Friday, March 30, 2007

Michelle Malkin, Don't Soil the Good Name of Kwame James

I usually ignore Michelle Malkin, but something struck me about the "John Doe Manifesto" she recently posted. The manifesto is written for persons who are convinced that liberal Muslim terrorists are secretly running the country. The climax of this statement of delusion is:

I will resist the imposition of sharia principles and sharia law in my taxi cab, my restaurant, my community pool, the halls of Congress, our national monuments, the radio and television airwaves, and all public spaces.

In the build up to the condemnation of the Islamofacists who are running the community pool, the manifesto states:

I will never forget the passengers and crew members who tackled al Qaeda shoe-bomber Richard Reid on American Airlines Flight 63 before he had a chance to blow up the plane over the Atlantic Ocean.

OK, Malkin, this is too much. I will not let you drag former University of Evansville basketball star Kwame James, the chief tackler of Richard Reid, into your xenophobic paranoia. (Kwame, who graduated from UE in the same class as my wife, Ashlee, once complimented me on my Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt.) Actually—and this should interest someone like Malkin who has a complete disdain for immigrants—Kwame was born in Canada, grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, and was nearly deported shortly after his heroics in the shoe-bomber incident.

Read an excellent article on Kwame from an August 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Picture: Kwame making a big defensive play against Indiana

Predators Rate High in Fan Satisfaction; Titans Don't

ESPN recently conducted a fan satisfaction survey for all 122 "major" professional sports franchises—NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL—and ranked the teams 1 through 122. The Nashville Predators fared well, coming in at #8. The Titans, by contrast, were #62, atop of the bottom half. The Titans coaching staff rated very high, and the players did OK. What brought the Titans down was the category of fan relations, "ease of access to players, coaches & management." Interesting.

Choose Your Jesus

A company called Fishermen, Inc. is introducing a line of anachronistic Jesus figurines in which the Messiah, in his crown of thorns and biblical-era robe, is cast in several current-day roles: a biker, a football player, a panhandler, a surfer, and so on. Toy collectors can have a virtual Village People lineup of Jesuses.

Each Jesus has an "I Am" name. "I Am Hope," the panhandler Jesus, an obvious allusion to Matthew 25:31-40 ("Just as you did it to one of the least of these . . . you did it to me"), makes a lot of sense. But I don't really understand "I Am Faith," the football-playing Jesus. The relationship beween football and faith is tenuous at best. I'm also not sure about "I Am Peace," Jesus in army fatigues holding a dove. What statement is this Jesus making? Pro military? Anti military? I can't figure it out. I like "I Am Spirit," the surfer Jesus; but there is also a skateboarding Jesus ("I Am Youth") and a rock-climber Jesus ("I Am Life"). One extreme sport, in my opinion, would have been sufficient.

At any rate, I will not be adorning my desk with these Jesuses because of the price tag. Accessorized Jesuses (those that come with a bike, a wave, and so forth) are $35.00; non-accessorized Jesuses are $25.00.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Small Step, but a Step in the Right Direction

The administration puts a little more pressure on The Sudan. From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The United States will impose tough new measures against Sudan, likely within days, to try to force it to change course on Darfur and aims to pressure Khartoum militarily by helping rebuild forces in the south, U.S. officials said.

State Department, Defense, Treasury and other U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the goal was to "tighten the screws" on President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and have him accept an international force in the vast western province.

A White House announcement on sanctions and a further limit on dollar transactions was expected very soon, a State Department official said.

It's a start, but making a real impact in Darfur will likely require a multilateral military presence. More specifically, Save Darfur's Plan B proposal includes the following:

• Develop and implement, with our NATO allies, of a no-fly zone covering Sudanese military flights over Darfur. This could be accomplished by immobilizing Sudanese planes known to have taken part in illegal bombing missions.

• Engage with the United Nations to prepare and deploy a protection force for civilians in eastern Chad and the Central African Republic.

• Prepare for the deployment of a credible and effective international force to Darfur to protect vulnerable civilians and ensure conditions for effective humanitarian aid. This should include a request to Congress to pay the U.S.’s full share of UN peacekeeping dues.

Fred Thompson Presidential Bid Could Mess Up TV Schedules

This is interesting. From The Washington Post:

Federal campaign law requires broadcasters to give all candidates equal time on the airwaves. That rule applies to entertainment programs like "Law & Order," meaning stations which run the show would be required to give other GOP candidates a like amount of prime time television exposure. . . .

"As a practical matter, [the television stations] would in all likelihood have to pull all of the Fred Thompson shows for the duration of his candidacy," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project.

Wonkette says it better:

Baby’s Day Out star Fred Thompson is still trying to get everyone excited about the prospect of a scary old man running for President. While he’s currently polling better than every other Republican, because old people still fondly recall his portrayal of Prosecutor Mr. McGonigal in a 1993 episode of Matlock, there’s one huge problem with the prospect of a Thompson campaign, completely overlooked until now: it might @#$% up Law & Order reruns.

Did the Dinosaurs Die in Vain?

A new study in the journal Nature concludes that the demise of dinosaurs did not coincide with an explosion in the mammal population. However, Texas A&M paleontologist William J. Murphy says of the study, "I don't think this is the final word." Maybe our prehistoric, reptilian cousins can be redeemed. The AP has the details.

Image from Center Stage Productions

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"Hold Me" by Fleetwood Mac: A Little Guilt for a Whole Lot of Pleasure

I like to download my music legitimately, thus I go to iTunes and pay 99¢ per song. (OK, to be honest, I downloaded the Kazaa software on my old computer, but it nearly took down already sluggish machine.) Paying a dollar for a song allows me to purchase tunes that I have long considered guilty pleasures; but, since I am paying a dollar, I must be confident that the pleasure outweighs the guilt. For many years, "Hold Me" by Fleetwood Mac has been near the top of my list of guilty pleasures. After hearing the song over the PA system at Publix last night, I decided that I had to spend a dollar and make that McVie-Buckingham-Nicks magic my own. I've been listening to "Hold Me" all day, and it's been awesome.

The next song on the guilty pleasures list is "Easy Lover" by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins.

Why Do People Cover What James Dobson Has to Say?

I suppose I should ask myself that question.

From US News & World Report:

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson appeared to throw cold water on a possible presidential bid by former Sen. Fred Thompson while praising former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is also weighing a presidential run, in a phone interview Tuesday.

"Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for," Dobson said of Thompson. "[But] I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression," Dobson added, saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party's conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.

The "phone interview" was actually an unsolicited call from Dobson to the magazine.

According to the article, Thompson considers himself a Christian and was baptized in the Church of Christ; but you can't be a true Christian unless James Dobson says you are.

Dobson's preferred potential GOP presidential candidate is Newt Gingrich, who has hardly lived as a model of conservative family values. Yes, Gingrich should be extended grace and forgiveness for his past indiscretions. I just don't understand why Dobson can't extend such grace and forgiveness to anyone else.

The Scarcity of Clean Water

Again, Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman in Everybody Wants to Change the World do an excellent job breaking down a very complex issue:

The fact is that one billion people in the world today—one out of every six humans—have no access to safe drinking water. And 2.6 billion people, or roughly 40 percent of the global population, do not have basic sanitation services. . . .

Water is not a neutral commodity but is highly politicized. Wars are fought over the rights to it, and the nations have entered into complex treaties about its appropriate use. At the local level, the issue of who has the rights to the water must also be resolved. Can someone dump waste into a river if others down river if others downstream will be affected? Can someone upstream dam a river to ensure enough water year round for his of her crops? . . . For decades, companies have been scouring the globe to secure the rights to other people's water.

Some have raised the question in ethical terms: Does anyone have the right to control another person's access to water when it is a matter of basic health and survival?

Everybody Wants to Change the World is written for youth and college students, but I'd recommend it for anyone looking for clear explanations of some of the world's injustices and practical ways to respond.

For more on the issue of safe water, visit the World Water Council (

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tuesday Evening Links

NFL Needs to Change Its Overtime System, and I Have an Idea

The National Football League has long employed an overtime system in which games that are tied at the end of regulation are determined largely by a coin toss. Sure, the first team to score is the winner, but the team who gets the ball first has a decided advantage. The coin-toss-winning team simply has to get within field goal range against a defensive unit worn down by sixty minutes of football and hope its kicker doesn't choke.

The alternative favored by high schools and colleges is alternating possessions on the 25-yard line, a system that ESPN's Mike Golic likened to deciding a basketball game with a free-throw shooting contest. After regulation, if the game is tied, football is replaced with another sport—a sport that is similar to football, but without kick-offs or a clock.

The NFL's Competition Committee, to their credit, has decided to explore ways to change the overtime system. One involves moving the overtime kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35, theoretically giving the receiving team poorer field position. I don't think that penalizing the receiving team solves the problem, and I'm not sure that five yards will make much difference anyway. Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee, is "not optimistic" that this recommendation will pass.

According to McKay, a group of owners favors a mandatory two-possession overtime in which each team gets the ball once. This is much better than either the current system or the 35-yard-line proposal. But what about on-side kicks? Say Team A wins the toss and elects to receive; then Team B decides to go for an on-side kick, recovers the kick-off, and eventually scores. Is Team A still entitled to a possession? If two possessions were mandatory, there would have to be another kick-off. What if Team B were to successfully execute another on-side kick? Here's another situation: Say Team A recovers the initial kick and scores then recovers an onside kick of its own. There have been two possessions and each team has had a chance to receive, but only one team has had possession of the ball.

Here's my proposal: Two three-minute overtime periods. Each team would kick off once and receive once. Beyond that, what happens happens. Regardless of on-side kicks or turnovers, the teams would play until time ran out. Success in overtime would require good clock management—much like success in the closing minutes of either half.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Heaven's Gate Vs. Jonestown

Ten years ago today, 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult committed suicide in suburban San Diego. The 1997 cult suicide may have been the "largest mass suicide in U.S. history" (according to this LA Weekly article on the cult's sole survivor) but only because Jim Jones and the People's Temple left the country, establishing the Jonestown settlement in Guyana, before eliminating themselves.

What made Heaven's Gate so memorable was its story. The story involved the Hale-Bopp coment, possibly the brightest non-solar celestial body of our lifetime. Cult members took their own lives so that they could hitch a ride on a spacecraft trailing the comet, which they believed was carrying Jesus. What was fascinating about the cult's exit from this world was that members waited until the comet was physically close to earth but decided to travel to the comet spiritually. If you want to make a physical journey to a heavenly body, it makes sense to wait until that body is as close as possible to earth; if you want your disembodied soul to make the trip, physical proximity shouldn't matter.

I'm impressed that Heaven's Gate leader Marshall Applewhite was able to sell this story, with its odd mix of the material and immaterial, to his adherents. Of course, Applewhite had led the group for over two decades, so his philosophy and ethos was deeply engrained in cult members. Still, membership in the group had declined over the years, particularly following the death of Applewhite's partner, Bonnie Lu Truesdale Nettles.

Jim Jones, nearly 20 years earlier, didn't have nearly such a fantastic story for the 900-or-so people he convinced to drink the Flavor-Aid®. Jones's story was confusing, incoherent, and not entirely convincing. As with Heaven's Gate, the People's Temple had declined significantly in membership prior to the movement's final "stand." The mass suicide in Guyana was precipitated by a group who tried with mixed success to leave Jonestown, and Jones was challenged by People's Temple member Christine Miller as he explained to his followers why they should kill themselves. But Jones had successfully created a culture of paranoia: After more than two decades of outreach to the disenfranchised, Jones had become a messiah of sorts who would defiantly stand up to the rest of the world.

Jonestown was also violent. In the moments prior to the suicide, Jones loyalists infamously murdered Congressman Leo Ryan, four NBC journalists traveling with the congressman, and one defector at a nearby airstrip. Ryan and the news crew were in Jonestown investigating family member complaints and alleged human rights violations. Heaven's Gate, by contrast, was a group of peaceful web developers who caused little trouble and went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media.

I'm not sure that there's any point to this comparison. I do know that thinking and reading about the Jonestown Massacre gives me the willies, whereas researching Heaven's Gate simply sparks my curiosity. Maybe that's the difference between 39 and 900. Maybe that's the difference between a peaceful mass suicide and a violent one.

(This is a little creepy: The Heaven's Gate website is still live, just as it was in 1997.)

A Word About "In God We Trust" License Plates

Driving through my native Hoosier State on a couple occasions in the past few weeks, I noticed several of Indiana's new "In God We Trust" license plates. The plates picture an American flag and nothing else, and I'm not sure how an American flag represents God. (Is the "God" plate any more American than any other Indiana license plate?) But the first question that came to mind after seeing these plates was, How is the money getting to God? It turns out that God isn't getting a dime. Any Hoosier can get an "In God We Trust" plate for no additional fee. Drivers in Indiana can show off their piety and devotion without sacrificing anything. Hooray!

Tennessee has its own "In God We Trust" licesnse plates, but ours aren't free. Highway devotion in the Volunteer State requires paying a fee to the American Eagle Foundation, a Pigeon Forge-based organization dedicated to saving the American Bald Eagle. I'm pretty confident that God loves eagles, so I suppose that's OK.

As much as I love low-cost, low-impact ways to flaunt one's religion, I'm not really comfortable with government-sanctioned statements of faith. I know that "In God We Trust" has been the national motto and has adorned our bills and coins for decades, but who is this God in whom we trust? I don't think this deity is the God expressed most fully in Jesus Christ and the Christian Scriptures. If it were, our nation wouldn't be reluctant to cancel the enormous debts owed to us by developing nations (Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:8-55), we wouldn't have 9 million children without healthcare, and we wouldn't have the world's highest incarceration rate. Sure, our nation does plenty of good and godly things and is home to many faithful people; but we need to be careful boasting about how much we trust God if we aren't going to take seriously key tenets of God's teaching (Luke 6:46, Matthew 25:31-40).

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Big Win for the Disciples of Christ

My Vanderbilt Divinity School classmate Eric Smith writes:

Knowing your emphasis on religiously affiliated schools, I'm sure you'll want to mention that Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) affiliated Barton College just won the D-II championship in the most dramatic fashion possible.

Indeed. I caught bits and pieces of the game, including the final seconds. I did not know that Barton (located in North Carolina with an enrollment of just under 1,200) was a Disciples school. (But now I know, and knowing is half the battle.)

Anyway, the final play was spectacular, but the drama really begins with 45 seconds remaining and Division II power Winona St. up by 7. Winona St., of Minnesota, was defending their 2006 D-II championship and a 57-game winning streak. Check it out at Deadspin, or watch this grainy version from You Tube (sorry, Viacom):

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Church Must Use the Gifts of Older Adults

Too often, those of us in the mainline church lament the "graying" of our denominations and, like Hollywood and Madison Avenue, set our sights on ways to make our congregations more appealing to youth and young adults. The church should reach out to younger generations, but we need to be careful not to do so at the expense of older ones. I fear that we're becoming a society in which youth is idolized and old age is simply put up with, and the church should hold itself to a higher standard.

These thoughts are not entirely original, but were inspired by a recent UM News Service article:

The world's elderly population has nearly quadrupled in the last 50 years, and The United Methodist Church needs to find a way to use "this incredible resource," said the Rev. Rick Gentzler Jr. . . .

Gentzler suggested that The United Methodist Church identify a modern purpose of a longer, healthier old age and seek to answer the questions: “To what use do we put the incredible resource of elderhood, and what are the new models of old age for our coming maturity?”

Sixty-two percent of The United Methodist Church’s members are 50 years old or older, while nearly 50 percent are 60 or older, Gentzler said.

The Fascinating Debate About Representation for D.C.

A bill giving D.C. a voting member in the House of Representatives has stalled. Republicans somehow managed to bring the district's gun-control law into the debate, and Democrats apparently got scared. Thus taxation without representation continues.

D.C.'s non-voting congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is confident that she and House Democratic leaders will find a way to get the voting rights bill passed. The measure would add another seat in the House (in addition to the D.C. seat), which would go to Utah until the districts are reconfigured after the 2010 census.

While reading up on this issue, I found this piece by Rep. Mike Pence, an uber-conservative Republican from Indiana. Pence adeptly explains why giving the nation's capitol a voting congressperson is just, responsible, and constitutionally viable.

Another interesting resource is this list of 10 Myths About the District of Columbia from DC

Friday Morning Links

Thursday, March 22, 2007

New Pictures of the Kids

A Word on Daylight Savings Time

I grew up without Daylight Savings Time. Between 1967 and 2006, most Indiana counties did not observe DST. (I was born in 1976 and left the Hoosier State in 2000.) As such, I've never understood the practice of turning forward or back one's clocks. Frankly, it's a waste of time.

That said, I've appreciated the extra daylight since we sprang forward two weeks ago. My question is: Why don't we just stick with this time? Why do we keep going back and forth? Why doesn't the United States, and possibly the international community, just shift all the time zones so that everyone always has an extra hour of daylight and no one ever has to change a clock? After all, under the existing time zones, night falls during the winter at 4:30 in some places—why not leave the clock at 5:30?

Forgive me if these questions have simple or obvious answers that I'm overlooking.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Albert Mohler: Don't Abort Gay Babies, Cure Them!

The esteemed president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary now realizes that homosexuality may be a physiological orientation rather than a moral choice. He refers to recent research demonstrating that a significant minority of sheep prefer same-sex partners. (And Mohler wrongly suggests that the scientists conducting the sheep study are working on a "cure" for homosexuality.) If researchers prove that homosexuality is biological, Mohler concludes, a prenatal test for gayness isn't far behind. And while Mohler instructs couples not to abort gay fetuses, he also looks forward to a prenatal cure for homosexuality (a patch, perhaps) that would give expectant parents an acceptable alternative to giving birth to a gay child.

I hate to be mean, but this diatribe is embarrassing. Mohler is the president of one of the world's largest and most important seminaries, and he's dealing in science fiction, anticipating technological advances that will create supposed solutions to supposed problems.

Hermione Sticking With Harry Potter Franchise, Despite Reports to the Contrary

I was working on a post about Emma Watson leaving the Harry Potter franchise, when I learned that this news is not true. From

Harry Potter will be accompanied by long-time friend Hermione Granger on his final confrontations, despite reports the actress is considering leaving the films. . . .

However, Warner Bros today issued a statement saying they expected the British actress would continue working on the phenomenally successful films.

"We're extremely confident that Emma will be back for films six and seven," a spokesperson for the film studio said.

I first learned of the Hermione-is-leaving rumor from Katherine Coble, who adds:

As much as I love Harry Potter, I think the movies are actually doing the books a great disservice. As each book gets longer and more complicated, the corresponding films have more widely-gaping plot holes and greater contrivances. . . . They aren’t good bookplates because they don’t match the books and they aren’t good movies because they leave so much necessary narration on the cutting room floor in exchange for long and boring sequences with flying things–hippogriffs over lakes and dragons over Hogwarts.

I think that Kat's criticism is valid. My first thought after seeing the Prisoner of Azkaban movie was, "How could anybody follow that if they hadn't read the book?" On the other hand, I like the movies. I really like them. I own them all. I love the visuals, the cast, the music, and the overall experience. Sure, the books are much better, but I can get excited about the movies too.

Sweet 16: Who I'm Pulling for and Why

Men's bracket only. I can't think about the women's tourney right now, because I'm too upset that all the Nashville-area teams have already been eliminated.

East Region: Vanderbilt
As a graduate of Vanderbilt's Divinity School, I'm loyal to the Commodores.

Midwest Region: Butler
Butler is located in Indianapolis, where I was born and raised, and my mother did her graduate studies there.

West Region: Southern Illinois
As an alumnus of a Missouri Valley Conference school (Evansville), I have to pull for the lone remaining team from the Valley.

In the unlikely event that Butler and Southern Illinois were to meet in the Final Four, I'd have to pull for Butler, but would be happy either way.

South Region: No Loyalties
Some of my in-laws attended UT, and as a Vandy fan, I feel compelled to pull for the team from the SEC East. On the other hand, I really don't want Tennessee to advance further than Vanderbilt. I like Memphis as a Tennessee school from a non-power conference. I also like Ohio State with my fellow Indianapolis natives Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. I'm not really drawn to Texas A&M, but I like Acie Law IV and the fact that the Aggies have risen from basketball obscurity in the last couple years.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Israel Doesn't Know What to Do With Sudanese Refugees

Israel has its own immigration dispute. From Morning Edition:

About 350 refugees from Sudan have been intercepted entering Israel illegally over the past two years, with about a third of them coming from the conflict zone of Darfur.

All the refugees have been jailed in Israel, many for more than a year. Israeli officials say they have to be cautious about Sudanese because Sudan is an enemy state.

But Israeli human rights groups say a nation built in part by genocide survivors has a special responsibility to help other victims. The Sudanese government has been accused of waging genocide in Darfur. . . .

As a temporary solution, Bavli and several Israeli human rights groups negotiated a deal with the Israeli government to release more than 100 of the refugees -– al-Bakr among them — into the custody of kibbutzim, collective farming villages.

But what really struck me about this story was the last sentence:

Bavli says the U.N. has been unable to get any third country to agree to accept [the refugees], either.

Why isn't anyone willing to accept 100-150 refugees from Darfur? Is the entire world so callous that we won't reach out to people desperately running for safety? As many more refugees flee the region, will we continue rejecting them? This may call for a letter to the President.

Looking for Cinderella? Check Out the Women's Tourney

While big upsets have been strangely lacking in the men's NCAA Tournament, some powerhouses in the women's game—where upsets are far less common—have gone down. As much as a love a good underdog, I'm disappointed that Nashville area teams have been the Goliaths to the proverbial Davids. #5 seed MTSU yesterday went down to this March's only true Cinderella, #13 seed Marist. A few minutes ago, #2 seed Vandy lost to Bowling Green (#7), making the Falcons the first team from the MAC to advance to the women's Sweet 16. Other shockers include Stanford's (#2) loss to Florida State (#10) on Monday and defending champ Maryland (#2) falling to Ole Miss (#7) this evening.

Pictured: Marist's Julianne Viani

Tuesday Evening Links

Cheers and Jeers for the U.S. Senate

First of all, I commend the Senate for passing a bill that rescinds the attorney general's power to appoint federal attorneys without Senate confirmation. Frankly, I'm upset that a provision giving the attorney general such power ever passed in the first place. From what I can gather, this provision passed because it was part of the Patriot Act, and no one who voted on the Patriot Act actually read it. When you give a piece of legislation a cute name, legislators tend to cast votes based on the public's perception of the bill, not the bill's actual content. In some states and districts, voting against the Patriot Act would be political suicide, regardless of what the act actually says. (A recent conversation with a friend who works as a state legislature staffer has convinced me that bills should have no name other than "Senate Bill x" or "House Bill y.")

On the other hand, I'm upset with Democratic Senate leaders for tacking countless varieties of pork onto a war funding bill. Though some of the pork projects are worthy of receiving federal funds (for instance, reconstructing levees in New Orleans), they have no business being part of a bill ultimately aimed at ending the Iraq War. Tacking on these pet projects is political pandering at its worst (just as this sentence is illiteration at its worst).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Plan B for Darfur

Save says that our plan for saving the troubled region has failed and that it's time for "Plan B." Drop by and encourage the President to be proactive (as proactive as one can be at this point) in stopping the genocide in Darfur.

In related Darfur news, my former Senator, Bill Frist, to his credit has been doing his part to stop the atrocities. I disagreed with just about everything Frist did while he was in office, but commend his recent efforts to raise awareness about Darfur and pressure President Bashir of the Sudan.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Meyer Hits the Road

The hat was Meyer's idea:

Friday, March 16, 2007

Josh NCAA Tournament Breakdown (Women's Edition)

  • The Volunteer State is well represented in this year's women's draw. One way to determine which states are best represented is to assign points based on seeds (16 points for a #1, 15 for a #2, and so on) and total the points for schools in a given state. Tennessee—represented by #1 Tennessee, #2 Vanderbilt, #5 MTSU, #12 UT-Chattanooga, and #14 Belmont—has a point total of 51, three more than North Carolina (#1 Duke, #1 North Carolina, #4 NC State, and #14 UNC-Asheville) and ten more than any state in the men's tourney.

  • The greater Nashville area has three teams in the tourney, including Middle Tennessee State, who was rewarded a much-deserve #5 seed for playing a tough non-conference schedule and completely dominating the Sun Belt. Unfortunately, they are in the brutal Dayton region and will likely have to play Ohio State if they defeat Gonzaga in the first round. The Buckeyes, led by former Vanderbilt coach Jim Foster, went 28-3, won the Big Ten regular season title, and were ranked in the top ten most of the season. A #4 seed is extremely low for a team with such a strong resume, but Ohio State's was likely hurt when star guard Brandie Hoskins went down with a torn Achilles. The Dayton region also includes defending champ Maryland, who was #1 for most of the first half of the season, as a #2 seed. And #3 seed Oklahoma may be the most dangerous #3 in the tournament.

  • Speaking of Oklahoma, I picked the Sooners to go all the way. I have doubts about my pick, since I can't remember a time when the women's champion was not a #1 or #2 seed. But I picked Oklahoma because I think that Courtney Paris is the type of player who can carry a team on her back and take them deep into the tournament, possibly going all the way.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Biblical Case Against Capital Punishment

I've been meaning to write this since I received comments on this post (from last June) suggesting that there is no legitimate Scriptural case against capital punishment; I'm just now getting around to it. But now that Governor Bredesen has declared a moratorium on state killing (one that extends only to May), I'm ready to argue that the Christian Scriptures justify and support my opposition to state killing. Moratoriums, after all, are meant to be times of reflection, research, and soul searching.

God in the Old Testament is often labeled a God of wrath—a jealous God with a short temper. But early in the biblical narrative we see revealed God's incredible (some would say "amazing") grace. Genesis 4:12-15 reads:

[The Lord said to Cain,] "When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me." Then the Lord said to him, "Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance." And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.

Not only does God refrain from killing Cain, but God also vows to protect Adam's jealous son so that no one else takes his life. God punishes Cain for sure, but not by death.

The story tells us nothing about Cain's later life except that he has children and grandchildren and so forth. We know more about the post-homicidal lives of other biblical murderers. Moses, for example, killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew (Exodus 2:11-12). The text gives no indication of whether Moses could have intervened without resorting to killing; it does tell us that Moses' fellow Hebrews were not impressed with his vigilantism (Exodus 2:13-14). Fearing for his life, Moses fled to Midian. Nonetheless, God chose this fugitive murderer to return to Egypt and free God's people from bondage in Egypt.

King David was involved in a conspiracy to kill Uriah, a romantic rival and a soldier in the army that David ultimately commands. God punished the king by taking the life of David's next-born child (the first born to Uriah's widow, Bathsheba). We could debate the moral and theological implications of killing a perpetrator's baby as a form of punishment, but at issue is whether persons guilty of murder should be put to death. Here, God not only spares David's life, but also equips him to become Israel's greatest king. (Granted, I should note, some of David's greatest acts as king happened before Uriah's death.)

Saul, better known as Paul, was for all intents and purposes an accomplice to murder, and he didn't even do time. (Acts 9:1 also says that Saul was "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.") When the risen Christ accosted Saul on the road to Damascus, he did not threaten the notorious persecutor with punishment but instead offered grace. Christ did not strike down Saul for his egregious sins; he invited Saul to be his evangelist. (To be fair, earlier in Acts God executes Ananias and Sapphira for their crime. Of course, they are not guilty of murder but of refusing to fully participate in the church's redistribution of wealth.)

In Moses, David, and Saul/Paul, we have three very prominent biblical personalities who were guilty of murder, conspiracy to murder, and being an accomplice to murder, respectively. David was the only one of the three substantially punished for his wrongdoing, and all three were blessed and equipped by God long after the murders they were involved in. Their stories, in my opinion, demonstrate that, though God holds us accountable for our actions, God doesn't give up on people. And while Scripture certainly testifies to God's wrath, it also demonstrates that God's grace is much greater.

On the other hand, God in the Old Testament clearly mandates capital punishment for certain crimes. The law set forth in Exodus says, "If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." Leviticus 20 says that "mediums and wizards," homosexuals, and men who have sexual relations with their daughters-in-law should be put to death. Obviously, as a culture, we do not and could not obey these Old Testament sentencing guidelines. One could argue that these laws were created for a specific people facing specific challenges at a specific time in history. But those who hold the Bible in high esteem must acknowledge that Jesus flatly rejected this philosophy toward punishment. Jesus says in Matthew 5:38-41:

‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.

One could argue that Jesus is setting an ethical standard for individuals that doesn't necessarily apply to governments. Yet Jesus refers explicitly to Exodus 21:24, which clearly addresses how the ancient Israelites were to govern themselves. Furthermore, when confronted with a woman sentenced to death for adultery in John 8:2-11, Jesus tells her would-be executioners, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Paul echoes this sentiment in Romans 12:17-21.

While Scripture does not clearly say, "The death penalty is bad, m'kay," and while certain Scriptures favor capital punishment, I think that the biblical witness when taken as a whole does not support execution as a means of punishment.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Real Men Fill Out a Women's Bracket . . .

. . . and so do I. This time of year, information on the men's pairings is easy to come by. You can't flip over to ESPN this week without hearing commentary on which men's teams are hot, which are potential sleepers, and which could pull the big upset. Such a detailed assessment of the women's bracket is harder to come by. Only a true college basketball fan can make informed predictions about which women's teams will advance.

The bracket came out last night, and the first games are Saturday. Get to work.

Monday, March 12, 2007

This Guy Reminds Me a Little of Myself

He's just thin and a lot more talented. Check out "My Whole Family Thinks I'm Gay" on You Tube.

Monday Sports Notes

War of Ideas, Money in South America

Venezuelan President and Pat Robertson's buddy Hugo Chavez is effectively positioning himself as the anti-Bush in South America, starting a mini Cold War on the continent. While their economic philosophies are polar opposites, both Bush and Chavez have been accused of dropping the ball in response to a natural disaster and benefiting from voting irregularities. Chavez has despotic tendencies, but he's won friends in the region with his willingness to open his wallet:

Mr. Chávez has used Venezuela’s oil riches to win friends and influence. He has bought more than $1.5 billion in Argentine bonds, flown poor slum residents to receive medical care abroad and proposed a new regional development bank to make low-interest loans.

In contrast, American assistance for the region has lagged far behind.

To Bush's credit, American aid to South America has increased significantly under his administration. However, a lot of that money is going to "Colombia for military and counterdrug assistance."

I don't really have an opinion on all of this. I just think it's an interesting story.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Josh NCAA Tournament Breakdown (Men's Edition)

Religious Affiliation

Roman Catholic schools are always well represented in the NCAA tournament, but the Pope will be especially happy with this year's bracket. 10 squads from Roman Catholic schools will be in action in this week's opening rounds. The "Archdiocese of Hoops" includes Georgetown, Notre Dame, Boston College, Marquette, Villanova, Xavier, Creighton, Gonzaga, Holy Cross, and Niagara. Aside from Notre Dame, Villanova, and Niagara, all of these schools are affiliated with the Jesuit order. No other faith tradition has more than one school in the Dance. Here's the complete breakdown:

Roman Catholic (Jesuit): Georgetown, Boston College, Marquette, Xavier, Creighton, Gonzaga, Holy Cross
Roman Catholic (regular): Notre Dame
Roman Catholic (Augustinian): Villanova
Roman Catholic (Vincentian): Niagara
United Methodist: Duke
Latter-Day Saints: Brigham Young
Presbyterian: Davidson
Charismatic: Oral Roberts
Baptist: Belmont

Breakdown by State

Texas is home to more NCAA tournament schools—five—than any other state. Five states—Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, California, and Ohio—are represented by four schools each.

One way to determine which states are best represented is to assign points based on seeds (16 points for a #1, 15 for a #2, and so on) and total the points for schools in a given state. Here's what you get:

1. Indiana: 41 (#5 Butler, #6 Notre Dame, #7 Indiana, #9 Purdue)
2. Tennessee: 40 (#2 Memphis, #5 Tennessee, #6 Vanderbilt, #15 Belmont)
3. Texas: 38 (#3 Texas A&M, #4 Texas, #10 Texas Tech, #15 Texas A&M Corpus Christi, #15 North Texas)
3. California: 38 (#2 UCLA, #5 USC, #11 Stanford, #12 Long Beach St.)
5. Virginia: 36 (#4 Virginia, #5 Virginia Tech, #11 Virginia Commonwealth, #12 Old Dominion)
6. North Carolina: 31 (#1 North Carolina, #6 Duke, #13 Davidson)
7. Ohio: 30 (#1 Ohio State, #9 Xavier, #14 Wright State, #14 Miami)
8. Pennsylvania: 25 (#3 Pittsburgh, #9 Villanova, #14 Penn)
9. Wisconsin: 24 (#2 Wisconsin, #8 Marquette)
10. Kentucky: 21 (#6 Louisville, #8 Kentucky, #16 Eastern Kentucky)
10. D.C.: 21 (#2 Georgetown, #11 George Washington)
12. Nevada: 20 (#7 UNLV, #7 Nevada)

By my count, 20 states are not represented in the tournament. Some of these (Alaska, the Dakotas) are not surprising. Others are. For examples, there are no schools from Alabama (no Alabama, no Auburn, no UAB), or Iowa (no Iowa, no Iowa State, no Northern Iowa), or Missouri (no Missouri, no Missouri State, no St. Louis).

Friday, March 09, 2007

Why I'm Not in the NBA Right Now

I played basketball in the elementary school league in the second-through-fifth grades, in the league for players not good enough for the school team in seventh and eight grade, and in the B and C intramural leagues in college. (My team won a C-league championship my senior year.) Every season, with every new team, my coach or team captain took a look at me and decided, "Tinley's overweight and he's the slowest guy on the team, so there's no way he can play guard."

Thus I was always a forward (and occasionally a center when I was in elementary school). I had to dart in and out of the lane trying to get open. In the very rare instances when I could actually shake a defender, I had to spot up and shoot, kick the ball back out, or post up and get my shot blocked.

Lately, after playing several pick-up games with people at work, I've discovered that I am a guard—I'm a two guard. I create my own shots. Don't make me run inside and out; and don't make me post up. Just give me the ball on the perimeter and let me do my thing. I can take you off the dribble, or I can shoot the ball in your face. I may be slow, but I have moves and a sweet jumper.

I really think that, if my coaches recognized my guard skills early on, I'd be in the league right now. But alas, I'll have to be content playing pick-up games after work.

Sacred Mayan Site Cleansed Following Bush Visit

I don't agree with his policies either, but accusing the President of leaving "bad spirits" in his wake may be a bit much:

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday.

"That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk in our sacred lands, is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture," Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan nongovernmental organization with close ties to Mayan religious and political leaders, said Thursday.

I've skimmed this story a few times, and each time I glance at "Juan Tiney" I see "Josh Tinley." I guess I'm just that vain.

In related Latin-America-hates-our-president news, these Brazilian protesters really don't like Bush. This WaPo column explains why.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Shaq in the most recent Sports Illustrated on being selected to the All-Star team despite having missed most of the season:

"I'm like President Bush. You may not like me, you may not respect me, but you voted me in."

Hat tip: my sister Whitney

More quotes from Shaq

On the Road—in a Flippin' Company Car

I was pleased to notice last week that my employer had purchased a new fleet of company cars. I'm meeting with a writer in Cincinnati tomorrow, and I'd been looking forward to taking one of the new cars. Unfortunately, the company kept all the old cars.

As it were, the car I was assigned has a cassette player instead of a CD player, and the cassette player doesn't work. Even worse, the car doesn't have cupholders. I had no idea that we had a company car without cupholders. In fact, I didn't know that any car manufactured in the past decade had no cupholders. It's inexcusable—and dangerous. Spilled beverages lead to careless driving, which leads to accidents.

I think the State of Tennessee needs to pass a law that requires all cars sold in the state to have cupholders. It would be a frivilous piece of legislation, but it makes a lot more sense than some of the bills that our legislature has considered.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Two Pacman Joneses

The lead story right now on is a lengthy piece on the Titans' Pacman Jones. It's a fascinating read for anyone with even a passing interest in Jones or the Titans. Pacman comes off as sympathetic, even lovable, yet detestable. Here's a taste:

At 23 -- the age of some college seniors -- Jones lives two very different lives. Today, say some who know him well, he must choose: the thug life in Atlanta, The A-T-L, or the more mundane rich-and-famous lifestyle of an established NFL star in Nashville. . . .

His nickname -- a nod to the relentless yellow video game character and young Adam's tendency to suck down his bottles of formula with gusto -- sounds cartoonish. And yet, it suits him. Through talent and tenacity, he played well enough at West Virginia to sign a five-year contract with the Titans in 2005 that guaranteed him $13.5 million.

He was, Jones once told his first agent, Gary Wichard, the first male of his generation on his father's side to make it to the age of 21.

His father died at 26, an age Pacman's surviving grandmother prays he'll reach. That, said Wichard, is a pretty heavy place to come from.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


More from Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman's book Everybody Wants to Change the World: Practical Ideas for Social Justice (Regal, 2006):

People who love Jesus should no more destroy the environment than rip to shreds the carefully painted canvas of a best friend. It is nothing but pure blasephemy to disrespect the creative work of God.

In the early 1970s, Republican president Richard Nixon introduced the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and pushed for the protection of species, habitat and national physical wonders. Back then, you didn't have to be politically liberal to value the earth, and you didn't have to choose business over the environment to be politically conservative.

A Quick Word on Ron Artest

As a Pacers fan, I stood by Ron Artest even when many sports fans had dismissed the All-Star forward as a violently insane street fighter who found his way onto a basketball court. Artest caused a lot of trouble, but most of this trouble was confined to the field of play, or at least under the same roof as the field of play. I felt (and to some extent still feel) that, if Artest would get a handle on his emotional health issues, he would be a stand-up guy and one of the NBA's ten best players.

Now Artest has been arrested for assaulting a woman in his home. Apparently, he's as much trouble off the court as he is on. Artest's current team, the Sacramento Kings, kicked him off the squad (though they continue paying his salary). I still think that the NBA made a mistake by not requiring Artest to undergo anger management counseling following the November 2004 brawl in Detroit. Artest badly needs help to deal with mental and emotional illness. Of course, if he's found guilty of assault, he also needs to be punished substantially.

Yes, what I just said should also apply to Pacman Jones.

Tuesday Morning Links

Monday, March 05, 2007

Pics From Meyer's Birthday Party

Would English-Only Driver's License Test Reduce Illegal Immigration or Just Increase Illegal Driving?

The Tennessee Senate is debating a bill requiring driver's license tests to be taken only in English. Bill sponsor Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) says that this bill will "set the tone" for 31 other immigration-related bills Senate Republicans hope to bring to the floor.

But what effect will this legislation have on immigration, particularly illegal immigration? People who are desperate enough to move to another country without going through legal channels are probably desperate enough to drive without a license. Many do already. If anything, this bill will hurt legal residents for whom English is not a primary tongue. No matter how much an immigrant wants to learn the language of his or her adopted home, learning languages (especially well enough to pass a driving test) takes time. And in a state whose cities have limited public transportation, a driver's license may be necessary for legally getting to one's English classes.

College Basketball Notes, The Sleeves Stand for Honor

  • Steve Merfeld, the men's basketball coach at the University of Evansville (my alma mater), was forced to resign Saturday following an early exit from the Missouri Valley Conference tourney. Merfeld's record at UE was a paltry 54-91, but the Aces under his leadership played several very good games against very good teams (though they lost most of those games). What frustrated me most about Merfeld was his decision to remove Evansville's trademark sleeves from the uniforms. Regardless of who replaces Merfeld, we need to bring back the sleeves.

  • I'm still upset about Vandy's inexcusable unfortunate home loss this weekend to Arkansas. But I felt better last night after watching the Vandy women win a close one over LSU to take the SEC tournament title. By beating both Georgia and LSU en route to a conference championship, the Commodores are in good shape to get a #2 seed in the Big Dance. As for the men, they'd wrapped up a first-round bye in the SEC tourney before the Arkansas game; and they're in good position to make a run at a conference title. Still, the loss to Arkansas is evidence that you can't any predictions where the Vandy men are concerned. They are capable of beating anyone anywhere, and they are capable of losing to anyone anywhere.

  • ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme has the Middle Tennessee women as a #5 seed right now. I'd say they have a slim chance at a #4, depending on what happens with Oklahoma and Baylor in the Big 12 conference tournament, and I can't see them slipping below a #6. At any rate, the Lady Raiders are in good shape to make a run to the Sweet 16. (In the meantime, they need to be careful not to take the Sun Belt tourney for granted.)

  • Jerry Falwell's Liberty University fired men's basketball coach Randy Dunton. Dunton had a 66-85 record that included only one winning season, albeit a season that ended with an NCAA tourney appearance. This year the Flames finished third in the Big South (won by a very impressive Winthrop team) with a 14-17 record. Considering the school's unusually strict code of conduct and the obvious recruiting challenges this poses, I'm impressed that Liberty has been as competitive as they have been.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Clear, Straightforward Explanation of Third World Debt

From Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman's Book Everybody Wants to Change the World: Practical Ideas for Social Justice (Regal, 2006):

Here's hos this debt problem emerged. In the 1960s and 1970s when the Cold War was at its height, Western banks loaned billions of dollars to impoverished young nations. The idea was to attract the poor away from the lure of Communism, a system that promised to side with the poor instead of the wealthy West. Western economists and social engineers were sent to these poor nations to show the leaders how the "religion" of the West—a free-market economy—would bring about a harvest of wealth for all.

To jump-start the system, the generous West would provide the loans. Of course, these loans went into building massive energy and agriculture systems that were then outsourced to companies from the West. The loans, in the short run, filled the coffers of Western corporations instead of companies in the poor nations.

The optimistic projections of the West never came to fruition, and by the end of the Cold War, billions of dollars were owed to Western nations. The debt was structured to greatly benefit the wealthy and, as a consequence, some countries have already paid back more than three or four times the amount they originally borrowed. Yet they have only paid interest—the entire principal is still owed.

Campolo and Aeschliman, of course, advocate forgiving debt owed by third-world nations. They suggest joining the Jubilee movement (inspired by Leviticus 25).

Friday, March 02, 2007

Weekend Links

Mommy Grills Meyer About His Third Birthday

Your Apostrophe Offend's Offends Me

Yesterday on my way to work, I was behind a minivan bearing a slick, professionally manufactured window decal that read:

My daughter play's for

********* **** ***** youth softball

No no no no no! How many people let that slide? How many people failed to notice the apostrophe that turns "play" from a verb to a noun and renders the sentence nonsensical?

As a culture and community, we need to table all efforts to make English the official or only recognized language until we can be assured that most people have a basic grasp of how the language works.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

3 Years Ago Tonight . . .

. . . the high school basketball team (then Hillsboro) that my brother-in-law coaches lost in the regional tournament. Later that evening, Ashlee went into labor. Around noon the next day, our family of two (six if you include cats) became a family of three (seven).

Tonight, the high school basketball team (now Mt. Juliet) that my brother-in-law coaches lost in the regional tournament. (Fortunately, this time they lost in the regional finals, so they'll get to play a sub-state game and have a shot at going to state.) Around noon tomorrow, I'll be the father of a three year old.

Happy birthday, Meyer! (Maybe we can celebrate by updating your website.)

Pacman Faces Felony Charges in Georgia

OK, this is too much. Forget what I said; he's gotta go.

Mind-Numbing Entertainment

If you're looking for ways to not be productive, this incredibly simple but strangely addictive flash game can help you waste hours.

More at!