Archive for July, 2010

July 31, 2010

Alone is Ok

by Vince

Hat tip: The Daily Dish

July 30, 2010

Doubting the Atrocity of the BP Spill

by Vince

Jonah Goldberg is doubting the media hype of the spill:

But now it increasingly appears that “the worst environmental disaster in American history” wasn’t all that bad. Yes, the loss of human life was tragic, and the loss of animal life was regrettable — but it also wasn’t that dramatic. Some birds were oiled and died, always a sad sight. But according to Time, the number of birds killed is — so far — less than 1 percent of the avian casualties of the Exxon Valdez. And to date, only three oiled mammal carcasses have been recovered. Three.

“The impacts have been much, much less than everyone feared,” federal contractor and geochemist Jacqueline Michel told Time. Ivor van Heerden, another scientist working on the spill, says “there’s just no data to suggest this is an environmental disaster. I have no interest in making BP look good — I think they lied about the size of the spill — but we’re not seeing catastrophic impacts.” He adds: “There’s a lot of hype, but no evidence to justify it.”

60 million gallons of oil spilled each day for 80+ days is no catastrophe and won’t have a large impact? Also, to compare the number of birds killed with those with the Exxon spill downplays the loss of life. Does Goldberg also think that since only three oiled mammal carcasses have been recovered that no others have sunk to the bottom or drifted out into the sea? This is bordering on unsympathetic delusion.

July 30, 2010

Obama and Reinhold Neibuhr

by Vince

Obama describes that his favorite theologian/philosopher is Neibuhr:

The president’s political rhetoric reflects some of Niebuhr’s world view, says great-nephew Gustav Niebuhr. He says Obama, like his great-uncle, avoids moral absolutes in his speeches: The U.S. is not always right, and its enemies are not always evil.

Niebuhr says he saw this attitude embedded in Obama’s speech to the Arab world in Cairo, Egypt, last year. Obama acknowledged U.S. involvement in helping overthrow a democratically elected government in Iran during the 1950s and avoided “clash of civilizations” rhetoric that implied that the U.S. is free of moral taint.

“We can’t see ourselves as the ultimate arbiter for what’s good and moral,” says Gustav Niebuhr, director of the Religion and Society Program at Syracuse University. “Reinhold would say to do that is to claim a perfectionism that doesn’t belong to human beings.”

July 30, 2010

SB1070 Tweaks

by Vince

Arizona’s controversial SB1070 immigration law has been reviewed by a federal judge and the following changes were made:

Judge Susan Bolton struck down the following provisions of SB 1070:

  • Section 2(B): Required officers to check the immigration status of any person arrested, as well as check the immigration status if there was reasonable suspicion after a lawful stop or detention that the person was undocumented.
  • Section 3: Made it a state misdemeanor for failure to carry an alien registration document, and made it a state crime to be unlawfully present in the United States.
  • Part of Section 5: Made it a state misdemeanor for an unauthorized immigrant to apply for, solicit for, or perform work.
  • Section 6 Amendment: Allowed officers to make warrantless arrests provided the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.

The ruling left SB 1070, which goes into effect today, with the following provisions, among others, still intact:

  • Section 2(G): An Arizona citizen may bring an action against any official or agency of Arizona that does not enforce federal immigration laws to the fullest extent, and pay a penalty of $1,000 to $5,000 for each day that the policy was in effect.
  • Section 4: Makes it a felony to intentionally smuggle human beings for profit.
  • Section 5: Makes it a misdemeanor to stop on a street and attempt to hire or pick up passengers for work at a different location if the vehicle blocks traffic. Also makes it a misdemeanor to be the person picked up in such a motor vehicle.
  • Section 5: Makes it a misdemeanor for a person already in violation of a criminal offense to transport undocumented immigrants, conceal undocumented immigrants, or encourage undocumented immigrants to reside in the United States.
July 30, 2010

Mark Driscoll on Stay-at-home-Dad’s Ctd.

by Vince

Check it here and flip to the 57:40 minute mark.

July 29, 2010

Institutional self-preservation

by Vince

E.D. Kain and IOZ ask some big questions in regards to what organizations and institutions do and if they are just in it to survive, not operate:

Institutions, like organisms, seek survival for themselves and their descendants. One of the conceits at the heart of most theories of government, which has perhaps reached its apogee in this age of technocratic, managerial liberalism, is the idea that institutions are fundamentally instrumental. To an anarchist, this is a flatly silly proposition. (An analogue might be a Christian trying to get an atheist to concede that life has a “purpose.”) Institutions aren’t simple tools. Organizations aren’t implements. And when a sufficient number of institutions coexist, they function like an ecosystem. They neither work nor do not work. They survive, reproduce, replace, predate, evolve, alter, consume, and grow. They are no more responsive to the individuals contained within than a person is to a single cell.

The problem with government institutions is that they persist because of politics rather than any rational decision-making process. The big public unions exist and grow in strength because they are so important electorally. The big federal departments exist because politicians must always do something to survive the next election cycle (read: spend more!). Cutting the Department of Education may not have much of an effect on the educational outcomes of most American children, but the act of cutting it is pretty much heretical nonetheless, even though those dollars might be better spent at the local level than on the inflated salaries of a bunch of Washington bureaucrats.

July 29, 2010

A Eulogy for today’s Conservatism

by Vince

P.M. Carpenter writes on today’s GOP and their off-shoot Tea Party cohorts:

I largely dismiss the GOP’s exotic obstructionism as a pathological sign of party disintegration. Republican stances, say, against unemployment benefits but in support of plutocratic tax cuts, or against economic stimulus because of deficit worries but in support of unfunded wars, are indeed conspicuously daffy and manifestly harmful to the nation’s interests. But, almost any out-of-power party will get itself tied into hypocritical knots which reflect the underlying prejudices of its hardest-core base.

And all that is driving modern conservatism’s concentrically defined ideology: exclusion rather than inclusion, pup tents over big tents, intellectual guillotining and purifying bloodbaths. Only a tighter and tighter ideological circumference qualifies as True and Valid Belief — an absolute killer in popular politics as well as in many an actual revolution. Outsiders need never worry for too long; the revolutionaries will stupidly slaughter themselves.

July 29, 2010

The War Report: July 29th

by Vince

I feel like starting a special series on the war(s) at hand. I will provide various news reporting’s, commentaries, and analyses.

Andrew Sullivan and the AP report that the Pentagon cannot account for billions of dollars spent in Iraq. The report from MSNBC includes Afghanistani efforts:

A U.S. audit has found that the Pentagon cannot account for more than 95 percent of $9.1 billion in Iraq reconstruction money, spotlighting Iraqi complaints that there is little to show for the massive funds pumped into their cash-strapped, war-ravaged nation.

About $60 billion have poured into Afghanistan since 2001 in hopes of bringing electricity, clean water, jobs, roads and education to the crippled country.

The U.S. alone has committed $51 billion to the project since 2001, and plans to raise the stakes to $71 billion over the next year — more than it has spent on reconstruction in Iraq since 2003.

An Associated Press investigation showed that the results so far — or lack of them — threaten to do more harm than good. The number of Afghans with access to electricity has increased from 6 percent in 2001 to only about 10 percent now, far short of the goal of providing power to 65 percent of urban and 25 percent of rural households by the end of this year.

An Afghanistan War funding pact was passed by the House:

The House voted 308-114 to approve the spending boost for the additional 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Other nonwar provisions brought the total bill to nearly $59 billion.

Republicans in Congress still were strongly behind the boost in war spending, but there was unusually strong opposition from members of Obama’s own party. All but 12 of the “no” votes in the House came from Democrats.

In debate before the vote, Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) said the leaked documents revealed corruption and incompetence in the Afghan government. “We’re told we can’t extend unemployment or pay to keep cops on the beat or teachers in the classroom,” he said, “but we’re asked to borrow another $33 billion for nation-building in Afghanistan.”

Obama’s ace in the hole in all of these wars is seen as Hilary Clinton:

In fact, Clinton, who was supposed to ignite the flames of conservatives’ hatred, is becoming more popular every day across the political spectrum. Her hawkish foreign policy views gain her support on the right, and her well-known views on domestic policy keep the home fires burning on the left. The two fields intersect in one of the areas where she displays the greatest passion, her signature foreign- policy issue: the need to empower women in poor countries in order to transform the world.

Finally, Karl Rove wonders why there isn’t more American hubris in our approach to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars:

The president and prime minister declared their solidarity on the Afghanistan war. Both leaders “reaffirmed our commitment to the overall strategy,” in Mr. Cameron’s words. Mr. Obama said that approach aimed to “build Afghan capacity so Afghans can take responsibility for their future,” a point Mr. Cameron called “a key part” of the coalition’s strategy.

All well and good. But neither leader uttered the word “victory” or “win” or any other similar phrase. They made it sound as if the strategic goal was to stand up the Afghan security forces, leave as soon as that was done, and hope the locals were up to keeping things together.

Rove must not know that the Taliban have never had double-digit popularity levels in Afghanistan.

July 29, 2010

Tempus II

by Vince

Tempus II from Philip Heron on Vimeo.
Philip Heron and James Adair shot a bunch of stuff hitting other stuff and slowed the whole thing way, way down.”

July 29, 2010

Dogs of Glory

by Vince

Creepy? Sure.

July 29, 2010

Bill O’Reilly on Jay Leno

by Vince

Topics discussed: DADT, BP, Barack Obama, Glenn Beck and Heraldo, and James Carville.

July 28, 2010

The Perks of Preschool

by Vince

Jonah Lehrer in a blog post cites a study that shows not only some IQ improvements by preschool students but improvements in cognitive abilities:

How does preschool work its magic? Interestingly, the Perry Preschool didn’t lead to a lasting boost in IQ scores. While kids exposed to preschool got an initial bump in general intelligence, this dissipated by second grade. Instead, preschool seemed to improve performance on a variety of “non-cognitive” abilities, such as self-control, persistence and grit. While society has long obsessed over raw smarts – just look at our fixation on IQ scores – Heckman and Cunha argue that these non-cognitive traits are often more important. They note, for instance, that dependability is the trait most valued by employers, while “perseverance, dependability and consistency are the most important predictors of grades in school.” Of course, these valuable skills have little or anything to do with general intelligence. And that’s probably a good thing, since our non-cognitive traits are much more malleable, at least when interventions occur at an early age, than IQ. Preschool might not make us smarter – our intelligence is strongly shaped by our genes – but it can make us a better person, and that’s even more important.

July 28, 2010

Rethinking Stadium Food: An Interactive Guide Ctd.

by Vince

A reader writes:

I’m afraid. bleh. Saw it on sportscenter this morning. I don’t even wanna look at Cit Bank’s stats! Bleh bleh bleh.


I can now add this to my already long list of ways to fight off germs. lol

July 28, 2010

What We Talk About When We Talk About Immigration

by Vince

Sara Mayeux writes one of the better immigration articles I have read in some time. It counters the hot-button arguments of today with brevity and provides links to read more. On top of all that, she quoted Patricia Nelson Limerick’s book The Legacy of Conquest, which was one of my favorite history reads in college. In all, this is worth the full read:

Second and relatedly, there’s the selective nature with which the epithet “alien” is applied. Funny how Canadian housewives without proper papers, Irish bartenders who overstayed their tourist visas, Australians who remained abroad when their study abroad was through all seem to escape the opprobrium.

Most nefarious to me, though, is when the “alien” drops off altogether and the adjective “illegal” is transmuted into noun, as when politicos rail against the masses of “illegals” running rampant through the land. It’s not as though undocumented immigrants have some special claim to disregard for federal regulations. At any given moment someone not far from you is probably doing one or more of the following: smoking marijuana, selling cocaine, exceeding the speed limit in a national park, downloading pirated videos, possessing an unregistered firearm, or committing any number of the vaguely defined federal crimes that populate the U.S. Code.

July 28, 2010

Mental Health Break

by Vince

In the words of Dr. Seuss, puzzle and puzzle till your puzzler is sore.
Check out these puzzle games through National Geographic’s Magazine.

July 28, 2010

“Preach the Gospel with your Life and Lips.”

by Vince

Greg Stier refutes the oft-used quote by St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.

I think the idea behind this short but potent quote is that we should be living the message of the gospel of Christ as loudly as we are preaching it. And I agree with that part. Jesus himself said that we should let our “light so shine among men that they may see your good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven”Matthew 5:16.

Over the years I have talked to many Christians way smarter than me who have scoffed at the idea that a message alone could save. Many a progressive Christian I have met mock a propositional approach to sharing the gospel. Maybe it was this same high brow perspective that Paul was referring to when he wrote, “The preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God” in 1 Corinthians 1:18.

What’s interesting is that word “foolishness” in the Greek comes from the word moria. It’s where we get our English word “moronic.”

I have quoted this recently and have either confused some or disagreed with others regarding its value. I have been reminded that “sometimes, the Gospel simply needs to be preached.” Other times, I’ve used this phrase when confronted with the semi-hysterical questioning of “when are you going to tell the youth of today about Jesus?”

I did some light digging and came up with the following:
Simply speaking the “word of God” to someone is not the best mode of operation. I feel that “preaching” to others gives in to our control of matters ultimately not within our full control. This was one of the scenarios given to me: what are you do to if your friend is driving off a cliff (metaphorically speaking of their life) and you refuse to speak the word of God to them? For me, I wouldn’t ever refuse to be there for them and support/guide them in their situation. But the scenario I mentioned takes the Holy Spirit completely out of the picture. Didn’t Paul say something about this?

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.

ChristianityToday wrote an article on a church that made it their goal to literally live out the book of Leviticus. Set aside the general thoughts related to the book for now (such as male circumcision, bodily discharges, consuming blood, and other often debatable topics related to sexual conduct) and hone in on this excerpt:

The experiment underscored the power of experiential learning. Study after study shows that active doing rather than passive listening ensures higher retention and application. A small group of women were so affected by the way their Sabbath observance reordered their priorities and made space for their friendship that they dedicated themselves to its continuance. Others saw how deliberate attention to food and clothing could take on a spiritual dimension. Everyone was surprised on one level or another at how the practice of simply “doing what the Bible says” led to insights as to why some of the more obscure laws made it onto the books to begin with.

Although this article doesn’t discredit sermons, it places a value on the living out of what we learn, read, or profess. I don’t mean this to come off as a works plead or a put down on the weekly purpose of sermons. I have personally dealt with the challenge of creating or finding activities that are interactive for others in relation to history of spirituality and I give a lot of credit to those who do it well.

I feel that after all of this, talking over with others and personally reflecting on our motives and personal learning styles helps see the complexity of interacting with others, the process of learning and growing, and the impact our character has on others.

July 28, 2010

Rethinking Stadium Food: An Interactive Guide

by Vince

Outside the Lines at ESPN presented a report on all 107 stadiums used by the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. What did they find?

ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” reviewed health department inspection reports for food and beverage outlets at all 107 North American arenas and stadiums that were home to Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association teams in 2009. At 30 of the venues (28 percent), more than half of the concession stands or restaurants had been cited for at least one “critical” or “major” health violation. Such violations pose a risk for foodborne illnesses that can make someone sick, or, in extreme cases, become fatal.

At Tropicana Field — home of the Tampa Bay Rays — every one of the stadium’s 47 food and drink outlets inspected incurred a critical violation during inspections within the past year, according to Florida inspection reports. Violations include food residue in a cooler, toxic chemicals stored too close to food preparation areas, “slime” in the ice machines and thermometers not readily visible to measure the temperature of hot foods.

The interactive guide reveals that all of Florida’s stadiums have  had infractions against them. However:

Other industry representatives said that inspection reports can exaggerate threats, pointing out that minor lapses in a rule — such as a temperature gauge not being properly calibrated or a precooked hot dog a few degrees cooler than it should be — can result in a critical violation that really doesn’t pose a risk to consumers.

If you are somewhat cheap like me and do not prefer $7 hot dogs, this doesn’t bother you much. But this raises the philosophical question of whether or not most people want to know about this. Do you just want to go to the new Cowboys stadium for a football game and eat your hotdog in peace? Or do you care that your hotdog may of been heated at a 71 degree level, nearly half of the 135 degree base that it should be held at?

In the end, I feel that the food at the stadiums, other than maybe some peanuts or a $5 bottle of water, hold little nutritional value and are a risk in and of themselves. Now knowing that there may be mice droppings in food prep areas of slime build up in frozen drink machines makes me even more want to pack some food of my own or watch the game on TV.

July 27, 2010

From Inside the Tea Party

by Vince

Joseph Farah speaks on behalf of the Tea Party:

Put another way, if the tea party limits itself to a purely economic or materialistic agenda, can it be successful at addressing the root problems America faces?

Farah doesn’t really give a solid answer as to why the Tea Party has generally focused on fiscal issues (they are Marxists! – wouldn’t this then be a paradox for the TP?) . This is generally true as you see protesters signs. However, Sharon Angle, the Republican candidate backed by the Tea Party in Nevada’s Senate race, connects her running to anti-Washington sentiment and social conservatism, with a bit of God’s grace.
I think that the TP supporters also have strong social views that generally do not come out in these rallies but are still on their plate of grievances. If the Tea Party candidates are elected to office (which as of late have not been happening), they will have to face social issues.

July 27, 2010

Fact Check: Toomey and Sestak

by Vince

Gus Cileon writes in to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey has been inundating the media with ads condemning Democrat Joe Sestak for voting for the “death tax.” The ads state that the government will take up to half of your assets when you die. Inaccurate and partial information is the same as not telling the truth.This tax is really an inheritance tax, which applies only to estates of more than $1 million, and there are further exclusions that can be used to reduce this tax. To act as if all Americans are subject to this tax is just a cheap scare tactic. Why should we vote for someone who so blatantly misleads?

July 26, 2010

Cliché Knows No Genre

by Vince

Thanks to BuzzFeed.

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