Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (7/12)

Think your day is bad? You could be trapped in a tree by a tiger.

Some conservative authors take issue with the criticisms of the proposed common core educational standards.

Did you know that C.S. Lewis wrote a review of The Hobbit (the book, not the movie). You can read it here.

This week Salon had excerpts from a new book on our rising police state. It's rather disturbing. The ABA has also reported on this.

Joss Whedon gives advice on getting stuff done (he would know).

I've heard a lot in the immgiration debate about the need to seal off our southern border. But is building giant walls really a sign of strength?

Is Christianity the world's most falsiable religion, and is that a good thing?

One blogger things he's found the unifying theory behind all pixar movies.
A few weeks ago we posted an article about the healium reserve. Well, did you know there's a raisin reserve?
And finally, this week NBC lost New Hampshire (don't worry, it was found again).

Monday, July 8, 2013

The simplest, most coherent, and most sensible explanation for the current economic condition

With a title like that, you should expect some long drawn out post. If so, you'll be disappointed. Instead, you get two quotes.
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy. -Ernest Benn 

An economist is a surgeon with an excellent scalpel and a rough-edged lancet, who operates beautifully on the dead and tortures the living. -Nicholas Chamfort
In our case, the politicians and the economists got together and gave us ... whatever it is we have. And you thought it was complicated.

The Atlantic recently had a longer article with pretty much the same conclusion.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (7/5)

We hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July celebration yesterday. In case anyone's patriotism quota was not satisfied, here is some over-the-top patriotic fan art (personally, I think the Andrew Jackson piece almost looks authentic).

Oh, Obamacare Obamacare. We hardly knew thee. Betrayed by Massachusetts, rejected by the hobbyists, and kept at arms length by thy most ardent supporters. We passed thee, but still don't know what thee can do.

President Obama came into office promising to restore the relationships with our allies. Germany, however, is souring. Egypt isn't happy either. And in Africa, well, he can't quite measure up to George W. Bush (this sort of personal touch might be part of the reason why).

Conservative opponents of immigration reform keep saying the proposed bill is a sell out to liberals. That would be news to some liberals.

And speaking of the left, some are wondering if there are any progressive causes other than gay marriage (and the Conservatives are accused of only caring about the culture war). Part II gives some other issues that the left could work on.

Trying to keep up with the NSA, the USPS is tracking physical mail.

Amazon and Apple are in a price war for ebooks which, if nothing else, shows how antitrust laws can be manipulated by the very companies they're designed to regulate. (I'm ripping off both, since, since so far I have used my kindle exclusively for free public domain works.) And while on the topic of Amazon, here's a fascinating look at how their robotic warehouses work.

Homeschooling is often equated with the religious right. But there are a growing number of atheists who also choose this educational model.

This week's lost and found. Lost: toothpaste in hotels. Found: an abandoned giant space gun.

Utopian alert: both III Arms Company and Glenn Beck are planning their own libertarian communities (because we all know that those always end well). But if neither of those appeal to you, you can always fall back on Paulville (which is exactly what it sounds like). I wonder if any of them will have toothpaste--probably not. Giant space guns, however, are much more likely.

I put this at the end, for fear that if you read it you wouldn't read the rest of my post. But here it is: news is bad for you.

And finally, I had never realized the hazards of being a sneezing snowman. It's almost as bad as news.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

True Christian Films

In response to this article on Rick Santorum's new position as CEO of a production company (and with all respect to Senator Santorum), I had the following response on Facebook:

This article uncovers exactly what is wrong with Christian films right here when it says "One of the reasons might be the fact that christian movies are not global. They don’t translate well into other cultures."

This boggles my mind. If there is one religion that should translate to every culture (and mostly has, at one time or another) it's Christianity. So why don't Christian films?
Here's why: they are not "Christian". They are odes to a moralistic, American-dream centric, "wholesome" "family-friendly" lifestyle that has had the result of alienating in this country every person that does not conform to that image. This lifestyle is not a religion, but instead uses Christianity as a tool to attain its goal of cultural personal peace and affluence. 
True Christianity speaks to the heart. It speaks to the broken and the failed; the shameful. It is not "family friendly," for the very things you wish hidden from your children are the very things Christ came to save us from. How can you tell his story without them?

Allowing this Leave it to Beaver style "Christianity" to be the one that represents us to the culture is another in a long line of mistakes from the American church, a group which is quickly sliding into irrelevancy. These "leaders" are admitting their goal is not to change the culture but to insulate those they believe to be on the "inside" from those outside. It is inward, not outward focused. This is not "Christian," nor is it worthy of the name.

History Channel's "The Bible" Reviewed

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good story. I particularly savor the beauty of such a story when shown on the big screen and told by a skilled cameraman. I relish witty dialogue penned by a sharp script writer, and I find myself immersed in a story portrayed by excellent actors. My heart swells with excitement when a well-written soundtrack pulls me into every emotion.

In short, a good story told with film can move my soul like little else can.

When I started watching The Bible series I expected to enjoy the story of the Bible played out on the screen.  I expected it to be well done and worth a bit of time.

What I didn't expect was the way it would impact me on the inside. Most Americans are familiar with many of the stories of both the New and Old Testaments. I, myself, have read these stories countless times. And they inspire me.

But, like the best literature, these stories are so deep that you can go through them 100 times and still realize something new on the 101st time.
The beauty of The Bible series is that it told the stories using a visual medium. It was like when I stood in St. Peter’s Basilica a Cathedral in Rome, my eyes transfixed on Michelangelo’s statue of Mary holding Jesus' body. The Scripture describes so much with words, but that statue captures something that cannot be expressed in words.

Words cannot express the way I feel after watching a visual portrayal of the calling of Matthew the disciple and the transformation of Saul of Tarshish into the Apostle Paul. The stoning of Stephen, the transformation of Nicodemus the Pharisee, the friendship of David and Jonathan, the awesomeness of the angles in Sodom, and the power of Peter's testimony were brought to life on the screen and brought the overarching story of God's story of redemption and love to life.

I could nitpick about how I didn't like the choice to use a narrator, the smallness of the crowds during the Exodus, or the wildness of the Prophet Jeremiah. But those issues were miniscule compared to everything else. I cannot claim that this series will change your life, but I can tell you that it changed mine.

The series isn't a substitute for the Scriptures, but it rings true to the central narrative: the transforming nature of what Christ does in our lives when we follow him.

If you are interested in reading more, Daniel Noa wrote a more detailed and traditional review for Looking for Overland and you can read it here

Posted by Jeremiah Lorrig

Click here for more movie reviews.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

States Win!

That's the verdict from the Supreme Court last week. More than "conservative" victories or "liberal' victories or "Democratic" victories or "Republican" victories, last week was a victory for the states.

First, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Court invalidated the Voting Rights Act provision that required certain states to get prior approval from the Attorney General before making any changes to their election laws. All states are now treated the same under the VRA, which still prohibits discrimination in election laws in Section 2.

Second, in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, the Court determined that the Indian Child Welfare Act did not interfere with South Carolina's adoption rules. Instead, the federal statute was interpreted narrowly to give broad latitude to the states.

Third, in United States v. Windsor, the Court used (in part) a federalism rationale invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act. The states, not the Federal Government, has the authority to determine the definition of marriage, and the Court determined that DOMA had undermined that authority.

In all three of these cases, the conflict was between a state law or practice and a federal one. And in all three the state won and the federal interest was pushed back. In light of the recent trend for federal powers to expand, I think this is significant.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Artificial leadership

One of my favorite scenes in the film Gladiator is when Maximus is in the arena and has an opponent at his mercy. He looks to the crowd for direction, and they demand he should kill the defeated gladiator. The Emperor, Commodus, indicates likewise. However, Maximus defies the will of both and spares his vanquished foe. And the crowd loves him even more.

The look on Commodus' face as the camera cuts away is priceless--he cannot comprehend why he is despised for giving the people what they want while Maximus is loved for defying them. But Maximus knows, he defied them while appealing to their better instincts. They are better people for being defied. And somehow, they realize that.

But this post isn't about gladiators. It's about something even more vicious: politics. Specifically, political leadership.

recent article by Gabriel Schoenfeld made what I believe to be a very good point about one of the reasons Romney lost. He was trying to be someone he wasn't, trying too hard to reflect the will of the Republican establishment rather than just being himself.
Both as a candidate and as a president, George W. Bush had his share of defects. But one of the reasons he twice won presidential elections is that he was exactly who he said he was. Voters could tell, and they liked that in a leader. Both as a man and as a governor, Mitt Romney had his share of virtues, and no doubt they would have been on display had he become president. But one of the reasons he lost twice is that he was often not who he said he was. Voters could tell that, too—the artificiality of his focus-group-chosen language was often striking—and they did not like it at all. A good marketing team would have understood that packaging Mitt Romney as something he was not was a mistake. Indeed, a really good marketing team would not have packaged him at all. They would have let this impressive man be himself. 
More pertinently, this impressive man could himself have chosen to remain himself. David Frum maintains that Romney, one of the Republican Party’s “most articulate and intelligent standard-bearers in decades,” was “forced” by ideological conservatives “to jettison his own best self and best judgment.” There is of course something to this argument. Conservatives in key states, the argument continues, have a lock on the primary process. If Romney had not concealed his true moderate self and tacked to the right, he would have had little chance of capturing the Republican nomination. We cannot rerun history backward to see if such an analysis is correct. But a case can be made that voters of every stripe, including conservatives, would have had far more respect for Romney if he had resisted the conservative Siren calls to sail in their direction and, instead of posing as a “severe conservative,” had stood fast for what he believed. 
Our country’s greatest presidents, from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan, did not need to bend to the whims of the electorate. By dint of their principled statesmanship, they bent the electorate to their will. They educated it. They persuaded it. They brought it along. They certainly did not need application programming interfaces to get elected and to accomplish what they accomplished. Nor did Abraham Lincoln need to hire a “messaging professional” to write the Gettysburg Address.
Which brings me to Senator Rubio. On immigration he is not making Romney's mistake. Instead, he is defying the very Tea Party support that got him elected. And he is even trying to persuade that base to follow him.

We have yet to see whether he will be successful. But Senator Rubio is demonstrating true political leadership; the sort of leadership that challenges the electorate to rise above their initial inclinations.

If Rubio succeeds, he will be a force to be reckoned with. But even if he fails, it is something other than a leadership failure. Returning again to the gladiator context, Theodore Roosevelt once said:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
With the Senate passing an immigration reform bill, and the House about to take it up, now we will see whether the House Republicans are critics or doers. Regardless of the outcome, Senator Rubio has already answered that question for us.
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