Friday, October 31, 2003

Poor Scripture Knowledge
The issue of the authority of the bible has become so polarizing that it seems people line up on two sides: Either it's the perfect, infallible, authoritative Word of God, or it's not worth reading. The latter is a grave mistake on the part of liberal churches.

There is a danger among liberal Christians that we will forget that the bible is the primary source and foundation of our faith in Christ and God. In contrast to "bible-thumpers", some of us may adopt a view that rejects the bible as being of little value, full of racism, sexism, close-minded authors, and a very narrow world view.

By doing this, we shut ourselves off to the main source of Christian and Jewish inspiration over the centuries, as well as the deeper meanings of our faith. The symptoms include general lack of bible studies in some liberal churches and occasional lack of bible teaching.

This is bad for several reasons. First, all scripture is inspired by God and is profitable teaching, reproof, correction, and training righteousness. That doesn't mean that we have to believe that every word was written by God, but it does mean that we need to keep the scriptures by the center of our Christian experience. It is, in many ways, our "daily bread" in a spiritual sense. Even the parts we don't understand or agree with can help us grow in our walk.

Secondly, it makes it real hard for us to converse with (or argue with) our conservative brethren in Christ. If we can't have a common foundation on the authority of scripture, at least we can try to keep up with them and our understanding and knowledge of this book which we hold dear regardless of which branch of the faith tradition is followed. The bible really should be used to bring Christians together, not drive them apart....

...By and large, it turns out that liberal Christianity is a great home to second-time Christians like myself. People who grew up within the Christian tradition, fell away, and then came back to a liberal branch of the faith. This lets them keep both their Christian heritage and their liberal values, and eliminates the (false) feeling that there's a conflict between the two. But it doesn't provide much of anything to the "unsaved," those people who have never been Christians before. Why would an atheist or agnostic bother?

Anyway, those are my three big ones. There are smaller ones, but these represent, as I see them, the weakest parts of the progressive Christian experience. There are a number of positives as well, and there are weaknesses in the conservative traditions too, but for now I am not going to just cheerlead for "my side."

In Bed with Bush
By Studs Terkel, In These Times

...Think about the coverage of George Bush, especially after 9/11, when David Broder, a solid, centrist journalist, compared Bush to Abraham Lincoln. That gives you an idea of the nonsense we have to deal with these days. We’re not talking now about the right-wing pundits, of whom nothing much need be said, we’re talking about journalists like Broder who are considered part of the "liberal media," which is of course an obscene phrase because of the burlesque nature of it. ...

South Park: Episode 709 - Christian Rock Hard

...Butters: Whoa, you sure seem with it, Eric. You must have some... ih-inspiration.
Cartman: Yes, the tears of Kyle Broflovski when he loses his ten dollars to me. [makes changes to the sheet music on the piano's sheet music holder]
Token: [arrives with a bass and a small amplifier] Hey, there was a bass guitar in my basement.
Cartman: I told you, Token.
Token: So, what are we doing?
Cartman: Gentlemen, we are about to embark on the most amazing, life-affirming, financially-windfalling experiences of our young lives.
Butters: Wow!
Cartman: We are going to start... a Christian rock band.
Butters: [his smile vanishes and he slumps in his chair] Awww.
Token: [moves towards the front door] I'm out. [picks up his amp]
Cartman: Wait! [Token stops, Cartman rushes over] Walk out that door, Token, and you'll regret it the rest of your life! Christians have a built-in audience of over one hundred and eighty million Americans! If each one of them buys just one of our albums at twelve dollars and ninety-five cents that would be- [points to Butters]
Butters: Two billion, three hundred and thirty one million dollars.
Cartman: Still want to leave, Token? [Token thinks a bit, then resumes his place] Thank you....

...A mansion, somewhere, day. The agent has taken the boys for a ride and arrived here. He leads them to the main gate]
Detective: This is the home of Lars Ulrich, the drummer for Metallica. [they approach a bush] Look. There's Lars now, sitting by his pool. [he's seen sitting on the edge of a chaise longue, his face in his hands, softly sobbing]
Kyle: What's the matter with him?
Detective: This month he was hoping to have a gold-plated shark tank bar installed right next to the pool, but thanks to people downloading his music for free, he must now wait a few months before he can afford it. [a close-up of Lars sobbing] Come. There's more. [leads them away. Next seen is a small airport at night] Here's Britney Spears' private jet. Notice anything? [a shot of Britney boarding a plane, then stopping to look at it before entering] Britney used to have a Gulfstream IV. Now she's had to sell it and get a Gulfstream III because people like you chose to download her music for free. [Britney gives a heavy sigh and goes inside.] The Gulfstream III doesn't even have a remote control for its surround-sound DVD system. Still think downloading music for free is no big deal?
Kyle: We... didn't realize what we were doing, eh...
Detective: That is the folly of man. Now look in this window. [they are at another mansion, and they look inside a picture window] Here you see the loving family of Master P. [He's shown tossing a basketball to his wife while his kid tries to catch it] Next week is his son's birthday and, all he's ever wanted was an island in French Polynesia. [his mom lowers the ball and gives it to the boy, who smiles, picks it up and drops it. It rolls away and he goes after it]
Kyle: So, he's gonna get it, right?
Detective: I see an island without an owner. If things keep going the way they are, the child will not get his tropical paradise.
Stan: [apologetically] We're sorry! We'll, we'll never download music for free again!
Detective: [somberly, dramatically] Man must learn to think of these horrible outcomes before he acts selfishly or else... I fear... recording artists will be forever doomed to a life of only semi-luxury....

Mike Yaconelli Dies in Truck Accident
The cofounder of Youth Specialties and The Door embodied Messy Spirituality

The Dick Staub Interview: Mike Yaconelli
The author of Messy Spirituality discusses God's "annoying love."

So the theology that you were raised in was not messy. It was the idea that now you've met Jesus, things are going to be straight.

They're going to be great, you're going to get fixed, you're going to be perfect.

What was the point at which you realized that this was not going to work for Mike Yaconelli?

Well, the beginnings of it happened when my daughter got cancer. She was 18 months old. And at that point, I had all these Christian people who were wonderful people come to me and tell me why God was doing it and that even if she died she'd be with God and "isn't that better?" And I'm thinking, no, not really.

That was the beginning of the sort of crack in my faith where I realized there's more to God than just fixing people....

You have some dramatic statements in this book including, "I don't believe in spiritual growth."

Well, that's because we've made spiritual growth measurable. We've actually communicated to people that there are steps to spiritual growth and that you can know how you're growing. And so I try to write a chapter about the whole fact that spiritual growth takes time. It's tiny little steps. It's lots of decisions, not just one decision. And I think that's helpful to people. Frankly, I used to think, oh well, gosh, I'm not praying everyday.

And the reality is that every tiny step I take towards God is a huge, huge thing. And the other part that bothers me is that when the church talks about spirituality and spiritual growth, it has all these rules.

The church is not about pointing the finger at people and tell them what they're doing wrong. Our goal is to show them this incredible lavish love of God and the result will be, "Yeah, I'll be a mess, but I'm so attracted to this God."

And I'll be honest with you, there have been times when I haven't been attracted to Jesus. And it's kind of like when my grandson sees me. He grabs onto my shirt and he won't let go. I go around and he's just hanging on and I go, you know, Noah, let go. And he goes, okay. And he doesn't let go. To be honest with you, that's the way Jesus has been in my life. There have been times where I've said, Jesus, I don't believe in you anymore, get out of here. I don't know. I don't even trust you. And it's like, okay. And he's still hanging on.

That's why I'm a Christian today....

Whatever happened to...Saddam Hussein?

Updated: Hell House Returns (Unfortunately)
Christianity & Religion
By Tim Bednar

October 24, 2003 -- In 1995, Keenan Roberts created a national phenomenon when he staged Hell House at Abundant Life Christian Center. Basically, folks paid $7 to be lead through the hallways of the church where they witnessed scenes (such as abortions) and culminated in a depiction of hell (complete with Limburger cheese substituting for sulfur). The clear message was that if you do these ghastly things, you will go to hell.

Last year Hell House was on hiatus, but the it returns this year as a morality play. Hell House will focus this year on their most controversial scenes that will send you to hell. Pastor of Destiny Church which is presenting the play at Vision Fellowship currently located inside a renovated strip mall, Keenan Roberts stated:

"We're going with a lot of the biggies," he said. Those include scenes of a gay wedding, a mother talking to her aborted child, a drug-filled rave party, kids dying in a drunken-driving accident, suicide and domestic abuse, as well as the destinations of hell and heaven."

I believe this method of 'shock-evangelism' is misguided and wrong....

Two from Andrew Careaga
Jesus Is a Punk
Participatory media, participatory church

Japan team reports quantum computing breakthrough
Research team demonstrates one of the two building blocks needed for a quantum computer

A research team in Japan says it has successfully demonstrated for the first time in the world in a solid-state device one of the two basic building blocks that will be needed to construct a viable quantum computer. ...

...Among the startling properties of qubits is that they do not just hold either binary 1 or binary 0, but can hold a superposition of the two states simultaneously. As the number of qubits grows, so does the number of distinct states which can be represented by entangled qubits. Two qubits can hold four distinct states which can be processed simultaneously, three qubits can hold eight states, and so on in an exponential progression.

So a system with just 10 qubits could carry out 1,024 operations simultaneously as though it were a massively parallel processing system. A 40-qubit system could carry out one trillion simultaneous operations. A 100-qubit system could carry out one trillion trillion simultaneous operations.

That means calculations, such as working out the factors of prime numbers, which present problems for even the fastest supercomputers could be trivialized by a quantum computer. As an example Tsai estimated that using the Shor Algorithm to factor a 256-bit binary number, a task that would take 10 million years using something like IBM Corp.'s Blue Gene supercomputer, could be accomplished by a quantum computer in about 10 seconds. ...

Microsoft and Google: Partners or Rivals?

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 30 - Wall Street is not the only one wooing Google. Microsoft is as well.

Google, the highflying Silicon Valley Web search company, recently began holding meetings with bankers in preparation for its highly anticipated initial public offering as it was still engaged in meetings of another kind: exploring a partnership or even a merger with Microsoft.

According to company executives and others briefed on the discussions, Microsoft - desperate to capture a slice of the popular and ad-generating search business - approached Google within the last two months to discuss options, including the possibility of a takeover....

TV suitors shocked as dream girl turns out to be a man
By Catriona Davies

Six men who competed for the affection of an attractive brunette called Miriam for a reality television programme have threatened legal action after discovering that the object of their attention was a transsexual....

Believers unite, sweat at America's first Christian sports club chain
CLERMONT, United States (AFP) - The sign over the leg-press machine proclaims: "The weakness of God is stronger than man's strength" and the stock greeting among employees and clients is a simple, "God bless you!"

Over the bench press machine are the words: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

Welcome to Lord's Gym, America's first Christian fitness club chain, where members with "His Pain Your Gain" tee-shirts use running machines, the Lion of Judah a symbol in the background at this south Florida gym. ...

Vice Fund

“It is our philosophy that although often considered politically incorrect, these and similar industries and products...will continue to experience significant capital appreciation during good and bad markets. We consider these industries to be nearly ‘recession-proof.’”

Top Industry Breakdown as of 9/30/03:
28.70% - Gaming
23.28% - Alcohol
22.95% - Defense
17.15% - Tobacco
7.92% - Other

Security collides with civil liberties
Debate intensifies over war on terrorism

Sept. 11, 2001, changed America. In its wake, Americans demanded bolstered security. The Bush administration responded with new policies and new laws giving the government broad investigative powers in the name of fighting terrorism. Some say the government has gone too far. Over the next four days, The Bee examines how the crackdown on terrorism has come into conflict with the civil liberties that set America apart.

The FBI is counting mosques, and law enforcement has asked hundreds of libraries about your reading habits.

There are secret lists governing whether you can get on an airplane, secret surveillance of e-mail and the Internet, and new warrants allowing the government to search your home, your bank records and your medical files without your knowing it.

When FBI agents were told last year that terrorist training included scuba diving techniques, the agency asked for -- and got -- the names and addresses of more than 10 million Americans certified as divers.

Immigrants nationwide have been jailed indefinitely over visa violations that in the past would have been ignored, and about 13,000 face deportation.

Others have languished in cells while officials lied to their families about where they were.

And thousands have fled the United States, seeking refuge in Canada.

For countless American citizens and immigrant residents, the echoes of Sept. 11, 2001, continue to resound in what a growing number of critics contend is a loss of basic civil liberties stemming from the federal government's anti-terrorism campaign....

'Sac Bee' Hailed for Series on Patriot Act
Hentoff: Paper Deserves a Pulitzer

Since the USA Patriot Act was rushed through Congress without public hearings and without many members having time to fully read the complex bill, I have been covering the growing national debate on the Bush-Ashcroft revisions to the Bill of Rights.

In an extensive four-part, front-page series, "Liberty in the Balance," beginning Sept. 21, The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee did more than any daily newspaper I've seen to clarify the effects of the domestic war on terrorism on citizens and non-citizens.

The series -- which deserves a Pulitzer -- was the brainchild of the paper's executive editor, Rick Rodriguez, who, in a "note to our readers" on the first day the series ran, said the Bee would examine "how the crackdown on terrorism has come into conflict with the civil liberties that set America apart."...

...The series can be found at

Bush Ignores Soldiers' Burials
By Christopher Scheer, AlterNet
October 30, 2003

On Monday and Tuesday, amid the suicide bombing carnage that left at least 34 Iraqis dead, three more U.S. servicemen were killed in combat in Iraq. In the coming days their bodies will be boxed up and sent home for burial. While en route, the coffins will be deliberately shielded from view, lest the media capture on film the dark image of this ultimate sacrifice. It is almost certain, as well, that like all of the hundreds of U.S. troops killed in this war to date, these dead soldiers will be interred or memorialized without the solemn presence of the President of the United States.

Increasingly, this proclivity on the part of President Bush to avoid the normal duty of a commander-in-chief to honor dead soldiers is causing rising irritation among some veterans and their families who have noticed what appears to be a historically anomalous slight.

..."It goes back to the reasons behind this war in the first place," continued Sheehan-Miles, executive director of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. "We've got this constant rhetoric that supporting the troops is the equivalent of supporting the President's policies. If you're against the war then you're not for the troops. And this is one of the key things that show the lie of that. The President, the Pentagon and, to a lesser extent, the Congress has shown that they don't have any regard for the people who are fighting the war on their behalf."...

Publishers put their faith in churchified 'chick lit'
By Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY

Secular and religious publishers are adding a Christian twist to the genre of young women's fiction called "chick lit." Publishers Weekly dubbed it "Bridget Jones goes to church."

While classic chick lit addresses single women's supposedly crushing issues thigh circumference, man-trapping and how many glasses of wine one drank the night before Christian chick lit includes more church singles' groups. And no recreational drinking....

What's the origin of the word "boogie"?

...Ultimately, "boogie" seems to come, via a circuitous route, from the Latin Bulgarus, an inhabitant of Bulgaria. The Old French term boulgre was used to refer to a member of a sect of 11th-century Bulgarian heretics, and "bougre" first appears in the English writing in 1340 as a synonym for "heretic." By the 16th century, "bougre" grew into "bugger," a practitioner of vile and despicable acts including "buggery," or sodomy. "Bogy" (or "bogie") first appears in the 19th century as an appellation for the devil; later it came to be used for hobgoblins in general. Hence, the bogeyman,...

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Hackers on Atkins
Geeks who go low-carb see it as more than just taking off pounds -- they're reengineering the human organism, overclocking their own bodies....


"General Musharraf of Pakistan is a Democrat"
George W. Bush

"The inhabitants of Greece are the Greecians"
George W. Bush

"The French don't have a word for 'Entrepreneur'"
George W.. Bush

"The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country."
George W.Bush

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."
George W. Bush

"I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the
George W. Bush

"The future will be better tomorrow."
George W. Bush

"We're going to have the best educated American people in the world."
George W. Bush

"I stand by all the misstatements that I've made."
George W. Bush

"We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm
commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe."
George W. Bush

"A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls."
George W. Bush

"For NASA, space is still a high priority."
George W. Bush

"Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children."
George W. Bush

"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in
our air and water that are doing it."
George W. Bush

"It's time for the human race to enter the solar system."
George W. Bush

A few points to cover.

First, though the administration seems like it’s in disarray over Iraq, I believe the internal disarray and in-fighting is much more pronounced than is now apparent. Much more.

Second, in various conversations yesterday I was struck by how similarly many Democrats and many neocons in (and in the orbit of) the administration are viewing the situation in Iraq. Or, at least one key aspect of it, one key fear.

At the American Progress conference yesterday I sat in on a press roundtable Q&A with John Podesta and Sandy Berger. Berger said his greatest fear was that we would withdraw from Iraq prematurely.

I heard this anxiety expressed by a lot of people at the conference. The concern is that the politicals at the White House will dictate a hasty and potentially disastrous withdrawal from Iraq --- one engineered not to create a long-term good outcome in the country, but to create a very specific short-term benefit, to eliminate or reduce the president’s political vulnerability on the issue in the fall of 2004. ...


Dramatic rescue snatches back Mayan altar
In an operation worthy of a major movie, Guatemalan authorities have recovered an important Maya stone altar from looters....

Mr. Bush & the Divine
By Joan Didion

...This interview at the Petroleum Club in Midland took place in November of 2002, some months before hostilities began in Iraq. By September of 2003, some months after major hostilities were declared finished ("MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" was the banner on the carrier where the President staged his victorious landing), the number of Americans who said they believed the war to be worth fighting had dropped, according to an ABC News poll, to 54 percent, down from 70 percent in April. The same month, at a Bush fund-raiser in Jacksonville, Florida, a Republican real estate investor talked about the situation to The Washington Post. "This aftermath in Iraq is going to be tougher than we thought it was," the investor said. "I am very worried about it," a Republican job recruiter in Omaha told The New York Times, also in September. "I have two brothers in the Navy. I think there are going to be a lot more casualties. I think we are in there for the long haul. I believe we did the right thing. But I don't see a winning situation here for anybody." The Republican mayor of Xenia, Ohio, a town near Dayton with a population of 24,000, talked to the Los Angeles Times, again in September, about the President's reelection prospects: "If things don't improve it could be a disaster for him," the mayor said. "What's bothering people is they believe they are losing jobs because of the war. We're a manufacturing state. The recession is hurting. That's causing people to ask questions."

This was now the voice of what used to be the Republican Party, but it was not the voice of what increasingly seemed the President's preferred constituency, those who could feel secure about whatever destructive events played out in the Middle East because those events were foreordained, necessary to the completion of God's plan, laid out in prophecy, written in the books of Genesis and Jeremiah and Zechariah and Daniel and Ezekiel and Matthew and Revelation, dramatized in the fifty-five million copies of the "Left Behind" books, amplified in countless hours of programming on Christian radio and television, and would ultimately lead, after the dust settled, to the Glorious Appearing and Thousand-Year Reign of Jesus Christ.

"It seems as if he is on an agenda from God," one of the religious broadcasters who heard the President speak in Nashville in February had said to Dana Milbank of The Washington Post. "The Scriptures say God is the one who appoints leaders. If he truly knows God, that would give him a special anointing." Another had agreed: "At certain times, at certain hours in our country, God has had a certain man to hear His testimony." President Bush, the Post article had concluded, drawing in elements of the familiar fundamentalist redemption story and melding them with the dreams of the administration's ideologues about remaking the entire Middle East, "admires leaders who have overcome adversity by finding their life's mission, much as he has gone from drinking too much to building a new world architecture." We have now reached a point when even the White House may be forced to sort out how a president who got elected to execute a straightforward business agenda managed to sandbag himself with the coinciding fantasies of the ideologues in the Christian fundamentalist ministries and those in his own administration.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Bush Reply to 'Mission' Query Clarified

WASHINGTON - Six months after he spoke on an aircraft carrier deck under a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished," President Bush disavowed any connection with the war message. Later, the White House changed its story and said there was a link.

The "Mission Accomplished" boast has been mocked many times since Bush's carrier speech as criticism has mounted over the failed search for weapons of mass destruction and the continuing violence in Iraq (news - web sites).

When it was brought up again Tuesday at a news conference, Bush said, "The `Mission Accomplished' sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished." ...

... Bush's disavowal Tuesday brought new criticism from at least three of the Democrats seeking their party's nomination to run against the president — John Kerry, Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman.

"Today was another banner day in George Bushs quest to bring honor and integrity to the White House," Lieberman said. "If he wanted to prove he has trouble leveling with the American people, mission accomplished."

Hitler’s Mutual Admiration Society
by Jacob G. Hornberger, October 29, 2003

During his campaign, California’s governor-elect, Arnold Schwarzenegger, got himself into hot water with his praise of Adolf Hitler’s oratorical skills. Maybe he should have reminded people of a dark secret that went down the public-school memory hole long ago, for obvious reasons: the mutual admiration society that existed between Hitler and other Western leaders during the 1930s. ...

Wildfires Strike near Los Angeles and San Diego

Several massive wildfires were raging across southern California over the weekend of October 25, 2003. Whipped by the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that blow toward the coast from interior deserts, at least one fire grew 10,000 acres in just 6 hours. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite captured this image of the fires and clouds of smoke spreading over the region on October 26, 2003. The red polygons indicate precisely where the fires are burning, or have recently burned. (Compare this scene with one captured by the MODIS instrument aboard the Aqua satellite just one day before.)

Ministers of War
Criminals of the Cloth


Perhaps we have not paid enough attention to Exodus and have lost, therefore, the import of General "Jerry" Boykin's words to the evangelical Christians as reported in the LA Times on the 16th, "We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this." Exodus states it clearly enough: "The Lord is a man of war"(15:3). Lt. Gen. Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence (sic), no doubt speaks for Bush and Rumsfeld's forces in the field as he takes up his position as fourth in command under Lord General God. It is comforting to know that we are under the command of the Head Man in Heaven as we enter the lists against the infidels led by their god, a mere pagan "idol." Boykin, who has probably met "face to face" with that other general, places the US squarely in God's "house," indeed, in His "Kingdom" as we "take up the cross" to fulfill His divine commands, our army having been "raised for such a time as this."

One wonders if all the other ministers of war sat enthroned behind the General as he expounded on God's words: Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, to name a few. Did they cheer him on? Did any of them suggest, perhaps, that his invocation to the God of War had imbedded in it yet another prayer, the one Mark Twain penned in his caustic satire that turned such fawning gibberish into nonsense, "The War Prayer." Let me paraphrase: "Dear God who counseled 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' bless our cause and curse our enemy, destroy their children, leave their mothers' barren and homeless, let the old and infirm weep alone as they await death, devastate their land, burn their fields, and destroy even the memory of their existence, in God's name we pray!" These evangelical Christians listen in rapture to the general who has become their instrument to effect Armageddon even as they curse those who give the appearance of appeasement against the Islamic hordes, including that former general, Colin Powell who should be "nuked" according to Robertson.

Consider the import of this scene, the general garbed in full combat regalia, spit shined shoes, epaulets ablaze with glistening brass, marching before the attentive congregation declaring that "radical Islamists hated the United States 'because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and roots are Judeo-Christian ...'" And more, "He's (Bush) in the White House because God put him there." This man, now in charge of "intelligence" in the Defense Department, enlists his Christian warriors to take on "Satan." He becomes the embodiment of the Tele-evangelists prophecy, those who proclaim "end-time theology," the means by which God will bring about prophecies present in the Book of Revelation. This scene contains two important revelations, neither of them resident in the Book of Revelation: the ministers of war enlist once again the myths of Revelation to achieve power in the secular realm and the myths that proclaim America's roots as Judeo-Christian rise once again as fact when, in fact, they are anathema to the concept and purpose of democracy.

The rising chorus of evangelicals decrying Islam as the sole source of terror, the increasing volatility of their wrath, and their visible displays of displeasure and impatience with the policies of government in a democracy threaten the very basis of a government based on separation of church and state. Dennis Prager (October 7, 2003), prophet of the right wing airways, attempts to defend America's need to go it alone against Islamic "terror and tyranny" in this "war of civilizations." He notes that the world is not supportive of the "American mission" to fulfill God's word, and this explains in good measure why they dislike George W. Bush, "the believer in the biblical God and in an American mission." "We cannot defeat the Islamist threat," he proclaims, "without the same degree of faith fanatical Muslims have." Here he notes, Israel and America are one because both nations have fanatical believers who can stand against the infidels. "One civilization believes in liberty and one does not." Prager fears that Europe and non-believers in America can jeopardize the fulfillment of God's mission. "It is between those who fervently believe in America and in Judeo-Christian revelation and those who fervently believe in neither." ...

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The God of the mundane
Nathan Maphet revels in a God who revels in the ordinary

We live in a world obsessed with excitement. Go for the gold! Suck the marrow out of life! Be all you can be! We go bungi jumping, sky-diving, rock-climbing, wilderness camping, kayaking, and so on. We seek to have the best, the newest, the most fashionable, the most feature-laden, and the most expensive.

Part of this seems to be a profound lack of respect for the mundane, boring, every-day aspects of life. The new anathema is growing old and flabby, settling in a boring, suburban house, and spending all of your time carting your kids from one event to another. One beholds an increasing number of people who decide not to get married at all. Why get bogged down with constant arguing and nitpicking with the idiot you're stuck with for the rest of your life when you could progress from one new and exciting relationship to the next, reaping the benefits of sexual enjoyment without that obnoxious commitment thing? ...

The Hidden Costs of IT Outsourcing
While moving software development and tech support offshore is all the rage, many companies find the overall savings aren't that great.

Keith Franklin, president of Empowered Software Solutions in Burr Ridge, Ill., loves offshore outsourcing. It means more work for his 40-person company. Just last year, ESS, which specializes in developing applications for Microsoft's .Net platform for Web services, earned $500,000 in revenues from fixing buggy software written in India. It took ESS five months to repair a glitch-filled application for a Web portal. Most pages on the site weren't connected, turning updating into a nightmare. Some code was missing.

The shoddy work didn't come cheap, either: The Indian outsourcer went $1 million overbudget. Franklin says he could have done the project for less than $900,000 -- right here in the U.S....

...As Empowered Software has discovered, programs developed by offshore outsourcers are also often buggier than software programmed domestically -- usually 35% to 40% more so, estimates Mah. "If a company makes software for flying airplanes, I wouldn't want [it] to be created with the priority of the deadline coming first and quality coming second," he says....

...The outsourcing trend is unlikely to reverse any time soon, however. Pressured by lower-cost competitors, U.S. companies like the instant gratification of savings on wages. But as the real costs of IT outsourcing become apparent over time, many companies may come to realize that it's no panacea.

White faces charges for asking minor for sex
Pa. police arrest firebrand 'Brother Stephen'


Reverend Stephen White, infamous for preaching against homosexuality and sexual promiscuity at Yale and other college campuses, now faces charges that he solicited sex from a teenage boy in a Philadelphia suburb.

In recent years, White -- known to students as "Brother Stephen" -- has made informal speeches on Cross Campus and Beinecke Plaza denouncing minorities, homosexuals, religious groups and aspects of popular culture.

White was arrested in June after he allegedly offered $20 to a 14-year-old boy in West Chester, Pa. for permission to perform oral sex on him....

... Mike Schwartz '05 said he was pleased that White's apparent hypocrisy had been exposed.

"There's a sick satisfaction that someone so preachy is so flawed," he said. "I'm trying not to be thrilled about it."...

Ancient Christian Commentary on Current Events: What is War Good For?
What early church leaders thought of Christians and the military.
By Joel Elowsky | posted 10/28/2003

The ancient church understood that war has been around as long as human beings and sin have coexisted. It is a consistent tenet throughout the Christian tradition that war is the result of sin. The responses to war, however, have followed two basic trains of thought: pacifism, and the idea that certain wars can be just.

Pacifism is characteristic of the early centuries of Christianity in someone like the North African apologist Tertullian (160-220 A.D.), who regularly warned Christians to distance themselves from pagan culture. He wrote: "How will he serve in the army even during peacetime without the sword that Jesus Christ has taken away? Even if soldiers came to John and got advice on how they ought to act, even if the centurion became a believer, the Lord by taking away Peter's sword, disarmed every soldier thereafter. We are not allowed to wear any uniform that symbolizes a sinful act" (On Idolatry 19.3)....

...The Constantinian era brought about a change. Previously marginalized Christians were now involved in affairs of state. Though there were many Christian soldiers before the time of Constantine, it wasn't until previously marginalized Christians became involved in the affairs of state that the church fathers began nuancing their opposition to military action. The issue then became how one could remain a Christian when the demands of the state required use of force to combat evil or prevent injury. This caused Athanasius (296-373 A.D.) to make a distinction between murder and warfare in the fifth commandment's prohibition against killing: "One is not supposed to kill, but killing the enemy in battle is both lawful and praiseworthy. For this reason individuals who have distinguished themselves in war are considered worthy of great honors, and monuments are put up to celebrate their accomplishments. Thus, at one particular time, and under one set of circumstances, an act is not permitted, but when the time and conditions are right, it is both allowed and condoned" (Letter to Amun, PG 26:1173)....

Zillions of Universes? Or Did Ours Get Lucky?

Published: October 28, 2003

CLEVELAND - Cosmology used to be a heartless science, all about dark matter lost in mind-bending abysses and exploding stars. But whenever physicists and astronomers gather, the subject that roils lunch, coffee breaks or renegade cigarette breaks tends to be not dark matter or the fate of the universe. Rather it is about the role and meaning of life in the cosmos.

Cosmologists held an unusual debate on the question during a recent conference, "The Future of Cosmology," at Case Western Reserve University here.

According to a controversial notion known as the anthropic principle, certain otherwise baffling features of the universe can only be understood by including ourselves in the equation. The universe must be suitable for life, otherwise we would not be here to wonder about it.

The features in question are mysterious numbers in the equations of physics and cosmology, denoting, say, the amount of matter in the universe or the number of dimensions, which don't seem predictable by any known theory - yet. They are like the knobs on God's control console, and they seem almost miraculously tuned to allow life....

An Empire of Widows and Orphans
George Bush, the Anti-Family President


Behold the perverse and heart-wrenchingly anti-family policies of Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney: Women reservists, young mothers of infants and small children, leave their families to go halfway 'round the world to act as cogs, expendable parts, in the machinery of the deeply anti-American Empire. And hearken to the silence of the courtiers and grant-grubbers of Establishment Conservatism, whose mingled nescience and cowardice testify to the gutlessness and wicked stupidity of what passes for the Right.

As a radical AND a reactionary--a patriot of the old America--I am appalled by the violence done by the military-industrial complex at home as well as abroad. The images of families cleaved by the Iraqi War and occupation should outrage family-values conservatives--many of whom, especially at the grass roots, are sincere and decent, no matter how weasely the Bennetts and Bauers are. Here is yet another issue on which good people of the Greenish left and anti-imperialist right ought to unite: the first casualty of the militarized U.S. state is the family....

The perils of campaign-finance disclosure laws
By Brian Doherty

Politics is a realm of unintended consequences. In California, a wave of post-Watergate revulsion with arrogant, corrupt politicians led to the passage of the Political Reform Act in 1974. That law slapped strict campaign-finance disclosure requirements on state political campaigns. Twenty years later, the same law is being used to strike at private citizens who attempted to discipline a powerful politician they considered arrogant and corrupt. The results raise worrisome questions about the possible abuses of even the seemingly most innocuous regulations on citizens' participation in politics. ...

...Still, special complications of recall campaigns against powerful politicians, even beyond the time-consuming paperwork burden, raise the question of whether campaign-finance disclosure laws are appropriate for every kind of political campaign.

One of the motives for the Roberti recall was that he had spearheaded the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapon Control Act, a 1989 law that banned "assault weapons" in California. Because of the popular perception of the recall as a "gun-nut" issue, "We had people afraid of going to jail if their name gets on a list," Howard says. "'We've got a potential Roberti-Roos violator here, let's go check out their home.'"

(Despite consistent media portrayals otherwise, however, gun-rights activists weren't the only ones upset with Roberti. The recall coalition included groups with no direct interest in guns, such as Operation Slushfund, a legislative-spending watchdog group. Roberti was perceived by many as generally too soft on crime and too linked with political corruption. Three men he appointed to committee chairs in the state Senate were later convicted of felony corruption.)

Others had different reasons to fear being publicly connected with the recall effort. Bill Dominguez, one of Roberti's Democratic opponents in the recall election, says that a local newspaper columnist's habit of printing the names and donation amounts of contributors to the recall effort spooked many grassroots activists. "I haven't seen this done for any other political campaign or grassroots group. I've never seen anyone plastering names all over the place like this. We were not being painted in the best light. Every third word in connection with this was white supremacist or neo-Nazi." Some donors received swastikas in the mail, Howard says.

Even beyond public obloquy, anyone working for or doing business with the state of California would understandably be leery of advertising that they were trying to oust the president of the state Senate. "Lots of people applauded what we did but wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole for fear of bad things happening to their legislative agenda," Howard says. "Even lots of senators wanted to get involved but couldn't for fear of retribution, worries about 'What'll happen to my crime bill?'"

Neither Howard nor Cicero can afford to pay the $808,000, which they are jointly liable for. Cicero works part-time as a software consultant, and is now already in debt and in default on his mortgage. Howard, a former stockbroker, lost his job because of his work on the recall election and has lately been doing carpentry work around his father's house. Cicero informed the FPPC that he can neither afford to pay the fine nor hire a lawyer, and is now waiting for the next step. Howard will be getting legal help from the Institute for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit public interest law firm dealing with free speech issues. They are currently seeking a lawyer with the appropriate expertise for the case.

The deadline to pay the fine was December 11. Possible action, says the FPPC's Huckaby, could include garnishing of wages and income tax refunds, attaching bank accounts, and seizing property and automobiles. In its 21 years, the FPPC has failed to collect over one-third of the $6.7 million in penalties it has levied. But the commission has recently stepped up enforcement efforts, Huckaby says. Diligent enforcement of this fine would have Howard and Cicero working the rest of their lives to pay it off.

"I just didn't imagine that there was some sort of Rube Goldberg huge manual that I had to satisfy at peril of my financial future and life to exercise my First Amendment rights," Howard says. "We're just a grassroots organization. If you want to get involved in politics, you should be able to do it. If you have a beef, get involved. But if you get involved above the level of just voting, then the state says they control the whole process. And that's just not right."

The Opt-Out Revolution
Published: October 26, 2003

The scene in this cozy Atlanta living room would -- at first glance -- warm an early feminist's heart. Gathered by the fireplace one recent evening, sipping wine and nibbling cheese, are the members of a book club, each of them a beneficiary of all that feminists of 30-odd years ago held dear.

The eight women in the room have each earned a degree from Princeton, which was a citadel of everything male until the first co-educated class entered in 1969. And after Princeton, the women of this book club went on to do other things that women once were not expected to do. They received law degrees from Harvard and Columbia. They chose husbands who could keep up with them, not simply support them. They waited to have children because work was too exciting. They put on power suits and marched off to take on the world.

Yes, if an early feminist could peer into this scene, she would feel triumphant about the future. Until, of course, any one of these polished and purposeful women opened her mouth.

''I don't want to be on the fast track leading to a partnership at a prestigious law firm,'' says Katherine Brokaw, who left that track in order to stay home with her three children. ''Some people define that as success. I don't.''

''I don't want to be famous; I don't want to conquer the world; I don't want that kind of life,'' says Sarah McArthur Amsbary, who was a theater artist and teacher and earned her master's degree in English, then stepped out of the work force when her daughter was born. ''Maternity provides an escape hatch that paternity does not. Having a baby provides a graceful and convenient exit.''

Wander into any Starbucks in any Starbucks kind of neighborhood in the hours after the commuters are gone. See all those mothers drinking coffee and watching over toddlers at play? If you look past the Lycra gym clothes and the Internet-access cellphones, the scene could be the 50's, but for the fact that the coffee is more expensive and the mothers have M.B.A.'s. ...

Posted 02:40 PM by Kynn Bartlett
It's interesting to me how many of you folks seem to have the same kind of attitudes that drove me away from Christianity for so long. The kind of self-assured, self-justifying type of "infallibility" which was previously only attributed to popes, but is now sanctified in the form of the interpretations which someone told you were the "right" way to read the bible.

And based on those interpretations, you feel emboldened to not only disagree, but to callously mock, condemn, ridicule, and abuse those who hold differing opinions. To me, this seems to go against the spirit of Christianity, including years of historical discussion and debate on the nature of God, the world, and humans.

Such debate, mind you, led to the very creation of the orthodoxies which are held dear by so many around the world. Far from being a sign of a lack of faith and commitment to Christianity, debate and dissent are the tools by which God has led Her church at different times throughout history. Were dissent and "heresy" truly as important to God as we're lead to believe, there would be no codification of beliefs in the 4th century, no protestant reformation, indeed no canon at all of the books of the bible.

"Heresy" is not the ultimate death of the church -- it is part of the process by which God works and reveals Herself to a huge diversity of people....

...Basically, this goes to the nature of truth, though. Myself, I don't like to go around claiming that certain religious beliefs are or are not "TRUE" -- such an emphasis can blind me to a number of truths that can be expressed in ways which are not necessarily true.

As an example, Jesus told many stories which were blatant falsehoods: He made up parables. The parables of Jesus, by and large, were not "TRUE" -- but they contain ultimate truths. Was there ever a case where a man got beat up, ignored by Jewish religious leaders, and saved by a Samaritan? Well, probably not, except coincidentally. Jesus made up the entire story -- he certainly wasn't recounting history. However, the story of the Good Samaritan contains fundamental truth which goes beyond the fact that a non-true statement led us to that belief.

Similarly, Paul's writings are full of analogies -- deliberate untruths used to convey truth. Are Christians really running a race? No, clearly not. But fundamental truth is conveyed through this. Did Paul literally die with Christ? No, Acts does not give us any reason to believe this. But truth is still presented.

I say this to head off the classic question presented to people who do not accept the infallible authority of the bible: "How can you believe the bible if you don't believe it's TRUE?" The assumption that truth cannot proceed from untruth is fundamentally flawed and a false dichotomy. The bible, as I view it, is a wonderful testament to the experience of centuries of people trying to find God, and I use it as my primary source to know Her. To do that, I don't have to believe it's perfect, no more than I have to believe the Constitution of the U.S. is perfect to see it as a source of justice and liberty in our country....

Please remove Randall Terry’s feeding tube

...For the sake of the Body of Christ, someone has to make the unequivocal call for the Christian community to stop funding Randall Terry and his continued open rebellion against God. There have been countless opportunities for others more morally and spiritually qualified than I to make this call, but most of those that have been made aware of these mounting charges and facts have failed in their Christian obligation to do so. Because there are few people lining up to speak out about his well-documented moral failings and financial fraud, and in light of current circumstances, I feel compelled to act.

Over the past few years (after abandoning his pro-life work), Randall Terry has made a comfortable living begging for money for … Randall Terry. ...

Air security groundeded: Government struggles to launch screening system
Critics call it an abuse of civil liberties that should never be allowed to fly
By Sean Holstege - STAFF WRITER

The harshest critics of CAPPS II describe it as Big Brother's best tool to secretly track the movements of Americans through a network of internal border controls. It's a back door into unbridled cyber-snooping of everyday people on a global scale, they say. ...

...For months Hasbrouck, Scannell and civil liberties groups have questioned if CAPPS was a surreptitious way of sneaking TIA into reality. To him, this was the first tangible link.

``I don't think we're going to get to the bottom of the JetBlue scandal until Congress holds a full investigation,'' Hasbrouck said.

He publicized a Feb. 25 Torch Concepts presentation titled ``Homeland Security: Airline Passenger Risk Assessment.'' Torch explained that its database of JetBlue passengers contains 53 types of information from air traveler records.

Torch's document notes that the company first approached Delta Airlines for data in December 2001, met with the TSA in June 2002 and had assurances that CAPPS II contractors could use the data within weeks. The TSA has always insisted that its teams never used real data in its testing.

Torch managed to extract specific information on about 40 percent of JetBlue's passengers and create a profile. It was based on such things as income, job, number of kids, how long individuals lived at a particular address and whether they owned or rented.

Torch identified what it called ``passenger stability indicators'' to set the terrorists apart from typical JetBlue customers. Torch said income, home ownership, Social Security numbers and length of residence were the best available measures. Also knowing how many miles a person had flown could also help tip off who's a terrorist.

Shades of `pre-crime'

``Sounds like Pre-crime,'' Scannell said, referring to the science fiction film ``Minority Report'' starring Tom Cruise, in which murderers are arrested before they kill, based solely on the visions of mutants who can see the future. In the movie, the precognitive mutants are part of a futuristic law enforcement unit called Pre-Crime, which is presumed flawless.

``This is so much like `Minority Report,' it's frightening,'' said technology vendor Mary Grace, who is trying to sell biometrics to the Chinese.

``The TSA is proposing things I don't think the Chinese government does,'' she said. ``These databases are like a national ID card, just without the card.'' ...

VIN SUPRYNOWICZ: Is partial reversal of autism possible?
New medical findings indicate many children have a genetic ability to excrete the toxic mercury present as a preservative in many childhood shots -- more and more of which are recommended, each year.

But children who become autistic -- or who show lesser signs of heavy metal poisoning, such as attention deficit disorder -- "are the ones that cannot detoxify," according to Laura Bono of North Carolina, the housewife and mom who founded the Right to Fight Mercury Damage Campaign.

The Bono family pediatrician had noted in his charts that by age 16 months "Jackson has 25 words, making good progress," Laura Bono says. "And then it starts to regress within days after the shot, and within two years he's gone. A child who never needed antibiotics, never threw up, suddenly after August 1990 he's having all these weird rashes, it was a mercury rash. ...

"But there was nothing in the literature that autism was anything but mental. It was 1995 before this went from being (categorized as) a mental to a medical/metabolic problem, that they have all sorts of immune deficiencies, we kept saying, `But he's so allergic to everything ... '

The good news in finding the apparent cause of autism, of course, is that if the ailment is caused by the presence of toxic mercury, some partial reversal may be achieved if the mercury can be removed. ...

...In 1990, the recorded rate of autism in America was 1 in 10,000. Today the Centers for Disease Control report that number stands at 1 in 150. This dramatic rise in autism rates correlates with the increase in mercury-exposure through vaccines given to children in the late 1980s and through the 1990s -- especially after a vaccine against hepatitis B was added to the standard formulations, Laura Bono says.

Monday, October 27, 2003

High school senior came 'out' - and was expelled

By Elizabeth Clarke, Palm Beach Post Religion Writer
Saturday, October 25, 2003

JUPITER -- Jeffrey Woodard's parents never took him to church. They certainly didn't ever plan to send him to a religious high school. But when he was 14, Jeffrey asked his mom if he could attend Jupiter Christian School. He told her he felt God leading him there.

Carol Gload liked the idea. She thought it would help Jeff spiritually and academically, and he started after Thanksgiving of his freshman year. As a senior this year, he was especially looking forward to singing in the choir and Bible class.

But on the third day of school, his Bible teacher -- who is also the school chaplain -- pulled him out of class with a personal question. Jeffrey said the teacher assured him they were having a confidential conversation, and then asked whether it was true that Jeffrey was a homosexual.

"I told him, 'Yes, I am gay,' " Jeffrey says. "I was just being totally honest with him because I don't lie."

Two days later, he was expelled....

Surprise! Stadiums Don't Pay, After All
By Doug Bandow
Sunday, October 19, 2003; Page B01

We're all expected to love baseball -- it's America's sport, after all -- but I know a few taxpayers in the greater Washington area, maybe even a few thousand, who don't. You know, people who weren't -- horrors! -- glued to their TV sets, rooting for the luckless Red Sox or the jinxed Cubs to finally make it back to the World Series. People who haven't spent every waking moment since 1971, when the Senators left, plotting to lure a team to town. People who don't think the city's image and its future depend on spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a state-of-the-art stadium for a transitory collection of athletes, artificially assembled through league drafts, franchise trades and high salaries. ...

...That is, how much is ultimately generated by a dollar spent on sports? Official figures tend to assume, unrealistically, that all of the money, including, for instance, players' salaries, is spent locally.

Even more important, though, is that sports spending primarily substitutes for other outlays. Stanford's Noll figures that the vast majority of those attending games -- more than 90 percent -- are local residents. They are merely diverting their spending from other leisure activities. Money might shift a bit within a region -- from suburbs to city, or from outer to inner suburbs. But, as economists have consistently found, the amount of new economic growth is minimal. Economists Robert Baade of Lake Forest College and Allen Sanderson of the University of Chicago have looked at 10 metropolitan areas that brought in sports teams, and found no net employment increase, as spending was simply realigned. And there was no evident difference in economic performance between cities with or without teams during the 1994 baseball strike, says the University of Akron's John Zipp.

So if the goal is trickle-down consumer spending and business development, why not build a new automobile factory, retail outlet, grocery store or software facility to attract and maintain companies, jobs and economic growth? Forget a sports team for D.C. Just erect a string of buildings for restaurants. That should draw suburban residents, and their money, here.

But neither sports boosters nor their political allies are much interested in overall economic impact. Fans want a team, potential franchise owners desire subsidies, and elected officials expect political gain -- and the opportunity to snag an invitation to the owner's box. Government stadiums benefit economic and political elites, not the public.

Yes, refusing to play the subsidy game might mean losing a franchise. But if the only way to prevent a team from moving or to get one to come to your town is to shovel corporate welfare into a billionaire's hands, trust the research -- it isn't worth it.

The power of 1
About one-fourth of Americans now live alone. As their numbers grow, these singles are becoming a significant cultural and economic force.
By Marilyn Gardner | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

As Laura Peet put the finishing touches on plans for a vacation in Italy this month, her anticipation ran high. For years she had dreamed of visiting Tuscany, Rome, and the Cinque Terra. Now the trip was at hand, with just one thing missing: someone to share it with her.

"I was holding out on Italy as a honeymoon spot," says Ms. Peet, a marketing consultant in New York. "That hasn't happened yet, so I'm going for my birthday."

Score one for independence and pragmatism, the hallmarks of 21st-century singlehood. In numbers and attitudes, people like Peet are creating a demographic revolution that is slowly and quietly reshaping the social, cultural, and economic landscape.

In 1940, less than 8 percent of Americans lived alone. Today that proportion has more than tripled, reaching nearly 26 percent. Singles number 86 million, according to the Census Bureau, and virtually half of all households are now headed by unmarried adults....

...Unmarried Americans are also changing the face of organized religion. Because younger singles often do not attend regularly, some churches and temples are creating special services to attract them. At Temple Kehillath Israel in Brookline, Mass., a monthly Shabbat service and dinner on Friday evening targets the generation between 22 and 32. And St. Paul's Cathedral (Episcopal) in Boston holds a Sunday evening gathering for those in their 20s and 30s.

"The institutional church is starting to awaken to the fact that churches tend to be almost reflexively family- oriented," says the Very Rev. John P. Streit, dean of the cathedral. "That can be unintentionally exclusive to people who aren't married and don't have kids. The church is starting to pay more attention and be more careful about its language, the way it structures its programs, and who it imagines is sitting in the pews."...

Cover-Up Alleged in Probe of USS Liberty
Ex-Navy Attorney Alleges LBJ Cover-Up in Military Probe of 1967 Israeli Attack on U.S. Spy Ship
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON Oct. 22 — A former Navy attorney who helped lead the military investigation of the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that killed 34 American servicemen says former President Lyndon Johnson and his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, ordered that the inquiry conclude the incident was an accident.

In a signed affidavit released at a Capitol Hill news conference, retired Capt. Ward Boston said Johnson and McNamara told those heading the Navy's inquiry to "conclude that the attack was a case of 'mistaken identity' despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary."...

...It was "one of the classic all-American cover-ups," said Ret. Adm. Thomas Moorer, a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman who spent a year investigating the attack as part of an independent panel he formed with other former military officials. The panel also included a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James Akins.

"Why in the world would our government put Israel's interest ahead of our own?" Moorer asked from his wheelchair at the news conference. He was chief of naval operations at the time of the attack....

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Military form letters hijack soldiers' rights
October 26, 2003


Napoleon stated that every French private carried a field marshal's baton in his knapsack. But American soldiers have always carried in their backpacks the U.S. Constitution they are sworn to "uphold and protect." For while some of their liberties may have been curtailed under the conditions of military service, most remain fully exercisable -- and none so vigorously as freedom of speech.

American soldiers since the revolution have horrified authoritarian military commanders by loudly questioning their orders and the reasons for them, writing to their congressional representatives and the president of the United States, as well as mom and dad, their significant others, and the local newspaper, if things didn't make sense to them....

...The real issue is a major abuse of command influence. Where did these hundreds of letters come from? Public affairs Sgt. Todd Oliver at the 503rd host 173rd Airborne Brigade said he was told a soldier wrote the letter but he "doesn't know who." Another soldier stated that his platoon sergeant had distributed the form letters and asked for the names of their hometown newspapers and men willing to sign it.

Platoon sergeants of airborne units in combat situations have no end of time-consuming duties. But one of them is not distributing form letters for hundreds of soldiers to sign lobbying newspapers back in the United States for better public relations for the Army. Someone ordered that platoon sergeant to do that. That someone turns out to have been the 2nd battalion commander of the 503rd Airborne, Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo. His explanation to his superiors was: "The letter was purely an effort made by soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry to afford our soldiers an opportunity to let their respective hometowns know what they are accomplishing here in Kirkuk," which is "purely" a blatant lie. The effort was totally Caraccilo's, whose soldiers were dragooned into being stooges for his private PR campaign by his direct orders.

The military has no plans to discipline Caraccilo because in its view his intentions were "honorable."

American troops just fought and defeated a politicized Iraqi army, which, according to a study currently under way at the Army War College, was demoralized and ineffective partly because the opinions and judgments of its troops had been turned into an echo chamber for their leaders. ...


A friend recently brought an article in the September 2002 issue of GQ magazine to my attention. The author, Walter Kirn, an unbeliever himself, wrote a blistering yet painfully honest article called “What Would Jesus Do?” that explored the little Christian ghetto that many of us live in. His morbid curiosity compelled him to explore this world that was almost exactly like the one he lived in, but without any substance. He described how he discovered product after product that essentially cloned the mainstream culture and leached it of sinfulness, and, as a byproduct, all relevance and meaning....

Friday, October 24, 2003

Three R's: Reading, Writing, RFID
Gary Stillman, the director of a small K-8 charter school in Buffalo, New York, is an RFID believer.

While privacy advocates fret that the embedded microchips will be used to track people surreptitiously, Stillman said he believes that RFID tags will make his inner city school safer and more efficient.

Stillman has gone whole-hog for radio-frequency technology, which his year-old Enterprise Charter School started using last month to record the time of day students arrive in the morning. In the next months, he plans to use RFID to track library loans, disciplinary records, cafeteria purchases and visits to the nurse's office. Eventually he'd like to expand the system to track students' punctuality (or lack thereof) for every class and to verify the time they get on and off school buses. ...

Fox News Threatened to Sue The Simpsons Over a Parody Segment
October 24, 2003

During an interview broadcast today on NPR's Fresh Air, Simpsons creator Matt Groening revealed that the Fox News Network had threatened to sue The Simpsons over a parody of the right-leaning news channel. The highly sensitive news organization, which is headed by Roger Ailes, made headlines this summer with an ill-starred lawsuit against humorist Al Franken's book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. The Fox suit was thrown out in court and only succeeded in making Franken's book a bestseller. According to Groening, the Simpsons team refused to cut out the segment, which Groening told Fresh Air he "really liked," figuring that Rupert Murdoch wouldn't allow the Fox News cable network to sue the Fox Broadcast Network, which carries The Simpsons. The Fox News Network did back down on its threat, although it has told The Simpsons creators that in the future, cartoon series will not be allowed to include a "news crawl" along the bottom of the screen, which might "confuse the viewers."

Jesus actor struck by lightning
Actor Jim Caviezel has been struck by lightning while playing Jesus in Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion Of Christ.

The lightning bolt hit Caviezel and the film's assistant director Jan Michelini while they were filming in a remote location a few hours from Rome.

It was the second time Michelini had been hit by lightning during the shoot. ...

Staying Alive
A century ago, most Americans lived to be about 50. Today people over 100 make up the fastest-growing segment of the population. As some researchers bet that children born today will live to be 150, others say there is no upward limit on longevity
By Karen Wright
Photography by Mary Ellen Mark
DISCOVER Vol. 24 No. 11 | November 2003 | Biology & Medicine

A few years back, biodemographer Jay Olshansky called his friend Steve Austad, a gerontologist, after reading an outrageous quote attributed to Austad about aging. Olshansky, at the University of Illinois, and Austad, at the University of Idaho, have long shared an interest in the human life span. But they differ on some points. Austad had been quoted as saying that someone alive today could survive to the unprecedented age of 150.

"You don't really mean that," Olshansky told his friend.

"Oh yes, I do," Austad replied. In fact, he would bet on it. Before long he and Olshansky had agreed to put $150 each into an investment fund, to be distributed to the relatives of the winner in 2150. They agreed that, in order for Austad's progeny to collect, the 150-year-old has to be in reasonably good health and that proof of the person's age has to be impeccable. By adding $10 each every year, they figure that by 2150, the $300 fund will grow to be worth $500 million....

The hawks fall out
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Faced with the rising costs and complications of occupying Iraq, the hardline coalition around US President George W Bush that led the drive to war with Iraq appears to be suffering serious internal strains.

On the one hand, neo-conservatives, who were the most optimistic about postwar Iraq before the US-led invasion, are insisting that Washington cannot afford either to pull out or to surrender the slightest control over the occupation to the United Nations or anyone else.

To a rising chorus of calls by Democrats for Washington to invite the world body to take over at least political control of the transition to Iraqi rule in exchange for a commitment of money and peacekeepers, the neo-cons are urging the administration to send more US troops instead.

Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, on the other hand, is dead-set against deploying yet more troops to join the 180,000 now in Iraq and Kuwait. And while he, like the neo-cons, opposes conceding any substantial political role for the UN or anyone else, his preferred option is to transfer power directly to the Iraqis as quickly as possible, even at the risk that reconstituted security forces would be insufficiently cleansed of elements of the former regime's Ba'ath Party.

"It's clear now that Rumsfeld is not interested in 'remaking Iraq'," said Charles Kupchan, a foreign-policy analyst at the Washington, DC, office of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "He wants to get the hell out of there." ...

...The divide burst into the open recently when neo-cons outside the administration, seconded by Republican Senator John McCain, launched a concerted attack, centered in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard and other sympathetic media, on Rumsfeld's opposition to increasing US troops in Iraq.

"The choices are stark," wrote Standard editor William Kristol (a former top McCain adviser) and his frequent collaborator, Robert Kagan. "Either the United States does what it takes to succeed in Iraq, or we lose in Iraq."

The article, "America's responsibility", argued that it was illusory to believe that foreign troops from India, Pakistan or Turkey, which would presumably be made available under a new UN resolution, were capable of doing what was required in Iraq. Recent CPA initiatives to bring former Iraqi intelligence and police officers back into service risked "catastrophe", it added.

"If we lose [in Iraq], we will leave behind us not blue helmets but radicalism and chaos, a haven for terrorists, and a perception of American weakness and lack of resolve in the Middle East and reckless blundering around the world," they warned.

While they did not attack Rumsfeld by name, another article in the same issue did. Tom Donnelly, a defense analyst based at the hub of the neo-con network, the American Enterprise Institute, assailed the defense secretary's "mulish opposition to increasing the number of American soldiers in Iraq". He also derided the notion that "an Iraqi army or police force" would be able to secure the country's borders or "even control traffic in Baghdad" without a much larger US force for protection.

Titled "Secretary of stubbornness", the article argued that Rumsfeld's position "is a prime reason the Bush administration has had to go begging to the United Nations". ...

Airport trick or treat
By James Bovard

A 20-year-old college student just made a mockery of Uncle Sam's 50,000 member airport security army. Nathaniel Heatwole of Damascus, Md., carried concealed weapons — including box cutters and dummy explosives — onto two flights, stashing the goods on airplanes where they remained hidden for many subsequent flights.

Mr. Heatwole e-mailed the Transportation Security, Administration informing them of his actions — but it took the TSA five weeks after receiving the e-mail before it began investigating. ...

...In the wake of September 11, the federal mentality toward airline customers is best summarized by the informal motto posted at the headquarters of the TSA air marshal training center: "Dominate. Intimidate. Control." But it takes more than browbeating average Americans to make air travel safe. Airline expert Michael Boyd aptly observed: "The TSA is a poorly focused, unaccountable Washington political bureaucracy geared to screen for objects, not for security threats."

The Pretense of Airport Security
By Robert Higgs

College student Nathaniel Heatwole's recent, highly publicized hijinks in deliberately and successfully flouting airline-security rules illustrate once more the realities of the government's sham program to protect the commercial airline industry from terrorists.

The Transportation Security Administration is a joke, and not a funny one, either. As you pass through the TSA's airport checkpoints, you can expect to overhear mutters about the "gestapo," the "morons," and similar commentary from outraged but powerless travelers who have chosen to swallow their self-respect and submit to pointless, degrading invasions of their persons and property in order to avoid offending the thugs who, whenever they choose, can prevent passengers from proceeding with their travel. Something is horribly wrong with a population willing to tolerate such routine degradation and thuggery, especially when the alleged benefits of the humiliation are entirely bogus.

Deputy TSA Administrator Stephen McHale, behaving as a bureaucrat is bound to behave, dismissed the significance of the Heatwole incident. "Amateur testing of our systems do [sic] not show us in any way our flaws," he said. "We know where the vulnerabilities are and we are testing them . . . . This does not help."

Well, yes, it does not help to improve a bureaucrat's day when a college student carries out with such ease multiple evasions of forbidden-item interdiction, immediately alerts the authorities to every detail of his actions, then has to wait a month for an official reaction. McHale's dismissal notwithstanding, this incident does highlight flaws that have been disclosed repeatedly by others, including agents of the Transportation Department's inspector general, ever since the feds rushed to nationalize airport security screening in the wake of 9/11....

...Ultimately, however, the TSA's program serves one political purpose above all others. It routinely abases and humiliates the entire population, rendering us docile and compliant and thereby preparing us to play our assigned role in the Police State that the Bush administration has been building relentlessly. For Attorney General Ashcroft, the federal prosecutors, and the thousands of bully-boys at the FBI, the BATF, and all the other, similar bureaus, nothing could be finer than a system whereby the entire population without exception is treated as suspected criminals and made to feel like inmates in a concentration camp.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Killing the Good Samaritan
By Wendy McElroy

...I was once asked to describe the devil. (I interpreted the question to be about the general nature of evil in man rather than about religion.)

I replied: If the devil is the living flesh of evil, then here is who I think he is. Far from appearing as a hideous demon, he is the average-looking person who walks into a room and shakes your hand with a smile. By the time he leaves, the standards of decency of everyone within that room have been lowered ever so slightly.

Perhaps he offers general statistics on divorce or child abuse to convince you to suspect your husband of infidelity or your neighbor of molestation. No evidence of specific wrongdoing is offered, of course. But since such "crimes" do occur, you are advised to be vigilantly on guard against them in your personal life. And, so, you begin to view your spouse and neighbors with a bit more suspicion, a little less trust, and with the tendency to interpret every action as possible evidence of wrongdoing. The very possibility of an offense is taken as evidence of its presence.

Perhaps he spins a political theory that inches you toward viewing people, not as individuals to be judged on the basis of their merits, but as members of a class. And, so, your co-worker is no longer an individual; he becomes "black" or "male" or "gay" and his actions are interpreted according to his category.

Slowly, you come to view the world through the eyes of the devil. People are guilty until proven innocent. Acts of kindness and common decency are meticulously dissected for hidden motives and agendas. People are not individuals but categories. Those closest to you -- family, friends and neighbors -- do not receive the benefit of the doubt; they receive the "benefit" of your suspicion.

With no religious implication, I say: a devil is at large. He tells us that acts of kindness and common decency do not exist; the worst possible interpretation should be placed on acts that appear to embody those values. Individuals do not exist; only categories....

'Humans could live for hundreds of years'
Scientists say people could live active lives for hundreds of years if humans follow the same biological rules as laboratory worms.

By carefully tweaking genes and hormones, scientists extended the lifespan of the tiny roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans six times. In human terms, the worms stayed healthy and active for 500 years.

The researchers pointed out that the chief mechanism they tampered with - a signalling pathway involving insulin - was common in many species, including mammals.

But many people might find the price of immortality a little high. The worms with the longest lifespans also had their reproductive systems removed....

The Leprosy Doctor
Paul Brand showed how to serve others sacrificially and emerge with joy.
By Philip Yancey | posted 10/23/2003

WE MADE an odd couple. When we first met, I was a punk in my mid-20s with bushy Art Garfunkel hair. Dr. Brand was a dignified, silver-haired surgeon characterized by proper British reserve. We went on to write three books together, and I now view the ten years I worked with him as an important chrysalis stage of my faith.

Wounded by the church, plagued by doubts, I had neither the confidence nor the ability to write about my own faith. Yet I could write with utter confidence and integrity about Dr. Brand's faith, and through that process his words and thoughts became mine too. As I helped him find his voice, he helped me find my faith.

In the movie Manhattan, Woody Allen tells a woman, "You're God's answer to Job." He explains that when Job complained about how awful the world was, God could say, "But I can still make one of these." Paul Brand served that role for me. As I struggled with the injustices of this world and the imponderables of theology, I could look to him as a shining example of what God had in mind with the human experiment....

At the start of each of Bush's bad ideas is Dick Cheney
In Sunday's New York Times, Iraq's new interim president, Iyad Alawi, thanked Americans for liberating his country and then made a simple request: please bring back the Iraqi army.

Given what we just put into defeating the Iraqi army, that might sound like an odd proposal. But it's difficult to find anyone today who thinks disbanding the Iraqi army was a good idea in the first place. And few thought it was a good idea at the time. Doing so not only worsened the security vacuum that now plagues the country, it took hundreds of thousands of armed men and - in a pen stroke - made them both unemployed and harder to control.

Who was the senior administration official most responsible for this ill-conceived idea?

Vice President Dick Cheney.

If that surprises you, it shouldn't. The rough patch the White House has been in since the beginning of the summer has provided an abundance of new evidence for the great open secret of the Bush era: the serial poor judgment and, in many cases, manifest incompetence of the vice president....

Human beings have assigned moral value to art and music from time immemorial, and it has affected artistic and musical practice in countless ways. Consider the following.

When pipe organs were introduced into the church, Christians were up in arms. How could this monstrosity, taken from pagan contexts, be anything other than an instrument of the devil?

The Roman Catholic church for centuries, by official decree, divided music into sacred and secular categories, allowing the former and forbidding the latter in the liturgy. These decrees were applied to masses, motets, and other liturgical compositions by well‑known and well‑intentioned composers. The only problem with forbidden pieces was that they were perceived to be secular rather than sacred in nature.

Salvador Dali's painting Christ on the Cross or his Last Supper are considered to be straightforwardly pagan and secularly humanistic by some people, while to others they breathe something fresh and daring, even Christian, into older prototypes.

Many Christians condemn rock music, not just for being openly non‑Christian, but because they consider it responsible for causing immoral behavior. Others not only condone it but adopt it wholesale as being the most appropriate music for Christian worship.

New Age music is said by some to be the embodiment of Eastern cults, to be avoided like the plague by all Christians, while some Christian musicians freely experiment with its idioms as a part of their worship and witness. ...

Via an email newsletter:

"What titles do I use for God when I pray? Does prayer do any good?"

Dear Fred,

I am amazed at how frequently questions of prayer arise. My sense is that prayer is the place in people's lives where they actually define God. As that definition of God is challenged by new knowledge or when it wavers in the face of a new consciousness, the questions about prayer become constant.

I do not think that it matters what titles you use for God in your prayers. It only matters as to what these titles mean to you. I am amazed, for example, that Christian prayers seem to assume that God enjoys being flattered. So we call God by a variety of titles: 'Almighty,' 'Most Gracious,' 'All Loving,' 'Most Merciful,' 'Creator of all things,' etc. We also tell God in our prayers what we hope is true about God! "You are more ready to hear than we to pray," or "You are more eager to forgive than we deserve." This, we need to be reminded, is our human language, it is not God's language. It is created out of our needs not out of God's needs. The questions that we never ask are: "What does this language say about us?" That is where our inquiry ought to focus. We are not describing God, even in our prayers, we are defining our needs and giving voice to what we believe are our experiences.

Does prayer do any good? Once again, that assumes that you want your prayers to accomplish your will. Since that is not the purpose of prayer, I don't see how one can proceed to answer such a question. I pray daily. I claim nothing for it. I believe it opens me to God. There is nothing more than I can say with confidence. Those who presume that they have answers are simply delusional.
-- John Shelby Spong

Plan for 'window on the world' attraction

A window between cities that allows people hundreds or even thousands of miles apart to meet and talk could make its debut in Britain next year....

The National Defense Myth
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

Donald Rumsfeld puts on a good face for the public, but an internal memo revealed by MSNBC shows startling confusion. "We lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror," he writes. "Is our current situation such that 'the harder we work, the behinder we get'?"

There you have it: a typical government program. Hundreds of billions down the drain, and nothing to show for it but confusion. Imagine a private business admitting that it doesn't know if it is making profits or losses. Imagine blowing through a trillion dollars and not knowing whether you actually accomplished anything at all. That private firm would be doomed, but the warfare state just keeps chugging along.

Later in the memo, Rumsfeld asks obliquely: "Do we need a new organization?" In a word, yes, and it shouldn't be government.

We’re dealing with the oldest political error: the belief that because everyone wants something, government should or must provide it. If the error is pervasive, the result is the total state. If it is completely uprooted, the result is the purely free society.

For example, everyone agrees that the nation needs defending. If you believe it can't be done privately, that government should just do it, you run the risk of unleashing Hell. Thus has the US government presumed the right to shell out half a trillion of other people’s money every year, build and threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction, place troops in nearly 130 countries, and generally build the most well-funded, destructive, expansive, meddlesome military empire in all of human history. The result has been ever more threats, ever less actual defense, ever higher costs....

Official: Rumsfeld 'Livid' Over Memo Leak
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) was "livid" when he discovered a memo written to top aides made it onto the front page of the nation's largest circulated newspaper, a senior defense official told Fox News....

Rumsfeld's war-on-terror memo

Below is the full text of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's memo on the war on terror:

October 16, 2003

TO: Gen. Dick Myers
Paul Wolfowitz
Gen. Pete Pace
Doug Feith

FROM: Donald Rumsfeld

SUBJECT: Global War on Terrorism

The questions I posed to combatant commanders this week were: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough?

DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere — one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.

With respect to global terrorism, the record since Septermber 11th seems to be:

We are having mixed results with Al Qaida, although we have put considerable pressure on them — nonetheless, a great many remain at large.

USG has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis.

USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban — Omar, Hekmatyar, etc.

With respect to the Ansar Al-Islam, we are just getting started.

Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?

Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror?

Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions.

Do we need a new organization?

How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools?

Is our current situation such that "the harder we work, the behinder we get"?

It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog.

Does CIA need a new finding?

Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madradssas to a more moderate course?

What else should we be considering?

Please be prepared to discuss this at our meeting on Saturday or Monday.


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Mall Christianity
Seeker Sensitivity or Cultural Captivity?
By Dr. Gillis J. Harp

OCTOBER 1, 2002 -- Recently, I came across a booklet produced by a nearby congregation popular with some of my students. Inside the back cover are printed its "Founding Principles":

First, every person deserves the right to hear the true story about Jesus Christ.
It's a sin to bore people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You have to earn the right to be heard.

The logic behind the principles, and the "seeker sensitive" movement of which this church is a part, is persuasive on one level. If the unchurched are put off by the trappings of Christianity, dispense with the nonessentials: pews, hymns, even corporate prayer. If we live in an entertainment-focused culture, build sanctuaries to resemble the inside of the local Cineplex. If well-heeled suburbanites flock to shopping malls, make the local church like a mall, replete with food court....

...There is, in fact, no biblical warrant for turning Sunday worship into an evangelistic meeting (though there may well be evangelistic elements within the liturgy). This transformation of the main Sunday service actually began in the early nineteenth century. It was evangelists like Charles Grandison Finney and his successors who turned church worship into a revival meeting. In some respects, "seeker sensitive" advocates are simply extending the logic of this earlier innovation.

They are extending with considerable creativity and characteristic American energy this Arminian, market-driven model. Finney spoke about the need for what he termed "excitements." What many American Evangelicals have discovered is that the old excitements no longer work; they have acquired churchy associations in the wider culture, and thus new excitements are needed. The oral culture of the nineteenth century could accommodate long lectures, but postmodern seekers have notoriously short attention spans. Victorian folk wanted earnest Evangelical didacticism; contemporary seekers want entertainment.

The New Testament Church did not, however, show this confusion about either the nature of evangelism or its proper setting. It did not provide "excitements," other than the excitement of the Good News. In the New Testament, the ecclesia gathered together on the first day of the week to hear the Word of God, for corporate prayer ("the prayers"), and for the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42 and 20:7). Significantly, none of the evangelistic preaching in Acts occurs within the context of the church gathered for Sunday worship.

To be sure, the early Church was involved in aggressive evangelism, but it kept the gathering on Sunday for the edification of the faithful and for God's covenant people to praise their covenant God. In the fourth century, Gregory Nazianzus warned that if the preacher "would please the multitude, he must adapt himself to their taste, and entertain them amusingly in church." When this happened, he observed, "what belonged to the theatre was brought into the church."

Naturally, these sort of wrong-headed assumptions about the gospel and Christian worship are reflected in the preaching and teaching of such congregations. The church cited above is independent (like many such congregations, it carefully avoids any denominational identification), but its approach has had a wide influence even among mainline congregations seeking some escape from their declining numbers. This past Easter, I visited an Episcopal parish that has sought to implement some of this model. Although its worship service would have been dismissed as irredeemably churchy by many "seeker sensitive" leaders, it was clear that the kind of assumptions examined above were having a profound impact on the message heard on Sunday after Sunday from this parish's gothic pulpit.

Put simply, if one's focus is on generating "excitements," if one's primary concern is numerical growth, one will not preach as a traditional Evangelical. If one is primarily seeking to address the felt needs of attendees, one will not say a word about sin and the Cross. The Easter morning sermon we heard was clearly designed to appeal to Yuppie "seekers." The rector told his well-dressed congregation that they were obviously gifted and skilled at many things. Their manifest abilities had brought them success, but something was missing. They needed now to rise to the next level. They could experience greater personal fulfillment with Jesus.

Sin was mentioned only once (rather obliquely) at the end of the address. Despite the occasion (i.e., Easter Sunday), there was, notably, no mention of the Cross. ...