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Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Monday, October 31, 2005

Night of the Living Dowd

In honor of Vita ab's first All-Hallows' Eve, I present this horror in Schwarz und Rot -- a squamous, dripping abomination blown straight from Satan's colon:

Drudge has appropriate comments. "Heh," to obsequiously quote Lord Reynolds.

If you have no idea what all this is about, check here.

Sleep well.......if you can...


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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Two for the Road

"guh-on girl.....GIT!"

Harriet Miers' two feet, that is....

Bush's greatest error in judgment (forgive the pun) has withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Star Chamber. Now the President is free to appoint someone who, oh let's see... has a judicial philosophy, does not believe in racial and sexual preference quotas, can write a grammatical sentence....

The Presidents's statement:

Today, I have reluctantly accepted Harriet Miers' decision to withdraw her nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States. I nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court because of her extraordinary legal experience, her character, and her conservative judicial philosophy. Throughout her career, she has gained the respect and admiration of her fellow attorneys. She has earned a reputation for fairness and total integrity. She has been a leader and a pioneer in the American legal profession. She has worked in important positions in state and local government and in the bar. And for the last five years, she has served with distinction and honor in critical positions in the Executive Branch.
I understand and share her concern, however, about the current state of the Supreme Court confirmation process. It is clear that Senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House – disclosures that would undermine a President’s ability to receive candid counsel. Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the Constitutional separation of powers – and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her. I am grateful for Harriet Miers' friendship and devotion to our country. And I am honored that she will continue to serve our Nation as White House Counsel. My responsibility to fill this vacancy remains. I will do so in a timely manner.

Ms Miers thus made the best judgment of her life. Charles Krauthammer called the "exit strategy" a couple of weeks ago:

Finally, a way out: irreconcilable differences over documents

That creates a classic conflict, not of personality, not of competence, not of ideology, but of simple constitutional prerogatives: The Senate cannot confirm her unless it has this information. And the White House cannot allow release of this information lest it jeopardize executive privilege.

Hence the perfectly honorable way to solve the conundrum: Miers withdraws out of respect for both the Senate and the executive's prerogatives, the Senate expresses appreciation for this gracious acknowledgment of its needs and responsibilities, and the White House accepts her decision with the deepest regret and with gratitude for Miers's putting preservation of executive prerogative above personal ambition.

What finally killed Miers? I think the final nail (as if one were needed) might have been this, or this. Mediocre thoughts expressed in execrable English.

But then, isolating the one thing that sank her nomination like this is like trying to identify the single shell that sank the Bismark.
<'obscure, gratuitous Star Trek quote'>"we killed thousands and they still came...."<'/obscure, gratuitous Start Trek quote'> It does no credit to the President that she remains his counsel.

As a staunch conservative strict constructionist on judicial issues, I have this to say to the Bush Administration: "from this point on, we'll be watching, closely. Take care and make the right choices."

(and he walked away singing) "Hit the road, Jill, an' don't go back to the Hill no mo'....."


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Monday, October 24, 2005

One for the Money

Dubya's latest appointment is a cause for some relief, given the Harriet Miers debacle. The President announced today that he is appointing Benjamen Bernanke to be Alan Greenspan's replacement as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board -- head of the organization that effectively controls the money supply and the most powerful person in the nation next to the President and the High Priests of the Star Justices of the Supreme Court.

Fed chairmen can do some good, but much more easily can do a great deal of harm. Both Greenspan and his predecessor, Paul Volker, were staunch monetarists, at least in practice, and devoted themselves to a stably and slowly growing money supply. We have lived under stable monetarism insulated from political interference for so long that we have forgotten what unstable, politically influenced tampering with the money supply was like under Jimmah Cawtuh and his Man With The Briefcase Fulla Moola, G. William Miller. Let see...."stagflation" is what they called it, as I recall: 12%+ inflation and < 2% economic growth. The Democrats were best at this, of course, but the Republicans tried their hand at it too. Ford and Nixon tampered with the money supply when it was politically convenient, Nixon most famously with his repeal of Bretton-Woods. To his credit, Carter did appoint money hawk Volker to the Fed in the summer of '79 (ahh...I remember it well...), but it took a Republican of conviction -- Reagan, naturally -- to listen to the likes of Milton Friedman and give us a truly stable money supply. We've kept it that way ever since and even Clinton, to his infinite credit, didn't mess with a good thing ("it's the economy, stupid...")

Barnenke seems to be cut from the Volker / Greenspan mold, even if he is not quite as hawkish on the money supply as Greenspan. I like his writings concerning information flow in the economy -- they parallel some of my own thinking concerning the role of the velocity of information in conflicts.

Here are some particulars about the man. Five facts from al-Reuters:

-- Bernanke was Fed board governor from August 2002 until June 2005, after serving as chairman of Princeton University economics department and as a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research panel that determines recessions.

-- He has long advocated the Fed adopt a publicly stated inflation target, a step Greenspan has steadfastly opposed.

-- At the Fed, he argued policy-makers could improve the effectiveness of interest-rate policy by offering more information on their economic and policy views. "If monetary policy is like driving a car, then the car is one that has an unreliable speedometer, a foggy windshield and a tendency to respond unpredictably," he said in December.

-- He grew up in Dillon, South Carolina and is married with two children. In high school, Bernanke reportedly taught himself calculus because his school did not offer the subject. He was a summa cum laude economics graduate from Harvard and has a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

-- Bernanke served on the board of the Montgomery Township School District in New Jersey from 1994-2000. "Six grueling years during which my fellow board members and I were trashed alternately by angry parents and angry taxpayers," he said of his experience.

His reputation seems pretty solid among all economic conservatives except the X-Stream supply-sider fringe. In that crowd, there is some dissent. Take John Tamny at NRO (please):

About taxes, Bernanke spoke of “fiscal stimulus” that has diminished “in the past few quarters.” Bernanke is clearly in the Keynesian camp on taxes, holding that they should be reduced during times of slack demand and increased when economic growth reaches its natural “limits.” While Keynesians see tax cuts through a demand-driven, short-term stimulus prism in which their impact gradually recedes, supply-siders encourage marginal rate cuts for their long-term (and continuous) incentive effects on economic activity.

Bernanke wrote about employment, and his belief that there is a “highest level of employment that can be sustained without creating inflationary pressure.”

Leaving aside the ability of markets to innovate constantly around labor shortages, not to mention the static assumptions that would lead one to believe in “full” employment and “limits” to economic growth in the first place, the real concern here is that someone who could potentially oversee our monetary policy essentially sees the U.S. economy as closed beyond the importing/exporting function.

Wow. Accusing someone of being Keynesian and a believer in "limits to growth" in conservative economic circles is like comparing someone to both Hitler and Stalin in a political debate. Them's fightin' words!

I see things differently. Bernanke wasn't invoking "limits to growth" or a closed system, zero-sum economy, a la the Club of Rome or the anti-World Bank fruitbats; he was simply stating a truth evident to all but the most fervent, frothing supply-siders: that there is some pace of general growth beyond which unacceptable monetary inflation begins. Similarly, saying that there are demand pressures within the economy does not make Bernenke a John May-nerd. If there's anything negative to say about his econo-philosophy, it's that he has a bit of econometrician stink about him, but that makes him a micro-, not a macro-economist. In fact, I think you can literally say "he wrote the book on it."

I also have no trouble with Bernanke's idea of inflationary targets, even though I am more a "value of money" (Austrian) than a "quantity of money" (Friedmanesque) type of guy. Besides, Paul Krugman--Mister Neo-Keynes himself--has adamantly opposed Bernanke's policies as a Fed governor and on the Council of Economic Advisors, so Ben can't be all bad.

In any event, he looks like a good choice from all I've seen...and that makes me a little more comfortable if we wind up stuck with Dubya's pick for the SCOTUS. We shall see if events bear me out.


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Thursday, October 20, 2005

I Know Scalia, and Madame, You Are No Scalia...

"Harriet, if you climb up on toppa' that rock and bare-ass
all these reporters, I'll put ya' on the Supreme Court. Promise!"

I've meant to post this for over a week now, but have been too busy. Referring to the Harriet Miers nomination, Chefjef has it right:

She was a poor choice for nominee. She has no relevant experience. Despite the whining, her academic credentials are fine. But the areas of law she practiced are not one of the several areas of law that constitute the majority of cases the [Supreme Court] deals with every term. I'd rather have a qualified extremist - from either side of the spectrum - on the court than someone who doesn't really know what they're doing.

BTW, chairing the TX Bar Assoc. (or any state bar assoc.) is less impressive than chairing the Lottery Commission. Bar Associations are pretty much like fraternities; more of a social club that collects dues and keeps track of your college units. They don't really do much.


...or like the lazier variety of "professional" union, such as the NEA or AFSCME. Think of her as a talented union hack.

Appropos of that, David Brooks apparently wrote an excellent column last week evaluating Miers' intellectual acumen--or lack thereof--through her published writing. I would link to it directly, but Brooks writes for the caviar and Aquavit crowd that pays for its news in that Most Exalted, Infallable, and Self-Revering flagship of the mainstream media fleet, The New York Times; a paid hack of our self-appointed Masters of Information. Fortunately, Gillon at DailyKos has posted the entire text of the column. Good to see that Kos is useful for something.

With a like-minded intent to subvert The Establishment (although in ways that would likely dismay and anger the KosKidz), I am posting Brooks' entire column:
(...and if the NYT chooses to sue me, at least it will boost my readership...)

In Her Own Words

David Brooks, the New York Times, 13 Oct 05

Of all the words written about Harriet Miers, none are more disturbing than the ones she wrote herself. In the early 90's, while she was president of the Texas bar association, Miers wrote a column called "President's Opinion" for The Texas Bar Journal. It is the largest body of public writing we have from her, and sad to say, the quality of thought and writing doesn't even rise to the level of pedestrian.

Of course, we have to make allowances for the fact that the first job of any association president is to not offend her members. Still, nothing excuses sentences like this:

"More and more, the intractable problems in our society have one answer: broad-based intolerance of unacceptable conditions and a commitment by many to fix problems."

Or this: "We must end collective acceptance of inappropriate conduct and increase education in professionalism."

Or this: "When consensus of diverse leadership can be achieved on issues of importance, the greatest impact can be achieved."

Or passages like this: "An organization must also implement programs to fulfill strategies established through its goals and mission. Methods for evaluation of these strategies are a necessity. With the framework of mission, goals, strategies, programs, and methods for evaluation in place, a meaningful budgeting process can begin."

Or, finally, this: "We have to understand and appreciate that achieving justice for all is in jeopardy before a call to arms to assist in obtaining support for the justice system will be effective. Achieving the necessary understanding and appreciation of why the challenge is so important, we can then turn to the task of providing the much needed support."

I don't know if by mere quotation I can fully convey the relentless march of vapid abstractions that mark Miers's prose. Nearly every idea is vague and depersonalized. Nearly every debatable point is elided. It's not that Miers didn't attempt to tackle interesting subjects. She wrote about unequal access to the justice system, about the underrepresentation of minorities in the law and about whether pro bono work should be mandatory. But she presents no arguments or ideas, except the repetition of the bromide that bad things can be eliminated if people of good will come together to eliminate bad things.

Or as she puts it, "There is always a necessity to tend to a myriad of responsibilities on a number of cases as well as matters not directly related to the practice of law." And yet, "Disciplining ourselves to provide the opportunity for thought and analysis has to rise again to a high priority."

Throw aside ideology. Surely the threshold skill required of a Supreme Court justice is the ability to write clearly and argue incisively. Miers's columns provide no evidence of that.

The Miers nomination has reopened the rift between conservatives and establishment Republicans.

The conservative movement was founded upon the supposition that ideas have consequences. Conservatives have founded so many think tanks, magazines and organizations, like the Federalist Society, because they believe that you have to win arguments to win political power. They dream of Supreme Court justices capable of writing brilliant opinions that will reshape the battle of ideas.

For the first years of his presidency, George Bush healed the division between Republicans and conservatives by pursuing big conservative goals with ruthless Republican discipline. But Harriet Miers has shown no loyalty to conservative institutions like the Federalist Society. Her loyalty has been to the person of the president, and her mental style seems to be Republicanism on stilts.

So conservatives are caught between loyalty to their ideas and loyalty to the president they admire. Most of them have come out against Miers - quietly or loudly. Establishment Republicans are displaying their natural loyalty to leadership. And Miers is caught in the vise between these two forces, a smart and good woman who has been put in a position where she cannot succeed.

Her sort is very common -- garden variety, in fact -- in senior government service, at least in my experience, especially among political appointees. They have no ideas of their own. Not only do they write in NewSpeak, they think in it as well.

Way to go, Mr. President. With the Miers nomination, you've placed me on the same side of the political fence as the Kossaks.


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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ya Think, Part II

Been very busy actually performing the job for which some damn-fool government bureaucrats actually pay me (can't believe even da gub'ment can be that stoopid, but hey, I ain't complainin'). Haven't had much blog-time available of late, since my actual, y'know...job...entails a small amount of writing. (Demands are very low--not more than a book a month.) I sincerely apologize to both of my readers!

Here's an interesting little piece from Glenn Reynolds that I missed last week. In it, he agrees with my earlier comments concerning NASA and space exploration in general:

NASA is pretty boring, but people still care about space. Just look at the X-Prize Expo in New Mexico:

A central star of the show, XCOR Aerospace, demonstrated its EZ-Rocket here at the Las Cruces airport. The vehicle is a precursor to the Mark-1 X-Racer now under development with planned test flights in the spring and summer of 2006.

Rocketing off the tarmac, the EZ-Rocket was put through its paces above the expo crowd by former shuttle astronaut, Rick Searfoss. Demonstration flights of the EZ-Rocket signals the emergence of a new Rocket Racing League.

Yes, you read that right -- "Rocket Racing League." Hey, it really is the 21st Century! Of course, not everything went perfectly, as a couple of the rockets didn't work properly. But unlike NASA, where each failure would have cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to correct, these were fairly minor because everyone involved was doing it on the cheap. For these participants, failures are an opportunity for learning rather than a political embarrassment.

And it was enough to get 20,000 people to visit the remote New Mexico desert. There's plenty of support for space exploration out there -- people have just lost interest, and faith, in NASA's efforts. It's nice to see someone else picking up the slack.

I say Big Daddy Gub'ment ought to subcontract the space program out to these folks under JPL supervision (and everyone currently in NASA's Washington offices ought to be imprisoned for misuse of the taxpayers' money, along with a bunch in Florida, Texas, and Maryland).


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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Christian Carnival XCI

I spent a week away from blogging in order to keep my uncle Don's memorial at the top of the site and observe an appropriate mourning period -- especially since I cannot attend his memorial service. I would have done at least as much for my mother, who passed on 18 months before her brother, had I been blogging then.

It's time to get back to bloviation, however. Life, even in its ugliest aspects, must go on. I'll start out mildly, with Christian Carnival ExSeeEye, which is up at Matt Jones' Random Acts of Verbiage.

It seems there is a lot of speculation in Christian circles about whether the late run of powerful air disturbances, armed adversarial conflicts and rumors thereof, and a cranky lithosphere betoken the Beginning of the End.

Jeanette at Oh How I Love Jesus says that ol' Br'er Matthew 24 might be a'knockin' on the door. Diane of Crossroads even speculates if the Earth itself might react to sin. Personally, I liken such thinking to the Looneytoon Left's blaming recent hurricanes on GeoDubya's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocols. I think James Lileks summed up this train of thought admirably:

By this theory, Gaia is mad at us because we cut down trees and buy sneakers. Gaia is peeved because people want to drive to work in offices heated by nuclear power. We should all push a donkey cart up a rutted road and sit in the market all day waiting for someone to buy our withered tubers, so we can buy a small piece of burlap soaked in sugar to feed our nine children. Gaia hates capitalism.

And Christianity too, I imagine. I should note that Diane does not buy into this line of thought herself , but some of her commenters do and I know the thought is going around in the back of many a Christian's mind: "Well, New Orleans was such a den of lazy indolence and devil-may-care nekkid-drunken iniquity that it deserved what it got and I bet God Hisself called in the storms!"

I hope the end times are coming soon, but I don't think Scripture supports divination of the eschaton before it happens. Quite the contrary:

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father...So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

And I do not believe that God often deliberately visits destruction upon the iniquitous. It is clear that He chastens those who are His whom He is shaping; all, however--His and others--are subject to the rules and rulers of this world, which He will not directly rule until the Son of Man returns.

Hurricanes happen, for "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."



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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"I Have To Go Fly..."

His last words were, "I have to get up...I have to go fly."

I have no doubt that he is flying now, in gosport and sweat-stained 'butt-freezer,' solo in the PT-19 again, just like the first time in 1941

Or perhaps he is in a huge formation of AT-6s, somewhere over central Texas, delighting in how easily the new plane handles and stays in position

Perhaps he's back in the B-25, next to a student with an awkward hood on, training the brand-new Army Air Force's first-ever class at Brook's just-opened instrument flight school, lecturing his victim: "what you don't understand about instrument flying is...."

Or maybe he's in his most-beloved C-47, carefully circling an overloaded 'trane down through the stacks of others, Brit and US, just like his and just as overloaded, in the fog over Templehof...or listening intently for Berlin's only A-N tone to start fading in his headphones on approach during the pre-Tunner airlift

Maybe he's in the vast cockpit of his B-36, listening to a slightly discordant note in the organ-pipe rumble and to the flight engineer grumble about how rough number six is running, wondering if he'll make it past the Azores, wondering how many others in his wing will make it back to US shores, much less to Dayton to cut the tone....

...Or in his O Club at Biggs, with a few beers behind and a few more ahead, beaming just as wide as Toni and the others at the table, as Curt (General LeMay to you) congratulates him again on the eagle and the wing "Curt's" just given him

...Or tinkering with the engine...once more, though it doesn't need it...while his nearly-grown sons in sweaty, discarded flightsuits curse under their breath and under the car...."What you don't understand about BMWs is..."

...Or on the golf course...

Or--most likely I think--sitting in his chair in Toro Canyon, reading the paper, idly cursing the Democrats and talking with Toni for hours about....everything...and, in the back corners of his mind, still somewhere out flying

Yesterday morning, he made his final landing in this plane. The approach was slightly shaky (he was non-current), but the touchdown was smooth.

He was Patriarch, husband, father, brother, grandfather, uncle, pilot, officer, always an instructor and teacher, patriot, Republican, Presbyterian, unsung hero, one of the finest exemplars of one of our finest generations.

We will miss him.

I hope and pray that where he is now, he may finally be able to reach out his hand and touch the face of God.

They will soar on wings like eagles
They will run and not grow weary
They will walk and not be faint

-- Isaiah 40:31

Don L. Safley, 1918 - 2005
Requiescat in Pace

Swearing in a fledgeling Monk, 1984


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Monday, October 03, 2005

Rove!? Cheney!? You Got Some 'Splainin' to Do!

Karl? Dick?.......Who the bloody hell walked out and left the President in charge? You know the man can't tie his own shoes without expert consultation, but y'all went off and let him name a Supreme Court nominee! On his own! I know y'all couldna been involved, 'cause you ain't that bird-brain-blonde-Aggie-grad-Gators-fan STOOPID!! I know it's not a coincidence that his dad's Presidential Library is at Texas A&M, but I expected better of all'y'all!

Bush has announced Harriet Miers as his next nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Never mind that her only experience since 2001 has been as a FOD (Friend of Dubya). Never mind that the highest office she held prior to that was as Chairperson of the Texas Lottery Commission (she's never been a judge). Never mind that her only apparent current qualification (in a "troubled" administration anxious to earn the WaPo's "strange new respect" by encouraging "diversity") is that she used to menstruate.

John "Disappointment" Hindraker at PowerLine, Glenn "Underwhelmed" Reynolds at Instapundit, Prof. Stephen "Harriet Who?" Bainbridge, Eugene "Puzzled" Volokh, and David "Unforced Error" Frum are infinitely better qualified to judge her candidacy on merit than I am. Go to these places to find out the details of why Chimpler's "conservative base" is a bit upset with him right now.

No.....the real issue for me is that Bush had a unique opportunity to tilt the Star Chamber that really rules this country to the right a bit, to alter the real political balance of power in this nation for decades to come, to put real power back in the hands of legislatures and the executive...and he blew it. Instead of a solid Michael Luttig or Janice Rogers Brown type, he named a personal friend with no experience; a literal panty-waist; a Souter-like Gore-supporter. He would have done better in conservatives' eyes if he'd nominated a ham sandwich.

Unfortunately, it seems I was prescient in likening the battle over Supreme Court nominees to the Antietam campaign during the Civil War. It started out well, but an opportunity for a great victory has now been squandered by vacilation and poor generalship, just as it was for the Union at Antietam.

Chefjef and other liberal friends: You should be rejoicing, because this appointment will permanently alienate the President from his "base" and greatly increase the liklihood that the "base" will stay home in the next two elections and, therefore, that Madame Robespierre will become your President in 2008. Bush could only have done more damage if he'd granted the Gitmo Jihadis the Honors of War and ordered US troops out of Iraq. (The way things are going, these may yet happen.)

One of three things will now happen in Congress: 1) the circling Democratic sharks on the Senate Judiciary Committee, like Biden and Schumer, will rip Miers to pieces based on her lack of experience, timid manner, and association with an administration "troubled by corruption," thus crippling her candidacy in the Senate or even preventing her from getting out of comittee, and further damaging Bush's faltering political fortunes, or 2) the Democrats will treat her gently during the hearings and quietly accept another Souter/Bryer/Kennedy/O'Connor who'll help their "living document" "evolve" into an even more left-leaning structure. 3) If they're smart, the Dems will play hostile at the hearings, but not torpedo her nomination and thus get another Souter while playing to the Michael Moore / KosKidz base of their party.

Any way it goes down, this will be a sad episode in American history.

Maybe he was asleep?

Dick and Karl: you and Chimpy got some 'splainin to do.


: Kanh comments,

My first thought when I heard who he nominated was...Bush put her name forward so after congress refuses her, the real nominee will look wonderful to them. Also, I think she did hold the chairmenship of the Texas Bar, a little more than just the lottery commish.

Maybe. Perhaps you are right, but if the Dems hold on Meirs and the Republicans are unwilling or unable to use the 'nuke option,' this will embolden the liberals and make it impossible for Bush to nominate anyone acceptable to conservatives.

All we can hope is that he and Rove, et al, know what they're doing and that this woman will be a surprise. Perhaps she really is a pro-life, Christian-sympathetic "pit bull," as the Administration's lock-step defenders are contending. Bush knows her -- we don't. We can only hope that the White House knows what it's doing, all the Democrats who are ecstatic right now and all the conservative legal observers (with the notable exception of Hugh Hewitt) are wrong. This is far and away the most important domestic issue the President has addressed. Let's hope that Hewitt is right:

My suspicion is that as Democrats review Miers personal story, and especially her obvious and deep personal faith, that "the groups" on the left will realize to their horror that, once again, the president has outflanked them. They may try to marshall their forces and launch an assault on Miers. The trouble with some conservatives declaring the end of the world as we know it is that they are effectively taking themselves out of this battle on the first day.

We sure can't afford for them to be wrong...

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Christian Carnival LXXXIX

I've been very remiss of late in posting links to Christian Carnivals, mostly because I haven't had time to peruse them myself and I feel very conscientious about my advertising endorsements: I wouldn't want either of my readers to walk away from their seconds-long contemplation of my site shaking their heads and mentally berating me for endorsing bad theology.

"I simply cannot see how he can link to anyone who would endorse Barth's hermeneutical exegesis of Neo-Orthodox Arminian eschatonical transsubstantiation!!" they would think while grinding their collective teeth, right before permanently deleting Vita ab Alto's link from their blogrolls.

No. It's just too painful to contemplate. The price is just too high.

Fortunately, I have actually looked at the latest Christian Carnival and so can extend a truly heartfelt endorsement: every one of this week's (okay, actually last week's) writers is perfectly consistent and theologically accurate in his or her own mind. I have no doubt whatsoever that each thought what he or she was writing was correct when they wrote it down. (Looking at some of the posts, I suspect a few had doubts later, though.)

Christian Carnival 89 is at the always attractive and interesting In the Spirit of Grace. A couple of the posts caught my eye:

"Dogs, urine, and Bible Translations" at the very-useful Codex offers more than just an alarming title. It is actually a very interesting little treatise on the whys and wherefores of modern Bible translation, along with some explanations of why some peculiar-seeming passages are so, y'know,......peculiar.

Papercut Theology offers a very interesting essay asking,

Is the Reformation over, so that Protestants and Catholics may finally begin a gradual return to measures of fellowship with one another?

This is very interesting topic to me, since I am, like many Proddies today, a great admirer of both the last and current Bishops of Rome. Moreover, I, like many on both sides of the Ulster Divide, see the need for unity in the face of the Body's dual challenges today: rising post-modern pagan and relativist "secularism" in the West and a (resultantly?) resurgent islam in the East.

Darren's essay sheds some light on doctrinal issues that may finally see resolution: the Catholic Church today is closer to Luther's, Melancthon's, and even Calvin's understanding of justification by faith than are some modern Protestant denominations. Like Darren, I am and must remain solidly Proddy in doctrine, but (also like Darren) I can never "conclude that the Roman Catholic Church has been wholly lost to evil and corruption, that there is no salvation within it, and that its teachings lead only to error and never to Jesus." That would be nonsense.

Darren rightly points out that much of the problem with reconciliation lies with how these two parts of the Body view stare decisis, in exactly the same sense that it matters to the SCOTUS: how much intellectual weight does precedent carry? Proddies are strict constructionists: sola Scriptura; Papists believe the scripture is a "living document," subject to revision and evolution, just as Justice Kennedy believes the US Constitution is.

But my Protestant belief in scriptural "strict construction" should never lead me to doubt another's salvation and relationship with our Lord, any more than my disagreement with liberals on our Supreme Court should lead me to doubt their legal bona fides


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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Extraordinary Times

Secretary of State Rice delivered an important statement of policy and perspective yesterday at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [the full video is available here]. It was cogent and powerful, and expressed an appropriate reminder to keep our wits about us and appreciate the larger historical perspective that today's seemingly chaotic events may well be part of:

...Let us be very clear about exactly who they and we are fighting. Some of the insurgency is fueled by the same thugs and henchman who enforced Saddam Hussein’s tyranny for decades. They fight now to regain the unjust privileges they once had. There are many others, however, foreign terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who seek to ignite the very civil war that ordinary Iraqis are trying so hard to prevent.

These terrorists target Iraqi children receiving candy from American soldiers. They line up schoolteachers and execute them in their classrooms. They murder hospital workers caring for the wounded. And they massacre innocent Muslims who want to serve as policemen and soldiers and government officials in the new Iraq. This is not some grassroots coalition of national resistance. These are merciless killers who want to provoke nothing less than a full-scale civil war among Muslims across the entire Middle East. And having done so, they would build an empire of terror and oppression.

The choice we face in Iraq is, thus, stark. If we quit now, we will abandon Iraq’s democrats at their time of greatest need. We will embolden every enemy of liberty and democracy across the Middle East. We will destroy any chance that the people of this region have of building a future of hope and opportunity. And we will make America more vulnerable. If we abandon future generations in the Middle East to despair and terror, we also condemn future generations in the United States to insecurity and fear.

Ladies and Gentlemen: We have set out to help the people of the Middle East transform their societies. Now is not the time to falter or fade.

I know that this vision can seem very distant at times, especially when we see so many tragic images of death, of innocent Iraqis and Afghans, and of course, Americans dying overseas. There are legitimate differences about the war we are now fighting in Iraq and in a great democracy like ours, everyone has the right to express those views freely.

But I hope that we can all step back and look at other extraordinary times and though they are not perfectly parallel, they can help us to gain a perspective on the challenges we face.

In 1989, I was lucky enough to be the White House Soviet specialist at the end of the Cold War. It doesn't get any better than that. I was there for the liberation of Eastern Europe; the unification of Germany; and for the beginnings of the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union itself. I saw things that I never thought possible. And one day, they seemed impossible; and several days later, they seemed inevitable. That is the nature of extraordinary times.

But as I look back now on those times, I realized that I was only harvesting the good decisions that had been taken in 1947, in 1948, and in 1949. And sometimes, I wonder how in the course of events, the course of the moment, people like Acheson and Truman and Marshall and Vandenberg saw a path ahead. After all, in 1946, the Germany Reconstruction was still failing and Germans were still starving. Japan lay prostrate. In 1947, there was a civil war in Greece. In 1948, Germany was permanently divided by the Berlin Crisis; Czechoslovakia was lost to a communist coup. And in 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule; and the Chinese communists won their war. In 1950, a brutal war broke on the Korean Peninsula.

These were not just tactical setbacks for the forward march of democracy. Indeed, it must have seemed quite impossible, that we would one day, stand at a juncture where Eastern Europe would be liberated, Russia would emerge, and Europe would be whole and free and at peace. If we think back on those days, we recognize that extraordinary times are turbulent and they are hard. And it is very often hard to see a clear path. But if you are -- as those great architects of the post-Cold War victory were -- if you are true to your values, if you are certain of your values, and if you act upon them with confidence and with strength, it is possible to have an outcome where democracy spreads and peace and liberty reign.

Because of the work that they did, it is hard to imagine war in Europe again. So it shall be also for the Middle East.

This is exactly the sort of thing the White House needs to be doing more of. And it needs to somehow make the public aware of these statements. The traditional media won't cover this kind of thing: they're hostile to the Administration's intent. It is up to independent, non-traditional media to help spread the word.

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