Friday, March 31, 2006

You Just Gotta Watch This!

Image hosting by PhotobucketJuggling as you have never seen juggling before! A tour de force without sound. With sound this video is breath-taking, heart-stopping and reality-suspending. I've watched this video three times and still can't believe that Chris Bliss actually did this on stage in front of a live audience with spotlights shining in his eyes. Wow. Wow. And . . . Wow!


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hugh Hewitt & Michael Ware: A Great Interview

There is little doubt that Hugh Hewitt is one of the best interviewers around. There are times when he talks far more than the one being interviewed. There are times when he acts more like a prosecuting attorney on a cross-examination than an interviewer. But his recent interview with Australian/Time magazine journalist Michael Ware was one of the best I have ever heard broadcast on his "Hugh Hewitt Show."

Ware, who has covered every angle on the Iraqi war during the past three years, was articulate and, for the most part, clear and straightforward in his response to Hugh's questions.

During the interview Hugh raised legitimate concerns about Ware's repeated close contacts with insurgents and jihadis. Does the threat of reprisal compromise Ware's reporting?
"(O)ne has to be careful that, as the Islamic army of Iraq reminded just last week on Al Jazeera, the insurgent groups study very closely everything that we hear, say and write. And given that we're within their grasp, one always must be diplomatic..."

"I mean," he added, "one has to be careful about how you couch things, but it doesn't stop you reporting the facts."
The interview made it clear that Ware's reporting must, of necessity, be shaped (if not actually compromised) by matters of personal safety as he decides what he will say and how he will say it. This is particularly true in his coverage of the insurgents who, as he admits, would have no hesitation in killing him if he overstepped that fine line of "diplomacy" in his reporting.

Ware did, on occasion, give questionable responses to reasonable questions.

He would not, for example, say one way or the other whether the Soviet Union was better off under Stalin or Khrushchev. Given that Hugh was trying to make a parallel between Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Iraq today it is not surprising that Ware would try to avoid getting mixed up the in the generalities and assumptions involved in embracing that parallel outright. Still, Ware could have condemned Stalin while declining to endorse the particular parallel that Hugh was trying to make.

Despite a few dodgy responses such as this, it is virtually impossible, given Ware's coverage of all sides of the war in Iraq, not to admire and respect him as both an individual and a journalist. He is clearly not one of the "balcony watcher" journalists we have heard so much about lately.

If Hugh set out to discredit Ware he was not successful, at least not in this interview.

If, on the other hand, Hugh's intention was to provide insight into the life, work and thoughts of a complex and influential journalist while raising important questions concerning the moral complexities and compromises involved in Ware's style of war-zone journalism, then this may have been the most successful interview Hugh has ever done.

In the end, the big question of the interview was never clearly settled one way or the other. The following statement by Hugh sums up that question:
I'm really fascinated by the question of whether or not it's ever good journalism to consort with the enemy in search of interesting stories. And there's not denying, Michael, where you get scoops. It's fascinating to read. You've got a great deal of courage, of physical courage, in doing this. So no one's denying that. I'm just wondering whether or not there's a line that you have in your mind reconciled yourself to crossing not once, but scores and scores of times, to report on the enemy, and whether or not that's a good thing.
Hopefully this subject will be revisited again and again in future interviews with Michael Ware and others who have chosen to cross back and forth enemy lines in pursuit of information, insight and a "good" story.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Candles In the Night

Last night, around 9:00 pm, the electricity went out in most of Mililani. My wonderful wife, Daughter #3 and I grabbed some flashlights, found some candles and lit them. Our living room looked like a religious shrine with candles, large and small, flickering in the darkness.

Although the power was out for over three hours I still managed to take a hot shower and finish a Sudoku puzzle before falling asleep for the night. The last one up blew out the candles.

No harm was done. We were not inconvenienced in any real way. And the candlelight was beautiful.

For a short time we were transported back into a time before electricity; a time without light bulbs, television, computers and DVDs. Things may not have been simpler back then but time was not as rushed and the world was quieter, calmer and the stars could be seen in their full night-time glory.

And, as I said, the candles were beautiful.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dueling Church Signs

My only regret in this Baptist/Catholic church sign pseudo-dialogue is that the Presbyterians didn't even get a mention!

Visit the clever exchange at wuzzadem.

PS. If you are left wondering what PWN3D means, according to the comments section,
"Pwn3d" is 733t haXXor, excuse me, elite hacker-speak. It means "owned", as in "you got owned", meaning, "you lost the argument and looked like a fool".

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Military Deaths Under "G. W." Lower Than Under. . . JIMMY CARTER!

Sometimes statistics don't lie!

Consider this little gem from Proud Kiffer:
On the third anniversary of the Iraq war, the MSM keeps bombarding us with stories and statistics trying to compare this war to the carnage in Vietnam, trying to make us think that US soldiers are dying at an alarming number due to Bush’s failures.

While every lost serviceman and servicewoman is certainly tragic and should be mourned, the actual statistics tell quite a different tale from the MSM and Democratic doom-and-gloom outlook. Comparing the numbers of lost US military personnel to past years, and past presidential terms, may even be a shock to supporters of the war.

Take a look at the actual US Military Casualty figures since 1980. If you do the math, you will find quite a few surprises. First of all, let’s compare numbers of US Military personnel that died during the first term of the last four presidents.

George W. Bush . . . . . 5187 (2001-2004)
Bill Clinton . . . . . . . . . 4302 (1993-1996)
George H.W. Bush . . . . 6223 (1989-1992)
Ronald Reagan . . . . . . 9163 (1981-1984)

Even during the (per MSM) utopic peacetime of Bill Clinton’s term, we lost 4302 service personnel. H.W. Bush and Reagan actually lost significantly more personnel while never fighting an extensive war, much less a simultaneous war in two theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan). Even the dovish Carter lost more people during his last year in office, in 1980 lost 2392, than W. has lost in any single year of his presidency. (2005 figures are not available but I would wager the numbers would be slightly higher than 2004.)

In 2004, more soldiers died outside of Iraq and Afghanistan than died inside these two war zones (900 in these zones, 987 outside these zones). The reason is that there are usually a fair number that die every year in training accidents, as well as a small number of illness and suicide. Yet the MSM would make you think that US soldiers are dying at a high number in these zones, and at a significantly higher number than in past years or under past presidents. This is all simply outright lies and distortion.

Kauai's Case of the Missing Spillway

Today's Honolulu Advertiser carried another follow-up story about last week's disaster on the neighbor island of Kauai when heavy rains caused a collapse of a 100-year old irrigation reservoir. The ensuing flood swept away seven known people. So far only four bodies have been recovered.

Today's story is headlined, "Dam safety fixture disputed--Inspectors can't find spillway but owners say it's still there."

Well, a spillway is a spillway . . . and either it is there or it isn't and in either case it is not exactly a "safety fixture" but a necessary part of any dam. (A dam without a spillway is like a car without brakes).

In any case, the owners say the spillway is buried under the collapsed earthen dam.

Older neighborhood residents say they remember seeing the spillway back in the 1980's and '90's. Other folks say that the spillway had been backfilled by the owners and was no longer functional.

As you can see the "case of the missing spillway" could involve a whole lot of liability.

The owner's lawyer is quoted as saying, "Our inspection shows that the spillway is still there and intact."

According to the Advertiser story,
Numerous state and federal officials said they have carefully inspected the site and found no spillway. The Hawaii state adujant general said, "We couldn't find a spillway." Ray Kong, and engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers said, We were surprised not to find (a spillway). We looked."
I have heard that "justice is blind" but I had never taken that phrase literally before now.

I guess in the end it will be a "he-said-she-said" case and a jury will have to decide which story they actually believe!

Then again, I suppose the owner's lawyer could simply be asked to point out the spillway to somebody without a vested interest in the case.


Palestinian Christians Fleeing What? Israeli Occupation or Muslim Persecution?

This post's title asks a question that I cannot answer with any confidence. I have read many different versions of this but always written by someone who was Pro-Palestinian Authority or Pro-Israel.

I finally found an on-line article that, while biased, does make an interesting comparison between two Palestinian Christian cousins who take polar-opposite positions on this subject.

You can read it here. It will be well worth your while.

By the way, if you are a Palestinian Christian still living in the Middle East or have emigrated to another region of the world, please leave a comment stating your own personal experience or opinion.

The ideological fog is almost too thick for me to see where the reality is!

While I am confident that Israel's initial displacement of Palestinians in the 1948 "catastrophy" and their subsequent (beginning in 1967) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has caused great despair and suffering among the Palestinian Christians, my own bias is inclined towards the opinion that the rising power and influence of Islamist fundamentalism has, in recent years, made life almost unbearable for those Palestinian Christians who remain and have not yet been converted to Islam. (I have previously linked to an article that supports my bias. You can find it here).

I am open to any non-ideological information on this subject. Thank you.

Monday, March 20, 2006

My Reply to One Who Has Called Me "Racist" and "Odious"

If you read the comment I received in the previous post you will find the words of someone who has taken deep offense from what I have written concerning the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian people and the ongoing conflict over the existance of Israel.

This person, who goes by the name Umkahlil, has written an emotional and angry response to another recent post of mine which I entitled, "Why Palestine Should Be Left To the Wolves."

In response to her posting I have written and posted a comment of my own.

By following the link to her blogsite you can read what she wrote about me.

What follows is the comment by which I responded to her.

As always, read all that you can and make up your own mind.

Umkahlil, I am the "debased Zionist schill" the "so-called 'man of God'" and "hack preacher" who posted the "Why Palestine Should Be Left For the Wolves." I am the one who wrote,

"In reference to this posting's title, I'M NOT SUGGESTING THAT THE WORLD SHOULD TURN THEIR BACK ON THE WEST BANK AND GAZA PALESTINIANS . . . at least not completely. But there are many reasons to do so."

I am the one who wrote,

"Is there any sense of justice in (the Palestinian's) complaint over the existence of Israel? Yes, of course there is. It is an issue worthy of discussion and debate. It is worthy of pursuing a solution and a resolution, a compromise and a settlement."

I am the one who wrote,

"It deeply grieves my own heart to see how far these honorable and naturally hospitable people have fallen.

In the end it will up to the Palestinian people to decide whether they will forever blame Israel for their problems or whether they will let Israel exist and turn their energy towards creating a prosperous and glorious nation for themselves.

"Sadly, and ironically, their desire to destroy Israel has manifested itself in the destruction of themselves."

I am the one who believes that the 1948 Palestinian-Israeli War still continues today.

I am the one who believes that Israel's original desire was to live peaceably with her neighbors.

I am the one who believes that, after declaring its independence and establishing itself as a recognized nation, Israel made no effort to expand its borders beyond those proposed by the United Nations.

I am the one who believes that, although it coveted Jerusalem and desired to establish that city as its capital, Israel made no attempt to do so and cooperated with the international divisions and administrations of that city for 20 years.

I am the one who believes that, in an expanded continuation of the 1948 war, Israel was attacked in 1968 and 1973 by combined military forces representing the countries of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, supported by the active participation of many Palestinians, many of whom had been displaced from the land now occupied by the nation of Israel.

I am the one who believes that these two wars were initiated with the clear aim of defeating and destroying the nation of Israel and replacing it with a non-Jewish state dominated by Palestinian Arab Muslims (and a smaller share of Palestinian Christians); a state that would have been allied with the same Middle East Arab nations that attacked Israel.

I am the one who believes that Israel expanded and enlarged its borders (including Jerusalem) in response to these attacks upon its national existance.

I am the one who believes that Israel occupied the "West Bank" and Gaza as a defensive measure to protect itself from those nations and peoples who wished to see it destroyed.

I am the one who believes that Jordan was then attacked by Palestinians under the guidance and leadership of the PLO and Yassir Arafat with the intention of overthrowing the monarchy and establishing a national identity for the Palestinian people.

I am the one who believes that after being defeated by Jordan the more militant Palestinians fled into Lebanon where, with the tacit support of Syria, they shared in fomenting the civil war that destroyed Lebanon as an independent nation.

I am the one who believes that, with northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley under the firm control of Syria, the displaced militant Palestinians, forced out of Jordan and the West Bank by both Jordan and Israel, used that location to continue to attack Israel along its northern border.

I am the one who believes that, once again in a defensive response to these attacks, Israel entered southern Lebanon and attempted to occupy, control and destroy those who were seeking its annihilation.

I am the one who believes that there was once a time when Israel would have been content to return to its original borders in exchange for an international guarantee of peace and security.

I am the one who believes that Israel no longer believes that, in the forseeable future, there is any real likelihood of either Fatah or Hamas (as elected representatives of the Palistinian Authority) pursuing a negotiated peace settlement that would affirm, accept and recognize Israel as a sovereign nation.

I am the one who believes that a state of war exists between Israel and the recognized leaders of the Palestinian Authority and that those under their authority must also be counted as citizens of a "nation" at war.

I am the one who believes that the casualties and suffering you have ennumerated so graphically in your own posting are casualties of war . . . as are those Israelis who have also suffered and died in the ongoing exchange of violence.

I am the one who believes that Israel has not always acted wisely or well in its response to the incessant attacks which have been directed against it; including its decision to build "permanent" settlements in Gaza, the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

I am the one who believes that the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza have suffered terribly as a result of this ongoing conflict.

I am the one who believes that this suffering is a direct result of the conscious and intentional decision of Palestinian leaders to refuse to recognize the state of Israel and to perpetuate the state of war with the expressed aim of destroying Israel.

I am the one who does not believe that a nation should be condemned for failing to extend friendship, medical services, economic trade and financial support to a neighbor nation which has openly declared and continues to wage war against it.

I am the one who believes that a nation should not be condemned for building a "security fence/wall" in an effort to protect itself against those who are seeking to destroy it...even if that barrier is built on land claimed, but not controlled, by its enemy.

I sm the one who believes that "peace" will only come when either Israel is destroyed and swept away as a nation or when Israel is accepted as a nation by a Palestinian people who will build their own nation alongside in peaceful cooperation and coexistance with Israel.

With the second scenario I can envision a bright and prosperous future for the Palestinian people.

With the first scenario I can envision only continued suffering, despair, destruction and death for the people of Palestine.

Both scenarios embrace some measure of injustice. Neither scenario is completely satisfying from the perspecive of history, religion, international law or personal and national aspiration.

Yet one path has the potential to lead towards life and hope for both nations.

The other path will bring only more suffering and death.

I am the one who wishes that there was another, better, more just and satisfactory option for peace. But I, along with the rest of a concerned world, has yet to find it.

In light of this unsolvable dilemma, I am the one who believes that the suffering of the Palestinian people remains a direct result of their choice, their decision, to continue their war against Israel.

I am the one who seeks neither the destruction of Israel nor the suffering of the Palestinian people.

I am the one who believes that, at the present moment in history, to support the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian people who elected them is to support them in their efforts to destroy the nation of Israel.

My heart is broken. I am torn. I yearn for peace and justice for all sides in this conflict.

If this makes me a "racist" in your eyes then I will not attempt to argue that point with you.

If this makes me "odious" in your eyes then I will not attempt to argue that point with you either.

In the biblical book of Ezekiel 18:32 I read, "I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD."

With this I agree.

With the Christian writer, John Donne, I affirm that "every man's death diminishes me." Whether the one who suffers or dies is Jewish, Muslim or Christian; Palestinian or Israeli, it is all one and the same to me. I say this because I agree with John Donne's conclusion, "Do not ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Call me what you will. I wish you no ill will. I shall not label you or call you any name that you do not wish to be called. And yet I stand by my use of the word "wolves;" acknowledging that there are wolves in Palestine, in Israel, in Germany and in the United States as well.

On occasion, Israel has elected "wolves" to represent them in their government. It is my belief that, in the last election, the people of Palestine did so as well.

While I respect the right of the Palestinian people to choose who they wish to rule over them, it does not logically follow that I must endorse and support their choice.

Our actions have consequences for which we must learn to take responsibility.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Iran Has Back-Up Plans In Case Nuclear Option Fails

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If Iran fails in its quest to acquire nuclear weaponry they have at least two back-up plans in their hip pocket.

The first is, of course, the tens of thousands of volunteer suicide bombers that have been recruited and trained to spread terror around the world should that ever be deemed necessary.

Less known, perhaps, are the members of Iran's women's paramilitary units.

The photo above, gleaned from this week's BBC photo gallery, shows chador-clad paramilitary women in Tehran boning up on their rifle skills.

I should think that there must be some religious concession that permits them to remove the veil before taking aim. Killing infidels as part of jihad, apparently, seems to be one of the allowed exceptions.

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This photo from 1986 shows Iranian women practicing for the police force.

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Here are some recent graduates from the Tehran Police Academy via AP (March 11, 2006).

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2004 women paramilitary trainees do everything the men do (including rappelling down buildings) but with more challenging clothing.

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Lastly, just in case you are not concerned, consider the fact that the only Iranian woman to participate in the Athens Olympics was Nassin Hassan Pour, entered in the pistol-shooting events!

Afghanistan--Where Becoming a Christian Can Be (Very) Bad For Your Health

The AP story is neatly summed up in the first paragraph:
An Afghan man who allegedly converted from Islam to Christianity is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death, a judge said Sunday.
Abdul Rahman was turned in by his family last month. He has confessed to have become a Christian while working in Pakistan 16 years ago and says he has no intention of returning to the Muslim faith (read my earlier post on this subject here).

The end of the story carries an interesting statistic, noting that 99% of Afghanistan's population is Muslim with a small percentage of Hindus mixed in.

The charges against Rahman seem to offer some explanation as to why virtually everyone in Afghanistan is Muslim. You see, if one of them became something else, they would be killed and, as a result, would not show up in the statistics.

Pray for Abdul Rahman. Pray that his trial judge will be lenient in his sentencing and spare him the death penalty.

And, by the way, someone should write to the Afghani legislature and remind them that Article 18 of the International Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948) reads as follows:
Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Note as well that Rahman did not publicly reveal himself to be a Christian. One can only wonder how many thousands, ten thousands or even hundreds of thousands of similar "Muslims" are secretly Christian converts, living double lives out of fear for themselves and their families.

We may not know . . . but God does.

Pray for them, too.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Two Reasons Why Palestine Should Be Left For the Wolves

Image hosting by Photobucket In reference to this posting's title, I'm not suggesting that the world should turn their back on the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians . . . at least not completely. But there are many reasons to do so.

Lately, the fact that Hamas has won the recent election and has taken over governing the Palestinian Authority has provided the best reason. Why should the democratic West provide financial support for a government (and its people) who have perpetuated and engaged in suicide bombings of civilians in Israel and who have publicly sworn that their first raison d'etre is to kill Jews, destroy Israel as a nation and reclaim that land for the Palestinian people?

Aside from having pity on the much abused and manipulated Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza (and I do not necessarily mean "abused and manipulated" by the Israelis) there is no rational reason whatsoever for giving this government even one American tax dollar of support.

But I am writing about a different reason for leaving Palestine to the wolves. And this reason begins with the premise that the wolves have already taken the would-be-country over.

As I have written many times before (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) the Palestinian people and those who govern them have spent hundreds of millions of dollars behaving in ways that have brought themselves into utter ruin. Had money been invested in creating a functional nation of Palestine we would have such a nation today. It would be a prosperous nation. A nation that would have taken advantage of its greatest resource: the Palestinian people.

If people had been taught to build rather than to destroy; to live rather than to die; to work hard rather than to complain about everyone else; to accept both blame and responsibility rather than to blame Israel and the rest of the world for their troubles; Palestine would be a place where people would want to live. A place where people would want to immigrate to rather than emigrate from. A place where people would want to invest money instead of siphoning it off into Swiss bank accounts.

There would be industry. There would be vast areas under cultivation with sophisticated irrigation systems. There would be abundant and profitable trade with Israel and with Jordan, with Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. There would be a thriving tourist industry with hotels and beautifully restored treasures from antiquity, including precious sites of pilgrimage for Jews, Christians and Muslims. There would be paved roads, electricity and sanitation facilities.

Quality education for children would be mandatory as it is in Jordan and Israel. The education system would prepare children for lives of responsibility and service to others. The historic colleges and universities would be revived into places of open dialogue and discussion of all sides of all issues. Scholars and statesmen/women would come from around that world to speak to international issues which would involve Palestine. Issues such as economics and trade, medical care, politics, religion and the basic rights of all people would be openly and fairly covered in a free and uncensored press.

Treaties and other agreements with a recognized Israel would provide land access from the West Bank to Gaza and world nations would either loan or give money for the construction of a world class seaport along the Gaza Coast as well as a free and open international airport.

BUT . . . instead of this, the people of Palestine have been duped and betrayed by their so-called "leaders" into trading all of this away for poverty, conflict, bloodshed, corruption, lawlessness, hopelessness, constant grieving and a culture of death.

It appears that the people of the Palestinian territories have decided that anything that has any positive benefit for them must be destroyed.

Take, for example, the photograph featured at the beginning of this post. It is from msnbc's photos of the week, March 9-16. It shows a Palestinian youth helping to burn down a British council office in Gaza on March 14. Why would driving out the Americans, the British and other foreign representatives be a good thing for the Palestinians? The answer is, of course, that driving them out by behavior such as this is a very bad thing for the Palestinians. So, of course, that is exactly what they do . . . over and over again ad nauseum.

Two phrases come to mind that seem to capture the deranged behavior of these unfortunate people:
Cutting off your nose to spite your face;
Shooting yourself in the foot and boasting that you hit your target.
There are other, less complimentary images that could also represent this self-destructive mentality but I will leave these to your own imagination.

Is there any sense of justice in their complaint over the existence of Israel? Yes, of course there is. It is an issue worthy of discussion and debate. It is worthy of pursuing a solution and a resolution, a compromise and a settlement.

But for the Palestinian people, the issue is "all or nothing." Either Israel goes away for good or . . . or . . . the Palestinian people will suffer increasing hardships and social/cultural degeneration for themselves and their posterity.

It is the Palestinian people who have decided on this "all or nothing" scenario. They appear to be willing to lose everything rather than to accept the existence of Israel as a neighbor nation.

With Hamas now in control it seems to me to be politically reasonable to let them reap what they have sown. They have freely chosen a destiny filled with despair, grief, bitterness, and hopelessness.

It is their choice. Perhaps we should let them live with the consequences of that choice.

It deeply grieves my own heart to see how far these honorable and naturally hospitable people have fallen.

In the end it will up to the Palestinian people to decide whether they will forever blame Israel for their problems or whether they will let Israel exist and turn their energy towards creating a prosperous and glorious nation for themselves.

Sadly, and ironically, their desire to destroy Israel has manifested itself in the destruction of themselves.

And the wolves seem to be quite happy with the arrangement.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Florida Teachers Caught Cheating Are Fired--But Just Barely

According to AP,
The Miami-Dade County School Board voted 5-4 on Wednesday to fire six teachers and accept resignations from 26 others.
The teachers had all purchased continuing education credits from a former teacher who operated a transcript scam. That teacher has plead guilty and has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Florida requires credentialed teachers to complete 6 credit units of continuing education every five years. These units sustain their credentialed status and, in some cases, qualify their for pay increases.

Ohio's Oberlin College has voided 10,000 credits received 657 teachers who supposedly earned them through the scam program that had contracted with the College.

The biggest surprise in this story is that the Dade County School Board's vote was not unanimous. The decision to fire the teachers only passed by a vote of 5-4.

The strongest argument against the firings came from parents and educators who said that the terminations would cause discontinuity in the student's education. I suspect that a likely difficulty in finding qualified replacements for them was also a factor.

Personally, I support the firings. What message does it send to young students if teachers caught cheating on their own education were allowed to continue teaching and being paid for it? Perhaps those teachers who gained financially by receiving pay raises for their fake credits should be forced to pay that money back to the school district and be fined for contractual fraud in addition!

The best teachers are not only good teachers but good role models for their students. A teacher who teaches Social Science well but also tells her students that it's OK to smoke pot has disqualified themselves from the privilege of working with young students in the classroom.

Teachers who cheat on their own education have committed an even greater crime: They have undermined the integrity of the very vocation that they were hired to represent.

Hopefully these teachers' students will learn a valuable lesson from all of this. Perhaps they will learn that "cheaters never prosper." Perhaps they will also be reminded that the very purpose of education is to actually learn something.

The four Dade County Board Members who voted "No" should be required to write, "Cheaters never prosper" on the blackboard 100 times each.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Is a New Al-Qaeda Attack On It's Way?

"Chatter" is up concerning the possibility of one or more al-Qaeda attacks on the United States in the next few days or weeks.

Internet speculation, compiled by the Anchoress here, here and here, is looking at the Sear's Tower in Chicago and this weekend's NASCAR race on March 19 in Atlanta where up to 125,000 people are expected to attend. March 19 would be doubly symbolic, being one day short of the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Too many Americans have become fat, sassy and deluded into thinking that we are not really vulnerable to a terrorist attack. Small-scale attacks causing light damage and relatively few casualties could be brought off fairly easily, along the lines of Hamas suicide bombers in Israel.

But al-Qaeda has, in the past, scorned such amateurish attacks, preferring to go for the massive, well-planned, spectacular assault such as the African embassy bombings, the USS Cole, Bali and 9/11.

If they do manage to pull off another attack it will be a big one. But, if they think it will recreate the panic and crushing emotional devastation of 9/11, they will be very mistaken.

My guess is that the media and Democrats will immediately blame the Bush administration for incompetence in implementing an effective Homeland Security program.

The American people, however, will instinctively be drawn to the stability and single-minded purpose of President Bush.

In the aftermath of another attack the Democrats will shrink and shrivel in size as the public recalls their constant nay-saying and negative criticisms of everyone about everything. This negativity will come back to haunt them and label them as the party that says "No" to every Republican idea without offering even one single positive idea of their own.

When the going gets tough, Americans can be trusted to gravitate towards a rock and away from a waffle.

Al-Qaeda . . . be warned. Another attack will not be good for your health.

Pray, along with me, that these master-minds of terror will falter and their plans come to nothing.

Battling the Bees

Image hosting by PhotobucketOur church preschool has been under assault by bees for the past three weeks. The honeybees especially seem to like the lanai area behind Room 2. Only one child has gotten stung so far but the bees seem intent on hanging around until they find another "victim."

Today I went out and searched high and low (and even in the park across the street) for either a nest or some other source for the bees. I could not find a thing.

So, as an experiment, I picked up a child's sand strainer and spent 15 minutes swatting bees. I wound up with "confirmed kills" of 51 bees ("confirmed" means I swatted them, found where they fell and stepped on them). There were also 10-15 others that I "hit" but couldn't find afterwards.

In any case, by the time I finished there were more bees buzzing around than before I started swatting them. My guess is that there is a nest somewhere close by (possibly in the ground) that is "swarming" (meaning it has gotten too large and is releasing bees to start another nest). Hopefully the bees will find a better welcome at St. John's Roman Catholic Church down the street and make their new home there. If not, we'll have to hire the bee-seeking equivilent of Sherlock Holmes to track down the source of the bees and eradicate them.

All in all I learned a thing or two about bees today. One thing I learned is that it is not a good idea to wear shorts when swatting bees. I swatted one right onto my leg where he must have landed tail side first. I did manage to pull the stinger out but I have a large red area on my right shin (that still hurts a little) to show for it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

How to Talk Politics and Lead an Adult Sunday School Class At the Same Time

One of our Sunday morning adult small groups has decided to make a list of the most challenging topics they can find and then discuss one of them each week. As pastor, my job will be to provide relevent Biblical truths and, if possible, applicable statements in our PCUSA Book of Confessions and Book of Order. If our General Assembly has taken a position or made a statement on the subject I will try to provide that as well.

The group leader will be responsible for sharing this information and then leading a wide-open discussion on it for the rest of the hour each week. The subjects could result in disagreements and differing conclusions so I was considering how to prepare the group leader for moderating the conversation.

Fortuitously, Hugh Hewitt provided a link to The Dinner Book where I came across a wonderful outline for how to have a productive and civilized political conversation between polarized opposites.

It struck me that this particular approach would work well in any situation, whether political, religious, etc., where disagreement could arise.

The writer, Terry L Paulson, PhD, has this to say,
Free and open political discussions have always helped make America strong. There is a value in facing differences. Good political dialogue becomes the fire that tests the metal of your convictions and the depth of your understanding. You can't truly grasp a truth until you have explained and contested it. Constructive debates that involve strong opinions and heartfelt convictions are not then to be avoided; they are to be harnessed in a way that risks influence without demonizing our adversaries.
I couldn't agree with him more. My prayer is that this Sunday morning small group will generate some of that sort of light and respect instead of the smoke and frustration that can sometimes arise.

In any case, I am copying the article and sending it to the small group's leader to peruse as he prepares for their first hot-topic this coming Sunday.

Take a moment to read the entire article. It is short. Like me, you will wish that the members of the Congress (and Muslims and Christians and other religious leaders) would also read it and take it to heart. One can always dream . . . . !

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Milosevic's Death Surrounded in Mystery

The recent death of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic seems destined to provide grist for the rumor mill for many years to come.

According to patholocists involved in his autopsy, the dictator, who was found dead in his "cell" yesterday, was found to have had a combination of drugs in his body that were contraindicated (ie. they were working against each other).

24-hours before he died, Milosevic sent a six-page letter to Russia accusing his captors of "poisoning" him and giving him medications that were harmful to his health.

The UN Tribunal has already "ruled" that the man who they had on trial for 4 years did not die from poisoning. This is surprising since the enquiry has not yet been completed.

There appear to be four scenarios rising to the top of the speculation ladder today:

1. That Milosevic died of natural causes specifically related to his serious heart condition.

2. That he was systematically given inappropriate medications with the intent to cause his death.

3. That he was, of his own choice, refusing to take the prescribed medications as intended and was taking alternative medications instead (or in addition) prescribed by other doctors or medical advisors. The unintended consquences of this self-chosen and defiant medication mess contributed to his death.

4. That the mismanaged medical treatments were intentionally self-inflicted with the intent to commit suicide.

Personally, I feel confident in eliminating #2 from this list. After all, Milosevic and his interminable trial by an international tribunal, had become a dependable cash-cow for the judges, prosecutors, defencers and many, many other personnel involved in the case. His death effectively puts most of them "out of work."

No, for once I think I can let the UN off the hook. If there was any corruption or deceit in this matter it wasn't that these people wanted Milosevic dead, but that they wanted to keep him alive and on trial for their own personal gain.

The man has died. He has already been found guilty by the court of world opinion. The tribunal would have added little or nothing more to this matter.

For the best interest of history, I suggest that the tribunal sentence his dead body to be cremated and the ashes scattered somewhere over the North Sea. This is one person who is not worthy of either a memorial to his life or even a final "resting place."

"Islamic Calvinism" Appears In Turkey and "Calvin" Responds

BBC has an interesting article describing a burst of entrapeneurial success in central Turkey.
A new form of Turkish Islam is emerging here, one which is pro-business and pro-free market, and it's being called Islamic Calvinism.

One of the first to use this description was the former mayor of Kayseri, Sukru Karatepe.

A softly-spoken man who taught sociology before entering politics, Karatape noticed striking similarities between the changes in Kayseri and the famous thesis of the German economist Max Weber, who argued that the strong work ethic of the Protestant movement gave birth to modern capitalism.

"I had read Weber, who'd written about how Calvinists work hard, save money and then reinvest it into business," he says.

"To me, it seemed very similar to what was happening in Kayseri.

"People in Kayseri also don't spend money unnecessarily. They work hard, they pride themselves on saving money. Then they invest it and make more money.

"In fact, in Kayseri, working hard is a form of worship. For them, religion is all about the here and now, not the next life. Making money is a sign of God's approval, and this is also similar to what Weber said about the Calvinists."
On the one hand I am pleased to see my Presbyterian/Calvinist heritage getting such good press withing Turkey these days.

On the other hand I wish that Muslim countries would be more tolerant of the Christians whose work-ethic they are now emulating!

The article does comment that some Muslims are not particularly happy with the phrase "Islamic Calivinism."
The label of Islamic Calvinism, however, has caused a furore in the Turkish press.

Critics say it's a Western conspiracy to Christianise Islam, but others have passionately argued in its favour, holding it up as a model for how Islam and modernity can co-exist.
This, of course, is not surprising. After all, would Christians readily accept a description of something they are doing as (for example) "Christian Iqtisadunaism?" Probably not.

As for the high-profile publicity surrounding the "Islamic Calivinism" in Turkey, I suspect that it has much to do with government "PR" in support of their desire to join the European Economic Union.

The BBC article supports this view with its closing paragraphs:
One of its most prominent defenders has been Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, himself a native of Kayseri and the son of an entrepreneur.

He sees no contradiction in the term and argues that Turkey can provide a lasting template for a new kind of modern Islam . . .

"This is what modernism means to me, and this is why this new Turkey will ultimately be an asset to the European Union."
I wonder what Calvin hismelf would think of this?

Actually, during Calvin's life, the Muslim Turks had conquered Hungary and had entered Poland, Roumania and even had sent ships to attack Nice, in southern France. There was a genuine threat to what remained of the Holy Roman Empire and "Christendom." It should not surprise us then, that Calvin was concerned over the political situation as well as the spiritual corruption of the religion of Muhammed. As Calvin put it, "As Mahomet says that his Al-Coran is the sovereign wisdom, so says the Pope of his own decrees. For they be the two horns of Antichrist..."

"Calvin," says Australia's Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee in a paper entitled 'Calvin On Islam,' "was not discouraged to see Islam more and more challenging th4e claims of Christ, and ultimately drawing closer to the the Standarad-bearer of Antichrist's abominable kingomd. For Calvin knew . . . that Christ's Kingdom would nonetheless increase and unltimately triumph over Islam . . .

On the other hand, based on the Old Testament command for Israel to be kind to Egyptians (because some had been hospitable to them), Calvin "argues further, that although the unbaptized Moslem is not (yet) our brother--just as the uncircumcised Egyptian was back then not (yet) the brother of the Israelite--we may never-theless not abhor the Moslem . . . That, then is how Christians should treat Moslems . . . to reciprocate (their) hospitatlity--and, indeed, even to show them precisely spiritual hospitality."

This is, of course, for the purpose of leading those who are God's elect out of the Muslim faith and into faith in the saving Lordship of Jesus Christ and the true worship of the triune God.

Calvin personally did not spend much time worrying about economics . . . at least not of the monetary kind. He was more concerned about the economics of God and of the spiritual nature of humanity.

"Let the Moslem call himself what he chooses," Calvin might say. "Such titles are of no consequence to God or to eternity unless that choice should entail calling himself a baptized disciple of Jesus Christ. That, of course, would matter a great deal!"

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Masterpiece Side-walk Chalk Drawings--2-Dimensional Illusion

Julian Beever is an English sidewalk chalk drawing artist. He is better than good. Check out these photographs of some examples of his work. But be careful you don't trip over the Coca-Cola bottle!

And keep in mind that these drawings disappear very quickly, via rain or simply underfoot!

ht:Michelle Malkin

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bipartisan US House Committee Proposes To Halt Dubai Port Deal

The House Appropriations Committee voted 62-2 today in support of legislation that would prohibit the Dubai-owned DP World from acquiring the Administrative contracts for 9 US ports.

President Bush has threatened to veto such legislation if it crosses his desk.

Personally, I hope he does. By doing so he gets the Executive Branch, the State and Commerce Departments off the hook, placing the full responsibility of the cancellation on the US Legislature.

I would guess that if the legislation passes the House and Senate once that there will likely be enough support to overide the veto.

Will this be enough to split the Republican party in Congress? No more than it already is! To be honest, this is one issue over which men and women of good will can differ without necessarily dividing along party lines. In light of the constant party-line divisions over Administration proposals during the past four years it may even be refreshing and helpful for Democrats and some Republicans to find something they can actually agree on.

Will this hurt President Bush politically? I doubt it. He is now a lame duck and his party faithful will only support him if an issue is core to their constituency or will otherwise help get them reelected this coming Fall.

Even so, some of the burbling gibberish usually associated with Democrats has begun to surface amongst the Republicans over this issue (Rep. Jerry Lewis R-CA offers a good example,
"This is a national security issue," said Rep. Jerry Lewis, the chairman of the panel. The California Republican said the legislation would "keep America's ports in American hands,"
a quote thoroughly trashed by both Cpt. Ed and Powerline's John Hinderocker).

There are, of course, legitimate issues of concern over this matter. But to obfuscate them with such uninformed clap-trap does not impress me much at all. Offers Abu Ghraib Photos In Exchange for Their Soul

Captain Ed reports that is trying to entice paid subscribers with a solicitation letter that reveals that they are "planning to release hundreds more photos taken inside Abu Ghraib."

Editor Joan Walsh then goes on to write, "I'm contacting you and other former Salon Premium members to make sure these photos reach a large audience. Your expired Premium membership supported our ongoing mission to speak truth to power, but we need your help again now."

Gee, I wonder why they may have let their subscriptions lapse . . . could it be because they had grown tired of all the Abu Ghraib hype that the media used for self-promotion and anti-Bush/anti-war propaganda two years ago? What makes Salon think that even more photos will lure them back? The Bible declares that a "dog returns to its vomit." Perhaps that is what has in mind?

In a remarkable demonstration of chutzpah, the letter's final paragraph begins, "We'll do our job with integrity and diligence."


In any case, I have written the following letter letting then know my thoughts on the matter:

I understand that you are attempting to woo subscribers by planning to publish more photographs of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. Why would anyone want to rehash a news story that is over 2 years old and with all the players either convicted or charged with military crimes?

These photos are not newsworthy. They will in no way shed any more light on the misadventure nor will they inject any new information into the story than we already have.

It appears to me that your proposed project serves no other purpose than to effect emotion . . . all of it negative and pointless . . . except to effectively defame, tar and feather all American troops new serving in Iraq none of whom had anything to do with the photographs or the incident they represent.

On the other hand, the new images will be well received by the Islamist terrorists who will, without any doubt whatsoever, use them to stir up even more anger and hatred against the United States, encourage more volunteer recruits as suicide bombers, successfully prolong the conflict in Iraq and contribute to the death of many more American servicemen and women.

Jesus once asked, "What does it profit someone if they gain the world but lose their soul?"

Please do not "sell your soul" for a few subscriptions. Personally, I would be ashamed to have readers who would be enticed by what you are offering them.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bonds Used Steroids? No Surprise Here!

So, it's news today that two sports writers for the San Francisco Chronicle have published a book, "Game of Shadows," that purports to reveal as fact that Bobby Bonds used undetectable "designer" steroids for five years, beginning during the 1998 season.

Color me unimpressed. I concluded this long, long ago and even posted my thoughts on the matter last September.

Hollywood's Once Proud Record of Military Service

Image hosting by Photobucket Some uncredited blogger sent Little Green Footballs the following insightful article. It is timely insofar as we just endured the Academy Awards just two nights ago. Read it and weep for what once was.


In contrast to the opinions and feelings of today’s Hollywood, the real actors of yesteryear loved the United States.

They had both class and integrity. With the advent of World War II, many of our actors went to fight rather than stand and rant against this country we all love. They gave up their wealth, position, and fame to become service men and women, many as simple “enlisted men”.

This group of only 18 men earned over 70 medals in honor of their valor, spanning from Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, Distinguish Service Crosses, Purple Hearts, to one Congressional Medal of Honor.

Most of these brave men have since passed on.

Real Hollywood Heroes

Alec Guinness (Star Wars) operated a British Royal Navy landing craft on D-Day.

James Doohan (“Scotty” on Star Trek) landed in Normandy with the U. S. Army on D-Day.

Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape) really was an R. A. F. pilot who was shot down, held prisoner and tortured by the Germans.

David Niven was a Sandhurst graduate and Lt. Colonel of the British Commandos in Normandy.

James Stewart entered the Army Air Force as a private and worked his way to the rank of Colonel. During World War II, Stewart served as a bomber pilot, his service record crediting him with leading more than 20 missions over Germany, and taking part in hundreds of air strikes during his tour of duty. Stewart earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, France’s Croix de Guerre, and 7 Battle Stars during World War II. In peace time, Stewart continued to be an active member of the Air Force as a reservist, reaching the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in the late 1950s.

Clark Gable (Mega-Movie Star when war broke out): Although he was beyond the draft age at the time the U.S. entered WW II, Clark Gable enlisted as a private in the AAF on Aug. 12, 1942, at Los Angeles. He attended the Officers’ Candidate School at Miami Beach, Fla. and graduated as a second lieutenant on Oct. 28, 1942. He then attended aerial gunnery school, and in Feb. 1943 he was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook where he flew operational missions over Europe in B-17s. Capt. Gable returned to the U.S. in Oct. 1943 and was relieved from active duty as a major on Jun. 12, 1944, at his own request, since he was over-age for combat.

Charlton Heston was an Army Air Corps Sergeant in Kodiak.

Ernest Borgnine was a U. S. Navy Gunner’s Mate 1935-1945.

Charles Durning was a U. S. Army Ranger at Normandy, earning a Silver Star and awarded the Purple Heart.

Charles Bronson was a tail gunner in the Army Air Corps, more specifically on B-29s in the 20th Air Force out of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan.

George C. Scott was a decorated U. S. Marine.

Eddie Albert (Green Acres, TV) was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroic action as a U. S. Naval officer aiding Marines at the horrific battle on the island of Tarawa in the Pacific, Nov. 1943.

Brian Keith served as a U.S. Marine rear gunner in several actions against the Japanese on Rabal in the Pacific.

Lee Marvin was a U.S. Marine on Saipan during the Marianas campaign when he was wounded, earning the Purple Heart.

John Russell: In 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps where he received a battlefield commission and was wounded and highly decorated for valor at Guadalcanal.

Robert Ryan was a U. S. Marine who served with the O.S.S. in Yugoslavia.

Tyrone Power (an established movie star when Pearl Harbor was bombed) joined the U.S. Marines, was a pilot flying supplies into, and wounded Marines out of, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Audie Murphy, little 5’5“ tall 110-pound guy from Texas who played cowboy parts?

Most Decorated serviceman of WWII and earned: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, 2 Silver Star Medals, Legion of Merit, 2 Bronze Star Medals with ”V", 2 Purple Hearts, U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, 2 Distinguished Unit Emblems, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France) World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar, Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar, French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre, French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier, French Croix de Guerre With Silver Star, French Croix de Guerre with Palm, Medal of Liberated France, Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 Palm.

President Bush Tries His Hand At Cricket!

Image hosting by PhotobucketOne under-reported story from President Bush's recent trip to Pakistan was his attempt at playing cricket with several of Pakistan's national team players.

Not only did he hit and bowl (pitch) but he even took one on the shoulder "for the team!" Whatever else "W" might be he is a good sport and coordinated and fit enough to not look like a fool doing it! See the rest of the photos here at BBC News.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Funeral Service at Punchbowl National Cemetery

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Every so often I have the privilige of officiating at a memorial inurnment service at the National Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in Honolulu, Hawaii. I have written of this before (here, here, here and here) but today the weather was especially wonderful and I thought I would include some photographs I took during and after the service.

Today's service was for Ernest Koichi Akiyoshi. Earnest passed away in San Diego over a year ago but I was asked to officiate because he and his wife, had been charter members of my congregation 35 years ago. Earnest had, in fact, been born in Central Oahu and grew up here so this was, for him, a sort of homecoming. His relatively short term of military service had begun in 1948 with the American occupation forces in Germany following the end of World War II.

In any case, the service went well and I enjoyed meeting so many wonderful members of his family. I hope you will enjoy the photos.

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The site for the service

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The unfolding of the flag

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The display of the flag

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The presentation of the flag

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The inurnment site (click to enlarge). Apparently Ernie loved arare!

I then spent 30 minutes paying my respects to those who had given their lives in service to our country. As you look at each picture please say a prayer of gratitude for the one buried there.

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Famed American news correspondant Ernie Pyle, killed in action on Okinawa shortly before the end of WW II

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Ellison Onizuka, US astronaut who was born and raised in Hawaii and who died in the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger

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This one speaks for itself

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There are more than 100 of these markers adjacent to the gazebo where the memorial services are held. A deeply moving section of the cemetery.

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I counted over 80 sailor "unknowns" from the USS Oklahoma in this one section of the cemetery.
If you have never visited the "Punchbowl Cemetery of the Pacific" be sure to do so . . . after you have visited the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri!

Hawaii Revival--Micronesian Style

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Some of the Pastors on Friday evening (I'm the one w/out a tie)

The Micronesian congregation that "nests" in our church facilities held a revival this past week. The congregation is mostly made up of new immigrants from the island of Nama, 40 miles or so from the famous atoll of Chuuk (formerly called "Truk").

Chuukese/Nama pastors flew in from Maui, Oregon, Chuuk and Nama to join the two pastors who serve the Nama community here in Central Oahu. For four nights they sang, praised, prayed and heard inspirational sermons delivered by the pastors.

On Friday evening I attended long enough to sing a few choruses (most were in English) and offer the folks (over 100 were present) a warm welcome from my congregation. Pastor Stanis Philips even gave me a "crash course" on how to say, "I'm glad you are all here this evening" in Chuukese. I spoke the words the way he told me but all I got from all the good people were puzzled looks!

Things really got rolling on Saturday evening with preaching and singing lasting until midnight.

It is good seeing folks so far from home enjoying a big get-together with friends and family and doing so in an atmosphere of joy and thanksgiving in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That sort of worship needs no translation!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscars For Everybody!

The Oscar Awards seemed to have been "hand picked" to give everybody something to go home feeling sort-of OK about.


Best Picture went to "Crash" which, when announced, brought an audible gasp of shock from the audience of stars. No one expected Crash to win and, guessing from the surprise, most of the attendees appeared to have voted for and expected "Brokeback Mountain" to win. Why didn't it win? Hmmm.

Best Director went to Ang Lee for "Brokeback Mountain" which is almost as good a getting "Best Picture" except without the public numbness that would have ensued had it actually won that final award.

Best Actor went to Philip Seymour Hoffman for his title role in "Capote." This was, perhaps, the most competetive of the major awards this year and Hoffman's performance appears to have been worthy of being chosen as the "Best." It was one of the only awards to go to "Capote."

Best Actress went to Reese Witherspoon for her role as June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line." Reese was almost as much of a surprise winner as "Crash" was for Best Picture. Of all the major movies chosen for major categories "Walk the Line" was undoubtedly the most wholesome, family-oriented, morally-centered film to be nominated. Although Witherspoon was a worthy recipient of her award her role was totally overshadowed in the movie by the brilliant lead role of Johnny Cash played by Joaquin Phoenix (who did not win).

Best Supporting Actor went to George Clooney for his role in "Syriana." Clooney was nominated for four different Oscars and this was the only one he took home. "Good Night and Good Luck" was totally goose-egged.

Best Supporting Actress went to Rachel Weisz for her role in the much-touted "The Constant Gardner."

Spread the wealth. Something for everybody. Nothing too controversial. Nothing too wonderful. Nothing to write home about.

More than "Crash" winning the top award, this year's Oscars will be remembered for being the year the the Best Song award went to Three 6 Mafia for their inane number, "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp." During the performace of the song at least one of the lyrics (such as they were) was "bleeped." When Jordan "Juicy J" Houston received his award one of his (or was it one of the other Three Mafiosis?) comments was also "bleeped."

Tonight Hip Hop replaced glamour as the Hollywood's cachet, and bling sparkled amidst the tattoos. One could almost hear the voice of Oscar crying out, "I've fallen and I can't get up!"

Jon Stewart can sleep well knowing that the "fizz" in this year's Oscar Awards program would have gone flat whether he had been there to help it along or not.

An Incredible Shark Photograph--"Mind-Blowing"

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British Director Sir David Attenborough narrates a new BBC project entitled, "Planet Earth." The project reportedly took four years to film. BBC has posted some photographs taken from the project including the one shown above. Attenborough himself describes this picture--of a Great White Shark leaping to catch a seal--"Mind blowing." I will not disagree.

The photo is so surreal and frightening that it could pass as an out-take from "Jaws!" I'm almost tempted to check with to see if it's real or not!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ilan Halimi--American News Blackout--Why?

Image hosting by PhotobucketIlan Halimi was a 23-year old French Jew, an immigrant from Morocco . I say "was" because he is now dead. He was kidnapped and tortured to death over a three-week period by a gang of Muslims who held him for ransom. His screams could be heard by his parents during phone conversations with the kidnappers, along with shouted quotations from the Qu'ran and comments indicating that they were extinguishing their cigarettes by snuffing them out on Ilan's body.

Halimi was found naked, handcuffed with 80% of his body covered with cuts and burns (he had been set on fire at the end) on Feb. 13 near railroad tracks south of Paris. He died on his way to a hospital.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe story has been headline news throughout Europe. Somewhere between 10,000-100,000+ (estimates varied widely) people marched in Paris to protest his death and his funeral service was attended by French government officials including President Jacques Chirac.

Image hosting by PhotobucketIn the United States, however, the news media effectively buried the story. I doubt that, unless you read the news on-line or read blogs you will not have heard of this story at all.

Image hosting by PhotobucketFor example, FoxNews on-line carried one story on the subject, a story that included the following mis-information:

It remains unclear whether anti-Semitism was the motive for the grisly killing, which may have been part of a suburban extortion racket. . .

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that Halimi's attackers were primarily motivated by greed. "But they believed, and I quote, 'That Jews have money,'" he said. "That's called anti-Semitism." . . .

Anti-Semitic acts, as well as acts against Muslims, increased in France starting in 2000, reflecting the rise in Israeli-Palestinian violence. They've since fallen off their peak, but the Halimi case has revived fears anti-Semitism remains in French society.

Remarkably, no mention is made in the story that the kidnappers were Muslim . . . as if that fact was irrelevant to the story! No mention was made of the kidnapper's phone contacts with Ilan's family, either. But we are informed that there have been "acts against Muslims" as if to somehow negate the horror of Ilan's murder.

The French themselves are culpable in this matter. Ilan's dying body was found on February 13. Three days later,
Speaking on a Parisian Jewish radio on Thursday, the Paris public prosecutor said that "no element of the current investigation could link this murder to an anti-Semitic declaration or action."

Police even didn't mention the Jewish identity of the victim. "It is out of question to draw a line to the victim's membership of the community" Jean-Claude Marin told French Jewish radio Radio Shalom.
Talk about a nation in denial!

CNN on-line did somewhat better on the story, relating the anti-Semitic aspects of the case as details became known. But even CNN never identifies the kidnappers as being Muslim, instead repeating a report that they were of varying ethnicities yet reporting that pro-Palestinian (Hamas) propaganda was found in their apartment. In spite of not reporting that the kidnappers were Muslim CNN included this warning in their story:
(French Interior Minister) Sarkozy on Tuesday called the killers barbarian criminals and urged people not to draw racist conclusions -- a clear warning against blaming France's Muslim community, which was widely suspected in a wave of anti-Jewish attacks several years ago.
Why warn against a back-lash against Muslims if Muslims were not involved? Why is the US media so hesitant to tell the story the "way it is?"

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As far as CBS, NBC and ABC News, their web sites offer no video and only links to AP stories on the murder. Incredibly, in response to a NBC text search for "Ilan Halimi", nothing could be matched and I was given this suggestion, "Did you mean: ian harlem?" (Update: I found one CBS article here.)

National newspapers (notably the New York Times) did somewhat better, and even the LA Times carried at least two articles written by their own staff. A search of my own Honolulu Advertiser, however, could find no match for "Ilan Halimi."

So, was I right? Did you know about this story?

No wonder Americans are considered to be the most uninformed people in the world. Our TV News networks keep us that way.

Guantanamo Detainees' Names Released--Sort-Of

Court hearing records for some terrorism detainees at Guantanamo have been released to Associated Press after the AP filed a "freedom of information" suit against the DOD.

We will be hearing many excerpts from these documents in the next several weeks and most of them will be used to cast more negative light on the Bush administration's handling of the situation.

This will all be somewhat deceptive and inconclusive for the following reasons:

1. The names of those still being held at Guantanamo are not necessarily the same as those in the documents. The documents involve only a partial list of those who have been detained over the past four years and does include some who have been released. Note we do not necessarily know the names of those released, either, making it near impossible to tell who, among those whose names have been released, are still being held or have been released.

2. Many of the statements made by detainees during their hearings contain very embarassing charges against the US military and government. What is not clear, of course, is whether those charges have any merit or have simply been made up out of thin air.

3. Apparently, the Washington Post has been keeping a list of Guantanamo detainees whose names have been recovered from news releases, attorneys, etc. The WaPo list currently contains 450 names. About 490 detainees are held at Guantanamo Bay. About 270 have been transferred or released. This would mean that there will probably be few new names discovered among the 5000 pages of documents released today.

Apparently the government polled the detainees at one point asking if they would mind having their names publically released or not. Most did not return the survey. Many did not answer the question. Most who answered said they would like their names released and 16 said they would not like their names released.

I should think that the records that have been released relate to those whose hearings have been completed. Otherwise the information contained in these hearing records could compromise their status in future hearings.

In the end I do not think that the information released today will make too much difference for those being held. It will just supply more data for the MSM to twist and misinterpret and increase their insatiable appetite to get even more information to enable them to make sense of it all.

In a strange footnote to the story, the AP reports that the court-ordered data was placed on a CD by the DOD and hand carried to AP. Before delivery, however, the CD was recalled because it contained copies of correspondance that was not supposed to have been included.

A correctly-formatted CD was eventually delivered, a little behind the court-ordered deadline but not late enough to make a stink.

How in the world could the DOD make such a mistake! The incompetence in mind-boggling! These are the people who are leading our military in the war against terror. These are the people entrusted with our military intelligence. These are the people entrusted with keeping classified material classified.

And they cannot even manage to hand deliver the right CD to AP.

Personally, I am not much comforted by this adolescent blunder.

Web Site Map Shows World-Wide Islamic Terror Attacks Sine 9/11/01

A site calling itself "The Bloody Border Project" has done a remarkable job of showing the dates, location and severity of Islamic terrorist attacks since 9/11. Particularly "striking" is the animation page with daily attacks flickering across the globe like firecrackers.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Queen Mary 2 Visits Honolulu

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe Queen Mary 2 is one very, very large ship . . . the largest passenger ship in history! This photograph, that graced the front page of today's Honolulu Advertiser, is one that I wish that I had taken myself. (click on photo to enlarge it)

One local measure of its size is that it is as long as six Aloha Towers (for many years the tallest building in the state) laid end to end.

It even has a planetarium for "heavens" sake! (pun intended).

Well, it didn't stay long, just overnight.

Only two years age the Queen Elizabeth 2 passed through Honolulu on her last cruise before returning to England.

Way back in 1966 I sailed into Southampton harbor after crossing the Atlantic on the SS Rotterdam, at that time the largest passenger liner engaged in world cruises.

There was a dock strike in England that week so shipping was all tied up (literally). As we passed through the harbor (or should I spell it "harbour?") it turned out that the original Queen Elizabeth (with two stacks) and Queen Mary (with three) were docked end to end. It seemed like it took forever for us to pass these two mammoth passenger liners, staring straight up from what we had thought was a large ship!

So, now I have personally seen all four of these great ships and I am content.

Big isn't always beautiful but, when it comes to a passenger ship that is 24-stories tall, it can be awesome!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Spinning Both Ways At Once: Two Timely Examples

It's sad yet funny the way spin comes flying back at you like a boomerang. It leaves you wondering if there was any point to it in the first place. Consider the following:

1. Hillary Clinton has fiercely denounced the Dubai Port World's purchase of administrative contracts for major US ports. Her web page proclaims, "This sale will create an unacceptable risk to the security of our ports" while adding that,"This issue transcends philosophical posturing and partisan bickering – it is about our nation’s security."

Where's the twist? The twist is that Hillary's husband and former Commander-In-Chief of the United States, Bill Clinton, has been in Dubai consulting with the government and Port World and advising them on what they need to do to get the contract approved by the US Congress.

So, are we to assume that Hillary is right and her husband is busy helping to "create an unacceptable risk to the security of our ports?" Or are we to assume that Bill Clinton is convinced that there is no security risk while Hillary is simply bloviating, posturing and bickering about our nation's security?

Hmmm. Could the fact that Bill picked up $300,000 from making a speech at a Dubai conference back in 2002 have anything to do with his enthusistic support for Dubai Port World? (2002 was, by the way, the year the United States invaded Afghanistan in order to overthrow the Taliban regime that had been sheltering, protecting and supporting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, a regime that was vocally and enthusiastically supported by the government of Dubai, a minor matter that did not deter Bill from claiming his paycheck from Dubai at the time).

Those Clintons! They have never let a few dollars ever get in the way of sucking up to our nation's enemies (remember China?) and, if they can play it both ways at the same time, all the better! What a crock!

2. Meanwhile, Texas Democrats are arguing before the US Supreme Court that the 2003 Republican majority Texas legislature had no business gerrymandering the state voting districts because the 1991 Democratic-controlled Texas legislature had done a perfectly fair and impartial job of redistricting and gerrymandering the state themselves just 12 years earlier.

Democratic lawyers argued that the recent redistricting was racially motivated and has denied minorities their right to influence the outcome of elections.

The New York Times even published this graphic showing how the Republicans had effectively reduced Texas' minority representation in Congress by one.Image hosting by Photobucket Click on picture to enlarge it.

What both the graphic and the New York Times article fail to tell you can be found in the AP version of the story: ie. that, at the moment,
(s)ix Hispanics and three blacks represent Texas in the House of Representatives — an increase of one more black congressman from before the 2003 map was put in place.
The AP story also takes time to mention that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fell asleep before the two-hours of legal arguements were completed. Although the NY Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times stories of today's SCOTUS hearing did not mention Justice Ginsburg's nap, Captain Ed wonders if they would have been so polite, tactful and silent had the napping Justice been Scalia, Alito or Thomas? Any fair-minded person can make an educated guess on that question!

Spinning both ways at the same time in defiance of priciples of physics . . . and of reason!