have been impressive gains at the elementary level - I hold out hope for the education of our future high schoolers.

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

LA Times Profile: Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis received a lot of ink from the LA Times with this article today. Having not yet read his book, God's Politics, I really can't comment on his ideas, but I do know that other SCO contributors are not impressed. However, when Wallis gets criticized by the UCC Rev. Barry Lynn, I can't imagine the guy is all that bad. :-)

Posted by Rick at 10:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Christian Response

In my post below, I noted the Internet Monk's post on the Christian media response to Terri Schiavo. I noted the post because while I think Michael Spencer makes some good points, I simply believe the timing of the post was wrong. But Spencer has posed the questions, and they are questions that need examining.

I felt then, as I feel now, that this is too important an issue for us as believers to be distracted over the political bickering that is taking place. I also noted Hugh Hewitt's post below concerning the Christian right. Clearly there is some debate within the religious right, and I myself am not immune. I have very little use for the public face of the religious right, as identified in Dobson, Falwell and Robertson. I believe these leaders have outlived there usefulness as public spokesmen. Yet Spencer stops there. What about Hugh Hewitt, Bill Bennett and John Mark Reynolds? These are not knee-jerk reactionaries. Are they part of the same crowd that Spencer (correctly) cites as being problematic?

I didn't join the "Let Terri Live" crowd because of James Dobson or Rush Limbaugh or Jerry Falwell. (Though I admit that Rush has been nothing short of flawless on this issue). I support the Schindler family because life should always, always be given the benefit of the doubt. I didn't do it because I was raised Southern Baptist or because I listen to Rush Limbaugh. I haven't been watching O'Reilly or Hannity & Colmes. I think Randall Terry is an embarrassment.

The point that Spencer seems to ignore, at least concerning the blogosphere, is that dozens of pundits not normally considered to be a part of the Christian right - Bill Kristol, Wesley J. Smith, Stanley Kurtz, John Podhoretz, John Leo, and Ralph Nader, for heaven's sake - have taken the side of Terri Schiavo's parents. Does that mean they're right? Not necessarily, but it should be a hint that the Dobsons and Falwells of the world aren't out there fighting this battle alone. I have no doubt at all that every Christian blogger who has shown even the slightest divergence from the standard religious right position in this case has recieved an inbox full of anger. I don't condone nasty e-mails and angry comment threads. I realize that many Christians, often uninformed on the matter, have the capacity to become belligerent. But I won't step away from the position that life must always be protected, and it is incumbent upon Christians to protect life. Not because it will win us points in the 700 Club, but because a stable, decent society depends on it. I'm not trying to defend or even establish the Southern Baptist America. Simply a just and decent society. It's what we've had in this nation for over two hundred years, but we're fools if we allow it to slip away.

Does salvation depend on this issue? No. No one will end up in hell because they sided with Michael Schiavo. Is James Dobson the final voice on the matter? Nope. Shall I say that there is a defacto Christian position on this? Not quite, at least not in the sense that one's salvation is revealed or denied in the issue. But as it concerns the taking of a life, the slow starvation (ten days and counting) of a woman, the precedent of an unfaithful husband determining his wife's fate against the rest of her family's wishes, the kangaroo court that has masqueraded for the last ten years...if a believer finds this fair and decent and just, be my guest. That position will be between the man and God, but I shall have no part of it.

Posted by Matt at 09:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

One Easter Thought...

The Apostle Paul suggests that if Christ is not risen from the grave, and if the Christian has no hope for the future, then we are a pitiable lot. Thank God this is not true, and that Christ indeed has risen! We have something in which to hope, and the powerful knowledge that, as Gandalf told Sam, every sad thing will be made untrue. What joyous knowledge.

Posted by Matt at 06:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Final Word

Al Mohler on Terri Schiavo.

This is likely the last I'll say on this matter for a while, because like Jay Nordlinger, I am: "I'm so appalled by it. I am still adjusting to the fact that I'm living in a country that will gladly starve a helpless woman to death."

I can't believe how odd this whole thing has become. I've read too much as of late by people with whom I typically agree suggesting things that I just can't stomach, things that aren't even dealing with the major issues at hand.

It's given me a headache, save for exposing one issue.

What is the religious right, and what do I, on a personal level, think of it? Hugh Hewitt's morning post addresses some of the issue, but it's worth continual evaluation.

More later, I reckon.

Posted by Matt at 06:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

"Fake but Accurate": Take II?

John Hinderaker provides a very useful summary of the controversy surrounding the alleged GOP talking points memo on Schiavo (HT: Instapundit). Read the whole article, but here's 5 points to keep in your back pocket for now:

To sum up, then: (1) The memo itself conveys no information about its source. (2) It is very poorly done, containing a number of typographical errors, failing to get the number of the Senate bill correct, and using points cribbed word-for-word from an advocacy group's website. (3) The politically controversial statements are out of place in a talking points memo, and seem, on the contrary, ideally framed to create talking points for the Democrats. (4) Somewhat bizarrely, after the contents of the memo had been reported, someone corrected those typographical errors--but only those errors that had been pointed out by ABC. (5) No one has reported seeing any Republican distributing the suspect memo; the only people confirmed to have passed out the memo were Democratic staffers.
Will the MSM do their job and get to the bottom of this story?

Posted by Rick at 03:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

“I’m guilty.”
“Lord Jesus, you are innocent.”
“Remember me.”

These are the simple words of a sinner who faced his own guilt, recognized a holy God, and asked for help. They are the words of the repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus. The appeal of Easter for all of us is that in the only passage where an individual is actually promised a place in heaven, Jesus responds: “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” This promise is valid only because the man on the middle cross rose from the dead and defeated death. Jesus died on Friday and death died on Sunday.

I’ve spent many an Easter weekend over the last 20 years in prison. No, not as an inmate, but as part of a Christian ministry, accompanying Chuck Colson. We journeyed into the tombs of our society on the weekend each year that holds great meaning to those men and women behind bars who have come to know the One who promised paradise to the criminal who called on him.

Because society has issued sentences of condemnation to those in prison, their sin is publicly declared. With that help, many inmates genuinely see their need for a redeemer. It’s something many of us on the outside have a harder time admitting. As we complete another Easter weekend, it’s a recognition that can break chains far stronger than prison bars.

Posted by Jim at 12:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 26, 2005

How to Remodel a 20sf Bathroom in 6-Months

Jokingly, I suggested to the other SCO guys that I should write a series on how to remodel an 820sf bathroom in six months (thanks for the catch Newton). Then I spent over an hour stripping 6 inches of moldy and cracked caulking from the shower and I realized that the project, which started back in January, may really take 6 months! As with many projects, I underestimated the level of effort involved.

Anyways, this is the kind of thing that I would normally post at www.rickbrady.net, but I can't seem to locate my web-designer... Oh! There's another project that I've undersestimated and is on the "to do" list :-).

Here's a couple of pictures of the project (yes, we've done a lot of work since these photos and they are in reverse chronological order) and since I'm using this space for personal stuff, check out some family and related photos at BradyPics.


If I don't get around to posting, Happy Easter everyone! His resurrection brings hope to the world. "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 (also Hosea 13:14)

Posted by Rick at 08:41 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 25, 2005

Iraq's Insurgents ‘Seek Exit Strategy'

Great headline and encouraging article from the Financial Times of London today (HT: Drudge).

Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, who heads Iraq's main monarchist movement and is in contact with guerrilla leaders, said many insurgents including former officials of the ruling Ba'ath party, army officers, and Islamists have been searching for a way to end their campaign against US troops and Iraqi government forces since the January 30 election.
Sharif wants to make sure that we all know that the insurgents he’s talking about are the good ones:
Unlike Mr Zarqawi's followers, who are thought to be responsible for the big suicide bomb attacks on Iraqi civilian targets, the other Sunni insurgents are more likely to plant bombs and carry out ambushes against security forces and US troops active near their homes.
Genuine minutemen aren’t they? To the encouraging part of the article:
Sharif Ali said the success of Iraq's elections dealt the insurgents a demoralising blow, prompting them to consider the need to enter the political process.
Hence this report from Reuters that the rate of American troop deaths have fallen 50 percent from pre-election levels.

Whether Iraqi government decides that it wants to include these thugs in the political process now is up to them. I would love to see the Iraqi’s vow to hunt down and prosecute every insurgent terrorist in Iraq; however, this concession that democracy has prompted a move to lay down arms and embrace the political process should be viewed as a positive development in the global war on terrorism. It’s one more example of the power of freedom to overcome tyranny and terror.

UPDATE: Austin Bay has an idea:

Fact is, turning in Zarqawi would be the Baghdad equivalent of Monopoly’s “Get Out of Jail Free Card” for the lower-level holdouts who engineer it.

UPDATE: Austin Bay has an idea:

Fact is, turning in Zarqawi would be the Baghdad equivalent of Monopoly’s “Get Out of Jail Free Card” for the lower-level holdouts who engineer it.

Posted by Rick at 08:28 PM | Comments (2)

A Marriage of Convenience? Fiscal Incentives and Residential Development Patterns in California

The editors at the Planning Forum finally got around to publishing their 10th Volume electronically. The latest volume includes an article that I wrote last year, which challenges the perception that land use fiscalization is a leading cause of housing affordability problems in California. If that sort of stuff interests you, check it out here. The formatting looks a bit strange when compared to the print version of the journal, but oh well.

The Planning Forum is a journal of Community and Regional Planning, published by the School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin.

Posted by Rick at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Schindler's List

At Mere Comments, James M. Kushiner absolutely nails the crux of the matter. The media can be studied later. We can talk later about how we got here and the problems with marriage laws and medical ethics.

It is a day in which judgments are made, but they are not always as they appear. In the Terri Schiavo case, while it is about her, and her parents, it is also about much more. It is about a culture of death and a culture of life. Can a society that is expanding the "right to die" while at the same time restricting the "right to life" be anything other than a culture of death?

I think it is ultimately a contest between two views. One says that life is a Gift from God, the other that it is not and it is for us to decide by our own lights what to do with life. It is ours to manipulate, ours to end when we want to, ours to create for experimental purposes, in short there is no Divine mystery to Life before which we must in all humility bow.

Posted by Matt at 11:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Africa Crisis

Africa is a mess, and it needs our help. On that, we should all be able to agree. As a lifelong U2 fan, I've been sympathetic to Bono's concern for the continent, which in turn inspired another favorite band, the Innocence Mission, to record an album to benefit African relief.

A few weeks ago, I noted a Bono quote suggesting that American Christians are viewed as stingy by the rest of the world, even our fellow Christians. Now Fareed Zakaria has a column in Newsweek discussing America's Africa policy. John Miller took great offense to Zakaria's commentary. So did Ramesh Ponurru. And John Derbyshire. And Jonah Goldberg. And Nick Schulz.

Concerned readers should follow the Corner on this one. Bono, whose heart I believe to be in the right place, and others talk often about Africa and the need for help, but it is the American right that has offered the most innovation in recent years. The WHO and other organizations have been an abysmal failure as of late. While I support efforts to repair that damaged continent, we must be mindful that we are not led to feel guilty by those whose ideas are stale and worn.

Posted by Matt at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

Hewitt on Sullivan

Andrew just got served, as the kids say.

Posted by Matt at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What's Next for the Pro-Life Crowd?

Michael Spencer has put up a thought-provoking piece, questioning the media sensation surrounding Terri Schavo's gruesome situation. For the record, we're approaching seven days with no food or water. A painless death, indeed.

Witness this quote from Spencer's commentary:

It is at times like this that I realize how much of what we all "care about," is generated by our media of choice, and what it tends to focus on. In a very real way, our compassion is directed- perhaps manipulated- by the media we watch or read. Without demoting the importance or reality of any of the stories we focus on, I wonder if we've considered why we care, and more importantly, what we don't care about- and why?
(Emphasis is Spencer's)

There are fine points worth considering. We must not and should not abandon Terri's Fight. This case is important because it is the most notable of its kind to date; it is setting all sorts of precedents. But let's pay heed to Spencer's words. There are people suffering all around us. The inner cities of our country are just bad as they ever were; how can we change this? The Delta region of the Southeast, the Appalachian regions, the desert Southwest; all of these areas are full of poor and desperate people. Our own suburban neighborhoods are populated with folks whose lives are empty, having fallen victim to a debased consumerist culture.

How can we help? I don't pretend there are any answers; I'm setting in my nice apartment wearing nice clothes watching Sportscenter and listening to Cross Canadian Ragweed worrying about how my NCAA tournament bracket is busted. All I know is that there is a suffering world out there and I'm called to help, whether it's Terri Schiavo or a black kid from the inner city or a white kid from the mountains or a native American kid...we've got to do something.

Posted by Matt at 09:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Really Strange Bedfellows

Ralph Nader speaks out in favor of life for Terri Schiavo.

(Note: I had originally posted a sentence expressing my surprise at Nader's views. In retrospect it was a bit inappropriate. The line has been removed, and my apologies to Mr. Nader.)

Still, given that a lot of Nader voters have been fans of folks like Peter Singer, this is interesting.

Posted by Matt at 08:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Greatest Threat to Marriage

When I said in a post on Evangelical First Things in Public Life that homosexual unions were not the greatest threat to marriage, I was called “soft” on the issue of same-sex marriages. This made me laugh out loud, because I’m not and because it was probably written by someone has never been married or hasn’t had a serious martial problem (yet).

The greatest threat to the institution of marriage is bad marriages and the decisions and choices that make them bad.

One of my longtime friends, Nancy C. Anderson, is dispensing advice to people in troubled marriages in her book Avoiding the “Greener Grass” Syndrome How to Grow Affair-Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage and at crosswalk.com.

She writes in a recent column:

“If you're struggling in your relationship and feel like you've grown apart from your spouse, today can be the day of new beginnings. I know how lonely, desperate, and exhausted you may feel, because I've felt that way. I was in a marriage full of emptiness. Ron and I were both selfish, angry, and critical; but we aren't anymore. Well . . . I'm still a little selfish, but mostly our lives are full of light and love -- and yours can be too. We admitted our faults, ask for forgiveness, changed our behavior and decided to love each other. Our feelings eventually caught up with our actions and we slowly grew a lovely "green grass" marriage in own backyard”

Joe at Evangelical Outpost has a good post on the dangers to marriage. He writes:

"Social conservatives spend an inordinate amount of hand-wringing over the threat to traditional marriage posed by the legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Gay marriage is, of course, a legitimate concern. But it would take an army of homosexual rights activists several decades to do as much damage to the sacred institution as heterosexuals have done by tolerating no-fault divorce and the repeal of common law marriage. The looming threat pales in comparison to the present danger of destructive marriage laws which have, for at least one young woman, literally become a matter of life and death."

Posted by Jim at 08:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sharpton Criticizes Rap Violence

Good for Al Sharpton. He’s not one of our favorite politicians or reverends, but he deserves credit for taking on violence in the hip hop culture and the radio stations that support it.

Sharpton asked the Federal Communications Commission yesterday to punish artists and radio stations connected with violent acts. After meeting with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and two other commissioners, Sharpton said artists connected to such acts should be denied airplay on radio and television for 90 days, he told reporters. He also urged the agency to fine and review the licenses of radio stations "that encourage a pattern of this, including allowing employees to do on-the-air inciting of violence." (Source)

It will take individuals such as Sharpton to bring change in this area. It’s leadership that should be noticed and applauded.

Posted by Jim at 07:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Jeb Bush Rising; Randall Terry Sinking

Evidently the authenticity of Jeb Bush’s fight for Terri Schiavo is raising his stock in Florida and throughout the country. Although there is criticism of politicians who appear to be using the crisis for their political gain, The New York Times reports today:

"The Florida governor's emergence as the most prominent politician still fighting, despite a string of court and legislative defeats, to have a feeding tube reinserted in Ms. Schiavo was very much in keeping with someone who has repeatedly declared a deep religious faith.

Several associates noted that he had been devoutly religious longer than President Bush, and even critics said his efforts - prodding the Florida Legislature and the courts and defying much of the electorate - were rooted in a deep-seated opposition to abortion and euthanasia rather than in political positioning.

Yet inevitably, the events of recent days have fed the mystique of Mr. Bush as a reluctant inheritor of perhaps America's most famous dynasty since the Adams family two centuries ago."

This in contrast to the rantings of Randall Terry about Jeb “blinking,” and not doing enough. I find the Schindlers to be wonderfully sincere and incredibly sympathetic characters, but they made a terrible decision naming Terry as their spokesperson. He has been a disaster for the pro-life movement throughout the years, and is the wrong voice for this case and any other when we need measured reason and effective discourse.

Posted by Jim at 07:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Seeking Parental Consent for Homosexual Clubs

This item here in Georgia: A proposal being considered by the Georgia Board of Education would require high school students to obtain parental permission before joining homosexual-affirming clubs at school. State Superintendent Kathy Cox is asking the Georgia Board of Education to adopt a policy that would require all students to obtain parental permission before joining an extracurricular club.

A supportive state senator said: “We just felt that this is an issue that the parents need to be fully informed about. If they're going to have to give permission for their student to take an aspirin in school, then I feel like they ought to be asked permission for their students to join a club such as this."

Posted by Jim at 07:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Can I Help Terri Schiavo?

We received a plaintiff email from Sarah in Tuscon asking: “How do I protest for Terri Schiavo in my area?” I know individuals throughout the nation feel powerless as every effort to save Terri’s life is turned aside.

Honestly, the best thing you can do today is pray that God will intervene in the affairs of man and deliver Terri from evil.

Continue to rattle the sabers of truth: write and call media and your elected representatives, telling them that you do not want Terri to be starved to death.

But regardless of whether Terri is spared, the work has just begun. Here are a few suggestions on what you should do in honor of Terri and all those who cannot protect their own lives:

1. Call for and support conservative candidates for judicial appointments.

2. Work for a return to a balance of power through a reduction in the strength of the judiciary. Mark Levin’s new book Men in Black has a number of good ideas on this.

3. Support legislation in your state that would require a living will to remove life support and a preference for life if one is not found.

4. Support politicians who worked to save Terri Schiavo, particularly if there actions reflect a consistent ethic of life.

Posted by Jim at 07:21 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 24, 2005

Douthat Speaking Some Truth

Ross Douthat tackles Andrew Sullivan and John Derbyshire. Boy, politics does make for strange bedfellows.

K.J. Lopez also notes a reader's anecdotal experiences with Terri's case, suggesting that as more facts are available, people begin to sympathize with Michael Schiavo. I will say this much. If he had reached a point of emotional despair, so be it. Let him date other women, but if that be the case, then he must be willing to waive all rights to Terri and her estate. The problem to me isn't so much that he is now with another woman. The problem is that he is with another woman, fathering children, and yet he still insists that he should be allowed to legally conduct himself as Terri's guardian. This is shameful behavior.

Posted by Matt at 06:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Would You Want to Live Like That?

Doug of Bogus Gold asks that question and makes some interesting observations.

If Terri was a walking, talking person as fully functional as she used to be, we would not be having this debate. No court would sanction, and the public would not allow, her husband to have her starved to death - even if she explicitly asked him for such a thing. Yet it has become clear that because she now lives in a state a vast majority of people have determined they themselves would not want to live in, the value proposition of her life has changed in the eyes of the public. Not in the eyes of every single person, but certainly in the eyes of enough to allow it to happen.
I was tempted to quote more of Doug's post, but realized that there is so much worth quoting that there would be little left for you all to read when you visit his site. (In other words, head over there and read a very thought provoking post.)

Posted by Rick at 03:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Write Your Own Headline Here

A gay and nudist cruise was barred from stopping at the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis on Wednesday after authorities said the group would offend local customs.

"We don't want it to be a part of our culture," said acting general manager of the Nevis port authority, Oral Brandy. "It's not a practice society likes here."

Here's the whole story.

Posted by Jim at 03:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Few Quick Hits

Here's a few quick comments to start my morning.

- Jonathan Adler refers to a post that considers the possibility of a 7-5 decision in the 11th Circuit.

- Kathryn Jean Lopez has discovered the unrest in Kyrgyzstan. Sheesh, Rick was on that a week ago. Doesn't she read Stones Cry Out?

- Peggy Noonan notes that the "let Terri die" crowd is in love with death. I agree, but how can she this on hand and then blast the GOP for not doing enough to save her on the other? The public will know who is responsible for Terri's death. At the risk of sounding callous, I doubt very seriously that it is the Republicans who will suffer. Terri's supporters are doing everything they can; what else is there for us to do save Jeb Bush ordering in the Florida National Gaurd? (Rush was particularly eloquent on the death fixation yesterday. One of his better moments in recent months.)

- This is totally unrelated, but the new Over the Rhine record comes out Tuesday, and I am very happy about this.

Posted by Matt at 09:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Congressional Action On Behalf of Another Daughter: The Elizabeth Morgan Case

It was amazing political high drama when the lights of the Capitol were on past midnight Sunday for the Congress to pass a bill and the President returned to Washington to sign it at 2 a.m., allowing the federal courts to consider the Schiavo case.

It was extraordinary for the Congress of the United States to turn its attention to one individual and to act with dispatch to right what it sees as a wrong in a case replete with hot emotion and an endangered daughter.

Extraordinary, yes; but not unprecedented. I know because I was involved in just such an action in 1989: the Elizabeth Morgan case.

I was working at the time as chief of staff for Chuck Colson at Prison Fellowship Ministries. Our staff working at the District of Columbia jail had met a woman there who stood out in a number of ways. Dr. Elizabeth Morgan was a tall, white, affluent plastic surgeon from northwest DC in a jail full of almost entirely poor black women from east of the river.

She was already a heroine in the jail. She has been there for nearly two years for contempt of court because she refused to allow her six-year-old daughter to go on court-ordered overnight visits to her ex-husband. She accused her husband of sexual abuse of the child, hidden the child, and went to jail rather than tell the court where the child was.

The imprisoned women, the large majority of whom had been abused (you find this in most women’s prisons in the country), loved Morgan for her courage in protecting her daughter from abuse.

Judge Dixon of the District court could not be persuaded that Morgan’s ex-husband, Virginia oral surgeon Eric Foretich, had been abusive. He would not budge, he cited Morgan for contempt, sent her to jail—and left her there.

When Morgan and this case came to our attention, we were amazed by her fortitude and by length of time an unconvicted individual had spent in prison. When we studied the evidence, it, and the witness of Morgan’s action, persuaded us that there had been sexual abuse.

Colson wrote an article calling for Morgan’s release, for which he was condemned and praised. Interestingly, it was our natural allies, the conservative Christians, who were outraged, and our usual adversaries, the liberals and women’s rights activists, who were supportive.

(Both Morgan and Foretich were professed Christians, but he was of the more conservative variety and a member of a prominent northern Virginia evangelical church).

We began lobbying our conservative Christian brethren. I went to visit with James Dobson and presented our large file of evidence. He agreed to have Colson on the Focus on the Family radio program. Our campaign picked up steam.

At the same time, we talked with our local Virginia congressman, Frank Wolf, about the case, as well as a few Senators. I remember one strategic lunch in the Senate Dining Room with a Senator from Tennessee, whose influence was necessary to create and move a piece of legislation to free Dr. Morgan.

Within a couple of months, our efforts were successful. The U.S. Congress passed a bill specifically for the release of Dr. Elizabeth Morgan. She was freed from prison after serving the longest detention for civil contempt in American history--25 months.

In February 1990, the daughter was discovered living in New Zealand with her maternal grandparents. A New Zealand court gave Morgan sole custody, but the visitation requirement by the U.S. court remained in effect, meaning that if Morgan returned to America with her daughter she would have stillto allow her ex-husband to see their daughter. That wasn’t going to happen. Morgan remained in New Zealand with her daughter.

In 2003, a federal appeals court ruled that the law passed by Congress to help the mother was unconstitutional because it applied to one person.

By that time, the daughter was 21 and safe from the harm that a mother spent two years in jail to protect her from.

In a previous shining moment, repeated last weekend in an effort to save the life of another endangered daughter, Congress saw an individual’s rights as more important than the rights of a state.

In the case of Terry Schiavo, Congressional heroics were not enough to move a stubborn judiciary. Sixteen years ago, with a different set of circumstances but a similar motivation, it worked.

Posted by Jim at 06:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Schiavo Polling

Okay, I'm a data dweeb, I know...

CBS has a new poll out this evening on Terri Schiavo and related issues (HT: Mystery Pollster). Put simply, the poll roughly mirrors the ABC news poll that was widely denounced as a Push Poll. The ABC News poll was not a Push Poll and I don't think the CBS one was either. However, as I wrote in comments on MPs blog, I noticed something curious about a sequence of questions in the CBS poll.

First, you have to read the actual questions asked by CBS as these are not listed in their entirety in the news account (MP has the link to the PDF). Note the progression of questions 8, 9, 10, and 13. Questions 8-10 do not mention Terri, but Question 13 does. Questions 8 and 9 mention "feeding tube" and avoid use of the term "life support," but notice these phrases: Q8: "doctors say brain activity has stopped" and Q9: "in a coma with no brain activity."

Questions 8 and 9 clearly do not describe Terri's condition as she is NOT brain dead. She is severely brain damaged and large portions of her brain have atrophied, but the phrases "brain activity has stopped" and "no brain activity" are not accurate in Terri's case. I suggest that this is important because of the survey's question progression.

Nowhere in the survey is it explained that "persistent vegetative state" does not mean that "brain activity has stopped" or that the patient has "no brain activity." In other words, the questions leading up to the questions specifically about Terri's case seem to be hinting that Terri is brain dead when she clearly is not.

I still don't think these nuances would change public opinion drastically, but it sure seems odd to me that the survey would be written this way. Also, when the results of Q8 and Q9 were reported in the CBS news story, they referred to "coma" and "vegetative state" but made no mention of the reference to the fact that their questions included the qualifier of "no brain activity."

In my comment on his blog, I asked Mark Blumenthal to comment about the sequence of questions in the survey. Maybe there is a simple explanation here. I am a bit tired as the flu went through every member of my family this week. I haven't had much sleep. Maybe I'm reading into this too much.

Posted by Rick at 02:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

We've Made This Bed

Courtesy of our friend Michael Spencer at the Boar's Head Tavern comes this post by Joe Carter of the Evangelical Outpost. Joe rightly notes that the deterioration of marriage laws in America have brought us to the point that we now face. Terri Schiavo's plight would not likely be at this point if common law marriage statutes were still in place. I like Joe's take; Gay marriage should be of concern to us, but "it would take an army of homosexual rights activists several decades to do as much damage to the sacred institution as heterosexuals have done by tolerating no-fault divorce and the repeal of common law marriage."


I think about this often, particularly when I hear the James Dobsons and Jerry Falwells of the world decry the Godless judiciary. (Speaking of these men, can we not find a better spokesman than Pat Robertson? He was just Hannity & Colmes; it was cringe-inducing. Sean should know better.) Oh sure, the judicial branch of our country has gone nuts. I don't pretend otherwise. The whole issue brings me to a question: Where has the Church been the last fifty years of judicial activism? Oh, that's right. Cloistered away in our churches, making our own neat subculture of G-rated cartoons, bad music and pop psychology (see: Osteen, Joel). JP Moreland and Mark Noll warned us that the Evangelical mind was dangerously behind the rest of the world. That doesn't mean that the Church should take after the zeitgeist; these scholars simply asserted that the Church was not producing critical minds. To this end, I believe that the current judicial situation is the rotten fruit we've sown.

On the topic of bedmaking, Jeffrey Overstreet of Looking Closer has a fantastic post. (Some readers may recognize Overstreet as a frequent film critic for Christianity Today) Check out the comments section, where Overstreet poses an interesting question:

Perhaps most disturbing of all: How many of those actively protesting Terry's present crisis have ever gone out of their way to personally minister to someone in Terry's condition? It's so easy to jump on a political bandwagon and wave a flag or shout a slogan. But what about the long hours Terry spent before this crisis? How many were visiting her and contributing to her quality of life, influencing her desire to live, before it came to this? And how will protesters be involved after Terry is saved (if, indeed, she is)?

I would take issue with some of Overstreet's assertions. Terri Schiavo has not been alone in her disability. Her family has been by her side the whole time. While her church and other Christians - the rest of us, in truth - owe her a level of support and comfort, this is not a situation where the visits of random believers was necessary or perhaps even wanted. Yet Overstreet is posing a very important, provocative question.

What do we do then? Do we abandon this fight because we precipitated it by our inaction in previous decades? Heaven forbid. Negligence in an earlier age is no excuse for avoiding activism in the present day. The situation of Terri Schiavo is dire; we cannot help but speak up. If, as in Joe Carter's post linked to above, we have been silent in prior years, then our responsibility to help now is even more urgent. Once Terri's Fight is over, and I fear it may be over sooner rather than later, then we must understand how we can help prevent this sort of madness in the future. While we fight abortion, we must do all that we can to discourage sexual promiscuity and to minister to the unwed mothers in need of care and comfort. While we oppose gambling as a means of funding government programs, we must help find new and innovative ways to support education and the other necessary functions of our state governments.

I won't pretend that there are easy answers to these questions. All we can do from here on out is serve God, humbly and justly, and in all things honor and enjoy Him. We can't forget to include the life of mind, or else the intellectual realm of our society will be ruled and dictated by those who reject the supremacy of God in all things.

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

Screwtape proposes another toast

I'd been meaning to link to this after The Anchoress pointed it out. Meghan Cox Gurdon, writing at the National Review Online, does a superb job imagining what C. S. Lewis's netherworld bureaucrat Screwtape might have to say about many modern moral issues, such as embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and Terri Schiavo. The key to unlocking the worst in the human heart, says Gurdon's Screwtape, is vanity.

"Vanity is a rusty key that was left lying about, and it was I alone who saw what it could unlock at this point in human history." "It is true," Screwtape continues with a shrug, "that much of the groundwork was already laid. We had already convinced people of the rightness of destroying inconvenient life. Now they talk quite coolly of "blastocysts," and "clumps of cells" and "surplus embryos." My genius was to recognize that they needed just a little push to be convinced, with their mania for recycling, that by harvesting something that would otherwise be chucked out, they are doing a positive good! Think of it: They believe they occupy "the moral high ground." Oh, the profits for us — "

Go here for the whole thing.

Posted by Drew at 08:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mystery Pollster on Schiavo "Push Poll" Charge

The 10-2 Circuit Court ruling against Terri Schiavo's parents is a strong indication of things to come from the Supreme Court. I am deeply saddened by the news and the events of recent days. This news comes as I was about to post on the recent public polling related to Terri's fight. Fearing that some may charge me with being crass, I thought about witholding my post. However, I believe my heart is okay on this matter, so here it is...


I know that many of our readers feel passionately about the Schiavo case and would agree with those on our side of this issue that the latest polling of the case are clear examples of "Push Polls." However, as I wrote in this previous post, I do not believe these polls are Push Polls as many allege. Yet, I didn't say it nearly as well as Mystery Pollster did today:

Can we please stop using the term "push poll" to describe every survey we consider objectionable?
A push poll is not a poll at all but rather a form of fraud - an effort to spread an untrue or salacious rumor under the guise of legitimate research. "Push pollsters" are not pollsters at all. They do not care about collecting data or measuring opinions (even in a "bogus" way). They only care about calling as many people as possible to spread a false or malicious rumor without revealing their true intent. Whatever complaint one might have about the wording or reporting of the ABC poll, it was certainly not a "push poll."
MP even took me to task for a statement in my post, to which I responded in comments on his blog (and reproduced below the fold).

I believe that a poll can "push" respondents into answers, but that does not make the poll a Push Poll. Nuance? Certainly. But an important one as charges of Push Polling makes those on our side of issues sound really ignorant. Whether the public has been properly informed to answer the questions posed by the polling organizations accurately, is another matter.


Good post Mark. As I made clear in my post, I didn't think the ABC poll was a Push Poll. You're the one with the experience designing survey instruments and I should have qualified my comments on what polling orgs are or are not "supposed" to do. :-)

Sentences of my post following your quote read: "I'm sure there are those who viewed the questions asked by ABC News as pushing respondents into pro-Schiavo and pro-Congress answers. That's what makes the design of survey instruments so difficult."

I only meant to suggest that polling organizations have a tough time providing enough accurate and unbiased information about complex or controversial issues in a few sentences to elicit reliable responses (there's that whole reliability testing issue one of your readers educated me on a while back).

Regarding the accuracy of terms like "persistent vegetative state (PVS)" and "life support" in describing Terri's state, I think that is open to debate, and hence the unwarranted charges of "Push Poll" from the right.

By telling poll respondents that Terri is PVS, I feel that ABC and Gallup violated a principle of good survey design that my professor calls "level of wording." PVS is a technical medical term and using PVS in question presumes that people understand that term.

My hypothesis is that when people hear "persistant vegetative state" they think "brain dead vegetable." Terri is by no means brain dead and I would argue that she is not a "vegetable" either. Brain dead vegetables on life support have no chance of recovery.

I've heard and read much testimony supporting both sides of this argument - including from people who have been declared PVS by doctors, but fully recovered and are now on the talk shows telling their story (not to imply that recovery from PVS is common, or that Terri can recover [I simply don't know]). PVS does not mean brain dead vegetable with no chance of recovery. But my bet is that is what the public thinks of when they hear the term "persistent vegetative state."

Perhaps the polls should have said that Terri was "severely brain damaged" and that her "court appointed doctors" do not believe that she can improve (both accurate and fair statements at an appropriate level of wording).

As I said in my post about the "life support" versus "feeding tube" terms, use of these terms (PVS and feeding tube) may have "pushed" SOME respondents into answers, but I can't imagine that it would realign public opinion.

These are very interesting questions, and I must say that I am firmly in your camp. The ABC News poll was NOT a Push
Poll as that term should be reserved for acts of deviousness. But, I do think that a poll can "push" respondents into answers, and not be a Push Poll. That is why we can debate whether a poll question is biased without calling it a Push Poll.

Unfortunately though this is a nuance that most pundits do not appreciate. You provide the blogosphere (and media) a valuable service with this education.

Posted by Rick at 04:13 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 22, 2005

What's Wrong With Youth Culture?

In the wake of yesterday's horrific school shooting, Hugh Hewitt is asking an important question. I'm only twenty-three; I think I know a fair amount about youth culture. I won't get into it tonight, because this is a lot think about. It's an idea I want to revisit over time, in hopes that we might come to some conclusions.

Posted by Matt at 10:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Provoking Thoughts

Courtesy of Mere Comments, I found this link to the New Pantagruel's editorial on what Terri Schiavo's parents can or should do.

Very thought-provoking. These ideas beg an important question. What do we do if cases like Terri's becomes common?

Posted by Matt at 10:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

We are all Terri Schiavo

Though we often refer to modern society as a "culture of death," never has death been less present than it is today. We no longer routinely face death. Death occurs in hospitals and nursing homes where the elderly and infirm are hidden away from society. Because we do not regularly bear witness to the ravages of disease and decay upon our bodies, I might suggest that on the whole we Americans are ill-equipped to face it when it comes.

For this reason, opinions on the Terri Schiavo case do not seem to follow the usual conservative/liberal political opinions (except perhaps in Congress where pandering to one's perceived constituencies is part of the job description). Friends who self-identify as liberal/left have also lined up in support of Terri Schiavo's parents. Friends who lean rightward are also insistent that she be "let go."

Because deep down we fear crippling infirmity, . . . because we are not equipped to deal with it, . . . because we look at Terri Schiavo and recognize that "there but for the grace of God go I," we wish to "end her suffering." Because we would never want to live like that, we believe it's best that no one else has to live like that either.

Because we have accepted the ideal of "quality of life," and have drawn our own arbitrary lines marking the point at which quality of life ends, we are entirely willing to draw that line for others as well.

The reason so many people support ending Terri Schiavo's life is because we are all potential Terri Schiavos, and it scares the crap out of us.

Posted by Drew at 07:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Robert P. George on Terri Schiavo (and more!)

Princeton professor Robert P. George is interviewed in today's NRO. An important read, with a great quote:

The other thing that Congress is being accused of is interfering in a family decision. Now look: Terri Schiavo has been abandoned by her husband. Michael Schiavo took a vow to be faithful to Terri "in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, 'til death do us part." But he has not been faithful; he has not forsaken all others. He has set himself up in a marriage in all-but-name with someone else, a woman with whom he already has two children. He has disrespected Terri and, indeed, forsaken her. Now he is seeking to bring about her death by starvation. Notice something wrong with this picture? Terri's parents and siblings, by contrast, have never abandoned her. They are prepared to shoulder all the burdens, including the financial burdens, of caring for her. They want to provide the therapy that many medical people who have observed Terri, whether at the bedside or by videotape, believe can help her. No one expects a full recovery, but it may be possible for her to make genuine progress. That possibility will be foreclosed, however, if she is killed by deliberate starvation before it can begin.

Over at the Boar's Head Tavern, Michael Spencer is expressing a few reservations. Concering Spencer's use of polling data, I refer you to Jim Geraghty's post about the political fallout of this case. Peggy Noonan fans take note, as well. Listening to local talk radio it's quite obvious that the media has been hugely successful in distorting this case. I would wager that the average American is unaware that Terris not in a coma, nor is in a conclusive state of permanent vegetation. I would also doubt that most people are unaware of Michael Schiavo's successful attempts at moving on with his life in the form of a new relationships and children.

It should be noted that conservative opinion on the Congressional bill has been mixed, but Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Andrew McCarthy and Ramesh Ponnuru have come down in favor. Jonathan Adler and Jonah Goldberg have slightly differing opinions. Does anyone else find it interesting that Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, overwhelmingly come down on the side of both life and intervention, while non-religious conservatives are more concerned with the issue of Congress' work? I think we must be cautious about our law-passing, but this situation seems alright. I'll admit I can't defend that point too much, but, frankly, I trust Mark Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru's legal opinions.

I had a bad day. But not that bad.

And finally, with a tip of the hat to the BHT, this article in Baptist Press is pretty doggone conclusive, in my humble opinion.

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

What if?

Just in case you need some perspective on the Terri Schiavo case, Noel at Sharp Knife, is happy to provide. (Hat tip: What Attitude Problem)

If Terry Schiavo had only starred in "Superwoman", we'd find a way not to kill her.

If she were a corporation, we'd indict the Chief Financial Officer--her HINO (husband-in-name-only).

If she were a killer, she'd be protected under the supreme court's ban on executing the retarded.

If she were a terrorist, Teddy Kennedy would be making blistering speeches on the Senate floor condemning her torture-by-starvation.

If she were a teen-aged murderer, she'd be spared execution under the 'Cruel & Unusual' clause.

If she were Scott Peterson, she'd get an automatic appeal...and 20 more years of life.

If she were a beached dolphin, we'd demand not just her feeding, but that heroic measures be taken.

If she were in Guantanamo, we'd see to it that she had appropriate meals and medical care.

If she were on another Death Row, her parents and her priest would be allowed visitation.

. . .

And if we hadn't been desensitized by three decades of the Death Culture . . .

would we even ask "If"?

Posted by Drew at 06:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Peggy Noonan and The Derb are Wrong

With all due respect to Ms. Noonan, her piece in last Friday's Opinion Journal is just plain wrong. Those who support Terri Schiavo know who is doing the obstructing and those who are working to aid the victim. Noonan's normally astute observations are simply off the mark.

Speaking of odd opinions among the normally astute, John Derbyshire must have been asleep on this issue. His Corner posts over the last two days have exhibited complete and utter confusion on the matter. In this posts he cites an "eloquent" letter from a reader who assumes that Michael Schiavo dearly loves his wife. Yeah, he loves Terri dearly. That's why he has had a common law wife and two children while Terri's been denied adequte medical care over the last ten yeras. This is complete and utter nonsense. I can't believe NRO isn't doing more to call Derbyshire on this, though I the rest of their coverage on this whole matter has been outstanding. Derb's praise of this letter is almost as disturbing as he ignorance of the issue.

Posted by Matt at 12:08 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

ABC News Poll - Terri Schiavo and Federal Intervention

Many have heard by now of the latest ABC News Poll that shows public support for removing the tube at 63% to 28% and apposes federal intervention 60% to 25%.

DemFromCT and I had a friendly wager of sort on this poll. DemFromCT brought to my attention the week-old polling on the Schiavo case that showed similar results, which I claimed was not representative of current public opinion. My hypothesis was that once the American people learned the facts of the Schiavo case and saw the pleas and cries of Terri's parents and brother, the polling would shift. The current poll suggests I was wrong; but, then again, public opinion polls are never that easy now are they?

Actually they are. I don't believe this is a push poll. In my estimation, the questions were fairer and presented more accurate information regarding the case in the preamble than the previous poll released 3/13. More on that later.

But, I will add something here that is purely anecdotal. Today I was sitting in my office prepping final drafts of documents for clients (HUD Consolidated Plan deadlines are looming) and I heard a conversation between three of my co-workers whose cubicles are situated just outside my office. Two things struck me: 1) How adamantly opposed they were to the actions taken by Congress; and 2) How little they knew about the facts of the case or even what Congress decided.

My co-workers are convinced that Terri is a "vegetable" who has been on "life support" for years against her wishes. They also think that Congress voted to reinsert the tube, again, against her wishes.

The conversation was both interesting and sad at the same time. My co-workers are educated (each has at least a Bachelor's, but one has a Master's degree) and since they talk current events regularly, in my estimation they are fairly informed compared to the average American (not to condescend).

So what does this say for the poll? Well, since it's anecdotal, absolutely nothing solid. But I think it may suggest a few things about the findings: 1) The public may not really understand the issues; and 2) the poll's use of the word "life support" may be pushing some respondents into supporting the removal of Terri's feeding tube.

Look, the margins here are huge and cross-cut party, age, and religious belief characteristics folks. Although some think use of "life support" in the poll question is solid evidence of a push poll, I don't buy it. If the question (see here) were revised as follows, "Schaivo suffered brain damage and has been on life support fed through a feeding tube for 15 years" I don't think it would have made much difference at all. But that's just my opinion.

May I suggest though that there may be a problem with the level of knowledge of the case among respondents, despite the news coverage and the survey preamble? Although "just under 6 in 10 Americans are closely following the Schiavo case, including 16 percent who've been following it very closely," I have to wonder what "following the story "closely" means. I'd be curious to read the data crosstabs by level of attention paid to the story. Is there a significant difference in opinion amongst those paying "very close" attention compared to those paying "somewhat close" attention? We don't know. The data is not presented by that metric. I raise this question because in light of my experience with my co-workers today.

Perhaps I should poll my co-workers in the morning with the same question used in the ABC poll. I suspect that they would respond that in the "somewhat closely" group given their lack of understanding of the facts, but also given the length of their discussion and the passion with which they expressed their opinions.

At any rate, here's another anecdote for you to consider. I heard Congressman David Drier on Hugh Hewitt today talking about the case. He said that as of last week he was against federal intervention on federalism grounds. But then he started learning the facts of the case and became involved and supportive of legislation for federal judicial review. Congressman Drier described how he had run into numerous constituents who questioned federal involvement and that he realized they really didn't understand the facts of the case or why the Congress was acting in a hugely bi-partisanship fashion (Unanimous voice vote on the Senate for example). He said that once he had a chance to explain to his constituents how he came to his decision, they were persuaded.

Why would a Congressman risk so much political capital on this issue if even a majority of conservatives (says the poll) are opposed to federal intervention? Why would Democratic members of Congress do so? There has to be internal polling on this subject on both sides of the aisle.

The ABC News poll tells us clearly that the public is heavily against removing her feeding tube and heavily against federal intervention. We do not know how much of those currently opposed are like my co-workers or like Congressman Drier's constituents and are ignorant of the facts of Terri's situation. Moreover, we don't know whether education on the subject would change responses any, but we could have a better idea if we knew the responses to the poll by level of attention paid to the story.

Polling organizations like ABC News are not supposed to educate people regarding the issues they are polling. If a large portion of the public is not well informed on a subject matter related to an area in which they already have solidly formed opinions (I wouldn't want to be on "life support" or a "vegetable," therefore I think Terri's tube should be removed and Congress should stay out of it), in most cases, three sentences of preamble will not be sufficient to illicit a respondents true opinion. I'm sure there are those who viewed the questions asked by ABC News as pushing respondents into pro-Schiavo and pro-Congress answers. That's what makes the design of survey instruments so difficult.

Posted by Rick at 01:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Wow Mark, I'm Blushing

Thanks for the glowing review!

For regular SCO readers who are not familiar with Mystery Pollster, it is a must-read blog for anyone interested in public opinion-related matters. Mark is currently taking a poll of his readers asking whether he should continue focusing on the exit poll controversy. Before running on over there and voting, please be sure to read each of his posts on the exit polls, which span five months. Oh! Read his other informative posts as well! I guarantee you that you'll be smarter from having done so.

Posted by Rick at 01:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2005

Moral Bankruptcy and the Failure of the Family Movement

There aren’t too many people in America who are unaware of aggressive marketing by credit card companies. Count the envelopes arriving each week selling new cards and pushing attractive new deals. The effort to entice new customers is not limited to those with good credit. Individuals and families struggling to make ends meet are primary targets. You don’t have to have a job; in fact you don’t even have to be out of college to be courted by the credit card marketers.

The availability of easy credit at a high cost has contributed markedly to the bankruptcy crisis in America. The marketing by the banking industry, the irresponsibility of their disbursal of credit, their usury, and their exorbitant fees and constant penalties is obscene.

For eight years the banking industry has lobbied Congress to have bankruptcy rights curbed. Now, they are celebrating success after pushing through the Senate legislation that will make it much more difficult for individuals to file for bankruptcy. All parties agree that the bill is virtually assured House passage and the President’s signature.

Although it doesn’t appear that the banking lobby has simply purchased votes (see this NRO article), it has been successful in returning the stigma, the guilty whispers, and the image of the unsavory bankrupt fool. The purveyors of obscene credit have accomplished this while successfully taking on the victim’s cloak. As a result, hundreds of thousands of families will not achieve federal protection from their creditors.

At issue: Whether these families are themselves victims of the credit card companies, medical misfortune, and other calamities or financial predators with no one to blame but themselves.

I’ve talked to people on both sides of the issue in preparing a short article for the next edition of Christianity Today. The bankruptcy debate illustrates the clash between competing Christian values: holding individuals responsible for their actions versus granting them a fresh start.

Most alarming in my research is that the Christian groups that make it their business to be a voice for the evangelical community in Washington—particularly on issues that effect the family—appear disinterested or incapable of action on issues other than the sanctity of life or sexual preference.

Groups such as Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and Focus on the Family rose to the occasion to on the Schumer amendment to the bankruptcy bill and successfully defeated this effort to punish abortion protesters (perhaps a few hundred?)

But with that accomplished, it was virtually impossible to get reactions from these groups on the massive bankruptcy bill, which will impact hundreds of thousands of a families each year. [I couldn’t get a substantive comment either way from these organizations].

One group, perhaps the leading Christian financial group in the nation (that would not speak on the record), was opposed to the bill because, it said, it considered bankruptcy to be a bad choice for Christian families.

(That’s like being opposed to pregnancy crisis centers because you are against teenage pregnancy).

The heightened rhetoric on both sides masks the truth of who is benefiting from bankruptcy protection. What’s clear is that the enormous promotional effort of the banking industry has demonized those who file for bankruptcy. And the Christian family lobby was absent from the debate on 2005 legislation that may have more impact on the American family than any other.

Posted by Jim at 07:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Kyrgyzstan Revolt Underway

Breaking news...

Thousands of protesters, some armed with clubs and Molotov cocktails, seized control of key government buildings and the airport in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city Monday, prompting security officers and local officials to flee and loosening the government's grip over a swath of this former Soviet republic.
Instapundit has been blogging about this potential for quite a while.

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

The Godless Party

My SCO colleague Rick had a nice post over the weekend concerning Democrat obstruction in the Terri Schiavo case. When Rick said that this sort of thing prevents him supporting the Democrats, I was reminded of Rod Dreher's Touchstone piece a few years back, The Godless Party.

The article generated a controversy. Editor S.M. Hutchens responded with this editoral on Practical Atheism. This quote gets to the crux of the whole issue:

One of the most common defenses for Democratic loyalties is to assert the moral equivalence of the two parties, to claim that their respective errors leave the Christian to vote for the one he thinks most Christian, or least unchristian. If the Democrats endorse abortion, sodomy, and the like, Republicans cut social programs for the poor. This is a plausible and attractive argument except for one thing. 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 realize this will likely restart an argument I'm fond of having. So be it; this is a hill I'm willing to die on. If a believer wants to support Euro-style economics, fine. We can have that argument another day. And no, a person's salvation is not dependent upon this sort of thing. Still I fail to see how a Christian can support a party that is such a willing accomplice in the Culture of Death.

Posted by Matt at 11:31 AM | Comments (21)

Terri Schiavo Audio?

Don't quite know what to make of this yet, but Matt Drudge claims to have audio of Terri Schiavo responding to her father after the feeding tube was removed on Friday. The link to the audio is overwhelmed with traffic right now...

Here's an accessible link to the audio. If this is legit, it sure goes against the claim that she's in PVS.

Posted by Rick at 12:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

Critique of Simon/Baiman Exit Poll Paper

I'm reviving two posts from the old SCO related to my work on exit polls. I wrote this post in response to a paper by Jonathan D. Simon, J.D., and Ron P. Baiman, Ph.D., with the title, "The 2004 Presidential Election: Who Won The Popular Vote? An Examination of the Comparative Validity of Exit Poll and Vote Count Data." Apparently in response to my post, the authors revised their paper and therefore this post was my response to their revisions. The full text of my posts are included below the fold.

POST I: Simon and Baiman on Exit Polls

Freepress.org recently published a paper by Jonathan D. Simon, J.D., and Ron P. Baiman, Ph.D., with the title, "The 2004 Presidential Election: Who Won The Popular Vote? An Examination of the Comparative Validity of Exit Poll and Vote Count Data."

Mr. Simon is with Verified Vote 2004 (couldn't find the organization on the web) and Dr. Baiman is affiliated with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs University of Illinois at Chicago, although the paper includes a disclaimer that the views expressed therein are not necessarily the views of their respective institutions.

The paper concluded with the following statement:

In light of the history of exit polling and the particular care that was taken to achieve an unprecedented degree of accuracy in the exit polls for Election 2004, there is little to suggest significant flaws in the design or administration of the official exit polls. Until supportive evidence can be presented for any hypothesis to the contrary, it must be concluded that the exit polls, including the national mega-sample within its +/-1.1% margin of error, present us with an accurate measure of the intent of the voters in the presidnetial election of 2004.

According to this measure, an honest and fair voting process would have been more likely than not -at least 95% likely, in fact- to have determined John Kerry to be the national popular vote winner of Election 2004. Should ongoing or new investigations continue to produce evidence that, to an extent determinative of the electoral college outcome, votes have not been counted acurately and honestly or discriminatory cote suppression has occurred, the re-examined popular vote outcome may well be deemed relevant to the question of what remedies are warranted (Simon and Baimon, 2004, p12).

My critique of the Simon/Baiman paper focuses on the narrow questions of methodology and statistical analysis. The author's claims and hypotheses, which are based on the statistical analysis are not evaluated.

The Introduction

The authors acknowledge that the popular vote isn't important in deciding an election, yet posit that the "apparent" 3.3 million vote Bush popular victory makes it very hard for Kerry to challenge the results in an individual state where the electoral count could be affected.

Yet to overturn the Ohio result, giving Kerry an electoral college victory..., would likely be regarded as unjust and insupportable by a populace convinced that Bush was, by some 3.3 million votes, the people's choice (Simon and Baimon, 2004, p3).
Therefore, if Simon and Baiman can demonstrate that "an honest and fair voting process" would have determined "John Kerry to be the national popular vote winner of Election 2004" then their findings are important for the future of America.

Review of Exit Polls and Vote Counts

The opening paragraph of Simon and Baiman's review of the exit polls and vote counts constructs a three-legged strawman. The first leg is fabricated from the following statement,

Exit polling, since its invention several decades ago, has performed reliably in the projection of thousands of races, both here at home and, more recently, abroad (Simon and Baimon, 2004, p4).
This statement includes a footnote directing readers to a chapter written by Warren Mitofsky in the book "Polling and Presidential Election Coverage " in 1991. Usually, if a statement in a paper, article, or book is followed by a footnote directing readers to a source, that source supports the statement. However, the Mitofsky chapter nearly the opposite of what is suggested by the authors.

Exit polls were “invented” in 1964 by a woman named Ruth Clark when polling the presidential primary (Mitofsky, 1991, p88). Mitofsky describes in his chapter how exit polls were used extensively from 1970 to 1980 by CBS for background, but not for projections at all until 1982.

It was not until 1982 that CBS News used exit polls for projections (Ibid)
Also, NBC didn't conduct exit polls until 1980 and even then didn’t use them for projections until 1982 (Ibid). Finally, the chapter makes no mention of foreign exit polls that I can find. If Simon or Baiman would have read their citation, they would not have made that statement; unless they were, of course, building a strawman.

The second leg of the strawman is built with the two sentences that followed the sentence forming the first leg:

The record of exit polling from the 1970s through the 1990s was essentially free of controversy, except for the complaint that publication of exit poll results prior to poll closings dampened voter turnout by discouraging late-in-day voters from bothering to vote, the race having already been “called.” Voters could be so influenced because they had come, indeed, to regard exit poll projections as all but infallible.”
While it is true that the controversy surrounding the exit polls, beginning in 1980, was largely about whether or not use of these polls by the media to project winners before polls closed had the effect of discouraging late-in-day voters, they fail to consider that the before poll closing exit polls had a record of being terribly wrong (1984, 1988, and 1992 elections).

Warren Mitofsky and Murray Edelman analyzed the 1992 presidential election exit polls and wrote the following:

As the evening went on, the national exit poll gradually was completed. The results shown in Table 6.3 for midnight were the only results that included the completed exit polls. All estimates at earlier times were incomplete…The difference between that final margin and the VRS estimates 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 (Mitofsky and Edelman, 1995, pp91-92).
The Table 6.3 referenced above is summarized below as Exhibit 1. From this table, you can see that as of the 8:10pm round of exit poll data, the poll data included Clinton bias by 4.4%. This bias narrowed as the evening progressed, with the last round of data circulated just after midnight on election eve showing Clinton bias of 1.6%.

Exhibit 1

Based on a review of the literature for exit polls conducted through 1992, exit polls were first used to project elections in 1982 and the exit polling results were skewed toward the Democratic candidate for the 1984, 1988, and 1992 elections. (Mystery Pollster recently posted on the accuracy (i.e., relative inaccuracy) of post-1990 exit polls.) Therefore, while it may be true, as suggested by Simon and Baiman that "Voters could be so influenced because they had come, indeed, to regard exit poll projections as all but infallible," it cannot be concluded that the exit polls were indeed infallible.

The final leg of the Simon/Baiman strawman is constructed with the following unsourced statement:

Significant exit polling problems began to appear along with the development and spread of computerized vote counting equipment, since which time exit polls have had a notably poorer track record in spite of improvements in polling methodology.
Again, this statement is unsourced and the authors do not define what "problems" they are referring to. Clearly, Mitofsky and Edelman, believed there were problems with the exit polls in 1984, 1988, and 1992 (Mitofsky and Edelman, 1995, pp91-92). And, exit polls weren't used for projections until 1982, so I'm not sure where the authors find support for their statement.

The remaining paragraphs of the section of the Simon/Baiman paper that review exit polls and vote counts offer an overview of Warren Mitofsky's experience and credentials and deals at length with the various methods of tallying votes on election day. I didn't bother to trace the sources and claims about the tallies and methods. As explained later in this post, the statistical analysis employed by Simon and Baiman assumes an accurate vote tally.

The Data

Simon saved screenshots of the CNN web-site in the early morning hours of November 3rd, 2004. The national exit poll data that serves as the basis of the Simon/Baiman paper was pulled at 12:23 am. The CNN web-site reported the proportion of the vote by candidate by gender. The authors somehow divined overall proportions significant to a 10th from an extrapolation of whole numbers. Nevertheless, the Simon/Baiman paper determines that the final "uncalibrated" exit poll (not weighted to the election result), showed Bush with 48.2% and Kerry with 50.8%.

Recently, I stumbled across this site, which appears to have the PDFs for some of the regional and national exit poll releases. On election day, data was circulated in rounds throughout the day. The data linked to above appears to only include the 3:59pm and 7:33pm rounds. A sample of the PDF for the 7:33pm release of the national exit poll is presented in Exhibit 2.

Exhibit 2
7:33pm Release - National Exit Poll
Exhibit 2

As shown in the exhibit, the 7:33pm release showed Kerry up nationally 51% to 48%. Incidentally, this appears to be unchanged from the 3:59pm release, which was based on fewer interviews than the 7:33pm release.

The Simon/Baiman data included a sample size of 13,047 (by gender), whereas the 7:33pm data is based on a sample size of 10,978 (by gender), therefore we can assume the data posted on the CNN web-site at 12:23am was derived from a later release from the NEP than that shown in Exhibit 1. However, Richard Morin of the Washington Post confirmed that the final release of the national exit poll data reported Kerry with 51% and Bush with 48% of the popular vote. Of these final data, Richard Morin wrote:

The 51-48 K were reported as whole numbers, the marginal estimates atop a set of static tables that broke down the results by various demographic and political groups (Morin, 2004).
The data circulated on election eve were reported as whole proportions. The Simon/Baiman paper is based on analysis of data extrapolated to a 10th and is therefore not technically "accurate." Although the authors' use of 48.2% (Bush) and 50.8% (Kerry) understates the significance of the observed discrepancy with the election tally, as explained later in this post, the lack of a significant digit associated with the exit poll data has implications for the conclusions reached in their paper.

The Anaysis

Simon and Baiman determine that the margin of error associated with the national exit poll data based on a sample size of 13,047 is +/- 1.1% (Simon and Baiman, 2004, p9). To get this figure, they take the standard error of a simple random sample and multiply by a factor of 1.3 to account for clustering (exit polls are necessarily cluster samples, not simple random samples).

The 1.3 factor was applied because this was determined by Merkle and Edelman (2002) 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.

Warren Mitofsky has indicated 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(Mitofsky, 2004):

The Merkle/Edelman paper is not what we computed this year...both Merkle and Edelman participated in this latest calculation (Ibid).
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 (Merkle, 2004).
Complicating the computation of the design effect square root is that there are likely two different factors used for the intercept interviews and the telephone interviews:
[Mitofsky's design effect square roots] only appl[y] to the intercept interviews. [T]here may be a separate (smaller) design effect for the telephone survey component (Merkle, 2004a).
I checked with Jennifer Agiesta of Edison Media Research whether there was a smaller design effect associated with the telephone survey component than reported 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 (Agiesta 2004).
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 "technically" not appropriate.

The CNN web-site reported a sample size of 13,047. The NEP national exit poll methods statementidicates that 250 precincts were sampled. This would yield anywhere from 50 to 52 interviews per precinct, which according to Mitofsky, translates into a design effect square root of 1.8, not 1.3. The added standard error only increases the approximate confidence interval a fraction of a percent (0.4%). However, the margin of error table circulated with the NEP data on election day for the national exit poll indicated that a sample size of 13,047 would have a +/-1% margin of error (Exhibit 3). Therefore, there is obviously a "range" of confidence intervals that could be associated with the data.

Exhibit 3

Exhibit 3

Using their caluclated +/-1.1% margin of error and Kerry's predicted 50.8% of the national vote, Simon and Baiman determine that if the poll were conducted 100 times, 95 of these 100 polls would show Kerry's proportion between 49.7% and 51.9%. Kerry's national vote tally indicated that Kerry received only 48.1% of the national vote and therefore the authors conclude that:

...assuming proper poll methodology, no discriminatory voter supression, and an accurate and honest popular vote count...the probability that Kerry would have received his reported popular vote total of 48.1%, or less is one in 959,000 - a virtual statistical impossibility (Simon and Baiman, 2004, p10).
Using what I think I've demonstrated to be better data (e.g., +/- 1% with 51% for Kerry's predicted proportion) but the same methods, 95 out of 100 times, the exit poll would show Kerry's proportion between 50% and 52%. Again assuming an accurate vote count and no non-sampling survey error, and using the Simon/Baimon methods with these better data, the odds that Kerry would receive 48.1% of the popular vote is a whopping 151,606,801:1, not 959,000:1 as calculated by the authors.(1)

Consider, now, that the NEP exit poll data were rounded to a whole proportion.Kerry’s proportion was predicted to be 51%. However, Simon and Baiman compared this percent to an election result significant to a 10th. Therefore, when the 10th is considered, the true exit poll proportion could have been anywhere from 50.5% to 51.4%. We do not know where in this range the true 10th falls. Given this range of possible true exit poll proportions, the odds that Kerry would get 48.1% of the popular vote would range from 82,138:1 to 307,416,049:1 depending on the 10th associated with the exit poll data; again, not 959,000:1 as calculated by the authors.

Now let’s consider that the margin of error also has an error bound. According to Exhibit 3 above, the margin of error associated with an exit poll with 13,047 interviews is +/-1.0%. But Mitofsky said the more precise margin of error can be determined by calculating the average number of interviews per precinct and using the associated design effect square root.

Given that the average number of interviews per precinct was 50 to 52 (depending on whether you count the telephone interviews), the confidence interval for the national exit poll of 13,047 interviews was closer to +/-1.5%. With the range of possible confidence intervals associated with the data, compounded by the range associated with rounding of the exit poll data, the odds that Kerry's election result would equal 48.1% would be from 1,168:1 to 20,049,235,521:1 depending on rounding procedure and the precise design effect square root; again, not 959,000:1 as calculated by the authors.

But we’re not done.

The Simon/Baiman calculation assumes what is called a one-tail test. That means they are asking the following question: What are the odds that the election result would be 2.7% less than what the exit poll predicted for Kerry assuming a fair vote count and no non-sampling error? There are two serious problems with this question. First, the exit poll is subject to sampling error and we are assuming that the election tally is accurate and can therefore be considered an established standard. That means that if you took the exit poll 100 times, the average of the 100 exit polls (mean of samples), again assuming no bias of any sort, would equal the election result. These are the assumptions used by the authors.(2)

Simon and Baiman have it backwards as exhibited by their graphic labeled Figure 1 on page 13 of their paper. They apply the confidence interval to the exit poll, with the election result being the deviant. However, we know the "mean of samples," which in this case is the election result (again, as assumed by the authors, there is no bias/fraud in the election tally).

In circumstances where the mean of samples is known, statisticians apply the statistical test Z=(p-P)/s.e. to determine the magnitude (Z-score) and p-value of any discrepancy (where p=exit poll proportion; P=election result; and s.e.=standard error of the exit poll). The established standard becomes the mean of samples and the confidence interval is applied to the established standard. The poll result is then compared to the standard (Rea and Parker, 1997).

Second, the question should be a two-tailed question. Margin of error is by definition two-tailed (hence the +/-). In a situation where we know the mean of samples (the election result), the margin of error is applied to this mean. With a margin of error of +/-1.1%, assuming no bias in the survey, 95 of 100 exit polls would return a result ranging from 47.0% to 49.2% for the predicted Kerry proportion.

As we know the exit poll overstated Kerry’s proportion by 2.7%, but the odds are exactly the same that the same exit poll could have understated Kerry’s proportion by 2.7%. Therefore, the appropriate question is: What are the odds that the exit poll result would be +/-2.7%? To only look at the probability that the error could occur in one direction is violating the assumption that there is no bias in the exit poll or the election tally.

Considering the two-tailed question, the range associated with the exit poll proportion and the confidence interval, the odds that the exit poll result would be +/-2.7% would range from 584:1 to 10,024,617,760:1; again, not 959,000:1 as calculated by the authors. Exhibit 4 presents the p-values and probability calculations per the various methodologies and data assumptions described above.

Exhibit 4

Because the data in the public realm are fuzzy, the data have an error-bound. Given this error bound, the odds that Kerry's exit poll result would be +/-2.7% deviant from the election result would range from 584:1 to 10,024,617,760:1.

Conclusion Based on Analysis of the Exit Poll Data

Given their statistical analysis of the exit poll data, Simon and Baiman concluded that:

The clear implication of our analysis is that neither random chance nor random error is responsible for the significant incongruence of exit poll and tabulated vote results, and that we must look either to significant failings in the exit poll design and/or administration or to equally significant failings in the accuracy and/or fairness of the voting process itself to explain the results (Simon and Baiman, 2004, p10).
Although the implication is not “clear” from their analysis, I generally agree with the Simon and Baiman statement. They could also add that a combination of sampling error, non-sampling error, and vote fraud could account for the discrepancy. The point is that given the fuzziness of the data in the public realm, we simply cannot know for sure.

Clearly the national exit polls which predicted nearly the mirror of the election result were significantly variant from the election result. I don’t think anyone argues with this point; not even Warren Mitofsky or Joe Lenksi, the exit poll designers (see this Myster Pollster post with statements attributed to Mitofsky and Lenski).

If I’ve demonstrated anything with this post, it is that rigorous statistical analysis without consideration of the error bounds associated with the data and justification of the statistical methods employed, is highly dubious. Dr. Freeman of UPenn recently revised his paper with the title, “The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy.” Dr. Freeman uses the same data source and essentially the same methodology as Simon and Baiman to analyze the discrepancy in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. He determines that the discrepancy in each state is statistically significan and reaches the following precise conclusion about this discrepancy:

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 random error.
Statistically, the conclusion isn’t supportable. Given the fuzziness of the data being analyzed, I think it’s safe to say Freeman’s odds, like Simon and Baiman’s odds, have a large error bound. Again, I don't think anyone believes that the discrepancies can be explained by "chance random error."

So what is all this hub-bub about? Why write these papers using marginal statistical analysis and dubious logic “proving” there is a problem with the exit polls (or with the election result) when no one really disputes this fact? I suspect they went through this effort in an attempt to lend credibility to their analysis of "what went wrong." That is, they felt they had to come off as statisticians before they could speculate credibly as to what happened.

Everyone has a theory of what went wrong. Mitofsky and Lenski think the most likely culprit is a combination of sampling and non-sampling error (differential non-response). Freeman and Simon/Baiman think that Kerry really won the election. Dick Morris suspects that foul play on the part of the NEP. Everyone has a theory. Which is correct? I don't know. My point is that the data in the public realm are too fuzzy to determine statistically what went wrong with the exit polls.

Analysis of the Freeman paper forthcoming…


Agiesta, Jennifer. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 23.

Merkle, Dan. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 15.

Merkle, Dan. 2004a. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 17.

Mitofsky, Warren J. 1991. "A Short History of Exit Polls." Polling and Presidential Election Coverage. Eds. P. J. Lavrakas and J. K. Holley. Pp. 83–99. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Mitofksy, Warren J. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 7.

Mitofsky, Warren J. and Murray Edelman. 1995. "A Review of the 1992 VRS Exit Polls." Presidential Polls and the News Media. Eds. P. J. Lavrakas, M.W. Traugott, and P.V. Miller. Pp. 81-100. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Morin, Richard. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 30.

Rea, Louis M. and Richard A. Parker. 1997. Designing and Conducting Survey Research: A Comprehensive Guide.2nd Ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Simon, Jonathan D. and Ron P. Baimon. 2004. "The 2004 Presidential Election: Who Won The Popular Vote? An Examination of the Comparative Validity of Exit Poll and Vote Count Data." Published by Freepress.org.


POST II: Simon and Baiman continued...

There's a nice write-up on the exit polls in Salon, which includes an interview of Mystery Pollster, Mark Blumenthal. Watch the ad and you can read the article for free. It's not perfectly accurate, but worth the read.

Speaking of not perfectly accurate, Simon and Baiman revised their paper, apparently in response to my criticism of their original paper. In a version updated on January 2, 2005, the authors maintain the three-legged strawman that is their literature review, and continue to violate their underlying assumptions by insisting on a single-tail test and setting the population mean to the exit poll result. However, they do attempt to deal with my challenges related to rounding and the confidence interval range.

Regarding the updates, the authors write:

Editor’s Note: The Dec. 28 document has been edited very slightly for greater clarity and accuracy without any substantive changes to its content.
Right... we'll see.

Footnote #17 of their paper includes one of these revisions:

The totals for the full sample are computed by combining the candidate preferences of male and female respondents: Bush = [(males)46% x 52%] + [(females)54% x 45%] = 48.2%; Kerry = [(males)46% x 47%] + [(females)54% x 54%] = 50.8%. Alternatively, if Kerry's exit poll share is minimized by assuming minimal female and male shares and minimal Kerry vote shares out to four decimal places (as low as it can get subject to the indivisibility of whole voters), his absolute minimal vote share would be: 0.5345x0.5345+0.4545x0.4645 = 49.68%. In this case the reported actual Kerry vote of 48.1% is still far outside of the 95% confidence interval of + 1.1% and has just a one in 364 chance of occurrence (see analogous calculations for a Kerry exit poll result of 50.8% in text).
As stated in this footnote, the exit poll data analyzed by Simon/Baiman were extrapolated from the gender splits reported by CNN.

I pointed out in my earlier post that, due to rounding, the true exit poll proportion for Kerry was anywhere from 50.5% to 51.4% and that it was impossible for them to derive a significant value of 50.8%. In the update, Simon/Baiman amazingly acknowledge the rounding issue affects the analysis by taking the decimal out to four places for each of the pointing out that the lower bound of Kerry's true exit poll data (non-extrapolated), when considering the lower bound partials of the male and female votes, the actual lower-bound of the Kerry proportion is 49.68%.

They are more precise in their rounding of the base gender proportions, but I only used 50.5% and 51.4% because I needed to compare it to data rounded to their 50.8%. Why didn't they take the partials out another decimal for the 50.8% in the first place?

Nevertheless, the exit poll data circulated to subscribing members on election day included data rounded to the whole point. Rounding of 49.75% cannot get you to 50.8% no matter how hard you try (therefore their "absolute minimal" values are lower than possible given the extrapolation to a whole which presumably yields 51%). Still, though, they manage to report that the odds due to their calculation of Kerry's "absolute minimal" exit poll share would be reduced from a whopping 959,000:1 to 364:1. If they would have used my methods, it would have been reduced from 959,000:1 to 82,138:1, but hey - I'll take their 364:1 - it will make my upcoming point clearer.

Skip now to the following statement from page 10 of their paper:

To carry our analysis further, we can employ a normal distribution curve (see Figure 1) to determine—again assuming proper poll methodology, no discriminatory voter suppression, and an accurate and honest popular vote count—that the probability that Kerry would have received his reported popular vote total of 48.1%, or less is one in 959,000—a virtual statistical impossibility.
A couple of problems, here.

The graphic they refer to sets the exit poll as the true population proportion for Kerry, and the election result as the deviant value. This clearly violates their assumption that there was an accurate and honest popular vote count (voter suppression is irrelevant to this analysis because exit polls only poll those who voted). When you have an accurate vote count, you know the population parameter. The confidence interval of a poll is associated with the mean of samples, which means that if you take the same poll 100 times and then take the average of those 100 polls, you will get a mean. This mean has the confidence interval, not a single poll from the 100. The only time you apply the confidence interval to a single poll is when the true mean is not known. Assuming no bias or fraud, the true mean is statistically the same thing as the mean of samples. Therefore it is absolutely inappropriate to distort the facts and apply the confidence interval to the exit poll data given their assumptions.

But that is just me telling them that they are flagrantly biased and illogical in their presentation. The following criticism proves that they are downright misleading and perhaps dishonest in their presentation as well.

The thesis of their article is that "the probability that Kerry would have received his reported popular vote total of 48.1%, or less is one in 959,000—a virtual statistical impossibility."

Is there a footnote to this statement? Yes, but why did they not include what they revealed in Footnote #17? As the authors demonstrated, the probability value has an error bound. Because we cannot wave a wand and determine the value of Kerry's exit poll result to a digit significant to the 10th (or 100th in their revised footnote), every 10th within the range of possible 10ths has an equal probability of being the true exit poll proportion for Kerry. That means any probability within the calculated range has an equal chance of being the true probability of that the exit poll could be so deviant from the election result due to sampling error alone.

Okay, not done here. Another thing they seem to mess up in the same footnote:

Finally, if we change our cluster sampling adjustment to its maximal possible value of 1.8 (as reportedly stated by Mitofsky in a personal communication (see: http://stones-cry-out.blogspot.com/2005/01/simon-and-baimon-on-exit-polls.html) the Kerry actual reported vote of 48.1% still has only a one in 45 chance of occurring, i.e. well less than a 1% chance (0.0027 probability).
Unfortunately the link to my post is not accurate, but that is my fault; I misspelled Dr. Baiman's last name in my original post and when I changed it, the URL changed. But let's consider the "non-substantive" changes here.

I have no idea how they get that the odds no change from 959,000:1 to 45:1? I didn't do this precise calculation, but when I considered even the lower-bound associated with the rounding of the data to a 10th and the 1.8 design effect square root, I didn't get anywhere near as low as 45:1. So again, they hurt their case, and even more so by failing to report this possibility in a revision of the paper or in a footnote to their thesis statement.

Does anyone think that the following statement would hold?

To carry our analysis further, we can employ a normal distribution curve to determine—again assuming proper poll methodology, no discriminatory voter suppression, and an accurate and honest popular vote count—that the probability that Kerry would have received his reported popular vote total of 48.1%, or less is 1 in 45 —a virtual statistical impossibility.
Not in a heartbeat and they have to know it. If they would have stuck with my calculations, they could have footnoted their thesis statement as follows:
The calculated odds of 957,000:1 are based on an exit poll proportion for Kerry equal to 50.8%. However, because more precise data are not available for analysis, these calculated odds include an error bound, which ranges from 82,138:1 to 307,416,049:1.
Now that is still pretty darn impossible if you ask me!

Why is this a problem? Because they are considered authorities by many and their pseudo-science can be convincing for the ignorant. Jonathan Simon has a J.D. and Ron Baiman has a Ph.D. and is affiliated with Institute of Government and Public Affairs University of Illinois at Chicago.

We all know the exit polls are significantly discrepant. What we do not know is exactly what happened. I've stated before, and I'll state it again: Given the data currently in the public domain, we do not know if the exit poll discrepancy can be explained by: 1) sampling error; 2) non-sampling error; 3) inaccurate vote count; or 4) any combination of 1-3.

To me their analysis tells me two things: 1) they do not understand some fundamentals of statistics; and 2) they realize that their analysis is weak (or bogus), but without it, they think that no one would buy the final three bullets of their paper, which are unsupportable by a fair analysis of the available data and literature.

The Simon/Baiman executive summary states:

  • Evidence does not support hypotheses that the discrepancy was produced by problems with the exit poll.

  • Widespread breakdown in the fairness of the voting process and accuracy of the vote count are the most likely explanations for the discrepancy.

  • In an accurate count of a free and fair election, the strong likelihood is that Kerry would have been the winner of the popular vote.

If you believe the new media has any influence, then you have to conclude by a google of Jonathan Simon and Ron Baiman that these credentialed "analysts" are influencing people. REMEMBER - the left has a "tail" as well and they are using it.

Posted by Rick at 07:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Immigration Debate Continues

Although my schedule has prevented me from making much progress on my immigration series, my primer last week asking whether there were certain instances where emigrating to this country illegally was not sinful generated many great comments that will be useful for my series on the subject.

Friend of this blog, LotharBot, wrote a great post related to my primer and the comments raised by readers. Read it here: Absolute Morality, and the Law as Teacher.

Since the first primer was so successful in generating thoughts, how about another one: What do you think would happen if we were able to locate and deport all the estimated 10 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States?

Posted by Rick at 05:17 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Why I'm not a Democrat

Congressional Democrats gave me more justification for my choice of party affiliation today. Democrats blocked a voice vote on the bi-partisan Schiavo legislation, a tactic that will only delay the President's signing of the bill. Once the Republicans get a quorum, which may occur as early as 8 hours from now, the bill will be passed overwhelmingly by the House. The Dems know that the legislation will pass, but instead take this opportunity to placate their base and demonstrate to America that they are the party of obstructionism and not on the side of life. Despite my socio-economic liberal leanings, this is a clear example of why I am not a Democrat.

Posted by Rick at 05:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kerry to Sign Form 180?

Mickey Kaus reports that the Philly Inquirer suggests Kerry will sign the Form 180 soon. I'm not holding my breath. Mickey provides some "pre-emptive spin":

Kerry's military records, when fully opened, better show something at least mildly embarrassing! If they're completely innocuous, why couldn't Kerry have signed Form 180 a year ago and cleared up many of the rumors that helped sink his candidacy (and his party)? ... Kerry's belated action could raise as many questions as it answers!

Posted by Rick at 04:59 PM | Comments (2)

Critical Review of The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy

Finally finished my "Critical Review of The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy. Thanks to everyone who reviewed earlier drafts of this paper and provided comments. The PDF of the paper is available here, but please do not hot-link or re-host on another server. If you want to refer readers to the paper, please send them to this post. Thanks.

ABSTRACT: Dr. Steven F. Freeman, visiting University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) professor is not an “expert” on exit polls or the 2004 Presidential exit poll discrepancies as suggested by this UPenn press release. In fact, his paper, The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy, is highly flawed. His argument that “in general, exit poll data are sound” fails having suppressed evidence and the conclusion that “it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in” Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania was not substantiated statistically. Nevertheless, Dr. Freeman is right in concluding that explanations of the discrepancy to date are inadequate and Edison/Mitofsky should address the concerns of US Count Votes in subsequent analysis of their data.

Dr. Freeman wrote a book based on his research that is due out in a couple of months and has a couple of working papers in progress. If The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy is any indicator of the quality of research included in these forthcoming works, I suggest that his publishers take a closer look at the manuscripts.

Posted by Rick at 04:20 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Random Musings

Here's some scatter-brained thoughts on a Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.

Enjoy, and thank you.

Posted by Matt at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2005

Congress to Intervene

In a previous post, I asked whether the Congress could remove the Schiavo case from the jurisdiction of the judicial branch and decide the matter with law. That was before I realized that the "Circuit Court" Judge Greer was not a federal judge. Then I heard Congressman David Drier this morning on Fox saying that the Congress was working on a bill that would extend jurisdiction of the federal courts to the Schiavo case. (story here) Interesting. I had that totally backwards. Nonetheless, Congress sets the jurisdiction of the judicial branch.

KLO has comments from Tom Delay announcing that a bill will be passed by the House and Senate by tomorrow. See, also, Mark Levin's post on the subpoena issue and Sue Bob's commentary on Levin's post.

Posted by Rick at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Schiavo Polling Data

Thanks DemFromCT for sending along these WashingtonPost/ABC News and FoxNews/Opinion Dynamic polling data on the Schiavo case, which indicate that public opinion is solidly behind Michael Schiavo. The data are a bit dated, so I wonder if, given all the media attention to the case, public opinion has shifted in the past week?

Posted by Rick at 03:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Groningen Protocol Revisted

Hugh Hewitt posts on a NY Times article Groningen Protocol propaganda piece published by the NY Times.

It had previously been asserted that the Protocol would empower doctors to end the life of terminally ill children, in some cases without parental consent. In the NYT interview, however, the author of the Protocol seems to indicate that parental consent is required.

Hugh is right about the NYT in this case; the parental consent clause mentioned in the story is news and should have been pursued by the writer of the story. But, we can we expect that type of reporting from a NYT journalist?

I hope that this story triggers some investigation by life-bloggers. Does the Groningen Protocol permit anyone other than the parents to end the life of a terminally ill child? Even if it does not, should this matter?

Heaven forbid one of my children were in so much pain that my wife and I could bear it no longer; but, I can imagine circumstances where my love for my child would push me to request that doctors end his/her misery. Is that right? I'll have to pray on that. It seems obvious though that parental consent is the sine qua non for execution of the Groningen Protocol.

Posted by Rick at 03:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Schiavo Drama: Florida Justice in a Persistent Vegetative State

Business and family affairs converge this weekend near Tampa, Florida, where I’m listening and watching local and national coverage of the Terri Schiavo case. Here are some impressions and thoughts:

--Pinellas County Circuit Judge George W. Greer has chosen to disregard a Congressional subpoena for Terri Schiavo and ordered the feeding tube removed. What power, Congress? Greer has decided that the Congressional motion is trumped by his own court. How is this not contempt of Congress? Couldn’t federal marshals enforce the order that there be no tampering with a federal witness? Or perhaps the marshals could apprehend the state judge.

--Why are the liberals and Democrats against allowing this horribly damaged life being allowed to continue? How does the culture of death align with their political agenda?

--Activists have gathered at the hospice where Terri lives to express their views as the vigil becomes a death watch, and the legal and legislative wrangling becomes more desperate.

--The President issued a statement acknowledging the complexity of the case, but urging that error be made on the side of life.

--The New York Times editorializes: “We can only lament the Republicans' theatrical effort to expand their so-called pro-life agenda to include intervening in a case already studied and litigated exhaustively under Florida law. Congress's rash assumption of judicial power and trampling on established state and federal constitutional precedents in "right to die" cases is nothing short of breathtaking.”

--The Washington Post editorializes: “With Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube scheduled to be removed today, Congress sprang into action to pass legislation granting the federal courts the power to review the state court judgments that would let her die. (The Florida legislature is, for the second time, also acting to force her to continue living.)” (Italics mine)

More language of the culture of death.

--Many of us have had informal discussions with our spouses about not being kept alive if we’re incapacitated terribly, being kept alive on life support, or in a vegetative state. I suspect that’s the kind of discussion Terri and Michael Schiavo had. That’s clearly not good enough. It’s time to do a living will.

--The news the last few days, both here in Florida and nationally, has been dominated by news of two tragic individuals—Terri Schiavo and 9-year-old Jessica Landsford, the victim of a twisted sexual predator who confessed to stealing the little girl from her home and murdering her.

--Tampa radio host Schmidt reflects on the irony that Republican conservatives are going against the grain of their ideology of states rights in their federalizing of the Schiavo case.

--Atlanta-based syndicated radio guy Neal Boortz, who is on a station in the Tampa market, rides that point hard and is pretty ugly in his criticism of the Republicans and the pro-life activists trying to keep Terri alive. This strident libertarianism is rankling and in this case seems anti-individual and anti-freedom, rather than on the side of liberty.

--Interesting that the television stations now have, in addition to the gape-mouthed footage of Terri, a new set of photos from before her heart attack and brain damage. She was a beautiful young woman then, and it seems to garner more sympathy to have this more glamorous view. What quality of life and physical beauty do we require in order to care for those who can’t care for themselves?

There is sure to be more legal and legislative action both here in Florida and in Washington in the few days left before Terri would starve to death if nothing is done. Clearly justice is in a persistent vegetative state here in Florida, where judges were the pawns of Al Gore in the 2000 election, the allies of Fidel Castro in the Elian Gonzales travesty, and now the agents of death for the severely impaired.

Posted by Jim at 06:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Something Good from Florida

My mom forwarded me these pics from a friend of hers in Florida. Neat-o! Thanks mom!

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Posted by Rick at 02:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2005

Congressional Republican Leadership Fights On

The House Committee that issued the subpoenas earlier today filed a motion with the Supreme Court to intervene and reinsert Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. If the Court issues the order, it would allow the lower courts time to hear the legality of the Congressional subpoenas or Judge Greer's decision to ignore the United States Congress.

Question for the Constitutional lawyers or experts on Presidential and Congressional powers: 1) Can President Bush issue an executive order to force reinsertion of the feeding tube? 2) If the Supreme Court refuses to intervene, can Congress remove the Schiavo case from the court's jurisdiction and decide the matter on a vote of the House?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The unnamed Republican in the article linked above got it right - we are witnessing barbarism.

UPDATE: Thanks to Joe Carter's fantastic post today, I realize that Judge Greer is not a federal Circuit Court judge, but a judge of the Probate Division of the Circuit Court of Pinellas County, Florida. The articles I've read recently only said "Circuit Court" and I thought, Circuit Court of Appeals. Whoops!

I think that means that Congress cannot remove the case from the Court's jurisdiction, because the decision isn't being made there in the first place. What about an Executive Order though? Or a law passed by Congress and signed by the President?

Also, The Anchoress has many posts on the Schiavo story today. In one post, she asks: Can Hillary find "common ground" on behalf of Terri? You know, it would be a brilliant political move. Do you think she's read Noonan lately? I wouldn't be surprised if Clinton steps in to help save Terri Schiavo. Hey, if it works, fine by me.

Posted by Rick at 10:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Congress Subpoenas Terri Schiavo

This breaking from Drudge....

**Exclusive Fri Mar 18 2005 00:50:07 ET** The Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee, Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) has requested Terri Schiavo to testify before his congressional committee, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. In so doing it triggers legal or statutory protections for the witness, among those protections is that nothing can be done to cause harm or death to this individual.

Members of Congress went to the U.S. Attorney in DC to ask for a temporary restraining order to be issued by a judge, which protects Terri Schiavo from having her life support, including her feeding and hydration tubes, removed... Developing...

Here's the story.

Hugh Hewitt has taken up Terri's Fight these past couple of days on his radio program and his blog. He asks a good question: If the courts are going to sentence Terri to death, why not give her death by some other means than starvation/dehydration?

Why hasn't the court ordered her dispatch by more immediate means? Because that is somehow more intrusive, and makes the judge and court system too complicit? This is an awful thing to think on, but starving Terri Schiavo when her parents wish to feed her is in reality about as brutal a spectacle as that which went on in Iran yesterday. Only done quietly, beyong the sight of a crowd.
Why not give her a lethal injection? If this is truly a "right to die" case, why not go Kevorkian/Eastwood on her?

Posted by Rick at 10:06 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Deeper Issues of the Heart: Center for Christian Statesmanship

We spent the early part of this week in Washington, D.C., learning about one of the most effective Christian activities in the Nation’s Capitol. It has nothing to do with legislation, homeland security, or judicial activism.

Members of Congress and their staff can regularly be found stepping away from their work to meet in small group Bible studies being led by robust believers who are part of an organization called the Center for Christian Statesmanship.

The Center conducts more Bible studies on Capitol Hill than anyone else.

In the shadow of the Capitol dome, these studies focus on spiritual development, not public policy. The hardened partisans that dominate life inside the Beltway can’t accept that any group would consider matters of the soul as more important than matters of the legislative chamber. As a result, skepticism about the Center’s motives endures despite nearly ten years of devotional faithfulness.

The ministries of the Center, which is affiliated with D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, are described at www.statesman.org.

During a week of Congressional nonsense on social security, bankruptcy, and baseball’s steroid abuse, its good to know that there’s solid work being done on the deeper issues of the heart.

Posted by Jim at 09:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2005

Where's Your Anger?

There was a saying among gay rights and AIDS activists during the initial HIV outbreaks during the 1980s.

If you're not mad, you're not paying attention.

Conservatism tends to pride itself on its ability to remain calm and focused. We don't often make a loud ruckus; we work out our political salvation in the think tanks and classrooms. We are unlikely to take to the streets. That tendency was what always appealled to me concering liberalism. I was always intrigued by the willingness to protest publicly against a percieved injustice. Maybe it was my youthful interest in punk rock. I'm not sure. Not much gets me angry anymore, but to continue with the punk rock metaphor, the case of Terry Schiavo makes me want to reach for a microphone and scream at the world. Well, not the world so much as that vile husband of hers and the depraved Judge George W. Greer.

What a terrible situation. Should our outrage ever move beyond e-mails, phone calls and blogs? I don't suggest violence, but where are the protests? I am paying attention, and I am angry. This is not a living will or death with dignity and it's not even some form of euthanasia, however inexcusable that would be. This is murder, and we must call it so. If Terri Schiavo is killed, we should not hesitate to loudly and forcely call Michael Schiavo and George W. Greer what they are. Murderers.

For more information, read this old NRO article by Wesley J. Smith. Hugh Hewitt is talking some sense as well.

As adamantly as I oppose abortion and assisted suicide, I realize that practioners of such things often believe they are doing the right thing, the helpful thing. We should be strong in our opposition, but such issues have become entrenched to the point that we must now engage in dialogue. The days of calling abortion doctors murderers as part of routine discourse has passed, for better or for worse. Terri's Fight is altogether different, however; a life on the mend is soon to be extinguished.

Posted by Matt at 09:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Like Flypaper to Moonbats

Lileks writes:

This morning I was clicking around, following some links about Wolfowitz’ nomination to the World Bank (mrghmghfm) (surpressing mad laughter) (mrghmghfm) (Sorry, mwa HAHAHAHAHA) and encountered one of those brand-name sites I don’t visit much because the proprietor has nothing to say and no particular skill at saying it. He referred to that “filthy Wolfowitz.”

Do you often come across the word “filthy” applied to many politicians? No. Can you recall which group, in the last, oh, 60 years, got tarred with that word most frequently? Just curious. If the word rings no bells for you, then I’m overreacting. Obviously rung no bells for the author. I expect he will be equally unaffected if Trent Lott refers to “that uppity Rev. Jackson.”

Well, it rang a few bells for me. Not that I'm anybody in particular. I'm just sayin' is all.

But I'm not surprised to learn that there are those on the left responding this way to Wolfowitz's nomination. Frankly, when I heard who Bush nominated, my first reaction was "What a brazen thing to do!" Or to borrow a phrase from Peggy Noonan, "He's got two of 'em."

My second reaction was "This is going to send the moonbats 'round the bend."

And which moonbat in particular was Lileks reading when he came across that phrase? He's not going to get a link from me, so you'll have to do some research. Here, let me help.

Posted by Drew at 06:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More on the Bankruptcy Bill

Rick noted below that Dave Ramsey is a harsh opponent of the recently passed bankruptcy bill. Yesterday I found this article on NRO in favor of the bill. So what gives? Do we have any bankruptcies experts in our audience? I'm all in favor of full disclosure on the part of the credit card companies and we all know that random events hurt finances. But I work in a law office and I know there are enough bankruptcies that some abuse must be taking place.

Where do we draw lines? Can our readers jump in with some expertise? I shall investigate as I can, and we appreciate any input we might recieve.

Posted by Matt at 10:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Quick Updates - Get Into It!

The important stuff first:

John Mark Reynolds dissects the disgusting words of Michael Schiavo. What a horrid, nasty man. There are words for a man like this, but my mom reads this site. I'll lay off for now.

Another Reynolds marvelous post about the lack of Christian involvement in the life of the mind. Important reading. I simply cannot endorse this enough. Hopefully I can do more on this over the weekend.

March Madness gets under way today. Any readers care to share their Final Four with us? I've got UNC, Duke, Wake Forest and Oklahoma State. Dare to opine? (p.s. Roll Tide!)

Posted by Matt at 10:22 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Harsh Words in the Culture War

Check out this post over at Mere Comments.

Heavy duty food for thought, particularly in light of some of the recent discussions on Christianity, liberalism and conservatism.

Posted by Matt at 01:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I Fully Support the Ceder Revolt

Three cheers for freedom, indeed. If this doesn't move you to support, not much will. (HT: In the Agora)

Posted by Matt at 12:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2005

The Constitutional Option

Rush really got on a roll today discussing how the GOP should handle the brewing battle over judicial nominees. See here, here and here. El Rushbo really hit his stride on this issue. Let's hope the Senate GOP is listening.

Posted by Matt at 06:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


This is over a year old, but I'm just now learning about the Emergent Church. EC leader Brian McLaren takes issue with this response by Chuck Colson. Maybe it's because I'm a close-minded conservative, but what on Earth is wrong with Colson's position?

If the postmodern, Emergent church opposes this line of thinking, then somewhere C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot are very, very annoyed.

Posted by Matt at 06:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Immigration Policy Debate Primer

Please take part in my research for the Immigration Series, that I hope I am able to finish in a "reasonable" amount of time. This subject isn't as straightforward as many may think and I'd like to give it some thought.

QUESTIONS: If a Mexican man enters the United States illegally for the purpose of securing employment to feed and clothe his family, has he sinned against God? If yes, why? If no, why not? What support for your position do you find in Scripture?

I don't know the answer here folks. I have some ideas, but they certainly haven't yet been bathed in prayer. I do think this is a fundamental question though because if we can agree to an answer, we may be closer to consensus on solutions.

If you post on the subject, be sure to send a trackback ping or e-mail so I can read up.

Posted by Rick at 03:42 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

At Least They Stood on Principle

Senate Democrats failed to remove a provision for drilling in ANWR from next year’s budget, making it increasingly likely that President Bush will win (another) major political victory. As the provision was included in the budget, it is not subject to filibuster.

I have been a qualified supporter of drilling in ANWR and have to say “tisk tisk” to the Democratic Party for failing to see the writing on the wall here and refusing to compromise. My criticism is especially directed to the junior Senator from Massachusetts:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., argued that more oil would be saved if Congress enacted an energy policy focusing on conservation, more efficient cars and trucks and increased reliance on renewable fuels and expanded oil development in the deep-water Gulf where there are significant reserves.
If the Dems were smart, and John Kerry were a defter politician and leader, there could have been a negotiated agreement on increasing fuel efficiency standards for vehicles in exchange for drilling in ANWR. I would have been happier with the deal had drilling been tied to higher fuel efficiency standards. Now they are left with nothing and I'm not as happy as I could be. {critical sarcasm}At least they stood on principle {/critical sarcasm}.

Posted by Rick at 03:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dave Ramsey on Bankruptcy Legislation

A few days ago, I e-mailed Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) in response to his observation that Dave Ramsey had been silent on the bankruptcy legislation passed Friday by the US Senate. I've never earned a link from Glenn, and my e-mail wasn't associated with a post, so I didn't think anything of it. To my surprise, he e-mailed back. Moreover, he revised his post to include my e-mail.

I sent the e-mail to let Glenn know that I heard Dave rail against the bankruptcy legislation as bought by predatory lenders and he accused the Republican Party of having their votes bought. Isn’t it odd that a champion of personal responsibility and capitalism would be against a bankruptcy bill that would make it harder for people to shirk their legal responsibility to their debtors?

Tonight Ramsey spoke passionately on the subject. You could hear the indignation in his voice as he denounced the Republican Party as having sold out to "evil corporations" and he called the legislation "a piece of crap!"

Dave is spot-on with his criticism of the Republican Party here as he understands the line that Christians should draw between personal responsibility and evil predatory corporate influence disguised as honest business. In the couple years that I’ve listened to him, I’ve rarely heard him call someone or an institution “evil” and I’ve never heard him say “evil corporations,” but I'm glad he did in this instance. Too often political economic ideology obfuscates spiritual discernment. I’m not excusing irresponsible use of credit, but predatory lenders are also culpable here. If the credit card companies want fewer bankruptcy’s, perhaps they shouldn’t extend credit to every Tom, Dick, and Barbara (and their dogs).

Jim, if it’s not too late, Dave Ramsey would make a fine interview for your forthcoming Christianity Today article.

Posted by Rick at 03:33 AM | Comments (6)

Odd/Funny Referral Submissions

Submissions to date include:

-Adam Heine of Itsara: is coy pond or koi pond correct?
-Aaron of Two or Three: turkish cattle prod master slave
-Abigail Brayden: calvin coolidge's birth certificates
-Jeff Smith of Proverbs Daily: effects of vinegar on teeth
-My original: ii need current email contact crazy christians 2005

Fun stuff. Who knows how these search engine algorithms really work?

Posted by Rick at 03:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 15, 2005

What's Wrong With Kansas?

The new issue of First Things has a fine review of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

Check it out here.

I should add that First Things has become a crucial read for Christians concerned with the world around them. Yes, there are seroius blogs to be read, but I have yet to find one as consistently important as this.

Posted by Matt at 10:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

New Exit Poll Paper

The National Research Commission on Elections and Voting recently released a working paper entitled, “A Review of Recent Controversies Concerning the 2004 Presidential Election Exit Polls.”

The paper is largely a compilation of known information procured from a variety of internet resources, evinced by the 50 URLs included in the footnotes to the 18-page report. Several blogs were cited in the report, but not as frequently and with as much authority as Mystery Pollster. Overall, I found the paper to be an interesting and informative read.

The biggest flaw of the paper, though, is that the authors give the January 19, 2005 NEP Report prepared by Edison Media/Mitofsky International too much credit. The authors note that the NEP Report provides an “unprecedented amount of information…much more than has ever been released before” (p. 9) but concede that one of the problems with the post-survey evaluations is that “some information is essentially unknowable” (p. 8). While these statements are true, the NEP Report could have taken some of the analysis a step further.

Perhaps the most prominent critical response to the NEP Report is a paper written by a group of highly credentialed academics writing for US Count Votes. Although the US Count Votes paper attacked the NEP Report on a variety of fronts, the most serious charge in the paper was regarding the NEP Report’s handling of WPE by voting method. The NEP Report stated,

WPE in precincts with any type of automated voting system is higher than the average error in paper ballot precincts. These errors are not necessarily a function of the voting equipment. They appear to be a function of the equipment’s location and the voters’ responses to the exit poll at precincts that used this equipment (p. 40).
The authors of the US Count Votes paper zero in on that first statement and reproduce a table showing that the median WPE for precincts with paper ballots was -0.9, but anywhere from -5.5 to -10.3 for all other voting methods, including optical scan, punch cards, touch screen, and mechanical voting. The implication being that automated voting technology could have been tampered with, accounting for the substantially different WPE when compared to WPE in precincts with paper ballots.

However, if you look at the mean and median WPE by urban vs. rural, the differences appear to vanish. The NEP Report explains,

The low value of the WPE in paper ballot precincts may be due to the location of those precincts in rural areas, which had a lower WPE than other places (p. 40).
This apparent case of Simpson’s Paradox seems ripe for more rigorous statistical analysis and unlike the Commission paper, the US Count Votes paper makes the call:
The Edison/Mitofsky Report does not report having done an ANOVA (analysis of variance) of voting machine type that might confirm their claim that there is no difference between precincts using different types of voting machines (p 4-5).
ANOVA would seem to be a no-brainer here and why the NEP Report does not include the results of this test is baffling. If a significant difference by voting method is found in the aggregate, the data can be re-aggregated by rural v. urban and retested. If these differences are not significant, then report this fact and explain what it is about the data that could cause the discrepant significance findings. If the discrepancies are significant, then some other explanation of the discrepancy should be pursued.

This leads me back to my claim that the Commission paper is too soft on the NEP Report. First, the NEP Report should have included results of an ANOVA test of WPE by vote method. If not, they should make the data available so it can be independently tested. The concluding paragraph of the Commission paper reads as follows:

The information on the exit poll methodology is still being consumed by independent analysts, and there are now calls for the release of raw and supplementary data from sample precincts. This would include contextual data about the vote history in those areas as well as information about the interviewers. This is unlikely to happen, and for justifiable reasons. Such information would be too politically sensitive in that disclosure of the sample sites could subject the exit poll interviewing to manipulation by political organizations and interest groups on Election Day if the same sites are always chosen (p. 13).
While I can sympathize with these concerns, an ANOVA of the WPE by voting machine would not require this type of data. To run the ANOVA, all that is needed is a spreadsheet with four columns: 1) dummy precinct ID (doesn’t have to be real); 2) WPE for the precinct; 3) type of voting method used in the precinct; and 4) precinct population. SPSS can calculate the rest.

Posted by Rick at 04:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth

Tim Challies is not kind to Blog. No, not kind at all.

As I read Blog, I was continually struck by how self-serving the book seemed. It struck me as being almost like the biography of a proud, self-made billionaire, except with site traffic and recognition in place of dollars and European models. If you do not know how many visits Hugh has to his blog in an average day, a busy day or an election day, you will before you have finished the book. You will know how many blogs have been started because of his influence and just how useful a link from his blog to yours can be. I came to realize, though, that in a sense the blogosphere is built on just this sort of self-importance. Bloggers succeed by driving visitors to their sites by whatever means possible. The most important person in the blogosphere is the one with the greatest readership, just like the most important person in my hometown is the one with the most money. And lest I sound hypocritical, I will admit that I have a blog of my own and that I have no right to cast the first stone.

But it's not all bad . . .

This book has much to say that is valuable, especially in regards to the importance of trust and the application of blogging to corporations and organizations. Unfortunately, I found it frantically-written and poorly-organized. I wanted to love it, but in the end just could not. Yet I still do give recommend it, especially to those in positions of leadership. Its alarmist tone may convince some of the value of blogging, but I suspect just as many others will be put-off. I agree with Hewitt that the blogosphere is giving individuals power in the marketplace of ideas and agree that this is generally a good thing. I think there is great future for the blogosphere.

Go here for the whole review.

Posted by Drew at 10:27 PM | Comments (2)

Ashley Smith tells her story

Unlike Matt, I guess I've been living under that proverbial rock. But here's Ashley Smith's story in her own words. Fascinating.

I asked him if -- I told him that I was supposed to go see my little girl the next morning. And I asked him if I could go see her. And he told me no.

My husband died four years ago. And I told him that if he hurt me, my little girl wouldn't have a mommy or a daddy. And she was expecting to see me the next morning. That if he didn't let me go, she would be really upset.

He still told me no.

But I could kind of feel that he started to -- to know who I was. He said, maybe. Maybe I'll let you go -- just maybe. We'll see how things go.

We went to my room. And I asked him if I could read.

He said, "What do you want to read?"

"Well, I have a book in my room." So I went and got it. I got my Bible. And I got a book called "The Purpose-Driven Life."

I turned it to the chapter that I was on that day. It was chapter 33. And I started to read the first paragraph of it. After I read it, he said, "Stop, will you read it again?"

I said, "Yeah. I'll read it again."

So I read it again to him.

It mentioned something about what you thought you're purpose in life was. What were you -- what talents were you give? What gifts were you given to use?

And I asked him what he thought. And he said, "I think it was to talk to people and tell them about you."

I basically just talked to him and tried to gain his trust. I wanted to leave to go see my daughter. That was really important. I didn't want him to hurt anybody else.

Go here for the whole story.

Posted by Drew at 10:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who Would Jesus Dismiss?

(Hat Tip: Brainpost)

You may not have heard that a professor was recently fired from the University of Colorado for his controversial viewpoint. No, I'm not talking about Ward Churchill -- he's still there. I'm talking about Phil Mitchell, a professor in the history department.

According to Family News in Focus, Mitchell lost his teaching position for assigning a history class to read Charles Sheldon's In His Steps -- the book that asks the question "What Would Jesus Do," the phrase that launched a thousand marketing gimmicks.

Mitchell said he was immediately terminated when one student complained to the history department about the assignment.

"I called the director of my program on Monday morning," Mitchell explained, "and he confirmed that the department was going to let me teach one more year and then I would no longer be permitted to teach history at the University of Colorado."

When asked about Mitchell, a secretary in the history department—who asked that she not be identified—angrily responded, "We don't let him teach here."

This isn't the first time Mitchell, who has taught at CU for more than 20 years, has taken heat for using conservative sources in his classes. He said that when he quoted from Thomas Sowell, a conservative black commentator, the department head berated him and called him a racist.

Now I'm not exactly sure why one would assign In His Steps in a history class, but I might make a guess or two. The message of the book -- "What Would Jesus Do?" -- is certainly a timeless one, but the book itself is locked to a particular era in U.S. history. Written around the turn of the last century, one can connect In His Steps to a period of religious revival -- what some might consider the nation's third "Great Awakening." Christians began to emphasize the sins of society. There were temperance movements calling for the prohibition of alcohol, and poverty was seen less as a personal problem and more of a societal failure. This religious revival probably resulted in a political revival that led to FDR's "New Deal," and other social programs that are still with us today, even while their religious roots have been lost in time.

In His Steps certainly touches on the problems of turn-of-the-century America, even as its wide cast of characters seek their own personal revivals by trying to do what Jesus would have done. But though the message is timeless, I might suggest that the book itself is not. When I read it a few years ago, I found it difficult to relate to the struggles of the book's characters. One, a newspaper publisher, rethinks his newspaper's decision to run stories about boxing matches. He believes that people should not be reading about such things and so excises them from his newspaper. Later he decides that people should not be reading newspapers at all on Sundays, "the one day in the week which ought be given up to something better and holier," though it costs him advertisers and subscribers.

This isn't exactly a modern moral dilemma, which might explain why Sheldon's great-grandson decided to write an updated version a few years ago.

Meanwhile, back to Phil Mitchell.

The timing of the controversy is especially odd, considering how the campus has rallied around Churchill.

"I think it's interesting," Mitchell said. "People are marching for Ward's academic freedom, and I think—to a point—that's legitimate. I just wish somebody would march for mine. I don't have any."

I could see assigning In His Steps in a history class if one is discussing the social and political issues at the time the book was written, particularly as they relate to religious revivals which are certainly a historical reality. I have no idea if that was the context in which the book was presented.

I would love to know more about this story.

Posted by Drew at 09:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rick Warren Saves a Life

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard the story of the Atlanta woman who convinced judge-killer Brian Nichols to turn himself in. Apparently she was aided by The Purpose-Driven Life. I'm thankful the woman is safe and the killer is behind bars, but we can now expect to hear a whole lot about Rick Warren's book in the coming days. I would refer readers to the following posts as it concerns the PDL:

Tim Challies reviews Warren's new column in Ladies Home Journal.

Purpose Verses

The Internet Monk on Warren.

Posted by Matt at 06:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Re: Obscene Wealth

I was rather busy over the weekend, so it was not until this morning that I saw my colleague Rick's post on the "obscene" wealth of some Americans. Rick raises a few interesting points, and I would like to respond to them in this space.

I will quickly concede to the wisdom that to whom much is given much is expected. Yet I will refuse to attack any one person's level of wealth; what a man does with his money is between him and God, and perhaps his pastor. I will not suggest that one person has reached a limit to his or her wealth. That road has been travelled before. Whatever the abuses of some corporations, I find it treacherous to argue that one man is too rich on the basis of some abstract principle. Likewise do I repudiate the notion that Scripture forbids a certain level of wealth. Scripture clearly places guidelines in the lives of believers - do we even know the faith of these rich people? - but there is no salary cap in the life of the Christian.

Concerning the Walton family, readers of this site and of my personal blog will know that I have very little use for Wal-Mart. I find it ugly, crowded and rude. It is a place to be avoided, at least in the towns that I frequent. I find Wal-Mart's business tactics to be deplorable. For example, its use of emminent domain, sweetheart deals with local governments, undercutting of prices, etc. are rather obnoxious. As a free market conservative, I can oppose these policies. As a traditional conservative, I can oppose shopping at Wal-Mart and stores of its ilk on the grounds that superstores harm the community. Yes, there is a certain level of convenience that comes with these businesses, but there is a loss, as well. Local hardware stores, local record stores, local automotive stores...all of these establishments help mark a community in a way that Wal-Mart cannot. I grudgingly accept Wal-Mart's presence in my community, but I prefer to spend my dollars elsewhere as often as I can, in order to support those businesses that help make my community something special.

However, I think it's time to get over our assumptions that working at local stores is a paradise. I've worked at both a local grocery store and a local record store. The record store job was an absolute blast, mainly because I was a college kid working at a record store. The grocery store was...not so much. I was paid far less than a Wal-Mart employee of my own age, and my employers were strangely aloof about the lives of teenage employees during the late 1990s. My major comfort in working there was that it was still a relatively small business, which thankfully prevented from becoming another brick in the corporate wall. (By this I refer to my ability to ask for time off or call in sick)

Rick notes that Save Mart, a store with perhaps the most generic name ever, "has been serving local customers and providing solid paying jobs to the communities for years." Indeed, I have little doubt that local customers have been served, and I assume that Rick means that these was a certain ambiance about the service. I understand this, and I still find such service at regional Southern chains like Western, Piggly-Wiggly and the stores formerly owned by the Bruno family (Food World, FoodMax, etc.). Yet I'm curious about these "solid paying" jobs? Is that a fact? The cashiers and bagboys were making "solid pay?" I'll believe that the butchers and florists and managers at these stores make solid money. But truthfully, they probably do the same at Wal-Mart or Target. Cashiers and baggers tend to be young people, and while I feel a certain degree of Christian sympathy for grown adults working such jobs, no company should make those folks the crux of company policy.

Rick closes with the following statement:

I’m for free market competition, but Wal-Mart does not compete with local supermarkets, they annihilate them. So you save a few bucks buying cheap Chinese goods, the Walton family runs off with the cash, and hard working breadwinners are sent packing. Hey, if you can honestly rejoice in that as a victory for capitalism, go for it - but I can't.

It is true that Wal-Mart does not compete, but again I refer to the cases of imminent domain, government payouts for roads and stoplights and juicy tax breaks. That is where the competition stops. If Wal-Mart was denied those things and still crushed its competitors, I would have little room to argue on economic grounds. (Aesthetics are another matter) Yet Rick falls into a fit of rhetoric when he suggests that Wal-Mart shoppers are "buying cheap Chinese goods" while the Waltons get rich and the little guy shuts down. On the matter of Chinese goods, this may be true for clothes. However far more people buy food and household goods at Wal-Mart than they do clothes or furntiture. The fact is that the Waltons have been rich for decades. They're not getting rich on the backs of poor shop keepers; they became rich filling in a niche. I stand by my belief that Wal-Mart has reached a tipping point and is doing more harm than good, but let's do away with the myth that the lots of people are hurt financially. Most small businesses only employ a handful of workers, the majority of which are part-time. Then again, so are many of Wal-Mart's employees, which hurts the notion that a shiny new Wal-Mart will provide health insurance for an entire community.

I stand by my cricisms of Wal-Mart. Throw Target in there, too, though they get a fair amount of my money for reasons of proximity and neccesity at this stage in my life. I still find both stores to be aesthetically displeasing and catering to a dangerous whim in the American mind: the notion that convenience and dollar-value are more important than community and aesthetics. That's a hill I'll die on, but not the dangerous and slippery idea that the CEOs are "too rich."

Posted by Matt at 06:24 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Terms of the Debate

Question: Do we label someone who drives without a license an "illegal driver?" Do we call someone who has a forged, or borrowed license, an "illegal driver"? Or do we label them as “unlicensed drivers”? I suggest that most refer to these criminals, who show no regard for our rule of law, as unlicensed drivers. After all, driving, like citizenship or a green card for the foreign born, is a privilege, not a right.

The term “illegal alien” is an oft-used semantic tool and effective fomenting agent in the illegal immigration policy debate, but it is really argumentum ad hominem. I hope to avoid coloring the substantive issues with this type of invective and name calling in my series. (Read this article for more on the semantics debate.)

Like the unlicensed driver, an immigrant who has entered this country without the proper documents is an undocumented immigrant. But as pointed out to me by Dr. Wayne Cornelius, Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), "undocumented" is a misnomer. He wrote in an e-mail, "A large majority of "undocumented" migrants actually carry some type of ID document that is either purchased (falsified doc) or borrowed from friends or relatives (valid doc)." Dr. Cornelius prefers "unauthorized."

Because "unauthorized" covers both the undocumented immigrants and those immigrants with falsified documents, I will adopt Dr. Cornelius's nomenclature for this series. With the terms of the debate established, I hope we can engage in a thought provoking and soul searching discussion of this important issue.

Posted by Rick at 05:15 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Judge Overturns CA Ban on Gay Marriage

A San Francisco Superior Court Judge ruled moments ago that the State of California cannot limit marriage to a man and a woman. "It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners," said the judge's opinion.

It's only a Superior Court judge, but aren't these judges supposed to be the most conservative with their rulings? That is, aren't they supposed to default to case law even if they disagree with it? I thought the Supreme Court of California was the appropriate place to review the constitutionality of historical interpretation of case law or legislation passed by the legislature or initiative. Watch this case closely America; it will be very interesting to see how far the "robed ones" are allowed to take this.

Posted by Rick at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

Taking Nominations

If you blog, especially if you operate a lower-traffic site, you probably pay close attention to your referral traffic. I do. The new SCO gets a lot more referral traffic from search engines than the old SCO it's been amusing to see exactly which keywords landed surfers here. Today we had a visitor who keyed "ii need current email contact crazy christians 2005" into the MSN Search.

Those off-the-wall keywords gave me an idea - let's have some fun and hold a context for the most amusing (but clean) search keywords discovered through Site Meters. Please follow my example in the link above where I provide both the keyword text and the link to the search engine page that the visitor used to get to the blog.

Posted by Rick at 02:39 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


Study demonstrates MSM anti-Bush/pro-Kerry bias in 2004 election coverage. What right-wing organization funded this study and what exactly did they find?

The annual report by a press watchdog that is affiliated with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism said that 36 percent of stories about Bush were negative compared to 12 percent about Kerry, a Massachusetts senator.

Only 20 percent were positive toward Bush compared to 30 percent of stories about Kerry that were positive, according to the report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.


Posted by Rick at 12:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Freedom on the March in Lebanon

Pictures and stories are starting to flow in from today's massive pro-democracy demonstrations in Lebanon.


According to the AP,
Monday's protest easily topped a pro-government rally of hundreds of thousands of people last week by the Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah.
The pro-democracy demonstrations have been overwhelmingly peaceful. Suppose in the coming weeks Hezbollah, backed by the Syrian or Iranian government, attacked the pro-democracy demonstrators. What should America's reponse be given President Bush's promise to stand with those in the Middle East who take a stand for freedom?

If we are to maintain credibillity in the Middle East, and keep the democratic snowball rolling, we would provide whatever support the independent Lebanese ask of us.

Posted by Rick at 11:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 13, 2005

Series on Immigration Policy

If you've followed my posting from the beginning at the old SCO, then you know that I haven't posted on the topic of immigration. That's about to change.

Hugh Hewitt directs us to this article from Glenn Reynolds, as well as Whizbang, Polipundit, Hedgehog (See here, here, here, here and here), and Michelle Malkin for "informed views on the tough issues" and makes the following observation:

There's a small, hard-core nativist, anti-even-legal-immigrant group that seeks to hijack every conversation and comment thread about border security, and you can usually identify its members pretty quickly. But the venom among this small, off-putting group should not disguise the fact there is widespread, across-the-political-spectrum worry that there isn't enough effort being put into border security. And that concern could become Hillary's path to the right in 2008, though it is hard to see how, if the issue is border security, the answer could ever be a Democrat in the White House.
I share many of Hugh's concerns and think it's time that I speak out on this important issue.

As a full-time husband, dad, and grad student, this series may take a while, but it's important that we have this debate. My first post of the series will appear tomorrow and I've established the following general guide for future posts:

1. Terms of the Debate
2. Drivers of Unauthorized Immigration: Immigrant’s Perspective
3. Drivers of Unauthorized Immigration: Employer's Perspective
4. Failed US Border Policy: an Historical Overview
5. National Security and Border Policy
6. What Should Be the Christian Approach to Immigration Policy?
7. Moving towards a Rational and Humane Immigration Policy

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

Scandal Brewing?

Carol Platt Liebau contends that "[t]here is an ugly scandal brewing in Washington -- and with it, there are those who are salivating with excitement at the prospect of using it as a way to tarnish the Religious Right." It involves Ralph Reed and Dr. James Dobson. Read Liebau's post and stay ahead of the curve on this story in case it turns out to be the scandal that Liebau thinks it could become.

Posted by Rick at 09:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Leno's Jackson Jokes

I didn't see Leno the other night, but blogger Bernard Higgins of A Certain Slant of Light raises some good points about the host's monologue. Here's a sampling, but read the whole essay yourself:

There was a perverseness to Leno's concatenation of jokes that went far beyond defaming a pop music icon on trial for purportedly molesting a young boy at his Neverland Ranch. The jokes were not just mean-spirited. They suggested that pedophilia is just a funny fetish, rather than the sick, horrific crime it is, a crime perpetrated on innocent, unwary children...What Leno did last night was a form of abuse. It abused the rule of law; it abused the notion of fair play; it coarsened America.
It's easy to poke fun at Michael Jackson for his eccentricity, but we should extend grace and love to the man. If he is guilty of molestation, then he should be punished. If he is not guilty of the things he's accused of, then all those, including Leno, who ascribed guilt to Jackson prior to his conviction, should be ashamed. That aside - as Bernard has written so well - child abuse is never funny and Leno appears to have crossed the line.

Posted by Rick at 09:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

FEC Crackdown on Poli-Blogging?

Unlike most of the high traffic bloggers, Hugh Hewitt, hasn't spent much time blogging about recent statements by FEC Commisioner Bradley Smith that suggested the FEC may regulate political blogging. According to Hewitt, a Con Law Professor, "it would be patently and obviously unconstitutional to classify the content of a political blog --which is essentially a cyber-newspaper-- as within the purview of the FEC."

I thought for sure that McCain-Feingold would be found to be unconstitutional, but it was not. Mark Tapscott thought so as well and penned this FoxNews article written shortly after the ruling in December 2003.

I searched Hugh's archives, although not exhaustively, and found few comments regarding the McCain-Feingold. I wonder if he thought that legislation was blatantly unconstitutional?

I signed this petition, which was also signed by the likes of Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), Captain Ed (Captain's Quarters), Michelle Malkin, and Mike Krempasky (Red State), Mark Tapscott (Tapscott's Copy Desk), Arthur Baker (Okie on the Lam - Thanks for the tip!), and 2,200+ others to date. Oh, BTW - those links provide commentary on the petition and the potential FEC crackdown. Read them all, but here's a highlight from the Instapundit:

Scott Thomas, chairman of the FEC, spoke before me. He opened with some rather uncharitable remarks regarding fellow commissioner Brad Smith's comments on FEC regulation of blogs, but followed up with a discussion of FEC intent that, although it was supposed to be reassuring, actually left me thinking that the FEC was thinking more seriously about regulating blogs than I had previously believed. I wasn't reassured at all, and the complexity of the reasoning he outlined just illustrated how much discretion -- and how little real guidance -- the FEC has on these kinds of questions.
Sure, it SHOULD be blatantly and obviously unconstitutional to classify poli-blogs any differently than conventional newspapers, but better safe than sorry - right?

Posted by Rick at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

A Gen Xer talks Marriage

Last weekend I visited my parents for the weekend. On Saturday, my mother and father were out of the house for a while, leaving me with the responsibility of preparing dinner. Barbecued ribs. All five of us - the parents, the siblings and yours truly - were looking forward to the meal. My dad gave me some instructions and save for one crucial detail, I followed them to perfection. As it turned out, my mistake was correctable and we ended up having a pretty decent meal. My BBQ skills have lots of room for improvement, but I'm learning. When my father joined me in inspecting the goods on the grill, he joked that I need to take a class on how to grill. I pointed out that I had never before prepared ribs, and such knowledge is not organic in the American male. We had a nice laugh, but it caused me coalesce my thinking on the way my generation is learning to deal with being adults.

(As an edit, I should point that I am slightly ashamed, as a Southerner, of my inability to properly grill a slab of ribs. It's a problem I need to fix.)

Last fall - like a lot of other Christian bloggers - I read Al Mohler's comments on marriage. (See Part 1 and Part 2) My initial reaction was mixed. On one hand, I was thankful that a prominent Evangelical leader was questioning the notion that marriage was something to be delayed until we all had six-figure salaries and a massive 401K. On the other hand, I felt that Mohler was somewhat out of touch with reality. I continue to hold this dual opinion. Readers will notice that Mohler's columns are based upon a speech he gave to one of Josh Harris's conference. On dating. It seems as though Mohler's audience was primed for such a message. I wonder if his comments would be so well-recieved if given at any random Campus Crusade or RUF meeting on the campus of a major university like the Universities of Texas, Alabama, Georgia or Virginia.

A few weeks ago, Michael Spencer addressed some of his issues with Mohler's statements. Spencer's words provide a nice compliment to Mohler's. I think some marriage (no pun intended) of the two ideas would be quite fruitful. But let me chime in with the opinion of a twenty-somthing male, a voice that I don't hear much of in the blogsophere (at least as evangelicals are concerned). See the comments to Spencer's post and you'll see readers, and Spencer himself, noting that Mohler all but ignores the socio-economic factors affecting young people today. As I said before in my pieces concerning the Twixters phenomenon(follow thinks here and here), education lasts a lot longer than in previous years. Many, many students remain in undergraduate programs for five years, to say nothing of post-undergraduate education. It's disappointing that a prominent evangelical leader puts forth such an uncritical analysis of a major issue.

Equally disappointing is Mohler's failure to look in the mirror. Not as an individual, but as an evangelical. Where in the evangelical community is there a serious body of believers raising mature teenagers? I'm not talking about nice, clean-cut, cookie-cutter kids with good grades and a shelf full of CCM. Nor am I addressing the growing but still small number of bloggers who are clearly raising families in a traditional context that goes against the grain of our consumerist culture. I am talking about mature, reasonably adjusted young people who are equipped to handle some level of mature relationships. To call the message concerning dating and marriage within the evangelical culture mixed would be to speak too highly of a state of confusion. We're told to kiss dating goodbye. We're told to "court." We're told to only date someone we're willing to marry. We're told hang out in groups. We're told to not get married until after college. Your average evangelical youth group will hear a plethora of messages about dating and marriage and sex from all of the camps and conferences it attends, to say nothing of the words from parents and pastors and youth leaders. It should come as no surprised that a great many Christians in their 20s and 30s just don't know what they're doing. With all due respect, Mohler would be well-served to leave the seminary campus and spend some time on the campus of a state university. He might understand what life is like for the rest of us.

Simply put, my generation has not, whether by community, school or church, been prepared for the kind of life that Mohler attacks. It's not that he's wrong so much in his conclusion as he is wrong in his assumptions. This kind of maturity is not organic. We are not consciously turning away from a life of marriage and family. To join with the changes in socio-economic conditions, we have not and are not being raised to live the kind of life that Mohler advocates. For the singly thirty-something, the ball is in their court. But for the rest of America's Christians, the ball is in the court of parents and churches. Change must be brought about from the outside; children, teenagers and college students must have the support of their churches and families. We cannot be allowed to live as clean-cut hedonists through high school and college and then have people like Mohler expect us to be married and birthin' babies before we turn twenty-five. Growing up physically is natural; emotional and spiritual maturity must be supported by those around us.

Posted by Matt at 08:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Condi for Pres?

Condi's refusal to rule out a run for President in 2008 generated aabout as much buzz as her position on abortion. (check Technorati for some links)

I'm not exactly sure why so many Christians get wound up about Condi's "mildly pro-choice" stance on abortion. If you look at her words carefully, her position sure seems to be a lot like that of President George and Laura Bush. However, the point should be moot - this morning Rice flat out rejected a run for president.

First, what Condi said:

We should not have the federal government in a position where it is forcing its views on one side or the other. So, for instance, I've tended to agree with those who do not favor federal funding for abortion, because I believe that those who hold a strong moral view on the other side should not be forced to fund it.

I am a strong proponent of parental notification. I am a strong proponent of a ban on late-term abortion. These are all things that I think unite people and I think that that's where we should be. We ought to have a culture that says, "Who wants to have an abortion? Who wants to see a daughter or a friend or a sibling go through something like that?"

What Laura Bush has said:
No, I don't think [Roe v. Wade] should be overturned...[Instead we should do] what we can to limit the number of abortions, to try to reduce the number of abortions in a lot of ways, and that is, by talking about responsibility with girls and boys, by teaching abstinence, having abstinence classes everywhere in schools and in churches and in Sunday school.

What President Bush has said:
I think a noble goal for this country that any child, born or unborn, need to be protected by law and welcomed to life. I know we need to change a lot of minds before we get there in America. We can find common ground on issues of parental consent or notification. I know we need to ban partial birth abortions.
I'm of the opinion that we should not, by judicial fiat, make abortion illegal in America. We should do what we can to whittle away at Roe v. Wade, first and foremost by confirming judges that will uphold a ban on partial birth abortion and support parental notification. In the mean time, we must pray and persuade; pray for God to change the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans who do not agree with us (see these polling data - in most poss, less than 25% of Americans think abortion should be illegal), and peruade them towards our position on abortion - that it is murder and not a choice.

But this issue as it relates to Condi should be moot. This morning on Meet the Press, she told Tim Russert, "I won’t run." Now, if she continues to say that she won't run for President, and then flips come 2007, I'd be more disappointed in her than I was after hearing of her "mildly pro-choice" stance on abortion.

Posted by Rick at 04:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 12, 2005

Gallup Poll on Blogging

Mystery Pollster comments on a recent Gallup poll that found only 12% of Americans read political blogs at least a few times per month.

Here's a taste of MP's astute analysis (go read the rest):

No, the collective reach of blogs is nowhere near that of television or print media, but focusing on the relatively small percentages misses the rapidly growing influence of the blog readership in absolute terms. The 12% that say they read political blogs at least a few times a month amount to roughly 26 million Americans. That may not make blogs a "dominant" news source, but one American in ten ads up to a lot of influence.

Posted by Rick at 08:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Million Dollar" review

Ruth, a quadriplegic, and Meredith, her personal aide, head off to see the controversial hit movie "Million Dollar Baby."

For the two of us, going to a movie requires planning. It's hard to be spontaneous when you're in a wheelchair, or trudging along beside one. But nothing was going to keep us from judging Clint Eastwood's controversial new movie for ourselves.

Their recounting of their experience is warm and amusing, but with (obviously) very painful and personal insights into the issues that surround the film. Here are two spirited ladies not afraid to tell you that they both declared the film "able-ist crap." (And if you haven't seen it, and wish to remain spoiler-free, you might want to skip this entry.)

Meredith: We go on about Million Dollar Baby for days and that's when I realize that for all its problems (e.g., the musical score is puerile), I've seen an important movie during this year's Lent. I don't want people to boycott this film. I want them to see it even though -- and perhaps because -- they know the ending. And then, I want them to get angry, not at God, but about flaws in the structural apparatus of faith (i.e., religion) that would make assisted suicide seem an appropriate response instead of becoming a living witness to suffering. I want viewers to wonder why the character of Maggie Fitzgerald has the determination to become a prize fighter but not enough spiritual strength to manage life as a quadriplegic. I especially want Christians to remember that throughout our history, the Spirit has lived large and worked well within broken bodies; something to ponder as we come to the Cross during this holy season.

Ruth: It took nearly a decade for me to arrive at a place of acceptance. I've chosen life, believing that it's not my place to decide to die because life is too difficult, inconvenient, or no longer to my liking. Some may feel the choice to commit suicide is a form of ultimate freedom. What I know is that by surrendering my option to play God, I've lived long enough to learn that a life of dignity, usefulness, and hope is possible for a quadriplegic. If only the character in Million Dollar Baby could've stayed in the ring of life long enough to discover this for herself.

Go here for the whole article.

(Hat tip: The Dawn Patrol)

Posted by Drew at 01:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Liberals Are Going to Hell?

My last post over at Matt Crash! wasn't so well-recieved (though if any conservatives read it and support it, some comments or e-mails would be nice.)

I'm about to head off to Atlanta to catch the finals of the SEC Tournament, but let me make a few statements and ask a few questions. I hope this post garners some response, and Christian bloggers (both Catholic and Evangelical) can begin to take a serious look at this issue.

First, the statements:

- I do not believe you have to be a political conservative to be a good Christian.
- I do not believe liberal Christians are going to Hell.
- Christ is the center of salvation, not George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh or William F. Buckley.
- I will be sharing heaven with Christians who lived on Earth as liberals, Socialists, Democrats or even Auburn fans. I realize people disagree and even make mistakes, but those who have accepted Christ will spend eternity in His presence.

That said, perhaps I have not been clear enough in my questions. Let's go for it:

- You have two Christians. They might even both share the same approach to faith. Let's imagine they are theologically conservative Evangelicals. One is essentially a free market capitalist, the other is more left-leaning, preferring a British or Canadian approach to welfare, health care and the economy. Here is my question: Is the Bible silent about the views of these believers? Can these people just believe whatever they want about these matters?

- Are MoveOn.org or the ACLU the sort of organizations that a Christian should openly support as "participating...in the concerns of our God?"

- Is Scripture completely indifferent to the policy views of Jim Wallis and Jerry Falwell? (I am not dealing with their approach and personality; just their policies) Can Don Miller and John Mark Reynolds take such drastic stances from one another and both still be "ok" in light of Scripture?

The point here is that politics is not Yankees vs. Red Sox. This is not Alabama vs. Auburn (well...). The political concepts we consider to be liberalism and conservatism eventually end up at very, very different places. Does Scripture accept this difference? Does Church history? I'm not accusing. Our liberal readers are still Christians; their salvation is not dependent upon their policy views. I am simply asking some questions, but to date, I haven't gotten many convincing answers.

Posted by Matt at 01:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 11, 2005

Another Geek Moment

I was going to suggest that Bill Wallo is thinking far too deeply about a film series that has turned out to be far more shallow than I expected.

But then I thought, heck, this is a worthwhile discussion after all.

How will Lucas choose to depict Anakin’s descent? Will it be inevitable - will it be his “destiny?” Is he part of some sort of obligatory sea change in the Force from light to dark? Is the portrayal a positive one or a negative one? By and large, Anakin has been portrayed as an impetuous but well-meaning youth up to this point. Will there be something in Revenge of the Sith to excuse Anakin’s fall from grace, or will it truly be characterized as the “wrong” choice? These are questions for which I as of yet have no answers, but which I think are far more important in terms of understanding the Star Wars universe than that the finale will be “dark.”

I wrote it all off as pointless the moment that Liam Neeson uttered the word "mitichloridans" (or whatever) and the Force stopped being a philosophy and became a matter of genetics.

Er, . . . the geeks will know what I mean by that.

Still, as disappointed as I've been in Star Wars, I am interested in seeing how the prequel trilogy is concluded. And Bill raises some interesting questions.

Meanwhile, Bill, I do recommend Battlestar Galactica, which you also mentioned. Lots of food for thought there.

Though if anyone watched last week's episode, and didn't heed my warning that it's not suitable for children, I hope you didn't have to try to explain to the kids what Dr. Baltar was doing all alone in his lab with his pants down.

Posted by Drew at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

Obscene Wealth

Drudge has a list of the Forbes 20 richest individuals. The usual suspects made the list (Gates, Buffet, et al), but what struck me was the combined net worth of the Walton family (Wal-Mart). S. Robson, Jim, John, Alice, and Helen are each reportedly worth $18.0 billion to $18.3 billion. Combined, their net worth is $90.7 billion, or nearly twice that of Bill Gates ($46.5 billion).

I don’t suffer rich person envy, but there comes a point when hoarding wealth is obscene and these folks have reached that threshold for me. (Yes I know these figures do not represent liquid assets, but still…)

My uncle is an executive for a regional supermarket in the San Joaquin Valley (Save Mart). Save Mart has been serving local customers and providing solid paying jobs to the communities for years. We spoke recently of the impact of the Super Wal-Mart invasion on the neighborhood supermarkets. Without divulging trade secrets, I can tell you that the impact is astounding. All grocer chains will be closing stores and letting long-time employees go. When you compare the pay of the jobs lost to the pay of a Wal-Mart employee… Well, stop right there. It’s not at all comparable.

I’m for free market competition, but Wal-Mart does not compete with local supermarkets, they annihilate them. So you save a few bucks buying cheap Chinese goods, the Walton family runs off with the cash, and hard working breadwinners are sent packing. Hey, if you can honestly rejoice in that as a victory for capitalism, go for it - but I can't.

Posted by Rick at 07:33 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Michael Schiavo rejects offer of $1 million

Earlier today, World Magazine reported that an American businessman named Robert Herring had offered Michael Schiavo $1 million if he would end his pursuit to starve his disabled wife to death. (Note the headline on the BBC link, erroneously calling this a "coma case." Sigh.)

The $1m offer expires on Monday, 14 March, four days before Mrs Schiavo's feeding-tube is due to be removed. Under the offer, Mr Schiavo would hand over his rights to decide his wife's future to her parents.

Mr Herring, who founded an electronics firm and later a satellite channel, said he was moved to act after following the legal battle and realising that time was running out for Mrs Schiavo.

As a supporter of stem cell research, he said he believed that there was hope of a medical cure.

He said he was a "neutral party", insisting he had no connections with the woman's parents, husband or any organisation involved in the case.

"I believe very strongly that there are medical advances happening around the globe that very shortly could have a positive impact on Terri's condition," he said.

"I have seen miraculous recoveries occur through the use of stem cells in patients suffering a variety of conditions.

"With a date of March 18th quickly approaching, and no other viable hope for Terri to be able to keep her feeding tube, I felt compelled to act."

In a follow-up posting, World Mag reports that Michael Schiavo has rejected the offer.

Terri's family members said the offer was "incredible," but were not surprised Schiavo didn't take it. "After he has denied Terri therapy for so many years and denied our family any opportunity to help her, we can only come to the conclusion that he is not comfortable with the prospects of her regaining her abilities to speak and communicate to us the reasons for her condition," they said in a statement.

I'm inclined to agree. Since the man has obviously moved on with his life, fathering two children by another woman, one wonders why he pursues Terri's death so doggedly.

Posted by Drew at 06:27 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Emergent Church and the Democrat Party

Here's a post from Matt Crash!

Hopefully I can do more this weekend. It all depends on whether or not I head over to A-town to catch the SEC tournament tomorrow and Sunday.

Posted by Matt at 11:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Trade Has Been the Trojan Horse for the Gospel in China

The discussion that my blogger-in-law Doug at Considerettes has with Bill Bennett on Homespun Bloggers Radio program #6 about his concerns that engaging China in the world economy will keep us from holding them accountable for their human rights record reminds me of my secret project to keep China open to trade.

Several years ago, when Congress voted each year on whether to maintain China’s Most Favored Nation trade status, I took on a public relations project that served the cross purposes of Christians ministering in China and the U.S. business community. Hired by individuals whose identity remains secret to this day (I’ll reveal them when they die), we worked to target key congressman with the message that keeping China open to trade also kept open the channel through which the Gospel was being delivered. Business was—-and is—-a Trojan Horse for the Gospel in China.

We created the Association of Christian Ministries in China, which was comprised of a group of U.S. missionary-sending organizations working in China. Many of these organizations had to remain anonymous. But the ACMC was real and the organizations wanted trade to remain robust and China to remain a Most Favored Nation.

With so many anonymous partners, this campaign drove the media crazy and infuriated other Christian leaders who were opposed to MFN status for China.

Today, we need to keep the pressure on China’s human rights performance. But we can best do that as we engage them in business. However, we have to step through these open doors and seek more freedoms for the Chinese people. Otherwise, we’re just stuck with all the cheap Chinese products in our stores, with no impact on the faith and freedom in China.

Posted by Jim at 08:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Like a Laser Beam: Townes Wins Templeton Prize for Religion

Scientist Charles Townes, the Nobel laureate whose inventions include the maser and laser and who has spent decades as a leading advocate for the convergence of science and religion, has won the 2005 Templeton Prize.

Awarded by the Templeton Foundation, “the Prize is intended to help people see the infinity of the Universal Spirit still creating the galaxies and all living things and the variety of ways in which the Creator is revealing himself to in which the Creator is revealing himself to different people. We hope all religions may become more dynamic and inspirational.”

Sir John Templeton, for many years a Presbyterian is now, well, an Everythingian. But the award goes to some interesting people, including in past years Mother Teresa, Alexandr Solzenitsyn, Billy Graham, and Chuck Colson.

Religion News Service reports on this year’s award:

Townes, 89, secured his place in the pantheon of great 20th-century scientists through his investigations into the properties of microwaves which resulted first in the maser, a device which amplifies electromagnetic waves, and later his co-invention of the laser, which amplifies and directs light waves into parallel direct beams. His research, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964, opened the door for an astonishing array of inventions and discoveries now in common use throughout the world in medicine, telecommunications, electronics, computers, and other areas. It was the 1966 publication of his seminal article, "The Convergence of Science and Religion" in the IBM journal THINK, however, that established Townes as a unique voice - especially among scientists - that sought commonality between the two disciplines. Long before the concept of a relationship between scientific and theological inquiry became an accepted arena of investigation, his nonconformist viewpoint jumpstarted a movement that until then few had considered and even fewer comprehended. So rare was such a viewpoint at the time that Townes admitted in the paper that his position would be considered by many in both camps to be "extreme."

Nonetheless, he proposed, "their differences are largely superficial,
and...the two become almost indistinguishable if we look at the real nature of each."

The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about
Spiritual Realities was founded in 1972 by pioneering global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. Given each year to a living person to encourage and honor those who advance knowledge in spiritual matters and valued at 795,000 pounds sterling, the Templeton Prize is the world's best known religion prize and the largest annual monetary prize given to an individual. The prize's monetary value is in keeping with Sir John's stipulation that it always be worth more than the Nobel Prizes to underscore his belief that research and advances in spiritual discoveries can be
quantifiably more significant than those recognized by the Nobels.

Posted by Jim at 07:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005

Since the MSM Can’t Beat the Evangelicals, It is Refocusing Its Spotlight on Their Greens and Blues

It’s taken a few months for the mainstream media to figure out just how to deal with the extreme makeover that seems to have left evangelicals muscle-bound and primed for battle.

But now there is an emerging MSM strategy for neutralizing the evangelical impact on American politics. While not abandoning the stratégie de guerre of featuring old-line fundamentalists and evangelical firebrands in an unflattering and embarrassing light, there’s a new plan.

Find the evangelicals that are espousing liberal positions and position them in a radiant glow.

How else do you explain the media fascination with Jim Wallis, a barnacled vessel of 70’s evangelical liberalism? Wallis is everywhere and his book God’s Politics is the new holy grail of the MSM.

Now today, The New York Times is painting the Christians green.

“A core group of influential evangelical leaders has put its considerable political power behind a cause that has barely registered on the evangelical agenda, fighting global warming,” the Times gushes.

The Washington Post leads a similar article

with a quote from a Washington-area pastor:

Such "creation care" should be at the heart of evangelical life, along with condemning abortion, protecting family and loving Jesus. He uses the term "creation care" because, he says, it does not annoy conservative Christians for whom the word "environmentalism" connotes liberals, secularists and Democrats.

I am in favor of expanding public understanding of the concerns of evangelicals beyond the hot-button issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. Some of Wallis’ cautions are worth considering and I agree that care of God’s creation is a valid Christian concern.

But isn’t it interesting that the most prominent and positive glow surrounding 2005 evangelicals features issues the MSM know and love. As evangelicals reach into the liberal pockets and pick up issues of legitimate concern to them, it is those who lean left that are getting the spotlight.

Since the MSM doesn’t like the entire painting on the evangelical canvas, it will shine its spotlight on the greens and blues.

Posted by Jim at 03:16 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

When is Enough, Enough?

I supported Bush’s proposal to cut taxes during the 2000 election campaign when we had projected surpluses out the wazoo. After all, the government overcharged its citizens for the services it was providing and President Bush was simply proposing to give us back our change at the register.

I continued to support Bush’s tax cuts when the "warning light flashed on the dashboard of our economy” in 2001 as the Clinton bubble turned into the Clinton recession.

When Congress voted to extend Bush’s tax cuts in September 2004, the fourth time in four years, I understood that move was largely political with the election around the corner, but didn’t think it prudent to extend the tax cuts beyond 2010.

I cannot however support Bush’s current tax cut proposal, nor can I support the counter-proposal of a handful of GOP Senators to scale it back a bit.

The economy is on the right track. We should rejoice in steady stable growth. Why continue to cut taxes? Why not be patient and give the existing tax cuts time to work? Maybe I’m just an Eisenhower Republican when it comes to tax policy. I don’t see anything wrong with that, because there comes a time when we have to ask: When is enough, enough?

Posted by Rick at 03:03 PM | Comments (4)

March 09, 2005

The Byrd Option

Clever title for this Wall Street Journal Op-Ed. (HT: twoorthree) If everyone referred to the proposed Senate rule change as the "Byrd Option" rather than the "Nuclear Option," it would conjure up recollections of Senator Byrd's trigger happy past.

Posted by Rick at 06:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Amputees Back to Combat

Broken Masterpieces calls out seven amputees that are trying to get back into combat:

Army S/Sgt. Daniel Metzdorf
Army Pfc. George Perez
S/Sgt. David Chatham
Army Capt. David Rozelle
Senior Airman Anthony Pizzifred
Special Forces Sgt. Andrew McCaffrey
Army S/Sgt. Josh Olson

Their inspiring stories are told in the latest issue of Newsweek and MSNBC carries the article. Go read Tim’s exhortation to us for them. Then act.

Posted by Rick at 06:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More on the iPod world

A few weeks ago I discussed Andrew Sullivan's views on the new iPod world. Since then I found this post over at Crux Magazine's Signs of the Times blog. I took particular interest in the closing passage:

That might, incidentally, be all it takes: a willingness to stop off at a bar occasionally for a drink. If many people did that, maybe the yarn of society would start meshing together and something better would be knitted from it. It beats all the individualistic strands lying around in a heap today.

Just a few drinks at the bar. In what other era has civic mindedness made such an easy and enjoyable request?

Reasonable people will differ on the merits of stopping off at a bar, but let's keep the point intact. If needs be, substitute the word "coffehouse" for bar. Or maybe deli. Or cafe. Etc. These establishments become what Russell Kirk called "little platoons," place of voluntary communion among neighbors. This is why some of us are so upset to see Best Buy replacing the local record store and Home Depot replacing the local hardware. Think of the hardware store on a television show like Home Improvement or the coffee shop on Friends. Yes, those are television shows, but I think we all know that such places exist. I can think of several in my own community. Yes, the free market is good, but if we don't work to preserve local institutions, we'll lose them. Just imagine a world where the local barbershops are replaced by MasterCuts.

I know I treasure my mornings spent at the Crimson Cafe here in Tuscaloosa, and I know that countless friendships have been formed by the cafe's patrons. (Even better, I know of several Christians who are regulars. Their friendships with employees and other customers is likely bearing fruit for the Gospel.) Whatever we think about the drinking of the characters on Cheers, the fellowship they shared was a good thing. These institutions are good for the community and, I would argue, for the church, as well. Our bonds with our neighbors should, as much as possible, pre-exist before we decide to evangelize.

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

Christian Positions on Bankruptcy?

I'm working on a news story this week for Christianity Today on the bankruptcy bill that is making its way through Congress.

I am interested in the major Christian positions for and against the bill, which makes it more difficult for individuals to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The political positions:

The bill keeps the courthouse door open, but also holds people accountable for their debts," said Laura Fisher, spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association. "It eliminates some abuse in the system."

But critics point out that the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 -- which could get a final vote in the U.S. Senate this week -- is not intended to protect lower-end economic groups either.

What about the biblical positions?

What say ye, blogosphere?

Posted by Jim at 05:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Your Turn: How to Persuade Bill Maher that Jesus is Not an Imaginary Friend

OK, I’ve said enough. And this might be old news to many people. But after yesterday’s post I’m more interested in what Maher has said. Just read this and let’s come up with a cogent evangelism strategy for Bill Maher. I think his comments are extremely harmful, not to me, but to seekers.

Posted by Jim at 01:05 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Numa Numa by Gary Brolsma

Watch this video for a good laugh. daddyddc of Plethora Blog suggests that you watch the eyebrow.

Posted by Rick at 09:31 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack


I never got into Bleach. When I was fourteen and they first broke out, they seemed to me to be CCM's answer to Nirvana. I never really got over that. As I've said before, I'm not much into CCM. My favorite "Christian" band, though I doubt they'd describe themselves as such, is the amazing mewithoutYou. Post-punk, very-D.C. sounding. Just an incredible band. Sample these lyrics:

But if I didn't have You as my guide
I'd still wander lost in Sinai
Counting the plates of cars from out-of-state
How I could jump in their path as they hurry along!
And You surround me, You're pretty but You're all I can see
Like a thick fog...

Posted by Matt at 07:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Internet Is Growing Source of Political News; Citing the Blog Elite

A new Pew Center study found that the use of the Internet to get information during the 2004 campaign increased six-fold--to 18%--from 1996. TV rose to 78% and newspapers declined to 39%.

The author of the study, Lee Rainie, said:

Blogs "are having a modest level of impact on the voter side and probably a more dramatic impact on the institutional side. Blogs are still a realm where very, very active and pretty elite, both technologically oriented people and politically oriented people go."

Posted by Jim at 06:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Can you Live Blog a Screenplay Writing?

If you can't, Shawna of Shouting into the Wind is coming about as close to it as possible. Here's the latest:

So, I'm on page 58. Things are breezing along, which is really rare for me. I hit a scene I was loving to death, so much so it went on a page to long and I had to immediately go cut it back. But then I discovered, to my horror, that one of my secondary characters is trying to TAKE OVER MY STORY!! I don't know how that happened but that little s.o.b. Manny is trying to steal Dennis's story right out from underneath him. I'm not sure how to beat him back and bring Dennis to more prominance. This always happen to me. I get a kick out of one of my secondary characters and before you know it, that person is far more interesting than the main character.
Visit her site, scroll to the bottom, then read the posts chronologically. Fun stuff :-)

Posted by Rick at 02:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fishbowl View of Chinese Political Economy

The Washington Post has a great little article about the closure of Silk Alley in Beijing, a place where a form of street-vendor capitalism has flourished for decades under the envious eye of China's Communist Party. The local Party officials have learned to wed their power with capitalism.

"It's quite typical," said Jiang Zezhong, an economist at Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing. "The government has the power and investors have the money. They join up and together extract all the benefits."

And, Drudge links to a UK Telegraph article on worry amongst State Communist Party elite about China's bloated bureaucracy and its 46 million government employees. Aside from the corruption, the civil servants are "expensive, requiring official cars, holidays masquerading as training sessions and receptions."

The State government had an apparent motive for publishing their data as it pointed largely to the excess and corruption of the local Party officials:

Yesterday's disclosures were not the great step forward in parliamentary accountability they might appear. They fit squarely with a drive by the new party leadership to assert greater control over local government, where most of the bloated ranks of officials are to be found.
Maybe the local officials should just give the State Party elite shares in their shady public/private ventures and everyone will be happy, right?

Posted by Rick at 01:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Millard Fuller Firing

In light of Jim's earlier post on the firing of Habitat for Humanity's founder and president, Millard Fuller, it's often hard to tell fact from fiction. Nonetheless, this Washington Post article doesn't bode well for the philanthropist. How does one man rack up so many apparently corroborated claims of sexual harassment?

Jim, you mentioned a possible future Christianity Today article on the subject. What's the scoop?

Posted by Rick at 12:55 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 08, 2005

Neither New nor Improved

Well, he edited out the lies about James Watt, but Bill Moyers is still shopping this shrill piece of moonbattery around.

Here are my comments regarding this article when it appeared in the Mpls. Star-Tribune.

Posted by Drew at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

But I don't think my wife would go for it.

An intriguing business plan.

(Hat tip: Blogizdat)

Posted by Drew at 11:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

War and Bleach

Greg Wallace says that this is Bleach's best record ever. (Another review here.)

I hope to find out soon enough.

I've been enjoying Bleach's music for many years. Though Bleach hasn't jumped on the "Let's Put Out a Praise and Worship Record!" bandwagon like so many others artists have done in the last decade, I think they've had a number of incredibly worshipful songs. (For an emo-geek-rock band anyway.) Their 1999 self-titled CD (their third) was much maligned, but it's always been in regular rotation in my CD player. "All That's Sweet," "All to You," and "Good" are outstanding expressions of worship -- the last two in particular could and should be Praise and Worship standards by now.

But I digress.

In searching for a review of the new CD, "Farewell Old Friends," I came across this interview from September of 2003, done upon the relase of their previous CD, "Astronomy." (Second favorite of mine.)

In the liner notes for "Astronomy," the band notes that the brother of band members Jared and Milam Byers, was killed in Fallujah in July of 2003. In the interview linked above, Jared and Milam share a bit about their brother, Captain Josh Byers, and his thoughts on our military actions in Iraq.

Do you remember the last time you spoke to Josh?

Milam: Yeah, it was April 2, the night before he flew to Iraq. He called all of us as a family to say goodbye. That was a hard thing. When your brother goes to war, all you can think about is, "Will I ever talk to him again?" He also wrote us every week or two, so we have letters that will just forever be special. My parents got a letter he wrote the day before he was killed. It's just amazing, because in the letter he talks about how our security is not in our circumstances but in God and a great faith-words that mean so much now, you know?

Obviously, Josh might still be alive today if not for the war in Iraq. Do you think his death was a necessary part of a necessary war?

Milam: Yes, because he believed it. For me to think any different would mean that he died in vain. Before he left for Iraq, he said, "The reasons I'm going is not the things you hear on CNN. It's not about oil, it's not about policing the world, it's not about weapons of mass destruction. It's about freedom. It's about us wanting to afford these innocent people a freedom that we Americans enjoy, and it's about people like Saddam not being able to bully the world around and kill innocent people anymore." That's what it was about. It wasn't any of that political propaganda bull that we're flooded with. It was about him wanting to free those people and genuinely caring for those people.

Jared: Josh was fighting to free those people and to free our country from terrorism. Josh believed in what he was doing, and I did too. I know why he was over there, and I know what he believed in. He felt it was a necessary cause, so I do too. I hate the war; nobody wants war. But I know that Josh believed he was there for a good cause.

Here is a military family who has lost a son and a brother. Anyone would understand if they reacted strongly against the war and against the administration that sent him there. But they don't. And this scenario is repeated countless times among countless military families. I'd like to think that I would continue to support our military presence in Iraq if such a tragedy would affect my family, but I fear that I might become bitter instead.

"Understand there are reasons beyond ours," goes a line from the title track of "Astronomy."

I don't know how they do it.

If "Farewell Old Friends" is, indeed, the final album from Bleach, I'm going to miss them. But these guys miss their brother every day.

Posted by Drew at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

Technology creates strange alliances

(Hat tip: World Magazine Blog)

LifeNews.com reports on an unusual bill introduced in the Maine legislature that would outlaw abortions of gay fetuses. The article points out that the bill has the support of a national gay-lesbian pro-life group. Of course, I would assume that any anti-abortion legislation would have the support of any pro-life group.

What I find particularly unusual is that the bill is based on the notion that the mythical "gay gene" may one day be discovered, and as a result, parents may choose to abort an unborn child who is discovered to have that gene.

State Rep. Brian Duprey of Maine has introduced legislation to prohibit abortions on unborn children who are gay. The measure has raised eyebrows and generated debate whether or not genetics has any bearing on someone's sexuality.

The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians says it supports the bill.

"We recognize that at this time the gay gene has not been isolated, but with all the advances of genetics we believe that it may just be a matter of time" said Jackie Malone, executive vice president of PLAGAL.

Malone's group contends that homosexuality may not be a matter of preference or choice, but could be controlled by a person's genetic makeup. If a so-called "gay gene"is discovered and could be determined during a pregnancy, it could lead to abortions, PLAGAL believes.

"Abortion tries to get rid of real human beings who are threatening or undesirable," says Cecilia Brown, president of PLAGAL. "Children are routinely aborted now because of gender or disability. It is not inconceivable to see people aborting because of a possible gay gene."

May I assume that heterosexual fetuses could still be aborted?

(If you think China's "one child" policy that has resulted in more female children being aborted will create problems in the future, imagine what could happen with this! The mind boggles!)

Even more interestingly, Rep. Brian Duprey, who introduced the legislation, said he was inspired by a comment made by Rush Limbaugh.

Last month, Duprey told the Portland Press Herald newspaper that listening to the Rush Limbaugh show gave him the idea for the bill. Limbaugh had commented that if scientists ever discovered a gene that caused a person to be gay, then homosexual activists would become pro-life "overnight."
I've heard this sort of comment before -- not sure if it was Limbaugh or someone else -- but I think it's accurate. And science is continually challenging those who insist that an unborn child is a mere "tissue mass."

Jonah Goldberg actually wrote about this bill last month. I missed it at the time. But he also makes a good point about how the discovery of a "gay gene" would affect not just pro-life gays and lesbians, but perhaps alter the thinking of all who identify themselves as homosexual.

Just imagine, for the sake of argument, that Rep. Duprey is right — that sometime in the near future women will be able to abort their pregnancies solely to avoid giving birth to a gay kid. Would this increase the number of pro-life gays and put pressure on the political alliance between gay groups and pro-abortion groups? Probably (although there are significant numbers of pro-life gays and lesbians already).

Nothing sharpens a man's mind as much as knowing he'll be hanged in the morning, as the saying goes. Likewise, one may assume without fear of much contradiction that homosexuals would greet the prospect of the quiet annihilation of their culture with a special revulsion they do not (for the most part) reserve for the consequences of abortion generally.

Posted by Drew at 10:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bill Maher is an Idiot

Bill Maher is an idiot and is on his way to hell.

[UPDATE: Some have asked what I was thinking using the word "idiot," given Jesus's caution on anger in Matthew 5. I was trying to use the extravagant tone that is so common to Maher as a way of diminishing his remarks. As for the word itself, I'm meaning more "raca" (HCSB suggests that's something like "airhead") than "moron," if I have my choice between the Mt. 5:22 words. Most important, I'm not angry at Maher. I pity him because he is so caught up in his own rage that he is refusing the embrace of God. And as I've said in the comments below, while I believe Maher is on his way to hell, I certainly hope he doesn't end up there. While I'm sure he'd resist the overtures of the church, I pray that the hound of heaven will hunt him down.--JJ]

Now, on to the story. Maher, the former host of "Politically Incorrect," said on MSNBC in late February that Christians and others who are religious suffer from a neurological disorder that "stops people from thinking."

Maher said:

"We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder. If you look at it logically, it's something that was drilled into your head when you were a small child. It certainly was drilled into mine at that age. And you really can't be responsible when you are a kid for what adults put into your head."

More Maher quotes:

"When you look at beliefs in such things as, do you go to heaven, is there a devil, we have more in common with Turkey and Iran and Syria than we do with European nations and Canada and nations that, yes, I would consider more enlightened than us."

"When people say to me, 'You hate America,' I don't hate America. I love America. I am just embarrassed that it has been taken over by people like evangelicals, by people who do not believe in science and rationality. It is the 21st century. And I will tell you, my friend. The future does not belong to the evangelicals. The future does not belong to religion."

That’s all outrageous and melodramatic, Mr. Maher. You can make fun of people and deride beliefs different than your own. Very funny.

But can we talk about that future thing? I don’t believe you’ve made the right Wager.

Posted by Jim at 07:04 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Is this a good idea? A school for the bullied and harassed.

Rather than dealing with peer and faculty harassment in Milwaukee high schools, school officials in Milwaukee will move victims to a school for the harassed.

The Alliance School, a charter high school that will focus on students who feel discriminated against or bullied, will open in August.

Report from the Milwaukee Sentinel:

“That might be a Goth student, a painfully shy student or a gay one. All three have enrolled in the school, which plans to open in August. The school will be the first of its kind in the state, and possibly the nation, its founders say.

Last spring, the Milwaukee School Board approved the concept, and school officials are looking for a building. A charter school is publicly funded, but has more autonomy and flexibility than most traditional schools.

'I saw a lot of students who were being bullied and no one was doing anything about it,' said Tina Owen, a teacher at Milwaukee's Washington High School who will leave her job to become the lead teacher at Alliance. Some students who look and act different from the mainstream are 'really tormented,' she said. 'I've even seen teachers be really hard on them.'"

No mention of the harassed Christian students. In that case, I predict your parents will have to pay for isolation in a Christian school, or home school.

This all seems so wrong. Remember when the bullies got sent to detention hall. Now the bullied are shipped off to mass ostracism.

Posted by Jim at 06:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

“O” is not for Oscar: Catholic Bishops Give Million Dollar Baby Its Worst Rating

The film critics of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gave "Million Dollar Baby" an "O" -- morally offensive -- rating and warned that its "guilt-wracked, but ultimately permissive" take on euthanasia "will leave Catholic viewers emotionally against the ropes."

(Matt saw the movie and has the SCO review here.)

"We praised it on the artistic level and, in many ways, it is a fine film," said Harry Forbes, director of the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting. "But we also felt duty-bound to give it the worst rating we can give, in terms of moral content. ... In the end, we did not believe it was propaganda for the euthanasia cause, although we know some people did."

Thus, the office's review said: "The pain and devastation of those involved is achingly evident. However, in spite of all the soul-searching that precedes it, the deed itself is presented as an act of reluctant heroism. ... Our sympathies and humane inclinations may argue in favor of such misguided compassion, but our Catholic faith prohibits us from getting around the fact that, in this case, the best-intended ends cannot justify the chosen means: the taking of a life."

Catholic ethicist Thomas Hibbs went even further, calling "Million Dollar Baby" a trip into a "nihilistic hell" in which Eastwood meditates on life in a chaotic, amoral and ultimately hopeless universe. At the movie's heart is the ultimate question: "What if God does not exist?"

Posted by Jim at 06:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2005

It Ain't Me, Babe

I don't know if any of our readers feel this way, but in digging out some old cds, I just remembered how fantastic Bob Dylan really can be. I've been enjoying Another Side of Bob Dylan quite a bit tonight. Perhaps I should add Chronicles Vol. 1 to my reading list.

And while I'm thinking of making purchases, I'll also look into Mark Roberts' suggestion of Bach's St. Matthew Passion. If anyone knows of a particularly good arrangement, please let me know.

Speaking of Bob Dylan, I think he's easily one of the five best American songwriters of the last fifty years. I'll also throw the late Townes Van Zandt into that group. While existential and lonely in many respects, Van Zandt wrote some incredible songs and was a tremendous influence on many Texas songwriters. I always enjoyed the following quote about Dylan and Van Zandt from the liberal but still great Steve Earle:

"Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that."

I might not say it, but it always made me laugh.

Posted by Matt at 10:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jim Jewell: SCO White House Correspondent

I nominate Jim to represent SCO and join the White House Press Corps. If 23 year old blogger Garret Graff can earn a pass, public relations veteran Jim should should be able to obtain credentials.

New York Times story on Graff here. According to NYU journalism professor, Jay Rosen,

Mr. Graff was expanding the definition of what constitutes the press, just as radio and television once pushed those boundaries.
I'll say.

Posted by Rick at 04:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Decline of Atheism/Rise of Pantheism

In response to Jim's post earlier this morning, The Decline of Atheism, reader John of Locusts and Honey comments on the increase in pantheists that "reach the relativistic conclusion that everything is true and therefore nothing is true."

Assuming there truly is a decline in atheism as indicated by the UPI/Washington Times article, I think John identifies the most significant underlying point: former or would-be atheists are not rushing in droves to the feet of Christ.

Aaron of Two or Three posts on the subject and also notes the rise of pantheism (or paganism):

Christians need to be prepared for the type of discussion and debates that this type of belief system will provoke. I am afraid like in virtually every other previous debate, Christians will be out in the culture decrying the evils of atheism when there are only a handful of them left and we will be ill-prepared for the new culture.
Good points John and Aaron.

Posted by Rick at 03:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Blogger Issued White House Press Pass

The White House on Monday issued a visitor pass to attend the daily press briefing for Garrett Graff, who writes a blog about the news media from the nation's capital called Fishbowl DC.

A White House spokesman said he believed it was the first time a blogger had been given access to the briefing (h/t: John Shinal at MarketWatch).

Graff writes:

"After a week of attempts, getting into the White House this morning was a piece of cake. We arrived at the northwest gate today promptly at 9:30 as instructed by the Press Office on Friday. The Secret Service officer at the gate was a little puzzled when we explained we didn't have any press credentials, but a scan of the driver's license confirmed we were on the list for the day. After we passed through the gate, he presented us with the Holy Grail: A brown and white pass reading "Press." And we were in."

Posted by Jim at 03:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Noticing Conservative Black Clergy

There are more signs that the Republicans will be in trouble if they move to a moderate candidate on social issues in 2008. An article over the weekend on black churches leaders explores the faction of African-American clergy that aligns with Republican positions on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

If Republicans make addition inroads with black voters, it will most likely be among blacks troubled by declining moral values, not those who rethink economic policy (although there is some movement there, as well).

“At the heart of the debate [among black] church leaders is whether to stay focused primarily on issues like job creation, education, affirmative action, prison reform and health care, which have drawn blacks closer to the Democratic Party, or whether to put more emphasis on issues of personal morality, like opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, which would place them deeper in the Republican camp.”

Posted by Jim at 09:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Decline of Atheism

Atheism is in decline, UPI Religious Affairs Editor Uwe Semon-Netto reported last week. (h/t: Considerettes).

This is not a brilliant piece of research, as Joshua at ITA points out, but a report of the opinions of various social and religious observers.

Interesting viewpoints, however, particularly about Europe's move away from godlessness. We haven't heard anyone citing those kinds of trends in Europe.

The article says:

“Two developments are plaguing atheism these days. One is that it appears to be losing its scientific underpinnings. The other is the historical experience of hundreds of millions of people worldwide that atheists are in no position to claim the moral high ground.”

Interesting thoughts:

Munich theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg: "Atheism as a theoretical position is in decline worldwide.”

Oxford’s Alister McGrath: [Atheism's] "future seems increasingly to lie in the private beliefs of individuals rather than in the great public domain it once regarded as its habitat.”

Turkish philosopher Harun Yahya: "Atheism, which people have tried to for hundreds of years as 'the ways of reason and science,' is proving to be mere irrationality and ignorance."

John Updike: "Among the repulsions of atheism for me has been
is drastic uninterestingness as an intellectual position," appears to become common currency throughout much of the West.

Semon-Netto writes:

“A few years ago, European scientists sniggered when studies in the United States -- for example, at Harvard and Duke universities -- showed a correlation between faith, prayer and recovery from illness. Now 1,200 studies at research centers around the world have come to similar conclusions, according to "Psychologie Heute," a German journal, citing, for example, the marked improvement of multiple sclerosis patients in Germany's Ruhr District do to "spiritual resources."

The Challenge for Christianity

The Rev. Paul M. Zulehner, dean of Vienna University's divinity school: "True atheists in Europe have become an infinitesimally small group. There are not enough of them to be used for sociological research."

The only exceptions to this rule, Zulehner said, are the former East Germany and the Czech Republic, where, as the saying goes, de-Christianization has been the only proven success of these regions' former communist rulers.”

Zulehner cautions, however, that in the rest of Europe re-Christianization is by no means occurring. For although in every major European city except Paris spirituality is booming, according to Zulehner, this only proves the emergence of a diffuse belief system, Pannenberg said, but not the revitalization of traditional Christian religious faith.

Zulehner, a Catholic, sees Christianity's greatest opportunity when its message addresses two seemingly irreconcilable quests of contemporary humanity - the quest for freedom and truth. "Christianity alone affirms that truth and God's dependability are inseparable properties to which freedom is linked."

Posted by Jim at 08:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 06, 2005

Bravo President Clinton

I never thought I'd say that, but he deserves it. According to this report (HT: Drudge), Bill slept on the floor so the senior Bush could sleep on the bed during their Tsunami tour.

"We could have switched places, each getting half a night on the bed, but he deferred to me. That was a very courteous thing, very thoughtful, and that meant a great deal to me," Bush said.

Posted by Rick at 09:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Judge Refuses Yale Law Grad Clerks

Federal Judge William M. Acker (Alabama) informed Yale Law School that their graduates need not apply for a clerkship in his office as a result of the school's decision to curb military recruitment efforts at the Ivy League law school. The story is over a week old now, but I still haven't formed a solid opinion about it, so I thought I'd throw it out there.

The article cites Eugene Volokh and the Volokh Conspiracy.

"Collective punishment can sometimes be an effective method of sending a message to an institution, but it's not quite fair to penalize the student for the law school he went to," Volokh said. "Judges ought to try to be extra fair to everyone."
Would it have been fairer to students if the Judge announced that he would not accept students entering Fall '05 or later? I doubt this would change any minds about attending Yale, but at least dilligent students would learn that choosing Yale would mean one less clerkship opportunity.

Posted by Rick at 10:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Colson on Martha Stewart and the Purpose of Prison

Terrific NY Times op-ed article today by Chuck Colson on Martha Stewart and the purpose of prison. Colson writes:

"I was pleased to learn of one of Ms. Stewart's first statements upon her release from prison: "I will never forget the friends that I met here." This is the same promise I made 30 years ago. I hope that Ms. Stewart, who is a remarkable influence on women of all walks of life, uses her talents to reach out to the 100,000-plus women who are still behind bars. If Martha Stewart does this, I am certain she will find the same paradoxical happy ending to her prison journey that I have."

(Disclosure: I spent 12 years as Chuck Colson's chief of staff and communications VP)

Posted by Jim at 08:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2005

American's Stingy Christians?

Courtesy of Michael Spencer at the Boar's Head Tavern, I found this post over at the Thinklings discussing some recent comments made by Bono of U2:

"[Bush needs to] clear up some confusion about America's basic beliefs. Americans are overtly devout. And yet Europeans, who inhabit a more secular world, give more per capita than Americans to what the Bible calls "the least of these" - the world's poor. The United States is in 22nd place, last in the class of donor nations. (Add private philanthropy and it's up to 15th.) Europeans see the discrepancy, and they smell hypocrisy."

There's a lot to chew on in this quote. To begin with, Bono's initial exclusion of private philantropy gives up the ghost in a hurry. The majority of Americans - even some liberals - do not see the government as the chief means of accomplishing some task. It's not the way we work. We work for ourselves; the government only works when we commonly agree that some task cannot reasonably be performed on our own. (Think roads, briges and street lights) It has been this way since our founding. You would think that after two hundred something years, the Europeans would understand this. For all his time in America, Bono cannot see this.

Secondly, Bono should know by now that depsite the faith of our President and our religious heritage, America is not a nation of Christians in the sense that every American is a practicing Christian. This is the danger of some on the religious right who insist that America is a "Christian nation." The implication to those around the world, then, is that our nation will act in the manner of an individual Christian. This is nonsense for a nation in a hostile world. America is a huge nation, with vast land and a tremendous population. We have our own to care for in addition to those overseas. Bono has seen the plights of those in the Delta and surely he is aware of the poverty in the inner city. We must help those within our own borders, in addition to those around the world. Given our population and the needs of the American poor, surely a gap will emerge somewhere.

Here's an offbeat example. Last football season, every single NCAA Division 1 football program in the state of Alabama played in a bowl game. That's 100 percent, and it may very well be the highest percentage from that season. The catch is that Alabama only has four such programs. Imagine the same scenario in Bono's statistics. A small nation with high taxation handed over to the UN's relief programs will quickly outdo the U.S. Bono's using the stats to say whatever he likes, but he's ignoring reality.

These are gaps in ideas between Europeans and Americans, and it is a difference that may have to exist between evangelicals and Catholics on both sides of the pond. I'm not sure there's much to change this in the near future. Still, American Christians should be very cautious in labeling America a Christian nation. The problem does not lie in our defintions; the trouble comes with everyone else's definition. Unless we're prepared to move beyond the Dobson-esque cliches, and defend the American approach to government, economics and charity, to say nothing of condemning our materialistic culture, we're going to live a world of confusion that will only grow worse with time.

I concede that there is always more to give. There is always one material thing we can do without, and there is another one, five, ten dollars we can spare to ease the plight of those suffering in America and around the world. Yet let us not be lulled into a sense of guilt and anxiety over the self-righteous misunderstandings of the rest of the world.

Posted by Matt at 11:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

CJR on the Threats to Journalists’ Privilege

These are perilous days for journalists’ privilege. So says Columbia Journalism Review. Journalists and media rights advocates are nervous about the Plame case becoming a test case for media privilege, according to a long article by Douglas McCollam in CJR.

McColllam writes:

“As a general rule courts believe they have the right to “hear every man’s evidence,” and privileges against testifying are not favored in the law. Over time only a few such exemptions have been endorsed, including the attorney-client privilege, the doctor-patient privilege, the priest-penitent privilege, the spousal privilege, and, most recently, the therapist privilege. The Constitution also forbids compelling people to testify against themselves.

[The defendants claim that] “reporter’s privilege should now be added to that list, but fashioning a reporter’s privilege presents special challenges.”

But it is becoming more and more difficult to determine who is a journalist, particularly with bloggers now providing an additional flank.

The article goes on:

“All the other recognized privileges involve inherently private information given to members of accredited professions. Journalism, by comparison, trades in public information and is less a profession than an activity in which anyone can engage. As the courts in both Branzburg and Plame have asked, Who qualifies as a “journalist” for purposes of the privilege?”

If you are interested in the Plame case or the issue of journalist privilege, this is a good read, understanding that it is written with the bias of a media trade publication.

Posted by Jim at 07:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

Angers, France

My jaw dropped when I read the first paragraph to this story from Angers, France; but as I read, I became deeply sadened.

...parents allegedly raped, abused and pimped children and even babies....Investigators say 45 children — aged from 6 months to 14 years — were abused by their parents or people close to them from 1999 to 2002, in some cases in exchange for small amounts of money, food, cigarettes or alcohol.
Over 60 people from this small town in western France have been charged. Why?
Alcoholism, poverty and, defense lawyers claim, a failure of social workers to spot signs of abuse may have played a role. More than half of the accused, aged 27 to 73, were unemployed, living off benefits in state-supported housing.
Uh, Wrong. It's called moral and spiritual depravity.

If this happened in Old Testament times, I figure God would have smote the entire village.

Posted by Rick at 07:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Barriers for Abortion in Georgia

The Georgia legislature, which for the first time is totally in the hands of the Republicans, sent Governor Perdue a bill today (which he will sign) that will delay abortions and require parental consent for minors in most cases. The Georgia Senate passed the Woman’s Right to Know bill by a vote of 41-10.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

A bill requiring women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours is on its way to the governor's desk.

HB 197 passed the Senate Friday morning by a vote of 41-10.

It deletes a provision in Georgia law that allows someone other than a parent or legal guardian -- such as a grandparent or other relative caring for the child -- to be the one notified when a minor seeks an abortion.

The bill also would require physicians to offer women seeking an abortion information on the medical risks associated with abortion, the probable gestational age of the fetus, fetal pain, and alternatives to abortion, including adoption.

Posted by Jim at 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Toward the Fair Tax: Greenspan Endorses Move to Consumption Tax

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan weighed in on tax reform yesterday, endorsing a move toward a consumption tax, while cautioning against rapid, wholesale change.

"Many economists believe that a consumption tax would be best from the perspective of promoting economic growth - particularly if one were designing a system from scratch - because a consumption tax is likely to favor saving and capital formation," Mr. Greenspan said.

That should provide a boost to the Fair Tax bill introduced and championed by Georgia Congressman John Linder, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. 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.

There are several Republican lawmakers who recognize that tax reform and social security reform need to be considered together.

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 09:10 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Cruel and Unusual Decisions on the Death Penalty

Just when you thought it was safe to oppose to the death penalty, along comes a scoundrel like the BTK (bind, toture, and kill) murderer in Kansas, for whom any kind of execution seems too humane.

I wrote briefly about developing a consistent ethic of life as a mark of the Christian statesman, and I do believe its ability to save lives must be the biblical standard in state use of capital punishment.

But what is the Constitutional standard? The court wrestled with this as it relates to children under 18, wading into the perilous waters of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.

The simplifiers of sound-bite media have derided the court this week for citing national and international consensus. It’s easy to see this as a continuation of the High Court’s decades-long trend of legislating from the bench. But how do we determine the definition of subjective terms such as “cruel” and “unusual?” Do we use the definitions of the 18th Century, when the Constitution was crafted? Or some other milestone along the way? Or shall we revert biblical times (Old Testament or New?).

What is cruel and unusual punishment? The court has now decided that the execution of the mentally retarded and those under 18 is cruel and/or unusual.

This column by Stanford professor Robert Weisberg is a reasonable examination of the issue. Here’s an excerpt:

The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments," but for much of its history the United States has allowed the death penalty. In 1958, the court ruled that "evolving standards of decency" should define what constitutes "cruel and unusual," and since then it has been forced to confront the legality of capital punishment in various types of cases. Could the death penalty be imposed for nonfatal crimes? When the defendant did not kill intentionally or at least in a manner exhibiting "extreme indifference to human life"?

In answering these kinds of questions (in both of these cases, the response was no), the court committed itself to a challenging set of tasks. First, it would examine the patterns of state laws or court decisions to determine by a rough empiricism whether the death penalty in a particular category has become cruel by virtue of being literally unusual. Of course, this approach raises the perfectly reasonable question of how the scope of the Bill of Rights, which was designed to limit the powers of legislative majorities, could depend in part on the decisions of those very majorities.

Next, the court would consult various other sources for evidence of some sort of moral consensus. In doing so, the court would refer to philosophical or moral principles or political attitudes outside the realm of law altogether - and even to international expressions of moral value. This strategy provokes the (again perfectly reasonable) complaint that unelected jurists are now acting like pollsters, assessing the public's moral values. Or, worse, they are becoming arbiters of moral value themselves.

There do have to be cultural benchmarks that are consulted in determining the tangible implications of subjective terms. As such, as alarming as it has been made to sound in recent days, the Republic will survive the Court’s decision to take a reading of modern society.

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

March 03, 2005

The Ten Commandments Folly

Given the history and religious composition of the nation, it is a travesty that tax dollars have to be spent to combat opposition to the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings and on public grounds.

We hear so much about the people of other faiths being offended by the Ten Commandments. The Christians and Jews are fine with it. So who is opposed: the Muslims, Hindus, or the Buddhists? Or it is just the atheists?

Which of the commandments is of such great concern to the people of other faiths? Is the Murderers Lobby hard at work? Do a lot of folks want to covet on the Sabbath? Where would our politicians be without false witness?

Of course, posting the Ten Commandments at the Courthouse does very little to stop unsavory action. People going to court have already broken the law. Seriously, it has very little practical impact. However, and this is a big however, when the government acknowledges these moral foundations of civilization, it helps parents teach the Ten Commandments at home. That’s where it really matters.

We’re learning this week of religious symbols all over the Capital. Among the statues of lawgivers are many religious figures:

Here are the relief portraits above the gallery in the House chamber:

George Mason, Robert Joseph Pothier, Jean Baptiste Colbert, Edward I, Alfonso X, Gregory IX, Saint Louis, Justinian I, Tribonian, Lycurgus, Hammurabi, Moses, Solon, Papinian, Gaius, Maimonides, Suleiman, Innocent III, Simon de Montfort, Hugo Grotius, Sir William Blackstone, Napoleon I, and Thomas Jefferson.

There are 18 figures of lawgivers on the walls of the Supreme Court chamber:

Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius, Augustus, Napoleon, John Marshall, William Blackstone, Hugo Grotius, Louis IX, King John, Charlemagne, Muhammad, and Justinian.

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

More Outrage

This time from Hugh Hewitt at the LA Times for this article. The following sums up Hugh's complaint: "70 years ago American journalism did not cooperate with evil. It reported on it."

I agree. The article is outrageous and the LA Times should be held to account. Hugh has many suggestions for action.

Outrage can be expressed in many ways - some sinful, others righteous. Perhaps indignation is a better word to describe the type of response I was looking for in response to Dean and Byrd's recent comments, although WordNet by Princeton University uses the terms interchangeably. (See 3rd entry for outrage and 3rd entry for indignant)

Hugh urges an indignant response to an outrageous publication of a news organization with power and influence both here and abroad. If the publication was of little significance or influence, we wouldn't even know about it - as things should be.

Our 1st Amendment guarantees a free press, but does not guarantee that press an audience and certainly does not insulate that press from public criticism. In fact, I believe that responding indignantly (and proportionally no doubt) to any outrageous abuse of the 1st Amendment is both our reasonable and responsible service as Americans.

Posted by Rick at 02:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Reaction to Byrd's Hitler Comments


Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Byrd's remarks showed "a profound lack of understanding as to who Hitler was" and that the senator should apologize to the American people.

"It is hideous, outrageous and offensive for Senator Byrd to suggest that the Republican Party's tactics could in any way resemble those of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party," Foxman said.

(HT: Drudge).

More from the Washington Post and New York Times. But nothing on Dean's slander of pastors?

Posted by Rick at 09:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Over-sexed Sports Heroes and the Fall of Icarus

We need a few good sports heroes to step forward and present a wholesome and selfless side of sport.

Someone assure us that there are sportsmen who don’t sleep with a different woman in every town. Someone assure us that there are top performers who perform without being pumped up on steroids. Someone assure us that he would play for less money because he loves the game so much and he doesn’t need any more money. Someone assure us that he loves his city so much that he wouldn’t think of going somewhere else to make a few more million dollars.

Someone tell me why I should aspire for my son to grow up to be like you.

I’m thinking about professional sports this morning because Kobe Bryant has settled with his accuser. He was not convicted of a criminal offense and he and his victim or partner won’t have to go through the disclosures of a civil trial. They both feared that because their lives are so slimy and they know it.

Kobe is, of course, as guilty as the day is long. Although he is probably not guilty of rape, the guilt that’s on his head (which, by the way, is known in the Bryant home court) is that of adding to the tarnish of modern sport that has so obscured the beauty and celebration of professional athletics that fans can hardly see the through it.

Jose Canseco says nearly everyone in baseball is doing steroids and, without restraint, doing the bimbos who hang around professional athletes. Jose says he remembers only a few married teammates who didn’t cheat on their wives on the road.

Canseco’s actions throughout the years are despicable and his credibility is questionable, but is anyone coming forward with a different picture?

Baseball recently adopted a tougher steroid-testing program after the sport came under increased scrutiny about the drugs. But I want to hear the stories of athletes who say they are happy for the testing but are even happier that they know that their performances are drug free and legitimate.

Show me the heroes. I don’t care about their money.

In the meantime, many will look beyond the debacle that has become modern professional sports. As the lives of egocentric, drugged up, and sexually indulgent professional athletes come crashing down, we will go on with our own lives, a bit curious, but otherwise disinterested.

Humbug Journal wrote about Jason Giambi’s fall from grace, citing this painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, called "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus":

icarus falls.jpg

Icarus is barely visible, splashing down in the lower right corner. W.H. Auden wrote of it:

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Bryant, Bonds, Giambi—professional athletics—unrestrained by the call of character and good taste will, like Icarus, fall. But it will be nothing but a little-noticed splash in a large, busy landscape.

Show us heroes. We may notice.

Posted by Jim at 07:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2005

Welcoming Ward to Wisconsin

Sean at "The American Mind" has photos of the competing demonstrations surrounding Ward Churchill's appearance at UW-Whitewater. (That would be both the "Capitalism is Terrorism" protesters, and the "Remember the 9/11 Victims" demonstrators.)

Sean adds his own thoughts here.

Jib of Jiblog also has quite a few pictures and more commentary. And a picture of someone who decided that this would be the most opportune moment to announce her sexual orientation.

UW-Whitewater's excuse seems to be that this is a free speech issue. No one is disputing that Churchill should be free to espouse whatever loony claims he wants. We just don't think he should be subsidized by taxpayers for it.

If you're an alumnus of the UW system -- UW-Whitewater in particular -- you might want to explain it to the person who calls every year asking for a donation.

Posted by Drew at 06:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SCOTUS: New Arbiters of National and International Consensus?

I am not particularly fond of the death penalty (I've had a very loose draft of a post on the subject sitting idle for too long now), but the philosophical basis for yesterday's Supreme Court ruling overturning various State laws allowing the execution of minors is troubling. The Court cites a "national consensus" against the death penalty for minors and, via references to foreign decisions and law, suggests their decision conformed also to a global consensus.

Let's look at a timeline:
1989 Stanford v. Kentucky: Court upheld State laws allowing death penalty for minors.
1997 State v. Simmons: Missouri Court ruled that Simmons' death sentence was constitutional. A 2001 appeal was denied (Simmons v. Bowersox, 235 F. 3d 1124, 1127 (CA8), cert. denied, 534 U. S. 924 [2001].).
2002 Atkins v. Virginia: Justice Stevens' opinion cited a "national consensus has developed" against the death penalty for mentally retarded.
2002: Simmons files a new petition on the basis of Atkins v. Virginia. The petition argues that the conditions of his 1997 Missouri Supreme Court and 2001 appeal have changed.
2003 State ex. rel. Simmons v. Roper: Missouri Supreme Court overturns their earlier ruling, saying that, whereas in Atkins v. Virginia, a national consensus had developed against the death penalty for the retarded, a national consensus had also developed against the death penalty for minors.
2004 Simmons v. Roper: The Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Stevens Kennedy, author of the Atkins decision, cites the "national consensus" as a valid reason for striking down the death penalty for minors.

With this ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has assumed the role of arbiter of national consensus. Simmons v. Roper also facilitates arbitration of international consensus by the Court.

I link to an article on the subject from the Economist, a highly respected British periodical, because it exemplifies well my objection to the Simmons v. Roper decision.

The article outlines three trends that may signal an end to the death penalty in America: 1) public opinion; 2) judicial and executive activism; and 3) appeals to foreign opinion and law (I admit is not easily distinguishable from point #2.)

On point #3:

A third trend against the death penalty in America is the increasing attention paid to moral views elsewhere. In the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court acknowledged “the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty”. While the court explicitly said that foreign opinions, legal or moral, are not binding in American law, they were nonetheless “respected and significant confirmation” for Tuesday’s ruling.
As demonstrated by the "national consensus" timeline, in this instance there is merit to the tired slippery slope argument. One day the Court references a foreign judicial opinion or law as ancilliary support for an opinion. The next day, the Court relies on this previous opinion and its references to foreign law in the supporting rationale for an otherwise tenuous opinion. Opinions build upon opinions and the line between American case law and foreign case law becomes blurred.

The Economist ended their article with the following quote, which touches on the problem with Stevens' national consensus proclamation:

America may be happy to differ sharply from the world’s other democracies on some moral and ethical issues, and this often irritates its closest friends. But this week’s death-penalty ruling seems to show that even a superpower can sometimes be swayed, even if just a bit.
Has America been swayed? Or have 5 of 9 life tenured unelected Robed Ones been swayed?

NROs Jonathon Adler echoes my concerns:

I have substantial qualms about the death penalty, but I cannot see how today's decision is "good" in any sense of the word. As a legal opinion, it's outrageous. It replaces representative government and the rule of law with the moral sense of five folks in robes.
I realize that the consensus of a polity can be stifled in our most directly representative institutions, but the SCOTUS is hardly the appropriate body for determining national consensus. Worse for democracy, though, would be a SCOTUS that forces Americans to submit to international consensus.

Posted by Rick at 09:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Govenator and 'Roids

Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger has no regrets about his use of steroids as a body builder. Earlier this week, the headlines declared just that: Schwarzenegger: No Regrets About Steroids.

Did he not know that his admission and not the context of his admission would be the message heard by most; especially, our nation's youth? Apparently the 'roids were legal at the time and he took them as prescribed by a doctor, but until I actually read the article, all I heard were the headlines. Schwarzenegger told Stephanopoulos

"We were experimenting with it. It was a new thing. So you can't roll the clock back and say, 'Now I would change my mind on this,'" he said...
Why not? I'm a bit perplexed by the Governator on this one.

Posted by Rick at 09:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Ferment of Freedom

The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world. America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

President George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address

The progression of freedom is not inevitable, but given a modicum of support and protection, freedom possesses an inexorable contagion. How quickly we are seeing that 2005 will be known as the Year of Freedom. The keynote for change was sounded in President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address, seen as historically inspirational by some and wildly unrealistic by others.

What is evident is that the clarion call of the President, and a foreign policy based on strength and initiative against terror on the blood-soaked soil of the terrorists, has struck a match in international kindling soaked with the combustible sweat of human oppression.

Around the world, the churning and tonic of freedom’s ferment are making daily headlines:

Afghanistan: The striking image of woman in Afghanistan, formerly shrouded and humiliating, striding confidently to a voting booth.

Iraq: Despite toxic threats, the people of Iraq flipping the purple finger of democracy and turning the tide of Middle Easterni history.

Libya: The formerly brazen Quaddafi of Libya standing down on nuclear weapons when being a member of the world community looked better than being on the serious end of a cruise missile.

Ukraine: The Orange Revolution refusing to succumb to the bullies of Ukraine and their Russian sponsors and making their voices heard in new elections.

Palestinians: After electing a leader who recognized the value of peace, the Palestinans see more hope beyond the shadow of Arafat, and the Palestinian Authority shows increasing confidence in working against their own terrorists.

Egypt: The possibility that Egypt will see the first truly contested national election in its 5,000 year history.

Former Soviet Republics: Opposition parties in Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan cloaking themselves in orange, hoping to "do a Ukraine" and remove unpopular governments in parliamentary elections.

Russia: Putin looking chastened after a meeting in which Bush clearly confronted him on the slipping of democratic freedoms in Russia.

Saudi Arabia: Women are granted suffrage in local elections for the first time. A small step, but in the right direction.

Lebanon: Lebanese citizen-protest leads to downfall of pro-Syria government, breaking 29 years of Syrian domination, Lebanon's pro-Damascus.

Recognizing that the road to freedom is never a straight line and it will continue to be strewn with the bodies of heroes, many are celebrating freedom’s ferment:

From FrontPageMag (h/t: The American Mind):

From Hosni Mubarak’s opening up Egyptian elections for the first time, to Syria’s strong efforts to accommodate American demands for withdrawal from Lebanon and for cooperation in Iraq, the Middle East is changing in ways unforeseen even last fall.

Lebanon’s Druze Patriarch Walid Jumblatt pinpointed the genesis of this metamorphosis in the pages of The Washington Post:
It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.

In other words, a sea-change is taking place in the Arab world: democracy is becoming reality for the first time in history – and all this progress came about because of the determination of President George W. Bush and over the most vicious objections of the American Left.

Shermblog shares a Chris Muir cartoon that highlights the dilemma of the left: How can we stop President Bush from getting any credit for all of this.

Cartoon on Freedom.gif
Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Roger L. Simon weighs in:

In the last three years, Afghanistan and Iraq have gone more or less democratic, Libya has stood down on nuclear weapons, Ukraine has gone democratic, the Palestinian Authority and even Egypt are making democratic noises and now a near-fascist pro-Syrian regime has resigned in Lebanon. Will all of this work out perfectly? Of course not. Nothing in history moves in a straight line. But this is a rather remarkable achievement of epoch proportions and is clearly the result of a strong US foreign policy.

Mark Steyn writes in The Telegraph:

Consider just the past couple of days' news: not the ever more desperate depravity of the floundering "insurgency", but the real popular Arab resistance the car-bombers and the head-hackers are flailing against: the Saudi foreign minister, who by remarkable coincidence goes by the name of Prince Saud, told Newsweek that women would be voting in the next Saudi election. "That is going to be good for the election," he said, "because I think women are more sensible voters than men."

Meanwhile in Damascus, Boy Assad, having badly overplayed his hand in Lebanon and after months of denying that he was harbouring any refugee Saddamites, suddenly discovered that - wouldja believe it? - Saddam's brother and 29 other bigshot Baghdad Baathists were holed up in north-eastern Syria, and promptly handed them over to the Iraqi government.

And, for perhaps the most remarkable development, consider this report from Mohammed Ballas of Associated Press: "Palestinians expressed anger on Saturday at an overnight suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis and threatened a fragile truce, a departure from former times when they welcomed attacks on their Israeli foes."

No disrespect to Associated Press, but I was disinclined to take their word for it. However, Charles Johnson, whose Little Green Footballs website has done an invaluable job these past three years presenting the ugly truth about Palestinian death-cultism, reported that he went hunting around the internet for the usual photographs of deliriously happy Gazans dancing in the street and handing out sweets to celebrate the latest addition to the pile of Jew corpses - and, to his surprise, couldn't find any.

Why is all this happening? Answer: January 30

NickieGoomba puts tongue firmly in cheek and suggests a Michael Moore reaction:

Michael Moore insisted that a "Plague of Democracy" was upon us and could spell the end of progressive politics. Waving a breadstick to emphasize his points, he said:

"Look at Ukraine, look at Iraq, look at Afghanistan, look at Egypt, look at the Palestinians, look at Lebanon. That idiot, George Bush Jr., is establishing countless non-union democracies. I'm talking low wages, non-OSHA workplaces, elected govenment officials without Liberal Arts degrees...it is madness. And have you noticed a lack of diversity in the new so-called democracies? All I see are Arabs and Muslims. It looks like Martin Luther King died for nothing. Stop being sheep. Bush is ruining the whole world. This Democracy crap is a disease and we have to nip it in the bud..."

Remarkably, amazingly, even the Gray Lady is struck by the advancement of freedom:

This has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power. Washington's challenge now lies in finding ways to nurture and encourage these still fragile trends without smothering them in a triumphalist embrace.

Posted by Jim at 06:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

Sound Booth

Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost links to a blog dedicated to Church sound.

As a former sound dweeb for my church and tour engineer for a local Christian act, How's Kelly, and house engineer for a parachurch ministry, I am happy to learn of this blog.

Speaking of music and sound - now that I have access to a server, I should post links to some of the music I've produced over the years. Maybe someone would be interested... Maybe not...

Posted by Rick at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nuclear Option - California Style!

The Govenator took a step closer today to following through with his threat to bypass the Sacramento Legislature and take some of his reform initiatives to the people. Is a Governor's threatened use of the Initiative to bypass obstructionist Democrats in Sacramento equivalent to the Senate's threatened use of the nuclear option to bypass Democrat obstructionists in the Senate?

I wonder how many California Democrats are studying the Byrd speech? After all, Arnold's father was a member of the Nazi party!

Posted by Rick at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tipping Point?

Senator Byrd provides us with another excuse to go nuclear - oh, and to be outraged! (HT: Hugh Hewitt)

[Adoloph Hitler] recognized the enormous, psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made his illegality legal. And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do.
Is it time to break out the Holocaust photos and videos? When the loony left (think Moore and the folks at DU) says things like this, I shrug it off. But this vitriol is brought to you from the leader of the Democratic Party and the senior Democrat in the United States Senate.

RNC Chairman Ken Melham says Byrd's remarks are "reprehensible and beyond the pale." Take the cue activists and speak up! This must not be tolerated.

Another thing that must not be tolerated is the unconstitutional denial of each and every Senator's right to offer advice and consent. Existing rules disenfranchise a majority of US Senators!

Be sure to read Radioblogger's comprehensive rebuttal to Byrd's tripe, especially as they pertain to his arguments for the filibuster. Wasn't Byrd the one who weakened the filibuster, not once, but four times? (This, according to Senator Arlen Specter)

Aside from the hypocrisy involved - I expect that from politicians on both sides of the isle - Radioblogger points out the intent of the Senate's Constitutional role to offer advice and consent. Most compellingly, he quotes Federalist #66 by Hamilton as cited in Mark Levin's, "Men in Black."

It will be the Office of the President to nominate, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint. There will, of course, be no exertion of choice on the part of the Senate. They may defeat one choice of the Executive, and oblige him to make another; but they cannot themselves choose - they can only ratify or reject the choice he may have made. -- Alexander Hamilton
I love that term - "ratify or reject." The filibuster may have many good and Constitutional uses; but Senate Rule 22 currently allows a minority of Senators to prevent duly elected Senators from exercising their Constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent on Presidential appointments.

Get your heads out of the clouds and mobilize to action! Don't be so "spiritually" minded that you are of no earthly good. Speak in defense of our Constitution and Senators' rights to advice and consent. Buttress good with action and deny attempts to obfuscate good and evil. Stand up and be counted. Stand up!

Posted by Rick at 09:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Where is the Outrage?

Having spent the past hour searching the blogosphere for posts related to Howard Dean's "good versus evil" comment, I have to ask: Where is the outrage?

Perhaps it's understandable as I was not quite outraged following my first post on the subject. While a tad cross-eyed over Dean's characterization of pro-life pastors, I wasn't outraged. Affirmed in my political party afilliation, yes. But not outraged.

Upon filing my post, I thought for a while about Dean's allusion to Bush's use of "good and evil" in the war on terrorism (GWOT) and how mixed up he must be to compare domestic policy to the war on terrorism. I also thought more about his comments on abortion. Did this guy really think that a pastor who holds life in high regard is somehow part of an evil domestic agenda rhetorically equivalent to the GWOT?

With a few clicks of a mouse, I found myself on Michael Savage's website. I'm no Savage fan, but I noticed a collection of links to videos of hostage beheadings at the hands of islamofascists. While I had seen still photos of the beheadings thanks to Drudge, I had not seen a video, so, in aftermath of Dean's comments on good and evil, I watched the videos. Each one of them - and in horror.

What I saw almost made me vomit; in fact, it left me with a sick feeling all day that lasts this hour. I will likely never forget what I saw - nor should I!

I became full of what I hope was a righteous rage over Dean's remarks following the viewing. My thoughts then turned to images I had seen months ago of aborted babies and drafted a post expressing my contempt for Dean's remarks, which included links to the disturbing photos and videos.

Although I left a warning, a commenter objected, writing:

In the above post you link to some of the most disturbing images ever made available for public viewing, with nothing more than a parenthetical warning about disturbing graphic images...
Until now I had only seen two videos of decapitation (now three). That was all I needed. More, actually, because these images have a more corrosive impact on visual memory than pornography. In fact, I imagine that such images are pornographic for some segment of the population.
I am sensitive to the commenters' objections, but, I have to disagree here. The reason I do not link to pornography is because I fear it would stumble not only myself, but others, who may struggle with lust. Perhaps I am presuming too much about our readers, but I did not consider that the pictures and videos would lead others to sin. I hoped it would drive them to their knees and scream out to God on behalf of man and for intervention.

Following the links to the photos and watching the videos do scar the visual memory - to that I bear witness - but for those who are not outraged by Dean's choice of words in his political rhetoric, I recommend the videos to scar them out of their sin of complacency.

I started this post with a mention of my hour-long search for posts on the subject. Hindrocket's post was typical of most as it highlighted the clear hypocricy in Dean's tolerant intolerance, but I did not find a single post expressing outrage with Dean. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Many pundits thanked the Democrats for giving the Republicans a gift like Dean. Others opined that Dean was merely rallying the base that largely agrees with him, which has the added affect of making more mainstream Democrats look more electable.

All of these posts miss the mark. I feel that through this experience, God has removed scales of complacency from my eyes and I saw a glimpse of Satan himself in Dean's remarks. I'm not a "demon under every rock" kind of Christian; but, this awakening put the fear of God in me, so to speak.

Howard Dean suggested a type of equivalency between domestic and foreign struggles of good and evil. He claimed to be on the side of good in the domestic struggle - the side against, among others, pastors who support life. If there is any equivalency here, it is between what is happening to millions of American babies and what happened to those poor hostages at the hands of man. View the pictures, watch the videos, read Dean's comments, then tell me you aren't outraged!

Posted by Rick at 01:43 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

God Blog Con I

God Blog Con I will be held on the Biola Campus in La Mirada, CA. Dates are October 13th (Thursday) through the 15th (Saturday). Mark your calendars and start calling churches in the area for a spot on their multi-purpose room floor :-). I got dibs on Hugh's couch.

Posted by Rick at 01:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack