Saturday, December 30, 2006

I Do Not Hate Iran--But I Fear Those Who Rule Iran

A comment on my post, "Two more reasons to crush Iran with sanctions," wonders why I "have a deep hatred for Iran." My response to this accusation is as follows:

I do not have any feelings of hate for Iran at all. Iran is one of the great nations of the world . . . and one of the most ancient.

The people of Iran, especially those known as Persians, are among the most educated, cultured and literate people anywhere. Their love of music and poetry thrives and web sites can be found filled with their wonderful verse.

In contrast to many other peoples in the Middle East (and beyond to Afghanistan and Pakistan) the Iranian people are forward-looking and, by nature, optimistic.

They welcome the technology and advances in science and medicine that come from the West and are open to borrow and adapt and absorb much more of our culture into their own.

They do not wish to BE a western culture but they are secure and confident enough in their own way of life to pick and choose and revise and rework what they view as useful and good for themselves and their own life as Iranians and/or Persians.

After suffering from the unwelcomed abuse of power by the secular Shah, they longed for greater freedom to express themselves and to have a government that affirmed and reflected their religious (Shia Muslim) faith along with their historic openness and tolerance of other native faiths, including Judaism, Baha'i and Christianity in its various forms.

What they got instead was the revolutionary, fundamentalist theocratic rule of sharia as interpreted by the Ayatollah Khomeini.

The historic culture was replaced by a new and oppressive culture of intolerance, terror and oppression.

Instead of being a nation among nations they became, overnight, a nation against the world . . . a nation ruled by ayatollahs consumed with a vision of turning the world into what they had created in Iran . . . an Islamist Shiite world order, so to speak.

To distract the people from their own oppression they people of Iran were treated to incessant diatribes of America as the "Great Satan" and Israel as the bane of the Muslim world . . . a Zionist malignancy determined to corrupt and destroy the Muslim world.

Enough Iranians bought into this demagoguery to provide the militant muscle needed to keep the dissidents at bay and secure the absolute rule of the mullahs and their political representatives.

The rest of the Iranian people have had to tough things out and get by as best they can under extremely difficult circumstances.

A great gift was given to the mullahs when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. The war that followed served to galvanize the Iranian people behind a common patriotic cause and provided the veneer or support needed to keep the mullahs in full control of the people.

I do not hate the people of Iran.

I can't even say that I hate those who are using and abusing their power and authority as the current rulers of Iran.

While I don't necessarily "hate" them I do "fear" those who rule over them. After all, their stated goal is to destroy the United States and "wipe" Israel off of the map.

They are pursuing their goals with a sophisticated and reasoned approach that is, by western values, wholy evil; seeking to destroy and undermine the rule of law and stability in every country they can infiltrate.

Their greatest success to date has been their alliance with Syria in destablizing and fragmenting the nation of Lebanon, their creation, funding, training and arming of Hezbollah, their harassment of Israel and their more recent forays into gaining support from disenfranchised Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

The political power vacuum and chaos in Iraq has also afforded them the opportunity to assert a destablizing presence among a significant (but still small) portion of the majority Shi'ite population in Iraq.

It is in the Iranian mullah's national interests to keep the United States stuck in Iraq for as long as possible, killing as many as possible and in keeping Iraq as weak and disfunctional for as long a possible.

Thus far they have been doing a very good job of this.

This is, of course, against the national interests of virtually everybody else in the world, at least those nations in the so-called "free" world, including the United States.

I do not hate the nation or the people of Iran. I have high respect and love for them.

Those who currently rule over them I fear greatly for many, many reasons. I believe that the world as a whole and the people of Iran in particular would be better off without them in their present positions of power.

Their policies have brought an erosion of the Iranian economy and the suppression and oppression of virtually everything that was good, right and admirable in Iranian culture.

They do not hide the fact that they are at war with the United States. My suggestion is that the United States take them at their word and respond in a way that will weaken their shaky grip on power even more.

Two Captured Iranian Officials Released by Iraq--That'll Show Them!

Iraq has released two high-level Iranian military leaders who had been captured with an Iraqi Shi'ite militia leader last week and sent them back to Iran.

According to a Washington Post article the two men
. . .were found in possession of detailed weapons lists, documents pertaining to shipments of weapons into Iraq, organizational charts, telephone records and maps, among other sensitive intelligence information.

One of the commanders, identified by officials simply as Chizari, was the third-highest-ranking official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds Brigade, the unit most active in aiding, arming and training groups outside Iran, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, U.S. officials said. The other commander was described as equally significant to Iran's support of foreign militaries but not as high-ranking.
In what has to be the second biggest lie of the day, Sami al-Askari, a member of parliament and a close adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is quoted as saying,
The story the Americans said is not true. They said these were military men with diplomatic status. But they failed to prove anything.
The biggest lie of the day, however, and the Grand Prize for empty rhetoric belongs to a "U.S. official" who, for obvious reasons, requested anonymity. According to the Post,
Despite their frustration at the release of the Iranians, U.S. officials said a strong message has been sent to Iran that its operatives will be tracked down and that it will be held accountable for its activities in Iraq.

"Iranians have been pushing the envelope in Iraq and elsewhere, and it's a good thing they learn there are consequences," a U.S. official said, on condition of anonymity.
Yep, that'll show those Iranian Ayatollah's a thing or two and set them back on their heels quaking in fear! Sure.

Quotes of the Day

Quote #1 is from Saddam Hussein on his way to the gallows:
Iraq without me is nothing.
I suppose that means that Iraq is now gone. Sure.

Quote #2 is from the Times of London's obituary for Saddam (which I quote at length here):
(Saddam) also enrolled at Baghdad university's law
faculty and turned up for final examinations in military uniform and carrying a pistol. He was promptly granted a degree . . .

Friday, December 29, 2006

Choice Quotes from Saddam's Obituary in the Times of London

From the London Times

April 28, 1937 - December 30, 2006
Saddam Hussein was a tyrant whose actions brought down unimaginable catastrophe on Iraq and its peoples. From an early age, he had enjoyed inflicted suffering on those around him and, when he came to positions of political power, those whom he could not force or corrupt into submitting to his will, he maimed, murdered or made to flee . . .

He started two major international wars - one against Iran, the second as a result of aggression against Kuwait - which cost an estimated one million lives. He instituted genocidal campaigns against the Kurds in the north of Iraq and the Marsh Arabs in the south . . .

(A) new American President, George W Bush, determined to find a scapegoat for the Muslim terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001, was in no mood to abide by the niceties of international law. In the determination of President Bush and his cabinet of advisers, Saddam at length met his match, though the internecine aftermath of the campaign that overthrew him gave his conquerors little enough satisfaction . . .

Saddam appeared to have psychopathic tendencies which, combined with the exacerbating circumstances of his absolute power, resulted in the killing of more fellow Muslims, possibly, than Genghis Khan and Tamberlaine had caused between them in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Yet, until he invaded the oil-rich state of Kuwait, he enjoyed the collaboration of many governments abroad - including those in the West - who had given him backing in his unprovoked assault on Iran . . .

A fervent admirer of Hitler on account of the latter's boldness and hatred of Jews, he told his official biographer in 1980 that he wanted Iraqis to think of Nebuchadnezzar every day. "We could march into Palestine and bring all those Jews here in Babylon with their hands tied behind their backs once more", he said . . .

Saddam's schooling began at the age of seven in Tikrit. Such was the lawless environment around him that, on his first day at school, he carried a steel bar in his hand and a loaded revolver in his pocket, the latter bought for him by his relatives. . . .

In 1958, after the overthrow of the monarchy, he was briefly imprisoned for the murder of a teacher, his uncle's Communist opponent in parliamentary elections in Tikrit, and began to develop a reputation as an assassin . . .

Saddam returned to Iraq after the overthrow of Qasim in a military-Baathist coup less than three years later, in February 1963, and was immediately engaged in plots against the Baathists' partners in the new regime. He also enrolled at Baghdad university's law faculty and turned up for final examinations in military uniform and carrying a pistol. He was promptly granted a degree . . .

Saddam Hussein Executed--It's Over

According to news sources Saddam Hussein was hung by the neck until dead approximately 20 minutes ago, 6:00 am Saturday, Iraqi time and 5:00 pm Hawaii time.

Iraq now has one less albatross hanging around its neck.

"Aloha Ball" for Saddam Hussein

Here in Hawaii the phrase "Aloha Ball" refers to "game point" in a University of Hawaii volleyball match. It means that the game is just about over and the business of the day is almost complete.

Today is "Aloha Ball" day for Saddam Hussein. His execution is scheduled for this evening Hawaii time (Saturday, Iraq time). The "game" is just about over and the business of removing this tyrannical despot from power and influence is almost complete.

I have expressed my thoughts on the moral and legal rightness in his execution in an earlier post. For those who would like to consider the moral/religious aspects of this matter in a little more detail (especially from a Roman Catholic perspective) should be sure to read what Professor Bainbridge and Captain Ed have to say on the subject.

As I have said before, I will take no pleasure in Saddam's death. But I will shed no tears for him, either. He could have been a great man . . . and a good man for Iraq. But he squandered his potential greatness for lust, greed, wealth and power, all paid for in the blood of hundreds of thousands of his own people and those of Iran and Kuwait as well.

I will weep for what might have been and I will weep for the innocent victims of his twisted and demonic sense personal destiny.

I will also pray that his death will, in some unfathomable way, mark the re-birth of a free, prosperous and peaceful Iraq.

If It's Tuesday It Must Be Sydney . . . or Sidney . . . Whatever . . .

The title of the movie "The Accidental Tourist" sums up this story quite nicely. Imagine getting on a plane in Germany and expecting to land in Sydney, Australia, only to find yourself in Montana, instead! CNN has the story and it will make you smile (and shiver!).

US & Israel: "Let Fatah Buy Guns, Please!"

It's as if SNL, National Lampoon, The Onion, Scrappleface and Mad Magazine put their heads together and concocted the story as a state-of-the-art satire. As the sub-title of "The Nose On Your Face" puts it, "News so fake you'll swear it came from the mainstream media."

Yet it is, apparently, a true story!

The United States and Israel have approved the transfer of weapons and ammunition (2,000,000 rounds of ammunition!) from Egypt into Gaza to resupply President Abbas and his Fatah Party with enough fire-power to stand toe-to-toe with Hamas.

In a recent post I suggested that this sort of "Abbas-coddling" by Israel and the United States would label him as a puppet of the West. Surely this cannot help his popularity among the Palestinian people whose hatred of Israel seemingly transcends any other needs or desires they may have.

Perhaps the real purpose of this transaction is to foster a more deadly and violent confrontation between Hamas and Fatah, leading to such destruction that the people will rise up and demand and end to the nonsense, lifting up moderate Palestinian leaders who are willing to recognize Israel as a nation and embrace the "two-state" solution.

Personally, I doubt that this will be the outcome of this decision. More likely we will see more splintering of power in Gaza and the West Bank and even more chaos and anarchy than we have seen in the past.

Iran's funneling of money to "independent Palestinian terrorists" via Hezbollah as a reward for every rocket fired into Israel is a sign of this breakdown in control and authority in the area.

None of this bodes well for either the peace process or, more specifically, for Israel and its people. Fatah's al-Aksa Martyr's Brigade has seemed to enjoy shooting rockets into Israel and sending suicide bombers across the border to kill as many Israeli's as possible. To think that none of these arms will find their way into the hands of such terrorists is beyond naive. And yet Israel's Prime Minister Olmert has given his approval to this deal . . . and the already announced release of $100 million in withheld tax money . . . and the likely release of imprisoned Palestinians . . . and getting nothing in return. Zip.

It has been popular in recent years to glorify the idea that "thinking outside of the box" is a good thing.

But when what is in the box is a monster who wants to rip you to shreds and eat you, I should think that keeping "inside the box" is a far better strategy.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Two More Reasons to Crush Iran With Sanctions

Well, if we did not already have enough reasons to declare Iran to be a member of the "axis of evil" we now have two more:

1. At least four Iranian military/diplomatic agents have recently been caught in a raid by Iraqi and American troops in Baghdad. At Iran's insistance, the two diplomats were released and immediately returnd to Iran. The other two are still being held. All four were captured in a setting used by terrorists to formulate and carry out murderous attacks on both American troops and Iraqis. Have you read this in your local newspaper lately? I didn't think so.

2. It is become clear that Iran is funneling large sums of money through Syria and into Gaza. The money is being used as an incentive for independent Palestinian terrorists to fire rockets into Israel from Gaza. Thousands of dollars are given as a reward for every rocket that is fired. Bonus money is given if the rockets kill or injure Israelis. Iran, who funds and supports Hizbullah in Lebanon, is now spreading its wings to create as much mischief in the Middle East as possible.

It has already been revealed that new guns and sophisticated "IEDs" manufactured in Iran have been repeatedly found inside of Iraq. These devices are specifically made with the intent of killing American soldiers. They have been successful in this far too many times.

It should be as plain and plain can be that Iran sees itself at war with the United States. It is killing our soldiers in Iraq and doing so with no shame or apology. They are placing the world at-risk by destablizing the country of Lebanon and undermining whatever efforts that are being made to bring peace of any kind to bear on the conflicts between Israel and the Palestinian people.

Iran wants anything but peace in the Middle East. It also wants as many Americans dead as it can get away with.

Other writers have already commented on the irony of Iran demanding the release of their Iraqi diplomats after their unprecedented taking hostage of the entire staff of the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and holding them for 444 days before finally deciding to release them.

Iran is led by a government that should be viewed as a pariah. The government of Iran should be shunned, humiliated and crushed by whatever economic and political sanctions that can be imposed by the United States and its allies--whether with the support of the United Nations and/or other regional alliances or unilaterally.

The isolation of Iran should be, after Iraq, the number one priority of the United States. The time is now. The sooner the better.

Saddam Hussein To Hang Before Sunday

NBC News is reporting that arrangements are being made to hang Saddam Hussein before the Eid religious holiday that begins at sundown this coming Saturday.

According to MSNBC,
Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, sentenced to death for his role in 148 killings in 1982, will have his sentence carried out by Sunday, NBC News reported Thursday. According to a U.S. military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, Saddam will be hanged before the start of the Eid religious holiday, which begins at sundown Saturday.

The hanging could take place as early as Friday, NBC’s Richard Engel reported.

The U.S. military received a formal request from the Iraqi government to transfer Saddam to Iraqi authorities, NBC reported on Thursday, which is one of the final steps required before his execution.
John Donne once wrote, "Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

I doubt that John Donne was thinking of Saddam Hussein when he penned those words.

While Saddam is a fellow human being, loved by God (who sent his Son to die for the sins of just such a person as this), the measure of a man as he stands before God and humanity is not his "humanity" per se, but his humility, repentence, contrition and willingness to seek forgiveness from and reconciliation with those he has sinned against.

Saddam Hussein has exhibited none of these marks of a man of true, human character.

While existing in human form he is so fallen and corrupted that he is no longer recognizable as one who was created "in the image of God" and declared by God to be "very good."

While I am not a big supporter of the death penalty (for reasons I have expressed here) I have no problem affirming the legitimate right of the Iraqi government to execute the judgement of a constiutionally-based court of law.

If ever a man deserved this penalty it is Saddam Hussein.

While I will not take any pleasure in his death I will be satisfied in entrusting his soul to the higher judgement of God. My theology does not stretch so far as to believe that Jesus Christ will intercede on his behalf.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Once More On Somalia

Josh Trevino, still guest-blogging on Hugh Hewitt's blog site, has yet another insightful posting on how most of the MSM is simply getting the story wrong. Of all things he credits the NY Times writer, Jeffrey Gettleman, of actually getting the story right. Here is the summary paragraph from the NY Times. It is as concise a statement of what's happening in Somalia right now as I have seen.
The [Somali] Islamists came to power earlier this year as a grassroots movement that drove out Mogadishu’s warlords and restored a semblance of order to a city that was once one of the most violent on the planet. But the goodwill they earned is being sapped away by their decision to attack the transitional government and declare a holy war against Christian-led Ethiopia. That provoked a crushing counterattack by the Ethiopians, who have the strongest military in East Africa and have sided with the transitional government because Ethiopia views the Islamists as a threat to its own security.
UPDATE: Latest reports from Somalia say that the Islamists are fleeing and their militias are disintegrating. Ethiopia now believes that Mogadishu can be taken without a fight. (I'll believe that when I see it. Still, it sounds promising!)

HT: Powerline

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Former President Gerald Ford Dead at 93

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Former President & First Lady, Gerald & Betty Ford

One of America's "good Presidents" died today. Gerald Ford, who became the first and only unelected President of the United States when Richard Nixon resigned from office (Ford had been nominated by Nixon and confirmed by the US Senate to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew, who had resigned earlier), was not a great President but was a good one and a good man as well.

His brief Presidency featured two dramatic events:

First was his almost immediate pardon of Nixon from any and all crimes he may have committed (while controversial at the time it has since become widely affirmed as a wise, long-sighted and correct decision);

Second were the two unsuccessful assassination attempts made on Ford in a three-week period by two women, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme (in San Francisco) and Sara Jane Moore (in Sacramento) in the Fall of 1975.

Ford is also unique in that he did not seek the Presidency but accepted the office (it was widely believed that Nixon would not complete his second term when Ford was appointed VP) out of a sincere desire to serve his country and lead it through one of the worst crises in its history.

He led simply and, in many areas he led with hesitation and uncertainty (consider his approach to the "Swine Flu," his Edsel-like "WIN" ("Whip Inflation Now") program and misplaced (and uninspiring) honesty(?) in his 1975 state of the union address when he declared, "the state of the union is not good."

Among his virtues I suppose the one that stands out the most was his sincere humility. Ford did not seek the limelight of fame and popularity either during his presidency or after his retirement from public office.

Ford was a quiet, uncomplicated and honest man.

He may not have been great . . . but he was good.

And that is more than enough to justify honoring him on the occasion of his passing.

Footnote: Ford recently passed Ronald Reagan as the longest living former President.

Quote of the Day

From Lt. Col. David Dawson as quoted by James Taranto at Opinion Journal:
For the past 20 years I have been telling people the following: "I attended a New England prep school (Loomis Chaffee) and an Ivy League College (Cornell). Since I joined the Marine Corps, I have associated with a better class of person."

Pakistan, Inspired by President Bush, Announces It Will Build Border Fence

Yep, President Musharraf of Pakistan, is inspired . . . by President George W. Bush, that is. After a thorough-going critique of Bush's plans to build a border fence between Mexico and the United States, Musharraf announced today that he was going to build one, too, alongside his country's border with Afghanistan!

Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery it seems that Pakistan will be paying the United States, and the current Bush administration in particular, a unique compliment by planning to copy it in almost every detail.

As you can see from the following two design samples we can expect to feel much, much safer very, very soon.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Mele Kalikimaka

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That's all...just "Mele Kalikimaka!"

Merry Christmas from Hawaii to you all!

More Details on Somalia & Ethiopian "War"

My last post was just a notice of events in Somalia. Hugh Hewitt has posted a wonderful summary of the large-picture situation (a complex matter distilled down for "dummies" like me) written by Josh Trevino. It is well worth reading.

An even more detailed analysis has been provided by Powerline's link to a presentation by Terrence Lyons and the Council on Foreign Relations.

It is important to keep up on this developing conflict as it represents the sort of thing that we will be seeing more and more of around the world as radical Islamists try to establish footholds "here and there" around the world in order to destabalize regions and spread the iron fist of their oppressive version of sharia.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Radical Islam Enters War With Ethiopia In Somalia

Islamic Terrorists aligned with al-Qaeda and the Taliban have essentially taken control over all of southern Somalia (including Mogadishu). They have been imposing sharia law, have murdered foreign Christians and have executed fellow Muslims for watching the World Cup soccer on television this past summer.

Now they have declared war on Neighboring Ethiopia because that country has placed its troops in northern Somalia to help protect the U.N.-recognized government of Somalia holed up in the city of Baidoa.

In response Ethiopia has not launched air attacks against Islamist strongholds.

The Islamist leadership has responded by calling the Ethiopians "cowards" for refusing to fight hand-to-hand and face-to-face.

There is little doubt that there will be much "up close and personal" fighting in the upcoming days and weeks.

The greatest fear is that this fighting could spread to neighboring Sudan and Kenya and destablize the entire region.

No doubt the radical Islamists are hoping that this will happen.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

CIA Reveals Christmas Terror Plot Against the Chunnel

The Channel tunnel between England and France is, apparently, the target of choice for a Christmas attack by terrorists recruited and trained by al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The American CIA discovered the plot and passed on its report to France and England on December 19.

One American official described the threat as, "Sky high!"

This, along with the news that 9 English Muslims known as "the Brothers" (also trained by al-Qaeda in Pakistan) have disappeared and cannot be located by Scotland Yard, has got to make folks a little bit worried about crossing the English Channel by train during the next few days.

And then again, there is the recent story about imminent attacks in London this week being almost a certainty.

And people say we are not at war???

PS: And still not a word about any terror plots on BBC.

Israel Releases $100 Million to Palestinian Authority

Prime Minister Ohlmert of Israel met with Palestinian Authority President Abbas today and worked out a deal that will have Israel releasing $100 million in taxes withheld from the Palestinian government since Hamas was elected to lead the Palestinian Authority earlier this year.

According to news reports the money is to be administrated by Abbas and, supposedly, Fatah to pay the back salaries of thousands of government workers. None of the money is supposed to be trasferred into the control of Hamas. Israel also agreed to allow greater cross-border access for trade goods.

I'm not so sure what is in this for Israel. It all sounds good for the Palestinian side.

I suppose that the intent is to make Abbas look like a winner for the Palestinian people and cast an even darker shadow on Hamas, whose control of government has strangled all international funding and whose kidnapping of an Israeli soldier continues to keep the gulf between them and Israel as wide as possible.

I'm not convinced that having Israel's "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" will enhance Abbas' image in the Palestinian community. They frequently execute people accused of being Israeli spies for far less cosier ties to Israel than Abbas had today!

I'm also not convinced that Hamas will not, in many ways, benefit from this deal. They will have more time to hang onto power now that workers will be receive at least some pay. They will also have fewer payments to make to supporters (since some of their supporters will be paid with the tax money) and have more left over for the purchase of more arms from Iran et co.

We also must not forget that, before the Palestinian election, it was Fatah that was considered to be the most corrupt political party in the Middle East. I can't believe that much has changed in this matter. Not to mention that the terrorist al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade is a military arm of Fatah and has fought against joining in with the recent "cease fire" agreements made with Israel.

This is a risky business that Israel is engaging in, harkening back to past dealings with Yasser Arafat, not because he was trustworthy, but because he was better than the alternatives.

My gut level feeling is that any dealing with any of the political leaders in the Palestinian government will come back to bite Israel. Abbas may be able to bite less savagely than Hamas but the biting will hurt Israel nonetheless, I have no doubt.

So, I return to my original question: "What is in this deal for Israel?"

Personally, I can't see it.

Bank Robber Murders Teller, Then Says, "Merry Christmas"

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In Little Rock, Arkansas, today a bank robber shot a male teller in the chest killing him. He then went to the next window and demanded money from the women teller there. After receiving an undisclosed amount of money he then said, "Merry Christmas," before leaving the bank.

I have put the bank surveillence photo in my post in the hopes that someone will recognize this person and turn him in. His prompt arrest would be the best Christmas present that Little Rock could receive this year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Another Positive Development In Iraq

UPDATE: The following story is not as positive as I thought now that Iraqi Shi'ite Granad Ayatollah al-Sistani has refused to give his blessing to the multi-lateral coalition being formed in the Iraqi government. Sistani will not permit any policy that would divide the Shi'ite population. In this case, he is not yet ready to cut al-Sadr and his Mahdi militia off at the knees. At this point he is still hoping for a political reconciliation with al-Sadr. He is mistaken in this, of course, but it may have been wise for him to give Sadr a little bit of wiggle-room to make his own decision.

Two senior Shi'ite leaders have had enough of the violence and have declared their support for a united Iraq and have promised to crack down on armed members of their own organization.

News reports say that leaders of the Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) have demanded the same from Sunni and the "other" Shi'ite group led by al-Sadr.

This will have the effect of further isolating al-Sadr from the growing majority of Iraqis, both Sunni and Shi'ite, who are sick and tired of the violence and just want to live their lives in peace . . . without the United States having to keep them alive!

Sadr's "Mahdi Army" militia is the largest single non-governmental armed group in Iraq. Members of this group, including those who have infiltrated the Iraqi security forces, have been implicated in much of the violence against Sunnis.

Now it will be up to Sadr to decide whether he will become a part of the Iraqi political future (which means he will have to give up his militia) or whether to push for continued violence in the hopes of causing a political melt-down, increased "civil war" (meaning that more Sunnis can be killed) and the possibility of a national breakup with Sadr's Iranian-supported minions gaining control over southern Iran, its massive oil reserves and its Persian Gulf ports.

I should think that joining the political process would be his safest bet.

Should he opt for continued violence he will have his civil war . . . and, with much carnage and destruction . . . he will be crushed.

I guess his decision will depend on whether he fears Tehran more or less than he fears Baghdad.

ht: Captain Ed

Cartoons Capture "Christmas"

For different reasons each of the following three cartoons captured my attention and my compliments the other day. See if they do the same for you! As usual, click on the cartoon to enlarge it.

First, Chuck Asay:

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Now, John Deering:

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And, the best for last, Dana Summers:

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Looming London Terrorist Attack: Not "If" But "How Big"

The money quotes from the story are these:
British intelligence and law enforcement officials have passed on a grim assessment to their U.S. counterparts, "It will be a miracle if there isn't a terror attack over the holidays in London," a senior American law enforcement official tells

British police have been quietly carrying out a series of key arrests as they continue to track at least six active "plots" tied to what they call "al Qaeda of England."

Officials said they could not cite any specific date or target but said al Qaeda had planned previous operations during the Christmas holidays that had been disrupted.

"It is not a matter of if there will be an attack, but how bad the attack will be," an intelligence official told
The story is not yet on CNN, FoxNews or even BBC. But it has shown up here on ABC.

The sources for this story are all from unspecified American "law enforcement" sources. Nothing here can be confirmed and it appears as though the British counterparts are not having press conferences over this subject.

Is there a chance that the information shared with ABC was confidential?

Is it possible that the release of this information could compromise the British investigation and (hopeful) disruption of these planned attacks?

I should think that if Scotland Yard wanted the British people to know about these pending attacks they would have held a press conference and tell them. I do not think that they would "leak" it to the American press through our own "law enforcement" sources.

This is a terribly worrisome and sensitive matter. It should scare the bejeebers out of everyone in London. If I lived there and heard this report I might be tempted to stay at home and roast chestnuts on an open fire for the next ten days.

Something seems "out of joint" with the release of this story.

I suspect that there are some very upset British investigators.

I also suspect that there are some terrorists who are very happy to have been tipped off.

ht: Hugh Hewitt

Good Surf at North Shore Oahu's Pipeline

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The surf was 8'-12' on North Shore today so Daughter #1 (visiting from LA for Christmas) and I drove up to see what was going on. We spent an hour at (Banzai) Pipeline at Ekuhai State Park watching boogie boarders and surfers ride the beautiful waves. Click the photo for a close-up!

Afterwards, on our way home, we stopped at Haleiwa for some shave ice.

Just another day in paradise!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Your Tax Dollars Send Kerry to Damascus

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Kerry arriving at Damascus

I noticed that (in the press photos) that Sen. John Kerry (and Sen. Christopher Dodd D-Conn) used military aircraft to travel to Damascus, Syria, to meet with President Assad.

Is this a routine thing? I mean, for a Senator to use military transport for a private meeting with the Head of State of a nation we have accused of accused of sponsoring terrorism, ordering political assassinations and the supporting those killing American troops in Iraq?

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Kerry & Dodd meet with Assad in Damascus

I always thought that foreign policy was the responsibility of the President/Executive Branch of government through the Department of State.

News reports describe Kerry's journey as "a diplomatic push from congress." I never knew that congress discussed foreign policy matters with the leaders of other nations, especially those who are considered to be America's "enemies."

Is this the best use of our military in these days when it is being described as "almost broken" and "stretched too thin?"

Are members of congress authorized to use military aircraft and personnel for personal trips to other countries? If so, how and why? Does this require approval from the Department of Defense? The State Department? The President?

How come Kerry and Dodd get this treatement? Would this be offered to any Senator or member of Congress?

I just don't get it. It's as if Kerry is pretending to be a mini-me President shoving his nose into matters that are constitutionally designated to be the responsibility of the man who defeated him for the Presidency. I can't for the life of me see how this sort of trip does anything useful for our nation, our foreign policy or much of anything else except for the personal benefit of Kerry.

For heaven's sake, we don't even have a US Ambassador in Damascus any more because we recalled him after Syria blew up the former President of Lebanon in 2005.

We may not have a US Ambassador of Damascus these days . . . but we do have two Democratic Senators visiting there courtesy of our tax dollars and members of the US military.

And I still don't get it!

Original History Of Dance

This is nothing but froth . . . but it is fun froth!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Secret Lives of Jesus?" National Geographic Confuses Truth With Fiction

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As a young boy I was thrilled to receive my own subscription to National Geographic Magazine. Every issue taught me something wonderful and new about the world in which I lived.

Today, I wouldn't subscribe to National Geographic Magazine if it were offered to me as a free gift. I can no longer trust the integrity of the Society.

Two things in particular have thrown me off the NGS bandwagon.

1. The Society's televised and published sensationalism regarding the so-called fragmentary text of what may (or may not) have been the long-lost "Gospel of Judas." These Geographic "researchers" presented guesses as facts and fictions as histories. They misled and confused the viewers with so-called "experts" who represent the fringes of biblical scholarship and who, almost without exception, had personal and professional biases that favored the controversial theories they advocated.

Any sense of "fair play" or objectivity was absent from this crass/commercial production reminiscent of the worst of Geraldo Rivera in the "old days."

2. NGS is now broadcasting a television special they are calling, "The Secret Lives of Jesus." Their own video clip/trailer for this program (which you can view by clicking on the picture) draws from the Qur'an and the notoriously heretical gnostic document called "The Gospel of Thomas." Among their assertions: That the then 5-year old Jesus violates the Sabbath by making mud sculptures of birds and, when confronted with the evidence, turning them into real birds so that they fly away. Later, according to the NGS, Jesus brings a curse upon the young son of the man who had challenged him earlier, turning the child into a cripple.

The "Gospel of Judas" was aired just before Easter.

The "Secret Lives of Jesus" is being aired just before Christmas.

This is not science. This is not archaeology. This is not theology. This is not even journalism. This is simply the denegration and exploitation of the Christian faith for commercial profit.

This is slime. As a Christian pastor I am offended. The National Geographic Society has confounded truth and falsehood and brought them upon a level.

They should be ashamed.

But they're not.

They are too busy counting the money . . . Just like Judas.

Note: Mike Straka at FoxNews adds his own thoughts on this Geographic "Special."

Creeping Closer to the Big Bang

Australian astronomers have managed to snap a picture of what they believe is the reflective glow of the early universe, a picture showing something dating only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago.

You can see the photo and a brief, but fascinating article on the subject here.

ht:hugh hewitt

Jesus' Birthday Blues

My Wonderful Wife and Daughter #2 each share the same birthday, December 24th. If you like to have a special birthday that's just for you then December 24th is NOT the day to be born!

I thought of this when I spotted this cartoon by Chicago Sun-Times political cartoonist Jack Higgins. I guess Jesus was born on a bad day, too!

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Click to enlarge

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Caroling In Hawaii 2006

Well, our church went out for our annual Christmas Caroling tonight. Every year we walk down the street to a nearby apartment complex (that includes low-income units) and sing to the good folks who live there.

My family and I have been doing this for 13 years and our church for more years than that. The apartment people look forward to our arrival each year. They stand on their balconies and clap and cheer. Some come out and join us and others bring us gifts of cookies and other goodies.

Afterwards everyone joins my family at our house for more cookies and conversation. We then phone up church friends who have moved to the "mainland" and sing "Mele Kalikimaka" to them. We especially enjoy waking up our friends on the East Coast since it is around 1:30 am their time when we phone. No one has ever complained, except for a few who wondered why they didn't get a phone call from us!

Here are a few photos showing how we "do" Christmas caroling in Hawaii:

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First you get about 25 people together . . .

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And you start singing . . .

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Sometimes we look better than we sound . . .

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Every age joins in the singing . . .

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And everyone who looks like a garden gnome has to go off and stand by themselves . . .

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My wonderful wife and Daughters #2 & #3 made an edible wreath with fruit dipped in chocolate . . . yum.

"Star of wonder! Star of might!
Star with royal beauty bright!
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light!"

I can't wait until next year so we can do it all over again!

Time Magazine,"You" & English Grammar

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Personally, I am confused by Time Magazine's Man of the Year award for 2006.
The cover of Time shows a mirrored image of a computer with the word "You." in the center where the viewer's reflection will supposedly be.

My confusion is as to whether the noun "You" is plural or singular.

If it is plural then everybody who can squeeze their reflection into the picture can be, collectively, "People of the Year."

If, however, it is singular, then only one person is allowed to be reflected at a time, leaving each eligible person free to declare themselves to be the "Person of the Year."

There is a big difference between an impersonal plural that includes everybody taken together (but does not allow for any one individual to be identified as unique or special) or a personal singular that qualifies each individual to be a potential one-of-a-kind "Person of the Year."

In philosophy and religion this distinction is often used to contrast Eastern collectivity and Western individualism.

Buddhism, for example, has a corner on the market for its love and compassion for "humanity" whereas Christianity is noted for its insistence that each individual "human" is of infinite worth and value.

A plural "You" would also fit in well with the Marxist/Socialist concept of the "masses" and the "proletariat." It is the collective survival of this group that is the determinative value as opposed to the value of any one member of that group. In this world view individuals are expendable. As Stalin reputedly said, "If you are going to make an omelet you will need to break some eggs."

A singular "You" would more appropriately reflect the American mystique of the "rugged individualist." Here we would find the Jimmy Stewart Goes to Washington ideal where one person/one vote can make all the difference in the world; anyone can grow up to be President and, if you work hard enough, you can become a millionaire!

To be honest, based on my reading of old, tattered copies of Time Magazine in doctor's offices, I am doubtful that such a subtle distinction of grammar held very much interest for the editors of that september publication.

It seems far more likely that they simply "copped out" and decided that, like the Democratic Party, they would refuse to be held accountable for having any particular position on any particular subject.

This strategy seemed to work well in the last elections.

As for Time, their singularly pluralistic waffling on the word "You" seems spectacularly underwhelming.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Executions Suspended in Florida and California--I'm Glad

It seems that the malingering death of Angel Nieves Diaz while being executed in Florida earlier this week has resulted in the suspension of executions scheduled in California as well as in Florida.

Personally, I am pleased with these decisions.

As I have written before, although I consider the death penalty to be both morally and constitutionally acceptable, I do not consider it to be, in practice, either.

Innocent people have been sentenced to death and, in at least one case, executed for crimes they did not commit.

The wealth, power, social status, influence, education and race of someone convicted of a capital crime has repeatedly been shown to have a direct effect on whether the person is sentenced to death or life imprisonment . . . or even convicted of the capital crime in the first place.

This is unjust and should be stopped.

If capital punishment is to be resumed I strongly urge that it be reserved for only those circumstances where the standards of guilt are raised higher than "beyond a reasonable doubt" to the level of "virtual certainty."

It is of marginal concern for me as to whether a person being executed experiences a brief period of physical or emotional pain or discomfort. Such would seem to me to be neither "cruel or unusual" under the circumstances.

This is, however, the issue being considered by the State Courts in California and, as a procedural matter, in Florida.

Last week it took Angel Nieves Diaz 34 minutes of quiet squirming before he died. According to recent reports the execution was botched because the IV needle was inserted through his vein and the mortal dose of drugs was infused into his muscle instead of into his bloodstream.

I hope that someone gets fired for incompetency in this matter. It is a simple matter to determine whether a needle in inserted properly or not. Anyone tasked with this assignment should have been able to do this correctly . . . and one person's incompetence should not be a legitimate legal reason to void the legality of execution by lethal injection.

But the occasion does provide another opportunity for us to rethink the matter once again. For this I am glad.

For more thoughts on this subject that substantially reflect my own I encourage you to read Captain Ed's recent post here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Rumsfeld Leaves Department of Defense With Standing Ovation

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D of D photo
Outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was honored at a Department of Defense ceremony today, a cereomony that featured personal words of thanks and praise from President Bush and Vice-President Cheney.

According to the Department of Defense website
After concluding his farewell speech, Rumsfeld was drawn back to the podium by a sustained standing ovation from his employees and friends.
Among his final comments Rumsfeld had this to say to the rest of the world:
It is with confidence that I say that America's enemies should not confuse the American people's distaste of war, which is real and which is understandable, with a reluctance to defend our way of life. Enemy after enemy in our history have made that mistake to their regret. . . America is not what's wrong with this world.
I couldn't help but notice that the Reuters' version of the story did not mention the standing ovation.

Iraq's Maliki Squirms

After a secure video-conference with President Bush today Iraq's Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, started singing a new and harmonious tune.

Suddenly, according to Reuters, he is says that he is willing
to improve security in Baghdad by targeting "all sources of violence", including insurgents and militias...
Not only that but he apparently
talked about his desire, and the desire of many in Iraq, for a larger core of Iraqi political leaders to come together for the common objective of stabilizing Iraq and promoting the rule of law...
This is interesting considering that Maliki has been seen as brazenly protecting Shi'ite interests in general and those of al-Sadr and his militia in particular since he took office earlier this year.

For Maliki to say that he has a "desire" to include Kurd, Sunni and Shi'ite leaders in a conference designed to target "all sources of violence" seems like a last-stand attempt to keep his job.

I hope that he is feeling intense pressure from the United States as well as from the competing political factions in Iraq to quit his partisan leadership-style and get on with the agenda of securing a secure and unified Iraq.

If it turns out that he is just spouting empty rhetoric I suspect that he will be out of office before Bush's State of the Union speech next month.

A Cure for Diabetes?

Glenn Reynolds (at Instapundit) carries this amazing story:
In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body's nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

"I couldn't believe it," said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. "Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more."
Hawaii, where I live, has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the United States if not the world...largely due to the large Polynesian/Pacific Islander population in which it is near-epidemic. While a "cure" such as this would not necessarily help with the other problems associated with obesity and inappropriate diet I am very excited about this possible step forward. Amazing!

Who knows what this line of research will lead to in the future.

It is somewhat counter-intuitive to view diabetes as being related to "malfunctioning pain neurons." Perhaps some forms of cancer might be triggered by things just as counter-intuitive?

While I have no one in my family with diabetes I Know many people (including a new-born girl in my congregation) who do. For them this will seem like good, encouraging news indeed!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Child Artist Prodigy Claims Visions of God

Glenn Beck had this story on his CNN show the other night.

A 12-year old girl paints like a skilled artist and depicts people and scenes she says she has visited in visions, including visits with God.

As long as God gets the glory I do not need to understand this modern "miracle." Some things are simply beyond expaination.

Click here to watch the video story.

Senator Tim Johnson & Polonium-210

I join Powerline, Captain Ed and other conservative-leaning bloggers in praying for the complete recovery of Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) who apparently suffered a stroke or an aneurism yesterday followed by brain surgery last night. The latest report from the hospital describes his condition as "critical."

Having said this, the political implications of this situation are immense.

Heading into the start of the January 2007 US Congress, the Democrats hold a 51-49 seat majority in the Senate. If Johnson is unable to be seated next month that majority would fall to 50-49. Next, if North Dakota Governor John Hoeven (who is a Republican) chose a Republican appointee as Johnson's replacement to the Senate seat the Democrat/Republican seats would be deadlocked at 50-50, with the Republican Vice-President Dick Cheney, as the deciding vote favoring the Republicans.

No doubt that someone will soon be speculating that Johnson's illness is the result of some sinister dirty trick from the mind of Karl Rove, probably involving Polonium-210 or something even more exotic.

The truth is, of course, that politics, like life itself, is not an exact science. My life, your life and the life of Tim Johnson do not necessarily submit to the desires of those who love us, hate us, vote for us or vote against us.

Life, while fragile and uncertain, is generally considered to be either a gift (for most religious believer) or a possession that is to be preferred and preserved over and against its opposite, which is death.

I would hope that all Americans, regardless of political persuasion, would join me in praying for Tim Johnson to be alive and well and back in the US Senate this coming January.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mililani Presbyterian Church Preschool Christmas Program

Well, we did it again! The annual Preschool Christmas program was tonight. As usual there were more people and children than could fit inside our church. But the children were beautiful and the parents, tutus, aunties and hanai relations were beaming!

Here are a few photos of the fun:

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Kids will be kids!

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"Of course I'm having fun! Why do you ask?"

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"I'm so pretty!"

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A weary wiegndeer

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A perfect little angel

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"Gee, those 2-year old kids look so BIG!"

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A mother's look of love

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"Happy Birthday to Jesus!

A New Government In Iraq Would Signal Another Sign of Hope

The pro-Shi'ite Iraqi government currently led by al-Maliki may be on its way out, to be replaced by a new coalition government controlled by Kurd and Sunnis, joined by moderate Shi'ites.

It appears that the Sunni/Shi'ite sectarian killings have taken their toll on the patience of those who still hope to create a stable, unified Iraq. Those perpetuating the violence (including foreign al-Qaeda terrorists, pro-Baathist Sunnii insurgents and the radical, pro-Iranian Shi'ites under the titular authority of al-Sadr) have increasingly marginalized themselves from popular support.

The national concensus appears to be concluding that the political center needs to pull together and begin to excise these pathological malignancies from the country.

Maliki has proven incapable and unwilling to crack down on the radical Shi'ite community. Now, with the apparent approval of the more moderate Shi'ite Ayatollah al-Sistani, the shift to the center is now about to take place.

Personally, I believe that this new development (commented on by Hugh Hewitt) along with other "shifts in the wind" (on which I have recently posted) have given President Bush a reason to "re-think" his next strategic moves in Iraq.

Regardless of what else he may do, the one thing our President MUST do is to affirm our national resolve to support the still-emerging Iraqi government and the Iraqi people during this period of new-birth.

It is not polite for the "mid-wife" to go home before the baby is born.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

St. Paul's Tomb Identified In Rome

Some years ago the Vatican determined that it had "rediscovered" what they believed was the actual sarcophagus of St. Peter, right where it should have been, under the altar in St. Peters basilica.

Now, at the nearby St. Paul Outside the Wall church (the second largest in the Vatican) Vatican archaeologists claim that they have found the Roman sarcophagus of St. Paul . The stone casket was found under the church altar, beneath a an inscription reading
Paulo Apostolo Mart (Paul, Apostle & Martyr")
John Hinderaker at Powerline shares my own opinion that "he was one of the most remarkable people in world history."

He also adds (with, I think, a bit of hyperbola) that St. Paul was also "one of the most brilliant of all world-historical figures."

Certainly Paul was equal to the greatest minds of his day and far beyond all but a very few. Yet his brilliance was in the challenge he faced in seeking a rational, cogent, coherent and convincing apologetic for the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Paul, being versed in both classical philosophy and Pharasaic Judaism, used the best of both to frame his thoughts, his biblical (Old Testament) application and his reasoned application of what he saw as "God-revealed" truths to the daily lives of the first Christians.

Few, if any, writers in all of history have had such a profound effect on the world in which we all live. Paul's words, insights, guidance, instruction and the very adventure of his amazing life are still read by hundreds of millions of people every day.

I don't particularly plan on making a pilgrimage to see the tomb of St. Paul in Rome. But there are few people who have helped shape my own understanding of faith and life than Paul . . . who wrote with a passionate love for people like me so that the day would come when "at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Nativity Story

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Daughter #3, my wonderful wife and I went to see the movie "The Nativity Story" today. We all enjoyed it.

My wife described it as a "simple epic." I cannot improve on that description.

The movie is just what it says that it is: A "Story." That's all. It tells the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. It simply tells the story. It does not create any subplots or clever endeavors or quirky characters to "jazz up" the story. Nor does the movie employ spectacular special effects for sheer "wow" power.

The movie simply tells the story that we find in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. It uses the same characters and the same settings. It fills out the biblical narrative with insightful character development and creates a context of time and space that brings the story "down to earth".

This is a far cry from such movies as "The Passion of the Christ" or "One Night With the King" that added so much to the story that the story itself got obscured in the swirl of directorial "vision" (as in the "Passion") or the addition of motives and background ("One Night...") that were lacking in the biblical stories they presumed to retell.

As in all great stories it is best to simply tell the story and get out of the way, letting the original themes and interplay of characters and events speak for themselves.

Director Catherine Hardwicke has done just this and it has succeeded beautifully.

The movie is not a great film. It will not win any awards. But it will win the heart of the viewer. The effect of the young virgin Mary's unplanned pregnancy on her family, her betrothed (Joseph) and the rest of her home village of Nazareth is especially heartrending and will touch the hearts of many who have suffered through similar (though non-virgin!) situations in their own life or those of family members and friends.

The characters are not particularly pious in the trivial sense of the word. But they are depicted as being simple and genuine in their faith. The message comes through quite clearly that God can, and does, use simple, uncomplicated and unsophisticated people to work great and marvelous things on God's behalf.
This point is poignantly expressed as Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem. A paranoid King Herod has his soldiers watching for anyone that might look like a threat to claim great status and power as the prophesied Messiah. A soldier takes a few moments to search perfunctorily through Mary and Joseph's things, hardly gives them a second glance and then waves them through the checkpoint saying, "This isn't the one."

If you have ever felt like a "nobody" you will especially enjoy this film since the movie, and the original story itself, were made for you in particular. Mary herself wonders how she, as a nobody, could have been chosen by God to bear this child. The movie (and the Bible) do not give a clear answer to this question. But the movie (and the Bible) do give Mary's own response to her role in God's plan.
...the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
In the end, after the two "nobodies" from Nazareth have been touched by God, scorned by their friends and family, experienced travel and hardships on the way to Bethlehem; after they discover the genuine love that dwells in each other's personal character (a love that makes the lack of romantic love moot for Mary); after they are discovered by shepherds and Wise Men in a dirty cave buzzing with flies; after they flee Herod's wrath for the safety of exile in Egypt, we hear the above words of Mary in, perhaps, a new way.

The angel tells Mary that, "With God, nothing will be impossible."

The rest of the movie shows us that the angel's words were true.

Faith assures us that these words are still true today and that "The Nativity Story" still has the power to "lift up the humble and fill the hungry with good things."

Go see this movie. Bring a friend. Let the story do the rest.

Robert Gates Revealed by Dick Adair

Dick Adair is the political cartoonist for the Honolulu Advertiser. Today I think he hit the nail on the head with his depiction of incoming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the departing Rumsfeld.

Click the link here to see the cartoon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

British Government Blames Kremlin for Assassination

The British have concluded that the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko last month was carried out by official agents of the domestic Russian intelligence agency known as FSB, the same agency that Litvinenko had once served.

Putin is upset, of course. But the burden of solving this matter lies with him. If he cannot control his own intelligence agencies and the polonium-210 they have at their disposal then he should take control NOW.

On the other hand, if he DOES control the agency with an iron fist (and don't forget that he once headed the Russian intelligence) then he owes the British government a better response than to blame THEM for the problem!

ht:Captain Ed

Dennis Prager, the Bible & the Qu'ran

Radio talk-show philosopher Dennis Prager has recently claimed that newly-elected Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota should not swear his oath of office on a Qu'ran (Ellison is a Muslim) but on the Bible.

Prager, who I admire and generally agree with, is wrong on this issue. As often happens, someone else articulates my opinion better than myself. In this case it is Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters.

I encourage you to read what the Captain has written on this subject. Then you will know what I think, too!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Good News From Iraq You Haven't Heard--Is Hope On the Way?

The Iraqi Muslim Scholars Association has, in the past, been implicated in being at least passively supportive of the Sunni insurgency, especially in Anbar Province and other areas in the north.

After the President of the Association, Harith Dhari, fled to Jordan recently, the Association apparently decided to take a firm stand for positive change.

The following translation of a story that ran in two Iraqi newspapers last Friday describes what has happened:

Sunni leaders in Basra representing, Party of Islam, Muslim Scholars Association, The Sunni Endowment and heads of Sunni tribes, issued a Fatwa (religious opinion or edict) banning and forbidding the spilling of Shiite blood or joining any terrorist or extremist organization. The Fatwa also called for the rebuilding of the [Shi'ite] Asqariah [also spelled Al-Askari] shrine in Samarah.
It appears to me that this represents a major shift in the so-called "Iraqi Civil War." If the leaders of half of those fighting the "civil war" call for a halt to the hostilities then the subject of concern goes straight to the other side, namely, the al-Sadr (Shi'ite) Mahdi Militia.

The Iraqi government recently said that it was going after the Sunni insurgency first, and mentioned harith Dhari by name.

With Dhari gone and the broadly supported Fatwa issued by the Sunni religious leadership the ball now goes into al-Sadr's court.

This development may explain why the US military chose the mystifying strategy of shifting thousands of our troops from Anbar Province (where al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency is the problem) to Baghdad (where al-Sadr's militia appears to be the major problem).

It now appears that the situation on the ground in Iraq may be in the midst of a radical paradigm shift.

1. Sunni religious leaders call for an end to sectarian violence by Sunni Muslims and, by Fatwa, isolate al-Qaeda as a forbidden organization.

2. News reports indicate that Sunni militias in Anbar Province have begun assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in attacking, killing and rooting out al-Qaeda members in the area.

3. With Dhari gone and the Muslim Scholars Association opposing the insurgency the US Military, with the support of the Iraqi government and Security Forces (and the likely reluctant support of Iraqi President Maliki--who is Shi'ite) is now free to cut the legs out from under al-Sadr, his militia and his financial and weapons pipeline to Iran.

For over two years the biggest question in Iraqi stability has been not if but when al-Sadr will be brought down. Apparently the time is coming soon for the "High Noon" showdown.

Will Sadr back down as he has before and feign cooperation? Or has his long-acknowledged surrogacy for Iran made him personna non grata to even the Shi'ite leadership in the Iraqi government?

I truly hope it is the latter.

A crushing defeat of Sadr and his militia would be a decisive blow to Iran's hopes in the region and the last major hurdle in creating an enviornment for a peaceful future for a unified Iraq.

Previous experiences in Iraq have shown, however, that whenever a major shift towards peace and stability takes place, Iran and/or al-Qaeda have taken desperate measures to undermine and disrupt the momentum.

If Iraq, with the support and participation of US troops, goes after al-Sadr then we can expect many very bad things to happen over what will seem a very long period of time.

I would describe this painful period as the pains of labor that take place prior to the birth of a child. This is always the most dangerous period for both mother and baby. It can sometimes be fatal. More often than not, however, such pain and travail ends in a beautiful affirmation of life that makes the entire period of pregnancy, labor and delivery well worth the time, trouble and suffering.

I have personally been dispairing over the future of Iraq during the past 2-3 months. This is the first sign of hope that I have observed in a very long time.

It appears to have the potential of being a substantial (and perhaps pentultimate) step towards the resolution of the Iraqi mess.

It is hard to believe that it was only three weeks ago that Omar, at Iraq the Model, saw the potential shift in his country for this very scenario to develop. As he put it then,
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
.(Note: I posted on this here).

At the moment it may still be a dream . . . but it is a beautiful one . . . and we may be on the verge of seeing the dream become true!

ht:Mudville Gazette

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hawaii Falls Short Against Oregon State 35-32

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The friends who took me to the game

I just returned home (11:40 pm) from the last regular season NCAA Division 1-A college football game of the national season.

My team played Oregon State University.

My team lost.

But they should have won.

Hawaii lost 35-32 after Oregon State suffered a self-inflicted safety in order to run down the clock at the end of the game.

Four times the Hawaii offense was in the Oregon State red zone and failed to score a point. They missed two field goals (40 & 50 yards), dropped a touchdown pass (after a hard defensive hit, threw an interception at the 1-yard line (that was ruled a touch-back) and watched QB Colt Brenna sacked repeatedly nearly every time they neared pay-dirt.

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The UH marching band played at half-time

Oregon State, on the other hand, took advantage of big plays, returning a kick-off 102 yards for a touchdown and, on the first play following the interception touchback, fired off an 80-yard touchdown bomb.

UH's Colt Brennan watched as his Heisman Trophy nomination disappeared before the eyes of a sold-out crowd of 50,000 fans at Aloha Stadium.

Brennan seemed to be badly shaken by a series of early sacks and interspersed his usual pin-point passes with others that were too long, too short or just plain lousy.

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ESPN broadcast the game. Here is one of their cameras.

In spite of all the uneven play the UH Warriors had a first down on the Oregon 19 with just 2:30 to play in the final quarter. The fans believed that another miracle was about to be performed...but the fourth down pass wobbled badly and fell far short of Brennan's receiver and the best Quarterback in the United States walked off the field with his head in his hands, feeling the full burden of his mortality for, perhaps, the first time this season.

Oregon State played an almost perfect game. Their offensive and defensive lines outplayed Hawaii consistantly. Hawaii came from behind to tie the game three separate times, but never led once.

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The Oregon State Beaver fans had a good time

The better team won tonight. It was a sad end to an otherwise wonderful season for the Hawaii Warriors. They will have one chance to atone this loss when they play Arizona State in the Aloha Bowl on December 24.

I can only hope that they will have learned enough from tonights game against one Pac-10 team to be able to defeat the next one to come to town later this month!

UCLA Defeats #2 Ranked "Mystery Team"

UCLA was supposed to play #2 Ranked USC this afternoon in the Rose Bowl but USC never showed up for the game.

The team on the field wore maroon and gold uniforms and the band played the USC Trojans fight song over and over but it remains a mystery who it was, exactly, who were inside those uniforms. Rumors abound with some of the more plausible being as follows:

1. The entire USC team was abducted by aliens shortly after their powerful and assertive win over Notre Dame last weekend and were replaced by ET imitations created by George Lucas' Industrial Sound and Light, Inc.

2. An NCAA II-A team snuck into the USC locker room before the UCLA game, tied them up and played in their place.

3. A University of Michigan Assistant Coach (or, according to a variation of this rumor, a University of Florida Assistant Coach) poured some unidentified substance into the USC Gatorade prior to the game. It is the opinion of some medical experts in the field of pharmacology that, from the effect the substance had on the USC players, the substance may have been liquid morphine, liquid opium or simply a distilled form of tryptophan made from uneaten turkey left-over from last week's Thanksgiving celebrations.

The results of lab tests on USC urine samples should settle this mystery in the next few days.

UPDATE: I have removed the final two paragraphs of the original post. I deemed them to be too insulting even for satire!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hugh Hewitt & Schmaltzy Christmas Movies

Hugh out-did himself today by suggesting that Emmett of the Unblinking Eye come up with (for next week) the absolute lamest movie category ever: “Schmaltzy Christmas Movies.”

Surprisingly, the list of such movies that qualify for this label are relatively few (I can’t count TV movies or animation). In any case, below are my suggestions. Happy schlepping schmaltzing!

White Christmas (winner…hands down for schmaltz)
Miracle on 34th Street (2nd place because Natalie Wood is NOT schmaltzy at all)
Boys Town 1944 (shcmaltz with a little bit of an edge, a message AND an actual plot)
All I Want for Christmas 1991 (very bad schmaltz)
We’re No Angels 1955 (regrettable schmaltz)
Note the 1989 remake isn’t good enough to rise to the level of schmaltz
Santa Clause—The Movie 1986 (forgettable schmaltz)

Note: It’s a Wonderful Life DOES NOT QUALIFY…it transcends “schmaltz” and is in a unique category of its own.

Note #2: Holiday Inn and White Christmas should not, in all fairness, appear on the same list, otherwise it would have made my list, too!