Saturday, October 27, 2007

BoRhap Humor

This video is great. Comedian Rick Miller sings "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 25 different famous voices. He nails not just the voices, but the mannerisms of the singers from Neil Young to AC/DC.

A Secret A Week...


The Theodicy Question

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Christianity is the theodicy question. Why is there evil in the world? Steve over at An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution writes about it and includes some good links for some various explanations.

This is the problem of theodicy, and it still perplexes modern Christians today. It perplexes me. Over the centuries, Christians have provided many lines of reasoning to address the theodicy issue. However, no single argument has captured Christian minds, probably because none comes without its flaws.

Those who wish to expose Christianity as a sham delight in highlighting the problem of evil. For atheists it is a good strategy since, in my opinion, it is their best (and maybe only good) argument. The other arguments frequently put forward (eg. “I can’t see any evidence for God, therefore he doesn’t exist.”, “There are lots of errors in the bible, therefore Christianity must be wrong”, and “The scientific evidence supports evolution, so God didn’t create the world”) pale in comparison. But theodicy is very difficult, and I suspect that a debate limited only to theodicy would prove very uncomfortable for any Christian.

UPDATE: Fixed spelling error.

Congress Isn't Popular, But Then It Never Is

A new poll shows that 75% of Americans are not satisfied with Congress right now.

"The ratings for Congress overall have been mired in the mid- to low 20s for several months, but for most of the year, Americans have had a positive view of the Democrats in Congress," said CNN polling director Keating Holland. "That's not true any longer -- this poll is the first time we have found majority disapproval for the Democratic leaders' track record since they took control of Congress."

"I think it is important to remember that when Congress performs well, when it actually addresses the big issues of the day, it tends to be rewarded in the public's view of Congress," Binder said. "If today's approval ratings are down in the dumps, we probably shouldn't be surprised. On the big issues of the day, Congress doesn't seem to be doing very much."

The Congress almost never gets very high approval ratings. They don't have the luxury the President gets of being judged on their own since they have to be judged with everyone in Congress including such paramounts of service as Max Baucus. Interestingly (or aggravatingly), though, individual Senators or Representatives tend to rank fairly high with their constituents. "It's the other people in Congress who are screwing up, not the hard-working, selfless person I voted for."

We need to move past that mentality. If Congress isn't doing enough, stop blaming it all on the other States' representatives. Hold your own representatives accountable. If they can't get the job done, vote for someone else. Besides, shaking up Congress more often would probably be good for us all. It's too easy for people who have been in Congress for 20 or 30 years to get complacent and sucked into the mire of the money in Washington.

Religion Fact of the Day

The Five Pillars of Islam are the foundation of the faith. They are:

1) Shahadah - This is reciting the basic creed of Islam. "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet."

2) Salah - Prayer five times a day at fixed times. The Muslim must face Mecca as he or she prays.

3) Sawm - This is fasting which is most commonly ritual fasting as during the month of Ramadan but can also be done as penance or for ascetic reasons.

4) Zakah - Giving charity to the poor.

5) Hajj - At least once in their lifetime, all Muslims of able body must make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

How Not to Inspire Confidence

So FEMA staff now pose as reporters to ask other FEMA staff "tough" questions. You'd think they would have been a little less obvious about something like this.

Silence is Golden

Someone doesn't understand that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion (or moments of silence).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Poetry Time

How about another poem? This is one of my favorites.

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.


Genarlow Wilson, the young man imprisoned for having consensual oral sex with a 15 year-old girl when he was 17, has been freed from prison. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled his punishment was cruel and unusual. That's good news and I am very happy for him. Still, he lost two years of his life because of this. I'd like to think that this whole incident would be a wake up call for people and make us rethink our laws pertaining to issues of teen sexuality, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thank You

A big thanks to the people giving me rides these last two weeks while I have been without a vehicle. My sisters, Sharie and Shawna, have made sure I got to work every day. My father loaned me his car for a day so I could go to a couple of appointments. Jeromy picked me up and gave me a ride to his place so I could join the radio group. Last, but certainly not least, my co-worker, Brenda, has given a ride home everday. It's even been nice enough to put the convertible top down on her Mustang a couple of times.

So, thank you very much to all of you who have been helping me out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Religious Fact of the Day

The speech Pope Urban II gave to the Council of Piacenza in November 1095 was the spark that lit the fire of the crusades to recapture the Holy land from the Muslims. Though his remark "God wills it!" became very famous and the rallying cry of the crusaders, it is not known if Urban actually said it during that speech or if it was invented later.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Condoleezza Rice sounds skeptical that a two-state solution can be reached. Of course, it may have been easier if the Bush administration had made this a priority from the start. As it is, it seems too little, too late.

The Monetary Cost of War

Iraq will end up costing $6,666 per American, all 300,000,000 of us.

A Disaster

That's what we would get if we elected Guiliani. He's not sure if waterboarding is torture. It's "liberal newspapers" that are making this a big deal, because Bush and the torturers are just trying to keep America safe. I wonder what Guiliani thinks of Benjamin Franklin's statement.

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security

I think the right to not be tortured is an essential liberty even if you are not an American citizen and may be a terrorist.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Homosexuals and Evangelicals

An Evangelical reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog emails him about his thoughts on homosexuality and his experience with a friend who came out.

What made the exchange more poignant is the fact that I’m an evangelical Christian who believes homosexuality is wrong. He knew I was an evangelical Christian, and for some reason, chose to test the waters of tolerance with me. Later, I was on the phone with my sister—a Christianist if ever there was one—I told her the story, and she immediately asked if I’d told him homosexuality was wrong

“Of course not,” I answered, “Do you think, at one of the most difficult moments in his life, I was going to turn it into a nightmare?” I stood squarely for my friend and against my sister.

And yet, my conscience neither condemned nor condoned me for not speaking out.

This is the dilemma for many evangelical Christians. We are passionate about Biblical inerrancy and strongly believe Revelation when it says that those who practice homosexual behavior will not be allowed into heaven. And yet we are also (some of us, anyway) passionate about “speaking the truth in love.” For us, the Bible is the Truth and from that standard everything flows.

Read the whole thing. It is an insightful look at a respectful Evangelical and how they feel about gays.

I have no problem with somebody believing that homosexual acts are a sin. What I do have a problem with is people who take it a step farther and don't treat gays with respect. They are still human beings. Homosexuality is not a choice; people are born that way. Of course you can argue that they have a choice whether or not to act on their feelings, but that is a different matter. Demonizing them isn't going to make them any more likely to come around to your thinking. It will lead, though, to people like Larry Craig and Ted Haggard desperately trying to pretend to be something they are not and acting out on their inner turmoil by oppressing the very people like them.

I also feel that ultimately, if you feel that homosexuality is a sin, it is between the gay person and God. What two consenting adults do is between them and not the business of anyone else. No one is being hurt, so there is no need for anyone else to step in. I guarantee that there is not a gay person in the country who doesn't know what many Christians think about the fate of their souls, so preaching to them about it probably isn't going to make a difference.

What do I know, though? I don't even believe in Hell.

Ron Paul

He may be crazy, but he is a principled crazy.

Indifferent or Overwhelmed

Catherine Martin counters Thomas Friedman's claim that the current generation of 20-somethings is complacent and passive.

We are not apathetic. What we are, and perhaps this is what Friedman was picking up on, is totally and completely overwhelmed. One of the most critical questions of our time is one of attention. In a 24-7 news climate, it is all but impossible to emotionally engage all of the stories and issues you are taking in, and then act on them in some pragmatic way. So instead, young people become paralyzed. (It seems that all of us are a bit paralyzed. After all, what are Friedman's peers really doing? And aren't his peers the ones with the most straightforward kind of power?)

My generation tries to create lives that seem to match our values, but beyond that it's hard to locate a place to put our outrage. We aren't satisfied with point-and-click activism, as Friedman suggests, but we don't see other options. Many of us have protested, but we -- by and large -- felt like we were imitating an earlier generation, playing dress-up in our parents' old hippie clothes. I marched against the war and my president called it a focus group. The worst part was that I did feel inert while doing it. In the 21st century, a bunch of people marching down the street, complimenting one another on their original slogans and pretty protest signs, feels like self-flagellation, not real and true social change.

I do see some of this amongst my own peers. I wonder if the feeling of being overwhelmed couldn't be partially overcome by banding together with like-minded people. A group of friends can come together to discuss things that are important to them. Perhaps one or two who are really into international affairs can focus on the goings on of the world. Another person who is a law junkie can keep up on legal affairs in our country. Someone who has some knowledge of agricultural practices in America can keep everyone updated on the latest in that sector. Monthly meetings can be held for everyone to come together and talk about issues with ideas for how people in the group can help or effect change. Maybe I'm being a bit idealistic, but I think that with the "overwhelming" number of issues we have to face, it only seems logical that a group can better do something about them than an individual.

Knights Templar

I have always been intrigued by medieval knightly orders, including the Knights Templar. I did a paper on them for a class a few years ago (before The Da Vinci Code made them a pop culture icon). Now the Vatican is about to release a document, a papal report, on the Templars that had been misplaced. While it isn't likely to confirm any conspiracy theorist's ideas, it should be very interesting nonetheless.

And while on the topic, I should mention that for those who want a good conspiracy novel involving the Templars, you should check out Foucault's Pendulum.

Religious Fact of the Day

Martin Luther may have begun the Protestant Reformation in 1546 with his 95 Theses, but it was not his intention to break away from the Catholic Church. Luther wanted to reform the Church in many ways, but primarily by ending the sale of indulgences and returning to the idea of justification by faith alone.

Daily Laugh

An excerpt from a conversation I had yesterday at work.

Me: Non-physician staff members are only allowed to have one ID badge.
Employee: What's a non-physician?
Me (trying not to say 'What?!'): Anyone who isn't a doctor - nurses, office workers, engineers...
Employee: Oh.

I had a hard time not laughing. It's a good thing this was over the phone or the look on my face would have given me away.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Islamofascism Awareness Week. Wait...Huh?

This looks like a great way to deal with the problems we are facing.

The purpose of this protest is as simple as it is crucial: to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat. Nothing could be more politically incorrect than to point this out. But nothing could be more important for American students to hear. In the face of the greatest danger Americans have ever confronted, the academic left has mobilized to create sympathy for the enemy and to fight anyone who rallies Americans to defend themselves. According to the academic left, anyone who links Islamic radicalism to the war on terror is an "Islamophobe." According to the academic left, the Islamo-fascists hate us not because we are tolerant and free, but because we are "oppressors."

The "greatest danger Americans have ever confronted?" I guess the Axis Powers were just a bunch of sissies. Well, okay Italy was, but you get the point.

Seriously, the two problems with things like this are that it a)conflates the terrorists into a bigger threat then they actually are thereby giving them more credibility than they deserve and b)it increases the division in our own nation by playing partisan games thereby making the terrorists' jobs easier because we are not standing together as a nation. Terrorism from Islamic radicals is an issue our country needs to face, but that doesn't mean we need to panic about it and have events like "Islamofascism Awareness Week." We raise the terrorists up to our level when we do things like this because we are presenting them as a credible, serious threat. They are not. Yes, they are making plans to kill our citizens and damage our interests around the globe. They are not a nation-state with the money, people, and industry to stage any sort of sustained or serious threat to us.

The three things we need to combat terrorism are solid police work, credible diplomatic efforts, and standing united as Americans. These will eliminate 99% of the problems we face in Islamic terrorists.

The Absurdity of College Rankings

Being inefficient can increase your ranking.

Church Politics

The competition is heating up.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jesus: Wrong for America

Bill Maher's thoughts on "value voters".

And I know that if you can look at the war in Iraq, the melting environments and the descent of America into "idiocracy," and still think our biggest problems are boobies during the Super Bowl and the "war on Christmas," then you don't have values, you have issues.

If you had "values," you'd draw the line at torture. But a startling number of people who call themselves Christians don't. And I'm pretty sure if you asked, "What would Jesus veto," it wouldn't be health care for sick kids.

Why, it's almost like "values voters" don't really believe Jesus was right about anything. [in mock attack ad voice] "Jesus Christ: wrong on gays, wrong on taxes, wrong on torture, and wrong for America."

I wonder if Beliefnet would let Bill Maher join their blog discussion of Evangelicals. Yeah, probably not. I'm not sure I would want him too, either. He's more amusing when he can wear his comedian hat.

American Evangelicals

Beliefnet has a great roundtable blog discussion about Evangelicals in America. It's not one-sided, either. Jerry Jenkins, a famous evangelical and co-author of the Left Behind series, is one of the bloggers. Also taking part are Hanna Rosin, author of God's Harvard; former Bush aide, David Kuo; sociologist Michael Lindsey; and reporter Jeff Sharlet.

Some excerpts:

Hanna Rosin says:

I disagree with evangelicals on most political issues, so it's hard for me to welcome this development. But what makes me uneasy is not so much the issues as the effect on the political culture. Political disagreements are great - healthy for a democracy, fun for a journalist. But not when those disagreements are loaded with the weight of sin and evil. This generation grew up thinking of Republicans and Christians as twins, and in my experience it's hard for them to separate between those two. Supply side economics is a staple of the Republican party platform, not something dictated by the Bible. Ditto on tort reform, and even gay rights. I would bet that some part of Bush's brain confuses his commitment to the war with his commitment to God.

Jeff Sharlet says:

[Evangelicals are] not "just" anything -- they're the mutant strand of DNA that makes American politics so different from those of other developed nations, the genes that tilt American democracy toward messianic empire. And yet to say that they're "bad" for America is to suggest that there's an America to be neatly distinguished from evangelicalism. I don't think so, and neither do the conservative evangelical leaders -- elite and populist -- I've spoken with over the years. The smartest among them recognize that it's not evangelicals who are becoming more like secular America, but secular America that's becoming more like evangelicals. The example with which Hanna closes -– Hillary's penchant for theological talk -– goes right to the heart of elite evangelicalism's success. Not in the trenches of culture war, but behind the lines.

Jerry Jenkins says:
Before I speak to Hanna's cogent comments re Hollywood, let me say that I have long been uneasy about Evangelicals in positions of political power, largely because I see this as antithetical to the very teachings of Jesus. He was a preacher of paradoxical truth. If you want to be rich, give your money away. Respond to anger with kindness. Love your enemies. Do good to those who spitefully use you. Want to be exalted? Humble yourself? Want to be a leader? Become a servant of all.

The whole discussion is very fascinating especially for someone like me who is very intrigued by the growth of the Evangelical movement. Check it out.

Torture Is Wrong

And it doesn't work. Stuart Herrington, a retired Army colonel and interrogator, writes about torture.

Forty-plus years ago, as fall winds coursed across the Bluff, ethics professor Dr. Arthur Schrynemakers, in a voice of Dutch-accented English that still rings in my memory, declared to my freshman class that ethical principles were absolute. Right was right; wrong was wrong. When he pointed his finger at those of us in the front row and thundered that it was ethically impermissible to commit an evil act and attempt to justify it because that evil act might lead to some future good, we listened -- and some of us remembered.

Coming from this background, it has been disappointing to observe the ongoing debate about torture in interrogation, usually carried out be people who have never interrogated a soul. Nor is it easy to accept that the current debate is framed pragmatically by the question, "Does torture work or not?"


One can almost hear the late Dr. Schrynemakers expound on this question. Wagging his finger, he would note that government sanctioning of mistreatment of prisoners by its intelligence officers is an essentially evil act committed in the name of self-defense, which has propelled our great country down a slippery moral slope and imperiled us further.

We need more voices such as Col. Harrington's telling our government we do not want torture to be a part of the American way even if it is terrorists.

In Memoriam

Patrick Roy Kramer: May 6, 1977 - October 22, 2006

In Memoriam A.H.H.

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou:
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,

But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.

Forgive what seem’d my sin in me;
What seem’d my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.

Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another Stupid Lawsuit

A guy who bought a used truck is suing every previous owner of the truck after an axle broke and caused a serious accident. One previous owner tried to have the case thrown out, but the judge said "no way." Wow. The guy owned the truck for a year before this. How ridiculous.

What's next? You sell a copy of The Catcher in the Rye at a garage sale to a guy who goes on to kill someone. Does that mean the person's family can sue you for selling the book? The outrageous nature of lawsuits in the county is getting out of hand.

Unhappy Conservatives

Andrew Sullivan has blogged a lot about his dissatisfaction with the direction of the current party. Many of his readers feel the same way and one has written about what conservatism should be in his opinion.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that the coalition I'd like to see now would have two or three main pillars.

One piillar would be rooted in the idea that less is better than more when it comes to government -- that less regulation is better than more regulation, that decisions ought to be made by people close to problems, that markets ought to sort things out when possible.

Another pillar would be rooted in the traditional processes of our constitutional system, It would be based on an appreciation of the wisdom built into our system -- the value of checks and balances, the necessity of spreading power around, the importance of oversight, and even a real commitment to collegiality and a rejection of smears and ad hominem attacks in political discourse.

The third leg of the tripod, though, is the interesting one, because it's something that comes out of the far left. In fact, it's so far to the left that it wouldn't fit into today's Democratic party. I'd like to see an acknowledgment and rejection of some of the brutality of American foreign policy. I'd like us to explicitly own and reject what we did in places like Iran before the Shah, and in Guatemala.

That sounds good to me, though I would be happy with a lot less partisianship and demonizing of anyone who disagrees with you whether it is on the left or right. We will never accomplish anything great as a nation if we are constantly playing these games of right and wrong. Disagreeing with someone is fine; in fact it is healthy. Calling your opponents traitors or fascists is only going to lead to division and bickering.

One of the Greats

A moving tribute to one of the greatest stars of our generation, Jean-Claude Van Damme.

To celebrate the occasion of his 47th birthday, I sat down with five of his movies I'd never seen, looking forward to a long evening of maximum Van Dammage. It turns out that I'd seen them all. Three of them I'd seen twice. And that's the magic of Jean-Claude Van Damme. Whether he's playing a character named Chance Boudreux, Jack Robideaux, Edward Garrotte, William Guile, Phillip Sauvage, or Gibson Rickenbacker, he's always the same. Some action heroes need a gimmick to stand out. They need quips, a catchphrase, a bullwhip, or a .44 Magnum, but not Jean-Claude. He doesn't stand out at all. He's like the wallpaper.

This is due to his natural limitations. His physical limitations he's overcome through hard work. Jean-Claude Van Damme started out in life as a baby, which was tremendously frustrating for him because babies are, by their very nature, skinny and weak. In adolescence, a thick pair of enormous glasses were added to the equation, and in photos of him at this age he looks like an annoyed duck. Finally, his dad couldn't take it anymore and enrolled him in karate classes. Jean-Claude trained fanatically, took up bodybuilding, and then, realizing that he would never be as big as the other karate students, he trumped them by becoming more flexible, and he took up ballet.

Read the whole thing. It will bring a tear to your eyes.

Cold Medicine Isn't For Kids

The FDA is now saying kids under 6 should not take any cold medicines.

"The data that we have now is they don't seem to work," said Sean Hennessy, a University of Pennsylvania epidemiologist, one of the FDA experts gathered to examine the medicines sold to treat common cold symptoms. The recommendation applies to medicines containing one or more of the following ingredients: decongestants, expectorants, antihistamines and antitussives.
Some of the drugs — which include Wyeth's Dimetapp and Robitussin, Johnson & Johnson's Pediacare and Novartis AG's Triaminic products — have never been tested in children, something flagged as long ago as 1972 by a previous FDA panel.

An FDA review found just 11 studies of children published over the last half-century. Those studies did not establish that the medicines worked in those cases, according to the agency.

For the most part, the results from tests in adults have been extrapolated to determine whether the medicines work in children. But even that evidence is "modest at best," said panel chairwoman Dr. Mary Tinetti of Yale University School of Medicine. Indeed, all but one of the 22 panelists then voted to say that extrapolation is unacceptable.

The speed at which people run to the cabinet for drugs for the slightest little thing is amazing to me. Whatever happened to staying home and getting some rest when you didn't feel good? We seem to have developed the notion that we should never have to face bad things so if we don't feel good, get doped up even if the evidence that the medicine does anything is shaky. Until a cure for the common cold is developed, I think people need to learn to live with the symptoms.

Secrets Are My Life