Blog Archive


Friday, February 27, 2009
I thought it might be fun (at least, for a nerd like me) to start a Grammar Fundamentals Friday. For awhile, I have had a link on this blog to the left to a site which discusses almost all grammatical questions one might have. This "series" will take that one step further and actually highlight some of the more popular errors in the English language each week. If you have any suggested topics, feel free to share.


"I can think of a myriad of reasons to do that."

One usually finds myriad in the above form, prefaced by a and followed by of. And due to the times in which we live with a significant lowering of standards in the English language, this is considered by some to be valid. However, if one looks at the original meaning of the word ("countless" or "ten thousand"), it becomes apparent that the proper use of the word is as one would use the word many. In other words, the above sentence should read "I can think of myriad reasons to do that." Unfortunately, I come across this correct use of the term infrequently at best, usually in more classical writers.

Thus ends the first lesson of How to Read and Write Good. I hope to do myriad more of these, hopefully on a weekly basis.
This is sweet!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Bryan McInnis is doing a 5-part series of blog posts on Calvinism. So far, it's worth a read!
I am fully convinced of my own total depravity (i.e. that apart from God’s own initiation and empowering grace I am unable to do anything other than sin).
Not only are our actions fallen and fickle, but our motives are as well. We are thoroughly wretched. Paul had a sense of this in Romans 7 when he proclaimed, “wretched man I am!” This, of course, isn’t to say that humanity (apart from Christ) is unable to do helpful things (I’ll deal with this in the “L” portion); however, I believe it is that case that we cannot do (apart from Christ) holy things. A woman donates the money necessary to construct a new wing for a hospital; that’s helpful. But what’s driving her donation? Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” In other words, any motive for doing anything (no matter how helpful) other than “for the glory of God” is selfish and sinful. How can one ascribe glory to a God he/she refuses to glorify as God? The intended trust of this proclamation and theological reality is not despair and depression; rather, this truth is to send sinners headlong into the unfailing love of Christ, who bore the penalty for our depravity.

The logical conclusion of Total Depravity is that not only are we unable to choose good, but we are equally unable to choose God. Our depravity is so horribly fallen that we cannot (or will not) seek the cross. We are too in love with sin, too in love with ourselves. This reality causes me to worship. I cannot (or will not) seek God, but He has sought me. This is why the incarnation is such a potent reality. Christ has come to us, claimed us and changed our hearts so that in Him, by His power, we can choose good, truth and beauty.

This is kinda cool.
British police are discussing the employment of unmanned planes to spy on their populace and gather intelligence. I'm sure Dalrymple will have something to say about this Orwellian development. The British are already the most photographed people in the world; the average Brit is recorded 300 times a day on video cameras throughout his country.
This advice regarding family devotions comes from Mark Driscoll:

Step 1. Eat dinner with your entire family regularly.

Step 2. Mom and Dad sit next to one another to lead the family discussion.

Step 3. Open the meal by asking if there is anyone or anything to pray for.

Step 4. Someone opens in prayer and covers any requests. This task should be rotated among family members so that different people take turns learning to pray aloud.

Step 5. Start eating and discuss how everyone’s day went.

Step 6. Have a Bible in front of the parents in a translation that is age-appropriate for the kids’ reading level. Have someone (parent or child) open the Bible, and assign a portion to read aloud while everyone is eating and listening.

Step 7. Parents should note key words and themes in the passage and explain them to the kids on an age-appropriate level.

Step 8. Ask questions about the passage. You may want to begin with having your children summarize what was read—retelling the story or passage outline. Then, ask the following questions: What does this passage teach us about God? What does it say about us or about how God sees us? What does it teach us about our relationships with others?

Step 9. Let the conversation happen naturally, listen carefully to the kids, let them answer the questions, and fill in whatever they miss or lovingly and gently correct whatever they get wrong so as to help them.

Step 10. If the Scriptures convict you of sin, repent as you need to your family, and share appropriately honest parts of your life story so the kids can see Jesus’ work in your life and your need for him too. This demonstrates gospel humility to them.

Step 11. At the end of dinner, ask the kids if they have any questions for you.

Step 12. If you miss a night, or if conversation gets off track, or if your family occasionally just wants to talk about something else, don’t stress—it’s inevitable.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
My church is currently reading as a congregation (at least, 600 books were sold this past Sunday to them) Mark Driscoll's recent book, Death by Love. While I have only read a couple chapters thus far, I would strongly recommend it to every Christian who would like to better understand, in clear and accessible terms, how the Cross is meant to transform every area of our lives and annihilate our enslavement to sin.
Monday, February 23, 2009
This is a few months old, but it bears repeating since it is unlikely that many Americans know much about the situation and it helps us better understand what is going on over in Israel and the Middle East. Last summer, Samir Kuntar and four Hezbollah militants (along with a couple hundred bodies of dead Palestinian and Lebanese militants) were traded for the two dead bodies of the Israeli soldiers killed in the lead-up to the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War.

Mr. Kuntar had spent nearly 20 years in Israeli prison (where he earned a degree in Social Studies and married and divorced, so not exactly a Turkish prison) for four murders during a 1979 raid on the Israeli town of Nahariya. With several other men, he broke into the home of the Haran family. The mother and two-year-old daughter Yael hid in a crawlspace while Kuntar led the father and four-year-old daughter away at gunpoint. In her desperation to conceal herself, the mother suffocated her daughter while trying to keep her quiet. Kuntar took the man and his daughter to the beach, where he then executed the father in front of her and then literally bashed in her skull with his rifle. The picture above shows Kuntar's three victims.

Last November, Samir Kuntar met Syria's president, Bashar Assad, who awarded him Syria's highest medal, the Syrian Order of Merit. Sickening, huh?

Oh, and before I forget, former president (but current moral imbecile) Jimmy Carter met with President Assad a couple weeks AFTER Assad gave Kuntar the Order of Merit medal in supposed furtherance of human rights.

Next time you start wondering if Israel is the good guy or the bad guy, remember Einat Haran.

Psalm 28:4
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Dalrymple has a brilliant piece this week on regarding the subtle but inherent racism within much of the movement of multiculturalism (at least, of the kind practiced by many academics and politicians).
When I was a prison doctor, not a few prisoners would demand tranquillizers from me, claiming to be so agitated that they would soon kill someone if they were not calmed down.

This was the kind of blackmail to which some of the doctors, especially the younger ones, did give in; but I quickly learned that it was both morally wrong and inexpedient in practice to do so.
No man did carry out his threat, however; and I knew from experience that if I gave in to their blackmail I would never hear the end of it.
Let us now turn from the sublime (prison) to the ridiculous (the British government). In its wisdom, that august institution declared the Dutch member of parliament, Geert Wilders, ... a prohibited immigrant, and refused him entry into our green and pleasant land.

As everyone knows by now, Mr. Wilders made a short film called Fitna (Struggle), arguing in a powerful rhetorical way a causative connection between certain verses in the Koran and brutal acts of modern terrorism. The film is uncompromising, to put it mildly; and whether or not Mr. Wilders’ interpretation of the verses is correct, few could deny that at least some Moslems have taken it to be correct. They have differed from Mr. Wilders only in their moral evaluation of the injunctions that they have both found in them. He thinks cutting off the heads of unbelievers is a bad thing, they think it a good thing.

Those who argued for the exclusion of Mr. Wilders from our haven of peace and prosperity claimed that his presence would stir up trouble, perhaps even violence, and that (therefore) he and his film constituted an incitement to hatred.

This, of course, is ludicrous.
It is obvious that if anyone were moved to violence by the presence of Mr. Wilders in the country, the responsibility would be the perpetrator’s and the perpetrator’s alone. In a free society, you are at liberty to be as indignant and offended as you choose, by whomever and whatever you choose; but you have to conform your conduct to the law. You have no right to consider your own indignation as evidence in itself of incitement. That way totalitarianism lies.

The contemptible moral cowardice of the British political class was perfectly illustrated by an article that appeared on the website of The Guardian newspaper by the prominent Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, Christopher Huhne. His utter pusillanimity is evident in the following: Fitna’s shocking images of violence and its emotional appeals to anti-Islamic feeling risk causing serious harm to others.
Let me merely point out that an appeal to anti-Islamic emotions (based, incidentally, upon undeniable, if slanted, evidence) is not incitement to harm Moslems, any more than an appeal to anti-socialist or anti-conservative emotions is an appeal to harm socialists or conservatives. So it is not incitement.

Nor does Mr. Huhne specify which people will be harmed by the images and the feeling. One suspects very strongly that what Mr. Huhne really means is this: that a group of Moslems of undefined size would commit acts of violence if Mr Wilders were allowed in the country. If he had been a prison doctor, Mr. Huhne would have prescribed valium for all he was worth, for whoever demanded it.
The most heartening thing about this article was the response, particularly by Moslems (or those with Moslem names, whom I assume to have been Moslems).

One said that Mr. Wilders was right and that the offending passages of the Koran should henceforth be removed (voluntarily, not by decree). Of course such tampering with a book that is supposed by the faithful to be the direct word of God presents some logical difficulties; but it so happens that I was speaking not long ago with an enlightened Moslem woman, who claimed to be religious, who told me (not in connection with Mr Wilders) that the Koran had to be interpreted in the light of the fact that it was written many centuries ago in a society very different from any existing now.

Two other Moslems wrote in to say that, while they disliked Mr. Wilders intensely, they felt that Moslems could deal with his argument by argumentation. In other words, they acknowledged that he had an argument, but thought it was mistaken and could be shown to be false.

By banning Mr. Wilders from entry into the country, then, the British government revealed that, at heart, it agrees with, or even went beyond, him: that Moslems are predominantly violent irrational bigots, incapable of holding their own in argument, and of whom it, the government, is physically afraid.

Americans should not be complacent. A few days before last Christmas, I went to one of the Indian restaurants in my small town in England, which is owned and run by Moslems. It was hung with Christmas decorations, and when I left the staff wished me a Merry Christmas and handed me a Christmas card. And then I thought of the Christmas cards I had received from America, with their snivelling, pusillanimous greeting of Happy Holidays, not one of them daring to mention Christmas.
In related news, Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder called America "a nation of cowards" for not properly beating to death the topic of racism by talking about it even more incessantly than we already do.

*Sigh* Multiculturalism and "tolerance" marches on...

[UPDATE] Heather McDonald of City Journal wrote an excellent response to Holder today. You can read it here.

[UPDATE II] Britain continues to put the "cult" into multiculturalism...
Monday, February 16, 2009
This horrible story reeks of "Religion of Peace" irony:
The estranged wife of a Muslim television executive [Muzzammil Hassan] feared for her life after filing for divorce last month from her abusive husband, her attorney said — and was found beheaded Thursday...
Muzzammil Hassan, who founded Bridges TV in November 2004 to counter anti-Islam stereotypes, surrendered to police Thursday. Hassan touted the network as the "first-ever full-time home for American Muslims," according to a press release.

"Every day on television we are barraged by stories of a 'Muslim extremist, militant, terrorist, or insurgent,'" Hassan said in the 2004 release. "But the stories that are missing are the countless stories of Muslim tolerance, progress, diversity, service and excellence that Bridges TV hopes to tell."
Imagine if someone told you in 19th century America that he was not interested in giving slaves full citizenship, but merely reducing the number of people brought to this country to be slaves. But suppose another person told you that he too wanted to reduce the number of slaves, but proposed to do it by granting them the full citizenship to which they are entitled as a matter of natural justice. Which of the two is really “against slavery” in a full-orbed principled sense? The first wants to reduce the number of slaves, but only while retaining a regime of law that treats an entire class of human beings as subhuman property. The second believes that the juridical infrastructure should reflect the moral truth about enslaved people, namely, that they are in fact human beings made in the image of their Maker who by being held in bondage are denied their fundamental rights. - Francis Beckwith
Friday, February 13, 2009

You may not have realized it, but this past Tuesday, February 10th, was National Book Burning Day. Last fall, the horribly inept and downright mentally ill Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a bill so stupid and lacking in thoughtful language that almost all retail and charitable businesses are now suffering significant loss of revenue (at least the economy is going strong, otherwise we might really be in for it). Walter Olson at the City Journal explains:

It’s hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children’s products, the federal government has now advised that children’s books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute. Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testing—at prohibitive expense. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores, Goodwill outlets, and the like have accordingly begun to refuse new donations of pre-1985 volumes, yank existing ones off their shelves, and in some cases discard them en masse.

The problem is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), passed by Congress last summer after the panic over lead paint on toys from China. Among its other provisions, CPSIA imposed tough new limits on lead in any products intended for use by children aged 12 or under, and made those limits retroactive: that is, goods manufactured before the law passed cannot be sold on the used market (even in garage sales or on eBay) if they don’t conform. The law has hit thrift stores particularly hard, since many children’s products have long included lead-containing (if harmless) components: zippers, snaps, and clasps on garments and backpacks; skateboards, bicycles, and countless other products containing metal alloy; rhinestones and beads in decorations; and so forth. Combine this measure with a new ban (also retroactive) on playthings and child-care articles that contain plastic-softening chemicals known as phthalates, and suddenly tens of millions of commonly encountered children’s items have become unlawful to resell, presumably destined for landfills when their owners discard them. Penalties under the law are strict and can include $100,000 fines and prison time, regardless of whether any child is harmed.

Not until 1985 did it become unlawful to use lead pigments in the inks, dyes, and paints used in children’s books. Before then—and perhaps particularly in the great age of children’s-book illustration that lasted through the early twentieth century—the use of such pigments was not uncommon, and testing can still detect lead residues in books today. This doesn’t mean that the books pose any hazard to children. While lead poisoning from other sources, such as paint in old houses, remains a serious public health problem in some communities, no one seems to have been able to produce a single instance in which an American child has been made ill by the lead in old book illustrations—not surprisingly, since unlike poorly maintained wall paint, book pigments do not tend to flake off in large lead-laden chips for toddlers to put into their mouths.
A commenter at Etsy, the large handicrafts and vintage-goods site, observed how things worked at one store:
I just came back from my local thrift store with tears in my eyes! I watched as boxes and boxes of children’s books were thrown into the garbage! Today was the deadline and I just can’t believe it! Every book they had on the shelves prior to 1985 was destroyed! I managed to grab a 1967 edition of “The Outsiders” from the top of the box, but so many!
A further question is what to do about public libraries, which daily expose children under 12 to pre-1985 editions of Anne of Green Gables, Beatrix Potter, Baden-Powell’s scouting guides, and other deadly hazards. The blogger Design Loft carefully examines some of the costs of CPSIA-proofing pre-1985 library holdings; they are, not surprisingly, utterly prohibitive. The American Library Association spent months warning about the law’s implications, but its concerns fell on deaf ears in Congress (which, in this week’s stimulus bill, refused to consider an amendment by Republican senator Jim DeMint to reform CPSIA). The ALA now apparently intends to take the position that the law does not apply to libraries unless it hears otherwise. One can hardly blame it for this stance, but it’s far from clear that it will prevail. For one thing, the law bans the “distribution” of forbidden items, whether or not for profit. In addition, most libraries regularly raise money through book sales, and will now need to consider excluding older children’s titles from those sales.
The threat to old books has surfaced so quickly in recent weeks that the elite press still seems unaware of it. The wider pattern of CPSIA’s disruptive irrationality and threat to small businesses has been covered reasonably well by the local press around the country. Some papers have investigated particular aspects of the law—the Los Angeles Times has tracked its menace to the garment industry, and the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal the general plight of thrift stores—but almost no one has cared to consider the law’s broad array of unintended consequences, let alone ask what went wrong in the near-unanimous rush to passage of this feel-good law.
Whatever the future of new media may hold, ours will be a poorer world if we begin to lose (or “sequester” from children) the millions of books published before our own era. They serve as a path into history, literature, and imagination for kids everywhere. They link the generations by enabling parents to pass on the stories and discoveries in which they delighted as children. Their illustrations open up worlds far removed from what kids are likely to see on the video or TV screen. Could we really be on the verge of losing all of this? And if this is what government protection of our kids means, shouldn’t we be thinking instead about protecting our kids from the government?
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Two eye-opening cases this week involving the rapidly deteriorating criminal justice system in this country, one in California and one in Pennsylvania, point to a time in the not-so-distant future where the American legal system will be as loathsome as the British one is right now.
Minnesotans for Global Warming is a great website, check them out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A writer for the New York Post went undercover to see what it was like to work at the evil Wal-Mart. Turns out, it's a pretty sweet place to work.
Some people, usually community activists, loath Wal-Mart. Others, like the family of four struggling to make ends meet, are in love with the chain. I, meanwhile, am in awe of it.
Yet still the company is rebuked and reviled by anyone claiming a social conscience, and is lambasted by legislators as if its bad behavior places it somewhere between investment bankers and the Taliban.

Considering this is a company that is helping families ride out the economic downturn, which is providing jobs and stimulus while Congress bickers, which had sales growth of 2% this last quarter while other companies struggled, you have to wonder why. At least, I wondered why. And in that spirit of curiosity, I applied for an entry-level position at my local Wal-Mart.

Getting hired turned out to be a challenge. The personnel manager told me she had received more than 100 applications during that month alone, chasing just a handful of jobs. Thus the mystery deepened. If Wal-Mart was such an exploiter of the working poor, why were the working poor so eager to be exploited? And after they were hired, why did they seem so happy to be there?
A week later, I found myself in an elite group of 10 successful applicants convening for two (paid) days of training in the same claustrophobic, windowless room. As we introduced ourselves, I discovered that more than half had already worked at other Wal-Marts. Having relocated to this area, they were eager for more of the same.

Why? Gradually the answer became clear. Imagine that you are young and relatively unskilled, lacking academic qualifications. Which would you prefer: standing behind the register at a local gas station, or doing the same thing in the most aggressively successful retailer in the world, where ruthless expansion is a way of life, creating a constant demand for people to fill low-level managerial positions? A future at Wal-Mart may sound a less-than-stellar prospect, but it's a whole lot better than no future at all.

In addition, despite its huge size, the corporation turned out to have an eerie resemblance to a Silicon Valley startup. There was the same gung-ho spirit, same lack of dogma, same lax dress code, same informality - and same interest in owning a piece of the company. All of my coworkers accepted the offer to buy Wal-Mart stock by setting aside $2 of every paycheck.

They were less enthused about health benefits, which offered minimal coverage during our first six months. The full corporate plan would kick in after that, but seemed to require significant employee contributions. Still, my fellow trainees assured me that health plans at other retail chains were even worse, and since the federal government had raised the limits for Medicaid eligibility, that was an option for people with children.
We were given only a handful of outright prohibitions. No swearing in the store, for instance - not even the word "damn," because some people might be offended. No funny-colored hair or blatant skin piercings, because some people might be offended. In fact almost all the rules devolved to the sacred principle of never, ever offending a customer - or "guest," in Wal-Mart terminology.

The reason was clearly articulated. On average, anyone walking into Wal-Mart is likely to spend more than $200,000 at the store during the rest of his life. Therefore, any clueless employee who alienates that customer will cost the store around a quarter-million dollars. "If we don't remember that our customers are in charge," our trainer warned us, "we turn into Kmart." She made that sound like devolving into some lesser being - a toad, maybe, or an ameba.
My amiable, laid-back department supervisor had been doing this kind of thing for 15 years. When I asked him why, he took a moment to process the question. He had to think back to other employers he'd worked for in the distant past. None of them, he said, had treated him so well.

What exactly did he mean by that?

His answer lay in the structure of the store. "It's deceptive, because Wal-Mart isn't divided into separate stores like a mall," he said. "But really, that's how it works. Each section is separate. This is - my pet store! No one comes here and tells me how to run it. I could go for weeks without a supervisor asking any questions." Here was the unseen, unreported side of the corporate behemoth. Big as it was, it was smart enough to give employees a feeling of autonomy.
My starting wage was so low (around $7 per hour), a modest increment still didn't leave me with enough to live on comfortably, but when I looked at the alternatives, many of them were worse. Coworkers assured me that the nearest Target paid its hourly full-timers less than Wal-Mart, while fast-food franchises were at the bottom of everyone's list.

I found myself reaching an inescapable conclusion. Low wages are not a Wal-Mart problem. They are an industry-wide problem, afflicting all unskilled entry-level jobs, and the reason should be obvious.

In our free-enterprise system, employees are valued largely in terms of what they can do. This is why teenagers fresh out of high school often go to vocational training institutes to become auto mechanics or electricians. They understand a basic principle that seems to elude social commentators, politicians and union organizers. If you want better pay, you need to learn skills that are in demand.

The blunt tools of legislation or union power can force a corporation to pay higher wages, but if employees don't create an equal amount of additional value, there's no net gain. All other factors remaining equal, the store will have to charge higher prices for its merchandise, and its competitive position will suffer.

This is Economics 101, but no one wants to believe it, because it tells us that a legislative or unionized quick-fix is not going to work in the long term. If you want people to be wealthier, they have to create additional wealth.
In fact, the deal at Wal-Mart is better than at many other employers. The company states that its regular full-time hourly associates in the US average $10.86 per hour, while the mean hourly wage for retail sales associates in department stores generally is $8.67. The federal minimum wage is $6.55 per hour. Also every Wal-Mart employee gets a 10% store discount, while an additional 4% of wages go into profit-sharing and 401(k) plans.
Based on my experience (admittedly, only at one location) I reached a conclusion which is utterly opposed to almost everything ever written about Wal-Mart. I came to regard it as one of the all-time enlightened American employers, right up there with IBM in the 1960s. Wal-Mart is not the enemy. It's the best friend we could ask for.

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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

Darius Teichroew's favorite books »