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January 30, 2007

Religious Freedom Diminished in the UK

Agencies run by churches in the UK can no longer practice what they preach.

Roman Catholic adoptions agencies yesterday lost their battle to opt out of new laws banning discrimination against homosexual couples when Tony Blair announced that there would be "no exemptions" for faith-based groups.

The Prime Minister said in a statement that the new rules would not come into force until the end of 2008. Until then there would be a "statutory duty" for religious agencies to refer gay couples to other agencies.

Why can't that "statutory duty" be good enough? Why is government coercion trumping religious freedom? Predictably, the results of an attempt at "fairness" will chase off the principled.
Last week the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, warned that the agencies would close rather than accept rules that required them to hand over babies to gay couples.

One wonders if, in some quarters, that's the whole objective. I mean, given a situation where there are choices, and there usually are, why would a gay couple seek out the Catholic Church for an adoption agency when there are others that have no qualms about it. It's kind of like the standard answer you hear when folks complain about the content of TV programming. "Just change the channel", the Left dismissively says. But when it comes to their preferences, they won't "change the channel" themselves--choose a different agency--and instead insist that government sanction their choices and force it upon everyone to accommodate it.

Posted by Doug at 01:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 29, 2007

A Tale of Two Protests

Take two protests, both in our nation's capitol, both heavily attended, both on current hot topics. Should the coverage of the two by the "balanced" media be comparable? You'd think so. You'd be wrong.

Within one week, the liberal bias of the Washington Post has been made perfectly obvious. On Monday, tens of thousands of protesters emerged on Washington for the March for Life, but the hometown paper put the story on the bottom of page A-10 Tuesday morning. On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters emerged on Washington for a rally against President Bush and the war in Iraq. The Post blasted that story across the front page on Sunday, complete with a large color picture taking a wide shot of hundreds of marchers and their signs and banners. Tuesday's story on abortion protests matched carried no wide shot of hundreds. It showed four pro-life marchers, and matched them with another picture of five feminists counter-protesting. There were no photos of conservative counter-protesters in the Sunday paper.

[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Sunday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The Post not only let the anti-Iraq rally dominate the front page, but devoted an entire page (A-8) to more photos and a story on student protesters. The front-page story carried over to most of page A-9. Jane Fonda's appearance at the march drew another story, placed on the front page of the Style section.

Newspaper coverage of events such as these pose a challenge for appearing fair, no doubt about it. A journalist writing a letter to the editor of his town's big paper, and an attendee of the March for Life, acknowledged this problem. However, he also believes that fear of appearing unbiased is keeping the coverage to a bare minimum.
What they [the local kids he travelled with] weren’t prepared for was calling home to find that their parents missed the minute-long coverage the event merited on the evening news. They weren’t prepared to arrive home on Tuesday afternoon and pick up the paper to find that there was no coverage whatsoever. It was almost as if the whole thing had been an illusion — that it hadn’t really been that big a deal.

As a member of the press, I have a respect for editors and the decisions they have to make about coverage. I know that the coverage of controversial issues and events presents special difficulty for editors, since a fair and unbiased newspaper covers multiple viewpoints. Most often, the press ends up being attacked by both sides for its attempt at what can only be described as a thankless task. The Tribune has covered local pro-life events and issues in the past.

But abortion in general and the March for Life in particular have always presented special difficulties for a newspaper that sets out to present unbiased coverage. How does one present unbiased coverage of an event like the march, which is overwhelmingly one-sided? The solution in past years has been a careful weaving together of this pro-life event and the various counter-protests that have surrounded it.

But recent marches have made this difficult, since the number of counter-protesters has dwindled over the years. It seems that the media has found it difficult to maintain unbiased coverage simply because there are no pro-choice protesters to be found. Following what seems to be a justified editorial philosophy, coverage of the March has likewise dwindled even as the annual event grows in size.

Thus it seems that pro-choice protesters have found their absence more valuable than their presence.

As applied to the Washington Post, however, the sentiment is likely misplaced. The Post didn't seem to have any problem ignoring dissenting opinions. When you show one picture for and one against, you leave the impression that the representations of the two points were similar. The did this with the March for Life, but definitely not for the anti-war protest.

For some newspapers, it may be a tough call. For the Washington Post, the bias has already made the decision.

Posted by Doug at 01:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 25, 2007

Scientific "Consensus"

Back in November, the National Registry of Environmental Professionals asked 793 of their members from 47 states some questions about global warming; its existence and causes, public policy response, and how it affects their jobs. Here's the existence and causes section.

The existence of global warming today
  • 82 percent of professionals report they think global warming is a real, measurable, climatic trend currently in effect.

  • 66 percent respond that the rate at which global warming may be occurring is a serious problem facing the planet.

  • 64 percent attribute certain phenomenon such as rising ocean levels, increased storm activity, severe drought, massive habitat loss, depletion of the Earth’s oxygen sinks, i.e. rain forests and ocean plankton, to the effects of global warming.

  • 68 percent agree that global warming is a trend that must be addressed as soon as possible.

The causes of global warming

  • 59 percent respond that current climactic activity exceeding norms calibrated by over 100 years of weather data collection can be, in large part, attributed to human activity.
  • 71 percent of environmental professionals, however, do consider the recent increase in hurricane activity in the Atlantic through 2005 and the Pacific through 2006, to be part of a larger natural cycle and not, for the most part, attributable to human activity.
82% is a pretty good number for considering the idea that global warming is happening. But beyond that, you can only get about two-thirds to agree on its affects and its urgency.

But it's the causes that really show how little consensus there is. Only 59% believe that the warming that exceeds 100-year norms is caused largely by humans. Put another way, 41% of environmental professionals either disagree or are not sure that humans are a significant contributor to warming. Thus, skepticism of it is hardly in the same league as Holocaust deniers.

The Weather Channel’s most prominent climatologist is advocating that broadcast meteorologists be stripped of their scientific certification if they express skepticism about predictions of manmade catastrophic global warming. This latest call to silence skeptics follows a year (2006) in which skeptics were compared to "Holocaust Deniers" and Nuremberg-style war crimes trials were advocated by several climate alarmists.

The Weather Channel’s (TWC) Heidi Cullen, who hosts the weekly global warming program "The Climate Code," is advocating that the American Meteorological Society (AMS) revoke their "Seal of Approval" for any television weatherman who expresses skepticism that human activity is creating a climate catastrophe.

Further, 71% think that the heavy 2005/2006 hurricane season was generally just part of the normal, natural cycle of weather. The NOAA said that and they got targeted by environmentalists. Now, all this does not mean that a former Vice President, in the movie poster for his Oscar-nominated film, can't try to draw a direct line between factories and hurricanes. It just means he's bucking the consensus. [Irony alert!]

So when somebody says to you that the debate about human-induced global warming is over, just have them ask the professionals, not the politicians.

Posted by Doug at 09:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2007

Good News from the Front

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have opened doors to the spread of the Gospel.

More Muslims converted to faith in Jesus Christ over the past decade than at any other time in human history. A spiritual revolution is under way throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia:

Iraq: More than 5,000 new Muslim converts to Christianity have been identified since the end of major combat operations. ... Also, more than 1 million Bibles [were] shipped into the country since 2003, and pastors report Iraqis are snatching them up so fast they constantly need more Bibles.

Afghanistan: only 17 Muslim converts to Christianity before 9/11/01, but now more than 10,000.

Other Muslim countries have also seen tremendous rates of conversion starting in the 80s and 90s. Read the whole article for the stunning numbers from Egypt, for example.

Posted by Doug at 02:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sexual Predators Get Free Reign in Public School

Another reason to homeschool.

An estimated 5 million students in United States schools have been assaulted sexually by teachers, according to a congressional report. But no one is calling for investigations or law enforcement crackdowns, there have been no campaigns to ban the offenders from schools, and in many states there aren't even any requirements such predator attacks be reported to education licensing agencies.

"We have approximately 5 million children suffering and no one is calling for an investigation, for any kind of data to be collected to find out why that many children are being hurt by teachers," said Terri Miller, who runs probably the only organization in the nation that focuses specifically on assaults by educators on students. "This is an epidemic."

In fact, in many cases, especially where the attacker is a woman and the student a male, such assaults are treated as a joke, with a hand-slap for the teacher, and some ribald locker room humor directed at the student.

WND has documented in recent months an alarming string of dozens of cases of female teacher-on-male student sexual assaults, but those are just part of the overall problem, Miller said.

Her volunteer group, called Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation, often feels overwhelmed by the dearth of information, injuries to students, and obstacles posed by opponents such as the National Education Association.

If the government's going to insist on pubic education, it must insist on safety in its facilities. But clearly that has not been a winning battle, neither regarding weapons & drugs nor sexually & psychologically speaking.

Posted by Doug at 02:20 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Scooter Making News, But Not Sandy

Tom Maguire at Just One Minute has been pulling out the details from the Libby trial and the Plame kerfuffle for quite some time. As much as they have covered it, if you get your news from the TV or the paper, you may not have heard much about some of these nuggets. Example from yesterday

Ted Wells drops the news that David Gregory of NBC received a leak about Plame from Ari Fleischer on July 11:
Now shows Ari dislcoses [sic] to David Gregory on July 11 that Ambassador Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. Fleischer tells that before Libby was ever indicted. "I told David Gregory." Talks about time difference, says Ari leaked to Gregory first.

Now let's flash back to October 29, 2005, just after the Libby indictment. Russert has gathered the Washington Bureau to discuss the case on CNBC's "Tim Russert Show". At the time, I excerpted the transcript and suggested they were rehearsing their cover story. So let's cut to David Gregory:
GREGORY: And it is interesting--it's also interesting, I should just point out, that nobody called me at any point, which is unfortunately...
WILLIAMS: Apparently not.
GREGORY: ...not the point.
RUSSERT: Does anybody ever?
GREGORY: But I just wanted to note that.
RUSSERT: I've been meaning to talk to you about that.

Basically, given this and other discrepancies, it looks like the journalists haven't been completely upfront with what they knew and when they knew it. And Libby is the fall guy. Joe Wilson wanted to see Karl Rove frog-marched for what Joe thought was Karl's role in the leak (a leak that, still, no one has been indicted for), but perhaps we should be marching some reporters.

(Keep up with Just One Minute. Tons of good information on the Libby trial and the misinformation coming out of it.)

Meanwhile, there's been little to no coverage on the Sandy Berger story. If you have to ask, "Sandy who?", you're forgiven. Libby is being tried for an alleged lie to investigators in a case of the "leaking" of the name of a CIA employee who worked at CIA headquarters every day. Berger didn't do much, really, which explains the lack of interest by the media. All he really did is steal classified documents from the National Archives, hide them in his pants, destroy them, and keep potentially damaging information about President Clinton from reaching the 9/11 Commission. No big deal, right? Especially for those reporters for whom this really goes against the narrative.

Now Sandy reached a plea deal that kept him out of prison, but there's still the matter of knowing what he took. Part of that plea deal included a lie detector test to find out what he took, as a number of those documents were originals that had no copies. The Justice Department is dragging its feet, but some Representatives are trying to get this moving again.

Eighteen House Republicans have urged the Justice Department to proceed with a polygraph test for Samuel R. Berger, the former national security adviser who agreed to take the test as part of a plea of guilty of stealing documents from the National Archives.

"This may be the only way for anyone to know whether Mr. Berger denied the 9/11 commission and the public the complete account of the Clinton administration's actions or inactions during the lead-up to the terrorist attacks on the United States," the congressmen said in their letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

The congressmen -- led by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia -- said a prompt lie-detector test is needed to determine the extent of Mr. Berger's thievery, especially because the former Clinton administration adviser reviewed original documents for which there were no copies or inventory.
Mr. Davis, former chairman and now ranking Republican on the House Government Reform Committee, released a report by his staff on Jan. 9, saying a Justice Department investigation of Mr. Berger's admitted document theft was "remarkably incurious."

The report said the theft compromised national security "much more than originally disclosed" and resulted in "incomplete and misleading" information to the September 11 commission. It said Mr. Berger was willing to go to "extraordinary lengths to compromise national security, apparently for his own convenience."

In October, Mr. Davis led an effort to hold hearings to determine whether any documents were "destroyed, removed or were missing" after visits by Mr. Berger to the Archives. He said the full extent of Mr. Berger's document removal "can never be known" and the Justice Department could not assure the September 11 commission that it received all the documents to which Mr. Berger had access.

In an attempt to get some more attention to the Berger situation, Bill Bennett asked listeners to his radio show, "Morning in America", to come up with songs about it. (You can hear some excerpts of the entries and the well-done winner here.) This just hasn't garnered a lot of press, but with all the talk about implementing all most of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, wouldn't everyone want to make sure that the commission had all the facts? And therefore wouldn't getting full disclosure be a top priority of those wanting to implement them? Then why is it that only Republicans are pushing to get the whole story?

And why isn't more being reported on this? (OK, that question's rhetorical.)

Posted by Doug at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2007

Punishing Big Oil

Rev. Sensing has a must-read post on how punishing oil companies winds up punishing those consumers of oil.

Which is basically all of us.

Posted by Doug at 03:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Romney Piicks Up Endorsements

We've knocked the idea around about having Mitt Romney, a Mormon, as a presidential candidate for a Republican party that has a majority of evangelical Christians in it. According to Powerline, there are a couple of signs that Romney's political appeal may take precedence over his choice of religion.

First, they are noting (according to the Politico blog) that Denny Hastert will be endorsing Romney sometime today (may have already happened). Powerline notes, "They don't come much more mainstream, middle-American conservative than Denny Hastert."

Second in the comments, it's mentioned that Romney will be the commencement speaker at Hillsdale College, a nondenominational Christian college founded by Free Will Baptists.

Posted by Doug at 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2007

Hoping for Failure

The QandO blog has a post commenting on this Fox poll (PDF file). The results of one particular question are troubling.

Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush 
announced last week to succeed?

16-17 Jan 07
------------------Yes-No-(Don't know)

This is shocking. On average, 1 in 5 Americans want the troop surge to fail. I can understand disagreements on policies and methods, but hoping for failure is simply beyond the pale.

One wonders where the 1 in 3 Democrats are coming from who hope for failure. Is Bush-hatred become so all-consuming for them that they're hoping our troops can't get the job done and the the Iraqis are unable to work up a stable democracy and the insurgency manages to destabilize the region? That's what a failure to curtail the current problems would mean. This is tantamount to wishing harm on their own soldiers (but please don't question their patriotism).

Posted by Doug at 01:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Emperor Chavez

I'm on a "Chavez kick", I know, but the man just begs for coverage. Hugo and his buddies have created a scene so similar to Star Wars that George Lucas may be able to sue for copyright infringement.

Venezuela's National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree for 18 months.

President Hugo Chavez says he wants "revolutionary laws" to enact sweeping political, economic and social changes.

He has said he wants to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms a president can serve.

Wonder who got to play the Jar-Jar Binks part of officially giving Chancellor Palpatine President Chavez these "temporary" powers?

After making another comparison of the Venezuelan Congress to "the German Reichstag in the 1930s in voting itself into irrelevancy", the Captain notes the grim future, first for outside investors, and ultimately for the Venezuelan people.

Western investors in Venezuela will suffer the same fate as those invested in Cuba before the fall of Batiste, or in Mexico during their occasional efforts to nationalize industries. They will be lucky if they can sell off their assets to Chavez for pennies on the dollar before he can seize them outright. The window for those transactions will close very shortly.

More importantly, Chavez has condemned the people of Venezuela to oppression and further misery. When outside investors stop underwriting projects in the country, their economy will head straight down. Chavez will use what remains -- the oil production -- to make splashy festivals for the poor and open a few schools and hospitals. The vast majority of what profit he can take will go right back into the pockets of Chavez and his cronies.

I'm going to have to bring up again that it's the Sheehans and Belefontes and Glovers of the political spectrum (i.e. the Left) that have embraced this man in a bear hug. I assume they have no problem with a socialist taking dictatorial powers over a country? I know they'd be up in arms if Chavez was Republican, but a socialist dictator (and now he is indeed technically a dictator) is okey dokey? This tells us what the grass-roots left-wingers really want for our country, because socialism has worked so well every other place it's been tried.

Or not.

Posted by Doug at 12:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2007

FISA Agrees to Bush Admin Reforms

Yeah, you're probably hearing the FISA-terrorist-wiretapping story spun many other ways, most unfavorable to President Bush, but is that really news? In the meantime, here's the real deal:The FISA court agreed to reforms requested by the Bush administration so that this wiretapping program (which is completely inbounds, Constitutionally speaking, contrary to many of its detractors) can continue it's record of success.

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

January 17, 2007

Misrepresenting Climate Policy, the Associated Press Way

Yeah, this is a hat tip to a 2-day-old Instapundit post, which is eons in blog time, but I thought it worth highlighting. In this story about how the tiny country of the United Arab Emirates beats the United States per capita in putting "demand on the global ecosystem", this line is mentioned about the second place US.

The United States is no longer bound by Kyoto, which the Bush administration rejected after taking office in 2001.

But as Glenn notes, based on a passage from what he calls "the not especially Bush-friendly Wikipedia", that is simply not true. You can chalk it up to "mere" incompetence or "simple" laziness, but it seems that almost always when the mainstream media get incompetent or lazy, conservatives and/or Republicans suffer (and liberals and/or Democrats look better). Honestly, when's the last time any news source (or your friendly, neighborhood liberal buddy) correctly noted that Clinton never submitted it to the Senate for ratification? If your going to insist that Bush"rejected" it, you must say the same thing about Clinton & Gore (notwithstanding Gore's "symbolic" signing of it; liberal good intentions don't count if they don't produce results).

Somehow, the fact that 80-90% of journalists vote Democrat just doesn't seem to register with folks like Eric Alterman who insist that the media lean conservative. That Bush "rejected" Kyoto is such a Known Fact(tm) in those circles does make its way into reporting, and it ain't the only thing that does.

Posted by Doug at 10:01 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Regulate ‘Em, Part Deux

A good ending to this episode.

A campaign of telephone calls and e-mails from American homeschoolers is being credited with convincing legislators in France to withdraw a plan that would have made such home instruction efforts there illegal, according to the Home School Legal Defense Fund.

"Thank you so much for your calls and e-mails to the French Embassy," an alert from the organization said. "In an incredible turnaround of events, the sponsor of the restrictive amendments which would have outlawed homeschooling has withdrawn his amendments."

An earlier alert had gone out just a few days ago, noting that a "draconian" plan had been proposed in the French parliament that would shut down homeschooling across the nation.

(Story continues below)

The specifics would be that "no parent would be allowed to homeschool unless they showed that the health or handicap of their child makes it necessary for him or her to be taught at home."

Even if a family qualified under such restrictions, the HSLDA said the proposal would have required the family to submit to a home visit by a government official each year, and their curriculum would have to come from the "National Center of Correspondent Teaching" or from an approved source.

Once again, the failing wished to regulate the successful
French education officials earlier told lawmakers that 80,000 children start secondary school without really knowing how to read, write or count, and that is one of the main reasons for "parents who decide to homeschool their children."

And, of course, the catch phrase for this almost-loss of freedom was one you've heard before and will hear again. It's the same in any language. (Emphasis mine.)
"The French Minister of the Family, Philippe Bas, vocally opposed several articles of this huge bill entitled 'Protection de L'Enfance,' which means for "Protection of the Children,'" [Senior Counsel Christopher] Klicka wrote. "He specifically opposed the sections regulating and essentially prohibiting homeschooling, saying in the French parliament: 'As they are, I am not favorable to these amendments [numbers 127 and 128], I find them too restrictive…'"

"We want to force you to use an inferior system for the children." Once again, good intentions from the Left trump actual results or actions.

In Germany, where homeschooling is illegal, one homeschool advocacy group got quite the threatening letter from their government.

That threat from a state education official was reported in an English translation at the Homeschoolblogger.com website.

"The Minister of Education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling…," said a government letter in response to a request for consideration for a family whose children were taken to school by police.

"You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers on the basis of paragraph 86 of the education law as a measure of the execution of authority. It is known to the ministry of education that primary school students can be particularly burdened by the related contradiction between the norms of the parent-house and that of the public school through such forced escorts."

Want a real chill up your spine? Listen to the government's proposed solution to the problem.
In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.

(Emphasis mine.) Besides the veiled threat, the blogger notes the irony.
It is interesting that in a state whose constitution is dominated by religious language and quotes the necessity of building Christian character, as well as guaranteeing the natural right of parents to have a say in the education of their children AND religious freedom, that the state would specifically mention that they are working to "bring the religious convictions of the family in line" with the goals of the state.

But as we know here, religious influence and language in a founding document is easily ignored and cheerfully misinterpreted when it interferes with greater governmental power.

Posted by Doug at 09:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Book Review: Christian Theologies of Scripture

Matt Stokes, former Stone (but always welcome back, dude) got a copy of a book he enjoyed and wanted to bring to the attention of our SCO readers.

I must confess that my knowledge of theology is not particularly strong. That's not to say that I am happy with this state of affairs. I am most certainly not. Yet I have only a passing knowledge of Christian theology, just enough to nod and comment over coffee. I have ideas about what I like and do not like about certain theologies, but it would be a stretch to say that I could adequately promulgate a particular line of theology. Therefore it was to my great relief that I was presented a copy of Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction, a helpful volume edited by Justin Holcomb.

Holcomb is a lecturer at both the University of Virginia and Reformed Theological Seminary, and he has done a masterful job of editing this volume. Within this text the reader finds brief essays outlining a multitude of angles on the subject, from medieval interpretations of Scripture to the approach of the postmodernists in our own time. In between the reader is introduced to all the ideas of names familiar to any adherent and student of Christianity: Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Balthasar and Barth. This review will not examine every chapter, but I do hope to demonstrate some general strengths and weaknesses found in this volume.

This anthology is particularly important as Christians Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox are currently making a concerted effort to understand doctrine outside the parameters of traditional denominational theology. Moreover it is helpful for both the studious believer and the purely academic student of the Christian faith to understand the multitude of theologies that have existed throughout history. This is particularly important as so many of theologies discussed in this book those of Luther, Calvin, Barth, post-modernism, African-American theology and feminist theory remain hugely influential in much of American Christianity.

It is for this reason that I found the chapters dealing with the above topics to be so beneficial. R.R. Renos chapter on Origen was useful, but academic in the sense that one would not immediately recognize Origens influence in modern Christianity. By contrast, Lutherans, Calvinists and students or adherents of the Emergent Church would find chapters specifically relevant to their own callings and pursuits. Of course the purpose of this volume is simply to inform the Christian laymen. This is an academic text, and in this regard, the book is a great success. Desiring a basic understanding of the various Christian interpretations of Scripture, the reader is presented with the historical Catholic interpretations of St. Thomas Aquinas and the later Counter-Reformation as well as the Protestant Reformers and their numerous descendants.

As someone with more conservative leanings in both theology and politics, it is tempting to offer a more detailed analysis of the chapters on feminism and post-modernism. Instead, one can say, as do the authors themselves, that feminism, post-modernism and African-American theologies are so often rooted in experience. This hits, in so many ways, at the dividing line between many believers. What shall determine our theology? Scripture alone, or should experience that of the Church or that of a particular group (women, African-Americans, other minorities) define theology? There is no clear answer in this volume, nor should there be. This is a question for another volume. If it were handled as well as Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction, students of Christianity would be indeed be fortunate.

Posted by Doug at 12:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 15, 2007

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Regulate 'Em

PBS did a story about homeschooling last Wednesday. My favorite quote from the transcript is this, in response to a professor suggesting that homeschooling get "good regulations" applied to it:

Mr. [Bruce] SHORTT [author of "The Harsh Truth About Public Schools"]: I think it's ironic that someone with an obviously authoritarian agenda is attempting to lecture others, and unfortunately education seems to be one of those areas in which the failures astonishingly insist upon trying to regulate the successful.

An interesting statistic that they mention is that the number of homeschoolers in the country is growing at a rate 10 times that of the general school-age population. People are fleeing the government-run schools in droves, and it's the government that thinks it should regulate those alternatives.

Instead of figuring out what's wrong, they seek to regulate what's working. And they'd never let you keep your own money--directly or in the form of vouchers--to help you out. That's government at work.

Posted by Doug at 02:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2007

Chavez v the Church

No contest in that match, according to Hugo.

In addition, you tell me if there is an unstated threat when, after 'scolding' the Church "for criticizing his decision not to renew the license of an opposition-aligned television station," Chavez said:
the state respects the church. The church should respect the state. I wouldn't like to return to the times of confrontation with Venezuelan bishops, but it's not up to me. It's up to the Venezuelan bishops.

Translation: If there is a conflict between me and the Church, the Church must be wrong. If Chavez was the first to spew the sort of nonsense he does so often, he might be cutely incorrigible.

But this isn't the first time faith has heard in the distance the report of socialist war drums. What then?

Hat tip to Acton Institute's PowerBlog, a general must read.

Posted by Doug at 01:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Christians and Government Schools

From LaShawn Barber:

I feel for Christians who can't afford private schools and for whatever reason aren't equipped to homeschool. I don't believe in fighting the government for piecemeal concessions like "prayer in schools." Children don't need permission to pray. It is a private matter that can be done without formalities and protests, which in my view cheapen and obscure the whole purpose of prayer.

At the same time, I do believe taxpaying parents have a right to complain and seek change in government schools. I just don't think it's worth the effort for Christians to get themselves worked up over problems in a corrupted, Democratic party-controlled (teachers unions), monopolized, government propaganda machine like the public school system.

She also poses 3 questions for readers to answer.

Posted by Doug at 01:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2007

Chavez Continues Power Grab

Hugo Chavez, with the backing of his guys in the Venezuelan Congress, continues to consolidate his power.

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was sworn in on Wednesday for a new six-year term that he vowed to use to press a radical socialist revolution including nationalizations that have roiled financial markets.

Emboldened by his landslide re-election win, the typically combative anti-U.S. leader has gone on the attack, deciding to strip a private opposition TV channel of its license and take over some major companies owned by foreign investors.

"Fatherland, socialism or death -- I take the oath," Chavez said.

The man who calls Cuban President Fidel Castro his mentor changed tradition by draping the presidential sash from his left shoulder instead of his right in what he says is a symbol of his socialist credentials.

Legislators at the ceremony in Congress chanted "Long live socialism."

Investors took fright this week at the leftist drive that further consolidates power in the hands of a former coup leader who already controls Congress, the courts and says he has total support in the army and the giant state oil company.

As the United States criticized Chavez's moves against private property, the stock market lost almost a fifth of its value on Tuesday, debt prices tumbled to a six-week low and the currency changed hands at nearly twice the official rate

But he's not worried.
Still, buoyed by strong oil revenues and high popularity, Chavez is expected to ride out any economic and political storm.

Something tells me that there's a high correlation between "strong oil revenues" and "high popularity". If he's buying the latter with the former, like he's doing in Harlem, it's no wonder he keeps getting re-elected.

In the meantime, he's planning on holding on to this power for as long as he can make it last, never mind term limits.

A leading anti-U.S. voice in the world and in the vanguard of a shift to the left in Latin America, Chavez now wants to scrap presidential term limits and lead the OPEC nation for decades.

Chavez, who rode to Congress for the swearing-in ceremony in an open-top car waving at crowds of supporters, has said his new term's plans include stripping the central bank of its autonomy and taking on special legislative powers.


Chavez's nationalization plans remain hazy and the utilities and foreign investors want to know whether he plans to take a 51-percent governing stake or seize all of their enterprises.

Chavez has already confiscated large cattle ranches. But his decision to nationalize the country's biggest telecommunications company CANTV and power firms represents a bold new policy.

Calling him a dictator may not be technically correct, but in word and deed he is most certainly consolidating his hold over the country and ensuring it continues, stealing entire business sectors if need be.

Next time you see a Sheehan or a Belafonte plant a big wet one on him, just remember who supports him and who his useful idiots are.

Posted by Doug at 11:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 09, 2007

Depends on Your Definition of "Village"

Canadian kids can legally have 3 parents.

(Toronto, Ontario) An Ontario boy can legally have two mothers and a father, the province's highest court ruled Tuesday.

The same-sex partner of the child's biological mother went to court seeking to also be declared a mother of the boy.

After hearing arguments in 2003, Superior Court Justice David Aston dismissed the application saying he didn't have the jurisdiction to rule in the case.

Court was told the child has three parents: his biological father and mother (identified in court documents as B.B. and C.C., respectively) and C.C.'s partner, the appellant A.A.

Once this is a legal precedent after the fact--after the child-bearing arrangement--it's a very small slip to allow this at the beginning--marrying 3 people at a time. Talk about taking a village to raise a child!

Those of you who thought that allowing same-sex marriage wouldn't open up any uinintended doors, is the slippery slope coming into focus just a little bit more?

(Hat tip to Stop the ACLU.)

Posted by Doug at 01:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2007

God Is In Control (or "Why I Virtually Stopped Blogging and Why I'm Back")

Regular readers will have noticed that my contributions to this blog have been slight in the past few months, though they are on the rise. The reason for this is that a disease I hadn't thought much about in the past 10 years decided to make another appearance and made typing a chore. My Multiple Sclerosis was back. But while there is bad news involved, there is certainly a lot of good news and praise to God involved

Just before Halloween, a portion of the back of my head went numb (officially making me a numbskull). By the time I got to my neurologist, other portions of my body had gone numb, mostly on my right side. Included in this was my right hand, and, being right-handed, this presented me with some issues. The first time I had MS this bad was actually the first time I got it 20 years ago, and it numbed the whole left side of my body from shoulder to foot. However, I could still write and do most of what I did during the day with just my right hand. Other small relapses during that first 10 years were mostly inconveniences. This time, it was quite different.

Fortunately, my livelihood doesn't rest on my ability to write, but rather to type; I'm a software guy. Still, typing got to be a bit of work. I normally touch type, but now my right had was limited to using my first two fingers to get the keys on the right side of the keyboard and I had to give my left hand more to do. (Touch typists will understand when I say that all uses of the Shift key, spacebar and some letters in the middle were done on the left for a couple months.) I downloaded a free demo of voice recognition software and used that for my program specs and documentation, for e-mails, and for a little blogging. (I'm impressed with the state of the art in this area, especially with no voice training required. I'm unimpressed with how much of this capability is natively in Windows.) For computer programming, however, the keyboard is still the only real option. (Yes, I checked out some voice software for programming, but they were all computer-language-specific, and there weren't any for the language and the environment I was working in.) By the time I got done with the day's typing, I was in no mood to do more on the blog, hence my scarcity.

That's the lion's share of the bad news, but in all this there's quite a bit of good news, and God's getting praise and credit for it.

First of all, the treatment has been working very well. Instead of the handful of prednisone pills I'd take daily for months in 1986, now they give you even more prednisone but via IV and only for 3 days. (This is to reduce the swelling of the nerves.) The numbness has receded almost completely, and at this point, while my writing is still worse than my 6-year-olds, I'm up to using the correct fingers for the right-side keyboard keys (though I'm not touch typing just yet, as the fine sensation of my fingers on the keys isn't really back; my error rate is still not back down to normal). When my doctor got the MRIs back, which would show how widespread the MS "plaques" were, he expected to see between 15 and 20 dots on the film showing the locations. Instead he found 5, with a possible faint 6th dot. He also expected to see residual "holes" or scars from previous relapses, but found none.

And the good news actually started last summer. Prior to my first MS episode in '86, my wife and I had very little life insurance. Once this hit, insurance companies wanted to charge a much higher premium on me, so after it appeared I went ahead and took what I could afford to get adequate coverage. Well, a lot has changed in my family in 20 years (notably the births of our four choldren), so this summer I started looking again, since I hadn't been medicated for it in the previous 10 years. Sure enough, there was an insurance company (AIG, if you're interested) that wouldn't consider the MS since it had been that long. I got something like 6 times my previous coverage for a little over half the premium. So in my estimation, God held off on further episodes until I was able to get properly covered.

Some might say that what God should do is get rid of it completely, if He's the kind, loving God I believe Him to be. What I'll say to that is that in a number of ways, one of which I would term miraculous, He's let me know that He's in control and that He's allowing this for whatever purpose. He has let me know in no uncertain terms that while He can cure it, He just isn't, at least right now. Knowing that, I've been able to accept this and not be bitter about it.

So that's why I've been rather quiet of late, but now that I'm working on getting my typing faculties back, I consider blogging physical therapy. :)

Posted by Doug at 02:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stem Cells with "Less Baggage"

One more reason that the ethical issues with embryonic stem cells don't have to ignored to advance science.

New research released Sunday strongly suggests the success of a third category of stem cells that carry with them less political baggage. The two previously best-known sources for stem cells have been fetuses and adult tissues. The newly discovered stem cells are amniotic-fluid stem cells that reside in the placenta and the liquid around human fetuses in the mother’s womb.

The new cells are nearly as adaptable to multiply and change into many different cell types as the other strains. The potential is huge, using this technology body tissue can be renewed, or used to treat a range of diseases. They may also allow physicians and technicians to grow new organs in a laboratory for later transplantation.

All these sources of stem cells do not require an advancement of the culture of death. This is the path we should be taking, in a big way. Destroying embryos doesn't even have to be on the table.

Posted by Doug at 01:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Faith of our Founders

Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost takes an honest look at the religious faith of America's Founding Fathers. His first conclusion is:

With the exception of the handful of orthodox Christians, the majority of the founding fathers subscribed to a religious view that we would nowadays classify as Unitarianism. A rejection of Trinitarianism clearly puts one outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity. We should not, therefore, claim that a historical figure is a “Christian” when we would consider someone who held those beliefs today to be a heretic. The leaders during the revolutionary era may have subscribed to a Judeo-Christian view of morality, but few of them were orthodox believers.

However, his second conclusion is:
While we Christians can claim few founding fathers as fellow believers, the atheistic secularist can claim none. Not one of the significant leaders was an atheist, much less subscribed to the modern idea of secularism.

Essentially, Carter says that the whole modern idea of government working from a purely secular/atheist point of view is not something the Founders would have generally recognized as their idea. An "established religion" meant something specific to them, and it wasn''t that government should be devoid of religious influence at all. (Military chaplains were set up by these same fellas, as an example.) The Michael Newdows of the country should take note.

Posted by Doug at 12:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The DNC, Taxes and Chapped Lips

Thus is the title of Danny Carlton's description of how dealing with a little discomfort in the short term leads to a better outcome in the long term, if you have the maturity to both stop licking your lips and stop raising taxes. Democrats have made it easier for Congress to raise taxes (surprise, surprise) enabling what he calls Chapped Lips Syndrome as applied to society.

Attacking the wealthy feels good in a myopic, class-envy, immature way, but makes the economy suffer. If the economy suffers, those with less will inevitably suffer more. A mature, intelligent society will encourage business (within reasonable restrictions) and solve the problem. The immature society will continue to attack the rich and make the economy continue to slide downhill.

Posted by Doug at 09:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 07, 2007

Comments Re-enabled

Once again, spammers overloaded our blog software, MovableType, and it ordered everyone out of the pool, stopping all comments. Consider this the all-clear (to mix a couple of metaphors).

Posted by Doug at 09:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2007

Patterico Skewers L.A. Times

Patterico is out with his annual round-up of liberal bias, general incompetence, and some bright spots from his favorite target; the L. A. Times. It's amazing to me (OK, not really) that when the media make huge mistakes in coverage of big news items, it's virtually always in a way that tilts left. And all this while some think the media has a conservative bias.

Posted by Doug at 02:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack