State? Fair!

James Lileks has been live-blogging from the Minnesota State Fair all this week. It’s worth a read. But then James recounting a day in bed with gout would probably be worth a read. (He has tens of thousands of us starting each day by reading what he did the day before.) He’s also been producing short videos he’s shot there. Fun stuff.

We lived in Minneapolis for  five years, so I know the Minnesota State Fair. It’s a good one. Clean. Well organized. Carnies not too frightening. The fair was a great reminder that, despite the pretension of the Twin Cities, Minnesota was very much a farm state still. It’s basically just a big Iowa with lakes and trees.

As a matter of fact, the fair will culminate with the selection of this year’s dairy queen who will receive the title “Princess Kay of the Milky Way” and be honored by having a bust of her likeness carved from a block of butter. Seriously.

The other state fairs with which I have intimate acquaintance are the Oklahoma and Texas affairs. In fact, I have a rule to only attend state fairs that are held within a few miles of I-35. Which means the Kansas S.F. in Hutchinson, Missouri S.F. in Sedalia, and Iowa S.F. are all on the table.

Texas and Oklahoma readers my wonder why Minnesota has its fair in late August. It is because by the time the Big Tex starts welcoming visitors to Fair Park, snow is likely to be blowing in Minnesota.

What Consensus?

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So much for the much-invoked “consensus” among scientists on man-made global warming.

A new study shows that fewer than half of all published scientists are on board with the assertion that man-made causes are the primary driver of warming.

Seems that it’s about like that overwhelming consensus that we need more Paris Hilton-related news.

Can you "murder" a dog?

Dean Barnett over at Hugh Hewitt’s blog seems to think so. I don’t.

Now I’m a Dean Barnett fan. I find him entertaining, erudite, and thoughtful. He’s one of a handful of guys I make sure I read everyday, no matter how busy I am. But in the blog post I linked to above, he’s going off on the Michael Vick thing and I think he gets a little carried away.

He makes a number of solid points, and then he writes:

I know America loves comebacks and second acts, but aren’t there some people who don’t deserve another crack?  Vick can’t make right what he has done wrong.  The dogs he murdered aren’t coming back. (emphasis mine)

Sorry. No sale on that last part. You can murder a person. But you can only kill a dog. Sure, if you do it wrongly, cruelly, or senselessly—it’s a despicable act. It’s also likely a criminal act. But murder is, by definition the wrongful killing of a human by a human being. (When a bear mauls a camper, the camper hasn’t been “murdered.” )

Maybe it was just hyperbole. Maybe it was just the loose, dashed-off-edness of the blogging medium. But words matter a great deal, which is why I’m in hair-splitting mode on this one.

The entire wrong-headed “animal rights” movement is built upon this kind of distortion of language and abuse of meaning. It’s embedded in the very name of the movement, in that animals have no transcendent “rights” in the sense that humans do. But this liberal use of the word murder to descibe the killing of animals is standard operating procedure among these folks.

Now I don’t have an opinion on whether or not Michael Vick should be considered to have forfeited all opportunity to ever return the NFL (or polite society for that matter.)

Frankly, I’m not interested enough in the controversy to even attempt to parse where dog fighting/betting/killing ranks on the heinous-ometer relative to sexual assault, drunk driving, drug peddling, wife beating and the host of other crimes professional athletes are accused and convicted of with mind-numbing regularity.

But when a dependably clear-headed conservative—one who uses words for a living—chooses one so poorly, it gets my attention.

Intolerance?

Regarding my previous post about C.A.I.R. ….

I just came across a great quote by G.K. Chesterton that pretty much sums up the reasons Christians should be taking a dim view of Islamic demands for “tolerance.”

“It is rather ridiculous to ask a man just about to be boiled in a pot and eaten, at a purely religious feast, why be does not regard all, religions as equally friendly and fraternal.”

The quote comes from this essay.

The Muslim "Sensitivity" War on Christianity Has Begun

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For some time now, prescient cultural observers have been warning that militant Islam will take our nation’s obsessiveness about multi-culturalism and “tolerance” and use it as a club for beating Christians.

It’s already well underway in the UK and Europe where people tend to be even more terrified than liberal American elites of being labeled “insensitive” to other cultures. A priest in the Netherlands the other day suggested that Christians start referring to God as “Allah” out of sensitivity to their Muslim neighbors. (Sadly, I’m not making that up.)

Muslim pressure groups in Canada have already become quite skilled at using that country’s broad “hate crimes” laws to cow or silence Christian groups that voice biblical cultural values. Now this brand of intimidation has claimed one of its first Christian victims in the U.S..

A Christian television ministry program has been dropped from a CBS affiliate in Tampa because of complaints from CAIR, The Council for American-Islamic Relations.

The “Live Prayer with Bill Keller” program ran afoul of the pressure group by labeling Islam a “false religion” and suggesting that Islam is about “hate and death.” These are characterizations that may indeed hurt Muslims feelings, but, as Christians well know, there are no constitutional guarantees in this country against having your feelings hurt. At least there didn’t use to be. In fact, Christianity is mocked, derided, criticized and slandered publicly all the time. We Christians are used to it.

Nevertheless, as they’ve done with great success in the UK and Canada, CAIR is using the spectre of potential “hate crimes” to justify its concern:

“It is our belief that anti-Islamic rhetoric like that used in ‘Live Prayer with Bill Keller’ is exactly the type of language that is likely to incite hate crimes against the American Muslim community,” the letter said.

World Net Daily has the whole story.

Now, Rev. Keller has stated that he won’t back off of declaring biblical truth on the air, and I believe he means it. But you have to wonder, human nature being what it is. . . The next time the topic of the claims and nature of Islam comes up on his program, it will surely cross Rev. Keller’s mind that last time he was kicked off of a network affiliate for speaking his mind. Might he possibly be tempted to temper his words a little? To soften his rhetoric? To get a little more subtle and euphemistic?

I know I would. And what about all the other Christian broadcasters who are know aware of Keller’s experience? Will they tread a little more cautiously? Choose another topic, maybe?

Of course, this is precisely the effect C.A.I.R. is hoping for.

We’re frogs in a kettle of water. The heat just went up a little. But I’m sure we’ll get used to it.

Life on Mars? The Theological Implications

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Drudge is teasing a story about a scientist claiming there is strong evidence for microbial life on Mars.

If true, it will surely spark some debate about the theological implications in both the scientific and spiritual communities. But should it?

I’ve been fascinated since childhood with space exploration and always enjoy those Discovery Channel programs about the latest discoveries about the conditions on Europa or Io or other moons of Saturn and Jupiter.

Invariably, there is a mention of the possibility of the presence of “water ice” or even liquid water on these moons immediately followed by a breathless suggestion that this greatly enhances the possibility of finding life there. I’m always amused and intrigued by this earnest expectation among those in the scientific community.

It’s almost as if they believe: “Find liquid water and you’re almost sure to find life!”  It seems to me that these scientists are presupposing there’s a very strong bias for life built into the universe.

I’m always surprised by this expectation because, according to the best scientific thinking, life arose on Earth due to an almost unthinkably unlikely confluence of circumstances. Earth cooled at exactly the right distance from exactly the right-sized star with precisely the right amount of iron to form a molten core which produced just the right magnetic field to produce just the right protective shield from solar radiation. It was then bombarded with just the right asteroids and comets at the right times to deliver just the right elements and water, etc, etc.

Of course, for the Christian, all these “coincidences” pose no mystery. But for the materialist/atheist scientist, you would think it would temper their expectations of finding life elsewhere just because a little water is lying around.

So back to Mars. What does it mean for a Christian’s faith if it is proven that microbes do (or once did) exist on Mars?

Nothing, as far as I can tell. For one thing, it is possible that past meteor strikes on Earth blasted huge amounts of material into space and into the orbital path of Mars. Furthermore, there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that life cannot/must not exist elsewhere.

And if life did arise on Mars or elsewhere it does suggest compellingly that there is a bias for life built into the cosmos, and therefore shouts this question: “Who built in that bias?”

The Economics of the Holocaust

Did you know that the “Kristallnacht” night of terror in Nazi Germany was triggered, in large part, because Hitler’s socialist government was broke and about to default on some big debt payments? I didn’t either.

This is just one of a multitude of fascinating insights you’ll find in a new book by Gotzy Aly titled, “Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State.”

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If this era of history interests you, check out David Frum’s oustanding review of this book here.

Insulting Talk Radio Listeners

I didn’t have a chance to listen to any talk radio today. Therefore I have no opinions on anything and don’t know what to think or be up in arms about. I failed to download my programming from Rush, Sean and Medved and here I sit—a blank slate.

I must be more diligent to tune in tomorrow so I can recieve my orders from Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy HQ. I’ll have my pitchfork and torch at the ready.

As absurd as the above sounds, it is not far removed from the way many elites in the media establishment and in rarified liberal political circles think about those of us who hold conservatives views. Insulting? Heck, yeah. Wrongheaded? Beyond belief.

The latest evidence that these guys just don’t get it comes in the form of a study released by “non-partisan” (sure) Project for Excellence in Journalism, a group funded by the Pew Trusts (that’s a name you’ll hear a lot at the back of left-leaning programs on NPR.)

The study was highlighted in an online article headlined: “Talk Radio Helped Sink Immigration Reform

Early in the article we read:

Talk radio focused on the immigration debate more intensely than the mainstream media did from April to June. . . Conservative hosts touched off a brushfire in the Republican base that President Bush and other party leaders were helpless to contain.

 The guys at the Project for Excellence in Journalism actually measured all the time conservative and liberal talk radio hosts spent talking about the immigration/amnesty bill and compared it to the time mainstream news outfits spent covering it.

Upon discovering that the conservative talk guys spent quite a bit more time focusing on it, what do they conclude? That Rush and Sean and Savage must have decided to try to kill the bill and therefore went to work whipping up the gullible, weak-minded listening masses into a stampede pointed at the congressional switchboard.

Here’s an alternative theory. Could it be that Rush simply knows his audience and, like any good programmer, chooses subject matter he knows they care about? Is it possible that Sean Hannity’s audience is leading him, rather than the other way around? Maybe. . .just maybe. . .conservative-minded radio listeners gravitate to Bill Bennet’s program, not to be told what to think, but to have what they already think validated?

Did it occur to the guys and gals at the Project for Excellence in Journalism to wonder why the mainstream network news outlets spent so little time focusing on an issue so many people were passionate about and that carried such huge implications for our nation’s future?

I think you know the answer to that.

Summer's End 1977

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Were you looking for me thirty years ago this week? No? Well it’s a good thing. Because if you had been, you probably wouldn’t have thought to look for a kid from Wilburton, Oklahoma in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of New Mexico.

After graduating from high school in May (Senior ’77!) I spent a gloriously carefree Summer working at the local grocery store by day. By night, I dated as many area girls as I could juggle and played late-night/wee-hours tennis with my best friend. After all these years, it remains a serious contender for “best Summer ever.”

As this parenthesis of bliss nestled between the insecurities of high school and the complexities of college drew to a close I joined a group from the Baptist Student Union on a trip to the Glorieta Retreat Center in Northern New Mexico. There we and several thousand other college-age students from around the country heard inspirational speakers and attended breakout sessions.

In addition to the stunning beauty of the surroundings, one of the most striking things about the experience was the isolation from media. There were no radios (with 8-track tape players!), no televisions and, of course in 1977, no Internet. We joked about World War III breaking out without us knowing about it.

(Funny how we always assumed the next big thing would be “World War III.” Odder still that when it did commence on August 7, 1998 with the bombing of the U.S. embassies Kenya and Tanzania, few noticed. In fact, most still seem unaware that the battle for Western Civilation is on and we’re losing by default. But that’s another blog post for another day.)

Along those lines, I was speaking with a member of the camp staff about the isolation and he laughed. He said, “Yeah, it’s funny how college students get a little freaked out when they are cut off from all media. Every year without fail, a rumor starts flying around the camp that someone famous has suddenly died. Usually it’s Elvis Presley.”

Thus, I wasn’t surprised when, later on in the week, the camp started buzzing with the news that Elvis had died. “Hah!” I thought smugly. I’m not falling for that.” I knew better!

Except I didn’t.

I was never a fan. The Elvis my generation knew wasn’t the suave Rebel Elvis, but rather the cheesy Movie Elvis and then toward the end, the bloated Vegas Elvis. But none of that mattered. Elvis Presley was an icon THE icon of the postwar era. And we knew it.

And in a fleeting week of my life that I now know marked the dividing line between childhood and all that would follow, it seemed that the entire culture was crossing over, too.

Milestones

Yesterday, middle daughter “G” turned 16 and got her driver’s license. Tomorrow morning we load up two vehicles and move oldest daughter “C” into a dorm at Baylor University (an event I waxed maudlin and treacly about in this post a couple of weeks ago).

That’s a lot of change to process in a 48-hour window—especially for my sweet wife.

She’s the one who did most of the driver’s training paperwork and accompanied “G” to the DMV. She’s the one who’s been staying up late nights sewing bedding, curtains, pillows and things for the dorm room. She’s the one fully caught in the cyclonic winds of emotion generated by the these two milestone events. (Topped off by the implausible reality that “O,” a.k.a., “the baby,” turned 14 a couple of weeks ago.)

So how’s she holding up?

 Well, at 1:32 a.m. this morning my wife gasped, threw off the covers, leapt out of bed, and frantically yelled, “Oh my gosh! We forgot to pick up the babies!”

After a few heart-pounding, disoriented seconds, I realized she was dreaming. Her eyes were open. She was talking and responding to me. But she was asleep—in the midst of a sort of night terror. (This is something she has experienced in the past during times of great pressure or emotional turmoil.)

As I learned later, in this particular nightmare all three of our daughters were babies again. And we had somehow, someway, lost them. And they weren’t with us any more.

“It’s okay honey,” I told her. “You’re dreaming.”

“Where are the babies!?”

“Honey, everything’s okay. We don’t have any babies.”

She turned to look at me. In the soft light of the digital alarm clock her face moved from alarm; to confusion as she begin to cross over into wakefulness; to. . . sadness.

This morning, as she recalled the episode, she told me that at that point, she realized she had been dreaming and basically said to herself:

“Oh. Right. The girls are big now. But where are they? Are they safe? She went up the list in her mind, O: She’s upstairs in bed. G: she’s spending the night with a friend. C: Did she make it home? I didn’t hear the door. It’s 1:30. . .is she home?”

She went up stairs and found C safe in her room, in bed. We hadn’t heard her come in earlier.

We laughed about it this morning. But it wasn’t so funny last night.

You see, time and Nature and Nature’s God have done their thing. That means both of us, each in our own way—in my blog posts and in her dreams—must come to grips with the truth:

We don’t have any babies.

Not anymore.