Thursday, January 22, 2009

profound statement of the week

From Mr. Wapiti:
The impact of college on family formation and permanence can not be overstated.
Read more here. Those few words capture a lot of problems around us. The astronomical cost of college these days, and its tendency to linger in one's financial straits long after it's over, all but destroys the once-common practice of getting married and starting a traditional family (by that, I mean multiple kids and a stay-at-home mom) at a young age. Should the resultant declining birth rates and moral vacuum surprise anyone? Nope. And a much-needed popping of the college bubble won't fix any of those bigger problems.

hey, we ain't as bad off as some

Check this out. Did somebody say inflation? That doesn't even begin to capture it. Holy freaking crap. That's...that's...some weird hybrid of hilarious and tragic.

But I suppose there's another way to see this: as our economy tanks over the next year or few, just remember that no matter how bad it is, it can always get worse. A lot worse.

Monday, January 19, 2009

larry fitzgerald is unreal

When I heard Larry Fitzgerald's name mentioned earlier this season by plenty of talking heads as probably the best receiver in the NFL, I didn't take it too seriously. Not that I'd seen him play a lot, I just hadn't heard very much about him since he was drafted and I didn't figure he could come to quietly dominate the game so quickly. I mean, it wasn't that long ago that the guy was just coming out of college, right? I'm sure he's good, and he puts up numbers, but...that good that fast?

Yup. Those of you who watched the Cardinals game yesterday already know that. For those who didn't see the game, think Randy Moss on his good days. Fitzgerald is that good. He reminds me of Moss during his playoff run with the Vikings,* when Cunningham could just loft a ball in his direction and Moss would come down with it almost every time. That's the last time I've been that consistently awed by a receiver over the span of a few games. Doesn't matter how much traffic is around him, how off-target the ball is, how much he has to reach or correct for it, or whatever else. If Warner throws it anywhere near him, it's his. The best a defense can hope for is that he doesn't keep going after the catch. Heck, at this point I'm convinced the guy could telekinetically bring a ball into his hands from 20 feet over his head if he wanted to.

Unreal, I say. And a lot of fun to watch. He's just one of the reasons I'll be rooting for the Cardinals in this year's stupid bowl.

* For the record, nobody will ever convince me there has ever been a better receiving duo in football than Moss and Carter with the '98 Vikes. Carter was past his prime but still one of the best, and Moss was as good that year as he's ever been since. It's a terrible shame that team choked in the playoffs.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

single parents and crime

We all knew the correlation between crime and single-parent families was strong, but Bernard Chapin quotes from Ann Coulter's new book "Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America" a summary of just how strong the correlation is. The chapter from which the following quote is taken has 138 end notes, so although I don't have the sources for these facts I can safely assume they're legit. For the proof I guess we'll just have to get the book ourselves. But until then, here's a tidbit courtesy of "Chapin's Inferno":
"We have single mothers because more than a million women choose to have children out of wedlock every year in America, and they do not wed or give up their babies for adoption. By their own choices, they consign their children to second-class status. Of all single mothers in America, only 6.5% are widows; 37.8% are divorced and 41.3% gave birth out of wedlock. Controlling for socioeconomic status, race, and place of residence, the strongest predictor of whether a person will end up in prison is that he was raised by a single parent. By 1996, 70% of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long-term sentences were raised by single mothers. Seventy-two percent of juvenile murderers and 60% of rapists come from single-parent homes. 70% of teenage births, dropouts, suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents, and child murderers involve children raised by single mothers. Girls raised without fathers are more sexually promiscuous and more likely to end up divorced. A 1990 study showed that after controlling for single motherhood, the difference between black and white crime rates disappeared."
That last sentence is particularly telling. For those who think crime is a racial thing, it's not. It's a parenting thing. So how is it possible to begin to solve the crime problem in society without first addressing this lack of responsibility that causes it? And how is it possible to address the lack of responsibility without addressing the core beliefs and worldviews (or lack thereof) that lead to such behavior?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

great piece on anti-male churchianity

MarkyMark alerted me to a great blog out there, Faith and Society, that I'll probably be spending considerable time at in the near future. It's defunct now and has been for some time, but the writing is still available to be partaken of. In particular, this essay is one of the best I've read in a long time. It addresses a topic I happen to care a lot about, that being the waning influence of Christianity in society and how much that correlates with the increasing feminization (and its accompanying overreactions, pop psychology, etc.) of the modern American church as a whole. Anyone out there wondering why there's a supposed dearth in Christian men marrying, or even attending church for that matter? (I'm not totally convinced that's the case but I won't get into that here, maybe later.) That article would be a good starting point for understanding some of the reasons.

The guy also seems to have a great command of Scripture, at least well enough to support his arguments with plenty of verses. I'm not sure I agree with some of his points though--he seems to overcorrect, if you will, on some things, as if trying to counterbalance the opposing argument. I haven't looked up his verses though, so I can't yet say how much I agree with his exegesis. I intend to repost his essay in its entirety here later and add my comments throughout, but that won't happen tonight. But it's a great and interesting read, regardless of how much one happens to agree with his positions or the sometimes in-your-face way he lays them out.

As an intro of sorts, the author of the aforementioned gem quotes Elisabeth Eliot, a contemporary Evangelical author (and one I've actually heard of, so she must be at least somewhat prominent). His entire essay isn't a response to this quote in particular, but her words do capture what I think is a popular sentiment in a lot of churches these days:
“Everywhere my husband and I go we meet lovely Christian women, beautifully dressed, deeply spiritual, thoroughly feminine–and single. They long for marriage and children. But what is it with the men? Are they blind to feminine pulchritude, deaf to God’s call, numb to natural desire? . . . Where are the holy men of God willing to shoulder the full responsibility of manhood, to take the risks and make the sacrifices of courting and winning a wife, marrying her and fathering children in obedience to the command to be fruitful? While the Church has been blessed by men willing to remain single for the sake of the Kingdom (and I do not regard lightly such men who are seriously called), isn’t it obvious that God calls most men to marriage? By not marrying, those whom He calls are disobeying Him, and thus are denying the women He meant for them to marry the privileges of being wife and mother.”
Huh!? What a bunch of bullbleep that is! For one, that is not at all my experience in churches I've been to lately. I don't know if I'm just in some alternate reality that these authors and pontificators don't coexist in or what, but I don't know where they get that impression that there are just droves of women in churches waiting to get married to the first kinda-decent* dude that shows interest. I'll go as far as to say that the supposedly marriage-ready women (by age and stereotype, anyway) I've been around have been far more narcissistic and me-centered than their male counterparts. Young and single? Yes. Desiring marriage? Well, maybe in a few cases. Ready for marriage and seemingly solid wife material? Um...out of deference to people I would still consider friends, let me not answer that one directly. But you get the idea.

As for the shaming-esque, "it's all your fault" crap, what else is new? Any man who has been to church, say, a few times in the past several years, has probably heard similar tripe. Maybe it wasn't mean-spirited or direct like the lovely Mrs. Eliot's quip, but it's there. The assumption seems to be that men, by and large, and especially young, churched men (the declining few that there are), have the intelligence of apes and have to be goaded, shamed, prodded, or otherwise manipulated by society into fitting the mold others have made for them. Whatever. Wake up folks, it's not happening. And the entire church is suffering for it. And methinks the entire church will continue to suffer from the dearth of strong male leadership until something changes for the better.

"winning a wife..." Now could the issue here possibly, perhaps, just maybe, be that more men than one might suspect don't see it in terms of "winning" a wife in today's culture? This choice of words implies that a prospective wife is someone to be desired, to be "won," a reward for one's efforts. For a good, humble, Christian woman, this is certainly true and I can't imagine why any man would dispute the claim. Sure, they're out there, and any man would be crazy to not pursue a woman of those bonafide credentials. But, for a semi-churched, feminism-stained woman who's basically pursuing the same goals in the same way a man would go after them, this is...well, let's just say it's not the case. Is that necessarily fair to women who grew up under such influences? Nope, not at all. But it's reality and we deal with reality as it is, not as we think it ought to be or how we wish it to be. That being the case, many men are going to conclude that the total compromise required is a bum deal in most cases and, justifiably so, simply not put forth the effort to pursue such women. Who can blame them (us)?

"By not marrying, those whom He calls are disobeying Him, and thus are denying the women He meant for them to marry the privileges of being wife and mother." Wow. As the author points out, that's no small claim. She's invoking the Bible, the Kingdom, and God Himself in full support of her argument. She's effectively claiming to have knowledge of God's plan for others, to the point that she even says others must be rejecting His plan for themselves if they disagree with her. So she is in God's camp and therefore anyone who disagrees must not only be opposing her but also opposing God and even thwarting His plan. If you're going to claim the God of the universe is on your side in full force, especially in such strong terms, then you'd better be right. A bold statement indeed.

My comments above are merely a tiny chip off the iceberg compared to what the author puts forth in his much longer discussion. Rather than go into further detail here, I'll let you just go to the source and be enlightened by someone with far better theological command and writing skills than mine. Agree or disagree, I trust you won't be disappointed with the thought-provoking points he brings up. Enjoy!

* The standards such dudes would be evaluated by deserve a discussion of their own. But have no fear, the essay addresses that topic at length.

Monday, January 05, 2009

poll of the day

Which group of people sets the standard for mob stupidity?

(A) The population of Gaza, for electing Hamas to represent them
(B) The population of Minnesota, for (apparently) electing Al Franken to represent them
(C) Too close to call
(D) Other

I have to go with C...too many solid arguments on both sides for me to choose just one.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

michael vick: not very smart

I'll preface this by saying I do feel sorry for Vick in a way. He was handed a lifestyle and expectations he didn't know how to handle, so it's no surprise he mishandled it. But it would be unrealistic to expect anyone who came from the background and home life he did to be able to suddenly show a lot of maturity that he hadn't been brought up into to that point. His is an example of the need for better parenting, mentoring, and the like in society--the type that comes only from the trappings of a God-centered worldview. But still, even some such tragic things are too funny in the way they happen. And so it is with a certain incident from a few years back...

As long as I'm on the topic of poor decisions by persons associated with the NFL, a summary of a very funny SNL skit that I saw earlier today (while trying to divert my attention from the impending Vikings loss) seems in order. It was presumably taped a few years ago, right after Michael Vick had gotten in trouble for marijuana possession at the airport. (I believe this was the infamous "Ron Mexico" incident, but I don't remember for sure. I wouldn't put it past Vick to have been in the news more times than I can remember off-hand.) The "Weekend Update" anchors pointed out several reasons why this display of stupidity by Vick was hilarious--to the limited extent that sports players getting in trouble for breaking laws can really be hilarious, I mean--and a few of them stuck with me.

For one, Vick had $117 million left on his contract at the time, not to mention lots of endorsement deals. So, Mike, you're going to risk all that fortune to smuggle a few ounces of pot through airport security? Come on. I'm not a druggie, but that's what, a few hundred dollars of contraband at most? Whatever it is, I bet it's considerably less than $117M. People much poorer than you are on the ball enough to trash the stuff before going through security and just replacing it once at their destination. And we all know it's not like you don't have plenty of contacts back at home who could hook you up with a supplier in a hurry. Not very smart, Mike.

Also, what airport was Vick flying out of and trying to smuggle drugs into? Miami. Now if there's any airport in the country, or maybe even the world, that is going to be on super high alert for drugs of any kind and be more than prepared to sniff the stuff out, what airport might one suspect? Miami. Did you really expect to pull that one off, Mike? Come on, you're in freakin' Miami for crying out loud. That trick probably doesn't work in Boise, much less an airport that expects and prepares for much more sophisticated attempts to move contraband. Again, Mike, not very smart.

And I hadn't heard this one before, but how did Mr. Vick try to smuggle it? At the bottom of a water bottle with water in it. This being shortly after the whole "oh no, terrorists could mix chemicals on planes" flap the TSA foisted upon us that resulted in the 3-1-1 rule or whatever it is. (For the record, up until the recent bailout craze that could be argued to be the single stupidest, worthless, most pathetic attempt at "protection of the people" of the Bush era, but that's another topic.) So the security clones were on high alert for any liquids passing through. As one of the anchors put it, Vick might as well have stuffed it down the barrel of a gun. There was zero chance that water bottle was going to make it onto the plane unmolested. Yet again, not very smart.

It should come as no surprise that a guy like Vick was bound to get caught up in a bigger mess sooner or later. The sad thing is, were he a bit more on the ball, maybe he could have avoided all that. The guy had plenty of talent and just needed some guidance as to how to not ruin a good thing. Note to professional athletes, celebrities, and the like: if you don't possess sufficient common sense to avoid destroying your own career and life, just hire someone to do your thinking for you.

more playoffs

Wow, I'm awesome. It's a really good thing I'm not much of a gambler when it comes to sports. Only Baltimore's domination of Miami saved me from misfiring on all four of my picks for this weekend's games. I guess that, among other reasons, is why I'm not a coach in the NFL.

The Minnesota-Philly game was particularly depressing. In the other games, at least the opposing team seemed to belong, to be good enough to deserve the win. Arizona proved they belong in the playoffs, and I thought they controlled the game more than the score shows. The Chargers looked impressive all night save for a couple of bad turnovers in the Colts' end zone, and it would have been tough to see those miscues cost them the game. Baltimore's defense did what I expected it to do, and their offense wasn't bad either. But Philly didn't look so great as much as Minnesota looked hopeless. Neither team really had any business winning that one, But the Vikings did more to lose it.

I can see why Vikings fans hate their team so much now. They're just a frustrating team to watch. For as good as their running game is on both sides, their passing offense and defense are pathetic. I can't remember the last time I watched a pass defense so bad, especially in the playoffs. I mean, when Philly faced second down, I was actually hoping they'd get close enough to the marker to try to run it on the next play, because it was obvious to me that if they threw the ball they'd pretty much be guaranteed a first down. Seriously. The Vikings' pass D was that bad. They did well against the run the whole game, but their secondary let Philly keep drives going. Their rush wasn't even too bad and forced a fumble, but pass rush doesn't help much when the QB can just throw to a wide open receiver at will.

On offense, we knew they'd run well and they did. But they couldn't get a semi-consistent passing game going to save their season. It's easy to blame Jackson, but I didn't think he did so bad by himself. After all, it's tough to do much as a QB when you spend half the time on your back. He did have a rough game though. How can the Vikes' O-line be that good at blocking for the run and that bad at pass protection? I don't get it. But their inability to sustain drives and put up points, especially in crunch time, is a terrible thing to watch.

I can't sign off on this one without mentioning coaching. In the past I've been prone to cut Childress some slack, unlike a lot of others whose stuff I read, figuring he can't be as mindless as people make him out to be if his team is 10-6 and has some good strengths. But not this time. He made two atrocious mistakes that could have cost him the game.

First, on the opening drive, Philly failed to convert a third down from the Minnesota 26 (or so). But the Eagles were flagged for holding on the play, which if accepted would have backed them up 10 yards and given them 3rd and 19 at the 36. But Childress, much to the consternation of the sportscasters and I'm sure every Vikings fan watching, declined it! So what results? Of course, none other than one of the best kickers in recent NFL history, David Akers, trots out and kicks a 43-yard field goal like it's a chip shot.

So, Brad, what the heck are you thinking on that one? Do you have so little confidence in your defense that you're afraid they'll give up 20+ yards on a single play, a third down no less? Did you figure the chances of Akers missing a 43-yarder were better than the chances of McNabb & Co. failing to convert a 19-yard third down? Come on, it's not like everyone in the bleeping stadium didn't know the Eagles needed some big yards. Why not back them up and see if your defense holds? Maybe they get some of that yardage back, or maybe the freakishly pull off a first down pickup, but if not then at least you make Akers work from a little further away. Heck, maybe Philly punts from that far back. The worst part is, later in the game, this field goal was the difference between Minnesota needing one score or two scores, which effectively eliminated them from the game by forcing them to rely on passing to move down the field quickly. All in all, that move is inexplicable. Brad Childress, you're an idiot.

But that's not all. Boneheaded Childress Move #2: With less than two minutes left in the first half, and with the Vikes down 16-14 and backed up deep in their own territory after a punt, Childress faces a decision. He can either take some shots downfield and try to get into field goal range, a long shot at best given how his passing offense has been so far, or just call three ground plays and run out the clock, and hope to regroup at halftime and come out swinging in the third quarter. So he calls a do-nothing run on first down and doesn't use his last timeout, an obvious indication that he intends to call it a half...right? But on second down, Jackson throws a bad short pass in the flat, far from the sideline, which bounces off the receiver's outstretched arms and falls harmlessly behind the line of scrimmage. This burns a down and stops the clock--great thinking, Brad! As expected, Philly uses its last timeout after Minnesota rushes again on third down. Minnesota punts and the Eagles almost get into field goal range, the disaster being averted only by a great open-field tackle to keep Westbrook in bounds (in Minnesota territory) so the clock runs out.

Now, what in the world was the goal of that second down short pass?? Did Childress think the guy would break it and dash 75 yards for a score? Was he supposed to get out of bounds after picking up a few yards while eating precious time off the clock, thus accomplishing nothing of purpose? If he was just supposed to stay in bounds with it, then a run does the same thing and averts both a clock stoppage and a potential interception. (Jackson had already thrown a TD pass to Asante Samuel earlier, this being the Eagles' lone touchdown at the time.) Keep in mind also that this year's Vikings punt coverage unit tied the league record for futility by giving up four return touchdowns, and DeSean Jackson had already run one back 62 yards earlier in the game to set up a field goal. So it should be obvious, even more so than in any regular game, that a punt should be avoided at all costs here. And yet Childress runs a play that basically guarantees the Vikes will punt it back to Philly and give them good enough field position to try for a last-second field goal. Unbelievable.

So, any way you slice it the Vikings game was a tough one for me to watch. I'm even dumber than Childress was during his shining moments in the game for picking that one-dimensional team to carry the NFC banner in the stupid bowl. Oh it is, Pittsburgh would appear at this point to have a clear shot to Tampa. I don't think any of the three remaining AFC teams are on their level, not even Tennessee. Maybe San Diego...but the Steelers will have homefield advantage against them next week and that will be huge. In the NFC, who knows. I don't think any team there is dominant. If I had to pick I guess I'd go with the Giants...but I'll be pulling for Arizona to turn some heads.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

nfl playoff predictions

Have been thinking about this for a day or two now. The games start this afternoon so I'd better hurry up and list my predictions so folks know which teams NOT to bet on. So, without further ado...

NFC...I like Minnesota to advance but I will say that Philly was a tough draw in the opener. They beat the Giants a few weeks back and they routed the Cowgirls last week, so they’re for real. Were it in Philly it’d be a different story, but I have to take the Vikes in the dome; I think they’ll pull it together and do what they do best—-keep it simple and pound the ball.

Arizona just hasn't impressed me all season and the Falcons have come on strong, so I like Atlanta by a lot in that one. Arizona played in the weakest division in football and still only managed 9-7. They’re the closest thing to a bye week of any team playing this weekend. Their offense can light up the field though, so hopefully they’ll keep it interesting and maybe even pull off the upset.

Overall? Call me crazy, but I have to take the Vikes. They've been sketchy of late, but I like their style. It’s been said that great teams can run and stop the run. And that’s what the Vikes do. They could be in trouble if they get too far behind and have to start throwing to catch up, or if their passing game can’t keep defenses at least semi-honest, but they’re good enough up front on both sides of the ball and with Peterson doing the carrying that they can rely solely on playing smash-mouth football and go far (a la the Ravens several years back and the ’06 Bears). Despite the previous weeks’ performances, I think they have the elements of a real contender. Minnesota is wildly inconsistent but plenty capable of putting together a tough two-game road stretch to out the Panthers and then the Giants. The younger Manning could give the Vikings’ secondary fits if he’s on, but I don’t expect that. It could also be a blizzard in NYC when they play, which would favor Minnesota big time.

AFC...this one seems to me to be a little easier to guess at simply because one team has been so great the second half of the season. Balto-Miami will be a big one. I think Baltimore is just a tougher and better team, and the Ravens can win in Miami. But then they’ll have to face the Titans and that will be their undoing. Tennessee is overrated and has been very suspect toward the end of the season, but they're good enough to survive the Ravens.

The Colts are much too strong for even a resurgent SD I think. And I just read that LT an Gates are not 100%. Unlike others, I don't see this one being very close. Indy took a while to get going early in the season but has returned to the old form we're used to seeing. I also think the Chargers will stumble a bit after the emotional high they've been on for the past three weeks.

If Balto wins then Indy plays in Pittsburgh next week. That will be the AFC championship, as either of those teams can beat Tennessee or Baltimore. And I’m taking the Colts—-they’re old but they still have enough left to go on a tear through the second half of the season and the postseason. They’re as good as any team in the league right now and they’re flying below the radar, which helps them.

Stupid weird as it is, I foresee a Colts-Vikings stupid bowl, with Manning & Co. scorching the Vikes’ suspect pass D and forcing the purple men into pass mode early, thus turning it into a rather one-sided and uninteresting game. Indy 38, Minn 14. But if my picks hold up as well as my projections for the playoffs first round, then most of the above is crap anyway.

Friday, January 02, 2009

another churchill quote

Just picked up another excellent quote from none other than Winston Churchill:
Lady Astor to Winston Churchill: "If I were married to you, I'd put poison in your coffee."

Churchill's Reply: "If I were married to you, I'd drink it."
Is that gut-splitting stuff or what!? Winston Churchill was THE MAN when it comes to great responses to stupid comments. I'm now convinced beyond any doubt that if I could eat dinner and sit down for a chat with one world leader from any time in history, that leader would be Churchill. What I wouldn't pay to have half his wit...