You are currently viewing archive for October 2006
Amir Taheri makes the case: a defeat for the enemy in the combat zone, a victory in the American media. Well worth reading. Here. Hat tip Rush.
Radio Netherlands is covering a developing story that a sermon in a mosque in the Netherlands may have inspired the murder of Dutch filmaker Theo van Gogh. A recording of the sermon exists. Hat tip Jihadwatch.

In the recording of the sermon, Imam Fawaz calls Theo van Gogh a 'criminal bastard' and beseeches Allah to visit an incurable disease upon the filmmaker. He also condemns former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali who was involved in writing the script for Submission. The imam asks Allah to make Ms Hirsi Ali go blind and give her cancer of the tongue and brain.

I am a Christian pastor and have been leading prayers in church for 30 years. We pray for the conversion of our enemies, and for God to frustrate the plans of our enemies. I have never heard a Christian prayer like the excerpt from this Muslim sermon. And I have listened to a lot of sermons and services in person, over radio, and some on television.
What is your state, and your pension fund, doing in the War against Islamic Supremacists? From Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., in the Jewish World Review.

Under Treasurer Steelman's leadership, the Missouri Investment Trust (MIT) has become the first public pension fund in the nation to divest from its portfolio the stocks of companies doing business with state-sponsors of terror like Iran, Syria, North Korea and Sudan. She has thereby ensured that the fund's beneficiaries are not unwittingly having their retirement savings invested in ways that are strategically counterproductive, morally reprehensible and even ill-advised from a financial point of view. (A study done for Ms. Steelman proved that the MIT would have performed better last year had it been terror-free than it was investing in companies partnering with our enemies.) She has also helped empower American investors to privatize the war for the Free World.

A week ago or so I posted on the ruling by the New York Transit Authority that "transgendered" men had a right to use the Women's Restrooms. At that time, I commented on this ruling in terms of our evolving definition of the individual, including our relation to our bodies.

Today I want to revisit this ruling in terms of Rights.

The NTA ruling makes sense if one considers the "rights" of the autonomous individual to be absolute, surpassing all other considerations, and ordered toward "freedom;" "freedom" being understood as the complete liberation of the individual from any and all sorts of constraint; the individual defined almost exclusively in terms of will.

One could be tempted to reply to this ruling in terms of the same understanding of rights, arguing that the women in the restroom have a right to perform private bodily functions away from biological men, if they choose. But, I want to move to a deeper level, to consider the notion of rights. (continued below)

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Frank Warner observes the eighth anniversary of the Iraq Liberation Act. Here. Hat tip Instapundit.

This is one piece of Clinton adminstration legislation that Democrat candidates will not be talking much about today. Here is a portion from Warner's post.

At the heart of the Iraq Liberation Act, it said:


This Act may be cited as the ‘Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.’


The Congress makes the following findings:

(1) On September 22, 1980, Iraq invaded Iran, starting an 8 year war in which Iraq employed chemical weapons against Iranian troops and ballistic missiles against Iranian cities.

(2) In February 1988, Iraq forcibly relocated Kurdish civilians from their home villages in the Anfal campaign, killing an estimated 50,000 to 180,000 Kurds.

(3) On March 16, 1988, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurdish civilian opponents in the town of Halabja, killing an estimated 5,000 Kurds and causing numerous birth defects that affect the town today.

(4) On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded and began a 7 month occupation of Kuwait, killing and committing numerous abuses against Kuwaiti civilians, and setting Kuwait’s oil wells ablaze upon retreat.

Here is a link to the full-text of the law (pdf).

Boy would I love to see the MSM asking Dems about this Act today, but, it also would be interesting to see pigs flying.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The stem-cell research debate continues to be disingenuous and a bit sleazy. If the candidates and party leaders who continue to push "stem cells" as a political wedge issue really cared about the afflicted in this nation, they would be more careful to tell the truth. Opportunistic politicians should not promise that the blind shall see and the lame shall walk, if we can just defeat the Republicans and move forward on stem-cell research. They know better.

Here is a review of some of my thoughts on the stem-cell dilemma from a while back:

There is no federal ban on stem-cell research in America. As a nation, we are engaged in an honest debate about when life begins. Until we come to a consensus, we are withholding our common federal money for a procedure that is highly offensive to a large segment of our community. In the meantime, research continues with large amounts of private and individual state funds (the previous post in its entirety).

How does this issue play politically?

Will the people of Missouri see the intervention of Michael J. Fox as a morally superior Hollywood outsider who knows better than the simpletons of the show-me state? Or is Fox a sympathetic and beloved figure who serves as a powerful representation of friends and neighbors in pain? Too close to call.

The biggest problem with the anti-stem-cell-research position is in the complexity and distance of the argument. As I have said before, "life begins in the Petri dish" takes some getting used to. The tragedy of butchering embryos is infinitely more theoretical than a loved one in pain.

The Child in the Well

The fourth-century BC Chinese philosopher, Mencius, argued that man was innately good. As proof, he noted that all of us would react automatically to prevent a child from falling into a well. We would attempt to save a child in danger, not for personal gain (sometimes at personal risk), out of an instinctual desire to save the child.

Regardless of whether the example proves the ancient assertion concerning the nature of man, the scenario is instructive. Proponents of abortion rights must tread lightly on our emotions and sensibilities when defending the right of one person's choice to end the life of another human entity. For we can sympathize with a human fetus living inside one of us. We are disturbed by the taking of these unborn lives; we wince at pictures of destroyed fetuses. Our hearts instinctually react to the plight of these living beings.

An aside: a few years ago, without any prompting from his parents, my son began praying for his cousin who was still in the womb. It was logical for him to acknowledge the personhood of this unborn family member.

The problem with the stem-cell debate is the detachment most of us feel for embryos created outside of the natural process via in vitro fertilization. Most of us do not feel a similar sense of loss when we hear about the destruction of embryos manufactured for the purpose of implanting at some subsequent point. Generally, our hearts do not cry out for the embryonic child in the well.

Indeed, many Americans have no moral compunction against, in the name of procreation, creating many more of these embryos than they can possibly bring to human fruition. It follows logically that these excess embryos must be destroyed. Why are we not troubled by that process?

The anti-embryonic-stem-cell-research position asks for an almost superhuman level of empathy. I frankly admit that the position requires an intense intellectual stretch for me. I am inclined to make it--not because I can honestly say my heart cries out for these suffering embryos--but mainly because so many of the people I respect as ethical and moral ask me to. No matter where we stand on this dilemma, we should understand that this issue is very difficult for most of us.

As for the mundane, I make no prediction as to how this series of unseemly political acts will play out in Missouri and Maryland this election cycle. But it is incumbent on all parties to deal with this volatile issue with sensitivity and honesty.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Many of you know that I spent a few years as a grad student at Tulane. During my New Orleans sojourn, my first congressman was William Jefferson (old money-in-the-freezer-Jefferson). When I moved out of Nola to Metairie, my congressman was Bob Livingston (in line for Speaker but had to fall on his sword because of a sex scandal). We then elected David Vitter (now Senator) in a special election to replace Livingston. Vitter bested a large field, which included David Duke, who placed third, failing to make the run off by a few thousand votes.

An aside: I once stood only yards away from David Duke during that campaign; a chilling experience for another post, perhaps.

Another congressman in my orbit back then was Gene Taylor, from Mississippi's Fourth District, which was just across the river down I-10. Taylor is an ultra-conservative Democrat. He has recently voted against his party and for a fence along the border, the military commissions compromise, warrantless wiretapping and much more. While he is not from the GOP tax-cutting mold, he was the only Democrat who voted for all four articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton in 1998.

Gene Taylor is a devout Roman Catholic representing a Southern-Baptist-dominated slice of Red-State America. He did not vote for Nancy Pelosi for majority leader. Last week, Michael Barone (in this post) raised this question: If the Democrats pick up exactly 15 seats (a possibility), which would give them, theoretically, a one-seat majority, What Will Gene Taylor Do?

More info: Voting record courtesy of the Washington Post and Gene Taylor's official House site.
Most "scary movies" I dislike. They are what I think of as "shockers": the visual equivalent of jumping out of the dark and yelling BOO!, or worse, "gorefests" that shock in the same way the sight of a bad car wreck with its blood and death grabs the attention and causes the audrenaline to pump. To these movies I say, So what.

I do like "suspense" movies: the kind that induce sustained apprehension, like Jaws. And I like "weird" movies, that mess with my mind, challenge my thinking and perceptions, and disturb me at a deep level. Like The Exorcist. But mostly, I think the realm of The Weird is better done in literature.

So this Halloween, if you must watch a movie, I recommend The Exorcist, or the original 1925 Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney, or perhaps the 1922 Nosferatu, or maybe the 1932 The Mummy with Boris Karloff, or if you can find it the 1932 Freaks.

But, I recommend you read this Halloween. (more below)

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Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I went to the Wal-Mart on Friday night. For all of you who do not share my admiration for Wal-Mart as the ultimate place to meet America, we must continue to agree to disagree. It is often a happy place, as it was on this visit. It was approximately eight o'clock in the evening, and it was pay-day, and it was wall-to-wall families of every color with raptured expressions on their faces. The joy was contagious. Although I went in for something simple, I caught the fever (it was pay-day for me too). I walked out with "treats" for the whole family, cheap DVDs, a CD for the kids, a magazine for my wife and something for me: "Merle Haggard: 24 All-Time Greatest Hits."

I own quite a bit of Merle, but this one is special. This offering from "TeeVee Records" showcased "country's greatest singer/songwriter," claiming to feature all the "songs that made him a legend." There he was on the cover, perhaps early-to-mid-1970s Merle, hard-eyed and chiseled, bearded, hairline just beginning to recede--but still jet black.

Hey hey, the working man, the working man like me
I ain't never been on welfare, that's one place I won't be
Cause I'll be working long as my two hands are fit to use
I drink a little beer in a tavern
Sing a little bit of these working man blues

Once this election passes, I intend to consider the American electorate at a crossroads. Who we are. Where we want to go. How the Democratic Party lost us. Can they get us back? Why the GOP seemed to understand us but now seems incapable of sealing the deal. Part of the answer of who we are lies in country music (American music). Why the hicks from the sticks lost faith with the Dixie Chicks. How President Bush missed an opportunity to call the Toby Keith/Martina McBride generation to national service.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, I had the chance to listen to the Merle CD. Driving along Waco Drive, crossing the Brazos River Bridge into East Waco, I listened to:

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Some quick thoughts on the GOP ad against Harold Ford in Tennessee:

The ad itself (view here):

If you have not seen the ad (which is highly unlikely), the spot features a series of staged and silly man-on-the-street interviews in which ostensibly common Tennessee voters react to Democratic senatorial candidate Harold Ford.

The ad itself is "campy." I cannot imagine any voter actually mistaking the actors for real people. Some of the gags are actually funny. My favorite is the camouflaged hunter who says: "Ford's right. I do have too many guns."

Of course, the bit that has everyone talking is the squeaky-voiced blonde who claims she "met Harold at the Playboy Club." Then, in the tag, she winks into the camera and whispers, "Harold, call me."

The flap:

Are the Republicans playing on racism in the closing days of the Tennessee canvass? A contest in which more than one pundit has wondered whether this moderately conservative Upper South state was actually capable of sending a handsome black man to the United States Senate. The answer, at this point, is too close to call.

Is this ad racist?

On the Friday political roundup (transcript) on The Newshour, Mark Shields succinctly articulated the consensus reaction of people (mostly Democrats--but certainly not exclusively so) who felt the ad crossed the boundaries of acceptability in American politics:

"[Y]ou've got the blonde girl, and there's a second one where she's topless -- you can't see anything she has on -- and, "Harold, call me," that's playing to one of the atavistic, base fears of the Mandingo black man who's after our white daughters. And that is very much implicit in this ad."

What was the GOP really going for?

Did the Republicans really need to remind Tennessee voters that Ford was African American? It was not like when the Kerry-Edwards team went to great pains in 2004 to make sure that President Bush's socially conservative supporters knew that Vice President Cheney had a gay daughter, whom, evidently, he still loved and had not shunned from the family. Presumably, every person in Tennessee who would vote against Ford for being black knows he is black and is reacting accordingly.

I tend to agree with Rich Lowry, who made the rounds yesterday on NPR and PBS (on the Newshour with Shields) making this point:

"I think [it] was very effective. I don't think it had anything to do with race. I had to do with God and church, because Harold Ford has been running a brilliant, almost flawless campaign in Tennessee, partly based on the idea that he's a choir boy who wants to do nothing else but be in those church pews.

"And the Republicans wanted to get him talking about going to a Playboy party, which is not a big sin in the scheme of things, but it complicates his message. And he has had to address it now. He has been on the defensive responding to an ad which is never a good thing in a campaign."

What about the politics?

The race debate among the Democrats and Republicans is not directed at African Americans or white racists. There is no constituency more faithful to the Democratic Party than African Americans. No need to remind them to vote Democratic. Conversely, most of the Southern racists have been flushed out of the Democratic Party long ago. The ones who remain (a few blue-collar unionists, for example) are resigned to holding their noses and accepting their offensive African-American coalition partners.

The race debate is usually about appealing to conservative-leaning but fair-minded white voters, who are not comfortable with virulent racists. These voters, many of whom are religious people, would not accept an appeal to ancient Southern fears such as Mark Shields described. This explains why the Republicans retreated so quickly in the face of that "racist" criticism. The GOP cannot afford the appearance of impropriety in this regard.

Do GOP ads sometimes appeal to racial stereotypes? Yes. The Willie Horton ad (view here) recognized that many white voters believed that the violent-offender portion of your average prison population was disproportionately black. The famous Jesse Helms ad (view here) in which white hands crumpled a rejection letter because, as the voice over says, "they had to give that job to a minority," played on a belief about quotas commonly held among regular folk. Actually, I would argue that both of those ads were fair game. They both dealt with serious issues and illustrated real positions held by their opponents. Michael Dukakis did sign weekend passes; Harvey Gantt actually favored racial quotas as a way of advancing Affirmative Action.

The Harold Ford ad is much less racial than the ads against Dukakis and Gantt. It is also much less substantive and much more whimsical.

The Ford ad controversy is more about the opposition attempting to characterize the GOP as racists nationally than it is the GOP appealing to racist fears in Tennessee.
Absolute multiculturalism in Britain questioned by unlikely figures. From TCS Daily. Here Hat tip Instapundit.

In the last few days in Britain, three events have caused what was already a small crack in the paper-thin edifice of "multiculturalism" in Britain to widen to a noticeable fissure.

Muslims revolting in France. From Worldtribune. Here. Hat tip Jihadwatch.

"We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists," said Michel Thoomis, secretary general of the Action Police trade union. "This is not a question of urban violence any more. It is an intifada, with stones and firebombs."

The French Interior Ministry has acknowledged the Muslim uprising. The ministry said more than 2,500 police officers have been injured in 2006. This amounts to at least 14 officers each day.

The battles have been under-reported but alarming to French authorities. Muslim street commanders, who run lucrative drug networks, have organized youngsters in housing projects to ambush police and confront security forces. The response time allows hundreds of Muslims to storm police cars and patrols within minutes.
. . . .
France's huge Muslim minority community has come under the influence of agents often influenced and financed by Al Qaida. These agents have recruited Muslim youngsters for urban warfare in which police and government representatives are injured daily.

Not surprisingly, Muslim neighborhoods are becoming autonomous zones, with police and government workers too scared to enter. The police union is demanding the Interior Ministry supply officers with armored cars.

Paging Charles Martel and Richard the Lion-Hearted.

My favorite atheist Democrat cultural observer (no, really) has an interview in Salon covering Democrats, Republicans, Mark Foley, the media and about anything else her brilliant mind chooses to dissect. She is always worth reading.
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Guest Blog

A few weeks ago, Bosque Boys friend, Gossenius, traveled to the nation's capital to witness arguments before the Supreme Court pertaining to his legal specialty, sentencing. I asked him to reflect on his experience for us. Thank you, Gossenisus, for this excellent piece, which is both meaningful and provocative.

We are in sad need of a little majesty. I say that as someone who usually eschews formality, and who is grateful that we live in a democracy and not in a monarchy of any sort, with the false elevation of an individual by the mere accident of birth.

What a little majesty can counteract, however, is the farce that our government has become. The legislature has been reduced to a crude reality show, with the driving motivation being to hurt the other side and to grab as much money off the conveyer belt of taxation to earmark for your own. The presidency has now been damaged by undeserved arrogance for four consecutive terms, held by two men who commonly betray not an ounce of humility even while pronouncing to all the importance of their Christianity.

What neither the legislative nor the executive branch gives us is a particular, necessary form of majesty—that of actual debate and consideration of an issue, where the people speak to the government as a sovereign of which they are a part. People in our country are kept away from their political leaders but for discussing superficialities, we have no question time in our Parliament, and our leaders’ public moments seem thoroughly bled of spontaneity and humanity.

There is still some majesty, though; we do still have the Supreme Court. I had the privilege of witnessing the Court in action for the first time two weeks ago, as they heard arguments in the case of Cunningham v. California, which involved the constitutionality of the California sentencing system. I was able to get a ticket to sit up front from Justice Souter’s chambers, close enough to smell the attorney’s fear.

The Supreme Court’s courtroom is not large. I have argued cases in four federal Courts of Appeal, and many of those rooms were about the same size. Nor is the décor of particular note; ornate carvings and huge draperies are pretty much the norm for appellate courts. What sets the Supreme Court apart is something more subtle: An aura of gravity reflected in the solemn movements of the marshals, the dress of the visitors (coat and tie were the norm), and the air of anticipation as the hour approached.

That air of solemnity became more pronounced as people took their places. The invited guests of the Justices sit to the right, the press to the left. Nina Totenberg arrived, and warmly greeted some of her colleagues. On the benches with me, I recognized a few other professors and sentencing specialists. There was a hush as the attorneys arguing the case swept into the room, clutching folders as they settled into the front desks. A respectful silence settled into the room for the next five minutes as we all waited anxiously for the arrival of the Justices.

And in they came, on the traditional call of “Oyez, oyez!” It almost seemed like we should applaud, the entrance was so grand. But it was not that kind of show. The Appellant approached the podium, and we were off.

It was quickly apparent that there is a reason that these guys (and Ginsburg) have risen to the level of the Supreme Court. Their exchange was witty, biting, informed, and meaningful. It was, in short, the best and most intense exchange of ideas on the topic I have heard in any forum. The attorneys almost faded into the background as the justices took on one another. The brightest minds seemed to be the ageless Stevens and uproariously brilliant Scalia, who is more entertaining (and probably smarter) than anyone you will see analyzing the things that he says. Even those of us who work in the field, who know the issues, who interact through scholarship with the Court, seemed taken aback by their ferocious attack of the issues.

At one point, Scalia, Stevens, and Roberts were finishing one another’s sentences, trading off policy considerations in a furious shorthand: “[Scalia] We could say the middle option is presumptively reasonable… [Stevens] Or we could require jury findings… [Roberts] Which could lead to a half-dozen jury trials in every case.” It was better than football.

Oh, you can complain all you want about “legislating from the bench,” but that is hardly a partisan issue. If you want to see some amazing judicial legislation, tune in for next week’s argument in Phillip Morris USA v. Williams, in which your heroes of the Right will want to judicially impose caps on punitive damages—something that seems to be well within the authority of Oregon’s legislature. The Court is and will be a check on the other branches of the government, and the mechanism is sometimes as rough and crude as the wrestling we see between the other branches. But the spectacle of it, the competing wisdoms on display—let’s not let that go too easily in a nation hungry for something with both grit and meaning.


27/10: More 100:1

Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Good friend of the Bosque Boys, Mark Osler (real name), who maintains Osler's Razor is featured on NPR's Morning Edition this morning. He speaks on something we have covered in the past (see this post): the great disparity in sentencing guidelines in regards to cocaine possession versus crack cocaine possession, which also correlates to a racial disparity in sentencing.

Osler is a Baylor Law professor and former federal prosecutor; he specializes in sentencing.

The NPR story: "Crack Cocaine Sentencing Rules Hit 20."

For more information:

Douglas Berman's blog on sentencing.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
From Gateway Pundit, this story of election fraud in Missouri, specifically St. Louis.

Kansas City officials say this is the most irresponsible and extensive voter registration abuse in Missouri in the twenty five years they have been on the job with the Kansas City Board of Elections. That's saying a lot considering there were 16 convictions of election crimes since 2004 in the St. Louis area alone!

The voter registration fraud is occuring in St. Louis. Gateway Pundit has the UPI article on the fraud, plus links to other sites covering this issue, including a video. Read the post.

I mentioned earlier that I feared voter fraud in St. Louis, a long-time source of corruption that always benefits the Democrats, could hand a close election to McCaskill this year.

I still have a troubled mind going into this election. Big-government, no immigration policy Republicans disturb me. But, I'll not vote Democrat again until the party takes strong steps against voter fraud, from which they have benefitted for years. And, if you post a comment saying that Republicans are just as bad: present proof. The overwhelming majority of voter fraud in the last several years, that I am aware of, has been Democrat related. Perhaps the party needs a new slogan: Democrats: taking over America one activist judge and one fraudulent vote at a time.
I had meant to comment on this story in the Daily Mail when it came out, but one thing led to another and none of them back to this article, till now. Hat tip Drudge.

The lead paragraph:

One of the country's leading hospitals is throwing aborted babies into the same incinerator used for rubbish to save only £18.50 each time, it has emerged. Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, said it was no longer able to afford the dignified disposal at a local crematorium of foetuses from unwanted pregnancies. Instead, they are being burnt in the hospital's main incinerator - which is normally used for rubbish and clinical waste.

My intitial reaction was to think--well, it has finally happened, the logic of the abortion position has led to consistent action. If an unwanted baby is thought of as something to be rid of like waste, then dispose of it like waste.

The next paragraph got me thinking:

The revelation sparked anger and distress among church leaders and pro-life groups, as well as women whose pregnancies were terminated at the hospital.

I would expect anger from church leaders and pro-life groups, but am not accustomed to seeing the feelings of "women whose pregnancies were terminated" mentioned. (more below)

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I offered my take on the President's press conference yesterday (Wednesday) this morning (Thursday) on Channel 10. Here is a summary of my remarks:

The Politics of Iraq:

Two weeks ago, after a press conference in the Rose Garden, I opined that the President was attempting to seize the agenda and the initiative, hoping to shift the debate away from congressional scandal to issues more favorable to the GOP: the economy and security.

Yesterday, the President all but admitted that the upcoming election would be a referendum on Iraq. It is suddenly apparent to the White House and the Republican establishment that the key to maintaining control of the government is not the economy, domestic security issues or immigration; the real issue is Iraq, which must be addressed to the satisfaction of the American people before Republicans can move on to any other topic.

Why the President?

Ironically, the President has thrust himself into the middle of the debate. This tactic goes against the conventional wisdom [that he is poison for GOP candidates], but Karl Rove and the President himself have great confidence in his ability to win over voters (and they have an impressive track record). The President is appealing directly to the people who like him and want to believe in him. It is a bold political move [but these guys are nothing if they are not bold].

What will happen?

This is a tight election, and I believe it is still a fluid election. Two weeks ago we were talking about Mark Foley and North Korea. Those things seem less pressing today. No one can really say what the tipping-point issue will be in twelve days. The decision out of NJ yesterday regarding same-sex marriage is bound to motivate social conservatives. Democrats cannot be happy about that issue resurfacing at this point.

Do any of those issues matter this year? Or is this all about Iraq?

Iraq, at this point, seems the defining issue. Why? It is the most important foreign policy event of our generation, and we seem to be at the moment of truth. As a result, President Bush is: 1) out in front reaffirming the case that achieving our objectives in Iraq is in the nation's vital national interests; 2) reminding people of the progress; 3) admitting mistakes; and 4) offering confidence that we are making needed adjustments and promising the citizenry that we will prevail.

Of course, the Democratic opposition wonders why this change in rhetoric took so long, calling the new rhetoric "confusion" or a diversion rather than the administration genuinely adapting to new circumstances.

Stay Tuned.
The New York Daily News is reporting that "transgendered" men may now use the Women's Restrooms legally. Article here.

The line for the girls' room just got longer.
Men who live as women can now legally use women's rest rooms in New York's transit system under an unprecedented deal revealed yesterday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to allow riders to use MTA rest rooms "consistent with their gender expression," the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund announced yesterday.

We are talking about men, guys with penises, free to use the Women's Room because they dress like women and act like women.

We live in strange times. (more below)

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Guest Blog

Here is the latest thinking from Bosque Boys friend, Tocqueville:

The New Jersey Supreme Court has unanimously ordered the state to grant all of the privileges and rights of marriage -- but not necessarily the word "marriage" -- to same-sex couples. The legislature has 180 days to act. The court leaves open the possibility that gay-marriage litigants can come back to the state courts at a future date and request full marriage.

Three justices concurred, saying that the state should have been required to grant full marriage under state law. Litigants thus fell one vote short of a majority for same-sex marriage.

This is similar to an earlier Vermont Supreme Court decision. Essentially, this requires (at a bare minimum) a kind of "separate but equal" regime between traditional marriage and gay "whatever you call it." The operative quote appears to be:

"Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this State, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our State Constitution. With this State’s legislative and judicial commitment to eradicating sexual orientation discrimination as our backdrop, we now hold that denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1. To comply with this constitutional mandate, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or create a parallel statutory structure, which will provide for, on equal terms, the rights and benefits enjoyed and burdens and obligations borne by married couples. We will not presume that a separate statutory scheme, which uses a title other than marriage, contravenes equal protection principles, so long as the rights and benefits of civil marriage are made equally available to same-sex couples. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process."

The decision repeatedly relies on "the substantive due process and equal protection guarantees of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the State Constitution." But Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution reads in full:

"All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness."

The words "due process" or "equal protection" appear nowhere. Although this portion of the NJ Constitution (relied on by the court) has been in place for over 200 years, only today do we finally learn what it has apparently required all along. Here, then, is the revelation of that requirement (with marching orders and a hard deadline to the state's legislative body to boot). A most unusual (and politically calculated) decision (mandating to the legislature), which is backwards from a democratic system that usually percolates from the bottom up, not the top down. As appalling as slavery was, it was resolved by a Civil War and the 13th Amendment. As appalling as segregation was, it was primarily addressed by the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - laws that Congress was not told they "must" pass.

Political Impact

As far as political fallout, I think people can basically tell when judges are legislating policy matters or substituting their own policy preferences for that of the elected branch, and this perception isn't necessarily tied to whether one agrees with the result or not.

If it really is in the constitution, it shouldn't be all that hard to explain where it is and why the basis is found there, and it shouldn't take 90 pages and analogies to things that glow around the sun to say so. If the issue is such a winner, debate it in the open legislature. Otherwise we have surrendered our republic to an unelected elite in black robes who are unaccountable for their decisions. Just once, I'd love to see a legislature respond with the same thing Andrew Jackson did - "John Marshall made his decision, now let him enforce it."

Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Breaking news: about 3:40 EDT the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its ruling on same-sex marriage. The full opinion is here. pdf file The relevant summary paragraph is

HELD: Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married
heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds
that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed samesex
couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the
civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to samesex
couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.

So, full benefits of marriage, but whether to call it marriage or not up to the legislature. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . .
Earlier I wrote about President Bush's millennial hope--a time of peace and prosperity brought about by democratization and free markets. here and here I labeled him a postmillennialist, because this view of history in Christian thought is known as postmillennialism: Jesus will return after a lengthy period of peace and justice brought about by the spread of the gospel. (Ironically, our chief adversary in the world today is the Iranian president who has his own millennial ideas involving an apocalypse and the return of the Hidden Imam. post here)

Responding to a query from Joab, I promised here to engage in a series of posts explaining (and defending) each millennial position. My explanation and defense of postmillennialism, an extremely influential world-view among American evangelicals in the 19th century, is here. Below is my explanation and defense of amillenialism.

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Where we failed in Iraq:

1. We vastly underrated the task before us in 2002 and 2003.

2. We were very slow in adapting to reality and changing tactics.

3. We are three-and-one-half years into a war, and our government is pleading for us (the American people) to have faith in their ability to get it right--without giving us a lot of foundation for the leap they are asking us to make. The problem is not that the President is changing tactics. The problem is timing.

Three-and-one-half years is as much time as you can expect the American people to advance you in a war. If the war was unwinnable in that stretch of time, then it was a foolish undertaking. If the war was winnable in that span of time, then it has been foolishly prosecuted. Either way. The clock is running out.

4. Granted we may finally have it right (or we may be on the verge of having it right), but the administration is down to almost no credibility with the majority of America.

Why must American presidents win wars quickly?

Because Osama is right. Defeating the United States is a matter of endurance and ruthlessness.

The Wizbang essay again (the lesson of Vietnam):

"The North Vietnamese knew they could never defeat the US in a face-to-face battle; every time they tried, they lost and lost decisively. They had no chance of attacking our ability to wage war; our industrial base was thousands of miles out of their reach. So they, instead, attacked our resolve. That was a key factor that led to our eventual withdrawal from Viet Nam, followed shortly thereafter by the abrogation of the peace treaty and the final conquest of the South."

By the way, that was essentially the strategy of George Washington in the American War for Independence. Washington understood that if he never lost his army, the British could not win the war. And if the British could not win, they would eventually lose.

They did. They grew frustrated with a seemingly endless and immensely costly war to achieve a goal that increasingly appeared less than a vital interest. They eventually threw in the towel.

For what it is worth, the Revolutionary War was America's longest war that we actually won. Vietnam was longer--but we lost that one. It is important to point out that the Revolutionary War was fought prior to Constitutional government. There was no president and no midterm elections.

Generally, Americans need to strike and win quickly. We have had long wars (the Civil War and WWII to name two), but in both cases we made progress at crucial times. We were on the way to beating back Japan in the Pacific by the summer of 1942. We had air supremacy over Europe by 1943. Americans could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The fall of Atlanta came at a fortuitous time for Abraham Lincoln in the months prior to his bid for reelection in 1864. The Philippine War was long and bloody (about the same duration as our current war), but the victory was in hand by the time the war became a matter of intense public debate.

This war is too long. No one (not even the President or his closest supporters) sees a light at the end of this tunnel. We are in trouble--not because we cannot beat the insurgency at some point given enough time. We are in trouble because time is running out for us politically.

This is not to say that we cannot save ourselves and the Iraqis (and the world), but we need to move quickly, act in a united way and get a little lucky.

Note: the Wizbang essay referred to above is cited in Part I (below); it is "A few random thoughts about the war in Iraq, and warfare in general."
Category: US in Iraq.archive
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I appreciate the Gardener's post below in which he featured a post from Wizbang: "A few random thoughts about the war in Iraq, and warfare in general." However, while the post is instructive in many places and well-argued, the analysis is too rosy.

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Category: Thinking Out Loud
Posted by: an okie gardener
Anybody but me ever wonder how much the nature of the Islamic world is shaped by the fact that for most of the cultures in it, the ideal marriage partner is a first cousin? Think about it. For century after century they have been marrying first cousins.
Our friend Toqueville has made his prediction already on the ruling, and on its political fallout here. The Newark-Star Ledger here provides a bit of background plus a link to the NJ Supreme Court website where the decision will be posted.

Update: the link provided by the Star-Ledger does not seem to work. Here is the website. As of 3:37pm Eastern Time I have not found a ruling.
Wizbang today has this post on changing Iraq strategy. I think it well worth reading. A portion below, read the whole thing.

As I understand it, there are three levels of planning in the military: objectives, strategies, and tactics. Objectives describe what we wish to do. Strategies describe how we will do that. And tactics are what we will do.

In Iraq, as I think it goes, the objective was to remove the Baathist government from power, help the Iraqi people establish a new, freer government, and work to make sure that new government was not the threat to its neighbors and vital US interests that Saddam had been.

The strategy was to invade Iraq, defeat and disband the military, and then establish a new civil and military structure that could maintain its own security without threatening others'.

The tactics involve careful use of airpower and ground power against select locales, groups, and individuals; establishment of civilian institutions and governing bodies; national elections; and rebuilding of key elements of Iraq's infrastructure.

There is an old saying that no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy, and it is true. It is true in a way that almost never translates into non-military matters, because only in actual warfare is there a real enemy determined to foil your plans, to the point of being more than willing to destroy, kill, or die in the attempt.
Guest Blog Flash

This just in from Bosque Boys friend, "Tocqueville."

New Jersey marriage decision tomorrow:
So says the state supreme court's media notices page. Expect a decision at 3 p.m. Eastern.

Prediction: New Jersey's Supreme Court will "discover" that the state's constitution guarantees a right to gay marriage.

The deicision will send shockwaves across the country and influence the outcome of various elections in favor of the Republicans.

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Two well-reasoned articles released tonight:

Dick Morris & Eileen McGann from the New York Post see the election shifting back to a "toss-up" with the GOP gaining Big Mo:

"The Republican base seems to be coming back home. This trend, only vaguely and dimly emerging from a variety of polls, suggests that a trend may be afoot that would deny the Democrats control of the House and the Senate."

Read article in full here.

And Cait Murphy (Fortune assistant managing editor via explains "Why the Republicans need to lose" this election:

"Power may be corrupting, but it is also addictive. That's why no party likes to lose an election. But the truth is that sometimes a loss is just what is needed to regain a sense of purpose and energy. And that's why the Republicans need to lose in November."

Read article in full here:

Note: Dick Morris is the worst historian I know. I don't trust him as far as I can throw him in terms of his recollections or analysis in re the Clintons. But he is one of the sharpest political minds in the country. If he says the GOP is on the upswing, he is very likely right. And it makes sense. What goes down often comes up. The Dems probably peeked too early.

On the other hand, the Murphy article makes the point that I have been hammering for weeks (months) that the Republicans need to lose for a number of reasons--most importantly, for the health of the Republican Party.

I concur with both of these analysis pieces.

One more thing: damn the torpedoes (and the overwhelming evidence to the contrary); I am sticking with my picks on Talent and DeWine. Mainly, because we will need those guys in the years to come. I predict an attack of good sense will overwhelm the voters of Ohio and Missouri just in the nick of time.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Kansas City Star reported today that McCaskill (D) has a slim 46 to 43 % lead over Talent (R). These numbers represent a slight shift in favor of McCaskill. The Star reporters explain the movement thus:

Many see the war becoming the fulcrum upon which elections across the country could turn. Missouri voters now cite Iraq as the campaign’s No. 1 issue, with 22 percent saying it will be the most important factor in determining their vote. . . . . .
Likely voters may be reacting more to increasingly bad news from Iraq than they are to Talent’s sharp attacks on McCaskill’s family finances and handling of her job as Jackson County prosecutor and state auditor. If she has had success in making the campaign a referendum on the White House, she’s been helped by recent developments in Iraq, such as commanders in Baghdad saying attempts to quell violence there have failed. U.S. casualties increased, with October the deadliest month in two years.
Read the article.

Two thoughts: 1. the enemy in Iraq knows the power, and weakness, of the American media--its power to transmit images and its weakness for blood; expect things in Iraq to be bad through election day as the enemy tries to Tet the election. (for those of you too young to remember, the Tet offensive in Vietnam was reported as a major defeat for the US and helped sour public opinion on that war, in reality it was a major defeat for communist forces); 2. I fear a close election in Missouri--St. Louis, a bastion of Democrat strength, has a long and shameful history of voting "irregularities". I do fear a stolen election if the voting is close.

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
How well do you know the beliefs of celebrities? Take this quiz from the Dallas Morning News.
Great essay, as usual, by Victor Davis Hansen here. Hat tip Instapundit.

It is difficult in history to find any civilization that asks as much of others as does the contemporary Middle East—and yet so little of itself. If I were to sum up the collective mentality of the current Arab Middle East—predicated almost entirely on the patriarchal sense of lost “honor” and the rational calculation to murder appeasing liberals and appease murdering authoritarians— it would run something like the following: Read the whole thing.
Last week at our home football game here in Apache, Oklahoma, we had a different sort of halftime performance. A Comanche elder, with some help to steady him, made his way to the announcer's booth at the top of the bleachers. In the middle of the field on the 50 yard-line, an Indian dancer in full feather regalia and face-paint stood. "We now will honor our brave soldiers," was announced. The dancer pushed a stake into the ground to which he was tethered by a 10-12 foot rawhide strip. A CD was played with Native music (in the Northern drum style), a song for the warrior. He then began to dance, round and round the stake, acknowledging "heaven" at the beginning and the end of the dance by his motions. At the conclusion of the dance the announcer asked us to remember and to honor all of our "brave warriors" serving in Iraq and elsewhere.

I asked an older Kiowa man I know about the dance. He said that the stake and tether were the tradition of what whites called the "dog soldier," a tradition originating among the Cheyenne. Those warriors would stake themselves to the ground, tethered by rawhide, and fight from that spot. (I did not ask him, but I assume this tradition must go back to the time before horses reached the Indians, when fighting was done on foot.) They were not allowed to surrender. Nor could they retreat unless another warrior of their tribe pulled up their stake. My informant told me that after a battle between the Kiowa and the Cheyenne, the Cheyenne told the Kiowa that because of the bravery they had shown, the Cheyenne "gave" the Dog Soldier custom to the Kiowa. From then on the Kiowa had a warrior society of "Dog Soldiers", though in Kiowa the name was more like 'staked down' , if I recall correctly. (thoughts below)

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
By now, everybody knows that the President officially abandoned the "stay the course" rhetoric today. Here is relevant statement excerpted from Tony Snow's press conference:

Q. Why?

"MR. SNOW: Because it left the wrong impression about what was going on. And it allowed critics to say, well, here's an administration that's just embarked upon a policy and not looking at what the situation is, when, in fact, it's just the opposite. The President is determined not to leave Iraq short of victory, but he also understands that it's important to capture the dynamism of the efforts that have been ongoing to try to make Iraq more secure, and therefore, enhance the clarification -- or the greater precision."

More importantly, the policy itself is in flux. James Baker is in the mix, thinking outside the box. Maybe we will bring in Iraq and Syria for multilateral negotiations to end hostilities. Maybe we will overthrow Maliki and install a US-friendly strongman. Yes. Everything old is new again. The neo-cons are out on their collective ear.

Two thoughts pop into my mind: Either 1) the Bush administration finally realized they made a huge strategic mistake, compounded by three-and-one-half years of smaller but equally disastrous tactical mistakes; or 2) the internal polling finally got the better of the political side of the White House and they panicked and went into full retreat. The former is admirable and pathetic at the same time. The latter is mostly pathetic and despicable. Either way, it is poor politics.

How can you tell the American people, two weeks before an election, after almost four years of confident rhetoric, that everything you said was wrong? The other guys were right. Sorry.

Here is the problem with changing your rhetoric at this moment: it confirms what your opponents already believed. It confirms for undecideds that your opponents were right. It demoralizes your supporters.

Of course, the bad news is that the White House is right. Things are dreadfully wrong in Iraq. And I applaud an honest discussion on how to resolve the dilemma in a reasonable way. Can we fix this mess? Probably. But we are going to have to depend on graciousness and charity from the opposition party, which is about to be a much more potent political entity.

It is in the interest of all parties to find a way out of this treacherous foreign policy valley. Much more than domestic political dominance is at stake. Our future is in the balance. As a policy, Iraq can still prove a positive step for the United States, but success will require, as Joe Biden eloquently proclaimed on Fox News Sunday, "a political solution in Iraq and a bipartisan solution here at home."

I pray that Biden lives up to his declaration. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. We are in dire need of statesman willing to give up political advantage, possibly even sacrificing career aspirations, in order to serve American interests.

My hope: we love America more than we love our pride and our parties.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
As the election nears, I sense that we are in a real lull of activity. I am not sure if we are waiting for the next trump card or, perhaps, have all the aces and spades already been played? Are all the money cards now on the table? If so, the last couple of tricks may fall to mid-level hearts and clubs.

Or, switching metaphors, are the two parties like two heavyweight fighters who have punched themselves out in the late-middle rounds and, unable to knock the other out, who intend to stagger around for the remainder of the fight, leaning on one another until the final bell comes? Unfortunately, one of these bloated, undeserving contestants will win a decision.

I am increasingly convinced that there is a great pall descending over the American electorate. Faced with the final reality that the majority must go, and well aware that the minority is ill-equipped to govern, voters are fast becoming disheartened and pessimistic about their future.

What is the next big thing?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
C-SPAN (Brian-Lamb Friday) spent some time this morning noting that this week, by order of the Republican-controlled Congress, is "National Character Counts Week." Brian featured a story from yesterday in the Washington Post from Dana Milbank, "During National Character Counts Week, Bush Stumps for Philanderer," which refers to President Bush's campaign efforts on behalf of embattled Pennsylvania Representative, Robert Sherwood.

Sherwood, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Mark Foley, etc. For all of us who like to think of the Republican Party as the moral option, these are troubling times.

Although GOP leadership assures us that there is a logical explanation to all this, I am reminded of a passage from one of my favorite novels, Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry.

The setting:

Upon apprehending their erstwhile friend and colleague, Jake Spoon, who has fallen in with a band of bad men and reluctantly participated in a crime spree that included murder and horse theft, our heroes, Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae, former captains in the Texas Rangers, proceed to summary justice for the crew.

Jake pleads his case:

"I ain't done nothing. I just fell in with these boys to get through the Territory. I was aiming to leave them first chance I got."

"You should have made a chance a little sooner, Jake," Augustus said. "A man that will go along with six killings is making his escape a little slow."

And later:

"Ride with an outlaw, die with him," he [Augustus] added. "I admit it is a harsh code. But you rode on the other side long enough to know how it works. I'm sorry you crossed the line, Jake."

Maybe like Jake, the GOP leaders lost track of where the line was; they were "just trying to get to Kansas without getting scalped." Nevertheless, it is time for a change.
Category: Films & Ideas
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Way back in May, when the grass was green and every club had a chance to win the pennant, the Okie Gardener offered an excellent post on his relationship with the game of baseball; he improved it and re-released it recently: "The End of Another Regular Season." Back in the spring, the Gardener challenged me to name and defend my favorite baseball movie. I promised to step to the plate before the weather grew cold in Central Texas. It was 90 degrees yesterday, but a cold front moved in last night, and the boys of summer have given way to the Fall Classic. It is now or never.

Generally, I enjoy most movies about baseball, even bad ones; The Babe Ruth Story (1948) with William Bendix and Major League (1989) are two of my favorites in the latter category.

But there are a host of classic well-made baseball movies, so let's concentrate on the great ones.

Some of my favorites (in alphabetical order):

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My wife and I have three grown children. As they were growing up, we decided that they would participate in certain activities. For example, a mandatory few years of piano lessons and summer league baseball, swimming lessons until they were safe in the water, etc. We did not overschedule our children (or at least tried not to), but wanted them to have some breadth of experience.

One of the things we required was participation in Cub Scouts and Brownie Scouts (we have a daughter and two sons). It was then up to each child whether to continue in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We wanted them to do this for many reasons including: (1) being part of a group with some members outside our church [I was and am a pastor as well as teacher], (2) learning a variety of skills and having a variety of experiences resulting in greater self-confidence, (3) benefiting from the care and guidence of adults other than their parents, (4) being part of an organization that promotes traditional values. My wife and I are happy with this choice for our children. I also learned and grew serving in various capacities including Cub Scout Den Leader.

But, as most of you know, Scouting has been under attack for several years now. Jay Nordlinger in today's National Review has these thoughts.

It may be too much to speak of a war on the Boy Scouts, but they are certainly being . . . hampered. A couple of items: In Berkeley, Calif., “a Scouts sailing group lost free use of a public marina because the Boy Scouts bar atheists and gays.” (I’m quoting from a news story.) Okay, that’s Berkeley — Berserkley, whatever.

In Connecticut, “officials dropped the group from a list of charities that receive donations from state employees through a payroll deduction plan.”

Okay, that’s Connecticut, land of nutmeg and nutters.

And in Philadelphia? “The city is threatening to evict a Boy Scout council from the group’s publicly owned headquarters or make the group pay rent unless it changes its policy on gays.”

Just a little more quoting: “On a separate matter, federal judges in two other court cases that are being appealed have ruled that government aid to [the Scouts] is unconstitutional because the [organization] requires members to swear an oath of duty to God.”


No, it’s too much to speak of a war on the Scouts. But should I say “too much” or “too early”? Will there come a day when the Scouts will be some kind of underground organization?

These are weird times, my friends.

Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
I read Jewish World Review daily and recomend it to others. Today they outdid themselves with some terrific essays. Check them out.

Everyday sweetness in America By Garrison Keillor

What ever happened to honor? By Paul Greenberg

Why the free market is king By Jonathan V. Last

Op-eds now more central in war than bullets By Daniel Pipes

18/10: Darfur

More evidence that the government of Sudan is behind the genocide in Darfur. From BBC via the Khaleej Times.

LONDON - The Sudanese government is supporting the feared Janjaweed militia, which the United States accuses of genocide against non-Arab ethnic groups in Darfur, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

Citing an interview with a man identified only as ‘Ali’, a former member of the militia who admitted to killing innocent villagers in Darfur, the BBC said that Sudanese soldiers trained Janjaweed militiamen, and that the country’s air force bombed a village before the militia went in to kill villagers.

‘Ali’ served in the militia for two years, and is currently seeking asylum in Britain. The BBC consulted other Darfuri exiles in Britain and presented the interview to a psychologist who studied his interview, all of whom believed him.

‘The people who trained us came from the north, from the government. They gave us orders, and they say that after we are trained, they will give us guns and ammunition. We will be split into two groups -- one on horses, one on camels,’ the man told the broadcaster’s evening current affairs programme.

Asked how he knew the men training him were from the government, ‘Ali’ said: ‘They were wearing the uniforms of the military.’

When asked to name the members of the government who were ordering his forces, the man said that one ‘very well known and regular visitor’ was Sudan’s interior minister -- Abdul Rahim Hussein.

Article here. Hat tip Jihadwatch. My earlier post.

Thoughts below.

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From an OpEd in the New York Times.

FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?

After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants? In a remotely similar but far more lethal vein, the 1,400-year Sunni-Shiite rivalry is playing out in the streets of Baghdad, raising the specter of a breakup of Iraq into antagonistic states, one backed by Shiite Iran and the other by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states.

Read entire OpEd. Hat tip LGF.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
My home state of Missouri is in the midst of a campaign to prevent the state legislature from curtailing stem cell research. Proponents of this research are pushing an amendment to the state constitution granting a sort of "right" to do stem-cell research, within Federal guidelines. Article here, portions below.

Proponents of Missouri constitutional amendment to protect embryonic stem cell research have broken every record on political spending for statewide races, with one billionaire couple bankrolling nearly all of the $28.7 million campaign.
. . .

The Nov. 7 vote asks voters to amend the Missouri constitution to protect all forms of stem cell research that are legal under federal law. The measure would limit the Legislature's ability to regulate controversial forms of embryonic stem cell research.

My thoughts below.

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In Plato's Republic the participants discuss the creation of a just city (society). One of the first suggestions is that the stories told to children are powerful, shaping souls/minds. It is agreed that not any set of stories will do if the members of a just society are to be shaped properly. For example, the old myths of the gods inculcate too many bad ideas and attitudes, therefore new stories must be created to shape souls/minds to virtue. These new stories, "fables," may be literally untrue, but must convey truth about ultimate reality (God).

Plato--and the human mind does not get much better--recognized that we are shaped by the stories we tell one another. These stories may shape us badly (injustice, lack of virtue) or well (just, virtuous). For a just and virtuous society to be formed, attention must be given to the shared stories, the shared mythology, of the society.

I am using the word "myth" in this post to mean "significant story," that is, a story that is intended to signify truth: a story intended to locate us within the universe and within society. "Myth" in this sense is the story that tells us who we are as individuals and as a society. For example, my primary source of insight into the purpose of Jesus' parables is from Amos Wilder (Thornton's brother) in his book Jesus' Parables and the War of Myths. In the parables Jesus is telling his followers who they are, and what the world is really like. He is giving them stories with signifying power.

In his recent and excellent post Immigration and Acculturation, Farmer concluded by writing (cont. below)

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Good op-ed piece in the USA Today:

From "Left, Right and Religion: A Double Standard," by Patrick Hynes and Jeremy Lott:

"[T}he creation of the religious right was largely a function of the courts and politicians pushing the boundaries the other way. Evangelicals were moved to civic activism because the IRS threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of private Christian schools; because the U.S. Supreme Court removed abortion from the political process; because mentions of the Almighty began to be scrubbed from valedictory addresses for fear that someone, somewhere might take offense. Today, the term "goddamn" is treated as protected speech, but remove the "damn" and watch the lawsuits roll in.

"So evangelicals did the only responsible thing they could in a democracy. They organized and reached out. They found allies in churchgoing Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, Jews and even some agnostics who believed that religion plays a vital role in holding society together. In this they were not so different from the civil rights leaders of the past, whose rallying cry was the God-given dignity of every American. The new coalition grew over time to the point that the religious right (or "values voters," if you prefer) became the single largest voting bloc in American politics."

Hynes and Lott have all this essentially correct. The headline is a bit misleading, as the rest of the piece offers a report on the rise of the religious left, which the authors welcome as a good thing.

The article in full.

For much more on Religion and Public Policy, I recommend the Okie Gardener's extended series contained here (scroll down).
Category: Texas 17
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Guest Blog

As I indicated earlier, the college atop the escarpment along the Bosque River in the heart of Texas added two "whiz kids" to its brain trust recently. One of whom, "Jerry Vorhees," whose field of expertise is International Relations, at my request, offered this insightful analysis of the US dilemma in re the Korean peninsula recently.

The other sensation, "Citlalli," who specializes in public policy, I have successfully prevailed upon to pen this analysis regarding the spirited Texas 17 race. Let's make her feel welcome. Hopefully, we can draw her into our conversation on a regular basis.

Edwards v. Taylor

With the most recent debate in Cleburne indicating that the incumbent Chet Edwards (D) and the challenger Van Taylor (R) are still letting the sparks fly, this race remains very competitive. However, Edwards, the incumbent in a Republican-strong district, has been able to stave off the political jabs and accusations of Taylor by focusing on the local issues such as the $16 million dollars he recently acquired in government contracts for L-3 or his attempts to save the Waco VA.

Further, the challenger has had only moderate success in contesting Chet Edwards on one issue, immigration. And even with that issue, Taylor has been weak. It is very difficult to say that a Democrat is soft on immigration when he votes against his own party in support of building a wall on the border and for an increased federal, state, and local presence on the border.

Which then begs the questions, what are the other issues?

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This morning Washington Journal featured Jennifer Duffey and Amy Walter, from the Cook Political Report; for my money, they are the two most knowledgeable political analysts working in the USA today. They are not flashy, but take what they say to the bank. If you have never heard of them, then you should definitely watch more C-SPAN.

Note: The Washington Journal link above will have today's show (Oct. 15) archived for about a week.

In terms of background, Duffey knows all things pertaining to gubernatorial races and senate contests; Walter knows all 435 Congressional districts in minute detail. Generally, Charlie Cook leans right politically, but the Cook report is scrupulously objective and always as on-target as one can be in these matters.

In brief, when pressed to prognosticate, here is what the ladies predicted:

Duffey on the
Senate: 51-49 (she would not/could not say who would be in the majority)
Governors: she predicted a 6-8 statehouse gain for the Dems

Walter on the
House: +17 pick-up for Dems (which would give them a razor-thin majority)

My view:
I think that is about right. I called the House for the Dems two weeks ago. I predict that the Senate will stay GOP. I cannot imagine Kyl losing in AZ. I have already picked Talent in MO (this is an emotional pick; I think Talent is a comer; if he makes it out of this election, he will grow to be an important and revered senator). I am picking Mike DeWine in OH on emotion as well. Duffey has MO and OH as toss-ups. DeWine and Talent would be monumental losses for the country. Therefore, I pick them to win. I hope; I hope.

Review of some of my former picks:

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Category: Immigration
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Does immigration threaten our security? Yes. But maybe not in the way you might imagine.

The Okie Gardener has written extensively on the nature of Islam and the threat it poses to the world and, specifically, to the United States. In the Gardener's post a few weeks ago, he reaffirmed his position in the context of Europe and Muslim immigrants:

"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 [Muslim] 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."

In the comments section, Martian Mariner (responding to another poster) took that line of thinking to task:

"I think that Muslims "act up" the most precisely in those societies where there is a strong Islamophobic segment of society, such as France and the low countries. In others societies, where immigrant Muslims are able to integrate economically and socially into the greater culture, there aren't as many problems. The US is the prime example of this. All acts of terror committed by Muslims on American soil have come from non-US citizens, and American imams have been almost unanimous in their condemnation of such attacks."

The Mariner makes an important point and provides a convenient segue back to one of our most-pressing national crises, immigration, which we must approach with common sense and a realization that the crux of the issue is really acculturation.

In addition to some practical steps (i.e., securing the border, national IDs and treating employers who break the law as criminals), broadly speaking, what must we do to save ourselves?

1. Recognize that the number of immigrants (twelve million "illegals," mostly from south of our border) reflects a real economic need dictated by market forces.

2. Recognize that "illegal" is an arbitrary distinction. It is circular reasoning to argue that we are against "illegal" immigration because we are for "law and order." As we are a nation blessed with the ability to adjust laws as the need arises, we can solve the crisis of "illegal" immigration with the stroke of a pen. Out-dated immigration law should not force us into foolish policy. Rather, common sense should drive policy and lawmaking.

3. Recognize that there is no "American stock." Americans are not born high-achievers and engaged citizens. We are not bound by any one religion, skin color, ethnicity or tribal genealogy. American nationality revolves around one key principle: fidelity to America and Americanism. Volunteers, in fact, make the best Americans. Americans born into the franchise often fail to understand the value of the birthright.

Generally, those hearty souls, who swim rivers, crawl under barbed wire, brave deserts or traverse oceans, in order to be Americans, are much more zealous patriots than those of us raised within the fold.

Moreover, this generation of immigrants is not sub-par. They are not so different from the Pope-loving, beer-swilling, unwashed "shanty Irish," "Bohunks" and "Dagoes" of earlier times. Much like those despised immigrant groups of the past, today's immigrants are different from us culturally--but they are more like our pioneering forefathers who weathered elements and overcame danger to make life better for their families than we are. Pioneers are good for America. Quite frankly, we need them more than they need us (and they need us a lot).

4. Recognize that we need a consistent infusion of hard-working, God-fearing and family oriented people to maintain our frontier ethos. We should change our laws to find a way to welcome these twenty-first century would-be Americans.

5. Recognize that ACCULTURATION is the key to security. The market drives immigration. Integration and assimilation will happen naturally over time. Most importantly, and this will not happen without our specific attention and action, we need to acculturate these immigrants; that is, we must inculcate these groups with traditional American values.

In ordinary circumstances, this would not be a daunting task. Our immigrants are generally inclined to see the good in our system and our history. However, we are currently atop an educational complex run amok. Instead of imbuing students (immigrant and native-born alike) with a history that values "one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," our system is busy poisoning these optimistic immigrants with an alternative narrative of exploitation, pessimism and victimization.

6. Recognize that promulgating a narrative that takes apart the single unifying principle of a nation is suicide.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Some of you who read this are political junkies. You know who you are. If you need a ready fix handy by the bed, check out this list of the best insider books on politics on the Wall Street Journal online editorial page today. From city machine politics to presidential primaries to conventions, books guaranteed to get your political high. Here. Anybody out there read any of these books?
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Personally, I don't think the Republicans have earned the opportunity to retain the Congressional majority (can you say "BIG GOVERNMENT"?); and, I do not think the Democrats have earned the opportunity to become the Congressional majority (can you say "NO IDEAS"?) But, in real life we usually do not have perfect choices. Since we are living in a hot period of the nearly 1400-year-long war between Islam and everyone else, the Democrats scare me while the Republicans merely disgust me.

Though Instapundit does not give it a political interpretation, today he offers these observations that might give the Republicans hope. I am assuming that once alone in the voting booth, citizens may do something different than what pollsters predict.

SO WHEN I WAS AT THE MALL THE OTHER DAY, I saw that Eddie Bauer had a prominent display featuring this Disaster Emergency Kit for 2. It's not bad, especially for a car or apartment, though I'd certainly want to supplement it.

But what struck me more than the kit itself was the prominence of the display. Put that together with the fact that Target is marketing survival kits with the American Red Cross, Slate has run a series on disaster survival, and Consumer Reports is pushing disaster preparedness and it looks like we've got something of a trend. (Popular Mechanics is on the job, too, but you expect that from them.) And walking through J.C. Penney the same day I saw hand-cranked dynamo lanterns and radios prominently displayed by the entrance.

It's a trend I approve of, of course, as I think that everyone should be prepared for emergencies. And it's one that's being pushed by government -- my brother recently got a mailing from the State of Ohio telling him he should have a month's worth of food set aside in case of avian flu or other disasters -- but it seems to be more than that. I think that it's something that goes to the Zeitgeist. We know that the world isn't the warm, fuzzy place that it often seemed in the 1990s (it wasn't then, either, but it was easier to ignore that if you tried, and most of us tried). Modest preparations now, of course, can have a big payoff later, so I'm glad to see people giving the subject some thought. Whether or not Eddie Bauer sells many of those kits, everyone who sees them will at least have disaster preparation cross his/her mind.

More on disaster preparedness here and here. Remember, though, it's not just about buying things -- it's about learning things, too.
Guest Blog

The college atop a hill overlooking the Bosque River recently added two luminaries to its galaxy of stars. One of whom, "Jerry Vorhees," at my request, offers this insightful analysis of the US dilemma in re the Korean peninsula. Let's make him feel welcome. Hopefully, we can prevail on him to provide more on this subject and other IR matters in the future:

North Korea has become a "covert province" of the People's Republic of China. We now have evidence of a connection between the AQ Kahn's nuclear network, China, North Korea, and of course Iran. China is playing a delicate game with the United States via their North Korean proxies.

The trick for China is to push the United States to the point of desperation in our desire for Chinese cooperation without actually triggering a war in the region and losing access to lucrative American markets.

What am I getting at? Taiwan. From the first announcement by North Korea that they indeed possessed nuclear weapons, I had my eye on Taiwan. The main obstacle standing in the way of the mainland's desire to intimidate the Taiwanese into a more conciliatory position toward reconciliation is the wide spread belief that if China attacks Taiwan as its government recently voted to authorize, the Americans would feel obligated to intervene.

Indeed the China lobby in Congress would be hysterical if the United States allowed an attack on the Taiwanese to go unchecked. The ultimate objective of this latest Chinese-North Korean gambit could be a softening of the American stance on Taiwan in exchange for real Chinese cooperation on the North Korean issue, an issue they are themselves behind.

USA Today has a brief (but I am redundant) overview of the upcoming state ballots on same-sex marriage and partnerships. Here.
I have been hearing anecdotal reports and second-hand information from the Sacramento, Ca., area on the large number of "Russian" (as in former Soviet Union, many are from the Ukraine) immigrants. These have established large and thriving Pentecostal and Baptist churches. I have been told that these folks are like "old-fashioned" American pentecostals and baptists in their "anti-worldliness."

Now, these folks are starting to make news on the conservative side in the culture wars in California. See this article from the LA Times. California politics is usually interesting; we'll now see what these new folks add to the mix. Perhaps Farmer, a transplanted Californian, has a comment.
Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
Some are using the early snow in the northern U.S. today to spoof at the idea of global warming Before you join the jeer party, remember these bits:

1) The model of global warming includes increasing fluctuation in temperatures and weather. More energy in the atmosphere means more movement of air masses. And, breakdown of established patterns of air movement. One can expect some unseasonable weather during a global warming period.

2) Temperatures will fluctuate. Keep an eye on the yearly averages instead, especially the overnight lows, not on brief periods of cold or warm weather.

3) Remember, we have never trashed a planet before. We don't know exactly how it will work.

My earlier post Hot Summer and Global Warming and Global Warming: A Genuine Concern.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I appeared on Channel 10 this morning (Thursday) to analyze the President's press conference yesterday (Wednesday).

The gist of my comments:

On the political impact of the Rose Garden press conference:

The President needed to come out and address the very serious situation in North Korea. We expect the president of the United States to come before us in these moments. Moreover, I am not a big fan of viewing all events through the prism of politics. I reject the premise that politics drives all policy. [In fact, I am convinced that this President more often uses elections to leverage policy than he employs policy debates to influence elections.]

On the other hand, having said that, the President, as leader of the Republican Party, desperately needed to drive the discussion back toward issues that are more favorable to Republicans. The President made an aggressive attempt to seize the agenda and the initiative. As the President said time and again on Wednesday, he wants this election to be about the economy and security.


But the undercurrent in this election (in this presidency) is always Iraq. Are we so dissatisfied with Iraq that we turn out the Republican Congress to voice our displeasure with the war? Will we stay the course? Or will we cut our losses and come home? In many ways, this election is another referendum on our policy in Iraq and our vision for the post-911 world.

The Polls:

There is a great paradox in public opinion polling. On one hand, scientifically, the polls are very effective measurements of public sentiment; they can be very accurate in determining what people feel at any given minute. On the other hand, the polls are merely a snapshot. They tell us what people were thinking a few days ago. But that does not really tell us what is going to happen on November 7. This is a fluid election, and momentum is likely to go back and forth several times before Election Day.

[Last week Republicans were convinced that the Foley abomination was having little effect on the election. They were completely wrong and silly to listen to polling data that confirmed what they wanted to believe. This week the Democrats (and the MSM) are convinced that the Republicans are finished; they too are probably much too sanguine about what this week's polling data really means.]

Moreover, much more so than election results, polling tends to register emotion. Americans generally take voting very seriously. The weight of Election Day tends to sober American voters. Polling on any given day one-month out from an election is often wildly inaccurate in terms of predicting winners on the first Tuesday in November.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Somehow I had overlooked these before. Below is the questionaire filled out by each candidate for the Kansas City Star newspaper last summer.

Claire McCaskill (D)
I do not think there are real surprises in her positions. She does sound more hawkish on Iran than some Democrats, but talk is cheap.

Jim Talent (R)
I do not think there are any real surprises in his positions. He is more straightforward than many candidates.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
We seem instinctively to favor other humans over all other animals.

I was raised on a farm around animals, and can be without human companionship for a long time without feeling lonely if I have animals around. But, I have hunted and killed and eaten wild animals, and have killed and helped butcher domesticated animals. I have looked at a fat squirrel in a pecan tree and thought--you'd taste good after I fried you up. I've never had carniverous thoughts about another human being. And I'm not alone. We have now and have had lots of human cultures around the globe, but relatively few cannibalistic ones. We seem naturally to distinguish human from non-human life.

Without reflection, we hold humans to a different standard than we do non-human animals. Even the most fervent vegetarian environmentalist (say a Vegan) does not condemn beavers for building dams across streams, but may condemn humans for building our dams. Logically, the only reason one may condemn a human-built dam as an artificial interference with nature, and admire a beaver dam as an expression of nature, is if humans are placed in a different category than beavers. If a tiger mauls a stage magician, we do not arrest the tiger and try it before a jury of fellow tigers. We unreflectively differentiate the human from the nonhuman.

Even the Jain, the religion that most stresses a prohibition against the taking of any life (the First Great Vow: "I renounce all killing of living beings, whether movable or immovable. Nor shall I myself kill living beings nor cause others to do it, nor consent to it."), has as its majority the Lay-Folk who do not take the Five Great Vows, but instead take 12 lesser vows, which include avoiding directly taking sentient life. But even the Jain privilege humans above other living beings: one cannot attain salvation until one is born human (for some Jain sects, born a man).

The point I am trying to make is that we instinctively differentiate, and give privilege to, human beings as somehow set apart from other living creatures. And we do this in a wide variety of cultures and religions. (more below)

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Ex-President James Carter continues his descent by congratulating himself on "solving" the North Korean problem, only to see it messed up by GWB. For a brief rebuttal see Steven Hayward here.

For the sake of whatever dignity you have left, sir, and the dignity of your former office, pick up your hammer and go back to building Habitat houses.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Willow Creek Named Most Influential Church
According to the Church Report magazine, Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, Illinois, is the most influential church in America. The annual list of the nation's influential churches is based on a survey sent to 2,000 pastors nationwide that asked participants to recommend up to ten churches they considered most influential.
Other churches in the top five included Saddleback Church in California, North Point Community Church in Georgia, Fellowship Church in Texas, and Lake Wood Church, also in Texas. (EP) From the Church Herald., the magazine of the Reformed Church in America.

Here are links to these congregation's webpages.

Willow Creek

Saddleback Church

North Point Community Church

Fellowship Church

Lake Wood Church

Category: Thinking Out Loud
Posted by: an okie gardener
I admired John Paul II. I think he was the right pope at the right time. His stand for liberty and against tyranny helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I think Benedict XVI is now the right pope at the right time. He is taking an unflinching stand for the truth of Christianity against both the secular relativism so popular in modern Europe, calling that continent back to its Christian roots, and against the claims of Islam.

Here is a report on his recent remarks regarding inter-religious (i.e., between different religions) dialogue. I'll try to remember to link to the official text once it is available on the Vatican website. Hat tip Instapundit.

Here is a snippet:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Wednesday Christians could not allow their beliefs and identity to be diluted for the sake of dialogue with other religions.

"We have to remember that this identity of ours calls for strength, clarity, and courage in the world in which we live," he told pilgrims and tourists at his weekly general audience.
95 things that anger Muslims here
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Jeffrey Weiss writing in the Dallas Morning News has an article on the flurry of interest in Hollywood and outside Hollywood in making movies with religious themes. Studios want to make money, and The Passion of the Christ incited a desire to reach a church-going audience. Religiously-based independents are using movies to spread their message.

I'll try to get around to a list of movies with Christian themes that I think are worthwhile.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Premillennial: believing that when Jesus Christ returns he will usher in a long period of peace and justice (the millennium). In other words, there is a radical discontinuity [the return of Jesus] between present human history and the evident reign of God on earth in human history (Shalom). After the millennium comes the fulfillment.

Amillennial: believing that Jesus will return and then usher in the fulfillment, without a period of God’s evident reign within human history. In other words, hope for Shalom will be met only beyond human history.

Postmillennial: believing that the return of Jesus will be preceded by a period of peace and justice in which God’s reign on earth will be seen. Then comes the return of Jesus and the fulfillment. In other words, there will be a continuity between present human history and the establishment of Shalom.

A while back, in the context of some posts on George Bush’s postmillennial theology, I mentioned that postmillennialism had been the majority opinion among evangelical Christians of the nineteenth century. Given the beliefs of contemporary evangelicals, holding to a postmillennial position seems unimaginable. In response to a comment by Joab, I promised to attempt a defense of each of these major positions. (Personal disclaimer, I am not a fully persuaded believer of one position; I tend to alternate between amillennialism and postmillennialism.)

All Christians are optimistic in an ultimate sense: we believe that Jesus will return and triumph over his foes, and ours, including death and suffering. But is there reason for optimism before the End? In other words, do Christians expect there to be any real, overall progress within human history? The answer given to this question will vary between Christians holding differing millennial views.

Answering “No,” are amillennialists and premillennialists. While there may be material progress within human history in areas such as technology, there is no actual human progress in a moral sense. All technological advances, for example, simply will allow us to kill one another in greater numbers. The amillennialists expect that the human history will continue a mixed-up mess of sin with some virtue, without real progress, until Jesus comes again. The premillennialists, most of them, expect that human history will continue a downward course getting worse and worse, a retrogress in effect, at least near the end of time. On the contrary, answering “Yes,” are the postmillennialists. The history of the human race, through the work of the Holy Spirit, does and will show moral progress as the gospel of Jesus Christ spreads over the world.

One’s attitude toward the progress, or lack of progress, within human history will affect political attitudes. (Wondering out loud: Reagan was postmillennial down to his bones, Carter?)

The American attitude, traditionally, has been optimistic regarding the future: we have thought of history in terms of progress. One of the roots of this optimism has been the influence of Christian postmillennial thought, the understanding of the majority of American evangelical Christians until some time in the twentieth century. Even today, though, I would venture to say that most Americans reject the idea that evil can triumph within human history until the End. In other words, I would say that most Americans reject the idea that God would allow a Hitler or a Stalin to envelope the world in a horror of tyrannical evil for centuries or millennia until Jesus comes again. We Americans seem to have a postmillennial heart, whatever doctrine is in our heads.

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The splitting of the Episcopal Church continues. Last month the Diocese of Quincy (Illinois), unhappy with the liberal trends of the denomination, asked for other oversight within Anglicanism. In other words, the diocese plans to remain Anglican (the worldwide communion of which the Episcopal church has been the U.S. expression), but does not want to accept the leadership of the Episcopal denomination. News release here.

See earlier posts.
Upcoming on Public Television:

Welcome to the world of "Maquilapolis," a border city where it
takes an hour of drudgework inside a poisonous factory to earn
enough to buy a jug of potable water. Where it takes about two hours
to earn a gallon of milk. Where factory workers find bathroom breaks are
few, toxins are many, and the pressure -- and intimidation -- are always
on. It's a place where poverty is so deep that workers are expected to be
grateful for the high-end $11 a day they might earn, to give up hope of
ever earning more or of ever seeking better working conditions. This
daily $11 does not buy them the protection and aid of their local and
national governments. In "Maquilapolis," undertaxed and under-regulated
factories operated by multinational corporations -- usually through local
middlemen -- pollute residential neighborhoods with seeming impunity.

Yet even $11 a day can prove too high a labor cost for today's international
manufacturer. The searing new feature documentary "Maquilapolis: City of
Factories" may take its name and stories from the maquiladoras, the
multinational assembly plants that sprang up south of the U.S.-Mexican
border in the mid-1960s and multiplied rapidly in the 1990s as a result of
1994's North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.) But the new global
company town that "Maquilapolis" portrays is also movable. Less than 10
years after NAFTA, the maquiladoras of Mexico were already closing down
as corporations began to depart for even cheaper labor in Asia, leaving
behind decrepit factory sites, slag heaps of toxic material and endemic

"Maquilapolis" is a powerful and unique film that brought American and
Mexican-American filmmakers together with Tijuana factory workers and
community organizers to tell the story of globalization through the eyes
and voices of the workers themselves -- overwhelmingly women -- who
have borne the costs but reaped few of the benefits. The workers did not
just testify on camera, they became an integral part of creating their stories
on film. Two women in particular, Carmen Durán and Lourdes Luján, armed
with cameras for video diaries, chronicle their struggles. The result is not
only an informative and disturbing film, but also an evocative and poetic one.

Watch a trailer and check local PBS station listings at:

"Maquilapolis: City of Factories" Airs Tuesday, October 10 at 10 PM
TIP: Days and times for P.O.V. broadcasts vary, so be
sure to check local listings for airdates and times for your
PBS station on the P.O.V. website.

Hat tip El Obispo. For an earlier post on topic here.
Joseph Aaron has a touching essay on being Jewish and being American at Jewish World Review.

Here are is an excerpt:

This country continues to amaze me.

The Jewish people continue to amaze me.

Let's start with the United States of America, land that I love.

The constitution of the United States of America says the new term of the Supreme Court is to begin on the first Monday of October each year.

Only problem with that is that, this year, the first Monday of October was Yom Kippur.

And so, a conflict between the holiest day of the year for about five million or so Americans out of a population of about 300 million, and convening the opening session of the highest court in the land on the day the constitution calls for.

How was that conflict resolved? By postponing the beginning of the Supreme Court's new term.

What a country.

Now, admittedly the decision wasn't just made for philosophical reasons. There was something very practical going on. Namely that two members of the Supreme Court are Jews and so wouldn't have been there.

Two out of nine members of this country's highest court are Jews.

What a country.

It's good every now and then to stop a minute to recognize how wonderful this country is for Jews and to both appreciate and take pleasure in that.

Especially in light of how we have been treated in other places during our long history.

One of the most radical breaks with the past made by the new United States was religious liberty. Not merely toleration of select other faiths by an official faith, but actual religious liberty. Our nation has been blessed by people from a wide variety of faith-traditions as a result. Saturday I was looking through the church listings for the area around Lawton, Oklahoma. Weekend services at Ft. Sill, a large Army base, were listed also. In addition to the various Protestant services and Roman Catholic masses, there were Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, and LDS meetings.

As a Christian, I pray for the conversion of these folks, and my political and social thought are based on my Christian understanding. That understanding includes seeking conversion peacefully, not coercively; and, loving my neighbor, of whatever religion or none, as myself. (more below)

» Read More

Katie Couric arrived at CBS News a few weeks ago in a big way, making news as well as reading it. Her ratings initially spiked, then dived, then leveled and now may be inching up. We will continue to watch as the story unfolds, but the decision to hand over the CBS Evening News franchise to Couric exists within a larger framework of the Feminization of American News Culture.

I suppose I embody a problem demographic. I do not generally watch the network newscasts anymore. For the most part, I know the news of the day from C-SPAN, the internet, conservative talk radio and NPR. In Waco, the national network news broadcasts begin at 5:30, which is a busy family time for me. Having said that, if something really interesting is going on, I will generally try to catch a few bites of The Newshour with Jim Leher. The Newshour generally offers more depth and an expert (or newsmaker) opinion on the topic of the day.

Some positive observations on Katie Couric (although, admittedly, I have not watched her newscast much):

1. The voice over of Cronkite. I am thrilled every time I hear Walter Cronkite say: "the CBS Evening News..."

2. The "Free Speech" segment. It is innovative. At least it is something new in the way that everything old is new again. The commentary at the end of the newscast hearkens back to the days of Eric Sevareid adding his perspective to Cronkite's newscast. Of course, the segment is designed to be light and popular; thus far, it certainly lacks the erudition and penetrating analysis of Sevareid.

3. The leg shot at the end of the show. One of these days, undoubtedly, we will look back and all agree that Mary Hart was a great pioneer in broadcast journalism. Although I am distressed that Couric seems to be wearing more pant-suits.

Some cranky (crankier) observations:

1. Couric contorts her face into an uncomfortable and unattractive mask when she segues into serious news.

2. The good news in that regard is that serious news is not nearly as prevalent as you might think on a network evening news broadcast. There is a lot of time for good-natured banter and teasing of colleagues and cute cajoling of newsmakers. In an interview with New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Tom Kean, in the midst of Democratic scandals in the state, Couric focused on Kean and whether he wanted President Bush to visit him. "Come on now," she giggled, persisting in several humorous attempts to portray Kean as running away from the President in a blue state. It was all very cute--but not very Cronkite-ish.

3. Some of the copy seems better suited for a satire of a bad news program. For example: After watching a four-year-old drum phenom on You Tube, Katie intones: "drums not your bag? [cue film of a bagpiper] Maybe these are. More after we pay the piper."

Serious question: Why not just cut to the chase and offer Oprah Winfrey the franchise?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A lot of debating went on this weekend. I caught the Texas 17 in full and some snippets of some others. Here are some quick impressions:

Texas 17. Incumbent Democrat Chet Edwards and Republican challenger Van Taylor: Not much substance to argue over. Mostly petty exchanges. Edwards is a Democrat who votes Republican, which is very frustrating for the Republican challenger. However, standing toe-to-toe with a long-term incumbent raises the status of the challenger. Taylor did not disqualify himself. He raised his visibility. Tie goes to the Republican challenger in a Republican-dominated district, but the advantage still lies with the incumbent Edwards.

Texas Gubernatorial: It is a funny race. I have long believed that the much-maligned Rick Perry holds an almost impregnable position in this campaign. The Democratic nominee, Chris Bell, is virtually unknown--even today. The novelty candidate, comedian Kinky Friedman has not caught fire. Carole Strayhorn, the articulate erstwhile-Republican Comptroller and independent challenger, may be the best candidate all things being equal--but all things are not equal.

Perry is the incumbent Republican in a rock-solid Republican state (last cycle no Democrat won a state office). He has all the money. He has all the connections and corporate support. And he looks marvelous. Perry is a tall former rancher with movie-star good looks. Physically towering over his independent but charismatic competition, and outshining his dull Democratic challenger, Perry seems well-positioned to win his second term as governor of Texas.

Missouri Senate: I saw only seconds of the Talent and McCaskill debate on Meet the Press, but Talent seemed so in control of the facts and the stage, I am going to go ahead and call Missouri for Talent on gut feeling alone (although some of the latest polls say different).

California Governor: I caught quite a bit of the debate between Arnold Schwarzenegger and some guy who wasn't Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governator is that good. I agree with all the polls that predict Arnold with enjoy a double-digit win. So much for the polls and pundits this time last year that eulogized Schwarzenegger.

Review of former picks:

Pennsylvania: Casey
Virginia: Allen
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Here is a link to an extremely provocative essay on the fortunes of traditional family life, and associated politics, in Industrial America. I will be so bold as to label this essay must reading for informed discussion of traditional family issues. I probably will respond to some of the points raised in the future, but for now want to mull over things.

Read this. From Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. Hat tip The Layman.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Some things that are probably true:

1. Republicans are going to lose the House. If not for Foley, the GOP might have dodged the bullet, but this should do it. In truth, the Republican House deserves to go.

George Will had the quote of the day yesterday:

"If, after the Foley episode -- a maraschino cherry atop the Democrats' delectable sundae of Republican miseries -- the Democrats cannot gain 13 seats, they should go into another line of work."

Losing is probably what we need the most; it will facilitate repentance and revival.

2. The long history of the Republican Party (that goes back even to its Whig roots) as the "moral party" is well deserved; the label is a two-edged sword, but well deserved nonetheless.

The GOP rank-and-file are unique in their standards of conduct. While some pundits and leaders are attempting to blame a well-timed opposition leak for this story (which may be accurate in part), the real truth is that genuine horror and disgust from the Republican masses fired this scandal.

I have a certain sense of pride in my party in regard to our outrage. Regardless of the mistakes of leadership, it is clear to any observer that the party is exacting in its demands for moral conduct.

Are we open to charges of hypocrisy? Yes. Aren't we all? But there is little room for quibbling over the vehemence with which we have pursued this series of indiscretions and violations of our trust.

It amazes me that one month out from a crucial election the GOP faithful are willing to call for the heads of their leaders over a matter of principle. Good for us.

Today I am not ashamed to be a Republican; I am prouder than ever to be associated with the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan.

3. The silver lining: We now have a new standard of conduct for Congress. We will look back on Speaker Pelosi's passionate condemnations of immorality on the part of Republican leadership and replay those sound bites for the next twenty years, holding all parties to the same yardstick.

Barney Frank's next sex scandal will be his last.
Category: Thinking Out Loud
Posted by: an okie gardener
I think we need to take a mental shower (or, to use another image, flush ourselves with brain bleach), after this week's sordid political news.

Let's think about God, and reason, and science.

In an earlier post I tried to explain Pope Benedict XVI's remarks that drew so much fire. Here. (includes link to Pope's speech in English) [As a footnote, I should have been more precise and spoken of mainstream Sunni Islam. Shia Islam has tended to view Allah as adhering to justice (by which Shiites usually mean the bloody vindication of their faith against others, especially Sunnis)].

Cardinal George Pell summarizes Benedict's point within this address. The relevant paragraphs are:

Pope John Paul wrote magnificently on faith and reason and on the essential relationship of truth and freedom and I want to say a few words on the equally essential link between love and reason or rationality.

Recently Pope Benedict has been in the news for his academic address at Regensburg his old university and once the seat of the Holy Roman Emperors. His passing references to Islam dominated the media, but most of the speech was about the importance of God for every society, and especially Western societies like ours and to emphasise that rationality, reason is an attribute of God. God is not cranky, or capricious. God is truthful.

The Pope quoted the beginning of John’s gospel. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” pointing out that the Greek word “Logos” means both word and reason.

The Holy Father acknowledges that this reverence for reason was taken into Revelation, into John’s gospel from Greek philosophy and this was a providential conjunction. Here lies one of the secrets of European and Western civilization. Here lives the reason for our Catholic schools, for our reverence for education, why Catholics should never be fundamentalists and can never be post moderns who reject the idea of truth.

Here is an address from two months ago by Cardinal George Pell on Christianity and science. Below is a thought-provoking excerpt.

(more below)

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Perhaps in the light of Foley's habit of cultivating relationships with teenage boys, then moving into sexualized relationships, the Boy Scout position barring homosexual Scout leaders will look more rational to some people.
From Telegraph. Hat tip Jihadwatch.

Muslims are waging civil war against us, claims police union
By David Rennie, Europe Correspondent
(Filed: 05/10/2006)

Radical Muslims in France's housing estates are waging an undeclared "intifada" against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day.

Interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy was warned of an 'intifada'

As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed "banlieue" estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin.

It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armoured cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones.

And later in the article, after refering to politicians and others advocating economic and criminal enterprise explanations

However, not all officers on the ground accept that essentially secular interpretation. Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the hardline Action Police trade union, has written to Mr Sarkozy warning of an "intifada" on the estates and demanding that officers be given armoured cars in the most dangerous areas.

He said yesterday: "We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their 'comrades' free when they are arrested."

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have not seen this in print yet, but I get the feeling that there is a rationale building in GOP circles for not taking action on sexual predator Mark Foley:

We could not take action against Foley because he is a homosexual, and the rules of political correctness precluded further investigation. That is, imagine the angry recriminations and accusations of Republican homophobia that would have emerged if we had pushed Foley on scant evidence.

Unacceptable! Anyone who follows current politics understands that there is truth in that assertion. Quite frankly, the Foley case was a no-win situation politically. Nevertheless, it was a no-brainer morally and ethically. GOP leadership should have done the right thing and taken the heat for the breach in political correctness decorum.
Newsmax has the big nail to drive into the coffin of Clinton's legacy on terrorism. Michael Scheuer, former CIA head of the bin Laden unit during the Clinton administration, and no friend of the Bush administration, points out the lies of Clinton.

In his role as CBS News terrorism analyst, Scheuer appeared on the "Early Show” and said this about Clinton’s claim that the CIA could not verify bin Laden’s responsibility for the attack on the USS Cole: "The former president seems able to deny facts with impunity."

Read the whole article.

Since 9/11 Tony Blair has been Aaron to George Bush's Moses. Mr. Blair has been "spot on" in his eloquent defense of Western values, and of our military response to militant Islam. (If I were to have a son now I might give him the middle name of Blair.) British domestic policy concerns me, but my hat is off to the Prime Minister. With his retirement drawing nearer, who will fill the role of Aaron now?

John Howard, prime minister of Australia looks good to me. Here is his official website. The Australian has a report on his recent speech blasting Aussie leftists. Transcript here. I especially like these bits.

It’s important on an occasion like this [anniversary of the founding of a conservative magazine] we remember not just the big ideological struggles but also the individuals who took up the cause of cultural freedom and the defence of liberal democracy against its enemies.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet communism, it became all too easy to pretend that the outcome of the Cold War was an inevitable result of large-scale, impersonal forces that ultimately left totalitarianism exhausted and democratic capitalism triumphant. Nothing could be further from the truth. This was a struggle fought by individuals on behalf of the individual spirit.

And Quadrant holds an honoured place in Australian history for the stance it took for democratic freedom and a pluralist society and in opposition to collectivist ideologies that so many saw as the inevitable wave of the future.

It’s worth recalling just a few of the philo-communism that was once quite common in Australia in the 1950’s and 60’s. For example, Manning Clark’s book Meeting Soviet Man where he likened the ideals of Vladimir Lenin to those of Jesus Christ. John Burton, the former head of the External Affairs Department, arguing that Mao’s China provided a model for the ‘transformation’ of Australia. All those who did not simply oppose Australia’s commitment in Vietnam, but who actively supported the other side and fed the delusion that Ho Chi Minh was some sort of Jeffersonian Democrat intent on spreading liberty in Asia.

To quote George Orwell: ‘One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool’. There is a view that the pro-communist left in Australia in decades past was no more than a bunch of naïve idealists, rather than what they were – ideological barrackers for regimes of oppression opposed to Australia and its interests.

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Literally feeling under the weather. Respiratory something. Very tired.

Cannot get over Foley. It gets worser and worser. Don't feel like spinning or fighting. Demoralized. Cannot shake the feeling that this was an open secret. Would be surprised if 1,000 people did not know about this and did nothing.

General Broulard to Colonel Dax: "'re a disappointment to me. You've spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality. You really did want to save those men.... You are an idealist - and I pity you as I would the village idiot."

--Paths of Glory

Life goes on. Committees. Classes. Forums. Students. Working on an extended thought piece unpacking some other things. Will return with complete sentences. Clouds will lift. Will be back with fresh perspective.

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Rachel Swarns has a superb article in the New York Times about the slow and tentative growth of friendship between a black pastor and a Hispanic pastor in Willachoochee, Georgia. Hispanic immigration is changing the racial dynamics of the South, and blacks and Hispanics often deride each other from across this new racial divide. In a poor and working class small town, two Christian ministers are becoming friends, and perhaps may be able to take their congregations on the same journey. Read the whole article. Hat tip Religion Headlines.

Christianity's record on race relations is not pure. Antebellum Southern Christians justified slavery, and later segregation. But, we should remember that groups of British and American evangelicals led the fight to end slavery, and that some white clergy and churches cooperated with black ministers and churches in the Civil Rights Movement.
I've written before on the apocalyptic and messianic character of Shia Islam. It has become well-known that Iran's current president sees himself and Iran as a part of the divine plan to end this stage of the world and usher in the age of the Mahdi. Now, news from the Timesonline that in Iraq, Shiites are being told that U.S. actions are a desperate attempt to prevent the Mahdi's return.

Hojatoleslam al-Sadr claims that his militia is preparing for the day when the Mahdi, the last direct descendent of the revered Shia figure Ali, reappears. Shia believe that the Mahdi, who disappeared in 868, will bring justice to Earth.

At a prayer service in the central Iraqi city of Kufa on September 15, the cleric told a crowd of thousands that the Americans were collecting a dossier on the Mahdi to prevent his return. “Did you ever ask yourself about why all of this, the bloodshed and the prisons? Why are the brothers fighting each other for a political game planned by the Americans? This all happened because they (the Americans) are waiting for the Mahdi. This planning started ten years ago. They have a big file for Imam Mahdi and they just need his picture to complete it.”

Hojatoleslam al-Sadr and his advisers are convinced that the Americans want to destroy Islam and stop the Mahdi. “The Americans are trying to hijack Islamic movements. They think that these are serving the Mahdi’s interests. Whatever they did in Afghanistan and Iraq are all attempts to hijack the Mahdi’s return.”

Hat tip Jihadwatch.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Most of the national attention on next month's elections has been focused on Congress. In the day-to-day of governance, and in the nuts-and-bolts of party strength, we should not overlook the state races for governor. The Iowa campaign seems to be in a dead-heat between Chet Culver (D), the Secretary of State, and Jim Nussle (R), an eight-term Congressman. Thomas Beaumont, writing for the Des Moines Register, has a good article today on the race.

One of the points of disagreement concerns abortion: Culver presents himself as pro "abortion rights," while Nussle promises to sign a bill making all abortions, except to save the life of the mother, illegal. Culver is trying to tie Nussle to President Bush, and Nussle is portraying Culver as a big-spender.
Iraq is taking longer and is more complicated than many Americans thought it would. The "War on Terror" has had its victories (removing the Taliban) and its setbacks (public revelation of the financial investigations). We perhaps are beginning to see the enemy clearly: changing our language from "War on Terror" to "War against Islamic Fascism." But this change in language and perception has been halting and contested. On any given day, things seem like a mess.

Here's a bit of historical perspective: things are always in a mess. Joseph Ellis, in his Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, is describing John Adams' retirement struggle to come to terms with his legacy and the public perception thereof. Popular imagination has fastened on an inspired Jefferson and the Declaration, and the providentially ordained march to American Freedom. Adams, the day-in-day-out fighter for Independency is being forgotten, he fears.

As Adams remembered it, on the other hand, "all the great critical questions about men and measures from 1774 to 1778" were desperately contested and highly problematic occasions, usually "decided by the vote of a single state, and that vote was often decided by a single individual." Nothing was clear, inevitable, or even comprehensible to the soldiers in the field at Saratoga or the statesmen in the corridors at Philadelphia: "It was patched and piebald policy then, as it is now, ever was, and ever will be, world without end." The real drama of the American Revolution, which was perfectly in accord with Adams's memory as well as with the turbulent conditions of his own soul, was its inherent messiness. This meant recovering the exciting but terrifying sense that all the major players had at the time--namely, that they were making it up as they went along, improvising on the edge of catastrophe.

In the midst of every great endeavor, things usually look like they are a mess and that disaster is near. Only in retrospect, once the goal is accomplished, and historical reflection shapes a narrative, can the road to victory (or defeat) be seen clearly.

02/10: Values TV

Psssst. Don't tell the studio execs, but there actually are some TV shows that reflect values. Rebecca Cusey lists and describes them on National Review.
From the Washington Post. Some "Third World" Anglican bishops are calling for the U. S. Episcopal church (the Anglican church in the United States) to go ahead and split. Conservatives in the US, upset over the official Episcopal actions regarding same-sex practice (including consecration of a gay bishop) have already begun a process of schism.

Here are the paragraphs relevant to my point:

A suggestion by African, Asian and Latin American Anglican bishops that the Episcopal Church be turned into two churches because of disputes over gay issues would lead to chaos, the head of the U.S. church said on Thursday.

Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the 2.4-million-member Episcopal Church, said a communique issued on September 22 from Kigali, Rwanda, by conservative bishops of a group known as the Global South "raises profound questions about the nature of the church, its ordering and its oversight."

Bishops at the meeting in the Rwandan capital suggested that it was time for Episcopalians upset with the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first openly gay bishop in more than 450 years of Anglican Church history should form their own church.

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In spite of the times my devotion has been abused, I don't know how to quit baseball. In honor of the end of another season, Powerline has this great post on Frank Robinson.

I still am disgruntled by MLBs inability to make the sport safe from performance-enhancing drug abuse. I would think that by now the players themselves would want ironclad procedures that would protect them from suspicions such as those now hanging over Roger Clemens as he takes his exit bows.

But, I still love the game. At the risk of self-indulgence I repeat a post from earlier in the season. (With extra quotes thrown in.)

People will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn into the driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. 'Of course we won't mind if you have a look around,' you'll say. 'It's only twenty dollars per person.' They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have, and peace they lack. They'll walk up to the bleachers and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they had dipped themselves in magic waters; the memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers; it has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and raised again. Baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again. Oh, people will come Ray. People will most definitely come. From FIELD OF DREAMS

Some of my earliest memories from childhood are of lying in my bed early on twilight summer evenings with the windows open, listening to Harry Carey calling Cardinal’s games over my grandfather’s radio in his bedroom fifty yards north of mine. (We both went early to bed, I because my mom believed children needed their sleep, he because he believed a day had been half wasted if the cows had not been milked by daylight. His radio was turned up loud because he was half deaf as an old man.) I’m not sure I really remember the first time I attended a baseball game I was so young. We went to St. Louis and saw the Cardinals; we went to Kansas City and saw the Athletics. In the car, on the tractor, at home, baseball on the radio has been as much a sound of spring and summer and fall for me as spring frogs and cicadas.
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Thinking Out Loud:

1. The majority of college-educated white Americans vote Republican (although a slimmer majority of Americans with graduate degrees vote Democrat); the vast majority of evangelical whites in this country vote Republican.

In a nutshell: Well-educated (presumably intelligent) God-fearing white America votes Republican.

What explains these numbers?

The Republican Party has become the party of common sense. We have approximately 12 million undocumented (illegal) immigrants in our country. We should do something to stop that. Common Sense. Terrorists are trying to kill us. We should try to kill them first. We should treat them roughly and follow them around and listen to what they are saying on their cell phones. Common Sense. America is a good place. That is why so many people are trying to come here. Common Sense. Men should marry women. Common sense. Lower taxes and smaller government good; an intrusive and bloated federal government that sees our collective pocketbook as a blank check is bad. Common Sense. Peace through strength. Common Sense. Guns don't kill people; people kill people. Common Sense. Put criminals in jail, and they will commit fewer crimes. Common Sense. And I could go on.

Moreover, the rhetoric of the Republican Party acknowledges the God that the majority worships and honors expressions of love for the nation, which a majority still believe to be the "last best hope for mankind." During the generation following the Civil War, the Republican Party chastised the Democrats: "Not every Democrat was a traitor, but every traitor was a Democrat." Today, it seems as if not all Democrats are America-haters, but all America-haters are Democrats. It is easy to make the case in the heartland that the Republican Party is for God and country (and the other guys are not so sure).

2. Even with the bloody ugly mess that is Iraq, most college-educated, white evangelicals want to support President Bush. Even with the bloody ugly mess that is the federal budget and current bloated bureaucracy, most college-educated, white evangelicals want to vote Republican this November.

Coming into this weekend, you could start to smell another Republican surprise. The polls were turning around (and the polls never accurately measure Republican strength--so you can always add a few points to what ever Zogby says the GOP total is likely to be). The President was moving up. The generic "Republican Congress" was moving up. Individual races were looking much better.

Why? Americans want to vote Republican despite Republican failures. Americans continue to trust Republicans. Yeah, they make mistakes, but at least they see the world in a realistic way (according to our perspective). George Bush is a guy like me.

3. Then we get Foley. A case of perversion and arrogance. I had never heard of Mark Foley before Friday night, but he was an important person in the GOP hierarchy. And he was also a sexual (homosexual) predator whom the GOP leadership allowed to roam the halls of Congress and solicit underage pages unchecked. Once again, the party of morality faces a moral crisis.

If we were in a mood last week to forgive Republicans for their faults (if only because the alternative was so repulsive), we were shockingly reminded this weekend that the GOP is sick. Washington is sick. Congress is sick. The system is sick. You can feel Republicans losing steam even as we speak.