Monday, March 21, 2005

Damn Her Christian Convictions

From the tolerant left, we have joy over the heroism of Ashley Smith. Well, sort of. If only it weren't for the fact that she is a Christian, and her Christian influences are getting credit and, God forbid, press for her role an apprehending rapist (alleged), murdering (confessed) thug Brian Nichols. Jill Porter opines and gnashes:

The story of Ashley Smith, the Atlanta hostage who soothed a rampaging killer into surrendering without further violence, is a riveting tale of grace and humanity. Would that it had remained just that.

Instead, it's become a testimonial for an evangelical Christian book and an endorsement of the theology embraced in the book - and that leaves me feeling alienated from what should be an inspiring tale of human transcendence.
Why alienated? Because good words should never be said about Christianity. Why couldn't Ashley Smith have just convinced Nichols that Darwin foretold his death many decades ago? Maybe it is because life is worthless and meaningless that he should give up and kill himself?

No, Ashley instead convinced him that life was worth something. She convinced him that his life had value, and thus the lives of the people he killed had value as well. Now how was she supposed to do this with Ms. Porter's longing for a secular humanist hero in this situation? Who knows.
Suddenly, the near miracle that occurred in Smith's apartment because of her calm and compassion is infused with the rhetoric of Christian evangelism.

And suddenly, those of us who are wary of the increasing influence born-again Christians have on our political and cultural life feel a regrettable discomfort with this wonderful story.
While I disagree with some of the positions taken by some of the born again Christian crowd, what is that discomfort over? What "born again Christian" position would result in a more coarse and violent society? Less fun? Maybe. Sin is often fun in the short term. Besides, her rhetoric has a ring of, Humynkind forbid, intolerance.

Perhaps Smith's saint-like serenity was based in her evangelical Christianity.
Perhaps her courage was derived from the message in the book. I'm in awe of her spiritual and emotional resources, whatever their source.

And that she used them to spare Atlanta from any more carnage is remarkable. But I know many profoundly religious people who could never have responded the way Smith did when Brian Nichols put a gun in her side and tied her up.

I also know a few completely irreligious people who might have disarmed Nichols through bravery, poise and calm.

Here, Porter falls back on the anecdotal versus the general. Don't try to take a good message from this incident -- non-believers can be cool under pressure, too; believers can crack as well.

No doubt. What often cannot be denied is that people may have the gift for grace under pressure at all times of their life. Others never will. And others find it only when they find comfort. Certain religions, and Christianity in particular, provide a well trained and educated believer with the best chance to find that grace and strength. Unless you believe you have another life, you will only be faking your calm when faced with danger.
And the truth is that Nichols was receptive to his hostage's spiritual message, saying he thought Smith was "an angel sent from God," she later told reporters. "And that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ."

Let's face it, another murderer might have scoffed at her appeals, laughed at her religiosity. Shall we glorify Nichols for his receptiveness?
No, we should not glorify Nichols for his receptiveness. But we should be thankful he was receptive.

We should also pray for his sake that his receptiveness was sincere. He has a chance to turn his life around, even in the confines of prison and possibly death row. I hope he finds Christ. He likely has a deadline though -- he needs to do it by the time the US government or the State of Georgia fry him.
And if, as some disciples of the book have said, God used Smith to reach Nichols, exactly where was God earlier in the day when he slaughtered four innocent people?

This is actually an easy question. Since God gave us free will, he allowed men to do evil to other men. The suffering of others is often used for some other good purpose, but even if I don't know what that purpose is, I am not in a position to question God on this.

If God's purpose was to put Smith in a high profile position to assist in the capture of Nichols, then the story had to gain high profile attention. Stopping an attempted escape just wasn't going to cut it, Ms. Porter. Only a killer who escaped could put Ms. Smith in this high profile public position to share her story.

I do not know God's plan on this one. That some died, however, is not evidence God wasn't at work. It might be what was necessary for the greater good. It isn't just Nichols that has a chance to be saved by this story. It is the large number of people who learn of Christ, either from Ms. Smith directly, or by watching or reading a news account, or by buying and reading The Purpose Driven Life.

I think that Ashley Smith's story speaks volumes about the power of faith -- Christian Faith in particular. No matter, though. Some, like Ms. Porter, are never listening, and when they hear, they can only complain about the noise.

Math Club Reject Of The Week

An NBC station in the supposedly well educated state of Conneticut reports that two casinos suffered low slot machine revenues because of the snowy weather in February this year. They report:

The snowy weather has taken a bit of a toll on the slots revenue at the state's
two casinos.

Officials with Foxwoods Resort Casino said that the casino cleared $67 million from its slot machine customers in February while Mohegan Sun cleared $68 million.

The slot revenues at both were down compared with last year.

In February 2004, Mohegan Sun reported slot machine revenues of
nearly $69 million while Foxwoods reported revenue of $68.5 million.

The story doesn't say if the Casinos or the TV station came to this weather conclusion. Since casinos make money on an understanding of math (statistics in particular), let's hope for their stock holder's sake it was the TV station. Let's see how this math stuff works.

The Mohegan Casino in Conneticut, one of the few casinos that might not understand math.

Foxwoods' revenue dropped from $68.5 million (2004) to $67 million (2005), a drop of 2.2% for the month compared to last February. The February 2005 revenue per day ($67 million/28)comes out to $2.39 million.

At Mohegan, revenue dropped from $69 million (2004) to $68 million (2005), a drop of 1.4%. Also, revenue for February 2005 ($68 million/28) was $2.43 million per day.

Now, let's look at February 2004. The year 2004 was a leap year, which means February was 29 days long. February 2005 was 3.4% shorter than February 2004. In other words, a month that was 3.4% shorter resulted in revenue that was 2.2% and 1.4% less. Is that a bad thing?

Let's find out.

Revenue per day at Foxwoods was $2.36 million in 2004 and $2.39 million in 2005. Thus, at Foxwoods, revenue per day increased in 2005.

Revenue at Mohegan per day was $2.38 million in 2004 and $2.43 million in 2005. Thus, at Mohegan, revenue per day increased in 2005.

Yup, that global warming caused snow sure did do the casinos harm in February of 2005. I'm sure that the writers of this story were educated in government schools.

Other Of The Week Awards

Other of the Week Awards

This week's Ally of the Week Award goes to Australia for keeping open the possibility of replacing the wussie Italian troops that are picking up their toys and heading home from Iraq. These Aussies have been very loyal to the U.S. in the war on terror, their prime minister was re-elected after refusing to waver in joining the U.S. in the War in Iraq, and they were the only other country, with Britain, to help with the actual Iraq invasion. I'm just real glad to have these blokes on our side.

This week's Purpose Driven Life Hero of the Week (:-D) goes to Ashley Smith. Nuff said.

This week's Rare Exceptions of the Week go to the intellectually honest Leftists who admit that Bush may have been on to something with his Middle East and WOT strategy. I know it is tough. Spicy brown mustard goes best with crow.

The Dumbass Quote of the Week goes to Washington Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett: "No, I don't think US should be the leader of the world." Well, Mr. Bennett, the world, like it or not, is going to have a leader or small group of leaders. I would prefer that the leader be my country. Who would you choose? China? Germany? Japan? Iran? Let's hear it dumbass. Who do you want to be the leader in the world?

This week's Father of the Week, Mr. Pile On.

Scumbag of the Week Award

I also work at The Ebb & Flow Institute, which has a number of awards that it gives out "weekly," which means "when we feel like it." This week, I am awarding the Scumbag of the Week Award to John Jewell. About 4 years ago, Mr. Jewell was on the verge of dying of kidney failure. His wife of 33 years donated one of her kidneys to him. Then she got breast cancer. Then he left her for his mistress. The most shocking thing about all of this is that Mr. Jewell, Mrs. Jewell, and the new lover are all local politicians. It is Europe though.

Congratulations Mr. Jewell. May your family jewells fall off soon.

Don't Be a Fool -- Learn the Lingo

As any fool knows, the posse at the E&F runs with the 5% Nation. Surfing here is like riding the RTD, though you are less likely to be 187'ed, unless you a nucker. But just because you ain't yet a playa is no basis to be gully playa hater or take the 5th. So sit back, get your 64 and some 4-20 while you get your 411 here. No dead presidents necessary.

In other words, all people know that the fellows here at the Ebb & Flow Institute are part of the social and educated elite. Blogging here can be rough, tough and dangerous, like the bus in Compton, but you are not likely to be murdered, except intellectually. Nonetheless, just because you currently lack the knowledge to engage all of us with exceptional comments of wit and wisdom, you need not turn that lack of tallent into mean spirited envy, nor need you remain silent and not comment. Intead, sit back with the brew or other recreational drug of your choice while you get the information you need at this link. It is free.

The Compelling State Interest In Ticket Prices


Some states are finally starting to loosen rules against scalping. This evil act involves someone who bought a ticket and attempts the dastardly capitalistic function of reselling it. Most people think of scalping as charging more than the face value for tickets, and in some cases that is true. When a ticket can be resold at greater than face value, that tells me (an evil livid terrier that majored in economics) that the original ticket price was too low. Not all states are just concerned about people who make a dollar on the scalping. Some places, like Lexington, Kentucky, even outlaw the selling of tickets for face value and below face value.

Lame Law Enforcement

Recently, Lexington police did a sting to catch people selling the hottest commodity in the Bluegrass State, University of Kentucky basketball tickets. People were arrested under state law and local ordinances. Their crime: selling UK basketball tickets. Some were scalping above face value, but some were people with extra tickets selling at or below face value.

The Lawsuit

One man from Paris, Kentucky (a city under attack at a fellow blog called Villainous Company) was an innocent victim of the Lexington Police sting. He has filed a lawsuit to have the city ordinace declared unconstitutional.

Based on the article, he is arguing on free speech grounds and search and seizure grounds. Kentucky's Bill of Rights is not identical to the U.S. one, so I don't know how that will go. Still, I would suggest this provision instead:

Kentucky Constitution
Section 2

Absolute and arbitrary power denied.
Absolute and arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of freemen exists nowhere in a republic, not even in the largest majority.

Text as Ratified on: August 3, 1891, and revised September 28, 1891.History: Not yet amended.

This nice provision is a pseudo-livid terrier provision right there in the Kentucky Constitution. The Kentucky Supreme Court used it in 1992 to strike down Kentucky's sodomy law. I can't imagine a more ridiculous law than one that prevents a person from selling his basketball tickets to me, someone who needs them.

By the way, I was at the SEC Tournament in the Georgia Dome yesterday. I bought my tickets from a University of Georgia fan. Over 95% of the fans in the Dome were UK fans. The other 11 teams should be embarrassed.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Prayers To The Judges and Their Families

My church includes in its weekly prayer a prayer for those local, national and international political leaders who must make tough decisions. The prayer is that they will have the Lord's guidance and humility to make wise decisions. Judges, I think, are impliedly part of that group. Certainly, Judges must make tough decisions that have great implications to the individuals in front of them, and to society as a whole. While I know and complain about Judges who get robe-itis from time to time, there are many good judges trying to make good and wise decisions. That will not any easier if the job becomes one in which physical safety is a primary concern.

This has been a tough few weeks for Judges.

Someone targeting a federal judge in Chicago was not able to kill the Judge, but did kill her husband and mother-in-law. The initial scrutiny naturally went to a white supremacist that had been convicted of trying to hire someone to kill the Judge for her handling of his copyrite litigation. Now, according to the article I linked above, there is evidence that some crazy medical malpractice plaintiff that killed himself admitted to the murders in a suicide note. A review of that article tells me that the guy was what I would label a problem litigant. The article leads me to believe that he was a habitual plaintiff with invalid claims. I have had cases with people who were of a similar mold. I have not felt that my life was in danger, but I did think about it sometimes. This type of information only fuels that kind of concern.

What makes this type of case so troubling it that this Judge was not targeted by some Mafia crime boss or drug lord being prosecuted in her courtroom. No, she was targeted twice by two different litigants for her work on civil cases. Just amazing. My prayers are with her and her family. I ask that yours are, too.

Atlanta Judge One Of Three Killed

Today in Atlanta, the saga continues. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, a court reporter, and two deputies were shot by a guy standing trial for rape, false imprisonment and lots of other bad things.

There is a lot of confusion about what is going on, but my understanding is that the killer was in the midst of the re-trial, realized he was going to lose this one, and decided that this was his chance to escape. The only weakness in the case was the fact that the rape victim and killer knew each other. This apparently caused some of the jurors in his first trial to not convict. I hope that the jurors who did not vote for guilt are second guessing themselves tonight.

Sadly, the killer did escape -- for now. I am hopeful for a non-jury trial with a summary execution to be completed sometime before the end of the day.

Judge Barnes was considered a good judge in the Atlanta legal community. Please pray for Judge Barnes' family, the family of the court reporter and the two sheriff's deputies. The Deputy that may survive this incident is the one whose was overpowered and whose gun was used for these killings. She will need more than just physical healing.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Origins of Chaos (continued)

read the first half of this post

In an entirely-too-long rant a few days ago, written to keep my brain from exploding, I argued that tolerance is at the root of many of our social problems today. The wrong kind of tolerance; the kind of tolerance that confuses acceptance of differing beliefs with willful blindness to unacceptible and destructive behavior:

Burning cars and elderly women is not a central tenet of Islam any more than looting big screen TVs is a defining practice of American black culture. These things are, quite simply, wrong.

Two weeks ago I watched in bemusement as various black spokesmen refused to condemn the morons who trashed their own neighborhood in a blaze of righteous anger over a KKK march. Could not even black "leaders" see the idiocy of this tactic? If one wished to punish the KKK for their noxious racial message, why not find out where they lived and trash their houses? Of course this would have been illegal too, but it would, at the very least, have had the value of being neither stupid nor self-destructive. Over and over we are told we must be tolerant. We must try to "understand" the root causes of black anger, jihadi anger, or whatever ire-du-jure is currently in vogue.

To conflate tolerance of destructive or criminal behavior with tolerance of differing skin colors, religions, or cultures is absurd in the extreme. It also, in the end, undermines the goal it seeks to uphold: tolerance of those who are different from us by linking unacceptable behavior to race, religion, ideology, or ethnicity.

The unpleasant truth is that if these rioters, as with the situation in New Orleans, were predominantly white and Christian, the tear gas and riot gear would have been out long ago. It is our fear of treating the rioters as Other - of seeming racist - that impedes reasonable action. But this is a rather racist response in itself. It is as if we are saying we will tolerate criminal behavior from the inferior classes of humanity because we can expect no better, but when whites do such things we shall hold them to a higher standard. Amazing, and insulting. Yet we do this all the time. In college. In work. In life.

As The BarbEhrian would have it, we are truly showing our stripes: marginalizing them and treating them as Other. We certainly aren't treating them as we do ourselves. And they are quick to recognize this; to recognize it and take advantage of it. In fact, there is significant evidence that at least part of the Muslim population of Europe has no intention of becoming part of the mainstream:

In the “Resolution of Strasbourg,” passed unanimously by the general assembly of the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation on June 7-8, 1975, more than 200 Members of Parliament from Western European countries, representing all shades of the political spectrum (except the far right), unanimously agreed to allow Arab immigrants to bring their culture and religion to Europe, to promote it and spread it. The parliamentarians stressed “the contribution that the European countries can still expect from Arab culture, notably in the area of human values” and asked the European governments “to accord the greatest priority to spreading Arab culture in Europe.” Today the forests of satellite dishes on the apartment blocks in the suburbs of Western European cities link the immigrants to the culture of their countries of origin, whose television programmes they watch day after day.

Dyab Abou Jahjah, the young and charismatic Brussels-based leader of the Arab European League, rejects assimilation and demands segregated schools and self-governing, Arab-speaking ghettos. “We reject integration when it leads to assimilation,” Jahjah says: “I don’t believe in a host country. We are at home here and whatever we consider our culture to be also belongs to our chosen country. I’m in my country, not the country of the [Westerners].”

Paul Belien refutes the NY Times article I referred to earlier:

Those media that tell us that the rioting “youths” want to be a part of our society and feel left out of it, are misrepresenting the facts. As the insurgents see it, they are not a part of our society and they want us to keep out of theirs. The violence in France is in no way comparable with that of the blacks in the U.S. in the 1960s. The Paris correspondent of The New York Times who writes that this a “variant of the same problem” is either lying or does not know what he is talking about. The violence in France is of the type one finds when one group wants to assert its authority and drive the others out of its territory. American MSM who imply that there is a direct line from Rosa Parks, the black woman who refused to stand up for a white man on an American bus in 1955, to the rabble that are now throwing molotov cocktails into French buses containing passengers, are misrepresenting the facts. (The only comparison between America and France is that many of the bus drivers in the Parisian suburbs, like those in New Orleans, seem to be white women whose vulnerability attracts rioters and looters).

I have often written of the conflict between individual rights and societal duties. Those of you who know me well, know of my strong belief that a civil society cannot endure if individuals think only of their own happiness and freedoms. This, in the end, is why I distrust Libertarianism despite the strong emotional attractions of this quasi-philosophy and my inherent distrust of governmental intrusion into my private affairs. A few days ago, I wrote:

Thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks believed that without a well-developed notion of civic virtue, no society could long survive. In the intervening centuries, the notion of what constitutes the civil society has continued to evolve, for the most part moving from a notion of collective duty or virtue to one where only the individual's rights are recognized. Sadly, the idea that an individual has any duty to society seems to have fallen into disfavor.

Especially in America we fear this notion: that we as individuals can be asked to limit our freedoms from a sense of obligation to something larger than ourselves. But in a large, increasingly complex, multicultural world how will we ever live together in peace if there is no common loyalty, no sense of community, no feeling that we are all in this together? We cannot all simply gorge ourselves from the feeding trough. We must also give back. This is a message both conservatives and liberals dislike. Liberals would like their rich neighbor to fork over his ill-gotten gains to right the economic and social wrongs of this vale of tears. Conservatives, on the other hand, often envision a utopia in which that government is best which governs not at all. I sometimes wonder how much either side would like living in the world they dream of at night?

Meanwhile, most Americans live somewhere in the middle: that practical and mundane no-man's land sneered at by intellectuals, where compromises between grand theories and cold, hard reality are worked out. And they deserve protection from disaffected youths who seek the answers to where they belong in a burning car, or lawless hoods who clamber from broken windows of flooded cities with a plasma TV, not because they are hungry, or poor, but because we tolerate such behavior from them.

Because we tolerate their behavior. Not their beliefs, nor their skin color, nor their religion. But their unacceptable and criminal acts.

I am tired of being told I must understand their feelings. They are free to feel any way they please, whether or not I understand it. But feelings are not what civilized people use to determine what they do when they go out of their doors each day. They are not a basis for rational behavior, nor for a civil society.

I sometimes fear for the world my grandchildren will inherit: a world in which society no longer believes in anything strongly enough to stand up for it. And as much as we in this country have been taught to fear the over-orderly strictures of civil society, there is another danger out there: the anarchy and lawlessness of the mob. Where there is no law, or where law is held in contempt, there is only chaos and the rule of the most brutish and bestial among us: a place where reason is shouted down and emotion, avarice, and self-interest routinely carry the day. That place is commonly known as Congress.

That way madness lies.