Monthly Archives: June 2014

Some Clear Thinking on a Complicated Issue

This is an excellent piece by my friend Dave Schultz, written for his newspaper column. He and I tend to think alike on most issues (worship music being the prime exception). I particularly resonate with him when he writes, “I am always looking for the middle ground. Even when there is no middle ground to be found, such as in our current quandry, I keep trying to find it.”

There is quite a range of viewpoints on the gay-marriage issue in the church-going world–what is biblical, what are gray areas, what should be forbidden in the church but allowed in secular society, what attitude should Christians have. Dave navigates through a lot of those waters.

He hits some of the relevant nails head-on with this: “God hates divorce, but American society puts up with it — and that’s something, I think, that directly informs the same-sex marriage debate. Just because God doesn’t like it does not mean it should be subject to a societal ban.”

I’m passing this along as some clear thinking on the issue by a friend of high Christian integrity.

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Who Gets Hit By Lightning?

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Interesting little fact: of the 261 persons killed by lightning during the last seven years, 211 were men. The conclusion in the article I read: Men are stupid and think they are invincible.

Seven persons have been killed by lightning so far this year–all men. They were: fishing, closing car windows, riding a motorcycle, picking blueberries, roofing a business, and near tall trees. Men are more likely to do outdoors-related things.

Also interesting: lightning deaths have greatly dropped. In 1943, there were 432 lightning deaths, compared to just 13 in 2013. I guess people are spending a lot less time outdoors. Could this be an argument in favor of spending the day watching TV, or letting your kids hibernate in their rooms playing video games? Were my parents irresponsible for letting me roam around outside all the time?

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Richard Engel – A Master War Correspondent

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I’m a huge fan of NBC’s Richard Engel. We’re watching one of the best-ever war correspondents in action.

As a quasi-journalist, I’ve always been a fan of war correspondents. Ernie Pyle set the standard during WW2. Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney cut their teeth during WW2. The New Yorker’s AJ Liebling wrote “Molly,” the best piece of war writing I’ve ever read; it shows up in most WW2 anthologies. I reread it a couple months ago.

Vietnam gave us David Halberstam, Michael Herr, Joe Galloway (“We Were Soldiers”), and Peter Arnett. Arnett, of course, also covered the Gulf Wars and everything in between. Christiane Amanpour did superb reporting in various conflicts, including Bosnia.

In the current conflicts, two men stand out to me: Dexter Filkins of the NY Times, and Richard Engel.

I love listening to Engel. When on camera, he is totally prepared. He can answer every question asked of him, showing that when off-camera, he’s doing diligent reporting. He can put conflicts in historical context–both recent history, and history going back centuries. He can explain the dynamics of the various parties in a conflict (like in Iraq). He knows the perspectives of everyone, from top leaders to grunt soldiers and civilians on the street. He is fluent in Arabic (and Italian and Spanish).

Some reporters, like Geraldo Rivera, like to be chummy with the troops. That’s crowd-pleasing, but it isn’t reporting. Engel goes deep to get information, and he skillfully conveys it to the public.

Probably most of the best war correspondents work in print, mostly for major newspapers or freelance. They aren’t as visible as TV reporters, but usually go far beneath the surface in their reporting. Engel started out there, going to Iraq in 2003 as a freelance journalist. NBC quickly snapped him up, recognizing his brilliance. He has since reported from the midst of every hotspot–Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Somalia.

Enjoy him while you can. Engel operates in a dangerous career. As we know, sadly, from Ernie Pyle, who died on Okinawa from Japanese machine gun fire.

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The Libyan, and Gitmo vs. Supermax

Kudos for capturing this Libyan fellow. I’m sure it took a while to compile the evidence for a definitive conviction. Glad the FBI was involved.

The FBI was involved early in the Afghan war. Captured terrorists were talking freely to the FBI. The FBI was interested in convictions, and was going about everything methodically and properly. But then Cheney engineered turning everything over to the CIA. The CIA didn’t care one bit about convictions–they just wanted information. And so, they used torture, launching one of the saddest periods of US history. It also accounts for our problems with trying the Gitmo detainees; the use of torture invalidates, under US law, most of the “evidence” against these guys. (The book “The Dark Side” tells all about this, including the enormous success the FBI was having in the early days until the CIA took over.)

But with this Libyan, we did it right.

The folks at FoxNews, of course, are putting the worst possible spin on this guy’s capture. They refuse to give President Obama credit for anything. I listened to The Five on the way home from work today, and I’m sick and tired of their constant negativity. I think I’m done with them. I’ll just listen to music. (The evening line-up at MSNBC is totally unwatchable, lest you think I have a double standard.)

Anyway, FoxNews advocates sending this Libyan to Gitmo and, though they won’t come right out and say it, torture the guy for information. Well, we don’t torture anymore–I’m deeply proud to say–so that won’t happen.

I’m guessing this guys WANTS to be sent to Gitmo. The alternative is spending his life in a Supermax prison, where a number of other convicted terrorists are already rotting away the rest of their lives. Supermax is a living hell, very inhumane. I’d prefer Gitmo, too.

It sounds like the FBI has the convictable goods on this guy. It’ll take a while, perhaps a couple years, to obtain a conviction. But the guy will be convicted and spend the rest of his life in a Supermax. He may be able to trade some information, but it won’t get him far.

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Press “Order” to Order

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Chili’s is doing away with waiters and waitresses, replacing them with tablets. You order from the tablet, and pay with it. It’s a business decision, a money-maker. Tests show:

  • People order faster, since they don’t need to wait for a server. That cuts an average of 5 minutes off the meal…meaning a quicker turn-around of tables.
  • The pictures on the tablets are much bigger than in a traditional menu.
  • People order far more appetizers–20% more. It’s an impulse thing. If you come hungry and you’re greeted with a picture of nachos, you may well order it.
  • Pictures of desserts appear as you’re eating. Chili’s has seen a 20% increase in dessert sales. Hit a button, and somebody will bring it.
  • The tablets set a default tip amount of 20%, which people tend to go with. They can change it, but it requires a conscious action. I’m not sure who you’re actually tipping, of course, since you don’t have a server.

So we may someday say, “Yeah, I remember when people actually came to your table to take your order.” Is this a good thing?

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A Final Good-Bye to Stan Peters

stan-petersThis morning I attended the funeral of Stan Peters, who served nearly 25 years at the United Brethren national office overseeing the various publications. In 1978, Stan hired me as his assistant editor. I was just completing my junior year at Huntington College. Stan was very good to me.

But even before that, Stan had a big impact on my life. I was in early elementary school, and Dad worked at Huntington College. We attended College Park UB church, which has always been loaded with leadership-caliber people. Dad yearned to be used, to be put to work in the local church ministry, but nothing he wasn’t needed. He was deeply frustrated.

Dad said the next Sunday he planned to begin attending a small Baptist church in town. But during the week, Stan Peters, as part of the church’s nominating committee, invited Dad to teach a Sunday school class. And so, we remained United Brethren (and not Baptist!).

About 15 years later, Stan hired me to work in this office. And I’ve been here for 36 years.

Stan was always very gracious to me, and though I was impossibly immature coming right out of college, he treated me very well. The first time I was ever reprimanded for something job-related, it was Stan who did the honors, calling me into his office and correcting me (I totally deserved it). He was firm, made his point, but was very kind about it. That, folks, is the way to do it.

Stan was just a good, good man. He was one of those guys whose faith was unshakeable, for whom core beliefs are not up for negotiation (as is so common today). As a person who questions everything, I value these guys who know, with certainty, what they believe. They have walked with Jesus so long, and seen Him work in their lives so many times, that there can be no thought of living apart from Christ. These guys are anchors for me.

So thanks, Stan, for your influence on me in so many ways.

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The Idiocy of Open Carry Texas

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This Open Carry Texas story amazes me. A bunch of men armed with AR-15s and shotguns go into a restaurant to eat, claiming it’s their Constitutional right to devour a Big Mac with an automatic weapon at their side. Frightened employees of one Jack-in-the-Box, seeing a bunch of armed men enter, locked themselves in a freezer. Open Carry Texas supporters have done this at various restaurants, plus other retailers like Target.

How would you react if you’re eating with your spouse and kids in an Applebees, and in walk a bunch of men carrying rifles?

It would scare the crap out of me. I would immediately grab Pam’s arm, and we’d leave. I don’t know who these guys are. The fact that they are making a public statement with loaded weapons, in the presence of children, tells me they are NOT responsible gun owners. I’d head for the door pronto.

I’m fine with concealed carry, the key word being “concealed”–nobody knows you’re armed, and you don’t publicly announce it. But this Open Carry Texas stuff is just lunacy, and I’m happy to see many gun owners criticizing such tactics online. Responsible gun owners know this stuff is irresponsible.

Besides, do any of the guys in these photos look like the type of person you would want carrying around an AR-15 in public?

Here’s a real good article on the issue. I read it a few weeks ago. Makes the point that while the open carry people say it’s all about “freedom,” the freedom is only for them–because what restaurant employee is average citizen is going to argue with a stranger carrying an automatic weapon?

“In the real world, sane people do not confront armed men and women. They don’t argue with them over politics. They certainly do not put their kids in harm’s way in order to make a point….The rest of us just have to be very polite, keep our voices down and back away very slowly, saying, ‘Yes sir, whatever you say, sir,’ and let them have their way.”

It also tells about a guy in Georgia who showed up at a Little League park waving his gun around and saying, “Look at my gun! There’s nothing you can do about it.” Police were called, but the man wasn’t doing anything illegal. So the parents did what any sensible parent would do in that situation–they took their kids and went home.

I hope open carry never comes to Indiana…but I fear it will.

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Super Bowl 50, or L?

The Super Bowl always uses Roman numerals. So the 50th Super Bowl in 2016 will be Super Bowl L. I suppose some shallow minds think Roman numerals are more sophisticated, and as we know, football is only for the most highly evolved. Kind of like calling a building “Centre” instead of “Center,” thinking that the British spelling will make the building appear more culturally polished.

The 2016 Super Bowl host committee, in San Francisco, has asked the NFL for permission to use the Aramaic “50.” I fully support that, for the same reason I refuse to order a “grande” or “venti” drink at a coffeeshop. I always, ALWAYS, out of good American principle, ask for a small, medium, or large.

Why do we want to be like the Italians, with their silly Roman numerals and drink names? Let’s have Super Bowl 50, I say.

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