Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Every Generation is Tested by Great Evil

Dennis Prager Gives a Historical Perspective

This Piece by Dennis Prager caught my attention. We seem to be reticent to identify evil these days and modern philosophies seem so unable to aid us. In fact, what has for generations been seen as 'good' is now questioned in a post-modern environment.

But Mr. Prager points out the recurring nature of this phenomenom. Some people once thought Nazi Germany was a good thing. Prager goes on to say:

"It would appear that every generation confronts a major moral test. A great evil presents itself as a good, and the world that is not victimized by that evil is tested: Can it recognize the evil and confront it?
The pattern is eerily and depressingly repetitive.

1. The evil takes hold.
2. The evil has myriad defenders even among otherwise decent people.
3. The evil is vanquished after destroying an uncountable number of lives.
4. After the evil is vanquished, there is virtually unanimous agreement that it was indeed evil."

So it seems we are able to recognize Good and Evil after all.

The aftermath of the Holocaust.

"Folow Your Heart" or Lead It?!

New Movie Lays Down a Challenge

I don't know how many movies these days carry the theme: "Follow Your Heart." Happiness and fulfillment always materialize somehow in the relationship of the moment developed on screen. Somehow that formula works well in film, but leaves a trail of disaster when applied in real life. If dogs made movies, I'm convinced that they would have the theme: "Follow Your Nose." The results... well, that's what the tomato juice is kept for.

This weekend I saw Fireproof and it was a breath of fresh air. It follows the life of a fire fighter who's courage and resolve are put to the test as he discovers that love for his family requires the same steely resolve that lets him go into burning buildings to rescue strangers. Indeed, Caleb, the hero, needs to learn to lead his heart just like he pushes himself in situations of danger.

There are plenty of moments where self-recognition gets a bit uncomfortable. The writer really knows human nature and that is part of why this is a meaningful film. There are some well done action scenes as well. The rescue scenes are gripping -- especially if you understand the dangers involved in a structure fire. Sherwood Pictures is to be commended for this project.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fireproof Movie Opens Today

From the Makers of Facing the Giants

Here's a must see movie this weekend. It's another indy film from Sherwood Baptist Church. You may recall their earlier films, Flywheel and Facing the Giants.

Fireproof is the story of a firefighter who's a hero everywhere but at home. The movie deals with the toughest challenge he's ever been given and how he faces it.

I won't tell you any more. Visit the Movie Website and check out the Film this weekend.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reality Check

Walter Williams Looks at the Big Picture

I make a habit of not watching the nightly news. I do read a number of sources so I am not uninformed as a result of this habit. I just sleep better.

While the media pundits are panic stricken at the thought that Governor Palin, mother of five, could be 'one heartbeat' away from the presidency [don't worry America, she'll do fine, really], the truth is so much of this idioocy is tolerated because we ARE doing pretty well overall.

This Piece by Walter Williams in Jewish World Review makes a good point that we are basically in pretty good shape but politicians need to create a need for their services as rescuers. That's not to say the problems aren't real, but why wasn't Fanny/Freddy a big deal when regulatory legislation was suggested in 2005?

The truth is it will become another great burden on our treasury but in all likelihood it won't kill us. People will be able to make political hay out of it and use it as an excuse for expanding the role of government in our lives perhaps, but as long as the American economy continues to grow it does not threaten our very existence... yet.

There is a great debate over our Nation's course that must be brought into bright light. Some would have us surrender much of our needed functions, such as health care, to a more socialistic model. That's the way it's done in Canada. There is plenty of evidence that a free market does a better job, but much of the needed discussion is obuscated by all the noise that passes for news.

More on Dr. Walter Williams

Update: Newt Gingrich Weighs In

A Maverick Idea!

Suspend the Campaign and Work the Problem

Earlier this year, as gasoline prices pushed over our dollars a gallon and diesel fuel was higher than regular gas, Congress went on vacation rather than act on any energy legislation. Speaker Pelosi even turned off the lights as the dissenting minority tried to force Congress back to the task at hand. That's real leadership... go on vacation while the American people suffer.

Fortunately Newt Gingrich and others kept the matter alive. The people want solutions and we elected these representatives to, er, represent us. Read more at American Solutions.

There's a saying in business: "Ignore your clients, the'll go away." I suppose in congress if you ignore your constituents, YOU'LL go away [eventually].

Senator McCain is now suggesting that both presidential candidates, who are also U.S. Senators, suspend the campaign and seriously address the economic crisis. I'm convinced he's not doing this for any other reason than he feels its the right thing to do. He could bring up some history [such as the previous post does] and look real presidential in Friday's debate, since he's already fought a few big interests. We'd have some great discussion but the place for great discussion is the place of action. The matter is huge. How do we prop up the institutions in question and create real accountability? How do we avoid setting a precedent for government intervention and allow real market forces to work?

I am leery of government bailouts. They easily become the modern day "seven years of famine in Egypt" where the government ends up controlling things it was never intended to. Thinking back to the Chrysler Corporation bailout years ago, Chrysler actually paid back the loan. Freddy and Fanny need to be told that the same standard applies. This is not free money and you will be expected to pay it back or face consequences. Some hard lines need to be drawn and they require all players to be fully in the game.

Corruption 101

"Public" Entities are Neutral, Right?

The meltdown of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae brought to light a bit of the dark side, but it is not the dark side of the private sector. But who foresaw this problem in 2005 and sponsored legislation to deal with it? None other than "the original maverick!"

Sen. McCain sponsored and fought for the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, and here are his exact words from a speech he gave in 2006: "Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae's regulator reported that the company's quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were 'illusions deliberately and systematically created' by the company's senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.

"The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's report goes onto say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives. In the case of Franklin Raines,Fannie Mae's former chief executive officer, OFHEO's report shows that over half of Mr. Raines' compensation for the six years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets. The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac.

The OFHEO report also states that Fannie Mae used its political power to lobby Congress in an effort to interfere with the regulator'sexamination of the company's accounting problems. This report comes some weeks after Freddie Mac paid a record $3.8 million fine in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and restated lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 to 2005. These are entities that have demonstrated over and over again that they are deeply in need of reform.

For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ... and the report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO's report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act,American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole. I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation." -- Senator McCain in a speech, May 25, 2006

In recent years the troubled mortgage companies have donated large sums of money to political campaigns. Can you say "Campaign Finance Reform?"

Here are the top recipients from 1998 to 2008 according to This Article in the Bulletin:

1. Sen. Chris Dodd, $133,900.
2. Sen. John Kerry, $111,000.
3. Sen. Barack Obama, $105,849.
4. Sen. Hillary Clinton, $75,550.

I was under the impression that so-called "public" entities would be in conflict of interest if they gave money to political campaigns. When my dad worked at NASA, I believe they had such a policy. He couldn't even put political bumper stickers on his car. While I think that's stepping on individual First Amendment rights, I can see the reasoning behind it.

The Public Electric Company, surely, must be a neutral entity? Not in California. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) [remember Erin Brokovich]? gave $250,000 donation to defeat Proposition 8 -- the statewide ballot initiative to restore the definition of marriage in California to the union of one man and one woman.

Nancy McFadden, a senior vice-president with PG&E, stated: "We are proud to join NO on 8 and Equality California to protect the freedom to marry for all Californians." Nancy, you are entitled to lobby as a private citizen all you want, but the money I pay for electricity is to be used for electricity. Can California Citizens deduct the portion of their bill used for lobbying? I think not! Likewise, when I pay my mortgage, I simply want to pay off the loan. I'll make my own campaign contributions, thank you!

Her Bio gives you some insight into her activism. Again, I stress, as a Private Citizen she has every right to express her views but in my way of thinking she has no right to impose them through her position as an officer of PG&E.

If you live in California, call the Utilities Commission today and tell them you object to PG&E's involvement in a ballot measure unrelated to energy issues. Call: (800) 649-7570

Update: Do Facts Matter?

Thomas Sowell Has This Insight!
John McCain's 2006 Letter About Fannie Mae
Following his lead would have avoided our present crisis!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Glimpse Inside Iran

There is More to this Land than We See on the News

Last night we had the opportunity to hear the man who produced the award winning documentary: A Cry from Iran, Joseph Hovsepian. The documentary tells the story of his father, Haik Hovsepian, who died as a Christian martyr in modern day Iran.

Persia [Iran] has always figured prominently in history. The prophet Daniel lived out his life there. There is a historic tomb of Daniel there today. Cyrus, the Persian ruler mentioned in Isaiah, rebuilt the temple. Ezra and Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem from Persia to rebuild the city and its walls.

Queen Esther thwarted the vile plans of Haman the prime minister for the extermination of the Jews in Persia.

The Magi probably came from Persia to Bethlehem, having studied the texts of Daniel.

In the face of incredible persecution, a Christian community exists today in Iran. Haik Hovsepian's story is one of divine love and forgiveness in this land. It is so easy to forget the wonderful people who live in Iran. The news shows us the fearful state of its leadership but Iranians are not well represented by the clerics who rule them. My Mother taught physics labs at the local college after she "unretired" herself. She fondly remembered a young Iranian she had in class. In 1979 she befriended this young man who was suddenly in a land at war with his homeland.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not represent the true nature of the Iranian people at all.

Friday, September 19, 2008

My Photo of the Chicago Waterworks

Published in the Schmap Guide to the City

Water Works
Water Works by Bob Kirchman

Since I put some photos on Flikr and had placed some pictures in the Chicago Pool, Schmap contacted me for permission to consider one of my photos for inclusion in their city guide -- an interactive map that pops up images of attractions as you move about on it.

It's an honor to be included but its not a paid licensing. Still I figured that the competition for final inclusion would be pretty strong. Well, here it is... made the final cut.

Schmap for the Iphone

Thursday, September 18, 2008

'Only a Model'

Remembering the Great World's Fairs

World's Fair Pavilion
Here's the 'example' I built for a middle school workshop.

The 1964 Fair in New York was a memorable event for me. I'm doing a model making workshop at a local middle school and had a lot of fun 'creating' this pavilion to inspire the kids. I remember the models in the Futurama as being quite impressive. There were communities on the Moon and in the depths of the oceans in stunning dioramas. I would have loved to have worked on that project.

The Futurama was a sequal to the 1939 Futurama by Norman Bel Geddes. I've seen pictures of it. It pretty well predicts modern highways and aerodynamic vehicles, but there is one thing I really wish had come into being -- flying cars!

I wanted to get the kids' imaginations revved up, so I'm showing them some historic world's fair architecture and having them create their own pavilions. It should be fun!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Editing Out of Context

Charlie Gibson Has a 'Dan Rather' Moment

Do you remember the 'typed memo' from George Bush's commander? Yes, it was later shown to have been produced on a word processor that was not even invented at the time. We watched the ABC interview with the Vice Presidential nominee and my wife remarked: "They're sure cutting up her answers, aren't they." Score one for the observant woman watching at home.

Turns out it was worse than she thought. This Piece by Samuel Silver in Jewish World Review catches ABC in the willful fabrication of untruth. The twisting of Governor Palin praying for the troops into her saying that this is some sort of 'divine crusade.' Of course the whole segment totally misrepresented Governor Palin's actual words and sentiments.

Is it too much to ask that all candidates be given a fair forum, especially in the introductory interview?


Here Larry Elder Sheds the Light on the 'Bush Doctrine' Portion of the Interview. One more reason I read Jewish World Review! In fact, 'mainstream media' guys, take note: I'm far more interested in how the theology of James Cone might affect the presidency and the ideology of Bill Ayers. I think these are more clearly stated than this 'Bush Doctrine' thing.

Sean Hannity has more Associations We Should Be Concerened About.

Carl Tate

A New Kind of Young Leader

This Story in our Local Paper caught my attention. Carl Tate is one young person who thinks for himself and is willing to take some flack for doing so. Like Larry Elder, he goes against the conventional wisdom in political thought. In fact it is such thinking that seems to be reinvigorating our political dialogue.

Bill Cosby has also taken on conventional wisdom. When our ancestors arrived in this land they siezed opportunity and taught their children to as well. The torch of opportunity has been grasped by Cosby, Elder and Carl Tate. May they run well and pass it firmly to generations to come!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11 Remembered

Seven Years Ago Our World Was Changed Forever

Our Flag is flying today.

It was a beautiful September day. The skies were blue and I had watched a plane in the sky on my morning run, thinking it would be a lovely day to fly.

But it wasn't. All too soon the news of Muslim terrorists using hijacked aircraft as bombs flashed across the news. Smoke billowed from the tallest buildings in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville Pennsylvania. We came together and we prayed. We put our lunch money into fire fighters' outstretched boots and understood that the world was a very dangerous place.

Seven years later, we've "moved on" to other issues. Jihadists still have the same designs on our world as they had on that awful day in 2001. We've Got Our Work Cut Out for Us according to the Gates of Vienna. Why is it that we are more interested in 9/11 Conspiracy Theoories than historic facts about Jihad? Popular Mechanics Systematically Debunks Them Here but there are those who persist in promoting the notion that our government plotted the whole thing. Unlike the guys who kept saying the Apollo Program was a hoax [all filmed in a studio], these people are one more diversion from an honest assessment of our place as a people in the times we live in. I leave you with This Piece by John P. Avlon in City Journal. My prayers are with the families who still struggle with the losses of that terrible day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thoughts as We Approach September 11

The Cost of Peace and Freedom

Raising the flag on Iwo Jima

This Piece by Paul Greenberg in Jewish World Review was thought provoking. We are sure forgetful when it comes to our deliverance from evil in generations past. When G-d instituted the Passover Meal it was with this human tendency in mind. Each item of food and glass of wine recalling a specific part of the freeing of the people from tyranny.

I had dinner last week with a man who flew as a navigator on C46's during the great war. He pulled out his photo album after we had eaten and brought life to the faces rendered in black and white. Every young man was part of an amazing story. One pilot emails the other guys every day. It is sad to think that these vivid memories are unshared by so many of us.

Members of the Greatest Generation are getting fewer. Who will remember their stories and show us pictures of the crosses on Iwo Jima when they are gone?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Maverick and the Barracuda

This Bumper Sticker was Just Waiting to Happen

Maverick & Barracuda
Two great cars from the Seventies.

If you saw the movie "Cars" you'll Identify with this.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Man Who Moved a Mountain

Bob Childress, The Pastor Who Tamed Buffalo Mountain

Today we think of gang violence downtown and forget that once there was gunfire in the small communities of Southwestern Virginia. Bob Childress was a hard-drinking, hard fighting resident of that region where the poverty of subsistance living was made more bearable, it was thought, by escaping to alcohol. Bob's parents drank heavily and fought constantly.

But Childress went to a revival meeting and found something more powerful than the spirits in a bottle. He sought to bring the Spirit of the Lord to his hurting community. Though his education was pretty basic, he managed to go to Union Seminary in Richmond and struggled through. He became a much sought after speaker and was offered a very comfortable position with a large church... and he turned it down. Buffalo Mountain was his calling from G-d and he returned to his community and started a number of churches. His Sunday was a marathon as he made the journey to preach at each congregation.

His Story is Told in Glimpses of Christian History Here and we learn that Bob faced the daunting task of bringing the message of G-d's love to a community steeped in fatalistic despair. The churches he founded are testimony of what can be accomplished by a life lived for a greater purpose.

Richard C. Davids tells his story in The Man Who Moved a Mountain, a stirring book. Davids goes on to describe how Childress continued his ministry while caring for his daughter Hattie, who was severely disabled. When Bob's wife died, he took on such tasks as boiling the wash water for diapers and such.

Lives like that of Bob Childress challenge me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The 'Right Stuff'

A New Lesson from an Old Film

My son gave me a DVD of that great movie about the pioneers of space: "The Right Stuff." I love that movie. My parents were aircraft engineers and my Dad was one of the early developers of the space program.

The film follows the original seven astronauts as they make their first space voyages in those little Mercury spacecraft. As Alan Shepard is about to ride the first Redstone rocket into space, news reporters posing as a diaper service are going through the Shepards' trash. Other reporters start going after the 'diaper service' guys. One of Mrs. Shepard's friends, watching all this from the window, says: "Now they're going after your diaper service" and Mrs. Shepard says "But I don't have a diaper service!" You get the picture here! Repeatedly we see them doggedly invading the privacy of astronaut families -- insensitive to the stress of watching a loved one ride a flaming rocket.

Life magazine paid the astronaut families a large sum of money for their stories. Yes, people want to know their stories, but I love the scene in "Apollo Thirteen" where Marilyn Lovell tells the networks they "won't put one piece of equipment on my lawn."

In that light, Thomas Sowell's Observations come as a similar breath of fresh air.

Chuck Yeager describes that quality known as "The Right Stuff" in his real autobiography. I wish I could remember it in its entirety but I think you can imagine the qualities described. Governor Palin has them for sure. Senator Obama showed the right stuff as well when, citing the circumstances of his own birth, he declared the children off limits.


Reporters: The question should not be "who's your Mama?" of someone who's not running for office, but "Who's Your Daddy?" of someone who is. Why isn't Campbell Brown following up on This Story at History News Network? Judith Apter Klinghoffer has some important information here but no one in the media seems all that interested.

A lot of people want to know more about Governor Palin, Here is a Great Place to Start!

Randy Alcorn Has These Thoughts on Governor Palin.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lions and Tigers and Bears!

Oh My!

This Post on Randy Alcorn's Blog is simply amazing!

You'll just have to see for yourself.

The Vastness of Alaska!

Most Road Atlases Don't Do It Justice

The Dalton Highway is the only road in the United States that crosses the Arctic Circle.

Your first impression on seeing Alaska for yourself is the size of the landscape! Mountains that would in singular presence give bragging rights to any community in the lower 48 exist in Alaska in seemingly endless panoramas. You forget this fact sometimes because most US maps scale down Alaska to fit.

The state's Eastern border is with Canada and to the West, Russia is right across the Bering Strait! The Arctic Ocean is the Northern boundary and the Aluetian Islands stretch well toward Asia.

Transportation is a unique challenge here. The Inside Passage is mainly served by ferries. Cities such as Juneau cannot be reached by road. High school sports teams must travel to away games by ferry. Tour guides joke that auto theft is nonexistant in their communities.

They may spurn projects like the 'bridge to nowhere' but come up with projects like the Anderson Tunnel and the Dalton Highway out of their own creative necessity.

Here is another look at the Dalton Highway.

The Dalton Highway approaching the Brooks Range.
Photo by Bob Zemanek, used with permission.