Do You Have a Will?

6/30/09 Update: The news that pop-star Michael Jackson may not have a will is further evidence of how many people do no think about what will happen to their children and their property when they die. It is sad to see the people fighting in court over the custody of Jackson's children.

Have you considered what will happen if you die? Do you have a life insurance policy? Do you have a will? Who will adminsiter your estate if something happens to you?

3/10/08: In the common law, a will or testament is a document by which a person (the testator) regulates the rights of others over his or her property or family after death. It is extremely important that this document is kept up-to-date and reflects your desires.

Unfortunately movie star Heath Ledger did not keep his updated and his two year old daughter was not included in his will. All of his estate will go to his parents and three sisters. His father says that they will take care of Heath's daughter.. his grand daughter.. we can only hope that she will be dealt with in a generous fashion and that money will be put in trust for her education and her future.

Maybe this post will prompt you to update your will.. or maybe it will cause you to create one.. in either case I hope that you will act responsibly. Please feel free to share any stories that you may have around this.

Standing by Iran

Iranian singer Andy Madadian along with American singers Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora sing this old Ben E. King classic. It is available to be downloaded and shared by the Iranian people here. It's purpose is to give voice to the sentiment that all people of the world stand together.

The handwritten Farsi sign in the video translates to "we are one". Indeed we are one with those who seek freedom in Iran and other parts of the world. We who are free stand with those who seek freedom. My God bless the efforts of those who seek to be free.

Deism: Truth Without Faith

My cyberfriend Mike responded on Facebook to my Psalm 53 prayer which I began:
You are God and there is no other.. only a fool questions your existence.. those who love the darkness reject your light.. rescue them from their folly Lord.
Mike good-naturedly responded with this:
That explains my foolishness and great love of darkness. :-P
For some reason this exchange got me thinking about Desim. Here are a few bullets from the wiki on Deism:
  • Deism is a religious and philosophical belief that a supreme god created the universe, and that this and other religious truth can be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone, without the need for faith.
  • Deists generally reject the notion of divine interventions in human affairs - such as by miracles and revelations.
  • The belief that reason, not faith, leads us to certain basic religious truths – this was the positive or constructive aspect of deism.
So often faith is the centerpiece of religious dialog and the appeal is more to the heart than the head.. I say that all of the time. Deism seems to reflect the idea that it is reasonable to believe that there is a God.. it seems to reflect the idea that it is foolish to deny the existence of God.

While I am not a Deist, I do think that it is somewhat logical to embrace a divine Creator. The complexities and order of creation seems to point to a divine Designer. When I think about my 30 years in software design I can relate to a heavenly programmer that designed this universal operating system. It is not a stretch for me to embrace a God who brought order from chaos.. something from nothing.. just like a system programmer.

Of course I think that reason will get a person just so far. There are many unanswered questions.. in the book of Hebrews the author says that by faith we understand that God created the world.. for me that says it all.. nobody can argue one into believing.. faith is a heart thing.. not a head thing.. and I am not sure of what the purpose of embracing a divine operating system would be anyway.

What do you think? I think most people are Deists of some sort. Do you know any?

Are clones just twins?

In an articled titled "Clone Me, Clone You: Does the Soul Get Copied Too?" asks the question: "Would a cloned human being have a soul?" Here are a few answers to the question given by commenters:
"Cloning occurs TODAY and has been going on since before mankind. Identical twins ARE clones exactly as as a scientist could only dream of making (so far)."

"What kind of a moron are you? Identical twins don't have souls any less identical than the souls of a clone and the person it was cloned from. This isn't some kind of a theological quagmire."

"What an utterly inane question. As has been pointed out, a clone is merely a fancy name for a twin (albeit an artificially conceived twin). The notion of clones as zombielike doppelgangers is just sci-fi nonsense."
Seems to me that the twin argument might hold water. Any alternate ideas out there? Are clones just twins? Does the presence of genetic matter presuppose the existence of a soul?

Loving is Listening

Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God. -Diana Robinson

The first duty of love is to listen. -Paul Tillich

You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time. -M. Scott Peck

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. -Max Ehrman

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery. -Dr Joyce Brothers

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. -Ralph Nichols

No one is as deaf as the man who will not listen. -Jewish Proverb

Your mind knows only some things. Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything. If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path. - Henry Winkler

The more faithfully you listen to the voices within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. -Dag Hammarskjold

Type B is for Bob

So I took this test on Facebook and discovered (after taking an extensive battery of 5 test questions) that my personality type is Type B. Here is how I am perceived after completing this exhausting test:

"Although you are an assertive, natural born leader, you don't mind being led. No doubt, you may procrastinate at times but you really are a hard-worker. However, you know when to cool down and have fun. You make sure you incorporate rest into your day and often feel agitated without a good dose of alone time."

Once upon a time I think I would have been a high 'type A' personality.. I was wired and driven in seemingly every area of my life.. especially the work and religious areas. My worldview of success was so very black and white.. I thought I knew where I wanted to go and how to get there. Then my first wife died and everything began to 'slowly' change.

Fifteen years later I am constantly reminded that life is not about 'achievements'.. life is about living. For years I thought I would find 'joy' in my successes.. only to be disappointed when my 'dreams' came true and I was a 'success' in my own eyes. I found that 'success' in life is not what we think it is.

These days I don't think so much about the illusive 'joy' but focus more on 'enjoy'.. enjoying the simple things of life.. hugging my wife.. conversations with my kids.. playing with my grandkids.. a single glass of red wine and a nice meal. Life can really be wonderful.. even when it is not.. when our focus is simply 'enjoying' it. It is a matter of living from your heart instead of your head.

Dan in Real Life | ★★★★★★★

Last night Ann and I watched this really great flick about a widowed father of three young girls. I found the movie to be a genuine portrayal of immediate and extended family life and interactions. The reactions of Dan's girls were spot on.. I can remember having some of those "why can't I" conversations.. it was pretty believable. The other thing I liked is the way that Dan was portrayed as a sensitive and caring family man who was completely caught off guard by love. That said I do think about 10 minutes could have been cut from the story but.. if you are looking for a flick with a pretty good story and acting.. I recommend this one to you. On a scale of 10 I give this movie ★★★★★★★

Obama: We will not be used by the Iranians

I know that some may feel that President Obama's words and reactions have not gone far enough.. John McCain thinks that the president's response "has not been enough".. though I am unsure what he would really be doing different. I agree with the president's measured response and am glad to see the days of saber rattling and cowboy diplomacy over. We need not be pawns of the rhetoric of Iranian leaders.

What do you think? Do you think McCain would be handling this crisis better?

Ed McMahon dies at age 86

According to the LA Times:

Ed McMahon died early this morning at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, according his publicist Howard Bragman. He passed away shortly after midnight, Bragman said. Bragman did not give a cause of death, saying only that McMahon had been suffering from many health problems over the last few months. A source close to McMahon says he had bone cancer and had been hospitalized for several weeks.

Thinking about Ed brings back such sweet memories of when Johnny Carson hosted the Tonight Show.. he was the original talk show second banana. I pray that God will comfort Ed's family and friends during this time.


My cyberfriend Amy recently posted a review of this Bill Maher movie. I recommend her post to you.. here are a few excerpts from it.
  • I discovered that what Maher was addressing was potentially the exact same thing that I began addressing a little over 3 years ago for the first time, then about a year ago more deeply: Is my “Religion” real?
  • I went into watching this movie desiring to gain insight into how others, who are skeptical, at the least, view Christianity and faith.
  • Time after time, one thing was evident – most Christians have no idea what they believe or why they even believe it.
  • A few seem to really get what was being depicted, but nonetheless, I felt a wrenching within me that was sickened to see how we’ve exploited the sacrifice of Jesus and marketed and merchandised Him.
  • I was embarrassed many times as I know that when I state that I’m a Christian, these kind of depictions are likely what your average person that is outside of the Christian bubble will think of.
  • Getting back to the focus of the movie, if you get offended by people questioning the validity of God, you will hate this film. However, I must ask you why?
If you have seen the movie or just have a few ideas about it I suggest that you read Amy's review of it and maybe leave a comment at her place.. and I will keep up with the dialog over at her place as I have already shared my comments over there.

1936 Stainless Steel Ford Coupe

Found this photo and info today in my inbox:

This is the 1936 Ford Coupe built for and owned by Allegheny Ludlum Steel. This is 1 of only 4 in existence and is the only one currently in running & in roadworthy condition. The car is in exceptional condition, with the interior and even the frame looking great. All 4 cars each had over 200,000 miles on them before they removed them from service. These cars were built for Allegheny as promotional and marketing projects. The top salesmen each year were given the honor of being able to drive them for one year. The v-8 engine (max 85 hp) ran like a sewing machine and was surprisingly smooth and quite. FYI, the car was insured (we were told) for the trip to Louisville via covered trailer for 1.5 million dollars. We were also told that the dies were ruined by stamping the stainless car parts, making these the last of these cars ever produced.

More information on these automobiles can be found at Allegheny Ludlum’s website.


The Reign of Calvin

Ann pointed out this article in the KC Star that reports on the 500th anniversary of the birth of influential theologian John Calvin. In it the article reports:
Among other reforms, Calvin drew up an extensive catalog of austere rules of morality. These ranged from bans on swearing, gambling and fornication to a strict no to dancing, even at weddings. Unexcused absence from worship service was penalized. Adultery and homosexuality could draw severe sentences, even death.
Curious guy that I am I did a some checking around and found that Calvin was very influential in mid-sixteenth century Geneva Switzerland. Here are three clips from a book titled "John Calvin : his life, letters, and work" written by Hugh Y Reyburn:

From what I can tell Geneva was a pretty immoral city when Calvin arrived there. Initially the city rejected his influence but eventually the city leaders thought his ideas had merit and passed them into law. I think that his influence was good but maybe it went a bit too far.. much like the Puritans did in early America.

I find this story to be such an interesting one because I think that many modern day religious people would like to have someone like Calvin influencing the laws of civil governments. I wonder how much of Calvin's morality would be truly embraced by them.

I for one am not interested in belonging to a theocracy.. governments such as these usually tend to be somewhat overbearing and controlling. One need not look any further than the role of religion in middle east countries to see how far religious people can go when they are in control.

What do you think? Do you feel that religious leaders should have this kind of influence?

Something called the Internet

An interesting two minute video.. we've come a long ways baby!

New Free AntiVirus Software

Ever been infected by a computer virus? Do you currently have anti-virus software running on your computer? Do you regularly update it with new virus definition files?

If you do not have anti-virus software you may be interested in this report on Microsoft's new free software called Security Essentials. Here are a few excerpts from the report:
  • Microsoft has officially unveiled its long-awaited consumer antivirus offering. Formerly code-named “Morro,” it’s now been christened Microsoft Security Essentials, and it will enter public beta testing next week.
  • No subscription is required for ongoing definition updates, either. The final release is scheduled for this fall.
  • MSE requires validation, which means it won’t be available to anyone using a pirated copy of Windows. But it won’t require registration or personal information of any kind.
  • The MSE download is impressively lightweight. The x64 copy I installed on Windows 7 was 3.8 MB in size; x86 copies are 4.8 MB for Vista/Windows 7 and 7.7 MB for Windows XP. Installation (including the most recent definition updates) took less than four minutes and, as promised, the initial setup didn’t require any personal information or registration.
  • A new study (May 2009) by the independent AV-Comparatives group gave Microsoft OneCare (which shares the same engine and signatures as MSE) its highest (Advanced+) rating.
My ISP provides anti-virus software free of charge.. if they didn't I think I'd be interested.

What do you think? Are you interested? What anti-virus software do you use?

Corrie ten Boom

Cornelia Johanna Arnolda ten Boom, generally known as Corrie ten Boom, (April 15, 1892 – April 15, 1983) was a Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II. Corrie co-wrote her autobiography, The Hiding Place, which was later made into a movie of the same name. In December, 1967, Corrie was honored as one of the Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel. I blogged about her and her struggle to forgive a Nazi guard a few years ago. Here are a few quotes fron this precious woman of God:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.

Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.

Joy runs deeper than despair.

The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.

Tweets from Iran

I have been following some students from Iran on Twitter. This is what they have been saying (in no particular order) about the current crisis in that country:
  • it is still unbelievable, but our exam is at 8am tomorrow morning!
  • Masood is now chanting "down with basij" and people are following!
  • 1 killed & 3 badly injured in Yazd (hometown of ex president Khatami) I hope some of these news to be rumors.
  • yes I'm already wearing my father's black shirt & went to see kasra's family, it was a horrible experience.
  • Hamed from Tabriz confirmed 2 killed in Tabriz's engineering university. thing really getting awful for all students around the country
  • Basij now moving with motorcycles in streets trying to scare people to stop chanting. it is not working anymore
  • people are now chanting "down with the dictator" and "God is Great" on the roofs.
Following feeds like this really gives you a different perspective on the Iranian situation. Even though the reporting is somewhat anecdotal the news is pretty impacting.. the pictures that they link to are very troubling. I guess all any of us can really do is pray and hope for the best.

Update: Here is a picture from one of their Twitter links.. amazing number of marchers.

Healthy Junk Food

According to this website these restaurants are listed as America's Top Ten Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants:
  1. Panera Bread ... Over 1,230 locations nationwide & Canada
  2. Jason’s Deli ... 206 locations in the West, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South
  3. Au Bon Pain ... 280 locations nationwide
  4. Noodles and Company ... 204 locations in West, Midwest, South
  5. Corner Bakery Cafe ... 111 locations in West, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South
  6. Chipotle ... 800+ locations nationwide
  7. Atlanta Bread ... 106 locations in 24 states (Southeast, West, and North)
  8. McDonald’s ... 14,000 locations nationwide
  9. Einstein Bros. Bagels ... 649 locations nationwide
  10. Taco Del Mar ... 270 locations in 22 states
I was following along until I got to #8 on the list when the website lost all credibility with me. Here is part of what they say about #8:

Registered dietician Moore notes that an Egg McMuffin, at 300 calories, is a smart alternative to other “calorie-laden biscuit breakfasts.” And our whole panel commends McDonald’s for spelling out the nutritional information right on the back of its tray liners. ... And if you’ve gotta have fries, McDonald’s are made in a healthy canola-blend oil and come in at just 230 calories for a small.
Give me a break. Just because McD has a few healthy choices does not justify their inclusion on this list.. by in large most people frequent the Golden Arches to pig out on burgers, fries and cokes.. not salads. Their inclusion on this list calls all the others listed into question.

Just to end with something positive.. I like Panera Bread.. good coffee and decent soups.. and the bagels at Einstein Bros are the best I have had.. especially the poppyseed variety. I have eaten at 7 of the 10 listed.. how many have you tried?
Are any on the list your favorites?

Patient-Centered Healthcare

Yesterday a message from Kansas Senator Sam Brownback about health care reform showed up in my email inbox. Here are a few excerpts from his message.. first a note about Senator Ted Kennedy's reform proposal:
"The bill creates a tax penalty on patients who cannot demonstrate they are covered by health insurance approved by the government board. This legislation also offers new subsidies to Americans earning up to $110,000 per year to purchase health insurance. Further, this bill creates the possibility of an employer pay or play mandate where employers must offer health insurance to employees or pay an additional tax or fine. This bill also lays the groundwork for a new government-run health insurance plan."
He also spoke to the cost of healthcare reform saying that it could cost between $1 and $2.2 trillion. He also spoke to other costs of this reform:
"President Obama mentioned cutting spending in Medicare and Medicaid, programs serving elderly and lower income individuals, by an estimated $600 billion. To raise another estimated $300 billion, he discussed tax increases including limiting charitable and mortgage deductions for higher income earners."
Sam went on to speak of the downside of a nationalized plan:
"In Europe, we have seen how socialized medicine has failed. Long waiting lines and inefficiency plague hospitals; doctors are essentially government employees; and there is no incentive for innovation or new medical technology. Consequently, the U.S. is the leader in medical technology, and has some of the most efficient and well run hospitals in the world. This would not be the case if government takes over health care. My specific concern is the creation of new government-run health insurance plan. According to a recent report, creating a new government-run health plan would cause an estimated 70% of people with private insurance - 120 million Americans - to be dropped and forced onto the government-run plan, where coverage for treatments and other life-or-death decisions would be dictated by the federal government."
He wrapped up his message by saying this:
"My goal is for every Kansan to have access to affordable health care insurance through a patient-centered, not government-centered approach."
That "patient-centered" phrase caught my eye.. it was a clarifying thought for me.. should the goal of healthcare insurance to centered on the "patient"? If so then it seems that the patient should be the main player in determining healthcare options.

Recent history has shown that insurance companies have taken an increased dominance in the decisions made by physicians and healthcare professionals. This involvement was initially predicated by a perceived trend towards abuses of medical insurance where unnecessary test and treatments were being ordered by healthcare professionals. I think that this involvement has progressed over the years to a point where insurance coverage has become an unwanted focal point in the process.

With that in mind I begin to imagine what it would look like to have the government taking a dominant role in healthcare. At first I think that it could be a very beneficial program for our country.. large insurance companies would no longer be able to disqualify people based on preexisting conditions.. people who lose their jobs would no longer have to worry about losing their medical insurance.. there are many other initial advantages to a universal healthcare approach.

Then I think about leaving something as important as our healthcare in the hands of politicians.. many of who are supported by the very large medical insurance industry lobby. I tend to go to some pretty dark places when I think about how government employees today have little flexibility when they are administering medicare and medicaid. They are bound by the minutia of procedural interpretations of the laws that legislators have passed.

When I consider reform I return to this idea of a patient-centered approach and I come to the conclusion that healthcare is not patient-centered today.. it has not been for a long time. So the question is: how much reform is needed? It seems that some reform is needed to help people who do not have insurance through no fault of their own. It is just not clear how much reform is enough.

The New Paperboy

This blog post by BeliefNet editor Steven Waldman got me thinking about my mornings with my wife. Each morning around our breakfast table Ann and I digest the news.. she reads the latest in the Kansas City Star and I browse the news on my laptop.. from the NY Times, the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal and, of course, the KC Star.. I also peruse many other sources like Politico, Huffpo, Slate and some other news blogs.

Back to Steven's article.. here is an excerpt:

Last night, I was trying to find out information about the horrifying situation and in Iran. I turned to CNN which had Larry King interviewing bikers. MSNBC had a documentary about prisons. FoxNews had the Huckabee show, talking about credit cards.

Then I went to HuffingtonPost, and AndrewSullivan, all of whom had real-time YouTube videos from the protests, Twitter-based reporting, pictures posted on Facebook, great analysis.
Steven's post reminded me of how the delivery of the news has changed in the last several years.. even this morning I started following the Twitter feed from some students in Iran. It gets me to wondering if the neighborhood paperboy will soon be a thing of the past. It seems to me that the internet is the new paperboy. What do you think?

Old Glory

To honor Flag Day I thought that I would share the story of how the flag of the United States became known as Old Glory. Here is the story from this website:

This famous name was coined by Captain William Driver, a shipmaster of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1831. As he was leaving on one of his many voyages aboard the brig Charles Doggett - and this one would climax with the rescue of the mutineers of the Bounty - some friends presented him with a beautiful flag of twenty four stars. As the banner opened to the ocean breeze for the first time, he exclaimed "Old Glory!"

He retired to Nashville in 1837, taking his treasured flag from his sea days with him. By the time the Civil War erupted, most everyone in and around Nashville recognized Captain Driver's "Old Glory." When Tennesee seceded from the Union, Rebels were determined to destroy his flag, but repeated searches revealed no trace of the hated banner.

Then on February 25th, 1862, Union forces captured Nashville and raised the American flag over the capital. It was a rather small ensign and immediately folks began asking Captain Driver if "Old Glory" still existed. Happy to have soldiers with him this time, Captain Driver went home and began ripping at the seams of his bedcover. As the stitches holding the quilt-top to the batting unraveled, the onlookers peered inside and saw the 24-starred original "Old Glory"!

Captain Driver gently gathered up the flag and returned with the soldiers to the capitol. Though he was sixty years old, the Captain climbed up to the tower to replace the smaller banner with his beloved flag. The Sixth Ohio Regiment cheered and saluted - and later adopted the nickname "Old Glory" as their own, telling and re-telling the story of Captain Driver's devotion to the flag we honor yet today.

Captain Driver's grave is located in the old Nashville City Cemetery, and is one of three (3) places authorized by act of Congress where the Flag of the United States may be flown 24 hours a day.

Do Good Samaritans Pickup Hitchhikers?

My policy is to generally not stop for hitchhikers.. but this picture and accompanying scripture verse cause me to pause. How about you.. do you ever stop for hitchhikers?

Performance Art

Have you seen this video yet of a group of dancers that converge upon a clothing store? Or how about this video of dancers invading a Belgium train station? Or this T-Mobile advertisement featuring dancers at a train station in Liverpool?

One of the interesting things about all of these videos is the reactions of the people standing by.. some seem shocked.. some joy filled.. some even join in.

I have to admit that I had a reaction to the videos as well.. the Do Re Mi was my favorite.. but I enjoyed them all.. made me smile this morning as I watched them again.

I recommend them to you.. they will make your heart smile. Please leave a comment and let me know which one was your favorite.

"Pre" occupied

I bought a new Sprint Palm Pre phone yesterday and have be preoccupied with it. I have pretty much stayed away from BlogWorld when I am close to my laptop. My first impression of the Pre is very favorable.. seems to do everything advertised. I'll be back tomorrow.. until then you can catch this 2 minute video on my new toy.

What Makes Life Worth Living?

Last weekend our local paper, the KC Star, had an article titled
What is the main thing that makes life worth living? The question was posed to two local clergymen. Here are a excerpts from their answers:

Duke Tufty, pastor, Unity Temple on the Plaza:
First, don’t take life so seriously. Our world, and especially our culture, is fraught with worry, fear and anxiety. Most of which does nothing but deteriorate our physical and mental health.

Secondly, don’t take things so personally. Much of the anger, angst and negative energy you encounter has nothing to do with you.

Lastly, remember in the grand scheme of things your daily objective is a simple one. Fit into this world and be a beneficial presence.
Pat Rush, pastor, Visitation Catholic Church:

A happy, worthwhile life is achieved through a sense of integrity with one’s higher values and better self. Faithfulness to others for the long haul and not just when it is easy, generosity in our response to those who rely on us and to those less fortunate, forgiveness of offenses real or imagined, and moral and ethical decision-making, these together make life worth living.
I liked both answers.. especially not taking life so seriously and things so personally.. needed advice for KB for sure. You can read their complete answers here.

What do you think about their advice? How would you answer the question?

Conservatism and the GOP

Yesterday I watched Hardball's Chris Matthews grill Joe Scarborough asking him about conservatism and the Republican party. I liked what Joe had to say. Very interesting if you have a few minutes to listen in.

This Is Elevated Discourse?

In his commentary with the same title as this post Peter Wehner speaks to this Jim Wallis statement over at Wallis' God's Politics blog on his Sojourners website:
"I will leave the judgment of Dick Cheney’s soul to God, who alone is in the position to render that judgment on all of us. But I will say the vision of America that Cheney offers is decidedly evil, and has helped to spread even more evil around the world. Cheney represents the dark side of America, a view of the world dominated by fear and self-righteousness—always a deadly combination."
Wallis goes to further characterize Cheney's position on terrorism as something "evil". Here is how Wehner responds:

Where to begin? Perhaps with the observation that Wallis routinely engages in this kind of shallow, ad hominem, and hypocritical arguments (my previous critiques of Wallis can be found here and here). I say hypocritical because Wallis has chastised James Dobson and Tom Minnery for using language that is “simply inappropriate for religious leaders to use in an already divisive political campaign. We can agree or disagree on both biblical and political viewpoints, but our language should be respectful and civil, not attacking motives and beliefs.”
The second thing is that, if the tables were turned, and a figure from the “religious right” who had access to the president and routinely used the kind of ugly rhetoric Wallis does, you can bet that the press would turn him into a well-known figure of scorn and ridicule.
I found Wallis' rhetoric to be a bit disappointing. I think that it is yet another example of how this kind of hyperbole is not limited to the religious right.

Taxpayers Bilked by Military Contractors

In an article, titled New report finds big problems in war spending, the Associated Press writes about an 111 page report by the Wartime Contracting Commission that will be presented to congress on Wednesday. Here are a few excerpts from it:
  • Construction of a $30 million dining facility at a U.S. base in Iraq is scheduled to be completed Dec. 25. ... The project is too far along to stop, making the mess hall a future monument to the waste and inefficiency plaguing the war effort, according to an independent panel investigating contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • More than 240,000 private sector employees are supporting military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The Pentagon has failed to provide enough trained staff to watch over them, creating conditions for waste and corruption, the commission says.
  • In Iraq, the panel worries that as U.S. troops depart in larger numbers, there will be too few government eyes on the contractors left to oversee the closing of hundreds of bases and disposal of mountains of federal property.
  • One commander in Afghanistan told the commission he had no idea how many contractors were on and off his base on a daily basis.
  • Despite the huge size and importance of the contract, the main program office managing the work for both Afghanistan and Iraq has only 13 government employees. For administrative help, it must rely on a contractor.
  • The commission says billions of dollars of that amount ended up wasted due to poorly defined work orders, inadequate oversight and contractor inefficiencies.
240,000 contractors.. did I read that right? This kind of waste is simply nauseating but.. for anyone who has ever worked for the government or served in the military.. it is not surprising. Let's hope that congress and the Pentagon will take note of the report.. did I really say that? Oh well lets just hope for the best.

Shaving Your Head for the Troops

Yesterday comedian Stephen Colbert, from Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" got a military style haircut from General Raymond Odierno, Commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq. Note his camo blazer.

So.. tell the truth.. would you shave your head for the troops?

Send me a photo if you do :)

The RINO Label

In a U.S. News Readers' Letters and Comments blog titled Is There Room for Moderates in the GOP? readers voiced a few opinions about the question. Some commenters believe that moderate republicans are really Republicans In Name Only (RINO) and others feel the party should be inclusive.. here are a few excerpts from their feedback:
  • We don't need RINOs like Collins, Snowe, or
    Colin Powell.
  • There is no such thing as a moderate
    Republican anymore.
  • What's the difference between a part-time Republican and a Democrat ... not much.
  • It takes more than calling yourself a Republican to be one.
  • Republicans, like Democrats, reflect their constituents. Otherwise they do not
    get elected.
  • No more moderates to admire like Bob Dole or Jack Kemp.
I do not like the RINO label. I think that it is a way that some marginalize and minimize people with opposing views. Interesting that one of the comments mention another Kansas Bob.. former senator Bob Dole was a great Republican leader even though he was a moderate.

The truth of the matter is that Republicans are losing national elections because they are not attracting centrists and moderates. Loudmouth squawk tv/radio entertainers are alienating the folks that swing elections. In an attempt to coalesce around right-wing ideology these folks are ceding elections to many moderate Democrats.

I think the GOP is at a crossroads.. I hope they can find their way through all the rhetoric and emerge as the big tent party that they used to be. They desperately need people like Colin Powell.

Ike Inspires D-Day Troops

Here is the way that General Dwight David Eisenhower began his speech to the Allied Troops 65 years today:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied expeditionary force. You are about to embark on the great crusade, in which we have striven these many months. The Eyes of the world are upon you.
Today we look back and remember those who risked everything for freedom.. and those today who still risk it all for our country. May God bless those who serve.

The Last Best Hope

(Morning) Joe Scarborough talks a bit about his new book 'The Last Best Hope'.

Old Testament Christians

Did you catch the "news" about pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention officer Wiley Drake who claimed on “The Alan Colmes Show” on Fox News Radio that he is praying “imprecatory prayer” against President Obama. Here is a bit from the shows transcript:
Colmes: “You would like for the president of the United States to die?”

Drake: “If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around, I am asking God to enforce imprecatory prayers that are throughout the Scripture that would cause him death, that’s correct.”
Can you believe this guy? So sad that many "Christians" hold to an Old Testament view of faith and of life.. small wonder "Christians" get a bad rap for being judgmental and hateful. It is my belief that New Testament Christians should filter everything in Scripture through Jesus.. here is what He had to say about praying for folks you don't like:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven."
My thinking is that Jesus wasn't speaking of “imprecatory prayer”.. hard to love someone and wish them dead. Here's hoping that Wiley Drake isn't praying for me.. or you.

Ziggy on Absolutes

The many changes these days in the economy gives one cause to pause about what you can be sure of. Once upon a time I had a firm grasp of life and could have listed off many things that I was "sure of".. these days the list is not quite as long as it used to be. Without using a cliche.. what things are you "sure of" these days?

Tiller, "Operation Rescue" and Bonhoeffer

My cyber-friend and fellow pro-lifer Julie has a great blog post with the same title as this post. Here are a few excerpts:
"Jon and I were active in Operation Rescue back in the late 80s and early 90s. Jon spent Easter weekend (1990) in jail along with 300 Christians for blockading an abortion clinic in downtown Los Angeles. I stood with picketers on the sidelines with a baby in a backpack and a toddler in a stroller."
"The heyday of Operation Rescue resulted in little rescue. I mean, we heard about women who turned back from particular clinics. But that wouldn't have prevented them from seeking out other ones."
"The first tentative conversations I heard about murdering abortionists happened over dinner at one of the Operation Rescue leader's homes. ... Passive resistance was not effective. There needed to be graphic symbols and social/shaming pressure on abortionists to make them give up their abortion practices. This is when picketing abortionist homes became popular (using those graphic signs of aborted fetuses). But Jeff went further. He said if that didn't work, he could understand the need to take this cause all the way to murder (though quickly added that he didn't yet feel led that way himself)."
"Bonhoeffer didn't get a gun and stalk concentration camp guards. ... Killing abortionists is like killing a prison camp guard. It doesn't actually eliminate what a pro-life person sees as evil. It may stop abortions that day, but it doesn't change the nature of the laws, or address the reasons that abortion exists."
I so respect Julie's writing and clear thinking on this topic. IMO militant and inflammatory "baby killer" language is part of the problem and needs to stop. Head over to Julie's place to read all of her thoughts.. and leave a comment there.. I turned the comments off here.

You might be in a cult if..

This article, titled "Hillsong pastor defends ministry against cult claim", got me to thinking about a comment that I heard recently where a guy labeled a local Christian ministry as a "cult". The term used pejoratively is in essence saying that a church/group is not truly "Christian" and gives the impression that some sort of heresy is involved.

While many use the term to describe other groups in this pejorative way, I think that it is helpful to acknowledge that Webster also defines "cult" this way:
great devotion to a person, idea, object,
movement, or work
Given this definition I think that many churches fall into one or more of those "cult" categories.. here are a few:
  • Celebrity Cult: Many churches are dependent on the ministry (and celebrity) of their senior pastor. While famous folks like Joel Osteen might first come to mind, I think that any church that exalts the pulpit ministry might fit into this category. Also gotta wonder about churches that treat pastors in those extra special ways.

  • Doctrinal Cult: Churches/groups having an aberrant/unorthodox theology are the ones that most usually equate with the word cult. Of course the definition of orthodox can sometimes be a bit narrow.. not that being a Calvinist is all wrong :)

  • Behavior Cult: This category is focused on what people do and not do. It is marked by folks that believe that their church or group acts and believes the right things to go to heaven. They often adhere to only one translation of the bible.. they only worship in one way.. they often have many extra-scriptural rules about what one can and cannot do.
I think that most of us can relate to one or more aspects of this cultic type of behavior at some point in our lives.. in my fundamentalist days I followed a very strong leader that had a narrow theology and encouraged specific kinds of behaviors.

In my opinion, the danger of these kinds of cultic traits is that proper accountability is not in place and leadership sometimes exploits celebrity, doctrine and behaviors to manipulate and control their followers.

Of course.. if you can relate to all three cultic aspects then you might really be in a cult :)

Conan the Comedian

..takes over the reigns of The Tonight Show this evening.