Saturday, May 31, 2003

Arrived in St. Louis this morning. First meal: that long awaited lunch at White Castles.

Oh, my, was it spectacular.

Next up on the agenda is a concrete shake at Ted Drewes and a trip to the Covenant Seminary bookstore. I love being back in St. Louis.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Here is an incredible story from Jay Nordlinger's "Impromptus" column at National Review Online:
At a press conference, (Tom Daschle) pointed to Linda Scott and said, "Yes, Evelyn?" So, who's Evelyn? That's Evelyn Thomas — another black female journalist who's covered Daschle for years. According to the New York Post, the assemblage "gasped." Linda Scott shot back at the Democratic leader in the Senate, "It's Linda, and I know we don't look alike."
Can you even begin to imagine the caterwauling that you'd hear if it were a Republican who made this mistake? Yet, have you heard this reported anywhere else? If, say, somebody like Newt Gingrich or Trent Lott had made this mistake, their careers would be over.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bob Hope. It also happens to be the 60th anniversary of the last time he actually said anything funny....
This is an amazing world, technologically.

Yesterday, I had to make a one-day trip to Washington D.C. for some work stuff. I woke up in my own bed in South Florida, flew up north and stood in front of the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial all day, and then flew home and put my head back down on my own pillow in South Florida that same night.

I know that millions of business travelers do this kind of thing all the time. But I found it profoundly disorienting to be able to travel 2000 miles round trip in the course of a semi-normal workday and even have significant time on the ground for work, with my family not experiencing me being gone for more than a few hours beyond what I would normally be gone on a work day. I can't quite get my mind around the fact that in this world, it is possible for someone to visit a city thousands of miles away in between brushing his teeth first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

I couldn't help but wonder how inconceivable such a thing would have been for the people honored by the monuments I visited.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

This is the single best paragraph I've ever read on the "seeker-sensitive" church movement. It comes from the pen (or, rather, the keyboard) of Michael Spencer, otherwise known as The Internet Monk:
When the history of modern evangelicalism is written, I predict that the abandonment of the vocabulary of faith will loom large as an explanation for the demise of Christianity in American culture. Despite what the Willow Creek-ologists tell us, "seeker sensitive" Christianity is not a surging cultural force, but a movement leading masses of Christians into retreat and cultural surrender. Islam is surging in America, and you will not come across many "seeker-sensitive" mosques. Cultures and sub-cultures that retain their distinctive vocabularies retain their distinctive identities. Just ask rap musicians, who don't feel the need to talk like everyone else to sell their music. If you don't get it, you're going to have to ask. Meanwhile, the slogan of American evangelicalism might be "Prepare to be assimilated."
In one succinct paragraph, Spencer shows why the movement to make our churches more "relevant" by taking on the trappings of the culture is ultimately doomed to failure.
I've got news, folks. "The Matrix" is not a Christian movie. It doesn't even have Christian "underpinnings." I think this is finally sinking in on some after the apparently homoerotic sequel.

It borrows some symbolism and terminology from Christianity. Big deal. So does "Cool Hand Luke" and about 5000 other movies, but nobody from my church is running around telling me how I "just have to see 'Cool Hand Luke! It's like sooooo Christian!"

The first "Matrix" was highly entertaining. I haven't seen the second one. But c'mon, entertaining is good enough. If you enjoy it, great. So do I. But don't try to paint some super-spiritual gloss on your enjoyment of it. It's simply well-done, pagan entertainment, nothing more.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Congress has passed a tax cut bill, though it's only about half of what President Bush had actually asked for.

An amusing illustration is floating around via email and on the Internet, regarding the Democrats position on tax cuts. I would only ammend it to include many gutless Republicans (i.e. McCain-ites) as well:
If you don't understand the Democrats' version of tax cuts (and you are not alone), this will explain it for you:

50,000 people went to a baseball game, but the game was rained out. A refund was then due. The team was about to mail refunds when the Congressional Democrats stopped them and suggested that they send out refund amounts based on the Democrat National Committee's interpretation of fairness. After all, if the refunds were made based on the price each person paid for the tickets, most of the money would go to the wealthiest ticket holders. That would be unconscionable.

The DNC plan says:

People in the $10 seats will get back $15, because they have less money to spend. Call it an "Earned" Income Ticket Credit. Persons "earn" it by demonstrating little ambition, few skills and poor work habits, thus keeping them at entry-level wages.

People in the $15 seats will get back $15, because that's only fair.

People in the $25 seats will get back $1, because they already make a lot of money and don't need a refund. If they can afford a $25 ticket, then they must not be paying enough taxes.

People in the $50 luxury seats will have to pay another $50, because they have way too much to spend.

The people driving by the stadium who couldn't afford to watch the game will get $10 each, even though they didn't pay anything in, because they need the most help.

Now do you understand?

If not, contact Representative Richard Gephardt or Senator Tom Daschle for assistance.

A lot of people will probably find this Associated Press story heartwarming; I find it sickening.

The story is headlined "Jobless man wins $13.8 million from quarter slot machine." Here's a snippet:
BILOXI, Miss. -- [A guy] lost his job at a sign manufacturing company after 33 years because of corporate downsizing, but you probably won't see him searching for another one.

The Mobile, Ala., resident hit the largest casino jackpot in Mississippi history Wednesday, nearly $13.8 million on a quarter slot machine at Isle of Capri Casino in Biloxi.
Something tells me we probably wouldn't have seen him searching for another one regardless of the slot outcome. Sounds like he was putting in a real tough day of pounding the pavement. There's more:
The money was more than welcomed because in January [the guy] was laid off from his job in the inventory department at Cummins Signs because of corporate reshuffling.

[The guy] and his family walked into the casino around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

He sat down at a Jeopardy! machine and started pumping in quarters. After about 90 minutes, [the guy] had lost nearly $200 in the machine -- then he hit the jackpot.
You see, the mean, evil corporation was at fault for trying to keep themselves in the black. The good guy is the unemployed guy sitting on a stool pumping $200 worth of quarters into the machine.

I'm not big anti-gambling crusader. Sometimes I think my fellow social conservatives make too big a deal out of it. I have yet to hear a cogent explanation of how it substantially differs from the stock market, except that the odds are a little worse. But this story makes me sick. We're supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy because this guy who got a raw deal from his company ended up with a huge payout. What the story doesn't mention, however, are the thousands of unemployed idiots just like him who are pumping money they don't have into machines that are keeping it.

You know who's supplying the quarters for guys like this to pump into the Lady Luck machine? You are. And I am. Because when the money stops coming in after the layoff, the first thing this guy and millions of others do is run down to the government office for a taxpayer-funded payout. So while you were working hard today, you were supplying quarters so that this guy could take his fat, unemployed butt down to the casino and pump your money into slot machines. You work, and when's the last time you dumped $200 in 90 minutes? Meanwhile, after I pay my taxes so that this lummox can head down to the riverboat, I've barely got enough money to afford a babysitter and a movie with my wife.

At least it will be satisfying to watch the guy scream after the millions of dollars in taxes get pulled out of his winnings so that other folks on the government dole can have their gambling outings subsidized.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

There is a pastor of a large, fast-growing African-American church in Palm Beach County who tells an interesting anecdote.

Not long after the 2000 elections, he asked his congregation "Who here believes that abortion is wrong?" Almost every hand in the place went up.

"Okay, who here believes that marriage should be between one man, one woman, for life, and that homosexuality is wrong?" Again, nearly every hand in the congregation went up.

"Let me ask you this, then," the pastor said. "How many of you voted for Al Gore in this presidential election?"

Yet again, almost every hand in the congregation went up.

Surveys have shown the same thing in the vast majority of black churches in America. Godly people who believe in the biblical stance on moral issues still, for some reason, vote overwhelmingly for candidates and a party that are diametrically, unabashadly opposed to those views. Why? As best I can tell, it's because race-baiting charlatans like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have somehow convinced even the African-American Christian community to cast their votes on the basis of race rather than principle. They've been so succesful in fostering a spirit of government dependence that the underlying presupposition (i.e. the best candidate is the one who offers you personally the biggest cut of taxpayer money) is no longer even questionable. The statistically inarguable fact that government programs foster dependence and lessen the standard of living is not given a nanosecond of consideration.

No matter how often guys like Jackson and Sharpton are exposed, it never seems to lessen their influence on the African-American community. So what will it take to break that stranglehold? What will it take to make the black community start voting on issues rather than skin-color?

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Mac and I disagree strongly on a number of political issues, and I seem to have a way of getting his hackles up. However, he posted a must-read column at his blog yesterday, which I'd urge you to read. I'm not able to link directly to the article, but if you just go to Mac's blog, it's under Monday, May 19th, and it's called "The Great Christian Baal-Out," by Tom Rose.

Excellent, excellent stuff.
I've been heartened to hear scattered reports of Roman Catholic priests and bishops finally growing some guts and confronting some of the legions of politicians who claim Catholicism and yet support any and all forms of abortion. One could wish that the entire church would summon up some cajones and excommunicate a few Ted Kennedys.

The latest report comes from the May 7 Roll Call magazine, by way of Pro-Life Infonet's daily email. Here are some snippets:
Virginia Congressman Feuds With His Priest on Abortion

Alexandria, VA -- Eyewitnesses say pro-abortion Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) got into a nasty battle with the Rev. Michael Dobbins, a Roman Catholic priest at the Congressman's parish of Blessed Sacrament in Alexandria, VA, earlier this month.

A red-faced Moran was spotted after the 9 a.m. Mass exchanging heated words with Dobbins. "Moran was screaming and pointing fingers at him," said one parishioner who was speaking on the condition of anonymity. "He went ballistic."
Reports of what exactly transpired are conflicting, but it would appear that the main bone of contention is that the priest dared say something about pro-life issues.
The controversy centered on the fact that Moran was attending Mass with City Councilman Bill Euille and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine. The Congressman felt that the comments about issues such as abortion and stem cell research during the sermon were an unfair attempt to damage Euille, the Democratic candidate for mayor, just two days prior to the election.
That takes some guts. Not only do they want to further their infanticidal agenda, but they apparently want the church to simply ride along with them in quiet acquiescence.
According to Dobbins' friend, the priest responded to Moran's anger by responding "How can you reconcile yourself as a Catholic with your views on abortion?"

Moran's camp agreed this was not a good way to break the ice. "The Congressman responded in kind that he was not going to change his position", said Drummond.

But the Dobbins' friend insisted it did not end there. "Moran went off the wall," he said. "He started screaming at him. The nostrils were flaring. He said "You priests don't know anything about abortion!"

"Congressman, put away the talking points," Dobbins shot back. "Talk to me as your priest."

Moran allegedly responded that there was "not enough time" for the duo to discuss all the Congressman's problems with the church. But with Moran's woes over the years and all the speculation about how his career may be over apparently in mind, Dobbins offered a final word.

"Congressman, one day you will need me," said the priest. "And I will be here."

Moran fired back that "you priests are close-minded" before other parishioners stepped in and tried to calm everyone down.
Unless more priests are willing to put themselves on the line with specific, high-profile people, the Roman Catholic Church's official pro-life stance is next to meaningless.

Monday, May 19, 2003

There's one aspect of this Jayson Blair/New York Times scandal that I'm having trouble understanding.

I do a bit of traveling from time to time for a media organization. I'm not particularly interested in paying for plane tickets, hotel rooms, etc. out of my own pocket when I'm on assignment for my company. So when I travel, I either get an advance, or I put the stuff on my credit card. Then I turn in all of my receipts to the accounting folks here, for which they reimburse me. I think it pretty much works that way everywhere.

My question is, how in the world could this guy be telling his bosses that he's covering a story in, say, Washington D.C., while he's actually at home in Brooklyn? Doesn't anyone at the New York Times ever check a receipt? Did they think he was magnanimously paying for all of his own travel out of his salary? Or were they simply taking his word for it when he failed to turn in any receipts with his expense reports?

If I were one of their stockholders, I'd be very, very concerned. Not just because of the journalistic lapses that this story has uncovered, but because of the business lapses that have come to light. Even when you are required to document your expenses, abuses often surface. I cannot imagine the temptations that must come to these guys with no oversight whatsoever.
I just can't get over the Internet. I absolutely love it.

It took three whole days, but I just got my first Google hit for "Matt + Lauer's + haircut".

Friday, May 16, 2003

Why do I find the sudden "revelation" of John F. Kennedy's affair with an intern during his presidency to be not the least bit shocking or newsworthy? "Gosh, it turns out that JFK was predatory womanizer. Who knew?..."

I'm really just not getting it. What's next? Roosevelt was in a wheelchair? Truman liked to curse?
I'm thankful that Paul Harvey is still on the radio doing what he does. I catch him in the mornings for a five-minute news/commentary broadcast on my way into work, and I just love the fact that at 80-something years old, he's still perfectly sharp and sounds great.

When I listen to him, I imagine that this must be something like every radio broadcaster sounded like in the 1940's. Most of the old-time radio professionals are long gone, replaced by morning show neanderthals and raving talk-radio screamers. But Paul Harvey still beams out his own unique, when-radio-was-king style to hundreds of major stations around the country every day, showing almost no signs of pulling back.

Sure, he can be a little on the corny side--a bit of an anachronism, like Reader's Digest. But I like anachronisms. I like that there are still some things around to remind us of the way things once were. I hope he's on for another 20 years.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

I don't watch television in the morning, so I only catch a glimpse of the Today Show about 3 times a year. They got a lot of coverage the other day because of Jay Leno's guest-hosting stint. Other than that, I hadn't seen the program in months.

So is it just me, or is anyone else disturbed by Matt Lauer's haircut? I look at that, and I find myself thinking, "Gosh, I didn't even know he was ill."

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Another fruit-loop Texas mom has murdered her children and claims that God told her to do it. Soon to follow (if they're not out there already) will be scores of stories about how conservative Christianity "forces women into rigid gender roles" and how she was "forced by her husband" into some sort of lifestyle which boiled over and led to these murders. I haven't read any of these stories yet, so I don't even know if she has a husband, but I know the media well enough to know what their tone will be.

Why do these people do this stuff? What causes a mother to do something so reprehensible?

First, it's mainly caused by evil combined with a good dose of mental illness.

Second, I think that there's a lesson to be drawn here about the lessening influence of the Bible as our sole infallible source of divine revelation. The pundits will say that it was too much Bible that set these women on their hideous courses. I think it was not enough Bible.

In modern evangelicalism, Christians are now trained to believe that God "speaks to their hearts" apart from the Bible. Walk into any Christian bookstore and you will find myraid books, pamphlets, and lesson plans on "how to find the will of God," and "how to know when God is speaking to you." Rather than trusting the Scriptures as God's revelation of His will for us, Christians are now taught a complex divining process where they are to try to find the keys for sifting out the whispers in their ears that are from God from the whispers in their ears that are from the world or their own sinful natures. They spend their time trying to decipher the complex code that God is supposedly sending them, which can finally be cracked with just the right combination of prayer, reflection, and intuition.

The result is that some folks think the things they hear in their heads are direct communications from God. They feel no need to test these communications against the Bible, since these "promptings" are just as trustworthy. Teach that sort of theology to a schizophrenic, and watch what happens. Give her a reason to think that the voices in her head are to be obeyed because they are communications from God.

We need less Henry Blackabys and more pastors who are willing to say "I don't care what whisper you're hearing in your heart or what 'prompting' you think you're having. If it contradicts Scripture, it's not from God. You don't have to think about it, you don't have to consider it, you don't have to weigh it. It is absolutely not from God, period. Flee from it."

Monday, May 12, 2003

Half the people who normally visit here will be taking a cyber-break this week for some reason (was it something I said?), so it may just be me and you here.

After all that, I went and did a Mother's Day message at the church I was guest-preaching at anyway. The main idea of it was (from Hebrews 2) that Christ needed to come in a real flesh and blood body, with a real human nature, that He needed to be made like his brothers in every way (save sin) in order to do the work of atonement and redemption for us. And that body came from His mother. God could have chosen to create Jesus' human body from the dust as He did with Adam, but instead sent him "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (as Paul says), in the post-fall version of a body that can become exhausted, can get sick, and can die. Thus, He sent Christ to us through a human woman, who gave birth to him, nursed Him, taught Him, raised Him, protected him, and loved Him as her son.

It's really more of an anti-gnosticism message than it is a Mother's Day message. But I've found that it's good in Baptist churches to really hammer home the anti-gnostic stuff, since we can sometimes veer in that direction if we're not careful. Matter is good. God is going to redeem it, not do away with it.

I'm preaching the sermon in my own church this weekend, in place of our vacationing pastor. I've never done back-to-back before (though I know a real preacher has to do it every week), and I just don't know what to preach yet. When you're fill-in preaching, by definition it ends up being a topical sermon, because you only get one shot at it. I'll just keep reading the Bible, and trust that God will show me what he wants them to hear this Sunday

Friday, May 09, 2003

This cartoon by Michael Ramirez of the Los Angeles Times ran in March, and I just came across it. There's so much truth here, I don't even know where to start.

Thank you, Lord.

The Republicans are finally toughening up and going to war over President Bush's judicial nominees. From the Washington Times:
Republicans plan to begin the process today of using their so-called "nuclear option" to end the Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees by changing Senate rules governing how many votes are required to break such blockades...

...Today marks two years since Mr. Estrada and Judge Owen were nominated by Mr. Bush. The president plans to talk about the problem in a Rose Garden speech today, calling the judicial-nominating process "broken."
It's about time. As I've said before, this is the only issue that matters. The Democrats must be called out on this and made to pay. They had no problem with arcane procedural manuevers when they were scheming to block these nominees. We'll see how they like such manuevers now. The White House needs to scream loudly and longly about the obstructionism in the Senate that's thwarting the representative will of the people.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Man, I love Ann Coulter, too. If she and Walter Williams got married and had a kid, I'd want to be that like that. Here's her reaction to Sen. John Kerry's implication that no one is qualified to disagree with him on issues of war because of his Vietnam service:
As long as we're going to get self-righteous, why is John Kerry allowed to have an opinion about taxes? He has spent his entire life marrying a succession of heiresses and living off the fortunes amassed by other men. It must be the luck of the pseudo-Irish. How can Kerry claim to understand the anguish of people who pay high taxes? What does this pompous, whining, morally superior, mincing habitue of Boston drawing rooms know about confiscatory taxes on hard-earned money? (Not that his nuptial path to wealth is not also hard-earned.)
Ouch. And ditto.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Man, I love Walter Williams. Today's column is another beautiful, simple explanation of why redistribution of wealth through taxation is morally wrong. While I could disagree with him on who owns us (he says we own ourselves, I say God owns us), I don't think the disagreement changes his overall point.

Here's a snippet:
Once one accepts the principle of self-ownership, what's moral and immoral becomes self-evident. Murder is immoral because it violates private property. Rape and theft are also immoral -- they also violate private property.

Here's an important question: Would rape become morally acceptable if Congress passed a law legalizing it? You say: "What's wrong with you, Williams? Rape is immoral plain and simple, no matter what Congress says or does!"

If you take that position, isn't it just as immoral when Congress legalizes the taking of one person's earnings to give to another?
What's left to say? And yet Williams is one of a miniscule number of people in this country who actually understand this simple concept.
The May 19th issue of National Review has about the best article I've seen yet on the war. The article is titled "The Men Who Won the War," by Jim Lacey, and no matter your feelings on whether or not this was a just war (or your feelings on the National Review, for that matter), it is hard not to be moved by the bravery and humanity exhibited by American soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A friend sent the text to me via email, and Anne I. has since located the article online. Here is an excerpt, which describes the immediate aftermath of the grenade attack on the 101st Airborne by one of their own soldiers:
Just minutes after the explosions, a perimeter was established around the area of the attack, medics were treating the wounded, and calls for evacuation vehicles and helicopters were already being sent out. Remarkably, the very people who should have been organizing all of this were the ones lying on the stretchers, seriously wounded. It fell to junior officers and untested sergeants to take charge and lead. Without hesitation everyone stepped up and unfalteringly did just that. I stood in amazement as two captains (Townlee Hendrick and Tony Jones) directed the evacuation of the wounded, established a hasty defense, and helped to organize a search for the culprit. They did all this despite bleeding heavily from their wounds. For over six hours, these two men ran things while refusing to be evacuated until they were sure all of the men in their command were safe.

Two days later Capt. Jones left the hospital and hitchhiked back to the unit: He had heard a rumor that it was about to move into Iraq and he wanted to be there. As Jones -- dressed only in boots, a hospital gown, and a flak vest -- limped toward headquarters, Col. Hodges, the 1st Brigade's commander, announced, "I see that Captain Jones has returned to us in full martial splendor." The colonel later said that he was tempted to send Jones to the unit surgeon for further evaluation, but that he didn't feel he had the right to tell another man not to fight: Hodges himself had elected to leave two grenade fragments in his arm so that he could return to his command as quickly as possible.
I could live a hundred lifetimes and not have that kind of guts.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Senator Robert Byrd apparently didn't much care for President Bush's speech last week from the U.S.S. Lincoln. He says:
"I do question the motives of a desk-bound president who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech."
Well I question the motives of a hick senator who used to assume the garb of a pointy hat and sheet for purposes of cross-burning.
I mentioned a few days ago that I will be guest preaching on Mother's Day at a local church. Over the last two days, I've started getting Google hits for "Mother's Day sermons."

C'mon, pastors, your people need to be fed. Don't scrounge a sermon off the internet just so you can have a "Mother's Day" message. If you don't have something jumping out of the Scriptures at you to say about Mother's Day, then don't do a Mother's Day message! It's a made-up, greeting card holiday anyway.

Give your people something from God's Word that has been feeding you lately, something you can be passionate about. Don't shoehorn yourself into a tight spot just because you think you've got to do a mom message.
A great, twisted list I found last week in the Boar's Head Tavern that I forgot to post:

Children's books that didn't make it...

1) You're Different -- And That's Bad
2) The Boy Who Died from Eating All His Vegetables
3) Robert: Dad's New Wife
4) Fun Four-Letter Words to Know and Share
5) The Kids' Guide to Hitchhiking
6) Kathy Was So Bad That her Mom Stopped Loving Her
7) Curious George and the High-Voltage Fence
8) All Cats Go to Hell
9) The Little Sissy That Snitched
10) Why Can't Mr. Fork and Mrs. Electrical Outlet be Friends?
11) That's It, I'm Putting You Up for Adoption.
12) Grandpa Gets a Casket
13) 101 Things You Can Do at the Bottom of the Pool
14) The Magic World Inside the Abandoned Refrigerator
15) Controlling the Playground: Respect Through Fear
16) The Pop-Up Book of Human Anatomy
17) Strangers Have the Best Candy
18) Whining, Kicking and Crying to Get Your Way
19) You Were an Accident
20) Things Rich Kids Have, But You Never Will
21) Daddy Drinks Because You Cry
22) Your Nightmares Are Real
23) Where Would You Like to be Buried?
24) You've Got Hepatitis B, Charlie Brown
25) Valuable Protein and Other Nutritional Benefits of Things from Your Nose

Monday, May 05, 2003

I have a friend who writes books. One or two of them have had cover endorsement blurbs from William Bennett. My friend has just completed a new book on very similar themes to the previous books which Bennett had endorsed. However, when this new book was sent to Bennett, he declined to endorse it, and did not provide any sort of explanation. My friend was somewhat confused, wondering why he was suddenly on the outs with Bennett.

It would appear that he got his explanation the other day, however. The new book contains a particular chapter which unambiguously delineates the devastating effect that legalized gambling has had on the nation. It's no longer any suprise that Bennett would decline to endorse such a book. It's always possible that he declined for some other reason--perhaps he simply didn't think the book was any good. But it seemed a little odd, since normally this type of book would be right up his alley.

Still, I have to give him credit for not being a hypocrite. A lot of guys would have simply given the blurb anyway, or taken some hokey public stand against a behavior which they were practicing in private. Bennett did neither, for which I respect him.

However, while I'm no flaming liberal (as any regular visitor here knows), I have always wondered how people can look around them and then be able to sleep with themselves while gambling away more money in a few days than most people will make in a lifetime. Having lived in Las Vegas for a few years, I saw this happen more than a few times.

Now I think that when someone earns money, he ought to be able to do whatever legal with it that he wants to, and Bennett broke no laws. But man, wouldn't walking down the street just handing $1000 bills to strangers be more satisfying than forking it over to the Bellagio?
Someone at Blogger must be playing a joke on me. I have always been impressed with the fact that they somehow have tailored the ads that appear at the top of my page to the general flavor of the blog. There have been ads for Christian-this and Christian-that, and a few other generic things. I don't know how they do it, but I'm sure folks who are more computer-savvy than I am know how it works. They must have a program that picks up different words or phrases or something.

Today, I have found ads for "Al Sharpton for President," and "Democratic Campaign Buttons." Good luck making sales on that stuff here, guys...

Friday, May 02, 2003

Sorry, the comment system seems to be down again. If the last time it happened is any guide, it'll probably be down all weekend...

Update, Saturday:

Well, I see the comment system is back up quicker than I thought. They must have been frightened into action by my tough talk...
Though it's undeniable that there is a huge liberal bias in the media, I do not believe that most reporters are purposely biased. They simply never question the foundations of their own worldview, and everything that they think and report springs from that unquestioned worldview. They think that they're being objective, because they don't realize the color of the glasses they are wearing.

The reason I mention this is because I saw a story reported in our two South Florida newspapers today that demonstrates this beautifully.

A headline in today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel reads: "Phone bills to soar as Legislature approves huge rate hikes" Well goodness. That's terrible. Why would the state government go and gouge us like that? They didn't just go and approve a rate hike, they approved a "huge" one! The text of the story was even more ominous. It began:
Florida telephone customers should prepare to open their wallets.

Legislators on Thursday gave final approval to the biggest local phone rate increase in the state's history and sent the measure to Gov. Jeb Bush, who's expected to sign it.
The story goes on to say that the Florida House approved the measure 90-20, and the Senate approved the plan 27-12. "My heavens," I thought, "why would these guys vote so overwhelmingly to raise my phone rates?!?!?"

Then I remembered that I am generally skeptical of the media, particularly here in South Florida. "Maybe there's more to the story," I thought. "Come to think of it, I don't think that the state even has the power to raise my base phone rates. That's the business of the phone company." The state can add taxes, but the story was indicating that this was not a matter of taxation.

So I turned to the Miami Herald to see if I could get some further info. Their headline was: "A higher calling: Phone rate hike passes." The lead (or "lede," to be journalistically correct), read:
Get ready for sticker shock.

The phone bill passed by the Florida Legislature on Thursday could more than double basic local phone rates in about four years if state regulators approve every increase requested by the state's major local phone companies, such as BellSouth, Verizon and Sprint.
The story went on to note:
The bill won overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, with a 93-20 vote Thursday. A day earlier, it had cleared the Senate with a 27-12 vote.

Gov. Jeb Bush said after the House vote that he would happily sign the bill.
Now I was outraged. Not only are my elected representatives going to raise my rates, they are apparently going to do it happily! The scoundrels!

But I was still having trouble understanding how the state could raise my phone rates. There's nothing here about a tax--they're telling me that the state is going to double my rates.

In search of more information, I went to the Tallahassee Democrat, since Tallahassee is the state capitol of Florida, to see if they could give me more insight. Their story helped clear up a lot of the confusion for me. The headline read: "Deregulation bill heads to Bush's desk."

Wait a minute--deregulation? That's not the government doing something; that's the government stopping something they were doing. This sounds different from what my local papers were telling me. The Democrat's lede also told a different story than my local paper:
An industry-backed bill that opponents say will create the biggest telephone rate hikes in state history is on its way to Gov. Jeb Bush, following its passage Thursday in the House.

SB 654 will deregulate local telephone service; a move proponents say will increase competition and keep prices low.
Wait a second. "Opponents say"? "Proponents say"? You mean, there are actually two sides to this story? The South Florida papers had led me to believe that it was a matter of fact that the state government had instituted a telephone rate hike. This story says that opponents merely claim that the states deregulation of the industry will lead to higher rates. There's more. The story quotes Stan Mayfield, who sponsored the legislation in the house:
"The best regulator for this industry is going to be competition," said Rep. Stan Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, who sponsored the House version (HB 1903).

Mayfield, in answer to opponents' claims, said the bill "does not contain any mandatory language that contains rate increases," "does not lower service quality standards," "does not provide for a 20-percent increase in rates."
Neither South Florida paper even mentioned Mayfield, let alone quoted him.

Now I'm no more interested than you are in the intricacies of telecommunications law. But I am interested in getting the straight story from my local media outlets. Both local newspapers here hysterically informed me this morning, without equivocation, that the state government was raising my phone rates. The fact of the matter is, however, that the state government has done no such thing. They've simply voted to allow the phone companies more freedom to set their own rates. In other words, they voted to let market forces to increase and government to decrease in the issue of telephone rates. But the average journalist's worldview is so strongly calibrated to see government regulations as good and free market forces as bad that it never even occurs to him that such a measure could eventually have the effect of lowering phone rates and improving service. To them, it's simply axiomatic that the government is good and business is bad.

If you even for a moment doubt media bias and the influence one's worldview can have on the perception of "facts," I would strongly urge you to read the first two stories and then contrast them with the third. Just try to find the words "deregulate," "regulate," or anything that gives even a hint of the fact that the legislators voted to do less of something rather than more of something.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

The Democrats in the Senate are now filibustering two of President Bush's judicial nominees simultaneously, and the Republicans have proven powerless to end it. And even the Republicans are getting wobbly-kneed on Leon Holmes, another strong pro-life nominee who's floating in limbo right now.

The bottom line is this: judicial nominations are the only thing that matter any more in American politics. Just as "location, location, and location" are the three keys of real estate, "nominations, nominations, nominations" are the three keys to a president's long-term legacy.

The left has recognized this for eons (William Baldwin, the founder of the ACLU, said that his organization was formed to use the courts to accomplish what the American electorate would never vote for), which is why they've dug their heels in now on Priscilla Owen and Miguel Estrada.

The president needs to go nuclear against the jackass Senate Democrats, and he needs to do it now. He needs to take his 70% popularity rating and jam it right down their throats. The only thing...repeat: the only thing that will matter 10 years from now about George W. Bush's presidency (which is true of any presidency) is who he got appointed to the bench.

He needs to knock Pat Leahy's and Chuck Schumer's legs out from under them and stop playing by their one-sided "gentlemen's rules." He needs to attack them publicly, loudly and often. Question their patriotism. Question their morals. Question their ethics. Leave no earth unscorched.

If you can't get nominees confirmed (or even voted on!) with a 70% approval rating and a Congress controlled by your own party, it's time to hang it up and find something you can do competently. There are no other issues. It begins and ends with the judiciary, and the Bushies had better wake up, smell the coffee, and go to battle on the homefront.
Found a nice blog in my referral log this morning: This Classical Life

Michael, the proprietor, is clearly a lot smarter than I am, and there's good stuff there. Come to think of it, looking through my blog links, everybody I've linked to is smarter than I am. Which was true even before Gnu showed up...
On Mother's Day, I'll be filling in ("pulpit supply," they call it, though something about that term really turns me off) for a pastor here who's reserve unit was called to active duty for the Iraq war.

It's still about 10 days off, but I'm a little nervous about what to preach on. I always feel for congregations who are getting fill-ins from all over the place, none of whom has heard the other, or even been to the church before in many cases. I imagine the lack of continuity must become quite tiresome after the first month or so, when the novelty wears off.

Anyway, I guess the obvious thing to do is to preach a Mother's Day sermon, though being a "guest" it probably wouldn't be absolutely expected of me. But I just haven't been able to settle on anything yet. It seems like there are about three Mother's Day sermons, and they've all been preached ad nauseum.

I'm not a snob who believes that "expository" preaching (working verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter through a book of the Bible) is the only way to do things. Most of the sermons in the Bible appear to be topical, and guys like Spurgeon did fairly well with that approach. But I have also realized that if I ever have my own pulpit (which I suspect I am called to, though I frequently waver), I will have to do the expository method, because I simply am not creative enough to come up with good ideas on my own every week.