Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Join Blog Relief Day for Hurricane Katrina

As Hurricane Katrina becomes the most destructive hurricane ever, relief workers are rushing to the Gulf Coast to help out. Bloggers can help by joining Blog Relief Day tomorrow which is an idea first proposed by Hugh Hewitt and seconded by Glenn Reynolds.

Here's how it works: each blogger will select a charity to encourage readers to contribute to for relief effort. Glenn Reynolds has posted a list of charities providing relief. Pick one and then go to the Truth Laid Bear registration page to register your blog and the charity that you will be supporting. Then post throughout the day and encourage readers to contribute to your charity.

I'll be blogging here for Samaritan's Purse. If you would like to contribute, please click here.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the hurricane victims and their families.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Book Review: Within the Market Strife

Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II by Kevin E. Schmiesing is the first of three books that I have had a chance to review in the Studies in Ethics and Economics series from Acton Institute and published by Lexington Books. The book was provided to me through Mind and Media and I received no other consideration for this review.

I have to admit that I had some reservations about reviewing these books. Since I am not a Catholic and am not well versed in Catholic history and thought I was concerned that I would be lost trying to work my way through books written by Catholics about Catholic thought. Thankfully, Mr. Schmiesing has made his book accessible to persons of all faiths regardless of their own background. He has meticulously researched his book and it shows in the quality of his writing.

Within the Market Strife attempts to document the thoughts of prominent Catholic scolars on economic and social matters from 1891 to 1962. Mr. Schmeising doesn't simply throw thoughts out there for the reader but he also provides a historical and cultural context so that the reader has a better grasp of the issues that scholars grappled with at the time of their writing. He also does an excellent job of explaining the teachings of the Catholic church of the time and how those teachings influenced scholars.

Within the Market Strife is a concise, readable narrative of Catholic economic thought in the late 19th and early 20th century. It also gives the reader a valuable insight into the influence of the Catholic church and its teachings on social and economic issues of the day. If this is any example of what one can expect from this series it's safe to say that Acton has accomplished their goal of studying economics in their proper cultural and theological context.

Perspectives on the War on Terror

Two columns today are well worth reading as they both provide perspectives on the War on Terror that need to be heard. First, Lorie Byrd contends that it's time to set the record straight about the war and deals directly with some of the common criticisms about the war:

What is rarely, if ever, addressed by the opponents of President Bush and the current war is whether or not the decision he made was a correct one if everything we thought about the status of Saddam’s WMD capability had been correct. Dick Cheney made the argument for the decision in at least one speech around the time of the release of the Kay report. In that speech he argued that knowing what we knew then, and looking at it in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks, it would have been irresponsible NOT to have invaded Iraq. Republicans who fail to make that case, and instead weaken their stance on the war in reaction to declining public opinion polls, risk losing the advantage they have long held over Democrats on issues of national security and defense. Even many of those voters who have not supported the Iraq war and view President Bush as a trigger happy cowboy are likely to prefer a candidate that supports the war – even if there are some reservations about the way the war was executed – to one who originally supported it only to back down when the going got tough.

Even more striking is Dennis Prager's column today in which he asks opponents of the war to answer one simple question:

All those who support the American war in Iraq should make a deal with anyone opposed to the war. Offer to answer any 20 questions the opponents wish to ask if they will answer just one:

Do you believe we are fighting evil people in Iraq?

That is how supporters of the war regard the Baathists and the Islamic suicide terrorists, the people we are fighting in Iraq.

Because if you cannot answer it, or avoid answering it, or answer "no," we know enough about your moral compass to know that further dialogue is unnecessary. In fact, dialogue is impossible. Our understanding of good and evil is so different from yours, there is simply nothing to discuss. Someone who was asked a hundred years ago "Do you believe that whites who lynch blacks are evil?" and refused to answer in the affirmative was not someone one could dialogue with.

This war is not about a particular religion. It's not a war against a nation or group of nations. It is a war against evil. We cannot afford to back down or withdraw. We must fight this war until the end.

Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out and Two or

Monday, August 29, 2005

Another Response to Cindy Sheehan

Stephen Mansfield, author of The Faith of George W. Bush and The Faith of the American Solider as well as many other fine books recently posted the following letter to Cindy Sheehan. It is well worth taking the time to read carefully the thoughtful response to Ms. Sheehan's ongoing protests.

Dear Mrs. Sheehan,

You are in a firestorm of grief and what must be a disorienting swirl of world attention. For that reason, I will be as brief in my remarks as I hope to be compassionate.

I will not insult you by presuming to know your sorrow. The loss of a son in armed conflict abroad must be among the most soul-wrenching experiences possible. You are surely right to rage against the horrors of war, right to demand answers and right to reach for those of like mind.

I fear, though, that what began as a mourning mother’s righteous cry for meaning is becoming something that threatens to dishonor Casey’s heroism. Though I mean no disrespect, it is clear you are becoming swept up in a cynical drama that is far a field from the meaning of the war and your son’s sacrifice. From your blogging on Michael Moore’s web site to the pronouncements you feel obligated to make on the cause of Palestine, you have abandoned the moral high ground of a grieving mother and are in danger of becoming just another fleeting voice on the American pop culture landscape.

The central issue here is not whether George W. Bush meets with you again or whether your self-styled “peaceful occupation” of Crawford, Texas, ever wins you the explanation for “why our sons are dead” you say you want. The central issue is that when your son volunteered for military service, he placed himself upon an altar of sacrifice. Sadly, the ultimate sacrifice was indeed required. Yet he gave himself willingly, as all our soldiers do in this generation, and his death is therefore the noble death of a hero and not the needlessly tragic death of one accidentally or foolishly taken

What we must understand is that a pledge to military service is a surrender of rights, a surrender of comforts and, potentially, a surrender of life if the nation calls. What leaves us so stunned at the death of a soldier, beyond our grief for a life snuffed out and our personal loss, is often our failure to understand the noble calling of the profession of arms and the warrior code that gives this calling meaning. When your son, and the thousands like him serving today, pledged himself to military service, he did not just “join the army.” He offered himself to his God and his nation in an act of devotion that has been repeated for centuries. He entered the fellowship of those who offer their lives willingly in service to others. His death, though a horror, was a horror with meaning, willingly engaged.

I cannot know your sorrow. I can urge you, though, not to allow your son’s offering on what Lincoln called “the altar of freedom” to be tainted by the passing parade of trendy causes. I can also urge you to live now in the knowledge that your son’s passing ennobles our nation, just as I trust it will now ennoble you.

With deepest sympathies for your loss,

Stephen Mansfield

Challenges to the Church

Tim Challies is posting a series of articles on challenges to the church. So far he has tackled Relativism, Open Theism, and Pragmatism. All three are well worth reading, especially the article on Pragmatism.

Of the three issues that Tim cites, pragmatism is probably the most common problem in churches today. Too often we make decisions based on what works rather than what Scripture commands.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Muddling the Stem Cell Debate?

The Washington Post exposed its biases in a story yesterday on a new advance in the area of stem cell research (Hat tip: The Larsonian):

A Harvard University advance in generating embryonic stem cells may have
the unintended consequence of hindering congressional efforts to lift research
restrictions imposed by President Bush four years ago, leaders on both sides of
the issue said yesterday as details of the discovery traveled through the
scientific and political communities.

The news that Harvard scientists have successfully converted human skin
cells into embryonic stem cells -- without using a human egg or new embryo -- is
likely to muddle the already complex debate over federal stem cell research

If anything, this latest discovery allows for stem cells to be harvested without destruction of life which has long been a point of contention for pro-lifers. However, it's this paragraph that gets to the heart of the issue:

Embryonic stem cells hold the promise of treatment or cures for a range of
diseases and injuries because they can grow into any type of cell or tissue.
However, many conservatives, including Bush, object to the approach because
existing methods of extracting the cells involve destroying young embryos called

Can you name any breakthrough as a result of continued embryonic stem cell research? You probably can't because there hasn't been one even though the United States leads the way in funding research (bet you didn't know that either).

The myth that is being perpetuated by the media in stories such as this is that embryonic stem cell research is necessary to find cures for otherwise incurable diseases. They also contend that embryonic stem cells are superior to adult stem cells even though research suggests the opposite is true.

The fact is that millions of dollars are spent on research that has yet to produce any tangible results. Why should taxpayer dollars be used to continue to fund this research especially when life is destroyed in the process? They shouldn't and the President is right to continue to stand against federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. This latest development, if it proves fruitful, could render the whole debate over embryonic stem cells moot.

Cross-posted at Two or

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The End of Mitford

There's an old saying that all good things must come to an end. The last of Jan Karon's wildly successful Mitford novels, Light From Heaven, is due to be published on November 8th. However, it appears Ms. Karon plans to continue the adventures of Father Tim in a new series of novels. Here's hoping that this book is as successful as her past books have been. (Thanks to Suitable for Mixed Company for the tip.

On a side note, one of our favorite dishes is Ms. Karon's Roasted Chicken recipe featured in A Common Life. If you've never tried it, I can highly recommend it. You can also find the recipe in her Mitford cookbook.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Savoring Small Town America

Our family has spent a lot of time travelling this summer (which is part of the reason why my posts on this blog have been so sporadic the past few months). While we've mostly had large cities as our ultimate destinations we;ve discovered quite a few hidden treasures in smaller towns. It's amazing what you can discover just by venturing a little way off the Interstate highways every now and then. Here's a sample of what we've discovered on our summer road trips:

In Corbin, Kentucky, you can visit the original site of the Harland Sanders Cafe, which was the birthplace of what we now know as Kentucky Fried Chicken. Somehow the chicken tasted better knowing that we were eating in the same restaurant where the recipe was originally created.

Lexington, Virginia boasts two institutions of higher learning each with its own storied past: Virginia Military Institute and Washington & Lee University. The campuses are right next to each other and are well worth a leisurely stroll. While we were at Washington & Lee, we stopped at Lee Chapel. The chapel was named for General Robert E. Lee who served as President of Washington College from 1865 to 1870 (later renamed Washington & Lee University in tribute to his contributions to the college's survival in the post-war years) and constructed at his direction. It still serves as a central part of the campus but is most importantly a museum to General Lee. The Lee family tomb is in the basement of the chapel as well as museum that pays tribute to him. You can also visit his office which was in the basement of the chapel and is exactly as he left it when he died in 1870.

But the best part of the trip to Lexington is a visit to Sweet Things Ice Cream Shoppe. They make all of their own ice cream including some unusual flavors that you may not have thought of. The most interesting sample I had was of their Guiness Ice Cream. It tastes exactly like the beer. That's because that is what they use to make it. I can't imagine eating a whole lot of it at one sitting but apparently it's a pretty popular flavor because there wasn't much left when we got there.

Just down the Interstate a short distance from Lexington is another place that's worth stopping in especially if you like barbecue. Daleville, Virginia is home to Three Lil Pigs BBQ which has some of the best barbecue around (certainly the best I've had outside of eastern North Carolina which has the best by far). They offer both the vinegar-based barbecue commonly found in North Carolina as well as tomato-based barbecue that is more common in Virginia. Best of all, you can play Pass the Pigs while you wait on your food.

But our favorite small town we visited this summer has to be Mount Airy, North Carolina. It's main claim to fame is that it's Andy Griffith's hometown. Much of the town also served as the inspiration for the fictional town of Mayberry in The Andy Griffith Show. Just from walking around the town you sense that you've stepped back in time to a simpler, less hectic time.

Our first stop was Snappy Lunch, which was made famous in an early episode of The Andy Griffith Show. It was also where Griffith ate lunch as a child since the local schools did not have a cafeteria. But the best reason to eat there is the pork chop sandwich which folks from all around have traveled to sample including many celebrities. Owner Charles Dowell has been working there since 1943 and is still going strong cooking the pork chops himself.

We also stopped in at Floyd's City Barber Shop and I had my haircut from owner Russell Hiatt who has been cutting hair for 56 years. Mr. Hiatt knows everyone in town (or so it seems). We had a great time chatting with the folks in the shop and learning more about the town as well as some stories related to the cast of The Andy Griffith Show. Not only was it the best haircut I had ever received (and most fun I've ever had getting my haircut) but it was about half the cost of what I would normally pay at home.

If I've learned anything through these travels it is this: there are many wonderful things waiting to be discovered if we are willing to take a little time out from our rush to get where we are going to stop and savor the journey. The next time you set out on a road trip take a look at the map and see what you could discover just by being willing to venture off the highway a little bit. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised as what you discover.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Do Not Be Anxious

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7

The natural human reaction to a crisis is to panic. Anxiety will overcome us in the midst of adversity if we allow it to do so. However, the promise given to those who know Christ as Savior and Lord is peace that surpasses all understanding. In the midst of crisis we should pray allowing God to take our burdens off of us so that he can handle them.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Building Narnia Buzz

One of the most anticipated movies of the year is "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" which is scheduled to open on December 9th. It's the first of a series of planned adaptations of the popular books by C. S. Lewis.

Two new resources have been made available that tie-in with the movie. First, Barna Films is offering special group screenings in select areas on December 8th, the day prior to the official release date. Also, another website called Narnia Resources is designed to provide materials and support to educators who want to incorporate a discussion of the movie and the books into the classroom.

The Chronicles of Narnia is one of our family's favorite series of books. From what I have seen thus far, the movie appears to be a pretty faithful adaptation of the book. I hope that the movie will exceed expectations and will be successful enough to make other movie studios finally recognize that this is the type of film that should be produced more often.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The New York Times Wakes Up

Doug at Stones Cry Out points out that the New York Times finally noticed the Air America Scandal today (even though it was buried deep in the paper. That only puts them about two weeks behind a number of other newspapers and three weeks behind the blogosphere (namely Michelle Malkin who was one of the first on the story).

It's no wonder the New York Times is no longer considered the newspaper of record. Of course, this also goes to prove that the blogosphere is increasingly becoming the place to go to remain truly informed about what's happening in the world.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Lessons Learned While Travelling

We've just returned from a short trip out of town for a couple of days. We had a lot of fun while gone (the family joined me on a brief business trip) and I was struck by several things while we were gone. I'll have more to share over the next couple of days but the following is just a brief list of observations I made while I was away:
  • After being in a hotel for two days I realized how much I do not miss cable or satellite televsion. Four channels of garbage is preferable to over a hundred channels of garbage. Television is easier to ignore and not allow to play a pivotal role in my life if options are limited.
  • I haven't missed anything in the past several months that I haven't had cable or satellite television. It has become worse, not better.
  • However, I do miss Fox News but only a little. Mostly because of hard news on from 6:00PM to 8:00 PM (Brit Hume and Shepard Smith). I don't miss the rest of it.
  • Being in a larger city for 48 hours makes me realize that immodesty in dress is a problem everywhere. It's just a bigger problem in a bigger city because there is more of it.
  • I have a new appreciation for being able to work at home.
  • For all the so-called advantages of living in a larger city, I prefer smaller towns. Especially small towns in the South.
  • You know you are in a small town in the South when you order iced tea at a restaurant and they only serve sweet tea.
  • Large cities are consistently liberal in all respects (not just politics) regardless of geography. I don't understand why this is true but I know that it is.
  • It's possible to do the same job for many, many years and be truly happy. The question is whether you are doing what you love to do. I met men today that had been in their jobs for over 50 years apiece and still going strong at a time in life that most people would have retired. It's clear that they love their work and that's why they keep doing it.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Making a Case for Profiling in the War On Terror

I don't normally make it a point to read Doug Giles columns because he tends to come across as a little abrasive for my taste (although I often find myself agreeing with him). However, this column is worth reading and mulling over. He makes a great point about profiling:

Profiling doesn’t rattle the innocent’s cage. The guiltless, understanding moderate Muslim men who love America and disavow their diseased brethren will not, and should not, have any problem allowing local cops or the Feds to pry into their businesses, back packs or BlackBerrys. Right? If they’ve got nothing to hide, no wicked agenda, then they shouldn’t care if the law pokes around a bit in their affairs.

Hugh Hewitt also has the latest from Great Britain on the steps being taken against radical Islam. His analysis is right on:

This is a sea-change inside the UK. A similar move within the US is very difficult to foresee given First Amendment protections for extreme speech undertaken without both the present intention and present ability to incite immediate violence: "[T]he principle [is] that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action." (Brandenburg v. Ohio, 1969).

While he should refuse to answer, it will nevertheless be interesting to see if Judge Roberts is asked about the brandenburg "test" and /or the United Kingdom's new approach to extremist speech.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Brewing Scandal Over Air America That the Media is Ignoring

One scandal that has been brewing throughout the blogosphere has been the story that the CEO of Air America, the liberal talk radio network, "borrowed" money from a New York charity that he served in order to help alleviate the network's financial problems.

As Ed Morissey points out in his column for the Daily Standard, this is a story that is ripe for media coverage. However, because of the political affiliation of the personalities involved, the mainstream media has remained largely silent.

Granted, the mainstream media's willingness to provide cover for political allies (i.e. liberals) is nothing new. But you can be certain that if this story involved conservatives the media would be jumping all over it.

Michelle Malkin takes a look at the story from another angle. Also check out Scott Ott's latest entry at Scrappleface.