Friday, July 29, 2005

Meier & Frank, 1873-2005

I noticed in the paper today, and Jack Bog noticed as well, that the venerable department store, Meier and Frank, is getting a big fat name change soon.  The parent company, Federated Department Stores, Inc, is changing most of it’s stores to it’s flagship’s name: Macys.

Most of you are probably marginally aware of Macys, being the famous store in New York City, but there are Macys all over the US.  The May Company, which bought Meier and Frank back in 1966, owned Macys and other department stores all over the country.

It’s a shame, as M&F was a store with valuable Oregon history, and the name change will probably be the final blow in what was once a Portland jewel.

M&F was started by Aaron Meier and Emil Frank in 1873, after Meier immigrated from Germany almost 20 years earlier and started his business of selling goods on Front Street.

The business was kept in the family for decades.  Sigmund, Emil’s younger brother, took over after the death of the founders.  Meier’s widow brought relatives from Germany to work the store.  One of those was Max Hirsch, who left to partner with Harry Weis, forming Hirsch Weis (White Stag).

M&F moved to it’s flagship location, between 5th and 6th and Morrison and Alder, in 1898.  The building was rebuilt to it’s present 10 stories in 1915.

Some interesting tidbits about the store:

    • Julius Meier, son of Aaron, became governor in 1930, the first Jewish governor of the state.
    • For a while, M&F was the largest retail outlet west of the Mississippi, and one of the largest in the nation.
    • During the Great Depression, Bud Frank canceled the interest on all the store’s customer accounts.
    • During WWII, Frank used the advertising budget to devote newspaper space to the war effort.
    • M&F sold more war bonds than any other outlet in America
    • M&F has an one time or another sold everything except cars and farming implements.
    • Clark Gable once worked at M&F selling neckties
    • In 1960, M&F became the largest tenant in what was then the largest shopping center in America, The Lloyd Center.

A bitter battle between Aaron Frank and Jack Meier over who to sell the company to led to the company being sold to the May Company in 1966.  Up until that point there were just a few stores.  The main store, the Lloyd Center store and a Salem store.  After the May purchase, several stores opened at the main Portland malls, and Eugene and Medford.

Not long ago, the May Co. bought Zion’s Department Store in Utah.  May changed the names of the Zion stores to Meier and Frank, doubling the number of M&F stores.

Farewell, Meier and Frank.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Oregon Beer Fest

Been real busy this week.  There was a pretty big shake up at work, and I don’t have much time to spare.  For the time being, get yourself down to the Oregon Brewer’s Festival.  The OBF occurs every year at the end of July.  There are two giant tents out on the Portland downtown waterfront, with taps from 72 different breweries from around the country.  Many are from Oregon and Washington, but there are some from as far away as New Jersey and Hawaii.

If you don't have a broad understanding of the many different tastes of beer, get your fanny down to the waterfront.
It’s usually pretty hot, and it is today, so bring the sunscreen and a hat.  I’ll be there on Saturday afternoon.  Yum!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Avian Flu epidemic

I have nothing to add to this, but thought I would pass it on, as this is becoming a SARS level problem for the Chinese and is pouring over borders already.  Will it get to America anytime soon?  Don’t know.  Will we be ready when it gets here?  Can’t say.  Modern transportation and trade means that even vast oceans make preventing the spread of airborne diseases difficult.  Will the Chinese get their hands around it before it does?  Doesn’t look good.

      "I want to direct your attention toward avian flu, an issue that, given its scope and potential consequences, receives very little attention both in the traditional press and blogosphere. I've been following this for some time, basically the World Health Organization is doing everything NOT to raise the alert level from stage 3 to stage 5 or 6, and has tried to explain away clear cases of human-to-human transmission (these cases mean we're at Stage 5 at least). There are also LOTS of rumors China is covering up an outbreak of Stage 6 human-to-human bird flu. China has been completely uncooperative with the WHO, refuses to let out most medical samples, and has even threatened epidemiologists. Nevertheless, the few published samples available from China (obtained from dead birds in Qinghai) all have genetic traits of strains that infect mammals, including humans. The worry is that these samples come from a major nexus in bird migration routes, meaning that this dangerous virus will soon be dispersed throughout Eurasia (it's already popping up in Russia)."

Utility Taxes

When you walk into a store, and in the process of buying something discover that it costs a bit more than the label suggests, you are most likely paying a sales tax for your goods.  This doesn’t happen in Oregon when you buy your Harry Potter book or brand new jeans at Meyer and Frank, but it still happens in some cases here.

One of those cases is utilities.  There are taxes thrown into the bill you get from PGE, or from Qwest or NW Natural Gas.  Now when you are paying taxes of this sort, like sales tax, you assume that the taxes are entirely passed on to the government.  If the sales tax is 4% of your purchase, or for the sake of argument $4 for a $100 purchase, you expect that the business will send $4 to the state.

Not so in the case of Utilities.  There is a bill in the Oregon House that has already passed the Senate that tries to stop utility companies from declaring so many deductions that they keep most of the taxes they’ve collected from consumers.

      If the bill becomes law, residential customers of the state's two big private electrical utilities -- Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp -- could see reductions averaging $5 to $6 a month, according to estimates by backers of Senate Bill 408.

      Dan Meek, a Portland lawyer and longtime utility activist, said PGE collected $92.6 million from ratepayers in 2002 while paying $790,000 in federal income taxes and the $10 minimum state corporate income tax.

On principle I am all for this bill.  For the reasons I stated above, I think it’s ridiculous that a company could keep any of the money designated at a tax that they collect from consumers.  If they want tax breaks from their own profit, apart from sales taxes and the like, and corporate taxes, more power to them.  But I assume my money is going to the state.

      Utility officials questioned those dollar estimates and said the bill would unfairly penalize utilities in other lines of business not regulated by the state.   "If it were to become law, I'm sure we and other utilities would have to look at a legal challenge because the approach is patently unfair," said Kevin Lynch, PacifiCorp's vice president of government affairs.

Now, I’m normally pro-business and anti-regulation, preferring to give the market the benefit of the doubt, but in this case I’m wondering what “patently unfair” means to the utility officials.  Chalk it down to another case of shoddy journalism, either the reporter couldn’t be bothered to really figure out what the utility industry’s side REALLY was, or the editor thought that part of the story could be sacrificed in the name of saving print space.

Hey, they’ve got to fit in all those pieces about Tom Cruise and Brad Pit.

In related news, the feds are close to another Energy bill again.  Republicans say that it will promote alternative energy sources and reduce our reliance on foreign oil.  Democrats say all it is are tax breaks for greedy energy companies.   It’s probably neither, or watered down to the point that it will be entirely useless.

Iraqi Constitution gets a look see

Omar over at Iraq the Model has looked at the Iraqi Constitution in its current state they're still working on it).  At some point the Iraqi People will get to vote yes or no on the Constitution, and in its present form, Omar says: NO.  But even so he still has this to say.

      Although this document will be subject to further negotiations and modifications, my first look at it made me decide that I'm going to say "NO" to this constitution.
      Islam has been introduced in many clauses and not only Islam, sectarianism was introduced into the draft in a disgusting way and frankly speaking, such things will make me feel so unsafe if results of the referendum came positive for this draft.

      However, what eases my worries is that we're going to have the chance to say "YES" or "NO" and all of us know that it's much better to allow this critical step to take the time it needs than to end up with a useless (or even harmful) constitution.
      And anyway, even this draft is way better than the 'no constitution' state we lived in for decades.

I do hope they smooth those religious references out, but I’m encouraged by the list of basic rights, mentioning that all people regardless of gender, race or religion are equal and may not be discriminated against.  A huge step forward when the constitution gets approved.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Great athletes don't have to play baseball

Lance Armstrong wins another Tour, and we wonder how anyone could beat him.  I’m always double impressed when an American wins at a sport that Americans traditionally don’t give much attention to.  Now one comes along and doesn’t just wins, but dominates.  What does that hold for the future? 

I don’t know, but another question you could ask is, what does it mean for the present of sport.  Can you call Lance the greatest all around athlete currently, or ever?  There’s no question that he is the best rider every to compete in the Tour de France.  He is right up there in the pantheon of all time cyclists as well.  You might be hasty and throw out that he IS the best, but he’s taken a lot of criticism regarding his inability, or lack of desire anyway, to win other tours and races.  Cycling, like other sports, is becoming a bit more specialized these days.  The Tour is a race that combines several skill sets for the rider: Sprinting, Time Trials and Mountain climbing.  You have to be the best for three weeks over several varying conditions to win that race.  There isn’t a bike race in the world like it.

However, Lance isn’t the best at any of these things.  He isn’t the best sprinter.  He’s not the best at mountain climbing (although he’s close).  You might make a statement for him being the best at time trials.  But he really doesn’t have much in the trophy case outside of the Tour.  So how does he compare with Eddy Merckx or Miguel Indurain, who had victories in other great cycling races throughout the world?  How do you compare him with Merckx and Anquitil, who didn’t just want to win the Tour, they wanted to win every stage.  And many times did.

But can you compare him to other athletes in other sports?  Well, Skip Bayless of ESPN tries to do just that, and says that Lance just doesn’t compare.  Hmmm.

      But forgive me if I don't leap aboard the P.C. bandwagon and anoint him the greatest all-around athlete and greatest athletic performer ever. I'd just be selling out so the legion of Lance lovers would love me, too. My mission, as I see it, isn't to tell you what you want to hear.

      It's to tell you the truth: Armstrong is limited when you compare him with the greatest athletes and clutch performers because he rides a bicycle.

What?  Try telling a Nascar driver that he’s less of an athlete.  Those guys have to be tough and in shape to do what they do.  Even more-so a cyclist.  You try and sit on those tiny little seats for four hours and push pedals up thousands of feet into the Alps and then say that, cowboy.

      Armstrong doesn't qualify as the greatest all-around athlete because cycling doesn't test enough athletic talent or skill. And he doesn't qualify for greatest performer because his sport doesn't have the equivalent of last-second shots or throws or catches, of two-outs-in-the-ninth swings or of final-hole putts. The pressure through 21 Tour stages is constant, but rarely if ever acute.

No sport tests enough athletic talent or skill to really call you an “all around athlete.”  And then proceeds to bring out the litany of athletes, like Jordan, Montana (and Nicklaus?), to underscore what he calls “huge moment fire” skills, like down to the wire games.  Hitting the last second shot.  Which is why I don’t understand the Nicklaus entry.

But anyway, there’s no way that Skip can really know how much pressure those guys are under.  Armstrong makes it look easy.  But then, so did Jordan and Montana.

I’m going to keep this short, because there’s so much more to rip in this article.
He rounds out the article by attempting to make a case for some guys who he thinks should qualify for the greatest all around athlete of all time.  But then he basically keeps it in the arena of American sports like baseball, football and basketball.  It’s the same old crap from American sports writers and enthusiasts, wherein if the player doesn’t make millions and play one of the big three, he must not be one of the greatest athletes.

He comes up with Deion Sanders, which is not a bad choice if you are limiting your field to players in one of those three leagues.  He probably is the greatest all around athlete who gets paid millions of dollars in high-profile sports in America.  Skip forgets that some of the greatest athletes in the world play things like Hockey and Soccer.  Soccer is one of the sports where you need the greatest variety of talents. You need speed.  You need endurance (the players don’t get breaks or time outs).  You need tactical skill and intelligence.  You need strength.  You need last second heroics.  Many great basketball players from other countries have also played extensive soccer.  We’re not considering them, right?  They don’t dominate their sport like Jordan or Armstrong, but neither did Sanders.

Who’s the greatest all around athlete of all time?  Let’s go back to the sport that used to signify the best all around athlete in the world for decades.  The decathlon. 

Bruce Jenner.

Here’s ESPN’s little best athlete of all time ranking game.  Where’s Pele?  Where’s Jenner?  At least Owens is there.  Where’s Navratilova?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Slavery and Islam

The importation of black slaves from Africa has always been a black mark on this countries history.  We still to this day have the scars that it produced as we have assimilated the people that we once enslaved into our society as equals.  Some would say that black Africans were singled out because the white people of the time thought they were savages, not to be considered equals, and therefore it was OK to treat them like possessions.

But that isn’t quite accurate.  Throughout history, various peoples have made slaves of other peoples without any stigma applied to their race or religion.  That’s just what you did when you defeated their army.  The influx of free labor would advance your culture a bit faster without any extra effort on your part.  Reading the Bible, it was pretty accepted that slaves were a part of society well into the era before recorded history.

Getting slaves over to America wasn’t easy, and colonists would have used other peoples if it had made sense.  Using white people who had fallen into debt, or from parts of Europe that were looked down on wasn’t an option, as people like that can escape and blend into a crowd.  Indians weren’t a great option either, as they knew the country well and were very adept at escaping.

The black slave trade provided a successful answer to that.  Black slaves stood out in a crowd, and they didn’t know the land or have tribes of free black people waiting to take them in if they escaped.  They were also very physically able to do the kind of work the colonists required.

But the slaves brought to American from Africa were just a fraction of the total black African slave trade.

      It is estimated that possibly as many as 11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic (95% of which went to South and Central America, mainly to Portuguese, Spanish and French possessions. Only 5% of the slaves went to the United States).

Who was doing the selling of slaves from Africa?  Other black tribes, of course.  More civilized groups of Africans captured tribal peoples and sold them across the sea.  However, the numbers transported to America pales by comparison to the numbers transported across the Sahara.

      However, at least 28 million Africans were enslaved in the Muslim Middle East. As at least 80% of those captured by Muslim slave traders were calculated to have died before reaching the slave markets, it is believed that the death toll from the 14 centuries of Muslim slave raids into Africa could have been over 112 million. When added to the number of those sold in the slave markets, the total number of African victims of the Trans Saharan and East African slave trade could be significantly higher than 140 million people.

Which makes sense when you think about it.  The traders in Africa didn’t have a preference who they sold them to.  All they would care about was earning money, and traders from the Americans and Europe would only be able to carry so many on ships.  The majority were sold to Arabic and Asian cultures.

But here, Joe Katzman asks a couple of important questions:

      Question #1: If a much smaller proportion of slaves over a much shorter period leads to the current black population of the United States, where is the black population of the Arab states today?

      Question #2: What if Sudan isn't just a modern-day genocide (which includes organized slavery), but simply the latest episode in a long-running genocidal campaign that stretches back centuries?

Indeed.  Islam is the religion of peace and tolerance, but some sects, and even entire countries show a surprising amount of intolerance and hate of others.

As StrategyPage reports, the trend is showing up on the other end as well, in SE Asia.  HT to Reynolds.

      The Islamic militants are trying to do some ethnic, and religious, cleansing in the Moslem south. The three southern provinces have a population of some 1.8 million, and only 360,000 of those are Buddhists (the religion of the majority of Thais, who are ethnically different from the Moslems, who are Malays). The terror campaign is having some success, as some ten percent of the southern Buddhists have left the south in the past six months. But many of the remaining Buddhists are arming and preparing to defend themselves, and stay in the south.

As Katzman says later:

      How Islam as a whole handles this moral and historical accounting will say a great deal about the maturity, ethics, and future of their religion.

Also, see Winds’ post about slavery in the 21st century.  Chilling that it still goes on in this world with such frequency.

Timberline, Part 3

Tuesday, July 19.
The third day of our hike started with one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen.  It’s another one of those moments that I just can’t describe, and photos would not be able to reveal. 

I sat on a rock, just outside the shelter we stayed in, clad just in shorts.  I felt the cold wind whipping off the mountain, watching the sky turn from orange to bright white and then blue.  It was then that I got a look at the residents of the shelter.  A couple of small, but very fast, mice scurried over the rocks to the GORP I had left out last night.  They acquired a nut or two, and then went back under the stones by the shelter.

Oops was packed up first, and since she hikes slower than I do, we decided she would just go ahead and start while I was finishing up.  We were above timberline and climbing, so I could see her for a while.  I took a picture of her in the distance, drank some water, stuffed the pack, and bid the stone house good day.

The walk to Lamberson Spur, the highest point on the trip at 7300 feet, wasn’t as bad as the walk up to the stone shelter.  It was rocky and uphill, but not too uphill.  We crossed a couple of 10 yard wide glaciers, the first snow of the hike, and then crossed the spur.  The next few miles were straight down, it seemed.  I would think twice about walking the opposite direction.  What a climb that would be.  We spent the time singing They Might Be Giant songs.  We walked around Lamberson Butte, along Gnarl Ridge and down to Newton Creek, which was rushing pretty well.  We almost got lost at this point, as the cairns people set up led in the wrong direction, and the one cairn that was set up for the REAL trail was just a couple of stacked rocks.  I suppose that’s part of the fun, right?  Losing and finding the trail.

Newton Creek was surrounded by rocks, but a little too deep to jump rocks.  Since I had lost my sandal I still wanted to jump, and so did Oops, so since there were plenty of large rocks around, I started throwing them into the creek at the narrowest point and eventually there were enough that we could rock jump over the creek.

The next section was one of my favorites.  Heather canyon and Mt Hood Meadows Ski area.  Heather canyon is semi-out of bounds, double black diamond skiing (although there is a chair lift out of there now), but I had never seen it in the summer.  Wow.  The north slope was bare sand and rocks, which was boring (and kind of dangerous hiking), but the rest of it was lush and green.  There were at least three streams coming down with falls all around.  The flowers were blooming and it was crazy beautiful.  I’d go there again easily, but probably just a day hike out of Meadows.

Walking through the Ski area, I was struck by just how big it really is.  Skiing is one thing, but you are usually going pretty fast.  Walking took an hour and a half at least.  It was here I saw the only trash on the whole trip, as well as the only marmot on the whole trip.  Cute, large, and loud rodents.

After Meadows, the rest of the hike was a lesson in determination and overcoming adversity.  It was hell.  I knew that we needed to gain some elevation to be where Timberline Lodge was, but instead we descended fast, about 800 feet in elevation change.  Ugh.  If that wasn’t hard enough, the White River valley floor was about 3 or 4 hundred yards wide and covered with rocks and boulders. 

That was when Oops made the final oops of the trip and turned her ankle.  Ouch.  We sat down for a couple of minutes, and she was pretty mad because she knew she was tired and wished we had just cut short at the Meadows parking lot and hitched back to Timberline.  But there we were, and I have to admit I am impressed that she got up and without much complaint finished the hike.

I scraped myself up pretty good getting down to the stream over rocks and slippery sand.  The last three miles to timberline were some arduous uphill miles.  The last two after it connects back up with the PCT, were some of the sandiest of the trip, making the uphill that much more difficult.

But, at last we made it.  I’ve never been so happy to get to the car as I was at that moment.  We dropped packs at the car, used the facilities, got some ice for Oops’ ankle, which was pretty sore by now, and made a trip to the gift shop for the folks watching the house and the kids.

In the gift shop I met another PCT hiker named Peace and Love (that’s his trail name).  He also has an on-line journal, which you can read here.  

From the mountain we drove to Sandy, Oregon, to Calamity Jane’s.  Jane’s has some of the best burgers around, and we took full advantage of them, as well as an oversized pint of beer.  Yummy!!!  Nothing like a hiker appetite.

Post hike thoughts
I found backpacking this trail a bit harder than I would have thought.  However, I think that we took it a bit too fast and planned a bit too aggressively.  Next time I would plan an extra day to enjoy the trail more and take more stops.  One interesting habit I found myself engaging in was the adjustments.  I was constantly adjusting the packs and reevaluating what I had brought and what I hadn’t.  I imagine that every hiker does this, but it was amplified by this being the first big pack trip I’ve taken since childhood.

As tired as I was coming in on Tuesday, the next day I found myself walking to lunch and to work and enjoying it.  It was partially because I was walking without my house on my back, but my legs were getting conditioned, and they were ready to go again.  I think I see how the long distance hikers keep going.  Their legs just want to keep going, despite the soreness.

I’m not sitting at work, thinking about being out on the trail again, seeing the spectacular views, smelling the thousands of alpine flowers, appreciating the little things, like running potable water.  I’m already thinking about the next one.

Increased security on transit in Portland

Reuters and VOA (plus I'm sure many more papers) noted that US transit systems are upping the security due to the London bombings.  This is also true of the Rose City here. 

I was riding on MAX this morning in to work and noted, while pouring through Harry Potter, that no less than twice did police walk the length of the train at a stop. 

I'm not upset by the presence of Police on the trains, I did feel safer while they were there, but it slows down the stops, as they walk the length of the train and then just get back off.  And I'm not sure what they will find while just cruising the trains.

Still having font trouble

I just received a message from Blogger support that says "Blogger support currently does not support questions regarding customized template code or CSS/HTML in general."

Really?  What good is the tech support then?  Is this really a customized template code question?  I thought it was an Email to blogger question.

If any of you have an idea as to what I'm supposed to do with this font when Emailing let me know.  I will be profusely thankful.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Timberline, Part 2

Monday, July 18
Woke up as the sun was rising, although we couldn’t see it as we were camping on the west side of the mountain.  We packed up and left our less than pristine campsite (someone left some trash in the fire pit) at 7:00 and headed down the trail.  In about 200 meters we came upon the Sandy river, which had a nice slippery log for us to cross on.  We teetered and tottered for a bit, and probably looked pretty silly to the PCT hikers that were on the other side of the creek, but made it OK.  We met Godman and Greenjeans (hiking with his dad through that section), and then headed to Ramona Falls.

Ramona Falls is worth the hike.  I think you can hike in from forest roads coming from the town of Zigzag and not have to pack in, but it’s worth it either way.  That branch of the Sandy cascades down a rocky face in dozens of strands, and the falls are enshrouded by large Douglas-fir trees, so you can’t see the falls until you are right there.

From there we decided to take the proper Timberline trail up to the Muddy fork of the Sandy, which is a longer, but more gradual climb to the ridge leading to McNeil point.  We had our first freezing mountain stream ford, which we had to de-shoe and put our sandals on for.  It was refreshing, to say the least.  After what seemed like a long time, and not much distance covered we found a shortcut that took a mile off the route and put us on, what from here on out we christened “Crybaby Ridge.”  If you are wondering, it’s because we were crying by the time we got to the top.  It was never ending.

The remainder of the afternoon was up and down, through meadows covered with colorful flowers and forested ridges hiding glacier fed streams.  Pretty nice.  Apparently we got lucky on the flowers, as a photographer stationed in Cairn Basin informed us, it was normally the wrong time of year to get all those flowers, but the late rains brought them out early.  We also got plenty of great views of Mt St. Helens, Mt Rainier and Mt. Adams to the north. 

After Lunch we ran into another stream that we had to ford.  The Coe Branch was running hard, and had a rope across it to help hikers.  I went first and nearly lost it when we discovered that one end of the rope was not fastened to the rocks as well as it should have.  I made it across and dropped my pack and poles and got back into that frigid water to help Oops get across, as she is much smaller than I.  The water was up to her shorts, and pulling her fast.  I got her hand and pulled her over to the calmer water, but when I did I lost my footing, right foot came up and my thong sandal came off.  As it was floating downstream on the torrent, my only thought was, “I hope we don’t have any more of these stream crossings today.” 

As it happened, there wasn’t anything that bad again.  My feet did get wet a couple of times, but not soaked.
The trail was more forgiving for a while.  At the 17th mile of our day, we ran into a re-direct.  The trail had washed out and the Forest Service had put in a detour.  The detour was one of those mountain climber rabbit trails straight up the mountainside.  Ugh.  Then down a very sandy and unstable temporary trail to the most raging torrent we saw all day, the Elliot Branch.  But the FS redeemed themselves by including a temporary wooden bridge for us, supported by two boulders.

The other side was the same, but at least it was down.  And at the bottom was the Cloud Cap camp ground, where we had dinner.

Let me just say that after a couple of days in the wilderness, where you are without facilities, or even cold water (as we were using tablets that take 30 minutes while your bottle warms up), campgrounds are luxury. 

You mean I get to sit down?  On a bench?  And get cold, potable water?  And potty without digging a hole?  Nice!
Something else I learned on the trail is how much I hated energy bars and GORP and the like.  Every time I put one in my mouth it was like I had a mouthful of cotton.  Everything was so dry, and my favorite things to eat turned out to be those gross freeze-dried meals that you buy at REI.  They may sound disgusting while you are sitting at home having grilled burgers or whatever, but out on the trail they were yummy, and I could add extra water and make them soupy, which only improved them in my eyes.

After dinner, Oops wanted to make one more push for Lamberson Spur, the highest point on the hike, so we didn’t have to do so many miles in the morning.  Well, I was pretty tired, but we got packed up and left anyway.  It’s amazing, but even when you have worked as hard as we did that day, when it’s necessary your legs just know what to do. 

The next mile was torture, straight up and sandy.  Not very good for a hiking trail.  By the time we got to the Cooper Spur trail (again, for climbers) I started noticing that the terrain was really not conducive to laying a tent down.  Very rocky and no flat spots.

By God’s infinite grace, there happened to be a stone shelter with a dirt floor in relatively good condition just above the trail junction.  We set up the tent in the shelter and watched the light fade in the east, then hit the sack (literally).

Sometime during the next half an hour I kept hearing a small scratching noise inside the shelter.  I thought it was the wind, but a few minutes later it occurred to me that it was the food.  Mice.

In a mad frenzy, I gathered the food up, threw it in the stuff sack and hung it outside from one of the rafters on the shelter (there were no trees).  They did get one of the bags of GORP, but since I was feeling pretty sour on that snack, I let them have the bag.

We had a good night sleep, and were awakened to light at about 5 AM.  We got up and watched the sun rise.  It was incredible!  We could see from Mt. Rainier in the north, to the Deschutes River valley and beyond in the east.  We watched as the lights of Hood River and the Dalles faded into the night and the sun began to light up dusty eastern Oregon.  Definitely the highlight of the trip.

If you have been wondering where we were hiking, here’s a page on the Timberline trail, through the Mt Hood Wilderness.  I used it, and it’s the best map I’ve ever seen for hiking in this area.

We did take photos of our trip.  I’ll try to post them when I get a chance, but we don’t have a digital camera yet, and I have to develop the two rolls we took.  In the mean time, this guy took some great shots with his girlfriend (wife?) when they made the circuit.  He’s a good photographer, and it gives you just a taste of the beauty we saw.

Bad Republican, Bad

OK, now most of the time I get on Democrats for their stupid statements and lack of sanity these days, but just to show that I'm not completely partisan, here's a hat tip to Rep Tom Tancredo (R-Col).

Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, was asked on a radio talk show Friday how the United States should respond if terrorists struck several of its cities with nuclear weapons.

      "Well, what if you said something like _ if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.

      When host Pat Campbell of WFLA-AM in Orlando, Fla. asked if he meant "bombing Mecca," the congressman responded: "Yeah."

Radical Jewish terrorists decide to ignite a nuke in Brooklyn because the US decides to make kosher food illegal.  What do we do?  Nuke Jerusalem?  If it were radical Christians would you nuke Rome?

What a stupid thing to say.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Stem Cell possibilities

Now remember, as a social conservative, my only problem, and I believe that Bush’s only issue, with stem cell research is using fertilized embryos to conduct experiments and create tissues.  Bush has not made it illegal, and doesn’t look to, but has only cut funding for it.

For now.  Every little step toward the creation of stem cells without embryos is a step toward the feds starting to fund it again.

Timberline, Part 1

Sunday, July 17.
Today was a long day.  And that was just getting to the mountain.  Our original plan was to leave after church, get up to Mt Hood and start hiking and get an easy 10 miles in.  But my wife (from here on out she will be called "Oops" as she keeps slipping on rocks) wanted to drop the kids off at her sister's after church.  Her sister lives 45 minutes in the other direction.  Ugh.  After some needless driving, and then some needless cleaning (although she would disagree with that assessment) we took off.  We got to Timberline Lodge at 5:30, and we were on the trail in no time.

The big highlight of the day was running into 5 PCT hikers.  These folks were hiking from Mexico to Canada, but events in Southern California caused them to flip-flop and continue from Canada back down to where they left off in California.  Lucky us! 

First we met Jim Beam and Rain Queen.  They looked pretty winded (and we found out why later, as we did lots of downhill that evening).  According to on other hiker, they just got married.  So congratulations guys!

The next set was a trio.  Recess, Cedar, and I think the guys name was Skittles.  They also looked bushed, as Zigzag canyon was still in front of us.  You can view Cedar's on-line journal of the hike here.

The rest of the day was a mad rush for the campsite.  Zigzag and the Sandy River canyons were spectacular.  All the water coming from the glaciers of Mt. Hood falls hard and fast, and there are many waterfalls in each of the canyons.

By the time we got near the bottom, and I could hear Rushing Creek, well, er, rushing toward it's confluence with Sandy River, it was pretty dark.  We were having a hard time seeing rocks and roots in the trail.  It was then that I spotted what looked like a camp spot about 30 feet down by the creek.  We took a chance and eased down to the flat spot, and lo and behold there was tent space and a fire pit. 

Ever put up a tent by flashlight?  Not fun.  But with a creek to supply night time music, we slept well.

Off the trail

My wife and I finished a pretty grueling backpacking trip yesterday, so I'm back in the chair staring at my flat screen again. It was a pretty brutal trip, and I'm planning on publishing my journal of the three days here soon.  I'll break it up by the day.

Just so you all know what I was up to.
It was real nice to just be cut off from the whole world so I could see the beauty of God's creation in the raw and spend some quality time with my wife.  I recommend it to everyone.

However, I don't recommend doing the trail we did in only 2.5 days like we did.  Ouch.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The real Compassionate Conservatism

Compassionate Conservatism is a phrase that gets a bad wrap from conservatives in the U.S., namely Bush, using it all too often and many times not meaning it in the way it was meant to be defined.

Christians committed to helping those in need understand it’s real meaning, compassionate effort to aid those in need without just using the government or throwing money at something.

      That's compassionate conservatism at work—personally becoming involved with those in need instead of merely dispensing condoms or dollars. It's hard work. At the missionary's house next to the children's home two Adirondack chairs sit in a tranquil spot under a shade tree overlooking the blue Zambezi River. Mr. Mink says that he and his wife Rebecca figured they'd find a half hour each day to sit in them, but now they are rarely used.

I’ll admit that I don’t put in the work that missionaries put in.  I have my own issues with not putting my compassion to work enough, or giving of myself enough.  But I know where my money is not being put to good use.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I'm suspicious

An administrator, who was a nationally recognized principal in Portland, has just received a big, big settlement from the city over an alleged racial discrimination charge.

Portland Public Schools has paid a nationally recognized administrator $155,000, two years of health insurance and six months salary to avert a claim that she was discriminated against because of her race and gender.

OK. The article doesn't say what the discrimination is, but made this interesting comment.
"I would be less than honest if I didn't say doing the settlement is a big statement that I believe that discriminatory practices, either intended or unintended, have occurred in the district," (Superintendent) Phillips said.
But the school district isn't claiming guilt either. Paying off the accuser means never having to say you're sorry.
Bryant's departure comes after a school year when she clashed with the principal of Sunnyside Environmental School -- a school Bryant supervised -- over student safety, school management and other issues. Sunnyside parents said Bryant raised questions about Principal Sarah Taylor's leadership.
Several sources said Bryant didn't feel supported by Phillips and the school board in the conflicts. Sources said Bryant felt her peer administrators were supported by district officials and the board in similar disputes at other Portland schools, and she alleged discrimination.
OK, color me skeptical that this isn't political. It could be legit, but the article doesn't really elaborate.
Is there still racial discrimination practiced in the United States. Short answer, Yes. But it's rare these days, and more rare still administratively, so when I hear about racial discrimination accusations thrown around for political purposes it really chaps my hide. The school district has gotten in trouble before for dishing out really large settlement packages to people being fired or leaving while threatening lawsuits, so I really hope this isn't just another case of that.

Wilson v. Rove

Joe Wilson is calling for Karl Rove to resign. He claims that Rove is involved in a smear campaign against him in order to distract from the debate on “war and peace.” Isn’t THIS like “Homer Simpson telling Lance Armstrong he’s out of shape,” ?

I will admit that Rove probably, at worst, can be accused of reckless disregard for the position that Plame was in, if she indeed was covert. Kevin Drum notes that, while Rove might not have known Plame was covert for the CIA, but releasing that information without checking was irresponsible.

OK, sure, but not illegal. He also says this after finding evidence that Wilson was probably not the Bush hater that conservative make him out to be:

      So was sending Joe Wilson to Niger — as one part of the CIA investigation of uranium sales — a scandal? Hardly — unless you think that hiring a guy who voted for Al Gore is ipso facto a scandal. Rather, it's just a trumped up smokescreen from the folks who want to divert your attention from the real scandal: one of the president's top aides exposed a covert CIA agent in order to gain revenge on someone who had become a political nuisance to them.

However, Joseph Lindgren and the guys at Powerline have done significant work to show that Wilson is nothing but a pretty prolific liar, and did lie about what he found out in Nigeria when it supported Bush’s policies. So who’s trying to distract from the real scandal?

Nonetheless, this situation kind of leaves Bush between a rock and a hard place. He has said before that he would definitely fire anyone who leaked state secrets to the press, but is that what Rove did? Either way there will be pressure on Bush to release Rove I think. There's definitely more to learn in this story.

And if nothing else, it all is distracting from more important things.
Like the Tour de France.

Monkey Economics

Do monkeys understand the concept of money? Researchers think that they do. The NY Times has an article showing that tamarins, when trained to use a particular treat as an exchange for things, showed a startling ability to “… steal, exploit the gullible, and trade money for sex.” Nice.

Now this is an interesting development for a Christian like myself who believes in creation, but also believes in scientific exploration as a means to better understand just what it is that God created and how that creation came about. What are we to make of intelligent species other than ourselves that seem to show signs of self conscious decision making?

I suppose that it’s not out of reason that God would allow a creature to have intelligence close to what we do. But as such, it’s uncertain how that fits into God’s plan. It seems apparent that, although they contain intelligence, they are subject to the same results of original sin that the rest of the world is subject to. They display most of the horrible sinful behavior that we do.

The big question is, can they understand the concept of God.

Now these are just musings. It occurs to me that the observations that the NY Times takes note of are far from proof that this is the same concept of money that we have. These monkeys are trained to understand that trading can get them the things that they want. Monkey wants grape. Monkey knows that person with grape will give it up for a token. Monkey knows that in order to get a token it needs to have sex with Monkey number 2.

In essence the monkey is taught all these things. But can they figure out all these things for themselves?
Think of this as just a slightly more intelligent example than training your dog to stand on it’s hind legs for a snack.

Says one of the scientists:

      ''You should really think of a capuchin as a bottomless stomach of want,'' Chen says. ''You can feed them marshmallows all day, they'll throw up and then come back for more.''

Which belies the self awareness theory. Is it self awareness to know, intelligently, how to get what you want.

I think the real question of self awareness is how animals, such as the ones studied in this article, control their desires, not how they manipulate their world in order to fulfill them. Do animals have morals?

A post worth its salt

You think you know your salt?  Well, unless you have a degree in salt (or the geologic science that would study minerals like salt) or agriculture, you should read RoguePundit’s Random Nature #38, which is all about the vital, but often unwanted, mineral.

      Controlling salt supplies became a means to power.  The Romans concentrated their power around salt sources and routes.  Salarium argentum--salt money--was what Roman soldiers were paid...the source of our word salary.  Salaam, originally meaning peace, derives from negotiating for salt--the amount to be paid in tribute.  Many wars have been fought over and financed by salt, and the availability of salt has impacted a number of these wars...even fairly recently. 

The Rogue also details how salt gets into farming soils and how it mixes in the ground water near shorelines.  And much much more!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hiking Blogs

Well, sort of. For longer than I have been totally into political blogs, I have been into hiking journals. Every year, hundreds of people take off on long adventures through forests and mountains, tackling the long and grueling, but beautiful and serene, trails that cross America from north to south.
I am speaking of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Appalachian trail (AT) and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Each one is over 2000 miles long, the longest being the PCT at 2600 miles. They vary in the amount of time they take to travel, but if you finish, you will be on the trail for over 4 or 5 months. It's a once in a lifetime adventure, and one I hope to someday try. But for now I live vicariously through the journals of others.
If you are interested in viewing some, there are tons of them stored over at a site called The site is designed to hold the journals, pictures and a variety of other stuff about the hiker.
Here is the part of the site where this years journals are. Some of the hikers have already stopped on the trail. You just have to read one to find out how they are doing, or if they still are going at all.

More on the comments

OK, another response to one of my commenters. In a recent post I got on the case of the United Church of Christ for their sanctioning gay marriage and their statement that “God is still speaking,” meaning that the Bible is not the sole source of divine instruction, and that Scripture must be interpreted in today’s context.

I said that the statement borders on heresy.
My commenter said:

      To say that the Bible is the ONLY source of divine instruction is not supportable. I would like to know where the Bible itself says that. Maybe the Bible is all truth but that doesn't mean there is no truth anywhere else.

OK, I’ll start out by saying that I was pretty peeved when I wrote that, so perhaps heresy was the wrong word. Perhaps it wasn’t. Let me clarify the position I was trying to make.

It is true that there is truth in the world apart from the Bible (Rom 1:20), as God created the world, and according to the Bible God is Truth, and so there must be truth in the world.

However we do not interpret the Bible through our experiences, but the opposite. As a Christian, one must believe God’s word to be true and infallible (and if you don’t believe that I can support that statement), and as God’s word is truth in and of itself, all that we see and experience must be subject to Scripture (1 Tim 3:16-17). For there is plenty of un-truth out in the world, and really, how do you know what is true and what is not?

(Note: there are also facts, which are scientifically proven. Which is different from Truth. But that’s also another discussion).

Also, it would be prudent to say that there cannot be any addition to Scripture at this time, as the writers are thought to almost all have had direct contact with Jesus (or God himself in the Old Testament). Also see Rev 22:18-19.

Otherwise I think I said it well enough in my post that

      Again, the thinking is wrong here that we should interpret the Bible in today's context. When we interpret scripture, we must take it in the context in which it was given. This is why Christian scholarship is so important. We want leaders and pastors who have been instructed to read the original Greek and Hebrew and understand the times in which the Apostles and Prophets were living and what their messages meant to the people of the time. Only then, once you understand what they were trying to say, then you try to relate that to today's context.

You don’t translate something in Chinese into English and then say that you understand completely what they are talking about. Different languages say things in different ways, and from different contexts. Interpreting them using your own experience will often lead you astray.

Thrilla in Tehran

Protests in front of universities.  Police beat protesters.  Students keep protesting.  Some people are very unhappy with their government in Iran.

Also: Bush gives verbal support to the protest, as well as the jailed journalist who is the focus of the protest.  Which puts our President at odds with the government of Iran.  Right on!

Thimerosol cover-up

Chris Edwards, an Oregon blogger, has a post about the link between Autism and the preservative thimerosol that was used for years in children’s vaccinations.

Go ahead, Chris, tell us how you really feel.

      But today I am angered by the pompous arrogance of the scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and governmental establishments responsible for knowing better than the rest of us.

There, isn’t that better.  Well, perhaps, but I really understand how he feels.  Chris has a son that was recently diagnosed with Autism and it’s being blamed on the vaccinations that he got after birth.  His son might have had autism anyway, but when you are talking about a tenfold increase in autism rates during the period when the preservative was used, it’s not hard to blame thimerosol and scientific cover-up.

We had a scare ourselves when our son was developing.  Having been born in 1995, he was right in the middle of the period in question.  We had heard of the problems with vaccinations by the time our second came around.  But while she hasn’t had any issues, our son had some real developmental problems early on.  We actually had him tested for autism, as he was displaying some classic signs of the syndrome, but fortunately it had to do with communication development.  Ear infections, it seems, left him unable to hear much in a critical time of language development.  Same symptoms, different problem.  He’s doing really well now.

But I understand Chris’ anger.

Excuse me again

I'm still working on that font issue.  I found the font it seems, Trebuchet MS.  However, the size of the font has been an issue.  The old font appears to be 12 pts in size, but if I use 12pt in my Email, it comes out something like 10 on the blog.  Not sure why this is.  Any help out there would be peachy.

Thrilla in Manila

Thousands of people protested in Manila this week, angry at the current President, Gloria Arroyo, over allegations that the election was fixed.  They are asking her to resign, which would be easier on the country than having to throw her out, ala Ferdinand Marcos in the 80s.  The Philippines need a more stable government than they have now.

What I found interesting was that Arroyo considering a proposal to create a more parliamentary form of government as a salve instead of resigning.

 I assume that this would divest more of the President’s power to the legislative branch, but I’m unsure what the proposal she is considering is comprised of.

The Philippines’ government is currently a lot like ours, with a President who is both chief of state and head of government (as opposed to having a Prime Minister as well).  They have a bicameral (senate and house) legislative branch and a court system, focused on a federal Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Specter?

Who will GW pick for the next Supreme Court Justice?  Will it be a man?  Or a woman?  Will it be a minority?  Will it be someone with no experience as a judge?

Bush is being coy and saying, “Sure, we’ll consider nominating a woman/minority/Senator.”  But what does that really mean?  I hope it means Bush is saying that he’s still going to nominate whoever he wants, or rather the best qualified candidate, whether it’s a man or woman.

I can’t bring myself to agree with the Senators that have been calling for Bush to nominate someone without experience as a judge.

      Going outside the federal courts would bring some humanity into the often-criticized decisions of the nation's highest court, says Senate Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa. 

      As a federal judge, you "look at records, you read cases, you have very little contact with people," Specter said after meeting with Bush on Tuesday.

You mean like a Senator?   Hahahahaha.  Whatever. 
I would rather know what kind of decisions the judge has made in the past, what his decision making process is like, and how he feels about the rule of law and the constitution than I would care how much he interacts with people on a daily basis.

Clarifying a response

A reader going by the name “Anonymous” has raised some issue with my rant about Jim Wallis. I wanted to address those comments and perhaps clarify things a bit.

First is this comment:

      "I am skeptical about Wallis' views on what the Bible says about poverty as well. Jesus talked about poor people in the sense that they were blessed, and loving them was a way to share the love of Jesus Christ. I don't recall the Bible commanding us to create social programs to train them in marketable skills."

      Yeah, and Paul said everyone should stay in their current state and be content whether slave or free so why did we free all those useful cotton-pickers during the Civil War days?
      Are you saying that because Jesus called the sufferers blessed that we should try to prolong others' suffering whenever possible?

OK, Mr. Anonymous uses some interesting logic here. I made a statement outlining what the Bible DOESN’T say, and Anonymous twists around something that the Bible does say.

Think about this: What is the theme and subject of the entire Bible in a nutshell?
The entire Bible is the story of God’s plan to redeem his people (that is, us). When you are reading the Bible, you are not only reading what God wants of his people in general, but what He wants of you specifically. Therefore, when Paul is talking to those who are slaves, he is telling them to stay in their current state and obey their masters. But nowhere does he say that it’s OK for Christians to hold and keep slaves.

Again, this is about the individual Christian. When the God or Jesus talks about compassion and caring for the poor, he is speaking to YOU, the individual. What’s in your heart? What are you doing personally to help the poor? How is your personal relationship with God Almighty?

When you create government programs to take care of what Christ was expecting we would take care of personally, or with our own wages, we are avoiding the problem. We are also requiring everyone to give to that government program whether they want to or not. That’s not a Christian response to poverty.

Another comment from Mr. (or Ms?) Anonymous:

      One side says there should be no free ride, that you should keep what you earn, we only give to the 'deserving' poor. This seems more Republican-y. The word on the street is that most mainline Christians are Republican.

      The other side says we need to share the wealth, that there should be a 'free' ride' (grace?) for everyone, that we should be willing to sacrifice our owned 'earned' luxuries to lift the level of others. This would be a more Democratic stance.
      So how come the "democratic' view sounds so much more Biblical? If God is truly our source, then our resources are unlimited, why can't we try living that out?

OK, in the first part there is this: “…we only give to the ‘deserving’ poor” is not a statement I’m familiar with. I’m not really sure what the commenter is saying there. It is a very conservative value that you should be able to keep what you earn. The Bible, however, lays down a pretty firm command that you should give of your own wages to the Church and charity. Which is different than the government telling you where your wages should go.

In the second statement, I think the reader doesn’t quite get what Biblical Grace is about. God’s grace is found in Christ, that knowing he could crush us at any moment due to our constant sinning against him, he instead offers up his Son as a propitiation for us, so that faith is all we need to be forgiven by God.

What the reader is talking about here is socialism. Equity of results. That no matter how much you slack at home, the government will take care of you. It’s all about economics and not about God at all. You are not showing grace, you are allowing people to rest on the burden of taxpayers.

If people get caught up in the welfare of the state, they lose the motivation to work for themselves, and therefore have no wages earned of themselves, and therefore have less to give to God when the time comes. It’s been a problem for the last 30 years, that people on welfare have a hard time getting motivated to get off of it.

You want to give to the poor the way a Christian SHOULD give to the poor? Give of your own wages (charity or someone you know who is struggling), drop it anonymously (which shouldn’t be hard for the commenter) in their mail slot in an envelope with nothing on it except the words, “From: God.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Revolution roundup.

I still haven’t had much time, but today I’m linking to PubliusPundit’s roundup of democratic movement (or the lack thereof) from all over the world.  Winds of Change does this often, usually in more detail, but this is a great overview of what’s up all over the place. 

Lest our short attention spans forget places like Sudan, Nepal, Venezuela and the Ukraine.
Hat tip to InstaPundit.

Testing my Email

I've decided to try something a little different.  I've set up the blog to receive Emails from me.  Therefore I can post from just about anywhere.  I might be testing this for a while, so forgive me if you see some strange posts.

Also, you might have noticed long periods of inactivity.  It's summer time, and the family and I have been taking small trips here and there.  This coming week, the 17th through the 19th, I'll be backpacking around Mt. Hood.  It's my first multi day pack trip since I was a kid, so I'm pretty pumped.

Anyway, expect intermittent blog posts, post droughts with occasional post flurries.

PS.  Since I have inserted the Comments link on every post now, there have been some comments on a couple of posts that I would like to elaborate on, but haven't had the time.  So I'll get to that this week.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Kyrgyzstan elections

Kyrgyzstan just had some elections for the new President of that country. They just threw out an old Soviet crony acting as dictator, Akayev. In an interesting twist, Akayev endorses one candidate, Bakiyev (so you know he's on the level, right?). Bakiyev turns around and joins with his main rival as President/Prime Minister. Suddenly, people don't have anyone else to vote for. Bakiyev wins with 90% of the vote.
The presidential race in Kyrgyzstan can be called an election without suspense because in the weeks before the vote, Bakiyev secured a deal with his main challenger Felix Kulov, former deputypresident, former security services chief and former acting Bishkek mayor, who agreed to give up the race on condition that hewould be made prime minister.
He ran on a "get the Americans out" platform. Not good, when we are getting pushed out of Uzbekistan too.
Laurence Jarvik isn't impressed.
Bottom line appears to be that now that the OSCE-monitored election is over, and the Westerners are heading home, Kulov and Bakiyev will fight for power between themselves in more traditional ways.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Regulating Commentary

The feds (in the form of the FCC) are thinking about trying to regulate all internet-related political activity. From forwarding campaign information through your Email to blogging in support of a particular issue or candidate.
Bloggers beware! (hat tip Instapundit).

Update: Michelle Malkin notes that a county Superior court judge issued a decision that renders talk radio editorial comments as campaign contributions.
McCain-Feingold strikes again.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Show me the Money

Via Winds comes this interesting conversation starter.

The professional fund-raisers get a percentage of the money raised. The consultants who devise the lobbying campaigns get a percentage of the money spent. The lobbyists get to keep all of the rest that isn't used as campaign contributions to incumbent Congressmen & Senators. The people who direct the contributions get a percentage of the money given to the Congressmen & Senators. The Congressmen & Senators like the money they get. And they give a percentage of it which they spend to the consultants who share it with the professional fund-raisers.

It's a nice racket. And they are all motivated to scream loudly and be publicly nasty to show the contributors how hard they are fighting for whatever.
The normal ratio is that when something turns into a fight, lobbying money goes up 5-7 times as much. That would indicate a quarter billion or so.
Which means that the racket is an underlying cause of vitriolic partisan battles. It's all about the money.

Uzbekistan still obstinant

The west still demands an accounting of the Andijan Massacre. Karimov and Putin blame the west! And a reporter who experienced the killings reports to the Helsinki Commission what she saw. And Dr. Rice talks tough to Uzbekistan. All covered masterfully by Gateway Pundit.

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie is the gate that the American's and Germans built in 1961 in Berlin when the wall was built. It was the main entry point for visitors coming in either direction. Last year, Alexandra Hildebrandt, director of the Checkpoint Charlie museum, leased the land from BAG bank to build a memorial of crosses on the spot near the wall, one cross for each person who died trying to get to the west from East Germany.
Apparently the bank that owns the land the memorial was on is calling for the removal of the crosses so it can sell or develop the land.
The German Social Democrats and Party of Democratic Socialism also call for the memorial to come down, although they presumably want to move it. Move it where, one wonders.
Supporters of the monument are the Christian Democrats and organizations of victims of the East German Government. That says lots right there.
Hildebrandt said a last-ditch attempt to raise the 36 million euros ($43 million) that BAG Bankaktiengesellschaft demanded for the land failed when the bank yesterday rejected her offer because it came too late.
Sounds like the evil landlords in some movie. Did they ever really intend to sell it to the supporters?
Here's some more detailed history. And I get the impression that my... uh, impression was correct. This is all political and the bank is actually doing the bidding of politicians who are embarrassed by the display.
Not surprisingly, the monument quickly became a thorn in the eye of the city government of Berlin, a political coalition consisting of Gerhard Schroeder's Social-Democrats and the PDS, the Communist successor of the SED party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) that ruled East Germany with an iron dictatorial fist. Members of both parties in the city senate, particularly Senators Thomas Flierl (PDS) and Ingeborg Junge-Reyer (SPD), repeatedly criticized the monument, stating that the somber crosses were turning the city into a sort of Disneyland. Bankaktiengesellschaft (BAG) also heard the grumbling coming from the city government and felt obliged to terminate its lease with the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. When it did so and Ms. Hildebrandt defiantly refused to remove the monument, the bank sued to have the monument torn down and won. When, as a last resort, Ms. Hildebrandt offered to buy the land to save the monument, the bank asked for 36 million Euros, a price that, according to Henry Nickel of Republicans Abroad, is far above the actual market value and nothing more than a smokescreen created to frustrate efforts of monument proponents. The city fully backs the court order and demolition was initially scheduled to be carried out in the early morning hours of July 4th Berlin time. After widespread protest from groups representing American veterans and victims of Communism, the date was cynically moved back a day.
The Christian Democrats actually did come up with the money, but like I pointed out above, that might not have been what the bank really wanted.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

United Church of Christ and Gay Marriage

This week the official stance of the United Church of Christ is that they support full gay marriage in their churches. This, for some reason, isn't binding. Individual churches can refuse to marry a gay person, but the denomination gave the OK.

The synod's decisions are not binding and the vote will not require pastors to provide marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. Some United Church of Christ ministers already perform such ceremonies.
While the United Church of Christ has not had the widespread divisions other major denominations have experienced over homosexuality, some member churches had said that such a vote could prompt them to leave the denomination, and one group called for Mr. Thomas's resignation when he announced his support of the resolution.

The non-binding thing is probably what they are doing to prevent the church from having hot internal divisions.

Now, I get a bit argumentative about whether or not the government should recognize gay marriages with anywhere near the status as opposite sex marriages. However it would be safe to say that this public and legal movement toward the more liberal inclusiveness doesn't bother me NEARLY as much as when churches decide to encourage this sort of thing.

The United Church of Christ prides itself on being in the forefront of human and civil rights issues. On its Web site, the denomination says it and its predecessors were among the first churches to take a stand against slavery, in 1700, the first to ordain a woman, in 1853, and the first to publish an inclusive-language hymnal, in 1995.
Its slogan, "God is still speaking," is meant to suggest that the Bible is not the sole source of divine instruction, and that Scripture must be interpreted in today's context.
The equal marriage rights resolution states, in part, "Ideas about marriage have shifted and changed dramatically throughout human history, and such change continues even today." It continues, "In the Gospel we find ground for a definition of marriage and family relationships based on the affirmation of the full humanity of each partner, lived out in mutual care and respect for one another."

It's great that it was one of the first churches to stand up against slavery. There really was no support in scripture for slavery, or that blacks were somehow less than whites. Most Christians were on board by the middle 20th century when civil rights finally put that issue to it's legal conclusion (not it's social conclusion, as some would argue that racism still prevails in places). However, there is ample Biblical support for only having men be head pastor of churches. I'm not even going to touch "inclusive-language hymnals" for the moment.

The statement that really stopped me cold was the one I highlighted above. To say that the Bible is not the only source of divine instruction is borderline heresy. I don't make that statement lightly.
Consider that the writers of the new testimate were all, without exception, taught directly by Jesus himself. John says at the latter end of Revelation that "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book." Rev 22:18. That leads to the argument that anyone other than an apostle directly taught by Jesus cannot add to the doctrine of Christianity.
Now, that's not to say that experience can't add to our faith, or that we shouldn't pay attention to today's context when teaching from God's word. It's just that personal experience must be interpreted by the words of the Bible, and only when the two are in complete union will experience be treated as God-given wisdom. In that sense, we use our experiences to confirm our faith, not add to it.
The second issue is modern context. Again, the thinking is wrong here that we should interpret the Bible in today's context. When we interpret scripture, we must take it in the context in which it was given. This is why Christian scholarship is so important. We want leaders and pastors who have been instructed to read the original Greek and Hebrew and understand the times in which the Apostles and Prophets were living and what their messages meant to the people of the time. Only then, once you understand what they were trying to say, then you try to relate that to today's context.
If you try to directly take an American English bible and interpret the words you see in today's context, you will inevitably get it wrong. I think that the United Church of Christ gets it wrong.
And it makes me pretty upset for the future of my faith. Secular voices are going to label those with more conservative views of what the Bible says as being "right wing" or "fundamentalist" in our views, when our views are actually more traditional and Biblically accurate.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Fourth of July!!

Boom! Bang! Pop! Kabam! Sizzle! Boom!
I'm here in my building where I work. From the executive offices, we can see the fireworks show downtown right up close, and at about the height that the explosions will be happening.
But the real show is all the fireworks that people are using in their own neighborhoods. It's like the city is a battlefield.
A one of a kind celebration. Best to you and yours.

Some thoughts from Ed Cone.
Note that it is a right to the pursuit of Happiness, not to Happiness itself, and that despite the messages of our consumer culture, Happiness is not always the same thing as Fun.
And some from Radley Balko.

The purpose of the U.S. Constitution, then, is not to tell us what rights we have. We're born with the right to do as we please, so long as we don't harm anyone else.
The Constitution's purpose is to outline what rights we give to the government, and to firmly define the limits of government power.
Unfortunately, this isn't widely understood.

And here's a bit from Powerline, with an Abe Lincoln speach on the subject too!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Eminent Domain, Oregon style

In the discussion on the recent Supreme Court decision that gives cities much more flexibility to take away private citizens property for whatever reason, RoguePundit noticed that there is a case here in the Portland area right now.
The following is their description of the Hillsboro case. Note that Hillsboro ensured there was a public use component to the proposed development. Also note that when Hillsboro condemned the land necessary for the Intel fab plants, Orenco station, and other facilities, it cited urban blight, a legitimate use of eminent domain.
The city of Hillsboro has teamed up with private developer Specht Development to build a new, $33.7 million civic center. Part of the facility will serve as City Hall, but most of the planned five-story development consists of residences and offices, with retail shops and other businesses occupying the ground floor and street-level storefronts. The developer and the city will jointly own the civic center, while the developer will manage the 113 affordable-rate apartments 27 market-rate apartment units, as well as the commercial space. In order to gain ownership of a choice site in the middle of the Hillsboro business district, the city would have to remove the two stable, thriving businesses that already operate there.
It's kind of a Kelo mix, as it's partly for public use and partly for private developers. Still kind of slimy that they took out two existing businesses, that were doing well, in order to accomplish their aims.

Sue the parishioners!

This seems fishy. People trying to sue local catholic parishes have come to some resistance, as the archdiocese has claimed that the property and assets of the church partially belong to the parrish, I.E. the congregation itself.
No problem,
The fight over who owns Roman Catholic parishes in Western Oregon took a major step forward this week when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris allowed the creation of a class of defendants -- including all past, present and future parishioners -- who will be sued over the issue.
Past AND Future???? Basically anyone who has given money in the form of a tithe or offering. I don't see how that's going to wash. Really there's only one rational reason for initiating this kind of lawsuit, and that's to financially penalize the defendant. But in this case the defendant doesn't seem to have enough money.
The priests who are at issue, the ones who sexually abused someone in years past, don't get hired or scrutinized by the parishioners. In a protestant church that's much more likely, but catholic priests are appointed by the diocese. The problem was that the diocese tried to cover up the offenses, so the diocese is at fault here, not the parishioners.
Class members will not be personally and financially liable if they lose the case. But their parish assets may be sold or mortgaged to help pay for claims against the archdiocese.
Asking for millions will not help the victims of this horrible offense. Obviously they have strayed from the faith because of it, and that's sad. The Bible would say that if you don't forgive and try to move on, you'll never even begin to heal. Money ain't going to do it.
Don't make all the other parishioners suffer too.

Things you lose at the airport

This is getting comical. Some of the things that security personnel confiscate while performing the mind-numbing task of checking the luggage and persons of thousands of airline passengers every day are quite befuddling.

Bill Wingett is a WWII veteran, and a member of the original troop of marines designated the "Band of Brothers." He was presented a replica Zippo Lighter with his name on it, in honor of his fight to protect Holland from the Nazis. The lighter has no flint or any fluid.
On his way home, the lighter was confiscated.
Wingett had it in his luggage when he flew home. When it showed up on the screening machines at Washington Dulles International Airport -- after the flight across the Atlantic -- an airport security screener told him he had a lighter in his bag, and he'd have to surrender it.
Apparently, the security personnel would not give in on this one, and after arguing with the supervisor for a while, Wingett had to contact the TSA when he got back and try to retrieve his lighter.

I remember one trip I took where I had my backpack and a carry-on piece of luggage. I had forgotten the wine opener that I had in my backpack's middle pocket, as my wife and I had just had a picnic complete with a bottle of wine. After going through my bag a couple of times before finding it, the wine opener was taken from me. It was not without a bit of whining on my part, as I really liked that opener in particular. But when that happens you can either pay for a locker and pick it up on your return, or it's gone forever.
Remarkably, it wasn't the corkscrew that red-flagged the opener, but the tiny retractable knife on the side. It seems that if it didn't have that knife, the opener would have been OK to fly.
Now, tell me this: what would you think would be a better weapon, the blade (and if you've seen a waiter's wine opener, you know what I'm talking about) or the corkscrew itself?

Some of the rules for confiscation they have at TSA are pretty ridiculous, and I for one would like to see a review of the list of items you can't bring on board. I would also like to see some ability for the security personnel to make decisions regarding what they allow on the spot, instead of being completely constrained by some "list" created by bureaucrats.