Thursday, January 31, 2008

Politics: No on prop 94, 95, 96, 97

Prop 94-97 will allow more casino slot machines but in exchange for a bigger share of the revenue for the California budget.

How many slot machines are in Las Vegas?

According to About.com there are 197,144!

I don't know how many slots there are already here in California but this adds quite a few more!

The San Francisco Chronicle is against it:

Passage of these propositions would allow four of the state's wealthiest tribes - Agua Caliente, Morongo, Pechanga, Sycuan - to dramatically expand their Southern California gambling operations by adding up to 17,000 Nevada-style slot machines. Their casinos in Riverside and San Diego counties would become among the world's largest.

That $9 billion "windfall" for state government - assuming the proponents' projections come to fruition - would not suddenly fall from the sky. It would come between now and 2030 and the additional state revenue from the new slots would amount to, at best, perhaps one-tenth of 1 percent of the state's budget. It is not even close to a panacea for the budget woes that are dominating today's headlines.

The Los Angeles Times is in favor of the measure:

Despite a convoluted history, Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 are actually quite simple. They would uphold agreements to amend existing compacts between California and four Indian tribes that already permit gambling on their reservations. These addenda were negotiated by the state, vetted and adopted by the Legislature and signed by the governor, but a petition drive funded by organized labor, racetrack owners and several other tribes forced the four agreements onto the ballot.

The Contra Costa Times is against the props. Excerpt:

Even the high estimate is a tiny fraction of the overall California state budget and would not be a major contribution to solving the state's fiscal problems.

But there is a larger question regarding casino gambling in California. If Californians want their state to have Nevada-style gambling on a large scale, why limit it to Indian tribes, or just a select number of tribes, or specific tribes?

We believe Californians don't want to compete with Nevada for gambling titles. Also, in the long run, it is not economically productive for Indians to depend so heavily on gambling revenues. Nor should California be seeking more gaming money.

The Mercury News is against:

So let's cut to the chase. Vote based on what you want California to become. Should we compete with Nevada to become the nation's gambling capital? No. Stop the escalation now. Reject Propositions 94 through 97.

The Sacramento Bee is also against:

This page has consistently opposed the expansion of gambling, beginning with the state lottery. We oppose the new gambling deals contained in these referendum initiatives, too. Gambling is the wrong way to grow the state's economy. It doesn't create new economic activity. It simply substitutes one form of entertainment spending for another. More money spent gambling means less money spent to go to the movies, eat out, play golf – all activities that don't create gambling addiction or prey on the poor.

Stop the spread of the slots! Vote no on propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97.

Politics: No on Prop 93

This ballot measure tinkers with the current term limit system in place for the California legislature.

Send it back to them with a "no vote" and say "try again."

The LA Times is for it:

Like many political reform initiatives, Proposition 93 presents voters with a quandary. It would improve California's political system by rationally reforming the legislative term-limits law. But it also would confer a temporary, unearned and undeserved benefit on a handful of elected officials who broke faith with Californians. Now the question before voters is whether it's better to punish those politicians, and in so doing punish ourselves, by squandering a rare chance to improve the system, or to begin repairing the broken process without worrying that a few elected officials may, for a short time, enjoy an unexpected political afterlife.

The Times urges voters to reject the childish world of politics and to engage instead in the grown-up business of governing. Vote yes on Proposition 93.

Under the term-limits law voters adopted 18 years ago, legislators can serve a maximum of three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year terms in the Senate, for a total of 14 years. Under Proposition 93, they would be able to serve 12 years, in either or both houses, in any combination of terms they could work out. If the measure passes, it's widely expected that most would serve the full 12 in a single house.

The SF Chronicle is against it. They share the LAT's view that term limits need a fix but they aren't as forgiving as the LAT about the sweetheart deals that benefits many existing office holders. Excerpt:

We have long argued that the term limits passed by voters in 1990 were unduly restrictive. While term limits have opened the Capitol doors to some bright newcomers - and increased the ethnic and gender diversity of the Legislature - they also have forced incumbents to spend far too much time raising money and not enough time delving into long-term problems that don't generate press releases. This measure might be worth considering if it were not so transparently skewed by the people in power to benefit themselves.

I'm going to vote no on proposition 93. I don't want to reward politicians who feather their own nests! I just don't think the people in Sacramento realize just how angry the people of California are about what they are doing up there.

Politics: No on Prop 92

Community colleges are a wonderful option for people.

But should the fees and governance of them be determined by ballot box?

Vote no.

The SF Chronicle is against it:

With the state facing a project deficit of $14 billion next year, this might seem like the worst possible time to propose a ballot measure that would commit an extra $900 million to community colleges over three years.
But even if times were flush, the budgeting-by-formula proposed in Proposition 92 would be a bad idea. This is the type of auto-spending that keeps the state budget rising in the good years and brings excruciating decisions when revenues get lean.

The Los Angeles Times agrees:

Proposition 92 promises California's community colleges a stable funding source while lowering student fees. What could be wrong with that?

A lot. Community colleges certainly need more money, but Proposition 92 would lock the state into spending hundreds of millions of additional dollars that it doesn't have. Lawmakers would have no choice but to rob other higher education programs to meet the new spending commitment. This initiative represents the worst form of ballot-box budgeting, and voters should reject it.

Vote no on proposition 92. It is time to stop ballot box budgeting.

Politics: No on Prop 91

Its easy: vote no on proposition 91.

The LAT is against 91:

Even the authors of Proposition 91 want you to vote against it. It's an "orphan" measure that got onto the Feb. 5 ballot as part of an overreaching bargaining strategy by a coalition of transportation advocates. They already got what they wanted: Proposition 1A, approved by 77% of California voters in November 2006, locks up the sales taxes that motorists pay at the gasoline pump, allowing the revenue to be used only for transportation projects.

That makes this decision easy. Vote no on Proposition 91.

The SF Chronicle has also said the same thing:

Proposition 91 would restrict spending of gas taxes to transportation, and it faces some unlikely opponents: its sponsors.
A pair of powerful transportation industry groups that fought in 2006 to put Prop. 91 on the ballot now oppose it.

Its easy: vote no on proposition 91.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Politics: Hillary, Barack, John and Mitt's Cross Country Adventure

Well, the field got smaller awfully fast!

Edwards had to get out as he had no wins and no likely wins.

Huckabee has one win (Iowa) and some possible wins on Super Duper Tuesday but he will be under a lot of pressure to get out but has said he is staying in.

Romney is probably on the issues the most compatible candidate for many Republicans. However, he can't seem to shake the flip-flopper tag. Thus, we are where we are now.

One can't discount McCain's biography as a factor in his favor. The choice of a President is more than just issues.

How did George W. Bush win twice?

He was never the smooth talking candidate but support or oppose him, he was seen as being authentic.

I went to a McCain event in 2000 during the California primary. He was not a particularly good speaker. On the issues, he has taken some positions that many Republicans would question. But he projects the aura: what you see is what you get! His willingness to advocate the surge and back Bush while the vast majority of the voters and the politicians wanted out wins him both full throated and grudging support.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Devotional Thoughts: How do you pray when ...

Get the occasional email from friends who share a concern. Sometimes it is a health concern. Sometimes it is a work related matter. Could be any number of things.

But how do you pray when the request is: I'm talking with someone who is about to make decision XYZ and I think they are making a mistake?

Thus, there are two people to pray for: the person making the request and the person that is the subject of concern.

In this case, the decision XYZ is something that has huge consequences to that person and to everyone who knows this person. It is not something illegal but I think something immoral. How do you pray?

I think of James 1:16-18. Turning it into a prayer:

Father, please give wisdom to my friend who is trying to reach out to this troubled soul. I think this friend of a friend is being deceived. Help him to see that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father who gives good gifts. He gives wisdom through the word of truth that we might bear fruit and have hope, faith and love. This friend is deeply troubled and is not seeing the tremendous healing that is available in You. He is choosing bad fruit that will not truly heal what troubles him. Please work a miracle in this situation. Amen.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Non-profit of the month: January, 2008 - Polaris Project

One of my friends is a supporting of Polaris Project.

It is hard to believe but slavery still exists.

Today, it is known as human trafficking.

What does that mean?

From Polaris ...

Trafficked persons are forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Under international law, all children who are commercially sexually exploited are considered trafficking victims, even if no force or coercion is used. Sex trafficking is one of the most lucrative sectors of the trade in people, and involves sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography, bride trafficking, and commercial sexual abuse of children. Labor trafficking is widespread not only in situations of domestic servitude and small-scale labor operations, but also in sweatshops and farms that are subcontracted to major multinational corporations.

This kind of injustice must be opposed.

Please consider supporting an organization that is in the fight to end modern-day slavery.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Devotional Thoughts: Will he call upon God at all times?

Job continued his monologue from chapter 26 into Job 27.

I've linked to the NIV-UK. I've never tried that version so I thought I would today!

Interestingly, the NIV-UK laid out the text a little differently by breaking it up into sections. This sectioning isn't apparent in the online version of the NIV. I got my hardback edition of the NIV Study BIble and I noticed the spacing is a little bit larger between the sections and those spacings track with the NIV-UK online edition.

I didn't notice any obvious "Britishism!"

vv. 1-6

And Job continued his discourse:
As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul,
as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit.
I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity.
I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.

I can only say that Job is a transparent soul here as he has been throughout. With one hand, he acknowledges God is the source of his life "the breath of God in my nostrils," is powerful by calling him "the Almighty" and is present, "as surely as God lives." And on the other hand, he complained bitterly by saying God "has denied me justice" and "has made made me taste bitterness of soul."

He laid it all on the line in this paragraph in essence saying, my conscience is clear and my hands are clean as far as I can tell and I'm not caving into your suggestions that I am suffering because I sinned somewhere somehow.

vv. 7-10

May my enemies be like the wicked, my adversaries like the unjust!
For what hope has the godless when he is cut off, when God takes away his life?
Does God listen to his cry when distress comes upon him?
Will he find delight in the Almighty? Will he call upon God at all times?

My NIV Study Bible notes for this section suggested that Job is calling his friends enemies and calling down judgement on them. Perhaps. Probably so.

I think Job may also be stating in reverse what he believes with the rhetorical questions.

Put another way: I do have hope because I'm trying to follow God even as my life is draining away. God does listen to my cry amidst this distress. I am still trying to find delight in God and I will keep calling on him even if it is to complain!

vv. 11-12

I will teach you about the power of God; the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal.
You have all seen this yourselves. Why then this meaningless talk?

By Job's words and unwillingness to cave in to "conventional wisdom" he is teaching his friends what a real relationship with God looks like.

vv. 13-23

Here is the fate God allots to the wicked, the heritage a ruthless man receives from the Almighty:
However many his children, their fate is the sword; his offspring will never have enough to eat.
The plague will bury those who survive him, and their widows will not weep for them.
Though he heaps up silver like dust and clothes like piles of clay,
what he lays up the righteous will wear, and the innocent will divide his silver.
The house he builds is like a moth's cocoon, like a hut made by a watchman.
He lies down wealthy, but will do so no more; when he opens his eyes, all is gone.
Terrors overtake him like a flood; a tempest snatches him away in the night.
The east wind carries him off, and he is gone; it sweeps him out of his place.
It hurls itself against him without mercy as he flees headlong from its power.
It claps its hands in derision and hisses him out of his place.

In 10 lines, Job layed out vividly what will happen to the wicked. What does a person possess? He described family, possession and sense of self. The wicked will lose all of it.

Job has lost family. Job lost his wealth. Job lost his health. But the one thing he still has: his sense of self before God.

So the righteous can lose almost as much as the wicked. But oh what a difference that one thing makes.

Lord, have mercy on my soul. How much of my sense of self is in stuff that can be taken away? I confess far too much. Help me to cast myself at your feet and ask for help in keeping the right perspective on my life. I have so much living here in the USA. I'm grateful for that. But help me not to be blinded from where my life truly comes from and has its meaning. Christ have mercy on my soul. Amen.

Faith: Christian "Communal" Living

Saw this item about a group of Christians trying to live simpler lives in a more commune like setting. They are a part of the New Monastic Movement.

Excerpts:

BILLINGS, MONT. -- In a peeling house on South 32nd Street, five friends came together to stretch their faith.

They left comfortable apartments for a communal home within walking distance of a prison, a pawnshop, a derelict trailer park. Exhaust from a sugar beet factory drifted down the streets.

Moving in last January, they pledged to spend one year together, learning to become true followers of Christ. They would give generously, love unconditionally. They would exchange their middle-class ways for humility and simplicity, forgoing Hardee's fries, new CDs, even the basic comfort of privacy.

"The focus has to be on God and the way of life he has set out for us, as opposed to the way we want to live, which is very selfish," Jeromy Emerling said.
.......
On the cold November day when Phyllis and Kyle moved out with their children, Jeromy stood in the foyer, overwhelmed with sorrow. He had been so consumed with the conflicts in the house, he said, that he had not realized how close they had all grown.

Later, he wrote it down, as if to remind himself: "In just 11 short months we had grown to love a family with whom we really had very little in common. Genuine, honest, sacrificial love. The Kingdom of God revealed itself to me in that brief moment -- an ideal realized through the fog of messy lives."

Jeromy had no illusions as he prepared for his second year as a monastic.

He and Debbie had invited several single friends to move into the house; they were also saving a bed for a meth addict they knew, hoping he'd move in when he got out of jail.

New faces meant new frustrations and more fights about mopping the floor. Jeromy knew it would be exhausting, exasperating.

But this was how he felt called to live. He still believed the house could be a blessing.

The article follows the ups and downs of learning to live together and reach out to their neighbors.

I was quite moved by the story and it has made me think about my own lifestyle.

I pay X amount of dollars a month in rent to live where I live. If i were to join such a "New Monastic" community, I'd probably be able to cut my rent in half.

Questions:

What would I do with the extra money?

Would I actually be willing to give it away?

Would I be able to adapt to a life where personal space and privacy would be significantly diminished?

How able would I be able to connect with housemates and neighbors in such a setting?

I'm thinking about these questions and examining my life but no answers ...

Bookshelf: Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower

About 1/2 way through Looming Tower which recounts the history of Al-Qaeda.

One school of thought says that economics is the root of human behavior. This kind of analysis says poor people will be desperate and commit crimes. That view is too simplistic. Bin Laden was a wealthy Saudi. So why did he become a terrorist?

Thus, ideology is a part of human behavior.

The book covers some of the conceptual factors (and some of the circumstantial ones) that have yielded Al-Qaeda.

For instance, I had no idea how corrupt the Saudi royal family has been through its history. Thus, various Jihad groups hate the Saudis and the Americans who have supported them over the decades.

Also, it was rather incredible how porous the Afghanistan-Pakistani border was. It seemed like anyone could find their way there to join in the war against the Soviets. Ironically, many of these Jihad fighters were happily let go by countries because they would have been trouble back in their home countries.

One big concept that loosens the restrictions within Islam is takfir. The book describes the idea that a Muslim can kill another Muslim if they believe that that Muslim has fallen away from the faith. Such thoughts were used to justify the murder of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. It is also this kind of thinking that leads the terrorists to want to see the Saudi royal family overthrown.

It is clear that initially the USA underestimated the threat. Past terrorist activities in the US was very limited and wanton killing of people was not part of the game plan of terrorist organizations.

It is very frightening to read how much chaos can be sowed by a modest number of fanatical people.

Must reading to grasp what the world is facing in the extremist Islamic threat.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Technology: The real reason why airlines don't want you to use your cell phone

Saw this item.

Excerpt:

Part of the issue regarding stowing electronics at takeoff and landing, says Smith, has nothing to do with the fabled "interference," but rather the that that they can be dangerous as impromptu projectiles in the event of a sudden stop. Just ask the lady who decided to leave her tray table down and a full cup of Coke on it during my recent return flight from Vegas. Amazingly, it didn't stay where she wanted it to.
......
Smith wisely notes that one big reason for the cell phone rules is that the potential for danger of phones ensures that people won't demand to use them in flight. Most fliers, as we know, despise this idea, but serial chatters are far more, ahem, vocal about the issue. No one wants a war over technology at 35,000 feet. Those days, however, are already arriving in Europe, as onboard cellular systems have already been approved. Will the U.S. see the same? Smith feels it's inevitable, and he's probably right.

I have to say I've dropped my phone in my carry on bag without turning it off so I've always suspected I wasn't the only one and the likelihood that interference with the airplanes delicate electronics was overstated.

The idea of cell phones flying around the cabin during turbulence hadn't occurred to me but that makes sense.

And indeed, the thought of an entire plane yaking on their phones while in flight would be a dreadful thought! It feels weird when people talk on cell phones in the elevator!

Politics: Cal Ballot Measures

The items on the ballot.

Will have to take closer look at them.

My default is to vote no unless I have good reason to vote yes.

The LAT has come out against Prop 91.

They have come out in favor of Prop 93.

I hope to post some of my own thoughts soon.

UPDATE: SF Chronicle has come against all of the ballot measures!

UPDATE: McClintock who has libertarian leanings posts his recommendations on the ballots.

I'm torn about 94-95-96-97. My libertarian instincts track with McClintock, "I’m not a gambler, but it’s none of government’s business how people spend their money. I’m tired of government restrictions on enterprise, and I’m tired of government telling us what we can and can’t do. And our economy desperately needs the new jobs and investment."

On the other hand, as a matter of social well-being, is our society better with MORE casinos?

How about this for a "creative" libertarian reason to be against 94-97: if the California government fails to get more revenue because 94-97 doesn't pass, then the government can't get bigger and will have to more wisely spend the billions it already gets?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

World: Saddam Hussein's Interogator on 60 Minutes

Very interesting!

Excerpts:

Saddam Hussein initially didn't think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture.
.......
"He told me he initially miscalculated... President Bush’s intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998...a four-day aerial attack," says Piro. "He survived that one and he was willing to accept that type of attack." "He didn't believe the U.S. would invade?" asks Pelley, "No, not initially," answers Piro.
......
Saddam still wouldn't admit he had no weapons of mass destruction, even when it was obvious there would be military action against him because of the perception he did. Because, says Piro, "For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq," he tells Pelley.

He also intended and had the wherewithal to restart the weapons program. "Saddam still had the engineers. The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there," says Piro. "He wanted to pursue all of WMD…to reconstitute his entire WMD program." This included chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Piro says.

HT: DR

Politics: Brokered Convention?

You have to remember in the general election for president, the key is the electoral college.

In the nomination race, the key is the delegate count.

In the modern era of presidential nomination races, the brokered convention hasn't happened. Usually, one candidate wins enough primaries and caucuses such that the old style deal making in smoke filled room isn't needed.

Will this year be different?

On the Democratic side, it is a remote possibility. My feeling is that something has got to give. Eventually, Clinton or Obama will have a breakthrough moment. Obama's biggest liability is inexperience and if at some point that factor rises above the novelty of his candidacy his support will wane. However, Clinton's biggest liability is her biggest asset, the Clinton brand name. They were playing it pretty safe hoping to run out the clock and coast to a victory. Now, they realize they are in a battle and are now blasting away. Its a delicate balancing act when you go negative. Do it enough to drive up the other guy's negatives or overdo it and become unseemly.

The Edward's factor is unlikely to be significant. He probably won't win enough delegates to play third place king/queen maker at the convention.

Meanwhile on the Republican side, the race is now down to four players: Romney, Huckabee, McCain and Guiliani.

Thompson is out and he probably won't endorse anyone and he doesn't have enough delegates to really matter.

Paul is running a protest campaign so he stays in but really won't matter.

Guiliani can probably survive a narrow loss in Florida but must collect some delegates at Super Duper Tuesday or he is done.

McCain has the national name recognition to go the distance but he needs to reload on cash.

Huckabee from what I hear is nearly out of cash. He will stick it out until Super Duper Tuesday but baring a surprise win somewhere, he may cease active campaigning and hang onto his delegates in the hopes for a brokered convention where he could play kingmaker.

Romney can pump in his own cash and may get the nomination simply because everyone ran out of cash!

As expected Super Duper Tuesday is the key. If there are 3 viable candidates still on the field then a brokered convention is likely.

The fourth place finisher in Florida is going to have problems and may limp into Super Duper Tuesday to get finished off.

Of course, prediction about this year's campaign has been difficult!

UPDATE: If the latest GOP polling data from Florida is right, the brokered convention scenario is less likely. A 4th place finish in Florida would put a candidate in serious trouble and Huckabee who is already on the ropes is in 4th place. A 3rd place finish for Giuliani who bet on the Florida strategy would be trouble and at the moment, he is a pretty distant 3rd. McCain and Romney are running a strong #1 and #2 in Florida and it may well be just the two of them the rest of the way in which case a brokered convention is unlikely as someone is bound to deliver a knockout. So the GOP has to decide whether to go with the more moderate centrist (McCain) or the more conservative centrist (Romney)?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Youth: How much more ... episode 3

Our youth group is currently going through a series of teachings based on Bible passages in the New Testament that uses the "How much more ..." formulation to hit home an important point. The first talk was on prayer and how we can be "shamelessly audacious" in coming before God. The second was on the gift of the Holy Spirit and what the Spirit can do in our lives.

I'm pinch hitting the third talk in the series. Am working on a talk around Matthew 12:9-14.

(1) What are some of your identities?
Do you embrace it?
Is it put upon you?
Incorrect?
ASK for reactions from the group
(2) Matthew 12:9-14
Film clip from Pasolini’s “The Gospel According to Saint Matthew”
Read the text
ASK for reactions from the group
(3) Connection to identity - in this case Jewish Identity
Oppressed people
Distinctiveness of the Jews (5 Books of Moses - the Torah, the Temple, circumcision, purity, sabbath keeping.
What was their mistake here?
How does Jesus pop their bubble?
(4) Jesus set them and us straight
Jesus calls them out:
They were placing the rules > doing good.
They missed the point that human being >> a sheep
Do we ever blunder in a similar way?
(5) Sabbath 101
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy"(the 4th Commandment)
What?
Ceasing labor (negative)
Making it holy (positive)
Why?
God is the Creator
God liberated his people from slavery
How to do today?
Eugene Peterson, a Presbyterian minister, describes the "sabbaths" he and his wife observed every Monday, after their busiest day was over: a drive to the country, a psalm, a silent hike for several hours, a quiet evening at home.
Lauren Winner writes, "I've found it helpful to mark the beginning of the Sabbath. On Saturday evenings, I gather with friends for an unhurried time of food, fellowship, and prayer."
David Loughran writes, "we go for a walk in the country, visit friends, study, sing etc. But no energetic sports: swimming, golf, football etc."
Mark Early observes, "Rest reminds us that there is Someone we can rest in. And our need for rest is a daily reminder that we are finite creatures and must trust in an infinite God."
Quote sources:
http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=318
http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/2004/janfeb/14.16.html
http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/sbs777/saccal/sabbkeep.html
http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=7440
(6) Doing Good
Examples of doing good (if there is time have group share some)
Perspectives:
The Good Samaritan Parable (Luke 10): doing good on the spur of the moment for someone in need.
David’s kindness to Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9): doing good as a determined choice
(7) How much more ...
How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep (or fill-in the blank) ...
Music video

Break out into discussion groups.
Here are some small group discussion starters for consideration:
(1) What are some of the identities you have in your life?
(2) What are things that you do that foster those identities?
(3) How might some of these identities keep us from obedience to God?
(4) How might they be helpful?
(5) What do you think of the Sabbath?
(6) In what ways would it be good to keep it today?
(7) Share stories of someone who did good for another.
Jesus said, "How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."
Pray audaciously that we would be ready to do good whenever a need arises like the Good Samaritan did in the famous parable.
Pray about doing good as a choice like King David did toward Mephibosheth.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Devotional Thoughts: How faint the whispers we hear of him

In Job 26, Job spoke.

Then Job replied:
How you have helped the powerless!
How you have saved the arm that is feeble!
What advice you have offered to one without wisdom!
And what great insight you have displayed!
Who has helped you utter these words?
And whose spirit spoke from your mouth?

Job took Bildad to the woodshed here saying what he said was simply not helpful.

After dismissing Bildad, Job turned to the existential reality of all human beings.

The dead are in deep anguish,
those beneath the waters and all that live in them.
Death is naked before God;
Destruction lies uncovered.

Is this a hint of afterlife theology?

If the dead have no existence (i.e. the body dies there is nothing left) then would they feel anguish?

And the construction of these lines of poetry paints a picture of a collection of those who have died who "live" (exist?) "beneath the waters" in a nether world?

Job, for a guy who had been ranting at God, extols God's power.

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space;
he suspends the earth over nothing.


image source: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap971026.html

Only a few hundred astronauts have seen the Earth suspended over nothing!

He wraps up the waters in his clouds,
yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.
He covers the face of the full moon,
spreading his clouds over it.
He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters
for a boundary between light and darkness.
The pillars of the heavens quake,
aghast at his rebuke.
By his power he churned up the sea;
by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.
By his breath the skies became fair;
his hand pierced the gliding serpent.

Huh? Cut Rahab to pieces?

Turns out Job has used this imagery before in Job 9:13. The text notes in the NIV Study Bible says that it is a reference to an ancient mythological sea monster! The Jewish online encyclopedia offered this information about Rahab.

And these are but the outer fringe of his works;
how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?

Our ability to understand God and the things of God are limited!

We are so busy with our lives that we occasionally note his whisper. What would we comprehend if God raised the volume? It would be like trying to drink from a fire hose.

Lord, have mercy. Great are your works we can see in the creation a reflection of your glory. Thank you that you whisper so I can understand some things. Help me to submit to you in humility knowing you know far more about the ways of the universe. And what faint whispers in my frailty I manage to hear, help me to act upon. Amen.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Devotional Thoughts: "Hearing" the voice of God?

I "talk" to God by praying. I believe God hears. But does God "talk" back?

Hmmm ...

I have to say I have NOT heard an unmistakable audible voice of God like you see in a movie like the Ten Commandments.

No burning bushes. No angelic visits.

So how does God "speak" to me?

I suppose one way is through the Scriptures when I read them or when someone shares them with me. Often times it seems that when I'm face-to-face with the Bible, something just "jumps out." Call it coincidence or call it God communicating?

Another way I suppose is what some people have called "divine appointments" when some circumstance of life happen where you think, "what was that?" Was that a "God thing?" Or my favorite phrase, "a whisper of grace?" Again, one without faith might say that was just a happenstance and the believer is reading into an ordinary event some divine meaning. Perhaps so.

One definition of a miracle I heard recently was: an unusual event that encourages faith.

With that definition a miracle isn't so much about the event but what results from the event.

That would widen the definition of a miracle beyond the spectacular and could include the subtle.

So is God speaking to me when the other day I was reflecting on the idea of the Sabbath and certain thoughts came to mind?

The idea of a cessation of activity is alien in our 24/7 plugged in, internet, cable tv, the city never sleeps society.

I went to the Scriptures.

Exodus 20:11 reminded me that its origin is tied into the Creation. I thought, I'm so busy trying to make a living (my job) and live my life (various activities) that I need to stop to remember and honor the Giver of Life!

Deuteronomy 5:15 reminded me that God wanted his people to remember they were free people and no longer slaves in Egypt. With instant communication, one can be "chained" to the job all the time. One can jump in the car and be at the office anytime. Is that freedom? Nope. I'm thankful for the labor I have the opportunity to do but I must remember I'm not a slave to the job nor the money it provides nor the prestige it affords. My life belongs to God.

Did God "speak" to me?

Lord, I don't know what kind of Sabbath you are leading me to observe. I know Jewish folks have very specific ways to observe the Sabbath. Perhaps there are some aspects of it I should apply to my life. Help me to seek your wisdom on how to keep the Sabbath holy in my life. Help me to see that time of cessation of work/activity as an extra special set apart time to commune with you the Creator, Savior and lord of my Life. Thank you I am not a slave. And Lord, please work your power in the world where slavery still exists. Help good people to fight that injustice. Amen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Politics: Michigan goes Romney or McCain?

The latest round up of Michigan polls over at RCP shows it is very close. Of the 6 latest polls listed, 3 have McCain ahead and 3 have Romney ahead. The spread on the 3 more recent ones is very close!

So far, I've correctly picked the winners in 3 of 4 races but I've underestimated the margin of victory in each case.

What will happen in Michigan?

Here is my guess ...

Romney 31%
McCain 30%
Huckabee 16%

UPDATE: Romney gets his first "gold medal!"

Final numbers:
Romney 39%
McCain 30%
Huckabee 16%

Saturday, January 12, 2008

LA Scene: LA Philharmonic Concrete Frequency

Concrete Frequency is the current music festival being run by the LA Philharmonic. Excerpt from the press release:
The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Concrete Frequency festival – a multi-disciplinary series of events – offers a probing exploration and celebration of the elements that define a city and how they are affected by, and reflected in, music. The unique examination of the relationship between music and the urban environment includes three orchestral programs, an electronic concert and a singer/songwriter program, enhanced by a film series, an art exhibition and a thought-provoking symposium. The two-week event begins with a Casual Fridays performance featuring Festival Director David Robertson conducting the Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Friday, January 4, at 8 p.m., and wraps up Thursday, January 17, at 9 p.m., with the special event – Man-Machine in the Digital City, featuring Tokyo’s Cornelius and British techno duo Plaid.
I attended the event at Walt Disney Concert Hall scheduled for January 11.

When I go to concert events, I pretty much just react to the music. Since I have little knowledge about music making and writing, I presume the technical competence of the performers. Even as a non-musician, it was apparent that the music being played last night was very demanding.

How one reacts to the unusual sounds? That is another story!

DAVID ROBERTSON picked up the microphone and spoke to the audience to kick off the concert. He brought some humor to the proceedings and offered some explanation of the works to be heard. He selected Berio's "Sequenza" to highlight the idea that typical city musicians would play classical by day and supplement their income playing jazz at night so the work fuses both elements. He placed Ives' "Central Park in the Dark" next to give the audience the feeling of that musician walking home through the park.

No question the trumpeter GABRIELE CASSONE was an amazing performer. You can't make those sounds and play with such energy for so long without being at the top of your game. Clearly, some in the audience were trumpet fans as some of them rose up to give him a standing ovation. The rest of the audience offered polite applause.

I think many in the audience, including me, felt unmoved by the composition by Berio. No question, technically demanding but it just didn't catch with me. An interesting feature of the work was the trumpeter sending his sound into the piano strings to generate a resonate sound. Unfortunately, where I was seated that effect was too subtle to really notice.

During Ives' "Central Park in the Dark," the strings provided a low hum and set the atmosphere of the ambient feeling of a warm night in the city. The sound maybe even hinted at the slight buzz of someone feeling tired at the end of a long day and having had an alcoholic drink or two. In the middle of the composition, a collage of sounds intruded from off stage through the speaker system over the sound of the strings. The idea was to create the feeling of various city sounds including street musicians playing in the park. That sound faded away as it would for someone continuing their walk in the park returning to the low buzz of the strings. All in all an intriguing work that accomplished what I think it set out to do emotionally.

Conductor Robertson introduced Feldman's "Turfan Fragments" with the explanation that the composer wanted to offer a musical interpretation of manuscript fragments found on the Silk Road. Indeed, as one watched and listened to the music, various "patches" of the assembled ensemble would play short little snippets of music. This was aurally and visually the most interesting work of the night as one's eyes darted around to see where the music was coming from.

After the intermission, Robertson explained to us that a Palimpsest is a scraped over parchment. Thus, the music would mimic the layers of a palimpsest where the old scratched out writing underneath would be vague and fragmentary while the newer layers would be more full and complete. The first half of the show was dedicated to music with a smaller sound. Palimpsests utilized moments of extreme delicacy with violinists lightly rubbing the strings to others where the full orchestra was blasting away.

The final work of the scheduled program was Zimmermann's "Concerto for trumpet and orchestra (Nobody knows de trouble I see)" with the solo trumpet work of rising young Brit ALISON BALSOM. The work evoked a wide range of emotions and musical styles. To my ears there was a mix of classical, modern, gospel and jazz leaving me with a desire to tap my feet and feeling good.

After a couple of "curtain calls," Robertson took the mike and said, I know encores are rare in contemporary music concerts so since you have been such a wonderful audience, we will play Round Midnight.

This was a jazz piece arranged for orchestra. Robertson and the performers were clearly having fun on this work and the audience who had lingered enjoyed this comparatively light and breezy work after an evening of more difficult contemporary music. As such, we were delighted and responded with applause and cheers upon completion.

Check here for LAT's Mark Swed's expert analysis which I read *after* I wrote this. I always try to write my concert reviews based on my own impressions!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Devotional Thoughts: What God wants

John 13:35

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Saw this news item.

Briefly, you may recall the terrible shooting rampage at New Life Church in Colorado Springs last year.

On January 3, the parents of the shooter, Ron and Loretta Murray went to the church and met with the pastor of the church Brady Boyd who answered their questions as to what happened that fateful day of the shooting.

Part of the meeting included the parents talking with church member and volunteer security guard Jeanne Assam who wounded their son who then shot himself fatally.

A spokeswoman said, "They told Assam that they were so deeply sorry she had to do what she did. There were tears, lots of embraces, prayers."

In a moment that was deeply powerful for all involved, the Murrays met with David and Marie Works, whose daughters, Stephanie, 18, and Rachael, 16, were killed by Matthew Murray.

Pastor Boyd said, "The four of them met and hugged and cried."

The Murrays said in a written statement, "The depth of our sorrow and our grief is greater than we could possibly describe. But with thanks to God, these remarkable families and their pastors and churches, healing and reconciliation have begun."

***

Deeply moving. This is the stuff I think Jesus was talking about.

Would we love to hear the booming voice of God in the sky?

Would we welcome the sight of a burning bush and a message from God?

Yes. But ...

It is a story like this and other deeds of love and forgiveness that tell us God is at work.

And ...

I sometimes wonder if as human creatures we are so fallen that a booming voice from God would be too traumatic for us?

Even a restrained divine visitation by a holy God might leave us cowering in fear.

Instead, God has to use an entry into humanity through Jesus, nudges, living amongst us, passing on his teachings through an unruly people of God, dying a brutal death on a cross, whispers, resurrection witnessed by a finite number of people, entrusting his message to a bunch of bumbling disciples, nudges and hints and indeed love displayed by His followers.

God has to use ... me? (!!)

Lord, thank you that you have not given up on us. You have taken steps to bring us to yourself. Give me the boldness to love today and everyday. Amen.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Politics: Latest national Gallup poll ...

Here it is...

Democrat
Clinton 33%
Obama 33%
Edwards 20%

Edwards will eventually drop out... who gets his 20%?

Republican
Huckabee 25%
Giuliani 20%
McCain 19%
Thompson 12%
Romney 9%

Talk about fractured!

A simplistic way of looking at it:
Social conservatives 25% (Huckabee)
National defense conservatives 39% (Giuliani + McCain)
Economic conservatives 21% (Thompson + Romney)

The ideal GOP candidate pulls in all three legs of this table.

To get the nomination, you got to get at least two legs.

Who can do that?!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Politics: Obligatory New Hampshire Wild Guesses

Latest polling data at RCP ... check it out. Obama looks to be in for a win but it isn't clear whether it will be double digits. McCain is narrowly ahead with one poll giving Romney the lead. I think it will be very close and Romney could just as easily win by a percentage or lose by a percentage. I think the thought of an aging McCain going up against a youthful Obama might work against McCain.

My guesses ...

Obama 43
Clinton 32
Edwards 20

McCain 34
Romney 33
Huckabee 12
Giuliani 10

UPDATE: As of 9:29pm:
Clinton 39%
Obama 37%
Edwards 17%

McCain 37%
Romney 32%
Huckabee 11%
Giuliani 9%

Clearly, the shocker was Clinton's victory. I bought into the tidal wave. I should have known better that the party bosses and the mainstream older democratic voters would respond to the shock to the system. It was a case of the "Empire Strikes Back." The old guard of the party will not go quietly and hand over the keys to the kingdom to the new kids on the block. Barring scandals or major blunders it is going to go down the wire as the "grown ups" in the Democratic party will ask, are we really ready to put all our hopes in someone with so little experience? While the youngsters are saying, its our time, its our turn.

Meanwhile, the GOP pretty much ran according to form with McCain winning. The Romney camp can keep going but they need a high profile win somewhere to establish themselves. Sorry, Wyoming, your caucus going for Romney doesn't count as a high profile win. Michigan is the next big fight and Romney needs a win there.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Devotional Thoughts: How can one born of woman be pure?

Job 25 picked up with one of Job's friends speaking ... and its real short!

I guess the friends are getting tired. I think this is the shortest monologue so far?

A bit of "inside baseball" on reading the Bible before we breakdown the short speech from Bildad.

The Bible contains various literary forms. Each literary form contains sort of an "agreement" between the author and the reader. If you want to explore this idea some more check out How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth.

Anyway, in poetry, one of the things to look for is parallelism. For instance, sometimes, Line 1 will say something and line 2 will say the same thing but using different words. Or line 1 will say something and line 2 will say the opposite to make a point. And other times, line 1 will say something and line 2 will explain line 1 and even on occasion subsequent lines will explain line 1.

So what do we have here?

Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
"Dominion and awe belong to God;

Bildad's first line is then explained by the following three lines ...

he establishes order in the heights of heaven.
Can his forces be numbered?
On whom does his light not rise?

All of them are pictures of God's power.

The next set is 3 pairs of lines that say similar things but in different words.

How then can a mortal be righteous before God?
How can one born of woman be pure?

See the parallels?

Mortal = born of woman. Righteous = pure.


image source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/details.php?gid=165&sgid=&pid=1750

If even the moon is not bright
and the stars are not pure in his eyes,

Moon = stars. These are similar in that they are objects in the sky. Today, with science, we know the moon is a cold rock in space while stars are hot fiery massive objects. But to the ancients, they were lights in the sky.

Not bright = not pure.

Again, the theme of purity and how we are not pure compared to God.

how much less a mortal, who is but a maggot -
a human being, who is only a worm!"

Mortal = human being. Maggot = worm. Technically, maggots and worms aren't the same kind of thing. But they are icky crawly things! I resisted the temptation to link to an image of a worm or a maggot.

Is Bildad wrong in what he is saying?

As a general observation on the state of humanity, it is a correct assessment.

But in the case of Job, it isn't relevant. Yes, he is born of a woman and a sinner. But he has also cast himself before God and is righteous in God's eyes such that God has allowed Job to be tested to demonstrate faith in difficult circumstances.

Lord, I come before you in humility knowing you are a powerful and righteous God and that I'm sinful and mortal. Yet, I can come boldly because you have cleansed me through Jesus. I can be shamelessly audacious in asking you for help in the meeting the needs of others. Please give wisdom to friends who are making important decisions. Please provide for the needs of people I know regarding employment issues. I do not know who might click on this blog post but whatever their need might be, may they seek you for help. Help me to live righteously with honesty when I fall short. Give me a mix of love, boldness and humility in how I interact with others. Amen.

Politics: Debate impressions

Disclaimer: My politics views are center-right. So that is where I'm coming from but I do try to be fair minded. So in the words similar to Fox News, I blog you decide! 8-)

Obama clearly has got the big Mo. Unless he blunders on the campaign trail or some scandal breaks out, I just don't see the Clinton forces able to resist this tidal wave.

Meanwhile on the Republican side, the divisions within the party has things murky.

Saw parts of the two Republican debates and a little bit of the Democratic debate. Since I'll be voting in the GOP primary I paid more attention to those debates.

So my only comment about the little bit I saw on the Democratic debate is to quote what K-Lo said over at NRO:
Saturday, January 05, 2008
From the Audience [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
"Debate drinking game - every time a Democrat says "change" take a drink."
01/05 09:39 PM
If I took her advice while watching the small snippet I saw, I'd have fallen down, passed out and suffered a bad hangover! 8-)

Okay, on the GOP side, I think Romney did pretty well as did Thompson. Both came across as sensible though Romney was a bit more polished and energetic. But I like Thompson's calmness too. Mayor Rudy at one point said, I got a 12-point plan and then mentioned 6 of the items. I think he needs to sharpen his message up! McCain has energy but he might have come across as a bit shrill on Saturday night. On Sunday night he was more mellow. I suspect his advisors asked him to tone down the attack dog routine. Huckabee might be in over his head but he is onto something with his populist instincts. Some aspects of his message and his constituency must be folded into the eventual GOP nominee if the Republicans are to have a fighting chance in November.

At this moment, you'd have to say we are looking at President Obama. But in politics, things can change very quickly so we shall see!

UPDATE: Well, there you go... New Hampshire shakes up the etch-a-sketch!!!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Bookshelf: First In by Gary C. Schroen

I went to the Los Angeles Public Library branch near where I lived and browsed the current events section and found First In - An insider's account of how the CIA spearheaded the war on terror in Afghanistan.

Reads like a page turning novel!

Hats off to the courage of the first team to go into Afghanistan and all who fought against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

9/11. A little over 7 years ago. Hard to imagine it happened.

It seems like ancient history in our 24/7 fast paced life and times.

What happened in Afghanistan happened very quickly and mostly out of the public eye.

This book sheds light on those momentous events.

A quick recap of the major events ...

September 9, 2001 - Masood, commander of the Northern Alliance was assassinated by Al-Qaeda

September 11 - Al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes resulting in thousands of deaths in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania.

September 14, Gary Schroen asked to lead first CIA team into Afghanistan.

September 19, Schroen and team members fly from the USA.

September 26, with over-flight permissions from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the first American boots hit the ground in the Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan to begin working with the Northern Alliance.

November 14, the Northern Alliance liberated Kabul.

The book recounts how Schroen and his CIA team (7 members) assembled the personnel, equipment (with trips to REI no less!), $3 million in cash (they would get an additional shipment of $10 million) and made plans for engaging the Northern Alliance.

In fascinating detail with page turning urgency, the book followed how all that unfolded including dealing with prickly personalities within the Northern Alliance as well as warring decision makers back in Washington DC. Also included was how the best made plans often get botched and the confusion that happens whenever nations go to war.

The team did its job and helped the Northern Alliance take down the Taliban.

A great read. Highly recommended. Hollywood should make a movie based on this book.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Politics: Iowa fallout - Republicans are divided

The traditional analysis is that the GOP is divided into social conservatives, economic conservatives and national security conservatives.

Using this filter, we can see why the GOP field is fractured.

Huckabee has got the corner on the social conservatives.

Paul has got the libertarian wing of the economic conservatives.

McCain and Giuliani are drawing from the national security conservatives.

Romney is drawing a little bit from all three.

Thompson had the potential to draw from all three but his candidacy is sitting on the launch pad fizzled.

Hugh Hewitt and the National Review's endorsement of Romney make the case that Romney is the full spectrum conservative that could pull together a coalition for victory in the general election.

The question for Team Mitt is can they ratchet up the passion level and increase the size of their draw from the three wings of the party?

Will he be able to say to the social conservatives who are backing Huckabee, I know I'm Mormon and not an evangelical Christian but I care about the issues you do, will you join me?

Will he be able to say to the libertarian economic conservatives, Paul is onto something and I want you to know since I have experience in the business world, I hear your concerns, will you join me?

Will he be able to say to the national security conservatives, I honor McCain's military service and backing President Bush on the surge. I admire the leadership Mayor Giuliani showed on 9/11 and his tough mindset against Islamic extremism. I can assure you I will bring in the best people to protect our nation and fully recognize America's unique place in the world, will you join me?

Huckabee isn't credible with the national security conservatives nor the economic conservatives and if the money doesn't start flowing in, the Iowa win will be duly noted and quickly forgotten. But who will collect his supporters or will they just go home?

Paul isn't going to drop out because he feels he is on a mission to be the voice for that wing of the party and he has the money to keep going. Paul's voters will punch that chad all the way to the very end. They will back the GOP nominee in November in any case.

McCain draws the independent and reform minded Republicans and national security first and foremost conservatives but alienates the mainstream GOP. He needs the win in New Hampshire and fresh cash to keep going.

Giuliani draws from the can-do, moderate and national security first and foremost Republicans but alienates the social conservatives. He has the cash and is placing all his bets on Florida and super duper Tuesday. If he can get a strong showing somewhere before that, then his strategy has a better chance of working.

The precedent for his strategy is Bill Clinton in 1992. Clinton knew he would lose Iowa to favorite son Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. Clinton knew he would lose New Hampshire to neighboring Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas. So he placed all his bets on Super Tuesday and won enough delegates to propel himself to the front of the line. He did have the advantage of a strong showing in his loss in New Hampshire to get some momentum going forward.

So where do we go from here?

In classical argumentation, there is logos, pathos and ethos.

I think Romney's case is "logos," based on reason.

But politics has a certain (a lot actually!) of pathos!

How can one explain the size of Obama's and Huckabee's victory in Iowa?

How can one explain Romney putting so much energy into Iowa and only getting 25%?

It may be a strained analogy but Eharmony's approach is find compatibility and then see if there is chemistry. Romney might be the compatible candidate for conservatives but I'm wondering if the chemistry is missing?

Unless Romney can generate some passion for his candidacy, he is in trouble.

He needs to get a win either in New Hampshire or Michigan. If he goes 0-3, its three strikes and your out.

If he can't pull the threads of the party together soon, I think Mayor Rudy has the best chance to pull enough of the factions together to make a go of it.

Politics: Iowa fallout - Democrats choice is past or future?

Unless Obama has some scandal hidden that comes out of the woodworks or if he totally bungles debate performances that shows he isn't ready for prime time, he may well be the Democrat nominee and the next president.

The dynamics on the Democratic side is simple: past or future?

Edwards is the past and had his last hurrah in Iowa. His populist message is going to be overwhelmed by the new wave backing Obama.

Clinton is the past and will not go easily into the night. She represents the mainstream Democrat wing which is substantial. But another wipe out like Iowa in New Hampshire, she is done, toast, finished. She has the organization to weather a narrow defeat but clearly, they want a win. They can say Bill Clinton didn't win Iowa nor New Hampshire but the analogy doesn't wash as 1992 was a multi-candidate field with favorite sons in play. This is one-on-one and if Clinton can't get a win soon, she's done.

As I have mentioned before, she has none of the charm of her husband and all his negatives.

What worries me is that Obama is a blank slate and people are stampeding to him. People are investing all this hope for the future on what is essentially an unknown quantity.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Politics: Iowa delivers the obligatory surprises

My forecast was:
Huckabee 29%
Romney 28%
McCain 14%
Thompson 13%
Giuliani 10%
Paul 6%

Obama 35%
Clinton 34%
Edwards 31%

What happened?

As of 9:18pm:
Obama 38%
Edwards 30%
Clinton 29%

Huckabee 34%
Romney 25%
Thompson 13%
McCain 13%
Paul 10%
Giuliani 3%

I felt that Obama's support was real. Supporters who think they are making history will turn out. But I am surprised at the size of his victory.

Meanwhile, on the GOP side, I felt Huckabee would win by hanging on. Suffice to say, I'm surprised it turned into a 9% point rout!

The road ahead?

Clinton needs a win in New Hampshire. Clinton could survive a narrow loss due to nation wide strength but their campaign will be on the edge. But another pasting like this and they are done, stick a fork in em. This was Edward's last hurrah. He needed to win or be very close to winning to keep him going. He will crater in New Hampshire and will be done.

On the GOP side, Romney needs a win in New Hampshire. If Romney can't win in a neighboring state, he is done. He can keep going due to a national campaign organization. However, two loses in the two places where he placed his bets is not a good indicator of electability and his support will evaporate. Huckabee has little support in New Hampshire but the buzz from Iowa will allow him to ride onward past NH.

Art: Aldrich's "All Nature Sings" Jan 5 - Feb 2, 2008



Wanted to post this item for people who enjoy contemporary art that is NOT on the "ick" side nor the "I could have done that" realm. There might be some "I'm not sure what it is" feelings but they are thoughtful objects and are always well crafted that encourage contemplation and wonder.

Lynn Aldrich is a friend of mine who works in that space.

The exhibit starts Jan 5 and runs until Feb 2, 2008 at the Carl Berg Gallery.

6018 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles CA 90036
tel: 323-931-6060

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Devotional Thoughts: Compline

Compline - according to Wikipedia, the final church service (or Office) of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours.

One tradition of this office is the one described in the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer.

It is meant to occur in a congregational setting with parts spoken by the clergy and with parts by the laity. But since I'm sitting here this evening writing on my own there won't be any distinction.

Material taken straight from the BCP will be in italics and my meditations in regular font.

The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect
end. Amen.

Our help is in the Name of the Lord;
The maker of heaven and earth.

Let us confess our sins to God.

Lord, how often today was my attention not on the person speaking to me? Teach me to honor the moments I have conversations with others. Lord, how often were my thoughts drifting off into places they should not dwell? I know my waywardness. Give me ears to hear your Spirit calling me to holiness and strength of will to displace my sinful thoughts with mediations on what is good, true and beautiful. Amen.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father:
We have sinned against you,
through our own fault,
in thought, and word, and deed,
and in what we have left undone.
For the sake of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
forgive us all our offenses;
and grant that we may serve you
in newness of life,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

May the Almighty God grant us forgiveness of all our sins,
and the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as
it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Alleluia.

Psalm 31
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame:
deliver me in your righteousness.
Incline your ear to me;
make haste to deliver me.
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold;
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me,
for you are my tower of strength.
Into your hands I commend my spirit,
for you have redeemed me,
O Lord, O God of truth.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Lord, you are in the midst of us, and we are called by your
Name: Do not forsake us, O Lord our God.
-- Jeremiah 14:9,22

Thanks be to God.

At this point, the BCP recommends a hymn to be sung. I went to my iTunes and listened to Vicky Beeching - Yesterday, Today, And Forever Excerpt:
Uncreated One
You have no end and no beginning
Earthly power fades
But there is no end to Your kingdom
Always loving, always true
Always merciful and good, so good
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit;
For you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth.
Keep us, O Lord, as the apple of your eye;
Hide us under the shadow of your wings.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Lord, hear our prayer;
And let our cry come to you.
Let us pray.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours
of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and
chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

Lord, I think of friends 1/2 a world away serving you in India. It is night here in Los Angeles and they are in the midst of their morning. Lord, give them wisdom to know how to meet the needs of those they serve. Guard their health. Watch over their souls and protect them from discouragement. Please meet their financial needs that they may remain in the field of service as you lead them. Amen.

Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

The almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
bless us and keep us. Amen.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Politics: Iowa starts it up

My favorite one stop shop for political commentary is RCP. They have daily links to various news and comment sites and strive to have a mix of left and right leaning sources.

Their poll round up is handy.

Iowa is on the center stage.

On the Democratic side the key is whether the Obama supporters will turn out. Dean was the hot candidate in 2004 but when push came to shove his voters didn't turn out. Clinton has a core of supporters as much as a core of people who won't vote for her. Her supporters will turn out. Those who wouldn't vote for her might or might not turn out to support Obama or Edwards. And of course, there is a core of voters who support Obama believing they will make history. How will they feel on the night to go out into the cold to show that support? My guess is that Obama's supporters are going to turn out unlike the Deanics!

My "political instincts" tell me it will be a virtual tie between Obama and Clinton; they will finish within one percentage point of each other. I'd say Obama eeks out a very narrow win but the spinners will say it is essentially a tie. Edwards will lag back five or more percentage points.

On the Republican side, I predict it will be a virtual tie between Huckabee and Romney. Also, within a percentage point. I think McCain will edge Thompson by a percentage or two.

So here is my Iowa Caucus Forecast!

Obama
Clinton -1
Edwards -7

Huckabee
Romney -1
McCain -15
Thompson -16

We shall see what the numbers are on January 3rd!

UPDATE: My final prediction has been entered into the Townhall Pool under rrblog ...

rrblog writes: Thursday, January, 03, 2008 4:44 PM

predictions

Huckabee 29%
Romney 28%
McCain 14%
Thompson 13%
Giuliani 10%
Paul 6%

Obama 35%
Clinton 34%
Edwards 31%