Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Old Mr. Hubbard's Got Crazy In The Cupboard

Rolling Stone has a fascinating, exhaustive, enormous piece this month on what it's like to be a Scientologist.

After reading it, you'll realize that jumping up and down on Oprah's couch like a kid on the short bus is one of the less strange things about Tom Cruise.

Because the "Church of Scientology" is famously litigious, the media has largely shied away from doing exposés on it. This article doesn't draw a lot of conclusions about Scientology--it just puts it out there in all of it's incredible weirdness for the world to see.

And it's definitive proof of the addage "You can find somebody to believe anything."

(Hat tip: Geoff Robinson)

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Misty Water-Colored Memories

Well, the Winter Olympics are over, or as I like to call them, Chicksportapalooza.

I didn't see any of these Games, with the exception of one seven-minute stretch on the flight to JFK two weeks ago, where I did stop and watch. Song Airlines, a soon-to-disappear subsidiary of Delta, has Dish Network on a little LCD screen at every seat on the plane. Frankly, I never want to fly another airline. But that's a seperate issue.

Madly flipping through the channels, I came across some Olympic coverage on CNBC. Curling was the event. Ah, the memories will last forever. Another Winter Olympics etched upon my heart.

The bribes have been taken and the money has been laundered, so the next Winter Olympics are set for Vancouver, B.C. in 2010. I'm setting my TiVo now!

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Friday, February 24, 2006


The thing I continue to find disturbing about the Bush Administration is the way it treats criticism from the right. When conservative critics disagree with the administration, it seems that President Bush and his advisors almost reflexively slip into the kind of argumentation you'd expect from the Left. Instead of dealing with substantive objections, they impugn the motives and morality of their conservative critics and ratify all the tired old liberal tropes about conservatives being racist, sexist Neanderthals

That's strange behavior for a supposedly "conservative" administration.

When conservatives were enraged that Bush nominated to the Supreme Court his unqualified friend Harriet Miers, who had no judicial record and no discernible judicial philosophy, the administration's initial response was to act like liberals: they labeled the opposition "sexist," thus slandering them and dismissing their legitimate judicial complaints. Now when conservatives (and pretty much everyone else) are opposing the UAE/ports deal, the administration's immediate response is to end the discussion by implying that the critics are "Islamophobic" and racist toward Arabs.

(Incidentally, for the record, I'll be happy to come right out and admit I am "Islamophobic," as is any person in his right mind. Despite Bush's incessant "religion of peace" nonsense, Islam has left only a bloody trail of violence everywhere it has ever been in history. Anyone who's not afraid of it is an idiot. So even if the opposition is "Islamophobic," does simply labeling it relieve the administration of the responsibility for addressing those fears? It's not as if they're illegitimate fears; I drove by a huge hole in the ground in Lower Manhattan the other day that tells me they are legitimate. The burden should be on the administration--considering recent world events--to explain to me why my "Islamophobia" is misguided, rather than simply marginalizing and dismissing it with a pejorative label.)

To act as if concerns about Arab nations owning American ports is simply xenophobic, red-necked bigotry--as if there's not even a conceivable difference to reasonable people between our ports being owned by an English company and our ports being owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates--is disingenuous at best and malicious at worst.

My friend Brad (a strong supporter of the president's, by the way), puts it brilliantly. Though he still hopes against hope that Bush is masterminding some brilliant political move here, he says:
If there's nothing else behind this than stupidity, I'd suggest we outsource his Secret Service security to a Middle East country- give him a little Justice Souter treatment.
Surely the president wouldn't object, would he? I mean, he's not some kind of xenophobe, is he?

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Those Savvy Geniuses Are At It Again

Just got back from Indiana, and picked up about 40 valuable degrees Fahrenheit along the way. I'm told some people actually live up that way voluntarily.

Wow, President Bush really wasn't kidding when he told us he was a uniter and not a divider. He's pretty much united the entire nation against him with this deal selling our ports to the United Arab Emirates.

According to CNN.com:
Bush, who has yet to veto a bill, warned Tuesday that the United States is sending "mixed signals" by attacking a Middle Eastern company after a British firm ran the ports for several years.

Lawmakers who have called for the deal to be blocked need to "step up and explain why a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard," he said.
Gosh. Okay. Hmmm. Let me see if I can give this a try. Could it be because so many Middle Easterners, with the help of Arab Middle Eastern governments, are actively trying to kill us?!? I'm just throwing it out there.

It's also nice that the president has finally found something he's willing to use the veto on after five years: a bill to block the sale. I think this will be just the thing to finally disabuse people of the longstanding notion that he's in the pockets of oil interests.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Global Warming Is Your Friend?

There's been a lot of discussion over the past week or so regarding the "Evangelical Climate Initiative," signed by Rick WarrenTM, among others.

Contrary to some opinions I've recently heard, environmental stewardship is an issue that Christian pastors ought to deal with. But they ought to know what they're talking about--which Warren and many others may not.

After the National Association of Evangelicals announced that it would not take an official stand on "global warming," Warren and a group of 85 other evangelicals broke away to join the so-called "fight against global warming."

While to some gullible evangelicals this issue might seem to present a golden opportunity to suck up to liberal environmentalists and receive breathless kudos from the media without any real cost, in reality environmental policy can have massive consequences--and liberals (who've never shown much grasp of the Law of Unintended Consequences) have a long history of adopting a "do something--anything" stance with disastrous results. For evangelicals to join them is naive at best, and potentially grievously harmful at worst.

It is not always best to "just do something." It often can be positively harmful. The price of going off half-cocked is high. As E. Calvin Beisner of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance writes:
In developing countries, 2 billion people still do not enjoy the basic necessities and conveniences that electricity makes possible: lighting, refrigeration, hospitals, schools, manufacturing, water purification and sewage treatment...
[F]our million infants, children and mothers die every year from lung infections, due to constant pollution from their fires. Six million more perish annually from intestinal diseases, caused by unsafe water and spoiled food.

However, concerns about climate change are frequently cited to justify policies that prevent poor countries from building fossil fuel power plants. And yet, even the Kyoto Protocol would result in Earth's temperature being only 0.2 degrees F less by 2050 than it would be without the treaty. A better approach would be to develop technologies that generate abundant, reliable energy, at lower cost and with fewer emissions -- and export those technologies to poor countries.
That's the kind of viewpoint one rarely hears in the mainstream media. Because the orthodoxy of the so-called "environmental movement" is unquestioned, the movement only needs to point to the mere existence of global warming as proof that "something must be done about it."

But what if they're wrong? What if global warming isn't harmful? What if "doing something about it" will result in disaster? Or even more astoundingly, what if global warming is our friend?

Dr. Roy Spencer, who was once Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and is now principal research scientist at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, writes in a document called "An Examination of the Scientific, Ethical and Theological Implications of Climate Change Policy," (PDF file):
My belief, shared by a growing number of others in the climate field, is that the level of future warming will be modest, due to stabilizing mechanisms within the climate system. Unfortunately, the benefits of such a modest amount of global warming are seldom discussed. There is comparatively little government research money available to investigate possible benefits, and the media would rather report predictions of gloom and doom anyway.

The largest positive impact could be in agriculture....Much research has been performed into the combined effects of extra warmth and extra CO2 on various kinds of plants, with the bulk of the results showing net benefits to plant health and growth.
In other words, the rise in global climate could be helping to feed third-world people. How often have you heard that view presented in the media? But hey, why would the media listen to some NASA climatologist on global climatology?

So, do Rick Warren and the other signers of the "Evangelical Climate Initiative" know enough to declare Spencer wrong? Are they even aware that there are opposing scientific views? Do they realize that the knee-jerk policy objectives of do-gooder environmentalists could actually wind up harming the third world people they're purporting to help?

Fortunately, an antidote exists for the boilerplate usually peddled by the environmental left, for those who want to educate themselves on the issue so they don't inadvertently wreak destruction in the name of "compassion" and "stewarship." Several organizations offer excellent articles, including the Acton Institute's section on Environmental Stewardship and the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance.

This is not a case where it is good to act before we know what we're doing. The lives of millions of poor people could ride on these decisions, it would be nice if we were right.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Call Me Mr. Lucky II

Today I'm going to Indianapolis (and Ft. Wayne), where it's 23 degrees. According to the weather websites, though, it feels like 12. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

I'll have my computer with me this time, though, so I may get to check in from up there.

UPDATE-11:40pm: Cold.....so....cold......Oh my....not...used...to...this...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Around The Horn

At the end of a busy traveling week (and New York City did a wonderful job of clearing away the snow; by the time I got there, you'd not have even known it snowed more than a few inches), let's take a look at what's going on around the web. I'm admittedly late to the party on a lot of this.

  • The ladies over at the evangelical outpost really have their panties in a wad over Ann Coulter. If there's any group who knows what's funny and what isn't, it'd be my fellow evangelicals...

    The column that sparked their snit can be found here. And a substantial archive of her horrific and hilarious columns can be found here. (Warning: Not for nancy-boys and delicate Victorian prudes.)
  • Pastor John Piper sailed through his prostate cancer surgery on Tuesday, which is welcome news. My prayer is that he returns to "active duty" quickly.
  • I'm currently working on a television documentary on The Da Vinci Code, the movie version of which is scheduled to be released in May (starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard). In New York, I stopped by the Opus Dei U.S. headquarters to ask some questions. Nobody tried to kill me or anything. In fact, they seemed like regular, nice people. No murderous, albino monks to be found. In fact, Opus Dei doesn't even have monks, as it turns out. But everything else in Dan Brown's book is a fraud, so I shouldn't have been suprised.
  • If there's one blog in the blogosphere that deserves to be read by more people, it's Terrible Swift Word. Brian's given it an all-new look, and there might not be anybody in the blogosphere who more directly corresponds with the thoughts rattling around inside my head. This week, he delineates the different kinds of movie remakes ("Whatever," "Again!?" and "Sacred Ground,") and offers some observations on the disturbing new Flavor-Flav reality show.
  • The Therapist reports:
    Arab Muslims Riot Over Coverage Of Earlier Riots

    Middle East--Complaining about "distinctly monolithic reporting" with regard to rioting, Arab Muslims around the Middle East took to the streets to protest media coverage of their earlier takings to the street.
    Read the rest here.
  • Which puts me in the mind of something Ann Coulter said in the infamous column that gave the evangelical outpost the vapors:
    The "offense to Islam" ruse is merely an excuse for Muslims to revert to their default mode: rioting and setting things on fire. These people have a serious anger management problem. So it's not exactly a scoop that Muslims are engaging in violence. A front-page story would be "Offended Muslims Remain Calm."
And that, kids, is how we play Around The Horn.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Call Me Mr. Lucky

It only makes sense that I'd schedule a business trip to New York City for the day after their biggest snowstorm in recorded history.

We'll be landing at JFK, where a Turkish Air flight carrying 198 people skidded off the runway last night. Good times.

Friday, February 10, 2006

(Mostly) Stayin' Alive

I failed to note last week that (as Sam The Lovably Grumpy Atheist pointed out), Grandpa Al Lewis dropped off my "surprised they're still alive list" by...well...dying.

According to the news reports, he was 82. And if he was 82, I'm 9.

My "surprised they're still alive list" has been spread out all over this blog in lots of different posts, so I'll merge the lists (removing the contestants who have already been "voted off the island," so to speak) and publish it here so you can play along at home:
  • Joey Bishop
  • Doris Day
  • Harry Morgan
  • Glenn Ford
  • James Arness
  • Conrad Bain
  • Jack LaLanne
  • Kitty Carlisle
  • Buck O'Neill
  • Ingmar Bergman
  • John Forsythe
  • Rose Marie
  • Al Molinaro
  • Barbara Billingsley
  • Karl Malden
  • Jane Wyman
  • Larry Storch
  • Jack Warden
Print it up and post it on the refrigerator. It's fun for the whole family!

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Try Some Acme Pepper Spray

If you kill a cartoon rioter, does he return in the next scene healthy as if nothing had ever happened?

I think the best way to stop these Muslim cartoon rioters without violence is to paint a big black spot that looks like a hole on the ground in front of them, which they will then fall into.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Civil Wrongs

Why was President Bush at Coretta Scott King's funeral today? Every visit to kiss the rings of the so-called "civil rights leaders" who show up at these things simply lends them false legitimacy and gives them yet another opportunity to demonstrate that they are rude jackasses. Bush, and every other self-respecting leader, present or former, ought to ditch these phony events from now on.

The "civil rights" establishment is thoroughly corrupt, plain and simple. One ought not to associate with them. Mrs. King herself may have been a fine person (I have no idea one way or the other; she's a celebrity widow, and all the hoopla is still mainly about her husband), but any event at which Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are treated as royalty is not an event appropriate for civilized people. For far too long white people have acted as if collective guilt demands solicitousness toward the race-mongering black "civil rights" racketeers. It doesn't, and it's time to stop it.

If the "black community" wants to continue following fools like Jackson, Sharpton, Farrakhan, and the rest, that's its problem. But why keep putting a stamp of approval on it? Call it what it is. Enough already. Blacks aren't owed any more deference than anyone else in America, and acting as if they are only harms them and empowers the hucksters who lead them.

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Hot In Herre

The National Association of Evangelicals hasn't taken a public stance on global warming despite a few calls from within the organization for it to do so, which evidently makes the Washington Post none too happy.

See if you can guess where the Post stands from its headline: Evangelicals Will Not Take Stand on Global Warming.

The Post is evidently flummoxed that evangelicals, while professing to care for the environment, would fail to fall into lock-step with the green activists of the left on warming. Perhaps it could be because they don't understand the concept of being "prudent." Or of "examining the actual evidence."

One of my professors is quoted in the Post's article. He has extensively researched environmental issues and is affiliated with the Acton Institute, which has done important work in this field, and he was one of many urging the NAE to look before it leaps onto the green bandwagon:
...E. Calvin Beisner, professor of social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary, a conservative Presbyterian school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., applauded the NAE's non-position.

Beisner, who helped draft [a letter urging caution] to [NAE president Ted] Haggard from evangelical leaders, said they had feared that the NAE was going "to assume as true certain things that we think are still debatable, such as that global warming is not only real but also almost certainly going to be catastrophically harmful; second, that it is being driven to a significant extent by human activity; and third, that some regime, some international treaty for mandatory reductions in CO2 emissions, could make a significant enough drop in global emissions to justify the costs to the human economy."
While many environmental leftists will beat their chests and make a lot of noise over statements like this, one thing you'll notice they'll never do is answer them. Asking them to justify their assertions on the causes and effects of global warming will draw little more than a blank stare.

Currently the green left is of the "do something--anything" school of thought, without much regard to the actual evidence. I'm glad there are sensible voices urging us to seriously examine whether there is any real link between human behavior and global warming. If not, all the calls to monkey around with world economies in an effort to "fix" it is so much spitting in the wind.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

I Know "The West Wing" Was Cancelled, But...

So I see that the face transplant woman in France came forward yesterday for her first press conference. Transplant recipient Isabelle Dinoire said, "I hope the successful operation will help other people like me to live again."

I'm glad things went well, of course, but my question is: Before the transplant, wasn't Stockard Channing still using her face?

(Photo courtesy of AP)

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Cartoon Violence

It's hard not to be a little amused by the irony in the violent Islamic protests against political cartoons portraying the prophet Mohammed as a terrorist.

"How dare you portray our great prophet as a bomb-throwing terrorist! Now we must kill you and burn your buildings!"

John Piper says of the recent unrest:
Am I missing it, or is there an unusual silence in the blogosphere about the Muslim outrage over the cartoons of Mohammed. To me this cries out for the observation that when artists put the crucifix in a flask of urine, Christians were grieved and angered, but not one threatened to kill anyone. Our longing is to convert the blasphemers with the Good News of Christ's death and resurrection, not kill them. Our faith is based on One who was reviled not just in cartoons but in reality and received it patiently for the salvation of the cartoonists. These riots are filled with intimations about the glorious difference between Christ and Mohammed, and between the way of Christ and the way of Islam. And the cowing of the press around the world and the US government is ominous for the fear we are under of Islam--not just extremist Islam. I do not respect the teachings of Islam which when followed devoutly lead to destruction. So I have been pondering which will take me out first, Islam, Uncle Sam, or cancer. No matter, all authority belongs to Jesus. I just want to bear faithful witness to his glorious gospel of peace to the end.
(Hat tip to Justin Taylor)

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Around The Horn

Pat Buchanan lambastes President Bush on the foreign policy parts of his State of the Union address:
Intending no disrespect, [Bush's stated intent to "seek the end of tyranny in our world"] is noble-sounding nonsense. Our security rests on U.S. power and will, and not on whether Zimbabwe, Sudan, Syria, Cuba or even China is ruled by tyrants. Our forefathers lived secure in a world of tyrannies by staying out of wars that were none of America's business. As for "the end of tyranny in our world," Mr. President, sorry, that doesn't come in "our world." That comes in the next.

Ann Coulter might be a sore winner, but she's hilarious as always:
There now ... nominating a conservative to the Supreme Court wasn't that scary, was it? Hey, who wants to go again?

...Only because of the grassroots revolt against [Harriet] Miers were Republicans in Washington finally forced to face their worst nightmare.

Terror, thy name is Samuel Alito. Or as he is now known: "Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito."

In the whirlwind surrounding Alito's confirmation, I almost lost sight of the fact that his confirmation marked the official end of Sandra Day O'Connor's confused, monarchial reign over America. Good riddance.

Desiring God has announced their 2006 National Conference, to take place September 29-October 1: Above All Earthly Powers: The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. Among the guest speakers will be D.A. Carson, David Wells, and Timothy Keller. My wife and I vowed last year to make DG's annual conference a part of our annual plans. Also, Desiring God has an update on John Piper's prostate cancer surgery, scheduled for February 14.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Sky Is Falling!

The closet leftists in the media are desperately hoping that Justice Alito's first vote at the Supreme Court yesterday signals that he's actually a raving liberal.

In a 6-3 vote, the Court decided not to overrule a temporary stay of execution issued by a lower court in Missouri for an inmate who was supposed to die by lethal injection at midnight last night.

"Alito Breaks With Conservatives In First Vote!" "Alito Sides With Liberal Justices!" "Alito Blocks Execution!" The media is soiling themselves over the silver lining they think they've suddenly found in the cloud. Except it's not.

Alito didn't block anything, first of all. He decided to let stand the ruling of the court closer to the case. He simply sided with the status quo. It was not a "Supreme Court decision," nor was there any formal ruling. There is absolutely no indication that this vote has anything to do with death penalty ideology; all indications are that Alito believes the death penalty itself is perfectly constitutional.

Oh, and for his supposed "break" with conservatives? Buried several paragraphs down in the CNN story, after the orgasmic excitement over Alito's supposed defection, is this:
An initial vote in the Taylor case came Wednesday afternoon, when all the justices rejected Missouri's effort to immediately end a stay of execution for Taylor.
In other words, earlier in the very same day, the conservative justices had all voted exactly the same way Alito did. Justice Scalia agreed with Justice Alito on this case yesterday. Justice Thomas agreed with Justice Alito yesterday. Chief Justice Roberts agreed with Alito on this case yesterday. The fact that they later in the day changed their minds does nothing to change the basic fact of this case: it's not a "liberal/conservative" issue. All of the Supreme Court justices were able to see a good reason for upholding the stay at some point yesterday.

Much as liberals would love this to be a sign that Alito is actually John Paul Stevens without the stupid bow tie, they're grasping at straws. He's going to be a nightmare for them.

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