Why I admire Catholics

I'm not a fan of Catholicism because of its heavy liturgy and lack of biblical support for such. I don't see the word "Pope" in the Bible, haven't seen an example in the Bible where dead people can hear prayers (Catholics pray to Mary), and don't believe that Mary was without sin (the word "immaculate" in immaculate conception isn't a reference to Jesus but rather Mary--the Catholic church believes Mary had to be without sin in order to give birth to the Son of God).

I don't necessarily agree with the Catholic church, though I freely admit I may very well be dead wrong. I admire Catholics in their consistency of message regarding the value of life. The basic tenet of their message is that they support life by opposing state-sponsored or state-sanctioned activities that terminate life. This means that they oppose abortion. Notice the period at the end of that sentence. There's no asterisk exempting certain circumstances such as rape, incest, or life of the mother. The Catholic church also opposes the death penalty.

Probably because of my vengeful nature, I was a proponent of the death penalty until several years ago when I realized it's actually more expensive to execute a prisoner than to keep them incarcerated for life. It doesn't sound logical, but the additional legal expenses borne by the state for death penalty cases actually outweigh the cost of keeping someone incarcerated (and all of the expenses associated with that) for life. This fact alone didn't make me an opponent of the death penalty, but it did get me thinking about the Biblical justification cited by Christians for supporting the death penalty. The most frequently cited passage is from the Israelites' penal code in Exodus 21:23-25 which states,

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
The problem with using this verse if you're a New Testament Christian is that Jesus had a few things to say about this verse in Matthew 5:38-42:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Oh yeah, there's also that verse in Romans 12:19 where Paul writes,
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. [New American Standard Bible translation]
So I started to have my own personal doubts about where I stood on the death penalty. And then a couple of years ago I saw the movie The Life of David Gale. This movie alone wouldn't have made me a death penalty opponent, but it, coupled with the financial reality that life in prison is cheaper than execution and the lack of biblical support for execution pushed me over the edge. So I agree with the Catholic church on this subject.

I won't get into my beliefs on the subject of abortion, but I will say that I respect the Catholic church's stance regarding this subject, especially compared to that of many in the Protestant camp who oppose abortion and yet believe that there can be man-made exceptions where abortion is okay such as rape, incest, and life of the mother. Most of the verses I've read which are quoted by Protestant anti-abortion advocates are in the Israelite penal code found in the Old Testament of the Bible, under which New Testament Christians are not bound. And in none of those verses did I find an asterisk exempting these three exceptions.

You'll notice in the previous paragraph I used the term Protestant "anti-abortion advocates" rather than "pro-life advocates" because of the reason for my blog today.

The Catholic church is absolute in its unabashed support for life whereas many Protestants carry the convoluted and seemingly hypocritical stance of being FOR the life of an unborn child while being AGAINST the life of an unborn child if the mother is raped, AGAINST the life of an unborn child if the mother has been impregnated by a family member, AGAINST the life of an unborn child if the life of the mother is in peril, and AGAINST the life of a convicted felon who has been sentenced to death. Maybe it's me, but that doesn't sound "pro-life".


Politics and the Golden Rule

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus says,

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
This may be a familiar verse to you--it's known as the Golden Rule.

As a Christian the more I learn about how America, the birthplace of democracy, is executing the war in Iraq, the more concerned I get about where our country is heading. I'm not so naive as to believe that the Golden Rule makes good politics, but for Christians, good politics should be secondary to "doing the right thing" or by answering the question, "What would Jesus do?"

I don't claim to have any divine insight into the mind of God, but I do read my Bible enough to state confidently that He would not jail a man's wife and use her as leverage to apprehend a suspect. And He certainly wouldn't do this to the young mother of a nursing baby.

Imagine if the police in your town were trying to find a robbery suspect, and failing to locate him, they instead chose to arrest and jail the suspect's wife. The town would be up in arms! Hell, the country would be up in arms. It would never happen in America one would hope, and yet it was reported today that our own U.S. Army is doing this very thing in Iraq.

This article reminded me of one I read less than two years ago detailing detention of children in Iraq. One particular story is frightening--the abuse of a 16 year-old boy in front of his father in order to get the father to "break". Guilty or not, I'd do and say anything to prevent the abuse of my daughters.

I believe America needs to take a long hard look at itself and ask if the means justify the end? I would hope and pray that Christians would be at the forefront leading this discussion, but the realist/cynic in me believes that most Christians have a misplaced faith in our leaders to "do the right thing". My question to them is, "What would Jesus do?"


Aaron Brown agrees

I like Aaron Brown, the former CNN NewsNight anchor. He's very human, rational, speaks his mind, all of which I find lacking in today's news. Mr. Brown had just joined CNN, and his live coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City will forever be burned in my memory.

After my comments yesterday about confirmation bias, I found it ironic to read an article in the Palm Beach Daily News about a speech Brown gave on Tuesday. Call it my own confirmation bias, but his words perfectly summarize my thoughts:

Many Americans on the left and the right aren't interested in the truth, but simply want news that confirms their viewpoints, he said. "You'd think that it's no more complex than good vs. evil," he said.

Journalists have fallen short in presenting important news in ways that allow viewers to see how it matters in their lives. But viewers must take up the battle as well, he said. "It's not enough to say you want serious news. You have to watch it. It isn't enough to say you want serious debate. You have to engage in it."


Confirmation bias

No, this has nothing to do with the Alito confirmation vote.

Most of my friends are die-hard Republicans who watch Fox News, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and read The American Spectator. I don't belittle anyone for being Republican, watching Fox News, listening to Rush Limbaugh, or reading The American Spectator. People (on both the left and the right) tend to seek support for what they already believe rather than seek out information that might undermine their beliefs, and therein lies the danger... when individuals follow this path to the exclusion of all other sources of news & information, they isolate themselves from reality.

If one of my friends were to stumble upon my musings, chances are they would seek out errors in my reasoning so that they can dismiss everything I say. It's human nature--everyone tends to be this way. We often overlook flaws in the arguments of sympathetic believers, and we go all-out to find the flaws in arguments of others. This double standard is known as confirmation bias in psychology.

It's why a very close friend didn't know that Cheney's daughter is gay until the Cheney/Edwards debate--he watches Fox News exclusively, which has its own bias. In fact, a study published in the Political Science Quarterly in the Winter 2003-2004 issue showed that Fox viewers were more likely than viewers of any other network to hold the following three erroneous views: 1) 67% of Fox viewers believed that the "U.S. has found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al Qaeda terrorist organization" [NOTE: The U.S. has found no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda, despite Cheney's repeated claims otherwise.] ; 2) 33% of Fox viewers believed that the "U.S. has found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction since the war ended" [NOTE: Wrong again.]; 3) 35% of Fox viewers believed that "the majority of people [in the world] favor the U.S. having gone to war" with Iraq [NOTE: They don't.] This isn't a slam on Fox--it just shows that confirmation bias is real.

I'm really open minded and actually enjoy hearing views which conflict with mine if I'm given the opportunity to discuss & debate these views. I'm not so bold or prideful to think I've got everything figured out, and thus the title of my blog. I recently had two situations where close friends pushed their ideology on me without challenging their own ideological notions. Sure, it's disappointing to have close-minded friends who believe the complexities of politics & life can be summarized into 15-second soundbites, but what disappoints me most is that they refuse to challenge their own beliefs, believe the media--any media, don't seek out other ideas or perspectives, and refuse to have a rational discussion about the subject. They know they're right--to hell with everyone else. Without realizing it, they limit themselves through self-imposed ignorance... but not as they see it!

And one parting note: it's unfair to assume this confirmation bias exists exclusively with those on the right. Because of where I live and my church affiliation, most of my friends and acquaintances lean heavily Republican, but it would be foolish to think Democrats don't harbor the same confirmation bias. My plea is this: challenge everything & seek out conflicting opinions & beliefs.


West Wing gets canned

I can fortunately count on two fingers the number of shows I watch religiously, and the show with the longest tenure in our household is The West Wing.

I'm disappointed yet not surprised to learn that it's been cancelled. I think the show was really killed nearly 3 years ago when Aaron Sorkin left the show, but last year the writing improved which gave me hope that NBC might be trying to keep it alive. Of course declining ratings driven by NBC's moving the show from Wednesday to Sunday nights was the deathblow, but for the reasons behind NBC's moves, Russell Shaw has authored a great explanation on why the show was really cancelled.

I can thank Staci for the other show we now watch... Lost.


Toddler TV from MobiCam

My MobiCam Wireless NightVision Cameras and AV Receiver finally arrived, and we now have fun watching the Fiona channel whenever our Sony babyCall monitor alerts us that our toddler is awake or stirring. The only negatives I've found so far are that 1) the cameras require users to manually switch between NightVision and Color -and- 2) they broadcast over 2.4 GHz, so if you have 2.4 GHz cordless phones (or a wireless baby monitor) you'll occasionally have interference or worse, lose the video entirely. There are 3 different channels you can select to reduce this interference, but I haven't been able to completely eliminate it.

The cameras do have audio, but it's not great, so I normally mute the sound and rely on the other baby monitor for audio.

I'm not afraid of running wires through walls and into the attic and would still like to find a good (but inexpensive) setup with infrared cameras and a receiver that connects to a TV allowing viewers to watch each or all of the cameras, but until then the MobiCam system gets an 8 out of 10.


A miracle arrives

I've been away for several days to be a part of a miracle.

Anyone claiming that God doesn't exist or that miracles don't happen has probably never been part of the sperm or egg that contributed to the birth of a baby. Piper, my second daughter arrived shortly after midnight on Friday morning. As the sperm donor in the equation of life, I mostly play the position of quarterback for a running football team in this 40-week game of pregnancy, and my wife is the star running back. Just like in football, the most exciting moments are the final two minutes.

Delivery was at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, ranked first in the nation for the most babies delivered at a community hospital. The hospital does everything they can to make this a joyful & pleasant experience for everyone involved, and this starts with the labor & delivery room (one of 40) which reminded me of a large, plush hotel suite with hardwood floors. My wife and I enjoyed our last several hours of quiet before she received an epidural, the most painful part of her delivery. The star running back's job was complete, and she and our new daughter are both doing very well. After Piper's birth, we were able to spend a couple of hours alone with her before nurses arrived to give our baby a bath. They apologized for the delay and explained that they were completely slammed with deliveries.

By now it was about 4:30am, and a nurse arrived to let us know that we would be temporarily moving to a makeshift postpartum room because of the arrival of so many babies that evening. We were assured that this would not be long. So around 5:30am Friday morning we were moved to a "cubicle with a screen" labeled LH24 which was located in the main section of the hospital, away from the womens' center. The joyful and pleasant experience of my daughter's arrival in the labory & delivery room was about to turn ugly as the LH24 was nothing but noisy & bright. I later heard someone comment that LH stood for 'Loud as Hell', and while I'm not sure how loud hell is, LH24 was loud and I was pissed.

Once the baby arrived, I'm responsible for stepping up as the leader and quarterback of this team. I'm a reasonable guy, so I understand that Northside can't help the fact that they had more deliveries than anticipated. The first nurse came in to let us know her name & see if my wife needed anything. We asked her to give us her best & worst case scenarios for when we might get a room. When she said, "early afternoon" for the best case scenario, my blood boiled. I'm responsible for my wife's well-being as well as that of my newborn daughter, and since it had been over 24 hours since either my wife or I had slept, I wanted one of their real postpartum rooms -or- I wanted to be discharged since the delivery went so well and home sounded so peaceful & quiet. I alerted the nursing supervisor that we would be checking out at 11:00am if we weren't in a real postpartum room. I wasn't profane or rude, but I was firm.

Around 7:00am a nurse arrived for Piper to be checked out by a pediatrician. A rule my wife and I had from our first daughter's birth is to never let the baby out of your sight, and we carried this rule to Piper. I went with the nurse through the hallways onto the elevator to see the pediatrician. On the elevator, my daughter started spitting up and couldn't catch her breath. While the nurse tried to get her airways clear by patting her on the back, I tried to clean out her mouth with a bulb syringe, but she couldn't catch her breath and her lips started turning blue--a horrible and scary sign. When the elevator doors opened, the nurse bolted with my daughter to the nursery where she finally spit up and was immediately administered oxygen. Now I would never jeopardize the health or safety of my wife or daughter, so my plan for checking out at 11:00am was out the window given my daughter's choking spell... but that threat was the only leverage I had in trying to get us a room immediately. Fortunately the attending nurse took up our cause, and within an hour we were in our new room.

Mom and baby are now at home, and we've had no more choking spells. Our oldest daughter is amused by the latest addition. Daddy can't keep the smile off his face--I'm so blessed to be surrounded by the most wonderful and beautiful girls, my wife included. And they even let me watch the AFC and NFC championship games!


Why I blog

I've had several people ask me recently why I decided to start this blog so I thought I'd come clean.

Very quick background: I don't consider myself a bleeding-heart liberal Democrat. Likewise, I'm not a greed-is-good Republican either. I'm technically a libertarian who believes in limited (small) government, an equitable tax structure, diplomacy over bombs, and balancing the budget followed by paying off the debt. I actually prefer governmental gridlock--I think the less government "works", the less taxpayers get screwed.

Romans 14:13 says, "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way."

As is pretty clear, I attend North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA. It bothers me walking through the church parking lot every Sunday morning where 90% of the minivans & SUVs have bumper stickers touting either Bush/Cheney '04, "W", or both. That is a huge stumbling block to me. My first thought on how to respond to these stickers was to apply a politically offensive one (an "F the President" might have caught someone's attention), but my wife convinced me otherwise pointing out that I would have been guilty of the same offense as the others. My wife is the rational one in our family, so she put a "God is not a Republican... or a Democrat" sticker on her minivan.

I had a Mennonite friend ask me last summer why I attend such a "Republican" church, and my response was, "you go where the need is greatest." I do like to hear Andy Stanley preach, but his occasional love-fest with our president usually prompts a letter from me.

So I really decided to start this blog because I needed a place to vent. It's helped me articulate my frustration with our government. If I open and influence a few hearts and minds along the way, that's great too. Of course the topics have evolved over the last 6 months, but I'll never stay quiet for long, especially when a christian demands the authority to torture. No wonder christianity has such a bad rap in the middle east--first the crusades, and now this!


Current reads

I'm not a web junkie or blog-reading addict, but I do have my list of favorites. So in no particular order, here they are:

Our Daily Bread
I try to start off my day with this to give me perspective.

Monday Morning Quarterback
I really like Sports Illustrated writer Peter King's style--he's human & shares two decades of experience when writing about the NFL. While he's not an Ohio boy like me, he did go to college there and worked for the Cincinnati Enquirer. I'm becoming an NFL junkie, and MMQB is my second read every Monday morning during the NFL season.

Digital Rule: The Blog
Rich Karlgaard is the publisher of Forbes & author of Life 2.0 who writes on life, business, and the world economy.

The Daily Show
In case you haven't picked this up already, I'm a cynical, independent-minded voter who doesn't trust Republicans or Democrats to do, solve, or save me from anything. I think that Jon Stewart is hilarious, and apparently so do 1.3 million others. While it doesn't have a blog, I watch the previous night's video.

Adam Cleaveland is a student at Princeton Theological Seminary & writes about life, faith, and the marriage of the two.

While it's not a blog (though I wish it was!), I subscribe to Sojourners' weekly "email-zine of spirituality, politics, and culture." I'm always eager to read articles from David Batstone and Jim Wallis.


My deal of the year

My personal computer is a MicroCenter PowerSpec that I bought a year and a half ago to replace an older PowerSpec that had lost most of the functions of its integrated devices -- the on-board video, modem/ethernet, and serial ports were all dead. I had chalked this up to bad luck and was seduced into getting another PC from this same manufacturer by price. My current PC worked okay for the first six months, and then it began to intermittently reboot. I didn't want to go through the hassle of trying to get this repaired because I had a lot of data on it and didn't want to have to back up 60GB worth of files, so I tolerated this annoyance. As the warranty expired at the year mark the problem got progressively worse, and now a day doesn't go by that the computer doesn't shut down with a memory dump or just reboot. I thought the problem might be too much heat in the case so I installed a set of fans in an empty 5.25" drive bay as well as another one on the back of the PC, but the problem persists.

So as I mentioned in a note a few days ago, I've been reading the FatWal!et forums (specifically, Hot Deals) for a while with an eye towards finding a swinging deal on a new computer. Last week I read a posting indicating Office Depot had a 19" CRT monitor for $24 AR (after rebate). While I'd prefer getting a new 19" LCD, I knew I couldn't beat $24 for a monitor so I checked online to see if my local store had one of these available for pickup... and I lucked out--they had only one. Just before clicking "purchase" I scanned through the FW postings again and noticed that there was a coupon code good for $30 off, so I went back to my online shopping cart and added the code... it worked! After tax, I'm amazed that I'm paying less than $2 for taking this monitor off their hands.

Now all I needed was a new computer, and FW came through for me again. I read where CompUSA was going to have a great sale over the MLK weekend. Their loss leader was a Compaq Presario SR1710NX with everything that I needed for $374.99 + $22.50 tax, but then the rebates kicked in--a $200 CompUSA rebate along with a $50 Compaq rebate, bringing the price to $147.49 AR. At this price, I couldn't resist and picked one up on Sunday.

I might be surprised, but I'm guessing that this new 19" monitor + Compaq Presario for less than $150 will be my deal of the year. And yes, with this much $ at stake, the rebate forms are in the mail.


I think I'm a cheap bastard, but I don't come close to these guys...

I'm ordinarily a very frugal person, and perhaps I'm wired more differently than I think. I prefer to do auto repair work myself on my 10 year-old car that has 150k miles, I'd rather eat in than out, and it pains me to pay retail for anything. Yes, anything. And yet in the last 8 years, my wife has helped me understand and quantify the value of my time. When we were first married I used to drive 5 miles out of the way to save 10 cents a gallon on gas. If a store was selling something for $10 less after rebate than another store, I'd buy from the store with the rebate... even though it was often more expensive up front than the other retailer, but in my mind I rationalized that I'd save $10 with the rebate.

One of the first lessons about the value of my time happened shortly after we'd been married, and I ran out of gas. Yes, I was trying to get to the "cheap" gas station, but in doing so I passed a half dozen other stations and spent 2 hours stuck on the shoulder of I-75 waiting for AAA to arrive. I didn't plan to tell my wife about the incident, but I suck at keeping secrets from her. So after telling her the story, our conversation went something like this...
Wife: What would you have paid not to have dealt with running out of gas and waiting 2 hours on the side of the freeway?
Me: $100
Wife: How much were you going to save?
Me: [Thinking. 18 gallon tank X ten cents a gallon cheaper...] $2 at the most
Wife: So in trying to save $2 you lost 2 hours of your life that you'll never get back, and those hours were worth $100. Learn anything?
Me: Yeah, sometimes men prefer dumb blondes to smart brunettes
Wife: Not if they like sleeping in bed with their wives, they don't
Me: I need to go walk the dogs

Now when the gas tank is low, I fill it. It still bugs me if I pay more than I think I should, but as a means of pacifying this angst, I got a AAA Visa card that gives me 5% cash back on gas purchases.

On the subject of things being cheaper with rebates, I've come to learn that having ADD -and- filling out & submitting rebates by their deadlines are often incompatable. I've been "screwed" numerous times by missing a due date and just recently submitted a rebate and forgot to put a stamp on the envelope, thus missing the dealine. I still find it hard to pass up a great deal like the 19" monitor I picked up for $24 after rebate (I'll share the story about this in a couple of days), but I now try to avoid purchases requiring rebates.

So all of that is background for why I've been reading the FatWal!et (FW) forums over the last couple of months. I appreciate the mission of getting the best price and admire the passion of many of the "OPs", or Original Posters, i.e., the first users to alert others to a deal. These guys are militant about getting a bargain. They drive all over town to check inventory (lest they alert an employee to a closeout deal in which case the employee may claim the item is OOS--out of stock and buy up the inventory for themselves), have special credit cards so they can be refunded the difference if a purchased item goes down in price within X number of days, set up systems for managing and tracking rebates, frequent retail stores that give 110% price match guarantees, and do just about anything to get a free item. I'll confess to taking part in a few shenanigans in order to get a blowout deal, but I'm a dwarf amongst giants in the land of FatWal!et.


Dividends are my friend

In the last 4 years I've put most of my investment dollars into residential (rental) real estate, shifting it away from stocks & mutual funds. Of course I'm always looking for a good return and have always liked dividend stocks, especially those that have a company-sponsored DRIP.

One such stock is NovaStar Financial (NFI), which I've been purchasing for the last 3 years and in whose DRIP I participate. I'm reminded of NovaStar because they just paid out another dividend and issued their November production numbers today.

NovaStar is a mortgage real estate investment (mREIT) company offering nonconforming loans. Because of their mREIT status, they must pay out 90% of taxable income to remain a REIT and 100% of taxable income to avoid income tax. It's odd, but tax accounting is totally different than "real" or "GAAP" accounting, which is why the company can pay out 100% of its taxable income and still continue to operate. In the 3 years I've been buying NovaStar, this payout has consistently resulted in a 20~25% dividend. 2005 dividends were $5.60 per share, which equates to a 19% dividend based upon NFI's current stock price of ~ $30. Despite higher interest rates and an earlier Thanksgiving than normal, their November non-conforming production was up from $690 million in November of last year to $714 this year along with WAC (weighted average coupon = the average interest rate customers pay NFI) rising from 7.65% in 11/04 to 7.9% in 11/05, and the average FICO (credit score) going from 623 in 11/04 to 636 in 11/05.

The stock is trading about 40% off its 52-week high, and if you read the Yahoo message board for NFI, you'll find a lot of discussion about naked short sellers bearing the blame for this. While I think their arguments have merit given the stock is consistently on the failure-to-deliver or SHO list, I also think that the complexities of understanding the difference between GAAP vs. taxable income spook many investors, including those who do so professionally.

The purpose of discussing NFI isn't to promote the stock, though--it's to promote DRIP investing. In fact, being a DRIP participant, I prefer the stock to remain depressed as long as the company continues to crank out dividends. One good resources for finding other companies that sponsor DRIPs is at Computershare.



Dear Wives and Girlfriends,

If you live in the Eastern Time Zone and have been wondering why your husbands and boyfriends have developed a habit over the last year of going to bed after 1:00am, it's probably not "you". Of course if your significant other isn't going to bed because he's on the phone with your best friend "just chatting", then it may be you. That's for you and Dr. Phil to resolve.

The reason many of us geeks find ourselves going to bed after 1:00am is the Internet. No, it's not porn that's keeping us up... well, statistically I guess there are some for whom porn is the cause of late-night computer use, but the cause I am here to discuss is Woot.

Each day at midnight Central Time, Woot posts an item for sale, and it's usually at an outrageously bargain-basement price. The item is available for sale until it sells out or until midnight the next weeknight, when the next item goes live (unless you see flashing lights, in which case a Woot-Off is underway). I just started converting our family movies from mini-DV tapes to AVI files and needed more storage, so I picked up a 250GB hard drive last night for $49.99 + $5 shipping. Who can beat that? It's better than the Friday after Thanksgiving deals!

Lest you think Woot is the lone culprit, there are others: MidnightBox, 1deal1day, SnapGone (currently down), and steepANDcheap. But just a warning, wives and girlfriends, checking these sites can become habit-forming.


Cost of war

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. -Matthew 5:9

On December 15, 2005, our President owned up to the fact that Iraq did not have and was not producing weapons of mass destruction, his original justification for going to war. Bush stated, "It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As president, I'm responsible for the decision to go into Iraq...."

We can finally put a dollar cost on that mistake. Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2001, and Linda Bilmes, a Harvard budget expert, released a study yesterday showing that the real financial cost borne by the U.S. for the war in Iraq will be between 1 and 2 trillion dollars. To put that in context, that's between $3,357 and $6,715 for every man, woman, and child in America. Oh, and just a reminder, we don't have the money to pay for this so we're having to borrow the money.

Those figures, by the way, are on top of the $27,411 every man, woman, and child in America already owes because our government has racked up a debt of $8,165,647,324,627.69 as of today.

Since our government has chosen to skip the Dover Test, the human cost of war is often seen as a statistic the media and politicians kick around when it hits nice round numbers. Be prepared for the hype within the next couple of months when this number hits 2,500. I think it's important to recognize the following numbers as more than statistics--they're mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters: the U.S. has lost 2.210 service members, the U.K. has lost 98, and other members of the coalition of the "you're either for us or you're against us" have lost 103. Americans have also had over 16,000 wounded. And did you know we have one soldier officially classified as captured? I didn't.

Not to be glib, but while the death of a member of our armed forces is heartbreaking, it's to be expected--we're at war. Unfortunately the loss of civilian life is something that has been completely overlooked by the media. During the U.S. and allied invasion of Iraq, over 7,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. Since then, estimates range from a low of 27,000 to over 100,000 Iraqi civilians may have been killed.

While I don't see how this war in Iraq can ever be worth the human or financial costs, our President can. In that same Dec. 15 speech, Bush continued, "given Saddam's history and the lessons of Sept. 11, my decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat, and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power."


Dave FM responds

I normally "check out" during commericals on the radio, but my wife brought to my attention the fact that Dave FM was actually congratulating the Atlanta Falcons on their season. I finally heard it, and as a season ticket holder, the clips were insulting.

I sent the following note to the Promotions/Marketing department of Dave FM through their website:

Every time I hear one of your clips congratulating the Falcons on their season, I change channels. As a season ticket holder I'm a big Falcons fan, but let's call a spade a spade--they sucked this year & despite his comments otherwise, Jim Mora disappointed his fans and extended the Falcons' 40-year tradition of NEVER having back-to-back winning seasons. The aforementioned radio clip reminds me of the infamous, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job!" When the team goes to the NFC Championship with an 11-5 record to 8-8 this year, they shouldn't be congratulated.
... and my first response was this:
tim.andrews@infinitybroadcasting.com is not recognized
...so I followed up and sent a note to the Program Director. She finally responded:
I appreciate your note and feel your pain. It was a frustrating season, and we all wish we were in the playoffs...nobody more than the Falcons themselves. I understand your concern and can see and feel where you are coming from. That promo ends today, and we prepare for the next football season.

As the Flagship station, we support the Falcons as if they were Barnes or Mara...they are our family. When they hurt we hurt....when they win, we win.

I appreciate the time you took to write the email, and I appreciate your listening.

michelle engel
director of programming
929 dave fm
infinity broadcasting

Trilogies always suck

For those who missed it, including me, yesterday was (in)Justice Sunday III, held in the city of brotherly love. Like so many other trilogies, this one was poorly attended & the lead characters were nothing but a cadre of marginalized former heavy-hitters.

Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the No. 3 Senate Republican, told the gathering that liberal judges are "destroying traditional morality, creating a new moral code, and prohibiting any dissent."

Wait a minute, Mr. Santorum, I thought that's what the Republican-led Congress and President are for? Wasn't it Congress who pushed through legislation forcing judicial review of Terri Schiavo's case last spring? The former House leader, Tom Delay, is certainly at the forefront of establishing a new moral code. And the Bush administration is making every legal "stretch" it can to prohibit any and all forms of dissent.

Santorum went on to say, "The only way to restore this republic our founders envisioned is to elevate honorable jurists like Samuel Alito," Santorum said. "Unfortunately, the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee seem poised to drag these hearings into the gutter, so they can continue their far left judicial activism on the Supreme Court."

I'll confess I know very little about Alito, but I withhold my support simply knowing he's been nominated by an administration which supports torture, the incarceration of several hundred individuals without charge in Guantanamo Bay, and ignores the Federal Communications Act.

Fortunately Senator Santorum is facing a mid-term election this coming November. Hopefully the good people of Pennsylvania will see him for what he is--another member of the Christian "right" who has it all wrong.

Notably absent from inJustice Sunday III was Pat Robertson, but the other two clowns of the Christian political movement, The Rev. Jerry Falwell and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson were in attendance.

The crackpot Falwell has kept a low profile since 9/11, when he stated on-air, "And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this [September 11 attacks] because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this [September 11 attacks] happen.'"

Dobson is perhaps the smartest of the three. He avoids the headline-grabbing "stupid quotes", but I find him the most scary. He's a trained psychologist with absolutely no formal theological training. That's right--he's a layperson with an audience of 3-5 million listeners a week who uses his Focus on the Family ministry to push his own political agenda.

And if you don't think religious zealots of all faiths can be scary, taking this quiz may change your mind.


Toilet Monster

If only I weren't so cheap I'd buy this and set it up before hosting our next community group meeting.



Once again the nutjob and Christian broadcaster (I've never found the two to be mutually exclusive), Pat Robertson, is in the news. Apparently today Robertson suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for dividing God's land.

I'd like to suggest an alternative. Methinks Sharon's stroke was the result of two things: 1) being 77 years old -and 2) the stress of being Prime Minister of Israel, a grueling and thankless job, at an age when he should be playing bingo and knocking back a few bloody Mary's. I'm no medical expert, but I know there's a 100% chance of dying. I'm too lazy to look this up, but I'm sure a stroke is one of the top 5 reasons a 77 year-old hits the EXIT button.

In Romans 12:19, Paul writes, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. [New American Standard Bible translation]

I sometimes think Paul wasn't the most lucid author given all of the time he spent in jail, but in this case I can only hope he's right about vengeance because then I can trust that in due time, Pat will get the holy ass-whipping he so rightly deserves.


37 weeks and counting...

Given that my first daughter came 19 days early and my wife delivered within 5 hours of going into labor, baby girl #2 will be arriving any day now. We're incredibly excited. I had a list of 9 things to do before she arrives, and only two remain. My prediction is January 4 or 5; my wife's prediction is January 5 or 6.

I've wanted to have a baby video monitor ever since our daughter was born, and several purchases of such products were all disappointments and promptly returned. I think I've found the solution, though. I've ordered a pair of MobiCam color wireless video cameras (bought them new on eBay for $35 each!) and a MobiCam wireless AV receiver. The cameras have infrared night vision as well as a microphone for audio. I'm especially interested in seeing the video quality on the new 32" LCD HDTV my wife and family got me for Christmas.