Monday, July 08, 2002
Hey, not even the State Department thought the July 4th party held by Castro was funny. They actually hinted his actions might be hypocritcal. Now if they could just make a similar discovery about someone else.
I'm sure this will have no negative impact on one of the mysteries of our time: Germans love David Hasselhoff. (That Google search actually turns up 10 pages.)
Well here we have an American who says Osama is his hero. I've never understood people who clearly think America is unspeakably evil, yet continue to live here. They really are free to leave, so why do they stay?
WolrldCom blames Andersen for its accounting "irregularities" but admits they never informed Andersen of the accounting practices in question. I'm about to do a little Andersen defense. (I can't believe it.)
Based on WorldCom's admission that the accounting issues were not discussed, it is obvious to me that this case is different than the Enron case. There is strong evidence in that case that there was actual collusion between Andersen and Enron. That is not the case here. Instead, they are charged with failing to detect the clients fraud. But here is the dirty secret: Audits are not designed to detect fraud that is the result of management collusion. In fact, audits are not designed to detect fraud at all. Audits are designed to "to obtain reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free of material misstatement." Toward that end, we have designed procedures to look for large errors. And that is primarily what we are looking for: errors. The primary purpose of an audit is to find large problems with accounting systems and treatments of transactions that are not consistent with Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. If the fraud is large enough, it should be detected, but that is not the purpose of an an audit.
Auditors can detect fraud by individuals because they can examine the internal controls of a company. However no level of internal control can prevent fraud that is the result of management collusion. This is because senior management has the ability to simply override all controls. If this happens, it can be very difficult to find the fraud. Because of this, the only sure fire defense against financial fraud by a corporation is honest management. Accountants can only assert that they did not find material errors. It is management that asserts to the auditor in a representation letter that the statements are actually free of material errors. There really isn't an alternative to this system that I can see. If management is untrustworthy, no amount of auditing will be able to compensate.
Now, that being said, there is really no excuse for Andersen failing to find the kind of money we're talking about. However, their culpability here appears to come from negligence, not collusion. This is a huge difference. More to the point, the accuracy of accounting records is the primary responsibility of management and they affirm that responsibility every year in the representation letter. For WorldCom to have engaged in highly questionable activities, withheld that information from their auditors while asserting that they had given those same auditors full disclosure, and then turn around and claim that the auditors bear primary responsibility for the misstatements is incredibly audacious. In our system of auditing, the accountants can never bear more responsibility for misstatements than management because management is required to claim primary responsibility when they sign the representation letter.
Why doesn't the Green Party get representation in Canadian government? Is it because they campaign on stupid and unpopular ideas? No. Its because the Canadian political system unfairly discriminates in favor of people with popular ideas. How stupid of me.
Matthew 6:1-4 ISV
Here Jesus gives a strong rebuke about doing the right for the wrong reason. Apparently many of the religious leaders in his day literally blew a trumpet in the temple or synagogues to draw attention to the offering they were about to make. Jesus warns that if you are doing good to be noticed, that is all the reward you will receive. If you do good because it is the right thing to do, the Father will take care of you. This must have been hard for people to swallow. (Its still hard to swallow.) The idea that it is not enough to do good things grates against our sensibilities.
I've got to disagree with Joshua Claybourn a little. In reference to demands that Clinton be investigated for war crimes in the Balkans, he said:
While this story is a perfect example of why we should stay clear of the ICC, this particular instance would have happened regardless of whether the ICC had come into being or not. This is because the court in question here is not the ICC, but an ad hoc international tribunal. However, there is no reason to believe that the ICC will behave any better.
Update-Claybourn has corrected his post to indicate that it is actually the ICTY that is considering indicting Clinton. He goes on to point out that his logic is still sound because huge chunks of the ICC are based on the ICTY. I'll readily admit this. As I noted before, his premise about this incident being a good warning about the ICC is sound, it was only the specific application that I questioned.
By the way, am I the only one that thinks of frozen yogurt when reading the acronym ICTY. Actually, I might feel better if TCBY were in charge of trying war crimes.
This article on the ICC by John Dean is essential reading.
You can't make this stuff up.
This story is kind of weird. I don't know what to make of most of this story, but I did want to mention this:
For the sake of argument, let us assume that Arafat really was properly elected by the Palestinian people and let us pass over the fact that Arafat's term was supposed to expire in 1999. Does the fact that someone was democratically elected by his own people mean that the rest of the world must continue to negotiate with this man indefinitely, no matter what?
For years Yasser Arafat has sponsored terrorism. He has condemned mass murders in English while extolling their virtues in Arabic. He has repeatedly failed to honor commitments. His own supporters frequently argue that he is incapable of stopping the terrorists. There comes a point when sane people must acknowledge that someone is either so corrupt or so incompetent that there is no point in continuing negotiations. When you reach that point, the only sensible thing to do is to inform the people who put him in power that he is impossible to negotiate with. If they insist on keeping him in power, the only logical conclusion is that his people do not want peace.
If we assume that the Palestinian people were to suddenly find themselves in a free an open society tomorrow, they would have every right to vote Arafat back into power. But they would also have to bear the consequences of that act. Consider this:
These points should be fairly obvious, but when Bush or others actually point these things out, people act as if they have somehow committed the worst sin in the world.
It's looking more and more like Arafat's days may be numbered. Of course, this could all be wishful thinking.
Yes Virginia, there is a free market.
This, I believe, is what we call denial.
Jack Dunphy has an interesting article about the LAX shooting.
I'd be very interested in hearing Dr. Heddle's thoughts on this post at Samizdata.
The LA Examiner has more on the LAX shooting.
David Heddle has an interesting post on Sola Scriptura. I agreed with pretty much everything he said, but I do have a question. Can Dr. Heddle defend biblically any type of baptism besides that of believers by immersion? I have just reviewed all the scriptures on baptism and I cannot find any support for baptizing non-believers, ie infants. However, I see quite a bit that supports baptizing believers. In regards to immersion, I'm no Greek scholar, but from my studies it seems pretty clear that the word baptizos in the Greek only means immersion. I may post more on this later if I have time.
Gary Peterson is looking for a new Bible. While I've certainly had my share to say about study Bibles in the past, its not as though I think they're evil or anything. What is a problem is when people start accepting study notes without examining them, or worse, reading the study notes instead of the scriptures the notes are supposed to comment on.
As far as translations go, the NASB is a good translation, but the language is a bit strange to the modern ear. Personally, I prefer the English Standard Version. I have found it to be the best balance between literal translation and readability. (You can read up on the translation philosophy and check out sample passages here.) There are still a few places where the language sounds out of place, (Unlike the NIV, the ESV does not cut out the word "behold" so much, for instance.) but overall its a fairly easy read and most of the places I've found differences from other translations, the ESV has proved to have the best translation (or approach). Anyway, there's my two cents Gary.
Sunday, July 07, 2002
MarcV has some comments on Episcopalians blessing unwed heterosexual couples and homosexual couples in some sort of union. Marc asks some questions about whether this crosses the line of doctrinal differences which can be accepted. This is a "Christian Fellowship" issue. I'd like to add some comments here.
Marc asks,"Should I just bless him and move on, since Episcopalians are supposed to have a "salvation orthodoxy" similar to other mainline denominations?" I would say (in fact I have said) that what is important is whether what a church teaches about "salvation orthodoxy" lines up with the message of salvation taught by the apostles. If every "mainline denomination" in the world was found to be teaching a message of salvation in contradiction to the New Testament, then they would all be wrong and they should say so.
So, is this decision evidence of a move away from Biblical teachings on salvation? I answer in the affirmative. Repentance is a required element of salvation. Repentance as a prerequisite for the forgiveness of sins was taught explicitly by the apostle Peter. (Acts 2:28; Acts 3:19) This Episcopalian bishop may still endorse the doctrine of repentance, but his actions undermine the very point of repentance. In offering a "blessing" on homosexual couples and nonmarried heterosexual couples he is specifically endorsing activities the Bible defines as sinful. You cannot effectively preach repentance from sins and provide specific blessings to certain categories of sin.
If a church has undermined the Biblical doctrine of repentance, they cannot be said to be teaching a "salvation orthodoxy" that lines up with the teachings on salvation of the apostles. So, should we just "bless him and move on?" No. They are wrong and we should say so. We should not do so hatefully. But we must say so.
In answer to Marc's question about how marriage can be a financial hardship I would say this is probably government related. There are certain government scholarships that through quirks in calculations frequently end up paying higher amounts to singles than to married couples. Also, there are some government housing and food programs that seem to give preference to single women. Then there is the dreaded "marriage penalty." This isn't really a penalty of course. The marriage penalty is a quirk in the tax law that ends up causing some married couples who both work and make about the same amount of money to pay a higher income tax than they would if they were single. When you combine all those factors, it is certainly possible that some people would find it financially desirable to refrain from marriage.
However, I'm not aware of any Biblical teaching that says sin is not sin if your desperate. (Someone might try to make that argument out of Matthew Chapter 12, but I think its a non-starter.) In fact, Solomon said that if a man steals because he is hungry, men will understand, but that the thief must still be held responsible. If a couple cannot afford to get married, than they should not get married. They should also refrain from the activities God set up for married couples. Bishop Smalley might as well endorse stealing televisions for people who have a financial hardship. The moral justification is the same.
On a final note, I don't see what the financial hardship argument has to do with the related decision to bless homosexual couples.
This article has some interesing points about "regime change" in the Arab world. I don't know that I agree with all of Mr. Ignatius's points, but he's certainly got something here:
This is an excellent point. I saw an article recently with the lead in "Give them Freedom." You cannot give people freedom. It is not possible. They have to want it. Once they want it sufficiently, they will be willing to fight, sacrifice, and maybe die for it. Once they want it that bad, then we can help them fight for it. Until then, it would be a waste of time.
The thing is that our future security is largely dependent on our ability to change these nations into free states. That means we need to be actively trying to encourage the love of freedom in the Arab world. Toward that end, Ignatius's suggestions could be useful.
Yasser Arafat has signed the "Basic Law" which is supposed to act as a constitution. This story indicates that the Basic Law outlines the separation of powers and the defines what rights the people have. I hope this is incorrect because if it is true, the Basic Law is fundamentally flawed if it is supposed to work in a free society. In a free society, the people have all the rights and they define which of those rights they are willing to surrender. It is a fundamental difference in outlook to say that the government has the rights and will define which ones are allowed to the people. Not that it matters. The chances that Yasser will actually follow honor the Basic Law are slim.
In the interest of saving the planet, Tim Blari calls on the publishers of the Guardian to put their money where their mouth is and close the newspaper.
No terrorism here folks. Nothing to see. Move along.
Well I'm back. Check out Orrin Judd on Christian values and capitalism.
Saturday, July 06, 2002
The last part of this TalG post leaves me speechless.
Hey Mark Byron, I ditto what MarcV said.
William Holzer (Sorry, no permalinks.Bottom post on July 5th) has an interesting point about the LAX shooting:
The one thing to keep in mind with the events of yesterday, is that the people who think Bush let the 9--11 attacks happen, so that he could have a war, are completely wrong. If Bush was a warmonger, he'd be all over news calling the shooting "terrorism," but an apparent act of terrorism isn't even being called that by the Bush administration.
Orrin Judd asks, "Is there some secret codicil to the Bill of Rights that's accessible only to liberal activists, jurists, and columnists?"
Yes, Orrin, there is. Obviously I've never seen it, but from listening to them talk, it aparrently reads something like, "Anything you find frigthening, terrifying, unpleasant, or gives you 'the Creeps' is hereby delared in violation to the Bill of Rights."
David Heddle has a clever post on something from nothing. The argument that the net energy of the universe is zero kind of reminds me of Douglas Adams argument that the average population of the universe was zero.(But I'm kinda funny that way.)
No. No. No! This is not how you handle disputes with the government. In my more depressing moments I wonder if much of the world will ever be ready for self-rule. Less than two months after new government installed, a vice-president is assasinated. 10 of his guards are now under arrest.
You don't say
Fox News is reporting:
The FBI said Friday that the Egyptian immigrant who fatally shot two people at the Los Angeles airport went there with the intent to kill.
Let's see, 2 guns and one knife being carried by an Egyptian who reportedly hated the US and Israel shows up at an El Al (Israeli) ticket booth in LA on the 4th of July. Whatever would give the impression that he planned on killing people? I'm sure glad the FBI is here to tell us these things.
I was reading this story about 3 boys drowning. It is a sad story, but the last lines made my blood boil.
A woman who answered the phone at the Metelus home tonight declined to comment.
I'm particularly sensitive to this sense my sister died. Here we have three dead kids and the parents and the neighbor who found the bodies have to put up with being hounded by the press. I'm always amazed at these peoples' complete lack of sensitivity. When my sister died, one of the worst things about the first few days was having to deal with the reporters who swooped into our little town looking for a story. Reporters drove for hours just to poke their noses into our suffering. (I'm not exaggerating either. There was statewide coverage for at least a day.) The only good part was that we were living in a small close-knit community. In two or three days of poking around I don't think they got a single quote. Businesses told their employees to shut up. People told them to get lost. The police chief refused to file any formal reports (which would have been public record) until the reporters got tired and got home. Otherwise the whole thing could have drawn out much longer. I have no idea whether our experience was typical or not, but trust me, when a family member dies suddenly, the last thing you need is reporters calling you up to ask stupid questions.
Friday, July 05, 2002
I'm not a tennis fan, but I had a thought. All these complaints I've seen today that the Williams sisters have a fix in when they face each other in championship matches seems very strange. Its almost as if people are trying to make excuses for the fact that most of the time, either sister can wipe the floor with everybody else. That it is even possible for accusations like this to come up says a great deal about the talent of both sisters.
Charles Austin pretty well sums up my thoughts on the recent clamor for multi-nationalism. (EU style.)
If you really want a good set of laws and fundamental values to which all nations should adhere, the US will be happy to share ours.
Christopher Johnson has some sobering thoughts.
Jane Galt asked an interesting question about the UN. The comments section has erupted in a robust discussion of Federalism, Democracy, the ICC and international law.l I wouldn't want to be "pj" though.
Red Letter Edition
If anyone is still not convinced that Jesus was not teaching his followers to pick fights, then you've got to deal with these verses.
Matthew 5:43-48 HCSB "You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don't even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Again, I really don't know how good a justification for war can be made from the New Testament, but these verses and the ones immediately preceding them take a lot of twisting to get them to read, "Fight! Fight!"
Over for al Qaeda?
Bill Quick thinks that the fact that al Qaeda failed to come up with an impressive display of their power yesterday means that they are efffectively dead in the water.
Blogger has been down most of the day. The free version is still down, but they got the pay version (I'm shocked) working first. Anyway, that convinced me to go ahead and buy BloggerPro.
The Israelis probably have a safer approach to incidents like the shooting in LA. It is usually the response of our government to downplay the possibility that something was an act of terror. Presumably this is some effort to reduce the fear of the public. On the other hand, the Israelis tend to assume every incident was an act of terror until proven otherwise.
This story about the conviction of a former SS officer for war crimes includes a rather strange passage.
The former salesman is no stranger to court cases. He was convicted in absentia by an Italian court in 1999 for killing at least 246 Italian prisoners of war in four separate massacres.
Being tried in absentia means (unless someone's been changing the dictionary) that he wasn't present. That means that the existence of the prior trial may not have any bearing at all to Engel's familiarity with court cases. (Sorry, just a case of my instincts howling against poor use of language. That's actually kind of strange. I cringe sometimes when perusing the archives of this site and I wrote that stuff myself.)
Bill quick has some ideas about the LAX shooter.
Thomas Sowell has some Random Thoughts. This one in particular is worth thinking about.
The great curse of the 20th century was the inability of decent people to realize that what was unthinkable to them was both thinkable and doable by others -- like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Are we to wait until Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and we wake up some morning to find a couple of American cities obliterated?
The shooter at LAX was an Egyptian immigrant whose family is said to be visiting Egypt for the summer. About all this story tells us is that he didn't like American flags and apparently came to the airport with gun loaded and plenty of ammunition. Whatever his motivation, he almost certainly was planning on doing some shooting. You don't go into an airport armed like that unless you are intending to use it.
Well, I went back and saw that I've had at least 40 posts today. Now you know what a blogger does when he's so sick that he doesn't feel like doing anything but sitting in a recliner with a laptop. I've set around all day hitting reload on news sites just waiting for something to pop up to comment on. Thankfully, the only two incidents in the US of great note involved few casualties and one is almost certainly not an act of terrorism. (The plane crash.) It's starting to look like the incident at LAX may have been an isolated incident as well, although there are still lots of questions about that one. Anyway, I hope everyone had a good Independence Day. I'm going to bed.
Out of curiosity, I wonder if Nur al-Din al-Saffi is still alive.
Thursday, July 04, 2002
Fidel Castro has a strange sense of humor. Cuba held a July 4th celebration in honor of, "[t]he cultural, spiritual and moral legacy of the American people," in Karl Marx Theater.
Malaysia has announced its opposition to US peacekeepers being exempt from ICC prosecution. Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, in his statement, included a remark that we are a signatory to the treaty. No we are not. Under Article II, section 2 of our Constitution, treaties signatures are not valid until ratified by two thirds of our Senate. That has not and will not happen. Further, we have publicly repudiated the treaty. That means we are not signators. Its just common sense logic that states who are not party to a treaty cannot be bound by that treaty.
On a further note, why is it so difficult to understand this. We Americans take the Constitution very seriously. We don't just trash it whenever we feel like it. There are several issues about the ICC that violate our Constitution. That means we won't be doing them. This has nothing to do with conspiracies to undermine international this or mult-national that (not that we much care for internationalism). First and foremost it is about upholding the primary law of our country.
How is it that we know the shooter's exact age (52) but not his name or anything else about him?
Red Letter Edition
There was some talk going on recently about the idea that Jesus was actually teaching active resistance here. The theories espoused really only make sense if you view these verses by themselves. However, these verses do not stand alone. Here is the full context:
As Mark Butterworth pointed out, its hard to square the command not to resist an evil person with the idea that resistance is actually what's being taught.
This brings to mind some points I want to make.
Update-I forgot point 6. Just because some wars may be justified before God, that doesn't mean that all wars are. The trick is figuring out which wars are justified.
Martin Roth has some comments on "Christian cookery." (July 5th post.) As it turns out, CS Lewis was a prophet. (Would you believe I actually got a hit from someone searching for "Christian cookery?")
The Israeli's still say the shooting was an act of terrorism. I still don't know what to believe here.
The plane crash out in California looks to be some sort of freak accident. The plane apparently came down in a resevoir and then skipped into the park where the fatality and injuries occurred. Very strange. I suppose on the bright side there really is no reason to think any terrorism involved here.
This report indicates that the FBI is leaning towards the LAX shooting not being a terrorist incident. Strangely, this story treats the stab wounds as a mystery even though a story I linked to earlier seemed to have explained that.
CNN reports that the shooter was a 52-year old male. Still no ID on the guy, but that would put him outside the normal range of a terrorist by about 12 years. Also, it was the security guard who was stabbed. Apparently the shooter also had a knife.
The British have released another schizophrenic who has already stabbed people. And what are we going to do when he decides the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls are out to get him? Oh, maybe that's the plan.
Bobby Allision-Gillmore has posted some original poetry. Check out the last stanza. Hey, we can dream can't we?
Anita Creamer says we aren't patriotic enough and are too easily fatigued by the burdens of good citizenship. She's got some good points.
Israel's transportation minister indicated that all the shooting victims were Israelis.
Now this is odd. One of the victims at LAX has stab wounds and nobody seems to know how he got them.
A plane has also crashed near an amusement park near LA. Details are still sketchy.
Well, the Israeli's think they know the answer to that question.
A gunman opened fire at the El Al ticket booth at LAX. American airport and Israeli airline. I wonder what religious persuasion the shooter was. (He's apparently been killed by security.) I could be wrong, but I'd be highly surprised if he's not a Muslim.
Yup, the guy who knocked the head off of the statue of Margaret Thatcher was trying to make a political point. I'd try to analyze some of the guys statements, but somethings are just to bizarre to deal with. I will note that some people use these things called "words" to make political points rather than going around bashing valuable art work.
Kofi Annan says the United States governments threats to systematically cancel peace keeping operations, "flies in the face of treaty law." No. What flies in the face of treaty law is attempting to assert treaty provisions against countries that are not parties to the treaty. That is exactly what the UN and ICC are trying to do to the US right now. That is why we've pulled out this particular big gun in the negotiation process. Rightly so, I might add.
By the way, I'm not persuaded by his assurance that politically motivated prosecutions are, "highly improbable." The UN has become a tool to bash the US and Israel. (Largely at the expense of the US I might add.) I see no reason to believe the ICC would not do the same.
James Edwards calls for a renewal of the Spirit of '76.
Victor Davis Hanson explains the usefulness of military history. This is a gem.
Someone, somewhere, probably had a heart attack reading this.
Jane Galt has got the patriotism thing covered. Go here and then scroll up.
William Holzer has a good piece about God, our rights, and the founding fathers.
Gary Peterson has a good post on God and America.
After reading KJL's advice, I read this article on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Its an interesting read and as much about theology as song writing.
Update-He misses a point though. Well, not so much missed as failed to extrapolate as much as I would like. The line with "The Hero born of woman" reads, "Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel." This is an explicit reference to the prophecy in Genesis 3:15. However, it also seems to be a reference to Galatians 4:4. (Born of woman is how Paul describes Christ there.) Then of course there is the fact the fact that Christians have traditionally interpreted Genesis 3:15 to mean Christ. All of this makes it unlikely to me that this passage of the song was meant to minimize Christ.
The USS Clueless takes a break from commentary today. Instead, we see pictures worth millions of words.
The pictures of people falling from the WTC are disturbing. They should be. Periodically we need to seem them to remind ourselves that real people bled and ided that day. This wasn't just a matter of buildings falling down. Innocent people were murdered. The pictures are horrible, but forgetting them would be more so.
Radley Balko on America.
I don't get it. I keep seeing these stories about how nervous everyone is. I don't understand where the fear comes from. Yes, its possible that another terrorist attack could take place. That doesn't make it a certainty. I don't see any reason to get all worked up.
And while I'm thinking about it, al Qaeda is dangerous, but only in a tactical sense. They are not dangerous to us in a long term strategic sense. The very fact that they have not struck us again in wake of 9/11 proves this. Strategically, to capitalize on the fear they caused, they should have had several fairly large attacks planned to go through in the few weeks right after they'd already hit us once. The fact that this happens indicates that they were either unable to do so or incapable of really understanding what they were doing.
The terrorist are something to be concerned about. They are not something to be feared.
Mathetes on the separation of Christians from the world.
And what is the basis for all this?
This is available for you as well, but the way may not be easy.
Looks like serious air traffic control problems might be to blame for the crash in Germany a few days ago.
Now here's a job security plan. If it works, maybe he can write a how-to book on keeping your job, even after being fired.
Then again, he learned denial from the master.
Thanks to previously mentioned paranoid blogger for link to this quiz.
Which Star-Crossed Marvel Lover Are You?
Not exactly sure what this says about me though.
Okay, I'm confused. Apparently I'm making someone paranoid. (Top post on July 3.) What exactly am I doing that's sparking parnoia?
Update:The post has been replaced with an apology. It wasn't a complaint, just a question.
For those of you that are interested, I went to see a specialist for my balance problems on Tuesday. No diagnosis yet. He just ordered more tests. I still don't know what's wrong and I still feel like I'm about to fall down a good bit of the time. Hopefully we can find out what's wrong soon.
GedankenPundit has Who's Who in the the terrorist pseudo-state.
Brian Micklethwait has an interesting post on phonics.
Wednesday, July 03, 2002
Saddam Hussein's stepson has been arrested in Miami. Cops are downplaying it, but the story seems a little weird.
Red Letter Edition
Matthew 5:33-37 ISV "Again, you have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, 'You must not swear an oath falsely,' but 'You must fulfill your oaths to the Lord.' But I tell you not to swear at all, neither by heaven, because it is God's throne, nor by the earth, because it is his footstool, nor by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the Great King. Nor should you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. Instead, let your word be 'Yes' for 'Yes' and 'No' for 'No.' Anything more than that comes from the evil one."
This is not a command that can necessarily be carried out overnight. If people are going to be able to take you at your word, you will have to develop a reputation for honesty. As I understand it, phrases like, "I swear it," developed among people who were known to be less than honest. Swearing to tell the truth was developed to give people of bad reputation a chance to be believed. This was under the supposition that if they swore, they could then be believed. For a follower of Christ, this should be totally unnecessary. People who know us should never have reason to doubt our word. Consequently, we should not have reason to swear in order to get people to believe us.
If your interested to know what the PA is thinking about mass murders, this report by MEMRi is worth reading. This quote is scary.
Martyrdom operations are the most noble, most sublime means of battle, that the Palestinian people have created...
Apparently people in Cuba have gotten all worked up about a rumor that a massive boatlift was going to take place to rescue them from the "Worker's Paradise." Unfortunately, its not true.
The Heritage Foundation has proposed a compromise on the ICC. I think Mark Byron would be satisfied with their proposal.
Jeremiah 18:1-10 NAS The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will announce My words to you." Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. "At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. "Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.
Its tempting to use this passage to start talking about free will again, but that's not really what I want to do. Our congregation had sort of a patriotic service tonight, but it wasn't all tote the flag stuff. Our lesson tonight was centered on the passage above. Specifically, we talked about the idea that all nations belong to God, whether they recognize it or not. However, those that recognize the sovereignty and rule of God will be rewarded. Those that reject him will be punished. It is always wise for us, as a nation, to make sure that we are on God's side. As it is written, "Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD; the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance."
David Limbaugh also wrote on this subject today.
Jane's has some interesting analysis of the situation in Israel.
Well, I can think of more mature ways of making your point.
Dick Morris thinks President Bush is at his best when he's a momma's boy. He's got a point.
Linda Chavez has some well written comments on "separation of church and state."
Nissan Ratzlav-Katz on thanks Americans for the effect our patriotism had on Israel.
Dinesh D'Souza argues that freedom is a necessary precursor of virtue. Good read. I would only add that Islamic Fundamentalist point to vices in the West and make a big fuss because they don't see the same things in their society. As D'Souza points out, that is because in their society, all the "visible sins", those that are obvious to casual observers, are strictly patrolled against. However, just because the highly visible vices have been contained, doesn't mean that people aren't committing all kinds of sins when they are out of sight.
TalG posts on the Palestinian view of democracy. (Hint, there are guns involved.)
Eugene Volokh posts on free speech and the Supreme Court. Very interesting.
John Hawkins has a primer on America for our European friends.
MarcV recommends that you read this NRO column by Eugene Volokh. I concur. It ought to give you a little pause to think about courage. By the way, Marc, I read Volokh quite a bit and a lot of his stuff is this good.
Judging only by what I've seen in my friends who got married, and comparing it to Mark Byron's last post on the subject, I'd guess he's got a lot of nervous energy built up. (In my experience, when grooms start counting down by the hour, they're wound pretty tight.) I hope I'm wrong. I hope he's cool and relaxed. Anyway, congratulations to you Mark.
I'm shocked. Just shocked. (Well, not really.)
Tuesday, July 02, 2002
The US has now cancelled a diplomatic mission to North Korea. Considering they just sank a frigate belonging to an ally and then blamed us for the whole thing, that seems like a logical thing to do.
There's been another mass murder in Jerusalem.
However, this story also mentions that Sharon's government has announced a new policy. Every time there is a terrorist attack, the IDF will seize and hold additional Palestinian territory. This may be the only way to make things work. Maybe if the Palestinians actually watch their territory shrink after every attack they will finally get the message.
It might not work, but everything else has been tried.
Red Letter Edition
The part about cutting off body parts really throws people for a loop. It is important to remember that Jesus did not say that eyes and hands cause you to sin. Body parts just do what you tell them to do. What he is doing here is presenting an extreme. The point he is making here is that you should be willing to give up anything to make sure you avoid sin, even body parts, if it came to it. And, if you would give up a body part to get into heaven, then there is nothing you should not be willing to give up. The point being that anything else would be less of a sacrifice then body parts. If you would be willing to go that far, why would you not give up the little things which are where the problems usually lie. (I'm not saying that the extremes Jesus mentions are not true, just that His approach was done to make a point more about the little things than the big things. At least, as far as I can tell.)
Christopher Johnson delivers a fisking to Hugo Young regarding the ICC.
Okay, this article shows promising signs. There is of course the mandatory Israel bashing, but reading an article where a Palestinian uses the words "Palestinian Authority" and "despotic rule" in the same sentence is encouraging.
There are some things in here I don't understand. For instance, he insists that Israel must withdraw to its pre-September 2000 positions. He also says they must ensure free elections in Palestine. I don't understand how they are supposed to both.
He hits this on the head though:
It is absolutely true that democracy without guaranteed rights is worthless. He left out a very important one. Any new Palestinian government must have very strict private property laws. This is true for two reasons. The first is that this is essentially what makes any society free. The right to feel absolutely secure in your own property is essential to liberty. The second reason is more practical. There is no such thing as a Palestinian economy. When the intifada began and Israel locked most Palestinians out of there territory, the Palestinians suddenly had no where to work. This is because there were almost no jobs at all in there own territory. This will not change until the Palestinian government provides an environment conducive to investment. Private property rights are essential to this because only a fool invests someplace if he believes the government will walk by and seize the property as soon as he starts turning a profit.
Despite some flaws in this article, the Palestinians would do far better listening to people like this author rather than the thugs from Fatah and Hamas.
Josh Claybourn has some more thoughts on the ICC and a take I hadn't thought of.
Mark Byron, who's still having template problems (unless he's changed his name to Mark ByronMark Byron), responded to my response to his post on Christian dating. Mark thinks the dangers of dating a non-believer outweigh the possibility of converting them. He may be right, but I'm not sure I'm convinced. It probably depends on the strength of the person involved. Although, if you take the better safe than sorry approach, then you'd have to go with Mark. (By the way, I wonder what possessed Mark to run this search in the first place.)
Update-Looks like Mark got the template worked out.
David Heddle asks about the salvation of Nicodemus. I actually heard a series of lessons taught about different types of "believers" and Nicodemus was one of the examples. Specifically, he was of the type that was willing to go so far, but no farther. You'll notice that Nicodemus spoke up for Jesus, but when challenged he apparently backed down. Now of course, the comments of the other Pharisee were an implicit threat to his life under the circumstances. Still, he drew a line at how far he would go for Jesus. When he helped Joseph bury Jesus, Joseph took the risk of approaching Pilate and Nicodemus went and bought the spices. Helpful, but no risk involved. As to whether Nicodemus ever repented and actually threw himself at the foot of the cross, I doubt it. Mostly because John wrote at such a late date that he would presumably have known Nicodemus's choice by then and would have had an opportunity to vindicate his character. Then again, I could be wrong.
Does anybody know why I keep getting hits from people searching for Robert Byrd and atheists? I suppose I could go look myself, but its more fun to speculate on something like this than to actually go look.
Monday, July 01, 2002
All in day's work for our "partner in peace."
Found this article about the ICC in Guardian. Here are a couple of items worthy of comment.
At any cost? Really. We've already told them what our position is. Guarantee that no member of the US military (or better yet, any US citizen at all) will ever be brought up on charges before this stupid court. They balked and screamed about our "bloodymindedness." So much for, "at any cost."
As far as I can tell, criticism of the our "unilateralism" generally means refusing to go along with Europe's stupid ideas.
"What can be so special about US soldiers and officials that they must be shielded unconditionally from the supposed hazards of trial by an international tribunal?" asked General Sir Hugh Beach, a retired army officer.
It is called the Constitution of the United States, Sir Hugh. Maybe you've heard of it. We take it kind of seriously.
Okay, Yasser, than who exactly was he talking about?
Well, at least the Guardian likes Colin Powell.
Headline:Palestinians protest at Arafat's failure to solve economic woes
I don't know guys. Do you think maybe this is the problem?
Yup. North Korea sinks a South Korean naval vessel and blames the US.
Does anybody have the slightest clue what that thief-master-club thing is supposed to mean?
Another Biblical brain teaser. I was doing some study yesterday and came across something I had never noticed before.
1 Samuel 13:1 - NRS Saul was . . . years old when he began to reign; and he reigned . . . and two years over Israel.
The NRS is not the translation I was using at the time. I was reading the English Standard Version, but its not online yet. I chose NRS because they treat it the same as the ESV does. I read this passage and thought, "Ellipses! What are those for?" The NRS has these comments on this passage.
I looked at several translations and most handle it differently. Several translations just filled in the blanks with their best guess. Thankfully most of those translations put their guess in italics to show that the number was not in the original text. Personally, I prefer ellipses.
Red Letter Edition
I don't know if I by the whole thing, but Toongabbie Anglican has some interesting thoughts on the meaning of creation.
In the comments section of this rather good post on free will, David Heddle says he's not sure what people mean when they say that God is non-linear. I can only address what I mean when I say it. In doing so you'll get a glimpse of how I come across many of the images I use to illustrate ideas to myself.
In the show, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Captain Sisko interacts with a group of beings known as the "prophets." He has trouble dealing with them, in part because they are non-linear. Time has no meaning for them. We move through time experiencing one moment at time. In contrast, the "prophets" do not. They viewed all at once. This is illustrated in the final episode. The prophets take Captain Sisko away to give him special training that will take considerable time. They allow him to briefly contact his wife. When she asks how long he'll be gone, he says, "Maybe a day. Maybe a year. Maybe yesterday." The "prophets" could teach someone for a long time and return him before he left because time had no meaning for them.
Now God is far more powerful than these fictional "prophets", nevertheless, I find the word picture helpful. God exists outside time because He invented time. God is no more a part of time than Michaelangelo is a part of his paintings. Because God is not limited by time, he is able to see everything as if it were "now." This is probably the best I will ever be able to explain this topic because just thinking about it boggles the mind.
And yes, I get lots of "word pictures" from science fiction. This is largely because sci-fi and fantasy are able to explore incredibly bizarre ideas as if they were really happening as opposed to just saying, "What if?" Framing the questions in the form of concrete questions that must be explored by the characters makes the philosophical questions much easier to understand. (For me at least.)
Gary Peterson has some good comments on the Glory of God. I'd like to add this passage:
This must have been a truly terrifying and awesome experience.
Matt Crutchmer has some interesting comments on the Constitution and God.
A good observation by Fred Peatross:
There are always more questions than answers when God births a vision in our hearts. There are always obstacles. There's always a lack of resources. What God puts in our hearts always seems to be out of our reach. The reason it appears that way is because God ordained-visions are always too big for us to handle. We shouldn't be surprised...after all, consider the source.
This is encouraging medical news.
Mark Byron says that finding intelligent life on another planet would be "problematic to our theology." Unfortunately he doesn't say why and I fail to see it myself. I've actually given a lot of thought to this and I've never understood why people think finding intelligent life elesewhere would be a problem to Christianity.
While I"m on the subject, C.S. Lewis speculated on the possible things we might find in another intelligent species.
I really think Lewis covered the bases here and I don't see how any of these possibilities would affect Christian Theology dramatically. The real question is whether we'd be ready to share the Gospel with them. (Assuming option 3 is correct.)
Eugene Volokh also has some good comments about the death penalty case. This is his conclusion:
The opinion goes on from there, unpersuasively trying to obscure the fact that its reasoning is very simple: The judge who wrote it thinks the death penalty is wrong -- and not the text of the Constitution, nor the standards of the American people, nor the Court's precedents (which the judge dismisses in a way that strikes me as wholly inadequate) will stand in the way.
John Hawkins also has some comments on the ICC.
Uh, Gary, you might want to read this. (Sorry, I'm just automatically suspicious of "facts" in e-mails. Besides, I was browsing Snopes a few months ago and had already stumbled across this one.) This isn't to say that I disagree about acceptance, understanding, and education. Just as long as people don't expect me to compromise my faith in the name of numbers one and two.
Mark Byron has several interesting items I want to mention.
On the death penalty. I don't know that I agree with his take on it being better to lock people up for life and do it quickly than to execute them after 15 years. I would say that it is better to execute someone after a speedy but fair appellant process than after a long and stupid one. (Yes, 16 years for someone who confessed and had the bodies in his basement is long and stupid.)
Mark also makes a point we would all do well to remember.
Just because something is wrong doesn’t mean it’s unconstitutional.
There are millions of people out there right now who would read that statement, scratch their heads and say, "Huh?" This scares me greatly.
He's got some good comments on the ICC which I have no gripe with.
He's got nice things to say about Congressman Watts. I like JC and think he's been a pretty good congressman. However, I could never support him for VP or President in the primaries. The reason? He can't control his temper.
On Christian dating. Mark might want to revise point number 1. Dating can be a powerful tool to bring people to Christ. My mom did it for my dad. Now she didn't tell him at the time, but she wouldn't have married him if he hadn't converted. Maybe, "Don't pursue a relationship with someone who doesn't share your faith once you reach the point that you know they won't accept it." Or something to that affect.
Point 9 is excellent advice. More so than Mark might imagine. My sister always had this queasy feeling about my cousin's fiancee. Things just didn't seem right to her. However, she didn't want to but in and my cousin never asked. After he married her, she turned out to be a psycho who tried to kill him. (Seriously, she chased him through the house with a butcher knife one day and left huge gouge marks on his chest with her fingernails.) He then found out that she'd spent more than a year in a mental hospital while in high school. She and her mother had mentioned she'd been in the hospital for an extended period of time. They just left out the "mental" part of the story. If he'd asked my sister's advice and followed through on it, maybe things would have worked out differently.
Point 10 is an excellent point but hard to swallow.
Full disclosure-Comments on dating tips from a guy who hasn't had anything resembling a date in 4 years. Take it for what its worth.
Meanwhile, in an effort to prove that not all the stupid judges in the US live in California, Judge Jed Rakoff ruled that the Federal death penalty is unconstitutional. I have not read the decision, but I have read a couple of excerpts, like this:
First of all, it is not the death penalty that causes people to be wrongfully convicted. People are also convicted of crimes in cases where the death penalty is not on the line in more cases than I would like. If too many innocent people being convicted made the the death penalty unconstitutional, it would logically follow that the entire Federal judicial system was unconstitutional. The only reason I can see not to reach this conclusion is the bizarrre logic of our judiciary system that often says, "the death penalty is different." But there is no reason to treat the death penalty as different from other punishments. People often say that we should treat the death penalty differenty because if (and I say if because there is still no conclusive evidence this has happened in modern jurisprudence) someone was wrongfully executed, "we can't give them there life back." Well, if someone was wrongfully convicted and served life in prison we couldn't give their life back either.
Also, just because people have been wrongfully convicted of a crime does not mean they were denied due process. Due process is:
Now granted, this is essentially a layman's definition, but it should be good enough for our purposes. Note that due process is our protection against unequal treatment before the law. It is essentially a fancy way of saying "fair play." Wrongful convictions may result if due process is not followed, but the fact that someone was wrongfully convicted does not establish lack of due process. In fact, if you could establish that every convict sitting in every prison in our country was actually innocent, that would not establish due process failures. (It might even be evidence of really good due process as it would be pretty good evidence that everyone was treated equally. Poorly, but equally.) Wrongful convictions are more likely the result of imperfect knowledge than of a lack of due process.
BTW-This reminds me of an episode of Law and Order several years ago. After convicting a couple of attempted murder of their unborn child, Claire tells Jack, "They'll appeal you know." Jack responded, "The jury didn't believe their story. The last time I checked, that wasn't grounds for appeal."
So it is with imperfect knowledge.
Joshua Claybourn has a column up about the International Criminal Court. He asked for my comments on this subject, but I'm not really up to punditry at the moment so this is going to be limited.
He correctly noted that we should not be comforted by Kofi Annan's assurance that the Court will only come into action where the home nation is unable or unwilling to prosecute. I can easily see the Court trying to drag US citizens before the court because the US didn't even recognize the "offense" in question as a crime. Do you have any idea how broad "offenses upon personal dignity" is. That could easily be expanded to a columnist saying something rude about someone. That may sound overly paranoid, but in Europe criminal law is starting to get almost that ridiculous.
Further, Article III of the Constitution confers all judicial power on the Supreme Court and those courts under it. Section 2, Clause 3 of that Article states:
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
I'm pretty certain that the ICC will not guarantee trial by jury (to say nothing of 4th and 5th amendment protections), but I'm certain that they have no intent of conducting trials in the state where the crime was committed and they sure aren't going to let Congress decide where to conduct trials. Given that, ratification of this treaty, even if the Senate were so inclined, would be unconstitutional. (While I'm at it, it would be unconstitutional whether the courts said so or not. Something can be unconstitutional before the court rules on it. It can even be unconstitutional if the court rules otherwise because the Supreme Court can be wrong.)
Furthermore, the idea that the court would attempt to exert itself over American citizens even though the treaty had not been ratified by the US is deeply troubling. First, if the court will attempt to exert jurisdiction over citizens of the US without US ratification, then in at least in some cases the ICC could be infringing on the sovereign rights of the United States. When one or more states attempts to infringe on the sovereign rights of another, when that other state has not ceded that right by treaty, there is a technical term to define that infringement: act of war. This is probably why the House of Representatives is currently considering authorizing the use of force if a US citizen is ever brought before the court.
Additionally, claims that the court will prevent people like Hitler and Hussein from committing atrocities are down right silly. Hitler was and Hussein is, in fact if not in name, military dictators who harbor no scruples about invading their neighbors anytime they can get away with it. Such men typically don't believe they can be captured. That's because they don't believe their armies will ever be sufficiently routed to allow their capture. (Such men are frequently delusional as well.) Remember that Hitler went from swearing he'd never give up to committing suicide. The difference is almost certainly that until the time he decided to kill himself, he never really believed he was vulnerable personally. For that matter, aggressive wars almost never make sense anyway. Over the last two hundred years the initiator of a war has almost never won. Waging war aggressively is almost always the product of delusional minds. These people's delusions are not going to be overcome by the presence of court sitting in the background. Aggressive national leaders have always known that something horrible awaited them if they were defeated and captured. They've gone ahead because they didn't believe they would be defeated and captured. The court will do nothing to change that.
So, the "international community" wants us to give up our rights in exchange for a court that can't deliver on our promises. If we went for this, there would be a technical term for that too: stupid.
Okay, so that was longer than I thought.
Sunday, June 30, 2002
Orrin Judd thinks that the numbers of anti-semites in Europe identified by poll is probably low. He's almost certainly right. One of the problems with polls is that they tend to underestimate the prevalence of highly unpopular opinions. This is often because people want everyone to think they are nice. Consequently, people sometimes don't tell the pollster what they really think because they're afraid the pollster will think their mean, angry, etc. Seems odd when you consider that they'll probably never speak to this person again, but it does seem to happen.
So, the North Koreans sink a South Korean patrol boat and then accuse the US of trying to start a war. Cute.
Saturday, June 29, 2002
I've gotten a few e-mails from people who said they are praying for my health. Thanks. I thought some of you want to know that today is the best day I've had in a while. I was actually able to stay out of bed all day. Haven't had much trouble with dizziness today and the headaches weren't too bad either. (You can probably tell that by the amount of posting today.) Prayers are still appreciated and hopefully this thing will be licked soon.
Perhaps I just have low standards.
Joshua Sargent is the most recent Christian blogger (that I know of) to ask some variation of the question, "What are we doing and why are we doing it?" While I share his concern about the content of some blogs billed as Christian as well as the language employed, (thankfully I don't seem to have run into what he has on the language front) I'm not as concerned about whether I'm making a difference.
The reason for that is that I never expected to make a difference. In fact, I never really expected much of anyone would ever see this site. I started this out more as a hobby than anything else. I figured it would give me a reason to write. For me that is vitally important because it is when I write that I really develop my thoughts. The thing is that I have to have a reason to write. I rarely just sit down and start pounding out my ideas on scripture or anything else unless I have a reason. (Unfortunately, when politics is involved, being angry sometimes counts as a reason.) Anyway, basically, I saw this site as something to do in my spare time that would hopefully give me an chance to grow spiritually and intellectually.
It was actually a shock to me the first time some one actually linked back to one of my posts. (I believe that was Mark Byron actually.) At that point I hadn't even bothered to install a site meter because it had never occurred to me that there might be more than 5 or 10 people even reading what I was writing. As it turns out, there are quite a few people who read this site. (Not InstaPundit numbers, but the roughly 40 hits a day is more than I would have ever dreamed.) That's something of a blessing because people who read me often have there own blogs reading their responses to my writing actually gives me a chance to refine my thinking. (The result, as MarkV likes to say, of "iron sharpening iron.) I have found this to be a usefule experience.
I've also gotten e-mail from people telling me that they find my comments useful and uplifting. I never expected to have a chance to "sharpen my iron" or to uplift and encourage others. I find that this blog has already acheived two things (one personal and one less so) which I never expected. I guess my expectations were low, but they've already been far exceeded.
I guess the question now is, now that I know that people are reading this blog, should my own expectations change? At this point, I don't know.
On a related note, this whole introspection on blogging seems to be almost unique to the Christian elements. The only non-Christian blogger who I've read who's spent any serious blogging time asking "Why do I blog," was Seargent Stryker. He eventually chucked the whole thing and shut down his original blog and moved to a new one where he just does whatever he wants and doesn't worry too much about what anybody expects of him. For the most part, other non-Christian bloggers just seem to shut down when they reach that point. In the sites I visit in the Christian corner, this agonizing over why seems to be almost universal. I've even done a bit of it myself. (Some in this post.) I'm sure there's a good explanation for the difference, but I don't know what it is. (On the other hand, my evidence of a difference is entirely anecdotal. Maybe I'm imagining things.)