A Vocation to Singleness

There's a piece in my denominational magazine (The Banner) that looks at singles in the Church. The author, one Bethany Keeley, says some things that need saying, I think. I'm not going to repeat them - you can read the article yourself - but it is part and parcel of the difficulty experienced by people in their 20s and early 30s who, for whatever reason, do not marry.

The Protestant Church in particular does not know how to deal with singleness. The Catholic Church, with its tradition of priestly celibacy, nuns, monks, and so on, has elevated the call to celibate singleness in a way Protestants cannot. Even those singles who do not go the route of priesthood or religious order are affirmed in their singleness as a result.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing for clergy celibacy. I am married and like it and I do not think there is a biblical requirement for celibacy. Nevertheless, some are called to it. They should not be made to feel as if they need to apologize for following God's leading. I wonder. Would it not be possible to establish some kind of ceremony in which a person who feels called to celibacy affirms that vocation before the people of God in the same way that those called to marriage affirm their vocation? What would such a ceremony look like? What would be its biblical basis? I Corinthians 7?

Ms. Keeley refers to the awkwardness of being single in a family-focused church as part of the reason for the exodus of young people in the 20-30 year old range. I think she's correct. I also think we tend to isolate our youth from the rest of the congregation in specialized "youth" ministries that leave them ill equipped to participate in the larger body of the congregation after high school. Youth ministry must aim at whole-church ministry.

There are other things involved - societal glorification of sex is a big one - but take a look at Ms. Keeley's article.

How Dare They Make Money!

I see on several news sites that Lord Obama, the Most Merciful, is upset that certain individuals among the hierarchy of (as yet) private companies received bonuses totalling $18.9 billion. He's also ticked off that some guy at Merryll Lynch spent a million dollars to redecorate.

This from a guy who says we have to spend $1.2 trillion and don't have time to think about it.

This from a guy who appoints as his Treasury Secretary a man who either can't figure out his taxes or lies about them.

This from a guy who appoints as his Secretary of State the biggest, best con artist ever to hit American politics.

This from a guy whose wife thinks it's terribly unfair that they should have to pay back their college loans (in spite of pulling in $350K/yr).

Let me offer a couple propositions:

1. What private companies pay their private employees is none of the government's bloody business.

2. What private companies pay to refurbish their offices is none of the government's bloody business.

More to the point, stopping these people from receiving these bonuses or spending their money will not hurt the well-to-do, but it will shaft the little guy. We ran into this a few years ago with the so-called "luxury tax". Did it stop any rich guy from buying a yacht if he wanted one? Nope. Did it kill off the boat-making trade in this country? Yup. And that meant a lot of regular guys who were making their living building boats suddenly didn't have jobs or businesses.

So, let's look at our Merryll Lynch officer who wants a nice office. No doubt, he's hired a decorator. Then there are the carpet layers, a sheet-rock guy or two, an electrician, a heating & air conditioning guy, a painter, and several others who have work in difficult times because the head of Merryll Lynch redecorated his office. Those guys are all buying their materials from various whole-salers who have seen demand drop, but because of this job don't have to lay off that other person. Of course, there is the salesman at the furniture store who makes quota this month and gets a nice commission. As a result, all these people are able to pay their rent, buy their groceries & gas, pay the dues so their kids can play in the soccer league, and maybe even take their spouse out to dinner this month. The churches and charities they donate to are able to help a few badly off and the stock-boy at the grocery store gets a couple more hours of pay in his efforts to raise money for college, or a car, or a game system.

This is called an "economy". It works.

But Lord Obama, the Most Merciful, finds this objectionable. How dare they make money from somebody other than the government! Everyone should be on the dole, from the least of them to the greatest!


Going Postal...

According to this little gem, the Post Office will be $2.9 billion in the red this year. I especially like the "despite annual rate increases..." clause.

Let's see, every year postage goes up. So every year, people figure out a way to get by without using the postal system. This makes sense, so you can see where it might come as a surprise to the government operative known as the Postmaster General. I can't remember the last time I mailed a letter. In fact, we bought a roll of stamps back when they were 34 cents and we still have half of those stamps. It's only with this year's Christmas card mailings that we finally got rid of all the "H" stamps from some other increase a while ago (I think the one that bumped it up to 37 cents).

They're talking about going to only 5 days of delivery a week. I think they could go to a 3 and 2 schedule. That is, they could deliver non-package, every-address sort of mail (fliers, bills, cards and letters) MWF and deliver packages TuTh. Keep it at the 6-day service for folks with post office boxes, if you like, or drop that down to five, too.

Of course, that would mean they could lay off probably a third of their work force, leading to potentially disgruntled postal workers...

Soak the Rich, Screw the Poor

In regards to Obama's massive expansion of the federal government omnibus suck up all the money in the country and spend it on pet projects of Democrat lawmakers bill, he's trying to get Republican support.

Rush Limbaugh asks a pertinent question. If it's so great, and he's so confident this is the answer to our economic woes AND he's got sufficient majorities in both houses of Congress to pass it without Republican support (as he so pointedly reminded Republicans, they won), why does he want GOP support? FoxNews says it's because he wants "to illustrate his promise of a new style of politics."

This is a Chicago hack politician who has, politically, hacked up all opposition by whatever means necessary. Don't get me wrong. Politics is a contact sport. I don't know that he's broken any laws. But he's not doing it because he wants to show magnanimity and love to Republicans. That's not the kind of attitude that says basically, "Suck it up. We won." Limbaugh is correct. Obama wants to cover his sacred derrier when this thing blows up. This is by no means an economic stimulus package. It is a Democrat Party stimulus package - designed to stimulate Democrat prospects at the polls by rendering everybody a tottering ward of the State.

There is no god but government, and Obama is the government.

The GOP in the House will likely stand firm. The GOP in the Senate prefers to be in the minority and will likely kiss his ring while genuflecting in gratitude. McCain, Graham, and other squishy Republicans from safe seats will "cross the aisle" in the spirit of corporate suicide and this bill will pass.

Get ready for heavy weather. Those layoffs, downsizings, retrenchments, and other decisions businesses are making as they anticipate passage of this massive power and money grab by Washington are nothing but smart skippers furling their sails as the storm approaches. States like Michigan and California can expect imminent bankruptcy and unemployment nearing 20% by this time next year. States like Florida, Texas and Alaska will also feel the pain. Obama told us it'd be years of suffering ("sacrifice") - and he means to keep that promise.

A bit of Adam Smith economics. What generates wealth? He said specialization, but what he really is getting at is trade. If one cannot trade goods and services, one cannot specialize. Trade requires open communication and inexpensive travel. But it is trade, not labor (sorry Marx), that produces wealth. You can work your butt off to grow corn, but if you can't find a buyer for it, all you have is compost. It's the ability to trade your labor (or its fruit) for somebody else's that generates wealth. Money is a great gift because it facilitates trade. It allows us to establish a comparable worth between, say, making a car and counseling drug addicts.

Obama proposes $850 billion in debt - we don't have any money in the government to pay for this - which will (according to the Congressional Budget Office) mean another $350 billion in interest over the next ten years. That's $350 billion we also do not have. This will, in effect, suck money out of the market where trade happens and will therefore restrict trade. Restricting trade slows or reverses the creation of wealth. That, by the way, affects tax revenue, since taxes are tied to the creation of wealth. In other words, the debt burden on the US taxpayer will increase significantly more than the $1.2 trillion entailed in this bill.

All you people who suffer from the sin of envy and think soaking the rich so you can be compassionate with other people's money is the way to go, know that the rich didn't get to be rich by letting somebody else take their money. They'll figure out a way. They already are. News reports indicate thousands of charities are struggling, if not collapsing, largely because donors are waiting to see what their own financial house will look like once Obama is done ransacking it. Slowing or reversing the creation of wealth is going to hit struggling, marginal countries hardest - places like Ghana, Nigeria, Bolivia, Honduras, Bangledesh, Pakistan, Albania, and so on. We in the US have sufficient reserves to weather the storm. Mexico is on the brink of collapse already and this may well shove them over the cliff.

This bill won't soak the rich, but it surely will screw the poor.

NOTE: This is a re-post. I got a spam-comment and, not actually reading it, I just scanned it and didn't see any naughty words, so I let it publish. Oops. Shouldn't have. So I deleted the first entry and reposted this one.

President to the Americvan People: "It's Time to Panic!"

According to this AP report, Obama is telling us we need to pass this $1.2 trillion monstrosity because "We don't have a moment to spare!"

Any time a politician is telling you you don't have a moment to spare, and I don't care what party he's from, you'd better spare a minute to think about it. When politicians are encouraging panic, it's because they can use panic to wrest power from you, the voters and taxpayers.

Just say "No."

Disciplining Children & Suzanne Venker

Suzanne Venker has a blog (or two or three). Saw this piece on one of them. It's worth reading, for she doth maketh sense.


Obama's Massive Spending & Gov't Takeover Bill

One sees this often, and it's great. This is from a FoxNews report on negotiations involved in an attempt to waste another trillion dollars of the taxpayer's money as the government squashes free enterprise.
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill after meeting with the House GOP caucus, Obama said he is "absolutely confident" that compromises can be reached, "but the key right now is to make sure we keep politics to a minimum."
This is a politician - President Obama - talking about other politicians - Congressmen and Senators. Politicians do...what, exactly? Why, they play politics. But the key right now is to keep politics to a minimum. If you want to keep politics to a minimum, go play badminton in your back yard. Do not, under any circumstances run for, hold, or agitate with or for those who do run for and hold political office.

But that's not really what the president wants. When politicians start saying we need to get away from politics they mean they're losing the argument and want the other guys to shut up.

So, what's key right now is to maximize politics.

College Speak and "God Goes Global"

Don't you just love "college-speak"? And Christian college-speak is the best of the lot. We get a lot of words that just sound odd, even awkward and weird invented by people writing for colleges. So, for instance, Calvin College's spring convocation is coming up. But they can't just call it a convocation. No. It's "Regathering 2009". A good 80-90% of the student body is already there for the interim, and it's not like those who are coming back were gone for ages upon ages - couple weeks for Christmas and 3-4 weeks for interim. I'd be gone longer than that on work-up cruises on the ship.

There's the whole "Educating for Shalom" gobbledy-gook that you can find here, where you can find wondeful statements like: "The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Old Testament prophets called shalom." Right. I looked through my Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius lexicon entry on shalom and I couldn't find the word "webbing" anywhere. Doesn't pop up in Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, either. Besides, isn't "webbing" the skin between the toes of a duck or other waterfowl? Oh - you mean "weaving". Well, I understand now. "Weaving" is such a burgeois word. Of course you need a more sophisticated, hip, modern word - like "webbing".

I have a piece I saved from a humor journal some years ago - I don't have it in front of me, so I don't know off the top of my head where it came from. Anyway, it was entitled "On Academic Speech: A Quick and Easy Guide to the Disguise of Ignorance". It's spot on. And that's exactly what these kinds of things do. They make one feel all "spiritual" and "compassionate" and "educated" and say very little, if anything at all, of sense. If given a choice between attending such a lecture or reading Green Eggs and Ham, choose the latter. It's for more intelligent.

I also notice from my Calvin College Parents newsletter, that the guest speaker at this "Regathering" will be one "Reverend Dr. Setri Nyomi, whose convocation address topic will be 'The Church: God Does Global'." The little graphic next to the blurb has it a little differently - 'The Church: God Goes Global'. I rather hope that the graphic is the correct one. I don't think "God does the globe" is really appropriate phrasing. As for the "God Goes Global" tag, that's exactly the kind of kitschy, faddish, inanity one should expect at these kinds of events. I'm sure the Reverend Doctor Setri Nyomi, (who is the General Secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches) will give a wonderful speech full of our global village imagery and such like.

I'm not sure how one deals with a "village" of six billions, but whatever. And on a completely unrelated side note, I always thought it should be "World Alliance of Reformed and Presbyterian Evangelical Denominations" - WARPED. Total Depravity and all that, right?

Or, perhaps he will speak of the fact that access to God was expanded from Israel to the Gentiles by Jesus and his disciples - a fine and worthy fact, and a subject suggested by "The Church" portion of his title. Of course, I just said it in a single sentence and I'm not sure it needs a whole lot more saying after that.

Then again, he may ask, as he did in a 2004 speech, how do we get more ignorant, inexperienced people in decision-making positions within the World Alliance of Reformed Churches? (He put it more diplomatically - "How do we get more young people in decision-making positions in the Alliance?")

Anyway, back to Regathering 2009 (which hasn't quite yet been gathered the first time, so isn't really "regathering") and the Reverend Doctor Nyomi's address. It is worth remembering that God went global in the beginning when he created the Heaven and the Earth - long before Jesus' resurrection. God has always been global.

UPDATE: Just saw another one of those wonderful college-speak words: "peacebuilding". I think it's supposed to be a verb and I don't think it's referring to the US Marine Corps' activities...

Gee. The Palestinians Were Lying. Who'd-a-thunk?

Thanks to Tom Gross over at Mideast Media Analysis, we have this lovely little bit. He cites the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. Apparently the "1,300 Palestinians" killed by the Israelis ("half of them civilians" of course) was really about 500-600 of whom the overwhelming majority were combatants. Interestingly, the IDF puts the figure at about 900 of whom about 750 were combatants. Gross also notes reports that Hamas was using UN facilities (including schools and hospitals) as "torture facilities". No doubt with UN approval.

I wonder if Obama is going to do anything to stop torture in Gaza - real torture, not the fake bloviating kind that generates complaints about Guantanomo Bay.

There's also this little quote, courtesy of Mr. Gross:
A Tal al-Hawa resident also told Corriere della Sera: “Armed Hamas men sought out a good position for provoking the Israelis. There were mostly teenagers, aged 16 or 17, and armed. They couldn’t do a thing against a tank or a jet. They knew they are much weaker, but they fired from our houses so that they could blame Israel for war crimes.”
I believe I said before that it was the deliberate policy of Hamas to provoke Israel by firing from behind children and other civilians and therefore create bad press for the IDF. They have always done this and will in the future. And the NY Times and other major press outlets cheerfully lap it up without the slightest concern for the truth, standards of evidence, objectivity, or any other characteristic that would mark one as having integrity.

Hamas, Hezbollah, the national government of Iran, Al-Quaeda - these people want us dead and there are only two ways to stop them: 1) deny them the ability to kill anyone; 2)make sure they're dead first. Both, used in tandem, have been the policy of the Bush administration. And both have been reversed by President Obama. Stand by for the next big bang.


Tom Hanks

Not long ago, Tom Hanks referred to Mormons as "un-American" because they supported California Proposition 8 - a proposition banning same-sex marriages.

Anyway, according to
FoxNews, Mr. Hanks has apologized. I thought this statement appropriate:
I believe Proposition 8 is counter to the promise of our Constitution; it is codified discrimination. But everyone has a right to vote their conscience; nothing could be more American. To say members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who contributed to Proposition 8 are 'un-American' creates more division when the time calls for respectful disagreement. No one should use 'un- American' lightly or in haste. I did. I should not have.
I like that last bit. "No one should... I did. I should not have."

Apology accepted.

As for the issue of gay marriage itself, he's wrong, of course. Limiting the word "marriage" to heterosexual unions recognized in law is not "codified discrimination" any more than limiting the word "actor" to males who in fact are actors is codified discrimination. Words mean things, and switching those meanings willy-nilly because somebody wishes they meant something else renders communication impossible.

As for the concept of homosexual unions that are solitary and life-long being acknowledged in law, I am ambivalent. I think homosexual behavior is immoral, ought not be encouraged, and ultimately harmful to the individuals who engage in it. In fact, I think "homosexual union" is an oxymoron. The union - the biblical statement that the two become one - is not physically or spiritually possible in homosexual acts. A false and empty shell of that union, maybe, but the reality? No.

On the other hand, I think that the State should be extremely leery of policing the bedroom. Not everything that is immoral or unseemly ought to be enshrined as such in law. There are other incentives a community may bring to bear in such cases and the force of the State's police power is a rather blunt instrument for use in such delicate matters. If two people choose to enter into a contract with one another, i.e., a so-called "civil union", why may they not do so? The State need not notice it or acknowledge it until and unless the contract is violated and perhaps not even then. With civil unions, there is also room for different states to choose different paths - some affording them essentially the same status as a marriage, others not even acknowledging the contract. Federalism is a good thing. One size never fits all.

We're About JESUS...

Gull Lake Ministries is looking for college students who love Jesus and want to make a difference for Him. We are a Youth Camp for families, combining joyful service and energetic programs to bring about Christ centered change in the lives of moms, dads, kids, and the whole family. We're not about doing Christian camping- we are about JESUS in a Christian camp environment!!
Sweet. I like that distinction. “We’re not about Christian camping – we are about JESUS in a Christian camp environment!!” Um, isn’t a Christian camp kind of like, um, about Jesus since, well, isn’t that what Christians are by definition? But perhaps JESUS is different from Jesus.

They’re working to bring about “Christ centered change in the lives of” participants at this Christian family camp. But if they’re Christian families, hasn’t the key Christ-centered life change already happened? Maybe those college students who love Jesus and want to make a difference for Him should be about JESUS in a secular, or even anti-Christian camp environment.

I’m fine with Christian camps soliciting Christian counselors to work there, and I'm sure Gull Lake Ministries is a fine place with committed Christian owners and employees. Those who choose to attend are likely solid Christian families wanting to reinforce Christian teachings and life choices in their children in a fairly safe environment. Nothing wrong with that. Needs to be done – baptismal vows and all that. Just spare me the jingoism and the effort to paint these jobs as big-time evangelism revival jobs when they’re not.

Democrats - The Party of Power over Principle.

"On the matter of Mr. Geithner's failure to pay certain self-employment taxes, I find it completely unacceptable." According to Byron York over at National Review Online, Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota said this just before he voted in favor of confirming Geithner as Treasury Secretary.

Perhaps the good senator should look up "completely" and "unacceptable" over at dictionary.com.

Still, it's appropriate, given the era of responsibility proclaimed by President Obama just before he nominated Mr. Geithner, Ms. Clinton, and others of dubious repute to positions of authority. It fits with the character of a man who proclaims the most ethical administration ever, banning lobbyists from federal positions and "strict new ethical requirements" - just before appointing a defense lobbyist to work at the Dept. of Defense.

Whenever I start thinking, maybe I could vote for a Democrat, I keep getting pulled back to these two facts:

1) When a Republican president violated his oath of office, perjured himself, and suborned perjury from others, there were enough Republicans who were willing to disapprove of it substantially and publicly that he was forced to resign.

2) When a Democrat president violated his oath of office, perjured himself, and suborned perjury from others, there was not one single Democrat who was willing to disapprove substantially. Oh, they mouthed the words for the cameras, but their votes said otherwise - just like Senator Kent Conrad did again with Geithner.

As a party, the Democrat party has no principles left save the acquisition and maintenance of power. Until that changes, I will continue to work to defeat them.

Treasury Secretary Tax Cheater Geithner...

...says that the Chinese are manipulating their currency according to this report. Really? Ya think?

And we're not? Relative currency values are a major factor in international trade. We use interest rates to manipulate our currency, along with other monetary policy decisions made by the Treasury Secretary, but we try to achieve trading goals by manipulating currency. Because this happens in a relatively open, transparent fashion, we call it "policy". Nothing in China happens in a relatively open, transparent fashion. It is, after all, still a very communist, one-party, dictatorial, tyrannical nation. They can, in part, simply declare by fiat the value of the yuan relative to the dollar.

In other words, manipulation is easier and less transparent for the Chinese government. This is, then, unfair. I am so unbelievably sick and tired of that word "unfair." There are plenty of things to go after the Chinese about - censorship of the press (both inside and outside China), oppression, labor camps, political prisoners, Tibet, Taiwan, Nepal, North Korea, and so on. Currency manipulation? From a guy who just got caught trying to stupidly manipulate his own personal currency and avoid $42,000 in taxes, well, that's just rich.

Predictable President Obama

The president is closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. He has also shut down several other intelligence gathering tools the Bush administration has used, and put severe restrictions on the CIA. For all you people who hoped his rhetoric since the election, which has been designed to placate the center-right, was an indication of how he would actually govern, think again. All you erstwhile "conservatives" who jumped ship on McCain because you couldn't stomach Sarah Palin, look at what you're getting.

Gee. It is exactly what Obama's record and advocacy to date would indicate we would be getting. When we told you this man was the most leftist, socialist presidential candidate in a century, you laughed. I won't laugh back when the bills for this man's futile, vain, and wrong-headed visions come due, and neither will you.

It may be, by the grace of God, that we will not be attacked in the next four years. President Obama, however, has just made it far more likely that we will. And when there are another 5,000 dead and 15,000 wounded, and the Sears Tower is a smoking crater or Miami has to be evacuated because of nerve agents released from a ship in port, or an Iranian nuclear device goes off in Tel Aviv, what then will all the soaring, pacifist rhetoric avail us? These are not merely fevered, far-fetched fear-mongered possibilities. These - or scenes like these - are in the plans our enemies have for us.

The world is what it is. Wishful thinking and idle fantasies make a very poor basis for governance. I believe it is in Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, that one of his main characters, going over the collapse of the western democracies, says "when they voted for the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead." Right now that sounds all too prescient for my taste.



Stimulus bills abound, I guess. We've already had a $700 billion stimulus pkg, plus ancilliary stimuli that bring the total to about $850 billion. The leadership (so-called) of the Congress is also proposing another $800 billion to $1 trillion in stimuli. Think about that, for a minute. That's $1.8 trillion thrown down this seemingly bottomless pit by the federal government. With a population of 300 million, the government could have given each and every individual, from birth through death-bed $5,000 and saved $300 billion in the process. I don't know that the results would have been any better, but it points out the futility of it all.

The problem is in fact a crisis of confidence.

Obama is not restoring confidence in government. Indeed, his appointments bespeak the same old cronyism, corruption and deceit that characterized the last Democratic president. His Treasury Secretary tried to cheat on his taxes to the tune of $42,000 (come on - summer camp as a childcare expense??? I didn't know I was supposed to pay self-employment tax even though I signed a statement saying I knew I was supposed to pay self-employment tax?). His Secretary of State is a model of malfeasance and conflicts of interest. His Secretary of Health and Human Services is at best a dilapidated bore and the White House Counsel is a man who made his mark defending terrorists and their interests. That's assuming he really does cut ties with Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Tony Rezko, and the whole trash heap of Chicago political hacks who have backed him into the White House.

He's not doing much to establish confidence in himself, either. Pious platitudes do not a policy make. Sure. Close Gitmo. Where are you going to put these people who have dedicated their lives to killing Americans and destroying the Great Satan? Charleston, SC? The Navy Brig in Norfolk? Wow. That's thinking, bub. We can't turn 'em loose because nobody else wants 'em, either. But we'll just close it down and invite them to the O-club over at the base. He obviously has no grasp of history, of economics, or of anything other than leftist politics.

People thought Bush was dumb because he mispronounced a couple words. People think Obama is smart because he has flawless diction. To their harm, they will discover reality doesn't match the words. Oh well. Not very stimulating, I'm afraid, but I'm sure we'll survive.

President's Inaugural Address

I could comment on President Obama's inaugural address, but this guy over at Asian Times does it so much better than I would. Just read him. (Hat Tip: John Derbyshire at Nat'l Review's Corner)


Deciding What to Preach

It's a question. How does one decide? It's fine to say that the Holy Spirit will lead, and it is indeed true. But does one receive a word on Monday what to talk about next Sunday? In his book, Freedom for Ministry, the late Richard John Neuhaus says that if you don't have a fair idea on Tuesday you're behind the curve. I try to have some idea three months out, frankly. But then I wonder if maybe I'm boxing God in that way....

The other danger is that I might end up sounding the same every Sunday. One feels passionately about some things and not about others. If I just let it go, then the sermons will all sound alike. So I use three basic methods.

The first is to trust those who have gone before. We Protestants are fond of saying "sola Scriptura" against the Catholic "Scripture and Tradition." The fact is, we also rely on tradition. The issue is the primacy of Scripture, not the absence of tradition. I come to the ministry from the heart of the Church - the Holy, Catholic Church and the branch of it that is Calvinist, Dutch, Christian Reformed in North America. Traditionally, one service each Sunday (we have a morning and an evening service, and they're different) is to be from the creeds of the Church. So I work through the 52 Lord's Days of the Heidelberg Catechism, about 10 articles of the Belgic Confession that are not addressed in the Catechism, and the 5 "chapters" of the Canons of Dort. With the Sundays I have off because of vacation or other duties, that gets me through not quite a year and a half. This tradition has been tossed aside in many congregations, but it is important. These creeds cover pretty much all the basics of the faith and it is good to go over the basic on a regular basis. Lectionaries can be helpful in this regard, too, but the creeds are good, worthwhile guides.

The second is to trust the wisdom of the Church here. I regularly solicit input from the Council, the Worship Committee, the other staff members, and the congregation at large. What is their sense of the congregation? What questions do they have, or have they been facing at work and among friends that they have not heard addressed? What books of the Bible have they not studied and why? The Spirit moves in the whole congregation, and I should listen when He speaks to me through them.

Finally, I trust the wisdom God has given me personally. I prefer to work through entire books in series rather than pop around from one to another, though I do not do this invariably. I will adjust for the seasons of the church year, such as Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas, too. Some books are too large to do this, so I'll either take a major theme and follow it through that book or take a sub-section of the book (like the Elisha stories in Kings). In choosing the book, I spend some time in prayer and meditation as well as study. It helps me to talk it through with someone, too (see the wisdom of the Church, above).

For all that, it will still happen that the Lord directs me to something else and I am compelled to ignore my own inclinations, the advice of others and traditions beyond faithfulness to God's call. Is this foolproof? No. Is this what others should do? I don't know.

But it is a question.

Treasury Head Designate Can't Figure Out Tax Code

So, President Obama has nominated a guy by the name of Geithner to be Treasury Secretary. This guy has had lots of demanding jobs before, including a stint at the Fed. But apparently, he neglected to pay some $34,000 in self-employment taxes (that's Social Security and Medicare taxes) over the years 2001-2003.

You can read a bit more about it in this piece by Byron York over at National Review Online. What gets me is that his defense is that he made an honest mistake. Look, I don't mess around with numbers for a living. I could be an accountant, but I would hate every minute of it because I don't like thinking about money that much. I like having money, just not having to think about money. This guy, though, presided over the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was a big guy at the International Monetary Fund before that. I think he served as a high-level bureaucrat at Treasury during the Clinton administration, too.

And he can't figure out his taxes.

Now that says one of three things: 1)the tax code is way way way way way too complicated; 2)Geither is incompetent; or 3)both of the above. I'm leaning towards the third option.

UPDATE: I'm told there's a fourth possibility - that Mr. Geithner is a liar. I'm sorry. I can't accept that a former Clinton appointee, head of a Federal Reserve Bank, employee of the IMF and now Treasury Secretary Designate would ever cheat on his taxes and then lie about it. Would he? Would he? Say it isn't so, Ollie!!

E.T. Looky Here!

This is how FoxNews captions the satellite photo of D.C. during the inauguration:
"Imagine there IS life out there, and they're watching -- see how Obama's historic inauguration might look to 'them' with a view that literally is out of this world."

I know it's just a lead, intended to spark interest and get people to go to the article in question, but man-oh-man is that a silly lead. Number 1) If there is intelligent extra-terrestrial life, it exists tens of thousands of light years away, not orbital satellite distance away. Number 2) If there is intelligent life out there, why would they care enough to look?

I am proud of my country and wish her well. I think the United States of America is, as P. J. O'Rourke once said, the best place in the world to live and now is the best time to live there. But this lead is, frankly, a minor indication of a major phenomenon - the tendency by Americans, all Americans, to think we are as important to everybody else as we are to ourselves. This is not merely a Republican or Democrat perspective. Nor is it restricted to the uneducated poor - some rather highly educated rich act the same way. We are a very adolescent nation in this regard. We hope everyone's looking at us. We think everyone's looking at us. And we're afraid everyone's looking at us. It is not George Bush that grates on other countries. It is standard-issue American self-absorption that grates. I don't know if Obama has it, but his followers have that in spades. It really is irritating.

We are who we are, and I don't think we need to go around apologizing for being American, but I do think we should get over ourselves.


Calvin College Care Bear Stare Takes on Darfur!

Here's another blurb from the student news at Calvin College:
On Friday, January 23, from 5:30-8 pm, Social Justice Committee and Calvin's new STAND chapter (www.standnow.org) will be hosting an even [sic] to raise awareness for the genocide in Darfur. The come-and-go event will feature the decorating of a refugee tent as a part of Tents of Hope (www.tentsofhope.org).We will also be holding a letter writing campaign to let our government officials know that our generation wants an end to this genocide NOW.

Isn't that precious. Let's go and put pictures on a pretty tent, and sip sodas and juices while eating hor d'oeuvres as we talk seriously about sober topics, like mass slaughter in Darfur. This will "raise awareness." There's that precious little "our generation" pout, too. What, you think my generation doesn't want peace and tranquility for everyone? You think we like genocide? The old folks, I guess, just don't care or we would DO SOMETHING!!! Like hold a pleasant soiree in upper Manhattan with caviar and champagne to raise awareness of suffering somewhere the name of which I cannot spell. Oh. Right. They do that already.

I dare say, everyone there will already be aware of it. Still, I like the letter writing campaign bit. Going to write the mayor, are we? I'm sure he is also determined to end genocide in Darfur, and as soon as he figures out what to do about the 4' potholes on 28th street, he'll get right to it. Sorry. Congressmen, senators, the incoming secretary of State and (shortly) President Obama - those are the government officials you plan on writing to? What, pray tell, are they supposed to do? Declare war? On whom? I suppose we could send in a Marine Expeditionary Unit, a mechanized Army brigade, a few special ops guys, blow a few people up and take over the country. Then we can spend five years rebuilding it.

Of course, we're doing that already in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's not as easy as it looks. Besides, aren't these the same sort of people who got all upset about those efforts? What makes this slaughter worse than Saddam's, or the Taliban's, or Iran's, or China's, or Cuba's? I hear Chavez in Venezuela is trying to get in on the oppression act, too. Why not there? It's a lot closer to home.

Frankly, the entire event is not designed to do anything other than make those in attendance feel oh so morally superior to those who aren't present. They care, you see, and if those evil tyrants in Darfur don't listen, these kids are going to give them some serious Care Bear Stare.

Personally, I have little use for morally preening nitwits who will not sacrifice anything substantial themselves. I don't think I'll go.

A Historical Day, Just Like Every Fourth January 20th

I was speaking to a stranger - one of those instances where you greet somebody. How are you? "Fine. And you?" Well, thank you. It's a beautiful day. "It's a historical day!"

I threw cold water on him. I said, "Every four years, January 20 is a historical day."

For three weeks, now, the press and news broadcasts have been declaring today a historical day - first Black president and all that - and this mindless sheep of a man just parrotted what he's been hearing.

I wonder, would the media have been so fawning over the event had it been Ken Blackwell being inaugurated? Judging by the way they thoroughly trashed Michael Steele when he ran as a Republican for senator from Maryland, I would say no. They only get excited when liberals win elections and being Black only counts when one stays on the Democratic Plantation, at least, if the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas are any indication. Even being on the Democratic Plantation may not be enough. The Civil Rights industry is in full gear trying to justify their ongoing existence, and their primary argument is that Barak Obama isn't black enough. "He doesn't have slave blood," said the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition (Martin Luther King, Jr.'s old outfit). Others have expressed similar sentiments. Personally, the least important thing about this day, and about Barak Obama, is his pigmentation. The size of his shoes has more bearing on the future of this country.

But 20 January (and prior to 1937, 4 March) is historic. In the United States of America, at least for the time being, we can still transfer power from one person to another, from one political party to another, even though their views are diametrically opposed, without bloodshed, violence, revolution, or rebellion. Only one time in our history was this not so - 4 March 1861 - and a long, bloody war followed. Nevertheless, it is the United States of America that set the precedent, back in 1801 when John Adams turned over the reins of government to Thomas Jefferson.

True, the English parliamentary system saw switches in party affiliation of the Prime Minister prior to that point, but it wasn't until Victoria that the monarch's role as head of state became purely symbolic. George III was still a king, however constrained by parliament he may have been. The transfer of power from one head of state to another, except by succession when the current head died, had never happened before in any nation larger than a thimble without war. But here it does. Regularly. And it will happen again, in either 2012 or 2016.

Lord willing.

What mars this day, however, are the "arrest Bush" signs and other noises from the left that seek to make disagreement with them a criminal offense.

As for Barak Obama, I join with those in wishing him well and I pray God's wisdom upon him. I also believe that, in order for him to succeed as president, he must be thwarted in everything he has proposed on domestic matters. Capital gains and corporate taxes must be lowered, more people should have a stake in government by paying some taxes, the federal government should get out of education all together but especially K-12 education, health care must not be nationalized, and so on. We shall see what comes, confident that God, who is not Barak Obama, is in control.


Wimps of the world, UNITE!

Here's a blurb from Calvin College, the college owned by the Christian Reformed Church (overlook the lousy grammar - it's in the original):

Sports, Sex, Food: Myths of Masculinity
Sexuality Series is excited to present a winter men's get-away led by Aaron Winkle and Christina Van Dyke: Popular culture is full of messages about what it is to be a man in today's world. What do you think about those messages add the pressures they create? If guys buy into these stereotypes are we setting ourselves up for success? Or disappointment? And what eeffect do male stereotypes have on women in our lives?
In the first place, what the heck is "Sexuality Series"???

Then we notice that this is a men's retreat!

"Oh no!! Society is telling me I'm a wimp!! Let me wimpishly cry about it at a retreat! Wimps of the world, UNITE, and, uh, do you think these shoes go with this shirt? Really? Oh, you're so sweet, Marvin. What? Oh, sorry. Right. Unite!"

So we're going to get a bunch of guys to go on a retreat where they can bemoan the fact that society connects sports, athleticism, and sexual prowess with masculinity - as if this is a new thing. This "stereotype" is one of the reasons the culture was surprised when God chose Jacob instead of Esau - not just the fact that Esau was the eldest - so you know it's been going on for 3,000 years at least. Let me tell you, though. Real men don't bitch about it. Jacob was a mensch. He figured out a way, thought strategically, made it happen. Yeah, Esau could've snapped him like a twig, but Jacob out-flanked him, got the girl, the birthright, and everything else.

If we buy into it, does it set us up for success? That depends on what you call "success". Sorry, wimpy, but rejecting the stereotype ain't gonna get you a date with the gorgeous cheerleader. You might be able to show that, even though you're not the most athletic, you have a certain strength of character that is still far removed from the feminized hermaphrodite leftists have been trying to create for four decades - in other words, there are more ways to be a non-wimp than simply working out with weights. But if you think crying in your perrier is going to do anything at all about that stereotype, well, you're not only a wimp, you're dumb.

As for the effect this stereotype has on the women in our lives, all I can say is that there's a reason why the star football player gets more dates than the guy who is preening about all full of his own sensitivity. Women want manly men.

So, guys, here's my advice to you:

Be a man.

Ayers Inadmissible, says Canada. Yea Canada!

It seems the Canadian goverment's border security and imigration services have more sense than our own. One can only hope for a day when our own government can see that William Ayers is inadmissible.

If you're wondering, he is not merely a professor of education in Chicago. He is a geriatric terrorist. Forty years ago, he was in the leadership of a group that staged bombings in the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon - and would have done more if a group of them hadn't blown themselves up preparing for the next one. He has since radicalized the Chicago school system so that it now produces solid, if illiterate, leftists. Thanks to his efforts, one no longer needs to look to the rural south to find the most uneducated, ignorant high school graduates. Of course, it is much more expensive to produce ignorant voters in Chicago.

He is also one of those leftists firmly rooted in wishful thinking. The policies he advocates have failed everywhere they've been tried. Some places the cost of that failure has been mere money. In too many places, the cost has been measured in blood. Still he persists in believing that the Revolution will work, as evidenced by his advocacy for and support of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and the very kinds of speeches he was on his way to Toronto to give. For him, it seems, it has worked. For the poor, however, his "compassion" has been deadly.

Fantasy & Fear, Courtesy of the Left

There are a couple stories on FoxNews that merit attention.

From the first one, we get fantasy. Critics are complaining about abstinence-based sex-education. The claim is that they are objecting to "abstinence-only" education. This exists almost nowhere, and where it is happening, it is in private, religious schools. They say it is harmful. They say that teenagers will not live up to the standard and that therefore we should not teach the standard. This is bogus. Since some minority of students will not meet the standards for mathematics education, are we to stop teaching to that standard? It is a minority of students that do not abstain from sexual intercourse - a significant minority, but a minority nonetheless.

It is simply a fact. Apart from a single instance a little over 2,000 years ago, abstaining from sexual intercourse prevents pregnancy. With no known exceptions, abstinence also prevents the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It is the only 100% effective method. A committed, monogamous relationship (i.e., a marriage) is the safest environment for sexual intercourse, the best environment for raising children, and healthier for all concerned. The sociological studies confirming this have been around for nearly 30 years now. And these critics complain that encouraging abstinence in teenagers is "harmful." If you wait a couple months, or have a subscription, you can read an excellent article in the February 2009 First Things that marvels at this willful disbelief of facts. I'm sure Obama's team will revert to emphasizing the correct way to use a condumb and push pills with potentially serious side effects on teenagers. Elections have consequences. But it is one more piece of evidence that the left in this country is firmly rooted in wishful thinking.

There's then this more frightening piece in which Pelosi says she is open to the prosecution of Bush administration officials. This is the criminalization of politics and it is a direct assault on the American system. When we disagree politically, we argue about it and debate about it and vote on it. For the system to work, it requires the losers to go back to the debate and try to win more votes, and it requires the winners to respect the losers. When winners are able to make criminals of the losers, we do not have a democracy any longer. We have oppression, tyranny, and slavery. The "Fairness Doctrine" designed to restrict opponents' ability to broadcast their views, prosecutions, violent attacks on political opponents - while these mark the radical fringe of the right and are disavowed by all responsible conservatives, these mark the main stream of the political left. This is, after all, the Speaker of the House of Representatives proposing open oppression and potential imprisonment of political opponents. This is scary.


Gays in the Military

Obama is threatening to end the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military. I certainly hope there are flag officers with sufficient gumption to argue against that - and resign if it is implemented. I doubt it, but one can hope.

We already have problems with females in the military, primarily in the enlisted ranks but not exclusively so. Rather, it's not a problem with females as such, but with males and females in close quarters and intense situations. Sexual harrassment (supervisors have significant power over the lives of those beneath them in the military), adultery (hard to fight when you think some swivel-chair soldier is banging your wife), prostitution (an E-3 on board ship can more than double her income this way), pregnancy (can't exactly march 20 miles with a 50 lb pack), and rape are now part of a combat commander's life. Add to this the behavior of young men vis-a-vis the dear little damsel in distress, the forced political correctness in spite of glaring realities to the contrary, resentment by men (and some women) at the double standards that are most evident in the so-called physical fitness requirements, and distractions from the business of fighting and winning wars mount. The military is not allowed to talk about this much, since the political masters have determined to ignore it, but it's happening. Into this already hyper-sexualized atmosphere, insert homosexuality. Yippee.

Beyond this, one has the fact that a significant number of service members believe homosexual behavior is morally wrong (the correct belief) and an even greater number who believe it unmanly. The military is a very macho organization. Feminizing the military in this way will detract from its ability to fulfill its mission.

But Obama has never served in the military and personally believes it is anachronistic. He thinks he can talk his way to world peace. No, he cannot. He is, however, an appropriate figure head for a people bound and determined to make decisions based on a pleasant fantasy rather than hard reality. It's going to be a painful four years, and an even more painful half-century fixing everything he's breaking.


Sanctity of Right to Life

I've been tasked with preaching explicitly on Sanctity of Life on the upcoming Sanctity of Life Sunday. Trouble is, I don't think life as such is sacred. A life may be holy, but then again, it may not. I am not a Hindu.

The other big argument for curtailing abortion is summed up as "right to life." Here again, I don't think that we have a right to life. We have a right to eternal damnation - and you can read my earlier posts on rights to get a more fully developed sense of my thinking on that topic.

So, I've been struggling with how to present a sermon that does affirm opposition to abortion, but challenges the notion that life is sacred and that we have inherent rights to life or anything else. What I've got so far is one that basically says there is a right to life, but it isn't ours. It is God who has a right to our life and we should not deprive God of his rights.

That'll do for a religious background, but it doesn't translate well into a secular argument for the political sphere. There we have the argument that the unborn is human - I know some argue that it isn't really until some point in the pregnancy, but if it's alive before then, then it is human before then. It certainly isn't a cat. The organism that begins to have a separate existence at conception is a human organism.

But more important than even this is to establish a fixed point at which that life is recognized as such. Currently, the difference between a human being protected in law and "tissue" that may be destroyed upon removal from the woman is whether or not that woman wants it. As far as our laws are concerned, the difference between human and non-human is the whim of a potential mother. At any point during the pregnancy, a woman may decide that her child is not really a child and kill it.

When we let one human being (or set of human beings) decide that another human being (or set of human beings) is not human, we get abuse, murder, slavery, and ultimately Auschwitz and the Gulag. No, it doesn't happen overnight and this is not argumentum ad hitlerum. The fact that the historical example of the National Socialist Workers Party is abused does not mean it cannot ever legitimately be applied. It is simply fact that human beings have a poor track record when it comes to granting them the power to decide whose life is fit to live and whose is not. And the reason for this is that as soon as you allow human beings to make that kind of judgment, we find that other human beings suddenly become merely utilitarian. That is, the answer to the question of their value and humanity becomes not one of existence or essence, but merely one of whether they serve my purposes or not. If it serves my purpose of growing cotton, then you are not a human being but my property. If it serves my purpose of creating a New Soviet Man, then you are not a human being but an animal. If it serves my purpose of being happy, then you are not a human being but merely a fetus.

Christian or not, you know that's not right.

Gaza Again

The UN Sec-Gen is out and about, calling again for an immediate cease fire because "It is intolerable that civilians bear the brunt of this conflict." In the first place, I don't think civilians are bearing the brunt of this conflict. No matter what the casualty figure is, the Palestinians are always saying "half of them are civilians." Right. I highly doubt that number, as I've noted before, and the vast majority of civilian deaths are the result of deliberate Hamas tactics. I've gone over it before, but it is still true that Hamas is planting IEDs to blow up civilian neighborhoods, launching mortars from school yards, using women and children as cover from which to snipe at Israeli soldiers, and generally doing all they can to maximize infant fatalities so they can bombard the West with grisly images of "Israeli" terror. I do not know if they have done so yet in this campaign, but in previous conflicts they have murdered their own children when Israeli forces have proven too adept at avoiding civilian casualties. Color me unmoved.

One of the reasons for the increased pressure for a cease fire is that Israel is achieving its objectives. Hamas had all these wonderful plans for sneaking in behind Israeli lines through various tunnels in order to kidnap Israeli soldiers. That was their big idea for terrorizing the IDF and sapping IDF morale. Unfortunately for them, the IDF is aware of these tunnels and these plans. They have apparently developed effective tactics for thwarting Hamas' kidnapping schemes which means Hamas has nothing to show for 3 weeks of fighting except casualties and rubble. Between deaths and captures, Hamas has lost at least 10% of its fighting force and an even higher portion of its leadership. A significant dent has been made in their ammunition and resupply apparatus. And Israel is holding its own in the propaganda war.

So Hamas is screaming for help from anybody and everybody. They're getting a few nitwits in Europe and Canada to join their Muslim comrades there in displaying a rather grotesque anti-semitism, and they've got the UN kleptocrats on their side, but Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Hezbollah, Kuwait, Iraq, Libya, and even Lebanon are more or less sitting this one out. Fatah is actively helping the Israelis. All they have left is Iran, and Iran can't help them much. The most they've been able to do is get half a dozen rockets fired from Lebanese territory, much to the consternation of the Lebanese government.

All in all, this has been a superbly planned and executed IDF operation and I certainly hope they're able to find that last drop of Hamas blood the latter has vowed to spill. Then maybe we'll get a genuine peace - a peace that includes nobody bombarding Israel, too.


High Priced Prostitution

This story has been making the rounds lately. You can find a photo of the 22-year old prostitute here. She thinks people who condemn her are silly and that she's not being taken advantage of. No, she is not being abused - at least, not by another. And, while I will grant that she is reasonably attractive, she's not $3.7 million attractive. Part of what she's selling is her virginity, so that appears to be what has inflated the price. Still, that's a lot of money just to be the first person to screw her. Someone over on NRO's Corner suggested the person who buys her virginity should keep it - decline to exercise the option and leave her a virgin all her life.

There is also the question of legality. I don't know what the law is in England as regards prostitution, but in the United States (outside of Nevada), the price paid doesn't change the fact that it's against the law.

What struck me, though, is this quote: "Me and the person I do it with will both profit greatly from the deal." This woman has a degree in women's studies and wants to pursue an advanced degree in the same field. "Me...will profit greatly from the deal," she says. Somehow, in all her education, both morals and grammar escaped her. It doesn't say much for "women's studies" as a serious field of scholarship, frankly.

Natalie Dylan is an idiot - just not as big an idiot as the people bidding for a first crack at her vagina.


Father Richard John Neuhaus 14 May 1936 - 8 January 2009

Father Neuhaus has been a major influence on my thinking ever since I was introduced to his book The Naked Public Square during my college days. Freedom for Ministry is another book of his that has shaped my own ministry. The journal First Things which he founded is second to none. I have known him only through his public writings, but they are immense. To the extent that there has been rapproachment between Protestants and Catholics in this country, he has been instrumental. May God grant him the fullness of his blessings and may God grant us servants who will carry on the work.

Department of Homeland Security

According to this Slate story, the DHS is going to get its own "reality show." It won't be reality, but it will be a show. If it were reality, it would show moribound bureaucrats coming up with ridiculous rules mindlessly enforced by the TSA (Transportation Safety Authority). One of the dumbest is the stupid rule on the size of shampoo bottles.

Yes, it affected me personally. Travelling on orders as an officer of the United States Navy, I had in my bag a half-full bottle that was 2 tenths of an ounce over the limit. I'm in uniform. I showed my military ID to the very same guy who was objecting to my .2 ounces of shampoo. I offered to open the bottle so he could see what was in it. This mattered not. Two tenths of an ounce was deemed too great a threat to the safety of air transportation passengers. Oh. By the way, this was the guy in charge of the operation - the sensible people beneath him looked in the bottle and decided it wasn't a big deal. He saw this and came charging back, donned rubber gloves (it was, after all, dandruff shampoo), took the bottle from the nefarious underlings and tossed it in the bin. Safety didn't matter. Common sense didn't matter. All that mattered were the rules themselves.

That's the reality at DHS. But that's not what we'll be seeing on the show.


Obama is warning that it may "linger for years." If the trillion dollar deficits and wealth transfers he and the Democrats in Congress are advocating in fact become law, it most decidedly will linger for years. It will also get much worse. We cannot protect businesses that make bad decisions (or states) from the consequences of those decisions. California, New Jersey, Larry Flint and Hustler, the auto manufacturers, the UAW, the airlines, the banks and mortgage companies, charities - all of them begging Congress. No. Turn off the spigot and let the market take its course.

Iran's Lackeys At It Again

Some terrorists from Lebanon fired into Israel earlier today. No doubt this is just a shot across the bow from Iran's servants in south Lebanon. The possibility of Hezbollah acting in support of the terrorists in Gaza was certainly considered in Israel's plans - not all those reservists were called up for duty in the south. For the moment, Lebanon's government has officially condemned the attacks and Israel returned fire. Israel will give Lebanon an opportunity to control its own citizens, but if Lebanon will not or cannot, I hope their response is equally robust - and they don't wait for 5,000 rockets to hit before they move.

The usual nut jobs are rolling out the "Israel is a Nazi state" crap. Bushitler, Nazi Israel, Rove-Himmler. Seen it all before. It's tiresome, ignorant, juvenile ranting. Everyone who isn't part of Code Pink is a Nazi to these idiots. But who was screaming to Jews they should be put in ovens? Why, it was a muslim woman in south Florida. Who is it that wants to exterminate the Jews? Oh. That would be Hamas. And Iran. And Hezbollah. Who is it that wants to shut down debate, squelch genuinely alternative viewpoints, and criminalize opposition politics? It wasn't Gingrich or DeLay or Boehner who proposed rules for the House of Representatives that excluded the opposition. It's Pelosi.

And yes, Code Pink, Hollywood leftists who speak eloquently from ignorance, Pelosi and Reid are all of them Iran's lackeys. They are the modern day useful idiots, heirs of those who defended Communism and Fascism before (until 1941, there were a lot of "progressives" who thought Mussolini was a great guy).

One cannot compromise with people whose sole reason for existence is one's destruction. If there is to be peace in the Middle East, Israel must be allowed to absolutely, totally, completely defeat the Palestinians.

UPDATE: See this bit on Hamas' deliberate efforts to produce civilian casualties for their propaganda mill by Jeffrey Goldberg (Hat tip: Greg Pollowitz at Nat'l Review's Media Blog


Health News Items

Dutch People the World Over - Rejoice!

As a sufferer from the dreaded DBD (Dutch Butt Disease), this story from FoxNews has released me from a painful anxiety that has afflicted me for over 20 years. My hopes had been blocked, but now, like a spiritual laxative, this news frees me to flow with my genes.

No longer is it DBD. It's a life saver!


Then there's this one on teen pregnancy rates. It's actually teen "birth" rates - how many teenagers are actually giving birth. New England has the lowest. I highly doubt this is because New England teenagers are less active than those in Mississippi (the highest birth-rate among teenagers). I suspect it has to do with the liberal ideology of the former and consequent easier access to abortion on both a physical and emotional level. Mississippi, Texas, and New Mexico, with highly religious populations (typically Evangelical in the first, stong Catholic Hispanic populations in the other two) are more likely to encourage teenagers who get pregnant to carry the baby to term. The report, of course, doesn't say this. But it does say this points to the "failure" of abstinence-only sex education. The problem is, none of these states teach abstinence only sex ed. No state does. But these states (at least, TX and MS) do in their official curriculum that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy. This is undoubtedly true, and also something the political left has objected to ever since Roe v Wade.

I didn't see it in the story, but it may well be in there somewhere. Nevertheless, another contributing factor, I'm sure, is that people in MS and TX tend to marry younger. This means there are more teenagers legitimately married who are, as one might expect from young couples, producing children. Just because the wife and mother is 19 doesn't mean her pregnancy is a problem. It may well be precisely what the family is both ready and eager to see.

More on Israel vs. Palestinians

For a comprehensive, formal, legal argument that sustains rejection of Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions (which we and Israel do), supports the means Israel has chosen, and generally eviscerates the attempts to claim "proportionality" in war requires equivalent casualties, see this piece by Andrew C. McCarthy over at National Review Online - "Breaking the Will of the Palestinians".

He's much more diplomatic than I, but absolutely on point. The civilian deaths in Gaza are primarily the result of Hamas hiding amongst the civilian population, launching mortars from schools and day-care centers, using mosques as armories, and putting rocket launchers in arpartment grounds.

In other news, we have this FoxNews story about a woman in Fort Lauderdale shouting at Jews to go back into the ovens. The protest was organized by ANSWER, a radical leftist group that, according to the story, "admits it has a problem with anti-semitism". The spokesbeing (don't want to offend them by being specist) then goes on to display the all together too common ahistorical, ignorant, thoughtless perspective one expects from ANSWER, declaring that Israel's defense of its territorial integrity and citizenry, indeed Israel's very existence is "a barbaric, racist movement that really is the cause of the situation in the entire Middle East."

The Palestinian people acquiesce in the non-distinction between civilians and combatants that is the sine qua non of the Fatah/Hamas/Hezbollah modus operandi. They have sown the wind. Let them reap the whirlwind. Maybe, just maybe they will learn.


Russian Imperialism At It Again

As a reminder that there's more to the world than the Middle East, this story from FoxNews calls our attention back to Russia.

There's a lot about the Russian and Ukrainian gas companies in the story. Remember as you read it that these are "companies" in the same sense that the US Department of the Interior is a company. They are state agencies, and therefore instruments of state power. Although Russia, I'm sure, doesn't mind stiffing Poland, Croatia, Romania or any of these other former satellites who are leery of increasingly aggressive Russian imperialism, the real target here is Ukraine.

The pipelines all go through Ukraine and they insist on getting paid for it. The Ukraine is also eager to close the Russian naval base on their territory in Sevastopol and is among the leading supporters of Georgia (the country, not the US state). They've been using the money from the pipeline to improve their ability to resist Russian militarily - they don't want to get caught like Georgia did. Ukraine is busy establishing alliances - real alliances that entail a credible military force - with Romania, Georgia, Poland, and other states in the region. They're also busy trying to undermine ties between Belorus and Russia (so far unsuccessfully).

We, of course, have interests in this region. Poland is part of NATO, which obligates us to defend their territorial integrity. It obligates the rest of Western Europe, too, but that's not worth the paper it's printed on. They'd sell out Poland as quickly as they sold out Czechoslovakia in 1939. Quicker. We have economic agreements with the Latvian states, Ukraine, Romania, Croatia and Georgia. We also have an interest in seeing to it that democratic capitalism flourishes. Then there's the oil and natural gas that flows out of the Russian Caucuses.

Welcome to pre-1918 multilateral power politics. Talk that isn't backed by tanks is nothing - worse than nothing. One wonders if Obama really knows this. He has not yet displayed much of a sense of history, but his cabinet picks continue to maintain his status as an enigma.

Meanwhile, people are talking about the pick of Panetta for CIA Director of Intelligence. I've seen a lot of pro & con, but most of what I've read has not touched on what I think is the salient fact. He's a Clinton man. At CIA. And Hillary at State. If you look at the other Clinton folks, Obama is essentially ceding the entire foreign policy apparatus to the Clinton faction of the Democratic Party. Just one of those things that makes you go, "Hhmmm."


World Outrage - Yeah, Right.

I love this line from a news report on Israel:

A stream of diplomats and world leaders hoping to end the violence headed for the region to meet with Israeli leaders as world outrage over ballooning Palestinian casualties mounted.
So, where was the stream of diplomats when Israeli casualties from Hamas terrorist activities and violations of the cease-fire were mounting?

The people of Gaza chose Hamas precisely because they are pledged to destroy the "zionist entity." While it is worthwhile trying to minimize civilian deaths, I do not feel the slightest sense of moral outrage over the collateral casualties that are occurring. Where there are deliberate attempts to create civilian casualties, I can object. Oops. Hamas is the only one doing that, so don't expect the holier-than-thou crowd of diplomatic sycophants to complain overmuch about the behavior.

I pray the operation in Gaza achieves its objectives and that the IDF is able to minimize the number of its own soldiers who are killed, wounded or captured. I also pray that they are able to achieve the last drop of Hamas' blood.

Harsh? Unchristian? I don't think so. Hamas murders and tortures its own civilians - they've been murdering and maiming Palestinians they suspect of not complaining enough about Israel (or even helping Israel). Their entire reason for existence is murder in order to completely eliminate the Jews. Their means and their ends are evil. It is precisely to restrain evil such as this that the State is given the power of the sword (check out Romans 13). Let the State of Israel do its God-given task and let the evil of Hamas be so thoroughly restrained that it does not again rear its ugly head in Gaza.

UPDATE: See this Robert Kaplan piece in the Atlantic for a more diplomatically worded justification for Israel's destruction of Hamas. (Hat tip: Michael Ledeen at NRO's Corner)

UPDATE2: I notice that the Palestinians and their media allies are parading the bodies of dead children now - likely the same children they hid behind in hopes of being able to do this very thing. I have little stomach for killing children, but even less for those who deliberately endanger them by firing mortars from their day-care centers, advancing behind a line of ten-year-olds while firing on us, or making sure there are children in the buildings above their ammunition dumps. They did it in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm sure they're doing it in Gaza. And it is not the Israelis who should be chastised but the Palestinians who will see their own children killed in order to gain propaganda points against Israel.


Childish, Petulant Hamas

This is from a FoxNews report on Israeli operations in Gaza:

"After the last crime, all options are open to counter this aggression, including martyr operations against Zionist targets everywhere," Hamas official Ismail Radwan vowed after the attack.

What your friendly neighborhood terrorist is objecting to is a 2,000lb bomb dropped on the posh living quarters of one Nizar Rayan, a known big in the Hamas organization who is responsible for multiple operations against Israel, including suicide bombs, rocket attacks, and the like.

But what really gets me is that first phrase - "After the last crime..." In the first place, military/terrorist leaders are legitimate targets in a war, so it wasn't a crime. In the second place, it is in effect a tacit acknowledgment that all of their terrorist activities up to this point have not been justified. The whole thing, however, is pointless. Hamas has always believed that "all options are open" to destroy Israel. They're not really going to change anything. It is petulant, childish, and fairly indicative of the entire Palestinian approach to their differences with Israel.

I saw some of the video the IDF put up on YouTube. There sure are an awful lot of secondary explosions coming out of the mosques, greenhouses, and apartments they're bombing. I really don't think those are caused by copies of the Qur'an, fresh tomatoes, or couches. Hamas hides its arsenals and rocket launchers in such places and then complains that Israel is bombing civilians. No. Hamas is the one endangering civilians - their own and Israel's. Hamas is the one that holds the lives of others - their own people and Israelis - cheap. The criminals here are Nizar Rayan, Ismail Radwan and all their terrorist colleagues.


On Years

In addition to looking at why we place the new year's start where we do, I thought I'd muse a bit on the numbering.

It is an issue, you know. Official documents of the United States will sometimes refer to the year "in the year of our Lord XXXX and of the Independence of the United States XXX". The standard tradition for millenia had been to establish years relative to rulers. The Gospel of Luke refers to the year of Jesus' birth with the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria during the reign of Caesar Augustus. The book of Kings in the Old Testament typically refers to the year of the king in the other kingdom. That is, so-and-so became king of Israel in the umpteenth year of King Whatshisname of Judah. And vice versa. In the Christianized West, where Catholic or Orthodox churches held sway, this became the "year of our Lord", or anno domine, abbreviated as A.D. - an explicit acknowledgement of Jesus' status as king of kings. The years before that date are, in English, B.C. - before Christ. I don't know why they didn't use the Latin for "Before Christ" (ante Christus or A.C.), but for several hundred years, AD and BC were standard nomenclature. By the way, A.D. goes before the year, but B.C. goes after - "In the year of our Lord X" and "X years before Christ".

Of course, Muslims do not acknowledge Christ's lordship and neither do most of the Chinese, Indian, Japanese, or other non-Christian peoples. But the economic, political and military might of the West has essentially forced them to accept this numbering. What to do, then? The smart set has come up with C.E. and B.C.E. Originally, they thought "Christian Era", since a lot of our history was influenced by Christian thought and activity. That didn't last long before somebody decided that was still a bit too much cultural hubris. So they changed it to "Common Era" and before the same.

Interesting. Are not all eras common to those who live through them? What is it that makes this particular era, beginning 2009 years ago, "common"? Nothing. But we have to get those words "Christ" and "Lord" out of there and we can't think of anything else. We could just drop the whole label all together and simply say 2009 without thinking about why it's 2009 instead of 10,483 or 5,710 or 233. This is what most of us do.

It's not a huge deal, frankly. But I will nevertheless continue to use A.D. and B.C., even when I get docked for it in university papers. That's what it is, and it is decidedly not common.

10-Vehicle Crash Snarls Traffic on California Highway

Here's a story that is among those the FoxNews web site considers so important it was for a brief time listed near the top of their page. There are similar stories throughout the site. A bus accident in Brazil makes the front-page cut, along with a fire in Bangkok and a baby born on a flight to Boston - all right there with the Israeli military operations in Gaza, Iranian students volunteering to go be martyred (why wait? kill yourselves now and save transportation costs), the handover of the Green Zone in Baghdad to Iraqi security forces, and Charles Barkely arrested on what looks like a DUI.

Granted, Los Angeles is a major market, but could somebody please explain to me the national significance of a multi-vehicle accident on a Los Angeles expressway? The same thought occurred to me when a water main broke in Maryland. Of course, it was used immediately by politicians as an excuse for their latest scheme to federalize local matters - and that is a national issue (disgrace?). Nevertheless, this broken water main was treated with almost the same saturation coverage as the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia. I live in the Dakotas. Why are traffic problems in Maryland and California a concern of mine?

If you haven't read Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death, it's worth a look. His answer is that news isn't news. It's entertainment. We think it's cool looking at smashed up cars on the interstate, or exulting over rich basketball stars arrested on minor charges. We have become a nation of voyeurs who cannot be bothered to actually think. Like most of his books, he does an excellent job of assessing the problem, but doesn't quite manage to arrive at a solution. Still, good assessments can be hard to come by.