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November 30, 2006

Smashing the Charity Stereotypes

The New York Times asked, "Are we cheap?" Liberals give their opinions on that.

"Yes," they say. Former President Carter recently said the rich states "don't give a damn" about people in poor countries. And when it comes to helping the needy in poor countries, U2 singer Bono says, "It's the crumbs off our tables that we offer these countries."

Crumbs because many other countries, such as Norway, Portugal and Japan, give a larger share of their wealth to needy countries.

The United States gave out $20 billion in foreign aid last year, but as a percentage of our wealth, we rank 21st out of the 22 major donor countries.

Actress Angelina Jolie is horrified by it.

"It's disgusting. It really is disgusting," she said. "I think most American people, you know, really do think we give more. And I know that they would if they could understand how little they give and how much more we can afford to give, absolutely, without even noticing it."

But what these folks are ignoring is that America is one of the most generous countries in the world when you look at how we take personal responsibility for our charity. As much as the general consensus has inched more and more towards the idea that it's the government's job, a very large segment of our population understands that "rugged individualism" not only means being personally independent but also means taking personal responsibility for the needy, and not shoving it off onto some other group or institution. Predictably however, those who do gauge things by institutional or governmental charity are blind to the reality of the generous America.

Carol Adelman at the Hudson Institute has studied how much Americans give privately in foreign aid. She says it's a myth that Americans are stingy.

"We're one of the most generous people in the world, and that's because of our private philanthropy," she said.

Adelman published her findings in the institute's "Index of Global Philanthropy," which found that while the U.S. government gave about $20 billion in foreign aid in 2004, privately, Americans gave $24.2 billion.

On top of that, immigrants in America send about $47 billion abroad to family members and home towns. That's anything but stingy.
After the tsunami two years ago, the U.S. government pledged approximately $900 million to relief efforts, but American individuals gave $2 billion in food, clothing and cash.

So America's individuals send out more than three times cash that the government does, and continue to give when tragedy strikes. This is not a portrait of a stingy country; that is, if you see the whole picture. And of course, there's more to charity than just cash.
The fact that most of America's charitable gifts come from volunteers, not government, demonstrates that Americans are different from people in every other country.

"No other country comes close," said Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. Brooks studies charitable giving and has a new book, "Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide."

"The fact is that Americans give more than the citizens of any other country. … They also volunteer more," Brooks said. "Americans per capita individually give about three and a half times more money per year, than the French per capita. … Seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians."

"Now, you might notice that these other countries have different average incomes or different tax systems," he said. "But even when you take that into account, Americans give 10 times more than the Italians. The fact is, that Americans give on a different scale than anybody else in the world."

The problem with America's reputation comes from its a self-appointed "ambassadors", like Carter, Bono and Jolie, who complain that we don't funnel enough money through a government that siphons off 75 cents off of each "charitable" tax dollar. In the meantime, while Hollywood and the Left trash them, the average American continues to give to charities with a much better value for dollar given. But this generosity isn't even on the radar for those whom the government is the answer to every problem, and who disdained private solutions while supporting public waste.

And who's doing this giving? The aforementioned book by Brooks shatters all the stereotypes and puts those charity ambassadors in a different light. According to Brooks,

  • 24 of the top 25 states where people give an above average percent of their income were red states in the previous presidential election.
  • Conservatives give about 30 percent more than liberals, even though on average conservative-headed families make slightly less money.
  • People who believe the government does not have a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.
  • People at the lower end of the income scale give almost 30 percent more of their income than do those who make $1 million or more.
  • Religion is the single biggest predictor as to whether someone will be charitable. Religious people give to four times as much to charity, and not just to their own church but also to outside organizations and even explicitly non-religious charities.

Seems like it's not so far off the mark that the more you expect government to do the job of charity, the less likely you are to get involved in local need issues. It looks like what is needed is for these charity "ambassadors" to get more in touch with their ideological brethren. In the meantime, they could stop bad-mouthing the American people, including the allegedly "greedy" right-wing Republican churchgoers. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

Posted by Doug at 03:48 PM | Comments (2)

November 29, 2006

Ten Ways Media Leaders Can Keep Media Ethics from Becoming an Oxymoron

After reading a list of oxymorons, beginning with George Carlin’s famous “jumbo shrimp” and “military intelligence, I got a minor laugh in my college course on writing for public communication by introducing as the next oxymoron, Media Ethics. It introduced a section on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, and I suggested the following list of ten ways the national media could restore its reputation.

1. Accuracy: Attention to detail; accuracy at all costs.

2. Thoroughness: Emphasize thoroughness over speed; getting the story right is more important than getting it first.

3. Humility: demonstrate humility through preparation, broad and vigorous research, and by seeking out experts.

4. Real Affirmative Action in news operations: ideological, religious, regional, and socio-economic, as well as racial and ethnic.

5. Journalism not Opposition: Reaffirm journalists as reporters of news, not the opposition party.

6. Historic Values: Reflect traditional values of the nation—ethics, historic teachings of faith groups.

7. Thinking: Recover the serious and critical mind—beyond the sound bite.

8. Rediscover Shame: wrongdoers should not be honored, they should be dishonored.

9. Self Cleansing: Restore credibility by cleaning up your own house so that journalists are trusted to present news fairly and professionally.

10. Leave NYC: Build national media competence and presence outside New York City and Washington, D.C. It would be good if the major networks moved to Des Moines, or Kansas City, or perhaps Indianapolis.

These were my thoughts for one group of future journalists.

Posted by Jim at 08:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 27, 2006

Mocking Religion, Happy Feet is Not a Friendly Little Film

I can't remember coming out of movie theater more furious than I did this Thanksgiving holiday after watching the animated and PG-rated Happy Feet. With relatives visiting from around the country, how could we go wrong taking both kids and adults to a cute little penguin story with lots of singing and dancing, with warm and fuzzy animal themes?

I'm not a movie prude; we check out many kinds of movies. And I expect most anything coming out of Hollywood, with any rating, to include something contrary to my values. I let most of it roll off my back. But with Happy Feet, I didn't expect my conservative Christian family to be assaulted with what we all recognized as a anti-Christian screed, with open mockery of traditional Christian preaching against values and lifestyles contrary to church teachings. It was abundantly clear that Happy Feet substituted homosexuality with dancing as the "different" lifestyle that was the unfair target of an Inquisition on ice. It was Dirty Dancing and Footloose all over again, but with the rhetoric and situation developed to make religious criticism of homosexuality counter to everything good and pleasing.

Did they think Christians wouldn’t notice? I suppose the creators just didn’t care. We had four families attending Happy Feet, with children of all ages. Independently, parents concluded during the film that they would walk out if it wouldn’t be a disruption to others in the large group of family members who had come to the movies together.

Clearly, we should have all left together.

The creators of Happy Feet should have taken less time mocking Christians and more time making sense out of the wild leaps at the end of the film, when the dancing penguin so impresses crowds in the aquarium that they release him back into the wild. And when the community of penguins gets happy feet, the commentators of the world decide its time to stop disrupting their food supply. (Of course the humans are to blame for all the animal woes; a long movie-making tradition that goes back to Bambi).

Wild leaps, even with happy feet.

For Christians who have not seen Happy Feet and are considering it as a friendly, family film—make another choice. This film is not good for children or families, and it is another Hollywood example of open mockery of Christian traditions.

Posted by Jim at 09:04 AM | Comments (46) | TrackBack

November 25, 2006

"I have here in my hand a list"

Ok, so it's not THAT kind of list. The December issue of The Atlantic has an interesting article naming the Top 100 Most Influential Figures in American History (registration or subscription perhaps required; I don't know, I am a subscriber). A group of esteemed historians, including evangelical historian Mark Noll, voted on the top 100 most influential Americans. The article is also filled with other interesting sidelines, including the most influential Americans still living, and subsets that include influential musicians, poets, architects, and others.

Here are the Top 5:

Abraham Lincoln

George Washington

Thomas Jefferson

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Alexander Hamilton

Now, to paraphrase Alan Jacobs in A Visit to Vanity Fair: Moral Essays on the Present Age, to make any such type of list is to invite immediate rebuttal about the list. I have made one circumnavigation, and I think the list is fairly complete (with one glaring exception). I will begin with quibbles about the order.

First, I would likely put Washington first and Lincoln second. This is a mere trifle--perhaps they should be tied for first. Nonetheless, Lincoln was not working from a blank slate. He had an idea of what America was. Washington did not have four score and seven years. He was writing on a blank slate. Thus, I would put Washington first. No Washington, perhaps no Union for Lincoln to preserve.

Second, I would put James Madison in the Top 5. Perhaps we would have had the Constitution we have now without Madison. I'd rather not gamble on it though.

Third, I would put Martin Luther King in the Top 5. He came in at eighth. His ability to rally African Americans around non-violent change, as well as his ability to rally white Americans with his eloquent logic, put him in a status with the Founders. If you disagree, consider how the Sixties, as trying as they were from a race relations perspective, would have played out without Dr. King and his non-violence.

Fourth, I was gratified to see Ronald Reagan in the Top 20 (#17). As time passes, his vision and his strength of will are being recognized. Ten years ago, he would perhaps have made the second 50.

Fifth, Patrick Henry doesn't make the list? I have been laboring under the delusion that he may have once given an influential speech, but perhaps I recollect incorrectly. I do not doubt that Stephen Foster (#97), Ralph Nader (#96) and P.T. Barnum (#67!) were much more influential. Wait! Thomas Paine (#19) is there instead? OK "PRESTIGIOUS" HISTORIANS WHO MADE THIS LIST, REPEAT AFTER ME: THOMAS PAINE WAS NOT AN AMERICAN, HE WAS A SCOTSMAN (IF HE WAS ANYTHING).

Other quick-hit trifles:

--Walt Whitman (#22) beats out John Adams (#25)? ??? ?????

--Jonathan Edwards comes in at #90. Glad to see it. Billy Graham does not make it. Not happy about that.

--Herman Melville rounds out the list at #100, making, apparently, Rachel Carson (#39) more influential. A fact no doubt supported by the fact that Silent Spring is on so many more high school and college course reading lists than Moby Dick.

--The first woman is Elizabeth Cady Stanton (#30). Apparently Sandra Day O'Connor has been less influential.

In the event, I do not want to nit-pick too much. It is a very fun list. If it gets people talking about the people, and the issues they represent, then it will have done a great deal of good.

Oh, and by the way, the person whose quote gives this post its title was an also-ran:

With only two votes, Cold War bogeyman Joseph McCarthy didn’t make the Top 100

Demagoguery ain't what it used to be.

Posted by Mark at 11:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Without Conscience

Catching up on reading this morning, I happened across the editorial Without Conscience in the September issue of Touchstone magazine. The editorial discusses the various movements in mainline Protestant churches and in the Catholic church that tend to water down, or dispense with entirely, basic tenets of the church in the name of "conscience" or "pluralism," or whatever. These corrosive elements have tended to be irreversible and, once entrenched, do not gladly suffer any “pluralism” in the form of tradition:

Such “pluralism” cannot work in practice, because it does not mean variety within a greater unity, but the anarchistic assertion of every individual will. This explains why in those traditions now dominated by the innovators, pluralism on their fundamental matters is severely limited (the traditional Episcopalian cannot impede the desire of a woman to be ordained). That those now in power once appealed for diversity on these matters but now refuse it is a lesson to those bodies in which the innovators have not yet gained power.

The editorial also discusses the rationale for why these "innovators" stay within their traditional bodies, rather than availing themselves of all our pluralistic society has to offer:

But why insist on “conscience” at all? We live in a pluralistic society, which means that Christians dissatisfied with their church have an endless menu of other groups to choose from. Almost any disgruntled Christian can find a nearby church whose life and teachings he likes better.

The dissenters appeal to “conscience” because it offers them a way to eat their cake and keep it too. As far as we can see, dissidents remain in the churches whose traditional teachings they deny mainly because they feel a stubborn sense of “ownership” to which belief is irrelevant—the sense that “It’s my church, and no one is going to drive me out”—and can explain their dissent, no matter how thorough, as the attempt by faithful members to correct a church in error. (The extent to which many are economically and otherwise bound to the body whose teachings they partly reject also should not be underestimated.)

The editorial does not break new ground but does succinctly capture the pressures on the traditional denominations from those who want to improve upon the Gospel that has been handed down from the early Church.

The editorial almost has a tone of puzzlement as to what is going on. It is as if Messrs. Hitchcock and Mills, who authored it, continue to be surprised by this now very old attack on Christianity from within.

For my own part, I am not surprised. In its infancy, when its doctrine was formed, Christianity was a marginal and radical movement, often peopled by the poor and dispossessed. That it has in ensuing years managed to gain some power within the secular world does not change what it is--a movement that cares about spiritual matters and not as much worldly matters. We are to make believers and disciples, not edifices and bureaucracies. Institutions are worldly things. We should not be surprised that institutionalized religion then is susceptible to worldly corrosion, anymore than other institutions, such as educational institutions, are susceptible to the same pressures.

That does not mean that we traditionalists should give up, nor should we flee our traditional denominations. Rather, must continually remind ourselves whom our real enemy is, and that he will not abandon the attack on whatever belongs to our Lord. That we will be in the midst of those attacks should be an encouragement that we are where the Lord wants us.

Thus, with love, patience, charity and wisdom, we should continue to defend the faith, and our churches, from the attacks of the world. In doing so, we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater—that is, we should understand that the “dissenters” are beloved children of God. They need to hear the true Gospel, repeatedly if necessary, every bit as much as the unchurched. That is our duty as Christians.

We should also continue to look outside of our specific denominations, whether evangelical, Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox, and take up the cause with like-minded traditionalists in those other traditions. This is not to say that we need to give in to our doctrinal differences. We need to understand, however, that that which brings us together, Christ crucified and resurrected, is much greater than that which may divide us.

Perhaps, then, by our mutual cooperation and support, we will have churches whose foundations and bulwarks have been strengthened to withstand the attacks from the enemy.

Posted by Mark at 10:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

But What Can One Do?

Jim’s post below has spurred me to set down a few, seemingly trivial yet concrete actions I have taken to reduce my negative impact on the earth.

First, to restate the problem, regardless of Global Warming, it cannot be gainsaid that (i) landfill space is not infinite, (ii) fossil fuels will run out, and (iii) tailpipe and smokestack emissions, however much scrubbed, have a negative health impact and mar our surroundings. It is possible, as well, that average global temperatures are rising caused, however much, by fossil fuel burning.

Second, as a Christian, I must also give thought to God’s call on me to be good steward of His creation. This is true both for the present and for the future. Regardless of your eschatological beliefs, it is quite possible that our great grandchildren will live to see our leavings. I contend that we ought also to take some thought of what we bequeath to them.

Thus, it behooves Christians and non-Christians alike to give thought to how their everyday actions can change our earth for the better, or worse. Even if all you do is little, you have at least done that. If we all do a little bit, it could perhaps add up to a lot.

Here are some things I have done. I do not pass them on as things that everybody can or will want to do. I only provide them as examples of small things that can be done, if a little forethought is given to one's actions:

• I bring my lunch to work in a re-useable lunchbag. This enabled me to stop buying, and throwing away, paper bags.
• I bring my sandwiches, etc. in Tupperware. This has reduced dramatically my use of disposable Ziploc bags.

• I shave with a straight razor. This enabled me to stop buying, and throwing away, around 40 razor heads a year. Small, yes. But, then again, all those semi-sharp blades aren’t out there cluttering up some landfill.
• I use a high-quality hard soap for my shaving lather, and I use a brush. This has enabled me to stop buying, and throwing away, approximately 15-20 metal cans of shaving cream a year. I have had my current bar for four months and have barely made a dent in it.
• I have asked to take my Mars Hill Audio magazine subscription in downloadable form, rather than the CD form. This avoids having to deal with six CDs a year, plus their cases.
• We have started using cloth napkins for dinner rather than paper napkins.

None of the foregoing has had a negative impact on our lifestyle. Indeed, some of the changes have been enjoyable, and saved some money to boot. Take shaving with a straight razor. I enjoy it and it gives me a bit of a connection with the way my forefathers shaved. I suspect I could change still more and not negatively impact my lifestyle.

So, what little can you do?

Posted by Mark at 12:52 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2006

Start Your Thanksgiving With YouTube

There have been very few really good Thanksgiving shows on television, but thanks to YouTube, we have clips from one of the funniest Thanksgiving shows ever made. (Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Posted by Tom at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 20, 2006

Getting Personal About Global Warming

I've been at the heart of the evangelical initiatives to engage the Christian community in an effort to combat human-induced global warming. For my conservative friends who still believe that all climate change we're seeing is simply cyclical, keep reading, because I'm not writing to argue that point (you wouldn't be convinced anyway, although the huge majority of scientists are). For my fundamentalist friends who belive there is no global warming, I'm not sure what world you're living in, but I hope you are enjoying it there.

I've found that most evangelical Christians have come to believe that effective care of God's creation is a moral and spiritual obligation. Not because nature is above human beings, or that the created are above the Creator, but because the earth and all that is within it is the Lord's and we, his children, have been given it as a temporary home, and we've been given the responsibility to care for it.

And if you believe that climate change is impacting the most vulnerable people in the world, as I do, and that it will be deadly for many of these people who live on the margins in the years ahead--then Christians have a deep moral responsibility to stem global warming.

You may not see the solution as government taking responsibility. That's fine, but it is a personal reponsiblity.

As evangelicals we are all about getting personal. We believe in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We believe in personal transformation and personal responsibility. We can also address problems such as environmental degradation and dependence on foreign oil not only through government action but through personal responsibility.

This personal responsibility can include reducing our own use of fossil fuels.

Choose to do this for a variety of reasons. You may be keenly concerned about global warming. Others of you may see environmental conservation as a driving force. Still others of us believe that reducing our personal use of energy is a commitment to national security because it will reduce our reliance on oil from often-hostile sources.

Regardless of your reasons, I encourage you to consider using a tool created by the Evangelical Climate Initiative to participate in a program called Cooling Creation, which will show you the steps to reducing your global warming pollution to zero. Because few of us in the West want to live in grass huts and grow our own food and walk everywhere, we can reduce but not eliminate this personal pollution.

The Cooling Creation program offers an annual offset investment in alternative energies.

Check it out. Forget the arguments about the role of government and the threats to the economy. Is there a good reason why you should not take this personal responsiblity?

Posted by Jim at 08:14 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 16, 2006

Diebold Implicated! (Well, Almost.)

From James Taranto comes word that indeed we may have a Diebold lawsuit after all. One guess which side wants to sue.

One advantage of Democrats winning last week's elections is that we've been spared all the complaints about "stolen" elections. Well, almost all of them. In Florida's 13th District, vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris for her ill-starred Senate run, Republican Vern Buchanan eked out a victory by about 400 votes. Angry Left teen idol Markos "Kos" Moulitsas is crying foul:
Down in Florida, an epic battle is brewing over the electronic Diebold voting machines that ate 18,000 votes for Democrat Christine Jennings in FL-13 and cost her the election.

Not only is an expensive recount in the cards, but campaign and DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] lawyers are flocking down, demanding the state freeze the machines for inspection.

These are the opening salvos in what will be the battle to end Diebold.

But only 36 people have given via our Blue Majority Act Blue page for the legal battles ahead.

To put it bluntly, to anyone who has ever complained about Diebold, this is your chance to put your money where your mouth is. No more talk needed. No more advocacy needed. This is a real-world, legal frontal assault on those electronic voting machines.

If we win this battle, you'll be able to kiss Diebold goodbye.

A little later in the day, Kos had an update:
Update II: Machines in FL-13 were made by ES&S. Same difference.

Taranto notes that ES&S, Electric Systems and Software, Inc, is a Diebold competitor. Again, it's the Left putting up a heads-I-win-tails-you-cheated scenario, even if the "evil" Diebold isn't involved. How unserious and knee-jerk can you get?

Posted by Doug at 02:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

My Father's House

A column at the Knowledge at Wharton website discusses the interesting step that some megachurches are taking in essentially allowing themselves to participate in secular product marketing campaigns:

Now some advertisers are taking the next step [beyond marketing products with a religious tie in churches, such as the Purpose Driven Life]: marketing products -- like an SUV -- with no intrinsic religious value through church networks. "If we are going to target the African-American consumer, we have to go where they go, rather than ask them to come to us, and the church is a major institution for that community," says James Kenyon, Chrysler Group brand marketing senior manager.

The article discusses the potential benefits to churches that allow such marketing campaigns. One church received a new van that the church uses to help elderly parishioners get around in exchange for church members buying a sufficient amount of product.

The benefit to the product companies is obvious:

But there is no doubt that megachurches -- defined as churches with weekly attendances of over 2,000 people -- offer advertisers some huge enticements. They reach more than seven million people every Sunday morning, an aggregation of potential consumers that secular advertisers have ignored until recently, according to Scott Thumma, an expert on megachurches at the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn.

"Megachurches represent the concentration of larger numbers of Christians in fewer congregations," says Thumma, whose latest research will appear in a co-authored book next year. "If nearly 50% of people who attend church go to 10% of the churches, then marketers have not given that phenomenon nearly enough attention."

The article notes, though, that not everybody greets this development with unbridled enthusiasm:

. . . Jesus spoke frequently about the dangers of wealth, warning that "you cannot serve both God and mammon." More dramatically, he overturned the tables of businessmen inside the Jewish temple and drove them out with a whip, saying "Make not my Father's house a house of merchandise."

To some Christian critics, the analogy could not be more direct. Isn't having Chrysler or Chevrolet vehicles parked in the foyer of a church "a little too much like putting the tables back inside the temple?" asks Skye Jethani, associate editor of Leadership, a journal for church pastors published by ChristianityToday.

The dangers of commerce intruding -- or being invited -- into churches are "infinite" from a religious point of view, says Jethani, who is one of two pastors at an "accessibly-sized" congregation of 400 in Wheaton, Ill. "Christianity comes to be viewed, not as submission to Christ and love of your neighbor, but an identity like any other, defined by what you buy, who you vote for, what entertainment you consume. Becoming so cozy with the methodology of business completely warps the message of the New Testament."

I am sympathetic to a church's desire to augment its resources through other means. Also, I generally support pastors using their influence to encourage businesses to invest resources in needed places in the local community for development. However, I think, on balance, that the critics have it right here. This trend (if it can be called that) seems to perpetuate two problems that I think plague the Evangelical Christian church today.

First, this phenomenon is a by-product of the "growth over all" perspective that seems to have a hold on the church. Growth, whether explicitly or implicitly, appears to be the standard by which Evangelical churches are measured. The growth standard appears to trump other potential indicators of success, such as the ability of a church to create lifelong disciples of Christ. I believe the obsessive focus on growth ultimately detracts from the cause of Christ, because it is not the explicit cause of Christ.

Indeed, the article quotes a leading business writer on the dangers of a focus on growth the detriment of core mission:

Even business guru Jim Collins, best-selling author of Good to Great and Built to Last, has an opinion on the topic. Growth for the sake of growth is potentially destructive, warns Collins, who spoke this summer to a megachurch leadership conference about his new publication applying Good to Great concepts to "social sector" organizations like churches. The key question for churches, he says, is, "Do they have the discipline to say 'no' to any resources that will drive them away from their fundamental mission?"

Second, this trend represents a very explicit capitulation by the churches involved to American consumerism and materialism. As the article mentions, our Lord spent a goodly amount of time warning that an obsessive focus on the material necessarily leads a lack of focus on God, and is sin. These pastors, far from questioning the effects of American consumerism on their parishioners (much less questioning the effects of consumerism on the lost), have instead brought their Churches right into the arena of commerce. Whether or not Jesus believes that is a proper use for His church remains to be seen.

Posted by Mark at 05:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2006

Moses and The Ten ... Amendments?

Pastor Todd DuBord got a bit of a shock when he did the DC tour recently. When they got to the Supreme Court building, revisionism was readily apparent.

He was most disturbed by what appears to be revisionism in the presentations given to visitors at the Supreme Court. There, he said, his tour guide was describing the marble frieze directly above the justices' bench.

"Between the images of the people depicting the Majesty of the Law and Power of Government, there is a tablet with ten Roman numerals, the first five down the left side and the last five down the right. This tablet represents the first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights," she said.

The ten what? was DuBord's thought.

Indeed, Pastor DuBord has done his research (click here for the PDF of his letter, containing all his information about this and other places history is being erased). The thing is, it's not just a matter of ignoring Christian figures and influences, it's being actively denied,
He then asked, "If there are no other depictions of Moses or the Ten Commandments on the building except on the South Wall Frieze in the U.S. Supreme Court, then what about on the east side of the building where Moses is the central figure among others, holding both tablets of the Ten Commandments, one in each arm?"

"Her response shocked me as much as the guide inside the Court chamber. 'There is no depiction of Moses and the Ten Commandments like that on the U.S. Supreme Court,'" DuBord said he was told.

He asked if there were any pictures of the representation, and she pulled one out.

"Her eyes widened in surprise. There was Moses in photo and description as the central figure, holding the Ten Commandments (tablets), one in each hand," DuBord wrote.

Although there are six depictions of Moses and-or the Ten Commandments at the Supreme Court, the tour guides had been trained to admit to only the one on Moses, he said.

DuBord has traced at least one of the reasons this change has been taking place. Read the whole article or his message to the Court to learn about the letter from the sculptor saying it was the 10 Amendments, but also why this letter's authenticity is dubious (and also about the other letters this same sculptor wrote about similar depictions of his specifically about the 10 Commandments around DC).

One has to wonder why our country's Christian heritage and influence has to be "sanitized", and who's responsible for it.

Posted by Doug at 02:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Diebold Cleared of All Charges

OK, they weren't actually brought up on any for the performance of their voting machines. But that's the point. Democrats were all prepared with their lawyers should they not win where they thought they should. But they won, so there were suddenly no voting irregularities. An extended family member of mine sent this along. He's not all that into politics by his own admission, but this really made an impression on him. This is a short letter to the editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

With the recent incredibly close and important election results in the senatorial races, I have not heard the tremendous whining and wild claims of fraud, voter intimidation, voting machine failures, etc.

Does that mean that America has solved all of its vast voting issues, or that the Democrats won this time?

I'd add, does that mean that we won't hear of any problems even when Republicans win in the future?

My sister pointed out that George Allen proved what a good sport he is by not calling for a recount in his razor-thin loss to Jim Webb. Would that more politicians (and party machinery) were like that.

Posted by Doug at 10:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 13, 2006

Speaker Pelosi? Maybe Not...

Even before the Democrats' victory in the mid-term elections last week, the media was referring to current House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Speaker-to-be. And while that might be a fairly reasonable assumption, it is not necessarily a lock, as Rich Galen points out.

We can only hope.

Posted by Tom at 05:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Abortion After the Fact

In Britian, they want to open up the discussion on whether abortion can happen sometime after the baby has already been born.

Doctors involved in childbirth are calling for an open discussion about the ethics of euthanasia for the sickest of newborn babies. The option to end the suffering of a severely damaged newborn baby - who might have been aborted if the parents had known earlier the extent of its disabilities and potential suffering - should be discussed, says the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in its evidence to an inquiry by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which examines ethical issues raised by new developments.

The college says the Nuffield's working group should "think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best-interests test and active euthanasia as they are means of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns".

The inquiry is looking into "the ethics of prolonging life in foetuses and the newborn". Euthanasia was not originally on the agenda, because of its illegality. But the RCOG submission has persuaded the inquiry to broaden its investigation, although any recommendation favouring euthanasia for newborns is highly unlikely before a change in the law.

Once one envelope has been successfully pushed aside, the next lies not that far away. The question of extraordinary lifesaving steps is one thing, but "active euthanasia" brings the matter into a whole new light. One has to wonder where the ethics and morality of those wanting such discussions to take place have gone.

And here's an interesting attempt at selling the idea.

The college ethics committee tells the inquiry it feels euthanasia "has to be covered and debated for completion and consistency's sake ... if life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome." It points out that a pregnant woman who discovers at 28 weeks that her baby has a serious abnormality can have an abortion. Parents of a baby born at 24 weeks with the same abnormality have no such option.

"See, if this were an option, then we'd have more babies carried to term. Isn't that wonderful? Only then would be bother with the eugenics. And really now, isn't killing an already-born preemie just the same as a late-term abortion anyway?"

Abortion, being commonplace in our society, is now the foundation on which we start removing the infirm and the helpless. A comment on the Redstate post that gets the hat tip notes this:

I remember fairly recently they just uncovered a mass grave filled with Hitler's first victims. They weren't Jews, Gays, Gypsies or any other people group. They were the disabled and infirm. Now the reason they were killed was for the perfection of the race, but I also don't swallow the "it is for their own good" argument-especially when those who are being put out of the misery may not have a voice or a choice.

Unfettered abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and eugenics are all faces of the same thing; a lack of respect for life.

Posted by Doug at 01:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Great Misreading

And so it begins.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 — Democratic leaders in the Senate vowed on Sunday to use their new Congressional majority to press for troop reductions in Iraq within a matter of months, stepping up pressure on the administration just as President Bush is to be interviewed by a bipartisan panel examining future strategy for the war.

The Democrats — the incoming majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada; the incoming Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan; and the incoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware — said a phased redeployment of troops would be their top priority when the new Congress convenes in January, even before an investigation of the conduct of the war.

“We need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months,” Mr. Levin said in an appearance on the ABC News program “This Week.” In a telephone interview later, Mr. Levin added, “The point of this is to signal to the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over and that they are going to have to solve their own problems.”

This is a clear violation of truth in labelling. Remember, one year ago, the Democrats voted overwhelmingly against this very maneuver. Their main voice in this, John Murtha, called for it and wrote his own resolution on the matter. The Republicans didn't bring Murtha's up for a vote, but did bring up a virtually identical one that the Dems were completely against. See here for a comparison. They wouldn't put their votes where their mouths were, and apparently didn't want to be considered the Cut and Run Party. But now that they have control of the legislature, and think they have a mandate for their position, they're going full steam ahead.

This is most likely a huge misreading of the recent election results. The NY Times wrote an article on one of their polls, which, unsurprisingly, tilts left (e.g. they ask which party is more likely to bring the troops home, but doesn't ask which party is more likely to achieve victory). What isn't covered but requires you to click on a sidebar link is one of the questions about strategy. Only 27% want to remove all troops from Iraq. Those who want to continue the current strategy (8%) plus those who want a change in strategy (61%) compromise a vast majority (69%) that want, not this retreat the Democrats will propose, but a course that will lead to something that the poll respondents consider victory.

Yes, everyone's got their own idea of what this should be (mine is an Iraqi democracy that can defend itself, thought you really can't call the removal of Hussein's regime and the killing and capturing of many top al Qaeda honchos a complete "defeat"). But the point is that the Democrats are looking at a general dissatisfaction with the prosecution of the war and mistaking it for dissatisfaction with simply being in the war.

This is the Vietnam blunder; bailing out of an unpopular war before the job's done, and allowing the region to descend into chaos for a generation. Until Iraq is ready to stand on its own, someone else will have to hold them up. Either it'll be us, or it'll be one of the many other factions eager to toast the fledgling democracy. The Democrats are either refusing to remember history, or are playing politics with the lives of the Iraqis, whom they claim concern over when they hear civilian casualty figures. And yet they wish to set us on a course that will condemn far more to death in a struggle for power and, based on the winner, that struggle's aftermath.

Posted by Doug at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dear Kids, November 12, 2006

[For an explanation of this series, see this entry.]

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The real questions are the ones that obtrude upon your consciousness whether you like it or not, the ones that make your mind start vibrating like a jackhammer, the ones that you "come to terms with" only to discover that they are still there. The real questions refuse to be placated. They barge into your life at the times when it seems most important for them to stay away. They are the questions asked most frequently and answered most inadequately, the ones that reveal their true natures slowly, reluctantly, most often against your will. Ingrid Bengis

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. James Thurber

The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions. Claude Levi-Strauss

Dear Kids,

Today I have been thinking, as the quotes above indicate, about the importance of questions, and how important it is for you to continually ask questions. People do not ask enough questions these days. Certainly people think about the mundane questions, such as “what will I wear today?” or “where will I eat?” These are not, however, the questions of which I am thinking.

Nor is questioning a value unto itself, as those who display the bumper stick “Question Authority” might have you believe. (As an aside, I would definitely encourage you to question anything you read on a bumper sticker.) Saying “Question Authority” alone is nonsense. Would you “question authority” if the authorities said “a tornado is coming, you should seek shelter immediately?” Of course not. No, the questions are important as a means to get to an end—they are not an end unto themselves.

In other words, my adjuration to you to ask questions is really a simple way of stating a more complex idea, which is that you should live an examined life. An examined life is one in which you don the habit of questioning what your values are and whether the things you do are serving your values. An examined life is necessary to lead a good life well lived. And that, a good life well lived, is the point, in my estimation, of living at all.

You will want to start with the question of whether you believe in God, and if so, which conception of God. Since you have grown up in our house, you have had ample (I hope!) exposure to the Christian revelation of God. I also hope that by this time you have committed your life to Christ. If you have, I should let you know that you will likely think about that, reconsider it, struggle with it, and wrestle with it for the rest of your life. Do not lose heart! This struggle makes you a stronger Christian. The more you examine your faith, the more you probe the truth of the Christian gospel and your own belief in that gospel, the stronger your faith will become. A person with a weak belief foundation fears wrestling with God; a person whose faith is strong need not fear such encounter. More about this perhaps later, as we are thinking about questions at the moment.

The questions do not end with your faith decision—the questions really only begin with faith. The next few questions you have to ask yourself, and keep asking yourself, are variants of the following: “What is my conception of the good life?” “What is my conception of living that good life well?” “What values form the core of such good life?” “What behaviors tend to lead toward such good life?” “What behaviors tend to lead away from such good life?”

These are exceptionally important questions. If you do believe in the Christian faith, then you will have some framework for answering, at least partially, at least some of these questions. The Bible, however, does not provide an exact blueprint for your life. It provides a few specifics and some general guideposts—it puts fences around the boundaries—but it does not otherwise direct the path.

Accordingly, you will want to start, if you have not already, asking yourself the above set of questions. You are eighteen; that is the time to start.

These questions, by the way, are not reducible to “what job will I have,” “whom will I marry,” “where will I live,” or “how much money will I make”. All of those questions follow the previous questions about a good life well lived, values and behaviors. Indeed, to the extent you can begin to map out a conception of what is a good life well lived, and what values and behaviors follow from that, the lesser questions that begin this paragraph really sort themselves out rather nicely (and at least one of them becomes irrelevant in any event).

If you begin to ask yourself (and continue to ask yourself, this process by its nature does not end) these questions, you will be in a much better position than many of your fellow Americans. Many Americans, full-grown adult Americans, do not bother to ask themselves any of these questions. It just never occurs to them. One does not need to wonder, then, why we have the number of neuroses, anxieties, bouts of depression, etc. in this country that we reportedly do. Asking and answering, however experimentally and temporarily, these questions in a lifelong process won’t always save you from experiencing such feelings, but will at least better equip you to deal with them.

Once these bigger questions are asked and answered, though, you get to go on to a new series of questions—at least if you are taking the previous questions seriously. Those types of questions will be addressed in my next entry.


Posted by Mark at 02:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 11, 2006

Dear Kids

(Note: The following is the start of a journal that I intend to deliver to my kids on their respective 18th birthdays. I flatter myself that some of the entries may have interest for others, so I publish them here. Nothing personal will be published, don't worry.)

November 11, 2006

Dear Kids:

Ten thousand years from now: can you imagine that day? Okay, but do you? Do you believe “the Future” is going to happen? . . . What about five thousand years from now, or even five hundred? Can you extend the horizon of your expectations for our world, for our complex of civilizations and cultures, beyond the lifetime of your own children, of the next two or three generations? Can you even imagine the survival of the world beyond the present presidential administration? Michael Chabon, Details, January 2006. (Quote found at: Michael Chabon's website.)

It might seem odd to you, on your 18th birthday, that I am writing to you ten, twelve or even fourteen years ahead of time. My point in doing so is both simple and complex. My hope is that, as an 18-year old, you have begun to think about the world around and beyond you—particularly beyond your particular place, which I will assume to be some suburban home somewhere in the United States.

Now, this hope of mine might be quite quixotic. I did not begin to think beyond my own narrow world well into my twenties—perhaps into my late twenties. It is true that I had opinions about the rest of the world. But those opinions were not really formed through thinking about the rest of the world. They were the fashionable opinions of those with whom I agreed politically and philosophically (to the extent I could be said to have had philosophical thoughts) at the time. That is to say they were the opinions of a young, conservative man coming of age in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Those thoughts seem almost otherworldly at this point. They certainly seem woefully naïve. That is not to be wondered at. Although they were perhaps relevant at the time, that was a very different time, if only 20 some years ago. It was a different age. Ironically, although the Cold War was still playing out—a war in which the destruction of all life on earth was contemplated on a regular basis—it seems a time of lightness and naïveté. Now, as I said, seems to belong to a different age. Although we contemplate the destruction of the world less often, we contemplate instances of mass killing much more often—and those mass killings by whomever seem very much more real, to me at least, than the potential nuclear annihilation that seemed only moments away at times during the 70s and 80s.

At any rate, I hope that you are pondering that which is beyond your current place at the moment. Perhaps, as you do so, you may wonder a bit at how the world got to where it is. You can, of course, read books of recent history, as well as books of less recent history, and newspapers (if such term is known) to get a general sense of “what is happening.” However, those recitations of bare facts may not contain enough of the flesh and blood of how we really got to where we are (when you are 18). It is my hope that this journal, in some small way, helps fill in some blanks. I will endeavor to avoid playing the solipsist, but must admit that this journal can only bear my thoughts and opinions, and those only for a very short span of the time between now and your 18th birthday. Nonetheless, you might be interested to gain this perspective as you contemplate the greater world around you.

Now I will hazard to make a prediction or two. First, I guess that you will find some of the words in this journal unknown to you. You might also find the style to be archaic, at best, and tedious, at worst. This is not a comment on your vocabulary but just an acknowledgement that some of the words I use, and the style in which I use them, are already old-fashioned as I write them. They will be even more so when you read them. Or, as I said, they may be tedious to a high degree.

The second, and more substantive, prediction (at least for now) is that your time will be marked, as our time is now, by an ongoing clash between two forces, the West (I almost might say “Christian” West, but that is barely true even now) and Islam. It may even be that the clash is between the Secular World (with nations such as China and India participating) and Radical Islam. In any event, I predict that yours will be a world in which certain Muslim nations and movements will continue to use violence as one means of imposing their religious will on other parts of the world.

I say clash. I could say “battle” or “war.” Whatever word is used, it is now a bit controversial to call the current clash a “clash of civilizations” or a “clash of cultures.” That is considered outlandish, presumptive, or worse, it is considered a statement that indicates that the speaker believes “our culture” or “our civilization” to be better than the other. Believing that there is a transcendent truth, or that some civilization or culture is better than another, is considered déclassé in the United States in 2006. Being terribly old fashioned, I commit the sin of believing in ultimate truths on a somewhat regular basis.

Nevertheless, we shall not say that we are in the midst of a clash of cultures at this time. No, when we consider one culture in which parents approve of, nay help, their twelve year old daughter strap explosives to herself so that said daughter might annihilate herself at a bus stop so that she might kill some Jews along with herself, we say that is merely a difference in ideas. That we in the West cannot even fathom such an idea does not make it a cultural issue. Thus, it is mere ideas that cause people to fly airliners into buildings, not cultures. I know this because a woman who was once the Secretary of State of the United States has said as much. She is considered to be a very wise woman indeed. And I am certainly not the person who could claim anything to the contrary. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see where such rhetoric stands when you are eighteen.

In the event, I dare to predict that there will still be a clash (of ideas or whatever) between certain portions of Islam and the Secular West (and whomever else) when you are eighteen. That conflict, I suspect, will provide the backdrop against which many of the important world events are played out, as it does so today. I will no doubt write more on this conflict, and its very old roots, in other entries.

I daresay, though, that you will perceive other issues and themes within the United States and the world in your eighteenth year. For instance, as I write this, there is a child in Africa who is, literally, starving to death. She does not know why this is happening to her, nor does she care. She does not know that this world currently produces enough food to feed each and every human on the planet. Such grand thoughts do not enter her mind. She does not know that one of the reasons that she cannot get enough to eat is that various warlords in her country are fighting important “wars”, which prevent the food and aid she needs. No, she will die quietly without the benefit of knowing these important thoughts. Still and all, though, the sun will rise tomorrow. Pro football will be on, and all will be well with the world. Her mother, perhaps, will shed a tear for the daughter whom she knew did not have much hope when she entered the world. Such is the lot of many in our world today.

Unless I am greatly mistaken, such will be the case in the world eighteen years hence. Children will starve to death needlessly while enough food is produced to feed them. Such it has ever been and such it will ever be. A sobering thought, no doubt.

No doubt there will continue to be ecological problems in your day as well. Whether or not “global warming” will plague your thoughts, I do not know. Such concepts are a bit grandiose for my small mind. What I know, though, is that you will be wondering what the heck will be done with all the garbage that continues to accumulate. Why is there garbage on the side of the road? What, exactly, is that coming out of that smokestack? What is the cumulative weight of the exhaust products that come out of car and truck tailpipes, and what effect do such particles have on the air? Other similar problems will no doubt trouble you as well.

(That’s also two more predictions I suppose.)

Now, here I must make a confession of sorts. You see, in writing this, I have truly wanted to provide you some perspective, however shallow and idiosyncratic, on the world around you. However, as I write about the world to come, and how it came to be that way, I am forced to think about, well, how it might come to be. This forces me to contemplate how I would like such world to be. Because I love you, and only want the best possible future for you, this forces me to think about how I might think and act and feel about bringing about a rather better than worse world for you at eighteen. Thus, I hope, in my own small way, to also use this journal to change me so that things might be changed for you. In addition to be old fashioned, I tend to be foolishly optimistic.

That is no small task. But then, I have ten years.

Oh, and, Happy Birthday.


Posted by Mark at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2006

New Bloggers on the Election

In addition to my work as a public relations consultant, I am an adjunct professor of communications at Kennesaw State University, the third largest university in Georgia, in suburban Atlanta.

In two of my Writing for Public Communication classes on Tuesday, Election Day, I used a session on Writing for the Web to guide the approximately 40 students in using Blogger to set up personal blogs. It was my attempt to teach about blogs and to add a number of new voices to the blogosphere.

The assignment for students this week was to write and post an article on their reactions to the election (the assignment was made before we knew it was going to be a bloodbath). I’m using this post to introduce these new blogs and students’ analyses of the election.

For my students reading this, links to the blogs from the 3:30 and 5 p.m. classes are combined here.

Danielle at Dani B. Fly doesn’t expect much from the change in Congressional leadership.

Ken at Random Cactus says the Democrats won because they dressed themselves up like conservatives.

Laura called her blog For Com 1135 and writes that she doesn’t like all the arguing.

Holly at Poof U fears that the Democrats are going to use their new power to create the embarrassments of Vietnam.

Kori at a blog she called Communications 1135 is nervous about the many voting problems she still hears about.

Kathy writes at Kute Kathy about evidences of election fever.

Jonathan at Elbows wants political reform but doesn’t see it happening in his lifetime.

Adam at What’s On Peace’s Mind? is going to get more involved in the political process.

Victoria at Victoria’s Blog says that without the Republicans in control of Congress, the job in Iraq will never be completed.

Paul Stippich at Vote for the Man celebrates the right we have as citizens to vote.

Danielle at Faerie's Journey into Public Communication muses about the impact of split government.

Erin at The Story of the Year bemoans the impact of Democratic control of Congress.

Curtis at Me and My Blog is hoping for a new direction in Iraq.

Jennifer at Sobes 1st calls for a big hallelujah.

The negative advertising turned Catlin at Merry Belle Love You against the election.

Monique at Fairie’s Thoughts sees the political landscape changing.

Jeff at Elections sees supeona power taking over the Washington atmosphere.

Matt at My Thoughts 4 U sees America as the perfect working democracy, but he doesn’t vote.

Jeffrey at The Wonderful World of Life is disenchanted

Dustin at Budz Blog is leaving politics to the politicians

Danielle at TFC for Life blames the war.

Rebecca talks in Comm Class about the President’s use of the word “thumpin” in his press conference.

Rachel at Ramblings of RKL has a rare agreement with the President: The people have spoken and its time to move on.

Endia at Endia’s Blog is excited about a new direction

Bunmi at Express Yourself likes the idea of a female Speaker

Jennifer at J.P. Blog analyzes the Sonny Perdue victory over Mark Taylor in the Georgia gubernatorial race.

Tiffanie at some days you feel like a bug, some days you feel like the windshield says the war has been a windshield to the American bug.

Casey at Voting celebrates the the right to vote.

The title of Nate's blog, Long Live the new Flesh, vividly describes his reaction to the election.

Rania at Nia's Thoughts hopes the sea change will bring more attention to domestic problems.

Posted by Jim at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 08, 2006

Election Roundup

As of now, Democrats have been given control of the House of Representatives, and there are two outstanding races in the Senate that will determine who controls that chamber. This is definitely going to make it harder for Republicans to get their initiatives through, to be sure, but let's look a little closer.

As Michelle Malkin notes, Republicans may have lost but conservatism did not. She lists a number of indicators.

Property rights initiatives limiting eminent domain won big. MCRI, the anti-racial preference measure, passed resoundingly. Congressman Tom Tancredo, the GOP's leading warrior against illegal immigration--opposed by both the open-borders Left and the open-borders White House--won a fifth term handily. Gay marriage bans won approval in 3 states. And as of this writing, the oil tax initiative, Prop. 87--backed by deep-pocketed Hollywood libs, is trailing badly in California.

While an AP article headlines 3 items that could be considered conservative setbacks--rejection of SD abortion ban and AZ gay marriage ban, and approval of stem cell research in Missouri--it lists later on in the article all the items that could be considered conservative wins, and on balance conservatism did very well. Written after Malkin's post, it notes 8 states that banned gay marriage, as well as the aforementioned sunsetting of affirmative action in Michigan, and a number of anti-illegal-immigration initiatives in Arizona. (And the Missouri stem cell amendment, as I noted previously, was passed with a margin that could suggest that if it had been worded honestly, it may not have passed at all.)

Also, as ScrappleFace notes, the win for Lieberman and the loss for Lincoln Chafee could be considered a gain of 2 seats for Republicans. >grin<

So unlike Democrats after previous elections, you won't find Republicans hiding under the covers for days, packing for their move to Canada, or suing Diebold. (Gee, where did all those Democrats go that insisted that Diebold machines were "fixed"? Is it OK when they're "fixed" for Democrats? Love the choice; either Democrats win, or someone cheated.) The victory for Democrats was more a typical 6-year-itch midterm result mixed with some "throw the bums out" mentality with some hope by Republican voters that this may wake up the Republican lawmakers, as I noted in this thread. I think that there was plenty of deserved anger with Republican lawmakers, but this, in my opinion, wasn't the way to express it.

And don't forget all the moderate to conservative Democrats that were elected, including many former Republicans like Webb in Virginia (though the "elected" part has yet to be determined there).

What will they do with that platform?

Will they try, for instance, to impeach the president? Or will they stick to Ms Pelosi's stated goal of leadership?

Probably the latter. Many of the new intake are moderate Democrats, conservatives even, who are not looking for an ideological fight.

Could they have won without pro-Iraq-war, anti-abortion Democrats? Given some of the margins of victory, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if they'd all looked more like Ned Lamont.

So Republicans should not, and most likely won't, go sulking around your office. Yeah we're disappointed, and we deserved much of what we got. On the other hand, apart from party label, this election shows that the American public in general still leans conservative.

Posted by Doug at 01:43 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 06, 2006

The Only Issue

Orson Scott Card, Mormon and well-known science fiction writer and (former) Democrat voter, has a (rather lengthy) column as to why he'll be voting Republican tomorrow. He calls it "The Only Issue This Election Day".

There is only one issue in this election that will matter five or ten years from now, and that's the War on Terror.

And the success of the War on Terror now teeters on the fulcrum of this election.

If control of the House passes into Democratic hands, there are enough withdraw-on-a-timetable Democrats in positions of prominence that it will not only seem to be a victory for our enemies, it will be one.

Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case -- if the Republican Party remains in control of both houses of Congress there is no guarantee that the outcome of the present war will be favorable for us or anyone else.

But at least there will be a chance.

I say this as a Democrat, for whom the Republican domination of government threatens many values that I hold to be important to America's role as a light among nations.

But there are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war. And since the Democratic Party seems hellbent on losing it -- and in the most damaging possible way -- I have no choice but to advocate that my party be kept from getting its hands on the reins of national power, until it proves itself once again to be capable of recognizing our core national interests instead of its own temporary partisan advantages.

To all intents and purposes, when the Democratic Party jettisoned Joseph Lieberman over the issue of his support of this war, they kicked me out as well. The party of Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- the party I joined back in the 1970s -- is dead. Of suicide.

Personally, I have a number of other issues that I agree with the Republicans on, and hence my predilections to vote for them anyway. But this is worth noting, coming from someone of the religious Left (and while I and others may have some doctrinal and theological differences, we're not going to debate the LDS religion in the comment thread; violations will be cheerfully deleted).

Card hits many topics--nation building, the hope of democracy, the Sunni/Shi'ite dynamic, historical blunders that Democrats are willing to repeat, the anti-American media, the questions of Iran and North Korea, Bush's conduct of the War on Terror--to make the point that Bush is indeed playing his cards quite right in the Middle East and the world, and that, in spite of obvious problems in the short term, the long term strategy should continue, and America shouldn't bail out on people whom we've helped liberate until they are ready to pick up the mantle themselves.

Card knows who he's going to vote for, and he makes quite the case for his decision. This is one article really worth reading before you step into the voting booth.

Posted by Doug at 01:17 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 03, 2006

Democrats Pick Up Major Endorsement

There's certainly no ambiguity as to who these guys wants to win.

Everybody has an opinion about next Tuesday's midterm congressional election in the U.S. - including senior terrorist leaders interviewed by WND who say they hope Americans sweep the Democrats into power because of the party's position on withdrawing from Iraq, a move, as they see it, that ensures victory for the worldwide Islamic resistance.

The terrorists told WorldNetDaily an electoral win for the Democrats would prove to them Americans are "tired."

They rejected statements from some prominent Democrats in the U.S. that a withdrawal from Iraq would end the insurgency, explaining an evacuation would prove resistance works and would compel jihadists to continue fighting until America is destroyed.

They said a withdrawal would also embolden their own terror groups to enhance "resistance" against Israel.

"Of course Americans should vote Democrat," Jihad Jaara, a senior member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group and the infamous leader of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, told WND.

And there's more.
Muhammad Saadi, a senior leader of Islamic Jihad in the northern West Bank town of Jenin, said the Democrats' talk of withdrawal from Iraq makes him feel "proud."

"As Arabs and Muslims we feel proud of this talk," he told WND. "Very proud from the great successes of the Iraqi resistance. This success that brought the big superpower of the world to discuss a possible withdrawal."

Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas' military wing in the Gaza Strip, said the policy of withdrawal "proves the strategy of the resistance is the right strategy against the occupation."

As they request Americans to vote Democrat, they buttress the position Republicans have taken; leaving Iraq before it's ready is to hand a huge victory to terrorism, which will tend to increase it. Responding to Nancy Pelosi's suggestion that our leaving Iraq will mean the jihadists leave, they laughed.

Islamic Jihad's Saadi, laughing, stated, "There is no chance that the resistance will stop."

He said an American withdrawal from Iraq would "prove the resistance is the most important tool and that this tool works. The victory of the Iraqi revolution will mark an important step in the history of the region and in the attitude regarding the United States."

Jihad Jaara said an American withdrawal would "mark the beginning of the collapse of this tyrant empire (America)."

"Therefore, a victory in Iraq would be a greater defeat for America than in Vietnam."

Jaara said vacating Iraq would also "reinforce Palestinian resistance organizations, especially from the moral point of view. But we also learn from these (insurgency) movements militarily. We look and learn from them."

Hamas' Abu Abdullah argued a withdrawal from Iraq would "convince those among the Palestinians who still have doubts in the efficiency of the resistance."

"The victory of the resistance in Iraq would prove once more that when the will and the faith are applied victory is not only a slogan. We saw that in Lebanon (during Israel's confrontation against Hezbollah there in July and August); we saw it in Gaza (after Israel withdrew from the territory last summer) and we will see it everywhere there is occupation," Abdullah said.

They're not all absolutely confident that Democrats will pull us out of Iraq, but they'd rather cast their lot with them given the choice. Remember, you have a choice to make, too.

Posted by Doug at 01:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pres. of Natl. Assoc. of Evangelicals Steps Aside

Rev. Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, has left his post while allegations of homosexual sex and meth use are being investigated.

The Rev. Ted Haggard resigned as president of the 30 million-member association Thursday after being accused of paying the man for monthly trysts over the past three years.

Haggard, a married father of five, denied the allegations, but also stepped aside as head of his 14,000-member New Life Church pending an investigation.

"I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity," he said in a statement. "I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."

Carolyn Haggard, spokeswoman for the New Life Church and the pastor's niece, said a four-member church panel will investigate the allegations. The board has the authority to discipline Haggard, including removing him from ministry work.

The acting senior pastor at New Life, Ross Parsley, told KKTV-TV of Colorado Springs that Haggard admitted that some of the accusations were true.

"I just know that there has been some admission of indiscretion, not admission to all of the material that has been discussed but there is an admission of some guilt," Parsley told the station.

If true, this is another case of a fallible human being getting caught in sin. The question will be how this is dealt with; how the church and Rev. Haggard deal with the situation. Charges of hypocrisy may be reasonably levelled, but at the same time, all of us, at one time or another, do things we ourselves think to be wrong, whatever our code of ethics. One classic quote from C. S. Lewis in his book "The Problem of Pain" deals with this.
"The moralities (codes of right and wrong) among men may differ - though not, at bottom, so widely as is often claimed - but they all agree in prescribing a behaviour which their adherents fail to practice. All men alike stand condemned, not by alien codes of ethics, but by their own, and all men therefore are conscious of guilt."

We've all failed our own consciences. So levelling a charge of hypocrisy may be correct, but it's just as true of the accuser as of the accused. If the underlying charges are true, then Rev. Haggard should step down from his position of authority, at the very least for the time being and deal with this sin.

What this is not a case of is whether what he preached is the truth or not. It is also not a matter of politics. However, the accuser is trying to cover both those bases.

The accusations were made by Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, who said he decided to go public because of the political fight over the amendments.

"I just want people to step back and take a look and say, 'Look, we're all sinners, we all have faults, but if two people want to get married, just let them, and let them have a happy life,'" said Jones, who added that he isn't working for any political group.

Jones, who said he is gay, said he was also upset when he discovered Haggard and the New Life Church had publicly opposed same-sex marriage.

"It made me angry that here's someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex," he said.

So these are politically motivated and timed charges, and are an attempt to discredit the truth of the matter based on a high-profile bad example. He acknowledges that "we're all sinners", but wants to help make folks comfortable in their sin rather than help them out of it. I'm not saying he shouldn't have brought this to light, but like the Mark Foley scandal, human faults are being used as political tools. Given this, I have some doubt as to the full veracity of the claims.

Additionally, I have to wonder if bringing this to light will really change the position of anyone who was going to vote to ban gay marriage. Maybe a couple fence-sitters, but most folks have a pretty strong opinion one way or the other, and with amendments in other states passing with wide margins, I think this political calculation has some errors.

Posted by Doug at 12:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 01, 2006

Where's the Family-Friendly Sci-Fi?

Last TV season, I thought my kids would like to get into a show that was rather science fiction in nature called "Surface". I'm a big sci-fi fan (mostly TV, don't read it much) and my kids have shown an interest in it (my sister introduced them to her Star Wars videos), and it's rubbed off a bit onto the kiddos. "Surface" looked like an interesting story, so we started watching it. (Unfortunately, it didn't last past the first season.)

Well, actually, how it happened was that I started taping and watching it myself, and after a couple of episodes thought it would be OK for the kids...except for the occasional thing here and there. And that annoyed me a bit. There would be occasional questions to one of the main characters, Miles, from his father and his friend from the marina about whether or not he was surfing the Internet for porn on the occasions they walked into his room while he was doing some research. That may be happening on home computers in a lot of homes in America, but must it be brought up in a TV show going into homes where that curiosity and potential addiction hasn't been started? Even in homes where it may be starting, the references were light-hearted, in almost a "no big deal" way, which would give the impression to a kid that everyone's doing it so how bad can it be.

Later on, Miles is urged by his neighborhood friend to fondle a bikini-clad girl who was giving him a kiss. In one scene, Dr. Laura Daughtery, needing to swim out in cold ocean waters to a nearby boat, stripped off all her clothes, leaving only underwear, oiled up (to stave off the cold) and dove in. Sure this might have been a bit of realism, but in a show about sea monsters and other genetically manipulated animals, quite a number of other bits of accuracy were certainly sacrificed for the sake of the story. Missing this one wouldn't have made one bit of difference to the story.

Yeah, I'm going to sound like a prude. Whatever. My point is that with just a few quick edits, I wouldn't have to man the VCR remote and skip past these things, and my kids could enjoy some grownup, intelligent sci-fi stories and not have to get indoctrinated into the cultural "norms" that have brought on so many problems in society. (Quite the multiple personality syndrome, eh? Society is shocked--SHOCKED--at the number of teen pregnancies and the rising number of porn addictions, and then turns a blind, or approving, eye to neutral or approving references to the same things.) Sure there's kid-oriented sci-fi, but most of it's pathetic. (Don't get me started on "Phil of the Future", which is simply another cookie-cutter high school sitcom with gadgets, where bad attitudes and actions aren't changed and where sexual innuendo is almost as prevalent. Thanks, Disney.)

I thought the new show "Heroes" would be a possibility, but with one main character who's runs her own Internet porn cam site, a hero who only has his powers when he's strung out on drugs, and some pretty gory scenes, there's no way a simple use of the fast forward button is going to make this one suitable. That's too bad, because the story line looks to be very interesting.

Family-friendly sci-fi, or just about any genre, can be made without this, and without distracting from a good story. It doesn't have to be shown on Nick or the Cartoon Network to be family-friendly. As a good example, I'll point to the revival of the long-running British series "Doctor Who", running on the Sci-Fi channel. But for a couple of insinuations about a possible sexual relationship between The Doctor and Rose Tyler (which they denied), innuendo has been refreshingly absent. There have been issues regarding the feelings each has for the other, and especially when a previous travelling companion of The Doctor made an appearance, but this has been treated as a question of love, and treated very well. These relationships are complex and they haven't been dumbed down. Yeah, there's a lot of silly gadgets and rubber aliens, but it's fun without being cartoonish with the characters. So this, as well as the major part of "Surface", proves to me that it can be done, it just isn't being done enough.

And no, it's not a case of giving the people what they want. One example of this fallacy is that movies rated G and PG and that present "strong moral content" consistently perform better at the box office than their negative counterpart. (See here and here and here for just some examples of this.) It's not that Hollywood is producing what the people want, reflecting the people's values. It's that they are reflecting Hollywood's values.

Another example of this was an interview I heard with Don S. Davis, a versatile character actor, who was discussing the series "Stargate SG-1", in which he played General Hammond. (Sorry, don't have a link to the podcast where I heard this.) The series was initially on Showtime before it moved to Sci-Fi, and while on Showtime it had a single short nude scene in the 2-hour series premier. When asked about this, Davis said that once the Showtime execs agreed that the writing for the show was indeed good, they decided they didn't need to add nude scenes anymore. This speaks volumes for the writing talent in Hollywood when you realize how much gratuitous sex is used. It also says that given excellent writing, a show can indeed be family-friendly.

It can be. It just isn't. Instead, Hollywood is getting lazier and lazier, thinking that a little titillation will make up for bad writing, or is required for good writing. So where's all the family-friendly sci-fi? Check your plumbing. Most of it is going down the toilet. Bummer.

Posted by Doug at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack