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Showing posts from October, 2017

Grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone

Five hundred years ago today, an obscure monk in a backwater Saxon town posted a piece of paper on a church door. In so doing, Martin Luther began a movement which would rock the Christian Church with the notion that there is no higher authority for Christian truth than the words of Christ and His apostles, and that God freely accepts all who come to him in repentance and faith in His Son regardless of how flawed. weak, and errant they have been.

Much will be written today about the impact of the Reformation on theology, government, marriage, mores, and even beer (the break with Rome meant that the traditional spices used in brewing, over which the Catholic church held a monopoly, would have to be replaced in Protestant lands by a weed called "hops").  But most of all, it brought to the forefront a basic reality of life, obscured though never truly erased by human power-grabbing and intellectual presumption: that at the center of reality is a God Who loves you not because of…

But who speaks for the American idea?

The American Constitution is widely recognized as a political masterpiece. But its original text was regarded by many of the Founding Fathers with unease. The genius of James Madison's achievement, nobody doubted. But what good is even the best- conceived system of government if the rights and freedoms it intends to establish are not defined and guaranteed?

Madison is rightly remembered and revered as the father of the Constitution. But it's a lesser-known Founding Father, a planter from Fairfax County, Virginia, who brought what Madison wrought to perfection. George Mason (right)  is remembered as the father of the Bill of Rights.

It's a document which has amazingly few partisans these days, being under assault from the Left and the Right alike, from scruffy campus radicals to the White House itself.

Ir's passed largely unnoticed- at least few places I've been reading have noticed it- but October of 2017 marks the centennial of the Russian Revolution, the beginni…

Ten years later, I finally know what happened to Tony Soprano

Like most fans of the late, great HBO series "The Sopranos," I was frustrated by the lack of closure and resolution at the end of the final episode. Yet the producer insists that he did tell us what happened- that "it's all there."

And he's right. It really is.

Yesterday I came across multiple sources which walked us through the final scene, which you'll find below. Previous episodes had prepared the way, and if we'd remembered incidents earlier in the season (and in some case even before), that scene gives us several very broad hints. In addition, there is a pattern in that last scene which, even without those hints, should have told us everything we need to know. All in all, if you simply know what to look for, what happened in that final scene is as plain as if it had played out right before our eyes.

On at least two occasions in prior episodes, we were told that when someone is shot at close range he doesn't know it until afterward- or at a…

McMullin, Kasich, Hickenlooper, Huntsman, or somebody else sane in 2020!

I don't expect to be disenfranchised in 2020. I'm looking forward to Evan McMullin running against President Trump and whatever left-wing extremist the Democrats nominate. McMullin may or may not run for the Senate next year, and he may or may not run for president as an independent again next time around, but the nation can't afford to lose its most eloquent and intelligent critic of the populist takeover of the Republican party and the Executive Branch. We need the man in public life.

But interesting alternatives have developed. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been mentioned as a potential primary challenger for Mr. Trump. I hope somebody continues the fight for the soul of my former party, even though I believe it to be a lost cause. Entrepreneur Mark Cuban is reportedly also considering a challenge to Mr. Trump. While I tend to see him at this point as somewhere to the left of where a candidate I would feel comfortable supporting might be, I would wish him well. Still, I see…

Sen. Flake is no flake. Regrettably, a great many of his constituents are. And so, he's retiring.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) is a staunchly conservative Republican who has not hesitated to call Donald Trump out for his childish, irresponsible, and divisive rhetoric and behavior. As a result, enough of his Republican constituents- who, like Republicans throughout the country, have in many cases forgotten their constitutional values and the dedication to reason, decency, and common sense which have traditionally animated their party- are strongly inclined to support former state senator Kelli Ward or state treasurer Jeff DeWit in a pro-Trump primary challenge of Sen. Flake.

Today, Flake announced that he would not seek re-election. He eloquently called Trump out for the coarse, juvenile, and generally irresponsible way he's governed, saying that he's concluded that he can best serve the nation and the people of Arizona in retirement.

When we lose people the caliber of Jeff Flake because of small-bore pigmies like Donald Trump, it's indeed a sorry day for America and a s…

How to make democracy actually work again

If it be granted- and I think it's pretty obvious- that our devolution into competing political and cultural echo chambers in which we shout prejudice-reinforcing slogans to each other and then scream them in unison at the people in the other echo chamber, and that this process threatens our very ability to function as a free people, then this article seems to me to have a great deal to say to us.

How can positions which, on both sides, are increasingly seen as matters embodying sacred values not to be compromised be opened up to the kind of dialog on which democracy depends? How can this be done without anybody betraying their principles, yet also in such a way as to promote the building not only of abstract consensus but of a united front against the problems which threaten our society? I can think of no more important issue in this time of extremism and polarization. Bo Winegard offers a way out- a way of discussing controversial matters which avoids demonizing our opponents by…

An especially disgusting lie from President Trump's supporters

The other day Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla) reported having overheard President Trump tell Myeshia Johnson, the widow of a soldier killed in Niger, "But you know that he must have known what he signed up for." Rep. Wilson was in a car with Mrs. Johnson when she overheard the conference call from the President.

Mr. Trump denies having said that. I am strongly inclined to believe Rep. Wilson because I do not know her to be a habitual liar. One study during last year's primary campaign showed Mr. Trump- who has insinuated that the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex) might have been implicated in the assassination of President Kennedy, insisted long after any doubt had been dispelled that President Obama was not a native-born American citizen, claims without evidence that Mr. Obama had him wiretapped, and routinely makes up "facts" to serve his purposes of the moment- told a lie, on average, once every five minutes.

It was an incredibly insensitive thing for Mr. Trump…

I am not heartbroken.

The Cubs have been dethroned.

Yawn. I am neither surprised nor upset. We'll be back... and back.... and back....

It's been seventeen years since a team repeated as world champions and twenty-five years since the time before that.

Since the Yankees repeated seventeen years ago only two teams have appeared in the World Series in consecutive years. Fewer than half have even made the playoffs the following year. On the average, world champions have a winning percentage the following year of .538. That two rather mediocre San Francisco Giants teams won two World Series in three years in 2010 and 2012 was something of a fluke. In fact, this year's Cub team is only the second defending World Series champion to win its own division the following year in the last fifteen seasons!

I have believed that the Cubs' bullpen was a disaster waiting to happen for several years. Frankly, we got lucky last year. Not surprisingly, our bats weren't what they should have been this year,…

Trump's and his supporters have left me speechless, and that's no easy trick

You know, as hard as I find it to imagine that even the jackass in the Oval Office could tell the grieving widow of an American soldier, "He knew what he signed up for, but I guess it hurts anyway," I find it even harder- and far more disturbing- to see that so many of us are so entirely devoid of decency as to defend him for it.

What has this man done to us as a people? That this president has no filters and very little sense of what is appropriate is hardly news. But it seems that no matter how outrageous or even downright barbaric Donald Trump is, his supporters will excuse it.

For the thousandth time, they've proven the man right when he said that he could commit murder in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue in New York and not lose any support. Are we as a nation really so far gone that our population has such a high percentage of sheep with no moral compass whatsoever?

Narcissists have no empathy. But what excuse do Trump's supporters have? Are they narcissists, too?

At least my name will get there

I just registered to have my name engraved on a microchip which will land on Elysium Planitia on Mars with the InSight lander, launching from Vandenberg next year.

I remember the night when I was six when Mars was at opposition and my dad pointed it out to me. I still recall the sense of wonder I felt as a stared at that bright red "star" hanging over 24th Place in Chicago that night. Since then I've seen the Red Planet many times through telescopes of various sizes, and as ridiculous as it may be I derive a bit of satisfaction from the fact that my name is going to land on Mars even if I never will.

If you hurry, you can sign up to send your name to Mars, too.  But the November 1 deadline is fast approaching.

Why, if I were an NFL player, my respect for the flag would now compel me to stay off the field until after the anthem

The silliness over football players standing, kneeling, sitting, lying down, and doing the Macarena during the National Anthem just continues to get sillier, and to miss the real point by an ever-wider mark.

Now the owner of the Miami Dolphins, Stephen Ross, has done a 180 on the anthem issue and given a completely incomprehensible explanation for doing so. Previously a supporter of players who chose to exercise their First Amendment rights by adopting their posture of choice during the pre-game playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," Ross has decided that it's time to restrict that right because President Trump has "changed the paradigm" of the discussion on the issue by "making it about patriotism," opining thus:

It's a different dialogue today, Whenever you’re dealing with the flag, you’re dealing with something different. [the President] has changed that whole paradigm of what protest is. I think it’s incumbent upon the players today, because …

Mars by 2024, New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes

Space X founder Elon Musk has been talking for quite a while about landing its Dragon crew vehicle on Mars by 2020, using the Falcon Heavy booster he's had in development. But that all changed Friday.

The "Red Dragon" plan had been to land a Dragon capsule such as already is being used to make deliveries to the International Space Station the same way old-time rocket ships used to land in the movies, using its engines instead of parachutes to break its descent to the surface. Musk says that he's still going to try that at some point. But right now, near-Earth Dragon missions will be using parachutes exclusively, and all the company's resources are going to be focused on a much more ambitious project: the so-called BFR (short for Big... uh, adjectivedeleted, Rocket), designed for colonizing first the moon and then Mars- the latter by 2024- and which can be used for all sorts of near-earth missions, too. Its crew vehicle, too, will use its engines to descend,

The …

He's at it again!

President Trump, continuing his policy of undercutting his own subordinates and pouring gasoline rather than water on fires, says that Secretary of State Tillerson is "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with North Korea. "We'll do what we have to do," Mr. Trump tweets.

Repeating the phrase he coined last week, the president referred to the leader of a nation with which we are trying to reach a peaceful resolution of a conflict with the potential to bring on nuclear war as "little Rocket Man."

Now, he may well be right. Not only that, but it's hard to resist the temptation to be amused at a figure as ridiculous as Kim Jong Un receiving the mockery he deserves, even at the hands of someone almost equally ridiculous. But Mr. Trump is no longer an eccentric but harmless buffoon in private life. He's the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, and that's not the kind of thing a person who is trying to avoid war is apt to say. But it…