Saturday, December 31, 2005

Blogroll Additions!
I've added and updated our blogroll. As usual, Sean Meade takes pride of place. It was Sean who got this all started, and he's a most faithful commenter here. His blog, Interact, is aptly named.

Three new additions to our Kithroll:
Piebald Life - Alex Kirk is a good buddy of mine on InterVarsitiy Staff at UNC-Chapel Hill. He was part of the cohort that went through Gary Deddo's Systematic Theologies (I, II & III) with me. He just started his blog and I am sure it's going to be good reading.
Come and See - Willis & Amy Weber are on InterVarsity Staff at the College of Charleston. They post updates on their ministry as well as pictures of picturesque Charleston, SC.
Loud Time - Dave Zimmerman is an editor at IVP and has anofficial IVP blog. But Loud Time is his personal blog. He wrote a book about superheroes. I'm thinking he's going to have interesting and un-IVP-filtered things to say on his personal blog!

One addition to Commentary:
FT:On The Square - Did you know that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus has a blog? Yep. It's just like the On The Square comments he makes at the back of each issue of First Things. I highly recommend it.

Four additions to Iraq & GWOT:
After a year of talking about Iraq with folks who only had NPR & the MSM as inputs on Iraq, I thought it was high time to make it easier on them to get a more balanced, nuanced, and truthful take on what's happening out there in the big bad world. I highly recommend reading Michael Yon who's an embedded, independent reporter in Iraq.

Friday, December 30, 2005

New Web Page at Stokes McMillan.

We have been using West Publishing's web services for 6 years at our firm. Our new partner, Juan Antunez, took on the project of getting us updated, and with a different webdesigner and host. Juan had already been law-blogging for several months, and you can see that the new site is tied to his blog.

I deliberately kept away from this update process, but would be interested in your thoughts.

I'll make it easy. Take a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the best.

As to "professional look", how would you rate the old one and how would you rate the new one.? (If you don't remember the old one, just rate the new one. I don't think the old one was all that memorable.) We are looking to attract out of town law firms to use us as their local counsel.

As to "layman friendly", how would you rate the old one and how would you rate the new one? We are not trying to get every casual internet user to find us and call us. We are trying to present somthing that a lay person can go to, after he hears about us otherwise, and feel that its worth giving us a call after he checks our site. At least we don't want him put off by it.

And, of course, any other comments would be appreciated.
Statistically Speaking
since Aidan was born, I've seen 90% of all sunrises. Before Aidan was born, I was at about 0%.

I had this thought this morning as he and I were sitting at Sbux and the sun came up. It was a beautiful sunrise. But it kind of made me tired to think about all the sunrises I'd seen.
The Chronicles of Narnia.

Carol, Mary, and I saw this last night at Sunset Place. We enjoyed it. There were fascinating scenes, one of my favorites being the long shot of the beginning of the battle, where the army led by Peter charges the army of the White Witch. In that scene the faster elements of the good army run out ahead of the rest of the army as the charge takes place, as you might expect. Those elements are the cheetas, and it is quite exciting. There is such care and detail given that scene. To me there is a different feel to the battle than the ones in Lord of the Rings - not so much better or worse, just different and just as glorious.

The most surprising scene to me is the one with Father Christmas. (It has been so long since I read the book that I didn't remember that he was in it.) This kindly man pulls his big bag out of the sleigh, and what does he give to each child? Weapons!!! I thought we've been through all that with Santa Claus! We don't give such things in play-toy form to little children, much less the real thing. (At least weapons were also given to the little girls. In a left handed way, at least that was politically correct. Personally, I think when you are really serious about doing some killing, you most definitely arm the women as well as the men.) Putting all the sneaky Christ stuff aside, this idea of arming children to fight evil is really dangerous. I mean, do we really believe there is evil in the first place? Come on!

And the poor White Queen is not so much evil as simply a mess. Let's have the Mary Kay people get ahold of her and let's give her some gift certificates to Ann Taylor. (Where is Father Christmas for her?) She could use some counseling and a case of Sterno. She needs the company of beautiful people. Speaking for all vegetarians all over the world, what happens to her at the end is simply outrageous.

Thank goodness we have King Kong this season to suck away viewers. In that movie, what we thought is evil is good, and what we rely on to keep order, well that's bad. (Gee, I'm getting mixed up here. I think I'll go listen to NPR. They will restore a little reality.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Mexico, Nuestro Amigo.

On the Editorial Page of the WSJ yesterday, Victor Davis Hanson writes a piece rebutting the accusation of "shameful" that Vicente Fox throws at the idea of the US building a wall along the border. I looked at OpinionJournal.com to see if one could read the article there, but not yet. WSJ.com is, of course, a subscription site. (If you would like me to email you a copy of the article, let me know at pstokes@smpalaw.com.)

But the column is definitely worth reading for what has been characterized as the "anti-immigrant" side of the argument. Hanson's thesis is that the largely uncontrolled immigration from Mexico does neither Mexico nor the US any good at all. It enables a repressive economy and political system in Mexico, it damages the economy in the US, and keeps the poor immigrant, who sends his money back home, poor. Hanson, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a Classics guru, has written a book-length critique of our permissive immigration policy in Mexicana: the State of Becoming. I haven't read it, but it looks worthwile.

Hanson has a blog that looks interesting.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

McClintock Christmas 2005 pics
Tut Rules.

Monday afternoon, Mary, Carol, and I visited the King Tut exhibition in Ft. Lauderdale. This is a traveling exhibition that has made a stop in South Florida. It was a crowded scene. Although we had a ticket time, we waited in line for more than 30 minutes before our cohort of 100 plus people finally entered the museum. We made our way through a series of rooms that contained artifacts and information about Ancient Egypt, King Tut, and the discovery of his tomb in the 1920s. The tour was about 90 minutes.

When I emerged, I felt just a little underwhelmed and a bit disappointed. There seemed to be just too many people and not enough stuff. But I think I was, in fact, overwhelmed by what I saw and fatigued by the wait, dealing with crowds, looking at the artifacts, and reading the explanations and commentary. It was plainly not forgettable. I have been thinking about what I saw since Monday, pondering.

There are two overall impressions that I took from the experience. One was that these people, the ancient Egyptians, were a highly sophisticated people, with a complex culture, a people who had carved out a magnificent civilization in a relatively unlikely place, surrounded by enemies that they largely subdued. (Hardly anything new here, of course, but the impact that the exhibit made on me of this point and the next point was profound.)

The second impression was how religious the Egyptians were, how close to the supernatural they lived, how convinced they were of an "after-life". Again, nothing new here, but it seemed to me quite ironic that this exhibit is such a big deal (as it should be) in the present culture where our own elites largely deny the supernatural and an "after-life".

Then I wondered about what the impact the exhibit might have on the people who visited the exhibit. Would their view of the world be changed for the good? Does an exhibit like this challenge and instruct us? Or is it simply a sort of pretty toy that leaves us unaffected as we exit the museum?
A taste of Miami, for those of you who missed out this Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Take that, Pagans!
I'm glad that we celebrate Christmas on Dec 25. It as a direct result of the early battles when Christians were asserting their Power in the Spirit over the ruling Pagan Powers. The Christians didn't just set up their shop next door to the Pagans, feebly saying, "Our God is more powerful than their god." They went in, razed the Pagans' shop, and set their own shop up right where theirs used to be. (David Hart wrote an article about this concept in First Things titled, "Christ and Nothing.")

I suspect that no Jew or Muslim looks at the Mosque on the Temple Mount and thinks, "Gosh, those Muslims really are such accomodationists by building on the site of the Jewish Temple." Um, nope. I suspect that the Muslims rejoice that their real estate choice shows their superiority over the Jews. And I think that the reasons the Mosque irks many Jews (and many Christians) is that we think, "But, our God is greater than yours! It stinks that we're not the victorious ones!"

I asked Kellsey to marry me on October 1st. A year before on October 1st I broke up with her. My choosing Oct 1 for our date of engagement was deliberate and calculated: I wanted to redeem the day, to say, "From now on, October 1st will be a good day". Granted, by bringing attention to that date, we will always remember the "bad" Oct 1. But the memory of that date will now forever be in the context of, "But we didn't stay broken up!" We might remember the bad day, but always with the sweetness of the victory over that day in light of the following October 1.

I assert that the early church behaved the same way in picking their "Let's Celebrate Jesus' Birth!" Day. The early Christians were neither ignorant, stupid nor underhanded in their choosing the 25th as a date. They knew it was a big Pagan day: They'd been Pagans! i.e. Nobody said, "Oh, dang! I was carrying the wrong calendar when we set that date! Why didn't you remind me that it was Saturnalia?"

They knew that their choosing the date would send a meaningful message to themselves and their world. The message, like mine in choosing Oct 1, and the Muslims in topping the Temple Mount was, "Our new celebration trumps the old one. We now take this date as our own as a sign of the superiority of our celebration." i.e. Nobody said, "What does the date matter? Just pick something convenient. Any date is as good as another. Nobody cares when it is."

And it's not something they were just going to sneak into the cultural calendar, somehow capitalizing on the Pagan Festival's momentum to jump start they're their own parties. I can see it now . . . the early church planning committee meeting:
Chair - "How are we going to get folks to our Jesus party?"
Member A - "Well, everyone's already partying on Dec 25th. Can we capitalize on that?"
Member B - "What if we all go to John's Pagan Party, then just start praising Jesus in the middle of it? We'll just turn their party into ours! They'll never know!"
Treasurer - "Yeah, and that way, we'll save costs by not having to buy our own party food!"
Member C - "And if we praise Jesus loudly enough, the Pagans might do it too, even though they'd think they were still partying Pagan Style!"
Member A - "Man, this is going to make evangelism so easy!"
Chair - "Excellent! Next week we'll take on the question: How should we incorporate a bunny into Eastertide? Meeting adjourned!"
Nope.

So bring on the Dec 25 date! Take that, pagans. Our Church Fathers & Mothers kicked your forefathers & mothers collective [redacted]!

Edited to show that I really do understand how contractions work.
Why I'm not bothered by America's Christmas
or "How I learned to stop worrying and love the Mall."

Dad made some interesting points in his post below, which prompt me to share some of my thinking on the upcoming Day of Celebration.
First, a comment about some enemies of a life of devotion to Christ, aka a Devotional Life or, if you like, a Spiritual Life. Two big enemies are Busyness and Stuff. Not that there aren't appropriate times & places to be busy and to have stuff. But I think that two big tensors we experience during Christmastime are that we get increasingly Busy and we participate in a process to accumulate Stuff.

For these two reasons, I've generally been down on American Christmastime. Until this Christmas. For the first time, I've been on the retail side of this equation as well as on the consumer side. I'm on both sides of the cash register, if you will. And one thing that occurred to me a few weeks ago was that this whole glut of consumption is driven by the desire to give a gift. I'll put a stake in the ground here: the desire to give a gift is a good desire.

Of course, this desire gets shaped by unhelpful motivations or misinformed by advertising. Sure it does. So what? When I watch people at the Carts, I watch folks laugh, then think of someone they know and you can read their expressions, "Oh, Johhny will love this! It will make him laugh!" They might then move on to, "And then, while Johhny's laughing, I'll ask him for a raise!" That's trouble, but it's not a problem endemic to Christmastime. It's a broken human problem.

I think that, in general, the rush and expendetures in the Christmas season have at their root the desire to give a gift, which is to give someone a blessing. So I'm thankful for much of what is going on in the retail sector. It'd be nice if more of it went on around the Carts, but that's another thing.

Another thing I realized is that, at least in the retail world, Christmastime is the economic engine for our country. So we live in a country where a major part of its economic success comes from the desire to give gifts. That is, to bless someone else. I think that this is remarkable! (See, I'm remarking on it.) And I'm not ready to buy the argument - "If we didn't have Christmas as retail spike, the general consumption of the USA would just be spread more evenly across the year." I think there's much to be said on the critical mass that is generated by the once a year gift giving moment.

So we get stuff as a result of it. So what? It's not whether you have stuff or not, it's what you do with your stuff that's significant. And I don't mean that the only significant suff-act is divestment of stuff. This can be just as self-centered as the accumulation of stuff.

So it's stuff we might not need. So what? They're gifts. Also, there is a place in God's economy for beauty (even if Beautiful Object has no other function than to be beautiful) and enjoyment (even if Enjoyable Object has no other function than to bring pleasure). (Yeah, you could argue that beauty and pleasure are needs, but you know what I mean here.)

I'm less bothered by this activity at Christmastime than I've ever been. I used to be completely turned off by walking through a mall at this time. All I saw was gluttony, triviality, and the inferiority of everyone around me who "just didn't get it" like I did. Last weekend though, when I was in the biggest and busiest mall in the DFW area I saw people who were looking for things which with to bless others, I saw store employees who were making a living and providing for themselves and families, I saw store owners who were employing those folks as well as for providing for their own families.

(Another thing I've thought about is the difference between the social value of something "homemade" and something "store bought". I think I'll save that for another post.)

Not that I've licked the enemies of my own soul in Busyness & Stuff. Hardly. But it isn't a Christmastime problem. It's a me problem. I have the same problems during the Fourth of July, Summer Solstice, and my birthday. I'm grateful that at least during Christmastime I get reminded about the Incarnation of the Son.

Thanks to Joe Moore for the insight into the enemies of a Spiritual Life. I'm sure he'd be the first to say that they weren't his to begin with, but that doesn't matter to me. I heard it from him first. Two shout outs to Joe in a week! Are you listening, Joe? I'm giving you a "Woo," "Woo."
Humbug!!

I was speaking yesterday with a friend of mine on the phone, and he told me that it was difficult in his family right now because his children wanted to know why there so much Christmas at this time of the year and so little Hannuka. (He and his family are Jewish, obviously.) He was a little surprised when I said that we had a somewhat similar problem in our family, because much that passes for "Christmas" during this season is really not Christian at all, at least in our view, but really pagan. The date, as you know, is a Roman holiday, Saturnalia, (by the way, did you know that the Romans killed Jesus? I bet you someone told you it was the Jews), that the Christmas tree is from the Druids, who delighted in human sacrifice, and that the gifts are from Toys-R-Us. (If you read the New Testament carefully, you will see that the Wise Men, who brought gifts to Jesus, did not come at his birth but as long as two years later. There were not three of them - we don't know know how many they were - and they were not kings. There was a gift when Jesus was born, however, it was a gift of God from God to us, as Christians view it.)

So its difficult for Christian families during this season as well, maybe more difficult than Jewish families, difficult to penetrate the noise, the glitter, the conflicting and often destructive traditions, and to figure out what this is all really about. I would think that Christmas is a good time for Jewish families to reclaim a sense of who they are, in contrast to what Main Street is selling, and I think it is also a good time for Christians to do that. I would say, however, that the Jews are at somewhat of an advantage here, because it obvious that the American culture is not masquerading as a Jewish culture. It is masquerading as a Christian culture, however, and has taken a lot of Christians in. Jesus is not the reason for the Season, as many of my co-religionists assert. To be very honest, there are other reasons for the Season, none of them having to do with Messiah, and I, for one, am not happy about them.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

"The Final Analysis" aka "The Paradoxical Commandments".

Carol and I went to a Christmas part a few days ago for one of the companies we represent. There was a door prize given for whoever could identify the author of this poem. Its a pretty good one, although most of the time I don't want to do whatever its says "anyway".

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Re-Calibrating

Perhaps it's unnecessary, but even the best running machines need to be fine tuned periodically.

Lurkers to K&K: now's the time when you can post your first comment, as everyone is on equal footing with this one.

And now the calibration (aka, discovering the rhetorical norm for the Kith & Kin blog):

A = A

Comment away!

UPDATE 12.23.05: See? That's why I love this blog. We actually comment on A=A. It doesn't matter how trivial or self-evident it is, Kith&Kin bring their wisdom and snarkiness to bear! And if we comment on A=A, we really let loose on A>B or C<>PB&J. Thanks for a very fun year of posts and comments to all K&Kers. For you lurkers out there, jump on in at any time!

For Brian: I feel your pain. Maybe not all of it, as I don't have twins, in addition to Aidan. But some of it. Would you believe 1/3 of it? 1/4th? :-)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

More on beating Napoleon
Sure, there's a lot to say on why Napoleon lost at Waterloo beyond just that he was defeated by Wellington. But the French Army had already been driven back to Waterloo at that point. Wellington and the British Army drove the French Army all the way back to France from a tiny strip of land on the West Coast of Portugal.

Napoleon had swept all of Europe, handily defeating the Spanish and Portugese, before finally hitting the wall that was the British Infantry. Napoleon used his infantry to march en masse over other armies. Other armies broke and ran at the sheer mass of Frenchmen. Since his army was a conscript army, Napoleon simply accepted the losses it took to overwhelm his enemies.

At that time, the English were the only army to practice with live ammunition, and were the most well disciplined army in the world, able to fire and reload their muskets faster than anyone. When Napoleon met the British, he met his first fully trained enemy. The British lines, by and large, did not break, and their "platoon fire" decimated the French army. Platoon Fire: the line of infantry fired in sequence, by platoon, with the first platoon reloaded and firing by the time the last platoon discharged.

In addition to their lines of muskets, the British also used rifles, which Napoleon thought were a waste of time. At the time, infantry used muskets, which could be reloaded quickly (easy to shove the cartridge down) but were inaccurate. If you fired a bunch of muskets together, all pointed in the same direction, the effect was pretty good, though. Hence, the what seems to us strange strategy of lining up all together and firing all at once.

When your main infantry strategy is to simply overwhelm with sheer numbers, it doesn't make sense to take the time to train someone to use a slower loading, more difficult to handle weapon like a rifle. So Napoleon dismissed the Rifle as an ineffective weapon for war.

The British Army, however, already had a culture of rigorous training and used live ammunition. The latter would be an important value to have if you're going to think about using a rifle, the whole point of which is to get good at hitting something. With a musket, all you need to be able to do is reload quickly and point in the right direction. You can practice this without ammunition, as many armies did. The British saw the importance of getting used to the explosive noise, kick and smoke generated by firing the things. But with a rifle, it's even more important to use live ammo, as you'd better be able to check if you are, indeed, hitting something.

The British created Rifle Regiments who would range out in front of their lines as the other army's infantry lines approached. The Rifles would pick off officers & noncoms so that when the two lines of muskets finally met, the other army would already have lost its leadership.

I think that these two approaches to war say something about the two cultures who were clashing. And I think that the British won because their culture's values shaped their - superior - approach to fighting.

I am indebted to Bernard Cornwell and his series on the fictional Richard Sharpe, who, like his naval counterpart, Horatio Hornblower, educated me in the Napoleonic Era British Army values, tactics, and battles. I am also indebted to Joe Moore, who told me, repeatedly, that I would like Sharpe & his adventures. He was so right!
Puzzled with Mexico. Is this MSM at work again, except in the immigration area? Is there really such widespread righteous indignation in Mexico over our wanting a little respect for our borders? I don't know if the wall thing works or not, but isn't there a problem here? What kind of friends are these?
Follow up: Why did Napolean Lose?

Here's a British take on the question.
Laying Waste to Iran without Firing a Single Shot.

(The idea I will hereinafter describe I have heretofore broached in a comment to an earlier post. It is such a brilliant idea that it begs to be hoisted to its very own post.)

The idea is to have our bombers fly over Iran and drop thousand of iPods on the country, with little parachutes. The iPods will be color coded and the colors will relate to particular kinds of music. There will be a color for little kids, another color for teens, another color for young adults, etc. The sorts of music on an iPod of a given color will suit the "demographic" that corresponds to the color.

Following up on this, the US would hoist a satillite that will sit in orbit above Iran and provide free broadband. The second wave of bombers will drop those cheap laptops everyone is talking about, which will be able to connect with the satillite.

The broadband will also, of course, be able to send podcasts to the iPods.

Finally, the bombers will drop batteries and battery chargers appropriate to the country and the electronics previously dropped.

I cannot imagine that this would cost us any more than it would to invade the country. And the loss of life would be minimal.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

T-Shirt Seen at Same Gun Show.

Christian
American
Heterosexual
Pro-Gun
Conservative
Any Questions?
Sign at this Weekend's Coconut Grove Gun Show.

"French Army Rifle for Sale: Like new. Never been fired. Dropped once."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Where's Jesus?
Link to my blog for (what I think) is a cute and interesting interaction between my daughter and Rachelle.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What do you mean, the MSM doesn't give us a straight story on Iraq?
I'm shocked, shocked!

A post from a newly embedded journalist in Iraq:
I’m a journalist. I read the news everyday, from several sources. I have the luxury of reading stuff newspapers don’t always have room to print. I read every tidbit I could on Iraq and the war before coming.

Everything I thought I knew was wrong.

Maybe not wrong, but certainly different than the picture in my head.
Freedom from Relationships; Freedom through Relationships. Over the last two days, I have been listening to the latest tape from Mars Hill Audio, to which "audio magazine" I have subscribed for many years and which source of listening pleasure I heartily recommend.

In one conversation, Ken Myer, the "host", and his guest said something that really struck me. They said that relationships can liberate and not restrict. I have been carrying around that thought all morning.

Often I feel bogged down by the responsibilities imposed by so many relationships in my life. Maybe its a guy thing, but I would really prefer to be left alone most of the time. Maybe all the time. I think, however, that this is part of my fallen nature and not just my male nature. (On the other hand, if Eve had left Adam alone, then maybe things would have turned out better. But I guess Adam was hanging around Eve at the time. Now why in the world was that?)

But right relationships do liberate. Now and then my secretary, Jessica, doesn't come in, for one good reason or another. When she is absent, I sense her absence continuously as I work through the day, even if I am not conscious of it continuously. There is an element of relief with that sense. I am free of her. But in terms of getting my work done, discharging my responsibilities to my clients, I am confined by the lack of assistance. I am not free to do my best work. My relationship with Jessica, then, liberates me as a lawyer. This is a very simple example, of course, but I think it illustrates the principle.

Of course, we all need to be left alone sometimes. Jesus certainly had that need, and he took the time to be by himself. Those times, of course, were when he nourished THE relationship, that with the Father. He was most confined on the cross, when he was "liberated" from even that relationship.
Thanks, Drudge.

Fresh Air? You've Got To Be Kidding. NPR has an interview show called "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross, originating in Philadelphia. Yesterday Gross interviewed Bart Erdman, who she said is chairman of the religious studies department at UNC-Chapel Hill. He just published a book called "Misquoting Jesus".

Erdman described himself as an "agnostic". On the one hand, he described the Bible as the greatest book of Western Civilization. On the other hand, he recited the tired old criticisms of its being full of contradictions and largely irrelevant, at least on more direct issues, such as homosexuality, just war and the like. And, of course, every writer of a New Testament book has a different idea of Jesus. This is "fresh"?

Of course, we want the Bible to be the greatest book of Western civilization, don't we Bart? It helps maintain you in the favored position as tenured professor at Chapel Hill. Then, just to be sure that you can maintain that position among the elites at such places, let's undermine its influence and relevance. I really don't know how one can hold that the Bible is "great" and then hold that it is full of lies and myths. But I guess that's what it means to be "post-modern", and certainly you want to be so "now".

This is not to mention the stewardship of those responsible for the faculty of UNC-CH, who take taxpayer money and spend it on these people so that the children of taxpayers are subjected to this kind of propaganda.

There is, of course, a special sort of perversity in publishing this book at Christmastime and presenting such an interview on NPR when most other radio stations are broadcasting Christmas carols. But we are used to that sort of thing; its nothing "fresh" at all, just contemptible.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

U2 Charlotte - AWESOME!

Lewis Doctrine: Liberation (link for WSJ subscribers).

Here's a few snippets from an article on Bernard Lewis, the British-born Princeton University historian who was one of the intellectual fathers of the Bush administration policy of Mideast transformation.

Mr. Lewis's concern is less about insurgent and terrorist violence and more about growing U.S. domestic opposition to President Bush's Iraq engagement. "I would describe my position as one of cautious optimism," he says in an interview. "My optimism derives from events in the Mideast and my caution derives from observing the United States."

Mr. Lewis adds, "Enable them to achieve or recover their freedom, to which they are entitled no less than anyone in the world. … Our job is not to create democracy. Our job is to remove obstacles and let them create their own."

For all the problems the Bush administration has faced in Iraq, however, Mr. Lewis believes the region and the world are better off now than before the war. "Despite internal difficulties and external sabotage, the process of democratization has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams," he says.

Mr. Lewis believes change in Iraq has also been in no small part responsible for Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and democratic progress there, and "glimmerings" of change in Egypt and Saudi Arabia


Joe Lieberman recently added (also quoted in WSJ editorial), "What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will [in Iraq]...It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander in Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation's peril."

Opposition parties, please move on. Offer up something constructive.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Where arrogance can get you.

I enjoy following the Miami Dolphins professional football team. I don't have season tickets, but I try to catch them on TV and on the radio when I can, and then I listen to the sportstalk shows, which are just about the lowest form of mass communication thus far invented. You may be surprised to know that I find the Dolphins much more interesting to follow now than they were during the Marino years. The team's struggles create a lot of drama, and how the players and coaches deal with adversity is worth the attention. With Nick Saban as their new coach this year, they have become particularly fun to follow. Saban is a thoroughly competent, no-nonsense guy, and he really doesn't seem to care much what the various sports "journalists" think, and I definitely like that. And he is doing a great job.

The Dolphins beat San Diego Sunday and I got to watch the first half and about 4 minutes of the second half before "life" interrupted. San Diego was a two touchdown favorite, after a slow start they had become one of the NFL's "hot" teams, and everyone was looking forward not to the Dolphins game but the game with the undefeated Colts, the game the week following the game with the Fins. As I began watching the Dolphins game, I could see the arrogance in the San Diego players as they roughed up the dolphins pretty well that first quarter. Perhaps the most obvious acts of contempt that the Chargers committed were the two fourth down plays that they ran instead of punting. The first time they made the first down. As San Diego got ready to run a fourth down play a second time, the TV commentators, who had talked about the Dolphins with a sort of gentle disdain, said that calling such play again on fourth down was an insult to the Dolphins. And it turned out to be a "down too far". When San Diego failed to make the first down, I thought that it could be the game's turning point, and I believe it was. The Dolphins went on to win, an "improbable victory" as I heard the talking heads say. I also thought it a lesson in what arrogance can do to talent. What hard work and staying focused can do for the underdog. What a few small stones can do to a giant.

I see arrogance all the time. All the time. I don't talk about my cases often on the blog, for obvious reasons, but we have a recent case in our office where a lawyer's arrogance led his client into years of expensive litigation that is still ongoing. The lawyer was excellent in one area of the law, but not so good in the area where we practice, and the outcome was inevitable.

Regarding the work you are doing, do you feel like you are just hanging on by your fingernails? That's my usual mode of self-evaluation. I have just no idea how I manage year after year to practice law well enough to pay the mortgage. (Well, I do have an idea: the grace of God.) The "hanging by one's fingernails" point of view is probably not a bad working image to carry around in one's head most of the time. I'm not depressed by that image - it probably works for me. Not only does it "work", its probably the right image.

Our Friday morning breakfast group has been in the midst of the Book of Job for about 16 years. (Well, it seems like 16 years. Our leader, Austin, finds it so fascinating that he won't let go of it.) We have concluded (we are hardly the first so to conclude) that Job's problem, finally, was pride. He was proud to be righteous. He was crafting a life that approached perfection - his own life. That pursuit was the focus of his attention. But God is a jealous God, and so he deals with Job as he does.

Go Dolphins!
Pat Talbot. I think I have posted about my Friday morning breakfast Bible Study. Patrick Talbot, a lawyer who had been our group since I began years ago, moved with his family last summer to Pohang, South Korea, to teach at the Hangdong International Law School. I received a Christmas letter from his wife, Kathy, which was great to read. Take a look at the website for the university and then find your way to the law school and, finally, to Pat's bio under the faculty tab.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

9:55 p.m.
As the Sunday night in all its anxiousness and lonliness stretches on, I find myself craving some prayer from the kith and kin community. We have dabbled some in the way or prayer requests previously on this blog, but this could be the first outright, bulletin-ready list. It's short, don't worry, and not too grave. I do live a truly blessed life. It is completely self-indulgent, however; but if we're not entitled to that in prayer, then where can it happen?

1. That I would continue to understand just how it is I should seek first the kingdom.
2. That I would begin to have some idea of where to go and what to do next.
3. That God would bring around that guy I outlined on my list sooner rather than later.

Thanks, folks. I look forward to the blessing of your prayers.
Iraq News
read the whole thing at Strategypage, but while you wait, I'll cherry pick it for you. (Kith & Kin is a full-service blog, don'tcha know!)
If it weren't for Internet access to troops, expatriates and Iraqis in Iraq, you would think that coalition military operations in Iraq were a major disaster, and that prompt withdrawal was the only reasonable course of action. But the mass media view of the situation is largely fiction, conjured up in editorial offices outside Iraq, with foreign reporters in Iraq (most of them rarely leaving their heavily guarded hotels) providing color commentary, and not much else. So what do the troops and Iraqis say?
*snip*
First, there is definitely a terrorism problem. Not an insurgency, not a guerilla war, not a resistance.
*snip*
Second, there is a cultural crises, in the Arab world in particular, and the Moslem world in general.
*snip*
Third, the bad guys are really, really bad, but they have many prominent allies around the world. Most Iraqis cannot understand how so many media outlets in the West can keep giving favorable coverage to the Sunni Arab terrorists. These guys are butchers, and many used to work for Saddam, committing the same kind of mayhem. Yet these European reporters come looking for Sunni Arab "victims" of "American imperialism." How strange is that? Nothing strange, just another cultural quirk. The Europeans are much more risk averse than Americans. We all remember the 1930s, where most of Europe left Hitler alone, hoping that they could talk sense into him, or that he would go away.
*snip*
lastly, we have the major differences between the media version of what's going on, and the military one. The media are looking for newsworthy events (bad news preferred, good news does not sell, and news is a business). The military sees it as a process, a campaign, a series of battles that will lead to a desired conclusion. The event driven media have a hard time comprehending this process stuff, but it doesn't really matter to them, since the media lives from headline to headline. For the military, the campaign in Iraq has been a success. The enemy, the Sunni Arabs, have been determined and resourceful. But the American strategy of holding the Sunni Arabs at bay, while the Kurds and Shia Arabs built a security force capable of dealing with the Sunni Arab terrorists, has worked. But that's good news, and thus not news. But every terrorist attack by Sunni Arabs is news, and gets reported with intensity and enthusiasm.

I just picked out the thesis points of the paragraphs, so if you take issue with one, please go over and read the paragraph before commenting. Thanks!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

"I'm very suprised how religious the British people are --
they celebrate Christmas a month ahead,"

commented Art Hartounian, a member of Iraq's first Boy Band, Unknown To No One.

He said this upon arriving in England to train for his band's debut. The article about the band was on the front page of today's WSJ.

I guess that's one way to look at it. :-)

Thursday, December 08, 2005


How about some Christmas art on this Blog?

I think pictures of grandkids qualify as art!
Freedom
"The concept of freedom as man's rightful claim and due is equally contradictory and impossible. So is the thought of man 's acquiring freedom by earning it or buying it at any price. The idea that man can conquer freedom as God's antagonist and defiantly wrench it from Him is untenable. Man has no real will power. Nor does he get it by himself. His power lies in receiving and in appropriating God's gift. The event of man's freedom is the event of his thankfulness for the gift, of his sense of responsibility as a receiver, of his loving care for what is given him. It is his reverence before the free God who accepts him as His partner without relinquishing His sovereignty. This event alone is the event of freedom."


Rules, or not
"Ethics must be understood as the attempt, scientific or otherwise, to cope with the question of good and evil in human behavior. Ethics according to our assumptions can only be evangelical ethics. The question of good and evil is never answered by man's pointing to the authoritative Word of God in terms of a set of rules. It is never discovered by man or imposed on the self and others as a code of good and evil actions, a sort of yardstick of what is good and evil. Holy Scripture defies being forced into a set of rules; it is a mistake to use it as such."


Karl Barth, "The Gift of Freedom," in The Humanity Of God.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Breaking News

According to Trivial Pursuit, tigers have killed over 1 million people in Asia over the last four hundred years.

Where's the outrage in the MSM? I'll be the voice of the eaten.
Petra Retires!
Read about it at their website here.

Man, we listened to a lot of Petra growing up. And as much as I like to poke fun at them these days, I really did enjoy listening to them in Junior High and High School. See? I'm not afraid to admit it. So now, let us not speak ill of the dead! Petra was the gateway drug for me to get into rock & roll, both Xtian and Secular.

And, btw, did you know that their final album was nominated for a Grammy? Did you know they had a recent album? I didn't.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sunday, December 04, 2005

news from the front: Embedded blogger Bill Roggio reports on the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment and it's securing of the Haditha Dam in Iraq.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Funny!
despair.com launched their new website yesterday. Go check it out!

Especially check out the new streaming videos available. Morgan makes an appearance in one of them.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Iraq again
It's been a while since I've posted on the Iraq war, or the Global War On Terror (GWOT). But mostly that's because I haven't had anything new to say about it since I last posted. I still think it was and is the right and justified thing to do. I'm taking this break from my normally scheduled silence on the matter to note two things.

One: I am so glad that Bush is finally strongly articulating the reasons to stay & work in Iraq. I happened to be in the car on the way to San Antonio during his speech yesterday, so I got to hear it live and in its entirety. It was a good speech. I was actually moved to tears a couple of times in it. (Though my general level of fatigue and the caffiene coursing through my veins probably contributed to my emotional state.)

Two: No, seriously, there is absolutely no moral equivalence between what we've done and are doing in Iraq, even with all the mistakes we've made along the way, and what Iraq was like under Saddam's reign. This point was brought home to me, again, by this article by John Leo. Leo writes about John Burns, "the great NYTimes reporter" who savages the Western Media in being complicit in Saddam's terror and oppression of his own people.
Burns, who has covered China, the Soviet Union, Afghanistan and Bosnia, says the terror of Saddam Hussein's Iraq was unmatched anywhere in the world, except perhaps by North Korea today. Iraq was a vast slaughterhouse, he says, but most Western reporters worked hard to keep the news from getting out because they were afraid of losing access or getting expelled from Iraq. The monstrous savagery of life under Saddam -- the vast tortures and up to a million dead -- was "the essential truth that was untold by the vast majority of correspondents," he writes.
He says of Iraq: "We now know that this place was a lot more terrible than even people like me had thought. They (reporters) rationalized it away."

Though President Bush chose to make weapons of mass destruction his principal argument against Saddam, Burns writes, "this war could have been justified any time on the basis of human rights alone. This was a grotesque charnel house, and also a genuine threat to us. We had the power to end it and we did end it."

Even if as many as 5,000 Iraqis died in the war, Burns writes, that's fewer than would have died if Saddam's killing machine had gone on as usual during the six-week period of battle. The war should have been justified on this basis, he says, "but you'd never have known it by reading most of the coverage of the war by those correspondents."