Monday, July 30, 2007

A War We Just Might Win

This is going to be interesting how this plays out. From what I have read it seems to have become the consensus that the war is lost. Now comes an op ed in the NY Times of all places that says we are in fact beginning to get a handle on the situation.

So, will this story get picked up by the MSM (main stream media)? Not if they can help it, I would wager. Still it will be interesting to see how this plays out:

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with. Read More.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pastor resigns for “erosion of trust”

This is a switch. The pastor resigns because he has integrity:

Ron Keener recently wrote an article for Church Executive magazine about an Phoenix-area pastor who resigned his pulpit on June 24 for none of the usual reasons.

There were no moral failures, nor financial improprieties, nor abusive behavior of any kind cited. Read the rest.

HT: Ken

Friday, July 27, 2007

Outsourcing the Picket Line

Hypocrisy at its worst:

The picketers marching in a circle in front of a downtown Washington office building chanting about low wages do not seem fully focused on their message.

Many have arrived with large suitcases or bags holding their belongings, which they keep in sight. Several are smoking cigarettes. One works a crossword puzzle. Another bangs a tambourine, while several drum on large white buckets. Some of the men walking the line call out to passing women, "Hey, baby." A few picketers gyrate and dance while chanting: "What do we want? Fair wages. When do we want them? Now."

Although their placards identify the picketers as being with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, they are not union members.

They're hired feet, or, as the union calls them, temporary workers, paid $8 an hour to picket. Many were recruited from homeless shelters or transitional houses. Several have recently been released from prison. Others are between jobs. Read More.

Grim reapurr: The cat that can predict death

Amazing how some animals seem to be sensitive to impending change. What is this cat picking up on?

Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours.

His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live. Read More.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Museum’s tablet lends new weight to Biblical truth

This is actually quite an important find and will help shed new light on textual criticism:

The British Museum yesterday hailed a discovery within a modest clay tablet in its collection as a breakthrough for biblical archaeology – dramatic proof of the accuracy of the Old Testament.

The cuneiform inscription in a tablet dating from 595BC has been deciphered for the first time – revealing a reference to an official at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, that proves the historical existence of a figure mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah.

This is rare evidence in a nonbiblical source of a real person, other than kings, featured in the Bible. Read More.

Why computers can’ t surpass Go and collect $1 million

I find this encouraging:

Ten years ago last month, to the dismay of many chess enthusiasts, the IBM supercomputer program Deep Blue beat the world chess champion Gary Kasparov: the greatest chess mind alive was elbowed aside by raw computing muscle. The quality of Deep Blue’s victory is still debated, but the moment marked a turning point in the relationship between man and machine.

The computer is now dominant in almost every board and card game devised by man. Computers can now beat us not only at chess, but also draughts, Othello, Scrabble, three-dimensional noughts and crosses, Monopoly and even bridge and poker (most of the time). In these games, the computer has a blueprint for “perfect play”: it simply runs the board position through a databank, and chooses the best next move, every time.

The unstoppable march of computer power has long been a staple of science fiction, the nightmare evoked in 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix in which artificial intelligence seeks to control and supersede Man’s. If computers can win at the intellectual challenge of world-class chess, it was assumed, then the computerised brain, for good or ill, must be inevitable.

Yet there is one game in which the computer is still no match for Man, a game in which a competent teenager can beat the world’s most sophisticated computer program with ease: and that is the ancient Chinese board game Go, the oldest game in the world, and the only one at which man remains the undisputed champion. Read More.

Elvis Has Left the Building

And you thought he was dead! Shows how people need to believe in something, even a dead rock star:

Elvis lives. At least he does in the hearts of his fans. And they are everywhere.

Twenty-five years after his death, our culture is still fascinated with the raven-haired, swivel-hipped entertainer. His songs fill the airwaves. His face graces postage stamps and velvet paintings in the U.S. and abroad. Thousands of the faithful annually trek to Graceland, his Memphis home, to pay homage to the king of rock and roll. Read More.

Atheists and Agnostics Take Aim at Christians

This is sort of a reverse evangelism. I have noticed that many atheists have become more militant, this article seems to bear some of that out:

A new evangelistic movement has emerged in America. Yet this effort does not spring from those loyal to a particular faith or religious view.

The new evangelists are atheists. People who have determined there is no God or who doubt his existence (a group commonly known as agnostics) are adopting a more aggressive, intentional effort to discredit the notion that God exists and to critique people of faith. Widely reviewed new books such as The God Delusion and God is Not Great represent this movement.

Beyond the bestseller lists, however, a new survey shows there is indeed a significant gap between Christians and those Americans who are in the "no-faith" camp. For instance, most atheists and agnostics (56%) agree with the idea that radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam. At the same time, two-thirds of Christians (63%) who have an active faith perceive that the nation is becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity. ("Active faith" was defined as simply having gone to church, read the Bible and prayed during the week preceding the survey.) Read More.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Rob Bell is one of the most influential of the emergent leaders. He helps to give an insight into how many people view the church, and in turn how we as a church need to be sensitive to those who have no understanding of what the church is supposed to be.

It is important to always be asking questions about our relevancy. In fact it is imperative. So much of what we call the church is actually a cultural construct. Jesus was radical and we need to be also.




Donald Grey Barnhouse in the context of the tension between what Christians are supposed to feel about engaging the culture and being faithful:

"There are so many Christians who are narrow and cantankerous because they have been giving up things instead of getting Christ. They have gone at the things from the wrong end. Look out among the people you know as Christians and you will discover two sorts. One rubs you the wrong way, the other fills you with admiration. One of them boasts that he doesn't do this and doesn't do that until you think that failing to do certain things is the whole of his religion. Those to whom he talks want to go out and do the very things he does not do as a sort of reaction against that in his life which is offensive.
The other Christian strikes you as being a holy person. You do not expect him to do certain things because you rather feel that he is possessed by higher motives. He has been in the presence of the Lord and is so filled with that presence that he draws you to Christ." Read More.

Welcome to Baghdad

Michael Totten is in Iraq:

Never again will I complain about the inconvenience and discomfort of airports and civilian airline travel delays. You won’t either if make your way from Kuwait to Baghdad in July during a war.

Military planes leave Kuwait every couple of hours for Baghdad International Airport (or BIAP, pronounced BIE-op). The United States Army’s media liaison in Kuwait dropped me off at the airfield so I could take a flight “up.”

I waited twelve hours in a metal folding chair in a room full of soldiers who, for obvious reasons, had priority over me for available seats.

At least I had a meal. On the other side of the base a McDonalds and Pizza Hut were tucked inside trailers supplied by Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR). KBR seems to have built almost everything here that the military uses as housing and storage. Out of plywood, plastic, and sheet metal they construct instant aesthetically brutal outposts of America, which somehow look and feel specifically like outposts of Texas. Read More.

Who is TNR's mysterious author 'Scott Thomas'?

This whole thing sounds wrong. this is the power of the blogs, where once a story like this would never be refuted, now there are an army of bloggers who will go after it:

The New Republic is running a sensational pseudonymously-authored article entitled Shock Troops, which TNR claims is written by a soldier currently serving in Iraq. The article provides candid portrayals of rough and ugly humor among the troops and hinges on the premise that those who have no experience with the military will believe that the "dehumanizing" aspects of the war have turned our young men and woman into barbarians parading around with a child's skull for a cap and insulting the war-wounded for their deformities. Many of us who do have experience with the military believe that these stories sound faked. Read More.

Scientists Find Way to Control Living Creature With Light

This is one of those amazing things:

Scientists in Germany have engineered a living worm so that its nerves and muscles can be controlled by light, according to

Seen in the labratory, the tiny worm dances to flashes of light: a flash of yellow, it darts forward. A flash of blue, it moves back. With continual flashes, the creature responds appropriately each time. Read More.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The List: The World’s Stupidest Fatwas


No central authority controls doctrine in Islam. The result? A proliferation of bizarre religious edicts against targets ranging from Salman Rushdie to polio vaccinations. FP collects some of the worst examples here. Link.

HT: Walt

Thursday, July 19, 2007

High-end pedals to the metal

One of my passions is bicycling. One of the things you quickly begin to realize is the expense. Good bikes cost. Of course there is cost and there is cost. This article is about really high end bikes.

If bicycling has a nirvana, the bucolic back roads snaking throughout the Bay Area would qualify.

Bikers here tend to be fit, fanatical and — thanks to high-tech-enterprise success — flush. As a result, the region does not lack for fancy bike shops. Which is why ultra-exclusive Above Category stands out.

Tucked into the small Marin County town of Mill Valley, the shoebox-sized shop sells some of the coolest bikes you've never heard of. Bike fanciers know about Trek and Specialized, but how about off-the-wall names such as Moots, Parlee and Land Shark?

Didn't think so. Read more.

Statesman McCain

From the senate floor a few days ago:

No matter where my colleagues came down in 2003 about the centrality of Iraq to the war on terror, there can simply be no debate that our efforts in Iraq today are critical to the wider struggle against violent Islamic extremism. Already, the terrorists are emboldened, excited that America is talking not about winning in Iraq, but is rather debating when we should lose. Last week, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy chief, said that the United States is merely delaying our “inevitable” defeat in Iraq, and that “the Mujahideen of Islam in Iraq of the caliphate and jihad are advancing with steady steps towards victory.” He called on Muslims to travel to Iraq to fight Americans, and appealed for Muslims to support the Islamic State in Iraq, a group established by al Qaeda.

General Petraeus has called al Qaeda “the principal short-term threat to Iraq.” What do the supporters of this amendment believe to be the consequences of our leaving the battlefield with al Qaeda in place? If we leave Iraq prematurely, jihadists around the world will interpret the withdrawal as their great victory against our great power. Their movement thrives in an atmosphere of perceived victory; we saw this in the surge of men and money flowing to al Qaeda following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. If they defeat the United States in Iraq, they will believe that anything is possible, that history is on their side, that they really can bring their terrible rule to lands the world over. Recall the plan laid out in a letter from Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before his death. That plan is to take shape in four stages: establish a caliphate in Iraq, extend the “jihad wave” to the secular countries neighboring Iraq, clash with Israel – none of which shall commence until the completion of stage one: expel the Americans from Iraq. Mr. President, the terrorists are in this war to win it. The question is: Are we?

The supporters of this amendment respond that they do not by any means intend to cede the battlefield to al Qaeda; on the contrary, their legislation would allow U.S. forces, presumably holed up in forward operating bases, to carry out targeted counterterrorism operations. But our own military commanders say that this approach will not succeed, and that moving in with search and destroy missions to kill and capture terrorists, only to immediately cede the territory to the enemy, is the failed strategy of the past three and a half years….

Those are the likely consequences of a precipitous withdrawal, and I hope that the supporters of such a move will tell us what they believe to be the likely consequences of this course of action. Should their amendment become law, and U.S. troops begin withdrawing, do they believe that Iraq will become more or less stable? That al Qaeda will find it easier to gather, plan, and carry out attacks from Iraqi soil, or that our withdrawal will somehow make this less likely? That the Iraqi people become more or less safe? That genocide becomes a more remote possibility or ever likelier?

Mr. President, this fight is about Iraq but not about Iraq alone. It is greater than that and more important still, about whether America still has the political courage to fight for victory or whether we will settle for defeat, with all of the terrible things that accompany it. We cannot walk away gracefully from defeat in this war. Link.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Coffee Cups

This is quite good. How many are not content with your life?


A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got

together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon

turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his

guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a

large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic,

glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite. He

told the group to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor

said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken

up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you

to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your

problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to

the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases

even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee,

not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups....

... And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and

position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and

contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change

the quality of the Life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on

the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us. God brews the

coffee, not the cups.....Enjoy your coffee!"

The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just

make the best of everything. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply.

Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God. You are the miracle, my friend,

your life either shines a light - or casts a shadow.

HT: Cathy

Perceptions of beauty: Illusion

HT: Walt

Monday, July 16, 2007

Jerusalem: The Scandal of Particularity

Good read:

At a ceremony in Jerusalem on May 24, Norman Podhoretz received the Guardian of Zion Award from the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. Following is the text of his lecture: Read the article.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Political Quiz

Ever wonder where you beliefs were on the LIBERAL versus CONSERVATIVE scale. Here is an easy way to find out by taking this short 25 question

The following quiz was written by Victor Kamber and Bradley S. O'Leary and appeared in the October 28-30, 1994 issue of USA Weekend. Before you vote in the next election, take this quick, quiz to see where - and with whom - you really stand. Link.

HT: Ken

In Europe, God Is (Not) Dead

I have heard that evangelical Christianity is growing in France. This article confirms that it may be a more pronounced European up swelling that is beginning to happen:

Late last year, a Swedish hotel guest named Stefan Jansson grew upset when he found a Bible in his room. He fired off an email to the hotel chain, saying the presence of the Christian scriptures was "boring and stupefying." This spring, the Scandic chain, Scandinavia's biggest, ordered the New Testaments removed.

In a country where barely 3% of the population goes to church each week, the affair seemed just another step in Christian Europe's long march toward secularism. Then something odd happened: A national furor erupted. A conservative bishop announced a boycott. A leftist radical who became a devout Christian and talk-show host denounced the biblical purge in newspaper columns and on television. A young evangelical Christian organized an electronic letter-writing campaign, asking Scandic: Why are you removing Bibles but not pay-porn on your TVs?

Scandic, which had started keeping its Bibles behind the front desk, put the New Testament back in guest rooms. Read More.

Hat Tip: Ray

Report: Teen Birth Rate Hits Record Low

Good news. Hopes this continues and premarital sex goes into a stronger decline:

Fewer high school students are having sex these days, and more are using condoms. The teen birth rate has hit a record low.

More young people are finishing high school, too, and more little kids are being read to, according to the latest government snapshot on the well-being of the nation's children. It's good news on a number of key wellness indicators, experts said of the report being released Friday.

"The implications for the population are quite positive in terms of their health and their well-being," said Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics. "The lower figure on teens having sex means the risk of sexually transmitted diseases is lower."

In 2005, 47 percent of high school students - 6.7 million - reported having had sexual intercourse, down from 54 percent in 1991. The rate of those who reported having had sex has remained the same since 2003.

Of those who had sex during a three-month period in 2005, 63 percent - about 9 million - used condoms. That's up from 46 percent in 1991.

The teen birth rate, the report said, was 21 per 1,000 young women ages 15-17 in 2005 - an all-time low. It was down from 39 births per 1,000 teens in 1991. Read More.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Leveling the Praying Field

Interesting that the Democrats are finally waking up to the notion of spirituality. They have finally realized that religion can bring in the vote. How many Evangelicals will go with the Dems? Hard to tell. I think it would be healthy if the religious right comes to the conclusion that Jesus is neither a Democrat or Republican. Vote morals and ethics, not political party. (In this case the lesser of two evils).

A president has to be a preacher of sorts, instructing, consoling, summoning citizens to sacrifice for some common good. But candidates are competitors, which means they seldom manage to talk about faith in a way that doesn't disturb people, doesn't divide them, doesn't nail campaign posters on the gates of heaven. Republicans have been charged with exploiting religious voters, Democrats with ignoring them: Hillary Clinton's voice gets tight as she recalls the mocking response she received when she first spoke in spiritual terms about the longing that people felt to invest in causes larger than self-interest. "I talked about my faith years ago and was pilloried for it," she says, and it is hard to tell if she is more impatient with the conservatives who presumed they held the patent on piety or with the liberals whose worship of diversity all but excluded the devout. Read More.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Science, Religion, and the Human Future

Long article but worth the read:

Western civilization would not be Western
civilization were it not for biblical religion,
which reveres and trusts in the one God,
Who has made known what He wants of human
beings through what is called His revelation—that
is, through Scripture. Western civilization would
not be Western civilization were it not also for science,
which extols and trusts in human reason to
disclose the workings of nature and to use the
knowledge gained to improve human life. These
twin sources of Western civilization—religion and
science (or, before science, philosophy), divine revelation
and human reason—are, to say the least,
not easily harmonized. One might even say that
Western civilization would not be Western civilization
without the continuing dialectical tension
between the claims and demands of biblical religion
and the cultivation of autonomous human
reason. Read the rest.

Helium Balloons Carry Man in Lawn Chair 193 Miles

I don't know if this guy is brave, or crazy! Maybe a little of both. Still what a ride:

BEND, Ore. — Last weekend, Kent Couch settled down in his lawn chair with some snacks — and a parachute. Attached to his lawn chair were 105 large helium balloons.

Destination: Idaho.

With instruments to measure his altitude and speed, a global positioning system device in his pocket, and about four plastic bags holding five gallons of water each to act as ballast — he could turn a spigot, release water and rise — Couch headed into the Oregon sky.

Nearly nine hours later, the 47-year-old gas station owner came back to earth in a farmer's field near Union, short of Idaho but about 193 miles from home. Read More.

Monday, July 09, 2007

ADF files suit over speech codes used to investigate and intimidate SFSU students accused of “incivility”

Free speech issues are turning into a two edged sword for both the left and the right:

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court against officials of San Francisco State University, where the administration forced the College Republicans to stand trial for “the desecration of Allah” because they stepped on Hamas and Hezbollah flags in political protest at an anti-terrorism rally.

“America’s colleges and universities should recognize the constitutional rights of Christian and politically conservative students just as they do for all other students,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David French, who heads the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Officials at San Francisco State are required to respect the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to free speech in exactly these kinds of situations.”

ADF attorneys are asking the court to strike down the ill-defined speech code policies of SFSU and the entire California State University system which were at issue in an investigation of students with the campus’s College Republicans student organization. A student who is not a member of the club filed a complaint with university officials after some members of the College Republicans stepped on the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah in an act of protest against terrorism at a rally the student group held. Read More.

The Surge

The New York Times is for withdrawal of U.S. troops from most of Iraq, except maybe the Kurdish north. Even the promising Anbar-type initiatives--which seem to require an aggressive U.S. military presence--are apparently to be abandoned. The Times admits the result of the withdrawal will "most likely" be chaos, including "further ethnic cleansing, even genocide." But it still prefers withdrawal. Jules Crittenden finds this morally curious, and so do I. ... I could be convinced that withdrawal is justified because the ensuing burst of sectarian killing will be short, followed by relative stability--preferable, in the long run, to continued occupation. I could be convinced we should abandon the goal of a unitary Iraqi state and focus on some sort of engineered partition. I hope I couldn't be convinced that we should abandon Iraqis to "genocide" just because the resulting deaths can be blamed on Bush. Does that mean they don't count? . ...Link

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Africa's rapid embrace of prosperity Pentecostalism provokes concern--and hope.

Fascinating article on the African church and prosperity doctrine. Read the whole thing because the whole health wealth doctrine takes on a different flavor in sub Saharan Africa. Here are a couple of quotes:

Similar scenes unfold every day in countless venues throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where prosperity-tinged Pentecostalism is growing faster not just than other strands of Christianity, but than all religious groups, including Islam. Of Africa's 890 million people, 147 million are now "renewalists" (a term that includes both Pentecostals and charismatics), according to a 2006 Pew Forum on Religion and Public life study. They make up more than a fourth of Nigeria's population, more than a third of South Africa's, and a whopping 56 percent of Kenya's.


Spiritual insight is needed to judge the movement, says Synan. But skeptical Westerners should re-examine their own attitudes before criticizing Africa's church. We're just as prone to materialism, says Bacote, and to the "illusion of controlling our own destiny versus merely surviving."

This article is well worth the read. Africa and South America are on the move. They will also be different than the churches in Europe or America. Read the rest.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Blogs For Fred

Fred Thompson is gaining a lot of press. Now you can keep up with what is happening at blogs for Fred.

This is going to bring a welcome wrinkle into this election cycle. And if the mudslinging is any indication the left must be getting nervous.

Check it out.

Glasgow Airport Jihad Doctor Arrests

Thursday, July 05, 2007

SA insists on Mugabe invitation

Zimbabwe is falling apart while Mugabe fiddles:

South Africa and other African nations will insist that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe be allowed to attend a long-delayed summit between the European Union (EU) and Africa later this year, the government said on Thursday.

Mugabe and more than 100 other Zimbabwean officials are banned from travelling to EU nations under sanctions imposed in 2002, a restriction that threatens to derail an EU-Africa summit scheduled for December in Portugal.

The African Union has said its 53 members should decide who to send to the meeting.

"I think Africa will not move on its position of what constitutes the African delegation," South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said at a news briefing in the capital Pretoria.

"Today, it is Zimbabwe [under pressure], tomorrow it could be us." Read More.

Cat parasite may affect cultural traits in human populations

Invasion of the body snatchers?

A common parasite found in cats may be affecting human behavior on a mass scale, according to a scientist based at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

While little is known about the causes of cultural change, and biological explanations often stimulate social and scientific debate, a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey published in the August 2 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biology, indicates that behavioral manipulation of a common brain parasite may be among factors that play a role.

"In populations where this parasite is very common, mass personality modification could result in cultural change," said study author Kevin Lafferty, a USGS scientist at UC Santa Barbara. "The geographic variation in the latent prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii may explain a substantial proportion of human population differences we see in cultural aspects that relate to ego, money, material possessions, work and rules." Read More.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

American Joey Chesnut Wins Hot-Dog Eating Contest, Shattering World Record

Oh yeah, American pride and Alka Seltzer are back!

American Joey Chestnut broke the world hot-dog eating record Wednesday at the annual Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, downing 66 franks to beat six-time defending champ Takeru Kobayashi.

"I made my body work for me," Chestnut said after his win was announced.

Kobayashi finished second with 63 dogs eaten, though he seemed to spew up some dogs as the 12-minute contest came to a close at New York's Coney Island. Link.

JFK Independence Day Speech 1946

Mr. Mayor; Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

We stand today in the shadow of history.

We gather here in the very Cradle of Liberty.

It is an honor and a pleasure to be the speaker of the day--an honor because of the long and distinguished list of noted orators who have preceded me on this platform, a pleasure because one of that honored list who stood here fifty years ago, and who is with us here today, is my grandfather.

It has been the custom for the speaker of the day to link his thoughts across the years to certain classic ideals of the early American tradition. I shall do the same. I propose today to discuss certain elements of the American character which have made this nation great. It is well for us to recall them today, for this is a day of recollection and a day of hope.

A nation's character, like that of an individual, is elusive. It is produced partly by things we have done and partly by what has been done to us. It is the result of physical factors, intellectual factors, spiritual factors.

It is well for us to consider our American character, for in peace, as in war, we will survive or fail according to its measure.


Our deep religious sense is the first element of the American character which I would discuss this morning.

The informing spirit of the American character has always been a deep religious sense.

Throughout the years, down to the present, a devotion to fundamental religious principles has characterized American thought and action.

Our government was founded on the essential religious idea of integrity of the individual. It was this religious sense which inspired the authors of the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."

Our earliest legislation was inspired by this deep religious sense:

"Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion."

Our first leader, Washington, was inspired by this deep religious sense:

"Of all of the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."

Lincoln was inspired by this deep religious sense:

"That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Our late, lamented President was inspired by this deep religious sense:

"We shall win this war, and in victory we shall seek not vengeance, but the establishment of an international order in which the spirit of Christ shall rule the hearts of men and nations."

Thus we see that this nation has ever been inspired by essential religious ideas. The doctrine of slavery which challenged these ideas within our own country was destroyed.

Recently, the philosophy of racism, which threatened to overwhelm them by attacks from abroad, was also met and destroyed.

Today these basic religious ideas are challenged by atheism and materialism: at home in the cynical philosophy of many of our intellectuals, abroad in the doctrine of collectivism, which sets up the twin pillars of atheism and materialism as the official philosophical establishment of the State.

Inspired by a deeply religious sense, this country, which has ever been devoted to the dignity of man, which has ever fostered the growth of the human spirit, has always met and hurled back the challenge of those deathly philosophies of hate and despair. We have defeated them in the past; we will always defeat them.

How well, then, has DeTocqueville said: "You may talk of the people and their majesty, but where there is no respect for God can there be much for man? You may talk of the supremacy of the ballot, respect for order, denounce riot, secession--unless religion is the first link, all is vain."


Another element in the American character that I would bring to your attention this morning is the idealism of our native people--stemming from the strong religious beliefs of the first colonists, developed as they worked the land.

This idealism, this fixed regard for principle, has been an element of the American character from the birth of this nation to the present day.

In recent years, the existence of this element in the American character has been challenged by those who seek to give an economic interpretation to American history. They seek to destroy our faith in our past so that they may guide our future. These cynics are wrong, for, while there may be some truth in their interpretation, it does remain a fact, and a most important one, that the motivating force of the American people has been their belief that they have always stood at the barricades by the side of God.

In Revolutionary times, the cry "No taxation without representation" was not an economic complaint. Rather, it was directly traceable to the eminently fair and just principle that no sovereign power has the right to govern without the consent of the governed. Anything short of that was tyranny. It was against this tyranny that the colonists "fired the shot heard 'round the world."

This belief in principle was expressed most impressively by George Washington at the Constitutional Convention in 1783. "It is probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair, the event is in the hands of God."

This idealism, this conviction that our eyes had seen the glory of the Lord -that right was right and wrong was wrong-finally led to the ultimate clash at Bull Run and the long red years of the war between the States.

Again, the cynics may apply the economic interpretation to this conflict: the industrial North against the agricultural South; the struggle of the two economies. Say what they will, it is an undeniable fact that the Northern Army of Virginia and the Army of the Potomac were inspired by devotion to principle: on the one hand, the right of secession; on the other, the belief that the "Union must be preserved."

In 1917, this element of the American character was stimulated by the slogans "War to End War" and "A War to Save Democracy," and again the American people had as their leader a man, Woodrow Wilson, whose idealism was the traditional idealism of America. To such a degree was this true that he was able to say, "Some people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic nation in the world."

It is perhaps true that the American intervention in 1917 might have been more effective if the case for American intervention had been represented on less moralistic terms. As it was, the American people eventually came to look upon themselves as giving food and guns to a general cause in which all other people had material ends and in which they alone had moral ends.

The idealism with which we had entered the battle made the subsequent disillusionment all the more bitter and revealed a dangerous facet to this element of the American character, for this bitterness, a direct result of our inflated hopes, brought a radical change in our foreign policy and a resulting withdrawal from Europe. We failed to make the adjustment between what we had hoped to win and what we actually could win. Our idealism was too strong. We would not compromise.

And thus we brought to our shoulders much of the burden of the responsibility for World War II--a burden which we would not then acknowledge but for which we have paid full price in recent years on distant shores, on faraway fields and valleys and hills, on pieces of foreign soil which will be forever ours.

It was perhaps because of this failure that the second world war never did become a crusade as did the first.

Our idealism had become tarnished, but extraordinary efforts were made to evoke it, and it is indubitably true that the great majority of Americans had strong convictions as to which side spoke for the right before our entry into the war.

It is now in the postwar world that this idealism--this devotion to principle--this belief in the natural law--this deep religious conviction that this is truly God's country and we are truly God's people--will meet its greatest trial.

Our American idealism finds itself faced by the old-world doctrine of power politics. It is meeting with successive rebuffs, and all this may result in a new and even more bitter disillusionment, in another ignominious retreat from our world destiny.

But, if we remain faithful to the American tradition, our idealism will be a steadfast thing, a constant flame, a torch held aloft for the guidance of other nations.

It will take great faith.

Our idealism, the second element of the American character, is being severely tested. Now, only time will tell whether this element of the American character will be true to its historic tradition.


The third element of the American character that I would bring to your attention this morning is the great patriotic instinct of our people.

From our pioneer days, perhaps because we were a people who developed from a beachhead on a tremendous continent, this American patriotism has always had as its core a strange and almost mystical love of the land.

Early in our history we acquired, as James Truslow Adams has pointed out, "a sense of unlimited energy face to face with unlimited resources."

Land, land, land, stretching with incredible richness across half a world. Its sheer vastness has made it a challenge to the American spirit. The endless land stretching to, the western sun caught the imagination of men who founded this nation and awakened the patriotic spirit that has become a characteristic of the American people.

In the words of America's poet, Walt Whitman, we note this deep sense of the land:

"Land of the pastoral plains, the grass-field of the world, land of those sweet-air'd interminable plateaus!
Land of the herd, the garden, the healthy house of adobe!
Land where the northwest Columbia winds, and where the southwest Colorado winds!
Land of the eastern Chesapeake! Land of the Delaware!
Land of Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan! Land of the Old Thirteen! Massachusetts land! Land of Vermont and Connecticut!
Land of the ocean shores! Land of sierras and peaks!
Land of boatmen and sailors! Fishermen's land!"

This preoccupation with the land records itself in the catalogue of the colonists' grievances against George III. It has always been reflected in the highest moments of our patriotism, for, throughout the years, in the early days here at home and in recent years abroad, Americans have been ever ready to defend this native land.

From the birth of the nation to the present day, from the Heights of Dorchester to the broad meadows of Virginia, from Bunker Hill to the batteries of Saratoga, from Bergen's Neck, where Wayne and Maylan's troops achieved such martial wonders, to Yorktown, where Britain's troops surrendered, Americans have heroically embraced the soldier's alternative of victory or the grave. American patriotism was shown at the Halls of Montezuma. It was shown with Meade at Gettysburg, with Sheridan at Winchester, with Phil Carney at Fair Oaks, with Longstreet in the Wilderness, and it was shown by the flower of the Virginia Army when Pickett charged at Gettysburg. It was shown by Captain Rowan, who plunged into the jungles of Cuba and delivered the famous message to Garcia, symbol now of tenacity and determination. It was shown by the Fifth and Sixth Marines at Belleau Wood, by the Yankee Division at Verdun, by Captain Leahy, whose last order as he lay dying was "The command is forward." And in recent years it was shown by those who stood at Bataan with Wainwright, by those who fought at Wake Island with Devereaux, who flew in the air with Don Gentile. It was shown by those who jumped with Gavin, by those who stormed the bloody beaches at Salerno with Commando Kelly; it was shown by the First Division at Omaha Beach, by the Second Ranger Battalion as it crossed the Purple Heart Valley, by the 101st as it stood at Bastogne; it was shown at the Bulge, at the Rhine, and at victory.

Wherever freedom has been in danger, Americans with a deep sense of patriotism have ever been willing to stand at Armageddon and strike a blow for liberty and the Lord.


The American character has been not only religious, idealistic, and patriotic, but because of these it has been essentially individual.

The right of the individual against the State has ever been one of our most cherished political principles.

The American Constitution has set down for all men to see the essentially Christian and American principle that there are certain rights held by every man which no government and no majority, however powerful, can deny.

Conceived in Grecian thought, strengthened by Christian morality, and stamped indelibly into American political philosophy, the right of the individual against the State is the keystone of our Constitution. Each man is free.

He is free in thought.

He is free in expression.

He is free in worship.

To us, who have been reared in the American tradition, these rights have become part of our very being. They have become so much a part of our being that most of us are prone to feel that they are rights universally recognized and universally exercised. But the sad fact is that this is not true. They were dearly won for us only a few short centuries ago and they were dearly preserved for us in the days just past. And there are large sections of the world today where these rights are denied as a matter of philosophy and as a matter of government.

We cannot assume that the struggle is ended. It is never-ending.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. It was the price yesterday. It is the price today, and it will ever be the price.

The characteristics of the American people have ever been a deep sense of religion, a deep sense of idealism, a deep sense of patriotism, and a deep sense of individualism.

Let us not blink the fact that the days which lie ahead of us are bitter ones.

May God grant that, at some distant date, on this day, and on this platform, the orator may be able to say that these are still the great qualities of the American character and that they have prevailed. Link.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Update on “Bless the Beasts and Children”

Michael Yon updates on the atrocities that are happening in Iraq that no one is hearing about. The Instapundit relates this e-mail he received.

A journalist whose name you'd recognize emails:

Yon's story doesn't get attention because it is humiliating.

It is humiliating because it is obvious that we media – and our allies in the state department, the legal trade, the NGOs, the Democratic Party, the UN, etc., - can’t do squat about such determined use of force.

Our words, images, arguments and skills can’t stop the killing. Only the rough soldiers and their guns can solve the problem, and we won’t admit that fact because the admission would weaken our influence and our claim to social status.

So we pretend Yon’s massacre – and the North Korean killing fields, the Arab treatment of women, the Arab hatred of Israel, etc. - doesn’t exist, and instead focus our emotions and attention on the somewhat-bad domestic things that we can ‘fix’ with our DC-based allies. Things such as Abu Ghraib, wiretapping, etc. When we ‘fix’ them, then we get status, applause, power, new jobs, ego, etc.

Please don’t be surprised. We media are an interest group not much different from the automakers, the unions, and the farmers.

Kansas Store Video Captures Five Shoppers Stepping Over Dying Stabbing Victim

I suppose these things shouldn't surprise me anymore, but this one did:

As stabbing victim LaShanda Calloway lay dying on the floor of a convenience store, five shoppers, including one who stopped to take a picture of her with a cell phone, stepped over the woman, police said.

The June 23 situation, captured on the store's surveillance video, got scant news coverage until a columnist for The Wichita Eagle disclosed the existence of the video and its contents Tuesday.

Police have refused to release the video, saying it is part of their investigation.

"It was tragic to watch," police spokesman Gordon Bassham said Tuesday. "The fact that people were more interested in taking a picture with a cell phone and shopping for snacks rather than helping this innocent young woman is, frankly, revolting."

The woman was stabbed during an altercation that was not part of a robbery, Bassham said. It took about two minutes for someone to call 911, he said.

Calloway, 27, died later at a hospital. Read More.

Is Mormonism Christian?

This is a question I just got into with a Mormon recently. Richard John Neuhaus deals with this topic quite effectively. This is a long article but well worth the read.

That is not the only interesting question, but it is probably the most important. Most non-Mormons have little occasion to think about Mormonism, and those who do tend toward distinctly negative thoughts. Although there is this curious thing of recent years that many conservative Christians warmly welcome Mormons as allies in various cultural tasks. To cite but one recent instance, it was an alliance of Catholics, evangelicals, and Mormons that was instrumental in persuading the people of Hawaii to reject same-sex marriage. Yet a few issues ago we published an article by a Mormon doctor presenting the case for Natural Family Planning and received blistering letters of protest. We thought that the fact that the argument was not being advanced by a Catholic might make it more persuasive to some. But at least some readers did not see it that way. Didn’t we know that Mormons are the enemies of Christ and his Church? Such views are stronger in the Northwest and, increasingly, in the Southwest where the Mormon presence is a force to be reckoned with. Read More.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Lost Book of Abraham (Full Video)

Haven't watched this yet, but looks interesting. Feedback?

Obama Takes Lead In Money Raised

Sen. Barack Obama raised $31 million for his presidential primary campaign over the past three months, surging past Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's fundraising machine by nearly $10 million for the quarter to take the lead in contributions in the crowded Democratic field. Read More.

This is going to put the pressure on Hillary. Her front runner status is definitely in jeopardy. It looks like Edwards only raised 9 million, that will be the end of him.

The GOP still seems open. It will be interesting to see what happens when Thompson formally declares.

Bless the Beasts and Children

From Michael Yon:

On 29 June, American and Iraqi soldiers were again fighting side-by-side as soldiers from Charley Company 1-12 CAV, led by Captain Clayton Combs, and Iraqi soldiers from the 5th IA, closed in on a village on the outskirts of Baqubah. The village had the apparent misfortune of being located near a main road—about 3.5 miles from FOB Warhorse—that al Qaeda liked to bomb. Al Qaeda had taken over the village. As Iraqi and American soldiers moved in, they came under light contact; but the bombs planted in the roads, and maybe in the houses, were the real threat.

The firefight progressed. American missiles were fired. The enemy might have been trying to bait Iraqi and American soldiers into ambush, but it did not work. The village was riddled with bombs, some of them large enough to destroy a tank. One by one, experts destroyed the bombs, leaving small and large craters in the unpaved roads.

The village was abandoned. All the people were gone. But where? Read the rest.

Zimbabwe’s top cleric urges Britain to invade

Zim just keeps getting worse. Now the archbishop there wants the British to re-invade. Hard to believe, and something that won't happen. This does show the desperation that collapse of the economy is bringing to the people:

ZIMBABWE’S leading cleric has called on Britain to invade the country and topple President Robert Mugabe. Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Bulawayo, warned that millions were facing death from famine, unable to survive amid inflation believed to have soared to 15,000%.

Mugabe, 83, had proved intransigent despite the “massive risk to life”, said Ncube, the head of Zimbabwe’s 1m Catholics. “I think it is justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe,” he said. “We should do it ourselves but there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready.”

Some parts of Zimbabwe have seen 95% of crops fail, leaving families with only two or three weeks’ food supply to last a year. Prices in the shops are more than doubling every week and Christopher Dell, the American ambassador, predicts that by the end of the year inflation could hit 1.5m%.

Ncube said that far from helping those struggling on less than £1 a week, Mugabe had just spent £1m on surveillance equipment to monitor phone calls and e-mails. “How can you expect people to rise up when even our church services are attended by state intelligence people? Read More.