Monday, December 29, 2003


The wise heads who are called judges have struck down a New Hampshire parental notification law as unconstitutional:
A federal judge on Monday declared a New Hampshire law that would require parental notice (search) before a minor could get an abortion to be unconstitutional....

U.S. District Judge Joseph DiClerico said the law is unconstitutional because it lacks an exception to protect the minor's health.

Obviously this girl should have gotten an abortion instead of taken a Tylenol. That our government would have been proud of.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003


New York Governor George Pataki has has posthumously pardoned "potty-mouthed" comic Lenny Bruce for some reason. Bruce was convicted 39 years ago on obscenity charges for a profanity laced stand-up routine. The New York Times put it well, however:
Being dead, Mr. Bruce is not expected to reap any immediate benefit from the pardon.

Theosebes suspects the move is in anticipation of the Democratic Presidential primary where the whole field appears to be potty mouthed. New York would hate to be forced to arrest the lot of them.

The President who called Islam a great faith is preparing to issue Kwanzaa message. But the success of Kwanzaa, the holiday that sprang full grown like (black) Athene from the head of Zeus (actually of Dr Maulana Karenga in 1966), has alarmed its own inventor and proponents:
Corporate America has caught on. For the duration of the holiday, from Dec 26 until Jan 1, stores will put on Kwanzaa displays, featuring African clothes, perhaps, and a kinara - the seven-branched candlestick at the centre of the festival.

You can buy your kinara from Avon, the catalogue giant. Hallmark sells Kwanzaa cards and wrapping paper, there are Kwanzaa cookbooks, and - from Paramount pictures - a "Rugrats" Kwanzaa cartoon.

Yet Dr Karenga - a former firebrand of the Black Power movement, now chairman of black studies at California State University - is far from happy.

Dr Karenga has denounced what he dubs "the corporate world's move to penetrate and dominate the Kwanzaa market"....

"Manipulating the language and symbols of Kwanzaa, they will seek not only to sell corporation-generated Kwanzaa items, but also to introduce a full range of corporate products as necessary for the practice of Kwanzaa," he said recently in a statement issued by the official Kwanzaa website.

Black people must build a "wall of resistance", and "refuse to co-operate with the corporate drive to dominate and redefine it and make it simply another holiday to maximise sales", Dr Karenga said.

You've got to love a holiday with an official website. I wonder if the leprechauns have one for St. Patrick's Day?

Tuesday, December 23, 2003


Don't want to serve on a jury? Just be a Christian:
Religious folk looking for a way to get out of jury duty may have been handed one by an unlikely ally in civic sloth: trial lawyers. According to a new guidebook for the plaintiff's bar, trial lawyers are advised to be wary of potential jurors with "extreme attitudes about personal responsibility." These jurors, the guidebook counsels, often reveal themselves by chatting up "traditional family values" — values that reflect "strong religious beliefs." If you want to get off the hook, chant a beatitude or two. That may well do the trick....

"It is helpful to divide the jurors into two groups: the personal responsibility group and compassion-altruistic group," Wenner writes in the guidebook. "Jurors who are extreme on the personal responsibility bias, or who have a high need for personal responsibility, will strongly favor the defendant. In contrast, jurors who are extreme on the compassionate-altruistic bias, or who have a high need for compassion, will strongly favor the plaintiff."

Religious in the USA need not apply.

The folks who put together the 'Cold Mountain' soundtrack (primarily T. Bone Burnett of 'O Brother' fame) have used Sacred Harp singers, giving the traditional singing style new exposure:
The music, also known as shape-note or fasola singing, has been waiting a long time for that attention. The style of singing, whose rudiments stretch back at least to Elizabethan England, flourished in Colonial New England and in its present form took deep root in the rural South, where it is still sung today in four-part harmony. But many of its practitioners — whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents sang it in little churches and town squares throughout the South — fear it could die out. So they are waiting eagerly to see whether the use of Sacred Harp music on the movie's soundtrack, released on Dec. 16, could do for their music what the soundtrack for "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," the Coen brothers comedy, did for rural blues and bluegrass. (The "O Brother" album unexpectedly sold more than five million copies and won the album-of-the-year Grammy in 2002.)

It's an article worth reading, and likely a soundtrack worth picking up.*

But doesn't everyone's hymnals have shaped notes?!

* I highly recommend buying Tim O'Brien's CD 'Songs From the Mountain', which was put together before there was a 'Cold Mountain' movie. They should have just used this for the soundtrack.

Don't think things are upside down in our country? How about:
Burning the flag is considered free speech; erecting crosses as roadside memorials is not. The FCC allows the "F-word" on television, but thanking God at a high school graduation is a no-no. And some schools freely dispense condoms to kids, but pencils that read "Jesus loves little children" were confiscated from a first-grade class in Virginia.

And that about says it all.

Monday, December 22, 2003


Brad Edmonds believes he's found Satan, and it involves the BCS and pigskin.

A new New York Times/CBS poll has found strong opposition to homosexual 'marriage':
The latest New York Times/CBS News poll has found widespread support for an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban gay marriage. It also found unease about homosexual relations in general, making the issue a potentially divisive one for the Democrats and an opportunity for the Republicans in the 2004 election.

Support for a constitutional amendment extends across a wide swath of the public and includes a majority of people traditionally viewed as supportive of gay rights, including Democrats, women and people who live on the East Coast.

The nationwide poll found that 55 percent of Americans favored an amendment to the constitution that would allow marriage only between a man and a woman, while 40 percent opposed the idea.

I generally oppose nationalizing traditionally state issues, but I think it's time to strike while the iron is hot on this one. An amendment needs to be pushed now, and hard. There is a window of opportunity now, but I fear there will be no action until it's lost forever.

Friday, December 19, 2003


A panel of judges from the 6th US Circuit Court has ordered the Ten Commandments down in three Kentucky counties:
The Ten Commandments displayed in two Kentucky courthouses and in Harlan County schools must come down because the motive to hang them on the walls was "blatantly religious," not educational, a divided panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.

The court said that after the displays met legal challenges from some residents and the American Civil Liberties Union, officials in McCreary, Pulaski and Harlan counties tried to cover up their religious motivations by adding other items, such as the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner, the text of the Declaration of Independence and a quote from Abraham Lincoln that "The Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man" into the mix.

That attempt was a sham, Judge Eric Clay wrote in his majority opinion.

Now when did a Kentucky county become "Congress" passing a law establishing a religion?

Thursday, December 18, 2003


In a poll of Brits, Jesus ranks second behind Mother Theresa and just above Princess Diana as the most compassionate person in history:
Mother Teresa is seen as more caring than Christ, a survey to identify the most compassionate person from history indicated today. Princess Diana has been ranked third, followed by Florence Nightingale. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Bob Geldof come joint fifth. Mr Tony Blair is at the bottom of the table, just below the Pope.

While the findings may signify no more than the ascendancy of the contemporary media over the power of the pulpit and a widespread ignorance of history, a spokeswoman for Crisis, a charity that commissioned the survey, said the results seemed to indicate a growing public-unease and confusion about the value of compassion.

And that goes a long way toward explaining where our culture is.

The pope has seen a special screening of Mel Gibson's 'Passion' film. Reports are he liked it:
Pope John Paul has seen Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion" about Christ's final hours and was moved by it, a Vatican source said on Thursday.

He said the pope saw the film with his long-time Polish secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, about 10 days ago.

The source also confirmed reports that the pope told his secretary after viewing the film: "It is as it was," meaning he considered it an authentic portrayal of Gospel accounts of the last hours in Christ's life.

The Vatican is also rejecting claims by some Jewish groups that the film is anti-semitic:
"I loved it and it is not anti-Semitic," Father Augustine Di Noia, a senior official in the Vatican's doctrinal department, told Reuters on Thursday.

Asked if the film was as violent as has been reported, Di Noia said: "It not just violent, it's brutal."

Which is as it was.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003


A former biology (I'm not making that up) teacher has pleaded no contest to "disturbing the peace" after being arrested for prostitution. Now she wants back in the classroom:
Shannon Williams, 37, a former biology teacher who became a field-trip coordinator last year, was arrested in August in her Oakland apartment. Police say she agreed to have sex with an undercover cop for $250 an hour.

Williams has defended her moonlighting career as a prostitute, comparing herself to Martin Luther King Jr. in her fight to decriminalize the vocation.

"As a feminist, I believe in every woman's right to self-determination, and that includes sexually and economically,'' she told the San Jose Mercury News in August.

You see, she's really only interested in the life of the mind:
"I realized that doing this I could work one or two nights a week and really focus on my studies," she told the Mercury News.

Williams said that prior to her arrest, she carried out her work in a rented condo, earning enough to buy a vacation home in the mountains near Yosemite National Park.

"It pays well, and I like the work," she told the San Jose paper. "I consider it to be a healing profession, in line with therapy and bodywork, kind of a combination of the two."

Ah, of course. And now the head of the Alameda County PTA would like to see her back in the classroom, too:
the head of the California PTA for Alameda County, which includes Berkeley, said she personally might be open to Williams coming back.

"As long as she's not bringing it into the classroom, maybe it's not a problem," said Carol-Ann Kock-Weser, according to the Mercury News.

She emphasized, though, she was not speaking for the PTA.

I can't imagine how our public schools got in the shape they're in.

My favorite, though, is that Williams not only has a degree in biology (really, I'm not making that up), but also religious studies. *sigh*

Responding to the elevation of homosexual bishop Gene Robinson, a group of conservative bishops have founded a new network of churches:
hirteen Episcopal bishops opposed to their church's approval of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire plan to announce today that they are forming a rival network of dioceses and parishes, Bishop Robert W. Duncan of Pittsburgh said....

"We are called," the [group's] statement says, "to oppose assaults on the authority of the Scriptures."

While leaders of the new group insist they are not creating a schism, they are laying the groundwork for a confrontation that could test the authority of the leadership of the the Episcopal Church U.S.A., which has 100 dioceses in the United States.

In an interview, Bishop Duncan said that the network is not seceding from the Episcopal Church U.S.A.. Instead, he said the eventual goal is for the network to win recognition as the authentic Episcopal Church from Anglican bishops overseas and from Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox denominations that have already condemned the Episcopal Church for its actions.

And objections aside, without a doubt it is the beginning of open schism.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


After first refusing to display pictures of Jesus in an art show, the Meridan library's board of directors has voted to allow the paintings after all:
Directors voted unanimously Monday to allow artist Mary Morley to display her paintings of Jesus at the library as part of her exhibit.

Library director Marcia Trotta recently asked Morley to omit three paintings that included Jesus from her show, which included 14 other paintings and was titled, "Visions, Hopes and Dreams."

"Reviewing the facts of the matter in light of constitutional requirements as the board presently understands them, the board has decided to allow Ms. Morley to exhibit all of her submitted paintings, as has been the past practice with other individuals," read a prepared statement from the board.

"The Board hopes that Ms. Morley accepts that offer in the gracious spirit that we intend to extend it."

Morley, who did not attend the meeting, responded, "Amen to this."

The three paintings in question depicted the Crucifixion, the Nativity and Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary.

Trotta asked Morley last month to omit the three from the exhibit. But Trotta allowed two paintings of Jesus' face, as well as images of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a tribute to the World Trade Center, an image of Old Testament prophet Elijah and one of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

All of those were historical, Trotta argued at the time.

The phrase "in light of constitutional requirements" means our lawyers are telling us that this public, tax supported institution must--in this instance since everyone is looking--actually refrain from discriminating against those wishing to express a Christian faith. At least they did end up doing the right thing.

Monday, December 15, 2003


An Italian prisoner who was given a pass for good behavior has returned to jail early to escape from his wife:
An Italian prisoner who was given home leave for good behaviour asked to go back to his cell after spending less than a day with his wife.

The 40-year-old was given a 72 hour pass by the governor at Vigevano prison, near Pavia in northern Italy.

But within minutes of meeting his wife they had an argument and he called the prison asking to be taken back inside.

A spokesman at the jail said: "We got a call from him saying he couldn't stand being with his wife and was it possible to go back to his cell. He said he didn't want to spend another minute with her.

It's nice to see the Proverbs shown to be true! (Proverbs 21:9)

Grammy Award winning singer Lauryn Hill was invited to sing at a Vatican Christmas concert. She gave those in attendance more than they bargained for:
Hill read a statement criticizing the church and its leaders Saturday night during the concert, where she was a featured performer....

"I realize some of you may be offended by what I'm saying, but what do you say to the families who were betrayed by the people in whom they believed?" The newspaper La Repubblica quoted her as saying.

Hill was speaking out on the sex scandals the Catholic Church has been embroiled in. The attendees were none too pleased:
Stunned hierarchy in the front row at Saturday night's concert included one of the most senior figures in the Church, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who is head of the Italian bishops conference.

An aide to Ruini, Bishop Rino Fisichella, described the singer's speech as "a rash outburst. An uneducated act showing a lack of respect for the place she was a guest and for those who invited her."

Reports suggest her criticism will be excluded from the broadcast version.

Both Time and Newsweek pulled Jesus from their covers at the last minute replacing Him with Saddam Hussein:
Saddam Hussein upstaged Jesus and U.S. politics yesterday, wiping them off the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines, which stopped their presses to update the news. Both newsweeklies remade their covers and had their Baghdad correspondents prepare special reports after their editors learned that the ousted Iraqi leader had been captured.

They were likely more comfortable with the new choice anyway.

Saturday, December 13, 2003


Robert Cheeks has given us a fine review of my former teacher Clyde Wilson's new book, from Union to Empire:
For Clyde Wilson republicanism is not only an ideologly, it is the only political system that can guarantee the intrinsic needs of men: "liberty, order, and popular rule." He has studied America's republican founding, taught the subject to a phalanx of young men and women, arming them for the Jacobin wars, and defended the true republican history of this country. He is intimately aware that the nation has devolved into an effete social democracy where elitists, bureaucrats, job stockers, communists, and capitalists alike have all fastened themselves onto government like some parasite sucking the lifeblood out of the American people. And, before we grieve too much for the "American people," let us remember that it was Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation that gave us FDR, LBJ, and state sponsored socialism. Mencken was right: we truly do get the government we deserve!

My trinity of political influences consists of Russell Kirk, Wendell Berry and Clyde Wilson. You'll never go wrong reading anything by any of them.

Friday, December 12, 2003


A school counselor in North Carolina has been suspended for answering a student's question about what the Bible had to say on homosexuality:
A dropout-prevention counselor at a North Carolina high school has been suspended for reportedly sharing Scripture with a student who was struggling with homosexuality.

Beth Pinto, 38, was suspended with pay from Concord High School in Cabarrus County pending an investigation into whether she gave the student religious advice.

Citing sources familiar with the situation, the Independent Tribune reports a female student came to Pinto and said she was wrestling with the issue of homosexuality. The girl asked Pinto, who is active in First Baptist Church in Concord, N.C., for the Bible's take on the matter. Pinto reportedly responded by sharing specific Scripture with the girl.

According to the local paper, a third person caught wind of the conversation and tipped off a school administrator.

One imagines a Polonius behind the curtain, waiting to hear if the Bible is mentioned. Perhaps this "third party" should have suffered the same fate.

I wonder what would have been the reaction if the student had requested information about a group that promotes the homosexual lifestyle. Well, I think we don't have to wonder at all--of course that would be okay.

How would you like to hear J.R.R. Tolkien as Gollum, or experience how Arthur Conan Doyle would present Sherlock Holmes? Now, thanks to the British Library you can:
Hearing Tolkien's voices — his own and his characters' — is one of the delights of a new audio CD from the British Library's sound archives, "The Spoken Word: Children's Writers," which includes 10 children's-book authors, most of them contemporary. The CD follows two earlier, far more extraordinary discs released in April, "Spoken Word: Writers" and "Spoken Word: Poets," which include only authors born in the 19th century. Some are poets who barely made it into the age of recording (Tennyson) and others Modernists with a surprising streak of the actor (James Joyce).

Writers who seemed beyond our reach are suddenly in our ears, revealing the often startling distance between their voices and the ones we imagine while reading — not to mention the ones that grab us from a movie screen.

Elliot on Prufrock, Milnes on Pooh, Tennyson on the Light Brigade!Sounds like a wonderful gift for the literature lover. Now if we can just get them to release that recording of Faulkner.

[You can order it only from the British Library]

Thursday, December 11, 2003


Fliers from the YMCA have been banned in Bakersfield because they mention "Christian principles":
Not known as an overtly Christian organization, the YMCA has come under fire in Bakersfield, Calif., where a school district banned the organization's promotional fliers from its campuses.

The local Y can no longer send fliers home with children because a recent one happened to mention the organization puts "Christian principles into practice," reports the Bakersfield Californian.

YMCA officials are fuming, the paper reports, and the brouhaha could possibly affect other area school districts.

And I think we can all tell how well non-Christian principles are working in public schools.

PS Things may be looking up at the YWCA, too, after making a sensible decision regarding their recent president.

Long ago in Central America the Mayans left a written hieroglyphic legacy. The only problem has been that we didn't know how to read them. Now linguists have identified a still-spoken language as a linguistic descendant of Mayan:
Linguists have discovered a still-surviving version of the sacred religious language of the ancient Maya - the great pyramid-building civilisation that once dominated Central America.

For years some Maya hieroglyphic texts have defied interpretation - but now archaeologists and linguists have identified a little-known native Indian language as the descendant of the elite tongue spoken by rulers and religious leaders of the ancient Maya.

The language, Ch'orti - spoken today by just a few thousand Guatemalan Indians - will become a living "Rosetta Stone", a key to unravelling those aspects of Maya hieroglyphic writings which have so far not been properly understood. Over the next few years dozens of linguists and anthropologists are expected to start "mining" Ch'orti language and culture for words and expressions relating to everything from blood-letting to fasting.

What an amazing find.

[Link via LRC]

France once the home of Joan of Arc (not Joan of Arcadia) is taking strides to ban students from publicly practicing their religion:
A long-awaited report on church-state relations in France advised the government on Thursday to forbid school pupils to wear Muslim veils, Jewish skullcaps or large Christian crosses.

The report presented to President Jacques Chirac said wearing such “conspicuous signs of religion” was contrary to the strict secularism French law requires for state establishments.

Yes, it's always so much better when religion isn't conspicuous. Goddess Reason still seems to be the deity of choice amongst the frogs.

[Thanks to Jennifer B. who brought this issue to my attention]

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


Radio icon Paul Harvey upset Muslim groups by stating that Islam "encourages killing". Now, Mr. Harvey tells us Islam is a "religion of peace".

Well, I guess that settles it.

Evangelical theologian and founder of Christianity Today magazine passed away Sunday at the age of 90. I found this recounted exchange wonderful:
Henry delighted in recounting a time when he sparred with theologian Karl Barth. Barth invited questions from a group of 200 religious leaders attending a luncheon in his honor. Henry rose and identified himself as "editor of Christianity Today" before asking Barth about his views on the historical fact of Jesus' resurrection. Barth retorted, "Did you say Christianity Today or Christianity Yesterday?" As the audience howled with laughter, Henry countered, "Yesterday, today, and forever."


Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Brad Edmonds, also writing from Alabama, argues that government is morally wrong. I would agree with many of the points he makes. But like the scientists in the post below, Edmonds leaves God out of the equation. Yes, politically and morally I have great problems with much of what (our) government does, however we must be careful not to argue that government qua government is an evil. In fact it is an institution endorsed by God:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves....[Government] is a minster of God to you for good. --Romans 13:1-4

Do governments abuse their positions? Most certainly. And we find throughout Scripture God judging and punishing nations. Do we in an (ostensibly) elective republic have the ability to alter the course our nation takes? Yes, if we are able. But can we condemn government outright? No, that is a step too far.

Rather than the libertarian position, much of which I find reasonable, instead we must turn to the position espoused by Russell Kirk echoing Edmund Burke that limited government is a good, a necessary institution that can provide us an ordered liberty. There we find a position more in keeping with Godly respect for government and a human desire for liberty.

Scientists are following clues to find out what makes humans human:
Most recently [scientists] have been investigating circuitry rather than specific locations, looking at pathways and connections that are central in creating social emotions, a moral sense, even the feeling of free will.

There are specialized neurons at work, as well — large, cigar-shaped cells called spindle cells....

The body, it turns out, is as important as the brain. Dr. Antonio Damasio, a neurologist at the University of Iowa Medical Center and the author of the book "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain," has pioneered the argument that emotions and feelings are linked to brain structures that map the body. From human social emotions, he said, both morality and reason have grown.

Findings such as this show us the glory and shame of science. Scientists can learn so much about the creation made in the image of God, yet they continue to embrace evolutionary ideas that insist morality is simply a human construct. Not only is the body and mind they explore created by God, but so is the morality they ultimately seek to undermine.

Monday, December 08, 2003


A parish priest in Germany has given out porn videos instead of a video promoting Christ:
A vicar has given his flock hardcore porn videos instead of a video about God's message at Christmas after a mix-up at a copying factory.

About 300 people ended up with the XXX-rated material in the German town of Lampoldshausen.

The evangelical congregation had hoped to spread the word about Jesus to those who did not enjoy reading - but churchgoers found themselves handed videos containing hardcore sex scenes instead.

Local parish priest Frithjof Schwesig said: "There was a mistake at the copying factory in Munich."

Yeah, some mistake.

Saturday, December 06, 2003


After seemingly bowing to public pressure, and pulling its Christmas 'group sex' catalog, Abercrombie & Fitch plans another porn catalog and will continue its tasteless ad campaign:
as the Field Guides were being pulled, the company announced it would feature its "infamous male and female greeters" on the day after Thanksgiving, the start of the Christmas shopping season.

"A dollar donation to Toys for Tots lets anyone snuggle up for a picture between two hunky, shirtless A&F guys," a news release said. "They'll make Santa think twice before he reaches for another slice of pumpkin pie."

Glad to see they have the spirit of Christmas there.

What did the Christmas catalog have that some found objectionable?
The 2003 Christmas issue, the slipcover says, offers "280 Pages of Moose, Ice Hockey, Chivalry, Group Sex & More … ."

One article says "a pleasant and supersafe alternative to [group sex] is group masturbation – sometimes called a circle jerk or Jack-and-Jill-Off."

Mark Millar, a comic book writer shares this thought: "My idea is you have the Old Testament, the New Testament, and this is the Final Testament. This is a thing about Jesus coming back as a 12-year-old kid … pontificating whether or not he should masturbate … ."

In another interview, Sari Locker, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sex," says: "College is the time when you have the greatest opportunity to have sex [and] the highest number of potential sexual partners … ."

And it goes on. Amidst all of this are disappointing numbers for A&F:
In October, for example, several chains - notably American Eagle and Abercrombie - showed double-digit declines in sales at stores open at least a year (American Eagle was off by 18 and Abercrombie by 14 percent) compared with a year earlier.

Not only that, but now 60 Minutes is investigating the store for 'lookism':
Two ex-managers for a clothing chain accused of discrimination say corporate representatives of the chain, Abercrombie & Fitch, routinely had them reduce the hours of less attractive salespeople.

A sad existence for a once venerable sporting goods company (think L.L. Bean).

A Belgian priest may get a coal in his stocking this year after objecting to a picture of Santa on a church poster:
A Belgian priest has demanded that his parish reprint posters advertising a Christmas carol concert because they include a picture of Santa Claus.

Priest Daniel Beernaert, who's 68, told Gazet van Antwerpen: "I'll never welcome Santa Claus in my church. He is a pagan symbol."

Father Daniel, of Saint Martin's Church in Koekelare, added: "At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ and not Santa Claus.

"The organisers even wanted a Santa Claus to walk around in the church during the concert.

"Santa Claus is a commercial symbol that has nothing to do with Christmas. If people want to join it, it's all right, but not in my church."

Points for the priest, but here's a question--does the Bible actually say anything about celebrating Christmas Day, either? Or might we say the entire practice is pagan in origin? Just curious.

Shoe tying is becoming a lost art among the younger set, and that's not a good thing:
The rise of the laceless shoe, typically a high-tech moccasin, and a youthful aversion to tying shoes, have become a matter of concern to some child development experts. Surely not a sign of a civilization in decline, they admit, but perhaps another unsettling step in the march of technology into children's lives.

The problem, according to Diane Levin, a professor of education at Wheelock College in Boston, begins in the crib with push-button toys to calm infants and proceeds with "talking books," "Baby Einstein" videos and other gadgets intended to make learning easier and more entertaining. The danger, Ms. Levin said, is that things are too automated and that children end up suffering from "problem-solving deficit disorder."

"The real issue is not that kids don't learn to tie their shoes," she said. "It's that they don't get engaged in the problem-solving process that shoe-tying is part of."

You mean it''s...better for children to think rather than simply push a button? Hmmmm....

Friday, December 05, 2003


Grinchy shop workers in Europe are demanding an end to carols:
Shop workers' anger at being forced to listen to hours of Christmas music during the festive period is spreading across Europe.

Dutch and German trade unions have now backed the demands by colleagues in Austria who said the combined effect of listening to endless hours of Jingle Bells made staff "aggressive and confrontational".

The Union of Dutch Workers has also opposed what it calls the "terror" of constant Christmas songs.

But what causes them to be "aggressive and confrontational" the rest of the year?

Want to shrink your brain size? It's easy--just try a few drinks :
Drinking alcohol does not just befuddle the brain, it may also cause it to shrink, according to a study.

Researchers found that just a few drinks every week could be enough to cause a decline in grey matter by middle age.

The study showed that moderate drinking did not reduce the risk of strokes, despite past findings to the contrary.

Heavy drinking is known to be linked to the loss of brain cells but the study links brain decline to moderate alcohol consumption as well.

What was that about the health benefits of drinking?

Thursday, December 04, 2003


The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about a student who was denied a scholarship because his chosen course of study was religious. One of the keys, however, is that the scholarship was denied based on the Washington's state constitution, which has a more restrictive church-state separation than does the U.S. Constitution.

While I've not looked closely at the state wording, I would point out that the Bill of Rights was written to restrict Congress. Now it's not intepreted that way, of course, but as a states-rights kind of guy I wouldn't think he would have legitimate recourse to the Federal constitution from a state restriction.

Having said all that, there's no question he's being descriminated against because of his religious beliefs and practices.

[Chicago Tribune article here.]

How do you identify your religious affiliation? More and more people are identifying themselves with 'none':
Kellee Hom was raised in the Roman Catholic Church but never imagined she'd become a religious none.

No, not "nun." That's "none," as in "none of the above."

Hom is among a growing number of Americans who simply answer "none" or "no religion" when pollsters ask them their religious affiliation. Some "nones" identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, but the vast majority believe in God, pray and often describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious."

"My sense of God transcends all the different religions,'' said Hom, a clinical supervisor at Asian American Recovery Services in San Francisco, which helps people with substance-abuse problems. "It's an energy."

Cool, man. I can feel it! I can feel it! Oh...sorry.

You see it's all about the karm, man. Just ask Bruce Meservey:
Meservey says he is definitely a religious none.

"I believe, but I don't know what -- just in the universe as an entity, " he said. "I don't know if I believe in heaven or hell. It's all so ambiguous.

"I believe in karma,'' he said after a pause. "Don't screw you neighbor. It will come back to you one way or another. I pray once in a while. I kind of believe in a supreme being, but if you start trying to pin me down ...

"We are all part of the same thing,'' he added. "We are all part of each other and the animals and the Earth -- all part of one big thing.''

What we need are plaques in every courthouse with the One Commandment of None: "Don't screw you neighbor."


The library in Meridan, Connecticut has banned certain images of Jesus for fear of "endorsing" Christianity:
The library rejected three of Mary Morley's pieces, Trotta said, though Tuesday the local artist said the library had asked her to exclude five.

Trotta did not object to the images of Christ in Morley's work, as much as her depictions of events, including the Crucifixion, Jesus carrying the cross and the Nativity, she said.....

"I believe that if we physically display it, we've taken responsibility for the message, even if her name is on it," Trotta said.

But some messages are acceptable:
Paintings the library would accept included a tribute to the victims of 9-11, and portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and President John F. Kennedy.

"Those are historical figures," Trotta said.

The library also accepted paintings of Biblical scenes, including Moses accepting the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. "He just looks like an old man. You would really have to know the whole story behind it," Trotta said.

The story behind Jesus is too well known, and more importantly, tied to Christianity, Trotta said.

So JFK and MLK are "historical figures", but Jesus isn't? But Moses is. But wasn't MLK a minister who (ostensibly) preached a Christian message? I'm so confused.

But the library isn't off the hook:
"This is just nonsense," said Louis J. Giovino, a spokesman for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a national organization based in New York City. "You're specifically censoring Christianity here."...

"In the name of protecting kids from seeing a portrait of Jesus, the censors are busy practicing intolerance. Perhaps they would have been more at home with a portrait of Lucifer," Catholic League President William Donohue said in the statement released Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Giovino criticized the library for refusing to install software on public computers that would block access to certain Internet sites, specifically those that include pornography.

"We can't," library Director of Community Affairs Victoria Navin said. "It's up to the parent. That's not for library officials to do. We'd be sued by the American Civil Liberties Union."

When it comes to a possible lawsuit from Morley, though, Navin referred to library policy.

A library policy that says "The library will not accept exhibits which are judged ‘inappropriate,' or ‘offensive' to any segment of the community." But that seems to mean as interpreted by the ACLU and not those who desire to limit easy access to pornography on taxpayer bought computers.

But the good Ms. Trotta could never live with herself if she were (gasp!) responsible for someone being offended by religious imagery:
"It may mean that individuals who see it are offended and may never ever walk into a library again, and I can't be responsible for that," Trotta said.

Oh, I think never walking into that library is a very, very good idea.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003


An Iron Age chieftain buried with his chariot were found in a motorway excavation in northern England:
The find could provide a valuable insight into customs and social standings in pre-Roman northern England.

Carbon dating suggests the funeral took place between 400 and 500BC with evidence of a huge feast.

Chariot burial was reserved for people of high rank among the Parisii tribe, who lived in what is now east Yorkshire. They originated from northern France and gave the French capital its name.

Of course, it wasn't long before the bulldozers returned.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


My friend Jennifer Busick has penneda parable. Go thou, and read.

Dr. William Walker, Auburn University's current president (maybe not for long), had this to say in the aftermath of Auburn's football coach debacle:
"I don't think there's any question that we've made some progress in identifying some areas in which progress needs to be made."

I see.

A London clergywoman* is going after the police in Britain for failing to prosecute abortion doctors:
A clergywoman won the right Monday to take legal action against a police chief for failing to prosecute doctors who performed a late-term abortion of a fetus with a cleft lip and palate.

British law allows abortions after 24 weeks only if the child suffers a serious handicap. The Rev. Joanna Jepson, who has a deformed jaw, argued that facial deformity doesn't constitute such a handicap.

May she be successful.

*Samuel Johnson: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

Reeling from its recent (and ongoing) sex scandals, the Catholic Church has reacted by fingerpinting volunteers and staff:
Theresa Mulvoy keeps track of sheet music, takes attendance and gives a vocal boost as a volunteer for the children's choir at St. Vincent Martyr Church here.

Soon she will also give her fingerprints.

Mrs. Mulvoy is one of thousands of volunteers and members of the staff and clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson who are expected to undergo criminal background checks in the coming months. The scrutiny is part of efforts by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to repair the damage from the clerical sexual abuse scandal and to reassure members that children are safe in the hands of the church.

How sad that it's come to this.

Archaeologists have found a rare thing, the ruins of a city dating from pre-homeric Troy:
The archaeologists say they have uncovered the stone foundations, cobbled streets and pottery of a well-preserved 4,500-year-old urban center, one of the few Early Bronze Age communities ever found on the Greek mainland.

Preliminary investigation at the prehistoric site, the researchers say, reveals that this was a prosperous town at the time pre-Homeric Troy enjoyed one of its richest periods. The new-found ruins yielded a tall cylindrical cup in the style of graceful cups known from Troy, suggesting a wider Trojan influence than previously established.

The existence of the city had, heretofore, been "unsuspected", it's name unknown. It was destroyed by earthquake during Plato's time. Amazing.

Monday, December 01, 2003


A Utah polygamist is citing the Supreme Court's homosexual sex ruling to defend his own actions:
A lawyer for a Utah man with five wives argued Monday that his polygamy convictions should be thrown out following a Supreme Court decision decriminalizing gay sex.

The nation's high court in June struck down a Texas sodomy law, ruling that what gay men and women do in the privacy of their homes is no business of government.

It's no different for polygamists, argued Tom Green's attorney, John Bucher, to the Utah Supreme Court.

"It doesn't bother anyone, (and with) no compelling state interest in what you do in your own home with consenting adults, you should be allowed to do so," Bucher said.

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

A shopping mall in Oslo is saying that Jesus is the reason for the season by portraying Him with a halo that is, in fact, a CD:
The image, 11 meters (36 feet) high, hangs over the entrance to the capital's main downtown shopping center. The giant Christ welcomes shoppers with outstretched arms , and what appears to be a halo over his head.

"To be honest I didn't react to it so negatively at first glance. It is a reminder to shoppers about what Christmas is really about, namely, that God gave his son Jesus Christ to us all," said dean Olav Dag Hauge.

What he didn't notice the first time was that the halo shining behind Jesus' head is a compact disc. This week smaller poster versions of the image are being put up all over the city, and here one can read "CDs (NOK) 149,50 ($22)" over his head, with a CD still acting as a halo.

Yes, I believe that is what the season is all about--spend, spend, spend.

There's a not-bad article by Neil Swidey in the Boston Globe on religion in the Ivy League. But one wonders about it all when you read quotes like this:
"It's very chic to be a believer now," says Gomes. "In a place which is so dispassionate, so rational, and in many ways so conformist intellectually, if you want to break out of the pack, you say your prayers in public. It is the example of religious practice elsewhere that has emboldened American evangelicals to exercise their own practice."

Yes, public prayer as 'chic'. Just ask Daniel

And not only can you be a 'chic' Christian. You can also be 'educated':
But [Curtis] Chang says the incident exposes much bigger stakes, with the viability of what he calls "educated evangelicals" hanging in the balance. A native of Taiwan and 1990 graduate of Harvard, Chang says educated evangelicals feel at home in the university world and want to be considered full members. So they're quick to distance themselves from Bible-thumping, anti-intellectual fundamentalists. Instead, educated evangelicals stress their more progressive politics and nuanced theology.

Oh, to be chic and educated, too. If only I could have been a Christian in the Ivy League. Alas.

[Article via Instapundit via IM with Susanna]