Monday, February 28, 2005

All You Evil Right-Wing Pastors......

The Democratic National Committee has elected former Presidential candidate and former Governor of Vermont John Dean as its Chairman. Many political conservatives thought that his appointment would be self-destructive for the Democratic Party, feeling that Dean was too far "left" to be representative of the Democratic center. I appears that they were right.

Last Friday, on his first foray into Democratic fundraising and morale-building, Dean spoke to enthusiastic crowds in Lawrence, Kansas. Among his comments was this:
"The issue is not abortion," Dean told the closed-door fund-raiser. "The issue is whether women can make up their own mind instead of some right-wing pastor, some right-wing politician telling them what to do."
Huh? Dean is afraid that women will only do what right-wing pastors tell them to do? Does Dean feel that woman are so brain-dead that they will, like robots, allow themselves to be programmed by their pastors? What an insult to women...and to pastors, too. Has it crossed his mind that maybe there are millions of women who agree with what their pastors are saying? That they have the ability to read the Bible on their own and consider the value God has placed in human life, especially the weak and defenseless? Are "right-wing" pastors some sort of demons, like the boogie men that hide under children's beds? Who are these "right-wing" pastors, anyway? Pastors like me? Like Billy Graham? Like Pope John Paul II?

A bit later, Dean added this comment:

"Moderate Republicans can't stand these people (conservatives), because they're intolerant. They don't think tolerance is a virtue," Dean said, adding: "I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant."

Now that's a tolerant attitude! Sort of like, "I have the right to be tolerant and I will destroy anyone who disagrees with me!" Is this the level of rational discourse to be found at the highest levels of the Democratic Party today? Whatever happened to the eloquence of men like the much admired (by Republicans as well as Democrats) Adlai Stevenson? Or the intellectual idealism of a John F. Kennedy? Or the charismatic vision of a Bobby Kennedy? Or even the down-to-earth, folksiness of a Hubert Humphrey? Why has the party of the blue collar worker morphed into a parody of the worst stereotype of ivory-tower, intellectual elitists? Does Dean really believe that his unintelligible rants will win over a single "moderate Republican?"

At the end of a busy day in Lawrence, while speaking at private rally in a supporter's backyard, Dean added (according to the Lawrence Journal-World) this observation:
And concluding his backyard speech with a litany of Democratic values, he added: "This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."
Oh, oh. Republicans are now evil, to be listed in the same class as the tyannical Iranian Ayatollahs and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Everyone who voted for George W. Bush is now to be viewed by the Democratic party as "little Eichmanns," perhaps? Or Saddam Husseins? Or Osama bin Ladens? Has the word "evil" any objective meaning at all for John Dean? Or is it merely rhetoric without meaning at all? Simply mindless emotions expressed through meaningless words? It is as if Shakespeare anticipated John Dean and carefully described him when he wrote the famous soliloquy for Macbeth, which ends with these words:
"...a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more: it is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing."

Little glamour at the Oscars

I only caught the presentation of the first Academy Award before leaving for a church meeting this evening. I returned in time to see the presentation of the awards for Best Director and Best Movie.

Unfortunately I also saw Chris Rock trying to pretend that he belonged on stage as the evening's MC. He failed to convince many people. He was loud. He was abrasive and he wasn't funny. His repeated comments regarding Jude Law reminded me of David Letterman's disastrous attempts at trying to milk a laugh from "Uma & Oprah." When the cameras panned the audience they appeared to be smiling for the sake of decorum only. The only thing that could have possibly helped Mr. Rock tonight would have been a prompter holding up signs letting the audience know when to laugh. Maybe a laugh track might be considered in the future to at least give the illusion that something funny is taking place.

The glitz and glamour of Hollywood has always been a carefully-crafted yet fragile public relations illusion. Why the "Academy" would want to risk dismantling its aura of pseudo-intelligence, beauty and class is beyond me. Then again, perhaps Chris Rock IS what the Hollywood elite are all about these days.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sharon = Saddam??

This afternoon I attended an interfaith presentation sponsored by the Roman Catholic Chamanade University in Honolulu. The speaker was a Muslim man who I have spoken with and have had in a church adult class to represent the Muslim faith. He is gracious, intelligent, active in the small Muslim community in Hawaii, has a wonderful sense of humor and is in the process of becoming an American citizen. He is not a trained Islamic scholar and did not claim to possess any authority as a spokesman for his faith.

He spoke on "Islam and Peace." I know him to be a man who represents those who would like to see major reform in Islamic countries, including representative democracy. He was openly critical of Muslims to allow cultural values and traditions to supersede the imperatives clearly articulated in the Qur'an. All in all an honest presentation but not altogether convincing...far too much of Qur'an's approach to infidels and those who resist or threaten Islam was ignored, especially in the later revelations of the Prophet.

In the midst of affirming that all religious seek to raise human beings to their highest and best, he made a slip and, for a moment, stepped out of "religious" content and into the political.

In a short aside on good and bad people, his list of "bad" people included folks like Hitler. The final two names in his list were "Sharon" and "Saddam Hussein."

In the Q & A which followed the presentation, one woman, who identified herself as being Jewish, challenged the comment that appeared to equate Sharon and Saddam as equally evil.

The response revealed a way of looking at things that I found myself completely unable to understand (something that does not happen often). The speaker defended his comment and did not back away from it. There was clearly deep passion and emotion in his feelings about Sharon and he spoke far longer in response than he should have, given the nature of the gathering.

After he had spoken, the Moderator of the event (who is also a Muslim and the designated lay leader for the Honolulu mosque) added that the only difference between Sharon and Saddam was that Saddam murdered people in his own country whereas Sharon murdered people outside of his country.

I have spent much of the past three years trying to read and study Islam to the point where I can, in some small way, see the world through their eyes. The deeper I have gone, the more troubled I have become, even with this fine man today, who reflects personal support for a non-violent form of his faith.

In the Arab Muslim world, and by extension, the rest of the Muslim world as well, the existence of the state of Israel represents a deep and continuing affront, insult and injustice to the Palestinian people as well as to the Muslim faith.

Yes, we can all agree that Israel's current President, Ariel Sharon, has a more or less deserved reputation of having been a strong and sometimes unmerciful military commander whose role in what some call the massacre of Palestinian civilians is still hotly debated. His support of West Bank settlements and his brutal and often devastating response to the second intifada have, among most Muslims, raised him to the status of a war criminal and has become the personification of all that is hateful about Israel.

But, for Muslims, Saddam Hussein was their demon. He was their tyrant. He was a Muslim fighting and oppressing other Muslims. He was an embarrassment to some and a hero to others...because he was "strong" and stood up against America. I have experienced the same ambivalent hate/admiration dichotomy in the old Soviet Union regarding Josef Stalin. "He did some terrible things," Russians have told me. "But he was a strong leader and led us to victory against the Nazis in the Great War."

In a similar way, Saddam's perceived strengths more or less excused his excesses.

For Sharon, however, there are no redeeming virtues. He kills Palestinian women and children. He seizes and divides their land. He builds a wall to shut them both out and in. He is not to be trusted. He is evil.

There is a cold, hard logic here that I think I would need to be a Palestinian, an Arab or a Muslim to either understand or emotionally react to with the passion that I saw this afternoon.

Personally, I do not see the moral equivalent between Saddam Hussein and Ariel Sharon. The one was essentially a tyrant and an aggressor. The other is a freely elected representative of a more or less free people determined to, at all costs, preserve, protect and defend his people from those who desire to have them swept into the Mediterranean Sea.

The situation in Israel/Palestine has been disgustingly brutal during the past four years. I am not hopeful for any settlement that will ensure any lasting "peaceful coexistence" as part of a "two nation" agreement.

But I am hopeful the the level of violence can be reduced to pre-second inifada levels and that the terrorist wings of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah can be marginalized by a growing measure of political stabilization and rule of law in the West Bank and Gaza.

But, as I discovered this afternoon, the passion does run deep. One can only hope for the best and develop friendships that can somehow transcend our many and varied differences. As for me, I intend to continue my friendship with this and with any and all anti-terrorist Muslims. I will do so because I believe that friendship is always the first step towards peace. I will also do it because I believe it is what Christ Jesus would want me to do.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

A Truly Well-Placed Public Service Announcement

Fox News On-Line has posted a story today on the current status of Terri Schiavo (who now has until March 18 until the judge allows her to be killed).

In the middle of the story (literally and physically) the following public service ad appears:

The irony is chilling, don't you think?

You can click on the ad for better viewing
UPDATE: By the time I posted this the Fox News ad had changed into one for "Tsunami Aid." Perhaps the ads rotate? I can't imagine that they changed it on purpose!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Three Weeks Left to Live

A Florida judge ruled today that he has granted a stay of execution (oops) I mean a stay of his order to remove the feeding tube from Terri Schiavo until March 18th. This will, he says, provide Terri's family enough time to file any final appeals in the case.

Terri's father says that he is grateful for whatever time they might have left to try and save her life. Terri's mother added that, as a Roman Catholic, Terri would never approve of euthanasia. Apparently the judge has not been convinced and did not respond to the family's request for a more technologically modern series of tests to update the ones done over 10 years ago.

It is hard to believe but...the judge has never allowed Terri Schiavo to be present in court and has never visited her. As far as the judge and the law is concerned she is a non-person in a vegetative state with no rights to be protected except that of her so-called husband who, as her legal "guardian," has fought for over ten years to have her killed.

It is interesting to see the media bias in the linked CNN report where twice she is described as being on "life support." This is a lie. A feeding tube is not considered "life support." The feeding tube can be removed and she will not die. She is no more artificially being kept alive than you or me! Take away my food and water, deprive me of nourishment and I will die, too. So will you.

Continue to pray for Terri and her family. Pray that some way out might be found to spare her life and return her to the care of those who love her. Terri's new web page is still under construction but will soon be found here.

My previous posts on Terri can be found here and here.

Hugh Hewitt & Vox Blogoli 2.2

Response to Hugh Hewitt
The question is:
Whether the Senate majority Republicans should continue to allow the minority Democrats to continue to fillabuster President Bush's judicial nominees (as they have been doing for the past four years)
Whether they should use their majority status to end the obstructionism by changing the Senate Rules to strictly accord with the U.S. Constitution which states that a simiple majority shall prevail in such nominations (this is, according to some pundits, referred to as the "nuclear option").

My answer is both "Yes" and "No."

1. One judicial nominee should be presented to the Senate for confirmation (I prefer one nominee over a slate of nominees so as to reduce the legitimacy of the fillabuster).

2. Allow the Democrats begin their fillabuster and allow it to go on for several days, allowing the press to cover the obstructionism and make the Constitutional provisions clear to the public.

3. Call for a vote to change the Senate rules, allowing both Democrat and Republican Senators to speak for and against (these on-the-record statements will provide a gold mine of quotes for mid-term elections.) The key pro-change arguement should be "undermining the Constitution" and "abuse of tradition."

4. Vote the change in the rules and proceed.

5. As is proper, allow Senate members to advise as they speak for or against each nominee as presented. I do not like presenting candidates en masse as a "slate" Such an approach gives the appearance of railroading.

6. Vote each nominee up or down. It may be somewhat time-consuming this way but will, in the end, appear to the public as "fair and balanced."

In short, let a retreating McClellen draw them in and then rout them on the flank with Grant.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

No News Is Good News?

The CNN home page at the moment looks different somehow (9:49 pm HST). Why? After looking it over several times it dawned on me that there was not a single story on either Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran or North Korea.

The nearest thing on the site concerned Bush's meeting with Putin and their agreement to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. Oddly enough, there was also no story listed for the Lebenese/Syrian situation, Koffi Anin's ultimatum and Assad's apparent decision to withdraw gracefully. Perhaps that was posted earlier. News gets old very fast, I guess.

There was news of today's bombing in Iraq at the World site, of course, but I wonder when the last timie the CNN Home Page has been "terrorist-" "Iraqi-" and "Afghani-free." Is this a sign of progress? Hmmm. . . .

Temporary Withdrawal Requested by Anglican Bishops

The Senior Bishops of the various Anglican Churches from around the world have finished their meeting in Northern Ireland with a consensus request. According to the BBC,

In a key passage, the communique says: "... We request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference" [the ten-yearly meeting of all Anglican bishops, due next in 2008].

The ACC is a liaison body, with members drawn from each province or member church. To step down would mean a church was no longer a full member of the Anglican family. . .

What brought that simmering row to a head was the decision by US Anglicans to appoint an openly gay priest, Gene Robinson, as a bishop, and the Canadian agreement to bless same-sex unions.

I do not see either body backing down or retreating from the path they have taken. I also cannot see conservative, traditionalist members waiting until 2008 to see which way the wind will be blowing. If the American and Canadian Bishops do not "repent" and submit to the will of the Anglican Communion as a whole, I believe we will see an increase in membership migration both to other denominations as well as to "independent" congregations forming new alliances or linking up with Anglican communions in other countries.

As the BBC News puts it, "Out of (these) polar opposites, even Solomon himself would find it hard to forge a united church."

For background read my previous post here.

Christians: Beware of Wolves In Christ's Clothing

Cheat Seeking Missiles and Evangelical Outpost draw attention to an amazing story.

Liberal (very liberal?) blogger The Rude Pundit has advised his readers to keep the recent Jeff Gannon story alive (Gannon is the White House journalist who was recently "outed" by Democrats for 1. being a homosexual and, 2. having been a male prostitute years ago). Liberal media has made a big deal about it but are disappointed that the conservative (especially Christian) folks didn't seem to show much insterest).

The Rude Pundit's strategy is for his readers to: Pretend they are a conservative Christians and email swarm-conservative-Christian bloggers, expressing outrage over 1. Gannon’s homosexuality or 2. His former prostitution.

Read his actual post here.

I cannot imaging a Christian blogger of any influence proposing such a deceitful, dishonorable, stupid and lame idea. The Bible says that "God cannot be mocked." Jesus says,
"At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect–if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time."

Yes, Virginia....there is an "anti"christ!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Sinner Repents

From Hugh Hewitt comes a link to a story that shows that God can change a hardened heart. A few days ago I posted my thoughts on the man who had taped his conversations with then-Texas-Governor George W. Bush. In advance of an upcoming book release he had recently shared some of the tape with several media outlets. After scathing criticism from all quarters, the man, who I can now name as Doug Wead, has cancelled talk show appointments and has asked his lawyers to determine the best way to turn the tapes over to President Bush. Profits from his book, he says, will also be turned over....not to "W" but to charity. Praise God and thank you Mr. Wead!

Ward Churchill DOES Admit He Is NOT a Native American Indian

The allegation made in my earlier post has been confirmed. This morning's Honolulu Star-Bulletin does indeed quote Ward Churchill as having defiantly confirmed that he is NOT a Native American. According to the newspaper,

Churchill did address the issue of his ethnicity, admitting that he is not Native American.

"Is he an Indian? Do we really care?" he said, quoting those he called his "white Republican" critics.

"Let's cut to the chase; I am not," he said.

His pedigree is "not important," Churchill said: "The issue is the
substance of what is said."

He went on to explain that the issue of whether he is Native American has been blown up by sloppy reporting and reporters quoting other reporters.

In spite of his confession to have perpetuated a fraud for many years and, as a consequence, having used that fraud to be hired as faculty, granted tenure and made the department head for Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Churchill offered no apologies.

Although local student and community Republicans organized a protest outside the building where he spoke, many others, more than twice as many as could fit in the auditorium, eagerly listened to his "lecture." Some students were there because they had been assigned to attend by their professors.

What a celebrity!

Another Temporary Reprieve for Terri Schindler-Schiavo

Today a Florida Circuit Court judge granted a temporary stay in proceedings that were designed to bring about a final determination as to whether brain-damaged, but otherwise alive and healthy, Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube can be removed so that she can starve to death as her "husband" desires.

The website maintained by Terri's sister and parents on her behalf received so much traffic that it had to be temporarily taken down today. A statement of thanks from the family to all those who have been supporting Terri is all that is posted at the moment.

The judge is taking time to consider a request by the family that Terri receive new and improved medical examinations to determine the condition of her brain. An attempt by a representative of the Florida Department of Children and Families to speak in court was denied by the judge, who called it politically motivated and "an affront to the court."

Please continue to pray for Terri, her family and the judge, so that she might be spared the unnecessary taking of her life and so, under the care of her family that loves her, she can receive the rehabilitation treatments that have been denied to her by her husband for the past 13 years.

Ward Churchill Admits He Is Not An Indian...I Think?

Popular Honolulu radio hosts, Perry & Price (KSSK), aired some interesting information about Ward Churchill on their morning commute show. According to them, two local reporter/journalists cornered Churchill following his "lecture" last night at the University of Hawaii. After dodging repeated questions about his status as a Native American he finally responded to a question asking "Are you a Native American?" by saying, "No." Unfortunately I have not yet found any outside source to confirm this report but will keep probing. This unconfirmed admission was not reported in either Honolulu paper this morning nor is it posted on any of the TV News.

Somehow, this anecdote sounds a little suspicious to me, but here in Hawaii, if Perry and Price say it's true then it must be true! In the meantime I am holding my breath.

In a related matter, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin printed a blunt and straightforward editorial roundly criticizing those who invited him to speak in Hawaii. The editorial, which is entitled, "Churchill Invitation Is Embarrassment for University," can be found here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Caution! Marines At Work Ahead

I came across this photo this evening. I have no idea where the picture was taken but my guess is, "somewhere in Iraq."

Click to enlarge. Hat Tip to The 50th Star

Happy Birthday George Who????

A poll taken at the 10th oldest college in the United States and the first chartered after our independence recently commissioned a poll. The results were compiled from the responses of 800 adults from across America.

Asked who was the greatest president, 20 percent of those polled chose Lincoln. Reagan was picked by 15 percent, Franklin D. Roosevelt by 12 percent, John F. Kennedy by 11 percent, Bill Clinton by 10 percent and George W. Bush by 8 percent. Washington was picked by 6 percent. (see article here).

So, George Washington, the Father of our Country and generally recognized by virtually every historian for over 200 years as the-one-without-whom-we-would-never-have-become-the-nation-we-are-today ranks only 7th, below the likes of Bill Clinton, JFK and George W.

What have we become when most of those polled acknowledged that they really knew very little about George Washington and had not been taught anything about him since elementary school?

The poll is all the more disturbing when you discover that it was taken at the request of Washington College, which is, according to their website,

. . . a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in historic Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore—was founded in 1782 and is the only institution of higher learning that the first president (who himself never attended college) patronized during his lifetime. Washington donated 50 Guineas to the newly founded school, gave his consent for it to be named in his honor, served on its Board of Visitors and Governors, and received an honorary degree in 1789.

Happy Birthday, George! And thank you!

Help Free Two Bloggers In Iran

The Committee to Protect Bloggers has asked us to post the following:

From Honolulu to Eugene, from Tegucigalpa to Toronto, it is Tuesday, February 22.Today is Free Mojtaba and Arash Day in honor of the two Iranian bloggers currently incarcerated by the Iranian government.Read about Arash and Mojtaba.Here is what you can do. With additional contact information.Banners are available at various locations on this blog.We have already had a tremendous response, including encouragement and thanks from bloggers in Iran. Let's make a difference today. Freedom of speech is not a partisan issue, not an issue of culture or ethnicity, it is a bloggers' issue and a human issue.

Monday, February 21, 2005

"BS" as a Christian Concept

Somehow the website Inside Higher Ed was repeatedly referred to "Bird of Paradise" last night and today. After checking it out I discovered a review of two small semi-serious philosophical tomes (printed by Princeton University Press & MIT Press) on the subject of "b---s---."

After reading the review I (very reluctantly) must confess that most of what I read struck me as being true. In responding to the review I would add, however, that the proliferation of this subject is not limited to advertising, industry, commerce, editorials, Congress, the White House, academicians, North Korea or bloggers. Sadly, I must also include many publishers and manufacturers of so-called "Christian" books and products. While not naming names I would simply like to offer my belief that each year, Christian publishers, etc., get together and plan out what gimmick they want to use to exploit their very naive, innocent and trusting customers in the coming months.

Let's see, one year it was "angels." Another year it was anything to do with "Veggie Tales." Then, of course, there has been the "Left Behind" fictional fantasies (that reveal more about Tim LaHaye than about the Christian faith, the Word of God or the "end times"). The "Prayer of Jabaz" and sequels have served the industry well the past few years as has the "Purpose Driven Life" and the never-ending parade of new translations of the Bible and their various incarnations, such as the "Cat-Lover's Bible" and the like.

Don't get me wrong. When I associate these sorts of things with the "BS" word I am not necessarily referring to either their content or their real or imagined edification of God's adopted children. Rather, I mean the crass, craven and manipulative marketing that attempts to persuade us into believing that we really, really need these things and without them our lives would be....well....would be left empty of meaning, void of understanding and essentially ignorant of "the things that pertain to God."

Scripture teaches us that one of the spiritual gifts is that of "discernment." A book like Rick Warren's, "The Purpose Driven Life," would have become a big seller even without the hype. Indeed, to its credit, this particular book seems to me to have been one of the leased-hyped and least exploited quality Christian products to have come along in a very long time. Most Christians, when left to themselves, can "discern" what is "good and true" and what is not. In my own congregation we have used and continue to use this book in many different and fruitful ways.

Nonetheless, as followers of Jesus we must be always on the lookout for those who would, like Simon Magus, seek to use the power of the name of Jesus for their own personal or corporate profit. I have seen far too much advertising money spent on promoting so-called "Christian" books, CDs, etc, that are not worth the paper or plastic they are printed on. The theology (I use the word very loosely) of all too much of this merchandise, is so vaguely sentimental, emotional and popularized as to render it not only unBiblical but more than capable of leading many otherwise good-hearted souls astray.

I do not use the word "BS" in conversation nor is it even in my very limited vocabulary of angry epithets. But, insofar as it represents an academically acceptable concept, it can not only be colorful, but it can also accurately describe far more things than I think God would like.

"Bird of Paradise" Worth Bucks!

I just discovered that an outfit called BlogShares has just listed me as a potential "site for sale." The information on their site is as follows:

News feed
Valuation B$3,303.43
Added 19:11 20 Nov 2004
Last Updated 00:19 21 Feb 2005
Status Available to Trade.
Industries None[
Vote for which Industry this blog belongs to][Who voted this blog's industries]

They also post all sorts of other data regarding my site. I wonder where they get it from? Hugh Hewitt? BlogRolling? SiteMeter? TTLB? I guess blogging is sorta like George "W" in my previous post...except for the blogger, you KNOW you are being taped!

Oh...and by the way, if anyone has $3,303.43 they want to throw away just let me know!

A Muslim Response to the Freedom House Investigation of Radical Islam in America

A web site called, Free Muslims Against Terrorism, has published a response to the recent investigative report that discovered radical Wahhabi-inspired literature, published in and by Saudi Arabia, being displayed and distributed in a number of major mosques across the United States (see my previous posts on this matter here and here).

In spite of the fact that the MSM has virtually ignored the report the writer of this response takes aim at those who have tried to write it off as one more example of "Muslim bashing." Read the following excerpts and then click the link and read the whole thing.

Muslim-bashing. That's the accusation many of my fellow Muslims now hurl at the various news outlets for their news stories about a Freedom House investigation that found extremist Islamic literature in some leading American mosques. This name-calling is unfortunate.

Since 1980, the Muslim world has experienced an enormous growth of religious fanaticism and extremism the likes of which Islam has not experienced in its 1,400 years. This movement continues to grow because of the spread of who've Islam; a sect that used to number no more than one percent of all Muslims, but because of money and technology, has spread to more areas around the world.

Extremism is also growing because of an ideology called political Islam. The basis of political Islam is the rejection of secularism and the belief that the mosque and the state should be completely intertwined. Unfortunately, history has shown that when politics and religion are completely intertwined, disaster results.

Most importantly, extremism in the Muslim world continues to grow because most Muslims are unwilling to admit that we have a problem with extremism and support for terrorism. The response by Muslims to the Freedom House report is not the first time that the Muslim community resorted to denial and accusations of Muslim-bashing when presented with evidence of Muslim culpability.

An Obituary Swarm?

One week ago it was Arthur Miller. Today it is Hunter Thompson, John Raitt and Sandra Dee. Over the years these folks brought humor, tragedy, outrage, drama and inspiration into my life.

Although I cannot commend them all as models for the Christian life I can, and do, appreciate them for raising questions I might not have otherwise asked, for providing the simple pleasure of big screen silliness and for sharing a voice and a smile that raised us all nearly to the level of the angels.

"Oh, Be Careful Little Mouth, What You Say..."

I take heading for this post from a verse of a Christian children's song. The next line reads, "For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little mouth, what you say."

Unfortunately, it appears that God isn't the only one listening in on our private conversations. It seems that an old friend of President Bush initiated a series of private conversations while "W" was Governor of Texas. What he didn't tell his friend was that he had a tape recorder running while they were talking. As part of publicity for his book release he has allowed at least some of these recordings to be "leaked" to media outlets, in particular the New York Times.

What is revealed in these tapes should be of interest only to what the Bible calls, rumour-mongers, back-biters and gossips, all of whom are roundly condemned by scripture. The irony is that the man (who I will not dignify by printing his name) is, according to Fox News, a former Assembly of God preacher. Ed Morrisey at Captain's Quarters has described the man as a "Judas Preacher" and a "disgusting piece of human slime." I don't know as if I want to join in the name-calling game, but this sort of "betrayal" does remind me of a man who once kissed his friend on the cheek in a garden. I can do without "signs of affection" like these.

As one blogger has commented, the content of the tapes are not necessarily a bad thing for the President. "It seems that what the President says in private tracks with what he says in public for the most part. Bush, unlike (name omitted), is a good trustworthy man."

It is always good to be careful about what we say, both in public and in private. But as for me, it is more than enough to know that God is up above, listening down in love.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Unintended Laughter In Worship

Folks laughed in worship this morning but it wasn't because I had told a particularly hilarious joke (Note to reader: They never laugh at my jokes). Instead, it happened during sharing joys and concerns for prayer. Each Sunday, prayer request cards are passed forward to be shared with the congregation. A slip of my tongue accidently rephrased one request as follows:
For our good friends in San Diego who just had a baby girl, Morgan, who was born 3 months pregnant....

The correct word was, of course, "premature." I'm sure that some people are still laughing. I know I am!

Growing Churches: A Good Point

The quote is from The Pen and the Sword and the comment is from Jolly Blogger. Worth reading and thinking about, I think....

Reality check: The fastest growing faiths on the American continent are Islam, Mormonism, and Catholicism. Islam is growing by promoting a disciplined lifestyle and a sense of religious identity. Mormonism is growing with their own two-wheeled propogation of their message...young, handsome, clean-cut men on bikes going door to door and talking with people. Catholicism is growing because
a huge number of Baptists and other thinking believers are getting increasingly disgusted with the nonsense that masquerades as authentic Christian witness.

Hmm . . . there's nothing very seeker sensitive or even culturally sensitive about the three groups he mentions, they apparently aren't accomodating their message and methods to the culture nor are they trying to redefine or reframe their messages for a "postmodern" generation (at least as far as I know). So tell me again why I need to re-think and repackage my faith to win "today's generation."

Saturday, February 19, 2005

University of Hawaii Equivalency Test Results: Ward Churchill=Bill O'Reilly

Today's Honolulu Advertiser carries a remarkable quote from University of Hawaii American Studies professor David Stannard. Stannard (whose department is co-sponsoring next week's lecture by besieged University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill) defended the invitation, saying,
"If we invited a right-wing political commentator like Bill O'Reilly, we'd defend him the same way we defend Churchill."
Response #1: Ok, Dr. Stannard. I dare you to invite and sponsor Bill O'Reilly to lecture on the UH campus during the next 12 months. I would like to see you back up your rhetoric by defending his right to speak freely.

Response #2: Mr. O'Reilly was one of those responsible for bringing Ward Churchill and his writings to national attention. Everyone (except for Bill O'Reilly) knows that he is more than a little inclined to lean towards the conservative side of the political spectrum. However, using O'Reilly as a "right-wing" equivalent to the "left-wing" Ward Churchill is nothing short of an outrageous slander of the Democratic Party.

Few people accuse Bill O'Reilly of being overly far from the center of current Republican ideology. Although his "shtick" is to produce outrageous commentary he in no way represents the far-out-in-right-wing-field folks who, for the most part, are considered to be an embarrassment and a liability to the Republican Party as a whole.

If, however, Ward Churchill is a "left-wing" equivalent of Bill O'Reilly then I must assume that Dr. Stannard must consider Prof. Churchill to be a relatively "mainstream" Democrat. Can this be true? Is Ward Churchill (and his rabid and bitter hatred towards the American political establishment and any and all who, through honest labor, undergird our nation's strength and power ) representative of the ideology of the Democratic Party? Are his opinions welcomed to the table when drafting a national platform? Are all the "little Eichmanns" engaged in commerce, trade and industry who vote Democratic listening to him with nods of approval?

If the answers to any of these questions is true then the Democratic Party has sailed off the edge of a flat earth. If the answers to any of these questions is not true, then Dr. Stannard owes the Democratic Party a sincere and humble apology.

Response #3: If Dr. Stannard does not believe that Ward Churchill is an acceptable representative of mainstream Democratic political thought then he also owes Bill O'Reilly a public apology for citing him as an analogous equivalent.

Response #4: Memo to Dr. Stannard: In my opinion, the "right-wing" equivalent of Ward Churchill would have to be someone of the stature of David Duke. Perhaps Dr. Stannard would like to invite Bill O'Reilly and Mr. Duke at the same time. Then we could see how "far right" Mr. O'Reilly really is! Plus, as a bonus, we would all get to see Dr. Stannard defending David Duke's right to speak freely on the UH campus as well.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Ward Churchill & Lawrence H. Summers: Two Very Different Men Reveal Academia At Its Worst

Well, well. Our dearly-beloved University of Hawaii has found enough academic libertarians to muster an invitation for Professor Ward Churchill, the noted Indian rights agitator who cannot tell the difference between Adolf Eichmann and a stock broker, to speak on campus this coming Tuesday, at 7 pm in the UH Art Auditorium. The invitation was extended by the American Studies Department and others not as yet named. The theme of Mr. Churchill's lecture will be, "Speaking Truth to Power: Academic Freedom in the Age of Terror."

I wonder who's tax dollars are being spent to fund and host this visit?
Update: Today's newspaper indicates that little, if any, tax money is involved and that Mr. Churchill will not receive a speaking fee. 1/19

Meanwhile, back at Eastern Washington University there are apparently some students and faculty who would like to re-invite Churchill to their campus. It's apparently a matter of "free speech" to pay him $x so he can talk.

Hmmmm. New thought: If "free" speech is free then why do colleges have to pay people to speak? Maybe the solution for all of this is to let Mr. Churchill pay his own way to say what he wants to say!

On the other hand we have poor President Lawrence H. Summers of Harvard University. Whereas Mr. Churchill has a BA and an MA from an experimental state college in Indiana that was later shut down because of its failure to succeed, Dr. Summers is a bona fide academic by any stretch of the imagination. His mini-biography in Wickopedia is worth reproducing here:

Lawrence H. Summers 1954, U.S. economist and government official, b. New Haven, Conn. Educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard, he taught at MIT and in 1983 became the youngest tenured professor in Harvard's history. He served on the President's Council of Economic Advisors in 1982-83 during the Reagan administration, edited the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 1984-90, and in 1991-93 was chief economist of the World Bank. He left Harvard in 1993 to become under secretary for international affairs in the Treasury Dept. He was deputy secretary under Robert Rubin from 1995 until 1999, when he succeeded Rubin as secretary (1999-2001). Summers became president of Harvard in 2001.
It seems that Dr. Summers provoked the ire of the political correctness secret police when, after being specifically requested to be provocative at an academic seminar, he challenged the participants with a number of research theories related to the differences between men and women and their respective natural abilities to excel in various academic disciplines. One question he raised was something along the lines of, Are women less able to rise to the highest positions of the sciences because of gender-related predispositions?

Well, ever since that discussion question was asked, students and faculty of various institutions have been out to cut him down to size. It is quite possible that he will even lose his position as President of Harvard because of this so-called controversy. (Note: The complete transcript of Dr. Summers' comments may be found here. Context is everything...particularly in this instance.)

How ironic that university faculty and students are demanding that Mr. Churchill be granted the right of free speech to spew forth his hateful, unscholarly and unresearched opinions at any time and any place of anyone's choosing; while, on the other hand, university faculty and students are demanding that Dr. Summers apologize, recant and not repeat his comments because they have been deemed offensive by some.

Am I missing some modicum of logic here? Has an informed attitude of respect for excellence been replaced by the gut-level emotion of subjectivism?

From what I have read, Mr. Churchill is not worthy to untie the shoes on Dr. Summers' feet. When American colleges and universities cheer the likes of Ward Churchill and boo a man like Lawrence Summers then it must be official: The world has turned upside-down and rational discourse and the exchange of ideas in academia are now officially dead on arrival.

Note: For an earlier posting on Ward Churchill see here.

Terri Schindler-Schiavo: Why Do People Want To Kill Her?

Why do so many people want Terri Schindler-Schiavo dead? What has she done to deserve this bitter legal battle over the right to kill her as soon as possible?

As a result of recent court rulings Terri's feeding tube could be removed as early as next Tuesday, resulting in her death from dehydration and starvation in 10 to 14 days.

Until today I thought I could understand some measure of rational arguement on the part of her husband, Michael. But, after reading a legal offer from Terri's family to her husband, publically released just over a week ago, I am baffled.

In this legally-binding offer, which can be read in full at Terri's website, the Schindler family says that they will take full responsibility for Terri's care, require no financial support from her husband, grant him full possession of any inheritance, insurance or malpractice money, allow him to divorce or dissolve his marriage to Terri (and, if he wishes, be married to the woman he now lives with and with whom he has had two children of his own) with assurance that they will waive any right they might have to take legal action against him in the future.

I do not understand how any otherwise sane human being would choose to reject this offer in favor of asserting their "right" to kill their wife.

By all accounts Terri is not only alive but able to respond to simple verbal directions, express emotion and respond to visual stimuli. Aside from a "brain freeze" caused by a still-unexplained collapse in her home in 1990, her body continues to function normally and well. Other than general hygene, her only external dependence for life is her need to be fed through a feeding tube. In this sense, she is not unlike tens of thousands of Americans who suffer from Parkinson's, quadrapelegia, stroke or other disabilities and diseases.

The care that she requires can easily be provided at home by minimally-trained family members and friends. She might also respond to various forms of physical and psychological therapies, all of which have been denied her by her husband since 1991.

I just don't get it! How can constitutional law refuse to affirm her unalienable right to life? What crime has she committed that requires her to be executed by court order? What precedent will this set, allowing future courts, medical panels or others to subjectively determine whether a living human being will live or die? (see a previous posting on this subject here)

Relevent laws written both before and after her collapse; laws written with the explicit intent of protecting people just like Terri, have been repeatedly set aside by the court. For example:

1. Alhough an advanced directive is required in Florida prior to removing nutrition, Terri never had one.

2 Florida Law defines Persistent Vegetative State as a complete lack of awareness and a complete inability to interact. In spite of clear evidence to the contrary, the court has insisted on declaring that Terri is in a Persistent Vegetative State.

Christian quadrapelegiac Joni Eareckson Tada has said this about Terri's situation:

"This is deplorable. What's happening here is just a part of a larger effort to class persons with severe cognitive disabilities as non-persons."

Please pray for Terri. Pray for her family. Pray that our country will be spared the doom of an ever-expanding culture of death.

Terri is every bit alive as you and I. She is every bit as alive as a living baby in the womb or a living baby nearly completely out of the womb!

In the end, I still cannot figure out why so many people want Terri dead when the clear option of life is readily available. Lord have mercy upon us.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Wallet Returned

This evening I lost my wallet. I left it on the roof of my car (like an idiot) when I stopped by the Tesoro Station for a fillup. Five minutes later, when I got home, I remembered what I had done. So, back to the gas station. No, it had not been returned at the station store. It was not anywhere to be seen sitting on the road, either.

The lady at the station store had said to kiss the wallet good-bye. "No one's going to return it," she said. I disagreed saying, "Most people would return it. I expect to get it back."

I did get it back even sooner than I had expected. When I returned home again my daughter #3 was standing outside with her cell phone. A man named "Donald" had called just a few minutes after I had left saying he had found my wallet. When I talked to him on the phone he was just two minutes away at a nearby McDonald's. So, two minutes later, less than 30 minutes after losing my wallet, Donald handed it back to me.

He would not take any money in return but did accept my thanks. "Years ago," he said, "I lost my wallet and someone returned it to me. I have always said that if I ever found someone else's wallet I would do the same thing." And today he did just that.

Thank you, Donald. I'm glad you found my wallet. I'm glad you were able to "do unto me as someone once did unto you!" And I'm glad you proved me to be right about most people being honest.

Last, but not least, "Thank you, God!" Whew!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Churchof England General Synod to Make Decision on Gay & Lesbian Priest Issue

Last year's consecration of an openly homosexual American Bishop created an international split within the Anglican communion. The so-called "Windsor Report" made recommendations late last year. Now, the Primates of the Anglican Communion will meet to discuss the issue later this month and try to decide what the Church of England's response will be. The divisive issue will be discussed on the third day of the synod's first session of 2005.

According to a BBC report,

"The general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, the Reverend Richard Kirker, has called for a change in the Church of England's stance. He said the Church would be able to 'sort this problem out' if it connected with the "basic Christian principle that everybody is equal in the sight of God". Mr Kirker added: "The longer there is a delay on officially permitting the ordination of gay people as priests or bishops... the more marginalised the Church will become."
Most non-North American Anglicans would be more inclined to agree with only the final part of that final sentence, that by "officially permitting the ordination of gay people as priests or bishops... the more marginalised the Church will become."

For the vast majority of Anglicans in the Third World and, perhaps, even a majority of American Episcopalians, the Episcopal Church of the United States has already become marginalized and irrelevent insofar as it no longer represents an historic or biblical expression of the Christian faith.

Look for a "lose-lose" situation for American Episcopalians. If the General Synod refuses to accept Bishop Robinson's consecration and demands that it be revoked, expect the American Bishops to adopt a stance of defiance that could lead to their dismissal from the Anglican Communion. On the other hand, if the General Synod allows the consecration to stand, expect the American Episcopal Church to divide, decline and disintegrate.

With those two alternatives in view, the more likely scenario is for the General Synod to hem and haw and hedge and prevaricate and beat around the bush and platitudinize and more or less pray fervently that with lots and lots of talking the whole mess will just sort of evaporate and go away.

I have read that ostriches do not really stick their heads in the ground to avoid things that frighten them. I pray that the Bishops and the others meeting in General Synod in England later this month will prove to be real "ostriches" and not the mythical variety.

BBC Reports Plutonium "Missing" at English Power Plant

A BBC report today citing The Times as its source, claims an annual audit due to be published later will show that 30kg of plutonium is classified as "material unaccounted for" during 2004. The report indicates that this would be enough plutonium to manufacture seven nuclear bombs.

The Department of Trade and Industry said the audit "does not represent any material going missing," adding that, "It's not unusual for the accounting process to indicate material unaccounted for....Again, it's not an indication of any missing material." Last year the audit showed that there were 19kg of plutonium "missing" on the balance sheet.

The plant in question, Sellafield, processes thousands of tons of nuclear material every year.

I can understand how difficult it must be to tally up all that plutonium day after day and have it all balance out neatly at the end. On the other hand, I would be both encouraged and more likely to believe them if, every couple of years or so, the tally would indicate that they ended up with more plutonium than they should!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Parents Reunited With "Baby 81"

Murugupillai Jeyarajah and his wife, Jenita, welcomed their baby son, Abhilash, back into their family today. "Baby 81," given that name because he was the 81st survivor admitted to the local Sri Lankan hospital in the aftermath of last December's tsunami, had been claimed by numerous grieving families.

The confusion of emotions and hopes from desparate and desolate parents brought to mind the so-called "judgement of Solomon" when the biblical King of Israel was presented with two mothers and two babies, one dead, one living. Each mother claimed the living child as their own and appeared before Solomon to seek a resolution of their conflicting claims.

According to I Kings 3:16-28, Solomon decreed that the living child be cut in two with each woman being given half. One woman fell on her knees and begged the King to spare the child and give it to the other woman. Seeing her love for the child revealed, Solomon declared that she was the child's true mother.

In Sri Lanka, however, there was no King Solomon. But, after much effort and scraping for funds, DNA tests were conducted that verified the claims of the baby's true parents.

According to one radio news broadcast, the child's parents indicated that "the family will break coconuts, scatter rice and slaughter a rooster to give thanks" for their son's safe return back into their arms.

Now I know what Sri Lankans do when they are feeling thankful! Next November I think that, instead of turkey, I'll just send our friends into the back yard to break some coconuts and slaughter a rooster!'s a cultural thing? Well, maybe we could still scatter the rice...would that be OK?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Bret Stephens & Eason Jordan: Conflict of Interest?

Blogs such as Captain's Quarters, Hugh Hewitt and many others have commented on the apparent conflict of interest between Wall Street Journal Editor, Bret Stephens, and his reporting on the "Eason Jordan" incident at the recent meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

A summary of the "conflict of interest charges" are concisely summed up in today's posting by Captain Ed. His response is to today's unsigned WSJ editorial (on-line by subscription only) which declared the whole "Jordan" incident to be over and the conflict of interest matter concerning Bret Stephens to be laughable. (Note: It has since been revealed that Mr. Stephens was himself the one who wrote the editorial belittling the charges of his conflict of interest).
CORRECTION: Hugh Hewitt has posted a correction today stating that he was in error yesterday when he identified Mr. Stephens as the writer of this editorial. I add my apology for repeating his error. 2/15/05
The Captain's summary is as follows:
I assume that the OJ (e.g. "OpinionJournal" a publication of the WSJ), editors read my objection or that of the Dinocrat, and they have mischaracterized the conflict in any case. Stephens belongs to the Forum of Young Global Leaders, which has exactly 1,111 members and is closely affiliated with the World Economic Forum, which means Stephens has an interest to protect with the WEF that he did not disclose. The YGL forum appears to fall under the purview of none other than Eason Jordan, whose bio describes him as a member of the WEF's Global Leaders of Tomorrow programme.
Whether or not that influenced Stephens' reporting is only known by Stephens, but that connection should have been disclosed to WSJ/OJ readers, and the OJ's defense of his silence speaks volumes about their editorial standards. (They also made my mistake of calling Jordan a "board member" of WEF, which I retracted
here, so
I'm fairly sure that the OJ has my blog in mind.)

What has captured my own imagination in this matter is the fine print of Bret Stephens' "contract" agreement which enables him to serve on that Forum of Young Global Leaders for the next three years. On page 8 of the official brochure promoting the "FofYGL" are a short list of "rights" and "responsibilities." The first of three "responsibilities" is of particular interest as it requires the member to:

Respect diversity of opinion within the group but likewise support the consensus behind its public statements.
Normally this would not pose a problem. But, for Mr. Stephens (who was attending both as a "member" participant of the conference and as a correspondent for the WSJ) the Eason Jordan affair placed him between a rock and a hard place.

First, he is required by his membership commitment to "respect diversity of opinion within the group." I can only assume that this would include even the most outrageous comments that might be offered, including those of Mr. Jordan. For Mr. Stephens to express criticism of Mr. Jordan's comments would be "disrespectful," would it not? The additional fact that Mr. Jordan sits on the Board of Directors that oversees the Fof YGL only serves to compound the problem for Mr. Stephens.

Second, he is required by his membership commitment to "likewise support the consensus behind its public statements." Does this limit Mr. Stephen's options in commenting on the WEF's declaration that it would not release the video or transcripts of the session in question? For Mr. Stephens to request or demand the release of the video would be to "withhold support" from "the consensus behind its public statements" would it not?

Should a journalist be required to promise that they will not express dissent or criticism of an international organization as a condition of membership? Should a journalist who has made such a promise then proceed to pretend that they are free to be completely objective in their new reporting on that organization?

I join with Captain Ed, Hugh Hewitt and all the others in asserting that this does, in fact, constitute a conflict of interest on the part of Bret Stephens. Mr. Stephens should have disclosed this matter or, with honor, have asked to be excused from reporting on the controversy completely.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Quote of the Day #2

Christian writer Barbara Johnson says the most profound things with a wink and a smile. Joni shared this quote from her book, "God's Most Precious Jewels Are crystallized Tears," at our Stephan Ministry meeting tonight:

We talk about grief and hardship as time spent in "the valley." But later, looking back from the hilltop, we see that it was there, in that valley, that we became better persons, selfless servants, stronger Christians. As my daughter-in-love, Shannon, says, we grow when we're down in the valley, because that's where the fertilizer is!

Photo of the Day

According to the Associated Press, this photo shows an Iraqi man celebrating today's announcement of the 48% plurality vote for al-Sistani's Shi'ite party. Amazing. A happy Iraqi? Celebrating the results of a free and democratic popular electoral vote? In my lifetime? How in the world did this happen? Could it be....?

Quote of the Day

From the November 8, 2004 United Nations report on the sexual abuse, pedophilia, pornography rings and prostitution engaged in by U.N. Peacemaking troops and officials in various places including the Congo, committed against the very refugee people they had been sent to protect. The official U.N. position on such behavior was promoted as being "zero tolerance." The report, however, declared that,

"'The situation appears to be one of 'zero-compliance' with 'zero-tolerance.'"

And these are the people who throw stones at America?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Parent's Challenge School's Bible Class Time

Since 1929, public schools in Staunton, Virginia, have made sure the students in grades 1-3 get to know their Bible. Until 1948 the 30-minute study segments were part of the school curriculum. After the Supreme Court declared it illegal the schools and the children's parents agreed to what is, in most places, called a "release time" program. In "release time" students are offered a short "elective" during the school day. The "Bible Class" is one elective and, since the school cannot teach it, the students are released to local churches for their study each day. Students who do not opt into the "elective" remain at school and do homework or some other supervised activity.

No one really questions whether or not this is legal or not. Similar programs in other places have been upheld by courts as long as other faith groups or other community programs have similar access to interested students during school hours. In most places, including Utah, which once had the nation's largest "release time" program, the administrative headaches in meeting legal compliance have forced the termination of such programs.

In Staunton, and a few other small, rural Bible Belt" communities, the tradition has continued because of strong community and parental support.

Now, Staunton is being forced to face up to the issue by some parents who have recently moved into the community from places where the concept of "release time" seems like something created by fundamentalist, lunatic fringe fanatics still living in the Middle Ages. This is far from the truth, of course, but this quaint tradition, based on strong, historic community values based on the Word of God, has now been challenged. More than a few local parents, emboldened, perhaps, by the newcomers, have also expressed their desire to do away with the program.

Way back in 1846 James Lowell wrote a poem protesting America's war with Mexico. This poem is now a well known and popular Christian hymn, "Once to Every Man and Nation." In the third verse are these words, perhaps applicable to the present dilemma facing the parents and school board in Staunton:

New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Or, in the more contemporaneous words of Bob Dylan,
The line it is drawn The curse it is cast
The slow one now Will later be fast
As the present now Will later be past
The order is Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Driver Ed Teacher Run Over By Student

Oops! According to this story from AP a Driver Ed teacher in Stone Mountain, Georgia, was run over and pinned beneath a car by one of his students. It took firemen 15 minutes to extracate him, along with his broken leg, broken ribs and a shoulder injury. The story does not say whether the student received a passing grade.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Eason Jordan Resigns

After two weeks of growing criticism over remarks made at the recent World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, CNN Chief News Executive Eason Jordan announced his resignation this evening. (see my previous post for information about the content of his remarks)

His resignation statement and the CNN article which accompanies it still leave the central question unanswered, "What, exactly, did Mr. Jordan say and what transpired after he said it." Although the answers are most likely to be found in the videotape of the session neither Jordan nor CNN have publicly asked for it to be released. I cannot imagine them not agressively seeking such evidence had the story not revolved around one of thier own. This smacks of hypocracy of the highest and meanest sort.

In the end it is not Eason Jordan's comments that have damaged CNN's already embattled reputation but how the news network has stonewalled and deflected all efforts from bloggers and other news agencies to "come clean" and present the truth in as honest and straightforward manner as possible.

Even in their resignation announcement CNN had the gall to write the following description of the controversy:

The Davos organizers have said the session, like most at the forum, was off-the-record, and they have refused to release a transcript to preserve their commitment.

At the heart of the dispute is what Jordan said about the deaths
of journalists in Iraq. Several participants said he told the audience that U.S. forces had deliberately targeted some journalists.

But Jordan strongly denied that he had made such a suggestion and said he did not believe journalists had been deliberately targeted.

The first paragraph fails to mention that CNN has refused to publically call for the release of this tape, effectively burying whatever truth there is to be found. Would they have done this if the evidence on the tape had been anything other than damning?

The second paragraph fails to mention that the "several participants" referred to include a U.S. Senator (Chris Dodd, D-Conn ), a U.S. Representative (Barney Frank, D-Mass) and the nationally respected editor, Harvard professor and political commentator David Gergen, each of which expressed shock, disbelief and even disgust over what they claim to have heard Mr. Jordan say at the Davos session. Is this good reporting? or more evidence of obfuscation of the truth at CNN?

The third paragraph represents Jordan's denial of having said the things he has been accused of saying. With CNN failing to seek out and report the facts Jordan is allowed to retain the status of persecuted martyr, being unjustly forced to step down as a personal sacrifice for the rest of the CNN team.

CNN would like us to think that, in the end, it is Jordan's word against most everyone else who were in the room and who heard what he really said. They would like us to think that the whole controversy simply revolves around a badly parsed sentence or two and a near universal misunderstanding of what he was really trying to say.

Although it is not juris prudence in the American legal system to do so, I am sore tempted to declare that the shameful behavior of CNN and the lack of evidence to the contrary leaves me no choice but to declare Jordan Eason guilty until proven innocent.

I am still open and hopeful of having this personal verdict overturned as a result of some good investigative reporting or from the actual public release of the videotape. If, however, such evidence should ever surface I strongly doubt that CNN will have had anything to do with it.

Good links on this story can be found at Powerline, Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt, Sisyphean Musings & Michelle Malkin.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

If You Can't Trust Government Who Can You Trust?

In a recent survey taken among U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife scientists, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility determined that it was not unusual for Bush Administration officials to request that scientific data be changed in ways that would make it support the environmental policies of the President.

This is not the first time the Union of Concerned Scientists has raised this issue with the Bush administration. Nearly a year ago the administration wrote a detailed rebuttal to such charges for submission to the U.S. Congress.

Although not everybody thinks that the Union of Concerned Scientists is reputable, politically neutral group (see here and here) the survey results do raise important questions.

--Is this "fact twisting" unique to the Bush administration or has it been more or less "the way things are" under administrations in the past?

--Is it possible that the political leanings of a significant number of scientists in the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife result in their own skewing of data to produce the "environmentally correct" conclusions they want to find?

--Is this sort of "data manipulation" taking place in other Federal agencies such as the Department of Transportation and Safety? The Atomic Energy Commission? The Food and Drug Administration?

--Are the Federal Agencies so corrupted (both within and without) by political bias that we must turn to "Good Housekeeping" and "Consumer Reports" to get the real scoop on honest information?

Call me a cynic, but my trust in honest government is at a low ebb this afternoon. Don't think that I am disparaging the character or integrity of any individual Federal employee. Those I know personally I would trust completely. Yet, human nature being what it is, far too many people find too many ways to justify tweaking research data to not only conform to their particular bias, but also to maintain the cash flow in grant funding on which their livelihood depends.

This new report does not surprise me and I suppose that this is what makes me feel so bad. I don't know who to be angry at! The Bush administration? The Federally employed scientists? The Union of Concerned Scientists?

As always, I find some consolation that a just and merciful God will bring his judgment to bear on this matter and will not allow any distortion of the truth to derail his good and righteous plan for either human history or creation.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ash Wednesday

This evening my congregation hosted the local Lutheran congregation for our annual combined Ash Wednesday worship. Today, however, we also included the Korean congregation that "nests" in our church facilities. The Korean pastor, after 40 years of pastoral ministry in the United States and missionary service in Korea (he is an American citizen born it what is now North Korea) had never participated in an Ash Wednesday service. Neither, according to him, had any of the members of his present congregation.

So, three pastors sharing the lead in worship (which was all in English, by the way) and one of them giving and receiving ashes on the forehead for the first time, along with members of his congregation. Our midweek children's "Kid's for Christ" program also attended the service. Half of the children do not attend our church on Sunday. I doubt that any of them had attended an Ash Wednesday service before, either.

But the children, along with the adults, carefully confessed their sins in writing on a small piece of paper and then came forward with the adults to drop their confession into a bowl where they were consumed by fire. (This burning parallels the Old Testament image of a "burnt offering" but, more importantly, represents the offering of our prayer to God in the rising flame and smoke, and also the visual impact of seeing that our sins, when offered to God with a repentant heart, are consumed and forgiven....gone forever).

The children could not take their eyes off of this mini-bonfire in the middle of our worship center. Unlike the adults, who dropped in their piece of paper and returned to their seats, the children dropped their papers in and then stood, immobile and transfixed by the flames. Adults had to squeeze past them to get to the bowl but no one pushed or complained. After several minutes I gently asked the children to return to their seats. I did not want that incredible moment of wonder to end too soon!

A few minutes later those same children came forward and received the mark of ashes on their foreheads (ashes not from the burned confessions but from the Lutheran's tradition of using ashes from the previous year's Palm Sunday palm fronds). Along with the ashes came the words, "Remember you are dust; and to dust you shall return." I have no idea what this enigmatic reference to our human mortality meant to those children. They are so young and full of life. I'm not sure if most of them have ever even thought about aging, sickness or death. For them there is only "eternal and abundant life!" In their innocence they represent to us adults what we long free from the fear of death. And, in their innocence, they represent to us adults something of the new life and salvation we have experienced and received from our once dead and now risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

As if this were not enough, we then celebrated the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. For this, most of the children had left, being picked up by parents who knew they had to get some sleep before school tomorrow morning. But those who remained, who had parents with them, came forward for the third time this evening; this time to receive the body and blood of Jesus. Although they once again did not "understand" what was taking place I have no doubt that they experienced awe and wonder and curiosity over the cups of juice and wine (with Lutherans we have to have wine!) and the pieces of pita bread that were dipped into the cup before being eaten, bread and juice together (which is called "intinction," by the way).

My guess is that those children and those Korean Christians experienced God in the most significant way tonight, for they were experiencing things that were new and full of symbol and poetry, things that radiated heat, light and the smell of smoke and ash; the odor of wine and the transformation of paper into charred blackness. And there was also, of course, the experience of someone marking your forehead with a small cross made from ashes and hearing someone tell you that one day you will be just like that ash.

It was a good service. I felt refreshed and renewed. I felt grateful to God for his love and forgiveness; and for the journey to sacrifice his Son made for my salvation.

Forty days of Lent. I do not think that forty lifetimes would be enough to even begin to digest the mystery and Spirit of tonight's Ash Wednesday worship. Perhaps that is why God created us to live forever and why God so lovingly provided for us to recover that life once again after we had lost it through our sin. Perhaps it is only in the span of eternity that we will really begin to understand what took place this evening. Or, instead I suppose, we could ask one of the children. Although they might not have the vocabulary to express themselves with much precision, I expect that they understood better than us adults. Who would'a guessed!

Eason Jordan Eason Jordan Eason Jordan Eason Jordan Eason Jordan

It seems that everyone in the Conservative blogosphere is snapping their jaws at CNN News Director, Eason Jordan, these days. Mr. Jordan reputedly made statements at a recent international conference in Davos, Switzerland, either implying or actually accusing the US Military, either officially or by individual soldiers, of targeting journalists in Iraq.

These comments, made in the presence of several hundred people, including US Rep. Barney Frank, US Sen. Chris Dodd and David Gergen. There is some confusion as to what was actually said, in what context, in what order and whether or not or how much and in what way Mr. Jordan attempted to clarify or back-track on his initial comments.

The entire thing is recorded on a Davos videotape but they are refusing to release it due to a "rule" that precludes identifying specific speakers at certain informal session.

If, indeed, Mr. Jordan is guilty of the more serious attributions he should either back them up with hard evidence, resign or be fired from his position. It would not do CNN's reputation any good to have their News Editor accusing the US military of such atrocities without any proof to back it up. Is CNN "fair and unbiased?" Do they present the news and "let the viewer decide?" Oh, I forgot, that's Fox News....

A "Real World" Wake-Up Call

Daughter #2 attending college on the mainland found a job on campus that fits her schedule, will add hours as they become available and be flexible when her class schedule changes each quarter. Six hours on Sunday afternoon and evening. What could be better? The perfect job! Except....

Last Sunday, in the middle of the Super Bowl game she had to leave the Super Bowl party and go to work. Just like millions of other Americans. She felt cheated, of course, and I would have felt cheated, too! But I suspect that her feeling of being cheated was not that of a child missing out on something because their parents were taking them somewhere else or because were grounded for something they had done. Instead, I believe that what my daughter felt was an adult feeling, where it was her own decisions and her own commitments that required her to miss something else she wanted to do.

One of the hardest things to learn as an adult is how to live with conflicts of all kinds. Every choice an adult makes, whether when to go shopping, what degree to work for in college, where to seek employment or whether to get married or have children, involves saying "No" to something else. In real life there are consequences to the choices we make. We must learn that we can't have it all and embrace the need to make sacrifices in life.

Those who do not learn this generally do not fare very well in life. They either squander what they have or become paralyzed and unable to make any real decisions, sacrifices or commitments at all.

My daughter is learning a great many things at college, and, as I had predicted, the most important lessons are not those she is learning in the classroom.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

13,000-17,000 "Insurgents" Estimated In Iraq--Whoop-de-Doo!

In a late-breaking news report today a senior American military official released estimates that there are 13,000 to 17-000 insurgents present in Iraq. Of these, 5,000-7,000 are "committed fighters" who are mostly former Ba'ath Party members, many others are "fence-sitting" ex-criminals who provide support and materiel for the terrorists, 1,000 work with al-Zarqawi's network and 500 are non-Iraqis.

Let's see, with a total population of 25,374,691 people that would come out to be about .063% of the population.

Come to think of it, if only 17,000 showed up at Aloha Stadium for a University of Hawaii football game it would be a really big disappointment.

If someone organized a national march on Washington D.C. and only 17,000 showed up, the news media would consider it to be a failure.

The same official estimated that somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 insurgents were killed in Iraq during the past year. Many of these were replaced by others, he said, so it is hard to keep even approximate statistics on these things.

To my way of thinking, if that many were taken out last year during a time of political and social chaos, without Iraqi troops or guardsmen and without a unifying central government, then the year 2005 should provide even more success at rooting them out. Even more so if the vast majority of Iraqi people come to the conclusion that they can and must take charge of getting rid of them themselves and begin sharing intelligence information with Iraqi authorities and refuse to shelter them in their homes and neighborhoods any longer.

The fact that terrorists have taken to kidnapping the mentally retarded to do their suicide-bombing dirty work for them demonstrates how short the self-destructive line of eager volunteers is getting.

I sincerely doubt that Mr. al-Zaqawi will be strapping on body explosives any time soon. His modus operandi is to get the other flunky to blow himself up. We can only wonder what will happen when the few remaining terrorists run out of flunkies!

Iraq today is like a chess game where White has moved in such a way that mate is assured in four more moves. Black can still take White's pieces, of course, but in a futile cause. After last week's elections it should be clear to the Iraqi people and to the world that the insurgent's cause is now officially futile.

Monday, February 07, 2005

"The Terrorists Are These Jews and Christians"

The following "interview" with a Wahhabi cleric in Saudi Arabia is taken from Little Green Footballs. The subject closely parallels and supplements my previous posts here and here (scroll down to "First, the Hit" & then "The Second Miss"). I'm sorry to say that there is nothing in this interview that surprises me. From the perspective of the speaker, what he says is completely rational and makes perfect sense. It is important for every Christian and every American to realize that some people do not see the world in the same way that we do. We must learn to think as they do in order to understand their justification for what we (rightly) call evil. Once again, as I have said before, do not think that all or even most Muslims agree with Al-Qarni. There are as many different opinions within Islam as there are in Christianity. The main difference is, however, that Christians do not blow up women and children simply because they are not Christian.

"The Terrorists are These Jews and Christians"
("Little Green Footballs" says:) Even as the (government) of Saudi Arabia promote(s) their absurd sham conference on counter-terrorism (which the US, to our disgrace, attended), their television stations and mosques continue to pump out a steady stream of jihad rhetoric and hatred of Jews and Christians. MEMRI has excerpts of a February 3, 2005 IQRA TV program with Saudi cleric Musa Al-Qarni:

Al-Qarni: The uproar and the chaos that we see today in the human race; the killing, the acts of aggression, the rape, the robbery, and the disgrace of honor; what causes this is that the banners which are hoisted high are those of the Jews, the Christians, and other religions and faiths, and not the banner of "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is Allah's Messenger."

Let's have a look at what is written in the Koran. What position must we adopt towards Allah's enemies? Is it the position we have adopted? First of all, we must be aware of the fact that at present we see that [the West] doesn't want us even to say the words "Allah's enemies." They don't want us to say that the Jews and the Christians are Allah's enemies. They don't want us to say that the Jews and the Christians are the enemies of the Muslims and the enemies of Islam. This is fixed and established in the Koran and in the tradition... If this is so, if this is something fixed, how is it that we find in the things that we say, among our children, our own flesh and blood, among Muslims, people who are in denial of these things, who deny that there is a great enmity between Muslims and non-Muslims? It is true that we say that Islam's fundamental approach is that of mercy, and that the fundamental principle of Islam is [that it is a] mercy for human beings. But [it is for] he who submits to Allah's religion and extends his hand to allow Allah's religion to spread all over the earth and to make Allah's word supreme; it is toward him that religion is merciful. However, whoever fights against Allah's religion, and fights those who love Allah, distorts the image of Islam and the Muslims and does so much to weaken Islam...

Let's take a real-life example. Today, the Jews are occupying the Muslim lands, raping their women, killing their children, and destroying their houses; are these acts being perpetrated by the Muslims or by the Jews?

Interviewer: By the Jews, as anyone with eyes can see. This is clear to the entire world... The Terrorists are These Jews and Christians

Interviewer: You shouldn't blame them for this. We are the ones to blame if we agree to change the Koran and the tradition to suit them.

Al-Qarni: The terrorists are these Jews and Christians who implement these policies through the use of force, repression, and tyranny, and to this end make use of planes, tanks, and all manner of deadly weapons.

Interviewer: Aisha's second question [is about whether] Islam spread by the sword. They always say that Islam spread by the sword. How should we respond to them?

Al-Qarni: First of all, we ask by what means is the freedom that the U.S. wants spread? The freedom that it wants now to market?

Interviewer: Through missiles and bombs...

Al-Qarni: Through B-50s, bombs that the international community has forbidden, hundred of thousands of armed soldier; this is how freedom has spread.

Interviewer: And we don't see any freedom. All we see afterwards is subjugation...

Al-Qarni: At any rate, if we return to our discussion of the heart of the matter... First of all, we must realize that Allah obligated us to disseminate this religion all over the globe. And first, it sould be spread through outreach and calling people to Allah's word, through pleasing words, gently, and through good deeds. Through letting people hear Allah's words and showing them Islam. However, if we run up against someone who opposes this path and attempts to obstruct the spread of the upright religion and the light, and to obstruct their reaching others; in this case it is a duty to fight such a person. And Allah said: "Fight them until there is no more strife and Allah's religion reigns supreme." We don't agree with those who disavow this completely and say that the religion [of Islam] doesn't use the sword. No. Islam uses the sword when there is no other alternative. Therefore wisdom, as the religious authorities say, consists in utilizing each thing in its proper place. If there is need for the sword, then it is wise to use the sword, and if the occasion requires kind words and outreach, then it is wise to utilize them. We ask Allah to strengthen the spirits of the Jihad fighters in Iraq, and to help them against their enemies, the Jews and the Christians. Likewise, I emphasize that the Jihad that the Muslims are fighting in Iraq in order to repel the enemy aggressor, the Jews and the Christians, who are attacking land and honor. I emphasize that this Jihad is legitimate Jihad, Jihad for Allah's sake, and it is considered defense of Muslim countries, their lands and their honor. The doubts that are raised against this Jihad are not correct and are out of place.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Honolulu Advertiser Registers One Hit and Two Misses.

First, the Hit
Radical Muslim Literature Found in American Mosques
Today's Sunday Honolulu Advertiser, to its credit, published some of the findings released last week concerning Islamic booklets and other materials published by the Saudi Arabian government found in numerous Muslim mosques scattered around the United States. The writings reflect some of the more radical interpretations of the Qur'an as understood by the fundamental wahhabi sect which is preeminent in Saudi Arabia. The radical interpretations of the Qur'an as practiced by Osama bin Laden and his peers are, for the most part, derived from this Islamic sect/tradition.

Among other things the literature declares that it is lawful to shed the blood of adulterers and others even when living in a nation whose own laws forbid it. Muslims are encouraged not to demonstrate any respect towards unbelievers, even if they are the holders of high office. They are also discouraged from engaging in any activity that sustains or furthers the agendas of unbelievers, whether in business or in government. Imams who were interviewed denied that they personally supported or taught these things in their mosques. Some denied even knowing they were sitting on their literature racks and tables.

I find it hard to believe anything that the Imams say, especially since they are not bound by this interpretation of Islamic law to speak honestly with "infidels." For Muslims of this persuasion it is counted as honorable to boldly lie about anything for any reason to someone outside of their faith. For example, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Yassir Arafat was constantly lying to the Israelis, the United States, the United Nations and to just about every non-Muslim nation or agency that he ever worked with. The Palestinians, however, viewed such lies as a demonstration of his cleverness and his faithfulness to Qur'anic law. Such lying both strengthened respect for his leadership and, for the Palestinian and Arab people, demonstrated what fools and suckers the Israelis and Americans are.

This culture of dissemblance is epidemic in the Middle East. We should not be surprised to find it spreading like a cancer throughout the Muslim communities in the United States. Although still a minority view of American Muslims, the ideas are spreading rapidly, especially since many if not most of mosques built in recent years have been built and "staffed" with Saudi Arabian money (both private and governmental) to promote the particular wahhabi brand of Islam in our country.

I commend the Advertiser for the courage to print a short summary of this study. From what I have read on the internet, very few major media outlets have felt comfortable enough to share this information with the American public.

Now the First Miss
Ward Churchill Scandal Info Out of Date

Today's Advertiser printed an article discussing the current scandal at Colorado State University over tenured professor Ward Churchill. Although the article, originating with the Washington Post, covers the story fairly well it completely omits the revelations of the past week declaring that he is not a member of the Keetoowah Tribe of Oklahoma (as he has claimed, using a "associate member" card once available to anyone, whether Indian or not) and statements by Dennis Banks and the American Indian Movement (AIM) asserting that Churchill "has fraudulently represented himself as an Indian, and a member of the American Indian Movement" and "has been masquerading as an Indian for years behind his dark glasses and beaded headband."

The Advertiser should have known of this information and should have included it as part of the article. It is sloppy and lazy to print outdated news that could easily have been brought current with a simple internet search.

The Second Miss
Truth About Terrorism Conference Not Revealed

The Advertiser's report on the self-styled "International Conference on International Terrorism" currently taking place in Riyadh under the sponsorship of the Saudi Arabian government failed to mention that Israel, without doubt the greatest target of international terrorism, was not invited to attend or participate.

In a recent email correspondence with the Saudi embassy regarding this conference a man by the name of Thomas Wuthrich wrote:

What kind of monstrous joke is your country trying to perpetrate in issuing an invitation to its "anti-terror" conference to the world's foremost sponsor of terror, Iran, while shunning one of the foremost victims of terror, Israel?
It should come as no surprise to you when polls show that Saudi Arabia is among the countries least trusted by Americans.
And, no, I am not a Jew. I am merely someone who sees clearly.

Mr. Wuthrich received an unsigned response from the Saudi embassy information office:

Thank you Mr. Wuthrich. One of the foremost victims of terror??? I think not. Please keep in mind Israel is in violation of more United Nations resolutions than all other countries of the world combined. Iran is not in violation of any United Nations resolutions. Image is different than reality.

Is this the sort of "International" conference we should be supporting? Evil Israel is a pariah while Iran is squeaky clean? If "image is different than reality" then I must be living in a completely different "reality" than the Saudi writer of this paragraph. Actually, now that I think about it, I am convinced that I am living in a completely different reality!

The Honolulu Advertiser does the public a great disservice by presenting this conference and "International" or legitimate by any objective terms. The continued lack of recognition of Israel as a nation by Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations is a travesty that must be resolved before any real progress on international terrorism can be made. If such nations are our nation's friends, then the United States must certainly be Israel's greatest enemy!

I pray that this is not so. But I fear that once again our country is being played for a fool...and the radical Islamists are laughing at us. To our disgrace, they are right to do so.