Saturday, November 29, 2003


.... is eating drywall right now. Andrea said, 'OK, OK, I'll feed you!'

Assimilation and Law 

Paul Johnson's A History of the American People (can you tell I'm reading that right now?) says something about the Jews' early experience in America that I think is relevant to the issue of Canada's adoption of an arbitration system for Muslims based on Sharia law. From p. 306:
Even in colonial times, Jews' existence in America was fundamentally unlike the life they lived in Europe. There, they had their own legal status, ran their own courts, schools, shops, paid their own special, heavier taxes, and usually lived in ghettos. In America, where there was no religiously determined law, there was no reason why Jews should operate a separate legal system, except on matters which could be seen as merely internal religious discipline. Since in America all religious groups had equal rights, there was no point in constituting itself into a separate community. All could participate fully in a communal society. Hence from the start the Jews in America were organized not on communal but on congregational lines, like the other churches. ... Hence a Jew went to 'his' synagogue just as a Protestant went to 'his' church. In other respects, Jews and Protestants were simply part of the general citizenry, in which they merged as secular units. Thus the Jews in America, without in any way renouncing their religion, began to experience integration for the first time.

The more I think about this, the more it worries me. One religious group opting out of some large portion of the common law in order to operate in a system exclusive to them seems to me a major step backward. The Muslims enjoy the same benefits as the Jews listed above, of being one with the general citizenry in matters of law, which seems to me to have huge advantages both for the minority and for the society at large. The fact that the Jews were treated differently under law in Europe made it easier for discriminatory and oppressive practices to be directed at them, and also denied the society as a whole many of their talents and contributions.

America has benefited immensely from the contributions of all its minorities, and even though our record is far from perfect, it's a whole lot better than Europe's. I'll repeat my hope that we not follow Canada's lead on this issue, or any other issue that springs readily to mind for that matter.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Sharia Law in Canada 

The Volokh Conspiracy has a post on a system in Canada which is being developed, to allow Muslims to opt in to a binding arbitration system for resolution of civil disputes, the decisions of which would be based on Sharia law and enforced by the Canadian courts.

Eugene is addressing the question of whether or not this would result in Nigeria-style stonings for adultery, and he thinks it's pretty far-fetched. His reasoning on this seems sound.

But I have another concern. It seems that this system would accelerate the fragmentation of the society that adopted it. Different ethnic and religious groups, operating under different systems of law, even if those systems were under the larger umbrella, would be connected by one less common strand. I know that many countries in Europe already have major problems with large unassimilated minorities. I also know that the PC crowd in this country at least thinks that's a good thing, but we can look to Bosnia for an easy reference on what happens when different ethnic groups get too cut off from each other, and view themselves as members of their ethnic group first, and members of a nation second.

We've begun to see this country dominated by factionalism and the grievance industry. I don't know that much about what's going on in Canada, but I hope we don't encourage that sort of thing here. It seems like it would be a tacit admission that we can't all get along; that unity is impossible; and that we just need to buy off some groups so they don't cause us too much trouble. We've gone a fair way down that path already, and I don't think there's any end to it except the dissolution of the nation.

Some folks think that would be OK, I suppose, but I think it would be a great loss. An awful lot of the world, besides just this country, would be a lot worse off if America wasn't around any more (think of Israel or Taiwan, for example). But if we're going to be a nation, in public, civil and legal matters we've got to be united, somehow. I hope we don't follow Canada's example. Why we would, I've no idea, but stranger things have happened. The Supreme Court recently cited the constitution of the EU as a precedent in a decision (the Lawrence decision I believe) so it may not be so far off.

Happy Thanksgiving 

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving Day. I know I did. Family and friends, turkey and wine and X-Box, who can ask for more?

I am thankful for my family, my wife and my little girl Katie, who I think had a great time yesterday. She was all smiles and giggles until everyone left around ten, later than she'd normally be up. Katie's a very social fifteen-month old. When people are around, she has to be part of it.

I am thankful for the rest of my family too. My dad was here, but not my mom. Mom's in Oregon visiting her mother who likely is dying. But it was great to have dad here. My brother Joe was here too. Poor old Joe- he's the only one that Katie's still scared of. But I think he had a good time despite that. And my cousin Susanna and her husband Matt, minus their very well-behaved Rhodesian Ridgeback Lucian. I think they were being sensitive to my well-known aversion to dogs, although I really don't mind other people's dogs. Just like them with kids- they like other people's kids, they just don't want one of their own.

I am thankful for my new career as a pastor, and hope that the Lord blesses it. Although I am still an intern and not a full pastor, still I am beginning to live the life, and am finding it quite agreeable. I like working from home. My wife might feel differently though. She says she likes having me home, but she might just be being nice.

I am thankful for X-Box. I think it's important to note that I put this item below all of my family and people-related thanksgiving, even though some might suspect that I'd put it first. But I do believe that all good things come from the Lord, and that includes X-Box. All things in moderation.

Today it's back to work. I know many of my readers will have a day off and I'm glad for them. Enjoy, and give God thanks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Free Markets 

Paul Johnson's A History of the American People has a fascinating account of the buyup of land in America in the first half of the 19th century, and how the US Government set it up. The book compares it to the efforts of Britain in Canada, South Africa and Australia. Johnson says that because the British government was worried about land speculators, they tightly regulated the purchase of land, and as a result those regions developed much more slowly than America did. And, ironically, it was the speculators that benefited in the British-run countries- the rules played right into their hands. And it was the settlers that benefited in America. The speculators in America were the ones who were able to get the land developed, get roads and schools built, so that the land they owned would be worth selling. The result was the huge expansion of the country in the 19th century.

Now I compare this to an article in the WSJ (subscriber only link) entitled "Back in the USSR" criticizing the Medicare-strangled state of health care in America:
The U.S. economy has boomed because brilliant entrepreneurs can enter it freely. If they succeed, they are appropriately lionized. A McKinsey report claims that the retailing industry was No. 1 in enhancing productivity, and credits Sam Walton's Wal-Mart for much of that increase. No. 2 was the finance sector, whose productivity was greatly enhanced by John Bogle's dogged insistence on the wisdom of indexed, consumer-driven mutual funds. Yet, had Messrs. Bogle and Walton been forced to rely on government approvals to start their businesses and on government-dictated products and prices to earn their revenues, we might not have benefited from the productivity-enhancing innovations they created. Indeed, they would have been chopped off at the knees if they were in the health-care sector: It prohibits physicians, the health-care equivalent of Messrs. Bogle and Walton, from owning their own facilities. The unattractiveness of these conditions explains why few of the 100 Harvard MBA students enrolled in my "Innovating Health Care" course plan to enter the trillion-dollar health-services sector.

Because government sets the price that Medicare will pay for things, which ends up being the standard that private insurers use, there is no motivation for health-care providers to decrease costs or improve services. Advocates of regulation say health care is too complex and too important to leave to the private sector. But how many complex and important markets have been handled so much more efficiently by the private sector? Land in the 19th century was, and remains today, very complex and extremely important.

It seems that one ought to say, health care is too complex and too important to leave in the hands of the state.

How Dare He 

Lileks is taking a month off from blogging. He should feel ashamed of himself! How Dare He? People are depending on you, James!

How can it be right to just stop providing a product that people have come to depend on and have paid good ... uh ... oh yeah. Nevermind.

Enjoy your vacation, James.

Celebrity Wisdom 

Yeah, it's just too obvious, isn't it? Could anyone say those two words together with a straight face?

David Skinner at The Weekly Standard has a great send-up of a celebrity truth-a-thon. But a warning- it may be better to skip it if you prefer to know as little about celebrities as possible. Sometimes I feel that way too.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Weekly Sermon 

The Weekly Sermon, on Genesis 16, The Son of the Bondwoman, is uploaded. Click on the link in the sidebar, or here.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Movie Review: Master and Commander 

Master and Commander is the story of Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe), a sea captain that is sent with his ship to intercept a French privateer in 1805. It’s the middle of the Napoleonic wars, and England is in under threat of invasion. Only their fleet is preventing Napoleon’s complete control of Europe, so the threat is very real. A privateer is a ship that operates outside of the official chain of command, with a charter from a country to attack its enemies. So, it’s basically a pirate ship with the sanction of a particular country.

The French privateer is on its way to the Pacific Ocean, where it will attack British interests. The Surprise (the British Man o’ War) is supposed to intercept the Acheron (the French privateer) off the coast of Brazil. Instead, the Acheron surprises the Surprise and heavily damages it, almost destroying it except for some lucky fog.

The Surprise now realizes that the Acheron is a superior ship- that it’s bigger, faster, more heavily armed and armored, and with more crew. Captain Aubrey’s officers believe that they must turn back, but Aubrey decides that duty and the importance of the mission requires them to continue on, which they do. The movie is the story of the crew’s bravery and resourcefulness in trying to catch the Acheron and to defeat it in battle.

This was a very enjoyable movie. Crowe is great as always, but it’s not a movie driven by star power. There are a great many other fine performances, most notably Paul Bettany as the ship’s doctor. The battle scenes are very tense and engaging, and the editing of the movie is tight. The editing in particular is worth a note- the movie was over two hours long (138 minutes exactly) but did not drag at all. I never wondered to myself, “How long has this been on?”, a sure-fire sign that a movie is longer than it ought to be.

Above all, this is a manly movie, and not manly like we define it today. Not manly like the Man Show; manly like The Sands of Iwo Jima. These are tough men facing tough choices, and are guided by their courage and integrity, not by their emotions or desires. Above all, there is duty. The love of their country and loyalty to each other drives them to do tough things, things they don’t want to do. It’s a welcome change from the typical morality of Hollywood movies, which usually has the carefree rebel in the role as the moral center, and the military man is usually the repressed psychopath.

Another welcome change was its presentation of the Christianity of the men. Hardly a dominant feature of the movie, but we see the captain praying for forgiveness from God at one point, and all the men of the ship praying the Lord's prayer at another.

It’s bloody, though. Probably not a great movie for little kids, for that reason. Otherwise, I’d heartily recommend it.

4/5 stars.

Rent the DVD free from Netflix!

Friday, November 21, 2003


We don't have to speculate about the ultimate direction of the current pro-gay judicial rulings. Others have forged ahead, blazed the trail, and we can see where it leads.

Europe is often trumpeted as a haven of tolerance. Well, here's what's going on in England, one of the more conservative places in Europe. Some expressed skepticism at my claims earlier that if the pro-gay lobby has their way, I'd be thrown in jail just for writing this blog. Well, here's a bishop being investigated because he said hurtful things about gays.

Thanks to Alpha and Omega for the link.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Federal Marriage Amendment, and a better way 

Dennis Teti writes for the Weekly Standard on the FMA and its problems, and a solution that he thinks is better. I like his reasoning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

More on gay marriage 

I did some writing on a comments link over at SKBubba's site, and I see no reason not to repost it here. If I wrote it, my blog should benefit from it, right?

This goes to the argument about why a homosexual couple ought to be treated differently under the law than a straight couple who doesn't want to have children:
This isn’t about one person’s or one couple’s situation. This is about society and government.
In order to differentiate legally between married people who intend to have children and married people who do not intend to have children, it would be necessary for the state to interview people who are getting married and ask them what their family plans are. You could then deny benefits to people who weren’t going to have children except the problem is, unless they were provably sterile there’s a chance they could have children. Therefore, it’s still in the best interest of the state and society to make sure that all, or as many as possible, heterosexual couples having sex are in fact married, because it greatly increases the odds that any children are born into a stable environment. It’s quite obvious that any gays having sex have exactly zero chance of accidentally procreating. There is therefore no state interest at all in subsidizing their love. Again, we don’t subsidize love. We subsidize childrearing, and we subsidize even situations where childrearing is a possibility, but we don’t subsidize love, at least not until very recently.

Whether or not gays should be allowed to adopt is an entirely different question. Single people can adopt, and gain benefits by doing so. They have to prove stability, though, which is harder for a single person than a married person in many situations, and is also harder for someone living a homosexual lifestyle, as their promiscuity is in most cases much higher than heterosexuals, which leads to instability. But the fact that gays sometimes want to adopt is no reason to redefine a millennia-old institution just to satisfy the whims of a few cultural elites.

For those who point to the disastrous state of marriage and family in America today as some kind of evidence against my argument, it is in fact evidence _for_ my argument. The state of marriage today is a result, among other things, of breaking the link between marriage and childrearing. As I said in the original article that sparked all of this, all of the social indicators have tracked very closely to all of the laws that made it easier for people to get divorced and to have and raise children outside of marriage. Illegitimacy has skyrocketed as those laws have been passed, and the result of illegitimacy is well-documented. Illegitimacy causes poverty, illiteracy, drug abuse, criminal behavior, increased promiscuity, child abuse, and a host of other ills. Look up the statistics if you doubt me. Breaking the bond between marriage and childrearing has already been disastrous, and we haven’t seen the end of it yet.

I can keep on making this argument, and you can keep on calling me a bigot if it makes you feel better. But I didn’t refer to religion once in the above argument or in the original article, so at the very least don’t say you haven’t seen any reason not to redefine marriage to include homosexuals. You’ve seen an argument, you just disagree with it. That’s different than saying nobody’s made an argument.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Slippery Slope Arguments 

Eugene Volokh has two posts, here and here, showing how those who said the ERA and antidiscrimination laws would lead, among other things, to gay marriage, have proved exactly right, since the Massachusetts court used both of those ideas (antidiscrimination on the basis of sexual preference and equal treatment for both sexes in all situations) to support their decision.

And this from someone who supports gay marriage.

Officially, I'm against it, but... 

DC Sniper gets unusual sentence.

Gay Marriage 

The ruling has just come down- the Massachussetts Supreme Court has ruled that gay marriage is constitutionally protected. That means the fight's on. The gays will now attempt to force national acceptance through the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the constitution, which rules that each state must honor the contracts of other states. Here's my post on why this is a bad thing.

So, now it'll be a fight between two mutually exclusive outcomes. Because the gays won't settle for anything less than full acceptance, the conservatives will have to press for a constitutional amendment, like the FMA. I don't know for sure how I feel about that amendment, but I know it's better than being forced to honor the marriages of homosexuals. The way things are going, I don't think we're that far off from me being forced religiously to accept their marriages. If you doubt that, consider that there are places in the world, places that are the model and the goal of the homosexual lobby, like Sweden, where it would be illegal for me to preach that homosexuality is a sin.

The war's on, folks. Time to choose up sides.


I've changed the format for the sermons a little bit. If you want to download them, just click on the link, go to the folder and take the one you want. I'm not going to do individual links to them any more. But I will update you on when the new one's available.

And, BTW, the new one's available. But I'm still a little bit of a novice at digital recording on my iPAQ. The software I'm using keeps cutting off the last few minutes of the sermon, for some reason. Sorry about that.

Monday, November 17, 2003


Anime, for the uninitiated, means Animation in Japanese. It does not refer to any particular type of animation. Just animation. And they animate everything in Japan. Adults watch animation just as much as kids, I understand. It does not have to have ninjas or 70 foot cyborg panda bears or any other particular thing in order to be called Anime. It just has to be animated.

Please don't ever use the term JapAnimation. This is an embarrassing thing to say, as it reveals the fact that you don't know what you're talking about.

Anime, however, has come to have certain associations in America. This is due largely to the unfortunate fact that Anime was discovered by the American version of what the Japanese refer to as otaku. It tells you everything you need to know about this group of people that they 1.) have decided that being called an otaku is a compliment, when in fact it is the most degrading sort of insult, like being called an uber-dork or something. An otaku is someone with no life, who is completely socially inept and has nothing better to do with their time than sit at home and play on their computer and watch movies. It is not a badge of honor. They are basically the equivalent of people who frequently go to Star Trek conventions (offense intended).

And 2.), that the word Anime has come to be associated, mostly through the agency of the otakus, with movies that are primarily too stupid to be watched by any adult, but too violent and sexually explicit to be watched by any child.

I have tried to watch these movies on a number of occasions, almost continuously against my better judgment, at the urging of people I knew and respected, although I should not have respected them, it turns out, in at least some cases. This quest is periodically renewed by my viewing of an occasional Japanese animated movie or TV series, Anime to them, that I thorougly enjoy. Examples include Cowboy Bebop, Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away. These three movies are excellent and I recommend them to anyone. But of all of them, perhaps only "Cowboy Bebop" is typically considered "Anime" to the Otakus, being sci-fi, with space ships and guns and stuff. Grave of the Fireflies is a heart-rending story about a pair of orphans whose parents were killed in the firebombings of WWII, and Spirited Away is a dreamy children's fantasy that absolutely puts Disney and Pixar to shame.

But the American Anime crowd is always talking in hushed tones about movies like Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion, which are awful. And don't even talk about Sailor Moon. Most of the Otakus' favorite movies seem to prominently feature well-endowed schoolgirls fighting aliens or demons. If it's not that, then it's cyborgs that needed for some reason to be designed to look like extremely attractive women. And it's not like they're undercover or anything. Everyone knows they're cyborgs. And yet, they are anatomically correct (for the most part) women. How do I know this? Because the cyborg women seem to need to do an awful lot of their cyborg work naked.

And of course there are lots of ninjas and space robots and slo-mos, like The Matrix except with animated characters that oddly are less animated in many cases than Keanu Reeves, if you can believe that. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that cheap animation with like 4 frames a second was an artistic statement. And so you have scenes that look like a sexed-up version of Fred Flintstone- you know when he'd run through the house, and you saw the same background go by over and over? Yeah, they do that. Or a person (or ninja rabbit or anatomically correct cyborg girl) standing in a pose while the same scene goes by in the background over and over.

Also people have different colored hair, so you can tell who's who. Which one's Sailor Jupiter? Oh, she's the one who looks exactly like all the other ones, that is, a really leggy girl with a superhero outfit that looks like schoolgirl uniform, except she has green hair. That's how she's different. Strong Bad gets it pretty much Exactly Right, here.

Don't watch these movies, unless you too would like to be an Otaku, which remember is A Bad Thing, not A Good Thing. I am sorry (not really) if I offended anyone. If I did offend anyone, it's a good sign that you should get a job, move out of your parents' basement, and read a book or two. And not one with pictures.

Remember, that does not mean you should not watch Anime. A great deal of Anime is really good. But DO NOT watch Anime as defined as anything other than Japanese movies which happen to be animated, and DO NOT under any circumstances take the advice of someone who assumes that because you liked one animated movie made by Japanese people, that you will also like Battle Athletes or The Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040. This is like saying that because you liked Saving Private Ryan, you will also likely enjoy Bring It On.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Dell Inspiron Watch 

Quick update on the Dell Inspiron blog that I reported on earlier. Just wanted to let you know that there have been no updates since my last post, at which time there was nothing posted on the site. For your convenience, I've added a link to my sidebar so that you can easily monitor the unfolding situation.

Just to recap, there continues to be nothing at all on the Dell Inspiron 600m Stuff Blog.


Fox News reports on a memo obtained by The Weekly Standard, detailing the relationship between Al Qaida and Iraq. This looks like the smoking gun.

My Only Comfort 

USS Clueless has an analysis here on what drives Osama bin Laden and the radical Jihadists, which I think is excellent (mostly). On the subject of Osama, Steven Den Beste appears to be exactly right, but his analysis of Christians is oversimplistic to put it kindly. I put it kindly because I really like his stuff for the most part. But he's really off track on his comments about Christians and what drives different kinds of Christians.

I'll comment on that part of it. It boils down to this- either you believe God doesn't really get involved in world affairs today, or you're a zealot. This is pretty typical. Atheists will accept religion in other people as long as it's a nice safe stripped-down religion that doesn't make any real claims.

One line I particularly liked was this: "Religion is a source of comfort for powerless people living in a terrifying world."

I don't like it for the reasons Den Beste wrote it- he's describing people who are ignorant of what's really going on, and powerless to change it, as the ones who need religion, while rationalist superminds like himself who apparently are in complete control of all aspects of their lives prefer to be atheists.

No, I like it because it's precisely true. Religion is a source of comfort for powerless people living in a terrifying world. The part that Den Beste misses is the extent to which we are all powerless, and to which the world is terrifying.

Den Beste is a white male living in America. He is extremely intelligent. According to his biography he is currently unemployed, although he has skills in engineering and will no doubt be employed again once things pick up. He lives in a country where a man can be unemployed for a time and write very long and perceptive blog articles, rather than one where he would live in a cardboard box and be attacked by dingoes.

Den Beste had nothing to do with any of this (except the engineering skills and the great blog posts). He may feel light-years ahead of that Dark Ages peasant, but anything he knows about any of that is the result of the simple accident that he was not born a Dark Ages peasant. He could have been. There were lots of Dark Ages peasants. Broadly speaking, there have been far more people born in the world into that kind of life, and are even today, than are born as intelligent white males in the richest country the world has ever known. And how sanguine would he be about religion being for the ignorant and powerless if he'd been born an outcast in India or a woman in Pakistan? He had nothing to do with any of that, and yet he seems to think that he is somehow less powerless than that Dark Ages peasant.

Our wealth and our arrogance do a good job of obscuring a simple fact to many of us- we are exactly as powerless as that Dark Ages peasant.

What good will his atheism do him if he gets diagnosed with inoperable cancer tomorrow? If a loved one is murdered? If a loved one betrays him? Many things of this nature have likely happened already, because they happen to all of us. And when they happen, I could choose to view them all as the result of totally understandable natural processes, over which I have no power, or as part of the plan of a sovereign God who loves me (who, it's true, typically works through natural processes) over which I have no power.

Either way, I'm not in control. But one of those options puts me in the hands of my loving Father, and another one puts me at the mercy of arbitrary forces, an orange in the clockwork of nature to be ground and crushed. Because we all get ground and crushed.

Faced with that terrible truth, where do I turn for comfort? That's right, religion. My only comfort in life and in death is that I am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

If that makes me a Dark Ages peasant, or pre-enlightenment, or a zealot, I'm OK with that. If those are the worst things I get called in my life, I'll be all right.

I could write a great deal more on this, but I have a busy day. I have to go out this afternoon and spend some time with the family of a man (a talented white male American) who got bitten by a mosquito, got West Nile and died. Sometimes life makes our arguments for us, much better than we ever could.

VDH on Battles 

Here's a great article (an excert from his book, really) by Victor Davis Hanson on the importance of battles in history.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Man Was Not Meant To Be Alone 

I know, because I've been alone all week.

My productivity has gone through the floor. My life has spiraled into an embarrassing smelly mess of unwashed dishes, frozen pizzas and video games until three in the morning. It feels like college again, except without all the insecurity (Wait, I think that might be coming back too).

I suppose if I actually had to live alone permanently, I could adjust. I'd have to, because the way I'm going I'd end up like the plumber in Brazil, except instead of being engulfed and eaten by pieces of paper, I'll be buried in Hot Pocket wrappers.

I think Diablo fogs my brain. Normally I'd have more to say, but this week, all I can think about is 'click kill click kill click kill- ooh, a mana leech broadsword!!'

Sad, really.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

How Embarassing for Hussein 

The Washington Post wonders if the string of recent attacks is a counterattack by Saddam Hussein. Apparently the coordination of the attacks leads some to think it might be.

It's pretty sad, though, that if this is in fact his counterattack, we're not actually sure whether or not he really is counterattacking. Reminds me of that Bill Cosby bit about their made-up game Buck-Buck- "What was that? A mosquito bit me!" Here's a guy who used to be supreme ruler over tens of millions with a regionally feared army, and now he can't even counterattack us effectively enough for us to be sure whether he's counterattacking or not.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Sermon of the Week is posted here. It's on the sidebar, too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

So I had this dream... 

I had a weird dream the other night. I know what they say- nobody thinks your dreams are interesting except you. But this one was pretty weird. And Lileks got to tell us his dream, so I'm telling you mine. If you don't like it, just hit alt-f4.

So in it, I'm fighting this gangster guy, real snoop-dog type, called the Neck Cutter. He's called that because he's got this really nasty switchblade. So I'm casting spells on him (yes, too much Diablo lately) but I do one of the spells wrong and turn him into a genie by mistake. So now he's a Gangsta Genie.

This transformation also transformed his switchblade. Now it's like a butcherknife, but still a switchblade. So it's a switchblade butcherknife (butcherblade switchknife?). Also it flies through the air on its own. And, naturally, it's the source of all of th Neck Cutter's powers.

So somehow I get the knife away from him, and take off. He's only a half-powered genie without his knife, so he can't just zap me, but he does come chasing after me. I'm holding on to the switchblade, keeping it closed so it doesn't get me, but it's trying to open, and due to poor product design the sharp edge of the switchblade opens out, so it's cutting the crap out of my hand, trying to open up. So I've got to fight this genie gangster with this knife in my hand that is shredding my palm. Mostly I just ran around and yellled for someone to get me a glove. Woke up screaming, all that.

So that's my dream. I'd welcome any kind of Jungian dream interpretation that anyone would like to lay on me, though I'll probably just laugh at you if you do, since I don't believe in any of that. Does it mean I really hate my father or something? Or wish I'd been a fireman? Let me know- I'm fascinated.

Movie Review: The Salton Sea 

The Salton Sea is a thriller about a meth addict (Val Kilmer) who's working with the cops as a rat. He's got a troubled past that puts him in an apparently no-win situation between the cops and the dealers. His wife was murdered and it appears that he's trying to get revenge somehow, but has gotten lost along the way. It's a very tense movie, and very well done.

It opens with Kilmer sitting in a room that's on fire, playing his trumpet. This is maybe the weakest point of the movie. It's just a little too artsy. Starting the movie right at the end of the movie, so we see where all of this is heading, is overdone, I think. It's self-referential in an annoying Tarantino kind of way. Also, there's voice-over narration which is supposed to automatically qualify it as Low Art, but I'm not sure I buy that. Anyway, the narration is really well done, so it doesn't intrude like it can sometimes.

The movie has an awful lot to do with drugs, and so some might not want to see it for that reason. If one is opposed to drug use, though, this is the movie for you. What it does to all of the people involved is graphically depicted. Literally, graphically depicted, in one case. There's a particularly memorable character called Pooh Bear, who's a meth cook and a dealer who is called Pooh Bear because he got "his nose stuck in the honey jar". He snorted so much that he had to have his nose amputated. Pooh Bear is played by Vincent D'Onofrio in a fantastic performance. Pooh Bear is vicious and crazy in a humorous sort of way. He seems to behave almost at random, but a wily pattern emerges that makes him just that much scarier. The rest of the drug-using characters range from humorously stupid to totally dysfunctional. This movie definitely did NOT make me want to go snort gakk, and it reminded me a great deal of the actual drug users I used to know.

There's a lot of swearing in this movie. Some people don't like to watch a movie with a lot of swearing because it offends them, which I can appreciate. Sometimes the language of movies is just gratuitous, just there to offend, and we hardly need more offense in our media choices these days. I can go on record saying that most the folks I knew in the drug culture certainly do talk that way, though, so it's not inaccurate.

There's also a lot of violence in this movie. It wasn't gratuitous, though. There were no artistic shots of blood gushing out of people, or people getting body parts cut off or anything like that- slo-mo's of bullets shattering people's faces. Most of the violence was more by suggestion and threat than it was graphically depicted, which I appreciate.

So, I'm recommending it. It's not for the faint of heart, definitely, but the acting, writing, directing and shooting of the movie were all excellent, and there was certainly no glorification of sin. The end message was a little on the existentialist side, but I'm not one to say a Christian shouldn't see anything he disagrees with. We'd be about limited to Veggie Tales, these days. The mature Christian will not be tossed to and fro by every thing that comes along.

4 out of 5 stars.

Rent the DVD free from Netflix!

Please Please No 

There's a very disturbing story going around, about the UN wanting to take over the Internet (or about many small countries wanting it to).

The EU and the US are united in opposing it, so my guess is it'll never happen. But you never know. It seems obvious why- petty third-world dictators can control their people so much easier if they have no free access to information.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Affirmative Action Bake Sale 

David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy has posted an exchange between a reader and a Seattle Times columnist on the subject of an Affirmative Action Bake Sale. For those unfamiliar with that concept, you have a bake sale and charge different people different amounts for the same product- so a white male might pay $2 for a cookie and a hispanic female $.25 for the same cookie. It's meant to highlight the injustice of affirmative action, and it makes lefties really mad.

Bruce Ramsey's comments are spot on, and do a great job of highlighting the doublespeak that pervades any discussion of such issues today.
2. Your terms, "assail" and "slap in the face" and "direct action" willfully obscure the distinction between words and physical assault. My "assailing" and the College Republicans' "slap in the face", both of which suggest physical assault, were in truth WORDS; and the minority students' "direct action," which is a term deliberately unclear, was in truth a PHYSICAL ASSAULT. There is a difference. Words are protected by the Constitution; physical assaults are not.

Read the whole thing.

Biting the Hand that Feeds You 

Here's yet another story about the punishment of those that protect us. This colonel scared an Iraqi policeman into telling him the details of an ambush by pretending to shoot him, firing a gun near his head. The ambush was foiled, but as no good deed can go unpunished in America today, he is now being court-martialed for what he did.

First, of course, this is pretty good proof that the charges of people like Al Jazeera regarding our "occupation" and our "brutal onslaught" are not being honest with us. The fact that we are willing to look into a matter like this, regardless of the outcome, make charges of brutal occupation tactics ring pretty hollow. All that Iraqi policeman got was a good scare, but we're worried about it.

And second, a point that goes beyond the Iraqi situation or the military: if we're going to ask people to do jobs as difficult as being in the military, or police, or doctors or anyone who's got to do difficult and dangerous jobs where people's lives are on the line, we've got to start cutting them some slack. I'm not advocating letting real corruption or incompetence go unaddressed, but every time anyone in a job like this makes a mistake or even just does someting unorthodox like this colonel did, someone's there waiting to make a political point or a big barrel of money or both at their expense. There's a lot of leeches out there in our society, and the sooner we realize that all those trial lawyers and politicians looking to score points over something like this, and even so-called "human rights advocates" who will get worked up every time we get a little stern, but turn a blind eye to Hussein or Castro, or even allow themselves to become the puppets of dictators, are just that- leeches. Time to get out the salt.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The Real Memo Scandal 

Den Beste has a great analysis of the leaked Democratic strategy memo, outlining ways of using Senate Intelligence Committee information for political gain. The best part of the article is a comparison to something that happened during the 1944 election, when Republican presidential candidate Dewey decided not to make supposed intelligence failures leading up to Pearl Harbor an issue in the election, for fear of giving the enemy an idea how much of their codes we had broken.

Here's the money quote:
Dewey was an American first, a Republican second. I wish that Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa) was an American first, but I am by no means certain. Rockefeller is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Democratic committee staffers appear to have written a document for him describing how to use an investigation into American intelligence regarding Iraqi WMDs to best affect the 2004 election campaign. It's not clear exactly who wrote it, but Rockefeller acknowledges that it came from his staff, saying that it had not been intended for public release. (I should think not.)
It's treason, and needs to be called treason. But I hope we're not surprised. We winked at Clinton betraying his country, selling elections to foreign interests, for eight years. The Democrats are just learning from their hero.


I saw a blog today called Dell Inspiron 600m Stuff. Somebody started a blog for their laptop. "News and Clues for the Dell Inspiron 600m".

This is what is so great about the Internet. Well, that and Homestar Runner. In my mind, this is the hugest waste of bandwidth imaginable, especially since there's a bunch of pages already devoted to that subject here.

But of course, that's because I don't own a Dell Inspiron 600m. If I did, I probably would want all the information on it I could get, and the less of it that came from Sri Lanka the better. So helpful tips from a fellow Dell enthusiast would probably come in handy.

The Dell Inspiron 600m blog was just started, so as of right now there are no helpful tips or news items about it. I'm sure there will be many interesting tidbits posted there in the future, so keep an eye out, especially if you own one. If you don't own one, I'd reconsider buying one, because Dell uses child slave labor funded by drug profits funneled through the International Zionist Conspiracy and Big Oil. I know, because I used to work at HP and they told me so.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003


There's an interesting exchange over at Joyful Christian about the purpose of prayer. I think it's important to highlight the subjective effect of prayer- it changes us, not God.
While I don't fall into the "If we can just accumulate enough prayers, God will change his mind" camp, I do tend to petition God for the same thing repeatedly. In fact, I tend to continue to pray to God for something until the matter has been conclusively resolved one way or the other.

I've often wondered if this was the way it was supposed to work. After all, when Paul described praying to have the "thorn" (whatever it was) removed, he said he asked three times and in context it seems like he thought that quite a lot. Of course, Paul also records that God spoke to him directly on the subject so maybe he just stopped praying because God had given him a definitive answer in a more direct way than I'm used.

I chime in:
There's a lot in the Bible about the subjective purpose of prayer- that is, we pray to change ourselves, to submit our will to God as much as to change any events.

Matt. 6:5-13- The heathen think they'll be heard if they repeat themselves over and over, but God knows what we need already. So we pray, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, before we pray for anything else.

So, the question of how often we ought to pray for things is perhaps not the most important question. The more important question is, what are we trying to accomplish? If we understand the main change needs to happen with us, we'll pray as much as we need to, and since we'll never be perfect, we'll never stop praying.

It's Official 

Greg Easterbrook is no theologian.

In this article, he tries to argue that Jesus' words to the rich young ruler were intended to move us away from organized religion:

Some thinkers--me, for example --have argued that this passage is among several indicating Jesus did not intend to start a new faith, but to move the world beyond religion per se. Set that question aside and simply note that the Six Commandments could be posted in a government building without raising legal issues.
The only thing wrong with this is all of it. Jesus didn't stop here, and neither does the story. What's the rest of the passage say?

20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Ah, the Kingdom of Heaven, identified in lots of other places in Matthew as the exclusive province of those who follow Christ, and him alone.

Many interpreters, myself included, read the second half of Jesus' exhortation, the part about giving up his riches (something not asked of anyone else in the Bible) as Jesus pointing him to those other four commandments, the ones about worshiping God and him alone. The riches were this man's idol. The man could do all the easy external stuff, but he couldn't give up his idols. I imagine Gregg Easterbrook can't either- his idol of humanism.

But then, he won't be the first to have tried to cut the law like a suit to fit him, or to go away sorrowfully when confronted with the real Gospel.

Broken Link 

I've been informed that the picture of Katie as a ladybug was broken, before. I've fixed the link and repost it here in all of its sugary cuteness.

Book Review: The Enduring Community 

The Enduring Community by Brian Habig and Les Newsom is a book on the subject of the Church. It discusses what the church is, why it exists, and why it's important. It addresses the very commonly heard sentiments today about church, like "I don't need church, I can worship God anywhere" or, "Churches are just full of hypocrites" or things like that that we who work in churches or who value churches hear all the time.

The Enduring Community addresses these questions and issues without condemnation or just dismissing the sentiments expressed, but recognizing the false teaching that gives rise to such sentiment. Habig and Newsom take us to Scripture to see how the church is defined by Jesus and the Apostles both in their teachings and their practices. We then see those applied to the issues that face our churches today, which are not really different than the issues the church has always faced.

Habig and Newsom addresses some issues which are often difficult to explain to the modern believer, such as the need for church membership and the importance of the right administration of the sacraments. The touchy subject of discipline is also raised. And all of this is addressed in a very accessible yet firm manner. They discuss why these issues are important; why the church needs these things to be what the church is supposed to be, without resorting simply to statements like "the church has always done it" or "the Bible says so".

On the subject of church discipline, for example, he says:
...The inertia in the Church will always tend toward disintegration. The mark of the Church of discipline is therefore not only a theological necessity but a practical necessity as well. We need the Church, yes; but we need the Church together, involved in each other's lives, engaging in each other's business. Only this humility of community can set in motion the perpetual equipping of the saints and coversion of the lost for which the church exists. Without church discipline, there is no Church. (p. 105)
The Enduring Community did not convince me of anything that I was not already convinced of. But it helped me a great in equipping me with ways of talking about these subjects with others, and it energized my belief in the importance of these things. It helped me understand that many of these issues were about more than bare submission to authority, more than "we should do it because God said so", althouth that ought to be reason enough for us. It reinforced in my mind the importance of considering the purpose of the church and the nature of the church, and how ignoring the Scriptural requirements for how a church ought to look and to function undercut and destroy the purpose of the church in the believer's life. A big recommendation for this book for anyone struggling with these issues themselves, either in their own minds or in discussions with others around them.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Support from an Unexpected Source 

Nat Hentoff, not exactly a Bush sock puppet, has a rousing article in favor of Charles Pickering (in the Village Voice of all places!), one of the judicial nominations currently being filibustered by the Democrats.
I write this final column on Charles Pickering because, in some 50 years as a reporter, I have seldom seen such reckless, unfair, and repeated attacks on a person—not only by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee but also by organizations that gather financial contributions because of their proclaimed dedication to civil rights, civil liberties, and honest research. (People for the American Way, Alliance for Justice, et al.)

Read the whole thing. Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

French Perfidy 

There's a great post over at the Belgravia Dispatch on France's efforts to undercut us pre-war. It's been clear to some that France hasn't been our friend for a long time (probably since the end of the Cold War). Now it's becoming clear to any who are willing to face truth.

I think part of the reason many are so unwilling to face this is that international opposition was one of the big reasons many gave at home to oppose the war. But it's becoming increasingly obvious that many who opposed the war did so out of reflexive anti-Americanism and self-interest, not out of any thoughtful, reasoned or principled opposition to what we were doing or the way we were doing it.

And in case anyone thinks it's just the French leadership that doesn't like us, spend a little time over at Merde In France (warning- vulgarity).

Sunday, November 02, 2003


I have been informed that the last Sermon of the Week suffered from technical problems, that caused it to skip periodically. This week's sermon unfortunately suffers from the same problem. I'll get it fixed on this one if I can, and I've isolated the issue so it shouldn't affect future sermons, but I'm not going to post the broken one this week unless and until I can get it fixed. Sorry about that.

Saturday, November 01, 2003


Halloween was last night. Katie went as a ladybug. The evening was fairly busy, although not as busy as some places in Limon. The street up from us was jam-packed, probably because almost every house had their lights on. Most the houses on our street didn't, so it was pretty slow.

Being a Christian, and being a pastor, I get asked questions from time to time about Halloween- isn't it devil-worship? How can I let my child participate? Should I hand out Bibles to kids instead of candy?

We need to get away from this idea of sin. My mere proximity to something that someone else uses sinfully does not contaminate me with their sin. Nobody I know worships Satan on October 31st by dressing up in costumes and going house to house for candy. I do know a few occultists (former occultists, actually- they grew up and got jobs) but they were doing entirely different things that night, very distateful things. So just because some (very few) people engage in occult practices on a particular day, I should deprive my child of a wholly unrelated activity on that same day?

We need to be careful of the Pharisaical attitude towards sin. They thought you could be corrupted by mere proximity to something sinful going on. That's why they went after Jesus all the time for eating and drinking with prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus responded to them by teaching them that it's what comes out of a man that corrupts him, not what goes in. Proverbs 4:23 tells us that the issues of life come from the heart. Luke 6:45 says that evil actions come from an evil heart, and good actions from a good heart. So, I cannot simply stumble into sin. Sin would flow from a heart that hates God. Therefore to evaluate a particular action, I have to evaluate the motives that drove that action. 1 Corinthians 8 is also relevant- eating meats offered to idols is only sinful if I believe I am engaging in idolatry by doing so. If I recognize that the idols are nothing and thank God for the meat, there is no sin. (There's still the issue of the weaker brother, but that's a different question.)

So, the only way Trick-or-Treating would be sinful, is if someone actually thought they were engaging in occult activity by doing so. If they thought they were having a fun time dressing up in funny costumes and getting candy, then that's all they're doing. Sin's not in the thing. Sin's in the heart.

That doesn't make it easer to avoid. That makes it a lot harder. Because now I have to stop focusing on things like rock music and Halloween and booze and what movies I watch, and start focusing on my own pride and envy and lust and bitterness. It would sure be easy if I could just stop watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and be free from sin as a result.

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