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Saturday, March 30, 2002

A Response to Louder-Part IV-Bridging the DivideI might have been overly flip when I said "cut out the middle man and get your prayers answered factory-direct" but that seems to be the key difference between Catholic and evangelical thought. The Catholic will place his trust in the physical realm in the Catholic Church and its sacraments. The two millennia of church tradition and corporate memory passed down from Peter on through have created a (to the Catholic) indispensable vehicle for communion with God. The evangelical will be left with his Bible and his local church. The lack of grounding can be beneficial if his freedom helps him find more of that joy in the presence of God, but it can also lead to heresy and inconsistency; the traditions of the Catholic church are a backstop to the more egregious heresies. Is there anything in Louder's theology that will keep him out of Heaven? Not that I can see. The fact that he's not going to count on being Heaven bound unless he runs the race of faith to the completion isn't disqualifying. If he's earnestly praying to a saint or Mary to pass on a message to God, God will hear that prayer even if those intermediaries aren't answering. He places an extra emphasis on the sacraments that I would, but those don't block an honest faith in Jesus' lordship. Louder thinks my theology's a bit off-base. I think his is. He expects to see me in Heaven, as I expect to see him. He's willing to grant that I can find that Joy of the Lord without his Church's help and I'm willing to grant the he can find it within the confines of the Roman Catholic Church. As we head into Easter Sunday, let's focus on the risen Christ who isn't a was but an is. I'm reminded of the chorus of an old Baptist hymn
He lives! he lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way. He lives! he lives! Salvation to impart You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.
From all that I've read of Louder's faith, He lives in Louder's heart, too. We'll disagree on theology but he's looks like he's Heaven-bound. Footnote-Jason Steffans has a good critique which erred on the side of being a bit too anti-Catholic. In regards to confession, Steffans states that "continual confession of specific sins to priests is impractical, unnecessary, and unsupported by Scripture." James 5:16 says to "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." Having a priest be that person isn't required in my opinion, but it helps to have someone to be accountable to. Accountability partners aren't directly mentioned in the Bible either, but that's a common practice in evangelical circles.

Midday Musings- I'll have a conclusion to the Louder response this evening, bringing in some of Jason Steffan's comments that I didn't address as of yet. The response to the Ramallah offensive have been muted from the US. They did vote for a UN resolution asking Israel to retreat, but aren't too upset about the move. Yesterday afternoon, Powell was de-facto supportive as he failed to criticize the move. The administration is making the polite, "play nice with Yasser, kids" comments, but aren't bopping Israel over the head. Britain just lost the Queen Mum, who made it to 101. My sympathies go out to the Commonweathers who are mourning her passing.

A Response to Louder-Part III-Sacraments, Saints and Solo Scriptura.- I agree with Louder that if one is focused on God, sacraments don't get in the way. Communion is a reminder of Jesus' death for us, that his body was broken and his blood spilled as the sacrifice to end them all. When His people gather together to ponder His death on the cross, He is in the house in a potent, special way as people are re-focused on what He did for them. For now, I've leave how that presence is to be described to better theologians than I, but it brings people to a acknowledgement of their need of Jesus in a way few other church activities can. Confession is another necessary item; it truly is good for the soul. While I don't see a need to have a priest do the honors, having someone ,be it a pastor or a layman, to be held accountable to is important. It's a common, but not required, practice in evangelical circles to have accountability partners to pray with and track progress in living a Christ-centered life. I still don't buy into praying to saints or to Mary. Jesus doesn't bite, so cut out the middle man and get your prayers answered factory-direct. The Romans 15:30 quote looks to have living brethren pray for him, not dead ones. Intercessory prayer is a staple of a good Christian life; I've got a real prayer warrior in Eileen, who's a more gifted intercessor that I, which will be a blessing in the years to come. Yes, not everything of God is in the Bible, but everything in the Bible is of God. I agree with Louder that abortion isn't mentioned in the Bible. I treat the Bible as the Constitution of our faith. If a law runs afoul of the Constitution, the Supreme Court is supposed to throw it out. If something runs afoul of what the Bible says, it should be avoided as sinful. We can throw out things that are expressly forbidden and use the Bible and discernment from the Holy Spirit to look at the ones where the doctrine isn't clear. The "corporate knowledge" of the church is helpful, but needs to be tested against the Word of God we have in print.

A Response to Louder-Part II-Baptism-Louder writes
In this fallen world, we do not begin in grace: Original Sin prevents this. We are born cut off from God. So the first step is to erase Original Sin; hence, one must be baptized.
Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
Now, baptism is not sufficient; but it is necessary. This is a sacrament one cannot ordinarily do without. (I say "ordinarily," because there are exceptions in extraordinary circumstances: baptism by blood or by desire. But for the everyday man in the street, God has prescribed baptism by water.)
(Nested blockquotes-cool) Baptism is a command, but it is something that Christians do, not something that saves you. I'll have a better take this fall if and when I take Greek, but all of the other translations I looked at have "born of water" rather than "born again of water"
NIV-Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
NAS-Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
King James-Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Revised Standard-Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
It's an open question whether the water he mentioned was that of baptism or from the amniotic fluid. Verse six, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" would point to a dichotomy between earthly birth and spiritual rebirth, with the baptism of the Holy Spirit given to all believers marking the second birth. The baptism ceremony is a physical reenactment of that spiritual event. In evangelical churches where baptism is done to believers rather than on babies, the baptism ceremony typically includes a profession of faith by the baptismal candidate, allowing the dunkee to give a brief testimony of what Jesus means to them. Such baptisms are a way for the new believer (or the parents of the tyke in the infant-baptism tradition) to express their faith publicly, thus edifying the who congregation. Its something believers should do, but if one dies of a heart attack waiting for the next baptismal service, one doesn't head to Hell just because of that. An unwillingness to be baptized could be a sign of problems with one's faith, but shouldn't exclude an otherwise faithful person from Heaven.

A Response to Louder-Part I-The Timing of Salvation-'tis Saturday Morning, and as promised, I'm responding to Louder Fenn's defense of Catholic doctrine. The first question out of the gate is that of "eternal security"-can we really know we're headed to Heaven? Louder points out
that salvation is not finalized in this life: Only by final perseverance in grace at the moment of death can we know we will judged worthy by God and kept from Hell. Whatever I know, feel, or confess now, however truly, does not matter if I squander God's grace and die His enemy.
I can’t show you my Get Into Heaven Free card that proves my faith is legit. That will become clear when we show up in Heaven (assuming we do) and see who did and didn't make the cut. However, a good way of checking is to see if a alleged believer is actually walking the walk. Jesus points this out in Matthew 7:15-23-
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
What fruit are we looking for? The fruit that come from the guidance of the believer's Councilor, the Holy Spirit. The classic one is Galatians 5:22-23-
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Once can easily site cases where people professed a saving faith and came nowhere near walking the walk. The most egregious case in my lifetime was Larry Flynt's bogus profession in the late 70s. Darryl Strawberry's recurrent drug problems and Evander Hollifield's libido made easy sport for critics of evangelicals. We are saved by faith, but some level of outward evidence is needed to show the world that our faith is legit. If there is no Fruit of the Spirit, its likely that the presence of the Holy Spirit is not in our lives. The contentious verse comes from James 2-here's versus 14-20
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
This will give many people an overemphasis on works as a part of the salvation process. Martin Luther had problems with James, calling it "an epistle of straw." He struggled to fit that into his solo fide (faith alone) framework. My take is that a true, heartfelt faith will produce good works, whereas a lesser belief will not show that fruit. However, it is still that faith, that heart belief in Jesus, that saves us, not the works that result from it. I'll try to back that up.

Read Luke 7:36-50. The passage has a sinful women bathing Jesus in expensive perfume. He forgives her sins, giving the benediction "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." If wasn't her extravagant sacrifice nor her overwhelming worship that saved her, but her faith. Paul puts it fairly bluntly in Ephesians 2:8-9--"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." These passages bring me to the belief that there is a point in this lifetime that a believer gains salvation. Jesus didn't say in Luke 7 "If you're a good girl, your faith will save you upon death." Rather than have a theology of someone losing a saving faith, my reading of scripture would lead me to think that people like Flynt didn't have that faith in the first place. One can fall into sin after finding that faith (note David and Peter), but a earnest repentance will mark the true believer from the faker. I'm not preaching a "cheap grace," for a active faith will require sacrifice and sticking one's neck out. Such confidence in one's salvation shouldn't be taken as a open invitation to sin. However, the idea that salvation is an open question until your death leaves many people thinking that they're a sin or two away from Hell even if they love God dearly. Jesus knows we're going to screw up multiple times every day; He died for all of those sins, past, present and future. Our Christian walk will hopefully head towards, but not quite achieving, perfection, like a asymptote going up towards a ceiling but not quite touching it. As long as the slope of our faith curve is positive, we're headed in the right direction. Jesus died to bridge that gap between our sinfulness and God's perfection. We shouldn't obsess on the gap but try to narrow the gap as best we can and let Jesus do the rest.

Quip du jour-"Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer "-Sun Tsu (Maybe Sharon can get a NEH grant for their Ramallah exhibition of The Art of War?) Edifier du jour-Matthew 27:62:66
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, `After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first." "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
("Three days later, everybody found out that you can't, can't keep a good man down"-Newsong )

Friday, March 29, 2002

Bible Recovered-The Bible that got stolen out of my car last night was found a few doors down from my house near the neighbor's car. The neighbor walked it down as Eileen and I had just gotten back from our Good Friday service. No damage done to the Bible, my notebook and pens were still there. The only thing the kid (I assume it was a teenager) kept was about $3 of quarters and dimes from the change rack in the armrest. It beats the heck out of the ~$50 that would be needed to get a good Bible and Bible bag. The Bible bags are common amongst evangelicals. Over at Christian Celeberation Center, Pastor Stocker would preface his closing remarks as "Zipper Time;" put the Bibles and notepads in the bags and focus on the take-away message. He had a birthday shortly after a multi-part series on sexual issues. As part of the birthday routine, a "call" came in from Dr. Ruth. The guy doing the imitation brought down the house with:"Vone question-vas is zees Zipper time?"

For what it's worth-here's a song lyric I wrote a year ago Palm Sunday. Someone with musical talent's welcome to put it to music-I'm picturing something bluesy.
HE TOOK THE RAP Verse 1a and b I went up to the courthouse to be judged for all my sin, when my lawyer, guy named Jesus, oh, he sauntered right on in. He snatched my file, he flashed a grin and said “Now, don’t you fret. I got this judge down cold, He’s not convicted my guys yet.” He went up to that Judge, turned out to be His Dad. This is the very trial every convict wished he had. For it was a straightforward case of double jeopardy, ‘cause He’d went and paid the total price up there on Calvary. Chorus He took the rap for my salvation He took the rap to set me free He paid the price for your sin and mine When he died on Calvary One trip up old Golgatha relieved us of that crap Oh…. He took the rap Verse 2 Ol’ Matlock, Perry Mason, they can’t help you in this court, But Jesus, our great councilor, is there for our support. He always bats a thousand, He’s never lost a case even when His client list is the whole darn human race. Verse 3 He always works pro bono, you can’t run up a tab The blood He spilled on the cross will counter Satan’s jab It’s hard to think that such a guy’s not charging by the hour So give Him thanks and grab on to His resurrection power. Finale He always bats a thousand, He’s never lost a case It’s a bountiful byproduct of our Lord’s amazing grace One trip up old Golgatha relieved us of that crap Oh…. He took the rap

The Check-Out Lane NRO is loaded today. There are a pair of good theological essays by Novak and Shiflett and Hanson has a good piece on post-modern amoralism in foreign policy. Next Right has a solid Good Friday post. I may have to give him a badge in the Augustinian Posse. The Sneak has a kinder, gentler way of setting the Palestinian issue-a good, old-fashion siege until they cough up the gunnies. Possumblog has another cute-as-a-button post on traveling with kids. My folks must of been "white trash" too, since we brown-bagged and coolered a lot of food on trips rather than eat out all the time. If he keeps this up, I'll have to call him the Grits Lileks. Megan McArdle has a well[-reasoned centrist post on abortion. Check out the comment section, as Ben Domenech, Hokie Pundit Robert Bauer and yours truly chimed in. Cut on the Bias has a piece on women and college coaching. Susanna gives it her anti-idiotarian all against charges of sexism in college sports.

Getting Down to Business- The Israeli cabinet has declaired Yasser Arafat an enemy and is proceeding to "isolate" him by attacking his Ramallah HQ. Den Beste notes that the reserves have been called up, meaning that some serious crap will be going down shortly, since the drain on the Israeli economy created by getting everyone in uniform isn't something you do just to rattle sabers. It then looks like Sharon is ready to retake the PA territory or something close to it. I've been saying since I've started this blog that the Shalom of Jerusalem (not just no violence but the "everything's in its place, all's right with the world" peace that Shalom implies in Hebrew) will require a lot of bloodshed and a lot of revised attitudes to get to, and may not be achievable without Jesus coming back to do it Himself. On Good Friday four years ago, the warring factions in Northern Ireland got together, seeing that peaceful coexistence was a better option that the low-level civil war that was the Troubles. While the Good Friday Accords might not be perfect, and things have moved in fits and starts, the climate in Northern Ireland seems better (feel free to critique)than it was four years ago. It's then a contrast that on a day that saw one set of groups put aside guerilla warfare in favor of a political solution, we now see Israel see that diplomacy isn't the way out. In the case of Northern Ireland, most Protestants and Catholics had come to the conclusion that the differences they had weren't worth killing each other over; such confluence of interests doesn't exist in the Holy Land. Jews have been crapped on for at least three millennia, and realize that their own state is the best defense against pogroms. They reestablished Israel a half century ago and won't give it up without a fight. The local Arabs want it back and their jihadist irredentist rhetoric makes sure that their kids are ready to fight to get what they see as rightfully theirs back. Israel has to find a way to stifle that movement in order to secure their turf. Why should we take sides with Israel on this one? They both say they have rights to the area going back a millennia plus; who are we to judge? I, for one, am a American who wants to extend democracy and human rights around the globe; Israel is the lone functioning multi-party democracy in the region. I, for one, have a humanitarian (but not humanist) heart that the Jews have been crapped on for too long and deserve backing for a nation where they don't have to take any crap. I, for one, am a Christian who sees Israel as God's chosen people. While they did reject Jesus when he arrived, that doesn't change the fact that God has a special place in His heart for the Jewish people. Let me state here that while some Jews did arrange Jesus' death (News Flash-if he was destined to be crucified, someone had to do the deed) two millennia ago, that guilt doesn't extend to the Jewish people as a whole. While I'm a bit of a mugwump on the details of eschatology, I find it clear that Israel will be a player in the end time and the countries that oppose Israel won't prosper. While trying to itemize what has brought God's blessing on the US is a dangerous endeavor, I think that our generally benign (yes, we've had our anti-Semites but fewer than other countries) treatment of Jews and our support for Israel has been a factor in that blessing. This doesn't give Sharon carte blanche to unduly crap on the Palestinians or turn Damascus into a radioactive crater, but I'm going to double-err on the side of backing the Israelis. As I stated yesterday, the Palestinians are people, too. However, it is now time for Israel to kick butt and take names. Palestinians will die. Israelis will die. Syrians and Lebanese will likely die as will any other countries that gets in Israel's way. The Friedman Plan is now suitable for use as fertilizer. If the Islamic world wants a Israel versus Islam fight, I would expect Dubya to come down on the side of Israel. I don't think the Islamic are stupid enough to start a WWIII that they would lose, but I wouldn't put it past them. Pray for Israel. Pray for wisdom as they figure out how to do battle. Pray for wisdom in Washington that they find the right mix of support and encouragement. Pray for the leaders in the Islamic world that they not do something so stupid that would cost tens of millions of lives. Don't forget to pray for the Palestinians as well; their life's no bed of roses and it ain't going to get better in the near term.

Golgotha Goodies-Someone stole my Bible and some loose change out of my car last night. They left my tapes and CDs, but made off with my nice Bible bag and its contents. I’d be a lot more ticked if it weren’t Good Friday; my focus was quickly changed from mentally nuking some neighbor kid to God dying for me and us all. Good Friday is about forgiveness. God chose to send a subset of Himself as a sin offering, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. People of the day didn’t get the idea of the Messiah as the sacrificial lamb, as they were waiting for the Messiah as conquistador. One of the thieves hung on his side quipped “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” That was exactly what he was there for, to save mankind. No ordinary sacrifice would do, this one would have to be perfect and He was the only one who was. He was ready to take the sins of the world upon Himself, sweating blood the night before at Gethsemane in realization of what was going to go down the next day. In that day, the climax of Yom Kippur was the sacrifice of a lamb for the sins of Israel. As I remember the story, there was a red ribbon that was cut in two parts, one tied to the lamb’s neck and the other nailed to the doorframe of the city gate. The lamb was taken to be dropped off a nearby cliff. A chain of priests stationed every 200 yards or so between the city gate and the cliff was ready to shout back the news of the lamb being dropped to his death. According to secular Jewish first century historian Josephus, once the news got back to the crowd at the city gate, the red ribbon miraculously turned white, symbolizing the remission of the people’s sin. However, the year after Jesus was crucified, Josephus reported that the ribbon stayed red, as that lamb wasn’t needed any more. God had supplied his own Lamb, just as he did with Abraham. Jesus isn’t a player in the secular Easter celebration. The Baby in the manger gets to be the supporting player to Santa Claus in Christmas, but the cross or the empty tomb is no where to be seen at the malls this week unless there’s a Christian bookstore there. That baby isn’t threatening; the idea that we’re a sinner in need of that sacrifice is threatening to many people. So, those of us who know the real reason for the season should politely point out what happened two millennia ago on Golgotha. Today is the day to reflect on God’s sacrifice for us. If you haven’t realized that Jesus was up on that pair of two-by-fours dying for you, now’s a great time to acknowledge that gift and accept Him as your Savior. If you already have accepted Him, it’s also a day for cleansing our hearts of the sinful nature left in our hearts. Whether that sin is, be it improper judging of stoopid columnists or gluttony or lust or whatever, take that communion cup, symbolizing the blood he shed for you, and offer those sins up to Jesus before chugging it down. Thank you, Jesus!

Quip du jour-"'Nine out of ten Canadians yearn for deeper spiritual life'—and the other one works for the government."-Kathy Shaidle Edifier du jour-Luke 23:33-34
When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Congratulations to KSU basketball coach Stan Heath. His stay in Kent was short, as he's slated to be the new coach at Arkansas. Good mid-major coaches don't stay mid-major coaches for long.

Good National Post piece on the power of faith. Active churchgoers were quicker to recover form depression than the general population. I can testify to that. I'm a testimony of what the Holy Spirit can do, breaking though a cycle of depression that plagued me though my teens and early twenties and pointed me in the right direction.

Not-Quite Empty Nest-James Haney's fought off the blues ( "I'm two months shy of my 30th birthday, and I'm broke and living with my parents.") induced by reading an Iain Murray piece on "boomerang kids" (adults living with their parents after a stint away from home). Murray chalks it up as a sign of the immaturity and non-committal nature of modern youth. I disagree. What ever happened to the extended family? If you're single, you get along with your parents, you're not in the market for make-out space and your job's in your home town, why not live with your parents? Both my sister and I were boomerangs. She came back to live with our parents after getting her college degree and moved out when she got married. I've been living with my folks since coming back to Midland after my Ph.D. work. I have a de-facto apartment with my own bedroom, bathroom and family room downstairs. The rent's cheap (if not non-existant) and you have a support system that you wouldn't have with your own place. If I remember correctly, Megan McArdle is a current boomeranger. If you're making progress in life (James, Megan and I are) then the slacker label that Murray seems to imply doesn't qualify. Here's a cute coping mechanism-a single NPR essayist gave this spin; you don't live with your mother, "my mother lives with me."

Eve Tushnet critiqued my abortion strategy post of yesterday, pointing out that a rape exception is "starkly unenforcable"
Visualize the horror stories--"She accused me of rape so she could kill my baby!" Visualize the first time the woman is white and the man is...not. Rape is already one of the hardest crimes to prove in court. I _really_ don't think it is wise to put more pressure on an already extraordinarily difficult--and explosive--area of law. I'm not even sure if rape exceptions are politically viable (once people see the ads, hear what a rape exception really looks like, etc.); I suspect many people use the exception as a get-out-of-jail-free card, so they can feel good about the little babies without having to feel _bad_ about the mothers. That's not a stance that makes for political clout.
She also points out that the key is to get the Condis of the world to give a yea or nay to Roe. "She can oppose Roe as a matter of law without ever mentioning the word "abortion." She does that,I'm mostly satisfied." Amen, sister.

Seder Sadism update- Ben Domenech has a intriguing proposition
When a suicide bomber walks into a dining room and, in a moment, brutally slaughters the men and women merely for what they believe...it makes me want to advocate my original idea about what the U.S. should hypothetically do in the Middle East. Namely: give Israel $1.5 billion in foreign aid, pull our troops out of the region, and say, "Go." In three months, you know what we would call Iraq? Iran? Syria? Jordan? Israel.
Sounds good if you're playing a wargame on the computer and the carnage isn't real. My humanitarian side reels at the carnage from that all-out war, but not doing it might be worse for Israel and the West in the long run. The realpolitic side (unfrosted) says "Go. Better now than later." Does Sharon or a rightist successor have the chutzpah to do it? I wouldn't put it past them. Would we politely look the other way (and supported them under the table) if they tried? Yup. Shots Across the Bow has a good essay on the topic, echoing Ben's sentiment. Rantburg takes the tongue out of his cheek and has a good essay on the incessant boomers.

Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airborne?-I heard an NPR piece mention 101st Airborne commander Maj. General Richard Cody. That had me flashing back to a one-hit wonder from the 70s, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, who hit with "Hot Rod Lincoln" in 1972.

Seder Sadism- The suicide bombing of an Israeli hotel dining room during the Passover Seder, killing 19 at last count, has the Blogosphere POed. Chris Johnson gives his take here, while William Sulik and the Vodka Pundit are steaming. Sulik invoked Stonewall Jackson saying "Kill them; kill them all" while Pope Stolichnaya I calls for a good dose of ethnic cleansing on the West Bank, sending them all to Hell. I try to avoid that level of bile from sitting in my brain, for the resultant "nuke the [bleeps]" mentality is corrosive to the soul. Last I checked, Palestinians are people, too. If it comes down to a game of kill or be killed, I'll help man the rifles to defeat the jihadistas, but let's not forget they are God's creation as well. I'd also like a shot of some of the Arabs to find Christ (many already have, there's a sizable but dwindling Christian presence in the West Bank) rather than arbitrarily condemning the lot to Satan. While the US will likely run peace missions in the months and years to come, realists within the administration will understand that such diplomacy will be mere window dressing. A peace treaty assumes that their is a possible union on interests that can be achieved. Israel’s existence is anathema to a plurality of Palestinians and the irredentist element isn't going to go away for a generation at minimum. Israel can't accept the descendants of the refugees of the late 1940s back into Israel, for they will outnumber the Jews. Israel isn't giving up East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount just to see Hamas have a free base in the new Palestine, so the Friedman Plan is a non-starter. The pre-Oslo paradigm of running the West Bank as a colony won't work in the long haul, as a democracy doesn't handle being a colonial power well. The semi-autonomous PA doesn't work either, as they don't have the ability or will to be an effective government and have become a de-facto guerrilla army. There are two long-term options for the West Bank that Israel can live with. The first is an autonomous, better-organized and demilitarized Palestinian government living behind big walls; the second is ethnically cleansing the area, kicking the Palestinian residents elsewhere. Given that the second option would bring a pan-Islamic response that would bring nuclear and chemical weapons to bear in the battle, the ethnic cleansing option isn't palatable for now. I expect to see Israel decide what areas it wants to have control of and build an Iron Curtain-level defense perimeter. However, if the Palestinians continue to launch attacks from the areas they control, the ethnic cleansing option could still come into play in a few years, and millions may die in the battle. The eschatology junkies are going to have a field-day in the months to come.

The Check-out Lane (Blood-out-of-Caffeine-System Edition) First-welcome all of Amy Welborn's readers that have flocked over here. I congratulate her on the Rod Dreher plug on the Corner. I must be getting some of the overflow. Louder Fenn has an opus critiquing my infamous Catholics and Christians post. Jason Steffans has a good reply. I'll have lengthly comments sometime in the next 48 hours. My evenings look a bit booked tonight and tomorrow, so Saturday morning would be a likely ETA for my reply. Jonah goes after Clintonista revisionists with his trademark élan and gusto. My take on the new NRO. Mixed but good on balance. The articles seem to have more horizontal room, but they took away the short synopsis of each article on the main page. The headliner row looks Slatesque. Dr. Weevil provides a good color-coded map of "countries of concern" in the Middle East Blogistan has a Catholic Mission. Father Shawn O'Neal has launched his O'Nealism blog, with a lot of good commentary. Check it out. Relapsed Catholic supplied the link

Quip du jour-Two for the price of one in honor of Dudley Moore and Milton Berle Arthur-"I'm going to take a bath." Hobson-"I'll alert the media." Berle-"Good evening, ladies and germs." Edifier du jour-"Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth."-I Corinthians 5:6-8

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Louder Fenn has his reply on Catholicism up. I just spotted it and will respond tomorrow.

The Check-Out Lane (Late Night edition) Next Right has a excelent post on foreign aid. Go. Read. The Sneak has a solid essay yesterday on the theological diversity of Blogdom. Even if he hadn't cited me, it would still be a good piece. He's added a witty piece on a new class of sin taxes. Kyle Still has a fellow UNC blogger, Matt Rubush, on the loose. His essay on wanting to take Greek against his councilor’s "practical" advice is a keeper. Go for the Greek, Matt. Getting to read the New Testament in the original is better than more practical electives. I'm seriously thinking of taking Greek at WSC if I can fit it around my teaching schedule this fall. The Note has the CFR signing coverage down cold. How does ABC let these guys write blog-style and get paid for it?

Restrictions May Apply-Patrick Ruffini's post of yesterday begs the question-How do pro-lifers address the swing voter? If legal considerations are taken out of the loop, the swing voter will say that abortion takes an innocent life and is generally wrong. They’re not buying the “blob of protoplasm” story. However, they lack sufficient conviction to act upon that and make it illegal. Thinking about tough cases like rape makes them uneasy about banning it. If the tough-nut cases are removed, and they are simply taking about abortion as back-up birth control, a plurality would be open to outlawing it. Thus a pro-restriction stance can be a viable position. While most voters may not be ready for a total ban, many swing voters on the right, like Bush and Bob Dole, will have the RIMLID set of allowable exceptions: rape, incest, mother’s life in danger. If you add severe fetal deformity to that list, you are at a viable majority position. This concept won’t please the electronic evangelists, who don’t want to see to be compromised by the political system, but it will bring some people who are reluctantly pro-choice today into an anti-abortion stance. While Steve Forbes didn’t make it to the Ohio primary in 1996, I was set to vote for him despite a pro-restrictions stance. His rhetoric of slowly changing the climate to allow for a reduction in abortion sounded a bit mugwumpy, but as he learned to speak Moral Conservative with less of an accent, that position proved to be his honest take. Rice could take a comparable route if she fleshes out her thoughts on the issue in that direction. On the state level, the field is a lot clearer for pro-lifers. Since they cannot enact bans, they are left with playing with restrictions that the Supreme Court will allow. Most of those restrictions (such as a 24-48 hour waiting period before getting an abortion, parental notification and bans on “partial-birth” procedures) have strong majority support. If I were blogging in 1994, I would have been shouting to the people in Pennsylvania that Ridge was pro-restrictions and that the difference between that and hard-core pro-lifers was moot for now. This allows pro-lifers to run as de-facto moderates and show how out of touch the abortion-rights activists are. Here’s a prototype stump speech. Thus, if played correctly, a pro-restrictions stance might work. However, a pro-life position is a marker for a lot of other sexual morality issues. Most pro-lifers will prefer abstinence-based sex ed over safer-sex approaches, be against assisted suicide, be opposed to benefits to unmarried couples and be heterosexist. Moral conservative voters will have to hear how the pro-restriction candidate stands on these other issues before being comfortable with them. This would be Rice's challenge if she were to seek national office. On the federal level, pro-restriction candidates will need to be anti-Roe in order to put their desires in effect. For instance, Lamar Alexander was either intentionally misleading or stupid when he backed Roe while wanting states to have the freedom to enact restrictions. Earth to Plaid Dude- Roe blocks those restrictions. However, this won't happen overnight. There will need to be three anti-Roe nominees (likely Powell and either O'Connor or Ginsburg and a good replacement for Rehnquist) before stronger restrictions can be enacted. This will require a lot of political trench warfare. Convincing voters that they Supreme Court won't ban abortion nationwide by chucking Roe is the biggest trick. While I definitely don't see a right to abortion snuggled in the recesses of the Constitution, I don't see a life-begins-at-conception clause either. Voters need to make sure pro-restriction senators will back up a president when he sends anti-Roe nominees up for votes. We can win over the swing voter with the right approach.

The Check-out Lane I'm not the first to link to this James Lileks piece on Tar-jay, but it's a cute read. Somebody get this guy a syndicated column. He's clean, if a bit libertarian, and funny as a rubber crutch. He deserves a permalink. (I'll get to it this evening) Patrick Ruffini has a good post on Condi and abortion politics in the GOP. I'll have commentary on the subject this evening. I'm now in a cadre of "sharp political observers." I hope his trust is well-founded. William Sulik covers the Supreme's decision on drugs and public housing like a rug. Go thou and readest. Airstrip One and Ian Murray have good takes on the EU wanting their own GPS system (code name Galileo) so as to not to rely on the free US system. Marylander Bryan Preston has a nice piece on Bob Erlich, the likely Republican nominee for governor. Could we see both Maryland and Massachusettes go Republican this fall? There is hope for Blue State Land.

Midday Musings- With my new hit meter, I’m able to play the Weird Google Hits game. I got one for “watch R. Kelley sex t@pe.” Sorry, Charlie. [Update 3/29-Geting too many Google hits for that phrase, so I've now intentionally misspelled his last name and the recording media] I’m adding Patrick Carver, the Old Miss Conservative to the Augustinian Posse. He’s one of a growing number of good collegiate bloggers, attending Oxford (MS) but not inhaling. I permalink blogs that are informative (wit helps) and clean and that I read on a near-daily basis. I’ve had to delink some sites that have been taken to frequent F-bombs. I still read some of the ones I delinked, but (especially considering my new employer’s stand on profanity and coarse language) can’t endorse them with a straight face. Fox has a piece on the Oscars having low ratings in smaller towns. Could that be that smaller towns are more conservative and aren’t into the bilge that Hollywood puts out these days? I can count on one hand the number of movies I’ve been to in the last five years. The last two movies I went to the theater to see were Phantom Menace and Princess Diaries (yes, it’s a Chick Flick-but if your lady wants to rent it, let her, it’s a lot better than it sounds. A young woman from church died in a car crash a month before she was to be married, and Eileen is tight with her would-have-been-sister-in-law Jan. After going to the funeral home, Eileen, Jan and I went to see Princess Diaries as part of a cheering-up scheme for Jan.) . Since I haven’t seen any of the movies up for awards, the Oscars hold little interest. I’ll be looking to see Lord of the Rings and Monsters Inc. (not Monster’s Ball, thank you) when they get to video.

"Who do you say I am?"-Trolling for hits, guys? Try getting Catholics juiced. My hit counts doubled this week just after my Catholic post. Amy Wellborn jumped to third out of nowhere on my referrers list after her post of yesterday. Welcome, newcomers. However, I'd like to elaborate on what Amy states as my challenge to "Catholic bloggers to defend their faith as Christian." What I am talking about is not challenging Catholicism as much as challenging all of us individually to answer Jesus question to Peter-"'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?'" If you can answer whole-heartedly "You are my Lord and my Savior, you died and rose again to take away my sins once and for all," congratulations! You just won eternal life! If you gave an affimative answer to that question, you shouldn't feel convicted by this uppity Bapticostal. If you said "I'm not sure," get your butt into a good church on Friday and/or Sunday and soak in the message of how He died for us, becoming the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, then rose again. Easter is the best time, better than Christmas, to remember that Jesus isn't a "was" but an "is."

Quip du jour-"Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends His Son to die for you." -John Ashcroft Edifier du jour-Matthew 22:36-40
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Bedtime Musings-Busier evening than I planned. I'm going down to Lake Wales April 11-14 to check out the joint, meet my presumptive collegues and do some apartment hunting for July. Warner-Southern's picking up the tab, putting me up on campus and springing for my flight and car rental. I would up spending most of the evening booking a flight and lining up a rental car (first time I've had to rent a car) , then talking with Eileen on the phone about wedding photographers and the April trip. After all that, I managed to catch the last six minutes of the Pistons-Pacers game; Pistons won at Conseco 96-77. Things got chippy at the end, with Jermaine O'Neal throwing punches at two Pistons; he'll likely get a few games unpaid vacation. Corliss Williamson owned the Pacers in the fourth, and went on a hard drive to the rack with a minute to go. O'Neal gave a hard flagrent foul to Williamson, who then threw the ball at O'Neal. O'Neal then proceeded to go semi-postal. Got a good friendly and long E-mail from Eve Tushnet on my Catholic post, and the Hokie Pundit chimes in with some good stuff. "Unfortunetly Titled," huh. Well, a question mark at the end of the title might help.

Kepple and the South-Ben Kepple has a good essay responding to my "How the South Saved Civilization" post. Yes, I "aimed too high" in my assertions. One could get nuance with 20 pages on each subject, but that would be a book, not a blog. There's a master's thesis in history or sociology to be had there, if someone hasn't written it yet. I should have stressed that the Civil Rights Movement came in spite of the conservative nature of the south, not because of it. The federal government was crucial in getting rid of Jim Crow, and white Southern evangelicals as a group were asleep at the switch at best. I freely grant that the martial spirit, political and theological conservative did not produce the Civil Rights Movement. Many (probably most) white evangelical churchgoers had bigotry as one of their unconfessed sins and the political conservative streak gave birth to a "states-rights" ideology that was a synonym for "let us crap on the darkies." Nonetheless, people like Martin Luther King and Andrew Young are sons of the South and the people of the world have their "peaceful and in large measure successful struggle for racial equality" (as Nats puts it) as a role model. Kepple and I are both ex-Methodists, but he went Catholic and takes me to task for giving Catholicism short shrift. Granted. There are a lot of good things the Catholic church has brought to America and the world, enough to make up a good post in the near future. Stay tuned.

Funny List Time-Google is a great tool to track down those lists that pop up as e-mail attachments or are posted on the breakroom bulletin board. I found this one on "How many dogs does it take to screw in a lightbulb" which is a bit different from the one I saw at Hurley's public safety office this morning. I was inspired to track down a couple other classics, a version (they always seem to morph) of the Arkansas Reading Test that was on my parents' fridge and a verson of the "You might be a Redneck Jedi if..." list one of my computer store techs found. That should help to dispell the myth that I'm sucking up to the South. A paraphrase from the public safety wall- "Politicians are easy to do surgery on, since they have no guts, no spine and their heads and their butts are interchangable."

Heisman Host Gets Stiff-armed-Stumbled onto an abandoned dead tree USA Today at lunch. Two things came to mind from the sports section. Duke's women's basketball team beat South Carolina yesterday. The USC women go by the "Lady Gamecocks." Excuse me, but isn't a gamecock by definition male? Or did he (as we would say in the 70s) fly to Sweden? In a more serious note, the Downtown Athletic Club, the Heisman Trophy sponsor, is in financial doo-doo after 9/11 damaged their building and the local economy. They're looking for a government handout to stay afloat. Senator Schumer (the spell checker thinks Schemer-smart computer) said, "Can you imagine a New York without institutions like the Downtown Athletic Club?" Yeah, Chuck, I can. They're an old-boy-network thing that shouldn't be getting any government subsidies unless you're giving everyone in the neighborhood one. Aren't those type of clubs bastions of male chauvinism and bigotry that good liberals like Chucky are supposed to trash? The Coaches Poll went on when UPI went south, being adopted by CNN and USA Today. The Heisman will go on without the DAC.

The Check-out Lane Ben Kepple has a good critical rejoinder to my "How the South Saved Civilization" piece. I agree with a lot of it-comments this evening. Derb has an interesting monthly "diary"-he's sworn off the use of the world "blog" and its derivatives and sworn off commenting on actresses' secondary sex characteristics. Dr. Weevil has some articulate thoughts on the "Axis of Evil," stating that "Network of Evil" might be a better if less grandiose moniker. Ben Domenech has a good essay on Condi Rice, bouncing off Andrew Sullivan's love letter to Condi of this weekend. Ben rightly points out that her pro-abortion rights stance will be a problem. I was not aware of that part of her philosophy until now. Patrick Ruffini has a good take on dual citizenship. Bryan Preston has an interesting longetudial take on Texas politics. Louder Fenn bounces off my Catholic post to talk about his travels in his Catholic faith, promising a nuke-free response on the theology questions later. I just noticed that I failed to give him a permalink until now. He's been one of my first half-dozen blogstops on my browsers at work and at home, but forgot to deputize him into the Augustinian Posse section. Here's your badge, sir.

Quip du jour-"Why don't sharks eat lawyers. (1) Professional Courtesy (2) They can't get that weird aftertaste out of their mouth (3) Sharks aren't bottom feeders"-anon. Edifer du jour-"He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."-Proverbs 13:20

Monday, March 25, 2002

Wasn't big on posting this evening, life intervened. I spend a good part of the evening at Eileen's talking about our impending move to Florida. Looking forward to being Professor Byron as a real title rather than a tongue-in-cheek honorific gives me a chessie-cat, manure-eating grin in my soul. I look to have tomorrow evening free to do some more in-depth commentary on the fallout/feedback on the Catholic post and other things.

I was struggling with an answer to the Purgatory question, thumbing through some pro and con purgatory sites. Jason Steffens seems to do nicely for me. I'll add that Jesus cry on the cross, "It is finished" was a financial term of the day having the meaning of "paid in full." He's the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He made all the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament moot. Even if I'd take Maccabees straight-up, I think the expiatory sacrifice in II Maccabees would be rendered moot as well.

Catholic update-- William Sulik mentions that purgatory is mentioned in II Macabees 12:42-46. The apocrypha isn't my strongest suit, but I'll think it through. For the Biblically challenged, Macabees is in the apocrypha, the extended Old Testament I alluded to in the post. Catholics and some Protestants have it in their canon. I'll have a (hopefully) thoughtful response to that this evening.

This Sand in the Gears post reminded me of a restaurant that was advertising a special on "LIVE RAND ONIONS". What's a Rand onion? Why live ones? It took me a few trips past it to realize that it was "liver and onions" and the r in liver had migrated over to the "and".

Cute list of Pittsburghana from Kesher Talk. Having lived somewhat nearby, I understand quite a few items. While at KSU, I did a plurality of my grocery shopping at 'Jine Iggle' (translation-Giant Eagle).

The Hokie Manifesto- Good post from the Hokie Pundit on his moral worldview. I'd advise him to skip the booze and the weed (they're not as good as advertised) when he's in Europe, but other than that, he's got his head screwed on straight.

A Job Offer-Got a call back from Dr. Wiseman at Warner Southern-I have a job offer for the fall. I'll fly down sometime next month to check out the joint, but he was sufficiently impressed with my phone interview that he offered me the job without a face-to-face interview.

Quip du jour-"There is a fine line between genius and insanity"-anon. Edifier du jour-"However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" -- but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God." I Corinthians 2:9:10

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Catholics and Christians?- (Preface- I look forward to feedback from my Catholic blogmates. Louder, Eve, Natalie, Kathy and any others are welcome to critique my take, which is given in love as a fellow brother in Christ who's marginally literate about Catholicism.) Relapsed Catholic and Slotman both made (ahem) less than flattering comments a couple of weeks back on this "Christians Evangelizing Catholics" site. I didn't have a good response at the time, but my reading in I Corinthians 1 this morning brought me back to the subject of divisions in the Church. Paul said in verse 13
My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
From the get-go there were different camps within the Church (capital-c including all believers). However, not everyone who is in a small-c church on Sunday is a member of the Church, for that membership roll, the Lamb's book of life, is kept by God. What does it take to be counted in that number when the saints go marching in? For those of you who thought those John 3:16 signs were talking about Madden, I'll run that verse by you-"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Why is Jesus important? Well, on our own, we're selfish, greedy, self-centered. Nobody's perfect. Imperfect man can't bear the presence of a perfect God unaided. God chose to deal with imperfect man by through sending a subset of himself to die for us. Paul pointed out in Romans that " all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." God's perfect, I'm not and Jesus died to bridge that gap. Paul goes on to tell the Romans "[t]hat if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." This is where evangelicals will part company with other more sacramental churches; it is the confessed heart commitment to Jesus that puts your name in the Book of Life, not baptism, tithing, going to church or doing good works. All those other things are good, but they're what Christians do, not what makes you a Christian. As one wag once put it, "The Lamb's Book of Life would make interesting reading." Some people may talk like a believer, but may not have that inner belief. There are saved people in lousy churches and hell-bounders in the best churches. Many evangelicals will refer to "becoming a Christian" to the moment that they reached that belief in Jesus. While I was raised in the Methodist church, even confirmed as a 7th grader, I didn't have that inner belief that Jesus died for my sins until I was 24. During my undergrad days, I was looking for an apartment, and one lady who was renting out rooms asked "Are you a Christian?" I knew the straight answer was "no", but I remember truthfully saying "I'm a member of my Methodist church in Midland but don't go to church as much as I should" (translation-not at all). I was Christian In Name Only; plenty of people will be affiliated with a church without being a believer. To the evangelical, these people are churchgoers but not really Christians There are plenty of Catholic names in that Book of Life. I've met plenty over the years. Dave Pasek, who hosted a pan-evangelical singles Bible study in the late 80s, was an evangelical Catholic, having a "born-again" faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior yet stayed with Blessed Sacrament Church in Midland. His wife Angela, who was in that single's study, is another evangelical Catholic, a pretty, godly lady I had a bit of a crush on at the time. I've met others over the years as well. I was also impressed with some of the Lectio Divino (prayer via contemplative Bible study) sites I ran into last year, where Catholics were earnestly seeking God on their own (just stay away from Thomas Keating's pseudo-TM stuff). However, tradition and extra-biblical doctrine seems to block a lot of Catholics from coming to that heart-knowledge of Jesus. People can seem to look at saints, Mary and their priests as substitutes for a direct connection with God. The routines of confessionals, penance and rosaries can get in the way of a simple plea to God for forgiveness. The Gospel is in the Catholic bibles (they use a slightly different translation and have an extended Old Testament) but traditions can block the view. Quite a few people do find that saving faith in the Catholic Church. There are a lot of Catholic doctrines that are at best extra-biblical. Purgatory isn't mentioned in the Bible. Mary's sinlessness (she was godly but not necessarily perfect), her own immaculate conception (not just Jesus' conception but her own birth as well) and her assumption to Heaven aren't in the Bible either. Praying to saints or Mary isn't mentioned either. From an evangelical perspective, the traditional Catholic devotion to Mary borders on turning the Trinity into a Quadity. When I went to a Christmas concert at St. Bridget's in Midland last year, I was struck by the stained glass windows; the left side of the sanctuary focused on Jesus, the right side on Mary. It's this extra-biblical theology, coupled with a over-emphasis on works, that will have evangelicals looking down their noses at Catholics. A half-millennia of bad blood between Protestants and Catholics has lead some Protestants (Bob Jones U and pamphleteer Jack Chick come to mind) to see the Roman Catholic Church as an agent of the Antichrist. While most evangelicals won't take their rhetoric to that lowpoint, they will point out the extra-biblical stuff gets in the way of a saving faith in Jesus. A focus on Mary the loving intercessor makes Jesus look like the bad cop. Focus on praying to saints makes syncretism easier, where polytheistic faiths will just call their old gods by saint names and not find Jesus in the process. If someone was stuck in this extra-biblical theology, where they were too busy being Catholic to see the God behind the ritual, they could say they went from being Catholic to being Christian. It's those people that could use some help in getting them to see past the ritual and find God waiting to deal with them on a one-to-one basis. However, quite a few people see God just fine through their Catholic practices. Louder seems to be one of those. We should not assume that Catholics aren't saved and should be dragged kicking and screaming away from Mass. Instead, we should ask them what Jesus means to them before whacking them upside the head with a Bible.

Bryan Preston has a winning post on the Conservative-Liberatarian divide-rant on, sir! Taking apart economic liberals requires an intelectual responce, while going after social conservative can be done on an emotional, "Ah, Dad, you never let me have any fun" responce.

What Ceasefire?-Israel killed four gunnies trying to sneak in from either Jordan or Syria (it was up at the three-corner point in NE Israel) but didn't catch the one who shot up a Israeli bus near Ramallah, killing an Israeli. Skirmishing continues in earnest in Gaza, as well. Why are they bothering with peace talks? There is no coherent, peace-seeking Palastinian side to talk with and the Israeli side is unable to accept the concessions that would make a peace deal possible. The Syrians are insisting on the right of return for refugees, but that would mean the end of Israel as we know it, as the desendents of the refugees would outnumber the current Israeli population. Don't expect a comprehensive peace in this generation, since there doesn't seem to be a overlapping point of interests that are acceptable to the leaders on both sides.

Another NPR peeve-Their CFR coverage has me frequently steamed; the soft money donors are always stated as "Unions, Corporations and Wealthy Individuals." That assumes that all donors are rich.

Romney 08 feedback-Patrick Ruffini e-mailed me (nice to see the feedback) on Mitt Romney . He'll have a (judging from the e-mail) killer piece on the issue coming shortly, so I'll let him tell his story then. His argument is that the moderates like Powell, Guiliani, Ridge and Romney will have the gravitas advantage in 2008 compared to the more junior crop of conservative senators and governors. If the field is crowded on the right, a solid moderate like Romney could steal the day with a plurality. He's got a point, but as I see it the key in the primary race is the moderate anti-abortion crowd, people who are conservative on sexual and economic issues but are not as wound up about it as the "Religious Right". A pro-choice candidate can win those voters over with a strong message on economics or foreign policy, dampening misgivings about being a bit too liberal on sexual issues. I don't think a "double moderate" who is centrist on both economics and sexual issues would appeal to a majority of Republican primary voters unless, like Powell, he exuded gravitas in other areas. Guiliani, Ridge and Pataki are economic centrists, thus making them tough sells in a Republican presidential primary. If the primary were now, Guiliani would have a shot from his 9/11 exploits, but that will have faded by the '08 primaries. A more libertarian candidate (cue Mitt) would thus the most likely moderate to get the nomination. If Romney can be a bit conservative on other issues dear to social conservatives, like school vouchers (not a bad way to get the Southie vote this year, Mitt) and on abstinence education, he might be able to pull it off. His run for governor will be a good test case. His dad George (late Michigan governor) was more of a double moderate. It will be interested to see how much economic conservatism from the investment banking business rubbed off on him; it didn't quite take with Robert Rubin. Goofy note-A NPR piece on Romney last week described him as a "wealthy venture capitalist." How many poor venture capitalists have you run into?

Time to Return the Fact-Check- Lee Ann Morawski liked my "How the South Saved Civiliation" post but was a bit off in her synopsis- "He stresses the South’s militarism, religious liberalism, and social conservatism." It the religious conservatism that made the South distinctive, holding dear to Biblical Christianity and taking the lead in spreading it around the world.

Quip du jour-"The problem with the rat race is that the rats always win"-anon. Edifier du jour-"Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." I Corinthians 1:22-24.

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