Monday, February 16, 2009
North Korea's genocidal madman celebrates his 67th - and the Guardian joins in
Hat tip to Mr. Stuttaford
While I can't say that I'm surprised at the "neutral" stance that The Guardian takes in its photo essay on the life of DPRK dictator and all-around swell guy Kim Jong-Il (charmingly described as "one of the world's most mysterious leaders"), I can't help but think that pictures like this:
Or this one:
Should probably be replaced with a few like these:
Children starving at the height of NK's largely gov't-induced famine
Screenshots from a secretly-taped public execution in NK - the two shown in the circle were tied to posts, and shot, in front of the entire town. Their crime? Attempting to escape the country.
Google Earth image of Camp 22 - a concentration camp encompassing nearly 500 square miles of territory, where thousands of political prisoners have been held, tortured, and murdered for decades. The process continues to this day. See a nice summary here.
Or maybe...just maybe, a simple Powerpoint slide with a few little numbers would be ideal; numbers like 2-3 million (number of North Koreans who died during the famine of the mid-late 90s), 2-300,000 (the number of North Koreans estimated to be held inside NK's network of concentration camps for political prisoners), or 400,000 (the number of North Korean refugees estimated to be hiding inside of China - a number made up largely of women and children), or 80% (an estimate of the percentage of NK women who escape to China, only to be sold into the sex trade).
Maybe that's just me, though.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
So long, friend
As has been obvious for awhile now, blogging isn't near the top of my priority list right now, and hasn't been for months. As such, I haven't been following along with anything much in the blog world.
As such, I was shocked to learn about the passing of one of the Rocky Mountain Alliance's founding members - Jim Cannon.
I didn't know Jim well - we met in person only a handful of times - but we did have a number of long conversations about his illness, his faith, and his love of country. Jim was an exceptionally kind, giving guy, a true patriot, and a faithful follower of Christ. He's free of his suffering, and in a much better place, but those in his family who have been left behind today feel a loss that we wouldn't wish upon even our worst enemies.
I pray for his wonderful parents, and for the rest of his family in this time of grief. I'm heartened by the fact that we'll see him again one day, but for today, grief is exactly appropriate in the wake of this tremendous loss.
We'll miss you, Jim, and we'll remember.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
There's something about the color of the sky around dusk this time of year. It's a set of hues - purples, reds, and oranges - rolling across the clouds as the sun dissolves into the peaks to the west. This display calls me outside, to stand in the rapidly chilling air, and to recall the countless individual times in my life in which I've found myself outside, gazing up at nearly identical skies, and simply letting my mind wander.
Life changes on a truly universal scale, and these moments can tend to flash through one's memory and into the ether if there isn't a bit of time taken to relish them. My first recollection of the November evening sky dates back to around 1984, standing in my neighbor's front yard with my friends Brandon and Billy, and carving up the crunchy, refrozen snow around us in a bid to "out-Voltron" each other. I stood for a moment, watching the setting sun, listening to the sound of my heart beating in my ears, and watching as my breath drifted into the sky like a ghost. Something about that moment has stuck with me for more than 20 years now, and it tends to be the first thing that pops into my mind upon viewing a sky like the one under which I stood that evening.
The next such moment took place probably two years later, as I walked through the parking lot at my grandmother's apartment complex, heading to the mailboxes to collect her mail for the day. It was a Saturday night, and we spent every Saturday evening together for a number of years. It was a ritual for us, and as such, contained a few required elements - dinner from McDonald's or (if we were feeling particularly wild & crazy) Arby's, Small Wonder on Channel 9, and finally, a switch over to Channel 4 (when it was still an NBC affiliate) for the Saturday night lineup of The Facts of Life, 227, Amen, The Golden Girls, and Empty Nest. Each Saturday, I walked to the mailboxes, and on one particular evening, I took note of the color of the sky, and the chill in the air as I stood beside the now-covered and empty complex pool. This memory, like so many others from those Saturday nights, stays with me today.
Just this past week, I stood in the chill air on my back patio, and once again glanced upward to catch the waning light, and the spectrum of colors splashed across the clouds. I'm now a husband, and a father two times over. I just finished a graduate school degree, and have all of the stresses that accompany adult life - a mortgage, a job, worries about raising my kids, etc. Still, standing outside in the cold air of November, tiny under a spreading, darkening sky, I find myself transported to the many simpler times that have come before, and yet grateful for the life I lead in the here and now.
So much changes, and yet, the thread of familiarity runs throughout the course of life, tying one segment to another, and ensuring that no matter how far we've come, we remain only ourselves - living life as it comes. At the end of the day, that's not so bad a thing.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
By the power of Zabka, this cannot stand.
Words fail me.
From a wreath-laying ceremony on Veteran's Day, 1985:
It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country - in defense of us - in wars, far away. The imagination plays a trick; we see these soldiers in our minds as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers - grave and grey-haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives: the one they were living, and the one they would have lived.- Ronald ReaganAmen, and amen.
When they died, they gave up their chances to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chances to be revered old men. They gave up everything for their country...for us, and all we can do is remember.
To all of the men and women who are now serving, who have served, or who will serve in our nation's Armed Forces, thank you.
Friday, November 07, 2008
They looked good last night...at least once the fourth got rolling. Is there anyone on this team who isn't out for the season, though? Seriously. I've never seen a team this injury-riddled. Now Torain's done? Who's left to run the ball?
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Abortion - a response to a response
Andre, I apologize for not clearing this with you first, because I don't want it to look like I'm calling you out. I'm not. I just think that you make some valid points in your comments, and I'd say that you speak for a pretty enormous chunk of the pro-choice world in what you say. There's no malevolence in your opinions, and I'd not ascribe any evil intent. There's still the matter of ends and means, however, and I feel that I've got to chip in my two cents (or, for what they're worth, maybe it's 1.5 cents...). No sense filling up a comment section, when your position deserves a hearing in a more suitable format.
First, a little background for folks out there:
If nothing else, I've always liked to believe that it's possible to have genuine friendships with folks with whom I differ politically - even in the venom-fueled environs of these interwebs. That's why I hate the tendency on both sides to not only disagree with positions held, but also disparage the value or character of the person espousing the position in question. While this is still the web, and I'm just as passionate in my beliefs and prone to screw up as any three people, I've been gratified by productive, cordial, and (at least to me) enlightening discussions with a number of folks more left-leaning than myself through the years. While I'd feel pretty comfortable saying that I haven't done anything to change their minds, and similarly, I haven't shifted on my essential beliefs, at least we probably understand one another a bit better than before, and that's worth something. I've enjoyed my back-and-forth with any number of folks of sharp wit, good will, and big hearts (from what I can glean from digital interactions), with a couple popping to mind almost immediately: Bijan Bayne, and Andre Louis. I disagree with these guys on many (though not all) fronts - sometimes vigorously - just as I'm sure my own beliefs oftentimes tick them off. I don't, however, have any qualms about them as good folks (and in their cases, as my very brothers in Christ), or as cogent, eloquent, worthwhile thinkers and writers. They are not my enemies, nor I theirs.
In responding to my post about Planned Parenthood's defense and justification of infanticide (sorry. I know that's a hyperbole-tinged word, but it fits. Not gonna change it), wherein I asked "anyone care to defend this?", Andre wrote the following:
Jared,While I know that there will be no small number of folks out there on my side who immediately jump to the defensive, I'd say we'd have to admit that - in many ways - Andre's hit the nail on the head, at least in terms of the way that many of us approach our intellectual and political opposites. He's right, and this fact should pain us, folks. It should convict us. One of my favorite bloggers out there - Avery Tooley - wrote something that I think absolutely needed to be written a couple of weeks back:
I won't/can't mount a defense to this. At least not a defense that will satisfy anti-abortionists.
But I will say one of the problems with people on the whole anti-abortion tip is that they try to portray people who support abortion as evil monsters with no regard for human life. Instead of objectively seeing abortion as a person's decision not to bring a child into this world (for whom they can't adequately provide), abortion is seen as cold, heartless murder.
I hate the idea of abortion as much as the next person. But given the brokenness of the foster care system and rampant poverty (crippling a child's chance at "making it" in the world; even if they "make it" from the womb), I at least recognize - and ACCEPT - that abortion will always be with us.
Put it like this: the advantage that the Democrats have is not that they actually do anything for Black folks. You can look at the state of a lot of major cities that have Black mayors and majority-Black city councils and see that ain’t the case. It’s not about actually doing, it’s about the perception of caring. Somethin’ like, “Maybe they ain’t gon’ do nothin’ about it, but at least they’re concerned enough about my problems to know what they are.” Most Black conservatives - even the ones who are well-intentioned - tend to eschew that sort of sentiment. Thing is, 1) the people are used to it, and 2) there’s no trust factor. If the people trust you, in part because they believe you care, they’ll ride wherever you’re going. If they don’t, even if they agree with everything you’re saying, they’re only gonna go so far, and up to this point, the threshold has generally been short of the voting booth.Okay, so, swap out "Black conservative" for pretty much any bloc of folks on the conservative side of things - including those of us on the pro-life side of the equation - and his position retains its integrity. Until such a time as there is - among pregnant women struggling with the question of abortion - a knowledge that the folks out there in opposition to the act give a rip about their plight...their struggles, and not just the life of the baby in their womb - the effectiveness of the pro-life movement will (and should) hit a pretty low ceiling.
So basically, as I’m seeing it, Black conservatives writ large can complain about the fact that Black folks vote as a Democratic bloc all they want to, but until they change the style of their message, it’s not gonna get through, even if the people agree with the substance. Maybe somebody might argue that it shouldn't’t be that way, that the only thing that should matter is stands on policy, but the reality is, if you’re suspicious of somebody, it doesn’t really matter what they have to say. Black conservatives and Repubs, if they’re ever gonna make any inroads, gotta geek down on that “BUT THEY AIN’T DOIN’ NOTHIN’ FOR YOU” and come in on some fairly quiet, “we’re here, we care, and we’re actually doing something.” Build a track record the people can trust, and then see what happens. One-two.
If, like me, you're drawn toward the pro-life side because of faith in Christ, allow me to be very clear on something: Jesus loves that woman every bit as much as He loves that baby, and to ignore either at the expense of the other is an affront to the Gospel. Plain, and simple.
So, I've copped - and will continue to cop - for my side's errors and failures, and there are plenty to catalog. I could start with only my own errors in judgment, moral idiocy, and flat-out incompetence, and we wouldn't get through them for a month.
Like any other essential moral question, though, the issue of abortion isn't as simple as all that. The pro-life movement's extremes and failures aren't the end of the story.
As I started to write to Andre, before I realized that the comments were getting out-of-hand, length-wise:
Andre, I get where you're coming from. Totally. The problem, though, is that the same distortion is true of the pro-choice side. I'm an adoptive parent. My wife and I have pretty much crawled over broken glass to get our kids, spending tens of thousands of dollars (that we had to borrow and pay back), losing countless hours of sleep, and enduring hellish paperwork/nightmares/roadblocks like you wouldn't believe. The waiting lists to adopt out there say that we're not the only ones who do so. Yet, on any number of occasions, I've had folks tell me (to my face, no less), that I only "care about kids before they're born". The stereotypes run both ways, my friend, and I know you're intellectually honest enough to admit this.Where is the intellectual or moral honesty on the pro-choice side that says "yes. I will look these procedures full in the face"? How many folks on the pro-choice side of the equation would immediately take offense to the video I posted below - not because of the words being spoken by the PP worker (let it sink in please, folks. She's talking about a baby born alive, and left to die on a table.) - but because these words were being made public?
At the end of the day, though, with neither side being perfect in its opinions of, or behavior toward the other, what's the bottom line? There's only two ways to break it down, and I know (and hate) that I'm going to come across as brutal in saying this, and it's not my intention - I'm just not eloquent enough to figure out any other way to say it...
What about partial birth abortion? People get more hacked by the fact that it's not automatically referred to as a "dilation and extraction" procedure (because of the inflammatory nature of the term "partial-birth abortion") than they do by the procedure itself, largely due to the fact that most folks who support it aren't even willing to go to the trouble of finding out what it entails, or how.why it's used (not used int he case of danger to the life of the mother, etc.).
And, when I do find somebody on the pro-choice side who does, in fact view abortion as the destruction of a human life, or who admits that the only difference between the full-term baby aborted via D&X (usually performed on a healthy baby in the womb of a healthy mother, more than 21 weeks along) and the newborn in the nursery is the parent's desire - or lack thereof - to grant it its life, should I find comfort in this fact?
I confess to being utterly stupefied as to how "abortion as birth control" has become so widely accepted by so many in this society. I am. Words fail me when I try to describe my grief over this madness. They fail me because I've seen - first-hand - the struggles from both sides. My daughter's birth mother is developmentally disabled. She was in her early 30s when she became pregnant with our little girl, and - according to most - would have been a textbook case for abortion. She had no business becoming a mother. And yet, because of this heroic woman, my wife and I awake every day to a five year-old vision of joy bopping around the house, bugging her little brother, and pretty much running the joint.
I'm unable to restrain my passions when it comes to abortion, because I'm simultaneously enraged by the practice itself (and by the flippant way in which it's defended), and brokenhearted at the way in which we - on the pro-life side - have so frequently botched the issue - both in the public square, and in the very real, very intimate worlds of so many of the mothers trying desperately to figure out what to do.
The church is doing reasonably well with the meager resources most have to work with. Centers have been, and continue to be set up in order to provide emotional, material, and spiritual help to young single mothers. This is a good start. We need many more such facilities. As a movement, however, we've got to expand our compassion (though it's never been nearly so lacking as they stereotype would lead one to believe). The pro-life movement needs to be about life, not only unborn life. I'll admit - with great sorrow - that my cause has failed in this regard on too many occasions.
There is still, however, the monstrosity of abortion to be accounted for, and just as the evil of slavery has clouded our moral authority for generations following its cessation, the deaths of more than 4,000 children a day (most on an altar of convenience) will most certainly follow us for eternity. Andre, while your point made here:
Instead of objectively seeing abortion as a person's decision not to bring a child into this world (for whom they can't adequately provide), abortion is seen as cold, heartless murder.is well taken, and must act as a starting point for the way in which the pro-life movement addresses those hurting women struggling with the decision of whether or not to abort, I think it's something of a cop-out. Whether or not the child will "make it" is surely a subjective matter. There is nothing "objective" about this decision from the point of the baby, is there? While the pro-life side too often ignores the needs of the mother (something to which I'll admit over and over again), wouldn't you have to admit that the pro-choice side largely refuses to even consider the child? For all its talk of "consciousness", "awareness", and "personhood", the pro-choice movement fights tooth and nail to prevent access to modern ultrasound equipment in clinics, and seems unwilling to examine the mounting evidence that development in the womb happens at a much more rapid pace than ever thought possible. Any realization of that child's independence or "personhood" becomes a political stumbling block to "the cause". A generation ago, there was next to no awareness of fetal development. Why in God's name are we content to base moral decisions of enormous import on medical science as it stood in the 50s?
The crux of the matter comes down to the fight over D&X, doesn't it? Once one has stripped away the niceties, the technicalities, and the couching of terms, the only difference between the full-term child resting in its mother's arms in the delivery room and the full-term child having its skull punctured and crushed with its body outside of the birth canal is - aside from a few inches of flesh - intent. Either the child was wanted, or it wasn't. If the right to existence can be stripped away because another simply wishes it to be so, where does that leave us as a species?
"Well," many argue, "you're picking D&X - a totally rare procedure - just to make your case with the extreme." You know what? You're right. I am. I do so because it's completely right and proper to do so. D&X embodies the issues at-hand more perfectly than any other example, and if the case can't be made at its essential, most distilled level, why does the more "moderate" path get an automatic "out"? Where is the cutoff for when abortion no longer results in homicide? Is it - as it now seems - a more-or-less arbitrary point in fetal development? If there is a cutoff, can't we at least agree that elective abortion beyond that point in development should be illegal?
The pro-choice side paints a picture wherein abortion is usually the path of last resort - predominantly used by desperately poor, single women. This is misleading. Half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, and of those, half end in abortion. It's not only the desperately poor who are having abortions. It is - in many cases - simply viewed as a form of birth control. There's a pretty fascinating look at the demographics of abortion produced by The Third Way, and available here. Third Way is definitely not conservative in its leanings. The figures there are - if anything - slanted toward the pro-choice side of the equation. They're well-presented, however, and relatively free of overt bias. It's a good starting point.
At the end of the day - like you said, Andre - abortion will still be with us. Even if Roe v. Wade is one day overturned (and yes - I pray that it will be), this act alone in no way eliminates (or even makes illegal) abortion. The central focus of our efforts needs to be reducing the number of abortions performed in the US (and no - there isn't total agreement with this idea. There are plenty out there who see absolutely nothing whatsoever wrong with the concept, and they terrify me). Preventing pregnancy in the first place needs to be a major focus (and yeah - I'm aware that this is another big issue in and of itself). Another key - to my mind - is fostering some semblance of moral reflection and intellectual honesty on this topic. I can't take seriously those proponents of abortion-on-demand who refuse to be grown ups about the issue, educate themselves about what's involved, and own up to the act of abortion - the procedures involved, and the effects on the child - itself. I fear that this description fits the vast majority of folks on that side. It's always easier, after all, to get yourself a little credibility and favor in the eyes of the press, the culture, and the secular society at-large (all of which tend to favor abortion-on-demand overwhelmingly) by endorsing the position than it is to challenge that endorsement by confronting its ugly reality head-on.
Anyway, Andre, that's what's on my mind. I thank you for - as usual - adding value to what I toss up here through your presence, and by your comments. Additionally, please accept my apologies - again - for not touching base with you before I used your comment as a starting point for another post.
Have a good one.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
RIP, Michael Crichton
Author Michael Crichton has died of cancer. He was 66.
Andy McCarthy sums up my feelings exactly
Read the whole thing, but here's something of a summary passage:
Alinsky, too, rejected ideological dogmatism. He taught that the successful radical is the wolf in sheep’s clothing: burrowing into the institutions of Western capitalism, altering their character from within, seducing the society with a high-minded summons to “social justice,” “participatory democracy,” and, yes, “change.” Is Obama following this stealthy roadmap? If that is his intention, it’s hard to imagine how he could have done so more perfectly.Yep.
On the other hand, people I know and respect, including some who knew Obama when he initially made history as The Harvard Law Review’s first black editor, insist that he is most decidedly not a radical. They say he is just what he now purports to be: a consensus builder whose “progressive” leanings are undeniable but do not render him deaf to persuasive arguments from the other side. On this accounting, the Ayers, Klonskys and Khalidis in his closet are to be understood not as kindred spirits but merely as voices of the hard Left that a confident Obama can hear out, and occasionally even collaborate with, while maintaining his safe, pragmatic distance.
Which is right? We don’t know, or at least I certainly don’t know. But I admit to worrying. A few days ago, as the contest wended toward the finish line with the outcome no longer much in doubt, Obama asserted that he sensed a “righteous wind” at his back. Some sloughed this off as campaign cant. Others among us, having studied Obama’s background, couldn’t help but hear Chairman Mao.
Is that paranoia or well-informed dread? Alas, the jury is still out, and that shouldn’t be. We ought to know the manner of man we are installing in the world’s most powerful office before the installation takes place.
Yet for one night, I was impressed. Impressed most by the dignity with which he bore the weight of his historic achievement: satisfied but not gloating, victorious but magnanimous, gratified by what he has accomplished and what it so obviously means to African Americans, but mindful of the enormous burdens he has assumed and the duties he now owes to all Americans, including the loyal opposition.
Emphasis here on loyal. President-Elect Obama correctly but no less honorably said he still needed to earn our support. For our part, we need to offer our support earnestly.
He is our president now, the president of our beloved nation. Too many have given their lives for this union, and too many are risking their lives for America even now, for us to shrink from honoring their sacrifice. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight President Obama when we think he is wrong. In fact, it means we must fight him. Fighting him when he is wrong will make him a better president, which in turn will make our country stronger. That’s the opposition part, and the freedom to oppose is our nation’s greatest strength.
Still, the loyal part means we must support our president when we think he is right. We must meet him when he reaches out to us. We must try to guide him toward what we believe is best for national security and prosperity. Just as we demand that President Obama put America first, we must be Americans first ourselves.
Our country has had an election. Our side got trounced. We’ve strayed far from our principles. We’ve too often failed to make our case even when it was right there for the making. If the best we have to offer America is Democrat-lite, Americans can’t be blamed for deciding they’d just as soon have the real thing. If we operate in stealth and incoherence, abdicating our duty to convince our fellow citizens of the rightness of measures taken for our security, they can’t be blamed for suspecting we are in the wrong.
It is on us to fix these things. They urgently need fixing if we are to offer the country something worthy.
For the moment, however, let’s accept defeat with the same purposeful grace President Obama exhibited in victory. And as power once again shifts peacefully from one hand to the next, from one party to the other, let’s remember how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation in human history.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Looking for the positives...
Believe it or not, an Obama Presidency does give me a little Hope™ (I think we're required to capitalize it now), on a couple of issues that are of particular interest to me (but not so much to a majority of my fellow conservatives).
Curious? Tune in later. Off to bed, for now.
Congratulations to President-Elect Obama
Though I can't say that I'm happy with the result in terms of the policies that will likely flow from a left-wing Legislature welded to a left-wing President, it's a pretty terrific thing to see a black man win the Presidency.
President-elect Obama has been, and will be in my prayers. I ask that God would give him the wisdom that his office will demand of him. I ask that he be protected. I ask that he reward the support and faith of the many millions who voted for him tonight by becoming the post-racial, post-partisan President he set himself up to be.
I wish him well, because I want to believe the best about the man. I have never doubted the fundamental goodness of his intentions, or his heart. Because I love this country, I pray that President Obama is all that I've been told he could be. He will be my President, too, just as he said in his speech this evening.
I offer my sincere congratulations to his supporters, and can't help but smile at the many images flashing across my screen, and showing black men and women with tears streaming down their cheeks. I could not possibly imagine what this event means on a personal level to many of these folks, and I won't try. This is a legitimately important, historical moment, and I'm proud of my country tonight.
I'm also heartbroken. Again, on the issue of abortion, the election of Barack Obama merely ensures that this nation will continue on its 30 year-plus journey along the path of legalized slaughter of the unborn. I look at my children, and wonder how many like them - born to mothers who would have been ideal "customers" for the abortion industry - will never get a chance to take a first breath. How many prospective adoptive parents will lie awake at night trying to figure out how on earth to come up with the tens of thousands of dollars required to adopt, while so many on the pro-choice side drone disingenuously about "unwanted" children? How many like my little girl will find themselves in the midst of a truly obscene process wherein their own parents - those who should (in a just world) give of themselves to save their children - order their destruction? I find myself trembling in both rage and grief at this hideous thing. We will be brought to account one day. I'm not talking about some unhinged degenerate bombing some clinic somewhere. These animals need to be hunted down as surely as does anyone who murders another human being. I'm referring to the moral reckoning that must surely flow from our callous disregard for the most helpless and defenseless among us, and the sickeningly flippant way in which our culture has become immune to shame, redefined basic terms, and made innocuous-sounding the process of snuffing out a baby's life. We have embraced mass suicide as a species, and mass murder as a culture. We are, I fear, sinners in the hands of an angry God.
I have countless other fears, as well. From taxation, to my right to defend my own family, to the coming paradigm shift in US foreign policy, the prospects of an Obama Administration - especially when gifted with a Democrat House and Senate - are enough to give me nightmares.
There is a schism in my head, this evening. I sincerely celebrate President-elect Obama's achievement, but am repulsed by much of what his party espouses. I pray for the man. I also pray that I'm wrong about him.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
This just received from my professor regarding my Comprehensive Exam (I spent six hours taking this beast last Saturday) for the MA in Strategic Intelligence:
Passed with Distinction (PD) - SUPERB!!! Congratulations on wrapping up your degree! Due to the nature of the exam, I can not send you any further specific comments on your answers at this time. However, if you would like more information after the first of the year (when the exam cycles through/questions change), I would be happy to provide you with same. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Take care and Best R/PatThus endeth my veryvery long grad school saga.
The degree will actually be conferred on the 15th of this month.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever. - Thomas Jefferson
Anyone care to defend this?
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Soap Box - Isaiah 58:6-8
6 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:Howdy, all. Lots going on, and precious little time to blog. With that in mind, please allow me to share something that's been on my heart for quite some time. Zealots are hard to deal with, I know, but I'd rather burn a few people out in opening a few eyes than risk saying nothing at all. Granted, I've written about the issue before, but I'm specifically asking for my fellow believers in Christ who read this blog to take some specific steps in prayer before the Lord.
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
This weekend, our small group took a look at the Biblical question of Hell...as in, "what is Hell"? For now, allow me to sum up a non-theological version of the answer by saying "I don't know, but I'm willing to bet that it looks a lot like North Korea."
Some estimates indicate that more than 3.5 million North Koreans have starved to death since 1995, in a famine that is largely the result of its governmental policies. The enormous quantities of food and economic aid sent by the west has done almost no good whatsoever, as it has (predictably) been diverted to the regime's military machine (perhaps the only well-fed sector of society). In addition, there are unknown numbers (believed to be in the hundreds of thousands) who are kept in prison camps, where the odds of long-term survival are almost nil. The North Korean philosophy of punishment dictates that the person who commits a crime isn't the only one who suffers. Instead, multiple generations of that family are taken away, and sent to these camps (most of which can be easily located with commercial satellite maps).
For those desperate enough to try and flee the country across the border with China (the only escape route, really), the future is bleak, as well. Despite its status as a signatory to every major human rights treaty, China disregards its obligation to provide shelter and asylum for North Korean refugees, and repatriates them to North Korea, where they face almost certain death as punishment for their "treason". The US does remarkably little to assist, as well, as many refugees who have made it to the very gates of the US Embassy in Shenyang have been turned back, and handed over to the Chinese for repatriation (despite the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004).
To get more specific (and actionable), there are hundreds of thousands of North Korean women and children currently hiding throughout China. They exist as non-people, unable to leave China (no papers), and unable to make it to the US or South Korea, where they can find asylum. The vast majority of North Korean women in China are sold into sex trafficking (estimates range from a low of 75% to a high of 90%), and the children struggle to simply survive on their own. The State Department refuses to allow the adoption of North Korean children in China due to the UN's refusal to classify them as orphans, due to the fact that their parents might conceivably be alive in North Korea.
Despite these countless outrages, the world has done almost nothing. Just like Rwanda. Just like Sudan. This catastrophe, however, has been building for more than 50 years, under the noses of several of the most developed, affluent nations in the world.
The church has a major role to play in saving these desperate women and children. The only lifelines that exist for these people are in place due largely to the work of a network of small charities (Helping Hands Korea, and Liberty in North Korea to name a couple) and South Korean churches that operate something of an 'underground railroad" designed to smuggle these people out, or allow them to live in safe houses in China where they can be fed and clothed.
It is my desire to assist in this effort, and to see more churches in this nation answer the call to "care for widows and orphans", and to liberate and shelter the oppressed. Please join me in praying for guidance and wisdom as to how best to do this. If you have the time, please watch these videos. They provide a good background on the work that needs to be done, and of the razor-thin margins that separate life from death for countless people in that dark place.
Seoul Train trailer (and here's the story of the family in this heart-rending video)
Mi Sun: a North Korean Refugee in China (personal story)
We Are All Witnesses
Street Children in North Korea
Basic background on North Korea (longer videos):
Welcome to North Korea (documentary)
The North Korean Human Rights Crisis (LiNK presentation)
Born and Raised in a Concentration Camp (presentation by Dong Hyuk Shin - a 26 year-old defector)
Escape from North Korea (a documentary following an entire family as they are smuggled out with the help of a South Korean pastor)
Forgive me for being so long-winded. I beg for your prayers. I can't shake these things from my mind, and I know that in one way or another, I'm called to do something in this effort. You, my friends, got roped in because I know you'll lift these people before the Lord. Thanks for your time.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
A proud moment in the history of GWB's foreign policy
The title is sarcasm. If this is true? Oy. It makes the head hurt. 100% unfiltered migraine juice. Stupidity on stilts.
To all of you genocidal madmen out there? The lesson to be learned is this: blackmail works!
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
By the way, if you haven't seen this amazing little movie, do so now. No, really...now. It devastated me.
And now for something completely different...
Now, from the big dog of satire, something that made me laugh out loud upon my first read (no small feat, since the Cubs just completed their annual implosion - at a later date than usual. I won't even talk about the Rockies this year...):
Struggling Mets Combine to Form Carlos VoltronIt goes on like this for awhile longer. Brilliant.
NEW YORK—Facing the Cubs in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the desperate Mets sprinted out to the field Tuesday, launched themselves high into the air above Shea Stadium, and combined their bodies to form a 400-foot tall fielding robot called Carlos Voltron.
According to eyewitnesses, before the Mets players completed the complicated procedure, in which they fused their physical selves and combined their talents to form the 20,000-ton robot, manager Jerry Manuel called the team to the dugout, where he commanded them to prepare their interlock systems for activation, connect the appropriate dyna-therms, charge up the infra-cells to full capacity, engage the mega-thrusters, and give it their best out there.
"After losing eight of our last 12 games, forming Carlos Voltron is our only hope to save our playoff chances," Manuel said. "We really need power this late in the season, and the 2.5 million pounds of thrust in Voltron's solid-fuel boosters should give us the lift we need."
Leaving behind blue and orange vapor trails as they soared across the sky, the Mets were reportedly surrounded by a crackling electrical field as they folded their limbs into their bodies to ready themselves for assembly and to protect the team's home record.
Although Manuel said he had to settle an argument over who got to be the robot's head, his final lineup was David Wright and José Reyes forming the legs, Ramón Castro and Ryan Church making the feet, Nick Evans and Johan Santana completing the arms, Carlos Delgado and Luis Castillo joining to create the torso, and Carlos Beltrán forming the head.
While Cubs batters had taken early advantage of the Mets pitchers on Monday, the towering spectacle of Carlos Voltron proved to be an imposing presence on the mound, as the force of his foot slamming into the ground after the windup of his first pitch knocked the batter and umpire into the third row of the stands. In addition, the seismic energy unleashed by Carlos Voltron's follow-through created several deep cracks in the foundation of Shea Stadium, and accompanying atmospheric disturbances caused a 747 in a holding pattern over nearby La Guardia airport to plunge from the sky.
"In the second inning I had to have him take some heat off those pitches or he was going to kill somebody," said Manuel, adding that he clocked the first pitch at 85,000 mph. "After what happened to poor Alfonso Soriano, I told him let them hit a few balls."
"We might face this team in the playoffs," continued Manuel. "I'd hate to see what would happen to us if the Cubs unleashed the Robeast from their bullpen."
With his fast first step and an exceptionally long stride that carries the giant robot from the mound to the center field wall in one step, Carlos Voltron put on an amazing fielding display in the fifth inning when he robbed Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramírez of a 500-foot shot by plucking it out of the air between the robotic index finger and thumb of his leonine hand.
Although the Mets' fielding skills were excellent, they were not without flaws. Cubs manager Lou Piniella came out to the field to protest several times, complaining that his base runners injured themselves in the 10-foot deep trenches left behind from Carlos Voltron scooping up ground balls. Piniella also expressed frustration over his players suffering from collapsed rib cages, ruptured organs, and decapitations every time Voltron tagged them out.
Let us not lose heart...
This is an entirely self-indulgent post that is largely introspective. Should my meandering apply to your own circumstances, I'll be gratified. If not, rest assured that I claim to speak only for myself. This is my stand - I make it for no one else.
We are ordered to persevere. Ordered to do good. Ordered to never give up.
The entire book of Galatians spills forth encouragement after encouragement, entreaty after entreaty; fight, struggle, and endure. The tides of culture, human nature, and our own frailty constantly hammer against us, and yet, we are told to stand once more, wipe off the blood and dust, and move forward yet again.
What does this mean to me, a 34 year-old middle class American Christian, in the run-up to yet another contentious election, and another session of Christ's name being claimed, sullied, appropriated, and tossed about by nearly every conceivable political cause, party, and professional? Where is the relevance?
I can't tell you how to vote. I'm also not going to engage in some sort of disingenuous hem-and-haw session wherein I tell you that I'm torn, and that both sides have their weaknesses and strengths, though neither the Republicans nor the Democrats should dare believe that they, and they alone represent the ultimate manifestation of Christ on earth, as sometimes seems the case. Each represents an imperfect melange of positions, assumptions, and unspoken biases that must be examined individually, and weighed against one's conscience and relationship with God.
I wonder, and I wonder, and I wonder. A few things I do know, however. I know that neither John McCain nor Barack Obama perfectly fits with my own political convictions. I know that I consider them both to be sincere in their desire to do the right thing, and that they're both probably good men, at the end of the day. I also know that neither good intentions nor good will can absolve us of responsibility for actions or choices that result in moral evil.
I'm not a single issue voter. Never have been. I come close, however, on the topic of abortion. I make no apologies for this. Nor do I insinuate some grandiose piousness as a result of my position. I have more than enough failings and weaknesses for two people, and I will never pass judgment on someone who's had an abortion (and yes, I have the proverbial "friends" who have). I also refuse to engage in the hideous and pitiful dance of the "personally opposed, politically pro" position, however. While I would hope that my six-plus years of blogging has conveyed my distaste for trafficking in needlessly inflammatory rhetoric, abortion is an outrage that mocks any attempt to downplay its scope.
As such, there is no way that I could so much as entertain the idea of giving Senator Obama my vote. He has planted his flag in support of a monstrous, hellish thing, and were I granted the honor of speaking with him face-to-face, I would tell him just that. He has my respect as a duly elected official, and if, as I believe he will be, he is elected President, I will lift him up in prayer, and cry out for the Lord to bless him with wisdom. I cannot turn a blind eye, however, to his unabashed support for the legalized slaughter of children.
Both of my kids, of course, would have been textbook "cases" for abortion, and without truly heroic women as their birthmothers, I'd likely never have known that they ever existed. I can't view this subject dispassionately, as a result, and to be honest, I worry about those who can do so.
Other innocent voices cry out in this campaign season, as well, and much like those of the unborn, they remain largely unheard by most politicians on either side. The hundreds of thousands of North Koreans imprisoned in their own country, the millions who have starved to death or been murdered by the Kim regime, and the innumerable North Korean women and children who hide inside of China - caught in limbo, functionally non-existent, and easy prey for sex traffickers - stand as shameful reminders of the hollow, self-congratulatory worthlessness of the UN and the International Community in general, and of our own inattention to the suffering of people other than ourselves.
The US State Department continues - despite the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 - to place countless barriers in front of those brave few who steal across the border between the DPRK and China, and dare attempt to seek asylum at the US Embassy. At present, there are only a few North Korean refugees who have actually made it to the US. We are complicit in the imprisonment or execution of those taken into custody at our embassies in China, and returned to North Korea. Despite constant denials of these activities, China continues to refuse to recognize North Korean refugees as legitimate asylum seekers, continues to repatriate them into North Korea (essentially dooming them), refuses to allow UNHRC access to refugees, refuses to legitimize the mixed-race children of North Koreans and Chinese (ensuring that they exist as non-people, with no schooling, employment, or health care available). The UN continues to do nothing about these matters, and refuses to classify orphaned North Korean children hiding in China as truly orphaned, and as such, prevents their adoption by US citizens (another instance in which our own State Department has done little to assist in this effort).
Someday, when the hideous regime in North Korea has finally imploded, and the gates of that nation-prison have finally been cast open, revealing the depths of the madness that has engulfed it for so long, we will encounter horrors unimaginable. We will also learn, little-by-little, of this generation's Dietrich Bonhoeffers, Corrie Ten Booms, Oskar Schindlers, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyns. We will learn of their courage in the face of monstrous evil, we will learn of their willingness to suffer for the lives of others, and, to our shame, we will learn, as well, of how little we did to help them.
Senator Obama has never addressed the human rights aspect of the North Korean situation in anything resembling a significant manner. To his credit, Senator McCain has done so repeatedly, and forcefully. Neither man, however, has spelled out a concrete plan to address the unfolding disaster in North Korea, apart from constant calls for "increased diplomacy", and the governments of the US, as well as the EU (and most disturbingly, the government of South Korea) continue to ignore the suffering of the North Korean people.
As was the case with Rwanda, Sudan, Burma, and so many other instances of mass-scale slaughter after the Holocaust, the actions of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have made a mockery of the West's cry of "never again".
I have to confess...in the face of evils that march ever onward - either ignored or encouraged by so many - efforts to avoid losing heart become more and more difficult.
Friday, September 26, 2008
One Millinon Dollas!
While I've always gotten my share of "Nigerian scam" emails (like the rest of you), I've never actually been insulted by the laziness of one before. Look, people, if I'm supposed to hand you my bank and SSN info, I expect a little effort on your part. This won't cut it:
OFFICE OF THE SENATE HOUSE,Oy, where to begin?
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA,
COMMITTEE ON ISSUING OF FOREIGN ATM CARD
2ND FLOOR, SENATE HOUSE,
WUSE 2, ABUJA, NIGERIA
ourRef: FGM/SNT/STBYour Ref:.......
We are pleased to informed you that you have been selected as one of the
lucky beneficiary of ATM
card creadited with $1,000,000:00(one millinon us dollas). This is proudly
sponsored by European
union organization, word Health organization,The united nations
organization and the Nigeria govt
in accordance with the enabling act of Parliament in conjuctinon with the
goal with the aim of uplifting the stanrdard of living and eradicating
poverty all over the
to claims your ATM Card contact MR PROF. DAVE HASKIT HEAD OF DEPARTMENT
ATM CLAIMS(OFFICE OF THE
SENATE HOUSE) with the following informaFull
Next Of Kins..........
Winning Batch No:(W-342-8876,U-500-32).
Warning!!!: Fraudulent emails are circulating that appear to be using
The ATM GRANT/AID addresses, but are not from The ATM GRANT/AID Board
Once again congratulations...
PROF. DAVE HASKIT
SECRETARY ON (WEST AFRICA PANEL UNIT)
First off, rule number one for Nigerian scam artists should be obvious: don't actually refer to bloody Nigeria in the email!
Second: though we've all come to expect hilarious typos and creative butchery of the English language, is it too much to ask for just a wee bit of proofreading? "One millinon us dollas"? Really? Again - a little effort goes a long way.
Third: under no circumstances should you ever actually broach the subject of scams in your emails. Pretty much a dead giveaway. "Here! Send me your info, and I'll give you a millinon dollas! I'm not a scam artist, either!!" Yeah...doesn't work very well, does it?
Lastly, could you at least have gone to the trouble of obtaining an email address outside of a Hong Kong domain?
Better luck next time, my friends at the "Senate House".