You are currently viewing archive for August 2006
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In today's Opinion Journal lead editorial, "Back to the Congressional Future: Let's think about how the Democrats would govern," the WSJ braintrust argues that the prospect of losing the House of Representatives to the Democrats augurs a return to the old "tax and spend" days.

Consider this excerpt:

"If you think Republicans have been spendthrift, don't expect much change from Wisconsin's David Obey (class of 1969) at Appropriations. Mr. Obey was one of those Democrats who ripped Mr. Clinton for endorsing a balanced budget in 1995. Rather than cut spending, his goal would be to spend less on defense and more on domestic programs and entitlements."

In reality, a change in majority would not mean a drastic change in policy. The Democrats might want to spend big and raise taxes, but that would never fly. Because the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate would have different spending priorities, the most likely result would be deadlock. Which would be GREAT! The GOP would lose their unlimited credit card. I am convinced that the Republicans are incapable of disciplining themselves; therefore, some tough love from the American people might be a blessing.

The Journal tacks on this disclaimer at the end of the piece:

"The House is only one half of Capitol Hill, and Republicans stand a better chance of holding the Senate, albeit with some losses there too. Mr. Bush will also retain his veto power, and he would finally have to use it. So the amount of liberal legislation that actually became law might not be all that extensive. But the national debate would nonetheless shift notably left. Voters looking to send a message to Republicans this fall may be surprised at their return mail from Washington."

But it is too little too late. Shame on the Journal.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The sad decline of the once proud New York Times continues. From the corrections:

An article on Sunday about New Yorkers who are being discussed as possible presidential candidates in 2008 misidentified the last New Yorker to be nominated for a major party’s national ticket. It was Jack Kemp, a former congressman from the Buffalo area who was the Republican vice presidential candidate in 1996 — not Geraldine Ferraro, a former Democratic congresswoman from Queens, who was the vice presidential candidate in 1984. (Go to Article)

To read all the corrections; Here Hat tip Powerline.

I have trouble believing that a major paper that takes politics seriously could make an error such as this. Even if the reporter was 28 years old and received a bad education (no matter the prestige of the degree), surely the reporter could have taken a few minutes research time. And, do the editors only proofread? The current ownership of the NYT has been a disaster for the "Paper of Record."
Islamist bombing campaign in Thailand. Here. We as Westerners are too self-centered if we think that Islam is attacking only the West: ask India or Thailand. I am sure that it is the Thai Middle-Eastern policy provoking these killings.

Remember, "Peace" as in "Religion of Peace" means submission to Allah; in their view the world will be at peace when all have submitted, whether they want to or not.
Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld was in the news again on Wednesday. From the Washington Post: "Rumsfeld Assails Critics of War Policy;" from the DOD (Armed Forces Press Coverage): "Rumsfeld: Truth Powerful Weapon in War on Terror." Read the TRANSCRIPT (here) of his speech to the American Legion in Salt Lake City, UT.

Rumsfeld is always worth reading; he is a disciplined and logical rhetorician, who regularly gives voice to what the administration is thinking.

Comparing our current political division over the "War on Terror" to the "cynicism and moral confusion" and "appeasement" that encouraged the rise of fascism and Nazism during the 1930s, Rumsfeld called on Americans to learn the lessons of history and "face the central questions of our time:

With the growing lethality and availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow vicious extremists can be appeased?

Can we really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists?

Can we truly afford the luxury of pretending that the threats today are simply “law enforcement” problems, rather than fundamentally different threats, requiring fundamentally different approaches?

And can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America -- not the enemy -- is the real source of the world’s trouble?"

An aside: I like Rummy and tend to support him. But I fault him for the myriad poor choices and miscalculations in our current war in Iraq. He is the person in penultimate authority. From a corporate perspective, If we viewed DOD as a division in the larger Executive, based on overall performance and net results, Rumsfeld would have lost his job years ago. Having said that, Rumsfeld is a courageous and serious person, who embodies the best of the public service tradition.

"Fascism" and "Appeasement." Apparently, the White House is fully committed to employing the ghosts of the 1930s. I have a few questions about the analogy, as I do all historical analogies (some earlier indirect skepticism on my part here).

Notwithstanding, I welcome any serious conversation regarding the threat we face, and I appreciate another effort to take this debate to the public. However, extended discussions of 1938, as well as 1945, provide some insight at times, but most often cloud the reality that we are laboring under a completely different set of circumstances and assumptions today.

The world has changed:

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Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
I haven't commented yet on this article in which the Vatican's chief exorcist is reported to have stated that Hitler and Stalin were possessed by the devil (or a demon).

At one point in college, when I thought I knew a lot more than I think I do now, I had decided that angels and demons were superfluous to explain the universe, probably mythic explanations for things such as self-destructive human sinfulness, and the ability of a transcendent God to interact with the universe. Two things changed my mind: first, probably from my background in science, I remembered that we can determine what exists in the universe only by experience and observation, not by a priori decision; second, a passage in the theologian John Macquarrie (no conservative) to the effect that it is rather egotistical of humans to suppose themselves alone with God in the material universe. As C.S. Lewis observed, belief in devils is not required of Christians--it's not in the Creed--but it is the plain reading of Scripture, the belief of the Church through the ages, and indeed the belief of most people of most cultures of human history.

For a time, in college again, I resumed belief in demons (and angels) but refused to believe in demon possession. To me it seemed that human perversity and sinfulness could explain all that needed to be explained regarding sin and sinful behavior. But, alas for my hypothesis, the same reasoning given above that moved me back to belief in demons also applied to demon possession--it is the plain reading of Scripture, the Church through the ages has believed in possession, and indeed most human cultures have beliefs in similar things. And, reality is not known a priori, but by observing what is. Also, though I won't discuss it now, I've observed more. (more below)

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A Waco Farmer and Tocqueville have been going at it hammer-and-tongs over the issue of same-sex marriage: in part their disagreement involves the issue of the proper relationship between religion and public policy. Read here. In an attempt to be helpful ( or perhaps to commit an act of hubris), and to help me clarify my own thoughts, I am attempting to suggest some points I think are valid regarding the use of religious rhetoric and reasoning in the public square. Since the topic is huge, I am breaking it down into various angles of approach. My first posting looked at the issue historically. Read here.

This post looks at the issue from the angle of philosophy and oberservation. (Read below)

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Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Mass. Gov.Mitt Romney (R), speaking in Iowa, touted the necessity for all immigrants to learn English. He held up as a positive example the experiment in Massachusetts to move away from a bilingual track to an "English immerson" approach in which English only is the language of instruction, citing improved test scores. From Des Moines Register newspaper. Read article. I think that the 08 presidential election will have immigration, assimilation, and the future of American culture as centerpiece issues, along with terrorism. Romney seems to be staking out his ground.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) is now on his annual walking tour of Iowa. Though he will not announce himself officially, he acts like someone who wants the Democratic presidential nomination in 08. From the Des Moines Register. Read the article. I think that to have any chance at all, he must win the Iowa caucuses. On this year's walk he is meeting with Democrat policital activists, a necessity for the caucuses. A problem for him in the Dem primaries: he is centrist, more interested in governing for the well-being of the citizenry of Iowa (as he understands it), than in national political headlines or radical rhetoric. For some Iowans, his annual walks are their biggest reminder who is in the governor's office. However, if he can win the Dem nomination, his weakness in the Dem primaries would be his strength in the general election.
From the Dallas Morning News newspaper, link from Religion Headlines, an article on the slow-moving schism in the Episcopal Church. The largest Episcopal parish in Texas with 2200 worshippers each weekend (huge by Episcopal standards) already is leaving the denomination, though remaining within the world-wide Anglican communion. Seven diocese are evaluating their position within the Episcopal denomination. Biggest issue: same-sex unions and gay bishops. Interestingly, the only picture accompanying this article is of a minority member of the Dallas Diocese, a member in favor of same-sex union. Read article.

The seven Diocese are: Dallas; Central Florida; Fort Worth, Tx; Fresno, Cal.; Pittsburgh; Springfield, Ill., and South Carolina. (For you Baptists)--A diocese is the area under the authority of one bishop. A parish is a "church." The Episcopalians have produced far and away more presidents of the United States than mere size would indicate. This fact reflects the elite status of many Episcopalians.
Should U.S. public policy reflect viewpoints arrived at because of religious beliefs? In a previous post I argued that from an engagement with Scripture, Christians should reject same-sex practice, while welcoming into our congregations those who struggled with same-sex desires. Here. A Waco Farmer then commented "On the other hand, and although I don't think this is your point in this particular post--but it is relevant to past discussions, this excellent essay in no way changes my view that our scripturally based morality in re same-sex relationships should not dictate public policy. For example: of the Ten Commandments, only three are regularly codified as public policy. Same goes for the instructions of Christ: the word of God doesn't always translate into human law. I maintain, and I think you agree, questions of public policy require an almost completely different set of assumptions and perspectives." His comment brought a response from Tocqueville. (see post below)

I now begin an answer to Farmer; since the issue is so large and complex I will give a short answer, then over the course of several posts with give-and-take, give my longer answer. Short answer: sort of. (cont. below)

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Last week, the Okie Gardener posted a detailed and thoughtful essay exploring the issue of the Church, biblical authority and same-sex marriage, "Same-Sex Practice and American Christianity." Based on his "engagement with Scripture," the Gardener argued that the Church should welcome and minister to same-sex-oriented individuals as part of the fraternity of fallen humanity--but not condone same-sex sex (and certainly not extend the sacrament of marriage to same-sex partners).

In the comments section, I agreed but added that his "excellent essay in no way change[d] my view that our scripturally based morality in re same-sex relationships should not dictate public policy.

"For example: of the Ten Commandments, only three are regularly codified as public policy. Same goes for the instructions of Christ: the word of God doesn't always translate into human law.

"I maintain, and I think you [Okie Gardener] agree, questions of public policy require an almost completely different set of assumptions and perspectives."

To which, "Tocqueville" replied:

"Farmer, your post sounds like classic Orwellian "double-think" to me.

"I firmly believe that X is true. Therefore, I am (naturally) in support of a law that rejects x, that is, a falsehood. And in supporting that law, I support radically upsetting the cake of tradition and human history. Which is to say that I don't really believe that society is "an eternal contract among the living, the dead, and the unborn." Screw the dead--they weren't nearly as sophisticated as we are. Why should we continue their benighted view of marriage? Oh, and screw the unborn for that matter, who will have to grow up (and suffer) in this permissive culture that promotes, endorses a false reality of human flourishing (which, by the way, I firmly believe is false).

"Either homosexuality is antithetical to human flourishing or it is not. If it is, as you say, then stamping it with the ancient and holy imprimatur of marriage only contributes to the further unraveling of the social and moral fabric.

"Even the most ardent champion of pluralism need not countenance or endorse an acknowledged falsehood that is admittedly "not God's plan" for human happiness. I for one cannot imagine standing behind a holy and righteous God on the day of judgment to account my willful and deliberate complicity and moral confusion manifest by the promotion and endorsement of giving legal sanction to an abomination. If the falsehood prevails, so be it. But it should do so without our assistance and endorsement.

"This is not even a question of where the radical change has already taken place and we simply throw our hands up because what's done is done. This is a case where you are preemptively and proactively attempting to turn the status quo upside down on its head by abandoning tradition and the wisdom of the ancients."

End Quote.

"Tocqueville" crafts a cogent and articulate critique of my position and an eloquent restatement of his argument--and worthy of a more prominent place. Also, I think it highlights our basic disagreement.

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Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
For several years now the Democratic Party has counted on gaining almost the entire black vote. And, Democrats have used black churches as focal points for campaigning. Now more signs are appearing that Dems may no longer be able to take the black vote for granted and assume that black pastors and churches will support Dem candidates. Read this article concerning the governor's race in Ohio.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In a recent post, "Feminists Awake," the Okie Gardener asserted that American feminism, as of late, has maintained a "disturbing silence...over the Islamic discrimination against women." He further averred that the "silence" might be a symptom of, what he called (I am assuming tongue-in-cheek here): "BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome: an almost irrational hatred of GW Bush leading to a lack of critical thought)." Allowing that there were exceptions, the Gardener directed us to an essay by one of those "critical" voices, Pamela Bone, a "feminist...awake and alert and calling on [her] sisters to confront the danger radical Islam poses to women's rights."

In the comments section, Bosque Boys favorite, Gossenius, took issue with Gardener's assertion, declaring him wrong on the facts. Moreover, Gossenius wrote:

"It's one of Rush Limbaugh's (and Louis Farrakhan's) favorite tactics, too-- identify a despised group, make up a negative fact about them (even if it is in an area you don't know about, such as what American feminist literature is addressing), then use this made-up fact to substantiate your attack on that group. It's pretty lame as a tactic. "

Manufacturing a false claim in order to cast some "despised group" in an unflattering light would be reprehensible, indeed. And, as Gossenius observes, it would be "pretty lame." For making up facts, especially in this context, would be easily exposed and humiliating to the prevaricator. In this case, Gardener asserts a "disturbing silence;" if he is wrong, and if there are numerous examples of the "Women's Movement" taking the Islamic world to task for abuse of women, then Gossenius has only to point to a few examples of condemnation within the vast body of feminist literature.

Furthermore, it is only fair to note that the Gardener never claimed specific knowledge of feminist journals. I inferred from his post that he was speaking of popular feminist organizations and public pronouncements.

One place to start might be the National Organization of Women website. A quick glance at the NOW site reveals prominent articles concerning presidential candidates in 2008, anti-Estate Tax strategy, essays on emergency contraception and Plan B, support for Ned Lamont, "the Truth about George" (Bush), and two international posts: 1) ways to work for "peace" in the Middle East and 2) a UN report on Human Rights violations against women (dramatic pause here) in the United States. A lot of information both entertaining and enlightening--but nothing on the plight of women in Islamist culture.

Another rhetorical tactic is negative projection; that is, associate your opponent with some known scoundrel. This stratagem is equally calculated--but less lame. For it is much more difficult to prove that one is not in league, somehow, with the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Louis Farrakhan.

Thanks for the post, Gardener. I think it is a fair question: why does it seem like we hear very little from feminists in the public square bemoaning the condition of their Islamic sisters? If you are right, and part of the reason lies in political fidelity and expediency, the feminists certainly are not alone in opting for party over principle.

(For example: We have asked this question previously: where are the fiscally conservative Republicans in the wake of the free-spending George Bush? Or, why were the paleo-conservatives and realists so late in finding their voice in relation to the President's neo-Wilsonian idealism?)

Perhaps, the women's movement in our country shares the American penchant for provincialism. Or, perhaps, the answer is as old as Martin Van Buren's pragmatic party culture in which a far-off culturally relative issue pales in comparison to a whole set of national policy objectives that are possible through party unity, discipline and fidelity.

And, last but not least, thanks to Gossenius for keeping us honest.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Since many of us are both political junkies and avid readers, don't miss this list of the top five political novels appearing in today's Wall Street Journal. Read here.
From the Kansas City Star newpaper, link courtesy of Religion Headlines: "A religious cult leader convicted of killing a family of five from Independence in 1989 will be executed Oct. 10, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Jeffrey Lundgren, 56, was convicted of shooting to death a man, his wife and three daughters. The family had moved from Missouri in 1987 to follow Lundgren’s teachings. He referred to the killings as “pruning the vineyard.”

The case riveted the Kansas City area for months, and memories remain strong with many people today.

Lundgren formed a religious cult after he was dismissed in 1987 as a lay minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, today known as the Community of Christ." Read entire article.

More below.

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Bill McClay's absolutely brilliant recent essay for First Things is a must read (linked here).

McClay deals a powerful blow to the facile convention of portraying our current philosophical and political division over life issues as a contest between "right to life" partisans and "culture of death" proponents.

McClay's position: advocates of "[a]bortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide [and] the cannibalization of not reflect a desire to promote death...." Specifically, "biotechnological enthusiasts are nothing if not partisans of life, infinitely extensible." The real danger, McClay argues, is that they reflect the common "overwhelming desire of the sovereign individual will to have its way, and to order and manufacture a world it can live in without let or hindrance;" this is "the value that trumps all others." These advocates don't value or promote death; they "trivialize death...because [they reflect a culture that] fails to understand what life is."

McClay also offers an incredibly articulate and concise rationale for valuing the natural and "organic interdependency" of humanity over the culture of individual rights. Consider this sample: "An ailing elderly parent has the right not to be killed, but he does not have the right to be loved. Yet it is one of the central tasks of our humanity that we care lovingly for him and not merely be instructed by the law that we must resist killing him." McClay asserts that "rights-talk" clouds the issue of responsibility.

McClay does not cite the Sermon on the Mount, but, in essence, seeks to release us from the law of entitlement at the same time preaching a much more binding and encompassing Higher Law of duty, interconnectedness and overarching reciprocity.

If you can only read one thing today, I implore you to read this essay in its entirety.

(Thanks to "Tocqueville" for making sure this essay did not slip by me.)
Legendary jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson died yesterday. I was privilaged to hear him in person twice with his band. What a talent, what a showman. And a class act. The first time I heard him some friends and I (I think we were still in high school) drove down to the Kansas City area to a concert at a college. We arrived early and were wandering around campus before the show. From across the way we hear the unmistakable sound of Maynard, warming up by playing scales. We followed the notes in the air and found our way to a dressing room in the back of the auditorium. We stood gawking at the open door until one of us found his voice and said "Uh, Mr. Ferguson?", then we asked him for his autograph. He asked how many of us there were, saying he did not have much time to get ready for the show. When told there were only three of us, he most graciously signed an autograph on an album. Nice guy. Most high school and college trumpet players I knew back in the day wanted to play like Maynard: high and bold.

A tribute on Power line is here.
There has been a disturbing silence from the Women's Movement over the Islamic discrimination against women, including atrocities such as honor killings. Part of the reason for the silence may be BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome: an almost irrational hatred of GW Bush leading to a lack of critical thought). Another part may be the sickness of postmodern thought, rendering people incapable of affirming universal values.

Some feminists, though, are awake and alert and calling on their sisters to confront the danger radical Islam poses to women's rights. Read this essay from an Australian feminist. Hat tip Instapundit.
Some Thoughts on Same-Sex Practice from Scripture

One of the issues roiling mainline Christianity in the United States is same-sex practice: should it be condemned, tolerated, celebrated? Should those who participate in such practice be disciplined, tolerated, ordained to leadership office? Even my own denomination, the Reformed Church in America (RCA), after disciplining a prominent minister and seminary president for performing a same-sex “wedding” ceremony, voted to conduct a three-year study of the issue.

I wish to offer a few thoughts on same-sex practice from my engagement with Scripture. Traditionally the Bible has been regarded as authoritative by Christianity; even today most mainline denominations have some sort of statement recognizing Biblical authority. So, some thoughts on same-sex practice. (I am refraining from using the terms “homosexual” and “lesbian” because the Bible does not operate from modern psychological assumptions; rather than speaking of homosexuality, it speaks of same-sex sex.) All biblical quotations are from the NRSV translation.

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Pessimism concerning our woeful predicament in Iraq and Iran and the greater Middle East permeates all points on the political compass. I confess that even my prodigious evangelical optimism is waning a bit in favor of a more traditional conservative and Calvinistic realism.

In that vein, I ask you to consider these private thoughts of Abraham Lincoln. In this untitled reflection, penned in September 1862, which has come to be known as the "Meditation on the Divine Will," Lincoln struggled to discern God's role in the Civil War. Lincoln served during a period in which Protestant Evangelicals, making up America's "most powerful political subculture," believed that a reign of Heaven on Earth could be achieved through human initiative. On both sides of the sectional conflict, great men of God reassured their national congregations that they were blessed uniquely with God's favor and doing the Lord's work. Lincoln took a slightly different perspective, envisioning a sovereign God in complete control and using human agency to achieve His own purposes. Lincoln, unlike so many of his contemporaries, saw the ways of God as mysterious and often beyond human understanding.


"The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true -- that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds."
The presbyterian Kirk of the Hills in Tulsa, probably the largest Presbyterian church here in Oklahoma, is leaving the mainline Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., continuing the decline of that once grand denomination. The Kirk of the Hills website is here. On their website is posted this notice:


Yesterday the elders and the trustees of Kirk of the Hills voted to disaffiliate from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denomination in response to decisions made by the PCUSA at the national level which depart from the authority of the Bible and the denomination’s historical beliefs.

Rev. Tom Gray and Rev. Wayne Hardy have resigned from the PCUSA, and have been hired by the Kirk of the Hills Corporation as co-pastors of the church. Rev. Gray said, “I ask that Christians in Tulsa and around America pray not only for Kirk of the Hills, but also for the Presbyterian denomination as a whole. We will continue to love and pray for our brothers and sisters in that denomination, and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ to use these recent events for His will, and to accomplish His work.”

With this disaffiliation from PCUSA, the Kirk of the Hills will affiliate with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (E.P.C.). This change will not impact day to day operations and ongoing ministries of the Kirk.

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Earlier this week, in honor of the French about-face in relation to UN Resolution 1701, we tried to laugh through the pain. Now, for your further amusement, the Italians have come forward to fill the leadership void left by the French, although they seem to be getting cold feet as well.

Of course, who could blame them? The situation is awful. Whether 1701 was merely a delusion on the part of well-intentioned Westerners--or something worse, it is now clear that the cease-fire is, as the name implies, merely a strategic cessation of hostilities as the belligerents regroup and prepare for the next battle.

As the European diplomats shuffle back and forth between Middle East strongmen, holding back their force commitments until they receive assurances that they will not get caught in the middle of the next round of fighting, 1701 grows steadily more stale. The farce is reinforced by Hezbollah's tolerance of the Lebanese Army's presence in Hezbollah-controlled territory, as long as they don't do anything unacceptable: like enforce 1701.

To state the obvious: 1701 is DOA. Of course, this all brings up the question: what happens when the USA goes home for good? If we are headed for failure in Iraq, and if that means we will have to give up on our vision for Pax Americana, what becomes of Europe?

Are they capable of running their own affairs? Are they capable of maintaining popular government? These are all fair questions. Does anyone remember what Europe looked like before they had the United States to blame and, more importantly, to do their thinking for them.

Today we are fed the image of serene and cultured Europe as the bastion of peaceful and wise people, trying in vain to temper the barbarity and wantonness of the American cowboys. A few years ago I read a sports story in a major US newspaper, which pitted the "perennial football powerhouse Northwestern against the perpetually downtrodden Texas Longhorns;" it was a line only a fifteen-year-old could have composed. For those of us with a grasp of pre-1945 world history, the peacenik portrayal of Europe is equally surreal.

Once we are gone, do the Europeans go back to mass carnage every generation? Or is this new personality of paralysis in the face of lethal threats here to stay?
Mitt Romney, who probably wants to be the Republican presidential candidate, would be the first major party Mormon candidate if he gets the nomination. I've discussed his candidacy here and here. He has some hurdles to face. Some polls have shown a sizable minority of Americans say that they would not vote for a Mormon; Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals label Mormonism a "cult." This includes the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.

An article this week in the Salt Lake City Tribune raises the question as to whether Mitt Romney's ancestry would hurt him in a national election--he has ancestors who were polygamous, including a great-grandfather who moved to Mexico in 1885 to continue his polygamy. The article concludes that the actions of Romney's ancestors will not hurt him in today's politics. An answer I agree with. And, while many conservative Christian voters will be uncomfortable voting for a Mormon, I cannot see large numbers of southern fundamentalists and evangelicals voting Democrat in 08. Romney may have some anti-Mormon problems in primaries, but probably none in the general election.

Nothing like a brisk walk in the snow after dark on a windy zero-degree night to make the return to your home seem like an escape into a heaven of warmth and light. We often do not appreciate something until we experience its opposite. In that vein, I invite you to visit this online Museum of Communism here. The Red, White, and Blue will look better after such a visit.

Since it is now 15 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, those among us who are under 30 have no good adult memories of Soviet Communism or its horrors. This museum can help.
A few more words of analysis in re my previous post on the Cost of Free Speech.

Ranking the transgressions in discourse:

1. Absolute Worst: Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade. Mel Gibson has the right to assert "Jewish conspiracy" (j'accuse), but he seems at least a century removed and an ocean away from a culture receptive to that line of argument. In fact, his accusations are so apart from any contemporary conversation, he, as I argued previously, faces less severe consequences than George Allen and Andy Young (the other two examples I explored).

2. Pretty Bad: George Allen's verbal engagement with S.R. Sidarth, a twenty-year-old volunteer for Allen's opponent for governor, was not so damning in content. Allen could have called Sidarth "lacaca" or "pacaca" or "zacaca," and the actual meaning (or meaninglessness) of the phrase would have been the same.

The incident itself was much more telling. Allen allowed himself to be drawn into an embarrassing exchange with an expendable representative (a pawn) of the opposition. In distance races, sometimes an opposing team will send out a "rabbit," which is a runner who has no chance of winning the race but who sets a blistering pace in hopes that the other team will run with the decoy and burn themselves out. Senator Allen chased the rabbit. Even if he had made Sidarth look foolish, there was no advantage in it for him.

Is there a double-standard for Republican politicians? Of course. But that is beside the point. Do Republican candidates understand these unique rules of engagement crafted especially for them? They should, if they are going to win. George Allen showed us something: poor political judgment and a lack of discipline. And he is likely to do it again at a more critical moment. Remember the old courtship rule: if the person you are dating reveals who they are, believe them! Allen is out.

3. Also pretty bad: the "niggardly" incident Tocqueville introduced into the conversation (see comments). Again the content is not so damning (not damning at all), but the lack of awareness speaks volumes about one's social IQ. Also, in re my conjecture, it is extremely difficult to reconcile an intellect large enough to encompass such a vocabulary with the lack of foresight as to how the adjective "niggardly" would be received in certain circles.

If Pamela Anderson ever becomes the honorary president of PETA, let's refrain from calling her the "titular" leader of that organization.

4. Impolitic but more sad than outrageous: Young and his comments singling out Jews, Koreans and Arabs. As I said before, it will be very difficult to disprove Young's assertions historically. Of course, it is illuminating that Young chose not to stand and fight when caught and confronted with his violation of the new code of civility. He backed up immediately. Also, it seems noteworthy that this story, of the four mentioned, made, by far, the least-felt impact on society and the news cycle. Did Young's race inoculate him to a degree from a major cause celebre?
In an earlier post prompted by President Bush laying a wreath in Hungary at the monument to those heroes of 1956, I offered a few thoughts in regard to the 1956 uprising in Hungary against the Soviet forces and their Hungarian puppets. I now learn that the memory of this uprising lives on in the American Hungarian community. If you are near Cleveland, you may want to attend this service. From the website of the Hungarian Reformed Church.

OCTOBER 14, 2006
100th Anniversary Celebrations & Commemoration of 1956 Revolution's 50th Anniversary at the West Side Hungarian Reformed Church, Cleveland, Ohio, on October 14, 2006. Our plans include a thanksgiving bilingual worship service, a wreath-laying ceremony, a festive concert and a banquet. We will also publish an Anniversary booklet.

(Okie Gardener again) The Tree of Liberty has been watered by the blood of tyrants and by the blood of patriots over the years.

I don't recall it making much of a splash here in the US when a month ago a ranking Anglican bishop called environmentalism a moral issue, and pronounced holiday flying a sin. Read Article. But, his comments deserve wider attention, I think.

As a Christian I understand that I have a responsibility to consider the consequences of my actions. Prudence traditionally has been regarded as a Christian virtue. I must ask myself, is this action itself sinful, and, will this action have evil consequences. [For example, urinating on an empty sidewalk at midnight is probably not a sin, but, one consequence of that action may be to endanger the health of those who may walk barefoot, an evil, so I don't urinate on public sidewalks even if no one is around.] If I know that certain consequences of my action will be evil, then I must ask myself if I am under necessity to perfom the action (whether sinful in itself or not). [An example of necessary evil: giving vaccinations will result in harm to a very small fraction of those vaccinated, an evil, but not vaccinating will result in larger numbers suffering harm, a greater evil, so I continue my action of vaccination as a necessary evil.]

I am not sure that flying, in and of itself is a sin, and perhaps the bishop does not either since he seemed to specify holiday flying. However, I think he is correct in that I must ask myself what the consequences are of my flying. One of those consequences will be the addition of carbon molecules to the atmosphere, and consumption of petroleum fuel. I think both of those are evil. Result, as a Christian I probably should not fly unless I must. Driving an automobile probably has a similar logic.

Some related posts. Here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here
We are having an election today in Oklahoma. Brief Article. Among other things voters will choose between two candidates to determine the Democrat nominee for Lt. Governor this fall.

The ads these two men are running tell a lot about being Democrat in a Red State. Both candidates are running ads that do not mention the word "Democrat." Instead, we get soft ads touting deep roots in Oklahoma, strong faith, responsibility, and commitment to low taxes. Neither one is running ads that I have seen proclaiming himself the "true" Democrat in the race. Doing so might jeopardize chances of election in the fall. What future does the Democratic party have in the Heartland?
One of the key Senate races this fall is taking place in Missouri. See my earlier post. Republican incumbant Jim Talent is now stressing border security, including no amnesty for illegals and making the southern border actually secure. See article. Talent maintains that the few billions that actual border security would cost could be saved as we have fewer and fewer illegals using American hospital emergency rooms.

As politics, it will be interesting to see how illegal immigration works as a campaign issue this fall and in 08. As a national issue it seems to me that we must have actual border security for several reasons: first, in an age of Islamic terrorism we cannot have foks just walking into the USA; second, I think there is a rate of assimilation we can maintain and still keep what is good in US life, if we take in more immigrants than we can assimilate we are flushing ourselves down the crapper of history; third, we need to screen for criminals attempting to immigrate into the US, a large number of crimes are committed each year by illegals many of whom flee back into Mexico. I am pro-immigration and anti-illegal-immigration.
I fear the joke is really on us, but in celebration of France's role (c'est bizarre) in the Lebanon-Israel-Hezbollah debacle, I am issuing a call for your best gag at the expense of the French. Here are a few to get the ball rolling:

1. An apocryphal Patton quote: "I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me."

2. From Jay Leno (back in the day): "I don't know why people are surprised that France won't help us get Saddam out of Iraq. After all, France wouldn't help us get the Germans out of France!"

3. Q: What Does "Maginot Line" mean in French?
A: "Speed bump ahead"

The most thought-provoking essay I've read in a while, and I read a lot. Little is actually new, but brought together in a way to challenge the reader. From Mark Steyn. Read here. Link from the Rottweiler. A teaser:

"None of these pillars of what we used to regard as conventional society is quite as sturdy as it was, and most of them have collapsed. Many mainstream Protestant churches are, to one degree or another, post-Christian. If they no longer seem disposed to converting the unbelieving to Christ, they can at least convert them to the boggiest of soft-left political cliches. In this world, if Jesus were alive today he’d most likely be a gay Anglican vicar in a committed relationship driving around in an environmentally-friendly car with an “Arms Are For Hugging” sticker on the way to an interfaith dialogue with a Wiccan and a couple of Wahhabi imams.

Yet, if the purpose of the modern church is to be a cutting-edge political pacesetter, it’s Islam that’s doing the better job. It’s easy to look at gold-toothed Punjabi yobs in northern England or Algerian pseudo-rappers in French suburbs and think, oh well, their Muslim identity is clearly pretty residual. But that’s to apply westernized notions of piety. Today the mosque is a meetinghouse, and throughout the west what it meets to discuss is, even when not explicitly jihadist, always political. The mosque or madrassah is not the place to go for spiritual contemplation so much as political motivation. The Muslim identity of those French rioters or English jailbirds may seem spiritually vestigial but it’s politically potent. So, even as a political project, the mainstream Protestant churches are a bust. Pre-modern Islam beats post-modern Christianity."

A few observations on three recent episodes of offensive speech:

Mel Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic ravings from a few weeks ago belie his myriad denials of anti-Semitism over the years.

The cost: very little for Mel Gibson. He is not a studio contract player subject to powerful bosses. Mel Gibson is Louis B. Mayer. He is the boss. He is a power player in Hollywood; that is, he has demonstrated the ability to make pictures that make big money. Power in Hollywood is always popular. Even though Hollywood remains disproportionately Jewish demographically, the community has limited recourse in expressing its disapproval of Gibson.

A thought for another day: most Americans don't really understand anti-Semitism anymore. They are not merely decreasingly anti-Semitic, they are increasingly unaware of Judaism as a separate religious or ethnic category. Most Americans watched nine years of Seinfeld without recognizing it as "Jewish" comedy. Anti-Jewish sentiment is more and more something of a mystery to Middle America and, therefore, in this case, hard to digest and easy to forget.

George Allen and "Macaca" (Washington Post story).

I believe the Senator when he pleads ignorance as to the meaning of "macaca" (I did not know what it meant either), but such casualness in thinking and speaking is not a habit worthy of an American president. Michael Dukakis illustrated the "never wear an army hat and drive around in a tank" rule for presidential candidates. Perhaps Allen now owns the "think before you speak/never use a word in public that you cannot define" political commandment.

The cost: we now know that George Allen is a glib but excruciatingly imprecise speaker. One can presume that Americans have had their fill of that brand of leadership, and his 2008 presidential chances are greatly diminished.

Andrew Young and "Jews,...Koreans and...Arabs" (Washington Post story).

Of the three, this case strikes me as distinct and infinitely more tragic. First of all, if you back off from the generalization that poisons Young's statement, you can defend most of the independent assertions. Historically, businesses operating in African American communities have charged higher prices and higher rates of interest for inferior products. Historically, Jewish Americans at one time, then Asian Americans and now Arab Americans have figured in disproportionate numbers as inner city entrepreneurs. Are there complicated (and not always sinister) reasons for all of this? Of course. In addition to racism and greed, the cost of doing business is higher in depressed areas, which gets passed on to minority consumers. Since that particular slice of the commercial pie is not especially appealing, inner city businesses often attract ambitious people from oppressed classes looking for an on-ramp to the American Dream. Ironically, oppressed Americans find opportunity exploiting even more oppressed Americans.

Andy Young immediately apologized in a Mel Gibson-like fashion: denying that he had ever really entertained such thoughts and, presumably, would commence an inner search to uncover from what undisciplined area of his mind these unacceptable remarks might have emerged. He has promised a more thorough explanation this coming Monday.

The cost: Andy Young loses a cushy and lucrative corporate spokesman gig. In addition to the humiliation of a series of forced public apologies in his future, Young loses a bit of the luster off of an impressive career as civil rights leader and statesman.

The 74-year-old Young offered a serious assertion, which deserves serious consideration. Yet, in the current atmosphere in which blunt speech that causes offense loses all credibility no matter the content, Young will face a harsh punishment.
This article covers a "mutiny" by British airline passengers who refused to allow the plane to take-off until two suspicious passengers were not allowed to board. I think the American public is not too far away itself from demanding profiling of passengers. Really, who stands in line at the airport these days and does not eye their fellow passengers, giving some more attention than others? I do. Who stands in line at the airport these days and feels safer when the 70 year-old Midwestern grandmother is asked to step aside for a more intensive search. I don't. No one has a constitutional right to fly. If the IRA begins bombing American planes I'll understand if I am searched more thoroughly (I am not Irish but could pass if I don't open my mouth). And, I'll be angry at the IRA and ask what I can do to destroy them.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
This story makes the point that suicide is higher among old white males. This fact is fairly old news, but rarely makes headlines. Interesting to me is the juxtapositon of this article and the news of Bill Clinton turning 60. What connection do I see?

I predict the following: we will see an increase in suicides among the elderly as the Boomers move past 65. No generation in American History has been less inclined to age gracefully. Boomers from their youth have expected the world to cater to them. Boomers do not resign themselves to unalterable facts of nature. Boomers have made a cult out of youthfulness. When arthritis and osteoporosis and circulation problems and functional-problems-that-Viagra-can't-solve become Boomer reality, several will take the only step of control and protest remaining to them and commit suicide. I hope I am wrong, but that is my prediction.
The publishing house of the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently published a book that accuses the US government of bringing down the World Trade Center as a justification to create an American Empire. Not surprisingly, the book has angered many Presbyterians. Putting aside the question of the book's dubious thesis (actually wacko thesis), the decision to publish once more demonstrates that the bureaucratic elites at most mainline denominations remain clueless as to the reasons for the decline of these once great and powerful churches. Article from the Washington Times. Here is the hompage of the publisher which features an ad for the book, and favorable reviews prominently. (Also an explanation for why the book was published.) More information in this Christianity Today article.

Meanwhile, the former mainline churches continue their move to the sideline. See my earlier post.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
From Britain, the Anglican Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, writes a searing critique of British multiculturalism and the harm it has created over there. Most of what he has to say applies here as well. Hat tip Michael Barone.

A sample: "It is clear, therefore, that the multiculturalism beloved of our political and civic bureaucracies has not only failed to deliver peace, but is the partial cause of the present alienation of so many Muslim young people from the society in which they were born, where they have been educated and where they have lived most of their lives. The Cantle Report, in the wake of disturbances in Bradford, pointed out that housing and schools policies that favoured segregation, in the name of cultural integrity and cohesion, have had the unforeseen consequence of alienating the different religious, racial and cultural groups from one another."

Read article
From the New York Times editorial, "Ruling for the Law":

"...with a careful, thoroughly grounded opinion, one judge in Michigan [Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the United States District Court in Detroit] has done what 535 members of Congress have so abysmally failed to do. She has reasserted the rule of law over a lawless administration and shown why issues of this kind belong within the constitutional process created more than two centuries ago to handle them."

From the Washington POST editorial, "A Judicial Misfire":

"Unfortunately, the decision yesterday by a federal district court in Detroit, striking down the NSA's program, is neither careful nor scholarly, and it is hard-hitting only in the sense that a bludgeon is hard-hitting. The angry rhetoric of U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor will no doubt grab headlines. But as a piece of judicial work -- that is, as a guide to what the law requires and how it either restrains or permits the NSA's program -- her opinion will not be helpful."

"The judge may well be correct in her bottom line that the program exceeds presidential authority, even during wartime. We harbor grave doubt both that Congress authorized warrantless surveillance as part of the war and that Mr. Bush has the constitutional power to act outside of normal surveillance statutes that purport to be the exclusive legal authorities for domestic spying. But her opinion, which as the first court venture into this territory will garner much attention, is unhelpful either in evaluating or in ensuring the program's legality. Fortunately, as this case moves forward on appeal and as other cases progress in other courts, it won't be the last word."

From Wes Pruden and the Washington TIMES, "Zeal can be good, but it's dangerous":

"Before the Corporate Republicans in the government, whose instincts are to run the government as they would a large corporation where how secrecy is enforced is nobody else's business, ride off in three directions at once to denounce the ruling they should...[think of] Janet Reno, the attorney general under Bill Clinton, [who] rankled Republicans and other conservatives with imaginative assertions of dubious federal rights (think Waco, think Elian Gonzalez) to make the jobs of cops and government bureaucrats easier. Republicans, even Corporate Republicans, would rightly scream foul if a Democratic attorney general in the mold of Ramsey Clark or Janet Reno should assert the right to flout the requirement of obtaining a warrant because it was just too much trouble.

"It's not that the government has a shortage of lawyers, or a shortage of sympathetic judges. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act created a secret court where the government can apply for warrants. The court has turned down government requests only three times in 30 years, and in the present climate where nobody -- well, almost nobody -- discounts the lethal threat of Islamic fascism it's difficult to imagine the court making it difficult for the president's men to get a warrant to protect American lives. "It's not the most difficult statute to comply with," says Evan Caminker, dean of the University of Michigan Law School, "but they do have to have some reasonable belief that the person may commit a crime." No fishing without a license, you might say."

For reference: the Post news story; bg and commentary from Powerline; Judge Taylor bio; the opinion.

Other good editorials: Opinion Journal; NRO.

More to come...
Somebody remind the Chinese government that economic transformation is supposed to lead to political transformation. This article/editorial from the Washington Post reports on further crackdown on the media by the Chinese government. Garrett Epps, the writer, also surveys the current situation in China and why it's dangerous for us. Link from Instapundit.

As I've written before, I cannot accept the theory that economic liberalization will inevitably lead to political liberalization. China is a nation with thousands of years of central rule behind it and no indigenous tradition of limited government and citizen participation in government. Its current government/economic system may perhaps be described as mature fascism, a system that seems able to combine economic advancement and totalitarian government. I would love for time to prove me wrong.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Watching the C-SPAN call-in show last Friday, I was struck by the level of contempt for the Bush administration and government in general. One call from Texas typified the tone of many, insisting that the Bush and Blair governments, desperately in need of a PR victory, manufactured the terror plot and staged bogus arrests. However, if the plot turned out to be true, the Texas caller asserted, the United States merited punishment of this magnitude, at least, for past and continued misdeeds.

Here is a Brit blogger with a similar theme (sent to me by an earnest friend).

Conspiratorial thinking is not new for us. Political opponents of George Washington charged him with a secret plot to surrender the Republic back to Britain. GEORGE WASHINGTON! Some of our coutrymen still believe FDR complicit in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (in order to fulfill his desire for US entry into the world war). If the Republicans were out of power, and a Clinton were in the White House, our black-helicopter brigade would be on red alert about these same issues.

But still...

This persistent belief that our government is lying to us on this scale is an alarming cultural sign post. We have two unappealing possibilities. Dupes like us are fiddling while Rome burns. Or we are quickly approaching a crisis in which a critical mass of Americans no longer possess the requisite faith in government to make self rule practicable.
In earlier posts I have mentioned that Benedict XVI is taking a clear-eyed view of Islam, and that this honesty is being more and more seen in the hierarchy. here ( For all his greatness, John Paul II did not seem to "get" the threat from Islam.) Here is a simple and honest column from the Archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput: "In Christian-Muslim relations, peace not served by ignoring history
Healing of conflict requires honesty, repentance from both parties." Link from Jihadwatch.
From the New York Times (8-16-06):

"Hezbollah Leads Work to Rebuild, Gaining Stature"

"BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 15 — As stunned Lebanese returned Tuesday over broken roads to shattered apartments in the south, it increasingly seemed that the beneficiary of the destruction was most likely to be Hezbollah.

"A major reason — in addition to its hard-won reputation as the only Arab force that fought Israel to a standstill — is that it is already dominating the efforts to rebuild with a torrent of money from oil-rich Iran."

From the Washington Post (8-16-06):

"Hezbollah Balks At Withdrawal From the South:
Lebanese Officials Work on Compromise"

"BEIRUT, Aug. 15 -- Hezbollah refused to disarm and withdraw its fighters from the battle-scarred hills along the border with Israel on Tuesday, threatening to delay deployment of the Lebanese army and endangering a fragile cease-fire."
Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have been out of the loop for a few days, so this may be a bit stale--but here goes:

Ned Lamont may be the Lunatic Left's Dan Quayle. I was never convinced that Quayle was a fool, but he certainly played a convincing one on TV. The best you can say about George Herbert Walker Bush's hasty surprise choice for VP was that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Lamont may get better, but right now he is woefully ill-prepared for a marquee Senate race with national implications. He looks and sounds like a small-time cable operator trying desperately to bone up on serious issues of statecraft. The Radical Left tapped Lamont to overthrow Joe Lieberman because they desperately wanted to send a message. This race may prove that their desire for an available candidate outpaced their better judgment.

Time will tell.
Some thoughts on Okie Gardener's assertions in re Resolution 1701:

1. I agree that this is a win for Hezbollah and Iran and a loss for our team.

2. I agree that we will pay for this debacle in the future.

But, then again, what choice do we have?

1. We are up to our eyeballs with war in Iraq. I am not positive that the American people will see our commitment in Iraq to its promised conclusion, but I am sure that one more straw on the back of this camel will break us. As I have written before, we are over-extended militarily, precariously stretched financially and divided politically. We are one economic panic away from full retreat. We are in no position to threaten Hezbollah—much less Iran. The Mullahs understand this, the Europeans love it and the Arab League sees it.

2. As for Israel, we handed them a month to crush Hezbollah. That was about three weeks longer than I thought we could squeeze them, and enough time to win--if it was going to happen. They were unprepared to make the most of their opportunity. They lose. We lose. But throwing good money after bad never saved a losing hand. Get out and wait for the next deal.

3. This may be Munich (although that seems a forced analogy, especially since we are fighting an "asymmetrical "enemy, which explains Israel's current failure in Lebanon; the new threat is not like the pathetic Arab land armies of the 1960s & 1970s or the fierce fascist "wehrmacht" of the late-1930s). We have not figured out how to defeat the new threat. Until we do, we should be cautious and conservative in making literal war on these amorphous terrorist appendages, even when they are connected to hostile rogue states.

4. And if it is Munich, I speculate that an invasion of Poland will follow. If these guys really are as bad as we think they are, they will eventually overstep their bounds. Until then, a real war in the Middle East will not play in Peoria.
From the BBC with a link from Darfur Information Center. Aug 8. More aid workers in Darfur have been killed in the last two weeks than in the last two years. The suffering of the people of the Darfur region of the Sudan continues, violence committed by fellow Islamic Sudanese aided and abetted by the Sudanese government. This is Muslim on Muslim violence, Arab on black. To read the article click this link and scroll down to Violence threatens Darfur relief.
Read article.

16/08: What He Said

In an earlier post I questioned the wisdom of the UN cease-fire deal in Lebanon. Historian Arthur Herman gives his analysis here. Link from Powerline. Feeling like 1938.
Will the Republicans or the Democrats control the House of Representatives following this fall's elections? Many seem to think that the race in the 1st Congressional District in Iowa will be a key contest. For a Foxnews story see here. For a Des Moines Register story see here. Map of the Iowa 1st Congressional District here. Braley (Dem candidate) campaign web site here. Whalen (Rep candidate) campaign website here.

Interesting tidbits about the campaign: Whalen, a business owner, has a picture of Ronald Reagan along with a Reagan quote on the frontpage of his website. Braley, a lawyer, on the frontpage of his website asserts that a lot in Washington needs fixed, and he has language links for Spanish and Bosnian.
After any terrorist strike or plot, once more the "Muslim community" goes before the cameras, proclaiming themselves innocent victims of bigotry. yada, yada, yada link

Here's a suggestion to the "Muslim community" in the West. If you really want to convince us you are with the good guys: 1) denounce terrorists with no equivocation, publicly, no buts, no attempts to explain or rationalize, do it in English and in Arabic, buy media time in the old countries denouncing terrorism; 2) don't whine about profiling, instead show your anger at those in your midst who conduct terror in the name of Allah, quit acting like you are always the victims; 3) drive terror supporters from your community, publicly, expell them from mosques, ostracize them, purge them from community organizations; 4) publicly confront those passages from the Quran and Haddith calling for war against unbelievers and explain to the world how you interpret them, same with passages about the dhimmi status of Jews and Christians; 5) have patriotic rallies with American flags, endorse freedom of religion, burn some posters of Osama and company.
Please consider these musings from a few summers ago, which I composed around the release time of President Bill Clinton's memoir, My LIfe, and in response to a review by David Maraniss:

A lot of post-sixties hip guys and gals found great wisdom and joy in the work of Billy Joel during the 1970s. There was always the notion that Joel was one of the great philosopher-song writers, who offered deeper and more nuanced understandings of culture than your run of the mill pop-singer (and I think that latter clause is undoubtedly correct). He resonated with a certain segment of the young upwardly mobile intelligentsia in America. I do not know if President Clinton was a Billy Joel fan, but I think certainly he was exposed to his music, and "My Life" was a huge hit in 1978.

I am not one who buys into the Clinton mythology of his unparalleled intellect and his reputation as a deep thinker or master strategist, but I do think of him as an intelligent, incredibly talented and charismatic guy; he also has a keen ability to blend classic culture with pop culture (for example: he is reputedly an expert crossword-puzzler). I think "My Life," as the title for the memoir, was not chosen without some consideration of "My Life," the Billy Joel single.

If so, some ironies:

"I never said you had to offer me a second chance
(I never said you had to)
I never said I was a victim of circumstance
(I never said)"

Irony I: that is exactly what the former president says and wants.

"I don't need you to worry for me cause I'm alright
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, and leave me alone"

Irony II: The sentiment of "this is my life" (and you have no right to judge me by your standards) is what I think appealed most to the former president (either consciously or sub-consciously). This is/was the Clinton defense to so many questions of character and propriety. However, the irony is that the former president is completely captive to his public perception. He does care deeply what we think of him. His worst punishment would be if we did actually "leave him alone." He must have attention and adoration to function. Those are his addictions, and they do drive his great successes as well as his great failures.

There is more here (especially the role of contradictions)--but you get the point.

Is the Clinton memoir just another installment in the "permanent campaign"? David Maraniss speaks to this, noting "that a memoir is by its very nature manipulative." However, he seems to take the work at face value from that point on. Stan Campbell (quoting Fletcher Green) used to tell us to ask this question: "Why is this SOB lying to me?" If you ask that with the former president--you have myriad motivations as well as a pattern of dissembling and disingenuousness. Old joke: "How can you tell when Bill Clinton is lying? His lips are moving." President Clinton has no reason to be perfectly honest--and a whole host of reasons to continue to argue his case (and his wife's) before the bar of public opinion. This is not history--it is contemporary politics.

Having said that, the former president is often so transparent that his lies tell great truths.

I think the statement "because I could," in response to the question of "why Monica?" is a telling one. He subsequently attempted to explain that answer by saying that he meant "he could" with Monica because the dastardly Republicans had shut down the government, and only volunteers were allowed to work at the White House, and there were not many people around, and he was really stressed-out about saving the American people from the evil designs of Newt Gingrich and the cabal to turn back the clock on compassionate governance. He actually said on Oprah: "I won the fight for you [looking out at the audience] the American people, but I lost the fight against my old personal demons." (Applause) That was silly (and it reminded me of the old Tammy Faye Bakker song, sung to the tune of "Harper Valley PTA," that explained the fall of the Bakkers as a result of a Jimmy Swaggart-Jerry Falwell conspiracy). Oh yeah, did I mention Ken Starr yet?

Okay, but the point on "because I could" is this: Monica did, in fact, happen because he could. But I think it went like this: Monica was not very attractive, not very smart and not very well-connected, which made her perfect. She was perfect because she was "there" (available), and she was perfect because she was expendable. She could be manipulated easily and exploited without risk. Ironically, she found a series of advocates (albeit without her interests at heart) who demanded that President Clinton answer for the relationship, but that was not his original calculation. And there is some evidence that indicates this was a pattern of behavior for Clinton; therefore, if true, he had every reason to believe that there would be no grave political consequences to this dalliance. The "because I could" reveals his deepest character flaw--not that he was an adulterer--but that he was so willing to take advantage of this "lesser" person to gratify personal psychological and physical needs. I think the answer ("because I could") demonstrates the self-centeredness of his life and presidency.

for lyrics to MY LIFE, by Billy Joel:

» Read More

The Iowa State Fair: carnival rides, livestock shows, grandstand entertainment, corn dogs, and presidential candidates. This and other articles from the Des Moines Register. link here
Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
About four years ago I became aware of research being done in France on the possibility of cars that run on compressed air. What a simple, elegant solution. Commuter cars do not travel that many miles, and could easily make the commute between refills of air. While an energy input is needed to recharge the air cylinder, it is easier to clean the stacks of an electric power plant than to clean the exhaust of the tens-of-thousands of cars that clog the cities during commuter rush hours. Will it work? I do not know, but the idea should be getting research money.

Here is a link to a site promoting the compressed air auto. Below is a skeptical article from 2000 from the New York Times.

» Read More

Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
Yesterday evening we had a light shower of rain (.15", not enough to matter a lot with our year-and-a-half droughth, but we are thankful for what we receive). This morning early the dogs and I walked along the edge of the creek below our house, along the moist dirt exposed by the low water levels. Minnows splashed along the water surface, a squirrel chattered on the other side, otherwise it was quiet. Too quiet.

I grew up on a farm in northern Missouri, quite a ways out in the sticks. One of the dominent summer sounds of my childhood was the frogs: in the night you could tell where the ponds were for nearly a mile in any direction by listening to the croaking, bellowing, and trilling of frogs. The first night of spring that we left the windows open I usually had trouble sleeping because of the noise of frogs from nearby ponds. Any summer day I walked along the edge of a pond or creek, my steps were preceeded by the sound of the frogs ahead of me jumping into the water.

Now the waters are silent. Frogs are rare. Not just where I grew up, but about everywhere in the United States. Not just one species, but all species. What happened to the frogs? Some things have been written about their disappearance, but it seems to me that this disturbing fact has not entered the national consciousness. Perhaps we are too much an urban nation now to notice. Something is going on in creation and we need to take notice. We need to be asking if it is our behavior, our pollution, that has caused this die-off? As a Christian I believe that we humans are to be stewards of creation who will give an account of our stewardship to God. Will God asked us, what happened to my frogs?
One of Niebuhr's key insights in Christian Realism, is that organizations or structures lack the ability to transcend themselves and so are incapable of repentence. Individuals may repent, but not corporations. Human structures (private businesses or governments) only change behavior when forced to do so. In part this is because the imperative of self-interest applies to organizations at least as much as to individuals. An office set up to monitor workplace safety will not declare the workplace safe and abolish itself: it will find new "threats" to justify funding and new hiring. Put another way, the individuals who make up that office will continue to justify their own pay and power and seek to expand both. This is why government programs never are abolished; the organization itself operates out of self-interest and is not suicidal. This principle also explains why the State Department always pushes for a diplomatic solution even when such a solution may be bad for our national interest. Diplomacy is what State does.

The recent episode of the disappering Egyptian "students" should cause us to ask if it is time to challenge higher education in the name of the common good. Schools and colleges will continue to act in self-interest; it is in their self-interest to have more students paying tuition, getting grants, etc. Foreign students help pay the bills and increase enrollment. We cannot expect institutions of higher education to transcend themselves, repent, and confess that they have wronged the country by pushing for more and more Middle Eastern students. We the people, through our government, must push to cut down on the numbers of students from predominently Islamic countries to a number we can keep good track of.

13/08: Be a Creature

Tonight after church I took my dogs down to the creek about 3/4 of a mile below our house. (Public land, part of a wetland reclamation project, though in August in SW Oklahoma not very wet). As we entered the oaks, cottonwoods, and elms along the creek we heard the sadly-sweet song of cicadas; the tops of the cottonwoods applauded the southerly breeze although it was still at ground level; and the drought had caused some of the trees to begin dropping leaves creating a fall-smelling path through the woods. About 40 yards into the woods a squirrel crossed the path about 30 feet up, heading south. About two hundred yards in an owl flew up from a tree and headed north toward the creek (kind of early for it, but the sun was nearly setting). A bit farther in my dogs scared up an armadillo on the north side of the trail, leaving him to return to me when I called them. The oak leaf litter showed the unmistakable pattern of armadillo browsing on both sides of the path. A ways on down the trail I saw a mother raccoon leading three teenage-scrawny juveniles toward the creek. We've been so hot and dry lately that I suppose she could not wait till dark to go for water. The creek would be dry, as most are near here, except that it is backed up by a lake a couple of miles downsteam. Still, the level drops every day and more and more sand and mud is exposed. The dogs, noses to the earth, had not seen the raccoons so I called them to me and scratched their ears till the coons were safely across. Then, banging my walking stick on a couple of trees to alert mama coon, we proceeded on. In another 70 yards or so the dogs scared up another armadillo which quickly burrowed itself under a dead log. The rest of the walk was uneventful, except for the flies and the heat and the smells of late-summer woods and stagnant water.

Our culture encourages us to travel on wheels. Ride ATV's four-wheeling through the mud and streams and rocks of creation; exhilarate ourselves with motion and noise and mastery of terrain, lords of nature before whom all must flee in terror. Why not instead, enter creation (I am weaning myself away from saying nature, which sounds too distant from God) as a fellow creature, on foot. Watching and smelling and listening to all around us. Maybe that will save us from the mistaken belief that armadillos are born dead beside the interstate. Maybe living as a creature, on foot, can help restore us in ways that the internal-combustion engine cannot.
From the UK Telegraph, an article by a Brit on what is good about America. Link here. Link from Wizbang.
"Some years ago William Tenn wrote a science-fiction short story entitled "The Custodian," in which a man, prior to the earth's destruction, gathered only what could fit into a small spaceship from all earth's cultural and artistic treasure. What to choose? Sometimes I have day-dreamed of myself in a similar role. What would I choose to save, what paintings, sculpture, poetry, music, etc. would I choose to represent each area of human artistry?"

Several months ago I wrote this paragraph at the beginning of a post in which I argued that to represent the essence of rock-and-roll I would flip a coin between the Rolling Stones Jumpin Jack Flash and (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. I then tried to explain the success of the Stones. Link to post here. Hoping to start a series of posts, I challenged Farmer to name the Country song to put into the spaceship. Link to his response. He chose George Jones' He Stopped Loving Her Today.

Well, one thing led to another and to another and none of them led back to this series of questions about material for the spaceship. Till tonight. Below is my choice of the jazz recording to put into the spaceship, the one to represent the essence of jazz. (cont. below)

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I cannot for the life of me see what Israel gets from the UN sponsored cease-fire. Hezbollah has demonstrated already their willingness to disregard UN mandates to disarm. Hezbolah has demonstrated already their contempt for UN observers on the Lebanese border. Why should we think that the results of the current UN deal will be any different than past attempts to stabilize the border? And, what of the fate of the captured Israeli soldiers? Plus, the biggie--Iran is not punished for sponsoring a war against a UN member. (see my earlier post on Iran in the region) I do not know why Israel is accepting this cease-fire, unless the US pressured them unmercifully.

For an even more pessimistic view see this article reporting thoughts by Walid Phares. (link from JIhadwatch).
In the current war we fight not an ethnic group, or a race, but those who are motivated by a set of beliefs. (Although there are ethnic correlations.) This article from The Sun presents the life of one of the suspects arrested in the recent plot to bomb airplanes. He was a convert to Islam from Methodism. "Don Stewart-Whyte, 21, changed his name to Abdul Waheed and grew a bushy beard, said his neighbours." Profiling is needed, but cannot be enough because of converts such as Stewart-White. Plus, profiling is passive defense. If we are not already monitoring mosques in the West, why not?

You've probably seen this scene in the movies: the hero(es) shoot/slice/smash the monster(s), but instead of a dead monster there now are two live ones attacking. The War against Radical Islam can feel like this. We kill the fighters, capture or kill some of the leaders, and the attacking swarm seems to grow. So, how do we win? Or, to put it more broadly, how do we respond to the threat?

One option is to pretend the monster does not exist. If we walk quietly, dismiss the testimony of those who claim to have seen the monster, and live an ordinary non-threatening-to-anything life, then all will be well. You know how that turns out in the moview: that guy gets eaten/killed/turned into a mutant. In real life it is difficult to imagine a different alternative. Western civilization is an affront to devout Muslims especially for being non-Muslim. Islam sees the world as the Realm of Submission (Islamic) and the Realm of War (everywhere else). Muslims are under religious compulsion to turn the entire world into the realm of submission to the glory of Allah (if Allah wills). Christians and Jews traditionally are allowed a place in the Realm of Submission as second-class citizens, as dhimmis, but are to be made to feel subjected. Pretending there is no threat will not make the threat go away.

Another option is to resist, but to dismiss the idea of winning and try for a draw. If we can just contain the monster in the swamp, then life can go on elsewhere. The broad historical context for the current war is the nearly 1400 year long war between Islam and everyone else. The Middle East was Christian until conquered, as was North Africa, and Asia Minor (where Turkey now is). Spain was conquered, but won back its freedom in the reconquista. Western Europe preserved its freedom with decisive victories in southern France and Austria, and hung on through long centuries of back and forth warfare in the Mediterranean especially Sicily and the Italian penninsula. Greece eventually was liberated. We could simply try for a draw, fighting to preserve what we have. But, in the movies the monster usually will not be content merely to stay in the swamp; and in real life Islamic ideology demands imperialism. (cont.)

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"Tocqueville" writes today:

"I'm still waiting for the first "victim" of the Patriot Act to show up. This editorial in the WSJ says it all:" 'Mass Murder' Foiled:
A terror plot is exposed by the policies many American liberals oppose.

Thanks, "Tocqueville."

I encourage you to read the relatively long editorial in its entirety, but here is a powerful excerpt:

"Meanwhile, British antiterrorism chief Peter Clarke said at a news conference that the plot was foiled because "a large number of people" had been under surveillance, with police monitoring "spending, travel and communications."

"Let's emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs."

Rhetorical Shift worth marking:

The Journal also notes that yesterday George Bush referred to these evil doers publicly as "Islamic fascists," which is a departure from his usual euphemistic discourse.

The language comes in the President's lead sentence: "The recent arrests that our fellow citizens are now learning about are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation."

Here is the President's brief statement in its entirety.

Racial Profiling

The Journal also asserts:

"Another issue that should be front and center again is ethnic profiling. We'd be shocked if such profiling wasn't a factor in the selection of surveillance targets that resulted in yesterday's arrests. Here in the U.S., the arrests should be a reminder of the dangers posed by a politically correct system of searching 80-year-old airplane passengers with the same vigor as screeners search young men of Muslim origin. There is no civil right to board an airplane without extra hassle, any more than drivers in high-risk demographics have a right to the same insurance rates as a soccer mom."

The above paragraph is a bit too cliche (with the "80-year-old grandma" and "soccer mom" conventions), but it is an issue that we must deal with immediately. More on why racial profiling makes sense to me in the days to come...
Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Christian America has tended to view its history through the prism of Providence and American Exceptionalism. In a nutshell, American Christians found their origin in the English Reformation, perceived the American continent as their promised land and believed in their destiny, as the instruments of God's design, to bring forth an earthly era of peace and harmony (for an excellent brief commentary on this millennial strain of thinking, see Okie Gardener's post: President Bush's Millennial Theology).

We also have a tendency to impose Christian order on our story. We teach American history in two installments. There is an Old Testament in which the Revolution is the crucial event, and George Washington is the Deliverer. And there is a New Testament in which the Civil War is the crucial event, and Abraham Lincoln is the Savior of the Union. The blood sacrifice of the Civil War serves as a national atonement for the original sin of slavery. In addition, we are released from the old Covenant and given a new set of commandments and a great commission: "the last best hope of mankind." Along the way we encounter prophets of conscience (think William Lloyd Garrison or Martin Luther King), who speak truth to power and importune us to live up to our American Creed. In all this, the hand of Providence is at work in the American story.

Sometimes history turns on a dime. During the administration of James Madison, the American experiment faced a crisis of its own making: a disastrous Second War for Independence against Great Britain. Decrying an ill-conceived and fecklessly prosecuted war against the world's greatest military power, the nation's minority political party (Federalists) attempted to set itself apart from the hated opposition (Republicans). Locked out of power for four presidential cycles, sensing the public disgust, frustration and dejection over the course of the war, the Federalists met at Hartford, Connecticut. They composed and presented a list of demands to the increasingly unpopular President; unless met, they would no longer support his government or the failing war effort.

Although the Hartford Convention seemed wise politically (and to the Federalists actually quite the moderate approach), they were on the wrong side of history. What did they not know? Events were about to cast their demands in a completely different and unflattering light. At approximately the same time the nation would learn of the events in Hartford, they would also hear of a negotiated peace with Great Britain and a remarkable victory in New Orleans.

The product of America's most brilliant statesman, John Quiny Adams, and perhaps America's most daring poker player, Henry Clay, who bluffed his way to a draw with the British lion, the Treaty of Ghent saved face for the new nation. Securing an agreement to suspend hostilities and restore the American and British relationship to "status quo ante bellum," the American delegation cobbled a great victory out of a series of military defeats and humiliations.

Even more dramatic and incredible, American forces, under the generalship of Andrew Jackson, miraculously crushed the British at the Battle of New Orleans, which effectively ended the British threat to the American West forever. Although the two armies actually fought the battle after the war was officially over, news of the Peace arrived after the great American triumph in New Orleans.

In fact, as Americans learned of these seemingly preternatural events in Europe and in Louisiana almost simultaneously, they often conflated the two and credited the victory on the Mississippi River for bringing the British to heel. Along with the great joy of victory and peace, the news of the Hartford Convention also arrived and sank in. Instead of taking advantage of the ill wind of public opinion blowing against a failed war, the Federalist now appeared traitorous complainers, plotting against the government on the eve of our greatest national jubilation.

The Federalists bet against Providence and lost. And they were never heard from again.

But then there are other times when God does not deliver. For Southern Christians during the Civil War, convinced that God was on their side, the lost cause proved they were not chosen for God's purpose and uniquely blessed and protected. They waited on God--but God gave the victory to their persecutors. Lincoln argued that both sides of the war had claimed the blessings of God--but, in the end, God was on neither side; He had his own side. One should not assume God is on your side. We should not confuse Providence with deliverance.

I am convinced that George Bush believes in Providence. I am convinced that he thinks he is on the right side of Providence.

It is ironic that the datelines from the Lieberman story yesterday are all from "Hartford." Like the Federalists of old, a number of Democrats have bet against Providence.

We can only wait and see where Providence comes down.

10/08: Red Alert

Some thoughts off the top of my head on today's revelations:

1. President Bush needs to get back to Washington. It is hotter than Hades in Central Texas. Cindy Sheehan is here. The President had a very short trip planned anyway. Go back to Washington. You need to be seen in control.

2. This attack is certainly at least part (not necessarily all) of the next big terrorist event. Cheers for MI-5. Congratulations to the good guys for foiling this attempt. But something seems to be in the air. The al Qaeda crowd is carping too much. Unaccounted-for Egyptians on student visas. Young muslims in Ohio buying mass quantities of cell phones. Caution seems to be the word for the day.

3. We have got to stop boasting about our success in keeping America terror-free over the past five years. Isn't anybody in the administration a baseball fan? You never talk about a no-hitter in the dugout. You never brag to the press about your winning streak. As things have turned uglier in Iraq, and the President's popularity has plummeted, the administration (the VP is especially guilty of this) has increasingly fallen back on its success in preventing a terror event. Stop saying that! Let us stay tough and vigilant and keep our mouths shut.
One of the Senate seats Democrats hope to capture in November is the Missouri seat currently occupied by Jim Talent. He will face Democrat Claire McCaskill, state auditor and former Jackson County (Kansas City) prosecutor. Some of the issues in this race will be Supreme Court nominees, funding for stem-cell research, and the war in Iraq. For information on Talent, here is his page from the Library of Congress Thomas site. For information of McCaskill here is her campaign website.

As a Show-Me State native, let me explain a few things about Missouri politics. For decades the state was heavily Democrat. In the 70s a resurgence of the Republican party was led by Kit Bond and Jack Danforth, moderate Republicans. Some years ago the Religious Right took control of the state Republican party--think John Ashcroft (major blame or credit should go to Pat Roberson and his run for the Republican presidential nomination). The Democrats remain strong enough to prevent Missouri from becoming a safe Republican state. Democrat bases include the urban population of St. Louis and Kansas City, plus older citizens who still are instinctively Democrat, but will not vote for a candidate perceived to be "liberal." (There are Dems in Missouri who still pine for the days of Harry Truman/Scoop Jackson Democrats.)

For a thorough summary of this fall election, read Steve Kraske's article in the Kansas City Star newspaper. Link here.
An ancient Coptic monastery in Egypt threatened. Link.

An Iranian Muslim convert to Christianity arrested. Link.

From Jihadwatch.
A Waco Farmer has weighed in before on Executive Signing Statements and the ABA document. Here. The lawyers at Powerline have this to say this evening.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I was a huge science fiction fan growing up in the 60s and early 70s. Asimov, Heinlein, Anderson, Clarke, et al not only entertained me, but helped to shape my view of the world. (That is not true today. When science fiction took its turn toward fantasy writing, I did not go with it; I also read one too many dystopian future stories in the 70s.) I not only read stories and novels written in the 60s and 70s, but also devoured sf written in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.

One of the things that strikes me in retrospect about the science fiction I read is this fact: of the hundreds and hundreds of imaginary futures I read about in stories and novels written in the 40s and 50s and into the early 60s, very very few imagined a society in which men and women were equals. Not too many imagined a society in which traditional sex roles were no more. These writers anticipated a lot of things, but seem to have been taken by surprise by the women's lib movement of the 60s.

Perhaps a lot of us were. Born in 1956, growing up in a rural area, I do not remember any women ministers then; female doctors were the exception; high school principals and school superintendents seemed to be all men. I think now that I assumed that was the way it would be.

Now consider our society. Lots of changes in 50 years in the role of women. Society is not static; things can change radically in a relatively short period of time.

This realization, that unexpectedly radical change can occur rapidly, is part of what gives some of us concern about redefinitions of marriage.

How do you kill an octopus? I don't really know, but I assume that rather than cutting each tentacle you go for the head.

It is becoming more and more obvious each day that Iran is a serious combatant in the Middle East against Israel and against U.S. interests. Iran arms Hezbollah, has Revolutionary Guards fighting in Lebanon, and threatens to exterminate Israel. Iran is working to undermine U.S. progress in Iraq, especially in the Shiite south. So far Israel and the U.S. have hacked at the tentacles.

Should we attack Iran? That course of action has great risks. Our present policy also has great risks. We have invested 2500 American lives in Iraq. Not doing anything has great risks. At a minimum, I would think we should be actively undermining the Iranian regime and blocking their ability to build and acquire weapons and to fund terrorists.

Iraq has been compared, usually ill-advisedly in my opinion, to Vietnam. One comparison does bother me: allowing the enemy to maintain safe sanctuaries and to receive patronage from outside the theater of combat.
Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Washington Post:

"HARTFORD, Conn., Aug. 8 -- In a stark repudiation, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) narrowly lost the Democratic Senate primary here Tuesday night, falling to antiwar candidate Ned Lamont in a campaign that became a referendum on the incumbent's support for the Iraq war."

Read the full story here.

Post staff writers, Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray, conveniently set off the lead sentence in the above news story with a passive clause: "In a stark repudiation, Joe Lieberman narrowly lost...." Historians learn in grad school to avoid passive voice whenever possible for reasons of clarity. For example, in this case, who did the repudiating?

An aside: I will forego (or at least suspend) my quibble with the clumsy and inconsistent adjectives: "stark" modifying "repudiation" and "narrowly" modifying "lost." Was it "stark" or was it "narrow"?

Back to my main question: Who done it? Who repudiated Lieberman and his support for the Iraq war? The Democrats? That is more accurate--but still misleading. Actually, 146,587 Democrats voted against Joe Lieberman, which is less than five percent of the population of CT (which is approximately 3.4 million residents, with approximately 2 million registered voters).

During the next few days, Joe Lieberman will face intense pressure from the media and Democratic operatives to "bow to the will of the people" (for example: "The People have spoken; why isn't Joe listening?").

However, it is disingenuous to conflate this primary election with the definitive "voice of the people." If you do the math, the 146,587 Democrats who voted against Joe Lieberman last night amounted to less than 10 percent of the eligible voters in the state. Joe Lieberman has every right (some of us would say "duty") to defend his seat, his positions and his eighteen-year record in the Senate before a much larger and more representative pool of voters.

I agree with his eloquent statement in defeat:

"I am, of course, disappointed by the results, but I am not discouraged. I'm disappointed not just because I lost but because the old politics of partisan polarization won today. For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand."

He is right: this is an extremely important decision that demands clarification.

Democracy? Remember that neither parties, primaries or even democracy were envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. The party primaries have been with us for approximately 100 years. They work well--but we should not confuse them with Constitutional government. The primaries are extra-constitutional tools, which the parties (extra-constitutional institutions) employ to facilitate order and intra-party loyalty.

Joe Lieberman's decision to take his case to the people of Connecticut on appeal is wise and valiant. By the way, the Framers would have loved Joe Lieberman, for they wished for statesmen who put principle over party and self interest.

More to come on what this might mean for the modern two-party system and how Providence might play a role in this campaign...
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Years ago Poul Anderson wrote a science-fiction story entitled "The Horn of Time the Hunter." (Great story, check it out.) In the story Anderson has a line of poetry something to the effect (I'm going from memory): he heard the Horn of Time the Hunter, pursuing a quarry that weeps as it runs. I've often thought of this title, and the imagery it creates in the mind.

Many in the West regard time as a hunter to be eluded; perhaps with enough gym time and the right hair coloring we can fool ourselves, and others, into believing we still are young. In the increasingly deperate flight from aging some are willing to do anything to look a bit younger, even make use of death to continue a semblence of younger life. This article tells of clinics that use stem cells harvested from aborted babies to give clients a younger look. (Scroll down the linked page for this part of the article.) Humans, trying to retain the bloom of youth, becoming ghouls.

For my argument against abortion, see this post.
Sometimes its hard to be too paranoid. Now seems to be one of those times. In earlier posts I have called attention to the apocalyptic world-view of the mullahs of Iran. In one post I linked to a possible reason to think that August 22, the day the Iranians have said they will answer the West regarding nuclear weapons, may hold terrible significance. Now, the dean of Middle East scholars, Bernard Lewis of Princeton, warns what may be in store on that day. (Link from Drudge.) We live in interesting times. For my previous posts see here and here. Everything we know about Ahmadinejad, the ruler of Iran, indicates that he is driven primarily by religious motivation.
Here is the full text of Dr. Lewis' essay.
This study (report here) affirms a relationship between sexually themed music and teens having sex. While distinguishing correlation and causation is difficult in the social sciences, this study helps confirm what many of us think: that ours is a culture inimical to raising healthy, resposible, moral children and young people. (On the degradation promoted by MTV see this column by Crouch.) Links from Drudge.

In 1996 Bob Dole responded to Hillary Clinton's slogan of "It Takes a Village" by countering that it took a family. While by "village" Hillary meant a larger more intrusive federal government, Dole's answer was simplistic and wrong. We do not raise children in a vacuum. As a parent I needed churches, 4H, Scouting, summer baseball with responsible coaches, good schools with mature, responsible teachers. I needed neighbors who would watch out for my kids (and watch my kids). I needed good families with good kids for my children to play with. And I needed family-friendly entertainment. (When my children were growing up, Friday was TV night with Perfect Strangers, Family Ties, etc.) In other words, I needed a village to support my wife and I in rearing our children.

The sad part is that Bob Dole knew better. He is the product of a small town in Kansas. His personality and his values were shaped by that village.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The performer Madonna has made a career by mocking traditional values. Her shows cross the boundaries of good taste and morality, shocking or titillating audiences. She first came to national attention during her slut phase, dressing like a cheap hooker and performing post-modern burlesque. But, the problem with building a career out of crossing the line is that the very process helped move the line. Trangression became harder and harder for Madonna as mall stores in mainstream America sold slutty outfits in imitation. So, she incorporated more simulated sex in her shows, including bisexuality and sadomasochism. But now it's 2006. MTV, which she helped to popularize, has helped obliterate any sexual lines to cross, any boundaries to transgress. What is a can't-sing performer to do? Find another line to cross. Her recent show, now causing the uproar she needs, mocks Christianity. See this article. How original. But, still with the power to shock. What next Madge? Is there another line to cross beyond this one? You know you need one. Transgression is your only talent. You've helped create a culture that can't be shocked by sex any more, no matter how depraved. You tried offending Hindus a few years ago, but I guess that did not sell enough CDs. What will you do when the furor over your latest show dies down. Why don't you try building your next show around images sure to offend Muslims? Now there's an audience that can still be shocked into response.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Once again, wise and winsome words from Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sidney, Australia. This speech from the Groundbreaking Ceremony of St. Vincent’s Research & Biotechnology Precinct.

Contrary to popular false mythology, Christianity is not the intrinsic enemy of progress, nor the roadblock of science.
Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
This article, which points out that temperature records from the 1930s still stand, has been circulating around the blogosphere. Often it is used to argue against the reality of Global Warming. I have stated my opinion in support of the reality of Global Warming before.

The relevant point is not that some record highs from the 1930s still stand. Look instead at the averages: the first six months of this year were the highest on record. I think there is cause for concern.
This article from the Havana Journal presents some of the rumors in Cuba regarding Castro and Santeria.

04/08: nervous fowl

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
This article from Reuters is about followers of Santeria in Miami buying birds to sacrifice for Castro's demise (some on the island itself may be sacrificing for his health).

In addition to its intrinsic interest, this article indirectly raises the issue of church-state in the U.S. I was living in Texas during the big controversy over prayer before public school football games. My usual comment was that a lot of minds would change the first time some student (or teacher or minister/priest) in Houston brought a chicken to the fifty yard line and made a Santeria sacrifice before the game. In discussing church/state issues we are not just talking Protestant v. Catholic any more.
Photognome draws our attention to this recent court ruling. (pdf file 140 pages)

Prison Fellowship summarizes and responds to the ruling in the following:
"Judge Strikes Down Faith-Based Prison Program, While Public Backs Helping Prisoners
June 21, 2006 | Vol. 5, No. 6
A federal judge in Iowa recently issued a stunning decision declaring that Prison Fellowship?s InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) was unconstitutional. In his 140-page decision, Judge Robert Pratt made sweeping findings that are as troubling as they are erroneous. He found that Prison Fellowship is ?Evangelical Christian in nature? and then went on to describe evangelical beliefs as not being in common with other Christian beliefs. His mischaracterization of Prison Fellowship and his misunderstanding of what Christians believe are apparent throughout his opinion. To cite just a few examples:
(read more)

» Read More

A few years ago (perhaps A Waco Farmer remembers exactly when), Tamim Ansary spoke at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. Just this past week I finally read his important book West of Kabul, East of New York : an Afghan American Story . I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Afghanistan, Islam, Americanization, and the current war with Radical Islam.

Mr. Ansary was born and raised in the old Afghanistan--before the communists, before the Soviets, before the Taliban. He moved to America as a young man, eventually becoming a writer and editor. He is uniquely positioned to help Americans understand how a person can love a traditional Islamic culture, even though the author no longer fits into that setting. He also helps the reader to distinguish between the relaxed Islam of traditional Afghanistan, and the harsh, militant Islam of the Taliban. In addition, he has provocative thoughts on the unintended consequences of westernization that helped lead to communism in Afghanistan, and then to the emergence of the Taliban in the context of the Soviet invasion.

On the personal level of the author, his is another fascinating story of Americanization and modernization, from the walled compounds of the old country to the open society of San Francisco, USA. His siblings also came to America: his sister becoming completely Americanized, his brother finding meaning in radical Islam, and he himself trying to understand himself as Afghan American.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The failure of the so-called second two-party system (Whigs and Democrats) to address vexing questions during the 1840s and 1850s hastened the coming of the Civil War. Once labeled the "bumbling generation" for their inability to achieve a lasting compromise, the politicians of the ante bellum period too often pursued partisan and sectional loyalties over common sense. Notwithstanding that notable exception, the two-party system has, in actual fact, proved quite adroit at finding long-term solutions to an endless parade of crises and crossroads in the life of our nation.

However, we are currently in a period in which compromise and solution-oriented legislating seems increasingly rare and difficult. Predictions of an Impending Crisis of Civil-War magnitude are hyperbolic, but the extreme partisanship and self-interestedness of the current generation of statesmen is depressing.

The upcoming vote in the Senate on the Minimum Wage bill presents an instructive dilemma for the leadership of the Democratic Party. For years, Democrats have called for an upward adjustment in wages as a cornerstone in their program to achieve "fairness" for working people. This bill cements a healthy increase ($2.10 over three years). On the other hand, the legislation also includes a permanent reduction in the "estate tax," which Democrats have resisted just as vocally. With midterm elections drawing near, and the Democrats riding the wave of mass discontent with Republican governance, the opposition party seemed poised to organize a national campaign around the issue of the minimum wage. The dilemma: what to do now? Take the minimum-wage compromise? Or hold out for all (and risk achieving nothing) while preserving a promising wedge issue for November?

In today's Opinion Journal the WSJ editorializes:

"The bill needs 60 votes to defeat a liberal filibuster, and nearly all of the 55 Republicans are in favor. So we are about to find out if Senate Democrats are more interested in achieving the policy goals they claim to want, or merely in blow-everything-up obstruction."

This is obviously a tough call for Democrats. This will be a telling week.
In a Washington Post op-ed today, "Stop the Band-Aid Treatment:
We Need Policies for a Real, Lasting Middle East Peace,"
Former-President Jimmy Carter asserts:

"Tragically, the current conflict is part of the inevitably repetitive cycle of violence that results from the absence of a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, exacerbated by the almost unprecedented six-year absence of any real effort to achieve such a goal."

Why this statement? Why now?

Former-President Carter believes that he is uniquely qualified to speak on this issue. In addition to his success in forging a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt during his administration in the late-1970s, he remains convinced that he alone among American statesmen possessed the vision to bring about peace in the Middle East. A few years ago, he famously bragged: "Had I been elected to a second term, with the prestige and authority and influence and reputation I had in the region, we could have moved to a final solution."

Moreover, Former-President Carter has never retired from politics, and he rarely passes up an opportunity to tweak a Republican president. And while we often hear that former presidents, traditionally, have supported rather than attacked active administrations, that general assertion is simply inaccurate.

In fact, there is a strong tradition of ex-presidents, especially one-term chief executives who suffered humiliating defeats for re-election, throwing rocks at their successors. For twenty years after his electoral loss, John Quincy Adams railed against the party of Andrew Jackson. After his national defeat in 1840, and his intra-party defeat in 1844, Martin Van Buren declared war on both sides and ran as a third party candidate in 1848. After his degradation in 1932, Herbert Hoover proved a strident and consistent critic of FDR.

Former presidents enjoy many of the residual benefits of the office, including the bully pulpit. Jimmy Carter, not unlike his aforementioned predecessors, believes he drew a raw deal from the American people, who lacked the vision to recognize his superiority. Combined with his evangelical sense of obligation to share his wisdom with a less-enlightened and mostly unappreciative American public, Carter’s need for vindication propels him into the arena time after time. Waiting for the day that Americans will come to see him (as his friends in the international community do) for the great man that he really is, Jimmy Carter takes every opportunity to remind us of his discernment.