Friday, December 24, 2004

Entitlement Mentality

World: "At the very least we deserve that God should find a way to redeem us, if he is going to say that we are sinful."

God: "Every person has strayed like a lost sheep. Every person has turned to his own way. Even so, I will cause their sin to fall on Christ." [Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21]


Friday, December 17, 2004

Designer Steriods

Have you noticed the strong reaction in the sports world to the breaking news concerning banned substances and substances that are too "designer" to be banned yet. In case you haven't been keeping up with these stories, one of the problems out there is the use of "designer steriods" which are basically substances that are altered in a laboratory so that they are not detected in a drug test but which essentially still have the same impact/effect on the body as traditional anabolic steriods.

Here's the kicker: while the average American opinion on the matters seems to be that it is wrong, there are lots of people out there saying, "But if you could make millions by doing steriods..." What has amazed me is the number of radio hosts who have endorsed this position, as if to condone the action because of the results that can be attained. While their entire show is basically a joke, The Sonny and Wimp Show broadcast locally on WJOX in Birmingham, AL and surrounding areas can seemingly make no "ethical" judgment about the use of steriods. Sonny Smith, a former Auburn basketball coach, and Wimp Sanderson, a former Alabama basketball coach, seem comfortable with steriod use on a personally level as long as the money is right.

Another that has joked about steriods and the potential to increase one's income from the mediocre to the millions in professional sports is Paul Finebaum who seems similarly to have little doubt that he would take the substances himself afforded the opportunity to increase his own ability and income. Unfortunately, for talk radio hosts, the use of steroids does little to enhance their careers.

Deeper in this problem is the sense in which we live in a society where relativity is king. The average Joe will argue that using steroids is not a good thing to do. But then the average Joe also admits that he would use steroids if faced with the opportunity to increase his contract with the Yankees from a mere $800K to $4-5million a year. Talk about selling your soul...

Would the average sports fan rather have their favorite team clean from using such substances and being a sub-par team, or would the average fan rather see their team being dominant at the expense of using whatever substances were necessary to increase their performance? Given, fans have a tendency to look the other way when their own team is involved. Red Sox fans would accuse all the Yankee players of juicing up but be unable to fathom that any Red Sox players were doing any wrong, and vice versa.

The reason that the U.S. gov't is looking to get involved is because baseball (and one would think football, basketball, and hockey) does not take the problem serious enough to enforce a system that takes care of it. When the players' union is opposed to such testing (and it has been,) we have a problem.

Solutions? Not so easy when a monster has been created that must be fed. In a society that worships its best and most glamorous athletes, taking away their candy will be akin to disarming the Soviet Union.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Death Penalty

With Scott Peterson's trial and sentencing the issue of the death penalty has been thrust to the forefront of our society once again. Never mind the fact that Peterson will likely never be executed due to the system and the number of death row inmates in California that are in waiting.

Is the death penalty an outdated form of punishment that should be abandoned today?

No. In fact, if we pride ourselves on becoming a more civil society, the death penalty has a place today as much as it ever has. Why?

The death penalty is at its core a punishment that reflects the value of human life. Sound contradictory? Only if you do not highly value human life. People are created in the image of God, and God has established that killing one of these who are in his image is a crime punishable by death. One who kills another person is thus subjected to the highest punishment men can face.

What about the life of the one who committed the crime? In this case, Scott Peterson is guilty of killing his wife and unborn son. One of the arguments against his execution is that killing a third person does nothing to make the situation right. Part of the fallacy of such an argument is to what degree it is to be taken. Should Peterson then be allowed to remain free, since incarcerating a man is so detrimental to his life anyway?

What about people who are mistakenly sent to death row? Part of today's argument points to the people who have been dismissed from death row because of new trials involving new evidence. Certainly the system has to work for anyone to be justly sentenced to any amount of time in prison or to the death penalty. Whether or not the death penalty is just has nothing to do, though, with people who are unjustly sentenced.

Personally, the struggle over the death penalty is not an easy one. Chuck Colson has had a strong influence on my personal view of death row inmates and their spiritual condition. However, even Colson has changed his official position on the death penalty.

Disturbing is the fact that there were crowds outside the courthouse who cheered at the sentencing of Peterson. There is certainly nothing to rejoice about when a man is sentenced to death. Even in supporting the death penalty, there should be a weighty sobriety involved in the matter.

As one who has been on a jury for a murder trial, the sentencing of the people involved is a tough matter to deal with. In my personal experience, my jury convicted a 19-yr old of 2nd degree murder and 4 convictions of assault. He was sentenced by the judge to 49 years in prison. While our decision was the correct one, I am still sobered by the thought that this young man is to spend what will probably amount to over half his life in prison.

To an even greater degree, the Scott Peterson jury (and any jury that must make the death penalty decision) did not bring the sentence with any celebration. Rather, in their interviews they appeared very burdened by the crime and the punishment that they had to deal with.

There are problems on both sides of the arguments. Many who are arguing for Peteron's death point to the drastic nature of his crimes. But no matter how brutal his crime, Peterson killed another person. Now matter how significant or insignificant the person was in our society and/or in Peterson's life, his action would merit death. Even if he had killed an unknown homeless person, the sentence should be the same (given that the criteria for 1st degree murder were met.)

On the other side, the problems with many arguments against Peteron's execution are merely emotional pleas. They fall short of being consistent in arguing that he should not be executed (though all agree that he should at least have life in prison.)

In the end, I support the death penalty although I cannot imagine being a juror or a judge in the sentencing. Additionally, no matter how strongly I support the death penalty, I do not think I could be the person to actually administer the execution.


Friday, December 03, 2004

Church: Open or Closed?

The United Church of Christ is marketing itself as accepting of all in a new ad campaign which clearly portrays the worship services of more conservative churches as closed gatherings. Interestingly, NBC, CBS, and ABC have rejected the ads for television citing that they are too controversial and one-sided. Dr. Albert Mohler comments on the current place of the United Church of Christ and the extremely liberal theology that now pervades the church.

According to this article the ad contains two bouncers at the entrance to a church who decide which people can enter and which ones cannot.

"No, step aside, please," he tells two men holding hands. "I don’t think so," he
says to a young black girl while blocking her entrance. A Hispanic man and a
person in a wheelchair also are denied entry.
The scene fades to black and a
message: "Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we."


While the piece is certainly intended to make a point about churches that take a stance on homosexuality, the overall picture is completely inaccurate. In addition, the inclusion of racial and physical attributes as reasons why people may or may not be admitted is ludicrous. While there have been failings historically in the church concerning the treatment of other races, to relate today's stance on homosexuality is unbiblical and unfounded.

Let's move toward setting the record straight:

1. Conservative churches should be categorized as those who hold to an objective standard of truth, adhering to the Bible as the word of God. Some churches believe nothing and hold to nothing. If you have no truth, why bother?

2. Churches should not turn people away from their worship services. Maybe there are some extreme examples hidden deep in the middle of nowhere that stand guard at the door turning away minorities and handicapped people, but these would be the extreme and would not be biblically-based churches.

3. Biblically, churches must be exclusive...exclusively Christian, that is.

4. Formerly sinners. The church is made up of people who are saved from their sins by grace. See Ephesians 2:1-22. No person deserves in himself/herself to be a part of the church which is the body of Christ. Every single person who becomes a part of the church does so by the life-changing grace of God through Jesus Christ.

5. The Bible identifies homosexuality as a sinful lifestyle (Romans 1:26-27.) A Christian cannot continue in a sinful lifestyle (1st John 1:5-2:6.)

Are Christians to accept homosexuals? Yes, just as much as we accept (or should accept) every person in our world today.

Is the church to admit homosexuals as members? No. Continuing in the lifestyle of homosexuality is wholly inconsistent with living the Christian life. However, there is absolutely no reason that a church should not admit a person who has come out of a homosexual lifestyle and is now professing Christ and abandoning their former ways. Churches such as the United Church of Christ are not helping anyone by claiming that their doors are open to all if there is no truth being proclaimed inside.

Should churches allow homosexuals to attend their worship services? Certainly. Hearing the gospel is an open experience for all people. Part of our worship is the proclamation of the gospel, and we want all people to hear the message of grace and life in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Gaynier and Her Security Cake

Why do you feel safe to get on an airplane in the U.S.?

Rhonda Gaynier and the ALCU may make it a little easier for their terrorist enemies to board planes if this problem grows larger roots.

Gaynier would like to have her cake and eat it too. She does not want her privacy to be violated. She does want to board the airplane. She claims she was searched like she was a convict. Guilty until proven innocent...isn't that the way the investigation must be conducted?

Okay, people should absolutely NOT be groped in any way that is inconsistent with what is necessary to prove that they are not hiding weapons on their body. Personally, as a male, I do not appreciate the wand or anyone's hands checking me out at the airport, and for women it must be even more humiliating. But let's keep our focus here. Gaynier's planned class action lawsuit is not going to make matters better. In fact, I'm immediately reminded of the line from A Few Good Men from Colonel Jessep: "You just weakened a country today."

Solution? There are no easy ones. As long as screenings are going to be required, there are going to be problems and frustrations. Were Gaynier and everyone else who are now claiming that they were touched inappropriately right to make accusations? I am certain that a percentage of them are legitimate.

Maybe we should allow physicians to perform the checks. Maybe they could do a mini check-up as we went through screening and we could get a health report along with a clearance to board. Wouldn't this also fit with the x-ray machines that are being tested for body screenings? Couldn't a good radiologist get a quick glance at our bodies along with a view of possible hidden weapons? We don't argue that our family doctor goes too far when he/she investigates into highly personal areas because we know it is necessary. 'Necessary' may also be the word we have to accept when it comes to being screened at the airport as well.

Gaynier's accusations should be taken seriously, as should others. But the issue of so-called "freedoms" is not at stake here. The ACLU has no business in this argument (but then, wha'ts new.) America will only be free as long as we are a safe nation. If our terrorist enemies were smart, they would not only be training fighters to carry bombs and guns, but also lawyers to fight in the U.S. courts for the freedom to harm Americans.

Maybe in the future we can have two systems: flights for people who wish to be screened and flights for those who do not.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Bread Ties

In Seinfeldesque terms I must ask, "So what's up with bread?"

While all of the other products that are packaged and sold at the grocery have come to be enveloped with unpenetrable layers of safety features, bread is sold in a bag with an inviting twist tie on the end/top. I only became aware of this problem this week when the bread I purchased had a somewhat defective twist tie on the end, alerting me to the possibility that someone, anyone, could have opened this package of bread and harmed the bread in countless and unimaginable ways. Are we really this naive? When is the bread industry going to catch up with the rest of the world of safety seals? Are we going to hold them accountable or are we going to continue to buy bread in these ancient packages?

Join with me as I march in front of the department of bread to make sure that our voices are heard and the future is going to be a better place. (Or, write you congressman.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Casual Casualties

Quick, how many British casualties have there been in Iraq? Italian? Poles?

If you're like me and somewhat of a current affairs addict, you at least know the ballpark figure for how many U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq. The most recent official count is 1,140 for American men and women, and 1,286 for the coalition (not including the new Iraqi army, I presume.) Britian has lost 74, Italy, 19, Poland, 13.

Certainly one of the horrible things about continued fighting is the numbness that we develop as a society to the casualties that are reported. This morning on the radio news they reported how many U.S. soldiers had been killed and wounded in the last two days in Fallujah. The report was so dry and matter-of-fact that it reminded me of Stalin's statement: "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." First, it is interesting that such words came from a man who was responsible for so many deaths. Second, it is even more interesting how right he was.

During peaceful times, any member of the U.S. military who is killed makes the headlines in the news, usually with a detailed story. Not so in war times. To their credit, though, there does seem to be an effort by the media to give significance to each U.S. soldier who is killed in action, and obviously to our regret it would be impossible to explain the complete story in each and every case.

Another observation is the significance for Americans solely concerning American lives. Yes, our national media is going to cater to that in which we are most interested, but you rarely hear the statistics for how many troops were killed for any of the other countries involved. We are very ethnocentric people to the degree that other lives don't seem to carry the same weight as Americans.

It is interesting that the term "casualty" derives from the same root as "casual" due to the meaning of "accident" or "chance." Today we certainly don't relate the words nor do we think there is anything casual about being killed. Sadly, though, casualties become increasingly casual in our news as the numbers continue to increase.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Blogging the Vote

Standing in line to vote today I began to pick out the Kerry voters and the Bush voters. It was easy, actually.

The nervous ones are voting for Bush; they have everything to lose and they care. The carefree ones are voting for Kerry; their cares are fewer because they have little to lose, and so they think, much to gain. The Kerry voters are wearing wind-surfing gear, Red Sox hats, and playing air guitar. The Bush voters are wearing business suits and are anxious to get to their banking jobs.

The SUV drivers are voting Bush, too. I know they're SUV drivers because they keep anxiously looking to the parking lot to see if their SUV's are performing malicious acts while unattended in the parking lot. The Kerry voters are taking off their leather driving gloves as we stand together in line.

I make a joke about voter intimidation to test the waters. The Bush voters laugh. The Kerry voters try to ignore me as they look through their Democrat handbooks for anything that might actually be voter intimidation. The rain was certainly intimidating, but accusing God of voter intimidation is going to be difficult even for liberals.

The couple ahead in line who are speaking French must be voting Kerry. The guy in the cowboy hat is voting Bush, and he speaks Texan. The soccer moms are driven to madness - "Do I vote for national security or for government healthcare?" they ask themselves. The woman behind us with the unshaven legs is obviously voting Kerry. Oh, wait, Nader. The priest in the other line must be voting for Bush.

The elderly seem to be happy just to be voting. There are plenty of comments about the big turnout. Of course, this is Alabama. Senior citizens are voting for Bush whether or not they've been Democrats or Republicans for the past 90 years. The South is still a century away from voting for a liberal.

I see Kurt Cobain, Mary Poppins, and John Wayne ahead of me in line. They must have responded to Sean Combs' efforts to get people to "vote or die." I wonder if they have valid ID's.
The entire process took only 75 minutes. That's 15 minutes faster than a failed attempt to renew my tags the previous day. Success!



Saturday, October 30, 2004

Election in a Divided Country

While political historians could inevitably trace our current problems as a nation back to roughly the day that the Republican Cavemen walked out of that meeting with the Democratic Hunter-Gatherers, recent history seems to give several insights into which the neither the media nor the talk shows seem to explore very deeplly.

1. The drastic swing in the popularity of Bush-41 after the first Gulf War. The U.S. was very united in the first war to free Kuwait and restore order to the world. As the election neared, popular talk shifted from the war to domestic issues. Many conservatives blamed the media, especially CNN at the time, for getting Clinton elected. Certainly the media had shown bias before, but a new era had begun.

2. Terrorism in the 90's. Terrorism and the way that the U.S. dealt with the Somalian problems, the bombing of the WTC, and the bombing of the USS Cole gave reasons for the nation to be viewed as soft on terrorism. No one on either side of the fence really viewed the possibilities with the kind of seriousness that we now realize was needed. America's lack of clear resolution in the 90's eventually led to lots of finger-pointing after 9/11.

3. The impeachment of Clinton. The entire affair stands as a black mark on America's history. The embarassment to the office of president and the division that the entire mess created were both harmful. Whether or not you believe Clinton should have been impeached, you have to agree that the matter and the distraction that the hearings and investigations created are something that weakened our country and divided us further down the aisle.

4. The Bush-Gore election fiasco. The arguments that continued and the attitudes that followed by those who thought that Bush was not legitimately elected have further divided the country into two parts.

5. The spin on terrorism and Iraq. Following one of the worst and yet most unifying events to ever occur in 9/11, the factions have created two Americas (if I may borrow that terminology): One America that is resolute in taking the necessary measures to fight terrorism and protect ourselves, and one America that wants to downplay the war on terror to something secondary.

6. The gap between Bush and Kerry. The extreme differences between these two candidates also produces extreme feelings by people who realize the implications of the election.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

An Open Letter to Churches about Politicians

To the Churches:

The presence of people at church for worship should be the most sanctified gathering we experience this side of heaven. At the very heart of worship is the acknowledgment and attributing of God's worthiness to him as God. There should be no secondary or other focus of our worship. Anything that falls outside of pure reverence for God should be questioned sternly.

Now there are many things that become questionable in worship if we are to take worship as seriously as the Christian faith warrants. Accordingly, the presence of any politician for political gain at a worship service is first and foremost a neglect for the God that we should be gathering to worship. No matter how 'religious' the politician may be or claim to be, there is no place in worship for stumping, as Jared Bridges soundly defends.

Politicians should absolutely be welcomed when attending our churches, just as every other person. There would even seemingly be no problem with a politician holding an office in the church so long as the person met the biblical qualifications for the position. However, allowing a mortal man or woman the platform to advance their political views and allow such a presentation to become mixed with the church's gathering to worship an Almighty God is completely and utterly deplorable. How can any church stand for such a shameful distraction?

As the news has covered politicians speaking lately in churches trying to gather last-minute votes I feel like the church is being prostituted to the world. When a church becomes no more than a social organization that invites politicians to come and address its members (even in a non-partisan "both sides" event) the church has ceased to be the church. For whatever purpose these people are gathering, it is not to be the church nor to worship God.

Believers in Christ should be informed voters. Believers in Christ should be active in our country's political system. However, the worship service is neither the time nor the place for a political speaker or a political rally to take place.

Every church certainly falls short of worshiping in the most biblical way that we are able. Many things could and should be changed to make our worship more God-centered and less man-centered. The church that would claim to have everything perfectly in order would surely be sinful in such a claim. This matter is not one for a church to boast over another church. Rather, it is a pressing matter for us to examine ourselves and to seek to be more biblical churches in the future than the present.

Sincerely,
Colby Willen


Friday, October 22, 2004

Kids, Children, Soldiers

Kids. n. a.k.a. "children"

a.k.a. "The American soldier."

Will someone please identify which soldier in the American military was drafted and sent to war? Also, where are these 13-year olds that liberals keep insinuating when they talk about our 'kids' fighting in Iraq?

Maureen Dowd jumps on this platform in her editorial yesterday by tossing out the "we sent our kids to fight" line. No, Maureen, that would be the Palestinians. In America we allow our people to choose. When our 18 year-old men and women decide that a respectable and honorable way of life is to join the military, then we honor that choice. We're all in favor of choice aren't we?

As a nation, we are not sending our sons and daughters to war. We're sending our strength to war. As the book of Proverbs states, "the glory of young men is their strength." Are we supposed to limit our military to the middle-aged? Maybe the elderly should be the ones on the front lines...is this what liberals are suggesting?

Luckily we still have a generation that has enough pride in being American that they desire to fight for and defend the country. We still have a volunteer army, and we still have the greatest military in the history of the world. Does it hurt to see our loved ones injured or killed in the struggle against terrorism? Certainly. But let's not make them to be martyrs.

As for Dowd's attack on Bush's faith, she makes the war out to be a religious crusade. There certainly is a religious crusade going on, and it is one that would abolish America if it could get its hands on the right weapons. Since when did being a President who believes in God become contrary to American ideals? A quick look down the lines of presidential history shows some amazingly religious men who led from the oval office. Sure, there have been some who were nominally Christian, but never before has there been such media attacks on the CIC for mentioning God and the Bible, but then, that's another blog entry for another day.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Prescient

Prescient. adj. Having knowledge of coming events; foreseeing; conscious beforehand.

More than one paper has used the term "prescient" to describe the Senator running for President as they place themselves firmly in his corner. Don't we all wish we had a candidate who was relatively prescient? But in truth, none are. Maybe a glimpse here and there, but wishy-washy on current topics doesn't convince one that a candidate is prescient. Someone who stands resolute on the direction of the country seems to deserve the term to a little higher degree.

Maybe these papers meant that Kerry was prescient of what he needed to say for the next polling results. Maybe this term should be 'pollscient' instead.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Some Light

In a devotional called Light on the Path Heinrich Bitzer gives the reader a verse or two in Hebrew and Greek each day, often steering his reader to translate an Old Testament verse and a related New Testament verse that gives some interesting and related things to consider. Today's verses are an excellent example:

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. (I Chronicles 29:11)

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:27-30)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bubba Voted Out

Travis ("Bubba") was voted off Survivor tonight. His "secret signals" to the other tribe got all the women on his tribe fired up. From there he had no chance. So the hope of Sullivan Central High School is voted off the island.


Friday, October 08, 2004

Bubba Survives Survivor

Bubba makes it personal for me as he's the first person I've actually known on the show. We were in school together since we were kids (he, Travis, was a year ahead of me.) We played football together for a couple of years when we were kids.

For some reason I've been a fan of Survivor since I caught the last two episodes of the first series. I think it is my competitive nature and my fantasy of wondering how I would do on the show. I argue that lying is completely permissable since it's only a game - lying would be the same as not showing someone else your cards or not exposing your motivations for a purchase in Monopoly.

As for Bubba and the men's team, they have failed to play the game in a fashion that will help them to win. Each of the men seems so concerned/threatened by the other men that they are overly concerned about voting each other out than about beating the women and retaining a strong team presence. If and when the tribes merge, the larger tribe almost always has the upper hand in voting out the former members of the smaller tribe. In this case, the women would dominate the men. However, the producers/planners of the game have shown that they can mix things up from time to time to make the game interesting just when one 'tribe' seems overly dominant.

As for Bubba's chances, I think they are reasonable. While he has taken up with the 'older' men in the tribe, he seems to be on pretty good terms with the others that still remain.

Interesting fact about Bubba: the orange Bob Barker shirt that he is always wearing is the shirt that was popular in our high school way back when. I don't know if he has preserved his shirt this long or if maybe he got a new one somewhere especially to wear on survivor (though the one he's wearing doesn't look too new.)


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Track Record

What do comets, baseball pitchers, the moon, and stock shares have in common? We can predict where they're going by where they've been and appear to be heading. Curt Schilling didn't start the first game of the post-season for the Red Sox because of any other reason than his track record for the past 3-6 months of pitching. If you're investing, would you rather put your money in a proven fund or go with an unknown based on promises of a different agenda to come?

But, claiming that something or someone will go in a direction they have failed previously to go is like predicting that hurricane Jeanne would turn due West when it was heading due East into the Atlantic - there was little reason and no predictions that the change would actually happen. I kind of get that same feeling in hearing the presidential and vice-presidential debates. A man's words only carry so much meaning, and when his words deviate from his track record, we have little evidence that his words are trustworthy. If Curt Schilling had gone 3-15 for the season and wound up with a 7.83 era for the Red Sox, no matter how strongly he insisted that he would pitch a winning game in the playoffs, his case would hold little water.

You decide.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Polygamy

This word is about to come out of the closet if the liberal left has any say in the matter. The irony is that the liberal left stammers and stutters whenever polygamy is brought up in debate, tending to denounce polygamy because it is "wrong." I'm sorry, but the word "wrong" should only be applied by the left to conservative ideas.

Dr. Albert Mohler addresses the slippery slope that seems like the next logical progression if our society is to adopt gay marriage. Mohler responds to one of the first actual arguments in favor of the legality of polygamy in USA Today by Jonathan Turley. Turley calls polygamy laws "hypocrisy," and he is correct if we are to adopt gay marriage as a constitutional right.

The relativism present in most arguments in favor of gay marriage becomes ludicrous when examined. People ultimately begin to argue the existence right and wrong when pushed to answer precisely why gay marriage is okay but other deviations on marriage are not equally proper. The morality of the issue is based more on public opinion than any objective standard. As long as polygamy is only endorsed by a quiet minority, the left can sweep in under the rug. But what happens when the same kind of activism that has pushed homosexuality for the past 30 or so years catches the polygamy wave?

For the present, I think Turley argument is actually a benefit to the conservative side. Turley's argument is accurate, and he brings to light the path that is beckoning to a society that reinterprets its constitutional freedoms to allow for everything under the sun.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Ethical Blogging

Rebecca's Pocket gives a good piece on the ethics involved in the world of weblogs. Why are blogs not taken more seriously out there by the mainstream media? Part of the reason is the trust factor. People trust The Washington Post and the New York Times because the reports in these publications have been proven factual over the years (minus a few glitches and omissions, of course.) The reason people in the blog world visit a few select big-name blogs is the trust we develop in these to be accurate and dependable. Visiting any random blog is like interviewing a person on the street - you have no idea what you are getting.

Much has been made of the 'checks and balances' that blogs have come to weigh in with on the media. Still, the notion of 'checks and balances' as they apply to blogs really only apply to those which have enough traffic to create a balanced system. 99.9% of blogs out there (according to figures established in my own mind) do not receive the traffic to truly make them a balanced vehicle of truth, though the lack of this accountability does not imply that they are not true. If I published on my blog tomorrow that Martians had landed in my back yard and were setting up a pizza parlor marketed toward Star Trek and Star Wars fanatics, the tabloids might show up to interview me but no one (or few) in the blog world would rush to my defense. Conversely, at a low traffic blog, the truest analysis is likely to get merely a passing yawn.

The interesting part about the whole system is the way that the big blogs are like a towering structure built with the smaller blogs as the support. Instapundit is 200,000 hits strong partially because of the information gathered from the blogosphere. Glenn Reynolds then both gives credibility to other blogs and is viewed as a good 'thermometer' for the accuracy of other things going on out there (taking nothing away from his own articles and original blog entries.)

On the flip side, just as a major newspaper can be burned by one of its own who decides to make up the facts for its stories, the blogosphere is infinitely more susceptible to such problems. Bloggers as a whole will never be taken too seriously just as letters to the editor in every small town newspaper across the country carry little weight until the proven name of the community weighs in with an opinion.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Man on Fire

Liked it. Reminding me some of Traffic and a little of Proof of Life, I was impressed by Man on Fire and the character of Creasy played by Denzel Washington. However, I like Denzel so sometimes characters like Creasy in this movie are difficult for him in my book because of the ingrained confidence I have in his personality. With a voice and a smile like Denzel's, sometimes it is hard for him to truly seem down and out.

This movie is certainly not for the faint of heart as the violence portrayed is pretty harsh. However the role played by the little girl, Dakota Fanning as "Pita," did give the movie a light side at times. The cinematography was interesting and combined with the setting in Mexico gave the movie some of the feel that Traffic conveys. Interestingly, the image that both give of Mexico is that a corrupt society from top to bottom. I've never been to Mexico, but I imagine that these are the very worst of a country that must have some good sides.

Poll revisited

Apparently everyone's favorite liberal 527 didn't read my blog on poll results. See their ad in today's NYT. The most ludicrous part of this ad is the claim that someone being an evangelical Christian countermands one's ability to publish poll results.


Friday, September 24, 2004

Poll

Poll. n.

Definition #1 (Beginning of time to August 2004): a survey of the public or of a sample of public opinion to acquire information. If done properly, results supposedly accurate to plus or minus 3%.

Definition #2 (September 2004 to ________): a completely illogical collection of numbers that might reflect some opinions but cannot be trusted to represent the population as a whole since polling data is obviously just a predictor and has little if any factual content.

When it was Kerry 47% and Bush 46% these polls were apparently healthy.
Now that it is Bush 55% and Kerry 42% these polls have more holes that swiss cheese.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Insurgents

Insurgents are, by definition, those who are rising in revolt against the established authority. "Insurgents" connotes oppression and a governing authority that is unjust. "Insurgents" implies that those who are rebelling are nationals of the country in which they are staging an uprising and thus have a right to stand up for themselves. As we have all seen, "insurgents" has been the most popular term in the media for those who fight against the coalition troops in Iraq or perform terrorist acts there. (See also, "rebels" for the Muslim radicals in Russia.)

Soon the term is going to be applied in the United States. Soon the media will designate terrorist acts simply as Americans acting as insurgents against a government with which they disagree. Homeland Security can hunt down terrorists, but what about insurgents? Surely insurgents have the right to make their beliefs and opinions known. And if we aren't listening, then they'll have to blow something up. This is included in freedom of speech isn't it?

The lines are gray in an unprecedented war against an enemy that doesn't wear a uniform or fight under a national government. The protrayal of those who take lives and those who take hostages and behead them as people who are just trying to throw off an oppressive military labeled "occupiers" instead of "liberators" makes the issue even less defined. The notion that America somehow deserves everything bad that occurs is horribly distorted propaganda from a U.S. media as well as a world that is uncomfortable with one superpower and even further unable to comprehend the altruistic intentions of the U.S. and its allies.


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Red Tape Democracy

Red Tape. n. The collection or sequence of forms and procedures required to gain bureaucratic approval for something, especially when oppressively complex and time-consuming.

Democracy. n. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.

While this article in the Christian Science Monitor laments the path that Russia may be taking in its dealing with terrorism, the measures that Putin's Russia seems prepared to implement may be the answer. Another article shows how quickly the Russians have turned to a country that knows how to deal with terrorism, Israel.

For many Russians, there has to be a sense of security in the way things used to be. While freedoms were exactly heralded with the Soviet Union, there was a consistency that has been eroded in an age where Islamic terrorists believe they can manipulate the Russian government with brutal acts.

If only America could act with such swiftness. "But our freedoms" has been the cry since 9/11 with such a volume that our attempts to catch up to where we need to be on the war against terror have proved difficult. No racial profiling in airports. Due process for everyone, by all means. Treat war prisoners like royalty, please. Terrorists have rights too, you know.

One of the most interesting 'non-topics' in the mainstream media the past year has been the success of Israel's dividing wall. The few stories that I have heard or seen about the wall have all been about the injustice of building it and the UN demanding that it be torn down. Few want to admit the truth:

The truth is that despite the ugliness of Israel's wall, it has reduced
Palestinian extremist suicide bombings.


Of course there are a lot of reasons that the Russians would not turn to the United States for help in the war on terror, but among the reasons is that the United States has done little internally. While Russian may emulate America's Bush Doctrine of seeking out and destroying terrorists wherever they hide, it is Israel that Russia is turning to for help and advice on internal security. So should America.

35 ft waves. If you're a weather junkie like myself, check out the National Data Buoy Center but be forewarned that they have posted that they may go off-line at some point in the storm. Basically, you can see weather reports from the buoys positioned all over the world (and especially in the northern Gulf of Mexico.)
The large, rotating, tropical event has become due North, but its predicted movement has slowed down as it pertains to central Alabama/Birmingham.

This from Accuweather:

Heavy rainfall of 10-15 inches is expected over parts of southeast Louisiana,
eastern Mississippi and southern and central Alabama tonight by Friday morning.
Heavy rainfall is also expected over northern Alabama, eastern Tennessee and
northern Georgia tomorrow night into the weekend. Current computer projections
suggest the remnant low of Ivan might stall over southeast Tennessee this
weekend. That could lead to catastrophic rainfall over parts of the southern
Appalachian mountains extending into the western Carolinas.




Ivan - 7am CDT Wednesday

The sun is up but there are dark clouds on the horizon that are swirling in from the east/southeast. According to this the projected path seems to have shifted slightly more West than last night. As of 7am, the storm was still moving NNW, which is bad, bad news for New Orleans but the experts are still predicting "the turn" at any time.

As for Birmingham, traffice on I-65 was reportedly very heavy last night, motel rooms were being grabbed, there are no generators at the big stores, and the city is planning to issue an evacuation for low-lying areas later Wednesday afternoon if needed. Interestingly, all the city's high school football games were axed last night (Tuesday). What if Ivan doesn't come?

As for Birmingham, Jim Cantore last night was talking about the evacuation and mentioned that he would go further North than Birmingham. The local meteorologists are calling for potentially hurricane-force winds here in the low category-1 type if the eye tracks this way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Ivan and Birmingham

Here is what Birmingham can expect if the storm tracks this way.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Ivan the Terrible

I personally find this chart more interesting than the cone-shaped prediction that the meteorologists love to flash up on the screen as they spit out a disclaimer about where and when the hurrican might really strike. Are these numbers from the boys in Vegas? What's the over/under for Mobile, AL?

Since one hurricane back in 19__ happened to go on some random path, how in the world does that information help us now? The way I see it, Ivan has an equal chance of hitting Brownsville, TX, Panama City, FL, or Cleveland, OH.


Saturday, September 11, 2004

9/11

This slideshow is a tough reminder. (With broadband it took over 5 min to download.)



He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

-Psalm 46:9-11

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Alabama Government to Take Action: Terrorism? No. Poverty? No. The obvious conspiracy by the NCAA which is out to get the University of Alabama? Why, yes.


Sim

Sim = Simulated

I vote that we chop off all longer words in favor of the shorter versions.

Glenn Reynolds' column on The Sims probes whether or not the game teaches us something about life.

If it does, then maybe I'm prepared to be a city planner as per my time spent with Sim City!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Republic

Republic. n. 2a. A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them.

There are many debates out there about the meaning of 'republic' versus the meaning of 'democracy' and which our nation has become today. Some cite the change in electing senators in 1911 to a transition for the USA from a historically-defined republic to a democracy. The problem in evaluating these terms throughout our history is that they tend to be altered by each generation to fit its own paradigm.

The definitions offered at the RNC were equally interesting. First Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech opened the gates to make the Republican Party widely inclusive and welcoming. Then Zell Miller's speech and all of his interviews have repeatedly defined what the Democratic Party used to be but is no longer. While few would claim that their party names would directly tie them to historical understandings of 'Republic' and 'Democracy,' there are deeply interesting differences between the emphases that show links to today's bipartisan politics. Republicans are not necessarily those for a republic and against a democracy and vice-versa for the Dems.

As George Washington left office, his charge to the country included two words of advice:
1. Avoid political parties
2. Avoid foreign affairs

While these hardly seem possible today, our country has gotten lost in the politics of partisanship to the extent that democracy is at stake. When the talking heads of a political party establish the platform that they would choose to run on and then expect the party's constituency to follow them, the process has fallen on its head, mortally wounded.

Take the 1904 election for example: the key issues were the gold standard, the rights of laborers, the independence of the Philippines, and the problem of monopolies. The two candidates, Roosevelt and Parker, basically agreed on the issues. The voters elected Roosevelt based largely on his personality (though in an age without the communications technology we have today, the average person would have had little knowledge of either's personal traits.)

In 2004 the predominant approach seems to be one of running on a platform that is clearly contrasted with the platform of the incumbent party and one that would also appeal to voters. The platform has to be original and marketable. The platform does not need to make sense or be true to the party's past, but must merely be drastic enough to promote a change from the current administration. If the incumbent party is in favor of putting green carpet in the White House, you must denounce green carpet and the color green itself while insisting that the only proper color for the White House carpet is red. Then sell your voters on the idea. Never, ever, under any circumstances, ask the public.

And they wonder why voter turn-out has been poor.







Friday, September 03, 2004

Labor Day

In 1882, Peter J. McGuire, a leader of the labor union the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (joiner being "a craftsman who constructs things by joining pieces of wood" or "a worker in wood who does more ornamental work than a carpenter") proposed a day to honor laborers. Laborers were considered a new class that worked in the factories and plants created by the Industrial Revolution. Labor Day became a national holiday on which workers in the 1890s and early 20th century used to call attention to their grievances. There were often parades, political speeches, fireworks, and a picnic.
Today, Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday in September (as of 1894, by law), simply honors anyone who works. The date has no traditional or historic significance but was picked because it filled a gap in the schedule of legal holidays. Canada also celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday in September; many other countries observe this on May 1.
The word labor comes from Latin laborem, "distress, toil trouble; drudgery, labor," and first referred to work that was compulsory or painful. The meaning changed with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. The first labor unions or trade unions came with the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain in the 18th century.

- from Dictionary.com

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Jiffy Market

Jiffy Market. n. 1. Instant analysis of the stock market as to the reason(s) for ups and downs. Reasons include but are not limited to: Battles raging, oil prices, Alan Greenspan, the dollar versus the Euro or the Yen, weather phenomena, the price of eggs in China.
2. A quick-service store selling gas, groceries, and beverages where I used to buy baseball cards or just bubble gum as a kid.

How is it that the Dow and the Nasdaq can be explained at their close in a 10-second segment on CNN/FOX/MSNBC which includes exactly four reasons that the market either saw increases or decreases today? Stock trading must be pretty simple.




Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Resolve

Resolve. n. Fixity of purpose.

Does Russia now negotiate with terrorists, now that this is a new level of evil in our world with the specific lives of children at stake?

No.

Every bone in Putin's body right now must be trying to come up with a way out of this scenario, but negotiating with terrorists will not be a winning decision in the long run, even if it saves all or some of the lives at stake at this school in Russia. Taking the road that Spain and the Philippines have taken will not bring future success. France has tried to appease, and now terrorists are holding French journalists with demands (if they're still alive.)

Is America ready for this? Will our resolve hold steady when it's a perfect little elementary school outside of Boston? Will we want to negotiate? Absolutely - every person would want to make the situation come out as positive as possible. But the decision has to already be in place - the decision to cave to no demand, no negotiation, no way. If the war on terrorism is going to be won, it is going to be won by a world with the kind of resolve that says "ABSOLUTELY NOT!"

If these terrorists blow up this school or shoot these children(and we're all praying that they don't), there are going to be people who criticize Russia for not doing more to "fix" the situation. Just like those who have tried to find fault with America for 9/11. Who is to blame? The terrorists.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Anarchist

Anarchist. n. An anarch; one who advocates anarchy of aims at the overthrow of civil government.

Anarchism. n. 1. The theory or doctrine that all forms of government are oppressive and undesirable and should be abolished.
2. Active resistance and terrorism against the state, as used by some anarchists.

Will someone please ask John Kerry to condemn these actions and to make these social terrorists stand down?

From an article describing anarchists:
In fact, if you ask 10 anarchists for their description of anarchism, you are
likely to get 10 different answers.

The basic tenet of anarchism is that hierarchical authority -- be it state, church, patriarchy or economic elite -- is not only unnecessary, but is inherently detrimental to the maximization of human potential.

Hmmm. Sounds interestingly like Al Gore...maybe he's running around out there with them.

This article provides a little of the 'sneaky' mentality:

They've learned how to escape police in a crowd, to make wheat-paste glue for
posting fliers, and to disrupt Republican activities by posing as helpful volunteers.

"Dress appropriately," so-called phantom volunteers are told. "Smile a lot."


Blogger Byron asks, "Tell me again, which is the party of hate?"

Can we call a spade a spade? While I'm certain that there are peaceful anarchists out there, the majority of these actions are of a terrorist nature and should be punished by more than a night in jail.

For the liberal media, it's an interesting dilemma: do they show all the glorious freedoms of the protestors in order to inform America that no one likes the Republican convention and in doing so also show the hate-filled atrocities of the anarchists and others who are extremists? Do you condemn the anarchists and other violent demonstrators and risk coming across as supporting the Republicans' efforts to hold a convention in hard-hit downtown NYC?

I think that anarchists are just the same as all radical demonstrators that burn things, flip cars, break windows, and start fights -- they're looking for a good excuse to throw out all restrictions on behavior and go wild. See also: cities where sports teams win championships and cities where groups of people feel mistreated.

Motto: "I'm a little upset/excited! Let's go tear some stuff up!"






Monday, August 30, 2004

Words

It is sad to witness the death of any worhty thing, even of a worthy word.
And worthy words do die, like any other worthy thing--if we do not take good
care of them. How many worthy words have already died under our very eyes,
because we did not take care of them!

If you persist in calling people who are not gentlemen by the name of
gentleman, you do not make them gentlemen by so calling them, but you end by
making the word gentleman mean that kind of people.


Words of B. B. Warfield. Read the entire thing here.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Creator

And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat
so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern,
asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not
care that we are perishing?" And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the
sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly
calm. And He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no
faith?" They became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who
then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

Mark 4:37-41 (NASB)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being
through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into
being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The
Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 1:1-5 (NASB)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Frances?

Hurricane Frances is supposedly a powerful storm headed for the United States. Let's hope it and its allies are not easily offended.


Bush's Media Attacks Kerry

In reading this article a couple of times I can't decide whether it was written by a child or if this is the Canadian take on the entire business. At one point, it reads:

In the rest of the pseudo-interview, Jon Stewart stuck to his mockery of the American media, both print and television, that supports George W. Bush and relentlessly attacks Kerry.


I couldn't decide if this was an attempt at humor, if it was the show's sarcasm, or if this is in fact the writer's straight-forward perspective.

They report...you decide.

Casual

Casual. adj. 3a. Being without ceremony or formality; relaxed. 3b. Suited for everyday wear or use; informal.

Casual is here, in case you haven't noticed. As one who has been looking for a new career, I've seen too many ads that promote the casual dress code as evidently the number one reason someone should work at a place. Casual Fridays seems to be peoples' most anticipated event of the week. The last place I worked, a school, I was amazed at the grubs that people (teachers) showed up in on Fridays, as if they had come straight from doing some lawn care. This survey's results showed that 50% of people rated casual dress as something preferable (3 or 4 on a scale of 1 to 4) when considering a job. Dressing down may even make you healthier according to this. While the dress shirt is advertised here as the perfect item because it can be either dress up or dress down, this school (loosely, now) even includes in its curriculum some instruction on business attire.

The way we have learned to view clothing today, the traditions of a few generations before us become lost in translation. The days when a gentleman was hesitant to appear in public without wearing a coat sound like something from sci-fi, and the Victorian manners of women seem even further eclipsed today.

Casual is everywhere. Locally I saw a Catholic church that was advertising their "Casual Worship." The terms "casual" and "contemporary" have become almost synonymous today in terms of church "progress." A Google of the terms shows that casual or contemporary worship occurs around 3 times as much as "traditional" worship. Churches don't advertise traditional worship – it's like advertising that you're selling old cars rather than new ones. However, I see it more as advertising Coke Classic rather than New Coke – not trying at all to be sacrilegious (hmmm…interesting word.) I prefer Classic, however. Ceremony can certainly be good. Ceremony with content, but that's another day...

Casual has fully infiltrated speech as well. In browsing some blogs, I've come across several (I won't link to them…you can find them) where the language has been decimated. I'm sure there are lots of things to blame, but I wonder if a cause is not in the use of IM's, especially on the phone where a person is not going to spell out a word because of the effort involved. In teaching English in school, I was shocked sometimes to see just how all formality had been neglected in written English. As a friend pointed out, "I'll bet they [the students] can communicate on IM's though." He's likely right.

I'm not against casual…I'm against losing our culture. I'm against dressing with no respect for oneself or others. I'm against losing our language skills to the point that foreigners know more about English than the average American. And I'm especially against creating an environment in our churches that is no different from our culture. "What is worship?" we must ask ourselves. How casual, if at all, should I expect to be when offering praises to God? I'd say as casual as Moses in Exodus 33-34 when he asks God to show him His glory. Moses has to be hidden in the rock because of the glory of God passing by him.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Character

Character. n. The combination of qualities or traits that distinguishes an individual or group.

"Character" derives from the Greek word which described the engraved image or impression, especially that identified the object such as a coin. In biblical use, the only occurrence is a figurative one in Hebrews 1:3 – Jesus as the "character" of God.

There are at least 10 more English definitions for "character" depending on where you look, but they all stem from this basic meaning. Soren Kierkegaard called character "changeable rarely and least of all in extreme circumstances."

Character pours out of us whether it is favorable or not. Kierkegaard's words prove true by our experience. Character is slow to change. And why not? If our character has taken X number of years to develop, changing overnight is not only unlikely, but impossible.

Extreme circumstances bring out the best or worst of our character. When the lights are brightest and the stage is largest, a person's character is tested most. To a certain degree, any man or woman can prepare and present elements of character-wished-for. However, unexpected moments, sudden questions, unpredicted catastrophes, or unannounced joys bring out the character from deep within us as if opening a door to the soul. Who a person has become through everything – education, trials, family, religion, friendships, well…everything – that is the undeniable character of a person.

We are all judges of character. There are facts involved, and then there is our instinct. We see someone on TV or meet someone in person, and we get a vibe (nothing weird) about them. We trust or distrust them. We like or dislike them.

For years I've had an evolving list in my head of people I'd choose in extreme circumstances to be on my side. I'll probably never go to war, but I think of that type scenario. Some of them are smart. Some are stubborn. Some are tough. Some are resourceful. But it's all about character. (There are even people on the list that I wouldn't want to be around everyday, but in the heat of battle I'd take them in a heartbeat.)

Back to the Greek term and the idea of the coins. Isn't it interesting that some of those who have demonstrated the most character in history have their images engraved on our coins today?


Kierkegaard quote as in Hunter's The Death of Character

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Oil

Oil n. Something we cannot do without. [See Germany, WWII, and Japan, WWII.]

John Makin provides the only factually competent piece on the current oil situation that I've seen sans rhetoric. Among the reasons that I've heard from no part of the media is an increase in China's import from 2 million barrels to 10 million in just the past four years.

Even on the micro level, the economic impact is obvious. Our household income is affected substantially when our monthly gas budget is increased from $60-70 per month to roughly $150 for our two fuel-efficient sedans, and I know we're on the low end of these costs.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Wonk

Wonk. n. One who studies an issue or topic thoroughly or excessively.

Synonyms: "pundit" and the British term "boffin."
Earliest reference: 1962 Sports Illustrated and something something about Harvard.
Derivation: 1) "know" spelled backwards, or 2) Acronym for "WithOut Normal Knowledge."

In a heavily divided America where every person is being increasingly encouraged not only to vote but to be a wonk for their guy, gal, or position, we can only proceed by identifying which policies and candidates we choose by wearing the appropriate t-shirts or by playing The Political Machine game until we are as wonk as possible.

We all know just how valuable those political posters in our neighborhood yards have proved to be over the years, decisively swaying the vote one way or the other because if [insert neighbor's name] is voting for that candidate, golly-gee-wiz then so am I.

How exactly do people decide who they are going to vote for? Do their minds really change? Okay, I'll admit that I wanted to vote for Carter in 1980 – but then I wasn't the smartest 2nd grader. I did later change my mind. But does a t-shirt proclaiming abortion rights, pro-war, anti-war, high taxes, low taxes, or decreased school funding cause me to respond politically by voting accordingly?

Even with truer wonks that have a little more substance (or at least passion) to their arguments on TV talk shows, have you ever seen either the liberal or the conservative concede to the other's position? "Well, okay, I guess you're absolutely right, Hannity!" Don't hold your breath, or you'll be one less vote.

If there is a multitude out there that is going to be persuaded by the way that they think most of the people around them are going to vote, then we're all in trouble.

Fourteen

Fourteen. n. 1. A number that could be a lot or not so many. 2. The number of dogs who worked at Ground Zero who have died.

An interesting and somewhat helpful number to add to this story might be the number of total dogs who worked at Ground Zero. If the total was 15, then this is quite a story. If the total was 1,500, then this means nothing.

Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Logogenericism

Logogenericism. n. The evolution of a trademark name into a common name that transcends and is used to reference an entire product line.

Some people have tried the terms eponym, generification, and/or metonymy for this process, but none seem to quite fit.

The Historicals: a Kleenex, a Xerox, a Coke, a Walkman, the Frigidaire, a Polariod, some Scotch tape, some Tylenol, a Thermos, some Clorox, a Band-Aid

Lesser Degree: in Webster's, my Levi's, your Teva's

Evolving…

Google: "If you don't know, why don't you just Google it?" (for fun, check out "Googlewhacking")

Mapquest: "I'm sure you can MapQuest that more easily than I can give you directions."

Palm: "Give me your email and I'll put it in my Palm."


Can I use any of these in Scrabble?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Choice

Choice. n. #2: The power, right, or liberty to choose; option.

A.k.a.: The highest "value" one can esteem in America.

While she flies in the face of all the odds, how can you argue that she was merely a choice at any point?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Headlines

I'm sure you've already seen all of these, but I just wanted to list some of the headlines out there today...

"Looting in Florida – President to Blame"

"Insurgents in Najaf Hurt Bush's Approval Rating"

"Economy Picking Up Despite President"

"Bush Lied About Dodging Bullets at Thanksgiving in Vietnam"

"U. S. Olympians not Performing Up to Expectations Due to Bush's Failure to Make Allies"

"President to Blame for Protesters in NYC"

"As President, Kerry to Eradicate Joblessness, Homelessness, and Bring World Peace by Involvement in Extreme Sports"

Double-dealing

Double-dealing. n. action contradictory to a professed attitude.

We have troops in Germany and S. Korea!?! By all means, how did they get there? Surely it wasn't because of a war. How long have they been "occupying" these countries? For what reasons?

Of course, the Cold War. Of course, World War II. Of course, the Korean War. Then we stayed, we rebuilt, and we protected. Sound familiar?

So why is a troop withdrawal such a difficult concept now for some people to accept? This op-ed in the NYTimes argues that in the long range we need to remain in these countries for the good of the world. This article by Dave Moniz and Steven Komarow in USAT cries about our "alliances." I'm sure that minus our 70,000 troops the Nazis will now rebuild the war machine, or the Soviets will invade Europe again and set up ICBM's. And certainly we should expect N. Korea to sweep through S. Korea the day after we leave.

"No" to occupying and rebuilding Iraq and "Yes" to occupying our stable allies? Who thinks of this stuff? "Increase national security," we are told everyday by both sides of the partisan fence. Wouldn't bringing home tens of thousands of troops increase national security? Not according to this take.

Then there's the whining about the economic impact this withdrawal will have on Germany and S. Korea. While I'm all about seeing Germany and S. Korea do well, I'll take these families spending their earnings here in America instead of everywhere else.

There are certainly advantages to keeping such a large military presence in Germany, S. Korea, and Japan, but the arguments seem to fly in the face of current logic. Which countries is it permissible to have a strong military presence in and which is it deplorable?

Will these same people be opposed to withdrawing our troops from Iraq when the country has reached a stable place where U.S. forces are no longer needed? I imagine it might hurt Najaf's economy in the year 2022 if we move our military bases away from this prospering city that we worked so hard to liberate and then rebuild.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Mathematics

Mathematics n. [Insert your own definition here because it doesn't really matter.]

Is there no math required for people who major in journalism or political science? The "increase" in taxes for the middle class is an absolute myth. Yes, the percentage of the whole may have increased, but taxes have gone down…down…down. This article from the Washington Post propaganda machine would have us believe the opposite.

A refresher course for those who didn't get the well-rounded education the University of Tennessee offers: If those making $182,700 were taxed 26.8% in 2001 and now are "only" taxed 23.8%, they got to keep $5,454.00 more in 2004. This is outrageous! That money should be equally divided among us all, right? The argument is that since their overall role in the tax system fell from 64.4% to 63.5% then they are getting too much of a break. The so-called "break" amounts to paying only $43,482.60 to operate the greatest country in history.

Meanwhile, those in the next bracket who are suffering at merely $75,600 saw their role increase. Are they paying more taxes? NO! The rate for someone making $75,600 decreased from 19.3% to 18.5%, even if you went to Harvard. The only real argument here is that their actual monetary decrease was only in the amount of $604.08, not that much by comparison. However, these people also have to suffer in smaller houses, drive a slightly higher mileage luxury car, and eat at slightly less popular dining establishments. Never mind the fact that the taxes paid by the $182K group and the $75K group are basically as much as the two lower income groups. It is hard for those of us in the middle brackets to imagine $43,482 of our income going to the government.

But then, each person's definition of mathematics being equal, who am I to say which is right. I'll just vote accordingly.

H-O-R-S-E

Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury are scorers, but they couldn't win a game of
H-O-R-S-E against half the 12-year-olds in the state of Indiana.


Michael Wilbon nails the reason the USA lost to Puerto Rico and is likely to lose some more in his column in the WP. The country that invented basketball can no longer hang with international teams. Now that I think of it, the country that invented baseball did not even make the Olympics. Let's hope the country's greatest invention, the cheeseburger, does not go down this slippery slope.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Object Permanence

Object Permanence. n. The ability of the brain to retain and utilize visual images. It develops at about eight months of age.

I was taught rather early on to write things of importance down. If I took a telephone message for the parents, I was supposed to write it down. Now if I take one for the wife, I'm supposed to write it down. I'm still not perfect at this.

I am disturbed by the lack of permanence the internet brings us. History is already in danger enough from those who want to rewrite it with the political agendas of the day. At least with history you have always been able to pick up an older text or historical novel that revealed the way things really were before the thought police jumped in and changed Columbus or the Cold War or the Roman Empire. With e-data, though, who is going to keep yesterday's news from being altered today? How can you prove that Charley had 145 mph winds? How can you disprove a website where the winds have been altered to be 245? What happens when someone altars my email ever-so-slightly and then forwards it to others?

I certainly love the accessibility of the online news which has basically made the television news more of a recent historical review. However, the whole format of constant change that you see with online news is a drastic transformation when compared to receiving the daily print edition with a set amount of information that was compiled by the deadline the previous day.

This editorial in Scifi and this article both give some interesting insights into the phenomena of ever-changing information online.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Veracity

Veracity. n. The quality or state of keeping close to fact and avoiding distortion or misrepresentation.

*Ribbons and medals are interchangeable terms.
*Christmas and January are equal.

The sham goes on…

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Coffee Fright

Coffee Fright. n. The trepidation encountered at taking the first sip of piping hot coffee or other hot drink.

Coffee fright is a real and dangerous reaction to hot coffee. You need to be aware that this reaction of your senses to prevent you from burning yourself adds to your anxiety levels and possibly causes hypertension (I've asked a couple of people who agree.) Coffee fright is especially a problem when drinking from a thermal mug or a paper cup with a lid at the likes of Starbucks. The sipping action involved takes away our natural defense mechanism of slurping that first sip of coffee to make sure that there will be no harm to lips, tongue, or throat. Unless you own one of those super deluxe coffee makers that brews coffee at its intended temperatures, you probably do not have a recurring problem with coffee fright in the home.

"Ghost sips" are the result of extreme coffee fright. These faux sips of coffee produce nothing but a sniff of the flavor. Especially at caf├ęs and coffee shops, I've been known to take as many as five (yes, 5) ghost sips before digging into the real goods. I'll take the hot stuff, though, as opposed to that weak, semi-warm brown liquid they try to pass as coffee at the second-rate shops. No thank you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Newsworthy

Newsworthy. adj. Of sufficient interest or importance to the public to warrant reporting in the media.

Newsworthy: Al Qaeda Plots Assassination(s)

Not: Kerry an Expert on Scientific Matters

Newsworthy: Southern Terror Targets?

Not: Rogue Sports Star in Court

Newsworthy: Shouldn't the media give us all the real news and let the public evaluate the seriousness of the content? If Bush wins the election will we find the story on the 17th page of section Q of the NYTimes? Meanwhile, if John Kerry, who is running for President of the United States of America, attempts to create his own history from scratch by manipulating the facts, will this make the news anywhere except the Washington Times and New York Post?

Not: Updates on Big Brother 5, The Amazing Race, your network's latest poll findings, or Peter Jennings' national defense policy revisited.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Celebrity

Celebrity n. L. celeber "famous"

Is there anyone more qualified to make political statements than a musician or an actor? On the one hand, it is great that they can voice their opinions just like the media, bloggers, and people at cookouts in their backyards. On the other hand, what does it matter who Dave Matthews thinks should be the president? We each have just as many votes as he does. When Bruce Springsteen is on the radio, do we really need to associate him with a political party? Concert ticket prices cost a ridiculous amount of money for people, (Democrats, Republicans, Independents, or Communists) to attend. If they wanted to hear political rhetoric they would have paid a lot more money to attend their party's local fundraiser.

And what about the infamous? Should we also look to them for political statements. Maybe Scott Peterson should address the cameras each day after court adjourns.

Meanwhile, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs appears to be taking a much better approach. His purportedly non-partisan work, Citizen Change, and the interviews with him that I have seen appear to be a sincere effort to make a difference without stumping for a particular party. He seems genuinely concerned to promote voter turnout, especially among younger voters.

Don't blame the celebrities too much, though. The mouthpiece of propaganda, the media, has decided that stories about rock stars and movie stars are more weighty election material than renowned experts in such things as the economy, national security, or the law. Shouldn't the media be more concerned with the views to be presented by Thomas Sowell, William Cohen, or Alan Keyes?

Who is Chevy Chase going to vote for? What does Whoopi Goldberg think about the issues? What does Tommy Lee Jones think? I don't care.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Deipnosophist

Deipnosophist n. Someone skilled at across-the-table chit chat

According to Michael Quinion, the Greek term deipnon means "dinner" and, of course, sophist means "a master of his craft." So where does "chit chat" come from? Shouldn't deipnosophist simply refer to a superior eater? Why, just earlier today I was eating and doing quite a splendid job of it when it occurred to me that I was actually no deipnosophist, just a good eater.

Take a guess before you google it to see how many times the word does occur out there - but most of the occurrences are not in a context of communication but in gawking definitions. I was surprised, but not nearly as surprised as waking up with my head sewn to the carpet.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Patriot

Patriot. n. one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests


From the Kerry hq:
John Kerry and John Edwards believe in a better, stronger America - an America
that is respected, not just feared. An America that listens and leads - that
cherishes freedom, safeguards our people, uplifts others, forges alliances, and
deserves respect. This is the America they believe in. This is the America they
are fighting for. And this is the America we can be.

Kerry's recent interview:

KERRY: I've been involved in this for a long time, longer than George Bush.
[sic] I've spent 20 years negotiating, working, fighting for different kinds of
treaties and different relationships around the world. [sic] I know that as
president there's huge leverage that will be available to me, enormous cards to
play, and I'm not going to play them in public, George. I'm not going to play
them before I'm president.

The real JFK:


Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.



A few what ifs:



George Washington: "I'll lead the fight against the British, that is, if you agree to make me the first president."



Abraham Lincoln: "I'll sign the Emancipation Proclamation if you'll re-elect me."



Franklin Roosevelt: "The only thing we have to fear...is...well, I'll tell you after you re-elect me."


Monday, August 02, 2004

Fortitude

Fortitude. n. courage, spunk, guts, sand, nerve, grit, moxie, backbone.

We should all be so bold to model this young example.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Values

Value n. A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable.

Numbers have values. Money has value. Words have values (or else you are reading gibberish.) And, of course, people have values…well, supposedly. What I value and what true values are is a difficult bridge to build. Let's say I had been raised among a head-hunting tribe in South America. One of my traditional values would be found in taking the head of any person who transgressed my area.

So, not only are the terms "family values" and traditional values" also subject to scrutiny, but someone must answer as to where values actually should come from. Does a society have values simply because it flaunts the word around regularly? Do politicians have values because they give speeches about their values?

Having values in the generic sense is nothing to trumpet. Values can be in serious error, even traditional values (see World History in general.) So we cannot boast in merely possessing values. This "desirability" is the flaw in the definition if not the concept as we perceive it today. Maybe it is a desirable value to limit our family size due to overpopulation. Maybe it is a desirable value to see the government expand and govern more areas of our lives. Maybe it is a value to see the unborn given a right to life. Maybe it is a value for every person to have the same income and the same possessions. Maybe it is a value to support a strong military.

"Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

Friday, July 30, 2004

Convention

Convention.  n.  2b: an assembly of persons met for a common purpose; especially : a meeting of the delegates of a political party for the purpose of formulating a platform and selecting candidates for office.
 
Interestingly, the term "contract" occurs as a synonym to the primary definition of the word. Was the DNC a contract? "Convention" has become confused with "party" as a balloon dropping occasion when a group of people, Democrat, Republican, or Baath,  celebrate the things they have in common and completely ignore their differences. The "general agreement"   seems to be the most emphasized part of the word's meaning.

What do Harold Ford, Jr. and Ted Kennedy have in common to be convening about? Are Democrats in Mississippi in convention with Democrats in Massachusetts? Did Zell Miller ever sit beside John Kerry at the DNC? Of course, Kerry wasn't even there until his turn to speak. Was Kerry a part of the convening process or a guest speaker brought in to stimulate the festivity? Conventional wisdom suggests "promotional event" or "propaganda fest" or "gathering of GOP opposition" or "Demopalooza" might be better terms.

Those certainly were nice balloons.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

To start with

How many words are on the Internet? Some estimate there are now nearly 250,000,000 domains out there, more words are being communicated than ever before. There are anywhere from 450,000 to 1,000,000 words in the English language, depending which source you consult. Add to that a whole culture of words that have either been created or evolved on the Internet and the possibilities become mind-boggling. 

Why then are words getting such disrespect? They're getting kidnapped, abused, twisted out of shape, and sent back out as if nothing had happened. Words like values, integrity, truth, and "right and wrong" are being rewritten like 20th Century Russian history. Diversity has taken on an entirely new look. Faith could mean anything and everything - I think I even had some for dinner.

Certainly, words do take on new meanings as society changes. We snicker now when we drive on "Gay" Street. "Search engine" would be another example, having nothing to do with train engineers or flashlights. Completely new words, like Henmania, also keep cropping up.

While I refuse to limit myself to only Webstering through the English language, I do hope to base much of the content matter of this blog on words and the ideas that they are supposed to represent. I do not consider myself a linguist, but the whole issue has become increasingly interesting to me the more I've studied both English and other languages.