You are currently viewing archive for June 2006
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
This weekend, if you rent a movie, try one of these to start your celebration of Independence Day.

1776 A musical account of the events leading up to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. While not exact on some details, remarkably accurate on the debates in Congress. Has some humor also. Adapted from the stage play of the same name.

Yankee Doodle Dandy From 1942, the life of George M. Cohan with all his great music. James Cagney in the title role.

Open Range A classic Western released in 2003. Great American attitudes without cynicism.

Men of Honor
Prejudice overcome by determination and courage.

To Kill a Mockingbird One man with courage makes a majority, though maybe not at that moment.

Tears of the Sun American heart, American courage.

Hester Street
American immigrant experience in New York's Lower East Side.

Field of Dreams America and America's game.

Seabiscuit How can any true American resist rooting for the Underdog?

Rocky In 1976 it was like the morning star of Morning in America.

Cinderalla Man
Root for the underdog.

Barbershop American values in a new setting for some of us.

Drumline Growing up and embracing the values of community (lots of great music as well)

The Legend of Bagger Vance Even those of us who do not play golf can be moved by this film.

Hellboy Character formed by community and by individual decision.

See also our list of movies for Memorial Day
Feel free to add movie suggestions.
Category: US in Iraq.archive
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Yesterday, David Ignatius, op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, offered an excellent piece, "A Road Map Home," in praise of the realism and diplomatic efforts of Ambassador Khalilzad and the Bush adminstration in working toward an endgame in Iraq.

Ignatius highlights:

"Reconciliation sounds fine in principle, but in practice it can be agonizing. I asked Khalilzad how he would answer members of Congress who are indignant that insurgents who opposed the U.S. occupation might be pardoned by the Iraqi government."

'"Ending a war is as difficult as fighting a war," Khalilzad went on. He noted that many conflicts in American history have ended with a general or partial amnesty -- from the Whiskey Rebellion to the Civil War to the U.S. Army's battle against insurgents in the Philippines. "To end a war, you must balance the requirements of reconciliation with the requirements of justice," he explained."

Ignatius asserts that the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a key victory in "[t]he political-military strategy embraced by Khalilzad and Casey over the past year [that] has combined aggressive military operations against die-hard insurgent groups with outreach to elements of the Sunni insurgency that (in theory) can be co-opted."

After the death of Zarqawi, the ambassador claims significant progress toward that end, reports Ignatius.

Ignatius in conclusion:

"Listening to America's ultra-realist ambassador, it's obvious that the buzzwords of the Washington political debate...don't have much relevance for what the generals and diplomats are trying to achieve. This messy war won't end with a victory parade but with a process that is messy itself -- slow, precarious, ambiguous. But the alternative is an open-ended U.S. military occupation of Iraq that nobody wants. As Khalilzad put it: "If you don't want reconciliation, it means you must fight on.'"

In addition to Ignatius's analysis, I will add some of my own thoughts:

Recently, the word "timetable" has claimed center stage in any discussion of Iraq. Does the President have a timetable? YES. Although the WH denies a timetable, any serious reading of the situation in Iraq and Washington leads to only one conclusion:

Iraq must be wrapped-up by January 20, 2009. The Bush braintrust is big on presidential history (especially that of Bush-41). They have taken great pains to avoid the missteps of the father, and they understand that unfinished business is risky business (for example: see Saddam and Somalia).

Prediction: President Bush will not leave Iraq in the lurch. The coming congressional campaign season will see quiet progress on the civil side of things, which will allow for moderate draw-downs of US troops.

Then, in the weeks and months after the election, President Bush and the USA will "get bloody." In a similar move to the assault on Fallujah in November of 2004 after the presidential election, I expect the President to make one final push for military supremacy in Iraq.

The President is never going to face another American election. This is an advantage for him. His legacy depends on victory in Iraq. All he needs to do is win. On the other hand, President Bush's moment is drawing to a close. After the Congressional election, the remainder of his term will be measured in months.

He must defeat the insurgency before they (the insurgents) come to view him as a lame duck. The USA may have won the war in Iraq with the re-election of President Bush in 2004. An insurgency is hard-pressed to wait-out an American president for four years. But if the USA does not deliver the knock-out punch early on in 2007, the insurgency will see a light at the end of the tunnel.

What goes without saying, of course, is that no future president, Republican or Democrat, will be invested in this war like George Bush. No successor to Bush will feel the press of history in the same way that the President copes with that oppressive sense of urgency and necessity every day of his administration.
History is not always a downhill slide; in the U.S. we have some progress we can take pride in.

A decade ago or so, I agreed to serve as a “room dad” for one of our sons elementary classes. In December we made a field trip to Fort Parker, near Groesbeck, Texas. About the time we finished touring the fort it began to rain. Needing a covered area for lunch, we hopped back aboard our busses and took our sack-lunches a short distance north to the Old Confederate Reunion Grounds near Mexia. For those of you from farther north, for decades after the Civil War Confederate veterans and families would gather for annual celebrations. Eventually many counties in the South built Reunion Grounds that included permanent facilities. The Old Confederate Reunion Grounds near Mexia has a large covered pavilion, perfect for our needs.

We arrived, handed out the lunches, and the kids exploded off the busses, running to the pavilion. White and black and brown, there they were eating together, talking together, running together, under a roof built to shelter partisans of the Lost Cause: descendents of slaves playing with descendents of slave owners and Confederate troops.

Sometimes things do get better. Have a Happy Independence Day.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I recommend Peggy Noonan's column in the Opinion Journal today in its entirety: "Stop Spinning: Contrarian thoughts on Hillary, flag-burning, the Times and 'The View.'" It is brilliant and a must-read from start to finish.

I am posting and associating myself with her remarks on the flag amendment. She says what I have been thinking. I have held my fire on this issue over the last few weeks (a more apt analogy, perhaps, is that I "could not get a shot off"), but, nevertheless, Peggy Noonan gets it exactly right with her comments.


"The flag burning amendment is a bad idea, and will not prove, in the end, politically wise or fruitful to any significant degree. Three reasons. One is that the American people can sense, whether they support a constitutional ban or not, that they're being manipulated. They know supporters are playing with their essential patriotism for political profit. They know opponents are, by and large, taking their stand for equally political reasons. They can sense when everyone's posturing. It's not good, in the long term, when people sense you're playing with their deepest emotions, such as their love of country.

"Second, nobody thinks America is overrun with people burning flags, so the amendment does not seem even to be an exotic response to a real problem. There are a lot of pressing issues before the Congress, and no one thinks this is one of them. Voters know it's hard to do a risky thing like define marriage as a legal entity that can take place only between an adult human male and an adult human female. That actually would take some guts. It's easy--almost embarrassingly so--to make speeches about how much you love the flag.

"Third, Americans don't always say this or even notice it, but they love their Constitution. They revere it. They don't want it used as a plaything. They want the Constitution treated as a hallowed document that is amended rarely, and only for deep reasons of societal or governmental need. A flag burning amendment is too small bore for such a big thing. I don't think it will come up as a big issue every even numbered year. I think it's going to go away. There's too much else that's really needed."

On the other hand, I was also impressed (but not swayed) by the arguments of one of my favorite public servants, Orrin Hatch, who did very well in explaining the legislative and judicial history of this issue, as well as the principle at stake:

Hatch :

"[U]nelected judges have mistakenly concluded that it is the courts that have exclusive dominion over the Constitution. This was certainly the case in 1989, when a severely divided Court reversed 200 years of jurisprudence and overturned the considered judgment of the American people in almost every state.

"For generations, the American people provided protections for their flag. On June 20, 1989, forty-eight states and the District of Columbia had statutes that protected the flag from physical desecration. On June 21, 1989 all of those statutes were unconstitutional.

"How did this come to pass?

"One vote on the Supreme Court switched. That’s it. One vote, and the will of the people was overturned in nearly every state. For many years the Court well understood the obvious and compelling interest of political communities in protecting the American flag from desecration."

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Category: American Lives
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Note: This essay is the third installment in a series entitled, "American Lives," which spotlights great Americans, famous and anonymous, who have lived exemplary American Lives.

This particular piece is something of a departure, in that it spotlights a young person who is in the very earliest stages of living an exemplary American life. Nevertheless, his already compelling story is instructive.

Jonathan Treviño is eight years old and lives in a “colonia” in Peñitas, Texas, approximately eight miles north of the United States-Mexico border. Thanks to the vision of John Shary, a developer from Omaha, and a 320-day growing season, the Rio Grande Valley is one of the largest citrus producers in the world. But the Valley is not a lush garden spot. The climate is dry, averaging twenty-three inches of annual rainfall, and the days are hot and dusty. This area is also one of the poorest in the nation, with a per capita income of $9,899, according to the Census Bureau.

Jonathan lives on a crudely paved street off a farm road that connects via another road to the state highway north, which connects to an interstate highway that traverses the heartland of America. He lives in an unfinished home with his parents and his two brothers (ages ten and sixteen) and his two sisters (ages three and thirteen). The children all attend public school, where they have won many ribbons and other honors for their academic achievements, which they proudly display on their bedroom walls. The family has several bookcases filled with Bibles, other religious literature, textbooks, children’s stories, and American history, including the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Most of these volumes are in English.

For Jonathan, summer days are spent playing with cousins and friends and his brother, Sebastian. Their oldest brother, Orlando, works in the fields with his dad during the break from school. Jonathan and Sebastian play football (American) and catch “horny toads” and geckos and do their best to stay clear of red ants, scorpions, and rattlers.

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Der Spiegel online is reporting on the brutal treatment received by dissidents in Communist China. Linked by Drudge. The lead paragraph

"China's Communist Party officials are employing brutal methods in dealing with difficult citizens. The most recent victim of what appears to be government-sanctioned brutality was a farmer who suffered a broken cervical vertebra when he was attacked by thugs."

(Okie Gardener) I do not believe the repeated mantra of "economic progress leads to political freedom." For one thing, philosophically I am not a determinist, especially not an economic determinist. For another, it seems to me that a nation can have a strong economy without political freedom--Nazi Germany did very well. I think those who claim that economic development in Communist China will lead to politcal freedom are just trying to absolve themselves of the guilt of making money on the backs of opressed Chinese labor.
This is the last excerpt from the speech of the Rev. Israel Batista Guerra, the General Secretary of the Latin American Council of Churches, that I plan to post. For the earlier posts and comments see here and here. In this excerpt Guerra shares his perceptions and understandings, as one Cuban-born and living in Ecuador, of the animosity toward the U.S. that often manifests itself in Latin America. Whether you agree with him or not, I think we should listen in an effort to understand how others see us. The following is a list of his reasons for the resentment and animosity.

"Manifest destiny: The United States assuming a messianic and missionary role toward the rest of the world: the model of democracy and society that is to be implanted on a global scale.

Individualistic enclave: An individualistic and fragmented understanding of the human being, guided by egoism and excluding [?sic] efficiency. What counts is to be winners, without concern for whoever gets left behind.

Parochial vision: Feeling itself threatened, the country looks for enemies, and in seeking security fosters the ideology lf violence and terrorism. The physical and mental borders are closed and a limited vision of the world acquired.

Corporate interests: In the past the United States was and made itself known through its people. Today it is the corporate interests and their transnational businesses that present the image of its society. The United States is its people and not its corporate interests. We want to be in relationship with the noble citizen who walks the streets of its cities and worships God in the temples." full article pdf link at bottom of page

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Another excerpt from the speech of the Rev. Israel Batista Guerra, the General Secretary of the Latin American Council of Churches. (For an earlier excerpt click here.

"In 1916, at the Congress of Panama, when Latin America was declared a land of mission, there were a couple thousand evangelicals: 14,500 in 1938, a million in 1950, then 37 million in 1980. At the end of the last millenium between 15 and 20 percent of the Latin American population was evangelical. Of that figure less than 15 percent belong to historic Protestant churches." (an okie gardener again) by "historic Protestant churches" he is referring to Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, etc. Most of the growth of evangelicalism is among pentecostal and neopentecostal groups.

(okie again) The shift I think will have political ramifications. In the past Latin American social upheaval has been associated with communism, socialism, Peronism, and assorted mostly secular movements. Protestantism, world-wide historically, has been associated with unrest and even revolution in the direction of democratic or republican government. Lest you say, 'But Pentecostals never will do that,' read below

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Drudge links to this article from the Washington Post reporting that the average American is more socially isolated than ever before. The first two paragraphs read

"Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.

A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two."


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Foxnews reports that President Bush, on his European trip has paid tribute to those Hungarians who resisted Soviet tyranny in 1956.

"Bush's tribute to what he called the "unbelievable thirst for freedom" that was exhibited by Hungarians in 1956 officially got under way when he placed a wreath at a black marble Eternal Flame Memorial in honor of those who died in the revolt. The president and first lady Laura Bush bowed their heads briefly as they laid a bouquet of cut irises, lilies and other flowers at the memorial where a bugler played.
In an open-air speech in a Buda Castle courtyard, the president was urging other nations to celebrate the hard-won freedoms in such former Iron Curtain countries by helping to nurture new democracies in places like Iraq. Bush was to recall the difficulty of the transition to democracy in Hungary and other nations as a way of urging patience at home and abroad with the fits and starts of Baghdad's transition to democracy.
"All of us who have the blessings of freedom must remember the spirit that took place here and we must not take freedom for granted," Bush said as he toasted his hosts in a long, opulent hall where they had lunch.
Bush's commemoration of the 1956 uprising comes more than four months early.
The country that endured the Austro-Hungarian Empire, fascism, German occupation and then communism revolted on Oct. 23, 1956 when Hungarians encouraged by anti-Soviet protests in Poland began protesting the Kremlin.
Pro-Soviet forces fired on a crowd of 100,000 peaceful protesters and killed more than 500. The following month, armored Soviet divisions rolled into Budapest, brutally crushing the revolt and leaving thousands dead in the fighting.
The United States did not help the Hungarian protesters — a fact Bush was not expected to mention — and it would be more than 30 years before Soviet rule ended."

(An Okie Gardener again) I have been anticommunist for as long as I can remember, back to childhood. I must give credit to two books for confirming my thoughts and attitudes. One was One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn. The other was The Bridge at Andau by James Michener, his chronicle of the Hungarian uprising based on interviews with refugees. Michener allows the events to speak for themselves, conveying the horror and inhumanity of communism as practiced by the Soviets and their subjegated nations. As memories fade and as a new generation arises that only knows a fallen Wall, I think we should encourage people to read these books.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Recently I had the privilege of hearing an address by the Rev. Israel Batista Guerra, the General Secretary of the Latin American Council of Churches. Afterward I asked him for, and was granted, permission to share some of his comments in this blog. He cited the Christians Church in Cuba as an example of bringing theology and life together.

“Many ask why it is that the Cuban church is growing so much. It has not been because of evangelistic methods, or the use of television (to which we have no access), nor massive evangelistic campaigns. Its growth is based on the value of its Christian witness, on the commitment to the values of faith, on lives of holiness and on the faithful commitment to Jesus Christ. The Cuban churches are communities that, in the name of the Lord, save and heal.”

No gimmicks. No slick ads. Just communities living their faith in difficult circumstances. Amen. So may it be here. To read the full address link here. The pdf file link is at the bottom of the page.
Great article on the war leadership of Winston Churchill related to the present war. Steadiness. Realism. Courage. Honesty. Moral Vision. Read the article. From National Review. Courtesy of Powerline.
An interesting tidbit in these times: according to Richard Morriss' book Witnesses at the Creation, one of the reasons John Jay (one of the Federalist writers) pushed for the adoption of a stronger central government to replace the Articles of Confederation was the inability of the Confederation government to respond to the attacks by the Barbary pirates. These pirates were North African Muslims who justified their attacks as strikes against the infidels. So indirectly Islam helped prompt us to adopt our present Constitution.
During the rise of Islam several Christian leaders, such as John of Damascus, regarded it as a Christian heresy. That is, instead of seeing it as an independent religion, these leaders regarded it as a perversion of true Christianity. Perhaps this is because Islam has a place for Jesus as a prophet leading up to the ultimate prophet Mohammad, though not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Also, Mohammad and early Islam did have contact with Arabian Christians, and rejected Christianity as the one true religion.

Do I “respect” Islam? In a way, but not in the same sense I respect Buddhism or animistic religions. And certainly not in the way I respect Judaism, which I believe to be a God-revealed religion (though I pray that Jews will acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah). cont.

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In the last two days Islamists have exploded over 70 bombs in Thailand. Full article. From LGF.

I guess it must be the presence of Thai troops in Iraq. Nope, none there. Well, it must be the firm and unequivocal support of Israel that Thailand is know world-wide for. What? Haven't heard that one. Then how about this explanation: for the entire history of Islam there has been conflict as Islam pushed to expand its borders. Islam itself divides the world into the Realm of Submission (lands governed by Islamic law)and the Realm of War (everywhere else). Ask Vienna. Ask Spain. Ask Sicily. Ask Greece. The conflicts have waxed and waned, but we now are in another period of Islamic expansion.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Drudge links to this article which states that charitable giving by Americans is near a new high. To my mind a healthy society is one with citizen initiative, as evidenced by charitable giving among other things. An unhealthy society is characterized by citizen passivity while waiting for "somebody" (usually government) to do something. Like France during their last bad heat wave. See my earlier post on Lower Taxes and Voluntary Societies. We are a healthy society, in part, because instead of embracing totally the liberal vision of The People and their Government as the only social realities, we remain a nation of The People, Government, and a plethora of voluntary societies expressing citizen initiative.

Our country has its flaws, but still has a generous heart. So, what are the Saudis doing with their petrodollars?
As the armies of Islam spread their faith, they destroyed works of art from Arabia outward. What will happen in Europe as the Muslim population increases? The following article raises this question. Perhaps a good measure of Muslim accommodation to European culture, or Muslim rejection of European culture, will be the treatment of art. Will the statues, paintings, frescoes, mosaics, bas reliefs, etc., many with Christian themes, be left alone or destroyed? Keep an eye on the art in the years ahead.

"Already statues have been vandalized by Muslims in public places, and in churches, in both France and Italy. The destruction of the monuments and artifacts and hence part of the histories of Infidels, that so many Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists in the Middle East, in North Africa, in the Balkans and southeastern Europe, in Central Asia and Hindustan and in southeast Asia know well, now has come to Western Europe. What will happen in Italy, where every street corner in Rome has something that could be damaged by determined Muslims? What will happen to the churches, to the frescoes (including that which Muslims have been taped planning to destroy in Bologna), to the paintings in the Louvre, the Prado, the National Gallery, the Rijksmuseum, the Alte Pinakothek, the Uffizi? Has any organized association of museum curators, or of art scholars, even dared to think of organizing a conference on the protection of art in Europe, and the prohibitions of Islam against sculpture of all kinds, against paintings of living creatures? "

Read the full article from Jihadwatch.
From the Timesonline, pointed out by Jihadwatch:

"ONE of Britain’s most senior military strategists has warned that western civilisation faces a threat on a par with the barbarian invasions that destroyed the Roman empire.
In an apocalyptic vision of security dangers, Rear Admiral Chris Parry said future migrations would be comparable to the Goths and Vandals while north African "barbary" pirates could be attacking yachts and beaches in the Mediterranean within 10 years.
Europe, including Britain, could be undermined by large immigrant groups with little allegiance to their host countries — a "reverse colonisation" as Parry described it. These groups would stay connected to their homelands by the internet and cheap flights. The idea of assimilation was becoming redundant, he said." Read the entire article.


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At the denominational meeting I attended recently, about the last order of business was financial. We had to set "assessments," the per member amount each congregation pays in to the denomination for denominational ministries. The debate was classic: larger-scale programs done by the national denomination versus keeping the money at the level of the local congregations. On the one hand, some programs best can be done denominationally--most congregations cannot develop their own Sunday School materials. But on the other, most effective ministry is done at street level, by local people through local congregations. Set assessments too high and local ministry suffers. Set assessments too low, and denominational efforts dry up.

The debate set me to thinking about taxes and the nature of American society. Liberals seem to think that America is made up of the People and Government. So to meet needs Government needs money, therefore raise taxes. But, this is a false picture of America. We are a nation of the People and Government and a myriad of voluntary societies--churches, Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce, volunteer fire companies, historical societies, cemetary associations, garden clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Scouting, 4-H, countless auxiliaries for this and that, hospital volunteers, Shriners, neighborhood watch, etc., etc., etc. If Government takes too much money from the People in taxes, the voluntary societies dry up.

And voluntary societies are an essential part of the health of America. Voluntary societies are the People responding to need, taking the initiative to make things better, actively bettering community life. If society becomes only the People and Government, the People will be passively dependent, waiting for Government to protect them and take care of them. Tax cuts don't just stimulate the economy; tax cuts stimulate active citizenship.
As I pointed out in this earlier post, one can find many examples of the links between Islam today and slavery. Here is an article from CNN (not a member of the VRWC) on child slavery and Quranic schools in Africa. From Jihadwatch.

Some may object that Christianity has a history with slavery. Yes it did. It now does not. Indeed, Christianity in the 18th and 19th centuries turned itself into a powerful force against slavery. Is Islam capable of reforming itself? If the past is prologue, the answer seems to be "no."
Category: Same-Sex Marriage
Posted by: an okie gardener
I think it maybe was me who stared the extensive discussion we have had on same-sex marriage. A discussion so extensive that Farmer has had to add a new category for it. In this first post I praised a Study Guide on the issue written by the Theology Commission of the Reformed Church in America and submitted to the General Synod (national meeting) this month for approval to be sent to the churches.

We voted to refer the Study Guide back to the Commission (mostly pastors) for the purpose of incorporating more specifically Reformed theology in their reasoning. The revised document is to come before the Synod of 07. I think it is a great document as is; and will only become better through mining the richness of our own tradition.

The full-text of the Study Guide is still available on the RCA website here though you will need to scroll a few pages to find it.

16/06: 100:1

Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A good friend of the Bosque Boys, Baylor Law Professor Mark Osler, is on tour this week arguing before the 9th and 8th Circuit Courts (he argued before the 2nd two weeks ago). Although he is working in cahoots with the ACLU (he may even be a card-carrying member), we are nevertheless interested in Professor Osler's work and wish him well.

For some background on the case, which has to do with the old federal sentencing guidelines, which were deemed advisory rather than mandatory in the Booker case (January 2005), please see Douglas Berman's blog, Sentencing Law and Policy and, specifically, this round-up on Booker from the time of the decision.

The reassessment of Booker left open for reconsideration the statutory practice of sentencing crack cocaine possession at a ratio of 100:1 (100 times harsher) than powder cocaine possession. Among the multiple reasons why that ratio came into being, Professor Osler argues that race figured (and continues to figure) prominently.

For breaking news and background, again I recommend Berman's website: this post from Wednesday and the previous post from Tuesday and a whole host of links connected to those posts.

Good luck, Professor Osler. We are hoping that you will sit down at some point this summer and reflect on your experiences with these three circuit courts and share them with the Bosque Boys Community.

16/06: Ann Coulter

Back on March 2 (on the ancien regime blog--and before the current kerfuffle), I offered this brief assessment of Ann Coutler:

Quoting Myself: "I think she is often uproariously funny and sometimes very insightful, but I also think she can be crude and mean-spirited. Although I give her credit for outwitting Katie Couric (in all seriousness, that was a bravura performance), I think Coulter is something akin to our Maureen Dowd (funny, attractive, possessing a rapier wit but lacking compassion and judgment). Ann Coulter, for me, will forever be the woman who judged John Roberts unfit for the Supreme Court and attempted to reinvent Joe McCarthy as a great American hero."

My thoughts today: BUT COME ON!

Mark Davis makes a lot of good points in this column from yeseterday (Thursday), but here are some bullets:

1. Ann Coulter may not be your cup of tea.

2. But the firestorm surrounding Ann Coulter revolves around an inflamatory quote within her book--not the thesis of her book, which in itself makes her vociferous critics suspect.

3. "Broads" might have been a regrettable characterization of the 911 widows, but politics is a rough and tumble business. If you play the game, you are fair game.

I missed the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Wednesday, billed as a showdown between Jay and Ann and George Carlin. But, judging from the New York Times ("The TV Watch: Leno vs. Letterman: A Battle of Wits With No Clear Winner," By ALESSANDRA STANLEY, June 16, 2006) who called the exchange "flubbed" and blamed Jay Leno for his "terrible" interviewing ability, once again Ann Coulter faced a media icon and delivered another trademark performance; these outings have become increasingly frustrating to the MSM.

Stanley laments: George Carlin "didn't make a peep. Mr. Leno didn't score a point." She also implies that Coulter ducked David Letterman, "far more experienced and deft at tangling with ideological divas." Presumably, Dave would have given her the Bill O'Reilly treatment, whom he "humorously, but acidly, his place in January."

Stanley also offers this presupposition: "Ms. Coulter became a media star by portraying herself as a conservative gadfly tweaking the liberal hegemony, which is, of course, quite a revisionist feat. It may have been the case 30 years ago, but no conservative who came of age during the Reagan Revolution can credibly claim they are marginalized or unheard. When the J. K. Rowling of political invective decries what she describes as the "intolerance" of the mainstream liberal media, it's a little like the Soviet Union complaining about oppression from Finland."

Wow! What a window into the MSM mindset and the "martyr" complex through which the Times and its compradres view their mission to report all the "news that's fit to print."

I come back to Mark Davis's salient point: "[I]n the calls for Ms. Coulter's head, her critics have proved her right."

In the quote above, I compared Coulter to Maureen Dowd. How ironic that the New York Times, for whom Ms. Dowd works, reports that people see Coulter as a "'vicious,' 'mean-spirited,' 'despicable' 'hate-monger'" (see also David Carr, "Deadly Intent: Ann Coulter, Word Warrior," NYT, June 12, 2006).

Is Coulter over the line? Perhaps. Does she get way too much vehement calumny from the left-wing loonies? Absolutely.

To paraphrase Davis: The call for Ann Coulter's head makes her a much more sympathetic figure in my eyes.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
From the June 13 edition of USA Today. The headline above the fold on the first page of section D seems even-handed: God and Gays: Churchgoers stand divided. Even the first sentence of the article shows no bias--"Every Sunday there's an intense struggle in the souls of some believers as one religious denomination after another battles over the rights and roles of homosexuals." But, (cont.)

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Police in Saudi Arabia have arrested four leaders of an underground Christian worship service. Two of the four are from Ethiopia, the other two from Eritrea. The worshippers were also foreign nationals. From Jihadwatch. Perhaps those who tell us how wonderfully tolerant Islam is would inform the Saudis.
Last week I criticized Charles Krauthammer in the comments section of my post, Same-Sex Marriage: What I Believe, which is not a comfortable or familiar position for me. I disputed his claim that state courts were on the verge of nationalizing "gay marriage--like quickie Nevada divorces--will have to be recognized "under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution" throughout the rest of the U.S." (in full here).

I missed his subsequent column (June 9), A Ban We Don't (Yet) Need, which clarified his position:

"[I]t turns out that the Massachusetts experiment has not been forced on other states. No courts have required other states to recognize gay marriages performed in Massachusetts. Gay activists have not pushed it, wisely calculating that it would lead to a huge backlash. Moreover, Congress's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) explicitly prevents the state-to-state export of gay marriage."

He went on to say that DOMA would need to be overturned by a federal court for state-sanctioned same-sex marriage to pose a national threat, which he (like me) sees as unlikely considering the composition of the Supreme Court at this point.

Krauthammer also pointed out the irony of removing the question from local sovereignty in order to promote popular sovereignty:

"The amendment actually ends up defeating the principle it sets out to uphold. The solution to judicial overreaching is to change the judiciary, not to undo every act of judicial arrogance with a policy-specific constitutional amendment. Where does it end? Yesterday it was school busing and abortion. Today it is flag burning and gay marriage."

Finally, I mention an obvious but important point (which Krauthammer made early on in the above essay) speaking to the question of same-sex marriage as a "divisive issue":

"As for dividing Americans, who came up with the idea of radically altering the most ancient of all social institutions in the first place? Until the past few years, every civilization known to man has defined marriage as between people of opposite sex. To charge with "divisiveness" those who would do nothing more than resist a radical overturning of that norm is a sign of either gross partisanship or serious dimwittedness."

Well done, Charles Krauthammer

14/06: A Catch 22

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The President mentioned a "Catch 22" in his press conference today (transcript here).

After expressing his desire to close Guantanamo, he said this:

"Part of closing Guantanamo is to send some folks back home, like we've been doing. And the State Department is in the process of encouraging countries to take the folks back. Of course, sometimes we get criticized for sending some people out of Guantanamo back to their home country because of the nature of the home country. It's a little bit of a Catch-22. But we're working through this."

The President makes an important point: many of the nations criticizing the United States for holding some of these "darned dangerous" people in Gitmo do not want them in their country. Also, many of the civilized nations who castigate Gitmo for ill treatment, do not want these inmates extradicted to their countries of origin because those states are nations who actually practice torture.

I believe the President when he says he wants to close Gitmo. I also believe him when he pleads poor options.

One More Item On the press conference: You heard right.

In addressing one of the reporters, the Presdient really did say "roger, Roger" (in the fashion of the 1980 comedy, Airplane!). After reading the transcipt, I went back and checked the tape. It is there; it was intentional.

13/06: A Higher Law?

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed the tension between Christianity and citizenship, sometimes obliquely (the same-sex marriage threads) and sometimes directly (Okie Gardener's brief essay: Christianity and Patriotism).

Rod Dreher speaks to the same question in one of his posts today (although he uses it as a vehicle to go in another direction). Feel free to follow his thread, but I want to pursue the question more directly in this post.

Before I pose the question, another hat tip to Rod D. for resurrecting a great ten-year-old thread (recommended reading) from First Things: The End of Democracy?

Concluding that thread is this collection of "Thoughts" (required reading) on the question of primary loyalty, from primary sources Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King and William Lloyd Garrison.

The question: Can American Christians submit to a secular consensus that promotes the profane over the sacred?

Quoting Rod D. quoting Ross Douthat (in full here):

"To oversimplify egregiously but not, I think, inaccurately, the modern Anglo-American political tradition came into being because Christians were willing to accept the Christianity-lite political settlement offered by social-contract liberalism - and they were willing to accept it because its major premise, that man was endowed with natural and inalienable rights by Nature's God, was broadly congruent with Christian tradition. In a Lockean-liberal society, the law might not do everything that some Christians would like it to do - compel belief, for instance - but neither would it directly violate basic Christian principles."

Summarizing Douthat: Because secularists have abandoned the common ground of Lockean theory (natural rights conferred by Nature's God), the compromise is seriously threatened (see issues like abortion--or our thread on same-sex marriage).

Summarizing Dreher: Liberal Democracy is in its last throes in America.

Any thoughts?
NPR's Weekend Edition interviewed Bosque Boys favorite, Bill McClay, on Saturday. The interview with Scott Simon (who struck me as a bit sillier than necessary in this particular segment) explored McClay's essay from a recent issue of In Character, which was dedicated entirely to extolling the virtue of modesty. Listen here to the audio archive.

The article (in full here), "Idol Smashing and Immodesty in the Groves of Academe," offers a study of the meaning of modesty and the lost art of practicing modesty. In the end, McClay indicts the academy for steamrolling modesty in favor of iconoclasm. Here are some highlights (although I encourage you to read the entire essay):

McClay argues that true modesty emanates "from a certain depth of self-knowledge, from an awareness of how far we fall short of what we ought to be. In short, a modesty that arises out of an awareness of precisely who we are, and how much we have to be modest about."

He reminds us: "it is always appropriate to conjoin manners with morals. There is always a philosophy of human nature, however hidden or implicit, lurking behind our manners."

And: "[M]odesty means having a mature perspective on one’s ultimate insignificance and limitations, grounded in a sense of mystery about the vastness and incomprehensibility of the world, and skepticism about the limits of human nature and human capabilities. This is the meaning of the word that ought to attach to the “modest” achievement of even the greatest scholars. Whatever we do is, in the end, pretty puny.

"This is also the kind of modesty that remembers the embarrassing contrast between human aspiration and human frailty."

"It remembers the painful contrast between the youthful Cassius Clay’s arrogant and scornful cry, “I am the greatest!” and the pathetic figure that the elder Muhammad Ali has cut, his mind and body ravaged by his career in boxing and by the steady advance of Parkinson’s disease. It remembers that nearly every human glory and every human boast ends in the same sad and humiliating way."

On the academy and its cottage industry of inconoclasm (which McClay offers as the "polar opposite of modesty"): They "have made the liberation from social convention into a new social convention all its own. Of course, this ideology rests upon a veiled form of class snobbery, since there must always be those unnamed “others,” the suburbanites and functionaries and breeders and Babbitts who are thought to sustain and uphold the conventions from which “we” perpetually need to be liberated. But those “others” are increasingly shadowy and hard to locate. The new convention has been triumphant beyond its wildest dreams, and is now entirely pervasive, suffusing our popular culture and our advertising and assimilated into the mainstream in the most remarkable and incongruous ways."

The article (in full here).
Category: Films & Ideas
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Is the brain trust at Pixar surreptitiously transmitting conservative social messages encoded within its otherwise innocuously entertaining product? In 2004, The Incredibles told the story of Bob and Helen Parr, two superheroes forced unjustly into suburban conformity and banality at the hands of a litigious society run amok. Locked in a straight-jacket existence, Bob tilted at his profit-obsessed employer, railed against social-leveling and longed for his halcyon days as "Mr. Incredible." Stretched in all directions, Helen attempted to maintain stability, instill a firm sense of morality in her three children and keep her family intact.

In the end, the Parr’s reclaimed their exceptional status, discovered new-found strength in one another and defeated a diabolically heartless global terrorist network. As we watched The Incredibles come together as a family, we came to understand the beauty of family synergy over individual self-fulfillment and the value of encouraging excellence over societal-enforced equality.

Pixar rolled out Cars on Friday, which immediately roared away from the weekend competition at the box-office. The film features qualities that we have come to expect from this brand: funny lines, endearing characters, memorable voice performances and artistry that is simply stunning and unparalleled. And, once again, Pixar offers an entertaining story with some serious overtones. The tale of Interstate 40 and Route 66, in which America carved an interstate highway through the landscape and left a severed community in its wake, serves as a backdrop to the story of success-oriented Lightening McQueen and his personal search for meaning.

Traveling to his all-important rendezvous with ultimate “success,” McQueen, a self-absorbed young race car in a hurry, falls off the edge of the world (in this case the interstate) and lands someplace in the Great Southwest. As he tries in vain to merge back into the fast lane, the “every car” learns that there is more to life than getting where you think you want to go.

Somehow he finds the “true, the good, and the beautiful” along the way in a world he never knew existed. We learn that sacrificing tradition, community and respect for human ecology, while tempting in the short term, has a price: spiritual emptiness. The lesson is clear: effeciency over community is a recipe for moral bankruptcy.

Post Script

Allow me a curious coupling and personal disclosure: I have a recurring nightmare that the MSM will expose C-SPAN, another one of my favorites, and Pixar as agents of the vast rightwing conspiracy. The forces of apathy and decadence will realize that the folks at C-SPAN and Pixar are industriously and insidiously embedding traditionalism in mainstream culture, and the offenders “will be dealt with” accordingly. Some of the reviews of Cars make me wonder if the word is not getting out.

I reassure myself with this comforting thought: Brian Lamb and John Lasseter continue to be welcomed into our homes as inoffensive figures working toward positive change and in alliance with us (no matter who we are). Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Perhaps there is hope for the soul of America. Maybe we are a people united in our desperate search for virtue, community and values bigger than ourselves.
Ealier I noted in this post that my denomination, the Reformed Church in America, would consider at this summer's General Synod (big meeting) an overture from Queens in support of Taiwan that would urge the US government to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, not part of "One China." Our denomination has a strong history of support for Taiwan, and has several congregations made up of Taiwanese immigrants.

Yesterday an advisory committee looked at the overture and recommended that we refer the overture to the executive committee to be brought back next year after reflection and rewriting. The reasons given mostly boiled down to one reason: the committee did not want to jeopardize our relationship with Christian churches in China. The arguments on the floor made by our Taiwanese immigrant delegates were heartbreaking in their passion. They do not consider themselves Chinese, but Taiwanese, members of a free, democratic land that has finally thrown off Chinese dictatorship with the demise of the Nationalist Chinese regime that fled the mainland after the loss to the communists. They spoke of the missles aimed at their nation by China. I argued on the floor that we might not have a year; Taiwan needs statements of support now. But, all to no avail: the body voted to follow the committee's advice and to refer the overture. My consolation is that it was clear the denomination as a whole supports a free Taiwan. My distress is that I fear we are making a deal with the devil to maintain our access (very limited as it is) to China.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Sometimes Jesus keeps me awake nights. Yesterday morning at General Synod* a person leading prayer prayed for our troops in harm's way, and then added "and we pray for our enemies." Boom. Right between the eyes with a 2x4, which is the way the Lord sometimes must get my attention. Jesus did tell us Christians to pray for our enemies. So, I don't have a choice. If I want to be faithful, I must pray for Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and the whole miserable rabble of terrorists. I don't remember a word of the rest of the prayer that morning, I was trying to recover from the bomb that had just gone off in my head. (cont.)

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I am a pastor and teacher by vocation and training. While I am not a trained and licensed counselor (pastors such as myself are jacks-of-all-trades), I have learned how to spot people who need help. One of the surest signs of a dysfunctional person or relationship or family or institution is an inability to see and/or acknowledge the truth. "He fired me because he just had it in for me," he said at the end of his fourth job in five years. "Daddy slept on the couch last night because he was tired," she explained to the children the next morning after her husband drank himself into oblivion, again, the night before. "I am not angry at anybody," she asserted, her body a signpost of tension.

Many Americans, and almost all American media have a problem that I am going to call American Islamic Dysfunction. They cannot or will not see and/or acknowledge the truth about Islam today. Two recent examples. From an AP story on the death of al Zarqawi, linked by Drudge
For three years, al-Zarqawi orchestrated horrific acts of violence guided by his extremist vision of jihad, or holy war _ first against the U.S. soldiers he considered occupiers of Arab lands, then against the Shiites he considered infidels.
Notice how violent jihad is described--"his extremist vision"--ignoring both the history of conquest in the name of Islam which has occurred from its very beginnings, and the teachings of authoritative Islamic scholars.

And this example from Jihadwatch, in which the words of a leading feminist were edited by USA today in order to omit her references to Islam. (cont.)

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Category: American Lives
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Note: This essay is the second installment in a series entitled, "American Lives," which spotlights great Americans, famous and anonymous, who have lived exemplary American Lives.

These notes on the passing of a friend were penned a few years ago. Alvin was not a public official, but he embodied service to his community.

“Alvin Sams, 63, died at his home in Lorena on Monday,” read Tuesday’s newspaper. “Services pending at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey.” Although I had received the news for the first time via the telephone the evening before (and cried), the stark reality of the newsprint jarred me again. The death of Alvin Sams was a shock. True, Alvin was relatively young—but it was much more than just his age that defied acceptance. He was vigorous. He was full of life. He was Alvin. Of course, death comes to us all at some point. For those of us with a connection to the funeral business, our experience confirms an immutable truth: the circumstances and timing of our demise are as unpredictable as the ultimate outcome is certain. Nevertheless, the loss of Alvin found all of us who knew him unprepared. We assumed (oblivious to the laws of nature) that Alvin would go on forever.

Alvin was a Waco institution. He had a generosity of spirit that came through in every conversation, and people naturally responded to him. Sometimes it seemed as if he knew everyone in town. His roots and worldview were working class. Raised on Bell’s Hill in South Waco, Alvin graduated from University High. Alvin threw the local paper as a youth, worked at a gas station on the Circle as a young man and drove an ambulance during the mid-1960s. He went to work for Wilkirson-Hatch Funeral Home in 1969, and he never left. Over the next thirty-three years, Alvin personified consummate professionalism, but he never lost his common touch. While quite comfortable with (and beloved by) bankers and executives, he reflexively comprehended truck drivers and mechanics. The diversity of mourners, the enormous turnout, and the outpouring of emotion at his own service matched his ample and authentic love for his community.

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From Jihadwatch this morning, another example of that famous Islamic tolerance toward other religions. Hindu shrines in Malasia, even 100 year-old ones built during British times, are being demolished by official government action as "illegal structures". Commenting on these actions, jihadwatch noted
It says that it [Islamic tolerance] doesn't exist. It says that Muslim authorities are still operating according to the classic provision of the dhimmi laws, that non-Muslims must not build new houses of worship or repair old ones. If they can't get away with that outright because of Constitutional window dressing about freedom of worship, put in no doubt to befuddle easily befuddled Western human rights watchers, then they drag their feet interminably about issuing permits.

"Islamic tolerance," what a crock. If you believe in it I want to talk to you about the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the chaste behavior of Madonna.

I just came from the opening convocation of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America. Our worship this evening begin when a small boy carried a lit candle to the front of First Reformed Church, Pella, Iowa, a congregation founded by Dutch immigrants 150 years ago. The candle is a gift to my denomination from the Uniting Refomed Church in South Africa. As the candle, a small flame in a large building, was carried to the front, a little girl sang "This Little Light of Mine." In the telling this story can sound hokey, overly sentimental. I don't think any of us in the crowded sanctuary felt that way. We have had an eventful relationship with our sister Reformed Churches in South Africa; finally, several years ago we confronted as erring brethren those which affirmed apartheid in the name of Christ. Along the way there were those in the Reformed Churches in South Africa who rejected apartheid. Now, the churches in that land are working toward healing themselves and their land, a long and difficult process. The name "Uniting" was chosen intentionally. God is good. While South Africa has experienced turmoil and bloodshed, and continues to have difficulties including criminal violence, apartheid did not come to the end I had assumed that it would--bloody massacre. Instead, the people are moving forward, gradually, coming together. God is good. The light shines.

I love my homeland, the United States of America. I am a patriot. But tonight was a blessed reminder to me that I have higher loyalties--to God and to Christ's Church. My fellow Christians in South Africa and around the world, of whatever race or language, are family. I am closer to them than I am to my non-Christian American neighbors. God is good. The light shines.

08/06: Today in Iraq

Zarqawi killed; Iraqi government completed:

From the Washington Post:

"BAGHDAD, June 8 --Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the mastermind behind hundreds of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq, was killed early Wednesday by an air strike -north of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday."

(The Post story in full.)

And, the Post also reports:

"BAGHDAD, June 8 -- The Iraqi parliament agreed upon candidates to lead the country's three top security ministries Thursday, ending a weeks-long stalemate among the country's largest political factions.

"The selection of an interior minister, a defense minister and a national security adviser gives Iraq a complete government for the first time since elections in December 2005 and it provides a key opportunity to promote political reconciliation between members of the country's Sunni Muslim minority and the Shiite-dominated government."

(The Post story in full.)

What Does it Mean?

The fight continues. Today's confluence of these two major storylines in Iraq reminds us that the resolution of the Iraq struggle is incredibly complex and multi-faceted.

The death of Zarqawi will not precipitate sanguine predictions that the end of the battle is at hand, as the deaths of Uday and Qusay and the capture of Saddam evinced. We are much more hardened by reality now than we were then.

The progress in the formation of civil government will not elicit buoyant claims that the opposition to a peaceful, pluralistic and self-determining Iraqi state is in its "last throes."

Rumsfeld had it right years ago when he said, "we are in for a long hard slog." Our mission in Iraq has been a long and exhausting journey, and we are clearly no where near the end of our campaign.

What today means is that we are relentless. It means that as long as George Bush is President of the United States terrorists are in mortal danger. As long as George Bush is President of the United States our nation is committed to supporting a transformative government in Iraq.

We cannot say for certain today that the projection of US power is an irresistible force, but we can say for certain that the person of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is not an immovable object.

May God Bless the United States and the people of Iraq.

I will give the late Ayatollah Khomeini this much--he was and remains an authoritative voice within Islam: much more so that any number of American academics, media types, or spokesmen for Western Islamic groups speaking to the press. LGF gives this excerpt from a recent book containing primary source material on Islamic terrorism. I think the highlighting is from LGF. As I stated in this earlier post, the person writing or speaking controls the possible meanings of a word. When a Muslim says "Religion of Peace" ask him exactly what he means by "peace." It means the "peace" of submission to Allah, whether you want to or not.

Islam is Not a Religion of Pacifists
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 1942

Islam’s jihad is a struggle against idolatry, sexual deviation, plunder, repression, and cruelty. The war waged by [non-Islamic] conquerors, however, aims at promoting lust and animal pleasures. They care not if whole countries are wiped out and many families left homeless. But those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. All the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation. For they shall live under [God’s law]. ...

Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does that mean that Muslim should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill the [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender [to the enemy]? Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors!

There are hundreds of other [Koranic] psalms and hadiths [sayings of the prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.

(An Okie Gardener Again) As I wrote earlier, not only the future of the West, but the future of Islam is at stake in this war. I foresee increasing conflict for the near future.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
John Adams purportedly told his son, JQA, that considering all the blessings and advantages that his family and Providence had bestowed upon the younger Adams, it would be his fault alone, if he did not become president of the United States. Although that statement has always struck me as incredibly harsh, perhaps it is the appropriate key in which to begin a discussion of the political life and times of Albert Gore, Jr.

The Harvard-educated, senator’s son and ambivalent Vietnam veteran sampled divinity school, law school and journalism before he won election to Congress from Tennessee’s fourth district in 1976 and then a senate seat in 1984. He ran for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 1988 and lost. He ran for vice president in 1992 and won. He ran for president in 2000 and lost (although he won the popular vote).

During the 1980s, he absorbed criticism (mostly directed at Tipper) from First Amendment advocates who charged that the Gores favored censorship of recording artists. His 1988 campaign for the Democratic nomination seemed to lack purpose and definitely wanted for charisma.

During his tenure as VP, he acquired a national persona as the wonkish, stiff and boring but loyal Clinton sidekick (although he countered that perception with a humorous, self-deprecating comedy bit). But no matter how hard he tried to blend his Southern Evangelical Populist lineage with his Washington-insider and Eastern-educated acculturation, the public never embraced him as much more than a parody of himself. Even the “liberal” media seemed reluctant to give him a fair shake (regularly laughing at him—and only occasionally with him).

In 2000, he ran for a Clinton-Gore “third term” and failed. He came close (only losing by 537 votes in Florida and one vote in the United States Supreme Court); but, nevertheless, he lost, squandering a good political hand.

Then, Gore seemed to slip off the face of the earth during the first few months of the Bush administration and, especially, after 911. He grew a beard. He grew fleshy. He seemed completely dislocated from politics and reality. Even Democrats seemed relieved that he was not president during the unexpectedly pivotal period in American history.

But, just as suddenly, Al Gore is back.

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07/06: Slavery Today

Dhimmi Watch today links to this article on a recent State Department report on modern slave trafficking and Iran. The full-text of the State Department 2006 report on Human Trafficking is here.

The article in full reads
London, Jun. 06 – The United States put Iran among the main countries engaged in human trafficking.

A report released by the U.S. State Department described Iran as a “source, transit, and destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude”.

The report cited cased of women and girls being trafficked to Pakistan, Turkey, the Gulf, and Europe for sexual exploitation.

“Boys from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are trafficked through Iran en route to the Gulf states where they are ultimately forced to work as camel jockeys, beggars, or labourers”, the report said.

“Women and children are trafficked internally for the purposes of forced marriage, sexual exploitation, and involuntary servitude”, it said, adding, “The Government of Iran does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so”.

The annual report downgraded Iran to a Tier 3 trafficking country after “persistent, credible reports of Iranian authorities punishing victims of trafficking with beatings, imprisonment, and execution”.

Iran now joins 11 other nations regarded as the worst offenders on the blacklist.

“The Government of Iran did not improve its protection of trafficking victims this year”, it said, adding, “Child victims of commercial sexual exploitation reportedly have been executed for their purported crime of prostitution or adultery. For instance, one 16-year-old sex trafficking victim was hanged publicly by religious authorities who accused her of engaging in "acts incompatible with chastity." The governor of the town later congratulated the religious leader for his ‘firm approach’”. (cont.)

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
While the opponents to the President's Federal Marriage Amendment stand in the well of the Senate and decry the political cynicism of the Republicans and enumerate all the issues purportedly sacrificed in order to debate this issue, they are filibustering the resolution. That is, instead of calling the question, which all parties seem to acknowledge lacks the necessary two-thirds for passage, the opponents cravenly block a vote that would put their opposition on record.

As many of you know, I am a filibuster defender. I love the image of Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) talking himself hoarse in defense of principle. I believe that the filibuster represents the spirit of James Madison, who envisioned the Senate as a slow-moving, consensus-building department of government.

However, this is not a filibuster born out of principle. This is an attempt to CYA. Either call the question and vote, or stop the hypocritical rhetoric.
A round-up of highlights on the Federal Marriage Amendment, FMA (for those of you who may have missed some of these in the comments section).

1. The Text of the President's proposed Amendment:

"SECTION 1. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

2. Many conservatives have noted that the media's coverage of this story is from the poltical angle (that is, "here are the political reasons why the President is advancing this proposal") rather than a discussion of the issue in question.

Rod Dreher commenting on his blog yesterday, agreed with the President in principle (in this post ), but took GOP strategists to task for cynically "appealing to anti-gay prejudice [and] stoking an emotional issue transparently for political gain." Today, Dreher expertly points out how cynical the Democrats are in their rhetoric (in this post).

Dennis Prager had a great piece on Real Clear Politics today, in which he offered an extremely cogent analysis of the question, the division and the issue:

In part:
"Some of those who want a constitutional amendment to define marriage as man-woman are indeed bigoted against gays, regarding them as something less than fully human. But most people who want to maintain marriage as male-female consider homosexuals to be just as much created in the image of God as anyone else. But though it is painful for us to see a perfectly decent homosexual unable to marry a person of the same sex, we are nevertheless more preoccupied with:

"(1) Giving every child the opportunity to at least begin life with a mother and father; (2) Honoring the will of the great majority of Americans, secular and religious, liberal and conservative, to preserve the man-woman marital ideal, and not allow a judge to single-handedly destroy that ideal; (3) Preserving the ability of teachers and clergy to tell the story of marriage to young children in terms of a man and woman and not confuse the vast majority of kids who are forming their vision of marriage and sexuality.

"These preoccupations are neither bigoted nor radical. They are, in our view, civilization-saving.

"As for the liberals' view that gas prices are more important than society's definition of marriage, it is so self-incriminating that no response is needed."

The full Prager article.

3. Is this conservative? The RCP Blog roundup featured this from Charles Krauthammer, who appeared on FOX News with Britt Hume last night:

"But I think the answer is not a constitutional amendment, which would be in the name of the popular sovereignty, but ironically, it takes it away, because if you ever had a state in which a majority wanted to institute gay marriage, it would not be allowed to under this constitution. So it's a little bit contradictory, to act in the name of popular sovereignty and to pass a law which would extinguish.

"The way you do it is change the ethos of the judiciary so that if you get the Defense of Marriage Act, which he spoke about earlier, at the Supreme Court, it's upheld and that it keeps it in one state and doesn't spread it all over the country. And having a president who nominates a guy like Sam Alito is a way in which we change that culture rather than changing the constitution."

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Powerline today, on the anniversary of D-Day, offers some provocative thoughts on whether or not we honor our WW2 veterans. The article is prompted by, and links to, this essay in the Opinion Journal.

The Opinion Journal editorial by David Gelernter, written in 2004, argues that if we were truly to honor our WW2 vets we would teach in our schools, at a minimum 1. The Major Battles of the War, 2. The bestiality of the Japanese, 3. The attitude of the intellectuals. 4. The Veterans' Neglected Voice (allowing vets to speak and enabling them publish and record). (cont.)

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This kata onar comment, abstracted from the Tiananmen Square Rembered post , deserves more prominence:

Thanks so much for this posting, Okie Gardner. I had a friend in college who was in China as a missionary when the Tiananmen Square massacre took place. I received a letter from her about month after the massacre. Her letter was an amazing mix of both terror and faith. Here's a quote from her letter:

"It's really difficult to know what to expect because the government is so unpredictable. Also, we aren't sure if we'll have any students! At this point we don't know how many are still even alive after the bloody suppresion. And those still living, they are scared to death to return to the school for fear of being arrested and imprisoned if not executed. It's comforting to know that their lives and our lives are not in the hands of the army or the leaders, but in God's."

Everytime I read this, I can't help but be amazed at the true freedom that faith brings. In the face of such tyranny, faith provided peace and freedom for my friend or her students. May our prayers--and buying habits--be made also for the political freedom of the people of China.
kata onar
Archbishop George Pell, an intellectual hero of mine, addresses the danger of relativism in this speech. The belief that all "truths" are mere matters of opinion, leads to

"Looked at in this way an education in relativism seems more like a recipe for disenfranchisement and passivity than empowerment. If you want people to move the world it actually helps if you put some ground under their feet. This is one of the things that Christianity does. As Pope Benedict said elsewhere in his pre-conclave homily, 'A faith profoundly rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. This friendship opens us to all that is good and gives us the measure to discern between what is true and what is false, between deceit and truth". Having a "measure to discern between what is true and what is false, between deceit and truth", is the source of empowerment, and the lasting basis for concern and compassion for others."

Wizbang has this posting in rememberance of Ronald Reagan who died on June 5, 2004. There are links to several of Reagan's speeches, and links to other sites on the web remembering the Great Communicator. One of the quotes posted is

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
Ronald Reagan

A Waco Farmer is correct that the larger context for same-sex marriage debate is the weakening of the institution of marriage. And, he is correct in pointing out that Christian churches have, in many respects, allowed their own attitudes toward divorce and remarriage to be imported from the larger culture.

For what it may be worth, below is a list of Scriptures concerning marriage, and a pastoral letter I wrote a while back, giving my understanding of divorce and remarriage from a Christian perspective.

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Wizbang yesterday posted this observance of the anniversary of Tiananmen Square.

Every dollar you spend on a MADE IN CHINA product helps to support this dictatorial regime. A regime moving to expand power and hegemony throughout Asia. A regime that regards us an an enemy. A regime that rules through fear and corruption on the one hand, and through increasing appeals to nationalism on the other. A regime that oppresses its minorities and destroys their cultures. A regime that in its haste to build a powerful nation inflicts tremendous damage on the environment. A regime that is a continuation of the rule of Mao Zedong, the number one mass murderer in human history. A regime making deals with murderous tyrants around the world in exchange for access to oil. Will your dollar be the one that buys the bullet used to execute a dissident next month? Will your dollar help buy and build the military that likely will one day fight ours?

Or, will you cease to buy MADE IN CHINA.
In response to "Tocqueville's" challenge to articulate a systematic point of view in regard to same-sex marriage, I have composed the following (which also appears in the comment section of the previous post):

1. The facts on the ground have changed. Same-sex "rights" are here to stay. I am still waiting to hear who agrees with Sommerville's premise that same-sex persons are entitled to all rights short of marriage, including civil unions. Are you ready for that?

No matter, we are going to have that much, at least. Perhaps that is a way station toward the redefinition of marriage. Only time will tell. But we are going to give away legal recognition as part of the negotiation to "protect marriage." That is what is ahead of us.

2. What does it mean? As a fairly traditional Baptist, I agree with my previously quoted friend: "homosexuality and same-sex marriage are not part of God's plan for our lives" (although I am troubled with what to do with persons whom I believe to be genuinely "wired" toward that form of self expression).

I intend to attend churches that uphold my traditional view of marriage. I intend to raise my children in accord with my beliefs.

However, I do not think legal recognition, or even same-sex marriages alone, will fundamentally alter what marriage is. Marriage will continue to be what mainstream, heterosexual and religious marriage partners make of it.

Marriage is in trouble--but not because of a homosexual assault. Marriage is in trouble because we have ceased to value marriage.

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Guest Blog

Recently, within a comment on a separate thread, "Tocqueville" offered an extremely cogent conspectus of conservative thought. I am reconstituting it as a featured post, for I think it is worthy of reflection (and comment):

From "Tocqueville":
The deeper tradition of conservatism always has stood for something far more substantial than present-ism. It is what Edmund Burke defended against the French Jacobins; what Alexis de Tocqueville defended against the radicals of his own day in Europe and mindless levellers everywhere; what Russell Kirk defended against the mass homogenization of post-war liberalism; and what William F. Buckley, jr. defended against the atheist, materialist professorate was the broad tradition of Western civilization. It is a vision of a society in which the true, the good, and the beautiful all are recognized as permanent things beyond price. A society in which we seek to join with one another in leading a life of virtue. Some political and economic structures are better at serving such goals than others, but these higher goals are the most important things, the things that actually make life worth living. And to simply say "that's all gone" is to abdicate one's responsibility as a human being, an American, and a member of one's neighborhood, parish, synagogue, workplace, family, school, and all the other associations of one's life, to work for a recovery of a reason to live--not just a way of enjoying oneself, but a reason for existing.

"The problem today, of course, is that so much of our tradition has been crushed under the weight of materialism, selfishness, and cynicism. But that should not mean that we simply join in the party. When Burke criticized the French for giving in to the impulse to tear down their civilization, he didn't just say throw up his hands and say "too bad." He made clear that, even in the worst of times, we have a viable option: to look back in our own traditions for healthy, virtuous elements, be they institutions, beliefs or practices, that we can revive and build on."
The US has had "Red Scares" in our history, periods marked by fear of communist infiltration with popular and governmental responses to the danger. While it has been common to dismiss these periods as "scare-mongering," records released since the fall of the USSR indicate that there was indeed cause for concern. An effort was made, directed from Moscow, to infiltrate and influence US culture. Perhaps it is time for a similar "Scare."

LGF today links to this article from the Canadian National Post concerning "homegrown" terrorists in Canada. It appears that now Canada, along with Europe, is facing the problem of Muslims raised within Western culture becoming radicalized and embracing terror jihad.

It seems to me that events, not speculation, but actual events should be propelling Western nations including the United States to pay serious attention to mosques and what is taught in them. We have a long tradition of religious liberty, but it is suicide to pretend that we have no compelling national interest in what is being taught in mosques and Islamic centers across the U.S. "Religious Liberty" does not seem to have stopped the FBI from investigating White Supremacist Churches, and rightly so since these have been connected with acts of violence. We need to get serious about the root cause of Islamic terrorism. Time for another "Scare."
I think the Same-Sex Marriage threads have been instructive.

Just a few quibbles:

An Okie Gardener characterized my position as in favor of societal recognition of same-sex marriage. While I admit that is a reasonable inference, I would argue that it is, nevertheless, imprecise. I have, in fact, asked a series of questions exploring the logic of denying recognition of same-sex marriage.

Tocqueville wrote: "I keep hearing conservatives criticized for "trying to impose their religious dogma on the legal system." I am not sure who Tocqueville was quoting, but it followed closely (in time and proximity) my quote: "...religion should inform all your political view points, but at what point in the public debate is it necessary to differentiate between what is right for you and your church and what is fair to impose on the community as a whole?" The phrasing of which I regretted almost immediately because I used "impose," which is a word that is often used to evoke emotionally soaked accusations of "intolerance." I apologize for my poor judgment in re that particular word choice.

On the other hand, I want to make clear that my sentence can in no reasonable way be interpretted as "criticizing conservatives for trying to impose their religious dogma on the legal system."

Back to the idea of questions:

Breaking News: Conservatives are losing this debate. Last night my wife and I sat down for dinner with a very nice, well-educated, God-fearing, socially conservative couple, who are pillars of a big Baptist church in the heart of the reddest of all Red States. When the subject of educating children about homosexuality emerged in our dinner conversation, this mother of four, who spends one week out of the year doing missionary work in Guatemala, offered that homosexuality is not part of God's plan for our lives (like divorce or infidelity). Beautiful. But there was also recognition that tolerance of homosexuality is now part of our cultural landscape.

This is where we are in America today. American Christians can sit in a restaurant and affirm that homosexuality is a less-favored choice (at this point without fear of public recrimination: I cannot remember if our friend lowered her voice; I think I looked around to see who was within ear-shot).

My point: homosexual "rights" are now a part of our cultural fabric.

Exhibit B: Ms. Sommerville's article assumes equality under the law for persons of homo- or hetero-sexual orientation, and she advocates civil partnerships for same-sex couples, legally recognized and entitled to the same benefits and protection of the law.

By the way: Are all of you willing to go that far?

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Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
I take the danger of global warming seriously for the following reasons. (1) I think there is enough data on increasing temperatures, etc., available to indicate that something resembling a warming trend is happening to the earth’s climate. (2) No scientist of whom I am aware questions the model, i.e., the scientific explanation, that carbon dioxide in an atmosphere helps to trap heat. (3) Industrialization, combined with population growth, has increased the amount of carbon dioxide humans release into the atmosphere. (4) Caution should be used with regard to the livability of our planet—it’s the only one we have. In 40 years we do not want to say “Oops.” It may then be too late. Having only a single resource (one planet), a reasonable approach is to be careful with it. I think the burden of proof is on those who would risk the livability of the earth.


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Here at Bosqueboys we have had extended discussion of the issue of society recognition of same-sex marriage. On this issue, A Waco Farmer and I disagree. He taking the affirmative, and I the negative position. To continue discussion, I submit the following essay.

Margaret Somerville is Samuel Gale Professor of Law and Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University's Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. She is the author of: The Ethical Canary: Science, Society and the Human Spirit and Death Talk: The Case Against Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide.
A few years ago she made a well-reasoned argument against recognizing same-sex marriage based on secular reasoning. Although the immediate context was Canadian law, the argument applies to the US as well, I think. Here is her first paragraph.

Establishing context
I want, first, to outline briefly the context in which my comments on same-sex marriage are grounded, because in this debate context is definitely not neutral and is not the same for everyone. As this committee has heard, many people who oppose extending the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples do so on religious grounds or because of moral objections to homosexuality. They are not the bases of my arguments. Rather, my arguments against same-sex marriage are secularly based and, to the extent that they involve morals and values, these are grounded in ethics not religion. To summarize:

I oppose discrimination on basis of sexual orientation, whether against homosexuals or heterosexuals.

I believe that civil partnerships open to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples should be legally recognized and that the partners, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, are entitled to the same benefits and protection of the law.

But I do not believe that we should change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. My reasons go to the nature of marriage as the societal institution that represents, symbolizes and protects the inherently reproductive human relationship. I believe that society needs such an institution.

To read the entire presentation.
It may be another long, hot summer in France as Islamic "youth" riot once again. LGF has the story.

There seem to be at least two lessons here: (1) do not allow the creation of a large unassimilated group within your nation; (2) if you are a Western nation, be very careful about letting large populations of Muslims immigrate into your country (see number one).
Powerline has a great post this morning on the impossibility of deterence as a workable solution to a nuclear Iran. They also link to other writing on the subject. The thoughts expressed are similar to those I posted earlier as Apocalyptic Times.
I have always admired Hubert Humphrey. This morning Powerline has a post on Humphrey's role in expelling the communists from his party in Minnesota. Who will be the Democrat to stand up for America today?