God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
Scratching the itch to ruminate, meditate, contemplate and deliberate, then bloviate, perorate, or even objurgate about ministry, music, miscellanea, politics, people, places, the hazardous, the hopeful, the horrendous, the ambiguous, the dubious, the numinous, the nebulous and sometimes even my necrotizing nemesis - Multiple Sclerosis.
Nobel laureate Paul Krugman:
F.D.R. said in his second inaugural address — “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics” — has never rung truer.
And right now happens to be one of those times when the converse is also true, and good morals are good economics. Helping the neediest in a time of crisis, through expanded health and unemployment benefits, is the morally right thing to do; it’s also a far more effective form of economic stimulus than cutting the capital gains tax.
Read the full editorial here.
Contrarianism is genuinely useful, and I'd hate to see it go away. Conventional wisdom, whether it's mine or someone else's, deserves pushback.
The problem with modern contrarianism is that it's lazy. Too often, it's the sole focus of a piece, and it's the focus for reasons purely of entertainment or ideology. Which is too bad, because the kind of journalism that's most useful is the kind that explains both first order things and counterreactions and doesn't pander to readers' desires to pretend that the world is simpler than it really is. After all, counterreactions may usually be less important than first-order effects, but they're still worth investigating. Some tax cuts really don't raise as much revenue as you'd think. Raising the minimum wage really can have perverse effects in specific slices of the economy. If you're genuinely interested in knowing how the world works, you want to know this.
And that's what seems to be missing in an awful lot of modern journalism: the desire to genuinely try to puzzle out how things work. Instead, we get writing so dedicated to either ideology or entertainment that it's satisfied to cherry pick contrarian arguments and leave it at that; or else mainstream he-said-she-said journalism that's so determined not to take a stand that it enlightens no one.
But the world is a complicated place. It just is. There are first order effects, counterreactions to first order effects, and counterreactions to counterreactions. And there are whole big chunks of the world that stand entirely aside even from that. If you want to explain what's really going on, you need to take in all of this, and you need to take all of it seriously on its own merits, and then you need to try to make sense of it all. You can't just ignore or brush aside everything that would inconveniently make your narrative a little messier or harder to understand. (I'm looking at you, Malcolm Gladwell.) You have to respect your readers enough to assume they'll stick around even when the ride gets a little bumpy.
HT: The Daily Dish
One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers at The Daily Dish made this observation regarding the President’s approach to Iran and the recently announced nuclear facility in Iran:
Obama has known about this facility from day one. At Cairo, he reached out the Muslim world, undermining the Iranian regime's ability to engage in arm-waving, fear-mongering anti-Americanism. He built himself a triumvirate with Brown and Sarkozy, who actually have an intelligence presence in Iran. He used that presence to build an airtight case. He cut a deal with the Russians. He reached out to Iran, knowing that they would likely reject or ignore his overtures. Then, when Ahmadinejad comes to New York, having to face Western journalists, Obama announces the the existence of the Qom facility, turning the spotlight on Iran when they are unable to hide behind state-controlled media. Obama, cool and calm, pulled off a near-perfect diplomatic pincer.
I want you to picture Jesus gathered with his disciples around the table for their last supper. Or think about Jesus at the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Hungry multitudes cover the hillside. Jesus takes the bread and the cup or the little boy’s lunch, lifts it up, and says the familiar prayer:
“Father, bless this food to the nourishment and strengthening of our bodies and us to Thy service. Amen.”
The Greek word for "gave thanks" (NIV) or "blessed" (KJV) is ευλογεο, from which we get our English word "eulogy." It means “to speak well of, to praise and extol.”
The word commonly translates the Hebrew word, כאראב, “barak,” “to bless.”
Every faithful Jew would offer this blessing before partaking of bread:
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha-olom, ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.
“Blessed is the Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who causes bread to come forth from the earth.”
Before partaking of the fish, the blessing was said this way:
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam, shehakol nih'yeh bidvaro.
“Blessed is the Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe, by whose word everything comes to be.”
Before partaking of wine, the blessing was said this way:
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha-alom, bor-ay peri ha-gafen.
“Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine.”
The first word, כאראב, “barak” / ευλογεο reminds us to eulogize or praise God before we eat. It wasn’t the food Jesus was “speaking well of” or “blessing” He was speaking of His Father in heaven.
A second praying-before-meals word is the Greek word ευχαριστεο”, from which we get our English word “Eucharist,” often used as the name of Holy Communion. ευχαριστεο means, “to be thankful or to offer thanks,” and was used at the Last Supper.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed (ευλογεο) it and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took the cup, gave thanks (ευχαριστεο) and offered it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you'“(Matthew 26:26-27).
At this Passover meal Jesus was offering to His Father the traditional blessings when bread and wine were eaten.
So how did we Christians end up blessing the food instead of God? Tradition? Habit? Some of the confusion may have come from a mistranslation of the passage I just quoted. In the King James Version, Matthew 26:26 reads:
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it and gave it, to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.”' Notice how the tiny word “if was added after the word “blessed”?
The word “it” isn't part of the Greek text – that is why it is in italics in the King James Version. But “bless it” implies something far different than “bless God.” That addition of one little word may have turned the way we pray before meals into something Jesus did not do at all.
Not that there's anything wrong in asking a blessing from God. There's not. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” —
But only after praise: “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. “
No, asking favors from God is not wrong, but it should not be the primary part of our praying, or we become like greedy little children: “Gimme this! Gimme that!” Those prayers are essentially selfish rather than self-giving. They don't fulfill either the First Great Commandment, to love God with all our heart, or the Second, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The Apostle Paul put it in this perspective. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Notice the phrase “with thanksgiving” tucked in there with “present your requests to God.” It's essential to keep prayer God-centered rather than self-centered. It's also the key to praying with real faith.
So when you pray, remember that your food doesn't deserve a blessing nearly so much as God who gave it. You can bless like Jesus did, “Blessed is the Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who causes bread to come forth from the earth.” Or offer a simple prayer of thanks to God for the food. Next time, do not “ask the blessing,” but offer a blessing to God.
The President is being accused of calling the United States a "Muslim country."
This quote is directly from the transcript of his interview with a French media company:
Q Tomorrow we're leaving for the Middle East. It's going to be your first trip there. What do you want to achieve with this trip?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're going to be traveling to Saudi Arabia; I'll be having discussions with King Abdullah. And then we'll travel to Cairo, in which I am delivering on a promise I made during the campaign to provide a framework, a speech of how I think we can remake relations between the United States and countries in the Muslim world.
Now, I think it's very important to understand that one speech is not going to solve all the problems in the Middle East. And so I think expectations should be somewhat modest.
What I want to do is to create a better dialogue so that the Muslim world understands more effectively how the United States but also how the West thinks about many of these difficult issues like terrorism, like democracy, to discuss the framework for what's happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and our outreach to Iran, and also how we view the prospects for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Now, the flip side is I think that the United States and the West generally, we have to educate ourselves more effectively on Islam. And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. And so there's got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.
...no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama's having shut down the "Cheney interrogation methods" will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency? -- Lawrence Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell
“Yes, torture gets results,” he said.
“It has resulted in easier, swifter, more successful recruitment for terrorist organizations among the millions of young Islamic fanatics who are willing to use the one weapon against which an open society such as ours has no sure defense — suicide bombing. -- Ted Sorenson, advisor to President John F. Kennedy
Full article here.
Here’s a general rule that applies to basically every development program in every poor country in the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan: want to do something nice and useful for these people? Don’t build them a school. Believe it or not, people in poor countries actually have buildings. And they are capable of building more of them. They know how to do it, and it usually, for fairly simple economic reasons, does not cost more in any country to build a building than local people can afford. You know what they don’t know how to do? Teach science and math and English. And often, employing a trained teacher does cost more than they can afford in a small village, because such people are scarce, and it’s hard to spare extra labor in subsistence economies. If you want to spend your money on education, don’t build them a school; pay to train some teachers, and then pay the teachers’ salaries.
Development is not about buildings. It is not about objects. It’s about people.
When I am conscious of sin in my own life, I realize that I may one day look back and see that there was something really good or important that I was supposed to be doing, and instead I went my own way and did something else. Sin is not just the committing of a wrong act. Temptation also distracts us from doing things that we should have been doing, the prayers we should have been praying. We’ll never know what would have happened had we done the right thing at that point. I think God must be grieving over our lost possibilities, while by his Spirit, he is giving us the energy we need to make the right decisions.
-- N. T. Wright
Disgust was observed in test subjects who, given an unfair offer in a money-splitting game, literally turned up their noses. The response was the same as to foul-tasting drinks and disgusting pictures.
"Our idea is that morality builds upon an old mental reflex," said study co-author Adam Anderson, a University of Toronto psychologist. "The brain had already discovered a system for rejecting things that are bad for it. Then it co-opted this and attached it to conditions much removed from something tasting or smelling bad."
If we could house hundreds of thousands of Germans, including thousands of Nazi officers and SS members, behind mere barbed-wire fences in rural America (often in ethnically German communities) in the 1940s, I think we can manage to keep less than three hundred people in an American prison. Why we even let German POWs gather together and sing the "Die Wacht am Rhein" without the competing "La Marseillaise" smackdown. Yet, somehow we managed to win the war and survive. Go figure.
The ability of some Americans to have no problem with sweeping folks up and holding them without charges or trial in perpetuity while simultaneously not wanting them to be held at a nearby maximum security prison is, as always, astounding.
In order to restore trust, we've got to make certain that taxpayer funds are not subsidizing excessive compensation packages on Wall Street.
We all need to take responsibility. And this includes executives at major financial firms who turned to the American people, hat in hand, when they were in trouble, even as they paid themselves customary lavish bonuses. As I said last week, this is the height of irresponsibility. It's shameful. And that's exactly the kind of disregard of the costs and consequences of their actions that brought about this crisis: a culture of narrow self-interest and short-term gain at the expense of everything else.
This is America. We don't disparage wealth. We don't begrudge anybody for achieving success. And we certainly believe that success should be rewarded. But what gets people upset -- and rightfully so -- are executives being rewarded for failure, especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, many of whom are having a tough time themselves.
For top executives to award themselves these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis isn't just bad taste -- it's bad strategy -- and I will not tolerate it as President. We're going to be demanding some restraint in exchange for federal aid -- so that when firms seek new federal dollars, we won't find them up to the same old tricks.
My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition. Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans. That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet. These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights. Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction. This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed.
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do. Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government. Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good. As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more. Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint. We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations.
We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all. For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate. Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true.
They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: "Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]." America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
God, you have made me burst with creativity.
I am enjoying the flurry of inspiration and the
desire to create. Help me to finish the tasks
that lie ahead with enthusiasm and vigor.
I think the greatest struggle for creative people is not being creative but actually getting something done when there are hundreds of ideas ping-ponging around in one's brain.
...while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.
And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.
The whole article is here.
Starting Jan. 1, the pharmaceutical industry has agreed to a voluntary moratorium on the kind of branded goodies — Viagra pens, Zoloft soap dispensers, Lipitor mugs — that were meant to foster good will and, some would say, encourage doctors to prescribe more of the drugs.
No longer will Merck furnish doctors with purplish adhesive bandages advertising Gardasil, a vaccine against the human papillomavirus. Banished, too, are black T-shirts from Allergan adorned with rhinestones that spell out B-O-T-O-X. So are pens advertising the Sepracor sleep drug Lunesta, in whose barrel floats the brand’s mascot, a somnolent moth.
But some critics said the code did not go far enough to address the influence of drug marketing on the practice of medicine. The guidelines, for example, still permit drug makers to underwrite free lunches for doctors and their staffs or to sponsor dinners for doctors at restaurants, as long as the meals are accompanied by educational presentations.
“Pens or no pens, their influence is not going to be diminished,” said Dr. Larry M. Greenbaum, a rheumatologist in Greenwood, Ind.
IF WE COULD genuinely practice Benedict's brand of hospitality, welcoming each guest to our churches as the visitation of Christ, it might transform our guests as well as us. Instead of making the other into my image, I am invited to see the other as one who is made in God's image and for whom Jesus Christ died.
Dennis Okholm, Monk Habits for Everyday People
[W]E WILL ALWAYS be something of an exile in the present world. As lovely as it may be, it's not our final home, and worshiping God in spirit and truth always leaves us aware that there is more than what meets the eye.
Justin DuVall, from Praying with the Benedictines
Astronomers are fed up. One fifth of the world's population cannot see the Milky Way because street lamps and building lights are too bright. So scientists are mounting a new campaign, called Dark Skies Awareness, aiming to reduce light pollution as part of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy.
"Reducing the number of lights on at night could help conserve energy, protect wildlife and benefit human health," astronomer Malcolm Smith of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile wrote in a commentary Wednesday in the journal Nature.