Friday, December 23, 2005

Airport Security Regulations

Kevin Bauder has a good post on the TSA's decision to relax some "safety" regulations recently.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Is Bono a Universalist?

This report makes one wonder, at least. It would be nice to think he is not, but Bono does lean pretty far to the left and I can see him being very sympathetic to universalism.

HT: Doug

Corruption, Secrecy, and Lack Accountability at the U.N.

Claudia Rosett writes about an exchange between James Bone from the London Times and Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations at National Review. Bone asks Annan a question about two scandals plaguing the U.N. and Annan specifically, but Annan loses his cool and responds, "Hold on. Listen, James Bone. You have been behaving like an overgrown schoolboy in this room for many, many months and years. You are an embarrassment to your colleagues and to your profession. Please stop misbehaving, and please let’s move on to a more serious subject.”

Rosett goes on to detail the scandals. Read the whole thing. If you still respect the U.N. after that article, I'd be interested to hear why.

The Twins have a New Right Fielder

After losing Jacque Jones to the Cubs this week, the Twins have moved quickly to replace him. They signed Rondell White to a one year contract with an option for 2007.

This is a very good signing for the Twins. White is only owed $3.25 million in 2006 and the 2007 option is dependent upon plate appearances. He is cheaper than Jones this year, and if he misses significant time in '06 his '07 contract will reflect that.

White has always had difficulty staying healthy--that is clear. But the Twins have Jason Kubel coming off of knee surgery and he is likely their outfielder of the future. The White signing gives the Twins a solid hitter for the next season or two while Kubel earns his stripes.

Tony Dungy's Son Found Dead

James Dungy, the eighteen year old son of Indianapolis Colts' head coach, Tony Dungy, was found dead in an apartment early this morning. Minnesotan's will remember that during Tony Dungy's days as the defensive coordinator with the Vikings, his sons were often on the field with him.

My prayers are with the Dungy family as they cope with this devastating loss. Dungy is a professing believer, and I pray that he and his family will rest upon Christ in this time.

Update: Two ESPN writers have written columns expressing their condolensces to the Dungy family as well as honoring Tony and expressing sympathy to the family. Len Pasquarelli and Chris Mortenson give great honor to Tony Dungy--it is clear they think highly of him, and are both deeply saddened by the family's loss.

Update 2 (12/23/05): The evidence shows that James Dungy committed suicide.

Arrested Development

Arrested Development is the best show on television. Yet it does not get the ratings needed to ensure it is profitable. Fox has shortened season three to thirteen episodes and pulled it during November sweeps. But it has done well on DVD and now there is hope that ABC or Showtime could pick up the show if Fox cancels it.

I encourage you to check out this show while it is still on TV. Seasons one and two are both available on DVD too and are worth the purchase.

If you already watch the show, you can sign a petition to convince Fox to keep the show.

Senate Approves a Six Month Extension of the Patriot Act

The Senate reached a compromise on the Patriot Act after much debate to extend the act by six months rather than let it die. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch observed that, "We'll be right back where we are right now," arguing that the extension is only a temporary fix and that nothing is resolved.

Of course he is correct. One can only wonder if the Democrats realize the political damage they will reap if they do not keep the Patriot Act in force. Perhaps they made a decision to preserve national security while not bowing to the Bush administration in making the Patriot Act permanent?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

ESPN Tampering with Collegiate Elibibility Rules?

ESPN posted an article this afternoon that caught my attention immediately, but the significance of the article didn't strike me until much later.

USC quarterback Matt Leinart appeared in a promotional spot for ESPN which disqualified him from collegiate athletic activity. USC apologized for the "unintentional and inadvertent" incident and Leinart was reinstated again.

My question is what is ESPN doing in appealing for a collegiate athlete to violate NCAA rules? Surely ESPN knows the rules? Perhaps this is just a misunderstanding, but it seems to me that whoever was responsible for this incident should be held accountable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Patriot Act Hypocrisy

I posted earlier about the Senate's reprehensible refusal to allow a vote on the Patriot Act. Matt Drudge has posted a picture of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, at the signing of the Patriot Act into law. Not only that, but he is smiling proudly.

What is this, if not blatant hypocrisy? Was it a good law four years ago and a bad law today? As I wrote earlier--this is political opportunism at its worst. He has put politics before his responsibility to this nation and his constituents.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Gmail Instability

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I've been using Gmail for over a year. Up until this past weekend I have had a very good experience with it. Unfortunately, the last time I was able to acces Gmail was Friday afternoon before leaving work. Since then, Gmail has been down. I have tried accessing it on three different PC's to no avail. The message I get says, "Server Error. Gmail is temporarily unavailable. Cross your fingers and try again in a few minutes."

I did some research on the problem that I am experiencing and it seems that it is a very common problem--one that everyone will likely experience at some point. After digging around more, I found a way to submit a help request to Gmail, but got a form email back (to my Hotmail) saying that, "You are receiving this reply because information related to your message is offered in the Gmail Help Center."

Thanks, Google! You're the best!

Seriously though, has anyone had any experience with this? How long can I expect to be without email access?

Google: you need to do a better job in supporting this problem. Your own forums have many listings of this problem over the past weekend alone. If this is part of server "maintenance" you need to tell us when and what you are doing. It is unacceptable to have an account down for three days without warning or an estimated time when we can expect restored service.

Update 12/19/05 11:00am: Gmail is back online for me. It is a relief to have it back. But Gmail must do better to resolve these issues, as it is totally unacceptable for an email service to be unavailable for more than 48 hours.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Responding to Phil Johnson on Wright and the New Perspective on Paul

Reader Matt Gumm was kind enough to leave a link to an article by Phil Johnson on Tom Wright and the new perspective on Paul in the comments section to an earlier post on the new perspective.

My response became much to long for a comment and it better to post it for all to see rather than leave it hidden in comments. So here is my response to Phil Johnson.

I wonder what Johnson thinks Galatians is about if it isn't about, "should ex-pagan converts be circumcised or not?" It seems evident that is Paul's primary concern: are Christians marked by obedience to Old Testament law, or "in some other way?"

In point 2, Johnson demonstrates an unwillingness to think differently about the "works of the law." This is typical of critics of the NPP. They have heard others (and themselves) recite that "works of the law" refers to meritorious effort too often to allow for any other understanding.

I haven't read enough Wright to come to any conclusions on his interpretation of the "righteousness of God" or imputation. I have a copy of "Paul: Fresh Perspectives" on my bookshelf awaiting me, though. Perhaps I'll have more to say after reading it.

It does seem clear to me that critics of Wright trip over his vocabulary. Johnson uses Luke 18:9-14 as support for his understanding of works righteousness. Yet I don't see it that way at all. Luke isn't saying that the Pharisee was not justified because he was an unrepentant sinner. The Pharisee's heart was hard, judgmental, and above all--unloving. That is why he is condemned.

Johnson also alleges that Acts 13:38-39 "is impossible to reconcile with the New Perspective." How is that? This doesn't at all undermine the NPP. We all know that the law of Moses didn't justify the ungodly. Does he mean to say that this eliminates the possibility that the law in Second Temple Judaism was a covenant of grace? Is he then saying that it was a law of works--where the Jew must earn merit with God? If that is the case, I must remind him of Romans 4:2-3.

Unfortunately Johnson's critique has the same tone as virtually everything I've encountered by Wright's critics. He seems to have put his hands over his ears while yelling, "No, you're wrong!" over and over before storming out of the room. That isn't to say that Wright isn't provoking it, but Johnson would do better by attempting to understand Wright's vocabulary better.

Politcs Before Security

Senate Democrats and too many Republicans did not allow a vote to extend the Patriot Act today. The provisions that will expire are listed here. The Senate has the roll call for the vote.

Since 9/11 we have not had a single terrorist attack on American soil. Without the Patriot Act future attacks are more likely than with it.

Politics have been put before integrity and sincere concern for the safety of Americans. The Patriot Act when first passed in October 2001 was passed 98-1. What has changed since four years ago? The Democrats returned to their derision of the Bush administration and returned to obstructing everything on his legistlative agenda.

The Twins Have a New Third Baseman

Former major league All-Star Tony Batista has signed a one year contract for $1.25 million with the Minnesota Twins. Batista has played with five major league clubs and spent last season in Japan, where he hit 27 home runs and drove in 90 runs for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. Batista is a career .251 hitter with an appalling .298 on-base percentage and a .456 slugging percentage.

If Batista hits in the 7th or 8th spot, with a power hitting designated hitter in cleanup, the signing will likely prove to be a decent one. His salary is very cheap, and he will provide some pop to the lineup. But if Batista is to fill in as the cleanup or fifth spot, the signing will be a regrettable one.

I hope that his signing allows Twins GM Terry Ryan to spend more on a DH. The problem is they all have big question marks. Frank Thomas has a bad ankle, Mike Piazza has been in a steady decline--also with injury trouble. And Nomar Garciappara seems to be out of the running completely.

Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will have to step up their game significantly for the Twins to compete in 2006.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dr. Death: Jack Kevorkian

Wesly J. Smith has an interesting article on about Jack Kevorkian in light of rumors of an upcoming bio-pic. Smith illuminates several tidbits about Kevorkian that are not well known. Here are some of the most interesting:

  • received the moniker (Dr. Death) when, as a medical student, he haunted hospital wards to watch people die.
  • he admitted that assisting "suffering or doomed persons kill themselves" was "merely the first step, an early distasteful professional obligation... he was actually pursuing his own obsession... of making possible the performance of invaluable experiments or other beneficial medical acts under conditions that this first unpleasant step can help establish — in a word obitiatry."
  • Kevorkian's first targets in his quest to slice and dice people were not the ill, but the condemned. He spent years visiting prisons and corresponding with death-row inmates, seeking permission to conduct "obitiatric research" on those being executed.
  • If condemned people were not going to be made available for "unfettered experimentation on human death," perhaps he could gain access to experiment on sick and disabled people. His front would be assisted suicide. But his goal would remain human vivisection.
  • Of the known 130 or so suicides that Kevorkian facilitated, about 70 percent of the people involved were disabled and depressed, the majority of them women. This is not surprising given Kevorkian's disdain for disabled people. He once called quadriplegics and paraplegics who were not suicidal "pathological," and exposed his sympathy for eugenics in a court document, asserting: "The voluntary self-elimination of individual mortally diseased and crippled lives taken collectively can only enhance the preservation of public health and welfare."
It is disturbing that Hollywood wishes to portray this evil man as a hero. We live in a time of moral confusion when evil is lauded as righteousness, and justice is regarded as wickedness.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Prince Caspian

Narian fans rejoice--rumor has it that Prince Caspian has given a green light at Disney. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe's big weekend has given the studio confidence in a new Narnia film.

HT: John Miller

Friday, December 09, 2005

N.T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul

N.T. Wright is a theologian that is frequently discussed in the blogosphere--usually maligned for his understanding of justification and his views on Paul. I have been intrigued by him for over a year now, reading and listening to him teach on Jesus, Paul, and the New Testament.

Justin Taylor has linked to an article in the Wall Street Journal on N.T. Wright that praises him, though the first comment and the accompanying blog post are typical responses to Wright from many in Reformed circles.

It is unfortunate that Wright is so ostracized as he has much good to contribute to biblical theology. Yet many approach him as they do Bishop Shelby Spong and other unbiblical church leaders.

I encourage you to read what Daniel Phillips says about Wright's beliefs on justification, and then compare them to what Wright himself says.

Phillips says Wright, "in effect denies that the Gospel is about how sinners can be "justified [forensically declared righteous] by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (Romans 3:24-25a) -- and he's still highly-regarded as a Christian scholar." He goes on to say, "But if I'm understanding Wright (and this article) correctly, Wright denies the Gospel. How, then, is he an "evangelical," let alone "the most influential biblical scholar in American evangelical circles?"

Wright says, "Justification is thus the declaration of God, the just judge, that someone is (a) in the right, that their sins are forgiven, and (b) a true member of the covenant family, the people belonging to Abraham. That is how the word works in Paul's writings. It doesn't describe how people get in to God's forgiven family, it declares that they are in. That may seem a small distinction , but in understanding what Paul is saying it is vital. "

Does that sound like false or heretical teaching? Ligon Duncan has a typical response to Wright here. See for yourself if Duncan's criticisms seem fair. Also, read Wright for yourself. I suspect you will find much agreement with Wright, as I have.

It is my contention that critics of Wright are threatened by his boldness in questioning whether or not the Reformation teachings on justification are what the Bible actually teaches. These pastors and theologians seem to be more committed to the tradition of "justification by faith alone" than they are to a fully scriptural understanding of justification. See for yourself how Duncan prefaces this article with the Shorter Catechism rather than the scripture. It is almost as though "justification by faith" has become the Protestant idol of "works righteousness."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Quality, Not Quantity

Minnesota's school superintendents are encouraging the state to increase the school year by five weeks. The change is "intended to bolster competitiveness." The school year for most Minnesota schools range from 170 to 175 days. The change would increase this to 200 days. Teachers would work 230 days, up from 185. The additional days required for teachers would allow for more on-the-job training.

This proposal raises important questions. How were Minnesota schools competitive for the past fifty to one hundred years? The school year has always been as long as it is now. Why do we now need to increase the length of the school year? Were the schools not competitive before? What has changed that would require a longer school year? How would the curriculum be changed to fit a longer school year? Would the current curriculum be changed to draw it out over a longer period of time, or would more material be added?

Of course I would expect many of these questions to be raised by the legislature, should the proposal be made in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Yet, to me, the proposal seems to miss entirely the failings of the educational system. How would more school fix the problem? I can't help but believe that it would make the problem even worse. Perhaps it is school that is the problem--not the solution.

I'm not arguing that school is bad--what I'm arguing is that our schools as they currently exist are the problem, and that exposing our youth to more of it would exacerbate the problem. I graduated from high school in 1996--so I'm old enough to be able to look back with some perspective, but not too far out of school to be sentimentally naive about those years.

When will our educators understand that the programs and initiatives that they have adopted over the past twenty to thirty years are the problem--and not part of the solution? Self-esteem education, multiculturalism, relativism, anti-drug campaigns, sex education, movies in the classroom, and consumerism have all undermined the goals of the school system in the United States.

Schools are too often driven by the agendas of the National Education Association, the Federal Government, and political activists. The goal of the K-12 education ought to be the education of the next generation--not to improve the students self-esteem, diversity education, how to have safe sex, watch Braveheart, or even learn about intelligent design.

School superintendents need to give up on political correctness and personal agendas and supply their students with real education: reading, writing, mathematics, science, and history. Until this happens, our school system will continue its decline--regardless of how many days our students are in school.

What frustrates me the most, is that people that should know better, like Republican governor Tim Pawlenty, don't know any better. The Star Tribune article reports, "Gov. Tim Pawlenty likes the concept, according to spokesman Brian McClung, although he hasn't seen the specific plan."

Wake up, governor! You should know better! Be part of the solution--no matter how hard it will be to sell to our politically correct culture!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

First Names

John Derbyshire at the Corner on National Review has a link to a website that graphs the popularity of first names from the 1880's to 2004. It is a fascinating look at the trends in names.

You'll see that "John" has been on a steady decline since the 1880's, while my middle name dropped off in the 1970's. My poor father doesn't even register--at least not with the way he spells it. And my mom--it is no wonder people don't know how to pronounce "Lois" anymore--it has been practically non-existent since the early 1980's.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Indiana Jones IV

George Lucas is "now devoting himself full-time to writing and producing Indiana Jones 4," reports FoxNews. The movie has been slated to begin production after the Star Wars movies were completed. Let's hope that Lucas can do better with this series' conclusion than he did with the final Star Wars films.

The script was written by
Jeff Nathanson, who has written numerous screenplays including Rush Hour 2, Catch Me if You Can, and The Terminal. I'll let you make your own judgment of what that bodes for Indiana Jones.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Twins Trade for Luis Castillo

ESPN is reporting that the Minnesota Twins have traded two minor league pitchers for Marlins' second baseman, Luis Castillo.

It appears that the Twins have gotten an established gold-glove caliber second baseman. He should fit well at the top of the Twins' lineup--with a high lifetime on base percentage and speed.

The Twins have many great pitchers already, which makes Tyler and Bowyer expendable. The Twins now need a good third baseman and a power hitting designated hitter. Rumors have been swirling about the Twins seeking Frank Thomas.