Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Clear thinking on the Foley matter...

Here's an observation concerning the Foley fuss that I read in today's WSJ Opinion Journal (quoted without attribution):

Just why does Congress need to have all the teenagers roaming the halls? Although child labor might have some libertarian/Randian appeal in the abstract, in the real world the Congress is just full of narcissists and other creepy types who talk about themselves in the first person plural (or the third person singular in the case of Bob Dole). Lots of personality disorders being sublimated in constant activity and attention, I'd guess. Definitely not where I would want my teenage kids spending a lot of time. Shouldn't our position just be to get rid of the page program?

No quibble from these quarters that this "scandal" is an issue that rates our attention. It is an above-the-surface symptom of an underlying cancer of a particularly virulent strain. And the writer of those words is not wrong about the sketchy characters populating Capitol Hill.

Nevertheless, as has become very clear, this "story" has not been driven by any genuine concern for the participants of the page program, but rather by cynical political interest by GOP adversaries. It seems there is no depth our political leaders are not willing to plumb for perceived political gain...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Churchill's wisdom not learned

"It is the habit of the boa constrictor to besmear the body of his victim with a foul slime before he devours it; and there are many people in England, and perhaps elsewhere, who seem to be unable to contemplate military operations for clear political objects, unless they can cajole themselves into the belief that their enemy are utterly and hopelessly vile… This may be very comforting to philanthropic persons at home; but when an army in the field becomes imbued with the idea that the enemy are vermin who cumber the earth, instances of barbarity may very easily be the outcome. This unmeasured condemnation is moreover as unjust as it is dangerous and unnecessary." --Winston Churchill
In a letter to his protégé, Timothy, the apostle Paul describes end times. In that passage there is a valuable insight that pegs one of the hallmarks of this age. The passionate apostle Paul talks about persons who are:

"...always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." --II Timothy 3:7

How well this describes post-modern man! In this age of staccato information, the trick is sorting through the clutter, not getting our hands on the "facts."

It is indeed rare that one finds authentic "truth" or genuine "knowledge" floating in that vast sea of "information" that is daily dished out by our mainstream media. That we find ideas presented to us that are truly insightful is equally rare.

I happily came across a most insightful piece by Diana West in the
Washington Times. And it follows that she looked to one of humanity's better thinkers as the basis of her insight. I hope I can provide excerpts from this piece and keep the cogency of her thinking in tact.
"...it is a quotation by Churchill on the subject of war. Specifically, what happens to a civilized society when it goes to war with a barbarous one. ...what I remember as being the main point was that if the civilized society is to prevail over the barbarous one, it will necessarily and tragically be degraded by the experience as a vital cost of victory. Partly, this is because civilized war tactics are apt to fail against barbarous war tactics, thus requiring civilized society to break the "rules" if it is to survive a true death struggle. It is also because the clash itself — the act of engaging with the barbarous society — forces civilization to confront, repel and also internalize previously unimagined depredations."

Who better than Winston Churchill to fully appreciate the bitter costs of war? Among those costs is the toxic effect upon civilized persons who were compelled by desparate circumstances to do what was necessary to preserve civilization itself.

"The question is, did bombing Dresden to defeat Hitler or dropping two nuclear bombs to force Japan to stop fighting make the Allies into barbarians?

"I think most people would still say of course not and argue that such destructive measures were necessary to save civilization itself — and certainly thousands of mainly American and Allied lives. But if this argument continues to carry the day, it's because we still view that historic period from its own perspective. We view it from a perspective in which Allied lives — our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons — counted for more than Axis lives, even those of women and children."

What follows is where Ms. West helps us to see our own circumstance with amazing clarity...

How quaint. That is, this is not at all how we think anymore. If we still valued our own men more than the enemy and the "civilians" they hide among — and now I'm talking about the war in Iraq — our tactics would be totally different, and, not incidentally, infinitely more successful. We would drop bombs on city blocks, for example, and not waste men in dangerous house-to-house searches. We would destroy enemy sanctuaries in Syria and Iran and not disarm "insurgents" at perilous checkpoints in hostile Iraqi strongholds.

In the face of Hitler's barbarity--and the distinct potential of Nazi Germany prevailing, Churchill came to embrace the notion that the good guys could not afford to forego using whatever means, whatever weapons, were at their disposal. This included the tactic of carpet bombing cities and even the use of poisonous gas. Let us let the Prime Minister speak for himself:

"When all was over, torture and cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves: and these were of doubtful utility."

Had the pugnacious Churchill not been fully convinced of the legitimate distinction between good and evil, he could not have come to this point of tactical clarity. Now Ms. West hits us with the emasculated counterfeit propagated by our liberal elite that has made a black and white difference in how we prosecute the war in Iraq.

In the 21st century, however, there is something that our society values more than our own lives — and more than the survival of civilization itself. That something may be described as the kind of moral superiority that comes from a good wallow in Abu Ghraib, Haditha, CIA interrogations or Guantanamo Bay. Morally superior people — Western elites — never "humiliate" prisoners, never kill civilians, never torture or incarcerate jihadists. Indeed, they would like to kill, I mean, prosecute, or at least tie the hands of, anyone who does. This, of course, only enhances their own moral superiority. But it doesn't win wars. And it won't save civilization.

Why not? Because such smugness masks a massive moral paralysis. The morally superior (read: paralyzed) don't really take sides, don't really believe one culture is qualitatively better or worse than the other. They don't even believe one culture is just plain different from the other. Only in this atmosphere of politically correct and perpetually adolescent non-judgmentalism could anyone believe, for example, that compelling, forcing or torturing a jihadist terrorist to get information to save a city undermines our "values" in any way. It undermines nothing — except the jihad.

Do such tactics diminish our inviolate sanctimony? You bet. But so what? The alternative is to follow our precious rules and hope the barbarians will leave us alone, or, perhaps, not deal with us too harshly. Fond hope. Consider the 21st-century return of (I still can't quite believe it) beheadings. The first French Republic aside, who on God's modern green earth ever imagined a head being hacked off the human body before we were confronted with Islamic jihad? Civilization itself is forever dimmed — again.

Diana West is absolutely spot-on with this one. Would the the policy makers inside the Bush administration proceed with like clarity and purpose.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Is it art?

This Wall Street Journal story is sweet... and it's true...



Artist David Hensel managed to get an entry into this year's summer show at London's Royal Academy of Arts. Given that there were over 9,000 applications to the world's largest open-submission exhibit of contemporary art, that's quite an honor.

The thing is,
Hensel's "art" isn't exactly what found its way into the exhibit--it was the sculpture's base and a wooden support that made the jury's cut.

The plinth and the jesmonite sculpture it was intended to support apparently got separated from each other. Judging the items separately, Hensel's laughing head (entitled, "One Day Closer to Paradise"--which took the artist two months to carve and polish) was rejected by the Academy's panel. The slate base (which took four hours to hew) and support were, however, accepted.

The rectangular slab and barbell-shaped boxwood support were labled "Exhibit 1201." Mr. Hensel said of the outcome, "It says something about the state of visual arts today." When this story hit the press, the Royal Academy denied having made an error. The slate base and carved wooden support were "thought to have merit," according to an official statement from the Royal Academy.


Hat tip: WSJ opinionjournal.com
Photo: WSJ

Sex and alcohol--religious taboos?

“There are two things you never want to see made: sausage and legislation.”

This is the time of year when many Christian denominations in the U.S. gather their representatives to make policy decisions. It is church government at work at its highest levels. Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Baptists have or are meeting and we're hearing about the contentious issues in front of them.

Not that conservatives have a shortage of thorny business to work through. However, most often the “issues” making headlines are the result of liberal activists within the denomination pushing to expand their territory and influence.

Truth be told, most of the mainline denominations long ago were taken over by the left whilst the non-activists slept. What passes for debate is really the faithful doing their best to do damage control. But like a homeowner in New Orleans living behind one of those dikes putting up sandbags as the next tropical system approaches, it’s largely an exercise in futility.

An exception this year is the Southern Baptist Annual Meeting. The country’s largest protestant denomination has of late been moving in a--shall we say--more "conservative" direction. They easily passed a
resolution condemning all alcohol use. Reflective of my own reaction to this teetotaler's resolution is this statement by Justin Taylor:
I'm not sure how wise it is to pass resolutions that functionally condemn the actions of Jesus (John 2; Luke 7:33-34; ) and Paul (1 Tim. 5:23). I'm also not sure it's very wise to prohibit that which God has given as a gift (Deut. 14:26; Ps. 104:15)
I understand their concern. Alcohol does and can do great damage when it gets the better of an individual or influences group behavior.

Nevertheless, the operative principle is moderation in most instances where excess can produce disastrous results. For example, over-eating can be profoundly unhealthy. In this case we don’t counsel complete abstinence—we counsel self control.

Sex is another case where excess or a lack of self control can bring devastation. Most of us (including, I suspect, most Southern Baptists) wouldn’t do away with sexual activity all together, we rather promote keeping it within the boundaries established by our Creator.

Justin Taylor’s blog,
Between Two Worlds, has a great discussion of this issue. There's a great Martin Luther (a good German who was known to enjoy his beer) quote:
We must not...reject [or] condemn anything because it is abused. This would result in utter confusion. God has commanded us in Deut. 4 not to lift up our eyes to the sun (and the moon and the stars), etc., that we may not worship them, for they are created to serve all nations. But there are many people who worship the sun and the stars. Therefore we propose to rush in and pull the sun and stars from the skies. No, we had better let it be. Again, wine and women bring many a man to misery and make a fool of him (Ecclus. 19:2; 31:30); so we kill all the women and pour out all the wine. Again, gold and silver cause much evil, so we condemn them. Indeed, if we want to drive away our worst enemy, the one who does us the most harm, we shall have to kill ourselves, for we have no greater enemy than our own heart, as the prophet, Jer. 17, says, "The heart of man is crooked," or, as I take the meaning, "always twisting to one side." And so on - what would we not do?

At the risk of making this entry overly long I must include this last bit. This is the text of a resolution that was submitted to the Evangelism Committee of the Episcopal Church's General Convention by Rev. Guido Verbeck (Western Louisiana). The committee members reportedly considered this resolution too controversial to be debated on the convention floor:

Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved (Article XVIII); and be it further

Resolved, That we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6); and be it further

Resolved, That we affirm that in Christ there is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God’s unlimited and unending love for all persons; and be it further

Resolved, That we renew our dedication to be faithful witnesses to all persons of the saving love of God perfectly and uniquely revealed in Jesus and upheld by the full
testimony of Holy Scripture.

Hat tips: Evangelical Outpost and World Magazine Blog

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Why doesn't God show Himself in an obvious, inarguable way?"

The question above was posed to Marvin Olasky. Without comment from me, here is his written response:

A question thrown at me: "Why doesn't God show Himself in an obvious, inarguable way?"

My response was, "What do you want, a chorus line of Alpha Centauri and other stars spelling out the letters G-O-D? Look at the four big pieces of additional evidence for the existence of God that have arisen within recent decades:

1) The big bang theory, with everything arising out of nothing, suggests that for everything to emerge and get moving there had to be a Prime Mover. Lots of atheists try to get around this, but there's also

2) The "rare earth" understanding, by which this planet had to have so many things so perfectly calibrated to be hospitable to life as we know it-- and the chances of that happening by chance seem infintesimal within this universe. To get around that, some theorize about the existence of parallel universes, or say that some kind of life as we do not know it would otherwise have arisen, but there's also

3) The knowledge we've gained about the intricacy of the individual cell; Darwin and his contemporaries saw it as something akin to a Lego block, but the complexity makes it almost a universe by itself, and one that could hardly have arisen by chance. Some may doubt that, but there's also

4) The Boston Red Sox coming from three games behind to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 playoffs and then win the World Series. This is the show-stopper of evidence.

OK, I'm kidding about #4, but the combination of the first three plus more that I could throw in makes me suggest that God already makes his existence obvious through his creation, and there's no need for Him to do more. So how come his existence is argued against by so many people? Maybe that relates not to the reality of God but to our human need to make an argument. I'm suggesting that those of us who find the evidence for God's existence inadequate often do so not because it is, but because they prefer materialism to something spiritual and therefore uncontrollable by us. As Psalm 19 declares, "The heavens declare the glory of God..." There's plenty of evidence of what theologians call "general revelation."

Now, if you want to ask for more evidence concerning "special revelation" about Christ specifically, that's another topic and one that is arguable. Wouldn't it be great if Jesus had done things that could be done only by God, like instantly controlling the weather or turning a Long John Silver value meal into enough to feed thousands of people? Of course, if the journalistic/historical records are accurate, Jesus did those things, but the clerical establishment said He was doing magic tricks or playing with Satanism. If Peter had only used his video camera... but if we had Christ's healings and feedings on film -- a superhuman highlight reel -- wouldn't we say it was a magic act like David Copperfield's, or an optical illusion? With testimonies galore, we'd talk about mass hysteria.

I'm sure you can do better -- your turn.

Well said, although much more might be said concerning this ageless question. And as we might have it, quite a bit more was said at World Magazine Blog where this piece was posted. There are some comments that are worth reading if you care to delve deeper.

Friday, June 16, 2006

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It tickles my fancy...

Whatever one might say about Bill Clinton, it's hard to deny that he was an astute politician.

The GOP had some notable wins during the time he was in office. But more often than not, in the many head-to-head political skirmishes over the eight years of his administration, Bill and his boys often seemed to out-maneuver the House and S
enate Republican leadership. Not only could Bubba parse with the best of 'em ("That depends on what the meaning of is is."), he could run with the big dogs when it came to pure politics.

This is why Republican initiated votes in the House and S
enate over the last few days so tickles my partisan fancy.

Yesterday, Senate Republicans brought John Kerry's resolution calling for withdrawal from Iraq by the end of this year to the full senate for debate and a vote. The resolution was soundly rejected 93-6. According to an
AP story:

The Senate vote unfolded unexpectedly as the second-ranking GOP leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell R-Ky., introduced legislation he said was taken from a proposal by Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and war critic.

Note the AP's "he said" qualifier. Was it, or wasn't it taken from Kerry's much trumpeted resolution?

On this particular occasion Kerry did join five other Democrats in voting for the resolution. Nonetheless, Kerry whined about his resolution being brought up for a vote. He denounced the Senate measure as a "political game." Did he ever really intend for his resolution to be considered, or was proposing it simply political posturing?

Just a short while ago, the House voted 256-153 to reject time tables in withdrawing from Iraq. According to another
AP report:

The House on Friday handily rejected a timetable for pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq, culminating a fiercely partisan debate between Republicans and Democrats feeling the public's apprehension about war and the onrushing midterm campaign season.

In a 256-153 vote, the GOP-led House approved a nonbinding resolution that praises U.S. troops, labels the Iraq war part of the larger global fight against terrorism and says an "arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of troops is not in the national interest.

This was an extremely astute move on the Republican's part. It dispelled the smoke and cast a bright light on the Democrats attempting to politically exploit the difficulties associated with the war. It's nice to see the home team win a few.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Washington Post: The good and the painfully bad

Yes, the main stream media is often predictably awful. Thankfully, every once in a while, valuable content finds its way into the mix. Case in point: Here are two articles, both from the Washington Post. One is a clear example of the press doing poorly. The other offers a valuable perspective and is surprisingly good.

The first relates (of course) to Iraq--particularly the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Generally The Post avoids the excesses typical of their rival the New York Times. In this particular case, the two are indistinguishable.

The second relates to the recent elections in Peru. This column offers a personal perspective from someone who knows of what he speaks. I will highlight some excerpts, but let me encourage you to read this one in its entirety.

Driven by obvious partisan instincts, Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus do their best to turn a story worthy of celebration into a slam against the Bush administration:

From the moment President Bush introduced him to the American people in October 2002, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi served a crucial purpose for the administration, providing a tangible focus for its insistence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

...In addition to his indisputably prominent role in the Iraqi insurgency, Zarqawi was always a useful source of propaganda for the administration. Magnification of his role and of the threat he posed grew to the point that some senior intelligence officers believed it was counterproductive.

But the administration also occasionally found it useful to play down Zarqawi's importance and influence.In early 2004, the then-governing Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad triumphantly displayed an intercepted letter from Zarqawi to the al-Qaeda leadership that it said illustrated the terrorist's despair in the face of an increasingly competent U.S.-trained Iraqi security force.

Let me see if I've got this right. On one hand, the administration exagerated Zarqawi's role ("magnified," to use their term). On the other, the administration "played down" Zarqawi's importance. In both cases, the "journalists" imply, the administration warrants criticism. And this passes for news print, not opinion. Hmm...

In contrast to the above, in a piece entitiled "Andean Blues," Alvaro Vargas Llosa, reflects on the recent presidential election in Peru. Llosa is a Peruvian native, living inthe U.S. who, as the result of his grandfather's death, found himself in Lima on the day of the runoff between Alan Garcia and Ollanta Humala. To quote Llosa:

One of them, former President Alan Garcia, brought ruin to Peru in the 1980s -- hyperinflation, corruption, abuse of power...

The other candidate, Ollanta Humala, was a former military officer accused of human rights violations who led a coup attempt against dictator Alberto Fujimori in 2000. He is now close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and sought to replace the fragile republican institutions with an authoritarian, or caudillo-style, nationalist regime.

Peru's election is not unlike the mayoral contest in New Orleans. Mulitple candidates populate the first ballot (I think there were something like 20 candidates for president in the initial round). If no one has a 50% majority, then there is a runoff.

In the early going, Humala held a commanding lead in the polls, but as the election drew near, his numbers began to drop. Nevertheless, he won the first ballot with about 30% of the vote--not enough to avoid the runoff, however. Two other candidates received an almost identical percentage of the vote. Lourdes Flores, a buisness-friendly conservative and Alan Garcia who had reigned over a disasterous presidency from 1985-1990. Each recieved about 23%, but Garcia's percentage was fractionally higher.

The two top vote getters were thus, Humala and Garcia--not an attractive choice, either way you cut it. They faced each other in the run off in early June. Humala's standing plumeted in the final days of the campaign and Garcia ultimately won with about 55% of the vote.

Garcia seems to have "evolved." He favors Peru remaining a part of the global community. His leftist tendencies seem to have moderated. Peru definitely dodged a bullet with this one. We can be thankful that the people were not dupped as the voters in Venezuela were. Let's hope that Garcia's second effort as Peru's leader works out better this time.

Top photo: Ollanta Humala (attribution unknown)
Lower photo: Peru's next president, Alan Garcia (Reuters)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sex, seniors and STD's

Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) are "running rampant" at a Central Florida retirement community, according to a recent news report aired by Local 6 News. The Villages is located near Orlando and has, apparently, become quite the "hot spot."

A gynecologist (who's office is located in The Villages) said she treats more cases of herpes and the human papilloma virus in the retirement community than she did when she practiced in Miami:

"Yeah, they are very shocked (to hear the diagnosis)," said, gynecologist Dr. Colleen McQuade. "I had a patient in her 80s."
One health care provider believes that Viagra, no risk of pregnancy and ignorance are primary factors contributing to this recent phenomenon. Richard Matwyshen, who oversees the community singles group, says it not unusual to hear remarks like, "Should I bring the little blue pills over tonight?"

Perhaps grandma and grandpa will have some new-found wisdom for their grandkids--learned the good old fashioned (hard) way.

















Hat tip: World Magazine Blog

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"We're here, we're queer...GET USED TO IT" !!

I've observed homosexual activists chanting this in-your-face slogan on numerous occasions. It's a standard sound track at events where hard core activist groups like Act-Up and Refuse and Resist are present. And while these two groups represent the more militant wing of the activist left, I would nevertheless submit that homosexual advocates in general are shooting for more than just tolerance.

At their core, sexual minorities not only want acceptance, they insist on approval. Tolerance is their mantra, but they are nevertheless themselves highly intolerant (as this recent story shows clearly). They'll take every inch they're given and tenaciously keep pushing for the next mile.

In their grand strategy, one of the key targets is our youth. They are given wide berth in our public schools (which are much less open to Christian activities than they are pro "gay" activities). The earlier they can shape an apporving attitude the better.


Take this story for instance. You most likely are unaware that April 26th was a national "Day of Silence," an event organized by the New York City-based Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. According to their website:

An estimated 500,000 students at 4,000 schools nationwide are participating in GLSEN’s Day of Silence® to peacefully bring attention to the pervasive problem of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bullying and harassment in schools....
This event took place in thousands of schools "under the radar" of most parents. GLSEN's training manual does advise that organizers structure this event to fit their own local situation. In at least one case, the planners apparently pushed the envelope a bit too far. A story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel carries this lead paragraph:

Parents are angry and school leaders are promising action in response to a "Heterosexual Questionnaire," approved by two teachers, that asked students questions such as: "If you have never slept with someone of your same gender, then how do you know you wouldn't prefer it?"

You can view the entire questionnaire here. What do you think? Were the organizers at Port Washington High School simply seeking tolerance?

Graphic from GLSEN's Day of Silence training manual

Monday, May 15, 2006

The EU, Romanian orphans and divine judgement

There is a good chance that you've never heard of Baroness Emma Nicholson. She is a member of the European Parliament who hails from England. I would not want to be in in the Baroness's royal shoes when she one day stands before the Just Judge.

Despite there being over 80,000 children lacking parental care, in 2004 Romania banned all adoptions. And this misguided woman is chiefly responsible.

The Baroness was appointed by the EU as Romania’s rapporteur (advisor) helping to put the former Soviet satellite on track to become a member of the European Union. According to Chuck Colson,
The baroness pressured the Romanian government to declare the adoption ban, making baseless accusations that international adoptions spawned corruption and child-trafficking and insisting that anything short of a total ban would prevent Romania’s entrance into the European Union.
Of these allegations, Congressmen Chris Smith (R-N.J.) says,
“Lady Nicholson has no facts to support her allegations . . . and indeed her allegations have been refuted by UNICEF.”
As you might imagine, many of these orphans live in horrid circumstances. Colson points out that, "When that ban took effect, more than one thousand children were already in the process of being adopted by foreign families, including two hundred in the United States. Some of these children have already met and bonded with their would-be adoptive parents."

Here's something constructive you can do in honor of Mother's Day~

TAKE ACTION:
Write to Romanian President Traian Basescu through the Romanian Embassy in Washington and urge Romanian authorities to immediately resume consideration of all of all pending adoption cases.

President Traian Basescu c/o The Embassy of Romania, 1607 23rd Street NW Washington, DC 20008

Or e-mail:mailto:adoption@roembus.org.

Friday, May 12, 2006

War of Words

Words can be critically important. Their misuse often comes at a cost--the consequences of poor word choices are often severe.

I can think of several ruined careers owing to poorly chosen words. Words can inflict mortal damage upon a relationship. Epic political struggles are won or lost depending on which side uses words most effectively in the contest for hearts and minds.

It is highly unfortunate that the war presently being fought by the U.S. and the coalition of the willing has been sloppily labled, "The War on Terror." This inaccurate lable blurs our understanding and minimizes the stakes involved.

What we are really fighting is Islamic fascism that aspires to nothing less than global domination. I would submit that this understanding of our struggle carries much weightier implications and adds vital clarity to this matter of strategic national importance.

Columnist Dennis Prager makes the distinction in a piece with the somewhat mundane title,
"The war we are fighting needs a more accurate name" :

We are no more fighting a "War on Terror" than we fought a "War on Kamikazes" in World War II. Of course we had to stop Kamikaze attacks, the suicide crashing by Japanese pilots of airplanes into American war ships. But we were fighting Japanese fascism and imperialism.

The same holds true today. We are fighting Islamic fascism and imperialism (though surely not all Muslims).

Prager goes on to draw the historical parallels between the two. He also highlights some of the dissimilarities.

The parallels are almost as extensive as any historic parallels of two different phenomena can be. The fascist Japanese regime aimed to subjugate much of the world, Asia in particular, and it used whatever violence it could think of without any moral constraints. The fascist element within Islam wishes to subjugate the entire world using whatever violence it can think of without any moral constraints.

Of course, there are differences: Imperial Japan was preoccupied with dominating Asia, while imperialist Islam aims to dominate the whole world. And imperial Japan did so as an outgrowth of nationalism, while imperialist Islam does so from an outgrowth of a trans-national religious ideology.

Islamic terror is a tactic of an ideology. That ideology can be called "radical Islam," "militant Islam" or "Islamist," but it is rooted in Islamic imperialism.

Let me encourage you to read the rest of his analysis. And before I close this entry, let me also mention a book that Prager commends to us by University of London professor Efraim Karsh. "Islamic Imperialism" (Yale University Press), says Prager, "is one of the few indispensable books on Islam. " One of the few, he says. Interesting.

Photo attribution unknown
Hat tip: Townhall.com

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I say that what you say is what I say...

I have to admit it. I'm cynical. Hmmm...I wonder why.

Here's an AP/ABC account of Howard Dean talking about how much the Democratic Party and evangelical Christians have in common. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) Dean said:

"One of the misconceptions about the Democratic Party is that we're godless and that we don't have any values.

The truth is, we have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community, and particularly with the evangelical Christian community. And one of the biggest things that Democrats worry about is the materialism of our country, what's on television that our kids are seeing, and the lack of spirituality."

In the interview Dean also stated categorically:

"The Democratic Party platform from 2004 says that marriage is between a man and a woman. That's what it says."
In Dean's own words, he "mistated" things a bit. The ABC/AP story goes on to say that:

After the gay rights group went public with its complaints about his remarks, Dean acknowledged: "I misstated the Democratic Party's platform, which does not say marriage should be limited to a man and a woman."
It's true. Most politicians will say just about anything to anybody if they think it might get them a few votes. Sincerity in Washington is as rare as a lemon tree in Alaska.

Photo: Associated Press

Wishing Bush's Chief of Staff were Peggy Noonan

Does anyone doubt that, irrespective of party affiliation, politicians are tone deaf and bereft of authentic, ethical leadership? Our elected representatives would do well to not only listen to Peggy Noonan, but to heed her advice:

But faith in political action has been damaged the past few years, not by outside forces but by the two major political parties themselves.

If you are a normal person with the normal amount of political awareness, you might see it this way:

The Republicans talk about cutting spending, but they increase it--a lot. They stand for making government smaller, but they keep making it bigger. They say they're concerned about our borders, but they're not securing them. And they seem to think we're slobs for worrying. Republicans used to be sober and tough about foreign policy, but now they're sort of romantic and full of emotionalism. They talk about cutting taxes, and they have, but the cuts are provisional, temporary. Beyond that, there's something creepy about increasing spending so much and not paying the price right away but instead rolling it over and on to our kids, and their kids.

So, the normal voter might think, maybe the Democrats. But Democrats are big spenders, Democrats are big government, Democrats will roll the cost onto our kids, and on foreign affairs they're--what? Cynical? Confused? In a constant daily cringe about how their own base will portray them? All of the above.

Where does such a voter go, and what does such a voter do? It is odd to live in the age of options, when everyone's exhausted by choice, and feel your options for securing political progress are so limited. One party has beliefs it doesn't act on. The other doesn't seem to have beliefs, only impulses.

I hope her voice (in this case an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal) makes it through the clutter that envelops the beltway. I wish this unease that I feel in my gut was not there. I also wish that my premonition that Ms. Noonan's prognosis is all but inevitable was off the mark.

I will say that I don't think it's too late to turn things around. But the type of leadership this situation calls for appears to be AWOL.

Photo: www.peggynoonan.com

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Feeling Pinched in America...

Many of us would most likely read past the following news paper story without catching the spin. It is not unusual for James Taranto, of the Wall Street Journal, to notice tid bits like this and, with helpful insight, call them to our attention. The Washington Post ran the following article on their front page with a head line that read, "Rising Expenses Have Consumers Feeling Pinched." Taranto has a category for these sorts of stories: "The World's Smallest Violin." His deconstruction is short, so here's the whole thing.

You just have to love the creativity with which journalists try to produce bad economic news in a good economy. Yesterday's Washington Post had a front-page story headlined "Rising Expenses Have Consumers Feeling Pinched," which included this sob story:

Arlyne Foy of Fairfax city said she and her husband recently slammed the brakes on plans to buy a larger home in Loudoun County because of rising mortgage rates and the prospect of much higher commuting costs and utility bills.

Foy, 40, and her husband figured they could have afforded a bigger house, since their 3,000-square-foot townhome probably had grown about $200,000 in value since they bought it two years ago. But they didn't want to part with their very low 4.875 percent mortgage or her husband's 10-minute drive to work as a massage therapist and yoga instructor.

"The thing is, we're very comfortable," said Arlyne, a homemaker who cares for their 3-year-old daughter. "And we know we aren't going to find an interest rate as excellent as the one we have now."

The heart bleeds.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Oh Israel, why so many enemies?

Historical perspective can be useful. These are turbulent times and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer provides some needed context where the growing hostility toward Jews and the nation of Israel are concerned. I commend Israel in the crosshairs to you. Here is an excerpt:

When something happens for the first time in 1,871 years, it is worth noting. In A.D. 70, and again in 135, the Roman Empire brutally put down Jewish revolts in Judea, destroying Jerusalem, killing hundreds of thousands of Jews and sending hundreds of thousands more into slavery and exile. For nearly two millennia, the Jews wandered the world. And now, in 2006, for the first time since then, there are once again more Jews living in Israel -- the successor state to Judea -- than in any other place on earth.

Israel's Jewish population has just passed 5.6 million. America's Jewish population was about 5.5 million in 1990, dropped to about 5.2 million ten years later and is in a
precipitous decline that, because of low fertility rates and high levels of assimilation, will cut that number in half by mid-century.

When 6 million European Jews were killed in the Holocaust, only two main centers of Jewish life remained: America and Israel. That binary star system remains today, but a tipping point has just been reached. With every year, as the Jewish population continues to rise in Israel and decline in America (and in the rest of the Diaspora), Israel increasingly becomes, as it was at the time of Jesus, the center of the Jewish world.

Hat tip: Townhall.com

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Africa moving in the right direction

Here is some wonderful and encouraging news that I just happened upon this morning. It pertains to the expansion of Christianity in Africa and a corresponding loss of Muslims on that continent.

Interestingly, the source of this information is Sheikh Ahmad Al Katani; president of The Companions Lighthouse for the Science of Islamic Law in Libya, which is an institution specializing in graduating imams and Islamic preachers. He was the invited guest on a television program, the text of which is translated into English:

Islam used to represent, as you previously mentioned, Africa’s main religion and there were 30 African languages that used to be written in Arabic script. The number of Muslims in Africa has diminished to 316 million, half of whom are Arabs in North Africa. So in the section of Africa that we are talking about, the non Arab section, the number of Muslims does not exceed 150 million people. When we realize that the entire population of Africa is one billion people, we see that the number of Muslims has diminished greatly from what it was in the beginning of the last century. On the other hand, the number of Catholics has increased from one million in 1902 to 329 million 882 thousand (329,882,000). Let us round off that number to 330 million in the year 2000.

As to how that happened, well there are now 1.5 million churches whose congregations account for 46 million people. In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Everyday, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Ever year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity. These numbers are very large indeed...

James M. Arlandson, the blogger who brings this story to our attention comments on the Sheikh's remarks:
From what I have heard from reliable sources, six million may be too low. Reliable accounts say that one hundred thousand Africans convert to Christianity per day, though not all of them come from Islam. Then Katani says Muslims should build schools before mosques, in order to build the worshipper (Muslim) before the building. Why? To stop the the dangerous “Christian missionary octopus”
Thanks, James, you just made my day. I will pass this good news on to all my missionary friends.
Hat tip: LGF

shifting rocks

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bureaucratic travesty

For the record, I am supportive both of the troops serving on our behalf as well as this administration's policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been among the crowds at our airports applauding soldiers returning from a tour of duty in Iraq. It warms my heart to see sacrificial service appreciated by regular citizens. When it comes to the war on terrorism, as far as I'm concerned, polls be damned. I think it was John Locke who said, "The masses are asses!"

That said, intractable bureaucracy is an ever-present and infuriating part of military life. I am a Viet Nam veteran and served in the reserves for several years. I know of what I speak. I recently stayed with an Army officer friend of mine at his home on post for a few days and he very naturally shared some of the stories of truly-stupid bureaucracy he had recently encountered. This is a part of the military experience and you learn to co-exist.

However, when layers of institutional lethargy result in unnecessary fatalities and life-altering injuries, something needs to be said. Thankfully,
Michael Goldfarb has gone public with a very real bureaucratic travesty involving our troops and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). It is long over due. I hope you do more than read about this problem. Contact your representatives and let them know that this situation is completely unacceptable. Here's an excerpt from the Goldfarb article:

Two weeks ago, I was contacted by an individual uniquely qualified to comment on both the threat posed by the IED and the military's response. This individual is a staff-level military officer who focused on the IED threat while serving in Iraq during most of 2005. He has been on patrols with U.S. units in the high-threat IED areas around Iraq and has also worked in the Pentagon.

This officer described to me a military that has been ineffective in confronting the IED threat for three reasons: (1) overdependence on technology-based solutions; (2) a stifling culture of bureaucracy; and (3) a failure to compile accurate information on each IED attack

Hat tip: Powerline

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Odious hypocrites & cowards

Last night I watched a "documentary" that dealt with President Bush's membership in the Skull and Bones . The film's far-ranging conspiratorial hysteria touched on the New World Order, the Illuminati, and the Trilateral Commission. You get the idea.

Simply put, I'm not a conspiracy enthusiast. Nevertheless, there was enough solid content in this film to give me pause. Am I misguided in being generally supportive of our president? Is my loyalty to my faith setting me up to be played and manipulated by clever politicians?

Perhaps.

Then today I read an
Op-Ed by Brent Bozell that laid-bare the hypocricy of those self-proclaimed guardians of free speech--the ones who call the shots about what gets aired on TV and what doesn't. Specifically Bozell looks at Comedy Central's refusal to allow South Park to show a cartoon depiction of Mohammed.

When Mohammed was slated to appear, the image of Mohammed was replaced with a black screen, reading: "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network." So keep score. Comedy Central wouldn't allow "South Park" to show a cartoon depiction of Mohammed ... but it didn't have any problem with the show ending with a depiction of Jesus Christ defecating on President Bush: "Look at me, I'm Jesus. Would you like me to crap on you, Mr. Bush? Mmm, yummy, yummy crap!"

...Viacom used to be the scum of the Earth, parading around and accept awards from the ACLU for their "courageous" programming. (Last June, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California hailed Comedy Central boss Doug Herzog with its "Torch of Liberty" Award: "Herzog has also always stood by 'South Park' and its creators' right to free expression.") These people are still the scum of the Earth, but now they can't in any way claim that they're courageous when it comes to controversy. They're hypocrites and cowards of the most odious rank.

There's more worthwhile analysis in Bozell's, "South Park and Popetown." I hope you'll take the time to read it. If you're a person of faith, you ought to.

Now, back to George W. Bush and conspiracy theories. I am in fact troubled by our president being a Bonesman. And when you consider how many of our most prominent leaders in business and politics are members of secret societies, it should prompt concern.

But when I look at the political left in the US, the company they keep and consider what it is that they stand for, the fog is dispersed and I remember clearly why I've planted my feet on the right side of the political spectrum. Just like me, President Bush will one day stand before God and give an account. Until then, I will remain wary and cautious. But I won't be moving leftward any time soon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sex in the gayest of cities

Get this. San Francisco's, "The Castro"--a homosexual enclave in one the planet's gay meccas--has apparently seen an increase of families--both gay and straight--in recent years.

According to the LA Times, many of these families are not happy with the neighborhood's in-your-face hedonism. Forgive me for observing that this piece simply oozes irony. Here are two quotes (among many) that will prompt some hetro-head scratching:

The editor of a publication aimed at gay mothers and fathers thinks Castro parents should accommodate the neighborhood, not the other way around. "That culture existed long before they arrived," said Angeline Acain, a New Yorker who's editor and publisher of Gay Parent, a nationally circulated magazine. "If you see a window display you find offensive, don't take your kid down that block."

Fred Kirkbride, who owns a Castro Street antiques store, said that a community that has for years argued for tolerance by heterosexuals should be more accepting. "Isn't it amazing how long we fought to be accepted by straight society? Now we want to keep straights and their children out of here," he said.

Rethinking rhetoric

"We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided. . . his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses." Aristotle in Rhetoric

Here's some excellent political advice that almost certainly will not be heeded. Erik Lokkesmoe, a former cabinet-level speechwriter and Capitol Hill press secretary, offers some wise counsel to politicians in general and to the Republican party in particular in an article entitled, Three things you never hear in politics . What are the "three things"?

"Think back to the last time you heard a lawmaker genuinely say, without prompting or pressure, "I was wrong." Or fierce opponents say to one another, "You make a good point." Or a commentator, stumped by a tough question on national television, say, "I don't know."

We're not holding our breath, but it would indeed be refreshing were we to be proved cynical. The "character" referred to by Aristotle is unfortunately in short supply on Capitol Hill.

Hat Tip: TownHall.com

Are Rumsfeld's days numbered?

I think not. I hope not. In any event, they shouldn't be.

This highly effective Secretary of Defense has done precisely what President Bush charged him to do--shake up a petrifying military establishment, move it away from its cold war orientation and refocus its strategic and tactical capabilities to meet present day realities. As you might imagine, Rummy made some bitter enemies in the process. These disgruntled Clinton-era generals are the very high-profile critics now being given such a welcome forum in the main stream media (MSM).

Politics can be ugly and mean. And no stripe of politics is meaner and uglier than the power wars waged at the top of our national government. Frothing democrats and the MSM are like jackals and hyenas that have gotten a whiff of blood and who sense vulnerability. Right now they are snipping at the Secretary's ankles. His untimely demise is their desperately-hoped-for strategic end.

They can not realistically rid themselves of President Bush. But if they can bring down Rumsfeld, a primary architect of this administration's military policy and who, by extension, bears key responsibility for the war in Iraq, they will have succeeded at a vital alternative. There is no better way to discredit this President than to discredit the war in Iraq. After all, President Bush has unapologetically made Iraq the linchpin of his presidency. Do you hear the din of yipping and howling?

Jed Babbin, former deputy under-secretary of defense, effectively uncovers this political scheme for what it is. Particularly, he takes aim at obstructionist former Army Chief of Staff, Eric Shinseki and General Anthony Zinni, former commander of CENTCOM. If you want to understand this intense propaganda campaign, Babbin's expose' will blow away the dense smoke and infuse some helpful clarity. I strongly commend it to you. Here's an excerpt:

And then came Sept. 11. The Secretary of Defense became the secretary of war and the transformation he had brought to the Pentagon had to be continued under fire. Still, the Army resisted.

Shinseki balked at striking at the Taliban. For the record, our forces slashed into the Taliban around Oct. 5, 2001, less than a month after Sept 11. But — aside from Rangers and Army Special Forces — the Army stayed home. Shinseki wanted at least six months to assemble and move an enormous Soviet-like force into Afghanistan and the president wasn’t having any of it. This is why Shinseki retired in 2003 with a festering grudge against Rumsfeld.

It absolutely makes no sense for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired for not going along with the wrong-headed ideas of Bill Clinton's intransigent military chums. As Babbin suggests in his article, the era of “Blackhawk Down" is over, and we have Donald Rumsfeld to thank for it

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dialing-down the anger

When I started N WITH BOTH FEET, I posted diligently for over six months. To define "diligently," generally, I posted at least once a day, and often two or three times a day. Then, as the Christmas season approached, I found myself pulling back. "Pulling back" became a season of writing almost nothing at all for my blog.

For one thing, I found myself becoming too political--and too negative. I was paying close attention to the political landscape and eventually found it toxic to my soul. I did (and do) not want to be just another voice in a den of shouting.

RESOLUTION: I intend to change the focus of this blog. I want to reach out and build bridges, not do my part to blow them up.

As a cautionary tale, I thought I'd bring this Washington Post article to your attention. Perhaps some of you have seen it. It is here for that small number of folks who may happen across this blog and have not had a chance to read it. It is entitled, "The Left, Online and Outraged." Here's an excerpt:

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. -- In the angry life of Maryscott O'Connor, the rage begins as soon as she opens her eyes and realizes that her president is still George W. Bush. The sun has yet to rise and her family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, O'Connor, 37, is out of bed and heading toward her computer.

Out there, awaiting her building fury: the Angry Left, where O'Connor's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "One long, sustained scream" is how she describes the writing she does for various Web logs, as she wonders what she should scream about this day.

She smokes a cigarette. Should it be about Bush, whom she considers "malevolent," a "sociopath" and "the Antichrist"? She smokes another cigarette. Should it be about Vice President Cheney, whom she thinks of as "Satan," or about Karl Rove, "the devil"? Should it be about the "evil" Republican Party, or the "weaselly, capitulating,
self-aggrandizing, self-serving" Democrats, or the Catholic Church, for which she says "I have a special place in my heart . . . a burning, sizzling, putrescent place where the guilty suffer the tortures of the damned"?

I encourage you to read the entire piece. The Washington Post is no bastion of the right and this piece takes a surprisingly candid look at the seething hatred that's out there--particularly in the blogosphere. We are a polarized people and it is not to our benefit. Maryscott O'Connor is addicted to her hatred and the community of hostility that she's fostered.

Let me not leave you with the impression that my criticism is directed only leftward. There is ample hatred on the right. In all honesty, it strikes me that it is of a different magnitude and that, apart from a truly fringe minority, civility has not been abandoned, generally speaking. It is toxic to be sure, but less malignant. All of us would do well to dial-down the anger and recommit to civil society where differences in perspective can be managed without warfare.

Photo Credit: David Finkle, The Washington Post

Saturday, April 08, 2006

GREAT SEX (Who's having it...and who isn't)

The director of "Basic Instinct 2," Paul Verhoeven, in reaction to its 10th place opening in the US remarked that:

"Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States," said the Dutch native. "Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends."
A few days ago, James Taranto, who authors the WSJ's "Best of the Web Today," deconstructed Verhoeven's remarks:
"Christianity and sex have never been good friends," Dutch director Paul Verhoeven said in a story we cited yesterday. We didn't dwell on that quote, but it seems worth doing so now. It seems an odd point, given that in the Bible, God enjoins his creations to "be fruitful." Until we perfect cloning, there's only one way to do that.

A reader calls our attention to this 1999 Slate article:

When University of Chicago researchers set out to discover which religious denominations have the best sex, they learned that the faithful don't do all their shouting in church. Conservative Protestant women, their 1994 survey found, report by far the most orgasms: Thirty-two percent say they achieve orgasm every time they make love. Mainline Protestants and Catholics lagged five points behind. Those with no religious affiliation were at 22 percent. (Unitarians may not wish to read any further.)

The main topic of the Slate piece is the burgeoning market for Christian sex advice books: "Evangelicals may not want their children to study sex ed in school, but they are not afraid of studying a little sex ed in their bedrooms," writes Mark Oppenheimer:

Perhaps the most notable quality of the Christian sex business is that it is evangelical, not puritanical. It is very pro-sex--as long as sex takes place in the context of marriage.

And that's the point. When Verhoeven says "Christianity and sex have never been good friends," what he means by "sex" is not sex but uncommitted sex--the weird anti-ideal of the sexual revolution.

The idea of sex without strings attached has, to be sure, a certain allure. But as a practical matter it is simply unworkable for most people. It's emotionally messy and requires more effort than it's worth. It seems obvious that you'll have more and better sex if you go to bed every night with someone you love. To do that, you don't have to be Christian, but it doesn't hurt.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Descent into irrelevance









[Hat tip: Powerline ]

Stunning stupidity

Yesterday (1/24), an LA Times columnist, Joel Stein, published a commentary piece entitled Warriors and wusses . The opening line was, "I DON'T SUPPORT our troops." Here's an excerpt:

But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else. Trust me, a guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn't going to pick up on the
subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war. He's going to be looking for funnel cake.

...The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices other than enduring two Wolf Blitzer shows a day. Though there should be a ribbon for that.

I understand the guilt. We know we're sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful.

As you might expect, Mr. Stein's candor has resulted in a tempest of protest. I'm a bit conflicted about the whole thing.

On one hand, I'm stunned by his stupidity and his willingness to dismiss the value of what our troops have accomplished. One the other, I think he has had the moxi to say what large numbers of war foes truly believe and feel. His willingness to forego political correctness and to say what he's really thinking is kind of refreshing.

That said, he's still embarassingly ill informed and myopic. Here's an on-air exchange with Hugh Hewitt that removes all doubt concerning Mr. Stein's ignorance and political skew:

HH: Let me ask you a tough question, Joel, because this is the toughest one.

J.P. Blecksmith was a young Marine lieutenant, graduated from Annapolis, killed in Fallujah on November 11th, 2004. Just a tremendous human being and man. If you meet his parents on the street, what do you say to them?

JS: That I'm so, so sorry.

HH: Do you honor the service that their son did?

JS: To honor the service their son...now this is a dumb question, but what do you mean by honor? That's a word you keep using. I'm not entirely...maybe that's my problem. But I'm not entirely sure what you're...

HH: Honor usually means gratitude and esteem. Are you grateful for and esteem what he did? Honestly?

JS: Honestly? I admire the bravery. I don't...you know, I feel like he did something I could never do, so I'm kind of in awe on some level. Am I grateful, that I feel like he protected me? Um, no I don't.

HH: And so, do you think he died in vain?

JS: Yeah. I do. And that's why I'm so horrified by all this, and why I don't want empty sentiments prolonging the war.

HH: And the people who've died in Afghanistan. Have they died in vain?

JS: Well, if they haven't, what have they accomplished?

HH: I'm asking you, Joel. You wrote the column. You tell me. Have they accomplished nothing?

JS: Well, um, do I think that I, as an American, are safer because of what they did?

HH: That wasn't what I asked. I askd did they accomplish anything in going to Afghanistan.

JS: If I were an Afghani, I would probably...if I lived in Kabul, I probably would think that they accomplished something, sure.

HH: All right. Now have you read any books on the military? I mean, do you read this stuff at all, like Robert Kaplan's Imperial Grunts?

JS: No. No, I'm not an expert at this at all. I mean, I think you certainly can tell.

[Hat tip: Powerline]

Friday, January 13, 2006

The brainbox and the blowhards


So, what did you think of the Alito hearings this week? Did the performance our our esteemed leaders in the U.S. Senate inspire confidence? Respect?

If you were able to catch a segment of the proceedings beyond the sound bites on the evening news, perhaps you shared my primary impression... "what a bunch of windbags!" And there was no one more pompous than the bloated Senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy. What a piece of work he is.

If you want to read a clear-eyed assesment of this process (a process that's more pretense than substance) you want to read this piece in the
The Economist. Here's a quote to whet your appetite:

TED KENNEDY is deeply troubled by the ethics of the Supreme Court nominee. Between 2001 and 2006, Samuel Alito, who is currently an appeals court judge, accepted $7,684,423 in “donations” from special interests who perhaps wanted the law tweaked in their favour. That included $28,000 from defence contractors, $42,200 from drug firms and a whopping $745,373 from lawyers and law firms.

No, wait. Those are Senator Kennedy's conflicts of interest—or, rather, a brief excerpt from a long list compiled by the Centre for Responsive Politics. The lapse for which the senator berated Mr Alito was considerably less clear-cut.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Happy Holidays...

Go ahead. Tell me that things aren't spiraling out of control in this self-absorbed, "it's all about ME" society. Consumerism at its worst reared its ugly head today in sunny South Florida, and people were hurt as a result.

Today is "Black Friday" -- the day after Thanksgiving and the unofficial kick-off to the Christmas shopping season. It is one of busiest shopping days of the year, second only to the Saturday before Christmas

Hoping to avoid lackluster sales, retailers this year have been advertising significant savings on their merchandise. Motivated by deep discounts and special offers, large crowds of shoppers began forming early in Sawgrass Mills, FL--before 4:00 a.m.--according to a
report in the Sun Sentinel--a news paper based in Fort Lauderdale.

BrandsMarts had advertised "doorbuster specials" and hundreds of other discounted items. By the time the electronics store opened its doors at 6:00 a.m. the hardcore shoppers had apparently exhausted their patience. In an effort to keep things under control, a store manager informed the early-birds they would only be admitting about 20 persons at a time.


Moments before the crowd burst under the metal gate at BrandsMart , Tony McLeod, another BrandsMart manager, tried to calm down shoppers, telling them the store could only allow groups of about 20 to enter the store at one time to avoid overcrowding.

..."There is more than enough for everybody. The sale is going on all day," he shouted as frustrated shoppers shouted back, complaining they were tired of waiting."We have your money out here," one woman responded angrily. "We need to go to other stores. I can't stand here all day."

One man shouted through the gate that he had been waiting for an hour and half. A woman from Brazil, nearly in tears, asked in Portuguese whether she could be allowed inside because her husband was already there. Others complained that security personnel lowered the metal door and left them isolated from family members.

Inside, 17 cashiers were not sufficient to avoid long lines. When a few aggressive shoppers took it upon themselves to duck under the metal gates, the crowd morphed into a mob and forced their way into the store. In the onslaught, 73 year-old Josephine Hoffman of Coconut Creek, was trampled. Also hurt in the chaos was 9 year-old Maria Garcia.

According to the Sun Sentinel report:

A woman at a Pembroke Pines Wal-Mart was also injured and required hospital treatment when she was pushed to the ground by another shopper, according to fire officials.
This is a full-frontal glimpse of the American under belly. I wonder if any of those folks had a second thought about what happened or their own behavior. And what's with getting in line before 4:00 a.m. to shop? One of our founding fathers, John Adams, is famously known to have said, "The masses are asses." I couldn't agree more, sir.

[Hat tip: The Drudge Report]
Photos: The Sun-Sentinel

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Quote of the day...

"The only war the Democrats really have their heart in is the war to undermine the Bush administration. Any incidental damage done to the national interest in furtherance of that war appears in their eyes to be for the greater good. "

Scott Johnson, Power Line 11/26/2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Turning the other cheek

Some sermons are easy to forget. But last Sunday's service at Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma is not likely to be forgotten by those in attendance any time soon.

Pastor Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty had just finished preaching on "a lifestyle of worship and thanksgiving" when he gave an alter call. He began praying for a man who had come forward when, without warning, the man clocked him with a solid right cross. The squarely-landed blow inflicted a cut above the pastor's left eye that required a few stitches. The senior pastor continued to minister, applying pressure to the cut above his eye with a handkerchief.

There is
video of the incident and the pastor recounting the story in his own words at the church's web site. Pastor Daugherty said:

"On Sunday, November 20th at the 11:00 o’clock service in the ORU Mabee Center, at the altar call time, as I walked up to a man and began to pray for him, he hit me, knocked me backwards, and then grabbed the back of my coat, pulled me back and swung at me and hit me again."
The man who blindsided the preacher was Steven Rogers, a 50 year-old man who has a history of run-ins with the law, including some time in an institution. Pastor Daugherty didn't press charges against his assailant. However, Rogers hit others who had subdued him in the presence of police officers and was arrested. The story was carried on local TV stations.

In the video message describing the disturbance, Pastor Daugherty speaks of a breakthrough in worship for both himself and the congregation as they "released" the troubled man and forgave him.

Victory Christian Center is a
mega church in Tulsa, the home of Oral Roberts University. From what I can deduce, Daugherty's ministry is akin to those of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland. These ministries are sometimes labled "name it and claim it" churches or places that preach "health, wealth and prosperity." I found critical postings regarding Daugherty elsewhere on the internet. The criticisms notwithstanding, from my point of view, Daugherty got this one completely right. Way to go, pastor.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

QUESTION: Seen photos like these in the MSM lately?

I came across this link at Little Green Footballs. First, thank you Michael Yon for bringing a missing perspective to this vital national debate. And thank you Charles Johnson for the excecellent service you provide day in and day out at LGF in bringing really good and always relevant content to your readers--content that might otherwise escape our notice.

Here's three of Michael Yon's photos of Iraqi children. I'm placing a link to Michael's blog in hopes that more folks will see his good work.

















All photos are by Michael Yon