Sunday, November 30, 2003

A Coward Goes to Baghdad
by Doug Basham

Forget "The eagle has landed." On Thursday, the turkey landed - on many Americans dinner plates, and on the runway of the airport formerly known as Saddam Hussein International. ...

...When the coward in chief is safe and sound in America, he says… "Bring 'em On", or..."We will not be intimidated by thugs." Now don't you think a more appropriate time to say that - if indeed you were a man of courage, honor, conviction and "boldness" - would have been if you were planning to GO to Iraq, or when you were already THERE in Iraq?

But what did he say instead? First thing he said was… "Shhhhhhh." The second was, "I was fully prepared to turn this baby around and come home."

Put another way - when it's the lives of our soldiers that are at risk, Bush says "Bring 'em on" or, "The United States will not be intimidated by a bunch of thugs." When it's HIS sorry ass that might be in peril, he says, "if anyone finds out I'm coming… I'M turning this plane around and going home." And for this act of seemingly unnoticed cowardice, he's called... bold?!

Where's the boldness? Where's the bravado? Where's the… "Bring 'em on", and "We won't be intimidated by thugs" when it really matters? Wouldn't THAT have been the time for the bra-a-a-v-e Commander in Chief to say "Hey, you want a piece of me? I'm coming to 'gitcha'. Gonna' smoke you out. Dead or alive. Take your best shot…thug! Bring it on.. THUG!!

Nope. When there's a chance he might face the same kind of danger he himself has CREATED for our soldiers; and it's time for him to put action to words? No bravado and no courage at all. Instead there's "Shhhhh" and "I'll turn this baby around and come home." ...

Sunday, November 23, 2003

The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups
by Joseph R. Myers

It is simply not true that people who belong only in public space are "on
the fringe." Nor is it true that we somehow need to get them to move
"closer" to get them to be committed."
Were we to validate that space people inhabit--whichever of the four spaces
it may be--we will find countless people who are actively committed into the
shadows or written off entirely.
Public spatial belonging is not about anonymity. And anonymity has little to
do with commitment. People can--and do--experience connectedness at
different levels, and when they feel connected, they explore the
possibilities of significant, committed participation.
Consider Jesus' encounter with the soldier, a centurion in the Roman army of
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for
help. "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralysed and in terrible
Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him."
The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my
roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am
a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he
goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,'
and he does it."
When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him,
"I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great
faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will
take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom
of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the
darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you
believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour.

Jesus is a master of permitting people to belong to him in all four spaces.
He offered to come to the centurion's home. Why didn't the centurion want
Jesus to come? He had his reasons. Matthew says he felt he did not deserve
it. Luke says the centurion did not consider himself worthy.
Whatever the reason, Jesus accepted the centurion's statement; he did not
insist on coming closer. He allowed this centurion to be a part of the
"family" in public space. The centurion did not want to be intimate with
Jesus. The centurion was not after a personal or a social relationship. He
needed Jesus to accept him in a public space and yet help in a significant
way. Jesus honoured that request.
True community can be experienced in a public space. Public space is not
mere togetherness:, it is connectedness. It is family. An essential key to
developing community is the maturing of our competencies to growing
significant, committed public belongings.
What would this look like in our congregations? Can we be comfortable with
people belonging to Jesus and the church in public space? Can we give the
help, home, and home in the space where they choose to belong? Without
pushing them to come closer? - (p. 43-44)

Many belonged to Jesus in different spaces. The Bible mentions the
multitudes, a room full, a crowd of seventy, twelve apostles, the inner
circle of Peter, James, and John. All experienced community with Jesus.
What would this look like in our congregations and communities? Are we
comfortable with people belonging to Jesus and the church in public or
social space? Can we give them significant connections in whatever space
they chose to belong without pushing them to come closer?
Jesus never forced strangers to become intimate. Instead he encouraged them
to move from stranger to public belonger. "I was a stranger and you invited
me in," does not imply intimate. The stranger is invited in, to belong
publicly (p. 112)

Friday, November 21, 2003

Abandoning the 'Drug-Free America' Myth
By Glenn Backes, Drug Policy Alliance
November 19, 2003

Rush Limbaugh is addicted to OxyContin. Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked pot and consumed anabolic steroids. Most Americans enjoy a daily cup of coffee. The fact is, this country is filled with drugs - prescription, over-the-counter, illegal and otherwise. The drug warriors have been promising for decades to make America drug-free. Billions of dollars have been spent and hundreds of thousands of people are locked up. Yet drugs are as prevalent and easy-to-get as ever.

It's time for a new approach. First off, let's abandon the "drug-free" myth. Clinging to this impossible goal clouds our common sense and perverts our policy priorities. Instead, we should focus on implementing new drug policies that are fiscally responsible and have the goal of keeping Americans safe and healthy.

Drug treatment, for example, works better than prison in helping to stop the cycle of addiction. Just ask Rush. Or Noelle Bush. Or Cindy McCain (John's wife). ...

The Radical
by Franklin Foer & Spencer Ackerman

In early 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to President George W. Bush from the heart. The war in Afghanistan had been an astonishing display of U.S. strength. Instead of the bloody quagmire many predicted, CIA paramilitary agents, Special Forces, and U.S. air power had teamed with Northern Alliance guerrillas to run the Taliban and Al Qaeda out of their strongholds. As a new interim government took power in Kabul, Cheney was telling Bush that the next phase in the war on terrorism was toppling Saddam Hussein.

Bush was well aware that several of his senior aides wanted to take the battle to Iraq. When his advisers had convened at Camp David the weekend after the September 11 attacks, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz argued on three separate occasions that the United States should immediately target Iraq instead of the more difficult Afghanistan. Bush had settled the matter by instructing his chief of staff, Andrew Card, to quiet Wolfowitz--a moment humiliatingly enshrined by Bob Woodward in his book Bush at War. But, in early 2002, Cheney dispensed with the policy arguments for taking down Saddam in favor of a far more personal appeal. He said simply that he had been part of the team that created what he now saw as a flawed policy--leaving Saddam in power at the end of the Gulf war--and now Bush had a chance to correct it.

His plea was enormously successful. "The reason that Cheney was able to sell Bush the policy is that he was able to say, 'I've changed,'" says a senior administration official. "'I used to have the same position as [James] Baker, [Brent] Scowcroft, and your father--and here's why it's wrong.'" By February, observes a since-departed senior National Security Council (NSC) staffer, "my sense was the decision was taken." The next month, Bush interrupted a meeting between national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and three senators to boast, "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out." ...

Mourning in America

...There has been considerable discussion recently about whether President Bush has done enough to honor the lives of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the president writes letters to the families of soldiers who have been killed and meets privately with them at military bases, he has not attended an open memorial or a military service. That's a mistake.

And if given the opportunity, I would tell the president today what I told the general back then. The commander in chief should publicly honor the individual lives sacrificed in war. He should show his respect in front of the television cameras. A nation is a community, and the lives that are lost belong not just to their families, but to us all. As the only political figure who represents the whole nation, the duty of commemorating these deaths belongs uniquely to the president.

As a fellow Republican, I would also offer Karl Rove some friendly political advice. Skipping memorial services makes the president look weak. It creates the impression that he values his own political standing above the lost lives of servicemen and women. Avoiding the grieving families invites demagoguery because so many of our professional soldiers come from the middle and lower classes of American society, and not the president's own privileged social class. With an election approaching, presenting the picture of a president who has time for fundraisers but not for military funerals would be an egregious mistake.

Finally, there is an asymmetry to the administration's use of the military in presidential events. It is wrong to bask publicly in glory on the deck of an aircraft carrier unless you are also willing to grieve openly for fallen soldiers. You can't wrap yourself in the flag while avoiding flag-draped coffins....

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Yes, Bush lied

...According to the consensus of Bush's intelligence services, there was "low confidence" before the war in the views that "Saddam would engage in clandestine attacks against the U.S. Homeland" or "share chemical or biological weapons with al-Qaida."

Their message to the president was clear: Saddam wouldn't help al-Qaida unless we put his back against the wall, and even then it was a big maybe. If anything, the report was a flashing yellow light against attacking Iraq.

Bush saw the warning, yet completely ignored it and barreled ahead with the war plans he'd approved a month earlier (Aug. 29), telling a completely different version of the intelligence consensus to the American people. Less than a week after the NIE was published, he warned that "on any given day" - provoked by attack or not, sufficiently desperate or not - Saddam could team up with Osama and conduct a joint terrorist operation against America using weapons of mass destruction.

"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists," Bush said Oct. 7 in his nationally televised Cincinnati speech. "Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving fingerprints." The terrorists he was referring to were "al-Qaida members."

By telling Americans that Saddam could "on any given day" slip unconventional weapons to al-Qaida if America didn't disarm him, the president misrepresented the conclusions of his own secret intelligence report, which warned that Saddam wouldn't even try to reach out to al-Qaida unless he were attacked and had nothing to lose - and might even find that hard to do since he had no history of conducting joint terrorist operations with al-Qaida, and certainly none against the U.S.

If that's not lying, I don't know what is.

What's worse, the inconvenient conclusions about Iraq and al-Qaida were withheld from the unclassified version of the secret NIE report that Bush authorized for public release the day before his Cincinnati speech, as part of the launch of the White House's campaign to sell the war. The 25-page white paper, posted on the CIA website, focused on alleged weapons of mass destruction, and conveniently left out the entire part about Saddam's reluctance to reach out to al-Qaida. ...

Former professor argues it’s time to leave the Union
November 16, 2003

By ROBIN PALMER Staff Writer

CHARLOTTE — Nothing about Thomas Naylor seems radical — except, of course, his politics.

Naylor is soft-spoken and polite. A former university professor, he exhibits obvious intelligence. He’s also kind, a proud father and, well, rather likable.

But Naylor insists he’s serious when he says Vermont should secede from the United States and become a republic. He’s founded a political movement, the Second Vermont Republic, to do just that, and now he’s published his book on the subject: “The Vermont Manifesto.” ...

Homer Simpson on Jesus: "Is is possible for Jesus to microwave a burrito so hot that even HE couldn't eat it?"

Case Decidedly Not Closed
The Defense Dept. memo allegedly proving a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam does nothing of the sort

Nov. 19 - A leaked Defense Department memo claiming new evidence of an "operational relationship" between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein's former regime is mostly based on unverified claims that were first advanced by some top Bush administration officials more than a year ago - and were largely discounted at the time by the U.S. intelligence community, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials....

God, man and growth
Nov 13th 2003
Two economists go where angels fear to tread

IF YOU want to avoid an argument over religion at your next dinner party, you might suppose it safe to invite an economist or two. They, of all people, could be expected to stick to Mammon. Or maybe not, if a new paper* by Robert Barro, one of America's best-known economists, and Rachel McCleary, a colleague at Harvard University, is any guide. It explores the influence of religious belief and observance on economic growth.

To be sure, this is not the first time that economists have held forth on subjects that many people consider private. Gary Becker, a Nobel laureate at the University of Chicago, is well known for applying economic theory to questions such as whether marriage is economically efficient, whether drug addiction is rational and how couples decide how many children to have. Mostly, though, economists have so far left religion alone. However, other students of society have not been shy of offering ideas about religion and wealth. A century ago, Max Weber, a founder of sociology, observed that the Protestant work ethic was what had made northern Europe and America rich. Recently, Niall Ferguson, a British historian at New York University, argued that today's economic stagnation in Germany and other European countries owes much to the decline of religious belief and church attendance during the past four decades. The Protestant work ethic, he thinks, is dead.

If there is a link between religion and economic performance, then economists ought to have something to say about it. To test the connection, however, economists need figures, ideally covering many countries and many years. This is where Mr Barro and Ms McCleary come in. They have collected data from surveys of religious belief for 59 countries in the 1980s and 1990s—whether people say they believe in God, heaven and hell, and whether they attend services at least once a month—and have tried to tease out whether these have any direct effect on GDP growth....

When the Americans leave
Martin van Creveld

JERUSALEM As some people predicted even before it all started, America's war against Iraq proved so easy as to make one wonder why it had to be fought at all.

As other people also predicted before it all started, the really hard part got under way only after President George W. Bush declared "major combat operations" at an end. More American soldiers have died trying to safeguard the "victory" than were killed in achieving it in the first place; nor does it look as if there is anything the United States can do to change the trend.

As the promise to advance the Iraqi elections to mid-2004 shows, the United States will lose - in fact already has lost - the war. The Americans will leave the country in the same way as the Soviets left Afghanistan: with the Iraqi guerrillas jeering at them. The only question is how long it will take and how much prestige can still be saved from the ruins. That, and that alone, is the issue that still faces Bush, who is up for re-election and must somehow put this issue behind him before Americans go to the polls....

The Government’s War on Children
by Sheldon Richman, November 19, 2003

Goose Creek, S.C., recently was the scene of a horrific event spotlighting two government institutions: schools and the war on drug users.

On a quiet day early in November a squadron of policemen stormed into Stratford High School, automatic pistols and shotguns drawn. They ordered the students to the floor and forcibly placed some there themselves. Then the police searched for drugs.

They found none. (Had they found Ritalin it wouldn’t have counted. That’s an approved drug, administered by compulsion when “necessary.”)

Police and school officials later explained that they conducted the raid, which was captured by a security video camera, because marijuana and pills had allegedly been bought and sold by students previously.

This justified an armed invasion? School principal George McCrackin said he’d use “any means” to keep his school “clean.”

In television interviews several parents angrily pointed out that a tragedy could easily have occurred. The image of belligerent cops pointing loaded guns at children was not what they had in mind when they sent their kids off to school that day.

Yet we really shouldn’t be surprised. Concern about the schools’ inability to teach reading and arithmetic has overshadowed the fact that those schools were not set up mainly for that purpose. Before there were “public schools” literacy and numeracy were high and growing. The government set up schools to accomplish something that the flourishing private-school market wouldn’t do: indoctrinate children so that they would become pliant subjects of the state. As education historian Ellwood Cubberly wrote approvingly in 1919, “Only a system of state-controlled schools can be free to teach whatever the welfare of the State may demand.” Or as the 19th-century sociologist Edward Ross said, the job of schools is to gather “little plastic lumps of human dough from private households and shap[e] them on the social kneadingboard.” Or as the U.S. Bureau of Education put it in 1914, “The public schools exist primarily for the benefit of the State rather than for the benefit of the individual.” ...

New Leak Smells of Neocon Desperation
by Jim Lobe
November 20, 2003

This week's blockbuster leak of a secret memorandum from a senior Pentagon official to the Senate Intelligence Committee has spurred speculation that neo-conservative hawks in the Bush administration are on the defensive and growing more desperate....

...W. Patrick Lang, former head of the Middle East section of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Washington Post the article amounted to a "listing of a mass of unconfirmed reports, many of which themselves indicate that the two groups continued to try to establish some sort of relationship."

At the same time, he added, it raises the question: "If they had such a productive relationship, why did they have to keep trying?"

Other retired officers stressed that, to the extent that virtually all of the excerpts consist of raw intelligence unvetted by professional analysts, the article appeared to prove precisely what critics had been saying: Feith's office simply picked those items in raw intelligence that tended to confirm their preexisting views that a relationship must have existed, without subjecting the evidence to the kind of rigorous analysis that intelligence agencies would apply.

"This is made to dazzle the eyes of the not terribly educated," Greg Thielmann, a veteran of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) who retired in 2002, told IPS....

...Melvin Goodman, a former top CIA analyst, said the leak is a sign of desperation. "To me, they had to leak something like this, because the neo-conservatives (in the administration) have nothing to stand on."...

...But at the same time it raises serious questions about the judgment of those responsible for the leak. Not only does the intelligence contained in the article fall embarrassingly short of "closing the case" on Iraq-al-Qaeda links, the leak itself of such highly classified material might fuel the impression that the neo-conservatives, if they were indeed the source, are willing to sacrifice the country's secrets to retain power.

"It shows a cavalier and almost contemptuous regard for the national security rationale for keeping information classified," according to Thielmann. "The objective of silencing the critics is so overwhelming that you have to throw national security secrets to the wind."...

War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal
Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger in Washington
Thursday November 20, 2003
The Guardian

International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.

In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing." ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

A LOT OF PEOPLE ASK ME HOW I SLEEP': Designer of the AK47 says he gets ample rest
November 19, 2003


IZHEVSK, Russia -- The first snow of the season was pelting his country cottage -- too cold and wet for hunting -- so the dapper little general had retreated to the warmth of his kitchen. There was a wheel of Camembert on the table, some dark bread and sliced pears, and a bottle of Armenian brandy. He swirled some of the brandy in a snifter and tried to explain about all the blood and tears of the past half-century.

"A lot of people ask me how I sleep, because of all the people who've been killed with my guns," said Mikhail Kalashnikov, 84, designer of the renowned AK47 assault rifle.

His light, inexpensive, virtually indestructible guns -- "they're like my children," he said recently -- long have been the weapons of choice for armies from Vietnam to China and from Angola to Cuba. They've also been used by terrorists, freedom fighters, guerrillas and gangsters.

The Kalashnikov has been the primary weapon -- often for both sides -- in most of the 40-odd wars of the past decade. Military historians say there are 100 million AKs in the world today.

"But it's not the designer's fault or the weapon's fault when terrible things happen; it's the politicians'," said Kalashnikov, a former major general. "It's because the politicians are unable to reach peaceful agreements. I must say I sleep quite soundly." ...

Feith Is the Answer
by Jim Lobe
"What's gonna happen with Feith?"

That, in a nutshell, is the question of the month for the Washington cognoscenti trying to figure out whether a major shift in the Bush administration's unilateralist and ultra-hawkish foreign policy is or is not underway.

The reference is to Douglas Feith, the administration's rather obscure but nonetheless strategically placed undersecretary of defense for policy, who reports directly to deputy secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld.

If the administration is looking for a scapegoat for the situation it faces in Iraq, Feith is the most likely candidate both because of his relative obscurity compared to other administration hawks and the fact that, of virtually all of them, his ideas - particularly on the Middle East - might be the most radical.

...But, more to the point, virtually everything that has gone wrong in Iraq - especially those matters that Congress is either investigating or is poised to probe - is linked directly to his office. "All roads lead to Feith," noted one knowledgeable administration official this week.

His now-defunct Office of Special Plans (OSP) is alleged to have collected - often with the help of the neo-conservatives' favorite Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi - and "cooked" the most alarmist prewar intelligence against Saddam Hussein and then "stovepiped" it to the White House via Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, unvetted by the intelligence agencies.

It was also his office that was in charge of postwar planning, and rejected the product of months of work by dozens of Iraqi exiles and Mideast experts in the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who anticipated many of the problems that have wrong-footed the occupation.

The OSP also excluded many top Mideast experts from the State Department from playing any role in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq.

And it is Feith's office that, with the CPA, recommended companies for huge, and in some cases no-bid, contracts in Iraq that have amounted, in the eyes of some critical lawmakers, to flagrant profiteering. ...

...There have been unconfirmed reports that top White House officials decided two months ago that Feith had to go, but were then dissuaded by Rumsfeld who argued that his departure would be seen as an admission that things had gone seriously wrong in Iraq.

It was in that context, according to these reports, that the administration moved to quietly reduce Feith's authority, in part by creating the ISG...

Weblog: The End of Traditional Marriage?
Religious activists say Massachusetts decision is monumental—and may be cause for revolt.
Compiled by Ted Olsen | posted 11/19/2003

The surprise today is not that conservative religious activists are upset about yesterday's Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling "that barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution."...

... the statement from pundit Gary Bauer quoted later in the Times article. Calling the decision "the most intolerant act of judicial tyranny in recent memory," Bauer called for open revolt. "Perhaps it is time for another Boston Tea Party. The heirs of Bunker Hill and Concord Bridge should not passively accept this decision by four robed individuals."

It's worse than tyranny, said Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. "This is a very sad day in the life of this country, and one that I believe invites the very judgment of God as we move arrogantly away from our moral underpinnings," he said on today's radio broadcast. "He will not be mocked, and we warned us through the prophet Isaiah, 'Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.' … That's what happened yesterday in the state of Massachusetts.'"

...The reason that the courts are risking divine judgment goes beyond simple sexual ethics, says syndicated columnist Cal Thomas—the judges are playing God. "Marriage was not invented by the postal service as a convenient way to deliver the mail," he wrote. "It was established by God as the best arrangement for fallen humanity to organize and protect itself and create and rear children … . What is most disturbing about this latest affront to tradition and biblical wisdom is that those who would undermine the old have nothing new to offer in its place. It is like morally corrupt ancient Israel when there was no king 'and everyone did what was right in his own eyes' (Judges 21:25)."

It's sure to get more disturbing, predicts Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute. "To mandate marital recognition for non-marital relationships is to create a lie that will ensure coercion against people who stand for the truth," he said in a press release. "Christians are sure to be targets of persecution for their beliefs if 'gay' marriage is given legal backing."...

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The Bush Administration announced that it hopes to speed up the transition to self-government in Iraq. What do you think?
"It makes sense for Bush to pull out. If his own father had exercised the judgment to pull out, the U.S. wouldn't have been there in the first place."
-- Robert Swenson, Systems Analyst

The Atlantic Monthly | February 2002
Oh, Gods!

Religion didn't begin to wither away during the twentieth century, as some academic experts had prophesied. Far from it. And the new century will probably see religion explode—in both intensity and variety. New religions are springing up everywhere. Old ones are mutating with Darwinian restlessness. And the big "problem religion" of the twenty-first century may not be the one you think
by Toby Lester

In 1851 the French historian and philosopher Ernest Renan announced to the world that Islam was "the last religious creation of humanity." He was more than a bit premature. At about the time he was writing, the Bahai faith, Christian Science, Mormonism, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and a major Japanese religious movement known as Tenrikyo were all just coming to life. Falun Gong and Pentecostalism—both of which now have millions and millions of members—had yet to emerge. Whoops.

Toby Lester, the author of "Oh, Gods!" in the February Atlantic, talks about the Darwinian way religions mutate and evolve.
Contemporary theories of social and political behavior tend to be almost willfully blind to the constantly evolving role of religion as a force in global affairs. The assumption is that advances in the rational understanding of the world will inevitably diminish the influence of that last, vexing sphere of irrationality in human culture: religion. Inconveniently, however, the world is today as awash in religious novelty, flux, and dynamism as it has ever been—and religious change is, if anything, likely to intensify in the coming decades. The spectacular emergence of militant Islamist movements during the twentieth century is surely only a first indication of how quickly, and with what profound implications, change can occur....

The Great Bastiat's Balance of Trade Satire
Here is Frederic Bastiat's famous satire of the protectionists of his day who sought to plunder their fellow citizens with tariffs under the guise of a phony concern for a statistical "balance of trade":

"A French merchant shipped $50,000 worth of goods to New Orleans and sold them for a profit of $17,000. He invested the entire $67,000 in United States cotton and brought it back to France. Thus the customshouse record showed that the French nation had imported more than it exported -- an unfavorable balance of trade. Very bad."

"At a later date, the merchant decided to repeat that personally profitable transaction. But just outside the harbor, his ship was sunk by a storm. Thus the customhouse record showed that the French nation had exported more products than it had imported -- a favorable balance of trade. Very good. And in addition, more jobs were thereby created for the shipbuilders."

"But since storms at sea are undpendable, perhaps the safest government policy would be to record the exports at the customhouse and then throw the goods into the ocean. In that way, the nation could guarantee to itself the profit that results from a favorable balance of trade."

--Complete Works of Bastiat, vol. 5, pp. 363-368.

FBI may collect juveniles' DNA
By Richard Willing, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — DNA profiles from hundreds of thousands of juvenile offenders and adults arrested but not convicted of crimes could be added to the FBI's national DNA crime-fighting program under a proposed law moving through Congress.

The law, if enacted, would be the greatest single expansion of the federal government's power to collect and use DNA since the FBI's national database was created in 1992. The FBI says its national DNA database holds genetic profiles from about 1.4 million adults convicted of state and federal crimes.

The changes, in a little-noticed section of a bill that would authorize $755 million for DNA testing, were approved by the House of Representatives on Nov. 5. Backers say the Senate is likely to approve a similar version by early next year....

Slaves to the Marshall Myth
by D.W. MacKenzie

Of all the myths that persist concerning economic history, the myth that the United States rebuilt Europe and Japan following the Second World War is among the most popular. While there is considerable disagreement concerning other myths, like the notion that FDR saved us all during the Great Depression, the myth of the Marshall Plan enjoys wide support....

...West Germany rebuilt itself in a similar fashion. Marshall Plan aid consisted of only a tiny percentage of German GDP. Also, the money that West Germany paid in reparations offset Marshall Plan aid. West Germany received military defense from the U.S. and England, but paid substantial fees for this service. The German Economic Miracle began with a radical program of privatization and deregulation, beginning in 1948. This ended the regulatory controls and elaborate tax system imposed by Hitler and his National Socialists.

Foreign aid had, at best, minimal influence on the West German revival. A free and nondemocratic Germany experienced a strong recovery. If there was anything wrong with the German approach, it is that it allowed for future extensions by the government into private markets.

Japan also experienced great success due to a relative lack of governmental interference (Henderson 1993). Low taxes and high savings rates translated into strong economic growth in postwar Japan. Once again, foreign aid and intervention were too small to have accounted for this success. Japan did not need massive intervention to recover, even though it lacked the natural resources that Iraq possesses in its oil fields....

Monday, November 17, 2003

Nov 17 2003
By Bob Roberts, Political Correspondent

GEORGE Bush was last night branded chicken for scrapping his speech to Parliament because he feared being heckled by anti-war MPs....

Coop's Books That Matter: Making Sense of Church: Eavedropping on Emerging Conversations about God, Community, and Culture

...As I think about the emerging church; I see a similar shift occurring. In most traditional churches, the pastor's role is to teach. As the fount of all knowledge, the pastor's job is to overflow with spiritual truth each week while the congregation sits and absorbs this wisdom. Sure, there are other elements in a service--like music and prayer but for the most part, the sermon is the focal point.

With so much riding on the weekly message, churches are susceptible to "charismatic" leaders--for better or for worse. Each Sunday, the pastor must deliver something new and inspirational to the congregation, lest he or she become the topic of conversation at lunch. As the name on the marquee outside, the pastor is inextricably linked to the success and failure of the church.

In many ways, the modern worship service is a thinly disguised university lecture. Congregants file in, face the front and frantically take notes while and established scholar--a spiritual giant in their midst--passes on formula for a more fulfilling life. :: Page 52

...Somehow, over the centuries, knowledge has become king. We've effectively said that knowing about God will ultimately help us know God. As a result, we often focused more on the Word, then on the Word become flesh. And yet as A.W. Tozer pointed out, God cannot be contained in any object or that object will become out god. Cold it be that we've created an idol and have actually begun to worship Christian education or the Bible?

Churches today have been expressly designed for passing on knowledge. Objects that appeal to the senses have been removed, Ironically, this switch to a "user-friendly" environment is problematic for many postmodern people--the very people churches say they want to reach. While there is something to be said for comfortable chairs and trouble free parking, slick worship services seem exactly that--slick. It's Amway with a thin spiritual veneer.

Thom S. Rainer, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, told The Washington Times that the main reason people leave church is it's too similar to their everyday lives. Could it be the seeker-sensitive movement has actually backfired? :: Page 53-54

...modern leadership models stress cultivating a strong exterior, one that inspires confidence and devotion. Modernists, by definition, have a strong faith in the future. They're passionate about human potential and believe in the inevitability of progress. Consequently, admitting you're weak, or have troubles as a leader, is frowned upon. It's the "Come on, be a man!" approach to life. :: Page 72

...After viewing The Big Kahuna, I was struck by how often I too have been a salesman for Jesus. In my evangelistic zeal, I never thought what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of that conversation, and how my desire to seal the deal may have actually been taking away dignity and honour from the person. I frankly didn't realize how important it was communicate in word and in deed-and for both to be authentic expression of a changed heart. :: Page 153

Why Be Christian?
Revisionist Jesus scholar Marcus Borg explains why "Christianity makes persuasive and compelling sense."
Interview by Deborah Caldwell

In renowned Jesus scholar Marcus Borg's latest book, The Heart of Christianity, he responds to an audience of readers who, over the years, have asked him about the essence of their faith. How, they ask, can Christianity be relevant in a time of ever-expanding historical and scientific knowledge? In a conversation with Deborah Caldwell, Borg answers that question, touching on the afterlife, living in a multi-cultural society, the meaning of salvation, and being born again....

...Broadly speaking, there are two different visions of Christianity in North America today. The earlier vision is the product of the last few hundred years, especially the last 150 years. This earlier vision of Christianity is literalistic in its understanding of the Bible, absolutist in its understanding of the ethical teachings of the Bible, and exclusivist--meaning Christianity is the only way.

That's the vision of Christianity that the majority of us grew up with, whether we are mainline Protestant, Catholic, or conservative Protestant. But that way of seeing Christianity has become unpersuasive to millions of people--who can't be literalists or absolutists or exclusivists. But now there is an emerging vision, an emerging paradigm.

The conflict between these two paradigms can be seen in many different places. In the second half of the 19th Century and early in the 20th Century we saw conflict over evolution. Thirty years ago the conflict was over ordination of women in mainline denominations, and of course today we see the conflict about gays and lesbians in the church. For Protestants, the two visions have everything to do with biblical authority. The earlier vision sees the Bible as divine product with a divine guarantee to be true. The emerging vision sees the Bible as a human historical product, the product of two ancient communities [Judaism and Christianity]. It tells us what they thought, not what God thinks.

My book has almost an evangelistic purpose--to show that Christianity makes persuasive and compelling sense, that the intellectual stumbling blocks that many people experience with Christianity are unnecessary and artificial and largely the creation of the last few hundred years. I'm persuaded that Christianity, rightly understood, makes sense--and so do Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. And they make very much the same kind of sense. ...

...Mainline denominations have seen a membership decline of roughly 40% over the last 35 years. But most of the people leaving mainline denominations have not joined more conservative churches. They’ve simply dropped out. Presumably, a major reason many of them dropped out is that the form of Christianity they learned growing up ceased to make compelling sense to them. If it had made sense, they still would be in the church....

A quick note on Stephen Hayes new article Iraq-al Qaida link story, “Case Closed”, in the Weekly Standard.
(I was watching Fox News Sunday this morning and saw Fred Barnes --- Executive Editor of the Standard --- go almost apoplectic about how devastating and case-closing a piece it is.)

In any case, the quick note.

First, congratulations to Steve for a great scoop. He and I disagree about most things these days. But I'm certainly an admirer of his work.

But is it "case closed"? Not quite. More like, case restated....

Not-So-Honest George
The Program on International Policy Attitudes, a research center down at the University of Maryland, has just released the latest in a series of polls its been doing on U.S. public attitudes about the war in Iraq.

Interestingly, the latest survey shows that, despite the administration's agit-prop campaign, Americans seem to be gradually absorbing some basic truths about the war in Iraq ...

Sympathy for the vicar
Christopher Sandford says that Keith Richards - 60 next month - is a secret conservative: he eats shepherd's pie, loves his mum and even goes to church
He doesn't exactly look like your average squire, Keith Richards, with his piratical swagger and a complexion that's been compared to old cat litter. But Keith, who turns 60 next month, is emerging as one of the most shockingly normal, and English, of rock stars, as well as one of the most self-aware. "I can be the cat on stage any time I want," he said some years ago. "I like to stay in touch with him.... But I'm a very placid, nice guy - most people will tell you that. It's mainly to placate this other creature that I work." ...

...Richards married for the first and only time on his 40th birthday in 1983, and it probably saved his life. His bride was the 27-year-old Patti Hansen, a home-town girl from Staten Island, New York, and a devout Lutheran. His in-laws gave a startling interview in which they portrayed Keith as an "enthusiastic disciple of Christ" and that he "embraced Christ as a way of life". Under Patti's influence, Richards cut back on drugs, attended church from time to time and even started a gentle exercise regime. "She's a wonderful girl; I ain't letting the bitch go!" he confirmed in a speech at his wedding reception. Keith may have written "Sympathy For The Devil" back when, but these days much of his life is spent with a woman who attends a weekly Bible study group and who won't stand for swearing around the house....

Quantum leap: New computer code can't be cracked
By Brian Bergstein, Associated Press

New encryption process is based on use of photons

NEW YORK - Code-makers could be on the verge of winning their ancient arms race with code-breakers.

After 20 years of research, an encryption process is emerging that is considered unbreakable because it employs the mind-blowing laws of quantum physics.

This month, a small startup called MagiQ Technologies Inc. began selling what appears to be the first commercially available system that uses individual photons to transfer the numeric keys that are widely used to encode and read secret documents....

We need to pull ourselves together
Theodore Dalrymple reviews Therapy Culture by Frank Furedi

In a matter of only a few decades, counselling has replaced fortitude as our culturally approved way of confronting misfortune. A large number of my patients ascribe their current unhappiness to the fact that they were not offered counselling at the time of an unpleasant occurrence, such as a surgical operation or the death of a friend or relative. Every form of human suffering, it seems, is susceptible to the magical powers of therapy. It is the superstition of our age.

Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology, examines this curious, and by no means harmless, phenomenon in some detail. Only occasionally does he resort to the barbarous locutions of his academic trade, with words such as "problematise", but for the most part he writes in good plain English.

He argues, in my view convincingly, that the extension of belief in "therapy" is both symptomatic and productive of a profound change in human relations, and not for the better. It may also lead to an extension of the powers of the state over our lives. Therapeutic culture is therefore destructive - though the author fails to allow the possibility that many people may nevertheless benefit personally from the sympathetic ear and disinterested advice of third parties when they have no one else suitable to turn to. Nor do I agree with Furedi that state intervention is invariably a bad thing: in cases of domestic violence, for example, it is often a necessary duty.

Yet the bigger picture he presents is persuasive. He points out that in the not-so-distant past, people looked (at least in this country) to their relatives and friends to help them with their difficulties. They also turned to the consolations of religion, and believed in the virtue of stoicism. However, for a variety of cultural reasons many people have gradually come to consider the ups and downs of their emotional lives to be by far the most important aspect of their existence.

But self-absorption and an emphasis on self-realisation are divisive: to quote the cant phrase that makes my heart sink every time I hear it, people are no longer "there for one another". Thus they increasingly turn to professional third parties - alleged experts such as counsellors - for support and advice. In the process, perfectly normal, inescapable, human experiences - such as those of loss, conflict, ambivalence and anxiety - are turned into quasi-medical problems to be treated by quasi-medical means....

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Church Growth Gone Mad
...Well, a man that was greatly influenced by Robert Schuller is Bill Hybels, again, as we are moving closer and closer in time to where we're at today. And in 1972 Bill Hybels in the Chicago area launched a ministry to high school students called "Son life." As the group grew the students in the group complained that there were several hindrances to them bringing their friends. Some of these hindrances were the meeting environment, the music, and the teaching. As a result of these complaints, and as a result of his working with the youth in this Son life he started something called 'Son City' in 1973. Son City began as an outreach program to unbelieving youth. What happened was, over time, the message, music, and environment, and teaching were all adapted to the audience, and it was filled up with unbelievers. Then sadly what happened was that Son City became Willow Creek Community Church. In essence what Willow Creek Community Church is, it's a youth ministry that morphed into a church In essence what Willow Creek Community Church is, it's a youth ministry that morphed into a church ...

...Here's a quote from Bill Hybels, "If they'll sustain that kind of all out effort, they're going to break through all the barriers keeping them from belief." That's scary! That's saying that an unsaved person is going to break through the barriers that will take them towards belief - that's as man centered as you can get! We saw the quote before. "Assist the unbeliever in a cost-benefit analysis." Here's a quote from Rick Warren, "There are some types of people that your church will never reach because they require a completely different style of ministry than you can provide." Another quote, "Explosive growth only occurs when the type of people in the community match the type of people that are already in the church and they both match the type of person the pastor is..."

...Here's another quote from Robert Schuller, "I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and hence counterproductive to the evangelistic enterprise than the unchristian, uncouth strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition. Classical reformed theology has erred in its insistence that theology be God centered not man centered." ...

...Let's turn to 1 Corinthians 1 - look at a couple of passages. First Corinthians one and two, by themselves, those two chapters should drive a stake in the heart of any kind of thinking of the church growth movement. Consider verse seventeen chapter one: "Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel - and watch this - not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void." And brothers, when we add our cleverness of speech, when we try to remarket, when we try to improve on the clear message of God, on the clear means of communicating that message, we're running the risk of making the cross of Christ void. Or chapter two verses four and five, "My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power that your faith should not rest on the wisdom on men, but on the power of God." If we are using our persuasive words of wisdom, that's the risk we're running - that the faith of our congregation - the faith of the unsaved people would not be resting on the wisdom of God but would be resting on the wisdom of man....

Dilemma as rare birds devour rare fish
BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) -- A protected species of bird is devouring rare fish in the German state of Bavaria and creating a dilemma for local officials who now want federal permission to kill birds that once appeared headed for extinction.

The population of cormorants -- black, long-beaked fishing specialists which can stay underwater for up to 30 seconds -- has ballooned to over 6,000 in the Alpine state.

And they are feeding on rare fish species such as grayling and pearl fish, which are unique to the region, German officials said.

"The problem is that a protected bird is eating protected fish," a spokesman for the Bavarian environment ministry said this week. ...

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Wretched Urgency II: My Not-So-Guilty Pleasures
...I wish I were kidding that evangelicalism is full of people who hate the idea of simple pleasures, but I'm not joking. Verses like, "Do everything to the glory of God" have been translated into, "Do everything, and be deadly serious about it." There are a lot of fine, dedicated Christians who feel it's a sin to go to a restaurant for any reason other than evangelizing the waitress....

...Why just enjoy sports? I mean it can be an OUTREACH. It can have a purpose. If you are involved in sports because you enjoy it, there's probably idolatry involved. (Evangelicals can take any sport from soccer to skeet shooting and turn it into a ministry.)

How about motorcycling? Biking? Civil War reenacting? Video games? Pro-wrestling? These hobbies need not be simple pleasures. They can be ways to fellowship, evangelize, grow as Christians, and most importantly, sell stuff. If you are a serious disciple, you know what I mean.

We recently had a nature photographer visit our school. His work was superb. And, of course, was presented complete with hymns in the soundtrack and various spiritual lessons. NOW LISTEN- there was nothing wrong with this, especially in our setting as a Christian school, but you have to realize that if the photographer had said he did this for fun, and had never talked about God or the various lessons in nature he observed, a lot of the Christian adults present would have felt like something was WRONG. People who just do things because they enjoy them have a problem. They should be doing them for God.

American evangelicals stand at the end of a long line of Christian attempts to make fun into a sin. Simple pleasures and sinful pleasures have always seemed synonymous to a remarkable number of serious Christians. Heirs of a theological mistake that said we are saved by seriousness, American evangelicals feel guilty about more things than a monastery full of Luthers.

Not only should we turn normal activities into "ministries," we shouldn't "waste" our time with frivolous activities when we could be involved in "serious" discipleship. ...

Friday, November 14, 2003

F.B.I.'s Reach Into Records Is Set to Grow

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11 — A little-noticed measure approved by both the House and Senate would significantly expand the F.B.I.'s power to demand financial records, without a judge's approval, from car dealers, travel agents, pawnbrokers and many other businesses, officials said on Tuesday.

Traditional financial institutions like banks and credit unions are frequently subject to administrative subpoenas from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to produce financial records in terrorism and espionage investigations. Such subpoenas, which are known as national security letters, do not require the bureau to seek a judge's approval before issuing them.

The measure now awaiting final approval in Congress would significantly broaden the law to include securities dealers, currency exchanges, car dealers, travel agencies, post offices, casinos, pawnbrokers and any other institution doing cash transactions with "a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax or regulatory matters."

Officials said the measure, which is tucked away in the intelligence community's authorization bill for 2004, gives agents greater flexibility and speed in seeking to trace the financial assets of people suspected of terrorism and espionage....

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Bush's Early Discharge
They also serve who attend B-school.
By Timothy Noah
Updated Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2003, at 3:50 PM PT

Certain documents available on the Web are so piquant that commentary seems superfluous. In honor of Veterans Day, Chatterbox serves up an objet trouve' concerning President George W. Bush's Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard. The found object is young Dubya's request - four months after his superiors reported they'd seen hide nor hair of him during the previous year - that he be discharged early so he can attend Harvard Business School....


Charles Glass: There are so many echoes of Vietnam in Iraq
It took two years for US deaths to reach 324 in Vietnam. It passed that figure in seven months in Iraq

The US armed forces launched their first air raid against post-war Iraq last week, when F-16 fighter-bombers dropped 500-pound bombs on Tikrit. The new campaign against Iraq's resistance fighters, dubbed Operation Ivy Cyclone, recalls President Lyndon Johnson's Operation Rolling Thunder over Vietnam in 1965. That campaign of bombing Vietnam would eventually see Indochina devastated by 7 million tons of aerial explosives.

These are early days in Iraq, where the conflict between a growing percentage of the native population and the occupying forces is escalating far more rapidly than it did in Vietnam. It took two years, from 1963 to the end of 1964, for American combat deaths to reach 324. The US has surpassed that figure in only seven months in Iraq, where 398 American soldiers have died already. In the last 12 days, 38 have been killed. As for the Iraqi dead, the US does not count them with similar precision. Vietnam offers examples to the US, but it is learning the wrong lessons....

'We could lose this situation'
· CIA says insurgents now 50,000 strong
· Crisis talks over transfer of power

The White House yesterday drew up emergency plans to accelerate the transfer of power in Iraq after being shown a devastating CIA report warning that the guerrilla war was in danger of escalating out of US control.

The report, an "appraisal of situation" commissioned by the CIA director, George Tenet, and written by the CIA station chief in Baghdad, said that the insurgency was gaining ground among the population, and already numbers in the tens of thousands.

One military intelligence assessment now estimates the insurgents' strength at 50,000. Analysts cautioned that such a figure was speculative, but it does indicate a deep-rooted revolt on a far greater scale than the Pentagon had led the administration to believe.

An intelligence source in Washington familiar with the CIA report described it as a "bleak assessment that the resistance is broad, strong and getting stronger".

"It says we are going to lose the situation unless there is a rapid and dramatic change of course," the source said.

"There are thousands in the resistance - not just a core of Ba'athists. They are in the thousands, and growing every day. Not all those people are actually firing, but providing support, shelter and all that." ...

Is This Hussein's Counterattack?
Commander Says Insurgence Has Earmarks of Planning

By Vernon Loeb and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 13, 2003; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Nov. 12 -- The recent string of high-profile attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq has appeared to be so methodical and well crafted that some top U.S. commanders now fear this may be the war Saddam Hussein and his generals planned all along. ...

My Addiction To “Church”
In the Americanized church, the organization is designed to turn life and faith into a simple prepackaged consumer product. This is what John Drane calls the “McDonaldization of the Church.”...

...Now strip all of that away. Imagine what you would have left after you remove from your life everything connected with the organizational church. I mean everything. I’ve discovered the hard way that living most of my adult life in cultural Christianity has formed my entire identity as a Christian. And when everything in my life connected with the church is gone, including sixteen years of professional ministry, I’m confronted with the true raw status my personal faith.

Now I'm going to say something harsh: In order to BE the Church, we need to leave the church. In other words, in order to truly become God's people as he intended, we must abandon our cultural version of organizational church. The application of this statement might vary, but it must happen. And as we abandon the church to become the Church, we will go through a detox period.

Why such drastic measures? Involvement in an organizational consumer-driven church blinds us to the real state of our lives. By participating in this kind of church I can enjoy inspiring worship, biblical exposition of Scripture, fellowship, small groups, kids programs, service projects, missions, discipleship, books, radio broadcasts, multimedia presentations and virtually anything else I need in my spiritual life. In fact, I can enjoy an entirely alternative lifestyle where Christianity is prepackaged for me – books, music, entertainment, news reports, advice, etc. And as I consume it, it forms a façade over the real condition of my life. The rub is when my true condition actually bubbles to the surface and I find myself troubled, discontent or miserable. Then the church or the pastor or the worship team has lost the “anointing” and I must find a new organizational church that will provide me what I need to feel better about who I am....

CHRISTIANS' RESPONSES PROMPT PERSECUTION -knee-jerk reactions and civil suits aren't biblical
By Dorothy Anne Seese

Christians had it so easy in America for so long they have no idea how to face what they perceive as "persecution" for their faith. I'm not saying it isn't there, but the knee-jerk reactions to every perceived slight is exactly what the opposition wants, and Christians never fail to disappoint the gainsayers.

This group of Christians would never have made it in the early church when persecution was the rule rather than the exception. Some are so rabid about the idea that the United States is a "Christian nation" that they want to go back beyond the New Testament to the Law of Moses, something never even given to the Gentiles and a system of laws that ended when the veil of the temple was rent in two at Christ's death on the cross.

The issue should never be that Christians fear persecution. The sole issue is whether there is discrimination against one faith as opposed to other faiths in violation of the First Amendment, both the establishment and free exercise clauses. The issue is that of constitutional law and application, not Christians' so-called rights. We have no rights because our citizenship is in Heaven. As humans we should have constitutional rights, but not as a church, not because we are Christians.

The church did not grow because of victories in courts and the success of litigation, it grew because of the power of the gospel itself (Romans 1:16) and that power has not changed. Christians are the worst for forwarding wild hoaxes via email about some new law being passed to persecute them and begging for signatures to a nonexistent petition to go to some network station or government agency. ...

...Most Christians today will speak at length about how this nation was founded for the purpose of religious freedom. Then they turn around and want state protection for the church. Say what? God won't do, we need the state? Oh my. I fear for my brethren who have that view. I also fear that it is the flagrant lack of love being displayed by the church people, the engagements with the world's values, the strange interpretations of the Bible being proclaimed, and the abuse by preachers of note that have brought Christianity into ridicule. Our silent suffering would doubtless command more respect and wonder from judges than our fiery blasts at the heathen in our midst. Jesus bewildered Pontius Pilate with His silence. Isn't He our example?...

...Either way, God is in control or He is simply not God! Forcing a heathen to stop one sin makes him no less a candidate for Hell or will in any manner make him a candidate for salvation, only God can and does do that. So all the Christians running around trying to cure America's ills when they cannot get together on how much water is required for baptism merely generates strife. It engenders more hatred among the heathen because we set ourselves up as targets by our actions. Then rather than going into serious prayer, we run to the lawyers who are by and large members of the ACLU. That is weird behavior, and must make the heathen wonder just how seriously we do take our faith and how large our God really is. Get to the end of your rope some day, as some of us have, and find out what great things God can do.

Let the heathen alone! For mercy's sake,...

LifeWay & 'Left Behind' boost evangelism with end-times aids
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--LifeWay Christian Resources is partnering with the creators of the popular "Left Behind" series to help individuals and churches use the apocalyptic thrillers as tools to share the Gospel....

...Reighard, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference, describes the Left Behind series as "the air force of Christian evangelistic strategy."

"It softens up the ground by dropping bombs of truth, thus allowing foot soldiers to share their faith with willing hearts already open to the Gospel," said Reighard, who now serves as chief people officer for HomeBanc Mortgage Corp., a loan company with nearly 1,000 employees and $5 billion in loans throughout the southeastern United States....

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

When Did Madonna Become a Rabbi?
So Madonna has written a children's book, "The English Roses," which is based on the Kabbalah and features as its lead character a girl named Binah. Should the Jewish community be proud?

After all, here we are, a little backwater religion, with one of the world's most famous faces highlighting our ancient mystical tradition. Should we not embrace her as our savior and princess, the woman who renounced Catholicism in favor of Judaism? The woman who helped make Judaism sexy?

No. And here's why. The fact that Judaism is becoming increasingly dependent on depraved pop cultural icons to make it appeal to the masses is a sign of desperation rather than achievement, failure rather than success.

Religions have staked claims to authenticity for millennia, and it is a fool's game to debate the legitimacy of one over another. But the overriding characteristic that has distinguished Judaism from every other world faith and made us Jews justly proud is its demands for moral excellence. Historically it cries out that the only true test of religious piety is human decency. The discerning characteristic of an authentic faith as opposed to a counterfeit one is moral virtue.

The founder of our faith, Abraham, does not perform a single supernatural feat in the whole of Genesis. Rather, he is portrayed as a simple herdsman who even after victory over kings refuses to take any kind of loot or booty.

In short, he is a not a god-man, but a good man, not a saint with celestial power but a human being of outstanding moral courage.

Likewise, the Bible only once gives a description of Moses' personal character. He is described not as the most commanding, nor even the wisest, but rather as the "humblest man who walked the earth."

Proximity to God breeds a distinct humility. Fakers garbed in religious robes but as distant from God as Pluto is from the sun exhibit an arrogance and a judgmentalism that has become all too common in modern-day faith....

ADD President?
Daniel McAdams, foreign policy scholar, writes: "We went to the celebration at Arlington Cemetery yesterday -- not knowing that the President would speak . A trip to Arlington is always the most poignant reminder of the costs of war...

"Initial impressions were disturbing: President Bush was physically unable to stand still as the Colors were being presented -- he kept bopping his head to the march music and talking and laughing to a very still and stiff Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Anthony Principi, who was doing his best to stand at attention and ignore the president's repeated attempts to strike up a conversation during that solemn procession. All of the others on the dais were utterly still and at attention as the Colors were being presented, with either a salute or a hand on heart. Only the president was acting like a kid with ADD during a Ritalin shortage...

Karl from Canberra, Australia asks:
"Is there a place for me in your vision of the church, as a prospective clergyman who holds traditional views of the Atonement against which you have spoken?"

Dear Karl,

Of course! Neither doctrinal differences, nor a variety of interpretations of any part of the Christian Story must ever be allowed to be the basis for participation in the Body of Christ. The fact of the matter is that theology is a human attempt to discern the meaning of the God experience. Theology always changes. I believe the God experience is eternal. What is required of you and me alike is that we journey together into the truth of God that neither of us will ever possess. The problem with the Christian Church is not that there are wide theological differences. People are different and process their understanding of truth from many different perspectives. The problem comes when anyone assumes that in his or her understanding of any other part of our faith story, including the Atonement, is the ultimate and unchanging truth of God. The mark of the Christian is not certainty, it is openness to truth, openness to new possibilities, openness to the nudgings of the Spirit.

If I had time, I could take you into Christian history and show you how every doctrine of the Church was formed, what need it was designed to address, what the contending ideas shaping the debate were, how the debate was resolved, and what the changing forces were that ultimately forced that debate to be reopened. I could even take you into the New Testament and show you how the authors of these crucial works grew in the way they explained the mystery of the God they believed that they had met in Christ.

If you or I close our minds to truth, convince ourselves that we possess it and become no longer open to new possibilities, then what we have done is to make an idol out of our own conclusions. People who substitute their idols for the living God inevitably want to defend them, attack anyone who does not agree and claim that disagreement with their conclusions is identical with disagreeing with God.

Karl, there is no scripture, creed or document that does more than point to God. Nothing ever captures God. There is no theological understanding that dropped from heaven as a divine revelation. There is no "faith" that was "once delivered to the Saints." There is no infallible Pope, no inerrant Bible, no true Church and no single tradition that has cornered the market on salvation.

The Christian life is a journey. You start where you are. You journey into all that you can be. The Church of the future rejects no one. Those who think they already possess the ultimate truth of God reject the journey and therefore they reject what the Church is meant to be. Travel well!
-- John Shelby Spong

Iraq 'faces severe health crisis'
The most vulnerable were hit hard by the war, the report says
The people of Iraq may have poorer health for generations as a result of the war, according to a report.

Medical charity Medact says this year's conflict disrupted immunisation programmes and destroyed water systems, increasing levels of disease.

Environmental degradation and smoke from oil fires are adding to the health problems of Iraqis, it reports.

Continuing insecurity in Iraq, along with the breakdown of public health services, are exacerbating the problem.

Entitled Continuing Collateral Damage: the health and environmental costs of war on Iraq, the report estimates that between 22,000 and 55,000 people - mainly Iraqi soldiers and civilians - died as a direct result of the war. ...

Vote count marred by computer woes
Lebanon -- Boone County officials are searching for an answer to the computer glitch that spewed out impossible numbers and interrupted an otherwise uneventful election process Tuesday.

"I about had a heart attack," County Clerk Lisa Garofolo said of the breakdown that came as an eager crowd watched computer-generated vote totals being projected onto a wall of the County Courthouse rotunda.

"I'm assuming the glitch was in the software."

A lengthy collaboration between the county's information technology director and advisers from the MicroVote software producer fixed the problem. But before that, computer readings of stored voting machine data showed far more votes than registered voters.

"It was like 144,000 votes cast," said Garofolo, whose corrected accounting showed just 5,352 ballots from a pool of fewer than 19,000 registered voters.

"Believe me, there was nobody more shook up than I was."

Moral Beliefs Of Young
And Old Differ Greatly

( BP) -- A sizeable generation gap exists on nearly every major moral issue in America today, a new poll by the Barna Research Group shows.

The poll by Christian researcher George Barna shows that on issues such as pre-marital sex, living together before marriage and even pornography a double-digit gap exists between those ages 18-38 and those ages 39 and up. Smaller gaps existed on abortion and homosexual sex.

For example, 75 percent of those ages 18-19 believe that living together before marriage is morally acceptable. Sixty percent of those ages 39-57 and 41 percent of those ages 58 and up share that same belief.

The poll of 1,024 adults was conducted in October and asked respondents their beliefs on 10 ethical and moral issues. It reveals a wide gap between the beliefs of the general population and evangelicals as well as between those of young and older adults.

The younger generations are significantly more accepting of the behaviors than are the older generations. ...

VIN SUPRYNOWICZ: 'They'll break into your house ... '
Last week, I was discussing a government-school teacher I encountered at a UNLV adult education class. She was asserting that without government schooling, the children would be illiterate.

Of course, this flies in the face of the fact that Alexis de Tocqueville found this the most literate nation on earth when he visited in the 1820s -- 30 years before Horace Mann & Co. erected their first tax-funded mandatory government schools on the Prussian model in Massachusetts in the 1850s.

It also fails to explain the fact that black literacy peaked in the 1940s in America, and has been dropping ever since -- even as we have poured vastly more billions into the ever larger and more thoroughly unionized government youth internment camps (statistic courtesy of the National Adult Literacy Survey and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, as cited by New York state [government] teacher of the year John Taylor Gatto in his fine book "The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling").

This argument also closely mimics the piteous mewlings of the Soviets -- 70-year captives of a classically dysfunctional system of socialist impoverishment -- who used to whine, "But if we allowed greedy capitalists to take over the food distribution system, they'd be able to charge any prices they liked, and the poor people would starve! Groceries are far too crucial a commodity to be handled by anyone but the wise, redistributionist state."

Guess what? Private supermarkets now prevail in the former Soviet Union, with the result that there is more and better food more readily available for all -- just as there is no starvation to speak of in the United States, despite the fact that food distribution here is almost entirely handled by the free market. (Pardon me, by the "greedy capitalists.") ...

Rick Warren's Scary Movement: A Rant
The Pop, The Fizz and the Purpose-Driven Biz
by Michael Spencer

[OK. OK. Calm down. I know some of you people arrived here by Google and you are already upset. This is not a serious look at Rick Warren or Purpose Driven Christianity. It's a semi-humorous piece of venting, meant to acknowledge that not everyone is caught up in the excitement. Hope you can extend a bit of humor our way. Thank you. Now please procede and be offended.]

Do you think all successful, healthy churches should basically be alike?

Do you think God has revealed to pastors of mega-churches how things ought to be going in your church, and every other church as well?

Do you believe book sales best indicate what is God's word for the church today?

Do you believe that it is highly likely Rick Warren is the greatest thing to happen to evangelicalism since AWANA?

Do you think there is room for a couple of more books in scripture? Like, The Purpose Driven Life maybe?

Well, if you don't, you must feel left out these days, because I've just described some of the cardinal tenets of the mega-fad otherwise known as Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Christianity....

...On the other hand, Warren has come to represent everything nauseating about the current fevered state of the church growth movement. A purveyor of endless lists, principles and "must-do's to be normal," Warren is the pope of evangelical church growth expertise. And the more books he sells, the more authoritarian his tone. Warren will soon be telling us how God instructed him in painting the bathrooms at Saddleback Valley an airy blue rather than a school-room green. "Purpose Driven" is now a tattoo offered at Lifeway Stores everywhere. Looks great across the chest.

Convinced that every church ought to be a mega-church and every pastor ought to be a best-selling mega-church pastor, American evangelicals have become a parody of modernism's love affair with "how-to-succeed-no-joke" schemes. Even postmodern churches are now built from the blueprints of the mega-churches. The business of churches in America is now to imitate the successful and be imitated themselves. Like the Borg, Warren and company want you to know resistance is futile.

According to Warren, the Christian life is a baseball game where you get saved, join a church, get involved in a ministry and go on a mission trip. Whooo-hooo...

...In fact, this is the first time in a while I've heard book sales so openly touted as a way of measuring the work of the Holy Spirit. With a straight face, we are supposed to believe that the sudden, unprecedented interest in Warren's books is a major move of the Holy Spirit, directing all of us to get purpose-driven and Saddlebacked. And if you believe that, I've got some fine acreage in Mongolia you need to purchase today. The church-growth wackos are determined to eradicate any paltry congregations that attempt to ignore the pantheon of mega-pastors. From his perch at, Warren frequently intones the death knell for those who refuse to get jiggy with the seeker sensitive beat. Whatever....

...Since they worship at the Golden Calf of consumerism and believe the Holy Spirit speaks through book sales, evangelicals have readily accepted Rick Warren as the presiding archbishop of church growth and Christian experience. There is an uncontrollable urge to get everyone on the same boat. Apparently, when enough people read PDL there will be some kind of harmonic convergence, all our churches will turn into mega-churches, and we will all float up to the mothership.

Am I ranting because I can't stand Warren's success? Am I just bound and determined to say that whatever is popular can't be good? Well, I'm close to that point, but not quite.

I'm simply tired of the church growth "movement" (the name "cult" is getting more appealing all the time) being such an obnoxious, juvenile presence in Christianity. With all the subtlety of a mob of rampaging Herbalife dealers, the church growth movement has arrived and forced us to think about nothing but their issues and agenda for the past ten plus years. I'm tired of it. When are they going to shut up? When are they going stop telling all of us to be like them?

Of course, as long as evangelical pastors keep lapping up whatever comes down the pipeline promising to make them the next big church and the next big thing, we will never hear the end of it. Warren will overtake Barth with his multi-volume "Purpose Driven Dogmatics." Soon, any church without Powerpoint, a band and a Cappacino bar will be closed by order of the government....

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

New Service Is the Last Word in E-Mail
For $9.99, subscribers can arrange to have their farewells sent after they're dead.
By Alex Pham, Times Staff Writer

From: The great beyond

To: Loved one

Subject: Don't bother to hit the reply button

With, you can communicate long after you've logged off. The service, which started Monday, charges $9.99 for a three-year subscription (no refund if you don't need it that long) for postmortem delivery of farewell e-mails....

Where Jabez Doesn't Cut It
'I had to repent,' says Bruce Wilkinson, when he realized he hadn't followed God's command to help people in need.
Interview by Deborah Caldwell

You’ve said you had to repent when you got to Africa, when you realized you had been disobedient to God by not taking care of people in need. Tell me about your process of repentance.

Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you. It’s not just that I changed how I thought—I am now changed. I went to Africa without the perspective of a balance between teaching people the truth, which has been my calling, and helping people who have physical problems, like AIDS and orphans and hunger.

I started looking at the passages of the Bible that would help me as I live in Africa. And I centered on Isaiah 58, and I read it over and over and began to change my mind about what I should be doing, what I should have been doing all this time. If you really don’t run away from it and don’t let it be intellectual and you process it in your heart and you think about the implications of—if I’d been doing this what could it have meant to people?—you feel sorrow, genuine grief. To truly repent of a big thing, you have to go into it with your heart open and force yourself to deal with it at that level and to apologize to God. I’m almost through that.

When you decided to go to Africa last spring, you were in the process of moving to California, but you couldn’t find a house. What had you planned to do in Los Angeles?

I’d been with the organization I’d founded, Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, for 25 years. In 1998 I launched an organization with a 15-year goal: get a [Bible] teacher for every 50,000 people, in every country of the world, in 15 years’ time. And after five years we were in 82 countries. That’s a new country every 3 weeks. We had 33,000 trained Bible teachers.

We also had a top-down strategy--to mobilize a general interest in biblical topics by having a motion picture made in Hollywood on that topic and a popular TV series on [the same] topic. An example would be “marriage.”

I told the board that’s what I wanted. But the board didn’t want me to go there. They felt I was being pulled off. I had to make up my mind to stay in the organization or resign, and I resigned. And I announced I was moving to California to make movies. I spoke to producers who wanted to know about Jabez, and then I went out in April to find a house and couldn’t find one. It didn’t make sense. I’m not really that fussy, and I was a little bit frustrated.

So in May I went to Africa. I was already working in Hollywood on a number of films by that time. One of them was about The Prayer of Jabez, and there were others as well....

U.S. Opposes Money for Troops Jailed in Iraq
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 — The Bush administration is seeking to block a group of American troops who were tortured in Iraqi prisons during the Persian Gulf war in 1991 from collecting any of the hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen Iraqi assets they won last summer in a federal court ruling against the government of Saddam Hussein.

In a court challenge that the administration is winning so far but is not eager to publicize, administration lawyers have argued that Iraqi assets frozen in bank accounts in the United States are needed for Iraqi reconstruction and that the judgment won by the 17 former American prisoners should be overturned....

..."No one would subject himself for any price to the terror, torment and pain experienced by these American P.O.W.'s," the judge wrote. But he said that "only a very sizable award would be likely to deter the torture of American P.O.W.'s by agencies or instrumentalities of Iraq or other terrorist states in the future."

The lawyers who brought the case on behalf of the former prisoners said such a huge penalty against Iraq would discourage other governments from torturing American troops.

"This was a major human rights decision," said John Norton Moore, one of the lawyers and a professor of national security law at the University of Virginia. "It never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that I would then see our government coming in on the side of Saddam Hussein and his regime to absolve them of responsibility for the brutal torture of Americans."...

Gulags in the making
Yes, the War on Drugs is idiotic, there is little doubt about that, and I think most Americans are slowly coming around to that conclusion. That is not the part about the South Carolina high school drug raid that enrages me. What really brings my blood to a steady simmer is the fact that the raid was exactly the kind of debasing of the individual that occurs on a daily basis in every public school in the country, only this time it happened to a greater extent.

Public schools are not about learning. They never have been about learning. They are about taking children away from the natural home environment and molding them into obedient, state-worshipping citizens. From the moment that the student first steps into a classroom in which he is instructed to sit quietly and listen to the teacher at the front of the room, he is being stripped of his individuality and is being taught collectivism. The loud and clear message being sent is, "You cannot learn on your own. The only way you can learn anything is by being taught by someone else lecturing you. We will teach you. If you don't obey, we will punish you and your classmates."...

Most people prefer to believe their leaders are just and fair even in the face of evidence to the contrary, because once a citizen acknowledges that the government under which they live is lying and corrupt, the citizen has to choose what he or she will do about it. To take action in the face of a corrupt government entails risks of harm to life and loved ones. To choose to do nothing is to surrender one's self-image of standing for principles. Most people do not have the courage to face that choice. Hence, most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical thinker but only to give moral cowards an excuse not to think at all.
-- Michael Rivero

Monday, November 10, 2003

Rumsfeld retreats, disclaims earlier rhetoric
Rumsfeld denies he ever made several pre-war statements.

WASHINGTON - In the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said U.S. forces would be welcomed by the Iraqi citizenry and that Saddam Hussein had large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

Now, after both statements have been shown to be either incorrect or vastly exaggerated, Rumsfeld - with the same trademark confidence that he exuded before the war - is denying that he ever made such assertions....

FBI to Website Owner
"We Are Watching You"


Cryptome is a web site dedicated to investigating and publishing accounts of government improprieties, particularly as they relate to secrecy and First Amendment violations. On November 4, FBI agents visited the website's New York City office and met with site owner John Young.

Both agents, who are identified on the site and who left their official cards, said that they had information that Cryptome was a source of information that could be used to "harm the United States." Prior investigations by the FBI, the agent admitted, had not found any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, but the FBI was fearful that information on the site would end up in the "wrong" hands. Cryptome was asked to report to the FBI any "gut feeling" they had that its information would be a "threat" to the U.S.

One agent said that visits like these are increasingly common as the government seeks out information on threats to the U.S. The agents said they would "write up" a report on their visit. The agents asked that their names not be published, but Cryptome refused to honor that request. One reason for their request of anonymity is so that information about them cannot be pulled from one of many databases available online. (Funny how government agents don't want to be the source of data mining, but they certainly want to use it against us.)

Who isn't hacking it?
If someone you work with is not up to the job, how should you deal with them, asks Virginia Matthews

Monday November 3, 2003
The Guardian

If body odour was once seen as one of those problems that are simply too difficult to talk about, today's equivalent is professional incompetence. For despite the bravado that pervades every workplace in the country, the chances are that the person slurping their coffee and wrinkling their brow at the desk next door is not just having an off day, but is chronically bad at doing what he or she is paid for.

According to the results of a major new survey of 40,000 workers in 35 countries, more than 80% of employees are unable to do at least one major part of their job properly and a sizeable number may already be in danger of doing anything from mis-selling complex insurance or mortgages to putting lives at risk. Not pulling your weight at work, or in pompous HR-speak, "failing to reach the performance benchmark set by employers," is endemic in everything from pharmaceuticals and farming to food manufacture and funerals. ...

...Professor Nigel Nicholson, professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, believes that organisations are too quick to adopt a blame culture: "When firms feel their backs are against the wall, it is too easy to lurch from crisis to crisis and to expect from employees more than they can give. Hence ridiculous expressions like 'giving 110%,' which is a nonsense.

"There is incompetence in workplaces, of course, but there are also hopeless managements, grandiose and unrealistic expectations of staff and often, badly designed jobs that no human being should be asked to fill. Anyone who detects incompetence around them should consider whether someone has been put in the wrong job, or been insufficiently trained, before pointing the finger."...

Showing Them We've Got Teeth
...An Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed Friday — apparently shot down by insurgents — killing all six U.S. soldiers aboard and capping the bloodiest seven days in Iraq for Americans since the fall of Baghdad.

In retaliation, American troops backed by Bradley fighting vehicles swept through Iraqi neighborhoods before dawn Saturday, blasting houses suspected of being insurgent hideouts with machine guns and heavy weapons fire.

"This is to remind the town that we have teeth and claws and we will use them," said Lt. Col. Steven Russell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment...

Late Friday, U.S. troops fired mortars and a U.S. jets dropped at least three 500-pound bombs around the crash site, rattling windows over a wide area in an apparent show of force....

Dick Cheney on the Folly of Nation-Building in Iraq
From a 1991 speech for the Soref Symposium:

...I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is also fallacious. I think if we were going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have to commit a lot of force because I do not believe he would wait in the Presidential Palace for us to arrive. I think we'd have had to hunt him down. And once we'd done that and we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have had to put another government in its place.

What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi'i government or a Kurdish government or Ba'athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable?

I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it's my view that the President got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq.