Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Have You Had Your Daily Dose of Polonium-210 Today?

Ah, yes. Polonium-210. Highly radioactive and very rare. A by-product of advanced nuclear technology.

Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who has lived in London for many years, felt ill on November 1 several days after meeting with some unidentified Russian men. As his illness grew worse and hospital workers could neither diagnose his illness or reverse the deadly symptoms he accused Russian President Vladmir Putin of ordering his asassination. The polonium-210 was found in his body after his death on November 23.

Since only a minute amount of polonium-210 can bring death, investigators quickly retraced Litvinenko's movements from the time he believed he had been poisoned. So far six London locations have been found to show traces of polonium-210 and 49 out of 106 hospital personnel who cared for him have been asked to give urine samples to see if they have been contaminated.

Worse than this, today three British Airways jetliners were grounded after traces of polonium-210 were found on two of them. The three jets were tested because either Litvinenko or others, suspected in his murder, were believed to have flown on them as passengers after what he believed was his poisoning on October 25.

British Airways has now listed the 200 flights these airliners have made since that date and are asking the 33,000 passengers and 3,000 crew and maintenance personnel who have worked on them to contact the airlines for potential health assessments.

Litvinenko, along with others, had been actively pursuing leads in the murder of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya on October 7th. Politkovskaya had been about to publish an expose on the use of torture in Chechnya when she was shot in the head in her Moscow apartment building.

Her death, as well as Litvinenko's, has been tied to Putin . . . who has denied any knowledge or involvement in either case.

This story keeps growing more and more each day. Who knows where it will lead . . . perhaps to more murders and assassinations?

In any case, I wonder how much polonium-210 contamination might be found if random tests were done on various Moscow-routed airliners and other known habitues of shadowy Russian hit-men and hit-women?

It makes me wonder just how many times this has happened before and whether this toxic poison is splattered somewhere near where I live? Or where you live?

The world has just grown a little bit less welcoming and safe thanks to the potenially potent poison of paranoia.

Chicago Says, "MERRY XXXXXMAS"

If you haven't already heard, Chicago City Hall has urged the city's annual "Christkindlmarket" to drop the movie, "The Nativity Story," from its list of paid sponsors.

John Kass at the Chicago Tribune explains:
Christkindlmarket literally means "Christ child market" in German. The sponsors included the producers of "The Nativity Story," a film about the birth of Christ. The market wanted to run ads about the movie at the festival that commemorates Christmas.

But City Hall determined such ads would offend.
Apparently the other sponsors, including Bischoff's Imported & Domestic German Beer, are more in keeping with the spirit of the Christmas Season in Chicago these days.

In any case, the event's organizers, the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, caved in to the pressure and returned the $12,000 sponsor's fee they had received from New Line Cinema, the producers of the film.

So, it is now safe to say that no one attending the annual Christ-child Market in Chicago this year will have to fear being offended by accidentally viewing a video ad for a movie depicting . . . well . . . depicting the birth of the Christ child.

Now, of course, instead of "Christmas" . . . it's just a "mess."

Andrew McCarthy Expains Why We Should Not Talk With Terrorists

Andrew McCarthy has written a fine essay in the National Review Online entitled, "Can We Talk?"

I highly recommend that you read it. It exposes the Bush administration's failure to address the "fundamental" reality of the enemy we face in the woefully misnamed "War on Terrorism."

If you want to see the conflict in Iraq and our darkening relationships with Syria and Iran in a new and improved light, please read this article. It is gloomy but honest and, I believe, accurate. If we do not face up to and accept the reality of our "enemy" for who he is we will never defeat him.

And, if we do not defeat him, we will have defeated ourselves.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Muslims Not Permitted to Criticize Other Muslims

My post headline is not exactly true. In full it should read, "Muslims are not permitted to criticize other Muslims in front of non-Muslims."

Since it is almost universally affirmed in the Muslim world that people like bin-Laden, al-Zawahiri and the like are Muslims, it is forbidden by Muslim custom and tradition for a Muslim to criticize or condemn them in any way that might be heard or read by non-Muslims.

A good example of this practice arose this past week in, of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Jamal Miftah, a Muslim who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in 2003, wrote an October 29 opinion piece in the Tulsa World entitled, "Message of Islam Is Not Jihad, Fatwahs."

As a result, leaders of his mosque have refused to allow him to return until he renounces his article and apologizes.

A Mosque leader disputed the story, however, claiming that Miftah had been banned for being "too loud in the prayer room." It was this that he needed to apologize for. He had not been asked to apologize for the op-ed article.

According to Miftah, who was interviewed by a local television station, some fellow Muslims thanked him for the article but others physically threatened him to the point where he had to file a complaint with the local police. (Thought: Why would he be threatened for being loud in a prayer room?)

Click to hear interview report

I would like to believe that the lack of public criticism of Islamist terror by Muslim leaders is simply because of this self-imposed censorship on public criticism of Muslims by Muslims.

Opinion polls, however, where such restraint is not likely to be imposed, continually show a significant amount of support and sympathy for these militant, "terrorist" Islamist leaders among Muslims. In many countries that sympathy is a majority of the Muslim population. In others, such as in Great Britain, it is less than a majority but still high.

Fortunately, in the United States, even in opinion polls, a significant majority of Muslims reject the terrorism of al-Qaeda & Co--at least against American citizens in the United States.

Yet, if only 10% of the Muslim population of the United States (population based on Muslim estimates) were personally supportive of those who commit terrorism in the name of Islam that would still come to somewhere near 700,000 people . . . in our own country.

Personally, I believe that a second reason more Muslims do not speak out publicly about this issue is because they are afraid . . . of other Muslims.

UPDATE: Someone on YouTube has posted a comment alongside this video alleging that Miftah is a "fraud" and that his wife, who he alleges goes by three different names, stole one of them from the poster's dead sister!

Ah, yes. Defamation and Denial. They cast doubt on Miftah's credibility, don't they? I suppose that's the intent.

Democratic Senator Rangel Outdoes Kerry in Insulting the US Military

Last month Senator John Kerry said his comments were a botched joke.

Senator Charles Rangel (D-NY), who is soon expected to become the Chair of the House Ways and Means committee and one of the most powerful Democratic leaders in Congress was not joking at all last Wednesday when he was quoted in the New York Daily News as saying,
The great majority of people beariing arms for this country in Iraq are from poorer communities in our inner cities and rural areas.
When he was confronted with this quote on Fox News yesterday (watch the video here) and was presented with statistical evidence that disproved his assertion, Rangel responded by saying,
I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.
First of all, Senator, there are one or two women serving in our military in Iraq, too . . . it's not just the "young fellas."

Also, I suppose it may be true that few young people want to go to war and fight but, those who have volunteered to join our military and have been ordered to "go and fight," are doing it honorably and well. Indeed, vast numbers of our military have volunteered to serve since we entered the war, first in Afghanistan and, three years ago, in Iraq. Many have "gone to war" more than once and many have "re-upped" knowing that they will have to do it again.

Large numbers of our military, both "officer" and "enlisted" have had multiple career options that paid better and offered far better benefits than our military could ever offer. Yet they have turned these things down in favor of entering harms' way in the uniform of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard.

It is insulting and degrading for our men and women in uniform to be continually stereotyped as poor, stupid losers by those who have been elected to represent them in the highest offices of our national government.

Rangel clearly believes what he says and this is far more worrisome than if he were simply a bloviating demagog blowing off hot air.

I suppose that some military outfit in Iraq will have to create another banner to set Rangel straight.

But, if they do, don't expect to see a picture of that banner in any major news publication or television broadcast. Why should they publish it when they didn't even bother to report on what Rangel said in the first place!


More Media Fakery In Iraq Coverage?

Several days ago I posted on the questionable veracity of a Los Angeles Times article that reported an "U.S. air strike" on civilian homes in Ramadi killing 30 people, including "women and children". There appears to be zero evidence that such an attack actually took place.

Associated Press has now done them one better by not only citing an event that apparently didn't happen but actually quoting people by name who don't appear to exist, either.

The AP story begins,
Revenge-seeking Shiite militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left Friday prayers, drenched them with kerosene and burned them alive, and Iraqi soldiers did nothing to stop the attack, police and witnesses said . . .

. . . Police Capt. Jamil Hussein said Iraqi soldiers at a nearby army post failed to intervene in the burnings of Sunnis by suspected members of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia, or in subsequent attacks that torched four Sunni mosques and killed at least 19 other Sunnis, including women and children, in the same northwest Baghdad area.
CENTCOM (the US Command in Iraq) has sent the Associated Press a memo that begins,
Dear Associated Press:

On Nov. 24, 2006, your organization published an article by Qais Al-Bashir about six Sunnis being burned alive in the presence of Iraqi Police officers. This news item, which is below, received an enormous amount of coverage internationally.

We at Multi-National Corps - Iraq made it known through MNC-I Press Release Number 20061125-09 and our conversations with your reporters that neither we nor Baghdad Police had any reports of such an incident after investigating it and could find no one to corroborate the story. A couple of hours ago, we learned something else very important. We can tell you definitively that the primary source of this story, police Capt. Jamil Hussein, is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee. We verified this fact with the MOI through the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team.
You can read the whole thing at Powerline.

I read the AP story in my local paper and was horrified by the level of violence it represented. But it now looks as if I was duped . . . again.

I guess that the word "news" is now to be defined as "What you read in the newspaper" rather than necessarily having anything to do with reality.

I might as well be subscribing to Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine for my "news."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Hawaii Wins Thriller Over Purdue

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Well, I was there and I saw it happen. I'm still not sure how but the University of Hawaii Warriors proved that they are worthy of a top-25 ranking by coming from behind to defeat Purdue 42-35 this evening.

Actually, I do know how they did it. They did it by never quitting, even when they were behind by eight point with only 6-1/2 minutes left in the game.

They did it by getting a 52-yard field goal from a kicker who has missed an embarrassing number of point-after kicks this season.

They did it by handing the ball to Nate Ilaoa and letting him run for 159 yards (he also caught 7 passes for 52 yards more).

Most of all, they did it by having Colt Brennan keep his cool long enough to throw for three touchdowns in the Fourth Quarter including the winning score with 1:09 left on the clock.

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Colt Brennan and the Warriors line up for a play

All in all Hawaii racked up an impressive 653 total offensive yards compared with Purdue's 472.

Colt Brennan set a new NCAA Division I record for the most touchdowns thrown by a quarterback over two seasons (he still has two games to play).

Brennan now needs only 3 more passing touchdowns to set a new Division I NCAA record for the most thrown in one season!

Purdue proved themselves to be a well-coached and well-disciplined team. They can hold their heads high as they head to a season-closing bowl game with an impressive 8-5 record.

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The players swarm onto the field as the game ends

Hawaii, however, proved that it can win games under pressure and from behind. They have already shown the nation how they can win with huge scores. The 42 they scored today was the fewest scored in a game since their season-opening loss to Alabama.

Next week they will play Oregon State (8-4) coming off their dramatic win over Oregon on Friday.

Oregon State, as you may remember, is the only team to defeat USC this season; one of only two teams, in fact, that has beaten USC in the past THREE seasons!

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42,000+ very excited fans saw the game

I'll be at the game next Saturday, cheering on the 10-2 Hawaii team. It will be a good game. If another 42,000+ screaming, stomping fans turn out like they did tonight, the home-team advantage will quite possibly tip the scales in their favor again!

That would be nice.

"Happy Feet" Stumbles

Well, I just returned home from watching the movie, "Happy Feet," with my wonderful wife and Daughter #3.

For the first half of the movie I enjoyed a slightly off-beat, but familiar romp about themes such as "being different," "intolerance" and the need to "loosen up" and "embrace diversity." Even though I am a Christian Pastor I could overcome the negative stereotypes of all things spiritual or religious (all such figures were intolerant of diversity, frauds, liars, stick-in-the-muds or outright debauches). In any case, to mid-point the movie was entertaining and amusing.

The second half of the movie seemed to have been written by a very dull and boring member of Greenpeace. The humor dried up, the dialogue became preachy, and the theme switched to saving the world from the "alien" humans who were killing the whales, polluting the earth, overfishing the oceans and being little more than "anti-Johnny Appleseeds," planting toxic waste and environmental disasters wherever they set foot.

But never fear, scientific technology (the hero penguin saves the day by being tagged with a radio-transmitter), "happy" scientists in orange jump suits and (I'm being serious here) the United Nations manage to save the day for the penguins.

The plot is so disconnected that I do not believe that any child under the age of fifth grade would be able to follow it or even care about it. There is a scene with a Sea Lion that is so frightening that many of the littlest ones in the theater were screaming and crying. It appears to be a movie that somehow lost its way and wound up wandering around until it decided to just come home and end.

By the time it ended I was very glad it did.

I am amazed at how many positive reviews "Happy Feet" has received at Rotten Tomatoes. It is currently showing a 79% positive rating. Two of the negative reviews there actually summarized my own feelings about the movie quite well:
(Writer/director) Miller has tried to make three or four different movies at once, the result occasionally lapsing into a state of noisy incoherence--Jason Anderson, "Globe and Mail"
Even the wee ones may start to notice something's amiss when the movie's theme goes from "be yourself" to "we must regulate the overfishing of the Antarctic oeacns." No, for real--Jordan harper, "Village Voice"
I really wish I had enjoyed it. I had actually planned on it . . . sigh . . .

Friday, November 24, 2006

Reuters' Cries Wolf as "Dollar Crumbles"

This Reuters' headline caught my eye this evening:
Stocks slip as dollar crumbles
The written summary of the brief video report states:
Nov. 24 - U.S. stocks finished a quiet post-holiday session in negative territory as a four-day slide in the dollar gave investors something to complain about.
The Dow lost 46 points to 12,280.
The Nasdaq shed 5 points to 2,460.
Crude oil rose 66 cents to $59.90 a barrel.
I was just about to convert my dollars into Euros or whatever they call money in China but paused for just a moment to check the actual data.

It seems that the NYSE Dow closed the week down .5%. But the NASDAQ closed UP .6%. That doesn't seem so bad.

Supposedly the dollar fell to the lowest rate compared to the Euro in 1-1/2 years. But, when you check the figures, the London stock market fell almost as much as the Dow did today; the French stock market fell 50% MORE than the Dow and the German stock market fell almost 250% MORE than the Dow.

THAT sure makes the Euro look attractive, doesn't it?

It turns out that, on a rather quiet and boring day of international finance, Reuters somehow felt the need to put a dramatic, earth-shattering negative spin on . . . well . . . nothing much at all!

Memo to Reuters: Why don't you save the "end of the world" headlines for the actual end of the world!

When one bothers to check the actual facts, things look much better than Reuters might want you to think.

Can anyone explain to me why this seems so . . . so . . . normal for Reuters?

Did the LA Times Print Another Iraqi Insurgent Propoganda Piece?

From time to time I have raised questions about the accuracy or objectivity of the msm reports we hear coming out of Iraq. Patterico has a post entitled, "Is the L.A. Times Repeating Enemy Propaganda? Or Is There Another Reason The Paper Is Getting Basic Facts Wrong and Failing to Report the Military’s Side?," in which he investigates the accuracy (and integrity) of a recent news story in the LA Times.

His post begins with the following:

Is the L.A. Times reporting unconfirmed enemy propaganda from an Iraqi stringer with ties to the insurgency? Or is the paper simply misreporting the facts, and failing to seek out and report the military’s side of the story?

You be the judge.

On November 15, the L.A. Times ran an article titled Iraqi residents say U.S. airstrike kills 30. The article emphasized that 30+ people, including women and children, were killed in an airstrike. A headline proclaimed: “Victims include women and children, witnesses in Ramadi say. The military has no immediate comment.” The story began as follows:
BAGHDAD — A U.S. airstrike in the restive town of Ramadi killed at least 30 people, including women and children, witnesses said Tuesday.

The aerial attack, which took place late Monday, brought the number of violent deaths reported in Iraq on Tuesday to at least 91, according to military sources and witnesses.
. . . .
A Times correspondent in Ramadi said at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment and families could be seen digging through the ruins with shovels and bare hands.
Patterico's investigation, while not conclusive, does provide plenty of evidence to discredit this story; if not to the point of calling it patently false, at least to the point of implying that it should not have been published at all . . . at least not in the form that it was. Please read his full post to appreciate the efforts he made to get this story right.

By its very nature war correspondance is often incomplete and sketchy, punctuated with rumor and second-hand information. Even so, for such journalism to be deemed credible, it must admit to errors, offer correction when it has misrepresented facts and provide balance by citing all information, even when there are contradictions.

The LA Times has, from what I have seen, repeatedly failed in all of these matters . . . consistantly erring on the side of presenting the facts and scenarios most critical and damning of the efforts of US troops to do their honorable best to serve our country in harm's way.

In this most recent story, the charge is made that the LA Times relied on Iraqi sources tied to the insurgency for their information and that the Times published what was, perhaps, little more than a blatant piece of propoganda concocted out of thin air.

My belief is that they were fed a line and swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

The irony is that they are not choking on their meal. The rest of us are.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Politically Correct American Thanksgiving Cartoon

I think that "Out of the Gene Pool" by Matt Janz gets it more or less right in his Thanksgiving Day cartoon. Not that my family resembles this one, of course! Does yours?

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Click to enlarge
Oh, and by the way, God is not, of course, White, a woman or a Republican (or a man or a Democrat for that matter). But God IS the One to whom we give thanks today. Lest we forget!

More later . . . Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Purdue Football Coach Throws Hissy-Fit Over Hawaii

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Purdue football coach Joe Tiller has known for over a year that he was scheduled to play the 9-2 University of Hawaii at Hawaii this coming Saturday. So, he choses the week before the game to call it a "value-less game" for the Boilermakers. Now THAT will be sure to inspire his 8-4 team.

According to the Honolulu Advertiser's sports writer Ferd Lewis,
Tiller . . . bemoaned the 13-hour trip, a 13th regular-season game, the players' time away from their families on Thanksgiving, the humidity, the fact the school said it will lose money on the game and that this is the (Hawaii) Warrors' best team.
I'm thinking that the famous Hawaii spirit of Aloha is going to be stretched mighty thin when Tiller and Co. arrive in Honolulu tonight. If I were University of Hawaii Athletic Director Herman Frazier or Head Football Coach June Jones I do not think that I would be standing in line at the airport to give the Purdue coach a lei.

I wonder how the 3,000 Purdue fans who have purchased tickets to see their team play at Aloha Staduim on Saturday feel about their coach's comments? Mr. Motivational speaker he ain't!

From what he has said, I would expect that Tiller will be using this Hawaii outing to punish those players who have gotten on his wrong side during the past 12 games, as in:
"Williams! You suck! Your grade point average has you on academic probation, you've been late to four of the last five team practices and your mother dresses you funny! You know what this means, don't you?"

"Yes, coach. I know. I'll have to go and play in that d--d Hawaii game and miss Thanksgiving with my family. Please, coach, please! Give me another chance! I'll do better! I'll be good! Just don't make me go to Hawaii! Pleeeeeease!"
Maybe this can be the new NCAA penalty for teams found guilty of gross misconduct. I can hear it now:
"The University of Alabama, being found guilty of multiple recruiting violations and gross misconduct in the administration of its football program is hearby sentenced to three years' probation during which time they will not be eligible for any post-season bowl games and will be required to play the University of Hawaii in Honolulu at least twice."
Wait a second! My bad! That actually happened, didn't it?

What will happen next? An outright NCAA boycott of all away games with the University of Hawaii? Teams will be lining up to turn their backs on late Autumn humidity of a tropical paradise. They will, of course, all wearing mukluks and down jackets emblazoned with the words, "I'd rather spend the winter in Indiana!"


I'm thinking of going to the game just to boo when they announce Joe Tiller's name over the PA system.

Then I'll show my aloha for his team. After all, with a coach like Tiller, they'll need all the support they can get.

Madonna Goes To Hell

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Madonna is quoted in the current issue of Time magazine as follows:
If you're going to try and change things, you'd better be prepared to find yourself in the headquarters of hell. That's just how it works.
I guess that's where she has to go to apply for the changes she's been trying to make lately.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lt. Ehren Watada’s Court Martial

Part of me sympathizes with 1st Lt. Ehren Watada who is facing court martial and up to six years in jail for refusing orders to deploy with his Stryker Brigade to Iraq earlier this year.

Part of me doesn't.

The part of me that does sympathize with this young man is the part of me that filed for the Vietnam-era draft as a conscientious objector. I registered with the request that I be considered as a candidate for the status of "1-AO." Under this status I could have been drafted but would have served my military service in a non-combatant status. This could have been anything from clerical work to Chaplain's assistant to medical service. My uncertainty concerning my moral conscience regarding taking the lives of others, even in war, would not have made me a very effective or reliable soldier in those days. I was not afraid of danger to myself, particularly, but felt that I could better serve my country and fulfill my obligation to military service without a rifle in my hands.

I believe that the human conscience is central to what makes each of us human. I was glad that my nation had made provision for people like me who, when faced with the possibility of forced conscription, would have their conscience respected under law.

I do not know Watada but I believe (at least I hope) that he is acting honorably according to his conscience.

In his own words,
I am at peace with my decision because I feel that from the beginning I made it according to my conscience and my duty as a soldier and officer.
It is not for me or anyone else to judge his conscience. We must respect it. Even so, we must hold him to account for the covenant promises he made to the United States and the U.S. Army when he volunteered for service and voluntarily took his oath of service.

I believe that honorable service in the US Armed Forces not only permits and expects but requires soldiers to assert their unwillingness to obey what they perceive to be a illegal, immoral or otherwise improper order. Such a position having been taken, however, it is up to the military to determine whether the act of conscience/disobedience is justified according to the military code of conduct.

Lt. Watada will be required to face a court martial in order for this matter to be sorted out and decided according to military justice.

This is right and good.

To his credit, I do not see Watada trying to weasel his way out of his military obligations. He has been quoted as saying, "I'm willing to accept the punishment, whatever it may be."

His lawyers, however, have been working overtime to turn this matter into a legal case against the US War in Iraq. The success of failure of his case will turn on this point. For Watada has not claimed that he is against war of any kind. He is only opposed to participation in the US military actions, occupation and presence in Iraq. He has, in fact, offered to serve in Afghanistan or anywhere else but Iraq.

This puts him in a very difficult position as far as military discipline is concerned. Army spokesman Col. Dan Baggio has made the military's position clear: That soldiers cannot pick and choose their conflicts but must uphold their oath to follow orders.

Under the Vietnam draft I worked within the law and was willing to accept responsibility for whatever personal decisions I might have made. (As it turned out I was never drafted and did not serve). At no time did I believe that I, or anyone else for that matter, should be given some special, exceptional status not available to everyone else.

It is my belief that, by challenging this court martial charge, Lt. Watabe is, in fact, asking to be given unprecedented, special, exceptional status that, if made available to other members of our military, would destroy our military and render it useless overnight.

So, while I sympathize with Lt. Watada acting according to his conscience, I also believe that he must be held to full account according to the voluntary oath he took when he volunteered to serve in the US Army.

Personally, I hope that he will be court-martialed. I do not, however, believe that he should receive the maximum penalty for his disobedience. His actions did not place anyone at risk nor did it effectively hinder the mission to which he had been assigned. He acted openly and, I believe, in good faith. When his request for alternative assignment was denied he stood his ground and was willing to accept the consequences.

He should be disciplined. He should be court-martialed. He should spend the equivalent of the remainder of his service commitment plus one additional year in jail.

If he accepts his punishment honorably I will respect him and, perhaps, even admire him for following his conscience in this matter. If he whines and cries about "injustice" and turns this into a shameful demonstration against the US Government (including his Commander-In-Chief) and the US Army then he will have brought disrepute to every soldier who has served honorably and faithfully by obeying the commands that Watada has refused.

Note: It has been reported (but unconfirmed) that Watada has, through his lawyers, recently requested permission to be granted leave from his confinement so as to be able to spend the holidays with his family here in Hawaii. Considering that those who have gone to Iraq (including one soldier who went in his place) will not be enjoying that particular privilege this year I find it appalling and inexcusable that this soldier, under these circumstances, would have the gall to even voice such a request. If true, this does not speak well for Lt. Watada.

Note #2: I am also aware of statements that Lt. Watada has made to the press and at public events that were passionately critical of US policy concerning Iraq. Several of these comments have been "thrown out" of the trial but at least two of them will be considered as evidence of disrespect. This, for me, will be the more interesting part of the court-martial procedure; a determination as to what freedom active-duty soldiers have to express their personal opinions concerning matters of military, political and public policy.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Reminder About Who We Are Fighting and Why

If you have forgotten what and who we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) will be happy to remind you. What follows is a list of the laws enacted by the Taliban (especially those that applied to women) while they were in control of Afghanistan. Remember, the Taliban was inspired by Saudi Wahhabism and were in essential harmony with the beliefs and ambitions of bin Laden's al-Qaeda. The Sunni Islamists desire to instill THIS version of Sharia (Islamic Law) on every nation they can subdue . . . including Western Europe and the United States.

Read the following list of "laws" and be reminded as to who we are fighting, what we are fighting and why. It is far more than a "War on Terrorism." It is a war against THIS:

Taliban restrictions and mistreatment of women include the:

1- Complete ban on women's work outside the home, which also applies to female teachers, engineers and most professionals. Only a few female doctors and nurses are allowed to work in some hospitals in Kabul.

2- Complete ban on women's activity outside the home unless accompanied by a mahram (close male relative such as a father, brother or husband).

3- Ban on women dealing with male shopkeepers.

4- Ban on women being treated by male doctors.

5- Ban on women studying at schools, universities or any other educational institution. (Taliban have converted girls' schools into religious seminaries.)

6- Requirement that women wear a long veil (Burqa), which covers them from head to toe.

7- Whipping, beating and verbal abuse of women not clothed in accordance with Taliban rules, or of women unaccompanied by a mahram.

8- Whipping of women in public for having non-covered ankles.

9- Public stoning of women accused of having sex outside marriage. (A number of lovers are stoned to death under this rule).

10- Ban on the use of cosmetics. (Many women with painted nails have had fingers cut off).

11- Ban on women talking or shaking hands with non-mahram males.

12- Ban on women laughing loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman's voice).

13- Ban on women wearing high heel shoes, which would produce sound while walking. (A man must not hear a woman's footsteps.)

14- Ban on women riding in a taxi without a mahram.

15- Ban on women's presence in radio, television or public gatherings of any kind.

16- Ban on women playing sports or entering a sport center or club.

17- Ban on women riding bicycles or motorcycles, even with their mahrams.

18- Ban on women's wearing brightly colored clothes. In Taliban terms, these are "sexually attracting colors."

19- Ban on women gathering for festive occasions such as the Eids, or for any recreational purpose.

20- Ban on women washing clothes next to rivers or in a public place.

21- Modification of all place names including the word "women." For example, "women's garden" has been renamed "spring garden".

22- Ban on women appearing on the balconies of their apartments or houses.

23- Compulsory painting of all windows, so women can not be seen from outside their homes.

24- Ban on male tailors taking women's measurements or sewing women's clothes.

25- Ban on female public baths.

26- Ban on males and females traveling on the same bus. Public buses have now been designated "males only" (or "females only").

27- Ban on flared (wide) pant-legs, even under a burqa.

28- Ban on the photographing or filming of women.

29- Ban on women's pictures printed in newspapers and books, or hung on the walls of houses and shops.

Apart from the above restrictions on women, the Taliban has:

- Banned listening to music, not only for women but men as well.

- Banned the watching of movies, television and videos, for everyone.

- Banned celebrating the traditional new year (Nowroz) on March 21. The Taliban has proclaimed the holiday un-Islamic.

- Disavowed Labor Day (May 1st), because it is deemed a "communist" holiday.

- Ordered that all people with non-Islamic names change them to Islamic ones.

- Forced haircuts upon Afghan youth.

- Ordered that men wear Islamic clothes and a cap.

- Ordered that men not shave or trim their beards, which should grow long enough to protrude from a fist clasped at the point of the chin.

- Ordered that all people attend prayers in mosques five times daily.

- Banned the keeping of pigeons and playing with the birds, describing it as un-Islamic. The violators will be imprisoned and the birds shall be killed. The kite flying has also been stopped.

- Ordered all onlookers, while encouraging the sportsmen, to chant Allah-o-Akbar (God is great) and refrain from clapping.

- Ban on certain games including kite flying which is "un-Islamic" according to Taliban.

- Anyone who carries objectionable literature will be executed.

- Anyone who converts from Islam to any other religion will be executed.

- All boy students must wear turbans. They say "No turban, no education".

- Non-Muslim minorities must distinct badge or stitch a yellow cloth onto their dress to be differentiated from the majority Muslim population. Just like what did Nazis with Jews.

- Banned the use of the internet by both ordinary Afghans and foreigners.

And so on...

How interesting to think how many of these rules were broken by Jesus as he spoke with women in public and enjoyed friendships with them both within and outside his circle of disciples.

How interesting to consider the words of the Apostle Paul,
All who have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female; for we are all one in Christ Jesus.
In the Christian faith men and women seek to experience mutual submission in marriage as also taught by Paul (based on the example of Jesus).

The Jewish and Christian scriptures clearly teach that women and men are equally created in the image of God. Clearly they play different roles and these differences pose many challenges that need to be culturally as well as spiritually addressed.

Even so, it is the clear understanding of the United States and its Foundational Documents that
all men (now clearly understood to mean 'all human beings') are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness . . .
Sharia, as understood by the Taliban, al-Qaeda and every other radical Islamist sect or group (including the Shi'a Islamists operating out of Iran) is in direct opposition to our Western understanding of human rights and freedoms.

Personally, I will never be at peace as long as one woman or one girl lives under this evil form of oppression. It is a violation against God's plan of creation. Under the guise of the "Law of Allah" it is, in fact, blasphemy for a Christian or a Jew.

My Presbyterian heritage states,
That truth is in order to goodness, and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to our Savior's rule, "By their fruits ye shall know them" And that no opinion can be either more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level and represents it as of no consequence what a man's opinions are. On the contrary, we are pursuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.(Book of Order G.10304)
It is indeed of consequence what a man's (sic) opinions are.

The proof of this is clearly seen in the Taliban's view of women.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jesus Dolls--They Can't Even GIVE Them Away!

UPDATE: Apparently someone from Toys for Tots actually spoke with an actual Muslim and was told something along the lines of, "Uh . . . As Muslims we honor Jesus as a Prophet of God and respect what he said and taught. Why would we be offended to receive this as a gift?" I'm not exactly sure what a Jewish representative said but whatever it was the Toys for Tots people have changed their minds and have accepted the gift of 4,000 Jesus dolls for distribution to children this Christmas. Just for the heck of it, I'll assume this means that the story has had a happy ending!

The Marine Reserves' Toys for Tots program has turned down a donation of 4,000 "Bible-Quoting" Jesus dolls.

Toys for Tots vice president Bill Grein said, "We can't take a chance on sending a talking jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family. Kids want a gift for the holiday season that is fun."

On the one hand, I guess that means that "Christ" has now officially been taken out of "Christmas!"

On the other hand, in spite of the irony, I actually agree with this decision!

Don Asmussen's Bad Reporter comic (from today's SF Chronicle) offers an alternative, off-the-wall spin to the "Jesus Doll" phenomenon.

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Who would'a guessed! Karl Rove outfoxed by Jesus!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Iranian President Ahmadinejad WAS One of the American Embassy Hostage Takers In 1978

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The Russian website Kommersant has posted an "archive photo" it says shows the current Iranian President Ahmadinejad standing inside the American Embassy in 1978 when the American embassy workers were taken hostage by Iranian radicals. The caption that accompanies this photo reads (translation from the Russian):
In the young person with the automatic (rifle) standing against the wall of the embassy of the USA in Teheran the former hostages have identified the present President of Iran Ahmadinejad.
They also post the second photo (on the right) which is a more recent image of the President of Iran.

It's impossible to not conclude that these photos are of the same person. The vague-ness of the photo's provenance ("archive photo" doesn't cut it with me) raises the possibility of a PhotoShop fake. The face also does not look like someone nearly 30 years younger than he would look today--they look TOO much alike.

Even so, if authentic, the photo shows that this man is a man who has been literally at war with the United States for many, many years. He is now a man who controls a great deal more fire-power than an AK-47 or whatever else that rifle in the photo might be. He is clearly a man who has no respect for the United States, its government or its people. He is a man driven by ideology who sees the world very differently than those of us he strives to suppress. His vision of the world has been clearly and articulately spelled out in chilling detail. It is a world without Israel. It is a world under submission to Islam (the Iranian Shi'ite version, of course). And it is a world where Iran reigns among the elite with both influence and power.

He is already shedding blood in in Iraq, Lebanon and Israel. He hopes to shed much, much more in the days to come. He will not rest or be satisfied until the Middle East lies under his feet. He is a fanatic. He is dangerous. He is evil.

We now hear that Tony Blair (and possibly President Bush) wants to talk to him about peace and, if possible, cut a deal with him?

I believe that this man-with-a-rifle has us right where he wants us.

Tonight he will be laughing himself to sleep and, if his dreams come true, they will become our worst nightmares.


Breaking News--Fox News Hostages Were Freed With $2 Million Ransom

World Net Daily, in an exclusive article by Aaron Klein, claims that,
JERUSALEM – Palestinian terror groups and security organizations in the Gaza Strip received $2 million from a United States source in exchange for the release of Fox News employees Steve Centanni and Olag Wiig, who were kidnapped here last summer, a senior leader of one of the groups suspected of the abductions told WND.

The terror leader, from the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, said his organization's share of the money was used to purchase weapons, which he said would be utilized "to hit the Zionists."
This should not surprise anyone but should disappoint everyone.

On August 27, the day that Centanni and Wiig were released, I posted a story citing DEBKAfile as claiming that the terms of their release included, 1. That the hostages convert to Islam, 2. That they do so as part of a pubicly released video, and 3. That a six-figure ransom be paid to the man who orchestrated the kidnapping.

It now appears that her information was correct.

What does this mean?

If the United States government was involved in this transaction it means that we are being governed by hypocrites of the highest order.

If the United States government was not involved then it must launch and immediate investigation into the transfer of American money directly into the hands of terrorist organizations.

Further, if the United States government was not involved then there must be easy ways for people with money to bypass the international financial embargo on terrorist organizations in Palestine. This in itself is bad news and worthy of a more thorough investigation.

My personal opinion is that such a large monetary transaction could not have taken place without both the knowledge and cooperation of the United States Government.

More to the point, this story demonstrates how dangerous it has become for international journalists in general and American journalists in particular to cover stories in territory controlled or patrolled by terrorist or "insurgent" organizations.

It can never be clear to any given journalist as to whether their value as a conveyance of news/propoganda will be trumped by their trade-in value for cold, hard cash.

With this situation in place I doubt that I will ever be able to believe another story filed by a on-site journalist again.

I also believe that this story makes it clear that journalists operating among terrorists are either A. complete fools, B. propoganda stooges or else C. have been paying large sums of "protection money" for the privilige of maintaining at least a superficial cachet of objectivity and independence.

The phrase "sleeping with the enemy" comes to mind.

If true, is this journalism? Or treason?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blessed Are the Peacemakers--Iran? Syria?

Omar at Iraq the Model is not very pleased with reports that Tony Blair (and perhaps President Bush) are planning to invite Iran and Syria to the "peace table" as partners.

Actually, Omar has some choice words to express his feelings.

Although I might choose a different vocabulary to express my own feelings Omar is sitting in Iraq as an Iraqi citizen and I'm not.

So . . . I'll defer to Omar and refer you to his site via the link provided.

Orchid & Ginger In Hawaii

More blooms in my garden. A small, white orchid and some white ginger. Yum!

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Iraqi Government Begins to Assert Its Authority--A Hopeful Sign?

Omar at Iraq the Model, shares this news excerpt from the Washington Post,
Iraq's Interior Ministry has charged 57 employees, including high-ranking officers, with human rights crimes for their roles in the torture of hundreds of detainees once jailed in a notorious eastern Baghdad prison known as Site 4, officials announced Monday.

The charges marked the first time the present Iraqi government has taken criminal action against members of its own security forces for operating torture chambers inside Interior Ministry prisons, said Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, a ministry spokesman.
Omar himself comments on this action,
Although this move came late and it addresses only one case of atrocity I must say that I'm impressed that the interior ministry, with all the influence SCIRI has on it, has made this action.

Building rule of law is much more of a difficult task than breaking the law is and the transformation from jungle law to civil law requires patience and determination.
What makes me feel good about this is that we're now moving to prosecute the criminals of the present just like we prosecuted the criminals of the past.
The money quote in Omar's post for me, however, is this one,
Gangs and militias are stronger today than they were three years ago and the same can be said about the legitimate foundations and institutions of the state, even more, the latter are growing stronger at a faster rate even though that might not be so visible
That is not something we have seen very much evidence of, at least in the United States via our news media lately. Is it possible that this is actually true?

Omar's final comment raises the hope for future success almost to the level of "wishful thinking" when he opines,
Anyways, I think if law-enforcement apparatus, judicial and military alike, are allowed to retain the momentum, then maybe in a year we will be discussing al-Sadr and al-Dhari verdicts.
In spite of my doubts, I do rejoice that for at least one Iraqi citizen and commentator, hope still springs eternal!

If there is even this small shred of hope left in Iraq then I must embrace that hope as my own and, like the scene in "Peter Pan" where Tinkerbell is dying, I must stand on my feet, clap my hands and declare that "I believe in hope! I believe in a free, independent, unified, safe, secure and prosperous Iraq! I believe in people like Omar!"

I cannot and will not sit by and wallow in self-pity or hand-wringing when so much is at stake for so many people whose hope has been purchased by the precious blood of far too many Americans and Iraqis.

Omar, my prayers are with you and with your nation. Your hopes and dreams are my own. May they come to pass! May the day arrive when, together, we can declare that dreams can, indeed, come true!

Recognition of Israel a Capital Offense in Bangladesh

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingBangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury (link is to WSJ editorial) is going on trial tomorrow, facing charges that could bring the death penalty. As told in an interview with NY Sun reporter, Daniel Freedman, the charges arose because Mr. Choudhury suggested that Bangladesh recognize Israel as a nation and establish dipolomatic relations with it. He is charged with "praising Jews and Christians," "spying for Israel," and being "an agent of the Mossad."

According to Freedman,
He's also accused of being critical of Islamic radicals, which is considered blasphemy. He committed these crimes by writing articles favorable toward Jews and Christians.

He did so, he says, because while he was born and raised in a Muslim country (Bangladesh) where he was taught a "religion of hatred" and a "religion of Jihad," his father "told from an early age not to listen and to learn for himself." He did and became friends with Jews, realized the lies he had been taught, and wanted to end "the culture of hatred." He says that if "Muslim countries want peace they need relations with Israel."

Mr. Choudhury says he holds no hope of getting a fair trial. The judge, he says, is a radical Islamist who has already made clear his view that Mr. Choudhury is guilty. "In open court ... he made comments that by praising Christians and Jews I have hurt the sentiment of Muslims...which is a crime," the journalist says. Other comments made by the Judge have made it clear, Mr. Choudhury tells me, that the judge's goal is a conviction and a death sentence. Mr. Choudhury describes his judge as a "one man judge and jury," and Mr. Choudhury cannot even present witnesses in his own defense.
I join Scott Johnson of Powerline in calling on citizens of all nations and faiths to join in the call for Choudhury's release or, should he be convicted, his full pardon by the President of Bangladesh.

You can read even more about the background on this human rights debacle at There you will also find who to contact and how to assert pressure for his release/pardon.

Friday, November 10, 2006

BAR Cover Uncovered!

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I gotta hand it to those editors at Biblical Archaeology Review. Their bar code on the cover of their November/December 2006 issue (see picture above) was perfectly placed for a cover-up of mythic proportions!

But what was covered up? The uncensored version appeared on page 3 in a small, discrete inset sans bar code.

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Editor Hershel Shanks is to be commended for demonstrating tact and discretion for, perhaps, the first time in his long and distinguished career!

The Bible & Lay Renewal Ministries

I recently received a card from my good friends at Lay Renewal Ministries. I liked it so much that I have reproduced it below. You may click on the picture to enlarge it.

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The back of the card says,

These words were found on a 1933 advertisement for the Bible. they have been reprinted on artwork by midwestern painter, Lee Styles. Copyright 1996 Lay Renewal Ministries
If your church or ministry could use some encouragement, a spiritual shot in the arm, leadership training, a master planning workshop or a "prayer/power summit" give the Lay Renewal Ministries folks a call. My congregation (even way out here in Hawaii!) have used them in all of the above capacities and they have been wonderful, every time! God is good! All the time! . . . All the time! God is good! Amen!

"Thank You , Vets!"

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I took this photo off of the internet. It shows a Cub Scout named "Tommy." He participated in a Pinewood Derby race. I don't know why he is shown saluting in front of an American flag but the picture struck me as one of the best ways to honor our American military veterans today.

I have several friends who are in Iraq and Afghanistan at this very moment, members of my congregation. When they return home from this deployment (and we pray often for their safe return) they will be veterans themselves; veterans of a foreign war. They will have known friends who did not return from the deployment either whole or alive . They will carry scars of separation from spouses, children and families. They will have doubts and guilt over their own contributions or lack of same to the war effort. They will have served their country (and each of us who loves this country) honorably and well. They will have been placed by their nation in a setting that will have produced many heroes. Not all of those who return will be heroes, of course. But there will be some who will have demonstrated personal valor that will be recognized and rewarded.

From knowing these men and women I can guarantee that everyone who returns home acclaimed to be a hero will remember one or more soldiers who, whether recognized or not, will be for them the real heroes of their tour of duty.

There has been a debate this year as to whether veterans should wear their medals today or not.

I am not a veteran and will offer no opinion on this matter.

I will, however, affirm that it is not the medal that creates a hero.

It is not a medal that creates a veteran.

It is not a medal that makes the sacrifice, the suffering, the fear and the uncertainty of war worth while or bearable.

What makes it worthwhile is the proud salute of a smiling child; the warm, welcoming embrace of a loved one upon returning home; a personal conviction that something good and right was accomplished; and, of course, a sincere thank you from a grateful nation.

To all vets, old and young:
"Thank you and may God bless you now and always for all that was good and right in your service and sacrifice. Happy Veterans' Day!"

A Malaysian Christian Speaks Out

I have just received a comment from a Christian in Malaysia. The comment, while new, was prompted by an article I posted well over a year ago. I guess that what we post on the internet does in fact hang around for a very long time! In this case I am glad because the response is very insightful as to how at least one Malaysian Christian feels about living in a country overwhelmingly dominated by Islam, the "Religion of Peace."

Take a moment and read something clearly writting from the heart (any identifying names have been removed or altered):
dear pastor,

We live with the message that islam is the religion of peace here in Malaysia. The government allows us to build places of worship and to congregate, however, at the friday sermons, there will always be element of hatred towards the non-muslims and western culture.

You sometimes find a bunch of monkeys rioting and taking the streets in front of the UN building, with their 5 year old kids to protest the oppression of the muslims in Lebanon. Not based on humanity but rather religion.

It is extremely difficult for a non muslim here in Malaysia to critic and comment about Islam let alone have a dialogue without fear of getting harmed.

There is no tradition or the culture of self-criticism on their part.

I was extremely disappointed when Pres. Bush made his remarks after 9/11 that Islam is a religion of peace. None of that is true and yet we are to be PC when coming to the subject of Islam.

What is the use of their theme of peace when they take the street with violence and threats of harm, even to the Pope?
I don't know what to say in response. So I'll just let the comment stand on its own.

You can read two related stories about Malaysian religious "toleration" here and here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Christopher Hitchens--Bigot? You Decide

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Christopher Hitchens has now placed himself firmly in the Pat Buchanan branch of the Republican Party; meaning he is no longer to be considered worthy of being in it or associated with it. He not only brought disrepute to conservative Republicans but to the Hugh Hewitt Show, its listeners and to Hugh himself when Hugh interviewed him on his Wednesday, November 8th show.

His brazen religious bigotry, revealed in the interview excerpt below, is unpardonable. It is one of the differences between Democrats and Republicans that the Republicans kick their crazies out while the Democrats embrace theirs for their money.

Hugh, do the right thing and disqualify Hitchens as a consultant/commentator on your program. I can understand how the sheer, unexpected shock of his unsolicited, hateful, anti-Mormon comment left you laughing nervously while attempting to challenge him on the matter. In retrospect it would have been best if you had simply hung up on him.

The next best thing will be to not pick up the phone the next time he calls; and to have Duane remove his name from his Rolodex.

Interview Exceprt
HH: And so, what do you think of Harry Reid?

CH: Oh, God. I mean, I just don't...where do we find such men?

HH: (laughing)

CH: A Mormon mediocrity, and extraordinary, sort of reactionary, nullity.

HH: Now isn't that bigoted to say a Mormon mediocrity, Christopher Hitchens?

CH: No, no. I'm always in favor of pointing out which cult people belong to.

HH: You see, I think that is very, very harsh and offensive, but I
will allow the Mormon listeners to call you on that.

CH: No, he's a Smithite, for Heaven's sake. I mean, he believes that some idiot found gold plates buried in the ground.

HH: But it is religious bigotry to call that out. And do you make similar comments...

CH: No, it's not me who says he's a Mormon. Excuse me, it's he who says it.

HH: I know that, but I still think...

CH: I say that anyone who believes that stuff is an idiot.

HH: I know you believe that, but isn't it sort of randomly bigoted to bring that out and throw it onto the table?

CH: Not at all, no. It's essential to point out...

HH: I disagree.

CH: Especially at a time when people are always saying it's the Republican Party that's run by religious crackpots and nutbags. And it's very important to point out these people have a big foothold in the Democratic Party, too.

HH: I think that's terribly religiously bigoted. I think that is up there with, like, saying about Jesse Jackson that he's African-American in the course of commenting on him.

CH: Well, I don't really see how he could keep that a secret, how one could...

HH: Well, it's not a secret that he's a Mormon. It's just sort of a random attack on a guy's faith. I don't like Reid at all, but...

CH: No, I think less of him because of the stupid cult of which he's a member. I would say the same if he was a Scientologist.

HH: All right. I'm going to move on, but duly note, please, that I think that's unnecessary and wrong . . .

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Post-Mortem

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Two things to be learned tonight as the election results filter in:

1. The MSN Goliath is still more influential and powerful than the blogosphere & radio talk-show Davids; and,

2. American voters are not as conservative as conservative Republican pundits had hoped.

The first point is self-evident. The constant news media negativity and body-counts from Iraq managed to shape public opinion beyond the ability of the Bush Administration, radio talkshow hosts or the conservative blogosphere to counter with either reality or counter-spin.

Television news (not necessarily the "cable" kind) and the so-called "dinosaur" print media proved to still have the power to pursuade and propogandize effectively enough to send a lot of Republican Congressmen/women packing.

Perhaps it is also true that "all politics is local." But what those local issues might have been (with a strong, burgeoning economy and a seemingly safe & secure homeland) I cannot say. Certainly "local politics" cannont explain such a wholesale shift in the national political conscience.

As many "exit poll" results showed today, the biggest issue on voters' minds was the "war in Iraq." And most of those voters did not like the war and were tired of it and wanted a change of some sort . . . any sort.

It will now be up to a badly splintered Congress to figure out what the voters actually meant when they voted today. The party that comes closest to that truth will no doubt capture (or recapture) the momentum in the next national election in 2008.

My second point is simply a feeling that the last two presidential elections in 2000 and 2004 were won by Republicans not so much because American voters were so conservative but because the Democrats put forward two of the most uninspiring candidates imaginable . . . so incredibly dull that they made George W. Bush seem almost charismatic by comparison.

My hunch is that, if the Democrats hope to build on tonight's success in 2008 they will have to tone down their rhetoric, produce enough compromises with President Bush to prove that they can accomplish something and yet force Bush into enough vetos to make the Republicans look like the party of obstructionism. An attractive, intelligent Presidential candidate without major divisive baggage (such as Barak Obama) would also help attract votes from the "muddled middle" of the national electorate.

Republicans, on the other hand, need to show that they can work constructively, creatively and with compromise with the Democrats, especially in the House. They need to show that they are the party willing to take new, creative approaches to changing times and changing circumstances at home and around the world. This does not need to be a rejection of the "Bush Doctrine" (whatever that is . . . and I think I do know what it is) but there will need to be some new twists and wrinkles thrown in to show the American people that the party has not simply fossilized into being as useless as a doorstop.

Some new life and new leadership will need to emerge from the rotting corpses of the previous Republican vanguard . . . especially in the House. Someone with the demonstrable ability to actually defeat a worthy Democrat challenger in an actual election will need to emerge. Had he won, Steele would have served this purpose nicely as a counter-point to Obama. Unfortunately, he lost. Santorum, while wildly popular and respected (and rightfully so) by conservatives is clearly now labled as "loser" useful only for appointment to a Cabinet position if a vacancy shows up.

I sense a national mood shift away from folks like Giuliani (whose glory days are too far in the past). McCain might actually have a chance at broad appeal (despite his age) if he can squeeze out some measure of bi-partisan cooperation in the Senate. This will, of course, further disenfranchise him from conservative Republicans but will certainly make him more attractive to independents and conservative Democrats who might feel safer with a man with an honorable military past in the White House to counter the anti-war inclinations of a Democratic-controlled House and a politically divided Senate. A newer face, but still subject to bigotry because of his faith (especially among many fundamentalist and some evangelical Christians) would be Gov. Mitt Romney of Massechusetts.

After tonight, however, the momentum belongs to the Democrats. Accordingly, the 2008 election is theirs to either win or lose. If they screw it up with the wrong nominee for President (Hillary Clinton) or by proving to be disfunctional through incoherent and/or disunified Congressional and party policy positions they might . . . and I do mean "might" . . . give the Republicans enough room to sneak in another chance to lead the nation.

But I'm not holding my breath, After all, the Democratic Party can't be that stupid, can they?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Neat Optical Trick

This is an interesting optical trick Follow the instructions:
1. Relax and concentrate on the 4 small dots in the middle of the picture for about 40 seconds.
2. Then, take a look at a wall near your (any smooth, single-colored surface).
3. You will see a circle of light developing.
4. Start blinking your eyes a couple of times and you will see a figure emerging.
5. What do you see? Or, Who do you see?

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Japanese Dolphin "With Legs" Is a Set-Back for Evolution Supporters

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This AP news release sounds like it was written by someone with a pro-evolution agenda. The story headline reads,
Japanese Researchers Find Dolphin With 'Remains of Legs'
The story itself declares,
Japanese researchers said Sunday that a bottlenose dolphin captured last month has an extra set of fins that could be the remains of back legs, a discovery that may provide further evidence that ocean-dwelling mammals once lived on land.
A paragraph later we read,
Fossil remains show dolphins and whales were four-footed land animals about 50 million years ago and share the same common ancestor as hippos and deer. Scientists believe they later transitioned to an aquatic lifestyle and their hind limbs disappeared.
Obviously, the conclusions one wants to make from this dolphin are more or less predetermined by what one believed before the dolphin was found.

Personally, I found something else of interest in this story--something that does not necessarily support the idea of macro-evolution much at all.

Most folks, like myself, who question the fundamental assumptions of macro-evolution as championed by many scientists, believe that what we are is what we will always be.

What I mean is that each species contains a vast but limited pool of genetic diversity. While various combinations of this genetic mix can produce incredible variations within a species (consider the species [canis] lupus [familiaris], i.e. domesticated dogs, for example) the very genetic material that sets one type of creature apart as a species makes it impossible for that one type of creature to "evolve" into some other type of creature or species.

The fact that a dolphin is found with a small set of fins where there are not usually fins to be found is, as the story itself implies, evidence that this particular dolphin had inherited some recessive genetic strand that had been long-ago displaced by more dominant genetic traits inherent in being a "dolphin."

In other words, the fins on this dolphin are part of what it means to be a "dolphin." It does not mean that the dolphin was once a "hippo" as the AP story seems to assert. We do not learn anything new about evolution from this dolphin but we do learn something (that might or might not be new) about dolphins!.

When a species offers us a look into something previously hidden from us concerning itself it is not showing us something that has changed from one thing into another. If anything, it only goes to reinforce the old saw that, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

Macro-evolution might have gotten a boost if this dolphin had shown us something that clearly hadn't been in the genetic structure of dolphins in the past. If, for example, it had been found to have a ruminant digestive system like a cow that would have definately caught my attention!

All this story shows us is that dolphins are still dolphins and that there is enough genetic variation within dolphins to create a "surprise" for us every once in a while.

Until someone shows me how one species of creature (that is neither a dolphin nor a hippopotamus) can generate enough genetic diversity through mutation or wishful thinking to create offspring that are as differently-speciated as dolphins and hippopotami I will be content to allow common sense, an objective examination of the fossil record and a careful observation of every known example of speciation in human history support my personal opinion that a dolphin is a dolphin is a dolphin.

Ted Haggard--Over and Out

Unlike Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters I am not a Roman Catholic. I am Presbyterian and inclined, but not fully subscribed, to be what the MSN might (with self-blindered ignorance) consider a Christian Evangelical.

My thoughts on the so-called Ted Haggard scandal, however, are so well articulated by Captain Ed here that I will not waste my good time in choosing words of my own. Read what the Captain says. His words are my own.

A FoxNews Video on Waterboarding--Is It Torture? You Decide

FOX News Correspondent Gets Waterboarded

We've all heard about "waterboarding" and whether it constitutes torture or not. This video account of Fox News Correspondent Steve Harrigan voluntarily undergoing the procedure is chilling but useful in coming to an informed conclusion. The correspondent, by the way, does not hesitate to call it "torture" but . . . well, view it yourself and make up your own mind. WARNING: Disturbing Situation Graphically depicted in this Video.

Note: This is clearly just one form of "waterboarding." Each of the three phases depicted in this video can be extended almost indefinitely without proceeding to the next phase. As indicated in the video there are other phases, apparently even more intense, that can be administered.


I am strongly opposed to torture that causes physical damage (broken bones, pierced or burned skin), injurious pain (such as electrical shock) lasting emotional or mental trauma (such as the administration of certain drugs, faked execution) or gross moral degradation (rape, sexual abuse) and the like.

Emotional manipulation such as sleep deprivation, verbal abuse, disorientation of time and place, "reward and punishment" such as being moved from isolation or receiving desired food would, to me, fall within the realm of reasonable treatment when conducted in circumstances that are controlled, monitored and accountable .

Waterboarding, to me, is a grey area that clearly has the potential to cause lasting damage of both a mental or physical kind.

In another video on waterboarding it is suggested that interrogation techniques that enter that grey area or beyond should be used only on a case by case basis and only when the reasons for the procedure are clearly articulated, endorsed by someone authorized to do so (designated CIA, Military or other government personnel) with the justification presented to an "objective judicial review" for approval prior to action being taken.

Exceptions could be identified and some sort of "code of action" would need to be drawn up with clearly-delineated disciplines and punishments enacted for various abuses of the process.

The key issue for me is that the current Bush Administration has declared that the restraints of the Geneva Convention do not apply to those being held for their participation in terrorist activities but that no legal or moral restraints or constraints have been articulated or adopted to cover their particular situation.
It is wrong, wrong, wrong for our government to permit, authorize or tolerate any behavior or action that falls outside the bounds of any legal accountability for those engaged in it.

Torture of any kind, of course, constitutes participation in sinful behavior, just as war is always a participation in sin. We live in a sinful world where we are not always "delivered from evil."

As individual followers of Jesus we are commanded to nurture hearts seek to restore and redeem our enemies rather than to cultivate the desire to hate and destroy them. We are to "love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us."

It is my moral and biblical sense, however, that those whom God has empowered and entrusted with the civil authority and responsibility to
"...establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity..."
are not expected to simply "turn the other cheek" and submit those entrusted to their care to evil when threatened by evil.

Governments are commanded by God to protect the widows and orphans and defend the defenseless, the weak and those otherwise unable to protect themselves. It is inexcusable that any government would permit acts of injustice to be perpetrated against its citizens when it has in its hands the means to prevent it.

Both the use of military force and interrogatory "torture," each inhumane in their own way, may be used as means to a good and just end. But such means must be measured and limited to prevent their use for ends that, in themselves, are evil.

I am confident that the United States, at this moment in its history, is acting within one of the greatest systems of legal and moral constraint that has ever existed in the history of the world.

Is it perfect? No.

Is the system being manipulated by those who would abuse it? Yes.

Must we continually enact new limits and measures of law to prevent new opportunities for abuse in the context of new situations never previously envisioned? Yes, of course.

The use of torture as a technique in the interrogation of international terrorists is one of these "new situations" that demands new limits and measures of law to constrain it's misuse and abuse.

In his great hymn, "Once To Every Man and Nation," James Russell Lowell (writing in 1845) we find words that still ring true today, particularly in the context of this post:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by for ever
'Twixt that darkness and that light

Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And 'tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses,
While the coward stands aside
Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs
Jesus' bleeding feet I track,
Toiling up new Calvaries ever
With the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still andonward
Who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause ofevil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

Army/Air Force Cadets Unite On John Kerry

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Nothing is more partisan than a football contest between any two of our three U.S. Military Academies. Last night's game between West Point (Army) & Colorado Springs (Air Force) proved to be the exception to the rule. And what magical power was able to bring the dissonant voices of a immovable object and an irresistable force into boistrous and cheerful harmony and unity?

John Kerry!

From Blackfive we get this account:
A West Point Cadet sends this along with the photo below:

I'm a cadet at West Point, and tonight at our game against the Air Force Academy, a big sign emerged, and it was shown to the Corps of Cadets, who cheered wildly, and then shown to the Air Force cadets, who also cheered.
The message of reconciliation and peace can be found in the photo at the top of this post.

It's nice to see that, under the right circumstances, a politician can actually be a uniter rather than a divider!

By the way, the final score was Air Force 43 Army 7.

HT: Captains Quarters

Friday, November 03, 2006

In Israel the Dead Live On With a New Name: "Aerial Sharon"

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Click photo to enlarge

Either the AP or Fox News is responsible for giving former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon a new first name, "Aerial" instead of "Ariel." Now I suppose this mistake is understandable since Sharon, who suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage in January 2006 and has been in a coma ever since, has long passed into the realm of legend along with other such deceased leaders as Moishe Dayan, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres (oops, my mistake...he's still alive, too !).

For Sharon to be described as "alive" is somewhat like keeping Lenin's reconstructed remains on a heart-lung machine and saying that he is in "stable" condition.

With some surprise I discovered today that Sharon is also now in "stable" condition "after his overall condition and heart function deteriorated" in the last several days (emphasis mine).

My uneducated guess is that, should his health decline any further he will be dead, buried and declared to be in "critical" condition for the next several months.

According to the AP article,
Experts have speculated that because of the severity of his stroke, Sharon, prime minister from 2001 to 2006, is unlikely to recover.
With all due respect to the family of Aerial Sharon and the citizens of the nation of Israel, I do not believe that these "experts" are rocket scientists.

Don't Call Fat Policemen "Jelly Bellies"

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingPaul Goward, until recently the Police Chief for Winter Haven, Florida, lost his job after complaints that a memo entitled, "Are You a Jelly Belly?," hurt the feelings of some of the fitness-challenged members of the police department.

One anonymous complaint stated that,
This letter shows the type of harassment and hostile work environment we have. The chief of police is constantly 'bad talking' us in every way possible and we have had enough of his arrogance.
The Associated Press report said that the
...the chief never singled anyone out, and apart from the title, didn't call anyone names.
It seems that the title of the memo caused lots of snickering and teasing about "too many jelly donuts" and the like.

Another anonymous source, not quoted by anyone reputable, suggested that some of the officers were so upset that they were seen blubbering and shaking with emotion over the incident.

Someone else, not to be confused with either the Winter Haven Mayor or the press representative from Cypress Gardens, was overheard by no one in particular to have said that it was quite possible that one or more of the officers were so distraught that they had been able to eat less than half of their usual mid-morning snack of Bundt Cake, vanilla ice cream and coffee (decaf with saccharin).

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingFormer reputed officer Ian Chryzwski, now an apocryphal offensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (see photo) challenged the Chief's memo saying, "He implied that we were not physically fit. If that were true how could I have gotten a job as a player with an NFL team? The only thing the Buccaneers asked of me was to lose 150 pounds to qualify for the position I now enjoy."

Winter Haven residents are somewhat divided over Chief Goward's forced resignation.

Mandy Rohrbaugh, a 40-year-old nursing student and Winter Haven resident (a real person actually quoted by AP), said Goward had the right message, but perhaps could have delivered it differently.

"I think honestly our police force needs a lot of shaping up, and I think they should be fit not just when they're hired but through their time," she said.

This blogger adds that he thinks that Mandy also has the right message but perhaps could have delivered it differently. For example, what the heck does "through their time" mean?

In any case, the Jelly Belly corporation is no doubt hoping to take advantage of this story to generate an increase in sales by introducing a new, round jelly bean, colored blue and flavored to taste like . . . chocolate glazed.

Cure Found for "Unfunny Pastor Syndrome"

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It's rare that a commercial promotion tickles my funny bone so strongly that I feel compelled to link it to my blog. But has brought me to my knees. Check out their promo for their new comedy CD, "Thou Shalt Laugh." Who knows, if someone were to buy me this CD it might actually cure me from . . . well . . . you know! (Caveat: I'm not yet convinced about the need for "mild electro-shock therapy" . . . and least "not yet!")

HT: Hugh Hewitt

How William Styron Helped Save Me From Depression

I suppose that I could say that I am a "depression survivor." I don't mean that I survived the years that followed the stock market crash of 1929, of course. I do mean that I suffer from chronic depression and that some years ago, before I realized what I was up against, I almost succumbed to it.

Aside from my hope in Christ, the faithful, patient love of my wonderful wife and the eventual medical therapy I received, there were two things that "saved me" and help me to diagnose myself accurately.

The first and most important of these two things was William Styron's little autobiography of his own struggle with depression called, "Darkness Visible—A Memoir of Madness," in which he graphically described his own descent into depression, an account that almost perfectly reflected my own.

Styron's eloquent and honest writing style chilled me to the bone. He was, it seemed, describing me from the inside. Perfectly. In even the details.

Unless I dealt with this matter I might well be doomed to a constant cycle of suicidal thoughts and physical/emotional exhaustion.

The second help was a book by Dr. Archibald Hart entitled, "Unmasking Male Depression." Here I discovered that the symptoms of depression in men were generally quite different that those in women (who had provided most of the case studies and diagnostic models for symptoms of depression).

Dr. Hart's book taught me that, in men, anger (and often violent response to things...not true in my case, fortunately) was a prime indicator for depression. In women, depression generally causes anger or emotion to be directed inwardly towards oneself. In men, the tendency is for the anger or emotion to be directed outwardly towards others . . . especially those emotionally closest such as a wife or girl friend.

Bingo! I was depressed and I now knew it without any doubt. I knew I needed help and I was desparate enough to seek it out.

For me, medication was the path that eventually helped me to recover a functional emotional stability. Over the past few years I have attempted a small variety of medications and, more recently, I have actually quit one of the two I was taking and have reduced the dosage of the one I am still taking by half.

These thoughts have come to me today because of William Styron's death this past week at the age of 81. I suppose I should have written him a letter telling him that his own suffering had helped me to overcome my own. I shall aways be grateful to him for that one book; a book, by the way, that my wonderful wife checked out from the library and, without saying anything, simply set on the coffee table hoping that I might read it.

I did. And I am glad I did!

Thank you, William Styron. Rest in peace.