You are currently viewing archive for September 2006
Gateway Pundit has info on the anti-Christian rioting in Nigeria. He also has an update, and picture, of the Indonesian Christian girl who survived a beheading attempt. (You'll need to scroll down a bit.)
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Last night was the opening of the Comanche Fair. Held at the tribal headquarters north of Lawton, Oklahoma, it is dancing, eating, celebration, singing, camping (many in canvas teepees), contests, politiking, talking (in English and in Comanche), browsing vender booths--the national reunion of the Comanche people.

My wife and I went down last night to see the historical pageant, written and directed by a member of our church. It was made up of a series of tableau, tied together by the narration of a grandmother to her granddaughter. The pageant was performed on the grassy area just south of the monument to the Comanche Code-Talkers, which is just south of two rows of stone pillars inscribed with the names of all the Comanches who have served in the US Armed Forces. On the east side of the monuments is a tall flagpole with a large United States flag.

At the end of the evening, the Code-Talkers were honored. During WW2 the United States used tribal language speakers to transmit radio messages on the battlefield. While the Navaho servicemen are more famous, the Comanches served with distinction in Europe, going ashore on Utah Beach, June 6, 1944, and serving in the campaign until V-E Day. Ironic, that the government which had displaced them from their lands and sent their young people off to boarding schools in which they were forbidden to speak their language, received courageous service when duty called.

Fourteen Comanche men served in Europe as Code-Talkers, all now dead. They were represented last night by 14 spears, carried by women in traditional regalia. As the singers sang and drummed, their memories were honored by a "Scalp Song", danced by the women with the spears. After the song descendents of the Code-Talkers were invited into the circle to be honored.

The evening closed with the honoring of all Comanche service men and women, "our warriors" they were called. "War Journey Songs" were sung. A man in Comanche battle dress rode a horse into the light, leading a riderless horse. We all were asked to stand, face the American flag with our hands over our hearts, to honor flag and country.

The Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache in our area did not experience American expansion as an expansion of freedom. They will not celebrate Columbus Day. But, among them there is a love of America, mysterious as it is to me. Enlistment is high among these people and veterans are honored. We don't deserve such allies.
Category: Texas 17
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Texas 17 pits incumbent Chet Edwards (D) versus Van Taylor (R).

For some background on my take on this race, you might want to read my post from last spring. To briefly summarize: Chet Edwards is a resilient Democratic Congressman in an increasingly Republican district (even more GOP as a result of Tom Delay's celebrated redistricting plan). Edwards stays on top of the tiger with hard work and conservative votes. Van Taylor is the most attractive candidate Edwards has faced in years. He is a young, Harvard-educated, Marine veteran of Iraq and family man. His biggest problem is that his roots in Central Texas are very shallow.

Where are we right now? Congressman Edwards is the overwhelming winner in the "yard signs" race in Waco. Waco is the largest community in the district and part of the old "District 11," which Edwards represented for fourteen years. Waco is incredibly loyal to Edwards (or "Chet," as most folks say) and will go in a big way for the incumbent.

But the key for a Republican candidate in this district (see insert), which stretches from Waco up the I-35W corridor into the outskirts of Fort Worth and then south of Waco slides off the I-35 corridor southeast into "redder" communities, is winning big enough outside of Waco to make up for Chet's huge advantage in his old territory. While the old Texas 11 remains loyal, many of the voters of Texas 17 are much less familiar with Edwards and not especially sympathetic toward the national Democratic party.

In 2004, when the district went 69 percent for President Bush (who is registered to vote in McLennan County) Edwards eked out a victory over a lackluster opponent. It is likely that Republicans will not run nearly as strong anywhere in the area this time around with the President off the ballot. Presumably, if Edwards could hold off a Republican challenge last cycle, he should be in shape to win again in the midterm.

However, the conventional wisdom does not take into account how hard-charging Van Taylor seems to be. To repeat, he is an attractive candidate with national backing and plenty of money. Both campaigns have gone negative (anecdotally, I hear more complaints about Taylor than Edwards).

Taylor must overcome the "outsider" image. He is not from Waco. Mudslinging is one thing--but coming from someplace else to mudsling against "our Congressman" is harder to stomach. There is no good answer on that one. Shake a lot of hands, talk Central Texan as much as possible, tell the folks how much you love the place and cross your fingers.

Taylor must also overcome that Edwards votes with the President more than many Republicans do. It is almost impossible to find a wedge issue on Iraq, terrorism, gun control, support for the military, etc. Edwards has some vulnerability on abortion, but, even there, his position is hard to hit squarely. For voters to unseat Edwards, they will need to decide to send home an eight-term Congressman with a conservative voting record for someone about whom they know nearly nothing.

Why do I think it will be closer than the conventional wisdom suggests?

Van Taylor is trying very hard to "nationalize" this election. He is currently running a campaign ad that features John Kerry. Nationalizing the election may be poor strategy for Republicans around the country, but here, in Central Texas, especially in the more rural counties, anti-Kerry, anti-Ted Kennedy, anti-Democratic party sentiment is very powerful. Associating yourself with the Republican party and President Bush, and reminding your voters that your opponent answers to Nancy Pelosi, plays very well.

Most likely, Congressman Edwards will continue to represent Texas 17, but I am convinced that this is no cake-walk.
Category: Texas 17
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Texas 17 pits incumbent Chet Edwards (D) versus Van Taylor (R).

Congressman Edwards was among 18 House Democrats who joined the Republcan majority yesterday in passing the administration-backed "Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act," better known as the warrantless wiretapping bill (roll call).

Washington Post story in re the bill and the vote.
Two congregations that currently are in the process of leaving or of reassessing their relationship with the Presbyterian Church U.S. (PCUS) illustrate the significance of the problem for this mainline denomination.

The Hudson Presbyterian Church of Hudson Ohio has voted to leave the denomination. Article here. The relevant portion of the article is: The anticipated loss of Hudson Presbyterian Church is a serious blow to Eastminster Presbytery. Having grown steadily for the past 10 years, Hudson is now the fifth-largest congregation in the presbytery, and it outstrips all others in its overall giving of $872.39 per member. By contrast, the largest congregation in the presbytery, Poland Presbyterian Church in Poland, gives $469.77 per member.

The Montreat Presbyterian Church in North Carolina will conduct a series of meetings to determin their future with the denomination. The relevant portion, from the session's* letter is: In the last year we have seen the Lord do glorious things in our church. The youth ministry has over 90 students; we have more people involved in missions than any time we are aware of; worship attendance has blossomed with two distinct services; the Morning School has grown to capacity and is serving even more effectively in reaching unchurched families; and, perhaps most notably, God has renewed our sense of fellowship and community among the body. We rejoice in our calling to make this known to all the world. Our first priority is faithfulness to our Savior who calls us to proclaim His glorious news.

"Our ability to do this in partnership with the PCUSA, however, has been overwhelmed by its ongoing crisis of Biblical authority. This was most recently evidenced by the actions of the past General Assembly, but the roots reach back much further. The cumulative result has been to move the church from under the authority of Scripture alone to the authority of tradition as defined by the PCUSA at the moment.

The problem for the mainline PCUSA that is here illustrated is that it is losing exactly those congregations that give a movement vibrancy and growth. Other mainline denominations are having similar experiences. Perhaps we should say that the fruit of liberalism leads to death, not life. For other posts on this topic see here.

*A session is the governing board of a Presbyterian congregation, elected by the membership.
This morning on the radio I heard the assertion for the umpteenth time that captured terrorists have Geneva Convention rights. NO THEY DO NOT. Here is a link to the UN page with the text of the Convention.

Here is the relevant language, I've highlighted the parts that are not met by terrorists:

Article 4

A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

3. Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.

4. Persons who accompany the armed forces without actually being members thereof, such as civilian members of military aircraft crews, war correspondents, supply contractors, members of labour units or of services responsible for the welfare of the armed forces, provided that they have received authorization from the armed forces which they accompany, who shall provide them for that purpose with an identity card similar to the annexed model.

5. Members of crews, including masters, pilots and apprentices, of the merchant marine and the crews of civil aircraft of the Parties to the conflict, who do not benefit by more favourable treatment under any other provisions of international law.

6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

B. The following shall likewise be treated as prisoners of war under the present Convention:

1. Persons belonging, or having belonged, to the armed forces of the occupied country, if the occupying Power considers it necessary by reason of such allegiance to intern them, even though it has originally liberated them while hostilities were going on outside the territory it occupies, in particular where such persons have made an unsuccessful attempt to rejoin the armed forces to which they belong and which are engaged in combat, or where they fail to comply with a summons made to them with a view to internment.

2. The persons belonging to one of the categories enumerated in the present Article, who have been received by neutral or non-belligerent Powers on their territory and whom these Powers are required to intern under international law, without prejudice to any more favourable treatment which these Powers may choose to give and with the exception of Articles 8, 10, 15, 30, fifth paragraph, 58-67, 92, 126 and, where diplomatic relations exist between the Parties to the conflict and the neutral or non-belligerent Power concerned, those Articles concerning the Protecting Power. Where such diplomatic relations exist, the Parties to a conflict on whom these persons depend shall be allowed to perform towards them the functions of a Protecting Power as provided in the present Convention, without prejudice to the functions which these Parties normally exercise in conformity with diplomatic and consular usage and treaties.

C. This Article shall in no way affect the status of medical personnel and chaplains as provided for in Article 33 of the present Convention.

Category: Texas 17
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
McLennan Community College will host a debate between congressional candidates, incumbent Chet Edwards (D) and Van Taylor (R), on October 31 (more details to come).

The McLennan Community College Student Government Association will also host a "meet and greet" with Van Taylor on Monday afternoon, October 9th at 2:30 in the Library Rotunda.

Note: Congressman Edwards joined 34 House Democrats today in passing the administration-backed detainee interrogation bill (roll call).
I have been posting the continuing decline of the mainline denominations in the United States. Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, United Church of Christ, who were once the dominant groups of Protestants with big impact on America, have become sideline churches, dwindling each year. While several factors are involved, a turn to liberal doctrines is the common thread.

Here is an item from about a year ago that I overlooked before. It is a call from the Calvin Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) for congregations of that denomination to withold monies from the denomination because of resolutions adopted at the previous national meeting. Here.

Here are the resolutions:
"THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the Twenty-fifth General Synod of the United Church of Christ affirms equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that the government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage; and...

LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Twenty-fifth General Synod calls upon congregations, after prayerful biblical, theological, and historical study, to consider adopting Wedding Policies that do not discriminate against couples based on gender;"

Here is the call to action portion of the Calvin Synod communication and more thoughts below.

» Read More

The Kansas City Star newpaper has a page devoted to stories of citizen soldiers in war zones, defending our nation. Focusing on Reserve and Guard units, these are stories worth reading. Here
Rioting by Muslim youths continues in Brussels. Article. And here.

Here is the lead paragraph from The Brussels Journal:
It looks as if immigrants youths want to turn nightly rioting during the Islamic holy month of ramadan into an annual tradition. Around 8:30pm last night violence erupted again in Brussels, the capital of Europe. The riots centered on the Brussels Marollen quarter and the area near the Midi Train Station, where the international trains from London and Paris arrive. Youths threw stones at passing people and cars, windows of parked cars were smashed, bus shelters were demolished, cars were set ablaze, a youth club was arsoned and a shop was looted. Two molotov cocktails were thrown into St.Peter’s hospital, one of the main hospitals of central Brussels. The fire brigade was able to extinguish the fires at the hospital, but youths managed to steal the keys of the fire engine.

Old Europe has a major problem: the less-than-replacement-level birthrates of native Europeans means declining populations, and the destruction of the state welfare systems. The solution these nations have adopted is to allow large-scale immigration. But, these immigrants are, for the most part, not assimilated, and in many ways do not wish to be assimilated. European institutions and traditions are giving way. The Berlin Opera recently dropped a production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" for fear of offending Muslims. Article here. A political reaction can be seen against the current immigration and assimilation policy. For example, in the article linked above, The Brussels Journal reports:
The authorities are especially nervous since the Belgian municipal elections are being held on Sunday October 8th. It is likely that the elections will be won by anti-immigrant, “islamophobic” parties. Since ramadan will not be over on October 8th and many immigrants might perceive a victory of the indigenous right (as opposed to their own far-right) as an insult, Muslim indignation over the election results in major cities may spark serious disturbances. According to a poll published today the Vlaams Belang party is set to win 38.6% of the vote in Antwerp (compared to 33,0% in the previous municipal elections six years ago).

Victor Davis Hanson wrote this essay last spring on what the US can learn from the French immigration experience. He also has a poignant essay on America and Europe.

Meanwhile, lest we think that it is only the West having problems with Islam, four Buddhists were shot by Islamic militants in Thailand. Article here. Hat tip LGF.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am beginning to feel sympathy for George Allen.

1. Last month when the "macaca" scandal broke, I asserted (in this post) that the incident demonstrated poor judgment and a lack of discipline. In fact, the unfortunate exchange illustrated that he was unsuited for the enormous demands of the presidency (and the exhausting campaign to be president). In essence, I called him out on one strike.

2. Then last week, in what can only be described as a bizarre exchange, a local reporter asked him if he was Jewish. He fumbled and fumed and denied the assertion. Later we learned that his mother is Jewish, and his grandfather, for whom Allen gained his middle name (Felix), survived the holocaust. To further confuse matters, in his answer to the original question, Allen alluded to his grandfather's "incarceration by Nazis," even as he claimed ignorance of his Jewish heritage. Then he later admitted that he knew of his Jewishness on the night of the debate--but had only recently learned of his lineage (presumably still in the process of digesting the revelation).

If there can be a lighter side to this excruciating series of misadventures, the whole story reminds me of the gag line from the old Steve Martin movie, the Jerk, (referring to Martin's character): "He was the son of poor black sharecroppers who never dreamed he was adopted."

Since the disclosure, the Senator has gone on to make a few lame jokes about ham sandwiches and Hebrew National hot dogs. No harm; no foul. Odd and disquieting but not damning.

3. But enter now, the piece de resistance, an accusation of racial violence. The astonishing charge accompanies a new string of allegations that Allen employed racial epithets in earlier times, which purport to confirm a racial insensitivity that has long been rumored.

An aside: we would have called these long-running shadowy imputations a "whispering campaign," if Allen were a more media-protected public official.

The charges: Allen used racial epithets back in the 1970s, and possibly even as late as the early 1980s, claim several ex-friends and acquaintances. Among the witnesses for the prosecution is celebrity Political Science professor and TV pundit, Larry Sabato, who admits not knowing Allen very well, but says he "knows that Allen used the n-word" (Washington Post story here).

Much more extraordinary, one witness (an old teammate) alleges that Allen, back in 1974, after a successful hunting trip, stuffed a decapitated deer's head into the mailbox of a random African American family (Washington Post story here).

Allen categorically denies all the charges. Could they be true?

The deer-head story seems a bit farfetched. As some have pointed out, that is the kind of rampage story that would have made the rounds on a football team, and there is no evidence that anyone else on the team ever heard an account of that before this week.

As for the racial epithet accusations, they are much more credible but certainly not conclusive. Marc Fisher of the Washington Post asserts that these stories have power because they resonate with what people in the know really believe about Allen. Added to Allen's history of reverence for the Confederacy, playing a Confederate officer in a movie (Gods and Generals) and opposition to the MLK holiday in Virginia, these new charges weave together a story that some have been drafting in their heads for years.

Yet, there is a sense of "piling on" here. Personal foul. Unsportsmanlike conduct. How much is too much? For ten years, Allen has represented the voters of Virginia in its two highest offices. He has a voluminous public record. Chasing down racial epithets from 1974 may be important, but what of his four years as governor and his six years as senator? Those histories strike me as better indicators of his ability to represent the state of Virginia and what the next six years of his tenure might look like. What about his stand on the issues of the day? What about Iraq?

As I have said, Allen is not presidential timber. But what of Virginia and 2006?

Americans have a keen (if sometimes quirky) sense of propriety and justice. I think the people of Virginia have seen just about enough of this national media feeding frenzy. I look for Allen's fortunes to bottom out very soon and begin a slow but steady uptick through Election Day. My prediction: Allen beats Webb in November.

One caveat: if the deer-head story proves to be True (with a capital T), Allen is justifiably finished in this country.
Thinking Out Loud:

I spent my Sunday morning getting ready for church and watching President Clinton get red in the face on my TV screen. Some observations:

1. I had almost forgotten about the "Clinton paranoia." Everybody is out to get him. Fox News. Right-wingers. Neo-Cons. Right-wing conservative television producers. That diabolical Chris Wallace. ABC. The 911 Commission. Everybody except Richard Clarke.

2. I had almost forgotten the disdain that I felt for President Clinton from 1998 until on or about the presidential portrait unveiling in 2004 (archived here).

A note on that event in the WH: With charm and grace, President Bush attempted to rehabilitate the former President among conservatives (which was not a popular endeavor with many of my brethren). Nevertheless, President Bush modeled respect for the office and the system that investigated President Clinton and found him "not guilty." If you have never watched the ceremony, it is a must-see for students of the presidency.

Anyhow, the disdain is back. I am having flashbacks of the Clinton attack mode (grenades lobbed indiscriminately while he bemoans the "politics of personal destruction"). President Clinton is personally vicious and relentless in this state, entirely lacking the ability to see the field from outside his immediate self interest. Yesterday, his abject rudeness toward Wallace was extremely uncomfortable to watch.

3. He looked very bad. Gray, tired and craggy.

4. I am reminded that President Clinton was not the smooth operator that we often remember. He went more than a year without granting one interview during the Monica imbroglio. He proved adroit at avoiding hostile media questions, but not especially skilled in confronting or besting the press. Rather, he was insulated from the press, and expert at using them to deliver his message of the day. Without his phalanx of media advisors and operatives, he seemed much more vulnerable (even disoriented). One wonders how he would fare at this, if he had to do it for a living.

The full transcipt from Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace (from RealClearPoltics).
Category: Baylor
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
As many of you know, I am a devoted alumnus of Baylor University. From a safe distance, on an independent and non-competitive hill outside the orbit of Baylor, I have watched the recent trials and tribulations of my beloved alma mater. From what I know presently, I am pleased to report that the current state of the institution seems healthy and positive and upbeat. My hope is that Baylor has survived the recent civil war.

Last month, the controversial former president of Baylor and lightning rod for Vision 2012, Robert Sloan, whom a diverse coalition of opponents pushed out in 2005, accepted the presidency of Houston Baptist University. The move, I Believe, is a good one for Sloan and Baylor.

Many Baylor faculty and staff, so thoroughly convinced over time that he was pure evil, could not feel safe as long as Sloan loomed within striking distance. Before he took the HBU post, he was serving as Chancellor, which was an honorary face-saving post. But in the minds of too many, he was lurking in the corridors, most likely scheming to wrest back power from the heroes of the recent Revolution. For a whole host of reasons, Sloan and Baylor very much needed a clean break.

Two summers ago, during one of the peaks of Baylor unpleasantness, I penned an op-ed piece, in which I offered my sincere admiration for then-President Sloan as a compassionate and motivating teacher and his bold vision for improving Baylor. But I conceded that his window for effective leadership at the university had closed, and I argued that the circumstances demanded that he step aside.

Notwithstanding, the still vigorous Sloan has much to offer to the world; it would be a shame to waste his energy. His unfortunate experience at Baylor does not necessarily preclude him from succeeding grandly at another institution. I sincerely wish him and HBU a success-filled future.

Some thoughts on the post-Sloan years and the Cross of Baylor:

» Read More

Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
I oppose Free Trade, as it is generally practiced. I'm in favor of Fair Trade. Here's one reason why: here in the U.S., and in some other countries, we have come to understand the dangers of pollution. We now have laws in place regulating air and water pollution. These laws increase the cost of manufacturing in the United States. Many other countries do not have laws like this, or do not enforce them, and so have lower production costs. Therefore American manufacturers cannot compete against nations with lower production costs. What American consumers are doing is choosing clean air and water for us, but consigning many members of the third world to lives threatened by manufacturing pollution. This does not seem fair and just.

Much of our manufacturing is now done in China, at great environmental cost. Here is a UPI story, linked on Drudge, on the new Chinese record set in August for days of acid rain. China currently leads the world in sulfur dioxide emissions, which forms acid rain when mixed with water. If things continue, I think we soon will see airborne pollution over the US from China.

Answer: fair trade, not free trade. I think we should not import goods manufactured by plants that would not meet US safety and pollution standards. To do otherwise is to destroy our own manufacturing base, and to help create pollution abroad.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Dear Heavenly Father,

We come to you as a nation at war. We confess the sin of arrogance. In great contests it is common for each party to claim to act in accord with the will of God. In the present war it is altogether likely that your purpose is something entirely different from the purpose of either party – yet, we pray that the human instrumentalities, working as they do, may be working toward your purpose.

We pray humbly but fervently for peace. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as you give us the vision to see the right, give us the strength to finish the work we are in, to bind up the wounds of the nations, to care for those who have borne the battle and for their widows and their orphans, AND to do all in our power to achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

We ask these things in your holy name.


A note on sources: Lincoln's "Meditation on the Divine Will" and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.
On this day in 1926 jazz legend John Coltrane was born. (Hat tip to The Writers' Almanac for reminding me of the day.) He died in 1967. His Downbeat biography is here. The first paragraph of the bio sketch attempts to give his importance:

Few artists have been as influential in jazz music as saxophonist John Coltrane. Each of the several major periods of his career produced classic works that remain to this day models for jazz musicians worldwide.

Classic albums include Blue Train, Giant Steps, My Favorite Things, and A Love Supreme. You can hear some of his music at the John Coltrane site here.

For part of his life, Coltrane was addicted to drugs, especially heroin (a scourge among jazz musicians in the '50s) though he did get clean through a rededication of himself to the Christianity of his family and childhood. Following a period of spiritual growth and search, he recorded A Love Supreme, an album that, in the words of one writer, "attests to the power, glory, love, and greatness of God." If you have never heard this album, you have missed a powerful expression of Christian religious experience. His funeral, held at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York City, was a powerful service of jazz and worship. A scholarly essay on Coltrane's religion and music is found here.

Here is a portion John Coltrane's own words about A Love Supreme from the original liner notes: (below)

» Read More

Today some moronic conservative called up and accused Brian of left-wing bias and lumped him in with Chris Mathews and the MSM. I always cringe when I hear someone from my side of the political fence say something that stupid. Of course, Brian was unflappable, patiently hearing him out, and then: "Peoria, Illinois; you're next. What do you think about...."

The truth is, of course, Brian Lamb and C-SPAN have provided the most unrestricted forum for conservative intellectualism in the brief history of electronic media. All the while, they have provided a similar forum for liberal ideas, but with much less impact, as liberal thought already had numerous esteemed channels to disseminate messages.

Today the topics on the viewer call-in hour were the detainee deal and Hugo Chavez. I tend to use C-SPAN calls as a barometer of the radically misinformed in America; that is, citizens who are fully engaged (bless their hearts) but dangerously misguided.

Random thought: kudos to Charlie Rangel for not hugging Chavez.

Even so, as a string of African American callers chimed in to praise the Venezuelan president and agree vehemently with his characterization of George Bush, I had to wonder if Bush's numbers with black voters would appreciate noticeably, if he had run against Hugo Chavez. Maybe not. My guess: Chavez could have done better among African American voters than John Kerry (88 percent) but probably not as well as Al Gore (92 percent).

And, of course, there were the usual number of shaky-voiced zealots calling in to endorse websites offering "the truth" about the Bush conspiracy that organized the attacks of 9-11. "What about Tower #7? Coincidence? I think not..."

Yesterday on C-SPAN, I heard an interesting twist on the usual tale of 9-11 intrigue, which involved the President building a mansion in Jerusalem in which he would await Armageddon. The coverage of "Christian Dominionism" and "Christian Nationalism" and "Christian Zionism" seems to be increasing (at least on NPR's "Fresh Air"). Perhaps we can look forward to a whole new strain of paranoia.
Should U.S. public policy reflect viewpoints arrived at because of religious beliefs? What is the role of religion in national debate? Do religious viewpoints have a place in the public square?

Prompted by the many debates over legal recognition of same-sex marriage on this blog, I undertook to try to answer these questions. I do not claim to be an expert, but, have thought about these issues for over thirty years. I also am a trained Christian pastor (Master of Divinity, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1983), and trained scholar of religion (Ph.D. in Religion, outside area American History, Baylor University, 2000). I undertook this writing project as well to help me clarify my own thought. I grew up in the Primitive Baptist tradition, historically a strong supporter of the Separation of Church and State. My parents even were members of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. My earliest thinking on the issue, therefore, was in a strongly separationist mode. The last ten or fifteen years, however, I have moved to the opinion that a strict separationist position is too simple, and too naive. I am not, however, and probably never will become a Christian Theonomist, advocating that the laws given to Israel on Sinai should become the law of our land and of every land. (The terms "Theonomy," "Dominion Theology," and "Christian Reconstructionism" often are used imprecisely as synonymns.)

So, where do I stand? (cont. below)

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Once again the President has managed to put the Democratic party over a barrel on national security and the war on terror; this time on the detainee legislation. Yesterday, the Washington Post carried this AP story, "Democrats Sit Out Detainee Debate," in which the news reporter offered this piece of analysis to explain Democratic ambivalence and paralysis:

"Influencing their [Democratic leadership] strategy are memories of the 2002 defeat of Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., who was ousted by Republican Saxby Chambliss following a TV ad campaign that attacked Cleland's patriotism. Cleland, a severely wounded Vietnam veteran, had voted against creating the Homeland Security Department.

""Max Cleland _ having lost three limbs in Vietnam _ thought the voters in Georgia wouldn't fall for" such charges, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Richard Durbin, said Wednesday. "They did and he lost his Senate seat. We're not going to make that same mistake.""

This is an oft-repeated line from reporters, pundits and party faithful. But what is the point? What does the loss of three limbs or Vietnam have to do with the Department of Homeland Security? It is a non sequitur.

An aside: Robert Byrd criticized Cleland for voting for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 even as Cleland, according to Byrd, knew it was the wrong thing to do. If Byrd is right, then for no other reason, we are well rid of Cleland. Moreover, the resistance to the Homeland Security came mostly from the Labor lobby, a traditionally powerful interest group for Democrats. What was so courageous about bowing to the will of labor unions?

Republicans and Democrats need to stand up and speak from the heart and vote their consciences. If Cleland voted for the war when he thought it was wrong, he was wrong and deserved defeat. If he voted against the Homeland Security bill because he thought it was the right thing to do (not because he was gaining credibility with a group that could potentially further his national ambitions), then he went down to political defeat as a hero. That brand of personal sacrifice makes the system work.

We need statesman. If Democrats believe the detainee bill is a violation of American principle, and they vote for it anyway to evade the wrath of voters, then they deserve to lose.
As those of you who read this blog know, I refer often to the military nature of Islamic expansion: spreading the faith through conquest. Lest you think I write from a uniquely Christian perspective, allow the following paragraph from the official website of the Government of Oman to present an Islamic view of Muslim expansion into Oman. Hat tip Little Green Footballs

If you do not click the link and read the whole article, then at least read this paragraph. The boldface highlights are mine intended for you skimmers.

After God empowered Muslims to enter Mecca, Islam became the prevailing power and was spread by use of fear. This was particularly evident in the tribe of Quraysh, who had responded to the Prophet Muhammad’s new message of Islam with unrelenting persecution, eventually putting its resources in the service of the ever growing new religion. The Prophet then saw it preferable to contact neighbouring kings and rulers, including the two kings of Oman, Jaiffar and Abd, sons of Al Julanda, through peaceful means. History books tell us that the prophet had sent messages to the people of Oman, including a letter carried by military escort from Amr Inn Al Aas to Jaiffar and Abd, sons of Al Julanda, in which he wrote: ‘In the name of God the Merciful and the Compassionate, from Muhammad bin Abdullah to Jaiffar and Abd, sons of Al Julanda, peace be on those who choose the right path. Embrace Islam, and you shall be safe. I am God’s messenger to all humanity, here to alert all those alive that non believers are condemned. If you submit to Islam, you will remain kings, but if you abstain, your rule will be removed and my horses will enter your arena to prove my prophecy’.

Remember, the one using the terms must define the terms. Islam calls itself the Religion of Peace. By "peace" Muslims mean submission to Allah. This "peace" is to be extended not merely by free conversion, but through force or its threat as well. Mainstream Islam, both Sunni and Shia, does not define religion as a matter merely of the private heart, but of the totality of life, including culture and government.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Does the Bush administration get serious about national security around election time as a cynical ploy to shape the vote? Or does the administration understand that the most opportune time to present serious issues to Congress is during the campaign stretch run when Congressmen are most accountable to the people?

We have seen a plethora of stories purporting to explain how Karl Rove leverages elections with hot-button issues (implying that politics drives policy). I suggest that the Bush administration uses key moments of vulnerability to leverage politicians into tackling hard issues that ordinarily they are reluctant to address.

For example, consider the vote on the Iraq war prior to the election of 2002 in which the President garnered an overwhelming authorization to use force: Was he using the war vote to win the mid-term election? More likely, he used the mid-term election to pocket a resounding affirmation for his policy (taking advantage of politics to achieve policy).
I have pointed out before that it is not only the future of the West that is in doubt. The future of Islam also is being decided in the 21st century. More precisely, the question is whether Islam has a future as a world-wide major religion.

On the one side, we are seeing that the hedonistic corruption of the West is attractive to many Muslims--witness the behavior of the Saudi wealthy in Europe, the proliferation of satellite dishes in Muslim lands, and even the strip-club visiting habits of suicide bombers in the West before their missions. On the other side, we are witnessing Muslims converting to Christianity in numbers unprecedented in history. Even in Iran underground house churches are coming into existance through the influence of Christian radio.

If Islam does not win this current phase of the nearly 1400 year old war with everyone else, then Islam may be on the ropes by the year 2100.

For my previous posts see The Future of Islam and The Future of Islam, again.

Now, an actual Islamic expert in Europe, Dr. Koenraad Elst, has raised the same question: Is Islam Dying? From the Brussells Journal. This article. uses Dr. Elst's question as a starting point for reflection. Hat tip Jihadwatch.
I think it should be bothering more people that the leader of a nation working very hard to aquire nuclear weapons wants the world as we know it to end. See my earlier post on Iran and deterence. John Daniszewski, of the Los Angeles Times, wrote this article last spring on Iranian fervor for the return of the Mahdi, which would mean the end of this present period of history. (article linked from the Pittsburg Post-Gazette) He notes that one of Ahmadinejad's first actions was to spend $20 million refurbishing a mosque connected with veneration of the Mahdi.

Regimechangeiran has the transcript of the UN speech made one year ago by Ahmadinejad. Afterward he reported to colleagues that he had been surrounded by light as he gave the address. Here are the last two paragraphs:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

From the beginning of time, humanity has longed for the day when justice, peace, equality and compassion envelop the world. All of us can contribute to the establishment of such a world. When that day comes, the ultimate promise of all
Divine religions will be fulfilled with the emergence of a perfect human being who is heir to all prophets and pious men. He will lead the world to justice and absolute

0 mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace. 0 Lord, include us among his companions, followers and those who serve his cause.

(more cont.)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Recently I expressed my conclusion that GW Bush holds to a postmillennial hope, whether he is familiar with the term or not. The term "postmillennial" refers to the belief that the return of Christ will be preceeded by an extended time of peace, justice, and prosperity. Those holding this view are optimistic regarding the future, believing that history--over the long term--is being moved toward this bright future. American evangelicals who were so busy founding and operating various reforming societies in the first half of the nineteenth century (reforming prisons and asylums, spreading education and literacy, promoting Sunday-observance and Bible reading, fighting drunkeness and later all use of alcohol, agitating against slavery, etc) were motivated by this belief. The connection to politics, therefore, should be evident. Postmillennialism has affinities, and historic ties, with American Exceptionalism including Manifest Destiny.

Joab commented on this earlier post with a question regarding the support for this doctrine--in other words, how can a sane Christian believe this? I will now try to respond today or tomorrow as the first part of a 4 part series on Christian millennial views, with suggestions on their relation to policial action and cultural engagement. I will try to present each view fairly and strongly. Personal note: I am not a firm adherent of any of these views. I have described myself as a panmillennialist, believing that it will all pan out in the end. I do lean toward amillennialism or postmillennialism, depending mostly on my optimism/pessimism level regarding the human prospect.

For those of you interested in learning more, a good place to start is The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views on Intervarsity Press. Each position is defended by a scholar holding that position who then engages each of the other writers.
The Pope now has another defender in his corner, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Carey. (For you Baptists out there, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the world-wide Anglican Communion.) From the Times here. Hat tip LGF.

Here are a few paragraphs, but I hope you'll read the entire article.

"THE former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey of Clifton has issued his own challenge to “violent” Islam in a lecture in which he defends the Pope’s “extraordinarily effective and lucid” speech.
Lord Carey said that Muslims must address “with great urgency” their religion’s association with violence. He made it clear that he believed the “clash of civilisations” endangering the world was not between Islamist extremists and the West, but with Islam as a whole.

“We are living in dangerous and potentially cataclysmic times,” he said. “There will be no significant material and economic progress [in Muslim communities] until the Muslim mind is allowed to challenge the status quo of Muslim conventions and even their most cherished shibboleths.”

Lord Carey’s address came as the man who shot and wounded the last Pope wrote to Pope Benedict XVI to warn him that he was in danger. Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to murder John Paul II in 1981 and is now in prison in Turkey, urged the Pope not to visit the country in November. "

US tax revenues establish new one day record receipts. Here.
What we can infer: 1. The economy had a strong quarter. 2. Cuts in the tax rates did not necessarily decrease government revenues. 3. "Supply-Side Economics" may have some merit.
In one of my first posts I argued that President Bush, in his heart of hearts, is a postmillenialist. Postmillennialism is the Christian teaching that prior to Christ's return there will be a thousand years of peace and justice (Jesus will return after--post--the millenium). This teaching is optimistic and predicts that the future will be better than the past. Postmillennialism has largely been replaced in American evangelicalism by Premillennialism: the belief that Christ will return before--pre--the period of peace and justice. This teaching is pessimistic about the future prior to Christ's return: in most versions it is believed that things will get worse and worse, reaching a crisis prior to the Second Coming.

Reading the President's speech before the UN today --full text here-- I was struck again by his optimism that the future could be much, much better than the past because of the spread of liberty including political self-determination and a free market. To quote

"This morning, I want to speak about the more hopeful world that is within our reach, a world beyond terror, where ordinary men and women are free to determine their own destiny, where the voices of moderation are empowered, and where the extremists are marginalized by the peaceful majority. This world can be ours if we seek it and if we work together."

This speech sounded like it could have been given by Woodrow Wilson. (Who, by the way, was a devout Presbyterian elder, a denomination in the Reformed tradition, a tradition usually postmillenial.)

I wonder what GWB's evangelical base thinks of his goal? On the one hand, American evangelicals in the 20th century have tended to premillennialism, and have made books detailing the deterioration of the world before Christ's return best-sellers. On the other hand, in spite of their theology, it seems to me that most American evangelicals tend to be optimistic about their own future and plan accordingly.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
According to the Des Moines Register the contest for the next Iowa governor is too tight to call. (The incumbant not running (he seems to have caught presidential fever)).

Two issues have generated a lot of discussion. Abortion: the Republican candidate Jim Nussle has vowed to push to ban all abortions unless the mother's life is in danger. Immigrant assimilation: the Democrat candidate Chet Culver wants to repeal Iowa's law that English is the state's official language. Read the full article here.

It will be interesting to see if these issues are posed as questions to the many presidential candidates now visiting Iowa in the run-up to the Presidential Caucuses.

For my view on abortion see here. On assimilation and English here.
Christ Church, Plano, Texas (near Dallas) now has left the Episcopal Church and kept its property. One of the denomination's largest parishes (weekend attendance 2200), Christ Church has been unhappy for several years over the lack of respect for Scripture manifest in the Episcopal handling of the issue of same-sex practice. The parish plans to remain within Anglicanism (the world-wide communion of which Episcopalians are a part) overseen for the time being by the Bishop of Peru. From the Dallas Morning News. Hat tip Religion Headlines.

For previous posts on Mainline decline here, and here, and here., and here.
CNN is not infallible, but Gateway Pundit posted a cached CNN report from 1999 that links the two. Here is the link to the CNN article. How things change; now it is dogma in the MSM that bin Laden and Sadam would not have had anything to do with one another.

Here is the relevant paragraph:

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against the Western powers.

Despite repeated demands from Washington, the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden after the August 7 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, demanding proof of his involvement in terrorist activities.

However, in recent weeks, both the United States and Britain have renewed their pressure on the Taliban to expel bin Laden.

Hat tip Wizbang.
The Pope has been joined by the Archbishop of Greece who condemned "Islamic fanaticism" especially in Africa. Article here from Africa News. Hat tip Jihadwatch.

Because of the continuing furor over the Pope's remarks, I copy now my earlier post.

Pope Benedict XVI recently gave a speech that has angered some Muslims. The Vatican now has put an English translation of his lecture online here. The title is "Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections"

The speech, overall, is a very strong argument for the place of a theological faculty within a university, for the intrinsic link between reason and faith, and a criticism of the modern restriction of reason to a scientific positivism. I heartily recommend a careful reading of this lecture.

This is the part that inflames Muslims (cont. below).

» Read More

The State Department's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom is now available. The Report may be viewed on State's page here. The full report is downloadable as a pdf file. Hat tip Little Green Footballs.

I've put the Executive Summary in the extended section.

The worst offenders of religious freedom are designated Countries of Particular Concern. This year's list: "In November 2005, the Secretary re-designated Burma, China, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam as CPCs. Further details on U.S. actions in CPCs and other countries may be found in each individual country report." (half of these are Islamic--Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia--the other half are totalitarian regimes). So glad to see that free trade is bringing more and more freedom to the Chinese people (sarcasm alert).

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Recently A Waco Farmer posted an excellent piece entitled The Age of Paine. One of his comments prompted a response from me. He wrote:" Plenty of contemporary commentators warn that the Middle East is culturally ill-prepared to embrace democratic rule; consequently, they cast the US project to remake the Middle East as unadulterated folly. The argument in a nutshell: how can a society without an understanding and appreciation of John Locke adopt popular government? President Bush has intimated that this argument is a form of racism (or at least Eurocentrism). An aside: as one who teaches freshman history, I can only hope that a democratic society without an appreciation for John Locke can survive." To which I expanded "A brilliant essay. I would add that we colonials were the beneficiaries of the military power of English nobles (Magna Carta)[, the] violence of the English Civil War in the 17th century, and the miracle of the Glorious Revolution. Much of our violence had been done for us already before our Revolution. But, re: the Midle East, before Locke, the English also had the Puritans, followers and adapters of a Reformed theology from Switzerland that taught that tyranny was devilish. Calvin in Geneva granted a right to nobles and magistrates to rebel against a tyrant, Knox in Scotland turned it into a religious duty incumbant upon all Christians. (Committment to limited government based not on Burke, but on a radical understanding of Human Depravity.)"

I now would like to expand on the contributions made by the Reformed Tradition, mediated through the Puritans, that have contributed to our understanding of republican government, especially the idea of limited government. (cont. below)

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I do not want to make too much of this anecdote, but, I think it may indeed say something about American opinion between San Jose/San Francisco and Manhattan.

The other day I was in a group of older Native American men, most of whom are not members of our church. These are not rabid Republicans, nor are they blind Democrats. World affairs came up, specifically Islamic terrorism. One man suggested we may need to nuke Iran. Everyone present shook their heads in agreement. The oldest present then said: "If ants are getting into your house, you can't get rid of them a few at a time in your kitchen; you go into your yard, pour gas on the ant hill, and set it on fire."
One of the biggest problems we face in both conflicts is the fact that the enemy have safe havens adjacent to combat areas. For the sanctuary situation for Afghanistan, see this excellent material from The Fourth Rail. Here Hat tip Instapundit. Pakistan has allowed the creation of a Taliban controlled region along the Afghan border.
If Hillary Clinton is elected in 2008 (and at this moment, she is the most likely person to be the forty-fourth president of the United States--see Part I), America will endure; perhaps, we will even prosper.

Why it's probably going to be okay: What do I mean by "okay"? I mean we will be fine; she will be fine.

A personal aside: A few months back, in two separate off-line discussions on the same issue, I got on the wrong side of my friends, and Bosque Boys regulars, Gossenius and "Tocqueville" (quite a feat; they do not agree on much). I rendered them incredulous arguing that Harriet Miers would "be fine" as a Supreme Court justice (they both argued that she was unqualified).

Gossenius, especially, properly demanded that I explain my statement. At the time, I was at a loss to articulate what I knew in my soul: it does not take a legal genius to serve on the Supreme Court. Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are great legal minds, and they advocate brilliantly for their positions. But are they good jurists? Are they honest triers of fact? Or are they merely brilliant proponents of their particular political philosophies. Harriet would have been fine.

I am just enough of a "Jacksonian Democrat" to be increasingly convinced that common sense and integrity are more important qualities in leadership than ideology or conspicuous intelligence. It does not take an Ivy League-educated intellectual to serve as president of the United States. In fact, some of our least successful presidents have been geniuses (Herbert Hoover & JQ Adams, for example).

John Kerry would have been fine. Al Gore: fine. George Bush: fine. Mrs. Clinton will be fine, for she is a dedicated public servant who wants America to prosper and succeed. The presidency will test her, torment her and age her, but it will also demand her very best. I have a whole list of disagreements with Mrs. Clinton, but just like all of her predecessors, she will summon the total of her inner strength and the best elements of her personality to meet the awesome challenges of the office.

More importantly, our nation has the innate capacity to overcome mediocre leaders. Writing in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville observed: "the great advantage of the Americans consists in their [ability] to commit faults which they may afterwards repair." As a corollary, he wrote: "American democracy frequently errs in the choice of the individuals to whom it entrusts the power of the administration; but...the state prospers under their rule."

Why does American democracy prosper in spite of inferior leadership? Tocqueville offered three reasons: 1) the people are vigilant and jealous of their rights; 2) leaders are in power for relatively short periods of time; and, most importantly, 3) the interest of the leaders are more likely to be subsumed in the interest of the people. While aristocratic (or elite) "magistrates" might offer more sterling talents and virtues individually, there is "a secret tendency in democratic institutions that [works toward the good] of the community in spite of their vices and mistakes." Ironically, Tocqueville argues, "in aristocratic governments public men may frequently do harm without intending it; and in democratic states they bring about good results of which they have never thought."

Political passions tend to blind us to the good in American public servants. Looking back over American history, we do not see a pattern of good versus evil (although the partisans of the day certainly cast the contests in that light). The battles between Hamilton and Jefferson were fought on those terms, but we now see that Hamilton and Jefferson both were earnest in their love of country and both essential to our success. The same can be said for Jackson and Clay or McKinley and Bryan. Some Americans live long enough to participate on both sides of the divide. Ronald Reagan began his adulthood as a New Deal Democrat and adherent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but he lived to lead a counter-revolution that bears his name. In truth, he was right both times.

America perseveres.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
If elected president of the United States in 2008, Hillary Clinton will make the least attractive and least affable chief executive of the modern media age. From the piercing laugh (oftentimes when nothing is funny) to the menacing scowl when the TV cameras catch her in unguarded moments, Mrs. Clinton tends to come across unnervingly manufactured, even soulless at times.

A sensitive person winces at the potential for insult and imitation, if professional comedians ever draw their bead on the Senator from New York. Essentially humorless, Mrs. Clinton projects a deep cynicism that seems unbecoming as the leader of the free world. Up to this point, her most memorable public utterance remains, "the vast right-wing conspiracy," when she famously identified a mysterious cabal engaged in a plot to bring down her and her husband.

Having said all that, if she is elected (and at this moment, she is the most likely person to be the forty-fourth president of the United States), America will endure; perhaps, we will even prosper.

Why she's probably going to win: 2008 looks like a Democratic year; the election will transpire in the sixth year of the war in Iraq. Even if things get dramatically better in the Middle East, Americans will remain sour on our actions for at least a decade. While the economy is arguably quite robust presently, the public seems less than satisfied. We are not likely to see any dramatic upswings in consumer confidence during the next two years. The two candidates who most likely would run strongest against the Democratic candidate, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, are unlikely to win the Republican nomination.

So, given the likely list of GOP nominees, the war and the Bush economy (that cannot seem to "get no respect") and factoring in the traditional restlessness of the American electorate at the presidential level, it follows that almost any Democratic nominee can win the general election (even John Kerry). If Hillary wants the nomination, she is likely to get it. If she gets the nomination, she is likely to win election.

Might she decline? Most American statesman, given the opportunity to be president, jump at the chance. For reasons of pride and personal satisfaction as well as public interest (granted, these two reasons are closely related; that is, most politicians believe that it is in the public interest for them to be in charge), the presidency is the irresistible and irreplaceable capstone to a political career in our nation.

Bottom-line: The Democratic nomination is Clinton's to lose or decline. My bet is that she accepts it.

See Part II for why we will endure; Part III will offer a scenario in which we might even prosper.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
No, I am not being sarcastic with this heading. Yesterday the House approved the spending transparency bill, changing House rules so that earmarks are explicit, with sponsor names attached. Instapundit has details here:

"PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: THE EARMARK-REFORM RULES CHANGE has passed the House 245-171. This is an excellent day.

Neither this, nor the passage of S. 2590 this week, means that the problem of wasteful -- and often corrupt -- pork has been solved. But it does mean that a much greater dose of transparency has been applied, and I think that's likely to make a very significant difference.

How big a difference, of course, will depend on the extent to which people continue to pay attention.

UPDATE: Here's a list of how they voted. You might want to let your Rep. know how you feel about his/her vote.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The White House has issued a statement from President Bush on the reform:

I applaud the House of Representatives for voting again this week in support of greater transparency and accountability in government. H.R. 1000 would shine a brighter light on earmarks by requiring disclosure of the sponsors of each provision. This reform would help improve the legislative process by making sure both lawmakers and the public are better informed before Congress votes to spend the taxpayers’ money.

I'm told the White House regards this as "a good first step." Indeed."

(An okie gardener again) Interesting to me is the breakdown of Ayes and Nays by party (from the House Clerk) Dems like darkness rather than light on spending.

Republican Y 199 N 24 NV 8
Democratic Y 45 N 147 NV 9
Independent Y 1
TOTALS Y 245 N 171 NV17
From the AP via the Washington Post:

"Former Texas governor Ann Richards, the witty and flamboyant Democrat who went from homemaker to national political celebrity, died Sept. 13 after cancer was diagnosed this year, a family spokeswoman said. She was 73."

Wayne Slater, the senior political writer for The Dallas Morning News and famous Karl Rove-watcher, pens a flattering tribute to the former governor, which is worth reading.

An excerpt:

"When Ms. Richards first took office as governor, she retained her predecessor's huge cotton-trader's desk, but little else in the office.

"Gone were the Tom Lea oil paintings of cowboys and cattle. They were replaced by contemporary art: an impressionist beach scene and huge photographs of outdoor settings tinted in green and mauve.

"In one corner was a sculpture of a woman, erect and serene, playing a lute on the back of a tiger. The metaphor was not lost on her."

The Speech. Unfortunately, most of us were introduced to Ann Richards in 1988, when she offered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. That particular venue begs for partisanship and crude characterizations, and she delivered. We all remember the line that made her famous:

"Poor George. He can't help it - he was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

Employing a thick Texas drawl and sprinkling her address with colorful "Texasisms," the Waco native and Baylor graduate touched on all the boilerplate items one would expect to hear from a loyal party functionary: FDR, the Depression and the "little man." Republicans were uncaring, corporate malefactors intent on polluting the water and starving children. She cast Ronald Reagan as the personification of cruelty and incompetence, while she held up Jesse Jackson as the epitome of American statesmanship. It was an unabashedly political speech, but not inappropriate for that particular stage.

Even though candidate George H.W. Bush, the primary target of her blistering attack, overcame the verbal assault to win election as president that year, the speech launched Richards into the national orbit. Two years later, Richards won the governorship of Texas. Two years after that, she chaired the Democratic National Convention that nominated Bill Clinton, who defeated the incumbent President Bush.

Those were heady times for Governor Richards. With public opinion polls registering strong approval for her in Texas and beyond, her star seemed on the rise. Then all the laughter turned to sorrow. George Bush the son (whom she and Molly Ivins called "the shrub") emerged to challenge her reelection juggernaut and square the family accounts. The forty-seven-year-old "ne'er-do-well" seemed an unlikely figure to settle the score. Inarticulate and lacking accomplishment and political experience, he was easy to "misunderestimate." Governor Richards did not realize until much too late that she was in a fight, and the legend of George W. was born.

Sadder and Wiser: The governor left the Texas statehouse proudly proclaiming that she "had opened government to everyone," but she was humbled, relegated to CNN and Doritos commercials. And she softened some in her later years, explaining that life had made her "sadder and wiser" over time.

A personal aside: I saw that side of her once. I attended a funeral in Waco a few years ago where she eulogized her cousin. She was wonderful. She spoke simple words before simple people. Her Texas accent was less accentuated, her tone was soft and comforting, and her words were meaningful. She owned the room and won me over.

It is easy to demonize a hard-charging, take-no-prisoners party loyalist, but American politics would not be American politics without rabid believers and verbal brawlers. Let us not judge her too harshly. Ann Richards was a hard woman in a hard game. She came from way back in the pack and ascended to the national stage on the strength of her passion for "justice" and her inner drive to win. She gave no quarter, and she asked for none. In the end, however, the story of Ann Richards embodies and reinforces the notion of opportunity and equality and the ideal that hard work and determination can lead to triumph.

Although I will never forget her ringing condemnation in that noisy hall in the summer of 1988, I prefer to remember her for her softer words of consolation and community that I heard in the smallish memorial chapel in Waco ten years later.

Rest in peace, Ann Richards. "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
In an earlier post I had some info on the legislation that has passed Congress creating a searchable database of Federal grant, etc, spending. Here. Now, here is information from Tim Chapman on a related vote to change House Rules so as to make spending legislation explicit, obvious, and with the sponsor's name attached. The prospects for this change being approved are dicey. Link here. A portion of the info is here:

"The more controversial measure is a proposed House rules change that would change the current culture of earmarking in Congress. Under the proposed change, all committee reports for appropriations bills, authorization bills or tax bills will be required to contain a list of all the earmarks in the legislation along with the names of the member who requested the earmark. Also, conference reports will be required to contain the same list with additions from the conference. Members who find a particular earmark inappropriate or egregious will have the freedom to highlight that project.

The House Rules Committee is holding a committee markup on the rule change tomorrow and a vote has been scheduled for Thursday. The vote will be close.

Appropriators (of course) have problems with the legislation. As many as 15 appropriators could oppose the measure as it is currently written. There is hope of winning some Democratic votes though. The place to look for Democrat votes will be amongst the 35 moderates — a remnant of the blue dogs — who voted for line item veto powers for the President. But these votes will not come easy."


» Read More

Pope Benedict XVI recently gave a speech that has angered some Muslims. The Vatican now has put an English translation of his lecture online here. The title is "Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections"

The speech, overall, is a very strong argument for the place of a theological faculty within a university, for the intrinsic link between reason and faith, and a criticism of the modern restriction of reason to a scientific positivism. I heartily recommend a careful reading of this lecture.

This is the part that inflames Muslims (cont. below).

» Read More

The previous post on tax-credits has generated discussion about big-spending government in which politicians use tax money to buy votes by "bringing home the bacon" for their districts and states. Currently members of Congress can do this vote-buying with little publicity or accountability. Now, thanks to a push by concerned citizens, with major energy coming from conservative bloggers, we may, like the Progressives of old, be about to shine a light into the dark corners of government corruption. The below is copied from Instapundit.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The earmark reform legislation has passed the House (identical legislation was already passed in the Senate) so it's now heading to the President's desk. Here's an email from the Majority Whip's office:

WASHINGTON---Legislation championed by House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) to increase budget accountability and transparency by establishing a public database to track federal grants and contracts passed the House tonight by voice vote. . . .

The federal government awards approximately $300 billion in grants to roughly 30,000 different organizations annually. Each year, roughly one million contracts exceed the $25,000 reporting threshold. The Blunt-Davis bill will ensure that those expenditures are readily accessible to the media, the public, and Members of Congress.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act will:

Eliminate Wasteful Spending by empowering everyone with access to the internet to begin reviewing federal grants and other forms of taxpayer assistance for waste, fraud, and abuse;

Ensure Compliance with Federal Law by requiring grantees to also disclose their subgrantees, and

Ensure Compliance with Lobbying Restrictions by identifying entities receiving federal grants that would be subject to lobbying restrictions in existing law.

With House passage of S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, and the enrollment correction containing the House-Senate compromise agreement, the final bill will now go to the president for his signature.

It's not the end of the fight against pork, but it's certainly a very significant step. Congratulations to everyone involved!
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Des Moines Register has a good article summarizing the current status of this House race in which the Democrats have a good chance to pick up a Republican seat. The Republican incumbant is not seeking reelection, but is in the race for Iowa governor. Read article.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
One of the crucial Senate races this fall is in Missouri where Republican incumbant Jim Talent is under a strong challenge by Democrat Claire McCaskill. See my earlier post on the race.

This week McCaskill gave a phone interview to reporters in which she made the following plan: give first-time home-buyers a tax credit; give parents of children in college a tax credit or deduction; give parents a child-care credit. (She also expressed the party-line that Republican tax cuts only benefit the rich.) See the article from the Kansas City Star.

Her assumption, and the Democrat assumption, seems to be that our money belongs to the government. They will give some of it back, or not take as much, if we do what they think is best with the money. Why not make it simpler: let us keep more of our money! Lower government spending and lower taxes and let the citizens decide how to spend their money. Plus, as I have pointed out here, high taxes undercut the American strength of voluntary societies.

Her proposals encourage mothers to work outside the home: why not cut taxes and help traditional families make the choice they want to make. And, tax credits for tuition do not benefit families with no children, nor do they benefit families whose children are not college-bound, nor do they benefit families whose children enlist in the military ceasing to be dependents. (Actually, her proposal helps to undercut one of the important tools the military has for recruiting.)
USA today carries a good report on research underway by Baylor University sociologists and the Gallup organization on the religious beliefs of Americans. One finding: the view of God held by a person is a much better predictor of positions on public issues than denominational affiliation. The researchers have grouped the results into 4 basic categories of how God is viewed: "These Four Gods — dubbed by researchers Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant — tell more about people's social, moral and political views and personal piety than the familiar categories of Protestant/Catholic/Jew or even red state/blue state." For example, those who see God as Authoritarian are more likely to support conservative Christian positions in politics. Also, different regions of the U.S. tend to have different proportions of views of God. Read Article.

This survey seems to lend support to some observations I made in Part 2 of my series of posts on Religion and Public Policy.
The problem with capitalism is capitalists. I don't know who first said this, but I believe it more strongly every day. "Anything for a Buck" capitalists are a danger to everything good.

Read this damning article from Business Week Online about American companies helping the Chinese government control their own people. (Warning: take your blood pressure meds first) Hat tip Nordinger NRO.

A teaser: "Despite the improvement of its image on the world stage, China still has a dismal human rights record. The U.S. State Dept. says that the Communist government is holding at least 260,000 people in ideological "reeducation" camps. Among those detained are pro-democracy activists and members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which the government considers an illegal cult. U.S. technology has been used at least indirectly to improve the government's ability to identify Falun Gong adherents, according to Hao Fengjun, a former security official who has fled China for Australia.

Some American companies have gone out of their way to appeal to the Chinese government's pronounced concern about avoiding unrest. In Chinese-language brochures distributed at a police-technology trade show in Shanghai in 2002, Cisco repeatedly referred to its gear with such phrases as "strengthening police control" and "increasing social stability." Cisco, based in San Jose, Calif., says there's nothing unusual about its marketing in China. "We sell to police organizations in many countries," says Rick Justice, senior vice-president for worldwide operations. "We do business [in China] the way we do business anywhere.""

I thought we were to be on the side of democracy and liberty in the world?
Should U.S. public policy reflect viewpoints arrived at because of religious beliefs?

Prompted by the spirited debate on this blog over the issue of same-sex marriage and public policy, I began a series of posts on my view of the proper relationship between religion and public policy, including debate in the public square of the United States. In my first post I approached the issue from a historical perspective here. In the second post I approached it from a philosophical and observational angle here. Now I want to take a look from a theological perspective.

But first, no apologies, a little history. Christianity's parent religion, Judaism, made no fundamental distinction between religious life and ordinary life. The religious community was the tribe and eventually the nation; In this respect the Jews were like about everyone else in the premodern world. The Jewish prophets went beyond what was usually seen in paganism and held the people and the rulers accountable to the Law in all aspects of life from diet to care for the poor: ethics was firmly a part of religion. When Christianity arose as a minority sect within Judaism, it arose within an existing Greco-Roman society. The New Testament, perhaps because of an expectation of the immanent return of Jesus and the fact that "not many mighty" were Christians, contains no explicit call to conform the larger society to Christian beliefs and practices. Instead, the community is to live according to its own moral code within the larger society whose laws it is to obey except where these conflict with Christian morals. But, when Christianity grew larger and obtained a privilaged place within the Roman Empire, the relationship between public policy and Christian faith had to be revisited. Short summary: in the Eastern Empire (Byzantine) church and state formed a complex whole under the leadership of the emperor; in the fragmenting Western Empire, power within the church consolidated under the Bishop of Rome (pope) who engaged in power struggles with the various rulers, all the while advocating the position that all of life must be brought under the rule of Christ. Similar positions obtained in other Christian kingdoms such as Ethiopia and Armenia. Theologically, to summarize crudely, this change was justified on grounds such as the Lordship of Christ over all Creation, and the growth of God's Kingdom. Outside these areas in places such as along the Silk Road to China and in the Persian Empire, Christian communities continued the earlier pattern of living as small communities with little power. In the West, the Protestant Reformation did not basically challenge the organic nature of society--linking public policy and Christianity (though Luther's theology separates the two more than Calvin's), except for some of the small and persecuted Radical groups who did advocate a separation of church and government. When the story gets to America, see my first post. My own view is below.

» Read More

The current Pope understands the need to respond to Islamic violence. He made some interesting remarks in a recent lecture, according to Newsmax. The opening paragraphs of this article are below. The full-text of the lecture does not yet seem to be on the Vatican website.

"Pope Benedict XVI invited Muslims on Tuesday to join a dialogue of cultures based on the premise that the concept of an Islamic "holy war" is unreasonable and against God's nature.

In a major lecture at Regensburg University, where he taught theology between 1969 to 1977, Benedict said Christianity is tightly linked to reason and contrasted this view with those who believe in spreading their faith by the sword.

The 79-year-old Pontiff avoided making a direct criticism of Islam, packaging his comments in a highly complex academic lecture with references ranging from ancient Jewish and Greek thinking to Protestant theology and modern atheism.

In his lecture, the Pope quoted, among others, the 14th century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologos who wrote that Mohammad had brought things "only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The Pope, who used the terms "jihad" and "holy war" in his lecture, added in his own words: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul"."

I watched the president's address this evening, and thought it was good. When the address came on I flipped over to C-SPAN (I was watching the ABC docudrama Path to 9/11), then flipped back to ABC after the address. I was just in time to see and hear George Stephanopoulis (does anyone but me ever have the urge to reach out and smack him up-side the head?) offer his analysis of the speech--all he could talk about was the speech in relation to the upcoming Congressional elections; in other words, he only discussed it as a political event, not as a wartime address in the context of the ongoing dangers. What an unserious response!

Ordinarily I avoid anything like a "docudrama", not wanting to clutter my mind with images and conversations that may not be historically accurate. I only decided to watch Path to 9/11 because of the attempts by the Clinton adminstration lawyers and others to block the release, or at least modify it. My personal reaction to the drama was that I thought it stuck pretty well to what we know (and who knows what we will never know thanks to folks like Sandy "Oops it's accidentally in my Pants" Berger). At the least, it was a good reminder that we are at war with religiously motivated folks who want to kill us in the name of their god. (Did you notice that the shooting targets in the Al Qaeda training camp had crosses painted on them?)
In 1565 the Muslim Turks invaded the island of Malta. In that year a relatively small group of Knights of St. John (Hospitallers) plus the island's population held out against, and finally defeated, the superior attacking force. This was one of the many battles between Christian Europeans and Muslims in the centuries after the rise of Islam. The War did not start on Sept. 11, 2001. Our current conflict is a part of the nearly 1400 year-long battle between Islam and everyone else. (We shouldn't be so Euro-centric: ask Christian Ethiopia and Hindu India about this long war.)

The story of the island's defense is given here..

Also, this week is the anniversary of the relief of the siege of Vienna in 1683 by the Poles. The Muslim Turks were pushing into Central Europe (again), occupying Hungary, and laying siege to Vienna. After a difficult resistance by the city aided by other European groups, a Christian Polish army arrived and defeated the Turks.
Four years ago today, I delivered an address here at my institution in memory of the first-year anniversay of 9-11. Reading over the text of that speech, I wonder how well we have responded to our moment of responsibility?

September 11, 2002:

“ALWAYS REMEMBER.” We are not likely to forget. The images of that day are seared into our national memory. September 11th is one of those exceedingly rare universal moments of history, in which all Americans, for as long as they live, will recall with absolute clarity where they were and what they were doing when the reports of the attacks first reached them. So many of us were on campus when we first heard the news, first viewed the startling pictures, and grappled to make sense of the tragic spectacle as it unraveled before our eyes.

Our initial reactions differed. Many of us reached out to loved ones via the telephone. Some of us paused in silent meditation. Or perhaps we could only watch in stunned silence. But then, after that, we turned to each other for solace. It is appropriate that we congregated again not only to honor the heroes of September 11th but also to reflect together on our world then and our world now and the world that we will make.

Today our students presented selected historical readings, which included Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Daniel Webster, Franklin Roosevelt, Barbara Jordan and John Kennedy. It was especially moving to hear the collected wisdom of our past proclaimed in such powerful fashion by the caretakers of our future. They emphasized the words of Lincoln as he addressed the crowd at Gettysburg so many years ago. I am struck by Lincoln’s poignant and forceful appeal to Americans of his generation, exhorting his listeners to complete the work left undone by the valiant warriors who sacrificed their lives at Gettysburg.

Today we placed a memorial wreath, the Marines fired off a salute, we shared a moment of silence and we read a poem to honor our countrymen lost on that catastrophic morning one-year ago. During the moving memorial many of us shed a tear in their memory. All of those gestures were good and fitting and necessary. We do well to commemorate our fallen citizens in that way.

However, those emotions alone are not sufficient. The honored dead deserve more; they demand more. Lincoln was right. Webster was right. Kennedy was right. Those honored dead don’t cry out for our sympathy, they call out fervently and surely for our commitment. The distinct and compelling voices of our past entreat us to act boldly, and they remind us that our sacred obligation of citizenship is now due.

"Always Remember." Certainly, we will remember. We will remember the tragedy and terror and chaos of that day. We will remember the heroism of New York City, the brave men and women of Flight 93, the heroes of the Pentagon, and countless other acts of valor that summon hope and lament simultaneously. We will always remember them. We will construct monuments of steel and stone so that future generations will remember them also.

But will anyone remember us? Will we respond to this defining moment with humanity, brotherhood, resolve and dedication? Will our reply to this test of national and individual character be worthy of our heroic past? Our answer must be yes. Invoking the “better angels of our nature,” we will defeat the external threats to our freedom, fight tenaciously in defense of our domestic liberty and continue to strive toward fulfilling our “national purpose.” In the end, total commitment to those ideals offers the most profound memorial to our fallen brothers and sisters. May God rest their souls and bless our efforts.
From the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, the perfect response to Sen. Rockefeller's comment that the world would be better off if Saddam Hussein still were in power. (Warning: the Rott is given to passionate language and a take-no-prisoners style) Here.
In the Times online the author David Selbourne answers this question "No," and gives 10 reasons why not. Some of his points echo those A Waco Farmer and I have made at different times, though we have not descended into Spenglerian gloom yet.

Read the full article. In brief, his 10 points are (quoting the first sentence of each paragraph):

1) The first is the extent of political division in the non-Muslim world about what is afoot.
2) The second reason why, as things stand, Islam will not be defeated is that the strengths of the world community of Muslims are being underestimated, and the nature of Islam misunderstood.
3) Indeed, the third reason why Islam will not be defeated, as things stand, is the low level of Western leadership, in particular in the United States.
4) Next is the contribution to the disarray of Western policy-making being made by the egotistical competitiveness, and in some cases hysterics, of “experts” and commentators on Islam.
5) The fifth disablement is to be found in the confusion of “progressives” about the Islamic advance.
6) The sixth reason for Islam’s growing strength is the vicarious satisfaction felt by many non-Muslims at America’s reverses.
7) The seventh reason lies in the moral poverty of the West’s, and especially America’s, own value system.
8) The next indication that Islam’s advance will continue lies in the skilful use being made of the media and of the world wide web in the service both of the “electronic jihad” and the bamboozling of Western opinion by Muslim spokesmen.
9) The ninth factor guaranteeing Islam’s onward march is the West’s dependency on the material resources of Arab and Muslim countries.
10) Finally, the West is convinced that its notions of technology-driven modernity and market-driven prog- ress are innately superior to the ideals of “backward” Islam.

Hat tip Jihadwatch.
News that a Christian church building has been burned by a Muslim mob in Indonesia. Read here. Islam is as much a religion of tolerance as I am a Klingon.
I continue to read and recommend Gordon Wood's latest offering, the brilliant Revolutionary Characters. His brief essay on Tom Paine, "America's First Public Intellectual," reminded me that the international revolution that Paine promoted with such vigor, enthusiasm, and optimism collapsed initially.

Plenty of contemporary commentators warn that the Middle East is culturally ill-prepared to embrace democratic rule; consequently, they cast the US project to remake the Middle East as unadulterated folly. The argument in a nutshell: how can a society without an understanding and appreciation of John Locke adopt popular government? President Bush has intimated that this argument is a form of racism (or at least Eurocentrism).

An aside: as one who teaches freshman history, I can only hope that a democratic society without an appreciation for John Locke can survive.

Were Europeans prepared for democracy? Many of those most virulently pessimistic about democracy in the Middle East are smug Europeans (or smug Americans who pine for a European sense of sophistication in our culture). But Europhiles are too quick to forget pre-WW II history. While the United States showed an almost immediate aptitude for republican-democratic government, the long and dreary path to self governance in the Old World featured spectacular failures. In fact, the American clarion call brought much more grief than triumph for European republicans in the nineteenth century. Then, in the early twentieth century, when democracy seemed on the march, the drive faltered once again in tragic and astonishing fashion, when fascism overpowered the fledgling democratic governments of Western Europe.

A rebirth of conservatism? Professor Wood reminds us that John Adams, writing more than a decade after the failed French Revolution, refused to call the times in which he lived an "Age of Reason" (alluding to the famous contemporaneous treatise of the same name). In the mind of Adams, it was nothing of the sort. Adams preferred to describe his era as one of "the Burning Brand from the Bottomless Pit," or, perhaps, the "Age of Paine."

He referred to Thomas Paine, and, as you might infer, he offered the label not as tribute but as censure. Adams believed that Paine's sanguine and impractical philosophy of rule by the masses had corrupted the opportunity for a level-headed republican experiment and caused (and would cause much more) misfortune, suffering, distress and agony. The Age of Pain(e).

Other contemporaries of Paine and Adams saw the dark power for destruction contained within the new age of popular revolution. More than fifteen years prior to Adams's stinging critique, Edmund Burke wrote Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), which correctly predicted the disastrous and brutal conclusion to the French Revolution. Burke's jeremiad against the radical assault on tradition, authority and human nature gave birth to modern conservative thought.

The optimistic age that produced the French Revolution drew strength from the surprisingly successful rebellion against the British Empire in America. In turn, the "terror" of the French Revolution gave voice to a calculated realism, gradualism, and respect for tradition that eventually gave rise to modern conservatism. Undoubtedly, the triumph of American ideals, will and power in World War II and the Cold War provided the foundation for a renewed optimistic vision for a world connected by liberty, equality, and brotherhood. Will the perils and frustrations of Iraq bring about a conservative revival in American politics?

What of Iraq? Did we move too fast? Did we entertain unrealistic expectations? Yes. Students of democratic history should not be surprised at the troubles inherent in this brand of societal transformation. On the other hand, history also offers hope. From the despair of failed revolutions, horrific wars, and unspeakable cruelties in Europe emerged the modern era of Continental peace, prosperity, tolerance, and popular rule. The world was not prepared for democracy in the "Age of Paine," but that trying period spread the seeds of democratic thought and began the slow and agonizing process of positive change.

The great question of our age remains: will the seeds we plant in Iraq today eventually produce a fruitful Middle East?
Category: Baylor
Posted by: an okie gardener
From the Houston Baptist University website, this story about their new president, Robert Sloan.

Sloan served a controversial tenure as President of Baylor University from 1995-2005, serving as Chancellor since then. I was at Baylor, in various capacities, for almost this entire time: graduate student, adjunct instructor, library research assistant. At first I defended him against his critics, holding that anyone deserved some slack their first couple of years learning a new job. But, I gradually switched from defender to critic myself. I agreed with one of his basic propositions: Baylor needs to be a Christian University, particularly a Baptist institution (and we can argue over what that means exactly). But, it seemed to me that Sloan was in over his head, and was not a good consensus builder.

I have mixed feelings about his move to Houston Baptist. On the one hand, university presidents sometimes do take the same job at other schools. But, on the other, Houston Baptist is just down the road from Baylor (in Texas terms), competes for some of the same students, woos an overlapping constituancy of Baptist churches for support, and probably competes for some of the same contributor dollars. Overall, I cannot feel this to be a classy move.
Friend of the Bosque Boys and contributor, Gossenius, has launched his own blog: Osler's Razor. The subtitle says a lot: "musings, rants, recipes, repressed memories, haiku, and drivel from a professor at Baylor Law School." I am already enjoying it, and I recommend it to you. As one of my favorite social commentators used to say, it's fun, "and if you're not careful, you might learn something before it's done."

Good luck.
Confucius held that for society to function in a healthy and orderly way, words must have their proper meanings. He understood that how we speak both reflects and influences how we think and act: unclear language both results from and leads to unclear thinking which results in confused action. A Waco Farmer, and I, have made the same point in regard to the present War and to politics in general. (Farmer offers some historical political examples here.)

For example, I do not use the term "vegetative state" to refer to a patient in a coma. I become disturbed when someone says of a coma patient--"he/she is just a vegetable." Humans are not vegetables. I think this term helps to dehumanize the one in the coma, making it easier for us to terminate care. [I am not arguing for using all available means to prolong life, but that is another post.]

This article from yesterday's Washington Post reports that scientists have discovered surprising brain activity in patients regarded as "vegetative." Evidently we will be needing new standards of testing, and perhaps new terms, for comatose people.
In our society groups gain from attaining the status of "victim." Once the "victim" label is on a group, then they become difficult to criticize and can make demands based on grievances. One player in American politics who understands this game is CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. To read their press releases, one would believe that America has been awash in the persecution of Muslims since 9/11. Their claim has been repeated often enough that it has entered public consciousness: witness the scholarly paper on corruption and economic development posted earlier, in which reference is made to anti-Islamic hate-crimes following 9/11. The footnote for this reference is to a CAIR release.

But, is CAIR overstating the number of anti-Muslim hate-crimes in the US? Perhaps to aquire the coveted status of victim? That charge has been made in the blogosphere. Perhaps it is best to check an objective source. Here is a quote from the official FBI report on hate crimes in 2001. "A breakdown of the 2118 victims of hate crimes motivated by religious bias showed that the majority of victims were Jewish, 56.5 percent. Anti-Islamic bias accounted for 26.2 percent of victims of hate crimes motivated by religious bias, . . ." Report here . The statistics table shows 554 Muslim victims, compared with 1196 Jewish victims. For 2000 the FBI report indicates 36 Muslim victims, and 1269 Jewish. Report here. For 2002 the figures are 174 Muslim victims, and 1084 Jewish. Report here.

Yes, we did see a spike in anti-Muslim incidents following 9/11. But, we have not seen continued widespread persecution of Muslims. Even during and after 2001 it remains more hazardous to be Jewish.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
An extremely provocative editorial essay here from the Brussels Journal. The author's thesis:

"To sum it up, it must be said that radical feminism has been one of the most important causes of the current weakness of Western civilization, both culturally and demographically. Feminists, often with a Marxist world view, have been a crucial component in establishing the suffocating public censorship of Political Correctness in Western nations. They have also severely weakened the Western family structure, and contributed to making the West too soft and self-loathing to deal with aggression from Muslims.

Although feminism may have strayed away into extremism, that does not mean that all of its ideas are wrong. The women’s movement will make lasting changes. Women have occupied positions considered unthinkable only a few decades ago. Some things are irreversible."

I am mulling over this essay, and may comment later, but I think it well worth reading.

From Germany: a very prominent women's rights attorney in Germany who has represented Muslim women in cases involving forced marriages, and has sought to raise awareness of the practice of honor killings, has given up her practice following attacks and death threats.

From the Telegraph: "A prominent Berlin lawyer has gone underground after receiving death threats for defending Muslim women who have been forced into marriage.

Seyran Ates, 43, a women's rights advocate, was named Germany's woman of the year in 2005 and has repeatedly spoken out against forced marriage, headscarves and honour killings. She said she had closed her practice as she could not operate safely.

Miss Ates said police had refused to protect her despite threats against her life, including a shooting incident in which a colleague was killed and she was seriously injured." Read entire article. Hat tip Jihadwatch.

This incident is one of countless inconvenient truths that challenge the naive assertion that all cultures are equal and should receive equal respect.

While Roman Catholicism is a major part of the soil from which Mexican culture grows, the relation between the Mexican government and the Roman Church has been rocky in the 20th century: anti-clericalism has been strong. Short history: an enforced separation of the church from affairs of state. Felipe Calderon, who appears to be the next president of Mexico, is an analomy: a fervent, conservative Roman Catholic in high politics. See this article from the Miami Herald. Link. What will his presidency mean for church-state relations in Mexico? Stay tuned.
Courtesy of Photognome, this study presented at USC Applied Economics Workshop.

Abstract: Corruption is believed to be a major factor impeding economic development, but the importance of legal enforcement versus cultural norms in controlling corruption is poorly understood. To disentangle these two factors, we exploit a natural experiment, the stationing of thousands of diplomats from around the world in New York City. Diplomatic immunity means there was essentially zero legal enforcement of diplomatic parking violations, allowing us to examine the role of cultural norms alone. This generates a revealed preference measure of corruption based on real-world behavior for government officials all acting in the same setting. We find tremendous persistence in corruption norms: diplomats from high corruption countries(based on existing survey-based indices) have significantly more parking violations. In a second main result, officials from countries that survey evidence indicates have less favorable popular views of the United States commit significantly more parking violations, providing nonlaboratory evidence on the role that sentiment and affinity play in economic decision-making.

Read paper. Link requires Adobe Acrobat.
Category: Immigration
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Approximately a month ago, I asserted that the leadership of the Democratic party faced a choice in re the minimum wage (see this previous post for review): they could accept a "deal" in which they gave something away (permanent reduction of the "estate tax") and received in return: a 40 percent pay raise for minimum-wage workers over three years. Or they could reject the compromise and, perhaps more significantly, keep minimum wage alive as an issue for the upcoming midterm election. They chose the latter. The tragedy, of course, is that the people, for whom they "care so much," are left out in the cold. Instead of immediate relief, the action of the party is meant to force the "poorest among us" to hope for complete Democratic domination of Congress and the Executive. That may be a powerful weapon to get out the vote--but it is also a cruel calculation, which subordinates policy and humanity to electioneering. Because of this self-interested decision, we may be years away from another opportunity to raise the minimum wage.

The Republicans have a similar dilemma on immigration. They have left themselves an extremely brief window to craft an imperfect solution to a very complicated problem (and most likely face a damaging firestorm on their rightwing). Or they can bury the immigration legislation, run as hardliners on immigration in volatile districts (portraying Democrats as soft-headed multiculturalists, who advocate an open-border policy). The problem with that strategy, as in the case of the Democrats and the minimum wage, is that no one can predict what the future holds. This may be the last Congress in which a GOP majority rules both Houses and a Republican president resides at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Eschewing a thorny compromise in favor of short-term boost of political adrenaline may mean that nothing gets done on immigration, for a long time. For all of those who worry about amnesty, no policy means de facto amnesty. For all of those who think there is a problem, doing nothing insures that the problem will not be addressed in the foreseeable future.

Both of these decisions may make for good politics (although I am not convinced that is true; we'll see), but that kind of election-driven legislative strategy makes for horrible policy.

I don't always agree with Dick Morris, but he has it right in his column today: "Neither Side Deserves to be Reelected."
Category: US in Iraq.archive
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Defining terms (and defining the opposition) has long been a key to victory in political conflict. Just ask the Anti-Federalists or "Know-Nothings." The battle for meaning is so vital, it tends to frenzy partisans during times of a closely divided electorate and consistently razor-thin margins of victory. As we draw closer to the midterm election, this contest over language will likely grow even more overheated.

At the moment, the opponents of the President (with the complicity of the mainstream media) seem to have secured the high ground in defining the boundaries of political debate. Last week, with very little success, the President and his men attempted to push back on the war in Iraq (employing such words as "appeasement" and "fascism"). The President and his supporters attempted to label advocates of withdrawing the troops and admitting what seems obvious to them, victory in Iraq is no longer possible or worth the cost, "defeatist." The opposition cried foul: "Don't question our patriotism!" On the other hand, who says you cannot be a "defeatist" and a patriot? Perhaps caution is the better part of valor.

Other battles in the politics of meaning:

It is a long held article of faith in the mainstream media that "911 and Iraq were not connected." This is nonsense. What they mean to say is that Saddam and his regime were not complicit in the terrorist attacks of 911. Those two statements are not the same. However, there is very little patience for a nuanced discussion of Saddam and the dangers he posed in the Middle East.

Review in a nutshell: Saddam was our sworn enemy. We know that he supported terrorist networks in the Middle East, and he may or may not have been harboring al Qaeda operatives (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi); either way, his regime, inarguably, contributed to the continuing turmoil in the region. More importantly, we were in a state of war with Saddam's Iraq, and the continued vendetta with him presented an insurmountable obstacle to progress in the region.

The relationship between Saddam's Iraq and the cauldron of discontent that produced 911 was so obvious and internalized for so many of us that public opinion polls have consistently revealed a significant portion of Americans who connect Saddam and 911. Of course, many have taken those numbers as evidence that the Bush administration merely deceived the simple-minded. But that conclusion, once again, flows from the mistaken but foundational premise that 911 and Iraq cannot be connected; therefore, any person who makes that connection is: 1) wrong; 2) deficient in intelligence and 3) under the spell of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

Another statement that has long rankled the President's opponents: "Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror."

Note: The label "war on terror" is in itself problematic (one of the many mistakes for which the President and his team deserve blame). Please see this previous post for a brief discussion concerning the lack of clarity in this terminology.

Presuming the "war on terror" has a concrete and agreed-upon meaning, identifying Iraq as the "central front" causes great consternation for many. First off, one can construe the statement as an admission that Iraq is connected to the war on terror, which some reject, preferring to cast the war as an unprovoked invasion followed by a brutal occupation, which inspired a natural and justified insurgency. While almost everyone admits that al Qaeda terrorists and other networks have played a role in the three-year post-war war, opponents of the war counter that the terrorists came as a result of the invasion and occupation and have drawn strength as a result of the American action (which is mostly true).

Are we fighting terrorists in Iraq? Was the invasion of Iraq an attack on Islamic terrorism? Does the "war on terror" hang in the balance depending on the results in Iraq? Yes and No and Yes. The answer to that set of questions is complicated. Consider the American Civil War. The North attacked the newly formed Confederacy, for the most part, to preserve the Union. While many Southerners fought to protect slavery, most Unionists took great pains initially to assert that the war had nothing to do with slavery. But by 1865, all could see that the Civil War would end forever the institution of slavery in America. To paraphrase Lincoln (and thinking in terms of Iraq), we did not expect a war of the "magnitude or the duration which it has already attained." We absolutely "looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding," but, nevertheless, here we are. If we lose in Iraq, it will be a defeat that echoes around the world. If we win, we turn a corner.

"Mission Accomplished." For many, nothing better epitomizes the putrid combination of sinister motives and naiveté within the Bush administration than the carefully choreographed incident in which the President landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in the co-pilot's seat of a Navy S-3B Viking. After emerging from the aircraft, the President excitedly swaggered around the flight deck in his flight suit, and, later that day, dressed in civilian clothes, delivered a speech of congratulation with the famous banner displayed prominently in the background: "Mission Accomplished."

It is very easy to point to the thousands of dead Americans, killed after that celebration, and sneer at the ineptitude of the Bush gang. In truth, the more complicated explanation is that we have fought two wars. We won the first one against Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi state, in exemplary fashion. Our quick victory vindicated Donald Rumsfeld and the new lighter, more nimble army ("mission accomplished").

Of course, even as the words of self-congratulation were still lingering in the heady air of the White House and the Pentagon, the second war was already underway. A war that would take us far too long to understand, and a war in which we are still struggling to gain the initiative.

Currently, we continue our struggle to discern more than define who we are fighting: is the conflict today in Iraq against dead-enders, nationalistic insurgents or jihadists? Or are we in the middle of a sectarian civil war (low-grade or otherwise)? YES.

The battle rages in Iraq. What happens in Iraq is determinative of our future and the most important task of our generation. What we do in the next forty-eight months is incredibly significant. We need an honest and nuanced debate. I hope we get one.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Judging from the debate on Meet the Press, Rick Santorum is finished. Put PA in the Democratic column. Give Bob Casey credit for the intelligence to "go with the flow" and keep his mouth shut while Tim Russert debated Santorum. Russert successfully pinned him to George Bush and Iraq, which is not difficult and completely justified; Santorum is one of the President's most loyal friends and supporters in the Senate, and he will rightly win or lose on that association.

An aside: running for office against an unpopular incumbent seems like a lot of fun. Casey refuses to take responsibility for anything silly his party ever did. He is for a "balanced federal budget" and "killing Osama." How will he accomplish any of that? That is a discussion for another day. Mainly, he will be unlike Rick Santorum.

Undoubtedly, much ink will be spilled pointing out how Tim Russert leaned on this one--but all that is beside the point. Rick Santorum knew the rules of engagement going in. This was no surprise attack; he should have prepared for battle. If he brought his best, I must conclude, with some personal sadness, that the interesting political career of Rick Santorum is all but over.
Category: US in Iraq.archive
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The United States must succeed in Iraq, for failure means an unacceptable loss of prestige and freedom for us--and a much less-secure world for everybody else. Our success in Iraq will establish a foothold for modernity in the Middle East and deal a stinging defeat to Islamism, which will increase our credibility in the region (and beyond) and offer the model for improvement. It follows, ultimate success vindicates the decision to invade and remake Iraq.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Right now, if the public opinion polls are accurate, the American electorate holds President Bush in such low esteem that anyone associated with his administration seems tainted. No one is mentioning Alberto Gonzales as a potential governor and future presidential candidate. The recent boomlet for Condi Rice for 2008 has fizzled, partly as a result of her non-interest, but more importantly because the affairs of state seem so dismal. And Jeb Bush, once "the next in line" in the Bush dynasty, seems suddenly and completely finished as a prospective president. Is he really?

Maybe not. Jeb Bush continues to be an extremely popular person (and eminently electable candidate) in a very important state. Also, the death of Jeb Bush's viability assumes the permanence of disdain for Bush-43.

The only thing certain about American politics is that nothing is certain.

George Herbert Walker Bush lost in 1992 with 39 percent of the popular vote. At that point, for most Americans, Bush-41 epitomized an inept, insensitive and detached failed leader. Almost immediately, Americans felt guilty for their poor treatment of this good American.

An aside: I always get a chuckle when Democrats profess their great admiration for George Herbert Walker Bush. I suspect some of that is just talk, and some of it is a rhetoical foundation for criticizing the son, but I think to myself: we could've used some of that kind-spiritedness in '92. One possible lesson: you don't win elections extending your hand across the aisle and impressing the opposition as a decent and competent fellow.

How did guilt over handing George-41 his walking papers help the son? As more citizens came to believe that the elder Bush received a raw deal, the younger Bush grew in stature as a candidate for governor of Texas and then for president. Many Americans felt the Bushes deserved a second chance.

Assuming that the current President Bush has bottomed out in terms of public opinion (it is hard to imagine things getting worse; even in the current polls, he seems to be slightly on the upswing); assuming Iraq continues to be very bad for the foreseeable near term--but then settles finally into a lackluster stability, George Bush and his team will rebound a bit in the minds of Americans. After four (or eight) years of Clinton-44, there will be a natural reappraisal of the second Bush presidency. At that moment, Jeb may very well emerge as a familiar fresh face.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The second half-hour of "Brian Lamb Friday" on C-SPAN today featured the Washington Post editorial, "End of an Affair: It turns out that the person who exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame was not out to punish her husband." Asking the question: "Did any of this matter?" Brian read the entire piece on air (and you should read it all as well).

An excerpt:

"Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously."

A few remarks about the Post:

I continue to disagree with the Washington Post plenty. But it is increasingly clear to me that the paper is dedicated to maintaining a unique degree of objectivity in the more and more partisan climate of American journalism today. The Post is clearly the best-written, most balanced and most centrist of the great national newspapers.

Moreover, I suspect that very soon we will begin to hear the charge that the Post has "sold out" in order to curry favor with, and tap into, the increasingly important conservative consumer economy. When that happens, Americans should rally around the Post.