October 2004 Archives

A lot of people have been talking about how cell phones are beginning to make polls a lot less useful, because pollsters aren't allowed to call cell phones due to some plans being pay-per-call. Since the demographics of cell phones make it likely that this would undercount the Kerry voters, the people who have been talking about it have been expecting Kerry to do much better than the polls suggest. I personally know many people who have only cell-phones, so this group is not insignificant. The one problem I have with this argument is that I know far more people who have caller ID and who won't answer their phone if they don't recognize the name on the ID. This doesn't seem to me to be a particular demographic that would favor either candidate, so I don't think it weights thinks back in Bush's direction, but my main point here is that this is such a huge group that can't be polled by phone, and in the end we really know much less from the polls than we thought. This is going to get increasinly so with each election. I've been following polls like a hawk, but I'm not expecting things to break according to how the polls have gone. We'll see.

While I'm talking about polls, I want to make a suggestion that I haven't seen about Hawaii. No one seems to be able to figure out why such a heavily Democratic state as Hawaii has been polling for Bush. It's a weak Bush lead, but polls have given him a lead. Why would it even be close? I haven't even seen anyone try to explain it. Here's my best guess. Hawaian voters are worried about North Korea, since Hawaii was the target of the last attack we experienced from east Asia, and they're begininng to think Bush will handle North Korea better than Kerry. That's my guess, and I haven't seen any other explanation (never mind a better one), so I figured I'd offer it up to those who care about such things.

This post at prosthesis led me to think about an interesting irony in John Kerry's version of the opposition to legislating morality. Wink's distinction between morality and civil values amounts, as far as I can tell, to treating morality as if it's mere religious values (see the many posts on this in the last couple weeks). The prosthesis account of morality is that it's love and caring. The reason not to legislate morality, then, is not that morality can't be agreed on by all parties. It's that it's no longer morality if it's forced. I think this is one of the things people mean when they say we can't legislate morality (as opposed to saying we shouldn't, which is what Wink has been bv saying).

The irony comes in when we take a close look at the things Kerry spends a lot of time complaining about with Bush. Under the prosthesis account of what morality is, legislating morality would require legislating love and caring for people rather than just legislating actions. You can't do that. When Kerry says Bush wants to legislate morality on abortion, maybe he means something more like what Wink means, that religious values shouldn't be forced on those who don't hold them. Some things he says suggest that. [I don't think it works with abortion, of course, because there are philosophical arguments for a pro-life position, which means it's not just a religious value, and Wink has said that on his account opposition to abortion can count as a civil value because abortion causes harm, and avoiding harm is a civil value. So Kerry's justification for being pro-choice doesn't hold up here.]

Single Issue Voter

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Jeremy has on occasion written about being one of the few conservatives in his very liberal academic world. My situation is just the reverse. I'm one of the few liberals in my very conservative academic world.

On Wednesday, I was in class telling my studens when a certain assignment was due: Nov 5th. On student said out loud "Nov 5th, Nov 5th. And we vote Nov 2nd." I joked "Only if you're voting for Kerry. If you're voting for Bush, your supposed to vote on the 3rd. Makes it easier to count the votes that way." (Yes, a very old and very lame joke. So sue me.) Only one person laughed. I think the rest immediately started praying for my salvation. Or maybe that I might get struck down.

The Republican party is supposed to be the party of fiscal responsibility. That's one of the things I really like about the GOP. But somehow, things have gone seriously wrong. The deficit spending is out of control. Bush did not veto a single spending bill.

OK. Fiscal responsibility is not so much about lowering budgets per se as mich as it is about balancing budgets. But Bush hasn't done that at all. Instead, he keeps increasing spending and lowering taxes. That just doesn't make any sense.

And now we get to a huge beef for me: taxes.

Bush has made it a stated goal that he is going to cut taxes every year that he is in office, regardless of circumstance. What kind of policy is that? It certainly isn't a principled one unless "tax cuts" is a principle. Look--tax cuts are not always wise. Sometimes, yes. Always? No. (Unless you are a Libertarian who thinks that all taxes are immoral by nature.)

Why I Support Bush

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I plan to have a post up by tomorrow night or Monday about why I plan to vote for Bush from my current perspective, but in light of Wink's reasons why he's voting for Kerry I'm linking to a post from February that rehashed my original explanation to Wink about why I support Bush to begin with. (Wink is the friend I mention in that post. This was before he was blogging with me here, so I didn't mention him by "name".) I really need to get back to my grading, but I wanted not to leave Wink's posts uncomplemented in some way.

Bush has made the War on Terror the central theme of his campaign. It is clear that he is dealy serious about this war...he has invaded two countries because of it. However, he seems to fight it very selectively, and this worries me greatly about letting him continue to run the War on Terror as I disagree with much of his judgement.

The War on Terror has two aspects to it: 1) Killing Terrorists. 2) Spreading Democracy.

I've already stated why I didn't support the war. And in the comments, I have shown why it was Rumsfeld's rationale that I cared about, not Bush's (Rumsfeld's rationale, not Bush's, is the one that determines how the war was fought), and why Rumsfeld's rationale casts a bad light on Bush as a leader.

Now onto the mistakes made during the war.

Endorsement

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Here's what everyone has been waiting for, the extremely valuable and coveted Wink endorsement for President: Kerry.

This should surprise pretty much no one who knows me. I don't particularly like Kerry. But I simply do not like Bush far more. I could just not vote. Or I could vote for a third party. But in a race like this one, that is just like not voting. But I don't think that Kerry is so bad that I can't vote for him. Where as Bush...well, I pretty much can't vote for him.

In general, I feel that Bush is out of his depth. I think that he was able to govern Texas just fine. But running the most powerful country on the planet takes leadership at a whole different level. Bush has not proved himself capable at that level.

My next few posts will be my reasons why I can't vote for Bush. Note that I am not saying that Kerry is better on all of these issues (though I do think that he is better on most of these issues), so comments saying "But Kerry is just as bad" are beside the point. These are the reasons why I am not voting for Bush.

[Note: I'll add links here as I write the posts.]
Why I'm not voting for Bush: The War in Iraq
Why I'm not voting for Bush: The War on Terror
Why I'm not voting for Bush: Taxes and Fiscal Responsibility
Why I'm not voting for Bush: Diplomacy
Why I'm not voting for Bush: Education (and Unemployment)
Why I'm not voting for Bush: End of Series

Most Popular Posts

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Since this is post 750, I have virtually no time this week, and lots of posts recently have been comment-heavy, I decided to do a little site statistics for post 750. I'm ranking the most popular posts so far in terms of comments. I had thought I might also revise my top 15 posts or do a top 25 or something, but I'll save that for another time.

I was originally going to do the top 15, and then I saw that the first time I did this I had started with those having 13 comments or more, so I decided to see how many it would be if I started there this time. It turned out to be 29 (but if you don't count Wink's posts it's a nice 25). For comparison's sake, I left them all in. When there's a tie, older posts are listed first.

Some churches, ours for example, disapprove of Halloween. Presumably because of its pagan roots. So, they offer "Harvest Festivals" on Halloween as an alternative, where kids can come, have costumed fun, and leave with candy.

So let me get this straight. The church opposes Halloween. So it offers an alternative on the same night where the kids do the same things. They've just changed the name and that's enough? If everyone across the country agreed to call Oct 31st "Harvest Festival" instead "Halloween", would that be enough to keep the people in my church from telling me that it is an evil and pagan holiday?

'Cause if a name change is all it takes to take the pagan out of a pagan festival, then I'm all for it.

Christian Carnival XLI

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The 41st Christian Carnival finds its home at From the Anchor Hold. My Playing God is part of it. There are lots of entries this time around, but I'll highlight just two.

Julie Ann Fidler talks about her four years of marriage. It's been worth it despite being very hard. It's been worth it but not for any of the reasons she expected it to be worth it. I bet that's true of many Christian marriages.

The Crusty Curmudgeon reflects on the authority and sufficiency of scripture, presumably for the upcoming debut of the Carnival of the Reformation. It's a great overview of the issue. I'm looking forward to lots of great stuff on Monday. I just don't expect to have time to read any of it.

I received the following email this morning:

To all Syracuse University students:

We take pride in working together to make Syracuse University a welcoming, safe and respectful living and learning environment. The efforts of students, faculty and staff to promote and develop the appreciation of differences and similarities on this campus are numerous and ongoing. To continue promoting a safe and secure community free of crime and/or policy violations that are motivated by discrimination, sexual and bias-related harassment, and other violations of rights, we must work together every day! At this time of year, we especially need your assistance.

Halloween-related activities can be fun, but they are not an opportunity for carelessness, insensitivity and disrespect toward others. Incidents here and on other campuses have drawn attention to bias-related incidents, and we ask that everyone in the Syracuse University community become engaged in making this
campus safe, secure and bias-free.

The student organizations listed below and I ask that everyone who chooses to wear a Halloween costume please take a minute to think about what kind of response your costume may elicit from others, and make a mature and responsible decision as to whether your costume is appropriate. Portrayals of ethnicity and race, gender, class, religions, cultures or sexual orientations, just
to name a few, may be considered in poor taste or offensive.

As members of a university community, we ask you to think about how others may be impacted by the costume you choose to wear. These portrayals, while sometimes considered harmless, tend to reinforce stereotypes, inaccurately represent cultures, demean groups or individuals, or make a mockery of Syracuse University values and beliefs. While the intent may be harmless, in many instances the end result may be unintentionally yet unfortunately damaging. If you choose to take part in any Halloween-related festivities this year, please be respectful and responsible. Thank you.

Why I didn't support the war...

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or, as I put it at the time, "I support a war with Iraq, but I don't support this war with Iraq.

At the time (i.e. before the war), everyone was convinced that Saddam had WMD. This made Iraq a threat, but not an immanent threat as there was no evidence of a massing of troops or a plan being implemented to attack the US or any other nation. Nor was there evidence showing that Saddam was planning on getting those WMD into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations. Without an immanent threat, war under the rationale of "preemptive war" just didn't fly for me. (I know that others disagree with me here, but war in response to non-immanent threats is more properly classified as "preventative war", a category of war which I am not comfortable supporting.)

Scripture and Worship

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What is the role of scripture in worship? If scripture is to be our sole infallible guide to Christian practice as well as theology, what does that mean for worship? Since I'm writing this to enter it into the first Carnival of the Reformation, it's probably worth linking to a good summary of the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Wikipedia's entry should serve that purpose well. What I'm interested in establishing in this post is what bearing that doctrine has on worship, both private and communal. Some readers may consider some of my conclusions suprising, but I think they come right out of scripture. There are so many elements of contemporary worship that seem to me to use a non-scriptural basis and even undermine what scripture says about worship. Some of these are subjects of common complaints, but I think the ones I'm zeroing in on are not the most common complaints about the worship of our day. I do think they're some of the more serious ones. If we take scripture seriously, as the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura requires, I think we'll need to change much of how we think about worship, including the role of scripture in worship, though how it will need to change will depend on our background and our current practices.

Inerrancy

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Since Sophia was born, I've had very little time to do any real reading of blogs, so I've been playing catch-up. I just read Jollyblogger's The Reformed View of Innerantism from last Tuesday. I don't see what's particularly Reformed about this, since it's just the historic Christian view, and I took issue with one statement he made in passing about something the post was not about (see my comment), but this is once of the best statements I've ever read on inerrantism, regarding what the view says, what it doesn't say that too many people seem to think it does, and why the main argument that it's not the historic Christian view is based on a straw man. There are lots of particular issues he doesn't cover that I have thoughts on but no time to put them together, so I'll just leave it at that.

Philosophers' Carnival IV

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The fourth Philosophers' Carnival is at Doing Things With Words. It's got three posts from blogs I'm associated with. For Parableman, we have my post on how poor the Oxford English Dictionary definition of 'racism' is. OrangePhilosophy is represented by Ben Bradley's argument that the death of a baby is comparatively worse intrinsically than the death of a young adult, other things being equal. Prosblogion makes an appearance with Ted Poston's response to the problem of divine silence that belief in God doesn't need to involve a strong belief in any particular statements about God, which led to the interesting suggestion that any relational connection with God can in fact count as knowledge of God. Blogger has been acting up all day, so if a post doesn't work try it again later. Sometimes hitting reload or enter is all it takes. Sometimes that won't do it.

Christian Carnival XL

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Proverbial Wife hosts the 40th Christian Carnival, or at least the 40th one people submitted posts to. Marla put in a lot of work digesting each one and putting them into an order that really flows quite nicely. It's actually only the 39th to appear, since the one that was supposed to be the 39th is unfortunately delayed (or canceled?) because Adrian Warnock's real life is refreshingly more important than his blogging. My Abominations gets top billing in the Carnival this week. There's lots of good stuff, and I've selected eight posts to highlight, so it's going under the fold.

Fearmongering

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Jared at Thinklings points out that John Kerry's increasingly common statements that Bush and Republicans are trying to scare Americans are themselves attempts to try to scare Americans (often completely unfounded, as it happens, such as with his claims that Bush wants to reinstate the draft and has inititated efforts to stop legally registered minority citizens from voting).

I'm not as sure as Jared that Republicans haven't used any scare tactics, but Kerry has no right to complain about scare tactics, when most of his recent rhetoric has been exactly what he's condemning Bush for doing. I would say it sounds like a certain Alanis Morissette song, except hardly anything in that song really is ironic except the name. What's worse is that this comes out of another exegetical foible, one that arguably borders on blasphemy, since he seems to be putting himself in the position in his political version that the Holy Spirit occupies in what Jesus says -- the one to hope for so that your fears won't be realized.

This is just a reminder that the first installment of Post-Tenebras Lux. the Carnival of the Reformation, is coming up. All submissions are due in by this Thursday, October 28 at 6:00pm EST. The Carnival will be posted next Monday, November 1. This is a themed carnival, and the theme is Sola Scriptura and each post should be a defense, exegesis, or application of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and should be in line with the statements of the major reformed confessions on Scripture. Please submit entries to "reformationcarnival ATT spamex DOTT com". See here for more information, here for the original announcement with even more details, and here for links explaining Sola Scriptura in its Reformation context.

Christian Carnival XLI Plug

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This coming Wednesday, October 27th, is the next Christian Carnival, which will be hosted at From the Anchor Hold. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival deadline, which was 10/19.

Then, do the following:

This post at Thinklings has led me to reconsider my decision to let my Abominations post stand without revising it but simply explaining as an addition what I really meant. Read below the fold for why.

Update: First I want to say that rethinking this as I revised that section of that post has led me to consider one thing that hadn't occurred to me originally or in all the responding to comments I've done. My original point was about the logic of the argument against homosexual sex. The logic is that God had ordained sex and marriage for one purpose: to reflect something about the relationship between Christ and his bride (the gathering of believers around God's throne in heaven, i.e. the church). That will be fulfilled in the resurrection and thus will no longer be in place to serve as a reason for anything like sex or marriage. Then I said that if there's something like sex it may not be restricted to male-female couples since there won't be any, and by the same reasoning it may not be restricted to male-female relations at all, since there might not be any of them either. Well, what occurred to me is that there are two scriptural grounds for male-female relations. One is the relation between Christ and the church. The other is the relation between Father and Son in the Trinity. This comes out most clearly in I Corinthians 11:3, though I see elements of it expressed elsewhere. Most of the other passages about marriage or sex distinctions don't deal with this, though, so I wasn't really thinking about it. Should this undermine what I said? I don't know. If it does, it also undermines the reason I gave for why Jesus said there won't be marriage in the resurrection. So I'm not sure if it changes anything because I'm not sure what to say about it at all.

Playing God

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I've been covering pacifism, just war, suicide, euthanasia, cloning, abortion, and capital punishment in my classes, and I've been thinking a lot about the "playing God" argument that arises in all these issues. It also plays a major role in arguments against contraception, which Wink and I treated not too long ago. What exactly is this argument supposed to amount to? The one underlying feature to the different versions I can think of is that somehow God has given us certain responsibilities to do but has withheld from us certain things to do, and it's playing God to do the latter. But which things would those be, and why those things? The different realms God is said to have exclusive rights over have been anything involving when someone might die or come into being, any way to affect the characteristics of someone as they come into being, and other issues related to life and death. A helpful analogy, though, is to consider groups like the Amish who make this argument not just about life and death but about many ways in which we live our life. They apply it to certain kinds of technology, though I've never been able to find a consistent standard behind their choices of which kinds of technology to use and which not to use. Knitting needles and computers are equally human-developed technology. But those of a more moderate persuasion who will still give such an argument seem to me to limit it to these life and/or death issues and to using technology to modify something seen to be fundamental to God's prerogative in giving and taking life (and determining what form such life will take, which is why cloning and genetic engineering are part of this).

This discussion has gotton somewhat out of control and I now find myself repeating myself over and over again in different comment threads. So I'm compiling the most common stuff and reposting it here so that I can point a link at this post instead of retyping everything yet again. I'll update this post as necessary to include new frequently reposted stuff.

Fellowship 9-11

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Michael Moore is at it again. This time he's investigating the regime of Aragorn and the combination of ineptitude and calculated evil that he manifested at Helm's Deep. I didn't get a chance to finish watching it a couple days ago, but in case in never get around to it I wanted to post it.

While we're on political humor, check out these hilarious fake ads against John Kerry. It seems to make fun of both candidates equally. Why not to vote for Kerry: "America doesn't need a leader who is dumb enough to trust George W. Bush."

Over in this post, I argue that gay marriage should be legal even though it is immoral. In making my argument, I point out that worshipping other gods is immoral, yet perfectly legal. In fact, it is one of our most cherished freedoms here in America.

In the comments of that post, William claims that homosexuality, being called an abomination in the Bible, is a special case even though he agrees with my argument in general. The reasoning is that abominations are so much more immoral than your standard sins that they require legislation to restrict them even if you think that morality should not be legislated.

Then of course Rocky brings up shrimp and then to keep the discussion about abominations from hijacking the entire thread, Jeremy writes an intriguing and surprising post about abominations (which I largely agree with but require further study before I can support it wholeheartedly).

However...there is still one main point about Abominations as they relate to Legislating Morality that still hasn't been brought up, thus necessitating yet another post. Here goes:

Wink posted about how Alan Keyes had insulted him, so now I'm going to post about how Teresa Heinz has insulted my wife and millions of other women.

Teresa Heinz: Well, you know, I don't know Laura Bush. But she seems to be calm, and she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good. But I don't know that she's ever had a real job -- I mean, since she's been grown up. So her experience and her validation comes from important things, but different things. And I'm older, and my validation of what I do and what I believe and my experience is a little bit bigger -- because I'm older, and I've had different experiences. And it's not a criticism of her. It's just, you know, what life is about.

Then we have her apology, which admits that being a teacher or a librarian is a real job. What about being a full-time student in a masters program at a good school? What about being a full-time mom for many years (which Heinz herself has done)? How many people has this woman just insulted? She obviously has no idea what the responsibility of raising children amounts to if she doesn't even think paid teachers count as having a real job until she's called on it and then continues to assume that being a full-time mom isn't a real job even after being called on it . The greatest contribution anyone can give toward the future of society isn't a real job. By the way, this doesn't just apply to women. Wink as a stay-home dad (when he's not at school) is also a victim of this attack, since being a student and caring for his son are what he basically does. I happen to have a part-time job teaching, though that's only a real job as an afterthought, since it's teaching, so I guess it kind of applies to me too.

I think it says a lot about John Kerry that he would marry someone with such values. It's not just that she sounds really mean, though some of the fashion show voters will care more about that. She really is mean, and she's mean to very nice, very hard-working people. Thanks to Polipundit for first bringing this to my attention.

Keyes, Get Lost!

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Alan Keyes has gone too far in opposing gay marriage. He claims that incest awaits kids of gays. His reasoning is as follows: 1) gay parents adopt children, 2) children of closed adoptions don't know who their blood relative are, 3) inevitably, one of those children will unknowingly marry a blood relative. 4) Therefore, gay marriage should be illegal.

This, again, just like in my last post, is a complete non-sequiter.

Abominations

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[Update 10/24 3:54 pm: I'm removing my clarifications from the original update to this post and working the clarification into the text. See this post for why; there's a slight update to my thinking on this in that post as well.]

This post started as a response to the comments on Wink's Legislating Morality post, so if you haven't read that then you might want to glimpse at it for the context. I intend this to be a self-contained post, however, so that's not absolutely required reading. I predict right now that this post will get me in big trouble.

The issue at hand is what to make of Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a man as a man lies with a woman; it is an abomination." In the aforementioned comments thread, William mentioned this as a reason to think we should regard with utmost caution anything called an abomination. Very few things are called such a strong term. Rocky responded that eating shellfish is described by the same term. William replies that God and Peter dealt with the eating of shellfish, while no other abomination in scripture loses that status. I assume that's about Peter's vision sent to him for the purpose of accepting Gentiles into the gathering of new covenant believers, which wasn't really so much about the food as it was about what it symbolized. Jesus did declare all foods clean, however, so the point remains.

Jesus declared them clean, just as he declared clean the man with the skin condition, unclean by the Torah's standards. That must mean that whatever ritual significance they had was only temporary. It could be removed by divine fiat. After all, it was stipulated in the Torah by divine fiat. William is suggesting that when Jesus declares something clean it is clean, even if the Torah said otherwise, meaning the Torah had temporary jurisdiction over that item. Do other things declared unclean by the Torah remain unclean then if Jesus didn't declare them clean? Does it mean those things are inherently evil and not just ritually unclean? I say not necessarily, and one possibility that occurred to me sounds really weird but seems consistent with the entire biblical record, especially once you consider some biblical-theological themes across scripture.

The Reasoning Behind Measure 36

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A recent flier sent to my house urged me to vote for Measure 36, a state constitutional amendment which would define marriage as being between one man and one woman. A recent Oregonian article also laid out the reasoning for the supportes of Measure 36. Similarly, Sozo in a comment to my previous post also laid out a defense of traditional marriage. All three said the same thing: children are better off with a mother and a father.

This is, of course, a complete non-sequiter.

The reasoning is that if you outlaw gay marriage, then you will not have gay couples parenting children. But that is patently untrue. Gay unmarried couples currently have children (whether through adoption, or IVF, or from previous heterosexual encounters). Preventing such couples from getting married will not magically make those children go away. All that it does is deprive those children of the stability of a legally recognized family structure.

Over here in Oregon we have a proposed (state) constitutional amendment called "Measure 36". It is basically the state equivalent of the FMA defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. This is a voter initiative and bypasses the legislature altogether (apparently it is legal to amend the state contitution by initiate in Oregon).

I was talking to one of my profs who shares a similar political outlook with me. He was surprised that I, as well as a couple of other of his students students, am against the measure. I, in turn, was surprised that he did not see things my way. I am of the "gay marriage is immoral but should be legal" camp, he is of the "gay marriage is immoral, should be illegal, but supports civil unions" camp.

He asked why I didn't support the amendment given that we both believe that gay marriage is immoral. I gave him two reasons.

Well, here's one I haven't seen in years, which surprises me now that I think of it. This is the original argument against same-sex marriage/civil unions, and it really would devalue marriage in many ways if anyone did this. 76% is pretty high, too, so it's not as if a few people would be taking advantage of the system. Of course, anyone who thinks marriage is a fundamental constitutional right isn't going to see a likely abuse of that right as a reason not to recognize it, but it really surprises me that I haven't seen this argument more often. Thanks to Josh Claybourn for pointing this out.

President/SCOTUS Selectors

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I took this test during the primaries before the third party candidates were selected, so I decided to take it again with them involved. My results are interesting:

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Bush, President George W. - Republican (72%)
3. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (45%)
4. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (43%)
5. Badnarik, Michael - Libertarian (42%)
6. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (39%)
7. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (37%)
8. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (36%)
9. Peroutka, Michael - Constitution Party (25%)
10. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (24%)
11. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL - Democrat (17%)
12. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (14%)
13. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (13%)
14. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR - Democrat (12%)
15. Cobb, David - Green Party (10%)
16. Nader, Ralph - Independent (10%)
17. Hagelin, Dr. John - Natural Law (8%)
18. Brown, Walt - Socialist Party (8%)

Christian Carnival XL Plug

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We're still waiting for the 39th Christian Carnival to appear due to personal life interfering with Adrian's ability to post it. While you're waiting, you can submit your post for the 40th Christian Carnival, which will be held at Proverbial Wife.

If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week. To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not absolutely exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the deadline for the last Christian Carnival (roughly a week before this week's deadline). Then, do the following:

Family Pictures

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As it turns out, this is my 725th post. Here are some pictures from the hospital. All pictures of me and most of Isaiah looked awful, so I picked the best of everyone else and the one decent one of him. First is Sam and Sophia last night, the night after the delivery. You can't see Sophia as well in this one, but the first priority is always to show off Mommy and baby together. Next is one of the best of the early pictures of Sophia. As you can see, she likes to try to put her hand in her mouth, but most of the time she just gets blanket. She did enjoy the small store-bought pacifier once she got it in all the way, but then she fell asleep and it fell out. To the right is another one that I believe was taken the next day (yesterday).

Here's Ethan with his ducky and Alfred from LarryBoy, the Veggie Tales spoof of Batman. If you look closely you can see the remains of the tail Sam sewed onto the duck for him to play with, since he had the original tag he used to play with cut off by his mean Auntie Tiffany. Ducky usually goes everywhere with him, but he isn't allowed to have it during school. To the right, you can see him staring, captivated by his new little sister. I think she freaks him out a little bit, but he's very interested, whereas he wasn't at all when he first met her. Isaiah still can't bothered by her. He'd rather knock all the books off the shelves now that Mommy's home to get mad about it. While she was in the hospital, he just wanted to put playing cards back in their box one at a time for 45-minute stretches.

Here are three more taken the night after the delivery. I look pretty terrible in the one I'm in, but Sam thinks it's not that bad. I guess some of the others were much worse. I wanted a picture with all of us, though, and this is the best one with Isaiah. He's only in a few, and most of them don't show his whole face or display really unfavorable looks on his face. He didn't really want anything last night except to fall asleep in my arms. In the other picture with all of us, my head was already cut off. I didn't even have to modify that one.

Wright on the Resurrection

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N.T. Wright's latest book The Resurrection of the Son of God, which I have but haven't had a chance to look at much, has been getting great reviews (see Craig Blomberg's for one example). I heard him present an early version of some of this along with his more general work on the authenticity of the synoptic accounts of Jesus' life a few years ago, and I'd never heard anything like it. As much as I disagree with him in a few places theologically, I'm impressed by his apologetical work. He's apparently worked the most fundamental arguments of the book into a series of three talks entitle Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus, which are now all online. They are: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem, Early Traditions and the Origins of Christianity, and The Resurrection and the Postmodern Dilemma. Thanks to NT Gateway for the links.

Against Michael Peroutka

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A lot of conservatives think there's something morally superior about voting for the Constitution Party candidate over President Bush. I think that's a big mistake. Anyone who takes that view should view the arguments against voting for that party or that man before making a final commitment. I realize that Bush isn't exactly the arch-conservative's friend when it comes to spending, immigration, abortion (among those who think anyone who does anything that stops short of complete abolition is equivalent to winking at murder), and other issues, and many Christians think his language doesn't reflect Christian views on a few matters. I've defended a vote for him against such charges (along with defending him on some of them), but there's information directly about the Constitution Party and their candidate that anyone should know about before considering Peroutka a genuine option. I'd much rather have John Kerry as president than this nut. [Thanks to Tulipgirl for the last link.]

I'd like to see someone who knows more than I do about global warming critique this revelation that one of the key pieces of evidence for global warming was rigged. Has anyone responded to this yet? Last I knew some of the conclusions that this evidence was supposed to refute seemed really plausible (e.g. that global warming has been slightly increased recently but has been on the increase for a long time and that there's little we can do about it). This evidence was supposed to refute that (though that was also based on evidence). Now the refutation seems suspect. Does anyone know more about this?

Debate #3 Thoughts

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I had a 24-hour delay in watching the debate due to Bible study during it and being at the hospital since then, but I read many bloggers' thoughts on it immediately afterward before going to bed for a few seconds. I didn't see very much media reportage of it. I don't really want to repeat a lot of what others have said, but I'm sure I will since this is so late. I did want to mention a few things, though. If you're looking for overall general thoughts, find someone who can do that well. I don't do that because I'm awful at it. If you want some specific comment on a few specific issues, you're in the right place.

It's a Girl!

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Sophia Alexandria Pierce was born at 2:27 pm EST today, weighing in at 6 lbs. 14 oz. Labor began at 11:30 pm last night, and we were at the hospital before 2am. I got very little sleep last night, of course, but I'm home now with the boys for the night. Sam and Sophia are doing fine and will come home tomorrow. Ethan and Isaiah got to see her for a few minutes today and were thoroughly uninterested.

Update (1 pm Friday): She's got a pediatric heart murmur, which seems to have something to do with connecting the lungs and heart in utero, which usually disappears in the transition to the new environment but hasn't done so yet, so they're holding on to her for another day. I'll have to find out more about this, but my impression is that this happens all the time. My intitial search turned up a bunch of medical search engines that didn't say anything about what I was searching for, and I didn't have time before class today to do anything more.

Update 2: This seems to be what Sam was talking about. "It is estimated that at least 85 percent of babies will have a murmur during the first 24 hours after birth. This is caused by the normal closure of a blood vessel and usually goes away within 48 hours." This site calls it a "normal (innocent) heart murmur".

Update 3: I've got pictures up now.

This is the 6th part of an ongoing series, beginning here. The links to all the other parts are in the inaugural post. I've looked at a few arguments in favor of affirmative action so far, and we're now up to the argument based on equal opportunity. Affirmative action opponents insist that affirmative action leads to less equal opportunity for those who are not intended to benefit from it (i.e. white people for the most part, also Asians at many elite schools, and men for gender-based affirmative action). There's something to that, because someone in that position has to meet higher standards to be accepted than someone in an under-represented group, and something similar occurs in workplace affirmative action cases. However, those who argue for affirmative action on equal opportunity grounds want to make a case that those in the underrepresented groups don't really have equal opportunities. Many of them are in a demographic group that has a higher instance of being impoverished, though most of those who apply to college are not in that group as it turns out and are thus not representative of their group. One problem has to do with less access to necessary tools for doing well in school, including computers, though most public libraries have those now, and SAT preparation classes, which aren't necessary to doing well on the SAT but do give a distinct advantage, and only the upper end of the middle class will want to shell out the money for them, but once that's clear it's not longer a racial issue but a financial issue, and poor white people will need to be given the benefit of lower standards also. No current policy I know of does that. If there is indeed discrimination that's harmful enough to people in these groups, then there's less opportunity to succeed. That was the subject of the first argument I considered. I could spend some time listing the ways there might not be equal opportunities, but that's not so much the point. I don't think any conservative on the issue of affirmative action will insist that there are no ways in which underrepresented groups will in general turn out to have a lower level of opportunity to achieve as high scores and grades as others. As a group, they have a lower level of opportunity.

According to John Kerry, he will raise taxes on the highest tax bracket, those earning above $200,000 of taxable income. At the second debate, someone asked him to speak directly into the camera and say in simple and unequivocal terms that he would not raise taxes on anyone who earned less than $200,000. He did that. I discovered that his tax plan on his website says this also, but it also says something else in fine print significantly below that. It says he will raise taxes on people who earn less than 200,000, even as low as $87,000 for a member of a married couple filing separately.

What's worse is that it contradicts itself in close succession. The plan repeats his claim that the middle class tax cut will be kept: "Kerry's health and education plans would be paid for by rolling back the Bush tax cuts that only benefit families making over $200,000 (all families would still keep the middle-class tax cuts)." Then it says, "Specifically Kerry would: Restore the top two tax rates to their levels under President Clinton." Then it lists three more items. One of them directly affects people well into the middle class range: "Maintain the phase-out of personal exemptions and itemized deductions (PEP and PEASE)." Phasing out an exemption or decuction by reducing it does result in a net tax increase. The more obvious problem, though, is that he said that under no circumstances would he raise taxes on anyone earning lower than $200,000, and his plan repeats this claim a few times. Yet the plan also says that he'll return to Clinton-level taxes for the top two tax brackets, which means he'll raise taxes on the second level, which is lower than $200,000. Presumably he knows what his plan says. I'm not sure why he's so confident that he has a plan that will solve all these problems if he doesn't know what that plan is. That means he's lying. It's not too bright to run your campaign on the issue of honesty when you can lie through your teeth when someone asks you to speak simply and honestly into the camera and say you won't do something while at the same time to keep talking about your plan that will do exactly what you said you won't do. Thanks to Jason Smith for pointing this out. Jason's other claim is also highly interesting if true, but I can't substantiate it and didn't see any of the numbers backing it up.

I was wondering why I've been getting so much traffic from Pro-Life Blogs. I guess it's because there are only twelve blogs in it so far. I had assumed it had been publicized fairly well, but I guess not, so I'm doing my share.

Their requirements for membership:

1. Have a weblog or pro-life web site.

2. Subscribe to the sanctity of human life and pro-life principles (human life is precious and life begins at conception).

3. Blog, at least in part, on pro-life related issues such as abortion, adoption, embryonic stem cell research, or euthanasia. The theme of your blog can be politics, social issues, theology, etc. as long as there is some expression of your pro-life stand. Naturally, your blog cannot contain any objectionable material, such as calls to violence, racism or profanity.

4. Promote ProLifeBlogs and/or a ProLifeBlogs web site [see the site for more specifics on this].

While we're on the topic, check out Volokh's surprisingly pro-life-friendly post this morning. I have to disagree with him on one thing. Seeing abortion as the moral equivalent of muder doesn't require attacking abortion clinics or giving women who have abortions the death penalty, because it's not legally murder, and many pro-life people are Christians who believe in submitting to the laws of their government even if they disagree with them. Also, many pro-life people realize that abortion is often heartlessly pushed on young women by their parents and boyfriends or in some cases by what they expect those people would do or say. The rest of Volokh's comments are worth heeding, particularly if you're Andrew Sullivan. I'm seriously contemplating removing my link to him, not for the first time.

This is so wrong, but it's really funny. When I first heard about John Edwards' run for president, I knew there had to be a good John Edward joke in there somewhere, but I never found one. Well, here it is.

Update: I wonder if this means John Edwards is saying that electing John Kerry will bring about the return of Christ!

Update 2: Josh Claybourn has more Crossing Over.

This week's Christian Carnival will be at Adrian Warnock's UK Evangelical Blog.

If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not absolutely exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. (Some that aren't really Christian-related have been slipping through, so remember that this is the Christian Carnival. Also be aware of Adrian's current distaste for political posts and try to spare him the suffering. Posts about other things are highly encouraged.) Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

We've been in the "any day now" phase of pregnancy for a few weeks now, and yesterday we entered the "any hour now" phase. I don't know yet if I'm going to teach tonight even. There's no guarantee that we'll even be heading into the hospital today, but the doctor said yesterday around this time that it might well be last night or today. That means I'm not likely to get to a number of things I wanted to write about, but I do want to give links to stuff that I had wanted to put together in a more cohesive argument.

Here's a list of key points from the Duelfer Report without commentary. There are a number of ways that those who have said that it shows there were no WMD are just plain wrong. Saddam had large stockpiles of nuclear material and the ability to begin producing nuclear weapons at a moment's notice. The extent of the UN oil-for-food scandal was much greater than anyone had realized, and there really was absolutely no way the sanctions could have been expected to continue, which would have been all Saddam needed to resume his nuclear armament. All this needs to be borne in mind when considering what the original bill giving the president authority to attack Iraq said.

You can draw your own conclusions, but it seems to me to that this doesn't undermine Bush's position at all (and I don't mean not it doesn't undermine it very much -- I mean not at all; the only thing we know now is that the threat wasn't imminent, which is what he said he wanted to prevent, which assumes he didn't think it was imminent at the time). So I wonder why people keep saying any of this undermines anything Bush said needed to be true for an invasion of Iraq to be the right thing. Those who have different premises might think it undermines their case for invading Iraq, but that's not the same thing.

Code Words

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I've seen a number of posts around the blogosphere talking about President Bush's reference to Dred Scott in his response to a question about what kind of judge he would appoint to the Supreme Court. Some people were bewildered about this, thinking he was talking about not appointing pro-slavery judges. That ignores the context, which of course was activist judges. He sees Dred Scott as judicial activism. Some have criticized him, saying that Dred Scott simply interpreted the 3/5 of a person phrase already written into the Constitution and didn't go beyond it, but that's also wrong. The 3/5 of a person phrase in the Constitution refers to how much a slave counts toward representation in Congress, not how much of a person the slave is in terms of rights. At that time the slave was assumed not to have rights, contrary to what the Constitution said, when I gave rights to all men (using its own language, which sounds archaic to my ears but (I have argued elsewhere) was not sexist and wasn't intended to exclude women). In that sense, Dred Scott was judicial activism. It took as a statement about human rights what was really just a compromise between northern and southern lawmakers in how much slaves would count toward representation in Congress given their non-voting status. So I have no problem with Bush using that as an example of judicial activism.

What really stuns me, though, is the claim that this reference was a code word for removing Roe v. Wade. It's true that if Bush thought he had the ability to do so, he'd do what he could to reduce the number of abortions significantly. I'm sure he thinks Roe v. Wade was one of the most horrendous decisions in the history of the Supreme Court, in the same category as Dred Scott. It's also true that there are many similarities between these two cases. The both involve human rights being denied to a whole segment of humanity, one in the case of slaves and the other in the case of those who haven't been born yet. They both involve judicial activism in the sense that the Constitution didn't declare those humans not to have the God-given moral rights assigned to "all men". In both cases it didn't explicitly deny those rights but did so underhandedly. Dred Scott did it by having property rights of the master outweigh the rights to life, liberty, and property of the slave. If mere property rights can outweigh someone else's right to life, that seems to me to be treating it as if the right to life isn't really there. In Roe, the right that outweighs the right to life of the fetus is the privacy rights of the mother, which isn't even a right in the Constitution. In that way, Roe is actually more judicially activist than Dred Scott. So the comparison between the two really is legitimate. What strikes me as odd, though, is the claim that this is a code word.

Internets

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I can't believe no one I've read has come up with what seemed to me to be the absolutely obvious explanation of why President Bush used the plural 'internets' at the second debate. Anyone who reflects on their own contemporaneous speech should understand what happened. On just my first listen to him say it, it sounded to me as if his pauses indicated that he was searching for the right wording as he put this sentence together. Perhaps he couldn't remember 'blogs'. Maybe he wanted a more general term but couldn't think of one in the short time he had before his pauses could get too awkward (and we're talking not much more than a few seconds here). He was obviously thinking in the plural, and when he realized he wasn't coming up with anything he went with 'internet', and it came out plural because he was looking for a plural. Most people do that sort of thing all the time.

Bush-Edwards

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It's just possible that President Bush could remain in office after the election with John Edwards as his vice-president. I just did some calculations, and if all goes according to the following outline, that will be the result.

OED Definition of 'Racism'

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I pulled this definition of 'racism' off the Oxford English Dictionary website. Most people can't access it unless they have access through a university or other academic organization, so I'll quote the whole thing here. My question is: what's wrong with this definition?

[f. RACE n.2 + -ISM; cf. F. racisme (Robert 1935).]

a. The theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race. b. = RACIALISM.

1936 L. DENNIS Coming Amer. Fascism 109 If..it be assumed that one of our values should be a type of racism which excludes certain races from citizenship, then the plan of execution should provide for the annihilation, deportation, or sterilization of the excluded races. 1938 E. & C. PAUL tr. Hirschfeld's Racism xx. 260 The apostles and energumens of racism can in all good faith give free rein to impulses of which they would be ashamed did they realise their true nature. 1940 R. BENEDICT Race: Science & Politics i. 7 Racism is an ism to which everyone in the world today is exposed. 1952 M. BERGER Equality by Statute 236 Racism, tension in industrial, urban areas. 1952 Theology LV. 283 The idolatry of our timeits setting up of nationalism, racism, vulgar materialism. 1960 New Left Rev. Jan./Feb. 21/2 George Rogers saw fit to kow-tow to the incipient racism of his electorate by including a line about getting rid of �undesirable elements�. 1964 GOULD & KOLB Dict. Social Sci. 571/2 Racism is a newer term for the word racialism... There is virtual agreement that it refers to a doctrine of racial supremacy. 1971 Ceylon Daily News (Colombo) 18 Sept. 8/5 Mr. Seneviratne is welcome to his ideal of inter-racial marriages as panacea for Racism. 1972 J. L. DILLARD Black English iii. 90 In the British sailors' reactions to the slaves.., the very early existence of racism is as well documented as the difference in language. 1974 M. FIDO R. Kipling 50/2 In The Story of Muhammad Din he wrote one of the most economical and bitter attacks on British racism ever penned. 1976 Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) 4 Mar. A2/4 The Vatican radio said,..�Racism might have different faces but it will always be reprehensible.� 1977 M. WALKER National Front vi. 155 A strike of the Asian workers against racism in the factory.

Update: For the whole Mark Tidbits series, see here.

In the last Mark Tidbit, I looked at Jesus' anger at the leper's condition before he healed him (Mark 1:40-45). In this one, I want to look about Jesus' words to the leper after he healed him:

See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them. (Mark 1:44, ESV)

Some readers puzzle about why Jesus didn't want him to talk to anyone. I'll just record my conclusion that he wasn't out there to spread his reputation or to get everyone to see who he was and what he was all about. The fact that he kept going around and speaking to large groups, healing, performing exorcism, etc. shows that he did have a concern for the people, but he didn't seem to be about doing those things for their own sake. He seems to me to have been picking up disciples throughout these towns through a filtering process while caring for people's needs as they came to him. His avoidance of crowds and quick efforst to move on show that the healings and even teachings of crowds didn't seem to be his main purpose but more for the sake of preaching a message for the purpose of gathering that those who responded to it as a large group of disciples. He knew that crowds gathering for purposes other than his main focus at the time would just have distracted from his real purpose. Many people in these crowds had different expectations for him from what he had in mind for this visit but would eventually be fulfilled after his death and in many cases only at his return. His purpose for now was to gather the followers who would form the basis of his new covenant people, and he by demonstrating how different and new what he was doing was, and in effect it's a demonstration of who he is. That required talking to the crowds and performing miracles, but the key focus was on distinguishing himself from anyone else as divine. I'll dwell on that theme in the next post or two. Most of his teaching in the rest of the book once this primary filtering process is over is teaching to the disciples who would form the basis of his gathered people.

I say all that only to set up what I think is a more interesting question. He wasn't about simple popularity but in fact wanted to avoid it, as shown in this case by his command to the guy not to tell anyone (which they guy studiously ignored, leading to large crowds searching for him, forcing Jesus to leave for another town). Yet he insists that the healed man, who has already been declared clean by Jesus, go to the priests for their examination. This was important enough that Jesus saw it as the one exception to his command not to tell anyone. Why?

Since this should get long, the liveblogging is in the extended entry.

The 38th Christian Carnival is at Belief Seeking Understanding. As he's done before, Doug has split it into two posts. Parableman is represented, as usual, in Mark Tidbit 2: Jesus' Anger.

Nicene Theology has an excellent summary of Augusting on Justification.

hungry 4 God has a helpful reminder that one of the key elements in good apologetics isn't the thinking involved. The post focuses on a case where Christians are ridiculed for being unintelligent or anti-intellectual, and it points to some important scriptural guidelines that aren't normally associated with apologetics but really are relevant to this sort of issue. The one thing I like less than apologists who give bad arguments for conclusions I agree with is apologists who have a nasty attitude while giving their defense of Christianity. Sometimes it's much better to listen and say little, asking key questions and not arguing for much, than it is to mount a defense whose content would be quite impressive but with a manner that would cast much darkness on the content through insulting the hearer.

21st Century Reformation learns some lessons from Jonathan Edwards' life about commitment to developing godliness and character.

A Physicist's Perspective offers some insightful thoughts on harm principles in ethics. Specifically, the argument is that some people try to avoid calling certain actions wrong because of their lack of harm. This post provides some interesting ways to show that there may well be harm anyway. I'm not endorsing every detail, but I think this sort of general approach is extremely important, because it just isn't true that harm principles automatically will allow what most people want to argue that they allow. My favorite example is incest. I think sexual relations between a brother and sister are harmful, but I can't think of a good secular argument why they should be harmful in principle as long as there's no chance of conception, and both parties are consenting adults. That complicates such discussions, and both sides have something to learn from thinking carefully about that sort of thing.

I agree with everything Kaus says here (thanks to Ryan's Head for the link), so I'll just quote it in full:

If a man says he has a gun, acts like he has a gun, and convinces everyone around him he has a gun, and starts waving it around and behaving recklessly, the police are justified in shooting him (even if it turns out later he just had a black bar of soap). Similarly, according to the Duelfer report, Saddam seems to have intentionally convinced other countries, and his own generals, that he had WMDs. He also convinced much of the U.S. government. If we reacted accordingly and he turns out not to have had WMDs, whose fault is that? Why doesn't Bush make that argument--talking about Saddam's actions in the years before the U.S. invasion instead of Saddam's "intent" to have WMDs at some point in the future? (It wouldn't necessarily make the Iraq war prudent, but it would make Americans feel more comfortable about it than what Bush has been telling them.)

A couple things interest me especially about his comments and the articles he links to. First, the L.A. Times piece is the opposite direction from what I'd been hearing. It says Saddam Hussein was the only one who knew the status of his WMDs and that it wasn't everyone else's lying to him but rather his keeping everyone else from seeing the full picture that led so many people to think he had lots of WMD and active programs developing them en masse.

Second, the NY Times piece quotes Kerry is babbling about not going to war and then making up reasons after the fact. I challenge anyone to come up with one reason Bush added after the fact. All the major reasons were there in the arguments to the U.N.

Third, his main point is that Bush has the better case than Kerry but just isn't making it. That sounds dead right to me. I'm not sure Cheney even got this right, but he was closer to it. Plenty of members of the administration have seen this and said it publicly, including Condi Rice. Why don't they encourage him to say this? I don't think what he's been saying is wrong. The reality of the situation was dangerous enough to be worth taking action. It's just a much weaker argument than the one he has available to him. [Update 5:11 pm: Andrew Card was just on and making this argument, so maybe Bush is going to make it tonight. We'll see.]

Paul's Prayers

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In Some Prayer List Hints, 21st Century Reformation presents some lessons for our prayers from Paul's prayers in his epistles. Paul's prayers are rich with theology and doctrine, but they also reveal his heart for God and for those he's praying for. A number of years ago I read D.A. Carson's A Call for Spiritual Reformation, which gives a detailed study of each of Paul's prayers (in the epistles, anyway), and I think it's the best book on prayer I've ever read. So check out 21st Century Reformation's post, and if you'd like more on this get Carson's book and read it for the rich treatement of Paul's heart and mind as revealed in his prayers, for help in absorbing this perspective of Paul as shown in his prayers, and for praying in accord with what the apostle valued. One of Sam's friends borrowed my copy a few years ago, and I really miss having it to refer to.

As a response to Keith's claims in the comments on my Liveblogging of the VP Debate, I wanted to say a few things about the kind of spin conservatives use. Everything I say here I've said somewhere or other, but much of it is scattered around other people's blogs, so I thought it would be important to have it here. I just wanted to pick a few issues where Kerry's detractors say he's inconsistent when it seems to me that he's not. I think he does has his moments of wanting to have it both ways. I've explained that in my analysis of the first presidential debate. Here are some things Kerry does seem to hold a consistent position on.

Rangel Votes Down Draft

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The key sponsor of the draft bill in the House, Charles Rangel of NYC, voted against it. I think that shows that Democrats are equally good at pushing bills in Congress for political gain. I've gone on record a number of times acknowledging that the only purpose of the FMA was political, to get Democrats on record on the issue for ammunition in the election. This one wasn't as widely supported among Democrats as the FMA was among Republicans, but for that reason it seems to me to be even more devious, because its mere existence has somehow gotten people to think Bush wants to reinstate the draft (and Kerry's feeding into that by insisting that he doesn't know what Bush wants to do, which means he's calling him a liar when he says he will under no circumstances reinstate the draft). Only Democrats sponsored the bill, and the only two who voted for it were Democrats. The thing that really bothers me about this bill is that the guy who initiated it to begin with voted against it. Dan Rather even aided Rangel in this deception, but the one thing Rather's piece showed is that the ploy worked. People really believe Bush is trying to institute a draft.

It's because of things like this that make me not so upset at some of the things Karl Rove has done in the past. It's not as if he's alone or the worst of the bunch. He pales in comparison to people like Rangel. I'm not saying Rove's tricks are morally righteous, but this is politics, and dirty hands are the norm. Those who express outrage at Rove but don't care about Rangel don't seem to me to have much moral weight behind their claims.

The third Philosophers' Carnival is at Philosophical Poetry. My 5th affirmative action post on reparations is part of it, as is my co-blogger (and host) Matthew's Prosblogion post on problems with the incarnation.

Doing Things With Words has a great post on tolerance. His major claim is that tolerance in general doesn't require being tolerant of everything (i.e. true relativists), and it doesn't require being tolerant of those who tolerate everything (presumably because we should insist on some genuine moral claims). The upshot is that you can possess the virtue of tolerance while being intolerant of someone. That seems right, and it seriously undermines the argument I hear regularly that advocates of tolerance are inconsistent when they're intolerant of the intolerant. It's a problem for those who say they're tolerant of everything, but those with a principled tolerance of certain things can be intolerant at times without being inconsistent.

I'm putting it all under the fold in case anyone really wants to follow along, not that I'm assuming anyone would. It's going to get longer and longer anyway, and it's easier to reload one post than the whole blog.

Teaching Statement

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I wanted to write something more personal for my 700th post, but this is a really heavy grading week, so I had to find something I wrote a while ago. Syracuse University has an Outstanding TA award every year, and I was awarded it in the spring of 2003 during my last semester as a teaching associate (basically a TA in terms of pay and benefits who teaches a class, which means they consider me faculty at TA pay with no benefits). I've since moved down the lowerarchy into adjunct status. I had to write a statement about my teaching, and this is it. I haven't edited what I submitted very much except to paste together aspects from different parts of the overall portfolio and to remove references to items in other parts of the portfolio.

What follows is my reflection on why I teach, why I teach philosophy, why I do it the way I do it, and what I've learned in the process. I've also added a few items of what I've done since then in brackets. In other words, it's a window into my thoughts about one of the top two or three things I put my energy into, and I've therefore got a lot to say about it. Most academic jobs require a statement like this, which is one reason they require it for this TA award to save people work later. By the time I go on the market I think I'll have to revise it significantly.

If you make it to the end (it's not short), you'll notice that it starts to degrade into summaries of particular kinds of teaching not related to university teaching. Those come from summaries on later pages in my teaching portfolio. I wanted to include them here, but be warned that it seems to end quite suddenly. My conclusion of my main teaching statement ends before that stuff starts. So don't think anything got cut off.

Best of Me Symphony XLIV

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The 44th Best of Me Symphony is at The Owner's Manual. My Who Killed Jesus? post is part of this week's Seinfeld edition.

For those who don't know, the Best of Me Symphony is a blog carnival with the peculiar theme of focusing on the best posts of blogs, requiring only that each entry be at least two months (60 days) old. It defeats the purpose of sending in the best posts of a blog if you submit things every week, so I don't enter too often, but it happens every week, so it's never too late to enter for the next one. Subimission info is at the bottom of the post.

I just found a followup to the homosexuality discussion from two weeks ago. It's on a blog called Chapter and Verse, and it seems to be from someone who left the homosexual lifestyle and considers himself ex-gay. He compares his treatment by gay people as what black conservatives receive from their community those who see them as traitors. One thing he mentions is that he thinks many Christians don't understand homosexuality. He doesn't quite put it this way, but I think he's also saying many gay people don't understand Christians. I think both are quite true.

Nukes and Dirty Bombs

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Joe Carter examines a number of myths about the dangers of dirty bombs and suitcase nukes (with some comments also about nuclear power plants at the end). I didn't know most of this stuff. His sources look to me to be about as reliable as you get. His conclusion: these tactics really are aimed at evoking paranoia and wouldn't really do anywhere near as much damage as you would think from the way people talk about it. It would be bad if a terrorist exploded a dirty bomb in the middle of Manhattan, but most people's attitudes toward it are far beyond what the threat really is. Someone a mile away would have a stronger radiation threat from getting an X-ray, but I think he's right that most people's fears stem from thinking the whole city would be uninhabitable with everyone anywhere near the city dying of cancer within a year.

Update: For the whole series, see here.

Mark 1:40-45 tells of Jesus' healing of a man with a skin condition (scholars are all agreed now that the symptoms of what was traditionally translated as leprosy in the Torah is not what we now call leprosy but a general term for skin conditions). The man comes to him, begs on his knees, and tells Jesus that if he's willing, he can make him clean. There's a textual debate over what happens next. Most translations say that Jesus is filled with compassion and heals him. Most scholars favor the alternate textual reading that Jesus was angry and healed him, and I think they're right. I also think this reveals something about Jesus's character that's worth reflecting on for a little bit, something that reminds me of another powerful display of emotion on Jesus' part in the gospel of John.

This week's Christian Carnival will be at Belief Seeking Understanding.

If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

On many an occasion I have heard that the (primary) purpose of sex is to have children. Similarly, I have frequently heard that the (primary) purpose of marriage is to have children. Suffice it to say that I think that both of these positions are absurd.

These positions end up creating beliefs like "contraception is morally wrong because it thwarts the priamry purpose of sex" and "gay marriage is wrong because the gay couple can't produce children, thus defeating the primary purpose of marriage".

The contraception issue has been dealt with in Jeremy's post on contraception, so I won't deal with it here.

The gay marriage argument showed up in the editorial pages of last Sunday's paper. I was surprised to see it. While I'm not known for agreeing with this particular columnist, he rarely says anything quite so stupid.

My take on Contraception

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I had been planning on writing a post on contraception, but Jeremy has beat me to it. His post is excellent and there is little that he says there that I would disagree with. I do want to add some of my own point of view so here goes:

Mark Tidbits

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I'm part of a Bible study group working through the gospel of Mark right now, and I've decided that from time to time I'll post a little tidbit from that study. I've already written a discussion on Jesus' preaching to repent and believe, so that's retroactively now the first post in this series. I have three more already planned, and we've only gotten through Mark 2:13 so far in the study, so this may be a regular feature for a while.

Update: As I go, I'll list and link to all the posts in the series. It will eventually get long, so I'm putting the list in the extended entry.

The 106th COTV is at Last One Speaks. My fifth affirmative action post on the reparations argument is part of it.

I don't know a lot about the estate tax (AKA the death tax) issue, but it comes in pints? knows a bit about it, and one argument sticks out to me. The estate tax hurts the middle class because property counts as part of an estate, and smaller estates are mostly illiquid property, such as a family's house. If you don't have the resouces to pay the tax because it's all in the house, that's not good. Those who favor this tax think it's a tax on the rich, and rich people do have to deal with this tax, but those who aren't that rich can really be harmed by it.

RoguePundit discusses a non-addictive painkiller derived from a mutated poppy. In other words, it's non-addictive opium. I guess want to know if it gives a high and muddles thought processes. If not, this is great. People have been working for a while to synthesize some of the chemicals in marijuana that have the medical effect but not the high or the other undesirable effects (well, some people find them desirable, but I don't understand that at all). This may be a natural way around that problem.

I'm not happy with all the harshness of Key Monk's treatment of the voter fraud issue in Florida and Missouri, but I think his points are pretty much right (with a few exaggerations perhaps). I hadn't heard about the fourth-grade class who had no problem with the Florida butterfly ballot. It didn't look that hard to me either. The most interesting stuff, though, was on black disenfranchisement, including the hoax of the black felon purge (which, to whatever extent it occurred, was mostly white) and the backfiring effect these charges have had on convincing black voters to stay home from the polls in 2002. This conspiracy theory has been shown false (thanks to this Watcher of Weasels post, also in this COTV, for that last link), and it's insulting to black voters to keep perpetuating it.

A couple lines at the end of this post on gay marriage at Let's Try Freedom seem to me to be full of real foresight. I would prefer to see the judiciary bow out. Gay marriage is something that should come to pass, if it comes to pass, because a significant and permanent majority of people want it to happen, and go to the trouble of pressuring their legislatures to enact it. Otherwise it will turn out to be abortion all over again - judicial fiat overriding democratic debate, and creating a permanently festering wound in the body politic. Since it is clear that the judiciary will NOT bow out, then I favor tying their hands. The FMA was a bad idea, because it took power away from the states; jurisdiction stripping leaves power in the state legislatures (and the populace, in states with the referendum) while cutting the courts out of the equation. I can see the similarities to abortion, and I think that's exactly where this is going to go.

Little Nuclear Bombs

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Since the debate, the right-leaning blogs (e.g. Tacitus) have latched on to Kerry's "error" of saying: "You talk about mixed messages. We're telling other people, "You can't have nuclear weapons," but we're pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using. Not this president. I'm going to shut that program down, and we're going to make it clear to the world we're serious about containing nuclear proliferation."

They make it clear that they think this is both a political blunder (i.e. most Americans watching the debate will disagree with him), and a substantial blunder (i.e. Kerry is just plain wrong on this issue).

I have no idea if what Kerry said was a political blunder as I have no idea what most American's think about the US developing "Bunker Buster" nukes, but I do have to say that the right-leaning blogs are wrong on their second point; Kerry is dead right when it comes to the susbtance of the issue.

[Note: edited to correct spelling mistakes.]

The Spin Gap

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Joshua has a post up that I mostly agree with. He is basically noting that the Bush campaign is far better at Spin Doctoring than the Kerry campaign. Whatever you think about each candidate, that seems hard to disagree with. The Kerry campaign, and its supporters, lob bomb after bomb at Bush, and they have little to no impact. Sure, the media picks it up and runs with it for a while, but the accusations are made so poorly that they, irregardles of their veracity, fall apart very quickly.

But if you imagine for just a moment that Karl Rove had made similar accusations against Kerry, you'd have no doubt that they'd have a devastating impact. Indeed, most of the attacks that the Bush campaign has made against Kerry have been to a large extent successful, again irregardless of their veracity.

I am deeply disturbed by Kerry's incompetence in this area.

I am even more disturbed that Bush seems to be more competent at Spin than he is at running the country.

I came home last night to hear the end of the debate, and I was able to watch the first hour of it this morning before class. I watched the rest of it this afternoon, including the end again. I have to agree with those who say that Bush won on substance but lost what you might call the fashion show contest (as a friend put it in an email). Hugh Hewitt put together an excellent blow-by-blow dealing with the issues themselves, and that seems to me to come out with a clear Bush win, which is what Hugh concluded.

Bush missed some easy opportunities that Kerry had handed him, and one commentator tonight said it might have been because his advisers were telling him to go easy on him because they were worried about his perception among women. That sounds plausible, but I'm sure they're telling him now to go for the jugular in the next debate. I'm sure they're going to prepare him to use all those openings in the remaining two debates, so even though he didn't go for the jugular with them immediately he might still be able to pull off using them later because Kerry is on record saying them.

I want to focus on two themes that I think need to be addressed. First, Kerry really did seem at odds with himself in this debate, and I think Bush was sometimes (but not enough) able to move him around in circles without really going for the jugular just by taking a few themes from Kerry's own words and running with them. Some of the ones I noticed didn't get picked up in the discussion, and that's probably because of Bush's reluctance to appear mean. It's unfortunate, because Kerry's continued emphasis on his consistency really seemed to me to be at odds with what he kept doing throughout the debate. He wanted to have it both ways too many times to support the message he wanted to get across. Unfortunately, people watching these things don't pay attention to these factors and just notice that he sounded presidential and sounded consistent in his tone, so he must be right when he says he's being consistent. This fashion show mentality for evaluating political debates is a real sign of where the American media have ended up, and it's sad that the conservative commentators are part of it. So the second part of my comments will be about the demeanor of the candidates and the impressions people got of them that all the commentators are dwelling on at great length and on the basis of which they're calling the debate a win for Kerry or at best (for Bush) a draw, which to me seems to be ignoring the substance. But before I address that, I have four examples of Kerry's genuine disagreements with himself during this debate.

At least that's what Nate Livingston thinks I believe. I'm not going to link to him, but you can check the trackbacks on my post on outing gays for political gain. He seems to have decided to misrepresent that post, throwing in all sorts of false assumptions and caricatures of conservatives, conservative Christians, and whatever other sort of dirty words he might choose.

He wants people to believe that he really read in my post something about Democrats making some Republicans be gay so that they could then out them rather than finding out that Republicans are gay and then outing them. He wants people to believe that he found something in my post about a vast conspiracy rather than a tendency among Democrats who are now doing something at odds with what Democrats traditionally have stood for. He also insults black Christian conservatives by describing them as "people who call themselves Black Christian conservatives" as if they're not really. Hmm. I guess that's not too disingenuous, is it? He also wants people to believe that conservatives won't say anything about this because she's conservative, which fails to see the main point about the whole thing. Outing her was extremely cruel and out of step with what Democrats have become known for being -- the party that cares and supports the gay community.

I've been weaning myself off posting these quiz things, but when someone does one close to my heart my self-control goes out the window. Without a truly geeky appreciation for Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, you'll be a bit clueless with this one, but those who know Pratchett should know about this one, so I have to promote it. My title is a lie. It's not about all the Discworld characters but just the City Watch, but the Discworld name has more name recognition.

Vimes!
Discworld: Which Ankh-Morpork City Watch Character are YOU?

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