Thursday, October 30, 2003

I Just Took A Poll 

I just got called by somebody, I think Newsweek, to take a poll. First time that's happened. It was about Bush, and the war. The pollster also asked my about my religion, and about what impact I thought religion had on medical health.

On the subject of the war, they asked a question like this:
"How concerned are you that the US might get bogged down in Iraq for years with little or no progress?"

That seems pretty leading to me. I considered answering in the affirmative (choices were, Very Concerned, Somewhat Concerned or Not At All Concerned) because the way the question is worded, well, sure I'm concerned that it might happen. But then I realized, they're going to spin this as a country that is doubtful about whether we should be there at all. Of course they also asked me that question- should we be pulling our troops out? And naturally I said no. But the headline will be the question that gives them the result they're looking for. And it's not like reading a poll- there's a guy on the phone, and you've got to answer and you don't feel like you can take all night thinking about it. So I made my answer a little more positive than I might have if I hadn't been wary of their motives. Is that lying?

On the subject of religion and health, another interesting thing happened. I don't believe in faith healing, and I believe in praying for people's health, including my own, primarily to teach myself to submit to God's will. God certainly can heal people, and sometimes chooses to heal people through the means of prayers for that person, but I don't pray expecting that to happen. My prayers don't change God's will. My prayers change me.

But again, the questions were phrased in a funny way. I expect I answered the questions approximately the same was as the average audience member at a Benny Hinn show (and yes, I meant to use the word "show"). Have I prayed for people's health? Yes. Does religion have an impact on people's health? Yes. Do I think spiritual or religious matters and medical matters bear on each other? Or do I think religion and medicine should be kept separate? Oh boy, that's all we need- another "wall of separation." Answer- they bear on each other.

Why don't they just say it? Do you think religion has anything to do with anything? Or should it be kept separate from everything? Practiced only secretly at night in the cellar? Don't just pray in the closet- sing your hymns and preach your sermons in there too?

One step at a time- get God out of everything. And anyone who disagrees is a trailer-park-livin', snake-handlin', big-haired televangelist-watchin' moron.

Maybe I'm jumping to conclusions. We'll see when the poll comes out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

It All Depends on How You Look At It 

The Washington Post has a story on an attack against American troops that claimed the life of two soldiers. The article repeatedly mentions, in the tagline and in the story itself, that US combat deaths after an end to major combat was declared by Bush now exceed those before. They apparently think this is significant; presumably it is proof of a 'quagmire'.

But to look at it another way, isn't it really a testimony to the extreme effectiveness of the war itself before May 1st? Is it that there have been so many deaths after the war, or that there were so few during it?

Those Moderate Egyptians 

Jonathan Schanzer has an article on the smuggling tunnels that Palestinians use to bring weapons from Egypt into Gaza. He claims Egypt is complicit, and I've heard that charge other places too.

Egypt is supposed to be one of those 'moderate' Muslim states Seems to me that a great way it could prove that it is would be for it to help Israel destroy those tunnels.

Open Space 

According to the Gazette Telegraph, Colorado Springs has authorized a $15M purchase of a canyon near Colorado Springs, for the purpose of Open Space. This, for those of you not familiar with the silliness that passes for development debate these days, is the insistence of some people that municipal governments take land out of production (at taxpayers' expense, natch) so that people who are inclined to enjoy the outdoors (at taxpayers' expense) can do so.

Land wasn't in production, you say? Why'd they have to pay $15M for it then?

Anyway, the bit of the article that caught my attention was this:
The city used an increasingly popular financing tool called certificates of participation, or COPS, to finance the deal. A city-controlled nonprofit company will take on the debt and lease the land back to the city. Without such an arrangement, the Colorado Constitution says new government debt must be voter-approved.

So, the Colorado Constitution says you can't do what they're doing without a vote. So they just call it something different, play a shell game with the money (Enron anyone?) and satisfy the eco-whiners.

Also from the article:
Glenn [One of only two city council members voting against the purchase] has said he opposes the deal because he sees the financing method as an effort to circumvent the state constitution.

I sure wish I could get the city to fund my pastimes.

"They're not anti-war, they're just for the other side" 

One of the leading "antiwar" groups, ANSWER, who has been organizing and funding all sorts of antiwar protests and activities, has openly come out for the other side. It's not that they want peace. They just want us to lose. They're rooting for the Baathists and terrorists over Americans. Here's the money quote:
The anti-war movement here and around the world must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance.
Eugene Volokh tipped me off.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Good question, Slate 

Why spend $32 million advertising the new twenty dollar bills?? It's not like there's competition.

Monday, October 27, 2003

More good news 

The Russians demonstrate remarkably good sense!

An economics professor of mine once used Russia as proof that economic success was not a function of the intelligence of the people (India, BTW, was proof that it wasn't a function of hard work either). Russia, a country in which chess is a spectator sport, was an economic basket case at the time he made the comment.

They're still a basket case, but that intelligence may finally be doing them some serious good. Dumping on the Kyoto treaty, and passing a flat tax- awesome. My favorite part of this is how mad it's made the EU.

They [the Russians] seem prepared to join the argument not simply on the grounds of their narrow self-interest but on the question of whether those who think we are destroying the earth might just be wrong.

Whee! The world is such a fun place sometimes.


I guess I could blog about this, but I really didn't intend this blog to be about everything wrong in the world, so I'll skip it. Lots of other folks will do great analysis anyway. Click on a few random links to the right and I'm sure you'll find plenty of perceptive comment.

So instead, let me tell you about something great that's happened. I was given a pig. A dead, butchered, all-sausaged-up pig. Bacon, chops, ham, the works. One of the ranchers in my church gave it to me as a gift.

I have never had such good meat in my whole life, I'm pretty sure. Or at least not in a while. I think I'm ruined now. Not perhaps only on store-bought pork, but maybe on enjoyment of life in general. I'll be saying, "That was a nice sunset. A fine Scotch. I sure enjoyed that concert. That episode of Teen Girl Squad was awesome."

But it wasn't as good as that pork.

And to throw in something theological- you know why we traditionally eat pork on Easter? Because Easter's the reason we're not Jews anymore.

Jews don't get to eat pork. Neither do Muslims. I feel sorry for them. Mostly because they don't know Jesus, but also a little bit because they don't get to eat pork.

Sunday's Sermon 

Sunday's sermon is posted here. I'm going to try to do this every week. It's on the subject of God's promises to Abraham, and how Romans 4 teaches us that those promises are the foundation of the gospel.

There will also be a link to this on the sidebar. I'll have the date it was last updated appended to that link, so you can avoid downloading the same sermon twice.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Movie Review- Dreamcatcher 

Dreamcatcher is a horror movie based on a Stephen King book. In the movie, four friends are given paranormal abilities as a gift for a heroic act, rescuing a young retarded boy from a group of bullies. As adults, they are confronted with a much larger task- stopping an alien invasion.

It's a fun movie, overall. It's not what you'd call remarkable or memorable, but it is fun. The acting's all at least competent. Morgan Freeman is dependable as always, although he's not given much to work with. He's the crazy army guy who's been secretly battling the aliens for years. It's a pretty paint-by-the-numbers kind of part. Donnie Wahlberg is interesting as the retarded boy grown up, and Tom Sizemore Owen, is the younger Army guy who is replacing Abrahams (Freeman).

Oddly, the four friends, who are the leads, are the weakest part of the casting. They are good when they're joking around with each other, but most of the movie's serious (it is a horror movie after all) and they seemed like they just couldn't take it very seriously the rest of the time. Thomas Jane as Henry was especially odd- he appeared to be on the verge of bursting into laughter during some of the movie's grimmest moments.

The plot itself is quite thin. Standard monster movie stuff really. The "dreamcatcher" theme probably had a little more substance to it in the book. I didn't see the point of it in the movie at all. It could have been left out entirely without damage to the plot. But then they would have lost the title of the movie and had to call it "Bugs from Space" or something.

It's very gory, and there's a lot of bad language in it- be warned. But overall it's a fun monster movie if that's what you want.

2 out of 5 stars.

Rent the DVD free from Netflix

Thursday, October 23, 2003

The Statehood Lie 

Check out this LGF post about Palestinian public opinion: A majority of them would support continuing the intifada even if they were given full statehood and got back the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And a minority of them think that the 9/11 hijackers were terrorists.

As the Palestinians themselves have always said (at least when they're not talking in English), nothing short of everything between the river and the sea will satisfy them. Nothing short of the destruction of Israel.

Boykin's comments compared to the Bible 

I thought maybe I should do a little work to substantiate my claim that Gen. Boykin's comments were pretty much a mainstream expression of God's sovereignty and the Christian belief that the God of the Bible is the only true one.
Quotes taken from here:

Lt. Gen. Boykin:
"I knew that my God was bigger than his God. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

Psalm 96:4-5
4 For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.

Lt. Gen. Boykin:
"And then this man stepped forward. A man that has acknowledged that he prays in the Oval Office. A man that's in the White House today because of a miracle. You think about how he got in the White House. You think about why he's there today. As Mordecai said to Esther, 'You ave been put there for such a time and place.' And this man has been put in the White house to lead our nation in such a time as this. "

Daniel 4:29-32:
9 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?
31 While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.

Lt. Gen. Boykin:
"And the enemy that has come against our nation is a spiritual enemy. His name is Satan."

Eph. 6:11-13:
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

And as for all that nonsense about Jews and Muslims worshiping the same God as us:

John 14:6
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

2 John 1:9
9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

Hope this helps.

The Rumsfeld memo- The Denver Post toes the line 

An echo, not a choice.

The Denver Post essentially repeats USA Today's line that the leaked Rumsfeld memo is a sign that the war is not going well. It would have been nice to see some independent thinking from a local paper, but it would also be touchingly naive to expect that paper to be the Denver Post. I shouldn't blame them too much, I guess. They didn't write the article, they just ran the AP line.

The assessments of Virginia Postrel and Bryan Preston seem very reasonable, which would explain why USA Today and the AP took such a different tack. (A great summary of the whole story, including the links above, is on- you guessed it- Instapundit.)

Stories like this make me wish all those people crying over the dreadful state of civil liberties in this country were just a little bit less wrong than they are. It'd be nice to see someone beaten to death thrown in jail for treason over leaking that memo.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

More Evidence... 

...that Christians are possibly not as free as many think. A WaPo op-ed saying that Gen. Boykin ought to be fired for his Christian remarks. Two things stand out about this- one, that it is becoming increasingly acceptable to call for people to be fired for expressing mainstream Christian views, and two, that so many people seem to be unaware that these are mainstream Christian views.

Or perhaps they're not unaware at all.

We have reached an accord 

The fox has agreed to watch the henhouse for us. I feel so much better.


John Allen Muhammad, representing himself, has decided not to use the insanity defense. If he was crazy enough to shoot all those people and by some theory not be responsible for doing it, how could he then know whether or not he was crazy? Actually I'm glad it worked out this way. The amazing thing is that he could have conceivably gone the other way, deciding he was crazy, and then representing himself as such to the court. Crazy, over the rainbow, I am Crazy.

Which reminds me of a joke.

Two cows are in a field. One says to the other, "Hey, you hear about this Mad Cow disease?"

And the second cow says, "What are you talking about? I'm a helicopter!"

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Conservatism and Homosexuality 

Instapundit pointed me to this article on The Right Coast, referring in turn to this article from the WSJ opinion page about homosexuals and gay marriage or civil unions. It calls to my mind the opinions or positions of several different conservative bloggers and pundits on the issue of gay marriage or gay civil unions. The criticism that many have of social conservatives is that their position on gay marriage is really just based on their personal moral opposition to homosexuality, and not on any practical argument. If that were actually true, then it would certainly be a violation of the conservative philosophy itself, which teaches us among other things that public policy should never be based on the moral or ideological leanings of a few. Some conservative Christians have argued essentially that Christians ought to accept that our culture is no longer a Christian one, and concede the issue of gay marriage as a way of protecting ourselves, in the belief that if we support the civil liberties of an opposing group, our own civil liberties will be more secure.

However, as time goes on it becomes increasingly clear that homosexuals are not going to be satisfied with simple tolerance. They and their political allies have promoted laws in a great many places to make it illegal for anyone to even speak against the lifestyle. They have promoted educational initiatives that encourage, not just tolerance of, but the practice of, a homosexual lifestyle. In some cities and other countries, these laws are reality. We don't have to speculate about whether this will happen. It's happening now. Every concession and retreat by the social conservatives has only resulted in emboldening the advance of the enemies of traditional values. With the exception of a few moderates such as Andrew Sullivan, the gays will not be satisfied until the Christians are completely muzzled. But that's really beside the point.

We don't have to make homosexuals out to be perverts, child molesters or predators to understand what's at stake here. To understand it, let's look at why the state supports marriage in the first place.

Governments and societies for almost all of recorded history have recognized that it is in the context of marriage that children will be most successfully raised. For society to perpetuate itself, a number of things have to be passed on from generation to generation. These things include property, education and values. If these things are not passed on, then society falls apart from one generation to the next. So, the state and society itself have an interest in ensuring that children are brought into the world in an environment where this will occur. Giving benefits and preferential treatment to married couples in legal and financial matters ensures that the couples who actually bring the children into the world are the ones who do that in most situations, and discouraging procreation outside of marriage further ensures this favorable environment in the majority of child-rearing situations. The state has never had the resources to pursue the large-scale raising of children until very recently, and given the usually less-than-ideal results when it does, should not be encouraged to pursue it anyway. This is the basic reason why religion and government for most of human history has encouraged marriage for the purpose of raising children, and discouraged raising children in any other arrangement.

Those who marry and are unwilling or unable to raise children still get these state benefits, because the practical and political obstacles to considering people only officially married if they have children or intend to have children are enormous, and end up destroying many of the benefits to supporting marriage in the first place.

Outside of the link to childrearing, civil unions or marriages become just another transfer payment, just another subsidy and interest group, just another welfare case. The state doesn't subsidize love, straight or gay. It subsidizes childrearing. Heterosexual couples are not given benefits because they love each other, but because they are presumed to be undertaking the enormous challenge and burden of raising children.

What social conservatives are arguing is that breaking this link between marriage and childrearing is deadly to society. We don't have to speculate about this, sadly. We've seen it happen already. No-fault divorce, child custody laws, the foster care system and the welfare state have all made it easier and easier to raise children outside of the bounds of marriage, and the results have been disastrous, as practically any conservative and most moderates and libertarians agree. All of the social indicators- addictions, criminal behavior, poverty, education- crash when marriage and childrearing are not in most cases occurring together.

This is not a civil rights issue. It's entirely beside the point whether homosexuality ought itself to be outlawed or discouraged, or whether it is immoral or not. Most of us agree that homosexuality probably does not need to be outlawed. I certainly don't think it should be. But civil unions or marriage actually confers the benefits of marriage on them without any presumption of the corresponding burden of raising children.

Anyone who calls himself a conservative ought not be rushing to dismantle the very fabric of our society. Part of being a conservative is recognizing that there are lots of issues far bigger than any one person's ideas or desires or experiences. This idea is not something society wants now or has ever wanted. It's being foisted on us gradually and not so gradually by a few. Any conservative worthy of the name needs to get behind the effort to slow or stop this disastrous experiment. This will not be the first time that an elitist few have shoved their destructive ideas down the throats of a society, or the first time that a society was destroyed by the dreams of their leaders.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The Old Question- In but not Of? 

Here's an article by Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, about the press of homosexuality on our culture. A lot of it's pretty undeniable these days. Christians ought to be aware that there are political figures out there who would outlaw the practice of our religion today, and that it has occurred in some places. This article points out cases where Christians are practically forbidden from freely and completely expressing their Christianity within certain spheres. I wrote earlier about another such example.

But Mohler's proposed remedy is to construct an "alternative culture" before we've lost more fronts in the "culture war". If our object is to avoid persecution, it seems like an "alternative culture" is a losing battle. If the country at large decides to persecute Christians, or to continue to movie in that direction, an "alternative culture" will make it even easier for them to do so. Christians would be more easily identifiable and more easily cast as the 'alien' and thus more easily subjected to discriminatory treatment. Ask whether the Jews in the 1930's were protected from persecution because they had an 'alternative culture'. Or the Armenians in 1915.

Even more importantly, Christians ought to know that the loss of so much of the culture war in this country, and the current attack on the values of the church, are not the result of some alien force that attacked us from the outside. The church itself has been the source of most of the degradation of the culture. It was the church that first promoted the use of the state to regulate and manipulate family life for ideological ends. It was the church that stopped teaching the infallibility of Scripture, opening the door to question so many things that once seemed unquestionable, such as whether homosexuality was a valid lifestyle choice. And it was the church, for over two hundred years, that taught a completely individualistic, man-centered, feelings-oriented version of Christianity in which the individual's happiness was the goal of religion. All modern America has done is finish the job the church started, taking the name 'Christ' away from what was already Christian only in name. The church sowed, and the country reaped.

The 'culture war' is not the problem. It's only the symptom. The churches are the problem. So many churches in this country tell people that their religion's purpose is to make them happy, satisfy their needs. Modern versions of Christianity in this country put man at the center of his own religion, and are then surprised when man lives out the practical implication of that teaching by redesigning Christianity to fit his desires. They conduct market studies of local demographics to find out what their worship services ought to be like and are then surprised when their churches are full of people with consumerist mindsets, that go to church not to glorify and worship God, but to serve their own needs. It's a short jump from there to reading and interpreting the Bible to fit one's own theology, reinterpreting what you can reinterpret, and ignoring what you can't. And it's just another short jump from there to regarding the Bible itself as unnecessary. And that's where we are.

To quote James White's The Potter's Freedom, man will accept and love God anywhere except on His throne. The whole issue before us today is just that- are we going to rule over our own lives, and make our own decisions about what is right and wrong, or are we going to acknowledge God as the undisputed ruler of the universe? That struggle has to be won in the church before we are to have any hope of taking that message to society.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Kucinich Remains Steadfast 

Hey, you see this? I haven't been spending a lot of time with the Democratic presidential candidates, because it doesn't affect my decisionmaking process at all come election day. I range in my opinion of them from near-complete ignorance (John Edwards) to mild annoyance (Lieberman) to complete disbelief that such a totally obvious liar, charlatan, and gangster is even allowed to breathe free air in our society let alone get five percent of the vote of a political party that still wants to be considered a serious alternative in a functional democracy (Sharpton).

Sorry about that... got a little worked up.

Anyway, the bit that got my attention was the word "steadfast". Kucinich has been "steadfast" in his opposition to the war on Iraq. It feels like saying, "Hitler remains 'steadfast' in his assertion that Europe rightfully belongs to him" or "The patient in room 236 is 'steadfast' in his assertion that he is Albert Schweitzer".

I guess what I'm trying to say is, steadfastness isn't always a good thing, if you're wrong. But steadfast is a pretty positive word, it seems, so that the implication is he's to be commended for his consistency. Steadfastness has the feeling of holding to a position out of principle, despite overwhelming obstacles or pressure to change. Being antiwar in the Democratic party right now is virtually a cost-free position, only slightly more risky than being pro-abortion or anti-big oil. The best you could say about Kucinich is that he's consistent. But steadfast? Come on. Churchill was steadfast. Reagan was steadfast. Even Bush. Kucinich?

Another synonym for steadfast might be 'boring'.


Netflix ROX, by the way. You may have noticed the banner. The deal is, you go onto their website and pick out a list of movies you want to see. They have like 15 thousand titles, on DVD. You pay a flat monthly fee, $20, and they send you the first three movies on your list. You take as long as you want to watch them, no late fees. As soon as you return one, in the postage-paid envelope they give you, they send you the next one. It's great. I've been a member for a couple of years, and now that I'm so far from movie theaters and Blockbusters, we get the maximum out at a time- 8.

This is especially great if you like to see movies that are older or foreign or independent. Even when we were in Colorado Springs, there were a lot of movies we couldn't find at the local rental shop. But they have about everything that's on DVD.

Self-interest disclaimer- I get paid if you click on my banner and sign up. But I've been telling people for a while how great it is for free, so I'm OK with that. I hope you can be too.

Dirty Car 

I finally broke down and washed my car yesterday. Went down to the local self-serve and hosed the bugs off. I put nine hundred miles on my Corolla last week (which gets about 40 MPG on the highway, perfect car for driving all the freakin' time) and it was caked with bugs and crap.

This is always a bittersweet moment for me. I like to have a clean car. But I live on a dirt road.

It's sort of like... uh...

I can't think of any simile more vivid than washing your car when you live on a dirt road.

Movie review- A Mighty Wind 

A Mighty Wind, as I'm sure most of you know, is the latest Christopher Guest mockumentary, in the same vein as Waiting for Guffman and Best of Show. It's a similarly constructed film, with much of the same cast, such as Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest himself.

The movies are all presented as serious documentaries of serious subjects. In A Mighty Wind we follow around three folk-rock acts as they prepare for a reunion to celebrate the passing of the agent who represented all of them. So some of the filming is presented as interviews of the musicians and other people connected to the show, and the rest of the movie shows the characters apparently unaware of the camera, going about their business preparing for the show. Guest allows us to laugh at the characters without comment, without seeming to try to present them as stupid or ridiculous, which they are. We learn about one member of the "New Main Street Singers" who has realized that he suffered abuse in his family, though it was "mostly musical in nature", and now he has found refuge in the worship of color, a religion which he thinks is so obvious, "you could have realized it going to the corner store." We see the "New Main Street Singers" rehearsing, all in normal clothes except for one member, the newest, who is being required to wear his band outfit to rehearsals until the band leader deems him worthy to practice in "civvies".

The best known film of this type, and still the funniest, is This Is Spinal Tap. There's no one like rock musicians for overblown self-importance and pomposity. There's tons of material for this kind of humor in the life of a musical act on the road, perhaps especially a heavy metal act. It's almost impossible to not compare Guest's later works to Spinal Tap, although it's unfair to do so. Some have said that of Guest's work, A Mighty Wind comes closest to Spinal Tap precisely because the subject material is similar. But the movies really are totally different, and as I was watching A Mighty Wind, it did not evoke Spinal Tap at all. Folk singers have a whole different vibe than '70s rockers, and Guest nails that vibe. Also, Spinal Tap gives us a very focused view of just a few characters, and A Mighty Wind gives a sketch of a larger number of characters. I felt like I would have loved to see a lot more of some of the characters, but a broader focus allows us to get a quick glimpse into a large number of different personalities, and all of them are worth it. So the payoff's totally different than Spinal Tap.

There's some sex-related humor which may be off-putting to some. There's just a couple of places where you would worry about kids. Most of it's subtle enough that you wouldn't worry about kids even knowing what's going on. Like all of Guest's work, the theme of this is a gentle skewering of the self-important and the strange. But the fact that Guest allows the audience to interact directly with the subjects, without the appearance of any commentary or filter, makes the humor good-natured. The people in Guest's movies are not so much mocked as they are allowed to make fools of themselves on camera. It drags a little in some places, as all of Guest's works do. The story structure, or lack thereof, will lose some viewers. He's kind of a meandering director. But the laughs are big enough to make it worth the effort.

This got 3/5 stars on my Netflix ratings list.
Rent the DVD free from Netflix

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Marriage Protection Week 

I'm not sure what the best way is for us to support marriage as an institution, beyond the obvious of living out the Biblical teaching of marriage in our own personal lives. Here's an effort by Bush to support a traditional view of marriage, though, and I applaud it.

I am riddled with doubt, however- I can see this just making the pro-marriage side of things look ineffectual, and causing more controversy than support for the issue. I sure don't know what exactly I would do about it if I were in Bush's shoes, so I'm mostly glad we have a president who's willing to do something.

If we on the traditional side of things are correct, then in the long term we are guaranteed success, since those segments of our society which support a traditional view of marriage will be the only ones capable of successfully reproducing themselves (and I don't mean in the narrow biological sense). When the dust clears, we'll be the only ones standing. It would be nice, however, if our whole society didn't have to collapse in ruin to get us there.

Free Trade woes 

From the WSJ- (link requires $)

A new anti-free-trade movement is emerging in the U.S., comprising highly skilled workers who once figured they would be big winners in the globalized economy but now see their white-collar jobs moving overseas in growing numbers.

The new opponents to lowering trade barriers are especially vocal, and their complaints already are getting the attention of Congress and the White House. Their concerns got an unexpected boost Thursday when Intel Corp. Chairman Andy Grove, a pioneer in the American high-tech industry, warned that the U.S. could lose the bulk of its information technology jobs to overseas competitors in the next decade, largely to India and China.

Virtually any analysis will show you that free trade always helps both sides of the deal, as long as it is unrestricted by governments. There are always local disruptions, as in the case of these workers. But ultimately, those who protest the effects of free trade usually end up promoting their own narrow interests, rather than those of the nation as a whole. The article says that 2/3 of the economic impact of losing these jobs flows back to the nation in the form of lower prices. And that's just the immediate impact. There's also the economic benefits of competitive pressure on the efficiencies of our industry, the benefits that come from shifting resources into more productive lines of work, and such less tangible benefits that are more difficult to measure, but very real nonetheless.

This is what made American industry so powerful, and kept us from becoming stagnating state-driven economies like Europe is full of these days, and like Japan has become (how long has it been since you heard anyone worrying about Japan taking over the US economically?). Our own efforts at protecting local jobs and industries (steel, airlines, autos) have typically done those industries more harm than good, as we shelter them from competitive pressures until those industries became less and less capable of competing on their own and require more and more taxpayer-funded interventions by government to save them, driving up consumer prices and hurting the economy overall. That's the question these tech workers need to ask themselves- is it right for the government to use taxpayer dollars to keep these jobs here and drive up prices for the consumers, just to make their lives easier?

I am sorry for people losing jobs in the tech industry, and others. I hope they can adjust quickly. But the best way we can ensure that we have an economy where they can do that, is to allow these things to take their natural course.

Good News 

But for every example of bad news, like the last post, there's so many examples of good news, like this story. I wonder if all those who attacked America for doing this will give us the slightest credit for restoring so many millions of people to freedom and prosperity, at least relatively speaking.

This is what will win the war for us- yes, killing terrorists- but also, showing the people over there that a better life is possible, so that the dictators and tyrants that make the terrorists possible have no more place in the world.

Bad News 

A number of Taliban prisoners escaped from one of our jails in Afghanistan. This will, of course, fuel administration critics who will beat the "quagmire" drum, but perhaps we do need to get more realistic about the scope of the resistance we're facing. There is a suggestion in the article that some of the guards may have helped them.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Free Speech vs. Feelings= No Contest 

Here's a story I came across over at The Volokh Conspiracy:

Student's discussion of religion with teacher leads to suspension
By The Associated Press
October 1, 2003

KINGSPORT, Tenn. - A lesson on the origin of the universe led to the suspension of an eighth-grade student who failed to follow an order to stop discussing religion with her teacher.


The situation started with a discussion of the Big-Bang theory, which says the universe originated billions of years ago in an explosion of a single, superdense atom. Students brought up Christian beliefs about the creation of the universe, and the teacher told them she couldn't lead a religious discussion, Cline said.


The student was suspended last week after encouraging another student to put a religious pamphlet on the teacher's desk.

"(The teacher) felt like it was a form of harassment," Cline said. "It was hurtful to her. She's asked them and talked with them, and after the second or third time, you know she has feelings. She is tired of kids drawing those conclusions about her."

As Eugene said, it's hard to know all the details from this somewhat sketchy story, but it seems like the teachers' feelings here trump the student's free speech. I don't like to throw around free speech every time someone gets in trouble for being obnoxious, but beside the incredible double standard on display here, doesn't a student have free speech rights at a public school? The article says the girl was told to stop discussing religion (how is that even legal?), and the incident that led to the suspension wasn't even during class. How could this possibly be in the service of order in the school or anything like that? The only consideration quoted in favor of the suspension, or evident from the story, is the teacher's feelings.

Now I'm no expert in constitutional law, or law in general, but I was always under the impression that free speech in a public forum could only be suppressed if there was a very strong public welfare consideration at stake, something on the order of yelling fire in a theater or threatening to assassinate the president. A teenage girl putting a pamphlet on a teacher's desk just doesn't seem to measure up.

We'll see if the ACLU jumps to this girl's defense.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Guantanamo Espionage 

Here's a thought-provoking analysis of the legal issues surrounding the espionage cases coming out of Guantanamo recently, by Phil Carter. I suppose I can guess why this doesn't get so much coverage.

Oddly Enough Indeed 

Talk about chutzpah- check out this story from Reuters' Oddly Enough feature:

The mother of a man who killed three co-workers before shooting himself in a workplace rampage has asked the company to compensate her for her son's death because it occurred at work, the company said on Tuesday.

She should probably get an honorary law degree or something for this.


"The Loneliest Goat Sees the Last Sunset Last"


I feel better now.

Death on our Minds 

I have just finished preparing the funeral service bulletin for Rev. Savage. You'll forgive me if I'm of a serious turn of mind. This might be heavy reading with your morning bagel- if so, perhaps you should click this.

Still with me? Suit yourself.

From Conservative Postmodernism, Postmodern Conservatism by Peter Augustine Lawler, from a past issue of Intercollegiate Review:

"The modern individual- or the philosophers who constructed him-might be understood to be animated by the most insane form of pride ever. The modern individual aims to create in this world- not through grace but through human work- what God promised in the next. But viewed in another way, the modern individual seems less proud than desperate. The Christians are right about human misery and contingency; the modern individual is totally taken in by Augustine's "negative" rhetoric about human alienation. But he does not believe in the Christian God; Augustine's "positive" rhetoric about grace, providence, and salvation does not move him at all. And so he has no choice but to try to do for himself what the Christians believed God would do. The individual finds himself with a heavy- really, a horrible- burden. The modern individual is an alien- an absolutely contingent being who belongs nowhere in particular-who must build for himself his own place in the world."

Modern thought is something I find myself examining and worrying about a good deal. I self-consciously practice a religion which is out of step with modern thinking on a great many points, although I am not so foolish as to think that my own behavior and thinking is unaffected by the world in which I live.

My professional choices as well as my faith require me to attempt to communicate a philosophical structure to a world that does not want it. And so I try to understand: How does the philosophical structure of Christianity differ than that of the world in which I live? That conflict is the conflict I must overcome in my communication with that world, and conveniently, it is also the conflict which I must myself overcome as well. Two for one.

Again, Lawler:
"The more secure or free from contingency he is objectively, the more he experiences his existence as contingent and the more he is haunted by death. The more death is pushed back by modern technology, the more accidental it seems. The more accidental or less necessary death seems, the more terrible it seems."

As recent posts may indicate, death is something that is a good deal on my mind just recently. An ironic truth I have experienced very intimately in these recent events is that we Christians, who view death not as something natural or normal, but as a vicious horrible distortion of the natural order because of the curse of sin, are able to approach it and accept it with great dignity and grace. But moderns, who are supposed to view it as simply part of the natural cycle, yin vs. yang, fear it and avoid it and fight against it with all their hearts. I do not believe this contrast is caused by hypocrisy or inconsistency on the part of either camp. Rather, I'd assert that the seeming paradox is caused by the perspectives themselves. If death is part of nature, then like all of nature I should be able to control it. It is an enemy to be defeated by me. If on the other hand it is the judgment of a sovereign God over me, then it is something I must simply accept, and in accepting it the individual can transcend it. But there is no transcendence over nature if nature is all there is.

Modern man desperately needs to see how destructive a position of pure individualism is. The idea of man as a pure individual is something completely fabricated by the philosopher, and impossible to actually experience or live. But man has come to see anything which prevents him from being that pure individual to be repressive and false, whether it's family or government or church. The further he gets away from the contexts that define him as a human being, the more miserable he becomes, but his misery only causes him to pursue pure individualism more, that being the false heaven constructed for him. The gods of the world are cruel taskmasters.

Monday, October 06, 2003

But wait a minute.... 

...I thought it was already Established Fact that people were born gay, or not. Here we have someone researching it AS IF THEY'RE NOT SURE!!!

And they still aren't. This study seems pretty ambiguous at best.

What A Day 

Well, this has been a day. I wanted to tell everyone, I'm just an intern!!

As I had communicated earlier, Rev. Dorman Savage is on his deathbed. I was just on my way out to spend some time with him and his family, when I got the news that another family in the congregation here in Limon had lost two young nephews in a car crash. Boy.

To anyone who doesn't know, I am serving the Reformed churches of Limon and Karval as an intern, while I finish my Master of Divinity. So I'm a pastor, kind of. As such, I perform a great many of the duties of a pastor such as preaching, teaching Bible studies, and doing counseling. Fortunately, everyone here knows my status as a bumbling neophyte, and so they are very generous with my shortcomings.

Now grief counseling is something special of its own. It's a real privilege to be with families and friends at such a time, to be someone who is welcomed when others are not. Sorry, we're only allowing family and clergy in, they might say. And especially, to be given an opportunity to help people when they need it most. But it's there that one feels especially inadequate. I don't know what poor words of mine will really change anything. But of course that's not the point, I remember. The important thing, I think, is that The Pastor is there, whoever it is. It's a comfort to people to have the church represented at such things. And it's not my words that matter, it's God's words, and so I read some Scripture and pray with people and I'm told that helps.

One thing I know for sure, I gained a great deal more from Rev. Savage than I can imagine he gained from me. To see a man passing on with such dignity and peace is a real witness. He's lived as good a life as most anyone I know, and now he's dying a better death than most anyone I've heard of.

Now the situation with the young boys- I imagine that will be a whole different kettle of fish. Dorman's death has been expected for a while, and he's lived a full life. So while there's grief, there isn't a lot of shock, anger or denial- all the things that may be present in the other situation. I don't know the boys' parents, but I may come to know them through this event.

Both situations at the same time are exhausting emotionally, but of course anything I may be going through in the exercise of my professional duties are nothing to what these families are going through.

One thought that went through my mind- I had been reading a lot of lyrics from a certain death-preoccupied 'musical' act (don't ask- something in the nature of a research project). On the way back from one of these such visits, it occurred to me how very very little most of these kinds of pop acts, whether goth, or rap, or heavy metal or whatever, actually know about death at all- about as much as David Bowie knew about space flight I suspect.


Has anyone else gotten an email from someone they know asking to help them update their address book, and then you're asked to give info to a third party, Plaxo? Does this make anyone else nervous?

I get enough spam now, and the emails look automated, and I certainly wouldn't want to be sending any spam out myself unintentionally. The addresses that I got were forged, as I could see when I hit 'reply' to those emails. I don't know who Plaxo is, and i know that their privacy policy says they won't share that info, but they can change that policy any time, or they could be bought by someone else, or their servers could be hacked by spammers. It sounds like a really bad idea to me. Does anyone have any more info on this?

Friday, October 03, 2003

UV PC How-to 

Feel like building a PC that glows in the dark? With spinning ultraviolet lights on the fans? With a see-through case so you can show off all of this nerdy goodness?

Me either, but if you do, Tom's Hardware has the how-to guide.


Cracked: Putting Broken Lives Together Again
Cracked: Putting Broken Lives Together Again

I'd mentioned earlier that I had bought Cracked by Dr. Drew Pinsky of "Loveline" fame. I've read most of the book now, and I have been thinking a great deal about what it says. In particular, the issue I've been most interested in is how his view of the causes and cures of addictions intersects with the Reformed view of sin.

Dr. Pinsky is not a Christian. He is not even sure if he believes in God at all. But there are a lot of things said that a Christian couldn't agree with more, or at least this Christian. For example, from p. 222, dealing with an alcoholic patient:

"For a moment, I can picture her fifty years earlier, a spry young woman at a cocktail party holding a martini glass and a cigarette. The early 1950s. A whole generation of women like her defined themselves by their freedom to smoke and drink. The next generation would partake of drugs and sex. If a show like
Sex and the City is any indication, the current generation is defined by a desperate inability to maintain a genuine relationship. I'm reminded of the old Virginia Slims cigarette slogan: You've come a long way, baby. But is this progress?"

Dr. Pinsky's main point is about human interconnectedness. He says that chemical addiction is the combination of two main factors- a genetic hardwiring for abnormal sensitivity to the effect of chemicals, and childhood trauma. The trauma causes a person to not trust other human beings. This creates an inability to form normal human connections, which is how most people regulate their feelings. In times of highs and lows, we turn to other people. We turn to memories of loved ones, or we talk to someone, call them on the phone and share our joys and our pain. The trauma victim can't do that. So they use something else to regulate their feelings, which will be chemicals if they have that genetic hardwiring.

So, what the addict needs is first of all the detox, of course, being brought off the chemical effects of their addiction. But that's just the start. After that, they have to face the trauma, and all the trauma they've suffered since then as a result of their inability to deal normally with people. They have to feel feelings, and they have to come to be able to accept their life. This is where the "higher power" of the 12 steps comes in. They have to come to accept that there's a reason for things.

Now, how does this compare to a Biblical understanding of sin?

1. We have no control over our sin.

To interpret Dr. Pinsky's book through the Biblical understanding- it is because of our cursed, fallen nature that we rebel against the reality of the world, and use drugs or alcohol or sex or money or whatever to try to control things we have no control over.

The trauma victim will blame himself for sexual or physical abuse, or all sorts of other terrible things that happen to him, because to admit that he's not to blame is to admit that he's not in control. We all do this in one way or another. The one thing nobody wants to be is helpless, and we'll do or say practically anything to avoid saying that.

Dr. Pinsky says that people, especially of the older generation, are very unwilling to admit that there isn't any problem that can't be overcome by sheer willpower. Christian people often talk this way. Alcoholic? Well, just stop drinking. But the Bible is clear- we have no control over our sin. If we did, we wouldn't need Jesus.

2. Trust in God is the only way out.

Dr. Pinsky doesn't say any different. He's oddly (perhaps not so oddly) reluctant to definitely say it's God, but he's also unable to say what makes the difference between patients who "get it" and ones who don't. But he does know that whatever it is, it's entirely internal. It has nothing to do with the treatment, the doctor, the medications, or the program. He views all of these elements as absolutely necessary, but not sufficient. There's something else that comes along that he doesn't understand. From p. 88:

"It is a complex and mysterious process, so much so that most of my patients who get it attribute it to divine intervention. They say God steps into their lives, which explains the spiritual component of recovery."

The heart of it is, only by accepting that things happen for a reason, and that there is a benevolent power in charge, can one accept the reality of one's life and stop trying to control or change things over which we have no control. That is to say, in Christian terms, we have to start trusting God and stop rebelling against Him. This is why the fifth Commandment is so important, and for adults even more so than children: "Honor your father and your mother" means that I have to accept that God gave me my parents for a reason, and that to hate them or be unable to deal with what my parents are like is to rebel against God, which will simply continue the cycle of destructive behavior, as I try to control things I have no control over.

3. Love your neighbor as yourself.

The whole of the law is, Love God and Love your neighbor. That's just another way (a better way) of making Dr. Pinsky's point about human interconnectedness. Once we learn to trust God, then forming human connections is the way to live a normal, functioning life. That is, we need to love our neighbor. Not because of some arbitrary law that God created and needs to have obeyed, but because God created us that way and it's the only way for us to work the way we're supposed to work.

Dr. Pinsky makes the point that most of us are happiest when we're with other people. Our fondest memories are of times spent with family and friends. I know mine are. Nobody's ever going to get to the end of their life and say, "I wish I spent more time at the office". They're also not going to wish they spent more time alone.

It's fascinating to me that Dr. Pinsky, with the truth staring him in the face every day, still cannot accept that it's God that makes the difference, preferring to call it "a mysterious process" that everybody just calls God because they don't know what else to call it.

That being said, though, this is a very good book, engagingly written and emotionally honest. There are a few places where he leaves stories unfinished and the reader confused about what happened. And the stories are heartbreaking, and really tough to read a lot of the time. But to anyone interested in how addiction really works, I'd recommend Cracked.

Thursday, October 02, 2003


Bill Whittle has written a beautiful essay on Power. Beware- it's long, and captivating, so don't start reading until you have a spare half-hour.

Link via Instapundit.

Goldberg on Whining 

Jonah Goldberg opines on the climate in the political left.

"Criticizing someone else's criticism — even when a government official does it — isn't an assault on free speech. It is free speech. "

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

A Clarification 

I feel the need to note that the crack about Colorado Springs in the Sept. 25th post was meant entirely humorously. My windows have never been broken by the city of COS, nor any employee of COS, and my car has never been rolled down any hill.

The city of COS is in fact a pretty friendly place, as cities of its size go. So for any of my old friends in COS, please forgive me for my totally inappropriate joke and don't slash my tires next time I'm in town.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Messaging Problem 

Over at the Weekly Standard, Christian Lowe is reporting on Paul Bremer's statements about captured Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq- almost 300 foreign fighters in custody, a mix of terrorists and mercenaries, all from other countries. These are not disgruntled Iraqis, opposed to the reconstruction and "occupation" as we so often hear. These are professional warriors imported to disrupt our efforts in Iraq. Lowe also reminds us of Ansar al Islam, the Al Qaida-affiliated group destroyed in northern Iraq in the early days of the war, that had been harbored by Saddam Hussein.

There doesn't seem to be much doubt among administration supporters who are following events that there was plenty of terrorist connections to the Hussein regime. But the case doesn't seem to be being made all that persuasively by the Bush Administration these days. They seem to be letting the critics have the field and the microphone, for the most part. Why is that? Some suspect that the administration is just carefully marshalling all the data, in order to produce one overwhelming presentation of proof regarding the reasons they went to war with Iraq. I hope it's that, and not just a messaging failure. The administration has an uneven record for making the cases it should be making. (Charles Pickering and Miguel Estrada come to mind).

Remember this speech?

"And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. Our nation has been put on notice, we're not immune from attack. We will take defensive measures against terrorism to protect Americans."

That speech, combined with the evidence we already have about terrorists in Iraq, seems to leave no ground at all for claiming we attacked Iraq on deceptive or misleading grounds. The whole "Bush lied" bit seems as much based on simple hatred for Bush as anything that's happened over this war. You might say that Iraq harboring terrorists was not enough reason to attack them; but that's what Bush said he would do, and he did it (what an odd thing to say about a politician these days). I'd love to hear Bush using his "bully pulpit" to make just that case. "Disagree with me if you like, but I did what I said I'd do." I think that would go a long way with the men and women of the republic.

The Spanish Prisoner (Nigerian Style) 

I just got one of those Nigerian fortune emails. You know the one- there's a fortune that's been held up in the country and a small investment by you can get it out of the country, at which time you'll receive a share. It's basically the Spanish Prisoner scam except without the girl.

The interesting thing about this email is that instead of the money being held up in Nigeria, it's in Zimbabwe, and has been caused by the land grabs of Robert Mugave. Whoever is perpetuating this scam is smart- they take advantage of current events to make their case sound more compelling. But the heart is the same- to play on my vanity ("I have been informed that you are a trustworthy person") and greed ("I must let you know that this business is 100% risk Free").

In this version, I'd get a free trip to Holland out of it, too.

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