How to get out of Iraq, continued

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki should not be criticized for calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. He is doing us a huge favor! From <a href=""Iraq insists on withdrawal timetable for US troops:

Iraq’s national security adviser said Tuesday his country will not accept any security deal with the United States unless it contains specific dates for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces.

The comments by Mouwaffak al-Rubaie were the strongest yet by an Iraqi official about the deal now under negotiation with U.S. officials. They came a day after Iraq’s prime minister first said publicly that he expects the pending troop deal with the United States to have some type of timetable for withdrawal.

We liberated them from Iraq, we established a democratic government, that government says that it no longer requires our help. Mission accomplished. Let’s go home.

An atheist’s testimony, continued

The readers and commenters on this blog are a rare group, pursuing a higher and more civil level of discourse than I have seen on any other blog. Now that the post An Atheist’s Testimony has nearly a hundred comments and is still going strong, I’ve been asked to raise it again, before it moves into the archives. So feel free to continue the discussion here, with reference to the above link.

To recap where we are, Michael the Little Boot has told us with great honesty about how, after being raised in fundamentalism, he became an atheist. He says that he does not believe in sin, though he strongly agrees that we are imperfect (which is what Christians mean by sin). He does not have the conception of God that Christians do, as someone who is wholly “other” than human beings, so that differences are showing up about the deity in which he does not believe. Nor does he understand what Christians mean by “faith,” demanding instead clear, rational knowledge rather than trust, dependence, and the evidence of what is not seen. A key issue is the gospel, which seems to have been obscured in Michael’s rather legalistic upbringing. He does say that he cannot shake that fundamentalist background, try as he might. Frank Sonnek makes the intriguing suggestion that it was GOOD that he lost that legalistic faith, a loss that might lead him to the real thing. I’d like to hear more about the Christian belief that God is INCARNATE–not an abstraction far above and looking down, but that He came down from Heaven to suffer and die with us and for us.

Anyway, it’s an excellent conversation on both sides, and I invite its continuation here.

Resurrection of socialism?

Consider this development in the government’s attempt to shore up the mortgage market:

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson swung the weight of the federal government behind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the beleaguered companies that buy or finance almost half of the $12 trillion of U.S. mortgages.

Paulson, speaking on the steps of the Treasury facing the White House, asked Congress for authority to buy unlimited stakes in and lend to the companies, aiming to stem a collapse in confidence. The Federal Reserve separately authorized the firms to borrow directly from the central bank.

When the government OWN industries, isn’t that socialism? A Washington Post pundit uses the N-word in calling for complete nationalization of these two institutions, arguing that instead of just lending them money the state should get something back by owning them.

Government-run health care is now, some are saying, inevitable. Liberal politicians have been threatening to nationalize the oil industries. Now that conservativism is being repudiated, do you think the once discredited economic system of socialism is coming back into favor?

We know where you are

People are sensitive about the government infringing upon their privacy, but they don’t seem to mind when online or on-cell-phone companies do. Here is an article about the marriage between GPS systems and cell phones: When the Phone Goes With You, Everyone Else Can Tag Along.

It talks about how you can synch your cell phone into your Face Book account so that all of your friends will know where you are. And the advertisers are really excited about the new horizons this opens up for targeted ads, which can deliver come-ons to your cell phones as you are driving near businesses. A Google exec rhapsodizes over the possibilities:

“You could see a banner ad for a coupon to go to any old Loews theater. But what if that ad said, ‘Hey, Brian, the new Batman is showing at the Loews in Alexandria, a couple of miles from where you’re heading two hours from now. Click on this coupon, and it’s half rate,’ ” he said. “Imagine the conversion rate.”

This is all presented as if it were a good thing. I do see that this technology is good for police tracking down felons and for parents tracking down children, but do we really want advertisers tracing our every move? And do we really want to build an infrastructure that would make a totalitarian police state technologically possible?

Out of the woods

Well, we are back from our vacation. I will report on our adventures by means of a list of words and phrases: near death experience; backroads; family; reconnecting with an old classmate; worshipping at Grace Lutheran, a great church in Tulsa; BBQ galore; canoes; rafts; beautiful scenery; sublime scenery; relatives; getting soaked; poison ivy; Broken Arrow; hasty bake factory; Mexican cuisine; lots of driving; “The Children of Hurin”; quality and quantity time with my wife.

I have never, as an English teacher, assigned my students to write about their summer vacations, but if you want to offer a similar collage of words, you are welcome to.

The vocation of vacation

Friends, we’re en route to Oklahoma, where much of the time we will be at beautiful Lake Tenkiller, far away from the internet and probably even cell phone coverage. So I’ll be taking a break from blogging, though I’ll be back a week from Monday. We’ve had a big jump in readership, with the “vocation of the movie critic” bringing us lots of new readers. For you, don’t lose your new habit of checking in with this blog. Explore the archives, which store many fine discussions that you will still enjoy. I’ve left you a few topics to keep you busy. Do monitor the “Testimony of an Atheist” post, which is featuring some deep, honest, and insightful discussions. I will really be incommunicado out at the lake, so if anything happens in the world that I should know about, tell me about it in a comment here. God’s blessings until we meet again!