Category Archives: Reviews

Hugh Hewitt on Short Circuit


Hugh Hewitt on Hillary Clinton saying that she short circuited

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Bobby Jindal on Radical Islam


Bobby Jindal on Radical Islam

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Some Scuttlebutt on the Sony Hack Cyberwar Capitulation


Former Speaker of the House  Newt Gingrich opined that America lost its first cyberwar associated by the Sony Hack, which demanded that the feature film “The Interview” be withdrawn from distribution.

 

So America’s freedom of speech is subject to the whims of a tinpot dictator (albeit with a few nuclear bombs) from the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea.
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There may be black operations by the US which should not become public, as well as behind the scenes diplomatic de marches with DRK allies in Beijing.  But the best public responses that I have heard so far involve Hollywood using the Oscars ceremony on Washington’s Birthday to use “The Interview” actors James FRANCO, Seth Rogen and Randall Park to come out in character and joke around.  While at the same time, the Pentagon sponsors a joint training operation with the South Korean, Japanese and American military forces in the Sea of Japan.
But considering the cravenness recently displayed by Hollywood, it is more likely that the Oscars would be hosted by the actual Kim Jong Un with a special appearance by Sony Picture’s Racial Inclusion Czar, the Reverend Al Sharpton.

A Bit of a Book Review for “Finding Mr. Righteous” by Lisa De Pasquale






Lisa De Pasquale’s first published book is  Finding Mr. Righteous   (Post Hill Press (2014),  241 pages) which chronicles her dozen years of dating in the DC area.  De Pasquale worked in conservative circles, but the book mostly eschews politics. De Pasquale’s friend and mentor Ann Coulter blurbed about Finding Mr. Righteous as “A true Christian story, disguised as racy Chick Lit.  Her  prologue proclaims: “ This book is about the men I’ve met in a quest to know Him.”  While Chick Lit is not in my usual reading wheelhouse,  I was intrigued to learn of a faith quest which was augmented by being involved with: an atheist; a Catholic; an Evangelical;, a Quaker;  a prominent Protestant preacher; a Jew; an Asiatic Indian; as well as a non-denominational Believer.  



De Pasquale should be credited for her candor in writing about uncomfortable personal attributes. 



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 The book has the quality of being like Bridget Jones Diary Does the District of Calamity, with the caveat that the author is decidedly based in Northern Virginia and not directly in DC.



For most of the book, De Pasquale’s writing style takes a breezy, conversational tone, including her recounted email epistolary exchanges.  But she also displays a trait of  including too many insignificant details without delving deeper, which  blunts the story of  her spiritual journey.



De Pascquale was baptizes as a Catholic but had never attended Mass until her Catholic boyfriend took her to one on the Catholic University campus.   She was rebaptized at the age of ten at a Florida Southern Baptist church even though she did not feel the call.   But De Pasquale thought of herself as a Christian-In-Name-Only (CINO). Thus she was not troubled to be  being romantically involved with an atheist. The author opined that she did not feel like she was a member of the (Christian) club.



It is a pity that for most of her ecumenical amorous encounters De Pasquale seems deeply superficial.  When she went to Mass with her Catholic squeeze, she commented that she felt awkward since she did neither instinctively know when to stand nor did did she know the ritual prayers by rote memory.  Thus the author admits to not knowing what was going on. But she did not really seem to demand a Catechesis. When her Catholic boyfriend would offhandedly mention that he was going to bible study at a bar (presumably Theology on Tap), she was confused but  never pursued it further.  When questioned about his faith, the Catholic said: “I’m Catholic.  This is what I believe, and you’re welcomed to come if you’re into it.”  Apparently, that open invitation was not evangelical enough.



De Pasquale pursued an older interest who was labeled “The Evangelical”.  That hardly seems like an apt description of someone attending  The Falls Church (Anglican).  They are more evangelical than Anglo-Catholic, but their worship is sacramental in nature which would be at odd with a Pentacostals Christians who are often associated with Evangelicals.  Apparently offering a prayer of joy to a stressed acquaintance, a well loved booklet, a study bible and encouraging her twice attend church was insufficient evangelization, especially for the author who does not intimate ever really reading the material.


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The denouement of Finding Mr. Righteous, De Pasquale’s conscience was touched by the example of an upright Christian, and she realized that she her willing participation in affairs made her no better than the religious hypocrites with whom she was involved, yet she lets the divorced Preacher who used her for phone sex off pretty lightly. 



The style of the book shifted at the end which ceded the focus to Mr. Righteous’ recounting of the story about Bathsheba, which was told in detailed prose, punctuated by a contemporary explicative.  For the author, this non-pretentious, non-judgmental sharing was the sort of sharing which spoke to her soul. 



After reading this self proclaimed Chick Lit, I am happy that the author has found her path on the journey home, it did not strike me as an instructive book for others to do so. Several times, the author opined that  Christianity was a club.  As someone with a sacramental spirituality, I understand Baptism as both a ritual to join a family of redeemed sinners (i.e. Christians) and as a rebirth to new life from our Savior’s expiation of the wages of sin.  Knowing that a Heavenly Father loves us so much that he would send his only begotten Son to die for us to remain in relation with Him could greatly increase the self-esteem of a believer.   Moreover, Christians usually put this faith into practice via a community and reach out to the world. How this has translated  in the author’s experience is unclear. 



Read Finding Mr. Righteous if you want to enjoy a page turner piece of Chick Lit.  Alas, the book is unlikely to  satisfy an enthusiast of the New Evangelization, a conservative political junkie  or someone seeking insight on deepening one’s Christian faith.

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A Brief Book Review: The End of Days by James Swanson


The End of Days : The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James Swanson (Harper Collins, 2013 398 pages) is a readily readable account of the four days in November 1963. The author’s title was intended to be a metaphor which marked the end of days for JFK as well as naivite for the nation.

Swanson is a skilled writer who was able to condense 80 pages of source notes into a page turning murder mystery story without the mystery.  Swanson firmly believes  that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, and Swanson’s story gives no credence to the proliferation of conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination which have been circulating over the last fifty years.

Swanson gives 60 pages of background switching between the 35th President and his assassin in a parallel lives narrative style before their lives start to intersect in Texas.

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One of the virtues of the End of Days was giving insight into Lee Harvey Oswald’s mindset by way of recounting Oswald’s appearances on New Orleans radio programs during the summer of 1963 supporting the Fair Play for Cuba cause.

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Swanson’s short history of the Kennedy Administration does not whitewash the young Democrat President’s philandering foibles but it does not focus on it.  Kennedy is portrayed as a fervent anti-Communist who was positioning himself for his run for re-election on a pro-growth, tax cutting theme.  These traits are often ignored in other retellings of the American “Camelot”.

The End of Days also adroitly points out the imaging campaign which the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy used to immortalize her assassinated husband’s Administration as Camelot

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The detailed account of the run up to the dastardly deed, the manhunt and the interrogation of the perpetrator was masterful.  Since the Oswald murder by Jack Ruby and the state funeral were televised live and became iconic images imprinted on the American psyche, Swanson alludes to a couple of these scenes.  Unfortunately, The End of Days did not seem to have reproduction rights for the photo of Lee Harvey Oswald just before he was shot or little John John’s salute of the casket.

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Although The End of Days read like a Murder Mystery in which the reader knows what will happen, there were a couple of instances when the foreboding background voice of the fate that awaits seemed overwrought. The ending of the book seemed rushed in trying to tie up the loose ends about concerns about Robert Kennedy becoming President Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President and Jackie O’s estrangement from American popular focus.

While I enjoyed reading “The End of Days”, his media appearances had me expecting a little more.

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The End of Days would neither satisfy a Sixth Floor Museum devotee nor a convicted conspiracy type, but Swanson was not writing for that audience.  If someone wants to read a true life potboiler chock full of facts about the JFK assassination, they should consider reading James Swanson’s “The End of Days.”

SEE MORE at DCBarroco.com 

Some Surveying of the Surfeit of Cheap Tablets



As Black Friday and Cyber Monday approaches, many merchants are highlighting inexpensive tablet computers as doorbusters or loss leaders to gin up overall Christmas holiday sales.  But before making impulse electronics purchases, it is wise to consider how you would use a tablet in mobile computing.  

It used to be that tablets were the ideal media consumption device. Tablets with 7″ to 10″ screens allow an individual to have an almost immersive view of videos.  Applications (a.k.a. apps) generally provided shortcuts which facilitated internet interactions.  Some tablets like the Nook and the Kindle were more e-ink reading devices which could have proto-tablet functions (checking e-mail, Wikipedia, and text based websites).  But Amazon’s Kindle Fire sought to be a loss leader which was a shopping portal doubling as an entertainment device.  Samsung’s strong showing with its Galaxy Tablets as well as the “phablet” Note series sought to tie tablets to cellular carriers.
 
Discern what are your mobile computing needs.  If you want a communications device with a larger screen (and you don’t mind carrying a 5.5″ device in a pocket or a purse), then a “phablet” like the Samsung Note may be the best choice for you.  Many retailers will be offering enticing prices for such hybrid phone/tablets, but be prepared to be locked into a cellular carrier for a year or two.  If you want to keep having the latest and greatest devices, look into the early upgrade programs from major cellular carriers. Tablets sales used to be driven by Apple’s i-Pad, which came out in 2010.  The i-Pad still wins 29.6% of the tablet market while asking for a premium price that is rarely discounted.  While this writer is not purposely not part of the Apple cult, if one feels compelled to buy an Apple for its reputation of ease of use, enticing design or to keep up with the Jones’, then buy an i-Pad and sleep in on Black Friday.


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There will be plenty of Black Friday sales on Android tablets.   If Android tablets have an appeal, determine which version of OS the hardware has, as earlier versions of Android  (prior to 4.0“Jelly Bean”) are not optimized to tablet proportions. Also be aware of how much storage is on the tablet.  A $40 tablet that only boasts 4GB will barely hold one movie.  That might be good enough for kinderspiel but would quickly be condemned to the land of misfit toys for most other tablet users. 

This holiday shopping season it may be easy to acquire a tablet but take the time to choose the right tablet for you. Consumers who are content to pay premium prices for an entertainment consumption device which is touted to work out of the box should opt for an i-Pad. Busy businessmen may want the Microsoft Surface to be able to do Office work while surfing the web on their tablets.  Those who want an all in one mobile communications device should consider a “phablet” like the Samsung Galaxy Note.  Avid readers who want the functionality of a tablet should lean towards the Amazon Kindle Fire.  And there are a variety of inexpensive Android tablets which may motivate impulse shoppers.



SEE MORE at DCBarroco.com 


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Excerpts of Book Review: The War on Football by Daniel J. Flynn








Daniel J. Flynn

So many of those who write about sports come from a liberal persuasion.  So it was refreshing to read Daniel J. Flynn’s book “The War on Football: Saving America’s Game” (Regnery Publishing, 2013 216 pages) as he iconoclastically uses science, history and social relations to defend a beleaguered sport.  Perhaps Flynn’s tenure as the former Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia inspired the author to include over 50 pages of footnotes to score his points, lest anyone doubt him. Flynn surveys the sport on the Pop Warner level, collegiate football programs even womens’ football leagues as well as the pros to try to discern the truth about football.



The battle against football is not simply for safety but it mirrors a “wussification” of society as well as reflecting the lessons which we want to teach our children. So instead of giving football a proverbial pat on the back for instilling discipline, teamwork and the virtues of hard work, football is given a kick below the belt by pointing to questionable science to win their game.

There is no doubt that football is a physically demanding sport, which requires conditioning and practice.  However, the mainstream media weltanschauung is colored by a perception that football is an American version of a gladiator sport.  While there were periods in history, such as 1905 and 1968, where many mortal injuries on the playing field occurred, Flynn contends that rule changes and better equipment mitigate those serious casualties.  So today anti-football fanatics concentrate on concussions. 


 Flynn’s “The War on Football” book debunks these simple conclusions as they are not bourne out by the facts.    Cheerleaders are more at risk for concussions than football players, but which athlete embodies the fearsome warrior traits so disfavored by Cocktail Party elites?  



Scientists can not find a causal effect between football and CTE.  However hucksters selling safety are able to profit hawking equipment with dubious extra protection. 



The pro-football settlement regarding concussions may have a ripple effect which could well diminish the lower levels of the sport.  Some anti-football crusaders want to ban the sport to minors.  This nanny state protection for the children, which would effectively kill football as the physicality of the sport make football a young person’s sport.  In addition, the skills required for teamwork, precision and strategy takes time to develop to attain the athletic achievements that American football fans admire.  




Flynn’s iconoclastic arguments against the junk science concerning concussions and football were compelling and often ignored by a sensationalist, liberal leaning mainstream media. 

The tone of the book was fair but decidedly not objective.  I appreciated the cynical asides peppered throughout the book questioning junk science or the tongue in cheek critique on litigators: “They don’t teach physics in law school.”    Flynn had so won me over that I was rooting for a blowout at the end instead of the more restrained conclusion that: “Football is good for you.  Play. Watch. Cheer.”


SEE MORE at DCBarroco.com 

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Excerpts of Book Review: 40 Days for Life by David Bereit and Shawn Carney


 

 
 
40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done…Imagine What You Can Do (Capella Books 2013, 269 pages)
is a book which chronicles the trials and tribulations for the 40 Days for Life  campaign as prayer vigil against
abortion from its genesis around a wooden table in College Station Texas in 2004 to its spread world-wide.  The book
is co-authored by David Bereit, a pharmaceutical rep who left comfortable career to follow the call of the Holy Spirit to do His will in uncertain circumstances.  The other narrative voice is Shawn Carney, a young Texan who inherits the College Station leadership after Bereit answered the call to work for other Pro-Life organizations in Washington,
DC. Carney became the Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life, while  Bereit later returned  to lead the
National 40 Days for Life campaign.
 
[L] David Bereit [R] Shawn Carney of 40 Days for Life 
 
The 40 Days  for Life idea was modeled after several key scriptural moments, like the flood which necessitated Noah’s Ark and Jesus’ Prayers in the Desert before beginning His Earthly public ministry.  Similarly, the book followed a structured course. Each chapter is one of forty vignettes, followed by concurrent scriptural  passage concluded with a prayer.  Presumably, this book was intended to be read over forty days.  Perhaps it had a different impact in short, reflective increments rather than reading the contents in several sittings.
 
The power of the faith of Bereit, Carney and of many prayer warriors who participated in the 40 Days for Life is palpable. The book does not sugar coat the hardship and anxiety of starting up the campaign.  But their testimony shows how the Lord provides.  40 Days for Life also recounts some of the acerbic resistence which Pro-Lifer’s were met with in witnessing the call of their conscience by publicly praying against abortion.
 
Several of the stories are quite striking and seemed pulled from current headlines.  
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The details of the unhygenic conditions, the crusted blood on the linoleum floor and rusted abortion instruments at 72 Ransom Street called to mind the horrific details from the recent trial and conviction of late term abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. The appalling conditions are not isolated incidents in abortion mills, but pro abortion advocates get apoplectic if anything id deemed to impede the so called “right to choose” or more clinically “womens’ reproductive health”.
 
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The years of globe-trotting by Bereit and Carney to prayerfully support unborn children allowed for some serendipitious experiences. Shawn seemed to have quite a knack for unexpectedly rubbing elbows with his opponents. 
 
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The book was mostly conversational in tone, reading almost like an oral history that was culled  by their collaborative writer Cindy Lambert.  However, a couple of entries  started with ambitious introductions but the transitions to their stories seemed forced and rough.
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40 Days for Life would be a welcomed bedside daily devotional for prayer warriors committed to the Pro-Life cause.  It gives great examples of the power of prayer to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to defend life.  The book gives many perspectives on how abortion affects the unborn child, the often grieving abortive mother, the father, the extended family and the community.  If only people spouting pro-choice propaganda would choose to  the time to read 40 Days for Life, one wonders how many hearts of stone would turn to flesh.

SEE MORE at DCBarroco.com


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A Bit on Why People Don’t Answer the Call to Cell Phone Savings




One of the costly monthly expenses for most households in America is their cellular phone bill.  The CTIA Wireless Association estimates that average cell phone bill was $47 in 2012 but many individuals pay double that amount.  The CTIA figures do not factor in the costs of handsets or choices for “reasonable” plans



Smart phone consumers comprise 46% of the market (including 66% of youths aged 21-30).    The CTIA figures do not factor in the costs of handsets or choices for “reasonable” plans.  So there may be a low cost plan, but if one is required to carry a data package, monthly costs precipitously increase.



Another reality is that the most of the major American cellular carriers push subsidized phones with strict two year agreements.  Few cellular consumers consider the overall costs incurred with such a subsidized cell phone contract. 


Tero Kuittinen, an independent market analyst from Alekstra, notes: “That psychology has worked for hundreds of years, and it’s still working.”   Another factor to consider is the attachment that many people feel toward their cellular purchases. [***]  It seems akin to the mentality which drives new car purchases that customers will overspend to get that “new car smell” for a durable that loses 20% immediately after purchase. 



T-Mobile took the lead among cell providers in weaning prospective customers from the subsidized cell phone model with their Simple Choice plan.  But an  alternate model which T-Mobile innovated but had more success in competitors emulating is the “Next, Edge, Jump” and “OneUp”.  



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Yet, cell phone services are not fungible.  Aside from the handset cost, choice of carriers are impacted by coverage.  An inexpensive plan is worthless if one does not get range in one’s preferred calling area.  Verizon Wireless has the best coverage but people pay a premium for the extensive coverage.  But most customers may not need such extensive range.



Cost conscious consumers should know that they can cut their cellular costs in half (or more), by using Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), pre-paid cell plans and fremium cell providers like FreedomPop. But the reality is that according to Ovum, only 23% of cellular customer have opted for such frugal mobile phone service. 



 As MNVOs and the ilk do not have the deep pockets for advertising, they have a dubious reputation.  



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Usually, second tier cellular carriers offer less current handsets.  Even though these cell phones may only have been on the market for six months, finicky consumers turn their noses at these out of data handsets. 



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In another phase of its Un-carrier campaign, T-Mobile tried to  wreck the international roaming racket. T-Mobile stopped charging more for international text for Simple Choice customers when sending to 100+ countries.  Calls to Simple Global countries aside from the US are at $0.20 a minute.  Most importantly, there is no outrageous international data roaming charges at standard speeds.   However  there are some caveats to this International Roaming largesse.



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As America enters harder economic times, more consumers may try to beat the high cost of living by answering the call to cheaper cellular services.



SEE MORE at DCBarroco.com 

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Some of a Book Review for 10 Answers for Atheists by Alex McFarland









Alex McFarland, an Evangelical Protestant professor of Christian Apologetics at North Greenville University (South Carolina), has authored 10 Answers for Atheists (Regal, 2012) as an outreach tool to spread the Good News to atheists and agnostics.

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Alex McFarland

The tone of McFarland’s prose was conversational with some sprinklings of erudition which reflects the author’s academic auspices.  For example, when McFarland described the scientific atheist, he alluded to “directed panspermia” as an out of this world explanation of our origins.  Moreover,  Jim Morrison of The Doors was alleged to be an “Antinomian Atheist”.  

These pop references do not always work.  To illustrate a “Biblical Scholar Atheist”, McFarland posits Penn Jillette as he rejects scripture as “B.S.”.  This Bible Scholar Atheist label on Jillette seems like a bad trick for one who does not ascribe to Judeo-Christian scripture.  

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McFarland categorized atheists into ten subgroups.  There seemed to be overlap between some of the groups, like the Angry Atheist and the Injured Atheist.  The University of Tennessee study which was Assessing Atheist Archtypes with six categories seemed more on the mark.  However, McFarland may have included other categories to finesse the apologetic approach. 



McFarland offered a clear yet concise historical survey of disbelief which provides an underlying basis for agnosticism and atheism from Antiquity and the Enlightenment to present day.  

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McFarland poses the ten questions by atheists:

•Are faith and reason really compatable?

•Isn’t belief in God delusional?

•The dysteleological surd – If God is so good, why is there evil in the world?

•Why join a flawed faith like Christianity which has harmed the world?

•Isn’t Christianity just mythological?

•Why believe in Zombies (a messiah resurrected from the dead)?

•Can’t science explain everything?

•Why believe hypocritical Christians?

•Couldn’t Jesus just be a space alien?



His answers plant the seeds for useful apologetics as well as the thirty common objections included in the index.



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Aside from the Angry Atheist and the Resident Contrarian Atheist, McFarland’s 10 Answers for Atheists could serve as a useful field manual for believers beginning dialogue with non-believers.  It does not seem geared at convincing atheists through a casual perusal.  The casual Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris dismissals would be insufficient for true non-believers.  Moreover, an agnostic or atheist reader would need to drudge through comparative religion and justifying bible based Christianity sections before getting to the crux of the answers for atheists.

SEE MORE at DCBarroco.com