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

I Can't Resist Posting this Photo.



Aidan and I got together this weekend.

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."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

For Mary

We recently received a request for more video of Aidan walking. So, here you go. In the beginning, you may notice he's tapping his head repeatedly. This is his sign for "hat". Also, we were disappointed to discover that once compressed for the .mac account, the scenes in black were much more difficult to see than when we originally made them. The effect is actually quite interesting when it is not so compressed. So, we're sorry that you can't really see it. If you really want to see the video in its highest quality, you just come on down to the Stokes house here on Sage Creek and help yourself to a heaping helping of Stokes family love.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

And Speaking of Richard Scarry . . .


Young Walter's Turn.

In Mr. Harris' chair, getting ready.

All trimmed up.
Several Years Earlier . . .

Before.

After!
From Bill Bennett - Bennettmornings.com

On Showing Support to the Iraqis & their Dec. 15 Election, from the NRO/CORNER
PURPLE REVOLUTION [Bill Bennett], 11-28-05

I don't know if the idea is original with our audience or not, it's a big country and hard to keep track of all the good ideas out there--but we had a caller today with a great idea, an inoculation against the tide of the Main Stream Media's (or what I call the Alien Media Nation) constant denigration of our fight and effort in Iraq. The continued drumbeat against the war in our culture, high and low, can only serve to hurt the morale of our soldiers and our allies--including the Iraqis themselves. They, despite all we see and hear, are going to the polls next month--for their third election in a year, each election being a remarkably courageous demonstration. So how do we show them our support? How do we let them--and our soldiers--know we stand with and behind them? Americans should start putting purple ink on their right index fingers the week before their Dec. 15 election. And let Iraqis, let American soldiers, let our allied forces see that demonstration here. NBC, CNN, the New York Times want a picture to tell a thousand words? They want a picture of how the majority of Americans feel? Let 'em print our purple fingers--and let the Iraqis on Dec. 15 show even more.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Crisis Averted!
There is a shocking lack of first-born son pictures on this blog. Blah blah blah Hurricane Damage, blah blah football, blah blah blah sister. Whatever.

Thankfully, I am able to solve this dearth of quality photography by unveiling (dum da da dum!)
Aidan's First Haircut
Back in my day, I was taken to this place called a "barber shop" where there worked a "barber" and I sat in the "barber's chair," which looked nothing like a taxi cab. Nothing.

I did, though, get a lollipop afterwards.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Photos from the Ball Game.

We arrived early and sat toward the NW end of the venerable Orange Bowl. Carol snapped this of Mary and me.

A little later, as the stadium filled up, I snapped this of Carol and Mary.


Some game action.


The UM Band takes the field.
A view of the east end zone, the beautiful South Florida sky, and the downtown Miami skyline in the distance. (You can just see the top of our building. Its in front of the taller building with tower on it, which you can see to the left of the end zone sign.)
Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever

Our kids grew up with Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever and it was one of their favorite books in their young years. They would often leave the book open on a chair in our family room so that they could go over to it through the day to look at the illustrations and words and maybe point out some pictures to me so that I could tell them the word for that picture. In addition to identifying individual words the book also had a bit of a narrative to go along with the various scenes. There were also characters who recurred throughout that book and other books by Richard Scarry. Lowly Worm was one of my favorite characters (he lived inside a bright red apple), and there were also Huckle Cat, Lowly's best friend, and Sergeant Murphy, the town policeman, among others. We read and loved the book so much that by the time our children had outgrown it our book was completely worn out.

When we learned we were going to have a grandchild that was one of the books I knew I wanted to get for the baby even though it would be a while before he could appreciate it. I began to look for it in bookstores and couldn't find it at first. Then one day I spotted it and immediately bought it. When I looked through it it looked similar, though somehow not quite the same, and it seemed thinner (fewer pages) than I remembered it. But still I was very glad to have found it and we gave it to Aidan. So I was disappointed when I read this post today on Althouse. Apparently in the newer version of the book they changed some things to make the book more "politically correct" than the old version. Some of the changes seem ok. Others seem to have taken some of the personality out of the book and also some of the life and drama that made it so interesting to our children and made them want to know the word for every illustration they saw. It also seems they've removed some of the values that were good for children to learn.

Follow the link to the Althouse and her comments and then her link to Flickr to see some of the changes for yourself. The Flickr link is very clever - you can see the changes as a slide show if you want and some parts of the pictures have comments when you move your cursor over them. The version we had was definitely the earlier edition. I think I'd like to start looking around used book stores to see if I can find the original version. (By the way, this post is by Carol.)
Going to the UM-UVA Football Game. Mary visited for Thanksgiving. She has friends in Winston from UVA. We decided to go to the UM-UVA football game yesterday at the Orange Bowl, so she could (we hoped) Lord it over them when she got back. (That is not why she said she wanted to go, but the poor thing is related to me, and that's certainly why I would have wanted to go.)

It has been many, many years since we went to a UM game - we always enjoyed them with the kids, up there in the end-zone cheap seats with the family package. We adopted UM as our school back in the late 70s, mainly because Duke had a terrible football team and, otherwise, the cultural/value distance between Duke and us seemed to grow larger as the years went by. And being in Miami, where its population is alienated from that of the rest of the state for one reason or another, the 'Canes were a natural. And we hit the football team just as its curve of success went dramatically upward.

For this game, we bought the tickets over the internet, and we had no seating choice - the tickets were simply assigned and they were all the same price ($50). That was very different from the old days. Furthermore, we were on the north side of the Orange Bowl, where the visitors usually sat. As I looked out over the north side, which was about full, and then looked over to the south side, the "Miami side", it was plain that the north side had many more people in it. And those on the north side, like us, were all for the 'Canes. Then it struck me - TV - the cameras and the broadcast booths are on the south side, they look to the north. So the strategy is to fill up the north side so the place looks crowded and boisterous (and it was). We were not so much spectators as spectatees, not so much UM fans but extras on a gigantic set.

But that's ok.

We were there plenty early to look at the warm ups. At one point, the entire UM team was on the east half of the field, lined up in rows across the filed, a row on each 5 yard line division, doing calisthenics. As they did that, I saw Coach Coker go up and down each line, shaking each player's hand and speaking to him. He took his time with that task and often had a short conversation with a player. Is this the usual sort of thing for a coach to do? It seemed to fit the idea I have of Larry Cocker - a fine Christian gentleman.

Alcohol consumption has always been an issue. I remember at one point no beer was sold at UM games, and it was controversial when they began doing so. The policy was not to sell any after the first half. As we went into the stadium, I noticed booths where they were selling not beer, but wrist bands that would entitle you to a bottle (plastic bottles it turns out). You could buy and have affixed to your wrist, two wristbands - for two bottles. I don't know how they keep track of people who, after using their wrist bands, go back and buy two more at a different booth, but at least they are trying to dampen the problem. And it looked to me like they were pretty successful. I saw people whose boisterousness seemed to be assisted by the hop, but I didn't see anyone who was fall-down drunk or mean and obnoxious.

Speaking of food and beer sales, I saw no vendors going up and down the aisles selling anything, not beer, not food - nothing. I saw people go and bring back stuff (awful stuff) to eat and drink - but no "beer guys" or those sorts of people. Maybe they were there and I didn't see them.

The fans were half the show, and I had forgotten how much fun it was just to look at people. 'Canes football in Miami really brings the community together, in all its amazing homogenizing diversity.

The game itself was a lot of fun. UVA had a good team - quick and crafty, with a smart and talented quarterback, and I thought they played with more intensity at times than did UM. The 'Canes did well to win, and the final score did not do justice to the Cavalier effort. I would say that, finally, the 'Canes were the better team, but not all that much. And UVA could have beaten them.

We parked in some public parking lots, north across the Miami River from where the Orange Bowl is located. These are lots at the "Government Center" where reside the state courts and other state buildings. The lots are opened and managed for the 'Canes games, and there were some tail-gate parties under way as we rolled in. We drove through a group of tail-gaters who wore orange shirts, and I thought they were UM fans. There was a guy playing a trumpet and the tune I did not get at first. When we got out of our car, I recognized the tune: "I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech . . . ". These people were UVA fans! They were rubbing in that unfortunate loss to the Yellow Jackets.

Fortunately, no one but the Stokes family in Dade County has any idea what that tune meant, because Georgia Tech is as familiar as the Czech national ice hockey team. So I am sure those folks got out alive.
Holy Skype! Have you seen this? RadioShack rules!

Actually, the Morningstar analyst does not believe RadioShack rules. He thinks that Best Buy, Amazon, and Circuit City will eat their lunch, not to mention the tech innovators who direct sell. The analyst thinks that RadioShack's "moat" is in selling batteries and accessories. (I think he means those things in the back of the store.) He points out that as a percentage of revenue, those categories have been declining.

What do you think? Is there a shopper who doesn't want to deal with a big box store and with the internet, and whose main exposure to technology is walking into a RadioShack while his wife is doing the mall thing. Macon says that he has not seen too many customers in the RadioShacks of the malls he has been in recently. Is this a business model that will work?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Black Friday. So Macon & Walter, consider this post a soliciation for a post from you regarding your first Black Friday as a retailer. Did today bring "we're-finally-in-the-black" bliss :) or despondant sorrow as in, "oh-shucks-we're-in-deep-pooh-pooh." :(

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"The Return".

Disclaimer: I don't think I give the plot away of this great movie. But proceed at your own risk.

The Christianity Today movie reviews listed this movie as one of the "10 most redeeming movies of 2004". It is a 2003 Russian movie about what happens when a father, absent from his family for 12 years, returns. The story centers on the relationships between the father and his two sons, the older about 16 and the younger about 13, and the two sons with each other.

Both boys are desperately hungry for a father. They have an old, well thumbed photo of their family hidden in an old trunk, and, at the beginning of the movie, when they learn the father has just returned and they see him asleep, they run to the hiding place and look at it to verify that the man they saw asleep is the man in the old picture. The photo shows the four of them, mother, father, and tiny boys, the 12 year old hardly more than a baby, happily together, a complete family, which must be the storyteller's idea of the best life can offer and with which idea I heartily agree. (This photo is tied to another, similar photo that the boys find at the end of the movie.)

Not long into the movie, the father takes the boys on a fishing trip. The older boy is compliant and submissive but the younger boy is angry about his father's absence, which is explained neither to the boys nor to us, except for hints as the story unfolds. The father must discipline the younger son (who is played by a simply remarkable young actor), and must admonish him even to call him "Dad". That terribly difficult relationship, the newly returned father and the younger son, is the lever that propels the plot. The heart of the movie is the fishing trip, but there is a sequence of photos shown at the very end of the movie which seems to offer hope to a deep, sad narrative.

I don't want to give any more away, but I will say that it is well worth a view. See the movie with some friends and then reserve some time to discuss it.
Blueprint for Action. Tom Barnett is a favorite of Sean, and I can understand why. Barnett has written a new book entitled Blueprint for Action, which I would like to read after reading this informal review by a youngish Army veteran of Bosnia and Iraq. The subject matter is the challenge of building political, social, and economic infrastructure in territory that one's army occupies. That task has fallen, in fact, to our Armed Forces in Bosnia and Iraq, and the thesis is, I think, that our country needs to develop a separate "systems" force to do this sort of thing

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Semper Fi.

Drudge points to this article on the question of how the US would come out in a war with China.

Here's a quote from this article:

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has gone public, warning that the United States would lose any war with China.

"In any case, if tension between the United States and China heightens, if each side pulls the trigger, though it may not be stretched to nuclear weapons, and the wider hostilities expand, I believe America cannot win as it has a civic society that must adhere to the value of respecting lives," Mr. Ishihara said in an address to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mr. Ishihara said U.S. ground forces, with the exception of the Marines, are "extremely incompetent" and would be unable to stem a Chinese conventional attack. Indeed, he asserted that China would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons . . .
Torture
I like this take on torture. What do you think?

Monday, November 21, 2005

More on "True Spirituality". I am into chapter 4 of this little book by Francis Schaeffer, and I had to put it down and blog about it, it is so interesting.

He posits two realities, side by side in "space-time" as he puts it. He writes:

However, the point I would establish at this stage of our study of spirituality is the fact that there are two equal lines of reality presented to us in the universe. We are in the seen world and there are also Christians who have died, and who are with Christ now. It is not a primitive view, a kind of three-story concept of the universe. This is the biblical view of truth: there are two streams, two strands, a space-time reality-one in the seen, and one in the unseen.

Schaeffer writes that when we become Christians we are given "the earnest of the Holy Spirit" (2 Corinthians 5:4,5). With the Holy Spirit, we are now united with God and those in heaven, the people who are now with Christ, the angels, and so forth. He also cites for this proposition Hebrews 12:22-24. This is seriously cool.

This made me reflect on Scott's joke about celebrate vs. celibacy. There are a lot of jokes like that, that is, there are a lot of jokes about people dying and going to heaven, meeting St. Peter, etc. (I particularly like the ones about lawyers.) But these are really pagan stories. In these stories, Christ is far off, God is far off, we don't see Christ. Instead, we see some sort of reality empty of God but full of irony. We see the heaven of the non-Christian, the heaven of doubt and uncertainty, a faithless heaven, the heaven of the final joke that the gods play on us poor creatures.

I think the next time I hear a heaven joke, I am going to laugh and then I am going to ask the opportunity to describe what heaven is really like to me as a Christian. I will say that when a Christian dies, he is immediately with Christ, period. And then I would say that, even as we speak, I,as a Christian, having received the earnest of the Holy Spirit, am living at a junction of the two realities, and that I already find myself a citizen of the City of God, that is, already part of heaven.

I think this is why we say that when we die we go "home". Heaven is made our home the instant we accept Christ. It was not our "home" the instant before. This "seen" reality was our home.

During the dark days of my chemotherapy treatment, I often thought of what it was going to be like to die. What would actually happen? In response to those thoughts, I had this picture of Christ being there to greet me. He sort of looked like those pictures of Jesus with which we populate the walls of our children's Sunday School classes, but I think that was all right. And behind this Jesus was my grandfather with his big smile, Carol's dad, and other favorite people of mine who had gone on before. There was no one there to ask me any qualifying questions or otherwise examine me. There was simply Jesus and the others greeting me. It was quite an attractive picture, and very comforting.

The implications of Schaeffer's idea of two realities are quite marvelous. So you need to get the book and read it. Then tell me what you think.
Twinkle? Today I went to a deli for a take out lunch. The place had a TV on that was tuned to MSNBC. This was around 1215 PM. There was a debate going on among four people about the Bush policy on Iraq. I watched it while I waited for my order.

One of the people representing the Bush side was Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. She is the chairman of the Republican Party in Alabama. Twinkle was being chopped up into little pieces by at least two of the other three panel members. I thought to myself, "Is this lady the best the GOP can do in one of these debates, or did some clever MSNBC producer load the dice by having her represent the administration's views."

Maybe I caught her on a bad day.

Sometimes I think the White House and the GOP just don't get communicating with the country.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Wait Til Next Year
Probate Lawyer Loses Control at Book Fair. Carol and I made our annual visit to the Miami International Book Fair yesterday. We heard William Kristol and Robert Kagan of the Weekly Standard. They are touting a book that is a collection of articles from that magazine published during the last ten years, which were the magazine's first ten years. I managed to resist buying that book.

But I completely broke down at the next author's session. This one had three authors, the common thread among them being that they wrote about military/naval subjects. Robert N. Macomber talked about his novel The Dishonorable Few. This is the latest in a series of novels he has written with a 19th Century US Navy officer, Peter Wake, as its hero. Macomber introduces Peter Wake first in At the Edge of Honor, where Wake is a Master of a small sloop stationed in Key West during the Civil War. Because it was the first in the series, I bought that book and read it this weekend. Its a worthy additon to the genre that includes Hornblower and Aubrey. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

David E. Fisher spoke about his latest book, A Summer Bright and Terrible: Winston Churchill, Lord Dowding, Radar, and the Impossible Triumph of the Battle of Britain. Fisher is a prolific writer and a professor at the University of Miami. He has a PhD in nuclear physics, but "is currently a professor of cosmochemistry and environmental sciences", according to the book jacket. I bought the book. I hope its as good as Fisher's talk.

The third author is a former officer in the Special Forces, Lt. Col. Will Irwin [ret], who wrote The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944. This tells about groups of 3-man special forces units that were parachuted into France just ahead of D-Day to link with the Resistance and disrupt supply lines, blow up bridges, etc., in connection with the invasion. Irwin said he first became acquainted with this effort while at Ft. Bragg in his Special Forces unit. He helped coordinate a reunion of the veterans of these units and got to know many of them. At about the same time, the Defense Department and CIA declassified a lot of the materials on this project and he began reading those materials. When he retired, he found the time to write this history. I found the author and the subject so interesting that I bought this book too.
A Cheerful Giver, Yes, but a Careful One Too. This article in the NYT makes me think we should be more careful about giving money to the American Red Cross. What a shame that this orgnization is acquiring a doubtful reputation in handling charitable gifts.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

More Hurricane Wilma Photos The last set generated so much excitement, that we decided to post a few more.


This is the west side of One Biscayne Tower, the building where we officed for five years and which is just east of our present office.

The white marble stucture is an artwork/child's slide in Bayfront Park that the kids are familiar with. The winds blew part of it down. Bayfront Park is downtown, along Biscayne Boulevard.

This is also of Bayfront Park, at the north end. The picture shows the roof at the rear of the amphitheater in shreds.

Here we are back in Miami Springs. A huge ficus tree is down, its roots pulling up the sidewalk. A guy often mistaken for Lance Armstrong got into this picture with his bike.

This looks east on Dove Avenue from a point in the street directly in front of our house. A large black olive tree was pushed over and blocks the street. Just beyond it had been another of those trees that blew down in Katrina, and now this one in Wilma.

This is the Lahmeyer's house, one-half block west of us on Dove Avenue. Van and Juliet are the minister of our church and his wife. We had some joint suppers together during the troubles.

This is taken from our side yard, looking southwest toward the Simpson's house.

This is taken from the northeast corner of our house, looking into the front yard of our neighbors. Our neighbor has already cut back the branches from the fractured tree that you see in the picture.
Why we hardly watch and never support PBS. The left-wing slant of PBS went quite vertical in our view when the McLaughlin Group, which we had watched for many years, adopted Pat Buchanan's isolationist point of view with regard to the Iraq War. Since then, only Tony Blankley from time to time expresses views sympathetic to the Bush Administration, and he is usually shouted down by Eleanor and McLaughlin himself. So we stopped watching that show and anything else on PBS.

Until "The Journal Editorial Report" came on the air. This is a fine show and it has gotten better as the WSJ people who usually populate the panel have become more comfortable with the format. My only criticism is that the precious 25 minutes of air time is too much taken up by video features that are intended to introduce the subject that will then be discussed by the panel. (I think those features are unnecessary.) Carol and I have tried to make it a part of our Friday evening date night and have been mostly successful.

Now the JER is part of the controversy involving the deposed chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ken Tomlinson, a Bush administration appointee who dared to suggest that the Bill Moyers party line might require a little balance.

This led the WSJ to devote all of its "Review & Outlook" space on Thursday to this controversy. The commentary, entitled PBS and Us is worth a read.

This will be the last season for the JER, according to the editorial, for reasons other than this controversy. I will be sad to see it go. Carol and I will just have to spend more time at Publix on Friday nights.
Favorite Blogs of WSJ-types. Wednesday's issue of the WSJ had some "favortie blog" articles. Here are a few that caught my eye.

Regarding real estate, curbed.com, theslatinreprot.com, and footnoted.org got nods.

Health care: pharmamarketingblog.com and thehealthcareblog.com.

Digital content: paidcontent.org.

Here's one for Lindsay that deals with television issues: Mediabistro.

The tech writer for the WSJ, Walter Mossberg, also listed his favorites:

one for "general gadget lovers"; one for "serious techies", with which I think some of you are familiar (Slashdot.org);

a blog by David Gillmor, "a former newspaper columnist and champion of 'grass roots journalism';"

one on cellphones, Phone Scoop;

digital cameras, Digital Camera Resource Page; and

iPod lovers, iLounge;

People who follow Microsoft have two top sites in Mossberg's book, one by a Microsoft employee, Robert Scoble, and another by a stock analyst, Joe Wilcox.

Mossberg notes that there are a bunch of blogs by people who follow Apple, and he lists several. The one he cites that sounds most interesting to me is Crazy Apple Rumors.
Fowl with the Flu are not the Only Deadly Chickens in China. An opinion piece by Nicholas Eberstadt in the WSJ this week, entitled Old Age Tsunmami, indicates that the abortion chickens in China are coming home to roost.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What was Your Literary Crush? Slate has an article where Names write about the books that influenced them most in college. It got me to thinking about mine. (It is all about me, of course.) Its been so long ago, give me a minute to remember just which college that was.

OK.

Magazines that were memorable were not included, which is just as well.

For me, they were

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism.

The Human Use of Human Beings by Norbert Weiner.

Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament. (I was so pleased at the time that I could read a "modernist" text with great pleasure and interest and still retain an orthodox view of scripture.)

Then Winthrop Hudson's Religion in America, the umpteenth edition of which text was being taught at Davidson when my kids were there.

War and Peace I read a second time and sort of "got it". The first time I read it I was in high school and really didn't get it.

Don Quixote. I read this in English.

Dante's Divine Comedy.

Robert Penn Warren's All the Kings Men.

Casona's La Barca sin Pescador. This is a short novel that I read in Spanish.

I look back at that time with amazement. "Your assignment, whether you like it or not, is to read really good books." Wow. What a privilege.
Study: Dads are Important. But I think we knew that. (Hat tip to Instapundit.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Aftermath of Hurricane Wilma in Miami Springs.

Not exactly Biloxi, but still a mess.


Our next door neighbor's backyard, and what was left of a 30 foot plus avacado tree.

We live on a corner. This is our neighbor across the street, to the west of us. This is the house where the former neighbor was murdered, and I testified in the murder trial against the perp. But I digress . . .

This is looking at the NE corner of our house. Two tall fishtail palms were knocked over.

We were taking a picture of fallen underbrush, and this homeless person got in the picture. If the poor fella breaks your heart, you can send us contributions, and we will be sure he gets them.

There is a piece of someone's porch hanging in this tree. That's what makes this such an important photo.
"It's the most startling public turnaround since Bob Dylan's "Slow Train Coming" announced that he'd been born again."

Anne Rice a Christian. I am startled. But praise the Lord!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Papal Humor:
One of the Popes died and went to heaven. He immediately asked to see the heavenly library. Entering into the ornate library with its zillion of world’s books and decrees from God, he set about to do some research. Upon finding what he hoped was not there, he began to sob and his cries got more and more loud.

Soon St. Peter came stomping into the library all upset. He said in very stern tones: “You cannot cry in heaven. It is forbidden, besides, there is nothing to cry about. Now what is the problem here?”

The Pope pointed to the heavenly decree before him and sobbed out: “There is an ‘r’ in it; there’s an ‘r’ in it!!!” It says “CELEBRATE” not celibate!!!”
More Grist for the NotForSpurrier Mill. Steve takes a shot at Bobby.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fiscally speaking, the Sky will Fall. At least according to these authorities. So I guess I'll keep working.
A Home-cooked Meal is a Blessing. Children show increases in risk factors for heart disease and diabetes if they eat out four times a week or more, research finds.
I Need Help Here. I simply don't understand the Administration's position on McCain's anti-torture amendment. It certainly feeds the impression that Jimmy Carter is right on the values thing.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Peter Drucker died on November 11. Thanks to Sean for pointing at a good, short bio and bibliography on wikipedia here.

Update. Some excerpts of some of Drucker's writings, from the WSJ.

Further Update. This commentary by Steve Forbes, also in the WSJ.
Starbucks Bluetooth Declamation Dance. I walked into SBs this morning, so I can stand in line and over-pay for hypercaffienated/wayacidic brew. As I walk in, I notice a young man standing at one end of the Starbucks, the end at which I am entering, talking out loud. I see a man sitting near him at the window. Is that the person to whom he is talking? As I walk by him, I realize he isn't; he has a thingee in his ear on the other side of his head, which I couldn't see at first, and he is talking on his cellphone. He does not hold the phone in his hand. I am embarrassed to say that this misled me. I am so yesterday with tech.

I walk to the other end of the Starbucks and get in line. This guy is not only talking so loud that we all can hear him at our end, but he is doing a little minuet. He looks straight out, then he bends slightly over at the waist, then he straightens up, then he walks in a circle, sort of jiggling up and down, as he waits for his doublecaf, bigcalorie Mocha or whatever, booming his plans for the day.

People like this present one of the few reasons that banning concealed hand-guns might be a good thing.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

San Fransico Has Banned Guns Effective April 1

(I love the date.) A link.

From the Pages of the WSJ. An aging yuppie who reads the print version of the Wall Street Journal: how predictable. Well, what can I say? For me, at least, the problem is that I can't read the newspaper thoroughly every day, so I have to find time on the weekend to catch up. Hhhmm. Where shall I jot down my amazing discoveries and insights? How can I get this blog, now stuck in Spurrier, rolling again? Can we really say that talking about subjects raised in this week's WSJ is "rolling again"?

In the "Smartmoney" section on Wednesday, James B. Stewart writes that the energy sector "provides bargains". I think this guy is smoking something. He recommends Apache. Morningstar tends to agree. Maybe that's why Stewart is writing and I am reading.

Those of you who are old enough to rent cars have probably noticed all the local taxes imposed on the rental. Sure enough, the WSJ reports that "added fees can double the price of an economy car". Since out-of-towners bear these burdens, its sort of taxation-without-representation.

There is yet another investment book to consider. "The Little Book That Beats the Market", by Joel Greenblatt. "Mr. Greenblatt, 47 years old, says his goal was to provide advice that, while sophisticated, could be understood and followed by his five children, ages 6 to 15." I'm getting the book and will be looking for a group of five children in that age range.

Maybe we're not too late to slide on the real estate bubble. Another Wednesday article talks about state land being sold to developers in Arizona. My friend Joe thinks Arizona is the place to move, so it may be time to invest heavily out there. Developers mentioned in the article include Toll Brothers, Pulte Home, and Gray Development Group.

Yesterday's Weekend Journal has a "Houses of Worship" column that describes a new development to go up near Naples, FL, to be called "Ave Maria Town". This is the brainchild of Tom Monaghan, who is the Domino's Pizza guy. "We'll own all commercial real estate . . . That means we will be able to control what goes on there. You won't be able to buy Playboy or Hustler magazine in Ave Maria Town. We're going to control the cable television that comes in the area. There is not going to be any pornographic television in Ave Maria Town. If you go to the drug store and you want to buy the pill or the condoms or contraception, you won't be able to get that in Ave Maria Town." Does this guy know about the internet? (I can't wait to read the comments on this one.)

The Catalog Critic lists places on the 'net from which you can order your turkey dinner. Pfaelzer Brothers looked the most interesting.

There were at least two articles on Microsoft. One reports that as "growth" investors have abandoned the stock, "value" investors are moving into big positions. Another article describes the "big bet" Bill Gates says he is taking on internet connected software. That article says its not such a big bet, because Microsoft has money to burn. However, the article admires the thinking that is going on at Microsoft as it seeks to reinvent itself, sort-of.

We saw the interview of Ahmed Chalabi on the Journal's weekly show on PBS last night. Impressive. He is now the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, despite the Bush administration's outrageous attempt to bring him down last year. WSJ had this editorial about him on Wednesday. He was received graciously by the administration on a visit this week.

Boring, right? Oh, well. I think its fun.