Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Japanese Human Tetris

I love Japanese game shows. I saw some Human Tetris on Ellen this morning. While some of you scoff at Ellen (Steve and Vanessa) and refuse to watch, I'm learning about the finer points of Japanese culture and catching a laugh. Good stuff.




Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Gifts

I've read multiple blogs on the nasty consumerist nature of Christmas (a sentiment I'm in basic agreement with), and heard numerous sermons echoing that fact. There's even a movie about it. But, to be quite honest, the extremist nature of some of these messages have only left me feeling guilty. Guilt is quite different than conviction.

I enjoy giving gifts to those I love, and I don't think I'm alone on this one. So, I'm going to continue giving gifts, guilt-free.

At what point in history did Christmas giving become a quid pro quos operation? Why would I spend $30 on a gift for 'Bill' and expect him to give me a $30 gift in return? That's not a gift, that's an expectation. Pretty sure "Bill" would just assume I not give him a gift in the first place if I expect to receive a gift of equal value in return.

Scott McKnight has some really good thoughts on Christmas Gifts over at Jesus Creed. He writes, "We give worship to God at Christmas as regifting what God has given to us. We give gifts to others as regifting what God has given to us."

Merry Christmas. Enjoy time with family and loved ones and regift--guilt-free!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ronaldinho and Me


Haven't played soccer since 7th grade, but this would be my name if I played for Team Brazil. Try it yourself. Oh, and in case your wondering, Larry Bird's name would be, "Baldo".

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bill Clinton and Chris Webber



I know a lot of political conservatives who gag at the mention of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and I cannot understand why. It's one thing to disagree with a person's politics, it's quite another to judge an entire family's character. An entire segment of the right will characterize "Billary" as calculating, devious, and deceptive, which may be true, but how does that make them any different than your average politician? Surely amidst these qualities, which are most definitely exaggerated, lie honorable traits and intentions.

For instance, thanks to FreeDarko (via TrueHoop), I just learned Bill Clinton wrote a letter to Chris Webber after he blew the NCAA championship game against my Tarheels by calling a timeout, when the Wolverines had no timeouts left. The transcript of Clinton's letter is below:
Dear Chris,

I have been thinking of you a lot since I sat glued to the TV during the championship game.

I know that there may be nothing I or anyone else can say to ease the pain and discouragement of what happened.

Still, for whatever it's worth, you, and your team, were terrific. And part of playing for high stakes under great pressure is the constant risk of mental error. I know. I have lost two political races and made countless mistakes over the last twenty years. What matters is the intensity, integrity, and courage you bring to the effort. That is certainly what you have done. You can always regret what occurred but don't let it get you down or take away the satisfaction of what you have accomplished.

You have a great future. Hang in there.

Sincerely, Bill Clinton
Some, who have already decided the character of the Clintons will dismiss this as another shrewd political move, probably done to woo the Wolverine electorate. Seriously, though, where does that line of thinking end? Can't a Clinton just be nice? After all what kind of person would write a book advising people on how to change the world through giving? What a jerk.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

God Is Not a Narcissist

"God came to earth to glorify himself." This is a message I first heard from friends who attended Bethlehem Baptist a few years ago. This church is led be John Piper, an very influential Reformed minister. It was during my formative years at Bethel College, and it rubbed me the wrong way. God became human, sacrificed himself, in order that he would be glorified? Um, where's the unconditional love in that?

Though I never truly accepted that teaching, it left a dent in my faith. Until now. Thank you Ben Witherington.
I suppose we should not be surprised that in a culture and age of narcissism, we would recreate God in our own self-centered image, but it is surprising when we find orthodox Christians, and even careful scholars doing this.
"For God so loved himself?" Is God a Narcissist?

Did Christ Come to Please Himself?

UPDATE (12-05-07): John Piper has posted a response to Ben Witherington's critique. Read it here.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Projecting the 2010 Twins


New Twins GM Bill Smith has already made his first bold move by trading his #1 organizational prospect Matt Garza to the Devil Rays for Delmon Young and speculation is rampid that Johan Santana will be dealt soon. In case you've been on another planet for the past few weeks, the Red Sox and Yankees have entered a bidding war for the two time Cy Young winner. Below are two possible opening day lineups for 2010, the year the Twins open their new ballpark, should the Twins trade Johan to the Red Sox or Yankees

Rumored trade with the Yankees: Phil Hughes (rhp), Melky Cabrera (cf), and a minor leaguer

Alexi Casilla (2b/ss)
Melky Cabrera (cf)
Joe Mauer (c)
Delmon Young (lf)
Justin Morneau (1b)
Michael Cuddyer (rf)
Chris Parmalee/Jason Kubel (dh)
Matt Moses (3b)
Brendan Harris (2b/ss)

Francisco Liriano (lhp)
Phil Hughes (rhp)
Glen Perkins (lhp)
Kevin Slowey (rhp)
Anthony Swarzak (rhp)

Rumored trade with Red Sox: Jon Lester (lhp), Coco Crisp (cf), Jed Howrie (ss), and a minor leaguer, rumored to be Michael Bowden (rhp)

Alexi Casilla (2b)
Coco Crisp (cf)
Joe Mauer (c)
Delmon Young (lf)
Justin Morneau (1b)
Michael Cuddyer (rf)
Chris Parmalee/Jason Kubel (dh)
Jed Howrie (ss)
Matt Moses (3b)

Francisco Liriano (lhp)
Jon Lester (lhp)
Kevin Slowey (rhp)
Glen Perkins (lhp)
Anthony Swarzak (rhp)

The centerpiece of both deals are the starting pitchers, Hughes and Lester. Of the two, Hughes is considered to be a better prospect, a surefire ace. However, the Red Sox deal fills more needs with the inclusion of Howrie, who tore up the minors with his bat this past season. Brendan Harris will probably become a utility player, or part of another trade, and Matt Moses (3b), the Twins first round pick in 2003, is starting to look like a bust. Once Billy Smith completes his trade with the Yankees or the Red Sox, it doesn't mean his work is finished: He still has more holes to fill in order to field a competitive team in 2010. So, while the focus is on the Santana sweepstakes now, don't be surprised if Smith puts Joe Nathan on the block to fill those remaining infield holes.

UPDATE (12-02-07): Minneapolis Star Tribune writer Lavelle E. Neal III writes that the Twins are willing to hold on to Santana if the Yankees or Red Sox do not add an additional tier one prospect to their original offers. The prospects mentioned in the piece are Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury for the Sox and Ian Kennedy for the Yanks. Although, I have to believe the Twins would accept Jose Tabata or Austin Jackson if the Yanks were to include either in their offer.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The Continuing Indian Wars"

On Oct. 6, 2006, the University of North Dakota sued the NCAA for the to right retain the Fighting Sioux nickname, and logo, even though many other NCAA schools using Native American nicknames and logos have rightly capitulated on this issue (Thanks Todd, for the reference).

At first glance the logo does not look too offensive. Certainly, it is less offensive than Chief Wahoo. One might even argue that the "Fighting Sioux" nickname is honorable. That person might say the Sioux fought honorably, and for something good. Besides, there are many mascots that are based on acts of war (Knights, Raiders, Vikings, etc.), right? But, to get into this argument is to miss the point. Clay Jenkinson, Theodore Roosevelt scholar-in-residence at Dickinson State University states in Nick Coleman's November 18th column that, "North Dakotans are not racist, but they are racially insensitive...They think, 'I am not someone who doesn't like Indians; therefore, there isn't a problem.' What they don't understand is that one culture doesn't have the right to appropriate the iconography of another." I might add that this is especially true when given the history between whites in America and Native Americans.

A settlement in the lawsuit between UND and the NCAA was finally reached on October 26th. It gives UND three years to convince local Native American tribes that the nickname and the logo are not offensive. If the university is not successful in that time, the "Fighting Sioux" logo and nickname must go. The decision was handed down by, "Judge Lawrence Jahnke, who, it turned out, was a youthful member of a UND pep club that promoted the Sioux nickname and a cartoon stereotype named "Sammy Sioux." Thanks for that nugget Nick Coleman.

On the surface, this looks like a victory for Native Americans, but, in reality, it may turn out to be just another defeat in the long line of Native American defeats. Some thoughts from Clay Jenkinson, who wrote a piece for the Bismark Tribune immediately after the settlement was handed down,
The "settlement" not only prolongs a controversy that has already gone on far too long...[but] imposes impossible pressures on North Dakota's Indian communities. The settlement will create new and entirely unnecessary tensions between the white and Indian community. Notice that the tense debate is being moved from its proper sphere (UND) to a completely innocent sphere (the reservation).
The compromise is likely to do damage to North Dakota's Indians, particularly the Dakota and Lakota (Sioux), and it is likely to worsen white-Indian relations in North Dakota. If UND manages to "convince" the Indian leadership that "Fighting Sioux" is inoffensive, many white people will make cynical comments about the "payoff," the annuities wagon of programs, gifts, emoluments, research projects and other benefits that UND will be offering North Dakota's Indians in return for their "understanding.
I can already hear whites whispering about how lucky Native Americans are because they all profit from casinos.

Is history repeating itself?
Extravagant promises already have been made by UND to North Dakota's Indians. More are coming.

But here's the worst of it. If, in the course of three years, North Dakota's Indian community refuses to be convinced of the "harmlessness of Fighting Sioux," all the angst that this silly controversy has generated - anger, sense of betrayal, feeling of persecution by the NCAA and the forces of "political correctness," loss of control, the charge of racism - will be turned on the people who least deserve it.

This is a very old and sad story. Historically, when white people have wanted something from Indians, they have sent emissaries with presents and promises. The presents typically have been patched together to get the job done at the least expense. The promises have been as empty as they sometimes have been offered in good earnest. Historically, when Indians have balked at the white man's blandishments, the pile of presents and promises has grown, and the threat level has been increased from orange to red. As often as not, white emissaries have then sought out more cooperative leaders (divide and conquer is the rule), and employed liquor as a mode of persuasion. On those occasions when Indians have refused to sell at any cost, the whites historically have just taken what they wanted, as de Tocqueville put it, with as much violence as necessary, but under the happy cloak of legality.

This is the procedure by which the Black Hills were stolen from the Sioux (Lakota) and the Cheyenne. This is the method by which the boundaries of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara "reservation" were steadily shrunken from the 1851 Fort Laramie settlement (12 million acres) to the current fragment (1 million acres). This is the procedure by which the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa were "persuaded" to cede their best 152,360 acres to be inundated by Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea.
Hopefully, Jenkinson is wrong and history fails to repeat itself. "Now, the last hope for decency is that the University of North Dakota behaves like an institution of higher learning. There's always a first for everything." Well said Nick Coleman.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Wolves Suck, Buth There's Always the 2008 NBA Draft


The Minnesota Timberwolves are now 0-5, one of three teams remaining without a win. While Randy Wittman has the kids playing hard, valuing defense, this team is just too young to have much success this season, even when Randy Foye returns from injury. There is reason for optimism though: the 2008 NBA draft. At this pace, the Timberwolves will not only end up with a lottery pick in the draft, they should end up with a top five pick. So, here's a list of the most talented NBA prospects entering this 2007-08 collegiate season. Click each name, read each scouting report, watch the Youtube clips, and begin fantasizing about next year.
  • O.J. Mayo Ht: 6'5" Wt: 210 College: USC Position: PG/SG Year: Freshman
  • Derrick Rose Ht: 6'4" Wt: 195 College: Memphis Position: PG Year: Freshman
  • Eric Gordon Ht: 6'4" Wt: 220 College: Indiana Position: PG/SG Year: Freshman
  • Michael Beasley Ht: 6'9" Wt: 235 College: Kansas St. Position: SF/PF Year: Freshman
  • Kevin Love Ht: 6'9" Wt: 260 College: UCLA Position: PF Year: Freshman
  • Kosta Koufos Ht: 7'1" Wt: 260 College: Ohio St. Position: C Year: Freshman
  • Roy Hibbert Ht: 7'2" Wt: 278 College: Georgetown Position: C Year: Senior
  • Chase Budinger Ht: 6'7" Wt: 215 College: Arizona Position: SG Year: Sophomore
  • DeAndre Jordan Ht: 7'0" Wt: 250 College: Texas A&M Position: C Year: Freshman
  • Nicolas Batum Ht: 6'8" Wt: 210 Team: Le Mans, France Position: SG/SF Born: 1988

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wisdom from Jim Bishop, "Castle Builder"



I never really thought of it that way. Thanks Jim.

UPDATE (11-16-07): I just googled "Jim Bishop Castle Builder" and found the castle on Roadside America's website. I now have five dreams in life: see the Yankees at Yankee stadium, watch KG at the Boston Garden, backpack in Europe, take a safari in South Africa, and visit the Bishop Castle in Beulah, Colorado. Visit the site here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Watchdogs Are Coming After Televangelists

Iowa Senator Charles E. Grassley (the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee) has launched an investigation into the finances of six prominent televangelists: 1) Creflo A. Dollar; 2) Paula and Randy White; 3) Benny Hinn; 4) Joyce Meyer; 5) Kenneth and Gloria Copland; and, 6) Bishop Eddie Long. Because these are tax exempt ministries, all contributions must be used for tax exempt purposes. Grassley is investigating whether these ministries are using contributions for personal use, a violation of the tax code. The New York Times story is here.

Following Ben Witherington's advice, I checked out Ministrywatch.org, a reliable Christian watchdog organization that has been featured on 20/20, and so far it has investigated over 400 churches and Christian ministries, providing detailed reports of many. The goal of Ministry Watch is to facilitate "the practical expression of one's stewardship calling by creating an environment that promotes increasing confidence in, and generosity towards, the Lord's causes." Currently on the Donor Alert list are TBN, Benny Hinn ministries, and the Christian Children's Fund. Usually, the common denominators among ministries that make this list include a lack of financial transparency and leadership that is not held accountable. I encourage you to check out Ministrywatch.org.

The irony in all of this is that I am now more compelled to give my money to this watchdog organization than any other ministry it has investigated.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

We Are Responsible for Chief Wahoo


When the Cleveland Indians were in the midst of their collapse against the now World Champion Boston Red Sox, Kansas City blogger Joe Posnanski wrote an interesting piece about the Cleveland Indians' logo, Chief Wahoo (the logo in the top left quadrant pictured above). After writing a detailed history of Cleveland's mascots and logos, which I suggest you check out, he rightly concludes,
Wahoo is an inherentry racist symbol. Nobody could really deny this. Nobody could look at that grinning mug and say, “No, it’s really a flattering portrayal of Native Americans, who were conquered, nearly wiped off the planet by our ancestors and then forced to live on reservations.”...The thing is, I think so many of us were raised to think of Indians as cartoon characters, as movie villains, as the Native American who had a tear in his eye because people kept dumping garbage all over this great land, that we have become desensitized.
Native Americans are not the first minority group to be caricatured, and shaped into an archetype. Images of the lazy, foolish African-American Sambo, based on the blackface minstrel were popular throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries until challenged by the Civil Rights Movement in the '50s and '60s. Japanese Americans were depicted as devious, cunning villains in World War II propaganda even though not one Japanese-American betrayed the United States during the war. Finally, Jews were portrayed as untrustworthy, and evil by Nazis, and used as scapegoats for the collapse of the German empire.

So, where is the outrage? Does no one else see a relationship between these images? If we were to slap any of the above mentioned racist images on the Cleveland ballcap, the entire nation would be outraged. Imagine the blackface minstrel as your local sports team's logo? Would that be ok? Or the Nazi image of the Jew. Ok? Or what about the Minnesota "Japs" complete with a logo that has the steretypical big teeth? Not gonna fly. So, how is it that Chief Wahoo gets a free pass? How has Chief Wahoo gone untouched since 1950? Posnanski has an answer,
The only reason Chief Wahoo is around is because Native Americans don’t have a strong enough voice in this country to put a stop to it. When Native Americans protested at the 1997 World Series, they were mostly laughed at. Three were arrested. Is this really the kind of country we want to be? And for what? To stand up for our inherent rights to enjoy a racist sports logo?
In 2001, the United States Commission on Civil Rights issued a statement offering guidelines for the use of Native American symbols, suggesting they not be used in non-Native American schools (read it here), effectively denouncing Chief Wahoo. However, the statement has spurred no real change, and as Posnanski pointed out, Native American civil rights organizations don't have the "strong voice" that similar organizations of women, African Americans, or Latinos have, making change more difficult. This is one of the many tragic effects the policy of assimilation and allotment to reservations have had upon the Native American community.

So, that leaves this issue to the non-Native American community. We can assist Native American civil rights organizations, strengthening their voice, or we can speak up ourselves. Maybe Chief Wahoo is not your battle, but is there a local high school who is ignoring the the 2001 Statement of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the Use of Native American Images and Nicknames as Sports Symbols? Ultimately, it comes down to the kind of society we want to be apart of, "one that stands up for the inherent rights to enjoy a racist sports logo," or one who responds to victims of discrimination, no matter the strength of their voice.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Big Ticket is Selling His House


Kevin Garnett is selling his Lake Minnetonka home for a cool 53.5 million. If you can swing the $133,638 annual property taxes, this could be the home for you. And this is a great time to buy too: I bet you could low-ball K.G. with a $45 million offer in this market.

Update (03-28-08): Turns out this was a rumor. For more on this erroneous report, click here. Guess I wasn't the only one who was duped. The home he actually owned in Orono cost him $6.45 million. That seems a bit more reasonable. I bet someone got a reasonable deal on his home in this market though.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Timberwolves Problems Start at the Top


Pioneer Press reporter Rick Alonzo's recent two-part Q&A with Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor reveals the dysfunction behind the scenes at Target Center. Here are some highlights from part one, which focuses mostly on management, beginning with setting the record straight on Flip Saunders' role in torpedoing the organization,
...the Chauncey (Billups) thing (in 2002, when Billups left Minnesota as a free agent). Kevin came to me and asked me for the money. He wanted to keep Chauncey, and I OK'd it. And Flip didn't think Chauncey was going to make it. So Kevin said we're crazy to spend this kind of money on a guy if the coach is saying that Chauncey isn't going to make it...Chauncey really wanted to stay. Chauncey came to us and was like, I really like it here. You guys have really renewed my life. I think this is really a good team. We said, listen, if another team will pay you, you better take it, because if you come here, you may be the backup (point) guard. You probably will be. As it would have worked out, he would have been the starting guard.

Then K.G. came along and he says, well, Flip doesn't have it anymore. That really puts McHale on the spot. He says, well, now if the star guy says the coach doesn't have it and we can't make it, it's kind of like, did Kevin (McHale) get rid of Flip, or did K.G. say none of us on the team trust Flip anymore? I will tell you this: Flip came to me earlier and asked to resign, said he'd resign. And McHale talked him into staying on.

I know when Flip did go, I called up Flip and said, OK, you're out, and he says yeah. I told Flip, I'd like to maybe keep you in the organization in another spot. He said OK, I'll do that. I know that two weeks later, he changed it all around, that he got fired and nobody talked to him. I know it didn't go down that way, and I know (McHale) got blamed for that.

Taylor goes on to throw his current General Manager, Kevin McHale, under the bus,
Kevin is very poor on details. You've got to recognize what he is good at and what he's not good at. And generally, if we've kind of failed, it's been some of the details stuff.

What kind of details?

Let's just say if you're doing a trade. Checking a little bit more, checking into background a little bit more. I think some of the other teams probably have done a little bit better job. Going to Europe, knowing the guys a little bit better. Some of the details like that.

I think Kevin is a little bit like me. Either I like somebody or I don't like somebody, which is fine. But you better have some detail people behind you supporting that, making sure your feelings are right. I'm talking more about business, but I still see Kevin's job as more business.

Could we run as good without Kevin? I'm not sure we couldn't run as good without Kevin. If Kevin came and resigned, would I accept? I probably would. Do I want to fire him? Why would I want to embarrass him? He's done a lot of good.

How would you like to come to work the next morning knowing your boss told the entire world, that his company would run fine without you? In other words, you don't make a difference, and the only reason you are still employed is because he doesn't want to embarrass you. As if that statement isn't embarrassing enough.

Part two of the interview focuses on players and coaches, past and present. First, Taylor speaks about the team's effort under Wittman last year,

I didn't see it...I thought I was going to see it when Randy took over. I don't think I saw it like what I expected to see. There was some improvement, but I don't think he ever got it.

So why did you re-sign Wittman to be the permanent coach?

I don't know if we could have made those changes with K.G. here. I don't know that Randy would have made any difference if K.G. was here. I think without K.G., with new guys, it might work with Randy.

It has more to do with K.G., and K.G. not liking Mike James, and Marko (Jaric), and he didn't like Mark Blount. Heavens, half the starting team. And Ricky (Davis) didn't listen to (Wittman). So it was kind of like, holy gripes. But I don't know who I could have brought in. I know I would have had to bring in a really experienced guy. There weren't too many guys available.

Maybe the Houston coach (former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy). I probably would have gone after him, because he could have come up here and maybe set the tone. You would have had to have had a guy like that. But once I made up my mind, which I did pretty early after the season ... that K.G. was gone, by that time, it was like, well then I think if I do that, then I think Randy can work.

So, basically Randy Wittman was plan "D"? Nice Glen. Way to give the new guy a vote of confidence. I'm sure young coaches are clamoring to sit on the sidelines of the Target Center.

Now, for the bombshell. Apparently, the captain of all captains, 'Sota's beloved Big Ticket, played a crucial role in this team's failure last year.
I think there was a lot of stuff going on that we just couldn't talk about publicly. K.G. wanted Trenton (Hassell, forward) around. K.G. wanted Troy (Hudson, guard) around. And those guys took advantage of the situation, and it drove me nuts. I thought both of those guys could have been better players. But somehow because K.G. stuck up for them, they probably would have both been better players this year without K.G. But they had gone down the rope so far...

They just didn't put the effort into it like they should have. Somehow, Trenton thought he had earned the starting role, and K.G. would keep him on the starting role. Neither guy would help certain teammates out on the floor. It wasn't as apparent to me until Wittman said, "here's what they're doing, watch them". They would run a play, and Trenton was supposed to cover for the other guy, and he wouldn't cover for the other guy. The fans didn't know that. So the other guy looked pretty stupid.
Maybe, instead of deflecting blame, and passing the buck, Glen Taylor should look in the mirror. How does an owner allow a general manager who is poor on the details remain in his position? Is it possible that the poor team chemistry was a result of McHale's failure to look into the details when acquiring certain players? Finally, since NBA contracts are guaranteed, why not bring in a coach who would effectively address these issues rather than let them fester? Really, Timberwolves fans cannot blame Kevin McHale for fulfilling his employers low expectations. However, we can blame Glen Taylor for not holding anyone in this organization accountable. So, T-Wolves fans, let's stop blaming McHale and go straight to the top and demand some accountability.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Busted!


I know it's late, but I had to post this cover of the New Yorker. Hilarious. In case you missed it, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, satirically pictured above, stated in his address at Columbia University, "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country [America]...In Iran we don't have this phenomenon, I don't know who's told you that we have it." See for yourself.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Joe Girardi Should Manage the Yanks

Joe Girardi should be the next manager of the Yankees. While Don Mattingly may be the sexy pick, and the most popular with the fans (he was my favorite player growing up), Girardi is the man for the job for the following reasons:

1. He was a major league catcher. Catchers have always made for good major league managers. The decisions they make on the field prepares them for the decisions they may someday make from the dugout. Joe Torre, Bob Brenly, Bruce Bochy, and Mike Scioscia, were also catchers.

2. Related to the first point, Girardi's experience as a catcher will help him manage the Yankee pitching staff. This is especially important considering the Yankees have such promising young hurlers on the horizon: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Dellin Betances. I'm not so sure a former first baseman (Mattingly), who has no managing experience at any level, can adequately manage these young pitchers.

3. Finally, he has successfully managed in the big leagues. In 2006 he managed a young Florida Marlins team and developed youngsters such as Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Willingham, Scott Olsen, Anibal Sanchez, and Josh Johnson. This, to me, is the most appealing aspect of Girardi's resume. As Brian Cashman has refocused the Yankee vision from free agent spending to player development, it is crucial that the manager at the apex of the Yankee system can get the most out its players. Girardi has a track record, Mattingly doesn't.

The X-factor in all of this will be how Girardi, or whoever is chosen, handles the New York media. Joe Torre's strength, as Buster Olney points out, was not necessarily his tactical brilliance, but his ability to navigate the gauntlet that is the New York media. A legend like Don Mattingly, who regularly receives standing ovations in Yankee stadium, or a strategic player developer like Girardi both could be swallowed whole by those reporters. So, in the end, the Yankee job just might come down to survival of the fittest, in which case resumes can be thrown out the window.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another Reason to Dislike Michael Jordan

You should all be ashamed of yourselves for viewing this man as a role model. Absolutely ashamed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

White Privilege, Steve Nash, and My Love for Larry Bird


TrueHoop linked to the following post by Cosellout, "It's Not Steve Nash's Fault!: A Study in White Privilege.”

Some highlights:
It was the media that often used Nash as a tool to: denigrate black athletes; to perpetuate tired racial stereotypes; to revise current and past basketball history; and, by contrast, to ignore or give token treatment to the incredible community service of men like Marbury, Mutombo, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Carmelo Anthony, Richard Jefferson and so many others.

…But the truth is, it’s YOUR fault!

That’s right, it is your fault if you like up-tempo basketball and tuned into the Suns in the playoffs last year, but did not watch the Warriors-Mavericks historic series; if you appreciate the finest of pure point guard play, but didn’t witness last year’s playoff series’ that featured Jason Kidd AVERAGING a triple-double or the coming out party of Utah’s Derron Williams; if you praised Nash’s politics [protesting the American policy in Iraq], but never acknowledged the existence of Etan Thomas; or if the reason why Marbury’s community service can’t garner a magazine cover is because the big bosses know full well that you won’t buy a copy. Yup, it is YOUR fault!
(If you haven’t read any of Etan Thomas’ stuff, you should.)

More takes from the Steve Nash-White Privilege post:
Nor is Nash to blame because commentators can’t see past the white athlete stereotype. Like when former NBA great Bill Walton marveled at Nash’s achievements a couple of years ago in part because he was "the least athletic point guard in the NBA." While Nash has never been a great leaper, perhaps Walton never took notice of Nash blowing by most opposing guards in the league on a nightly basis. We could only guess that lateral quickness and agility have absolutely nothing to do with athleticism. Because such a reality might put a dent in the romantic notion that Nash is just like every other white guy on the couch with a TV remote, but just worked that much harder than all those “natural black athletes”. But the truth is that Nash was a highly gifted three-sport star (soccer and hockey) who had professional potential besides basketball…

So from now on, I will go back to rooting for Steve Nash, and for everything that he represents. I’ll root for his game, his community service and most urgently, for his anti-war stance to be heard by as many people as possible. And if he is not facing my beloved Knicks in the finals, I might even root hard for him to get that championship ring. But it is simply not fair or ethical to wildly root for Nash, but not challenge the white privilege that he regularly receives by a media that predominantly looks likes him, lives vicariously through him, and probably wants to BE him. Rooting for Nash comes with the added responsibility of demanding the very same accolades, credit, and attention be given to any other athlete who is just as worthy, if not more worthy of our praise. So yes, it is clearly my fault because while I was innocently cheering for Steve Nash, enjoying his on-court game, and admiring his off-court causes, it took me this long to write why “It’s Not Steve Nash’s Fault”.
You really need to read this post in its entirety, it’s very good. As difficult a pill as it may be to swallow, I can’t say there’s much I disagree with in this post. I’ve often asked myself, “Why choose Larry Bird as your favorite player? Why not Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, or Michael Jordan?” I think it had a lot to do with living “vicariously through” him like Cosellout accused members of the media of doing. I’m sure much of it had to do with the fact that we were both white, but I also think my choosing him had a lot to do with our lack of athleticism (unlike Steve Nash). There was this idea that even though we couldn’t jump as high as our opponents, or run as fast, we could still dominate (or at least compete) by doing the little things on the basketball court. It was obviously an ideal that could only by realistically attained by a few, but it made him relatable, and isn’t that the point?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Thoughts on Columbus Day

So today is Columbus Day and I'm trying to figure out why many American states honor his legacy with a holiday. According to the Library of Congress, President Benjamin Harrison urged Americans to remember Oct. 12th, the date of Columbus' landing. The Knights of Columbus followed by lobbying state legislatures to make it a legal holiday, and Colorado was the first to do so in 1907. Columbus Day was made a federal holiday in 1971. So, we continue to honor this day because it's been tradition?

Virtually no one believes Columbus was the first European on American soil. The Vikings landed on the shores of Newfoundland 500 years prior to his arrival. Furthermore, some historians believe the Chinese arrived in the New World around 1421, trumping Columbus by 71 years.

If that's not enough, his arrival on Hispaniola, killed the entire Taino population. Sure, he could not have predicted the effect European diseases would have upon these natives, so we can't hold him and those Europeans followed totally accountable, but many Taino did die because of forced labor, and that is something we can hold them accountable for.

Many historians and certainly Native Americans will also argue that the Conquistadors were a direct result of Columbus' arrival (which seems perfectly logical to me). So, Columbus wasn't just an explorer who challenged the flat-world assumptions of the day to find a new trade route, but was instead the first of a long line of dominoes that led to the Spanish colonization of Latin America, a legacy that is still crippling natives today.

So, again I ask, what about Christopher Columbus' legacy deserves a holiday? If we are just honoring tradition, shouldn't we stop and ask why? Some traditions are worth changing.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

God is Picking Teams


There is significant evidence that God is choosing sides on the field of sports. If anyone has watched the Colorado Rockies play this season, you're aware of their Phoenix-like impression, rising from the ashes in the second half of the season. How could they do this without some help from on high? They've won 18 of their last 19 games. They defeated the National League's top Cy Young candidate, Jake Peavy, in a do-or-die, playoff tiebreaker to claim the NL wildcard. They've swept the Philadelphia Phillies, even though Matt Holliday still hasn't touched home plate. They dominated last year's Cy Young winner, Brandon Webb to take a 1-0 lead in the NLCS. God is certainly at work here. Consider this, from a USA Today column printed in June,
No copies of Playboy or Penthouse are in the clubhouse of baseball's Colorado Rockies. There's not even a Maxim. The only reading materials are daily newspapers, sports and car magazines and the Bible.

Music filled with obscenities, wildly popular with youth today and in many other clubhouses, is not played. A player will curse occasionally but usually in hushed tones. Quotes from Scripture are posted in the weight room. Chapel service is packed on Sundays. Prayer and fellowship groups each Tuesday are well-attended. It's not unusual for the front office executives to pray together.

On the field, the Rockies are trying to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons and only the second time in their 14-year history. Behind the scenes, they quietly have become an organization guided by Christianity — open to other religious beliefs but embracing a Christian-based code of conduct they believe will bring them focus and success.

And this from Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort,
"We started to go after character six or seven years ago, but we didn't follow that like we should have," he says. "I don't want to offend anyone, but I think character-wise we're stronger than anyone in baseball. Christians, and what they've endured, are some of the strongest people in baseball. I believe God sends signs, and we're seeing those."
Finally this from General Manager Dan O'Dowd, quoted October 12th, in the Independent, "You look at some of the moves we made and didn't make...You look at some of the games we're winning. Those aren't just a coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this."

If this doesn't convince you that God is trying his hand at sports, then turn your attention to the NFL, specifically the NFC North , where the Detroit Lions sit at 3-2, having defeated the defending NFC champion Chicago Bears two weeks ago (that alone is evidence of divine intervention). They did lose to the Washington Redskins last week, however. Upon further review, though, this isn't a huge surprise, considering the Redskins head coach is Joe Gibbs. His website offers a Joe Gibbs bible and "Joe's weekly spiritual gameplan" via email. So, if I'm a Detroit Lions fan, it is not a big surprise that the 3-1 Washington Redskins, would hand me a loss. After all, God has got to love Joe Gibbs' website. Maybe he's a better Christian, even?

But God must love the Detroit Lions too. Their leader, Jon Kitna has turned his life around from being a shoplifting, drunk, "womanizing," QB at Central Washington University to a born-again Christian who blasts Christian rock in the his NFL locker room and leads teammates to Christ. Apparently 20 of his Detroit teammates have become Christians since his signing with the team. You think that might get a little wink from God?

To top it all off, in case you haven't heard, on September 16th, against the Vikings, Kitna was knocked out of the game with a concussion only to return and lead his team to a 20-17 victory. He called it a miracle, "I've never felt anything like that, and for it to clear up and go right back to as normal as I can be, is nothing short of a miracle," Kitna said. "I just definitely feel the hand of God. That's all it was. You can't explain it."

Well, I'm convinced, God is picking teams: Rockies, Lions and Redskins. Any thoughts on which NBA team he'll pick? I'm praying for the Celtics.

UPDATE (11-16-07): By the way, this post is facetious.

"Pro-Life" Shouldn't Be About One Issue


On Saturday, Sept. 29th fifty leaders of the social conservative movement gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah to discuss their plan of attack in the event that the presidential nominee for the Republican and Democratic parties are both pro-choice. To clarify the events that took place at that meeting, James Dobson wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times. In it he writes of the conclusions the group came to, "If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate. Those agreeing with the proposition were invited to stand. The result was almost unanimous."

He continues to ponder with pen the possibility that voting for a pro-life candidate could cost social conservatives the presidency,
The other approach, which I find problematic, is to choose a candidate according to the likelihood of electoral success or failure. Polls don’t measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of one’s principles. In the present political climate, it could result in the abandonment of cherished beliefs that conservative Christians have promoted and defended for decades. Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear.
Another issue discussed on that Saturday was the possibility of backing a third party candidate that would run as the pro-life alternative. There was less unanimity on this topic. Rasmussen Reports ran a poll on how such a third party candidate would effect the election, and the results aren't very encouraging for social conservatives. If it comes down to Giuliani, Clinton, and __________ (3rd party candidate), the poll indicates that the 3rd party votes would tip the election in favor of Hillary Clinton. I can't imagine James Dobson and his 49 friends thrilled about that outcome.

Of course, I cannot imagine James Dobson failing to foresee such an outcome either. One can't help to think this is more of a political threat than it is actual contingency planing (you don't actually think these leaders would support a pro-life Democrat do you?). Something along the lines of, "Lest you forget Republican party, social conservatives carry serious capital every election cycle. We delivered the White House to President Bush, and we can do the same for the next Republican nominee, but do not take us for granted. Our vote does not come cost-free. Bend on abortion or we'll take our votes elsewhere."

So, for social conservatives, I ask this one question: Are there other ways to protect the sanctity of life? I understand the opposition to abortion. I am father to a beautiful 8 month old baby girl. I am aware of the outrageous numbers of abortions that occur in this country. I've heard the commercials on my local Christian radio station calling abortion "genocide" and citing it as the number one killer in this country, however, I can't help but to think there might be other issues dedicated to preserving the sanctity of life. Here are some examples of such 'pro-life' issues :
  • Opposition to war. Not just the U.S. war in Iraq, but wars in general. Are the lives lost in war not as valuable as an unborn fetus? Can one support war and be pro-life?
  • Opposition to the death penalty in all fifty states.
  • Support pouring resources into improving inner city ministries and charities where the cycle of drug use and gang violence leads many to the conclusion that death is inevitable.
  • Support Stem-cell research. Tell Michael J. Fox you value life in one sentence and don't support stem cell research in the next. See how he responds.
  • Support any U.S. legislation that increases financial assistance for AIDS relief in Africa and in other parts of the world.
  • Support efforts to end the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. If abortion truly is the American "genocide," why is this "genocide" worth more activism than the Sudanese?
It seems as if Mr. Dobson and his friends have simplified the issue of 'life' to one single issue, abortion. Either you are pro-life and you value life, or you're pro-choice and you don't. While I agree that abortion is an important issue, I also agree that life is not about one single issue, and social conservatives would do well to broaden there view to reflect this. Because, the way things are looking now, there's going to be a pro-choice candidate in office.

So, I'd recommend finding out how Republican and Democratic candidates feel about these other issues of "life." Or are social conservatives only concerned about certain types of lives?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

2007 MLB Division Series Predictions


NLDS: Rockies v. Phillies
Honestly, this is the series that intrigues me most. It really is a shame these two have to meet in the first round because they are the two hottest teams in baseball right now. Other than Cole Hamels, the Phils have no front-line starting pitchers. Do you really want to go to battle with Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick in October? Didn't think so. The Rockies on the other hand, have some young studs (Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales) with some nasty stuff to go along with their anchor, Jeff Francis. And we all know about their bats, and the more I watch and read about Troy Tolowitzki, the more I like the guy. It is very difficult to pick against guys like Rollins, Rowand, and Utley though.
Prediction: Rockies in 5

NLDS: Chicago v. Arizona
At the other end of the spectrum is this series: I could care less. The Cubs sneaked into the playoffs as the best team in the junior varsity league (the NL Central). There were three weeks in mid-summer when Sweet Lou had his team clicking on all cylinders, but, predictably, they faltered (so did the Brewers). When they 'click' they can be nasty, but that is a rare occurrence. The postseason comes down to pitching for the Cubbies. They will beat the D-backs, but their NLCS hopes and beyond ride on Carlos Zambrano and that bullpen. It's time for Big Z and those relievers to start earning their paychecks.
Prediction: Chicago in 4

ALDS: Boston v. Los Angeles
Mike Scioscia's team gets from first to third better than anyone in baseball. They have to, they are no friend of the long ball. That ability to manufacture runs will be key in this series as runs will be scarce for both squads. They'll each be pitching John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzka twice. Plus, both bullpens are stellar, although the Angels bullpen has lost a bit of its luster as of late. And, don't underestimate the loss of Tim Wakefield. His knuckleball can be a serious weapon in the postseason, in any role. The difference in this series should be the Red Sox lineup.
Prediction: Boston in 4

ALDS: New York v. Cleveland
This should be a great matchup. Though New York has owned Cleveland throughout the regular season, Cleveland will be throwing two of the top three Cy Young candidates (Fausto Carmona and C.C. Sabathia) at New York during this five game series. Add to that, Cleveland's formidable lineup top to bottom. Of course, the Bronx Bombers are in a league of their own. Their patience at the plate should allow them to get to the Cleveland bullpen by the sixth or seventh inning of each contest, where they'll encounter the league's best lefty, righty combo, Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt. Expect many of these games to be decided in the later evenings. We'll see if Cleveland manager Eric Wedge's decision to keep Joe Borowski as closer was the right move. One interesting twist, and perhaps not so positive for the Yanks, Joe Torre has elected to start four different starters in games 1-4 (Wang, Pettitte, Clemens, and Mussina). How that effects the outcome remains to be seen.
Prediction: Cleveland in 5

It should be noted that I made these predictions with my head and not my heart. Had I done them with my heart, the Yankees would not be losing in the ALDS.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Would you come back another time and help us sift the terds out of the cream?"

Surfing through archived clips of the Colbert Report makes me want cable. Here's another one for you. The "oxymoron" evangelical reverend Tony Campolo visited Colbert, and you should check it out. I think he must be one of the few guests to render Colbert speechless.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"In God We Trust...If you don't believe that, you shouldn't spend money."

Athiest Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, visits the Colbert Report. I'm pretty sure amidst all the satire (and hilarity) here, there's a lesson to be learned.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Suggestion for Bill Callahan

I am a Cornhusker fan living in Big Ten country (Minnesota). This means I am totally out-of-touch when it comes to all matters related to Nebraska Cornhusker football (so please forgive me subscribers to the Omaha World Herald). One thing I know remains true though; Husker football is borderline religion for us fans.

It is currently the 3rd quarter of the biggest game of the year, USC, the #1 team in the nation. The score is 42-10, them. They've scored 5 touchdowns unanswered. It has become pretty clear that our defense is greatly over-matched. They are marching all over us. Our blackshirts look pink.

Surfing through ESPN's college recruting website I immediately checked to see if there is any help in Nebraska's immediate future. Nebraska has received commitments from three out of ESPN's top 150 recruits: Blaine Gibbert (#8) from Missouri, ESPN's #1 ranked QB in the country; Jonas Gray (#89) from Michigan, a running back; and Baker Steinkuhker (#114) from Nebraska, an offensive tackle.

Granted, three players does not a recruiting class make, but, speaking as an outsider, living in Big Ten country, only being able to watch about 3 games a year, I have a suggestion for you Coach Callahan. Instead of focusing your recruiting efforts on legitimizing your hallowed West Coast offense, devote a little time on the defensive side of the ball. Restore the tradition of Grant Wistrom, Trev Alberts, Mike Brown, Mike Rucker, et. al. and let's turn those pinkshirts black again. Until you do this, the top tier programs in the country, like USC, Oklahoma and Texas (both from you own conference) will continue to humiliate our beloved Huskers. Remember Coach, defense wins championships and offense sells tickets...except in Nebraska, where defense sells tickets too.

UPDATE (10-08-07): Those blackshirts look pink right about now. Nebraska was routed this weekend, 41-6 by Mizzou giving up 606 total yards.

Door to Door Proselytism

Recently I had a very disturbing encounter with some door-to-door evangelists. They (actually it wasn't so much they as it was she, he just stood behind her) began their spiel by telling me about a bible study they were starting. I was immediately intrigued. I assumed this was a new neighbor who was starting a house church, or something of that sort. If someone in the neighborhood were starting a house church, I would at least want to know about it. So, I turned the porch light on and listened.

She began to tell me how the bible, not man, is the source of truth. She told me about how intellectual their bible study is. Apparently they really dig deep and they only use they King James Version, because that was the first, original version, which makes it much better than all the new versions that have been published recently. This was the first warning sign for me. I wanted to ask her why a translation of the bible published in 1611 was more authoritative than any other version we have today, especially since scholars have discovered other original manuscripts since 1611. Does the use of "thou" make the KJV more authoritative than any other translation? I really doubt it, it's really just a matter of preference. Of course, I didn't say this, I kept my mouth shut.

She also mentioned numerous times her passion for getting back to the model of Christianity presented in the New Testament, and her disdain for denominationalism. If it's not in the New Testament, they weren't gonna do it. She illustrated this by talking about baptism. She told me how she was taught that infant baptism was necessary for salvation and has heard that some denominations teach sprinkling is acceptable, but she quoted scripture after scripture about how immersion is necessary for salvation.

After 10 minutes of listening to her talk (without one mention of Jesus) it became pretty clear that she wasn't very interested in me. She was more interested in selling her version of Christianity, even though she apparently abhors denominationalism. After nodding incessantly (I'm a good active listener), I was finally able to jump in and let her know that I was a Christian and that we were on the same team. This apparently wasn't good enough for her. She wanted to know how I felt about baptism. I told her I believed that it was a symbolic act that represents a turning of one's heart towards God, and thus a change of behavior. She then asked what church I go to and what denomination that church was affiliated with. When I answered, she responded with, "That's what I thought. That's what Baptists believe about baptism (She never asked if I was a baptist, by the way). But it's not in the bible. You should read your bible and see what it says."

I was stunned. At this point it was pretty clear these two were not interested in sharing God's love with the East side, but were instead selling theology, and proselytism. So, gloves off, I asked them, "This is an issue [baptism] worth dividing over, isn't it? I just told you I'm a Christian. I don't doubt your faith. But you continue to question mine over the fact that I have a different belief about baptism. Should we be causing division in the church over issues of doctrine?" She had a lot of answers that I don't remember. This is where my active listening stopped.

She continued to argue her point. I asked her to leave. I'm guessing no one from my neighborhood will be attending their bible study. And sadly, if I were to ever host a bible study, my neighbors probably would't attend that either.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Twins Should Turn Young Pitchers Into Atkins

The Twins weakness at third base is no secret. The Nick Punto experiment failed miserably, with his quest to end the season above the Mendoza line quickly becoming a farce. The organization will be spending the rest of the season evaluating the former SEC batting champion, Brian Buscher, a Rule 5 draft pick out of the San Francisco Giants organization. So far he has been solid, but nothing spectacular, which is pretty consistent with all the scouting reports I’ve read on him that state he has very little upside.

The Twins need to be very sure on their decision with Buscher entering the 2008 season. If they aren’t, they should pursue Colorado Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins, a player who could threaten .300-30-100 every season. He is currently making $400,000. but is due a salary jump to about $4 mil. next year due to arbitration. Nevertheless, he is not eligible for free agency until 2010, so the Twins would control him for two years, and would have those two years to negotiate a long-term contract that extends beyond his first few years of free agency, like they did with Joe Mauer, and unfortunately failed to do with Justin Morneau.

The Twins could also afford Atkins. It would not surprise me if their most recent offer to Tori Hunter for 3 years, $45 mil. was their final offer. Torii turned it down and is looking for a contract more in the J.D. Drew range, 5 yrs./$70 mil. Some even believe he will be the number one center fielder to hit the free agent market this summer, ahead of Andruw Jones. Certainly the Twins can allocate some of those unspent funds toward a contract with their new third baseman. Atkins will probably ask for David Wright money, 6 yrs./$55 mil.

Why would the Rockies do this? Many reasons, all interrelated. The Rockies have Todd Helton’s albatross of a contract to deal with, which pays him between 16 and 23 million dollars per year through 2012. Thus, they cannot move Atkins to first base to make room for Ian Stewart, who according to Baseball America is the #2 prospect left in the Rockies’ minor league system (after 2007 promotions) and #46 prospect in all of baseball. However, that ranking shrinks to #22, if one removes players from that list who are currently in the big leagues, or who have spent significant time in the majors this year, players like Hunter Pence, Ryan Braun, Yovanni Gallardo, Alex Gordon, Justin Upton, and Troy Tulowitzki.

How would the Twins acquire Atkins? With their pitching of course. The Rockies organizational weakness has been pitching (although it's getting better), and that is the Twins’ strength. A pitcher from the quartet of Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker and Glen Perkins would probably intrigue the Rockies, though they’d probably demand Garza, the highest ranked pitching prospect in the Twins organization (they wanted Ervin Santana and another prospect from the Angels earlier this summer). Would new Twins G.M. Bill Smith pull the trigger?

In this league, and especially this small-market, the answer to that question always comes down to pitching? What about Johan Santana’s contract? Can Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey be relied upon to give the Twins quality innings as #3 and #4 starters? And, how is Francisco Liriano’s recovery coming?

The answers to these questions will decide if Garret Atkins, or a 3rd baseman of his caliber, will be manning the hot corner for the Twins next season. Whatever the Twins do, they need to do it quickly because time is running out. The most valuable assets in the organization, young pitchers, are probably losing their luster to prospective buyers so it's time to make a decision, hold for good or sell?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Homosexuality in the Bible, Part Two: the Holiness Code.

Refer to Part One for background on this series of posts.

Before I begin part two of this series I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I am not a theologian, nor am I a bible scholar (not that those of you who know me were wondering). I am simply reporting on the discussion that took place at Ekklesia regarding homosexuality in the bible. I cannot claim any of the especially insightful hermeneutics for my own, but must credit them to Clarence Bass. If I wasn’t clear about this in the original post, which after rereading it I don’t believe I was, it’s just because I’m a crappy writer, and had a lot to say. Please, bear with me.

In part one, I asked the question, “Was Homosexuality the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?” I believe the answer to this question is no when taking a holistic view of scripture. In part two I will address the other Old Testament references to homosexuality, both of which occur in the section of Leviticus known as the Holiness Code.

The word Leviticus has been translated as “Law of Priests” or “Instructions for Priests.” Basically it’s an instruction manual for the Priests of ancient Israel on how God wanted to differentiate the Israelites from the surrounding cultures (Canaanites, Philistines, Moabites, etc.). The chapters have different themes, from rituals of sacrifice to dietary laws. The two verses we are concerned with fall within the Holiness Code (Chapters 17-26). These nine chapters are called the Holiness Code because of how frequently the word holy is used.

Chapter eighteen of the holiness code refers to sexual behavior. Verse twenty-two is relevant to the topic at hand, homosexuality. I’ve bolded it below.
6 " 'No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD.
7 " 'Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her.
8 " 'Do not have sexual relations with your father's wife; that would dishonor your father.
9 " 'Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.
10 " 'Do not have sexual relations with your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter; that would dishonor you.
11 " 'Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father's wife, born to your father; she is your sister.
12 " 'Do not have sexual relations with your father's sister; she is your father's close relative.
13 " 'Do not have sexual relations with your mother's sister, because she is your mother's close relative.
14 " 'Do not dishonor your father's brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt.
15 " 'Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son's wife; do not have relations with her.
16 " 'Do not have sexual relations with your brother's wife; that would dishonor your brother.
17 " 'Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness.
18 " 'Do not take your wife's sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.
19 " 'Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.
20 " 'Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor's wife and defile yourself with her.
21 " 'Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed [a] to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.
22 " 'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
23 " 'Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.
24 " 'Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
29 " 'Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. 30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.' "
Homosexuality is also mentioned in Leviticus 20: 13. I’ve included the three verses before and after for context.
10 " 'If a man commits adultery with another man's wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.
11 " 'If a man sleeps with his father's wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
12 " 'If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads.
13 " 'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
14 " 'If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you.
15 " 'If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he must be put to death, and you must kill the animal.
16 " 'If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
If one approaches the bible seeking permission or allowance for homosexual behavior, these verses are very difficult to deal with because these verses are pretty straightforward. One who takes the bible seriously, knows that you cannot just take scripture and bend it for purpose of convenience. If we look at verse 22, in chapter 18, notice that it is sandwiched between many sexual prohibitions that we would regard as no-brainers today: don’t have sex with animals, don’t have sex with various family members, and don’t have sex with your neighbor’s wife, to name a few. These make sense right? So why would we just ignore verse twenty-two, “'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman…”? Out of convenience? Because it would be politically incorrect? I’m pretty sure this is not a reliable method for interpreting scripture.

That said, I don’t believe these scriptures apply today. The key lies in the context. The holiness code is part of the larger set of laws God gives to Moses at Mt. Sinai for His chosen people, the Israelites, in order to distinguish them from the surrounding nations at Canaan (Palestine). These laws were given to a certain people, at a certain time, for a certain reason. Included in these laws were some pretty strange commands. For instance, Israelites were unable to wear mixed fabrics; women were to declare publicly when they were menstruating (sort of like the Scarlet Letter); and as we saw in the verses cited above, the death penalty was required for a variety of sexual acts. Now, why do Christians who cite Old Testament Law as proof that homosexuality is a sin, ignore these laws? It’s seems illogical to follow one part of the law (homosexuality is a sin) but ignore the other parts (mixed fabric, etc.).

Because the Old Testament law given to Moses was contextual we have to interpret it in such a manner. It was a covenant for Israel, given for a specific time, for a specific place, Canaan. Christians today, do not fall under this Mosaic, Old Testament covenant, but under a New Covenant established by the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, whatever the Old Testament Law has to say about homosexuality is irrelevant for Christians today.

It is clear then, that after looking at Sodom and Gomorrah and the Holiness Code, we need to turn our attention to the New Testament for more guidance on what the bible has to say about homosexuality.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"Wednesday night is the night we make love."

Many of you have already seen this but if you haven't, it's worth the watch. "It's Business Time."

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Mind, Body, Spirit Divide

Just last week I was fascinated to hear that a man with severe brain damage who had been barely conscious for 6 years was ‘awakened’ by doctors through electrical deep brain stimulation (read the story here). Now he is not totally conscious, like you and I, but within 48 hours of the surgery he had “turned his head in response to voices and kept his eyes open for prolonged periods of time. After more time, the patient, who previously could not talk, started naming objects and using objects, such as a hair brush, with his hands.” It is unknown whether this man’s condition will improve with rehabilitation, though it is not without precedent in similar cases.

When I heard about this, I immediately began to rethink my position on the Terry Schiavo case, which was pull the tube. After more research, it turns out Mrs. Schiavo’s Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) is very different than the minimally conscious state of this man and many others who will receive this same deep brain stimulation. Which is why the folks at Focus on the Family haven't chimed in with a “We told you so.” Even James Dobson can recognize the difference between an apple and an orange.

I still have one more question though. What does this tell us about the mind, body, spirit divide? Where was this man’s spirit for those six years and in what condition was it? This question totally blows my mind and I honestly don’t even know where to start. Thoughts?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Restoring Celtic Pride


There’s not much to say about this trade that hasn’t already been said, so, I’ll spare you the redundant analysis and just say, I’m stoked. I can’t remember the last time the Celtics entered the season with a legitimate chance of finishing over .500, let alone winning the Eastern Conference.

As a Minnesotan, who is a Timberwolves fan, this could not have worked out any better. K.G. justifiably owned this town, and every Minnesotan hated to see him go. So as a Celtic fan, this was the best case scenario. The Wolves needed to enter a rebuilding mode and the package they received from the Celtics will give them a good start. A core of Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, Al Jefferson, Rashad McCants, and Craig Smith, along with the two first round picks received in this trade gives Wolves fans an inkling of hope for the future. Of course, this trade doesn't exactly endear Kevin McHale to Timberwolves fans, but it does bolster his legacy as a Celtic, as Bill Simmons so accurately points out in this analysis.

Here’s Boston’s current roster with it’s two most recent additions, Jackie Manuel (a defensive specialist) and Eddie House (a backup point guard). There are rumors of Dikembe Mutombo signing soon as well.

Ray Allen G
Tony Allen G
Glen Davis F
Kevin Garnett F
Kendrick Perkins C
Paul Pierce G/F
Leon Powe F
Gabe Pruitt G
Rajon Rondo G
Brian Scalabrine F
Brandon Wallace F
Jackie Manuel G
Eddie House G

For more Celtic information, I’d recommend visiting CelticsBlog.com.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Johan Santana Will Be a Met

Johan Santana's comments following Tuesday’s trade deadline rang loud throughout the Twin Cities.
"You always talk about future, future. ... But if you only worry about the future, then I guess a lot of us won't be part of it…It doesn't make any sense for me to be here, you know?"
After Luis Castillo’s trade to the Mets, Johan and many other Twins were irked. But, let’s be honest, Castillo was not going to sign as a free agent after this season. The fact that Terry Ryan was able to get two minor league prospects for Castillo, an aging vet, with no power, and diminishing range at second base, was impressive. Besides, it’s about time we see what this kid Alexi Casilla really has to offer. Ron Gardenhire has been raving about him since spring training two years ago.

As for Johan, well, as much as I hate to say it, it’s time to trade him. He has one more year on his contract, and there is no chance the lowly Minnesota Twins can afford him. If Barry Zito got $126 mil. over 7 years what will Santana demand? My guess is at least $20 mill per. That’s not “Twins Territory.”

And for those who are holding out hope for a hometown discount, remember these statements from Jayson Stark's March ESPN column:
"I would love to stay here," Santana says, "with this team, in this city, because I love everything about this team and what I do here. But at the same time, this is business. And a lot of things are out of my control. You've got to have a team that's willing to negotiate and to keep you. So if it doesn't work out that way, if that means you have to go somewhere else, it's tough. It's bad. But that's the way it is, because it's a business."
So, I say trade Johan this offseason when we can get equal value for him. Don't wait until the trade deadline next year, like Jim Bowden, who overplayed his hand with Alfonso Soriano. The A.J. Pierzynski trade should be the model. Shoot for prospects, especially young, stud pitchers. This is where the New York Mets come in (do we really want to deal Johan to an A.L. opponent?). Mets G.M Omar Minaya has a track record of giving up prospects for pitchers (he orchestrated the Bartolo Colon for Grady Sizemore, Brandon Philips, and Cliff Lee deal) and would have the capital to sign Johan to a long-term deal.

Terry Ryan would have to seriously consider a package involving Lastings Millledge (Torri Hunter’s possible replacement in center field) and one of the Mets top pitching prospects, Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber, and a project infielder. This would give the Twins one of the youngest, most talented rotations in baseball: Francisco Liriano, Matt Garza, Pelfrey/Humber, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey. Cheap too. This is the Twins way.

UPDATE (08-20-07): Buster Olney and other MLB general managers agree with my take on the Johan predicament "...If Santana were to say no to an enormous offer from the Twins and instead is intent on capitalizing on his market value -- which might approach eight years and $200 million -- then Minnesota should trade Santana in the offseason, rival executives believe, in order to exploit his trade value...An educated guess now is that Santana would wind up with the Mets, who might back up their prospect truck to get the left-hander."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

President Bush's Theology

The following is a quote by Pres. Bush from David Brooks' most recent New York Times column:
The other debate [about Iraq] is whether or not it is a hopeless venture to encourage the spread of liberty. Most of you all around this table are much better historians than I am. And people have said, you know, this is Wilsonian, it's hopelessly idealistic. One, it is idealistic, to this extent: It's idealistic to believe people long to be free. And nothing will change my belief. I come at it many different ways. Really not primarily from a political science perspective, frankly; it's more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn't exist.
Even conservative bloggers, many of whom are Christians, jumped all over this statement. Christianity Today has it here.

Listen, I can appreciate the President recognizing every humans' right, and desire, to be free. This is admirable and good. Is this a theologically sound basis for conducting war? I don't think so. In fact, many might argue Jesus opposed violence. So, Mr. President, please keep God out of American foreign policy, it makes Him look bad.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bush Laying Red Carpet for Hillary, Obama?


Taegan Goddard's Political Wire linked to a few polls on a Bush's current approval ratings. Here are some highlights.

From a study conducted by the American Research Group Inc.
  • "...71% of Americans say they disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president..."
  • "...25% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president..."
  • "When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 23% approve and 73% disapprove."
  • "This is the highest level of disapproval and lowest level of approval for the Bush presidency recorded in monthly surveys by the American Research Group."
From the Washington Post's analysis of Washington Post-ABC News survey:
  • "The latest Washington Post-ABC News Survey shows that 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance, matching his all-time low. In polls conducted by The Post or Gallup going back to 1938, only once has a president exceeded that level of public animosity -- and that was Richard Nixon, who hit 66 percent four days before he resigned."
From the Harris Interactive Survey:
  • 26% approve of President Bush
  • 21% approve of Vice President Cheney
  • 46% approve of Secretary of State Rice
From Pollster.com:
  • After reviewing 6 polls, including those I mention above, Pollster states, "The trend estimate now stands at 29.6%, and the slope of the trend has clearly begun to bend from a steep downward trend to a less negative one."
  • Whatever Pollster forecasts for the short-term future, it's pretty evident from visiting the site that things have only gotten worse for the President since 2005.
While many Republicans have been thrilled about President Bush's job performance during the last 7 years, I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict a Democrat will occupy the White House in 2009 (maybe untill 2016?), if for no other reason than the majority of Americans don't like President Bush, and, that is not good news for his party (or Giuliani).