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« December 2007 | Main | February 2008 »

January 31, 2008

News Media Influencing Candidate Selection

Debate Last night was the Republican debate in California with only two remaining candidates, McCain and Romney. At least that’s the way it looked -- Huckabee and Paul were virtually ignored. In fact the NY Times political blog, The Caucus, summarized it this way: “The debate was essentially between Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney.” (Image © The New York Times)

News articles covering the debate made statements like “The field narrowed, McCain and Romney trade angry charges in the last GOP face-off before Super Tuesday” (LA Times); or “McCain vs. Romney on Iraq” in the Washington Post. Large photos with these articles show only McCain and Romney with only a passing statement about Huckabee or Paul in the articles themselves. Even Fox News.com, which portrays itself as fair and balanced, focused only on Romney and McCain. At least their photo showed all four candidates.

These articles give voters the impression that their only choice is now Romney or McCain with the underlying message that Paul and Huckabee are out of the race. At one point Huckabee, irritated, commented, "I didn't come here to umpire a ballgame between these two, I came here to get a chance to swing at a few myself."

Is this only a two-person race? The delegate numbers don’t reflect that. McCain has 93, Romney 59, Huckabee 40, Paul 4. Here's a novel idea . . . let the voters decide.

Continue reading "News Media Influencing Candidate Selection" »

Quote of the Day

"Wrong was easy: gravity helped it./ Right is difficult and long."

--Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir (p. 47)

Re: Getting Lost

Psych I so need to get you people hooked on Psych with me, and into some pure mindless fun. I'm completely burned out on TV drama for all the reasons that frustrated Lost fans are always citing for their frustrations. My fragile psyche (no pun intended) simply cannot take one more tortured character or angst-filled, continuity-smashing plot twist.

Of course I'm excepting my Tuesday night habit, House, but as my best friend with the health-care-related background constantly reminds me, that's far more fantasy than drama. (Breast cancer in the knee? As Shawn Spencer would say: ". . . Really?")

(Image courtesy of USA Network)

Getting Lost Tonight

Lost It must say something about either 1) my youthful optimism, or 2) my naivete, or 3) an addictive personality that I'm still going to tune in and watch Lost tonight. I'm still hoping the writers know where all this is going. Maybe I'm just clapping for Tinkerbell.

So, while I'm talking about Lost. Here's my theory on Jack's dad. "It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do."

On to other observations about Lost. Obviously Miss South Carolina was right. The U.S. America is clearly facing a map deficit. Such as, Jack can't find the island, such as that. Maybe we should have a walkathon.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Re: Prevent MY Murderous Thoughts

Allen:

Firefox. There is no reason or excuse for using IE. Period.

Love,
Roberto

Sorry to disappoint you, ladies

Twenty years ago, being pro-life was déclassé. Now it is a respectable point of view.

-- Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for a Free Choice, and Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, "Abortion's battle of messages"

(H/T Jill Stanek)

If I were Mark Steyn, this is where I would break into a show tune:

In olden days that baby-killing
Was looked on as something thrilling
Now heaven knows
Anything goes!

Um . . . yeah. Well. That's why Mark Steyn is Mark Steyn and I'm not. But you get the idea.

High standards

In the acknowledgments for Thomas Hibbs's new book Arts of Darkness: American Noir and the Quest for Redemption, which I've just started reading, this leaps off the page:

. . . and Ron Tacelli, S.J., who loves film despite never having found any particular film satisfactory.

Talk about an intriguing description! Now there is a guy I'd love to sit down and have a long chat with about movies.

Welcome a new blogger!

Dennis Babish, a frequent commenter here at The Point who recently completed his Centurion training, has joined us as a new blogger. You can read more about him on the bio page. Welcome aboard, Dennis!

Prevent My Murderous Thoughts: Help Me with IE!!

Please, someone tell me that they know how to solve the Internet Explorer Shutting Down On Me Every Stinking Day At The Worst Time And For No Apparent Reason problem.

The error message is this: "Internet Explorer has encountered a problem (the same one you've been having for most of the last year of awful computing) and needs to close (for the third time today). We are sorry for the (absurd and inexcusable) inconvenience (but are thankful that you have no other good options except for that fringe browser hilariously named by combining the words 'monkey' and 'godzilla')."

Parentheticals added (to little effect) by me.

The obligatory Christian worldview angle on this request is that you will help me to stop thinking wicked thoughts about a certain software giant located in Washington state.

The Point Radio: A Good Man is Hard to Find

Is a good man really that hard to find?...


Click play above to listen.

Here are a few more resources for thriving in singleness:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: A Good Man is Hard to Find" »

January 30, 2008

Daily roundup

Holocaust at 75

Holocaust_memorial With the marking of the 75th anniversary of the Nazis taking power in Germany, another round of Holocaust stories, memories, and reports are in the offing. Moreover, more monuments to the Nazi victims are going up soon, two in Berlin alone.

This is all to the good, even if some younger Germans have started to plug their ears from hearing too much about German guilt over the course of their lifetimes. Many of them wonder why they should hang their head in shame if they weren't there as perpetrators.

Hopefully, Germans can finally begin to go through the next stage of healing--past denial, past self-hatred and into acceptance. Any human being, not just a German, probably has a limit to the amount of criticism and self-reproach he or she can take at any one time. And if Germany had been forced after World War II not just to reflect on what had happened but to dwell on it to distraction, we might well have had a country filled with nothing but neurotics on our hands.

Some, especially the victims and their families, might well feel that would be just punishment for such a horrific crime against humanity. Maybe so.

But if we wanted the young children from that era to be raised well, then America and the Allies, at least the Western Allies, did the right thing by helping both the victims of the Holocaust and the standers-by.  This proved to be an effective way to get the German people to talk among themselves in a free environment and to come to terms with their collective guilt, their individual guilt as participants, and the guilt of their parents and grandparents.

Continue reading "Holocaust at 75" »

Thought for the day

When troubles come upon us, instinctively the first question we ask is: "Why?" "Why me, why this, why now?" That is what Moses asked in [Exodus 5] verse 22. Yet, in retrospect, we see that the question was premature. We now know why-since hindsight is better than foresight. How long will it take the Lord to deliver us from our troubles? Usually just a little longer than we thought we could tolerate. We must remember the example of Moses when we are tempted to ask the Lord, "Why?"

From QuietWalk, Walk thru the Bible's daily e-devotional

Bleak House...Er, Country

“The future for Britain is grim,” said Rosemary Sookdeo, author of Secrets Behind the Burqa, a sad and telling look at women under Islam.

Why grim, Rosemary?

  • Maybe because England is recognizing sharia law (the kind that supports floggings, stonings, and cutting off of hands) as applied to marriages, divorces, and mortgages, AND funding Muslim schools.
  • Or perhaps because a shocking number of British (and American) Christian women are marrying Muslim men and converting to Islam every year.
  • Or because Muslims are buying in England's stock exchange, and threatening to undermine the entire British economic system.
  • Or maybe because there are more than 10 honor killings every year in the UK (and those are only the ones that have been reported).
  • If these reasons aren't scary enough, these will be.

As England comes under Islam's sway, it might find itself confronting a new slavery. Where is William Wilberforce when we need him?

More on Ben Stein’s documentary on Intelligent Design

My favorite blog site has a new piece on Ben Stein’s documentary entitled Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, set to be released this February. As you can see from the trailer, Stein is playing an intellectual-freedom fighter confronting the widespread muzzling of and discrimination against the intelligent design movement. As Stein wrote in his introductory blog:

America is not America without freedom. In every turning point in our history, freedom has been the key goal we are seeking: the Mayflower coming here, the Revolution, the Civil War, World War II, the Cold War. Tens of millions came here from foreign oppression and made a life here. Why? For freedom. Human beings are supposed to live in a state of freedom. Freedom is not conferred by the state: as our founders said, and as Martin Luther King repeated, freedom is God-given.

A huge part of this freedom is freedom of inquiry. Freedom of inquiry is basic to human advancement. There would be no modern medicine, no antibiotics, no brain surgery, no Internet, no air conditioning, no modern travel, no highways, no knowledge of the human body without freedom of inquiry.

This includes the ability to inquire whether a higher power, a being greater than man, is involved with how the universe operates. This has always been basic to science. Always.

Some of the greatest scientists of all time, including Galileo, Newton, Einstein, operated under the hypothesis that their work was to understand the principles and phenomena as designed by a creator.

Brave and controversial statements from the former Presidential speechwriter and Comedy Central game show host. His documentary is a plea for greater freedom in the scientific community and a call for open unrestrained discussions on intelligent design, an assertion based on the founding principles of America.

Babies were the enemy

Thanks to Steve (SBK) for sending this wonderful piece by Jennifer F. of Et Tu?: The Diary of a Former Atheist, which carefully deconstructs the pro-choice mentality. It's quite long, but every word is worth reading, even for us Protestants! A sample:

The message I'd heard loud and clear was that the purpose of sex was for pleasure and bonding, that its potential for creating life was purely tangential, almost to the point of being forgotten about altogether. This mindset laid the foundation of my views on abortion. Because I saw sex as being closed to the possibility to life by default, I thought of pregnancies that weren't planned as akin to being struck by lightning while walking down the street -- something totally unpredictable, undeserved, that happened to people living normal lives.

Being pro-choice for me (and I'd imagine with many others) was actually motivated out of love and caring: I just didn't want women to have to suffer, to have to devalue themselves by dealing with unwanted pregnancies. Because it was an inherent part of my worldview that everyone except people with "hang-ups" eventually has sex and sex is, under normal circumstances, only about the relationship between the two people involved, I got lured into one of the oldest, biggest, most tempting lies in human history: to dehumanize the enemy. Babies had become the enemy because of their tendencies to pop up and ruin everything; and just as societies are tempted to dehumanize the fellow human beings who are on the other side of the lines in wartime, so had I, and we as a society, dehumanized the enemy of sex.

The Point Radio: Reason for Hope

Almost three-fourths of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction. Is there any hope?...


Click play above to listen.

Here are some more ways to live hopefully:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Reason for Hope" »

January 29, 2008

Daily roundup

Religion and the Death Penalty

There's a fascinating piece over at the Weekly Standard by Walter Berns on the link between religious commitment and support for the death penalty. It may no longer be the case that death is, as Camus said, a religious penalty, Burns notes. But (quoting Camus) "it can be said that the death penalty is more likely to be imposed by a religious people."

The reason may be "that the religious know what evil is, or at least, that it is, and, unlike the irreligious, are not so ready to believe that evil can be explained, and thereby excused, by a history of child abuse or, say, a 'post-traumatic stress disorder' or a 'temporal lobe seizure.' . . . In a word, they are more likely to demand that justice be done."

Burns adds:

European politicians and journalists recognize or acknowledge the connection, if only inadvertently, when they simultaneously despise us Americans for supporting the death penalty and ridicule us for going to church. . . . In this country, 60 convicted murderers were executed in 2005 . . . almost all of them in southern or southwestern and church-going states . . . states whose residents are among the most seriously religious Americans. Whereas in Europe, or "old Europe," no one was executed and, according to one survey, almost no one--and certainly no soi-disant intellectual--goes to church. . . .

What explains [European] obsession with the death penalty? Hard to say, but probably the fact that abolishing it is one of the few things Europeans can do that makes them feel righteous.

There is much more, and I urge you to read the entire piece here.

The company we keep

Call me a grudge-holder if you will. But there is something deeply wrong with a society when its politicians are scrambling over each other to collect the endorsement of a man like Edward "Chappaquiddick" Kennedy.

The Not-Yet Stinks

Given that one of my hobby horses is the right to self-defense as being necessary for a fundamental right to life, I was prepared to so comment about this story from London. But if you can get more than halfway through the story with anything but a profound sense of grief and a longing for Home, then you're a tougher person than I am.

Bringing WHAT back to Narnia?

As one of my colleagues points out, there is something not quite right about putting Narnia and sexy in the same sentence. And I don't care how snarky Philip Pullman gets about it.

Navigating Beauty

Cherry_trees My new Christmas toy last month was a Garmin GPS for my car. As virtually everyone at PF knows, I suffer frequent navigational difficulties if I have to travel more than 2/10ths of a mile (and even if I have to travel less than 2/10ths of a mile, I often get lost at least once). The colleagues I call for navigational assistance (such as Kim and Dave the Swede) suffer right along with me, whether they want to or not.

I've been trying the GPS out on familiar routes around home, just to get the hang of it, and two things quickly became apparent: 1. I'm going to love this thing. 2. The use of my GPS is one more technological advance that will strip beauty out of my life, if I let it.

Over the years, traveling around the Washington suburbs, I've settled on favorite routes--routes that led me past lovely gardens, historic homes, and roads bracketed by flowering cherry trees in the spring. If possible, I avoid streets that lead me past ugly strip malls and squalor--even it it takes me a few minutes longer to arrive at my destination. When I arrive, I feel much more peaceful than I would had I driven along Route Ugly.

But the GPS doesn't care about beauty or peace of mind. It cares only about speed. The demanding voice my GPS insists I abandon lovely, familiar routes in favor of faster and uglier ones. It insists that I jump on the Beltway to save two minutes instead of strolling through lovely old Bethesda neighborhoods. (It also wants me to drive past a construction site instead of, say, a Dunkin Donuts, but that's another matter.) Mapquest, of course, does the same thing. It's the triumph of untilitarianism on wheels.

Continue reading "Navigating Beauty " »

But It’s Good Straw

Rod, Ross Douthat, and Nathanael Peters at First Things have all commented on a piece in the latest New Yorker about artist John Currin (note: provocative image at link). Specifically, all three were struck by the following passage from the piece in which the author recalls a conversation with the artist about the reasons behind the pornographic turn in Currin's work.

A reason presented itself soon enough, in the headlines about riots in the Islamic world over twelve Danish newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed. "The response to that totally shocked me," Currin said at dinner that night. "That the Times decided that it was not going to show the cartoons - O.K., they're terrible-a** cartoons from a quality standpoint, but the idea that these thugs get offended and we just acquiesce, that was the most astonishing display of cowardice. And also the killing of Theo van Gogh, the film director, by some jihadist in Amsterdam - all of a sudden the most liberal societies in the world were having intimidation murders happen. That's when it occurred to me that we might lose this thing - not the Iraq War but the larger struggle." When I asked how this tied into his making pornographic paintings, Currin talked about low birth rates in Europe, and people having sex without having babies, and pornography as a kind of elegy to liberal culture, at which point I lost the thread. "I know how right wing this sounds," I recall him saying, "but I was thinking how pornography could be a superstitious offering to the gods of a dying race."

As Peters says, "Pornography as the artistic first fruits–as a pinnacle of humanity–of modern culture. There is nothing more to say."

Continue reading "But It’s Good Straw" »

Blowing the house down

When I saw on the news the story of the Three Little Pigs and their potential to offend, the first thing that came to mind was "Steyn needs to tackle this one." And right on cue, here he is:

This is now a recurring theme in British life. A while back, it was a local government council telling workers not to have knick-knacks on their desks representing Winnie-the-Pooh’s porcine sidekick, Piglet. As Martin Niemöller famously said, first they came for Piglet and I did not speak out because I was not a Disney character and, if I was, I’m more of an Eeyore. So then they came for the Three Little Pigs, and Babe, and by the time I realized my country had turned into a 24/7 Looney Tunes it was too late, because there was no Porky Pig to stammer “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!” and bring the nightmare to an end.

Just for the record, it’s true that Muslims, like Jews, are not partial to bacon and sausages. But the Koran has nothing to say about cartoon pigs. Likewise, it is silent on the matter of whether one can name a teddy bear after Mohammed. What all these stories have in common is the excessive deference to Islam. If the Three Little Pigs are verboten when Muslims do not yet comprise ten percent of the British population, what else will be on the blacklist by the time they’re, say, 20 percent?

Read more.

The Point Radio: The Master or the Prey

Before CSI ever hit television, God recorded for us the original crime scene. Can we learn something from it?...


Click play above to listen.

January 28, 2008

Daily roundup

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Regarding Chuck's commentary today, "Fraudulent Fundraisers," it's pretty hard not to feel cynical about the fact that some of the biggest frauds in America--members of Congress--are attacking a fundraiser for cheating the America public. These are the same "watchdogs," mind you, who set aside millions of dollars on pork-barrel spending for their own districts, the primary purpose of which is to get Congressmen re-elected. These are also the folks who, when they're not taking the high moral ground during hearings, are taking their families on all-expense-paid (by taxpayers) trips to the Caribbean and Europe. And don't get me started on abuses of campaign money, or of the refusal by Congress to investigate crimes that may have been committed by fellow Congressmen.

Maybe that's why Roger Chapin, who runs the two veterans' charities, couldn't help sneering at the audacity of members of Congress who accused him of making too much money and committing fraud; his pointed remarks about the members' own moral shortcomings sent one of them into a screaming, pounding rage, as this WAPO story reveals.

(Click here for a free subscription to the BreakPoint commentaries.)

Beyond etiquette

On Saturday night I attended a memorial service for one of our church elders, who was also a fellow member of our choir. As the gospel was presented by a member of the church -- according to the express wishes of the deceased -- I couldn't help remembering the advice columns I've seen over the years that expressed prim distaste over the idea of "proselytizing" at funerals. The consensus, as far as I can remember, seems to be that it's a completely tacky and tasteless thing to do.

Be that as it may, I can't recall a single memorial service at my church where the gospel was not presented. And I'm thankful for that. There's something about those moments when death becomes real and inescapable that reminds you that, as important as etiquette is, there are things that are even more important.

Prison Rape a Game in Kansas Governor’s Mansion

Young John Sebelius, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, has come up with a new board game about prisoners. "Don't Drop the Soap!" is reportedly what you'd expect from its idiotic title -- a raunchy board game set in a prison environment. Nice.

FoxNews describes the game:

"Fight your way through 6 different exciting locations in hopes of being granted parole," the site says. "Escape prison riots in The Yard, slip glass into a mob boss' lasagna in the Cafeteria, steal painkillers from the nurse's desk in the Infirmary, avoid being cornered by the Aryans in the Shower Room, fight off Latin Kings in Gang War, and try not to smoke your entire stash in The Hole."

Continue reading "Prison Rape a Game in Kansas Governor’s Mansion" »

The ones left behind

The Washington Post has an interesting juxtaposition of articles in the Style section this morning. You can't see it in the online version, but in the print version, the title "In a Way, He Took Our Lives, Too" is at the top of the page in bold type, and stretches over two different articles about suicide, making it look like it applies to both articles.

I'm guessing that wasn't intentional. Because while one writer -- the writer of the article to which that title actually belongs -- mourns the way that her chronically depressed father chose to end his life, the other writer says of her dead grandfather, "I hope he knows that although I still grieve, it is not for the way he left us." It seems that the latter writer, Anne Valente, understands and accepts her grandfather's suicide because he was desperate to end his suffering from cancer.

Still, I'd argue that the title is appropriate to both articles. For no matter the circumstances, no matter how hard the survivors try not to let it "cloud [their] memory," there's no escaping the devastation suicide causes.

Thanks for All the Fish

Asteroid And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Apparently January has been Destroy All Humans month on the History Channel. Almost every night has featured a program about the various ways that life -- in particular, human life -- on Earth can come to a violent, painful and gruesome end or the many ways that "life as we know it" can come to an abrupt and -- yes -- painful end.

One of these, Last Days on Earth, "[counted] down seven ways in which the world as we know it could meet an abrupt and untimely end, from a mammoth asteroid strike to the eruption of a super volcano." It disappointed. True, the gamma ray burst (GRB) sounded intriguing and I'm fascinated by the thought of  Yellowstone going VEI 8, but the program ended up mostly being a lecture about the horrors of anthropogenic global warming, which, whatever your thoughts on the subject, is not comparable to a volcanically induced ice age or a radiation burst that "could deplete up to half of the atmosphere's protective ozone layer and cook all life on the surface of the planet."

This was the opening act for Life After People, which imagined what the world would look and feel like after some unnamed catastrophe eliminated every last one of us. Right away, I called bovine scat: any force or catastrophe powerful enough to wipe out the entire human race would almost certainly have an effect on other creatures. Yet, they were unscathed. Not even our artifacts -- buildings, bridges, etc. -- were, as Christopher Moltisanti once put it, "scathed."

The effect was a bit eerie: kind of like a Universalist-Unitarian Rapture. The buildings were completely intact but there were no people, not even human remains.

Continue reading "Thanks for All the Fish" »

New light on an old story

Mansfield_park Lori was asked to review last night's installment of "The Complete Jane Austen," Mansfield Park, at PBS's Remotely Connected blog. The first sentence alone makes this one worth clicking on!

(Image courtesy of PBS's Masterpiece)

The Point Radio: Your Great Commission

What are you doing to share Christ with those around you?...


Click play above to listen.

Here are a few more ways to share your faith:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Your Great Commission" »

January 25, 2008

Daily roundup

Upholding human dignity: Al Quie

Last weekend, Prison Fellowship Board Member Al Quie received the 2008 Wilberforce Award—a much-deserved honor. Chuck Colson elaborates:

Indeed, upholding human dignity has been a hallmark of Al Quie’s decades of public service and ministry—and the reason why last week he was honored with our 2008 William Wilberforce Award. We give the award every year “in recognition of exemplary witness for Jesus Christ, perseverance, and selflessness in combating social injustice and advancing Christian values in the face of opposition.”

A former state senator, congressman, and governor of Minnesota, Al cites two accomplishments that give him a great sense of gratification: the first, landmark legislation mandating public education for handicapped children. The second, fair-employment legislation that abolished job discrimination against African-Americans.

At the time, both segments of society were treated as second-class citizens. But Al had learned from a father who treated hoboes as honored guests. So when Al pushed for the legislation, he gave his fellow legislators only one reason: “It’s the right thing to do.”

Al Quie is also a man who, at the height of the Watergate scandal, reached out to a disgraced advisor to President Nixon: one Chuck Colson. Seven months into my prison term, I was facing a pair of family crises. Al called and said he was going to go see the president to ask Gerald Ford if he, Al, could serve the rest of my prison sentence. I was overwhelmed. His willingness to lay down his life for me was a turning point: I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ was real.

Read more. (And subscribe today to the free daily BreakPoint e-mail.)

Thought for the day

Many Christians wish they could live in a bubble . . . a bubble that would protect them from false teaching and allow them to avoid having to develop or use spiritual discernment. Every teaching they encounter would be sterilized, guaranteed to be free of any falsehood. Any person entering the bubble would be perfectly disinfected from false doctrine, bringing in only the truth. Yet this is not the world we live in. We live in a world that is in direct opposition to Christianity. Just as germs are constantly waging war on our bodies, false doctrine is constantly raging against our faith. God has provided us with discernment to enable us to withstand these attacks.

Tim Challies, The Spiritual Discipline of Discernment, p. 36

Fun Friday meme

I took this one from Barbara Nicolosi at Church of the Masses. It's simple:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences. [Ed. note: I assume "next three" means sentences 5, 6, and 7. That's how Barb did it, anyway.]
5. Tag five people.

(For the geeks among us, we'll allow comic books and graphic novels, as long as they have at least 123 pages.)

So here's mine:

Continue reading "Fun Friday meme" »

Different priorities vying for our affections

Bullseye The Clintons are Grand Past Masters of the art of politics. Former Clinton political consultant Dick Morris explains that Bill Clinton has a reason for injecting himself into his wife's campaign for President in such an aggressive way lately. The former President knows that, with limited TV air time in a state the size of South Carolina, he can dominate news coverage. 

This accomplishes two objectives: he takes the airtime away from Senator Obama AND lets Senator Clinton glide on by without a scratch from the press. But it's all about them, and the Clintons don't seem to care if they tell half-truths to get to their goal. They are like many in politics or business. Winning is their top priority and really all that matters to them.

But all this points up the difference Christians start to undergo when the Holy Spirit starts to work on their priorities. For a former politico, going from a need for total victory to simply making a sincere speech is a huge transformation. When an alcoholic sets a higher priority on his health or his children's welfare rather than a temporary fix, that, too, is amazing--and something not done by oneself.

Anthony de Mello was an exceptional Jesuit priest from India who taught about basic spirituality. He noted that a moral agent is like an archer, trying to hit the bullseye twenty yards away.  If the archer allows himself to get too angry, too stressed, or too plain distracted, he won't be hitting the bullseye anytime soon as his bow will shake! But if he stands upright, is relaxed, and doesn't let anger or stress make his bow shake, he can hit the bullseye more frequently.

Continue reading "Different priorities vying for our affections" »

Capitol Hill: Palace of Simpletons?

I'm constantly amazed that federal agencies are able to use geography-based Cost Of Living Adjustments in determining employee compensation levels, but federal legislators and their minions in the IRS are evidently unable to grasp the concept that different areas have dramatically different costs of living. And we see that yet again in the tax rebates:

Individual taxpayers would get up to $600 in rebates, working couples $1,200 and those with children an additional $300 per child under the agreement. In a key concession to Democrats, 35 million families who make at least $3,000 but don't pay taxes would get $300 rebates.

The rebates would phase out gradually for individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds $75,000 and for couples with incomes above $150,000. Contributions to IRA and 401(k) retirement accounts and health savings accounts would not count toward the income limit.

For families in Des Moines, $75K is a stack of cash. In Northern Virginia, most families aren't making ends meet on $75K. But, no, geographic cost of living disparities are evidently too difficult to grasp.

Or not worth wrangling over, when you can simply tell the families in expensive metro areas to suck it up. To heck with justice; there are political points to be scored, and legislative careers to be built.

Calvary Love

One of the most challenging little books I have in my library is Amy Carmichael's If. Carmichael recounts a sleepless night when she was driven to ask herself whether she truly loved others as Christ has loved us. The result is a series of statements which prick my conscience and spur me to greater love for others. Here are a few excerpts:

"If I have not compassion on my fellow servant, even as my Lord had pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and slip from under the burden,  then I know nothing of Calvary love."

Continue reading "Calvary Love" »

The Point Radio: Making Space for the Unexpected

How can you make space for the unexpected?...


Click play above to listen.

Need some more ideas for taking a spiritual retreat?

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Making Space for the Unexpected" »

January 24, 2008

Daily roundup

Anne Rice and Hillary Clinton

Anne Rice, author of many vampire novels and most recently, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (which I read and enjoyed), has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president--despite Rice's strongly prolife views.

"My commitment and my vote . . . must reflect my deepest Christian convictions; and for me these convictions are based on the teachings of Christ in the Four Gospels . . . [which include] feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and above all, loving one's neighbors and loving one's enemies," Rice writes on her website. "I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of abortion, it will be through the Democratic Party. I am a Christian; I am a Democrat. . . . I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States."

Princeton Professor Robert George, whose book Embryo Chuck discusses today on BreakPoint, responds to Rice's open letter at First Things. He says, in part:

I am a former Democrat who left the party because it hardened its heart toward the child in the womb. . . . The child in the womb either is or is not a human being--a member of the human family. If he or she is, then he or she is entitled as a matter of basic justice to the protection of laws. . . . For a voter or public official to seek to deny the unborn elementary legal protections against killing that we favor for ourselves and others we regard as worthy is a gross and appalling injustice. There is no way around this...Yet today the unborn are denied any legal protection and are slaughtered (there really is no other word for what is going on) at the rate of more than one million per year in our country. . . .

It is true that law cannot prevent all abortions; but unless the law recognizes the humanity and rights of the child in the womb we cannot begin doing what you and I wish to do--namely, end the horror of abortion. . . . Mother Teresa of Calcutta . . . made the point that we cannot fight credibly against other social and moral evils, including poverty and violence, while we tolerate mass killing by abortion.

You have endorsed a candidate and a political party that believes that abortion, far from being an injustice, is a fundamental right. . . . They have even sought to protect the grisliest of methods of abortion--the "dilation and intact extraction" procedure. In this, they are promoting the greatest injustice and abuse of human rights to be found in our country today. . . . We should certainly not be tying ourselves to those who see it as no injustice at all.

Continue reading "Anne Rice and Hillary Clinton " »

One man’s trash

Used_books If I ever get fired from this job (you didn't hear that, Dave), I'm going to be a book scavenger. Seriously, what cooler job could there be than finding new life for deserving old books?

(H/T Reveries; image courtesy of the New York Times)

Change? Not so fast

Words to ponder during election season:

. . . When voters say they want “change,” what they really mean is they want nice. If you’re not into politics 24/7, it is one of the most unpleasant arenas of American life. Take any other competitive environment and they’re using entirely different standards of “meanness” — Simon on American Idol, for example, would be a pussycat if you signed him up at Daily Kos. So come presidential nominating season, a big swath of the populace expresses a kind of aesthetic distaste for the entire business by plumping for the freshest face on the national scene — i.e., Obama or Huckabee. Both of them seem nice mainly because they’re new. A primary or three later, and they don’t seem so new, and don’t seem so nice. Politics will do that.

-- Mark Steyn, "Damn Unity," National Review (reprinted by the Saratoga County Republican Committee)

Kids and prison

The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has just released two studies that show Americans want to offer youth offenders a better solution than incarceration.

According to one of the studies "more than 70 percent of the public agree that incarcerating youthful offenders without rehabilitation is the same as giving up on them. Nine out of 10 people surveyed believe that 'almost all youth who commit crimes have the potential to change.'" Foundation president Jonathan Fanton explained, "“The public understands that youth in trouble with the law are not lost, and that working with them to solve problems is a better approach to public safety than just locking them up.”

I couldn't agree more.

My heart was broken some years ago when I read Linda Bruntmyer's testimony about her teenage son Rodney's imprisonment in an adult facility, the repeated rape he endured, and his suicide to escape what seemed an inescapable situation. It is difficult to read Mrs. Bruntmyer's testimony without feeling outrage at the disparity between her son's crime and the sentence he received, let alone the brutal treatment that went along with that sentence. No one should have to endure what Rodney did, but the fact that he was a teenager in an adult prison put him especially, and unnecessarily, at risk.

According to the MacArthur Foundation's press release on these studies, the 1990s saw a growing number of states sending juvenile offenders to prison; perhaps in the 2000s, we'll see a reversal of that trend as public opinion shifts. It's too late for Rodney, sadly, but hopefully other teenage offenders can be given a chance to turn their lives around.

Intelligent design debated

If you live near Stanford University, you may be interested in attending a debate this Sunday between Christopher Hitchens and Jay Richards on "Atheism vs. Theism and the Scientific Evidence of Intelligent Design." The debate will be hosted by Ben Stein (star of the Expelled documentary) and moderated by Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Click here to learn more.

(H/T Nota Bene)

TMI

Definitely_maybe Am I the only one who keeps getting squicked out by the commercials for the upcoming Definitely, Maybe, featuring a dad recounting his premarital romantic adventures to his 10-year-old daughter? I'm all for father/daughter closeness, but yick!

(Image courtesy of Universal)

The Point Radio: Mom and Dad -- Teen Idols

Who are your children and teens looking up to as role models?...


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