Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Thoughts On Looting In New Orleans

Image hosted by Photobucket.comLooting has turned both the flooded and the unflooded streets of New Orleans into states of lawlessness. There are even reports of New Orleans Police driving looters out of stores and then piling merchandise into their own vehicles. Police have also been reported to have broken into car dealers and driven off with SUVs, supposedly commandeered for their "police work."

In some precincts 30-40% of officers have reportedly "quit" and simply stopped doing their job at all, leaving the isolated and besieged citizenry to fend for themselves.

What is it that drives men and women to act in such a way? Sin? Of course. But the nature of that "sin" is complex and convoluted.

If I was protecting my family under the circumstances we are seeing in New Orleans, and if my family was going hungry, I would "loot." Of course I would.

I would justify this as follows: Normally I would go down to the store to buy what I need. Today, there is no one there in the store to take my money. I will take what I need, keep track of it and try to pay the owner back later.

Well, that's probably what I would do. Is this really stealing? Technically and legally, yes. Morally? I'm not sure. Jesus' disciples plucked wheat from a field and ate it. This was done on the Sabbath, which got him a lot of criticism for having allowed his disciples to "thresh" wheat on the day of rest. I doubt, however, that Jesus owned the field from which he took the wheat. Was this stealing? Did Jesus sin?

Even David took the shew bread from the presence of the Lord when he was hungry. Was this sin? Or was it morally right to use available food to satisfy hunger that cannot be satisfied in any other way?

Is it morally right for someone to hoard food...far more than they need for themselves...while others are starving nearby? Do those who are starving have a moral "right" to force their way into the person's home and take that food in order to survive?

Do the "rights" of ownership and possession always trump the "right" of others to live? After all, our own founding documents say that "life" is an unalienable right, given to us by our creator.

It has been said that possession in 9/10s of the law. I suppose that the need for sustenance might be at least a part of the other 1/10.

But looters in New Orleans are not simply taking those things necessary for life. They are stealing drugs from pharmacies, electronic items like TVs and computers. One woman was seen carrying a vacuum cleaner through the flood waters. To vacuum what????

Here we have clearly stepped over the line between "needing" and "wanting."

The when we "want" something but do not "need" it, the Bible describes this with the word, "covet." As in "Thou shalt not covet." This is, of course, the last of the 10 Commandments. The eighth Commandment is also worthy of mention here...."Thou shalt not steal."

Coveting is to stealing what "committing adultery in your heart" is to adultery.

The looting and stealing in New Orleans has its origins in the hearts and minds of those doing it. When the opportunity came to act on their thoughts and desires, they did so.

Arresting these people and putting them in jail might protect the rest of us from their larceny but will not necessarily change their hearts and minds for the better.

It will take months and years of sweat and toil, along with billions of dollars, to reclaim the city of New Orleans from it present polluted and defiled condition.

Yet this will be a far easier task than trying to change the hearts and minds of people who would take a shopping cart full of Nikes home from a store without paying for them simply because they were able to.

Looters Disrupt Rescue Efforts

This piece posted at Irish Trojan's Blog, demonstrates just how bad the looting is getting in New Orleans (Note that major looting is also being reported in Biloxi).

Mayor Nagin orders police to focus on looters
8/31/2005 08:22:00 PM EST
Posted by Guestblogger

As looters get way out of control, the New Orleans mayor told the police to abandon their search and rescue efforts and crack down on the lawlessness in the city. Nagin says, "They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas -- hotels, hospitals, and we're going to stop it right now."

"Abandon search and rescue efforts" because of the looting? What a disgrace! The so-called "social contract" is being destroyed by antinomian anarchists in the damaged areas. Don't get me wrong, but these people are "thugs" of the worst kind. Every one of them belongs confined in an area surrounded by very high fences...not to punish them...not to help reform them...but to protect the lawful population from their penchant to terrorize.

There are even reports that looters are trying to break into the Children's Hospital, where 100 children are being cared for by terrified medical staff. Police and National Guard troops have been called but have not been able to respond.

Should the order be given to shoot these people in self-defense? Or would that simply lead to outright war in the flooded streets of New Orleans? Can you imagine urban warfare like Falluja here in the United States? How does a "civilized" society respond to such a riotous threat? Sadly, it appears to be true...."the enemy is within."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Photo of the Island of Super Dome

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Water surrounds the New Orleans Super Dome where, according to reports, at least 10,000 people continue to suffer with no toilets, no electricity and little food. At least two people are reported to have died in the Dome and today, another died after falling from an upper level, apparently a suicide.

Other reports indicate that fights have broken out and people are demanding to be let out even as more refugees are being brought to the shelter from surrounding areas.

On another sober note, prisoners at Orleans Parish Prison have rioted and taken hostage a prison deputy, his wife and four children who had been brought to the prison to take shelter from the storm.

New Orleans: More Bad News

Brendon Loy at Irish Trojan's Blog shares some very unsettling news:

But before you read it, click here, and you will find the very best map of New Orleans showing what parts are above sea level and the parts that will be under water for a very long, long time.

Sandbag efforts fail; 12- to 15-foot flood expected
8/30/2005 07:24:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan

Very bad news from WWL-TV:

6:41 P.M. - Efforts to stop the levee break at the 17th Street Canal have ended unsuccessfully and the water is expected to soon overwhelm the pumps in that area, allowing water to pour into the east bank of Metairie and Orleans to an expected height of 12-15 feet.Essentially, everything that is below sea level in New Orleans will be submerged. The Gulf of Mexico is slowly but surely reclaiming the Crescent City.

Photos of Katrina/New Orleans Aftermath

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Aerial photo of levee break

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Apparent location of levee break

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Downtown New Orleans w/Super Dome in distance

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New Orleans filling up with water

Katrina/New Orleans Update: Bad News

It appears that my previous post on the effects of Hurricane Katrina, while horrific, was too optimistic.

Late reports indicate that there has occurred at least one major levee break in the line of defense between the city of New Orleans and adjacent Lake Pontchartrain. The Army Corps of Engineers along with state and local officials is desparately trying to fill the breach to prevent the below-sea-level city from turning into a giant lake.

As the following reports recently posted by Brendan Loy at Irish Trojan's Blog indicate, it is no exaggeration to describe today's desparate struggle as the second "Battle of New Orleans." Unlike the first one, however, this is a fight for the life and death of the city itself.

The view from St. Amant
8/30/2005 01:05:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan

Bill Crews reports in from St. Amant, southeast of Baton Rouge:

Still w/o power here in St. Amant. I've been tuned into WWL 870 AM. They are transmitting w/an approximate 28 day supply of propane to generate their transmitter. Still operating out of the Omni (?) Building, located next to the 'S-dome. That's one of the buildings w/all the glass & doors blown out of it. Here are some comments I've heard in the last few hours: "City still continues to flood due to levee breach...""Lower half of Plaquemines Parish has been reclaimed by Gulf of Mexico and Miss. River...""North shore of Lake Ponchartrain now extends (N) to Old Spanish Trail Rd...""The Ponchartrain Causeway was completely submerged except for the 'hump' in the middle...""Martial law has been declared...""The Miss. River levee was beached from Belle Chase, southward...""Search and rescue efforts still continue..." BTW, officials are now asking all refugees to go to the Lamar Dixon Expo Center, near my home, in Gonzales, LA. We may go volunteer later; they are expecting thousands.

Officials to attempt sandbag airlift
8/30/2005 11:30:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan

WWL-TV: "Break in 17th Street Canal Levee is now 200 feet wide and slowly flooding the City of New Orleans. Huge sand bags are being airlifted to try to stem the rush of water in that area. The expectations are that the water will not stop until it reaches lake level." In other words, we are talking about something that very closely resembles the worst-case scenario -- flood waters completely filling the bowl, turning Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans into one big toxic lake. This will will happen, unless the airlift works or officials can find some other way to stem the flood.Anthony sums up the situation succinctly:

"assuming no additional storm surge, or Mississippi floodwaters, the water level in the 'bowl' will end up being effectively equal to the level in Lake Ponchatrain."

Cliff, a hydrologist, gives an excellent, more detailed explanation of why that's true.Does anyone know what the typical water level in Lake Pontchartrain is, in comparison to the various regions of the city? How many feet above the French Quarter? How many feet above Tulane University? etc.Regarding whether the sandbagging plan will work, Cliff writes:

It's difficult to say without knowing exactly how deep the breach actually is. The fact of the matter is, even if they can reduce the width of the breach from 200ft down to 100ft or 50ft, then they will potentially slow down the amount of water coming into the city. The depth of the breach also determines how fast the water is moving across it, and if the velocity is high enough, it's possible that the sandbags won't hold. Blocking the actual canal with sandbags/barges is a good alternative I think, but it obviously requires a lot more volume of stuff to block it with. From the one photo I've seen, if the breach is actually 200ft wide, by scale, the canal looks to be at least 3x as wide as the breach, and if it's 10ft deep, that's a lot of volume to try & block. Like I said, it's difficult to make an estimate not knowing all the information. But if they only need to block a couple of feet in the breach, then that would require far less material than blocking the canal.

On a more hopeful note, "The LSU researchers [speaking on WWL-TV] indicated that they thought the breech could be sealed," according to another commenter.

Katrina Fails To Achieve "Worst Case Scenario"

UPDATE: New reports are coming in suggesting that the "worst case scenario" for the city of New Orleans may indeed be unfolding. See my latest posts here and here and, as always, check Irish Trojan's Blog for the latest updates.

As Hurricane Katrina passes into both history and legend, it leaves behind what may become the most devestating and expensive natural disaster in American history.

Tens of thousands, perhaps even more than 100,000 homes have been effectively destroyed. Thousands of square miles of agricultural, industrial, commercial, business and residential areas have been flooded. Power grids have been destroyed. Colleges and Universities closed. Public schools leveled. Water and sewage systems ruined. Roads and bridges washed away. Tourism crushed. Transportation and distribution of food and other essential products in chaos.

But it could have been worse.

The loss of life, while tragic, will be small compared to the potential worst-case estimates of tens of thousands had the New Orleans levees been breached.

In the "nick of time" Katrina dropped from a category 5 hurricane to a category 4, just before reaching the coast.

In the "nick of time" Katrina lost significant power on its west flank.

In the "nick of time" Katrina veered slightly to the east, sparing New Orleans the full force of her fury.

Had these three "nicks in time" not occurred as they did, we could well be a nation in mourning today.

Instead, we are faced with three Gulf states, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama that are knocked down, but not knocked out. Recovery will be long and hard.....but not impossible. Life in the region will eventually be reborn rather than cremated and scattered. In the darkness, there remains light and hope for a new tomorrow.

Insurance and oil-related costs will take their toll on all of us in the United States, whether we live in the effected areas or not.

But there is an immediate need for food, shelter, communication, electricity, transportation, public services, health care, sanitation and so much more.

Government funding and insurance payments will help in the long run, but the need for charitable donations to the American Red Cross and other front-line help agencies is massive.

If you are reading this, prayerfully consider clicking on the Red Cross link and making a generous gift towards hurrican relief. Or contribute to any reputable agency that you personally long as it has an established presence in the region.

If you attend a Christian church or are a member of any other religious community, speak to your spiritual leaders and ask them to take up a special offering for Hurricane Katrina Relief when you gather for worship or fellowship this coming weekend.

My congregation will be doing that this Sunday. As a Christian, giving out of love and compassion for others is neither optional nor is essential.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

Iraq's Constitution Flap--Yes, There IS a Good Side

I am personally surprised and deeply disappointed in the failure to achieve a sectarian consensus on the proposed Iraqi Constitution.

The list of negative repurcussions is long and potentially dangerous and destablizing for the future of a unified and peaceful Iraq. I have spelled out some of those issues in my previous posts, The Proposed Draft of the Iraqi Constitution (as of 8/25/05) and Iraqi Sunnis Debate Whether To Wield Constitutonal "Nuclear Option."

ON THE OTHER HAND.......There are some very good things shining through in the midst of this otherwise very bad thing.

Most importantly, there is now a national consensus that the future of Iraq is enexorably tied to participatory democracy. It is recognized by all major groups, Kurd, Shi'ite and Sunni, that political power no longer resides in terrorism, armed militias or strident ideological intransigence.

This new reality is demonstrated by the realization of the Sunni political and religious leadership that the only effective way to express their opposition to the proposed constitution is to GO OUT AND VOTE!

Yes. Really! For sure! Sunnis right and left are urging their people to go out an register to vote! What a contrast from just nine months ago when the Sunni mantra was "Boycott....Boycott...Boycott." That futile attempt to discredit the national elections backfired miserably, leaving the Sunnis with minimal representation in the resulting interim national assembly.

If, however, they can rally three of the four majority Sunni provinces to reject the proposed constitution, they will have achieved a tremendous victory on two fronts--One for themselves and Two, for democracy.

For themselves, they will have forced a return to a new interim government in which they will be able to elect a more representative Sunni presence. This will give this second interim government far more legitimacy than the current one.

For democracy, they will have demonstrated that, even as a "not-very-respected" minority "party," they can still wield a more legitimate influence over national affairs with the ballot than they could ever hope to gain through bullets.

While the insurgents and terrorist cells in Iraq clearly are pleased with the Sunni leaders rejection of the proposed Constitution, they will, in the long run, come out as losers no matter what transpires in the weeks and months to come.

The Iraqi people have turned a very important corner. They have seen their future. And that futurewill be in the ballot box and not in car bombs.

The current dispute may be viewed as a severe and serious stumble, but the momentum towards freedom and democracy has now passed the point of no return. For most of us, including most Iraqis, this is the answer to prayer!

Good News From Iraq? Really!

Arthur Chrenkoff has now posted Good News From Iraq #34. If you are tired of seeing pictures of blown up cars and reading about the failure of everything in Iraq, here's your chance to catch up on all the good stuff that the mainstream media doesn't want you to know. Or, could it be that they don't think you'd be interested? Prove them wrong!

P.S. But be warned. There is a LOT of good news here. The equivilent of 39 pages of good news!

Toe-To-Toe With Hugh Hewitt

Radio talk-show host, Hugh Hewitt, should patent his latest media creation.

Distrustful of interviewers who take comments out of context and morph them into something very different when they appear in print, Hugh has come up with the idea of the "before" and "after" interview analysis. The idea works like this:

Hugh allows himself to be interviewed by a journalist, but the interview is taped for later broadcast on his show (and the transcript printed on the web)....after the article or column has appeared in print. His radio listeners and blog readers can than compare the one with the other and draw their own conclusions as to whether or not Hugh's comments were represented accurately or not.

It's a win-win situation for Hugh, who gets to fill air time and make money off of someone else's interview. It also allows for the manly art of "tit for tat" and thrust and parry that he practices with such skill and relish.

Hugh's first excursion into this new media genre took place last week in an interview with LA Times columnist and Associate Editor, Tim Rutten., who was researching a column on the future of conservative talk radio.

To begin with, Rutten deserves a lot of credit for being willing to go along with Hugh's eccentric interview demands. After reading the interview transcript posted at, Rutten also generates respect for being a good sport with a granite jaw!

Now in most interviews, the interviewer asks the questions. In this instance, however, I counted where Hewitt asked Rutten somewhere near 58 questions compared to Rutten's 42. When I subtract the 16 questions where Rutten is either repeating one of Hugh's questions or asking for clarification, the interviewer's questions are reduced to no more than 26, less than half the number of those asked by the one being interviewed!

At times the verbal exchanges gave the appearance of Hugh, as a criminal attorney, cross-examining a hostile witness. Questions flew like combination punches in a boxing match. Hugh's constant flurries of one question followed by another kept Rutten off-guard and off-topic for most of theirOccasionallyer. Ocassionally, Rutten would attempt to counter-punch or throw something like a short uppercut in a futile attempt to regain control of the bout.

Hugh took full use of his "home court (meaning radio talk show venue)" advantage and came away a winner by unanimous decision.

Hugh managed to win points by pounding incessantly on the subject of liberal bias in the media, both in general and at the LA Times, in particular. Every attempt by Rutten to respond was immediately met by a maelstrom of facts, opinions and sheer chutzpah that kept him off-balance and back on his heels.

Once back on his own turf, Rutten tried to regain some of his top ranking by lobbing dismissive names and labels at Hugh from long-distance in his column; indirectly calling Hugh a fool, a bore and a narcissist. He also continued to affirm that a good journalist (such as himself) is able to separate his/her personal political bias from their "craft" and create fair, unbiased and trustworthy reports. Thus ended the final round.

This judge, while impressed with Rutten's confidence and courage, had to give the fight to Hugh on points. There were no knockdowns and Hugh has already offered his opponent a rematch. Don't hold your breath.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Mililani Congregregation Celebrates Its 35th Anniversary

Today the church I serve as Pastor celebrated its 35th Anniversary.

Nine ordained PCUSA pastors (three of whom have served as pastor of this congregation and two of whom became ordained while members of this congregation) participated in the morning worship.
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Seven of the Nine Pastors

There was so much sharing and talking story and worship and special music and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper and a Children's sermon and the introduction of special guests (including our State Senator) and a farewell to one of our dear church families and a wonderful retrospective "slide show" and two sermons went for almost 3 hours! Now that's more like an Assembly of God or a Baptist type of worship.....Presbyterians are supposed to worship by the clock, aren't they? Well, today our clock broke! But God was praised and we all had a good time, too!

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Hungry.....and waiting to be fed!

In the afternoon we had our Anniversary Luau. Kalua Pork (I said I wouldn't come if they didn't serve Kalua pork!), white rice (there's always white rice in Hawaii), fried rice, frozen fruit, fish, teryaki chicken and haupia dessert!

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The Luau Line

There were anniversary shell/kukui nut leis for everybody and enough fresh pineapples for every family to take one home! Fresh tropical flowers from our members' homes and gardens decorated the tables and a small stage provided a focus for the entertainment.

Special guests included our original architect, two current and one former State Representatives plus a personal, handwritten letter of congratulations from President George Bush (actually, I made the last one up......sorry).
In good local fashion we all sang our State Song/Former Hawaii National Anthem "Hawaii Ponoi" and "Hawaii Aloha." (I was proud of Rick, who spotted a typo in the last song. Three letters were missing. You grow up here and you KNOW these songs by heart! Rick helped out with the singing by adding his ukulele to Tony's and my guitars.)

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Not "Sister Act" but Mom & Daughter!

Mom and daughter sang and left us all with "chicken skin," and then the daughter sang "Hero," which she had also sung at our 25th Anniversary when she was only 13.

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Grace Being full of grace!

Grace shared her beautiful hula and then Randy and Gay Hongo, wonderful local Island Christian entertainers (with at least six Na Hoku awards) shared their music along with three dancers from a Christian hula halau.

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Randy & Gay Hongo.......................................and friend

After the closing benediction we ended things with a "bang" as John and Mike set off a string of "10,000" firecrackers (a string that really only has 2,500 of them.....but that's still plenty to make a lot of noise for a very long time!)

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The grand finale

It was hot, and rainy, and humid and sunny and wonderful. As always, we gave thanked God for bringing us all together in this final corner of his know, the place he made after he had practiced trial and error on all the rest! We don't call Hawaii "paradise" for nothing!

In fact, you could say that, at least in our little spot in Mililani, the Kingdom of God was alive and very, very well indeed! Amen....BANG!

Global Fund Cancels Uganda's AID Funding...Could It Be Because Uganda's abstinence Approach Is Working?

Cheat-Seeking Missiles has a series of posts here, here and here in response to last Thursday's announcement by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that it had cancelled all grant funding for Uganda, due to a discrepancy in accounting after grant dollars had been converted to Ugandan currency.

What is ironic in all of this is that Uganda has had more success in reducing the incidence of AIDS in their population than any other African nation.

Also ironic is the fact that Uganda has taken an approach to the AIDS epidemic that is contrary to the policies of the United Nations, the Global Fund and every other participating country in Africa. What is so unique about Uganda's approach? It has declared that Abstinence, self-control and the instilling of a responsible national sexual morality is key to any long-range strategy to reduce the epidemic.

Every other agency and nation puts their priority on "safe sex" education and the massive distribution of condoms. The obvious fallacy in this way of approaching the problem is that AIDS is primarily spread through frequent sexual activity among multiple partners. The number one guaranteed way to reduce the spread of AIDS would be to.....ta dah!...reduce the amount of polygamous sexual activity, right? According to the international community, apparently, that is the wrong answer.

The correct answer is....ta dah!...condoms! Yep. Condoms. Safe sex is the answer! And apparently Uganda has been taken to task for failing to adhere to the politically correct approach to the AIDS situation.

The fact that their approach is works does not, it seems, make others happy. It appears, if fact, to have made some very influential people very angry.

Cheat-Seeking Missiles "theorize(s) that the true cause for the suspension is pressure from anti-abstinence, (anti-)morality and (anti-)monogamy groups like George Soros' Human Rights Watch, which said:
Human Rights Watch accused[Ugandan] President Yoweri Museveni and his wife, Janet Museveni, of falling under the influence of U.S. Christian conservatives and placing millions of young Ugandans at risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Image hosted by"Risk?" Take a look at this chart, showing that the rate of AIDS has been reduced from 30% in 1990 to 8% in 2002.

Unconvinced? Here, taken from "Cheat's" site is the Global Fund's own assessment in their own words from a 2003 news release showing the success of their grant program:
Uganda, one of first countries in Africa to experience the impact of HIV/AIDS and still one of the countries most affected by the virus, is also one of the continent's great success stories in terms of reducing high HIV infection rates. HIV prevalence among pregnant women in urban areas has declined from a peak of 30 per cent in 1992 to 6 per cent in 2001. This and other successes in the field are widely acknowledged to be the result of high-level political commitment to HIV prevention and care, involving a wide range of partners and effected through an aggressive anti-HIV/AIDS campaign involving virtually all sections of society. Nevertheless, Uganda is still confronted with a serious HIV/AIDS epidemic, including rising numbers of people needing care and support.
Compare Uganda's success performance with what is going on in many of Uganda's neighbors which follow the UN/Global Fund protocols of "safe sex" education:
Very high HIV prevalence, often exceeding 30% among pregnant women is still being recorded in four other countries in the region, all with small populations: Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. There, comparisons of prevalence levels at selected antenatal clinics have shown no evidence of a decline. In Swaziland, for example, HIV prevalence among pregnant women was 39% in 2002, up from 34% in 2000 and only 4% in 1992. Elsewhere in the subregion, HIV infections in pregnant women appear to be stabilizing at lower levels; around 18% in Malawi (2003), 16% in Zambia (2003), and 25% in Zimbabwe (2003); but there is little evidence of an impending decline. (source)
Now, of course it may be true that money destined for Uganda's AIDS program is unaccounted for. But this allegation has not even been proven yet.

Other nations supported by the Global Fund, such as South Africa, have also had "accoundiscrepanciesncies." But South Africa's funding has not been cut off. On the contrary, the Global Fund has been working with them for over three years to return them to full compliance.

As insult to injury, not only did the Global Fund cut off Uganda's AIDS grants, but also grants for their tuberculosis and malaria programs as well. Even though there is no evidence of any of that money being misused. This action is unprecedented in the Global Fund's history.

According to their own site, the Global Fund's largest contributor is the United States. It is even more ironic, therefore, that the Bush administration has touted Uganda's "abstinence first" program as a model for the rest of African and, indeed, for the world.

Note that Uganda does distribute condoms and does provide education on how the disease is spread and how "safe sex" can reduce its spread. Somehow, it is the idea of abstinence and personal self-control that sticks in the craw of the funding elite. Perhaps the thinking goes like this:
"Does it sound like morality? Then it must be Christian. If it's Christian then it must be fundamentalist Christianity. It may also have Republican support which means it does not play well with Democrats must be wrong!"
Also of interest is that Islamic countries, which have, by law, strict penalties and cultural restrictions on "free sex" also have the lowest rate of AIDS in the world. But it isn't politically correct to say, either!
Perhaps the United Nations and the Global Fund can be pressured by the Bush administration to reconsider this matter. Much of it is, of course, our money to begin with. If they cannot distributed it in a way that encourages success, then perhaps the United States should find a new way to distribute the money.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Will New Orleans Die Tonight? Hurricane Katrina Takes Aim

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Note: Best bets for on-line updates, The Irish Trojan's Blog and the Times-Picayune Online. Also, Michelle Malkin has links to a number of other valuable sites.

As Hurricane Katrina, now a category 5 storm (sustained winds of 160+mph), aims straight at the heart of New Orleans, a series of near-apocalyptic scenarios are being seriously discussed.

The blogosphere is centering on two matters:

1. The levees protecting New Orleans along Lake Pontchartrain are 18 feet high. The hurricane, however, is predicted to produce a storm surge of as high as 20 feet. If such a surge takes place, it would be very likely that the levee would give way, plunging the Big Easy (which sits 15 feet below sea level) under 30 feet of water. Associated Press and others are predicting that, if such a disaster should occur, as many as 10,000 or more people could perish in the flood and the city, as we have known it, could well disappear forever. Fetid, polluted water could potentially take as long as 10 months to drain, leaving a layer of toxic waste across the entire historic center of New Orleans.

2. The second issue concerns the New Orleans Super Dome, which has become the shelter of choice for, perhaps, 30,000 of the area's homeless and those who had no way to flee the city. Concern is being expressed as to whether the facility will be able to withstand the sustained winds and rain of Katrina. If the roof does not hold, where will the 30,000+ people go? Also, if the city does indeed flood, the two lower floors of the Dome will be under water. Electricity will be essentially cut off and so will tens of thousands of people, stranded on what will be an artificial island will only three day's food supply and no apparent way to be evacuated.

Katrina has been described as perhaps one of the three most powerful hurricanes in American history. A recent satellite photo shows it virtually filling the Gulf of Mexico from Yucatan to Florida to Louisiana.

From those blogging from the New Orleans area I am getting a sense of genuine fear and doom. One has placed the likelihood of a worst case scenario as high as 70%.

I, for one, will be praying mightily for the people of New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf coast. The many bayous and general low-lying areas are particularly susceptible to the dangers of this kind of storm. It is almost certain than many historic communities will be completely swept away by tomorrow afternoon. Any people foolish enough (or not given sufficient warning) will also be swept away.

Even if the worst does not happen, and the levees hold, the damage will be horrific. The old infrastructure of the New Orleans metropolitan area, especially the sewer system, will not be able to weather the storm. Avoiding a flood does not necessarily assure that the city will remain inhabitable after the storm passes.

I will be up tonight, reading the on-site blogs and watching what information can be gleaned from television sources. I do not expect, however, that we will really know the facts until the sun comes up tomorrow morning.....or whenever the storm passes far enough along to allow it to "shed some light" on the situation.

May God have mercy on New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and all who dwell therein during the next 24 hours.

Hawaii's Ewa Beach Wins Little League World Series

It has been a dream season for a bunch of boys who live and play baseball just a few miles from my home here on Oahu.

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Michael Memea celebrates winning homer

Today, the dream of nearly every American boy came true for them as they defeated last year's World Championship team from Curacao in the final game of this years Little League World Series.

The team from Ewa Beach, Hawaii, took the early lead, gave it up and fell behind 3-1 in the top of the third inning. Back-to-back homers in the bottom of the third tied the score at 3-3.

In the fifth inning, Curacao took back the lead with two home runs of their own and held that lead, 6-3, going into the bottom of the sixth inning.

A bunt, a single and a potentially inning-ending double play ball that arrived at first base just half a step too late, allowed Hawaii to tie the game 6-6 going into the seventh and last inning.

Ewa's pitching held the defending champs scoreless in their half of the seventh.

The dramatic game then came to a sudden end as Hawaii's Michael Memea walked up to the plate and hit a lead-off, walk-off home run over the left field fence.

Hawaii is very proud of her boys from Ewa Beach. The coaches and parents have been "class acts" and have shown the world that the word "aloha" can be used in the same sentence as "World Champions!"

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Church Block Party In Hawaii

Image hosted by Photobucket.comEvery year, for the past six years, my congregation has thrown a "Block Party" for our neighbors and community of Mililani. Today we had our 7th. (Click on pictures to enlarge)
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We throw the party for several reasons: 1. To show our neighbors that we're glad to have them around! 2. To give a chance for folks to get to know us better, and 3. To share the good news of God's saving love in Jesus Christ.
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This last reason is the best one, of course. Since God's love is free, we offer everything at the Block Party for free, too! The entertainment, the children's activities (face painting, crafts, "pond tic-tac-toe," sponge throwing and a real dunk tank), bibles, the "Jesus" video, devotional materials and, of course, food....lots of food. Hot dogs, beef & long rice, white & brown rice with chili, raw veggies and lots of chocolate brownies.
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It's a lot of work but a lot of fun, too. We're helped out by the Korean, Samoan and Micronesian congregations that worship and meet in our facilities each week (we do not charge any rent....after all, the Gospel is free, right?). Other local congregations also help out in various ways.
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At the end of the day (6:30-7:0 pm) everyone (and I mean everyone) gathers on the church lawn for a big party dance! "We are family!" "Electric Slide." "Macarena" and more. Old and young and just about every race you can think of, dancing for the sheer joy of it. I tried to explain it to a rather distinguished visitor from South Korea..."Just think of it as being like the wedding reception at Cana.....but without the wine!"
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As usual I had a good time, too. I didn't have to sit in the dunk tank this year!
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Tomorrow we will celebrate our 35th Anniversary with a special worship service in the morning and a catered dinner, more entertainment and fire-crackers in the afternoon. Yes, the day will literally end with a blast!
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Palestinians Angry That They Will Lose Jobs & Medical Care Now That Israel Has Withdrawn From Gaza

It is no secret that most of the Palestinian anger over the "wall" being built around Israel is not about land, but about jobs, medical services and the marketing of Palestinian goods.

Yesterday, Little Green Footballs had a post that pointed this out quite nicely:

Palestinians fear Gaza health crisis after Israeli pullout.

GAZA CITY (AFP) - Palestinian medical experts fear a looming health crisis after Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip unless patients are guaranteed access to life-saving treatment beyond the territory.
While Israel regards its departure from Gaza as signalling the end of its 38-year occupation, the Palestinians argue that Israel willremain an occupying power as long as it retains control of its borders and is thus still obliged to meet the health needs of the local population.

“I fear a worsening of the health situation after the withdrawal from Gaza as a result of the Israeli cordon,” said Dr Majdishur, president of the Palestinian relief committees.“Israel is refusing to recognise its obligations as a continuing occupation power by meeting basic health needs of the population and we do not foresee a resumption of proper freedom of movement in the short term,” he told AFP.
(emphasis mine)

Let me see. You mean Israel was providing medical services to Palestinians within their settlements in Gaza? And they have been allowing Palestinians into Israel and providing medical services to them there as well? Huh? I thought that the Israelis were perpetrating a "holocaust" against the Palestinian people.....not trying to keep them healthy!

How unkind of the Jews to pull out of Gaza and take their medical services with them! That just proves how uncaring and hateful they are towards the Palestinians.

We all remember that sad case of the Palestinian woman who had been badly burned in a household accident. The Israelis allowed to her to cross back and forth across the border so that she could receive medical treatment at an Israeli hospital. One day she was stopped at the border and arrested! For what? For carrying a bomb under her coat! Her plan was to enter the hospital and blow herself up, hopefully killing as many of the hospital personnel as possible....the same folks who had been providing medical care for her.

How typical of the Israeli border guards to prevent her from receiving her needed medical care. How unjust of them to use "racial profiling" and "force" to keep her from exercizing her right to free travel and access to a hospital. The woman was so angry that she tried (unsuccessfully) to blow herself up in her holding area. That, too, was sooo unfair!

After all, if it doesn't come out that way you want it to come must be Israel's fault!

LGF sums this up nicely in the post's heading:

"Palestinians: We Hate You, Now Give Us Jobs and Hospitals"

Oh, I almost forgot. The jobs! It is another little secret that the Palestinian economy is virtually completely dependent upon Israel. Many Palestinians were employed by the Jewish settlements in Gaza. Many more have held jobs in Israel, commuting back and forth over the border each day. Fruits, vegetables and crafts have also found their only real market in Israel as well.

With the increase in border security, the construction of the "wall" and the pullout from Gaza, Palestinians have found themselves increasingly cut out, economically.

Once again, LGF captures this situation quite succinctly:

And if that isn’t brazen enough, they’re also complaining that they’re losing their jobs: Gaza father wonders when work will come.

As it is, Palestinians celebrate their second Intifada, rejoice in every suicide bombing and rocket attack that kills Israelis and attend Friday worship each week and nod their heads in agreement as their religious leaders (the Muslim ones) and political leaders call for death to the Jews, dream of pushing them into the sea and vow to one day "return" the land of Israel the Palestinian people,.

Yet they find no irony in getting angry at Israel for not providing them free border access, free medical care, free employment opportunities and an open market for their goods.

The border security and the "wall" have also isolated the Palestinians from another major source of income: tourism. It has become virtually impossible for those touring within Israel to gain access to the holy sites in Bethlehem. Many Palestinians have done quite well, plying their trade in crafts and curios in that small town, just seven miles south of Jerusalem.

How long can Israel allow their next door neighbors continue to take money and services with one hand while throwing rocks and bombs at them with the other?

When my Daughter #1 became a teenager, my wonderful wife and I bought a book entitled:

"Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager."

It's enough to make me wonder if the Palestinian people are being "governed" by a bunch of teenagers!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Michael Yon's "Gates of Fire" Tells It Like It Is On the Ground In Iraq

Michael Yon, who blogs at Michael Yon: Online Magazine is, in his own words, "an independent, informed observer chronicling the monumentally important events in the efforts to stabilize Iraq." His gritty, graphic and startling writing and photography have been earning the respect of a broad swath of the blogosphere.

His latest entry, dated August 25, 2005 and entitled, "Gates of Fire," will surely go down as one of the most dramatic reports from the ground that we have yet seen from Iraq.

The American media is very good a showing up burning cars and rubble caused by terrorist bombs. Every terrorist attack seems to get more coverage than any of the successful, daring and courageous missions led by our own American troops or even those led by the Iraqis themselves.

The reality of the war against the terrorists in Iraq seems never to get told. Why, I don't really know. We do ocassionally receive copies of the military incident reports filed after a firefight. Even these sterile, "tell-it-like-it-was"-in-the-tersest-possible-manner reports, convey drama and tragedy and heroism and even a moral insight or two in a way that simply can't be concealed by the "facts."

How much more telling when the writer is a gifted story-teller, free to speak of the anger, fear, confusion and admiration experienced in a moment when life and death intersect in the blink of an eye.

Read Yon's posting. Let his own words tell you about LTC Erik Kurilla, CSM Robert Prosser, Jose L. Ruiz and SGT Daniel Lama. Let him explain this photograph....

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this photograph......

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and this one, too....

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And be proud of these men. Pray for them. Email them. And, if you are willing and able, send a little money to Michael Yon who is paying for his efforts with his own money. You will find a PayPal link at his site. Take a moment and use it. I did.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Proposed Draft of the Iraqi Constitution (as of 8/25/05)

Click HERE (PDF file) if you would like to read the actual Draft of the Iraqi Constitution being debated this week.

Key issues of concern for the Sunni minority members include:

Federalism: I'm sure what the key sticking points are in the document. I know that the Sunni participants are concerned that the current Draft provides the opportunity for "Regions" and "Provinces" to exercize a wide range of discretionary authority. For example, "Article (133): It is permissible to delegate the federal government's authorities to the provinces or vice versa, with the two parties' approval, and this is regulated by law." It seems that here, certain "provinces" could be granted powers otherwise granted only to the federal government in the constitution. I don't know what this means. It almost sounds that, by agreements, certain areas of Iraq could legislate and govern almost independently of Baghdad?

A related concern is that generated by "Article (150): Laws legislated in Kurdistan since 1992 remain in effect, and decisions made by the government of the Kurdistan region--including contracts and court decisions--are effective unless they are voided or amended according to the laws of the Kurdistan region by the concerned body, as long as they are not against the constitution."

The fact that the constitution also permits existing "provinces" to join together by common consent and form larger "regions" means that all the northern Iraqi provinces could join to form one vast region comparable to a "Kurdistan" and the southern provinces could unite as one vast region dominated by Shi'ites. In these two powerful regions, minority citizens would have little influence on regional affairs which would also, of course, include the two sections of Iraq's vast oil reserves.

The few provinces with sunni majorities (I believe there are three of them) could also unite to form one region as well, but there would be little economic wealth or even large swaths of productive agricultural land in these areas. Sunnis have a good reason to feel threatened by these possibilities.

Division of Federal Power

Sunnis are concerned over the amount of power being granted to the president and his/her cabinet. Since it is unlikely that a Sunni will ever hold this office, their only hope to wield influence over policy and power will be through the council of representatives (where they one day might be able to block legislative matters requiring a 2/3 majority.) Accordingly, the more power granted to the council of representatives, the happier the Sunnis will be.

Former Baathist Party Members

The Constitution specifically targets former Baathist Party members for ostracism from the new government. Articles (7) & (145-3rd) & (148-3rd-c & d) and continues the de-Baathification Committee until dissolved by law. Article (145-1st & 2nd).

It is notable that Article (7) specifically names "the Saddamist Baathist Party" as the pariah. Being a "Baathist" in and of itself will not disqualify anyone. Syria, for example, is governed by a Baathist Party. This appears to allow for a little bit of wiggle-room for folks who worked for Saddam's party or government but was not a member of his party.

Other Matters

I am still somewhat baffled over the lack of specificity in the second legislative body called the Council of Union in Article (63). It seems as though this will be a body that reviews proposed legislation that may affect a particular region and make recommendations of some sort to who? The Council of Representatives? The President?

I am also baffled by Article (151) that reads, "A proportion of no less than 25% of the seats in the Council of Representatives is specified for the participation of women."

Since the Constitution states that each member of the Council of Representatives will represent approximately 100,000 Iraqis, that means, with a population of over 26,000,000, there will be 260 members + or - in that Council. The Constitution requires that at least 65 (25%) of them be women.

If the Representatives are freely elected as per Article (48) "by general, direct secret ballot" how in the world can they legally require that at least 65 women get elected?

Overall Impression

I feel that the opening general, foundational principles and rights laid down in in the Preamble and in Articles (1)-(48) are extrememly commendable and, indeed, visionary. Even with the provisions designating that "Islam is the official religion of Iraq and is a basic source of legislation" (Article 2) the rights of other religions are also fully affirmed (note that it says, "a" basic source..... and not "the" basic source of legislation. This is a very big distinction).

I also do not feel threatened by the inclusion of experts on Sharia being included on the Supreme Federal Court (Article 90) although I could change my mind should future legislation designate them as a majority of this Court's members).

In any case, read the text for yourself. By next Monday, God willing, Iraq will have a Draft Constitution endorsed by Kurds, Shi'ites and Sunnis to present to the Iraqi people for their approval.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Iraqi Sunnis Debate Whether To Wield Constitutonal "Nuclear Option"

Lost in all the commentary about the current impasse in the Draft Committee for the new Iraqi Constitution is that the minority Sunni group (less influential due to their boycott of last January's elections) holds a very powerful ace up their sleeve.

When Thursday rolls around and the final deadline arrives to present the Draft Constitution, the Sunnis know that a "very bad thing" will happen if it is not approved. What would happen, according to the current laws adopted to govern this interim stage of political formation, is that the existing parliament would be dissolved and all political progress would halt until new parliamentary elections could be held.

The "bad thing" would be a major setback in law and order and a major boost for Sunni-led terrorist groups. This is a great threat that can be used as leverage by the Sunni committee members to hold the Kurds and Shi'ites "hostage" to their demands for getting what they want.

There is also the reality that, if new parliamentary elections were to be held, the Sunnis would not boycott the second time around. Enough Sunnis would likely be elected to prevent any alliance of Kurds and Shi'ites to hold absolute power in the legislature (as they do now).

There is, however, also the possibility of this "threat" backfiring on the Sunnis. If the Draft Constitution is presented to the Parliament on Thursday without their endorsement, the Kurds and Shi'ites have the votes to pass it without the Sunnis at all.

This outcome would move the Constitutional process forward, of course, but it would marginalize the Sunni participation in future planning even more. They would be faced with living with a Constitution they did not endorse while serving in a government in which they hold virtually no power.

The Sunni population would then, once again, be faced with either boycotting the Constitutional vote (a tactic that backfired in January), voting for it (which would be to support a document not endorsed by their elected Sunni representatives) or vote against it (which, while most likely preventing its implementation and moving the process back to square one, would strain the attempts at national reconciliation, cooperation and political power-sharing to the breaking point.

Who will blink first? I do not think that the Shi'ites or Kurds will back off much more than they already have.

Although the outcome of a Sunni rejection might possibly empower the Sunnis in the short term, all other scenarios are less pleasant. Not only would their rejection destabilize national security, but it would likely significantly diminish their influence in the future government. Shi'ite and Kurdish anger and distrust towards the Sunnis (already present but suppressed) would show itself in their coordinating power in ways that would leave the Sunnis sidelined as a super-minority opposition party as opposed to being a contributing member of a coalition government.

My guess is that it will be the Sunnis who will blink on Thursday. If they don't, they, and the majority Sunni populations in central Iraq, will be the losers. I believe that they know this and will endorse the final draft.

Then again.....I could be wrong!

New Hampshire Physician May Lose License For Being Honest

Dr. Terry Bennett told his patient that she was overweight. She was. She got upset. Now he's in trouble and being asked by the State Attorney General's Office that he needs to take sensitivity training. What?

According to FoxNews,

"I told a fat woman she was obese," Bennett says. "I tried to get her attention. I told her, 'You need to get on a program, join a group of like-minded people and peel off the weight that is going to kill you.' "

He says he wrote a letter of apology to the woman when he found out she was offended.

Her complaint, filed about a year ago, was initially investigated by a panel of the New Hampshire Board of Medicine, which recommended that Bennett be sent a confidential letter of concern. The board rejected the suggestion in December and asked the attorney general's office to investigate.

Bennett rejected that office's proposal that he attend a medical education course and acknowledge that he made a mistake.'s the best part....

Other overweight patients have come to Bennett's defense.

"What really makes me angry is he told the truth," Mindy Haney told WMUR-TV on Tuesday. "How can you punish somebody for that?"

Haney said Bennett has helped her lose more than 150 pounds, but acknowledged that the initially didn't want to listen.

"I have been in this lady's shoes. I've been angry and left his practice. I mean, in-my-car-taking-off angry," Haney said. "But once you think about it, you're angry at yourself, not Doctor Bennett. He's the messenger. He's telling you what you already know."
My guess is that it is the complaining patient who should be required to take a class...."What class and Why?" you ask. Hey, I decide!

Man Abandons Wife,Dies, Falls & Suffocates Daughter; Huh?

According to the AP article on CNN, Hollywood producer, Terry Carr drove off with his nine-year old daughter, Arieka, leaving his wife, Chikako, behind in a grocery store restroom in Ashland, Oregon. He then drove 280 miles south to Clearlake Oaks, California, where, the following morning, his body, lying on top of his suffocated daughter, was found in the back of his SUV in a convenience store parking lot.

The body was found on August 1st. His wife has no idea why he drove off without her. He dumped a box of belongings, including important personal papers and photos, in a pasture on the outskirts of Ashland a few days before he disappeared. His brother, John, lives in Clearlake Oaks but said he had not heard from Carr. Police now say that Carr died of a heart attack.

Hmmm. Sounds like a case for Miss Marple. Lots of questions here....

Who died first, Carr or his daughter?
Was her death accidental or intentional?
Had Carr suffered from depression?
Was he bi-polar?
Had he evidenced any indication of being suicidal?
Was he taking medication for depression, high blood pressure, etc?
Had he stopped taking any medications?
Had he and his wife had any arguments recently?
If so, what were the arguments about?
Why couldn't a 52 pound, 9-year old girl at least turn her head to the side and breathe, even with a 212 pound man on top of her?

I guess it took 3+ weeks to complete the autopsy. I wonder what else they found....such as medications, etc. in his body?

Something just doesn't add up with the story as I read it. I'm not usually a suspicious sort of guy, but this is almost too weird for me to swallow whole!

Woman's Attempt to Foil Car Theft Fails....Bare-ly

Here in Hawaii, we are used to the whimsical side of life. On Monday morning, for example, a woman, camping at Mokuleia on Oahu's North Shore heard suspicious sounds coming from outside her tent. As she peeked out she saw a man about to steal her car and drive off.

She dashed out of the tent and jumped onto the hood of her car, hoping to startle the man and cause him to stop. We can only assume that the man was, indeed, startled when he saw a completely naked woman jump onto the front of the car he was trying to steal!

The man kept his composure long enough to swerve back and forth until he threw the nude former car owner onto the side of the road and drove away, chased by another car driven by a friend of the woman. Eventually he got clean away by smashing into the pursuing car and leaving it behind.

The woman, whose name was discretely withheld from the public record, was treated at the Wahiawa Hospital and later released with minor injuries.

The woman was a visitor from Washington state. When she gets home and her friends ask her how her trip to Hawaii went......I would love to hear what she tells them!

No Liquor In My House

It's not just liquor; my house does not contain any alcoholic beverages at all.

This was a decision by my wife and I from the time we were married. Outside the house I would have maybe one beer and one glass of wine every 12 months or so.

When our first daughter turned 2 years old I gave that up, too. Parents set a very important example for their children and we wanted to set an example of a good life that did not require alcohol to have "fun" or to be "happy" or even to "celebrate" things.

Neither of us passed any judgment on others we knew (whether members of a Christian church or not) who either had a beer or glass of brandy once in a while. That was their decision but, if they came to our house for dinner and brought a bottle of wine along as a gift, we would quietly thank them but explain our household policy without seeming to be critical of their own.

Today, the newpaper printed the results of a national survey made by the American Medical Association. It is a very small sample (701 U.S. Teens) so I would not be comfortable describing the survey as "authoritative." Even so, the figures were very interesting:

In response to a question concerning where & how they, as teens, get alcohol....
At a party: 80%
From their home (w/out parents' knowledge): 67%
From relatives or a sibling older than 21: 65%
From someone else's parent(s): 40%
Using a fake ID: 36%
From their parents (w/their parents' knowledge): 32%
It seems to me that having alcohol sitting around your house will all too often wind up being too big a temptation for many teens to walk away from.

If a person has a genetic predisposition to alcohol addiction, a few drinks at a young age could lead quickly to a life of misery. Even one overdone binge with parents out of the house could lead to serious threats to both health and life.

My wife and I decided that it would be better to remove that temptation from our home, at least as long as our children were growing up. Our oldest is now 23 and can choose to buy or not to buy alcohol on her own as an adult. Daughters number 2 & 3 are 19 and 16.

Perhaps the day will come when I will share a beer or a glass of wine with one or more of my daughters. Should such a day ever come, they would have learned long before that it wasn't something I needed to have in order to enjoy life.

Hopefully, they will learn to do the same.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Who Is Iraq's George Washington?

Every nation has a hero, whether mythical or historic, who symbolically sums up the nation's pride, purpose and personality.

--The United States has its George Washington.

--Numerous countries in South American have Simon Bolivar.

--England has its Winston Churchill (as a contemporary icon).

--Scotland its William Wallace, Robert Bruce and John Knox.

--Every world religion, as well, has their founder and "saints."

But what about the emerging democratic and free nation of Iraq? Who will one day be their George Washington?

Who will they honor with a statue in the town square?

Who will personify their overthrow of Saddam Hussein and their victory over murderous terrorism?

Who will be the lynch-pin that rises above sectarian differences and becomes the leader, respected and trusted by all sides and who inspires others to rise above their differences and sacrifice for the good of the nation as a whole?

I submit that there is, at the moment, no one who remotely stands in such a place of stature at this critical moment of Iraqi history.

When the textbooks are written, what will they say?

While we stood by, powerless and oppressed, the United States invaded our country and cast off the yoke of the dictatorial tyrant Saddam Hussein and his evil Baathist Party.

After the Americans (assisted by the British in the south) created some semblance of security, rich and educated Iraqis who had lived outside of Iraq for many years were flown back into Iraq by the United States. These men, hand-picked by American military and CIA operatives, soon coalesced to form the nucleus of our emerging government.

While many Iraqi men signed up to serve in our new armed forces and police units, it was the United States who screened them, trained them, paid them and, for a time, actually led them in missions against the insurgent terrorists.

While many Iraqi civilians and police officers were killed in terrorist attacks and others killed in crossfire between American troops and Al Qaeda operatives, it was the American soldiers who bore the heaviest burden to secure our freedom.

These soldiers, with the help of foreign civilians paid by the United States, literally rebuilt our country from the bottom, hiring and training Iraqi citizens to take over the management, maintenance and operation of the many components of the new and technologically advanced industrial, economic, educational, security and utilitarian infrastructure.

Our interim government was protected by American troops who also oversaw the logistics and successful completion of our first, free national election in decades. The men and women who we elected to our new parliament eventually framed a new constitution for Iraq. They did so in the area of Baghdad called the "Green Zone" which was a safety area secured by hundreds of American soldiers.

We are a proud people and we salute the brave and visionary leadership of (
fill in the blank) who inspired us and who heroically stood head and shoulders above everyone else during this most difficult period of our nation's new, emerging history.

This mentor and role-model for our nation will always be revered as the Father/Mother of a democratic Iraq.

How inspiring this will be! How Iraqi hearts will fill with pride as they remember how they stood by and watched as the United States freed them and paid the price in money, material and blood for the freedom we enjoy today

The Iraqis will stand tall as they remember that they were completely unable to achieve this by themselves.

How, I ask, can a nation become forged into unity of vision when they do not have either a George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, John Adams, John Hancock or even a Patrick Henry?

Al-Sistani the "Father of Iraq?" Al-Sadr? Chalabi?

A genuine nation evolves like the Beatles, through strong will, hard work, trial and error, vivid personalities, personal sacrifice, good luck and gifted talent.

The emerging Iraq appears to be more like the Monkees.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Iraqi Constitution Is Still "On-Track"...Barely

A Draft Constitution for Iraq was completed today....but without the support of the Sunni members of the committee. Instead of trying to ram it through the legislature, thereby disenfranchising every Iraq Sunni, the committee majority carefully considered the matter and, bravely and intelligently, decided to wait three more days to find some way to bring the Sunni's "on board."

There are, of course, many different ways to "read" this unfolding drama.

For me, the most remarkable thing is that all three major political groups, Sunni, Kurd & Shi'ite, all seem to agree that they are all Iraqis and that the unity of the nation represents a higher priority than squeezing out the last, minute concession to benefit their own particular constituency.

Power Line's John Hinderocker has posted a brief, succinct and, I believe, correct analysis of what is taking place in Baghdad. He is optimistic and, until I discover something that proves me wrong, I am, too!

Pat Robertson Shames the Body of Christ

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWhen I think of embarrassing Christian leaders, the Rev. Ian Paisley of Northern Ireland comes to mind. His militant, hateful and violent approach to Roman Catholics caused him to be condemned and disavowed by the Presbyterian Church of Ireland (of which he has never been a member. In 1946 he was "ordained" without the authorization of any recognized ecclesiastical body and has paraded himself around the world as a "Presbyterian" minister ever since. By any stretch of the imagination the title, "Rev.," which always appears in front of his name, should be, if not deleted entirely, at least be put in quotation marks!

Image hosted by Photobucket.comNow, joining Paisley in the pantheon of "Embarrassing Christian Leaders," is the Rev. Dr. Pat Robertson. Now Robertson has been in and out of the pantheon for many years. Who can forget his claim that his prayers were responsible for steering hurricane Gloria away from the Atlantic coast ("It was extremely important because I felt that if I couldn't move a hurricane, I could hardly move a nation");

Or his claim to have been a "combat Marine" in Korea (when it turned out he had been nicknamed, "the liquor officer" who never got near the front lines).

Well, today on his "700 Club" television program, Robertson called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela. Here is the transcript of what he said (courtesy of Captain Ed):

ROBERTSON: There was a popular coup that overthrew him[Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it
. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with. (emphasis added)

It would be considered madness for a politician to suggest such a thing openly. But for a prominent Christian minister to declare, apparently without a single moral qualm, that for the sake of America's need for oil and the insane idea that Chavez is inviting Al Qaeda into his country, we should sent in covert operatives and murder a Head of State simply for the sake of convenience?

Has he completely forgotten the lesson of scripture?

In John 11:49-50 we read that, when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were debating what to do about Jesus of Nazareth, "one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, 'You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.'"

Now that sounds like an idea that would easily elicit a hearty "Amen!" from Pat Robertson.

Unfortunately, the strategy that Robertson seems to favor is the same one that led to the arrest, suffering, crucifixion and death of his own Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ ("go get 'em, Caiaphas!")

In retrospect, perhaps saying that, "the Rev. Dr. Pat Robertson Shames the Body of Christ" was not really an appropriate thing for me to have said. More appropriate would have been for me to have said that, "It appears that the Rev. Dr. Pat Robertson has lost his mind....and that he has shamed the Body of Christ as well!"

This time, when he enters the pantheon of embarrassing Christian Leaders, will somebody please close and lock the door behind him?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Harvard Re-Creates Embryonic Stem Cells from Adult Cells

For months everyone and their wives (read "Diana" and "Nancy") have been blasting President Bush on his unwillingness to approve Federal funding for new lines of embryonic stem cell research. I wrote about this matter last May in a post entitled, "What's the Big Deal About Embryonic Stem Cell Research."

Today, however, that entire point may well become mute.

According to the Associated Press in an article just posted on FoxNews, Harvard researchers are claiming that, by "fusing" an embryonic stem cell with a skin cell from an adult, the adult cell appeared to have been "reprogrammed" to return to it's original embryonic stem cell state.

If an effective procedure can be developed so that the fused cells can be separated and if the resulting new cells prove to be identical to embryonic stem cells, then the need to destroy human embryos in order to harvest their stem cells for research and medical use will likely become unnecessary.

This would remove a very contentious moral issue from the public debate over the ethics of this particular line of scientific research and effectively end the political debate over whether such research should or should not receive support from Federal grant money.

If this Harvard study proves to be true, then we will hear a vast, collective sigh of relief....with the possible exception of those researchers who have staked their professional reputation and financial future on their need to destroy frozen human embryos. Oh, and also those who may have invested large chunks of money into this venture. Like the State of California, for example!

The entire issue begs the question as to which came first in the evolutionary cycle, stem cells? or the specialized cells they create? Can there, in reality, be one without the other? If not, then where did they come from and how did they acquire this remarkable ability to change from one thing into another (and now, apparantly, also have the ability to change back again!).

It seems like another good argument for the Intelligent Design folks. Just like the "design" of the eye and other inter-dependent biological systems, this stem cell to specialized cell and back to stem cell cycle appears to have no credible naturalistic explaination for its origin.

For the past five years or more I have predicted great advances in therapeudic and restorative therapies over the span of my children's generation. I envision burned skin restored, lost fingers regrown and even damaged internal organs such as the liver, kidneys and even, perhaps, the heart and nerve cells in the brain and spinal column being repared as a result of stem cell research. Never did I believe that these breakthroughs would of necessity require the destruction of human embryos.

It appears that GW was right to defer the spending of our tax dollars on this line of research. Not because it was morally wrong (which I still believe it is) but because it was not necessary.

Pope Benedict XVI Tells It Like It Is In Cologne

Pope Benedict XVI (who will, no doubt, soon be known as Pope Ben) came home to Germany and proved that he can speak from his heart as well as his head.

Perhaps as many as 1,000,000 young people from around the world have gathered for spiritual renewal and the opportunity to see the new Pope in person and hear what he had to say to them.

Whereas his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, frequently wrapped his Christian message in the larger context of world events, Pope Ben seems to prefer to wrap world events into the larger context of the Christian faith!

According to the (London) TimesOnLine,

The main theme (of his visit).....was the assertion that Christianity was not a faith that could be adopted à la carte. Addressing himself particularly to his European audience, the Pope said religion was not a consumer product, whose difficult rules could be disregarded at will. And he chided the materialist mentality that found it "inconvenient" to attend Sunday Mass regularly.
As a Presbyterian pastor I could not have said it any better (except, perhaps, for changing the word "Mass" to "worship and communion.")

To be a Christian is to enter into a package deal that requires the embrace of each part as being essential. No picking or choosing allowed!

--One body? Check.
--One Spirit? Check
--One Lord? Check.
--One Faith? Check.
--On Baptism? Check.
--One God and Father of us all? Check.
--Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life? Check.
--No way to come to the Father except through Jesus? Check.
--To follow him means to become like him? Check.
--To call him "Lord" means to be obedient to him in all things? Check.
--To call him "Savior" means that there is no other name under heaven by which you must be saved? Check.
--If a person does not love others in the same way that Christ loved us then God is not in them, because God is love? Check.

That's just the beginning of a long list of essentials for the Christian believer.

The role of scripture, the Church, the sacraments, the resurrection, and the central concepts of righteousness and justice, sin, forgiveness, reconciliation and the sharing of the Good News in word (evangelism) and deed (missions) are also imperative for anyone who would consider calling themselves a Christian, regardless of the branch or denomination upon which they find themselves to have been grafted.

The Christian faith stands or falls as a whole. Each part, while good and true in and of itself, is true only in relation to the other truths of the faith. Truth is truth. The tablecloth is clean or it is stained, not thread by thread, but taken as a whole. To separate the warp and woof of the Gospel is to rend what was designed to be a seamless garment.

Pope Ben has got this very right, indeed. He was, at least publicly, also refreshingly silent concerning the veneration of Mary and other matters that might have otherwise separated a non-Roman Catholic from a Protestant or Orthodox believer.

As a former unenthusiastic conscript into the Nazi Youth program, the Pope was especially eager to meet with German Jews in their rebuilt synagogue in Cologne. There, in only the second visit to a synagogue by a modern Pope (one must assume that St. Peter ventured into one now and again as well!), he expressed the contrition and remorse which he, and all Christians, must feel for the "unimaginable crime" of the Holocaust.

At another location, Pope Ben met withrepresentativestives of the Muslim community in Germany. According to the Times report,

The Pope acknowledged the bloodstained history of atrocities committed in the name of religion. But this did not prevent him from speaking out unambiguously on the need for Muslims to combat the "cruel fanaticism" of terrorism that poisoned ties between their faiths. He told Muslim leaders that there was no room for apathy and disengagement, even less for partiality and sectarianism. But he balanced this harsh message with an insistence that Christians should not yield to prejudice and negative pressures. All religions had to treat each other with mutual respect.
According to other reports, the Muslim leaders, while appreciative of the Pope's meeting with them, did express some distaste for the implication that they were somehow responsible for curbing the "cruel fanaticism" that none of them supported in the first place! The question was also raised as to why this Pope met with Jewish leaders in a synagogue but did not meet with them in a mosque? After all, Pope John Paul II had visited a mosque during his tenure? (UPDATE: LGF has a link that possibly explains why the Pope skipped a visit to a mosque in Cologne.)

All this seems to show that Pope Ben, while perhaps more bold and blunt than his predecessor, is still eager to reach out and extend the hand of the Christian Church to those of other faiths....not as a sign of solidarity, of course, but as a sign of humility and respect.

Every Roman Catholic is, whether they admit to it or not, is a "Pope watcher." Whatever the Pope says or the Pope does becomes the model of behavior for every other member of the RC Church.

These seemingly small gestures will empower Roman Catholic priests and laity alike to follow his example in establishing better relationships with the leaders and members of other religions in their neighborhoods.

Those who persist in defying and ignoring the Pope's example will soon become marginalized. I have no doubt that this Pope will keep the people guessing as to what he will say or do next. Jesus said that the (Holy) Spirit blows wherever he chooses. I sense a fresh blowing of the Spirit through this first, major international sojourn by this new Pope.

I also appreciate his independence in asserting himself as a different and distinct personality from Pope John Paul II.

A small departure from one of John Paul's personal habits was noted during Pope Ben's arrival and disembarkment from his plane at the Cologne airport. Where JP II had always tried (when physically able to do so) to kiss the tarmac upon arrival in a new country, Ben XVI simply smiled, greeted Herr Schroeder, and went on his merry way.

John Paul had, of course, a wonderful smile and a friendly, gregarious natural disposition to go with it. Ben, on the other hand, is a quiet, private man not generally attracted to large crowds or the "spotlight."

Even so, John Paul always carried a tangible intensity in his demeanor, even in the lightest of moments. Pope Ben, on the other hand, has eyes that "twinkle," as though betraying some hidden mischief. His smile is genuine and warm. He is no longer the "man behind the curtain." Having been pushed forward into center stage by the hand of God and the voice of his Church, he has revealed himself to be more than capable of thoroughly enjoying playing the role of the Chief Servant among servants in God's household of faith on earth.

When blessed with a loving Master, a good servant will always submit to his will in all things. When the Master is the Lord, such submission will always bring peace. And, indeed, there is a peace within this man.

Although I am not a Roman Catholic, I believe that I will be a "Pope watcher," too. I expect that the view will be entertaining, enlightening, inspiring and even, on occasion, pleasantly surprising. Just like what we have seen on his trip to Cologne!