Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Hymn

There are so many good Christmas hymns, it's hard to pick just one. But that's what I decided to do, instead of overloading my blog with lyrics of hymns. So here are the lyrics to one of my favorites, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing:"
Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem
Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!
What's your favorite Christmas hymn?

Christmas Music

One of the things I love most about the "Christmas season" is the music. Not so much the Jingle Bells, or Deck the Halls, or especially Santa Claus is Coming to Town. There are so many good hymns, and some good contemporary Christmas music, as well. I really like Steven Curtis Chapman's two Christmas CDs (The Music of Christmas and All I Really Want for Christmas) and MercyMe's The Christmas Sessions. But one of my favorite songs is one that took me a long time to realize it was even a Christmas song. I guess I just enjoyed the sound of the song so much that I didn't even pay attention to the lyrics. But when I finally did, I was floored. Here are the lyrics to Chris Rice's "Welcome to Our World:"
Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that You don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God

Welcome to our world
Click here to listen to a sample of the song.

Having a newborn son this Christmas makes that fourth "verse" really get to me. I cannot imagine giving my son up for anybody, yet God gave up His one and only Son for all of us. To think of the Son of God coming to earth as a little baby, His tiny heart literally filled with blood that would save us ... I cannot fathom the depth of God's love. For anybody reading this, I hope and pray that you will be humbled this Christmas by the love that God demonstrated in sending His Son to die for our sins. Do not let Christmas pass without dwelling on the reason why Jesus came - the story of Easter.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Fight Night

In case you haven't seen it, here's the fight from the closing minutes of Saturday night's Nuggets/Knicks game:



The NBA responded today, handing out suspensions to the players involved. The Nuggets Carmelo Anthony, the NBA's scoring leader, got the longest sentence - 15 games. Mardy Collins, who committed the flagrant foul on J.R. Smith, got 6 games. And Smith and Nate Robinson got 10 games each.

But the real story is the suspension that wasn't: Knicks coach Isiah Thomas. Thomas was evidently upset that Anthony & Smith, the Nuggets two leading scorers, were still in the game. He was shown by MSG TV telling Anthony, "You better not go in the paint." A minute later, Collins, a rookie averaging 3.6 minutes per game, committed his second flagrant foul in as many nights, sparking the fight.

I'm with ESPN's Marc Stein on the following issues, posted on his blog:
Carmelo Anthony: 15 games

Too many games ... way too many when you hear that Isiah Thomas will sit out zero games. Seven to 10 games was a sensible range to me.

Don't forget that Orlando's Keyon Dooling and Seattle's Ray Allen got five and three games, respectively, for a scrap that happened less than a year ago. Melo's sucker punch, when things were finally dying down, was certainly more egregious than what Dooling and Allen did ... but not three or four times worse.

Nate Robinson: 10 games
Five games less than Melo? Nobody -- not even Anthony -- escalated this thing more than Robinson, needlessly jumping in the faces of multiple Nuggets in his latest attempt to prove how big and tough he is.

Little Nate never landed the kind of roundhouse that got Melo in trouble. But his transgressions were right up there with Melo's.

And neither Robinson nor Thomas has shown a shred of remorse, either. Anthony, at the very least, issued a lengthy apology.

Isiah Thomas: Zero games

Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

You can argue that Zeke deserved to be hit hardest of anyone involved, frankly, given the MSG footage clearly showing Thomas telling Anthony that it "wouldn't be a good idea" to venture into the paint.

Isn't that proof of premeditation? An unmistakable threat?

The Knicks' spin -- Isiah was imploring Melo to show more class than his coach? -- is laughable.

Unlike players who lose control in the heat of the moment, I'm quite sure Thomas knew exactly what he was doing.
The Sports Guy (Bill Simmons) also chimed in during a live chat today:
Nic (Madison, WI): I watched the replay of the fight about 15 times instead of studying for my exam in an hour. I thought that Nate Robinson should have gotten a stiffer punishment for his role. What do you think?

Bill Simmons: Couldn't agree more. Nate Robinson is crazy. Just last week, he nearly got into a fight with Sebastian Telfair for the second time this season. He got in 2 separate fights with teammates last year, including a naked School Ties type fight with Malik Rose in the shower.

Chris, Seattle: and The fact that everyone makes such a big deal about an NBA brawl and not so much about a MLB brawl smacks of Racism, I don't care what people say.

Bill Simmons: Couldn't agree more. Everyone involved in this fight was black, so the players are now "out of control" and the whole thing is "a disgrace." But when a white baseball player charges a white pitcher, it's all in good fun. It's a little weird.

Gus (Cold Spring Harbor, NY): While Karl was trying to get under Isiah's skin, he is absolutely entitled to play whoever he wants on the floor at any time of the game. Denver has blown late leads this season and the Knicks have come back many times from huge gaps (only to fall short). Incidentally, can this team be any worse if Spike Lee took over?

Bill Simmons: Absolutely. You know what's embarrassing, Isiah? The fact that your team keeps losing at home by 20 points every game. Stop blaming the other teams.

Yogi(NY): My favorite line was Isiah saying "we had already surrendered." In a city where "it 'aint [sic] over till its over" was he referring to the game or the season? Thank God for Isiah Thomas!

Bill Simmons: I loved that as well - also liked when he talked about how they were being embarrassed in front of "their fans." Um, your fans hate this team, [I]siah. Hear that booing sound every game? That means they're unhappy. Everyone who follows this team is hoping you get fired. That's more embarrassing than [G]eorge Karl leaving his starters in, I think.

Matt (Philly, PA): Are we seriously going to complain in professional sports about running up a score? If you don't like it, don't have a team out there that can't play a lick, the Knicks should lose by 50 everynight [sic] against anyone, except my Sixers who will shortly not be my Sixers once AI is gone.

Bill Simmons: Hear hear.

Charles (Miami): I think what everybody's missing from the Carmelo suspension is what could've happen[e]d had that punch done real damage (ala Rudy T). Luckily, he hits like [a] girl and Collins is fine. Otherwise, 15 games would be charity.

Bill Simmons: And that's the reason he got the suspension. Look, I'm fine with Melo getting 15 games, but then Isiah should get 15, so should Mardy Collins, so should Nate and so should JR Smith. To say that what Melo did was worse than anyone else is crazy. He was defending his teammate and made a mistake.
Anybody who knows me will probably be surprised by me saying this, but I agree with the Sports Guy's point about racism when comparing reactions to NBA fights vs. MLB fights. You never hear anywhere close to the same kind of outrage from the talking heads on ESPN for baseball fights as you do for basketball fights. And I think race is a big underlying factor.

Baptism

While spending different parts of my life as a regular attender of Baptist, Reformed, and Evangelical Free churches, I've definitely been exposed to different views of baptism. In a recent interview, Wayne Grudem thinks back to his stance on baptism while writing his Systematic Theology:
The baptism issue is a little different. It’s very hard to have it both ways because when an infant is born in a church, you either baptize the infant, or you don’t. So it’s much more difficult to say, “Let’s just all get along on this.” Well, fine, we all get along. But do we baptize this new baby or not? A church can’t have it both ways. When I wrote my book, Systematic Theology, I was more hopeful that a compromise might be possible in which churches would allow individual pastors and individual families to make this decision for themselves. That is what the Evangelical Free Church of America has done, and it is a strong, healthy denomination in the United States that holds fully to the inerrancy of Scripture. But after many decades, no other denomination, to my knowledge, seems willing to follow them in this position.

The problem is what such a “compromise” implies about the views of baptism of the people who adopt it. For people who hold to infant baptism, they have to be able to say that it’s OK for believing parents not to baptize their infant children, which seems to them to be disobeying a command of Scripture as they understand it. How can they really say this?

On the other side, those who hold to believer’s baptism (as I do) have to be willing to admit into church membership people who have been baptized as infants, and who did not, of course, make any profession of faith at the time they were baptized. But these people (such as myself) who think that genuine baptism has to follow a personal profession of faith are then put in position of saying that infant baptism is also a valid form of baptism. And that contradicts what they believe about the essential nature of baptism – that it is an outward sign of an inward spiritual change, so that the apostle Paul could say, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)

I don’t think I realized this difficulty when I wrote my Systematic Theology. I had been in an Evangelical Free Church for about four years and it seemed to me to work well enough. But now I’m beginning to realize that admitting to church membership someone who has not been baptized upon profession of faith, and telling the person that he or she never has to be baptized as a believer, is really giving up one’s view on the proper nature of baptism, what it really is. It is saying that infant baptism really is valid baptism! If we didn’t think it was valid baptism, we should be telling people who were baptized as infants that their “baptism” was not valid baptism and they should be baptized now, after their personal profession of faith. They would need to do this in obedience to Christ’s command.

So I have been re-thinking my position on this issue, and I have been considering sending a change to the publishers of my Systematic Theology book, at least explaining that there are more difficulties to my “compromise” view than I had initially realized.

In short, I don’t think the baptism issue is going to go away any time soon.

Finally, I’m thankful that believers who differ on the issue of baptism can still have wonderful fellowship with one another across denominational lines, and can have respect for each other’s sincerely held views. ...
(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Beware the Soy

"There's a slow poison out there that's severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture. The ironic part is, it's a 'health food,' one of our most popular."
So leads this story at WorldNetDaily. I was shocked at potential damaging effects of soy. The author explains, "Soy is nutritious and contains lots of good things. Unfortunately, when you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you're also getting substantial quantities of estrogens." Here are a few things this story points out:
  • Research is now showing that when you feed your baby soy formula, you're giving him or her the equivalent of five birth control pills a day.
  • if your baby gets colic from cow's milk, do you switch him to soy milk? Don't even think about it. His phytoestrogen level will jump to 20 times normal. If he is a she, brace yourself for watching her reach menarche as young as seven, robbing her of years of childhood. If he is a boy, it's far worse: He may not reach puberty till much later than normal.
  • Research in 2000 showed that a soy-based diet at any age can lead to a weak thyroid, which commonly produces heart problems and excess fat.
  • Recent research on rats shows testicular atrophy, infertility and uterus hypertrophy (enlargement).
  • there's now scientific evidence that estrogen ingredients in soy products may be boosting the rapidly rising incidence of leukemia in children. In the latest year we have numbers for, new cases in the U.S. jumped 27 percent.
  • There's also a serious connection between soy and cancer in adults – especially breast cancer. That's why the governments of Israel, the UK, France and New Zealand are already cracking down hard on soy.
(HT: Tim Ellsworth)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Leather's Back

So the NBA is ditching their new composite basketballs in favor of the old leather ones, starting January 1. What prompted the switch? Good old fashioned whining, of course.

From LeBron James:
"The only thing that we love the most is the basketball. That's your comfort. I mean, without your basketball, it doesn't work. That was my biggest problem, was, why would you change something that means so much to us? It didn't make sense to me at all."
Yeah, LeBron, I can't believe they were making you guys play with composite footballs.

And Ray Allen:
"The bottom line is we're out there playing and the ball is not going in like we know we're capable of putting it in, or like we've done in the past."
Sure, Ray. Ignore the facts - the statistical evidence that shows increased field goal percentage, scoring, and "ball-related" turnovers.

And Jason Kidd and Steve Nash complained that the new ball cut up their hands. Now, I'm not an NBA player, but I have played with about every kind of basketball out there - from rubber to leather and everything in-between - and I've never had a basketball cut up my hands. That's a new one.

So now that the NBA is switching back, you'd think these guys would be happy, right? Nope, not so much. Now they're complaining about the switch being made in mid-season. Seriously, guys - you do realize that regardless of what the ball is made of, you're all playing with the same one, right?

But my favorite part of the story? The trash talk from PETA. Dan Shannon, manager of campaigns for the organization, had this to say in response to players whining about the ball hurting their hands:
"PETA would like to offer a lifetime supply of cruelty-free hand cream to
any NBA siss ... excuse me, superstar who'd be willing to give the composite
ball another shot."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Islam

Some interesting things have been happening around the Islamic world. First there's this story from the "Islamic Republic of Pakistan" (the conventional long form of Pakistan's name, according to the CIA's World Factbook):
Pakistan's lower house of Parliament passed amendments to the country's rape laws Wednesday, ditching the death penalty for extramarital sex and revising a clause on making victims produce four witnesses to prove rape cases.
So where does Islam come in? Well, here:
"We reject it," Maulana Fazlur Rahman, a top Islamist opposition leader, told reporters after the vote, which he described as a "dark day" in Pakistan's parliamentary history.
...
Strict Islamic law dictates that a woman claiming rape must produce four witnesses, making a trial almost impossible.
This "Strict Islamic law" found in Pakistan is known as Sharia law. Keep that in mind.

Here's another story; this one from out of the "Kingdom of Saudi Arabia":
When the teenager went to the police a few months ago to report she was gang-raped by seven men, she never imagined the judge would punish her — and that she would be sentenced to more lashes than one of her alleged rapists received.

...she was sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married — a crime in this strictly segregated country — at the time that she was allegedly attacked and raped by a group of other men.
...
In a trial that ended in November — in which the prosecutor asked for the death penalty for the seven men — four of the men received between one and five years in prison plus 80 to 1,000 lashes, said the woman. Three others are awaiting sentencing.
Again, where does Islam come into the story?
Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts according to the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. Judges — appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council — have complete discretion to set sentences, except in cases where Sharia outlines a punishment, such as capital crimes.
Ah, Sharia law. I'm sensing a theme here. So what do these stories have to do with anything? Certainly they're just isolated incidents, right? Well, maybe not. These stories are actually related to the war in Iraq. How? Well, let's take a look at a couple more stories.

Here
's one about the fighting in the Iraqi city of "Ramadi, a city of 400,000 inhabitants that al-Qaeda and its Iraqi allies have controlled since mid-2004 and would like to make the capital of their cherished Islamic caliphate."

Iranian president Ahmadinejad has also voiced his desire for Islamic law to rule the world (see here):
“We must believe in the fact that Islam is not confined to geographical borders, ethnic groups and nations. It’s a universal ideology that leads the world to justice”, Ahmadinejad said.
>
“We don’t shy away from declaring that Islam is ready to rule the world”, he added.

>Ahmadinejad dwelled on his recurrent theme that the return of the Shiite Messiah, the Mahdi, is not far away and Muslims must prepare for it.

“We must prepare ourselves to rule the world and the only way to do that is to put forth views on the basis of the Expectation of the Return”, Ahmadinejad said, referring to the Shiite Muslim belief that the Mahdi, on his return, will establish justice in a world consumed by chaos and corruption.
But this kind of thinking is really isolated in the Middle East, right? Well, not really. Last week, Glenn Beck spoke to a member of the Islamic Thinker's Society (ITS) in New York City. In the interview (you can listen to it here), the ITS member stated that their ultimate desire is for the U.S. to be ruled by Sharia law. This falls in line with the ITS objective as stated on their website:
Our objective is to resume the Islamic way of life to which will fulfill the purpose of the aim. Our objective is to bring back the apparatus that was destroyed in 1924 i.e. Khilafah. Indeed it was the Khilafah that united the Muslim Ummah under one flag, one land, one border, and one leader. It was the Khilafah which served as the appartus [sic] to make sure that Tawheed manifested in all ascpect [sic] in the Muslim Ummah's affairs. Surely, anyone who accepts any other system than Allah's Shari'ah is worshipping the one who has put his laws in place of the laws of Allah. This is a major form of shirk and anyone who commits a major shirk has left Islam.
"Khilafah" is another word/translation for caliphate. I'm really not too interested in living under Sharia law. I mean, I like bacon, and I don't really think women should be beaten by their husbands or taken as sex slaves (see here). You can check out some of the aspects of Sharia here. The following section really caught my eye, about "Treatment of Non-Muslims":

Under Sharia law non-muslims are goverened [sic] by the laws of their own specific communities however it codifies the treatment of dhimmis (Arabic) and rayahs (Turkish) in relation to the Muslim state and in cases of over-lapping jurisdiction. Dhimmis are distinctly second-class citizens in that they cannot serve in public office, cannot testify in court and must follow certain rules meant for their humiliation (such as the slap they must receive when they pay the jizya). The rules include privilege to practice their own religion, except for public demonstration of non-muslim religious practices and the right to convert muslims (denied, but the reverse is allowed). Dhimmi are also taxed additionally.

The core component of treatment is the jizya, or tax specifically upon non-Muslims. The jizya originates in the Koran [9:29], which says "Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." The "Book" refers to the People of the Book, Jews and Christians, but the jizya was extended to all conquered non-Muslims. The jizya ultimately is less that the Zakah (money given to the poor and needy) and Sadaqah (charity) that Muslims give. In practice, this was rarely the case. In addition, when Dhimmis gave the jizya, they customarily had to bow low to the ground and then rise to be slapped once in the face. This practice was to fulfill the command that Christians and Jews "feel themselves subdued" (Quran 9:29).

The religious police could stop Muslims who were engaging in Islamically illegal activities (i.e. drinking alcohol, not wearing Hijab, not having a beard, etc). It would often be difficult to differentiate between Muslim and dhimmis, so the religious police sometimes had non-Muslims wear a distinctive color or identity marker so that they wouldn't be harassed by the religious police. Distinctive clothing had the additional effect of humiliating dhimmis and attracting abuse from passers-by.

In addition, Dhimmis are forbidden to build or repair churches or synagogues. Bells, crosses, sacred books and other public demonstrations of religion, including laments at funerals, are forbidden. Dhimmis are also required to stand in the presence of Muslims, to address them in low tones and to give them the right of way on narrow streets (they must pass on the left). In early days, Dhimmis were not permitted to ride horses or camels, which were reserved for Muslims. Dhimmis could ride Donkeys. A Dhimmi's house is not permitted to be higher than a Muslims house. (Cite: The Legacy of Jihad by Dr. Andrew Bostam).

Hmmm, distinctive clothing for religious outsiders. Where have I heard this before? I wonder if it would be a yellow badge.

Given the desire of Muslim leaders to place the world under the caliphate, and enforce Sharia law, and especially in regards to Ahmadinejad & Al-Qaeda's desire to locate the capital of the caliphate in Iraq, I'm thinking now wouldn't be such a good time for the U.S. to cut and run.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Outsourcing

Does anybody know if there is a computer manufacturer who uses fluent English-speaking Americans on their tech support phone lines for home users? I used to work in tech support myself, and the company I worked for bought Gateway computers. Gateway's business tech support was always good to work with (except for the occasional person), i.e. they spoke & understood English without heavy foreign accents. But in the past couple of years, I've called both Dell and HP for different issues regarding home computers. Both times I was speaking to people that I could barely understand, and it seemed like they barely understood me. (One HP "technician" transfered me to the sales department today - don't ask me why.) Maybe I just need to suck it up and learn Hindi, and the 14 other "official" languages of India.

But seriously, does anybody know of a computer company that has US-based tech support?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Draft

Think back with me to the 2004 presidential election. Anybody remember the military rhetoric used by John Kerry in his campaign? One of Kerry's biggest attacks on President Bush was that he would reinstate the military draft. (And Bush flatly denied it, see here.) Well, Bush won re-election, of course, but have you heard him speak anything about bringing back the draft? Nope. However, a report out today tell us Democratic Representative Charles Rangel plans to introduce a bill next year, under which "Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18." This despite the fact that Rangel proposed a draft bill in 2003 covering 18-26 year olds, only to have it shot down by a 402-2 vote. Yep, it lost by a mere 400 votes.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bad

What do John Piper and Michael Jackson have in common? Watch & listen for yourself:



(HT: Noah Braymen)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Mailbag

The Sports Guy shares some email in this week's mailbag. Here are some of my favorites:

Q: I'm 99 percent positive that Randolph and Mortimer Duke recently wagered $1 that they could turn the funniest, most successful stand-up comic into a disturbed bum on the street and turn a random unfunny guy off the street into the hottest comic in the land with TV specials and a feature film. How else can you explain the fall of Dave Chappelle and the rise of Dane Cook? It is the only answer. Looking good Dane Cook! Feeling good Dave Chappelle!
--DeVito, Washington

SG: There's still a month left in 2006, but that's the E-Mail of the Year so far.

Q: Where do Jerry's outfits on the "Seinfeld" repeats rank on the Unintentional Comedy Scale? The purple turtleneck tucked into black jeans in the Keith Hernandez/JFK episode is phenomenal.
--Gavin Skeen, New York

SG: It appreciates every year, kinda like a tax-free savings account. Right now, it's an 8.7. Three years from now, it could be a 9.1.

Q: Just thought you'd like to know, I went to see "Running With Scissors" Wednesday night (do not let the Sports Gal drag you to this) and during the commercials, they played a 2007 Knicks "Go to the Garden" advertisement, complete with interviews from some players. It was soundly booed, and when Isiah appeared toward the end, someone threw some Milk Duds (or some kind of scattering candy) which hit him right in the face. Commercials at theaters are bad enough, but this one succeeded only in angering a crowd before a really bad movie.
--Shane, New York

SG: Ladies and gentleman, the 2006-07 New York Knicks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Q: So, one day last week I see Sixers GM Billy King in a restaurant in Philly. I started thinking "Does he deal with ordering food the same way he signs NBA players?" If he ordered the steak, if it's an OK steak but nothing fantastic, does he offer to pay double or triple the market value for it? Maybe there could be a show where Billy King negotiates car prices for people who stand by dumbfounded as he offers $27,000 for a 1987 Toyota Camry with 167,000 miles.
-- Adam, Philadelphia

SG: I had a sarcastic follow-up joke here ... then I remembered that my favorite baseball team just spent $51.1 million for the right to negotiate a free agent contract for a Japanese pitcher who's represented by Scott Boras. I'll shut up now.

Q: My buddies and I were talking about appropriate punishments for dictators like Saddam Hussein, and we came up with an idea that works for everyone and could raise money for the International Criminal Court without using tax dollars. Why not charge admission for people to look at convicted dictators in their jail cells, kind of like a zoo for genocidal megalomaniacs? Think about it: you put them in small, basic cells behind plexiglass and charge 25 euros to watch them go about their day. Tourists could get baked at a local coffee shop and head over to the jail to gawk at Slobodan Milosevic sitting on a cot watching "90210" reruns. You could even charge extra to feed them falafel pellets and shawarma biscuits. This would be a far worse fate for a once-proud dictator then being executed. Who wouldn't pay 25 euros to watch Saddam Hussein in his underwear eating Cheetos?
--Kris, Washington

SG: DeVito from Washington, you've been bounced! That's the new Greatest E-mail of 2006. And just for the record, I'd pay 200 euros to see dictators in zoo cages.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Must See TV

From time to time I've written about or been turned on to stories by Glenn Beck. Two or three years ago, I came across his radio show. Despite his warnings that new listeners will hate the show for 30 days, then it will turn to a white-hot hate after that, I was hooked. Here was a funny, smart guy, who wasn't afraid to tell it like it is. Whether it's talking about American Idol, the bird flu, or elections, Glenn's quite comfortable being politically incorrect.

Six months ago, Glenn was given a TV show on CNN Headline News. It was pretty raw at first, but has turned into a pretty good show, with interviews and commentaries all over the map. If you've never heard or seen Glenn's shows, Wednesday night would be an excellent time to do so.

Wednesday night Glenn will be showing a special report that he's been putting together for quite some time. Glenn's website has the following to say about the special, entitled "Exposed: The Extremist Agenda":
We know exactly what Islamic extremists are planning to do. How? We've seen the video. On Wednesday you will too.
There are a couple of video clips there that serve as teaser/trailers.

CNN's promos have this to say:
What airs in the Middle East, the outright propaganda, will surprise you.

ABOUT THE SHOW
Radical Islamists are at war with the West. In a one-hour special, Glenn Beck will show you the shocking images -- rarely seen by American viewers -- that help fuel rage against Israel and the West.
Glenn's show airs daily on CNN Headline News at 7 pm Eastern, and is replayed at 9 pm and midnight Eastern. Find Headline News in your area here.

Compassion = Killing?

Is there a good reason that I shouldn't be outraged at the following news?

First, in the United Kingdom's Daily Mail:
The Church of England has broken with tradition dogma by calling for doctors to be allowed to let sick newborn babies die.

Christians have long argued that life should preserved at all costs - but a bishop representing the national church has now sparked controversy by arguing that there are occasions when it is compassionate to leave a severely disabled child to die.

And the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, who is the vice chair of the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Council, has also argued that the high financial cost of keeping desperately ill babies alive should be a factor in life or death decisions.

Are we seriously going to debate the monetary value of a life?

The BBC News is also reporting the story:
A Christian medical body says holding back treatment to allow ill newborn babies to die - when treatment would be "a burden" - is not euthanasia.

...

"There may be occasions where, for a Christian, compassion will override the 'rule' that life should inevitably be preserved," Rev Butler was quoted as saying.
I understand that the mortality rate of babies born extremely premature is high - according to the Daily Mail article, 98% of babies born at 22 weeks or less. But does that mean we shouldn't try?

On his TV show tonight, Glenn Beck addressed this story, and had this to share:
I want to share a story with you about a baby that was born -- baby Knauer -- born blind, missing an arm and a leg. The parents were just beside themselves.

The dad decided he's going to write and ask for some help because all the doctors weren't helping. They wrote somebody who is pretty powerful, and they trusted him. And they said, "Please, can you help us put our child into a better place? Please remove the burden on us."

Well, he saw the pictures. He read the letter, talked to the parents, flew out to meet with them, just filled with compassion, tears filling his eyes. He said, "I will personally give you my personal doctor to review the case." The doctor came back and said absolutely no justification for keeping this child alive. The baby was allowed to die.

Who was that compassionate, powerful man who so graciously put that baby boy to sleep? You probably guessed by now it was Adolf Hitler. Baby Knauer was the first victim of the Holocaust. Hitler later signed a decree permitting the euthanasia of disabled infants based on this case and creating a panel of expert referees which judged the infants and found out which ones were eligible for death.

Once he was through with the babies, the elderly were next. As it has been said over and over again with tragedies regarding the Holocaust: Never again.
May we never forget how far human depravity will take us if given the chance, and remember that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

I have one question and one suggestion for election day.

First, the question - Are you more excited to vote today, or for the elections to be over tomorrow?

And the suggestion - by all means, go vote, but don't watch any election coverage - at least not until after you've cast your vote. We should all have learned by now that all of these "polls" leading up to elections - and even exit polls - are completely worthless. Don't let these "polls" affect how you vote.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard, Part 2

Here is Ted Haggard's letter to his church:

My Dear New Life Church Family:

I am so sorry. I am sorry for the disappointment, the betrayal, and the hurt. I am sorry for the horrible example I have set for you.

I have an overwhelming, all-consuming sadness in my heart for the pain that you and I and my family have experienced over the past few days. I am so sorry for the circumstances that have caused shame and embarrassment to all of you.

I asked that this note be read to you this morning so I could clarify my heart's condition to you. The last four days have been so difficult for me, my family and all of you, and I have further confused the situation with some of the things I've said during interviews with reporters who would catch me coming or going from my home. But I alone am responsible for the confusion caused by my inconsistent statements. The fact is, I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem.

I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.

Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn't want to hurt or disappoint them.

The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe.

The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry. Our church's overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family.

I created this entire situation. The things that I did opened the door for additional allegations. But I am responsible; I alone need to be disciplined and corrected. An example must be set.

It is important that you know how much I love and appreciate my wife, Gayle. What I did should never reflect in a negative way on her relationship with me. She has been and continues to be incredible. The problem is not with her, my children, or any of you. It was created 100% by me.

I have been permanently removed from the office of Senior Pastor of New Life Church. Until a new senior pastor is chosen, our Associate Senior Pastor, Ross Parsley, will assume all of the the responsibilities of the office. On the day he accepted this new role, he and his wife, Aimee, had a new baby boy. A new life in the midst of this circumstance - I consider that confluence of events to be prophetic. Please commit to join with Pastor Ross and the others in church leadership to make their service to you easy and without burden. They are fine leaders. You are blessed.

I appreciate your loving and forgiving nature, and I humbly ask you to do a few things:

1.) Please stay faithful to God through service and giving.

2.) Please forgive me. I am so embarrassed and ashamed. I caused this and I have no excuse. I am a sinner. I have fallen. I desperately need to be forgiven and healed.

3.) Please forgive my accuser. He is revealing the deception and sensuality that was in my life. Those sins, and others, need to be dealt with harshly. So, forgive him and, actually, thank God for him. I am trusting that his actions will make me, my wife and family, and ultimately all of you, stronger. He didn't violate you; I did.

4.) Please stay faithful to each other. Perform your functions well. Encourage each other and rejoice in God's faithfulness. Our church body is a beautiful body, and like every family, our strength is tested and proven in the midst of adversity. Because of the negative publicity I've created with my foolishness, we can now demonstrate to the world how our sick and wounded can be healed, and how even disappointed and betrayed church bodies can prosper and rejoice.

Gayle and I need to be gone for a while. We will never return to a leadership role at New Life Church. In our hearts, we will always be members of this body. We love you as our family. I know this situation will put you to the test. I'm sorry I've created the test, but please rise to this challenge and demonstrate the incredible grace that is available to all of us.

Ted Haggard

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ted Haggard

You've probably heard several stories by now about Ted Haggard, the recently resigned president of the National Association of Evangelicals and Senior Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I don't really feel like taking the time to write about the details, or speculations, of the story. But I did come across the following thoughts of Jollyblogger that I thought were worth sharing:

1. Does it really surprise anyone that Christians aren't able to live up to the moral standards they profess to believe. King David couldn't, the apostle Peter couldn't, the apostle Paul couldn't (Romans 7 anyone?). So why should we be surprised when someone like Ted Haggard has such a fall?

2. In light of the above, this illustrates the folly of Christians who campaign on a platform of moral authority. Morality is a very "law based" thing, and as Romans 8:3ff illustrate, law (and moral standards?) is uniquely ill-equipped to combat sin.

3. In light of both of the above the thing that distinguishes Christians from others is not our moral superiority or moral authority, it is our identity as recipients of grace.

4. Christians are never perfect, but nor are we merely "just forgiven" as the old bumper sticker says. We are forgiven, but the grace that forgives also enables us to say no to sin, and our lives, including our moral lives, are necessarily improving. Yet, we are always simul justus et peccator as the old theologians used to say, simultaneously justified and sinful. While we are always to be growing in grace, we are always to be reminded of the presence of and battle with indwelling sin.

5. In my own humble opinion, this may partially explain some of these "falls" we see. Moral crusaders tend to see sin as something external to the individual, so their lives get wrapped up in building external restraints against sin. I wonder if they lose sight of the fact that the greatest battle with sin in our day is the battle with the sin in their own hearts?

6. This does not negate civic responsibility. I am not sure, but this may be a place where I diverge a bit with Phil Johnson, but I do think there is a proper place for Christian civic responsibility and Christian involvement in politics. But such involvement is based on love of neighbor and a desire to promote the common civic good, not Christian triumphalism or any misguided notion that law, apart from grace, can really restrain sin in the larger society.

7. Back to #5 - I sometimes wonder if the moral crusaders make proper use of the means of grace. I don't want to overstate my case here because, as I mentioned before with the apostle Paul, use of the means of grace does not guarantee you will never sin. I am quite sure Paul made use of the means of grace yet he still had the Romans 7 struggle with sin. But when I think about people like Ted Haggard, and the Mike Trout's and Gil Moegerle's and John Paulk's of the world, I see people who probably spend lots of time travelling, speaking and engaging in worthwhile ministries. But I wonder how often they were away from a home church on Sundays before their falls. I wonder if they were in a small group or Sunday School class where they were fed the Word of God and could develop deep relationships with fellow believers who could love them and pray for them and hold them accountable. I wonder if, in prep for their speaking engagements and other ministry opportunities, they gave greater attention to the pressing issues of the day than to the Word of God. Maybe they did, but I do wonder.

8. And bringing this all back around, the upshot of everything I have said is simply this - Christian engagement with the world (whether political, social, evangelisitc or otherwise) is not based on a position of moral authority. It is based on grace. Our "common ground" or "bridge" to a non-Christian world is our shared humanity, our shared sin nature, not our moral excellence. Again, I hope we are growing in moral excellence, but we are just too sinful to ever make that our platform or basis for engagement.


(HT: Vitamin Z)

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Price Is Right

The Sports Guy took a few moments while making this week's NFL picks to share some thoughts on Bob Barker's retirement announcement:
1. Replacing Bob Barker is going to be like replacing Dean Smith or Vince Lombardi ... why even try? They could replace him with Jerry Seinfeld and people wouldn't be happy. It's a disaster in the making. Just cancel the show. It's the only way.

2. Two years ago, my parents were visiting and we had dinner at a restaurant in Santa Monica ... and wouldn't you know it? Bob was eating about three tables away with three other people who looked to be a combined 350 years old. So when the check came, Bob handled the check, only he noticed something that seemed off, so he called the waiter over and the two of them spent about 30 seconds going over something in the bill. And the whole time, my family was restraining me from screaming stuff like, "Lower! Lower!" and "I'm telling you, the price is NOT right!" And you wonder why I still live in California.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

NBA Action

It's been a great night for Chicago Bulls fans. It started with the report of Kirk Hinrich signing a contract extension:
It wasn't too long ago that free agents only stopped in Chicago to catch connecting flights to other, more competitive cities. How things have changed.

After landing the marquee free agent of the offseason in Ben Wallace, the Bulls have convinced point guard Kirk Hinrich to sign a long-term extension -- and for a hometown discount.

...

"It's a dream come true, completely," Hinrich said. "To be with this organization, an organization that I grew up cheering for and was a big fan of and to be able to provide my family with security, it's just a great day. … My parents used to scrap pennies to provide for me, and now I'm making almost $50 million playing basketball."
And to top it off, the Bulls obliterated the defending champs, on their home court, just after receiving their championship rings. With Hinrich leading the way with 26 points, the Bulls cruised into Miami, and ran off with a 108-66 win over the Heat. Yep, for you math majors (or minors) out there, that's a 42-point win, the worst ever opening night loss by a defending NBA champ.

Reformation Day

When I woke up this morning, I looked on my nightstand for a book to take to work to read on break. In part because my friend Noah had recently blogged about it, I remembered that today was Reformation Day. So I selected accordingly:


John Calvin, the French Protestant Reformer, was a prolific writer, probably best known for his Institutes of the Christian Religion, as well as his set of commentaries on the Bible (appropriately known as Calvin's Commentaries). This book contains a selection of letters that Calvin wrote to many different people, including William Farel, Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Thomas Cranmer, and John Knox.

God Is the Gospel

I've been done with "God Is the Gospel" for some time now, but haven't taken the time to really put together any of my thoughts, or what I learned. So I'm taking the easy way out. Here are some excerpts that really caught my attention:



The critical question for our generation--and for every generation--is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?

And the question for Christian leaders is: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding No? (p. 15)



Hear ye! Heary ye! Hear ye! All rebels, insurgents, dissidents, and protesters against the King! Hear the royal decree! A great day of reckoning is coming, a day of injustice and vengeance. But now hear this, all inhabitants of the King's realm! Amnesty is herewith published by the mercy of your Sovereign. A price has been paid. All debts may be forgiven. All rebellion absolved. All dishonor pardoned. None is excluded from this offer. Lay down the weapons of rebellion, kneel in submission, receive the royal amnesty as a gift of imperial love, swear fealty to your sovereign, and rise a free and happy subject of your King. (p. 19)



The good news is not that there is no pain or death or sin or hell. There is. The good news is that the King himself has come, and these enemies have been defeated, and if we trust in what he has done and what he promises, we will escape the death sentence and see the glory of our Liberator and live with him forever. (p. 21)



God is the final and highest gift that makes the good news good. Until people use the gospel to get to God, they use it wrongly. (p. 42)



My point in this book is that all the saving events and all the saving blessings of the gospel are means of getting obstacles out of the way so that we might know and enjoy God most fully. Propitiation, redemption, forgiveness, imputation, sanctification, liberation, healing, heaven--none of these is good news except for one reason: they bring us to God for our everlasting enjoyment of him. If we believe all these things have happened to us, but do not embrace them for the sake of getting to God, they have not happened to us. Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. If we don't want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel. (p. 47)



... the glory of Christ, as he appeared among us, consisted not in one attribute or another, and not in one act or another, but in what Jonathan Edwards called "an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies." ... These excellencies are so diverse that they "would have seemed to us utterly incompatible in the same subject." In other words,
  • we admire him for his glory, but even more because his glory is mingled with humility;
  • we admire him for his transcendence, but even more because his transcendence is accompanied by condescension;
  • we admire him for his uncompromising justice, but even more because it is tempered with mercy;
  • we admire him for his majesty, but even more because it is a majesty in meekness;
  • we admire him because of his equality with God, but even more because as God's equal he nevertheless has a deep reverence for God;
  • we admire him because of how worthy he was of all good, but even more because this was accompanied by an amazing patience to suffer evil;
  • we admire him because of his sovereign dominion over the world, but even more because this dominion was clothed with a spirit of obedience and submission;
  • we love the way he stumped the proud scribes with his wisdom, and we love it even more because he could be simple enough to like children and spend time with them;
  • and we admire him because he could still the storm, but even more because he refused to use that power to strike the Samaritans with lightning (Luke 9:54-55) and he refused to use it to get himself down from the cross. (p. 52-53)



The dynamics of personal transformation in 2 Corinthians 3:18 assume that we are changed into what we admire and fix our attention on. "Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image." We know this is so from experience. Long looking with admiration produces change. From your heroes you pick up mannerisms and phrases and tones of voice and facial expressions and habits and demeanors and convictions and beliefs. The more admirable the hero is and the more intense your admiration is, the more profound will be your transformation. In the case of Jesus, he is infinitely admirable, and our admiration rises to the most absolute worship. Therefore, when we behold him as we should, the change is profound.

Of course, there is more to it than that. ... we should not think that pursuing likeness to Christ has no other components than just looking at Jesus. Looking at Jesus produces holiness along many different paths. (p. 92)



Many people seem to embrace the good news without embracing God. There is no sure evidence that we have a new heart just because we want to escape hell. That's a perfectly natural desire, not a supernatural one. It doesn't take a new heart to want the psychological relief of forgiveness, or the removal of God's wrath, or the inheritance of God's world. All these things are understandable without any spiritual change. You don't need to be born again to want these things. The devils want them.

It is not wrong to want them. Indeed it is folly not to. But the evidence that we have been changed is that we want these things because they bring us to the enjoyment of God. This is the greatest thing Christ died for. This is the greatest good in the good news. Why is that? Because we were made to experience full and lasting happiness from seeing and savoring the glory of God. If our best joy comes from something less, we are idolaters and God is dishonored. He created us in such a way that his glory is displayed through our joy in it. The gospel of Christ is the good news that at the cost of his Son's life, God has done everything necessary to enthrall us with what will make us eternally and ever-increasingly happy--namely, himself. (p. 121)



The aim of the gospel is not an easy life. It is deeper knowledge of God and deeper trust in God. (p. 127)



... the goal of the gospel... is not our ease or wealth or safety in this age, but our dependence on Christ and our delight in his glory. (p. 129)



... the aim of the gospel is not mainly to give us God's gifts, but to give us God. All his gifts are good. But in and through them all, the aim is to see more of God's glory and to savor more of his infinitely beautiful moral perfections displayed in the gospel. (p. 135-136)



The highest act of love is the giving of the best gift, and, if necessary, at the greatest cost, to the least deserving. This is what God did. At the cost of his Son's life, to the totally undeserving, God gave the best gift--the display of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. (p. 139-140)



We should test ourselves with some questions. It is right to pursue likeness to Christ. But the question is, why? What is the root of our motivation? Consider some attributes of Christ that we might pursue, and ask these questions:
  • Do I want to be strong like Christ, so I will be admired as strong, or so that I can defeat every adversary that would entice me to settle for any pleasure less than admiring the strongest person in the universe, Christ?
  • Do I want to be wise like Christ, so I will be admired as wise and intelligent, or so that I can discern and admire the One who is most truly wise?
  • Do I want to be holy like Christ, so that I can be admired as holy, or so that I can be free from all unholy inhibitions that keep me from seeing and savoring the holiness of Christ?
  • Do I want to be loving like Christ, so that I will be admired as a loving person, or so that I will enjoy extending to others, even in sufferings, the all-satisfying love of Christ? (p. 159)


Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Cross

It's been a while since I've posted any lyrics - I've been lazy. Well, I'm still lazy, but my sister helped me out. She emailed me these lyrics, to a song written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, "The Power Of The Cross."
Oh to see the dawn
Of the darkest day;
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

This the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us,
Took the blame, bore the wrath -
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Every bitter thought,
Every evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

This the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us,
Took the blame, bore the wrath -
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Now the daylight flees,
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as it's Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two;
Dead are raised to life;
Finished! the victory cry.

This the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us,
Took the blame, bore the wrath -
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This the power of the cross:
Son of God, slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.
You can hear a couple of short samples of this song here or here. For more from Keith Getty, look here. Or check out Stuart Townend here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Marketing Genius

Jim Gaffigan is probably my favorite stand-up comedian right now. I've heard him on a couple different radio shows recently, and seen him on Comedy Central a couple of times. Here's one of his classic routines, about Hot Pockets:



For more of Jim Gaffigan, check out his website, or YouTube.

Border Security

Here's a bit of an update from the story I referenced the other day, courtesy of WorldNetDaily:
Congressmen concerned about the convictions and stiff prison sentences of two Border Patrol agents who injured a Mexican drug dealer they were pursuing say Homeland Security officials told them the pair were "out to shoot Mexicans."

The White House and federal officials have been getting heat for offering the drug dealer immunity to testify against the two lawmen -- Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean – both of whom are Mexican-Americans.
"Getting heat"? No kidding! Why would they expect otherwise? Yeah, let's take the word of an admitted drug dealer over the word of two border patrol agents. I know common sense is dead, but do we have to keep beating it like a dead horse?
The agents were convicted in March of shooting admitted drug smuggler Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks as he ran away from them near the Rio Grande River in February 2005. Ramos and Compean were sentenced last week to 11 and 12 years, respectively.

...

Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican, is now suing the Border Patrol for $5 million for his injury and violation of his rights.
"Violation of his rights"? What rights does a drug-smuggling illegal alien have in our country? You sneak across our border with 743 pounds of marijuana, and you expect to be treated as if you're a law-abiding citizen? You're neither!
So far, the White House has resisted calls for reopening the investigation and dismissed questions about a pardon raised by WND White House correspondent Les Kinsolving. Even asking whether the two agents should be pardoned was "nonsensical," in the words of Bush spokesman Tony Snow.

"That's an unanswerable question, Les," said Snow earlier this week. "The president is the person who is responsible for pardons. You can tell the network, which made you ask that question, that it is nonsensical."
Can anybody help me out on this one? What is Snow trying to say here? Seriously, I don't get it. Is he trying to say that Kinsolving should ask Bush directly about pardoning the agents? Why, as Bush's spokesman, can't Snow answer that? Why is it "unanswerable" or "nonsensical"? I've got an answer for you, Tony. In fact, I've got several options: "Yes." Or "No." Or "Maybe." Or "I haven't spoken with the president about that yet." Or "Hot Pocket!" (Okay, so maybe that last one isn't a good answer, but it would at least be kind of funny.)

Maybe something went on here that we don't know about, and things were handled correctly. I just can't understand how an admitted drug dealer who's smuggling a large shipment of drugs into our country is able to put away the very people responsible for keeping him and his drugs out of our country. It seems like they just did their job.

NFL Rankings

The Sports Guy is back with updated NFL team rankings. (I wrote about his last set of rankings here.) Bad news for both my brother - his Redskins fell from "Lingering Like A Stale Fart" status to "Fired Up For 2007" - and my sister - her Cowboys fell from "Kinda Sorta Lurking" to "Lingering Like A Stale Fart." Meanwhile, my Bears stayed in the same group, "The Contenders," rising from #6 to #1.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chart Topper

I posted a while back (here) about a video from Weird Al that I saw on VH1's top 20 video countdown. Now Yahoo! News has a story about Weird Al's recent success. His newest release, "Straight Outta Lynwood," has debuted at #10 on the Billboard 200, the first time in his 27 years of recording (during which he's released 12 albums) that he's made the top 10. His song "White and Nerdy" reached #9 on the Billboard Top 100.

The Real Border Story

Glenn Beck devotes a page of his website, as well as a segment of his CNN Headline News show, to The Real Story. Here's Monday's real story:
The Real Story: Border Injustice
Updated October 23, 2006

The White House announced on Friday that President Bush will meet with President-elect Felipe Calderon of Mexico in a couple of weeks. In the statement announcing the visit, they say that the two will, "discuss a range of global, regional, and bilateral issues, including... competitiveness, free trade, economic growth, and security in North America."

Does anyone else notice the one thing not mentioned here? I grew up in an alcoholic family so I recognize the disease. The Real Story is that there's an 800 pound gorilla in the room and her name is illegal immigration. Anybody else want to recognize it?

Today, instead of talking about the typical illegal immigration issues, I want to update you on a story about Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, two U.S. border patrol agents, that I first brought you a few weeks ago.

In early 2005, they were in pursuit of an illegal immigrant, who was also a suspected Mexican drug smuggler, when the suspect suddenly ditched his van near a canal and began to flee on foot. Agent Ramos, who was behind his partner, hears guns shots up ahead; sees his partner down on the ground and then, through the dust, sees the suspect turn around with what looks like a gun. Ramos fires at him; the suspect flees; and the two agents head back to the road to search the van.

Inside they found 743 pounds of marijuana. Two weeks later, a Department of Homeland Security investigator tracked down the drug smuggler in Mexico and offered him full immunity in exchange for testifying against the Border Patrol agents who shot at him. Turns out the smuggler had been hit by Agent Ramos' bullet.

By March of this year, the agents had been convicted on felony charges including assault with serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon. Last Thursday they were finally sentenced. Are you ready for this? Agent Ramos -- an agent who last year was nominated for the Border Patrol Agent of Year Award was sentenced to 11 years in prison; Agent Compean got 12.

You might remember another high-profile sentencing last week...Lynne Stewart, an attorney convicted of helping her terrorist client communicate with his extremist followers from prison was given a whopping 28 months. What kind of system do we have where someone who actively put American lives at risk gets just over two years while people actively working to serve and protect us get five times more?
I'm definitely with Glenn on this one. I don't get how or why the Department of Homeland Security would work to effectively weaken our borders by making sure border agents do not have or use any authority.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why I Hate Politics

This comes from Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Representative from San Francisco, from last night's interview on 60 Minutes. When asked about working with President Bush, whom she's called "an incompetent leader" and "a person who has no judgment," Pelosi had this to say:
"You know, we're professionals. We're professionals. You could go through a long list of things his surrogates have said about me. I know they have to do what they have to do, and they know I have to do what I have to do. And what I have to do is make a distinction in the public that's between the Democrats and the Republicans in order to win. This isn't personal."
Look again as what she "has to do" and why. This is why I hate politics, and why I can't stand most politicians. I don't care if you're a freaking donkey or an elephant. Grow up and act like you actually have the interests of the country ahead of your own personal fame, wealth, and glory. THIS IS NOT A GAME! Our government is not about winning elections. We're not, or at least we shouldn't be, all about Democrats vs. Republicans. If there's really such a big difference, why not just split the country in two?

I tried to watch some of the Iowa gubernatorial debate on Saturday. I lasted through roughly 3 questions. I really would have liked to have been the moderator and tell both candidates, "Stop behaving like 2-year-olds. When I ask a question, answer it. Do not talk about the other candidate - what he will or won't do. Answer the question for yourself. Show that you have a spine and beliefs that you are willing to stand up for. Don't tell us you 'have a plan.' Tell us what the plan is."

I could go on, and on, but I'll stop now. The only thing I left have to say is a paraphrase of what I've heard Glenn Beck saying on his radio show the past couple of weeks: Don't vote for a Republican. Don't vote for a Democrat. Don't vote for an Independent. Vote for an American - find out what candidates believe in and stand up for, and vote for candidates that want to serve the American people instead of their own egos.

I know it may be hard to find such people, and it may take some work. If interested, here's just one site I've found where you can find out more about what candidates believe in and how they've voted in the past: Project Vote Smart. They have a resource of Voting Records and you can look at National Political Awareness Tests (NPATs). You can also search the candidates by name or your zip code. If anybody has any other resources that they've found helpful, please share them in the comments.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"We Had Abortions"

For my friend Michael, at The Blazing Fire - I know how much you enjoy the opinions written in/by the Des Moines Register. Here's another one for your consideration:
"A statement of courage: 'We had abortions'" is an opinion piece regarding Ms. magazine's putting together a "petition" of women who have had abortions.

The "pro-choice" logic is almost unbelievable. Consider the following:

The magazine is repeating something it did in its 1972 debut issue, when 50 well-known women signed a petition declaring they had had abortions and supporting reproductive rights.

"Supporting reproductive rights"? How is aborting babies supporting reproductive rights? Seems more like a last ditch effort to stop reproduction.

Or this:

"Even then, to many it seemed absurd that the government could deny a woman sovereignty over her own body"

Ah, my favorite argument coming out of the "pro-choice" camp. Is anybody actually going to try and argue that 9 months of "inconvenience" are worth more than another person's entire lifetime?

"For many women, choosing abortion is taking control of their lives, their futures. It is being responsible enough to recognize they can't afford to provide for a child or aren't mentally or physically prepared to do so."

How about taking control of your life by not having sex unless you want (or are willing) to have a child? (I hear that sex sometimes leads to pregnancy.) How about being responsible enough to recognize that there are about 1 in 6 married couples that would like to have children but can't?

According to Ms., about 70,000 women and girls die in developing nations each year from unsafe abortions.

What about the 46 million or so babies worldwide that die each year from being aborted?

"Reproductive choice is necessary."

That's the one sentence in the article that I don't have a problem with. Women should not be forced to have sex. But again, I don't see what "reproductive choice" has to do with killing babies.

Music Videos

Every once in a while I'll flip by MTV or VH1 and see if they're actually showing music videos. (Why should I expect "Music Television" to show music videos?) Most of the videos are pretty much garbage, whether it's because of the song itself or the content of the video.

(Some of them amuse me for their unintentional comedy content. Like the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice." If they have a publicist/advisor, they should fire them. If not, they should probably hire one. For some reason they just don't get it.)

For some reason I still give it a look, and today I hit the jackpot. The following video was the #2 video on VH1's Top 20 Countdown (seriously):



I love Weird Al.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

MLB Playoffs

Here's some more from the Sports Guy's running diaries. From Yankees-Tigers game 1:

6:18 -- Double by Sheffield (3-0, Yankees), followed by a two-run homer from the Giambino (5-0, Yankees). Wow. A rattled Robertson looks like he's starring in the next "wanna get away?" commercial. And if you don't think A-Rod's getting a hit right now, you're obviously not familiar with his work.

6:19 -- A-Rod singles. Classic. In his own inimitable way, he's the most reliable athlete in sports. That prompts a phone call from my gleeful buddy JackO, who says "Yankee baseball!" again and again. I quickly hang up on him.

6:40 -- Enjoyable in-game interview with Joe Torre. He was positively gregarious. And why not? He's leading by five runs. By the way, Buck just said that Randy Johnson received an epidural last week to relieve pain in his back, which is what they give pregnant women right when they're delivering. I don't even have a joke here.

6:46 -- And the Tigers are on the board! Monroe just homered to dead center; 5-1, Yanks. Since Leyland can't smoke in the dugout, he's eating cigarettes three at a time right now.

6:56 -- Let's make this clear once and for all: the question isn't "what if a comedian ran for president?" It's "what if somebody was dumb enough to make a movie where Robin Williams played a comedian who ran for president?"

7:10 -- True or false: Carlos Guillen borrowed Carlos Boozer's chest hair for tonight's game.

(Answer: False. It's his own chest hair.)

7:30 -- Is it considered a step up or a step down when you replace Scooter the Talking Baseball with Tommy Lasorda? You got me.

And Game 1 of the Dodgers-Mets:

1:04 -- Remember when I questioned the ad people working for Holiday Inn? Well, they just ran an ad featuring Joe Buck. In your lifetime, will anyone ever say to his family while pulling off a highway exit: "Apparently Joe Buck likes Holiday Inn ... let's just stay there?" I say no.

1:04 -- Today's announcers: Gary Thorne, Steve Phillips and Joe Morgan, who will leave after the game with a police escort so he can announce Game 2 of tonight's Yankee series. If you ask me, that's a lot of Joe Morgan. I mean, a LOT of Joe Morgan. But you didn't ask me.

1:15 -- After the A's beat the Twins, Gary Thorne moves the audience to ESPN by telling us, "For those of you on ESPN2, we're gonna take you to poker ... " Wait, they're showing poker on TV now? When did this happen?

1:50 -- Kenny Lofton strikes out on three pitches and looks overmatched. Morgan credits Maine's "live fastball." Yeah, that was it. See, this is why I should never be allowed near a broadcast booth, I would have made a joke like, "Lofton hasn't looked this overwhelmed since Satchel Paige struck him out six times in a row in 1932."

2:01 -- Now here's a guy who just doesn't give a crap: JD Drew. He carries himself with the intensity of a grocery bagger. It's amazing. He couldn't care less. Or, he could care less. Whatever's grammatically correct.
(note: it's "couldn't")
2:04 -- Actual quote from Joe Morgan: "I always thought Grady Little did a great job, even with Boston, with the exception of the Pedro incident." That's like saying, "I always thought Britney Spears had pretty good taste in men, with the exception of K-Fed."

2:19 -- Morgan: "The most important inning in a game is the inning after you take the lead." You know what? I'm still going with the ninth inning is the most important inning of the game. Thanks, though.

2:26 -- Two guys on, one out in the fifth ... and Willie pulls Maine so Pedro Feliciano can pitch to Cool Papa Lofton. That's followed by the obligatory post-commercial shot of Maine being consoled in the dugout with one of those, " ... but Dad said I could pitch at least five innings!" pouts on his face, then Feliciano easily striking out Lofton. Enjoyable sequence. Well-played by Willie. He's my favorite manager of the playoffs so far. Plus, I'm almost positive that he played Dudley on "Different Strokes."

2:29 -- Chad Bradford gets a Nomar grounder to end the fifth. This ex-Red Sox thing isn't even funny anymore. Meanwhile, Joe Morgan says goodbye to Thorne and Phillips -- he's headed to Yankee Stadium for tonight's game. I wait for Joe to point out, "If you have a police escort, that means you get to Yankee Stadium faster" or "the big difference between Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium is that the Yankees play in Yankee Stadium." Doesn't happen.

3:05 -- Tim Robbins makes a cameo in the booth. He's a Mets fan. Does this mean that Andy Dufresne was a Mets fan then? I want to throw up.

3:47 -- Easy eighth inning for Aaron Heilman. He's good. Hold on, Ruby Tuesday is about to change our perception of what a burger should be. (Waiting.) Nope. Didn't happen.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Repentance

I wrote a while back (here, actually) about a new book that John Piper was working on, in which he wrote about repentance. Well, that book is out now, and it's called "What Jesus Demands from the World." Demand (and chapter) #2 is "Repent." In it, Piper talks about the true meaning of the word repentance, which is much deeper than what I've heard preached from many different pulpits. Here's how the chapter starts:
The first demand of Jesus’ public ministry was, “Repent.” He spoke this command indiscriminately to all who would listen. It was a call for radical inward change toward God and man.

WHAT IS REPENTANCE?

Two things show us that repentance is an internal change of mind and heart rather than mere sorrow for sin or mere improvement of behavior. First, the meaning of the Greek word behind the English "repent” ... points in this direction. It has two parts: meta and noe√ł. The second part ... refers to the mind and its thoughts and perceptions and dispositions and purposes. The first part ... is a prefix that regularly means movement or change. In view of the way this prefix regularly functions, we may infer that the basic meaning of repent is to experience a change of the mind’s perceptions and dispositions and purposes.

The other factor that points to this meaning of repent is the way Luke 3:8 describes the relationship between repentance and new behavior. It says, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” Then it gives examples of the fruits: “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:11). This means that repenting is what happens inside of us. Then this change leads to the fruits of new behavior. Repentance is not the new deeds, but the inward change that bears the fruit of new deeds. Jesus is demanding that we experience this inward change.
Want to read more? Piper and Desiring God are offering the text of the book for free, in .pdf format, here.

Sorry Cubs Fans

It's official. Congratulations to Major League Baseball's 2007 World Series Champs, the Texas Rangers.

What? It's only 2006? And that playoffs just started? And the Rangers are sitting at home? Well, none of that matters today. Not with the news of the Rangers firing manager Buck Showalter. The past ten years, firing Buck Showalter has been baseball's version of a golden ticket. Take a little trip back in recent baseball history with me.

From 1992 through 1995, Showalter managed the New York Yankees to a 313-268 record, a .539 winning percentage. Under Showalter's leadership, the Yanks were in first place at the time of the strike in 1994, and won the wild card in 1995 before losing in the divisional series to the Mariners. Following that season, Showalter was fired. The next season, the Yankees went 92-70, won their division, and won the World Series.

Showalter found his way back into a mangerial position in 1998 with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks. In three seasons in the desert, Showalter posted a 250-236 record, a .514 clip. The Diamondbacks won a division title in just their second year of existence, but lost in the divisional series to the Mets. Following a third place finish in their division in 2000, Showalter was shown the exit. The next season, the Diamondbacks went 92-70, won their division, and won the World Series.

After another short hiatus, the Rangers handed the reins over to Showalter. In four seasons, the Rangers cumulated a 319-329 record, a .492 winning percentage. ARod's monstrous contract burdened the Rangers during Showalter's rein, even after his trade to the Yankees. The Rangers failed to make the playoffs under Showalter, but showed some signs of life the past couple of seasons.

So my prediction for next year is that the Rangers will go 92-70, win their division, and win the World Series. Why not? It's happened twice before, and as we all know, trends like this always continue. So after the Cubs hire Joe Girardi and miss the playoffs the next three years, they should think about hiring Showalter for a few years, and then fire him and hit paydirt. Of course, all bets are off if the Cubs continue to sign "big name" free agents like Jeromy Burnitz and Jacque Jones.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

In Christ Alone

In perusing the song list from the Desiring God conference, I noticed one of my favorite songs - In Christ Alone, written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. Debra Akins shares the story behind the song in this article at crosswalk.com. Here are the song's lyrics:
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

The Truth

The Desiring God National Conference was this past weekend. This year's theme was "Above All Earthly Powers: The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World." I didn't go to the conference, but I'm looking forward to reading/listening to the speakers, and what they had to say in response to our world's ever-increasing movement to subjective, relative truth. Read or listen to the conference messages here.

Sports Diaries

I love the Sports Guy's diaries. He's posting running diaries of the first four games of MLB's postseason. (Read the A's-Twins or Cardinals-Padres.) Here are a few excerpts from his Cardinals-Padres account:

1:43 -- Disturbing sideline report from Duke: When David Wells was a Toronto rookie, he lived at Jesse Barfield's house and occasionally babysat Baby Josh Barfield (before he became Young Josh Barfield), even changing some diapers and everything. Now that's horrifying. Meanwhile, Berman has dropped three "Young Josh Barfields" and two "Little David Ecksteins" in less than three innings. Couldn't he throw in a "Fat Ronnie Belliard" now and then?

1:50 -- New from Domino's: Oven-baked brownie squares!!!! That ranks right up there with Pizza Hut introducing the Lasagna Pizza on the "Did we really need to create ways for Americans to become even fatter?" scale.

2:15 -- Another email from Nigel in NY: "From the A's-Twinkies running diary, you said: 'Let's see what Barry Zito brings to the table here ... as Keith Law pointed out this week, the spacious Oakland outfield and their D makes his record seems much better than it is.' I'm no Zito fan, but his home ERA this year was 4.71 and road ERA was 2.97. In the same number of starts he gave up twice as many HRs at home. You are like a weatherman. You can make stuff up, be completely wrong, and never get fired."

(All good points. I'm an idiot. Although I might have to break up with Keith Law. This was unforgivable. By the way, two on, no outs for the Pads ... and "Young Adrian Gonzalez" is up. I need a drink.)

2:33 -- Orel mistakenly says the phrase "first basemans." Sadly, I can't make fun of him -- I'm the same guy who wrote that David Stern "freezed" the Knicks envelope last week.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Who Needs Fact-Checking?

The Memphis Commercial Appeal (yeah, it's a newspaper) reported on Sunday (see here) that a group led by former Duke basketball player Brian Davis was about to buy a majority stake in the Memphis Grizzlies. I thought that was weird enough. Brian Davis? Where's he get the money to buy a sports franchise? But the weirdest part of the story, to me, was this: "He's [Davis] reportedly interested in a cost-cutting direction that eliminates Griz president Jerry West's position." Seriously, you're going to can The Logo? The man who's won NBA Executive of the Year with two different franchises?

But then I read ESPN's story today, from the Associated Press (here). Turns out Davis isn't the only former Dukie in the group - Davis's former roommate Christian Laettner is part of the group. Davis and Laettner are evidently putting up $40 million of their own money. And according the the AP, Davis "said he wants president Jerry West and [head coach Mike] Fratello to stay with the Grizzlies. He added that he would like to sign West to a lifetime contract..."

Eliminate the position ... give the guy a lifetime contract. You say po-TA-to, I say squash. I know, I know, it's a fine line between getting rid of a guy and offering him a lifetime contract. Minor detail, really.

But the kicker to the AP story is that "Laettner is also interested in returning to the NBA to play for the Grizzlies". Um, Christian? You might want to rethink that. First of all, you haven't played since the 2004-05 season, when you came off the bench for the Miami Heat to average stellar numbers of 5.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Second, you might want to think back to a couple of guys named Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Both of them made comebacks after investing in NBA teams. League rules mandated that they sell their shares before making their comebacks. And Jordan's didn't end so well. After giving up his role in the front office for the Wizards to return to the court, the Wiz management decided when he was done playing that he was done with the organization altogether.

Friday, September 29, 2006

NFL

The Sports Guy checks in with his NFL team rankings, including:
25. Kansas City, 0-2
Courtesy of Brian in Philly: "Wow, Herm Edwards is getting better. It took him years to turn the Jets into a franchise with no offense, bad defense and an injured quarterback. He did the same thing to the Chiefs in one game!"
...

LINGERING LIKE A STALE FART
20. Washington, 1-2
...

14. Carolina, 1-2
It's tough to get excited about a team that nearly blew a 17-point lead to a QB with a ruptured spleen.
...

11. Dallas, 1-1
Why are we still wondering what happened with T.O.? Isn't it clear? He took some painkillers, received a physical therapy session (which always puts you in a weird mental state) and accidentally took a couple more painkillers. That was followed by his PR lady coming in, mistakenly overreacting and calling police. When they showed up, a zoned out T.O. acted erratically enough that police jumped to the wrong conclusion. They took him to the hospital and realized he was fine. And then everyone subsequently tried to cover it up the fact that he has been depressed/moody/sullen enough lately that his PR person thought it was CONCEIVABLE that he could have tried to kill himself.

Basically, we learned people close to T.O. believe he's moody, erratic and potentially a threat to himself. All of which we already knew. Making this one of the single dumbest sagas of all-time ... unless you're a Cowboys fan and it's threatening to derail your season. Then it's something else.

(By the way, it's truly alarming when Terry Glenn is considered the sane receiver on a football team.)
...

8. Denver, 2-1
Nobody looks better with a 10-point lead, although we could have said this last season as well. And just for the record, Jake was terrific in New England. You have to hand it to him. I will now shave my face with a cheese grater.
...

THE CONTENDERS
6. Chicago, 3-0
I can't put them any higher after Rex's interception last weekend. I just can't. Sorry. I don't have a good personal history with QB's who run for their life in the end zone, then throw the ball up for grabs for no real reason. But that's just me.

He's absolutley right about Grossman. If I were the Bears QB coach this week, I would have spent significant time schooling Grossman on two simple yet effective techniques - lateral movement (taking a step or two to the side instead of running straight backwards) and throwing off the front foot (stepping into a throw instead of falling backwards and throwing a ball 5-10 yards short of the intended receiver).