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Thursday, March 31, 2005

This Would Change My Death Penalty Position

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If this were what all prisons were like, I'd abandon my support for the death penalty.

UPDATE: This picture is not a joke. It is a campaign poster. Details can be found here at Snopes. Here are some excerpts:

He has jail meals down to 40 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them. He stopped smoking and porno magazines in the jails. Took away their weights. Cut off all but "G" movies.

He started chain gangs so the inmates could do free work on county and city projects. Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination.

He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails. So he hooked up the cable TV again but only let in the Disney channel and the weather channel. When asked why the weather channel he replied, so they will know how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs.

He cut off coffee since it has zero nutritional value. When the inmates complained, he told them.....this is a good one......"This isn't the Ritz/Carlton. If you don't like it, don't come back."


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Honesty and Concern Do Not Excuse Ignorance

I try not to post on things I don't know about. That's why I've never posted on Tom Delay, Michael Jackson, or Scott Peterson. Or just about everything except the five things I do know about, most of who live in my home.

I attended a school at the U.S. Army Special Operations Center that involved being thrown in a simulated POW camp. One of the things they would do I would call "indoctrination meetings". At these meetings, they allowed the 'prisoners' to speak somewhat freely, although it would be about the subject the captors chose. The purpose was to make the prisoners feel less secure about themselves, their country and their beliefs and therefore be more sympathetic to the ideology of the enemy.

How were they able to do that? One word - ignorance. My peers were all Americans, and hence, did one of the things that characterizes Americans - they loved to talk, at length, about things they knew nothing about.

My fellow soldiers opined, sometimes vehemently, about politics, military doctrine, world leaders, US History - and talked out of their rear ends. They said things like "Manuel Noriega was educated at West Point" and agreed with statements like "The US actually attacked North Korea first". On the occasion that I would attempt to reverse the course of my peers, I was silenced - in an unpleasant fashion.

This is not peculiar to soldiers. Although the case has been public for months now, people still have no freaking idea what Terri Schiavo's condition is. I don't mean differing opinions on whether she is in a vegetative state or not - I mean outright wrong facts that seriously change the face of the argument.

Today's example is found at When Tara Met Blog, which I stumbled on through Courting Destiny. Tara has a heartfelt story about the tragic death of her big sister, who was declared braindead and allowed to expire when her ventilator was removed. Unfortunately, Tara mars this story by stating that "One student commented that Teri’s husband obviously does not love her anymore. But if that was the case he would have taken the money that was offered from the anti-euthanasia people and let his wife continue breathing via machines." Then she follows it up with, "Some feel that it’s not right to take life into your own hands and that taking Teri off the machines goes against God’s natural plan. But there is nothing natural about having machines breathe for you....If her family allowed the media’s cameras to show Teri's current condition with her laboriously breathing in her hospital bed and photos of her bruised body, then there is no way you could think that this is natural."

Good freaking grief! This is why a majority of Americans think that Terri Schiavo's starvation is just - they think she is lying in a bed, being constantly poked by needles, bruised all over her body and living on a ventilator. Wrong, wrong, wrong! She breathes on her own, responds to stimuli, and moves on her own. What can't she do? 1) Express herself to us, and 2) Swallow. She is only receiving food and water through a tube into her stomach.

Some know the facts and still support the killing of Terri Schiavo. While I disagree with them, they have reasonably constructed arguments for their support, not the least of which is the law. However, ignorance of the facts makes your argument worthless, no matter how honest and hearfelt your sentiments may be.

Moral of the story: Don't talk when you don't know what the heck you are talking about. Those of us who do know what you are talking about get thrown in bamboo cages and beaten for mentioning it.

Christian Carnival 63 is up!

This week's Christian Carnival has, not surprisingly, a significant number of posts about the Ressurection and Terri Schiavo, along with the typical random spritual ramblings (like mine). Check it out at Weapons of Mass Distraction.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Theology Tuesday - Christ and the Government

And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.
The Gospel of St. Mark, Chapter 12, Verse 17

There are many who would claim that God is on their side - whether it is a war, a political race, or a football game. However, when it comes to politics and the conduct of government, no one has the copyright.

Why is that? Is it because no one gets it right? No, although I would agree with that statement alone. God is not a Republican, nor a Democrat, nor even a Libertarian.

In fact, I even go this far - Jesus Christ had almost nothing to say about how a government should be run, and the remainder of the New Testament added little about this subject.

There are three principle things that Christ and the New Testament say about the government:

1a) Pay your taxes and serve when called. See Mark 12:17 above.

1b) Obey the authorities (when not in conflict with the commands of Christ).
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."
- Romans 13:1-7

"Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons."
- Colossians 3:22

"Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work"
- Titus 3:1

"Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king."
- 1 Peter 2:13-17.

2) God has given the government the power it has for his purposes:

"Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin."
- St. John 19:10-11

- Romans 13:1-7 (above)

3) Governments will persecute Christians and be primary agents of corruption and evil because man abuses this power:
"But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them."
- St. Mark 13:9

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
- Ephesians 6:12

"But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you."
- St. Matthew 10:17-20

The message of the Gospel is for the individual man and the church - not for governments, corporations, or social groups. Each individual within that group is responsible for his actions, and leaders are responsible for the actions of their charges. However, what is surely unreasonable is to call a political party or country "Christian" and to judge its actions on the commands of Christ - when He Himself does no such thing.

The Winds of Change are in the Air

I read over at The Cranky Liberal that the GOP was looking at making big gains in the African-American vote. He had posted some commentary at the end of the news article on it basically expressing that he (Cranky) thought that the GOP had no chance.

Then today, Jesse Jackson came to Florida and made an appeal for Terri Schiavo's life. Friends, I think this is the hole in the dike. I believe that the Democratic party has taken African-Americans for granted far too long, and pressed issues that are contrary to the values of many black voters. African-Americans are, as a group, more religious than whites and with Jackson stepping out of the lockstep he has been in for 20 years (as long as I can remember, at least) with the national Democratic party, I think that they will feel more justified in voting with the party that more often supports their moral values. Regardless of what I think of Jackson personally, he still remains a significant voice in black politics. We shall see.

The Conservative Takeover?

Mark has a post about how the "religious right" (or "wacko Christians" or whatever secular liberals call me these days) are doing some terrible stuff, like hijacking conservatism. He even notes that the Uber-blogger Glenn Reynolds is in on it.

Apparenly, this nonsense was intiated by everyone's favorite gay-dissenting catholic-british-Kerry supporter-who is somehow still called conservative Andrew Sullivan.

Evangelical Outpost has a sharp retort. Good read for libertarians and conservatives alike.

Hat tip: A Physicist's Perspective

The Perils of Fatherhood

(it's a good thing I typed this on Word, as blogger ate it at least once)

As Mrs. Hammer has recently given birth, I have been at home for a few days helping her out. Perhaps that should read, “helping her out” in quotes. I’m doing it all – diaper changing, bathing, feeding, cleaning dishes, vacuuming, and sitting through “The Bachelor.” Yes, I am truly sucking it up.

One of the benefits of extra time at home is extra time with my boys. With boy #2, age 18 months, that means wrestling, throwing the mini-basketball, reading “Max’s First Word” thirty-seven times, hugging Elmo when he is presented, and fighting off the dog for the toys and food (both the boy’s and the dog’s). It’s a lot of fun. Of course, it also means dealing with every single tantrum,which seemed to be a lot more prevalent these days. As I am hard-core when it comes to dealing with tantrums – they must NEVER be permitted to be successful – I have had the pleasure of seeing them decrease in intensity and time over the past week. Parenting at work!

With boy #1, age 10, we have had wrestling (slightly more exertion than with boy #2), Stratego, Yahtzee, pushups (discipline method for minor infractions), karate practice, and hide-and-seek. Quality time with boy #1 is dangerous.

How so? Today he offered me one game of hide-and-seek in the house. He would hide once, and I would hide once. I figured I have discovered all of the kid hiding places by this point, so I agreed. Three and a half minutes later, I found him jammed behind the futon, where he had never been before. That was good, but I had a great place in mind for myself!

I used my military training to find a good spot. One of the nifty things we learned was that if one wants to delay their visual contact with the enemy, to present yourself at a different altitude than expected. Simply put, never hide or pop out between waist and head level. For example, when checking a room that may have enemy troops in it, you don’t pop around the corner, muzzle-first, like in the movies. Instead, you do what is called a “quick peek”, where you pop your head around the corner and bring it back immediately – at ankle level. In this case, that meant I had to hide above head level, since kids always hide on the floor.

As he counted to thirty, I ran into the den and grabbed the bottom of the TV box, or whatever that big hole cut in the wall 8 feet up is (the Den is a converted garage, so it has a high ceiling), stepped on the bookcase with my left foot, and jammed myself into the TV box. We currently use it to store boxes in, and it is covered with a curtain, so I maneuvered around and closed the curtain. In brief, he gave up. Since I didn’t want to give away my great spot, I waited until I knew he wouldn’t see me get out, and jumped down.

Now, since I’m practically a ninja, I know how to jump down eight feet and not hurt myself. I wasn’t worried about being barefoot, because I know how to diffuse the impact with body movement. Except…there is no impact diffusion for your next-to-smallest toe when it is curled under your foot. Pow! Broken toe. I played it cool – after all, Dad is a superhero. However, it really hurt when I kicked the googly eyes on the three foot high Elmo with my broken toe.

Moral of the story – when playing hide-and-seek with your kids, hide in the shower. It’s much safer.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I still love March Madness, but...

It was tough to watch UK go down last night.

Spark's prayer three at the end of regulation seemed to be a guarantee of a win. But, just like defense got UK back into it, MSU's defense kept them alive. UK blew it at the end of the first overtime when they failed to get off a decent shot. That was inexperience at work, I believe. UK will be tough next year, but I don't see anyone on the bench that can fill Chuck Hayes' shoes...

Perhaps the worst thing about the loss is that the radio will be full of morons who say that "Rick Pitino would have won that game". Tubby Smith and Tom Izzo are Hall of Fame bound - I don't think Adolph Rupp would have done any better.

I think that whoever wins the Illinois - Louisville game will win it all. UNC and MSU (and UK) just didn't look like they had what it takes.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Blogroll Editing

I have made some changes in my blogroll I wanted to point out.

First, I dropped two sites : Dead Republican Presidents (no significant posts in two months) and Hot Abercrombie Chick (few posts in the past 60 days and no reciprocal link).

I also added:

The View: Personal blog from a middle-aged woman primarily discussing her faith.

Contrarian Views: A former Marine who challenges traditional church practices with skill.

A Physicist's Perspective: Links and pontification on faith and science.

Libertopia: A very sharp libertarian blog. In my opinion, his writing approaches the level of Eric from Eric's Random Musings.

Check out the new additions!

I Love March Madness!

What awesome games tonight! With the nail biter wins after huge comebacks by both Illinois and Louisville, we saw that defense truly does win championships, as tough D got both winners back into games they trailed by 15 and 20, respectively. Here's hoping tomorrow's games will be as exciting!

It is too bad that Villanova lost Curtis Sumpter right before the Carolina game. I am confident that if they had him, they would have won instead of losing by one point. UNC is more vulnerable than I thought...

That UK game was dull! I am happy the Cats won, but it just wasn't very exciting. Sharp play by Chuck Hayes and some excellent bench management by Tubby Smith led them to a relatively easy vicotry, as "everyone's All American", Andrew Bogut, was sub-par. He's got two more years to get his team back to the Final Four - and he may very well do it.

Tomorrow's winners - UK and UNC.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

They Meet

(for the sidebar)

(cue Miss Pac-Man music)

Hammertime was 27 years old and had just taken command of an Air Cavalry Troop stationed on the South Korean DMZ. It was quite an honor to be selected, as he took the position about a year ahead when a captain is typically selected for the job, and was exactly the job he was looking for. The job stress was high – a mission to respond to any DMZ contingency with no notice, at any time. The unit was the most visible in the division, with direct contact with the division commander and United Nations forces a weekly occurrence. However, Hammertime has a stress-tolerance curve that is well above average – he makes more stress for himself when he doesn’t have enough! That wasn’t necessary in this job, so he was pretty darn happy.

Miss Hammer was finishing her teacher certification up with some student teaching near Sacramento. She had worked hard for six years to get her teaching degree and certification, while juggling that with the care and support of her son, whom she had while still a teenage high school student. She recognized that her son needed a positive father figure, but wasn’t willing to settle just to have someone around. While her work was important, her son was the most important person in her life, and she wasn’t willing to change that for anything or anyone.

Romantically, she had little success in recent years. She knew better than to look for Mr. Right in bars, but even sources of supposedly ‘good’ men fell short. Hammertime had given up even attempting romance for some time, so poor had his experience been in recent years. While both had really hoped to find a partner at church, but to no avail.

So what was it that prompted Hammertime? He had come to the point in his life where he was content to serve his country and to serve God. In fact, he had only weeks before told his best friend that if he never had another date, he wouldn’t mind at all. It was late one night after working on the flight line, and on a whim that can only be described as providential, he surfed to “The Christian Matchmaker”, and went through the process of filling out a profile. After all, what else is there to do on a Friday night at 0100 only seven miles from the DMZ?

The Matchmaker is very clear in its guidance to those who would attempt to find a match. First, if you don’t post a picture, you don’t get mail. Second, if you are male, you MUS write many women to get mail back. It clearly says – “If you want mail, you must send out mail first.” Hammertime neither put up a picture nor sent out mail. He wasn’t looking for love – he just liked filling out the profile, I guess.

Miss Hammer had been on the Christian Matchmaker for a little while, but had never initiated an email conversation. For whatever reason, that night she did a search for a match – one that was to be within 50 miles of her current location. She also wasn’t interested in anyone who didn’t have a picture up.

Let us paint a very clear picture – Hammertime puts up no picture and sends no mail, thus statistically condemning himself to no contacts during his seven day trial period – and he’s in Korea. Miss Hammer does a search for a match within 50 miles, has never initiated an email, and doesn’t want to see matches without photos.

It may be easy to theorize about the not totally unreasonable aspects – that Hammertime’s profile was cleverly written, that Miss Hammer was enthralled with his mind and spirit, that their interests were similar enough to turn up as a match, and that Miss Hammer’s charm was sufficient to overcome Hammertime’s aversion to single moms (see Jerry McGuire for why – it involves shoplifting). The truth of any of those is debatable, but what still had to be overcome was how a man 4,000 miles away turned up in a search within a 50-mile radius?

The answer is this – the Matchmaker system bases its search upon zip code. The zip code for APO AP addresses (what servicemembers in the Asian theatre use for a mailing address) reflects as San Francisco, CA, well within the 50 mile radius of Miss Hammer.

Coincidences all? We think not. We’re not sappy enough to say it’s a “Match Made in Heaven” TM, but it sure looks like it so far. The second half of the story will be titled, “The Covenant”.

Friday, March 25, 2005

March Madness Again

Well, my buddy from my alma mater, Coach K, has gone down in defeat. Both the West Point guys have faltered in the Sweet 16. I’m at 50% for tonight, with the Big Ten responsible for my right and wrong choice.

Duke simply didn’t take care of the ball, whether they were turning it over or giving up offensive rebounds. Kudos to Tom Izzo and the unheralded Michigan State Spartans. The Big Ten, by the way, now owns 37.5% of the Elite Eight, and they only sent 5 teams to the tournament! I must admit, I didn’t think much of the Big Ten aside from Illinois…

I’m still going with UK and UNC. I expect big nights from Kelenna Azibuke and Sean May, respectively.

UPDATE: Good gravy, Nova is leading at the half! Hey, I know that the most irrelevant score is the halftime score, but who’d have thunk it, without Sumpter?

Tonight's Picks

UK, Duke, Wisconsin, UNC.

If Sumpter had not been injured, I would be picking 'Nova for tonight's upset.

Here's hoping my UK pick is not as subjective as I may fear...

Good Friday

The real deal, here.

It didn't seem very good at the time, did it?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The EA Sports All-American Setting

There was a video game I played in college called “Quake”. In this game, there were four difficulty settings: Easy, Average, Hard, and Nightmare. EA needs to change its sports game settings names to something similar.

I had already attempted to play EA’s NCAA Football 2004 at the All-American level, and was routed by Columbia. That’s right, the Ivy League Columbia. In fact, the same Columbia I beat 52-17 on the All-Conference level shut me out and scored 28 points on All-American. It was something like that, I don't remember the details. I should have learned my lesson.

You see, I like a video game to be a challenging. Unlike my ten-year-old, I don’t want to win because I have the BFG 9000 or whatever superior thing gives me the edge. I want to win with less than the opponent has, thus demonstrating my superior skillz. I typically start a game on the normal setting, then get harder every time I start over. With EA’s NCAA March Madness 2003, I had won the championship with Appalachian State, the worst team in the game, on the All-Conference level. It was time for All-American.

I chose Vanderbilt, a team in the bottom of a BCS conference, because I was hoping it would help my recruiting. That’s the lifeblood of NCAA sports – the talent level of your recruited players. The only way to attract the better recruits is to win. I thought that Vanderbilt would be taxed in the conference play, but figured I could schedule a non-conference slate that would help with some easy wins and tough opponents to help the RPI. Then, I found out what All-American means:

No blocks. No offensive rebounds.

Just like in real life, defense wins championships. In basketball, that means reducing the opponent’s shooting percentage, causing turnovers, and rebounding. With the UTTER REMOVAL of offensive rebounding and shot block attempts, it is bloody impossible to beat a team with more talent than yours. Tough defense can make up for less shooting skill, but six seasons at Vanderbilt gave me no significant improvement in record each year. I have given up on the All-American setting.

On a side note, I tried my kid’s Need for Speed Underground and found it wholly unsatisfying. The game is entirely linear, with the money you make exceeding what you need to make every mod or upgrade available at the time, leading to zero true decision making that will affect your vehicle’s performance. It’s obviously not designed for thinking middle-aged men.

The Change

(for the sidebar)

I was in my senior year in college – the United States Military Academy at West Point – and on Christmas leave. Now my presence at USMA at all would be a shock to anyone who knew my life before then but that’s another story or two. I was staying at my mother’s apartment, sleeping on the couch. I had been reading a novel called, “The Robe”, which was made into a movie in the ‘60’s, I believe. I awoke with a start.

I had been in and/or around church all of my life, in one fashion or another. I had spent most of my Sunday mornings in Sunday School or CCD (Catholic Religion Classes), and moved into the evening CCD when I was in junior high. Due to my particular family situations, I never actually received First Communion or Confirmation. I could, however, tell you almost every Bible story (especially ones involving cool battles or amazing miracles of nature), knew all of my required prayers (Apostle’s and Nicene Creed, Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be) and the Ten Commandments, and could explain how Jesus Christ was the son of God, came to earth, died and rose again to save us form our sins, and that believing in him was required for entrance into heaven. I also believed in Him.

Not that it made a difference in my life, though. I also believed in George Washington, George Patton, and George H.W. Bush, with whom I got to have lunch (sort of – he sat at the table next to mine). The impact that my belief in any of them had the same impact on me that believing in Jesus did – minimal to none. I was the ringleader of my group of pals who lived the typical lives of young Americans in college (within the obvious constraints) of inebriation and debauchery. I was also currently ‘involved’ with a woman who was a bisexual drug addict that lived with another man. I was in great physical shape and truly had no complaints about any area of my life.

(I mention that last part because this is, after all, a conversion story. Many of my friends who were doubters attempted to ‘find’ something that was some kind of dramatic negative change or source of discontent in my life, because they felt that some kind of psychological explanation was available for the changes in my behavior. )

It was the kind of wake-up you get when a loud noise awakens you. In fact, I not only awakened suddenly, but shot up into a sitting position immediately. Now, I’m not one to say that ‘God spoke to me’, or even insinuate to someone that I ‘received a word from God’, and it wasn’t as if there were letters burning in the sky or something miraculous. The best way I can describe it without spiritualizing it is to say that I heard a voice in my head or heard a thought that was distinctly not mine. It simply said, “What are you doing?”

I was taken aback. Correction, I was spooked. It’s not every day that one hears voices, and as far as I knew it was always under a state of altered conscience due to mind-bending drugs. I hadn’t had any of those. In retrospect, you’d think I would have recalled the prophet Samuel, the Apostle Paul, or Saint Joan of Arc. Instead, I merely realized that I had better answer the voice. I went with the most common answer of any errant child:

“I don’t know.”

Brilliant, eh? Thankfully, the response was not what I say to my son when he gives me the “Ida Know” answer. Instead, the voice came back:

“You know what you are supposed to do, and haven’t done it.”

End of conversation, at least in that regard. The truth was that I knew exactly what the voice was referring to. You see, it isn’t ‘believing’ in Jesus that matters. I mean, the demons surely believe in Him, and they aren’t likely to inherit eternal life. It is a wholesale dedication of your life to Christ that is required, one that is evident to everyone around you and one that is unmistakable. I knew all of this. It is clear in the Bible and it was clear in the lives of those unmistakable Christians, both Catholic and Protestant – Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, Saint Francis of Assisi. Not only was/is their faith evident in their words, but their post-conversion lives were without scandal.

I also knew what had to be done, and that the conversation must continue. I dropped to my knees and begged the Lord for forgiveness for my sins, asked Jesus Christ to come into my life as my savior and as my Lord, and pledged my life to Him.

The change was immediate and unmistakable. I went from being the ringleader of inebriation and debauchery to being nicknamed, “Friar Hammer”. I had struggled with foul language to that point, so much that had put Post-It notes up in my dorm room that said “Stop Swearing”, to no avail. I couldn’t have a conversation without them. They stopped instantly, as did the drinking and general debauchery. I showed up at the Baptist Student Union and announced to the assembled students that I had been converted over the break and would be hanging around.

While I continued to make some mistakes and sometimes choose poorly, I never returned to my old habits, but recognized my sin when I committed it and repented. My friend base also changed at that point. Thereafter, I never really made any good friends who were not Christians. Additionally, those who were acquainted with me knew who I followed, not because I preached, but because I didn’t hide it. The Change had begun. It was by no means complete, because it was also progresive, but it was entirely irreversible.

March Madness, Indeed

While I didn’t blog it at the time, Mrs. Hammer was kind enough to give birth to Baby Grace before the first round games of the NCAA tournament. Even better, she allowed me to watch the whole tournament last weekend in her hospital room, despite her appalling lack of interest in most of it. A quick review:

In my opinion, there were far more ‘little’ teams giving the big boys a run for their money this year. As usual, the 13-16s fell by the wayside, most in the first round – but many of them put up much more of a fight than we typically see.

Whoa! I just saw the nastiest pick I have ever seen in a college game laid out by Louisville on Washington. Ouch!

Anyway, with the exception of North Carolina, every high seed had to compete with the low seed they faced. Of course, there was the ubiquitous 12-5 upset of UW-Milwaukee over Alabama, plus Vermont overcoming Syracuse in a 13-4 upset, and the shocking 14-3 upset of Kansas by the Patriot League representative, Bucknell. I knew Kansas was a weak 3 seed, with poor play in the end of the regular season, and picked an early exit for them, but Bucknell? Wow. I know that UW-M was a trendy pick for the annual 12-5 upset…instead I chose George Washington and now my bracket is in tatters after UConn’s loss to NC State, a 10 seed.

My Final Four picks were UConn, Texas Tech, Illinois, and UK, so I still have three left. Still, Texas Tech has a tough road with giant-killer West Virginia on tap tonight, and then the winner of Washington-Louisville. Speaking of Louisville, if they stop turning the ball over (due to bad hands, it seems, not defensive pressure), then they may kill Washington. Washington is not shooting well, especially if you don’t included their fast-break points. Louisville is currently shooting the lights out from beyond the arc…another UofL turnover, and another Washington miss. We’ll see.

I’m pulling for a number of schools. I’m rooting for UK and Uof L, since I am currently a Kentucky resident. I’m pulling for the Big East - as St. John’s and Notre Dame aren’t in the Dance, I root for their conference. Only WVU and Villanova remain, but Nova is looking very sharp – they may have an outside shot. Finally, I am rooting for Texas Tech, because I like Bobby Knight as a coach.

Well, Louisville is leading Washington by 12 at the half. That’s a tough deficit for any team, and one that, in my opinion, requires superior coaching. Not many have it over Pitino. UofL will advance.

PS – Does anyone box out anymore besides Bob Knight’s and Tubby Smith’s teams?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Light Blogging to Come

...but mostly as far as commenting from me on other blogs. Since I am rolling at home with a 28.8k connection and Netscape Navigator, surfing is like work, at least until 30 March. What I plan on doing is crafting a set of sidebar links like Mark has on his site. You know, some things that say who I am, what I think I stand for, and why UK hoops/Notre Dame Football/Yankke baseball rocks. I have a video game post on EA March Madness 2003 coming up, too. You know, for my masses of 14-year old male readers.

I'll write them on Word and upload them - the method of the broadband challenged.

Political Ideology vs Morality

I have done only one post about Terri Schiavo. I suppose I thought that there were enough that were doing so that I read regularly. But as this case appears to be drawing to an end, I wanted to point out a flaw in the reasoning of many of us.

We tend to say 'don't label me', but then embrace the label we like - liberal, conservative, libertarian, independent, moderate, etc. However, all of these fail to outline what is moral behavior...aside from meeting the tenets of that label.

Conservatives are supposed to favor the rule of law. However, in this case, the law clearly says that when an incapacitated person does not have any written directives for what to do with them, their spouse makes the decisions. Period. The legal answer in this case is that Mrs. Schiavo dies, as her husband desires.

Liberals are supposed to favor doing "whatever helps people", at least according to Mark. He calls it 'pragmatism', but I don't find that any less of an ideology. Anyway, if it is 'whatever helps people', and the government is involved (like most 'liberal' ideas), then as there are medical experts and 17 disability advocacy groups who are putting their weight into an argument that Mrs. Schiavo can have some recovery, clearly this line of reasoning should be to 'help' Mrs. Schiavo and give her nourishment and therapy.

As we all know, generally both sides say exactly the opposite of what their normal ideology requires. Why is that? Why do modern day liberals who want government intervention in nearly every aspect of life say that the G should back off? Why do conservatives deny the validity of longstanding law and ask for governmental intervention?

It's simple - it's a moral question, not a legal one.

You can tell the true organizations of political ideology and policy. Take the Cato Institute. Many feel they are a conservative think-tank, while they would describe themselves as libertarian - and they are. Do you know how you can tell? They have no position on abortion. Why not? The libertarian view can be applied to either case - either the unborn baby is not a human and the decision is exclusively that of the mother (how can you be a mother without a baby? Never mind), or the unborn baby is a human, and its individual rights can not be trampled on by another simply because it cannot express itself. What keeps the balance from tilting is that the decision of whether the baby is a person or not is NOT a libertarian-influenced decision. It is moral, perhaps scientific, but is totally without influence in the realm of libertarian thought. Therefore, libertarian ideals are NOT moral ideals...nor are any other political ideals.

The law does not even consider the likelihood that the spouse would NOT have the best interests of the incapacitated person at heart. Good freaking grief, the divorce rate is over 50%, people don't have the best interests of each other at heart at least that often! Think about it - no matter what the details are, divorce is always a result of at least one (and often both) spouse's unwillingness to put the other person's needs ahead of their own. So why the heck should the law assume that it would be that way for someone who can't express themselves? Mr. Schiavo, through his cohabitation with another woman, while still 'married' to Terri, and fathering of two children with this other woman, coupled with his wholesale refusal to have any therapy conducted on Terri, has shown that he is NOT operating with Terri's best interests at heart (did you know he waited 8 years to 'remember' that Terri allegedly told him not to keep her alive??).

According to the law, as correctly interpreted, Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube should be removed. I think it will stay that way, and she will die. However, it's a bad law. The constitution specifically says that the government exists to provide for the general welfare of the citizenry. It is this same line that is used to justify myriad government programs to 'help' people who need it. It certainly should be used to craft the set of laws that protect the lives of those who cannot speak for themselves.

I have noted that the libertarians have stuck to their guns on this one, for the most part. The flip flops by the others are more due to their dual moral-political classifications. ‘Liberals’ are also more morally liberal, and have less qualms with whacking folks who can’t vote…as long as they are not in another country. ‘Conservatives’ tend to be morally conservative, and favor protecting those who don’t have a voice…unless they are in another country. Get it?

I’m a Christian, not any of the above. Hence my seeming paradox.

Grace Lorraine

Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 11:35 AM.

Free Image Hosting at

Nuff said.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"Whatever it is, it could stop at any moment"

That is the way that Dave Barry described how helicopters are held up in the air. In my case, it applies to the baby sitting in Mrs. Hammer's belly. Therefore, an unexpected (sort of) break in blogging will occur in the next seven days - apologies in advance!

Go Cats! (The Kentucky kind, that is. Not the pissed off kind in my sidebar. Nothing does pissed off like a cat. Nothing.)

Faith in Evolution - the "Why"

Mark and David have helped me in a discussion about the potential faith elements in Darwinian evolution below. One of the issues that came up is that evolutionists react poorly to criticism because they are being 'systematically attacked by well-funded advocacy groups who seek to destroy the science'.

Over at the Center for Science and Culture, this article was written by an agnostic professor with a PhD in philosophy and mathematics from Princeton. While it has some angst in it, it asks good questions - questions that deserve answers. So why don't these questions get answered? Obviously individuals who have no connection with creationists have these questions, but...

"The defense of Darwin’s theory of evolution has now fallen into the hands of biologists who believe in suppressing criticism when possible and ignoring it when not. It is not a strategy calculated in induce confidence in the scientific method. A paper published recently in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington concluded that the events taking place during the Cambrian era could best be understood in terms of an intelligent design – hardly a position unknown in the history of western science. The paper was, of course, peer-reviewed by three prominent evolutionary biologists. Wise men attend to the publication of every one of the Proceeding’s papers, but in the case of Steven Meyer’s "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," the Board of Editors was at once given to understand that they had done a bad thing. Their indecent capitulation followed at once. "

Criminal. This is why intelligent discourse very seldom occurs - the anti-any-opposition fervor of evolutionists is closer to militant religious fundamentalism than anything scientific. In fact, it is justified by similar language:

""If scientists do not oppose antievolutionism,” Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, remarked, “it will reach more people with the mistaken idea that evolution is scientifically weak.” Scott’s understanding of ‘opposition’ had nothing to do with reasoned discussion. It had nothing to do with reason at all. Discussing the issue was out of the question. Her advice to her colleagues was considerably more to the point: "Avoid debates."

Everyone else had better shut up."

Therefore, avoid questions about evolution because people might think there are problems with it. That's no different from, "No one can question what our church says, because it might lead them to not believe in God." This is science? I don't think so. Some do. Thankfull, my blog tends to attract the more level headed in the blogosphere.

This will have to count for my Theology Tuesday post. I plan on having a zinger next week!

Note: Dr. Berlinski is a fellow at the CSC, which has as one of their goals the questioning of Darwinism. This makes him decidedly non-objective. However, a perusal of his work shows that most of his work is with math, philosophy and molecular biology, not creation science.

Monday, March 14, 2005

How to fix the Priest-pedophilia problem

What do the pundits always say when a molestation incident with a Catholic priest becomes public?

"They should let priests marry. That would fix the problem."


"They should have women priests. That would fix the problem."

Right. Except it won't.

The problem is one of the human spirit, not of the sex or marital status of the offenders. The above link demonstrates it perfectly.

Hat Tip: My Pet Jawa

Today's Miracle

OK, it didn't happen today, but Teresa has put together a great post on the recapture of the Atlanta courthouse shooter.

File under: "There are no such thing as 'coincidents'"

(or is that 'coincidence'? grammatically it should be the former, unless it should really be 'coincidences'. It's probably that.)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Speaking of Racism

When I was in the 9th grade, I lived in Memphis, Tennessee. I attended East High School, which was 99% black. In fact, I think there were four white boys in the whole school. There were no white females. I recall the day I entered my first class - I got there after the year had started - and saw a sea of brown faces looking at me when I came in the door. I'm sure that my eyes got as big as saucers. I may even have looked at my hand to verify that I was visibly different from everyone else.

That year totally sucked. I was in a fight an average of once a week. I lost almost all of them. Once I even had my head kicked into my locker door as I was kneeling in front of it putting books in. I never knew who did it. Why did it happen? Because I was white, as evidenced by the "white m-er f-er" I heard after my skull bounced off of the locker. That's what most of those fights came down to. I was different, so I was a legitimate target for attack. Throw in that I was short and skinny, and hey, why not go after the small white kid? I know what racism feels like, which may be a big reason why I react so poorly to evidence of it.

I was reminded of this last night when I saw something in a movie that I had never seen before: racism by non-whites in a film. The movie was "Friday Night Lights", and it is clear that the coaches for the all-black Dallas team are racists. There is even a black referee who makes a clearly incorrect call in favor of Dallas, and while we don't know if he saw the play correctly, the white referees were afraid to contradict him for fear of looking racist. What is the single biggest evidence of the Dallas coaches' racism? They believe that they will not get a fair shake if they don't have black coaches. They think that white referees will be racist.

If you want a simple definition of racism, it is this: believing that a group has a deficiency, ANY deficiency (including the deficiency of being a racist) because of their 'race'. I had never seen racism on the silver screen by anyone but whites before, and I think it is a credit to the writer of the movie that the scene was there.

The fact is that no one is inherently different in any significant fashion (beyond their racial pysical attributes) because of their race. This is evident in the clear fact that anyone, of any race, can be a racist pig. We are all equally capable of sin, because we are all fallen humans. Racism ignores that truth, and is reprehensible in anyone. Those who do it around me are likely to see me forget my committment to peaceful engagement.

Evolution as Faith

I found this at Weapons of Mass Distraction interesting because it is written by a non-Christian. It is an essay on why evolution is far more faith than science. Here's my favorite excerpt:

"Third, evolutionists are obsessed by Christianity and Creationism, with which they imagine themselves to be in mortal combat. This is peculiar to them. Note that other sciences, such as astronomy and geology, even archaeology, are equally threatened by the notion that the world was created in 4004 BC. Astronomers pay not the slightest attention to creationist ideas. Nobody does—except evolutionists. We are dealing with competing religions—overarching explanations of origin and destiny. Thus the fury of their response to skepticism.

I found it pointless to tell them that I wasn’t a Creationist. They refused to believe it. If they had, they would have had to answer questions that they would rather avoid. Like any zealots, they cannot recognize their own zealotry. Thus their constant classification of skeptics as enemies (a word they often use)—of truth, of science, of Darwin, of progress.

This tactical demonization is not unique to evolution. "Creationist" is to evolution what "racist" is to politics: A way of preventing discussion of what you do not want to discuss. Evolution is the political correctness of science."

Read the rest. Hat tip: A Physicist's Perspective

Friday, March 11, 2005

Blogger Comments Are Down

Of course, less than two weeks after I dump Haloscan for the new Blogger comments, we are on our second straight day of them being down for large periods of time. Carpe Bonum says he is applying a fix to his site - I may copy it...if it isn't Haloscan.

UPDATE: as of 1330, I can't even make my blog show up, although I can see it in the template preview. This is silly.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Three Minute Abortion Debate

Interested in a quick discourse of the most common points by both sides, with no religion involved?

Bruce Bethke has a super overview here.

Stunning. Check it out.

Hat Tip:The Physicist's Perspective

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Christian Carnival is up!

Check out Christian Carnival LX for a roundup of some of the blogosphere's recent Christian postings (allegedly!).

This week it is at Belief Seeking Understanding.

Team Hammer has made it into the Carnival this week for Theology Tuesday III (below). Check out the other carnies!

Ward Churchill - Good. Professor of the Year - Bad

Let me say up front:

Ward Churchill should not be fired for being a jerk, nor for being a left-wing moonbat. Most reasonable people, I think, would agree. His plagiarism is another story, but I'll let others rant about that.

With that said, why should Dr. Phil Mitchell, professor of the year in 1998, at the University of Colorado, the VERY SAME UNIVERSITY, be fired for his conservative positions?

That is why Churchill matters - he represents what is the norm on college campuses, and the left hates anything that is not itself. Therefore, Churchill gets a free pass, and Mitchell gets canned.

Not good. Not good at all.

Hat tip: Ace.

Second Amendment Info

You know how those NRA types always say that if guns are banned, then only criminals will have guns?

They were right.

"The cure has proven to be much worse than the disease.

Crime rates in England have skyrocketed since the ban was enacted. According to economist John Lott of the American Enterprise Institute, the violent crime rate has risen 69 percent since 1996, with robbery rising 45 percent and murders rising 54 percent. This is even more alarming when you consider that from 1993 to 1997 armed robberies had fallen by 50 percent. Recent information released by the British Home Office shows that trend is continuing."

If the bad guys know you aren't armed, they are more bold. Period.

Conservative Does Not Mean 'Pro Big Business'

"So on the Right, I think we too often fall into the trap of defending big business on the grounds of free enterprise, when big businesses are often not particularly concerned with free enterprise themselves. I find it difficult to defend businesses as bastions of capitalism when they show no reluctance to shake down taxpayers for all matter of subsidies.

Also, I think conservatives let their admirable attraction to ideas distract them from other sources of change. Many conservatives like to blame all of our modern ills on those horrible ideas that escaped German laboratories at the beginning of the 20th century and then mutated in French cafés. And while I think nihilism, moral relativism, existentialism, etc. have had serious consequences for society, it’s impossible to deny that the automobile, birth control pill and the telephone have done more to unsettle traditional arrangements than anything Heidegger ever wrote or said. The problem is that it’s easy to argue with Heidegger (or his writing); it’s really hard to argue with a Buick."
- Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online's Editor-at-Large

I am seeing an eerie silence from my big guns on the right over this bankruptcy reform issue. So, while I am 100% excited that the Schumer amendment was smashed, I am not excited about the bill at all. The silence of the right in general gives me a...yucky feeling about it.

Media Bias - Right and Left

One of the most humorous things I read is when some leftist claims that the main stream media is conservatively biased. I think even The Moderate Liberal has mentioned that he thinks it is true at times. I ran a quick test this morning.

You see, despite the view that I am a capitalism following jack-booted thug, I actually recognize the failing of Corporate America. The biggest is in entertainment, where the vast amount of it is bloody worthless by my measure. In radio, it is awful. Therefore, I listen to only two radio stations, neither of which are corporate or supported by commercials - NPR and AFR. That's right, bastions of the secular, government supported left and the Christian Right. Hey, I like classical music and interviews with Lynne Cheney, as well as Steven Curtis Chapman. I had the chance to hear both NPR news and AFR news this morning, and they both reported on the failure of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to get his amendment added to the bankruptcy bill. Here is how the two reported the event:

NPR - "Senator Chuck Schumer's amendment to keep people who conduct violence and threaten violence against abortion clinics was defeated by Republicans" (I couldn't find text of their broadcast, like I could at AFR)

AFR - "The U.S. Senate has rejected an amendment that would have prohibited pro-lifers and others from using bankruptcy to avoid paying civil fines associated with pro-life protests. The proposal, which was pushed by New York Senator Charles Schumer, was defeated on a mostly party-line vote of 53-46. Schumer said it was wrong for anyone involved in violence to be able to get that protection. But Eagle Forum had pointed out that protesters who commit violent actions are already prevented from declaring bankruptcy -- and that the NY lawmaker's amendment was specifically targeting peaceful pro-life protesters who protest outside abortion clinics. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch called the Democrat's proposed amendment to a bankruptcy reform bill a "poison pill" that would once again derail the legislation. The inclusion of the provision has twice been scuttled in the past. House leaders warned before the vote they could not accept the bill with such a provision."

Let's check the text of Chuck "The Steamer" Schumer's (Not to be confused with Bill "The Steamer" Stanley, who blew the '86 World Series for the BoSox. It was his fault much more than Bill Buckner's) amendment:


Section 523(a) of title 11, United States Code, as amended by this Act, is further amended--

(1) in paragraph (18), by striking ``or'' at the end;

(2) in paragraph (19), by striking the period at the end and inserting ``; or''; and

(3) by inserting after paragraph (19) the following:

``(20) that results from any judgment, order, consent order, or decree entered in any Federal or State court, or contained in any settlement agreement entered into by the debtor, including any court ordered damages, fine, penalty, citation, or attorney fee or cost owed by the debtor, arising from--

``(A) an action alleging the violation of any Federal, State, or local statute, including but not limited to a violation of section 247 or 248 of title 18, that results from the debtor's--

``(i) harassment of, intimidation of, interference with, obstruction of, injury to, threat to, or violence against, any person--

``(I) because that person provides, or has provided, lawful goods or services;

``(II) because that person is, or has been, obtaining lawful goods or services; or

``(III) to deter that person, any other person, or a class of persons, from obtaining or providing lawful goods or services; or

``(ii) damage to, or destruction of, property of a facility providing lawful goods or services; or

``(B) a violation of a court order or injunction that protects access to--

``(i) a facility that provides lawful goods or services; or

``(ii) the provision of lawful goods or services.

Nothing in paragraph (20) shall be construed to affect any expressive conduct (including peaceful picketing or other peaceful demonstration) protected from legal prohibition by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.''.

What's the truth? That if Senator Schumer was not interested in restricting the free speech rights of pro-life demonstrators, then he would not have included the words "harassment of, intimidation of, interference with, [or] obstruction of" in paragraph 20-A-i. If the bill were all about keeping protestors who are violent or threaten violence from getting out of their government fines, then it simply would have read what was left in the same paragraph - "injury to, threat to, or violence against, any person" as well as leaving as is paragraph 20-A-ii, "damage to, or destruction of, property of a facility providing lawful goods or services". He also would not have included, at all, section B.

It's clear that Schumer was going after pro-life demonstrators, regardless of what the "disclaimer" at the end of the amendment said. After all, the Eagle Forum is right - "Presently under the FACE Act, abortion clinics can bring civil lawsuits against pro-life protesters for physically obstructing access to the clinic even if the obstruction is completely non-violent (prayer, silently holding a sign, etc.). Those protesters are permitted under current law to declare bankruptcy as long as the underlying action is not willful and malicious. Protesters who commit violent actions are already prevented from declaring bankruptcy."

Here is a flyer from Representative Dan Burton(R-IN) which demonstrates that Schumer's intent has always been to target peaceful pro-life demonstrators. Schumer has been tacking this on to bankruptcy reform bills since at least 1999, by my own checking of the records.

I really had to dig to get to the bottom of this. Because none of the pro-life news sources listed the law that prohibited fines due to violence or vandalism form being wiped out due to bankruptcy. I haven't found it - but I did find this. It is from "ProChoice America" and is a 5 page document stating how terrible it is that pro-life demonstrators can file bankruptcy to get out of their fines for violent conduct. However, you have to pay very close attention to see the truth. They have footnoted the word "violence" to mean, and I quote, "violence, threats of violence, property damage, illegal blockades and other violations of law". As the FACE Act prohibits picketing and peaceful protests at abortion clinics (because they can be accused of "interfering" with abortion seekers and workers), those acts of free speech are against the law, and are considered "violence" by ProChoice America, Senator Schumer, and obviously the Democratic party.

The media is leftist and anti-life, as seen in this story and how millions of Americans do not understand Terry Schiavo's case. AFR boldly states that they are reporting from the right. NPR (and Dan Rather, etc) still claim to be objective.

Of course, yesterday I heard my local NPR station use the words "so-called" when describing an upcoming POTUS visit...just in case I didn't get it from this instance of leftist bias.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What D&D Character Are You?

OK, I played D&D up through junior high. Then I stuck to computer versions of it after I moved away from my similarly socially challenged pals. This enabled me to 1)Become cool and attract hot chicks like Mrs Hammer, while 2) Still being a D&D dork in private. Apparently:

I Am A: Chaotic Good Elf Paladin

Chaotic Good characters are independent types with a strong belief in the value of goodness. They have little use for governments and other forces of order, and will generally do their own things, without heed to such groups.

Elves are the eldest of all races, although they are generally a bit smaller than humans. They are generally well-cultured, artistic, easy-going, and because of their long lives, unconcerned with day-to-day activities that other races frequently concern themselves with. Elves are, effectively, immortal, although they can be killed. After a thousand years or so, they simply pass on to the next plane of existance.

Paladins are the Holy Warriors. They have been chosen by a God/dess to be their representative on Earth, and must follow the code of that deity, or risk severe penalties. They tend towards being righteous, but not generally to excess.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy of NeppyMan!

Believe it or not, I was a lawful good elf cavalier in the last stages of my public D&D-ing. No one could be a paladin back then except humans, and you had to be lawful to be a cavalier (which was as close to paladin as one could get for non-humans).

You could try the quiz too, or just leave it to former recluses like myself...I swear I never told some random kids that I'd cleave him in two with my Vorpal Sword. Really. I don't care what you've heard, I'm telling the truth.

Hat Tip: Ace

Interviewee: DH

I actually didn't expect anyone to take me up on my interview few regular readers are more philosophers than chatty types, but David of Rowan Review threw his hat inthe ring, so here goes:

1) Rowan Review is not a typical blog. Tell us about what it is and why you established it.

2) You have some prior military service - which makes you a good chap in my book to start with! What was your favorite thing about the military, and why did you elect to end your service?

3) You don't seem to menton local or national level sports very often. Are you a sports fan?

4) You call yourself a libertarian. What or who do you think was the most formative person or event in your embrace of the libertarian view?

5) In your area you have a state university. What do you see are the primary pros and cons of the university, both in its impact upon students and its impact upon the community?

David will post his answers on his site, after which I'll link directly to it above.

Theology Tuesday III

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
- The First Epistle of St. Peter, Chapter Three, Verses 8-11.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?
The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter Five, Verses 43-46

One of the most unique aspects of Christianity is not that it says to love your neighbor. Most religions do this. What is far more rare is that we are called to love our enemies. Peter Kreeft does a wonderful job of going into detail about what this love is...and what it is not. To summarize, he lays out some misconceptions about love. Here are five that have some relevance to today's subject:

1) Love is not a feeling. We can't feel all warm and snuggly about our enemies, any more than we cab hug a roll of concertina barbed wire. That "love" is better described as "luv", a term I plan to use a lot in the future. "We fall in luv but we do not fall in love. We rise in love."

2) You do not love humanity, you love an individual. "Love of humanity is easy because humanity does not surprise you with inconvenient demands. You never find humanity on your doorstep, stinking and begging." The love of humanity is the love of secular humanism. The love of Christ is the love of a person.

3) Love is not kindness. "Kindness is the desire to relieve another's suffering. Love is the willing of another's good. A father can spank his child out of love. And God is a father." Kindness is wanting to stop the bad, while love is desiring the best for a person and doing something about it. We are kind to our pets, and "put them out of their misery" by the thousands. If we love our neighbor, we realize that depriving them of life is anything but love.

4) God is love, but love is not God. Worship of love eliminates the Almighty Creator from the equation, and treats him as a force or energy. No, saying that God is love is expressing a critical component of the nature of God, while saying that love is God is claiming that our own, failure-ridden human love is all one needs to know of God. The first is a profound eternal truth, the other is damnable nonsense.

5) You can't be 'in love with love', any more than you can have faith in faith, or hope in hope, or see sight. That is "luv", confused yet again.

That is what love is and is not, the love of Christ which constrains us to good works - love in action. It is not our feelings of "luv" which identify us as Christians, not any more than it is our doctrines, theology or creeds. It is our love for our neighbor, indeed, our love for our enemies, that truly identifies those who have the Holy Spirit inside of them.

What form does this take? It that described above by Jesus and by St. Peter. When someone rails against us and our faith, we respond in gentleness. When we are decried for being intolerant, we emphasize the love of Christ while refusing to compromise, in that his love is available to all. It is a prayer for those who hurt us - not a prayer of vengeance, but a prayer of forgiveness and a prayer for the soul of that person.

You see, as hard as it is, that is the form of true love, the love borne of God in Christ Jesus. It is not a command to foolishness - to put trust in the untrustworthy or to profess acceptance of wickedness. Instead, it is to treat them as you would wish to be treated - with honor, respect and love, the very way Christ treated us while we hated Him. It is to note the good in every person when we can, to speak well of them (as much as we can in regard to their goodness) and not backbiting. The practice of love includes our tongues as well as our actions.

As we wander in a world that is not our home, we face the reality of Christian living: that struggling against the sins of the culture is necessary, but so is the love of those who are the purveyors of sin. A phrase I have used for years, that certainly is a cliche from someone else, is this:

"You can't touch someone until you reach out your hand to them."

To lead others to the love of Christ, we must first love them ourselves. Everything else will follow.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Italian Communist Reporters ARE the Enemy, Apparently

Check out Dr. Shackleford's summary of the recent statements by Giuliana Sgrena and how they don't jive.

I agree with him. I think the abduction of this virulently anti-war journalist was staged, and this ending was an unfortunate result of her lack of awareness of what those of us who are not terrorist sympathizers have to face in the sandbox.

Soldiers don't shoot civilians who act accordingly. They are TERRIFIED of creating an incident, even more so than they are afraid for their own lives. If you disagree with me, there is a high probablility that you have never been a servicemember in harm's way.

Check out the rest of Dr. Shackleford's stuff on the issue. He presents a convincing case, I think.

March Madness

I've been off the air, as far as Hammertime Sports Commentary goes, for a while, but as the college hoops tournament time approaches (the most exciting time in sports, says I!), expect it to come much more often.

Case in point, Gut Check Sunday - yesterday. Illinois, Kentuck and Kansas all fail to win games on the road against opponents who are decent, but not Final Four material. Will it be the wake up call they need, or did it expose the flaws in those teams?

Watching UNC pull it out over Duke by scoring the last 11 points of the game to win by two was almost unreal. I was doing our family taxes and going back and forth from the computer to the TV. When Duke took its nine point lead, I told Mrs. Hammer, "I don't need to watch it anymore. Duke wins." What I should have said was, "Over? Over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? (Germans? Shush, he's on a roll.) Hell no! And it ain't over now. Cause when the going gets tough..............the tough get going!"

Followed by, of course, "Toga!"

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Watching the Kentucky - Florida game made me worried about UK. When th game was winding down, they couldn't get it to Chuck Hayes. Watching three Cats down low pushing, but not exploding to space, made me cringe, and Azibuke threw up a short three to lose it. They were down by one! Why shoot a three from well behind the arc, off balance? Get it to the big man and make them stop him! Argh!!!! Patrick Sparks is actually the cousin of a lawyer buddy of mine, so I want him to do well - but he is NOT the go-to guy for UK. He should not be bringing the ball up. He threw up two ill advised shots, one blocked and one that missed badly, sandwiched around his excellent trifecta. Ronda takes it up for the Cats, drives and dishes, and UK wins. I'm not sure why Tubby Smith let the slow white boy take it up the court, but it was a poor choice. I think UK will be a monster next year, but I'll be surprised if they get past the round of sixteen this year.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The CPF Interview!

I have been selected for the singular honor of being interviewed by The Catholic Packer Fan (TM)! While I recognize that this means I have hit the big time, I promise not to forget the little people that got me here, yada yada yada. OK, I asked if he would, and he was cool enough to oblige.

1. You are a fellow Notre Dame football fan. When did you become a ND football fan, and how?

I grew up in the Bronx. My local Division 1-A choices one. Rutgers? We didn't root for Jersey teams. Columbia? 1-AA, but had a nice string of 20-something losses in a row. Army? I wasn't even aware that they were only 50 miles away. Syracuse? They're in Canada, as far as we were concerned. No, if you were a New Yorker and Catholic, you were a Notre Dame fan. You could always get them on TV, and they were always competitive. That makes for a good formula to hook kids, and I stayed hooked even after my tenure at Army.

2. On your blog you have a picture of yourself in front of Notre Dame stadium on gameday. What is your favorite aspect or tradition on campus on gameday?

The tailgating - and not because of the beer, although that is nice! The fact that everyone there is a fan, and it is almost like a big family atmosphere. People just share their food and drinks with others that they don't even know. I enjoyed the campus and the mystique, but it is the fans that make it awesome, both at the tailgate and during the game.

3. You are a huge football fan, and I believe from some of your posts a sports video gamer. Tell us about this hobby and why you enjoy it.

My love for football started with the pros, as I went to some New York J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets! games as a youngster. I remember storming the field after a win over the Dolphins, with my cousin yelling, "I touched Mark Gastineau!" I tell you, living in NYC during the reign of the New York Sack Exchange was quite a thrill. Leonard Marshall, Joe Klecko, Lawrence Taylor, Gastineau, Pepper Johnson, Bill Parcells...Defense truly wins championships. Even though my Dad was a Jets fan, I decided to be contrary and root for the Giants. That worked out pretty well, as they won two titles before I went to college.

I was a stereotypical New York sports fan, alternating cheers of 'Lets Go Mets' with 'Ray Knight sucks!' as appropriate. I pulled for the Giants, Yanks, Rangers and Knicks, but although even though I had made it to a couple of hockey games, I stopped watching after the Rangers won the Cup. It just wasn't fun anymore. I wonder if Boston will have a fan exodus...anyway, as free agency and marketing began to play a bigger part in pro sports, my enthusiasm waned. I don't even watch any pro football except for some playoff games, and don't watch pro basketball at all. Pro baseball has no college substitute, really, and I have stuck with the underachieving Yanks.

I got into video games starting with Intellivision baseball, in which a pitcher could catch a home run hit! I stayed with mostly baseball (RBI Baseball!) and football (Tecmo!) until I really started following college hoops, where I pull for Notre Dame and (hiding head) St. John's. Hey, they used to be good! If you've ever seen "Swingers" and remember the Sega Hockey scene, that was me and my pals in college football and hoops games in and after college. Now I play with my son - they're the only games I can beat him at. I know some people have a beef with EA, but their engine is just the best out there - although my NCAA Hoops game is the 2003 edition, and the Baseball and College Football ones are 2004, so I suppose someone could have gotten better since then.

4. How did you get involved in starting a blog?

I've been trying to remember! I used to read a lot of National Review Online, and they would occasionally reference Ace of Spades, Powerline, and some other blogs. I checked them out and thought it was neat, but not for me. I actually established Team Hammer's Musings for my wife! Little did I know that she would refuse to write on it, and that it would become an outlet for me to talk about things that I don't get a chance to discuss with much of anywhere else.

One of the things I picked up from the blogs I checked out before I started was that I didn't like inflammatory speech, so I try really hard not to do it on mine. I think it attracts like-minded readers and commenters, honestly. Not necessarily like-minded in ideas, but like-minded in respect for others. I also make a habit of not reading blogs that are extreme to my side of the political spectrum. I tend to be conservative, but don't ever read Little Green Footballs or Free Republic. I made the mistake once on a road trip of listening to Hannity and Rush for two days, and I was angry! Angry at the Left! I realized that those guys, with their talent for selective fact usage and clever use of the English language, were directing my emotions. Blogs can do the same.

5. You are in the military. If you are able to do so, tell us where are you serving your duty (stateside I assume), and what is your principle job in the military? Why did you decide to enlist in the military? And as a note: thanks for serving your country in our military.

I am a captain, and have a pogue ROTC job now, in Kentucky. I used to be an Air Cavalry Troop commander on the DMZ in about being on the edge all the time! I was selected to serve as the commander of the air component of the air coverage for President Bush when he came over in 2002, which was pretty wild. I tell you, getting paid to fly helicopters and blow things up is pretty cool...but the best part of my job is leading soldiers.

Soldiers are awesome people. Sure, they've got their bad eggs like any group, but as a whole, the average soldier is simply better than the average person. It's not that they are more moral, although they do tend to be more dependable and disciplined. It's that they are willing to jump on a grenade or take a bullet to protect their buddies next to them. How many people do you know that won't even take a butt chewing from their boss for their co-workers?

I actually didn't enlist - I went to the United States Military Academy (West Point), because I wanted to be Duty, Honor, Country. I come from a family where more of us have criminal records than have graduated high school, and no one had a college degree. I saw becoming an Army Officer as a way to get myself out of the hole that my family members fell into (well, jumped into, usually), and as a way to live out an ideal - that of Duty, Honor, Country. It may sound cheesy, but it's 100% true, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Not everyone who goes there embraces the ideal, but I am evidence that it has the power to change lives. I visited my cousin a couple weeks ago, who is one year older than me and grew up with me. He is also in jail. Why aren't I? Two reasons - Divine Providence and West Point. I highly recommend looking into both.

John, thanks for taking the time to peruse my blog and come up with this. It was nifty! Now, in the spirit of the game, I ask my readers (all 5 of you) - would anyone like me to interview them?

Death Penalty - Hammer Style

I was reading the February 14th issue of National Review and was inspired by a William F. Buckley article to put out my position on the death penalty. As I grew up Catholic, my entire family on one side is Catholic (at least nominally), and my father-in-law is as well, but I am a Protestant convert (let out of the bag in my recent job-search post), I think that I have different influences on my position than most, and have thoughfully processed the issue. Of course, that doesn't make me right, but here we go.

I support the death penalty.

This puts me in direct opposition to Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who has ordered his parishoners to sign a petition asking for a repeal of the death penalty. OK, he can't order anyone, but he made it clear that good Catholics would do so. Why? Because for the first time in 44 years, a man in Connecticut is about to be executed - a Michael Ross, who has been convicted of murdering eight women, most of whom he raped first. The bishop mentions that the Pope disapproved of the death penalty in his Evangelium Vitae as evidence that 'good Catholics' should oppose it.

However, Bishop Lori fails to mention the Pontiff's qualifying statement - not that the death penalty should never be used, but that it be exercised only in certain cases of "extreme gravity". I am of the opinion that His Holiness used a vague term for a reason - you simply can't laundry list that sort of thing. I am of the opinion that the government is given the power to punish, and that the government (for which Christ never gave rules!) has the power to give out punishment for crimes as it deems necessary. Hammertime approves of the death penalty for murderers, and in cases of heinous crimes that do not result in a permanently ended life - maiming, torture, rape - done with the intent to cause (or awareness of the high likelihood of) life-ending physical and emotional trauma.

Many oppose the death penalty for excellent reasons - but I would give them these numbers. Texas has executed its 337th prisoner. That's 337 state sanctioned executions in Texas since its inception (1976). However, there were over 38,000 people murdered by murderers from 1976-1998. That's less than 1 murderer executed per 100 victims of murderers. Should the murderer be given the rights they denied to their victims? Our university had a presentation by some actor who gave the stories of several murderers on death row and asked the audience at the end to sentence him to death or life. Of course the audience chose life. Why? Because they never got to hear the testimony of the murder victims, or their families. How quaint.

My support of the death penalty is not that it would prevent murders - depite the research of professor Stephen Layson of UNC, which concluded that "increases in the probablility of execution reduces the homicide rate", and that "we can conclude that the death penalty has deterred roughly 125,000 murders in the country in the 20th century." As a Psychology guy, I think that punishment is only effective if it has a very high contingency rate, and as (obviously) few murderers in this country are given the death penalty, we know that isn't happening. I also don't buy that enough of these murderers can be rehabilitated, considering the high (over 50%) rate of prisoners returning to prison.

I have one reason for supporting the death penalty - justice. While someone's daughter, or wife, or mother, or son, or dear friend, is forever removed from this world, we should spend over $1,000,000 for 20 years to give the murderer video games, cable TV, weight rooms, his PhD from correspondence courses, and simply the chance to breathe in air and talk to other people? I think not. If you intentionally kill someone else, your life is forfeit.

Thankfully, God has provided an escape from eternal justice. I am deserving of the same eternal destination as the murderer (as are we all), but He has already paid the price.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Mysterious Ways

One of the things I'll be doing after my exit from the military is a paid ministry position of some kind. Since Mrs. Hammer and I were checking out the area this past Sunday/Monday, I had arranged to meet with two ministers to do some networking.

The first was the father of a friend of mine. He happens to be the pastor of a 'Spirit-Filled' church, which means they do stuff I'm not particularly comfortable with. However, a servant of Christ is a brother in Christ, so we met over a scrumptious bacon, egg & cheese bagel (courtesy of Ronnie Mac) to rap a bit. I made a classicly inept attempt to introduce myself, my experience and my situation. Thankfully, he liked to talk, so he jumped in at a pause and ran most of the rest of it. While I wouldn't really be interested in serving at his church, he is a part of the local ministerial association, and I gave him my resume - hence, he could give it to someone as the Spirit leads him.

While that was a good visit, and went basically as I expected, the other visit was surprising. I and the rest of the Team had been to one of the local churches that runs a private school. We had decided to send our oldest boy there, and were impressed with the service, which had an all-too-rare combination of total worship participation and Bible-based, not-watered-down preaching. I had called that church earlier in the week to schedule an appointment with the head pastor, and the person who made the appointment for me informed me that 'the staff is top-heavy', and not to expect a job there. I really didn't mind, as my intent was the same as the morning meeting - to introduce myself and allow that pastor to recommend me to a church that might need my service.

That's not how it went. We arrived, and the pastor asked me to tell him about Team Hammer. I did a Reader's Digest version, gave him my resume, and then he asked some Mrs. Hammer, about me. She was not prepared, but answered truthfully, despite being flabbergasted. The pastor asked about loyalty - he had fired seven staff members a year past who led a sort of mutiny in the church while he was gone. Hs point was that he expected his staff to execute his guidance, not come up with their own vision for the church. While he didn't mean that they had no say in their ministries, he still gave the overall direction. Gee, doesn't that sound familiar...the Army, maybe?

He then went on to describe how the singles minister was expected to depart in May, but that they would not know for another ten days or so. He gave us a tour of some of the facilities, and introduced us to people as "might be coming onto staff". I was blown away. While I still do not know if that is where we will serve, I arrived thinking that I knew what was going on, and that no job was available. Guess what - even when you think you have it all together, there is only One who does...He moves in mysterious ways, indeed.

Million Mom March - Against Guns?


Just against YOUR guns.

The head of a chapter of the organization that pushed the 'Million Mom March' (which wasn't any more a million than the others of that ilk, but anyway) has been arrested for illegal possession of a handgun. Apparently she hangs out with gangs, too. Nice.

Remember, the only guns that would go away are those held by law-abiding citizens. Don't you find it odd that the areas with the highest crime rates prohibit the average citizens from carrying concealed?

Hat tip: Eric

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hammertime Angers the Veterans

As I am within a short period of losing my soldier status, I went to an ACAP (Army Career and Amphibian Planning, or something. Basically, the 'you are gonna be a civilian') brief. There were two parts, filling out the required form, and the VA. I came to this conclusion:

The Veterans Administration is largely bureaucratic waste which currently exists solely to feed itself and make it bigger.

While David and Eric may not agree because they are vets, their libertarian leaning have to tell them that this is true. To wit:

The premise of the VA is to meet the mission stated by President Lincoln: "to care for him who has borne the battle for his widow, his orphan." I have no issue with that. Those servicemembers who have been injured as a result of actually fighting for freedom should be compensated for their service. But this is not what the VA does.

The VA encourages servicemembers to find something wrong with themselves. Any ailment or injury the servicemember may have will essentially entitle them to a lifetime of payments from the government, regardless of how the injury was caused. Playing basketball with the platoon and incur a knee injury? Paid. Became an airborne ranger and wore out your back by jumping? Paid. Drove a truck for 15 years and developed some nasty sciatic nerve problem? Paid.

However...if I work at B&B's construction, and as a function of being a hard working construction dude, I eventually develop long-term back ailments, does B&B pay me for the rest of my life? I think not! If, as a mining engineer, I develop a hearing loss, does the mine pay me for life? No (although they do for black lung).

I volunteered to be a soldier. I also volunteered to fly helicopters. It is utterly asinine (for me) to think I should be compensated for a hearing loss of back injury due to loud helicopter noises and crappy landing jobs by yours truly!

My position is that unless a servicemember is injured due to getting shot by bad guys (or other combat injuries), that the results of his choices are borne by him. I will back this up with action when I go to the VA physical and declare that I have no claims, despite my hearing loss and knee injury sustained from jumping on a rock during tactical training.

Other thoughts?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Haloscan is down

This confirms my need to dump it, at least for comments. I'll be doing soon as Haloscan comes back up and I can read Eric's comment on how to do it!

UPDATE (011500MAR05): Haloscan appears to be functional again. If I have my way, it will be functional for all of 60 more minutes here. I'll see what I can do to keep the comments from the more lively posts.

UPDATE (1540) I've tubed my template. I may revert it to the basic one to start over.

UPDATE (1700) I've changed to a new basic template, which I'll start doing changes to. I'll get the trackback up and running, add the blogroll and links, and put up the comments from recent hot posts, in that order. Last, I want to change that goofy snowflake thingy to a Yankee/Notre Dame/Army symbol. We'll see what I can do!

UPDATE (021030MAR05) I'm almost done. I've done all the template editing I feel up to today, in addition to adding a TTLB Ecosystem link, 'cause Mrs. Hammer thinks it is cool that we are in the top 7,000. I have begun putting the comments back in - which is a tedious process, since I have to do it manually. I already spelled Eric's name wrong once - sorry! It should be complete by the end of today, as my appointment fell through. I'll do a real post at lunch. Or two. Posts, that is.

UPDATE (1200) I've added 15 pages of Microsoft Word - saved comments, and must have upset blogger, as it will not allow me to post comments. It says, "Comments have been disabled for this post" for all posts. If you are stopping by, post a comment to show it is just me, if you don't mind. Thanks!

Theology Tuesday II

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
- The Second Epistle of St. Peter, Chapter 1, Verses 5-9

What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.
-Jackie Deshannon

Why is this? Why does the world need love? After all, as Jesus Christ has come to earth, who is not only the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), but as He and the Father are one (John 10:30), He is also Love (1 John 4:8). Therefore, as Love has come to earth, why do we need so much of it still?

The answer is contained within Peter's second letter. What we cannot help but see is that true Love is not bestowed upon the Christian at First Communion, Confession, Salvation, Baptism, etc. It would seem to be inherently obvious - Christ is Love, and we are not to expect that we would immediately become perfect in love, even as our heavenly Father is perfect, is, well, silly.

Instead, we have a clear progression laid out here by St. Peter for us. Once we have established our faith, we then progress to virtuous living. This virtuous living is primarily acts of commission, not omission - that is, doing good works, not just avoiding the bad. While I can personally attest to the fact that there are immediate changes in one's life that come as a result of faith in Christ, they are by no means complete.

After virtue comes knowledge, which is, knowledge of the will of God through prayer and study of the Word. Note how in each case, the character trait in question is one that is to be added. This implies that work is involved. Not only is each of these a gift from God, but they are gifts that we are required to reach out and receive. After all, a gift under the Christmas Tree is still a gift, even though we have to work by going to the tree, getting it, and opening it up, then using it. The knowledge is easily correlated with the work required of prayer and Bible study.

Knowledge is followed by adding temperance, simply, moderation in the good thing sin life. This is an avoidance of excess while acknowledging that the good things are not evil in themselves - a difficult task indeed, if we merely look around at our peers. The Mormons declare caffeine to be evil, while my first Sergeant claims it is his lifeblood. The same can be seen with Southern Baptists, who avoid all alcohol, and the typical college student, who imbibes the maximum (and sometimes, tragically, more) alcohol possible. Temperance says that I can recognize that Jennifer Gardner is very attractive, but can't put posters of her on the wall, and realize when my recognition of the beauty of her creation is being replaced by lust. Hence, I don't watch Alias.

Perhaps it is with patience that we most often fail, and hence, fail to advance. It is a character trait held by few. We want it all, we want it all our way, and we want it now. The standard human condition of being this way has been made worse by a materialistic and fast-food/FedEx/internet shopping culture. By the way, if you ask God for patience, don't be surprised by the hailstorm of tribulation you receive - for that is the only way to develop patience (James 1:3-4, Rom 5:3-4). However, tribulation is not a guarantor of patience, just as having flour does not guarantee a biscuit. You can still just dump the flour on the floor - similarly, you can just rail against God and fail to achieve patience.

Godliness - the child-like reverential awe for God that is missing in today's Church and her members. It is only through patience that we can reach this point of appreciating His grace and omnipotence.

Brotherly kindness is the manner in which we treat our fellow believers, giving them the benefit of the doubt and the gifts that we would to those who are members of our heavenly family, who are heirs to the inheritance that we are, and in every regard, to be esteemed as worthy of such kindness.

Lastly, charity, or love as an action. Look at what must be accomplished to get to the love showed by Christ, who gave all for those who would kill him! That is why the sacrifice had to be accomplished by God, for no human is capable on their own. It is precisely because he has done it that we can strive to it, and succeed. It is a love that gives to the unworthy, a love of the unlovable, and a heart for those who do not want our care for them. It is a love embodied by the Blessed Mother Theresa and by the reverend Billy Graham. It is a love to which I have not yet attained.

The last verse shows why we do it at all - because Jesus Christ saved me from my sins while I was (and still am) not worthy. His sacrificial love is what we should aspire to, because he has done it for us. To fail to continue to strive for it is a failure of memory and of faith.

Profiling is Good Police Work

From my most recent radio commentary:

On December 14th, 1999, Benni Antione Noris waited to board the ferry in Victoria, Canada. In his Chrysler 300M, he drove up to the Canadian customs office, flashed his Canadian passport, and drove onto the ferry without incident. Mr. Noris – aka Ahmed Ressam – was a young, 30 year old Middle Eastern looking male from Montreal who declared his destination to be Los Angeles. As the Canadian government was not doing any racial profiling, Mr. Ressam was not asked any extra questions or given extra security checks, even though there was a known worldwide threat from Islamic extremists who were threatening to disrupt the millennial celebration.

However, the United States was profiling. Any young, Middle Eastern males with suspicious travel arrangements (like driving across Canada to get to L.A.), were to receive a few extra questions. Mr. Ressam was asked these questions, and when he began to get nervous, to sweat, and to avoid eye contact with the U.S. customs agent, she told him after calling for assistance that they would be searching his vehicle. Mr. Ressam fled, and was caught almost immediately afterward. He had 130 pounds of high explotives with accelerator devices and detonators in his car, planning to attack LAX on New Year’s Eve. He was a member of al-Qeada.

Racial profiling works. Of course, it does not work in a broad, general respect. After all, if the profile was purely racial – all Arabs – the workload would likely far exceed the payoff and lead to complacency. However, using race as part of a profile that includes age, sex, and travel arrangements (like a one-way ticket, a last minute purchase, no checked bags, and traveling alone) is very effective.

Detractors of profiling declare that it is humiliating to those who are searched. However, these same detractors have no problem with random searches. Why is this? If the security personnel will check 10% of passengers, why will the search be acceptable if a man is chosen at random, but not acceptable if that same man is selected because he fits a profile? How is one offensive and the other perfectly fair?

Consider this: no elderly African-American woman has ever committed a terrorist attack. All of the 9-11 terrorists were Arab males under 40. Why would it be acceptable to search that elderly woman, but not that young Arab man?

Essentially, we have two choices when it comes to the security of our nation and our citizens. One, we can reduce our efforts to those most likely to be Islamic extremists who tend to follow a certain profile. We conduct the same searches and questioning with them that we do the non-Arabs who receive random security checks, thus preserving their equality under the law. The other option is that of the ACLU – to hope we can catch the terrorists through random searches – also known as blind luck, or chance. I don’t want the security of my family left to blind luck and chance – do you?