Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Want to see a real life Tea Party rally?

I'll give you a hint: It's not racist. Like, at all.

I've never been to a Tea Party rally myself, even though I am in support. But I do know that more minorities and women were elected to the House in 2010 on the Republican ticket—directly supported by Tea Parties—than in a long time, and I'm not sure how news outlets missed that. Unless they're lying to you.

Shane Vander Hart over at the blog Caffeinated Thoughts posted a nice little blurb about how Herman Cain, a black conservative planning to run for President, is more unique than other Republican candidates because he was actually the product of the Tea Party. He has never before held government office—he is true grassroots.

I understand that former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, Herman Cain, is not the only prospective presidential candidate who appeals to tea partiers.  He is however, I believe, the only candidate who is the product of the Tea Party movement having been involved since its inception.
He also has a message that appeals to those who desire common sense solutions and limited government.  While I give former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) credit for coming to the rally and reaching out to the Tea Party;  it was pretty clear that it was Herman Cain who connected with the hundreds who attended the Des Moines Tea Party on Saturday.
I don't understand when news outlets claim that Tea Partiers are "violent," "racist," and "crazy." I think it's pretty clear that the platform has nothing to do with race, at all. All you have to do is compare the smiling, baby-holding, Herman Cain loving mommies in this video to the rude union protesters in Wisconsin who hit a girl, heckled an 11-year-old, and heckled a 14-year-old girl who was giving a speech. I've never once heard anything specific as to what Tea Partiers have done. Have you?

I'd like you to watch the whole speech regardless of whether you agree with what Cain is saying. I didn't agree with everything either, and I don't know yet if I'll vote for him. However, I will consider him.

Does it even need noting that the two "poster people" of the Tea Party movement are Allen West (R-FL) and Herman Cain (nominee)? If you're a person who still cares about color, both of these guys are twice as black as President Obama. There are also two women running in 2012: Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin.

Beginning at 12:48, Cain even says that he's been called "racist," too, and I can't even imagine what that feels like.

If you've been told that Tea Partiers are fringe racists, you've obviously been lied to.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shocker: IQ Not Based in Determinism

CBS News: New evidence that IQ is not set in stone
The link between our IQs and our fates becomes muddier when we consider motivation - an aspect of test-taking that is often ignored. Simply put, some people try harder in IQ tests than others. If you take this into account, the association between your IQ and your success in life becomes considerably weaker. The tests are not measuring intelligence alone, but also the desire to prove it.
Well, duh. While a large part of your IQ might be something you're born with—perhaps myelination—what matters in the end is not your IQ, but what you do with it. In addition, some say that you can even help the level of myelination on the axons of nerves by eating lots of oily fish. That's why they say that fish are "brain food." (And I love seafood, so I can jump to be a proponent of this whether it's actually true or not!)

I feel like a lot of people don't live up to their full potential because they don't believe they can. Low self-esteem contributes to a lack of motivation, in my opinion. But contrary to the excessive, needless praise Americans like to give children in order to "boost" their self-esteem, I think that true self-esteem comes from discipline, which makes self-esteem and motivation a spiral wherein the reverse is also true. The brain is a weird sort of muscle, after all. It works quicker and better with use. False praise, to me, is hollow, deceptive, and only contributes to learning when it encourages a person who needs it and motivates them towards actual self-discipline.

If you're having trouble being motivated and seeing yourself as intelligent, the antidote is to literally get up and do something, and believe you can do it—whether it's direct learning from reading a book, or indirect, hands-on learning through developing a skill you could see yourself getting good at. You might hate what you love at times. That's good. It means you're getting smarter. What you do matters more than what you were born with. I feel like people see their IQ score for the first time and assume that if it's lower than a certain number, it's their life sentence or something, and they avoid things out of fear of failure. Similarly, people with high scores place high value on them and never take a test again, afraid to be proven wrong!

Additionally, since we don't know what IQ "is" (we made up the concept, after all), we don't really know what to measure. Nobody probes your brain with a device that measures the number like a thermometer measures a temperature or something. Mental rotation tasks have been touted as the catch-all intelligence measure because they require so much effort, but the fact is that different people are good at different things, and there's really no way to accurately measure all of them.

There is a lot of value in intelligence tests, for sure. But whether they have absolute predictive capability is an idea that flirts with biological determinism and ignores a basic quality of humanity: Choice—otherwise known as "free will." This study is refreshing in light of so many other recent studies coming out in support of biological moral determinism. I question the methodology of the "twin studies" that are being taught to me in school, as they're beginning to teach that even things like happiness and fidelity to a spouse are genetic. Determinism, which already had its heyday during the popularity of Behaviorism, seems like it's coming back in full force. I try to keep it in mind that non-Christians don't really believe in free will, mercy, rebirth, and the power to overcome background, biology, socioeconomic status, race, gender, etc. Maybe that's just a Christian/conservative thing.

I'd like to expand the definition of intelligence. Here are some other things that I think are part of intelligence that are shown by actions: Sincerity. Resilience. Respectful skepticism. Intellectual honesty. Originality of one's thoughts (not bowing to consensus always). Perseverance. Patience. Prudence in life choices. Self-control over one's emotions. And the ability to play one's part in relationships. Some also argue that the ability to connect with others during conversations and know what to do next (called "nexting") is part of intelligence as well. But is there really a definitive answer, or is it individual? Is it based on an individual working out his or her full potential to contribute to society? Do you have different values for your intelligence and abilities? Have they changed over time? Let me know in the comments.

(Addition: I left out the important concept of Integration, but I'd like to include the Integration-Fragmentation idea—and the idea that suffering can make you "smarter" in a more well-rounded way than the traditional view of intelligence—into another post. Stay tuned!)

(h/t @AllahPundit)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Debunking The Obama Myths: From Constitutional Citizenship to Revelation 13

On Tuesday, Bill O'Reilly featured in his "Talking Points Memo" a bulleted list of myths, conspiracy theories, etc. circulating about Obama that, after a few weeks of continuous media attention to Trump's Birther broken record, was a much needed relief.

Ann Coulter also directly addressed the Birther question this week on Hannity, saying that the issue is a diversion tactic and that conservatives need to seriously drop it. She goes on to elaborate that it originated in the Hillary Clinton 2008 campaign, that liberal news outlets are eating it up because it gets them viewers and discredits conservatives, and that you never, ever heard it on Fox or from anyone with a credible conservative column/magazine/website, because they've all discredited it.

But there has been another one circulating since 2008 among Christians that has yet to be addressed, probably out of embarrassment. It is that Barack Obama is the "Beast out of the sea" described in Revelation 13:1-8:
The Beast out of the Sea
    And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. 4 Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”  
5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.

Here's why it doesn't fit. At first, there are some uncanny similarities. Assuming that Barack Obama was indeed born in Hawaii—and that he lived in Indonesia—he does, in a sense, come "out of the sea." The talking heads can literally be anybody, from his "czars" to even Congress. About that fatal head wound, check out this interesting piece. "Who can make war against him?" Not really anybody, since America has been a superpower since 1917. I'd call the whole world "astonished," since people in Europe are now closely watching this administration. Check and check.

Now look at verse 7.


That hasn't happened yet. And according to verse 5, he only has 42 months—or, three-and-a-half years (which is about the amount of time a President serves)—to prove himself to be a "conqueror" of Christians. And no, nothing he has done so far counts. Since January of 2009 when he entered office, it has been 27 months, over half of the presidential term. However, he has until next July—another year and 3 months—to still become that if he wishes to. (A plug: This is why we have the Constitution. Let's make an effort to hang onto that thing, shall we?)

An exception would be if some strange, bizarre circumstance comes out that American forces are somehow oppressing Christians in Libya, say, by placing an Islamic supremacist in power—something that the administration has declared it will not do (they are waiting for Libyans to put a new person in power themselves).

He also has not been given "authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation" (verse 7). The only entity that has that is the United Nations, which can also be extremely blasphemous. Now that's scary. However, the current UN Headquarters is in New York City and was in San Francisco at its inception, which are both on the mainland, so that doesn't qualify as being "out of the sea."

And clearly, "all inhabitants of the earth" do not worship Obama (verse 8), as presidential criticism is still alive and well in this country. Also, there's a nice, large group of people out there who hate America who I'm sure would be glad to attest that they see America (and Obama) as an obstacle between them and world domination, whether he's friendly to them or not.

So we have a bunch of Yes's and two No's—only one of which, no matter how small, is enough to rule him out entirely. It's going to take a lot of push for that big of a change in the next year and three months, and I know that about half of the country wouldn't allow it, probably more. There's no denying that the Beast out of the Sea is a political entity. I'm willing to bet that it's probably in the making, but it's not now. Not yet. And it's not Obama.

I appreciate that Bill O'Reilly was willing to give him that much respect, because that is something that seems lacking in political punditry often. He's right. Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America, not some power-usurping country we might label an "axis of evil." While some may feel that he is trampling upon the Constitution—and he is—Democrats in Congress have more power anyway. We should be glad that 4 years isn't enough time to tear the entire document to pieces.

Congressional lawmaking may merely erode the solidity of our freedoms over time, setting the stage for a future dictator that is every Christian's enemy—and only Christians' enemy. But unless something crazy happens, that time is not now, and Barack Obama is not that man.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Soul Reunion" by Laura Ann Day - Interview

Laura Ann Day's book Soul Reunion hit the shelves in late March. Since she is a member of my home congregation, I got an opportunity to talk to her about it at church on Sunday. If there's one thing I want you to know about Laura, it's that she is a true warrior for Christ. I can't wait to read her book!

What is your book, Soul Reunion, about?
It's based on Hebrews 11 and 12, the Cloud of Witnesses, and how we are all related. It takes you through all the stories from Creation on forward, how "by faith" people did these things. They had no idea what God was asking of them, and they did it. When you look at it linearly like that, you realize that God is literally adding  you to his family—these really are spiritual relatives. It's about treasuring and embracing your place in God's family. You know, I was at a wedding with my aunt's family one time, and looking through her cookbook, you could tell which pages were used the most. These were the family recipes that were familiar and were passed down. And sitting at this table enjoying family recipes, we also shared stories, and we had the grandest time laughing and passing down stories. That's what the Bible is, if you think about it. That's what Hebrews 11 is about: God passing those stories down to us, saying, "You can do it!"

How did you come up with the idea for this book, and what prompted you to write it?
I talk about that in the Preface. When we moved here from Orlando, we didn't realize that God wanted me to minister to the women here. We did the 40-day-study that I wrote. At the same time, our family was going through very hard times. Through that, we began teaching and going through these stories specifically. It was very impactful. But I became exhausted. So I asked the elders if I could take the summer off from teaching. They suggested that while I was taking the summer off, perhaps I could take these lessons and put them in book form. I was like, "Okay...?" So, I prayed and prayed. And I ended up doing it.

Tell me more about what God did with you throughout the process of writing this book.
I was actually a little scared, because I found myself in a place where I feared more NOT doing it, because God was calling me to do it. During the time when we had all those family trials, Robert and I were very burdened. But writing the book, honestly, wasn't like that, because I knew that God was with us and that that was because people we knew were waging war on our behalf. I came to a deeper level of faith.

Are you relieved that the writing process is over?
Well, yes, but now I'm in my second book, so I'm in the writing process all over again! [laughs] I learned that the hard part wasn't the writing, but the publishing. It gets critiqued and critiqued. But when you're writing a book, it's like your child. So it's like someone is critiquing your child. I am relieved, but I'm excited to see what's next.

What do you have to say to potential readers of this book?
I don't think I have anything to say aside from what is already in the book. This is God's work, not mine. I'll say that if you pick it up, it's not for no reason; and that for each individual person, it will be received differently. God makes sure that someone receives what they are meant to receive. The entire point of the book is that what God desires most is communion with us. He just wants to sit and chat awhile.

You can buy Laura's book Soul Reunion on Amazon here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

EU Ambassador to Israel: Goldstone Report Still Stands

On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called for the UNHRC to rescind the Goldstone Report, in response to Richard Goldstone's personal recantation that appeared in The Washington Post on Friday. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ)—along with its European counterpart, the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ), echoed their support for its removal.

Via Yahoo News,
"This stunning reversal clearly underscores the fact that it is time to put this deeply flawed and biased report to rest," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ and ECLJ.  
But in an interview today, the Head of the EU Delegation, Andrew Stanley, thought differently. To paraphrase, he says that Goldstone only gave half a recantation anyway, and that one page can hardly discount 575 other pages that deserve to be considered. 

Via Arutz Sheva:

To his credit, he is very supportive of Israel throughout the interview, and I think that the remarkable objectivity that we've been seeing since Goldstone's recantation has been refreshing.

Perhaps if the only thing we can glean from the recantation is a future of honest inquiry, it will not be without tremendous value. 

Because the Sydney Morning Herald reports that Goldstone states that he never said that he would work to have the report removed, per se.
''Further information as a result of domestic investigations could lead to further reconsideration,'' Justice Goldstone said. ''But as presently advised I have no reason to believe any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time.''
So he's either saying, 1. "I didn't actually do a real investigation, but I won't admit it," or 2. he's just washing his hands of the matter, which is extremely dishonorable.

Also, the Sydney Morning Herald is called the SMH, which, if you don't know, here in the States means "shaking my head"...which is really funny.

Further Reading:
Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: "Reactions to Goldstone's Recantation Speak Volumes"

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Richard Goldstone Issues Apology for Goldstone Report on Israeli "War Crimes"

Richard Goldstone, writer of the Goldstone Report condemning Israel for its alleged targeting of civilians living in Gaza, has recently come forward and apologized, saying, "If I knew then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been an entirely different document."

Some have come out saying that the information that changed his mind had been, as public knowledge, available to him the whole time should he have made the choice to seek it. They cite this as reason for a preconceived bias—probably accurately.

It is no secret that there are ironically some nations on the UN Human Rights Council that regularly commit severe human rights violations, like Iran and Libya. The UNHRC at times is a joke. But when the Goldstone Report came out in September of 2009, Israel wasn't laughing. The document skewed the conflict between Hamas and Israel as one-sided, with Israel as the provocateur. Even though Hamas is recognized by the United States and others and a terrorist organization and regularly fires rockets aimed at Israeli civilians, the Goldstone Report painted Hamas as innocent and used them as their main sources. Although Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the UNHRC before the Goldstone investigations referred to the problem of the Israeli "occupation." Goldstone in his Washington Post statement even admitted twice that the UNHRC has an "undeniably" anti-Israel slant. In his apology, Goldstone claimed to have simply gone along with what he was asked to investigate.

Goldstone wrote in the Washington Post on Friday, April 1 that a follow-up investigation chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis—part of the UN's committee of independent experts—found that Israel has in fact," dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza,” while Hamas has conducted none. Goldstone also uncovered in his post-report investigation that Israel does not in fact target civilians as a matter of policy, that the major investigation they were running turned out to be a military mistake resulting from an erroneous interpretation of a drone image that resulted in the death of 29 people, and that he regretted not receiving any information from the Israeli government on these matters.

The officer responsible for the accident is currently under investigation and the situation is being dealt with properly. Goldstone also cites other reasons for his change of heart in the Washington Post article.

The statement has been met with mixed reactions. To some, Goldstone's "mea culpa" came too little, too late. The New York Times was surprisingly objective in its reporting, but was criticized firstly for rejecting Goldstone's original statement in its publication (source removed because of its inaccuracy) and secondly for placing the report of the Washington Post editorial on the tenth page while a call for land captured in the 1967 war (already offered a long time ago and refused by the Palestinian leaders, by the way) to be returned via a proposed new UN resolution made front page news. One writer at the National Review said, "You cannot undo slander." A few Jewish writers were angry, saying that the damage was unable to be undone and demanded lifetime retribution. A journalist at the Miami Herald wondered why on earth Goldstone undertook the mission in the first place if he thought it seemed sketchy. Commentary Magazine offered helpful analysis and a call to President Obama not to crack down on Israel with "draconian concessions."

There were many, many articles, which honestly made me happy that it was getting so much attention. And in this, there is a lot of good news. Israel's Interior Minster Eli Yishai invited Goldstone to Israel on Monday. According to the New York Times,

Mr. Yishai said on Army Radio that after sending Mr. Goldstone a letter hailing him, he called him Monday night, thanked him and invited him to come to see Israel’s southern communities, which live under threat of Hamas rocket fire from Gaza.
“I will be happy to come,” Mr. Yishai quoted Mr. Goldstone as saying. “I always have love for the state of Israel.”
Mr. Goldstone said in a short statement released on Tuesday night that Mr. Yishai had “informed me that he and the government of Israel were appreciative of the article I wrote.” He said Mr. Yishai had invited him to Israel “to see conditions there with my own eyes. I said I would like to do so.”
“I ended the conversation by expressing my love for Israel,” Mr. Goldstone said.
According to the Jerusalem Post, South African Jews had a very positive reaction to Goldstone's retraction. Richard Goldstone is himself a Jew from South Africa.

While Goldstone's Washington Post apology was mostly in defense of himself, even painting himself as the victim (in essence claiming that his academic credentials had been prostituted by the notoriously anti-Israel UNHRC and that he didn't have enough information available), I am happy for him. I think that the proper response isn't resentment or judgment, but mercy and forgiveness. This is a great opportunity for Jews—as well as their Christian friends—to show their true character and the misunderstood character of our God. I can't help but respect Mr. Goldstone for coming out so publicly and admitting he was wrong, and I think that this kind of behavior should be positively reinforced as much as possible.

As far as those saying that he forever maligned Israel's image, that is a problem that has been around for much longer than the Goldstone Report. If anything, a truly honest investigation into Israel's military affairs—and even such a public retraction—could shed very good light on the situation. And look what's in the mainstream media now—The New York Times even made mention of the murder of the Fogel family! Prime Minister Netanyahu is now calling for the UN to rescind the report, and United States representatives in the UNHRC have called foul on its blatantly anti-Israel stance. Things seem to be looking up. I hope that people can have the strength to accept Mr. Goldstone back into our minds—and for a short time, Israel—as a respected person, even though it is impossible to continue to respect him as a jurist.

Further Reading:
1. Understanding the Goldstone Report:
2. Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post: Will the U.S., the U.N. and the Palestinians renege on prior agreements?
3. The HAMAS Charter (1988) calling for the destruction of Israel
4. POLITICO: The NYT saw (and rejected) a very different op ed than appeared in the Washington Post
5. Elder of Ziyon: Goldstone: Asymmetric Legal Warfare
6. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Summary of the Editorials in the Hebrew Press

7. The Los Angeles Times (Opinion): What's behind Goldstone's flip-flop?
8. Virtual Jerusalem: Goldstone Stops Halfway, Not Retracting Report (this is the same source that demanded lifetime dedication to Israel in a different article linked to above).

Also, sorry for the link vomit, but I'm glad that this story is getting so much attention. As for analysis, I realize that this post is rather incomplete. The Goldstone Report is 575 pages long and itself ignores over 50 years of war-dense Israeli history. There will be much more to write about in future posts. If you have a question, would like something explained, or have a more specific suggestion as to what I should write about next, let me know in the comments and I will be sure to research it thoroughly. Thanks for reading!