Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ever Have One Of Those Days?

Speaking Of The De-Manification Of The Brits

Gordon Brown just laughed this moron off? Why wasn't he arrested? For that matter, if some turkey superglued themselves to me, the police would have to carry him off on a stretcher. What does it say about the UK that their last Prime Minister with any testosterone was a woman? Baroness Thatcher would have flattened this guy without once losing her dignity or mussing her hair. If it wasn't for the likes of Alex Arthur, Amir Khan, Ricky Hatton, David Haye, and Matt Skelton, I'd just assume that England has entirely quit producing men altogether.

Manscara? Guy-liner?

Ok, I'm all for good hygiene and proper grooming, but someone needs their man-card revoked. Although, I doubt any guy who would use this stuff would care.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Stealing a man's prayer is a pretty lousy thing to do, even for reporters.

However, it brings up an interesting question. What do they do with all the prayers stuck into the wall?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One More Thought On The Chronicles Of Nania

I went on about the subject of the theology of Christ presented in Lewis' portrayal of Aslan at some length. Lewis again proved that brevity is the sole of wit, and that no one will ever top his simple and accessible portrayals of complex concepts. All that I said about the accessability and complexity of Christ can be compressed into a dialogue that takes place between Aslan and Lucy when they meet for the second time in Prince Caspian.

"Welcome, child," he said.
"Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger."
"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.
"Not because you are?"
"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

Looking Forward To The Weekend

For those of you who don't know, this weekend Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto will be entering the squared circle in order to engage in what may turn out to be the best fight of the year. I will, of course, be glued to the screen, and shouting myself hoarse for Cotto (though in this fight, I almost didn't know who to root for more).

Really good fights usually come in one of several varieties. There are the barroom brawls, fights in which little to no actual skill or technique are utilized, and two men try to destroy each other through the pure application of violence. See Mavin Hagler's fight with Tommy Hearns as a classic example. While both men had the technical skill to compete on a higher level, they threw it all away in order to try to dominate the other through raw brutality. There are also those fights that are great because they are fought at a high level of technical skill, two virtuosos performing something closer to art than combat. Ray Leonard's fight with Tommy Hearns fell into this category. Many great fights are a combination of both, as a virtuoso pits his skill against the brawn and ferocity of a true warrior. Look no further than many of Ray Robinson's fights against the toughest men of the middleweight division for examples of this type.

The most special fight that can occur though, is one in which both men embody the virtuoso and the warrior simultaneously. This weekend's fight will be an example of that. Margarito is known as a face-first warrior, who imposes himself through volume punching and toughness. However, he is also an underrated boxer, who does many little, seldom-noticed things that exponentially increase his effectiveness. Cotto meanwhile, is calm, methodical, and precise in the ring. He thinks through his game plan and executes it with skill. However, when the need presents itself, he also has the heart of a warrior and the toughness and power to match it. On top of all this, Cotto is currently Puerto Rico's top fighter, while Margarito is arguably Mexico's best. Adding national pride to their formidable personal arsenals almost guarantees a great bout.

Nothing is sure in boxing. Maybe one man will be injured early, or physically not at his best. The vicissitudes and health problems encountered in professional sports are amplified by the solo nature of boxing. However, all that being said, if there is a fight that it is safe to guarantee will surpass expectations this year, this is the one.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Cotto by unanimous decision, 115-113.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Passing Thought

I just finished The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. About a month ago I was reading The Word of Life, by Thomas Oden. One is a 186 page children's story, the other is a 500 plus page work on Christology and soteriology that surveys the writings of church theologians over the past 2000 years. And yet, with all due respect to Thomas Oden, while his book provides a more solid theological and intellectual basis for thinking about Christ, I feel that I KNOW my God much better by knowing the character of Aslan.

In part, that's due to Lewis' skill as a communicator. You can see in all of his books that he has a knack for taking complicated things and making them simple. But in larger measure, I think it is due to our God's desire to be known. He makes himself both simple and complicated, imminent and transcendent, approachable and terrifying. For those of intellect and high ability, a lifetime can be well-spent exploring the complexity there. For those without such abilities (i.e. idiots like me), he is simple enough to be understood and welcomed by the heart of a child. "What god is so great as our God?"

Friday, July 18, 2008

Keeping It All In Perspective

I'm blessed beyond all measure, and definitely beyond anything I've ever deserved on my own. If you're honest, you probably are too. But, here's a thought for those times when we have trouble keeping that fact in mind.

The irony of modern American life is that it is our very profusion of blessings that provide us with the leisure to sit and ponder how tough our lives are. You will never hear a poverty-stricken African farmer complaining about how tough it is fighting disease, drought, and AIDS. He's too busy surviving. You'll hear far more of that among American college kids who KNOW their life will be forever ruined because that D they got last semester is killing their GPA and will wreak their chances for a sweet internship this summer. So, while there are occasional exceptions, just remember that if you've done any complaining about how tough your life is recently, it's probably not.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

One More Thought On Jefferson

I find the apparently deep and abiding love liberals have for Thomas Jefferson to be more than a little ironic. As far as I can tell, it stems from his Enlightenment mindset and his deep skepticism of organized Christianity. No, it doesn't take much to make the libs happy. The irony about all of this is that Jefferson was probably the most ardent defender of limited government we've ever had in the White House (though technically that name for the residence is an anachronism).

Another irony stems from the 1800 election. For those who don't know, in the election of 1800, he tied in electoral votes with Aaron Burr (yes, this Aaron Burr). That threw the election to the House of Representatives, making Thomas Jefferson the first president to be "selected, not elected."

Apparently Obama Is A Gym Rat

Recently he went a total of three times in a single day. And yet, I still wouldn't bet on him in a fight with my little sister. And she's barely 5 feet tall.

I'm sure he just missed his Pilates class and wanted to make it up later...

Historical Analogies

Everyone makes them. From Bill Clinton being "the next Thomas Jefferson" to Barack Obama being "the next John F. Kennedy" to John McCain being "that crazy old guy mumbling to himself in the corner"...wait, no that one doesn't work...where was I?

Oh, right, historical analogies. Anyway, one of my favorites is the old standby, "This election is just like..." You know the one. People find tenuous threads connecting various candidates or situations to historical figures and their lives, then their hearts become all fluttery when they realize they have enough of those threads to Draw A Historical Analogy, and if you'll only see how true the analogy is, you'll realize that the past predicts the future.

Unfortunately, when the rubber hits the road, the truth is that analogies are called "analogies" precisely because they are not exactly the same situation. If they were, they'd be called "exactly the same situation". Lean on them too hard, and they tend to crumble. However, they are terribly fun to toy with, and since I'm currently reading David McCullough's excellent book on John Adams, I'm noticing parallels to an election that I consider to be the most significant in American history (more on that some other time). I haven't heard anyone else make this particular comparison, and I delight in the thought that I may just have squeezed out an original idea. Therefore, I shall do my humble best to convince you that this election is JUST LIKE the election of 1800. Except when it's not.

Let's start off with a little background. An unpopular administration, a controversial and ill-defined war (which the challenger also happens to be an ardent opponent of), a series of controversial national security measures, and an incumbent party that is losing ground in the legislature and seems almost as dissatisfied with, and hostile to, their moderate candidate as the opposition is. Is any of this starting to ring a bell?

John Adams had taken the advice of George Washington to heart. As he left office, Washington warned of the pitfalls of party politics, and while his positions were mostly those of a Federalist, John Adams never became a party man. He managed to fly in the face of their consensus just often enough to keep the "High Federalists" of Alexander Hamilton from ever fully accepting him. At the time of the election, their main point of contention was his desire to negotiate peace with France. By picking a middle road on the issue, he had both sides angry at him.

By signing the Alien and Sedition Acts, fighting an undeclared naval war with France (a country supporting privateering, arguably an early form of terrorism, against America), and advancing both a stronger federal government in general and more specifically a stronger executive branch, did Adams no favors with the opposition either. The Alien and Sedition Acts were widely unpopular. The Alien Act was the original immigrant controversy. Under the Sedition Act, people could be, and literally were, thrown into jail for merely insulting the president. Compared to this, the Patriot Act is sissy stuff. While the Acts were not Adams' idea, he nonetheless signed them into law and approved of them. Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans (DR's from this point on) did not.

The candidates themselves have some interesting parallels with those in our current race. Back in 1800, campaigning was seen as undignified and unbecoming in a potential president, so everything was done through surrogates. (Much like the dirtier aspects of a modern race) These surrogates were absolutely vicious. John Adams was an old man of 65 at the time, one whose rough life of service to his country showed in every line, lost hair, and a body wracked with the ailments of the years. The DR newspapers of the day gladly pointed this out over and over. Words like "toothless" and "senile" found their way into more than one story. They accused him of having a temper that made him unfit for office, and at times went so far as to claim he was not fully in control of his faculties. Dark rumors were circulated regarding his faithfulness to his wife. That fact that these accusers were without a shred of evidence seemed not to bother them. Even more damage was done when these attacks were the result of friendly fire from his fellow Federalists.

Meanwhile, Jefferson, his opponent, was an effete man of renown (some might say "over hyped") intellect. At 57, he was seen as young, handsome, and fresh in a way Adams was not. He was accused of elitism, his religious views were the subject of much controversy (some justified, some not), and his pacifistic feelings toward the country's current conflict were portrayed as borderline disloyalty. He was too foreign and not enough an American. Federalist papers described him as a weakling of unrealistic and vague Utopian visions, with little grounding in reality.

Like any analogy, this one has it's flaws. Adams was the actual incumbent, not just a member of an incumbent party. For all his idealism, Jefferson actually accomplished things before being elected to the presidency. However, one point should not be lost on today's voters. The Federalists were unhappy with John Adams. They wanted him out in order to make way for "real" Federalists. And so, they showed their displeasure. In fact, they showed it so forcefully that there was a 22-seat swing in the House, a similar change in the Senate, (the Senate wasn't elected back then, but heavy losses in the state houses had the same effect) and Adams came in third place. Rather than leading to a renaissance within the party, their disarray lead to a 28 year absence from the White House. Of course, this is only an analogy. Maybe this time, things will end up differently.

Come on, At Least Try

I'd suggest that if you can't find something mockable about an effete, nerd who backflips on every issue in a way that makes John Kerry look resolute, has Curious George ears, tucks his shirt into his pants when he works out, has ties to more radicals than Osama Bin Laden, thinks we have 57 states, seems to think he's the second coming of the messiah, and has a wife twice as manly as himself (here's a hint: If Maureen Dowd sides with your husband over you, dial it down a notch!), then you should find a new line of work.

Here's a few to get you going.
Q. What do Obama and Osama have in common?
A. They both have friends who bombed the Pentagon.

Q. Why doesn’t Barack drink Pepsi?
A. He thinks that things go better with coke.

Q. Why did Obama change his name from Barry to Barack?
A. He thought Barry sounded too American.

Q. Why will Jimmy Carter vote for Barack Obama?
A. Because Jimmy doesn't want to be the worst President in history.

Obamessiah jokes:
Obama created new states from out of the void.
Obama turned whine into Kool-Aid® for his followers.
Obama came to us carried upon a donkey.
Obama was stoned and yet he has risen.
Obama's flock has millions of sheep.
As a Chicago politician, Obama has raised voters from the dead.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New War Powers Act

A bipartisan study group (don't you just love those?) has suggested a new war powers statute be put into place to better coordinate the decision to go to war between the executive and legislative branches.

The full report is interesting reading. It reviews the confusion that has reigned since the early days of our country's history on the scope of legislative and executive powers in times of armed conflict and the problems inherent in the current statute. While I'm no constitutional scholar, I take something of a middle view on the issue. The constitution's language and intent seems clear to me in it's requirement that Congress authorize any major conflicts. The only reasonable exceptions are conflicts of extremely short duration (such as Grenada) or situations in which the president has to respond immediately to a crisis (such as the opening of the Civil War, when Congress was out of session). However, once war has been authorized by the Congress, the president has broad discretion in the conduct of the war. Short of defunding, Congress should have little ability to interfere. This seems logical both from the standpoint of the president's explicitly stated authority as commander in chief, and also from the practical realization that effective military action requires a clear and unitary chain of command. Furthermore, as the case of the Iraq War so aptly illustrates, even when Congress does authorize a conflict, the president is primarily the one who suffers when public opinion turns against a conflict.

My only real problem with the report is the timing. It would seem obvious that, despite the fact that it has no bearing on the current war, releasing such a document while the conflict in Iraq is continuing cannot help but politicize a decision that should be made on purely pragmatic and constitutional grounds. Just as the current statute is the spoiled fruit of the Vietnam era, so any statute enacted next year would inevitably be tainted by Iraq. Wouldn't it be better to shelve this idea until the conflict has come to some sort of resolution before trying to determine how the handle the next war?

Monday, July 7, 2008

When Irony Doesn't Quite Cover It

It's sad to note that a mere two days after the 4th of July, an American has to head over to the British news media to hear about staggeringly good news on the Iraq War.

Filled With Joy

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. -Psalm 16:11-

This is a sweet and touching article by Colleen Carroll Campbell on a difficult topic. Her father recently died of Alzheimer's disease, and this piece is both a tribute and a lesson.

Of all of the life-related topics, euthanasia has always been the most difficult for me to grapple with. Abortion, and even embryonic stem cell research are fairly straightforward. If you recognize them as life, or even if you simply cannot decide, you should err on the side of protecting innocent and defenseless life. However, in the case of a terminally ill individual who simply wants early release from the pain, the issues are more complex. You aren't simply protecting someone who can't protect themselves, you are making a choice for someone who is capable of making their own choices. You aren't protecting a life of infinite possibility, you are extending a life that is already winding it's way down.

For me, the most powerful secular argument has always been the slippery slope. Once we start crossing the bright red line of ending life, how can we argue, "this far, but no further?" If it is moral to end the life of a terminally ill patient who is in horrible pain, what about a person who is in terrible pain, but not terminal? How about ending the life of someone who has progressed beyond the ability to choose, but has family members who claim, "they would have wanted it this way"? If we accept both of these scenarios, how much further is it to, "Whether they would have chosen it or not, they are better off this way." From there, it is a simple step to, "Society is better off this way." After all, as government increases it's level of intervention in health care, how can people continue to argue that the taxpayers have no say in treatments they are paying for? As we grow coarser as a society, who is to say that someone won't start to argue that cutting off life support is as legitimate a method of cost-saving as reducing Medicare payments to physicians. Peter Singer received a tenured professorship at Princeton for making these arguments, and we've seem similar ones made by previous generations of Americans, so why should we assume that our generation is immune? I can hear the argument now. "Why not spend this money on lives that are still livable?"

That argument still seems effective to me, but like Colleen, I've always been troubled by the concept of lives that are no longer "worth living". Her father's story is an encouraging reminder that it doesn't always have to be the case. Memory and the faculties of reason are a large piece of who we are, but they are not the sum total of our being. When her father's memories and reason were stripped away, they revealed joy and love beneath. I've met many older people who retained their mental faculties and yet managed to make life unpleasant for anyone (including themselves) who came within range of their vitriol. Whose life would you say is more worth living?


I didn't see this until after writing what I did, but I think it helps illustrate my slippery slope argument quite nicely.