You are currently viewing archive for July 2006
Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am currently reading Revolutionary Characters: What Made The Founders Different, by Gordon Wood, which is a compilation of biographical essays. I heartily recommend it. Gordon Wood is a national treasure.

In his essay, "The Greatness of George Washington," Wood describes the first president's frustration with American politics at the end of his long public career. Wood writes of Washington's exasperation with the diminished importance of character and virtue in politics. Decrying the "new" spirit of party, Washington complained, "[i]f the members of the Jeffersonian Republican party set up a broomstick as candidate and called it a true son of Liberty or a Democrat or any other epithet that will suit their purpose, it still would command their votes in toto!" But even worse, Washington understood, the Federalists were no better. This was the disadvantage of the party system.

Watching great Democratic statesman dance around the primary election in Connecticut, exhorting Democratic primary voters to return eighteen-year Senate veteran, Joe Lieberman, to Washington, while at the same time hedging their bets and making it clear that they will support whoever receives the party's nomination, I understand Washington's lamentation.

American politics is cyclical. We are once again in a cycle in which party trumps personality. Our elections are rarely about integrity and "distinctions of character;" they are, to borrow a phrase from Wood, "a world in which parties, not great men, [have] become the objects of contention."
Still Thinking Out Loud:

1. Very Funny (as in this actually makes me chuckle). I spoke of the seeming fascination with King James II in the Task Force Report. Coincidentally, the ABA complainants choose to refer to the two Bush administrations as Bush I and Bush II.

2. I advocate taking a closer look at all this. The President's use of signing statements strikes me as a radical departure from the past. Changes of that magnitude merit mature discussion and a healthy dose of skepticism. Moreover, in a previous essay, "Power and Liberty," I expressed my opinion that the jealous "departments" and the interest of extra-governmental entities play essential roles in protecting liberty. Let the Judiciary Committee and a hostile ABA kick this around a bit.

Power is the enemy of liberty.

3. The framers purportedly designed the office of the presidency with two thoughts in mind: 1) George Washington was going to be president (and you could trust him to be a good steward of executive power); and 2) George Washington would not be president forever (and there would be a president someday who was not a trustworthy steward of executive power).

Patrick Henry warned that a president would come along one day, who would "make that bold push for the throne."

In this respect the ABA is right (allow me to paraphrase): this is not a question that should be approached from the perspective of our man sitting in the oval office. We should, in fact, close our eyes and imagine Hillary Clinton in the oval office. Then ask ourselves: is this a process we want to establish as precedent?

4. One last consideration/counter-point: the ABA report never seems to consider the post-9/11-ism of all this. Much of the administration's argument assumes that these are war powers. That really is a pivotal question. Are we at war? How long can a president assume war powers without a Congressional declaration of war?

While power is the enemy of liberty, too much liberty can be also the enemy of liberty. Or, as United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson cautioned, "the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

Note: Part of this appeared in the discussion in the "comments section" following the first post.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today's (Friday, July 28) RCP op-ed round-up is remarkable for the plentitude of Democrats supporting Bush (or, more accurately, critical of their own party's mindless opposition to the President, regardless of whether he is right, wrong or somewhere in-between).

Peter Beinert: "After years of struggling to define their own approach to post-Sept. 11 foreign policy, Democrats seem finally to have hit on one. It's called pandering. In those rare cases when George W. Bush shows genuine sensitivity to America's allies and propounds a broader, more enlightened view of the national interest, Democrats will make him pay."

Read all of "Pander and Run," (Washington Post). Note: Read all of this, if you can. Beinert is a thoughtful and strong voice on American foreign policy, and this essay is packed full of devastating (and quite funny) criticism of Democratic partisanship.

Alan Dershowitz: "...I believe that it would be a mistake at this time for the Democrats to hold the Bolton nomination hostage to this dispute. The senators have had a year to observe and evaluate Mr. Bolton directly on his performance as our ambassador. They can intelligently vote based on what he has done at the United Nations and not based on documents related to his role as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

"What remains of last year's nomination battle, though, is what I suspect to be the real reason that some Democrats oppose the Bolton nomination. That is, they felt uncomfortable with Mr. Bolton's oft-expressed and blunt skepticism over the United Nations' legal and moral authority."

Read all of "A Public Advocate for the United States" (Washington Times).

And, something of a stretch thematically, but because three is a good number, Ed Koch: "There are those who wishfully conclude that if Israel turns the other cheek and does not respond with armed force to attacks upon it, that such restraint will pay off with an ultimate peace treaty with its neighbors. That is ridiculous. I agree with those who believe that standing up to terrorism and never blinking is the only way to win that war."

Read his not-directly-critical-of-anyone-by-name, "Negotiations Alone Never Brought Peace" (RCP).

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Watching the President and British Prime Minister Tony Blair meet the press in the East Room today, I am reminded of the Okie Gardener's comment years ago: Tony Blair may prove to be Aaron to George Bush's Moses (Exodus 4:10-14).

It is perhaps difficult to remember how surprising it was to some of us when Blair proved so stalwart in his conviction that remaking the Middle East was the crucial task of our generation. Where would we have been without Blair?

Like Joe Lieberman, the opponents of the war rightly hate Blair, without whom the President would have been hard-pressed to move forward. Blair's integrity, credibility, resolve and eloquence steadied the President and the policy in indispensable ways over the past five years. In the ultimate statesman-like fashion, Blair has sacrificed his popularity and his short-term legacy to support the President in what he (Blair) sees as the right thing to do.

If anything, the administration has made too little use of Blair's vast talent. Nevertheless, Americans owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to this valiant friend.

News coverage of the press conference from the AP. Press Conference video from C-SPAN.
Real Clear Politics featured a Victor Davis Hanson essay yesterday (Thursday, July 27), "The Fragility of the Good Life," which should be read by all.

Noting that we have come to view "the good life" as an American birthright, completely oblivious to the tumultuous world just outside our gates and ignorant of our own modern history.

How is it, Hanson wonders, that we have "forgotten the 1970s"? (I wrote a similarly themed piece earlier this month, "Alarming History," which fretted that a "perfect storm" of events, similar to the events of the late-1960s and early-1970s, might coalesce to thrust us back into violent economic distress.) Hanson asks if we are unconcerned with our current budget deficits, trade deficits and Chinese ownership of our national debt?

Our culture, now anchored on middle class luxury and affluence, worships consumerism and high tech gadgetry at the expense of traditional values and skills.

Hanson notes: "By historical standards, they are pretty helpless. Most of us can't grow our own food, don't know how cars work and have no clue where or how electricity is generated. In short, few have the smarts to survive if the thin veneer of civilization were to be lost, as it has been from time to time in places like downtown New Orleans."

Hanson's sobering conclusion: "The good life sometimes can be lost quite unexpectedly and abruptly when people demand rights more than they accept responsibilities, or live for present consumption rather than sacrifice for future investment, or feel their own culture is not particularly exceptional and therefore in no need of constant support and defense.

"We should tread carefully in these challenging days of our greatest wealth - and even greater vulnerability."

To reiterate: The entire essay is well worth the read.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This week the American Bar Association issued a report from its "Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine." The report expresses alarm, and makes five recommendations, regarding the presidential practice of attaching accompanying commentary and administrative instructions to bills signed into law.

Thinking Out Loud:

While I have only skimmed the ABA report (and seen a few interviews with task force members and Michael Greco, ABA president), several thoughts occur to me:

1. The Preservation of the Separation of Powers is a noble pursuit.

2. I am pleased that the ABA, the press and the Senate Judiciary Committee are investigating and engaging the executive on this important development in the relationship between the branches.

3. The Task Force offers five resolutions that strike me, for the most part, as common sense recommendations.

4. The Task Force claims bipartisanship (and I recognize Bruce Fein and Mickey Edwards as members ostensibly disinclined to associate themselves with an anti-Bush lynch mob). Nevertheless, There are enough red flags to make me suspicious. Feel free to attach any relevant commentary on the composition of this committee.

5. Debatable Interpretation of History.

» Read More

I have expressed before my understanding that the current conflict between the West and Islam must be understood in the context of the nearly 1400 year-long conflict that has waxed and waned since the beginning of Islam. And, on the difficulty and perhaps impossibility of coming to a reasonable compromise of coexistance with any form of Islam that takes Muhammad and the Quran seriously. read here and here and here and here and here and here. Joseph Farah in this article makes the same points. Link from Jihadwatch.
Last Thursday (July 20), Real Clear Politics ran a Victor Davis Hanson essay entitled, "Patience is Wearing Thin," in which VDH argued that the West was running out of civilized choices in the Middle East and hinted that we might soon resort to massive retaliation against terrorists and their benefactors.

VDH reasons that despite the "conventional wisdom" against an additional American military mission aimed at Iran or Syria, the United States (and the West) may come to realize that "diplomacy, aid, support for democracy, multiculturalism, and [partial] withdrawal" does not satisfy the troublesome Islamists. At which point, once our patience is exhausted, we will "opt for hard and quick retaliation" and eschew our historic concerns for humanity, local sensibilities and world opinion.

I could not disagree more.

An aside: This VDH essay reflects the rapidly accumulating frustration and mounting dejection even among stout-hearted, intelligent, patriotic Americans.

The ugly truth: the conventional wisdom that our hands are tied, unfortunately, is absolutely right. If you are Iran (or North Korea), there is very little peril in disdaining the United States right now. Syria is a bit more vulnerable, because of internal uncertainty and weakness, but they might ask as well: what is the United States going to do?

There is no military option.

There is one insurmountable obstacle to another military expedition in the region: American public opinion.

Presently, the American people are in no mood to support any unprovoked aggressive military action anywhere in the world. Americans are no longer convinced that our invasion of Iraq was necessary. Much worse, they are thoroughly unimpressed with our government's administration of Iraq and increasingly pessimistic about our ability to remake the Middle East.

Because the President has lost the American people, he has lost the "loyal" opposition in Congress and is beginning to lose politicians on the periphery of his own party. In addition, the President's inner circle of advisors is in the midst of extended acrimonious hostilities with large parts of the executive bureaucracy. And the media and academia, also at odds with this President from the outset, now emboldened by his weakness, bombards him with derision and destabilizing accusations continuously. The President cannot go on the offensive in the Middle East because he cannot get off the defensive at home. This president does not have the time or the standing to prepare the nation for a greater war in the Middle East. We are stuck.

In the end, I agree with VDH's concluding statement, if not with his reasoning that undergirds the sentiment:

"So in the meantime, let us hope that democracy prevails in Iraq, that our massive aid is actually appreciated by the Middle East, that diplomacy ultimately works with Iran, that Syria quits supporting terrorists, and that Hamas and Hezbollah cease their rocket attacks against Israel -- more for all their sakes than ours."

What happens when our patience wears thin? We go home. We leave rather meekly (see Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia), and we are unlikely to blow up the place on the way out.

For more on this from me, please review: "The War on Terror and the Middle East Dilemma."

25/07: Grit

Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
I am not a follower of bicycle racing so I did not know the story of the recent winner of the Tour de France. A classic tale of grit overcoming obstacles. I'm a sucker for stories like this. The Mennonite boy from Pennsylvania who overcame chronic pain to win cycling's biggest event. Read article.
I have not commented on the current conflict so far, because I have nothing really to add to what others are saying. But, this article from Der Spiegel says what I think so well, that I want to link to it. What he said. (The article is in English) Link from Jihadwatch.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I was taught flag etiquette by my Grandfather Taylor, a WW1 veteran and life-long member of the American Legion. (Also a protestor against the Vietnam War, but that is another story.) I remember helping my Grandfather erect a flagpole in the rural cemetery near our home where many of our family were buried. For several years I had the job of mowing the cemetery, and taking care of the flag. Every morning I would raise the Stars and Stripes, and every night I would lower it. Sometimes I would forget, or be busy when the sun set. That would mean a trip in the dark to the middle of the cemetery to get the flag. My grandpa had instilled in me a rigid code of respect for the flag; even after he died I would not allow the flag to hang at night.

This link gives proper flag etiquette. Note the rules for nightime display of the flag: "The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night."

More and more I see flags left up day and night, without illumination. Businesses as well as private individuals not bothering to lower the flag at sunset. This bothers me. I know that lowering the flag each evening and raising it each morning takes work, takes care and attention. But, how do we show respect, really? Is it not by giving care and attention? Respect the flag. Give it the care and attention it deserves. Raise and lower it each day, or at least each holiday. If you want to fly it all night, put up a light.
It strikes me that many of my recent comments in re "democracy" and American foreign policy carried a certain scornful dismissiveness. While I stand by my substantive analysis, I probably offered them in a misleading tone. Perhaps a few caveats and some nuance would be helpful.

What of democracy?

One problem: we are generally imprecise in our language. What we enjoy today in the United States (and often call "democracy") is a hybrid of republicanism (self determination through representative government) and democracy (popular sovereignty, rule by the people). In our system, power is invested in all the citizens--but generally exercised by a professional and learned political class. More importantly, for us, "democracy" has also become shorthand for a national culture of market-oriented economics, individual rights and equality of opportunity.

An aside: James Madison et al viewed raw democracy as "mob rule" and a recipe for disorder. While the framers of our constitution adamantly believed in government of the people and for the people, they were quite cautious concerning government by the people. The founders would not be surprised by the current tumult in the Middle East. They would have seen clearly the potential calamitous problem with democracy in that region: radical elements might use elections to take control of government and install themselves as dangerous but "legitimate" states.

For Americans, the Age of Jackson brought the beginning of a change in attitude, and within a generation, all elements of the American political system embraced the rhetoric of "democratic" government. Republican virtue, which idealized an elite class of statesman divested of their own self interest (disinterested), gave way to the "Democracy," which seized on an increasingly broadly distributed franchise and advocated, in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, "self interest rightly understood."

In the decades that followed the War of 1812, the American democracy became inextricably coupled with the Market Revolution and forever linked with self improvement and free labor as a means of social mobility. In essence, the American Dream became not just political freedom, as defined in the Declaration of Independence or Bill or Rights, but economic opportunity as well.

Our calls for "democracy" in the Middle East are not necessarily demanding one-person-one-vote government. We are actually endorsing a broader, loosely defined idea of self-determination, which includes individual empowerment and a personal investment in stability among the people of the region. In our shorthand, democracy means a modern, educated, connected society in which the citizenry rightly understand their self interest--and act accordingly.

I have indicated that the subtext of this plan for "democracy" in the Middle East includes introducing Muslims to the pleasures of consumerism. Economic self interest, "rightly understood," is a key component within peaceful societies based on government by the people in the modern world.

This is not a new idea. In the midst of WWII, the Allies (USA, Great Britain & USSR) all agreed on "pastoralization" for post-war Germany. That is, the German nation was to be dismantled and de-industrialized and remade into an agrarian state, deprived of its status as a world power and forever defanged as a war-making threat.

But by the end of the war, the United States backed out of the gentleman's agreement. The United States opted for rebuilding and re-industrializing the defeated German nation in order to create a powerful democratic partner and strategic ally in a crucial part of the world. A few years later, after the "loss of China," the United States pursued the same policy in re Japan. As we know, these gambits paid handsome dividends.

Were these initiatives altruistic (giving the gift of freedom to our vanquished foes)? Or opportunistic (creating a lucrative economic partnership)? Or strategic? The answer is most likely "Yes." None of those explanations are mutually exclusive.

When we speak of "spreading democracy," generally, we are not cynically covering our ugly American imperial bent. Most of us genuinely believe in the superiority of our system of government and our way of life. We sincerely believe in the "greatness" of our system, and we want to share it with the "less fortunate." Would we like to make a buck and achieve our own security in the process? Absolutely.

Nevertheless, the initiative to remake the Middle East, however wrong-headed it may prove to be, is based on good intentions, national pride and a specific set of successes in our not-too-distant past.

For the record, I am not completely cynical about the power of democracy.
One of the treasures in my denomination (Reformed Church in America) is Lou Lotz, a pastor who writes a monthly column for our church magazine. Here is his latest essay. I encourage you to read it, and all his columns. He writes with insight and creativity, bringing faith and life together.
Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
Last week our family gathered in a cabin near Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the things I noticed was the amount of new construction of houses and cabins up in the mountains. No surprise to me that folks would want to live up there full or part-time. The natural beauty almost overwhelms the mind.

But, more people living in the mountains means more human noise, fewer pristine views, more demands for water and for sewage treatment, more pollution including from automobile commutes to Denver or wherever to work. One can imagine a day when congestion has destoyed the attractiveness that drew the people who moved there. Cont.

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Perhaps overlooked due to the Mideast reports is this article reporting that two women have now divorced who were plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case resulting in the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ma.

I don't want to read too much into this one instance, but, I do want to raise a few questions. I do not claim to know much about the lesbian lifestyle or culture, but I do know a little about the gay lifestyle and culture. Among gays it seems that long-term committed relationships are not that common, and, usually do not last a lifetime. My evidence is anecdotal, but consistent enough to make me wonder if same-sex unions intrinsically may have trouble lasting "till death do us part."

Yes, I know that hetersexual couples divorce also, and at disturbing rates. But, since this is a modern phenomenon, I would argue that there is nothing intrinsic in heterosexual unions that works against lasting "till death do us part."
Here is the full text of the President's speech before the NAACP.

I was impressed by the way he placed his specific ideas within the context of America, her past and future, and her good. He addressed a group of Americans as Americans.

I was impressed with his focus on education (including school choice vouchers) and on home ownership. These very traditional ideas when implemented make a tremendous difference in the lives of communities as well as the lives of individuals. He was pushing the American values of good education and property ownership. He also included ownership of wealth such as pension money.

And, I was impressed with his presence: his humor, his honesty, and his ability to be himself in various settings.
This article from Jihadwatch. Under Islamic law one who converts from Islam is liable to the death penalty. Perhaps this recent crackdown in Egypt supports what I've written earlier on the current threat to Islam from evangelical Christianity. As I've pointed out before, we are seeing Muslims convert to Christianity now at a rate unseen before in history.
What is it with Bush 41 & Bush 43 when it comes to China? Why does the Chinese government get basically a free pass on almost everything? See this latest on our China relations. Link from Drudge.
It seems a common assumption by the Adminstration and its supporters that democratic governments are peaceful governments; once most of the world's nations are democracies then we will live in a time of peace and harmony, the lions will lie down with the lambs, swords will be beaten into plowshares, the millenium will have arrived through our efforts at spreading democracy.

Now, I do not think the U.S. should spread dictatorship; and I think that God favors liberty over tyranny or license. But I challenge the thesis that democratic governments necessarily will be peaceful governments for the following reasons:

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few Wednesday nights ago, as one installment of a summer-long series at church addressing Faith and Reason, the extremely versatile scholar Thomas Hibbs spoke to us regarding the medieveal background of the Galileo affair. Hibbs, Baylor University Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture and Dean of the Honors College, brought his expertise in Thomas Aquinas and Augustine to bear on this subject.

My Confession: the discussion of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Thomas (much like classical music) often races ahead of my capacity to comprehend. I am an American history and country music sort of fellow. Having said that, Professor Hibbs offered a crisp presentation, and I walked away mulling over several provocative notions.

In a nutshell in re FAITH & REASON:

1. Affirm truth wherever you find it. Offering Aquinas's treatment of Aristotle as a model, Hibbs encouraged us to engage and learn (even from unlikely sources). Understand before you refute. Ultimately, Faith and Reason cannot conflict, but that does not mean that faith can immediately detect falacies in reason.

2. "Distinguish and then Unite." Distinguish in order to unite. Study biology on its own terms. Be wary of fitting all knowledge together too quickly. Wherever truth is, we ought to pursue it. Christians are people of hope. We hope that all of our knowledge comes together someday in some way.

Crunchy Cons and Community: Hibbs is also a prolific writer and commentator. A few months ago, in re the ongoing discussion on this blog and myriad other places, TBB friend, "Tocqueville," recommended Professor Hibbs's review of Rod Dreher's book, as the "best he had seen."

The review, originally penned for Crisis Magazine, is accessible on this link from DECLARATION FOUNDATION. I concur with "Tocqueville" and recommend the essay; it is brief and well worth the read.

The title of the review offers a succint preview of Hibbs's line of inquiry: Do the crunchies want to save America or the Republican Party or, having acknowledged the short-term irreversibility of civilized decay, do they plan to “retreat behind defensible borders”?

In the end, Hibbs finds no satisfying answer to his question, but offers a friendly analysis of the phenomenon, nevertheless:

"Dreher’s book details a kind of awakening of many Americans from a certain naïveté about the market and popular culture. There is a disconnection, or perhaps a hidden connection, between the material prosperity of our culture and our inarticulacy about what matters. Perhaps there was a time when that inarticulacy did not matter as much; now, it does. Dreher mentions the regular occurrence of well-intentioned parents who hand their kids over to public or private schools and to our popular culture and then end up shocked at the results. The objection is not to the market in all forms, only to the market as infiltrating all spheres of human life, particularly marriage, the family, and the rearing of children."

Hibbs on NRO: I also want to recommend Hibbs's sporadic column (click here for "author archive") in National Review, (although the column appears curiously dormant since March of this year).

Friends and Seinfeld. This comparison of two blockbuster sit-coms caught my eye. I have long argued that Seinfeld represented a brilliantly dark and cynical commentary on American life; Seinfeld seemed in on the joke. On the other hand, Friends offered a vapid and shallow series of endlessly unconnected vignettes, opting for laughs over substance or character development or fidelity to its own history. The joke was on Friends; it was a commentary on modern life, only if viewed from the outside in the context of its own impotency. Hibbs offers his own analysis, which is cogent and compelling.
Thinking Out Loud:

If someone had come to me ten years ago and told me that there were some excess human embryos laying around in a freezer somewhere, the waste product of a completed in vitro fertilization procedure, and we could use those terminal embryos in an experiment that might lead to advances toward curing diseases, I am almost certain that I would have said (without hesitation): "go for it!."

But it is not ten years ago. Unfortunately, I have listened long and hard to nearly a decade of debate, and now I am unflinchingly ambivalent.

I grew up believing that "life began in the womb." "Life begins in the Petri dish" takes some getting used to. After almost a decade, I still wonder: if the embryos are human life, why are we allowing so many to be created and then frozen and eventually destroyed? Isn't that a much bigger problem than experimentation?

But I also hear the voices who are troubled by the larger issues in this debate. I believe in the sanctity of human life. I agree that there are dangerous precedents in what we do here. And I wonder about the long-range implications of the genetic engineering aspect of this process.

In this debate, I have been most swayed by my negative reaction to what the proponents have said. Today on C-SPAN Tom Harkin was trying to explain how "potential human life" was not as valuable as "real human life." Listen to a politician for a while, and you start to realize how fraught with future peril this process (how slippery this slope) really is.

On the other hand, Orrin Hatch and Gordon Smith (two GOP stalwarts of conservatism) are set to vote for the Harkin-Specter bill today.

A few things worth considering:

1. There is no "federal ban" on embryonic stem cell research. This is a debate about funding. Shall we as a community spend our common funds in this particular way?

2. There is too much hype and politicization. Our sick friends and relatives are not being held hostage by this policy decision. No one is going to "get up and walk" in the foreseeable future, if this bill passes and the President signs it into law.

3. Many researchers and entities are working on embryonic stem cells. Big states and other nations are coming up with big dollars to move this along. The federal money is mostly symbolic (and political).

4. It is true, according to reputable opinion polls, that a large majority of Americans favor federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. But that does not mean that a presidential veto circumvents the "political process." A presidential veto is the political process. All the people elect the president, and we expect him to execute the duties of his office to the best of his ability and, as Lincoln said, "with firmness in the right as God gives [him] to see the right."

5. There is precedent for localizing troubling national moral issues. The federal government has often punted on intractable moral questions (e.g., slavery, temperance, sex). A decision not to fund embryonic stem cell research with federal money because of the lack of moral clarity is a compromise not at odds with our history.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Interesting to eavesdrop on the President and the Prime Minister today at the G-8, as they engage in a friendly discussion of the mundane, the personal and the monumental.

For the record: I agree completely with the President's candid assessment of the current Middle East crisis.

The Washington Post has the video and the transcript.

After talking about travel plans, sweaters, trade resolutions and G-8 stagecraft, the conversation turns to Lebanon, Hezbollah, Syria and the UN. Here is the best exchange of the conversation (which includes one vulgarity):

Bush: "What about Kofi? That seems odd. I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically ceasefire and [then] everything else happens. You know what I'm saying?"

Sort of, Blair seems to say. They agree on moving the "process" along, and Blair agrees that sending Condi will set the right tone.

Bush (evidently still peeved at Kofi): "See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over."

Blair : "Who, Syria?"

Bush : "Right."

Blair : "I think this is all part of the same thing. What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he's [inaudible ] . That's what this whole thing's about. It's the same with Iran."

Bush : "I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel. We're not blaming the Lebanese government."
Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In his "Talk of the Town" column in next week's New Yorker , posted today online, Hendrik Hertzberg attempted to debunk the conservative claim that the challenge to Joe Lieberman was a "liberal inquisition" connected to the Iraq war.

As proof of his point, Hertzberg hangs his case on reminding us that Joe Lieberman made two fatal mistakes in the last decade: 1) he was not sufficiently supportive of Bill Clinton during the impeachment crisis; and 2) Lieberman did not forego his seat in the Senate in 2000 (while running for VP), which meant if his ticket had won (which it did not), the Senate would have been controlled by Republicans (unless Jim Jeffords defected to the Democratic caucus, which he did).

In addition, Hertzberg calls Lieberman "sanctimonious and hypocritical" for his moralism, reminding us that the Senator divorced his wife while his children were teenagers.

Pretty tough. The long knives are out. I am beginning to wonder if reconciliation will be possible, if Joe survives.

The President's initiative in the Middle East has never been a sure thing. But I have argued, and still believe, that it was a calculated risk worth taking and continues to be a calculated risk worth supporting. But what if it does not work? What are our options, if for whatever reasons, the attempt to remake the Middle East fails?

Some background: why is it so important that our project for "renewal in Iraq" and beyond succeed? After 9/11, it was apparent to any observer that the status quo in the Middle East was no longer tenable for the United States. Our Cold-War era, "pragmatic" policy of accommodating and facilitating tyrannical regimes, for reasons of vital national interest, wrought a generation of jihadists intent on Islamic revolution. The Islamists hated their own exploitative and corrupt governments, they hated Israel, and they hated us for enabling the two primary objects of their enmity. 9/11 illustrated in the most horrific manner that our great island fortress could be penetrated by these jihadists, and likely would be again. America was under attack.

The project to remake the Middle East into a more just and safer place for its own people, and more friendly in general to the United States and the rest of Western civilization, was an attempt to "drain the swamp." A freer, more democratic Middle East, so the theory went, would take responsibility for itself and be consumed with self-improvement, looking inward instead of outward, which would drastically reduce the threat of terrorism. We would become brothers, bonded by our mutual love for self-determination, amelioration and peace.

Frankly, the Bush administration vastly underestimated how hard this would be. While some academics tossed around the Philippine precedent and laid out timetables of four, five, six years and beyond, I do not think that is what Washington believed. I fear that the Bush administration really thought, with a little luck, this thing might go fairly quickly and easily, and then we could move on to the next outlaw. We did not fully understand the challenge. Perhaps that was a blessing. In any event, to the surprise of some, we encountered a great battle in Iraq. But that doesn't mean that we are cooked. We need to stay tough and win. Iraq is the key. If we can stabilize Iraq, our aspiration for a safer Middle East is well on the way to success.

What happens if Iraq never gets better, and circumstances force the US to abandon the project to reform the Middle East? Are we back to square one? No. If we leave Iraq in defeat and disarray, we are actually much worse off than we were the day after 9/11. The world will no longer be a safe place for Americans to travel or do business. What will that mean? It will inaugurate a radical transformation of American life.

I have never accepted the President's explanation that the Islamists hate us because of our liberty (at least not in the commonly accepted sense of that word). That is, I don't believe that the jihadists' detestation for our freedom impels them to go out of their way to kill us. Osama doesn't hate us because we are free; he hates us because we are powerful and play a dominant role in his world.

Undoubtedly, Osama et al view American culture as corrupt and corrosive, and they are right (see Part I). If the President means liberty in the libertine sense, then maybe he touches on part of what Osama and his ilk have against us. But that in itself does not explain the existence of al Qaeda.

The complicated terror network organized to humble the United States exists to break the American hegemony on their side of the world so that the jihadists can foment a revolution over there unhindered. In that way too, 9/11 is similar to Pearl Harbor: Japan attempted to obliterate the US naval presence in the Pacific not to conquer the United States, but to give Japan free reign to conquer the Pacific. Like our presence in the Pacific during the 1930s and 40s, we have myriad self-interested reasons to be in the Middle East, but we also play a stabilizing role in the region.

To an extent, and there is deep irony here for the neo-traditionalists, this project is a war to make the world safe for economic globalization. Some of the least imaginative of the anti-war protesters have called Iraq a "war for oil." Three-dollar per gallon gas takes a bit of the wind out of that conspiracy slogan, but it survives nevertheless. But in truth, our mission to remake the Middle East is consistent with American policy since the dawning of American imperialism: we strive for influence and power in the world in order to protect American business interests.

Can we do something that will make the Islamists leave us alone? Yes. We can pack up and go home. We can fold our tent and leave the Middle East to the Arabs. In the early moments of the national crisis following 9/11, I believed that the safest course would be complete retreat, a return to isolationism. President Bush offered a different course, which was bold and risky, but, if successful, preserves our way of life. I credit him for his strength and courage in that moment, and I have supported him completely.

However, if Bushism does not work, returning to the pre-9/11 realities is not an option. The remaining option is Buchanism: neo-isolationism. We will leave our friends in the Middle East to fend for themselves, and pull-up stakes as the key player in, and international protector of, the global economy. Failure will force us into an involuntary retreat.

Therefore, if we fail in Iraq, we leave American business interests in the Middle East unprotected and irresistible targets for Islamist revolutionaries. If our ability to protect our interests abroad collapses, then our economic empire necessarily disintegrates as well.

What then?

We turn the clock back one hundred years and return to the insular republic of the nineteenth century. It will mean that our culture will need fewer academics, poets, entertainers and service providers. More of us will need to work for a living, making things and growing things. Our lives will change dramatically.
Category: US in Iraq.archive
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The "War on Terror" is winnable.

I am currently watching Eric Alterman on C-SPAN this morning. If you don't know him, Alterman makes the case that the mainstream media is not "liberal." His assertion: rightwing propagandists manufactured the "liberal media" myth to give the conservative media (which does exist) a raison d'etre. He also makes the point (not original to him), among myriad others--coming, seemingly, at the speed of light, that a "war on terror" is impossible. That is, the word "terror" describes a phenomenon, which makes prosecuting a war on terror unlike fighting a war with England, Mexico, Spain, Germany or Japan--all nations with seats of government and conventional armies.

Actually, Alterman's point is not completely incompatible with the conservative complaint that "terrorism" is an unhelpful euphemism for "Islamofascism." Okie Gardener has argued that this "sloppy terminology relates to sloppy thinking: and we must be clear-headed" in this all-important appointment with destiny.

However, I am not nearly as disturbed by the imprecise terminology. As long as we know what we mean, we are fine. (Of course, whether we know what we mean is an entirely different question.) Notwithstanding, I have written privately, even if we don't call an Islamofascist an Islamofascist, their rotting corpses will smell just as putrid by any other name. But that assumes that we can kill all the terrorists, which is impractical (and not in keeping with the American personality). We are an evangelical and evangelistic people. We prefer to convert rather than eliminate. We generally have the stomach to strike out in anger against an offensive dictator or an "axis of evil," but, once our blood cools, we prefer to make peace with our enemies and convert them to our point of view. As a people, we have never demonstrated stamina for war or an ability to maintain a protracted vendetta against a malefactor.

How will we win the war on terror? By that I mean, how will we put out the fire in the Middle East that threatens American lives and interests? Perhaps the cruelest component of the President's War on Terror is that, ultimately, we must infect the world with the disease that is killing us, consumerism and indulgence and self absorption. Once the potential Islamofascists get a "whiff of the free markets" (a phrase our President was fond of using during the campaign of 2000), the erstwhile Islamic fundamentalists will be too busy paying off credit cards and watching MTV to kill us.

I still believe we can win the war on terror. It will be a long journey. As I have argued recently, Iraq must be pacified quickly (the clock on Iraq is running out). But the greater Middle East project is attainable in the same way that the Cold War was achievable, with a bipartisan concerted effort over a series of presidential administrations.

However, the President's initiative in the Middle East has always been a gamble. What if this does not work? What are our options?

Part II & III.
This morning I heard ABC radio make two significant errors in their framing of the current Mideast war. First, the only casualities they mentioned were those of Lebanese civilians. True, Lebanese civilians have been killed by Israeli action. But, no mention was made of Israeli civilian casualties. And, more significantly, no mention was made that the reason for Lebanese civilian casualties is that Hezbollah (and Hamas in their areas) deliberately place themselves within civilian populations in order to impede Israeli retaliation. The moral onus should be on Hezbollah for civilian casualities. Second, the report concluded with the comment that the current warfare is a setback for the Bush Administration Middle Eastern policy. True, but wrong. The current fighting is a setback for us, the U.S. It is a setback for the Middle East. Bad framing of the situation on both counts.
Valerie Plame sues over leak. Captain's Quarters has a must read account of Joe Wilson's track record on truth. Read here. Having Plame and Wilson under oath could be fun.
Hard to believe that 50 years ago the Protestant establishment in the U.S. consisted of Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, and (from a merger in the late 1950s) the United Church of Christ. Today those groups are diminished and sidelined. For a cogent and firmly-stated analysis of their decline see this oped by Charlotte Allen in the LA Times.

Her diagnosis: the Mainline Churches embraced liberalism and began to wither on the Vine. While she may give too little attention to factors such as low birthrates (which she mentions) and population shifts to the Sunbelt and metropolitan areas (which she does not mention), I think she has identified the major cancer that threatens these churches.
I refuse to push the panic button on the economy, and I hate Vietnam parallels, but a growing chain of events gives me cause for concern.

The stagflation and misery of the 1970s arrived, in part, as a result of the belief that we could have "guns and butter" without sacrifice. During an extended and expensive overseas military expedition, the US attempted to leverage the Vietnam War and the Great Society with little concern for revenue. At the same time, American manufactures suffered from an increased period of competition from emerging industrial nations. And, finally, the American economy, heavily dependent on foreign oil, suffered mightily from the rise of OPEC, which attempted to punish the United States for its support of Israel.

I firmly believe that history does not repeat itself--but sometimes the present is eerily reminiscent of the past.

We are in the midst of a protracted and expensive military engagement, a huge event on which we are divided but strangely detached. We continue to run-up budget deficits to pay for the war and our pampered national lifestyle. Our manufacturers are in much worse shape than thirty-five years ago, evidenced by our ever-increasing trade deficits and changing labor reality. Add Israel and oil to this equation, during a time when we are more dependent on foreign fuel than ever before, and there are serious reasons for concern.

You have heard my numerous exhortations in the past to stay the course in Iraq. I am not backing away from that line of thinking. But there is real danger ahead. Although the President's approval ratings in general (and on Iraq specifically) have turned dismal, his initiative in the Middle East has moved forward despite its diminishing popularity (mainly because Iraq seems disturbing but peripheral to most Americans).

But an economic crisis would end all that. A deep recession would completely break America's will for war. The Iraq commitment survives precariously on the crest of this fortuitous economic wave. If this economy is as fragile as some have speculated, then the support for the war is just that tenuous.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today Okie Gardener posted two oustanding pieces, "Small Government," which equates big government with hubris and original sin, and "The Mask is Off," which speaks to the latest installment of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East (I also encourage you to read the comments section for some cogent and provocative analysis and invite you to contribute to the discussion).

The two posts, ostensibly unconnected, actually speak to the two great dilemmas of our times, which are inextricably linked.

First, here is a more practical question: what happened to the party of small government? Ronald Reagan came to Washington convinced that people were basically good--but big government made them do bad things. For Reagan, and a generation of conservatives, government was the problem. The Bushies came to town seemingly convinced that big government would be just fine as long as it was in the hands of the right people. And, of course, that philosophy brings us back full-circle to FDR-LBJ-style liberalism, which began the whole conservative counter-revolution.

The Progressive Experiment has worked extremely well in the short term, but we will need to make some tough decisions in the coming years to save ourselves. Can we continue to live our lives of extraordinary luxury and excess without paying a price? The Progressive golden goose killed the republican wise ant. Now we are working the goose at maximum capacity. How long can we endure?

As I intimated, the Republicans are not much better than the Democrats in this regard. For a while I thought the Democrats were self-destructing, with their political correctness, America-bashing and defeatists default positions. But now I am not so sure. They are making a comeback as the only alternative to Republican flatulence. This election will be telling.

No matter, regardless of what happens in the next few election cycles, the Republicans show every sign of moral confusion. Lord Acton's maxim seems especially true with the Republican Party. God help us if they ever achieve supreme power.

I have previously praised the grand and healthy American tradition of "throwing" entrenched politicians out of office. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that "the great advantage of the Americans consists in their being able to commit faults which they may afterwards repair." Ruling cliques come and go. Fresh ideas and optimism constantly replenish good government, pushing out the generation gone stale. To that end, the ruling Republican majority is the perfect example of a party that entered with bright promise but now needs to go. Although I like many of the principals in the Republican coalition, the log-rolling, posturing, incontinent GOP-controlled Congress of 2006 is completely bereft of the spirit of 1994.

But wait, there is a problem. These are sober times. For all the infuriating shortcomings of the GOP, they are at least serious in facing the threat of the terrorists. We are in an unenviable position, to say the least, in which we are afraid to jettison the corpulent ruling party in fear that the opposition party has not the stomach for the dire times in which we live. For this particular development, perhaps even more than any of his other diabolical deeds, I hate Osama bin Laden. 9/11 so changed the calculus of American politics.

Madison assured us in "Federalist #10" that a far-flung republic could not only survive--but succeed. The far-flung, multi-media, micro-focused America of the twenty-first-century, threatened from without and decaying from within, will provide the ultimate test for that prediction. God Bless America. God save the Republic.
Peggy Noonan has a great, thoughtful essay today (no surprise) on the impossible demands currently being made on the politicians in Congress to decide every sort of difficult issue, from international to local. In part at least, this barrage of complexity enables those who want bigger government to slip through increases in government size and responsibility. She points out that demanding a Congress full of Platos, Solomons and Socrates's is ridiculous. It is a great essay in favor of small government. Read it here.

One of the basic underlying ideas to her essay is that human beings have limits. We are finite. Asking finite beings for infinite wisdom will result in tragedy, or if we are lucky, farce. The ancient Greeks understood the nature of human limits: humans are between gods and animals. To act like a god, that is to act as though one had no limits, was called hubris. Engaging in hubris was understood to bring tragedy. Think of the myth of Icarus, the fellow whose father made wings to fly away and escape from imprisonment. Not heeding his father's warnings he flew too near the sun, the wax in his wings melted, and he plummeted to his death. He forget his limitations, tried to act like a god, and his end was destruction. In the words of a famous American philisopher--A man's got to know his limitations.

The liberal push for bigger and bigger government, controlling more and more of human life, is a recipe for tragedy. Humans cannot succeed at controlling everything. Especially not one elite governing group. In the Christian world-view, we have a similar idea to hubris--sin. Only God has the omni's: omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. A state claiming omnicompetence is reaching for forbidden fruit, trying to attain the status of God. We know how that story ends.

This lesson is hard for Americans to learn. We like to think in terms of infinite possibilities. Some years ago Michael Crighton wrote a decent novel using the plot of Greek tragedy--Jurassic Park. In the novel the Theme Park creator tried to be a god by bringing extinct creatures back to living in the present. He was punished for his hubris, eaten by his creatures, after causing much suffering. In order to appeal to a popular American audience, when made into a movie the tragedy of hubris was removed, and a happy ending inserted. In real life we do not always get to rewrite.
Israel has tried very hard recently to appease its enemies. It pulled out of Gaza and forcibly removed Jewish settlers there and in other places. In return Israel is now under increasingly heavy attack on two fronts: from Gaza and from Lebanon. For years many in the West have believed the Palestinian statements to the effect that 'give us back the land seized in 67 and we'll be at peace,' while ignoring their domestic propaganda calling for the utter destruction of Israel. Now the mask is off the Palestinian leadership, and a large segment of Palestinians themselves. They were given land and in return have given back war. Let's not have any more calls for Israel to show restraint. They have an enemy that cannot be appeased or reasoned with, only defeated.
Yesterday I bought a box of shells at a Wal-Mart. When I got home and opened the box, one of the shells looked like it should have been rejected by quality control; out of curiosity I tried to fit it into the chamber but it would not fit in. I tried another shell into the chamber, and it went in, sort of, but did not feel just right. So this morning I took the box plus receipt back to the Wal-Mart to exchange or get my money back. No dice. The person at the firearms desk said their policy was to do no refunds or exchanges on shells. I then spoke to her manager. Same story. Even when I showed both of them the defective shell, their answer remained unchanged. Sam Walton is dead. I think that years ago Wal-Mart would have refunded my money, and taken up the issue with the manufacturer. Several times in the last 5 years I have sworn that I'll never set foot again in a Wal-Mart, and then like a battered spouse I go back. But I don't think so this time. For another opinion, see this post by Farmer.
China has an extensive and aggressive network in the U.S. working hard to aquire military technology. See this article. (link from Instapundit). So when do we impose sanctions against the Chicom government? We are enabling a powerful enemy to become more powerful by our trade policies.
Guest Blog

Special thanks to "Tocqueville," TBB friend and constitutionalist, who has been keeping close track of the recent legal developments in the same-sex marriage controversy. Please consider his string of insightful comments and reportage on these events, in chronological order (it is fairly lengthy--but well worth your time):

6 July 2006:

Gay marriage was dealt two defeats today.

By a vote of 4 to 2, the highest court in New York has held that the New York constitution does not "compel" the recognition of same-sex marriages. The matter, said the court, is for the state legislature to decide. Here is an excellent quote from the majority opinion:

"The dissenters assert confidently that "future generations" will agree with their view of this case (dissenting op at 28). We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives. We therefore express our hope that the participants in the controversy over same-sex marriage will address their arguments to the Legislature; that the Legislature will listen and decide as wisely as it can; and that those unhappy with the result -- as many undoubtedly will be -- will respect it as people in a democratic state should respect choices democratically made."

This marks the first state high court to address the substance of a gay-marriage claim since the outrageous Goodrich decision in Massachusetts in 2003.

The ruling, coming from a fairly progressive court in a deep-blue state, must be considered a significant set-back for gay-marriage litigants and further evidence that (if democracy is allowed to prevail) conservatives are not losing this battle. At the same time, the opinion does not undermine the arguments of those who have claimed that a federal marriage amendment is needed to block an activist Supreme Court from imposing gay marriage on the nation. That argument is largely premised on the demands of the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the questionable constitutional validity of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.

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Wonder why the Iranians have stated that they will not respond to the latest proposal till August 22? Here is a chilling thought from Zionist. Link from LGF.
August 22 is the Muslim celebration of the reconquest of Jerusalem. Combine that with Ahmadinejad's belief that he and Iran have a special role to play in the return of the Hidden Imam, and it could hit the fan. (Which I think it will when the Iranians have the bomb and a capable delivery system.)

See my earlier post on Deterence and the Mullahs.
For those of you who are not regular readers of Cardinal Pell's writing, I would encourage you to read his regular columns for the Sunday Telegraph. Brief, lucid, insightful. The most recent column covered sexual addiction and the scourge of pornography. The link is here.
In the last several weeks I have had occasion to meet, and in some cases to talk with, a few ex-Muslims who now are Christians. And I have had occasion to talk with several folks in a position to know about Muslim conversions to Christianity in Africa, Asia, even the Middle East. As I mentioned in a previous post, we today are seeing the conversion of Muslims in numbers that are unprecedented in history. Part of the fear driving the violent Muslims may be the weakness of today's Islam, a weakness that tries to hide itself with violence.

See this earlier post.
Imagine that you are a contractor responsible for demolishing a building using explosives. Even if you've never watched the Discovery Channel you can imagine the steps. As you prep the building for demolition you erect fences to keep out trespassers. You post Keep Out signs. After the explosives are in place, you do one last sweep of the building to check for vagrants, children, anybody. Then, when you are certain the building is empty of human beings, you detonate. (You probably would hold up detonation in order to remove a stray dog.) As a demolition contractor you would take your responsibility not to kill accidentally very seriously. If someone came running up to you moments before you set off the explosives and told you they thought they had seen someone sneak onto the site, you would postpone the demolition until you were absolutely certain no one was in the building. You would want to know that the building was empty. And the owner of the building certainly would want you to behave responsibly. Our culture, through mores and through the legal system, mandates that we try very hard not to kill someone accidentally.

Think about abortion. The abortionist is the demolition contractor. Does the abortionist know that no human being is killed by abortion? Does the mother (the building owner)? The pro-abortion lobby turns the burden of proof around from where it ought to be. They challenge the anti-abortion side to prove that the fetus is a human being. Wrong. By the logic in the example above of the demoltion contractor, the abortionist must be the one to prove that the fetus is not a human being. The burden of proof is on those who would commit abortions. Prove that you are not killing a human being.
The last couple of days I've had suspicious thoughts about a couple of world events, but have not posted since I thought--no, I'm just paranoid. However, some others on the web have posted such thoughts.

First, Russia kills a major Chechen enemy commander (link to Wizbang), and Chechen rebels experience a bad "work accident" that kills a significant leader. (link to Jihadwatch) Is it a coincidence that these events happen during the time when Iran needs Russia to block any actions by the U.S. in the Security Council? Jihadwatch raises that question: reminding readers that the Iranians have been supporters of the Chechens.

Second, the media, and U.S. government, assumes that Communist China tried very hard to stop the North Koreans from launching those missles. Did they indeed? The Chicoms said they did, but . . . . Fact: the Chinese regard us as their chief adversary; Fact: it is to their benefit that we concentrate on numerous threats around the world; Fact: the Chicoms got an opportunity to glean intelligence from our response to the missles. A former Reagan administration official expressed his suspicions of the Chicoms. (link from Drudge)

If these suspicions are correct, then diplomacy has about as much chance with NK and Iran as it had with Saddam, for similar reasons.
Most of earth's territory has been conquered, often many times, by a succession of peoples. In the U.S. we think of our own conquest of native tribes (who themselves were often conquerors, e.g. the Sioux did nor originate in the Dakotas nor the Comanche in Texas or Oklahoma). And, most Anglos, even those most sympathetic to Native Peoples, are not getting on boats or planes and going back to Europe. Of course that would not solve the problem. Celts might demand that Germanic peoples move back east, ad infinitum. Those Hispanics who claim the southwestern U.S. should go back to Mexican peoples could be met by claims from Navajo or Apache.

Regardless of what our moral sense is regarding conquest, after a while we accept the movement of peoples as an accomplished fact. Which brings me to a question I have asked regarding the nation of Israel. To the Arab nations: how long does the nation of Israel have to be in place before you recognize it as legitimate? If the answer is "never, we will always regard it as conquered land," then I ask this question: why should we accept the Arab conquest of the Middle East about 1400 years ago as legitimate? Why should not Egypt be the land of the Copts, Iraq the land of the Chaldeans and others, Morocco the land of the Berbers? Arabs back to Arabia! In other words, if the position is taken that the Jews never can be legitimate occupiers of Israel, no matter how long they are there, then Islamic Arab claims on huge chunks of territory have no logical basis, no claim on the land either.

Of course, the real motivation, I maintain, is not nationalist, but religious. In Islamic thought, none of the Land of Submission ever can be given up (call it the Al Brezhnev Doctrine).
Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
On one hand, the trial of Joe Lieberman in the upcoming CT primary, August 8, is a perfect example of American democracy in action (click here for some bg and context from the Wash Post). "Throw the bums out!" has been an effective rallying cry for frustrated voters since the earliest moments of American self government. James Madison et al constructed the federal government of the United States to be responsive to the desires of the people. Joe Lieberman has offended a core constituency of the citizenry of CT; therefore, Joe Lieberman must go.

However, the framers divided government into departments, and the departments into distinct institutions, making some sections of the government more responsive to the people than others. For example, the House of Representatives is elected directly by the voters every two years. That keeps representatives in the lower house on a very short leash. The House is rightly the people's conduit to government. Congressman ought to be taking polls and monitoring their phone calls and email, fittingly hyper-sensitive to the will of the people.

The President. Elected by the people every four years (albeit indirectly through the somewhat arcane institution of the electoral college), the president, traditionally, is the one person in the government empowered to represent all the people. The rest of the executive branch works for him and answers to him (or his management team) directly; the enormous executive department, sworn to uphold the Constitution and abide by federal law, answers to the people only indirectly through congressional oversight.

The Courts. Intentionally removed from the election process, judges are nominated by the President and approved by the Senate for life terms. Federal judges are only grazed by the consent of the people--and only once, during the process of nomination and confirmation.

Why all this variation?

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Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few kind words about the President and “compassionate conservatism” on his birthday.

Happy 60th, Mr. President.

A few months ago, explaining my support for George W. Bush in 2000, I wrote:

"I reluctantly settled on George Bush because he looked like he could win and I liked his family. He also struck me as an unpolished but authentic and sincere man.... On the whole, he has not disappointed me."

I am not unmoved today by my conservative brethren who castigate the President for his big-government conservatism, his Wilsonian idealism, his evangelicalism and his bent toward “tolerance” in regard to social issues.

For me, the most damning of those accusations is the first, which plays to my fear of out-sized budget deficits and an ever-increasing federal leviathan. I am nothing if not a Reagan conservative. Reagan would shudder at “No Child Left Behind” and the prescription drug program.

Notwithstanding, I admire the President. I appreciate his toughness following 9/11. For good or ill, I cannot imagine another American president who would have followed the course he charted in respect to the “War on Terror.”

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Category: Baylor
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Dub Oliver Named Vice President For Student Life (full story).
The Roman Catholic Church is beginning to take a harder line against Islamic denials of the rights of Christians in Muslim lands. Read the article. Link from LGF.

We have done previous posts on this topic. Here and Here
To have a reasoned discussion, both sides must be reasonable. See this article in the Times on Muslim attitudes in Britain uncovered by an undercover reporter. Link from LGF.

Here is an excerpt.

Focus: Undercover on planet Beeston
Sunday Times reporter Ali Hussain spent six weeks in Beeston, where three of the 7/7 bombers came from. He found an enclosed community, rife with conspiracy theories

The rich smell of Indian spices wafted along the road. Voices babbled in Urdu and Sylheti, a Bangladeshi dialect that my own family speak. Thick-bearded men in robes strolled the streets and youngsters wore their jeans rolled above the ankle after leaving the mosque, as Muslim custom requires.

I felt both at home and in a foreign land. This could almost be an Asian city, I thought, rather than Beeston, the suburb of Leeds where two of the July 7 bombers had lived.

I had come to gauge the mood of the community after the 7/7 attacks, which struck London a year ago this week. The world I knew as a British Muslim sprang from cosmopolitan roots, and I wanted to discover what the people of this more insular community really felt about the bombers and western culture.

I found myself both drawn to the warm embrace of the Muslim community that dominates Beeston, and shocked by the views it espoused in private.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Wizbang has a post linking various Independence Day items. Readers are encouraged to add their own links. Here
Jihadwatch today has a great post contrasting the statements in the Declaration of Independence with statements by Muslim leaders. Read the post.

Here is a portion:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." — Declaration of Independence

"Thus if [a] Muslim commits adultery his punishment is 100 lashes, the shaving of his head, and one year of banishment. But if the man is not a Muslim and commits adultery with a Muslim woman his penalty is execution...Similarly if a Muslim deliberately murders another Muslim he falls under the law of retaliation and must by law be put to death by the next of kin. But if a non-Muslim who dies at the hand of a Muslim has by lifelong habit been a non-Muslim, the penalty of death is not valid. Instead the Muslim murderer must pay a fine and be punished with the lash....Since Islam regards non-Muslims as on a lower level of belief and conviction, if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim…then his punishment must not be the retaliatory death, since the faith and conviction he possesses is loftier than that of the man slain...Again, the penalties of a non-Muslim guilty of fornication with a Muslim woman are augmented because, in addition to the crime against morality, social duty and religion, he has committed sacrilege, in that he has disgraced a Muslim and thereby cast scorn upon the Muslims in general, and so must be executed....Islam and its peoples must be above the infidels, and never permit non-Muslims to acquire lordship over them." — Sultanhussein Tabandeh, A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, F. J. Goulding, translator, London, 1970.
This post from the Daily Kos has been attracting some negative attention from the conservative blogosphere. For example LGF and OpinionJournal Best of the Web Today.

The Daily Kos post is entitled Red, White and Blue Idolatry & Why I Walked out of Sunday Morning Service. Here is an excerpt:
"Today I walked out of church about a third of the way through the service. A soloist was performing "God Bless the USA." I have always found that song to be especially cloying, but when I noticed it listed in the bulletin I decided to attempt to tolerate it. And I might have managed to do just that had not one or two individuals prompted the entire congregation to stand.

At that moment I felt as though I'd been punched in the gut. And it was a double whammy - not only was I offended politically, I was deeply offended spiritually. I would never under any circumstance stand in tribute to a performance of that particular song. As far as I'm concerned asking me to stand in a sanctuary bordered on blasphemy. How could I in good conscience stand to embrace the lyrics "I'm proud to be an American" in the very same week we learned U.S. soldiers raped an Iraqi woman then murdered her and her family to cover up the crime? What spiritually unwise person planned this nonsense?"

(An Okie Gardener again) As a patriotic Christian, I also have problems with Red, White, and Blue Idolatry, though for different reasons. (read more)

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The Timesonline has this excerpt from Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book The Caged Virgin. Link found in LGF. Here is a portion of her essay to ponder.

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My parents belonged to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State the whole time I was growing up. The group's magazine usually could be found on the coffee table in the living room. My parents later dropped their membership, if I understand the story correctly, because AU chose to view abortion as a Church/State issue and push for unrestricted abortion. Now, another organization seems poised to make a similar mistake.

Amnesty International is moving toward the view that abortion is a fundamental human right, the denial of which is oppressive. Ironic that an organization dedicated to human life and rights should embrace human death and denial of rights to the unborn. Cardinal George Pell has a recent column on the issue.
Category: American Lives
Posted by: an okie gardener
Every Fourth of July in my childhood had a similar pattern. From daylight till dusk I engaged in destruction with firecrackers, blowing up empty cans (way out back by the barn so my mother would not realize that shrapnel was involved), and closer to the house creating tableux with toy soldiers and cars that I subjected to a barrage of Black Cats. The barn cats made themselves scarce that day.

Even when I became old enough to work in the hayfield, the evenings remained the same as in childhood. We stopped work in the early afternoon, cleaned up, and began setting up the grill. My mother made the ice cream and Dad and I went outside to crank it.

About this time our neighbors from the farm south of us would come over: Doris and Fred Robinson. Fred would sit outside with us while we turned the ice cream maker; Doris would go inside with Mom. Supper was grilled burgers and ice cream. Finally it would be dark enough to set off fireworks. Our house was on a ridge so we also could see the neighbors' Roman Candles and rockets.

Fred was a jolly man, given to self-deprecating humor. He had been born in Illinois, then come to northern Missouri to work on a relative's farm as a hired man. He spent his youth during the Depression as a hand on several farms. One story he told several times was of a farmer he worked for who would give him one .22 shell every Saturday afternoon and tell him to go get something for supper, usually squirrel. Nothing was wasted in those hard days. When WW2 came he served in the Army in Europe, then came home, married his sweatheart, joined the local Primitive Baptist church eventually becoming a deacon, and farmed as long as his health permitted before he and Doris sold the place and moved into town.

He told a few war stories, mostly in his self-deprecating style. One I recall was set in the Battle of the Bulge. He told how he and his unit went without sleep for over 72 hours. He would finish the story by saying "You wouldn't think a person could stay awake that long, but if you're scared enough you can." His unit also liberated a concentration camp. He told how the GI's gave the liberated prisoners their rations, which the survivors usually threw up. He would close the story with "I never thought human beings could be so thin and live."

Fred is gone now, as so many of that generation are. He was quiet, probably easy to overlook unless you knew him. All the time I remember him he looked like what he was in his overalls--a Missouri farmer. But, as a young man, he helped defeat tyranny and free a continent. He was so self-deprecating in his war stories that I did not learn until I read his obituary that he had received 3 Bronze Stars.

He was an American, an ordinary man who did extraordinary things when duty called.
Arguably the turning point in the American Civil War occured during the first few days of July 1863 with the fall of Vicksburg to Union forces and the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. Today's Wall Street Journal Editorial Page online has a list of the 5 best books on the Battle of Gettysburg with brief descriptions.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
There are so many great books to recommend that any list will be only suggestive, not exhaustive. These are books I have read recently, or am reading.

Currently I am reading two books from the Founding Era, and finding them fascinating accounts of the establishment of our nation: Witnesses at the Creation by Richard B. Morris tells the story of John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison as they pushed for the adoption of the Constitution; Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis uses a series of vignettes to illumine Madison, Hamilton, Burr, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson and their times. Within the last year I have learned from A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic by John Ferling, and from 46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence by Scott Liell.

Perhaps, though, the book which moved me most was Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 by Steven E. Woodworth, a brilliant account of the major army of the west in the Civil War. The courage, endurance, and sacrifice of the men who fought for the Union beggar description. The writing is brilliant. An excerpt :

". . . The time was about 6pm, and the first day's battle at Shiloh was over. As the guns fell silent, somewhere along the Union line a band struck up ' The Star-Spangled Banner.'
It had been a beautiful spring day, and some men had complained of the heat. That night, however, a cold rain poured down in torrents. The cabin Grant had designated as his headquarters was in use by a surgeon diligently amputating and tossing the severed limbs out a window to join a growing pile outside. The steamboats at the landing were likewise full of wounded men. So the commanding general fared as his soldiers did, without shelter under the pitiless downpour.
Sherman found him that night, standing under the scant shelter of a tree lantern in one hand, smoking a cigar. "Well, Grant,' Sherman quipped, 'we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?'
'Yes,' Grant replied between puffs on his cigar. 'Lick 'em tomorrow, though.'"
Guest Blog

Excerpts from a recent essay on "the American character" by one of my American history survey students (C. Buzbee, with her permission):

"If a colonist from the 1700’s visited the United States today he would be astounded. Cars of all makes and models rush along endless highways, skyscrapers line the horizon, cities go on for miles, communication of all forms literally instantaneous, all manner of electrical gadgetry available upon demand. Food abundant, travel magical, military force impressive and formidable, and everyone he would have met would have never known anything but life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A little over 200 years ago, early Americans, poorly equipped, made all this and more possible at great sacrifice to themselves. Somehow in that long ago time, this great country of ours, the richest, freest, most powerful nation on earth was born. How exactly it happened is a long and winding story, full of complexities and ironies but in the end a tale of victory against overwhelming odds. The story of freedom should be familiar to all Americans as it lends illumination and a special appreciation for all the privileges and freedoms that belong to us simply for being an American."

"The end then, we all know, was the beginning. It started with a Constitution, a Presidency, a flag, and an unshakable belief in that all men are created equal and that we have a right to be able to choose our profession, the fabric of our lives, our religion, all ideas that embody democracy. The infant government would continue to experience lows and highs, numerous internal battles (ironing out the kinks) for years to come, and several more wars to live through to obtain the true freedom and working democratic society, the model of the world over that it is today. And still the battle goes on with global issues in which modern patriots who will ever strive to emulate our society in lands far from here. It is our duty, our destiny, the price we pay for the freedom so hard won long ago, to spread the idea so that others can say ‘We the people’."