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Dr. Roy Spencer at T…

Dr. Roy Spencer at T…
Dr. Roy Spencer at TCS Daily asks “How Green is Your Church?” and hits points about global warming and the different way that Christians can react to it that we’ve covered here before. But I wanted to highlight his concluding paragraphs.

Bjorn Lomborg, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, assembled a panel of experts in economics who were charged with determining — given a fixed amount of money to be dedicated to improving the human conditions — what actions give the biggest returns for the least money. The result was the “Copenhagen Consensus“, with over a dozen policy approaches prioritized in terms of bang-for-the-buck. Fighting climate change was at the bottom of the list. Fighting malaria, AIDS, provision of clean water and other sanitation measures were a few that were at or near the top of the list.

As has often been the case where economics and policy intersect, good intentions are not enough. The lesson for the church is, while it is one thing to agree to “help the world’s poor”, it is another thing entirely to determine how to best spend limited financial resources. Unless we examine the consequences of our charitable efforts, it is entirely possible to inadvertently make matters worse, rather than better.

I’m considering a bi…

I’m considering a bi…
I’m considering a big change to the blog. I had an issue with the Blogger template the other day when I went to add the 9/11 memorial graphic to the sidebar. The editing web page didn’t load the whole template HTML into its editing window, and when I saved it I lost a bunch of the template, including the part that showed the posts!

Did I have a backup? I’m ashamed to say “No”, and I may have to turn in my technogeek credentials. Fortunately, Google cache is my friend. I got a copy of what the page looked like before, and with that and some help from Blogger help pages got it all back up and running. (Though the Site Meter stats have been unusually low since then. Not sure if that’s related, but I think it probably is. Not sure why.)

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to either use a new Blogger layout (the one I use has long since disappears from the predefined templates Blogger lets you choose from) or go to another system. I kinda like the idea of a system that publishes static pages, so that if I move to yet another blogging system I just keep the old pages, not all the old software and its database that generates the the pages on the fly. However, most (all?) of the new software out there, and the one in particular I’ve really enjoyed messing around with (WordPress) are on-the-fly solutions. And especially if I want to have comments without using an external service, on-the-fly is the only way to go.

I’ve also wanted to buy a domain name to make the URL for the blog easier to remember, and thought that I’d do both at the same time, but that’s not a top requirement.

As I said, I’m really liking WordPress, of what I’ve heard of the 5 possible blog software solutions that my hosting software supports. It has loads of themes and plugins to work with, and I’ve been working on importing all my Blogger posts into it so that you can search all the archives from just WordPress. I’ve made sure that all my custom sidebar stuff can be moved over, and there are some nice themes. Comments would become a part of the blog, because I’ve wanted to be able to hear from y’all. I’ve enjoyed (and, yes, sometimes dreaded) comments to posts at Stones Cry Out, where I’m a contributor, and I’d like to try that here. Might make for more return visits, eh? >grin<

Anyway, just to let you know that you may see some changes coming down the pike. Next week or next month or next year? Hard to say, but I’d place my bet as between the latter two timeframes.

North Korea is going…

North Korea is going…
North Korea is going to test a nuclear bomb?

There is new evidence that North Korea may be preparing for an underground test of a nuclear bomb, U.S. officials told ABC News.

“It is the view of the intelligence community that a test is a real possibility,” said a senior State Department official.

A senior military official told ABC News that a U.S. intelligence agency has recently observed “suspicious vehicle movement” at a suspected North Korean test site.

The activity includes the unloading of large reels of cable outside P’unggye-yok, an underground facility in northeast North Korea. Cables can be used in nuclear testing to connect an underground test site to outside observation equipment. The intelligence was brought to the attention of the White House last week.

Even before this most recent intelligence, there has been growing concern within the U.S. government that North Korea has been moving toward a nuclear test. North Korea is believed to have enough nuclear material to build as many as a dozen nuclear bombs, but it has never tested one. A successful test would remove any doubt that North Korea is a nuclear power.

But I thought Jimmy Carter gave them all sorts of aid so this wouldn’t happen! Do you mean that this is one dictator we couldn’t trust?

Who would have thought?

A recent court rulin…

A recent court rulin…
A recent court ruling claims that, while a religious display might not be unconstitutional in and of itself, if too many religious people get near it, it becomes unconstitutional.

The ruling from the Fifth Court of Appeals said the display of a Bible on public ground in Houston to honor the founder of a mission has to go, not because it was unconstitutional itself, but because it became unconstitutional when a Christian group rallied around it.

The pastor’s group said that means any monument, building, or even feature of nature is an illegal “establishment of religion” if a church ceremony is held there.

“Connecting the dots between the eminent domain case, which says all of your churches are up for grabs if a town wants a mall, secondly you now have been told you do not have constitutional rights in the public square,” Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors Conference, told WorldNetDaily.

“Any kind of an event is okay, as long as you didn’t express any religious faith. What is that telling you?

Welch told WND that the court’s conclusion was “ludicrous” and if followed logically, could mean that a religious rally at any public building would therefore make the building unconstitutional so it would have to be removed.

The Bible was installed on county property about five decades ago in honor of William Mosher, the founder of Star of Hope Mission, and was replaced in 1996 with donated funds. However, an atheist challenged the monument, and on an appeal from the District Court decision that the Bible was unconstitutional, the appeals court carried the argument further.

Its ruling said that the monument became an unconstitutional “establishment” after a 2003 rally was held by Christians to defend the display. That rally involved prayers and clergy, the court noted.

“The ramifications of this tortured decision are breath-taking and without any historic or legitimate Constitutional rationale,” said the pastors’ organization. “For the court to state that if a private citizen exercises his or her First Amendment rights of religious expression and assembly on public property, that any monument, building or fixed item of any kind that contains religious references becomes ‘establishment of religion’ is simply irrational.”

Even if you don’t think that such predicted persecution “followed logically” from such a ruling, the ruling itself is awful. It’s certainly one that, if it stays in force on appeal, makes the constitutionality of any sort of religious display, even in a religious context, subject to the whims of judges. Is that what the First Amendment means by “free exercise” of religion?

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)

So much for disarmam…

So much for disarmam…
So much for disarmament.

Hezbollah will retain its weapons in southern Lebanon but its members will not bear them in public, according to an agreement reached yesterday after days of talks between Hezbollah representatives and the Lebanese government.

The Al Jazeera network yesterday reported Hezbollah’s refusal to accept any proposal involving a handover of its weapons to the Lebanese army or to UNIFIL, or allowing the Lebanese army to search its positions. The compromise reached is that Hezbollah would conduct no military activity in the south. There is to be no “show of military arms” by Hezbollah in the south, but only of the Lebanese army and UNIFIL.

Now there’s a “compromise”; keep your weapons, but just hide them better. Thank you, UN

Oh, and don’t forget a shout-out to France.

United Nations officials scrambled to put together the peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon on Thursday after France sent planning into a tailspin when announcing that it would offer just 200 soldiers.

France had been expected to lead the force with several thousand of its own troops.

And among those outdoing France in the peacekeeping department?

Bangladesh also pledged up to 2,000 troops to be deployed in Lebanon.

Once again, the UN decides that something must be done, but they just don’t want to do it, or can’t find enough folks to help out. They’ll put something together, no doubt, and consider it having done their job. Perhaps we should take France off the Security Council and put Bangladesh in their place.

Great Moments in Jou…

Great Moments in Jou…
Great Moments in Journalism (hat tip Best of the Web Today):

Item 1: The NY Times offers a correction.

An article on Tuesday about President Bush’s defense of American policy in the fighting between Israel and Lebanon incorrectly described the planning that led to Mr. Bush’s meetings on Monday at the Pentagon and the State Department. Mr. Bush’s schedule for the day was prepared weeks ahead as part of the annual presidential review meetings; it was not devised last week as part of a White House effort to seek political advantage on national security after Senator Joseph I. Lieberman’s loss in Connecticut’s Democratic primary and news of a disrupted terrorist plot in Britain. (Go to Article)

An honest mistake, I’m sure. Anybody would have assumed nefarious schemes, right?

Item 2: The Associated Press reports on the economy. Headline:

Consumer prices up, factory output slows

Slows? By how much? Paragraph 1 explains.

WASHINGTON – Consumer inflation accelerated in July, reflecting a big jump in gasoline and other energy prices. In evidence that the economy is slowing, industrial output in July slipped to just half the June pace.

Output in July was cut in half from that of June? That’s pretty drastic!

The truth finally comes out in paragraph 3.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve reported that output at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities increased by 0.4 percent last month, just half of the 0.8 percent gain in June.

So the output has increased in July, the output was not cut in half. What was cut in half was its rate of growth.

Interestingly enough, this is exactly how Democrats frame cuts in the growth rate of budgetary spending as well. If they want to increase a line item by $2 million, and the Republicans only want to raise it by $1 million, Dems wind up on the talk shows talking about a $1 million “cut” the evil Republicans want to impose. There is hardly ever honest discussion about how the budget still is increasing.

Odd that the Democrats and the media use the same terminology, eh?

(Cross-posted at Blogger News Network. Comments welcome.)

I’m a little behind …

I’m a little behind …
I’m a little behind in my podcast listening since having gone on vacation, but I listened to one this evening from the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Father Robert Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, gave a 40 minute talk on “A Civil Society Approach to Welfare” (link is to the mp3 file). It’s an absolute must-listen for a Christian considering caring for the poor, the morality of the welfare state, the waste of the federal “solution” to this, and the unintended consequences.

One of the very many good points that Sirico makes is that governmental social services, by their nature, cannot minister to the whole person. The spiritual side is ignored, and in many cases (Sirico suggests that it may be in the majority of cases) there is a deeper moral issue that has caused the poverty. (Most of our own problems, indeed, reflect a personal issue with sin.) The church is the best party to deal with this, but when the government steps in, it siphons off funds that would go to faith-based organizations, and turns many of those organizations into lobbying groups for more welfare instead of groups that actually do anything. Social services that ignore the spiritual nature of man in essence treat him as cattle. When the cows are cold, we put them in the barn. If they’re thirsty, we give them something to drink. Nothing wrong with doing that for people, but people aren’t cattle. There’s a dimension that is ignored by government a thousand miles away (or even government down the street).

This talk is absolutely chock full of great points. I wish there was a transcript that I could post excerpts from, so you’ll just have to listen to it. Really. And if you have a podcatcher, pick up their feed.

A federal judge has …

A federal judge has …
A federal judge has ruled that the Bush administration’s NSA warrantless wiretaps of international calls are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency’s program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

A few things in this paragraph bug me. First, when one says she “became the first”, the AP implies “of others”, because you don’t typically refer to the first of something when there is only one of them, or unless you’re anticipating more (or trying to give the impression that there will be more). Their bias is showing, and their intent to manipulate public opinion has begun.

Secondly, listening to speech in no way restricts it. It’s like saying when a stoolie wears a wire it stifles the free speech of the mob.

Thirdly, there’s that elusive general constitutional right to privacy that no one can ever put their finger on. There are some specific privacy rights, but none so general as would prevent people from listening in on conversations or allow the general right of getting an abortion.

Now granted, this is a very preliminary report of the ruling, which just hit the wires. There’s certainly more to come, and the description of the ruling at this point may be overgeneralized. In fact, there’s no mention in the article about the warrant or FISA issues. And frankly, as I said when this thing first came out, I’m always a bit wary of expanding government power (though when it’s a constitutionally-mandated power, I’m less concerned). But if this turns out to be true–that this flimsy ground is what the ruling is built upon–it’s worth of appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which involves secretly taping conversations between people in the U.S. and people in other countries.

Yup, let’s make it easier for journalists to do their job, while making it harder for the intelligence agencies to do their’s. Now that’s prioritization.

Certainly this will be a hot topic in the days to come.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out and Blogger News Network. Comments welcome.)

Doing some more catc…

Doing some more catc…
Doing some more catch-up today. This time, the recently “cease-fired” battle in southern Lebanon between Israel and Hizbollah

This particular battle had quite a lot of popular support, from both the Right and the Left, in Israel. Israel’s peace movement was essentially silenced as either they didn’t speak up and/or they agreed with the premise. This was also noted on the Radio Open Source program of 7/31, in a show highlighting Israeli reactions. How the battle was prosecuted certainly has its critics, but hardly anyone disagreed with the justness of it.

And who can we at least partially thank for the necessity of it? Why the UN, of course. While their “peacekeeper” were flying their flag along with Hizbollah’s, Iran and Syria were rearming these terrorists (Hizbollah, not the UN). Israel tried to make this a quick and effective battle by sending in special forces to take out enemy positions early, but what they ran into were more and better bunkers than they’d known about. Hizbollah was showering Israel with far more rockets than they were thought to have. Much of this digging in and rearming occurred during the 2 years that UN 1559, the resolution saying that Hizbollah must be disarmed, was in force. Guess this august body was quite sure of what needed to be done, but no one was willing to do it. (Until Israel started the job. Then, of course, the UN balked.)

I wonder if Israel will now have 2 years to abide by the UN resolution calling for a cease-fire. No, in fact Kofi Annan wanted the fighting to stop before the appointed hour in the resolution.

As I noted earlier, Thomas Sowell said that there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else, and that doesn’t seem to have solved the Arab-Israeli issue. I don’t think this one will either. Here are some of the pros and cons of this:


  • Civilian deaths will stop: Well, Lebanese civilian deaths will stop, which is a good thing in and of itself. I really don’t think that this cease-fire will stop Israeli civilian deaths, especially since it was Hizbollah that started the shooting. Letting them continue on to fight another day just delays when that begins again.
  • Israel forced the UN to actually do something about UN 1559: The United Nations sat on its collective hands for 2 years, allowing and hardly discussing the violating of an international border by Hizbollah. Is this the way to prevent war, by allowing one side to attack and kidnap? Is this they way to achieve fairness, by only passing resolutions when the other side defends itself? But in any event, the cease-fire will allow forces to come in and hopefully start the job of enforcement that should have been started 24 months ago.


  • Hizbollah lives to fight another day: We are going to see further Israeli casualties in the future. It’s simply a matter of when. This new resolution, 1701 (not a Star Trek reference, for those that may get it), also calls for the disarming of Hizbollah. Think it’ll happen? I’m not talking about whether Hizbollah gives up some of it’s rockets, I’m talking about disarming. No, I don’t think will. Instead, they’ll give up their older tech in likely anticipation of getting longer-range missiles from Syria and Iran, while the UN “peacekeepers” mill about.
  • Hizbollah is legitimized: The UN is treating like a country. According to Andy McCarthy at National Review, the resolution…

    doesn’t purport to direct any UN member nation to make Hezbollah cease firing — least of all Lebanon, the purported sovereign of this territory. Instead, it appeals to Hezbollah directly — in the same paragraph in which it addresses Israel, as if there were no difference in status between the two — and “calls on” it to stand down.

  • The resolution has no teeth: It was not passed with what’s known as Chapter 7 provisions, so the international force can’t actually do anything if Hizbollah starts shooting at Israel again. As Michael Rubin puts it (also on National Review), the force thus becomes so much “decoration”. Hizbollah doesn’t even have to return the kidnapped soldiers, the flashpoint of this battle.
  • Instability in Israel: If just one more rocket is launched from southern Lebanon or one more attack made, the Olmert administration is done for. While the cease-fire is ostensibly insured by the UN, it’ll be Olmert that pays the price if it fails.
  • Israel is essentially punished for properly leaving Lebanon: As they say, no good deed goes unpunished, at least in the Middle East. Click here for a list of the sacrifices made and costs incurred by Israel in the one year since moving out of Gaza and portions of the West Bank. Note also the thanks they got in return from the Palestinians.

And, as ScrappleFace notes, if cease-fires work so well, how about we call a cease-fire in the war on terror, eh? Think Osama will abide by it?

(Other notable reactions to the cease-fire are at Captain’s Quarters and Power Line.)

Overall, I think Israel got a raw deal. They may have made some gains against Hizbollah, but not enough to ensure their security. Thank you, United Nations.

The media have been an interesting part of this conflict. They come out with a number of black eyes, especially regarding photography (or as Glenn Reynolds has referred to it as, “fauxtography”). As noted by my blogger-in-law Jim, and heavily documented at “EU Referendum”, the video and photos coming in from the front have been manipulated, either intentionally or not. The fact that this happened, as far as I know, exclusively on the Hizbollah/Lebanese side of the equation make the press look like patsies, full of bias, or both. (It doesn’t say much for the Arabs, either, when you’d be hard-pressed to find nearly the same attempts at manipulation by civilians on the Israeli side.)

This hasn’t been solely a pictorial issue. CNN International coverage of the conflict was highlighted by a report that minimized Israeli deaths while reporting heavily on Lebanese ones, and inferring that Israelis would intentionally target civilians, among other things. The foreign media in general covered Beirut extensively, but virtually ignored Haifa. They’ve called Israeli leaflets asking civilians to leave a soon-to-be-attacked area “propaganda”, ignored bad news for Hizbollah, reported their own opinion in news, and ignored dissention against Hizbollah in Lebanon.

As I’ve noted before, typically, your political persuasion can generally predict who you side with in Arab-Israeli conflicts. It shouldn’t be that way, given a clear reading of history, but it generally does. Conservatives tend to side with Israel, liberals with the Arabs. Now, given the leanings of the press in the coverage, it further adds credibility to the charge that they have a liberal bias. Just another of a long line of such lists of evidence.

To be honest, I’ve found myself on CNN as often as FoxNews in the recent weeks, mostly because I wanted current news rather than analysis or opinion, and Anderson Cooper was doing more of that than Bill O’Reilly or Greta van Susteren. While you can point to some reports and programs that were balanced, when you look at those that could be considered biased for one side of the other, and when you see which side that bias almost always falls, the press, once again, falls into the camp that conservatives have always said it would.

But those that deny such a bias will also hand-wave away such evidence as well. That I expect, but find increasingly amazing.

So in summary:

  • Israel: Short term win, medium term up in the air (thank you, UN), long term loss.
  • Hizbollah: Short term loss, medium term win.
  • United Nations: All term loss (toothless, cowardly; needs to visit the Wizard of Oz).
  • The Media: Loss. Again. Not really news, so to speak.

Playing a little cat…

Playing a little cat…
Playing a little catch-up after 2 weeks in the Great Smoky Mountains. (Loved it; camped out and went whitewater rafting, among other things, with the family.)

As I mentioned in my one mid-vacation post, the terrorist airline bombing plot that was foiled is a testament to the Bush administration’s approach to the problem vs. Kerry’s proposed “law enforcement” approach. Law enforcement relies on the penalty for breaking the law being a deterrent. It doesn’t handle suicidal maniacs very well.

The Wall St. Journal put it this way:

Let’s emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.

Some have shot back (see the comments to this post from World Magazine’s blog) that the issue is legality, making it sound like they’d have no issue whatsoever if the NSA wiretapping and the SWIFT program, both of which the NY Times exposed, would be hunky-dory with them if only they were legal. Problem is, the NSA program hasn’t been shown to be illegal and the SWIFT program was patently legal (even the Times admitted that). And it is possible that some of the intercepts were international calls to the US (ABC News’ “The Blotter” blog notes that the FBI is following up on domestic leads). I don’t buy this appeal to legality since all is assumed to be wrong if done by a Republican.

And I’m pretty confident in that generalization, as reported by PoliPundit.

“Regardless of how you voted in the presidential election, would you say you want President Bush to succeed or not?”
Democrats: No, 51%

And with this success in the war on terror, you’d think this would be good news, but, again, not for Democrats. (The WSJ again…)

And almost on political cue yesterday, Members of the Congressional Democratic leadership were using the occasion to suggest that the U.S. is actually more vulnerable today despite this antiterror success. Harry Reid, who’s bidding to run the Senate as Majority Leader, saw it as one more opportunity to insist that “the Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists.”

If the terror plot had been successful, you no doubt could’ve hear the exact same rhetoric coming from Reid. It’s nothing but a talking point to try and make political hay out of a success viewed as a failure. (Is this what Democrats mean by “reframing” the debate?)

Ted Kennedy chimed in that “it is clear that our misguided policies are making America more hated in the world and making the war on terrorism harder to win.” Mr. Kennedy somehow overlooked that the foiled plan was nearly identical to the “Bojinka” plot led by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up airliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995. Did the Clinton Administration’s “misguided policies” invite that plot?

And I would add; what is it we need to do to make ourselves more liked by Islamic fascists, and do we really even want to consider it? We are not hated primarily because of policy or politics; we’re hated because we’re not Muslims. France has bent over backwards to avoid offending Muslims, and they got riots anyway. Indonesia’s huge Muslim population and Muslim preference didn’t stop the Bali bombings. And the 9/11 attacks had most of their planning period spent under the Clinton administration. They didn’t start hating us and planning our demise once Dubya sat down in the Oval Office.

This is a textbook case of playing politics with people’s lives. It’s time for Democrats to take a deep breath and determine what’s best for the country instead of just their own political careers. It’s time for the man on the street to see this rhetoric for what it is. And it’s time for the far left to take a reality check, step back from the Bush Derangement Syndrome they’re suffering from, and take an honest look at the world. If not–if the Democrats continue to be pulled to the left by vitriol and dishonesty–I don’t see how they expect this to win them more votes in November.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out and Blogger News Network. Comments welcome.)

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