29 April 2006
28 April 2006
Here is an excerpt of what to expect:
The hottest sector of American religious life is the megachurch, where charismatic pastors preach to thousands of worshippers at once. Why are people flocking to these stadium-size houses of worship? And, who are they? The Week's editors tackle the question of why megachurches have been so successful and how they attract their throngs (a regular congregation of at least 2,000) through marketing a compelling product that includes a charismatic pastor, a top-notch sound system using video clips, live-music accompaniment, and event the occasional PowerPoint presentation.
The article also notes some of the criticisms leveled against the megachurch- specifically their tendency to emphasize God's acceptance as opposed to God's judgmentent in delivering the Gospel message.
Hat tip to Ann for passing along the link.
Teen plagiarist Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard University Sophomore, will have her novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life pulled from the shelves of the Nation's bookstores after admitting to lifting portions of her story from another author. The novelist reportedly had a six figure deal which included the release of other novels over time.
It's too bad the incident got as ugly as it did with Viswanathan reduced to tear filled apology after tear filled apology in effort to save her writing contract. But fair is fair and if she cheated by plagiarism to get the deal then having her book yanked is just.
The biggest lesson is the one left for publishers: stop printing junk. If the editors and publishers at Crown were on their toes, the book should never have been sent to press for its similarity in the first place.
If they were really on top of their game, they wouldn't publish such dreadful stories at all.
It could be that part of the solution is to mandate that oil companies invest portions of their earnings in new oil refining capacity. Shell announced plans for a massive new oil refinery which will be a nice foot forward in the year 2010.
It's easy to understand how a left leaning Press Gaggle would take issue with watching a more balanced news outlet, but it's amusing to see just how frustrated the credibility starved media got.
In the end, it was CNN who said it best,
It wasn't the price of gasoline, Darfur or the rebuilding effort in New Orleans that preoccupied the White House press corps Thursday aboard a flight on Air Force One. It was what channel they could watch on the White House televisions, Fox or CNN.
27 April 2006
Across the pond, UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has been under fire recently for a number of political misteps including the release of 1,023 foreign prisoners (Among which were murderers, rapists and sex offenders) by his Home Secretary Charles Clarke and cluminating in the scandal surrounding Blair's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott who confessed to having had an affair with his secretary.
Here's an excerpt featuring CA's very own, Barbara Boxer,
"Since George Bush and Dick Cheney took over as president and vice president, gas prices have doubled!" charged Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), standing at an Exxon station on Capitol Hill where regular unleaded hit $3.10. "They are too cozy with the oil industry."
She then hopped in a waiting Chrysler LHS (18 mpg) -- even though her Senate office was only a block away.
How lazy can she be? Even I can walk a block...
Just in case any of my loyal readers in the UK remain skeptical of the Iranian threat, perhaps this latest devlopment in the nuclear soap opera will assuage their critique? Perhaps that's wishful thinking?
At any rate, the AP is reporting that Iran received North Korean-made surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 1,550 miles and the capacity to carry nuclear warheads.
The Israelis have a ballistic missle defense system Arrow-2 which is capable of intercepting Iran's North Korean "gift."
But they have to be concerned that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is gearing up to make good on his promise to wipe Israel "off the map."
A meeting that took place five years ago!
Within a couple of years, of course, one Clinton was out of office and another was in — Hillary Rodham Clinton became one of Brownback’s Senate colleagues in 2001. She also started to attend the Tuesday-morning prayer group. Brownback figured that she would be there on the day he was supposed to speak, and indeed she was. He used the occasion to clear his mind. "I confessed it to the group,” says Brownback. “I apologized for my hate."
Today, Brownback is all about the love — not just for the Clintons, but for everyone. As he mulls a long-shot bid for the White House in 2008, he is trying to reinvent the politics of compassionate conservatism for the post-Bush era…
Given that Brownback asked forgiveness of Clinton back when she joined the Senate in 2001, Miller cannot objectively accuse Brownback of posturing to re-invent compassionate conservatism.
Perhaps what Miller meant is that it's rare to see a public figure act according to his faith in such a public way. It is difficult for people with large egos to seek forgiveness of anyone especially a political enemy. Consider also that the United States Senate contains some of the largest egos in Washington.
For a man like Brownback the move was far more humbling than it was politically beneficial.
Jackson inspired generations of sports broadcasters having done play by play for ABC Sports for over 40 years. He was always a stand up guy and much fairer to the OU Sooners than his successor Brent Musburger who incidentally has his own drinking game.
26 April 2006
I recall fondly my days as an undergraduate, reminiscing upon seeing Keggy at Hockey and Football games, watching as parents laughed and then attempted to shield their kids from his waving hand. Keggy was always, misunderstood.
It seems now that Keggy has entered the realm of college lore and like all celebrities he does have his enemies. The product of a rebellious student body and the essence of the college experience, when it comes down to it, who doesn't love Keggy's winning smile and penchant for good times?
According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research and the Church Report, the number of megachurches (congregations with a weekly attendance 2,000+) has doubled in the last five years. As of the date of this study, there were 1,210 megachurches in the country, drawing nearly 4.4 million people to church each week. Their average attendance each week is around 3,600 people.
It's a far cry from the rural country churches in OK, but it's encouraging to see new methods of worship attracting more people to the Son. Having visited a few of these congregations myself, the entire experience is unique. It's a bit much for some, but the numbers don't lie. These churches have clearly found a way to connect with younger generations of people, which is essential for the church and Christianity's future.
Accordingly, the Times took great pains to talk with random couples about who was the 'decider' in their relationship. As these conversations generally took place in lower Manhattan, the couples interviewed had some pretty amusing things to say. For instance, one couple said,
For us, marriage is more a finesse game than a power game. It requires 'the suggester' and 'the discusser' as much as it does 'the decider.'
And that they,
"Defer to each other's core competencies."
Besides the fact that,
"We agree on so many things."
Contrary the Times spin on the term, what makes the article amusing, at least to me, is the relationship dynamic the article attempts to create. In so many ways, it is completely devoid of reality.
I will grant that relationships are about compromise. But that still does not avoid the fact that on another level, people are people and sometimes there are disagreements on the best course. In those instances, someone has to be the decider in the relationship. A couple can choose to 'defer to each other's competencies' (sounds a little touchy-feely to me but whatever works) or maybe they even agree on most things but what happens when the hand is forced and someone has to makes he call?
In this instance, I believe the questions to ask are presumably the same questions one would explore from the outset of a relationship. What really matters most in life? What is the purpose of the relationship? How does the decision fit into the things that matter most to us as a couple? What are the rationales behind respective points of view? To what extent are you willing to sacrifice and support your potential mate? And is your significant other up for making the same commitment? Like I've written before, at the end of the day, I believe the answers to these questions for most men and women aren't too far off but in the end someone has to make the call. Both want someone to love them. Both want unconditional acceptance. Both want security, and most would like to share a set of common values. But none of these should come at the expense of being in a relationship where a couple passively refuses to make a decision and always defers to each other. This is as counter productive as both sides filibustering each other in their respective positions.
It may seem callous, but it's reality. Someone has to make a decision. It may be fun for the media to lampoon Bush, but he's right. The buck always stops somewhere and that person with whom it stops is the decider.
25 April 2006
Headline: Iran 'could share nuclear skills'
Imagine not only Iran and North Korea dominating American concerns, but dozens of tiny and not so tiny, rogue states across the world wielding nuclear capabilities.
Even if Iran was later determined to have no aspirations toward developing nuclear weapons (rest assured, I do not believe they will not be so vindicated), the same can not be said for their minions. As if to prove the point, Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir was even in town (Tehran) to praise Iran as a pillar of the Islamic world.
But for once, I have to take issue with Steyn's latest piece of punditry found above in this week's National Review. Steyn, following the popular thread of Bush and Republican bashing, wrote an article criticizing a paraphrase of Newt Gingrich's assessment of the Party's state of affairs which simply observed that Republicans were new to having a Congressional Majority.
Here's an excerpt:
That's it? The Iraqis are expected to pick up the ins and outs of this governing business instantly, but the Republican party can't get the hang of it after eleven years? Don't worry, I'm not predicting electoral disaster this November. It would be nice to think that the GOP might get to enjoy a Geena Davis-style "hiatus" while they "retune" their winning formula. But I doubt it will happen: Even losers need someone to lose to, and the Democrats have failed to fulfill even that minimal requirement for the last decade....But what happened to the other guys? "The Republican party," says Arlen Specter, "is now principally moderate, if not liberal" Ã— and he means it as a compliment. "I'll just say this about the so-called porkbusters," chips in Trent Lott. "I'm getting damn tired of hearing from them. They have been nothing but trouble since Katrina." Well, to be honest, I'm a good half-decade past getting damn tired of hearing from Trent Lott. But the difference is that, as a member of the pork-funding sector of the economy, I pay for him; he doesn't pay for me. . . .
Aside from being short on substance and long on wind (Steyn was clearly writing to make a deadline), his article is hardly more profound than Gingrich's observation. One would think, for a world renown columnist, featured in British, Canadian and American publications in cities across the globe, that Mr. Steyn could offer some unique insight into the problems facing a party he presumably supports.
I had a football coach, years ago, who said "you're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem" and although Mark Steyn seems particularly loquacious in dropping loose "damns" and advocating a GOP "hiatus" he fails miserably at describing his view of the problem- much less in providing any cogent solution or alternative.
Steyn is quick to condemn Trent Lott, Arlen Specter and Newt Gingrich who arguably represent very different factions within the GOP. Given that Steyn has effectively alienated every major group within the Republican Party, who would he support in their stead assuming Steyn would not choose to defect and turn liberal?
While Steyn's article might strike a popular chord with the politically opportunistict, Steyn does little to meaningfully advance a solution. This seems very uncharacteristic for a normally insightful writer.
I'm going to hope that Steyn's aberration is due to tight deadline and one too many glasses of scotch at the Dartmouth Review Gala.
This bulldog named Hannah, captured top honors at the Drake Most Beautiful Bulldog competition in Des Moines, IA.
Hannah will claim the title over the coming year.
I have to get a bulldog. I must.
24 April 2006
An Administrative Law Judge in NYC ruled today that surfing the net while at work, does not constitute grounds for employee dismissal. The case was filed when one man, working in the NY's Department of Education, was reportedly fired after his supervisor warned him repeatedly against surfing the net while on the job.
The Judge said that browsing the internet is the equivalent to reading a paper or talking on the phone, both of which were allowed by state and local government. No mention was made by the judge of whether or not blogging from work was also permitted.
Now get back to work!
There were five key areas of interest from my perusal of the information:
On the prospect of Iran being sanctioned by the UN, Ahmadinejad spoke out in force, dismissing the will of Western Nations seeking to impose sanctions on the outlaw regime. He said, "Those who speak about sanctions would be damaged more. But no particular event will happen, don't worry." Perhaps, Ahmadinejad has forgotten his recent history; say, perhaps, in a neighboring country; around, I don't know March 19, 2003? I recognize that Iran is a different case, but the defiance and the threat posed by Iran certainly doesn't bode well if history is any indication at all. Given this history, the willingness of Ahmadinejad to increase the rhetoric only makes his insanity all that more apparent.
Regarding Israel, Ahmadinejad once again denounced its existence saying, "We say that this fake regime (Israel) cannot not logically continue to live...Some 60 years has passed since the end of World War II, why should the people of Germany and Palestine pay now for a war in which the current generation was not involved."
We'll give Ahmadinejad style points for this one. In his last speech, he refused to acknowledge that WWII even took place so I'll chalk this one up to progress. But it seems that Ahmadinejad would be wise to consider what happened to the last nuclear threat to Israel. When Iraq attempted to build a nuclear reactor in June of 1981, Israel launched Operation Opera, leveling the facility.
Ahmadinejad also had strong opinions regarding Iran's participation in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran's President said, "Working in the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the agency is our concrete policy. (But) if we see that they are violating our rights, or they don't want to accept (our rights), well, we will reconsider." It is, perhaps, this threat which will send the most shockwaves throughout circles of international diplomacy.
If Iran publicly reneges on its commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, effectively this will be no different than what they are tacitly doing this already. Public announcement of the fact would have the unfortunate consequence of escalating the conflict significantly, perhaps making war an inevitability.
The message of Ahmadinejad on Iraq was a bit mixed, though the Iranian President did get in a dig at the US. He said, "Many times they (Americans) sent messages asking for help on security in Iraq. Iraqi leaders also asked the same. Unfortunately, they did not have a good attitude in this regard. We believe that with the formation of new government, there is no need." Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but it seems that Ahmadinejad's additional beef is that, in the words of Rodney Dangerfield, they "get no respect."
Not only was it insufficient that America sought their counsel, we refused to ask for help in the proper manner.
War With America
This was a late addendum to the listing above but it demonstrates once again that Iran's defiance is pushing the situation closer and closer toward war. Iran's Defense Minister added to the chorus of fools that should the US attack, it would be "humiliated."
Perhaps Iran's greatest miscalculation is that it would be the US alone to attack. Germany, France, Great Britain and several other Nations, besides Israel are already much more cooperative on Iran than they were on Iraq. If I may be snide, this is primarily because they are all within Iran's striking distance.
Time will tell what actually happens but Iran would be foolish to underestimate a very powerful group of foes.
21 April 2006
The visit of the Chinese President and Communist Party Chairman brought little in the way of shock waves to Washington. The two pledged to work together on Iran, North Korea and trade but the talks did not yield any specifics by way of concrete actions to take on these points. Hopefully the meeting is a good first step toward a resolution on these matters.
But aside from a random protester screaming unintelligibly in Chinese, many were left wondering who had even come to meet with the President (sorry, there I go again).
South Carolina's State Senate recently passed a measure permitting the execution of repeat rapists who rape children within the state. Adding to the discussion is the case of a LA man who is currently on death row for the rape of an eight year-old girl.
I need more info before I weigh in with an opinion but the article will no doubt add to a national discussion about the limits and appropriate use of the death penalty within the American legal system.
20 April 2006
Analysis by Derek Mitchell of the Center for Strategic and International Studies added a flash of excitement to the incident saying:
"It's hugely embarrassing," said Derek Mitchell, a former Asia adviser at the Pentagon and now an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
China "must know that this Bush administration is good at controlling crowds for themselves, and the fact that they couldn't control this is going to play to their worst fears and suspicions about the United States, into mistrust about American intentions toward China."
Gee, you would almost think the AP wanted to provoke some conspiracy theories among the Chinese. It was only earlier this month that President Bush had a heckler of his own to handle...
The article asserts that a growing number of students both at Dartmouth, the University of Maryland and elsewhere are advocating the decriminalization of marijuana. While this in itself is nothing new, the student organization known as "SAFER" (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation) does assert a new argument- that pot is less harmful -- both to the user and society -- than alcohol and users should accordingly incur less penalty for indulging than users of alcohol.
As an alum, it's fun that I can muse pejoratively how the foolishness of some students never ceases to amaze me (alas, I can already forecast the hate mail I'll receive in my in-box). But here's why- for starters, even supporters of recreational marijuana use are quick to note the caveats of habitual use. The effects of pot over a sustained period of time, even when taken in moderation, are far worse than the effects of alcohol consumed in a similar manner.
Second, while I tend to agree that penalty should fit the crime, I disagree with the students premise of comparing pot to alcohol. The comparison is made both implicitly in the name of the organization (viz. SAFER...than what?) and in the article. I would argue that using pot is better compared to asbestos, or working in a coal mine- though I can not state this with any certainty having done none of the above.
The comparison, however, is that after one day in the coal mine or one day of working with asbestos sans protection, the effects while felt will not kill a worker or generate an immediate physical defect or life threatening malady. But over time, continued work in a mine or with asbestos, like continued use of pot, will evince irreparable damage to the delicate processes of the human body.
Third, while I recognize that alcohol abuse both in drunk driving and in alcoholism kills thousands every year, the comparison between pot and alcohol though intuitive is also disingenuous. The real danger of marijuana isn't from over indulgence as is the case with alcohol. The danger is in prolonged use of marijuana even in moderation which stands in contrast to prolonged yet moderate consumption of alcohol. Moreover, the student organization advocates for more lenient penalties for marijuana users, but the actual point they are making is that marijuana like alcohol should be made legal. True, it's an interesting way of packaging the same message but don't look for it to fool anyone.
Though, perhaps it might fool a group of hippies gathered round a drum circle, in between off-key melodies on the guitar.
Experts widely view the impasse as a major reason why the insurgency in Iraq has continued. The formation of the new government will mark a major milestone in restoring basic government services and power to a Democratically elected body.
I think Jaafari's willingness to finally give some ground on his claim to power is a good step in the right direction. Americans are still learning similar lessons supposedly understood when we fought our War of Independence. Namely, that it is imperative for those who would lead to place the good of the people, state, and Nation ahead of any personal will to power.
Jaafari has been stubborn all along, but maybe now he realizes the office is neither worth thwarting his people's desire for government nor the blood shed by his countrymen each day the government is delayed from forming.
The speech will be delivered to the class of 2006 at OSU's Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday, May 6.
President Bush will be the first President to deliver a commencement address in the State of Oklahoma since 1990.
19 April 2006
At a Christian Science Monitor Breakfast, Dean remarked, "The religious community has to decide whether they want to be tax exempt or involved in politics."
Stunned? I was too until laughter overcame my shock.
Yes, friends this is the new, improved Democratic Party! You know, the one reaching out to people of faith?
*Photo courtesy of http://jerz.setonhill.edu/images/dean.jpg
And of course, the press was quick to round up the usual suspects of token Democrats for comment on the matter, quoting NY's Sen. Chuck Schumer who decried the Administration's inability to separate "politics from policy." Chuck said, "That's been one of the reasons for its undoing. Late is better than never but the key for the White House will be getting a new person in charge of policy independent from Karl Rove who understands that policy is not simply politics."
A few thoughts come to mind. Aside from the fact that all the major news outlets were absolutely giddy at the prospect of spinning yarns about Rove's 'censure' by the President and telling stories about the power Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has taken from "Rove's Empire," as Howard Fineman put it, liberals have to wonder whether or not this will ultimately bode well for the Democrats in the midterm elections and beyond.
Consider that it was Karl Rove who orchestrated the President's victory in 2000.
And in 2004.
And in Congressional victories during the 2002 mid-term elections.
All of which were re-solidified in 2004.
Rove wasn't given the nickname "The Architect" without reason. By freeing up Rove from his policy duties and allowing him to work full-time on political strategy, Bolten is doing what every good manager should do- maximizing his talent.
Rove was a master of political planning and campaign orchestration. The Bush Election shop in 2004 took political campaign execution to a new level. And accordingly, Karl Rove was given a new role as Deputy Chief of Staff in reward for excellent performance (a position he still retains). The same role, with different duties tailored to his strengths can only increase Rove's productivity at a time when such expertise is sorely needed by Republicans. Put differently, in an orchestra, you don't make the lead violinist play the timpani. You allow the violinist to do what he's good at and play the violin while you find a percussion expert to play the timpani.
In sum, you can't help but feel sorry for the Democrats. In 2006, the Dems will have to worry whether having Rove behind the curtain once more will leave them scratching their heads- watching Democratic candidates lose across the country. Perhaps it's best they laugh now, since they'll be crying on election day?
The move, according to the Church Report, is not that the resignation was suggested or even sought by Bush, though it was certainly premeditated. Towey will leave the Administration to assume the Presidency of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.
Portman graduated from Dartmouth in 1978 with an A.B. in Anthropology.
Sudan has long been a concern of American Evangelicals and human rights activists as militant Muslims continue to pursue an agenda of persecution against ethnic Christians in the region.
Unsurprisingly, China's lap dog Russia has joined the chorus opposing sanctions, while the U.S. and Western Europe are more apt to call a spade a spade.
Which brings me to an obvious but no less compelling point- when are we going to wake up? China is clearly posturing itself as a rival to U.S. hegemony in the region and in the world. I don't say this without evidence. The Chinese have thwarted America's stated policy of democratization on every major level- from Iraq, to Iran and now in Sudan; all this to say nothing of the egregious currency and trade imbalance which has existed for at least the past five years.
If China is, indeed, a friend, then clear strides need to be made toward strengthening and demonstrating this friendship. A trip by the Chinese President is an insufficient solution to China's cold pragmatism.
17 April 2006
Noting the passe method of burying deceased people below ground (i.e...the regular way), some of these death "pioneers" are opting instead to set trends in the afterlife through the construction of extravagant mausoleums above ground- replete with garden, sitting rooms and monuments, set amid some of the most beautiful real estate in the country.
According to the NYT the cemetery monuments range in cost from anywhere between $250,000 to "well into the millions."
What can I say? Should I really have expected something less from America's rich? I guess when you have that much money, you can't help but look for ridiculous ways to spend it. I mean, if you really want to erect a monument to your own life, then by all means go for it.
But it occurs to me that the entire point of having your life memorialized is for others to commemorate the life of an individual. Going out on a limb here, but if a person has to shell out the bucks for their own monument, then perhaps their social and monetary significance isn't all that much to begin with?
Put it this way- George Washington has a heck of a monument and he didn't pay for it.
In one of the Britain's leading private institutions, happiness lessons will soon be offered in order to combat the malaise in society caused by materialism and celebrity obsession.
See, the problem in the UK is that people have been miserable for so long now that they needed lessons because people forgot how to be happy.
For Americans, we can enjoy the fact that although government may be growing, it has not reached the point of teaching (viz. indoctrinating) citizens how to be happy.
It appears that Senator Frist has gotten a leg up on the competition for the 2008 GOP Presidential nomination by becoming the latest major politician to utilize the internet as a means of connecting with voters.
What makes Frist's approach novel is that he has
not only begun on-line fundraising but integrates his fundraising apparatus with a podcast (linked to above) in order to speak directly to supporters on the issues.
Although the podcast needs to be up dated with greater frequency, the Senator does speak on the issues of the day with as much candor as one can while in the stages of burgeoning Presidential bid.
Check out the podcast by subscribing with iTunes or by downloading the individual mp3s here.
The White House and Pentagon have gone on the offensive to start the week, releasing a fact sheet outlining the lengths to which Secretary Rumsfeld has gone to gather disparate perspectives on operations in Iraq.
The memo notes the fact that Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff 139 times and with commanders on the ground 208 times since 2005 alone.
The headlines, the allegations and all the brouhaha over this defy logic. It is ludicrous to think that any single person could execute an entire campaign of war without the perspective of military commanders on the ground as some have alleged. Which only proves this point made by the Washington Post quite well: in the end, the Rumsfeld debacle isn't over the fact that he's an autocrat bent on making uninformed decisions like the retired generals have alleged (several of whom did not even serve under this President).
The Rumsfeld debacle is over the fact that the left is angry and that their anger is beyond reason.
Apparently, some Americans were reflecting upon taxes this year.
A recent poll found:
"People think the middle class, the self-employed and small businesses pay too much in taxes, the poll found. And they think those with high incomes and big businesses don't pay enough. The survey was conducted in the days before the mid-April deadline for filing income tax returns."
Regarding the findings, I can't say I disagree completely. It almost seems intuitive to me, growing up in OK, that the greatest burden in terms of tax payment v. income falls disproportionately on the middle class.
I guess what I don't understand is why a poll like this is even news. It seems a lot less like news and a lot more like common sense.
15 April 2006
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the Man upon a cross
My guilt upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powr's, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
Words and Music by Stuart Townend
14 April 2006
It's interesting that with the fall of communism & the USSR in the 1980s, there was a time in which the nascent evangelical movement viewed the new, single greatest threat to Christianity as being an increasingly secular culture. Pastors and lay leaders across the Nation were quick to denounce a cultural slide from Christian belief. Quite the opposite no more than twenty years later, it seems that if there were a threat to the Christian faith (and Jewish faith for that matter)it would not be the armies of secularism but the rise of fundamentalist Islam and not an American public which views faith as obsolete.
But for the scores of people who were released from work early today to the many others who will have Monday off, I wonder what meaning the holiday weekend has. There is a passage from the Brothers Karamazov, my latest reading project, which says, Why is it all over with me? Hmm...The fact of it is...if you take it as a whole, I am sorry to lose God- that's why it is...a new man's arising- that I understand...and yet I am sorry to lose God!
I think the words are an interesting summation of American culture at this current point in time. It's true Dostoevsky was prescient in many regards, but this point is especially crucial for understanding our current social context and what I will ultimately add about Good Friday. In a post-9/11 United States, people are far more concerned about the practical reality of their own mortality than ever before. This is due to several factors, most of which have primarily developed in what has been called the age of information. Faced with an on going military conflict and the specter of nuclear terrorism- all this as the back drop of a 24 hour news cycle, not to mention the internet- Americans have never been more acutely aware of their own mortality on a consistent basis.
From going to work on a clear autumn morning in NYC, to riding the London subway, to hoping the commuter rail in Madrid, the threat of terrorism repeatedly demonstrates that the fragile thread of life hangs precariously in a dangerous world. Like Mitya from the Brothers Karamazov, society yearns inwardly, if not outwardly, for a God with answers- whether one of their own device or God Almighty.
The article in The Daily Dartmouth, I have linked to above explores this notion of inner tension well. The author's basic question is what relevance Christianity has in a world of secular reality. She admits a life of sinful habits and confesses at the shallowness of her own attempt at apprehending the Divine. But what I find striking more than its irreverent tone is the truly satirical nature of her essay which makes neither apology nor platitude toward the value of faith. Instead, the author castigates any form of belief with the sharp knife of satire.
To say the least, it makes for an interesting social commentary that proves Dostoevsky's point well. The depth of the essay is the end paragraph. The author muses, My dive into the Christian side of Dartmouth culture was, when measured against the size of the sea, rendered shallow. The commonality between this girl's shallow dance with faith and the wisdom of Dostoevsky's lament for the loss of God is that both implicitly affirm the centrality of faith in the life of a secular world.
Mitya mourned, like many do, the loss of God as a paradigm for understanding the world around him. The case is not, as Nietzsche famously exclaimed, that God is dead. The fallout of secularization is that the rational mind has been taught to use the knife of satire to reject that which it can not apprehended in its entirety. The product of this incision is a society which is unable to deal inwardly with the problem of evil because no alternative explanation addresses the issue quite as well as the paradigm of faith.
Both the author of the essay and the character in Brothers Karamazov prove the relevance of the Gospel through a natural human inclination to question. As humans, we are a curious lot, which does not bode well for mere acceptance of life's tragedies apart from introspection. As such, the Gospel, Good Friday, and the Resurrection all find salience in today's world because humans need the message of a Redeeming God now more than ever.
Even though the message might be rejected by some, its centrality is re-affirmed through each rejection. If faith in Jesus were obsolete, it would no longer merit the consideration of a rational mind- much less the energy required in its out right rejection through satire.
13 April 2006
This time, however, I can not help but commend the liberal lion for seeking a bipartisan compromise on immigration, which his party leaders have outright rejected. According to the NYT Kennedy has long been a champion of bipartisan legislation on the issue of immigration and the debate in 2006 is no exception. Kennedy was among the gang of Senators who rallied behind the Martinez-Hegel compromise last week which would have initiated tougher enforcement of existing immigration laws and instituted a gradation for the President's suggested guest-worker program.
The post claims,
Mr. Kennedy's drive to strike a deal with Republicans is making some in his party nervous. They worry that the senator, in his desire to bring about changes in immigration law, will cede too much to Republicans and that the end product will fall short on the guest worker and citizenship provisions favored by most Democrats. They believe Mr. Kennedy made similar miscalculations when he cut initial deals with Republicans on Medicare drug coverage and education policy.
For once (certainly not the only time), Teddy K has the right idea of bipartisanship. In an age of such polar divide, its important for politicians to find common ground where such ground exists. To dismiss compromise on the basis of politics only is unconscionable when 2/3s of the Senate agree on the measure- as was the case with the failed immigration bill. That the Democrats are concerned about a member of their party seeking to work with Republicans on an issue only reinforces their public perception as the "Party of No."
Although their sources are two left leaning think tanks (ISIS led by former Clinton appointee David Albright; CSIS led by former Democrat Senator Sam Nunn of GA) the Times article raises some interesting points of order- primarily calling to question the time frame under which the international community is pressed in avoiding a nuclear Iran.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
It took Tehran 21 years of planning and 7 years of sporadic experiments, mostly in secret, to reach its current ability to link 164 spinning centrifuges in what nuclear experts call a cascade. Now, the analysts said, Tehran has to achieve not only consistent results around the clock for many months and years but even higher degrees of precision and mass production. It is as if Iran, having mastered a difficult musical instrument, now faces the challenge of making thousands of them and creating a very large orchestra that always plays in tune and in unison.
Although I am not inclined to dismiss the security threat entirely as these scholars seem to do, I do think this point explains part of the reason why the US has been inclined to let the Europeans take the lead on this issue and make strident overtures toward diplomacy. More simply put, there is no need for an immediate show of force if Iran can barely power a light-bulb with its enriched uranium.
The scary notion, however, remains in Iran's potential to develop nuclear weapons. As mentioned yesterday, no one quite knows what technology they acquired from the Chinese and Russians and the 21 years it took for Iran to reach this point are misleading at best given that the clandestine program only came into public knowledge in 2002.
But it does have a rather amusing picture of the UN IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei (seen on the right).
Apparently, Mr. ElBaradei is sporting a new look for a new crisis.
The contrasting photos beg the question put eloquently by "Eminem," will the real Mohamed ElBaradei please stand up, please stand up? And stand up to Iran too while you're at it.
12 April 2006
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on the UN Security Council to act quickly (at the July UN Security Council to use bureaucrat speak), saying "We can't let this continue."
For some, this seems like a bad case of deja vu. It's not difficult to see the parallels between this crisis and the on going battle for Iraq. Even a quick review of history shows that similar language is being used to describe the tactics of the Iranian and Iraqi regimes: Obstructionist, defiant, weapons of mass destruction, and failure to disarm.
What makes this different is that the language is being used not by the US and UK but by major world leaders from Nations throughout the region- basically, everyone within striking distance of a nuclear Iran- with the exception of China and Russia who helped their nuclear development in the first place. Of course, this is unsurprising to Pax Plena regulars as we discussed the issue back in January.
Unfortunately (as noted before), this time around there remain many logistical problems in a military strike against a defiant Iran. What makes the situation tenuous, however, is that it seems the world is finally building consensus that the benefits outweigh the costs.
The Governator did not call for a cap on emissions, but instead noted that the state should investigate more to see if an emissions limit should be imposed.
The move makes sense. California has the 5th largest economy on Earth and some 70% of its greenhouse gas emissions are the result of traffic. As a result, CA's emission levels are on par with entire countries such as Germany, Denmark, & the UK.
If ever the United States needed a state to take some initiative on the environment CA is that state. I'm sure some conservatives will be skeptical of the Governor's call for reform, but some change is necessary. Take a drive through downtown LA and you'll see why.
See this link for more info on CA Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
11 April 2006
I'm sure this is an important story, but didn't they say that last week? And the week before? Come to think of it, haven't they said this every week since Bush took office and especially after he was re-elected in 2004?
To their credit, the media has done a superb job of creating public discontent after their relentless negative reporting on Iraq and their covert suppression of any good news about the economy. But one has to wonder, how far can they ride the 'beat up Bush' train? How long will Bush's unpopularity be news?
Prediction: Sooner or later, the American people are going to regain their bearings and voice interest in the issues. Hopefully by then the President will have consolidated a message and made a big push to regain public confidence.
I would factor in the Democrats into this scheme but they never have ideas to offer anyway.
10 April 2006
Graduates are said to flock en masse to large cities after college graduation in hopes of enjoying a 'faster' pace of life among other young twenty-somethings while launching their careers in job rich urban areas.
Taking the example of Washington, DC, the article quotes one expert as saying, "D.C. is like a revolving door...these young people move in and then they move out when they want to have kids." True to form, the article also takes a ubiquitous quote from a small town girl living in the proverbial big city.
The AP writes, "But Wankel, the Tennessee native, said she has no plans to leave Washington. She said she would miss the restaurants, museums and convenient public transportation, what she calls "civilization." "I had always been a small town girl, and I didn't know if I could adjust to living in a big city," Wankel said. "Now, I don't want to go back to the suburbs."
Having grown up in rural America and finding myself now plunked down in the heart of an urban jungle, I think the AP has made an interesting observation. For many, a faster pace of life is exactly what the city provides. In any major city, there are a wide variety of bars, clubs, theaters, museums, live music venues and activities to keep the yuppies entertained. And life here certainly is a lot more intense than the Main Street of Walters shown above. The ways in which it is different are pronounced. Subways. Traffic. People. Did I mention people? Each morning is a gauntlet as I make my way down the busy street toward my office in the heart of Downtown Boston- amid thousands of people going about their daily routine, all doing the exact same thing.
Some mornings, I call my Grandfather back in Walters just as he is getting up to a quiet sunrise and enjoying a hot cup of coffee. Our conversations help me to stay grounded and connected to the world I miss, thousands of miles away in the Heartland of our Nation. The sheer contrast in noise and sounds between Walters and Boston remind me everyday how different life in a city is compared to the ponds and woods of my home back in Cotton County, Oklahoma.
For these reasons, I have to disagree with my peers. I believe there is something special about living in a small town. There is something to be said for enjoying a slower pace of life and appreciating neighbors, community, friends and loved ones who share similar values of faith, freedom and hard-work.
It is true that no small part of this view is informed by my Sooner roots and the community of my up-bringing, as well as the many kind and supportive friends I've made throughout Southwest Oklahoma. I've thought often in recent days, about returning to the Sooner State, someday, and seeking opportunities to give back and serve my State and her citizens.
Each day, as I walk down the street to my office in Boston and think of Walters, I am convinced there can be no higher honor.
The planet Saturn's moon Enceladus, is said to have a warm, molten core undergirding an ocean of water beneath the planet's surface of ice. The water above the magma builds pressure from the heat beneath it, sending huge streams of water vapor hundreds of miles into the planet's atmosphere. The planet has three necessary components for life: heat, water, basic organic compounds (carbon).
In all, it is a tiny candidate for life when compared to the other great planets, Jupiter and Saturn. Yet, if there is life on Encleadus, it makes sense that life would be found in so small a place.
It is often in the smallest of places and circumstance in which one finds all the wisdom of the ages.
09 April 2006
I bet after this week President Bush feels the same way.
After a horrendous week in the polls and press, the President has been hard pressed to find a friendly face in Washington for want to political opportunism.
The latest person to take aim at the President is Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter. Specter is putting pressure on the White House to explain "exactly what he did," regarding the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. This besides the fact that Special Counsel Pat Fitzgerald has not accused Bush or Cheney of doing anything illegal. Facts, it seems, are uninteresting when folks like Specter have truthiness.
Evaluating the situation from a purely political standpoint, I can say that I would expect this from liberals. I might even expect his from so-called 'moderate' Democrats. But coming from a Republican, who Bush worked hard to re-elect, I think it bespeaks an interesting lesson of politics and life in general: you never know for sure, who your friends are, and it's always easy to kick a man when he's down.
The individual of vision and integrity will stick to his guns, ride out the criticism and continue to seek results. I believe this is the course the President has opted to pursue. But even this latest immigration fallout has demonstrated that Republicans (& Democrats) in Congress are far more interested in laying blame than advancing a meaningful agenda for reform.
The lesson for Congressional Republicans is that they need to close ranks and stop the bickering if the party is to have any chance of a reconciliation before the 2006 elections.
At any rate, the article I have linked to above, talks about the decline of US admission rates into many of Nation's top colleges. Dear old Dartmouth was among the flock of colleges reporting a decline in their admission's rate amid a wave of applications this year. The College on the Hill reported that their admissions rating fell to only 15.4% of applicants as even lower tiered schools such as the
Both of these, when compared to my musings on Nantucket below provide an interesting nexus of exclusivity, the little guy, the rich, small business, big business, etc...Accordingly, here are a few additional thoughts on the subject.
Regarding exclusive colleges, on some level, there is a degree of class reinforcement reflected in the admissions ratings of top colleges and universities. For the most part, however, I believe the low ratings percentage demonstrate the work of a meritocratic process in the selection of
The point proven by Mark Steyn regarding personal punditry is related. Steyn demonstrates that success is not exclusive- with a little grit and hard work it is possible for individuals of all stripes to achieve the American dream. In the example of small media, now more than ever, bloggers are able to break news with more frankness and clarity than big media outlets can ever achieve in an age of political correctness. Similarly, anyone with an opinion can participate in the blogging world. You don't even have to be a very good writer as bloggers like Andrew Sullivan, Wonkette and yours truly demonstrate.
However, like success in punditry, success in life depends upon a commitment to the cause and a willingness to provide a service to others. This point is what makes the
Time has proven that the consequence of such a privilege is obligation. These students are now and will soon be obliged to 'make gentle the life of this world' as Robert Kennedy wrote years ago. Or as the scriptures more eloquently instruct ‘to whom much is given much is required’- a call which has resounded across the ages; which is bestowed upon all and exclusive to none.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Alas, such is the case for a popular tourist destination off of the Massachusetts coast. The island town of Nantucket, recently voted to ban all chain stores from the island in effort to preserve the town's "quaint...unique character."
In point of concession, this could well be the case. The picture at right indicates that by all accounts Nantucket is, indeed, a quaint New England town. The implicit point of this decision, however, is that the town prides itself for its reputation of wealthy exclusivity. Consider that Nantucket is routinely among the most expensive tourist locations in the United States. With real estate prices soaring to an average of $1.9 million dollars for a vacant lot, wealth is certainly no stranger to the community's residents. Imagine, all this cash for an empty lot. Not a house. Not an apartment. Not a store or any otherwise inhabitable domicile. An empty lot.
For the record, I'm not against expensive vacations. I'm not opposed to saving some cash and spending it on a nice, beach front house for a week. I'm not even against over priced boutiques which pervade such places- we certainly have plenty of these in Boston. But the sad commentary of this decision is that it institutionalizes a silent system of class. The implicit point of banning chain stores veiled in the language of "preserving New England charm" is to reinforce the exclusivity of Nantucket businesses and the prices they charge. Chain stores drive the prices of local goods down. After all, chains are, presumably, larger businesses which are able to offer goods at a cheaper price- though not always. Cheaper prices invariably mean that more people across a spectrum of economic class can come and enjoy the island's scenic and history beauty.
In crass terms, this boils down to a trade off: sheer numbers of people for fewer people with more money. Rich people. "Quantity for quality" as one friend put it. This, however, represents the antithesis of everything that America stands for and is. A part of the beauty of our Nation is that all citizens can travel and enjoy any portion of the country regardless of economic background. For a community built on the hard work of New England fishermen and whalers in a state mandating universal healthcare, the hypocrisy is profound.
07 April 2006
Reid, Nevada's Senior Senator, has routinely allocated money towards the project- estimated to cost over $12 Billion dollars for the 269 mile stretch of track.
06 April 2006
Now, read about the newest addition to the liberal lexicon: "Ethical" wedding rings!
You know, if liberals would invest half the time they spend coming up with twists to vocabulary in creating new ideas and policy positions, they might actually win an election...
Dudas supports a House measure which would give third party companies increased ability to challenge an approved patent by enabling them to appear before government examiners to present existing technologies in argument against granting a pending patent. Dudas hailed the measure as being a "quicker, lower cost alternative to expensive litigation in reviewing patent validity questions."
I should say from the outset that my opinion certainly does not represent that of my firm. But it seems to me that increasing the ability to challenge patents does not really get at the existing problem. The big issue of the current patent system is that patent holders often claim broad rights to interpretation in patent validity litigation.
Take the Blackberry case for example. Blackberry was made by a company called Research in Motion (RIM) whose patent claims were challenged by another company called NTP. In the end, RIM paid NTP $612.5 when a federal judged (who had no background in intellectual property) ruled that RIM had, in fact, violated of NTP's patent rights.
However, when NTP's patent rights were re-examined by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office after/during the trial, the government rejected NTP's claims. This rejection occurred of course, after RIM had already settled with NTP for the obscene amount of money cited above.
From this case, the best route to patent reform lies in narrowing the ability of patent holders' to make broad claims. On an interpretation level, government patent examiners should be encouraged to narrowly evaluate each infringement claim made by patent holders so that frivolous challenges do not need to approach the level of litigation. I refer to narrow in the same sense that one can have a narrow interpretation of the constitution. Examiners should assume a patent to be a whole, cogent document as opposed to a hodgepodge of disparate protections which could be inferred from particular readings of the patent. On a related point, I actually agree with Dudas that empowering outside parties to offer technological 'evidence,' while the patent is pending is a good idea. This vetting process would aid in avoiding the granting of weak and fallacious patents. But rather than giving patent holders "patents on the back" (you knew the pun was coming!) government should err on the side caution and make patent holders defend their claims.
Suffice it to say, Bush will not be a Dartmouth English prof anytime soon.
All these critiques are justified on some level, but few would characterize the President for being disingenuous. In turn, realizing her eminent unelectability and absence of original ideas, team Hillary has resorted to a new low-- stealing her husband's catch phrases.
In a speech to NY Democrats, Sen. Clinton said, "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right about America." The phrase was only a veiled regurgitation of her husband's phrase, "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."
The key difference between Hillary's rendition of the phrase and her husband's is that people actually liked him. Oh, well.
So much for Hillary 'being her own woman.'
This total is the lowest number of unemployed workers in SIX years- an amazing low given major economic setbacks in 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina this fall.
Yep, all signs point toward a healthy jobs report tomorrow and the media would rather you not know about it. Coincidence? I think not. It smells a lot like an election year to me...
04 April 2006
I've posted my thoughts on this issue at length already, so I will not do so again. However, the article does do a good job of underscoring a point I didn't emphasize nearly so well. As both sides fire rhetoric at one another and lay out their talking points for the cameras, at the heart of the issue are families. Mothers. Fathers. Children. Real lives, all of which will be affected regardless of the decision made or the policy position taken. Therefore, it is imperative that we strike the right balance between compassion and security on this issue.
In sum, I don't think the article necessarily changes my view, but it does provide some food for thought- a task any good piece of journalism should accomplish.