March 30, 2006

Radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt has a brandy-new “must-read” book for political junkies called Painting the Map Red: The Fight to Create a Permanent Republican Majority, in which Hugh offers his own sage advice to Republicans if they want to maintain or extend their majority in Congress this fall.

While I’m looking forward to reading Hugh’s book, it is my own humble view that if Republicans have any hopes of holding (or bettering) their majority status following the 2006 elections and beyond, all they really have to do is grow a spine and condense their message around five core issues:

1) Stay the course in Iraq and the Global War on Terror.

In other words, plaster John Murtha’s defeatist message all over the airwaves, then follow it up with this rebuttal: we’re not leaving Iraq one day earlier than necesary to get the job done, which means: securing a stable government for its people, and leaving with the confidence that Iraq can stand on its own. The war against Saddam has morphed into a bitter struggle between Al-Qaida and radical Islamic fundamentalism one one hand, and the U.S. and western civilization and values on the other, which is fine, let’s destroy them over there so we don’t have to do it here. Wars are messy; post-wars even messier. Want proof? We still have troops in Korea and Germany, don’t we?

2) Tax reduction and continued tax relief.

This is one area where the Democrats have absolutely no credibility. The message should be clear and simple: vote Democrat, and you’re voting for higher taxes. Period.

3) Confirming conservative judges:

A critical issue for getting the base out. Conservatives may not be happy with Republicans in Congress (especially the Senate) right now, but you cannot deny that the possibility of the GOP losing it’s ability to replace aging, liberal activist judges with younger jurists of a more restrained philoposophical bent on both the Supreme Court and U.S. District Court benches should be incentive enough to convince even the most recalcitrant conservative and apathetic Libertarian to support GOP candidates when they might otherwise stay home.

4) Put forth a plan to reduce Federal spending.

Where have all the Reagan Republicans gone? The greatest danger facing Republican chances this fall and beyond. The GOP’s woeful record in this Congress, allowing the federal budget and the deficit to grow like it has, has deflated conservative morale and encouraged the Libertarian movement. One thing for sure: if Republicans do poorly this fall, it will be primarily due to a lack of enthusiasm by the base, resulting from the decided lack of fiscal discipline exhibited by President Bush and the Republican-led Congress of the past six years.

5) Tough immigration reform.

Another area where the Republicans in Congress have lost their spine. Are they so worried about offending Hispanic voters in the Southwest that they’re willing to forego a natural, made-to-order constituency that could ultimately pay HUGE dividends at the ballot box: blue-collar families (the old “Reagan Democrats”) and the labor unions of the electoral vote-rich Rust Belt.

If Republicans would do a full-court press on these voters, explaining how illegal immigration depresses salaries and reduces overall quality of work (valid arguments to blue-collar workers), takes away American jobs (the very reason United Farm Worker’s Union poster-boy Caesar Chavez vehemently opposed illegal immigration), and diverts money and resources that could otherwise be directed towards social programs and/or tax incentives for American businesses, thereby reducing “off-shoring” and increasing economic growth and employment. By making this powerful case to an otherwise-loyal Democratic constituency, you never know – it could lay the groundwork for a Midwest resurgence that would not only dampen Democratic hopes in 2006, it could grease the skids for another Republican president in 2008.

So there you have it – The Great White Shank’s fail-proof, down-home recipe for Republican success in the fall. See, I just spared you the cost of Hugh’s book! Just kidding, Hugh…

But seriously, folks, without even having read it yet, I would highly recommend Hugh’s new book, if for no other reason than his uncanny ability to predict the future. In his previous book If It’s Not Close They Can’t Cheat, he stressed the importance of Republican get-out-the-vote efforts to counteract the pre-election shenanigans the Democratic Party has become increasingly reliant on in recent years. In Blog, he accurately foretold the growth of the “blogsphere” and the impact bloggers would have on both the cultural and political landscape, and the mainstream media who once controlled it.

The common wisdom out there is that 2006 will be a bloodbath for Republicans and a watershed year for the Democratic Party. If the GOP apparatus in Washington and across the nation were to pay heed to Hugh’s book (or, even better, this post :-) ), it doesn’t have to be that way. Out in the American heartland, and here in Phoenix – one of the epicenters of the immigration reform battle – my sense is that the spirit of the conservative base, while weary of the mainstream media’s overwhelmingly-negative coverage of events in Iraq, the constant thrashing of the President by Democrats and their cohorts in both the mainstream media and Hollywood, nevertheless remain willing. Nevertheless, it will be up to the GOP and its roster of candidates for national election to run campaigns that are bold, dynamic, and issues-oriented to ensure that the flesh come November does not go weak.

BTW, Hugh was part of a panel at the Heritage Foundation earlier today to discuss his book, and Mary Katharine Ham was there.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 22:00 | Comments (0)
March 29, 2006

Yesterday, it was about the West’s changing perceptions of Islam and Muslims. Today, it’s immigration, specifically the debate over illegal immigration.

Has American public opinion finally reached the tipping point on illegal immigration? Have our clueless Beltway politicians finally gotten the point that illegal immigration is a serious issue, requiring serious action? In both cases, I’m thinking the answer may finally be yes, and both the burgeoning Spanish media in the U.S. and the huge illegal immigration lobby out there (both way ahead of the curve and the lumbering, slumbering mainstream media on this, by the way) know it.

This seems apparent given that we now know that it was Spanish radio stations across the country that sparked the huge outpouring of weekend rallies in support of illegal immigration – rallies that continued yesterday all across the Southwest.

If the tipping point hadn’t been reached prior to last week, my guess is the weekend rallies, rather than galvanizing public support for their cause, in fact had the opposite effect, and the rallies organizers have only themselves to blame. Did they really think that blocking traffic and creating chaos, waving Mexican flags and denouncing any goverment effort to tighten up our nation’s immigration policies (thanks, Free Republic!) is the way to shape and mold public support into believing illegal immigration is a good thing? If so, I think they seriously miscalculated and will live to regret their strategy, and soon.

Here in Phoenix, one of the epicenters of the immigration problem, we have had several days of rallies, but, if what I’ve heard around and about is any measure of public opinion, people are basically pi$$ed. Here, we know that the true by-products of illegal immigration are soaring public health costs, depressed wages for critical blue-collar jobs like construction, bloated jail populations, and one of the highest crime rates (including THE highest stolen car rate) in the nation, and no amount of rallies featuring spoiled, class-cutting high-school students will convince the locals here otherwise.

Of course, there are many complex issues surrounding the immigration issue, and many who have articulated thoughtful positions on them far more effectively than I ever could. So, without further adieu, might I recommend the following for your consideration:

Bill O’Reilly offers a sound, straight-forward 8-point plan free of bloviation.

At Red State, California Yankee has more info on how the weekend rallies were organized, and Paul J Cella has thoughts about the real issue at stake behind immigration reform.

Michelle Malkin has her usual comprehensive roundup of news and views from the weekend rallies, including this Kaus link that supports exactly what I was saying above.

Polipundit slaps the Ted Kennedy/John McCain amnesty plan upside the face to good effect. Hear! Hear!

And, about that idea that we need illegal immigrantion because they supposedly are the only ones willing to do work no other Americans want to do? Ankle Biting Pundits has a story on a subsection of the legal American population who could use a lift, emplyment-wise.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 12:42 | Comments (0)

Had every intention tonight to post “Tipping Point Part II” (my immigration companion to today’s earlier post, but that will just have to wait until tomorrow…

Received from Amazon today the DVD and CD companion for Nashville Sounds, Volume I, a 1996 collection of songs by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, sung by a variety of country music artists.

This was not a collection I was prepared to enjoy, but watching the DVD and listening to the CD made me realize just how much Brian Wilson’s timeless music transcends musical styles: whether it be Willie Nelson’s splendid rendition of “Warmth of the Sun”, or Tammy Wynette’s achingly-sincere “In My Room”, the honesty and spiritual transcendence of Brian’s music enables these performances to sound as fresh and original as if the artists had composed them themselves.

I came to know the Beach Boys long after their surf music glory days were past. It was 1974, I had long since bought my last Beatles album, and, with my brother Mark, had long been a passionate Pink Floyd fan. Nevertheless, we were both, I think, looking for something more personal and more accessible in our own musical journeys. One day, we found it when my friend Bob Noftle excitedly brought over The Beach Boys In Concert album, saying we absolutely had to hear this album. Like everyone else, I had known the Beach Boys from their “Surfin’ USA” and “Help Me, Rhonda” days, but had never taken them seriously as musical artists. To this day, however, I still remember being absolutely blown away by their soaring harmonies and diverse body of work (most of which I had never heard before) presented passionately and effectively in a concert setting.

Over the next year, Mark and I scoured every budget bin we could find at W.T. Grants, Woolworth’s, and Jordan Marsh looking for Beach Boys records we never knew existed (remember, this is how you did it in the days before the Internet) and gradually discovered the entire Beach Boys catalog, even to the point of incorporating – at that time – such obscure late 60′s nuggets like “Do It Again” into our own band’s repertoire.

Becoming the most ardent of fans, I was quicky swept away by the diverse personalities within the group:
* Brian, the resident genius – moody, eccentric, and vulnerable, he was everything I wanted to be as a person and musical artist in my own right;
* Carl Wilson, Brian’s younger brother. Solid, passionate, and protective of his brother’s musical legacy, he assumed the mantle of leadership both in the studio and on-stage after Brian suffered a nervous breakdown;
* Dennis Wilson, the devil-may-care drummer who raised more hell this side of Keith Moon, yet someone whose drum-playing drove the on-stage band, and whose music contained an aching vulnerability hard to ignore;
* Alan Jardine and Bruce Johnston, solid bandmates who helped communicate Brian’s music in a concert setting; and, of course,
* Mike Love, irascible and obnoxious, but someone who even the most ardent Brian Wilson fan must admit, provided an optimistic writing style that complemented (and at times, rescued) Brian’s music from its overwhelming melancholy.

Since then, I have collected every conceivable piece of music by Brian and “the Boys”, and continue to be astonished at how fresh it all still sounds, and how deeply it touches my soul. How Brian was somehow able to beautifully and honestly communicate all the vulnerability, pain, ainguish, and complexity of life still amazes me. Regardless of how dark the depths of despair I can feel, whenever I hear Brian’s music, I somehow know I’m never alone, and that everything is somehow, in some way, made right again.

How is that, you say? Is not “Til I Die”, “Caroline, No”, “In My Room”, “Surfer Girl”, and and “Warmth of the Sun” the most absolutely devastatingly beautiful music anyone in rock music has ever produced? Does not “California Girls”, Help Me, Rhonda”, “Good Vibrations”, and “I Get Around” communicate the timeless joy of being a teenager, free of obligations, mortgage payments, marriage ties, and punching time clocks? The Beatles may have indeed been the greatest band the rock n’ roll generation will ever produce, but for me, if Brian Wilson’s music and the Beach Boys’ harmonies are the last thing my ears ever hear, then that’s not the worst way to depart this life at all.

The Great White Shank’s Top Ten Beach Boys tunes (in no particular order):
* California Girls (Summer Days and Summer Nights!)
* In My Room (Surfer Girl)
* Caroline, No (Pet Sounds)
* ‘Til I Die (Surf’s Up)
* Warmth of the Sun (Shut Down Vol. 2)
* Surf’s Up (Surf’s Up)
* Do It Again (20/20)
* Heroes And Villains (Smiley Smile)
* Surfer Girl (Surfer Girl)
* I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (Pet Sounds)

The Great White Shank’s Top 5 Beach Boys Albums:
* Pet Sounds (1966)
* The Beach Boys Love You (1977)
* Sunflower (1970)
* Friends (1968)
* Holland (1972)

If there are any Beach Boys fan out there, I welcome your own choices and thoughts.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:48 | Comments (5)
March 28, 2006

With the lack of news of any movement in the ominous stalemate between the West and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, much of the mainstream media’s recent attention has been turned to two white-hot issues: 1) the increasingly-rancorous debate on immigration reform, and 2) Abdul Rahman, the Afghan put on trial to face possible execution for converting from Islam to Christianity, who, after a court on Sunday dismissed his case, was supposedly freed yesterday.)

While these two issues might appear to be thousands of miles apart, both geographically and politically, I see a lot of similarity in the way they have become “hot button” issues with the majority of Americans.

In recent weeks, Jim Geraghty (TKS of National Review Online fame) has focused much of his attention on what he calls a “tipping point” taking place in the mindset of many in the West – the U.S., particularly – when it comes to Islam and Muslims in general. It is Geraghty’s view that, between the continuing bloody insurgency in Iraq, the bizarre and inflammatory statements by Iran’s President towards Israel and the West, the youth riots in France, and the almost-daily acts of terror committed by suicide bombers against innocents in Iraq and elsewhere, that many in the West, including those once sympathetic to the plight of Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East, are increasingly losing the ability to see those who occupy that region and/or practice the religion of Islam as anything but violent non-conformists incapable of compromise and civil discourse, hell-bent on destroying western civilization both from without and within.

Today, Geraghty offers more evidence of this, quoting recent columns by the New York Daily News’ Richard Cohen…

The groupthink of the Muslim world is frightening. I know there are exceptions — many exceptions. But still it seems that a man could be killed for his religious beliefs and no one would say anything in protest. It is also frightening to confront how differently we in the West think about such matters and why the word “culture” is not always a mask for bigotry, but an honest statement of how things are.

…and the incorrigible and always entertaining and astute Mark Steyn:

In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of “suttee” — the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

One can only hope and pray that Arab leaders and Islamic clerics and their followers – both in the West and worldwide – will find the courage and the voice to take an active stance against radical Islam and the violent acts committed against humanity in the name of Allah. Otherwise, I’m afraid the voices and interests of that peaceful majority of Muslims worldwide will be drowned out by a violent and wicked minority seeking violent confrontation with Middle East democracies like Israel, modernity in general, and the West in particular: a conflict that can only lead to unprecedented human suffering and economic hardship worldwide.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 17:36 | Comments (0)
March 27, 2006

The home office is in shreds: papers tossed all over the place, files stacked everywhere, a year’s worth of receipts ever-so-carefully arranged in logical stacks between cold coffee cups and drained martini glasses, rabbits cowering in their hiding places, fearful that they, too, may be next in line for stacking, filing, or shredding. That’s right, it’s tax time, and everyone in the Richard household (rabbits included) are in a grumpy mood. Therefore, blogging could be spotty over the next several days as home computer time becomes a precious commodity indeed.

Ian at Expose The Left has the goods on NBC White House correspondent David Gregory, whose recent tirades and foolish shenanigans during White House press briefings has revealed himself to be nothing more than a shrill elitist Beltway crybaby when it comes to the President (his “Mr. Bush”) and his administration. Ian has circulated a petition calling for Gregory’s firing, and his buds in the mainstream media seem less than pleased about it.

So let me see if I’ve got this straight:

* A leading Senate Democrat wants to censure the President over the NSA surveillance program.
* The ACLU has filed suit to have the NSA reveal the specifics about its anti-terror surveillance program.
* Hundreds of thousands rally across the western U.S. to protest plans to reform our immigration policies and tighten our border security.

Then today, we hear Al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui testify that he and fellow wacko/convicted shoe-bomber Richard Reid were supposed to hijack a fifth airplane on Sept. 11, 2001, and fly it into the White House. I’m just wondering: when will this nation start taking seriously the forces of evil we find ourselves up against in this clash of ideologies and civilizations? How many innocent people will have to die before we realize you can’t defeat an enemy – one whose hatred for you runs so deep, they are willing to kill you and as many others as possible – with partisan bickering, tepid legislation, and legal shenanigans?

Well, this was bound to happen sooner or later: US forces in Iraq have started going after the thugs in radical Shiite cleric (are there any other kinds?) Moqtada al Sadr’s army. If you want to get the real story behind the story, you can do no better than The Belmont Club for great commentary and must-see links.

National Review Online’s Jonah Goldberg just returned from Vegas and has some less-than-complimentary things to say about Mandalay Bay:

The rooms were nice, the pools were mostly closed due to construction and the dealers were among the nastiest people I’ve ever encountered in a service industry like that. Yes, there were one or two exceptions. But all in all we were stunned by how surly and rude the dealers tended to be. There were 16 of us, and most of us had been to Vegas and to other casinos many, many times. And yet, to a man, we all kept having the same experience. The dealers at the Mandalay bay were, simply, rude. This isn’t sour grapes about losing money. I’ve done that plenty of places. And I’m not even really angry about it. But it was just, well, weird. Vegas is designed to make people feel good while they lose their money to the house. The dealers acted like they were doing you a favor just letting you sit at the table. And — even weirder — it was really, really hard to get a drink at the casino (except on Saturday night). It was so un-Vegas.

Hey Jonah, perhaps you’d like to join the Goodboys the next time you venture out to “Sin City”. While Red Square (and, perhaps, Aureole), are OK, I think you’d find the more upscale Mandalay Bay no match for our ever-so-slightly-less-so Mirage headquarters, with its friendly table dealers and bar staff. Then, win or lose, you can either lick your wounds or share the love with an after-action cocktail-slurping, people-watching stint at the Kokomo’s Bar. You’d be more than welcome, Jonah – as we GBs say, the more the merrier!

UPDATE: That was a couple of hours ago. To show you the power of the blogsphere, Jonah recently updated his original post with this:

Behold the power of the Corner. A senior executive of Mandalay Resort & Casino contacted me and we had a nice conversation. He apologized profusely and — I believe — sincerely. It was a nice and appreciated gesture.

Just goes to show that the savvy executives at Mandalay Bay know just how competitive things are out there, and how fast news can travel on the Internet. Smart move.

Kudos to LSU making the Final Four. Rob and his Crab Apple Lane blog faction will be pleased to know that every obnoxious local-yokel sports radio talk show host out here in Phoenix not only gave the Tigers no chance – and I mean NO CHANCE – to beat Texas, they weren’t just satisfied dissing the round-ballers, they were taking shots at LSU’s football prospects this fall as well. As Rob would say, “Geaux Tigers!!”

Finally, just sos you know I’m big enough to admit when I make a mistake, I’m officially and forever off the Sergio Garcia bandwagon. And yes, Sergio – I am questioning whether you have the heart of a champion. What Stephen Ames did yesterday – THAT’S how champions perform in high-profile tournaments and majors. Sure any player (well, perhaps not The Great White Shank) can win a Buick Open or Taco Bell Invitational, but when it comes to the main stage, all you ever do is play 2 or 3 great rounds, get close, then fall off the face of the earth on the final day. And it’s not just your putter – don’t go blaming that – it’s your lack of heart, pure and simple. You want to stop that 10,000 lb. monkey from sucking on the back of your sun-burned neck? Do what Phil Mickelson did, set some quality time aside for you and your game, and focus-focus-focus. Once you win one, the rest is easy. Until then, don’t come calling for The Great White Shank’s help and support.

Filed in: Golf & Sports,Goodboys,Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 18:21 | Comments (4)
March 24, 2006

…my favorite blog stops on a warm, dusty Friday afternoon…

The St. Paul city hall disses the Easter Bunny, big time. Both Powerline and Captains Quarters are locals, so, as you might expect, they’re the ones to go to for the local angle.

Instapundit is always one of my favorite pit stops. Today, both Glenn and Captains Quarters provide links and commentary on the West’s outrage at the recent sham election in Belarus. Jeez, where’s Jimmy Carter to pronounce the elections “legal” and “valid”?

The Anchoress links to a story about a much-awaited study researching the impact of prayer on healing. Her site is always an interesting read. Check it out!

Things are really coming apart in France, and Ankle Biting Pundits has its usual interesting take. Seems that not only did Premier Jacques Chirac walk out of the EU’s Brussels conference because a speaker had the nerve to speak in (gasp!) English, but he’s attending this typical do-nothing EU gab-fest while Muslim rioting in Paris has begun anew. What an idiot.

While on the subject of France, Little Green Footballs has this story on one of France’s most popular comedians – turns out he’s a frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Semite. And all this time I thought Jerry Lewis was their type of humor. Or perhaps not.

Mary Katherine Ham at Hugh Hewitt slams the NY Times on its latest irresponsible piece of “reporting”. Last week it was Abu Ghraib, this week it is Hurricane Katrina. The “grande dame” of mainstream print is certainly having its share of journalistic woes lately; amazing to me anyone takes that paper seriously anymore.

Jim Geraghty (National Review’s TKS) has the latest on Afghan clerics wanting to put to death some poor fellow just because he converted to Christianity, and the political implications for the US in its Global War on Terror. It ain’t pretty.

Surviving Grady is always good for a laugh or two as the Red Sox get ready to set sail on what I believe will be a VERY interesting season.

LSU upsets Duke. Ya think Rob’s excited down at Crab Apple Lane? I wonder if LSU and BC could meet for it all?

The Players Championship continues down at Ponte Vedra Beach. My guaranteed lock Sergio is still in the running. Meanwhile, The Golf Blog piles on with me and many others who believe making this tournament a 5th golf major is a ridiculous idea.

MDV Outlook says it better than I ever could about those ungrateful louts (a.k.a. “peace activists”) rescued by British and American troops in Iraq yesterday. Our brave men and women stuck their necks out to rescue these guys, and that’s the thanks they get?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 18:57 | Comments (2)
March 23, 2006

Isaac at Leaving It All Behind (Hat tip: All 2 Common) contemplates the challenges faced by both “conservative” and “progressive” Anglicans in trying to define themselves within the Christian marketplace of ideas and practices. Particularly striking, I think, was this observation:

At the end of the day, the conservative Anglican movement isn’t really orthodox, because the movement’s allegiance isn’t to the community of disciples of Christ. It’s to their own ideas of preserving their own idols of what it means to be ‘Anglican.’ Ironically, that’s precisely the same sin that will be the undoing of progressive Anglicans, too, and preserved is exactly what both parties will end up as. Preserved as museum pieces for people to come see how people worshipped in 1789, or 1898, or 1983.

I know what Isaac is getting at here, and my experiences at both “conservative” and “progressive” Anglican (read: Episcopal) churches seem to bear his point out: so much of our energies are focused on the internal: the philosophical and theological differences tearing the Anglican Communion apart, as opposed to the external: teaching and proclaiming the “good news” of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

With so much attention focused on what we are against – for Anglican “conservatives”, it typically means opposing the ordination of gays (and, in most cases, women both gay and straight), the de-emphasis on moral teachings, sin, and the need for personal redemption; for “progressives” it involves opposing oppression, injustice, and all the “isms” associated with the liberation theology of the 60s and 70s, emphasis on Scriptural authority, and the traditional moral teachings of the Bible; – we seem incapable of being able to articulate clearly and confidently what we are for. Is it traditional liturgical or ecclesiatical practices? Is it diversity and tolerance? If either, how does it relate to our baptismal covenant to proclaim the good news of Christ crucified and resurrected? How does what we do and stand for differ from, say, a secular social club or fraternal organization?

Because of this focus on the differences between us, all we end up accomplishing in the end is growth or decline resulting from one church or denomination “stealing” parishioners from another – the evangelical equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Neither “conservatives” and “progressives” seem capable of articulating to themselves or others what they truly believe, in other words, what makes them Anglican, or even Episcopalian. Without that ability to confidently share one’s core belief system with others, there is no way to attract young people or the “unchurched” to this slowly-dying branch of Christianity that has so much richness and depth in its historical traditions and beliefs to offer.

Colleen Carroll in her book The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, observes that what a church or denomination believes at its most fundamental core is what is attractive for so many young people today. She writes:

Amid the swirl of spiritual, religious, and moral choices that exist in American culture today, many young adults are opting fro the tried-and-true worldview of Christian orthodoxy.

These young adults understand the challenges that traditional morality and othodoxy pose. They sometimes emphathize with members of their religious traditions that want to “update” teachings to make them more relevant, and many of these young believers happily embrace worship styles that make Christianity more accessible to seekers. But they resist any compromise of the essential tenets of orthodoxy as capitulation to secular culture. These young orthodox believers defend Christianity’s timeless moral teachings and its scriptural and ecclesiatical authority with vigor because they believe that any other approach would endanger the integrity of the faith they hold so dear.

These young adults Carroll writes so eloquently about understand in the end that any church worthy of serious consideration has to believe in something that requires something in return from them. It might be, in the case of many non-denominational “megachurches”, a requirement to tithe. In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, like it or not, it is obedience to the Church’s traditional teachings. (Whether or not “the Church” or “a church” practices what it preaches is question for another time – suffice to say for now, it is hard to deny that the fastest-growing Christian churches in the U.S. are those who, more often than not, make demands or commitments on their members in one way or another.)

As Isaac points out, it’s just not good enough, as so many “conservative” Anglican churches practice, to “reform” liturgical practices and theology back to some earlier point in time. There might be a lot of depth there, but a broad outreach to those seeking a personal relationship with Christ it is not. It is also not good enough, as the Episcopal Church and so many other mainline Protestant denominations appear to do, to worship at the altar of diversity and tolerance (the United Methodist Church and its pathetic “Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors” slogan comes to mind), as if afraid to take a stand on any particular slate of beliefs lest anyone be (gasp!) offended. With such a broad sweep, it is nearly impossible to cultivate the depth of belief required to attract those seeking a deeper, more meaningful commitment to God by way of His Church.

Unless Anglicans both “conservative” and “progressive” begin to focus less on the doings in our earthly Church and start focusing on the eternal one, both threads in the Christian quilt of belief and practice are doomed to the dustbin of history. Simply put, there are more churches and denominations in the Christian marketplace unafraid to proclaim and share what they believe: that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” to eternal salvation. This doesn’t mean one has to treat those who harbor different beliefs or belief systems in a way that is cruel, uncaring, or condemning – but you do have to have an understanding and commitment to what you believe in so you can be a beacon of light to others seeking their own spiritual destination. And, you do have to have confidence that in the end, no matter what, God will figure a way to sort it all out.

Is that asking too much of Anglicans today?

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 18:15 | Comments (2)
March 22, 2006

Random sporting thoughts while wondering how The Funny Guy is coping having to face the excesses and temptations of “Sin City” without The Great White Shank as his trusty chaperone:

Hard not to like the Red Sox trade with the Reds. Bronson Arroyo, while a decent enough pitcher, was headed to the bullpen due to the plethora of starters the Red Sox have, and in Wily Mo Pena they get a young, power-hitting outfielder (something the Sox sorely lacked in their farm system). With role models like David Ortiz, Trot Nixon, and Jason Varitek to show him the right way to play the game, Pena will have every opportunity to mature and be as good as he wants to be – and you know he’s going to be a Fenway favorite.

Speaking of the Red Sox, it’s hard not to give their front office very high marks for their off-season moves. Since last October, they have:

* Retained Theo Epstein as their GM (even though it took a whole lotta wackiness to do so);
* Gotten younger at center field by replacing Johnny Damon (sorry, ladies) with the younger and healthier Coco Crisp;
* Traded for Josh Beckett, who, as long as he stays healthy, can be expected to head the top of the starting rotation long after Curt Schilling retires;
* Replaced at shortstop that sieve Edgar “Rent-A-Wreck” with Alex Gonzalez, who has done nothing but turn heads this spring as a one-man human highlight film;
* Got younger at first base by swapping Kevins, replacing “Cowboy Up” Millar with the younger Youkilis, who can only be expected to get better with more regular at bats;
* Replaced a uninspiring pu-pu-platter of second basemen with the steady veteran Mark Loretta.

Just as with every other team in baseball, the Red Sox will only go as far as their health takes them. However, by gettting younger (as the Yankees continue to get older), I think they improve their chances greatly in that regard. At the very least, they will be an interesting team to watch this year. (Now if I can only figure out how to get them on Direct TV out here in Indian country.)

(BTW, I think a lot of people are already looking past 2006 to 2007 when, the baseball gods willing, the Red Sox will only get younger and more exciting. Not only will the top of their rotation feature a hard-throwing, 1-2 punch of Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon, they’ll also have exciting young players like Wily Mo, Dustin Pedroia, and Adam Stern in the starting lineup, and Manny Delcarmen, Chris Hansen, and Jon Lester on their pitching staff. The future is looking rosy indeed for the Sawx.)

I’m sure the Krafts and Bill “In Bill We Trust” Belichick know what they’re doing, but the New England Patriots allowing veterans like David Givens, Willie McGinest, and Adam Vinitieri has left most of us fans scratching their heads in wonder. While it certainly might get them younger as a team, it certainly won’t make them better. Even the most optimistic Pats fan recognizes the team has now come back to, if not the whole AFC East pack, at the very least the Miami Dolphins.

The Players Championship is this weekend, and I have no doubt – this one’s a lock, folks – that Sergio Garcia wins it, giving him the confidence to go out and capture his first major somewhere down the line this year.

And, speaking of The Players Championship, enough already with this annual ridiculous “fifth major” argument…

…It’s almost as stupid as Michelle Wie being ranked 2nd in the ladies’ world rankings when she hasn’t won a damned thing yet.

The AP’s Doug Ferguson adds his own two cents’ worth in agreement:

If former Justice Potter Stewart were asked to join this debate, he probably would have said something like, “I shall not today attempt to define a major, but I know it when I see it.”

What keeps The Players Championship from being a major is the very organization that longs for it to be one.

The majors are run by four groups — Augusta National, the USGA, the Royal & Ancient and the PGA of America. Each run one tournament a year with a full field of golf’s best players. The Players Championship, on the other hand, is among 41 events run by the PGA Tour. Ultimately, it’s a PGA Tour event in a prom dress.

The PGA already has its major event in August; creating yet another one will only reinforce the suspicion that the PGA Tour is, in the end, only about TV exposure, money – lots of it – and promoting itself. At the very least, it makes absolutely no sense. Four majors should, for anyone’s tastes, be sufficient. As Ferguson writes, “Jeff Sluman” is responsible for the defining statement on the status of The Players Championship as a major when he said three years ago, “When you go Denny’s and order the Grand Slam breakfast, they don’t give you five things, do they? They give you four.”

As Glenn Reynolds is wont to say: Indeed.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a “regular” PGA tour event played on one of the most outstanding tracts in the world and attracting a large, well-known, international field of players. The Tour needs high-profile non-major events like The Players Championship and the Verizon (formerly MCI) Heritage at Harbour Town to keep the non-major stops from dissolving into a bland, mind-numbing procession of events played under a host of well-meaning but nondescript automobile and technology/pharmaceutical sponsors. Aren’t there six Buick Opens already?

Well, enough for today. Before I go, kudos to Becky, bartender extraordinaire at the Peppermill’s Fireside Lounge, and the incredibly lovely Angel, our waitress at Gilley’s at the New Frontier and TFG’s and my choice for “Cutest Girl In All Of Las Vegas” (no, that’s not her on the mechanical bull!). Between the two of them, TFG and I were treated to a Vegas Monday night full of fun and a lot of yucks. Thanks, ladies!

Finally, as the long-departed but beloved Vin “Biff Bulkie” Maloney used to say on Eddie Andelman’s old “Sports Huddle” show back in Beantown, “If you can’t be a good sport, at least wear a good sportscoat”.

Filed in: Golf & Sports,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 23:27 | Comment (1)
March 20, 2006

Met The Funny Guy last night and did a mini “tour de Strip”, this time on the north end. I’m at Circus Circus, he’s at the Stardust. Last night, we discovered a true Goodboys-style bar JUST BEGGING to be discovered by the whole crew next year – it’s the Fireside Lounge at the Peppermill. Called the #1 make-out bar in Las Vegas, its neon blues, purples, and soft pinks, its couches surrounding mini-pools with mini-fires (!) for the necessary ambiance, and every foo-foo drink you can imagine, it took TFG less than a minute to pronounce it perfect for a future GB muster station. And, Killer will enjoy the classy waitresses in long black cocktail dresses (with matching pumps, I’m sure!).

Whenever I visit here I never cease to be amazed at how time seems to stand still and how it changes the way work (for those so inclined) and play time is measured out. What Elvis sang long ago in “Viva Las Vegas” held true then and remains even more so today:

Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that’s ready to burn,
So get those stakes up higher
There’s a thousand pretty women waitin’ out there
And they’re all livin’ devil may care
And I’m just the devil with love to spare
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas

How I wish that there were more
Than the twenty-four hours in the day
‘Cause even if there were forty more
I wouldn’t sleep a minute away
Oh, there’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel
A fortune won and lost on ev’ry deal
All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas

Allow me to provide my own partcular example:
Normal day: Up at 6:45, at work by 9, back home by 7, in bed around 11:30.

Vegas day: Trudge into hotel 3-3:30 AM, up at 6, work till 7, sleep a couple of hours, work a couple of hours, repeat process until it gets dark, then start all over again.

You certainly couldn’t live your whole life that way, but for a few days here and there, well, that’s why I love this town! Here, both time and money – two of the commodities most cherished in the so-called “real world” – are reduced to virtual inconsequence, not because their absent, but because this town goes through both of them so fast. And no one, rich or poor, is immune from it in some way.

Filed in: Goodboys,Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 18:34 | Comment (1)
March 19, 2006

The sad truth is, not everyone out in the blogsphere has your best interests at heart. The hazards of life as a blogger when people don’t necessarily agree with your work was experienced first-hand by Betsy Newmark (of Betsy’s Page) and Viking Pundit, among others earlier this week. Turns out between Blogger (a widely-used weblog hosting provider much like Goodboys Nation weblog’s Blogs About Hosting, but A LOT bigger) and Google, their blogs were somehow mysteriously wiped out (in Betsy’s case, her site hijacked and resurrected by some perpetrator named “Sam”) and unavailable for a couple of days.

Fortunately, bloggers like Michelle Malkin (whose own site has been subject to numerous hacking attempts in recent weeks by those unhappy with her willingness to publish the controversial Danish/Islam cartoons), and Polipundit’s Laurie Byrd helped get the word about about their woes. Now that everything and everyone is back, happy, and blogging again, Betsy recounts her tale of woe and the long, strange trip back from blog wilderness. Welcome back, Betsy – glad to have you back.

(BTW, this is a good time to say “thank you” once again to Blogs About Hosting, the host provider for the Goodboys Nation weblog. The services they provide, which include not just weblog hosting but website development as well, have come exactly as advertised. If any of you out there have thought about doing some blogging on your own, The Great White Shank would enthusiastically recommend you consider their services.)

Today I’m off to Vegas for a summit meeting with fellow Goodboy The Funny Guy. It won’t be exactly Reagan and Gorbachev in Iceland, but it will provide me an opportunity to get straight from “the horses mouth” the “whazzup” re: this year’s Goodboys Invitational golf tournament. Can a cocktail or two at the Mirage’s Kokomo Bar be out of the question? I sure hope not. Blog ya then…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 12:06 | Comment (1)

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