Tuesday, March 31, 2009
In a country with at least 20,000 Humvees and a war-weary population, who would think there would be a market for the civilian version?
Mr. Hilli did. “I just knew there’d be a huge demand for this in Baghdad,” he said. Now Mr. Hilli and his brother Dhafir run a car dealership specializing in Hummers. It is called, in English, “Al Sultan for Trading Cars.”
An American diplomat declared that it was the biggest Hummer dealership outside of the United States, a fact that seemed too good to check. Unfortunately, Mr. Hilli has checked. “It’s the biggest one in Baghdad, though, that’s for sure,” he said.
Never mind that General Motors, Hummer’s struggling parent company, may scrap the brand or sell it to someone else.
“Iraqis love them because they’re really a symbol of power,” said Mr. Hilli, a chubby 37-year-old who could not stop chuckling. Nonetheless, he spoke with authority, since he was his own first customer.
Hummers in Baghdad are symbols of much more besides: increasing security, returning normality and a yearning for the trappings of sovereignty. Mr. Hilli allowed that there was something else, too, a little more indefinable, which in Arabic is “hasad thukuri,” and which in English will be translated later.
The Hilli brothers first got their coals-to-Newcastle brainstorm a couple of years ago, during the height of the sectarian violence. “Even if we imported these back then, no one would have dared to drive around in them,” Ali al-Hilli said.
Insurgents were taking aim at anything that looked foreign, let alone an analogue of an American military vehicle.
Then the war started quieting down and, about a year ago, they found an online auction for repossessed nearly new cars in the United States. They put in the winning bid on a Humvee H3, which they air-freighted in through Dubai, followed by a second one. “Everyone thought we were crazy,” Mr. Hilli said. “Or they thought we were Iraqi government officials,” who can most easily afford such cars.
At first the Hummers sat on the lot and attracted little interest. “We took such a risk, it’s such an expensive car, and all our money was in it,” said Dhafir al-Hilli, 38. So the brothers got in the cars and began driving around their Kadhimiya neighborhood, a largely Shiite area that had so often been a target of terrorists that it was walled off and relatively safe.
“It helped that in Kadhimiya we didn’t have such a bad opinion of the Americans,” Ali al-Hilli said. “People often asked the soldiers to stop their Humvees so they could get their pictures in front of them.”
Idling through the city’s relentless traffic jams, the Hummers were their own advertising campaign. “We couldn’t go a block without people stopping us to ask, ‘What is it?’ ” Mr. Hilli said. “We looked like astronauts from outer space.”
Soon conditions improved enough to drive all over the city. Hummer H3s began rumbling off the lot, at 50 to 60 grand apiece, in dollars and all the money down, fully loaded. (No one wanted them any other way.)
Canary yellow and fire engine red proved the favorite colors.
“No one complains that they remind them of the American military,” Mr. Hilli said. “It’s much more trouble driving around in a Samand.” Made in Iran, the car is the surrogate object of many Iraqis’ scorn for Iran itself.
The Hillis said they had sold more than 20 H3s, about one every 10 days, even in the midst of plummeting oil prices and economic turmoil. Their biggest customers tend to be government officials. That is not necessarily a sign of corruption, since the new government has voted itself enormous pay raises.
Iraqis are paying historically high prices for gasoline. At $1.40 a gallon, that would not break any American hearts, but not long ago it was 19 cents. The increase had no effect on sales of these notorious gas-guzzlers, though. “If you can afford this car, you don’t care how much gasoline costs,” Mr. Hilli said.
Iraqis love their cars. “In Iraq, people judge you by your car, and you’re not a man without one,” he said. When it comes to Hummers, he added, they will nearly always be bigger than anyone else’s vehicle. That is where “hasad thukuri” comes in; roughly translated, it means “penis envy.”
In prewar years, red-blooded Iraqis lusted after the Mercedes, especially the costly Ghost sedan, which only the best-heeled Baathists could afford. During the early war years, it was the nimble little BMW 3 Series, until that car got a bad rap as the insurgents’ favorite getaway car. (At one time, black BMWs were actually banned from the roads.) “Now Iraqis are obsessed with the Hummer,” Dhafir al-Hilli said.It beats being obsessed with, say, car bombs. Who knows, the Hillis may yet see the day when there are even more Hummers on the streets than Humvees. - New York Times.
I was reading the New York Times and I thought this article was very interesting. Sense we live in a world that tells us that SUV's are unpopular and that everyone wants and needs a earth friendly car.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
If you really want to follow the development of conservative Christianity, track its musical hits. In the early 1900s you might have heard "The Old Rugged Cross," a celebration of the atonement. By the 1980s you could have shared the Jesus-is-my-buddy intimacy of "Shine, Jesus, Shine." And today, more and more top songs feature a God who is very big, while we are...well, hark the David Crowder Band: "I am full of earth/ You are heaven's worth/ I am stained with dirt/ Prone to depravity."
Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin's 16th century reply to medieval Catholicism's buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses is Evangelicalism's latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination's logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time's dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision.
Calvinism, cousin to the Reformation's other pillar, Lutheranism, is a bit less dour than its critics claim: it offers a rock-steady deity who orchestrates absolutely everything, including illness (or home foreclosure!), by a logic we may not understand but don't have to second-guess. Our satisfaction — and our purpose — is fulfilled simply by "glorifying" him. In the 1700s, Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards invested Calvinism with a rapturous near mysticism. Yet it was soon overtaken in the U.S. by movements like Methodism that were more impressed with human will. Calvinist-descended liberal bodies like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) discovered other emphases, while Evangelicalism's loss of appetite for rigid doctrine — and the triumph of that friendly, fuzzy Jesus — seemed to relegate hard-core Reformed preaching (Reformed operates as a loose synonym for Calvinist) to a few crotchety Southern churches.
No more. Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don't operate quite on a Rick Warren scale. But, notes Ted Olsen, a managing editor at Christianity Today, "everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world" — with the pioneering new-Calvinist John Piper of Minneapolis, Seattle's pugnacious Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the huge Southern Baptist Convention. The Calvinist-flavored ESV Study Bible sold out its first printing, and Reformed blogs like Between Two Worlds are among cyber-Christendom's hottest links.
Like the Calvinists, more moderate Evangelicals are exploring cures for the movement's doctrinal drift, but can't offer the same blanket assurance. "A lot of young people grew up in a culture of brokenness, divorce, drugs or sexual temptation," says Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists. "They have plenty of friends: what they need is a God." Mohler says, "The moment someone begins to define God's [being or actions] biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist." Of course, that presumption of inevitability has drawn accusations of arrogance and divisiveness since Calvin's time. Indeed, some of today's enthusiasts imply that non-Calvinists may actually not be Christians. Skirmishes among the Southern Baptists (who have a competing non-Calvinist camp) and online "flame wars" bode badly.
Calvin's 500th birthday will be this July. It will be interesting to see whether Calvin's latest legacy will be classic Protestant backbiting or whether, during these hard times, more Christians searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely demanding God of their country's infancy.- TIME
He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of women, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because your are sons, God has sent the Spirit of the Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Red Sox lock up Lester for five years
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The stories of Jon Lester's perseverance have long since become the stuff of baseball legend, making this latest piece of news seem relatively mundane. But for Lester and the Red Sox, it is critical.
The Sox officially announced on Sunday that they have agreed on a five-year contract with Lester worth a reported $30 million and including a $14 million team option for 2014.
"No one deserves this contract more than Jon," general manager Theo Epstein said. "It's just a great day for those of us who know him."
Lester, 25, finished 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA last season, his first full season in the big leagues. A cancer survivor, he has since developed into one of the top left-handers in the game.
"I've had a lot of ups and downs, both on and off the field," Lester said. "I've definitely learned a lot from those downs on the field, and definitely a lot from the ones off the field. I think it put me in a better position last year to succeed, because of the downs I had been through and some of the trials -- it just makes you appreciate when you go out there and actually do succeed."
The contract, rumored for most of last week, marks the third that the Sox have handed to their homegrown players this offseason. In December, Epstein inked second baseman Dustin Pedroia to a six-year, $40.5 million deal, a month after Pedroia won the American League MVP Award. Then, in January, the Sox locked up first baseman Kevin Youkilis to a four-year deal worth $40 million.
Of the homegrown players expected to play significant roles with the team this season, only closer Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a one-year contract worth $6.25 million this winter, and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who remains multiple years away from arbitration, are not signed to long-term deals.
Lester's deal, in particular, should solidify the top of Boston's rotation for years to come. Not yet in the prime of his career, Lester already profiles as a potential 20-game winner. He threw more than 210 innings last season and should prove similarly durable throughout the duration of his contract.
More than that, both Lester and the Sox believe that the security of a long-term contract should help his production on the mound.
"The arbitration years for a starting pitcher can be a challenge," Epstein said. "I think what this contract does is allows us to all think together about the big picture. Jon knows he's going to be here, he knows his contract is set for the next five or six years, and we can manage those critical years through his mid- and late-20s together, in a way that we all hope leads to Jon dominating and us continuing to contend for World Series championships year in and year out."
"It's guaranteed," Lester said. "We have that inflow every year no matter what happens, and I think that's a big help to me and my family and the Red Sox. We have that guarantee that I'm going to go pitch."
The team's second-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, Lester ranked third among AL left-handers with his 16 wins last season, trailing only Cliff Lee of the Indians and Joe Saunders of the Angels. He joined Babe Ruth and Lefty Grove as the only Sox lefties to record 15 wins, 30 starts, 200 innings, 150 strikeouts and a sub-3.50 ERA in a single season.
"I don't know that any of us know where he's going to end up," manager Terry Francona said. "I don't think he's ever going to want to stop getting better. We already think he's pretty good. In that second half of last year, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball."
Lester will rejoin a rotation that also includes Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka, forming a trio that won 46 games last season. Beckett has an easily vested club option on his contract for 2010, likely keeping him in Boston, and Matsuzaka is signed through the 2012 season.
"Now I know I'm going to be here for a long time," Lester said. "That was just what we wanted to do."
"We're extremely happy to have gotten this done," Epstein said. "Jon is already a really big part of this organization, and we project him to play an even greater role going forward." - Red Sox.com
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
I will be blogging again tonight!