Christians on the rack, Brooks on the couch

David Brooks on ISIS:

The ISIS atrocities have descended like distant nightmares upon the numbed conscious of the world. The first beheadings of Americans had the power to shock, but since then there has been a steady barrage of inhumanity: mass executions of Christians and others, throwing gay men from rooftops, the destruction of ancient archaeological treasures, the routine use of poison gas.

Even the recent reports in The Times about the Islamic State’s highly structured rape program have produced shock but barely a ripple of action.

Reading his column feels as though I am eavesdropping on a counseling session in a novel. In the session, the patient, let’s call him Harold, struggles to come to grips with a truth which is evident to everyone but him.

The session is ostensibly about why the United States hasn’t been more alarmed or done more to combat ISIS. Harold is troubled over this. But there’s a problem, he is an acquaintance and great admirer of President Obama. We the readers are rooting for him to make the connection with who dictates US policy and the inaction, but he seems unable.

If this were a novel, we could bring in a trusted and brilliant friend, Nikhil, without any emotional or political baggage who would blurt out the obvious. For the role of Nikhil, think Tyler Cowen with amnesia and a melliferous Ben Kingsley-like accent.

Nikhil addresses Harold with a slightly annoyed tone, “Is it really that hard for you to get that given your President’s background, the plight of Muslims in the future is a greater concern to him than some Christians in mostly Muslim nations today?”

“You’re always lecturing people on how smart he is and how he’s playing the long game. Maybe so, but it sure ain’t the long game of a Christian American who is occasionally filled with pride when thinking about the Founding Fathers. When this brother thinks about the Founding Fathers, intercontinental grievances are what come to mind.”

Then Nikhil added a little more angrily than he intended, “You supported an unknown dude named Barack Hussein. Now you’re acting all surprised. Sheeeeeeeite.”
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The Schilling effect

Schilling extremism tweetCurt Schilling got in trouble with his employer [ESPN] for tweeting a comparison of the number of Muslim extremists that might exist today vs the number of Nazis in 1940. [May I suggest Stalin or Pol Pot for future attempts at evil equivalencies?] The move comes just in time to be part of the upcoming paperback edition of Kirsten Powers’ book, The Silencing.

On the one hand, ESPN’s suspension is the latest attempt by the powers that be to communicate to Muslims that; ‘While savageries are continually committed in the name of your Islamic faith across the world, we deem that no stigma or responsibility shall be ascribed to those of you residing in the Western societies, safely separated from the realities of being governed by your brethren in the faith. This protection is applicable even if you share the belief in Sharia law which is the main justification for the many atrocities committed in the name of Islam.’

In short, another example of the type of political correctness which is driving my fellow Republicans so insane, that they are actually telling pollsters that they would support Donald Trump for President. Don’t worry, I know you guys are kidding. Right?

But on the other hand [while I still have one, pending Sharia law implementation for blogging excesses which may offend the Profit [see what I did there?]], its an opportunity to highlight the very point Schilling was attempting to make.
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Jorge Ramos: Small man with even smaller ideas

Originally posted on 2 Think Good:

Univision network’s diminutive anchorman, Jorge Ramos, has pointed his cannon at John Paul II and the Catholic Church. Fortunately for us Catholics, his is a short cannon with limp arguments as I will detail. First a little background.

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MLS stadiums – facts vs emerging conventional wisdom

I was thrilled to hear that the Beckham-Claure group finally acknowledged that the location next to Marlins Park was the most feasible for their potential new MLS franchise. In listening to sports talk radio over the last few days, a consensus has emerged; it’s a great opportunity for Miami to get a MLS franchise without having to pay for a stadium, but what a shame about the location.

Why? I’m confident you’ve already heard this explanation. “MLS prefers smaller stadiums and urban settings for their franchises, where people can walk to the games and enjoy restaurants and bars nearby to foster the fan experience.” The last time a party line has come together so quickly was the framing of Lee Harvey Oswald, at least according to Oliver Stone.

I decided to check on the most recently awarded MLS franchises and compare reality with the conventional wisdom about MLS criteria regarding stadium size and urban settings.

The detail is below, but you guessed it, the conventional wisdom doesn’t match reality in 4 out of the last 5 franchises MLS has awarded. As would be expected, downtown real estate is too expensive for soccer stadiums everywhere, not just Miami. The exceptions are old stadiums which have been renovated over the years [Portland], or publicly financed construction and ownership of a facility [Seattle].

So if you come across ‘that guy,’ people who think soccer would be great here, but just not at the most obvious and feasible location, just a reminder to trust your instincts, they don’t know what they are talking about.

#1 – San Jose Earthquakes in 2015:

Avaya Stadium - after

Avaya Stadium – after

Avaya Stadium - before

Avaya Stadium – before

  • Capacity 18,000
  • Privately financed
  • Stadium opened 1 year past schedule
  • Not Downtown – location so close to airport that property needed to be rezoned
  • San Jose addressed the lack of nearby entertainment by including the “Largest Outdoor Bar In North America” as part of the stadium

#2 – Orlando City FC in 2015:

  • Currently playing in the Citrus Bowl, capacity 65,438, built in 1936 – 19,500 for soccer
  • Similarities to Miami in that a wealthy South American businessman, Flávio Augusto da Silva, is a majority owner
  • Ownership just committed to privately finance the entire cost of a new stadium [capacity 25,000] after efforts at getting public monies failed
  • City of Orlando donated $4 million land parcel to build stadium. Will be located next to home of Orlando Magic in the Downtown district.

#3 – New York City FC in 2015:

  • Capacity 54,251 – 27,470 for soccer
  • Yankee Stadium was massively subsidized
  • Fans don’t stroll through this neighborhood to the games, they run

#4 – Houston Dynamo in 2012:

Houston site for Dynamo stadium

  • Capacity 22,039
  • The city of Houston committed $35 million towards the stadium
  • Not Downtown. If a realtor was selling this they might say that Downtown is visible from stadium skyline

#5 – Montreal Impact in 2012:

Montreal stadium

  • Capacity 20,801
  • The Quebec government contributed $23 million to increase stadium capacity
  • Not Downtown. In fact, built in the shadows of one of the great white elephants of all time, site of the 1976 Olympics. Quebec just finished paying for them in 2006, referred to as The Big Owe.
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Wade opts out, but its McRoberts who will go

jamesAll this grief because the guy with the hairline to the right was too embarrassed to walk around in the bright Miami sun after cosmetic surgery. Oy vey.

Miami Heat luxury tax v1Heat Hoops is a great resource for us Heat fans. His recent posts have done a great job of explaining the main issue in the Wade contract situation, luxury taxes. But since I’m more of a visual learner, I threw his numbers on a spreadsheet. In crunching those numbers, it is obvious that anyone on the Heat bench of any value to another NBA team will soon be gone in order to afford Dwyane Wade.

First, let’s look at the solid assumptions made by Albert Nahmad at Heat Hoops about the factors the Heat must account for:

  • Goran Dragic’s contract will likely be around $97 million, structured in a creative manner to help the Heat in 2016-17
  • The Heat must allow for a near maximum contract for Hassan Whiteside [$21 million] in 2016-17 as part of their Wade contract calculations for this season
  • Wade’s options are a 1 year max deal, with a promise of a 2 year deal next year or a 3 year deal now

Miami Heat luxury tax v2The deal worth the most to Wade is the 1 year max with the promise of a 2 year deal to come. But the cost is prohibitive to the Heat, given that it results in a $58 million dollar luxury tax.

Miami Heat luxury tax v3Mikey Arison is not Prokhorov stupid to pay that amount of tax. So who are the Heat players with trade value? Josh McRoberts might be it. But its more complicated than that. The Heat literally want nothing in return. The trade needs to happen with a team whose player has a non-guaranteed contract.

At the end of the post, there is the list of all players with non-guaranteed contracts the Miami Heat will attempt to trade McRoberts for, to save around $22 million. Oh by the way, if they could trade Birdman too, they’d save another $16 million.

Wait, it gets better. The best fit would be with Cleveland and Brendan Haywood’s $10 million dollar non-guaranteed contract. Oy vey?
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People of faith deserve to be remembered by people of faith

charlestonUpdate on June 27th: It was not hard to see a secular spin coming in this tragedy, but the push back from the black Christian community has been inspiring. Michael Wear in Christianity Today is tired of people attempting to explain away the forgiveness exhibited by the families in the Charleston massacre:

… I am a Christian because of the black church and black faith. When I was far from God, it was the unashamedly Christian black culture, movies, and music of people like Lauryn Hill and Fred Hammond that introduced me to Jesus. It is the black church that so consistently embodies the confounding, radical love of Jesus. What other American community today displays less shame, less reservation, less self-awareness about proclaiming the Christian faith? I will not turn the Bride of the living Christ into a cultural artifact.

We serve a God who will make evil scatter with light, who is the answer to every skeptic’s questions, and who is renewing all things. The Charleston family members could forgive because they believe that fateful night in the upper room of Mother Emanuel was not the end of their loved ones’ stories. The Charleston victims are as they were: in the kingdom of God, beloved by him, their greatest longings realized.

Nine followers of Christ were murdered by a young outsider they welcomed into their Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday. For them we pray, they are:

  • Cynthia Hurd, 54 years old
  • Susie Jackson, 87 years old
  • Ethel Lance, 70 years old
  • Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49 years old
  • The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41 years old
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26 years old
  • Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74 years old
  • Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45 years old
  • Myra Thompson, 59 years old

Soon, people who have never contemplated, let alone attended, a Bible study will presume to identify and take up a secular cause in their names. Why would anyone presume that their legacies should be about anything other than what they were dedicating their time towards? Witnessing to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In fact, less than 2 days after their murders, the families of some of those executed in the coldest of blood, reaffirmed in the most powerful witnessing that can be imagined, that their surviving family members continue to believe after being tested in a manner those of us observing would most fear. Affirming that “they lived in love and their legacies will live in love.” This is what they said:

The daughter of Ethel Lance – “I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you.” She asked that God have mercy on the shooter’s soul. “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you. And I forgive you.”

A family member of Anthony Thompson – “I forgive you and my family forgives you, but we would like you to take this opportunity to repent . . . confess, give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so that He can change it—can change your ways no matter what happens to you, and you will be OK. Do that and you will be better.”

The mother of Tywanza Sanders – “We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms,” she said. Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same… Tywanza was my hero. But as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you.”

The granddaughter of Daniel Simmons Sr. – “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof—everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So, hate won’t win… I just want to thank the courts for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”

On re-watching the video, I couldn’t help noticing the two guards. It felt as though they stood in for the rest of us. At times, I imagined that they imagined taking the cowardly murderer into a private room to exact revenge. But most of the time, they just seem to be suspended in disbelief at the Grace they were listening to, all the while struggling to maintain their emotions.

A column by Peggy Noonan about those families is copied in full at end of post.

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Miami Heat’s ideal post-season

Update on 06/18/15: Mark Stein finally reveals what most insiders were aware of, but were awaiting a book deal to disclose:

… And we likewise saw LeBron emasculate Blatt in ways that are simply unbecoming of a player of James’ legend-in-the-making stature.

I saw it from close range in my role as sideline reporter through the Finals for ESPN Radio. James essentially called timeouts and made substitutions. He openly barked at Blatt after decisions he didn’t like. He huddled frequently with Lue, often looking at anyone other than Blatt.

There was James, in one instance I witnessed from right behind the bench, shaking his head vociferously in protest after one play Blatt drew up in the third quarter of Game 5, amounting to the loudest nonverbal scolding you could imagine — which forced Blatt, in front of his whole team, to wipe the board clean and draw up something else.

I understand James had no input in Blatt’s hiring and had to roll with him in less-than-ideal circumstances. But it struck me as a rather unflattering look for an all-time great, no matter how inept he might think the coach is.

How is any fellow Cavalier going to treat Blatt with something resembling reverence when James treats him like a bench ornament in plain view?

Despite not making the playoffs, please note the following circumstances from the 2015 NBA post-season and how they could work in the Miami Heat’s favor for the 2015-16 NBA season:

  • The Miami Heat kept its 1st round draft pick in the lottery.
  • Kyrie Irving got hurt. Kyrie Irving gets hurt often. Cavalier fans, say hello to Derrick Rose fans.
  • David Blatt has been treated in a viably dismissive manner by key players on his team and will likely be fired in the off-season. Thereby ensuring that instability continues to pervade the franchise James was with before the franchise he was with which won 2 NBA championships before he left to return to the aforementioned franchise.
  • Lebron James did not get hurt in yet another season, while again going deep in the playoffs. The odds of James continuing to avoid injury in his next season [12th] and beyond are, like my actuarial lifespan tables, not moving in the right direction. At this point, every season James is healthy and does not win a championship should be counted in dog years.
  • Kevin Love getting hurt created an opportunity for Tristan Thompson. Thompson, a free agent his summer, played well. His agent is LeBron James’s business manager and they turned down 4 years for $52 million last summer. People wondering if Love wants to return to Cleveland are missing the point, they can’t pay both Love and Thompson. Which means that Cleveland traded the #1 pick in the draft, Andrew Wiggins, for 1 year of Kevin Love. Thank you for being shortsighted General Manager LeBron James.
  • Andre Iguodala has played well against James and raised his profile. Like most leagues, NBA teams tend to copy success. Contending teams without their own version of Iguodala will be looking for a veteran to battle James in the playoffs. Miami already has a slightly taller version of Iguodala in Luol Deng. Deng has a player option for $10 million with the Heat for next season.
  • The Heat need Deng to opt out of his player option. They need the freed up money to pay Dwyane Wade a one year max contract without exceeding the luxury tax threshold next season.

Please read Albert Nahmad’s blog post at Heat Hoops about the Wade situation. As usual, he is detailed and thorough in presenting the information. Nahmad quantifies how prohibitive it would be for the Miami Heat to exceed the tax threshold when Dragic and Whiteside are factored in:

If the Heat exceeds the tax threshold next season, it would become the NBA’s first team to ever pay the “repeater tax,” which adds an extra $1 for every dollar a team is over the luxury tax threshold, over and above the incremental tax rates that would apply. The repeater tax is triggered when a team has paid the tax in four of the previous five seasons. The Heat has paid the tax in three of the last four years.

For every dollar by which the Heat exceeds the tax level next season, it will need to pay at least $2.50 in taxes. That rate increases to $2.75 per dollar for any incremental amount by which the Heat exceeds the tax by $5 million, increasing further to $3.50 per dollar for any incremental amount by which the Heat exceeds the tax by $10 million, increasing further to $4.25 per dollar for any incremental by which the Heat exceeds the tax by $15 million, and increasing an additional $0.50 for each $5 million increment thereafter.

If Deng exercises his player option for next season and Dragic re-signs at or near the max, granting Wade such a large raise would push the Heat’s team salary to as much as $100 million or more (excluding potential trade scenarios). A team salary at that level would trigger a tax payment of more than $58 million.

That is why the negotiations with Wade are at an impasse. Deng is the answer. We may have Andre Iguodala to thank if Deng opts out.

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John Lennox imagines humble Christians

dr barringerThere is a scene from The Exorcist which reminds me of how I used to think of Christians who interpret the Book of Genesis literally. When exorcism was first suggested as shock therapy to Chris MacNeil by the Clinic Director, Dr. Barringer, he noted that “it’s pretty much discarded these days, except by the Catholics who keep it in the closet as a sort of embarrassment.”

My Christian closet had more Creationists than an audition for the tent revival episode of  True Detective [season 1]. No more. John Lennox has given me a new perspective based on his talk at the Socrates in the City forum. The talk was a fluid combination of a detailed and logical reading of the Book of Genesis along with an appeal for empathy based on how certain positions in the Christian faith, which today are considered orthodoxy, were in some cases in dispute for hundreds of years. “How we speak to and of each other is important,” Lennox implored. “We are being watched.”

Are you a fixed earther?

Lennox makes the case that if he were addressing a similar crowd in the 16th century, the topic of his talk could have been to argue whether the earth moved. He then highlighted how that controversy mirrored current disputes, in that a scientific theory seemed to contradict scripture. Lennox then asks his audience to reflect on why the issue is no longer controversial and how Christians moved past the quandary.

Did the Christians who adopted the position that the earth moved do so because they stopped viewing Scripture as the inspired and authoritative word of God? No argues Lennox. What happened was that Christians recognized that although parts of Scripture touch on the physical sciences, the Bible is not a scientific tract. In short, Christians accepted that the Bible was [and is] more about why than how.

The rest of Lennox’s explanation touched on C.S. Lewis’s idea that Scripture deals in metaphors about real things. So when the Bible speaks of ‘foundations’ and ‘pillars,’ Christianity came to realize that we didn’t have to interpret those terms in such a way that contradicted science.

A hard [look at] days & nights

Lennox then addressed the subject of his book, Seven Days That Divide the World. I got goose bumps. Posing a deceptively simple question, Lennox asks why do we assume the six days of creation refer to 24 hours days? His close reading of the Book of Genesis makes the case that those who infer six 24 hour days are choosing to do so. He wants to let them know they have alternatives, including the powerful “we don’t know” option.

Lennox is on a mission to help Christians avoid being dogmatic about things not central to our faith. He asks that we proceed with humility regarding our brethren who may be in the midst [millennium-ly speaking] of adopting alternative interpretations. The seriousness with which they take their Scripture should bind us more than any disagreements fringe to our faith should separate us.

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John Lennox imagines humble Atheists

It is common for pop culture favorites, e.g., Bill Maher [59] and Jon Stewart [52], to ridicule religion and argue that it is a natural enemy to science. It helps that their audiences are probably as disinterested in science as they are in religion. Whenever people of faith can be portrayed as opposing a position taken by any atheist professor at any university, the bat signal is beamed to crank up the late-night joke factory, which feeds the next day’s video clips.

john-heroHowever, the premise underlying many of those type jokes rarely get a second or longer look. Enter John Lennox, a mathematician and Christian, who provides a great example in how to defend the faith in the video of his talk at the Socrates in the City forum. It was based on one of his books, Seven Days That Divide the World. In it he reminds us why science should be about always asking questions, not taking dogmatic positions. Mr Lennox is all about big subjects, fitting for someone who actually had C.S. Lewis as a lecturer.

For example, how surprised do you think a typical Maher or Stewart viewer would be to learn that the science community had completely flipped its position regarding the origins of the universe in their lifetimes? Georges Lemaître, a Belgian astronomer and professor of physics is credited with first proposing the theory of an expanding universe in 1927. However, the accidental discovery of background radiation in the 1960’s is when a significant shift began taking hold and by the late 1990’s, the latest science orthodoxy was established, the big bang theory.

Prior to listening to Mr. Lennox’s lecture, I was aware that the big bang theory gained credence due to the radiation discovery in the 1960’s. But Lennox made me focus on where the debate was prior to that discovery. There were two competing world views, the science community predominantly on one side and people of faith on the other:

  • Naturalism – universe is as it always was – no point of origin – steady state theory
  • Theism – universe did have a point of origin and God created it

Lennox recalls that a prominent editor of a science magazine reacted at the time of the radiation discovery to the idea that the universe might have had an origin, saying “we cannot go down this road believing there was a beginning, because it will give too much leverage to people who believe the Bible.”

If you think Mr Maddox an outlier, James Rochford in his book Evidence Unseen, details the reaction of other scientists:

… in 1931 Arthur Eddington wrote, “I have no axe to grind in this discussion [but] the notion of a beginning is repugnant to me… I simply do not believe that the present order of things started off with a bang… the expanding Universe is preposterous… incredible… it leaves me cold.”

Geoffrey Burbidge was the late atheistic professor of astronomy at the University of California, San Diego. He despised the theological implications of the Big Bang so much that he said anyone adhering to it was joining “the first church of Christ of the big bang.” John Maddox wrote, “Apart from being philosophically unacceptable, the Big Bang is an over-simple view of how the Universe began, and it is unlikely to survive the decade ahead… It will be a surprise if it somehow survives the Hubble telescope.” In a similar vein, German chemist and physicist, Walter Nernst wrote, “To deny the infinite duration of time would be to betray the very foundations of science.”

Several of these quotes come from Robert Jastrow’s book God and the Astronomers. Jastrow was the founding director of the Goddard Institute at NASA. He is agnostic, not Christian. And yet he makes an observation about these men that is stunning. Jastrow writes, “There is a strange ring of feeling and emotion in these reactions. They come from the heart, whereas you would expect the judgments to come from the brain.” It seems clear that these atheistic scientists were uncomfortable with the Big Bang, not because of the scientific facts, but because of the theological implications.

51ClaB3TyvLHow different are today’s atheistic scientists from those? Parallel universes anyone? Eric Metaxas is amazed at the unbelief.

By the way, that pioneering Belgian physicist in the 1920’s, Georges Lemaître, had a day job. He was a Roman Catholic priest. I’m glad Fr. Lemaître didn’t have our extensive media in his day.

He would have been such a joke.

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Pity the fool

The events of June 11, 1982 have weighed on me since.

The weight is not due to it having been the 473rd anniversary of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. More due to the union of Mr. T to Slyvester of Stallone. Although E.T. was released that day, I had made plans with a friend and co-worker at Southeast Bank to watch Rocky III at the nearby Omni 6 theater in the Omni International Mall.

The Omni 6 [Omni 10 came later] was Miami’s first movie multiplex. The Mall also had the first major bookstores I had been to, a B. Dalton and Waldenbooks. But I only browsed at mall prices, my book dollars were spent at Raquel Roque’s independent bookstore, the Downtown Book Center.

OMNI 6 smallWe planned on catching the twi-lite show [a pattern had already emerged] and my friend was bringing his wife. A price-discounted Friday night movie was this then 23 year-old’s idea of a good way to start the weekend.

The Metromover was still 5 years away, the Brickell/Omni loop 12 years away, so I drove over to the Omni early enough to make my usual browsing rounds of their bookstores. I then walked over to the theater to get my ticket and wait for my friend, Manny, and his wife. They missed our appointed time. First moral decision, wait and forgo the previews? I passed with flying colors.

Mobile phones being 1 million years away, I could only wait. I checked with the theater staff on how long the previews lasted, they had no idea, but mustered up enough energy to agree with my 10 minute estimate. My internal deadline approached. Justifications raced through the mind. They had forgotten. They changed their minds, they instead went into see E.T. and I had just missed them. In the last minutes of waiting, I scoured the escalator like an inept spy in a B movie. Women began staring back clutching their purses.

Whatever my final justification was I don’t recall, but I must have really taken it to heart. When the time came, I went in and enjoyed the movie with a clear conscious. The next day we spoke:

Manny: Hey what happened?
Me: I waited and you guys never showed.
Manny: No, no. We ran late, but got there just as the movie started. We figured you were running late and decided to wait for you. After about 15 minutes of standing around her legs really started bothering her so we had to leave, but we were worried about you.

Did I mention Manny’s wife was pregnant? How pregnant? David would be born 40 days later.

On the 33rd anniversary, I still wander those lands [now the Miami International University School of Art & Design] seeking forgiveness. Mr T, ora pro nobis.

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