Saturday, February 01, 2003

The Final Frontier-A lot of people have talked about the need to keep the space program going, but this comment from Peter Sean Bradley seems to nail it nicely
If you agree with me, let yourself be heard. I fear that the space program is losing support among the young. Several years ago I sat on a panel which was part of the UCLA scholarship program. We saw the best and the brightest of Fresno County. Kids with resumes as long as your arm and 4.3 GPAs. The program consisted of asking "big think" (to plagiarize my Con Law Professor, Prof. Karst) questions. My question was "if you had to cut 3% from the budget would you cut from Medical Research, Space Exploration or Social Services, and why?" In my day, space would not have been touched. Every one of those bright kids cut the space budget and favored increasing the budget for medical research. In their world, we would have a healthy, well fed population without any dreams.
Space travel isn't practical, but it gives us a place to focus our dreams. You'll hear someone wanting to take the space budget and apply it to various worthy earthbound projects, but space allows for creativity that you're not going to get by putting extra money into education or medical research or basic provision of needs. We don't have much of a frontier in the 21st century. The ocean floor might be one, but you don't get kids inspired by Sea Quest; that was merely a second-rate (it did have its moments in the early going) Star Trek in a sub. Space has inspired many a child into studying physics and chemestry with the idea of being an astronaut someday; you're not going to get that by expanding the teacher-training budget or by giving the NIH a bigger check.

More Columbia Musings-Jeffery Collins seems to be the go-to guy for coverage. Collins talks here about this possibly doing in the shuttle program but not the space program. The shuttle's disco-era technology and an upgrade is due. We need something better than the shuttle for the long haul. I look forward to Rand Simberg's take on this once this has a few days to shake out. Here's his quick take from this morning
The entire NASA budget is now in a cocked hat, because we don't know what the implications are until we know what happened. But it could mean an acceleration of the Orbital Space Plane program (I sincerely hope not, because I believe that this is entirely the wrong direction for the nation, and in fact a step backwards). What I hope that it means is an opportunity for some new and innovative ideas--not technically, but programmatically. Once again, it demonstrates the fragility of our space transportation infrastructure, and the continuing folly of relying on a single means of getting people into space, and doing it so seldom. Until we increase our activity levels by orders of magnitude, we will continue to operate every flight as an experiment, and we will continue to spend hundreds of millions per flight, and we will continue to find it difficult to justify what we're doing. We need to open up our thinking to radically new ways, both technically and institutionally, of approaching this new frontier. Anyway, it's a good opportunity to sit back and take stock of why the hell we have a manned space program, what we're trying to accomplish, and what's the best way to accomplish it, something that we haven't done in forty years. For that reason, while the loss of the crew and their scientific results is indeed a tragedy, some good may ultimately come out of it.
We'll likely limp through with the shuttle and extra Soyuz help from the Russians, but this will speed up the question of what to do next with manned space flight. Jeff also has the President's eulogy up-this is good
The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on. In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home. May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America.
I didn't hear the speech; we were in a museum at the time, but that set the right tone for the President's job as Chaplain-in-Chief. I was thinking of how good Clinton was at that job; as much as you wanted to wring his neck, he could give one moving eulogy. I don't know where the seven stood with God this morning; I remember hearing some nice things about Col. Husband's faith. However, you don't question the corpse's salvation at a time like this; praying "that they are all safely home" is the eulogist's safety valve. We'll mourn their loss for a bit and move on. We'll continue to go deeper and longer into space and lose more people. Curiosity might kill a cat, but not all felines. [Update 7:30 2-2:I saw the president's eulogy last night-he was clearly stunned at the news but resolute. There are times where simplicity is more eloquent than high prose-this was such a time.]

Columbia Thoughts-I've been away from the computer since 9AM, so I'm just now writing on the Columbia disaster of this morning; I haven't had a chance to dive into the details. Eileen and I were running errands and making a mini road trip up to Kissimmee this morning, ignorant of what had gone on. About 11:20, we were going through a shopping center and wandered into a gift shop with cutsie shirts and souvenirs when we heard the radio of the store start taking about waiting for a 11:30 NASA press conference. It took them about five minutes to explain that the shuttle had broken up about 200,000 feet about East Texas, with the wreckage falling over the area near Nacogdoches (where Eileen went to grad school for a year, piquing her interest). They stressed that it wasn't terrorism; shooting down something that high at Mach 13 would give the US military pause, let alone using what a terrorist could snag off the black market. Nothing like hearing about and dwelling upon seven deaths to make the mood somber. We headed back shortly thereafter, listening to NPR break the story down as best they could. They're liberal but they're thorough; this not being a political topic, they did very well. They even mentioned that the Israeli astronaut had been on the Iraqi nuke plant raid back in the early 80s and that India was mourning the loss of an Indian lady astronaut who had come to UT-Austin for college and stayed, joining NASA. We had a lower-key afternoon, going through a museum in Lake Wales and taking in My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding (a little unedifying in parts, but cute-how many "it's a good movie, but..." are out there these days?). An interesting side point-the stores on US-27 in Haines City about 1:15 hadn't dropped the flags to half-staff, but by the time we got into Lake Wales around 2, the Florida's Natural OJ plant was flying flags at half staff. A press conference we heard on the radio about 4:00 before the movie describe that they were losing instrument readings on the left side of the shuttle, pointing to some sort of structural failure on that left side (my amateur engineer’s guess). If seven Marines died in a helicopter crash at Camp Lejune, it would be a page three item. Space is different; the space shuttles are the flagships of American technology and the astronauts are seen as a special class of hero; even with the seemingly mundane nature of modern spaceflight, we see them as heroes. The NPR coverage had the Israeli astronaut talking about meeting some Holocaust survivors in the US for whom the concept of an Israeli astronaut was mind-blowing. It's an open question what this means for the manned space program; they'll go over the wreckage with a fine toothed comb and figure out how the shuttle came apart, holding up the program for a time while they trouble-shoot and retrofit. Meanwhile, we'll pray for the families of the astronauts. However, don't forget to pray for the Iraqi people and the soldiers who are probably going in shortly to kick out their current government; pray for sane heads from their leaders and ours as well.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 23:1-6(NASB)
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
I've seen take-offs of verse 4 which morph it into "... I will fear no evil, for I'm the toughest [expletive deleted] in the valley." That might be true for some people, but for the rest of us who are either not as tough nor desirous of perfecting our G. Gordon Liddy imitation, we know that we'll need some backup in this life. The rod and staff are used to both guide the sheep, who are stoopid to seven decimal places, and to fend off attackers. We're likely to go off the path God wants us on without some nudging (and dragging, to be honest) by that staff. The other wonderful thing about God that comes to mind as I look at that part of the Psalm is His generosity. He does prepare a table for us while our enemies look on. That might bring on the desire to give the razzberry to our foes, but that open generosity also serves as an advertisement to come over from the dark side.

Friday, January 31, 2003

Bush 1-Krugman 0-This from David Hogberg, who rips the Des Moines Register for raising Keynes-
The Register editorialists really need to do some homework. A tax cut designed to put more money in the pockets of consumers assumes that the problem with this economy is consumer spending. But a look at the Economic Indicators shows that consumer spending continued to grow even during the recession. What’s fallen is private domestic investment: It’s down almost $200 billion from its high in the second quarter of 2000. In other words, the problem with the economy is investment, not consumption. Tax cuts aimed at the top income-tax bracket and the double taxation of dividends are exactly the type of cuts that will spur investment.
Interesting stats-much more tomorrow on this.

Evening Musings-Derb's upset over the fact that he's played 2,155 games of Freecell. Slacker. The record for yours truly is 14,446- 7,637, a 65% winning percentage; granted, that's over a five year period, but that's still 22,000 games. For me, I find myself hitting Freecell in a mind-cluttered moment, playing a game or two while I refocus my thoughts. Or is that an adult manifestation of ADD? [Note to Mr. Collins-the game keeps the stats automatically-I don't keep track of each game; I'm not nearly that anal retentive] Random thought-Over in Israel, the Sephardic Orthodox Shah party will join any coaltion that provides government goodies for the poor Sephardim. For Orthodox folks, they sure do like pork.

Choose Your Friends Wisely-This is an interesting map here via Papa Blog from the Agonist. Look at some of the interesting bedfellows Germany has in opposing the war. Belgium, where gay marriage is approved of but Flemish nationalism isn't. Belarus, which has the most dictatorial regime in Europe Greece, home of anti-American and anti-evangelical discrimination. Not the greatest of comrades.

This FCAT Has Teeth-You can add this one to the clippings file for standardized test foes.Our local Polk County folks are conserned about too many kids having to repeat third grade.
Third-graders must be held back if they fail the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, even if they otherwise received good grades. Students get one chance to pass the test. Last year, 6 percent of Polk's thirdgraders were held back. But that could jump to 15 percent, said Liz Miles, assistant superintendent for instructional services. Statewide, the get-tough policy on retaining students is likely to mean at least 30,000 third-graders will be held back
I can see the lack of solid literacy in many of my college students, and Eileen saw a lot of problems in English skills in the 8th graders she taught this fall. If a sixth of the kids are having trouble reading at grade level, holding them back a year isn't the worst thing in the world. It might mean that they need to overhaul how kids are being taught English.

In Politics, a Faux Pas is When You Accidentally Tell the Truth-You have to credit Toronto-Dominion Bank CFO Dan Marinangeli for frankness.
On Wednesday, Mr. Marinangeli said it doesn't matter what the House of Commons finance committee says about bank mergers because "it's the Prime Minister who makes the decision in our country. Screwy country." The House committee this week began hearings into whether bank mergers are in the public interest. Mr. Marinangeli also described the Senate as "a bunch of old party hacks and fundraisers from previous jobs." He made the remarks to a group of investors in New York.
Of course, his boss is having to apologize to the government officials that were slighted. However, he was right about the autocratic nature of the current government and the Senate makeup (as far as I understand the Canadian Senate, which is neither elected, effective or equitable).

What Would Jesus Bomb?-I heard an radio ad (fisked by Hannity on his show) supposedly sponsored by the National Council of Churches stating that the war was counter to God's law. I haven't got a text as of yet, but I found a comparably exegetically-challenged print ad from last month. Let's remember some basic theology. Jesus predates his incarnation, and was part of the God who told the Israelites to parking lot their foes. Jesus and the Father are one(John 10:30, 17:11 and 21), so Jesus must have signed off on those wars.
A group of people who describe themselves as "religious leaders from every faith" published a full-page advertisement in The New York Times on Dec. 4 to tell President George W. Bush that Jesus is opposed to a U.S. attack against Iraq. "It is inconceivable that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior and the Prince of Peace, would support this proposed attack," the ad said, quoting a Methodist official. Although a number of people's names were listed at the bottom of the ad, the major signer was former Democratic Congressman Robert Edgar, who listed himself both as chair of "Religious Leaders for Sensible Priorities" and as general secretary of the National Council of Churches.
Is it inconceivable? Sorry, but I have to quote Igino Montoya's classic reply to that word -"I do not think that word means what you think it means." Yes, we have a personal ethic of turning the other cheek, but we have a solid Old Testament track record of just wars. This would either mean that our Methodist friend is either (a) throwing out the Old Testament passages on war or (b) assuming that the situation is so clear-cut that they could not conceive of Jesus siding with the President and against his critics. It's most likely the latter. This shows a hubris in a good hunk of the left that they can't conceive of being wrong on their anti-war stance.

An AIDS Boondoggle?-Responding to my SOTU analysis where I said that the AIDS initiative was a boondoggle, John Adams commented that "How is the AIDS money a boondoggle? Seems like a worthy and noble cause to me..." I have been thinking over that one, but Rob Dreher has the reply for me in a great example of Byron's Law of Commentary-if you wait 48 hours, usually someone will say approximately what you would have said. Here's the second paragraph
And yet, there is serious reason to worry that the plan could turn into a vast boondoggle that could enrich corrupt African governments and the international AIDS establishment, while providing far too few effective measures to fight HIV infection. So say a group of AIDS experts who contend that international AIDS-fighting strategies in Africa have not succeeded because of political correctness and anti-scientific prejudice on the part of Western AIDS professionals.
Dreher lays out the story of how the abstinence-based approach of Uganda worked well, but was too moralistic for the western aid officials to swallow and replicate.

Midday Musings-A few funnies for your afternoon.Graduate financial engeneering class
Prof-"Give an example of a natural hedge." Smart Alec Student-"A Hybiscus."
Said smart-asel is now on the WSC faculty. A couple of additional groaners from our Learning Resources (a.k.a. Library) Committee meeting. After approving a motion, the chair said "The ayes are above the noes" which prompted the comeback "In a meeting of a pair of egotists, it's an I for an I." Three examples of class from His Airness, Tracy McGrady and Allan Iverson. Both McGrady and Iverson offered to come off the bench despite being voted starters so that Jordan could start in what would seem (barring another change of heart) to be his last All-Star Game; Jordan declined the offer. I'm not a big Iverson fan, for he too often shows the seamy-side of modern hip-hop culture, but he gets a tip of the hat from me for giving props to the best guard in league history. Interesting fallout from the Title IX commission looking for ways to reform the gender-equity sports so that it encourages women's sports opportunities without taking away men's opportunites. They didn't come to many good conculusions. I've got a post percolating in my head on college sports in general and athletic schollarships in particular; it might germinate this weekend. United Airlines is $3.2 Billion in the hole for 2002. United just missed losing Liberia's GDP for the year.

Morning Musings-I'm getting some accidental link love from Blogger. The 10-recently-published blogs frame had been stuck at 6:15PM Pacific time until a few minutes ago with a post of mine showing up #2 on the list. I picked up about a hundred extra hits courtesy of that lock-up. We've got a food fight between Episcopal bishop Frank Griswold and one of his flock, George Aych-Dubya Bush, (a.k.a Bush 41). Our wannabe Euroweenie let loose with this grumble earlier in the week
Quite apart from the bombs we drop, words are weapons, and we have used our language so unwisely, so intemperately, so thoughtlessly that I am not surprised we are hated and loathed everywhere I go," the bishop said, adding, "I'd like to be able to go somewhere in the world and not have to apologize for being from the United States." Griswold said the world has every right to loathe the United States because "they see us as greedy, self-interested and almost totally unconcerned about poverty, disease and suffering."
Well, if you get out of liberal intelegencia circles, you might actually might hear the US be praised. The inspectors might just be doing the job for us; they're insisting on free access to scientists and U2 flights (so Bono can see the weapons sights in person) before going back. If we're lucky, Iraq will throw a hissy-fit and allow the US and our expanding list of buddies to say "See! We told you he's not interested in disarming." It looks like both the Hokie Pundit and Ivorians are lactose intolerant, as the residents of the Ivory Coast would prefer not to monge fromage with the surrender-monkeys.

Edifier du Jour-Exodus 12:21-27(NASB)
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. 22 "You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. 23 "For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. 24 "And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 "When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. 26 "And when your children say to you, 'What does this rite mean to you?' 27 you shall say, 'It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.'" And the people bowed low and worshiped.
What does this rite mean to you? That's a question that is fair to ask of all believers. For Christians, you might best ask this at communion, for that is where the Lamb was slain at Passover once and for all. While there are some churches, like the Catholics and the Church/Disciples of Christ, who have communion every service, most some of the rest of us have it monthly whether we need it or not. [Thanks, Mr. Sulik, for the correction] We might be reminded that it is the blood and body of Christ that we are commemorating, but what does that blood mean? If it has no real meaning today, then it has no wonder-working power, as the President alluded to this week. Is it just a tiny serving of grape juice (fermented in some quarters) or does it wash away your sins? Only if you claim it, for this blood's for you. What does the body of Christ mean? Is it just a tasteless cracker or God become flesh become the sacrifice to end all sacrifices? If what Jesus did two millennia ago isn't real to you, that rite is just juice and crackers rather than a commemoration of what He did for us on the cross.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Animal Instincts-Via the Great Ruffini, we have this Tacitus piece on attitudes about the human animal
We are all animals. If I may resort to purely anecdotal evidence, it's striking to me how this idea has gained such currency in the modern era. From the deeply loathesome Peter Singer to Ingrid Newkirk and her fellow-travelers to, well, Robert Fisk, there is a remarkable agreement amongst much of the intelligentsia on the inhumanity of man. Curiously, these are usually also the same people who are deeply concerned with peace at any price, in any situation, under any circumstance.
OK, let's try this on for size. The peacenik left looks at man as a trainable animal that is violent and selfish in its natural state. That idea that we're trainable, that our violent and selfish nature will go away with the right education, is the core of socialist thought. However, their secular viewpoint leaves them with no standards on which to judge human behavior, leading to the stance of moral equivalency. No side has the ethical high ground from which to judge and attack an offending country.
Contrast this with a person who views man as a thing of unique and separate value from the rest of creation, with inherent and inalienable rights that are his alone. Put that formulation to a fellow, and if he agrees with it, I'm thinking you've got some flavor of a conservative -- or at least someone who doesn't stay awake at night wringing his hands over Hiroshima and Salvador Allende. This type of person doesn't mind a war so much, so long as he thinks it just and necessary. (Broad generalizations, yes. Knee-jerk antiwar leftists who believe deeply in man as a thing of unique and separate value -- I'm looking at you, Catholic Bishops of America -- need not take umbrage.)
The conservative camp sees mankind as flawed as well, but as a fallen creation of God. Short of Heaven, people aren't perfectible, and a system where greed and selfishness are harnessed is needed. However, their faith gives them moral absolutes that allow for judgements of right and wrong, good and evil that will justify going to war. Ruffini objects to the animal label-
I fundamentally object to this interpretation, and on many levels. To argue that we're innately amoral and thus indistinguishable from animals, you'd have to completely disregard the role conscience plays in each of our lives. All human beings — or most of them, at any rate — feel genuine remorse when they hurt others. Failing that, there are informal sanctions in the wider community against anti-social behavior. And then there's the criminal justice system. Animals have neither the intrinsic self-restraint nor the social institutions that exist as safeguards against uncontrolled violence in the human community. What about war? Doesn't that prove that human nature is more "animalistic" than we let on? Hardly. While it might be in an animal's interest to completely eviscerate a neighbor, feeding on the mangled corpses of a rival herd, modern war, at least as it's practiced by the West, is been waged with a keen eye towards avoiding civilian casualties, and with the sincere belief that they will save more lives in the long term. Even something as horrific as the Hiroshima bomb was dropped with this understanding. Now, one could certainly find myriad examples of more wanton violence throughout history to disprove my thesis. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, to name a few. But are most people, deep down, like Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot?
Yes, in the since that we're all selfish, self-centered people who could turn violent given the right situation. We all have that Stonewall Jackson "Kill them; kill them all" ruthless 10-meg side to us. We're not all that pretty at the core. However, with God's help (and our culture and legal system), we can reign that nasty side in. The liberals might be wrong in that there's some things worth fighting for, but they are wrong in that we aren't perfectible and that our nasty side is due to free will and not from evolution. We're more than naked apes, but we're no angels.

An Urge to Merge-Josh Sargent passes on this ABC pieceon an effort to try and have an American pan-Christian organization.
Church leaders from 30 denominations agreed Wednesday on a proposal to create the broadest alliance of Christians ever formed in the United States. The steering committee of the budding effort, tentatively called Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., will invite a wide range of national church bodies and agencies over the next several weeks to join them. The loosely knit alliance would represent five segments of U.S. Christianity, listed in the plan as "Evangelical/Pentecostal, Historic Protestant, Orthodox, Racial/Ethnic and Roman Catholic." The Catholic church and most evangelicals and Pentecostals do not belong to the National Council of Churches, which is currently the nation's largest ecumenical group. If the new alliance does emerge, it could supplant the National Council or radically alter its role in American Christianity.
Don't hold your breath. Trying to merge the left-leaning NCC churches with Catholic and evangelical churches seems to be a fool’s errand, however. The three blocs don’t agree on to much, so I’m not sure what the use of such a broad-based organization would be. They don’t agree on most moral issues, they don’t agree on most theological issues and they definitely don’t agree on political issues. Currently, you can tell a lot about a denomination’s theology by whether they belong to the NCC. If they are an NCC member, their theology would tend to be in the left half of the spectrum. Individual churches within the denominations may be more conservative, but there are few if any theologically conservative churches within the NCC. The Catholics might agree with a lot of the NCC’s politics but not their theology or their stance on sexual issues. The evangelicals and mainline Protestants don’t agree on much of anything. I don’t think this circle can be easily squared.

Bogus Reasons to Invade Iraq-I was able to take my laptop to class tonight, and felt like debunking three of the main fallacies while proctoring my MIS final. (1) The al Qaeda connection-from what we’ve seen so far, there isn’t much of a connection. There might be more than what we’ve seen so far, but at this point, you can’t add that to the mix. People will then make the case that if our primary job is getting al Qaeda and Iraq is tangentially tied to them at best, we should then be focusing our efforts elsewhere. However, the lack of ties to al Qaeda doesn’t make the invasion invalid or detract us from tracking down Osama's boys. The ongoing move to flush our al Qaeda isn’t a job for the conventional forces that will be used in Iraq; the Special Forces and CIA types that will be tracking down the remnants of al Qaeda can still do their work and leave more than enough firepower to do the job in Iraq. (2) Oil- In the short term, a tough OPEC is good for the US oil industry, since it makes their wells more valuable. The US is pledging to run the Iraqi oil fields for the Iraqi people; going back on that would be lousy PR. US firms might benefit by getting oil business contracts with the new regime, but you’d have to think Dubya has all the morals of J.R. Ewing to kill thousands of people just to get Halliburton an extra pipeline contract. (3) “My name is Inigo Dubya. You shamed my father. Prepare to die.” Would the President go to war just to finish the job his dad failed to do? Not for that reason alone, but it might be a small tangential factor. The main reason for going in is to take out a regime that has used WMDs in the past, is actively procuring more and shows no track record of restrain in using what it has in its arsenal. A secondary, but potent, reason is to free the Iraqi people from the Baathist regime. Those two reasons are driving this administration. Embarrassment over his dad's lack of foresight and helping out his oil buddies might be tertiary reasons, but are trumped by the first two.

Evening Musings-The cause of the light posting:a morning at the dentist and and afternoon in class and in meetings. A night class will start at 6PM, so I'll be off until tomorrow. I'm sure Mr. Mandela will be throughly fisked for this steaming pile. It's so much of a regurgitation of standard hard-left tripe that it verges on an Onion piece. However, it might be like the LeCarre piece of a while back that was so devoid of redeeming value that it would be unsporting to fisk it. [Update 11PM-Too easy a target-Right Wing News eviscarates the Nobel lauriet from toe to toncil and plays with the entrails] After reading the Mandela piece, you're going to need a chaser to get the taste out of your mouth. You've probably seen it, but this open letter from eight European leaders supporting the US will wash it down nicely.

Morning Musings-Yesterday was Eileen's 30th birthday; I took her our for a nice dinner out before heading off to church last night. I got her a nice pair of earrings (well received) and a replacement lunch bag. However, I couldn't bring myself to get her a card, for nothing even came close to expressing what she means to me. We got a cute message on the answering machine when we got back; my clan (Mom, Dad, sister Kathy and niece Jessica) did a good harmonization of Happy Birthday over the phone. We're in the middle of missions week, and we had two missionaries speak last night. The main speaker was talking about his work in Ethiopia, but the previous speaker was even more interesting; he's a AoG pastor in Jacksonville with a ministry to Muslims in the area. As a Palestinian-American, he's a natural for the job; his dad's a Orthodox priest back in the West Bank. After getting up a bit of bile towards the Islamic world after hearing Wally Magdangal's testimony Sunday of torture at the hands of the Saudi entity, a reminder that Muslims are people who need the Lord as well was a good reality check. This post's travelling over Time-Warner wires, but I can't help but have a world-class bout of schadenfreude over this one
NEW YORK — AOL Time Warner Inc. (AOL), the world's largest media company, posted a loss for all of 2002 of nearly $100 billion, the largest annual loss in U.S. history, after taking a $45.5 billion charge in the fourth quarter. In a sign of further turmoil, Ted Turner said he would step down as vice chairman. The company, which in the first quarter had reported a net loss of $54 billion after writing down the value of assets, posted a full-year 2002 net loss of $98.7 billion. The full-year loss exceeded the gross domestic product of Egypt in 2001.
That sound you here is the smallest violin in existence playing My Heart Cries for You [rub thumb lightly against index finger for proper visuals]. People talk about "another Vietnam." It looks like the French (who, lest we forget, handed us the Southeast Asia mess in the 50s) is getting shown the door in the Ivory Coast. What seems to be getting the French in trouble is appeasement of the Muslim north of the country, with the southern leaders rejecting such appeasement. Could we wind up seeing this as one of the first flashpoints of Cold War II. Susanna has the pro-US demonstration pictures.

Edifier du Jour-Revelation 3:10-12(NASB)
10 'Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 'I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 'He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.
I had an old Twila Paris lyric "let no man take your crown," going through my head this week, since I'm getting a crown on one of my teeth later this morning. Blogospherians don't have a lot of persecution in their lives; becoming a believer doesn't make you persona non grata with your family or put you under a death sentence. However, we do face a low level of ridicule from a secular world that doesn't understand the upside of a life guided by God. We are joint heirs with Christ; the Saudis don't have anything on the size of God's royal family. The world doesn't understand God and wants to make you a commoner. The royals have eternal life, while they bury commoners. You might be called closed-minded or old-fashioned or judgmental or all the other pejoratives that the secular world brings to the party; you are also called His child, adopted into God's family.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Afternoon Musings- Interesting but flawed thought from Josh Marshall on the SOTU
The failure to disarm is probably a casus belli. But what we're looking for isn't a pretext for war, but a rationale for going to war now. On that count I don't think things look much different than they did few hours ago.
Only to the cognoscenti, Josh. We weren’t the target audience; the swing voter who doesn’t follow geopolitics is. For them, what he shared was new; expect the polls to move Bush’s way. Canada’s about to put sexual orientation on its census forms. That will put the Kinsey 10% figure into the trash can, but might give the gay lobby a hard number to use in their cause. Likud was the big winner yesterday in the Israeli elections; the secular Shinui party running on an anti-Orthodox platform moved into third spot. Labor isn't interest in being a junior partner and Shinui won't work with the "ultra"-Orthodox parties, so we'll have a right-wing coalition of Likud and four of the religious parties that will last until one of the parties gets POed at something.

Walking Through The SOTU-The best part of the speech was the bill of particulars the president laid out against Saddam; he laid it on a bit too thick and with a bit too much melodrama, but it was better to err in those directions. The one key issues that keeps us from an 80% majority for an attack is convincing people of the idea that we're better off attacking now while his stockpile of WMDs are a lot lower. People, including Ted Kennedy, keep dwelling on the idea that we shouldn't attack until we're in imminent danger. If you got a friend or family member who falls into that camp, get them to dwell upon this passage from last night-
Before September 11, 2001, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents and lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons, and other plans — this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take just one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that day never comes. Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
Do they have a blogger on the White House payroll? That's pointed enough to be a bit of Rantburg yellow journalism. A few other good points from the speech, not necessarily in order of importance. (1) Project Bioshield-this will give a bigger bang for the buck than anything on the Homeland Security budget. Many of the bugs that will be targeted are naturally occurring and we might save lives from domestic non-terror causes as well. That $6B budget will need to be watched for pork or political favoritism, but the idea seems good. (2) Hydrogen Fuel Cell initiative-The dynamist in me is calling this unneeded industrial policy, but the clean air-lover and the Michigander in me both applaud the project. It does a number of things at once. It will make environmentalists happier. It will make Detroit happy, both the companies and the UAW. It strikes a blow for energy independence. But best of all, it's neat, both literally as it's waste product is water vapor and figuratively as something you'd expect for us to be doing in the 21st century. (3) Capping spending growth to GDP growth-I'd of liked it better if he linked it to inflation rather than paycheck growth, but it's a good start. (4) The tax cut.
Jobs are created when the economy grows; the economy grows when Americans have more money to spend and invest; and the best, fairest way to make sure Americans have that money is not to tax it away in the first place.
Preach it, brother! (5) The paeans of faith
Our fourth goal is to apply the compassion of America to the deepest problems of America. For so many in our country — the homeless, the fatherless, the addicted — the need is great. Yet there is power — wonder-working power — in the goodness, and idealism, and faith of the American people.
The reference to a old Baptist hymn was code that evangelicals got about Dubya's commitment to the moral high ground. Coming out against partial-birth abortions was also a crowd pleaser. There are some boondoggles here, like the mentoring programs and the AIDS project, but by and large, Bush was heading in the right direction.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 139:13-16(NASB)
13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
I was teaching my Investments class yesterday and turned a chapter on stock market terminology into an impromptu motovational speech. The topic at hand was short-selling, which allowed me to bring up the old phrase "don't sell yourself short." In finance, short-selling is borrowing a stock, then selling it with the intention of buying it back later at a lower price; you short a stock when you think the price is about to go in the toilet. If you sell yourself short, you're saying that you're value's about to go in the toilet. Not if God has anything to say about it. You're His creation, and He's not done with you yet. You were fearfully and wonderfully made and have a future to look forward to, in Heaven if not on this planet. God's bullish on his children 'cause He's got the inside information on each one of us.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Cognitive Dissonance?-Josh has this bit of polling fun. Let's pick each of the factoid pair apart one by one
Eight in ten Americans call themselves Christians, but only three in ten know why Easter is celebrated.
Roughly 80% of America is nominally Christian, but only about 30% of America knows much about their faith. The idea of Easter as celebrating Jesus resurrection isn't picked up via our culture. You get the baby in the manger as a supporting character at Christmas, but the empty tomb is a no-show at Easter.
Four in ten Americans say the Bible is the 'totally accurate' Word of God, but only three in ten say it is the ultimate authority in matters of truth.
That might not be as paradoxical as it seems. A Catholic, for instance, would believe that the Bible is accurate yet look to the Church as the authority of truth; correct me if I'm wrong, St. Blog's parishioners.
"Four in five Americans say 'there are clear guidelines about what's good and evil that apply to everyone regardless of the situation,' but more than three in five say 'there are few absolutes.'"
That means that two in five have some moral standards but not too many. You can make a case for only 10 absolutes, or 2 if you use the golden rule and loving God fully. The first pairing just shows how many nominal Christians we have. The last two can be explained without contradicting each other.

SOTU Quick Analysis-I just got done watching/listening to the State of the Union, part of it at our church Home Group and part on the way home. Some highlights (1) Saddam's a** is grass, and Dubya's the lawnmower. Colin Powell will pull an Adlai Stevenson next Wednesday, laying out the case before the UN. That gives the US a week to twist arms (2) Dubya was playing well with our evangelical crowd. A move to ban partial-birth abortion went over well, but the part that got the most hoots was in a plug for more faith-based spending was that there was "power, wonder-working power" in faith. That was a play to an old hymn "There is power, power, wonder-working power, in the blood of the Lamb." [Update 11:35-Suzanna caught the reference and got the lyrics] (3) John Kerry looked like a total dork. The NBC camera was on him during a good applause line on getting the boys and girls of Afghanistan to school, and he gave about the wimpyist clap possible. It would have been better for him not to clap at all, like a stone-faced John (Doctors in the Hands of an Angry Trial Lawyer) Edwards when malpractice insurance reforms were mentioned. There was plenty of pork there and a lot of financial data that will have to wait 'til morning to digest, but I'd give him a solid A- for the evening. [Update 11:40-Ruffini's got the play-by-play, including the 29,984 line; The only thing keeping me from ROFL on that one was the fact that I was driving.]

Mark Shea has an interesting dialog going on evangelical people asking Catholics “Are you a Christian?” as part of a Catholic-to-Baptist phrase book.
But the Evangelical does not mean that (usually) as a swipe against Catholics. Indeed, an Evangelical can and frequently does ask the same of any large "mainline" Church. He might even ask it of other Evangelicals. For he means (in translation) "Have you had a living encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you a disciple or just going through religious motions?" He means what a Catholic would mean by asking "Are you docile to the Holy Spirit? Are you serious about the teaching of Christ?" Heaven knows, readers on a blog like mine, who spend so much time discussing the difference between serious Catholic faith and AmChurch, know that one can be a Sim Christian. St. Ignatius of Loyola realized the same thing (about himself). So did Teresa of Avila. An Evangelical who asks "Are you a Christian?" is often as solicitous for your spiritual well-being as those great saints. But because the jargon is different, Catholics can take offense rather than hear the real question.
Most evangelicals can point to a point in their lives where they came to a saving faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savoir. In most evangelical churches, baptism and membership conditional upon such a faith in Jesus, while that level of belief isn’t stressed quite as strongly in non-evangelical churches, be they Catholic or mainliner Protestant. One bit of trouble dealing with certain evangelicals is pinning down a "born-again” experience. A common follow-up question to "Are you a Christian?" might be "How long have you been saved?" Not every believer, especially if you grow up in a baby-baptizing church, has a point where the can definitively say they came to know Jesus; many people (like Eileen) can't pinpoint a date, yet they do accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, having grown into a saving faith. If you sense a Baptist-type asking the question, a Catholic who's tight with the Lord and willing to be a bit cheeky might say "I'm Catholic. Before you try walking me through the Sinner's Prayer, I already accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior."

Alternatives to the Euroweenie- Having used the term "Euroweenie" in about 38 posts over the last year, along with about a dozen occurrences of "EUnuch", this Jesus Gil piece caught my attention.
You have to wonder - living outside of the States - if the usual culprits who bandy words around like "euro-weenie," do so, because their arguments lack any substance. Come to think of it, it's kind of like when my parents taught me that you shouldn't swear, because it showed that you had a lack of vocabulary, and could hurt your argument - just like the types that are so willing to call anybody who disagrees with them a Nazi.
I'd like to come up with a better phrase than Euroweenie to describe that class of European-style secular statist who has too much faith in diplomacy, but I've yet to come up with one. I've backed off of using EUnuch for the phrase might play to the idea of the geopolitical impotence of the European diplomat but the castration metaphor isn't edifying. Euroweenie has more of a party-pooping dweeb feel to it, even if it does have some unintended phallic undertones. Gil borrows an uncited quote from this Timothy Garton Ash piece on anti-European attitudes in the US, which is well worth reading; the undisputed king of the Eurowhackers, Jonah Goldberg, referenced it in The Corner. Jonah is cited by Ash as saying that he "was 'anti-European,' so long, he explained, as one means by 'European' a certain kind of know-it-all, bureaucratic, liberal internationalist in Paris or Brussels." That's about as good a definition of a Euroweenie I've seen in print. How then do we critique this mindset without going into ad hom mode? By bringing facts and logic to the party. I'd like to take a long look at this Gil paragraph
I also find it disturbing that people, who I consider quite bright, fall into traps to suggest that only US markets work; or who argue for "free markets," yet at the same time argue for protective tariffs; who so readily fall into a black-and-white dichotomy of the world, where you're either with us, or against us; where patriotism is questioned, if you question the status quo.
European markets work as well, but often not quite as well due to the higher taxes and bureaucracy of their governments; you trade off some growth and efficiency for the thicker safety net. I've been running a Cold War II series looking at the coming scuffle for geopolitical and economic dominance between the US and European style market socialism; the metaphor is a bit harsh and might leave some to think that any move to the left is a move towards the enemy. Like Euroweenie, Cold War II is a tad over the top, but possibly useful
Or maybe it's, as this above article suggests, a ploy at cheap, base, infantile humor; a kind of defensive posturing, that really has no logic, other than to debase the other party, and some how make yourself collectively feel better. Personally, I don't really go for European- or US-bashing, which for the most part is a not-too-disguised nationalism. Besides, these types of rants tend to lose any positive effect: even if the argument being posited is totally logical, the use of such terms weakens their thesis since the subsequent focus tends to lie mistakenly, squarely on the use of the questionable vocabulary.
I hope not to be nationalistic; the US is a good place (arguably the best place) to live, but I'm more attached to the ideas of morality and freedom and democracy than I am to a patch of terrain in North America. The US is more an idea than a place. A flawed idea, yes, but a promising one and one worth partially replicating elsewhere. I hope that the occasional trips into hyperbole don't get into the way of the message.

Chapter and Verse Against Saddam?-The WaPo had a piece yesterday on how evangelicals have been absent in the debate on war on Iraq, unlike their more politically liberal kin who have spoken out against the war. Jason Steffans beat me to the topic, having a nice piece in the wee hours of this morning. I'm not sure if it isn't because there isn't a clear biblical response to whether we should or shouldn't invade Iraq to get rid of a nasty ruler and get rid of his current and near-future WMD. You can trot out Just War doctrines from past thinkers, but the analysis still comes down to weighing the merits of attacking (and their costs in people and property) versus the merits of letting diplomacy have another shot, for you have to use unclear human judgement as to whether an attack is justified. So far, this has broken down on ideological lines, where the churches who have a pacifist streak have pleaded against the war. The evangelical's silence might be less telling than the liberal churches vocalness; they have pacifism (or at least a strong aversion to war) as part of their core values and aren't shy about talking about it. Conversely, the evangelical don't have militarism as one of their core values. They're not shy about being vocal when abortion or homosexuality or euthanasia show up on the political radar, but military geopolitics isn't a topic they deal with. The turn-the-other-cheek personal pacifism in the New Testament is offset by the multiple cans o' whuppin used on Israel's enemies in the Old Testament. Without a coherent message on war, the standard response from an evangelical pulpit will be praying that the leaders have wisdom. They're not going to come out for the war on a theological perspective, so they would be unwilling to preach for it. I think that the war is justified, as Steffans points out. However, my view is more intellectually based than theologically based. That's not to say I haven't prayed over the topic, but I can't say that my support for the war is from a divine word of knowledge. It sets some unsettling precedents for more-or-less striking first; critics of that view will point out that we're not attacking first since Saddam went first in '90 and we're simply ending a cease-fire. That would go against most ideas of a just war. However, if we are right in fearing a very deadly attack in a few years if the WMD programs are allowed to continue, then the advantage of attacking now outweighs the bad precedent of preemption. We're going on hunches and God will correct us in due time. I can support the president's decision to go in, but I don't quite want to be so bold as to say that God wants this war now.

Edifier du Jour-Galatians 6:9-10(NASB)
9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Atlas might be allowed to shrug, but the believer's supposed to hang in there and keep being salt and light to the world. As you can see from the lateness of today's entry, I'm in veg mode this morning (nothing on the docket before a dentist appointment at 10:30), having had a busy stretch at work and church since Thursday. However, I don't want fatigue to distract me from doing the things that I need to be doing. Sometimes, that fatigue can be due to frustration and cynicism that your work is in vain. We can sometimes think that we've gotten our Good Deed For the Day in and give ourselves permission to mail the rest of the day in. Not to ignore the need for R&R, but mentally applying some sort of goodness quota isn't a biblical concept. We're supposed to give God the best that we have; yes, I (and most of us) fall far short of capacity. Keep giving your best on and off the job, even if it isn't always fruitful.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Afternoon Musings-We've got some happy people down this way with the Bucs win yesterday. I'm not enough of a Central Florida person yet to take a lot of joy in the win, but I wasn't all that happy with the cockiness of some of the players. I was lecturing on shortages and surpluses in my Micro class this afternoon and used Bucs (shortage) and Eagles (surplus) T-shirts as my examples. I hope the one piece of Buc-related paraphanalia that isn't growing is Chucky window-stickies (what do you call those dolls that stick to a car window?); Eileen got grossed out by one yesterday afternoon on the way to Hollis Gardens. We had an hour to kill between lunch and the 4:00 service, so we strolled through the nice park overlooking a lake on the eastern edge of downtown. That is one of those parks that urban planners have erotic fantacies about. It looks like Powell might have some Iraq-al Qaeda dirt to show on Saturday after a Blair-Bush summit concludes. Tom Daschle might just have signed his retirement notice with this one; he wants the president to show "proof to the world" that Iraq had WMDs. When the president does just that, Daschle better start kissing up to the liberal think tanks and colleges, for he'll be needing a job at one of them in about 23 months.

Cold War II-Item 5-Counting Heads-Interesting fallout from the Iraq pregame show.
The European Union remained split into two camps, with Britain siding with Washington in advocating military action sooner rather than later. Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and the Netherlands largely agree. But France and Germany, joined by Austria, Belgium, Sweden and Luxembourg, insist that war can only come after a fresh UN. Security Council resolution.
With the exception of Austria, all the French allies are left-leaning. All of the British allies are right-of-center governments. The bloc leaders are a bit different, where Britian is lead by a nominally left-of-center government but with an activist foreign policy, while the French are lead by right-of-center but largely passive foreign policy. With a couple of explainable anomalies, Europe is breaking down along right-left lines. It will be interesting to see if the EU can survive the clashes that this will bring in the months and years to come.

Blix Fallout-Kofi Annan is got some Vince Gill on the boombox stereo-One More Last Chance. Annan knows that if the US attacks on their own, his career (and likely the UN as a going concern) is toast and he'll be stuck doing the Euroweenie rubber chicken circuit for the next 20 years.

Blix's Rorschach Test-Well, here's where we see what's in people's minds. Blix says that Iraq isn't complying with the UN demands. The US and its allies will say that this is a material breech and it's time to use force. The French and their allies will say that either the breech isn't material or isn't sufficient to warrant force. We might have seen the last days of the UN as a functioning unit; you could argue that it happened long ago, but it would be clear if the French try to block military action that you can arrange for the funeral.

The Anti-WASP Party-Josh Marshall has this thought on the Democrats
In the January 25th issue of The Economist, in article on Republican 'outreach' to minorities, the author notes that "the Democrats will fight like hell to hold on to minority voters, who are the only people saving the party from oblivion." ...Even if it's not meant this way, I think the obvious subtext is that the Democratic party can't come close to winning elections in the white electorate and has to make up the margin with minority votes. I don't want to press the point too far. But I can't help feeling like the idea here is that minority votes are in some sense, well, how else to put it?, second-class votes. It's as though a party's political viability and health are best judged by how it fares in the white electorate.
Yes, Josh, it is being judged that way, not necessarily that the Republicans are being racist but that the white, largely secular, liberals need to throw ethnic groups some political bones in order to patch together an anti-Anglospherian majority. For more than a century, the Democratic Party has been the party of the immigrant. A Republican rant of the 1880s labeled the opposition the party of "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion." It's not just a post-WWII thing, for there has been an undercurrent for at least 125 years of the GOP being the WASP party and the Democrats being the non-WASP party. However, the last 50 years have seen two things happen: Democrats have added blacks to their constituency (prior to WWII, blacks were largely Republicans due to Lincoln and to the Democrats being the party of Jim Crow) and the non-WASP party morphed into the anti-WASP party. The Democrats' policies of centralization, collectivization and secularization run counter to the individualism, respect for hard work and generic Biblical morality of the transplanted Northern European culture that is the core of American ethos. I keep coming back to that word "Anglospherian" which seems to encapsulate that ethic as a better word than WASP, for it isn't dependant on skin tone; Chinese and Korean immigrants seem to have a "Confucian work ethic" to match the native "Protestant work ethic." It isn't dependent on being a Christian, either The majority culture doesn't demand that they eat American food or go to their church, but does expect that they pick up English, work hard, respect the laws and basic Ten Commandment morality, which is not that far away from Muslim or Buddhist morality. As time goes by, the immigrants start to blend their culture with the general American culture and American culture will adopt a few good things from their culture; after two generations, they're more or less part of the broader culture. I got a chuckle when my Cameroonian friends commented on discovering their new favorite American food-spaghetti. It's hard to point out this culture clash without sounding demeaning to immigrants from other areas or to sound ethnocentric. However, the Democrats seem to want to move away from that Anglospherian paradigm. They don't value individual work as much as collective work. They don't value the basic Ten Commandment morality as much as the average citizen does. They seem to be less interested in assimilation. To this extent, the Democrats aren't representative of the larger culture and need to get ethnic minorities, special interests and dissidents from the cultural paradigm to patch together a majority.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 37:4-9(NASB)
4 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. 7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. 8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. 9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.
In a culture with such a short attention span, it's hard to sit still still and hear from God. Prayer is a two-way communication, and we tend to want to make it a monologue. Be patient. Spend a few minutes listening to what God might be saying. Don't expect Him to respond in a audible, basso profundo James Earl Jones voice, but through the Holy Spirit interacting with your spirit softly. As Ganns put it earlier today (the post will say 10:22 AM, but remember he's ~13 hours ahead of me) "Have y'all talked to God this morning? Great! Now, how about taking three minutes of your time to allow Him to talk back?" Also, God doesn't always work on your schedule. He doesn't always come when you want Him to, but He always comes on time. Just remember what they say in the music shop-"If you can't play the guitar, you shouldn't fret." Even if you can play the guitar, you can have stop worrying and have confidence that God will deliver you from the things that aren't in His plan in due time.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Interesting essay from Brian Micklethwait over at Samizada on NFL parity and comparing it to big-time soccer in England
Parity is achieved by such devices as imposing a "salary cap" on all the teams, so that they must basically all spend the same amount on player salaries, and by giving the worst teams last year the pick of the following year's best new players. I don't like this. As Hawley says, it drains the meaning out of things. Maybe Americans are religious. Maybe that's it. If God can't fix life, he can at least, in the person of the NFL, be made to fix American football to give everyone an equal chance. Maybe that's what going on.
It's strange that the least PC of the big American sports (you could make a case for hockey being even less PC) is also the most socialist, with most revinue being shared and the draft and salary cap allowing the weak teams to retool and have the money to do it. Compare that with big-time soccer
In English football ("soccer" – which, I learned the other day, is because our football is As-SOC-iation Football) the rule is: to them that have shall be given. If you get to be Manchester United, or Arsenal, or Liverpool, it's because you are based in a great and ancient city with a past glorious enough to have assembled a decent number of people to buy the season tickets and the shirts and the merchandise, and because with that foundation you also did everything else right as well. You built a good stadium. You bought good players and not just overpriced big names. You gelled your team of multi-national internationals into a team of team players, and when you got to the top you didn't get complacent but kept on improving. You have a good youth set-up. You find a really good manager, and you stick by him through bad patches.
Translate "Manchester United, or Arsenal, or Liverpool" to "Yankees, Braves and Dimondbacks", drop the "and ancient" and change "youth set-up" to "farm system" and you've got the current state of baseball pretty darn cold.

Tony's New Crony-Here's a cute food fight- two Americans telling the British what to do. Patrick Ruffini has this paean for Tony Blair
I like Iain Duncan Smith as much as the next guy. But by reaching an unpopular decision rooted in moral conviction and standing with the U.S. on Iraq, Tony Blair has attained the full measure of a statesman. This is why I think it's especially important that those of us on the right here in America refrain from supporting the Conservative opposition and tacitly support Blair's re-election in 2005 or 2006.
You might call off the dogs some, but you have to give the Tories some props, especially if Blair continues to mugwump on the Euro and greater EU intergration and the Tories run a solid pro-US Eurosceptic platform.
It's a tough call to make. When it comes to taking the war on terror to Iraq, the vast majority of Blair's Labour MPs aren't just unhelpful; they're proactively malignant. There's also a strong possibility that Blair will be replaced sometime after the next election with someone more eurocratic than he, Gordon Brown being the most obvious contender. If Blair is party leader at the next election, one fervently hopes that, armed with vindication in Iraq, he can use his centralized authority in the party to drum out the neo-Trotskyites and groom a pro-American successor. But even setting these hopes aside, it just seems right to me that the need to reward a good friend should overwhelm all else, even ideology.
The problem that could happen if Blair does run the neo-Trotskyites out is that they run to the Liberal Democrats, making them the party of the left and squeezing out NuLab. The trick will be for Blair to keep control of the party without POing the hard-left of the party. If Blair does lose control of the party to the leftists, the Tories will be their to win the next election. If Blair does keep control, we have a fight between two fairly pro-US candidates. However the Conservatives would be better partners in international affairs. As far as rewarding friends, you still run candidates against a honorable member of the other party. For instance, would the Georgia GOP have rolled over and played dead if Zell Miller had run for another term? Their heart might not have been in it, but they would have run a solid campaign and lost 60-40. No, you still back the Conservatives, but don't lose too much sleep if Labour wins. As I recall, Churchill was voted out of office in 1945 after the war was over. The campaign posters were, IIRC, "Thank you, Winston. Vote Labour." Time to reverse the field-"Thank you, Tony. Vote Tory."

Can't I Keep My Claudometer Working?-"N. Korea Economy Founders."

Evening Musings-Our church was having the kickoff of their missions conference today; we had Wally Magdangal, a Filipino-American minister who heads up an agency, Christians in Crisis, dedicated to interceding for the persecuted church oversees. Magdangal has about as direct experience as you can get and still be living; he was a successful underground pastor in the Saudi entity and converted a few too many Saudis. He was arrested and sentenced to death and was badly tortured before an international stink got him released hours before his scheduled execution. I haven't seen his site before until tonight, but this newsletter page seems to have some interesting updates on the highs and lows of mission activity. I missed the first 25 minutes of the Super Bowl; they moved the evening session of the meeting up to 4PM but it went long. It looks like the Bucs will be wearing the nice jewelry, being up 34-9 as the third quarter comes to a close. Of course, the Buc defense ran on back for a touchdown in the third quarter to put them up 34-3 and put the game out of reach. Congratulations to Ben for his wedding yesterday. He's likely off on his honeymoon. When Collin Powell turns hawkish, we've turned a corner. We're going in and soon. After listening to Pastor Wally, they should turn south once they clean up Iraq. This is doubly interesting news. Sen Lautenberg was hurt in a skiing accident? He's 79. So much for the dinosaur argument. Weird thought-the picture of Brazilian president Lula reminded me of Wolfman Jack. I report, you decide. Listen to this socialist howl, however
Lula's speech emphasized a common global agenda directed at achieving growth alongside better income distribution and social conditions. He called for developed countries to share scientific and technological advances with poorer nations and proposed the creation of a global anti-poverty fund.
Go talk to the EU, they might help you. The US isn't going to be much help.

Morning Musings-Someone seriously's thinking about Carol Mosely-Braun for VP? Of the Green Party, maybe. Speaking of the Green Weenies, could they be on the verge of making the US a 2.25 party system, holding the niche that the NDP holds in Canda. It's hard for a third party to get much traction in first-past-the-post system, but in hard-core liberal areas that the Republicans stand no chance in, the liberals won't be shooting themselves in the foot by having Green-Democratic races. Prediction-Tampa Bay 37-Oakand 34 in OT.

Edifier du Jour-1 Corintians 11:17-19(NASB)
17 But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
There is something to be said about divisions. If you insist on not dividing, you can't judge something on their merits. If you don't give grades, you can't acknowledge the good students. If you don't keep score, you can't easily tell who is and isn't doing well. For denominations who have very broad definitions of what it means to be a Christian, it becomes hard to determine what they stand for collectively other than a hesitancy to criticize. Sometimes having division is better than trying to paper over differences. A number of denominations that have employed a big-tent philosophy seem to be coming apart, for the liberals and conservatives in the church are chafing at one another. You might be better off with conservative and liberal Anglican blocs and moderate and liberal Presbyterian and Methodist blocks. A clearer definition of what a church stands for will help people's church selection. I know I'd be hesitant to consider a PC-USA or Methodist church due to the underlying liberal nature of the denominations. There are some good churches in those blocs, Ames Methodist in Saginaw comes to mind. Some division might help the church, with traditionalists getting what they want and liberals getting what they want rather than fight over things.

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