Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday Reading

  • "23 Minutes in Hell": Beliefnet has a segment of a new book whose author "claims that he was lying in bed at 3 a.m. when he was plunged into hell--not in a dream, but in actuality; not because he had died and was being punished, but because God wanted him to experience hell and warn others."

  • How did that dog get a press pass for the Final Four?: Wonkette asks, "What's wrong with this Washington Post photo?"

  • Why do girls go wild?:'s Ana Marie Cox says, "Maybe it would be progress if we had a definition of femininity expansive enough to include shaking one's thing without raising one's top."

  • John Mellencamp needs a civics lesson: According to the Evansville Courier-Press, Mellencamp just finished recording a song targeted at President Bush titled "1900 Pennsylvania Avenue."

  • "Give Grumpy Gamers What They Want": A humorous look at what we have lost as video game technology has advanced.
  • I'm Finally Reading Traveling Mercies

    So many people I respect have said so many good things about Anne Lamott that I decided I must read Traveling Mercies as a matter of personal responsibility. I'm glad that I made this decision.

    To clarify: I don't see myself becoming an Anne Lamott fan. I don't imagine that I will religiously re-read Traveling Mercies the way I would a Nick Hornby novel, one of the Harry Potter books, a good "historical Jesus" study, or something that Kurt Vonnegut wrote prior to Breakfast of Champions. Still, Lamott's popular memoir is refreshing and has given me some much needed perspective.

    I had planned on writing a post on Christian soteriology, arguing that one can find support for universalism (and to a lesser extent, pluralism) in Christian Scripture and church tradition. My intent would not have been to insist that the church embrace or adopt universalism andor pluralism, but to draft a pre-emptive response to those who would consider me not-a-real-Christian for even considering such ideas. (I may yet write such a post.)

    But, frankly, theology gives me a headache; and I thank Anne Lamott for being my intellectual and spiritual ibuprofin. Traveling Mercies has reminded me that faith should not simply be a matter of doctrine and exegesis, or even a matter of belief. Faith is about experiecing the divine—of having a relationship with God. One should not have to rationalize his or her faith because faith simply isn't rational.

    Lamott, through her creative non-fiction vignettes, illustrates her intimate relationship with God: the exhileration and the anger; the hope and the frustration; the affirmation and the confusion; and the continual assurance of God's love and presence. She is aware of God working in her life during times of joy and sorrow; she is eager to thank and praise God, but doesn't hesitate to get pissed off at her creator. For Lamott, Christianity is lived rather than believed. Thus she separates herself from the fruitless debates about doctrine that I so often find myself observing or participating in, and she allows herself to fully love God and neighbor.

    Wednesday, March 29, 2006

    Wednesday Reading

  • Adam Morrison's five stages of grief: If you're a college basketball fan, you'll enjoy this. (Hat tip: my sister, Whitney.)

  • Crazy Cat put on house arrest: "Residents of the neighborhood of Sunset Circle say they have been terrorized by a crazy cat named Lewis. Lewis for his part has been uniquely cited, personally issued a restraining order by the town's animal control officer." (Again, hat tip: Whitney.)

  • How was ice made and sold in pre-industrial times?: Read the secrets behind an industry that died a half-century ago. (Hat tip: Six Foot 6.)
  • Tuesday, March 28, 2006

    "Phil the Chill" Gets Clever With Healthcare

    I wanted to commend Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen for introducing his "Cover Tennessee" health coverage plan Monday evening. Before getting into politics, Bredesen (who studied physics at Harvard, for what that's worth) made his fortune in the healthcare industry. So many (myself included) have been disappointed that the Governor's most significant accomplishment thus far in office has been to take nearly 200,000 people off of the Tenn Care rolls. (For outsiders, Tenn Care is/was the state's Medicaid-based health insurance program for uninsured and uninsurable citizens.)

    Now the governor is proposing a series of healthcare initiatives—primarily for the working poor, employees of small businesses, children, and uninsurable adults—collectively called "Cover Tennessee." AccessTN would provide coverage for persons who have been turned down by other providers because of pre-existing conditions; CoverKids would be available to the 150,000 Tennessee children without health coverage; CoverRx would "provide access to affordable medication" to adults "with incomes under 250% of the federal poverty line"; and Project Diabetes would combat rising rates of diabetes and obesity in the state. According to The Tennessean, the costs of these programs would be divided between employers, enrollees, and the state. Persons who smoke or are substantially overweight would have to pay higher premiums than more health-conscious citizens.

    I'm glad to see Phil getting creative with healthcare. Prior to his introducing Cover Tennessee, Bredesen's only real attempts at "reforming" Tenn Care have involved abruptly denying coverage to tens of thousands, including some of the most vulnerable Tennesseans. If Phil can get the General Assembly to bite, I might even vote for him this year. (Not that he needs my vote.) We'll see.

    Monday, March 27, 2006

    Whitlock Has Harsh Take on Women Dunking columnist Jason Whitlock says, "Women shouldn't be dunking." Once you get past the misogyny suggested by the title and the author's immature remarks about Candace Parker's dunking ability, you will find that Whitlock has some interesting things to say about what makes women's basketball good.

    OK. I Just Watched the New UCC Ad . . .

    . . . and it is far more benign than the description led me to believe. Saying that it is to controversial for network television is a stretch. Check it out at

    Second UCC Ad Deemed Too Controversial

    From Beliefnet:

    March 27 -- A new television ad by the United Church of Christ that stresses the church's diversity has already been rejected by major networks as "too controversial," the second time a UCC ad has been banned from the airwaves.

    The 30-second "Ejector" ad features several people -- a black woman, a gay couple, a Middle Eastern man, an elderly man in a walker -- who are ejected from their church pews.

    "God doesn't reject people," the ad says. "Neither do we."

    The four major networks have refused to air the commercial "because of its references to homosexuality, race and ethnicity," though it will run for three weeks on basic cable.

    I'm down with UCC. (Yeah, you know me.) But they should have seen this one coming. A simliar ad featuring a bouncer was rejected by the major networks last year. The decision of the networks not to show the ads is pathetic. (Neither ad is as loaded with vitriol and sensationalism as the average spot run by a major political candidate.) On the other hand, the United Church of Christ is guilty of hyperbole. Frankly, the evangelical churches that the commercials implicitly attack do a much better job of attracting racial and ethnic minorities than does the United Church of Christ. As for the "elderly man in a walker," whether or not a congregation welcomes him is more a matter of building accessibility than of inclusive theology.

    The UCC is more friendly to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people than any other major Christian denomination, and it has also gone to great lengths to place women in positions of leadership and authority. The UCC should create a commercial (not involving a bouncer or "ejector" seats) that focuses entirely on welcoming homosexuals and empowering women and that does so in a less aggressive manner. Then, when NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX reject the new ad (as they inevitably will), the church might be able to elicit sympathy to its cause.

    Southern Baptists Split on Glossolalia

    A vote in November among the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention's international missionary branch to "ban the private practice of speaking in tongues" (glossolalia) has generated controversy among Baptist ministers and missionaries and made the front page of The Tennessean this weekend. While most Southern Baptists believe that speaking in tongues was a phenomenon unique to the first century (prior to written Scripture), some Baptist pastors feel strongly about the place of glossolalia in their personal prayers.

    I am somewhat of a cynic when it comes to tongues. I understand that God sometimes communicates in ways that cannot be expressed through traditional language, but I see no benefit in speaking such messages aloud, using sounds that any listener would mistake for gibberish. If glossolalia does not effectively communicate God's truth to others, is it not just a means of boasting—a way for the speaker to show off his or her strong faith and closeness to God? To quote Paul in 1 Corinthians:

    If I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you in some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? . . . If in a tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be speaking into the air. . . . If then I do not know the meaning of a sound, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church. (14:6, 9, 11-12)

    And I must confess that, when I am in the presence of people who are speaking in tongues, I automatically question whether they are communicating with God or babbling to impress others to fit in. Forgive my cynicism; I don't want to accuse people of being insincere.

    On the other hand, I'm not sure I understand banning tongues as a private prayer practice. That the Southern Baptist Convention would want to curb the use of glossolalia in evangelism makes sense: Frankly, tongues freak people out. (I am, however, speaking as a Westerner; people of other cultures may experience speaking in tongues much differently.) I'm just surprised that a denomination that professes biblical inerrancy would so distance itself from a practice that has a clear Scriptural precedent. I guess this demonstrates that everyone reads the Bible through some sort of interpretive lens.

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    God's Bracket

    Religiously affiliated schools have had a tough week in the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournaments. With Villanova's loss to Florida earlier this evening, all church-related schools have been eliminated from the men's tourney. Pope Ben-16 should be proud, as the Roman Catholics fared better than any other faith tradition. The Jesuits were the only religious body to post a winning record, and the non-Jesuit Catholics can boast the last church-affiliated school standing.

    As for the women, Duke, the United Methodist's sole representative, is the only church-sponsored team left in the dance, clinching a winning-percentage victory for the UMC. The Catholics should also be commended for getting five tournament bids and picking up five wins.

    Men's Tournament

    1. Jesuit Roman Catholic (6-5)
    Gonzaga, Boston College, Georgetown, Marquette, Xavier

    2. Roman Catholic, non-Jesuit (3-3)
    Villanova, Seton Hall, Iona

    3. United Methodist (2-3)
    Duke, Syracuse, Pacific

    4. Baptist (0-1)

    4. Charismatic (0-1)
    Oral Roberts

    Women's Tournament

    1. United Methodist (3-0)

    2. Roman Catholic, inc. Jesuit (5-5)
    De Paul, St. John's, Boston College, Notre Dame, Sacred Heart

    2. Baptist (2-2)
    Baylor, Liberty

    2. Latter Day Saints (1-1)
    Brigham Young

    2. Disciples of Christ (1-1)
    Texas Christian

    2. Presbyterian (1-1)

    7. Church of Christ (0-1)

    Friday, March 24, 2006

    New Meyer Pictures

    Left: Falling asleep while eating lunch

    Right: Riding the alligator

    Apparently I "Sound Gay"

    Though Christian Dissent Live has been off the air for over a month, we still get the occasional fan mail. One listener writes:

    This may seem strange, but as I listen to the CDL:
    archives, I keep thinking of ZZ Top:

    Frank Beard (No Beard)
    Billy Gibbons (Beard)
    Dusty Hill (Beard)

    The only rationale I can muster is this:

    Josh (Gay sounding, but straight)
    Cole (gay)
    Joey (gay)

    Friday Reading

  • Riding the Alligator: Meyer reports on his favorite new pasttime.

  • Archbishop of Canterbury Says, "Stop Teaching Creationism": From The Guardian. Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams says, "If creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories ... My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it."

  • In Other Creationism News: The Arkansas Times reports that some Arkansas educators are forbidden to use the terms "evolution" or "natural selection" or to use hard numbers when referring to the estimated ages of rocks.

  • Natsios Criticizes Iraq Contracts: Andrew Natsios, former director of the U.S. foreign-aid program USAID accuses the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq of hiring "ill-qualified or corrupt contractors." The watchdog group Transparency International warns that the issue of contracts in Iraq could become "the biggest corruption scandal in history."
  • If UMC Wants Younger Members, It Should Lift Up Its Young Leaders

    The Christian Post this week ran This article on a disturbing trend that the IRD regularly reminds me of, that being the "graying" of The United Methodist Church.

    Also this week, I received in my mailbox the March/April issue of Circuit Rider, the official magazine for United Methodist clergy and church leaders. The theme of this issue is "emerging leaders," particularly clergy under the age of 35. While one article profiles a handful of young UM pastors, none of the articles is written by a so-called emerging leader. I know several young UM leaders who would jump at the chance to write for Circuit Rider, many of the blogs listed to left under "United Methodists" are published by church leaders under the age of 35.

    I fear that this issue of Circuit Rider is indicative of a larger trend of Boomer-centrism in the UMC. United Methodist Baby Boomers, who account for much of the church's ordained clergy, seem to think of themselves as "us" and younger generations as "them." ("'We' need to find ways to bring more of 'those' young people into the church.")

    So this is what I'm getting at: Maybe one way to attract more young people to The United Methodist Church would be to amplify the voices of the several vibrant young leaders in the church.

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    Sunday, 8:15 at Belmont UMC

    Just so you know, I'll be playing an original song (along with the hymns, prelude, postlude, and Communion music) at the 8:15 service this Sunday at Belmont United Methodist in Nashville.

    Tennessee Dems Content With Ford?

    In my life as a freelance writer I had been working on an article for a local publication about Tennessee State Senator Rosalind Kurita, who is currently running for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by Bill Frist. Recently, my editor told me to stop working on the article, saying, "Honestly, I think the moment has passed on this. We talked about it . . . when Kurita still had some chatter. She doesn't now."

    She's right. Six months ago Rosalind Kurita seemed to be in position to make the campaign interesting. Now, with months still to go until the primary, Harold Ford, Jr. is the assumed Democratic nominee. (Kurita's staff may have hurt her chances by not communicating well with writers trying to cover her campaign.)

    As an independent, I don't vote in primaries; so what will this mean for the general election? I suppose Dems have some bonus time to build up Ford while Ed Bryant and Bob Corker duke it out for the Republican nod (sorry Van). Ford certainly has name recognition and boyish good looks, and the fact that he has served in the U.S. House for ten years makes him a much stronger candidate than Kurita. On the other hand, Ford has more baggage and could be an easy target for the GOP. He was educated on the east coast, failed the Tennessee bar exam (as did Republican candidate Van Hilleary), and will have to distance himself from the black sheep in his family. Some Dems may find Ford's voting record worrisome. Kurita, though conventional wisdom says she would get beaten soundly in a general election, is spotless by comparison, and her career as a nurse could be endearing to Tennessee voters. She has also pulled electoral upsets in the past (albeit never in a statewide election).

    But Ford is the obvious Democratic choice to fill Bill Frist's seat and honestly has been for years. If he wins in November, he would be the first popularly elected African-American Senator in the former Confederacy. Sadly and inexcusably, a Rasmussen poll found that, "Thirteen percent (13%) of Tennessee voters say they know family members or friends who will vote against Ford because of his race." Part of me wants to see Ford win just to make those people angry.

    In Other Freed-Hostage News . . .

    The Upper Room (a daily devotional magazine and publisher of resources for spiritual growth) has, for the past several weeks, been requesting prayers for the Rev. Tongkhojang Lunkim, "the editor of the Kuki (in India) edition of The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide." Rev. Lunkim had been kidnapped "by a group of rebels called the Kuki Liberation Army."

    I noticed a couple days ago a press release at The Upper Room celebrating Rev. Lunkim's release. Fortunately, he appears to be strong and in good health. The reasons for his capture are still unclear.

    Gavin has more.

    Multinational Raid Frees Christian Peacemakers

    This just in from CNN:

    BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three Western aid workers held hostage in Iraq for nearly four months have been freed in a multinational military raid, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.

    Briton Norman Kember, 74 and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32 were freed in Thursday's military operation in Baghdad involving British special forces, Straw said. . . .

    The men, members of aid group Christian Peacemaker Teams, were abducted along with American colleague Tom Fox, 54, in Baghdad on November 26.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    New Bullet Points

  • I finally figured out how to get rid of the flower bullet points.

  • I decided to create my own, Josh, bullet point.

  • Tell me what you think of the new bullet points.
  • IRD Goes Outside the Mainline for New President

    After mourning the loss of founder and president Diane Knippers, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) has announced the selection of new president Dr. James Tonkowich. IRD is committed to renewal in mainline Protestant churches (particularly the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, and Presbyterian Church [USA]); but, as IRD notes in its press release, Tonkowich "comes from a non-mainline denomination" (the evangelical Presbyterian Church in America).

    Maybe the most common criticism of IRD is that the organization's efforts at mainline reform are bankrolled and influenced by persons outside of the mainline church. Anticipating such questions and criticisms, Tonkowich, who comes to IRD from Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship, makes a fair and Scripturally sound point in his own defense:

    “Because Christ’s Church is one, renewal in any part of the church causes the tide to rise for all churches,” Tonkowich said.  “Similarly if any part of the Church is diminished, we all suffer.  The work of the IRD in seeking to restore accountability, theological integrity, and a vibrant social witness in the mainline is a benefit to all Christians.”

    As a mainliner, I welcome dialog with leaders from other religious bodies and am willing to listen to their concerns about (or attacks on) mainline denominations, in my case The United Methodist Church. But I nonetheless resent leaders from outside the mainline spearheading well-funded, highly organized efforts to effect polity and doctrine in mainline denominations.

    IRD often claims that many mainliners do not (or would not) support the words and actions of their regional and national leaders and official agencies. Why not, if there are so many people to choose from, look to the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), or other mainline denominations for leadership? Why not promote current IRD UM Action director Mark Tooley, or Alan Wisdom, member of the PCUSA and recent interim president? In my opinion selecting a president from outside the denominations it claims to serve further hurts IRD's credibility as an organization seeking mainline renewal.

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Humphrey, the UK's Most Influential Cat, Dies at 18

    From The Guardian:

    Humphrey the cat, who has died at the advanced age of 18, was one of the most prominent felines in British political life since an ancestor emerged as a significant backstairs adviser to Sir Richard Whittington in his bid to become mayor of London in the 14th century.

    In a career that straddled late Thatcherism, the turbulent years when John Major struggled to sustain the Tory hegemony and an unhappy twilight under Tony Blair, Humphrey occupied a unique position in Downing Street that allowed him both to observe and influence great events. In his capacity as official designated mouser in what remained, despite enormous sums spent on renovations, a fine example of a jerry-built 17th-century speculative building, Humphrey was an invaluable member of the team.

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    Church Clusters: Wisdom in a Time of Crisis

    Since Katrina hit, the Louisiana Conference of The United Methodist Church has had to be creative to keep all of its congregations alive. Now, sixth months later, some of the churches have functional facilitites and are well on their way to recovery; others have essentially closed—without a building and with few members currently living in the New Orleans area. Obviously, New Orleans UMs aren't putting as much cash into the offering plate as they were before last year's hurricane season. Still, Louisiana Bishop William W. Hutchinson in today's Times-Picayune boldly says, "We are not declaring any church abandoned, nor are we declaring any church closed."

    In response to the recent crisis, the Louisiana Conference has divided 38 area congregations into seven clusters, "typically representing a racially diverse set of institutions, that will work together to decide how their missions can be achieved, with more emphasis given to creative service ideas and less to simply preserving buildings." Further:

  • "Apart from the designated clusters, a few churches will play special roles during the recovery period and therefore will receive extra attention and support from the Methodist conference."

  • "Several churches that were relatively spared by the storm will serve as 'station' institutions that provide general support to recovering churches."

  • I think this combination of clustering and allowing certain congregations to take leadership roles could benefit The United Methodist Church as a whole. Clusters should include six or seven churches, should be formed primarily on the basis of geography, and should be as ethnically and theologically diverse as possible. Congregations in a given cluster would be charged with ministering to their shared community and to one another. Churches with particular gifts (music, education, outreach, and so forth) would be lifted up and would assist their cluster-mates in developing these ministries. (Ideally, every church in a given cluster would have gifts that every other congregation could benefit from.)

    Existing groupings in The United Methodist Church are either too small (charges), too large (districts, annual conferences, and jurisdictions), or too divisive (unofficial networks and caucuses) to effectively assist individual congregations and the communities they serve. Clusters would remind United Methodist congregations that they are part of a connectional church even when they aren't writing apportionment checks or sending delegates to annual conference. Many clusters would include congregations with very different views on issues such as war, homosexuality, and church-state relations. As cluster-mates, these churches would have to focus on their common Christian mission rather than their political differences.

    What do you think? Can we get clusters into the 2008 Book of Discipline?

    Science Affirms Tinleys' Parenting Skills

    From this morning's USA Today:

    [Dennis Ownby of the Medical College of Georgia and his team] compared 184 children who were exposed to two or more dogs or cats in their first year of life with 220 who didn't have pets. To their surprise, the scientists found that children raised with pets were 45% less likely to test positive for allergies than other kids. The study appeared in the Aug. 28, 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association.

    Meyer is exposed to at least four cats on a daily basis, six if he goes to Mimi's house. When he spends the day with Ninny and Daddy Coach (his aunt and uncle), he gets to interact with two large, slobbering dogs.

    No allergies for our boy.

    God's Bracket

    After the first weekend, all four number one seeds remain in the men's dance; the Big East has four teams alive in the tourney, the Missouri Valley has two, and the Big Ten has none. The defending champs are out, while two double-digit seeds have advanced to the round of sixteen. But let's get down to what really matters: the religious affiliation of the schools in the tournament. While the Jesuits are running away with the men's bracket, the women's field is more theologically diverse and should provide some interesting match-ups as the tourney progresses. With two rounds complete in the men's dance and one in the women's, the God's Bracket standings are as follows:

    Men's Tournament

    1. Jesuit Roman Catholic (6-2)
    Still alive: Gonzaga, Boston College, Georgetown

    2. United Methodist (2-2)
    Still alive: Duke

    2. Roman Catholic, non-Jesuit (2-2)
    Still alive: Villanova

    4. Baptist (0-1)
    Still alive: none

    4. Charismatic (0-1)
    Still alive: none

    Women's Tournament

    1. United Methodist (1-0)

    1. Latter Day Saints (1-0)
    Brigham Young

    1. Disciples of Christ (1-0)
    Texas Christian

    1. Presbyterian (1-0)

    5. Roman Catholic, inc. Jesuit (3-2)
    De Paul, St. John's, Boston College, Notre Dame, Sacred Heart

    6. Baptist (1-1)
    Baylor, Liberty

    7. Church of Christ (0-1)

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    The ACLU Fights the Symptoms of Anti-Gay-Marriage Fever in Tennessee

    The Tennessee Supreme Court will decide whether voters were given proper notice in advance of this November's vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

    The ACLU and gay and lesbian groups say the state provided 4½ months' notice of the amendment, not the six months state law requires. The state and others argue that wide media coverage provided the public plenty of notice.

    If the ACLU is successful, the House and Senate will just vote next year to put the amendment on the ballot in 2008 (and they'll probably pay much more attention to procedural detail). This court decision will likely be a matter of "when," not "if"; but in two years, the anti-gay fervor that was so hot in 2004 may be totatlly passé.

    I Apologize for Any Problems With Your Service

    I've been having some trouble with Blogger lately, and have noticed in recent days that this site is sometimes unavailable and sometimes does not display properly. I'm not sure if I'm the problem or if Blogger is to blame. Either way, I'm sorry for the inconvenience, and promise to do some troubleshooting if these problems persist.

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    God's Bracket

    The United Methodists got off to a rough start, losing two of their three teams on the first day of the men's NCAA tournament. While Pacific put up a good fight, taking Jesuit Boston College into double overtime, Syracuse was upset by 12-seed Texas A&M.

    The tournament selection committee was unkind to the Jesuits, pitting two of their schools (Gonzaga and Xavier) against each other in the first round. Still, the Jesuits won two games Thursday, leading all religious groups.

    The Baptists were eliminated entirely from the men's bracket when Belmont was slaughtered by UCLA. But they still have hope in the women's tourney, where Baylor is a high seed and defending national champion.

    When the women's tournament gets started later this weekend, we will get to see the Disciples of Christ (Texas Christian), Presbyterians (Tulsa), and Latter Day Saints (Brigham Young) in action.

    The men's standings after one day:

    1. Jesuit Roman Catholic (2-2)
    Gonzaga, Boston College, Marquette, Xavier

    2. United Methodist (1-2)
    Duke, Syracuse, Pacific

    3. Roman Catholic (0-2)
    Seton Hall, Iona

    3. Baptist (0-1)

    In action today: Jesuit (Georgetown); Roman Catholic (Villanova); Charismatic (Oral Roberts)

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Taking the Day Off

    No blogging today. I'm worn out. Join me tomorrow evening for the first installment of "God's Bracket," a look at how religiously affiliated schools are doing in the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Go Dandi!

    For much of my drive into town today, I tailed a car with a vanity plate reading, "GODANDI." My first attempt at deciphering the seven-letter code yielded "GO DANDI," leading me to ask, Who's Dandi?

    I didn't need long to realize that no person named Dandi had been the inspiration for this vanity plate; that distinction belonged to God Almighty. The plate's intended message, of course, was "GOD AND I." So, as I eventually passed the car, I glanced to my right, but to no avail, hoping to see the benevolent Creator sitting in the passenger seat.

    About six years ago, I had a God-in-the-passenger-seat experience. When I got in my 1994 Chevy Lumina after a late band practice with Three Hit Combo, I noticed that the passenger seat was illuminated by light that seemed to have no source. The divine glow frightened me, but also gave me hope. I actually began a conversation with the deity before discovering that my '94 Lumina had little map lights underneath the rearview mirror. Apparently, I had bumped the switch while unloading equipment and had turned on one of these map lights.

    God still gives me a hard time about that night.

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Graduation Madness

    Think Progress is pressuring corporate sponsors of college basketball teams in this year's NCAA Tournament to take measures to improve the poor graduation rates among players at many of these schools:

    Thirty of the sixty-five teams that qualified for the Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament do not meet the minimal academic requirements defined by the NCAA. Graduation Madness is an effort to encourage corporate sponsors — who make millions by adorning these athletes with their company logos — to improve the academic success of collegiate basketball players using market forces.

    I appreciate Think Progress's concern for these student athletes. Basketball and football players at the highest levels of collegiate athletics are too often treated as commodities—instruments of profit for university athletic departments, shoe companies, and television networks. But I'm not sure I agree with the strategy of going after Nike, Reebok, and Adidas. (There are much better reasons to go after these companies.) Personally, I would start by going after the NCAA, which in recent decades has demonstrated little concern for the well-being of college athletes in money-making sports.

    I'm Not Sure What to Make of This

    From this week's Time:

    Through the challenges, the President has kept his human touch. Touring New Orleans last week, he met a man who had survived for days on canned goods before being evacuated to Utah. "Were you the only black man in Salt Lake City?" Bush asked.

    Could be funny; could be tasteless and offensive. I guess it depends on the context. At any rate, the quote, "Were you the only black man in Salt Lake City?" got my attention.

    Big Day for the Valley

    As a graduate of a Missouri Valley Conference school, I was delighted to learn yesterday afternoon that four teams from the Valley will be playing in the men's NCAA tournament. I think that Missouri State had a strong case to be the fifth representative, but I'm happy with four, in itself an unprecedented number. Overall, as an advocate of the little guy, I was glad that so many teams from non-power conferences were given at large bids.

    And I don't want to hear anyone complain about Michigan or Florida State being snubbed. Sure, the Wolverines are probably a better team than Utah State, and would probably win a best-of-seven series against the Aggies; but Michigan lost seven of its final nine games. No team that loses that many contests down the stretch should get invited to the tourney. Florida State, as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, could have scheduled challenging non-conference competition, but (aside from an early game against Florida) chose not to. When your athletic director pads your schedule with easy wins, you can't lose in the first round of your conference tournament and expect to be rewarded with an NCAA bid. Give that slot to Bradley.

    The team that might have a legitimate beef is Cincinnati: The Bearcats' had a top-ten strength-of-schedule ranking, finished 8-8 in the nation's toughest conference, and had several big wins against top competition. I would have put in Cincinnati before Seton Hall or Texas A&M, but none of these teams (in my opinion) is likely to be hanging around after the first weekend.

    Final Four picks coming soon.

    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    Sometimes Air Travel SUX

    This weekend I flew to Sioux City, Iowa to lead a three hour workshop for an event hosted by the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Sioux City does have an airport, albeit an airport with one terminal, that is served exclusively by Northwest, and which only handles flights to and from Minneapolis/St. Paul. It's actually a charming little place, though the Sioux Gateway Airport has the misfortune of being assigned the three-letter code "SUX."

    It would be easy, and marginally humorous, to say that SUX accuarately describes my experience at Sioux Gateway; but, as I have written, I found the place charming. (The people working at the desk were also the people who unloaded the planes and directed traffic on the tarmac.) Still, it was at SUX where I learned that my luggage (containing my clothes and all of the materials essential to my presentation) had gotten stuck in Minneapolis and had not made it onto the connecting flight.

    To be fair, I only barely made the connecting flight. Minneapolis has a monster of an airport for a city its size; the terminal to which I arrived and the terminal from which I departed were on opposite ends of the complex. Then again, I had only been through Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport twice before, both times during a round trip flight from Cincinnati to Los Angeles eight years ago. The baggage handlers, by comparison, transport items from one part of the airport to another for a living.

    Having to ask my host to take me to Wal-Mart late Friday night so that I could buy some cheap pajamas was a little embarrassing; having no clean clothes to change into was uncomfortable; and facing the prospect of giving my presentation naked (in terms of not having any of the materials I had packed—I could have purchased more cheap clothes at Wal-Mart) made me very anxious. But I shouldn't complain, as this weekend was the first time in my nearly thirty years of life that an airline has failed to get my luggage to my destination on time. (Granted, I don't fly terribly often.)

    My bag arrived at SUX about ninety minutes before my presentation was to begin. I was actually able to clean up, change, and review a few things before going to the church to lead the workshop. The presentation went fairly well—the participants were involved and seemed to appreciate what I had to offer, but I don't think that the people in Iowa are dying to have me back. Aside from the lost luggage and the turbulance we encountered on the return trip, my air travel experience was perfectly fine. I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to harp on the fact that the three-letter abbreviation for the Sioux City airport is "SUX."

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Bredesen Open to Raising Minimum Wage in Tennessee

    From The Chattanooga Times Free Press:

    Various state lawmakers have proposed bills that would create a state minimum wage that would exceed by $1 to $2 the federal rate, which has been $5.15 an hour since 1997. Gov. Bredesen earlier this month said he supported increases at the federal level but was reluctant to back creation of a Tennessee minimum wage. He said he feared such a move might drive jobs to other states or even overseas but wanted to look at the issue more closely.

    He said Wednesday that his concern was that creating a state minimum wage could cause job losses in rural communities.

    "I’ve looked at it, and I don’t think that’s going to happen," he said.

    Gov. Bredesen estimated that 60 percent of minimum wage jobs in Tennessee are in the retail or food service sectors. Those jobs will not be leaving the state, he said.

    Kudos to Phil the Chill. In a state with one of the nation's most regressive tax policies (nearly a 10% sales tax on just about anything), people need to make more than the never-adjusted-for-inflation federal minimum wage of $5.15, which will only pay for rent, food, and utilities if one works about 75 hours a week.

    For another take on how to raise wages, see my Fair Wage Plan.

    Thursday, March 09, 2006

    Liquid Water Found on Enceladus

    (CNN) -- The Cassini space probe has found evidence of geysers erupting from underground pools of liquid water on Saturn's moon Enceladus, scientists announced on Thursday.

    High-definition pictures beamed back from the probe showed huge plumes of ice coming from the moon's south pole.

    "We're inferring that there is a liquid water reservoir under the surface and it's erupting in a geyser-like fashion, maybe like the Yellowstone geysers you would see," said Linda Spilker, Cassini Deputy Project Scientist.

    I've never left the earth's atmosphere, but I have been in geyser basins at Yellowstone National Park, so I more or less know what it's like to be on Enceladus, one of Saturn's 31 moons.

    It's Best to Ignore Jerry Falwell, but Sometimes It's Fun Not to

    Last week, Falwell issued the following statement:

    Earlier today, reports began circulating across the globe that I have recently stated that Jews can go to heaven without being converted to Jesus Christ. This is categorically untrue.

    Thanks, Jerry. Glad you cleared that up.

    Falwell goes on to explain that, while he considers himself a political ally of the Jewish people and supports the Zionist movement, he is still certain that his Jewish friends can look forward to an eternity of continual anguish.


    Microsoft® Word's® spell-check accepts Oprah but not the biblical name Orpah (Ruth 1:1, 14).

    Baseball's Steroid Problems Exacerbated by Cult of the Individual

    New and very detailed steroid allegations regarding baseball record holder and future Hall-of-Famer Barry Bonds have pumped new juice into the debate over whether the integrity of the game has been compromised by performance-enhancing drugs. Pundits again are asking whether certain home run records and milestones should be qualified with asterisks or thrown out altogether. Fans are wondering how they should respond as Bonds approaches baseball's all-time home run record.

    Before sports fans and writers disown the "steroid era" (roughly the mid-nineties and the first few years of this decade) entirely, they should evaluate what is really at stake. The steroid debate has focused primarily on the individual statistics of a handful of power hitters—Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and the like. While these players have put up Hall-of-Fame numbers, their accomplishments have been largely individual statistical triumphs. None of these players, with the exception of McGwire—and his then teammate Jose Canseco—have any World Series rings to their credit. McGwire's Oakland Athletics won the Fall Classic back in 1989, one of the slugger's worst years in terms of home run production—a season when McGwire was only half the size of his late-nineties, record-breaking self. As it were, during McGwire's celebrated, 70-home-run season in 1998, his St. Louis Cardinals were never in the playoff hunt.

    I am no baseball expert, but, in this age, the teams that win championships are teams that have solid pitching and know how to manufacture runs with singles, doubles, stolen bases, bunts, sacrifice flys, and hit-and-runs. Since 1995 only one power hitter—Boston's Manny Ramírez (whose name is rarely associated with doping)—has garnered World Series MVP honors.

    Frankly,baseball has allowed the steroid scandal to compromise the integrity of the game by focusing so much on individual achievement. The single-season and career home run records are far more hallowed than any team records. Casual fans have likely forgotten that, in 2001, the Seattle Mariners tied the record for most wins in a season, or that the 2001 World Series between the Yankees and Diamondbacks was one of the best in recent memory; these fans are far more likely to remember that 2001 was the year when Bonds broke McGwire's single-season home run record.

    Alas, baseball fans and writers like numbers and stats. A player who never plays a game in October but ends his career with 3,000 hits, 400 home runs, and a lifetime average of .300 is more likely to go to Cooperstown than a player who is an instrumental part of three championship teams but retires with 2,000 hits, 250 homers, and a lifetime average of .275. The basketball and football halls of fame, by contrast, seem more likely to reward players who make important contributions to winning teams (and to the game itself), even if their career numbers seem average. (See, for example, Wes Unseld or Lynn Swann.) By elevating individual accomplishments over team accomplishments, Major League Baseball, and especially baseball writers, have left the baseball world vulnerable, as evidence regarding steroid use among star players continues to mount.

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    Go Ahead and Set the Table; I'm Not Moving

    Reggie demonstrates for his right to lounge on the kitchen table, even as we are preparing to eat dinner.

    Reggie's protest was broken up by a two-year-old with a mad look in his eyes and a zeal for furry tails.

    Pictures From Meyer's Birthday Party

    I Hope This Has Been Taken out of Context

    The following paragraph is taken from Hartwell, Georgia newspaper article about a community political breakfast:

    Commenting on illegal immigration, [50th District State Senator] Nancy Schaefer said 50 million abortions have been performed in this country, causing a shortage of cheap American labor. “We could have used those people,” she said.

    I'm not sure where to go with this except to say that everyone needs to do some research before voting for their state legislators.

    Shane's New Project

    Shane Raynor of Wesley Blog just launched Wesley Daily, "a new blog/magazine that will draw its content from various authors in the Metho-blogosphere." Graciously, Shane earlier today posted my article, "Is Pulling for Duke the United Methodist Thing to Do?"

    News in Brief

  • Grandma's favorite player dies at 44: Baseball Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett, who was always my maternal grandmother's favorite player, died yesterday from glaucoma. (If you keep up with sports at all, you're not reading this for the first time.) You have to like a short, pudgy guy with a goofy smile who could lead the Minnesota Twins—a small market team without any real baseball tradition—to two World Series titles.

  • Gitmo detainee documents released: Interviews with prisoners reveal stories of brutal torture and capricious captures. ("I was just walking in the street and I was captured," Shah said. "The next thing I found out is that I am sitting here" in Guantanamo Bay." "An American told me I was wrongfully taken and that in a couple of days I'd be freed," Rahman said. "I never saw that American again and I'm still here.") Sure, detainees could be lying; but we won't know if they are until we give them a real trial. I'm not sure international POW rules apply to people not captured on the battlefield, in a war that may never end.

  • Tennessee legislature debates frivolous bill on sex toys: Quoth the Scene's John Spragens, "On Monday, [the bill] passed a perfunctory first reading. In other Monday developments, Tennesseans died from a lack of health care, remained poorly educated and were among the most obese state populations in the nation."

  • Monday, March 06, 2006

    Is Pulling for Duke the United Methodist Thing to Do?

    I really don't like Duke men's basketball. Maybe I don't like the idea of a United Methodist university whose nickname is the "Devils"; maybe I have trouble rooting for a team that every year gets its choice of the nation's top high school players; maybe, as a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, I suffer from "Duke envy." (Duke is similar to Vanderbilt in many respects, but is a bit stronger academically, has a more prestigious divinity school, and is consistently better in men's and women's basketball; I get the impression that many Vanderbilt students and faculty are silently jealous.)

    NBC sports columnist Michael Ventre, in a column last February, elegantly expressed the dislike for Duke that so many of us feel:

    I really hate Duke.

    I hate their uniforms, home and road. I hate their warm-ups. I hate the way they carry themselves, with that smugness that says, “We don’t talk trash. We dispose of it.” I hate their fans and wish they would find something more productive to do with their lives than paint their faces blue and white. . . .

    These feelings weren’t always inside me. They have been slowly percolating over the years as Mike Krzyzewski and his henchmen have taken Duke from respected team to college basketball’s version of Time-Warner. The Dukies aren’t a scrappy bunch of athletes, they’re a board meeting on hardwood.

    Still, as a United Methodist, I have to celebrate the fact that a church-sponsored university is a perennial contender in a major NCAA Division I sport, don't I? Since Southern Methodist got the "death penalty" from the NCAA, only two United Methodist schools have been competitive at the highest levels of collegiate athletics: Duke and Syracuse. (Others, such as Evansville and Pacific, have had their moments.) About a dozen UM schools have Division I athletic programs, but most are unfamiliar to the casual sports fan.

    As much as I dislike Duke basketball, I have to commend the Devils for carrying the cross and flame into the world of mainstream athletics. If you break down the 67 men's basketball champions by religious affiliation, United Methodists hold their own, thanks largely to Duke:

    Public: 54

    Roman Catholic: 8—Holy Cross (1947), La Salle (1954), San Francisco (1955, 1956), Loyola Chicago (1963), Marquette (1977), Georgetown (1984), Villanova (1985)

    United Methodist: 4—Duke (1991, 1992, 2001), Syracuse (2003)

    Unaffiliated Private: 1—Stanford (1942)

    Wesley, Otterbein, and Albright would be proud. No other religious denomination has won a men's NCAA Division I basketball title. (It is worth noting that Baylor won a women's basketball title for the Baptists in 2005.)

    So, as a United Methodist, must I pull for Duke this March? I don't know. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils may be the only UM representative in the Big Dance. The only other team with a realistic chance of getting a bid is Pacific, who won the Big West regular season title and is favored to win the conference tourney. Of course, the Tigers, while capable of a first round upset, would have little hope of surviving the first weekend.

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    Missouri Seeks to Make Christianity Official State Religion

    This story is starting to get noticed nationwide, but I think it's really a non-story. At issue is a largely symbolic resolution "that would name Christianity the state's official 'majority' religion" in Missouri. (A few years ago, the Nashville Metro Council passed a resolution asking for the Tennessee governor and state legislature to put a moratorium on capital punishment. That resolution, along with thousands of others passed by local and state governments, has had absolutely no impact on anything.)

    Regardless of how you feel about a state declaring Christianity its official faith, don't get too worked up about this. I'm sure that Christianity is the majority religion in Missouri and likely will be for many years to come. I also know that Christianity doesn't usually do well as a state-endorsed faith tradition. Either way, the resolution is still meaningless.

    College Basketball: End-of-Regular-Season Assessment of My Teams

    Evansville (Men)
    My alma mater ended the season with a 10-19 record, but with a lot of promise for next year. The Purple Aces play in the Missouri Valley Conference, which will send six teams to the postseason (at least three to the NCAA tournament, and the rest to the NIT). Evansville finished seventh, immediately after the six teams fighting for a spot in the Big Dance, and posted wins this season over Purdue and Southern Illinois. The team's roster includes only one senior, and nearly 92% of the Aces' scoring offense will return next season.

    Evansville (Women)
    It's hard to keep up with Missouri Valley Conference women's basketball if you don't live in an MVC city. But the Evansville women have had a decent season, finishing 15-12 overall, 11-7 in the conference. They have the fourth seed going into the MVC tournament, where they will face Wichita State. If they beat the Shockers, they'll have a tough game against top seed, 24-4 Indiana State.

    Vanderbilt (Men)
    Saturday the Commodores did what they do best, blowing a big second half lead and losing a game they absolutely had to win. This season, the school where I earned my master's swept Kentucky, beat Georgetown on the road, and also picked up some big road wins in the SEC. By by beating Kentucky, getting a big non-conference win, and winning away from home in the conference, the Commodores overcame all of the barriers that usually keep them on the bubble or out of NCAA tournament consideration entirely. Still, by losing close home games to Georgia and South Carolina and by failing to close out Tennessee Saturday, the most talented Vanderbilt men's basketball team in recent memory has almost no chance of getting an at-large bid next Sunday. Maybe they can make a run in the NIT.

    Vanderbilt (Women)
    The Vandy women will get a tournament bid and a decent seed; they finished the regular season with twenty wins; and they managed a winning record in a very tough SEC. On the other hand, Vanderbilt always does well in women's basketball; this year has been very ordinary by Commodore standards, and Vandy has failed thus far to defeat a ranked team. Unless the team goes deep into the NCAA tourament, this season will likely be forgotten by Vandy fans.

    Indiana (Men)
    I was never a student at I.U., though I took one class in high school that earned me three credit hours from the Bloomington campus. But my dad, uncle, and several friends are Indiana alums; I was raised an Indiana basketball fan; and one of my band's most memorable shows was at a Bloomington house party populated by I.U. students (January 25, 1997). Indiana is almost a lock for the tournament at this point, with a winning record in the Big Ten and wins over Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan (twice), and Kentucky. In Mike Davis's final season the Hoosiers have a chance to be a first-round favorite and a dangerous second-round matchup. Though their season has largely been a disappointment, the Hoosiers can still send Coach Davis out on a high note.

    Friday, March 03, 2006

    News in Brief

  • USA Basketball still has problems: Allen Iverson is not among the 22 NBA players invited to try out for the U.S. National Team, even though he is easily one of the league's ten best players and has expressed his interest in and enthusiasm for playing for his country. Why leave out A.I.? (As it were, no Pacers were invited to try out for the team.)

  • He must have done something to upset God: Pat Robertson, whose theology of divine retribution overlooks the Book of Job and much of the New Testament, yesterday bid for re-election to the National Religious Broadcasters' board of directors. What sin is responsible for this misfortune?

  • Next time, let's finish the first war before we start the second one: The New York Times reports that, according to police, government officials, village elders, farmers, and aid workers in southern Afghanistan, the presence of the Taliban in that region "is bigger and more menacing than ever." The Taliban are nasty dudes. We should have taken care of them completely before even considering Iraq. So it goes.

  • (I'm not crazy about the flowery bullet points, but I can't seem to unprogram them.)

    Random Thought

    If your last name is Bass, you have every right to insist that it be pronounced base. It just sounds better.

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Meyer Is Two!

    What's Going On at Channel 4?

    The Office did not air as advertised on Nasvhille's NBC affiliate this evening. Instead, WSMV showed American Baby Casting Call, which was essentially an infomercial provided by American Baby magazine. So it goes. WSMV acknowledges the programming change on its website, but gives no information as to why The Office was moved to 1:35 a.m.

    I can only guess why Channel 4 pre-empted The Office. WSMV also opted to run a Pat Robertson special before the first episode of the short-lived The Book of Daniel, a show the affiliate cancelled two weeks before NBC did.

    Pizza Tycoon Building a Strictly Catholic Town

    NAPLES, Florida (AP) -- If Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan has his way, a new town being built in Florida will be governed according to strict Roman Catholic principles, with no place to get an abortion, pornography or birth control.

    The pizza magnate is bankrolling the project with at least $250 million and calls it "God's will."

    My inner Republican supports the right of municipalities to establish laws and systems of government consistent with the values and goals of their citizens. Of course, being an American, I would prefer that these policies be determined democratically instead of imposed by a very wealthy pizza entrepreneur.

    Administration Fights for Its Right to Torture People

    From tomorrow's Washington Post:

    In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture." . . .

    U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said in a hearing yesterday that she found allegations of aggressive U.S. military tactics used to break the detainee hunger strike "extremely disturbing" and possibly against U.S. and international law. But Justice Department lawyers argued that even if the tactics were considered in violation of McCain's language, detainees at Guantanamo would have no recourse to challenge them in court.


    Some Thoughts on the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement

    NFL owners and players now have three more days to agree on an extension to the league's collective bargaining agreement. If they are unable to do so, teams will have to contend with a lower salary cap in 2006 and no salary cap in 2007.

    If you analyze this situation by looking at the percentages, you understand why the players and owners are having such a hard time reaching an agreement. What percent of the league's total revenue should go to the players, who are the actual product being sold, and what percent should go to those who manage the league? More specifically, how should the league split up money from particular revenue streams? It's a complicated debate.

    On the other hand, if you just consider the raw numbers, the debate becomes silly. Everyone involved will make a lot of money, and any agreement is better than no agreement. The NFL is the most respected, most compelling, and best run professional sports league in the country, largely because of its collective bargaining agreement. There is always parity; small market teams have as good a chance of winning as the Giants, Redskins, or Cowboys; most top players spend several years with the same team; teams can rebuild very quickly. The average fan doesn't understand why players and owners, who will make millions regardless of what the collective bargaining agreement says, would put at risk the future of the league.

    If no agreement is reached, 2006 will be a mess. Teams will no longer have the option of playing with the numbers to stay under the salary cap, and several players will likely have to be cut during the season. The cap will then expire before 2007, allowing large market teams to spend money indiscriminantly and making it very difficult for small market teams (like my Titans and my family's Colts) to compete. The league will lose much of its appeal and part of its fan base.

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    A Word on Ports

    Personally, I'm not too worried about the security implications of certain ports being operated by a company owned by the Dubai government. Reneging on the deal might be more dangerous; doing so would provide additional evidence to those who are already convinced that the United States has an anti-Arab or anti-Muslim foreign policy.

    Still, the United Arab Emirates has a questionable record on human rights, was home to two of the 9/11 hijackers, may be harboring terrorists, and is not exactly the model of democracy that we supposedly want to take root in the Arab world. Why is the administration so friendly with the UAE? I don't know, and therein lies the problem: To the average American, the criteria the administration uses to determine whether a nation is an enemy or an ally is very fuzzy.

    Too Legit to Quit Blogging

    MC Hammer has a blog—a Blogger blog: The site features Hammer's new lyrics, his thoughts on sports, video footage of Hammer on the dance floor, and Google ads. (I really hope he doesn't need money that badly.)

    Upon learning of Hammer's blog (thanks to my younger sister Whitney), I had to honor this icon of my early adolescence with my hands:


    A Guy From My Church Defends Victims of 1980s Salvadoran Reign of Terror

    The subject of this week's Nashville Scene cover story is David Esquivel, a member of my church whose daughter is in Meyer's Sunday school class. David is representing five Salvadoran immigrants whose families were killed and tortured in the eighties under El Salvador's then vice minister of the military, Col. Nicolas Carranza—now a naturalized U.S. citizen living in the Memphis area.

    Read more.

    Be Sure to Read This Week's Onion

    Modern-Day John Henry Dies Trying To Out-Spreadsheet Excel 11.0:
    BALTIMORE—Office laborers across the nation are mourning the passing of Wallace Peters, 42, the mythic three-column accountant at Chesapeake & Ohio Consultants who pitted himself against Microsoft's latest version of the popular spreadsheet program Excel.

    Although Peters was able to balance his sheet a full 10 seconds before the program did, the man celebrated in song and story as the "cubicle worker's John Henry" was pronounced dead of a coronary thrombosis late Monday evening.

    Opinion: Are Your Cats Old Enough To Learn About Jesus?

    In Brief: Copy Editor's Revenge Takes Form Of Unhyphenated Word