You are currently viewing archive for February 2007
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In light of the Stock Market uncertainty, I am reprising this analysis piece from the summer:

From July 2006:

I refuse to push the panic button on the economy, and I hate Vietnam parallels, but a growing chain of events gives me cause for concern.

The stagflation and misery of the 1970s arrived, in part, as a result of the belief that we could have "guns and butter" without sacrifice. During an extended and expensive overseas military expedition, the US attempted to leverage the Vietnam War and the Great Society with little concern for revenue. At the same time, American manufactures suffered from an increased period of competition from emerging industrial nations. And, finally, the American economy, heavily dependent on foreign oil, suffered mightily from the rise of OPEC, which attempted to punish the United States for its support of Israel.

I firmly believe that history does not repeat itself--but sometimes the present is eerily reminiscent of the past.

We are in the midst of a protracted and expensive military engagement, a huge event on which we are divided but strangely detached. We continue to run-up budget deficits to pay for the war and our pampered national lifestyle. Our manufacturers are in much worse shape than thirty-five years ago, evidenced by our ever-increasing trade deficits and changing labor reality. Add Israel and oil to this equation, during a time when we are more dependent on foreign fuel than ever before, and there are serious reasons for concern.

You have heard my numerous exhortations in the past to stay the course in Iraq. I am not backing away from that line of thinking. But there is real danger ahead. Although the President's approval ratings in general (and on Iraq specifically) have turned dismal, his initiative in the Middle East has moved forward despite its diminishing popularity (mainly because Iraq seems disturbing but peripheral to most Americans).

Added commentary: The above is obviously much less true in the early months of 2007 than it was last summer.

But an economic crisis would end all that. A deep recession would completely break America's will for war. The Iraq commitment survives precariously on the crest of this fortuitous economic wave. If this economy is as fragile as some have speculated, then the support for the war is just that tenuous.

More added commentary: Even more so today, an economic downturn would bring the war effort to a panic stop.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Guest Blog: Tocqueville

I am interested to see Hugh Hewitt agreeing with me that John McCain is toast and for the reasons Hewitt cites:

The GOP base has a trust issue with McCain, one that flows from the 2000 campaign, McCain-Feingold, the Gang of 14, the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, the September 2006 derailing of the Republican end-game strategy.

McCain is fading, and not because of his age or energy level, but because the GOP electorate has to absolutely believe that the next president will be as committed to victory as Bush has been. Senator McCain's avoidance of new media has been reinforcing the impression that he is unwilling to provide the assurances he needs to in order to regain the trust he has repeatedly broken with the GOP electorate over the years. There is time to turn that around, but Senator McCain is not making the effort, an effort that would begin by a relentless courting of the base rather than the Hardball/Meet The Press audience. Every week that Senator McCain delays launching that effort is a week in which the mayor and the governor gather more pledges and momentum. The big three could be the big two by Memorial Day.

Simple fact: McCain cannot win a head-on with Giuliani and perhaps is hopeless against others.

Giuliani hasn't the political and malodorous traits that pervade McCain (I can't stand him) and I doubt the public cares about The Mayor's divorces.

HH offers no insight on how important McCain's support and (supposed) supporters will prove in tipping the balance among whatever contestants remain. Also, lurking is the question whether McCain's neutralization might induce an entry by someone else.

Cited by Hewitt, here is Dick Morris's take.

Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
You probably have read articles like this one from the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Titanic" director James Cameron has produced a new documentary for the Discovery Channel in which archeologists claim to have discovered the tomb of Jesus Christ and his family -- including Mary Magdalene

Or heard reports in the media. Some background from the same article:

The documentary, directed by Simcha Jacobovici, claims that 10 ossuaries -- small limestone coffins into which bones were placed a year after a first-century Jew had died -- found in Jerusalem in 1980 contained remains of Jesus and members of his family -- including Magdalene, whom they say was Jesus' wife.

One of the ossuaries is inscribed with the name Jesus, another "Judah son of Jesus," and a third with the name "Mariamene," the moniker used to identify Mary Magdalene in early Christian texts, Jacobovici said Monday at a press conference in New York. The filmmaker says DNA testing showed that Mariamene's ossuary contained the remains of a woman who was not related to Jesus, and therefore likely was his spouse.

The Discovery Channel is to air Cameron's documentary Sunday night at 9pm ET. Link to the promotional material here.

» Read More

Category: American Lives
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Originally delivered as a Wednesday night lecture at Seventh and James Baptist Church in January of 2006:

Around six PM on Thursday evening, Dec. 1, 1955, headed home after finishing her work day as a seamstress at a downtown Montgomery department store, Rosa Parks stood in front of Court Square waiting for the Cleveland Avenue Bus.

She hurriedly boarded the bus and found an empty seat. A few moments later, she would refuse to surrender her seat to a white passenger. The police would come, they would arrest her, and a pivotal moment in modern American history would commence.

“Let me have those seats,” the bus driver had called back over his shoulder, seeing that a white passenger was standing.

Rosa was sitting next to an African American man and across the aisle sat two African American women. Although the driver was speaking to all four of them, not one of them moved.

The driver called back a second time: “Y’all make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats.”

The man next to Rosa began to stir, and then stood and moved into the aisle.

Rosa looked across to see that the other women were also complying.

Rosa eased over to the just-vacated window-seat and, for lack of a better word, she “dug in.”

“I could not see how standing up was going to make it light for me,” she would later say.

”The more we gave in and complied, the worse they treated us.”

The driver saw that she was not moving and asked one more time if she was going to stand up.

“No,” she said.

“Well, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have you arrested,” he said.

“You may do that,” Rosa Parks said.

By the time the police arrived a few minutes later, the back of the bus was quietly emptying out. When one of the policeman asked Mrs. Parks why she didn’t stand up, she asked him: “Why do you push us around?”

And he replied: “I do not know, but the law is the law, and you are under arrest.”

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The question of the consitutionality of President Bush's Faith-Based Initiative is before the Supreme Court. I have posted information already here.

In this post I wish to give a brief historical survey of the relationship between Church and State in the United States into the 20th century.

To begin, I will repeat material from an earlier post on Religion and Public Policy. (If interested in the entire series, see Religion and Public Policy under Categories on the right.)

The Constitution of 1787 has been called the most secular document produced until then. There is no mention of God. ( An omission which some 19th-century evangelicals tried and failed to correct through Constitutional amendment.) And the few mentions of religion are negative (no religious tests for public office, etc.) Furthermore, the First Amendment prohibits Congress from establishing a religion, or from interfering with the free exercise of religion. As is well known, we have been debating since then exactly what the role of religion, and its relationship to government, should be regarding public policy. Avoiding the lengthy and messy details of this history, I wish to make a few points.

First, neither the Declaration of Independence, nor The Articles of Confederation, nor the actions of the Continental Congress, nor the Constitution of 1787, nor the actions of Congress in the opening decades of our nationhood, can be understood to be a deliberate rejection of religion. This assertion can be sustained by comparing our Revolution and its aftermath to the French Revolution. Even our most Enlightenment influenced founders such as Jefferson and Franklin were products of the English-speaking Enlightenment, not the French-speaking. They rejected traditional Christianity, but did not reject the idea of God and an orderly universe governed by laws established by the divine Law Giver. Jefferson and Adams did not hope that all religion would die away; they hoped that a sort of Rational Christianity would replace traditional sects. My point: the founders did not envision a secular society as we understand one, therefore the context in which to understand our Constitution, and by extension our present government including public debate, is not that of a thoroughly secular world-view.

Second, in prohibiting the Federal government from establishing a religion (First Amendment), the founders were paying homage to two realities: states with their own laws, including established churches in some of them (Massachusetts was the last to disestablish in 1833); and the Christian diversity of the American population in which no single church had the alliegance of an overwhelming majority of citizens. Another reality that may have influenced the decision, a significant number of Americans belonged to no church. (Though very few of these were secular men and women in the modern sense of the term; their worldview tended to be a kind of generic Protestantism.) My point: the no establishment clause cannot be understodd as a mandate for removing religion from the public square.

Third, the history of political discourse, and public policy, in the United States is filled with religious motivation and rhetoric. Slavery, Women's Rights, Consumption of Alcohol, the place of Farmers and Workers in the Industrial Economy, Race Relations, and more, all have been argued in Christian language and reasoning. Point: historical precedent allows the use of religious reasoning in public discourse, and by extension, in public policy.

(More below.)

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One of the toxic aspects of our culture is the way that younger and younger girls are sexualized. Media images of women are mostly as sexual beings. Sexual encounters first happen at younger and younger ages. You may have seen some media reporting on the recent release of the American Psychological Association findings. We are damaging the vulnerable children of our culture. Here is the APA release, with a link to the full report. Some excerpts from the Executive Summary:

Journalists, child advocacy organizations, parents, and psychologists have argued that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls.The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls was formed in response to these expressions of public concern.
. . .
There are several components to sexualization, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. Sexualization occurs when

a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;

a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;

a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or

sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization.The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children.Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualized.

But when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them. Self-motivated sexual exploration, on the other hand, is not sexualization by our definition, nor is age-appropriate exposure to information about sexuality.
. . .
Psychology offers several theories to explain how the sexualization of girls and women could influence girls’ well-being. Ample evidence testing these theories indicates that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality, and attitudes and beliefs.
(Emphasis mine.)

What is wrong with a degree of censorship?

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
A giant in New Testament studies died this month. Dr. Metzger was an internationally famous scholar of Greek and of the New Testament. A partial list of his accomplishments is here taken from the tribute on the Princeton Theological Seminary website (link here):

Dr. Bruce Manning Metzger, New Testament professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary and one of the preeminent American New Testament critics and biblical translators of the twentieth century, died February 13, 2007, at the University Medical Center at Princeton, at the age of 93.
. . .
He served as Chair of the Committee on Translation of the American Bible Society 1964–70, and as Chair of the Committee of Translators for the
New Revised Standard Version of the Bible 1977–90. The impact of this work is incalculable and Bruce Metzger saw it through the press almost single-handedly.
. . .
Bruce Metzger cared about and provided for his students. Generations have been grateful for his
Lists of Words Occurring Frequently in the Coptic New Testament, and his Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek (first published in 1946) became a standard study tool. He edited The Oxford Annotated Bible in 1962, and in 1966, along with Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, and Allen Wikgren, edited the United Bible Societies' edition of the Greek New Testament. This text, especially adapted to meet the needs of Bible translators, with its beautiful original font and indication of the relative degree of certainty for each variant adopted in the text, proved to be an enduring landmark. The editors were later joined by Carlo Martini (the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan from 1980 to 2002).
. . .
There were other honors. In 1994, Bruce Metzger was awarded the Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies by The British Academy in London (of which he had been a Corresponding Fellow since 1978). This is only awarded in recognition of a lifetime of distinguished biblical study. Bruce Metzger was elected president of Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (1971), the International Society of Biblical Literature (1971), and was the first president of the North American Patristic Society (1972). He was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (1969 and 1974) and visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge (1974) and Wolfson College, Oxford (1979).

There were many other books, among which the classic studies
The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (1964, and translated into German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian and Russian) and The Early Versions of the New Testament, Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations (1977) have been particularly influential. Bruce Metzger's last publication before his death was Apostolic Letters of Faith, Hope, and Love: Galatians, 1 Peter, and I John (2006).

Dr. Metzger was one of my teachers in seminary and my personal reflections are below.

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Category: Something Personal
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Accounting: Last week I was "on assignment." More precisely, my day job overcame my avocation.

For those of you who like to keep track of what I do, here are the highlights of the week that was:

Wednesday: In my capacity as student government advisor, I assisted in hosting a Civil Rights lecture in celebration of Black History Month. Baylor's James SoRelle brought a bit of gender equity to the study of the CRM with "Where Have All the Women Gone? Re-imaging the Civil Rights Movement, 1865-1965."

FYI: We are also hosting an African American Literature colloquium this week.

Thursday: I accompanied a dozen student leaders to Austin, where we met with our elected state representatives (Senator Kip Averett & Representatives Jim Dunnam and Charles "Doc" Anderson).

Friday: I once again made the 100-mile jaunt down I-35 to Austin, this time in the company of colleagues for the annual convention of Texas community college teachers. On that assignment, I was able to spend an immensely enjoyable day of conversation and conviviality with friends dedicated to perpetuating the American experiment.

We enjoyed a stimulating and intimate lunch with an emerging superstar in American scholarship: H.W. Brands.

Agenda: I intend to offer some thoughts on all of these events at some point.

But First. We also attended a discussion of the coming 2008 presidential race offered by Thomas Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. I like Patterson. I heard him speak a few years ago at another convention. He is thoughtful and fair-minded. He has a great line: "the forecasting models indicate (insert prediction here) but I wouldn't bet my house on it." It is an important caveat. He sees this as a Democratic Party year, and I agree with him, but there is a reason we show up for the game even when the odds are prohibitive. On any given Sunday....

Why are the Democrats ahead? Patterson noted that 1952 and 1968 were historical parallels. Stuck in unpopular wars, the parties of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson suffered the consequences of presidential unpopularity. Looking at the job approval ratings of the President, the party of Bush groans with dread. The Democrats are currently running an 18-point lead in the generic canvass. There are potential pitfalls for the Dems (looking "anti-American" for one), but right now they have the better hand to play.

Even as there are many strongly persuasive indicators on general elections, the dynamics of the primaries make predictions on party nominations uncertain. Having said that, the nominations are now decided during the "invisible primary." That is, in the era of front-loading, the campaign prior to the first caucus and first primary generally determines the nominee. In a nutshell, this time next year, in all likelihood, we will know our two major party nominees.

Some things to watch:

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Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
As they are wont to do, the Academy eagerly embraced the opportunity to mix business with pleasure last night, voting for Al Gore one more time. Below are my thoughts on the man, his life and his prospects as a presidential candidate (which I am reprising from a post last summer).

Note on the reissue: Back in June, I had not screened
An Inconvenient Truth. I have seen it since. Back then I asked: "Is this Al Gore’s 'Churchillian' moment?" Little did I know, Al had already beaten me to that comparison within the film. One needs to be pretty fast on the draw to beat Al Gore to a favorable point in re Al Gore.

From June 7, 2006:

The Strange Career of Al Gore

John Adams purportedly told his son, JQA, that considering all the blessings and advantages that his family and Providence had bestowed upon the younger Adams, it would be his fault alone, if he did not become president of the United States. Although that statement has always struck me as incredibly harsh, perhaps it is the appropriate key in which to begin a discussion of the political life and times of Albert Gore, Jr.

The Harvard-educated, senator’s son and ambivalent Vietnam veteran sampled divinity school, law school and journalism before he won election to Congress from Tennessee’s fourth district in 1976 and then a senate seat in 1984. He ran for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 1988 and lost. He ran for vice president in 1992 and won. He ran for president in 2000 and lost (although he won the popular vote).

During the 1980s, he absorbed criticism (mostly directed at Tipper) from First Amendment advocates who charged that the Gores favored censorship of recording artists. His 1988 campaign for the Democratic nomination seemed to lack purpose and definitely wanted for charisma.

During his tenure as VP, he acquired a national persona as the wonkish, stiff and boring but loyal Clinton sidekick (although he countered that perception with a humorous, self-deprecating comedy bit). But no matter how hard he tried to blend his Southern Evangelical Populist lineage with his Washington-insider and Eastern-educated acculturation, the public never embraced him as much more than a parody of himself. Even the “liberal” media seemed reluctant to give him a fair shake (regularly laughing at him—and only occasionally with him).

In 2000, he ran for a Clinton-Gore “third term” and failed. He came close (only losing by 537 votes in Florida and one vote in the United States Supreme Court); but, nevertheless, he lost, squandering a good political hand.

Then, Gore seemed to slip off the face of the earth during the first few months of the Bush administration and, especially, after 911. He grew a beard. He grew fleshy. He seemed completely dislocated from politics and reality. Even Democrats seemed relieved that he was not president during the unexpectedly pivotal period in American history.

But, just as suddenly, Al Gore is back.

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The Anglican Primates (archbishops acting as national church leaders) at their recent meeting in Tanzania demanded that the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, stop blessing same-sex marriages. My post here.

Last week the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (sort of the U.S. primate) gave her response. Katharine Jefferts Schori told staff at the national headquarters

. . . the Episcopal Church is called to ensure that the conversation about the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church continues in the Communion. “It is part of our mission as a church,” she said. “This conversation that has been going on for at least 40 years is not going away. God keeps bringing it back to us.” Jefferts Schori said that she understands that some people feel that the primates’ recommendations are a “hard and bitter pill for many of us to talk about swallowing.” But, she said, worldwide attitudes about the inclusion of gay and lesbian people are changing and “I don’t expect that to end.” “We’re being asked to pause in the journey. We are not being asked to go back,” she said. “Time and history are with this Church.”

Full article from the Episcopal Church website, includes a link to the audio of the address. (More below.)

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The legal challenge to the Bush administration's Faith-Based Initiative has made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which should hear arguments this week.

Some information:

The AP story on the lawsuit. From FindLaw.

Website of the Freedom From Religion Foundation which has brought the action. "FFRF, Inc., is the nation's largest association of atheists and agnostics, working since 1978 to promote freethought and to keep state and church separate. "

FFRF information on the court case here.

The case is Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, here is information and links from FindLaw.

Here is docket information from the U.S. Supreme Court site.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the beginning of the siege of the Alamo in 1836. (I was reminded of this when listening to a Texas AM radio station yesterday.) Alamo website here.

Losing a battle does not mean losing a war. Today's invincible host can become tomorrow's defeated army. Good lesson to remember in 2007.

If you've not seen it, I recommend the movie The Alamo (2004 with Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton). Good movie, basically accurate, and in a just world Billy Bob would have won an Oscar.
Yesterday morning the dogs and I went down to the creek. The sun had risen, but the light still was dim because of clouds. Amid the brown leaves on the ground and the brown leafless trees, the greening willow branches announced that winter slowly was giving way to spring. I almost turned back after a half-mile or so, I had other things to do and my legs were tired from the day before (isn't that what they say of aging athletes, that the legs are the first to go). But, ahead was a stretch of creek we hadn't seen in a while.

The dogs and I had been hearing ahead of us, from time to time, some noises that I thought might be turkeys on the move. After another eighth of a mile or so we saw them, nearly twenty birds on the other side of the creek moving away from us at a fast walk. The dogs jumped in the water and swam across. I called them back when they reached the other bank; they needed the exercise of swimming, the turkeys did not need the exercise of fleeing from two well-fed dogs. Moving on just a bit further, I saw what I took in the dim light to be a duck swimming up the creek. A second look showed me my mistake.

It was a beaver, its head visible on the surface of the water. The last couple of week I had seen fresh beaver sign--gnawn trees and a scent mound a mile back down the creek. Standing behind a tree to hide my silouhette I watched this wild animal circle in the water, and swim back toward me. Then the dogs returned from somewhere in the woods. Hearing them, the beaver smacked the water with its tail and dove.

Why is it more satifying to see wild animals than zoo animals? Perhaps because to see wild animals I must go into their home, be a quiet and observant guest, and "hunt" them. The quest brings its own excitement. And on a deeper level, they are wild animals, uncaged. They live a life independent from me, or from zoo keepers. They are God's creatures.

Do yourself a favor this weekend. Turn off the TV or computer or video game and find a slice of creation to prowl.
I'll try to have more to say this weekend, but for now this article from the San Diego Union Tribune.
Today is the 200th anniversary of the British decision to end the slave trade within the empire. Today also is the release date for the new movie Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce, the Christian politician whose achievement the ending of the slave trade is.

USA Today has a good article on the movie, with some historical background, and some early evangelical reaction to the film. Link from Religion Headlines.
My heart goes out to Britney Spears. She is a comment on us and the society we have made.

What happens when a teenage girl from Kenner, Louisiana, with virtually no education, is suddenly thrust into the national spotlight and told continuously by millions that she is the most important person in the world?

Britney Spears, 1999.

What happens when the intoxication recedes?

Britney Spears in 2007.

Celebrity truly is the song of the Sirens for the current age.
Today is the anniversary of the birth of the Father of Our Country, George Washington. Some links:

Brief biography at the White House site.

Mt. Vernon website.

Washington papers at the University of Virginia.

Washington papers at the Library of Congress.

Rediscovering George Washington at PBS.

Washington Masonic Memorial.

Washington Monument National Park Service site.

Washington in paintings and etchings from The History Place.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
As the Democratic primary intensifies, it will be interesting to see if anyone raises the religion issue with Obama. If he becomes the Democrat candidate, then I am sure his church membership will be an issue.

According to his official bio sketch on the website Obama '08, he and his family "live on Chicago's South Side where they attend Trinity United Church of Christ."

Regular readers of this blog have heard of the UCC before, arguably the most liberal American denomination. Official website here. Positions include support for abortion on demand and same-sex marriage.

Trinity UCC, the congregation named by Obama's website as the family church, is truly an interesting church. The official church website features an outline of the continent of Africa upon entering the site. (more below)

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As I posted earlier, Anglican primates met last week in Tanzania in closed session. Perhaps the major issue to be addressed was the actions of the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism. Most Anglicans are now from the Third-World and are much more conservative than the U.S. denomination. Monday they issued a statement, from Fox News. Opening paragraph:

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Anglican leaders demanded Monday that the U.S. Episcopal Church unequivocally bar official prayers for gay couples and the consecration of more gay bishops to undo the damage that North Americans have caused the Anglican family. In a statement ending a tense six-day meeting, the leaders said that past pledges by Episcopalians for a moratorium on gay unions and consecrations have been so ambiguous that they have failed to fully mend "broken relationships" in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of world Anglicanism, must clarify its position by Sept. 30 or its relations with other Anglicans will remain "damaged at best."

The American Anglican Council has the full text here. (More below.)

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I'll try to post on the significance of Ash Wednesday sometime today. For now, I want to respond to Joab's comment on my Fat Tuesday post. He asked what was the value of traditional Lenten discipline: what's the big deal about giving up chocolate or something?

I think there is value in giving up something benign for Lent, be it chocolate, coffee, sweets, violence on television, or whatever.

First, without self-discipline there is no consistent Christian walk nor progress in the spiritual life. We must learn to say no to ourselves. Giving up something for Lent provides practice in self-denial.

Second, when we crave the thing we have given up, we can remind ourselves that Jesus Christ gave up the glory of heaven, emptying himself, and denying himself during his time on earth. In the book The Last Temptation of Christ, (much better than the movie), Jesus is tempted to live a normal life--marriage, home, children. These are all good things that he gave up for his mission.

Third, we all know that our bodily existence can at times be a hinderence to our service of God--the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Abstaining, whether a fast or the giving up of an innocent pleasure, uses the appetites of the body to strengthen the spirit. Our hunger, or our craving, reminds us to pray and to remember our Savior by reminding us that it is the season of Lent.

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
This morning in the Grungebuggy (the old van I and the dogs drive down to the creek in) I caught just a bit of talk radio. All I heard was the conservative host stating that government has no business trying to teach values in our schools. Teaching values is the job of the family.

I do not know what prompted the statement. Probably the host was objecting to politically correct indoctrination. But, whatever the prompt, the statement goes overboard. There is no education without values. I say this as a teacher with experience in Middle School, High School, and College.

Imagine a classroom. Now, try to imagine a classroom with no values being taught. I can't. To create a good learning environment every teacher has a few rules: Don't talk when someone else has the floor. Don't cheat on exams. Do the work on time. These rules reflect and teach values--mutual respect, honesty, responsibility. An educational environment cannot be values-neutral.

For education to occur certain character virtues are necessary, and must be taught and/or reinforced. Patience. Persistence. Self-discipline. Humility. Love of truth.

Perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves is this: can a post-modern, politically correct, consumerist, secular society support the values and virtues that make education possible? I have always been a strong supporter of public schools. But, in the last few years I have wondered if in the future I would not be supporting parochial education instead.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Earlier I linked to an article from Newsweek that explored Hillary's Christian faith a bit. Later I posted on the way the article had been written in a way friendly to Hillary.

Now, a few more thoughts.

Does Hillary have a geniune Christian faith? On the one hand, I cannot see into her heart, and, Jesus will be Judge on the Last Day, not me. So I cannot and will not claim infallibility on the question. On the other hand, Jesus said that we are to make provisional judgments in this life. We are to judge trees by the fruit they bear.

The question we can address is this: is Hillary Clinton's behavior consistent with the Christian Faith? I have my doubts. She has been part of the Clinton "hit machine" for years now. The Clinton team has responded to any allegation by smearing and attempting to discredit all accusers and witnesses. Not Christian behavior. I also have my doubts that the windfall she made in futures trading was on the up and up. And, where were those documents before they were found in the presidential living quarters. This does not sound like Christian honesty. She also, as Dick Morris noted recently, finds it impossible to say "I'm sorry." She's stubborn. Not very good Christian behavior.

I am not perfect and do not claim to be. Again, I do not claim to know the depths of Hillary Clinton's heart. But this tree does not seem to bear good Christ-like fruit.

20/02: Fat Tuesday

Today is the last day before Lent, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Even in post-Katrina New Orleans crowds will gather to get drunk, throw beads, watch parades and exposed breasts, and in general celebrate bacchanalia.

So what does this have to do with Christianity? Very little. But, very little is not the same as nothing. There is a connection. Prior to the discipline and self-denial of Lent people wanted to enjoy themselves, feasting before fasting, carnival before contrition.

Enjoyment, within bounds of moderation and modesty, also can be a worship of God. We celebrate and give thanks for and are glad in the wonderous world the Lord has created. As Calvin wrote, God must want us to take pleasure in the world for he has made flowers to please the eye and the nose, and has made food to taste good as well as give nourishment.

The traditional Church calender reflects both the reality of the goodness of this world, and the reality of the fallenness of this world: the fast of Advent followed by the feast of Christmas, the fast of Lent followed by the feast of Easter.

So, enjoy yourself today. Eat something you like and thank God that you derive pleasure from eating. Play with dogs and children. If you live in the South, go into the backyard and toss a baseball around. Tomorrow receive the mark of ashes.

Even in Louisiana, I am told that the small-town Mardi Gras celebrations are family oriented fairs. Leave New Orleans to the devil.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Positive stories about Senator John McCain are increasingly rare (he seems to be on the MSM and conservative media hit list), but Dan Balz in the Washington Post offers a reprieve from the new template:

"In Limbo in Washington, McCain Comes Alive in Iowa"

"But as he campaigned across Iowa this weekend, there were flashes of the old McCain. During town hall meetings in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport, he staunchly defended his position on the war, decried a Republican Party that he said has lost its way and punctuated question-and-answer sessions with his particular brand of humor" (read the full article here).

FYI: I watched this appearance on C-SPAN, and the Senator was everything Balz asserts. He was honest, funny, self-deprecating and appealing. All of these traits are signature McCain. When he is on his game, he is very becoming. McCain is still the candidate to watch, if things improve in Iraq.
Today is President's Day. Is your flag flying?

In the recent past Americans debated what is called theodicy. That is, why did God permit evil? How can a good and loving God permit bad things to happen? Where was God when we hurt? Further back in our past, when God was understood to be a mysterious, holy and righteous judge of men and nations, another question also was asked: for what sins is God punishing us? What purposes is the Almighty working out in the evil that has befallen us?

Since modern Americans tend to view God as indulgently loving, we tend not to ask the latter questions, and to shout down those who might. (Witness the criticism Falwell and Robertson faced after they suggested that 9/11 was a judgment from God on our sins.)

We also tend not to debate theodicy much anymore. Our questions are more like--why did the government not save us from the horror of Hurricane Katrina? why did the government allow Osama bin Laden to build a terror network against us? how can the government allow dysfunctional schools to exist? why hasn't the government eliminated poverty and cancer and unemployment? why has the government made such a mess in Iraq?

Often, especially for major disasters like Katrina and in foreign policy, we specifically question the president. Why didn't Bush save New Orleans? Where was Bush when disaster struck the 9th Ward? Why did Bush cause war or terrorism or global warming? Why did Bush make a mess in Iraq?

The underlying assumption to these questions is that this one man, the president of the United States, has the power to bend reality to his will, to make the world conform to his wishes. We don't argue theodicy because we attribute the powers of divinity (good or evil) to the occupant of the oval office. When my candidate (Hillary, Edwards, Obama, et al) ascends to the office of power, then the golden age will begin.

Presidents have power, but they are not God.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I have been at four funerals in the last week and a half, conducting one and attending three. Three were Comanche, one was Caddo and Comanche. Three were Christian services all held in churches, one was mixed Christian and Native American Church held in the gym of the Comanche Tribal Center.

Here are some things I like about the conduct of these funerals, typical for our area. (more below)

» Read More

Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Week before last, I observed:

If Scooter Libby is not guilty as sin, the MSM has done us a great disservice...I wonder if there is another side of the story.

Today in the Washington Post, Victoria Toensing rises for the defense (doing what she does best, prosecuting):

"There's a reason why responsible prosecutors don't bring perjury cases on mere "he said, he said" evidence. Without an underlying crime or tangible evidence of obstruction (think Martha Stewart trying to destroy phone logs), the trial becomes a mishmash of faulty memories in which witnesses can seem as guilty as the defendant. Any prosecutor knows that memories differ, even vividly, and each party can be convinced that his or her version is the truthful one.

"If we accept Fitzgerald's low threshold for bringing a criminal case, then why stop at Libby? This investigation has enough questionable motives and shadowy half-truths and flawed recollections to fill a court docket for months. So here are my own personal bills of indictment:"

Read the full (2200 words) article here.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that if you did not remember my previous post, you may have missed the point of this post. Please feel free to post in the comments your favorite defense of Libby article and/or your own thoughts.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Washington Post sees it like this:

"Senate Republicans for a second time blocked a symbolic attempt by Democrats to reject President Bush's troop increase yesterday, but GOP defections were higher than before, suggesting Republican cracks as the Iraq war dominates Congress's agenda" (read the full story here).

FYI: The Republican defectors:

John Warner (Va.)
Chuck Hagel (Neb.)
Gordon Smith (Ore.)
Norm Coleman (Minn.)
Arlen Specter (Pa.)
Olympia J. Snowe (Maine)
and Susan M. Collins (Maine).

Here are a few things that the Post and much of the mainstream media missed:

1. Most news agencies erroneously reported Democratic unanimity--but Joe Lieberman voted against the Resolution.

2. The most under-reported story of the week: the real division in Washington is developing among Democrats, and it involves how far Congress should go in undercutting the President's control of this war. A large number of Democrats are looking to defund the mission, or at least apply enough budget pressure on the President and the army to cripple our capacity to continue. The so-called Murtha Plan envisions a "slow bleed" strategy to end our military operation in Iraq. But not all Democrats are ready to go that far.

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
3:22 PM

The House approved a resolution "disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq" by a vote of 246 to 182.

Here is the roll call break down from the Clerk of the House.

Here is an interesting cross section from the Washington Post.

Notes of interest:

1. Texas 17 representative, Chet Edwards (D), voted in favor of the resolution to disapprove the President (see his statement here ).

An aside: the above is a bit of a shock to me. My guess is that this may make Texas 17 a bit more competitive next time around. It all depends on what happens in the next eighteen months--but this may give the next Republican candidate something to hang his (or her) hat on. Previously, Congressman Edwards has been nearly 100 percent supportive of the President on these types of questions.

2. Only two Democrats broke ranks: Gene Taylor, MS (whom I have written about previously here) and Jim Marshall, GA (see his statement on his website here). The two defecting Democrats, not surprisingly, were Southerners. The breakdown by region shows that the South was the only section of the country to vote with the President. Where I come from...

3. Seventeen Republicans defected. The Washington Post had been predicting 30 to 50 all week. Seventeen represents less than 10 percent of the Republican delegation. The "less than expected" number is a moral victory for the President and probably improves his position in the impending showdown over funding.

Now what?
Stanley Kurtz is writing a series of suburb essays on Islamic society over at the National Review. This essay explains the role of "parallel cousin" marriage in preserving an in-group and its honor. (Arabs especially tend to view a first cousin on the father's side as the ideal marriage partner.)

16/02: Bush is Back?

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today from David Broder in the Washington Post: "Bush Regains His Footing"

Broder does a fine job articulating some things I saw in the President's press conference Wednesday:

Broder: It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case.

I was struck by this yesterday, and Broder notes today the President's use of the Patraeus confirmation, the conciliatory tone toward his opponents in Congress:

And third, by contrasting today's vote on a nonbinding resolution with the pending vote on funding the war in Iraq, he shifted the battleground to a fight he is likely to win -- and put the Democrats on the defensive. Much of their own core constituency wants them to go beyond nonbinding resolutions and use the power of the purse to force Bush to reduce the American commitment in Iraq.

But congressional Democrats are leery of seeming to withhold resources from the 150,000 troops who will be fighting in that country once the surge is complete; that is why they blocked Republicans from offering resolutions of their own in the House or Senate pledging to keep financing the war. Democrats did not want an up-or-down vote on that question, but Bush has placed it squarely before them.

Read all of Broder here.

My review of the press conference here.
In my history classes, I often would compare world politics to a high-stakes poker game between ruthless players.

Iran has been at war with the United States since the Iranian Revolution and subsequent hostage taking. Now, Iran is doing its best to insure U.S. defeat in Iraq, including taking actions that kill American soldiers. All the while the Tehran regime is working furiously on a nuclear weapons program, constructing its own ace-in-the-hole.

Meanwhile, the Democrats in Congress are trying to show Iran our cards, specifically, showing them that we do not have the military action card. The mullahs are tough players. If they know the U.S. lacks the military strike card, they are confident that theirs is the winning hand.

Pelosi's comments here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Much is being made of the diversity of the leading Democrat presidential candidates: a white man, a white woman, and a black man. Agreed, there is some diversity there. But, overlooked in the media is the diversity among Republican presidential candidates. Henry Payne at NRO makes the case :

'08 race for president a winner on diversity," declared the lead A1 headline in a Jan. 21 Detroit Free Press story about the Democratic field. Let's review the top three candidates:
* a lawyer now serving in the Senate;
* a lawyer now serving in the Senate;
* a lawyer who served in the Senate.

Now for the three Republican frontrunners:

* a naval officer, Vietnam veteran, and POW now serving in the Senate;
* a businessman who founded Bain Capital, one of the country's most successful investment firms; president of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City; governor of Massachusetts, 2002-2006;
* a lawyer who served as associate attorney general, 1981-1983; U.S. attorney for New York South District, 1983-1989, prosecuted major organized crime and Wall Street insider trading; served as New York City mayor, 1994-2001; named Time's Man of the Year, 2001 for his leadership in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City; founded an investment and consulting firm, 2004.

In addition, as Payne points out, the Republican big three vary from the Republican platform far more than the Democrat big three vary from their party's. Article here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Jay Tea from Wizbang on the unserious Democrat posturing in a dangerous world. What he said.

I fear we are falling under the long shadow of short politicians.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
On Style:

The President was confident, funny and in command of his facts. In terms of tone, he was also conciliatory and gracious toward the opposition party. He was, in fact, articulate in his explanation of the common ground shared by American public servants of all stripes.

The quote: "we [are people] willing to put our families through the grind of politics [because] we wanted to serve our country, [and] we care deeply about what takes place in Washington, America and the world."

On Iraq:

More of the same: he did not call Iraq the "central front" on terror, but he made it clear that the fight against terrorism hinged on the fight for Baghdad: "if we fail there, the enemy will follow us here."

He described a violent enemy who will stop at nothing to win: "these are people that will kill innocent men, women and children to achieve their objective...."

The President reaffirmed his dissatisfaction with the status quo, but he reaffirmed the strategy of "clear, hold and build." He attempted to embrace the Baker-Hamilton, Iraq Study Group findings. Embracing the argument that his "new way forward" is the necessary precursor (creating "political breathing space") for the new direction recommended in the Study.

On Iran:

He held his own. We'll see what happens.

On Politics:

The President was careful to call his opponents patriotic and well meaning. But he hammered at the paradox of a unanimously confirmed commander on the ground in Iraq, David Petraeus, and a Congress working to disavow the general's strategy: "Later this week the House of Representatives will vote on a resolution that opposes our new plan in Iraq -- before it has a chance to work."

The President conceded that the non-binding resolution of disapproval would pass the House--but he laid the groundwork for his case against any substantive legislative action to limit funds on the plan he is carrying out.

Bush: "Our troops are counting on their elected leaders in Washington, D.C. to provide them with the support they need to do their mission."

He is setting the stage for the coming debate over funding, which is the real showdown. And, for a president with an approval rating in the mid-30s, presiding over a four-year military debacle, he is actually in a fairly good position to win the next round in the now-ongoing battle with the opposition-controlled Congress.

The press conference in full here.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Quietly, a broadly based ecumenical coalition is being built called "Christian Churches Together." Here are the first two paragraphs from The Layman.

PASADENA, Calif. – More than 300 worshipers gathered for worship at Pasadena Presbyterian Church to inaugurate the most diverse ecumenical grouping in U.S. history.

Christian Churches Together begins with 36 member organizations from all five church "families" – Roman Catholic, evangelical/Pentecostal, Protestant, Orthodox and historic racial ethnic – as well as a number of non-denomination religious groups, such as World Vision, Bread for the World, Sojourners/Call to Renewal, Evangelicals for Social Action and the Salvation Army.

"It is our intent and prayer to broaden and deepen the fellowship of Christian churches and organizations in the United States," said the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, the general secretary of the Reformed Church in America and chair of the Christian Churches Together steering committee.
Full article here and then click on the link "Christian Churches Together
talk first about evangelization"

An excerpt from the RCA website news of the event:

"Our purpose is to 'grow closer together in Christ in order to strengthen our mission in the world,'" he explains. In 2001, church leaders began to lay groundwork for CCT, with a goal of expanding fellowship, unity, and witness among the diverse expressions of Christian faith. The group officially organized at a meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, last year. This week's meeting kicked off with a worship service of celebration and commitment to mark the formal beginning of what Granberg-Michaelson calls "a new and promising fellowship." "We set this time for a worship service to announce and inaugurate Christian Churches Together, as well as to work on how we understand evangelism," says Granberg-Michaelson. Special presentations on the understanding and practice of evangelism were made to the membership by spokespersons for each of the faith traditions Full article here.

Perhaps this ecumenical organization, focusing on cooperation among a broad range of groups, will have success. Jesus did pray for the unity of his Church.
Once again Gateway Pundit is on top of the news out of Iran. More violence against the Republican Guards. As I have mentioned before, Iran is inherently unstable as a modern nation-state because of ethnic and tribal loyalties.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer

Disapproving of the decision of the President announced
on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional
United States combat troops to Iraq.

Resolved by the House of Representatives:

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

The first day of the proposed three-day debate in the House of Representatives over the above resolution proved that there really was no need for debate.

We certainly need more oversight; we need better leadership. We are in desperate need of hard-headed, rock-ribbed and bipartisan realism. We would all be served well by a rhetorical ceasefire. But clearly thirty-six hours of speeches from the well of the House restating four years of hackneyed and partisan talking points will not prove helpful.

One thing is certain: not one person in Congress will change their mind as a result of this debate.

The Democrats:

False and misleading...failed administration...civil war...we support our troops...George Bush is the only person in America who thinks this plan can succeed...this is a first step to defunding this awful war...this is not a first step to defunding this awful war...our troops are heroic and we support them...wrong war, wrong time, wrong place...sectarian violence...end of the line for a tragically flawed policy...I knew all along this was a bad idea.

The Republicans:

See anyone of my myriad schizophrenic posts on the subject (some options here and here).

In a C-SPAN interview from Sunday, President bushed defined "noise" as Washington chatter. "Everybody in Washington likes to talk," he said. Amen.

But the Democrats have a couple of things right: 1) the war is a mess and 2) the buck stops at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Having said that, now what?

One other note: the news coverage seemed ho-hum. The debate did not seem to be the lead anywhere. Most people still seem more concerned with Anna Nicole Smith.

One last note: C-SPAN has an excellent resource for listening to individual speeches here.
I intend to post on the debate ASAP--but since the debate thus far is merely recycling old rhetoric, here are a couple of rebuttals remixed and reprised:

One more time, here are the reasons that going into Iraq made sense at the time:

1. Saddam was bad. He deserved ouster, capture, trial and execution. Twenty-five million Iraqis deserved an opportunity to take control of their lives free of Saddam's oppressive regime.

2. Saddam was at war with the United States and a threat to regional security. For more than a decade, we flew combat missions over Iraq and drew anti-aircraft fire everyday. Our forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia to neutralize the threat Saddam posed to the region. Our presence in Saudi (part of our essential commitment to preserving the peace) irritated the international Muslim community. In fact, Osama bin Laden cited our presence in Saudi Arabia as the casus belli for war against America in general and 9-11 specifically.

3. Saddam was contained--but only as a result of the costly military commitments cited above. In addition, Saddam was contained as a result of a United Nations sanctions regime. Before the war, several human rights organizations charged that the heartless US-driven sanctions policy had killed upwards of 500,000 Iraqis through malnutrition and lack of adequate medical attention. Later, we learned of massive corruption on the part of the UN in administering the sanctions against Saddam's Iraq. Moreover, by 2002, the flagging resolve of the French and other European powers threatened the entire sanctions program. Containment was a leaky policy taking on more water every day.

4. Saddam unbound meant a return to the status quo ante bellum in which he had threatened his neighbors and worked assiduously to manufacture and deploy weapons of mass destruction.

5. Saddam and 911. It is a long held article of faith in the mainstream media that "911 and Iraq were not connected." This is nonsense. What they mean to say is that Saddam and his regime were not complicit in the terrorist attacks of 911. Those two statements are not the same. Conflation of these two distinct ideas belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the task that confronts us.

» Read More

Much has been written about Abraham Lincoln, including much about his religious faith. I will not attempt to survey all the scholarly literature here. Neither do I claim to be an expert in Lincoln. But, I do claim to be an expert in the religion of Abraham's father Thomas Lincoln. I base this claim on the fact that the elder Lincoln, a farmer-preacher, belonged to those Baptists who rejected the national Baptist denomination as it developed following the Convention in 1814. He rejected both the newly developing structure and the modernizing doctrinal changes as the Baptist mainstream evolved from a sect into an American denomination prior to the Civil War. Without bragging, I can say that I have been recognized as an expert on those Baptists who remained outside the new denominational structure. (For those interested, my book is The Formation of the Primitive Baptist Movement, based on my doctoral dissertation "Self-Definition in the Formation of the Primitive Baptist Movement as Expressed in their Three Major Periodicals, 1832-1848.")

With regard to the understanding of God, while Abraham rejected his father's politics and agrarian life, and rejected his father's religion, he still, by the end of his lifetime, came to think of God essentially in the same way his father did. (More below)

» Read More

In the last two weeks I've visited the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the OU Medical Center several times. A member of our community had a child prematurely. Very prematurely. The baby girl was born at about 22 weeks and weighed 1 poung 9 ounces. Her eyes still were closed and she was placed in a heated compartment ("incubator") with a respirator. The doctors and nurses were realistic with the family and gave no false hope. But, this little girl is hanging on, is developing (her eyes now can open) and has gained 4 ounces. We will watch, wait, and pray, but things are looking better.

Coming away from NICU I have often thought about all the babies that are right now being aborted at the same age as this little girl, and the other premies on that floor. And some are aborted even later, close to the time of natural birth.

What is the difference here between the premies and the aborted babies? Age and development can be the same. Many aborted babies could live if taken from the abortionist to a neonatal intensive care unit. The only real difference is that the adults in control choose for some to live, and some to die.

Do we really want to be in this situation as a nation? A situation in which the life and death of an individual is completely in the hands of someone else? Capital punishment is somewhat different. In that case one can argue that the individual has done something himself or herself which has placed the defendent's life in the hands of a jury. But the babies have done nothing other than exist. And someone else decides if they should live or die. How is their status of babies any different, morally, from the status of an impaired person who needs some level of care?

For my previous argument against abortion see here.
Today's NYT reads:

Defiant Dixie Chicks Are Big Winners at the Grammys

"After death threats, boycotts and a cold shoulder from the country music establishment, the Dixie Chicks gained sweet vindication Sunday night at the 49th annual Grammy Awards, capturing honors in all five of the categories in which they were nominated" (read entire article here ).

The first clause of the lead contains the MSM stock description of the Dixie Chicks: "threatened, boycotted and mistreated." Woe to any well-intentioned and enlightened dissenter intent on speaking truth to power. McCarthyism lurks in the hearts of these ignorant country-music cretins, and violence and economic coercion are the tools of compliance in Red-State America.

The second clause of the lead offers an abysmally flagrant cliché to describe the Grammy triumph for the Chicks: "sweet vindication." And not because it is merely a trite phrase--but it is also inaccurate. Sweet Vindication? Vindication equals justification. In its most literal sense, vindication connotes exoneration through argument or the exhibition of evidence. I suspect that the verdict of the Grammy voters will enjoy an extremely limited jurisdiction.

Sweet revenge? Maybe. Delicious counterpunch? Probably. Shot across the bow of the "country music establishment"? Yes. The Times actually gets it right in the fourth graph of the story, describing the Grammy haul for the Chicks as a "rejoinder" and a "sharp counterpoint to their shut-out at the Country Music Association awards in November."

An aside: Why did the Country Music Awards "shut out" the Chicks last November? Because the Chicks are no longer on country radio. Country fans in the United States, in general, are no longer buying tickets to see the Chicks in concert or buying their albums. The Chicks are off the radar for most country music fans.

Why did the hicks from the sticks disown the Chicks?

» Read More

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. America has been blessed with great leadership when we have needed it. So much has been written about Lincoln that I have little to add myself. Later today I'll post on his conception of God. For now, some links.

Short biography from the White House site.

Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project from Northern Illinois University. Contains material from his Illinois period.

The Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.

Second Inaugural Address from the Lincoln Papers in the Library of Congress.
I have posted before about the slow schism in the Episcopal Church, and the tensions between the Episcopal Church and the world-wide Anglican communion, of which it is a part. For example, here. Especially upset are third-world Anglicans, particularly in Africa, where the U.S. branch of Anglicanism is views as heretical.

This coming week the Anglican Primates (Archbishops serving as national leaders) will gather in Tanzania. Perhaps the focal point will be the address by Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh. From an article on the upcoming meeting:

A group of conservative Episcopalians, who represent about 10 percent of the 2.2-million member Episcopal Church, is angling to be recognized as the true U.S. branch of the communion.

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who has been invited to address the primates in Tanzania, said he will argue that the Episcopal Church has actually walked away from traditional Anglicanism. The 10 dioceses and 900-odd U.S. parishes in his Anglican Communion Network, meanwhile, have remained orthodox, Duncan said.

Full story from the Dallas Morning News here. I'll be surprised if anything so radical happens quickly. But, the numerical center-of-gravity of Anglicanism has shifted to Africa, and the African Archbishops will expect to be heard. What they will have to say will not please the Episcopal Church.
Farmer, once more I am the cynical one, I guess. I think you are too easy on the MSM. You and I do indeed have our points of view, but we are careful not to corrupt basic facts of the matter when we write. The MSM seem under no such compunction: from the Rathergate memo to the way the recent intel report was handled. It seems to me that the MSM have particular directions they wish to see the country take, and write accordingly. I think some of them even are aware of it, but think they are writing for the "greater good" or perhaps "the bigger truth." (see Duranty at the NYT) Check out this post with links from the John Locke Foundation. I have difficulty understanding this behavior with your "Friendly v Unfriendly" paradigm. If they were interested in reporting fairly, the corrections on the Intel story would also have been front-page.

To the above, I must add a level of ignorance that seems to me culpable. For example, it is now over 5 years since 9/11. Most reporting on Islam, however, betrays a lack of serious study of the history and beliefs of that religion, especially Islam's relations with other religions and cultures over its history. At its best, this is laziness, at its worst, it is frivolity. Either term fits the definition of the classic deadly sin sloth.

I refer you to this post on Jihadwatch on the media's inability or unwillingness to ask hard questions of Muslim spokesmen. Here is a portion of the post "Falsifying history as a debating tool."

Both Hugh Fitzgerald and I have written about Islamic apologist and media darling Reza Aslan, noting some of his innumerable distortions -- for one, he calls Muhammad’s community in Medina “a communal, egalitarian society dedicated to pluralism and tolerance.” Sure it was -- with the women veiled and the three Jewish tribes ultimately exiled or massacred by the prophet of Islam. Other than that, it was very pluralistic and egalitarian.
. . .
Here is another example: in ‘Reza Aslan’s Pogrom Amnesia,’ the ever-insightful Ilana Mercer has posted a link to a post by Myles Kantor about a debate between atheist crusader Sam Harris and Aslan. In that debate, Aslan again uses whitewashed history as a debating tool:

About Reza Aslan, the darling of the media on all things Muslim, Myles Kantor observes the following:
“Last night I watched Sam Harris and Reza Aslan’s January 25 debate on religion at the Los Angeles Public Library. Toward the end, Harris noted the anti-Semitic character of the Middle East before the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Aslan responded in reference to pre-state Israel, ‘Before 1948, of course, there were tens of thousands of Jews living alongside their Arab neighbors without any problem at all.’

Without any problem at all? How about the Jerusalem pogrom in 1920 and the Jaffa pogrom in 1921? Or Arab massacres of Jews in Hebron and Safad in 1929? Or the Tiberias pogrom in 1938? (There was a reason the Sephardic Jewish sage Maimonides wrote in 1172 regarding Arabs, ‘Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they.’)

Perhaps ignorance of Islamic history is too kind an analysis. MSM reporters regularly are deferential to Islamic spokesmen. For once I would like to see the same adversarial attitude shown in White House Press Conferences applied here.
The Okie Gardener is onto something when he calls the coverage of Hillary "friendly" (see his post here). Friendly is a moderate and appropriate characterization. Democratic candidates generally get a lot of friendly coverage in the MSM.

My long held thesis:

No rational observer can deny a liberal bias in the mainstream media (MSM). On the other hand, bias should not be confused with orchestrated advocacy. CBS News and the DNC are not in cahoots. The MSM bias for liberal candidates and causes is real; it is systemic and institutional, but it is not concerted.

For example, this blog has a rightwing bias, but that does not mean we consciously lie, dissemble, or distort the facts to make our points. Moreover, we do not get talking points and/or marching orders from the RNC. We are completely independent agents attempting to come to terms with the issues of the day in an honest way, filtering the world through the lenses of our experience and individual moral compasses. The big difference between us and them is that we are generally more honest about what we are doing.

Back to understanding the Beltway media: It is important to note that political agenda is not the only factor in play within the MSM. As I have said previously: The MSM's cynicism acting in conjunction with its other biases for conflict and sensationalism are also essential in explaining its political coverage.

For example, the Clinton scandals received plenty of attention--much of it quite negative and judgmental, especially in the beginning. However, eventually, the political battle lines overwhelmed the initial shock and disgust registered by the MSM, and, in the end, the stories conformed to the standard pro-Clinton and anti-Republican template.

For more on this see these previous posts: a general overview of the landscape (here) and a defense of Fox (here).

Some more recent cases in point:

Consider the current unfriendly MSM coverage of the Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell, which has contributed to the impression that the GOP is unwilling to debate the war in Iraq. A more sophisticated, more accurate, and less unfriendly storyline would depict McConnell as, at the very least, clever, good-natured, and well within his rights. Genuinely (perhaps excessively) friendly coverage would show him as a new master of the Senate and celebrate his exceptional parliamentary stratagem (as I did here a few days ago). One wonders: if Nancy Pelosi had executed an equally brilliant maneuver on her side of Capitol Hill, how would the MSM have chosen to characterize her coup.

Consider and compare the firestorm and coverage concerning George Allen with the more recent Joe Biden imbroglio. The divergence seems disproportionate well beyond the significant differences in tone, intent, and language within the individual cases. Who can deny that the Washington Post was merciless in their desire to dislodge Allen from his Senate seat?

Consider the case of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. If Scooter Libby is not guilty as sin, the MSM has done us a great disservice.

An aside: I have no sympathy for public officials who lie to grand juries. If Libby lied, regardless of the rationales or extenuating circumstances, justice will be served with his conviction for that offense.

I try not to get all my information about anything from NPR, but it just so happens that most of the trial coverage I have heard on this case comes from Nina Totenberg. From what I have gleaned from that particular source, I am fully expecting the Libby side to either flee the country over the weekend or throw themselves on the mercy of the court when they are asked to present their case on Monday.

I wonder if there is another side of the story.

On the other hand, perhaps we worry too much about this. That is, I would wager today that more Americans are experts on the life and death of Anna Nicole Smith than the combined total number of citizens who have ever heard of Mitch McConnell, Joe Biden, or Scooter Libby.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
It is not just conservative, Republican-leaning religious folk who are upset with John Edwards for keeping two hateful bloggers on his campaign. Democrat-supporting Roman Catholics also are upset and vocal. LGF has the story.
A few days ago I linked to an article from Newsweek on Hillary Clinton's Christian faith. Here. After more mulling it over, I intend to revisit the issue in the future. But for now, a few thoughts about the article itself.

First, the overall tone of the article is friendly, with no criticism of either Hillary or her religious mentor or beliefs. Contrast this attitude to the usual MSM writing about Christianity and conservative politicians. I know, Farmer, you have told us to quit complaining abou the calls and just get on the floor and play, but I want to be the coach who yells at the officials and points to the replay screen in order to get a call later and to work up the crowd. Newsweek published a puff piece.

Second, notice this paragraph:

Precocious and confident, 13-year-old Hillary was an active member of her Methodist church in Park Ridge, Ill., when Jones arrived in 1961 to lead the youth group. Fresh from the seminary, he was anything but stuffy in his red Chevy Impala convertible. He carried the Bible, but also the collected poems of E. E. Cummings. Hillary, politically aware even then, was a budding Republican who took after her staunchly conservative father. In long discussions at the church, Jones introduced Hillary to the left. The young minister was determined to show his white, privileged parishioners the world beyond their suburban town. He took them to the South Side of Chicago to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak. Jones introduced each of them to the civil-rights leader.

The writer makes a not-so-subtle contrast between Republicans and the Civil Rights Movement. Only by leaving her childhood Republicanism, this paragraph implies, could she become a compassionate supporter of civil rights. There is no historical context here reminding the reader that most of the opposition to the Civil Rights Movement came from Southern Democrats, and that LBJ depended on Congressional Republicans to help pass civil rights legislation. The writer indirectly slanders the Republican Party.

In a few days I hope to address the issue of Hillary's faith.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Gateway Pundit has the news on Albert Pujols becoming a citizen of the United States. Congratulations Albert.

For those of you who are marginal baseball fans. Pujols is having a career that will have him mentioned with the greatest when baseball is talked about in a hundred years. He deserves to be in the company of Dimaggio, Williams, Cobb, et al. If you can make a way to see a Cardinals game this coming year, do it. You then can tell your grandchildren you once saw Albert Pujols play in person.
In his comments on the recent series of posts on denominationalism and the new Baptist coalition, Martian Mariner asked the following:

On a different point, you've mentioned the democratization of American Protestant denominations in the early 19th century and you've got an ongoing series about the decline of mainline denominations. I would add the ecumenical movement of the mid 20th century to the category, and then ask the question: What do you see as being the dominant bent of American Protestant Churches in the 21st century?

Making no predictions, here are my thoughts on 21st century American Protestant Churches. (below)

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In case you missed it, the biggest story in Washington this week was the advent of a powerhouse player in the United States Senate.

Why were Harry Reid and his Sancho Panza so angry, to the point of throwing adult-sized temper tantrums?

They had been had. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell quietly outflanked the Majority Leader and his minion with a maneuver of sublime adroitness. As the world anticipated the advertised spectacle of George Bush receiving his comeuppance at the hands of the newly crowned emperors of the world's greatest deliberative body, something funny happened on the way to the forum.

The Plan.

The Democratic-controlled Senate, with the help of several celebrated Republican defectors, contrived to move a non-binding resolution chastising the President for his general ineptitude and, specifically, castigating the troop surge he and his generals are implementing.

What Really Happened?

McConnell insisted that a statement of this magnitude would require a 60-vote threshold (fairly commonplace in the modern Senate). He also insisted that the Upper Chamber consider a minority-backed non-binding resolution affirming the Senate's intention to fund the war regardless of the non-binding resolution disavowing the troop increase.

The problem for Harry Reid?

The non-binding resolution attacking the President likely did not have sixty votes. The non-binding resolution affirming funding likely had a comfortable excess of sixty votes. So, instead of a public spanking of the President, Leader Reid was likely to preside over a public endorsement and major victory for the President. Reid was forced to pull the plug on the debate.

No wonder Reid and Dick Durbin were so red in the face. Even if you did not read this story in the mainstream media, make no mistake, McConnell made his bones this week, even while maintaining his signature gracious smile and temperate tone. He may not be Everett Dirksen (or he may be), but he is head-and-shoulders above our recent congressional leadership. He will be fun to watch in the years to come.
During the Early National period of American history, tariff policy (much more so than the question of slavery) plagued Congress as the most divisive issue of the day.

One of the great milestones in the debate over import duties was the 1828 Tariff of Abominations, which set an unprecedented standard for protectionism. Historians continue to debate the details of the congressional battle that yielded the legislation. Although this particular tale seems no longer credible to many students of the period, for a long time the standard story involved the opponents of the legislation working to make the bill so egregiously offensive that even the moderate proponents of protection would not dare to vote for the program.

But, alas, the moderates held their noses and voted for the flagrant protection bill--opting for a bad tariff bill over no tariff bill.

A few years ago, Republicans would have hooted at a Democratic Party led by Howard Dean, a Nancy Pelosi-controlled House and a ticket headed by Hillary Clinton. Smart Republicans gleefully rubbed their hands together anticipating the prospect of facing the crazy screamer, a "San Francisco liberal" and Mrs. Clinton in the ultimate battle for the hearts and minds of the American people.

Smart Republicans aren't laughing anymore.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The South Florida Sun-Sentinal has a good article on the future of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and its related ministries. Link from The Layman.

In late December the pastor, D. James Kennedy, was hospitalized with heart problems. Kennedy has been an important figure among conservative Protestants and in the culture wars for over 25 years. Kennedy official bio sketch.

Coral Ridge website. I notice you can listen to an address by Alan Keyes from the site.

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
We should be thankful that the Democrats won in November. Seriously.

Accountability in life is everything. Self regulation is the most dangerous of all human delusions.

The political grandstanders in the Senate and House are making fools of themselves pushing for a non-binding resolution to embarrass the President and court favor with the uninformed, nevertheless, the essential process of oversight is finally grinding into gear.

For almost four years, the Bush administration, literally and figuratively, threw good money after bad in Iraq. The November election was the wake-up call they desperately needed. The day after the election, the President tapped soft-spoken but tough-minded Robert Gates to take the reins of the stalled war effort. With Congress breathing down his neck, the President is dispatching David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker to the scene with orders to make immediate progress or else. Both of these men are unorthodox thinkers who criticized privately through proper channels many of the group-think Iraq policies that ultimately failed. They are our best chance at staving off an epoch-ending humiliation.

So many of us love the Civil War analogy. Of course, the tragically non-analogous portion of the comparison is that Lincoln ferociously prosecuted the war from the beginning, challenging and firing his subordinates until he found an Edwin Stanton and U.S. Grant relatively early on. We have waited four years for this change.

In a nutshell: Congressional oversight is necessary to win; Congressional posturing and purely political maneuvering is lethal. Congress needs to ask tough questions, hold feet to the fire, but they also need to commit to winning regardless of the potential for partisan or individual political gain.
A Waco Farmer has responded with two questions to my post on Uniting Baptists?. Each question is worthy of its own posted reply. My reply to one of the questions is here. Now, the Farmer's other question:

2. Historical question: the early nineteenth century has been depicted by most American historians as a period of "Democratization of Religion." The big idea that seems to emerge from this thesis is that the Baptists and Methodists appealed to the Americans of the Early National period. In essence, the Baptist and Methodist style was much more attractive to the consumers of religion during that era. Do you agree with that? If so, do you see our era as more consumer-driven than then?

The brief answer is, Yes. The longer answer is below.

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
What he said. Here. Link from the Rott.

God bless you Joseph Lieberman.
A Waco Farmer has responded with two questions to my post on Uniting Baptists?. Each question is worthy of its own posted reply. Here is one of the questions.

1. I appreciate your recognition that the new Baptist coalition is not based on consumerism. I am convinced that Baptists united for the Democratic Party agenda is not going to be a hot commodity. In my experience, mega-churches with a conservative political bent do much better. Would you agree with that?

First, yes, in general "mega-churches with a conservative political bent" are doing better numerically than churches with a liberal political bent. Although there are some large flourishing congregations with liberal politics, and many large flourishing congregations that are apolitical.

Second, I do not want to cede these social issues to "the Democratic Party agenda." I understand your point, you are speaking of congruity of goals, I t hink. But, . . . (cont. below)

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Newsweek has this article on Hillary's Christian faith. I have no comments for now, but do note the friendly tone taken by the writer.
Back in 1980, after driving all night from the East Coast, we pulled into New Berlin*, Illinois, for breakfast. On the edge of town were the usual signs welcoming you to the community from civic organizations and churches. One caught our eye: The United Baptist Church of New Berlin. My buddy in the front seat and I laughed till we almost cried. A beaut' of an oxymoron: "United Baptist." Sort of like the fictional "Holy Trinity Unitarian Church," or "Four-Square Fundamentalist United Church of Christ."

Well, I haven't commented on this yet, but former Presidents Carter and Clinton are trying to unite some Baptists, including black and white groups. Article here from The Sun News, Myrtle Beach. Lots of luck. Baptists do division much better than reunion.

One thing from the article caught my attention. (More below)

» Read More

Gateway Pundit is on top of the news on the fighting inside Iran. Here. Iran is inherently unstable as a modern nation state, with different ethnic/tribal groups who do not support the regime. How do you say, Viva la Revolucion in Farsi?
John Miller listed the top 50 conservative Rock songs a while back. Worth a look. Later he added 50 more. Each song listed has a brief explanation defending its inclusion.

From the New York Times, link from Jihadwatch.

introduction: As a 22-year-old Somali Muslim, Ayaan Hirsi Ali disappeared en route from Nairobi, Kenya, to an arranged marriage in Canada, and fled to the Netherlands. A decade later, she won a seat in the Dutch Parliament, where she became known as an advocate for women and a critic of Islam. She collaborated with Theo van Gogh on a movie that depicted abused women with passages from the Koran written on their skin. In 2004, Mr. van Gogh was shot dead in Amsterdam by a Moroccan immigrant, who then staked a letter threatening Ms. Hirsi Ali onto Mr. van Gogh’s chest, sending her into hiding for a while. Three months ago she landed in Washington as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Her autobiography, “Infidel,” will be published in English on Tuesday. Recently she spoke to Laurie Goodstein, a reporter for The New York Times.

An interesting Q & A:
Q. Have you seen any ideology coming from within Islam that gives young Muslims a sense of purpose without the overlay of militancy?

A. They have no alternative message. There is no active missionary work among the youth telling them, do not become jihadis. They do not use media means as much as the jihadis. They simply — they’re reactive and they don’t seem to be able to compete with the jihadis. And every time there is a debate between a real jihadi and, say, what we have decided to call moderate Muslims, the jihadis win. Because they come with the Koran and quotes from the Koran. The come with quotes from the Hadith and the Sunnah, and the traditions of the prophet. And every assertion they make, whether it is that women should be veiled, or Jews should be killed, or Americans are our enemies, or any of that, they win. Because what they have to say is so consistent with what is written in the Koran and the Hadith. And what the moderates fail to do is to say, listen, that’s all in there, but that wasn’t meant for this context. And we have moved on. We can change the Koran, we can change the Hadith. That’s what’s missing.

Who says that Islam has been hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists?
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I heard on our local television station the other day that Oklahoma led the nation in Army recruits per capita in the eligible age range. Arkansas came in second.

The Kerry crowd probably would point out that we poor Okies and Arkies have limited opportunites and poor quality education which limits our options so that more of our young folks join the military out of desperation.

Let me offer another explanation. (more below)

» Read More

Americans have gotten fatter in the last decades; I know I have. There is a lot of talk today about overweight children as well as adults. So, what's going on?

The following are the unscientific observations of one man who has managed to live for 50 years. I have seen some changes that could explain our "obesity epidemic." Here are my geezerly ramblings.

On the intake side:
1. When I was a kid, soda pop came in 10 or 12 ounce glass bottles or 12 ounce cans. Most of the kids I knew drank no more than one a day. Now, the most common serving seems to be the 20 ounce plastic bottle. Even assuming that kids still drink only one a day, that is an increase of 8 oz per day, or about 100 empty calories. And, my observation is that many people drink more than one/day.

2. Home cooking is on the wane, and more people eat out daily, or eat ready-to-microwave meals. While home-cooking of 40 years ago could be heavy, most resturaunt meals are pretty high fat, especially fast food. Maybe its my imagination, but resturaunt serving sizes seem larger than 30 years ago. And, many ready-to-heat meals have a high fat content as well.

3. Family home life is more fragmented/hectic, which I think leads to more snacking and fragmentary meals rather than a traditional supper of meat, starch, and vegetables.

On the output side:

1. I don't see kids play outdoors much anymore. After school and on Saturdays my generation played outdoors a lot. (It was not uncommon for the mom to chase the kids out of the house till dinner if they did not go on their own.) Now, computers and video games and television seem the prefered entertainment.

2. I see more either hired done or let go around the house and yard. Fewer calories burned.

02/02: The "A" Word

I continue to ask what was wrong with Joe Biden's description of Barack Obama. Everyone seems to agree that it was an egregious example of insensitivity and latent racism--but I continue to search for a detailed explanation of why.

Eugene Robinson, columnist for the Washington Post, weighs in:

"[A]rticulate" [is] a word that's like fingernails on a blackboard to my ear."

Really? What don't you like about it?

"Will wonders never cease? Here we have a man who graduated from Columbia University, who was president of the Harvard Law Review, who serves in the U.S. Senate and is the author of two best-selling books, who's a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and what do you know, he turns out to be articulate. Stop the presses."

This line of thinking assumes a definition of articulate that strikes me as so broad as to be too confining. One meaning of articulate is capable of speech. But, in political terms, articulate connotes an ability to express yourself and your ideas with clarity and effectiveness. Every person who graduates from a prestigious institution is not necessarily articulate. Not every celebrity writer is articulate. Not every senator (perhaps not even a majority) is articulate.

"Articulate is really a shorthand way of describing a black person who isn't too black -- or, rather, who comports with white America's notion of how a black person should come across."

"The word articulate is being used to encompass not just speech but a whole range of cultural cues -- dress, bearing, education, golf handicap. It's being used to describe a black person around whom white people can be comfortable, a black person who not only speaks white America's language but is fluent in its body language as well."

So Biden called Obama too white? Are you sure about this?

"Before you accuse me of being hypersensitive, try to think of the last time you heard a white public figure described as articulate. Acclaimed white orators such as Bill Clinton and John Edwards are more often described as eloquent."

I went back and checked my own writing on this blog. I have, indeed, called a black man, Michael Steele, articulate. But I also spoke of my good friend, Tocqueville, whom I admire as a persuasive writer and thinker, as articulate. Several times I have described as articulate one of my academic writing heroes, Bill McClay. I have referred to John McCain, whom I support for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, as an "articulate spokesman for conservatism."

I am unhappy that articulate is fast becoming off limits as a way to describe gifted African American public figures.

Disclaimer: This was not an actual interview. Read Robinson's article here in full.
Name the current giants in Christianity. . . . . Okay, is this name on your list--Pope Shenouda III. Most Americans would have overlooked his name also. But, he is a man that will be in books of church history a thousand years from now, who will be the subject of dissertations and books by scholars not yet born.

He is the leader of the Coptic Church, the indigenous Christian church in Egypt whose history goes back to apostolic days. Under his 36 years of leadership the Coptic church in Egypt and abroad has seen revitalization and renewal. (Historical note: prior to the Muslim conquest Egypt was one of the most Christianized nations in the world.)

He is in Ambridge, northwest of Pittsburgh, to consecrate a church building for the growing St. Mary parish.

Article here from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The article gives a good summary of Pope Shenouda III's life and significance.
In media reports, the current breakup of the mainline Protestant denominations such as Presbyterian, Episcopal, UCC, often is presented as conservatives versus liberals. This characterization is not exactly accurate.

While "conservative" is a relative word, I think it is misleading to term the present insurgents among mainliners conservative. "Moderate" would be better. Why do I say this?

Consider one of the more recent Presbyterian (PCUSA) congregations to begin the process of leaving their denomination, the 2,000-member Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church near Chattanooga, Tennessee. (website here) They are leaving because they perceive themselves to have a "a stricter view of Scripture than that held by the greater portion of the PCUSA." Article from the Chattanooga Times Free Press here.

But note that they are moving to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) denomination. Not the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

Signal Mountain Presbyterian elder Diane N. Mizell said the session examined many different denominations with a Presbyterian form of government before choosing the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. A key reason they chose the denomination was because it permits women as ministers, session members and deacons, she said. "That was important to us," Ms. Mizell said.

Those congregations which are very conservative, I think, have already left the mainline denominations. The current wave of defections are mostly moderate churches. The liberal power structures of these denominations have made a serious mistake if they are unable or unwilling to keep the moderates on board.
This is a ridiculous but telling debate over the semantics of race.

Last week I wrote (speaking of Barack Obama):

" African American candidate, for the first time in our history, enters the contest as a serious contender to win the biggest prize in American politics."

Joe Biden said this week: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."

I bet we meant just about the same thing. I used fewer words, which is always a good policy in that it is safer as well as better form.

But to the bigger point--and my question for you: With what set of facts within Biden's statement, exactly, do you disagree?

Barack Obama responded that he was not offended. I suppose that is the bright side. But Obama noted that Biden's statement was "obviously...historically inaccurate." Obviously?

Obama also asserted: "African American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Mosely Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate."


Obama's rejoinder is, first of all, mostly a non sequitur; Biden did not call the enumerated African American notables inarticulate. Secondly, Obama's statement, dripping with political correctness, is true enough on its face--but a howler if it were intended to refute Biden's primary political assessment.

One more time, Joe Biden said: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."

Shirley Chisholm and Carol Mosely Braun were not "nice looking guys." In fact, they were not especially attractive women. Okay so far.

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are articulate only in the broadest sense of the word. Their oratory, in fact, is actually quite narrow in its appeal and flows from a specific cultural milieu that is inarguably out of the mainstream. Jackson and Sharpton are both preachers and entertainers. But politically speaking, they are not especially "articulate" or persuasive in an orthodox sense of the term. Joe Biden is still right on the money.

Is Obama "bright" and "clean"?

By this I presume any rational listener would conclude that Biden meant that Obama is a fresh face, unsoiled by past public errors, poor decisions or scandal.

My view: Those who distort "clean" into some sort of racial epithet are beneath contempt.

Obama is a "storybook" figure. He is a dream candidate. He is absolutely unique in the purest sense; that is, he is completely unlike any previous candidate for president of the United States. Biden was absolutely right. This feeding frenzy is completely unwarranted and lacks any sense of proportion or decency. Having said that, if this were a prominent Republican public figure, the story would be a wall-to-wall media event, which would only gain steam until the dastardly Republican was driven from the field of play.

But what about Biden? His biggest problem is that he generally uses too many words. Most of the time, he is too clever by half. He is too confident in his modest intellect and too fond of the sound of his own voice. None of this comes as a revelation to any one who has watched more a minute or two of C-SPAN2.

And he is out (or will be soon enough). Again, not a big surprise and probably for the best. Having said all the bad about Biden, he really is an immensely talented senator and fairly competent and useful when he is not running for president. We will all be better off when Joe Biden reconciles himself to the overwhelming probability that he will never be president of the United States.

I welcome the inevitable: his announcement that he is fishing his hat from the ring.

Just for fun: Who is the next irrelevant senator who doesn't have a chance that is soon likely to see the writing on the wall?

I don't want to say his name, but his initials are Chris Dodd.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution clearly provides that "the President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States." Article I, Section 8 of said document clearly provides that "the Congress shall have declare raise and support Armies" and control the "appropriation of money" to support the troops in the field (my emphasis).

Generally, we think of the executive and legislative war powers as complementary. But what happens when the two branches are no longer in accord. To what extent can one branch (Congress) employ its authority to withdraw the nation from war?

Walter Dellinger, current Duke University Law School professor and former solicitor general in the Clinton White House, and David Rivkin, a former Justice Department official in the Reagan Administration and consistently articulate defender of current war-on-terror policies, discussed that dilemma this morning on C-SPAN's Washington Journal (view entire program here).

For background:

You may read Dellinger's opening statement to the Senate Judiciary (here), which he revealingly titled: "Exercising Congress's Constitutional Power to End a War."

You may read Rivkin's equally revealingly "Constitutional Warp" (here) online at the Wall Street Journal, if you are a subscriber.

A brief excerpt of Rivkin for flavor:

"Congressional efforts to limit the exercise of these powers [commander-in-chief] in Iraq by, for example, purporting to limit the number of American troops there...would be unconstitutional, even if linked to an exercise of Congress's own appropriations power."

Rivkin and Dellinger agree that Congress has the Constitutional authority to end the war by defunding it. But they disagree as to whether Congress can lawfully designate money for approved actions only and/or "cap" the number of troops deployed in the theater.

It is an interesting argument.

However, in a much more practical sense, Congress as a whole is currently displaying the folly of delegating the conduct of the war to the legislative branch. For disparate reasons, which include studied logic, political calculation and "gut" feelings, a vast majority of Congressman are convinced that Iraq is a failed policy, which must be curtailed sooner or later, and sooner is better.

Notwithstanding, the House of Representatives is in a holding pattern, waiting for the Senate to come to agreement on a non-binding resolution expressing displeasure with the war and the President's proposed troop "surge." House Leadership is hoping that Republican defectors in the Senate will pave the way for Republican dissenters in the lower chamber.

But the power struggle in the Senate between presidential hopefuls jockeying to appear the most sagacious and statesmanlike or the most responsive democratic legislator or both has thus far produced a plethora of press conferences, dramatic sound bites and passionate rhetoric but very little of substance. Senators are hoping to come to some sort of consensus by the middle of the month. At that point, the House can begin their procedures. Notwithstanding, the Senate did take a break from posturing and "bloviating" to approve unanimously a new commanding general to implement the President's proposed action, which they plan to collectively disown at their earliest convenience.

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, the President is going forward on his plan announced last month with all deliberate speed. By the time Congress has an official opinion, the executive and the armed forces will be deeply committed to the new strategy. In effect, Congress will voice a non-binding expression of their belief that the military operation to which we are already committed will not work.

The bigger point, however, is that the Senate specifically, and the legislative process in general, is designed to go slow. No student of the Constitution or American history would argue otherwise. Can we survive this war or any war in which the day-to-day operations are dependent on the efficiency of the Senate?
Yesterday on the radio I caught part of an interview with Arnaud de Borchgrave, who covered the Tet Offensive as Newsweek‘s chief foreign correspondent and had seven tours in Vietnam between 1951 under the French and 1972. Since I missed the opening segment, I do not know if the interview was live or taped.

Since many are comparing Iraq to Vietnam, I think it is important to be clear on what the similarities and differences actually are. To that end, de Borchgrave's 2004 article for UPI is must reading. In it he makes the case (now more widely accepted by historians) that Tet was actually a military defeat for the Vietcong and NVA, but was misreported by the US media as a defeat for us. The political consequences of this misreporting eventually resulted in the fall of South Vietnam.

The UPI article is here.

A Buddhist ice-cream vendor tries to sell in the wrong village, and is beheaded. Here from Jihadwatch.

Remember, if the Palestinian problem is solved Islamic militancy will vanish.